Archive for May, 2009

Vick may not be ready for what awaits him

 

Michael Vick looked grim when he began his prison sentence in November of 2007, and he may look similar when he gets out. (AP photo.)

Michael Vick looked grim when he began his prison sentence in November of 2007. Given circumstances, he may not look much better when he gets out. (AP photo.)

Sometime in the next few days, Michael Vick will step outside of prison walls and straight into hell.

He will have supporters. That’s fine. The man has paid his debt to society, slept on a cot in Leavenworth for several months and took a bigger hit to his status, his reputation and his income than possibly any athlete in history.

He will have detractors. That’s also fine. Because for as much as Vick has every right to resume his football career, you have every right not to like it. It’s why so many NFL executives are sitting alone in the dark today, weighing that risk-reward thing.

But Vick’s ability to return to football will be based on something far more impactful than the strength of his legs or arm. A New York Times story this week included a common but equally bizarre assumption: “Vick may still …

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Baseball could take a lesson from its past

GRIFFIN – An eighth-grader stood in a school gymnasium Friday, accepting her award for an essay she wrote about what it took to overcome illness and family issues that would have crippled most.

Sharon Robinson talks about values and her late father, Jackie, to a group of middle school students in Griffin Friday. (John Spink/jspink@ajc.com)

Beside her and presenting the award was the daughter of Jackie Robinson, whose physical gifts were surpassed only by the courage and character it took to endure racial prejudices, shatter baseball’s color barrier and become one of the most revered figures in sports.

Today, baseball, the sport Robinson once graced, is tainted by too many athletes who can’t even overcome their own egos. It’s more important to the weak-minded likes of Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and now Manny Ramirez, to satisfy their own statistical and economic urges than to do things the right way with integrity. Like Robinson. Like even Meagan Williams of …

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So if London gets NFL, do we get cricket and warm beer?

There were fireworks in London two years ago when New York played Miami. Notsomuch here.

There were fireworks in London in 2007 when New York played Miami. Notsomuch in the U.S.

Last season, the lords of baseball made the bizarre and implausible decision to open the regular season in Tokyo, because I guess Cincinnati and Boston and St. Louis were all booked, and nothing screams tradition more than baseball, ramen and Camry.

We’ve also seen the NHL begin to play games overseas. This hockey season started in Prague and Stockholm. But half the players are from Prague and Stockholm, anyway, and not enough people in the U.S. care about hockey, so it wasn’t surprising to see Gary Bettman lunge for the koruny and kronor.

But the NFL?

This is the most powerful, profitable and successful league in sports. By any measurement. Even with the current economic slide, estimates put the NFL’s annual revenues in excess of $7.5 billion. Attendance for most games is at or near capacity. Multi-year television contracts total $20.4 billion.

Nineteen of 32 franchises are …

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Hawks should consider trading Johnson, not Smith

 

Sorry, Joe. But you just haven't measured up in the playoffs. (Kent Johnson/kjohnson@ajc.com)

Sorry, Mr. Johnson. But you just haven't measured up in the playoffs, unlike that guy behind you. (Kent Johnson/kjohnson@ajc.com.)

Almost every player on the Hawks’ roster is either at the end of a contract, or near the end of a contract, or on somebody’s, “Let’s drop-kick this guy out of town,” list.

  Josh Smith doesn’t have a contract issue. That tells you what category he fits in.

  But if you really believe the Hawks need to shake things up this off-season and possibly trade one of their starters, don’t look at Josh Smith. Look at Joe Johnson.

  People, this isn’t even close.

  This week’s Countdown . . .

10: Ordinary Joe: 2-for-18 in playoffs

Joe Johnson is a three-time All-Star. I felt I needed to get that out there right away because it seems like any time somebody criticizes Joe Johnson, one of his defenders screams, “He’s a three-time All-Star!” But this is business and these are the facts: Joe has one year left on his contract. He …

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Hawks take a step forward, but leave questions

LeBron James may be headed for a final. Joe Johnson is headed for a summer full of questions. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

LeBron James may be headed for a final. Joe Johnson is headed for a summer full of questions. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

Seven months ago, you would have taken 47 wins.

Seven months ago, you would have taken a playoff series win and a second-round sweep by the possible eventual league champion because that’s more than any Hawks team had given you in 10 years (and it only seemed like 20 years).

In short, it’s OK to feel satisfied with what front offices like to refer to as “incremental progress.”

“It was a good season,” Josh Smith said Monday night. “I’m not going to let a sweep leave a bitter taste in my mouth like last year.”

But when the Hawks lost to Cleveland 84-74 at Philips Arena, they completed a strange postseason that created more questions than positive vibes.

The starting point guard? Mike Bibby was on the bench for most of the third quarter, not exactly positive foreshadowing going into negotiations as he becomes a free agent.

