Category Archives: Sports

Nice baseball story. You should read it…

There's nothing like having some room to stretch out at the ballpark...

There’s nothing like having some room to stretch out at the ballpark…

Hey, I read a sports story this morning! Don’t know why. I couldn’t tell from the headline what I was going to find, but it implied something delightful, so I plunged in.

Here’s the story, and here’s an excerpt:

At Nationals Park, an embarrassing fiasco and an absolute joy

Two events were held at Nationals Park Thursday night. The first was a rain delay that lacked much in the way of rain, and it was an abomination, a self-inflicted black eye and a disrespectful affront to thousands of fans.

That the Nats screwed up is obvious: Their decision-making was suspect (much of the delay was conducted without benefit of a tarp, a crucial clue that something was amiss); their communication was inadequate (fans weren’t told what was going on until 9:35, about five minutes before the tarp was removed); and their response to the misfire unsatisfactory. By the time the teams started playing ball — after a delay that lasted as long as a typical game — most of the crowd was gone, and justifiably so: Kids had bedtimes, Metro was closing and the information void offered no particular reason to remain….

It goes on like that for several paragraphs. More about management’s stupid handling of the situation, families who’d wasted three figures without seeing a pitch thrown, etc.

Then, you get to the good bit.

After almost everyone is gone, a tiny remnant of fans remaining — the unattached, the people with nowhere to go, and here and there families with kids who had neither school or work the next day — a few others hear that the game has yet to start, and they go to the ballpark. The writer of this piece changed out of his pajamas to go.

And they found… $5 tickets. No lines to go through metal detectors. Free hot dogs and ice cream — one kid the writer encountered on the way in was lining up for his third Rocket Pop.

And the management let them sit anywhere they wanted. Once they did, there was plenty of room to stretch out. You could hear individual cheers from the crowd. Everything was relaxed, intimate, friendly and easygoing.

The way baseball is supposed to be.

It made me think of when I lived in Florida from 1968-70. In the spring, we’d go see the Reds, the Cardinals and others there in the Tampa Bay area. It cost almost nothing to get in. Everything was laid-back. You could talk with the players, or at least get their autographs — Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Joe Torre, all those guys.

I didn’t get an autograph from Tim McCarver because I couldn’t get him to turn around when he was signing for some other kids, then he had to run out on the field. When he later turned out to be my wife’s first cousin, I gave him grief about it.

After that same game (I think), my brother and I went up to a guy in his street clothes outside the locker room and asked him to sign our programs. He said, “Aw, you don’t want mine,” he said. He signed them anyway. Then we looked at the name: “Steve Carlton.” He was right. We’d never heard of him. It was his rookie year.

Those were the day. And apparently, they had one of those days in Washington late last night.

To me, such casualness is the essence of baseball, properly appreciated. Remember that scene in “The Natural” during a practice, when Pop and Red are sitting in the dugout while the players on the field are shagging flies and tossing the ball around? They’re leaning back on the bench, playing a game of “Name that Tune,” no worries in the world…

Now that’s baseball…

Red and Pop in the dugout.

Red and Pop in the dugout.

Bull Street Update: There’s baseball, and, um… there’s baseball…

Bull Street is coming along fine. It's got baseball...

Bull Street is coming along fine. It’s got baseball…

Having seen this story in The State today:

Most members of the Bull Street Commission, a seven-member board appointed by Columbia City Council, said Monday that they are satisfied with progress at the former State Hospital despite raised expectations of a sprawling retail complex that so far have not materialized.

“I still feel the project is coming along at a reasonable pace,” said member Rebecca Haynes, a former president of the Earlewood Community Citizens Organization. “I think it’s way too early in a 20-year project for anyone to start throwing stones.”…

… I was wondering what y’all thought about how the development is going.

All I’ve really seen so far is baseball, but then, I keep telling y’all to be patient on the Innovista concept, so do I have room to talk?

Anyway, if all you’ve got to show is baseball, is that so bad? It’s better than what they’ve got going at Williams-Brice, in my book…

... and also baseball.

… and also baseball.

Revisiting the Hickory Huskers

Huskers

Back row: Whit, Jimmy, Strap, Coach Norman Dale, Everett, Merle, Buddy. Front row: Rade, Ollie.

