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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

College Football Playoff

Well, we finally have a playoff.....sort of.

I know there are a lot of thoughts flying around the blogosphere and the airwaves about whether this is progress, or just the top 1% throwing the fans a bone.  I have to say, I am not a huge fan of the proposed "playoff'".  You can look at last year, to see how little it is going to improve things. 

Last year, we had a huge debate about whether 2 teams who had already played, should play again for the national title.  We also have a huge game about what to do with the teams who were in the dicussion, and people are acting like it was a given who the top 4 teams in the country were, Alablama, LSU, Oklahoma State, and Stanford.

To that,  I have one glaring question.....What about the Oregon Ducks?  The destroyed the Stanford Cardinal in the last month of the season, exposing the lack of overall team speed for the team from Palo Alto. 

I know, they had 2 losses, but they were demonstratively better than a team that some were arguing should be in the national title game.  Now, I know we all recognize that Stanford was no better than #4 overall after they lost to the Cowboys, but this is about who gets a shot right? 

I will give that taking the top 4 teams in the country gives us a better chance to get the best 2 included, and that is is absolutely a step in the right direction.  However, why do we need to work in a hybrid system that keeps the existing bowl situation in place?

Why not go to a full playoff?

We can debate if we should limit it at 8 teams, or go bigger, as those are logistic arguments that have valid issues.  But taking or creating 3 games, and leaving the remainder in place is not necessary.  It is holding onto history for history's sake. 

I am hopeful that this is the first step, and that they are being conservative so that they can show the money to the presidents and other approvers.  But, I have to say that i am not in a great state of mind about this change.  I see this as being more of the same, with 2 more of the big boys getting a shot.

What we need is a setup that encourages parity, not a setup that encourages the status quo.  People love to argue that we should have the 'best' teams and not give automatic bids to league champions.  The problem there is that there is no reason for top recruits to consider the non-BCS schools.  But, if a top team in a lower-tier conference can sell a likely shot at the national title, they have the chance to compete for the top players in their region, and therefore compete overall.

To my mind, that is where we should be driving basketball to go.  You can see the results of this in basketball, whose tournament is held up as the paragon that football should aspire to.  The mid-majors have a single big per conference, which allows them to get solid players into those leagues, giving us teams like Wichita State, Virginia Commonweath, Creighton, and Gonzaga.  Some of those teams have raised the profile of their leagues while others have been able to jump to better leagues.  Their fans have real excitement that they have a shot to make noise on the national level, and that should be what it's all about.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Penn State will pay

Penn State will pay for Sandusky scandal, but not by NCAA

If you think the NCAA should punish Penn State, prepare to be disapointed
Jerry Sandusky’s punishment is just the beginning. Who else will pay for their involvement in the scandal will soon be seen.
Jerry Sandusky was convicted on 45 of 48 charges related to child molestation Friday night in Bellfonte, Pennsylvania. While justice was ultimately served to one of the new signature child molesters in our country, more punishments will be handed out in time for those who either decided to allow Sandusky’s actions to continue, or just turned a blind eye to incidents playing out in front of their own eyes.
The judicial system will play out for Gary Schultz and Tim Curley, and given the developments of the case it could only be a matter of time before the legal process catches up with Graham Spanier. With so many close ties to officials at Penn State, and given the history between Sandusky and the university and football program, many have been quick to calling for NCAA legislation, some going so far as to call for the heaviest of NCAA sanctions, the death penalty.
The first line in the NCAA’s outline of principles of institutional control should put Penn State at some ease.
“In determining whether there has been a lack of institutional control when a violation of NCAA rules has been found it is necessary to ascertain what formal institutional policies and procedures were in place at the time the violation of NCAA rules occurred and whether those policies and procedures, if adequate, were being monitored and enforced.”
While what happened at Penn State as it relates to Jerry Sandusky was grotesque, disturbing, and shockingly happening on Penn State’s campus there was never a violation of NCAA rules. Without a single NCAA rule broken, the issue of institutional control should be put to rest. This will not be settling news to some who want to see more punishments handed out, but it is the reality of the situation.
As it relates to the NCAA, Penn State’s alleged chain of command did fail to handle the situation, but without NCAA rules being broken there is little ground for any case for NCAA sanctions to stand firm, despite the strong verbiage used that could easily point out the potential faults of former Penn State president and Bowl Championship Series Presidential Oversight Chairman Graham Spanier.
“Obviously, general institutional control is exercised by the chief executive officer of a member institution,” the NCAA outlines. “However, it is rare that the chief executive officer will make decisions specifically affecting the operations of the institution’s athletics program.”
Spanier, now out of a job, will have larger issues to worry about than what would have happened to his school if the NCAA had a case to handle here.

The NCAA also notes that at larger institutions, including Penn State, it is expected that an outline of a chain of command should be put in place, dividing responsibilities to athletic directors, head and assistant coaches and other assistants where needed. Each member of the school and athletic department staff is then responsible for upholding NCAA standards.
“Their failure to control those matters so as to prevent violations of NCAA rules will be considered the result of a lack of institutional control.”
While various coaches and athletic department and university staff officials do seem to have fallen short of upholding the law, no NCAA violations were covered up in the Sandusky scandal. While that will not sit well with most, this is the only reason the NCAA would take a look in to Penn State. Simply put, there is no NCAA case for sanctions here.
Section C of the principles defining control outlines the acts that are likely to demonstrate a lack of institutional control. Again, while some of the acts describe some of the likely culprits in the Sandusky scandal in vague terms, it all relates back to a breaking of NCAA rules.
There is one thing to keep in mind when it comes to the NCAA, and that is that there is no standard for NCAA punishment. Sure, perhaps Penn State could receive some form of punishment from the NCAA, but an appeal would look to be very easy for Penn State to win without any actual NCAA violations. Penn State officials appear to have gone against the grain of the NCAA’s principles, but with no NCAA rules appearing to have been broken it would be unlikely for the NCAA to issue a formal response and sanctions against Penn State.
Death penalty? Not for Penn State.
Sandusky, on the other hand, will face up to 442 years in prison.
But what about the reports and testimony that suggested Sandusky would promise boys would make Penn State’s football team in exchange for sexual acts? Certainly that would be an obvious NCAA violation and should be handled appropriately. But the NCAA has a four-year statue of limitations for any possible breaking of NCAA rules.
“Allegations included in a notice of allegations shall be limited to possible violations occurring not earlier than four years before the date the notice of inquiry is provided to the institution or the date the institution notifies.”
There are three exceptions to this statue of limitations. Allegations involving violations affecting the eligibility of a current student-athlete, allegations in a case involving information developed to indicate a pattern of willful violations in favor of a single institution or individual and allegations that indicate a blatant disregard for the NCAA’s fundamental philosophies in recruiting, extra-benefits, academics and ethical conduct of regulations would allow the NCAA to take action outside of the four-year statutes of limitations. None of those examples appear to relate to Penn State.
With Sandusky last coaching at Penn State in 1999, that stature expired nine years ago. It should also be noted that at this time there is no confirmation anybody who played for Penn State’s football team was a victim of Sandusky.
Will the NCAA keep tabs on Penn State? They already are. The NCAA admitted before that this may fall beyond their reach, but it is important for the NCAA to investigate it and ask questions so they can see what they can learn from this scandal just as they do any other problem on any campus. Lessons learned here will not only change the way those employed by Penn State conduct themselves, but will also shed some light on how the NCAA can help influence awareness on such sensitive issues everywhere.
But will the NCAA feel it within their power to reduce scholarships, issue a postseason ban, or place the program or multiple programs on probation?
No.
Penn State will pay, of course. A statement released Friday night following the verdict announcement suggests that the university is ready to work with the victims to settle claims against the school that ultimately failed them in the whole process. And it could take generations to repair the pristine image once placed on a banner for the school in the middle of Pennsylvania.
This will cost Penn State, make no mistake about it.
Follow No 2-Minute Warning on Twitter @No2MinWarning and Like No 2-Minute Warning on Facebook.
This column was originally posted on Examiner.com by the author.
Be sure to check out other great articles at No 2-Minute Warning.

Does The Devil Still Wear A Heat Jersey?

Does The Devil Still Wear A Heat Jersey?

The question’s been running about in my noggin ever since the final, series-clinching buzzer went off in Miami.
And it’s interesting, because now every time I look at a picture of LeBron, something’s different, even in pictures

I see of him before the Heat won it all.

