Author Archives | Chris Lardieri

NFL kickoff rule change brings records

Lost among all the offseason commotion due to the NFL lockout was a controversial rule change.  The league’s competition committee voted to move the kickoff spot up from the 30-yeard line to the 35, in the hopes of reducing the number of serious injuries.

Pundits cried that this would result in a big increase in touchbacks (thus removing excitement from the game), and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick even theorized that the league was looking to eliminate the kickoff altogether.

After Week 1, touchbacks were indeed up, with nearly 52% of the kickoffs resulting in touchbacks, up substantially from the 18% in 2010’s first week of games.  This must have resulted in sheer boredom on special teams, right?

Not so fast. In fact, quite the contrary.

The week saw three kicks returned for touchdowns of 100 yards or more, tying an NFL record − 108 yards by the Packers’ Randall Cobb (tying an NFL record), 103 yards by the Vikings’ Percy Harvin and 102 yards by the 49ers’ Ted Ginn Jr.  In additions, many more teams were willing to let their returners run it out from the end zone – resulting in an average kick return of 26.8 yards, also up from last year.

But given the increased number of touchbacks, that means most offensive droves start from a team’s own 20-yeard line.  This would result in more punting and less scoring, right?  Again, a pleasant surprise − five punts were returned for touchdowns, making the combined 8 kick return touchdowns the most in a single week, another NFL record.

To be fair, this was only one week, and a number of factors helped.  First, there was no inclement weather for any of the games, and temperatures were mild.  Second, the shoddy special teams play (poor tackling, etc.) could also be attributed to the lockout, thanks to reduced practice time.  Finally, if teams are going to pay their kick returners well, they sure don’t expect them to take a knee in the end zone.

On the flip side, as the weather gets cooler and more inclement, expect the number of touchbacks to decrease some.  And the kick return coverage should improve as some of the younger, less experienced players get more experienced and actually learn how to tackle in the next few weeks.

Moral of the story?  Don’t listen to the “experts” – the excitement that kickoffs bring to the game isn’t going anywhere.

Used with permission of the author.

Chris Lardieri runs the “West Coast View” column for Sports Climax. A veteran to the keyboard, Chris also covers the Los Angeles Dodgers for Examiner.com and has written about Major League Baseball for Inside Edge, a scouting company that provides content to ESPN Insider and Yahoo Sports. Follow Chris on Twitter for more sports observations.

Copyright ©2011 Sports Climax, LLC

Posted in Features, NFL, Recent Buzz, West Coast View0 Comments

Not your typical NFL preview

Another summer has come and gone in the blink of an eye; but fear not, there’s reason for optimism now that leaves are dropping and fall is upon us.

The 2011 NFL season starts tonight. Yes, the animosity from the now-forgotten lockout has passed – now just a faint memory. Do you remember who got the better of the concessions?  Neither do I.  But I do know that ex-players, and not lawyers, are giving their “expert analysis” on the NFL, and that’s always a good thing.

Art by Gener De Vera

To help you along with what to look out for every week from now until February, I devote this preview of sorts for the upcoming season.  No, I won’t bore you with yet another Super Bo…ERR…”Big Game” prediction.  If I had a dime for every Packers-Patriots prediction, I’d be able to make a sizable dent in the Federal deficit and still have money left over to attend an NFL game in a luxury box.

Without further ado, here are some things that could transpire in 2011.  As always, don’t wager any actual money based on the following, and these are all my humble opinions:

