Usually These Sorts Of Things Don’t Take Two Years

adamjonesThere are all kinds of unanswered questions regarding the release of Cowboys cornerback Adam Jones in the wake of a proposed Outside the Lines report by ESPN’s John Barr. The quick rundown, from the Four-Letter’s standpoint, is that Jerry Jones released the cornerback after Barr contacted the Cowboys’ organization about a response to allegations that Jones hired someone to shoot at men he had a dispute in while a member of the Titans (albeit suspended) in 2007. (This happeend in the ATL; a random reminder that all sorts of cool stuff goes down in that city late at night, but for an athlete, not much of it is good. I had a hell of a time the one time I set foot in there, at least while not cursing the traffic.)

While lamenting that Jones is again getting cut or disciplined for shit he was never convicted of in court (yes, I understand Lord Rog is gonna nail ass to the wall for even being arrested; that doesn’t mean I have to like it as policy), a bigger question arises: if the inquisition from the Four-Letter is behind the release and the NFL knew about the allegations, then it means a couple of things:

  1. This obviously was of no concern to the league because no one could put Jones there at the time. There wasn’t enough evidence.
  2. Jerry Jones had to have known about this when he signed Adam Jones. I find it hard to believe otherwise.

That said, why the uproar now over a confidential informant whom we don’t know a whole lot about (and with good reason)?  There’s obviously a lot of bluster behind the whole thing, and Jones appears to be very, very pissed, even threatening a lawsuit against ESPN. Be looking forward to Sunday; see if this OTL piece tells me anything or is a hack job on what seems to be the channel’s favorite subject: athlete misdeeds.

The Jump To Conclusions Mat Has Way Too Many Footprints On It


Look, I’m not going to state that the facts out there surrounding Plaxico Burress’ shooting himself in the thigh aren’t there. It’s monumentally stupid of him to be carrying a gun illegally, only having a permit that had expired in Florida and at the very least, not applying for one in either New York or New Jersey. The fact that it went off in his pants suggests he has no clue about how to operate the safety on a gun, which is even more disturbing.

But I can’t help but sit back and want to smack the usual suspects like Bob Costas, Mike Ditka, and the rest of the NFL studio show crews make the usual suggestions about how players shouldn’t be allowed to own guns, and that they shouldn’t be out late after certain hours. Witness Ditka on the guns bit:

“This is all about priorities. When you get stature in life, you get the kind of contract, you have an obligation and responsibility to your teammates, to the organization, to the National Football League and to the fans. He just flaunted this money in their face. He has no respect for anybody but himself. I feel sorry for him, in the sense that, I don’t understand the league, why can anybody have a gun? I will have a policy, no guns, any NFL players we find out, period, you’re suspended.”

Lucky for us he never ran as the GOP candidate for Senate from Illinois. Jesus, who thought this guy would make a good senatorial candidate?  As long as he has the permits (which he apparently didn’t), it shouldn’t have mattered, period. The NFL is not big enough to where it should decide to take away people’s individual rights.

When I witnessesd Costas’ outrage on Football Night in America, I thought, “Spoken like a man who has never understood what it’s like to have to fear for your life.” It took Tiki Barber to correct Costas, by saying that many black athletes grow up in tough situations with gangs where they are protected because of their athletic abilities, and are used to a world where you have to protect yourself — you do not trust security people or the police. I don’t know if this is reflective of Burress’ background, but if you are a black man with millionaire money, you’re going to be wary inside and outside your home.

The situations are not comparable, as Burress was out on the town with teammates Antonio Pierce and either Derrick Ward or Ahmad Bradshaw (depending on who you read or hear)( but it’s silly not to think of how Sean Taylor was killed in his home and Antoine Walker was robbed near his home in Chicago.  Again — those are at home, but don’t you think you would protect yourself even more when you were out of you think you are a target? Yet this impulse seems to elude everyone commenting on the stubject before everything is known.

It is merely another string in Burress being a bad actor; it is part of a narrative to take missed meetings and fines and conflate them into something larger and more insidious. But the cycle hasn’t played itself out yet. Burress still has to be charged, and we have to find out his side of the story, too.  It’s asking too much to back off for a little bit though — there is blood in the water.

Cedric Benson Is Waiting For An Apology

Or at least he should be — from the Chicago Bears for pretty much dumping his ass because of the off-field problems (yes, they could have dumped him for on-field lack of production, but it was very much done in the wake of the arrests), from mass media sources for partially convicting him before the charges played out, and from anyone who decided that he was guilty and tarred him as just another thug or something like that.

Remember those two alcohol-related charges Benson was arrested on in May and June of this year in Texas?  He shouldn’t even have been arrested. Benson said repeatedly that he was harassed by police and that the charges had no merit. Turns out he was right. The charges didn’t even have enough of a basis to go to trial.

