Ray Ratto of the SF Chronicle talked about his ‘Niners should keep their heads up after their loss to the Vikings in the final seconds of the game. “The best
way to explain Mike Singletary’s assertion that Sunday’s anesthetic-free splenectomy in the Metrodome was “already a positive,” is to turn to the Vikings’ radio broadcast where just before the final play, one of the broadcasters said, “Greg Lewis is in the game? Percy Harvin must be tired.”
The second is to imagine 49ers general manager Scot McCloughan’s face, a lipless highway flare of impotent rage as the replay that verified Minnesota’s
27-24 Favre-ing of the 49ers was shown on the press-box television.
And the third is, of course, Singletary himself shouting at the players and proving why the next person to cross him might be the first. Even after being told that the media was able to hear every word, he decided to make sure that every word could be heard.
“I don’t want to see you looking at the floor!” he barked, while at the other end of the tunnel Brett Favre was basking in the glory of his game-winning 32-yard prayer-and-a-half to Lewis, the Vikings’ fourth receiver. “You didn’t steal nothing! You didn’t do anything wrong! We will see them again! In the playoffs! Hold your heads up! Don’t you look down at the floor for nobody! You have nothing to be looking down at the floor about! Pick your heads up, put your shoulders back and let’s rock!”
In sum, Favre was sheepish, Lewis was flabbergasted, the Vikings’ broadcasters were stupefied, McCloughan was a shade of maroon one only finds covering one’s grandmother’s windows, and Singletary swore that defeat was victory, only without oxygen.
It isn’t, of course. Defeat is pretty much defeat in the National Football League, and this one was particularly groin-level painful. Favre and the Vikings, en route to the coroner with a 3rd-and-32 and 12 seconds left, went to Sandlot Special 32-A, all hands on deck.
Favre rolled slightly right, shook defensive end Justin Smith and let fly just before Parys Haralson could clock him from behind. He hurled the ball toward the back right corner of the end zone where Lewis, the former Eagles veteran who hadn’t caught a ball all season, had shaken a half-step free of dime back Mark Roman, and the rest is that throbbing four-lane vein in Singletary’s forehead.
And his assertion that daggers to the heart heal quickly remains to be seen. Oh, sure, the St. Louis Rams are the NFL’s version of Dr. Feelgood after their 13th consecutive defeat Sunday. So yes, the lads can stand late Sunday afternoon at Candlestick Park and declare themselves cured after beating the moribund Sheep, but this loss will hurt a lot longer than that win will sustain them.
They had mastered an arrhythmic game without the services of Frank Gore. They had overcome their own physical mistakes and shortcomings by forcing the Vikings to face their own. They elevated tight end Vernon Davis (seven for 96 and two scores) to the official second offensive option.
And they very nearly covered for one of those ill-timed bursts of Jimmy Raye-style conservatism as well. After going ahead 24-20 on the second Davis touchdown reception, Raye called for five Glen Coffee running plays over two three-and-outs which gained a total of minus-2 yards, and the second series exhausted only 20 seconds, leaving Favre 89 seconds to play with.
He stumped the band in only 87.
“I totally support everything (Raye) did,” Singletary said. “I don’t analyze it. If it had worked, you wouldn’t be writing about it.”
And if the garage hadn’t blown up, checking your fuel level with your lighter would have been a good idea, too. Truth is, quarterback Shaun Hill has developed enough rapport with Davis that they can become part of the ball-control plan, and besides, there was no way of knowing Favre didn’t have any more late-game magic in him. The play calls gave the Vikings a chance to win that they hadn’t really merited.
But maybe the sense that the game was the 49ers’ to win (and would have if not for Favre and too much time on the clock) causes Singletary to brim over with sangfroid after a game that should have caused him to eat a soda machine.
“I’d rather we lose now, taste it, chew on it, swallow it, and get better,” he said. “I want them to remember what it feels like, learn from it and go from there.
That was a good team we played today, and I do look to see them again.”
And if that isn’t enough to make Scot McCloughan swallow his own face in anticipatory tension, well, you just didn’t get to see him Sunday. The man looked like the kid who plays the coronary aneurysm in the middle school science play, and may not yet be up for another round of Brett Favre with time on the clock this coming January.

 

 

 

Dick Heller wrote in the DC Post about a great Yankee memory that was a painful Red Sox memory. “The Yankees trailed the Red Sox 2-0 with two on and two out in the seventh inning when their slap-hitting shortstop lofted a lazy fly ball toward left field.
“Good – that’s an out,” Boston manager Don Zimmer thought. Then he remembered that the wind was blowing out and Fenway Park’s Green Monster wall was a mere 315 feet from home plate.
The date was Oct. 2, 1978, and the two teams were conducting a one-game playoff for the American League East title. As the batter, Bucky Dent, ran toward first base, he lost the soaring baseball in the shadows. Only when he saw the umpire waving his hand in a circular motion did he realize he had made baseball history.
Contrary to popular retrospective belief, Dent’s three-run homer did not win the game. Bona fide slugger Reggie Jackson went deep in the eighth to provide the actual margin in the Yankees’ 5-4 victory. But it was Dent whose name provokes an obscenity from the lips of many veteran Red Sox fans to this day.
And when he appeared for a game at Fenway several years ago, he was introduced as “Bucky Effing Dent” – a somewhat more polite version of his hardcore nickname in Boston and environs.
No wonder the denizens of Red Sox Nation still take it so hard. A marvelous fielder who made the majors with the White Sox at age 21 in 1973, Dent was
anything but a power hitter. He poked 40 homers over 12 years and just four during a 1978 regular season when he batted a sickly .243. But all he needed
was one to achieve lasting fame or infamy, depending on rooting interests.
“Every kid dreams of hitting a big home run,” Dent told Hal Habib of the Palm Beach Post last year. “[Mickey] Mantle was my hero, so I used to imitate him.
Two out, bases loaded in the ninth, World Series, and you hit a home run. That happened to me. Those dreams do come true.”
Not exactly, but close enough.
As usual with epic events, there was a story behind the story for Dent. Several, in fact.
For one thing, his blast, if that’s the word, came off Red Sox right-hander Mike Torrez, a Yankees teammate the previous season. Later, the two became close friends and make many joint appearances a year to kid each other about their fateful encounter three decades ago in Back Bay.
“That home run has kept us both in the news, so I’m kind of tickled pink that I gave it up,” Torrez told the Palm Beach newspaper. “What the hell. He got lucky, but that’s all part of the game.”
As he went to the plate, Dent toted a bat belonging to teammate Mickey Rivers because he had batted just .143 with zero home runs in his previous 20 games.
A few moments later, Bucky was writhing on the ground after fouling a ball off a tender left leg in which he had suffered a blood clot during spring training.
While Dent was being treated, Rivers called out from the on-deck circle, “Hey, homey, you got the wrong bat – that one has a crack in it.”
A batboy ran out of the dugout and handed Dent new lumber. On the next pitch, Torrez hung a slider and… instant horsehide history.
Despite all the Yankees’ previous pennants, this one was special. In mid-July, they trailed the Red Sox by 14 games, prompting owner George Steinbrenner to fire rock-rumped manager Billy Martin and replace him with easygoing Bob Lemon. The Yankees caught up by sweeping a four-game mid-September series at Fenway that became known as sporting circles as the “Boston Massacre.”
After their dramatic playoff victory, the Yankees rushed past the Royals in the ALCS and the Dodgers in the World Series for their 22nd championship. In the Series, Bucky Dent batted .417 and was named MVP. That fall, it seemed, wonders never ceased.
Dent retired as a player in 1982 and served as the Yankees’ interim manager during parts of the 1989 and 1990 seasons. Now, at 58, he runs a baseball
school in Delray Beach, Fla. – and he still knows how to make Red Sox fans feel the pain.
In left field of the school’s baseball field, there is a replica of Boston’s Green Monster erected by Dent in 1988, and the scoreboard relates his impossible
dream anew every time someone looks that way. It reads Yankees 3, Red Sox 2, bottom of the seventh.”

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Rick Morrissey, of the ChiTrib, did a little campaigning for the awarding of the 2016 Olympic games to Chicago. He, also, would like to see Team Handball
be elevated in stature, “Chicago is in a rut, sportswise.

Our diet consists of the four major food groups: pro football, pro baseball, pro basketball and pro hockey. Oh, sure, we’ll snack on college football and
basketball, and though we’ve been known to sample soccer, we consider it a finger food.

We need to broaden our horizons, but seeing as how many of us are strapped into our Barcaloungers like astronauts at liftoff, it’s apparent we need to have our horizons broadened for us. That’s where the 2016 Olympics come in. If the International Olympic Committee can get Chicago to move heaven and earth for two-plus weeks of international sports competition, then surely it can get couch potatoes to move, too.

Can you imagine some Grabowskis — Mike Ditka’s term for lunch pail-carrying Chicagoans — taking in a women’s gymnastics competition during the Olympics here? For that matter, can you imagine Ditka taking in a women’s gymnastics competition?

Grabowski No. 1: “According to my guide, dat move right dere off dat skinny little apparatus is called a back handspring.”

Grabowski No. 2: “I don’t care what it’s called, my friend, but in my next life I want to be a balance beam.”

And, of course, the ensuing high-five.

