December 15, 2007

Shaun Hill Leads 49ers to Victory!

In his first start since Amsterdam in 2003 with NFL Europe, "college great" Shaun Hill posted a W over Heisman winner and top draft pick Carson Palmer and the Bengals. Shaun posted a QB rating of 105 and also ran for a TD, leading what had been an anemic offense to 20 pts. (The 49ers have only scored more than 20 pts once this year.) Hopefully this effort along with a strong relief effort last week will lead to a starting role for the rest of the year with Alex Smith on IR. I'm just hoping he can secure his spot as a backup for a few more years. Anything more than that would be incredible. Way to go Shaun!

J-Red's Post

Russell beat me to the post. I had this to say.

All of us at ECB are proud to congratulate Maryland grad and veteran clipboard toter Shaun Hill on his first NFL victory this evening. It was the first victory by a Maryland QB in the NFL since Boomer Esiason led the Bengals in a comeback against the Ravens on December 21, 1997.

Hill went an impressive 21/28 for 197 and TDs rushing (watch here) and passing. He did not lose any turnovers, and even recovered a teammate's fumble.

More importantly, he hooked up with fellow Terp Vernon Davis for his passing TD.

Guess who's a free agent this offseason? Ozzie? Are you listening? Bring Shaun back to us!

Gillespie, Beilein Regretting Their Choices?

I know it's early, but Billy Gillespie and John Beilein have to be dreaming of the greener pastures they left. Billy is now 4-4 at Kentucky, with embarrassing losses to Gardner-Webb and UAB. Beilein has Michigan at 4-7, with embarrassing losses to WKU, Harvard, and Central Mich. Neither team has beaten anyone of note (Oakland is probably the best win for either program).

Meanwhile, Texas A&M and West Virginia both only have 1 loss.

I don't think anyone realistically expects this to last, since both coaches built programs at schools not known for basketball. I see no reason why each won't do well, but you have to wonder why there are so many bad losses already. Did Tubby and Tommy leave the cupboards that bare? Have the players not bought into the new system? Expect the natives to get restless in both places if this continues, though the leash will be longer in Ann Arbor. Billy better hurry up and sign that contract that was "mostly" agreed upon when he was hired.

Also, guess who looks pretty smart right now? Tubby Smith. They love him in Minnesota, expectations are way lower, and the team is 7-1 (only loss at FSU, which all ACC fans know is a tough place to play). He's got to feel great about life right now. Good for him. UK fans never appreciated Tubby for how great a coach he is because he isn't Rick Pitino.

Richest Rodriguez?

"I want the Alabama job."

"No, wait, sorry, I forgot that I had two candidates for the Heisman."

"Oh, we lost to Pittsburgh and blew our shot at the National Championship?"

"Is that Alabama job still available?"

blahblakjskfjakajakahblah Seriously, this is him.

Forget Bobby Petrino. Rich Rodriguez, the head coach at West Virginia (known as West Virginny to those of us here), has always been looking for the next step up. Through the fog of uncertainty comes the gilded hand of Michigan.

The old anti-WVU cheer (that can be printed):

Go back!
Go back!
Go back into the woods!

The new cheer involves Victors Valliant. Step forward into the chilly but receptive airs of Ann Arbor. I see this happening, and I see it happening prior to the bowl game.

Will Michigan ever run an offense as creative as WVU's the past couple years? No. Will Michigan ever be a power again? No. Will Michigan's fall mimic Nebraska's? Yes. Have fun in the only place I would call crappier than Morgantown Coach Rodriguez. It should be....well....something.

It's been pointed out that Rodriguez has a $4M buyout to get out of his commitment to WVU. Former WVU basketball coach John Beilein had a similar $2.5M buyout clause, but the Michigan boosters paid $1.5M on his behalf. You don't think they'd do more for a football coach?

December 14, 2007

8 Easy Steps to Vick's Longer Sentence

Michael Vick's handwritten appeal for leniency prior to sentencing, along with letters from other notable athletes, was touching but failed to sway the judge. Wondering why? Here's how to get the most out of your sentencing range:

1. Commit felonies repeatedly and in multiple jurisdictions over a number of years. Provide all of the funding for the illegal activities and make the significant decisions.

2. When you are discovered, lie in a bald-faced manner to everyone, including your boss (who has been good to you) and the federal prosecutors. (Ever heard of taking the 5th?)

3. Keep separate, better representation from your co-conspirators so that if they don't plea, their chances are much worse than yours.

4. When your pals plea, maintain that you had nothing to do with it.

5. Plea, but only after the feds have a complete case against you with everything necessary to convict.

6. While waiting for sentencing, do drugs. You're already going to jail, might as well, right?

7. Make "a calculated effort to hide the truth" even after copping a plea, and do such a poor job that it's obvious to the feds and your own lawyer can't even dispute it.