All the Gamecock basketball excitement over the weekend caused me to go back and watch “Hoosiers” again, even though I had already done so once in the past month or two. I figured I needed to brush up on my sports jargon, so I could say stuff like:

You’re playing Gonzaga Saturday. Ain’t nobody knows ’em better’n me. Now, I been watchin’ how you’ve been breakin’ the colts. But, my friend, you cannot play them all the way man-to-man. They got no head-toppers. Gonzaga? A bunch o’ mites. Run you off the boards. You gotta squeeze ’em back in the paint. Make ’em chuck it from the cheap seats. Watch that purgatory they call a gym. No drive, 12 foot in. That’ll do…

I still think some of what Shooter told Coach was gobbledegook, but it sounded deep.

Anyway, as happens when I’m watching a movie with an iPad on my lap, I started looking up the colts to see what happened to them. Some of them tried to pursue a movie career, with minimal success. One (Merle) committed suicide at 39. Another — Rade, who violated Norman Dale’s 4-pass rule in the first game, is a successful dentist, and looks just the same except that his hair’s not slicked down.

Anyway, I ran across this fun picture from this past November, when the Huskers reunited in Indianapolis, and were interviewed on a radio show. I hope Kent Sterling, the radio host, won’t mind my sharing this. It’s pretty cool…

crop reunion

Pictured are, left to right:

  • Brad Long, who played BuddyThat’s the guy with the crewcut who mouthed off to the coach in the first practice and got kicked off the team — then, mysteriously, is back on the team later in the movie. It’s a mystery because the money men forced the director to butcher the movie to get it under 2 hours, and it was still awesome! The very last cut they made was to the scene in which Buddy asks Coach for another chance.
  • Dr. Steve Hollar, who played Rade — Rade had an attitude problem, too, but later became so loyal that in defense of Coach Dale, he threw the punch that got him and Dale kicked out of the game. “Got him good, didn’t I, coach?” “Yeah, you did.” Steve was playing basketball for DePauw University when he got the part. After filming, he went back to school and became a dentist.
  • Wade Schenck, who played Ollie — Ollie wasn’t no good, as he put it — “Equipment manager’s my trade.” But he scored the charity shot that got them into the championship game.
  • Kent Sterling, the radio guy
  • Maris Valainis, the immortal Jimmy Chitwood — Valainis showed up for the casting cattle call, and decided it was ridiculous with so many competitors, and got out of line to leave — and the director spotted him. He pulled the kid aside and asked him to show his basketball skills. Even though he was the only Husker who didn’t make his high school team in real life, he ended up portraying the best player anybody had ever seen in Indiana.
  • David Neirdorf, who played Everett Flatch — That’s Shooter’s son, who was initially embarrassed by what Coach was trying to do for his Dad. “Son, kick their butt!”

And who doesn’t get goose bumps when, at the end, the camera zooms in on the team photo and you hear Gene Hackman say, “I love you guys…”

Gamecocks: Cinderella with brass knuckles?

I hope Wade Payne and the Associated Press don't mind my using this to send you to the Post story (just click on it.)

I hope Wade Payne and the Associated Press don’t mind my using this to send you to the Post story (just click on it.)

I thought some of you sports fans would enjoy this piece from The Washington Post this morning.

I like the way they portray Frank Martin as an “ogre” (although one loved by his players). I think of him as this guy who is so supportive of the S.C. Center for Fathers and Families, an ADCO client — if not exactly a teddy bear, at least a benign force.

Anyway, the story’s a good one. An excerpt:

South Carolina is like Cinderella — if she came to NCAA ball with brass knuckles

South Carolina is the closest thing to a Cinderella left in the NCAA tournament, but that ball-gown of a word is too delicate for them. There’s no dreamers in this team, they’re all brawl and substance, beginning with their rage monster of a coach Frank Martin, who seems to burst out of his suit with that terrifying tripwire temper, and looks at any moment like he’s ready to get in a fight with a pool cue….

Imagine that visage and voice coming at you. The large ogre’s jaw, topped by graying hair cut currycomb short. The eyes like an uncontrolled methane burn. You’d do what he said, too. In 2014, Martin cussed out guard Duane Notice so vehemently that his athletic director had to suspend him for a game. Yet that’s just one facet of a coach who must be acknowledged as the real thing, a masterful teacher who has gotten South Carolina to its first NCAA Sweet 16 since 1973. He has done it with force of will, superb habits instilled over five years of grinding, and largely with homegrown players. Here’s the thing about all that yelling. It works. His players do what he tells them to….

Give it a rest with the football! It’s BASEBALL SEASON!

We just GOT this beautiful, pristine ballpark, and they're going to put FOOTBALL in it!

We just GOT this beautiful, pristine ballpark, and they’re going to put FOOTBALL in it!

