Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Deny..Deny...Deny..

Why should we be surprised by the move that Marion Jones made by pulling out of the IAAF Japan Grand Prix on May 8 in Osaka, Japan?

Should we be surprised that she and her husband have pulled out of an IAAF sanctioned event to run in Jamaica? With the interrogating questions that she had to answer on ESPN last Sunday after one of her events at the Penn Relays, shouldn't Marion Jones who has yet to have tested positive for steroid usage be allowed to train for this year's Olympics in the meets and events that she wants?

Also, with Sunday's reports that Marion Jones and her husband Tim Montgomery were two of the twenty-seven athletes reportedly given to federal investigators by Victor Conte of BALCO, which Conte and lawyers for both the athletes and Conte vehemently deny, it's plain to see that Jones and Montgomery are under hot lamp of interrogation. Do you think they want to go to an IAAF sanctioned event in Japan, where track and field has a huge following, to answer the questions provided by the world media circus that are demanding BALCO answers?

Yes, she has placed herself in a very difficult position in the the track and field world. Her associations have been bewildering. Her marriage to C.J. Hunter, her alliance last summer with Charlie Francis, who was Ben Johnson's trainer during the 88 Seoul Olympics and who was also banned by the ITF for providing steroids to his sprinters, and her new marriage with Tim Montgomery, who is now on the BALCO hot list, have wrought sonar alerts to question her performances and her training methods over the past four years.



However, the request made by Selena Roberts in her article in the New York Times, which calls on C.J. Hunter to speak on behalf of Marion to support her during this time, would be inviting a matrix filled with trouble for Marion.

After Hunter was busted for having over 1000 times the amount of an illegal substance in his body during his performance at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, he walked to the stand with Victor Conte by his side to explain why he had the substance in his body, and why the substance was confused with iron supplements. With that mind, does Marion Jones want to bring C.J. Hunter back into her life to speak on her behalf? Also, is it really that strange that Hunter, who was her husband at the time, wrote a check from his wife's account for $7,250? With that also in mind, does she want to invite more prying into her private life because her husband wrote a check with her name on it four years ago?

Not a good plan.....

I remember seeing C.J. Hunter working out often at Belk Track with Marion Jones throughout the nineties. I believe it's best for Marion to treat the association with Hunter the same way that UNC treated the material that was pulled from Belk Track last summer......Roll it up, cart it off, melt it down, and turn the material into pencil erasers to remove blemishes.....She has been tested over seventy random times in the last year, and has yet to test positive. She should be able to train and run where and how she wants. Remember, she will be tested hard not only in Athens, but throughout the summer....but please keep C.J far and away.....

Isn't the white hot light hot enough?
BD

Thursday, April 15, 2004

NBA Finals Picks

Jack McCallum's article on SI.com today inspired me to post up down low with my picks today. As a result, I'm going to list my NBA Finals picks here.....Even though I don't think that I'm going to far out on a limb with my picks, I think some people may be surprised.

What I look for is not only experience in the NBA Playoffs, but how the team is interacting with each other at the beginning of their first round playoff. That's why I am going to count out the Mavs and the Lakers. I'm just not buying the attitudes that are emanating from Antoine Walker with the Mavs, and I'm not buying the group karma that has developed between Kobe and the Lakers.

I'm also not liking the way that the Kings and Nets are entering the playoffs. The Kings have not developed any cohesion with the return of Chris Webber...I still believe the condition of his knee is not fair but poor....I also believe that even though Lawrence Frank will be the coach of the Nets next year, his position was in limbo for a long time, and it's going to cost the team a lot of momentum going into the first round. I also believe that Jason Kidd is a too banged up to carry the team on his back for four series.

Many people may pick the Pacers, but outside of Reggie Miller, they're still light on major playoff experience. I'm not talking first and second round long teeth, but the deep pain experience that's only found with Conference Finals losses. That's why I'm not rolling with them.

So, that leaves me with my two picks.....San Antonio in the West and Detroit in the East. I like the Spurs because of their experience that they received in last year's playoffs, and I like the Pistons because of the addition of Rasheed Wallace and how Larry Brown has been able to blend the team together.