  1. The Eagles will not win it all. After signing CB Nnamdi Asomugha (the prize of the free agent class this abbreviated offseason), acquiring CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie from Arizona in the Kevin Kolb trade and adding WR Steve Smith from the rival Giants, expectations are high in Philly.  Add to that the signing of Michael Vick to a six-year, $100 million contract, and it’s easy to see why everyone has jumped on the “Dream Team” bandwagon.  However, the defensive front seven is not as solid as their secondary, and they are one hit away from Vince Young being their fill-in at QB.
  2. Nor will the Packers. Yes, they still have a great team intact and didn’t suffer any major departures during the offseason.  But the statistics don’t lie, and it’s rare to have a team hoist the Lombardi Trophy in consecutive years.  Plus, the NFC looks to have a number of tough contenders that will be taking aim at the Pack, including the Saints, Falcons and whoever emerges in the NFC East.
  3. Same goes for the Chargers. Now I firmly expect them to cruise through the weak AFC West, and QB Phillip Rivers should rack up even more impressive stats now that he’ll have WR Vincent Jackson back for a full season.  But the defense can be erratic, and they will also miss coordinator Ron Rivera (now the head coach in Carolina).  And let’s not forget how both Norv Turner and Nate Kaeding fold in January.
  4. The Texans will FINALLY make the playoffs. I know, we’ve been down this road before.  But now that Peyton Manning will miss Sunday’s game in Houston (and possibly additional time), the Colts are ripe for the taking.  The Texans have an excellent offense, led by the trio of Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson and the ever-tweeting Arian Foster.  But their porous defense should be much improved with the additions of CB Jonathan Joseph and coordinator Wade Phillips (and his 3-4 scheme).  Could they win it all?  I wouldn’t be surprised.  After all, who expected the Packers to do so at this time last year?
  5. Don’t be surprised… Since most of the above four predictions will probably blow up in my face, here are a few quick-hit ones that I feel more confident about:
  • The Giants and Cowboys will contend in the NFC East.  Expectations are low for both teams, and that’s when these two teams seem to perform best.  Don’t be surprised if one of them edges out the Eagles for the division title.
  • The Browns, Dolphins, Panthers and Vikings will be improved.  They may not make the playoffs, but they won’t be as bad as people think.
  • Saints RB Mark Ingram and Falcons WR Julio Jones should be the offensive rookies who make the biggest impact this year.
  • The NFC West will still stink.  But you knew that already,
  • Rex Ryan will continue to spout off and stick his foot in his mouth.  Wait, he might like that…
  • Fox’s Joe Buck will continue to annoy most viewers, but he’ll sound different doing so.
  • Once the season ends, a team will announce that it’s moving to L.A.  Don’t ask me what team, but my guess is that the Chargers and Jaguars are the favorites.

DISCLOSURE: Please don’t hold me to any of these predictions.  And enjoy the season.

Used with permission of the author.

Chris Lardieri runs the “West Coast View” column for Sports Climax. A veteran to the keyboard, Chris also covers the Los Angeles Dodgers for Examiner.com and has written about Major League Baseball for Inside Edge, a scouting company that provides content to ESPN Insider and Yahoo Sports. Follow Chris on Twitter for more sports observations.

Copyright ©2011 Sports Climax, LLC

Posted in NFL, West Coast View0 Comments

Arian Foster’s Tweets send tremors

It was the tweet heard ‘round the world.

Houston Texans RB Arian Foster managed to create a firestorm that reverberated throughout the social media and fantasy football worlds.  Thanks to a link to a picture of the MRI of his injured hamstring posted via his Twitter account, along with the following 120 characters:

“This is an MRI of my hamstring, The white stuff surrounding the muscle is known in the medical world as anti-awesomeness”

Let’s quickly recap: Foster, the consensus top-ranked player in most fantasy football draft boards, injured his hamstring in Saturday’s preseason game against the 49ers.  It was initially categorized as a “mild strain,” but panic soon set it among fantasy football players who held their drafts last weekend (including more than a few at a draft I was in).  In response Foster tweeted the following:

“[For] those sincerely concerned, I’m doing ok and plan [to be] back by opening day,” Foster wrote on Twitter. “For those worried [about] your fantasy team, [you people] are sick.”

Ah, nothing quite like endearing yourself to fans.

Foster followed that gem up with his MRI tweet on Wednesday, which caused panic in fantasy-ville.  But it also didn’t make his employer too happy – would you want one of your star players divulging confidential medical information on the internet for all the world to see?

And it continued on Thursday, with a report from “The Bristol Improv’s” Dr. Michael Kaplan stating that, in his medical opinion (thanks to the MRI picture); Foster could be out three to four weeks.  Noted NFL writer John McClain (no, not Bruce Willis’ character in “Die Hard”) of the Houston Chronicle later rebuffed this and reported that Foster should be ready to face the Cols on September 11.

