Norman Rogers

Will Pete Carroll Go Back to the NFL?

Add me to the list of people who think this is a bad idea, if there is such a list:

Carroll's NFL experience was a lifetime ago; ten years is a long time to be out of the day to day grind. As good as USC has been, and as good as the competition has been, that's still not the NFL and no one can convince me otherwise.

Is Seattle the right organization? It's not a terrible organization, not by a long shot. It's not Oakland, and it's not Kansas City and it's certainly not the Washington Redskins (which snapped up a man in Mike Shanahan who's only been out of a job for a few years, rather than an entire decade plus one season).

I picked up the photo from a blog called "Kornheiser's Cartel," which promised to be a sports blog angling to trade off a little of the Mr. Tony magic (without actually involving him, of course).

Alas, that blog has been dead in the water for months. It sputtered through March, going a week or better with no updates, and then died in April, just as baseball season was getting underway. Someone took the time to design the blog, and register "" and everything. And it died from neglect.

A coach's command of the NFL dies from neglect as well. Could Carroll get it back? Could Carroll succeed? Absolutely. But, the price of failure might leave him unable to walk away from the NFL and go back to a plum job like USC. As long as the program he has built is succeeding, why would he walk away? Carroll could take the Seattle job and make a splash. That's when I'm afraid the game, and the competitive nature of the league, plus the parity in talent, would begin to take a toll on Carroll's bag of tricks. All coaches die a slow, lingering death in the NFL--just ask Bill Belichick, the guy who replaced Carroll.

The Los Angeles Times reported Friday that Seahawks chief executive officer Tod Leiweke flew to California this week to interview Carroll for the job., citing unidentified league sources, said an announcement of Carroll joining the Seahawks could come early next week.

"Pete's name comes out at this time every year. In the past, he hasn't commented on such reports," USC spokesman Tim Tessalone said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "He was not expected in [Friday]. ... At this point, we have nothing to report."

A Seahawks spokesman inside the team's headquarters Friday refused to comment on Carroll. Carroll did not return a phone message left by The AP.

Leiweke did not respond to an e-mail from The AP asking about Carroll, who was 6-10 in 1994 with the New York Jets and then 27-21 while twice reaching the playoffs from '97-99 with the New England Patriots.

University of Washington coach Steve Sarkisian, who left his friend Carroll and the Trojans 12 months ago for his first head coaching job, chuckled when asked if he'd like to be a head coach in the same city as his mentor.

"That'd be kind of fun," Sarkisian said.

"I'm so used to hearing people talk about Pete Carroll going to the NFL, they've been saying it for the last seven years when I was with him, so it's not new to me," Sarkisian said. "It doesn't surprise me at all. Every year. You can't find a year in the last seven years where it hasn't been brought up."

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Tim Tebow Should Give Up Now and Forget About an NFL Career?

Always shoot for mediocre, don't try hard, and always expect to fail. Giving up before you try is what winners do. Hey, you know that, because these other guys failed, you're gonna fail too, right? Right?

Tim Tebow has been a great story, but I'm concerned about how this story ends. It's not the Florida fan in me, or the Tim Tebow fan in me, because neither fan exists. But the writer in me? The writer in me exists, and the writer in me is concerned. Writers love a good story, and we especially love a good ending. And Florida quarterback Tim Tebow's story should have ended Friday night in the Sugar Bowl. Not his story overall. I'm not asking for the young man to die. I'm asking for him to retire from football. Wouldn't that be perfect? Seriously -- I cannot imagine a better ending, a more fitting ending, for this once-in-a-lifetime football player than his immaculate Sugar Bowl performance, when he threw for 482 yards and ran for 51 and produced as many touchdowns (four) as incomplete passes. We should all be so lucky as to go out like that -- knowing our limitations, knowing we have reached the apex of our career, and leaving on our own terms. That would be like me winning a Pulitzer Prize and then smashing my laptop to pieces after accepting the award. (I'm never winning a Pulitzer; I know this. It's an analogy, people.) That would be like Bobby Bowden passing Bear Bryant with 324 career victories at the declining age of 72 and then stepping down (OK, another bad example). It would be like Jim Brown winning the NFL rushing title in 1965 and then, at age 29, retiring from football. It would be like Dodgers pitcher Sandy Koufax going 27-9 in 1966, the best season of his superstar career, and then retiring at age 30. It would be like Rocky Marciano knocking out three fighters in 12 months and then, in 1955, retiring at age 32.
No, it would most emphatically NOT be like any of those incidents. This is where the hubris of the sports commentator or writer interferes with reality. Mr. Doyel wants shining glory and perfect endings and familiar absolutes. The real world has none of these things when a person really strives to achieve something and has something left in the tank. You can compare two great quarterbacks--Joe Montana and John Elway. Montana felt he had more football in him, so he toughed it out and tried to add to his considerable legacy. Elway retired after winning a Superbowl. I would suspect that Elway's decision was different because he didn't feel that he had it in him to win a third Superbowl. That's his right, God bless him. His legacy takes no tarnish, nor, in my mind, does Montana's. Even Dan Marino continued on, having one of the most horrendous games of his career. Should that have finished him? It all comes down to the quality of his play and his determination to come back. It has nothing to do with making it easy for some jackass with a pen and paper to tie up loose ends. Competitors will always come out and play if they have it in them. Each pro athlete makes a tortured decision to retire. To say that a young man who is absolutely unformed and without one single snap in the NFL should give up before even trying is the height of absurdity. Let Mr. Tebow do whatever he wants.

