Trapper On Sport

My three cents on sport, its players, its fans, its magic, its follies, and it's impact on our lives.

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Location: Huntingdon, Great Britain, originally Evensville, Tennessee

Ever go to a sports website or see a TV show about sports and wonder why they don't talk like real guys? They try but end up being just a bunch of washed up celebrities laughing at each others joke. I'm here to try and change that and give you a different perspective on the world of sports.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

OH, THE HUMANITY

A couple of days ago Detroit Red Wings defenseman Jiri Fischer, collapsed on the bench during the first period of Detroit’s game with the Nashville Predators, he went into a seizure, and actually had his heart stop for a short period. He received CPR from team doctors and was rushed to a local hospital. The cause of the seizure is unknown, but he is doing fine now. That’s great to hear, but it’s not the best part of the story in my opinion.

The truly interesting part of the story is how the NHL, the teams and the fans reacted. Hockey IS a violent game. With all of the hard hits, and break-neck speed at which it’s played it’s no wonder when players get injured, nor is it a surprise when a player decides to go psycho and purposely try to hurt or injure another player. Occasionally these guys will even drop their gloves and do an impression of Hagler vs. Hearns. In fact all of this is to be expected, not necessarily condoned, but expected. It’s like the old saying about two guys going to a fight, and a hockey game broke out, we’re used to it being violent

But never before has a hockey game been postponed due to player injury. Players have broken bones, fractured necks and spines, been concussed (yes it’s a word before you ask), and been knocked unconscious, but the game was never delayed much longer than it took to get them off the ice, even though some of those players could have died. But the other night was different, the league, Fischer’s Detroit teammates, and players from Nashville some who play with him on the Czech national team, refused to let the game go on. The league felt it was inappropriate to continue and the players were too shaken to be able to play on, so the game was postponed, and not one fan protested. In the past the league would have kept the game going, probably because of revenue, the fans would have yelled for the players to suck it up and keep playing, and the players would have done it.

Hockey has changed. It’s refreshing to see a league, players, and more importantly the fans realize that sports aren’t the most important thing. A man’s life was in danger, and everyone at the Joe Louis Arena rose to the occasion and did whatever they could to put his safety, the welfare of his family, and the overall well being of the players and the game ahead of their lust for sport and competition. Even after the game was postponed and the teams had left the ice, thousands of fans stayed in their seats waiting on any news of Jiri Fischer’s condition. No yelling, no obscenities, to crass jackasses howling “GAME ON”. Instead they all put it in perspective, and not one sports writer, analyst, fan, or man on the street has criticized them for it, thankfully. In fact the actions of the league, players and fans have been universally hailed as an example of how things ought to be.

This is a good example of how things are changing, it may be slowly but it’s changing, for the better. People are starting to put things in perspective. Who would have thought Hockey of all sports would be leading the way. Think the NFL would do the same, I seriously doubt it, they didn't even stop the game a few years ago when Mike Utley broke his neck in a game, and he also played for a Detroit team. How's that for irony?

In the age of “look at me” players, commercialization on an obscene scale, and faceless corporate bottom line mentalities, it’s great to see the humanity put back in sports. Too often we look at our heroes on the field,rink,court or track and think of them as demi-gods in the manner of Hercules. We forget that not only are these great athletes, but they’re also people, just as frail and with the same basic needs, worries and concerns as the rest of us. And like as R.E.M is fond of singing…EVERYBODY HURTS.

Something we all need to remember.

There's my three cents...how about we raise a toast and wish Jiri a speedy recovery

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

HAS THE HEISMAN LOST ITS LUSTER?

As the college football season gets closer to the end talk of the Heisman trophy is inevitable. Sports bars, break rooms, and cubicles are awash in chit chat over who will win it. Like we don’t already know. The problem with the Heisman these days is that there’s no surprise anymore. Even though the winner is not announced until December he’s usually picked as early as August. No its not the actually official voters who pick him, oh no, it’s the TV networks and their so-called unbiased announcers, commentators, and “experts”

I’ve always felt it was an over-rated award, because even though it says it goes to the best PLAYER, it actually goes to the best Quarterback, Running Back, and maybe a Receiver. If you’re a defensive player, lineman, etc…as the boys from Joysie would say…FUHGEDDABOUTIT. By the way, that’s New Jersey for anyone from Texas reading this.

