It’s as if Norman Chad is picturing Bret Favre holding a daisy and saying, while pulling petals off the flower, “I’m playing. I’m not playing…”
“Brett Favre will be returning to the NFL this week with the Minnesota Vikings, according to my sources. There is also a chance Favre will not be returning to the NFL this week with the Vikings, according to my sources. In either case, here is an up-to-the-minute timeline of Favre’s twist-and-turn life since his originalretirement announcement on March 6, 2008:                                                                                                               
Favre tearfully announces his retirement at Green Bay news conference.                                 
Favre says a possible comeback is all “rumor.”                                                                           
Favre calls Packers Coach Mike McCarthy and tells him he will stay retired.                           
Favre sees NBC’s Peter King at Starbucks, buys him a grande cafe mocha and tells him he definitely is retiring.                                                                                                 
Favre wants to come to Packers training camp.                                                                        
Favre is traded to the New York Jets.                                                                                    
Favre calls NBC’s Peter King during halftime of the Jets-Bills game and tells him he will retire at the end of the third quarter.                                                                                            
Favre completes season with the Jets, then announces retirement again.                                         
Favre asks Jets to release him just in case he wants to sign with another team.            
Favre calls NBC’s Peter King and tells him he’s retiring for at least five days, maybe longer.                                                       
Favre gets arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder while looking at carpet swatches for his pool room.                                                                                                                
Favre walks into CVS and buys Bengay.                                                                            
Scrambling for a parking spot at Home Depot, Favre throws his car up for grabs.          
ESPN’s Ed Werder reports Favre was rubbing his right arm while dining at Applebee’s in Clinton, Miss. Favre walks onto the set of “SportsCenter” and tells Neil Everett he can retire again that evening if they are having a slow news day.                                           
ESPN’s John Clayton reports Favre has six fingers on his right (throwing) hand and five fingers on his left (non-throwing) hand.                                                                              
ESPN’s Ed Werder reports Favre has five fingers on his right (throwing) hand and six fingers on his left (non-throwing) hand.                                                                                  
Favre goes on HBO’s “Joe Buck Live” and shows he has five fingers on each hand, but says he hasn’t thrown a football in four months.                                                               
ESPN’s John Clayton reports Ed Werder was on the phone with Sal Paolantonio while he was leaving a voice mail for Favre.                                                                                      
Favre, house-hunting in Eden Prairie, Minn., runs into one of his errant passes from December ’03 Packers-at-Vikings game.                                                                           
Favre, casting out for walleye in Little Sioux, Iowa, overthrows lake.                        
Favre calls John Madden and tries to talk him out of retirement.                                              
Fox’s Jay Glazer reports Favre is lifting weights that Glazer gave him.                                   
NBC’s Peter King spills coffee on his notes from his most recent phone conversation with Favre.                                                                                                                                        
Favre tells a close friend he doesn’t think he wants to wear pants anymore. Favre walks away from Wrangler, begins discreet talks with Dockers.                                                
At monthly Retirees Anonymous meeting, Favre aggravates arm injury exchanging playful punches with Sugar Ray Leonard.                                                                              
ESPN reports Favre is talking to the Dalai Lama about a consulting position.                      
Favre practices Hamlet’s Act Three, Scene 1 soliloquy.                                                     
Favre calls Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, asks operator if players can be inducted while still active.                                                                                                                
Favre fills out application for Greenpeace.                                                                                 
Farve cancels life insurance, gambling he might live forever.                                                
Favre and wife, Deanna, discuss renewing vows, but he puts its off until shoulder is fully healed.                                                                                                                             
Vikings officials watch Favre throw for 15 minutes at local high school.                        
Vikings officials watch Favre parallel-park for five minutes at local barbershop.      
Vikings officials watch Favre throw off the media for 45 minutes.                                  
Favre spurns Vikings, signs deal to split time between L.A. Galaxy and AC Milan.

 
Bob Molinaro made an excellent case that the NFLPA hasn’t been a very good advocate for Michael Vick on HamptonRoads.com. “If ever there were a
reason pro football players needed to be represented by a muscular union, it’s Roger Goodell.               
Unfortunately, for some of its most troubled and maligned members, the people in charge of running the National Football League Players Association seem to be spending the summer at the beach.                                                                                              
Goodell’s conditional, partial reinstatement of Michael Vick on Monday is the most controversial decision to come out of the commissioner’s office since the indefinite suspension of Cleveland Browns receiver Donte Stallworth last month.                                
In both cases, the public approved of Goodell’s judgment, while most of the media is going along for the ride.                                                                                                    
It’s not surprising that Goodell’s strongman image plays well to these crowds – the NFL is quite effective at managing the message. But why isn’t the players’
union speaking out the way Terrell Owens did when he accused Goodell of piling on Vick?                                                         
 “I think he’s done the time for what he’s done,” Owens said. “Why more punishment? It’s almost like kicking a dead horse in the ground.”                                                             
Imagine that. The player known for thinking only of himself has spoken in support of today’s least sympathetic athlete. His is a relatively lonely voice. Standing up for Vick – criticizing the addition of more barriers between the one-time quarterback and his return to the sport – won’t win anybody a lot of new friends.                                                            
But it’s not a union’s job to make friends or to toe the line of political correctness. The NFLPA ill-serves its membership when it tries to answer to the public; it exists, in large part, in order to take unpopular stands in defense of its players.                                                  
The union should be prepared to question Goodell’s unchecked powers.
So where has it been?
If the Major League Baseball Players Association wields too much clout, the wimpishness of the NFLPA is demonstrated by its feeble response to the tortured process of Vick’s attempted comeback.                                                                                           
The union is hamstrung by the personal conduct policy that Goodell instituted two years ago, but what kind of union would allow the commissioner so much authority in the first place?                                                                                                                               
 More ridiculous is the policy’s appeal process. When a player is suspended, he can’t take his case to an independent third party; Goodell handles all appeals himself.               
Even under these circumstances, Owens believes that the players’ union needs to do something, or at least say something, because Vick has suffered enough.
Because to add a multi-week suspension “onto a two-year prison sentence, I mean, that’s ridiculous.”     
Agree with him or not, but this is the stance the players’ union should be taking. It’s not a case of showing compassion for Vick. The issue is fairness.                                                       
Is Goodell really looking out for the welfare of the NFL? Or is he consciously or subconsciously grinding his heel into the neck of an athlete who once lied to
him?          
The personal conduct policy offers the NFL quick relief from public relations headaches, a stance heartily endorsed by fans, especially when it deals with fools like Adam “Pacman” Jones.                                                                                                                         
But after all that Vick has lost in the way of freedom, money and time, when Goodell slaps him with some sort of double-secret probation, the validity of the policy should be challenged.                                                                                                                         
So far, DeMaurice Smith, new head of the NFLPA, doesn’t appear eager to try. Maybe he will press for changes in the next bargaining agreement, though it’s
difficult to imagine a union this timid negotiating from a position of strength.                                                             
In the meantime, Goodell is free to punish players any way he chooses, without interference.                                                                                                                            
In his reinstatement message to Vick, Goodell wrote, “As I have said in other cases, it is actions that count.”
That goes for players trying to get out of the doghouse. And for the union that represents them.”