In the end, although the Spurs don't have an answer to stop both Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace, Tim Duncan eats up Rasheed when the two go head to head. I'm going to go with the mental toughness and the deeper bench that the Spurs have developed with Hedo Turkoglu, Malik Rose, and Bruce Bowen. I also think that Tony Parker is going to get the best of Chauncey Billups. However, Billups showed me a lot with his performance last year in the playoffs.

I'm going to go with Popovich's Spurs in 7 with a very tight and rough series to end it all.....Let's see how I do.

Check in during June,
BD

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

You can't hide behind the Mask....

That's right....You can't dress up the fiasco of the "Cell" a.k.a. US Cellular Park or formerly known as "New Comiskey Park". The hot PR articles that are infiltrating the Chicago media are touting the benefits of a refurbished stadium. However, it still is going to take a interior remodeling effort to make the park a semblance of a solid revitalization for the Bridgeport ward.

What makes Comiskey Park...I'm sorry "U.S. Cellular", or "the Cell"....a dull venue to catch a game, to spend an evening, or to hang out for a game night, are the amenities that surround the stadium. Because Jerry Reinsdorf has been out of touch of reality for the past three decades, he lost sight of the fact that what makes an event like a ballgame so attractive to fans is the experience.

When he tore down the old Comiskey and several old-time bars within the area and paved half of the surrounding area with cement for his parking revenue, he raped the area of economic development, character, and history.

So, when he complains of lack of revenue, lack of corporate sponsorship, and declining attendance figures to the city, alderman and voters should laugh in the guy's face, he's responsible for outfitting the area in a mask.....The same mask that he wore to disguise himself to the public when he destroyed an area that had development potential.

You can put leather on the seats and put a DVD in the dashboard, but it's still a "Rice Boy" Civic....

Long Live McCuddy's,
BD


P.S. Great article by Hunter Thompson today. He almost got locked up with a phone call to his buddy at the Illinois State Prison.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Saturday Night with the Sons of...

Sometimes a Saturday night flicking around the Direct TV channels can bring up a few surprises...sports wise...geez, you're sick mind is going to get you in trouble...



That's why I'm very happy with my Saturday night activity of watching HBO's Saturday Night Boxing special last night. The prelim fight to the Wladmir Klitschko v. Lamon Brewster fight featuring WBC and WBA Welterweight champ, Cory Spinks of East St. Louis and Zab Judah of Brooklyn, NY, stole the show.

This was a particular fight of interest for boxing heads. The two fighter are the sons of....Son of Leon and Son of Yoel....Two years ago, I fawned over the rise of Judah, but my favor has turned on him. Not only did Judah's clowning display two years ago, when he threw a chair at referee Jay Nagy after he was clearly floored and knocked senseless by a much more talented boxer, Kostya Tszyu, but also his penchant for placing himself in the background behind every Tyson press conference lowered my respect for the talented fighter. His consistent whining that he was wronged with Nagy's decision to stop the fight was way off the mark and ridiculous.

I used to like Judah a lot. I bought into the hype his kickboxing/martial arts training, and Black Jewish sect background, and the training methods of his father, Yoel, who was a kickboxing legend. I bought into the SI article wrtten by Gary Smith (you're going to have to find that article on your own), and I bought into the excitement generated by the rap video appearances and boxing conversations that were coming out of New York (Thank you Ed Cota). Regardless of what led me to my hype shopping spree....Over the last two years and before last night's fight, I had sold my respect for the once-rising star of the welterweight brackets of boxing.

However, after Judah's effort against Cory Spinks, I may be forced to buy a little back. Spinks, who had won the welterweight division title against Ricardo Mayorga in the early part of the year, came in with a very impressive run of fights in his bags. He's a very impressive fighter, a precise southpaw puncher, and he has power and commitment with his punches.

Spinks also has a pedigree developed in East St. Louis by living up to the reputation of his heavyweight and 1976 Olympic Gold Medal Champion father and uncle, Leon and Michael Spinks, and he comes from a very troubled past. His mother died at 48. His father Leon has a past that makes any crackhead in America shudder, and Cory's two best friends were murdered in the past year.

So with that background and momentum in Spinks's favor in mind while watching this fight, is why I'm became more impressed with Judah's effort throughout the fight at Mandalay Bay on Saturday night.

