The first thing I thought when I heard Donald Fehr announced his retirement Monday was: Does he have to leave behind the usual items when he cleans out his office?
You know: desk lamp, stapler, the box of bartered souls in the corner.
Excuse me, Count: Is there room for Fehr in your underworld?
The Tuesday Countdown continues …
So, let’s get this out of the way first because I know so many of you are ready to spew the he-was-just-doing-his-job speech. A lot of players got very rich while Fehr was head of the Players Association. There, I’m covered. But since when did leading hundreds of increasing wealthy athletes speak to the contribution to the sport or the strength of it? Does a rich plumber make you feel compelled to use that plumbing company? What if the rich plumber is a liar and a thief and charges you $1,500 when all you really needed was a bottle of Drano? Does a wealthy used car salesman make you want to shop at his car lot? I always kind of thought sports was about more than that. I know. I have Easter Bunny Syndrome.
Donald Fehr is a sleaze bag. The only people who did as much to ruin baseball were, collectively, commissioner Bud Selig and the owners of Major League Baseball. The difference is: Selig never has been terribly smart and he often has been a tool for the owners, who’ve never gotten along because they’ve always have their own agendas. But Fehr is worse because he is smart and powerful and he presided over the strongest players union in sports. He could’ve helped implement change. Positive change. Instead . . .
The endless collective bargaining wars, spearheaded by Fehr/union demands and enabled by the buffoon owners and commissioner, drove up salaries, killed small market teams, forced the costs of tickets and hot dogs to sky rocket, and probably also gave television executives increased leverage to dictate starting times of post-season broadcasts. (TV provides revenue.) Hence: The 9 p.m. first pitch.
You want more? Don’t forget, it was Fehr and the union of pig-headed and/or brainwashed players that led to another CBA collapsed and the cancellation of the 1994 World Series. It also was Fehr and the union that constantly resisted any attempts by baseball – albeit, feeble attempts – to institute significant drug testing of players. A stiffer anti-steroid policy would have prevented some of the inflated statistics that turned baseball’s record book into a cartoon. But, no. Fehr wouldn’t hear of testing. Wasn’t it more important to expand arbitration rights and drive up salaries?
The only thing sweeter than seeing Fehr crumble in Washington when Congress held its steroid hearings was seeing Selig grovel as he sat right next to him. It was like watching two kids sitting in the principal’s office after being caught selling the teachers’ answer sheets – for over a decade. If there was a Sports Hell Hall of Shame, Fehr is in on the first ballot. And he’s probably trying to convince potential Hell Hall members to unionize and hold out before induction ceremonies for maximum leverage.
Which reminds me. Gotta credit 790-AM’s Mike Bell, the funniest man on local radio, for coming up with the Sports Hell idea. But I’m stealing it. Here’s my 10 charter members:
♦ Donald Fehr and Bud Selig. They go in together and can give each other’s induction speeches.
♦ Bobby Petrino: A liar, a weasel and a self-serving invertebrate. You know the details.
♦ Marge Schott: She ran the Cincinnati Reds into the ground, used racial epithets when referring to some African American players and collected Nazi memorabilia. Hat trick!
♦ Georgia (Rosenbloom) Frontiere: She took over the Los Angeles Rams from her mysteriously drowned husband, Carroll Rosenbloom. She fired her stepson, Steve Rosenbloom, who had been groomed to take over the team. Then she ran that team into the ground, ticked off L.A. sports fans and moved an iconic NFL franchise out of the No. 2 market to St. Louis. Sorry. I’m from L.A. This one cuts deep.
♦ O.J. Simpson: He was a lousy actor. Also, I think he killed two people.
♦ Jackie Sherrill: He left two college programs, Texas A&M and Mississippi State, on probation and I believe robbed three kids’ lemonade stands. Of course, he denies direct involvement with
either set of infractions and points out there is no video tape of him at the lemonade stands. True story: Joe Paterno once cracked he wouldn’t retire because he didn’t want to leave college football in the hands of “the Jackie Sherrills and the Barry Switzers.” Fortunately, JoePa has outlasted them both.
♦ Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis: What? I can’t have a judge? Landis threw “Shoeless” Joe Jackson out of baseball and effectively banned him from the Baseball Hall of Fame for his role in the 1919 “BlackSox” scandal. The only problem is, Jackson didn’t have a role. He led the Series in hits, slammed the only homer and didn’t commit an error. How could he have been trying to throw the Series?
♦ Tonya Harding: She orchestrated the knee-capping of Nancy Kerrigan in the U.S. figuring skating championships. Seems kind of excessive, don’t you think? I mean, if this was an SEC game, that’s one thing. But figure skating?
♦ Marion Jones: She threatened to sue the U.S. anti-doping agency for investigating her and vociferously denied ever using performance-enhancing drugs. She name-called anybody who dared to broach the subject. Then in 2007, amid mounting evidence in the BALCO case, Jones finally admitted she lied. She even broke down in tears, presumably for effect, and said: “I’ve let myself down and my country down.” And we all thanked her for the confirmation.
You know, No. 5 just got to be way too long. I don’t get paid by the word. I’m taking No. 4 off.
Nick Saban is not yet a member of our Hell Hall but he remains a sentimental favorite. Saban told Ian Rapoport, a terrific reporter for the Birmingham News, that Alabama is getting a raw deal from some recruiting websites. It seems the coach is convinced that incorrect and damaging information about the Crimson Tide’s probation is being disseminated by muckraking media members at these recruiting websites. I’m guessing it’s real misleading stuff being written, something like: “Alabama is on probation for the fourth time in 14 years.” I hate facts.
ProFootballTalk.com alternates between breaking news and throwing a lot of stuff against the wall. But I kind of like this conspiracy theory of theirs that the Minnesota Vikings have already signed quarterback Brett Favre – or come to some secret agreement — but they’re holding off on announcing it until July 3. Why? Because several national media members are on vacation then, thereby minimizing the public damage.
For what it’s worth, I will be among those on vacation July 3. But I just want the Vikings to know I have no problem with them signing Favre that week. There will be plenty of time to shred their new quarterback for selfish and two-face tendencies when I return.
O.J. needs a quarterback to hand him the ball just south of here.