8. Send a letter to the judge stating "Throughout this entire case, I've just tried to be honest," and basically stating that you're sorry you got caught. (See steps #2 and #7 on honesty) If you're going to send a letter to the judge after lying to the prosecutors, at least try a different tack than claiming to have been honest.

To further expose the Vick appeal for leniency, let's look at a couple more quotes from someone who was involved in the felonies for multiple years:

"Honestly, I wish I had never been involved in dogfighting," he wrote. "As a result I've lost everything -- my good name, job, endorsements, and now my freedom." TRANSLATION: I wish I hadn't done it, because I got caught. So please reduce my sentence.

[The dogs] "should lead a good life." TRANSLATION: If I can't make money off them, they deserve a good home.

Further, Hank Aaron's letter starts a sentence "From what I understand, ..." Well, if that's not convincing from someone that knows Mike intimately, I don't know what is. Try to find someone that actually knows you for a recommendation. (Mama doesn't count)

Quotes from here and here.

New Lessons for Crooks from Vick, Mitchell

To the snitch go the spoils. If we've learned anything from the Michael Vick dogfighting disaster in Surry County, Virginia, it's to make sure you are the first to the bargaining table with the Feds. Despite admitting to killing two dogs, despite admitting to scouting out the property and despite being the primary trainer of the fighting dogs for a period of time, Tony Taylor received only a two-month sentence for his role in the Vick operation.

I think this is the perfect rebuttal to Carmelo's "Don't Snitch!" DVD campaign. Perhaps the next version should be "Don't Snitch! Unless you aren't fond of significant prison time. Then snitch if you want, and move."

Would-be felons have learned a lot of valuable lessons this week:

  1. Be the first to snitch if you're going to snitch.
  2. If one of your criminal co-conspirators has a falling out with the rest of the group, "take care of him" if something comes up. That doesn't mean silence him, but make sure he knows there's a nice little nest egg waiting for him after he does his time. Why do you think Avon had a G-pack waiting for Cutty?
  3. Don't use personal checks ever, for anything, ever. Ever. I'm only slightly surprised none of the memos read "steroids" or "performance enhancing drugs". Why do I think Mike Piazza and some other Mets of the 1998-2005 period have "Straight Cash, Homey!" stuck in their heads today?
  4. Don't have contraband sent to your home or work address via registered mail or Fed-Ex. You are a professional athlete. If you are a platoon catcher in Milwaukee, some misguided 20-year-old will still let you use him as a front to buy "presents" for your "niece". "Sure Kenny, I'll swing by and pick that package up this weekend. Tell your Mom I love her strudel!"
  5. Don't ever speak to Larry Bigbie.

Tracking the Terps - Sam Hollenbach

The Redskins signed former Terps QB Sam Hollenbach to their practice squad this afternoon. That's actually great news considering that Mark Brunell is almost certainly retiring in the offseason and the Redskins have so few draft picks to burn on QB flyers. In fact, this move seems to have been made with that in mind, as it was done so late in the season.

And if you don't think being a clipboard toter is a big deal another former Terps QB, Shaun Hill, is making his first career NFL start...after toting the clipboard for six years without throwing a pass in a game. In a QB-deprived league the former NFL Europe star could turn himself into a backup overnight.

[Read USA Today's article on Shaun Hill]

Cutcliffe to DUKE!?!?!

That's right, the quarterback coach known for grooming both Mannings to NFL successes (and Heath Shuler to western North Carolina congressional success) is now taking the reins of a storied NCAA franchise.

Yes! Duke Football! David Cutcliffe, formerly the Offensive Coordinator of not-embarassing Tennessee, will have to meet such lofty standards as winning one ACC game each season, as well as convincing his players to not rape strippers from North Carolina Central. A lofty task for many, but when you make Heath Shuler and Tee Martin look like NFLers, the sky is the limit.

If you're worried that Cutcliffe won't be able to motivate his players in front of an empty home "stadium", you're mistaken! Cutcliffe got a lot out of mediocre Tennessee QBs in practices before upwards of 500 people. There's no reason to think he can't recreate that magic at Duke.

I, for one, can't see how Duke won't be one of the top teams in the ACC soon. It is obvious that Virginia Tech, Boston College, Miami, Florida State and Clemson are just dying to win only five games next year. Sadly, five wins for Duke would put Cutcliffe on the fast track to an NFL job, the way things are going now.

Have you ever heard of Kirk Ferentz? He made Iowa respectable one season and became the talk of the NFL. He's currently 73-70 in NCAA and 38-34 in the Big Tenleven. Yeah, that was enough to make him a coaching candidate in the NFL.

Good work Cutcliffe. You hung around just enough Mannings to make it to the big time: Duke.

December 13, 2007

Something Remarkable Happened at the Terps Game Last Night...

