Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Ringer Inside

Vick is going a way

More than football, Michael Vick's freedom is the question now.

With three associates prepared to testify that he brutally executed dogs and bankrolled gambling, the NFL star agreed Monday to "accept full responsibility" for his role in a dogfighting ring and plead guilty to federal conspiracy charges.

Worries about playing time will have to wait while Vick faces prison time -- from one to five years.

The maximum term is five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, although federal sentencing guidelines likely would call for less. Defense attorneys would not divulge details of the plea agreement or how much time Vick can expect to serve.

However, a source close to the situation told ESPN's Kelly Naqi that prosecutors will recommend a sentence of 12 to 18 months.

The official said such a sentence would be more than what is usually recommended for first-time offenders, reflecting the government's attempt to show that animal abusers will receive more than a slap on the wrist. U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson is not bound by prosecutors' recommendations or the sentencing guidelines and will have the final say.

Twenty-five days after he declared that he looked forward to clearing his name, Vick said through defense lawyer Billy Martin that he will plead guilty. A hearing is scheduled for Aug. 27.

"Mr. Vick has agreed to enter a plea of guilty to those charges and to accept full responsibility for his actions and the mistakes he has made," Martin said in a statement. "Michael wishes to apologize again to everyone who has been hurt by this matter."

And the Atlanta folks are re-adjusting their views

Until Monday, Michael Vick still had a core of supporters here. A city that had suffered through decades of Atlanta Falcons losses thrilled at his brilliance. A city that is the cradle of the civil rights movement identified with an embattled black man. At least, a good part of the black population did.

But at the news of Vick's guilty plea on federal dogfighting charges on Monday afternoon, many of the last remnants of support seemed to be crumbling like the typical Falcons offensive line.

"I've been shedding tears all day, trying to explain this to my seven-year-old son," said Gerald Rose, whose New Order human rights group staged a pro-Vick rally outside the Georgia Dome three weeks ago. "I was let down. I was disappointed. I was hurt."

Rose's New Order had been joined by more venerable black organizations here such as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the local NAACP office, which had also cautioned against a rush to judgment on Vick several weeks ago.

The Vick saga has been a racially divisive issue in a city that usually manages to gloss over its racial divisions. An Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll after Vick's indictment in July found that about 55 percent of whites believed the Falcons should release Vick. Only 27 percent of blacks responded that way.

The polarization played out on local radio airwaves. Vick gave his one post-indictment interview to a popular black-oriented station, in which he thanked "all the people that are praying for Mike Vick and are in my corner right now."

A classic rock station, on the other hand, was selling faux Vick jerseys that said "Inmate no. 7" on the front and "Federal Penal League" on the back.

On the "Two Live Stews," a popular drive-time sports-talk show with black co-hosts and many black callers, Vick had plenty of defenders (though also some detractors) . . . until Monday afternoon.

"I feel sad for Arthur Blank, for [safety] Lawyer Milloy, for [offensive lineman] Wayne Gandy, for the Falcons fans, for the Falcons tailgaters," co-host Ryan Stewart told listeners. "I don't feel that bad for Mike Vick. He did it to himself."

Some people here, though, were still sticking with Vick, even as most were sticking it to him. In a reader forum on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's website, one post maintained, "This is about race no matter how we put it. White folks can shoot ducks all day, but when you fight pit bull against pit bull it is a crime."

Gerald Rose insisted, "I still feel race was involved and I think he didn't have any choice." But the activist was no longer defending the quarterback. Instead, he was left wondering about him. "How a man could put himself in that situation?" he asked.

How indeed, wondered many Falcons fans, black and white alike. They'd become increasingly resigned to the end of Michael Vick in Atlanta and the start of the team's Joey Harrington era, as the drumbeat of bad news out of Virginia steadily grew louder. But the final piece of bad news Monday afternoon still was a bitter pill to swallow.

"Remember, if you will, where you were when the Falcons drafted Michael Vick," wrote Dave the Falconer on his blog called Falcoholic. "Were you watching the draft on the grainy TV at the bar? Did you read about it the next morning in the paper? Do you remember if you were overjoyed with the news?"

Vick turned out to be a tease, the blogger went on, displaying both brilliant moments and glaring flaws. But he was always exciting and he always held out hope that "one more year, he's going to get it."