We need to get outside our sports comfort zone, and we will if the Olympics do come to Chicago in 2016. Every now and then at the summer games, a sport takes off. When Frank Shorter won the gold medal in the marathon in the 1972 Olympics, he single-handedly — single-footedly? — set off a running boom that swept the United States.

When the U.S. team won gold in the first women’s Olympic soccer competition in the 1996 Atlanta Games, it generated incredible interest in the sport. If it hadn’t been for that, Brandi Chastain’s sports bra exhibition at the 1999 World Cup likely would have been a small story on Page 17 of Undergarments Weekly.

What would Chicago’s pet sport be? No, wiseguy, not election-rigging.

Might I suggest team handball?

If you asked Americans what team handball is, many would say it’s the game with the little black ball, except with teams, duh. But, no. In team handball, each seven-person squad tries to throw a cantaloupe-sized ball past the opposing goalie.

It’s one of the most exciting sports around, and because it uses elements of basketball (dribbling and jumping), baseball (throwing) and hockey (assaulting and battering), it’s a mystery why it doesn’t have a higher profile here.

The American men’s and women’s teams haven’t qualified for the Olympics since 1996 and even then only because the United States was the host nation. If Chicago gets the bid, both teams would get automatic invitations again.

It’s why U.S. team officials are hoping and praying that Friday’s Olympic vote falls in Chicago’s favor.

“Everybody gets excited about the potential of participating in the Olympic Games or even standing on a podium at the Olympic Games,” said Steve Pastorino, general manager of USA Team Handball. “In that regard, this bid means more to us than I think virtually any other U.S. sports federation.”

Chicagoans should adopt this sport. We can be good at it. Iceland, a nation of 315,000 people, won a silver medal in team handball in the 2008 games.

Iceland?

Here’s what we do. We borrow the Bleacher Bums from Wrigley Field and start a cheering section. Then we take some of our NBA stars, teach them team
handball and start practicing singing the national anthem for the gold medal ceremony in 2016.

But it doesn’t have to be team handball. It could be any sport. Fencing. Weight lifting. Table tennis.

Whatever the case, we need to grow up, see the world, become a little less parochial.

By late July 2016, the Cubs likely will be taking part in the sport they invented: synchronized sinking. It would be the perfect time to watch something new.”

 

 

 

Gwen Knapp 0f the SF Chronicle talked about the nicer side of sports. “For years now, egotism and showboating in pro sports have been setting the wrong examples for younger athletes. Recently, though, stories of great sportsmanship in high school football have received a lot of attention, raising the possibility that gracious behavior might actually trickle upward.
The first story came out of Arkansas, where a player finished a long kickoff return by taking a knee at the 5-yard line to end a 34-16 win over an opponent reeling from the death of a player in a traffic accident. Four other players were hurt in the crash.
The second story came out of Missouri, where a team winning by a 46-0 score agreed to give up its shutout and allow a member of the opposing team to
enjoy the thrill of scoring a 65-yard touchdown. The player who scored has Down syndrome, stands 5 feet, 3 inches tall and weighs 110 pounds. Players from the other team, Maryville High, jogged alongside the runner and his teammates, making no attempt to tackle him.
No one expects NFL players to give away points in this fashion. But respect for vulnerable opponents is a fairly universal value. In pro sports, that often
translates to concern for vulnerable fans, as the Falcons demonstrated in New Orleans three years ago. Several of them, including then-coach Jim Mora, admitted that they hated losing less than usual that day, because they knew the host city needed an emotional lift in the Saints’ first game back at the  Superdome since Hurricane Katrina.
In Detroit on Sunday, new Lions coach Jim Schwartz struck just the right note after his team ended its 19-game losing streak. After talking briefly with his
players, Schwartz sent them back out to the floor of Ford Field and told them to share the celebration with Detroit fans who have remained loyal to a
moribund team in a cratering economy.
It was a small, gracious gesture that didn’t cost a thing. And it was almost worthy of a dominant high school football team.

YANKEES PRESSURE

September 28, 2009

Nick Cafardo, of the BOSTON Globe, talked about the postseason for the Yankees and how much pressure everyone in the organization will be feeling. “Brian Cashman shrugs and Reggie Jackson just laughs when you bring up the word “pressure.’’ The second season is around the corner, and there’s no team under more pressure to win the World Series than the New York Yankees.
“We’re just trying to keep it simple,’’ said Cashman, the general manager. “We’re one of four teams that will be competing in the American League in the postseason, and our job is to win every series and approach it one step at a time.
“We’re in the same boat as the other four teams. We can’t view ourselves as any greater than anyone else. We earned the right to be playing in the playoffs, same as the other three teams, whether we won the division or made it as the wild card. We’re all equal once you get in.’’
That is what Cashman would always say about making the playoffs. But of course it’s different for the Yankees. Of course there’s more pressure.
There’s always pressure in Boston, too, but with two championships in five years, there’s not as much. There’s pressure to win now in Detroit, with a high payroll and aging players, but nowhere near what New York faces. There’s pressure in Los Angeles to get past the Red Sox in the first round. There’s
pressure in Philadelphia to win back-to-back World Series, but if they don’t?
There’s no pressure in St. Louis, which won the World Series just three years ago. No pressure for the Cinderella Rockies.
The team that might have the second-most pressure is the Dodgers. They have been so good from start to finish, have survived Manny Ramirez’s suspension, and need to win something soon with Joe Torre at the helm.
But the Yankees failed to make the playoffs last season for the first time in 13 years. They went out and committed almost a half-billion dollars to CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, and A.J. Burnett. They opened a $1.3 billion stadium with premium seating. They had the best team, the best lineup in the regular season.
What if the Yankees were to bow out in the first round, as they did in 2006? What’s considered a success? What’s considered a failure? How far does a team with a $200 million payroll have to get to satisfy its fans?
When you’re the biggest and the best, everyone is trying to shoot you down. Yankee enemies would love to see them embarrassed by the Tigers – and with
Justin Verlander perhaps pitching twice, that isn’t far-fetched. Could Verlander beat Sabathia? Of course. Could Edwin Jackson beat Andy Pettitte? You bet.
Could Jarrod Washburn beat Burnett? It’s all plausible.
Yet if the Yankees don’t let the pressure get to them, and they play as loose as they have all season, then you can rubber-stamp them for the American League  Championship Series.
“There are certainly different degrees of success,’’ said Cashman. “We did everything we could to win the division. We’ll be very proud of that when we do it.
“We’re proud of making the playoffs. That’s a big accomplishment and we treat it that way. Having the best record is an accomplishment we’d like to have because that ensures us home-field advantage and we play very well in this ballpark.’’
But most baseball observers think it’s World Series or bust for the Yankees.
For most of this season the Yankees have enjoyed good vibes in New York, especially given the disaster that the Mets have been. The news has been
positive on virtually every front.
Alex Rodriguez survived steroid revelations and hip surgery. Derek Jeter, at 35, discovered the fountain of youth and had one of his best seasons. Sabathia has lived up to expectations. The old guys – Johnny Damon, Jorge Posada, Hideki Matsui, and Mariano Rivera – have had excellent seasons. Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera took their occupation seriously.
It has all been good.
But in one short Division Series, all the goodwill could vanish. Imagine being eliminated by the Tigers. Would Joe Girardi go from Manager of the Year to
dismissed, as he was in Florida in 2006? Would Cashman’s job be in jeopardy? The coaches?
As Cashman pointed out, the last thing he wants is to answer questions about how the Yankees “coughed it up,’’ which he had to in 2006, the last time the
Yankees met the Tigers in the playoffs.
“There’s pressure here every day, every year,’’ said Jackson. “That never goes away. We’ve had players here over the years who have thrived on pressure.’’
Like Mr. October.
But the Yankees haven’t had a Mr. October for many years. They need one now.

