Category Archives: Sports

Articles covering the games we play, and that some a very lucky few get paid to play.

All but one

Last Friday night I stood on the sidelines of the Granite High School football field awaiting the start of the game between Flint Creek and Charlo. Vikings fans seemed at ease and ready to play as they talked about their chances in the contest. I’m sure Titans fans did much the same on the opposite side of the field.

When the announcer came on the public address system, he welcomed everyone to the field and then asked that everyone rise for the national anthem. Everyone did.

Everyone … except one.

But this man wasn’t protesting or trying to make a statement. He was handicapped.

He sat as straight and tall as his body would allow. But for him, standing wasn’t an option. So he did the best he could with what he had to honor flag and country.

Colin KaepernickI have to admit that I’ve had a hard time with the protests that San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick started during the NFL preseason. In my view, I don’t see Kaepernick truly drawing attention to the issue which he claims to be so passionate about. The ONLY discussion I hear being had is whether or not he has the right protest in the manner he’s chosen. His cause of black oppression in the United States is rarely mention and lost in the noise of people offended by his actions.

My problem with Kaepernick is that he has shown very little “skin in the game”. Last week Kaepernick said he would donate the proceeds from his jersey sales (which are currently soaring) to charity. Which charity he failed to state. But as of late August, Kaepernick had made zero donations to Black Lives Matter or any other such cause. He has not stated plans to start any such organization himself or become part of one that already exists.

Personally I find Kaepernick to be the chicken in the old joke about who was more involved in breakfast. The chicken contributed to the meal, but the pig was completely invested in it.

I was dismayed when I initially heard that the Seattle Seahawks were going to act as a team and not stand during the National Anthem during their season opener Sunday against Miami. But evidently calmer heads prevailed, coming up with the idea to remain standing and interlocking arms to show their support.

I think that decision showed the proper respect for everyone involved.

Let’s hope others take note.

The real question of Kaepernick’s dedication to the cause he has expressed interest in is when his career in the NFL ends. Anyone who follows the league knows that it won’t be long before he is off the 49ers roster. And his performance in the last few years won’t likely get him a spot on another team. And if that’s the case, then you just have to wonder what his next move is?

If the contract goes away, will his fiancé leave him? They were engaged just a few months before these shenanigans and is a devout Muslim and Black Lives activist.

Will he join a cause and back up his sit down with a stand up attitude?

Will he create his own movement if one doesn’t really address his cause? Heaven knows with a net worth of around $100 million, he should be able to manage something.

Or will he just be the spoiled little rich guy and fade into the shadows never to be heard from again, except for possibly a brief mention on Sports Center for some misguided action.

Only time will tell just how committed Colin Kaepernick really is. I’d like to hope that it is more than what we are seeing now, which isn’t saying a lot.

Who are the Best Four ever?

This morning while watching “Mike & Mike” on ESPN, a debate arose as to which city has spawned the best athletes in the big four sports with Boston being touted as #1. The listener who did this listed the following three athletes: Larry Bird, Bobby Orr and Ted Williams.

"Mike & Mike" hosts Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic

“Mike & Mike” hosts Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic

That got me thinking.

Greeny and Golic decided that Bird wouldn’t even be the best basketball player on the list, subbing in Bill Russell. And when they tossed in Tom Brady as the best football player from Boston, they had a tough Top 4 to beat.

But it seemed that the ESPN duo did much of their estimating between Boston, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles based on emotion and remembrance. So being the stat freak that I am, I decided to try and see exactly how history might answer this question.

I quickly Googled the Top 100 players in each of the four major sports – Major League Baseball (MLB), National Basketball Association (NBA), National Football League (NFL) and National Hockey League (NHL). After a substantial amount of format editing in compiling lists from four different sites, I finally had something of an answer.

Before I reveal my findings I just want to say that these results are the best available, as I could not find all four lists from one source. I took them from the most reliable sources I could find, but these are not based on stats but on nationwide polls conducted at various points. One list came from ESPN (MLB) and I’m sure they likely have Top 100s for the other three as well. I just couldn’t find them.

That said, here we go!

The assertion that Boston has the best four athletes in the four major sports proves accurate. The following list, as will the others that follow, will include the top players, in order, from MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL with their sport rank in parenthesis and that city’s rank average on the final line.