These days all it takes to win the coveted Heisman is good coverage and hype by the large networks, and by large networks I mean ESPN and ABC. I’ve said in previous postings that ESPN were biased and I stand by it. In baseball it’s pretty obvious that they have a northeastern biased, in College Football, it’s the BIG TEN, BIG XII and PAC-10 (along with a couple of select Florida schools that aren’t in Gainesville). They continually hype, or should I say over hype Heisman candidates from those conferences, and they’ve been doing it for years.

Players from the mentioned conferences and schools seem to get an unfair advantage when it comes to hype. ESPN and ABC commentators and producers will try and usually succeed in driving their choice down the throats of the fans and Heisman voters. They show replay after replay of their favorite while showing only a token glimpse of candidates not from the aforementioned conferences or schools. This year they’ve even taken to highlighting their choice, Reggie Bush of USC, every play he’s on the field, talking about him as if he were the only player alive, and brushing any other candidates aside (regardless of their numbers or achievements). You’d have had to be living in a cave to not know who’s going to win it, but I’d wager even Osama and his crew could tell you the “lucky” guy.

This is not to bash Reggie Bush, far from it, I think he is a great player…just over hyped. But then, most of the recent winners have been also. Gino Toretta over Marshall Faulk or Garrison Hearst, yeah, how’s Gino’s pro career doing these days compared to those other two losers? Or Charles Woodson instead of Peyton Manning, don’t get me wrong, I like that a defensive guy got consideration, BUT COME ON!! He won it because of one over hyped game against Ohio State, and it was Peyton freakin’ Manning. How about Eric Crouch over anyone else to be honest. And Chris Weinke….really?

The voters can’t be blamed too much since ESPN (which is owned by ABC) pretty much has a monopoly on sports commentary and highlight shows, at least ones dealing with College football. And since most voters can see every game or every candidate, they have to rely on Sports Center or Game Day for their information. And since those shows belong to networks with an agenda they get blitzed with whichever BIG 10, BIG XII, PAC-10, Florida State or Miami player that’s been deemed “special” that year. Coincidence that they have HUGE TV deals with those conferences (and the ACC which FSU and Miami belong to)?

While the Heisman has always been questionable about going to the best player, it’s sad that it’s been unofficially renamed from the Award for Best Player to:

the “Best Player, and by Best Player we mean Best Running Back, Quarterback or Receiver, and by Best Running Back, Quarterback or Receiver, we mean Best Running Back, Quarterback or Receiver from a Top School in a Top Conference, and by Best Running Back, Quarterback or Receiver from a Top School in a Top Conference we mean no matter how good you are or how valuable you are to your team if you’re not from a Top School in a Conference we have a TV deal with then don’t even bother to dream of winning it” Award

That’s my three cents

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

IS IT GREEDY TO ASK FOR MORE?

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has been getting a lot of stick lately because he’s asking for more. Yeah sounds like the typical spoiled overpaid athlete we’ve grown used to. But Brady isn’t asking for money, more credit, or more exposure like most of his peers. No, Tom is asking himself “is there more to life than football?”

Despite his triumphs on the field, Super Bowl rings, MVP awards, endorsements, etc, Brady has shown, at least to me, that there’s more to him than a strong arm and a GQ smile. He’s done just about everything a player can do, has fame and fortune, but still thinks it’s not enough.

Brady has been blasted by fans, reporters, and just guys in general for acting blasé about his success. Most guys would kill to be in his position; looks, fame, money, all the trappings that go with being a superstar. They say he’s whining, that he should count his blessings, that he’s ungrateful, that men the world over would love to be him for just a day. They yell at him saying “you’ve got it all, shut up and enjoy it”

They just don’t get it

Tom Brady has never said he’s ungrateful for everything life’s given him. He’s never said he didn’t enjoy everything that’s happened to him both on and off the field. Oh contraire mon freres. He’s always been the first to admit he’s been lucky, and that he has enjoyed it all. He’s been the perfect example of how a professional athlete should act. When he was winning MVPs and Super Bowls, you didn’t see him running around saying “look at me” or “look what I did” or any other sort of conceited trash talking, even though if anyone deserved to, he did.

All Brady is doing now is showing people that he’s more than just a dumb jock with a killer smile. That he has other interests besides football. He simply asked the question “is there something more to life?” He may not know what he’s looking for but at least he knows he should look.

We spend our lives telling each other, our friends, our teammates, our children that “it’s just a game” that there’s more to life than sports, and to keep everything in perspective. And now that one of our heroes has actually said it, is actually living by that credo, he’s being ridiculed, called an ingrate, and a selfish prick.

