The Baseball Writers Association (BBWA) had what amounted to a giant temper tantrum last week, refusing to elect anyone to Cooperstown for the first time since 1996. Not Barry Bonds, not Roger Clemens; players who would have been easy first-ballot inductees if not for their use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs).
In doing so they even passed up players like Craig Biggio, who had 3,000 hits; Mike Piazza, who holds the all-time record for home runs by a catcher; Tim Raines, who ended his career with an OBP of .385 and 800 stolen bases; and Curt Schilling, who posted a career 4.38 K/BB ratio and a 2.23 ERA in 19 postseason starts. All four have never been implicated in any PED usage, either officially or unofficially, yet they too were punished.
Unfortunately the BBWA’s attempt to ignore history has exposed many of them as petulant hypocrites. At some point they will be forced to admit that the 90’s and early 2000’s existed, admit that they too gave tacit approval to the widespread use of PEDs, and give credit to those baseball players who distanced themselves from their contemporaries during that era.
The 1990’s were a difficult time for baseball. The 1994-1995 strike all but decimated the sport. Cal Ripken breaking Lou Gehrig’s once-insurmountable 2,130 consecutive games played streak helped buoy the outraged spirits of most baseball fans, but it wasn’t until the 1998 season that the sport dominated the national consciousness.
Americans were riveted in 1998 by the exploits of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, who both shattered the record books and pitcher ERAs that season. Everyone was in awe. Even curmudgeonly sportswriters marveled at the offensive display. Sure, there were distractions, like Mark McGwire admitting to using the legal supplement androstenedione, but for the most part everyone (even writers) turned a blind eye to what was an unprecedented era of power, because it brought the fans back in droves.
And now here we sit, almost 15 years later, still trying to make sense of it all. ESPN’s Jayson Stark presents perhaps the best argument of anyone I’ve read regarding the insanity in the past few days:
Bud Selig let it happen. The union let it happen. The owners let it happen. The managers let it happen. The agents let it happen. The media let it happen. Front offices across the continent let it happen. And the players never stepped up to stop it from happening.
It … all … happened. And no one in baseball has ever done anything, even after all these years, to make it un-happen, if you know what I mean.
No records have been stripped. No championships have been stricken from anyone's permanent record. No numbers have been changed. No asterisks have been stamped in any record book.
It … all … happened.
Indeed; everyone was complicit in the ruse. As a die-hard Chicago Cubs fan (which Biff will tell you he’s seen me die more at the hands of the Cubs than anyone), I didn’t want to believe Sammy juiced, but the circumstantial evidence was pretty strong. Sammy was a borderline 30-30 player who all of a sudden started hitting massive bombs and gave up stealing bases. His accomplishments were impressive, even if they were enhanced by science.
But so were Mark McGwire’s, and Barry Bonds, who was already destined for the Hall of Fame before his head grew three sizes larger.
Without getting into the argument of how PED use could and couldn’t help hitters, we are still left with the issue of how best to treat that era. Does ignoring history help baseball? Does overlooking legitimate stars who put up numbers that would have been impressive even without steroid or HGH use help the Baseball Hall of Fame? Does the media expressing collective faux outrage towards the PED users while overlooking other cheaters in Cooperstown help the fans gain greater respect for the game?
The answer to all those questions, of course, is no.
As Stark pointed out in his ESPN article last week, something has to change regarding the voting process for the Hall of Fame, because the disingenuousness of many in the media voting to exclude players suspected of cheating (yet never proven for some of them, mind you), while ignoring the fact that they too overlooked that cheating while they were reporting in a positive manner about those performances as they occurred, doesn’t do the Hall of Fame any good.
Baseball fans should expect that their visit to Cooperstown reflect the realities of the sport, that while players are imperfect human beings, they also were the best in the sport during their career.
And what of the Hall of Fame’s current members? One could create a special wing for those players whom were accused of seeking an illegal edge. Gaylord Perry, Don Sutton, Ty Cobb, John McGraw and Whitey Ford, among others, were all accused at some point in their careers of cheating in one form or another. Better rethink their inclusion in baseball’s most hallowed grounds, based on the high horse so many members of the BBWA seem to be perched on.
Testing and punishment regimens now exist in MLB. Players can no longer get away as easily with PED usage, (well unless you’re Ryan Braun, but I digress) but there will always be players trying to skirt the system, just as has been the case since baseball started. Continuing to ignore the realities of human nature and history only makes the BBWA look more foolish and the Baseball Hall of Fame less legitimate.
There’s a long history of worthy players not given the honors they’re due when it comes to the Hall of Fame, but in reality what happened last week was probably the most egregious snub in its history. It’s time for the sports media to have a serious conversation about the steroid era before worthy players are left out again next year.
Once Christmas passes, I always start thinking about athletes who left us during the year. Morbid? Probably. But I grew up such a sports addict that I just assumed these folks would always be with us, and I’m always stunned a bit when they’re gone.
Gary Carter: one of my all-time favorite ballplayers left us in 2012...(washeduprighty.blogspot.com)
Of all who died this year, none hit me harder than the departure of Expos/Mets catcher and Hall of Famer Gary Carter. When I was 13, I mailed him a card and asked him to sign it. He did, but also sent an autographed color photo of him that he signed, “To my friend, Biff Hammer….from your friend, Gary Carter.” Instant. Fan. For Life.
Everyone knows Chiefs LB Jovan Belcher murdered his girlfriend and then killed himself in the Arrowhead Stadium parking lot. But did you know 1970s Reds ace pitcher Pedro Borbon died, too? For those of you who don’t follow the sports morgues as diligently as I, and want to know who else slipped from us in 2012, here you go:
Cowboys special teams coach Joe Avezzano, who stalked the Dallas sideline during the heydays of the 1990s with his white hair and over-the-top gestures and reactions. Joe was 68. He was also once an assistant at Iowa State. Look it up….
