July 20, 2007

NBA Official Fixed Games?


Congratulations Michael Vick, a huge distraction made its way to the forefront today. The New York Post is reporting that the FBI is investigating veteran NBA official Tim Donaghy for betting on games he refereed between 2005 and 2007. Now the FBI and NBA are trying to determine if he made calls that directly affected the outcome of games.

It's impossible to overstate the importance of this story. Basketball, of all the major sports, involves the most subjective officiating. Most of the calls involve concepts like "gained advantage". In addition, at least in the NBA, many infractions are routinely ignored, especially travelling and carrying the ball. It would not be difficult for an official with thousands of dollars riding on a game to count a quick three seconds, call a walk, or issue a technical when he needs a little help getting over the point spread.

If other point-shaving scandals (Arizona St. basketball, Toledo football) have taught us anything, the NBA should be looking most closely at games with large spreads and very little national scrutiny. It is much easier to successfully shave points in a Dallas v. Charlotte matchup, where the spread can be near 20 and "close calls" only extend the blowout. However, to my knowledge, this is the first American scandal involving officials, rather than players. Obviously, an individual player on a basketball or football team can only do so much to affect the score. An official, on the other hand, can control nearly every aspect of the game, especially in basketball where the official's jurisdiction is basically the whole floor.

blahblahblablahblah Does Bill Simmons still think tanking is funny? Asshat.

This is really going to hurt the NBA, which has been trying to convince fans that the teams are really trying and competing during the regular season. This goes back to my anger over the Celtics and Bucks apparently trying to out-tank each other in a game late this past season. Point shaving thrives in an environment where the games are not actually competitive and the players and fans do not have much emotional investment in every call or every game. Cynics who have shunned the NBA regular season for years are now going to claim it's basically an exhibition season to get people ready for the playoffs.

And what about Mark Cuban? He has been claiming for years that the officials are awful. I think this revelation is shocking even to him. At worst, he probably felt some referees were biased against certain players or teams. I doubt he ever considered that a referee was actually controlling the score. David Stern has a lot to be unhappy about right now (low NBA Finals ratings, Yi refusing to play, point shaving), but the thought of Mark Cuban and a microphone right now must really make his chest tight.

If the FBI really has something here, this will prove to be a very dark day for the NBA.

July 19, 2007

Vick to Play Pending Outcome of Trial

ESPN.com is reporting that sources inside the NFL have told them that Vick will be allowed to play while his trial(s) play out. If I'm Pacman Jones' agent, I'm scheduling a press conference. Why is Vick, who faces jail time and fines, allowed to play, while Pacman, who faces lesser charges, is suspended for at least the season? Could it be that Vick sells approximately 1,000,000 times as many jerseys as Pacman? Perhaps it is that the Georgia income tax alone on Vick's salary and endorsements funds the salary of every high school band teacher in the state? Maybe the sight of an empty professional sports venue in Atlanta was more than the NFL could bear....oh wait, scratch that one.

blahjblahblahblahblahblah "You're dead to me Fredo!"

I can imagine Falcons' owner and former Home Depot CEO Arthur Blank's end of the conversation with Roger Goodell. "Hey Rog, we accidentally traded Matt Schaub and replaced him with Joey Harrington on the assumption that Michael Vick wasn't drowning dogs with his bare hands. Think you could help me out a smidge? I'll throw in all the Pergo flooring you'll ever need."

July 18, 2007


SOUTH EDMESTON — Harold G. Potter, 79, of South Edmeston, died March 28, 2006, at the New York State Veterans Home of Oxford.

Harold was born April 23, 1926, in Columbus, the son of William and Mary (Goodspeed) Potter. He was married to Frances Kellogg. She predeceased him in 1996.

He spent his childhood in the town of Columbus area and attended local schools.

Harold is survived by one daughter, Patricia and Ken Decker of Chenango Forks; two sons, Richard and Darlene Kellogg of New Berlin and Robert and Helen Kellogg of Orchard Park; eight grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren; and one sister, Lucille and John Speir of Villarica, Ga. He is also survived by one sister-in-law, Velma Potter of New Berlin; one brother, Lyle Potter of Norwich; and many nieces and nephews.

