Friday, August 10, 2007

Worth the read...

There has been a lot of blasting here, and on a number of other blogs, newspapers, and media-outlets of ESPN for their recent sycophantic coverage of the home-run chase - most, if not all of it, justifiable. However, let it not be said that I didn't recognize them when they actually post an article or two that takes cheaters to task. They're decent reads.

It got me thinking though. Particularly this paragraph towards the end of the first of the two articles -

And now when I look at the innocent face of my 5-month-old daughter, I want
sports to help her dream, too. I don't want her to see the greatest home run
hitter in baseball history and question whether he was a cheat. I'd rather she
not watch a suspiciously officiated NBA playoff game and instantly think the fix
is on. And God forbid she look at any future female sports stars and just throw
her hands up because she doesn't have their chemist.

That passage could easily apply to me and my 5-year-old daughter or my soon to be born daughter (at least that's what the ultrasound tech told us it was going to be).

It's getting hard to look at professional sports...any professional sports these days and not wonder.

There are golfers talking openly about the need for steroid testing in golf. Golf! That's ridiculous.

In cycling, Lance Armstrong - the poster boy for overcoming adversity - is constantly fighting allegations of doping, even into retirement. Some of the allegations coming from former teammates with nothing to gain by coming forward. I won't even go into Floyd Landis.

I've discussed the issues with baseball at length.

How many football players have failed drug tests this summer and are facing four game suspensions to start the season? Right now, I'm thinking around four.

I don't even follow auto racing, but I feel like I'm constantly hearing about some driver or other who's being docked points for rules violations.

Track and field? I competed in high school and college. It pains me that every time the sport makes the headlines it seems that it is because one of its biggest stars was caught doping. And those that weren't nailed decisively (Marion Jones), have consciously put themselves into doubt by surrounding themselves with coaches and trainers who have been busted as suppliers of performance enhancers.

Like Wayne Drehs at ESPN, I want my daughters to be able to look up to athletes. I want them to understand they have options - that they have the option to pursue athletic excellence on a level playing field, that a woman can be strong and athletic and not have to sacrifice anything but the time on the practice field to be that way.

Right now, my only answer can be to my daughters, should they come to me for advice in regards to performance enhancing drugs is, "you just need to work harder." Sadly, the chemists have been working smarter.

Converted

It's a great word.

Religious connotations aside - it has great meaning in sports - convert a save, two-point conversion, first-down conversion - there are any number of reasons why the term gets used. My favorite, however, has to do with players.

I bring this up because of Rick Ankiel - the one-time phenom pitcher for the Cardinals transformed from potential ace to Rick "The Wild Thing" Vaughn pre-glasses. In an effort to keep doing what he loved, Ankiel converted from pitcher to outfielder. Last night, in his big league premier at a position anywhere other than on the mound, Ankiel went deep. Not bad.

While there are always the unsuccessful experiments (Tebucky Jones at cornerback, for one), there have been a number of athletes who have seen the light, so to speak, and gone on to have greater success at a new position than the one at which they were originally drafted. Most notably Babe Ruth - a top notch left handed pitcher who went on to be one of the greatest hitters the game has ever seen. There's no way the man could ever match the myth of what he went on to become.

On a lesser note, there have been a number of others.

Tim Wakefield was originally drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates as a corner infielder. When told by a scout that it was unlikely that he would get above AA ball with his tools, he began experimenting until he found his niche as a knuckleballer. That change has translated into 15 seasons (including this season) in the bigs during which time he has averaged around 11 wins per season.

Former Red Sox replacement outfielder Ron Mahay has had a nice career as a left-handed specialist. After five games in the outfield for the Sox, Mahay returned to the minors and remade himself as a relief pitcher. He has spent at least part of every season since 1997 in the bigs in stints with Oakland, Florida, Chicago (NL), Texas, and Atlanta while compiling an 18-10 record with a 3.96 ERA and 3 saves over the course of 331 games and 395 innings. Overall a solid career.

Antwaan Randle-El of course played quarterback in college, as did Matt Jones - but it's still too early to determine whether or not they will be totally successful conversions, or busts. Yes, Randle-El is certainly further along than Jones, but Randle-El has also regressed the last three seasons, catching fewer passes for fewer yards each year.

The Bears are experimenting with corner Devin Hester at wide-out.