Spinks came out and manhandled Judah in the first three rounds. So impressive was Spinks performance that Larry Merchant stated that Spinks looked like a Middleweight fighting a Welterweight. So, what was impressive about Judah....he did not lay down, and he changed up his strategy by going boxing not punching with Spinks.

What was impressive with his course of action was that Judah did not try to power punch with Spinks. Spinks is a power puncher, but he had trouble hanging with Judah's quickness. Judah was able to footwork and quick jabs to gain points on the tightly contested scorecards that are so imporatant in boxing. More importantly, it was clear that Judah was more experienced than Spinks in the ring. Judah knew when to force the action, and when to use his footwork, which helped a tremendous amount with his gains in points throughout the middle rounds.

Despite Judah's surge and just as soon as I found myself giving Judah credit, he left me hanging on the corner after he turned to the crowd and started jawing with fans. The action spurred Spinks, and he gave Judah a solid whupping in the 8th round. That loss of concentration may have shifted the momentum because Spinks began to rebound after that moment, and he later knocked down Judah in the 11th round.

However, after that knockdown is why Judah inched back to favor with me, and why he should be included with the big name welterweights in the big fight draws.

Judah went after Spinks. He came after him with solid left power punches, and he landed a devastating left hand set up by a peppering jab to knock down Spinks in the final :30 of the 12th round. Spinks was very groggy, and if there was a 13th or 14th round, I don't believe he would have made it through either round. Spinks made it out of the 12th, but he was very wobbly when he climbed the ropes with his hands in the air pumping his fist in his bid to influence the politics of summing points on scorecards after fights.

Spinks was rewarded with the unanimous decision, and I am pleased. He is a very good fighter, and he seems to have his head game fairly focused to establish a good run of fights. However, I did expect that Spinks's decision should have been closer. I also agreed with HBO's Harold Ledderman that the fight should have been ruled a draw.

However, Brooklyn fans of Judah should not worry. His bounceback from his slow start and knockdown showed me that this fight may have kept Judah from fading into the background in the Welterweight division. A heavy loss to Spinks could have been devastating to Judah's carreer, but his performance may have pushed up back into promoters' minds for future fight packages.

We should see a rematch down the road for these two fighters. You can't say they're up and coming because they're both already at a high level of boxing. One can only hope that both of them can stay focused in their upcoming fights to meet up again.

However, I still think the class of this division is ....Kostya Tszyu

What's up with Zab entering the ring with SuperCartel performing....Goin' for the convergence thing?

Good to see Leon smiling again,
BD


Saturday, April 10, 2004

SI Article "Write of Spring"

This week's Sports Illustrated Scorecard , which was edited by Mark Bechtel and Sridhar Pappu, featured a great short piece on Roger Angell, the legendary sportswriter for The New Yorker.

I haven't read much of Angell in The New Yorker, but his eloquent descriptions of the subjects that he writes about are legendary. Here's a sampling of his writing through his description of Pedro Martinez in last fall's American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees.

"After each out, he gloves the returning ball backhand, and gazes about with lidded hauteur. No one else in the world has eyes so far about."

Angell started sportswriting at the age of 41 when he was dispatched by the New Yorker to cover the New York Mets. The year was 1962, and the Mets ended up with 120 losses that year. The Mets were managed by the legendary 71 year-old Casey Stengel and were stocked with aging veterans, who were at the the end of their careers such as Gil Hodges and Richie Ashburn. The roster was also filled with characters such as Chico Carrasquel and Elio Chacon. Angell learned from covering this team that sometimes the best stories come from the worst teams.

"There's enough about the game that's absolutely fascinating and complicated....Every year we get in the postseason and everyone says 'Oh baseball is so wonderful.' They've rediscovered that there are some really tense and amazing contests and astounding turnabouts. And I say, 'Yeah, that what I've been saying all along."

He now dispatches two or three articles to the New Yorker each season. I'm going to check out more of Angell's pieces. After listening to Vin Scully announce the Dodgers/Rockies game last night, I know that our time to listen to these great journalists are heading into the deep September of the season.

BD

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Air Rift

The Nike Air Rift is one of the illest pairs of Nikes of all-time....They're part of my "Classic Collection".