The bloom seems to be coming off the rose in Boston. Dan Shaughnessy said in The Globe: “Remember the golden days of Daisuke Matsuzaka?
At the beginning, it was a perfect marriage. We had Dice-K mania, gyroballs, and the globalization of Red Sox Nation. The Red Sox spent $103 million to
acquire Japan’s Walter Johnson. In his first season with the Sox, Matsuzaka won the third game of a World Series sweep. A year later, he went 18-3.
Matsuzaka’s mere presence prompted the Red Sox to open the 2008 season in the Tokyo Dome, a startling inconvenience that would have been unthinkable had the Sox not featured Japan’s top baseball export. His starts were events – much like those of Pedro Martínez, circa 1998-2000.
All of which makes yesterday’s events particularly annoying and deflating. Through his words and actions, Matsuzaka infuriated manager Terry Francona, pitching Coach John Farrell, Boston’s owners, and a legion of Sox fans. One year after the Manny Ramirez debacle, Dice-K did his best to get his butt shipped out of town.
Matsuzaka, he of the 1-5 record and the 8.23 ERA, ripped the Red Sox organization. Rehabbing in Florida, speaking to a Japanese website during his shoulder rehab, he basically blamed his 2009 troubles on the Sox’ training regimen.
“If I’m forced to continue to train in this environment, I may no longer be able to pitch like I did in Japan,’’ he told the website. “The only reason why I managedto win games during the first and second years was because I used the savings of the shoulder I built up in Japan. Since I came to the major leagues, I couldn’t train in my own way, so now I’ve lost all those savings.’’
At Fenway, the fallout was swift and unusually blunt.
“To hear him say that is disappointing,’’ said Francona, who would rather quit chewing tobacco than criticize a player. “At times, he’s been his own pitching
coach. For $102 million, if [Red Sox owner John Henry] came down and asked ‘What’s going on?’ and we said, ‘We’re letting [Daisuke] do it his own way,’ he probably wouldn’t like that very much. I’ve talked to Dice and Masa [translator Masa Hoshino]. I’ve had enough. I think they’ve had enough of me.’’
Tim Wakefield, the senior member of the Sox clubhouse and a pitcher who knows a thing or two about Boston’s training and rehab regimens, rolled his eyes and said, “My philosophy is, I’m an employee and I do what I’m told.’’
Farrell, ever the John Wayne presence in the coaches corner, said, “We have a responsibility for the size of the investment. It’s unfortunate that he feels that way.
It’s disappointing. This is where two baseball worlds somewhat collide. But there has to be some accountability and responsibility on the part of the player. So the disappointment comes from [him] basically airing his dirty laundry.’’
Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino said, “We’re not going to have any comment. We look forward to Daisuke returning to the mound at Fenway.’’
No need to have anything lost in translation on this one. The Sox are steamed. Matsuzaka talked out of turn, infuriated his bosses and his teammates, and unwittingly took the focus away from Hall of Famer Jim Rice on the night the slugger’s number was retired.
This has happened before at Fenway. Back in the early 1980s, Sox ownership partner Buddy LeRoux staged his infamous takeover (the LeRoux coup) on the night the ballclub honored fallen slugger Tony Conigliaro. Like Tony C back in the day, Rice deserved better.
It is reasonable to wonder if Matsuzaka will pitch again for the Sox this season. Or ever. The Sox thought they had an understanding with the stubborn righty, but now all bets are off.”

 

Frank Deford talked about the growth of  “Title IX” funding in today’s college athletics and the problems he can foresee.                                                                                   
“The Ladies Professional Golf Association is like the NAACP — both are a bit retro in their language. Nobody says “colored people” anymore, and, at least in sports, “ladies” is passe. Apart from golf, the females playing professionally today are not L’s, but W’s — women: the WTA, the WNBA, and so forth. After the old joke: that is no lady, that’s my athlete.
Unfortunately, across the board, in sports, these raw economic times have hit harder on women. We must remember that w omen’s sports, like women’s colleges, operate at a disadvantage when it comes to attracting the big money that is so often controlled by men. But also this: whether it’s cultural or genetic or both, women do not seem as inclined as men to pay to watch their own gender play games.
Nothing illustrated this better than the Women’s United Soccer Association, which opened in 2001 in the afterglow of the U.S. team’s World Cup victory, but folded ingloriously only two years later after a loss of $100 million. The fact that men’s soccer had never been successful here gave women their first real chance to have a popular American professional team sport where they could be preeminent, so the failure was as symbolic as it was financial.
Meanwhile, the WNBA limps along, forced to play as something of a basketball afterthought in the summer. The WNBA’s Houston franchise is so far the only to fold in any major sport since the great recession began. Then, earlier this month the LPGA forced out its commissioner, as ladies’ golf kept bleeding sponsors.
And, of course, sexism still raises its ugly head . . . or, some would say: its pretty head. There was the recent brouhaha when a Wimbledon official admitted, and even rather blithely, that often the choice of which female players were scheduled on the show courts had more to do with looks than talent. Everybody was aghast at such overt chauvinism, only the harsh reality is that until women start stepping up and buying tickets for women’s games, then — like it or not — sex may simply be good box office. Ten years later, what do most people remember about the 1999 World Cup — that Brandi Chastain scored the winning goal?
No, that Brandi Chastain took her shirt off.
American school sports are also having to cut back, although the men in charge inevitably make efforts to preserve football at all costs. Aha, but Title IX requires proportionate athletic representation, and football is so manpower-intensive that this invariably threatens the existence of other male sports. And here’s the greater irony: as American girls outdo boys in the classroom, more girls go to college. If boys like watching sports that much more than studying, fine. That’s all they’ll be doing — watching because college teams will, increasingly, by law, be women’s teams.
I’m not being facetious when I say that college athletic programs are heading toward a time when the men’s side may be football and basketball alone, while women will have a wide array of sports to choose from.”

Phil Rogers, of the ChiTrib wrote about Pete Rose and his dashed hopes:

“Poor Pete Rose.

He’s 68, as one-dimensional as ever and still paying for mistakes he made in 1987, when his running buddies were Tommy Gioiosa, Paul Janszen and Ron Peters, who wouldn’t have survived three episodes on “the Sopranos.” The 20-year anniversary of Rose’s lifetime ban is approaching, and there’s no end in sight, despitemoments of false hope.

One of those came Monday.

Rose, now a West Coast guy, awoke to reports in the New York Daily News that Hank Aaron and other unnamed Hall of Fame members had been lobbying Commissioner Bud Selig for a favorable ruling on Rose’s application for reinstatement, filed in 1997. But Selig and other Major League Baseball officials had quashed that story before the day was over.

Selig was so angry about the Daily News story, built largely around one quote from Aaron, that sources indicated he was strongly considering authorizing a
statement contradicting it.

Reached by the Chicago Tribune in his Milwaukee office, Selig declined to comment, saying only that nothing had changed since he was asked about the Rose case during a group interview in St. Louis on July 14.

“There’s nothing new,” he said the day of the All-Star game. “We are reviewing it. Since I’m the judge and jury in that case, I don’t think I’m going to comment beyond that.”

Selig annually uses the Hall of Fame induction weekend to discuss major issues in the game with Hall of Fame members. The Daily News reported that several Hall of Fame members have been trying to persuade Selig into lifting the ban, which was instituted Aug. 24, 1989, but the paper quoted only Aaron.

“I would like to see Pete in,” Aaron said during an informal interview Saturday. “He belongs there.”

Selig and Aaron speak regularly, and it would be easy to assume that Aaron wouldn’t speak in favor of Rose’s reinstatement without knowing it was under
consideration. But it appears the Daily News read too much into Aaron’s comments.

Selig rarely has commented about Rose’s status in anything but the most cryptic terms — aware that the review ultimately falls to him — but is unlikely to allow him back into uniform or onto the Hall of Fame ballot.

Some observers believe Selig’s stance is personal in nature, as some have blamed the agonizing investigation into Rose’s gambling for the sudden death of then-commissioner Bart Giamatti. But it goes far beyond that, dealing with Rose’s long-held contention that he never bet on baseball and possibly some facts about Rose’s later years discovered during the review of his appeal.

Selig met with Rose in 2003 and appeared to be moving toward removing him from the ineligible list when the all-time hits leader released his autobiography, “My Prison Without Bars,” in January 2004.

Rose, who defied Giamatti by immediately challenging the findings of MLB’s 1989 investigation, had steadfastly maintained that he never bet on baseball. He changed his stance in the book, and at the time he said he hoped his admission would persuade Selig to lift the ban implemented by Giamatti. Instead, communication between his lawyers and MLB reportedly came to a halt.

Selig was angered that Rose came clean only to make a buck and that transcripts from the book were made public on the same day the Hall of Fame released the 2004 vote, overshadowing the election of Paul Molitor and Dennis Eckersley.

Contrary to the Daily News story, there has been no movement by Rose’s peers to have him take a seat among the greats in Cooperstown, N.Y. The Hall of Fame members are hard-liners when it comes to respect for the game, and it’s hard to see that they would elect Rose if given the chance.”