Oakland defensive terror Ben Davidson departed at 72. Not many folks know he played for the Packers and Redskins before emerging as one of Al Davis’ early legends. Or that he once had a cameo role as a doorman in the Marilyn Chambers porno classic, “Behind the Green Door.”
Former Iowa Hawkeye and Detroit Lion Alex Karras departed, leaving us memories of violence on the field, and the gentle patriarch of TV’s “Webster” off of it.
College football coaches Darrell Royal of Texas, Penn State’s Joe Paterno, and West Virginia’s Bill Stewart also expired. Stewart’s was the most difficult, as he was only 59 and was seemingly forced out two years ago in favor of current coach Dana Holgorsen.
Belcher, Junior Seau, and “Gritz Blitz” Falcons defensive back Ray Easterling committed suicide. But Joe Montana’s popular 49ers target Freddie Solomon died, too. So did Rams six-time-Pro Bowl center Rich Saul, who snapped the ball to Vince Ferragamo in the franchise’s first Super Bowl appearance. Every pack of football cards I bought in 1976 had Saul’s mug in it. Stacy Robinson, a valuable receiver on Bill Parcells’ Giants Super Bowlers, and former Irish QB Blair Kiel also died early deaths.
A 1976 Topps Rich Saul card. I think I opened 200 straight packs of football cards with him in them.
Ravens owner Art Modell relocated his soul to another dimension, and not a single Browns fan minded. ESPN college football analyst Beano Cook and his never-ending neck of flab left too, and few cared. But nearly everyone mourned the loss of NFL Films leader Steve Sabol. No man ever genuinely loved the game of professional football more, and every film he produced revealed that.
Union kingpin Marvin Miller died at 95, and owners everywhere exhaled. Utility man and former Cubs Ryan Freel killed himself just last week, Braves and Yankees pitcher Pascual Perez was murdered, and brain cancer claimed the aforemented Carter. Borbon was a mainstay of the Cincinnati Reds “Big Red Machine” pitching staffs of the mid-1970s. The inspiration for the movie “A League of Their Own”, Doris Sams, also died. (Her women’s baseball career was played admirably in the film by Geena Davis.)
Perez once lost his way to the ballpark and missed a start on the mound... (hardballtalk.nbcsports.com)
Longtime umpire Harry Wendelstedt expired. Most of us just remember the last names of the longtime umps, but Wendelstedt is responsible for getting a lot of today’s umpires to the big leagues. His famous umpiring camp was tough, intense, and universally respected in baseball corners.
Except by Cubs announcer Harry Caray one chilly 1980s April afternoon in Chicago, I recall.
I was watching WGN’s telecast during a frosty weather delay. Caray was going on and on about how great Wendelstedt’s umpiring school was (it was a fairly new venture at that time). He was referring all aspiring umps to his school, while at the same time urging Wendelstedt and his crew to get the game going again, as he felt the weather was playable. The rest of the broadcast segment went something like this:
Harry: “Well….I’ve been handed a note here….from Harry Wendelstedt….says he and his crew are watching the broadcast in the umpire’s locker room. He appreciates the nice things I’m saying about his school, but to stop telling him how to do his job and start the game back up.”
There is a slight yet icy pause at this point. Then he continued.
“OK, you know what?!? DON’T GO to Harry Wendelstedt’s umpiring school! DON’T GO! I’ve called games here at Wrigley Field in weather 10 times worse than this. Go on, Wendelstedt, ya big man! Hold the game up! But lemme tell you young people thinking about umpiring – DON’T GO to Harry Wendelstedt’s umpiring school! You’ll regret it!”
That’s one of my fondest Cubs memories. I wonder if The Harrys are together now, talking about the good old times, and a few not so good ones…
St. Louis University’s basketball program had it as tough as the Mayans in ’12. Not only did universally beloved college hoops coach Rick Majerus pass on, so did his predecessor with the Billikens, Charlie Spoonhour. John Wooden’s successor at UCLA, Gene Bartow, left us, too.
Among players, a heart condition claimed 1990s NBA big man Orlando Woolridge. Florida Gators chief mullet Dwayne Schintzius fell, as did Neil Reed, the former Indiana player famously choked by Bobby Knight. Reed was the son of former Iowa State assistant coach Terry Reed.
The Greatest Mullet of All passed on in 2012...(skirtsnsports.com)
If any sport was clobbered with death in 2012, it was boxing. Macho Camacho was murdered. Heavyweight slugger Michael Dokes departed, as did perhaps the greatest boxer of all time, Cuban heavyweight Teofilo Stevenson. Trainers Angelo Dundee and Emanuel Steward left the ring, as did Burt Sugar, the hat-wearing, cigar-smoking ringside analyst who seemed bigger than life (and often was).
Among the non-sports figures I’ll miss that left us this year: motivational speaker Zig Ziglar, jazz musician Dave Brubeck, actor Michael Clarke Duncan, “The Jeffersons” Sherman Helmsley, and the Beastie Boys’ Adam Yauch. Biff’s knows more than sports, after all…
Of the non-sports fames I said goodbye to this year, the Beasties' Adam Yauch (right) is at the top of the list... (mtv.com)
Who knows which stars will have their final curtain calls in 2013? Let’s just hope that we’re all around this time next year to mourn them.
Tomorrow’s the supposed day. The end of all things. It’s The End of The World As We Know It. And I feel fine, because my beliefs aren’t up for bidding to the loudest shrieking doomsday hyena; my faith grounded in something larger than a prediction from a people who no longer exist. And then there’s the strong precedent that every Armageddonist to date has been as reliable as me betting the NFL.
However, in the catastrophically unlikely chance that the Mayans are correct, here are 20 things I want to tell the world before it ends…and then 12 more. Get it? 2012? (I know. I’m ashamed of myself. Must be down to gallows humor. Oh shit, I just did it again….)