My perspective of The King has completely changed.

I kinda like him now.

And I’m not sure if I like that.  Although I’ve been known to change my opinion just because it feels like I should change my opinion (working on that), I have no idea what to do in this situation besides try to explain.
Because now that he’s done what we’ve all wanted him to do, which was show us a version of basketball that was left for our daydreams, dancing and spinning through an obstacle course donning dragons spitting white hot fire and black knights on horses launching spears through thick air, all while coming out the other end unscathed and waiting for his “And-one!” (belts Breen!) attempt, well, ever since then, I’ve decided to accept him.

So... why?

Yes, there’s that saying, “winning cures everything.”

But I can’t think of another team that I’ve hated on so much whose flipped me around so quickly.

After winning a Super Bowl, I didn’t start liking the Packers.  Never will.

After winning the NBA title, I didn’t start liking the Celtics.  Never will.

There are teams that I’ve definitely enjoyed more after (versus before) they won, like the NY Football Giants or the Dallas Mavericks, but that was easy, because they were playing against the vilest of scum in the Patriots and
Heat.  And that enjoyment faded away pretty quickly.

So why all the sudden did a villain's victory bring me to be happy for them, turning around my feelings about a team I couldn’t feel any more hatred for just a week ago?

And the only being I need to ask this about, is the truest (now ex-) villain himself, Mr. James.

And the sole, glaring context clue I’m centering this whole this column about, is his unmatched joy, post-win.

Because that joy and that win lifted the pain off his shoulders.  You could literally see him shed a layer of crap off his back, like a gorilla had just said, “Alright, LeBron, your shoulder have been great to hang on, but you’ve learned your lesson.”

And it’s funny, because I think it simultaneously lifted the sports-hatred off my shoulders as well, because as soon as I saw his face, I realized how hard it was for him to get there.

LeBron went straight from high school to the Pros.  Do you know who else used to do that?

Our grandparents.

Why?

Because they had to.  Life was f$&%ing hard, and they needed to money, or they died or their siblings died or their parents died.  Someone died.

And there are plenty of people who make this transition nowadays too, but there’s so much more emphasis today on going to college, changing your major three times, taking a break, Euro-tripping, bar-tending, waitressing, “I’m still young, I’m not sure what I want to do, how about professional dog-walking?” etc., etc., that people now don’t really get into their actual career until their mid-twenties or late twenties or thirties or never or whenever.

Present times are about learning who you are before you make that decision to be who you are.

Well LeBron didn’t get the chance or the freedom to do all those awesome, care-free, spending-a-summer-in-Barcelona type things, for two reasons...

A)  He is God’s gift to basketball.

B)  The whole universe expects him to be God’s gift to basketball.

But.

And it’s a gigantic but.

BUT!

He DID have to attack his problem in the same way we do:

He had to find himself.

Like we’ve all had to do or are doing or are going to do or may never do.

We get to dabble in all sorts of things and fail and fail and fail until we get it right.

Even though it looked different on the outside, LeBron had to do the same.

He dabbled and dabbled in different styles of basketball, failure upon failure upon failure, until he finally found out
what worked.

And it’s not like he’s just found one thing that works.  He’s found plenty.  His post game is ridiculous.  His transition game is unmatched.  Nobody can stop him from getting to the rim.  He defends every single position on the court at an elite level.

Within the last month or two, everything clicked.

And I think that’s why I like him.

Before Game 5 finished, he wasn’t like me, because he had millions of dollars and the whole world knew his name and he screwed over all of Cleveland in seven dirty little words:  “I’m taking my talents to South Beach.”

But now I see that LeBron is just like me.  He’s like all of us.

We all wanted to Be Like Mike.  In reality, we couldn’t.  He was above all, with no 24-hour media to chop him down to normalcy.

But now we’ve all found out exactly what it’s like to be Just Like LeBron.  We harp on him because he’s some unidentifiable superstar, but my argument is this:

When has there ever been a superstar we could identify more with?

We fail and f*%^ up and piss people off and do dumb shit just like he.  Sure, he made a whole city cry, and us little people obviously haven’t.  But I can’t say that I wouldn’t, because I’ve definitely made people near and dear to me cry.  I’ve let people down.  I’ve made horrible decisions.

Our lives just aren’t projected to the world.  His is.  But all the voices that he hears on a daily basis from millions and millions of people, telling him what to do, are just like the millions and millions of little voices inside and outside each one of our own heads, telling us what to do.  The voices come in different packages, but we all know that anybody in pain feels as though their pain is The Worst Pain.

So to see how much electric happiness was on his face the night the Heat won, that in the moment feeling, that only happens on The Best Day of Your Life, it made me realize that he’s just like the rest of us.

He was just trying to find himself.

And it just so happens that he did.

(And oh by the way, Welcome to LeBron’s NBA now.  It’s his to do with what he pleases).

Be sure to check out other great articles at Oregon Sports News.

PED Testing in UFC needs to change

From Rafael Palmeiro To Rafael Feijao: Why UFC Needs To Begin Testing Their Own Fighters


Disclaimer:
From corked bats to loaded gloves, there have always been ways for unscrupulous athletes to tip the odds in their favor. MMA is no different from any other sport in this respect. The reality of the situation is that Dana White has forced individuals to question the UFC’s steroid policy because of how he runs his business. Now, I don’t want anyone to think that we are bashing Dana White or his business. Nothing could be further from the truth. That’s not what we mean when we say that White has forced the hand of the media.

Dana White will tell just about anybody who will listen about the greatness of the UFC. Zuffa’s purchase of the UFC saved the organization from the brink of extinction and resurrected it into a global phenomenon that struck a major network deal with FOX recently. White is less than shy about the fact that he plans to turn the UFC into one of the largest sports in America. He intends for his organization to rival the four major sports. It is in this sense that Dana White has forced the hand of the media. If your aim is to have your sports organization received on the same level as MLB, NHL, NBA, and NFL then fan expectations are sure to follow.

Among the more reasonable expectations fans are entitled to have, an atmosphere free of substance abuse, steroids, and steroid-related controversy has to be near the top of the list. This has to be one of the safest and most reasonable expectations a fan can have. MMA fans are fickle. This topic isn’t even up for debate and anyone who claims otherwise needs to be slapped with a dose of reality. However, I think demanding a clean sport and demanding a high-profile main event every time someone orders a PPV card are two entirely different expectations. Any sporting organization/event worth its salt has policies in place to prevent athletes from using PEDs. Except for one, that is.

Let us be clear about the fact that we are not suggesting the UFC couldn’t care less about PEDs. They do have a policy in place that requires fighters to submit to a drug test before they sign with the organization and athletes are randomly tested by the athletic commissions before and after the fights, but that is about the extent of the UFC’s policy on PEDs. As it is with most combat sports, the UFC relies upon the testing policies and procedures of the athletic commissions. To say that the athletic commissions have their heads up their ass about the issue would be the grossest understatement since “Houston, we have a problem.”

Before we go any further I feel it is necessary to frame this article and explain how we went about examining these issues. We decided that the best approach to this article would be to have one person examine PEDs/TRT and Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) in the four major sports while the other individual took an in-depth look at the MMA side of things. Here is where you would insert MMA fans claiming how different their sport is and that it should be kept separate from the other sports. This kind of thinking is part of the problem.

While I understand that many MMA fans do not watch other sports, care about other sports, or follow up on other sports, the steroid problem isn’t specific to the UFC. To discount the public beatings and changes other sports, most notably the MLB, have gone through is akin to watching your friend burn his hand because he wanted to see if the stove was hot and then trying it yourself. The amount of foolishness involved in this line of thinking is absolutely absurd. Not only should the UFC be paying attention to PED issues in other sports, they should be learning from them. After all, isn’t White’s goal to have the UFC on par with these other organizations? How does one accomplish that by failing to use some of their models for success?

The Issue At Hand

MMA Fighting’s Ben Fowlkes recently wrote an article claiming that the UFC shouldn’t have to institute a policy within their organization. With all due respect to a Ben, this is the most asinine thing I have seen in a long time. The MLB, NBA, NFL, and NHL all conduct testing. Almost every single organization, including the WWE, conducts their own testing as well. To say that the UFC shouldn’t do the same because of the in-house problems it may or may not cause is absolutely absurd. To be fair to Ben, he does say that it isn’t as impossible as Dana White makes it sound, but that point is basically rendered moot when he vocalizes his beliefs that the UFC doesn’t need to be the one to issue the tests. They absolutely do need to be the one issuing the tests. It’s their name attached to the product, Ben. You are what you market and sell; any businessman would tell you the same. You’re only as good as your product.

