Monday, June 30, 2008

I might get some flak for this. But whenever race is brought into sports, it causes a storm of controversy. And when it is used irresponsibly, it is cause to call it out for what it is.

There is a man who until the middle of last week was a pitcher for the Houston Astros. Before that he pitched for the Pirates, the Yankees, and the Rockies. Currently he is unemployed. Why is he unemployed, you ask? Because he threw the General Manager of the team to the ground and then tried to choke him.

Let me say in no uncertain terms that I think being unemployed should be the least of his problems, and in fact he should be locked up, like someone who isn't a professional athlete would be if they did the same thing to their boss. Now that being said, I needed to say the following.

I was reading the Sunday Baltimore Sun's sports page when I read the commentary by David Steele (who some of you may remember I have mentioned in the past). His main article was about Babe Ruth and Ruth's granddaughters pushing for the Babe's number to be retired throughout baseball like Jackie Robinson's number has been. Personally, I have no opinion on that. But in his sidebar, bullet point section he mentioned the following...

The last time a pro athlete wrapped his hands around his boss' neck, it led the national newscasts, anger-management and workplace-violence experts were consulted, the president of the United States was pressed for his reaction, and the player was kicked out for a year and became an instant pariah. Of course, the last athlete who did that wore cornrows.

Here is my problem with this statement. It is bad enough that too many times, and way to casually, incidents are made out to be a black / white issue (and by that I don't mean "cut and dried", easy to see one side or the other), mainly because I think it is the easy way out to make an explanation or rationale of something. But when it is taken even further that it is because the last case was someone who was "blacker" than the current case (I don't see any other way to interpret the cornrows statement), well that smacks of sensationalism to me.

Let's look at some facts. According to Chacon himself, he is not sure exactly of his heritage, since he was put up for adoption at age 4...

Chacon was born in Anchorage, Alaska, but has only dim recollection of his biological mother and none of his father (he believes his biological father was African-American and his mother Latina). His mother placed him in a Greeley, Colorado foster home when he was 4, and he was adopted by Tony and Blanca Chacon.

No matter his heritage, he is not Caucasian, as this GIS (Google Image Search) will show you. So basically Steele is saying that since Chacon is a clean cut minority, white people don't have as big of a problem with his choking someone as we did when "thuggy" Latrell Sprewell did it.

Well, here is another reason, maybe not so "black and white". According to Chacon (and I realize that it is just his side of the story) GM Ed Wade was yelling and cursing at Chacon, and Chacon asked him multiple times to stop before finally rising to his feet and taking the altercation to a new level. Wade has admitted to telling Chacon to "look in the [bleeping] mirror", and to raising his voice. He has admitted to these things after at first denying that he ever yelled or cursed at Chacon. Since he has recanted his defense once already, is it not possible, even feasible, that he yelled and cursed at Chacon before that moment? Is that a defense for throwing someone to the ground, or for any physical assault? Not in the least. But it isn't like there was no provocation in the matter. Now compare that to the Sprewell incident. In the course of a practice, P.J. Carlesimo (the coach of the Golden State Warriors, the team that Sprewell played for at the time) instructed Sprewell to make his passes crisper, or to use the parlance used by the coach, to "put a little mustard on the pass". Sprewell responded that he did not feel like being coached or instructed that day and told Carlesimo to stay away from him. Carlesimo approached him anyway, and Sprewell responded by choking Carlesimo for 15-20 seconds before other players pulled him off of Carlesimo's neck. He left the court, then returned a few moments later and threw a punch at Carlesimo, and landed a glancing blow.

So on one hand we have a guy who was yelled at and cursed at by the man who is supposed to be in charge of the entire team, even the coaching staff, and he is belittling another man. On the other hand we have a man who is doing his job by coaching a team, and who has a player who doesn't feel like doing his job, so with no provocation chokes and later punches the man.

Latrell Sprewell acted like a spoiled prima donna who thinks he is better than the other players, like he doesn't need instruction. He acted like a lazy bum who lashed out when he was called out for it, like if your boss were to come past your cubicle and sees you writing a sports blog instead of doing the work you were supposed to be doing (and getting paid to do), and tells you to get to work. Your co-workers will probably overhear your boss, and you will probably be embarrassed (not that this has ever happened to me). Would telling your boss that you don't need them to tell you how to do your job, then saying to stay away, and when they approach you anyway you try to kill them.

Shawn Chacon was wrong to refuse to go to the Manager's Office when Wade told him to go there for a meeting with him and Manager Cecil Cooper, but he did not start the altercation, and he did not begin the escalation of the altercation. And while Chacon was wrong for denying Wade's request to go to Cooper's office, in hindsight it was probably the best thing for him. I have no doubt that Wade's tirade would have been just as bad if not worse behind closed doors and without 24 witnesses (the rest of the team), and seeing how Wade initially denied yelling and cursing, I have to wonder if he would have admitted to it if said witnesses were not there to refute his statement.

