Yesterday was all about college football; today I will begin with news regarding other levels of football. I learned from reading Gregg Drinnan’ s, Taking Note blog, which you can find here, the CFL plans to have a 2021 season albeit one that is postponed from its normal schedule.
Normally, a CFL season would begin in mid June and run through to a Grey Cup game at the end of November. The coronavirus pandemic shut down the CFL entirely in 2020 putting the entire league in jeopardy economically; but with a recent announcement, it would seem that the CFL has made it through the worst of times. For 2021, the CFL hopes to begin on August 5th – – or 8 weeks later than a normal season kickoff. Training camps will be opening around the time when a normal regular season would be starting, and the idea is for players to report and then go immediately into a 7–10-day quarantine before team activities begin in earnest.
To compensate for the late start, the regular season will be compressed from 18 games to 14 games and the Grey Cup game will be held in mid-December this year. There remains one potential fly in the ointment:
- The CFL still needs approval from public health officials in a variety of local jurisdictions as well as getting approval from provincial and national government and health officials to put on games where there can be enough fans in the stands to make the league economically viable.
A CFL season for 2021 is not guaranteed – – but at least there is a plan for how one might come to pass. Compared to the situation about a year ago, that would have to be categorized as good news…
Last week, I mentioned some NFL rule changes that would be in effect for 2021 – – and presumably beyond. In addition to the rule changes I noted then, there will be a point of emphasis this year to try to limit “taunting” in NFL games. I think that is a good idea and one that could easily have been put forth 5 years ago if not more. I have another “pet-peeve” about modern NFL games that I would like to see as a “point of emphasis” and I wonder what readers here think of the idea:
- I have had it up to my eyebrows with WRs and DBs throwing imaginary pass interference flags on about 50% of pass attempts downfield.
- I think each team – not player, but team – should get one of those pantomimes per game. After that, the act of throwing an imaginary flag is an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
- Put that into effect and coaches will see to it that the “imaginary flag toss” will come out of the game in about 2 weeks.
Enough about football for now; it is April; there needs to be something going on in baseball that deserves attention. About a week ago, MLB umpire, Joe West, won a defamation lawsuit against former major league player Paul LoDuca and West was awarded $500K by the judge. Here is the salient point in this matter:
- LoDuca said on a podcast that he was involved in a game catching relief pitcher Billy Wagner and that West’s calls of balls and strikes in that game was “influenced by bribes” from Wagner to West when Wagner allowed West to drive one or more of Wagner’s antique cars. According to podcast, the game ended with a Wagner strikeout of a Phillies batter called out by West.
As I understand libel and slander and defamation, the truth of the statement is an airtight defense. Lacking the ability to prove the veracity of the statement, another defense when the plaintiff is a “public figure” is that the alleged defamer uttered the statement that cannot be proven to be true with malice. That is a high hurdle, and it is probably why many politicians, celebrities and other “public figures” choose not to sue for slander/libel/defamation.
In this case, the extensive nature of MLB stats was an asset for Joe West. He denied being “bribed” by Billy Wagner (of course) and showed that he was not the home plate umpire in the game against the Phillies where LoDuca claimed all of this happened. There was only one Mets game where West was the home plate umpire, LoDuca was the catcher. In that game the Phillies were not the opponent and the game ended on a home run and not a strikeout by Wagner on a “fortuitous call” by West.
In this particular case, the evidence provided by baseball stats pretty much established that LoDuca’s statement was defamatory. The judge also determined that there was malicious intent in those remarks – – although I am not in a position to describe how he arrived at that conclusion. The judge did say that the statement made by LoDuca on the podcast – if it were true – would have accused West of accepting a bribe which is a crime.
West’s attorneys convinced the judge that West’s name needed to be cleared because with an allegation of bribery hanging over his head, he would likely not be considered for or elected to the Hall of Fame. [Aside: The fact that his lawyers asserted this says to me that the sin of hubris is not a crime that might keep one out of the Hall of Fame…] The attorneys also convinced the judge that there were economic ramifications for West here also. If he were to be in the Hall of Fame, he could charge far more for speaking and appearance fees in his retirement – – which coincidentally is planned for the end of the 2021 MLB season.
The bottom line is that LoDuca owes West ”$500K plus interest” – – I am not sure if the interest is from the time the fine was levied or from the date of filing of the lawsuit or from the date of the alleged bribery incident about 15 years ago. If West’s attorneys are correct that West as a Hall of Famer could charge $20K for a speaking engagement, that means West just got paid for about 25 speaking engagements he did not have to attend.
Finally, here is an item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times from a couple of weeks ago:
“Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com, after Ravens coach John Harbaugh paid the entire $2,000-plus restaurant bill during a Baltimore charity event: ‘Harbaugh covered the spread.’”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………