Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Confessions of Cheater.. Why Mark McGuire hasn't really confessed and Barry Bonds is a Gangsta

I admit that title isn't the king's english but you'll get the point when I'm done. Big Mac's tearful "confession" was about as sincere as when men lie to their wives about being fat. And you thought there was no crying in baseball? Apparently lying is in baseball. Scandal is also in baseball too. Most hardcore baseball fans know about the eight players that were banned for life for intentionally throwing games in the 1919 world series.

Ask a baseball fan about how some pitchers used what was known as the spitball. Officially banned after the 1920 season, pitchers could use substances to help with the drop speed of their pitches. As late as 1959, Bob Gibson once said that pitchers would always use spitballs. The tears of a clown were more believable than McGuire's public display of emotion during his interview with Bob Costas.

Jose Canseco is a hero and very few media pundits ever give him any props. Call him what you want but the guy has been spot on. McGuire apologist love to trash Canseco as an opportunistic ambulance chaser that made a few bucks for snitching. Canseco is more of a prophet than a whistle blower. Remember when the media jumped all over the stop snitching campaign associated with Carmello Anthony? Where were these guys when the Androstenedione was found in McGuire's locker in 1998 by an obscure Associated Press reporter.

The baseball media of 1998 were hell bent on helping baseball recover from the 1994 strike. The fans desperately wanted to fall in love with the game again at the expense of one of baseball's most hallowed records. When people questioned whether or not Big Mac was a cheat after the news surfaced about McGuire's Andro usage, his defenders said that the substance was legal because baseball didn't have a steroid policy. The medical community knew that "Andro" was a precursor to steroids. Baseball insiders were aware of this to. The game was hot again so everyone turned a blind eye.

How's does this relate to Bonds? I'm glad you asked! Bonds like any competitor wanted the notoriety that Sosa and McGuire were receiving. Plus he was probably privy to the underground culture of steroids. Childhood friend Greg Anderson and Victor Conte, founder of Balco were God sends to an ultra competitive guy like Bonds who relished the role of anti-hero. Bonds had an accomplished career before he started to juice. Cheating for him was like being able to add more horsepower to a sports car. McGuire's juicing mad a mediocre guy more consistent.

What other factor besides glory sparked the players to cheat? Could it be that it was apart the climate of the game and its unspoken pressure to produce superhuman statistics season after season? What about the pressure to be included in the conversation when the baseball writers discuss those meaningless records that baseball nerds spew in their beer fueled arguments about who should be inducted into the hall of fame?

It's estimated that over 70 percent of the league were card carrying members of the cheaters club that existed at the height of the steroid era. Another untapped culprit in this probe is the players at high school, minor league and college levels. What was their culture like? Its believed that many of these younger players have been taking steroids for their shot at getting into the professional and major college ranks. One could only imagine.

Barry's defiance is correct because it sticks to the code. McGuire wants back into baseball and he wants a punchers chance to get in the hall of fame. His ill fated confession was worse than his congressional testimony. Bonds reminded us that we all had skeletons during a press conference during the summer of 2003. He dared us to clean our own closets before we demanded he clean his. Point well taken Barry. Its no crime for being a jerk and being right. Its also no crime to plead the fifth either. No court in America can convict him for being a malcontent.

What baseball would have the fans to believe is that the Mitchell Report sums up the extent of the so called "steroid era". Especially since their original patsy (Bonds) eluded them. A few big names were released as sacrificial lambs to extinguish the interest of the public. Never mind that over 100 names of guilty players are still concealed from public knowledge. The strategy of gradual disclosure has worked like a charm. After the congressional hearings, McGuire disappeared into the night, Sosa bleached his skin and took a few English courses. Barry Bonds avoided jail with the help of Anderson and has been ostracized from playing the game.

A tell all book was written entitled "Game of Shadows" about Bonds. The baseball writers poked and prodded Bonds for a confession, only to get the same cold stare of defiance coupled with 762 home runs. This book was meant to assist major league baseball in its attempt to make Barry the lone gunman of the steroid era. Barry, in classic James Dean (Gangsta) fashion went on playing the game at a high level en route to surpassing Babe Ruth and the classy Henry Aaron.

Bonds knew that his hall of fame worthy career would be defined in a variety of ways. McGuire on the other hand is only a slugger with a great smile. By all accounts McGuire was a model teammate while Bonds never was accepted as one of the guys. (most of that was his choice)

McGuire's "confession" isn't about telling baseball fans the truth.(He'll leave that to Canseco) Its about taking a page from Pete Rose, accept he's not going to wait 25 years to tell us what really happened . Instead he's waited five to continue to lie as he did during the congressional hearings. This new lie disguised as a confession, is a public relations ploy to satisfy his an old employer. Who else would touch McGuire right now? He's trying to keep the code while getting back in the good graces of baseball. Several players have gone on record to refute McGuire's claims of steroids not inducing player performance.