20 Things Biff Wants You To Know Before It’s Over…And Then 12 More
1. Anna Nicole Smith’s breasts were fake.
2. Nick Saban is in on this whole thing somehow. I can FEEL it.
3. If Lolo Jones is gonna give it up, tonight’s the night.
4. Troy Williamson was the biggest first-round bust in Minnesota Vikings history.
Worst. Draft pick. Ever. (bleacherreport.com)
5. There was no better clutch hitter in the 1980s than Dave Winfield.
6. Winfield and Paul Molitor each got their 3000th hit as members of the Minnesota Twins. Look it up.
7. When I was 10 years old, I shoplifted the skinny football cards out of an entire case of Sugar Daddys. Individually unwrapped each one, pilfered the card, put the candy back. I was never caught.
8. We outlasted Twinkies. How come the Mayans didn’t see that one coming?
9. On a more serious note, this supposed impending cataclysm, and the mindsets for both the fearful and the non-fearful today can be summed up by Mel Gibson’s epic scene in “Signs” when he and his brother were talking about alien life. The people filled with a belief in God see this and know it will pass uneventfully because they believe someone is looking out for them. This fills them with hope. The other group, without a belief in a God, feels that no matter what happens, they’re on their own. And this fills them with fear.
10. Tim Tebow has been singled out for more criticism, slander, and outright hate than any public figure without a criminal record or skeletons in their closet since Christ himself.
11. Global warming is a myth. Man-made global warming is a thinly-veiled, laughable power grab. And the belief that we as humans can “control” it is the height of arrogance.
12. “Boston” was the biggest one-album wonder in rock n’ roll history. “Don’t Look Back”? How ‘bout looking forward?
13. Cowboys receiver Drew Pearson will not be granted access to Heaven until he admits he pushed Nate Wright down on the 1975 Hail Mary pass.
14. U2 was the greatest band of my lifetime. I’d always regret that my crew never had a chance to swap beers and stories with Bono, Edge, Larry Mullen Jr., and Adam Clayton. I think we’d have enjoyed each other.
15. The top five running backs in NFL history were, in order: Barry Sanders, Walter Payton, Earl Campbell, Emmitt Smith, Adrian Peterson.
16. The world wasn’t going to end…until The Weather Channel started naming winter storms. Now it’s over. There’s only so much this planet can take.
17. I’ve driven the same SUV for nearly 13 years. It’s outlasted two wives.
18. When I get up there, among the first questions I want to ask Him is why the Hawks had to fall apart against UNLV in the ’87 West Regional final? And why the refs invented a “double foul” on Paul Shirley’s drive against Michigan State in the 2000 Midwest Regional final?
19. The Montreal Expos should still be a MLB franchise. The Miami Marlins should not.
20. Watch “Knowing” tonight on DVD. The ending sucks, but for all you life-preserving doomsdayers climbing mountains or descending into your underground lairs, know this: If it’s over, it’s over. As the great Jim Morrison said, “No One Here Gets Out Alive.” (If you’re REALLY dark, try to find a copy of “Last Night.” Same premise, better ending. As in, worse ending.)
"Knowing": a great end-of-the-world flick. Until the end, of course... (dipity.com)
Twelve More Things:
1. I think the Dalai Lama would have made a great Muppet character.
2. My biggest regret: That I never tried singing in a band. I dearly wanted to try; I’ve got a decent voice, but for some reason it just never happened.
3. Some of the best people in my world right now are people I’ve met on Twitter. Finally, a decent use of technology.
4. If it does end tomorrow, at least I won’t have to endure another Christmas where jagoff after jagoff comes up to me and say “Happy Holidays.” It’s Christmas. Name another holiday on the calendar that’s been hijacked and rebranded.
5. America rocks. The rest of the world can kiss our asses.
6. I think retired pro superstars should put together a “Branson” of their own. Fill up a small community, have theaters, and do shows where longtime fans can come and listen to your stories as a player, ask questions, get autographs and photos, and dive into a hot tub of nostalgia. If one did exist I’d be there every year without fail.
7. Greatest McFarlane figure I own: Fran Tarkenton. Worst McFarlane figure I own: Matt Ryan.
8. Gentlemen, women are every single bit as horny as we are. This was a staggering revelation to me after my first divorce. Until that time I just thought they were in the mood when they wanted a child, or when we just wore ‘em down to the point of giving in.
Even Biff has a revelation now and then... (urbantommy.com)
9. The greatest Iowa-based sports journalist of our time was Tom Witosky. The greatest Iowa-based sports columnist of our time was Marc Hansen.
10. If the lights go out tomorrow, we’ll know that God never wanted us to figure out a decent college football playoff system.
11. Barbara Streisand has lived off her rep for more than 30 years. It’s like Luis Tiant still getting standing ovations and back-breaking positive spin from the media every time he poked his head up.
12. If it is over tomorrow, ya never got my guns. And ya never would have.
As I embark upon the first day after my 48th birthday, I took some stock of self and realized I’ve clearly embarked on the path to Grumpy Old Man.
The music is getting too loud, the young people are getting too wild, and everyone drives like a maniac. My taste buds favor a bland turkey sandwich to a spicy burrito. My new driver’s license looks like a before and after mug shot of Nick Nolte when compared to my previous one.
I also realize that as the years pass and the world gets more and more out of control, there are hills I’ll choose to fight and die on. And the thuggish groupthink that passes for tolerance these days, especially in sports media, is one of ‘em. Two incidents this week brought this to mind:
Case in point 1: Rush Limbaugh was ceremoniously forced to resign by ESPN in 2003 for saying on “Sunday NFL Countdown” that the media wants to see a black quarterback (Donovan McNabb) do well. Here’s the statement that got him in trouble in its entirety:
“I don’t think he’s been that good from the get-go. I think what we’ve had here is a little social concern from the NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well. There is a little hope invested in McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn’t deserve. The defense carried this team.”