The reasons why they're so special are:

1) The Air Rift was an innovative shoe. A shoe that looked into the future during the Fall of '95. It was designed for the Kenyan runners that Nike had fought hard to sign to an endorsement deal during the early part of the decade. The shoe is made with a split toe to give the feel of running barefoot that many Kenyan runners do while growing up.

2) I ran several times in them while living in Savannah and Charleston, and I loved them because they were not only light, but they did give the feeling of running barefoot. I also liked them because you could run without socks in them.

3) The shoe was named after the Rift region of Kenya. What's even tighter with the background of the shoe is that Nike sold both black and white split toe socks to go with the shoe.

When I ran the Chicago Marathon during the Fall of '95, a lot of the lead runners were rocking these after the race, and I caught a few hard core running heads rocking the orginals (pictured above) at the Atlanta Olympics in '96....So dope....

4) I still rock them today, but only when I'm on the town. I usuallly break them out when it's over 95 degrees with my Armani pants. Yeah....like that.....

Where is this shoe today? It's funny to watch how this shoe has morphed into a "stripper's shoe". Every showgirl across the world seems to have rocked the Rifts over the last few years. The colors are all over the board and now the shoe comes in fake fur and a ton of different types of leather. Straight up booty if you ask me.....You know me, I'm a straight up classic traditionalist. Those shoes were meant for Running......They should be used as such.

Let's hope that Nike starts innovating again, and that they start introducing "take the red pill" models like the 'Air Rift'.

Atlanta 96,
BD

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Will the chickens come to roost?

You got me hyped up with Dan Wetzel's article on YahooSports! about the Corey Maggette/Myron Piggie AAU Case that is still awaiting a decision by the NCAA. One of these days, I may have to writie an article on this one. I've often asked the same question that Wetzel is asking about when a ruling between Duke and the NCAA should arrive to settle this case....Great article, and here are my points.

I do agree with Wetzel's dismay because there hasn't been one statement about the Duke case from the NCAA. However, I'm not as upset about this case as others, because Maggette was not enrolled at Duke at the time. Also, if the NCAA cracked on every player that accepts petty cash from AAU teams that hire High-School All-Americans to be hired guns for tournaments, you would be blown away at how many programs let alone NBA All-Stars would have media frenzies in their home stadium parking lots.

It's been a common practice with most AAU teams in the past that eams like the Atlanta Celtics still bring in players for weekend tournaments. The Riverside Hawks were a common user of this practice in the 90's. I followed that situation because Jerry Stackhouse played a couple of games with the Riverside Hawks before his freshman year, and as a Carolina fan, I cringed at that one. Regardless, it's a common occurrence, and I do believe a ruling was instituted from the NCAA that either prohibits this practice, or at least slows it down.

I believe the reason that Duke gets off on this case is because Maggette wasn't steered to go to Duke because of the payment. That's a difference between his case and the Camby case or Crudup situation. Camby was enrolled at UMass and Crudup was enrolled at Missouri when they received large sums of cash. Also, both Camby and Crudup received tens of thousands of dollars from agents during their time of enrollment, not petty cash like Maggette received.

However, I do have a question for Duke. After Maggette lied about whether he received cash under Piggie, shouldn't have Duke taken the initiative to penalize before the case was settled to make up for the lie? After all, Maggette admitted that he did take cash, which would make him ineligible. Is the case similar enough to the case of Webber and the Fab 5 years at the University of Michigan? If so, is a step needed in the form of removing the wins that occurred under Maggette's year from the record books until the case has been finalized?

Michigan really came down hard on their program because of the Ed Martin payments. Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Robert Traylor and I believe Maurice Taylor all received payments through their AAU programs from booster Ed Martin. U of M removed the banners from those years, and the school also removed the records. People thought it was a hard move, but you have to give the school credit. I've been watching the 1999 Duke/UCONN final on ESPN Classic, and I find myself thinking, should Duke do the same thing in their record books and with it's banner at Cameron?

I do find it peculiar that no one has taken a look at that period of time at Duke because Quin Snyder played a major role in Duke's recruiting that year. After a 'HBO Real Sports' report from CBS's James Brown this past month on Snyder's program at Missouri, I wouldn't say that the foudation of Missouri's program is based upon implementing solid principles for a college basketball program built with integrity. Now, there is a good question. Did Quin Snyder form his Missouri priniciples at Duke? Possibly.....

