Thursday, February 14, 2008

Bible Stories it ain't

I don't know what Roger Clemens was thinking.

He had a choice about yesterday. He chose to go forward with the hearing when chairman Henry Waxman was ready to call it off.

I'm not what one would call a religious any way, shape, or form...but I'm about to make a correlation here...

It was like he thought the result of yesterday would be that he were Abraham's son, saved from the knife on the sacrificial altar at the last minute. It didn't happen yesterday.

What happened yesterday -

  • Clemens appeared to have engaged in perjury, trying desperately to contradict the stories of Brian McNamee, Andy Pettitte, Pettitte's wife, his own nanny, and even his own story at times - while successfully discrediting his alibi - Jose Canseco - by admitting that he did spend some time at the party at Canseco's, in spite of Canseco's sworn affidavit to the contrary.
  • Clemens might have engaged in witness tampering, and, when called on it, had the arrogance to tell the committee that he had done them a favor.
  • McNamee was revealed to be nothing more than what he is - a liar and a drug distributor. No more so than what anyone already knew - but no one was able to determine what McNamee would have to gain out of an action that has effectively ruined his professional career? Everyone knew going in and coming out what Clemens had to gain.
  • We learned that Clemens, in his desperation, would throw everybody - including his wife, legal representation, and agents - under the bus in order to avoid culpability for his mistakes.
  • We found out that Clemens wouldn't fire his agents in the face of what would have to be gross incompetence and negligence, if what he claims about notification of George Mitchell's investigation is true, and he wasn't notified.
  • We now know that, if what the Rocket says is true about not knowing that Debbie Clemens dropped trou in her bedroom for McNamee, a man once accused of rape, that her judgment is as questionable as her husband's. I, for one, know no women who would be caught alone in a room with someone even suspected of that crime, if they could help it.
  • We found that the republican contingent of the contingent seemed more interested in pontificating about how untrustworthy McNamee was while engaging in blatant hero worship in the direction of Clemens.
What we found out today, is why Clemens and his lawyers...and the Republicans on the committee...would engage in this farce. For those who have forgotten - the Rocket is a friend of the Bush family.

McNamee's lawyer believes that Clemens' handlers allowed him to participate in this farce because the Rocket could get a pardon from W. Unfortunately, it's not that far fetched an idea.

I, for one, am hoping that if this does end up in front of the judiciary, it extends into next year, and beyond the reach of Bush.

That might seem harsh to some, but this is, as I said before, someone who hasn't been able to explain why his former trainer would do this beyond "a cheap stunt," and "the feds were targeting me." This is in spite of the fact that McNamee's lawyer has noted that the feds never mentioned Clemens and were perfectly professional, and that if McNamee has lied then he goes to jail, and if he hasn't, his professional career is shot to hell. Hardly cheap.

This is also someone who, as I also noted, has demonstrated nothing but arrogance and a sense of entitlement somehow believing, through the whole process that he's above reproach - trying to convince everybody that he is more reliable than George Mitchell, the man who put together the Northern Ireland Peace Accord. The man who repeatedly tried to contact Clemens before the report came out.

It is looking more and more like there is no doubt that Clemens did indeed do something illegal, and that he cheated...and he needs to be held accountable.

No new contracts, pro-rated, or otherwise.

No Hall.

No freedom.

At this point, in my opinion, the man is a cheat and a criminal and should be treated as such.

And on a final note - I think I'm going to miss this when it all goes away...and it will. I mean, really, this has been the best soap opera on television in recent times.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Select fraternities no one wishes to be in...

There are several select and growing fraternities among the professional athlete set.

None of which are ones you want to pledge if you are an athlete.

Okay, the first is one no one wants to be a part of and it has a new pledge.

It's the one with a membership that includes Lance Armstrong, Jon Lester, and Joe Andruzzi now includes Vikings defensive end Kenechi Udeze. According to a report in the Mineapolis-St. Paul Star-Tribune that hit the Internet at about midnight, Udeze has been diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the blood that originates in the bone marrow.

According to reports, Udeze spent time at the Mayo Clinic last week.

Currently, Udeze is undergoing tests at Fairview Southdale Hospital to determine the grade/severity of the particular type of leukemia with which he is afflicted. For more information on leukemia, and its four different varieties, visit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Web site.

Kenechi, Joe...get better soon guys.

The other fraternity...

Pi Epsilon Delta...PED, the performance enhancing drug users.