ESPN rid itself of Limbaugh nearly a decade ago for a misdemeanor compared to what Parker said this week... (thebiglead.com)
This week, ESPN’s Rob Parker took issue with just how “black” Redskins QB Robert Griffin III is, speculating on his white fiancée and his supposed Republican political leanings. Here’s his statement that got him in trouble in its entirety:
“Is he a brother, or a cornball brother? OK, he’s black, he kind of does the thing, but he’s not really down with the cause. He’s not one of us. He’s kind of black, but he’s not really like the guy that you want to hang out with … We all know he has a white fiancée, then there is all this talk about he’s a Republican, which there’s no information at all…”
Which of these would you say is more inflammatory? Hostile? Intentional?
Yet today, ESPN announced that Parker was merely being suspended, not terminated.
So why was Limbaugh finished at ESPN, and Parker’s just getting a spanking despite comments light-years more racist? Because Limbaugh’s a white conservative, and Parker’s a black liberal.
There are just as many left-leaning scribes in the sports departments of media outlets in this nation as there are in the news side. Believe me, I know more than most about this unspoken Civil War (though conservatives are outnumbered nine to one in newsrooms on average). I once wrote a piece on Super Bowl MVP Reggie White coming to town to speak at a local church, and was sent a sternly-worded email from the editor, telling me “this newspaper is not a forum for your religious beliefs.”
Case in point 2: Vikings punter Chris Kluwe has been an ardent proponent of same-sex marriage, to the point the team is tiring of his antics. He is nearly universally supported in the sporting media. His former Vikings teammate, Matt Birk, came out against same-sex marriage earlier this year, and was nearly universally crucified by the sporting media.
Kluwe is one book that you actually can judge by looking at its cover... (patheos.com)
Here’s the highlights of a letter Kluwe sent to Maryland state delegate Emmett Burns, who opposed same-sex marriage:
“I find it inconceivable that you are an elected official of Maryland’s state government … Mindfucking obscenely hypocritical … Holy shitballs … (Gays) won’t magically turn you into a lustful cockmonster… shove it in your close-minded, totally lacking in empathy piehole and choke on it, asshole…”
Here are the highlights of Birk’s comments in Maryland against same-sex marriage:
“Marriage is an institution that predates our government, society, and any religion. It legitimizes the only way to create, and the best way to raise, our next generation. Marriage originates from the unique relationship between a man and woman, and their exclusive ability, grounded in nature, to conceive children and nurture those children as a mother and father. In short, marriage protects the source of life. Marriage is not something that validates the love that two people share for each other. It’s much more than that.”
Which of these statements was more inflammatory? Hostile?
Yet today, Kluwe is labeled a brave activist; even the “sexiest man of 2012” by Salon.com. Birk is a homophobic bigot.
The reason? Birk is a conservative, Kluwe a liberal.
Most folks today don’t like to do the research and intellectual heavy lifting that comes with forming an educated opinion on something. I’d guess that 90% of those who’ll read this didn’t know much of anything about what got Limbaugh removed, what got Parker into trouble, what kind of person Kluwe is, or Birk for that matter.
We just parrot the stances other people take so that we fit in, so that we’re not outside the groupthink. Nobody wants to get ganged up on, and that’s what happens to folks who take the conservative tack on just about anything: leftists tear into them like a street gang to shut them up. So Limbaugh remains a “racist”, Parker an “outspoken” commentator, Kluwe an “activist”, and Birk a “homophobe.” Hopefully throwing some actual quotes into this piece from all four of them give you a different perspective on each.
Speaking of shutting up, longtime ESPN “NFL Sunday Countdown” panelist Tom Jackson went hard on Limbaugh after his exit in 2003. “Let me just say that it was not our decision to have Rush Limbaugh on this show,” he said. “I’ve seen replay after replay of Limbaugh’s comments … comments which made us very uncomfortable at the time. He was brought here to talk football, and he broke that trust…Rush Limbaugh was not a fit for NFL Countdown.”
I wonder what Tommy’s going to say this weekend about his “brother”, Parker? Is he “one of us”, Tom?
Oh, and when they say “us” in sports media, they don’t just mean black, folks.
Not a real thread running through today’s submission. Just a downloading of consciousness, I guess. I have less than no idea who’s going to win the Iowa State-Iowa basketball game, but I’m elated that a Hawkeye offense will likely top 40 points…
The fantasy football playoffs begin this weekend for all the women leagues who scrap an entire week of competition so their pampered studs don’t kill them in Week 17. If I asked you who the hottest receiver in fantasy is right now, would you have said Dez Bryant? Yup, he’s got 29 catches for 475 yards and six touchdowns in the last four games…contrast that with Julio Jones, who’s scored once since October…
The hottest fantasy receiver in the NFL right now. Surprised?... (bleacherreport.com)
RB DeMarco Murray STILL hasn’t scored an NFL touchdown away from Cowboys Stadium. Dallas is at Cincinnati this weekend. You have been warned, Murray owners…
As for me, the Urine Monkeys can clinch a playoff berth with a win this weekend over the Northern Dogs. I can still get in if I lose, but it’d be nice to win outright. In the KXNO Fantasy Football Countdown league, I’ve already clinched a spot. Bring it on, Shady Ladies…
Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez will meet for the fourth epic clash in their saga Saturday night in Las Vegas. Everyone says there’s been no clear winner in the first three fights, though Pacquiao owns a 2-0-1 record in the bouts. I’ve never seen them fight, as I won’t pay one-fourth of the cost for the NFL ticket on an event that could end in 30 seconds. But I have offered Korean cartoonists money to have them frantically draw flip books of each round and mail them to me…
Hope the Koreans take me up on my offer for the Pacquiao-Marquez fight...
Johnny Manziel is going to win the Heisman Trophy tomorrow night, and it’ll be the first time it’s ever gone to a freshman. Meanwhile, the most deserving of the award, Ohio State QB Braxton Miller, will be in Columbus, watching. Inexcusable…
I’m starting to become concerned about the state of the NFL, and the power of Commissioner Roger Goodell. He’s now floating the idea of getting rid of kickoffs altogether, citing player safety worries. This is, of course, a complete sack of Mark Mangino bowel movements on fire.