Forget about the Yankees having “made a statement’’ or that their American League East championship means more because they clinched it by sweeping the Red Sox at home. Forget about the Sox not putting up much of a fight over the weekend and why they looked more like a team that had clinched something than the team that actually did. Not sure we’ll ever get an explanation for that one.
This was about the Yankees and their extraordinary regular season.
After a 4-2 win over Boston yesterday, the Yankees, who didn’t make the playoffs last season, celebrated like it was 1999. The champagne flowed, young players and veterans alike spraying bubbly.
After going through the usual trials and tribulations of being a Yankee, they decided they were going pat one another on the back for a job well done. The feats to date: 100 wins, the AL East title, and home-field advantage in the playoffs all rolled into one. An excessive celebration? To the outsider, sure. To the people who dominated their division and kept their eyes squarely on the ball, not excessive at all.
“We’re just going to take a few minutes here to celebrate, to be proud of what we’ve done,’’ said winning pitcher Andy Pettitte. “I know how hard it is to win
a division and to win this many games. I know how hard it’s going to be from here on out. But after this hour or two, this team is going to go back into the same focus that allowed this to happen. These guys worked so hard for this. They deserve this.’’
Pettitte, one of the old guard who left the Yankees for a few seasons, said, “I came back here for the chance to experience what I experienced earlier in my career here. This is why I came back.’’
Give the Yankees their due. They have been the best team. Their management identified, went after, and signed all the right players. Alex Rodriguez returned to a team in shambles in mid-April and turned it around – after undergoing hip surgery and after he admitted to taking performance-enhancing drugs earlier in his career with the Rangers.
“This was a unique year because I didn’t know if I was going to play baseball this year,’’ A-Rod said. “The fact I was able to play and contribute and that I
was in the middle of this is great, but I was one of 25 guys who bought into [manager] Joe Girardi and who bought into the system. That’s been the key for this year.
“I just felt I was getting stronger every month. The staff came up with a good plan and gave me plenty of rest throughout the summer. I can’t lie, it’s been a hell of a tough year. But it’s so gratifying to be sitting here in this position as one of the guys.’’
Rodriguez, who could finish with 30 homers and 100 RBIs despite playing just 120 games, has never fit in with his teammates more than this season. It seems the team rallied around him after his steroids admission.
All of the other “old guys’’ like Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Johnny Damon, and Hideki Matsui, had huge years.
“We just wanted to be in this situation from the start of the year,’’ Posada said. “We wanted to get to this point – first step – the AL East title, and here we are.
We know where we want to go. Those of us who have been there, we know how hard it is to get there. We have a lot of character, a lot of heart. We have
great pitching and that really helps a lot. But I think we all know that this is a start, nothing more.’’
They impressed Reggie Jackson. Mr. October said, “This is a much better team than I’ve seen here [from 2004-08]. Last year, that was such a disappointment to everyone around here not making the playoffs. You know the guys, and management, tried their best so that wouldn’t happen again. But forget about expectations and pressure. You have to win on the field. You can carry yourself like a winner and act like a winner, but you have to win on the field. They’ve done that for the regular season, but these guys know they have to prove it again starting in October.’’
Damon, who won a championship with the Red Sox in 2004 after Boston’s incredible comeback against the Yankees in the ALCS, wants that feeling in
reverse. Yet Damon, who got the day off yesterday, was front and center in celebrating an accomplishment in what might be his final year as a Yankee.
“It all starts with the Steinbrenners,’’ said Damon. “They knew we needed a starter like CC [Sabathia], and then they brought in A.J. [Burnett] and
[Mark] Teixeira for our lineup, so those are the top free agents from last year’s class and we can see the difference of where we’re at. We celebrated a little bit today but we’ll be ready to play tomorrow.’’
Any special feeling because it came against the Sox? “No, they just happened to be the team we were playing at the time,’’ Damon said. “We know they’re a
very good team – even though we finish with them this week, we know there’s a good chance we can meet them again. We know they’re good, so hopefully
we can continue to play like we have been and hopefully start winning games in the postseason.’’
Girardi, who many felt might get fired if he missed the playoffs a second straight season, met with the team right after the win. He relayed what he told the players: “I’m very proud of what they accomplished and they should be proud of themselves. I told them to enjoy the day and the celebration because we have a lot of work to do in the coming days.’’
The Yankees got the job done on the field over the weekend. The Red Sox didn’t.
“That’s a really good team,’’ said Pettitte. “It was back and forth all year. It’s never gonna be easy against them.’’
Can Pettitte be the winner he’s always been in the playoffs based on his recent shoulder problems?
“All I know is I felt good in Anaheim and I felt good today,’’ he said. “I’m gonna give it everything I have every time I go out there. That much I know.’’
Jeter, Posada, Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera echoed this Damon comment: “Absolutely, it’s disappointing if we don’t win a world title. That’s everything we’re shooting for. We’ve accomplished everything we can to this point, but we have to win playoff games. That’s the bottom line now. Anything else would be unsatisfactory to us.’’
“The journey has just begun,’’ said Jeter, who is hitting .333. “I’m glad we’re celebrating what we’ve accomplished to this point. I also know how much the
guys on this team want to go as far as they can possibly go.’’

UNCLE MILTIE, SUNDAY BRUNCH

September 27, 2009

The ChiTrib’s Rick Morrissey and Gwen Knapp from the SF Chronicle gave their opinions of Milton Bradley (it amazes me how much a team will put up with).
Morrissey: “There are politicians who are feeling like paragons of sincerity after reading the apology Milton Bradley issued the other day.

“I said and did certain things that I regret,” his statement read.

Does that sound even remotely like our guy?

A true apology wouldn’t have come slathered with agentspeak. It would have come unscripted and in front of the same cameras, tape recorders and notebooks that captured all of Bradley’s outlandish statements the last seven months.

An authentic, from-the-heart apology from Miltie would have sounded something like this:”I have a terrible habit of blaming everybody else when things go wrong. That’s not fair. It’s not everybody’s fault. Let’s just say there are certain global ‘forces’ at work intent on bringing me down. I’d like to talk more openly about it, but I’m fairly certain I’m being followed.

“I’ll admit I’m the kind of guy who could see a conspiracy in a nun asking for directions. But that just shows I’m cerebral. So I’d like to apologize for being a deep thinker in a sport filled with guys who believe bow-hunting is an intellectual exercise.

“I really did want to make this work with the Cubs, and that’s why I know I need to get some counseling. But if one more shrink tells me my self-destructive behavior is a manifestation of a deep desire for a world free of rules and authority, I’m going to go off like a weapons depot on fire.

“Apropos of nothing, I dare someone to put me in a locked room with an umpire. Me, an umpire and a cattle prod.

“I know I built a cocoon for myself and shut out my teammates. I’ve done this with every team I’ve been with, and it’s about time I admitted to myself that I’m the problem. Well, Alfonso Soriano and I are the problem. Kevin Gregg too. And how Geovany Soto keeps his job is beyond me.

“But I’m the one who is taking the blame. And I’m OK with that. As scripture says, better that one man die than the entire underachieving team.

“My first instinct is to say it will be a miracle if any other club wants my big, fat contract and my big, fat mouth. My second instinct is to say of course somebody will want me because, hey, I haven’t killed any big, fat umpires yet.

“Random thought: You haven’t experienced hell until you’ve seen Lou Piniella walking around the clubhouse in his underwear.

“Why is it always about me? I just want to go quietly about my business and let my bat do the talking. One whisper of an opinion, though: the reason the Cubs haven’t won a World Series in more than 100 years is because Chicago is a miserable place filled with miserable people who moved here to be miserable together. It’s only a matter of time before the Cubs call up an outfielder named Les Miserables. Mark it down: Milton makes a joke.

“I promise to stop making outrageous statements that take away from what the team is trying to accomplish. They serve no purpose other than to allow people to twist my words around and make me out to be a raving lunatic, which I’m not.

“True story: I once saw fans at Wrigley ritually sacrifice a frat boy from Wilmette. Got themselves some Kingsford charcoal briquettes and went to town. And why? Because he had the nerve to speak out in support of Milton Bradley! Talk about second-hand smoke! Hello, city code violation?

“I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize to all the people who have criticized me. You are pathetic and sick and I feel sorry for you. If somebody can be contrite for someone else, I am contrite for you.

“I don’t want to say anything against media members because I’m going to be a popular broadcaster after my career is over. But their comeuppance is going to feel very much like the business end of a jackhammer.

“I will say this: No matter how slowly I talk to writers, what comes out in the next day’s paper is wrong. For example, say I tell a sportswriter I often pray that home games go a fast nine innings so I can be free of the loser fans in the stands. It’s distorted to make it look like I hate the Wrigley experience. See the injustice? The story should be about me being a prayerful man.

“I think you’re getting an idea of what I’m up against. People don’t get me, and maybe that’s my fault. But I don’t think so.

“I’d like to apologize for being so egregiously misunderstood. Unless you’d like to apologize to me first.”     
Knapp: “The Cubs’ decision to suspend Milton Bradley for the rest of the season serves as a reminder of the extraordinary team chemistry on the 2006 A’s.
Bradley’s volatility didn’t entirely vanish that year, but his time in Oakland was relatively stable and pleasant.
Frank Thomas had a remarkably calming effect on Bradley. The Big Hurt could simply tap Bradley on the shoulder or elbow and cool off a heated argument with an umpire. Bradley and Nick Swisher, who along with CC Sabathia has enlivened the Yankees’ clubhouse this season, met in the dugout after home runs and executed a goofy, intricately choreographed home run dance.
The easygoing nature of that team carried over. And who can forget the night that manager Ken Macha intervened in Bradley’s dispute with the home-plate umpire by wrapping his arms around the outfielder, picking him up and carrying him away from the scene?
Macha ended up being fired at the end of the season, despite reaching the American League Championship Series, largely because of a disconnect between himself and the players. But that moment didn’t call for Macha to finesse a relationship. He just reacted, and did so more adroitly than San Diego manager Bud Black, who intervened in a 2007 dispute with an umpire by grabbing Bradley’s jersey and knocking him down, tearing the player’s anterior cruciate ligament.
Bradley went on to a fairly placid, very productive 2008 season in Texas – perhaps not coincidentally under the command of former A’s coach Ron Washington.
Did anyone expect happy results when Bradley went to work for the fierce Lou Piniella? Of course not. But at this point, there might not be an ideal match for him anywhere.
Bradley is very bright – a high school honors student – and often endearing. It’s always sad and exasperating to watch him self-destruct. But, ultimately, his experience in Oakland said little about his potential for change, and a whole lot about the people around him.

