31 July 2009

My Take - 31 July 2009

Leading off... the MLB trade deadline came and went, without the huge blockbuster trade of Blue Jays' P Roy Halladay that was so widely expected. I'm not sure if I should feel sorry for him not getting his wish of a trade, or if perhaps talks with the Phillies falling apart was the best thing that could have happened for both him and the team. From a business standpoint, Toronto stands a better chance of trading him after the season, since more teams will be poised to give up more or less than they would now.

The Phillies end up being the biggest winners of this years' sweepstakes, with the Tigers coming in a close second. I would argue that Philly should have traded for Halladay, regardless of the cost, but getting Cliff Lee from Cleveland was a steal, and they paid less for him than they would have for Halladay. Granted, Lee still makes the Phillies a better team, and Lee will feast off of inferior NL hitting. Detroit bolstered their rotation by adding Jarrod Washburn, which in my opinion gives them the best starting rotation in the majors.

The White Sox take a tremendous gamble with Jake Peavy, who they wanted in May, and three months later finally acquired. But now Chicago has a gimpy Peavy, bothered by a bad back which has had him on the DL since the trade fell through. Peavy won't be expected back until late August, right at the start of the pennant stretch. With the Twins making some moves before the final bell, the AL Central may again be the most entertaining division to watch, since surely the three at the top will battle back and forth for the division title.

NFL training camps are opening and for whatever reason, I'm anticipating this season more than I have in past years. Not sure why, maybe it's the feeling that football season is upon us. Brett Favre's "retirement" (I still don't believe it), and Terrell Owens' antics in Buffalo aren't really news. The media is just jumping on whatever NFL related story it can to start the season. I find the Michael Vick story slightly interesting, only because I'm curious like everyone else to see where he will end up. Several bloggers I frequent have suggested he enter the United Football League, and I tend to agree. Knowing that he will not play a down this season in the NFL, Vick can assure himself some real-time conditioning in the UFL, where he'd start every week. Certainly it would give the new league some credibility, as it badly needs it. (Just as badly, the NFL needs a development league and this is the best chance for it.) For as much as sports media are dancing around searching for the team Vick allegedly is close to signing with, I'd find it hilarious if he announced his joining the UFL. Gotcha!

What also isn't news is the announcement of David Ortiz's positive steroid use. We've been through this so many times before, it's old. Why can't any of these guys just admit they did it when they get caught instead of the bull about "not knowing" or "I'm surprised" or whatever. At this rate, asterisks won't be necessary, because it will be soon known that every major star will have been on it. (Please, not Albert Pujols. We need some hope!)

Speaking of cheating, why isn't more of a fuss being made about swimming? At the World Championships in Rome, several world records have fallen, all in the name of technology. What's interesting is that while it's been an issue for at least the last year, even going into the Beijing games last August, it isn't until January 2010 that the supersuits will be banned. Michael Phelps, no doubt a beneficiary of the new suits, isn't complaining, but his coach sure did when he was (ahem) smoked, by Germany's Paul Biedermann, not once but twice at these championships wearing the new suits. Using these new suits is just as bad as using steroids in baseball. Both sets of athletes benefit in their sport by utilizing a technological advantage. If fair is fair, then ban them now. Why wait?

And while I'm thinking of Phelps, I'm following with earnest the upcoming epic rematch with Serbia's Milorad Cavic. You may remember him from the classic 100m butterfly at last year's Olympics where Phelps won by a fingertip, literally. Cavic just broke Phelps' world record in the event today, and wants nothing more than to prove he's better than Phelps. Phelps may lose this race, but then he also has a slew of world records, gold medals, and endorsement deals to fall back on.

That's just my take...

27 June 2009

An Announcement

It is with heavy hearts that Sara and I announce the loss of our expecting child. We learned on Thursday that Sara had suffered a miscarriage, and we proceeded to take the necessary steps to ensure her health and safety. However, the emotional strain of this event still lingers over the both of us. Through talking with her doctor, we learned that there was nothing we did, or could have done, that cause or could have prevented this from occurring. What most likely happened was that there was some sort of genetic or chromosomal abnormality so great that her body rejected the baby. While this sounds horrific, we have complete faith that our baby is with God. As one of our friends put it, this child was so special that God Himself wanted to take care of it.

While we certainly appreciate all of your condolences and prayers, we understand that words are hard to come by. With all due respect, please do not flood mine nor Sara's accounts with comments. We simply wish to share with you all the grief we are experiencing, the same as the joy we expressed when we first learned we were expecting. When we are ready, we will share more, but please do not press. Sara and I have every intention of trying again, in due time, and we anticipate sharing our joy of expecting a new arrival soon.

Joel & Sara London

17 June 2009

Athletes and the Justice System

On Monday, Cleveland Browns receiver Donte Stallworth reached a deal in his case regarding a DUI fatality he was found guilty of earlier this year. He made what was called a "substantial financial settlement" with the victim's family. You could say this was expected, considering he makes millions in the NFL. What was unexpected was that he will spend 30 days (yes, days) in jail. Thirty days, for a DUI fatality.

On the flip side, now former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick was found guilty of leading a dogfighting ring and spent nearly two years in jail. There were mass protest against what he did and about the vicious creulty to the dogs. The punishment fit the crime for the most part, although it remains to be seen how his comeback will go this summer.

Why, in 2009, do we not see protests against Stallworth's sentence? He drove drunk and killed someone, and yet people are glaringly silent. Vick killed dogs and people couldn't shut up about it. Have we reached a place in our society where we value the life of a dog more than that of a human? I would like to hope not.