The reason why I do bring my glasses out is because of a past ESPN 'Outside the Lines' show that had a great feature, which questioned how Carlos Boozer was graduating in three years despite the fact that he was balling in Europe and away from classes the whole time. The report raised a few questions about the Duke program, but oddly nothing ever surfaced from it.

Looking at those questions, there may not be a lot of substance to bring things forward, but I do believe the NCAA could and should look into the relationship between Boozer and his AAU Coach Darren Matsubara at that time. Now that's a relationship I have always wondered about.

Matsubara was profiled in Wetzel's book, "Sole Influence". After reading it, I felt like I had read the "National Enquirer". It was a good book, but I remember putting it down, and thinking that I read a tabloid.

In the book, "Mats" was profiled extensively. He was a henchman/AAU Coach for Sonny Vaccaro when Vaccaro was at Adidas. His main coaching feat was guiding DeShaun Stevenson through his EBC AAU program to national prominence, and after the book was released, he became known for his role behind the scenes with Stevenson going to the NBA. Because of the Stevenson situation, many insiders felt that he was also behind the scenes swaying Boozer to take the same route while Boozer was at Duke.

During the time Boozer was at Duke, there were constant rumblings that "Mats" was hanging out with agents and Adidas people around tournaments and all-star games because he could land CBooz for them...After hearing the rumblings, I always thought that was a little shady.

Their roots were started because Boozer played for Matsubara's EBC AAU team. Boozer would regularly fly down from Alaska to Fresno and all over the country to play for EBC, which may be fine. However, my question is who picked up the tabs for Boozer to be regularly flown from Alaska to play for "Mats's" team in Fresno, of all places. Why did Boozer choose EBC, and another question for this case, is why did Boozer, who was a lock for UCLA, also hastily switch Duke during that year?

If someone had to answer those questions, the responses could bring some some stuttering answers in a conversation.

While looking at the Maggette case and my questions surrounding Boozer and the program at the time, I don't think I'm thinking like a a conspiracist. However, I do raise this question for those who wonder if there is something behind the lack of neglect in responding to these cases.

Is there a correlation between the neglect of the ruling and the fact that Coach K is the Foundation President of the National Association of Basketball Coaches?

I hate to answer it with another question, but here you go....Do you think the NCAA really wants to rule on an issue that would not only tarnish the Duke's image as the school that "does good", but would place a violation on the program of the NABC's President of the Board of Directors? If the NCAA did, could you imagine the tornado of negative columns, press, and investigative reports that the NCAA would have to handle on that one?

Here's another one for you grassy knoll believers....Sean McManus, VP of Sports Programming for CBS is a Duke alum, who is very close to the NCAA and the Duke Basketball program. I wonder if he and CBS would be upset if Duke, the "New York Yankees of College Basketball" was branded as a dirty program for a year or two?

As fans, we need to accept that most elite D-1 level players have an element of shadiness around them. College basketball recruiting is a necessary evil. It's a street hustle game, and I think that's why certain hard-core fans and alumni love following it.

Does the NCAA do enough about it? At times....but I do believe they only come around after a media expose from major violations have occurred, or blatant accusations or offenses are turned in to their headquarters.

However, I do believe the NCAA looks away from certain programs, and they make an example of others by placing penalites on programs to show that everyone is vulnerable. Funny, a similar situation right before Maggette happened at Carolina when got a taste of that practice. Vasco Emitnov was suspended during his Freshman year for playing with a European club team that paid expenses for him when he was a teen. Look it up, his situation is very similar to the Maggette case.....

Is the Maggette case worth it? Even though Maggette's case is a slight scratch on the door, the program is for the most part good. People should give Coach K credit. He worked hard to build his program, and he mostly did it mostly the right way.

Also, if you're going throw things at his program, it's tough for them to land. Early on, he played the politician game well by promoting the stories of his average Chicago Polish background, his Army education, his Coach Knight relationship and his "good guy, good program, good family media blitz." The PR effort worked very well. The media bought into it, and people love Duke as much as they love Ralph Lauren.

I've always liked that saying "Chickens come to roost", and after watching how society ripped MJ down with his infedelities and gambling practices, I truly believe that people love to rip exalted ones down from pedestals.

Maybe Duke's time is coming.....

BD