No, not the fact that we lost by 6 to MAC-middle-feeder Ohio after being down by as much as 17 in the second half. I booed at a Maryland sporting event. I booed the team wearing the Maryland uniform. I booed once following a Terp turnover that led to Ohio scoring off their third offensive rebound of the possession, but I still booed. To pirate my own comments on the subject posted at

Seriously, I will admit that I booed. It was the first time I have ever booed a Maryland team at a sporting event. It was almost subconscious. I didn't even think of the significance when I was doing it. But I was just so dumbfounded by the absolute atrocity of an effort I was seeing out on the floor, it was reflexive. It's one thing when a team just gets beaten because they played a better team. It's a whole other matter when a team gets beaten because they come out flat and play like they couldn't give a damn. That's what we saw tonight.

I also mentioned earlier in my response that I hope the team heard the boos and responds the way that the 2000-2001 team responded after getting booed at home following a loss to F$U in what we commonly refer to as the "Valentine's Day Massacre." It was following that game that Juan Dixon shot alone in the dark at Cole Field House until 3am and the team made the Final Four. They banded together to show up the fans. Unfortunately this team doesn't have leadership and in my mind doesn't have players with the heart that Dixon and Blake brought to the 2000-2001 squad.

I've already been warned by co-posters that I'm going to catch hell for posting this and that in their minds it was pretty shitty of me to boo a bunch of 18 and 19 year-old college kids. However, I think that unless you were actually watching the display on the court last night in person, and placed in a situation watching guys wearing your school's uniform lay a total egg against a team that they should beat on any given night by 30, and experience the low point in your program's existence since the Bob Wade era, you can't really talk. And besides, after I got the one boo out of me, all I could really do was laugh. And think that for the fans who were actually sporting authentic Ohio Bobcat basketball uniforms in my section, they were able to lay claim to witnessing the greatest win in the history of Ohio Bobcat basketball.

Clemens' Denial Noticeably Lacks Denial

[Update: Perhaps Rusty Hardin now knows the difference between denying allegations and denying conduct. In another statement on Thursday, Hardin stated, "Roger Clemens adamantly, vehemently, and whatever other adjectives can be used, denies that he has ever used steroids or ... improper substances." THAT'S a conduct denial, and a strong one.]

Roger Clemens is being represented by Houston-area attorney Rusty Hardin, who issued this statement according to the Houston Chronicle:

Roger Clemens vehemently denies allegations in the Mitchell report that he used performance-enhancing steroids, and is outraged that his name is included in the report based on the uncorroborated allegations of a troubled man threatened with federal criminal prosecution. Roger has been repeatedly tested for these substances and he has never tested positive. There has never been one shred of tangible evidence that he ever used these substances and yet he is being slandered today.

The statement goes on further, questioning the credibility of Brian McNamee, Clemens' former trainer, but let's focus on the denial.

1) Roger Clemens vehemently denies allegations...that he used. Which allegations? All allegations? A couple allegations? Is there a little detail that the report didn't quite get perfectly accurate? One would think a big-shot attorney knows the differences between denying vaguely-defined allegations and denying conduct.

2) Roger has been repeatedly tested. Yeah, but the report alleged use in 1998 and 2000. Certainly Roger could have moved on to HGH before steroid testing began.

3) [No] shread of tangible evidence. So? That's true, at least from what we know now. These guys were allegedly engaged in an illegal conspiracy. They probably were careful to limit tangible evidence. Plus, maybe Roger wasn't dumb enough to use personal checks when obtaining his raw materials.

So the "denial" states three things that are undeniably true. Yet, it lacks these words:

"Roger Clemens never used any performance-enhancing drugs, including steroids or human growth hormone."

There is no direct denial that Clemens used steroids. In our public experience, this is a non-denial denial. If tangible evidence comes to light, or if Roger fails a test, the denial does not contain a single untruth. It's a typical weasel denial, and I give it no weight.

Mitchell Report Response

It's 2:40 p.m., forty minutes after the Mitchell Report was released.

I'm already over it. Almost all of the revelations in the report come from either collected news reports or the leads provided by Radomski and McNamee. David Segui, for example, appears to have introduced steroids everywhere he went. To me, that means these names are just the tip of the iceberg, and just the people who bought through the revealed channels.

So what have we learned? Pretty much nothing. Crappy players juiced. Good players juiced. That indicates to me that a fairly large portion of MLB juiced. Of course, because the only discovered streams of steroids supply were through Radomski, many teams were nearly entirely spared by the report, including the Red Sox and Yankees.

Now they'll use HGH. I guess we just need to live with this reality.

The Mitchell Report Names

"Big" names bolded. Orioles/Nats italicized.