 

Dick Heller of the DC Post felt, “I think the Nats blew it when they planned their ersatz Oktoberfest. Participants won’t be allowed to fork over their $25 for beer and pretzels alone. You have to stay for the ballgame, too – and against a first-place opponent at that.
This gala celebration will be held on the roof of Garage B at Nationals Park, which marks the first time lately that anything connected with Washington baseball has gotten out of the cellar. “
Bob Molinaro of HamptonRoads.com said that, “Curt Schilling’s announcement that he isn’t running for Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat belies the conventional wisdom that nothing good ever comes out of politics.”
And finally, Nick Cafardo said in the Boston Globe that, “Whoever hires Rick Peterson this 0ffseason will get the best pitching coach in the game.”

BOXING WRAP

September 26, 2009

The LA  Times’ boxing writer, Lance Pugmire (Is that really his name?) talked about the need for tighter regulations regarding pre-fight hand wrapping in
California. But, it could apply to every venue, no matter where it was. “The last time Staples Center was filled to capacity for a prominent fight that attracted a national television audience, the insistence of one observant trainer saved the California State Athletic Commission from potentially suffering more than embarrassment.

That was the night two hardened, plaster-caked inserts were to be wrapped into the hands of Antonio Margarito as he prepared to defend his world
welterweight title against Shane Mosley.

“I know for a fact that if I wouldn’t have been there saying something, he would’ve walked right into that ring,” said Nazim Richardson, Mosley’s veteran trainer.

How could something so dangerous come so close to happening?

It’s a question that’s often been asked since that incident, which took place in January.

As another championship bout comes to Staples, Saturday’s world heavyweight title fight between champion Vitali Klitschko and Riverside’s Cris Arreola, there is increasing concern about the organization that sanctions the state’s boxing and mixed martial arts bouts.

State Athletic Commission inspector Che Guevara was looking on as Margarito’s hands were wrapped by his trainer, Javier Capetillo. Richardson, as the opponent’s trainer, was allowed to observe too. And when he squeezed one of Margarito’s wraps, he told Guevara it felt hard inside.

The inspector’s reaction? “He was trying to keep the job moving,” Richardson recalled. “It was like what I was saying was new to him, that no one had ever
raised these questions to him, and he was obviously in an uncomfortable situation.”

Richardson said Guevara felt the same taped hand and said, “It feels all right to me.”

Only after the boxer’s hands were unwrapped at Richardson’s urging were the inserts discovered. They had been hidden under knuckle pads atop Margarito’s fists, and experts say they would have extracted plenty of extra damage.

Mosley ended up winning the bout by technical knockout in the ninth round, and weeks later the commission revoked the boxing licenses of Margarito and trainer Capetillo.

But boxing promoters, matchmakers and others closely associated with the fight game told The Times the commission is not providing proper oversight, adding risk to an already dangerous sport.

“I’ve complained that [commission representatives] were unprofessional and risking the health of my fighters and my business,” said Alex Camponovo, lead matchmaker for Thompson Boxing Promotions, which routinely stages shows at the Ontario Doubletree Hotel and other Southland venues.

Camponovo said two Thompson shows this year were disrupted when commission-assigned physicians failed to show up. State rules require pre-weigh-in physicals for boxers the day before a fight. Regulators say the exams are important because boxers can severely weaken themselves trying to make weight.

In one case, Camponovo said a Sept. 11 card proceeded even though the 14 boxers who fought had physicals less than three hours before the first bell.

“Things are falling through the cracks that should never fall through the cracks,” said promoter Roy Englebrecht, who stages monthly “Battle in the Ballroom” cards at the Irvine Marriott.

In June, an Englebrecht card was jeopardized when one of two ringside doctors and one of three judges failed to show.

“No one got hurt, thank goodness,” Englebrecht said. “If the doctor would’ve had to leave with an injured fighter, I would’ve had to stop my show.”

Englebrecht and others are pushing hard for new leadership with comprehensive knowledge of the sport.

“Unfortunately, the commission has been a ship for most of the last year without a captain,” he said. “There’s no one pulling together and establishing a working system.”

The commission was without an executive officer from last November until June, and is still without a permanent replacement following the resignation of Armando Garcia after a sexual harassment complaint. Dave Thornton, former director of the state medical board, has been the interim executive officer.

Thornton was embroiled in controversy this summer when the contents of a July 22 letter he wrote became public.

The letter warned that a fighter on a March 7 mixed martial arts card in Tulare had been allowed to fight without an HIV blood detection screening and after he tested positive for hepatitis C.

The letter urged anyone who had been in contact with a fighter on that card to be tested. However, the advisory was not distributed to the fighters or promoters, lead promoter Al Joslin said.

One fighter on the card, Preston Scharf, told The Times, “It’s scary. There’s blood, you know. . . . The sport is high risk all the way around.

“That’s why we pay the state. We’re supposed to be protected.”

Shelly Matlock, promoter Joslin’s wife, said the long-delayed hepatitis C revelation showed the commission is “overwhelmed [and] overtaxed . . . with all the [job] cuts, the furlough Fridays and the stress.

“We had a real safety issue at our fight,” she added. “I get in there and hug the fighters. I have a cage crew that cleans blood. There’s the whole corner teams
for both fighters. My grandchildren watching from ringside. I told the commission, ‘I pay you a lot of money’ — 10% of the gate — ‘and I demand full and immediate disclosure of something like this.’ ”

Matlock said she received an apology letter from Thornton. “This is a lesson learned for me and the commission and we will do better in the future,” Thornton wrote. “But hopefully this type of incident will not occur again.”

Authorities later declared the hepatitis C result a “false positive.” Thornton on Thursday declined to identify who was responsible for the lapse but said
discipline was “being looked at.”

Camponovo’s complaints about the late medical examinations, Thornton said, stemmed from “miscommunication.” He also said regulations did not require Englebrecht’s Irvine show to have two ringside physicians.

The commission continues to take hits, however. On Thursday, its board lost two of its seven members.

Board leader Timothy Noonan abruptly resigned as the state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg announced he would effectively remove Noonan and Peter Lopez from their posts by not holding confirmation hearings for either.

Noonan said he resigned because the state’s Department of Consumer Affairs declined the commission’s recommendation of former boxing official Pat Russell as Thornton’s permanent replacement. But Noonan was already the target of an ethics investigation by the Fair Political Practices Commission after a Times probe earlier this month found he had distributed free fight passes to friends. The Times’ report also found the State Athletic Commission failed to stop two suspended athletes from fighting this year.

Beyond the political tumult, critics say boxing has suffered because the athletic commission removed three top inspectors.

One of them, Dean Lohuis, said the commission is allowing unsafe matches.

After he was let go, Lohuis e-mailed authorities complaining that two fighters “known as nothing more than novice tough men,” were battered in second-round knockouts during bouts at Redondo Beach in July. Two months later, he was shocked to see one of them fighting in Ontario.

In an e-mail to The Times, Lohuis described the fighter as “badly overweight . . . with a blubbery belly, glasses and red shaggy beard” and said the referee told him after he stopped the fight early in the first round, “In my 12 years of doing this, this was the worst mismatch I’d ever seen. He stood there eating jabs and did not even have the basic skills.”

Said Lohuis, “To approve [this boxer] once is incompetence; to approve him a second time is incomprehensible.”

The former inspector, a fixture at California fights for more than two decades, cited several examples of poor matchmaking, noting that Daniel Gonzales, with a record of 9-24-2 including seven consecutive defeats, suffered two technical knockouts and another loss in a 60-day span.

Thornton said the commission’s “priority is the fighter’s safety. [And] there have been no serious injuries or deaths as a result of these incidents.” He also
expressed “full confidence in matchmaking” decisions by the commission, but added that he is consulting the Assn. of Boxing Commissions to adopt
recommendations and is close to hiring an expert “recognized nationally in bout approval.”

Promoter Camponovo and others are hopeful the situation will soon improve. He says he prides himself on maintaining a safe environment for the fighters, but he’s not so sure about the intentions of others.

“In the end it’s a business, and if people think they can get away with something they might try,” he said. “That’s why we have regulators.”