  • Ted Williams (4)
  • Tom Brady (9)
  • Bill Russell (3)
  • Bobby Orr (2)
  • Boston = 4.50

Oddly enough, the next closest city wasn’t even in Mike & Mike’s initial discussion, although they did bring them into the discussion later. That city: Detroit.

  • Ty Cobb (6)
  • Barry Sanders (4)
  • Isaiah Thomas (25)
  • Gordie Howe (3)
  • Detroit = 9.50

Number three on the list is Chicago.

  • Eddie Collins (42)
  • Walter Payton (3)
  • Michael Jordan (1)
  • Bobby Hull (8)
  • Chicago = 13.50

New York was just a fraction behind the “Windy City” in fourth place.

  • Babe Ruth (1)
  • Lawrence Taylor (5)
  • Willis Reed (30)
  • Denis Potvan (19)
  • New York = 13.75

Los Angeles fell into fifth place, but proved to be an interesting rank due to Wayne Gretzky. If you look at “The Great One” statistically, he really did most of his damage in Montreal. But his popularity really grew when he hit the media center of Los Angeles. If you leave Gretzky in Montreal, that makes the top NHL player in Los Angeles as Marcel Dionne at #38 and with a city average of 26.75. But for the sake of the argument, we’ll include Gretzky in the City of Angels.

  • Sandy Koufax (44)
  • Eric Dickerson (23)
  • Kareem Abduhl-Jabbar (2)
  • Wayne Gretzky (1)
  • Los Angeles = 17.50

So there you have it. I’m not really sure what this all means, but it interesting to look at where guys played and what impact they have had on the sporting world we live in.

 

Sources:

  • MLB Top 100 – ESPN.com
  • NFL Top 100 – Ranker.com
  • NBA Top 100 – Inside Hoops.com
  • NHL Top 100 – The Hockey News

A New Preseason Is In Order

Don’t be fooled, this is nothing new.

And don’t think for one second that the NFL is the only league with player issues away from the field. It’s just their turn in the spotlight after keeping so much of it in the dark for so long.

It’s high time that the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB and every other pro sports got schooled.

Classroom doorI was once given a glimpse of what it took to become a professional golfer when a friend took on that pursuit. While the expected endless hours of practice were discussed, what really surprised me were the variety of educational courses that were required.Things like managing your finances and handling groupies were part of the mix.

I’m guessing Tiger Woods’ grade in the latter was not so great.

Now, this was back in the late 80s and 90s, so I can only presume that it still exists at that level if not having become more extensive.

But just what is required to become a big league player in football, baseball and basketball?

We hear tales of former player/coaches like Herm Edwards going in and talking to rookie NFL players about how to handle themselves on and off the field and what a privilege it is to play the game. We can only assume that some kind of similar “rah-rah” speeches are given baseball, basketball and hockey.

But are these one-time gab sessions really getting it done? Evidently not.

So what to do?

I say we send them back to class.

With offenses like spousal abuse, child abuse and a variety of drug and PED abuse running rampant in pro sports today, it’s time these men and women were brought up to speed on just what they’re up against.

It is this writer’s opinion that professional sports be required to have all of its players, coaches and team personnel in a series of classes each and every off-season. They need to be attending classes on every kind of abuse – in how to avoid it, how to identify it and how to report it. They need classes in how to handle fans and reporters, and most of all how to handle their money.

These courses cannot be administered by the teams or leagues themselves. Rather, they need to be given by independent organizations and carry very real, very serious curriculum. Curriculum that must be studied, learned and regurgitated on very real tests. And they need to be given very real, very serious grades.

No, not like the “grades” they had in college. We’re talking grades that carry a significant penalty if they don’t get at least an 80%. They don’t pass, they don’t play, train or practice with the team until they do.

Courses like these would make help these athletes more aware of these cultural maladies and help them to avoid falling into them as well as identifying teammates who may be nearing the edge of making a mistake.

And yes, they need to be held accountable for not reporting it. Like teachers and various community service personnel, they need to be held accountable for not reporting information to their independent team officials if they see someone slipping into a pattern of abusing their wife or kids, or experimenting with various drugs or PEDs.

If they don’t report, they don’t play.

You may argue that this is demeaning to these players, treating them like children.

Well maybe when they stop acting like children, we can stop treating them that way.

The Last Straw

Chances have been given. Repeatedly.

Opportunities afforded. Repeatedly.