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Put Bert Blyleven in the Hall of Fame

I heartily agree with Mr. Bert Blyleven's own case as expressed here:

Wins are a tough statistic to consider in baseball. But for a few timely runs, and a little bit better run support, Blyleven would easily have over 320 wins and would have been in the Hall of Fame years ago. This is not a case where he, as a pitcher, didn't start enough games. It's more a case of having to have played on some teams that had anemic hitting. Just the fact that he pitched 242 complete games is enough by me. That's an amazing feat, one that you won't see in the future. Mr. Blyleven deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. Period. End of story.

When talk of my Hall of Fame candidacy comes up, usually people like to point at my career win total of 287 as a reason I shouldn’t be elected to Cooperstown. The so-called magic number of wins for automatic induction is said to be 300, and obviously I come up short in that department.
But in my opinion, wins are one of the hardest things to come by, and a pitcher can only do so much to control whether he wins a game. You can control your walks, you can control your strikeouts and your innings pitched. You can control whether you go nine innings by the way you approach a game. But one thing you often can’t control is wins and losses. It’s very difficult.
When I first came up in 1970 at age 19, I won my first game 2-1. My second game I lost 2-1. So after two starts, I had allowed three runs in 14 innings (1.93 ERA), but was just 1-1. That just shows you how hard it is, and it made me work harder. Maybe that’s why I was able to pitch 22 seasons in the majors, because I was so stubborn.
If you allow one run, but your team doesn’t score any runs, then you can’t earn the win. If your bullpen gives up a lead after you leave the game, then you can’t earn a win. Wins are a product of your team as a whole, and while the starting pitcher plays a significant role in who wins the game, he is not the only factor. The starter can only control so much.
Case in point: I lost 99 quality starts (at least six innings pitched while allowing no more than three runs) in my career, more than all but four pitchers since 1954. And I had 79 other quality starts in which I had no-decisions. That’s 178 quality starts in which I did not earn a win, yet people knock me for coming up 13 wins shy of 300.
Clearly, wins is a flawed stat, and I think observers of baseball are beginning to realize that. After all, this year’s Cy Young winners were Zack Greinke (16 wins) and Tim Lincecum (15). Both are great pitchers and deserving of the award, but neither led their league in wins.
One thing a pitcher can control is how far he lasts in each start. The better you pitch, the longer you last. This saves wear and tear on your bullpen, which in turn helps the starters who follow you in the rotation. Every time you pitch a complete game, your team benefits. That’s why I think complete games and shutouts are better stats to look at than wins.
I made 685 starts in my 22 seasons, and threw 242 complete games, so I went the distance in 35.3 percent of my starts. Compare that to Hall of Fame pitchers from my era and I stack up well. Phil Niekro completed 34 percent of his starts, Nolan Ryan 29 percent, Tom Seaver 35.7 percent and Steve Carlton 35.8 percent. Ferguson Jenkins (45 percent) and Gaylord Perry (44 percent) were the most impressive from my era in that department.

Was I Really That Wrong About Brett Favre?

This is not an attempt to dishonestly "walk back" things that I have said about Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre. It does tell you why I said what I said:

As it turns out, Chilly isn't such a chump after all. Sean Jensen of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that, both before and after the "heated discussion" that Vikings coach Brad Childress claims wasn't a "heated discussion," Childress targeted some heated words at members of his team. Per Jensen, the offense got it at halftime, and Favre himself was the target after the game, presumably after Favre aired the dirty laundry to the media. At the half, Childress reportedly cursed at the team and said it's "laughable" that the Vikings consider themselves a Super Bowl team. Though a kinder, gentler Chilly emerged on Monday, Jensen writes that "all is not well between Brad and Brett, and the primary difference centers on the quarterback's penchant to check out of runs and into passes." And so, as several of you have suggested in the comments, it sounds like there's finally a schism in Minnesota. Favre might not have known what the term meant in August, but we've got a feeling that he knows it now.
Originally, I took the line that Favre was finished. That turned out to be wrong--his season has been productive and fantastic. He is not finished. Therefore, my main point was proven absolutely wrong. Like the good blogger that I am, I did my penance.