More so, just because these men are professional athletes does not excuse them from due process of law or the full penalty under the law. If someone is found guilty of murder, the judge should have the right to throw the book at them, regardless of social status. A crime is a crime is a crime, and guilty is guilty. Why, in 2009, are we still debating this?

That's my take...

Athletes and the Justice System

15 June 2009

The Vindication of Kobe Bryant

"Our team just won the NBA title! Let's start a riot!"

Did people in Los Angeles really have to have that conversation last night? I digress...

Okay, so the Lakers won the NBA title last night. I can live an accept that because, let's face it, the Lakers were hands-down the best team in the league all year. I think we would have received the same result if we had the much-heralded Kobe-LeBron matchup we all wanted to see.

If you paid any attention to the post-game coverage or the talking heads today, all they seem to want to talk about is Kobe Bryant's "vindication" now that he has won a title without Shaq. One reporter even asked him about that last night, to which Bryant called "idiotic." While I agree with him, he cannot deny it, especially not now. Ever since their much publicized separation in the summer of 2003, Kobe has been plagued with not winning a title by himself. This was the case in 2004 against the Pistons and last year against the Celtics. Now that he finally has that title without Shaq, the press wants to vindicate him.

Like it or not, Kobe and Shaq will be forever linked. They won three titles together. In their prime, they were the most unstoppable force in the NBA. Jordan and Pippen were the same way in the 1990s. Bryant was going to win another title, it was a matter of when. But because of the feud between himself and Shaq, Bryant's quest for another title was always hampered by questions about their link. This title now shuts them all up. Kobe can (and should) consider this ring sweeter than the other three because he did it on his on (so to speak). He didn't ride another superstar's coattails to get there either (see Shaq & D-Wade, 2006).

But is Kobe Bryant vindicated? Still looming large over his reputation is the alleged sexual assult charge on a young girl in Eagle County, CO. Regardless of your opinion on the case, he took an enormous hit personally for that. He lost sponsors and money, not to menton the strain on his marriage which was immeasurable. Does winning a championship bring all that back? He still has endorsement deals. He still has the #1 selling NBA jersey. He's still making ridiculous amount of money in his contract. If Kobe Bryant is vindicated in anything, it's that he proved all those naysayers that said he couldn't win without Shaq wrong (including myself). No matter how you look at it, Kobe showed us what it takes to be a champion, and why he's one of the greatest in the game.

As for Phil Jackson, ten NBA titles comes with having coached two of the greatest to play the game. But great players are made from great coaches, and Jackson is definitely one of them. Even though he plays it cool and acts like it's not a big deal, he knows it is and I think he respects that. He has another year left on his contract, which I think he'll stay for, then call it quits. The Lakers will definitely be favored to win it all again next year, but either way, he'll go out on top. Hopefully, he won't have to field anymore questions about Kobe v. Shaq either.

That's my take...

11 June 2009

Slow Rolling Tide

The news that the University of Alabama was placed on probation certainly came as a surprise to me, being that I was completely unaware that they were even being investigated. Put simply, the university is being punished as a result of some several hundred student-athletes across various sports (including football) receiving textbooks free of charge. More so, the NCAA is punishing them for not maintaining oversight of its athletic program and mishandling the situation internally.

While the offense seems extremely minor, it goes back to the very basis of most NCAA violations and subsequent investigations. Student-athletes should not be receiving anything free of charge on behalf of the university or otherwise. In other words, they should not be paid, in monies or otherwise. While the receiving of textbooks does not certainly promote a competitive advantage on the field, a team utilizing a player who should be ineligible is cheating, plain and simple. Alabama's penalty involves the forfeiture of an unspecified number of wins, but they get to keep scholarships. Apparently, the NCAA did not believe that the offense was enough to warrant extensive punishment.

This begs the question regarding other high profile NCAA investigations, namely the one going on at Memphis. If the NCAA can find that Derrick Rose did in fact submit a forged SAT score, do you think the NCAA would respond like they did with Alabama? Certainly the wins and Final Four appearance would come out. Add to the Tigers dilemma the fact that Dozier admitted to cheating on his SATs, and you have a much bigger mess. While the NCAA legally has to treat the incidents as separate, they cannot help but look at them equally.

The connection between Alabama and Memphis is that they both used players who were ineligible. In the past, the NCAA would tack on post-season bans along with probation. Intrestingly, ever since the "death penalty" case at SMU, probations have been lighter and lighter. Auburn's mid-90s probation is the last that comes to mind that involved post-season bans. (The football team posted an unbeaten record in 1994, in the midst of probation.) Should the same not apply here also?

You could make a case that Memphis' violations are much more severe, but probation is nothing if it doesn't carry any teeth. Stripping wins is one thing, stripping scholarships and post-season eligibility is another. I would expect this to happen at Memphis, and subsequently USC and Tennessee for their violations. But the penalty issued to Alabama just seems too light.
I cannot find a better topic right now to talk about than the wonderful news we received this week. My wife, Sara, and I are expecting our fourth (!) child. We've known since Saturday, but today it became official as she saw the doctor and got word that she is indeed pregnant. We couldn't be happier. From the beginning, we talked about having four kids, but for awhile, we thought we were done after our last child, Gabriel, was born. But we've had the baby itch for quite some time since then, and the time is right for a new addition. We are hoping for a girl, but either way the baby will be born sometime in February 2010.