Mr. Steele, you are in the wrong here, and stirring up racial issues only clouds the real issues in this case.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

There has been a lot going on since my last post. Jim McKay passed away. Jonathan Ogden retired. I am hoping on Monday or Tuesday to address these things, plus some other points I have been thinking about lately. However, every so often I come across an article that I think needs to be read on its own merits. For instance...

As a fan of University of Maryland athletics, I have no love for any team that plays for Duke University. The phrase "Duke sucks" is used around this house with great fervor and frequency. That being said, it is always nice to have the courts (of law, not of basketball) decree this also to be fact.

Enjoy, and have a good weekend.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Yes, it has been a while since I posted here. As I have stated previously, I would love to post more often. If there is some enterprising entrepreneur who wants to finance my sports ramblings I would gladly find the time to be here much more often. Either way, I am again going to try and be here more often. If I have my time budgeted correctly (and I just might at that) I should be able to do a weekly post. Hey, it works for the City Paper...

So what have we missed? Well...

The Ravens did exactly what I hoped that they would do and traded down in the draft and got some extra picks (including one that they had traded to Buffalo last year in order to get Willis McGahee, leading to the pick being listed as "Baltimore from Jacksonville from Buffalo from Baltimore. The pick went through almost as many teams as Steve DeBerg. Or a Steve DeBerg pass). They went from the 8th pick to the 22nd pick, then moved back up to the 18th in order to draft Deleware QB Joe Flacco (look HERE and HERE to get an idea of who he is and some lingering draft reactions). There are those that say that the Ravens "reached" for him by taking him so early, and there are those (including some in the Ravens draft room) who feel that Michigan's Chad Henne (info on him HERE and HERE) was the better choice. The argument basically breaks down to Flacco played the majority at a 1-AA school, which is not as tough competition-wise as 1-A, where Henne played. Also, Flacco played a lot of his snaps out of the shotgun, while Michigan runs a pro-style offense. All that being said, I like the Flacco pick, and thought that overall the Ravens had a solid draft.

QB Joe Flacco
RB Ray Rice
LB Tavares Gooden
SS Tom Zbikowski
OG Oniel Cousins
WR Marcus Smith
OT David Hale
FS Haruki Nakamura
WR Justin Harper
RB Allen Patrick

It was a draft that covered a lot of needs but not at the expense of talent. I think the surprise of this draft is going to be Ray Rice, a running back from Rutgers.

Now baseball...

The Orioles have played 62 games and have 100 left. So far they are 31-31. If ANYBODY says that they thought this team would even be within 10 games of .500, let alone AT .500 this far into the season they are probably going to also try and sell you a bridge. Manager Dave Trembley has done a great job with this team, and Pitching Coach Rick Kranitz is another big reason for the team's success. Andy MacPhail got a king's ransom for Erik Bedard and Miguel Tejada, and wisely decided not to just take the best offer for Brian Roberts or any other players who are available (and as far as the major league roster goes Adam Jones and Nick Markakis are off limits for sure, and I can only hope after what he has shown this season that Daniel Cabrera has joined that list), which has been known around here as the Syd Thrift School of Generally Managing Things (his fire sale of veterans landed us ONE player who was worth a damn in Melvin Mora and one who had more steroids in him than the entire field at the Preakness in Jay Gibbons).

There is every chance that in the next 6-8 weeks (baseball's non-waiver trade deadline is July 31st. Non-waiver means that the player, as long as he is eligible to be traded (does not have any kind of no-trade clause in his contract or does not have trade blocking rights as a result of MLB's Collective Bargaining Agreement) can be traded to any other team as long as the Commissioner's Office reviews the trade and deems it is for a fair market value) that some or all of the following players, including Roberts, Aubrey Huff, Kevin Millar, Jay Payton, Cabrera, George Sherrill, Ramon Hernandez, and Luke Scott could all be wearing a different uniform. Or maybe none of them will be. Either way, MacPhail will get AT LEAST fair market value for them, and if his ability (and the abilities of his scouts) stay up to the task then in 2010 / 2011 Camden Yards will be vying for the right to sell postseason tickets. And more than that no fan can ask for, especially after a decade of inept and clueless "leadership".

Finally, a few local notes...

The Johns Hopkins Blue Jays came very close to being repeat National Champions of lacrosse, as well as being the first team with 10 National Championships in the sport. Instead they lost to Syracuse University, who also came into the game with 9 National Championships and left with 10. Even so, the Blue Jays had a great season, coming back from the brink of not making the Tournament to losing 13-10 after eliminating the Number 1 team, the Duke Blue Devils (a team that came in with only one loss on the season, to go with 18 wins, including a trouncing of Johns Hopkins earlier in the season). Dave Petramala is one hell of a coach and I have all he confidence in the world that they will be back in the mix next year.

The Baltimore Blast won their 4th Major Indoor Soccer League Championship in 6 years, then the league folded. It looks like the folding is mainly to reorganize and get rid of some dead wood, but still it was a bit of a surprise to have THAT be the rain on the parade.

That should just about cover everything until I get back (hopefully) next week. Until then, have fun, if you live in the area stay cool, and if you have any questions about anything sports related, leave a comment and I will try to cover it.