 

From Gwen Knapp: “Roger Goodell struck the highest notes of his tenure as the NFL sheriff Monday, when he explained why he had conditionally approved Michael Vick’s return to the league and, more important, the responsibilities that the NFL had to accept as it reopened the door to a player convicted of a stomach-turning felony.
The commissioner came across as a papa bear in an expensive suit, which played surprisingly well, with little of the authoritarian condescension that accompanies paternalism in men’s sports. Goodell succeeded mostly because he made it clear that the real patriarch in this relationship would be the revered former Colts coach, Tony Dungy, who had already ministered to Vick while he was behind bars in Leavenworth, Kan.
Still, Goodell’s tone mattered. When he decided two seasons ago to start suspending troublesome players based primarily on his judgment, rather than simply letting jurisprudence takes it course, he waded into much more complicated territory than he could have imagined. Not long after the first descriptions of Vick’s dogfighting ring, including the executions of defeated pups, went public, it became clear that neither Goodell nor a federal judge could ever lay down enough law to convince passionate animal lovers that he deserved to start fresh in a place of privilege on Sunday afternoons.
Once Vick left government custody, the commissioner had to weigh widely divergent meanings of forgiveness and second chances, in essence to play a few downs as God. He wisely chose to take the role down several notches, playing it humbly, not pretending he had all the answers.
In cynical terms, his ruling – Vick’s right to sign with a team, practice at training camp, play the final two preseason games, and then hope for full reinstatement in the first six weeks of the regular season – seems like a trial balloon. But occasionally, an attempt to do what looks like the right thing leads to something in the vicinity of the real deal.
For instance, if Vick signs with a new team, and part of the deal includes a fat donation to a local animal shelter, the gesture could rightly be seen as a craven attempt to buy off objectors. But the economy has left shelters all over the country crammed beyond capacity with homeless pets. If Vick hadn’t done time, accepting the money would be a sellout. Now? The shelters should take the check, and then ask for more.
One of the first words that Goodell used Monday when describing Vick’s behavior was “cruel.” He had to address the biggest concern of Vick’s opponents – that he engaged in sadism and then expressed contrition only because he got caught and had no other route back to the NFL. At the same time, the commissioner had to acknowledge that Vick paid for his crime and that many, many people believe that continuing to penalize him would reflect a cold-hearted arrogance, which can breed sadistic cruelty.
“I am not here to punish anybody,” Goodell said. “… The intent here was to do the right thing with a young man’s life.”
If so, then he and Dungy and all of the advisers around Vick would be wise to avoid one of the most despicable clichés surrounding players in trouble: “He has to get away from a bad element, his so-called friends.”
Three Vick cohorts also went to prison for their role in his Bad Newz Kennels. Too often, they have been portrayed as leeches and the source of Vick’s misdeeds, even though he had the bankroll and the stature to hold absolute power in those friendships. He could have slipped cash to his hangers-on or told them he was setting up a plumbing business for them to run. We have no idea who exactly decided to train animals to maul each other, take bets on their fights and then electrocute or shoot the losers.
This is just a way to shift the burden from Vick, because no one can make any money off putting his buddies in a uniform and on TV every weekend. Trying to humanize Vick by dehumanizing un-famous, un-rich young men doesn’t work. It’s another form of playing God, and if the commissioner has learned anything from this crisis, that position has been erased from his depth chart.”

Jerry Crowe wrote about the first days of Vin Scully’s career and his assist from Red Barber. “Vin Scully showed up unprepared for an assignment once in his life — and Dodgers fans were the better for it.

It was 60 years ago this November, and Scully was a 21-year-old greenhorn, recently graduated from Fordham, new to the announcing business and eager to leave his mark.

The young New Yorker had been tapped by Red Barber to make his professional play-by-play debut at a Maryland-Boston University football game on Nov.12, 1949, at Fenway Park.

Barber, voice of the Brooklyn Dodgers and host of a college football roundup show on the CBS Radio Network, had met Scully only briefly but remembered
the redhead when he needed a substitute after another announcer took ill.Scully, of course, looked forward to the assignment after working all summer in a studio in Washington, but his mind wasn’t entirely focused on football. Also that day, his alma mater would be playing at Boston College, with a post game dance to follow.

So, even though it was mid-November in New England, Scully left his coat, hat and gloves in his hotel room, preferring to be unencumbered when he got to the
dance.

“It was cold,” Scully says during a recent interview at Dodger Stadium, “but I thought — naively, dumbly — ‘I’m going to be working for a network; I’ll have a big
booth.’ ”

Instead, he arrived at Fenway Park to discover that he would be calling the game from the roof, exposed to the elements.

“I’m looking for a booth, and there is no booth,” Scully says. “There’s an engineer with a card table and his little dials for volume, a microphone and about 50 yards of cable. That’s it.”

The temperature in Boston never climbed above 45 degrees that day, but Scully never mentioned his discomfort or his working conditions to his listeners. Cable trailing behind him, he walked back and forth along the roof following the action.

Meanwhile, the other three games being covered by the network were not nearly as competitive as the Maryland-BU game, so Barber frequently returned to Scully to carry the broadcast.

“The other games started falling by the wayside,” Scully says, “but my game was terrific. But it also gets dark, the wind is blowing off the Charles River, the lights are on and I’m freezing.”

By the time Maryland wrapped up a narrow victory, Scully says, he felt miserable. Dejectedly, he climbed down off the roof.

“I really feel like I’ve blown it,” he says. “So I go to the dance, meet some pals of mine, but I’m really down. And I’m down on the train going back to New York. I thought, ‘Here I was given this golden opportunity, but I was frozen, blah, blah, blah.’ ”

Two days later, though, a BU official phoned Barber to apologize for the shoddy treatment of a network announcer, explaining the circumstances of Scully’s broadcast and providing insight that Barber might never have learned otherwise.

“That turned out to be a big break,” Scully says, “because let’s say I did a very, very ordinary job. In Red’s mind, ‘This kid never mentioned anything about no booth, the cold, nothing.’ That made a very ordinary job a little more than that in Red’s mind.”

In his autobiography, “Rhubarb in the Catbird Seat,” Barber recalled, “Vin did a sound job, even though it was bitterly cold and he had to work with a hand mike on the exposed roof. The wind even blew his papers away, but he didn’t complain.”

Says Scully, “He called me — I’ll never forget it — and said something to the effect of, ‘Pretty tough day up there on the roof?’ And I said, ‘Yes, sir, it was cold.’
And he said, ‘You’ll have a booth this week: You’re doing Harvard-Yale.’ ”

Scully smiles.

He’d left his mark.

Two months later, after Ernie Harwell left the Dodgers’ broadcasting team to go to work for the New York Giants, Barber again remembered the redhead who hadn’t made a fuss.

Wrote Barber in his autobiography: “I always had the dream of taking an untutored kid who showed some promise and of putting him on the air for what he was, a neophyte learning the trade. Scully was a perfect choice. He was a green pea, but he was a very appealing young green pea. It was obvious he had something on the ball; you didn’t know precisely what it was, but he had it.”

Branch Rickey saw it too, telling Barber after meeting with Scully, “You have found the right young man.”

Scully joined the Dodgers in Vero Beach, Fla., in the spring of 1950 as their No. 3 announcer, sharing the booth with Barber and Connie Desmond. Only 3 1/2 years later, still only 25, he was calling the World Series on national television with Mel Allen.

By 1955, Barber was working for the New York Yankees, Desmond’s career had been derailed because of alcoholism and Scully was the Dodgers’ principal
announcer.

It might never have happened, though, if Scully hadn’t left his coat, his hat and his gloves in his hotel room.

Maybe that was dumb.

Maybe it was naive.

But it worked out OK.

 

Frank Deford wrote about some baseball people who are a little long in the tooth.  Say, was he trying to tell me something? Any-hoo, he wrote: “You wanna win at baseball? Easy. Hire an old guy to manage your team. In this youth dominated world, it’s Old-Timers’ Day every day at the top of the baseball standings.
The National League in particular is like an advertisement for AARP.
The National League boasts three graybeards in their sixties. You could hire the whole bunch to do those interminable sales pitches for old people’s remedies that dominate the network news commercials every night — fixing their dentures, going to the bathroom at their leisure and taking the right medications to ward off dementia. The average age of NL managers is almost 57, and, hey, that’s supposed to be the league where more brain power is required because there’s no designated hitter. They don’t call it the Senior Circuit for nothing.
In all of major league baseball, only one manager is in his thirties, while in the NFL, only two are barely in their sixties. The average NFL head coach is a full six years younger than his baseball counterpart. It’s a weird dichotomy, isn’t it?
Perhaps baseball managers are older because the sport has more of a hierarchy, with the minor leagues. You have to work your way up. Dave Trembley apprenticed as a minor league manager for 20 years before he got the Orioles job at 55. Also, baseball is the only sport where the managers dress just like their players. It hides their age. Everybody loves a man in a uniform. Even an old man.