On Saturday, I flipped on the old TV in my upstairs home office, the one in front of the recliner I keep there, intending to glide off into a nap while half-watching something…

… and there was football on my TV!

It’s still August, people! I don’t get but a handful of TV stations — just the local broadcast tier — and if there’s going to be sports on one of them in August, it should be baseball! But was there a single MLB game on my limited set of choices? No. More’s the pity, because there are few things more restful on a Saturday afternoon than non-playoff, regular season, workaday baseball.

But wait — there’s the Little League World Series! But no. Those overexcited little kids running around don’t have the right sort of languid, professionals-doing-a-job approach that I prefer when I’m in nap mode.

So I snoozed with the TV off, the way cavemen did in their home offices.

Monday night, I’m in the kitchen and my wife turns on the TV in the next room, and for a second before she changes the channel, I could swear I heard football again! She says I didn’t, and there wasn’t any on the guide, so maybe I’m just getting jumpy. But it sounded like football!

Look, people, I know you’re all going to be going on about football at full volume 24 hours a day after Labor Day, which is bearing down on us, and that’s just one of the miserable facts of life in the season that would otherwise be my favorite time of year. (I’ll see leaves turning and feel a delicious coolness in the air, and someone will say, “Football weather!” and ruin it.) I’ll deal with it, and look forward to the World Series.

But let me have the rest of this week, OK? Stop encroaching on the last week that should be football-free.

And for sure, don’t give me more news like this:

Six local high school football teams will face off this fall at Spirit Communications Park, the $37 million home of the Columbia Fireflies minor league baseball team….

Aw, come ON, people! We just got this ballpark! I just went to my first game there last week, and you’re telling me next week there’s going to be football there? Really? You didn’t think there was enough football going on in enough places in September, you had to sully this place, too?

When does it stop? Yeah, I know — February, right? I’ll start counting the days…

Let’s be clear: That one’s not sexism; it’s football

Are you ready for some football-related news from the Olympics?

Are you ready for some football-related news from the Olympics?

Feminists have the things that drive them up the wall, and I have mine.

The Washington Post today had an interesting piece about how no matter what female athletes at the Olympics accomplish, media coverage has a tendency to focus more on what their husbands do. And there are some good examples so absurd as to cause you to laugh, cry, scream with rage or tear your hair out.

But I zeroed in on this one, because it hits me where I live (and on my blog, that’s what matters, right?):

In case you’re tempted to call that a fluke, let’s look at how the Chicago Tribune wrote about Corey Cogdell-Unrein, its hometown Olympic star:

“Wife of a Bears’ lineman wins a bronze medal today in Rio Olympics,”the newspaper tweeted Sunday.

Not even her name. Or her event. Or the fact that it was Cogdell-Unrein’s second Olympic medal in trap shooting, in her third Olympic Games. The most newsworthy part: She’s married to NFL lineman Mitch Unrein.

The Trib got called out on the sexism, and not just by angry women’s studies majors.

Peters and Justins and Scotts all over Twitter had a field day.

“In other news, husband of Olympic medalist Corey Cogdell can’t seem to win a Super Bowl,”tweeted cartoonist Scott Johnson.

“Bill Clinton Back in White House. Brings Wife,” tweeted another outraged man….

Yeah, OK, maybe all those other cases are blatant sexism. But this one? This is about the American obsession, which finds its most virulent expression in newspaper sports departments, with football.

Newspapers are so incredibly obsessed with football, particularly in our own part of the country, that they cover it year-round. And it’s not just the sports guy: the best chance a story has of moving from sports to the front, it often seems, is for it to have some sort of connection to football, however tenuous or indirect.

The sports journalists involved in that story weren’t picking on this woman or being mean to her. By their lights, she was lucky to get such great coverage, because they are incapable of seeing her as anything other than someone who has a connection to what matters, which is football. In their universe, she is either the wife of a prominent football player, or she doesn’t exist.

They were doing her, and the Olympics, a favor. They were trying to get their readers to care, by explaining her in terms of her connection to something important.

So go ahead and point out when something is sexist. But know when something is not. And this particular absurdity was not. This one was football.

I never knew this photo existed in color

Ali color

I was startled to find the above image in my WashPost app over the weekend.

Startled because I had no idea that a color version of the photo existed.

You see the more familiar version below. While they are almost identical, aside from the color in the one above, they aren’t quite. I imagine they were shot by different cameras that were right next to each other, in the same split-second (although it’s possible that they’re from the same camera and exposed a tiny fraction of a second apart, with the black-and-white version printed from a color negative — but that seems less likely).