According to defense attorney Sam Bassett, two Travis County grand juries found no probable cause to indict Benson for the two alcohol-related arrests in Texas that led to his release from the Bears. “Since my initial review of the evidence in both cases, I have said that Cedric was not guilty,” Bassett said. “I hope that this situation reminds us all that not every person who is arrested for a crime is guilty.”

A lesson the Bears and Lord Roger Goodell of Iron Fist would do well to learn.  Benson had said he was not drunk and that he was being mistreated by police in those arrests.  Again, I understand why the NFL has such a strong policy and why teams are loath to keep players who are arrested — it’s a public image, bottom-line type thing. However, it’s swung way too far in that direction, taking away livelihoods before anyone is actually convicted in a court of law.

There’s a fundamental problem with that.

UPDATE: Reading news service copy gets you this:

Travis County Attorney David Escamilla said there were problems in both cases. In the initial arrest, officials did not conduct a field sobriety test and there was no video evidence.

In the driving while intoxicated case, there was video evidence but Benson “appears very well” in the recording, Escamilla said.

Benson’s status as a well-known sports figure in Austin did not play a factor in the outcome of the cases, the county attorney said.

“Sometimes it’s to his benefit and sometimes it’s not,” Escamilla said. “We call them as we see them.”

So the first one was Boating While Black and the second one had Benson appearing to be OK, and it sounds like there wasn’t a test done there either. It does not take a lot to get indictment on DUI charges from a grand jury — these things are usually pretty quick and seamless. And remember just how much he got dogged about the off-field stuff on top of the on-field.

Analysts: stick to the on-field talk. Benson didn’t produce in Chicago. Future lesson: do not conflate the on-field and off-field prior to the legal system running its course.

Not Even Near The Bottom Of The Barrel

If David Stern had his way, the sentencing of referee Tim Donaghy to 15 months in prison today would be the end of the talk surrounding suspicion of every NBA official for damn near the better part of the regular season and all of the playoffs.

Trouble is, that ain’t happening.

From the calls Donaghy admitted making to another referee to the discussion that everyone assumed was about the fifth game of the Lakers-Kings series from 2002, there has been more grist boiling under the surface than Stern (or anyone at ESPN or any other telecast partner) would particularly care to acknowledge. It doesn’t solve the problem of a lack of faith in fair officiating in the NBA — especially after the Spurs-Lakers series. And while that had nothing to with Donaghy, it has everything to do with the lack of public transparency the NBA has regarding its officiating.

It has to do with officiating form the likes of Joe Crawford — someone who got in a tiff with Spurs forward Tim Duncan for what appeared to be no apparent reason, and tossed him out the game, got suspended, and was then allowed to come back and officiate that Lakers-Spurs game. (I actually defended that crucial no-call on the shot Brent Barry took, or at least said that if a foul was called on Derek Fisher, it should have been a two-shot foul, not a three-shot one.)

Donaghy’s sentencing doesn’t solve those problems. Maybe he is a rogue actor, ast he league claims, but even if he is, it doesn’t mean the Associations officiating image is clean. If people are evaluating how refs call games for home and away teams regularly to see how that tips the scales, it’s a major issue.

Donaghy may be out of jail in a year. The NBA’s zebra issues will last long after he’s out of the clink and faded out of the public eye.

Photo: AP/Louis Lanzano

Cal’s Tree Hugging Hippie Problem Continues Or: The Saga Of Dumpster Muffin

You’d be forgiven for trying to figure out what the hell a judge’s ruling means for Cal’s plans to build an athletic facility where a bunch of old growth oak trees stand right now, because both sides are claiming victory and nothing’s more confusing than a judicial ruling where both sides think they’ve come out ahead. Ah, such is the morass that is California state law.

Here are the essentials, boiled down: the judge ruled that the university can build its facility there, take down the trees, and kick the tree-sitters out. HOWEVA (SAS-style for a reason), the university has to comply with local zoning and earthquake zoning laws established at the state level, and the activists’ lawyers believe they won’t be able to at all — especially considering that Memorial Stadium already sits on a fault line.  The Alquist-Priolo zoning law of 1972 denies new projects or extensions to anything on a fault line that exceeds 50 percent of its current value. They argue Memorial Stadium is worthless. (I would beg to differ; I don’t think you can really put a price tag on the heartbreak of the Cal faithful at continued mediocrity despite promises of excellence.)

Thus, the Bears may be in the same state of legal buttlock that they’ve been in over the past 18 months while trying to remove people who go by names like “Dumpster Muffin” (must resist cheap, easy oral sex joke) from the trees. People are watching this woman as the arborists and authorities try to get her down (which they did not do yesterday), and as another named “Millipede” bites an arborist and gets arrested.

