The Final Mess In Waco?

While I was gone, the Baylor football program entered and executed self-destruct mode. The idea that winning football games was sufficiently important so as to justify the covering up of sexual assaults by players who would make said winning of football games more likely is unspeakably horrendous. Sadly, that seems to have been the case at Baylor. I feel no sorrow for the coach, the athletic director or the university president who all took a hit in this matter; all that happened to them was to lose a job or to have their range of authorities circumscribed as a result of this matter. To my mind, that is a small price for them to pay.

As scurrilous as this recent situation was, there is a historical piece to this which – believe it or not – makes this only the second worst scandal in Baylor athletics. Back in 2003, the Baylor basketball coach was Dave Bliss. The short version of the Dave Bliss saga is:

    Bliss had a kid transfer to Baylor when there was no scholarship for him but he arranged for the tuition to be paid ‘under the table’.

    The kid was found shot to death – it turns out a teammate was found guilty of that act sometime in the future.

    To cover up the “under the table payments”, Bliss orchestrated a cover story that the victim was dealing drugs and that the shooting was drug-related.

    An assistant coach secretly taped one of the coaches’ staff meetings that detailed how the cover-up/stonewalling would work and it all unraveled.

Back in August 2003, I wrote about the situation at Baylor as it was unfolding. Lest you think that I am exaggerating what I thought of Dave Bliss back then as a way to minimize any criticism of the current miscreants at Baylor, here is one paragraph from my rant then:

“I will not reserve any judgment on Dave Bliss. I have to admit that I never thought that I would be alive long enough to say that Jerry Tarkanian needs to haul his ass out of the bull’s eye that is reserved for the lightning bolt that I want to hit the all of the sleazy coaches in collegiate athletics. Until last weekend, Tark had been in that spot so long that I thought his feet would have taken root in the bull’s eye. Tark is antediluvian pond slime; Dave Bliss would need about a billion years to evolve up the biological ladder to reach that lofty status.”

Perhaps the recent football mess at Baylor completes the Devils’ Trifecta of three horrible things to happen in Waco Texas.

    1993: Branch Davidian siege and raid
    2003: Dave Bliss
    2016: Art Briles and company

Bob Molinaro had this comment on the Baylor football mess in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot. I think he hits the nail squarely on the head:

“Dumbfounding: The saddest commentary on Art Briles’ dismissal is that, despite the report detailing violent incidents and sexual assaults by Baylor football players, what people find most astonishing is that the university actually held a wildly successful coach accountable for what took place off the field. People are surprised by Briles’ firing because we’re conditioned to assume the worst from big-time football. Our colleges are to blame for that, but so are fans and media that buy into it.”

Back before I left, Mets’ pitcher, Noah Syndergaard hit two home runs in a game. Partly because he plays in New York, that was given a lot of attention; but indeed, that is not a common happenstance for pitchers. I would like, however, to do another historical perspective bit here and mention a game back in 1971. The pitcher was Rick Wise and he played for a bad Phillies team that finished last in the NL East winning only 67 games. That year, the Phillies played the Cincy Reds 12 times and won only 2 of those games. One of those wins was a no-hitter by Rick Wise AND in the same game, Wise also hit 2 home runs.

The Reds that year won 79 games; they were not yet the Big Red Machine but you may recognize some of the names that were in the lineup on the day of Wise’s no-hit game:

    Pete Rose
    George Foster
    Lee May
    Johnny Bench
    Tony Perez
    Hal McRae
    Tommy Helms
    Dave Concepcion
    Ross Grimsley

Two other tidbits related to Rick Wise and the 1971 season:

    In that same 1971 season, Rick Wise also hit 2 home runs in a game against the SF Giants.

    Rick Wise is probably most remembered for being traded at the end of the 1971 season from the Phillies to the Cardinals even-up for Steve Carlton. Wise was better than average major league pitcher; Carlton was a Hall of Fame pitcher. The trade happened because Carlton and the Cardinals’ management got locked into a salary hassle that resulted in the trade.

Finally, since I cited a comment from Bob Molinaro above, let me close with another of his observations:

“Word play: It would make perfect sense for the 76ers to use their lottery pick on Ben Simmons. An Aussie is the right fit for a team that has spent so much time down under.”

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

Why Continue The Olympics…?

I recall an adage that says we should always celebrate things that come to an end because that gives us the opportunity to start things anew. Well, I am back from our journeys and ready to resume ranting here – at least until our next scheduled travel adventures. Moreover, I return to the keyboard with a sense of affirmation and I shall bask in that feeling for today.