He was predeceased by Ron and Betty Potter, Ren Potter, Wilma Potter and Ken and Vivian Potter.

Harold was employed by Borden’s of Norwich, prior to entering the United States Army. He later worked on his father’s farm, the South New Berlin Creamery, Kraft Foods of South Edmeston, and was a caretaker for mentally handicapped adults.

He served in the United States Army during World War II, from 1944-1946.

Calling hours will be from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, March 31, 2006, at the Dakin Funeral Home LP, New Berlin.

A funeral service will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, April 1, 2006, at the Dakin Funeral Home LP, New Berlin, with Pastor Jeff McLallen of the South Edmeston Community Church officiating.
Interment will be in the Scribners Cemetery, New Berlin.

Memorial donations may be made to the American Heart Association.

Gotcha!!!! (courtesy of TerpSportsReport.com)

July 17, 2007

Is It Okay to Hold Out?

It pisses all of us off. Some chump holds out because he doesn't feel like he is getting paid what he deserves, even though he negotiated his salary. Most of us fans are "at-will" employees, meaning we don't sign multiyear contracts.

All of us with real jobs know that there are people around us who make more money than we do but have less talent. That's part of the motivation of the American Dream, and that's a big part of our entrepreneurial spirit. If the Boss Man spends six months in St. Kitts with little or no discernible talent, surely we could achieve the same.

Those rules don't apply to the NFL, though. Let's say, hypothetically, that you, as a college player, were the backup to an NCAA career yardage record-shattering RB. Draft time comes around and no one bites. Some crappy quasi-expansion team picks you up, and you end up garnering 1000 yards rushing, plus a good 300 receiving yards, while operating under your UFA NFL-minimum-with-no-signing-bonus contract. Seems far-fetched, but Priest Holmes found himself in such a situation. Luckily, his rookie deal expired when Billick/Modell/Ray-Ray lifted the Lombardi. That, in my opinion, is a perfectly acceptable time to hold out. There are plenty of rookies (Marques Colston) who suddenly find themselves more valuable than the adhesionary contract they signed as low-drafted rookies.

blahblahgigblahblahblahblah I deserve a contract this fuckin' big!

What about a guy who is drafted to start, does start, and does well? Take Asante Samuel for example (drafted 2002 out of Central Florida, started 14.75 games/year since then). Asante plays marginally well off the bat, and then develops into a top-10 cornerback. Now he's a free agent, thank God, and can cash in on his status as a one of the best. Lo and behold, the Pats hit him with the franchise tag, guaranteeing him the average salary of the top 5 corners in the league.

Yeah, the salary cap and franchise tag are negotiated in the collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The NFLPA has Asante's best interests in mind. That's true, except that the NFLPA has the best interests of 32*53=1696 players in mind. Divide that by 24 (11 against 11 plus kicker and punter), and there are 71 players in the league at every position. Divide 1696 by 300,000,000 and then by 71, and only 1 in 25,000 people are good enough (or want to, I'm oversimplifying) to play any given position in the NFL. The CBA takes the 71, on average, people who are physically capable of playing a specific position and says that you, no matter how talented, are as good as the average of the top 5 paid players at your position, IF YOUR TEAM DETERMINES THAT TO BE THE CASE.

I don't have to be an NFLPA attorney to know that the CBA's franchise tag is a real bitch for players. Do the math. If the player would get more than the average salary of the top-five players at his given position, you franchise him. If he's worth less, you play free market economics with him and negotiate. How does this feature benefit the players exactly? They either get what they deserve or they get less than they deserve.

And don't feed me the line about the collective bargaining agreement being actually collectively bargained. The NFLPA is as representative a democracy as our Congress. Some 12th year punter goes to meetings, but Upshaw makes all the calls.

I just can't get mad at a guy for holding out these days, except for rookies who refuse to take their "slot" based on their draft position. Perhaps I'm not Libertarian enough when it comes to NFL player market dynamics.