Only in fucking Berzerkley, people. Only in Berzerkley.

Photo: Bob Larson, Contra Costa Times

Tim Donaghy Is Back Again

The former referee that David Stern would prefer be labeled a “rogue official” is back once again, and this time slinging a few accusations that the NBA was playing favorites in playoff series over the years, lending even more credence to every conspiracy theory and belief in home cooking-style officiating.

As deduced by ESPN, the series in question would be the 2002 Kings-Lakers conference finals (the Game 6 that had Kings fans up in arms) and a 2006 playoff series between the Rockets and the Mavs (the one where Jeff Van Gundy got out of sorts over targeting of Yao Ming.) Thankfully, the Four Letter links to the PDF files of the letter written by Donaghy’s lawyer as well as the NBA’s claim for $1 million dollars in restitution, which I presume is what spurred this letter.

Stern ought to, no, HAS to reveal every single bit of the NBA’s investigation into this matter right now. This is paramount to the sanctity of the league. Any and all accusations of coordination between the league and officials would be the equivalent of 10,000 Malices at the Palace if discovered to have a grain of truth to them. This perception becomes ten times as dangerous if it is actually rooted in reality, and that’s not something we ought to have in one of the big professional sports leagues.

As for the implications regarding Donaghy’s credibility: I understand and acknowledge them freely, but what always gets me in these situations of “singing” witnesses is the basic question of why someone would risk further punishment of perjury if what he or she tells federal authorities turns out to be complete bunk. Donaghy may well be slinging mud, but the NBA needs to be able to answer forcefully with proof that it does not manipulate outcomes.

So, regardless of whether Donaghy’s legal team wins its request to open the NBA’s investigation into the rogue official, it ought to release all of it — freely, on its own, to the media, and for all to judge.

There is really no other choice that can save face.

New Rule: Get Arrested And You’re Guilty

OK. So let me get this straight: aloof running back gets arrested while on a boat in Austin with his mother, his friends, and several female friends (all white, let’s note) and contests the police account, saying he was mistreated and abused. Last Saturday, he gets pulled over and arrested for DUI charges, but maintains that he passed a sobriety test and is innocent of the charges.

Without either of the charges being borne out, he is released by his employer. In what fucking world does this make any sort of sense whatsoever?

This is the world of the NFL, where you can lose your job even if you are completely innocent of any charges against you. Welcome to the real world of the NFL, Cedric Benson — the running back was released from the Bears after last weekend’s arrest, with GM Jerry Angelo expressing the franchise’s supposed frustration with the first-round pick.

Cedric displayed a pattern of behavior we will not tolerate. As I said this past weekend, you have to protect your job. Everyone in this organization is held accountable for their actions. When individual priorities overshadow team goals, we suffer the consequences as a team. Those who fail to understand the importance of ‘team’ will not play for the Chicago Bears.

Bears management needed an excuse to cut Benson. He has underperformed, but has not had the benefit of a well-put together O-line the past year or a quarterback that is any consistent threat in the passing game — as such, it meant he would probably get one more shot this year to show the form that made him a first round pick.

But voila, two arrests and no convictions are enough to throw him out the window. Just how an arrest without any form of conviction or basis was enough to get rid of Tank Johnson (I don’t mean the weapons charges, I mean the DUI afterwards that really wasn’t.) This is the world Roger Goodell has created and the standard he has set — and every other player in the league ought to be incensed (unless you are Jared Allen. now of the Vikings, which means you’re glad you got off easy last year in KC.)

If Benson pleaded guilty or no contest to either charge, it would be a different story. But as of right now, he believes both arrests are unjustified and is willing to challenge the matter in court. Would that the Bears be only that willing to allow due process to play out, but this is Lord Rog’s World, and frankly, it’s time Gene Upshaw and the NFLPA did something to exert some sort of check and balance on teams

The owners have handed the NFLPA a golden opportunity by deciding to drop out of the CBA for 2011.  Now Upshaw needs to prove his worth by giving the men he represents at least a chance at due process for off-the-field incidents.

Photo: Jim Prishing/Chicago Tribune

Much Ado About Nothing

The latest announcement about Barry Bonds and his legal matters basically allowed all formats of media to bury the lede if they so chose. It’s a matter of semantics and phrasing, essentially. The headline reads:

“New indictment against slugger Bonds unsealed”

But further down in the USA Today copy (hat tip again to D-Wil at Sports on My Mind) and if you happened to catch ESPN’s quick bite with its legal analyst Roger Cossack, you will happen to catch the buried lede: there are no new charges in this indictment; rather, it is simply a re-filing of the original, cleaned up at a judge’s orders in February. Cossack described the filing as “an imprecise manner” and “old wine in a new bottle.”