On a game to game basis, the Patriots have been using offensive linemen as fullbacks, linebackers as tight-ends, and wide receivers as corners for several years under Bill Belichick - with the most impact coming from Troy Brown who tied the team for second in interceptions with three during limited time as the nickel corner while still playing special teams and offense. Then there is Mike "Touchdown" Vrabel. Any team that doesn't make sure he's covered on the goal line at this point...well they're just idiots.

I enjoy the stories of players like this. I'm no fan of A-Rod, but what unfolded in New York when they consummated the trade for him was fascinating (keeping in mind that switching from playing the field to designated hitter just isn't compelling). I for one, will keep on the lookout for more of these stories.

Double Jeopardy

As explained at http://lp.findlaw.com/:

''The constitutional prohibition against 'double jeopardy' was designed to
protect an individual from being subjected to the hazards of trial and possible
conviction more than once for an alleged offense. . . . The underlying idea, one
that is deeply ingrained in at least the Anglo-American system of jurisprudence,
is that the State with all its resources and power should not be allowed to make
repeated attempts to convict an individual for an alleged offense, thereby
subjecting him to embarrassment, expense and ordeal and compelling him to live
in a continuing state of anxiety and insecurity, as well as enhancing the
possibility that even though innocent he may be found guilty.''
In essence, the courts can only try someone once for a specific crime. This doesn't prohibit, however, the same charges being filed in regards to the same crime on both federal and state levels - which is what seems to be the direction that Virginia is going in with the Michael Vick dogfighting case.

That is not what I am referring to with Vick.

While it appears to be likely that Vick will face an indictment from the State of Virginia in addition to his federal indictment, I am talking about something different.

I am talking about the other indictment that could be handed down in Atlanta.

From 2004 through 2006 the Falcons won 11, 8, and 7 games respectively. In each of those three seasons, in spite of passing for more yards each year, his completion percentage dropped from 56.4 in 2004 to 55.3, and, ultimately 52.6 last season. Overall, he is a career 53.8 percent passer who has piloted the Falcons to two winning seasons. The only time that the Falcons have won more than nine games with Vick at the helm coincides with his highest completion percentage - 56.4.

Joey Harrington, for all the knocks he takes in the press, is the better quarterback. Over the last three seasons playing for Detroit and Miami - two teams no one could really consider contenders, Harrington has posted completion percentages of 56, 57, and 57.5 respectively.

If after six seasons of Vick, during which the Falcons could achieve ten wins only once, what will it say of Vick - the so called "most exciting player in the game," if Atlanta wins ten with Detroit's first-round quarterbacking bust at the helm?

Isn't that just another indictment of Vick?

His defenders point to the number of dropped passes his receivers had last season. They don't point to the fact that, until this past off season when the dogfighting was about to hit the fan, Vick didn't spend anymore time around Flowery Branch than the bare minimum required. He didn't spend the extra time developing that rapport with receivers that quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, or Donovan McNabb do.

Whose fault is that? The receivers?

For all the hype, and the excitement he has caused on the field (and off), nothing ever justified Arthur Blank's signing of this man to the richest contract ever for a quarterback. As much as you may here players and coaches give proper respect to Vick's athletic ability - you never hear them talk about him as a great quarterback.

Why? Because defensive coordinators would rather face someone like Vick than someone like Brady or Manning. They know if they bottle up Vick, then they force him to pass. That's not a prospect that defensive coordinators in the NFL fear - not the way they fear what Brady, Manning, McNabb, Carson Palmer, Brett Favre, Drew Brees, or any one of a number of other quarterbacks can do if stuck in the pocket.

Don't be surprised if Vick faces another indictment by the end of the season - only this one will be on the football field.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Sometimes I just have to defer to The Onion

http://www.theonion.com/content/node/64929

http://www.theonion.com/content/node/64579

I think they have a better handle on things than ESPN...

Cry me a river

I've been meaning to comment on this for several days now - the MLB Umpire's Union crying foul over the fact that baseball's executive offices, in the wake of the NBA ref scandal, wants the umpires to undergo background checks.

"We understand the need in light of what's taken place. But we feel we just don't need to have a knee-jerk reaction and a witch hunt,'' Lamell McMorris, spokesman for the World Umpires Association, told Sports Illustrated.

I understand that as the spokesman for the WUA, McMorris has a responsibility to his constituents to put the worst possible face on MLB's request. Unfortunately, he is giving in to severe hyperbole in describing what most of the rest of the baseball viewing public is viewing as a reasonable request.