I did say he was a cancer and a diva who could ruin a team, and that's born out by what you see above. I don't believe in team "chemistry," but I do think that if your star quarterback is an aging veteran who has had a lot of success coming back from injuries and has helped the team win games, fighting with the coach as the team begins to take a December swoon is a recipe for disaster.

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Coach Bobby Knight Puts a Turd Right Square Into the Punchbowl

It should come as no surprise that I am a Bobby Knight fan. He coached men's basketball in the NCAA the way that it is supposed to be coached. He graduated his players and he played by the rules. More important than the wins, he taught and instructed boys and helped make them into men.

Coach Knight repeated something yesterday that I've been saying for months about John Calipari:

Yes, it is a disgrace, and as I have pointed out here, here, and here, it's entirely the fault of an NCAA that refuses to deal with problems and apply even standards to every program in the NCAA. It is true that Kentucky took a hit this season--not the death penalty, but, rather, a minor penalty that had no bearing on the start of their season. The answer to your next question is a question of my own: how many times are you going to see a PAC 10 men's basketball team on ESPN or CBS this season and how many times are you going to see Kentucky on television?

Bob Knight said integrity is lacking in college basketball and cited Kentucky coach John Calipari as an example.

During a fundraiser for the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, Knight said he doesn't understand why Calipari is still coaching.

"We've gotten into this situation where integrity is really lacking and that's why I'm glad I'm not coaching," he said. "You see we've got a coach at Kentucky who put two schools on probation and he's still coaching. I really don't understand that."

Massachusetts and Memphis were both sanctioned by the NCAA for violations committed during Calipari's tenure.

Knight, who won a record 902 games as coach of Army, Indiana and Texas Tech, did not elaborate or take questions from reporters.

But for more than 90 minutes Thursday, Knight recounted tales from his coaching days, stories from the recruiting trail, lessons he passed along to players and, oh yes, even a new critique of the NCAA.

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Tiger Woods May Have Been Using Prescription Painkillers

  12th Hole, Augusta National

Do you buy any of this? I certainly don't know what to make of it. When the incident happened, the first thing I went to was the possibility that Tiger Woods may have been impaired in some way by pain killers. Why? Because of his injuries. Because of the relentless way in which he continues to play, despite the wrenching effect that it has on his knees. Because that's far more plausible than anything else, and I was hoping I was wrong. Sadly, here it is over a week and a half later, and someone finally starts to ask questions about this particular angle:

On "The Early Show" Monday, Gerald Posner, the site's chief investigative correspondent, told co-anchor Harry Smith, "Somebody familiar with Tiger's medical treatment, back at the end of 2007, right after he tore his ligament in his left knee, around the time of the British Open, to the end of the year, said that he was dosing with prescription pain killers, opiates, at a time that one doctor was concerned enough about potential addictive possibility that he had a person personal talk with Tiger to ramp down the dosing.

"And then at the time of the car accident, I spoke withdraw made trauma doctors who said when EMT (emergency medical technicians) arrived, what they should have found, you've hit a hydrant, you've smashed into a tree, the rear of your car's been broken with a golf club by your wife, you have lacerations on your face, what happens? Your adrenal glands pump out adrenalin. It shoves blood into your brain and your muscles, and you're hyper-vigilant. That happens whether you're 75 or 15 years old. For a 33-year-old world-class athlete like Tiger Woods, he should have been up and around, walking and very alert, with the adrenalin rush. ... (But) he (was found) laying on the grass, snoring. He fell asleep, which raises the questions for some doctors -- was he on sleep agents or possibly on pain medications that may have dulled him? And we can't find out, because the Florida Highway Patrol didn't do a breathalyzer, a blood test or a urine test that night."

I had no idea he was, literally, banging a stable full of women. I had no idea what went through his mind when his wife likely clocked him with a golf club. I do know this--Tiger is a young man in a lot of pain, physical and emotional, and he has some holes in his psyche that aren't being filled with family, a beautiful wife, adulation, money, golf victories, or hardbody hotties who come running when he punches digits into his phone.