Now, with that hope finally dashed, Dave the Falconer wrote, "I'm pissed off because I'm a Falcons fan who once again has to deal with a team that's being dismissed before the season even starts."

In Cowboys news, All is Well …We are all starting to get sucked in, aren’t we?

For the record, the Cowboys know it's just the preseason.

They know these games are meaningless.

But the Cowboys are not apologizing to the Denver Broncos or anyone else about how they are playing.

And they certainly are not tempering their excitement about their potential.
Nobody is booking reservations to Glendale, Ariz., for the Super Bowl, but the Cowboys are allowing themselves to envision the possibilities.

"There is no doubt about that," defensive tackle Jason Ferguson said. "We have talent on this team, and that's our mind set. At the same time, you can't overwhelm yourself and pour Gatorade over my head and say 'I'm there'. Still, it's a good feeling."

Said receiver Terrell Owens: "It's obvious the talent we have on this team. Both units are playing well. We have guys capable of making plays. The depth and talent on this team are endless."

Cowboys coach Wade Phillips doesn't necessarily disagree. He said it's not so much the wins but the team's performance that has been so impressive.

Quarterback Tony Romo and the first-team offense, which has played without injured receiver Terry Glenn and just briefly with Owens, have been efficient in the passing game and dominant on the ground.

The first-team defense hasn't allowed a touchdown in two preseason victories. The unit is starting to find its identity in Phillips' attacking 3-4 scheme, so much so that the Broncos complained about the overzealous blitzing following Saturday's 31-20 loss.

After making his requisite coach-speak comments about it being early in the preseason and the team still having much work to do, Phillips admitted liking what he sees.

"I don't know if you can tell for sure in preseason, except your own team, and our team looks pretty solid right now," Phillips said. "I think everybody can see that."
Of course, Phillips has his concerns. But they are more about getting the team ready to play to its potential than any holes in the lineup.

Phillips has taken over teams before in which he's had to cry for help. But he said that is not the case with the Cowboys because they have no major lineup deficiencies.
He said as much in minicamp in May. After two preseason games, nothing has changed Phillips' mind.

The only real roster concerns the Cowboys have are at nickel cornerback and backup nose tackle.

"We're not weak in an area where we're, 'Gosh, our potential starter is not going to be good enough to play in the league,'" Phillips said. "We don't have that. They could show up, certainly. I could be misjudging some of it. I don't think I am, but I could be misjudging it.

"It's based on performance, not just based on what I think of the team. It's based on what they've done so far. We don't look deficient, no."

Cowboys avoiding injuries

So far, the Cowboys have been lucky. But that hasn't been the case for the other teams in the NFC East.

The Giants, Eagles and Redskins have all had their share of injuries, including some that have sidelined starters for the season.

On Sunday night, the Giants cringed when backup receiver Michael Jennings also ruptured an Achilles' tendon. Jennings wasn't the only Giant carted off to the hospital. Two starters – Will Demps (elbow) and safety Sam Madison (hamstring) – went down with injuries that could force them to miss the season opener against Dallas on Sept. 9.

The Eagles, meanwhile, may have to play another season without injury-prone defensive end Jerome McDougle. A first-round pick in 2003, McDougle likely will miss the season after suffering a triceps injury last week in a 29-3 loss to the Ravens.
On Saturday night, the Redskins held their collective breath when an illegal hit by the Steelers resulted in a bruised knee for quarterback Jason Campbell.

Moose and Dobler speak out for worthy cause

On Monday, it took everything Daryl Johnston and Conrad Dobler had to help DeMarco out of his chair, so he could painfully, a slow step at a time with a cane helping him keep his balance, take his place at the podium.

It would be the second time in the span of maybe 10 minutes that I would see a grown man weep, and not just any grown men, but two of the toughest ever to play professional football.

Forget Michael Vick for a moment. He's being taken care of as we speak. This is the dirtiest story in the NFL, the one that commissioner Roger Goodell wishes would just go away, the one that NFL Players Association director Gene Upshaw prays you won't care about.

It's about how the league discards its players like so much used up pieces of meat. It's about a union that, if you believe what you hear, sold out the very players who built it.

That's why Upshaw and the Players Association began their own spin doctoring Friday, after word of Monday's news conference by Mike Ditka's Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund began to spread.