Happy 82nd birthday to Mr. Dodger, Tommy Lasorda. The DC Times’ Dick Heller talked about his party. “Tommy Lasorda’s 82nd birthday just might have been his best. With dozens of friends and relatives looking on, the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery put Lasorda’s portrait on display Tuesday, and for once the effervescent Hall of Fame manager was almost speechless.
Almost.
“I felt like I died,” Lasorda admitted after hearing portrait gallery director Martin Sullivan, Dodgers CEO Jamie McCourt and baseball commissioner Bud Selig say nice things about him in the gallery’s McEvoy Auditorium. “I can’t believe something like this is happening. Right now I feel like my mother is going to wake me up and say, ‘Tommy, it’s time to go to school.’ ”
Sullivan called Lasorda “an individual who epitomizes the spirit, sportsmanship and integrity of America’s national pastime.” The gallery’s commissioners voted Lasorda into its permanent collection, a distinction given only to a limited number of persons who have had a significant impact on American history and culture.
Applauding spectators included Ted and Mark Lerner, whose Nationals opened a three-game home series with the Dodgers on Tuesday night. Earlier, as Lasorda and current Dodgers skipper Joe Torre chatted in the gallery courtyard, a man told Mark Lerner, “If you’re looking for a new manager, those two guys have won 3,840 games and six World Series between them.”
Lerner just laughed, refusing to dream the impossible dream.
During 19 1/2 seasons as the Dodgers’ skipper, Lasorda won as many friends as games – possibly more. His outgoing personality made him more popular
than his predecessor, stoic Walter Alston, who held the job for 23 years before Lasorda took over in 1977. With Tommy running the show in L.A., Frank Sinatra and other stars were his pals, and he never saw an Italian meal he didn’t like.
“When I got the job, a reporter asked me if I thought I could keep it for 23 years,” Lasorda recalled. “I told him all I wanted to do was live for 23 more years.”
So far he has beaten that goal by 13 years, with no end in sight. Lasorda, now a front office adviser for the Dodgers, always seems to enjoy life – and
Tuesday’s little ceremony was obviously and definitely a high spot.
Selig, who flew in from Milwaukee for the day, termed it “a very, very special honor” and noted that manager Lasorda’s international renown helped the U.S. baseball team win a gold medal in the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney and sparked interest in the World Baseball Classic this decade.
“Tommy used to say he bled Dodger blue,” Selig added. “But those of us who know you well, Tommy, know better – you bleed red, white and blue. You
have uniquely served the Dodgers and our great sport.”
The Lasorda portrait, measuring 50 inches by 60 inches, depicts him leaning on a bat while wearing a smile and his familiar No. 2 Dodgers uniform with a field and grandstand visible in the background. Artist Everett Raymond Kinstler of New York worked on the painting for three months this year after having Lasorda pose at his studio.
“Baseball is the only sport I have any feeling for, but I wouldn’t have been interested if Tommy hadn’t agreed to sit for me,” said Kinstler, whose portraits of former Presidents Ford and Reagan hang in the White House. “I wanted to suggest a day game outdoors because that’s how baseball was played when I was growing up.”
The portrait will be hung in the gallery’s new arrivals section until Nov. 15, after which it will be displayed in another section to be determined. Because the Dodgers have a national following, thousands of fans are likely to view it.
Heck, Tommy himself might even return for another peek. I don’t know if his latest thrill matches upsetting the heavily favored Oakland Athletics in the 1988 World Series or entering Cooperstown’s hallowed portals in 1997, but Lasorda appeared as stunned Tuesday as when he learned months ago that the National Portrait Gallery was beckoning.
“When my assistant told me about it, I thought he was [kidding] me,” Tommy said. “For a one-time third-string pitcher at Norristown, Pennsylvania, High
School, this is one of the greatest things that has ever happened in my life.”
And when somebody asked Tommy Lasorda what comes next, he had a ready answer.
“Heaven.”

 
Dan Daly talked in the DC Times about possible TV black-outs because of un-sold tickets in a 50,000 seat stadium and ones for a 100,000 seat stadium. “In the NFL, the sky is always falling, even if what’s falling is gold bullion. This is particularly true when it comes to the league’s television blackout policy.
The owners fought for years to keep home games off local TV, convinced it would hurt attendance, shrink profits and weaken the game. They turned out, of course, to be wrong, wrong and wrong. Even today, in the worst economy since Red Grange was roaming the gridiron, teams are still playing before packed houses, franchise values are still going up and the NFL is still, far and away, the king of the sports mountain.
Some habits are hard to break, though. This is the league, after all, whose commissioner – with a totally straight face – told a House subcommittee in 1973, “The business of professional football is in fact a very small business indeed. The entire football industry, in an economic sense, ranks with the American rope-and-twine manufacturing industry.”
I bring this up because the National Rope and Twine League has had problems selling out games this season in a few markets. One of them is Detroit, where the Redskins play Sunday. If the game isn’t sold out by 1 o’clock Thursday afternoon (barring a last-minute extension), it’ll be blacked out within a 75-mile radius in accordance with league rules (as it was last year when the Snydermen visited the Motor City).
Everyone knows Detroit, center of the U.S. auto industry, has been as hard-hit as anybody by the economic downturn. And it certainly doesn’t help matters that the Lions, losers of 19 straight, would have trouble beating a team quarterbacked by Keanu Reeves. If there’s any franchise the NFL could cut a little slack to – and, say, declare a moratorium on blackouts – it’s down-on-its-luck Detroit.
But that isn’t the way the NFL thinks. Indeed, in some respects, the league’s thinking hasn’t changed much since 1957. That was the year the Lions played the Browns for the championship, and Michigan’s governor appealed to then-commissioner Bert Bell to lift the blackout because there was so much local interest.
Bell steadfastly refused. “I don’t think it’s honest,” he said, “to sell tickets to thousands of people, then afterward, when all the tickets are gone, to give the
game to television.”
Somewhere along the line, the league seems to have misplaced its magnanimity – or maybe just its common sense. It’s reasonable, in fact, to wonder whether blackouts make any sense at all anymore. Sure, in the ’50s, when television was in its infancy, it was more about turnstile clicks than Nielsen ratings. But in the era of the Internet and cable TV, it’s just as much about “eyeballs” and “furthering your brand” by any available means.
So why deny hundreds of thousands of fans the chance to watch the game live because a couple of thousand tickets go unsold? Is that good business? Would
attendance in Detroit and elsewhere really drop significantly if fans knew they could watch every game in the comfort of their homes, sellout or no sellout?
Hard to imagine. As we’ve seen over the decades – decades in which attendance has continued to climb – there’s never any shortage of fans who simply Have To Be There. When the Lions went winless in 1942, I’ll just point out, they drew crowds as small as 6,044. When they went winless last season, though, they still managed to sell out Ford Field for three of their eight home games. And the NFL wants to reward this loyalty by invoking its blackout rule?
Besides, the league’s policy has always been a bit arbitrary. Does it strike anyone else as strange that the Detroit metro area is about half as populous as Chicago, and yet the Lions have to fill a bigger stadium (65,000) than the Bears (61,500) do to avoid a blackout? Heck, Denver is barely a quarter the size of Chicago, but the Broncos (76,125) have to fill a bigger stadium than the Bears’, too.
This is fair? (Don’t get me started on Green Bay.)
Also, stadiums keep getting larger, which makes sellouts more difficult. The Redskins used to play in a stadium that seated 53,039; now they play in one that seats 91,704. The capacity of the Cowboys’ stadium just increased from 65,111 to, well, 105,121 were on hand at their new abode for the Monday nighter against the Giants (though about 25,000 of them had to stand).
The NFL would do well to consider these things the next time it discusses its draconian policy. It should also remember the words of William Brodhead,
erstwhile congressman from Michigan’s 17th District, who didn’t take kindly to the league’s resistance to anti-blackout legislation in the ’70s.
“This is one of the most arrogant things I’ve ever seen,” he said. “Millions of senior citizens, jobless and others would be denied a chance to see games at home so millionaire owners can increase their profits.”

 
Mike Penner of the LA Times wrote about, classy Oregon football coach, Chip Kelly. “It has been uttered countless times by angry fans disappointed about
their team’s performance: I should get my money back.

Tony Seminary, Oregon fan and alumnus, actually did.

After Oregon’s season-opening 19-8 loss at Boise State, Seminary wrote Oregon Coach Chip Kelly an e-mail, saying, “The product on the field Thursday night is not something I was at all proud of, and I feel as though I’m entitled to my money back for the trip.” With the e-mail, Seminary enclosed an invoice for $439 in travel expenses.

Days later, Seminary received in the mail a personal check from Kelly for $439.

Impressed to the point of being rendered speechless, Seminary returned the check to Kelly with a thank-you note.

“I think of Coach Kelly as a totally different person now,” Seminary said, according to the website EveryDayShouldBeSaturday.com.

“I have a different bond with him now. . . . Let’s just say he lost every game as an Oregon coach. You would never hear me calling for his head. It just
wouldn’t happen. The guy showed an incredible amount of class.”