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Tiger Takes a Hit from Jesper Parnevik

Put this in the category of, "tell us how you really feel:"

In the most critical comment from a player, Jesper Parnevik said he owed Elin Nordegren an apology for introducing her to Tiger Woods. She once worked as a nanny for the Parnevik family. “We probably thought he was a better guy than he is,” Parnevik told The Golf Channel from West Palm Beach, Fla., where he is in the final stage of PGA Tour qualifying. Police said Woods’ wife told them she smashed out the back window of his Cadillac Escalade SUV with a golf club to help get him out after he struck a fire hydrant and tree early last Friday. “I would probably need to apologize to her and hope she uses a driver next time instead of a 3-iron,” Parnevik said, adding that he has not spoken to Woods since the accident. “It’s a private thing, of course,” the Swede said. “But when you are the guy he is — the world’s best athlete — you should think more before you do stuff ... and maybe not ‘Just do it,’ like Nike says.”
Notice how Parnevik goes directly at Tiger's money with that "Just do it" remark? That's some serious smack talking. Do you think that went too far? I don't. I think Parnevik has gotten some heat from his own people for putting the former Mrs. Nordegren in a world where she can now walk away with quite a bit of Tiger's money--what a terrible thing to do to a woman. As for the mental aspect, and the intimidation aspect, as it relates to golf, do you think Tiger is now finished as far as being able to break other players down? Do you think Tiger isn't going to go out there next year and run like a scared titty baby from Parnevik? What backs up your skills as a golfer is certitude, and I don't know how much of that Tiger has left. I really don't. I have to believe that Parnevik lives in Tiger's head now.

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Too Soon To Tell For Michigan State Men's Basketball

When I saw Michigan State play earlier this season, I said to myself, there's no way this is a number two team right now:

Erving Walker hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:56 left and Florida hung on to upset No. 2 Michigan State 77-74 on Friday night in the Legends Classic. Walker finished with 12 points to help the Gators (5-0) remain undefeated. Durrell Summers missed two last-gasp 3-point attempts in the final minute. The Spartans (4-1) missed their chance to give coach Tom Izzo a record 341 victories at the school. Izzo will get another chance Saturday. Chandler Parsons scored 14 points to lead the Gators. Walker hit his 3 from beyond NBA range in front of Florida's bench for a 72-71 lead. Kalin Lucas scored 20 points for the Spartans. The Gators will play Rutgers in the championship game. Michigan State was knocked off because of some incredibly sloppy play. They hacked the Gators with bad fouls down the stretch and committed a whopping 23 turnovers. The Spartans also missed eight of 10 3-point attempts.
That's not to say that Florida is automatically that great, either. I hate early season rankings. It's nice to get some attention and give the players something to defend, but it seems unrealistic to say that Michigan State is now going to have something of a letdown of a season if they don't climb back up in the rankings. Wait until they have a half dozen Big Ten games under their belt. What I'd really like to see are games with teams from all the big conferences in the next few weeks before I sit down and start thinking about who's good and who isn't.

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Disciplinarian or Just a Nasty Human Being

I have to admit that, until this morning, I knew nothing about Kansas Football Coach Mark Mangino. Now that I do, I wish I was still in my happy, ignorant bubble:

Former Kansas football players are speaking out about an investigation into allegations coach Mark Mangino has verbally abused or had inappropriate physical contact with players.

Former Jayhawks linebacker Mike Rivera, who plays for the Tennessee Titans, said Wednesday night he could not speak about the allegations. He plans to have a formal interview on the matter with representatives from Kansas in the next few days.

But five of Rivera's former teammates said they were not surprised by the investigation launched by athletic director Lew Perkins. And some relayed personal experiences with Mangino.

Former Kansas wide receiver Raymond Brown, who was a senior last season, said Mangino would often "say personal, hurtful, embarrassing things in front of people."

Brown cited two examples. He said that once, his younger brother had been shot in the arm in St. Louis. Then came a game.

"I dropped a pass and [Mangino] was mad," Brown said. "And I said, 'Yes, sir. Yes, sir.' The yelling didn't bother me. But then he said, 'Shut up!' He said, 'If you don't shut up, I'm going to send you back to St. Louis so you can get shot with your homies.' I was irate. I wanted to hurt him to be honest with you."

Now, is that intended to motivate players? Yes. Is it appropriate? No. It should have been done differently. I think Coach Mangino would do well to change his approach. His approach has taken on a kind of Bobby Knight feeding frenzy situation, and that tends to go downhill fast.

Being hard on players is necessary. That added extra dose of personal nastiness is what is unacceptable. Constantly telling a player that he will go back to being on the block with his homeys is a tad bit racist, when you think about it. Mangino needs to motivate his players in a more positive way, such as, making them wear pink dresses or walk around with baby bottles stuck in the face guard of their helmets. Humiliate without using personal issues, in other words. Losing has begun to shine a light on Mangino and his methods, and few coaches can stand up to scrutiny when they're losing. Hell, Mangino looks like he's about to explode and go down with a massive coronary anyway.

