Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Going, Going....

Not only was Vick told to stay away from Falcons camp, but now various sources are indicating that this is it for Vick in Atlanta:

Terrence Moore in Atlanta

He’s gone. Whether that means for the season or forever in the NFL is debatable, but this isn’t: No way Michael Vick ever plays again for the Falcons.
No way Michael Vick ever can play again for the Falcons.

More specifically, given the ugliness and the intensity surrounding his dogfighting indictment, no way Michael Vick ever should play again for the Falcons. The fact that the NFL ordered the beleaguered quarterback on Monday night to stay away from training camp was the beginning of the end for Vick in Atlanta.

If nothing else, Vick is guilty of stupidity in the first degree. He says he wasn’t aware of illegal dogfighting in this case, but it happened on his property in Virginia for five years. Plus, most of those involved were from his boyhood “crew” that he regularly swore allegiance to despite the criminal past of its members and warnings from former coach Dan Reeves.

He’s gone, all right. Even if Vick loses his mind during the next few days by not taking the deal proposed by the league, players union and Falcons officials that would give Vick a lengthy paid leave of absence, he is gone anyway. If he ignores the deal, he will be suspended by the league. All you had to do was listen to NFL spokesman Greg Aiello reemphasize over the phone from New York that commissioner Roger Goodell is obsessed with doing whatever it takes to “protect the shield.”
Translated: Image is everything to Goodell and league owners.

“I mean, it’s well understood that the commissioner has a key role in maintaining the integrity of the league,” said Aiello, referring to NFL commissioners in general but to this one in particular. Despite less than a year on the job, Goodell’s nickname already could be “ruthless,” especially when it comes to discipline.

Added Aiello, while sifting through the league bylaws on his desk, “Detrimental conduct, the commissioner is authorized to take appropriate steps as he deems necessary and is proper in the best interest of the league or either professional football.” Aiello kept sifting, before saying, “When anyone connected with the league or any member thereof is guilty of any conduct detrimental either to the league, its clubs or to professional football …”

Aiello didn’t finish.

He’s gone.

If Vick doesn’t go by himself, or if Goodell miraculously turns soft, the Falcons should just cut him. The $22 million salary cap hit they’d take over the next two years would be less than the financial hit they’d take from lost advertising and ticket sales with a PR-damaged Vick on their roster.

It doesn’t matter whether or not Vick spent a millisecond watching pitbulls gnaw at each other for sport. It doesn’t matter whether or not he participated in the electrocution, drowning, shooting, hanging or crushing of losing dogs. It doesn’t matter whether or not he threw money toward the activity. It doesn’t matter whether or not he had knowledge any of this was happening. You won’t succeed as an NFL franchise with a heavy dose of turmoil in your world. It’s bad enough if the focus of that turmoil is a wide receiver such as Terrell Owens or a cornerback such as Pacman Jones, but if it’s a quarterback, forget it.

Worse, for the Falcons, Vick already was the most polarizing force in the history of Atlanta sports. You can blame it on his uneven play as a dramatic runner with an erratic arm combined with his hip-hop ways. Now you have this dogfighting mess with animal rights protestors fuming, active and growing from Washington D.C. to Flowery Branch. You had one U.S. senator shaking and screaming his disgust with Vick and dogfighting on the floor of the Capitol. You had another U.S. senator proposing legislation to end dogfighting and urging the NFL to get rid of Vick.

Even if Vick finds a way to make puppies fly by joining the five percent of those who ever have beaten the feds, he’d become the Falcons’ O.J. Simpson in the eyes of thousands or millions — an African-American with lots of money who had the audacity to get away with something.

Imagine the barking from coast to coast, and then imagine all of those empty seats at the Georgia Dome.

Oh, he’s gone.

John Clayton at ESPN

By ordering Michael Vick not to show up at Falcons training camp, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell preserved the chance for Falcons owner Arthur Blank to decide if he wants Vick on his team or not. Goodell made it clear the Falcons can not discipline him until the league investigates this case, but clearly, Vick is on the way out of Atlanta. Goodell toed a tight rope in making this decision. He's not suspending him, but he's also not giving Vick the chance to operate as an NFL player. The loophole appears to be the timing of his federal hearing in Richmond, Va. Vick couldn't show up for the start of camp because he has to surrender himself to authorities that day. That technically put him in breech of his contract for a day, but naturally, Blank and Goodell could have excused him for that day. They didn't. Vick's presence at camp could have turned the Falcons facility into a circus complete with protests by members of PETA. Vick is the fastest athlete ever seen at the quarterback position, but the speed in which his career is vanishing before our eyes is amazing. All along, I felt Vick would have this season to prove himself and then the Falcons would move a different direction. Now, the weight of this dogfighting case is so heavy that Vick will have to fight to be able to return to his team. What he needs to find out Thursday is whether the case is going to be on the 2007 or 2008 calendar. Now that Goodell has his season in flux, Vick might as well be prepared not to play if the trail schedule is set for the fall.

