Category Archives: TV

Does the NBA Need a Rooney Rule?

US Presswire Sports ArchiveSo far this season, four NBA coaches have been fired or “mutually agreed” to be fired–Mike Brown (Lakers), Avery Johnson (Nets), Scott Skiles (Bucks) and Alvin Gentry (Suns). Three of the four are African-American. They’ve been replaced by Mike D’Antoni, PJ Carlisimo, Jim Boylan and Lindsey Hunter (above), respectively.

Three of the four are white.

When the NFL enacted its Rooney Rule a decade ago (it requires team to interview at least one “minority” candidate for head coach and senior football operations openings), no one suggested the NBA enact a similar edict. That’s because the league had a long and positive history of hiring African-Americans as coaches and senior front office personnel.

Still does. In its most recent “Race and Gender Report Card,” the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports at the University of Central Florida gave the NBA an A+ in the area of minority hiring.

But what’s happened so far this season is a bit troubling. Coaches get fired, not doubt. And among the other 26 NBA teams, 11 are led by an African-Ameerican head coach. That’s not bad, but the trend has worth watching.

In the NFL, solid former coaches with winning records–such as Lovie Smith and Jim Caldwell–were overlooked by ownership, which in most cases decided to go with unproven coaches. (Seven of the eight new NFL coaches have never been head coaches in the league.) And a plethora of talented coordinators was overlooked as well.

The Suns promotion of Hunter, a former player with 17 years of experience and two championship rings, to interim coach at least shows that the NBA is still ahead of its brutish brethren. But not by as much as the league thinks.

How Will the Te’o Madness End?

TeoI have no idea how this Manti Te’o madness will end. Right now, all I know is that I feel as if I’m being duped. I don’t know by whom, or by everyone (including my sportswriter colleagues who are no doubt enduring some serous career soul-searching tonight).

There are still soooo many questions, too many to even articulate. And the answers we’ve received, well, at least for me, don’t quite complete the most bizarre puzzle I may have ever witnessed in this profession.

Of course, the biggest question may be the simplest one: Why?

If Te’o is truly the victim, then why would someone go such machinations to perpetrate this hoax. Is this what passes for fun in the digital age? Is this what our kids have to look forward to, or be wary of? As a friend of mine often says, Who does that?!

If he’s not the victim, then why?

He seems like a fine young man, a spiritual young man–and he’s a terrific football player. He captured our consciousness for his play on the field, for his leadership. And he should have a solid future playing on Sundays.

So why?!

It has been reported that Te’o will speak soon, perhaps has early as Thursday. He must, and he must soon.

Because right now, only he can stop the madness.

Time to Give College Football Players the Same Leverage as their Coach

Kelly's headset was barely off before he was headed to Philly to discuss and NFL job.

Kelly’s headset was barely off before he was headed to Philly to discuss and NFL job.

Maybe it’s the timing that got under my skin. Had the jet carrying beaten and battered Notre Dame even touched down back in South Bend before Irish head coach Brian Kelly was straightening his tie and fussing with his hair awaiting a meeting with the Philadelphia Eagles to discuss their vacant head coach position?

It seems like he sneaked off to another gate and booked for the Northeast as his players continued to ice down and soothe their wounds from the beat-down they endured against national champion Alabama.

Just so we’re clear: I have absolutely no problem with college coaches striking while the confetti is still raining down on their shoulders and leverage their success for a fatter paycheck. No problem at all.

God Bless Penn State’s Bill O’Brien for doin’ the NFL Dance before “deciding” (wink) to $tay at Penn State earlier this week. Last fall, the man took perhaps the most toxic and unpredictable college gig in America and handled it with dignity and success, winning more games (eight) than anyone thought he would.

Oregon’s Chip Kelly was more like that guy on the dance floor who thinks he has some moves. His awkward twirl with Cleveland, Philadelphia and reportedly Buffalo was actually pathetic. He’s been dancing for a few seasons now and it seemed as if he was a goner for sure. And good for him. Like many coaches, it seemed like he wanted to someday coach at the highest level. But after all but calling for a U-Haul, he $suddenly decided go stay in Eugene, much to the shock of many and the delight of Duck faithful.

