Grantland Rice was a great American sportswriter of the early 20th century known for his elegant and sweeping prose. He is credited with the line:

“It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.”

The Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) names its annual college football national champion and presents the school with a trophy named for Grantland Rice. Therefore, it is highly fitting that the FWAA has asked USC to return the Grantland Rice Trophy from 2004 when USC won the mythical national championship with Reggie Bush – - and probably others on the squad – - who were not playing the game exactly according to the rules. Nevertheless, once you get beyond that highly appropriate circumstance, the trophy recall demonstrates fecklessness at the highest level.

It is as if the FWAA – - and its members – - are doing this because they were duped into believing that USC had followed all of the NCAA rules and regulations with regard to the 80-or-so members of that 2004 football team and now these folks found out the truth. Excuse me, if you dig deep enough, you will find that every Grantland Rice Trophy winning team since 2004 has skeletons in its closet too – - and so did ones preceding 2004. I do not know who originated this line, but it surely does apply to major college athletics in 99% of the cases:

If you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t competin’. “

The other component of FWAA fecklessness here is that their “Trophy Recall” seeks to re-write history. According to the FWAA version of history, that USC football team in 2004 did not exist. Well, if living in a fantasy world is what makes the football writers who comprise the Football Writers Association of America comfortable and happy, a cynic might suggest to them that they turn in their journalistic credentials. Journalism and fantasy tend not to co-exist well; Google Jayson Blair or Janet Cooke…

In recent months, we have seen situations where current actions seek to right wrongs from the past and yet nothing changes. So, which is the most useless of these recent actions?

    A. USC – or any other college team – forfeiting victories in some prior season.

    B. USC – or any other college team – forfeiting some trophy or award for a bowl win or a Final Four appearance in a prior season.

    C. A referee apologizing for blowing calls in a Super Bowl game in the past.

José Canseco is back in the news. He just signed on to play baseball for the Laredo Broncos in the United League – - one of the independent minor leagues. The league has six teams; all of them are in Texas. In his first plate appearance for the Broncos, Canseco hit a home run. When I first read this, I thought that Canseco might be trying a huge grandstand play here to attempt to get back into MLB despite his history of admitted steroid abuse; I thought he might be challenging the Commissioner to do something to him that he could fight in a public forum to draw attention to himself. I thought this was a “spotlight-grab”.

Then I read that TMZ.com reported that Canseco had been evicted from his home in Southern California and that reminded me that Canseco has had financial problems for a while now. Recall that he tried to sell “The Canseco Experience” where you could pay money to spend a day with him, hang out, and see what it was to be like and live like José Canseco. At that point, I started to think that he found someone who would pay him some money – - not a lot mind you but something – - to do something that he actually can do, play baseball. According to the United League and the Laredo Broncos, Canseco will be a hitting coach, pinch hitter and DH for the team.

I realize that this kind of job is hardly something that will return him to the lifestyle he had as one-half of the Bash Brothers, but it has to be better than for him to try a boxing career…

Speaking of washed-up baseball players who just might have “juiced”, Sammy Sosa evidently is miffed at the Chicago Cubs organization because the Cubbies have not retired his jersey number. [A quick Google search reveals that outfielder, Tyler Colvin, is wearing #21 this season for the Cubs.] Chicago Magazine will report in its September issue that Sosa believes his number should already be retired

“…because of the things that I did for that organization.”

Here are two words that ought to remind the Cubs’ braintrust just why Sammy Sosa’s number should never be retired:

    Corked … bat

As things stand now in MLB, there is the possibility that three teams from the list of the “Ten Lowest Payrolls in MLB for 2010” will make the playoffs. Tampa Bay, Texas and San Diego are in good position with 6 weeks to go.

Meanwhile one of the high payroll teams – - the LA Dodgers – - are on the outside looking in part because their owner(s) are spending tens of millions of dollars on lawyers for their divorce action and on a variety of mansions around the globe. Paraphrasing Grantland Rice from above:

“It is not how much money you spend, but how effectively you spend it…”

Ray Didinger is a writer who covered the NFL for years; as the winner of the Dick McCann Award in the 1990s, he is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a journalist. He wrote a column recently on the abnormally high incidence of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) among NFL players – it is 8 times the national average for that disease. His column should be read in its entirety; it should make you stop and think about what ought to be done to understand the connections here and what might be done to minimize this situation.

Finally, many folks have commented that I have a warped mind – - and I am not sure that I would be able to plead “Not Guilty” to such charges. However, I think that Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot makes a strong case for his ownership of a warped point of view with this comment:

“Idle thought: Brett Favre might not make it through another NFL season, but you know that somewhere, somebody’s dreaming up a production of Favre, The Musical. “

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

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  • Bones  On August 30, 2010 at 11:18 am

    Warped mind? No, not warped. Varies somewhat from the straight and narrow perhaps, but warped? Nah. ;-)

    Welcome back by the way!

  • Ed  On August 30, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    Why not Favre: The Musical ? They are bringing Lombardi to Broadway this year, and Brett played for him…..

  • The Sports Curmudgeon  On August 30, 2010 at 3:05 pm


    A secretary with whom I worked for about 20 years will testify that she thinks my mind is warped. Many of my former colleagues will corroborate her testimony.

    Glad to be back…


    Actually, Brett played in college along with the Four Horsemen – - also immortalized by Grantland Rice.

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