The Cardinals and McGuire would have the public to believe that the performance enhancing drugs didn't help him hit 70 home runs. If they didn't help him then why call the Maris family to apologize? Did Rodger Maris use steroids? Did the Maris family befriend him first or did he sell them on his good guy image for publicity? See the pattern? That's what those tears were really about.

Those tears were meant to misdirect us from an ugly truth that we already know. Baseball is a game full of cheaters. Its a rogue league with a history of deceitful practices that would make old west gamblers step their cheating game up.

Those tears were about appealing to the public memory of how great a guy he is and how great baseball really is wink wink. Its about selling us on why McGuire should reenter baseball. He's set the bar pretty high for other legends who've been linked to steroids. No tears, no job!!! Barry Bonds will never do this because he knows he's guilty.

He knows that he isn't interested in rekindling a relationship with a game that tried to use him as the scapegoat. His attempt to play again was about putting his record out of the reach of A-Roid. By all accounts of Barry Bonds insiders, that theory is the most credible reason why Bonds wouldn't want to share any of his knowledge of the game as a coach. His hitting secrets are uniquely his. He'd tell you to #$% off and do it on your own.

Bud Selig and his cronies haven't stood up to the criticism of the public so why should the players. The baseball media doesn't have a leg to stand on because they drank the kool aid too. The Yankees were won their 27th world title last fall led by another scandal hound (Alex Rodriguez) but the story wasn't about his dicey history. The story was how he finally produced in the playoffs. Confession isn't good for the soul. Its good for business......

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Paper Champions, Why College football needs a playoff.

Alabama has just claimed its 13th national championship. Some in the national press refute those claims by reducing the 13 to 8 citing that only three of the titles were consensus both by the AP and the Coaches Poll. That's not a knock against Bama. Sports shouldn't resemble a beauty pageant or a flawed political system. Sadly when dealing with college football, our political system and how a national champion is decided are identical twins. All of the lower level divisions in college football have a playoff. The excitement among the fan bases is off the charts and most importantly a champion is decided on the field.

Traditions in America die hard. University Presidents, (some) college coaches, boosters and bowl administrators are comfortable with letting the gray area decide a "champion" Its safer because that gray area can over rate the appearance of greatness being sold to alumni and their fans. Most of the bowls that on national networks are brand new bowls. The Meineke Car care bowl isn't as old as the Rose, Orange, Cotton and Peach bowls. New bowls sponsors have popped up like a new shopping malls in an old suburb.

It's an insult to the intelligence of the national fan base of major college football fans. Every major NCAA sport has a championed crowned without dispute. Alabama is the champ but their is still a small window of doubt without a playoff. The Cowboys were better than the Eagles but they still played the games to prove it.(Eagles lost three times to the Boys) Wouldn't it be great to see if Bama and Florida mix it up again during the college playoffs? Sure most of us agree that Boise State would get hammered by Alabama. But shouldn't that be decided on the field? Deep down all of those Boise State kids want a shot at Apollo Creed. The big difference is that these kids want to do more than go the distance. Boise believes they can play with anybody.

An eight team playoff system could easily be created in conjunction with the bowl system. A college Superbowl can be played the first week of January. One loss teams and undefeated teams from every major division I conference could have their shot to settle on the field who's really the best team without all of the hoopla that surrounds college football.

Conference champions (that means MAN UP Big Ten and create a conference championship) can all be seeded 1 through 8. That way one loss teams like Florida isn't left out of the equation. Wild card weekend is much more exciting than the pageantry of college football. The fiasco of Auburn and Utah not getting an opportunity to compete for the championship in 2004 speaks to the need for a playoff. What about the year that a Shaun King led Tulane team was left undefeated?

College football could take a page from the NFL. The couple of superbowl seemed hopeless for the AFL until the New York Jets broke through with the improbable upset of the Baltimore Colts behind the guarantee of Joe Namath. Bosie State gave a us a glimpse of this in 2007 in their dramatic win over Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. Utah beat up on Alabama in the 2009 Sugar Bowl by two touchdowns.

The bowl demigods made sure to not schedule either TCU or Boise State against another power conference team. Cincinnati had an opportunity to carry the torch for the little guy but couldn't get it done. It's safe to assume that if Nebraska would have prevailed against Texas, Cincinnati would've gotten beat down but at least its decided on the field.

The BCS is a step in the right direction. Several times in college football history, the AP and coaches poll selected different national champions. The BCS still includes the opinions of writers and numerous unseen forces that determine who "deserves" to play for the silver egg. College football in most regions scores higher ratings than their NFL brethren. The college world series doesn't interfere with the fall classic. The Final Four is still a unique event and towers over the NBA finals in popularity.