My head is spinning.  Who to believe?  What have we learned?  Three things, that’s what.

First, professional athletes need to stop using Twitter to post their every thought, injury update, rants, etc.  As I’ve said before, it is not the bathroom wall or desk in a high school classroom.  What you tweet can and will be used against you.  Just ask fellow RB Rashard Mendenhall, Arian.

Second, I know some fantasy football players can be really annoying and obsessive.  But they watch lots of football and have made the NFL the most popular sport in America.  Don’t bite the hands that (indirectly) feed you.

Finally, you fantasy owners should check your fantasy league waiver wire to see if Foster’s backup, Ben Tate, is still available.  Luckily he was on one of my leagues, and I’m hoping he turns out to be this year’s version of…Arian Foster.

Just don’t expect me to gloat about this acquisition on Facebook.

Used with permission of the author.

Chris Lardieri runs the “West Coast View” column for Sports Climax. A veteran to the keyboard, Chris also covers the Los Angeles Dodgers for Examiner.com and has written about Major League Baseball for Inside Edge, a scouting company that provides content to ESPN Insider and Yahoo Sports. Follow Chris on Twitter for more sports observations.

Copyright ©2011 Sports Climax, LLC

Posted in Features, NFL, Recent Buzz, West Coast View0 Comments

Cam Newton’s bizarre request from Panthers

The past year has been an eventful one for Cam Newton.  The former Auburn quarterback played his final collegiate season under a cloud of scrutiny, thanks to allegations that his father, Cecil sought money from Mississippi State University while his son was being recruited by major schools.

The NCAA later found that Cam and Auburn had no knowledge of Cecil’s actions, and Cam then went on to win the Heisman Trophy and lead the Tigers to the BCS National Championship in a 22-19 thriller over Oregon.  Newton was picked No. 1 overall in April’s NFL draft by the Carolina Panthers, who then signed him to a four year, $22 million contract.

But the oddest moment for Newtown came on Tuesday when his new boss, Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, made some interesting comments while appearing with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones on The Charlie Rose Show.

In addition to talking about the recent lockout and TV blackouts, Richardson recounted a pre-draft conversation he had with Newton when he asked his future quarterback if he had any tattoos or piercings.  After Newton said that he had neither, Richardson responded, “We want to keep it that way, no tattoos, no piercings, and I think you’ve got a very nice haircut.”

Seriously! I’ve heard some off-the-wall interview questions in my day, but this is a head-scratcher.

This raises the never-ending issue about employees’ appearance and what employers can or can’t mandate.  Now I happen to be body art-free, but I have no problem with tattoos or piercings.  In fact, many people I know and love have both.  But at the same time, I realize that some employers can dictate personal appearance and dress.  For instance, I have to wear a tie to work four days a week.  I’m more of a business casual kind of guy, but them’s the rules.  And I’m fully aware that employers “subtly” make judgments and assessments of people based upon their appearance in an interview – be it gray hair, their weight or tattoos.

Is it right?  No, but it’s a fact of life.

But what makes Richardson’s statements more of a head-scratcher is that he employs plenty of players on his team who have multiple, visible tattoos, including star WR Steve Smith and RB DeAngelo Williams.  And it’s not as if he’s instituted a team-wide policy on body art like the one the late George Steinbrenner had for restricting long hair and excess facial hair for ALL Yankees players and employees.

Could it be that Richardson thinks that the face of his franchise should have a “clean-cut” image?  That his starting quarterback must be intelligent and have good judgment, and that having body art is a sign of neither?  Maybe so.

I know, Richardson is paying Newton millions of dollars, and it’s his right to weigh in.  But the whole thing seems a little hypocritical given the fact that he’s singling out one player – especially since this seems more for marketing and PR reasons.  Unless Newton is becoming a swimsuit model, I don’t see why this is such an issue.

So if you ever get a tattoo, don’t make it the Mike Tyson facial variety.  It’s probably best just to keep it hidden from the likes of bosses like Richardson.

