Why Aren’t You Pricks More Grateful?

Hey, Peter King, lighten up. It’s a fucking pre-season game, dude: From this week’s MMQB:

4. I think I don’t want to hear what great fans the Jets have. Not for a long time. That crowd Saturday night was a disgrace. At least half the stadium was empty for Favre’s debut in a Jets’ uniform. I expressed my amazement to a few fellow scribes Saturday night — emphasizing that N.Y. traded for an all-time-great quarterback, not a broken-down one — and they gave varying reasons for the poor turnout. Like it’s the middle of vacation month for New Yorkers, and it’s a preseason game. Horsefeathers. If you really love your team, and you have season tickets, you should have been at that game unless you were in Tibet. Ridiculous.

So let me get this straight: if you are a Jets season ticket holder, you should have dropped what you were doing, braved the god-awful traffic or trains in the Tri-State area just to get there in time to see Brett Favre play two series — not a full quarter, just TWO SERIES — because you’re not really serious fans otherwise?

Considering the Jets are going the Personal Seat Licenses route for its new shared stadium with the Giants (and it’s still in Jersey), plus the fact that there[‘s no guarantee a 39-year old quarterback (despite being a living legend) will get them to the playoffs (I don’t have ’em winning a Wild Card, do you?), I’d say a half full stadium for an ultimately meaningless game is what most NFL teams should be content with until the season kicks off.

King’s just surprised that the ticket-buying public isn’t going to go down on Favre as vigorously as he does in print just because he got traded to their team.

Photo: AP/Bill Kostroun

A Double Fault On Defending The Indefensible

On Friday at Sports by Brooks, I wrote on Justin Gimelstob, who turned a career as an unremarkable tennis player into an equally unremarkable career writing columns for Sports Illustrated‘s web site and occasionally working as a TV analyst, and his much too frank comments on his feelings about Anna Kournikova and opinions on the pulchritude of several up-and-coming female players (of course, all said on D.C. sports talk radio, unfortunately, WJFK’s archive has purged this segment of the Junkies due to age since it aired on June 18th.)

I didn’t expect anyone at SI to address the matter; the usual modus operandi is to sweep these things under the rug and/or handle it internally, while sneaking out a small note about the matter. But, the mag’s lead tennis writer, L. Jon Wertheim, brought it up in his “Wimbledon Midterm Grades” column, yet I think he’s only managed to make it worse by admitting it was indefensible — if only to then excuse it.

Justin Gimelstob: Dozens of you referenced his unfortunate remarks. The full disclosure, of course, is that Justin has been writing for si.com, which makes this all the more awkward. The remarks themselves are thoroughly indefensible. But let me say this in his defense: he’s always been a beacon of candor, one of those athletes who speaks honestly, regardless of whom he might offend or what collateral damage might arise. This doesn’t, of course, give him license to say anything, but — and I feel similarly about Charles Barkley — it tempers at least some of the outrage when he crosses the line.

I don’t ever recall Charles Barkley on TNT ever saying he wanted to hit someone — never mind a woman — with a ball, and saying that if he didn’t do that, he hadn’t done his job. That’s really awful moral equivalence, and it serves to distract from the offenses. Barkley has talked shit about entire cities, about backwards-ass people in his home state, various other things, but I don’t recall him talking openly about how much he hated someone; so much so he expressed a desire to hurt the person physically.

Never mind Gimelstob’s comments about maybe letting his “stud” brother take a run at Kournikova if she offered to screw him.  I got a bit of a slimy feeling just listening to it as I waded through the audio on Friday, and I’m fairly crass myself. Gimelstob has had to apologize, of course, but it’s probably not that sincere, and I’d say if he’s still keeping those views of the women’s tour, maybe he shouldn’t be paid to write or analyze it, because he may not be entirely capable of doing so fairly and with respect.

Gimelstob comes off as a self-involved frat boy, bragging about nailing Martina Hingis, and talking about Kournikova, Tatiana Golovin, and Alize Cornet in such pleasant “sexpot” terms. It’s one thing to do it when you’re an average Joe viewer (I’d be lying if I said I never gawked at Kournikova, Maria Sharapova, or Ana Ivanovic, to note a few) but it’s quite another when you are a former player and current analyst of the game, never mind a member of the ATP board of directors.

Wertheim’s “not really a condemnation” is also insufficient because it doesn’t detail the remarks; it presumes everyone has heard them, which I’m not sure is actually the case. So, once you frame it as something regrettable and indefensible, you can make the excuse that it’s a candor-based mistake without quoting or linking to any parts of what he said.

Photo: Jeff Zelevansky/Reuters

A Violence Like This

If a boxing and MMA know-very-little like yours truly (hey, I live in the same city as Chuck Liddell, people!) can easily find Frank Deford’s latest “viewpoint” on SI’s web site ridiculous on its basic premise alone (boxing suffers and is on the downfall because it’s not as violent as UFC/Elite XC/MMA in general), I shudder to think what people who actually observe either sport — like say, either the folks at No Mas or the Fanhouse’s Michael David Smith — could actually do to destroy this effort by the last link to the bad-old-good-old-purple-prose days. But, rather than leave it to the pros, let’s tear this bad one apart now.

I’m not going to use space blockquoting Deford, as the column is written in such a condescending manner to presume most sports fans haven’t even heard of MMA, never mind his dismissal of it as a video game made real — an absolutely ludicrous and reductive argument — because most bouts are over quickly and it’s bloodier than boxing.

