05.29.10

The 25th Anniversary Of The Heysel Disaster

Posted in Football at 6:48 am by

25 years ago today, 39 people perished when a wall separating Liverpool and Juventus supporters collapsed at Brussels’ Heysel Stadium just prior to the start of the 1985 European Cup Final.  In the aftermath of the match — won by Juve on a Michael Plantini penalty kick — English clubs were banned from UEFA competitions for 5 years.  Though Liverpool have long acknowledged their fans’ role in the disaster (events were held to commemorate the event on Merseyside earlier this week), When Saturday Comes’ Matthew Barker writes, “Juventus always appeared a touch uneasy remembering the tragedy.”

Juventus have always played down any calls that the club should return the 1985 trophy in deference to the dead. Walter Veltroni, the former mayor of Rome and ex-leader of the centre-left Democratic Party, has written a theatrical monologue, recently published as a book. When the Acrobat Falls, Enter the Clowns takes its name from Platini’s acerbic phrase, used as explanation to journalists after the game for his celebrations on scoring from the penalty spot, and the team’s lap of honour at the final whistle. Arguing about the past, or moral point-scoring over Juve’s lack of judgement in treating the tragedy as little more than an unfortunate backdrop to their first European Cup win, is irrelevant now. In the words of Veltroni, such quarrels are “sterile and stupid… the problem isn’t the cup, but the memory of that night, which we need to conserve to avoid repeating”.

The anniversary comes at a time when the much-maligned tessera ID card for travelling away supporters has once again stirred up controversy, with Roma midfielder Daniele De Rossi forced to apologise after suggesting that the police should also be subject to similar scrutiny and control. The lingering bitter irony, that English football was quick to learn the lessons of Heysel, while the game in Italy remains troubled and in a confused state of flux, will hang heavy over today’s ceremonies.

NYT – NCAA Investigating One & Done Bledsoe

Posted in Basketball, College Spurts at 6:15 am by

Perhaps the only task tougher than leading multiple programs to the NCAA Men’s Final Four is to have both appearances expunged.  Serial forfeiteer John Calipari’s impressive collegiate record is inextricably tied to his skills as a recruiter, and once again, in the rich history of Derrick Rose and Marcus Camby, one of the great educator’s star pupils finds himself facing heavy scrutiny.  On Saturday, the New York Times’ Pete Thamel and Thayer Evans report University Of Kentucky PG Eric Bledsoe’s movements thru a succession of Alabam high schools  have piqued the curiosity of NCAA watchdogs.

Interviews with those connected with Bledsoe™s life in Birmingham revealed potential violations.

* – Brenda Axle, the landlord for the house where Bledsoe and his mother moved for his senior year of high school, said that Bledsoe™s high school coach paid her at least three months™ rent, or $1,200. By moving there, Bledsoe was eligible to play for Parker, which he led to the Alabama Class 5A title game. Maurice Ford, the coach, denied paying the money.

* – A copy of Bledsoe™s high school transcript from his first three years reveals that it would have taken an improbable academic makeover ” a jump from about a 1.9 grade point average in core courses to just under a 2.5 during his senior year ” for Bledsoe to achieve minimum N.C.A.A. standards to qualify for a scholarship.

* – A college coach who recruited Bledsoe said that Ford explicitly told his coaching staff that he needed a specific amount of money to let Bledsoe sign with that university. The coach, who did not want to be named out of fear of repercussions when recruiting in Birmingham, said Ford told him and his staff that he was asking for money because he was helping pay rent for Bledsoe and his mother. Ford denied this, saying, œI don™t prostitute my kids.

He said he had done nothing wrong, adding: œI™m a poor black man. And when one black man tries to help another black man, there™s always something wrong.

MLB Punches Out Joe West

Posted in Baseball at 2:30 am by

I’m not normally one to throw stones at the professional who sidelines in music for the sin of moonlighting.  I have my own glass house,  it offends my sense of fair play and no matter how many blues lawyers or jam-band dentists the world has to suffer, I know the history of worthwhile music would shrivel badly if you removed its insurance executives or accountants.

But something about Wednesday’s multiple-ejection tantrum at the Indians/White Sox tilt by baseball’s least introverted umpire has me wondering if Cowboy Joe West’s muse isn’t worried a little too much about taking a solo – a time-honored tradition best left on the small and hacky stage, not behind the plate. Would a bit of focus on the job at hand kill anybody?

At Progressive Field, West, whose upper strike zone is harder to find than an army recruiter in a white neighborhood, twice called a balk on LHP Mark Buehrle’s move to first base, having apparently noticed the trademark motion’s rubber-grazing character for the first time in ten seasons.  The first balk call brought out Ozzie, who West ejected.  The second disgusted the normally level-headed Buehrle so much, he dropped his glove.  For that, West sent him following Ozzie into the Cleveland afternoon with no plans.

