A unique take on sports news, updated several times throughout the day.
The primary functional difference to the change will be that readers will have to register with FanNation in order to post a comment. Once you register, however, your feedback will be posted immediately rather than waiting for a moderator (historically, me) to read and approve it first. That should lead to more real-time give-and-take, both between you and me and also among yourselves. FanNation will also enable the 10 Spot Blog to offer new features such as an RSS feed and a running tally of the number of comments.
Anyway, we can talk more about this on Monday, but I just wanted to give everyone a head's up. I know from experience that many 10 Spot readers don't like change. Oh, and for the record, the hat is staying off.
Have a great weekend.
Fixed sport of the day
Frankly, I'd be suspicious of anyone who wagered on a tennis match at all, but a British online gambling company voided all bets on the match because of a surge of wagering -- most of it for the 87th-ranked Arguello. And wouldn't you know it, but Arguello rallied to win the second set after dropping the first and was ahead 2-1 in the third when -- oops! -- Davydenko retired with an injury. Now the question is whether anyone was hoping to retire by betting against Davydenko, such as, say, Davydenko himself. (Curiously, the English translation of "Davydenko" is "Donaghy.")
This can't be good news for tennis, which has been plagued for years with claims that players sometimes tank matches. Still, that was typically attributed to immaturity and churlishness on the part of particular players, not allegations of a fix. Actually, I’m not sure which is worse, come to think of it.
Remember that voting ends today in the American Mustache Institute's poll of top sports mustaches. I still encourage you to write-in Keith Hernandez. The winner will be revealed Saturday at AMI's Mustache Bash 2007 to be held in the St. Louis saloon of nominee Al "The Mad Hungarian" Hrabosky. You can cast your last-minute ballots here up until midnight. As of press time, the top four (in order) were Hernandez, Rollie Fingers, Lanny McDonald and Hrabosky.
Sportswriters are the true tough guys
Beyond highlighting my relative lack of athletic ability, show-offs like Mannix and Verducci only serve to diminish the public's respect for sportswriters. The underlying tenet to these stunts is that sportswriting is an inherently wimpy profession, and the only way for a writer to prove his manhood is to stand toe-to-toe with a Real Jock, hoping that some of his coolness might rub off.
Obviously, that's ludicrous. Marquez might act tough in the ring, for instance, but I'd like to see him take the body blows a sportswriter like me puts up with on a daily basis. He'd be literally spitting up blood (OK, figuratively) and running from his cubicle in tears by lunchtime, begging for his mommy or Don King.
Consider these actual emails and comments that I've received in just the past three days. On Wednesday, for instance, I wrote a remarkably trenchant piece wondering whether the Mike Vick outrage had gotten slightly out of proportion. Yet some readers failed to appreciate my penetrating analysis. Among other things, I was called a "hammerhead," "retard," "NUTS," "shallow," "dog-hater," "stupid," "ridiculous" and an "idiot" (twice). And those are just the ones I can print.
I'm not sure who this Anonymous fellow is, either, but he doesn't appear to be a fan. At 8:14 p.m. on Wednesday, he wrote: "Pete -- Please refrain from writing anymore mindless banter. This is the worst entry I read." Anonymous was back at 12:49 p.m. the next day, inquiring, "I wonder how much money you've won on Vick's dogs?" At 3:23 p.m., he checked in again to say, "This guy [i.e., me] should never be given an INCH of space to write in."
Indeed, many readers fancy themselves as editors. For example, one used Thursday's clever little item about Pete Rose cursing in front of a bunch of kids to decry what he (or she) viewed as my lazy "journalism." To wit: "Unless this Pete McEntegart dude was there, then he should keep his mouth shut. He has no idea exactly what Pete said ... Don't report second hand info. Report the facts!"
Others quarrel with my choice of topics. Thursday's compilation of the Worst Sports Cities brought this e-mail from Peter of Newtown, Pa.:"Best/Worst lists are boring and show a lack of effort and thought. You're better than this. I'm just happy you got rid of that stupid hat in your photograph which was either your sixth-grade class picture, or signs of a severe mental disorder. Cheers!"
At least that message ended on an up note. 10 Spot Blog reader Leslie wasn't feeling so charitable: "I just want to say you are an idiot for even thinking Minnesota is a horrible sports town. You never even went there in your life so for you to make an opinion is hilarious. A good sports town is fans rallying around the team and Minnesota has done that with the Twins, Vikings, Wild, Gophers, and even the Wolves no matter how bad they are. Your criteria is pretty dumb. I can't believe SI hired a klutz like you to run a blog."