Lenny Dykstra
David Segui
Larry Bigbie
Brian Roberts
Jack Cust
Tim Laker

Josias Manzanillo
Todd Hundley
Mark Carreon
Hal Morris
Matt Franco
Rondell White
Roger Clemens
Andy Pettitte

Chuck Knoblauch
Jason Grimsley
Gregg Zaun
David Justice
F.P. Santangelo
Glenallen Hill
Mo Vaughn
Denny Neagle
Ron Villone
Ryan Franklin
Chris Donnels
Todd Williams
Phil Hiatt
Todd Pratt
Kevin Young
Mike Lansing
Cody McKay
Kent Mercker
Adam Piatt
Miguel Tejada
Jason Christiansen
Mike Stanton
Stephen Randolph
Jerry Hairston, Jr.
Paul Lo Duca
Adam Riggs
Bart Miadich
Fernando Vina
Kevin Brown
Eric Gagne
Mike Bell
Matt Herges
Gary Bennett, Jr.
Jim Parque
Brendan Donnelly
Chad Allen
Jeff Williams
Howie Clark
Nook Logan

The other names come from already released public reports (Rick Ankiel, Gary Matthews, Jr., Paul Byrd, Gibbons, Canseco, etc.)

Highlights of Mitchell Briefing


--All 30 teams are involved.

--Jeremy Schapp named Paul Lo Duca among others who wrote checks to the Mets equipment manager. Lo Duca was just traded to the Nats.

--The 5-7% of players who tested positive in the past certainly underestimates the number who actually used steroids and HGH.

--Hundreds of thousands of youths are using steroids as a direct result of seeing the professionals do the same.

--Every player included in the report was given an opportunity to respond, and all current players declined the invitation. This means Tejada and Lo Duca, both recently traded, knew they were in the report.

--11 players admitted that Radomski supplied them. McNamee, the trainer for Clemens and Pettitte, turned over names.

--Players switched from oil-based steroids, which remain in the body longer, to water-based steroids and HGH.

--Current testing regime still falls short of best practices in drug testing.

--Some recommendations can be performed unilaterally, but some require amendment of the CBA.

--Three-fold plan:

1) Many things cannot be tested for, and testing only scratches the surface. There must be meaningful investigative power, and MLB should create a department of investigations to look into allegations.

2) Improved education

3) Drug testing remains important element to comprehensive approach. Testing is in place until 2011, so the CBA must be amended to change this process.

--The investigative program should be run by a person with complete independence.

--Penalties can only be based on the regime in place at the time of the alleged conduct

Early Mitchell Names

Numerous sources are reporting that Miguel Tejada, Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte are among the names in the Mitchell Report.

Also included, Orioles 2B Brian Roberts, along with David Justice, Mike Stanton, Chuck Knoblauch, and Jason Grimsley.

It should be noted that we don't yet know the context in which these names are included.

How is that Tejada trade looking now?

Week 15 NFL Against the Spread Picks

We're definitely nearing crunch time, with Jeremy and Brien duking it out for the lead with J-Red just on the fringe.

Brien (36-32-2 for .529)

A few more 4-1 weeks and I'll regain my rightful place at the top.

NY GIANTS (-4) over Washington - The Redskins still suck, and the Giants are trying to secure a home playoff game. [J-Red's note: The only way the Giants could have a home playoff game is if 5 beats 4, 6 beats 3, 5 beats 2 and 6 beats 1. Then the NFC Championship would be at the Meadowlands.]

CLEVELAND (-5.5) over Buffalo - I see no reason to stop picking the Browns.

Tennessee (-4) over KANSAS CITY - At this point in the year, I like to pick teams with a shot at making the playoffs over teams that have already been eliminated.

HOUSTON (PK) over Denver - In the last month and change, the Broncos have lost @OAK, @CHI, and @DET. I think the Texans can handle them.

CAROLINA (+7) over Seattle - I had a really hard time finding a 5th game to pick, so when in doubt, go with the home dog getting a touchdown.

Jeremy (36-28-6 for .557) & Magic 8 Ball (39-25-6 for .600)

Jeremy's Picks:

Well a stinker of a week helped make this a race down to the wire. And given my lack of experience picking games before the season, if you were betting on a field vs. Jeremy to win it all, I'd take the field. We're also at the point where Vegas knows who the good teams are and adjusts the spreads accordingly. No more gimme games. On to the picks, and the pressure is on this week:

Seattle (-7) over CAROLINA - Seattle has to make the tough trip 3,000 miles east, but they have the firepower to beat a dreadful Panthers team and cover this spread.

Chicago (+9.5) over MINNESOTA - I'd like the extra half point to increase the odds of a push. Call me crazy, but the Vikings are a pretty one-dimensional team and the Bears' run defense is pretty staunch.

Indianapolis (-10.5) over OAKLAND - Fear the Colts. They are more balanced on offense than the Pats. Oakland isn't THAT much better than the Ravens. We all know what happened last weekend.

Baltimore (-3) over MIAMI - Listen, I've heard all the talk about how terrible it would be if the Ravens lost. Not going to happen. There are numerous college teams that could beat the 'Fins.

NEW ORLEANS (-3.5) over Arizona - Saints passing attack versus the 24th-ranked pass defense in the league, on the Superdome turf. I like the Saints.