In other shockingly troubling sports stories….

More on the NBA Gambling Scandal

According to the pamphlet given to all referees, titled “Bad Bets: Understanding the N.B.A.’s Anti-Gambling Rules,” all players and league personnel are barred from gambling on any league game, including those in which they do not participate. Rules for referees go considerably further. They are prohibited from “participating in any gambling or placing bets of any kind.”

Officials are barred from visiting or attending “any racetrack, off-track betting establishment, casino or gambling establishment of any kind.” Violating the rules subjects the referee “to discipline by the N.B.A., including termination of his or her employment.”

The N.B.A. contracted an outside firm to look into accusations from 2005 that Donaghy was seen gambling in the Borgata, a casino in Atlantic City, according to a person with knowledge of the league’s investigative process who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the continuing F.B.I. investigation.

The league interviewed Donaghy at its offices as part of its investigation but was unable to substantiate the allegations, which were part of a lawsuit brought by a neighbor of Donaghy in Pennsylvania.

During the off-season, referees are permitted to bet at racetracks or attend shows at casinos, as long as they do not enter a casino gaming area.

“We can’t even walk across the casino floor,” said one official, who was granted anonymity because referees are also forbidden to speak with the news media. “They don’t want you going anywhere where people could get the wrong idea.”

“Bad Bets” also discusses rules against sharing information about the sport, such as tendencies of players and referees that game officials are privy to. Specific referees are reputed to allow more physical play than others, which can affect score differentials and totals on which bets are placed.

Referees are barred from revealing their schedule of assigned games to anyone but immediate family members. Even teams are not informed of the officiating crew until they walk into the arena hours before a game.

“Rather than directly asking referees to manipulate the outcome or score of a game, gamblers may simply seek the disclosure of confidential information that will help them place a successful bet,” the pamphlet says.

“Bad Bets” also covers rules governing point-shaving, bribe offers and similar matters. The pamphlet specifically warns against how gambling in any way can leave a referee tempted to work with gamblers.

According to a person involved with the Donaghy case, he is being investigated for gambling on various sports, including N.B.A. games, for at least two years; agreeing to share information about the league after he fell into debt; and manipulating scores on behalf of people portraying themselves as connected to organized crime.
“The financial difficulties experienced by problem or compulsive gamblers would make affected N.B.A. referees easy targets for individuals involved in the gambling business,” the pamphlet reads.

Experts in the world of sports betting in Nevada, the only state in which wagering on sporting events is legal, said that news of a referee being under investigation did not surprise them.

“Everyone thinks of point-shaving scandals as involving players, but I’ve always felt at this point it would be a referee,” said Bryan Leonard, a professional sports bettor and handicapper in Las Vegas for 24 years. “In the N.B.A., players are making millions of dollars. They don’t need the money. What do referees make?”

According to two referees, an official of Donaghy’s experience would have made about
$200,000 last season, not including money he earned by working two rounds of the playoffs, estimated at about $75,000.

Did Donaghy Help Fix Game 3 Spurs –Suns?

Is Mark Cuban vindicated?

Whatever you think of Cuban, you've pretty much got to admit he was dead right about this and Stern was dead wrong. And the commissioner's contempt for those who dared criticize his referees ended up doing great damage to the league he loves.

Stern was at his autocratic best when defending his league's opaque, subjective officiating, insisting it was wonderful and the details were nobody's business. So far as I know, even Cuban didn't suspect a Tim Donaghy scenario - a referee allegedly at the beck and call of "mobbed-up" bookies. This sounds more like a Billy Crystal-Martin Scorsese collaboration than Stern's new nightmare.

But there you are. It is a logical if bizarre extension of the lack of public accountability Cuban long ago pointed out.

It's not as if we haven't seen referees acting for personal reasons before. Nuggets fans will recall referee Steve Javie ejecting Dan Issel or Nick Van Exel, or both, every chance he got. It was personal and it was obvious.

Nor were Issel and Van Exel the only people who believed Javie used his whistle to enforce personal grudges. In fact, Allen Iverson said as much last season. Then the league fined him and made him take it back.