It must be something in the Bay Area water that’s causing the Frisco guys to go looking to blame SOMEBODY (ANYBODY) for the 49’ers problems. Cam Inman, of the Contra Costa Times from SF Bay Area, wrote that, ”The New York Jets are denying any improprieties with Michael Crabtree, the 49ers’
still-unsigned top draft pick.
Jets coach Rex Ryan called the 49ers’ allegations of tampering “not true” and “ridiculous.” He wishes he could retaliate against the 49ers on the field this season — happily aware that rumble could only happen in Super Bowl XLIV.
Imagine if the 49ers had a coach so outspoken. Oh, that’s right, they do. Or did.
Coach Mike Singletary is suppressing his inner baritone. He and the 49ers are staying mum. He did not throw a “tamper” tantrum.
Give Singletary credit for keeping his emotions in check on this latest development in the Crabtree saga. He has a team to coach, an undefeated one at that.
Crabtree is not part of that team, just an outside distraction.
Singletary did not show up Monday with pie charts, graphs, e-mails and phone records detailing the Jets’ alleged mischievous acts (or those of other possible squads who’ve yet to be identified for similar infractions).
Singletary simply handed this ball off to NFL investigators, appropriate considering the 49ers’ run-oriented operation.
Two weeks into the season, Singletary looks like a calm captain — in bright red Under Armour sweats with matching sneakers. He is driving a once glorious yacht out of iceberg-laden waters.
The 49ers have won six of their past seven games, and seven of 11 since Singletary replaced Mike Nolan as coach last season.
(Sidebar: Nolan is working wonders as the Denver Broncos defensive coordinator, as Raiders coach Tom Cable attested Monday in previewing their AFC West matchup Sunday in Oakland. Sidebar No. 2: The Raiders have won three of their past four, so kudos to them, too.)
Singletary’s mission is to unify the 49ers. He isn’t about to rip Crabtree, at least not until it’s 100 percent certain the former Texas Tech wide receiver will snub the franchise that drafted him 10th overall and sit out this season.
While the 49ers brass ratchets up this saga by levying tampering charges (thus pointing a finger at Crabtree’s agent, Eugene Parker), Singletary must protect the interests and inspire those 53 men currently on his roster.
“We need every football player that can help us win — (every one) that is supposed to be here — here,” Singletary said. “As I said before, he is a talented guy, and hopefully it works out when he gets here. If it doesn’t, I feel comfortable with what we have.”
Comfortable? Not exactly a ringing endorsement of a playoff-caliber roster, is it? But it fits what we’ve seen after two games, both of which the 49ers absolutely could have lost.
Next comes a fantastic test: Sunday’s visit to Minnesota, where the 49ers fell 35-7 in 2003 and 40-16 in 1999. It’s where the 49ers’ ever-emerging defense will have to contend with running back Adrian Peterson and quarterback Brett Favre.
Speaking of Favre, didn’t the Jets just draw a hefty fine because they lied about his status on their 2008 injury reports? Yep, the Jets never break NFL rules, do they?
While Minnesota is the likely final resting place of Favre’s illustrious career, it hosted the beginning of Shaun Hill’s NFL life, albeit as a bench warmer his first four years. Hill is 9-3 as the 49ers starting quarterback, but Singletary isn’t about to hyperbolize on Hill’s account.
“Is he capable of taking a team and putting them on his back? Hopefully we never have to ask him to do that,” Singletary said. “Hopefully we don’t have to have a quarterback here in position to just take us and put us on his back and take us down the field.”
Zing. The 49ers quarterback throne has never been so downplayed.
Singletary claims Hill’s role will expand as this season unfolds, just as it should. See, you can’t rely every week on last game’s winning recipe: Two marathon runs by Frank Gore and a rib-rattling hit by Patrick Willis near the goal line to knock out the opposing quarterback.
You also can’t spend every week worrying about who is snooping in your yard and tampering with your possible future stars.
Because Ryan’s Jets are the defendants in this tattle tale, a “not guilty” plea was an obvious play call. The 49ers echoed similar words even after they were convicted of tampering two years ago with Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs.
Still, you probably want a detailed explanation about Crabtree’s job hunt. You probably want Singletary to scream “I Want Justice (and Winners)!”
Now that would be ridiculous, not to mention “outrageous, egregious, preposterous,” as a savvy New York lawyer might add.
Then Ray Ratto blogged in the SF Chronicle, “So Michael Crabtree isn’t evil. And Eugene Parker isn’t an idiot. They’re just guys playing the percentages in an uttelry amoral industry. Now say you’re sorry to both of them for doubting their acumen.
It is becoming clearer that Crabtree and Parker have had irons in the fire other than the 49ers for some time now, and only a fool thinks that only the New York Jets might be involved in undercutting the 49ers. No other explanation for their contractual intransigence ever made sense, and since the 49ers got caught being clumsier in pursuit of Lance Briggs a year ago, they can’t take the high moral road here now.
No wonder Mike Singletary decided to go with “The league will look into it,” as his sole response to the story from the New York Daily News that the Jets are working Crabtree’s street. He knows what we’ve all suspected for awhile now — that Parker and Crabtree have not been restricted by the take-it-or-leave-it draft rules the NFL finds so heart-warming. They have found the happy medium between a no options and a full-on bidding war, and they’re going to play this for all it’s worth.
As a 49er fan, you may not like it, but hats off to Crabtree and Parker for refusing to play the game as the NFL set it down. Parker certainly knows that there is no honor among weasels, and the league is and has always been full of them. They’re just working the system the way the system has worked so many others, and anyone who has the wherewithal to fight the powers that be should take the opportunity to do so.
Besides, for 49er fans who just finished re-worshiping Eddie DeBartolo Jr., for years of throwing money about for talent, such clever brigandry should be a source of admiration rather than scorn. This is how the game was played when the 49ers were the best team in football, so deal with the backlash like adults.
In two years, this is probably how most NFL business will be conducted — “I have a player here, so who wants to backstab their partners to get him? Just form an orderly line here at the desk.”

 

 

 

Scott Ostler, of the SF CHRONICLE (it is the water, I think) wrote: “The mother of unnecessary-roughness penalties continues to hang over the heads of Tom Cable and the Raiders, like the sword of that old Greek guy who threatened people with his sword.
Any day now, the Napa Police Department will phone Cable and request a sit-down. The topic: Cable’s involvement in a tussle at training camp in Napa.
Assistant coach Randy Hanson claims a Raiders staffer – signs point to Cable – attacked him in anger Aug. 5 and busted Hanson’s jaw.
So far, no call.
“Haven’t heard a word,” Cable said after practice Wednesday, when asked if he has been contacted by Napa police.
But the investigation plows forward, at less-than-warp speed.
“At this point, it’s an ongoing investigation,” Andy Lewis, investigations commander, told me Wednesday. “We’re trying to be as thorough as possible.”
Napa police don’t discuss investigations, but last month the department did say it would be calling Cable.
This would be one of those hilarious only-in-Raider-Nation dramas, except that we’re talking about possible felony charges, and a possible civil suit. And we’re talking about possible action down the road against Cable by the NFL, which has shown interest in the case.
Beware the wrath of Sheriff Roger Goodell.
“It’s still a law-enforcement issue with the Napa Police Department,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Wednesday. “We’re awaiting the outcome of that, and where they decide to go with that.”
Hanson had 12 seasons of coaching experience, four in the NFL, when he was hired by the Raiders two seasons ago. Hanson, who once quarterbacked a junior college team in Stockton, reportedly told people that his life’s dream was to coach for the Raiders.
But last season, Hanson ran afoul of then-head coach Lane Kiffin, who suspended Hanson for lipping off after the first game. Team boss Al Davis immediately unsuspended Hanson, and a few weeks later fired Kiffin.
At this year’s training camp at Napa, Cable stripped Hanson of his on-field coaching duties and relegated him to grunt work, breaking down film. Since even high-level assistants are fired every day in the NFL, why didn’t the Raiders – Cable or Davis – simply fire this fellow who seemed to have a special talent for annoying head coaches?
Probably because Hanson was an Al Guy. Davis seemed to like Hanson, for his maniacal work ethic and – some say – his willingness to share inside info about other Raiders coaches and players with Mr. Davis.
In a training-camp meeting attended by three other assistant coaches, Hanson apparently angered a Raiders staffer, possibly Cable. According to published reports, said staffer knocked Hanson out of his chair, bounced him off a cabinet, and Sprewelled Hanson, twice saying, “I am going to kill you.”
Hanson initially declined to cooperate with the police, who dropped the case in its infancy. Although Davis didn’t fire Hanson, he opted not to overrule Cable, so Hanson remained a demoted coach, working in the film dungeon.
So Hanson hired an attorney and told the police he would cooperate in an investigation. Which meant, as they say in sports, It’s on!
When Hanson clashed with Kiffin, Davis had no problem siding with his assistant-assistant coach because Davis was already disgusted with young Lane. But when Hanson and Cable collided, it was different. Cable is also an Al Guy – a true Raiders loyalist.
Besides, had Davis sided with Hanson against Cable, word would have spread that a low-level assistant and owner’s pet had hijacked the Raiders. Davis hates it when that happens.
There is much potential for craziness. Imagine a trial where three top Raiders assistants are called to testify against their head coach, in an organization that holds sacred the principle of absolute loyalty to the Silver & Black.
The national media remains on Red Alert.
“This thing took on a life of its own,” said Napa police’s Lewis. The initial furor “has somewhat subsided, but I still get calls (from media) every day.”
Right now, Cable is getting ready for the Broncos.