There's enough room on the block to keep tradition and appease the rabid fan base of both football spectrum's at the pro and college level. America is fascinated with the game of football. Much like the NCAA basketball tournament, the drama of an 8th seeded Villanova winning it all over Georgetown in the 1985 final four, can be duplicated in college football.

A college Superbowl could give us the drama of a New York Jets like upset. Where's the Pete Rozelle of College football? All of those meaningless bowl games are only watched by the fan bases of those teams. What about capturing the imagination of the casual fan? The NFL Superbowl captivates people who'd rather go to a movie during the season but catch the commercials during the big game.

Imagine the shared revenue that all of the power conferences would generate. That's what the college administrators are after anyway! Is there a back room deal not to create more buzz which would effect the NFL's bottom line? Conspiracy theory like question but else are we to assume as fans. There's been talk of government getting involved. Why not get ahead of that and just make it happen? Unsolved Mysteries... Is that show still on television?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Truth about the Image Problem of the NBA

Gilbert Arenas has just joined Plaxico Burress in the exclusive fraternity of athletes making unwise decisions with dangerous firearms. Jason Williams, the embattled former NBA star would gladly trade places with Agent Dumbo. As an NBA fan, its been hard to defend certain aspects of the culture of the Hip hop generation. Every generation contributes something to society that will be marked in history. Some of those things will be very good and in true human form inherently evil. Modern corporations love market and profit from certain aspects of culture until the side effects of the latter rears its ugly. That's the dichotomy of the marriage of Hip Hop and the NBA Brand.

The "gangsta" culture didn't originate from hip hop culture. It began from the machine gun era gangsters(pay attention class) that Hollywood glorified. Hip Hop culture has followed in the footsteps of this tradition, even making its way up to the ranks of the rich and famous. If you're under 45 and you're reading this, you probably can appreciate the complexity this culture breeds. On one side you have the beauty of creativity, expression, fashion, language and community. On the other one can see the violence, poverty ignorance, and overblown machismo that creates its own code of ethics.

There's a stunning element that most NBA detractors will never acknowledge. When reconciling this perceived image problem, I couldn't help but notice how other sportz leagues can recover a lot easier and faster than the NBA can. Other professional leagues are able to survive scandals better than Marion Barry.

The image of Nascar has gotten better but some people in select regions will never lose the image of a toothless fans screaming at the top of his lungs for their favorite driver. Nascar quietly settled a lawsuit with Mauricia Grant in 2008 for sexual harassment along with the racial slurs she endured everyday. When the story first broke Nascar's P.R. machine sold the public on its ongoing commitment to diversity. The media moved on and so did the fan base of Nascar and Ms. Grant got a nice undisclosed amount to go away.

Baseball has survived multiple P.R. disasters throughout its history. The steroid era yielded some shocking discoveries of a cheating sub culture that challenged the integrity of the game. Alex Rodriguez, easily the game's biggest star and highest paid player looked America right in the eyeballs and lied about his steroid use. After facing the music, he defiantly led the Yankees to another world championship. Where's the righteous indignation from the baseball purist now? Steroid era be damned right? When are those other names going to be released from the Mitchell Report. The P.R. machine of major league baseball has made John Q fan forget that his favorite sportz league is a cheater. I'm not hating the player and this case I won't even hate the game.

What about the bad boys of the NFL. Matt Jones the crackhead didn't inspire any fans to cancel their season passes or Sunday ticket with their local and national cable providers. Pac-man Jones got a million second chances and LP field was still filled to capacity. Mike Vick went way for about 20 months and is now back in the fold. Mark Chumura once kicked it at an underage party. Brett Farve was once addicted to pain killers and loved his share of last call.

Did public ever really got a credible explanation about Spygate? Outside of a hefty fine, the loss of draft picks and an unenthused apology from Bill Belicheat, the Patriots mad out like fat rats. Nixon would be proud of Goodell got rid of the evidence. The American sportz public didn't bat an eye. How many of the national media campaigned for Belicheat to miss any games? How many games did Tank Johnson, Chris Henry (R.I.P) and Adam Jones miss? They gave us the sacrifical lambs of the player but allowed executive privilege to rear its ugly head. In this case I hate both the player and the game.

So why can't the critics of the NBA admit that they just hate the league? Gilbert Arenas and Jarvis Crittenton aren't even marquee players. Arenas is an overpaid former all star that most casual basketball fans wouldn't recognize instantly. Okay you'd notice he's tall. Maybe you'd ask him in the supermarket during casual conversation if he played in college.