Goodell fears the concussion lawsuit payouts, and kickoffs are where a lot of them occur. He’s not learned the lesson of giving in to public pressure: Once you yield an inch, it’s like blood in the water. Fresh meat. All they want is more and more, until you’re completely devoured. If you allowed Satan a toehold in your mind and said that’s as far as you can go, would he really listen and stop there?
The concussion payments could be sizable, but it won’t break the NFL. Like America, the only way to destroy pro football is from the inside out. Taking away kickoffs and penalizing and fining defensive players for inadvertent helmet-to-helmet contact at nearly 20 mph waters down the product. And additional changes will continue to eat away at the game until it’s a shadow of what fans loved about it in the first place. Then they’ll abandon it. And the NFL’s golden age will be gone forever.
This generation will be remembered historically as the Pussy Generation. We needed to ban ourselves from the threat of large sodas. We needed bailouts because we couldn’t control our spending urges. We moved games if weather conditions affected fan travel. The men of the house were been turned into slobbering nitwits on every TV commercial, the wives were their intellectual and authoritative superiors. We said Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas because we were terrified how it’d be received. We changed longtime mascot names for the same reasons. Lawyers were our weapons, the blame game our national pastime. Smokers, coffee drinkers, fast food customers and NFL players sued over the consequences of their own actions and choices, all seeking a handout. I’m ashamed that future generations will lump me in with them.
Right there with ya, buddy... (newser.com)
Few Americans watching Sunday night’s Eagles-Cowboys tilt were expecting a commentary on gun control, yet unfortunately Sunday Night Football host Bob Costas delivered a poorly thought out and poorly executed one minute op-ed that blamed in large part the murder of Kassandra Perkins by Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher and his eventual suicide on handguns and the “gun culture.”
Bob Costas is an icon among sports broadcasters, and rightfully can be mentioned in the same breath as former greats like Howard Cosell and Jim McKay. However, his commentary Sunday night cast an opportunistic shadow over both the horrible crime in KC, and his near-impeccable credibility. Instead of offering a sober, reasoned analysis and the treating this story with the emotional gravity it deserved, he chose to take a more crass approach by not only concentrating on the instrument by which the crime was committed, instead of the crime itself, but by also relying almost solely on the words of another commentator, FoxSports.com columnist Jason Whitlock.
Costas’ remarks from Sunday night:
“You want some actual perspective on this? Well, a bit of it comes from the Kansas City-based writer Jason Whitlock, with whom I do not always agree, but who today said it so well, that we may as well just quote or paraphrase from the end of his article:
Let’s just ignore for a moment the actual argument he was making for a moment, and reflect on the fact that someone with the gravitas of Costas used almost chapter and verse the arguments of another person, one who has made a name for himself as a flamethrower and as an al dente columnist (throw it against the wall; see if it sticks). The first half of Whitlock’s piece from Saturday was actually quite cogent and thought-provoking; it asked why the Chiefs were even playing a game mere hours after witnessing a suicide in the parking lot of their practice facility. Yet the article devolved into a screed about the evils of guns and our numbness to gun violence and murder. Here’s a portion of Whitlock’s piece that Costas conveniently omitted Saturday night:
“I would argue that your rationalizations speak to how numb we are in this society to gun violence and murder. We’ve come to accept our insanity. We’d prefer to avoid seriously reflecting upon the absurdity of the prevailing notion that the second amendment somehow enhances our liberty rather than threatens it.”
Let’s just allow that to sink in for a moment. A constitutional right, one which the Supreme Court has upheld as an individual right, is “absurd?” Could you imagine the outrage if someone said that the First Amendment was absurd, since people like Fred Phelps and his minions abuse it habitually? Why is the Second Amendment somehow considered less important because of those who abuse it?
Costas appeared on the Dan Patrick show Tuesday morning and tried to backtrack, saying that he didn’t believe the Second Amendment should be abolished nor that he thought guns were the sole reason Kassandra Perkins was murdered. Then why mention Whitlock’s article at all, Bob? Whitlock attempted to dispute the legitimacy of a basic civil right and hallmark of liberty, and Costas doubled down on it. The timing of the commentary was bad enough (the story was less than 48 hours old at that point); but simply regurgitating the thoughts of someone else is intellectually lazy and not worthy of someone of his stature.
But so what? Costas is more than welcome to have an opinion on an issue that triggers a tremendous amount of debate; this is a country after all that still champions free speech, and should. Calls by some people for him to be “fired” are silly and create an atmosphere of fear that convolutes the very idea that we should not punish others for expressing an unpopular viewpoint. But the timing and manner of Costas’ comments were quite simply wrong. A captive audience tuning in for a football game doesn’t want to listen to a debate about gun control, especially since many of those NFL fans are likely still attempting to process what happened in Kansas City Saturday morning. People by and large watch sports as an escape from the vagaries of everyday life. After just going through a long, bitter election battle in which people were subjected to a barrage of arguments, from the impassioned to the insane, the last thing they want is to be lectured regarding a right and matter of public policy many of them, from all walks of life, exercise at least on a limited basis.
The “gun culture” didn’t kill Kassandra Perkins; a violent man with apparent mental issues killed her. The more someone concentrates on the implements used to commit crimes, the more they absolve the actions of those who committed them. Should Belcher have been allowed to have a firearm? Of course not; but that by extension does not mean law-abiding citizens should also be prohibited from possessing one. The gun culture no more killed Perkins than the car culture which also takes the lives of thousands of Americans every single year.
Robnoxious bemoans the lazy argument that Perkins would be alive today if Belcher didn't own a gun...(sandrarose.com)
There are 300 million guns in this country, and 99.9% of them are used and owned legally. Whenever crimes such as this take place, it’s easy for those not well versed in the precepts of constitutional law to make knee-jerk arguments which appeal to pathos instead of ethos and logos, but that doesn’t make such arguments appropriate, especially in the context of a national television audience tuning in for a football game.