Now, here’s the other Kelly, the Irish savior–who three years ago was a relatively unknown Kelly at Cincinnati–standing at the precipice of Notre Dame lore. Dude was being sized-up for a pedestal that would stand alongside those hoisting Knute Rockne, Frank Leahy, Ara Parseghian, Dan Devine and Lou Holtz as Irish coaches who won national championships. (A coach name Elmer Layden won one there, as well (1938) but alas I don’t believe he stands atop a pedestal, at least not one in South Bend.

But before the Irish defense has stopped flinching at the thought of ‘Bama’s 6′-2″, 220-pound running back Eddie Lacy, Kelly was dancin’.

Okay, so the confetti was raining on Nick Saban, not him, but Kelly was leveraging a blowout like nobody’s business–as is his right. But the timing was a bit stinky to me.

Moreover, his players couldn’t execute such leverage. What if they could? What if, say, Johnny Football (aka Maisel), the freshman Heisman Trophy winner, could have walked into head coach Kevin Sumlin office the morning after arriving back in Texas from New York and said, “Coach, I may not be any hotter than this, I’m heading to the NFL!”

But he can’t. Unless his potential one-and-done buddies on the basketball team, Johnny Football and other college players aren’t eligible for the NFL draft until they’ve been out of high school for three years.

We could debate all night about the merits of one-and-done, and in an age when the strength and condition programs at top college rival those of the NFL, I’m not wholly buying the idea that football is more physical and therefore the players should stay in college. They should at least be able to earn a living during the few years their bodies (and, ahem, their brains) will tolerate the game.

They should at least be able to do what their millionaire coaches do and leverage their success for economic gain.

They should at least be able to dance.

Gabby: You’ve Done Enough.

If I was advising Gabby Douglas I’d have told her to pack her leotard and two gold medals right after the all-around and told her to become the most famous prime-time cheerleader on the planet.

I wouldn’t have allowed her to touch another uneven bar, floor mat, pommel horse–whatever.

Certainly not in London. Maybe not for the rest of ’12.

Why?

Because she had nowhere to go bot to fall on her tush.

Just as she did today–figuratively–finishing dead last in the unevens, an event at which she typically soars.

But who could be surprised? I wasn’t.

It was enough that she was suddenly the girl on top of the mountain–a very dangerous place to be whether at the Olympics or at back at high school. Suddenly she was the target, the potential notch on the tiny belt of every other woman in the competition.

Moreover, she she suddenly had to deal with the ¬†asinine silliness about her hair, and the unfortunate news of her mom’s bankruptcy filing, and, well, dang, she’s just 16.

Gabby will have to content with more than a mountain of love from us when she returns home. Enough love to choke a kid. More love than we can imagine.

It’s the “price,” as one columnist eloquently stated today.

True. So why add to the bill by making her compete again when her heart and head are clearly still dealing with the good, the bad and the silly of success?

Take a seat, Gabby. Cheer your teammates. Rest. You’ll need it.

Hey, SI, What are you waiting for?!

It was a different time, or maybe it wasn’t. In 1986, Sports Illustrated dispatched the talented Rick Reilly to chronicle the life and times of Joe Paterno, already an iconic figure in sports. Paterno was to be named Sportsman of the Year, one of the most prestigious honors in our industry and one help by a list of luminaries that is its own Hall of Fame of men and women who shaped and elevate our games.

It was a different time. Now, Paterno must be stricken from that list.

In fact, I’m curious why it’s taken so long for my former colleagues (I worked at SI 1978-81, ’89-’94 and ’03-’05) to do so.

What else do they need to know? In fact, it should have been done even before the Freeh report outlined the conspiracy of silence that allowed young boys to be molested by Jerry Sandusky long after Paterno (and others at the university) knew Sandusky was a sick and dangerous man.

On Monday, the NCAA all but put the Not-so-Nittany Lions into the ground with a package of sanctions that will tame that program for a decade–$60 million fine, significant loss of scholarships, four years probation and bowl ban and the vacating of every Paterno victory since 1998, the year she should have gone to law enforcement officials and told them about the sick bastard that was attacking victims in campus showers.

By the time, NCAA president Mark Emmert had finished reading the package of sanctions yesterday morning, Paterno should have no longer been recognized as a Sportsman of the Year.