Magic 8 Ball Picks:

CAROLINA (+7) over Seattle - "Signs point to yes." [Panthers beating spread]

Chicago (+9.5) over MINNESOTA - "No" [Vikings won't beat spread]

Indianapolis (-10.5) over OAKLAND - "My answer is no." [Raiders won't beat spread]

Baltimore (-3) over MIAMI - "No" [Dolphins won't beat spread]

Arizona (+3.5) over NEW ORLEANS - "My answer is no." [Saints won't beat spread]

J-Red (34-33-2 for .507)

NY GIANTS (-4) over Washington - I can't even begin to explain how this is a no-brainer for me. The Giants are already far and above the best wild card team in the NFC, and they can cement that against the drained Skins and Todd Collins.

PITTSBURGH (-4) over Jacksonville - Did someone say nasty weather?

New York Jets (+24.5) over NEW ENGLAND - Did someone say nasty weather?

DALLAS (-10) over Philly - Philly has absolutely nothing left to play for, even in a heated rivalry game.

Baltimore (-3) over MIAMI - Yeah, I'm scared. I just don't like any of the other lines.

Russell (30-38-2 for .443)

Another set of picks that deserve no confidence from me or anyone else. I'm back to picking all road teams.

Cincy (-8) over SAN FRAN - The Bungles appear to have figured things out, and Shaun Hill (Go Terps!) doesn't have enough talent around him to pull out a close game. [J-Red's note: Only on this blog would the problem with the 49ers be that SHAUN HILL doesn't have enough around him.]

Arizona (+3.5) over NEW ORLEANS - Pass defense? What's that? And Bush is either out or at half speed.

Jacksonville (+4) over PITTSBURGH - Take JAX to win.

Seattle (-7) over CAROLINA - The Seahawks are pretty good, if you haven't noticed.

Green Bay (-9.5) over ST LOUIS - What's gone right for the Rams this year? Nothing.


Jeremy - BAL, CHI, IND, NO, SEA
Russell - ARI, CIN, GB, JAX, SEA
Magic 8 - ARI, BAL, CAR, CHI, IND


Magic 8 (39-25-6 for .600)
Jeremy (36-28-6 for .557 -- 3 GB)
Brien (36-32-2 for .529 -- 5 GB, 2 GB Jeremy)
J-Red (34-33-3 for .507 -- 6.5 GB, 3.5 GB Jeremy)
Russell (30-38-2 for .443 -- 11 GB, 8 GB Jeremy)

All of us: 175-156-19 for .527
Humans: 136-131-13 for .509

Ohio: 61 - MD: 55

Apparently I was a bit too hasty with my last post on the Terps. Following a tough loss to a pretty good BC team, the Terps laid an egg at home against Ohio University (not Ohio State, Ohio U). They came out flat and unemotional, had trouble scoring points all night, and lacked a sense of urgency until the game was already decided. Maryland didn't even attempt a free throw until the second half, which shows a clear lack of aggression.

Even so, they had their chances to win the game. From 5:00 left in the game until 0:28 left, Ohio didn't score a single point. In that time, Maryland only managed to take the lead down from 12 points to 3 points. When an opponent keeps leaving the door open like that, a good team will rise to the occasion and make them pay.

The loss can't be pinned on any one player, the whole team looked bad for the entire game. It wasn't as if Ohio got lucky and shot the lights out, or that the Terps got screwed by foul trouble. The Bobcats simply outplayed the Terps for 35 minutes, and then held on for the win.

At this point, an NCAA tournament berth for Maryland looks like a long shot. They're 6-5 with 4 losses to unranked teams, and two losses at home. They don't have a road/neutral win. They still have to play a good Holy Cross team and travel to Charlotte before starting the ACC schedule. After last night, I'm not sure how the Terps are going to find 8 conference wins, and even that might not even be enough.

This would all be easier to take if we could say how young the team is and look ahead to next year, but that's not the case. There are a lot of underclassmen on the team, but the two biggest inside threats (Gist and Boom) are both seniors, and I'm not sure how we're going to replace them next season.

[As we likely will point out every game, check out It Never Rains in College Park for additional game analysis.]

More Petrino Fallout

Apparently the entire Falcons team now sees fit to publicly call Petrino a coward after he phoned in his resignation to Arthur Blank. How surprised should they be? Here is Petrino's coaching resume:

1983 - Carroll (GA)
1984 - Weber State (GA)
1985-1986 - Carroll (OC)
1987-1988 - Weber State (WR/TE)
1989-1991 - Idaho (QB, 1990-91 OC)
1992-1993 - Arizona State (QB)
1994 - Nevada (OC/QB)
1995-1997 - Utah State (OC)
1998 - Louisville (OC)
1999-2001 - Jacksonville Jaguars (QB, 2001 OC)
2002 - Auburn (OC)
2003-2006 - Louisville
2007 - Atlanta Falcons
2008-present - Arkansas

So in the course of 25 years, Bobby Petrino's longest stay anywhere was four seasons as the head coach at Louisville. Otherwise, he has averaged about 1.8 years per stop. You can't blame a guy too much for early career moves, but how many guys have been offensive coordinator at seven places and head coach at three? And, don't forget, he tried to get a new head coaching spot after each of his four Louisville seasons, including his famous undermining of Tuberville at Auburn.