The …

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We’re live from . . . a wake?

 

A message for Joe Johnson: Leaders don't look down. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

Here's the Hawks' Joe Johnson looking down in Game 3. It's kind of hard to lead that way, isn't it? (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

Before getting to some pre-game thoughts, let’s talk about what’s really important.

  As far I know, LeBron James has not booked any restaurants for a post-game party tonight in Atlanta. I’m not sure if that’s because he figured “24″ would hold down the crowd, or simply because the Cavaliers have a charter flight taking them back to Cleveland immediately following the game.

I mention this only because word of James pre-booking a party at Trois in midtown following Game 3 Saturday night sparked quite a bit of reaction in the blogosphere, and some even in the locker room. Al Horford was stunned, and even said after the Game 3 loss, “I wish I had known that before the game.”

  Question: Would it really have made a difference? I mean, would that little bit of extra anger have carried the Hawks over the top in Game 3, setting up the …

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LeBron knows how to keep a party going

LeBron James scored 47 points in Game 3. It seems when he knows he has a party to get to, nothing can stop him.

LeBron James scored 47 points in Cleveland's Game 3 victory Saturday. Apparently, when he knows he has a party to get to, nothing can stop him. (Hyosub Shin/hshin@ajc.com.)

Dwayne Wade was so concerned about Miami’s first-round playoff series against the Hawks that he issued a no-party mandate for his teammates while they were in Atlanta.

This would be in contrast to LeBron James, who presumably had such little regard for the Hawks that he reserved all three floors of a midtown restaurant and nightclub for a post-game bash for up to 800 people Saturday night.

When asked about his party plans before the game, James said only, “I’ve got game plans right now, and I’m very focused on Game 3. I’ll worry about it after the game.”

Yeah. Worried. Whatever.

In a perfect world for a Hawks’ fan, this is right about where you would fall on the floor laughing over an Atlanta victory and James’ premature and misguided plans for an evening celebration.

But it wasn’t going …

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So guess who already has party plans tonight?

LeBron James must figure he'll have to celebrate tonight at his party.

LeBron must figure he'll have something to celebrate tonight.

Friend of mine was at the Georgia Tech baseball game today and told me he saw “15-20” kids in LeBron James jerseys. I walked through CNN Center and found vendors selling more jerseys and “LBJ MVP” T-shirts.

And now this: It seems Mr. James is having a little party in Midtown tonight.

Wow. Hope he can fit the game in.

Now, I realize the Cleveland Cavaliers have had their way with the Hawks in the first two games of this series. And I’m not suggesting that LeBron James making social plans in the middle of a playoff series could be just the thing to propel your Hawks to a victory tonight and four wins in the next five games.

But doesn’t this strike you as a little odd?

I mean, how would Cleveland take it if, say, Josh Smith was planning a party for after Game 5?

On second thought, bad example.

Chris Blackburn, the manager at the Trois restaurant and bar in Midtown, both confirmed and joked that …

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This may take more than a wing and a prayer

Maybe the Hawks should let "Spirit" man the post area in Game 3. And he can bring friends.

Two games into their playoff series against LeBron James and his slightly closer-to-mortal teammates, the Hawks are about where most expected they would be: down 2-0, with three injured starters classified as game-time decisions, and the rest merely struggling with self-esteem issues.

At this point, they might want to re-evaluate their strategy and expand the roster to include all creatures in the animal kingdom. Maybe let “Spirit” the Hawk loose again in Philips Arena. He can even bring his friends this time.

“Yeah, hopefully this time we can train him to fly into their bench,” said Josh Smith.

“Scratch their eyes out!” said Randolph Morris. “We need to get zookeepers to bring 10 of those things.”

They need something. The Cleveland Cavaliers have won their first six playoff games by an average of 18 points. They have won the first two games of this series by 27 and …

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Braves have lost the benefit of the doubt

Like this grounder to Omar Infante, everything with the Braves today seems out of reach.

Much like this ground ball to second baseman Omar Infante, everything with the Braves these days seem just out of reach. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

They have a left fielder hitting .171 but turning down rehab assignments, a Japanese pitcher who looks out of his league, a catcher who can’t see, a legend who can’t throw and a rookie starter who’s on pace for over 200 strikeouts, which would be great if we were talking about Jordan Schafer as a pitcher, not a hitter.

Still bubbling over with enthusiasm about your Atlanta Braves?

They started the season 5-1. They were 6-14 since, heading into Wednesday night’s game at Florida. They dropped consecutive home games to the struggling New York Mets, and in Tuesday’s loss committed two errors and hit into three double plays. Manager Bobby Cox scooped up the remains of starting pitcher Kenshin Kawakami after five innings, which seemed wise given Kawakami was on a pace to throw 203.4 pitches.

If Kawakami were being …

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