Enough is enough.

The recent revelation that the NFL has had in its possession, since sometime in April, the full and uncut version of the Ray Rice beating of his then fiancee Janay Palmer from February 15, 2014, only serves to prove that they cannot handle anything properly. Even when a grievous offense such as this is laid out clearly before them, they can only think of their bottom line.

tmz-ray-riceThey can only think of defending their business, their image and their incomes.

The absolute last thing on their mind was doing what was right.

Commissioner Roger Goodell claims that he and the league never saw the full footage. But an AP writer claims that a law enforcement official sent a copy of the tape – with both the elevator beat down and Rice pulling Palmer from the car unconscious – in April to an NFL official. Goodell is now left to either admit that he lied or that his staff is so incompetent that they never showed it to him.

You can bet he’ll choose the latter. And if it’s not true, you can bet that whomever he throws under the buss will come back at him like some “Walking Dead” super zombie. But instead of shuffling slowly along in search of brains, he or she will hot-foot it straight to the closest news channel spewing dates, times and full accounts.

NFL-LOGO-psd12391If you enjoy watching NFL executives feeding on each other, I’d suggest you stock up on popcorn because the main event is just warming up.

While it is now clear that between drugs/steroids, cheating and a complete disregard for human decency the NFL is completely incapable of managing its own affairs, they are just a hope, skip and a jump behind the likes of Major League Baseball, all of college sports and the rest.

Someone has to step in and fix this, and they have to do it now.

In my youth I thought that the government could handle a job like this. But several decades of growing up and experience tell me that they the only thing they would have done is screw up decades earlier.

There really isn’t a well qualified person or group who took run any of this with any integrity. So maybe we are just left to watch as the NFL, followed later by MLB, NBA and the rest slowly implode on themselves.

No, there is only one message these people understand. Only one language they speak. Only one thing that they hold precious and that we ultimately control.

The dollar.

The only way to effectively stop this nonsense is to hit them where it hurts the most, right in the wallet.

We can start with the NFL by not patronizing them until a certain level of acceptable behavior has been reached. And no, this is not one of those lame boycotts has is annually tried by not buying gas for one day. The gas doesn’t go anywhere and you are either going to buy it the day before or the day after. They lose nothing.

No, this means not watching games in person or on television. It means not buying their jerseys. It means not buying anything – and I mean ANYTHING – from a company that supports the NFL in any way, shape or form. it means cutting them off 100% so that their overblown, out-of-control egos and salaries are so deflated and depleted that they seriously have to consider going to work in their major from college.

Sadly, that just won’t happen.

A poll in The Baltimore Sun showed that 41% of the respondents thought the Ravens cutting Rice was the wrong decision.

FoxandFriendsLogo“Fox & Friends” – the supposed defenders of the conservative right – were about as uneducated and unsympathetic Floyd Mayweather. “I think the message is, take the stairs,” said Brian Kilmeade concluded. With Steve Doocy adding, “The message is, when you’re in an elevator, there’s a camera.”

No blame for thew abuser. No, certainly not … especially when your employed is in bed every Sunday afternoon with the perpetrator’s head honcho.

Unfortunately a vast portion of our society still thinks that Palmer, as well as other abused victims, must bear some of the fault. And as long as that mentality exists, this kind of ignorance, stupidity and all-out rampant greed will continue.

I’m starting to think that show last Fall, “The Revolution”, wouldn’t be such a bad scenario after all if for no other reason than the people who defend such abusers as Rice would be at their mercy.

And only then would their attitude even begin to change.

The difference in 50 years

I apologize for not getting more posts out the last week or so. Life, as they say, happens.

But one thing I was able to catch and wish to share with you here is a commentary that Keith Olbermann did last night on his new ESPN show. Yes’ its a sports show. But Olbermann in his own, unique way put a great spin on the 50th celebration of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

And so rather than muck it up with my own stylings on it, I offer you the commentary itself.

Man was MSNBC dumb to ever let this guy go.

Remember, always ask the question.

The Gobstopper that got away

Another icon. Another broken promise.

And folks, it’s only going to get worse.

Ryan Braun has proven, like many other professional athletes, untrue to his word. And what’s even worse is that we all expected it to end this way.