I know I'm not alone in watching umpires with erratic strike zones and wondering how a pitch in the top half of an inning is a strike and in the bottom half a ball.

While I don't think background and credit checks are needed for all jobs, it seems to make perfect sense to me that it would and should be needed for game officials on the professional and collegiate levels.

In 2003, on-line gamblers in the US bet an estimated $6 billion and the estimated gross amount for sports wagering on-line (worldwide) was in excess of $63 billion. According to the Online Gambling Research and Markets Group, on-line gambling will reach $125 billion by 2015.

Is it really too much for a professional sports league to ask that they have every reassurance that their game officials aren't beholden to sports bookies?

What really bothers me about the WUA's stance is the last item they sent to MLB offices demanding that this be negotiated, and that the following statement was in the letter - "The safeguards that will be adopted to ensure that umpires will not be subject to disciplinary or other adverse job actions stemming from or based upon any of the information."

In essence, they are saying that if we agree to let you do these background checks, we don't want you to be able to do anything about it if you find that one of the umpires is doing something he/she shouldn't be doing.

This is all indicative of a greater problem in professional sports.

The inability of the groups to realize that, ultimately, the most important aspect of what they are doing is creating a product.

For example, in television, there is a misconception that the program is the product and that viewers are the target. The product in television is the audience, the program is the vehicle by which a television station builds product to sell to advertisers. The program is designed to capture certain types of audiences to sell to certain types of advertisers (ie: we are going to produce a news show called The View, the demographic will be stay-at-home moms, and women pushing into middle age, we are going to try to sell this advertising block to Folger's Coffee, tampon producers, and family restaurants). It is why quality programming is often ditched for poorly written pablum that appeals to the masses. Small loyal audiences don't demand the advertising dollars.

In the case of professional sports, the product is the game. Sure, there are spin-offs - jersey's, caps, bobble-heads, etc., but none of those exist without the game and the fan base for each team.

It seems like most of the pro-leagues and their unions are forgetting about the importance of the product. What the umpires are saying to me is that they don't give a rats ass about the product as long as they can get something in exchange for what they should already be doing.

The MLB players' union long ago told me it didn't care about the product - and often still reminds me by telling their players things like, "don't cooperate with the Mitchell investigation."

The NBA has a variety of similar issues from players like "Starbury" to refs that seem to think they are the reason people come to the games.

Roger Goodell is giving a good-faith effort along with the player's union in football, but this attitude of insult over the franchise tag does the players no favors - nor do hold-outs by rookies who have yet to prove anything

I'm not even going to get into ticket prices.

My message to the umpires - shut-up and submit to the checks, or find a job like the ones the rest of us have.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Heroes

Lately I have been feeling old...like something of a dinosaur, really.

Growing up, I remember coaches and fathers alike used to point to Pete Rose, a player with limited ability and unlimited hustle, as someone to emulate. "Look at the way Charlie Hustle plays the game - that's what hard work and determination will get you." Now he's a punchline...a sad joke at which no one laughs.

We used to play youth sports in order to learn the value of sportsmanship, teamwork, and hard work.

Now I hear sportscasters at the nation's single largest sports media outlet proclaim a cheater the best hitter ever in the wake of the home-run record being broken. Who cares if mounds are lower, and stadiums are smaller then when Hank Aaron did it. Who cares if the man who did it utilized drugs banned by federal law in order to allow his muscles to recover faster, in order to allow his strength to grow, who cares that he took a huge short cut.

Is it something that starts from the top? We have a president who lost the popular vote...twice, and pardoned a crony that compromised national security by outing a CIA agent.

Does it start with fraternity? We have a baseball player's union, possibly the most powerful union in the nation, which did everything it could to preserve the steroid era of baseball until bullied by Congress into adopting a testing policy.

Maybe it's just me.

I have always had a soft spot for the guy that goes undrafted, or is called too small - Tedy Bruschi, Troy Brown, David Patten - none of those guys were supposed to make it. Bru was too small for linebacker, Brown was drafted in a round that no longer exists, and Patten was undrafted and a cast-off.

It is, I realize, the Underdog Syndrome - I liked watching Greg Harris pitch, I am a fan of Dustin Pedroia. My favorite Sox player of all-time isn't Yaz, or Rice, or even Fisk - all of whom I enjoyed watching - no, mine was always Evans. The guy who played the position that the worst were relegated to in little league. I looked up to him because that is where I first played in little league.