 
Dan Daly asked in the DC Times: “What’s the significance in today’s sports world of the letters-P, C, Z, Y, and N?”
The answer:  “They’re the middle letters in Blue Jays pitcher Marc Rzepcznynski’s name.”

Nick Cafardo has valuable league insights, even though he’s from Boston and writes for The Globe. “The Yankees overtook the Red Sox for first place in the American League East last week, beating up on the Orioles and A’s. What could still doom the Yankees is their streaky nature and the age of some of their key players. But Hideki Matsui, likely in his final season with the Yankees, is hitting well and in the clutch. Johnny Damon has had a superb season and is finishing up a four-year, $52 million deal, of which he was worth every penny. And Alex Rodriguez turns 34 tomorrow and has shrugged off hip surgery to hit 19 homers.
The Steinbrenners wowed free agents CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira in the off season, and can decide over the next few days whether they will add to their team before the trading deadline, or whether general manager Brian Cashman believes the Yankees already have enough to win it all. Cashman does not want to give up his best prospects for Roy Halladay, but if you’re a Red Sox fan you have to have an uneasy feeling that the Yankees might get in at the last minute, as they did with Damon and Teixeira.
“I think we have a good enough team to win with what we have right now,’’ Damon wrote in a text message. “We find a way to win games. We come back a lot. There’s no giving up on this team. It reminds me of the team I was on in 2004 with the Red Sox.’’
The only downers are that Chien-Ming Wang has given them nothing, and they are 0-8 against the Red Sox this season, to which Derek Jeter responded, “Nothing we can do about that now.’’
Sabathia, Burnett, Andy Pettitte, and Joba Chamberlain are pitching well. Phil Hughes has become the eighth-inning bridge to Mariano Rivera. Catcher Jorge Posada can still hit when it counts. And Melky Cabrera, Robinson Cano, and Nick Swisher are having good years complementing the stars.
The Yankees are 22-5 over their last 27 games and have registered nine walk off victories, as many as they did in 2008.
“We still haven’t played our best ball,’’ Teixeira said. “The great thing about this team is that we have improvements to make and we’re all trying to get better as a team. I sensed really early in spring training that this team will stick together.’’
Conversely, everything in Queens has gone haywire. It’s hard to blame anyone for the injuries to Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, J.J. Putz, and Carlos Delgado. Bad enough it’s the third year of this black hole, but now come the antics of vice president of player development Tony Bernazard, who reportedly took off his shirt
recently and challenged the Mets’ double-A players to a fight.
The Mets did not respond until the story became public, which makes one wonder what is going on in the organization. There needs to be someone with a high baseball IQ who can be the president of baseball operations and who can oversee GM Omar Minaya and Bernazard.
The Mets say they are investigating the Bernazard incident, but Francisco Rodriguez told the New York Post’s Bart Hubbuch he had a run-in with Bernazard on a team bus last week. Another player told the paper, “That guy is crazy. No one likes him.’’ An ex-player said to this reporter, “That clubhouse has always been fragmented. It starts with the people in charge.’’
The Mets built a nice ballpark, but unfortunately they didn’t take into consideration that their franchise player – David Wright – can’t reach the left-field wall. If they built the ballpark for pitching, they have very little of it. Nor do they have the prospects to augment their player needs. Minaya certainly made good deals for Johan Santana and Rodriguez, and while some fans are calling for Minaya’s head, that’s probably not going to happen. The organization has to decide whether to rip it up and start over or build around Wright, Beltran, Reyes, Santana, and Rodriguez.
The owners, the Wilpon family, lost a reported $700 million in the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme, which may have tied Minaya’s hands. Did it prevent him from signing Manny Ramírez, from making a bid for Teixeira? And is the Wilpons’ recent vote of confidence for Minaya a sign they know they tied their GM’s hands?
A bigger disaster are the Padres as a result of their ownership mess, which was finally resolved in part when Jeff Moorad was named the new chief executive officer. John Moores is still in the picture as chairman but will gradually go away. When Moorad finally gets his entire group in, he’s not expected to be a deep-pockets owner, either. With not much going on in their farm system, the Padres can likely expect a few more years of doormat status, but no worries, their new promotion of Sunday breakfast on the field at Petco Park should keep the fans coming, right?
Any time an owner has to sell, which is the case in Texas with Tom Hicks, it’s a scary proposition. It appears they’re somewhat hamstrung nearing the trading deadline, unable to add payroll. The Pirates are in Year 17 of their rebuilding program and continue to trade away veterans for second-tier minor leaguers, but they are signing their draft picks. The Diamondbacks haven’t seemed to recover from Brandon Webb’s injury, and their homegrown philosophy didn’t work this
season.                                                            
With Matt Holliday gone to the Cardinals to add much-needed protection for Albert Pujols, one of the major dominoes has fallen. Now, what’s next? The Rays, Twins, Phillies, Dodgers, Angels, Red Sox, and Yankees could all be major players this week. Among the sellers could be the Indians, who keep fielding offers for Victor Martinez from Boston, Tampa Bay, and San Francisco, but they aren’t inclined to deal unless a team’s best prospects are included.
Besides Roy Halladay, other prize pitchers who could be pried away include Scott Kazmir (the Rays finally realize he’s never going to be a No. 1), Cliff Lee
(it will take a blockbuster package), Jarrod Washburn (if the Mariners decide they’re not going to contend), Erik Bedard (proceed with caution), and George Sherrill (a great find for anyone seeking a lefthanded reliever), while hitters Aubrey Huff and Kevin Millar could be had.
The Red Sox will dip into the Halladay stakes if the price comes down at the end. Otherwise they will look for a righthanded bat who can play the outfield, given they’re a little short with only Rocco Baldelli as a spare, while Nick Green could also be spotted out there.”

 

From Dwight Perry:
“Claude Smith, the 1941 All-American Soap Box Derby champ, wasn’t chagrined to lose the ceremonial Oil Can Derby — which also included racers aged 91 and 89 — preceding the 72nd annual event in Akron, Ohio.
As Smith, 82, told AP: “My biggest thrill today was being called the kid in our race.”
• Minnesota senior associate AD Tom Wistrcill, to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, on the Daktronics video scoreboard in the Gophers’ new football stadium: “It’s just like a high-definition television you would have in your house, except that it’s as big as your house.”
• David Thomas of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, on Rangers pitcher Vicente Padilla, fresh off the swine flu, penciled in to start Tuesday: “Don’t expect any
Tigers players to charge the mound.”
• Brian Smith, to The Washington Post, on being a Washington Nationals fan: “OK, it’s $135 I don’t spend on gambling or alcohol. There are worse vices you could have.”
• Rich Shapiro of the New York Daily News, after Alex Rodriguez kissed actress girlfriend Kate Hudson at the Yankees’ annual family picnic: “A-Rod went 0 for 4 Saturday — but he made it to first base anyway.”
So, Delaware wants to legalize gambling on individual sports events?
NFL lawyers, not amused, say take Nevada and give the points.”