BTW, you can play on my fantasy football team anytime, Cam Newton − body art or not; provided you put up good numbers, of course…

Used with permission of the author.

Chris Lardieri runs the “West Coast View” column for Sports Climax. A veteran to the keyboard, Chris also covers the Los Angeles Dodgers for Examiner.com and has written about Major League Baseball for Inside Edge, a scouting company that provides content to ESPN Insider and Yahoo Sports. Follow Chris on Twitter for more sports observations.

Copyright ©2011 Sports Climax, LLC

Posted in Features, NFL, Recent Buzz, West Coast View0 Comments

The NFL quarterback revolving door

Since the NFL lockout came to an end on Monday, there has been an unprecedented flurry of free agent and trade activity.  What would normally be spread out over a number of weeks has been compressed into a matter of days or even hours for that matter, becoming a revolving door, es for.

One common theme (other than reporters from “The Bristol Improv” claiming to take credit for breaking every story regarding new signings) is the large number of veteran quarterbacks changing addresses.  For those keeping score at home, the QB revolving door included:

  • Former Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck signed with the Titans.
  • Seattle replaced him by signing former Vikings signal-caller Tarvaris Jackson,
  • Who was replaced in Minnesota? Donovan McNabb via a trade with the Vikings.

The Redskins have yet to land a replacement for McNabb.  This could lead to an ever-compelling training camp battle between John Beck and Rex Grossman.  Scratch that −  continue:

  • The Bills signed former Dolphins QB Tyler Thigpen,
  • In a long-rumored move, the Cardinals traded CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a 2nd round pick in 2012 to the Eagles for Kevin Kolb, and then signed him to a big-bucks extension…
  • Who then replaced him by signing much-maligned former Titans QB Vince Young as Michael Vick’s backup.
  • In a move that little or no one cares about, the rumors about Matt Leinart reuniting with his college coach Pete Carroll in Seattle were squashed, as the Texans re-signed him to back up Matt Schaub.
  • Finally, nobody seems to love the Broncos Kyle Orton.  Rumored to be headed to Miami, the Dolphins have apparently changed their mind and will reportedly sign former Panthers QB Matt Moore.

One name you haven’t seen on this list is the Bengals’ Carson Palmer, who is “retired” now that the team has refused to honor his request for a trade.  The team then placed Palmer on the Reserve/Did Not Report list today, thus saving $11.5 million is salary this season.  Cincy’s owner/GM Mike Brown has lived up to his much-deserved stubborn and frugal reputation yet again.  Nice work, “Bungles.”  (but he did give in to Ochocinco’s demand to be moved; No. 85 has relocated to New England)

Final note on the QB situation around the league. No. 1 overall pick Cam Newton was inked to $22 million deal by Carolina and will report to camp…already love this new CBA rookie scale since most everyone is signing in a short period of time.

Don’t listen to the mindless banter of the “experts” about who the winners and losers were from the lockout.  As you can see, there’s always a market for quarterbacks, even the most mediocre and banged-up ones.  Hey, at least someone’s finding work in this economy.

Of course, that could all change once concussions and injuries start piling up this fall, but that’s what the Leinarts of the world are for, right?  Never mind.

The icing on the cake?  No matter how mediocre QBs were during their playing days, they can even find ample work as NFL “analysts” and “commentators” post-retirement.  Bristol is filled with them!

I’m starting to have second thoughts about convincing my kid to be a left-handed set-up reliever…

Used with permission of the author.

Chris Lardieri runs the “West Coast View” column for Sports Climax. A veteran to the keyboard, Chris also covers the Los Angeles Dodgers for Examiner.com and has written about Major League Baseball for Inside Edge, a scouting company that provides content to ESPN Insider and Yahoo Sports. Follow Chris on Twitter for more sports observations.

Posted in Features, NFL, Recent Buzz, West Coast View0 Comments

Declare your independence sports fans

As we head into the long Independence Day weekend, thoughts of backyard BBQs, the beach and fireworks certainly come to mind.  We sports fans usually look forward to the half-way point of the MLB season, the opening of NFL training camps around the corner and the beginning of NBA free agency.