Crittenton spent one year at Georgia Tech. The only reason I know that is because I'm a rabid sportz fan who happens to write a sportz blog. Lebron James, Dewayne Wade, Kobe Bryant, and Carmello Anthony headline a very talented league. Sure Anthony and Bryant aren't squeaky clean but they've recovered quite nicely. Up and coming young stars like Kevin Durant, Tyreke Evans and Brandon Jennings will be unfairly associated with the gangsta culture by some of the public. .

Jemelle Hill of ESPN.com wrote a very articulate argument about why Arenas should be suspended indefinitely. (She got her wish) She went on to say that the Wizards should void the rest of his contract. No disrespect to one of my favorite columnist but that's complete hogwash. Does Elliot Spitzer have to apologize for Mark Sanford's political transgressions? Is it fair to assume that every politician lives a secret life as these two gentleman? So if the answer is no then why does the NBA have to make an example out of one guy? Is it because some casual basketball fans believe that every NBA player behaves just as irresponsibly as Gilbert Arenas did? I'll take a YES for a thousand Alex.

Ask most NBA detractors why the hate the NBA and like college basketball better. Ask them why they'd rather see top tier talent stay three years but in the same vein forget that child actors, baseball players and European basketball leagues employ players as young as fifteen. The Malice in the Palace participants got off pretty lightly considering the horrible scene that was displayed all over the airwaves. Arenas and Crittenton's altercation was in an NBA locker room behind closed doors seen by just the employees of the Wizards. Consider the fact that Sebastian Telefair only received a three game suspension for trying to carry a firearm on an airplane. What was Steven Jackson's punishment for shooting off a gun at a night club in Indianapolis?

Jackson was subsequently traded and had to sit out seven games. In comparison to his track record how many people of national media called for Jackson to have his contract voided? Where they asleep at the wheel or did this story not make it to the national hype machine. Why are we being sheep here? The media is telling us yet again who to like and who to hate. Telefair and Jackson's transgressions are just has ignorant, if not worse than Arenas's blunder. Quite Frankly Jackson's track record is far worse. Yes Arenas brought a gun in a place where guns are prohibited. That's the easy part to punish but to strip away his livelihood in the name cleaning up an image to appeal to a casual fan base is ludicrous. The NBA has been a global phenomenon dating back to the early nineties.

Do we still view them through the tainted image of perception and prejudice? Yes we do. Its unfair to convict a man for what could have happened instead of for what actually occurred. Arenas should have his day in court and should face all consequences for his irrational behavior. David Stern finally caved under the public pressure to suspend Arenas indefinitely. The talk of voiding his contract by most people in the national media is really ridiculous. Seriously, did anyone in the media fraternity advocate Harold Reynolds or Marv Albert not getting a job ever again?(In case you didn't know these guys had some nasty sex scandals happen at one time that was detrimental to their image)

You didn't think for one moment that a photo and a few loose words had anything to do with Stern finally pulled the trigger on suspending Agent Dumbo did you? He cracked under the P.R. pressure. We've got tons of people who play mafia wars on Facebook, consume some of the most violent images that Hollywood as to offer and applaud the vigilante style justice that gun play perpetuates in entertainment. Surprisingly these are the same people who seem to find it in their intellect to be upset with a guy who didn't even shoot or point the gun at anyone.

For some, the thought of young black males with guns is much more sinister than Timothy McVeigh owning one. Or what about the guy that just went on a wild rampage in Las Vegas. I'd bet the farm that he probably was "licensed" to carry a gun at some point. I'm sure most people know that McVeigh once served our country in the military. Please save the argument of registered gun users versus unlicensed ones. Not unless you're prepared to discuss the myriad of loopholes that contribute to guns getting into the"unlicensed" hands. Let's have a discussion on how gun reform is always misrepresented as trying to confiscate guns from people who are licensed.

Cultures around the world are past many of the conceptual dogmas that still exist in America. Entire societies have been transformed by the words, imagery and example of people who have worked their entire lives to stop violence, prejudice, hate and ignorance. How can we still categorize "urban" youth as the only culprit for violent behavior? Some may view this story as a time to revisit the violence that young black males perpetuate in neighborhoods that rival war zones. While that may be a noble gesture it undermines the work that grass root activists are already doing. They get less face time and rarely get any financial help from the general public.

This type of bigotry diverts the attention of society at large from taking inventory on our violent culture. The question is are we willing to address the "image" problem of our country around the world? Will we continue to segregate this problem like most of our other ones? Will the image of one guy who did something dumb be the rallying cry for "what's really wrong with America" Or will we just move to the next story that is sure to kidnapped by the under current of agenda based media outlets. You should already which one my money's on.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Was 2K9 the year of the coach behaving badly?