Curiously, Leslie lists her hometown as Fort Lee, N.J., but in fairness that's a good five miles closer to the Twin Cities than I live, so I'm sure she knows whereof she speaks.
You might reasonably be wondering at this point how it is that I am even able to function while dealing with the daily torrent of criticism. Well, it isn't easy. But I've been blessed to draw strength from a terrific group of family and friends, especially my exceptionally supportive parents.
Why just at 7:48 this morning, I received the following comment on Thursday's item about my mom humiliating me in college by loudly pointing out George Steinbrenner at a classy party. Signed Ten Spot Mom, it read: "I don't think I yelled 'there's the boss' but I do admit that I talk loudly (I am a New Yorker). And get over being embarrassed by me. Mom"
Forget sparring with some measly featherweight. (OK, super featherweight.) There's nothing like a little tough love to make one man up.
Steve Karsay would like a gin and tonic, thanks
It turns out that the 6-foot-6 fellow probably wasn't even Karsay, but rather a con man named Jonathan Henry. The New York Post reports that Henry was arrested this week for skipping out on a restaurant bill while posing as Karsay. Apparently he's been running this racket more times than Karsay appeared for the Yanks, scamming free drinks (which he supplemented by dining-and-dashing), talking his way into big-ticket charity events and even signing autographs.
Fake Karsay's ruse was nearly blown when a current Yankee apparently showed up at the same event last year and, when asked if he wanted to say hi to his former teammate, said, "That's not Steve Karsay." Still, Fake Karsay managed to get out of that situation unscathed and continued his reign of terror until this week, when he was recognized by the staff after he strolled into the same restaurant that he had stiffed on a $31 bill in June. Ah, the great criminals always end up getting brought down by the small stuff, like Al Capone with tax evasion.
One wouldn't think the perks of pretending to be a fringe player would be that great, though apparently even the whiff of "pro athlete" opens up untold riches of free booze and loose women. Then again, it's probably easier to go undetected if you say you're Steve Karsay rather than Roger Clemens. That's probably why for every story about someone impersonating Pedro Martinez or Ben Roethlisberger, there's a few more about guys posing as Jerame Tuman and Brian St. Pierre. (Actually, one guy alone has impersonated each of the last three, though it was his Tuman impression that landed him in jail.)
Pete Rose has something to say to your kids
Fortunately for Pete, he knows ways to keep himself in the public eye. Last week, it was by cursing liberally in front of 7- to 14-year-olds. The Cincinnati Enquirer recounts Rose's off-color chat at the U.S. Army Reds Legends Baseball Camp.
"It was a complete embarrassment," said Staff Sgt. Steven Tischer. "You don't swear in front of kids, that's just common sense. He dropped the F-bomb and the S-bomb. He told them winning is everything and if you get second place you're just losers."
Now that's inspiring! Plus there's this feedback from a mom at the event: "It was like an uncle at Thanksgiving you want to stick in a back corner. The kids were very uncomfortable. They said the only thing they got out of it was that Pete Rose has a potty mouth."
I love the thought of Pete Rose as the crazy uncle at Thanksgiving. "Say, Joey, can you pass the &%#@ gravy? I like a little lubrication, if you know what I mean ... Oh come on, sis, the kid's 10 now, he can take it. Jeez. Why is everyone so uptight?"
George Steinbrenner stands out in a crowd
The Fortune account also reported that George Steinbrenner's youngest son, Hal, has "stepped in as his father's chief lieutenant." I find that especially intriguing because Hal was a classmate of mine at Williams College, also his dad's alma mater. Hal and I weren't close friends, but we were friendly and had some good friends in common. (It's a small school.)
Two nights before my graduation, one of my roommates hosted a party for our families. Since this friend was also good buddies with Hal, I knew that Mr. Steinbrenner would be there. Thus I tried to caution my parents, Mets fans both, from saying anything impolitic.
"What do you think we're going to say?" my mom asked, acting insulted. "Don't worry, we won't embarrass you." We’ll see about that, I thought.
So we entered the party, which was held at a local hotel. As the door opened, we all saw Big Stein standing about 15 feet from the entrance, engrossed in a conversation. Instantly, my mom literally pointed his way and blurted out, "Oh, look! The Boss!"
Naturally, I was aghast with the perfect mortification of a 21-year-old. I ushered her away, explaining that that was just the sort of thing I was worried about. "Well," she explained, "I didn't expect him to jump right out at me like that."
