Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Start Spreading the News!

CC Sabathia is about to become an incredibly wealthy man, even by professional sports standards.  If reports out of New York are correct, he is about to sign a seven-year, $160 million contract.  And I really hope he becomes a big hit with the Yankees fans, and the press, because he's a good man--a quintessential Gentle Giant--and if he doesn't pitch well in New York, or if he pitches well but stumbles in the post-season, i.e., A-Rod, the honeymoon may be rocky.  

Speaking of a Giant, CC Sabathia may have been raised in Vallejo, but he was a Giants fan growing up, not an A's fan. And he confided to KCBS five years ago, before his first experience at free agency, that he would love to pitch for the Giants someday, that he loved their new balllpark, and loved the idea of wearing the Giants' black and orange.  Alas, he re-signed with the Cleveland Indians, but then, this off-season, CC was a free-agent once again.  And again, he had an opportunity to sign with the Giants.  Or did he?

It's easy to assume that the reason Sabathia agreed to sign with the Yankees is because they offered him an obscene amount of money.  My first thought was, wouldn't he be happier in the long run if he signed a $100 million contract with the Giants, so that he could continue living in his gorgeous new home in Fairfield, with his wife Amber and their three children, while pitching in a considerably less stressful and demanding environment?  And then my second thought was that in the end, he's like virtually all the other professional athletes, in that they all sign where the most money is, that for all the talk about wanting to pitch for this team or that team, in this city or that, so the kids can attend this school system or maybe that one, the bottom line is that CC preferred $160 million from the Yankees, rather than $100 million from the Giants.

But then I quickly realized that, to the best of my knowledge, the Giants never actually made Sabathia an offer.  Nor did the Dodgers.  In fact, the Red Sox didn't either.  The only two teams that made him a concrete offer were the Yankees and the Brewers ($100 million).  So, in the end, CC may have really wanted to sign with the Giants, even for less money, but in the absence of a firm contract offer, combined with the manner in which the Yankees were opening the vault for him, Sabathia may have felt he had no other choice.

So CC Sabathia will pitch for the New York Yankees instead.  Here's hoping that he starts off the 2009 season well, that the fans and press love watching him perform on the field, and appreciate his gentle civility and great sense of humor off of it.   

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

NBC's Olympic Coverage

How would you rate NBC's Olympic coverage? First, let me say that I thoroughly enjoyed watching the Olympics, on a daily basis, from the breathtaking opening ceremonies, all the way through the closing ceremonies, covering more than two weeks, the latter half which found me recovering from ACL reconstruction surgery, which did provide me with one (and only one) noticable benefit: Instead of skipping the nightly prime-time marquee events, since they were on way too late for one whose alarm clock goes off at 3:55am, I was able to stay up as late as I wanted during the second week of the Games.

Overall, I'd give NBC a grade of A- if you live in a midwestern or eastern time zone, and a B- if you live in a western time zone. If you live in a mountain time zone, I'm not sure what the grade would be, because I'm not sure whether you were the victim of the same inexcusably lame delayed telecasts every night (as we were on the west coast), or not. This leads me to assess what was negative about NBC's coverage:

DELAYED PRIME-TIME COVERAGE: Many of the marquee events took place after 7 or 8pm Pacific time, but we did not get to see them live, because NBC delayed the west coast feed by three hours, so that we'd see those marquee events after 10 or 11pm. In other words, eastern and midwestern time zone viewers saw the events live after 10 or 11pm. We could have seen them live as well, after 7 or 8pm, but NBC determined that it could make more money from its advertisers by delaying the Pacific time telecast by three hours, because there would be more viewers very late in the evening than there would be mid-evening.

I don't question NBC's research on this. I'm confident they're correct. However, I still find that a pathetic excuse for delaying the telecast of some of the biggest events from the Olympic games, for millions of viewers who happen to live in the western United States. Yes, I enjoyed seeing those events during the second week of the Games, while I was at home, icing my knee. But each and every time, I knew the results in advance, because like most sports fans, I like to know what happened, when it's happening, which is why NBC has no legitimate excuse, in my opinion, for unnecessarily delaying big-time sports events.

