Thursday, January 03, 2008


It's amazing, the difference between fact and fiction in professional sports. That which is accepted as fact, often by the apologists or those looking to bolster their own arguments in an effort to make a player, coach, or organization look either better or worse. Sometimes the myth is true...or more accurately, the truth is so wild or great that it becomes mythic - the Immaculate Reception, Carlton Fisk's home run in game six of the 1975 World Series, Kirk Gibson, the 1980 Olympic American ice hockey team, and so on. Sometimes it becomes difficult to separate myth from fact.

Let's take a shot at a couple of the big myths floating around professional sports today...

Myth - Bill Belichick was fined $500,0000.00 for filming the Jets' signals. The knock, among fans of other teams, is that Belichick cheated by stealing signals.

Fact - Belichick was fined for filming from the sideline, the fact that he was shooting the defensive signals was incidental. According to the following report from when the story broke -

From reports when the story broke -

As part of the league's investigation, Goodell determined the filming of Jets coaches had no impact on the outcome of the game. Goodell also ruled that Robert Kraft and Patriots ownership were unaware of the filming...The NFL's rules state that "no video recording devices of any kind are permitted to be in use in the coaches' booth, on the field, or in the locker room during the game" and that all video shooting locations for coaching purposes "must be enclosed on all sides with a roof overhead."

In a memo to NFL head coaches and general managers on Sept. 6, 2006, NFL executive vice president of football operations Ray Anderson wrote: "Videotaping of any type, including but not limited to taping of an opponent's offensive or defensive signals, is prohibited on the sidelines, in the coaches' booth, in the locker room, or at any other locations accessible to club staff members during the game."

So...according to the NFL, the issue had nothing to do with them taping signals, and everything to do with where they taped from. According to this, any team can film its opponent's signals as long as the filming location is not accessible during the game - like, say, one of the skyboxes, which is enclosed on all sides with a picture window facing the field.

Myth - "Steroids don't help you hit the ball." This is the favorite defense of Bonds apologists who first will argue that he never used (he did, he admitted it, get it through your thick skulls) and even if he did...(see statement above)...

Fact - No, the performance enhancers largely don't help a person with their natural ability to hit the ball, but they do, in the end, help a batter hit...

To wit, steroids and other performance enhancers in baseball are used in order to recover faster from games, double headers, and other workouts. They also make the player stronger.

Increased strength and faster recovery time results in the following -

  • Balls hit harder, thus, the ball travels both farther and faster. Balls dying on the warning track get deposited three rows behind the outfield wall. Balls barely reached by the middle infielder in the hole get by for hits.
  • The player using these drugs is fresher at the end of a ten game stretch than the one not using, thus allowing the user to turn on a ball, with the greater likelihood of putting it into play than the tired opponent whose timing might be off enough to make his swing result in a foul ball or strike, instead of a hit. hitting the ball. Who would've thought. Oh, right, the ball players injecting themselves with steroids.
  • Balls get thrown harder by power pitchers losing their power
Myth - Baseball didn't even have a rule banning steroids in 1998.

Fact - MLB had a rule passed in 1971. According to the Mitchell Report a drug policy was written in MLB that prohibits using any prescription medicine without a prescription. From all reports, virtually none of the players named for use of either steroids or HGH had a prescription from a doctor. And those that did had their prescription from less than reputable doctors (see Paul Bird).

So, based on this 1971 rule, steroid and HGH users were in violation of MLB's rules and regulations, and use of those substances, in essence, has been against baseball's rules for the last 26 years.

Then in 1991, just to be safe, then commissioner Fay Vincent added steroids to the prohibited substance list.

Myth - The offensive coordinator of a record setting offense will make for a great head coach.

Fact - Right now 31-year old Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniel is generating interest from both the Falcons and the Ravens for their head coaching vacancies. Recent jumps from record setting coordinator to head coach have included Mike Martz and Brian Billick.

While it can be debated as to how successful Billick was, winning a Super Bowl and making multiple playoffs, one thing is certain - Billick was brought to a Ravens team that already had a solid defense, with the purpose of putting together a championship caliber offense. His offenses, over his nine years with the Ravens, have averaged 23rd. Only twice in the Ravens last six seasons have the Ravens achieved at least ten wins and the playoffs.

He inherited a team that had an improving defense, a slowly improving record, and an opportunity to build the offense he wanted. The offensive guru has been so good at identifying the talent he needed at key positions that he had 12 different quarterbacks start for him during his nine seasons at the helm.

Mike Martz won a Super Bowl ring running the Greatest Show on Turf for Dick Vermeil. Without Vermeil's tempering hand, Martz eventually went pass-happy, let the defense deteriorate, and the team's record eventually suffered in subsequent years.

Under Vermeil, during his last season at the helm, the Rams ranked 4th in points allowed on defense. Under Martz in the first year, 31st. Over the five full seasons at the helm, his defenses finished an average of 17th in points allowed and was fired in a year that the team was again 31st.

Gaudy numbers get you noticed, and there is success to be had with these coaches, but the numbers in a record setting season sets the bar impossibly high. Billick's offense in Minnesota was fueled by a young Randy Moss, just as McDaniels' offense in New England is fueled by Moss.

What is the likelihood that McDaniels will be the solution in Baltimore when they have a scouting office that can't identify a pro-ready quarterback on the collegiate level, or a veteran that still has some gas left in the tank?


Mainecatwoman said...

Josh McDaniel is as ready to take over as a head coach as Eric mangini was-which is to say, he's not. Any team who thinks he is will be in for a rude disappointment.

Kevin Smith said...

I'm with you. I think he might one day make a decent head coach, but I would be surprised if he's ready. Honestly, I can't help but think that Mangini's ten win rookie effort did him more damage than good.

soxfaninny said...

Why isn't the 1971 rule and the amendment in the early 90's getting more press? The media has hung onto the idea that player's weren't breaking any written baseball rules by taking steroids or HGH. It's driving me crazy!
I suspect that part of the problem may be that MLB wants people to think there were no rules in place so that they have plausible deniability for doing nothing while the problem was mushrooming. I would love to see a reporter (Lupica?) pick up on this and hit Clemens with it tomorrow. Also, isn't lydocaine a prescription drug?

Kevin Smith said...

I think you're right about the plausable deniability,and I agree about the fact that the press seems to almost go out of their way to avoid mentioning it. And I believe you're right about the lydocaine. What I want to find out - from a personal trainer - is how common it is that a personal trainer administers drugs by needle. It's always been my experience that they send their clients to doctors for that sort of thing, and all they do is designe and supervise workout regiments.

David Sullivan said...

McDaniel is only as good as Belichick lets him be. If its a week that they have an offensive game plan that is wide open and attacking McDaniel looks great. When they have a defense oriented game plan the offense appears vulnerable ven when its part of the plan.

He does not operate in a vaccum and guarenteed that if he goes elsewhere he'll only be as good as that franchises infrastructure.

sugarshane024 said...

Two things:

1) If I am not mistaken, steroids also improve eyesight, which would have nothing to do with hitting a baseball, would it?

2) I think, at some point, Josh McDaniels will be a fine head coach, just as Romeo Crennel is and Mangini and Weis will be. He still is quite young, and I think he's making a wise decision by choosing to stay in New England for at least one more season.

Kevin Smith said...

The study you're referring to actually singled out HGH, not steroids as possibly improving eyesight.

Chris Stone said...

thanks for the explaination about the video scandal.

I think Josh McDaniels is being smart. Who, really, would want the head coach job of the Ravens or Falcons? If he waits a yr or 2 Denver might be looking...