Cuban suspected the lack of transparency in NBA officiating could permit all sorts of personal agendas. At one point, he hired an outfit to compile a database that would point up statistical variations in individual referee's performances.

My understanding is Stern and his operations department thought he was playing a blame game and ignored his data. As far as they were concerned, Cuban was just another fan unhappy with calls against his club. In fact, that's how they define every critic.

Would Donaghy have been caught earlier with such outside monitoring? I have no idea. But as this scandal unfolds, the league's previous assertions that it alone is qualified to judge the work of officials sound more like a cover-up than a policy.
In a blog post late last week, before the NBA brought down its cone of silence, Cuban was uncharacteristically diplomatic in pressing his point:

"As bad as the allegations facing the NBA today are, it's also an opportunity to face every allegation that has ever been directed towards the NBA and its officials and pre-empt them from ever occurring in the future," he wrote.

"Calamity can be a catalyst for significant change. There are any number of examples in the business world where calamity led to better management, better communications, greater transparency and even better products. As the proverb goes, Necessity is the Mother of Invention.

"The NBA took a hit (Friday). Behind that hit is a catalyst and opportunity for significant change that could make the NBA stronger than it ever has been. It's a chance to proactively put in place people, processes and transparency that will forever silence those who will question the NBA's integrity.

"I have complete confidence that David Stern and Adam Silver will do just that and the NBA and our officiating will be all the stronger for it."

Jerry Jones says he will meet with Greg Ellis

The Cowboys owner and general manager said Monday he plans to meet with Ellis when training camp starts Wednesday in San Antonio.

It's a different stance for Jones. In June, he said he wouldn't meet with one of his best pass rushers, who wanted a restructured contract.

"I want to be real clear, when I talk about not meeting with him, it was not about [money]," Jones said. "It had nothing to do with that. It had to do with the order of things. I know Greg, and Greg is going to play."

In April, Ellis became upset when the team used a first-round pick to draft defensive end Anthony Spencer, who will move to outside linebacker.

Ellis said he felt the team was trying to replace him with Spencer because he was coming off a torn left Achilles' tendon, so he requested a restructured contract, to be released or a trade.

Coach Wade Phillips said Ellis, if healthy, will be the starter. The coach has said he doesn't like to start rookies.

Jones agreed in the spring to meet with Ellis but then changed his mind, saying he doesn't speak with players trying to renegotiate contracts.

It appears Jones was upset that Ellis voiced his displeasure with the team to the media before coming to him.

Ellis, when informed by the media that Jones had decided not to meet, said he was
disappointed and that he won't come to training camp if he's not 100 percent healthy.
But on Monday, Jones said miscommunication led to the rift. And Ellis' agent, James Williams, said his client will be in camp on time. Ellis is scheduled to undergo a physical before the first practice.

On July 16th , we took a look at the Scouts Inc positional rankings as it pertains to our little Cowboys and the NFC East. Please click on the link above to see the Offense from that day. Here, I finish the rankings on Defense and Special Teams….

Defensive Lines

10. Philadelphia Eagles

12. Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys were not a flashy team on defense, but they stopped the run extremely well. The nature of a Bill Parcells run defense is to stuff the run (out of a base front) and force opponents to pass. The Cowboys have a talented defensive line that might have more of an impact under new head coach Wade Phillips. Defensive ends Marcus Spears and Chris Canty have great size and athletic ability and should fit into the more versatile defensive scheme that Brian Stewart (coordinator) will install. The 6-7 Canty has the potential to develop into an outstanding defender going into his third season, and former first-rounder Spears will be able to use his quickness and speed more often as Stewart might employ more stunts and blitzes in 2007. DeMarcus Ware is listed as an outside linebacker, but he is used often with his hand on the ground in passing situations. He is extremely disruptive and is a versatile athlete who can play up or down in this new defensive scheme.

22. N.Y. Giants

32. Washington Redskins


5. Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys have assembled quite a group of pass-rushers. DeMarcus Ware is a star and only will get better in time. Expect him to post 12 or more sacks this season and establish himself as one of the best pass-rushers in the league. His other skills are improving as well. He has a chance to be exceptional. Opposite Ware, the Cowboys selected Anthony Spencer in the first round. Spencer might struggle early as he adapts to Dallas' 3-4 scheme, but he is a natural pass-rusher who tormented the Big Ten a year ago. Greg Ellis is ahead of Spencer on the depth chart and is a fine pass-rusher in his own right. The Cowboys' defense fell apart after his Achilles injury last season and he must prove that he is fully healed. Expect all three of these players to be on the field at times. The inside backers are solid, but unspectacular. Wade Phillips runs his version of the 3-4 differently than Bill Parcells, so expect this group to be more aggressive and attacking this year.