Feelings are running hot and cold about Michael Vick and his potential return to pro-football. Jim Armstrong of the Denver Post said, “If you don’t think MichaelVick didn’t serve his time and then some, consider this: It’s altogether possible that Travis Henry could do less time for selling 15 pounds of cocaine than Vick got for running a dog fighting ring. . . .
Vick is about to be reinstated by Czar Goodell, but no one seems interested in signing him. Could be because he has completed 53-plus percent of his throws in a league in which 60 percent is considered average? Nah, didn’t think so. . . .
The bottom line on Vick? One word: Saskatchewan. .
From Bob Molinaro, of HamptonRoads.com: “Michael Vick, it seems to me, has got one big thing going for him as he attempts to complete his long trek back to the NFL.
Fatigue.
Not his. Ours.
There reaches a point in the life of every notorious scandal and controversy when collective mental fatigue sets in among the public, and sometimes, even the
media.
Well, in the case of Vick, maybe not with the voracious media.
Maybe it just reflects my attitude, but I get this sense that a large constituency of people who have been following this story are suffering Vick burnout. If so, it’s
understandable.
Think that Vick, after two years away from the game and a 21-month prison stretch, has suffered enough? In a manner of speaking, so have the rest of us.
This story won’t disappear – nor should it – but turning down the volume on the drama and bitterness would be welcomed.
It might already be happening, too. Not out of sympathy for Vick, but because more and more people are just over it.
It happens all the time, and not just with sports stories. A public that initially wants to be informed by the media eventually starts to feel assaulted by them.
Vick is the central figure in an extreme, highly emotional case, but examples of fan fatigue are readily available across the sports landscape.
Steroids fatigue arrived a while ago. That explains, in part, why Manny Ramirez wasn’t reviled by Dodgers fans or the general baseball public despite attempts by elements of the media to fan the fires of resentment.
The media and league officials are behind the curve when they portray steroids as the great cloud over America’s playgrounds. Generally, fans have moved on after a decade of nattering about the subject.
When an unflattering book about Alex Rodriguez came out this season amid reports that he had once tested positive for steroids, only a credulous few were buying – the book or the notion that this amounted to a traumatic scandal.
Admit it. A lot of us are a little burned out by the drama, aren’t we?
Rumors and stories of Brett Favre’s latest comeback were interesting at first, but what we’ll remember with annoyance is the endless dithering that followed.
Then there’s the return of David Beckham, and the impact – or glaring lack of one – the Brit has had on American soccer. The Beckham story is so 2007.
Now Terrell Owens is trying to resuscitate his infantile image by appearing in a TV reality show.
It’s too little, too late, most likely. T.O. fatigue rose to epidemic proportions at least two years before he shuffled off to Buffalo. ESPN still has his back and the ability to treat him like a major celebrity, but for most fans, Owens has been reduced from a major pain in the neck to a medium-sized curiosity.
As for Vick, those who say that he must win back the public’s trust and affection are expecting too much. Barring an unwarranted suspension by Commissioner Roger Goodell, Vick’s re-entry into football society might go smoother than expected, without the demonstrations from animal lovers that have been predicted.
Why? Not because America will ever love Vick more than its dogs, but simply as a result of collective burnout.
Don’t underestimate the role fatigue could play in this continuing melodrama. There’s a chance that we’re more sick and tired of the story itself than we are of
Vick.
Sally Jenkins, of the DC Post, argued the opposite position. “What other company besides the NFL would give a violent convicted felon (convicted felon-yes. Violent- that’s stretching it) a high-paying job? The league is the only organization on the face of the earth where Michael Vick could find work doing anything other than pushing a shovel or a broom, much less for several million dollars. (I believe that Vick pled guilty to running a criminal enterprise- not dog fighting)
It looks like Vick will play in the NFL this season, but only because the capricious spinning dial of nature awarded him quick feet, and because Commissioner Roger Goodell will give him a reprieve from indefinite suspension. What should hopefully be plain to Vick, as he awaits Goodell’s final decision, is that he is helpless and utterly reliant on people more powerful than he. He must rely on them for his food, and his shelter. He must trust that they will do him good, rather than harm. In that sense, he’s no better than a dog. So. How does it feel, Mike?
According to reports, after a three-hour meeting with Vick on Thursday, Goodell has tentatively decided to allow him to attend the opening of training camp next week. However, the league has cautioned that Goodell is still evaluating; “we are engaging in a careful and thoughtful process, and no decisions have been made,” spokesman Greg Aiello said. If Vick does play again, his status will be highly conditional, and this will be his one last chance. While Goodell evaluates, here are some things he should consider.
Vick killed and maimed animals for sport and treated them as discardable when they were played out and used up. His presence on the field will associate the NFL with cruelty as public entertainment and put the worst possible connotation on a word so often used to describe the league: “gladiatorial.” People will assume Vick learned this inhumane behavior playing the game, and some will say the league sanctions it.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals representatives have called on Goodell to give Vick a full psychological evaluation before allowing him to play, claiming he shows signs of antisocial personality disorder, which means he takes pleasure in harming things, is remorseless, and the chance of his recidivism is high.
According to PETA, Vick enjoyed placing pets in the cage with fighting pit bulls. “Baiting” is not uncommon in dog fighting circles, which are known to kidnap family pets to use as training fodder, to be ripped apart. PETA President Ingrid Newkirk told the Newport News Daily Press, “Saying sorry and getting his ball back after being caught enjoying killing dogs in hideously cruel ways for many years doesn’t cut it.”
It’s not incumbent on the league to give Vick a second chance — he already has had a second chance at decent employment, thanks to the kindness of others.
John Robert Lawson II, a CEO and the rector of Virginia Tech, gave Vick a $10 an hour full-time construction job in Hampton Roads on his release. Goodell should ask Vick if he knows what the current unemployment rate is in Hampton Roads. On the day he got out of Leavenworth, it was hovering at more than seven percent.
Nevertheless, there is an argument in favor of reinstatement. Most of the 50 dogs Vick treated so viciously have been rehabilitated in rescue homes and
recovered their gentler natures.
If they can do it, so can Vick. In addition to serving a 23-month sentence, he has been punished in other ways. Though Vick was a predator who trained dogs to kill each other, he was also preyed upon, as the painful minutes of his bankruptcy proceedings attest. He was fed on by scavenger coyotes, the crooks and thugs he towed out of his old Bad Newz neighborhood in Newport News, who spent his money heedlessly, on horses, cars, and even boats, until they left his bank accounts looking like chewed-on carrion.
“If you take a dog which is starving and feed him and make him prosperous, that dog will not bite you,” Mark Twain said. “This is the primary difference between a dog and a man.”
Vick filed for bankruptcy in 2008, with debts of $20.5 million and assets of $16 million, and a bankruptcy judge found in 2008 that he owed more than $1.2 million in back taxes. He desperately needs to get back on the field to meet those debts, and he has told a judge he believes he can play 10 more years. He will need to, if he’s going to ever dig out of his financial hole those feeders left him in.
Back in 2006 when Vick’s kennels were exposed, commentator Jonah Goldberg wrote, “Torturing a dog or a cat for sport is not disgusting because animals have rights; it is repugnant because human beings have obligations.”
Vick at least seems to understand something about obligations. In bankruptcy court, he revealed the number of people he is trying to support, and at what level:
He kept at least six homes in Virginia, Georgia, and Florida, and provided living expenses and about 10 vehicles for friends and relatives. He said he feltobligated to provide for his friends and family because of “where he had come from.” The judge replied that, while the sentiment was commendable, “You can’t be everything to everybody. If you do, you’re going to be nothing to anybody.”
Vick is one more mistake from being nothing to anybody, as disposable as one of those dogs he killed when they weren’t champion enough in his estimation. In deciding whether to accept Vick back into the league, what Goodell should look for above all is this: a sign that Vick recognizes that all creatures are sentient.
If the violence of the NFL has any ennobling purpose to it, if it’s good for anything other than cruel spectacle, it’s that the game explores a moral balance, the fragile line between sport and meanness. A humane restraint, the desire to compete without hurting, is an essential component and the only reason we say the game can bring out the best in people. Otherwise all that’s left is bloodlust.
Goodell should listen for a simple tone in what Vick has to say, and he will know when he hears it: It will be the sound of humility, of someone who has acquired a sense of himself in relation to other beings. Someone who now knows how it feels.

 

Dwight Perry, of the Seattle Times, sent along:                                                               
“Remember when “knothole gang” referred to school kids getting a free glimpse of a ballgame — and not a hotel voyeur with a video camera?”
” Rickey Henderson, in a conference call, on why he’s enlisting the help of ex-player Earl Robinson in writing his Hall of Fame induction speech: “Speech and me don’t get along sometimes.”
” Vancouver (B.C.) comic Torben Rolfsen, on NBA player Quentin Richardson getting traded three times this summer: “Q is weighing his next sponsor options:
Nike, Reebok or U-Haul.”
” Former British Open champion Paul Lawrie, to BBC Sport, on how 59-year-old Tom Watson nearly won this year’s event: “Golf balls don’t know how old you
are.”
” Steve Schrader of the Detroit Free Press, on the latest Japanese sports craze, beach sumo wrestling: “Those guys will never get all the sand out.”