But the idiotic jackasses that say anything of the sort need to take their pea brained heads out of their collective asses, and stop living vicariously through others. They should stop being jealous of what others have, be it fame, fortune, women, good looks, whatever, and start making something better for themselves.

Tom Brady should be commended for asking “is there more”; we should all ask ourselves that more often. We should never be satisfied, and always strive for something more, something better, if our ancestors hadn’t, we’d still be living in caves. And most importantly, we should always remind ourselves….Its just a game.

Thats my three cents...tonight when you crack open that cold one, instead of reaching for the Sports page, try a little Hemingway

Friday, November 04, 2005

FRENCH RESISTANCE

Well folks, the escargot has hit the fan. Tour de France director Jean-Marie LeBlanc has taken his latest opportunity to make cheap pot shots at seven time Tour winner Lance Armstrong. LeBlanc has said that the 2006 Tour will be better now that Armstrong has retired and won’t be riding in it. He’s also taken the chance to cast shadows over Lance’s character and accomplishments as the Tour’s greatest champion. Yes I said he’s the Tour’s greatest champion, not cycling’s, that honor goes to the incomparable Eddie Merckx even Lance says so. But Eddie never won the Tour seven times on the bounce, and he didn’t have to battle cancer.

LeBlanc, and almost every other French cycling official and sports writer have all tried, and failed in my opinion, to discredit Armstrong’s illustrious accomplishments by saying he used performance enhancing drugs like EPO. They’ve allegedly found a seven year old frozen sample from him that tested positive for EPO. Now let me see if I get this straight. Lance Armstrong has won the Tour de France seven times, when it comes to drug testing he’s the most tested human in history, not once did he test positive for any kinds of drugs (other than the ones for his cancer treatment), and he gets nothing but the utmost respect and admiration from his fellow cyclists including arch-rival Jan Ullrich. Yet now these guys have stooped to claiming they have a seven year old piece of frozen piss that belongs to Armstrong and contains EPO.

SACRE BLEU!!! Le Americain cheated!! I say SACRE blow me!!

This is an obvious and pathetic example of anti-Americanism. Now I’m not here to wave the flag and play “Stars and Bars”, but I find it nauseating that anyone would try to belittle great athletes and their accomplishments solely because of his or her nationality. And that’s what’s happening pure and simple. How do I know? Look at the hypocrisy.

Richard Virenque, French, caught using performance drugs, was banned for a while from cycling, is considered a national hero in France and is a huge fan favorite.

Gilberto Simoni, Italian, caught using performance drugs, was banned for a while from cycling, is considered a national hero in Italy, and is a huge favorite in France

Marco Pantani, Italian, deceased, one of the greatest of his generation, caught using performance drugs, was banned for a while from cycling, had a heart attack due to illegal narcotics as well as performance drugs, is considered a national hero in Italy, and is a huge favorite in France, and was almost an adopted son there.

The list can go on and on. The point is the double standard, and Lance, like all Americans are still considered outsiders in any and all “European” sports. Similar thing happened to Greg Lemond when he won the Tour three times. Even though his fellow riders loved him, and he changed the way cyclists were treated and paid, he was never accepted by the French fans and officials, they tried to downplay his three wins, and only stopped when Lance came back on the scene after his battle with cancer.

The French continue to resist the fact that Americans can not only compete but dominate cycling. No doubt there were champagne corks bursting and frog legs popping in the pan when Armstrong announced his retirement. They’d no longer have to see their greatest event renamed the Tour de LANCE, and see him leaving their preferred riders in his wake. But watch out Marcel, there are more of us coming thanks to Lance, his popularity brought new interest to the sport back home, and more and more young athletes are trying to “be like Lance”. In fact they’re taking to it like a pack of dogs on a three legged cat.

Pierre, Jacques, you should be ashamed. One of the greatest athletes in history has graced us, and you’re trying to tarnish it because of petty xenophobia. Shame, shame, shame. Lafayette would not be proud.

That’s my three cents

Thursday, November 03, 2005

HAS THE CLASSIC FALLEN?

The Fall Classic, better know as the World Series, has taken a bit of beating in the TV ratings lately. To be more specific, this year’s Series was the lowest rated ever. Now journalists, reporters and pundits will blame it on the fact that no one in America wanted to watch the White Sox (Second City's Second team my ass) take on the Astros. To hear them tell it, nobody outside of Houston or Chicago’s South Side even paid attention.