19. Washington Redskins

20. Philadelphia Eagles

24. N.Y. Giants

Defensive Backs

5. Philadelphia Eagles

7. Dallas Cowboys

New defensive coordinator Brian Stewart will rely on more pressure schemes, which should improve the performance in the Cowboys' secondary. CB Terence Newman is one of the top players at his position in the NFL. He is a very good athlete with outstanding coverage ability and ball skills. Anthony Henry is a physical corner who is more natural from a press than off position. However, he must play with more consistency this season. Backup Aaron Glenn is an experienced player who is best suited in the slot in sub situations. SS Roy Williams is best suited up near the line of scrimmage where he can factor in as the eighth defender in the box. He has outstanding physical traits but is a liability in deep zones against the pass. FS Ken Hamlin was signed this offseason and should improve a pass defense that finished 14th in the NFL last season.

10. Washington Redskins

31. New York Giants

Special Teams ….

13. Washington Redskins

19. Dallas Cowboys

There are a lot of new faces coaching the special teams in the NFL this season. While Bruce Read is new to the Cowboys, he has coached special teams with the San Diego Chargers and New York Giants in the past. Miles Austin has developed into a productive kickoff returner, averaging 26.0 yards per return in only nine games. The punt return duties went to corner Terence Newman in 2006. Veteran kicker Martin Gramatica will compete with rookie Nick Folk for the starting job. Veteran punter Mat McBriar is a 2006 Pro Bowler. Linebacker Kevin Burnett, corner Nathan Jones and safety Keith Davis are a few of the core special-teams contributors. It will also be up to Read to develop a solid holder for field goals. The majority of the NFL teams use the starting punter since he's not busy taking snaps from the starting offensive center.

24. New York Giants

30. Philadelphia Eagles

Is my leader, Bear Grylls a complete fake?

TO LIVE up to his public image of a rugged, ex-SAS adventurer, it must have seemed essential for Bear Grylls to appear at ease sleeping rough and catching his own food in his television survival series.

But it has emerged that Grylls, 33, was enjoying a far more conventional form of comfort, retreating some nights from filming in mountains and on desert islands to nearby lodges and hotels.

Now Channel 4 has launched an investigation into whether Grylls, who has conquered Everest and the Arctic, deceived the public in his series Born Survivor.

The series, screened in March and April and watched by 1.4m viewers, built up Grylls’s credentials as a tough outdoorsman. In a question and answer session on Channel 4’s website, he recalls how station bosses pitched the venture to him stating: “We just drop you into a lot of different hellholes equipped with nothing, and you do what you have to do to survive.”

But an adviser to Born Survivor has disclosed that at one location where the adventurer claimed to be a “real life Robin-son Crusoe” trapped on “a desert island”, he was actually on an outlying part of the Hawaiian archipelago and spent nights at a motel.

On another occasion in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains where he was filmed biting off the head of a snake for breakfast and struggling for survival “with just a water bottle, a cup and a flint for making fire”, he actually slept some nights with the crew in a lodge fitted with television and internet access. The Pines Resort at Bass Lake is advertised as “a cosy getaway for families” with blueberry pancakes for breakfast.

In one episode Grylls, son of the late Tory MP Sir Michael Grylls, was shown apparently building a Polynesian-style raft using only materials around him, including bamboo, hibiscus twine and palm leaves for a sail.

But according to Mark Weinert, an Oregon-based survival consultant brought in for the job, it was he who led the team that built the raft. It was then dismantled so that Grylls could be shown building it on camera.

In another episode viewers watched as Grylls tried to coax an apparently wild mustang into a lasso in the Sierra Nevada. “I’m in luck,” he told viewers, apparently coming across four wild horses grazing in a meadow. “A chance to use an old native American mode of transport comes my way. This is one of the few places in the whole of the US where horses still roam wild.”

In fact, Weinert said, the horses were not wild but were brought in by trailer from a nearby trekking station for the “choreographed” feature.

“If you really believe everything happens the way it is shown on TV, you are being a little bit naive,” he said.

Channel 4 confirmed that Grylls had used hotels during expeditions and has now asked Diverse, the Bristol-based production company that made the programme, to look into the other claims.