Ryan Braun

Ryan Braun

I’m not sure what makes me more angry, the fact that we let this guy off the first time when we all knew he had tested positive but gotten off on a technicality; or that we’re letting him off now with just a 65-game suspension. Try doing any of the shenanigans that Braun just pulled in your current work place and it will shortly be your former work place.

But such is not the case for professional athletes.

In case you’re not up to speed on what Braun did, here’s the Reader’s Digest version:

He failed a drug test at the end of the 2011 season.

He appealed the test, claiming that the person executing the test had failed to follow procedure.

And when he won his appeal in 2012, he exclaimed in an statement televised by ESPN that “If I had done this intentionally or unintentionally, I’d be the first one to step up and say I did it. I would bet my life this substance never entered my body.”

Two short sentences. 32 little words. None of them true.

Braun negotiated his punishment so that his long-term contract will remain in tact for the more than $100 million the Brewers still owe him. He’ll lose a whopping $3.8 million this year, mere pocket change compared to his total payout.

So what’s to be done to stop these sorts of violations from continuing to come forth? Well, short of making all PEDs legal, I have a few suggestions…

1. All Sports need to be under one testing body, both nationally and internationally.

Let’s get everyone on the same page and get the best tests we can. There will always be more money put into the cheating side than the discovery side, but there is strength in numbers.

And this means that every sports team opens every contract with a statement to the effect of, “If you get caught using PEDs in any way, shape or form, your contract is null and void.”

Yes, its just that simple.

2. Period of Amnesty

Starting immediately, players in baseball have a two-week period where they can admit they’ve been using PEDs and have no consequences regarding their ability to play, save two. They must get clean before they can play again and they must be tested every game for the next two years and randomly after that. They miss the window on confession, then they wear a target on their back.

Just like a PC that has gone bad, Major League Baseball has hit its ‘blue screen of death.’ It’s time to wipe the slate clean and reinstall the system they way it should have been all along, including appropriate updates.

3. No more excuses

Willy Wonka

Willy Wonka

One of the most offensive things that Braun said in his recent statement after his suspension was that he “… had made mistakes in the past.” No Ryan, a mistake is something you do by accident. You lied. You cheated. You stole fizzy lifting drinks and so you should get NOTHING! But since you aren’t about to confess to what you really did and give back baseball’s equivalent of the Ever-Lasting Gobstopper (aka your salary or the tainted MVP you “won”), then you should be kicked to the curb with the Veruca Salts and Mike TVs of the world.

But no. In this twisted version of the children’s classic, Willy Wonka let’s Charlie keep and sell the Gobstopper to ol’ Slugworth and still get the factory. Oompa Loompa brain matter would be everywhere as they collectively sang “WTF?”

And that leads me to my next point…

3. No more second chances

These guys know the rules. And if they don’t, and obviously some pro athletes don’t (eg Donovan McNabb) they should be tested on them until they do. I’d think the ones that could cost you your job would be chief among the ones that just might catch your attention.

But in Braun’s case, he knew.

And when Alex Rodriguez gets nailed in the not-to-distant future, he knew.

Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Lance Armstrong, Ben Johnson … they all knew.

Hell, even Pete Rose knew he was breaking rules when he bet on baseball.

So when they break a rule, they know exactly what they are doing. If not, why weren’t Braun and A-Rod doing commercials for the Biogenesis Clinic? Why weren’t they on TV, radio and the web urging folks to “come on down” and a buy some for the kids?

Why? Because they knew. They knew it was wrong and they knew they’d get nailed if anyone ever found out.

A lifetime ban is what they deserve. A ban from playing, coaching, administering, attendance or even keeping score on a piece of notebook paper in their own freakin’ home is what they deserve!

~

Baseball has long since been removed as our national past time, being replaced by the NFL. It’s faster, quicker and sadly even more reliable. Roger Goodell may seem like a power hungry maniac, but that’s only because the NFL had gotten very close to going the way of baseball.

Baseball has no one in its front offices any longer that has a spine. Certainly no one as staunch as Judge Kenesaw “Mountain” Landis during the days of the Black Sox Scandal. No, new leadership is desperately needed. Leadership that actually cares about the game and not the bottom line. One that knows that America’s “grand ol’ game” could be that again if someone is willing to take a stand and weather the storm that lies ahead.

Better get your umbrellas out folks, it going to be a bumpy night.

My day with Jack Rothrock

There are people who affect your life, and they always seems to come when you least expect it.