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That Ricky Williams Sure is a Good Football Player

Given his strange odyssey, games like this one are worth noting:

Ricky Williams showed he's still got it.

The 32-year-old Williams rushed for 119 yards and scored three touchdowns, and the Dolphins beat the Carolina Panthers 24-17 on Thursday night for their fourth win in six games to get into the AFC playoff picture.

A day after learning Brown is lost for the season to a foot injury, the Dolphins (5-5) continued their surge after an 0-3 start behind Williams. The 2002 NFL rushing champion had a receiving and rushing touchdown in the same game for the first time in his career that included a couple of lost seasons.

"Coach always talks about finishing," Williams said. "Sometimes in this league, in a physical game, it's difficult to finish. I think in the past we've prided ourselves on finishing games and we did a good job tonight."

There aren't many 32 year-old running backs who could do half of what Williams did against Carolina (yes, the photo above shows Ricky running against Jacksonville; Jacksonville and Carolina occupy the same space in my head).

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Isiah Thomas is Finished as a Coach

The absolutely stark raving look of terror and confusion on this poor young athlete's face is the reason why Isiah Thomas should be encouraged to give up any pretense of being a coach. The poor kid looks like he's being told to bounce the ball with his forehead and run down the court with his shorts down and his arms flapping so the opposing players won't know how to defend him. When will someone step in and tell Thomas it's over?

Three games into his college coaching career, Isiah Thomas was already asking for mercy. Midway through the second half of Florida International's 81-49 loss at Tulsa on Sunday, Thomas motioned toward his counterpart as if to ask when he'd take his starters out. A few minutes later, he got vocal with his request, shouting a few words in the direction of Golden Hurricane coach Doug Wojcik. At that point, FIU (0-3) was down 63-25 with 8:59 to play after being outscored 27-5 to start the second half. "It's a 40-minute game. If you want the truth of it, go back to the (North) Carolina game Monday night, when Carolina was pressing them with 3 minutes left," Wojcik said, referring to FIU's 88-72 loss at North Carolina. "I don't press, and I don't embarrass anybody. But it's a 40-minute game, and I'm in this game to get better. "I've never seen anything like that. It was very bizarre."
You've never seen anything like that, coach, because Isiah Thomas is not a coach. He's a train wreck, trading on a professional resume that is diminished by the day. I don't know who runs FIU's athletic department, nor do I care, but this experiment needs to end, and soon, otherwise your program is going to be damaged for years. Years.

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Golf, with a Chance of Seeing the Elusive ManBearPig

Sign, Camp Bonifas, South Korea

Here's a story about our troops that doesn't involve horrible news and tragedy. This is exactly the sort of thing I enjoy reading about, and learning about. I'm afraid I can't do horror and screaming and what the hell is our government doing? posts all of the time. Most of the time, sure. I have brass balls in that regard. But, once in a while, I have to get off that bus and stretch my legs.

In South Korea, our troops have many, many golf courses. One, in particular, stands out:

You stand atop an elevated tee box on the first and only hole of the world's most dangerous golf course.

And you consider your chances.

This deadly little par 3 measures 192 yards but plays more like 250 in the face of the vicious winds that often blow out of North Korea across an exclusive piece of real estate called the DMZ just a few yards away.

Underneath your feet and off to the right are bunkers. The military kind. To the left, over an 18-foot-high security fence topped by concertina wire, are hazards that make high rough, deep water and dense woods seem like child's play.

Try countless unexploded mines -- the very definition of out-of-bounds. One herky-jerky backswing, one snap hook yanked out of your bag at the wrong moment and . . . ba-boom!

I've seen some nutty things on the golf course, but this is a bit much:

Over the years, the course has developed its own mystique. Play alone here and you'll see. Weird things happen.

"You see animals," [Army Sgt. Mikel] Thurman says.

Like wild boars, Korean tigers and so-called vampire deer.

And even something weirder.

"Some guys say they've seen this thing, a man-bear-pig," Thurman says without smiling. "That's what they say."

Well, there is no man-bear-pig. There are men who don't shave, and there are men with pig faces, but unless someone has been dabbling in the realm of cloning and dogs and...and...

Research by South Korea's top human cloning scientist  [he announced in August, 2005 that his team had created the world's first cloned dog]- hailed as a breakthrough earlier this year - was fabricated, colleagues have concluded.

A Seoul National University panel said the research by world-renowned Hwang Woo-suk was "intentionally fabricated", and he would be disciplined.

Dr Hwang said he would resign, but he did not admit his research was faked.

"I sincerely apologise to the people for creating shock and disappointment," he said after the panel's announcement.

"As a symbol of apology, I step down as professor of Seoul National University."

Never mind.