Tom Knott of the DC Post said, “David Stern is playing tough with the NBA referees. You could argue it is long past time.
The lack of consistent officiating in the NBA is the dynamic that never goes away.
It is the dynamic that drives coaches, players and fans ballistic.
Maybe now, finally, Stern wants to drive a stake through the heart of a union that let him and the NBA down in the Tim Donaghy scandal.
It comes with a risk.
As maddening as the officiating can be – and maddening is too soft a description whenever LeBron James is allowed to “crab-dribble” his way to the basket – it promises to become even more infuriating with the replacement referees.
These are the backups who ply their craft in the WNBA and NBA Development League, in venues where being out of position goes with the program.
It is one thing to use replacement referees in the preseason. It will be another to dump them on a public that pays big dollars to attend an NBA game.
That will cheapen a product that already has taken a hit in a struggling economy. That will cheapen a product that routinely fights the charge that its 82-game regular season lacks intensity and drama.
Despite the risk, Stern seems prepared to remain in stare-down mode with the referees, to leave them on the outside over what amounts to a pittance.
That pittance is a pretext for Stern to make corrections to a union that apparently is tone deaf to all the conspiracy theories that feed on the inconsistent officiating.
The NBA is the only professional sports entity that plays amid suspicion, that sometimes is seen as only incrementally more genuine than the staged antics of professional wrestling.
The Donaghy mess was the big gotcha moment for conspiracy theorists.
See, they said, we told you all along.
Yet if Stern truly was the master manipulator of events, as the conspiracy theorists like to insist, the NBA Finals would have featured the LeBron-Kobe Bryant showdown that so many believed was a done deal at the start of the playoffs.
A LeBron-Kobe meeting is what would have been financially best for the NBA. But the Magic subverted that conspiracy theory.
Donaghy remains the unspoken element in this management-labor spat.
Stern absorbed the Donaghy hit for the referees. He has spent the last two seasons defending them, claiming that they make the correct calls about 90 percent of the time.
He has defended their integrity at every turn. He has trotted out statistics. He has talked of the vetting process. He has noted the subjective nature of certain calls, of how a split-second collision can play tricks on the eye.
Now Stern is kind of implying something different about the referees with his hard-line position. What he is saying is that the NBA referees are not as
competent as advertised, that many of their backups in the WNBA and NBDL are just as capable.
Stern would not put it in those words. But that is what you can interpret from this lockout.
Maybe Stern has negotiated in bad faith, as the referees have suggested. Maybe this lockout is about Stern wanting the NBA to be rid of the older referees, the ones whose eyesight cannot be as sharp as someone 20 years younger.
Maybe he is planning to use the preseason in October to see which of the lower-rung referees are possibly ready to make the jump to the NBA. Maybe this is his way of developing a deeper pool of referees, of imposing competition on a union whose principal function is to extract money and protect its members, even the incompetent ones.
If so, good for him.
And good for the NBA.
The coaches, players and fans deserve far more consistency from the referees.

 

 

 

The baseball guy with the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo, looked ahead to awards time and wrote, “A common theme heard about Yankees manager Joe Girardi is, “Even I could manage a team of All-Stars and with a payroll that big.’’
There’s some truth to that, but there’s a flip side. Girardi has to handle the egos, manage the veteran players through injuries, and pacify high-priced players. It is often a slippery slope. The last thing you want is a $20 million player nursing an injury for two months because he was overused.
Girardi has managed on both sides of the spectrum: with the young, low-payroll Marlins in 2006, when he won National League Manager of the Year honors, and with the Yankees, who have the highest payroll in the majors.
“The best thing Girardi has done is that he’s learned to stay out of the way,’’ said an American League general manager. “He’s let the players play, and if he needs to step in, he’s done that wonderfully.’’
In an informal poll of writers, executives, and scouts last week, Girardi did get some love for leading the Yankees to first place after missing the playoffs last season, but not as much as the Angels’ Mike Scioscia, who received first mention from 18 of the 25 people asked their choice for AL Manager of the Year.
Others receiving consideration, in order, were Ron Washington, who transformed the Rangers into a wild-card contender; Don Wakamatsu, who inherited a 101-loss team in Seattle and has a winning record; Jim Leyland, who resurrected the Tigers from the ashes of last season; Terry Francona, who had to deal with numerous injury and personnel issues; and Ron Gardenhire, who brought the Twins back into contention in the AL Central.
In the National League, Colorado’s Jim Tracy received 16 first mentions. He inherited an 18-28 team from the fired Clint Hurdle, the architect of the first
Colorado miracle in 2007, and will likely lead the Rockies to a playoff berth, if he can stave off the Giants.
Others receiving consideration, in order, were Tony La Russa, for his work with the Central-leading Cardinals; Bruce Bochy, who has restored the Giants to respectability; the Marlins’ Fredi Gonzalez, who seems to do a lot with a little; the Dodgers’ Joe Torre; and the Phillies’ Charlie Manuel.
Scioscia annually has one of the best regular-season teams in baseball. This year, he had to deal with the death of pitcher Nick Adenhart in a car accident in April. There were injuries to Vlad Guerrero and several starters, and he has a subpar bullpen that includes heart-attack closer Brian Fuentes. He seemed to receive the most respect for his handling of Adenhart’s death.
“There’s no manual out there for how you handle the death of a player,’’ said an AL general manager. “Mike Scioscia proves time and time again that he
understands the entire spectrum of managing a major league franchise. There aren’t many you can say that about. He’s right there with La Russa, [Bobby] Cox, Francona, Leyland.’’
There was a lot of sentiment for Washington, whom many had picked to be the first manager fired this season. He survived, stressing defense and pitching, and now earns major praise.
“He makes everyone accountable,’’ said a Rangers player. “He stresses the importance of avoiding mental errors and keeping your head in the game. He’s earned the respect of everyone.’’
The biggest thing in Wakamatsu’s favor is that he changed the culture in the Mariners’ clubhouse, though the acquisition of veterans Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Sweeney helped.
Leyland believed he had the talent to win last season, but injuries and off seasons by several players changed that. He felt the defense had to be improved for the Tigers to win. That happened when Adam Everett was brought in at short and Brandon Inge went back to third.
How do you explain Tracy? He’s taken basically the same players Hurdle had and made them winners.
One veteran executive said of Tracy, “He had this strength when he managed the Dodgers. He knew what buttons to push with every single player. It doesn’t surprise me that when you look at individual players with the Rockies, they’ve improved their game since he took over.’’
Bochy has always been considered one of the better managers but hasn’t always had the players. GM Brian Sabean has done a good job filling in the blanks, and the pitching staff is strong.
La Russa has been one of the best year after year, and while he’s been a master at putting people in the right roles, he’s always said, “It comes down to the players.’’ And his players – particularly Albert Pujols, the best in baseball – can make a skipper look smart.

Dick Heller recounted,”For several years, Denton True “Cy” Young had sought to deny and delay the inevitable. Yet most baseball “cranks” of the day knew that at age 44, the greatest pitcher in baseball history was on his last legs – legs topped by an enormous pot belly that made it nearly impossible for him to get off the mound and field bunts.
As late as 1909, the old man had won 19 games for Cleveland. But in the next two seasons, his record was merely 13-19 when he waddled out to face the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sept. 22, 1911. Cleveland had released him on Aug. 15, and now he was laboring for the abysmal (44-107) Boston Rustlers.
Yet for one final time, Young reached back for the magic he had perpetrated for most of his 22 years in the major leagues. Going the distance and scattering nine hits, he defeated Pirates ace Babe Adams 1-0 for his 511th victory.
Let that number roll around in your mind and on the tip of your tongue. In 134 seasons of major league baseball, nobody but Washington Senators immortal Walter Johnson has come within 94 wins of 511 (Johnson collected 417 from 1907 to 1927). What’s more, Cy might have won as many as 513 because 19th-century records are incomplete and in some cases contradictory.
Young began his major league career in 1890, when games often were completed with a black and mushy ball, and finished it in the first season when horsehides were made with a cork center to liven things up. No matter. In more than two decades, he won 30 or more games five times, 20 or more 15 times, 290 in the National League, 221 in the American League and had a career ERA of 2.63.
No wonder the trophy given to baseball’s best pitchers each season is called the Cy Young Award. Nobody alive can remember seeing him pitch, but his feats were more astounding than those of anybody else who ever toed the rubber.
When Young won his 500th game by beating the Washington Senators in 1910, Christy Mathewson called him “the greatest pitcher that ever lived” – high praise indeed since Matty shares the National League mark of 373 victories with Grover Cleveland Alexander.
Yet Cy’s record that season was merely 7-10, and the end clearly was in sight. One reporter, alluding to the pitcher’s girth, remarked that he “looked like a prosperous alderman” – one of those portly politicians with dollar signs on their chests who turned up in cartoons back then.
During the offseason, the Cleveland club cut his salary from $4,000 to $2000 for 1911. As spring training began, Young stubbornly allowed as how he would keep pitching “until they tear the uniform off me.” He also claimed to be working on a spitball (then legal) as well as something he called “a hot-water ball,” which he called “a slow jump and wonder.”
Nice try, Cy. But as Cleveland broke camp in Hot Springs, Ark., he came down with an ailment variously described as bronchitis and pneumonia. He returned home to Peoli, Ohio, to recuperate and did not pitch until June 9.
Although Young won his first two games, it was all downhill after that. He lasted just three innings in each of his next two losses before Cleveland released him.
Undaunted and unrealistic, Young insisted: “There is a lot of good pitching in me yet. The public hasn’t seen the last of me. I will be a good pitcher for a number of years.”
Four days later, the Rustlers signed him – obviously seeking to entice fans who had seen Cy pitch the Boston Americans to the first World Series championship in 1903 and twirl a perfect game the following season. His first home appearance drew an overflow crowd of 8,000. Later he somehow shut out the potent Pirates twice – fanning Honus Wagner, a fellow charter member of the baseball Hall of Fame, three times, and lost a 1-0 duel to Philadelphia rookie Alexander.
But these flashes of brilliance were just that – flashes. He lost his last three decisions, and in his final appearance was yanked in the seventh inning after allowing eight consecutive hits. Ouch!
Then it was really over, and Young spent the next 44 years before his death in 1955 taking bows as the greatest pitcher ever.
He was entitled.