He was born John Huston Rothrock, but everyone knew him as Jack.

Jack Rothrock

Jack Rothrock

It was that man that I met is a dusty San Bernardino trailer park one afternoon in the Fall of 1976. And how I came to be his friend is an odd tale.

I was a ‘seasoned’ ball player of four years by that summer, having just completed my last season in the Ridgecrest Little League’s AAA division. My team had won the league championship at 17-1, lost to Dave Wooten’s China Lake squad in one of the best ball games I ever played in for the city title and had sputtered with the all-star team in our opening tournament in Bishop.

And as the prospect of another summer hanging out at the house loomed large on the horizon, I was busy doing whatever I could to pass the time.

Part of that was, well, watching, eating and sleeping baseball.

One day my mother brought home our groceries and I noticed there was a contest on the side of the Jersey Maid milk cartons. There were a variety of one-paneled baseball trivia questions, nine if I remember correctly, that had to be answered correctly in order to be entered into a drawing for some world series tickets. So my mom and I started the arduous task of researching the information. This of course in a time when the word ‘Internet’ hadn’t yet been invented (by Al Gore, or anyone else for that matter). So off to the library we went.

We checked out whatever the limit was on books and headed home. I remember getting my first glance at a copy of the Baseball Encyclopedia then, and man was that sucker heavy!

When we got home we spread out in the living room, determined to hunt down every last answer. I was scouring statistics (I guess you guys know where I got started now with my fascination for them) and my mom dove into some book on a team called the “Gas House Gang”. I really wasn’t paying attention to her as I searched for records pages and info that might lead me to an answer. But when I finally did poke my head out long enough to look at her, she was crying.

“Mom, what’s wrong?” I asked.

She sniffed a few times, collected herself and said, “I know him”

“Who? A guy in that book?”

1934 World Series Champ Ring_2“Yes,” she said, turning the opened book toward me. “I knew him when I was a kid in Long Beach.”

I started reading over the pages around Jack’s picture, ending in complete disbelief.

“Mom! You don’t know anybody with a World Series ring,” I exclaimed! “C’mon! It must be a different guy! Are you kidding me?!”

She told me the story of how she had run away from home for a few weeks and had lived with Jack and his wife, Ardith. When things settled down and she went home, they had stayed in some touch, but not a lot.

We finally got back to the task of searching for my baseball trivia, finding all of the answers but with my never winning any tickets.

But that instance set off a personal manhunt for my mother that came to fruition a few months later.

Of all the places this guy could have been living, he and Ardith were in a trailer park just two hours from our home in Ridgecrest. I heard my mom talk with Ardith and Jack on the phone and make plans for us to drive down to see them.

All three of us had great interest in making this journey. My mom to reacquaint herself with dear friends, myself to meet a Major League Baseball player and my dad to meet a man who played for his childhood heroes. He had been born and raised in St. Louis in the 20s and 30s, and the loss of his father at age eight had seen him turn to baseball as a way to fill the void.

When we arrived there were many hugs and handshakes exchanged, including Jack giving me a brief grip and grin. My parents and the Rothrocks went and sat at the kitchen table to play catch up while I sat in front of the television, likely watching some cartoon or baseball game.

After about an hour or so Jack limped out from the kitchen, favoring the hip he had had replaced. He looked down at me and smiled.

“Your mom says you like baseball,” he said as he smiled. “That true?”

“Yeah,” was all I could muster.

He flipped his head over his right shoulder, motioning toward the hall, and said, “Follow me.”

We took a few steps down the hall of his trailer to the first bedroom on the right, where he stopped and opened the door. Before he could turn on the light the smell of dirt, infield dirt, burst from the room. It was stale air to be sure, but there was no mistake that it smelled like age, like history, like baseball.

Jack flicked on the lights and stepped inside to stacks of old boxes and mementos. I could see all kinds of pictures and books and the occasional glove. But it wasn’t until he pointed at the team photo of the 1934 World Champion Cardinals did I notice it – Jack’s World Series ring on his right hand. It wasn’t very shiny, but it was the one thing that a select club of Major League Baseball players had, and here was one of them.

In that moment Jack could have told me the moon was made of cheese and I would have believed him, no questions asked. That one small ring legitimized everything he’d say over the next hour or so as we talked baseball and looked at the images that covered his career. And everything he ever told me was true, down to the last detail.