Today, MLB decided that West needed to lose some weight – in his wallet. Along with Guillen and Buehrle, baseball fined West an undisclosed amount, the petulant authoritarian’s penance no doubt taking a deeper bite compared to either ballplayer’s bankroll.  Rolling Wednesday together with West’s quasi-inappropriate excoriation of the Yankees and Bosox pace of game last month,  Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan could barely contain his glee at West’s comeuppance:

MLB doesn™t have nearly the perception problem with umpires that the NBA does with its referees. It doesn™t want one, either, and so its move to muzzle West is appropriate. The Yankees and Red Sox do push pace-of-play boundaries; they also provide the greatest rivalry in the sport, and fans who appreciate good baseball are willing to sit through extra time as long as the drama remains. West should™ve apologized and moved on. His targeting of Buehrle “ pitchers get called for multiple balks about once a decade “ was the vindictive sort of call that cements his reputation.

Undeterred, West™s diarrhea of the mouth continued. He had CDs and gear to sell, a website to push, a brand to promote. Attached to the latest e-mail from his publicist were 11 pictures, just in case one or two weren™t enough. It also included a funny subject line: œThe Real Joe West.

Like everyone doesn™t already see him for what he is.

05.28.10

Chicago, Officially Removed From Flash’s Free Agency Options

Posted in Basketball, Blogged Down at 6:29 am by

If the Owner WIth A Boner can be fined for expressing the most benign interest in LeBron James, what sort of reverse-tampering punishment awaits Dwyane Wade (above), who suggested Chicago was an unsuitable destination for James (and presumably, himself) due to Da Bulls’ alleged disloyalty towards Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. He’s got a point, right? I mean, has Chicago retired Bill Wennigton’s number yet? Wilsoneads of Blog A Bull declares in response, “this is the day I officially stopped liking Dwyane Wade.”

The reason Jordan and Pippen aren’t in the organization anymore is complicated and a lot of it has to do with Jerry Krause. Pippen got pissed cause we wouldn’t reward him Jordan money on the downside of his career so he bolted. That left a bad taste in his mouth but it was absolutely the right decision for the Bulls to make. So of course there’s always going to be bitterness there.

As for players not staying in the organization?? Do John Paxson and Pete Myers not count because they’re not superstars?? I mean what a moronic statement. Wade’s done in my book. I’m glad he’s not coming here.

Inquirer’s John-Hall : Just Say (G)No To Demeaning Ryan Howard

Posted in Baseball, Racism Corner at 5:40 am by

Last night’s 3-0 loss to the Mets at Citi Field marked the first time since 1983 the Phillies have been shut out in 3 consecutive games, and while their current stretch of offensive futility is well, offensive, far greater umbrage is taken concerning an upcoming promotion by the Phillies’ Eastern League (AA) affiliate in Reading, PA. “(His) face all vaselined up, grinning from ear to ear, kneeling on one knee, and, as he is prone to do, holding a bat like a billy club – all ready to beat back those menacing garden snails,” the Ryan Howard Garden Gnome is, in the words of the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Annette John-Hall, “dangerously close to lawn-ornament territory.”

The original jockey statue, standing proud and usually carrying a lantern, shepherded runaway slaves to safety during the days of the Underground Railroad, explained Charles Blockson, curator of the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection at Temple.

But as time went on, lawn jockeys were often caricatured as a stooped-over black man with dark skin and painted-in white eyes and big red lips. They were usually displayed on lawns of homes in the South and served no real purpose other than to diminish African Americans.

So you can understand why this Howard gnome thing creeps me out, even if the team’s intentions were to tout its former star.

“Anything we do with Ryan is big here,” said Reading director of operations Kevin Sklenarik, who explained that because Howard played for Reading, the team doesn’t need the Phillies’ permission to use his likeness.

05.27.10

What Not To Wear, Presented By The MLBPA And Your New York Mets

Posted in Baseball, Fashion at 8:57 am by

Last July,  I took the unveiling of hideously garish JJ Putz and Omir Santos custom jerseys to declare the Mets, “4th in the NL East, but in first place when it comes to ferociously ugly merchandise no one in their right mind would purchase.”  Sadly, few fashion lessons have been learned during the ensuing 10 months.  While last night’s 5-0 defeat of the Phillies offers hope for the Flushing product between the lines, the above jpg (culled from Mets Police) reveals additional aesthetic crimes that no one — especially not Canadians — should turn a blind eye towards.

Indy Fuzz : Z-Bo’s A Drug Kingpin

Posted in Basketball, The Law at 8:38 am by

Lest you believe solid numbers for Memphis an an All-Star Game appearance in 2010 represented an definitive image overhaul for 9 year NBA vet Zach Randolph, think again.  According to the Indianapolis Star’s Vic Ryckaert, authorities claim Randolph is closely tied to the drug trade in his old hometown.

Randolph, a Marion native, has not been arrested or charged, said Lt. Jeff Duhamell, spokesman for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. However, police say Arthur Boyd, 32, was arrested May 11 on suspicion of dealing marijuana while driving a 2008 Cadillac Escalade registered to Randolph.

A police detective described Randolph as a financier for known drug dealers in Indianapolis, according to court documents obtained by The Indianapolis Star.

Police seized the Escalade and three of Randolph’s custom Chevrolet Impalas that were in a Hamilton County storage facility, which also was registered to Randolph.

Duhamell said authorities have begun forfeiture procedures because they think the vehicles were used to aid the criminal drug-dealing operation.

The investigation began when a confidential informant told police that Randolph was supplying a group of drug dealers with vehicles and access to his Hamilton County home on Geist Reservoir, according to the documents.