A few thoughts mid-MLB Draft.

As news broke this week that Major League Baseball will likely suspend approximately 20 players in connection to a looming PED scandal (which would be the largest in American sports history… you’re welcome, Lance?), I find it interesting that the timing coincides with this week’s MLB Draft. Many of those implicated in the Biogenesis controversy are lauded as some of the best in the game; one of the biggest names a former number-one draft pick (Alex Rodriguez in 1993). I see pictures of these young men being drafted, many fresh out of high school, incredible young athletes with youthful builds — no bloated muscles or the tree-trunks-for-necks we see on of some of those implicated, who we have to assume had some help along the way. I wonder what kinds of temptations these draftees will face not so very far from now, the pressure to live up to their billing.

I have hope that this controversy and subsequent bringing-to-justice spurs a change in mindset, a change in the culture of baseball — something I thought the PED scandal of the last decade would have done. But as Lance Armstrong showed us, the science and technology has only become better, the ability to hide what one is doing more advanced. But the part that really irks me, the part that gets me really pissed off on behalf of a sport I love, is that seasons upon seasons, records upon records, are affected by the play of those who have been cheating along the way.

I suppose I look at this Draft as a new beginning, a chance to do it right with the new crop of baseball hopefuls. Of course these young men get to choose what does or does not going into their bodies. But we, as fans, get to choose what we are willing to accept in sports, who we are willing to hold up as role models and heroes. And we need to demand better than drug-fueled greatness.

 

 

How Real is She?

I am a longtime fan of REAL SPORTS with Bryant Gumbel, and as my HBO GO access allows, I keep up with the show at my leisure. I just finished watching the 4/16/13 edition featuring a story on Christmas Abbott, a CrossFit star now trying to make history as the first female on a top-level (Sprint Cup) NASCAR pit crew – a job that involves removing, then lifting, large tires and bolting new ones in place… in less than 12 seconds.

It also involves laying on them.

Jon Frankel talks with Abbott about her story, while also trying to understand whether her being plucked from quasi-obscurity (internet stardom) is anything more than a marketing ploy.

Below is an excerpt – I’d suggest watching the entire segment if you can and figuring out for yourself whether you think this chick is for real. If she’s good enough to make it where it counts (marketable good looks notwithstanding), then I’m all for it.

 

 

Outside The Lines.

The (now fired) Mike Rice/Rutgers scandal is undeniably terrible and offensive, but the Melissa McCarthy SNL parody featured on last week’s show is undeniably awesome. McCarthy plays (and nails) Sheila Kelly, the ridiculously abusive women’s basketball coach at “Division III Middle Delaware State”, who is being profiled on ESPN’s investigative Outside The Lines.

http://www.hulu.com/watch/476027

“That’s shitty, shitty bread.”

Cheaters and Liars.

Two huge (and overwhelmingly negative) stories are rumbling through the sports media landscape this week. And it seems like the two names connected to these stories, all by themselves, are enough to spark a significant reaction in your guts – Lance Armstrong and Manti Te’o.

Two heroes. Two men who battled health and heartache (respectively), emerging victorious.

Two liars.

AP Photo.

I wrote about Lance Armstrong back in August, when he was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned from cycling. Yesterday, the IOC stripped Armstrong of the Olympic bronze medal he won in 2000. Tonight, OWN airs part one of two Oprah Winfrey/Armstrong interviews, in which Armstrong allegedly admits to doping and implicates others in the deep maze of his scandal.

Manti Te’o’s story is still emerging, and it feels just as fishy as Armstrong’s did back in August. Time will certainly tell, because the spotlight on this one is shining brightly. Each layer that’s peeled back from this story feels a little bit ickier.

 

ESPN.com at 6 PM ET on 1/17

The nation seems to be collectively cringing as more details emerge about a story they came to know so well this season – the story of a girlfriend dying of leukemia, the pain and heartbreak channeled into Te’o’s breakout performances and his finishing #2 in the Heisman race. A story that was never true at all.

Yesterday, Deadspin broke the story about Te’o’s girlfriend having never existed. Notre Dame followed up with a statement, and Te’o released his own, both asserting that Te’o was the victim of an elaborate hoax. But stories from currently-anonymous teammates alleging that Te’o played along with the story knowing full well this woman was not his girlfriend are starting to find their way to the public.

I have to ask (and sample from Paula Cole) again. Where have all the cowboys gone? 

 

 

Falling back into things.