Culpepper Released

Do you get the sense the Dolphins were waiting for another big NFL story (Vick, perhaps) to bury this one? Nahhhhhhhhhhh. Couldn't be.

The Dolphins finally released Daunte Culpepper today. [You can click the link, or you read this summary: The Dolphins cut Daunte Culpepper.] Initially, I wanted him to backup McNair, but then I read this quote:

"It's sad that it didn't work out for Daunte," Dolphins running back Ronnie Brown said that day. "He's a good guy and he's worked hard and I think he's been a good teammate. Sometimes things just don't work out."

Good guy? Worked hard? To me, he's still hurt. Walk away from the Daunte. I'm looking at you former Vikes offensive coordinator Brian Billick (though he didn't coach Daunte, only Jeff George {gulp}).

If Gibbs Wasn't Too Busy Mediating NASCAR Disputes...

Maybe he should have Vinny "I let the Danny win at racquetball every day to keep my job" Cerrato give a call to Daunte Culpepper's agent (located in the phone directory under D. Culpepper). Culpepper was released today by the Dolphins. If I'm the 'Skins, I give some serious thought to replacing Brunell with Culpepper as my backup QB. Now bear in mind, I have no idea how much veteran instruction Brunell gives Jason Campbell, and if it's substantial, maybe this would be a dumb idea. But given that Brunell was pretty estranged by the whole being benched situation, I doubt that he's been very helpful to Campbell. This is also contingent on Culpepper having his wheels checked out thoroughly by the Skins team doctors. It's entirely possible Culpepper's knees are only in slightly better shape than Barbaro's hooves circa June 2006. But if Culpepper's knees are in somewhat decent shape, and he's not going to take away veteran leadership and instruction from a young QB, I think you seriously consider whether a banged-up Culpepper is better than a banged-up Brunell as your backup QB. Culpepper would have some weapons at WR (better than he had in Miami in my opinion), and would have two excellent running backs to take the pressure off him should he actually have to step into the game.

Vick Indicted under Federal Law

Vick has been indicted under the federal law prohibiting interstate travel in support of dogfighting. I have been aware, since April, that Vick would be indicted, but I have to admit the federal charges are a surprise to me.

blahblahblahblahbl If you have herpes, do you still get raped in the ass in prison?

The federal law is basically state dogfighting law plus the added element of transporting dogs across state lines for the purpose of fighting. I have had insider knowledge about the investigation since April. My informant told me that Virginia would seek an indictment under state law, which this indictment in no way prevents. The federal government and the state government have "dual sovereignty" with regard to crimes for which both jurisidictions have laws against. Hence, the D.C. snipers can be tried in each and every state in which they shot, or shot at, someone, but they can also be tried federally for terrorism and gun possession charges.

My fantasy recommendation: draft Michael Vick after you pick up your RB's backup's backup.

Should Pacman Jones Be Able to Attend Camp?

I really hate to bump the athlete dating show post from the top, but ESPN.com is reporting that Pacman Jones may be allowed to attend training camp. At last check, nearly 75% of ESPN.com readers do not think that Pacman should be allowed to attend training camp.

Here's my two cents (three if we get enough hits!): The NFL, at least under Goodell, is facing the criminal law equivalent of "nature v. nurture". Is the NFL's new low-tolerance suspension system intended to punish offenders, or rather to rehabilitate them? I do not know much about Goodell's politics or personal beliefs, but I have to think that it is in Goodell's interest to appear tough while rehabilitating offenders. There could be nothing better for him than to have the supposed "bad boy" NFL players return and become model citizens.

That's precisely why Tank Johnson's assertion that he would become the NFL's "Man of the Year" was so endearing. He didn't say he'd be the DPOY (since either Ed Reed or Ray Lewis will be anyway), but rather he claimed he would be the best "man" in the NFL. That's something he can control, Arizona police and the Chicago Bears be damned.

I have to admit that I am rooting for Pacman, which might not be a surprise since I also forgave Barry Bonds. If there be one amongst us who does not root for the lovable fuckup (see: Daly, John), I don't want to know that person. I also have an unfortunate admiration for the Titans, partly because I am a Ravens fan and the Titans v. Ravens matchups of the late 90's solidified my undying love for the NFL. It's rare in sports to feel admiration for the rival opponent rather than visceral hatred (Maryland v. Duke, Sox v. Yankmes, etc.).