I got a phone call from a Players Association official, asking if I had any questions about the upcoming news conference I was scheduled to cover. I asked him to e-mail any information he had that might help me write my column. He did, sending a brief report on each of the players scheduled to speak at the press conference, explaining why their disability benefits had been denied.

The reasons were varied, yet similar. Didn't meet percentages. Can still work. Even the ludicrous claim that DeMarco has never filed for benefits (his file has apparently been lost).

"Think about that," DeMarco said. "I've been homeless three times in the last four years. You think I wouldn't apply for help if it was available?"

For four months, DeMarco, his wife Autumn and two children lived in a storage shed in Austin. They had one space heater and the children slept between them for warmth. Another time they lived in a vacant house. There was no electricity, so they used candles for light. The water was still on, but only the cold.

When Jennifer Smith of Gridiron Greats, founded by Ditka and a handful of other former NFL greats, arrived in Austin to help the DeMarco family, she found no food in the house. Not a cracker. Not a can of Vienna sausage. Brian and Autumn hadn't eaten in days, giving their food to the kids instead. They had 75 cents between them.
It's a staggering story, but unfortunately, it's not an isolated incident. According to an article in the September issue of Men's Journal magazine, tax records for 2006 show that of more than 10,000 former NFL players, only 121 of them receive disability.

Johnston's presence at Monday's press conference gave it even more credibility. As Smith pointed out, he's in a high-profile position as one of Fox's lead NFL analysts.
The system, Johnson said, is tragically flawed.

"It's a process that is set up to deny [benefits]," Johnston said. "The reason I was denied is that I can still work. That's not what this is about. This is not about holding a job."

Beckham’s revolution will be televised

Tomorrow night on English time, he will play a friendly match for the English national team against Germany at Wembley Stadium, also on FSC.

On Thursday night, Beckham will put his Galaxy uniform on again to play the intracity rival, Chivas USA, on ESPN2.

This Sunday’s game against Colorado will be on Galavision and FSN West, the Galaxy’s local rights holder.

On Aug. 29, for the SuperLiga final, he will be on TeleFutura (which has a TV
exclusive on the tournament between M.L.S. and Mexican teams, but it can also be seen on Superliga2007.com and Mlslive.tv). Beckham scored his first Galaxy goal in a SuperLiga game last week against D.C. United.

On Sept. 1 against Real Salt Lake, he will be on HDNet. On Sept. 8, he will return to FSC. On Sept. 13, on ESPN2. On Sept. 16, on FSN West. On Sept. 19, on HDNet and FSN West. And on Sept. 23, on HDNet.

Dan Courtemanche, a senior vice president of M.L.S., and Dermot McQuarrie, a senior vice president of FSC, said the league’s national TV schedule was put together with Beckham’s arrival well known, but the networks were not in a competitive tizzy to snare more Galaxy games.

ESPN2, FSC, HDNet and Univision’s TeleFutura and Galavision had to be treated fairly. “We tried to allocate our post-July Galaxy games in a very equitable manner,” Courtemanche said. “Marketing 101 is you promote your clubs and your prominent stars. We’re fortunate that we can use Beckham to promote our sport.”

McQuarrie said: “We were incredibly satisfied with Saturday night. They scored nine goals and there were 67,000 fans in Giants Stadium. On a good day they get 15,000 to 20,000, which means another 45,000 were coming to watch soccer. They say in television that it’s better to be lucky than good.”

ESPN2 has also had its run of Beckham-fueled luck. Even when Beckham didn’t play as scheduled Aug. 5 in Toronto, 296,000 homes were watching. Four days later, for a game against D.C. United, 111,000 more homes were viewing.

At TeleFutura, for which the SuperLiga is tailor-made, the Galaxy-D.C. United semifinal on Wednesday drew 562,000, fewer than the 644,000 who watched Houston play Pachuca in a semifinal the night before.

Saturday night’s Galaxy-Red Bulls game was of enough interest to MSG, the New York team’s local carrier, to secure the rights to show a 60-minute replay version tonight at 9 and 11 p.m. and Wednesday at noon, 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. It will do the same thing within days of ESPN2’s showing of the Red Bulls’ final regular-season game Oct. 18 against Los Angeles.