Deford’s essential problem is that he is dependent upon boxing’s heavyweight division as a comparison to provide the juice. Yes, there really is no compelling interest at that level in boxing right now to captivate the masses, but I defy anyone to watch fights on either HBO or PPV — like last week’s Cotto-Gomez tilt and the undercards — and say that there’s no juice left in boxing; hell, just look at the pub Floyd Mayweather, Jr. gets and his last fight with Oscar de la Hoya making bank on pay-per view buys.

Boxing’s problem is that there are too many organizing bodies with belts to have regular unification battles, and the sport’s own legacy spawned by strings of crooked-ass promoters. That’s a completely separate issue. Mixed martial arts have the advantage of identifiable fighters (Liddell, Tito Ortiz, Matt Serra, Georges St-Pierre, and more) in the UFC. Getting the top quality under one, well, octagon helps get the best fights on a card.

This is not video game violence, Mr. Deford. This is MMA. There are rules — as helpfully explained by an Elite XC ref in the video below (thanks to the aforementioned MDS at the Fanhouse)

While it’s certainly more graphic than you may be used to, it’s not the violence that has MMA growing; it’s the better quality product. Boxing isn’t as dead as everyone likes to claim, and the two can and ought to co-exist. Basing a very short, badly thought out column on the premise is poor form — and while you can comment and ask, “Well, why bother with Deford? He’s old hat anyhow?”, you’re right. However, the old hat spouted this same load of crap to a massive radio audience on NPR yesterday morning. I love NPR, but I’m aware that many of its listeners are not exactly following sports, and this is misinformation of the worst kind.

Cheap Shots #106.

Update #1: 9:30 AM

Damn It, I Hate It When Whitlock’s Right: Broken clock rule on Roger Clemens. [Fox Sports]

Congresscritters Kiss Clemens’ Ass: No jury would actually, say, meet with the defendant before a trial — but essentially, that is what the House Government Reform Committee has done, according to Murray Chass. GC got similar remarks off the tube coming from the mouth of Bryant Gumbel. [NYT, Can’t Stop The Bleeding]

The Big Man Code, Ordinance 225.7: The fascinating war of words between Bill Walton and Shaquille O’Neal. [Awful Announcing]

Behind The Swoosh: CNBC’s Darren Rovell did a documentary-style program on Nike, and it’s airing tonight. Supposedly it contains some stuff about its seedier side — particularly in Vietnam. I’ll probably have to catch it on repeats, but it sounds good. [Sports Biz With Darren Rovell]

2008 Swimsuit Issue: Yawn. Read once, ogle twice, ignore for rest of the year. [Sports Illustrated]

Speaking of Nike-Related Stuff: The Legend of Cecilio Guante pays tribute to another product that Michael Jordan helped make big — the Jordan Jammer.

Bigger Choke Job: Bugs and Cranks looks at the 2007 Patriots vs. the 2001 Yankees.

The Latest Berman Video: This only gets more and more amusing.

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The Popularity Contest.

This whole “Brett Favre as Sportman of the Year” in Sports Illustrated is getting some interesting responses. Some folks out there stumped for Tony Dungy (and so did Mike Greenberg on ESPN yesterday), saying his accomplishment of being the first black coach to win the Super Bowl (along with his personal struggles and efforts to help others) should have nabbed him the award, and slammed SI hard in the process. Others have hilariously chalked it up to Favre being a sports media darling. I can’t argue with the rationale for Dungy, and he probably got robbed in the same way Roger Federer got jacked when Dwyane Wade won the honor last year.

Then again, we are presuming that the ultimate decision in the SI offices is completely independent of the need to sell some copies. That’s rarely the case, even when the decision is completely unconscious. If you look at it in the context of what moves the newsstand business, Favre is a logical choice — and while he has done plenty of good this year and over his career to make candidacy plausible, I sense much of this has to do with how popular he is among the football and cultural populace as well as whatever accomplishments he has had at an age where many NFL players have retired.

I’m sure SI’s editorial staff says it picked Favre independent of any such sales concerns, but in every pitch meeting, no matter what form of media, one of the concerns is always, when doing a feature story, is: “What would people like to read or watch?” Dungy’s story doesn’t always jump out at you because of his somewhat retiring personality. He has a best-selling book to his credit, but his base of support isn’t what Favre has built up over the years.

Players move units, get eyeballs popping, get people reading more often than not. A cursory look at a Wikipedia list of SOY winners notes that Bill Russell, Joe Paterno, Don Shula, and Dean Smith are the only coaches that have won the award. Russell was still playing at the time. Paterno and Smith are from the college ranks, where the ultimate identifiable faces are those coaches who define their programs. Shula, as an old-school coach, was much more “out there” with a larger fan base, and had the all-time winningest NFL coach mantle. Dungy is more reserved and humble — while it’s an inspirational story, it’s not one that will drive cursory readers to pick up copies off the stand.

Sportsman of the Year is about as useful a barometer now of who exemplifies achievement, sportsmanship, etc. over the past year as Time’s Person of the Year is in the news now (the concept of “You” in the wake of digital media was a complete cop-out, facilitated more by what I’m sure its design department thought was ingenious — putting a mirror on the cover.) It’s nice, it looks good, it gets a person on the cover, but I’m not so sure that it really tells a lot about who exemplifies the values SI puts out there than it tells us whom the sports media is enchanted with at any given point and time.