I liked the scrappers like Wally Backman, Trot Nixon, Tim Goad. I liked the guys that got their jerseys dirty and wore it like a badge of honor.

Lately honor has seemed like an empty word in sports.

Franchise faces like Drew Bledsoe and Mike Minter, guys who literally bled for their teams and dragged their teammates out of the dregs of one win seasons are walking away. We are left with things like the Tour de France and the legion of riders expelled this year for doping. We are left with the ongoing saga of an Emperor and his new clothes in baseball, and all the pundits that are telling him how beautiful his new outfit looks. We are left with a criminal minority taking the thunder away from the rest of the NFL with shootings, assaults, and dogfighting (and lord only knows how pervasive that really is).

It all makes me feel a little old, a little out of date, and a lot disappointed with where this has all gone.

Fortunately, for as bad as it seems, there are things that come up like the IronMan Triathlon, and the stories of the amateurs that run in it. Thankfully there are still some athletes out there who can still be heroes.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Monday, August 06, 2007

Separating fact and fiction

I've been paid to write about sports.

I have been very fortunate, meeting Bela Karolyi, interviewing NFL Films president Steve Sabol, Olympians Shannon Miller, and Kate Sobrero, even talking to the Red Sox front office (that was back in 1996). One of the hardest things, I think, for a good sports journalist to do is to separate personal feelings as a fan from the truth of what is happening on the field.

As fans we can be either hyper-critical or hyper-sensitive about our teams, favorite players, or even executives associated with said team.

I try very hard, and with some difficulty, to look at my favorites with a jaundiced eye. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. In order to prove a point to those of you who took exception to my analysis of your favorite teams or players in my NFL Questions segments, I will give a breakdown on my favorite NFL franchise from top to bottom - identifying strengths, questions, and areas that could be weaknesses -

The New England Patriots -

Bill Belichick, HC - As head coach and pretty much the last man standing in personnel decisions, Belichick generally gets the benefit of the doubt due to the Super Bowls and the multiple playoff berths. It's hard to fault a HC who has been at the head of the class in the NFL since 2001.

Josh McDaniels, OC - Still has some serious development issues as an offensive coordinator, as evidenced last season in a game against (I believe either) the Chargers (or the Dolphins) where McDaniels would call an abundance of runs in the red zone, but largely abandoned the run between the 20's in spite of the fact that the Patriots showed no ability to get the passing game working during the contest. During this game, McDaniels showed no ability to adjust to what was either working for the Patriots, or not working for their opponent. This is an area that needs attention.

Dean Peas, DC - Not much to complain about on the defensive side of the ball when your team allows fewer than 15 points per game (14.8).

All positions will list the players I believe are likely to make the team for both offense and defense.

Offense (up to 26)-

Quarterbacks (3) - Brady, Cassell, Testaverde
  • Last season Brady was erratic, although you wouldn't be able to tell based on numbers. His completions and yards were not outside of normal. However, watching the games, Brady often threw short of his receivers and his completion percentage was helped by receivers coming back on underthrown balls. A lot was made about the fact that Brady was getting used to a new wide-receiver corp. If that is true, then why should he struggle any less this season when the projected top three wideouts on the team will be three brand new receivers?
  • Cassell will be listed as second on the depth chart and is still a largely unknown commodity.
  • Testaverde will primarily be a clipboard holder and a sounding board for the younger quarterbacks. If Testaverde is in a game, the Pats are likely already running away with the contest and Belichick is just trying to get him one more TD pass for the consecutive season record. Either that, or something catastrophic has happened to the two who are ahead of him on the depth chart.
O-Line (9?) - Light, Mankins, Kopen, Neal, Kazcur, O'Callahan, Mruczkowski, Elgin, Hochstein
  • While the strength of this line lies in the middle with Kopen, Mankins, and Neal - Matt Light had a strong season last year - particularly against some of the speed rushers that he has traditionally struggled against, shutting down the likes of Dwight Freeney, but continued to struggle against his nemesis Jason Taylor. During the contest with the Dolphins, Miami moved Taylor around and he ate up the Patriots right-tackle-by-committee. The Patriots need one of the right tackles to step up and take the job. Right now tackle is the most likely point of attack for an opposing defense.
Receivers (6?) - Moss, Stallworth, Welker, Gaffney, Washington, Brown, (Jackson - IR)
  • On paper they look great. In reality - two burners (Moss, Stallworth) who have had trouble staying on the field, both due to hamstring issues, a reasonably well regarded slot receiver (Welker), a Texans bust (Gaffney), a speedster whose routes are raw even after several seasons in Cincy's receiver land (Washington), and a slot receiver who has lost a step (Brown). This group, to my thinking, is a total crap-shoot. If Moss and Stallworth can stay on the field this can be the strength of the team - Gaffney coming off the bench represents better value than having him as a starter. I gave Washington the nod over Caldwell only because he has special teams value - but I would not rule out Caldwell over Washington just because of the year in the Pats system. Brown will continue to have value to the team as a special teamer and a reserve corner.
Tight ends (4?) - Watson, K. Brady, Thomas, Kranchick(?)
  • With a fondness for creating mismatches with a big receiving tight end, Belichick will try to get the ball to Watson a lot. Unfortunately, unless he has worked on his hands, Watson was prone to drops and fumbles, many of which hurt the team on the scoreboard last season. If he has corrected that problem, then Watson becomes a strength - if he hasn't, then he is a definite problem. Brady is considered one of the best blocking tight ends in the game, and that's what he will be expected to do. Thomas showed signs of being a factor in the passing game last season and could develop into a legitimate weapon.
Running backs (4)- Maroney, Evans, Faulk, Morris