More to the point, I really respect Jeff Fisher. He's a professional bass fisherman who gets great things out of an undertalented team. They've always been undertalented. Do you realized they struck fear in opponents' hearts with players like Yancey Thigpen, Tyrone Calico, Neil O'Donell, and Frank Wycheck? Other than Steve McNair and Eddie George, Bruce Matthews was their marquis player.

Back to the original concept behind the post. Goodell needs Pacman to clean himself up and play, and play well, for the Titans. If that happens, the system works. If Pacman continues to feed his strip club addiction, the suspension makes the NFL look even more like an oppressive corporation than it already is.

At the very least, punishing the Pacmen and Tanks of the world keeps attention away from steroids talk.

July 16, 2007

Athlete Dating Show Dreams

Last night, I was watching VH1's latest installment to the "Flavor of Love" family of programs, "Rock of Love." If you missed it, imagine Flavor of Love, but with Brett Michaels from Poison instead of Flavor Flav. And instead of ghetto hootchie-mamas, you have bleached-blond rednecks with plastic boobies.

It got me thinking, though. Why are these shows limited to washed up musicians? Why not athletes? I know, I know, we had Jesse Palmer on the Bachelor, and now there's Mark Phillipoussis on that show with the old women desperate to reclaim their youth competing with young hotties who are convinced they'll never get old. I'm not talking about the "respectable" reality dating shows, I want an athlete on a VH1-style train wreck "search for love."

At this point, you're probably saying to yourself "Brien, that's an outstanding idea. But who should the athlete be? And what's the gimmick to make the networks approve the show?" I'm so glad you asked. Here are some suggestions:

Andrei Kirilenko in "Russian Roulette" (VH1, Sundays 10pm)Watch NBA groupies vie for a chance to be Andrei Kirilenko's once-a-year "allowance." Highlights include:

  • Andrei's wife as one of the judges, recommending that he steer clear of the ones with diseases or IV drug habits
  • Shawn Kemp's guest appearance advising Andrei to put birth control in the champagne

A-Rod in "Bride of the Yankees" (YES, Tuesdays 8pm)With A-Rod's marriage in shambles following the back page disclosure of photos of him with a stripper, A-Rod is on the prowl again. Key questions asked during one-on-one time "Do you read the newspaper?" and "What do you think of Derek Jeter?"

John Daly in "You Drive Me Crazy" (ESPN, Thursdays 9:30pm)Nobody in golf is as interesting as John Daly. Nobody in golf is as repulsive to think about in a romantic situation as John Daly. Add to that accusations of spousal abuse (in both directions) and you have the makings of a great reality tv show. The lucky ladies could compete in beer-fetching races and tobacco seed spitting competitions. The final two contestants would, of course, have a boxing match to determine the winner.

Kordell Stewart in "Closet of Love" (Bravo, Mondays 9pm)Now that his playing career is over, Slash can finally make the announcement we've all been waiting for. How mad is Kordell that John Amaechi beat him to the punch? Imagine all the hype surrounding Amaechi's coming out party, but with an athlete you've actually heard of, and with Shannon Sharpe in the Tim Hardaway role. Anyway, now that he waited so long, Kordell is going to have to work harder to make the story interesting. What better way to do that than with a gay dating show. Possible challenge ideas include a snapping contest with Kordell under center, how to give the best Gatorade shower, and towel snapping competitions for power and accuracy.

Your suggestions in the comments...

Incredible Concert Moment

Alright, sorry to go too Simmons-esque with this post, but I stumbled across this incredible concert footage from the Freddie Mercury tribute concert in 1992 in front of 50,000 fans at Wembley Stadium. Elton John sings an excellent version of the song, hearing 50,000 fans sing along is incredible, and at the 2:07 mark, Wembley Stadium simply explodes when the third part of the song is played. Who wouldn't want to have been on the field for this performance???