And seriously Redskins, Petrino was Mark Brunell's QB coach in Jacksonville and you couldn't get ANYTHING for him this year? Are you even trying to draft?

December 12, 2007

Travis Henry's Victory a Hollow One for Others

Following a lengthy battle, including a hearing in federal court, Travis Henry won his battle and was not suspended. During this battle and of his own accord, Henry took a lie-detector test and submitted a hair sample to prove his innocence. The reason for the appeal in court was that an expert of the player's choosing was not present during the league's test of his sample. This all happened over a week ago, so you're probably wondering why I think it's still relevant. The relevance is hidden in the details of the decision and the league's actions, and the major media outlets (ESPN and CNNSI) paid no attention.

Most major sports leagues which have drug policies exercise a dictatorship over the process and its results, and the players' appeals are usually fruitless. No better example of this exists than the Floyd Landis case. Floyd spent millions of dollars over more than a year to demonstrate that the lab had conducted the test incorrectly, and in spite of gross errors noted in the final decision, he was still found guilty. There are other examples as well, but I don't know of any in which a player has been able to overturn a guilty decision when appealing based on problems with the test, testers, or testing procedure. This leads to the critical question: "How can an athlete prove his/her innocence if falsely accused?"

Travis Henry was a trailblazer, submitting to every reasonable method of testing to determine if he had smoked dope in the last month. He was proactive and did everything he could to actively prove his innocence rather than just disputing the findings of the NFL's lab. This could have established a benchmark, an acceptable method for players to challenge what they consider to be a false positive. While a hair sample might not work for all drugs, this could have set a precedent to build from. Instead of Floyd just saying "I'm innocent", Henry provided tangible evidences using trusted tests. What was the NFL's response?

"The defense of hair samples and lie detector tests was irrelevant and unconvincing," said League spokeman Greg Aiello. And to further squelch the concept, Mike Shanahan was fined for mentioning his belief in Henry after the two tests came back negative. So I might be able to accept that the tests were "irrelevant" since the appeal was primarily based on the presence of the expert, but "unconvincing"? That was directly intended to establish that players could not perform tests to show their innocence (regardless of the validity of the tests), and by the way, coaches and players aren't allowed to comment about it or they'll be fined. I understand playing in the NFL is a privilege, and every player should be above suspicion. But no test is perfect. Assuming 50 players on 32 teams, that's 1600 players to test. If 99.9% of the test's positives are correct, that's still 1 or 2 false positives every year, and I would bet that with human error, depending on the test, 99.9% is optimistic. Plus, each player is subjected to multiple tests since many different substances are banned.

What can a player do if there's a false positive? So many people have tried the "I'm innocent!" cry wolf defense that no one buys that any more. But they can't perform their own tests because those are "unconvincing". When the first offense is 4 games and close to 1/4 of the year's salary, a false positive is a big deal. And this doesn't even get into conspiracy theories about the French lab that does all the cycling tests.

In a country that believes in innocent until proven guilty, with so much money and public respect (think slander/libel) at stake, players deserve a manner by which to defend themselves. If they do not have one, we are one corrupt commissioner or lab away from the Salem witchcraft trials or McCarthy's Red scare in the '50s.

The presence of an expert (not guaranteed in all sports) prevents this to some extent, but the false positive problem must be addressed. No test is perfect, but we treat them as if they are. For cycling, where teams pull out of the Tour after a positive test, a false positive is even more damaging. It's time for cooler heads to prevail, with a reasonable system including some sort of check on the currently unlimited power of the League office and its equivalents.

Tejada Traded to the Astros

The Orioles obtained five players from the Houston Astros, as well as $13M/yr in salary relief, by trading Miguel Tejada. The players are OF Luke Scott, 3B prospect Michael Costanzo, and pitchers Matt Albers, Troy Patton and Dennis Sarfate.

I'm not going to pretend to know anything about them. Troy Patton told the Houston Chronicle, "It's true. It's kind of really disappointing, honestly." Sounds like he and Aubrey Huff can argue over who thinks Baltimore is a more horseshit town.

blahblahblah This is Luke Scott. You know what Miggy looks like.

According to Bill Ordine of the Baltimore Sun, Luke Scott is a 30-year-old who hit .255 with 18 homers and 64 RBIs last year. For most teams, that would not be an upgrade. According to Wikipedia, he is also a devout Christian and is fluent in Spanish. Albers was 4-11 with a 5.86 ERA. The other two pitchers (Patton and Sarfate) have 18 major league games between them. The 3B, Costanzo, is supposedly the prospect of the bunch.

So is this a good trade? Ask me tomorrow at 2p. That's when the Mitchell Report comes out.