  • Evans and Faulk are known quantities, their jobs defined. Maroney needs to prove he can stay healthy carrying the load as the primary back after getting banged up while sharing it last year. Morris will likely be used as a change of pace from Maroney.
Defense (up to 25) -

Line (6?) - Seymour, Wilfork, Warren, Green, Wright, K. Brown
  • The strength of the defense, these guys take the punishment in order to allow the linebackers to make plays. The team can survive injuries to any one of their top three linemen, but there is a much more noticeable drop-off if two go down. Health is imperative here, as is the continued development of back-up Mike Wright.
Linebackers (10?) - Bruschi, Vrabel, Thomas, Colvin, Seau, Izzo, Alexander, Woods, Mays, Lua
  • A lot is being made of the age and the possibility that some of these guys may have lost a step. The bigger concern is health. Vrabel and Bruschi played less effectively last season due to being banged up, and Seau was lost for the season after a horrific broken arm. That was three of last season's top four 'backers. The Patriots need some of the younger linebackers to develop at a quicker pace in order to give the older guys breathers and minimize their chances for catastrophic injury.
Corners (4) - Hobbs, Gay, James, Andrews
  • For whatever reason, injuries have killed this position for the Patriots in recent years. With Samuel holding out, Hobbs jumps to the top of the depth chart and Gay gets the chance to prove he can stay healthy. Tory James, a long time starter provides depth as does wide-receiver Brown. Andrews makes the team primarily for his special teams contributions. Safeties Hawkins, Wilson, and Merriweather also have experience on the corner. Still, this is an area where the Patriots have the potential to be exploited.
Safeties (5?) - Harrison, Wilson, Sanders, Merriweather, Hawkins

  • Like corner, this has been a position hit by injury over the last couple of seasons. They are a better defensive team with Harrison on the field than without. As such, it might be worth limiting his workload to passing downs in order to try and keep him on the field. However, his injuries have allowed Sanders to develop, and Hawkins is better at safety than expected. Merriweather is still a largely unknown commodity that was drafted to eventually be Harrison's replacement.
Special teams (3)

Punter (1) - Miller
  • When uninjured, Miller is an excellent directional punter with the now rare ability to coffin-corner his punts. If he is not completely recovered from last season's shoulder issues, look for the Pats to go in a different direction.
Kicker (1) - Gostkowski

  • After a strong rookie campaign, Gostkowski needs to avoid a sophomore slump. If he struggles, the Pats faithful will give him an earful.
Long snapper (1) - Paxton
  • Solid, gets the job done and gets down the field quickly on punts.
Gunners - Andrews, Washington
  • Washington performed this roll in Cincy and Andrews acquitted himself nicely in this role in Foxboro last year.

Questions

Apparently Adam "Pacman" Jones will moonlight as a professional wrestler during his suspension. This begs the question - will they create villain wrestlers for him named Blinky, Inky, Pinky, and Clyde?

Wade Phillips is taking the heat in Dallas for missed practices by Terrell Owens. Anyone else surprised in the least?

Can anyone out there explain to me what Brady Quinn is thinking? Get the deal done and get into training camp - you've already made yourself public enemy number one in Cleveland - don't make it any worse.

