I am back from my visit to Dublin to see family there and back to a land where the sporting landscape extends beyond futbol and rugby. In case you have forgotten a significant portion of your World History class from high school, the English and the Irish peoples have had their “differences” in the past. Every once in a while, those “differences” led to confrontations that were far beyond verbal exchanges. Well, you might have a hard time recalling those times if you merely surveyed the folks in Dublin pubs watching sports these days. THE focus is on the English Premier League – the UAEFA Champions League games are relegated to the small screens over on the side walls of the pubs and usually have about 2 people watching them.
In the part of Dublin where we spent most of our time, it would seem that Liverpool and Manchester United have the largest following – although there were some folks sporting Chelsea gear walking about too. Last weekend, Manchester United beat Manchester City opening a door for Liverpool to gain ground on Man City in “the table” – or the standings as we might call it. When Liverpool won its game last weekend that put Liverpool in 5th place in the table only 4 points behind Man City in fourth place. Why might that be a vital issue that would cause Liverpool fans to approach a state of euphoria?
The top four teams at the end of this season get to play in the European Champions League next year; the fifth place team is not invited.
With 6 games left to play this year, there is only a 12-point span between second place in the table (currently Arsenal) and seventh place in the table (currently Tottenham). It looks like there will be plenty of reasons for the Dubliners who follow the Premier League to get themselves to pubs to watch games between now and end of May.
Catching up on other stuff – in no particular order other than the order in which they come to mind:
1. I am a bit surprised at the Aaron Hernandez verdict. I am not surprised because I think Hernandez is innocent; I am surprised that his legal team could not get at least a hung jury. While Hernandez’ actions do not enhance the image of the NFL in any way, there is some solace here for the league and for the union that his punishment will be handled by a party other than one constrained by the details of the current CBA.
2. Some folks have cited Hernandez as proof that the Patriots’ touting of “The Patriot Way” for building a team that win on the field and builds character in its players as poppycock. Actually, I believe the Hernandez case demonstrates the value of “The Patriot Way”. When the team learned of the arrest and the charges and some of the evidence early on, the Patriots did not take the passive route and say that Hernandez was “one of them” until the legal process played itself out; rather, the Patriots released him and disassociated themselves from him.
3. A former NFL player whose anti-social credentials are well-known made the news again last week. Lawrence Phillips is suspected of killing his cellmate in a California prison. Phillips is serving about 30 years in prison; among his prior malevolent behaviors, he was convicted of choking his girlfriend on at least two different occasions and then he drove his car into a group of kids in the aftermath of a pickup football game. Make no mistake, Lawrence Phillips is not a great humanitarian. In this case, the deceased cellmate is a person serving a sentence of “82 years to life” for first degree murder. It is not easy to pick a side here to root for…
4. Three freshman players from Duke’s championship team have declared themselves eligible for the NBA Draft later this year. I have already said that I believe Jahlil Okafor should stay in college at least one more year to learn to play much better defense and to rebound in traffic. I love Justise Winslow’s game and I think it meshes with the NBA game better than any of the other duke players. Put simply, I really do not know what to think about Tyus Jones. His speed and his quickness are “NBA-ready”; his passing is very good but his shooting is sporadic and I seriously doubt that he can now defend against a real NBA point guard. All will go in the draft in the first 15-20 picks. I believe that only Winslow will have a serious impact next year on the team that takes him.
The NFL has “cleared” Adrian Peterson to play in the league once again; according to reports, Roger Goodell sent Peterson a letter informing him of his reinstatement to the league with two conditions attached. Peterson reached a plea deal in his trial in Texas involving child abuse that reduced the charges from a felony to a misdemeanor. In return for that reduction in charges, the court said that Peterson had to fulfill certain obligations; Goodell informed Peterson that his reinstatement to the league was contingent on Peterson continuing to follow those court-ordered directives. In addition, Goodell notified Peterson of the new NFL policies on personal conduct making it clear – at least to me – that if Peterson violates any of those policies he will be back on the “not welcome here list”.
Peterson’s agent has said that Peterson does not want to play for the Vikings anymore and wants to be traded. That is nice; but frankly, I have heard that song sung too many times before to bother myself with it for more than a nanosecond. Recall that Bears’ linebacker, Lance Briggs once held out and swore he would never again play in a Bears’ uniform – and then proceeded to play there for about the next 5 or 6 years. When the agent states – as he surely will at some time – that this is “not about the money”, here is what he means:
It is not about the money – until of course playing in Minnesota is the only place where there is any money for playing football. If it comes down to “money here” or “no money somewhere else”, we will choose “money here”.
Finally, Greg Cote explained this piece of sports history in the Miami Herald recently:
“By the way, ever wonder how the tradition of cutting down the nets began in basketball? Turns out it was started by the American Association of People Who Sell Basketball Nets.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………