Both Costas and Whitlock are attempting to portray a reality in which guns kill thousands every year. However they ignored other deeper, more relevant realities that create those environs in which guns are misused:
--A social welfare system which perpetuates poverty and discourages fatherhood
--An educational system that doesn’t prepare students for the world and doesn’t adequately teach societal coping skills
--A drug war that imprisons young men, many of which are minorities, and triggers a cycle of crime and incarceration, broken only by death
--A justice system that still isn’t very good at protecting women from violence, especially at the hands of their husbands and boyfriends
--A medical system which is notoriously poor at recognizing mental illness, and when it does is prohibited from involuntarily treating those diagnosed
--A professional sports league still not equipped to deal with the fallout from traumatic brain injuries, let alone recognize them
Gun violence as depicted by Costas and Whitlock is only the medium by which these problems illustrate themselves. It’s unfortunate that even seemingly intelligent people are distracted by the loud shiny object instead of trying to find the root causes of the violence they’re concerned about.
I can agree with both journalists that Jovan Belcher shouldn’t have had a gun, but that isn’t the fault of the Second Amendment, nor the millions of Americans who own guns, even handguns and semi-automatic rifles implicated in these crimes. The last thing we should do as a society is question the rights that responsible, law-abiding people exercise and instead implicate those responsible for committing violent crimes and find ways to prevent them in the future.
Congrats to Iowa Western and Biff's "adopted son", Dallas Hinkhouse! (He's holding the trophy)...
1. Starting things off right on this first Top 25 of December: My son’s best friend since childhood, Dallas Hinkhouse, was a starting offensive tackle on the Iowa Western Community College team that won the NJCAA national championship Sunday at the UNI-Dome. A West Des Moines Valley grad, Dallas has several D-1 offers on the table (West Virginia, S. Florida, Illinois, and more), but appears at this time to be leaning toward signing with the Fightin’ Illini. As your pseudo-adopted pop, I couldn’t be more proud, Dally!
2. Georgia did not deserve to get dumped all the way down to the Crapital One Bowl, and a date against “That 70s Show”, Nebraska. Ugh, Uga…
3. I remain fiercely committed to Ohio State QB Braxton Miller winning the Heisman Trophy. But instead it’s going to someone nobody’d even heard of a MONTH ago. Behold the power of the media, and the groupthink it induces…
4. Disagree? Then convince me you were on the Johnny Manziel bandwagon, or even remotely knew his game and story, before Texas A&M upset No. 1 Alabama. That happened Nov. 10th, people…
5. Hey everybody, Central Michigan reached a bowl game! They’ll play Western Kentucky in the Little Caesars Bowl. Hawkeyes!Hawkeyes!
6. So ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit bellowed out last night that Northern Illinois’ inclusion in the BCS shows what a sad state college football is in. Kirk, I firmly believe that ESPN is the worst thing that has ever happened to the history of sport itself. And you’re a part of it.
7. As the most loyal of Oklahoma football fans around, I don’t mind all that much that the Huskies crashed the party and took a BCS game away from the Sooners. Why is their Orange Bowl bid such an awful thing, when four months from now we’ll all be cheering for every Cinderella in March Madness? Seems like we all need a hypocrite checkup…
8. Purdue got the Heart of Dallas Bowl invite that Cyclone fans desperately were hoping for. Their reward? A date with Oklahoma State. At least the Boilers’ athletic department will save a ton on the flight home. Corpses are stored in cargo…
9. I got out of Omaha Saturday night about 20 minutes ahead of the mass jumpers from tall buildings. I guess cleanup’s gonna take a while…
10. But part of me wishes I’d stayed and watched The Great Santini get force-fed one shitburger after another, instead of driving for three hours in pea-soup foggy, 200-foot visibility…
11. Something’s amiss at Oklahoma State if its second-favorite son, Coach Mike Gundy, is sniffing other jobs. (Barry Sanders will forever be Okie State’s favorite son.)
12. When I heard Sunday that Iowa State’s opponent in the Liberty Bowl would be Tulsa, its season-opening opponent, I dusted off my little black book and starting calling around to see if any of my forgettable previous conquests would be interested in hooking up again. It’s true: Familiarity does breed contempt.
13. Former Iowa State and current Louisiana Tech A.D. Bruce Van De Velde is to A.D.’ing what Kevin Costner is to acting. Somehow, each keeps finding work. He passed on an Independence Bowl offer, hoping for better digs, and then ended up with nothing, the 9-3 footballers completely 86’d from the postseason.
Ya f'd it all up, Bruce. Now be a man and OWN it...
14. Oh, and in typical 21st-century behavior, Van De Velde is now blaming Liberty Bowl officials for being “disingenuous” with him about inviting his school. The only thing more shameful than what you’ve done, Bruce, is that you’re now ham-handedly trying to shift the blame. Own it, douche.
15. Well, I got half my November wish. We got half of the SEC out of the BCS title game. The bad news is that Nick Satan and Alabama are back, annoyingly, one more time. Satan, meet God (Notre Dame). God, Satan. I know where my money’s going…
16. Best non-BCS Bowl: It’s gotta be Oklahoma and Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl at Cowboys Stadium Jan. 4. The Sooners sold out their contingent of tickets to the game Monday morning.
17. Worst non-BCS Bowl: Tell me it’s not 6-6 Rice vs. 6-6 Air Force in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl. At least it’s a good bird matchup (Owls vs. Falcons).
18. Best BCS Bowl: Fiesta Bowl between Oregon and Kansas State. Invoking any bowl with Louisville, Wisconsin, or the Huskies is pickin’ low-hanging fruit. I think this one’s your stinker. Did you see what Baylor’s high-powered offense did to the Wildcats? What’s Oregon gonna do? Is 75 attainable? 80?