Jack Rothrock

Jack Rothrock

We left that day and made several trips back to visit with he and Ardith over the next few years. Until one day in February 1980 when Ardith called to give us the news that Jack had passed away. I felt my heart sink a little that day as I felt like I lost a personal mentor.

Jack and I never really talked about the skills or strategy of baseball. No, what we shared was much more than that.

He rekindled my love for the game.

And even though I am a little more detached from the day-to-day stats and personalities of the game, I still love it. I love the drama, the history and the personalities that arise from it. I love the memories of a simpler time when I all I really wanted was to just feel the bat strike the ball and watch it sail into the outfield.

During one of our final visits to Jack he said he was going to change his last will and testament to give me his ring. Unfortunately, he passed before that could happen. When he died his kids came, took all his stuff and sold it off. Somewhere out there Jack’s ring sits, hopefully a beloved piece of someone’s collection.

The only remnant of Jack that I have is a picture that Ardith autographed for me posthumously. It’s a nice reminder of the man who taught me a genuine love for the game that has been part of my life since I was eight.

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is great joy for Allen, for Jack he did seek out!

I want to punch Kevin Costner in the face

It happens every time. Every freakin’ time!

And like a moth drawn to a bright porch light, I get sucked in every time.

I speak of the movie “Field of Dreams.” No matter how hard I try, I cannot not watch that movie, regardless of when it is on.

"Field of Dreams" starring Kevin Costner, Amy Madigan, James Earl Jones and Burt Lancaster. (1989)

“Field of Dreams” starring Kevin Costner, Amy Madigan, James Earl Jones and Burt Lancaster. (1989)

I usually pick it up around the Moonlight Graham scene. Ray Kinsella and Terrance Mann roll into Minnesota only to find that Doc Graham has been dead for years. Then Kinsella takes a stroll in the moonlight and off we go.

The sad part is, I know it’s coming. I’m at the point now where I start crying when Kinsella’s brother-in-law Mark shows up to demand that the farm be sold to his partnership group. I cry as they argue and bawl when Mann (aka James Earl Jones) does his baseball monologue.

But it’s like someone has strapped me into my chair. It’s like the best torture a guy could have. Well, almost.

Every time it gets to the end where Kinsella sees and talks to his father, I lose it. And when Costner’s Kinsella asks his father, “Hey dad, wanna have a catch?” I could fill a swimming pool.

The whole thing makes me remember the few times my dad and I played catch. By the time that was happening I was 16 and pretty much in my athletic prime. My dad, on the other hand, was nearing his 60s and my soft tosses hurt the hand inside his glove.

We got to share very few of those times.

It also reminds me of my son Zachary, who played a few years of youth league baseball in Redlands before my ex-wife and I divorced. She got custody and he lost interest. And now it appears that the opportunity to “have a catch” as gone by the wayside. I’m afraid that even if he did ask today, I’d get hit in the face by the ball as I’d be unable to see through the tears.

Much like the issue I’m having just writing this post.

I wanted to write this to urge everyone, especially those with kids, to cherish every moment you have with your children. The moments come in bunches when they are with you, and seem like miles away as the years go by. Do not let them slip away.

I’d give anything in the world to be chasing a ball down the street because of one of Zach’s misguided throws as a kid right now.

Absolutely anything.

And so one day if you hear I’ve been incarcerated for some reason, but you don’t why, just assume that I somehow ran into Mr. Costner and dotted his eye. And before the police got there I likely helped him up, shook his hand and thanked him for a truly wonderful movie.

And then I punched him again.

2013: Year of the Hall Pass

When we look back at the 2013 Baseball Hall of Fame class, we’ll see nothing. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Nil. None. Nada.

That’s because the vaunted Baseball Writers in all of their wisdom opted to not vote in any of the players eligible. This included people like Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds in their first year of eligibility. Arguably two of the greatest to ever play the game.

But the question is, “Why?” Well, without going whether I think it’s right or wrong (at least not this early in the post), let’s look at some of the varying factors influencing the HOF vote over the past few years and into the future.

Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs)

Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way first, that way we can get onto more serious topics and everyone will have more space to sit down.