The statue is gone.

Paterno’s name was removed from, of all places, a child care center on the Nike campus.

And Rick Reilly now recognizes that he was duped.

Yet Joe Paterno is still listed as the 1986 Sportsman of the Year.

Why?

Some Stud Move

Frankly, I don’t think horse racing is a sport. It exists solely to drive the sordid breeding and betting industries.

Not that I’ll Have Another should have “sucked it up” and raced in the Belmont Stakes–though if he were a human “athlete,” he certainly would have been pressured to do so. Can you imagine if LeBron decided to sit out Game 7 of the NBA Finals because of, well, anything short of a dangling limb.

But when his trainer says the horse’s team unanimously decided racing “wasn’t worth it,” it’s hard not to think was a double-meaning lurking behind those words.

It certainly wasn’t worth risking the zillions in stud fees I’ll Have Another’s owners would have lost had the potential sire pulled up lame (or worse).

In fact, one of his offspring should be named Not Worth It.

Hey, Oil Can: Jackie Didn’t Kill the Negro Leagues, “Integration” Did–Along with Much of Black America

Dennis (Oil Can) Boyd always had balls. Even when he wasn’t on crack. The former Boston Red Sox pitcher was one of the game’s most “colorful” figures–and that was before he revealed in his new book that he smoked cocaine before games and once ran “right down the street to the crack house” upon hearing that he would not be starting in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.

Today, Boyd is sober but still throwing ’em high and hard. His latest brushback, revealed today in the Boston Globe, is aimed at American icon Jackie Robinson. Boyd essentially blames Robinson for the demise of the Negro Leagues, which Boyd laments.

Asked by ESPN’s Buster Olney what he might say to Jackie Robinson if he were to meet him in the afterlife, Boyd kicked high and let it fly. “I’m not real thankful to Jackie at all because I’m me – my style of baseball, the way I played it in the major league transpired from the Negro leagues,” he said. “So that’s why people found that I was a hot dog or I was flamboyant.”

Interesting thought. And in truth, this is not the first time I heard it expressed–although others don’t single out Jackie. Many owners and players and others led to the “demise” of the Negro Leagues, which ultimately fell as Major League Baseball, which had barred black players, began signing the most talented Negro players, one-by-one, team-by-team.

Negro America cheered the most. Finally!, we roared (or our parents, did.) Indeed the Brooklyn (soon to be Los Angeles) Dodgers, which signed Robinson, became Negro America’s team. My folks almost disowned me when I chose the St. Louis Cardinals as my team of choice–in large part because of its three Negro stars, Curt Flood, Lou Brock and Bob Gibson.

The real, hard truth is the Negro Leagues befell the same fate as many other black institutions from America’s era of segregation–from major insurance corporations to local black-owned grocery stores, restaurants and movie theaters. Many slowly disappeared as integration began to unfold, as barriers fell in schools, on buses, in restaurants, in department stores.

My hometown, Tulsa, Okla., is known as the place where “Black Wall Street” thrived throughout much of the 20th Century. It was a bastion of Negro commerce (we even owned the bus system) with nearly 200 Negro-owned businesses, including by dad’s store, Kyle’s Sundry.

It was created because whites in the area when the railroad was being built erroneously believed land hard by the tracks wouldn’t be very valuable, so they forced blacks to stay “on the other side” of the tracks. Greenwood Avenue, the 125th Street of “Black Wall Street,” ended to the south at the tracks and was the primary thoroughfare for the myriad Negro enterprises that sprang forth.

When I was a young child, Negros were not allowed to cross the tracks without good reason. Yeah, they could shop at some of the major department stores, but I distinctly remember my mother being forced to put tissues in a hat before trying it on–something white shoppers did not have to do.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964, the culmination of an effort to end segregation nationwide, led by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, essentially spelled the death knell for “Black Wall Street” and other Negro institutions.

Instead of going to Betty’s Chat & Chew for Sunday dinner, we went to the Piccadilly cafeteria downtown.

Instead of going to a movie at the Rex Theater, we went to theater that had once been “whites only.”

And we cheered for Negro players across baseball’s major leagues.

Jackie Robinson didn’t kill the Negro Leagues any more than Martin Luther King, Jr. killed “Black Wall Street.”