But they’re definitely not from the same negative. Note the position of his right elbow — it’s markedly different in relation to the waistband of his trunks. A more dramatic difference — the bald photographer at ringside is seen directly between Clay’s (this is before he was Ali) legs in the color photo, and is off to the side of his right leg in the the black-and-white.

Bottom line, though, which photo do you like better? A silly question, perhaps, but bear with me.

You might say the color one, as it gives you more information.

But I prefer the black-and-white. It just seems more… legit. It’s history, and one thinks of legitimate photos of history as being black-and-white — particularly specific photos one has already seen in black-and-white.

Also, at the time, it was news. And news photos were in black and white back then. (The color one, according to the credit, was taken by Neil Leifer for Sports Illustrated — which unlike newspapers at the time, used color photos.)

Color seems… fake somehow. Like it was a re-enactment. Or like a colorized version of “Casablanca.”

It’s not a rational response, I’ll admit. But that’s how I responded to it…

clay black and white

9 out of 10 American Indians not offended by ‘Redskins’

So, in light of this:

New poll finds 9 in 10 Native Americans aren’t offended by Redskins name

Nine in 10 Native Americans say they are not offended by the Washington Redskins name, according to a new Washington Post poll that shows how few ordinary Indians have been persuaded by a national movement to change the football team’s moniker.Rhviuq9C

The survey of 504 people across every state and the District reveals that the minds of Native Americans have remained unchanged since a 2004 poll by the Annenberg Public Policy Center found the same result. Responses to The Post’s questions about the issue were broadly consistent regardless of age, income, education, political party or proximity to reservations.

Among the Native Americans reached over a five-month period ending in April, more than 7 in 10 said they did not feel the word “Redskin” was disrespectful to Indians. An even higher number — 8 in 10 — said they would not be offended if a non-native called them that name….

… what do we think now about the name of the Washington football team?

Here’s how Bryan responded to the news yesterday:

As for me personally — well, I’ve never seen any problem with it. The most likely motive for the name to me has seemed to be the one the team claims — as a respectful tribute to indigenous people. But since I’m not one of them, and I’ve been told it is supposedly offensive to people in that demographic (and also because I don’t much care what any football team calls itself), I’ve stayed out of it.

The Post has been going wild with the subject since releasing the poll results yesterday:

Will a new poll on the Redskins name alter the legal fight over the team’s federal trademarks?

Some in the news media are still offended by Redskins name, even if Indians aren’t

I’m dropping my protest of Washington’s football team name

So what do y’all think?

Russell Means as Chingachgook

Russell Means as Chingachgook

Oh, one last thing: Before anyone objects to my use of “Indian” in the headline… I don’t do so thoughtlessly. Not long ago, I read 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created. The author chose to use “Indian” for the peoples whose direct ancestors came to this continent thousands of years ago. I found his reasoning for that persuasive.

Besides, Russell Means of the American Indian Movement preferred it. Who am I to argue with Chingachgook?

Our own Kathryn Fenner on the pellet-gun vandalism

I’ve been extremely busy the last few days — my wife was out of town and I was among other things filling in for her taking care of grandchildren part of the time — and I just now saw this, brought to my attention by Doug Ross.

For the sake of Kathryn and her neighbors, I hope they got the right guys

 

Where I saw my first (and last) cockfight

cockfighting

 

This news today…

Cockfighting could be a felony in home of fighting Gamecocks

In a state where the flagship university’s mascot is a fighting gamecock, some legislators are trying to toughen the penalties for cockfighting, something that’s illegal in all 50 states.

But South Carolina is among nine states where the crime is only a misdemeanor, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Legislation considered Wednesday by a Senate panel would make second and subsequent convictions a felony, punishable by up to a $3,000 fine and five years in prison.

Animal-rights activists say cockfighting is cruel, a haven for gambling and drug use and desensitizes children who might watch it to violence. But game fowl breeders contend cockfighting is a centuries-old tradition that’s no more cruel than hunting sports, and that breeding the birds is a source of pride….

… reminded me of a old grainy photo I recently ran across while digitizing family pictures.

It’s not much to look at, not least because of its Polaroid-level quality. My mother was taking pictures around our house (actually, the spacious upstairs part of a duplex) where we lived in Guayaquil, Ecuador, from 1962-65. By the notes she wrote on the backs, she sent them to relatives in the States to show them where we lived.

This shot was apparently sort of an afterthought. It shows a scruffy vacant lot that could be seen, if you looked diagonally across a side street, from the back terraza of the apartment. On the back, she wrote:

This is an ugly vacant lot across from porch “B”. The trash man comes every day & if he has a lot of paper he burns it there.