Furthermore, I take umbrage with the way Fowlkes suggests that the UFC does “more” than any other organization as if their current policy is even remotely close to acceptable. Now, White did tell the Los Angeles Times, in an exclusive interview:

“Yes. We’re going to do our own testing, order these guys into [a lab]; we’re sorting it out now. You have to do this to save the sport. You can’t have these guys fighting on this stuff,” White said.

So, apparently Dana White and the UFC have changed their tone from April of this year to May, but that’s also part of the problem. The UFC cannot afford to play the back and forth game with testing like Major League Baseball did in the 90’s. The UFC, despite the world-wide audience, does not have the historical past and multi-generational fan base that MLB enjoyed. The organization would not survive the lambasting that baseball took from the press and Congress.

I have a great deal of respect for Ben Fowlkes, but we sit on two sides of the same fence. Ben believes that the onus for testing should fall on the athletic commissions. At least, that was my take-away from quotes like this: “The Nevada State Athletic Commission reminded us of the effectiveness of random testing when it popped Overeem for elevated testosterone levels in a surprise test just a couple weeks ago. It’s exactly that sort of testing that commissions should be doing more of, even if they also have very valid reasons for why they aren’t.”
Ben also claims that “the UFC shouldn’t be responsible for being its own PED watchdog. That’s not fair to the fighters or to the UFC.”

Here again, Ben loses me. I can’t think of a single precedent set by another organization to support Ben’s claim. Even UEFA has begun administering surprise drug tests to athletes. I am not sure what Ben meant when he said that it wasn’t fair to the fighters, so I won’t speculate. While there are those who claim that boxing doesn’t do this either, I would like to point out that the UFC is a company while boxing is a sport. Boxing, by itself, cannot demand that athletes submit to random testing.

Moving along, I will say that I think it is fair to ask the UFC to ensure that they’re employing fighters who can play by the rules, however. Fans are within their rights to ask for something like this. We are the ones who pay for the card, we are the ones who invite our friends and family over for these events, and we are the ones who are ultimately disappointed when a fighter must be pulled from an event because he tested hot. To claim that we are the only ones affected would be absurd, but this is a reasonable claim fans can make. I realize that fans and media make a lot of obscene demands from White, but I don’t feel like this is one of them.

UFC, MLB, TUE, & TRT

For those who were living under a rock or just chose not to pay attention, Major League Baseball had a steroid epidemic unlike anything the country had ever seen in the 90’s. I’m not sure that baseball has ever recovered from that and likely won’t be able to recover until the last of the remaining players from that era have retired. NBC Sports wrote a timeline covering how the steroid era of baseball unfolded. Much like what’s happening in MMA, a clear pattern of players denying steroid use, claiming the substances they were using weren’t banned at the time, and fighting back and forth over how to deal with the issue, is visible.

If you wanted to break the problem down to the most basic of levels, players were avoiding any sort of penalty by simply claiming that they were using it for [insert reason here] and that it was not banned at the time. Does this sound familiar to anyone? Rather than deal with the epidemic and address the rampant steroid problem, the parties involved argued back and forth over whose responsibility it was and whether or not it was fair. One could actually make the argument that Donald Fehr, the MLBPA Executive Director, damn near made dealing with these issues impossible. Alas, I digress.

Much like Fowlkes’ argument, the issues of whether or not we could demand such things from the athletes was called into question. Baseball eventually got their crap together and went with Selig’s initial proposal, but only after they had exhausted every single other viable option to avoid testing. As it stands right now, a player is to be suspended 50 games for their 1st positive test and 100 games for their 2nd. Also located within the previous link is an extensive timeline of MLB’s drug testing policy. It is also worth noting that these punishments are standard protocol in baseball. It doesn’t matter if an athlete is the star player on a team headed to the World Series.

As it stands right now, the SAC’s are the only organizations that are handing out tangible punishments to fighters who test positive. The UFC has retained independent testing firms for events taking place overseas. For the most part, the UFC has either cut the fighter from their organization or let them serve out their suspension from the athletic commissions. Therein lays the rub. The UFC doesn’t do anything to the fighters. Regardless of what White may or may not claim, there is no standard protocol for how the UFC, strictly as an organization, handles PED-positive tests. Nothing that’s transparent, at least. Thiago Silva returned to the organization without much fanfare after trying to avoid a test by submitting animal urine. The guy submitted animal urine and still has a job.

This is unacceptable.

I am not calling for Silva to be fired. Actually, I rather enjoy watching Silva fight and I am a big believer in second chances. That said, this example illustrates that the UFC deals with these fighters on a case-by-case basis and that is simply not conducive to running an athletic organization. For a policy to be effective, it must be unilateral and without bias. Simply put, Alistair Overeem should not be treated differently than Joe-Bob Sclevich who is fighting on the undercard. It is time for people to stop using a fighter’s contributions to the UFC as a basis for giving them less of a punishment. If anything, these fighters should be punished more sternly to set an example for the younger fighters.

This actually segues nicely into the fighters that have claimed TRU for TRT after they have tested for high testosterone-to-epitestosterone (T/E) levels. This has been a growing concern within the world of mixed martial arts and is showing no signs of slowing down. The most recent case of this occurring involved Alistair Overeem. The heavyweight was scheduled to face Junior Dos Santos for the UFC HW title at UFC 146. Overeem failed his pre-fight drug test. He tested for a staggering 14:1 T/E level. Overeem was pulled from the bout and replaced with Frank Mir who would later prove to be a TRT patient himself. The World Anti-Doping Agency allows for a 4:1 ratio and the NSAC allows for a 6:1 ratio.

The UFC has seen a variety of TRT related issues involving their fighters. Chael Sonnen and Nate Marquardt are notable examples of the UFC having to do damage control because of a TRT-related problem. I am not here to argue for or against the usage of TRT in MMA. I possess neither the medical expertise nor a pre-existing medical condition that would make me a pseudo-expert on the issue. I will leave the effectiveness, need, and applications of TRT to those qualified to make such claims. I will, however, provide you with some interesting facts and statistics about TEU in other sports. Additionally, I will also provide you with information about blood-related testing issues such as HGH in other sports.

The Numbers You Really Came Here To See

Major League Baseball is currently the only organization that releases an annual drug report including individuals who qualified for TUE. The 2010 report by Major League Baseball found that 110 individuals had qualified for TUE. Now, the most interesting part of this number is that 105 of these individuals received TUE for A.D.D. medication. Only 5 individuals received TUE for something other than prescription medication for a neurological issue unrelated to health. Contrast that with the number of Zuffa fighters who have claimed TUE for their elevated T/E levels just in the past year and a half. Interestingly enough, the other five individuals were 2 cases of hypertension and a case each of hypogonadism, narcolepsy, and post-concussion syndrome.

Now, per White’s own admission, the UFC employs around 400 fighters (I am rounding up), but the MLB tested 3,714 individuals in 2010. The MLB’s 2011 report was very similar to their 2010 report. 112 players qualified for TUE in 2011. Once again, Attention Deficit Disorder medication led the way with 105 TUEs granted. 3868 tests for performance-enhancing drugs and/or stimulants were performed in 2011. The organization managed to test almost ten times the amount of athletes that the UFC employees. Hell, they even managed to release a public report on the testing itself. It is worth noting that HGH has not received a single TUE since this report was made public in 2008. While I am not comparing HGH to TRT, I am simply noting that hormonal treatments have not been approved in any of the four major sports under TUE, at least none that I could find. Nevada has approved 4 TUEs for TRT alone with Sonnen expected to be the 5th. (Roller, Duffee, Mir, & Henderson were the other 4 in case you were wondering and Duffee isn’t even 30.)

Once again, I am not making an argument for TRT one way or the next, but I certainly take issue with a fighter claiming that it was therapeutic usage only after they were caught. Rich Franklin told MMAFighting’s Ariel Helwani that even he has kicked around the idea of using TRT. He did specify that he had taken to proper steps to ensure that everything was medically approved, but he’s explored the possibility of TRT as I am sure a number of fighters have done in their career. What stands out to me most is the amount of testosterone-related TUEs that have been granted by the MLB as compared to those granted by the SAC’s.
The World Anti-Doping Agency makes use of the TUE provision, but have a strict set of criteria for applicants. Per WADA’s website:

The criteria are:
  • The athlete would experience significant health problems without taking the prohibited substance or method
    • The therapeutic use of the substance would not produce significant enhancement of performance, and
    • There is no reasonable therapeutic alternative to the use of the otherwise prohibited substance or method.