But still, it’s sad that they are gone.

Metta World Peace Out!


Ron Artest worked hard to overcome. Now, Metta World Peace has undone it all.

I don’t think Peace intended to club Oklahoma City’s James Harden. But after feeling as if justice was not served on his own behalf in the first half today against the Thunder, I believe he intended to club somebody.

And for that, Peace will (or should) be out for awhile.

By this time Monday, I expect Stu Jackson to announce that Peace is suspended for as much as 10 games. That’s right. Ten.

Now, I could also see him getting a mere five game suspension–with the league giving him credit for “good behavior” since that ugly, going-in-the-stands thing.

Five games would take him into the first round of the playoffs. Gievn his past, I’m not sure Stu will think that’s just enough.

Peace should miss no’ ‘money time.

And that can only happen if Peace is suspended for double digits.

Fortunately, Harden appears to have survived the clubbing. The Thunder reported that he passed league-manded concussion tests, and he was apparently available for the second half of the thrilling Lakers-Thunder game. And that could help Peace’s cause.

But Peace did what he did. And considering his past, he will (and should) be suspended for a considerable period of time–time that matters.

Great Win, Colts! Or Bad Luck…?

Good for the Colts.

No team should go oh-fer. No matter how bad they may be (and the Colts were never considered one of the NFL’s bad teams), no team deserves that fate. Players are professional, and most of them had pride. Winning the Super Bowl is tough, but every team should at least one game.

Indianapolis finally got it’s win–defeating the mediocre (7-7) Tennessee Titans today, 27-13.

Good for them, but did it hurt them in the long-range, big-picture Andrew Luck derby?

There’s been some “debate” over whether the Stanford quarterback (full disclosure: I’m a Cardinal alum and though Luck should have won the Heisman) should still be the No. 1 pick. But that debate doesn’t include anyone in the NFL, where Luck remains the hands-down No. 1.

All that said, did the Colts, in winning, lose their grip on the young man many believe to be the game’s next once-in-a-generation franchise QB?

Let’s see:

The Colts two remaining games are against Houston and Jacksonville. Both are winnable, given the Texans having clinched the playoffs and that the Jaguars, well, stink. But let’s say the Clots go 1-1, giving them two wins for the season.

There are two other two-win teams–St. Louis and Minnesota.

The Rams will lose their final two games. Write it down. In ink. They play Pittsburgh and San Francisco. So the Rams will finish with two wins.

The Vikings finish the season against Washington and Chicago. They should win at least one of them but could lost both. Just for the fun of it, let’s say they do lose both and finish with two wins, as well.

Now, I’m not going to go through the various Matrix-like machinations that could deliniate the various tie-break scenarios. For the sake of sanity let’s just assume all finish 2-14.

If the Rams Pick, No. 1, they’re not likely to choose Luck because they already have a talented young QB in Sam Bradford, who’s only in his second year. Or would they? How much would Bradford be worth on the trade market–to teams like Kansas City, Seattle or Washington. GIven how woeful the Rams have been I would not be surprised if they hit reset and start over with Luck.

The Vikings? Please. They’d pick Luck faster than Mel Kiper could comb his hair.

So good for the Colts. But until today it seemed clear that the franchise had its heir to Peyton Manning.

Now? Well, it should make the last two weeks of the season very interesting.

Look Out for Lexi!

American Lexi Thompson, 16, today became youngest woman to win a European Tour event when she shot a 5-under 67 to capture the Dubai Ladies Masters. She was already the youngest woman to win an LPGA event, having done so earlier this year.

Right now, she may be the most under-the-radar superstar in our midst.

Here’s what I wrote about her in October for ESPN.com:

Mike Whan is no dummy. Though not for the reason you may think.

Last week, the LPGA commissioner granted the petition of 16-year-old phenom Lexi Thompson to join the LPGA Tour two years short of its required age minimum. The standard was long ago instituted to protect young girls from the rigors of professionalism, and the sport from having to babysit.

Waiving that rule was the right move, despite my belief in minimum age restrictions in pro sports.

Thompson is poised, pretty and pretty darned good. And oh yeah, she’s American. The easy second-guessing call is that Wahn stamped her petition because the tour needs her to be The One in order to regain relevance with a U.S. audience tired of waiting on Michelle Wie and less able or willing to root for any of the myriad talented golfers from Asia atop the leaderboard.