You can barely see one of the dry mountains in the distance.

Not much to see, but whenever I read about the cockfighting issue in the paper, I think of that lot.

It was the only undeveloped lot within blocks of us, and therefore something of a magnet for my buddy Tony Wessler (an Air Force brat who lived about six blocks away) and me. We lived a fairly adventurous, Huck Finn life outdoors, since there was no television to speak of. There was little of nature there, as the houses didn’t have yards — just courtyards surrounding by walls that were only a yard or so from the houses. Tony and I would cross blocks by running along those walls and, where feasible, climbing from the walls to the flat concrete rooftops and running over the actual houses.

See that house to the left of the vacant lot? We almost got caught on that one. The roof was divided for some reason by a cement wall about three-feet high. Vaulting it, I banged my knee right on the funny bone and collapsed on the roof. The resident heard us and called out, “Who is that?” Fortunately, we managed to get over to the next roof before he caught us.

Anyway, unpaved ground was a rarity, and we liked this bit of it.

One day on that lot, we saw a tight circle of men gathered in excitement around some activity in the dusty middle. These were working-class men, not the sort who lived in this relatively affluent part of town. Maybe one was that trash man my mother mentioned. Others could have been the pushcart vendors who worked our neighborhood, calling out the varieties of bananas and other produce they sold.

We could barely make out what had them so excited, but we caught brief glimpses of the two gamecocks going at it while the men yelled, gesticulated and placed their bets.

We wanted to get a better look, but couldn’t.

I suppose this “desensitized” me as a child, because I don’t look back in horror. And the idea of chickens fighting doesn’t appall me the way, say, dogfighting does. Maybe because I have some empathy for those guys who didn’t have a whole lot of entertainment in their lives. Or maybe because daily, coming down Sunset between home and downtown, I find myself caught behind those miserable, smelly trucks carrying hundreds of filthy-looking white chickens on their way to the slaughter. Talk about desensitizing… giving a chicken a fighting chance seems less cruel by comparison.

And before you ask, no, I don’t eat chicken. I’m allergic to it. This horror is the fault of the rest of y’all, he said smugly…

Congratulations to A’ja Wilson!

It’s true that I don’t post much about sports here. But this is different — her Dad is a friend of mine, and I’ve enjoyed hearing about her achievements through him.

So congratulations to you, too, Roscoe:

South Carolina sophomore A’ja Wilson was named SEC Player of the Year and SEC Defensive Player of the Year on Tuesday, capping a season where she finished in the league’s top five in scoring, rebounding and led it in blocks. Wilson, who joked in the preseason that she wanted to win the defensive prize, earned it by averaging over three blocks a game and brought the overall player of the year award to USC for a third straight season….

So am I supposed to like him because he played football?

That’s the initial impression I get from this video in which Fran Person announces that he’s running for the 5th District congressional seat held by Mick Mulvaney.196420

There’s some good stuff later about he also worked as body man to Joe Biden.

But people with short attention spans will only know about the football stuff

Steve Spurrier’s just like me, except for all that money

I found this item today interesting:

Steve Spurrier has been to Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich., and Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb., since resigning as South Carolina’s head coach, but he won’t be at Williams-Brice Stadium this weekend or any weekend the rest of this season.

“I don’t think that’s my place,” Spurrier told The State on Monday….

Hey, what a coincidence — I don’t feel like it’s my place, either, so I won’t be going to the game. Either.

Increasingly, Steve Spurrier is just like me — except that he’s paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to ignore the Gamecocks, whereas I do it faithfully, year after year, for free.

Now I ask you, is that fair?

Spurrier to get paid $900,000 ‘to empty his office?’

Just thought I’d take notice of this item from over the weekend:

The University of South Carolina will pay former football coach Steve Spurrier, who resigned Monday, through the end of 2015, Gamecocks athletics director Ray Tanner said Friday.

That means Spurrier will receive his full $4 million pay for the year. Based on his annual pay, the former Gamecocks coach is scheduled to collect more than $900,000 through the end of the year….

Spurrier, who left after the Gamecocks started the season with a 2-4 record, has said he plans to stay in the Columbia area. He said he would take the rest of the season to empty his office at Williams-Brice Stadium…

So basically, he’s going to make more money than I’m likely to make in the rest of my working life for cleaning out his office? What’s he going to do, take home one knickknack from his desk each day? Let’s see… with 54 weekdays left in the year, that’s $16,666.67 per knickknack.