Does Michael Strahan really think he has any leverage whatsoever in his hold-out? The man has played in 33 of the last 48 regular season games over the last three years and turns 36 in November. Either get into camp, Mike, or retire - you're not getting an extra dime out of the Mara family and they're unlikely to trade you to someone who will.

What do Michael Vick supporters really think of his chances in federal court? Innocent until proven guilty is a lovely concept, but let's face some basic facts. Vick isn't facing Mike Nifong who was pandering to his electors, or the mess that was the O.J. trial - also a local jurisdiction case. He is facing a court system in which 90 percent of those charged cut deals. The other ten percent that go to court? 95 percent of them end up convicted.

The feds are deliberate in their approach, and they don't indict unless they think they have the subject dead to rights. Think about it in this context - for every 1,000 people that the feds indict, the proof is so strong that 900 of them accept deals, and 95 of the remaining 100 are convicted. Five of every 1,000 walk away from the charges - 0.005 percent of those who are indicted are found innocent. Those are long odds for anyone, no matter how good the lawyer.

When will the DA's office in Georgia figure out that the system is supposed to be about justice and not one's own personal conviction stats and let Genarlow Wilson walk?

Why is it that all my questions today are related to football?

Monday Morning shots

Of the Red Sox 68 wins, 56 have come from the starters. Of those, 40 have come from Josh Beckett (14), Daisuke Matsuzaka (13), and Tim Wakefield (13). With approximately ten starts left for each pitcher (based on the current rotation alignment - Schilling will get 11 starts while the rest of the staff will get ten each), while unlikely, it is not out of the realm of possibility that the Sox could end the season with three 20-game winners.

Realistically, Beckett has the best shot, with both Matsuzaka and Wake ending up around 17 wins each. If Schilling wins just five of those 11 stars, he will have 11 wins, giving the Sox four pitchers with at least 11 wins in the rotation.

Overall, opponents are batting .248 against Red Sox pitching.

Surging
Down in the Bronx, the Bommahs are undergoing a renaissance, having vaulted into serious contention for the wild-card while beating up on teams like the struggling White Sox, the Devil Rays, and the Royals. While New York papers and the Yankee fandom are rejoicing, there should still be major cause for concern in the House that Ruth Built.

Even against the dregs of the American league, the Yankees pitching staff gave up 14 runs to Tampa Bay, 6 or more three times to Baltimore, 13 in a loss to Chicago, and 5 or more twice to Kansas City. Chicago is last in the AL in batting average and all four are in the bottom 6 in the AL in runs batted in.

Yankees pitching (against which the league is hitting .269) is still struggling and erratic, and will be tested this month starting tonight with a set against a quietly surging Blue Jays club. This starts a 23-game stretch for the Yankees against other surging teams like the Orioles who played the Yankees tough last month, and playoff contenders like the Angels, Red Sox, Tigers, and Indians.

If they survive that stretch and are still in the lead for the wild card, only then will I buy that they have a shot at the post-season. With their pitching, they could easily find themselves trailing the wild card by five games come September 1.

Religion going to the dogs...
Was forwarded this article this morning. I'm not even sure where to start with the problems related to the statements made regarding Michael Vick, "being an outstanding human being," but I suppose I will try (what can I say? I gotta be me)...

The dogfighting trial aside, this is someone, according to just about every account that I have read, has consistently put himself above his team. He presented himself to a woman under an alias and gave her a sexually transmitted disease. He flipped Falcons fans the bird. He believed he was above Federal statute when he tried to take a water bottle (complete with a smuggling compartment) onto an airplane. He blew off Congress when he was scheduled to appear on April 24 to discuss the need to fund after school programs. And, even on the off chance that he's as innocent as he claims he is of the dog fighting charges - these are Vick's friends, the people with whom he chooses to associate.

Yup, that's an outstanding human being. You've got me convinced.

I have to wonder how long it will be before the politicians that are scheduled to speak begin pulling out of the event "honoring Michael Vick."

One day makes all the difference
One day after releasing former pro-bowl defensive tackle, and current pro-bowl injury Corey Simon, the Colts lost defensive tackle Anthony "Booger" MacFarland, possibly for the season with a torn patellar tendon.

This means that the Colts defense will lack the following starters from last season - MacFarland, CB Nick Harper, LB Cato June, CB Jason David. Considering the team's struggles against the run last season, Tony Dungy can not be a happy camper this morning.