It’s pretty much a generally accepted “fact” that Clemens and Bonds, along with a large number of other HOF candidates have used some kind of PED during their careers. While Clemens and Bonds never tested positive for any such substance, their actions and demeanor have been such to give the majority of fans the impression they are as guilty as sin. The only thing either has been charged with or convicted of is perjury. If that, a questionable lifestyle and a bad attitude about being accused of something is grounds for keeping people out of the Hall of Fame, then baseball’s shrine better have a garage sale quick. They can start by selling the bronzed busts of people like Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth and Micky Mantle for 50 cents each.

Howard Bryant, ESPN

Howard Bryant, ESPN

Mike Schmidt, HOF

Mike Schmidt, HOF

Baseball players and writers back in the day knew what was going on. There were instances – as related by one ESPN analyst Howard Bryant – that there were two coffee pots in locker rooms – one with normal coffee and one laced with some kind of PED.

Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt may have said it best in a statement to The Associated Press, ” … everyone was guilty. Either you used PEDs, or you did nothing to stop their use.”

And ESPN’s Buster Olney stated that while he did vote for Bonds and Clemens, he did so because he felt they played in an era where literally thousands of players could have been using PEDs while baseball looked the other way.

But Bryant made what I think may have been the most salient point on the topic when, on the Jan. 9 episode of Baseball Tonight while holding a roundtable discussion on the HOF vote, he said (and I’m paraphrasing as I cannot find the actual video), “Everyone knew what was going on and it was no big deal. But when they were asked about it, they lied. That tells you that they knew what they were doing was wrong.”

HOF: Shrine vs. Museum

So what should it be? The answers vary.

Some want a place where only the most hallowed individuals from the game are honored. But even amongst that group, you have a discrepancy as to whether or not a player’s actions off the field should discount or deny a player’s admission at all.

In recent days I have heard discussion that the Hall of Fame be turned into a museum where EVERYONE would get in and their complete story told. The only issue I see with this is that people like Clemens, Bonds and all-time hits leader Pete Rose may not like they way they are portrayed. I don’t know what legal protections are offered a museum, if any, but I’m sure some players might want to file lawsuits if they felt they were being treated unfairly.

I have to say that personally, that latter option in the best for me. But maybe in the case of the players whose careers were tainted by PEDs, betting on games and excessive use of drugs and alcohol, they could just light those rooms a little more dimly than the rest.

BBWAA Voter Registration

I think the main reason for what appears to be a growing split in how the Hall of Fame functions is due to the parties involved. On one hand you have the players and fans, who for the most part are younger. They enjoy the game for the game’s sake and not all the political baggage that it sometimes carries.

Baseball 2006On the other you have the Baseball Writers Association of America, or BBWAA. Yes, I know ‘baseball’ is one word and I know that there is one to many B’s in that abbreviation. But let’s focus on the problem at hand, okay boys and girls?

The BBWAA is made up of writers who cover the game for a living. And as such, they feel this need to ‘protect’ the game and its HOF. While no one knows for sure, I’ll draw on my nine years of experience in sports journalism to say that the average age of this group is likely bordering on getting the senior discount at nearly every Denny’s, Sizzler and Marie Calendar’s around.

In short, they’re old. And these older folks don’t like change very much. And until some of these guys wash out of the system – and that may take a while as sitting at a keyboard and banging out stories ain’t exactly strenuous work – not a lot will change with them. New guys will filter in, but you can be sure that a percentage of them will be influenced to ‘protect the game’ like their elderly colleagues and the cycle will continue.

But another interesting statistic among sportswriters in general is that they typically don’t have a lot of experience playing the games they cover.

Back in the 90s when I was the Sports Editor for The Daily Independent in Ridgecrest, Calif., I attended a writing seminar hosted by the LA Times in Anaheim with good friend J.C. Meyerholz. Times sportswriter Bill Dwyer was the keynote speaker and started his address by asking a series of questions.

“How many of you in here played a sport in youth leagues? Like Baseball or football?” Nearly everyone in the room raised their hands.

“How many of you played a sport in high school?” Of the 100 or so people in the room, maybe five still had their hands up.

“How many of you played a sport in college or junior college?” I was the only one left with my hand still in their air.

Those of you that know me even remotely know that I was long on hustle and short on skill back in the day. Had I ever gotten a chance to play a full-blown game in any college sport, I’d have been a “Rudy” rerun.