Ah, but 2011 is a different year in professional sports.  My at the day job might even deem this a “Black Swan” event of sorts.  Consider the following:

  • The NFL is still in the midst of a lockout that is now nearly four months long, with no immediate end in sight.  True, “pen pals” Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith have been apparently having productive talks as of late, but the “Millionaires vs. Billionaires” dispute rages on.
  • The NBA is on the verge of having their own lockout, as the owners and players are nowhere near an agreement as their CBA is set to expire on Thursday night.  And this one could be even more contentious and long than the NFL’s.
  • The Los Angeles Dodgers, one of the most storied franchises in the history of professional sports, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and is on the verge of being taken over by MLB – thanks in large part to the impending divorce of owners Frank and Jamie McCourt.

And who loses in all this?  You, the fans.

What, you didn’t realize that fans don’t matter in 21st century professional sports?  Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.  When stories about teams and leagues are featured in the likes of CNBC and Bloomberg, it’s all but clear that pro sports is nothing more than big business in this country.

Don’t get me wrong, I love sports and always will.  But this is a different era now and we should view ourselves as consumers, not just fans.  If you get bad service at a retail store or a restaurant, aren’t you more apt to not spend your hard-earned dollars at said establishments?  Think of sports that way – is it worth wasting precious time and money watching a game in which the players and owners would rather not play?  Or buying merchandise of a team that would rather spend more money on lawyers than players or ballpark security?

So what’s a fan to do?  Don’t watch the games.  Don’t buy overpriced tickets or merchandise.  Play fantasy sports (yes, that one especially drives them nuts).  Declare your fan independence!

No, I’m not trying to start a “tea party” movement here.  I’m just showing you a proven truth in a capitalist system: that the consumer can speak volumes by controlling the one thing that everyone covets, your almighty dollar.

But don’t give up on sports altogether.  Try actually playing sports with your friends and family.  (And no, the Wii doesn’t count.)  Go watch a high school, college or minor league sporting event.  The prices are lower, the competition is fiercer and the athletes actually play for the love of the game.  What a concept!

Or do like I have and watch your kids play organized sports.  I’ve gotten more enjoyment out of watching my daughter’s all-star softball tournaments than I have watching any pro event.  And some of her games have been even more compelling and nerve-wracking than any World Series or Super Bowl game I’ve watched.

You’ve been forewarned.  Have a happy and safe 4th.

R.I.P. Jonathan Moncrief

As the great Ferris Bueller once said, “Life moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”  I had a reminder of this earlier this week when I read about the passing of Jonathan Moncrief at age 43 last month.  I was first introduced to Jon when we both covered the Los Angeles Dodgers for Examiner.com last season.  He also covered the Los Angeles Kings for Examiner and co-hosted the great Inside Sports internet and radio show with Charles Smith.  Jon was kind enough to have me on the show twice last year, and I will always be eternally grateful for the opportunity and exposure.  He was also a fellow Jersey native/Springsteen fan and a great guy, and he will be missed.  My condolences go out to his family and Charles.

Used with permission of the author.

Chris Lardieri runs the “West Coast View” column for Sports Climax. A veteran to the keyboard, Chris covered the Los Angeles Dodgers for Examiner.com and has written about Major League Baseball for Inside Edge, a scouting company that provides content to ESPN Insider and Yahoo Sports. Follow Chris on Twitter for more sports observations.

Copyright ©2011 Sports Climax, LLC

Posted in West Coast View0 Comments

Metta World Peace on NBA jersey?

In case you missed it during the numerous “Who’s that guy?” moments of this week’s NBA draft, some important news broke.  It’s not the fact that the Knicks made yet another atrocious first-round draft pick (which is never shocking, nor breaking news).  No, it’s bigger than even that.

Ron Artest is legally changing his name and his name choice is stirring more debate than the “Ochocinco” announcement did in the NFL.

According to TMZ, Artest has filed the necessary paperwork in Los Angeles County Superior Court to change his name from Ronald William Artest Jr. to“Metta World Peace.”  (Note the “personal reasons” text on the court docs). Metta, in case you were wondering, refers to the Buddhist virtue of kindness.  No, I’m not making this up.