Does NBC, or any other network, delay coverage of the Super Bowl, the World Series, the US Open tennis or the Masters? Of course not. They wouldn't give a second thought to delaying the telecast of any major sports event in the world, unless a live telecast would mean something like 2am stateside. This was hardly the case from Beijing. But for some reason, NBC looks at the Olympic Games as something other than a major sports event. Bottom line--there's no excuse, and I like to think NBC will not attempt to pull off a similar charade in four years from London, because the ease with which we'll be able to circumvent those delayed telecasts via the internet may be so plentiful that NBC wouldn't dare. Let's hope so.

JINGOISTIC ANALYSIS: Fortunately, I didn't hear it often. Unfortunately, Tim Daggett and Bela Karolyi were insufferable during the women's gymnastics competition, constantly complaining about the judges' scoring, and how it (allegedly) favored the Chinese, and downgraded the Americans. Spare me. Please. Is there sometimes bias in judges' scoring? Of course. It happens in gymnastics and figure skating, as we all know, because it's subjective scoring, and try as they all might, it's inevitable that personal bias will occasionally enter into the scoring, with certain judges. But to suggest that there's some kind of conspiracy to deprive an American gymnast of what she deserves is ludicrous. Moreover, it feeds into the all-too-ugly jingoistic attitude that is all-too-common in America today. Case in point: A colleague here at KCBS approached me after the women's gymnastics team competition, and complained about the judges scoring, saying it was obvious that the Americans got ripped off. I asked him if he were an experienced and sophisticated watcher of gymnastics, such that he could easily determine when a gymnast got blatantly lower (or higher) marks than she deserved. He said not at all, that he knows little if anything about the nuances of gymnastics, but that "this is what the NBC announcers said." See my point?

LIVE, FROM OUR NBC STUDIOS IN NEW YORK CITY: This was a little weird. The play-by-play announcers and analysts for certain events (softball, baseball and soccer, among them) were not sent to Beijing, but rather to NBC's studios in New York City, where they watched their assigned events on flatscreen high-definition monitors, and did the play-by-play and analysis from there. They did a great job, I think--JP Delcarmen (soccer) and Joe Castellano (softball) among them. But that's a tough job, asking these announcers to call the game via a monitor, where Delcarmen was unable to see many plays developing, and where Castellano was unable to see where the outfielders were positioned, not to mention many other helpful things they missed. But why, for example, did NBC send Bob Fitzgerald to Beijing to announce water polo, but keep JP Delcarmen in New York City to announce soccer? Isn't soccer more popular than water polo???

OTHERWISE: I think NBC did a great job, the above nitpicking aside. The play-by-play was generally superb, the analysis was strong, the interviews with athletes immediately after events was consistent, the features on athletes was informative without being overly-dramatic as in the past, the videography was exceptional, particularly on high-definition.   In addition, Bob Costas was superb as the prime-time studio host.

Your thoughts?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Souvineer Baseballs

The other day, my esteemed KCBS colleague Stan Bunger told me that he has never gone home with a souvineer baseball, despite having attended hundreds of big league ballgames since he was a child. Not even one. That got me to thinking about the souvineer balls I've come home with, each one including a unique and memorable story, all its own.

1) My first catch was, quite literally, a catch. Down the right-field line at The Stick, during batting practice, off the bat of Giants' second-baseman Tito Fuentes, when I was 15 years old. Many years later, I interviewed Tito for a feature article in the now-defunct Peninsula Times-Tribune. I brought the ball, told Tito the story, and he loved it. He signed the ball, "To Steve, For a great catch when you were 15." I've still got the ball, along with a few others I've come up over the years, including:

2) Back at The Stick in 1989, I was sitting in the lower deck boxes above third-base, when the Astros' Terry Puhl fouled one off the upper deck facade, straight down to the row right behind me. I emerged from the scrum, ball in hand, to a nice little ovation.