“These games will be the pinnacle because of Beckham’s star power,” said Michael Bair, the president of MSG Media. “It’s rare for networks to be so cooperative, but we called them and they saw the value of this right away.”

Red Bulls games don’t attract many local viewers, but one with Beckham, even if it is three days old, could bring in substantially more. This season, the team is averaging a meager 1,031 households on MSG and FSNY, which is still 40 percent higher than last year’s 736.

Bair hopes that the expanded attendance Saturday night — when fans wore Red Bulls shirts and those of their national teams — will translate into more notable viewership for the replay and later re-replays.

“Clearly, Beckham is having an initial impact on viewership and attendance,” Bair said, “but can he sustain it over time? He has the presence, and he brings a new level of art to the game; you see it in his passes.”

How about a few college football nuggets?

Texas Tech has a lot to replace

On paper, anyway, prospects don't look promising for Texas Tech football. Only nine starters return, just one of them a receiver, which, for Mike Leach, is like Imelda Marcos down to a single pair of pumps.

Also missing: four offensive line starters, the three top defensive tackles, the team's leading tackler and the fourth-ranked sack specialist in school history.

Considering the personnel losses and lack of experience, you'd be tempted to think Tech is gearing up for '08.

But if you think Leach is punting this season, you don't understand how the man's brain works.

Of course, a team of doctors from Johns Hopkins couldn't tell you what's going on up there if they locked him in a lab all semester.


How will it translate into results? Hard to predict Tech could be any better than fourth in the Big 12 South when Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State all have more experience.

Leach, who has never had a losing record in his seven seasons at Tech, faces the biggest challenge of his career just to keep his streak.

But you also have to believe it doesn't bother him much. Many teams face adversity as often as the Raiders. Few handle it quite so well.

Besides the Insight Bowl miracle, they came back last year to beat UT-El Paso, 38-35, in overtime on the road. Beat A&M with 26 seconds left, 31-27, in College Station. Beat Oklahoma State, 30-24, after falling behind, 17-0.

Moral: Never count Tech out as long as Leach is still calling plays and Harrell is winging it, a combination that has its moments both on and off the field.

"When you're around him all day," Harrell says, "you're always on your toes."

As Baylor figures out who its QB is

Baylor's quarterback race is again a two-man competition. Sophomore Blake Szymanski returned from a sprained ankle injury and is competing with redshirt freshman Tyler Beatty for the starting job.

Both players worked with the first team during practice Monday, and it's anybody's guess which one will start against TCU on Sept. 1. Szymanski (6-4, 206) has more game experience, but Beatty (6-3, 202) has a confidence the coaches like.

"As soon as there's a consistency with one better than the other, that's when we'll make a decision," offensive coordinator Lee Hays said. "Both of them have been good. I feel confident about both of them."

Szymanski said two different players stepped on his right foot during a drill on Aug. 8. He fell to the ground, rolled his ankle and was out for a week and a half. At the time of his injury, Szymanski had become the quarterback frontrunner.

"It wasn't great timing because I was doing pretty well for the most part," Szymanski said. "But you can't do anything about it. You can't sit back and say the season is down the drain or have any bad thoughts in the back of your mind.

"I could play tomorrow if I had to."

Coach Guy Morriss said Szymanski looked fine on a rollout play where he scrambled downfield. He didn't appear to be favoring his right leg while running wind sprints afterward, either.

"I think we're all kind of wondering and waiting to see what the ankle is going to do," Morriss said. "It looks to me like it's fine, but he'll continue to keep getting treatment."
Beatty was the least likely quarterbacks to fill the void. He has only one year of starting experience and that was as a senior at Pflugerville. When fall practice started, he was listed fifth on the depth chart. But Beatty has shown poise in the pocket and a solid release.

"From spring until now, I put my mind in that film room and studied that playbook every day so I could have this chance," Beatty said. "My chance came and here I am now."

MNF Knocked from its perch

Disney Channel's highly anticipated "High School Musical 2" danced its way to history Friday night when 17.24 million viewers tuned in, making the original movie's debut the most-watched basic cable telecast of all time.

"Musical 2," a sequel to the successful 2006 movie that has spawned all manner of spin-offs, surpassed the previous record holder, ESPN's "Monday Night Football" game on September 23, 2006, which averaged 16 million viewers.

