Archive for July, 2009

Countdown couples: Goodell-Vick, Kim-Reggie, Zook-George

Never thought I would see this in NFL ticket windows.

Never thought I would see this in NFL ticket windows.

Welcome back to this week’s Tuesday’s Countdown, which this week asks the question: If an NFL commissioner has to wear many hats, can any of them fit over Roger Goodell’s cranium?

About a week ago, I wrote a column suggesting Goodell was letting his own ego get in the way of his decision-making process concerning Michael Vick. Several others have followed with similar viewpoints. Hey, I’m a trendsetter. But you already knew that. By the way, those shoes just don’t work with that outfit.

But with an entire seven days of perspective, I wanted to amend my position slightly. Goodell hasn’t balked at lifting Vick’s suspension immediately solely because he is still upset that the quarterback lied to him and he enjoys flexing his corporate biceps. It’s more like 85 percent ego and 15 percent his desire to protect the NFL shield.

Because if you haven’t noticed, that NFL shield isn’t what it used to be.

The Countdown continues . . …

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Deadline (part II): Braves aren’t going to bust budget

There's a little man inside Frank Wren's head who looks just like this.

The great thing about trade deadlines is it breeds some wonderfully entertaining scenarios, which of course make perfect sense at 1 a.m. after your fifth beer.

“Hey. I got it! We’ll trade our backup shortstop who’s hitting .227, and our pitcher who is coming off torn rotator cuff surgery and two prospects, but not our really good ones, for Albert Pujols! The Cardinals would do that! Frank Wren’s an idiot! Hey, did you eat the last chicken wing?”

Sometimes, logic and reality don’t quite sink in with fans. (Not you, of course. The other fans.) But here’s one reality you’re going to have to deal with: economics.

The Braves are in the same situation as most sports franchises right now. Sponsorships are down. Ticket sales are lagging. The only thing on the rise are discount nights. After years of being one of the top payroll teams in baseball, the Braves now are closer to the middle of the pack at $96.7 million …

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Can you really feel comfortable if Braves stand pat?

Are the Braves getting drunk on success lately or do they need another piece?

Are the Braves getting drunk on success, or do they need another piece?

If the Braves don’t make a significant trade before the deadline – and that seems to be the betting favorite – this is what you’re going to hear from general manager Frank Wren:

> “We like our team.”

> “We have Tim Hudson and Omar Infante coming back soon, and we like our team.”

> “In these tough economic times, we don’t feel it’s prudent to give up young prospects and take on a high-salaried veteran in a trade. And we like our team.”

And you know what? Those are all valid reasons to stand pat.

But a question: If the Braves go through this trading deadline without making a significant move to improve the roster — despite desperately trying to stay in the National League East divisional race and at worst being in the middle of the wild-card race — would you feel a little unsatisfied? Uncomfortable? Un-playoff-like?

The Braves used to be a player at the trade deadline. Even recently, when the Mark Teixeira …

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Reinstatement for Vick is only step one

Michael Vick is free to be an NFL player again, but what happens now?

Michael Vick is free to be an NFL player again, but what happens now? (AP photo)

Note to Michael Vick: This wasn’t the hard part.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has conditionally reinstated Vick and, as expected, he likely will make him sit out the first month of the regular season. But finally getting the league’s blessing to resume his career is only the first hurdle Vick has to overcome.

Initially, the biggest thing working against Vick is the calendar. NFL teams open training camps this weekend. The league’s coaches are notorious control freaks when it comes to atmosphere. General managers are similar when it comes to the roster. The league’s owners are trying to sell tickets and sponsorships in a depressed economy. The last thing anybody wants to deal with right now is the kind of stir that a Vick signing is going to create — just before training camp.

Nobody wants demonstrations. Nobody wants helicopters flying over head. Nobody wants the media circus.

Do I believe a …

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So now Holyfield has money problems in Ethiopia, too?

For now, Holyfield remains safe outside the ring (here recently at the ESPYs).

For now, Evander Holyfield remains safe outside the ring (AP photo).

If you’re wondering what a legitimate heavyweight fight (anywhere) and a relatively obscure exhibition in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, have in common, we just found out: At some point, a guy needs to get paid.

Evander Holyfield was scheduled to receive up to $1 million to fight Sammy Retta this past weekend in Ethiopia, a fundraiser to fight the spread of AIDS in the country. But according to Holyfield’s manager, Ken Sanders, payment never was received. So the event was postponed (if not canceled).

“We were supposed to have the check by early June,” said Sanders, who spent a week with Holyfield in Ethiopia two months ago, setting up the bout. “The guy kept saying, ‘It’s coming, it’s coming. Don’t worry about it.’ But finally, we had to cancel. We weren’t going to do one of those those things, ‘We’ll give you the money when you get here.’”

