Tidbits – May 9
A few interesting items to cover from the past few days.
1) When Selena Roberts nails it, she really nails it. Case in point: her Sunday column in the New York Times, titled “The Many Perils of Unqualified Hypocrisy.”
I’ll quote it here at some length:
From the N.F.L.’s Pacman Jones and Tank Johnson to the N.B.A.’s Carmelo Anthony and Stephen Jackson, pro players have been endlessly lectured on being accountable for their inner circle of sycophants, cousins and sidekicks.
Don’t employ buddies as bodyguards. Don’t let uncles manage your money. Don’t pay friends to be friends. Don’t risk millions on nepotism.
In pro management’s twist on “Entourage,” few hold general managers, coaches or owners responsible for hiring a clubby collection of pals with suspect résumés or mysterious backgrounds or performance issues to watch over the welfare of players worth millions to the organization.
This is, of course, buddy ball. Whether the employee is a trainer, a clubhouse flunky or a team doctor, this hiring strategy is an accepted practice among paranoid team officials whose greatest fear isn’t losing but disloyalty, whose primary goal isn’t to lure the most qualified personnel but the most expert secret keepers.
Whose clique is more destructive: a player’s or management’s?
Last week, N.F.L. Commissioner Roger Goodell, taking on a new role as head of the safety patrol, made it mandatory for all 32 teams to send their doctors and trainers to Chicago for a summit on concussions in June.
Presumably, the Jets’ physician, Elliot Pellman, will be among them, even though he is known for apparently believing that concussions are all in a player’s head. As a chief on the N.F.L.’s concussion committee, Pellman and his group reported these conclusions in recent years: a) There is “no evidence of worsening injury or chronic cumulative effects” of multiple concussions, and b) A player returning to the field after a concussion won’t sustain a “significant risk of a second injury either in the same game or during the season.”
Did Pellman suffer from misfiring synapses or chronic team-friendly findings? Six weeks ago, Pellman resigned from his lead position on the league’s concussion panel amid scrutiny denouncing his results as risky to players. Pellman is, however, just the kind of doc craved by coaches with a walk-it-off, just-a-bruise approach to injuries.
The dissection of Pellman’s expertise isn’t new. In 2005, he was derided by politicians for his threadbare knowledge of steroid testing when sitting as an expert during Congressional hearings on doping. He was then exposed as a résumé fabulist when his Jets bio didn’t jibe with reality. Pellman didn’t attend medical school for four years at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, but in Guadalajara, Mexico. He received an M.D. from the New York State Education Department after a one-year clinical residency at Stony Brook.
Why is he still part of the Jets’ inner circle? The question was expected to be answered directly by the Jets’ front office — how about General Manager Mike Tannebaum, for one? — but instead of commenting Friday, the team honchos hid behind the spokesman David Tratner. In a Mr. Roboto cadence, he kept repeating the same phrase: “We have full confidence in Dr. Pellman. We have full confidence in Dr. Pellman.”
It would be nice to see the commissioner crack down on this kind of misconduct as unforgivingly as he is now cracking down on off-the-field player conduct. But, we know that “street” crime is always regarded as more of a menace than white-collar crime, no matter how many lives are affected by the latter. In this sense, football (and sports more generally) simply reflect larger social realities.
2) Dave Zirin teed off on Jason Whitlock. TSF has had plenty to say about Whitlock in recent weeks who, depending on your point of view, has become uniquely courageous in taking on “terrorists” like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, or has decided that his best career move is to shamelessly pander to the prejudices of his mostly white, mostly male audience. It’s clear where Zirin stands:
His writings have been farcical and frightening: our own Joe McCarthy of
the sports page. And like McCarthy, another gassy, Midwestern bully,
Whitlock hardly lives the kind of monastic life to justify this level of
He claims to be a crusader against sexism in “hip hop/prison culture”, but revels in tales of strip clubs and lap dances.
He calls for black women to speak up and be heard, but slammed Rutgers
coach Vivian Stringer’s stand against bigotry as a “shameless” grab for
headlines. He described her press conference, where she called on people to “take their country back” as a “pity party/recruiting rally” where Stringer “rambled on for 30 minutes” to “tell her sob story.” (Whitlock seems to have equal contempt for both sexism in hip-hop and women who use their voices to say things other than “That’s $1,000 for the Champagne Room.”)