“We take any allegations of misleading our audiences seriously,” said a spokeswoman for the channel.

How is the Discovery Channel handling this? ….

The brouhaha could become a PR nightmare for the channel, which in recent years has abandoned contrived unscripted formats in favor of the scientific explorations that first made the Discovery brand famous. "Wild" in particular has emerged as one of its main attractions during the past two seasons.

But the company gave no indication about parting ways with the series, only making certain unspecified alterations.

"Moving forward, the program will be 100% transparent and all elements of the filming will be explained upfront to our viewers," Discovery said. "In addition, shows that are to be repeated will be edited appropriately. Bear Grylls is a world-class adventurer and a terrific talent."

A spokeswoman for Discovery declined to elaborate on what exact measures will be taken to address the concerns raised about "Wild."

Among the likely possibilities: a disclaimer that will precede each episode explaining that some of the events being depicted are dramatized.

On July 13, Grylls spoke at the Television Critics Assn. summer press tour about production of the series but gave little hint of any shenanigans behind the scenes. At one point, he described what it was like to bed down in the wild.

"Often at nighttime, they will get helicoptered out, and they might have to recharge camera batteries and hand in footage, and then they leave me a little minicamera for the night stuff, and they come and rejoin me in the morning," he said.

Sammy Sosa hopefully made himself more tradable last night

Sammy Sosa made one thing perfectly clear Monday night: He's not about to just take a gold pocket watch and quietly leave the building.

The Rangers officially celebrated Sosa's entrance into the 600-homer club Saturday and at the time, it was looking like a farewell party. Sosa was slumping. The trade deadline was – and still is – looming. Jason Botts is about to resume ripping up the Pacific Coast League.

All of which could force the Rangers into making delicate, difficult decisions about Sosa's future. If that's the case, Sosa gave the Rangers something else to ponder by homering, doubling and driving in five runs in an 8-7 win over Seattle.
"I'd love to finish my career here," he said. "But I'm not the guy who pulls the trigger. I don't want to go anywhere, but if something happens, something happens."

The Rangers needed all of his production. Reliever Eric Gagne, called on to finish an 8-4 game, allowed a three-run homer to Richie Sexson before retiring a batter in the ninth. He put the tying run on base before getting out of the jam.

It allowed the Rangers to get back to the clubhouse and ponder the Sosa situation. As Botts' production has increased – he's hitting .319 with a .436 on-base percentage – the Rangers have tried to trade Sosa but have received little, if any, interest. Minnesota is one team that could use a right-handed hitting DH. But going into Monday, there had been no contact between the clubs.

The Rangers' main selling point: Sosa has been very good against lefties. He entered the game hitting .329 against them this season. Both of his hits Monday came off lefty Horacio Ramirez.

In the third, Sosa doubled to complete a three-run inning that brought the Rangers back from a 2-0 deficit. Two innings later, he broke a three-week homerless spell with a drive to left that broke a 3-3 tie.

Since July 1, Sosa has mostly looked every bit his 38-plus years. His bat had slowed to a crawl, and his production had tailed off dramatically. Manager Ron Washington acknowledged as the second half was about to begin that Sosa had looked a little fatigued leading up to the All-Star break.

The break didn't seem to refresh him. Sosa went without a homer for the first 22 days of the month, and his season batting average fell to .239 entering Monday – its lowest since April 29.

A-Rod must be really good

A-Rod is the first major leaguer to 100 RBIs this season and the first to reach the mark in fewer than 100 team games since Manny Ramirez in 1999.

Two Rose Bowl 2006 Youtubes:

Texas in the Winning Lockerroom

Matt Leinart imagines a different outcome

Not to bring the room down, but I will not be blogging the next three days. My wife's grandmother passed away, so I will miss 2 shows (Wed and Thur) and 3 blogging mornings.

SeaBass will be sitting in and offering his take on the world of sports, so keep your eyes reading.


MrSimic said...

Sorry to hear about your wife's grandmother, but congrats to her for hanging on so long. ;)

I also sympathize with you re: Bear Grylls. I was just converting some people to Man vs. Wild the other night. Damn you, Bear.

Blake Perkins said...

I also send my prayers to your family.

Jake said...

I feel ya Bob, my grandmother passed away late last Sat. night at the age of 94. Tough working for sure, prayers sent.

Bitterwhiteguy said...

Screw Leinart. They needed to do one to him like they did to Peterson.

MK said...

What? Even reality TV isn't real? I'm astounded. What is next, crooked politicians? The world I know is crumbling around me.