As much as Roger Clemens is desperately trying to make it look like he hasn't already pledged this group with a defense that pretty much amounts to, at this point, "what I say is right, what everybody else says is wrong."

His agents want to compare him to other pitchers, but when Ivy League statistics professors point out the errors in the methodology of the Clemens camp, and present their own report, they're wrong and "The professors make the mistake of thinking that his career arc should look like the arc of every other pitcher in their selected group," Hendricks said in a statement. the professors, of course, didn't use a small cross section, and they likely got the age ranges of their pitchers right. But no, according to the Clemens camp, the statisticians are wrong.

Now it's beginning to come out that Andy Pettitte's version of events appears to back Brian McNamee's story (never mind the fact that the Clemens camp still has failed to explain why McNamee would be telling the truth about both Pettitte and Chuck Knoblauch).

Even more amazing - why wasn't there an immediate denial from Clemens and his people in regards to his wife getting shot up before an SI shoot? Is it because of the physical evidence that has surfaced? Are they now concerned that they've backed themselves into a corner over the Rocket, and are worried about painting the corner smaller?

He may be fighting tooth and nail to not be a member of Pi Epsilon, but, by all appearances, he's already a member - along with the likes of Marion Jones, Barry Bonds, and the whistle-blower - Jose Canseco.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Thoughts and observations at the end of a season

The Patriots took us for one hell of a ride. Eighteen straight before losing in the Super Bowl.

Sure, right now that's a Pyrrhic victory.

But as I have previously noted, this will, one day, be reflected on in the same manner as the Buffalo Bills achievement of making it to four straight Super Bowls.

Now that it is over, however, the Patriots have to look to the future.

Someone out there, probably the Jets, is going to vastly overpay for free-agent corner Asante Samuel's services. There's also a chance that the Jets will pursue free-agent Randall Gay as well, although I can see him potentially taking less money (than he would get from the Jets) to stay with the Patriots due to the potential of an expanding roll with the Patriots with the impending absence of Samuel. A side note - for all the negative that has been said about Ellis Hobbs by New England fans, he actually had a solid year statistically.

First published in the Providence Journal -

According to Stats Inc., an independent sports information and statistical analysis company, opposing teams threw in Hobbs’ direction 106 times this season, ranking him 13th, but Hobbs gave up only four touchdowns. There were 44 defensive backs in the league who gave up more touchdowns than Hobbs.

Receivers caught only 58 passes in those 106 pass attempts (54.7 success rate), which is a low ratio compared to other defenders in the league. Among defensive backs thrown against at least 30 times, 156 of them were less successful than Hobbs...
Rodney Harrison, who is under contract for another year has announced his intention to play at least one more season - meaning that Eugene Wilson is the likely odd man out in the safety rotation.

The fate of Tedy Bruschi and Junior Seau are still in question on the defensive side of the ball, and Rosevelt Colvin is scheduled for a jump in salary.

I wouldn't be surprised to see at least two of the three back in uniform next year, with one of them very likely being Colvin.

On the other side of the ball, the only major change I see is the team terminating their contract with Donte Stallworth. While I have my doubts that Stallworth will wear a Patriot uniform next season, it wouldn't surprise me if he renegotiated his deal.

Texas toast revisited...

I love agent and lawyer's a lot like marketing speak. It's not a's an action figure (dolls are for girls). It's not a "used car" any's "certified pre-owned." It's no longer a retirement home, it's "an active seniors community."

By now everyone knows that Roger Clemens agents, the Hendricks Brothers, have put out their little piece of propaganda in an effort to show there was nothing unusual in an athlete getting better in his mid-thirties after three straight years of health issues and declining know, the time period when no player in the history of any sport got better without the aid of performance enhancing drugs?

Well, here's a little tidbit from the AP report about some statistics guys at the Ivy League's University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School - one of the most renowned business schools in the world had to say about the little report and the Clemens' party reactions -

His agent, Randy Hendricks, responded Sunday to an article by four professors from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School who criticized an 18,000-word statistical report Hendricks Sports Management issued to rebut accusations that the pitcher's career rebounded about the time he is accused by McNamee of using performance-enhancing drugs.

Hendricks' report compared Clemens' performance during the second half of his career to those of Nolan Ryan, Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson.

"By comparing Clemens only to those who were successful in the second act of their careers, rather than to all pitchers who had a similarly successful first act, the report artificially minimizes the chances that Clemens' numbers will seem unusual. Statisticians call this problem selection bias," professors Eric Bradlow, Shane Jensen, Justin Wolfers and Adi Wyner wrote in Sunday's Times.