3) My next souvineer ball didn't come at a big league game, but rather, at a minor league game, between the Sonoma County Crushers and the Tri-City Posse, in 1995, at Rohnert Park Stadium. I was announcing the Crushers' games on KSRO radio in those days, along with Kevin Radich and Dave Raymond. And on this particular Sunday afternoon, under glorious sunshine, my wife and two young daughters were sitting down below, three or four rows up, just to the right of home plate. So when I handed the mike over to Kevin for a couple of innings, I went downstairs to sit with the family. The first batter up for the Posse was a likeable and talented outfielder named Kevin Booker. He popped one back just over the screen. It took a high bounce on the first row, came back right to me, and I bare-handed it easily, without getting out of my seat.

The great thing about this ball was that I treasured it every bit as much as I did the previous two I ended up with off the bats of Tito Fuentes and Terry Puhl. In fact, when I arrived at the ballpark the next day, I went down to the Posse clubhouse, found Kevin Booker, told him the story and asked him to sign it. He was a little surprised, but became absolutely stunned when I told him I planned to display the ball in one of those clear plastic cubes, alongside several other autographed balls I had, from the likes of Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal. He couldn't believe it, but I was dead serious. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if he still tells that story to this day.

4) Prior to game one of the 2000 NLDS between the Giants and Mets, I was sitting in the left-field bleachers at Pacific Bell Park, alongside Rebecca Corral and Doug Sovern, as part of a KCBS remote broadcast, when Mets' catcher Mike Piazza launched a batting practice pitch into the seats a few rows in front of us. Moments before, Doug had told me that he could not understand why fans go nuts trying to get balls at games, and insisted that he would never do such a thing. Sure enough, when Doug saw me bolt downstairs in pursuit of that Piazza homerun ball, Doug suddenly became that very same fan he professed to not understand. The result was our own private scrum, with both of us diving to the pavement (knocking each other down?), with me coming up with the ball.

5) This one's my favorite, story-wise. I was in the A's broadcast booth at Jacobs Field in Cleveland, in 2005, sitting alongside Ken Korach, announcing the A's-Indians game, when the Tribe's Jose Hernandez fouled one back toward the booth. Mind you, I was actually doing the play-by-play this inning, so there I was, calling this foul ball, saying something like, "It's heading back right toward us!" That's when I stood up, the ball sailed right into the booth, right toward me, I cradled it with my hands, dropped it right onto the desk in front of me and grabbed it. Korach ribbed me good-naturedly about the failed effort to make a clean catch, but I was delighted.

As you no doubt expect by now, I was on the field the next day, during the Tribe's batting practice, ball in pocket. Now, broadcasters and writers are strictly prohibited from asking for autographs, and with good reason. But there's no prohibition against asking for assistance in getting that special signature. So I told the Indians' direction of media relations the story, showed him the ball, and he thought it was great. I didn't even have to ask. When BP ended, he approached Hernandez, told him the story, Hernandez signed the ball, and I've got that one as well, in a plastic cube, stacked alongside the others, in a special place at home.

Every time I look at those baseballs, I remember the story behind each one. And it always brings a smile to my face, none moreso than the ball autographed by most of the 1958 Giants, all of whom I interviewed for the book I wrote on the Giants' first season in San Francisco: The Original San Francisco Giants; the Giants of '58. I purchased that ball, before beginning my series of interviews, but given the five years that went into researching and writing the book, that ball remains my favorite.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Baseball's Best Hitting Pitchers