It also shattered the previous basic cable record for an entertainment program, surpassing the 12.5 million viewers who saw the 2001 premiere of the TNT
Western "Crossfire Trail."

Overall, "Musical 2" was the most watched program on television since the season finale of Fox's hit drama "House" on May 29 logged 17.26 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research.


Let's Git 'er Done P1's

Help Me Git 'er Done!

Sports P1 Ticket Humans,

I am participating in the LIVESTRONG Challenge in Austin, Texas on October 14 to benefit the Lance Armstrong Foundation. I have entered myself into the 90 mile LiveSTRONG Challenge. I am on Team US Oncology the parent company of Texas Oncology the largest oncology practice in Texas and the employer of my P1 wife.

At age 25, Lance Armstrong was one of the world's best cyclists. He proved it by winning the World Championships, the Tour Du Pont and multiple Tour de France stages. Lance Armstrong seemed invincible and his future was bright. Then they told him he had cancer.

Lance Armstrong's victories in the 1999-2005 Tours de France are awe-inspiring, but the battle against cancer has just begun - not just for him, but for all cancer survivors and people just like him who think cancer could not affect them.

Today, there are more than 10 million people living with cancer in United States, and it is estimated that close to 1.3 million more will be diagnosed this year alone.

Although there is no cure, progress has been made. It is important to continue progress toward beating this disease. My goal is not just to participate in the LIVESTRONG Challenge, it is a distant second to my goal of raising $500 in support of the fight against cancer.

If you have been affected by cancer, or you care about this cause, please consider donating toward my fundraising goal. You can make a donation by sending a check made out to the Lance Armstrong Foundation to my address shown above, or you can donate online at livestrongchallenge.org.

Thank you in advance for your support. Together, we can make a difference.


P1 Listener
Shaun Nelson

Follow This Link to visit my personal web page and help me in my efforts to support Lance Armstrong Foundation

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Shaun Nelson


I always assumed that the baseball Pollyanna’s (insert the Hardline Hosts, Bob Costas, George Will, etc) were telling the complete truth when they said prior to Bonds 73 homer season (when he allegedly started taking steroids) he was so far behind the career homerun leaders that it is just impossible for him to have made up the ground he did without being a lab rat. So I looked up each of their career stats by year, I think I might have been lied to.

1st ten years of their career:
Aaron - 342 HR’s
Ruth - 238 HR’s
Bonds - 292 HR’s

Aaron led Ruth by 104 and Bonds by 50 at this point
Years 11 – 15 of their career:
Aaron – 168 HR’s
Ruth - 232 HR’s
Bonds – 202 HR’s

In that 5 year span Aaron was out homered by 34 by Bonds and 64 by Ruth
Career wise totals Aaron led Bonds by 16 and Ruth by 44
Years 16 – 22 (when Barry started going to the doctor for shots, allegedly)
Aaron – 235 homers
Ruth – 262 Homers
Bonds – 244 Homers

Aaron did hit an additional 10 in his 23 year to give him the total of 755.
So looking at these homerun totals for each in the splits, do you see a huge difference in the different phases of their careers?

I am confused, I want to hate Mr. Bonds, because your co-workers and everyone else in the media has told me I should, but now that I look at the numbers, I am not sure I should proceed with my planned public outcry for his banishment from baseball and humanity. Please tell me the media would not make up stuff, would they?

Matt Boyer
Bob -

Inspired partially by your blog (along with a few others) and your fondness for the English game I have ventured into the world of blogging:


The blog isn't yet fit to tie the sandals of most blogs, including yours, but I hope to keep up with the blog and one day have a following and add others to comment on the teams they support.

I know your busy man but (if you get a chance) check it out, if only for the reason that I have compiled the longest list of other soccer blogs and news website that I've seen on the net to get your fix of soccer news.

P1 Skip

Chris Rock on Barry Bonds

Corso Slips in F Bomb (careful at work)


Flaco said...


Good to hear you on AM 570 this morning. Jeff gave your show a lot of props too. That was cool.


Gravypan said...

I hereby declare the Back Four a Good Strong.

And that the penalty awarded to Chelsea last Sunday wasn't even remotely close to the worst soccer reffing decision of the weekend.

That ref got suspended this weekend, too, BTW.