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If You Want to Get Paid, Go to the Washington Redskins

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

If You Want to Get Paid, Go to Washington

I wouldn't panic about whether or not Washington decides to bring another head case and a team cancer to play with the Redskins:
Redskins coach Jim Zorn did not rule out the possibility of the Redskins pursuing Larry Johnson. He said the team has had internal discussions this morning and will continue to talk about the troubled running back. Zorn said the team will likely sign a running back if Clinton Portis can't play -- he specifically mention Quinton Ganther, whom the team released last Friday. As for Johnson, "I don't know," Zorn said. "I need to have a longer conversation than I've had to make a decision," Zorn said.

Sure, it might work. How bad can it get? What harm would it do?

And isn't it a little odd that Zorn is being asked about personnel? Does anyone really think he's pulling the trigger on a trade or a player signing?

Want to get paid and not have to perform? Go to the Washington Redskins, sir.

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South American Kidnappers and Major League Baseball

This is sad:

The mother of former major league pitcher Victor Zambrano was kidnapped Sunday, Zambrano's agent Peter Greenberg said late Sunday night by phone. Elizabeth Mendez Zambrano was abducted sometime Sunday morning from her son's farm, about half hour from the central Venezuela city of Maracay, Greenberg said. Venezuela has been haunted in recent years by the kidnapping of rich and famous people. Yorvit Torrealba Jr., the son of Rockies catcher Yorvit Torrealba, and his uncle were kidnapped this summer. They were left unharmed on a road a couple days later. Torrealba has since moved his family to Hollywood, Fla. Former Angels infielder Gus Polidor was killed in April, 1995 while trying to prevent the kidnapping of his infant son via a carjacking. Zambrano played seven years for Tampa Bay, the New York Mets, Toronto and Baltimore. His last game in the big leagues was Sept. 30, 2007.
The attraction is, of course, money, and big league players have certainly been flush with cash. While a player like Zambrano may not have played under a lucrative contract in recent years, there is a perception that anyone who has played in the big leagues has money, and in South America, that means the threat of kidnapping. Throughout Latin America, kidnapping is used to extort money from the rich, or from people perceived to be rich. Here's an older article about the situation, but I think it is indicative of how the crime has perpetrated itself throughout the world, not just Latin America:
Kidnapping is defined as "to hold or carry off, usually for ransom", and encompasses a wide variety of crimes. Economic kidnapping – or the kidnapping business – is where a financial demand is made, which could be either hard cash, or some other financial resource. Political kidnapping, on the other hand, is where political concessions, such as the release of prisoners, changes to the law and policy retreats, are demanded. This distinction may seem straightforward, but in reality cases are rarely this clear cut. There are often grey areas between political and economic kidnapping. For example, the FARC in Colombia is a Marxist-Leninist guerrilla group, but kidnaps for money and is thought to earn hundreds of millions of dollars from it each year. Criminals with political aspirations have also been known to diversify. Definitions are often regarded as the preserve of hair-splitting academics, removed from the reality on the ground. But effective policies and practices for tackling kidnapping are not possible unless they respond to the motivations for the crime and take account of the way kidnappers will react to pressure. For this reason, it is vital that kidnapping cases are defined in terms of the immediate demand rather than any higher order political, religious or other goals a group may have. Economic kidnapping is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world. It is estimated that kidnappers globally take home in the region of $500 million each year in ransom payments: the hostage is a commodity with a price on his head. Reliable statistics are hard to come by, but it is estimated that there are approximately 10,000 kidnappings each year worldwide. The undisputed kidnap capital of the world is Colombia, where the activity has been described as 'a cottage industry'. In 2000, the Colombian National Police recorded 3162 cases. Colombia's problem has not been contained within its own borders. Colombian kidnapping groups often cross over into Venezuela and Ecuador to take hostages, and both countries feature in the top ten. Other hot-spots around the globe include Mexico, where the problem has risen dramatically in the last five years, Brazil, the Philippines and the former Soviet Union. The following table shows the top ten hot-spots in 1999.
Global Kidnapping hot-spots – 1999 1 Colombia 2 Mexico 3 Brazil 4 Philippines 5 Venezuela 6 Ecuador 7 Former Soviet Union 8 Nigeria 9 India 10 South Africa
As the table above shows, Latin America is an important hub for kidnapping. However, it would be wrong to see the crime as a uniquely Latin American problem. Over the past decade or so, kidnapping has risen in parts of Africa, most notably Nigeria and South Africa. This can largely be traced to the expansion of multi-national companies into these countries following the rich natural resources on offer. Similarly, companies moved into parts of the Former Soviet Union following the collapse of communism at the start of the last decade, and the kidnapping rate has grown there, too.
How sad is it that, ten years later, this sort of thing is still prevalent, even in Venezuela? Let's hope that Zambrano is able to get his mother back safe and sound.