Exactly how many of these athletes would experience SIGNIFICANT health problems without TRT? More to the point, who is testing the veracity of these claims? Are we just assuming that their doctor legitimately thinks they need TRT? Have they even explored alternative therapies? Randy Couture even stated that he replaced the testosterone in his body the natural way and he’s one of the oldest guys in MMA. If he can do it naturally, are we really to believe that a physical freak like Overeem couldn’t do it?

To quote my good friend Mike Hammersmith, “If Overeem needs testosterone replacement therapy, what does that say about the rest of humanity?”

The UFC could turn to WADA for TUEs due to TRT. Even the NFL was exploring using WADA to test their athletes. Whatever the UFC decides to do with TRT, they need to implement a policy that expressly forbids fighters from claiming TUE after a positive test. It’s an insult to White, the UFC, and the fans to think we are dumb enough to think a grown adult forgot to file the medical paperwork for TRT. This is especially true when so many fighters have been busted right before them and tried the same excuse. Even I would file the paperwork for TRT at this point and I’m not even an athlete. It’s just known that you’re required to do so.

Steroids in Mixed Martial Arts

As far as positive tests for steroids, there have been 4 positive tests by Zuffa fighters in 2012 and the year is only half over. This might not seem like a large number, but you have to remember that fighters are barely tested by athletic commissions and are only pre-screened by the UFC prior to employment. Two of the fighters in question had the steroid cloud hanging over their head LONG before they were actually caught. Of those 4 fighters, all 4 of them were current or ex-champions within the organization. This begs the question, if 4 people at the top are using, what is everyone else doing? I hate to slide down that slippery slope, but we have little idea what is actually going on because of the limited testing in MMA. For those who remember correctly, the MLB only agreed to do complete random testing if more than 5% of the league tested positive when they initially administered the tests. More than 5% tested dirty.

31 MMA fighters have tested positive for something or another since 2007. Think about that for a second and realize that this is without random testing. I wonder if Ben still thinks the UFC shouldn’t have to test its own fighters. The WWE Wellness Policy states that the WWE can administer a drug test of any kind to their athletes upon request. They can even blood test their athletes and anyone in the business will tell you that blood tests are almost unheard of in any sort of professional sports organization. I will acknowledge that Player Associations and Unions are the biggest reason why blood testing isn’t allowed, but they aren’t the only reason it’s not the status quo.

Here is where I am going to turn things over to my friend and colleague, Alex Donno.

Alex Donno

Mr. Webb and I share a passion and desire to see the UFC become clean from PED’s. To understand my zeal on this issue, you must first understand why steroids are so much more dangerous in the UFC than they are in a sport like baseball.

The “steroid problem” in baseball is primarily an issue of competitive advantage. Players use PED’s for three basic reasons:
  1. To hit the ball harder and farther
  2. To pitch the ball faster
  3. To recover more rapidly from injury

Baseball fans are disgusted by steroids because those who use them are creating an unfair competitive advantage. The idea that a juiced up player like Barry Bonds holds the record for career home runs (762) is unsettling. However, Bonds didn’t punch and kick people in the face for a living. As an alleged steroid user, Barry Bonds was hurting the game of baseball (in a figurative sense) but he wasn’t physically hurting other people.

In a pure combat sport like mixed martial arts, fighters who use PED’s are not only creating an unfair competitive advantage, they are unfairly increasing their ability to injure other men. So far, in the UFC’s short history, there has never been a death caused by injuries sustained in a fight. Dana White boasts the apparent fact that the UFC is safer than mainstream sports like football and hockey. However, increasing PED use puts this stellar safety record in jeopardy. Imagine this scenario: two fighters enter the Octagon, one of which is on steroids and the other all natural. The juiced up fighter beats up the natural fighter so badly, that he sustains a serious head injury, or worse. A post fight drug test reveals the winning fighter to be a PED user. Not only would such a scenario create a public relations nightmare, but it could have been prevented by random, prefight testing. Now, one would hope that a competent referee would stop the fight before such a point is reached, but should a safety concern such as this be left in his hands? Dana White and the Fertitta brothers have spent over a decade tirelessly building the UFC into a multi-billion dollar empire. It would potentially only take one death in the Octagon to make that entire empire crumble.

Like any other MMA promotion, the UFC relies on state athletic commissions for regulation and drug testing. There’s no denying that commissions are necessary. Without the regulation of a separate entity providing judges, referees, and broad supervision, it would theoretically be easy for a promoter to incur multiple conflicts of interest. But in the matter of drug testing, specifically, it’s worth questioning whether or not the UFC should trust commissions to do enough.

Athletic Commissions Failing the System

One glaring problem is the fact that not all SAC’s are created equal. Commissions in states like New Jersey, California, and Nevada are considered the gold standard. Earlier this year, a random prefight test issued by the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) revealed elevated testosterone levels in UFC 146 co-headliner Alistair Overeem. Overeem was ultimately denied a license in the state, and pulled from the fight card. Without a doubt, this is an instance where the NSAC should be applauded. However, the reality is, most states don’t have the money or the resources to issue random pre-fight tests. In fact, some states don’t test at all, unless the promoter is footing the bill. Such is the case in Louisiana, where the commission doesn’t receive any funding from the state. Some other states, like Washington, only issue mandatory tests for title fights. The majority of states who do perform random testing can only afford post fight tests. In other words, a fighter’s drug use isn’t discovered until after the fight takes place. If the goal here is fighter safety, doesn’t such a process seem counterintuitive? The hope here is that the threat of a post-fight test will serve as a deterrent to potential PED users. While it may deter some, the volume of fighters who have failed post-fight tests since 2002 proves it’s far from an exact science. Furthermore, the stats from the above timeline show positive tests coming from 3 sources: The NSAC, CSAC (California State Athletic Commission), and the UFC’s independent testing overseas. Are we supposed to believe that the only fighters to ever use PED’s happened to be fighting in Nevada, California, or overseas? These stats aren’t a coincidence; they’re a glaring indictment of the failed testing procedures from most state athletic commissions.

If the testing standards don’t improve across the board, the sheer number of fighters to experiment with PED’s will only grow. The competitive landscape of the UFC, where fighters who don’t perform can be cut from the roster at any time, creates the natural urge for fighters to gain any physical advantage possible. And the trend is not limited to struggling mid-tier and below fighters. So far this year, four fighters under the Zuffa LLC umbrella (UFC and Strikeforce) have tested positive. All four of them, Cristiane Santos, Muhammed Lawal, Alistair Overeem, and Rafael Cavalcante, are current or former champions. Four of the world’s elite fighters have allegedly cheated within the past six months. If you look through the past decade, they aren’t alone. Sean Sherk and Josh Barnett are former UFC champions, and they’ve been popped for PED’s. Despite these pitfalls, MMA is still considered a rapidly growing sport. But how many champions and championship contenders need to come up positive before the fan base decides they’ve seen enough?

Predictability of testing is a big problem. While some fighters may jump into PED use with reckless abandon, most offenders do so with at least a minimal understanding of how to outwit the testing process. If a fighter is aware that the only time he may be tested is during the week of his fight, he can take some necessary steps in beating the test. By ending a steroid cycle weeks or months prior to a fight, and implementing “post cycle therapy” (PCT), his testosterone levels could return to an acceptable range by fight week. Such a process is referred to as “out of competition” PED use. This isn’t an error-proof system, though, since every banned substance has different properties, and every individual body responds differently. Some fighters, like UFC light heavyweight Thiago Silva, have turned to masking agents or synthetic urine to try and beat the test. PED testing should be a pop quiz, not an open book test. Fighters will not truly be deterred from using unless they are subject to random, “out of competition” testing.