"Spiteful" Wins

According to, "Lupul, Umberger hat-tricks guide Flyers to spiteful win". Ignoring why "hat-tricks" is inexplicably hyphenated, the story recounts the Flyers 8-2 fight-filled win over the Penguins.

Since the Pats play the Jets again this weekend, I am concerned that professional athletes find additional motivation in certain games against undermatched opponents (though the Flyers and Penguins are equals thus far). If the Pats are the best team in football, and are capable of putting 45+ points on every team, what will they do when they want a "spiteful" win? That seems to be the question everyone is asking, even after it was revealed tonight that the Jets videotaped the Pats sideline at Foxboro last year.

More importantly, how could I make the Ravens more spiteful than they already are?

December 11, 2007

Petrino Takes Arkansas Job; Leaves Falcons Immediately

[Updated 7:01 p.m.]

Um, what? I actually sat through the horrors of last night's Falcons-Saints game (in which Chris Redman played reasonably well), and thought to myself that Bobby Petrino seemed to enjoy coaching the team through all their adversity this year. I think I even recall Arthur Blank commending Petrino when he was in the MNF booth.

Tonight ESPN reports that Petrino is off to Arkansas, and will not coach the remaining three games.

Note to GMs: NEVER HIRE A COLLEGE COACH. NEVER. NEVER NEVER NEVER. Ok, maybe you can hire June Jones if he suddenly appears to want back in, but otherwise NEVER.

On the other hand, I'm not going to muster the venom I had for Nick Saban because Petrino did this in private. He never stood up and said he had no interest in a particular job, only to leave weeks later. The report states that Petrino and his agent had talked to Atlanta about his desire to return to college, but Peter King reports that Blank first heard of Petrino's desire to bolt today. People make mistakes, like Billy Donovan and Rich Rodriguez almost did, and despite the short notice to Blank, I still can't be too upset with him. King does remind me that it was a rough go early on for Petrino though, and some players might have disliked him from the start.

My guess for interim coach would be Offensive Coordinator Hue Jackson. Atlanta is going to be training a new quarterback next year, so give the guy a shot to see if he might have the tools to make it work. Jackson was himself a QB at Pacific, and prior to this year he was the WRs coach for the Bengals. Oh, and this is totally irrelevant, but he happens to be African-American too, which would play well in Atlanta in the post-Vick era.

Why do I think Matt Ryan just jumped ahead of Boehm on their board though? Sigh....

ESPN is Desperate...

...for news that does not involve dogfighting or steroids. As proof, I offer this gem. And, as I recall, Davy did it with his bare hands. Guns are for wusses.

December 10, 2007

Monday Quick Hitters

Tom Brady Hypocrisy - Peter King laid more praise on Tom Brady in his MMQB column on CNNSI. He noted that Tom Brady always says the right thing, in response to Brady's comments on Pittsburgh safety Anthony Smith's guarantee. Brady said "Well done is better than well said." Peter King achieved an erection upon hearing this, and asked Brady where he learned that line. Brady responded via text message, "Ben Franklin said that. I learn where we all have, my dad!" Yes, the exclamation point was in the original.

That is a perfect response. It evokes good clean-cut white boy nuclear family values, and makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

So where is Bridget Moynahan's son going to learn?

blabakahshblah Who will teach Ben Franklin quotes to this fetus?

Colts win SB XLII - Monday night the Patriots were given all they could handle by a highly motivated Ravens team, who looked every bit the Pats' equal. Sunday night the Ravens couldn't even give the Colts the work they would have gotten in Week 2 in the preseason, looking totally unmotivated to play the team that knocked them out of the playoffs last year. For the next 5 weeks (one a bye for both teams), New England is going to be hit harder and face motivated competition. The Colts will just continue to slowly roll through teams (even while resting Marvin Harrison). That's going to take a toll on New England, and I'm certainly not writing off Peyton up at Foxboro in the AFC Championship Game.

Start Digging for Oil - PSLs in the lower deck at the new Cowboys stadium will range from $16,000 to $150,000. Further, they only last 30 years. They should be called "temporary seat licenses" rather than "permanent seat licenses." The tickets will be about $270 per seat per game. That means a 10-game home schedule (two preseason games are the same price) will cost a Dallas fan $2700 per seat per season, after he pays somewhere between the price for a new Ford Pickup and a split-level rancher, depending on how good the seats are, for the PSL.
blahkjakjakablahblah Your ass here, only $150,000.