Is it me or did some very prominent coaches fall of the wagon this year? The high school ranks even contributed to the madness. High school coach David Stinson was acquitted for the "accidental" death of a young player in the state of Kentucky.(Max Gilpin was the student lost is life due to heat exhaustion)

It's not like coach Stinson didn't have other examples to go on. I'm sure the widow of the late Corey Stringer could attest to how coach's have some responsibility in making sure players keep their bodies hydrated in such intense heat. Also coaches are responsible for having people on staff that monitor when a coach can't tell the difference between preparing his team and crossing the line. I can appreciate the pressure to win but is winning really the only thing Vince Lombardi? Here's some of the prime suspects of 2k9.

1. Michigan's Rich Rodgriguez

Rich Rodriguez danced around his abuse of the "twenty hour" rule by poorly justifying why he broke the rule in the first place. The players balked at the notion of more practice time considering their other duties like class and some sort of college life. Winning wasn't a by product of this idiotic behavior. Michigan hasn't seen a winning season yet under Rodriguez. If he flops in year three (which is a real possibility) look for a Michigan man(Jim Harbaugh) to be brought in to stop the bleeding. Still full of doubt? Check out Exhibit B.

2. Former Kansas Coach Mark Mangino

According to ESPN.com's Joe Shad, Mangino once scolded a player by using his brothers recent shooting death. The exact words from Mangino after an exchange with the player was "if you don't shut up I'm going to send you back to St. Louis so you can get shot up with the rest of your homies". I wish I was making this up but I'm not. This clown even had the nerve to try and defend his coaching style.

Kansas decided after an "investigation" it was time to part ways with Mangino. Isn't it fair to assume that this mess was happening when Mangino led them to a school record 12 wins in 2007? There are facts that point to his over as far back as 1996 when he was the running backs coach. This guy still managed to move up the ranks with this type of behavior. Is this one of the key components to why Turner Gill got the job at Kansas? Just one of those things that make you go hmmmm.

3. Texas Tech's Mike Leach

Exhibit C starts with the firing of Mike Leach at Texas Tech. I'm sure if enough "investigating" was done this guy could have been fired for silly antics like this a long time ago. Much like any other desperate program, Athletic Directors will sell their children to please the boosters and alumni by delivering wins on Saturday. Ego maniacs aren't born last night but at night. For every Tony Dungy and Bobby Bowden, theirs probably 15 Mark Mangino's and Mike Leach's.

Sure say I'm painting with a broad brush if you want but I'm willing to bet that there's a lot of adults who played for some abusive coaches on all levels. These people probably suffered in silence because what would we as a sportz public tell them? Suck it up! You're not disciplined enough. You're lazy! This is why I believe this problem is more prevalent than what any journalist will dare research and uncover.

As a sportz public we love to see the hammer dropped on the players. When authority figures behave badly we are more likely to defend them than loathe their behavior. Bob Knight got a lengthy pass because of his three national championships. The Indiana A.D. had no choice after the truth about Knight's violent behavior was caught on video. I do recognize that there's always a valiant minority that speak out on these issues but do we listen?

Some national media analyst, former players of Texas Tech ,and columnist even defended Leach by disclosing the kids practice habits as sub par. A guy is recovering from a concussion and the coach and not a Doctor tells your athletic trainer to put this kid in isolated room because it will help him recover faster? Is Leach qualified to prescribe this as a treatment to the concussion symptoms the young man was having? Or was this a case of another egomaniac "cracking the whip"? I'll take egomaniac for a thousand Alex.

Like Don Imus, the firing of Leach wasn't about the incident in question. It is about the bad publicity, the ongoing feud between the administration and Leach, and saving themselves from having to payout an enormous bonus. Nothing worse than having to keep your word to someone you can't stand. Look for Leach and Mangino to have jobs in three years or less. Rumors are already swirling that Leach could replace Mike Tyson, I mean Tom Cable in Oakland.

ESPN or some other major media network will do a follow up story on Mangino in about a year. This fluff piece will attempt to remake the image of a guy who's probably still bad. I know some of the peanut gallery will still say I'm reaching but why is it that Kobe, Ray Lewis, John Daly and Mike Phelps aren't public enemies anymore. For exhibit C do I have to bring up Slick Rick? (not the rapper and not the Nature Boy) Should the fighting pride of Oakland California step up to the podium? Rick Pitino and Tom Cable got off like fat rats. See the pattern yet?

Outside of the state of Kentucky did Slick Rick cause a public outcry for getting some "dessert" at his friend's restaurant? What's wrong with getting some at your friend's restaurant. Yes pervs I'm still talking about dessert. Did Tom Cable's imitation of Mike Tyson's punch out cause much stink outside of Oakland? The answer is no. Much like Pavlov's experiment, the sportz fan can be told virtually what to love, hate and cheer for. So here's to a new season of us accepting the same junk in favor of more wins and less losses. Here's to a new year of the Sportzfam calling it like we see it. Should be a wild ride!!!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Notre Dame, You're not what you think you are.