And yet you have this as the lead item for outlets, with nothing of note happening in the actual case. Bonds likely won’t see a courtroom until next year for the charges, still based on accusations he lied about alleged steroid use on the stand. I just heard Bill Pidto read a teast on ESPN News that stated “new charges filed against Barry Bonds,” when there was no such thing — it’s either sloppy on behalf of the writer or producer (and believe me, your average broadcast TV writer or producer is not exactly the best with legal jargon) or intentionally deceptive.

Given the rumblings last week about the MLBPA looking into the possibility of collusion regarding Bonds not even receiving an offer to sign with a major league franchise this year, it seems conveniently timed. (I would not actually allege this; there’s too much stretching to do right now.)

If you’d like to read the indictment, which basically turns five counts into 15, here it is.

New indictment against slugger Bonds unsealed [USA Today]
Barry Bonds’ “New Indictment”: Same as the Old Indictment [Sports on My Mind]

Photo: Lester Cohen

Pray That Congress Liked The Mitchell Report, Bud.

Like I’ve written previously with regard to the whole NFL Network/cable/Sunday Ticket issue, I find Congressional involvement in professional sport devolves into the worst sort of Kabuki theatre; soapboxes have already been set up for Rep. Henry Waxman and the rest of the House committee set to grill MLB commissioner Bud Selig, union chief Donald Fehr, and former senator George Mitchell tomorrow morning with stock phrases about matters of “integrity,” “public health,” “doing it for the children,” and “America’s pastime” (as if the NFL had not lapped baseball completely by now). But, as the NFL did, MLB ceded its right to be free of certain forms of interference from the feds once it lobbied and received an anti-trust exemption, so Selig will have to take his medicine and lumps yet again.

However, it’s instructive to read the prep articles for this — and the copy from T.J. Quinn and Mark Fainaru-Wada over at ESPN is probably the most instructive, because it will provide Selig with the easy out of blaming it all on Fehr and the MLBPA, which ties nicely into a politician’s favorite sport — never let the party affiliation smoke you out, there are plenty of Democrats who are less than friendly to labor unions to begin with (Waxman is not one of them; you can’t be an L.A.-area congressman without strong labor support.) Regardless of what happens to players like Roger Clemens (who appears to be scurrying as quickly as he can in what appears to be an impending showdown under oath with Brian McNamee), the least Congress can do — if it has any concept of being remotely fair in its treatment of the issue — is line up as many executives, particularly those named in the Mitchell Report or having signed players named in said report, and ask them under oath what they knew and when they knew it.

In a better world, they might ask the former players why they did it, the reasons they used it, and ask doctors about the science behind it — the wear and tear of a 162-game season, and several playoff series. Maybe instead of starting another front of the colossal failure that is the War on (Some) Drugs, after asking the right questions about the report, those particular pezzonovanti might look at whether there are actual benefits for adult males in strictly prescribed and monitored use or not — and then consider whether it applies to other sports, particularly the one that has lapped MLB and has players with non-guaranteed contracts willing to do a heck of a lot to avoid being cut.

What we will get some damn good theater out of it that will make us feel good and have a scapegoat. Nothing productive will actually come of it. Jose Canseco said last time that Congress held hearings on baseball and steroids that the game could not be allowed to police itself or it would be back facing a House committee again. Well, we’re back again, and in front of representatives that can’t even pay enough attention to determine whether waterboarding is or isn’t torture or logical cases for war.

Color me less than optimistic.

23 Months.

I’m fairly sure that the nation’s nightmare over dog fighting is now well in the past and it can go back to pretending to be concerned regarding the exploitation of animals in that particular context now that Michael Vick received his sentence today.  Those 23 months Vick received had to do with smoking marijuana after pleading out and judge Henry Hudson’s perception that Vick was not completely contrite.

Not that I’m particularly sympathetic to Vick or numb to the crimes he confessed to: I am a dog lover and owner myself; I don’t particularly think well of people who engage in dog-fighting.  Yet I can’t help but still think that the swarm and outcry about the Vick case said much more about the view of the quarterback in the public eye rather than what we actually thought about the crime itself.  No one really would have cared if a dog-fighting ring run by a nobody sent all four involved to federal prison; neither the Humane Society of the United States nor PETA would have given as much talking head about it being a test case for sending a message about the consequences of dog-fighting if Vick had not been involved.  It may not even have been the dog-fighting so much as it was the gambling and interstate commerce violations that went with the enterprise.

So, now we have the sentencing to exploit — and right on a night where ESPN is sure to inundate Monday Night Football viewers with it since the Falcons are hosting the Saints. Somewhere along the line, this became less about the legal and judicial process and more about the sideshow and speculation about the fall.

I still don’t think Vick will ever set foot on an NFL field again, but that’s really the least of his concerns now.

Photo: AP/Dana Verkouteren