The legend of Micah Owings is growing.   The 6-foot-6 second year right-handed pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks is not only off to a 4-0 start on the mound, but his hitting prowess is becoming legendary.
As a rookie Owings hit .333 in 60 at-bats with four homeruns and 15 runs batted in.  This year he's hitting .421 in 19 at bats, after entering yesterday's game against Milwaukee as a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the sixth, with a runner on, trailing 7-5.  Brewers manager Cecil Cooper, knowing at least a little about Owings' ability with the bat, went to his bullpen and brought in a right-handed reliever.  First pitch:  Gone.  In the right field bleachers.  The fans went nuts.  Owings' teammates in the dugout went nuts.  Cooper was beside himself with exasperation, after an 8-7 loss, saying his team got beat by a "damn pitcher."  
Well, not just any pitcher.  Owings has a career .354 average in 79 at bats, with five homers and 18 RBIs.  That, after hitting .377 in the minors, and .448 as a high school senior, during which he wacked a Georgia state record 25 homers.  Owings has a chance to become one of the best hitting pitchers in baseball history.  The best of them all, many say, was Wes Ferrell, who pitched for Cleveland and Boston in the 1930s, hitting .280 with 38 homers.
Other notables include Warren Spahn and Earl Wilson, both of whom hit 35 homers, albeit with a .195 average; Don Drysdale hit 29 homers, but batted .186; Bob Gibson had 24 homers and a .206.  Don Newcombe and Mike Hampton both hit 15 homers, with .266 and .242 averages, respectively.  Former Giant Don Robinson hit 13 homers with a .231.  And Cubs' ace Carlos Zambrano hit his 13th career homer today, with an average of .220.  
In short, if Owings stays anywhere near his current pace, he'll pass them all, and become the game's best hitting pitcher ever.  If the Diamondbacks weren't so loaded offensively, manager Bob Melvin might consider playing Owings in right field on days he's not pitching.  Put another way, if Owings were on the Giants, I wouldn't be surprised at all to see him in the outfield, and batting cleanup, while pitching every fifth day.  

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

History at the LA Coliseum

   One of my earliest baseball memories is that of attending a Dodgers-Braves game at the Los Angeles Coliseum, which was the Dodgers' home for four seasons before the opening of Chavez Ravine in 1962.  I remember seeing a Henry Aaron homerun ball sail over the cyclone fence in right field, 400 feet from home plate, coming to a stop on the grass of the football field.  And I remember the 40-foot fence in left field, just 250 feet from home.  Even as a young kid, I was aware of the strange dimensions of this temporary baseball diamond.
   In any event, when I heard the Dodgers were going to play an exhibition game at the Coliseum, against the Red Sox on March 29th, to help celebrate their 50 years in Los Angeles, I knew I had to be there.  And as it turned out, it was an historic occasion in more ways than one.  Not only were the Dodgers playing at the Coliseum for the first time since '61, but the game drew an incredible 115,300 fans, an all-time baseball attendance record.
   There were only four homeruns hit in this game, which was somewhat surprising and disappointing, as the Red Sox won 7-4.  Sox catcher Kevin Cash hit the first one, about 20 rows deep into the center field seats--a ball that would not have been a homerun in any park in the majors.  It probably landed about 350 feet from home plate.  The Sox' Kevin Youkilis and the Dodgers' James Loney both homered over the 60-foot fence in left, 201 feet from home (closer to home, in fact, than the left field fence at the Little League World Series in Williamsport).
   The dimensions to left field for this game were less than they were when the Dodgers called the Coliseum home, because of the additional seats that are in the stadium today, and because the running track that used to encircle the field is no longer there.  This prompted LA catcher Russell Martin to joke that this might be the only place Juan Pierre could homer opposite field. 
   Interestingly, the Red Sox and Dodgers lined up their outfield defenses very differently.  The Sox had left fielder Bobby Kielty playing in left-center, center fielder Coco Crisp playing in right-center, and right fielder Jacoby Ellsbury playing in right.  Every ball hit off the left field wall was fielded by the shortstop Julio Lugo, who had to jog no more than a few feet to play the ricochet.  The Dodgers, on the other hand, used only two outfielders--Andre Either in left-center, and Matt Kemp in right-center.  The normal center fielder Andruw Jones actually played second base.  Literally.  He stood no more than three feet behind the second base bag, even taking the throw from catcher Martin and applying the tag to nail Ellsbury trying to steal second.  Score that 2-8 on the caught stealing, perhaps for the first time in baseball history.
   It may have taken forever to get into the Coliseum, and out of it, but I'm pretty sure that virtually all of the 115,300 on hand were thrilled to be part of baseball history.  I know I was.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Cow Palace Memories

That front-page story in the Chronicle last week, about the potential demise of the venerable Cow Palace in the not-too-distant future, certainly brought back some great memories of the old arena.