It has come to my attention that some people are not familiar with the PSL. When many teams build a new stadium, they exact a fee for the right to buy tickets. It is a "license", in a legal sense, to purchase tickets to future events and use the seat itself during those events. PSLs seem evil, and probably are since Al Davis created them. In Oakland and Baltimore PSLs range from $1000 to $3000, which is just enough to discourage ticket brokers from buying season tickets directly. In that sense, they can be good. When they rise above $10,000, the team is basically trying to shut out "undesirables". This is how you get crowds like Carolina has, where everyone politely sits in their polos and khakis and responds appropriately when the scoreboard tells them they should.
I ate Vick's dogs.
Vick Sentenced - Michael Vick was sentenced to 23 months in federal prison for his role as the ringleader of a dogfighting operation. This was in excess of the 12 to 18 month recommended sentence under the federal guidelines. Vick has been serving his time since last month.
Guitar Hero cheat code
He's almost certainly done in the NFL now. His sentence is harsh, but considering that his financial backing was a "but for" cause of the illegal behavior, it's not shocking. But for Vick, these four men would not have committed these crimes.
Tom Brady sex tape
Please don't forget, as the national media has, that Vick faces up to five years on Virginia charges stemming from the same operations. Any time assessed there would not be served concurrently.

BC: 81 - Maryland: 78

It was another tough loss for the Terps last night, and KGoon1590 from INRICP voices the frustration most fans are feeling today. Being 6-4 at this point in the season is definitely rough, and losing a winnable home ACC game will probably come back to haunt Maryland.

Maybe I'm too optimistic, maybe I'm looking at the world through Terps colored glasses, or maybe I've lowered my expectations too far, but I found a lot to like about the team's performance.

Towards the end of the game I found myself (not for the first time this season) thinking back to the NCM/Chis McCray/Mike Jones teams of a few years ago. That was a group of players with a huge amount of talent who never quite lived up to expectations. It wasn't just that they underachieved (relative to the expectations the Dixon/Baxter/Blake teams had set), it was the way all the games seemed to go. I remember many games during those years where the Terps would allow an overmatched opponent to hang around all game. Other times, the team would seem to fall asleep for 10+ minutes of game time, allowing the other team to take a commanding lead or eat away at the Terps' advantage. Basically, they never seemed to play hard for 40 minutes, unless Coach K was sitting on the opposing bench.

This year's team feels a lot different. They remind me a lot of the Emerald Nuts Bowl-bound Maryland football team. They're going to lose some frustrating games, but it won't be for lack of effort. It was really great to see the Terps (without emotional leader Greivis Vasquez, more on that below) keep fighting at the end of the game, even after it seemed hopeless. Maryland was down 9 with 2:05 left to play, and rallied to be down 3 with the ball at 0:03 left. That kind of heart and determination will pay dividends as the season goes on.

The foul on Greivis seemed uncalled for, but I understand punching the basket support is an automatic technical. It would be nice if the referees were given discretion in the enforcement of the rule. Unfortunately, NCAA basketball officials have repeatedly proven themselves unable to enforce the rules as they are written, much less make difficult judgment calls. Ultimately, it's absurd for a player to be given a fifth foul for expressing frustration with himself, provided he doesn't show up the official. Unfortunately, that's not how the rules are written, and it is Greivis' responsibility to know the rules (and Gary's responsibility to make sure the players know the rules). In the end, if Greivis' emotion costs him a technical foul every once in a while, I consider that a fair trade. It's just too bad that this technical came at the worst possible moment for the Terps.

One other thought from the game: it was great to see the end of the Landon Milbourne "Invisible Man" routine. He really stepped his game up in the second half. Hopefully we'll see more of the same from him the rest of the way.

Update 8:40pm: I logged in to Facebook this evening and was reminded of why I'm such a big Vasquez fan:
That just about says it all, doesn't it?

December 9, 2007

NFL Trick Play of the Year is calling this a fleaflicker, but that's inaccurate. A fleaflicker is a handoff-pitchback-deep throw. This is technically a triple pass, in that Brady cross-field lateraled to Moss (who dropped the ball and then picked it up, resulting in a lost fumble credited against Brady fantasy fans), Moss cross-field lateraled back to Brady, and Brady hit Gaffney deep. Had Moss not dropped the lateral, Gaffney would have been ridiculously open. Instead, he was just very open.

Week 14 NFL Against the Spread Recap and Standings

Jeremy doesn't look so invincible anymore. Brien put together a 4-1 week and is back within reasonable striking distance should Jeremy falter.


Brien (4-1-0) - CHI, CLE, MIN, NYG, SD
Jeremy (2-3-0)- BUF, CLE, DAL, PHI, PIT
J-Red (2-3-0) - CLE, DAL, MIA, NE, TB
Russell (2-3-0) - BUF, CHI, DAL, NYJ, SEA
Magic 8 (3-2-0) - BUF, DAL, NE, NYG, NYJ


Magic 8 (39-25-6 for .600)
Jeremy (36-28-6 for .557 -- 3 GB)
Brien (36-32-2 for .529 -- 5 GB, 2 GB Jeremy)
J-Red (34-33-3 for .507 -- 6.5 GB, 3.5 GB Jeremy)
Russell (30-38-2 for .443 -- 11 GB, 8 GB Jeremy)

All of us: 175-156-19 for .527
Humans: 136-131-13 for .509