19. I see Minnesota’s playing Texas Tech in a bowl again. In honor of former coach Glen Mason, the Gophers will race out to a seemingly insurmountable lead, only to have the Red Raiders storm back and win. This will lead to Jerry Kill’s firing (as was Mason’s case). They’ll take any reason they can get to remove Kill and his medical condition from the sidelines.
20. Best tweet of the weekend, from ESPN.com’s Brett McMurphy: “To honor West Virginia in Pinstripe Bowl, Times Square will drop burning couch from the sky at midnight Dec. 29”…
The Pinstripe Bowl and the Big Apple await the refined Mountaineers... (mo.austin360.com)
21. Just found out Northern Illinois University is giving away Orange Bowl tickets to students who can get to Miami for the Jan. 1 game with Florida State. Yeah Herbie, those Huskies are real party-crashin’ assholes…
22. Missouri offensive coordinator David Yost has resigned after 12 years on Gary Pinkel’s staff. Something about a bacterial infection…J
23. I’m SO disappointed in myself that I didn’t handicap where Lane Kiffin’s awful Trojans were going to be sent. El Paso, Texas is perfect. The fact that it’s sponsored by Hyundai, even more so. Pat Haden should make him drive one until he makes amends for this wretched season that began with such promise.
24. Rumors flying that fired Gene Chizik might be in line for a job on Kiffin’s staff. That’s like Harvey Two-Face sidling up with The Riddler…
25. The Beef O’Brady’s Bowl remains my favorite bowl corporate sponsor. But what the hell is the Belk Bowl?
Gonna be some good ball played tonight, if you're interested...
Conference championship week. Ah, the apex of the regular season, and pause in the march to the bowl season. Where teams like 6-6 Georgia Tech (ack) get to play for the right to go to a BCS bowl. Where teams like UCLA and Stanford can crawl into bed together for the second time in less than a week. Where two 11-1 teams can lock horns and no one will pay attention (tonight’s MAC title game between Northern Illinois and Kent State).
The Hawkeyes’ season has been North Towered, but the coach stands steadfastly behind the main co-conspirator. The Cyclones get to play the waiting game to see if they get Texas hot or New York cold (again). The Huskers get to try to win the Big Ten championship with their two main threats barred from competing. Let the festivities, and Biff’s Comedy Club, commence!
So Lane Kiffin’s old man, Monte (creator of the NFL’s Tampa 2 defense, BTW), has resigned as USC defensive coordinator and is going back to the pros. Anybody buying that? A 72-year-old man, as responsible as his son for blowing up the Trojans’ expected dream season, landing a huge NFL job at that age? Nope. Methinks USC A.D. Pat Haden told son to can the father, or else. So the son, being who he is, simply told his dad to pack up…
Dad, you're fired. And for God's sakes, man, do something about that comb-over! (espn.com)
Damon Bullock’s 23-yard run in the season-opener is the only blemish on Northern Illinois’ record. They could have been 12-0 heading into tonight’s MAC championship. As it is, they’re still ranked 21st, and they’re favored by about a touchdown against 17th-ranked Kent State.
Bullock, by the way, should be on the field with fellow Iowa RB Mark Weisman a lot next year, said Kirk Ferentz this week. Because, you know, his tenure has been laden with two-back sets…
Would some school please throw money toward Jon Gruden the way the Mets do to Johan Santana and David Wright? Seriously, if he’s around for another year of MNF commentary I may have to incorporate even more vices to get through the evening. Mike Tirico cannot finish his last syllable before Gruden chimes in. It’s like he thinks he’s filibustering, and if there’s so much as a second of dead air the whole thing’s blown up…
Anyone notice the WR diva movement is down notably in the NFL? Without Chad Johnson, Terrell Owens, and Plaxico Burress on the field, and DeSean Jackson, Randy Moss, and Dez Bryant having dismal seasons or under house arrest, it’s been a refreshingly sideshow-free season…
Slightly concerned about the sluggish starts for the Iowa and Iowa State men’s basketball teams. Slightly as in, I haven’t watched a single game yet. Basketball season for me doesn’t start until the Hawks and Cyclones play each other….football is far too glorious an experience, and far too short in existence, to short-sheet its bed with basketball…
What’s the big deal about Spurs coach Gregg Popovich sending several of his starters home for some rest near the end of a grueling NBA road trip? Well, Commish Stern is none too pleased about Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli, Tony Parker and more home on a commercial flight rather than face the Miami Heat Thursday night. He’s the coach, and if he wants them ready by a key matchup against the Grizzlies this weekend, that’s his call. Of course, if he sent the guys home, then pulled a Pete Rose and bet heavy on the Heat, that’s another matter…
I’d like to see Bo Pelini and Bret Bielema come to blows Saturday night. Bielema would kick his Great Santini ass, and that’d make my week…
Best Headline of the Week, courtesy of LostLettermen.com: “DUI’d Fan Blows .50 BAC After Civil War.” How’d they measure it back then? This is right up with my all-time favorite headline a few years back about a guy who got killed while polishing a loaded Civil War cannon: "Civil War Claims Latest Victim"...
You know, looking at some of these guys, I could see a .50. I really could... (nps.gov)
My favorite Christmas season movies: “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, “Frosty the Snowman”, “Miracle on 34th Street” (with Dylan McDermott), “The Santa Clause”, “It’s A Wonderful Life”, “A Christmas Story”, and “A Football Life: Brad Childress”…
Anybody else wanna guess when Peyton Manning’s head and the Denver Broncos’ season get simultaneously blown up? I’m targeting Dec. 16 (at the Ravens)…
OK, that’s it for me. Gotta hit the road to Omaha for a weekend with the in-laws. Hope we stay long enough to find a Nebraska bar tomorrow night and watch the Badgers break out to a 17-0 lead…J
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1. After winning a national championship in 2010, Auburn’s Gene Chizik went a sobering 8-5 in 2011. He changed out both his offensive and defensive coordinators, but then went 3-9 in 2012 and was promptly fired and given $7.5 million. I guess the SEC and Big Ten are different. Just sayin’…
2. Coaches were also fired at North Carolina State, Purdue, Colorado, Boston College and Arkansas. But of these schools, none has endured a fall from grace like the Buffaloes. Little more than twenty years ago they were national champs.