The thing was, she had a point. Big Stein was decked out in his iconic blue-blazer-and-white-turtleneck uniform and looked exactly like one expected. Every New Yorker had been bombarded for years with images of Steinbrenner, and then when you suddenly see him in person exactly as you had pictured him, it did throw you for a loop. Of course, that doesn't mean you have to yell.
And for the record, Big Stein was perfectly cordial and quite charming.
Quote of the day, from Titans defensive back Donnie Nickey after his training-camp scrap with Vince Young: "Someone comes at me, I'm not going to back down. I don't care if it's Vince (or) President Bush." In that case, Donnie, just keep your eye out for the Secret Service since it's perfectly legal for them to hold.
Gee, I hope our selection last week of Buddy Bell as sports' Angel of Death (i.e. he shows up and all hope dies for your team) didn't have anything to do with him officially becoming a lame duck.
And the Worst Sports City of 2007 is ...
So we here at the 10 Spot decided to take the glass-half-empty approach and name the Worst Sports City of 2007. Some notes on our on-the-fly methodology: 1) Like the Sporting News we've generally looked at the past 12 months, roughly from July to July; 2) The rankings are limited to cities with teams in at least two of the four major pro sports (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL); 3) On-field performance is most important but subjective measures also come into play.
1. Atlanta -- The Falcons crumbled last season (7-9) and, as you might have heard, their quarterback is in a bit of a pickle. The Hawks continue to be both bad and boring, a deadly combination. The Thrashers won their division but were rudely swept in the first round by the Rangers. Even the metronomic Braves missed the playoffs last season while finishing below .500, which at least eliminated the seemingly annual story about how the team can't even sell out home playoff games in this most disinterested of major pro sports towns. (But go you hairy 'Dawgs!)
2. Washington, D.C. -- The city's four teams accounted for three last-place finishes and one record right at .500. The Redskins (5-11), Nationals (71-91 in '06 and 47-60 in '07) and Capitals (28-40-14) were all as dysfunctional as Congress. The Wizards weren't bad, but injuries to Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler prevented them from potentially redeeming a lousy sports year in the nation's capital.
3. Tampa-St. Petersburg -- The Bucs and the perennially putrid Devil Rays compiled a combined winning percentage of .365 in their most recent seasons. 'Nuff said. The Lightning were OK but couldn't make it out of the first round.
4. Cincinnati -- The Bengals aren't bad but never seem able to get over the middle-of-the-pack hump on the field, while their off-the-field exploits have made them a national punchline. (For which the 10 Spot thanks them.) And while we hate to put down the new favorite team of 10 Spot reader Jenn of Indianapolis, aside from Ken Griffey Jr. the woeful Reds are an anonymous afterthought. Quick, name their manager. Don't worry, I had to look up Pete Mackanin's name too, and I'm supposedly a sportswriter.
5. Minneapolis-St. Paul -- The small-budget Twins are almost always in the mix, but it's all downhill from there. The Wild made the playoffs last season for just the second time in their history but quickly folded in the first round. The T-Wolves stumbled to a 32-50 record and then traded away their franchise player, Kevin Garnett. Worst of all, the Vikings are not just bad (6-10 in '06) but rank second only to the Bengals as a talk-show monologue staple thanks to the Love Boat scandal.
Honorable Mention -- Miami (the Dolphins cratered in '06 and were deserted by Nick Saban, the Marlins try to compete on a shoestring budget in an empty stadium with only occasional success, the Panthers are ho-hum and the Heat fell off quickly from their championship heights); Milwaukee (the Bucks were woeful last season and are now getting stood up by a rookie from China, while the Brewers' apparent bust-out season after years of mediocrity may turn out to be a giant tease); Philadelphia (the Eagles surprised even after losing Donovan McNabb, but the Phillies are just good enough to disappoint -- with bonus points for their 10,000th loss -- while the Sixers and Flyers were downright lousy)
3 strikes yer out at the (age-challenged) ballgame
Thus the first baseman became the "first baseperson," shortstop was transformed to "vertically challenged stop" -- which must have made Eckstein happy -- and so on. Errors weren't announced to the crowd lest it embarrass the players who committed them. The Spinners lost to the Brooklyn Cyclones 9-5, but here's hoping they still won some participation trophies. Wouldn't want to hurt anyone's feelings. You're all winners!
I would have posted something else today, but I just read my horoscope in the New York Post. It says: "You may have a head full of good ideas but you are advised not to make any of them public just yet. This time tomorrow the proverbial light bulb will switch on in your mind and you will know without a shadow of a doubt what it is you should be focusing on. Give your brain box a rest today." Hey, I'm not about to fight destiny.