But there is good news. At least nobody in Ethiopia is trying to foreclose on …

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Hall argument, Part II: Rose goes in

Pete Rose is baseball's all-time hits leader. Equally important: He never cheated the game.

Pete Rose is baseball's all-time hits leader. Equally important: He never cheated the game.

As Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro and every other lyin’ cheat in the baseball record books seem to be moving further away from Cooperstown, Pete Rose could be moving closer.

I didn’t plan on blogging about this today. But if emails and comments are any indication, several readers seem confused, if not angered, by my positions on Rose (whom I believe should be in the Hall) and proven steroid uses (who should not be). Some think they are in conflict with each other. I don’t. So I felt the need to clear the air.

Should Pete Rose be in the Hall of Fame?

  • Yes.
  • No.

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Also the New York Daily News is now reporting that commissioner Bud Selig might be softening his position on Rose and could make him Hall-eligible again. According to long-time baseball writer Bill Madden, one reason for Selig’s change in thought …

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Tell us: Should steroid users be allowed in Hall?

Why couldn't every Hall of Fame-worthy player be as easy a decision as Hank Aaron was?

Henry Aaron threw me for a loop Sunday.

When I spoke to him by phone Sunday morning about his comments that all players with Hall of Fame credentials should go into Cooperstown with an asterisk, I never expected he would take his feelings to the next level. In our conversation, Aaron said he believed that any player who was proven to have taken performance-enhancing drugs should be banned from the Hall of Fame. He said there was “no room for cheaters.” He said all 104 Major League players who tested positive in baseball’s confidential drug-testing program six years ago should be exposed for all of us to see.

So much for that speak softly and carry a big stick thing — at least the speak softly part.

Of course, I was happy. It made for an easy column. But it also made me change my position on matters involving steroid use in baseball. I know. Many of you have grown weary of this topic. But …

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Forrest defined ‘champion’ in a sport that needed it

We lost more than a great champion when Vernon Forrest was killed Saturday night.

We lost more than a great champion when Vernon Forrest was killed Saturday night. (Las Vegas Sun photo)

A sport often is defined by its stars. So it follows that boxing’s reputation has been soiled for decades. Too many champions have ended up destitute or on the police blotter. Or both.

Vernon Forrest was different. It doesn’t seem right that we just lost a great champion — not merely in boxing, but in life.

Forrest was killed Saturday night. It was a random, senseless act, and the wrong guy was caught in the middle of it. Forrest was shot during a robbery, which led to an exchange of gunfire.

“Here’s a guy who did everything right,” Al Mitchell, his long-time trainer and friend, said by phone. “He didn’t take drugs. He wasn’t involved with gangs. He lived his life the right way. He was a gentleman.”

Forrest was one of the most engaging athletes I’ve ever come across. He did charity work. He started a foundation, “Destiny’s Child,” which benefited people with mental …

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Aaron wants past steroid users exposed, banned from Hall

Henry Aaron, here with Chipper Jones, wants all of baseball's past steroid users exposed. (AJC photo)

Henry Aaron, here with Chipper Jones, says there's no room in Cooperstown for cheaters.

The only man recognized as baseball’s true home run king — without the benefit of a laboratory detour — is finally speaking out. No more hanging back by Henry Aaron. No more letting others do the talking.

“My feeling has always been the same – the game of baseball has no place for cheaters,” Aaron said Sunday morning. “There’s no place in the Hall of Fame for people who cheat.”

He was speaking by phone from Cooperstown, where he was attending the Hall of Fame induction of Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice. Aaron has been to several of these ceremonies. But he probably hasn’t created this kind of news since his own enshrinement 27 years ago.

It started Saturday when he told a small group of reporters that he would be in favor of players from the steroid era going into the Hall with asterisks by their name, indicating their statistics might have been artificially enhanced. One excerpt: …

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Oversight? If it’s anybody but Spurrier, I believe him

Not saying this man's a liar. I'm just saying he likes to goof around.

Not saying this man's a liar. Just saying that he likes to goof around. (AP photo)

Anybody else think Steve Spurrier was funnier when he had a good football team?

Spurrier threw himself on the mercy of the SEC media Friday — and how low must you go to do that? — saying he was the coach who did not vote for Florida quarterback Tim Tebow as a first-teamer on the pre-season all-SEC team. Spurrier’s vote came as a surprise, given that Tebow has won a Heisman Trophy (he should’ve won two), played on two national championship teams and leads many to believe that he’s the best college football player in history, including Georgia coach Mark Richt. (See quote below.) Also, Spurrier has one or two ties to the Gators.

Well, now Spurrier says it was all a mistake. He said one of his staff members at South Carolina actually filled out the ballot for the All-SEC team. That’s not only believable, it’s highly probable. Coaches seldom do this sort of thing themselves. It’s often a low-level …

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