My first trip to the Cow Palace took place in the early 1960s, when I was about 10 years old, either to see Wilt Chamberlain and the San Francisco Warriors, or to see the San Francisco Seals of the Western Hockey League. Both teams played there, and I saw a great deal of both teams there over the years.

That means not only Wilt, but also Nate Thurmond and Rick Barry, not to mention the Royals' Oscar Robertson, the Lakers' Jerry West and Elgin Baylor, the Celtics' Bill Russell and John Havlicek, the Hawks' Bob Pettit and Zelmo Beatty, etc., etc. The list goes on and on.

My favorite Seals were Charlie Burns, who later went on to play for the Oakland Seals in the NHL, and Ed Panagabko. But I also remember enjoying watching Willie O'Ree with the Los Angeles Blades. I remember thinking how cool it was to see a black player in hockey, and a very fleet and skilled one at that. Little did I know at the time that he had broken the color barrier in the NHL a short time earlier, with the Boston Bruins, becoming the first black player in NHL history.

In fact, I had the great honor of meeting, and interviewing Willie O'Ree a couple of months ago, and he was delighted to reminisce about the old days in the Cow Palace, and was amazed that I remembered that he wore uniform number 10 with the Blades. That's not all I remember about the Blades. I recall the frequent fights between the Seals' Larry McNabb and the Blades' Howie Young, one of which, in fact, took place before the opening face-off. Those two guys skated circles around each other, as their teammates warmed up in both ends of the ice, dropped the gloves and the sticks, and went at it. I had Willie in stitches, telling that story. Great memories.

Otherwise, I remember attending several roller derby matches at the Cow Palace, featuring Charlie O'Connell and the San Francicso Bay Bombers. One particular game featured a "match race" at halftime between O'Connell, and his bitter rival Bob Woodberry. Charlie had him beat, until Woodberry took off a skate and attacked O'Connell over the back of the head with it. The fans were so incensed, with several charging the rink, that the Daly City/Brisbane police were called to restore order.   The smartest thing Woodberry did was get the hell off the rink, and into the dressing room, in a hurry.  

Man, those were the days.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Nelson's Redemption

When I first heard of the imminent return of Chris Webber to the Warriors, I was stunned. In 19 years of covering sports in the Bay Area, the absolute devastation of the Warriors following the trading of Webber to the Washington Wizards in 1994 symbolizes a franchise collapse that, so far, not even Al Davis has been able to duplicate with the Raiders.

Webber, as any longtime Warriors fan can recall, was a breath of fresh when he helped lead the Warriors to 50 wins, while capturing NBA Rookie-of-the-Year honors in the '93-94 season. He was electrifying on the court, he had a winning smile and personality off the court, and it seemed that he'd be the team's franchise player for many years to come.

Unfortunately, what most Warriors fans have conveniently forgotten is the fact that it was Don Nelson, far more than Webber, who was essentially responsible for the deteriorating relationship, and eventual divorce between the two. Webber, of course, has been blamed for what happened, for having the temerity to show up Nelson, who had effectively conned the local beatwriters and columnists (with the notable exception of the Merc's Rick Bucher), into believing that he could do no wrong.

In reality, though, it was Nelson who refused to meet Webber halfway, to work through their differences, for the better of the team. It was Nelson who ignored the candid advice of some of his most trusted associates, including Al Attles and Ed Gregory, that he needed to sit down with Webber and talk things out, that Webber was an intelligent and articulate young man who could be reasoned with, and that it was critical to do so for the future of the franchise. And it was Nelson who turned his back on all of them, because his ego was simply to big to see the larger picture.

All Webber really wanted was to be treated with respect, particularly in public, where Nelson was legendary for his screaming tirades against rookies and other young and impressionable players, i.e., Sarunas Marciulionis, Tyrone Hill, Chris Gatling, etc. Webber was the first player of his generation to openly stand up to Nelson, to say, in essence, that it wasn't necessary to act like Bobby Knight, in order to drive home a point. But Nelson wouldn't listen.