The truth is a hard thing to accept especially if you're a "storied" program like Notre Dame. Most people of the 21st century can't recall the glory days of Knute Rockne, The Gipper, The four Horseman and the national championships of days gone by. Much like washed up superstars of any sport, Notre Dame is living on what they once were and not what they are.

Legendary figures like Knute Rockne and Ara Parsegian have been featured in numerous documentaries, movies and news reports extolling their greatness. It seems as though Notre Dame fans, administrators and media fail to realize that big time football has certainly evolved. It's almost as if the school's administrators haven't heard about the invention of electricity. Are they aware that fire has been discovered? Obviously the world of big time college football is still flat in South Bend.

Notre Dame has been through 4 coaches in 18 years since winning their last national championship in the 1990's. Lou Holtz recruited players like Tony Rice, Raghib Ismail and Jerome Bettis. The 1990's hailed the slow death of traditional powers after the NCAA limited scholarships in the 1980's. Now upstart programs like South Florida can compete with Florida, Miami, and Florida State for top tier talent. (Not to mention every state that gets the sloppy seconds) Gone are the days of Joe Montana, Joe Theisman, and Paul Hornung signing with Notre Dame for their religious and the dream of a playing on hallowed ground.

The Boise State's of the world can go into the living rooms of big time recruits and promise a shot at a decent education. They can also sell kids on how they also play against top flight competition and on their relationships with NFL scouts. Sure a recruit can get all of those things at Notre Dame but why go to a school that plays the likes of Navy, Michigan State and Army. Sure they got Brady Quinn, Arnez Battle, Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate to commit there but all of the men that recruited those great players got fired.

Bob Davie, Ty Willingham and Charlie Weiss were all shown the door after having winning records. Weiss was rewarded a raise after getting Notre Dame to a BCS bowl in only his second season. The ten year extension not only made us scratch our collective heads but it also caused us all to know that this would end pretty ugly. There are some key factors that support my rationale.

1. Every coach that were the "hot candidate" during the eras of Davie, Willingham, and Weiss said thanks but no thanks to Notre Dame.

Guess what Notre Lame fans (sorry but I couldn't resist) its still happening. Urban Myer has said no for the second time. Bob Stoopes is a Deity in Oklahoma. Talented coordinators on both sides of the ball have opted to sign deals as "coaches in waiting" (This is more like waiting to cash in on a trust fund when you turn 40 and you're 15 now)

Mack Brown bolted for Texas after a successful tenure at North Carolina, A school not necessarily blessed with a "storied" history for football. What about Jim Tressel's rise from the Division II ranks. Brian Kelley has climbed through the ranks like Mack Brown and Tressel but Kelley will be more of the same at Notre Dame. (Contrary to what the national media is selling us) He's a skinner version of Charlie Weiss with a lot less arrogance.

2. Notre Dame Athletic Director Jim Swarbick is on the hot seat.

Sports administrators at major college football programs take their fair share of criticisms but not nearly as much as they should. He wasn't the guy that fired Willingham. He certainly isn't the imbecile that decided to give Weiss that ten year extension but that seat will get even hotter after Kelly doesn't get it done at Notre Dame. Sure he's been there 18 months but do you think he pulled the trigger because he thought he had to or did the powerful boosters and alumni pull his chain?

3. Kelly isn't a significant upgrade from Charlie Weiss.

Kelley's teams have dominated lesser leagues offensively. The Big East isn't the MAC or Sun Belt. He will see the likes of USC, Michigan, and Michigan State yearly. Sustained success is not something that we should attribute to Kelly's resume. His tenures at Grand Prairie State, Central Michigan and Cincinnati lasted an average of just over three years. He's smart enough not to promise any "schematic" advantages. He needs to show that he can win close games defensively.

It took a last second touchdown for the Bearcats to put away Pitt. Notre Dame lost several close games this year. They're record could have easily been 8-4 or 9-3. Will Kelly commit to both sides of the ball or will he still depend on his offense to compensate for an inefficient defense? Look for him to do what got him there. What got him there will ultimately seal his fate.

4. Will NBC stay in love with mediocrity?

The allure of tradition earned the program an exclusive contract with NBC. Notre Dame has pulled out some hat tricks under their previous regimes to at least seem some what worthy of exclusivity but what if Kelly gets shown the door? What if the occasional 10 win season gets old? Any thing's possible but I don't expect Notre Dame to loose their big time deal. The contract buyouts alone for Weiss in 18 million dollars. Tack on what they had to pay Willingham and Davie to go away, that's a strong indicator that this program has money to burn. Their contract with NBC runs through 2013.