According to Lakers spokesman John Black, “My understanding is ‘Metta’ will be his first name and ‘World Peace’ will be his last.”  Say what you will about Ron-Ron, but he’s pretty shrewd when it comes to marketing on the back of one’s jersey.

But the best line of all comes from Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak, who stated, “I’m an advocate for world peace.” Well-played, Mitch – you truly are the antithesis of Brian Cashman.

We shouldn’t be surprised by any of this.  Artest is the same person who:

  • Claimed to witness a fellow player get fatally stabbed on the court with a table leg during a 1991 basketball tournament.  The story was indeed true.
  • As a Pacer in 2004, was suspended for the remainder of the season (86 games) for his part in a brawl with the Pistons that resulted in a near-riot in The Palace of Auburn Hills.
  • Suddenly appeared in the shower after the Lakers lost the 2008 NBA Finals in Boston and lobbied Kobe Bryant for a trade to Los Angeles.
  • Wore jersey number 37 in honor of the number of consecutive weeks that Michael Jackson’s Thriller was the #1 album on the Billboard charts.
  • Auctioned off his 2009-10 NBA championship ring and gave all the proceeds to mental health charities.

I’m marking down August 26th on my calendar so I can go hang out in front of the courthouse to see the man known as Ron Artest one final time − sure to be a historic moment.  And if I’m lucky enough, maybe I’ll even get to see Frank and Jamie McCourt back at their favorite meeting spot for the um-teenth time this year.

All kidding aside, at least Artest is a generous person and has clearly turned his life and career around.  In a league which features the likes of “The Decision,” he’s a breath of fresh air.  He is what he is.

This makes Chad Johnson/Ochocinco’s name change look pedestrian, doesn’t it?  And it gives Lloyd “World” B. Free’s name change a run for its money as the best in NBA history.

But knowing David Stern, don’t be surprised if he suddenly institutes a ban on players’ last names appearing on the backs of their jerseys.  That is, if there even is a season in 2011-12…

Used with permission of the author.

Chris Lardieri runs the “West Coast View” column for Sports Climax. A veteran to the keyboard, Chris also covers the Los Angeles Dodgers for Examiner.com and has written about Major League Baseball for Inside Edge, a scouting company that provides content to ESPN Insider and Yahoo Sports. Follow Chris on Twitter for more sports observations.

Copyright ©2011 Sports Climax, LLC

Posted in Features, NBA, Recent Buzz, West Coast View0 Comments

Highest paid athletes of 2010

This week, Sports Illustrated released its “Fortunate 50” list of the highest-earning U.S. athletes in 2010.

Despite a rough year on both a personal and professional level, Tiger Woods once again tops the list with earnings of $62.3 million.  Fellow golfer Phil Mickelson stayed in second place with $61.2 million, followed by everyone’s favorite “arrogant athlete,” LeBron James with $44.5 million.  Here is a detailed list of the top 10, including a breakdown by income sources.

One might look at this list and ponder who is overpaid/underpaid. Given the current economic environment we live in, combined with the fact that there are a mind-boggling amount of zeros and commas in these figures, I will make a hasty generalization and say that they’re ALL overpaid.

That being said, while the dollar amounts quoted in the list may seem absurdly high, we must remember that athletes have an extremely rare skill and can also be viewed as “entertainers.”  In addition, these figures also pale in comparison to what some top CEOs and hedge fund managers earn annually.

Enough ranting from me.  I submit to you a list of notable tidbits and observations:

  • Golfers make a pretty penny off of endorsements.  Despite his image problems, Woods made a whopping $60 million as a pitchman for the likes of Nike and EA.  Mickelson wasn’t far behind, earning $57 million from Callaway, Rolex and others.  Jim Furyk (#17) also made a nice $9 million in endorsements.
  • Similarly, NASCAR drivers do well with endorsements, with Dale Earnhardt Jr. (#13) earning $22 million and Jeff Gordon making $18 million.
  • Matt Ryan (#8) ranks higher than Tom Brady (#9), thanks to his #32.3 million in salary/earnings.  Huh?
  • Vernon Wells of the Angels is #20 with $23.3 million.  This puts him ahead of the likes of Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Ryan Howard and Albert Pujols.  Thanks, Blue Jays.
  • Mark Sanchez (#38) ahead of Eli Manning (#47).  Zero rings versus one?
  • A.J. Burnett ranked #41, with $16.8 million.  Yankees fans and haters are equally offended by this.

