Home Depot Has To Be Looking Good Now…

Arthur Blank has to be wondering why he stopped selling paint, dry wall, tools and lawn mowers to the general public to take up the job of owning a football team. Today his franchise quarterback has a date in Federal District Court that will keep him away from training camp and may keep him away from the team for a very long time if things don’t work out well. And today, the Falcons announced that their best running back, Warrick Dunn, had to undergo surgery last weekend on his back to take care of a herniated disk. Last year, the Falcons’ depth chart was Vick and Dunn; now it is Harrington and Norwood. That’s not as bad for Atlanta as the arrival of William Tecumseh Sherman, but it’s not good.

I wonder what the sentiment is in Chicago at the moment given the news that Lance Briggs has signed his one-year contract with the Bears and will report to training camp on time. On one hand, Bears’ fans can see a quality linebacker coming back to the team and to an already strong defense that got the team to the Super Bowl last year. On the other hand, they now have someone in the locker room who is clearly a poser. Lance Briggs swore up and down in myriad radio and TV interviews that he would never play another down for the Chicago Bears and that he was prepared to sit out all season and that he had set aside the money he needed to live and all that stuff. Remember how he and his smarmy agent, Drew Rosenhaus, orchestrated that carnival act? Well, he signed exactly the deal he found so offensive that it foisted that carnival act on all of us. The poor man will have to play this season for only $7.2M in salary. Obviously, he needs a hug…

Two seasons ago, Priest Holmes took a hit that looked as if it could have killed him. He has been out of football since then but now it seems as if those “head and neck trauma” injuries have healed sufficiently that Holmes will be in the Chiefs’ training camp this week. Holmes is 34 years old and has not played football for two years now; this will be an interesting comeback attempt – and there is a touch of irony to it. When the Chiefs drafted Larry Johnson, part of their motivation was to gain some leverage over Priest Holmes in a protracted contract negotiation. Now, Johnson is holding out on the Chiefs and demanding a new contract while Holmes announces his surprising return to the team.

Despite flagging TV ratings in other sports, the NFL juggernaut rolls on. According to reports, sales of advertising slots for NFL games this year are ahead of where they were last year at this time and the networks are able to charge slightly more for those slots this year than last. Supposedly, MNF has sold 70% of its slots already while the other networks have sold just over 60% of their slots. Viewers need not worry about any kind of advertising revolution here that might upset their viewing habits. Beer companies and car manufacturers will once again dominate the ad slots.

The Manchester United Football Club is involved in two situations that have “soap opera” written all over them. The team is trying to acquire an Argentinean player from the West Ham United team. They have agreed to the transfer price but the deal is held up while FIFA sends the case to the international Court of Arbitration for Sport. The issue here is who will get the approximately $60M transfer fee that Manchester United is willing to pay. West Ham United says it should get the money and that would seem to make some sense. But the player’s agent, Kia Joorabchian, asserts that he owns the player’s financial rights and that he – not the player nor the West Ham United team – should get the money. That should be an interesting argument before that tribunal.

Concurrent with its attempt to acquire a player, Manchester United is struggling to find a way to keep one its players from going to a rival club. Gabriel Heinze is a defender on the Manchester team and rival Liverpool has offered $14M to acquire Heinze. Manchester United is fighting to prevent that from happening claiming that there is a clause in Heinze’s contract that forbids him from joining a team that has a legitimate chance to win the championship of the English Premier League. [Yeah, I know; I thought I had misread that item the first time I came across it too.] Obviously, I don’t know if such a clause is in Heinze’s contract; but if it is, I’d have to question why his agent allowed such a clause to get in there in the first place and why Heinze ever signed it. Can you imagine Scott Boras giving a baseball team control over where his client may or may not sign in free agency based on how good the other team is?

By now, you have to know that Barry Bonds’ former paramour, Kimberley Bell, will tell all and bare all for Playboy magazine later this year. Frankly, I don’t care even a little bit about that, but the US Attorneys who continue to pursue Bonds for issues related to the BALCO matter and tax evasion and perjury and whatever can’t be thrilled about this. If they have to call Ms. Bell as a witness, a significant part of the impact of her testimony will rest on her credibility. The defense will likely try to paint her as a bitter and scorned woman who is nothing but a gold-digger. Whether she is or not is irrelevant; the fact that she is getting paid to pose nude for Playboy indicates that she is willing to cash in on her 15 minutes of fame. That cannot help the prosecution.

Oh, by the way, if Kimberley Bell dishes some dirt to Playboy about how Bonds used steroids and/or any other performance enhancing substances, would it be fair to investigate whether or not there were any “image enhancing” substances/procedures involved in her nude photo shoot? Just asking…

The Lowell Spinners are a minor league baseball team in the New York-Penn League. They had a wonderful promotion earlier this week; they had Political Correctness Night. The team promised not to offend anyone on that night. Bases were not going to be identified as first, second or third because that might cause feelings of inferiority in the people seated near third base. Players would be identified in gender-neutral terms such as second-baseperson (I hope he will not feel inferior to the first-baseperson but that’s not so important because he’s a player and not a fan.) And to assure that everyone who participated in the wacky between-innings contests/races/etc felt fulfilled, all contestants received “participation trophies”. Isn’t that just swell…?

Eric Staal plays hockey for the Carolina Hurricanes; his brother Jordan plays for the Pittsburgh Penguins. They were arrested in Minnesota last night on charges of disorderly conduct when things got very loud at Eric Staal’s bachelor party. These are misdemeanor charges of no consequence and I mention it only because it sets up the following …

Finally, here’s an item from Jerry Greene in the Orlando Sentinel:

“Breaking news: The wizards at EA Sports announce Eric Staal will be on the cover of NHL 08. I knew you’d want to know.

“More breaking news: In a news conference today, EA Sports will tell us who Eric Staal is.”

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

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