The UFC Moving Forward

It’s easy for us all to agree that PED’s in MMA are a growing problem. It’s also easy to theorize that random testing would go a long way to help nip this issue in the bud. The hard part is deciding what the UFC can and should do to address it. It’s no longer a question of if, but how? After previously stating that it would be “impossible” for the UFC administer random testing to over 375 fighters, Dana White now plans to move forward with testing to “save the sport.” Overeem’s failed test in March seems to have been the breaking point. While White’s plan hasn’t been detailed yet, it’s likely the UFC will contract an independent and accredited testing agency like the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA) or the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). Yahoo! Sports columnist Kevin Iole addressed the costs of such an endeavor in a recent piece, with VADA founder Dr. Margaret Goodman estimating an expense of between $1 and $1.5 million a year for the UFC to test each of their fighters twice (at random) annually. For a company with pockets as deep as the UFC, that’s a small price to pay for fighter safety. The UFC simply cannot afford to rely on the inconsistency of state athletic commissions.

A number of prominent fighters are getting fed up with the current testing landscape. The growing group of cheaters is only making things less fair for those who choose to remain clean. UFC heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos aims to lead by example, by subjecting himself to random blood testing. It’s a noble move by dos Santos, and we can only hope the UFC takes notice. As great as it is to see a self-proclaimed “clean fighter” submit himself to random tests, I wouldn’t expect any of the dirty ones to follow suit voluntarily.

The Ongoing TRT Problem

The other troubling trend in the UFC is the increasing occurrence of testosterone replacement therapy (TRT). For fighters who legitimately possess a medical condition where their testosterone is clinically low, TRT can be viewed as a necessity, in order for them to compete at a level playing field (again, you can take a look at WADA’s criteria here). Even so, it’s an unnatural solution to enhance performance. For that reason, it raises an ethical debate as to whether or not every athlete should be forced to compete with the hand he’s dealt. It’s a debate I won’t touch on, but there’s a different question worth asking: how easy is it for fighters who don’t actually need TRT to gain therapeutic use exemptions (TUE’s) to use it? According to MMAJunkie.com medical columnist Dr. Johnny Benjamin, the percentage of men between the ages of 25 and 35 in the general population who face clinically low testosterone is less than one or two percent. Five current and former UFC fighters have received TUE’s for TRT in Nevada: Chael Sonnen, Frank Mir, Todd Duffee, Shane Roller, and Dan Henderson. Out of the five, the only one over the age of 35 is Henderson (41). Duffee, the youngest on the list, is only 26! In a perfect world, you’d like to think that doctors who put their patients on TRT will only do so when it’s absolutely necessary. However, Benjamin points out that some fighters have “destroyed or significantly injured their hormone producing glands” from previous steroid use. In essence, they may be trying to correct a problem that wasn’t incurred naturally in the first place. Should we be okay with previous PED abusers now correcting the damage they’ve done to themselves with TRT?

If growing TRT use in MMA is indeed a problem (some might disagree that it is), it’s a nearly impossible one to solve. Trying to distinguish which applicants have a natural deficiency and which have damaged themselves from previous PED use is likely impossible. Meanwhile, if commissions were to universally deny TUE’s for TRT, that would eliminate these abusers, but it would also take the option away from those who really need it. The hope here is that state athletic commissions do their due diligence when granting TUE’s. Again, there’s no consistency from state to state. MMAFighting.com columnist Mike Chiappetta explores the issue in a comprehensive column. In states like Nevada and New Jersey, fighter’s must “submit an application for a TUE at least 20 days before a fight.” In doing so, he provides the results of no fewer than five tests. However, in Texas, an athlete is only required to inform the commission of prescription uses “at least 24 hours prior to the bout.” Wouldn’t it be nice if these standards were the same in every state? Hopefully, things will move in that direction. Chiappetta gives us hope for the future.

In an effort to address the issue, the Association of Boxing Commissions plans to address TUE’s at its upcoming July convention, which is attended by many of the country’s state athletic board heads.

Whether we’re discussing general PED use or doctor prescribed testosterone therapy, state athletic commissions generally take too weak a stance, or no stance at all. It may be too much to ask the UFC to start regulating therapeutic use exemptions among their 375 fighters, but for them to take an active initiative to randomly test their athletes for PED’s is not only a reasonable request, but absolutely necessary. If the UFC is indeed the premiere organization in mixed martial arts, they must hold themselves to a higher standard.

Conclusion

While Mr. Donno and I approach this subject with different degrees of aggressiveness, make no mistake about it, we both agree that PEDs are a problem in the UFC and that the organization must begin testing now. The UFC has the benefit of witnessing the failures of the MLB to address the PED issue and yet they have taken this long to make any serious effort to clean up the sport. The UFC must accept the reality that 4 members of their organization have been suspended for PED’s or elevated T/E ratios in 2012 alone. They also must acknowledge that all 4 of these individuals are/were title-holders within the organization. When that many of your sport’s best are failing drug tests, it begs the question, “who else is using?”

Each of the major sports organizations conduct mandatory testing. The WWE has a testing policy and even UEFA has begun testing their players. For an organization with a major network-television deal, major sponsorship partners, and a global audience not to test their athletes is not only rare, it’s almost unheard of these days. White constantly promotes that the UFC is one of the more forward-thinking organizations in professional sports. How has the UFC managed to operate into 2012 without a drug-testing policy? Even if we look past the responsibility issue, it just appears odd when the claim to be as big as the NFL.

I speak for both of us when I say that what Dana White has accomplished is nothing short of tremendous. White turned the UFC into a household name after the promotion was facing extinction. We acknowledge that Mr. White is often on the receiving end of criticism that has been unfairly directed at him. This, however, is not one of those instances and, given White’s comments about instituting testing, he is completely aware of this as well. He knows testing needs to happen, he knows that testing should happen, and I have to imagine he is sick and tired of his fighters testing positive. That said, if he sits on this any longer, it is sending the wrong message. The fighters need to be tested by the UFC and that needed to start yesterday.

About the Authors

Alex Donno is the host of South Florida’s first MMA talk show, “Fighter’s Fury.” You can catch the show every Sunday from 10am – Noon EST on Miami’s number one rated sports station, 790 The Ticket WAXY. He’s also the television play by play voice for Howard Davis Jr’s Fight Time Promotions. Since fall of 2011, he’s served as BSO’s MMA Insider. Alex has a B.B.A. in Business Administration from the University of Miami, with a minor in Sports Administration. Twitter.com/AlexDonno790

Josh Webb is the host of  “MMA@Work Powered by MMAPlayground.” You can catch the show every Thursday from 6:30 – 8:30 EST on BlogTalkRadio. He’s also the MMA & Pac-12 Senior Reporter for Sports-At-Work.com. Additionally, he is a contributor to MMAPlayground.com among other sites. Unlike Alex, who only has a B.B.A., Josh sacked up and got a Master’s in Public Administration from California State University, Bakersfield. His thesis is entitled “Sweethawt Loans, Sugah Bowls, & Non-Profit Reforms: A Case Study of the Bowl Championship Series’ (BCS’) Abuses of Non-Profit Status.” Twitter.com/FightOnTwist
Be sure to check out other great articles at BlackSportsOnline.

Monday, June 25, 2012

10 Players to Watch For in the Futures Game

10 Players to Watch For in the Futures Game


Ross Parcel
June 25, 2012
Mr. Fantasy Freak

             Ten Players to Watch for in Futures Game

Every year during the All Star break, selected minor league players flock to the city where the All Star Game is played to play in their own game: the XM All Star Futures game. This game is a mixture of all the best minor league talent, showcased at big league ballpark in front of future fans. The game consists of a U.S.A team and a World team. Most of the players on the rosters will at least get a chance to perform at the big league level in their careers. Quite a few have become staples on their farm leagues' big club. Every team has at least one representative in this game. I'm here to inform you of 5 American and 5 World players that could make a big splash at the Major League levels soon. Let's get it on.



                                                                U.S.A players

1. Trevor Bauer, RHP, Arizona: Bauer is the closest to the big leagues right now, as rumors say he has been tabbed to pitch on Thursday for the Diamonbacks. He is 7-1 with a 1.68 ERA in double-A Mobile. Expect big strikeout numbers from this overpowering righty, as he has 111 punchouts in 90.1 innings pitched at single-A and double-A. If he is still eligible to pitch in this game after pitching in the Major Leagues, he has a good chance at startin the game.
2. Billy Hamilton, SS, Cincinnati: You may of heard of Hamilton's ability to steal bases. He stole 103 steals last season, and this season he already has 87! In years past, there have been a lot of people steal bases in the low minors (Hamilton is in Class A), but it looks like he might turn into a Starlin Castro type player in the future. He has a .331 average and 8 triples so far this season. He is still pretty skinny at 6'1", 160 lbs, so he might add some power as he continues to grow.