It’s officially (feeling like) fall, and I am officially needing to update this thing (see what I did with the post title..). Baseball is revving up, football is BACK, and pumpkin beer tastings are right around the corner. HOW EXCITED ARE YOU?

I’m tickled.

mmmyes.

The Pumpkin Brew Review will be back starting October 1. I’m diving deeper into the pumpkin beer world, being EVEN MORE critical of the seasonal beverage for your reading/tasting pleasure, and I’ll be updating twice as many times as last season. This is serious.

batter up.

The long road that is a baseball season is nearly at its end for the 2012 season. Can Washington and Cincinnati continue their domination? And which of those is the NL’s best? Is this the year Texas finally goes all the way? Can gutsy Oakland or surprising Baltimore make the run to the end? SO MANY QUESTIONS. And soon, so many answers. I’m going to break down the Wild Card and playoff match-ups and stick with baseball until the bitter and/or glorious end.

just… crazy so far.

Wow. All I can say is wow. The replacement refs are terrible, upsets are happening all over the place, Arizona is 3-0 and New Orleans is 0-3. What is going on this season?! I’ll be paying closer attention (and writing about it) regarding what’s to come.

I know there hasn’t been much to take in at DITS lately, but that is about to change. DO NOT REMOVE THAT BOOKMARK!

Notes on a Scandal.

I have stayed silent (online) as everything connected to Penn State was coming to a head. I am still grappling with all that I feel. But I want, no need to say something. The problem is that I have so many things and groups I’d like to address – from the former and current Penn State leaders I am disappointed in and ashamed of, to the angry mob wanting only blood from Penn State instead of support for the victims, to my friends and family.

In light of the sanctions that were leveled against Penn State this morning, Monday, July 23, 2012 by NCAA officials – specifically NCAA President Mark Emmert – I want to first address the sanctions on a critical level, something befitting my sports journalism degree.

In an unprecedented power move, Emmert dropped the proverbial hammer on Penn State, including scholarship losses, a multiyear ban in postseason competition, a $60 million fine (which will thankfully go to foundations to help child sexual assault/abuse victims), and the nullification of all wins between 1998 and 2011.

Sources say the sanctions came almost solely from Emmert, who appealed to the NCAA Board of Directors to provide him power status that does not currently exist for an NCAA president.

Let me be clear – Emmert based his sanctions on emotion and public uproar, as well as his personal interpretations of the findings in the Freeh Report (Freeh’s investigation was set in motion by Penn State, not the NCAA). Emmert did not call for an NCAA investigation, there were no hearings before the Committee on Infractions or letters of inquiry, there was no discourse between the NCAA and Penn State to allow for a formal response. Most importantly, the criminal cases are ongoing, evidence is still being uncovered – but Emmert did not want to wait.

From Dan Wetzel on Yahoo Sports, “this isn’t how the Association has conducted business in decades. Toes were stepped on.”

“The man with a Ph.D in public administration just went pseudo dictator in a move right out of the playbook of Roger Goodell or Bud Selig.”

To expand on the Goodell thought, it should be noted that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell operates as the leader of a private business. Therefore he can pull those power moves. The NCAA is what you could call (and what SI.com’s Andy Staples does call) a “representative democracy”. That is, the members, consisting mainly of public universities, make the rules.

With today’s ruling and the complete lack of due process, it is no longer clear whether the NCAA is a representative democracy. To quote Staples again, “not if its executive branch has decided that the best way to punish an abuse of absolute power is by granting more absolute power.”

Stewart Mandel writes today on SI.com about the implications of the NCAA’s actions.

“Children were raped. Lives were destroyed. High-level administrators stood back and enabled the crimes. A once-revered coach betrayed his followers.

But the legacy of the Penn State scandal will no longer be Jerry Sandusky’s heinous crimes or the courageous victims who stood up to him. Thanks to a brazen power play and a carefully orchestrated p.r. extravaganza, this human tragedy will take a backseat over the next four years (or longer) to a more trivial narrative: Whether Penn State football can recover from crippling NCAA sanctions.

“Justice has been served, assuming your idea of justice for rape victims is to deprive a school of its next four Outback Bowl invitations.

“And so, Emmert made sure his organization responded accordingly — even if that meant revoking the traditional due process afforded every other school that’s ever been punished by the NCAA; invoking a nebulous, generalized bylaw about promoting integrity that could easily apply to hundreds of lawbreaking players, coaches and staffers across the country every year; and creating a precedent for dictatorial-like intervention that must now be considered every time a scandal of any proportion arises in college athletics.