They say people aren’t interested in seeing “no-name” teams play, that fans only want to see the Big Boys play (read the Yankees, or Red Sox). In fact some like Tony Kornheiser from “Pardon the Interruption” (Tony, if you by chance read this, know that I love ya, but I have to pick on you) will have you believe that no one wants to watch anyone but the Yankees and that they are the only team that plays baseball. And with ESPN, short for Eastern Seaboard Programming Network or at least it seems, constantly showing their eastern, specifically north-eastern biased, you wouldn’t be blamed for believing it. But as was quickly pointed out by several who believe otherwise, the recent Yankees-Mets, and Yankees-Marlins World Series are the 2nd and 3rd lowest rated Series in history. Proving that it’s not the lack of pin-striped players that is causing folks to switch off. In truth, most people are glad it wasn’t the same old teams.

Some will point to the Yankees-Red Sox playoff series last year and say “look at the ratings, highest in history, blah, blah, blah”. Of course people watched the Yanks-BoSox play, but not because they're the best or the only teams that matter. They watch it for the same reason they watch Notre Dame-USC, the Red Wings-Avalanche, Shaq-Kobe, Liverpool-Manchester United, etc. BECAUSE IT”S RIVALRY GAME

The obvious answer (at least to me) is the timing of the games. What else happens every fall in America (beside another freaking over-hyped Reality Show to suffer through)? Yep, Football, America’s other pastime. Games 1 and 2 of the World Series were played on a Saturday and Sunday respectively, which coincides with NCAA and NFL football. In addition the games were on Prime Time which is typically when the best College and Pro Football Games are on (not to mention every USC game)

Does this mean Americans now favor football over baseball? Is our beloved pastime in danger? The answer is no, more people do not prefer football to baseball, but the amount that do is enough to shift the balance, at least in TV ratings anyway. I think were going to have to get used to the fact that Baseball has some competition now. But it will always be first in our hearts, because it's our game, the American game.

And remember what Terrence Mann said in “Field of Dreams”

“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself

That’s my Three Cents

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

SAINTS GO MARCHING OUT? Not exactly

From the “who the hell does he think he is” department.

New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson wants to move the Saints out of the Crescent City. At a time when N’Awrlans is at it’s lowest (no pun intended), Benson is trying to take advantage of the situation left by Hurricane Katrina, thus taking on the mantle of the country’s biggest Rat Bastard.

How does yours truly respond to the fact that R.B. (short for Rat Bastard, as he’ll now be known) wants to go to a bigger market? I say LET HIM GO!!! Now before any Saints fans go into conniption fits, let me finish, unlike one of my co-workers from Louisiana who immediately started yelling “YOU CAN”T MOVE THE SAINTS BECAUSE….” yada, yada, yada

I said “let HIM go”. Yes if R.B. wants to move to L.A., San Antonio, Timbuktu, or wherever else he thinks he’ll get a bigger market, let him do it. Here’s why and more importantly how he should be allowed to move.

With all of the devastation left in Katrina’s wake, it will be some time before the Saints can actually play IN New Orleans. With parts of the city still flooded, and people without homes, water, electricity, a working infrastructure, food, hospitals, schools, etc, I really don’t think anyone in their right mind can justify building a multi billion dollar stadium, which they’ll need now that the Superdome is falling apart. And if they can justify it, they need to seriously re-evaluate their priorities, and get a few swift kicks in the beanbag.

Here’s my proposal, let R.B move the franchise, after all why would anyone want to have an owner that openly hates the city and it’s fans and would probably do very little to give them a winning team, or even one they can be proud of. But when he moves to wherever people like him go, he leaves everything to do with the Saints behind. The “Saints” name, the fleur-de-lis logo, the black and gold colors, the record books, everything stays with either the City of New Orleans, or the State of Louisiana. That’s right all of it, including all the Saints’ history, stays put, on second thought he can take that Mike Ditka/Ricky Williams debacle with him, it’ll serve him right.

After the city is rebuilt, and everything is returned to normal, well as normal as the Big Easy can be, then it will have everything in place for Football’s glorious return to America’s most colorful and eccentric city.

But don’t think I’ll let Benson of that easy. If my plan is followed, his new team is going to need a name, and no doubt they’ll have a contest to decide it. That’s when the payback really begins, I’d urge every Saints fan, neh, every sports fan in the country to flood the ballot box and name the team after its owner, and as further payback the Saints first game back should be at home, hosting none other than the Los Angeles/San Antonio/Timbuktu Rat Bastards.

That’s my three cents