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Experience Counts in the NHL

While it would be kneejerk to dismiss this, you can't help but argue that sometimes an NHL team needs an experienced veteran on the ice in crucial situations, especially with a team full of young players:

With Simon Gagne sidelined for six to eight weeks, would the Flyers be interested in bringing past-his-prime forward Peter Forsberg back to Philly? Well, general manager Paul Holmgren is keeping his options open, but he downplayed a report that the Flyers have dispatched scout Ilkka Sinisalo to the Karjala Cup specifically to check out the 36-year-old Forsberg. The tourney starts Thursday in Finland.
I don't think anyone would expect Forsberg to be "Forsberg" at this point, but he could bring experience and the opportunity to take advantage of certain kinds of teams on the power play. Forsberg on the ice means scoring. If your team needs help scoring, you could do a lot worse than taking a chance on Forsberg. He's been beat up, but he's still only 36.

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Coach Knight Tells Indiana to Take a Hike

It wouldn't be like Coach Bobby Knight to show up and have the people who fired him and turned their back on him try to induct him into a phony hall of fame:

Athletic director Fred Glass said Thursday that Knight contacted him directly to decline the invitation. Glass said Knight was concerned that the interest in him would be a distraction from the other six inductees.

On the bright side, at least Knight is being semi-polite about the whole thing ("semi" = the whole not showing up blatantly because he holds a monster grudge against the school part; "polite" = declining via a personal phone call). He could come out and publicly thrash the school instead, you know?

But that wouldn't really fit Knight's character since he became a "new public figure" in his role as an analyst for ESPN. In fact, it was surprising enough to see him not make a scene about the whole lawsuit thing.

Still, for a guy that won three titles (Branch McCracken won two, for those that don't know or want to try and argue the importance of someone else in Hoosier history) and defined Indiana basketball for multiple decades, it's a little depressing to see that he and his former employer can't somehow reconcile. Maybe he can kick it with Bobby Bowden instead -- at least they'll have something to talk about.

The only thing that factors in Knight's thinking is how he was treated in those final days at Indiana. I am giving my nearly useless opinion here, but I would say that Knight probably felt like there was no way he was going to quit and be run out of the school unless someone took the step of firing him; and the only way that was going to happen was if someone used a phony incident to trigger his firing. And what a phony incident it was.

If anyone can still recall the incident, a student was rude to Coach Knight. As an educator and an adult, Knight refused to allow the student to speak to him in a rude manner and he refused to live his life in a protective bubble. He was fired because the university had no other option in light of bad leadership at the top (the late Myles Brand) and no courage to stand up to the rabid sports media of that era (pretty tame as compared to now).

The idea of Coach Knight being at Indiana, associated with Indiana, or a part of the future of Indiana is over. The legacy remains, and it is between him and the kids he coached, not the school and the cowardice of the people who ran the place while he was there. He moved on, has not looked back, and the school should have moved on. It's nice that they want him in their hall of fame. He is bigger than the school, bigger than the honor they're trying to bestow upon him, and only one party in the dispute has held on to their honor and dignity, and that's Coach Knight.

You tell me what kind of world this is where Rick Pitino can keep his job, where John Calipari can be feted and loved at Kentucky, where Bob Huggins can be head coach at West Virginia and where Coach Bobby Knight can be treated like a crazy old man. Who would you rather have teaching your kids?

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USC Player Gets Called Out By Ignorant Congressman

While I am thankful that this remark did not generate a knee-jerk reaction (calling an African-American a headhunter could set off shockwaves in this racially-charged era), I have to defend USC safety Taylor Mays from some rather unfair charges:

