Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Cut & Run, Play & Pray, Use & Lose
( I'm feeling for my adopted hometown Falcons. Bobby Petrino's cowardly cut-and-run was astounding. The only betrayls that come close are Jim Irsay's Thief-in-the-Night buggering out of Baltimore with the Colts and Art Modell's cooresponding abandonment of Cleveland for Charm City. Petrino spoke to his team after their Monday night loss about how no one on the team would be quitting on the season, and then promptly did. He is an offensive innovator with bright ideas, but no fortitude. He is no leader of men, and he leaves jobs before having to endure any trying season in which his flaws will be revealed. Petrino has even tried to explain that quitting the Falcons at 5 pm (by phone to Arthur Blank, by letters to the team) and being hired by Arkansas at 11 pm was coincidental -- that he did not quit one for the other.
Kudos to Sean Salisbury, Bob Greise and other announcers who publicly derided Petrino and questioned why any parent would send their son to Arkansas to be taught by this man. Interesting watching Chris Mortensen, ESPN's primary NFL analyst, have to tip-toe around passing judgement on Petrino because his son is set to play for him at Arkansas next year. This marks the second time Arkansas has stolen an NFL coach from a team in midseason - Lou Holtz left the Jets with one game left back in the 80's.
As to the excuse-makers who cite extenuating circumstances around Petrino's departure (Michael Vick's absence, Falcons players not respecting Petrino, owner interference), sounds like Bobby Petrino very quickly lost the respect of his players, forcing Arthur Blank to ask some hard questions. When person the caliber of Warrick Dunn starts saying they're is a problem, it's time to listen. Bumped into Mr. Dunn doing Xmas shopping at Lenox Mall less than a week before this all went down, and he did not look like a happy camper. One excuse flying around is that Blank complained about the content of pre-game prayers, and was therefore too meddling.
The Falcons owner Arthur Blank is a good man who regards his ownership of the city's team as part of his investment in improving the life of the ATL, much the same way his business partner Bernie Marcus has in constructing the Georgia Aquarium. He deserved better, even though naivete (Blank apparently never met Petrino face-to-face before the press conference appointing him the new coach) clearly played a part here. It will be interesting to see if he lands the Big Tuna to run the show -- Parcells's gruff, controlling style is antipodal to Blank's warmth and friendliness. Would the Skins ever make a run at Rich McKay? (Would they want to?)
( I think it's going to be a very interesting last 2 weeks of the season for the Skins. The games against Vikings and Cowboys are winnable. If we win both, we're automatically in over the Vikings, having beaten them face-to-face. The possibility looming is that Giants play Galactus i.e. New England the last game of the season. See them winning that one? Neither do I. And they play Tampa Bay, a heady 9-5, this week. If the Giants lose to the Bucs, two wins may vault the Skins ahead of them. Bottom Line is that the Vikings game is our Super Bowl: lose and we are mathematically eliminated. A win and we face the Cowboys, who will still be jostling with the Packers for homefield advantage.
I predict a season of woulda-coulda-shoulda will end in typical tragic fashion -- winning against the Vikings, but losing against the Cowboys -- only to see the Vikings lose to Denver! But both being leapfrogged by New Orleans. It's been that type of season. And Gibbs is talking about extending his tenure...
( The Mitchell Report was a hesitant step in the right direction. It should have documented how the culture was permitted, how both the players and the league repeatedly chose to look the other way. One key revelation was the 1971 league rule on the books stating that players taking prescription medications without a lwaful prescription can be subject to discipline. This invalidates the claim that steroid-users were not breaking any rules throughout the 90's (except federal law).
Clearly baseball should:
- punish past offendors with suspensions if they are still in the game
- invalidate any records set by steroid-users - it's one thing if users are competing (generally) against each other, but when they set records they are unfairly competing against players who didn't have the 'benefit' of playing in the steroid era. It would be too onerous to take away every hit and pitch -- but this can't be the excuse for not doing anything. Let the record-setting steriod users pay the price. This not only is an attempt to even the playing field with players of other eras, it serves as a precedent and warning to those who will try to cheat in the future, whether through HGH or means as yet uninvented. All the home run records should be reset, all of Clemens's pitching stats stricken from the record. Or else, as we've seen in track, these records may never be able to be broken by a human competing fairly and legally.
- adopt the WADA protocol for drug testing -- an independent agency testing year round. This would be the best step Congress could take -- mandating that all US sports comply with these procedures, including the NFL and its 4-game suspensions of steroid-using wunderkind like Shawne Merriman.
The fight for the soul of baseball is on. You already hear people writing that attendance and ratings should dictate whether the status quo is acceptable. Remember that the sports establishment doesn't want to see these things diminish, that the same people who cover the sports news depend upon the popularity of their subject matter.
Ironically, the people who have the most to gain are the baseball players themselves, even as they vehemently deny and stonewall. They have a chance to live long, healthy lives without the effects of performance enhancers. No more Florence Griffith Joyners dying at 39. No more Chris Benoits. No more teammates on Division III college track teams picking fights because of roid rage, as happened to a runner I coached.