The first year will yield some excitement for change sake but it will take at least two years to recruit the type of players that can run his system. This isn't Cincinnati! Notre Dame still remains one of the top academic institutions in the country. He will find out what Bob Stoopes, Urban Myer, Jon Gruden or any other big name coach already knows. Notre Dame though powerful and mighty at most points in its history, can no longer competed in the new world of college football. It's just that simple. Let the countdown began for the coaching search that will start in 2014.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

What's the exit strategy for Tiger Woods rebuilding his public persona?

I've read several columns by some of the giants of sports writing and was very intrigued by the death sentence that most of them pronounced over Tiger's career. What's strange is that these people have written about Tiger's greatness much like the disciples wrote about Jesus in the gospels. But the cruel irony is that most of the writers all remind you more of Judas more than Matthew, Luke, Mark and John. Tiger has to do a better job of choosing his twelve apostles the next time.

Let's face it, Golf is a country club sport being dominated by a 30 something year-old black guy. The PGA tour's wagon is hitched to Tiger Inc. Woods is the most prominent golfer in an environment that governs the socioeconomic landscape. Some of the most sinister and ferocious business deals are decided over a golf game. This is where the strategy of gradual progress(or the appearance of it) takes place for a multitude of industries. It's where Fuzzy Zoeller can make jokes privately about the masters menu and no one would say, "Cut it out." All of us are different people privately than we are publicly, So why the outrage?

Is it just me or is the coverage of sexual scandals perceived differently by the public? Country club men like Mark Sanford, Elliot Spitzer, Jim Nance, Rodger Clemens, Bill O'Riley and John Edwards draw a different type of indignation from the media. Men like Kwame Kilpatrick, O.J. Simpson, Michael Jordan, Isaiah Thomas, Kobe Bryant and now Tiger Woods (yes Tiger Woods) experience a different public flogging than their white male peers.

In 21st century America, do we still consider Black men as the only sexual deviants? Is Tiger's crime really jungle fever gone wrong thus some of the venom? By the looks of Tiger's mug shot, Elin defied a lot of the stereotypes attributed to the sweet innocent blond. She went off the deep end like most faithful broken hearted women do. (Cue up Jasmine Sullivan) Look for Tyler Perry's Diary of a mad Swedish woman in the fall of 2010. I know, I know I'll move on because this is a sports column right?

So far Tiger has taken some steps at redeeming his image. Here's some key factors to why Tiger will bounce back.

1. The latest statement to the media makes him appear more human than robotic.

Somewhere in middle and urban America, there's a man who identifies with Tiger about compromising his values. Tiger's story was fascinating before but the admiration for Tiger reaches a new plateau. Few will acknowledge or even try to understand how not being wanted can either motivate or send a person on a downward spiral. At first, He was just inspired by Tiger's plight to fulfill his Dad's prophecy of someday ruling the world of the country club's most sacred and prominent sport. Besides this man can probably tell you a thing or two about not being wanted. Especially in certain professional environments. He's even taken some golf lessons to align more with the spirit of what Tiger does and represents. This is way to rub elbows with his peers in his chosen profession. Despite the hostility he perseveres, destroying the stereotypes by performing at a high level equal or even superior to his peers. So for this guy, Tiger Woods will always be a hero because he understands Tiger's real challenge.

2. The public's outrage or lack there of will dictate how fast Tiger recovers.

Don Imus lost his job because the wrong ears heard a very bad but funny joke. (Don't tell me you didn't laugh just a little bit at Imus) The people that defended Imus blamed Al Sharpton for the firestorm but a man with a perm will never have that much power. Advertisers pay attention to whats good for the bottom line and not necessarily to whats politically correct. If enough consumers stop buying Nike's because of Tiger's affair, then and only then will Nike cease its longtime relationship with Woods. Besides they wanna "support" him through this firestorm. God forbid that Reebok swoops in like a knight in shining armor after Tiger successfully repairs his image.

3. America loves a comeback story.

American pop culture has its moments of temporary insanity. We have a fanatical love/hate relationship with our heroes and sheroes. We can to turn on them like faster than a New York minute. Especially after they've exceeded our proverbial limit of success we think they ought to have. Michael Jordan retired after his gambling issues surfaced during the 1993 playoffs. His 1995 return propelled him to new levels of popularity.

Kobe Bryant's return to popularity after his very public fall from grace is even more remarkable. Bryant's rape allegations had an O.J. Simpson like feel to it. He even implicated Shaq during his questioning causing most to still clown him in certain social circles of the NBA. (If you could be a fly on the wall when Kobe's name comes up in a black barbershop you'd really understand) Now after five plus years, Bryant has produced an NBA title. Coupled with MVP awards for the NBA finals and regular season, Kobe has rebuilt his image and regained his endorsements.