Perhaps this truly is a turning point in the history of the NCAA. Perhaps this is the beginning of a new era where Batman Emmert flies in and saves the day every time the forces of athletic evil make a mockery of academic virtues.

He better. Otherwise, this will instead prove to be a crowning moment in NCAA hypocrisy.

“‘We don’t see this opening a Pandora’s box at all,’ said Emmert. ‘This was a very distinct and very unique set of circumstances.’

That’s easy to say now. Nothing in the history of NCAA scandals has come close to the level of allowing a serial pedophile free reign to a school’s football facility, and basic faith in humanity makes us inclined to believe that it will never happen again.

But there will undoubtedly be another high-profile college scandal, involving yet another unthinkable scenario, whether it’s three months from now or three years from now. And the precedent has now been set. Will Emmert send that program back to the stone ages, too? Or was this a one-time-only, made-for-TV display of power?

Monday’s one truly punitive action against one of the figures implicated in the Freeh Report was vacating Penn State’s victories from 1998-2011, thus stripping Paterno of 111 wins and demoting him from the sport’s alltime leader to 12th place. It seems fair and just, but here again, the NCAA seemingly rewrote its rulebook on the fly. Traditionally victories are vacated when schools are found to have used ineligible players. Nothing of the sort happened here.

But of course, that didn’t fit Emmert’s message.”

SB Nation adds this – “And please — please — don’t think the public zeal for specifically hurting Nittany Lion football does anything to change the perception that football is more important than everything else. Otherwise, why aren’t the prospect of jail time and/or ruined careers for all living, responsible parties to this debacle, the pending loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in civil litigation and the looming specter of punishment from the Feds not enough?

So what will these punishments accomplish? Yeah, let’s talk about that…

Giving Emmert the power to unilaterally punish Penn State is a step toward making investigations irrelevant. And I mean that in the most frightening, totalitarian sense possible. If the semblance of due process can be thrown out to conveniently hammer a cash cow program — and cripple its surrounding community and its non-revenue sports with a hefty fine — what might happen to a player on the wrong side of Emmert and the NCAA’s agenda?”

I am sure I lost many of those who belong to the angry, bloodthirsty mob, but anyone who truly cares about NCAA athletics should consider this situation critically.

On the other side of all of this is of course, my purely emotional response.

To the leaders of Penn State:

I am gravely disappointed by your leadership and its continuing to fail its community – turning blind eyes on the horrors being committed by Jerry Sandusky then, and not standing up to support all of those who were not involved with what happened now. You and your peers (especially those still sitting on the Board of Directors) are at fault, and yet the entire Penn State community will suffer (for many years) on your behalf. I am glad that at least the $60 million fine will go toward foundations to support/prevent victims of child sexual abuse, because that is at least connected to the real victims in this whole mess (those victims that so many have seem to have forgotten).

Mr. Erickson, in your official statement today you write that “the NCAA ruling holds the University accountable for the failure of those in power to protect children and insists that all areas of the University community are held to the same high standards of honesty and integrity.

It is important to know we are entering a new chapter at Penn State and making necessary changes. We must create a culture in which people are not afraid to speak up, management is not compartmentalized, all are expected to demonstrate the highest ethical standards, and the operating philosophy is open, collegial, and collaborative.”

I understand fully well that we are entering a new chapter at Penn State. What I do not understand is why the University has not stood up for those who were and are not responsible, instead of lumping us in with your lot. You call for a culture wherein people aren’t afraid to speak up, so please explain the disconnect. With a sweeping hand, you include all of us in something terrible because that is easier for you. Not making sure Sandusky was immediately held responsible for his heinous acts was (somehow) easier for you. I don’t see any evolution, and this is something I am truly distraught over as an alumnus.

I support the acceptance of the sanctions, as there is really no other course of action for Penn State. Those men can never get back what was stolen from them. End of story. But I implore you as leaders to be better. As time inevitably moves forward, strive to earn the trust of your community, and more importantly, your fellow man. At the very, very least, you owe that to every single one of the victims. Where you and your predecessors failed out of weakness, you must never do so again. We expect so much more from our leaders. As we should.

And finally, to my friends:

I woke up this morning knowing what was coming. I wore a Penn State shirt to work. I will continue to be proud of the student body, alumni, and the fact that in that small town, I met the best people I have ever known (all of you). I am proud of who we became there, are now, and will continue to be…what we all stand for, how we handle ourselves at work and in our communities (always striving to be the absolute best), and how we are extremely passionate about what we believe in.