So for me to be the ONLY writer in a room filled with professional journalists that had played any collegiate athletics tells you a great deal about just how much these writers really know about what they are covering. They don’t know what its like to take a game-winning free throw. They don’t know what it’s like to make a key block. And they certainly don’t know what its like to stand in the box while a guy, who doesn’t know you from Adam, hurls a baseball within inches of your head at 90 mph or faster.

I’ve had that latter experience and its unsettling to say the least.

Max Mercy, "The Natural"

Max Mercy, “The Natural”

My point in all of that is to say that sportswriters, in general, are bureaucrats, pure and simple. They are paper pushers who can use their powers of persuasion for good or evil. And while many don’t go down the road of Max Mercy, they do tend to become biased to their own views and allow the power they do have to go to their heads. And in doing so, they lose sight of what they write about and what they really cover: Games.

I promised I’d give me view on this and so here it is: Make the Hall of Fame a museum and let ’em all in. The Hall, which is supposed to be located at the site where baseball started and most assuredly isn’t (click here for more), should tell the whole story of America’s game  – Baseball.

Penn State Deserves The Death Penalty

45 counts of child rape and molestation that we know of.

Case closed.

For those not in the know, the NCAA “Death Penalty” refers to a school being banned from competition, effectively stopping the institution’s ability to recruit and create and kind of a competitive program for an extended period even after having the ban removed.

In essence, the program dies.

There have been arguments from some that doing something now, after all of the culprits who perpetuated the Penn State scandal have left the university or have died would be wrong Yes, the college has taken some steps to correct the problems, but has done nothing to make amends to the victims that they helped create by allowing Jerry Sandusky to continue in their program and his miscreant ways. They may have done nothing  as yet, but I’m sure the courts will see that they do.

But the message must be sent that the institutions of higher education, as well as any person or business around the country, can and will be held responsible for allowing such reprehensible actions to exist. The message must be sent that we as people, corporations and everything else must stand up and do the right thing – whether it be in the face of the law or just what is morally right – regardless of what the ramifications may be.

When Southern Methodist University had its football program slapped with the Death Penalty, it was for paying its players. Giving its roster members as much as $725 a month to play for them. And while it was wrong and against the NCAA’s rules, there can at least be an economic argument made for what they did.

What kind of argument can made for child molestation?

Absolutely none.

My brother spent the better part of his life in the California Penal System for various drug charges. In the various stories he told me, he always made it clear that no matter what someone had done – drugs, theft or even murder – the inmates had some level of understanding for the choice someone had made. But when it came to child molestation, even inmates didn’t tolerate it. Someone going in on those charges wasn’t going to last long. And if they did, they’d get beaten & abused on a regular basis.

ESPN Radio's Mike GolicOn ESPN’s “Mike & Mike In The Morning” radio show July 16, Mike Golic stated that he didn’t believe that the Nittany Lions deserved the Death Penalty because it was too far removed from what had happened and that it would cause a financial hardship for those schools that would lose games this Fall against Penn State.

Financial hardship? Did Golic really just put a financial tag on when child rape and molestation becomes acceptable? REALLY?!

OK, so let’s say that opponents of the Nittany Lions – assuming none of them can get another game to fill the slot – lose a combined $55 million ($5 million a game for 11 games) over the 2012 season. That means that the 45 counts of child molestation and rape that we know of via the Sandusky case, that Golic is placing a price of tag of approximately $1.22 million of these heinous crimes to make them “OK”.

I wonder if that’s the cutoff point, or if he’d be willing to go a little lower?

I bet if it were Golic’s son that had been raped in a shower, that price tag – monetarily, emotionally and physically – couldn’t be high enough.

The phrase has been used repeatedly that there was a “… lack of institutional control …” and that is why the NCAA should step in and close the program. I disagree.

The Freeh Report clearly shows that there was not only clear institutional control, but that it rested in one man’s hands (Joe Paterno) and that the institutional actively sought to cover up the actions of Sandusky so that they would still be able to recruit and be competitive on the college football scene. This crime needs to be called exactly what it is, a cover up, pure and simple.

The NCAA needs to step in and deliver the fatal blow in this because of extreme institutional control, not  alack thereof.

In the end, the analogies that people try to draw between SMU and Penn State are inaccurate. Because what SMU did pales in comparison to what Penn State did for more than 22% of Paterno’s tenure at Penn State (14 of 61 years).

And if I have to choose between allowing a school to pay its football players or to cover up child rape on their own campus, I say “Hand me my checkbook!”

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