Alex Rodgriguez has survived steroid allegations while still playing baseball. Helping the Yankees to a world series and finally peforming in the clutch has temporarily silenced that that scandal. Didn't Nascar quietly settle Maurcia Grant's lawsuit? It's about strategy. A publicist is a public figures best friend.

So all hope isn't lost for Tiger Woods. Reportedly he's changing his prenuptial agreements, getting counseling, and skipping his charitable tournament to prepare for the comeback. If you're over thirty this should remind you of the first line of LL Cool J's 1991 hit "Mama Said Knock you out". LL was wrong about not calling it a comeback. For Tiger it is.......

Monday, November 30, 2009

What does Maturation of Vince Young mean for the future of the Tennessee Titans?

Bud Adams isn't the crazy old owner after all. Vince Young defied the criticisms of many(including the guy writing this column) analyst that downgraded his ability to just win football games. Statistics can never fully explain the magic that Young brings to a football field. Sunday's two minute drill was eerily similar to that drive against USC in the 2006 national championship game. I've never doubted Vince's ability to create the magic we saw Sunday. In fact I believe the Titans coaching staff put a muzzle on "VY" after his rookie season. I've bought into the theory of the Titans coaching staff being paritially responsible for Young's slow development (That's another column coming soon)

Matt Leinart watched Young take away yet another win that was right in his grasp. Leinart played a great game considering he hasn't played meaningful football in over a year. The Titans coaching staff have finally learned to cater a game plan to match the talent of Young. NFL coaches of times past and present are known to be stubborn to a fault. In their defense, every coaching move is scrutinized and some of them lose their jobs on perception more so than by the reality of the situation. I know that the coaching staff look like geniuses now but not so fast. (I promise to write about this because I still have serious beef with them)

Of course wins and losses matter but the intangible qualities that produces winning football got lost in the shuffle. A 13-3 record can cause most teams to overate themselves. The biggest mistake made by Coach Fisher was handing Kerry Collins the job without competition. Training camp competition creates a culture of precision, chemistry, camaraderie and respect. Yesterday's performance by Young and his young receiving corp silenced the sentiment of Chris Johnson being the only way the Titans were pulling off this streak.

"C.J." was still up to par with another explosive day but Kenny Britt, Jarret Cook and Lavelle Hawkins all took a huge step in their own maturation process. Quarterbacks become great when they can lead by example in the huddle, on the practice field and in their preparation in the film room. Great offensive coordinators have to be bold enough to install packages that fit their personnel. Credit Mike Heimerdinger for finally recognizing this. Many local and national analyst have blamed Young for not using his legs more. But he doesn't call the plays. There's a distinct difference between how VY was coached in his rookie year to the second year. The VY that we're seeing now has come full circle.

Norm Chow and VY were the scapegoats. This year is proof positive that Young hasn't been coached to his full potential. (I promise I'm not writing that other column) Sunday was a coming out party that caused even Merril Hodge to take back some of his harsh words. (I wonder will Jason Whitlock do the same? He did it for Rush Limbaugh but I digress)

The fourteen month layoff for Young was probably the best thing to happen to him. The untimely death of Steve McNair may have centered his life in a way that most of us will never know. Young has decided to take an active role in McNair's sons lives. A sense of responsibility can bring balance, purpose and focus for a young man like Young. All of the criticism was a lot for him to take considering his track record of winning at every level he's ever played football. Now he seems to have great understanding of how to deal with life as a professional and its showing on the football field.

The layoff has been the catalyst to his maturation as a person, as a professional football player and locker room leader that his most staunch supporters expected him to be. Young must continue to be a sponge because NFL defensive coordinators stay up late too.. It's a fact of life in a league that really stands for Not for Long and not the National Football League.

The Titans organization must continue to make good on personnel decisions in order for this team to become a perennial contender year after year. Young needs to pull a page from all of the great franchise quarterbacks. He needs to spend the summer with his receiving corp. This will further cement the relationship with his teammates and force Fisher to open things up.

The defeat of The Arizona Cardinals is a signature win for the Titans and for Young. This could be a precursor of things to come. Teams must now account for Young being able to beat you with his arm as well as his legs. Young has silenced the critics at least for another week with a performance line that reads 27-43 387 yards and a touchdown.

The Titans travel to Indianapolis to face Peyton Manning (An MVP candidate) and a Colts team that beat people from multiple angles. If the Titans pull to a .500 record against the Colts, it expands the reputation of Young and further makes Jeff Fisher look inept in his decision making. If that happens look for that column I've been trying not to write to appear real soon.