Overall, MLB pitchers and NBA players make a darn good living.  And after spending their nights getting smashed into the boards and dodging 90MPH pucks, not one NHL player makes the list, which may make them “underpaid” compared to the rest.

Here’s a link to the 2009 top paid jocks if you want to compare.

Oh, and I’ll be getting my kids their own sets of golf clubs very soon.

Used with permission of the author.

Chris Lardieri runs the “West Coast View” column for Sports Climax. A veteran to the keyboard, Chris covered the Los Angeles Dodgers for Examiner.com and has written about Major League Baseball for Inside Edge, a scouting company that provides content to ESPN Insider and Yahoo Sports. Follow Chris on Twitter for more sports observations.

Copyright ©2011 Sports Climax, LLC

Posted in Features, Recent Buzz, West Coast View0 Comments

Athletes supporting and slurring gays

Recently, an unlikely topic has emerged in the world of sports.  No, not the usual talk of lawyers, judges, appeals and hearings associated with the NFL lockout.  Instead, a number of recent stories pertaining to gays and sports have hit the headlines, bringing to light a debate that has been going on in society recently.

The first sports-related story with a gay theme was a negative one.  During a game against the San Antonio Spurs on April 12, Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant yelled an anti-gay slur at referee Bennie Adams.  Bryant later released a statement stating that this did not reflect his opinions and “should not be taking literally.” However, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) was not amused, nor was NBA Commissioner David Stern (who later hit Bryant with a $100,000 fine).

On May 7, outspoken New York Rangers forward Sean Avery told the New York Times that he recorded a 30-second video in support of same-sex marriage in New York.   Avery was later criticized for his stance by the likes of hockey agent Todd Reynolds, but had another high-profile athlete joined his camp when Phoenix Suns star Steve Nash recorded his own video supporting legalizing gay marriage in New York.

The Suns also made news on May 15, when team president and chief executive Rick Welts broke his silence and announced that he is gay.  He is the highest-profile sports executive to do so to-date.  Welts did this not only for his sake, but to also be a mentor of sorts to other gay people who want to pursue a career in sports.

And then it all came back full-circle again on Sunday when Chicago Bulls forward Joakim Noah cursed at a heckling “fan” and used – yep, you guessed it – a homophobic slur during Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Miami Heat.  Noah was later fined $50,000 by the league.

It is sometimes said that sports it a microcosm of society, and this “hot button” issue may be a perfect example of that.  People have passionate opinions on both sides of this issue, and I’m not here to judge either.  But I’m here to cover the sports angle, and I feel that in the predominantly-male dominated world of professional sports, don’t expect tolerance to come overnight.  This isn’t the WNBA we’re talking about here.

Last month, my daughter and I were watching an Angels-White Sox game on TV with some friends.  We noticed that all the players were wearing uniform number 42 in honor of the anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in MLB.  My daughter asked me who he was, and I explained his significance.  Since she still seemed confused, my wife and I decided to get her a children’s’ biography about Robinson.  After she read it, she couldn’t believe the way Robinson and other African-American players were treated.  We later talked about how we couldn’t believe that’s how 1940’s America was, and how we’ve come a long way.

After reading the stories listed above, I’m left to wonder, “Will my kids’ kids have the same reaction someday to gay athletes?”

Enough with the serious stuff.  I look forward to getting back to writing about less-controversial issues.  You know, like the ridiculous comments that Ray Lewis made about crime going up if the NFL season is cancelled.  Thanks, Ray!  Pot, meet kettle…

Used with permission of the author.