Something else that's bothering me today
Last year, Bowden held the best hand at the trading deadline in Alfonso Soriano. So what did he do? He folded. When teams wouldn't meet his extortionate requests, Bowden simply did nothing, even though it seemed pretty clear that Washington wouldn't be able to sign Soriano when his contract expired after the season ended.
So predictably Soriano walked -- signing an eight-year, $136 million deal with the Cubs in the offseason -- and all the Nats got in return were two measly compensatory draft picks, i.e. two guys even further away from helping the team in any meaningful way than the prospects/players they would have gotten if they moved Soriano when they should have.
This season Bowden's hand wasn't quite so strong or his recommended path so painfully obvious. Yet in relievers Chad Cordero and Jon Rauch, he had two legitimate chips to trade in a market gone gaga over relief help. So what happened? Nothing. Again.
Why's that? Well, let Cordero explain: "I heard they were asking too much." Gee, now there's a shock. Why not trade Cordero and slide Rauch into his spot as closer? At 46-60, the Nats aren't going anywhere this season. Why not at least start to re-stock a woeful farm system?
It's hard to remember that Bowden was the original boy-wonder G.M., way before Theo Epstein and Jon Daniels and the rest of the Ivy League invasion. When the Reds named him G.M. on Oct. 16, 1992, he was at 31 the youngest ever to hold the position.
Yet somewhere along the line, Bowden seems to have lost the knack, presuming he once had it. Bad teams with depleted farm systems should be dealing whatever major-league talent they have in order to rebuild, especially if those players are almost certain to leave as free agents. It's the nature of the sport. (Plus from a selfish perspective, it makes covering the trading deadline much more interesting.)
Instead, Bowden seems unable to make such logical moves because of his comically absurd trade demands. Even George Costanza knew that he was lying when he told George Steinbrenner he figured out a way to "get Bonds and Griffey" without having to "give up that much."
That's fiction, of course, but to Nationals fans -- presuming that there are some -- the Bowden Regime is all too real.
Is the Mike Vick outrage out of proportion?
Consider that on Tuesday, Rawlings joined Nike and Reebok in dumping Vick. Even more strikingly, Upper Deck said it was removing Vick trading cards from its NFL sets to be released in October. Basically, Upper Deck has declared him an NFL non-person, like in some Cold War-era Communist regime. Can't the card company at least wait until Vick is suspended by the league, never mind actually convicted of a crime, before pretending that Vick the player doesn't even exist?
Yes, Vick had already eroded some of his benefit of the doubt over the past year or so by flipping off his home fans and showing up at airport security with a souped-up water bottle, though he wasn't charged with anything in the latter case. Still, it seems that the charges of cruelty against man's best friend has stoked the outrage to a nearly unprecedented level.
It wasn't all that long ago, remember, that Kobe Bryant was charged with raping a woman. His sponsors (including Nike) stood by him and the NBA chose not to suspend him until after the justice system had its say. Bryant certainly faced hecklers and intense media scrutiny up until (and after) the charges were ultimately dropped because the accuser did not want to go through with a trial. But he was never buried as thoroughly as Vick is being buried right now.
The NFL, too, has clearly had its share of thugs well before the charges against Vick. This April the San Diego Union-Tribune compiled a list of 308 arrests and citations against NFL players, including some 50 arrests for domestic violence or violence against women just since 2000. Defensive end Leonard Little killed a woman while driving drunk in 1998, and six years later was arrested again for drunken driving, yet never received the public opprobrium that Vick has. (Little even signed a three-year extension with the Rams last winter.) None of those players was run out of the NFL and Madison Avenue on a rail like Vick has been the last few weeks.
Frankly, I don't feel too badly for Vick's "plight." If he's found guilty of the unsettling charges against him, he deserves whatever punishment he's allotted. If the Falcons want to sit him down until his trial is over so he can focus on his defense and the team can focus on football, that sounds reasonable. It doesn't really seem like the NFL's place to sit Vick down now, though Goodell obviously is trying to set a get-tough tone with the league that is generally laudable.
Still, it would be better if society's disgust meter reacted this strongly to violent crimes (or alleged crimes) against humans -- especially women -- as it evidently does to crimes against canines.
Let me hear from you
Beyond posting a comment, if you have a news tip or a link to a story or video clip that you think is interesting, please drop me a line. Or if you have a general question or comment, send that along too. You can email me here.
(One note on the blogger comments: The only rule is to keep it clean. No curse words, please. This is a family blog.)