OK, yeah, I know — USC probably didn’t have any choice in this. It’s not all that unusual with big-time college coaches to receive the rest of their contract when they leave, and so forth and so on.

I’m not saying any particular individual or institution should have done anything differently than they did in this case. I blame no one. I blame society and its values.

A country where this is normal is a country with its priorities seriously out of whack.

Official Baseball Rule 5.09 (a)(13) is a very good rule. Maybe they should tell the umps about it…

Anybody see the play in which the Dodgers’ Chase Utley intentionally body-slammed the Mets’ Ruben Tejada, breaking his leg?

I ask because, you know, all I ever hear anybody talk about is football.

(An interesting indication of how distorted things are: Wondering whether the World Series will still be shown this year on a station I get, I Googled “what network will show the…” and Google immediately tried to autofill the query as “… super bowl.” I continued typing “world,” and Google guessed, “cup.” When you know good and well that Google knows I’m asking from within this country, not someplace where they’re nuts about that other football.)

The “slide,” of course, wasn’t a slide. Utley wasn’t trying to be safe at second; he didn’t even try to touch the base. The shortstop had moved out of his way to make his throw to first, but Utley went for him instead of the bag.

Sacrificing your body — and your opponent’s body — to break up a double play is of course a time-honored part of the game. But there’s such a thing as going too far. Ty Cobb’s allegedly sharpened spikes come to mind.

After “the hit” (something that would no doubt be celebrated to an obscene degree by football fans), Dodgers fans were happy. The hit won the game, and possibly saved the playoff series, for the Dodgers. But if this L.A. Times’ columnist’s perspective is any guide, there was at least some ambivalence in the City of Angels:

The slide was late. The slide was high. The slide was questionably legal and arguably dirty.

Even if you were watching it through blue-colored glasses, you had to admit that the slide was recklessly dangerous, so much that it broke another man’s leg.

But after 27 years of frustration, the Dodgers will accept reckless, embrace dangerous, and so on Saturday night they uncomfortably celebrated a slide that won a game, altered a series and may have saved a season….

The thing is, within the context of the game, Utley got away with it. The ump not only didn’t penalize him, he called him safe, ruling that Tejada failed to touch the bag before attempting his throw.

But last night, MLB suspended him for the next two games of the series. They managed to find a rule against what he’d done:

“While I sincerely believe that Mr. Utley had no intention of injuring Ruben Tejada, and was attempting to help his club in a critical situation, I believe his slide was in violation of Official Baseball Rule 5.09 (a)(13), which is designed to protect from precisely this type of rolling block that occurs away from the base,” Torre said in a statement…

Good. That restores a bit of order to the universe. Official Baseball Rule 5.09 (a)(13) is a very good rule.

So next time something like this happens, I’m going to yell, “Hey, ya bum! That’s against Official Baseball Rule 5.09 (a)(13)!

Do college football coaches deserve their pay?

Does Steve Spurrier actually earn, in any moral sense, the more than $4 million he is paid as an ostensible public employee? Or is the $7.2 million that Alabama coach Nick Saban pulls down justified?

Mr. Saban’s biographer, Monte Burke, says yes in The Wall Street Journal. A portion of his argument:

Former Alabama President Robert Witt (now the chancellor of the Alabama university system), once told CBS’s “60 Minutes” that Mr. Saban was “the best financial investment this university has ever made.” He has a point.NickSaban_LSU-AL-07t

Mr. Saban had an immediate financial impact on Alabama. In 2007 the school was closing a $50 million capital campaign for its athletic department. After Mr. Saban arrived, the campaign exceeded its goal by $52 million. Alabama’s athletic-department revenue the year before Coach Saban showed up was $68 million. By 2013-14 it had risen to $153 million, a gain of 125%. (The athletic department kicked $9 million of that to the university.) Mr. Saban’s football program accounted for $95 million of that figure, and posted a profit of $53 million.

Mr. Witt said Mr. Saban also played a big role in the success of a $500 million capital campaign for the university (not merely the athletic department) that took place around the time the football coach was hired. Mr. Witt also credited his coach with helping grow Alabama’s enrollment—which stands at more than 36,000, an increase of 14,000 students since 2007. The university managed the neat trick of actually becoming more selective during that time. The year before Mr. Saban arrived, Alabama accepted 77% of its applicants. It now admits a little more than 50%. Mr. Saban’s three national titles at Alabama have helped the university create a winning brand….

Of course such an argument can be mounted for anyone whose hand rests on the money tap that is college football.