Chris Lardieri runs the “West Coast View” column for Sports Climax. A veteran to the keyboard, Chris covered the Los Angeles Dodgers for Examiner.com and has written about Major League Baseball for Inside Edge, a scouting company that provides content to ESPN Insider and Yahoo Sports. Follow Chris on Twitter for more sports observations.

Copyright ©2011 Sports Climax, LLC

Posted in Features, Recent Buzz, West Coast View0 Comments

The Yankees’ “Posada-gate”

On Saturday night, I got a call from my brother, who was at the Yankees-Red Sox game.  I figured he would be telling me about something that happened during the game, but to my surprise, he instead informed me that Jorge Posada asked out of the Yankees’ lineup after being dropped to the 9th spot in the batting order by Manager Joe Girardi.

Rumors were now flying on the internet that he was going to announce his retirement after the game.  Don’t you just love the bathroom wall formerly known as Twitter?

I was amused.  Little did I know that a “scandal” was born.

General Manager Brian Cashman held a press conference during the game, admitting that Posada asked out of the lineup an hour before the game, and adding that it was not due to injury.  After the game, Posada contradicted what Cashman said, and attributed his actions to a “stiff back.”

But the New York Daily News reported that when Posada met with Girardi and Cashman before Saturday’s game, he was irate and wanted out of the team altogether.  Posada later apologized to both and retracted what he said, attributing it to being angry.  He then got on-board with the company message and said that he asked out due to back stiffness.

Case closed, right?  Not so fast.

On Sunday, Yankees’ captain Derek Jeter weighed in on the whole controversy to the assembled media and defended Posada − whom he said is “like a brother” to him.  Clearly taking umbrage with the team, he added, “It’s not the first time someone has come out of the lineup, whether it’s something physical or some other reasons.”  Jeter reportedly took part in a conference call with general partner Hal Steinbrenner, team president Randy Levine and Cashman on Monday, and all parties are now allegedly on the same page.

To make matters worse the team was swept by the Red Sox this past weekend, and have now lost six in a row after losing to the Rays last night.

Ouch.  So what has brought it to this point?

The Yankees’ front office, that’s who.  Steinbrenner, Levine and Cashman were all part of a bitter contract negotiation with Jeter this past winter, and he all but admitted that he wasn’t happy with the way the team handled it, particularly with Cashman’s outspoken ways.  And they wonder why some players are resentful?

The three are the same who gave long-term contracts to aging veterans such as Posada A-Rod and the atrocious A.J. Burnett.  However, Cashman does deserve some credit for not wanting to sign Rafael Soriano (who has been a bust so far) Cliff Lee at his $20+ million per year asking price.  But this is an old roster with no starting pitching depth, a shaky bullpen (other than the legendary Mariano Rivera) and AL East rivals that are all younger and hungrier.  In case you never read the book, the “Moneyball” movie is due out later this year, Brian.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have to hand it to Boston and their GM, Theo Epstein.  He has never been afraid to get rid of a player a year too soon, even if they were beloved.  Epstein traded Nomar Garciaparra and Manny Ramirez while they still had value, and let Pedro Martinez and Johnny Damon leave via free agency.  And he refused to offer a long-term contract to Jason Varitek.

No one wants to see an aging star get treated poorly.  But at the same time, no one wants to see them struggle and hang on for too long.  Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Brett Favre come to mind.  And if Posada really wasn’t hurt, his actions were uncalled for sad.

It sure makes Andy Pettite’s retirement this past winter look graceful.  Here’s hoping that Rivera rides off into the sunset in a similar manner.

But if you think this is bad, wait until Jeter’s skills erode even further.  That will be a potential PR nightmare for the Yankees.  Good luck, Girardi.

Are you paying attention, Lakers fans?  This could be your team in a few years.

Used with permission of the author.

Chris Lardieri runs the “West Coast View” column for Sports Climax. A veteran to the keyboard, Chris also covers the Los Angeles Dodgers for Examiner.com and has written about Major League Baseball for Inside Edge, a scouting company that provides content to ESPN Insider and Yahoo Sports. Follow Chris on Twitter for more sports observations.

Copyright ©2011 Sports Climax, LLC

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