4/4/07 – Roger Goodell Should Heed Davy Crockett’s Advice – Be Sure You’re Right, Then Go Ahead

Roger Goodell met with Chris Henry and Pacman Jones yesterday at NFL HQS in NYC. I have to admit that in one of the dark recesses of my being I was rooting for one or both of these guys to miss the meeting because they had been arrested on their way to the meeting. Too bad… I don’t think that any regular reader of these rants would put me in the category of a “softie” or a “bleeding heart” when it comes to anti-social behaviors by athletes. Nevertheless, I think Roger Goodell needs to be cautious when handing out severe punishments to players outside the legal processes of the courts. Yes, there need be sanctions for miscreant behaviors; and just as surely, there need be confidence in the commissioner’s knowledge of the facts when he levies the sanctions.

My word of caution for Commissioner Goodell comes from the travesty of the Duke Lacrosse Fiasco. I don’t think any parent would want to send their kid off to college to prepare for law school just so they can become “the next Michael Nifong”. The faculty Senate at Duke University condemned the entire lacrosse team early on in the feeding frenzy that happened in Durham; I haven’t yet heard any of those folks issue a similarly public and solemn apology. How about the actions and inactions of the Athletic Director and the Administration at Duke? Those folks better hope no one in the History Department at Duke sets out to a time-lime of all their actions/inactions as the matter unfolded. All I’m saying is that Roger Goodell needs to wield his newfound powers carefully and with a solid foundation of facts.

I offer this cautionary note because there is a report that Bucs’ running back Lionel Gates was arrested and charged with criminal mischief, burglary of an occupied dwelling and – hold on to your hat here – assault on a pregnant woman. Allegedly, Gates and the woman previously dated and there was some dispute about the parentage of the child she was carrying. Assault on a pregnant woman is pretty low on the scale of civilized behavior – as were the allegations in the Duke Lacrosse Fiasco. But before the commish hands down any significant penalties here, he needs to know that the bases of the charges have a bit more solidarity than bases of the charges originally filed in Durham had. After the commish does some “due diligence” here to understand what went down that evening, then he should drop the hammer on this miscreant if there is enough reason to believe he should be punished in the workplace even if not by the judiciary.

By the way, if I’ve read Gates’ stats correctly he has been with two teams in the NFL (Bills and Bucs) for two seasons and has yet to carry the ball or catch a pass or even appear in a game. Not being an attorney, I’m not sure about this but it would appear he now has two felony counts and a misdemeanor count going against him. For the record, it is not a good thing to have more felony charges against you than you have “games played in” on your stat sheet.

In another bit of off-the-field news relative to the NFL, Joe Buck will no longer host the FOX pregame show; he and Troy Aikman will be the lead announcing team for FOX broadcasts next year. According to reports, FOX gave Buck his choice of assignments and Buck chose the booth over the studio. That was the right choice for two reasons:

    1. Buck and Aikman are a superb announcing team. They are both young and have an opportunity to be the best in the business for a LONG time.

    2. FOX obviously wouldn’t give him a whip and chair to give him a fighting chance to control the menagerie that comprises the “studio show team”.

Curt Menafee will assume the studio host duties next year and all the shows will originate in LA. Come to think of it, that’s another positive outcome from Buck’s decision; they won’t have to drag the pregame show around the country week after week and suffer the nonsense of having goofball fans screaming and waving in the background.

    Memo to TV Execs Everywhere: Having fans in varying states of inebriation waving, screaming and holding up signs in the background while you are trying to put “entertainment” on the air doesn’t work. It’s annoying at its very best.

I admit that I’m not a Wall Street Whiz or business maven; one quick look at my personal balance sheet will convince anyone of that fact. But there is something about the supposed sale of the Chicago Cubs that I do not understand. According to the way I read the reports, the guy who plans to buy The Tribune Company plans to sell the Cubs and hopes to get something north of $600M for the team. But, Wrigley Field is not part of the sale price so the new Cubs owner will have to pay lease costs for a place to play. And the Tribune Company stake in the local joint venture with Comcast for cable rights to Cubs’ games will be sold separately – and there is an existing deal for the Cable rights in place. And it’s not yet clear that he wants to sell WGN radio and TV stations that cover Cubs games “over the air” – and there are existing deals for the “over the air” broadcast rights in place. So, cans someone explain to me why is the team is worth anything near $600M without a place to play and control over their broadcast/telecast rights? I must be missing something here…

I mentioned yesterday that the Washington Nationals have the opportunity to be epically awful this year. During spring training, their GM, Jim Bowden, described their pitching staff as “a work in progress”. Dan Daly of the Washington Times said that this particular work in progress reminded him of the Venus de Milo – - no arms. In the first two games of this year, the Nats’ pitchers have given up 9 runs in each game. I know there’s a long way to go from here, but that is a somber omen indeed.

The Big South Conference consists of schools in the Virginia/Carolina area such as Liberty, Winthrop, Radford, UNC-Asheville and Coastal Carolina. I’m sure I’ve left out some schools but you get the idea. For the 2008 season, they will add a new school to the mix for football. That team will be SUNY – Stony Brook. In case you don’t know what “SUNY” stands for, it stands for State University of New York. In case you slept through geography classes in school, New York is not adjacent to Virginia and the Carolinas. Obviously, the attraction here is the myriad natural rivalries that exist among all these schools, right?

Finally, Greg Cote of the Miami Herald cleared up some stats for me recently and I thought I’d share his clarification with you in case you too were confused:

“NFL statisticians say new Dolphin Joey Porter is one of only a handful of players with at least five sacks in the past seven seasons. Our own research indicates Porter is the only active player who has taken a bullet to the buttocks in a drive-by shooting; been two hours late for his own wedding related to being detained by police; and had two of his dogs kill a miniature horse.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…

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