 

 

 

Gwen Knapp wrote in the SF Chronicle,”For rabid opponents of the NFL’s TV blackouts, this season seemed the ideal time to launch a fresh campaign against the 36-year-old rule. The recession posed an obvious threat to ticket sales in some previously robust markets. The Jacksonville Jaguars, in one of the most economically troubled spots on the NFL map, revealed earlier this year that they had lost 17,000 of their 42,000 season-ticket sales. The Jaguars will not appear on local TV today, when they face the Cardinals, and they may be blacked out all season.
Here in the Bay Area, the Raiders, long vulnerable to blackouts, remain at risk after losing two TV appearances last year. The 49ers, immune to blackouts for generations, cannot claim to have sold out the entire season, and the team does not divulge exactly how many tickets remain available. Today’s game against the Seahawks met the Thursday deadline to remain on the air, and the front office says it expects all games to reach local TV audiences.
The commissioner’s office has stood firm on the blackout rule, pointing out that it didn’t vanish in past recessions. Twenty of the 32 teams had already sold out for the regular season, Roger Goodell said in an online chat Sept. 8, and he projected that between 80 and 90 percent of all games would reach local audiences on live TV. The league’s Web site will provide free replays at midnight for all blacked-out games.
The blackout rule may be exasperating, offensive and potentially damaging to teams that become even more invisible after failing to sell out. But it has one great virtue. It works. It has earned its place as a bedrock business principle for the league, and allowed the NFL to be arrogant about withholding its product from the broadest possible local marketplace.
Last season, only nine games were blacked out the entire season. The year before, 10 games were blacked out. In 2006, the number was a record-low seven games.
Just 10 years earlier, in 1996, 78 games had been blacked out. Through the ’90s, an average of just 69 percent of NFL games were televised locally. The number has topped 95 percent the last four seasons. Theories about the short-sightedness of blackouts, based on the belief that they prevent the league from promoting itself and alienate its fan base, don’t hold up in the face of those statistics.
Some of the sellout increases have to do with the corporate connections that the league has cultivated. As the price of the TV rights deals has risen, so has the local affiliates’ interest in keeping games on the air. The stations, plus other corporate sponsors, frequently step in and guarantee sellouts, promising to buy up a certain number of remaining tickets.
Andy Dolich, chief operating officer for the 49ers, couldn’t say exactly how many sales the team’s backers would guarantee in a slow week, but he estimated 6,000 to 7,000 of Candlestick’s 70,000 seats.
At the beginning of the baseball season, MLB heavily promoted discounts at various ballparks, and the Yankees conceded that they had overpriced front-row tickets. Any such admissions from the NFL should be much subtler. With only eight home games versus 81 to market, football teams have to be more careful about maintaining price points.
But bargaining does happen. The 49ers froze ticket prices this year, Dolich said, joining 20 other teams that reportedly either dropped or maintained prices. The league ticket average rose 3.2 percent to $74.99 after a 7.2 percent increase in ’08.
Financing arrangements seem to be one of the most common responses to the recession. Several teams have said that they will allow season-ticket holders who can’t pay up front to work out installments. “We’re not Monte-Halling every ticket – my age is probably showing when I say that,” Dolich said. “But we’re trying to be flexible. If someone comes to us and says: ‘I’ve been with you for 25 years, and I can’t make it,’ we’re going to work with them.”
In Washington, management recruited two big concerts – U2 and Paul McCartney – for FedEx Field, in large part so the team could pass along freebies to its premium season-ticket holders. The NFL doesn’t think small, and it doesn’t move backward. The only way blackouts can disappear will be 100 percent sellouts.

Boston’s Dan Shaughnessy wrote: “It’s the alternate universe. It’s the new world order in the NFL.
You can talk trash about the Patriots and live to talk some more.
You can tug on Superman’s cape. And get away with it.
The New York Jets yesterday beat up the New England Patriots, 16-9. The big mouths played smashmouth. They forced Bill Belichick to fall on his whistle.
Three times in his postgame eulogy, Belichick made reference to his team being “outcoached.’’
“It starts with me and goes for everybody that was involved in the game,’’ he said.
Think about how much that must have killed his Hoodiness. All summer long Belichick had to live with Rex Ryan, the Round Mound of Soundbite, talking about Bill’s jewelry. The new Jets coach said he did not intend to kiss Belichick’s rings. He said he would not be intimidated.
And he wasn’t.
And Belichick said he was outcoached.
And he was (gulp).
Hard to swallow that one. Outcoaching Belichick is like outrunning Usain Bolt. It’s like outclassing Harry Belafonte. It’s just about impossible.
It’s also galling. Especially after the way the Jets ran off at the mouth all week.
We laughed when Jets tackle Kris Jenkins said this was like the Super Bowl. We scoffed when safety Kerry Rhodes said the Jets wanted to “embarrass’’ the Patriots. We mocked Ryan’s doofus voicemail begging fans to bring their A game to the Meadowlands.
And after all that, the Jets came out and embarrassed the Patriots. They shut down the Brady bunch. They kept the Patriots out of the end zone. They forced Brady to miss on more than half of his passes. Brady finished with 23 completions in 47 attempts and one interception. His passer rating was a hideous 53.1.
This must have been what it was like watching Ted Williams hit .200 in the 1946 World Series.
It marked the first time a Brady-led Patriot team lost a regular-season game since December of 2006. That’s almost three years. It’s also the first time Brady ever lost to the Jets in the Meadowlands. The last time the Patriots dropped a game here was in Belichick’s maiden season (2000) when Drew Bledsoe was the franchise quarterback.
Clearly, these are not the same old Patriots. They are one Leodis McKelvin brain cramp from being 0-2. And the undefeated Falcons are coming to Foxborough Sunday. Bob Kraft’s army of suckups will shift into overdrive if the Patriots lose that one.
There are red flags all over the place. Yellow flags, too. The Patriots were smacked for 11 penalties yesterday. Reminded me of one of those Pete Carroll teams when we all said the Patriots lacked discipline.
New England’s vaunted offense is several bricks shy of a load. Wes Welker (knee) was unable to play and this attack (no running game, lots of short passes) can’t afford to lose any weaponry. Brady closed fast in Week 1, but he has not been sharp. Take away those two touchdowns in 66 seconds at the end of the opener and you’ve got one TD over eight quarters.
“To not get the ball in the end zone is not acceptable,’’ said Brady, who was accompanied by his internationally-famous bride when he walked to the bus late in the afternoon. “We did the same thing last week until the last five minutes. I’ve got to do a better job. You don’t get in the end zone, it’s not a good day for the quarterback.’’
On the other side of the ball it’s going to take some time to replace all the experience that’s been erased. There is no pass rush and the injury to Jerod Mayo could be the defensive equal of Brady’s knee in 2008. The Kool Aid crowd is still madly applauding the Richard Seymour trade, but it made the Patriots weaker defensively in 2009 and it was really noticeable yesterday. The Patriots may have lost too many players at one time.
There were a couple of true knee-slappers in Belichick’s postgame session. When someone started to ask about Welker’s absence, the coach said, “He was inactive because he wasn’t able to play.’’
And as for the delay of game penalties?
“We didn’t get the play off in time.’’
That’s sort of like saying, “We lost because they scored more points than we did.’’ Or “I’m broke because I have no money.’’
But Coach Bill gets a pass on everything after this one. I mean, it just doesn’t get any worse than letting the Jets talk trash and get away with it.
This might have been the New York franchise’s happiest day since Joe Willie Namath guaranteed victory in Super Bowl III, then delivered.
“I think it was good,’’ Jenkins said when asked about the bravado.
“We’re a football team that should be respected,’’ said Ryan. “Sometimes we talk a little bit, or something like that, but only because we have confidence in
our football team. We believe it to be true that we are an outstanding football team.’’
“We are not the same old Jets that people are used to,’’ added New York linebacker Bart Scott.
Apparently that also goes for the Patriots.”

 
Sam Farmer wrote in the LA Times, “Rex Ryan’s massive phone-a-friend campaign wound up a party line.

Days after the first-year New York Jets coach recorded a phone message urging fans to crank up the energy for the New England game, his team pulled off a huge upset Sunday.

Not only did the Jets win, 16-9, knocking off a franchise that had beaten them eight consecutive times at the Meadowlands, but New York also became the
first team to keep the Patriots out of the end zone since Miami on Dec. 10, 2006.

Before the other 31 NFL coaches scramble to make recordings of their own, everyone should get this message: You can’t phone in victories.”

 

 

 

Mike Penner wrote in the LA Times, “Sometimes the cliche about sports building character is accurate. Such was the case last week when two freshman football teams from high schools in Missouri arranged for a running back with Down syndrome to score a 65-yard touchdown.

Maryville was leading St. Joseph Benton, 46-0, with about 10 seconds left when the game was stopped so Benton Coach Dan McCamy could run across the field to ask Maryville’s defensive coach if he would give up a shutout to help a cause.

McCamy wanted to know if Maryville would allow 5-foot-3, 110-pound Matt Ziesel to score a touchdown on the game’s final play.

Maryville was quick to oblige, Ziesel chugged all the way down the right sideline and thanks to a YouTube video of the play, the teams were soon toasted throughout the region for sportsmanship and having their priorities in the right place.

“Its just amazing how one play can mean so much to one kid and then to a team and then to a community,” McCamy told the Kansas City Star. “And now it’s spread not just to the community of St. Joseph, but now it’s spread across the region. How something so simple can impact so many to me, that’s the amazing part about it.”