3. ESPN.com bowl projection gurus Mark Schlabach and Brad Edwards both have Iowa State in the Heart of Dallas Bowl vs. Jerry Kill’s Minnesota Gophers. Ugh. That’s like winning Dancing With The Stars, and getting a night out with Chastity Bono as your prize.
We thought you could use some more pigs for your (bowl) party, nerds!...I mean, Cyclones! (zimbio.com)
4. Speaking of Kill, I don’t know how Minnesota expects to turn a program around, let alone recruit, with a head coach who’s regularly seizing up during games. Saturday’s halftime episode was the third time in two seasons Kill has had an epileptic scare on game day. It’s scary for players to watch, he could give up the headset at any time during a game, and there’s no way negative recruiting isn’t going on by other schools. But how do you get rid of him?
5. The Hawks’ dreaded AIRBHG curse didn’t even get 24 hours into the off-season before striking again. RB Barkley Hill was busted for OWI early Saturday.
6. Kudos to former ISU offensive coordinator Tom Herman, who just finished piloting the Buckeyes’ offense to a 12-0 season under Urban Meyer.
7. Staying with OCs, how does Greg Davis return for another year in Iowa City? Seriously. How does Kirk Ferentz bring him back without genuinely putting his own existence in jeopardy, contract or not?
If Ferentz retains Davis, he doubles down on his own future at Iowa... (desertnews.com)
8. Damon Bullock is the only thing keeping Northern Illinois from a date in the BCS, and the Huskies might get there anyway. NIU hasn’t lost since the Iowa game, and faces Kent State in the MAC title game this weekend. Win that, and the Huskies might actually steal a BCS bid from the Big East, since no school from that conference was ranked in the BCS this week (nice work, Rutgers).
9. Oh, I almost forgot to congratulate Rutgers on its admission to the Big Ten last week. They celebrated by shitting their pants in an ugly 27-6 rout at the hands of 5-6 Pitt. Fellow Big Ten biggie Maryland also capped a 4-8 season by losing to North Carolina. Man, what an impact these two heavyweights are going to have on the Leaders and Legends!
10. Another related note: Big Ten Commish Jim Delany is a prototypical study in power drunkenness and hubris. He’d done it all – successfully launched the Big Ten Network, and added mighty Nebraska to the league’s football ledger. But that wasn’t enough. Convinced he had the Midas touch, Delany brazenly went out and brought paper tigers Rutgers and Maryland into the fray, eliciting howls of protest from both Big Ten and ACC fans. Delany didn’t care about their competitiveness or dossier; he wanted the New York and D.C. media markets. This is not going to work in the long run, perhaps even the short run.
11. I cannot tell you thrilled I am that we’re not having another all-SEC BCS title game. Even if it is Notre Dame.
12. What a joke the Heisman Trophy has become. After screaming for decades that the trophy shouldn’t go to a sophomore, we’re about to see it bestowed on a freshman (Johnny Manziel) that no one had heard of a month ago. We’ve all become sheep, running to whoever the hot shepherd is at the moment.
13. My Heisman vote goes to Ohio State QB Braxton Miller, who passed for 2,039 yards and 15 TDs and rushed for 1,271 yards and 13 more scores. Oh, and he did lead his team to an undefeated season, sanctions or not.
3,300 yards, 28 TDs, and a 12-0 record. How is Miller not the Heisman winner? (waitingfornextyear.com)
13. Oklahoma has won its last two games by scores of 50-49 and 51-48.
14. Kansas State wins the Big 12 title with a victory at home over Texas this weekend. If it loses, and the Sooners win at TCU, the Wildcats won’t even win their own conference.
15. Best 12-0 team: Notre Dame, with a hat tip to the Buckeyes. Worst 0-12 team: There’s only one, and it’s your Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles!
16. Coaches who ought to be fired, but haven’t been: Illinois’ Tim Beckman, a woeful 2-10, 0-8 in the Big Ten in his first season. He’s Tim Brewster reincarnated. Lotta talk, no results. Bobby Hauck, UNLV. The Rebels just finished a 2-11 season, have lost 22 straight road games, and are 6-32 in his tenure. But he’s getting another year.
17. Baylor, which didn’t have a Big 12 win three weeks ago, finished tied with West Virginia (ranked No. 5 in the nation two months ago) in the conference.
18. Teams going bowling that you would’ve bet against in August: Duke, San Jose State, Ohio, Vanderbilt, Louisiana-Monroe, Kent State, Purdue, SMU, Syracuse, Oregon State.
19. Teams that won’t be bowling that you would’ve bet for in August: Iowa, Pitt, Houston, Missouri, Tennessee, Auburn.
20. The Iowa Hawkeyes are the ONLY member of the Legends Division of the Big Ten that will not be going to a bowl game.
21. Nine of the Big 12’s ten teams will be going to a bowl game.
22. If conference realignment is boiling up for another round, I’d wager the Big 12 will take another look at Florida State and either Clemson or the Miami Hurricanes.
23. Penn State finished the season 8-4, got way too much media attention, and went off the deep end by putting the number of injured LB Matt Mauti on their helmets last weekend. It’s not like he died. Geez, how cheesy would it have been if Iowa State had done that for Jake Knott?
Today we honor our fallen comrade, Matt Mauti, killed in action last wee...wait, what? He's not dead? Just a knee injury? What the *uck are we doin, then?!? (sbnation.com)
24. The Nittany Lions players deserved every bit of that unexpectedly positive season. The program itself did not.
25. Weird: Stanford and UCLA will meet for the second time in a week this Saturday in the Pac-12 title game.