The DC Post’s Dan Daly looked at the “Roy Halladay Sweeps” and how it could help those involved. He said, “With the trading deadline drawing near, the
Toronto Blue Jays have displayed Roy Halladay prominently in the department-store window – right next to the women’s lingerie. Needless to say, more than a few teams are salivating at the prospect. (I’m talking about Halladay, by the way, not the frilly lace underwear.)
The Blue Jays’ ace could tip the balance of any number of division races – starting with his own division, the American League East, where the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays are in the midst of a season-long free-for-all. It’s like this every year at the deadline, it seems. An impact player or two become available because (a.) their contracts are expiring and/or (b.) their team’s playoff hopes are doing the same, and the week leading up to July 31 turns into a day-after-Christmas sale at Wal-Mart, with GMs slamming shopping carts into one another’s shins and shamelessly trying to cut in line.
A year ago, it was the Brewers who won the CC Sabathia sweepstakes and, as a result, made the playoffs for the first time in 26 years. But now CC is gone,
signed by Steinbrenner Inc. as a free agent, and Milwaukee is poorer by four prospects. None of them have helped the Indians much yet, but it’s hard not to notice that the Brew Crew has gone back to being the Pabst Blue Ribbon of the NL Central (read: 48-46 going into Wednesday night’s game).
That’s the flip side of these deadline auctions, the Beverly Hillbillies side of them. Every now and then, one of baseball’s have-nots will get to live in a big mansion with a ce-ment pond for a couple of months – and then, unlike the TV series, they’ll return to the boonies. This season, maybe it will be the Rangers who take the plunge, who “load up the truck and move to Beverly” (as the song sorta goes). At least they’d have Halladay’s services for another year before his deal runs out.
Sabathia was basically a two-month rental for the Brewers.
Still, while a Halladay trade would generate much excitement, it would also serve as yet another reminder that baseball is broken. When the Blue Jays can’t hang on to Roy – just as the Indians couldn’t keep Sabathia or the Twins had to let Johan Santana go – it makes the major leagues look like a crooked card game, one in which the house (e.g. the Yankees, Red Sox and other big spenders) always wins.
Look at the Pirates – if you can bear to. At last year’s deadline they sold Jason Bay, Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte to the highest bidders… the Red Sox and
Yankees, naturally. On Wednesday, they sent Adam LaRoche to the Sox for a pair of low-level minor leaguers. (This after peddling Nate McLouth to the
Braves in June.) Ask yourself: If Roberto Clemente were breaking in with the Pirates today, how long would it be before he was dealt for a package of cheaper alternatives?
Or perhaps the question should be: How long would it take him to be eligible for arbitration? (Answer: three years.)
If, in the coming days, any of TV’s talking heads says, “A pitcher like Roy Halladay isn’t available very often,” feel free to laugh. As we’ve seen, pitchers like Halladay are available all too often. Never mind Sabathia and Santana, what about Josh Beckett? Were the Marlins not so habitually strapped for cash, Beckett would probably still be chucking aspirins for them and not Boston. And let’s not forget, before the Sox got Josh (along with Mike Lowell) from the Florida flea market, they got Pedro Martinez from the “all-items-must-go” Expos.
Yes, Halladay – if the Blue Jays opt to move him now – will be “black gold, Texas tea” for some contender. He has a career winning percentage of
.673 (142-69) – pitching for a team that has never made the playoffs in his 12 seasons – and he actually throws a complete game once in a while. In fact, he’s
thrown a bundle of them by contemporary standards, 44 to be exact. That’s almost as many as Tom Glavine (56) threw in racking up 305 victories.
However the Halladay sell-a-thon turns out, his new team will undoubtedly thank the Blue Jays for the “heapin’ helpin’ of their hospitality.” Indeed, I wouldn’t be surprised if Roy’s next employers told the Jays, “Y’all come back now, y’hear?”

 

From Bob Molinaro of HamptonRoads.com, “Skeptics contend that the disfunctional Clippers management is only showing interest in Iverson in an attempt to shore up seriously sagging season-ticket sales and that Iverson’s presence would hurt the progress of the team’s young talent. Maybe. But Iverson signing with an L.A. team would sort of make sense. Hollywood has always had a soft spot for sequels.                                                                                                 
I’ve always thought comparisons between Roger Federer and Tiger Woods were forced and ridiculous – they play different sports, after all –
but after an almost-60 Tom Watson shot a 65 at the British Open, tennis fans have a little more ammunition. Federer, at least, has never competed against
anyone carrying an AARP card.After he was recently knocked out of a game by Toronto, Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain said, “At the end of the day, the sun comes up and I still have a job.” Sun comes up at the end of the day? Where does Joba live, anyway?” 

 

Jim Armstrong said that a guy e-mailed him with a question about some bowling tournament and he said, “Right. The last time I watched bowling, Chris Schenkel was covering it in a plaid sportcoat.”
By the way, did you hear? The Pirates just traded away the statue of Roberto Clemente out in front of their ballpark. . . .
Good things really do happen to good people. How do we know? Because Matt Holliday just escaped Oakland, where the upper deck is used for the
witness-protection program, and landed in St. Louis. . . .

Sally Jenkins, of the DC Post, remembered Bette Davis who said, “I will not retire while I’ve still got my legs, and my makeup box.” “To some people, gray-stubbled Brett Favre looks ridiculous chasing a job with the Minnesota Vikings at 39. He’s the sports version of an actress hanging around with too much powder and lipstick on her face. But if we learn nothing else from the events of this summer, it should be that we cheat ourselves out of meaningful performances when we sentence athletes to old age prematurely. One of these days, a golfer older than 50 will win a major championship, but it won’t be because his audience encouraged him to keep playing.
When an athlete renounces his retirement, most of us groan. We complain they don’t know when to get off the stage, and that they will tarnish our memories by gimping around as less than what they were. Somehow, we got the idea that their bodies and their legacies are our personal property. We want them to remain ideals, and don’t want the sadness of watching them grow old. But that’s our problem, not theirs.
Athletes such as Favre have it right. Studies show that retirement is no good for you. Even if you hate the job you go to every day, sudden abrupt inactivity is a bad idea. A working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research entitled “The Effects of Retirement on Physical and Mental Health Outcomes” studied people in complete retirement over six years. It found that retirement led to a 5 to 6 percent increase in illness, a 6 to 9 percent decline in mental health, and a 5 to 16 percent increase in mobility difficulties.
The study also suggested that when retirement is involuntary, the symptoms — which can range from expanding waistlines to depression to tobacco and alcohol use — tend to be even worse. Forced retirement is exactly what athletes face: They are cut, released, or injured, and then there is the more subtle pressure of being continually told that they should go out on top, because it’s a sign of neediness or weakness to hang around.
As Bill Bradley once said, “An athlete has two deaths.” The loss of purpose, and of a reassuring regimen, can leave athletes feeling aimless to the point of
desperation. “You wake up one day on the other side of the moon,” Kareem Abdul-Jabbar once told me, after retiring from the NBA at 42. Jabbar initially struggled so badly with retirement that he actually sold his house. He woke up one day and decided it was too depressingly dark for him.
The conventional wisdom is that athletes who go out on top are being true to their greatness. In fact, they are being untrue to themselves. Great champions are in the business of exhausting themselves. They aren’t content as long as they feel there is something left, and to waste any fraction of their capacities feels, to them, like a sin against nature. Their every instinct tells them to use themselves up. As spectators, we have no right to contradict them. “The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender,” Vince Lombardi once said.
Nolan Ryan got it right when he played baseball until he was 46, and so did Satchel Paige, playing until he was 59. George Foreman got it right when he won the IBF and WBA titles by flooring Michael Moorer at the age of 45, and Dara Torres got it right when she won two silvers in Beijing at 40.
Martina Navratilova is still getting it right, playing competitive tennis past the age of 50. Saw her just the other day; she’s got a better physique than most American teenagers. She made the Wimbledon final at 38, and won a Wimbledon doubles title at 49. Although she finally retired from the professional tennis tour in 2006, she is spending this summer playing World Team Tennis.
None of which she would have done had she listened to the drumbeat of advice telling her to give it up over the last three decades.
“I sure felt that push from the press,” she says. “When I lost a match in my 20s, it was because I had a bad day or someone just played really well. When I lost a match in my 30s, it was invariably because I was too old. I mean, I won two more Wimbledon singles titles after they tried to retire me. For that matter there were a few articles when I was 25 saying I should probably call it quits, that my best days were behind me. It is peculiar.”
Consider a great brain surgeon, or an architect, Navratilova says. If a young gun comes along who’s better, no one would suggest they quit.
The next time an athlete has a question about whether to stay in the game, the next time Favre debates his arm strength, or Armstrong questions his legs, they should remember the words of another Armstrong, who stayed in his own profession until the day he died.
“Musicians don’t retire,” Louis Armstrong said. “They stop when there’s no more music in them.”