In fact, the LPGA doesn’t need Thompson to be its Tiger (how long will I have to clarify with “pre-scandal” Tiger?) as much we might think — at least not right now. Sure, the women’s game still lacks a star of the stature of Annika Sorenstam or Lorena Ochoa. Yet all but two of the players in the top 10 are in their 20s, (average age: a tad over 26), and four are American (same as in the men’s rankings).

“If you’re the commissioner of any sport,” Whan told me on Tuesday, “one thing you worry about is, ‘Do I have a crop of young stars almost ready to grab the baton, or are my stars heading to retirement?’ I don’t spend a lot of time worrying because most of my best players are under 30. Add Lexi to that, and [No. 1] Yani [Tseng] is 22. Michelle Wie, at 21, has her best golf ahead. I’ve got some pretty good baton takers coming along.”

Whan is smart because he made granting Thompson’s petition a tap-in gimme by forcing her to earn her way onto the tour.

That seed was planted in December when Whan denied Thompson’s request to play in up to 12 LPGA tournaments in 2011 under sponsor exemptions — double the number allowed non-members. Had he granted it, the engaging 5-foot-11 teen would have certainly been showered with more invites to dance than a head cheerleader. She had turned pro without tour membership the previous June and finished 10th at the U.S. Women’s Open (which she qualified for) and second at the Evian Masters. Playing just a handful of tournaments, she earned more than $300,000.

Despite that quick success, Whan had the temerity to tell Thompson’s team: “Not yet.” He told them, however, that the sport was relaxing rules for participants in Monday qualifiers and Q-school, essentially granting Thompson “the opportunity to prove” she belonged on tour. “I said, ‘If you can [play on tour], you will,” he said. “I think [her parents and agent] were ready a year ago, but I’m not sure she was ready a year ago.”

This year, Thompson has played like many a mid-level handicapper — some good rounds, some horrendous. Whan watched most of them, especially the horrendous ones, particularly a final-round 78 in May at the Avnet LPGA Classic in Mobile, Ala. Thompson woke up Sunday morning tied for the lead. She finished tied for 19th, nine strokes behind the winner.

In the wake of that abysmal day Wahn saw something that told him this young golfer just might be ready. “She was honest with herself, the media and fans,” the commish said. “She was disappointed. Said she can play better. It happens. She didn’t wilt, didn’t run to the car, avoid the media tent or ignore the people with Sharpies. She signed all the autographs and said it was part of golf. She didn’t change her demeanor or approach. I’m not sure I would have handled it the same way.”

In July, Thompson blew away the field in Stage 1 of Q-school, winning by 10 strokes. The second of three stages was to be played in late September. But just prior, her prodigious talent caught up with her precocious nature. She won the Navistar Classic by five strokes, becoming the youngest LPGA Tour event winner ever — by two years.

Based on that win, Thompson again petitioned for LPGA acceptance. This time, Whan, in what might be among the more scrutinized decisions of his two-year tenure, said “yes.”

“It’s been a nice process,” he said. “I haven’t been doing this job a long time. But it seemed strange to get a letter saying, ‘I’d like to be an LPGA member, and here’s why.’ We set rules for a reason. If we’re going to step outside those rules, that was the kind of comfort we need. To earn your way onto the tour the old-fashioned way, especially if you’re under our age regulation, is good for the tour and the player.”

But is she good enough? That remains to be seen.

She’ll face tough overseas competition (potentially on courses far from home). Since recovering from the English-language rules fiasco of 2008 under previous commissioner Carolyn Bivens, the tour’s diversity has allowed it to grow internationally.

“I missed that wave,” Whan said (though he left out: thankfully!). “When I came in, I said, ‘Hey guys, we’re a business going global. One thing constant among any business going global is mistakes.’ No CEO who’s taken their business global sits back and says, ‘Man that is easy.'”

The next stops are South Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan, Japan and Mexico, and a crop of young Americans, including Paula Creamer, Morgan Pressel and Wie, is showing up on Sundays more often than in recent years.

Whan is convinced Thompson is ready to join them. And for now that’s good enough.