3. Wil Myers, OF, Kansas City: Myers is the most talked about prospect to come out of the Royals organization since Alex Gordon in 2007. I don't think it will take Myers as long to produce in Kauffman Stadium as it did Gordon. Myers is torching the minor leagues this season. At a short stop in Double-A Northwest Arkanas, then progressing to Triple-A Omaha, he has amassed a .328 AVG, with 24 home runs and 63 RBI's. A lot of people think he could be up after the All Star break. If so, he'll have his chance to get accustomed to Kansas City on July 8th.

4. Zack Wheeler, RHP, New York Mets: The prospect the Mets recieved in the Carlos Beltran trade to the Giants last season has impressed at Double-A Binghampton this season. A big guy at 6'4", the 22-year-old possesses a mid-90's fastball and a devestating curve ball. At Double-A this season, he has produced a 6-3 record, with a 1.88 ERA. Opponents are hitting a tiny .176 against the righty. He has only allowed 43 hits in 71.2 innings pitched. He could be up soon to refresh an underrated rotation in the Big Apple.

5. Danny Hultzen, LHP, Seattle: This guy has been incredible so far in the Mariners farm system. Seattle's top prospect was considered "close to major league ready" when he was drafted out of the University of Virginia last year. In Double-A Jackson, he posted an incredible 8-3 record, with a 1.13 ERA. Known as a big strikeout caliber pitcher, he had 79 K's in 75.1 innings pitched. He recently got moved up to Triple-A Tacoma. He might make the club in September, and will definitely compete for a rotation spot next spring.

Others big names to watch:
RHP Jameson Tallion, Pit; 3B Mike Olt, Tex; LHP Dylan Bundy, Bal; 3B Nolan Arenado, Col.



                                                              World Players

1. Yasmani Grandal, C, San Diego: Grandal, a switch-hitting catcher, was obtained in the Mat Latos deal from Cincinnati. He got a brief cup of coffee with the Padres, but now is working on getting back to The Show while in Triple-A Tucson. In Triple-A this season, he has hit .322, with 6 dingers and 33 runs batted in. He has almost walked (31) more times than struck out (34). I think his approach from both sides of the plate will only benefit him once he breaks through to San Diego. He is only 23, and has a long time to grow and get better. Expect big things from this big guy.
 
2. Fransisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland: The Indian's top prospect is cutting his teeth at Single-A Lake County. Regarded as one of the best high school bats of the 2011 draft, he is just now getting his feet wet in professional ball. In 63 games, he is batting a decent .280 with 4 home runs and 23 RBI's. These are very attractive stats for a shortstop, especially if you throw in his 16 stolen bases. He is also a switch hitter who gets on base with ease. Manny Acta and company will have a beautiful decision to make if/when Lindor reaches the Majors on what to do with him and Asdrubal Cabrera.


3. Oscar Taveras, OF, St. Louis: The 20-year-old Taveras has came on the scene and done one thing: hit. It
is unusual for young hitters to hit for as much power as this guy has: 14 HR, 48 RBI's, with a .316 batting average. I think he will eventually find a home in right field because of his strong arm. Either way, Taveras seems to be legit and will continue to push his way to Busch Stadium.

4. Jurickson Profar, SS, Texas: The Rangers' top prospect, according to MLB.com, Profar looks like he could be something great eventually. His .294 average is pretty impressive, and his 30 extra base hits (17 doubles, 6 triples, 7 home runs) are a wonderful thing for this 19-year-old. In 279 at-bats, he has only k'd 46 times. He seems to have an advanced plate discipline for his age, and should be an excellent defender. It looks like Nolan Ryan just got another Elvis Andrus-type talent. We all can't be that lucky.

5. Jose Fernandez, RHP, Miami: At age 19, Fernandez is already dominating Single-A. The 6'3", 215 lbs. righty has a big body that will only get stronger as he grows. His fastball has been clocked at 97 MPH, and he could be a top-of-the-rotation caliber starter. In Single-A Greensboro, Fernandez has pitched to the tune of a 7-0 record, with a miniscule 1.59 ERA in 14 starts. He has already racked up 99 strikeouts in just 79 innings pitched. The best part of his stats are his 18 walks in 79 innings. Usually young hurlers with plus velocity can be wild at times. Not this guy. Out of every player at the game, I am most excited to see what this young gun can do on the hill.

Other big names to watch:
RHP Yordano Ventura, KC; OF Alfredo Marte, Ari; LHP Edwar Cabrera, Col; LHP Chris Reed, LAD.
Be sure to check out other great articles at Mr Fantasy Freak.

Friday, June 22, 2012

College Football Gets a Long Overdue Makeover

College Football Gets a Long Overdue Makeover

Any fan of college football has a distinct opinion on the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) and the postseason process that comes along with it.  For the most part, people have been complaining and speaking up in favor of revamping the entire selection process to give more teams a crack at hoisting the all-too-important Coaches’ Trophy at years end.

Well some of those prayers have been answered.  After 143 seasons, countless controversies and many snubbed teams later, it seems major college football will finally have a playoff to determine its national champion.  News broke this week that the idea would be recommended by the FBS (Football Subdivision) commissioners to the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee and the process will be up for vote very soon.
The official recommendation will be for the implementation of a 4-team playoff which could be put into place as early as the 2014 season.  Some of the current BCS selection charm will still be there (you didn’t honestly think you weren’t getting away without some platform for controversy, did you?).  According to sources close to the deliberations, a committee will be set up to be in charge of choosing the 4 teams that will partake in the playoff.  How exactly that committee will be chosen and what types of individuals will make up the committee is still yet to be determined.

Once the four teams are chosen, they will be seeded and pitted against each other (1 v 4, 2 v 3) and put into one of the current BCS Bowl games (Orange, Sugar, Rose and Fiesta) and those will serve as the semifinals.  The winners will face off in the true National Championship game and will have its host decided by bidding between cities.

Now that all the details have been ironed out, let’s talk about what exactly this means for the college football world.

I have been watching college football casually for years now and bowl season has been one of my favorite times of the sporting year.  Up until 2008, I knew and understood the frustration that many fans had about the BCS selection system, but I never really had a concrete stance on what I wanted to be changed.  That all changed when Utah  got snubbed beyond belief and got robbed of its chance to face off against then #1 Oklahoma  for the crystal trophy.  I mean come on, Utah was the ONLY undefeated team in the country and they get left out of the big game.  Now, let’s look at how many teams passed over them in the final BCS rankings.  Not one, not two, not three, not four but five (in my best LeBron James voice), yes, five one-loss teams ended up in front of Utah in the final BCS rankings.

Ever since Utah’s snubbing in ’09, it seems like there is always that one team that had a legitimate claim to be in the big game, but got left out for one reason or another (usually money is behind it).  In 2010, it was both Cincinnati and TCU who both were undefeated, yet left out of the game.  In 2011, it was TCU, and last year a majority of people thought Oklahoma State deserved a right to be in the National Championship.
I think many of those who criticized the current BCS system would agree with me in saying that it is a definite improvement from the current model.  Having teams battle it out for true supremacy seems to be the way the public have wanted it for years.  This may not be a perfect solution, but it is certainly a step in the right direction.  There will still be those teams sitting at #5 who think they deserve a shot.  But as long as we don’t have five undefeated teams all vying for a championship bid, it will at least be a loss that keeps a team out, not what conference they come from.

Someone is always going to think they got the short end of the stick. The media will find a way to make it certain that the public thinks a team got snubbed for apparently no reason, but as far as I am concerned, this is a vast improvement over the current model and should put to bed at least some of the controversies that the current model seemed to produce every year.

Article by: Alexander Herd

Be sure to check out other great articles at The Waiver Wire.

Prood of the the 'New' Raiders

Raiders trainer Chris Cortez saves woman from sinking car

An act of heroism has emerged out of Raider Nation.
While in his car with his wife and neighbor, Taryn Griffin, team assistant athletic trainer Chris Cortez spotted a car that skidded off the road and into an Oakland estuary.
As he conveyed to Raiders.com, Cortez and Griffin (along with a third person) decided to voluntarily plunge in and pull the woman out of the sinking car just in the nick of time. She was taken to safety at a nearby shore.
The incident, which occurred on June 11, was captured by a bystander’s cellphone, and can be seen below.
It’s nice to see there are still people willing to sacrifice themselves for their fellow men and women. Cortez, who suffered some “very minor” injuries, is being regarded as a hero. It’s safe to say he definitely deserves the distinction.
[H/T Profootballtalk.com]
Be sure to check out other great articles at Helmet2Helmet.net.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

R.A. Dickey

In 2005 I was heartbroken.