But in a larger sense, it’s completely absurd to say that anyone earns that much money supervising a bunch of ostensible students in doing something that has nothing to do with their studies — playing a game. When I say “larger sense,” I mean the view from 30,000 feet — the distance I try (unsuccessfully) to maintain from anything having to do with college football.

But hey, let’s keep it on a simple dollars-and-cents level (as if anyone counts cents any more): Who earns that money that flows into the program’s coffers? The coach or the players? In the NFL, top players make more than the coaches — which makes sense, when you consider who is actually out there courting brain damage and other forms of permanent injury. But am I arguing, as many do, that college players should be paid in accord with the profits they bring in?

No, I’m not. College kids getting paid millions to play a game is more or less as absurd as the coaches getting paid that much. In fact, I have no suggestions, because the problem is far too pervasive, complex and systemic to lend itself to any workable solution.

The problem isn’t that colleges are wasteful in paying coaches this much. The problem is that football brings in this much money. In other words, the problem is that we live in a society in which people value college football to a degree that is far beyond the power of the word “absurd.” And the result is, as the headline I reTweeted a week ago says:

Who is to blame? Pretty much everybody I see when I look around me, a fact borne in upon me at this time of year with all the subtlety of that trash compactor in the Death Star, its walls moving in to impartially crush Luke, Leia and Han.

Which reminds me. You know how much Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford are being paid to reprise their roles? Well, neither do I, but … Oh, never mind…

Speeding up baseball: A good idea, or an offense against all that is Right and Good?

Would THESE guys tolerate changes to the game? No way...

Would THESE guys tolerate changes to the game? No way…

We have a new baseball season. A cause for celebration.

We also have a new baseball commissioner. A cause for… concern.

Because the new commissioner of baseball, Rob Manfred, has a mandate from the owners who appointed him: Speed up the game, or else.

When I first read this, I was greatly alarmed:

This isn’t about tinkering with the playoffs to make a few extra dollars from the television networks. The 30 team owners have ordered the new commissioner to modernize baseball and make it appeal to an audience that is increasingly weary of the game’s slow pace. There will of course be cries of sacrilege from traditionalists about putting the national pastime on a clock. Many players are resisting, too. But they are unlikely to slow the transformation….

Arrrggghhh! Sacrilege is too soft a word, I thought! I’ve seen the stories about how younger generations were turning away from baseball (I’ve been reading them for decades, it seems.) But the very idea that the game itself would be changed to meet the frenetic expectations of kids raised on video games and the kinds of cartoons that give me a headache from the next room was an outrage! Alla you kids, get outta my ballpark!

… until I continued reading, and found nothing of the kind:

What drove these wealthy titans over the edge were moments like these: David Ortiz at the plate, endlessly rubbing his hands and adjusting his batting gloves; or David Price, the game’s most deliberate hurler, taking his usual 27 seconds between each pitch.

National television ratings have plummeted as the average game last season stretched beyond three hours, or more than 30 minutes longer than the average in the 1970s. This is despite the fact that run-scoring, which usually produces longer games, is at a 33-year low….

Oh. OK. So basically, we’re saying that we’re not only respecting tradition, we’re trying to return baseball to those halcyon days that all good people remember with great warmth and respect. To take it away from those prima donnas capriciously holding up the game, and making about people who came to play ball! I can live with that.

So how will this be accomplished?

This season will bring clocks that count down a newly specified two minutes 25 seconds between half-innings (2:45 for nationally televised games). A hitter will have to keep a toe in the batter’s box throughout an at-bat, stepping out only after he swings or calls timeout. In recent years, countless batters took to stepping out after every pitch. Baseball operations executives will closely monitor pitching habits, with warnings and fines for the most egregious dawdlers. A too-long-ignored rule says pitchers must throw every 12 seconds. The game’s rulers say it remains a kind of guidepost and they won’t be as stringent as the rule book allows them to be, but they have promised severe measures for excessive violations….

OK. OK…. if we’re just talking about Rules That Are Already In Place and Not Being Obeyed, then it is high time, etc.

Yes, the commissioner is considering some measures that Go Too Far, such as limiting catcher-pitcher conferences on the mound. THAT would be meddling with the essence of the game, and completely unacceptable. Catchers should and must be free to spend as much time as they see fit calming their pitchers down. Without that, it’s not baseball.

But I think I can live with rules that say, if you’re getting paid to play ball, get into the batter’s box and stay there until the job is done. That’s what Pop Fischer would tell them to do.  I think that’s within the spirit of the game.