Back in March 2007, I wrote that it was time to “shut down the Olympics”. Here is how I began that rant:

“Ladies and gentlemen, the time has come to shut down the Olympics. I’m not talking about anything that is partial or temporizing. I mean it is time to cancel, negate, nullify, stop, cease and desist any, all, each and every activity that has to do with the Olympics. And the time to do it is now.

“They were shut down for a couple thousand years and civilization managed to march forward somehow. Then the Olympics were resuscitated and civilization continued to move forward. No big difference here. Therefore, since the Olympics have become nothing more than a scandal ridden set of events run by a bunch of preening snobs whose only interest is self-interest, I say it is time to call another halt in the Olympics for another 2000 years.”

Then, in April 2008, I wrote that it was time for the Olympics simply to go away. Here is how I concluded that rant:

“So let me get to the bottom line here. The games have been turned into a medley of events where most of the events don’t belong there in the first place; the athletes are merely a bunch of self-indulgent employees of some sponsor; the people organizing the games are about as noble as gun-runners; the television coverage is overdone and cloyingly sweet and pseudo-poignant. And they wonder why the TV ratings were lower this year when these events were on an 18-hour tape delay than they were in Atlanta when they were live. If you can’t see why, then you are suffering from rectal blindness.”

I have also suggested on more than a few occasions that the purported economic “benefits” of hosting Olympic games are more a mirage than reality. As much as I like sports, the Olympics make no sense in the world of 2016. So, how does this provide me with a glow of affirmation?

As I was on hiatus, the Washington Post published two columns by very responsible regular contributors to their Op-Ed page saying that my suggestions from 8 or 9 years ago are not so outrageous – and in fact ought to be given serious consideration.

Charles Lane’s column minces no words; it follows a headline that reads:

    “Stop the Olympics”

If you compare Mr Lane’s objections to the Olympics to my commentary from before, you will find that we agree on most points and that he has added more reasons to halt the games that occurred in the years between 2007/08 and the present. He points out specifically that prosecutors in France are currently investigating allegations that the IOC awarding of the 2020 Summer Games to Tokyo involved “payoffs” – or as we called them in the neighborhood where I grew up. “bribes” and/or “extortion”.

With regard to the impending Summer Games in Rio about 2 months hence, here is what he has to say:

“In Brazil, where the 2016 Summer Olympics are supposed to begin Aug. 5, police and prosecutors have found evidence that Olympics-related infrastructure development became a font of payoffs and kickbacks. Potentially involved are some of the politicians implicated in the wider corruption scandal that has destabilized the Brazilian government, at precisely the moment it should have been devoting full attention to the security and efficiency of the Games.

“In response, IOC officials spout indignant rhetoric and issue earnest threats against wrongdoers, just as they have on what seem like a million previous occasions.”

Basically, the Olympics have become a haven for despotic governments, doped athletes and bribery/extortion all of which are supported on the backs of taxpayers in host countries.

Oh, but it gets even worse…

Robert Samuelson regularly writes for the Post’s Op-Ed page on economic matters. He wrote recently a scathing piece that obliterates any of the arm-waving inspirational pleadings regarding how the Olympics provide huge economic benefits for the host city/country. Let me give you just a flavor of some of the data he cites in his piece:

    2008 Beijing Summer Games Costs = $45B

    2010 Vancouver Winter Games Costs = $7.56B Revenues – $1.58B

    2012 London Summer Games Costs = $11.4B Revenues = $3.27B

    2014 Sochi Winter Games Costs = $51B

    2016 Rio Summer Games Costs sure to exceed $10B

Moreover, he cites research that says the Olympics can cost a host city/country tourism dollars. He points out that in 2012, Great Britain suffered a 6% drop in tourism in the year that they hosted the Olympic Games. The fact is that lots of people go elsewhere to avoid crowds.

Now, if you take one item from Robert Samuelson’s piece and juxtapose it with one item from Charles Lane’s piece you get the following:

[From Samuelson] “After 9/11, security costs also soared. In 2000, they were $250 million for the summer Sydney Games; by the 2004 Athens Games, they had climbed to $1.6 billion and have stayed near that figure.”

[From Lane] “In the words of the Olympic Charter:

    ‘The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.’”

So, how successful can the Olympics be in promoting a harmonious development of humankind and in promoting a peaceful society if folks have to spend $1.6B every 4 years just to try to keep the games from blowing up like a Roman candle?

It is time for the Olympics – Summer Games and Winter Games – to go on hiatus as I just was. The difference is that I was gone for about 3 weeks; the Olympics need to be gone for something around 3 centuries.

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