 

 

Tom Robinson of HamptonRoads.com talked about the world of sports, society, and the relationship between the two.                                                                                          
“Sports drone on here in summer’s haze. Did the Dodgers clinch the National League West yet? Is that relentless bike race finally through Stage 78? Y’all nudge me when Federer and Nadal arrive at the U.S. Open, OK?
Ah, but one thing remains fresh and consistent as ever: the flow of sports into courts. It is a brisk, befuddling and even a bizarre thing, the onslaught of
jurisprudence into the business of our games.
Wake up and smell the torts. An inarguable fact is that athletes, personalities, teams and leagues simply spend inordinate gobs of time and money suing.
Discussing suing. Threatening to sue. Being sued. Defending suits. Settling suits.
                                                                                                                                             .
 So even as Michael Vick’s bankruptcy situation crawls along with brain-numbing inertia… as Vick himself sheds his federal-custody GPS chip… as the crazy Plaxico Burress self-wounding case gets tabled… our dockets choke with dizzying legal paper.
I’m not even talking about the chambers of Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner who with a word could smite Vick’s and Burress’ comebacks. I’m talking wild stuff like the civil suit against Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger brought by an unnamed casino worker for an alleged year-old sexual assault.
I’m talking stubborn stuff like the two Minnesota Vikings defensive linemen fighting the NFL over their four-game suspensions for failing drug tests. Idealistic stuff like former college athletes – collected by seasoned NCAA tormentor/shoe salesman Sonny Vaccaro and fronted by ex-UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon – going after the NCAA with a class-action suit for using their images for profit in video games and such.
Mushrooming stuff like the Jeremy Mayfield-NASCAR ugly-fest involving Mayfield’s supposed use of methamphetamine.
And then, mega-important stuff like the NFL asking the U.S. Supreme Court to declare the NFL a single entertainment business competing as one, rather than 32 separate businesses competing against each other.
But while I’m no Denny Crane, bless his late, great fictional heart, I’ve read enough to know the Supreme Court thing is what really has players in the sports-law arena on edge.
Basically, an Illinois cap-making company sued, wouldn’t you know, on anti-trust grounds when the NFL sold its exclusive apparel rights to Reebok. The NFL prevailed, but the cap company pursued the fight. Surprisingly, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. And the NFL, sensing sweeping anti-trust immunity with a favorable ruling that could, according to some experts, completely rock major league sports, eagerly awaits the decision due next summer.
In any case, the Jumbotron will register another legal winner and loser. Just in time, no doubt, for opening statements in the next dozen sports-court dramas.

Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe said: “Tom Watson, closing in fast on his 60th birthday, damn near won the British Open. As a story, a Watson victory would have been off the charts. Even in defeat, or non-success, if you will, it will remain one of the great sagas of the 2009 sports year. No one who loves sport ever will forget that Tom Watson led the 2009 British Open through 71 holes before making a proper mess of things with the putter on hole 72.
But how you evaluate this achievement depends on how you regard golf.
Just where golf fits in with our other popular sporting pursuits is one of those juicy arguments that never goes away. That golf is a highly refined skill is beyond dispute. But is it, you know, sport, as we define and celebrate sport? Is it good or bad for golf that a man pushing 60 can compete at such a high level in one of its most prestigious competitions?
Keep in mind that in matters such as this, people are free to apply their own parameters and requirements to the exercise. Now if anyone is interested in what Webster’s New World Collegiate Dictionary has to say, consider that under the word “sport’’ it offers the following:                                                                                                                                        1. “Any activity or experience that gives enjoyment or recreation; pastime; diversion.’’                                                                                                                                     2. “Such activity, especially when competitive, requiring more or less vigorous bodily exertion and carried on, sometimes, as a profession.’’
I think we all know what the seven key words are in definition No. 2, don’t we?
Requiring more or less vigorous bodily exertion.
Granted, golf does not test people on a physical par with countless other pursuits. But it tests its participants emotionally at the highest stress level, and in the end Tom Watson, who had beaten the competition through 71 holes, could not close the deal. That he did so well for so long speaks volumes about him. That he was made to look so helpless in the end speaks volumes about golf.

 

 

And Gwen Knapp wrote in the SF Chronicle: “The people knocking the sport probably couldn’t shoot par on any hole anywhere, just as the people who dismiss figure skating couldn’t perform a single jump, not even after six months of training. They’d break an ankle trying. If they could break someone else’s ankle in the
process, then they might take the sport seriously.

 

 

Scott Ostler, of the Chronicle, realized that he’s happy not to be the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “Goodell realizes that the closest he’s going to get to pigskin is if some player gets arrested for running an illegal boar-fighting operation.
Any day now, Judge Goodell will slam down his gavel on Michael Vick and do one of two things:
— Clear Vick to play, sending PETA and dog lovers everywhere into a foam-at-the-mouth frenzy that will shake the corporate foundation of the league.
— Suspend Vick and be accused of depriving a man of his constitutional rights by caving in to pressure from what some see as a lunatic fringe.
Then Goodell will move on to other matters, such as how to handle rape allegations against the Super Bowl-winning quarterback.
It’s never the second-string long-snapper, is it?
Goodell is god over a parallel universe in which a guy accidentally shoots himself because he carries a gun to protect himself from overly-aggressive cocktail
waitresses.
God Goodell’s players do not operate in our world. A woman accuses Ben Roethlisberger of rape. She is a casino host and claims Roethlisberger met her at her, job last summer during a charity golf tournament, and the next night phoned her desk and asked if she would come up and fix his TV.
And she went.
I’m totally not taking sides here. I’m merely pointing out the difference between their world and ours. Over the years, I have had approximately 10 hotel-TV malfunctions. In each case the hotel responded by waiting an appropriate amount of time so I could miss the show I wanted to watch, then dispatching to my room a fat repair guy suffering from chronic plumber’s-butt. The off-field stuff keeps God Goodell busy. This year, 29 NFL players have been arrested for offenses other than DUI. That’s according to SignOnSanDiego.com, where you find a list of NFL arrests, compiled by the San Diego Union Tribune.
It breaks down to about one arrest per team this half-year. The 49ers and Raiders check in with one each. One NFL player allegedly hurled his wife down stairs.
Another allegedly fondled himself outside a woman’s home. Goodell has to be thinking, “Whatever happened to cow-tipping?”
I don’t know if the NFL has more criminals per capita than other sports, but if bonus points are awarded for originality, the NFL is scoring big.
Goodell comes off as tough on criminals and knuckleheads.
A pro tennis player recently tested positive for cocaine but was given no punishment because he claimed he was contaminated by kissing a stranger in a club.
The guess here is that if an NFL player had made that claim, Goodell would have suggested something else the player could kiss.
While Goodell has to be acutely aware of, and protective of, league image, he manages to come off as a guy who can look at a situation and say, “Dude, that’s just wrong.”
Soon Goodell will rule on Vick. The commissioner’s decision will satisfy approximately 10 percent of everyone who cares.
You other 90 percent, just remember: Serving as god for the Nutty Felons and Lunkheads isn’t as easy as it looks.