Changing baseball is and always will be unacceptable, going back to the outrage of the lively ball (yeah, I’ve read a lot of Ring Lardner — so?). But changing it back — why, that sounds like a good thing to me.

What say you?

Should college athletes get paid (more than the generous compensation they already receive, that is)?

If the ancient Greeks had allowed their athletes to be paid, maybe they could have afforded some clothes.

If the ancient Greeks had allowed their athletes to be paid, maybe they could have afforded some clothes.

One or two of y’all really appreciated Bryan raising sports topics in my absence, so here goes: Should college athletes get paid?

Here’s the summary section of the bill that would provide for that:

A BILL TO AMEND CHAPTER 101, TITLE 59 OF THE 1976 CODE, RELATING TO COLLEGES AND INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER LEARNING GENERALLY, BY ADDING ARTICLE 5, TO PROVIDE THAT PARTICIPATING INSTITUTIONS IN THIS STATE SHALL ANNUALLY AWARD STIPENDS TO STUDENT ATHLETES WHO PARTICIPATE IN AN INTERCOLLEGIATE SPORT AND MAINTAIN A GOOD ACADEMIC STANDING DURING THE PREVIOUS YEAR, TO PROVIDE CONDITIONS FOR RECEIPT OF STIPENDS, AND TO DEFINE NECESSARY TERMS; TO AMEND CHAPTER 101, TITLE 59 OF THE 1976 CODE, RELATING TO COLLEGES AND INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER LEARNING GENERALLY, BY ADDING ARTICLE 6, TO PROVIDE THAT PARTICIPATING INSTITUTIONS IN THIS STATE SHALL CREATE A STUDENT ATHLETE TRUST FUND AND FUND THE TRUST WITH A PERCENTAGE OF THE INTERCOLLEGIATE SPORT GROSS REVENUE GENERATED FROM CERTAIN SOURCES, TO PROVIDE THAT FOR EACH YEAR A STUDENT ATHLETE MAINTAINS GOOD ACADEMIC STANDING, FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS WILL BE DEPOSITED INTO THE FUND ON HIS BEHALF AND THE TOTAL TRUST FUND AMOUNT MAY NOT EXCEED TWENTY-FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS PER STUDENT ATHLETE; TO PROVIDE THAT AFTER FULFILLMENT OF ALL ACADEMIC REQUIREMENTS FOR GRADUATION AND COMPLETION OF A STATE-APPROVED FINANCIAL LITERACY COURSE, THE PARTICIPATING INSTITUTION SHALL PROVIDE A ONE-TIME PAYMENT TO EACH STUDENT ATHLETE IN THE FULL AMOUNT DEPOSITED IN THE FUND ON THEIR BEHALF, TO PROVIDE CONDITIONS FOR RECEIPT OF THE TRUST FUND PAYMENT, AND TO DEFINE NECESSARY TERMS.

I say no. And when you say that college athletes are providing services worth millions to their schools, and that (even though those on scholarship are provided with a free college education if they are willing and able to take advantage of it) they can easily be exploited, chewed up and spit out by such a system…

Then I say we need to change the system, not the status of the athletes. Step it back from being a big business. Move it back toward something more akin to intramural sports among actual students.

Of course, I know I’m speaking wishfully. This situation arises from a sort of mass psychosis in the general population, a society that for reasons that continue to baffle me places an absurdly high value on the outcomes of games. Actually, not only the outcomes, but on every bit of minutia in any way connected to these games.

And that’s the problem. I admit I don’t know how to change that. But I don’t think paying players is a solution to the problem. Seems to me it would take us even deeper in…

Gamecock Sports Roundup

My apologies for a late Monday post, I had Court this morning.

Since bud liked the inclusion of athletic endeavors on Friday’s VFP, I’ll give everyone an extra helping of sports this Monday.

In Gamecock baseball news, we swept Kentucky in a dramatic third game on Sunday. It took a home run in the bottom of the ninth to tie it up, and then another home run in the bottom of the tenth to clinch it. The Gamecocks looked very good yesterday, displaying that never give up spirit that has a hallmark of the 2010 and 2011 teams. The embedded Tweet has the radio call of both home runs. I love a good home run call.

In women’s basketball news, the lady Gamecocks have an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament and now have an opportunity to host NCAA Games at the Colonial Life Arena. That’s a great honor that this team has worked hard to earn. Go support them!

In Gamecock football news, Spring Practice starts this week. The practices are open to the public, so these are really great for taking little kids out to see the team in a cost-effective way.

I’ll have something political for y’all to argue over later. Enjoy your Monday.