Having married a girl from Wichita, I root for the Wichita State Shockers by default.  For those who don't know, the Shockers are, historically, one of the premier baseball programs in the country but have not had the same level of success the past decade. 

2005 was an exception, they had a solid team, led by Mike Pelfrey, who is now a regular starter in the Mets Rotation, as well a handful of other players who would be drafted sprinkled through their lineup and bullpen. 

They went down to Tennessee for their Super Regional where they ran into the Tennessee Volunteers with Luke Hochevar and his Robin, R.A. Dickey.  Dickey was known as a fireballer with the fluky ability to throw the occasional knuckleball.  He an Hochevar were both taken in the first round that year.  Some of you are aware of Hochevar's struggles to learn to pitch, rather than just throw.  ALL of you, I'm sure, are aware of R.A.'s success as the most unique knuckleballer, perhaps the most unique pitcher, that baseball has seen in many of our lifetimes.

This is a knuckleballer who can still throw a fastball in the high 80's.  I have little doubt that if he reached back, he could still crack 90 mph.  This ability to apply a huge range of speed to a knuckle, and back it up with a legit fastball, has proven itself too be amazingly effective.  To identify that R.A. is doing this when most doctors would expect that he would be unable to pitch at all due to missing ligament, is to become even more amazed by what R.A. is doing.

Then, you get to his personal life.

R.A. is a devout christian who is actively involved in providing basic supplies to poor people in Latin America. 

He risked his salary against a climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

He is an avid reader, claiming his reading of Hemingway as inspiration for his climb.

And, he is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse who has gone public with this news at what is likely the peak of his fame.  His hope is that people who have suffered what he suffered will see that he was able to overcome, and it will give them some strength.  That is a truly benevolent purpose for such a public disclosure.  More than his turn around to make major leagues, more than his historical accomplishment of pitching back-to-back 1-hitters, more than anything else this should be what we laud him for.  We should laud him for opening a wound that he spent decades healing, for putting himself in the spotlight to be judged by the small-minded, and challenged by the skeptical would rub salt in the wound by openly wondering if he made the story up to expand his notoriety. 

I say good for you R.A. and thank you for being a good and strong man.

Brandon Jacobs repays kid

Brandon Jacobs repays the kid who sent him $3.36 with a day out.

San Francisco running back Brandon Jacobs has been called a lot of things. Now he can be called a genuinely good guy.

You may recall the story of six-year-old Joseph Armento, a New York Giants fan that was so upset that Jacobs left in free agency to the 49ers that he asked him mom to mail him his last $3.36 in hopes of keeping his favorite player with the Giants.

There is no word of whether or not it would have counted against the cap had it worked, but Jacobs did the right thing today.

He took Armento and his brother to the Jump On In bounce house in New Jersey today now that Jacobs is back on the east coast to gather some belongings.

According to the Sacramento Bee, Jacobs gave the boys along with his own son a day out but he also repaid his debt to Joseph with interest in the form of a $5 dollar bill and a signed Giants helmet.
“He had some interest in there just for being a good kid,” Jacobs said. “He’s worth a lot more than that $5 bill I gave him.”

As much as Jacobs has meant to the child as a player, the child has meant more to Jacobs as a person.
“I’m at a point in my career when people have stopped believing in me and not believing that I can still play. But that’s not the case. Joe believes in me, gave me a lot of confidence and a lot of want-to. And I’m ready to go. I can’t wait until the season starts.”

After receiving the initial letter, Jacobs reached out to Joseph’s mom Julie to set something up so that he could do something special for his biggest fan.

“When we first spoke, he said that he was genuinely touched by the letter, that it almost brought him to tears,” Julie said. “He said it came at just the right time for him.”

“He told me he really wanted to get out there with the kids,” she said. “He really wanted to enjoy it, and he did. It was amazing.”

According to Jacobs it was indeed a good time.

“It was just us in the whole place and we were just going room to room – just bouncing and flipping all over the place, hitting each other with balls, sweating, our shirts filthy. We were just dirty, stinky boys, you know?”
Who will Joseph root for when the Giants and the 49ers square-off?
Be sure to check out other great articles at Players View.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Will Junior’s Win Result in Increased Ticket Sales and TV Ratings?

TV Times – Will Junior’s Win Result in Increased Ticket Sales and TV Ratings?

WILL JUNIOR’S WIN RESULT IN INCREASED TICKET SALES AND TV RATINGS?

It took Dale Earnhardt, Jr., four years to climb out of his slump, and, boy, was it a celebration! His detractors can now see that this spunky driver is not a quitter by any means, and curious watchers will now be catching Junior’s every move and will be critiquing his performance.


Also very pleased must be the “suits” in NASCAR who think that Junior’s slump had a lot to do with poor ticket sales and low TV ratings. More than likely in upcoming weeks, sales of tickets and TV ratings may see a slight bump, but that’s not all there is to the story.

One driver’s nonperformance isn’t the entire reason for poor ticket sales. A more realistic factor is the deep recession that has put entertainment dollars on hold. Overall, the cost of living has increased to such a point that most fans are just trying to keep their heads above water, and going to the races has been out of the question for them. Things are not going to significantly change for NASCAR ticket sales until the economy gets much better. And even if and when that happens, the NASCAR hot ticket may be a thing of the past, at least that’s what some are prognosticating.

We’ve been reading the news and gossip that’s currently making its rounds in the world of motorsports. The IZOD Indy Car race for China has been scratched, and the sanction’s front office is looking for a quick replacement, like Road America. But is there enough time left in order to promote that particular race and to push tickets sales? And one of the movers and shakers in Indy Car is looking for a change at the top. Also the title sponsor, IZOD, is looking to sever their contract with Indy Car. Indy Car team owner and race promoter Michael Andretti will continue with making the Milwaukee race part of the IZOD Indy Car schedule. According to reports, tickets for the 2013 race go on sale this week.

USA Today had a half-page piece on the Kentucky Derby and a new plan on how the future 20 entries will qualify for that classic horse racing event held at Churchill Downs. On perusing it, it’s plain to see that it’s similar to the NASCAR’s Chase To The Nextel Cup. That should please NASCAR’s Brian France. Isn’t it said that imitation is the greatest form of flattery?

1983 Winston Cup champion Bobby Allison, voted NASCAR’s most popular driver eight times and one of the sport’s most engaging storytellers, will kick off the Saratoga (NY) Automobile Museum’s series of four “Meet and Greet” programs on July 18. The events are an addition to the museum’s new Chevrolet-sponsored “From Moonshine to Millionaires – NASCAR’s History, Heroes and Technology” exhibit. Set for a 6 p.m. opening, with a $15 admission charge, the program will be held in a tent on the museum grounds and will feature an autograph session along with Allison’s remembrances of his stellar career.
Check jayski.com to see what’s happening in the world of motorsports this weekend.
Note: Information for this story came from personal notes and press releases.

Article by Mike Irwin (http://www.motorsportsnews.net/)

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The Top 10 Overpaid NBA Players Includes Kobe Bryant

The Top 10 Overpaid NBA Players Includes Kobe Bryant


I will give him credit they didn’t just put together a random list.
He used some statistical analysis, but even then while some names aren’t surprising, I was shocked at a few that are on there.
Do you agree or disagree?
Sports fans hold strong opinions about which pro basketball players deserve their massive salaries, and which ones don’t. One fan, however, has gone further than the average barstool commentator –- Southern Utah University economics professor David Berri.
According to Berri, NBA players are paid for high scoring, so the more points an athlete racks up, the more money he earns. Berri believes that this overlooks other factors that contribute to a victory, such as shots taken, turnovers, rebounds and fouls.
These and other elements are included in the “Wins Produced” algorithm.
“Wins in basketball are primarily about a team’s ability to get and keep possession of the ball and then turning those possessions into points,” Berri told CNBC.com in an e-mail. “In 2011-12, NBA teams paid $1.9 billion for 990 regular season wins. This means that the cost per win was $1.946 million. Given the cost of each win and knowing both how many victories each player produced and his salary allows us to see which players were overpaid.”
All salary information was provided by Berri, who used data from the NBA draft projection site DraftExpress.com and from basketball analyst Patricia Bender. All data was compiled by Berri’s colleague Arturo Galletti.
Check out David Berri’s 10 most overpaid players in the NBA.
The list:
10. Tyrus Thomas, Charlotte Bobcats (overpaid by $12,459,225)
9. Deron Williams, Brooklyn Nets (overpaid by $12,784,867)
8. Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks (overpaid by $12,851,295)
7. Corey Maggette, Charlotte Bobcats (overpaid by $12,862,248)
6. Mehmet Okur, Brooklyn Nets (overpaid by $12,988,657)
5. Chris Kaman, New Orleans Hornets (overpaid by $14,613,480)
4. Amar’e Stoudemire, New York Knicks (overpaid by $14,918,309 )
3. Antawn Jamison, Cleveland Cavaliers (overpaid by $17,402,350)
2. Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers (overpaid by $19,693,258)
1. Rashard Lewis, Washington Wizards (overpaid by $21,167,231)
Be sure to check out other great articles at BlackSportsOnline.