[...] Mays got blindsided by Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Gold River) during the House Judiciary Committee hearing on NFL head injuries. Lungren, a Notre Dame graduate, first talked about former Oakland Raiders player Jack Tatum setting the bar for hits designed to injure. He then complained about Florida quarterback Tim Tebow being rushed back from a concussion before finally getting to Mays. The congressman didn't identify the two-time All-American by name, but said that while attending a Notre Dame game a couple of weeks ago he "saw a headhunter on the field" tear the helmet off a player. Lungren was referring to Mays' fourth-quarter hit on Notre Dame receiver Robby Parris, who lost his helmet on the play. Lungren said that no penalty was called on the play, but Mays was actually flagged for a personal foul. Lungren then pointed out that last Saturday Mays tore the helmet off Oregon State receiver James Rodgers, on a play the Beavers scored a touchdown. No penalty was called on that play, and the Pacific 10 Conference on Monday announced it had suspended the official who should have made a call. Coach Pete Carroll this week defended Mays' physical style and Rodgers on Tuesday absolved Mays of dirty play.
A so-called headhunter in football is antithetical to the game. No one "head hunts" unless they are being supported by the coaches on that team. In that case, the headhunter is setting himself up for a fall because that coach is not going to be on the field between him and the hit that tears out his knee or knocks him out cold. There's a difference between being a player who hits hard and who hits dirty, and dirty players don't last long at any level--they get taken down a notch quickly. For example, this is what "headhunting" looks and sounds like:
Browns defensive tackle Gerard Warren announced his plan for stopping the Steelers' star rookie quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, who is 6-0 as a starter, including a 34-23 victory Oct. 10 over Cleveland in Pittsburgh. ''Go across his head, just like you would anybody else,'' Warren told reporters Thursday in Cleveland. ''Got to get to him and go across his head. Make him think there's pressure when there's not, so he gets the ball out a little faster. Try to take it to him.'' When asked if he meant that he wanted to get in Roethlisberger's head, Warren said no. ''On his head,'' Warren responded. ''Not in it, on it. One rule they used to tell me, 'Kill the head and the body's dead.''' He made clear what he meant by smashing his forearm into his right hand. Hitting a quarterback in the head is forbidden in the National Football League, and Warren knows that from experience. He was fined $35,000 in 2001 for a hard and high hit on Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell while Brunell was standing far away from the play after having thrown an interception. Nonetheless, Warren said, paying another fine for hitting Roethlisberger ''would be well worth it.'' He added that quarterbacks ''are already overprotected in this league.''
What coach would support that idiocy? What coach is going to go out there and say, "yes, we want Warren to hit the quarterback in the head so hard, the quarterback spits out his own spleen and pees himself." Do you see any bluster in what Mays is doing? No, he's hitting people hard because he's a safety--that's what they do. He's not a special teams guy, he's not a supercharged wannabe or a perennial bust like Gerard Warren. He's not being thrown out of games. I saw the hit on the Notre Dame player agreed with the fact that he got flagged, simply because the refs are going to throw the flag virtually every time a helmet gets popped off in order to control the game, not to make a deliberate judgement on the veracity of the hit. In many cases, the laundry hits the field in order to maintain authority and control of the game situation. A good ref knows when to assess penalties to send messages to the teams on the field. A bad ref lets things get out of hand. Mays was flagged on that play, and this is my opinion, because the refs felt that if they didn't intercede, they might lose control of the players and the subsequent retaliation might cause someone a serious injury. He's playing aggressive football, which is like saying he's driving fast as a NASCAR driver.

All too often, members of Congress just run their mouths and don't understand anything. In this case, a young amateur athlete was called out for no reason.

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Soviet Hockey and the Cold War

Vladislav Tretiak


You can't help but feel a twinge of nostalgia for the old Russian hockey teams and players of the Cold War. Beyond the Miracle on Ice, there were decades of competition, hundreds of players who went through the Soviet system but never saw the possibility of playing in the National Hockey League, and intrigue as well:

Vladislav Tretiak might be the Olympic hockey general manager who is coming in from the cold.

Tretiak, president of the Russian ice hockey federation, was named Monday as his country's GM for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. While this clearly is an upgrade over Pavel Bure in Turin 2006 -- at the time, we noted that Bure was known as the Russian Rocket and not the Russian Rocket Scientist -- Team Russia still would have been better served by tapping into one of the great hockey brains: Igor Larionov, The Professor, who has a superior handle on the NHL players who will represent Russia. As an added fillip, Larionov, who played in Vancouver, is revered in that city, but then Tretiak has been worshipped in Canada pretty much since the 1972 Summit Series.

On one of those Red Army tours in the early 1980s, Tretiak shut out the Montreal Canadiens and received perhaps the longest standing ovation at the Forum afforded a player not named Maurice Richard or Guy Lafleur. (The Canadiens would later draft Tretiak although he retired before ever having the chance to play in the NHL. In 1989, he became the first Russian elected to the Toronto-based Hockey Hall of Fame.) The goalie has been embraced as an honorary Canadian, which gets us to the point.

A former member of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and a Montreal journalist who covers about security issues write in a new book that CSIS suspected Tretiak of recruiting Russian sympathizers in Canada to provide intelligence during his frequent visits to the country in the 1990s.

This isn't as sexy as the revelations that figure skater Katarina Witt was obliged to cooperate with Stasi, the East German spy agency, but odds are excellent that next February the man who has was the Order of Lenin will be asked about the authors' contention before he is asked about the power play.

If Tretiak was a recruiter in the 1990s, it just means he was working for a different flavor of Russian intelligence. Espionage never goes away, governments do. What is constant, though, is the hockey and that's all Tretiak should have to answer for.

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