WE (and I use this loosely to include our comrades across the world) are what made and what continues to make Penn State great. From one of my best friends and fellow alum Pat Carr, “as a Penn Stater I know who the real victims were and are. They are not football fans having to deal with a devastated football program. Penn Staters always remember who the victims are. We are remorseful. We are embarrassed but still proud.”

It is up to us to represent our alma mater with the utmost respect, professionalism and very importantly – heart. We Are.

Love you all.

Cait

Old-School Coach.

And when I say Coach, I mean the brand. Coach, known for its foundations in fine leather, has made available a Baseball Heritage Collection. The collection includes wallets made out of glove-tanned leather, a leather baseball and paperweight, and baseball duffel, among other items.

leather baseball - coach.com
heritage baseball double billfold wallet - coach.com
leather baseball paperweight - coach.com
heritage baseball duffle - coach.com

I want that wallet.

 

The End of Madness.

is this an official logo? no idea.

March Madness is coming to a close tonight and tomorrow night (4/2-4/3) with the Men’s and Women’s NCAA basketball championship games (respectively) set to take place. The upsets, the upheld reputations, the drama, the dunks, the lady dunks, the tears, and the triumphs have all led to this (also, the month of March has literally ended).

rematch.

Number 1 seed Kentucky will face number 2 seed Kansas in New Orleans this evening (tip off around 9:30 PM ET). Kentucky and Kansas met once (much) earlier this season; the Wildcats were victorious (75-65). The Jayhawks are again certain underdogs but overcame adversity throughout much of the tournament (most recently working out of a 13-point deficit in their Final Four match-up Saturday against Ohio State) to reach tonight’s final. Both programs have winning histories, but these 2012 teams are made up very differently. Where Kentucky’s roster is thick with freshmen and sophomores, several of whom won’t return to college ball next season (like freshman Anthony Davis, the AP’s college basketball player of the year), Kansas brings more juniors and seniors to the court (specifically junior Thomas Robinson, the only unanimous AP All-American this season). Kentucky will seek its eighth national title tonight (the last coming in 1998), while Kansas will seek its fourth (the most recent title earned in 2008). Speaking of 2008 – Kansas, coached then and now by Bill Self, defeated Memphis in the Championship that year (in OT), a Memphis team then coached by John Calipari. Calipari became head coach of Kentucky in 2009, meaning this is a rematch of sorts for the two head coaches.

Prediction: Though Kansas has shown much heart, the sheer amount of talent (and depth of talent) on the Kentucky squad might be too much to overcome. Kentucky wins.

Can Brittney Griner be stopped?

On Tuesday night (at 8:30 PM ET in Denver), the women’s championship game will also be a rematch of sorts. Number 1 seed Notre Dame gets another crack at fellow number 1 seed (and favored) Baylor, who felled them in a preseason match-up (94-81). A lot of season has unfolded since then. Baylor rolled undefeated and now looks to seal off a record 40-0 season – a 40th win that would bring a championship title to Baylor (the second in program history). Notre Dame, with only three losses this season, looks to claim a title that proved elusive in 2011 (the Irish fell to Texas A&M 76-70 in last year’s championship game). Just as in the men’s final match-up, these women’s teams bring two very different squads to the court. Brittney Griner, the 6’8 Lady Bears center, has been the talk of the tournament, a woman dunking and blocking at will. The Fighting Irish, on the other hand, play without a center (starting four guards and one forward), but they have one of the best backcourts in the country.

Prediction: Though Baylor has dominated its opponents all season, Stanford was able to defend the Lady Bears well in the Final Four game – they just couldn’t score to back it up. If Notre Dame puts up points as well as they did against Connecticut, they have a strong chance of upset victory. Notre Dame wins.

Really?

The New York Post is often crass in its cover headlines. And I use “crass” as a (gross) understatement. Following Tiger Woods’ win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational yesterday (3/25 – his first PGA Tour win since 2009), the viewing public was treated to this:

grimace.

I am not a big Tiger fan (especially in light of his undoing). I don’t think he’s necessarily a good or decent person. From everything I’ve heard about him (via people who have been in close contact with him), he’s an asshole. But these covers are RIDICULOUS.

Not that this is anything new. Here are a two other recent, ridiculous, sports covers from the Post. And there are so many, many more (google it).

still grimacing.
oh good.