David Stern Proposes new Olympics Policy

David Stern Proposes That Olympic Team Adopts 23 and Under Policy

On the 20th anniversary of "The Dream Team," NBA commissioner David Stern has gone on the record to state that maybe Olympic Basketball should adopt a soccer type of system where players on the roster are 23 and under of age.  The idea seems to be a popular one as many NBA team owners have agreed with the concept. It is yet to be decided if FIBA (International Basketball Federation) and the other countries would be up for that model.  It would be an interesting concept and it makes putting a competitive team together a little tougher, so let's take a look at who some of the candidates would be to make a 23-Under Olympic Team.

Point Guards
  • Derrick Rose (questionable with the knee injury) (Chicago Bulls)
  • Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder)
  • Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Caveliers)
  • John Wall (Washington Wizards)
  • Brandon Jennings (Milwaukee Bucks)
Shooting Guards
  • Eric Gordon (New Orleans Hornets)
  • Tyreke Evans (Sacramento Kings)
  • James Harding (Oklahoma City Thunder)
  • Evan Turner (Philadelphia 76ers)
  • Bradley Beal (University of Florida)
  • Austin Rivers (Duke)
Forwards
  • Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder)
  • Thaddeus Young (Philadelphia 76ers)
  • Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets)
  • Kevin Love (Minnesota Timberwolves)
  • Blake Griffin (Los Angeles Clippers)
  • Anthony Davis (Kentucky)
Centers
  • Greg Monroe (Detroit Pistons)
  • DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings)
  • Andre Drummond (UConn)
  • DeAndre Jordan (Los Angeles Clippers)
If FIBA and the rest of the nations implement this rule, we are still confident the the United States can continue to win gold medals, especially after watching a lot of the young talent that comes from overseas that people expect to make a name for themselves and after being drafted don't pan out.
Be sure to check out other great articles at Sports Media 101.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tiger and Casey, for old time's sake.

Golf Recap: Confident Tiger plays reunion round with college teammate Casey Martin

Tiger Woods (R) of the United States talks with Casey Martin (L) of the United States during a practice round prior to the start of the 112th U.S. Open at The Olympic Club on June 12, 2012 in Daly City, California.
(June 11, 2012 – Source: Andrew Redington/Getty Images North America)
SAN FRANCISCO — Tiger Woods is looking for his 15th major championship at the U.S. Open at the Olympic Club later this week, but first he had a college reunion to attend.
Early Tuesday morning, Woods played nine holes with former Stanford teammate Casey Martin. Another Stanford man, Cameron Wilson, filled out the threesome.
Despite not seeing each other in years, according to Woods, he and Martin showed the easy familiarity of former teammates and old friends on Olympic’s front nine, with Woods even trying out Martin’s long putter on the fifth hole. “Ladies and gentleman, the future Tiger Woods,” Martin joked to the crowd as Woods drained an 8-footer.
Martin, who suffers from a circulatory disease that causes pain in his right leg, rode a cart while Woods and Wilson walked. Martin practically has to drag his right leg along with him as he walks, but his swing still exhibits the smooth action that got him into the 1998 U.S. Open at Olympic.
“Unless you really know him, I don’t think people have an appreciation of how much pain he’s in,” Woods said of his friend Martin. “I saw it in college, he was my roommate on the road a few times, and this is when we were playing 36-18 [holes]. I don’t know how he did it, to be honest with you. I just don’t know how he did it.”
Woods added that the 40-year-old Martin, who is now the golf coach at Oregon, looks happier than he did years ago when he was suing for the right to use a golf cart in professional events.
“As far as playing with Casey, man, it’s great to see him,” Woods said. “I haven’t seen him in a while. And now he’s the coach of the Ducks. And just so happy in life. It’s neat to see him. He played the Tour out here, tried that and he was happy doing it, but it’s not like he is now. It’s good to see him in a really good place.”
Related Photos: Tiger’s career at the U.S. Open
Woods also looked like he was in a good place as he prepared for his 17th U.S. Open this week, even joking about his long-running animus with the media. Asked if he needs to win a major to silence his critics, Woods smiled and said that even if he won, his critics would say he hasn’t won 18 majors yet, or 19 majors yet.
“It’s always something with you guys,” Woods laughed.
It’s not surprising Woods feels pretty good returning to Olympic, where he finished T18 at the 1998 U.S. Open. He won the Memorial two weeks ago, tying Jack Nicklaus with 73 PGA Tour wins. Woods played Olympic often while in college, although it looks very different now. He even made reference to his personal course notes, which if published would probably outsell his ex-coach Hank Haney’s book among golf fanatics.
“All my charts are outdated because they’ve resurfaced every green, so I had to do a whole new book,” Woods said.
In addition to the famously long and punishing course setups, Woods said the variety of U.S. Open courses are one reason it’s the most demanding major.
“What makes it difficult, I think, is that we’re playing different venues each and every year,” he said. “It’s not like Augusta National where we’re playing the same golf course each and every year. We have to relearn a whole new golf course.”
During his front-nine practice round with Martin and Wilson on Tuesday, and especially his solo practice round on the back nine Monday, Woods was methodical about testing the bunkers, possible pin placements and chipping areas, especially around the 17th green. Woods said that playing Olympic’s first six holes — considered the toughest opening stretch in major-championship golf — in even par would help a player pick up “a boatload of shots,” but the last three holes will be crucial to winning the tournament. (The 16th and 17th holes are par-5s, and the 18th is a par-4. Interactive Course Map)
“You’ll need to make some birdies there, absolutely,” Woods said.
The demanding nature of the course means that Woods doesn’t expect much chit-chat between him and Phil Mickelson when their marquee group — Bubba Watson is the third — tees off Thursday morning at 10:33 a.m. Eastern time.
“I don’t think we’re going to talk about a lot,” Woods said. “This is a major championship. We’ve got work to do. Any extra motivation? No. I’m just trying to get out there and position myself for Sunday.”
More from Woods’s press conference:
On whether 14-year-old Andrew Zhang is “too young” to play in the U.S. Open:
“He qualified. He earned a spot. I tried it when I was 15, but he earned a spot. He went out there and went through both sections, both stages, I’m sorry, and did it. It’s not too young if you can do it. There’s no — that’s the great thing about this game, it’s not handed to you. You have to go out and put up the numbers and he did. He shot the scores he needed to qualify and move on and he did and he’s here playing on the biggest stage. Just think about the experience he’s going to gain playing in this event. How well that’s going to serve him playing junior events and high school events.”
On the U.S. Open finishing on Father’s Day:
“It is special, there’s no doubt. Having my father alive for a couple of them was really special. This tournament meant so much to my dad because he just loved the fact that you got tested. Just the mental test. And, of course, he’s a spec op warrior, he’s going to like that environment. That’s something that I’ve always enjoyed when the golf course got a little more difficult and became more fun because you had to control more things within you. And ending it on Father’s Day, it means something to each and every one of us, just slightly different, obviously. But it has a very special meaning to me, for sure.”
On his putting from inside 10 feet:
“At Memorial those putts were going in. I just didn’t make anything from about 15 to 20 feet, basically nothing. But I made a ton of putts from 10 feet and in. So that’s a positive thing. On this golf course it’s going to be difficult to get the ball close. And I’m going to rely a lot on lag putting and obviously we’re going to have to make those short putts. Even if you miss the green, pitches are — a good pitch is going to be anything inside eight feet sometimes. That part I’m not too worried about.”
Golf Recap: Confident Tiger plays reunion round with college teammate Casey Martin is a post from: PhatzRadio.com
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