And in the classic Whitlock/Bizarro World moment, the great dragon slayer of “hip hop/prison culture,” recently produced a rap single for the Kansas City Chiefs that included artists like Rich the Factor and Tech N9ne, two men who have written anthems of uplift such as “Bitch,” “Drug Team,” and “My Wife, My Bitch, My Girl.” (We need to call his
“Big Sexy” has no regrets about calling those in thrall to hip hop culture “the black KKK,” describing his catchphrase as “genius” because “it started a discussion.” Well, my two-year-old daughter also “started a discussion” last week by taking off her used diaper and putting it on the kitchen table. That doesn’t mean she should be invited to Morehouse.
Zirin notes that serious social ills have ailed Black America since long before the advent of hip hop (a point I also made in a post about the Imus controversy a few weeks back). But, despite the fact that, according to Zirin, Jason Whitlock is “not a serious person” it is “a tragic statement on our times that his ideas must be taken seriously.” Of course, in that regard, Whitlock can join a long line of clowns with large audiences – Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Bill O’Reilly, etc. It’s either ironic or hypocritical that Whitlock accused Sharpton and Jackson for stirring up a ruckus about Imus for some presumptive – though never specified – financial benefit. Because, in Whitlock’s case – his “Black KKK” bit is clearly the best career move he’s ever made.
3) Give Curt Schilling credit – he has accomplished the seemingly impossible – unite sports media in defense of Barry Bonds. Yesterday, of course, Schilling told Dennis and Callahan on WEEI that Bonds has admitted to cheating with steroids, cheating on his wife and cheating on his taxes. And, in unison – sports media – from Dan Patrick, to Mike and Mike, to Jayson Stark to Jemele Hill and Skip Bayless all called Schilling’s comments out of line and factually inaccurate.
On Mike and Mike this morning, Stark told the boys:
“you know how long I’ve known Curt, and you know how much I like Curt and one of the things I’ve always liked about him is his ability to say what’s on his mind…Curt prides himself on his ability to speak for the fans, as a fan, but there are many reasons for fans who want to root against Barry to root against Barry without being factually incorrect.”
And, for his part Greenie pointed out that: ”
“It is actually startlingly similar to Gary Thorne overhearing Doug Mirabelli saying something in a clubhouse and assuming based on that that he had some information…”
Greenie’s referencing, of course, Schilling’s outrage last week over the irresponsibility of spreading uncorroborated rumors following announcer Gary Thorne’s comment that Schilling’s supposed bloody sock from the 2004 ALCS was, in fact, painted on.
On First and Ten today, Skip Bayless said of Schilling:
“this is the pot calling the kettle insufferable and arrogant because it takes one to know one. Because anyone who has had to deal with Curt Schilling knows that he can be at least as difficult as Barry Bonds and if you are going to rip Barry Bonds, who is eminently rippable, at least get it right.“
Schilling did apologize to Bonds today at his blog (and eloquently, I might add). Of course, when Thorne apologized to Schilling last week, Schilling rejected the apology…
4) Just a couple of othe quick notes from ESPN programming the past couple of days. Bayless, on First and Ten with Hill today, made a surprisingly vigorous defense of Barry Bonds and his pursuit of Hank Aaron’s record. Hill said that she “couldn’t stand to see” Bonds break Aaron’s record because Bonds cheated and Aaron “we assume”(her words) was clean.
“I always defend Barry the performer because next to Michael Jordan no one has been a greater on-cue performer than Barry Bonds and I do believe that he came late to the steroids party, that he reacted to keep up with all the muscled-up joneses…Does that make him right, no? But you shouldn’t condemn him for this because he has proven year after year that he is a greater all around baseball player than your idol Hank Aaron was so, I for one, am not going to be offended when he breaks this record…”
Yesterday, on Mike and Mike, Greenie offered what he says he has heard is common sentiment about Clemens return to New York – that he’s afraid to pitch in Boston.
“Everyone seems to take it as a given – oh, they’re not going to pitch him in Boston…they won’t pitch him on Boston. Because they think he can’t handle the pressure and there has been evidence to support that – read Game 3 of the ALCS in Boston eight years ago. He has gotten his hat handed to him there a bunch of times.”
Time for a little fact-checking. Roger Clemens has pitched a grand total of two (count ’em) post-season games in Fenway park as an opposing pitcher. The first time was in 1999 when, as Greenie notes, he got lit up for six runs in two-plus innings of a 13-1 game three loss to Pedro. The second time was Game Three in the 2003 ALCS, when Clemens was excellent – giving up two runs and striking out seven in six innings of a 4-3 win. That game is best known for the Don Zimmer/Pedro Martinez melee, but it should be noted that, in an extremely charged atmosphere, Clemens kept his cool as well as anyone on the field that day, outpitching Pedro in the process.
As far as I can tell, Greenie’s just making stuff up here.