The news now that Nelson and Webber are reuniting after 14 years is heartwarming. How much Webber can help the Warriors remains to be seen. His knees bear no resemblence to the ones he had when he was the Rookie-of-the-Year, nor when he was at the peak of his game with the Sacramento Kings during a spectacular six-season run that ended in 2004. So he can't be expected to run with the Warriors' up-tempo offense. But he's a very smart player, an excellent outside shooter, and one of the best passing big men of his generation. Moreover, if he can help make life inside the key difficult for the Western Conference's leading big men, i.e., Tim Duncan, Carlos Boozer, Marcus Camby, Dirk Nowitski, etc., Nelson will be ecstatic.

Ironically, if Chris Cohan hadn't pulled his successful power play at the time, to take over the franchise from Dan Finnane and Jim Fitzgerald, it's highly likely that Nelson's plan to get rid of Webber would have failed, because Nelson would have been told point-blank to work out his personal differences with Webber for the benefit of the team. Instead, Cohan caved in to Nelson's whims, and the Warriors fell into the depths of disaster for the next 12 seasons.

But give Nelson credit now. He has spoken openly in recent days of how he has mellowed over the years (as all of us can see), and how he wishes he had handled the relationship with Webber differently. Perhaps part of his motivation in reaching out to Webber is to get rid of his own guilt, for recklessly tearing apart what might have been. If so, it's never too late for redemption. Whatever the motivation is, as Nelson said, they're both old men now--Nelson's an old coach, at 67, and Webber's an old player, at 34. And what they have in common is the desire for that elusive NBA championship. Here's hoping this turns into a highly successful move for both of them.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Most Dysfunctional Operation in Pro Sports

   Assuming ESPN and others are correct over the last 24 hours in reporting that Al Davis sent Lane Kiffin a letter of resignation to sign, one has to assume that Kiffin is more popular right now with the Rational Raider Nation than ever before.  That's because the rational Raiders fan knows that Big Al is the cancer that continues to eat away at this once-great franchise.  Since losing big to Jon Gruden's Tampa Bay Bucs in Super Bowl 37, the Raiders have lost 61 games in five years.   Every year Big Al fires his head coach, hires a new head coach, and promises the press and the fans that the new head coach will "bring back the greatness of the Ray-duhz." Gag me.  The Raiders were a mess before Gruden arrived, they've been a mess since he left, and we all know the reason he left was because Big Al was an impossible meddler to work for.  Now Big Al wants Kiffin to resign, so that he doesn't have to pay the balance of his contract. Kiffin won't oblige.  That's why Kiffin is immensely popular right now with the rational wing of the Raider Nation.
   On the other hand, what about the Irrational Raider Nation?  Which one is bigger?  I've already encountered two Raiders fans in my neighborhood, since late yesterday, who think that these latest media reports are all part of a vast conspiracy to bring down the Raiders.   Of course, this is exactly what Big Al wants, and that is exactly what he has tried to cultivate over the years--an us against the world mentality, which manifests itself in blaming the officials for always trying to screw the Raiders with bad calls, because the NFL Hates Al Davis.  
   Those who subscribe to this warped and jaded philosophy believe they have to stick together, and that means always standing behind the Leader of the Cult--Big Al.  That's what the Raiders have become--a cult.  It's beyond unreal.  It's like nothing we've ever seen. This is, without a doubt, the most dysfunctional operation in the history of professional sports.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Giants Singled Out by Congress