Les Carpenter wrote in the DC Post about the athletic obsession of Tony Ragano: “On a gentle Sunday morning, with the sandstone castle towers of Fort Reno Park rising behind him, the most competitive player in the adult, co-ed, slow-pitch Potomac Wiffleball League tugs on a Camel Light and swears.
Tony Ragano loves statistics. But more than statistics he loves his strikeouts, which he gets in great abundance in Wiffle ball thanks to his two favorite pitches: a knuckleball that dances as if it has been unleashed in a hurricane and a slider he deems to be “unhittable.”
He loves it so much that once this spring he forced himself from bed with one of the worst hangovers of his life, simply because it was Sunday. Wiffle-ball day.
Ragano does not miss Wiffle-ball days.
Weeks later, Ragano would come to look upon that morning with a pang of lament. Not for the binge that wrought his suffering but for the game that ensued: an extra-inning, scoreless duel against a group of college-age kids who call themselves the Blandsford Barnburners. A game decided on a curveball that never curved, a flat, lifeless pitch that a Barnburners player smacked over the temporary construction fence 85 feet away for a home run that still haunts Ragano. A game he will call “a straight-up war.”
People are surprised to discover there is such a thing as a Wiffle ball league in Northwest Washington, especially one that keeps score of games and tracks
official statistics. This is, after all, a child’s game played with plastic bats and balls. And yet the Potomac Wiffleball League is conducted with great formality over two seasons a year, with eight teams, of three to five players each, with names like Scared Hitless, Wackazoids and Ragano’s aptly titled Clubber Lang. They do this on two pockmarked fields at Fort Reno Park, on grass that is freshly trimmed and base paths lined with white paint. Games are videotaped by a pair of camcorders set up on tripods behind home plate. And when the games are finished, there are player of the week awards, as well as MVP, Cy Young and rookie of the year trophies to be given away — at, of all things, a season-ending awards banquet.
It is, in the words of its commissioner, Chris Gallaway, “as professional as I can make it.”
Only it would never be the same after the day last summer when Ragano, fresh after a move from Santa Clara, Calif., clicked on the Internet and found
PotomacWiffleball.org beckoning like Valhalla from his laptop.
In its first 3 1/2 years of play, the happy little association that was the Potomac Wiffleball League had never encountered someone quite like Ragano. His bellowing voice, sounding more North Jersey than San Francisco Bay, rumbled across the park. He slid into bases and snapped off curveballs with an obvious zeal, all while puffing on his Camel Lights.
Yet at not point did Ragano announce his arrival as much as this May, when he and his brother found a way to circumvent the league Web site’s software and hijack for Ragano a player of the week contest that another player appeared to be winning. Ragano’s reason? The perfect game he pitched was against a challenging team while the other player threw his against a team made up mostly of women that would win just one game the whole season.
His voice trails off. He frowns at the audacity of the other player to think he deserved to be player of the week after such a meaningless perfect game.
Gallaway chuckles. “I think the dynamic of the league changed when Tony came along,” he says.
But there is also a big part of Gallaway that appreciates Ragano, that feels a kinship with anyone who can care so much about a Wiffle ball league. “I love the way that Tony throws himself into it,” he says.
How can Gallaway not? After all, he is the one who invented this thing. A large man, Gallaway has always been something of an innovator. As a child in Dwight, Kan., he baffled his father by elaborately mowing a golf course — with fairways, roughs and greens — into the lawn of the family house. In high school, he confounded school officials when he exploited a ban on vending machine sales at lunchtime by lugging suitcases full of soft drinks that he sold for a profit in the
cafeteria.
And as an adult he was executive director of the Democratic Party in Kansas, a losing proposition in a Republican state until he helped to get a Democrat,
Kathleen Sebelius, elected governor. Sebelius is now President Obama’s secretary of health and human services. But it wasn’t until 2004, when Gallaway moved here to become a vice president for Fieldworks, a political consulting company, that he dared to tempt his Wiffle ball dream.
The Potomac Wiffleball League was born the following spring.
The rules were simple. No throwing hard. Only three players — a pitcher, catcher and fielder — can be on the field at the same time. Outs are made by swinging strikeout, catching a ball in the air or on a ground ball that the pitcher controls — either by fielding it himself or by having the fielder throw it to him before the batter touches first. Fielders are also allowed to “peg” runners with thrown balls.
From the beginning, it was a spectacle that only a true visionary could imagine. Gallaway chose to put his league at Gravelly Point, a park just north of Reagan National Airport that offered stunning views of the Potomac River and the Washington Monument. He designed the narrow, fan-shaped field from literature provided by Wiffle Ball Inc. in Shelton, Conn., placing the pitcher’s rubber 30 feet from home plate, the bases 40 feet apart and the outfield fences 80 to 100 feet away. In those early years he used rolls of plastic orange construction fencing for the outfield walls, holding them up with stakes he drove into the ground. For foul poles he bought telescopic swimming-pool cleaners, removing the nets and attaching the poles to the edge of the fence.
Which is probably good, because now he finds himself doing more work than ever at the Potomac Wiffleball League’s new home in Fort Reno Park. This year, because of a park construction project, the league is being played on the edge of a meadow that sits up against a chain-link construction fence. This gives the league a natural home run barrier, mitigating the need for much construction fencing. But since the meadow is overgrown, Gallaway must pack his lawnmower into his trunk and drive to Fort Reno on the day before games to mow and then line the fields.
Then, each Sunday morning, he drives back to Fort Reno, where, after installing the foul poles and unspooling the little bit of orange fencing he still needs to put up, he pulls out a table, chair and tent. He places the table and tent between the two fields where he will sit for most of the two sets of doubleheaders, wearing anofficial Wiffle Ball cap and scoring two games simultaneously on portable computers.
At his feet he keeps a store display box of official Wiffle balls, ordered from the official Wiffle Ball merchandise outlet, each packed in its own official black Wiffle Ball box. Every time a ball goes over the fence, rather than search through the weeds, he pulls another official ball from the official box and throws it into play just like the big leagues, ensuring that an unscuffed ball is being used at all times. Gallaway concedes he could probably buy the same box of Wiffle balls from a local toy shop, yet he likes the feeling of buying from the official store, waiting for a package to arrive.
But in the end nothing is as essential to the league as the statistics Gallaway carefully tabulates each week — everything from batting average to ERA to slugging percentage. This is the thread that holds everything together, the lure that keeps players coming back season after season regardless of ability, even as jobs and time restrictions make it harder and harder to come out for Sunday morning Wiffle ball. Everybody loves to see their name on a list of statistics, even if the numbers say they aren’t very good.
“How do you measure yourself against other people if you don’t have stats?” he says. “How do you measure yourself against history if you don’t have stats? How do you measure yourself against someone from the 2006 season without stats?”
Ragano couldn’t agree more. He obsesses over his statistics, racing home to pore over them, running through each play of the day’s games to be sure the
numbers are correct. If he allows any runs, a rare occurrence given his 0.58 ERA this season, he pulls out a calculator to see what his ERA would have been had those runs not scored. Then he spends the next several days agonizing over the pitches he threw that yielded those hits — usually hanging sliders — and wonders why he threw them in the first place.
Watching him pitch a Wiffle ball game is a lot like watching Bob Knight play golf. Mistakes, particularly his own, disgust him, eliciting so many sudden eruptions of profanity that some around the league refer to him as “[bleep] me Tony,” as if to distinguish him from other Tonys who might drift through.
One of his teammates, whenever he’s the catcher for Ragano, always makes sure to throw the ball back to a place where Ragano can’t catch it in the air,
forever annoying him. When Ragano asked the player why he did this, the player told him he pitched better when he was ticked off.
Ragano laughs.
He has been working on a screwball to go with his slider and knuckleball, he says. A new pitch that he described as “filthy,” one he is sure will be ready by the start of the fall season.
“I will be flat-out unhittable,” the most competitive player in the Potomac Wiffleball League says most assuredly.

 

 

From Dwight Perry:
*Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle, after Commissioner Bud Selig said he is still reviewing Pete Rose’s 1997 appeal for reinstatement: “If Selig were a film critic, he’d still be reviewing ‘Citizen Kane.’ ”
*Brad Dickson in the Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald, on Reggie Jackson landscaping with a Yankee Stadium motif: “So far, so good. There aren’t any fans in the box seats in Reggie’s backyard, either.”
*Len Berman of LenBermanSports.com, after attending a Paul McCartney concert at the Mets’ new ballpark: “It’s the most noise Citi Field will hear all season, and certainly the most hits.”
*The shores of San Diego were inundated with bodies of giant squid that washed ashore last Friday.
Local residents say they hadn’t seen this many dead arms since, well, the last Padres game.