   If you opened up your morning paper today, you know the Giants are in hot water with commissioner Bud Selig.  And it doesn't even matter whether you live in Northern California.     Newspapers all over the country have headline stories about the Giants--specifically, about Selig's pledge to a congressional committee that he is committed to punishing not just players for steroid use, but upper-level management figures as well, for looking the other way while their players were bulking up illegally.
   The Giants are being singled out here, of course, because of compelling evidence that Magowan&Company not only rolled out the red carpet for Barry Bonds' personal trainer Greg Anderson--giving him full run of the Giants clubhouse and beyond--but ignored repeated warnings from team trainer Stan Conte that Anderson was making steroids available to players.  As committee chairman Henry Waxman noted, the Giants apparently were more interested in protecting Bonds than they were in respecting the law, and the integrity of the game.
   My esteemed colleague Stan Bunger believes that any punishment handed down to the Giants by Selig would be benign in nature, because to do otherwise would be to open Pandora's box, because there were undoubtedly management officials from virtually every other major league team that had knowledge about the use of steroids within their own confines. However, I disagree.
   While it may be entirely true that management officials from most teams had such knowledge, very few such figures are specifically identified in the Mitchell Report, and that document is what Selig is using as his primary source of evidence.  Stan assumes that Sandy Alderson and Tony LaRussa knew of steroid use by Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire.  That may be true, but there is no such documentation of that in the Mitchell Report.  To the best of my knowledge, after reading through most of that report, the only team with high-level management figures identified as having knowledge of the probable existence of steroids within their own clubhouse--and failing to do anything about it--was your San Francisco Giants.  And so Bud Selig, with the Mitchell Report in hand, will go after the Giants, and quite possibly no other team, with no qualms about doing otherwise.
   Selig pledged to Waxman that if he determines the Giants are guilty, they will face serious punishment.  Other team owners will not worry that they might be next, because they aren't cited in the Mitchell Report.  Keep in mind, too, that Selig is not nearly as interested in uncovering all the culpable figures in this steroid scandal as he is in saving his own reputation, as the anti-steroid commish.  So, whether he fines the Giants millions, or suspends key individuals, or docks them a draft choice--or some combination thereof--Selig will act accordingly.  There is no such Pandora's Box in the Mitchell Report.
   Furthermore, Selig is forever faithful to the legacy of Henry Aaron, and was very unhappy that the Giants signed Bonds for the record-breaking 2007 season.  Finally, Magowan's fellow owner are not happy with him for building his jewel of a ballpark with private money.  It all adds up to Magowan&Company being suitably punished, or being made a major scapegoat, depending on your point of view. And no other team owner will lose an ounce of sleep in the process.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Diarrhea of the Mouth

   Like just about every other NFL playoff fan, I thoroughly enjoyed watching the four divisional games over the weekend.  The two Sunday contests went down to the wire, while on Saturday Jacksonville played evenly with unbeaten New England well into the third quarter, and Green Bay entertained all of us with a one-sided win in the snow at Lambeau. 

   And yet, I missed John Madden.  Not as much as John missed being at one of those games, the snow in Green Bay most notably.  But I missed John, as the pre-eminent analyst in the game. Some critics think he's not as sharp as he was when he was younger, but I disagree.  His ability to understand and dissect a game is second to none.  Moreover, whereas John revolutionized the job of the NFL network analyst, leading to generations of imitators, beginning (as I recall) with Matt Millen, very few if any of them really understand what it is about John that makes him so special.  

   John Madden is funny.  He's irreverent.   He's entertaining.  Most other analysts just aren't. Hey, that's a lot to ask for.  But Madden is also marvelous at analyzing key plays.  Key plays. And that's where virtually all the Madden imitators over the years come up short.  Take Phil Simms.  Please.  The man does not know when to shut up.  There were approximately 120 plays from scrimmage in the New England-Jacksonville game, and Phil Simms analyzed approximately 120 plays.  One yard up the middle, and a cloud of dust.  Is such a play really necessary to analyze?  Of course not.  But that's the crux of the issue.  Somewhere along the line, beginning with Matt Millen I believe, the networks all paraded "the next John Madden" on the air, and erroneously believed that one of the necessary requirements was to analyze every damn play, as soon as the poor play-by-play announcer finished with his description.  CBS obviously considers Simms one of the best in the business, because they've got him paired with Jim Nantz as their number-one NFL broadcast team.  I understand why.  Simms is bright, he's articulate, he understands the game.  

   But what Phil Simms and CBS do not understand is that sometimes less is more.  Sometimes it's not necessary to take apart a play.  Sometimes it would be nice to hear nothing but the crowd.  After all, we can see what's going on.  And sometimes it would be nice to hear a little more from Nantz.  It's the same for nearly all the broadcast teams on CBS, and on Fox as well. Throw in NBC and the NFL Network.  They're all suffering from the same disease.  Shut the hell up, already!  And, in the process, be more spontaneous and less predictable.