They compared Clemens' ERA and walks plus-hits-per-inning with those of 31 pitchers since 1968 with 3,000 innings and 10 or more starts in at least 15 seasons.

"The available data on Clemens's career strongly hint that some unusual factors may have been at play in producing his excellent late-career statistics," they said, while adding, "in any analysis of his career statistics, it is impossible to say whether this unusual factor was performance-enhancing drugs."

Hendricks said the criteria used by the professors was flawed, and that they ignored criteria such as Clemens' ERA margin vs. that of the league and strikeouts. Hendricks' report tried to refute any perceived misconceptions that Clemens' career was on the downside when he left Boston after the 1996 season. While the professors claimed Clemens was in decline in his late 20s, Hendricks pointed out Clemens was an All-Star in consecutive years from age 27-29, finished second in Cy Young at age 28, then won it the following year.

"The professors make the mistake of thinking that his career arc should look like the arc of every other pitcher in their selected group," Hendricks said in a statement. "These 'statisticians' are engaging in precisely the kind of insinuation with their words that they say cannot be proven by statistics."

So...the Hendricks want us to believe that his career compares favorably to other pitchers based only on the statistics they chose for the report...not based on what's considered the accepted methodology for any proper academic study. As long as the general public doesn't get to hear about improper methodology like "selection bias" this is something that might work on a handful of people who have been undecided in this whole charade...people who like to be spoon-fed their facts, and don't want to dig a little deeper for the truth. But to anyone that really sits back and looks at some basic facts of the human body and athletics at the highest levels, this just smacks of more desperation.

On a sadder note...

I would like to take a moment to note the passing of Roy Scheider.

Sure, he wasn't an athlete, and wasn't known for taking rolls in sports films like Burt Reynolds in The Longest Yard, or Dennis Quaid in movies like Everybody's All-American and Breaking Away, but he still had his moments - he had a small uncredited part in Paper Lion, the George Plympton bio-pic starring Alan Alda, and of course, for sport-fishermen everywhere, Jaws. Beyond that, I suppose you could make an argument for the movie Marathon Man, in which he plays the brother of Dustin Hoffman who is training for the Olympics.

Scheider was an excellent actor, at the top of his game in the 1970's through to the early 1980's, including a very deserved best actor Oscar nod for his portrayal of Joe Gideon, director Bob Fosse's alter ego, in 1979's All That Jazz.

But the reason I mention him here is this exchange he had while playing Dr. Heywood Floyd with John Lithgow's Walter Curnow in 2010...

Heywood Floyd: I'd love a hot dog.
Walter Curnow: Astrodome. Good hot dogs there.
Heywood Floyd: Astrodome? You can't grow a good hot dog indoors. Yankee Stadium. September. The hot dogs have been boiling since opening day in April. Now that's a hot dog.
Walter Curnow: The yellow mustard or the darker kind?
Heywood Floyd: The darker kind.
Walter Curnow: Very important.

Anyone who spends time at the ballpark gets this.

But, in regards to Scheider, I think it's more appropriate that he be remembered with this exchange from All That Jazz with Angelique, who is symbolic of death...

Joe Gideon: No, nothing I ever do is good enough. Not beautiful enough, it's not funny enough, it's not deep enough, it's not anything enough. Now, when I see a rose, that's perfect. I mean, that's perfect. I want to look up to God and say, "How the hell did you do that? And why the hell can't I do that?"
Angelique: Now that's probably one of your better con lines.
Joe Gideon: Yeah, it is. But that doesn't mean I don't mean it.

It's showtime folks!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Happy New Year!

For those of you who don't know, we are entering the year of the rat based on the Chinese lunar calendar.

Last night I participated in a Chinese cultural show here in Maryland to celebrate the Chinese New Year (I'm center in the traditional Kung-fu uniform, and the two in the yellow tee-shirts are two of my students).

It was an interesting experience.

It reminded me of something that we, as sports fans, tend to take for granted...

The ability to perform in front of a large group of strangers.

From a young age I participated in organized sports - little league started when I was in Kindergarten or first grade, when I was in third grade I was in youth soccer, by fifth grade I was playing street hockey in a league, by the time I was thirteen I was training in karate and fourteen, participating in tournaments. I ran track in high school, and played football and soccer. There was always some sort of crowd watching the games, at the tournaments, or at the track meets - whether parents, local community reporters, or other family members, or participants waiting between events, it didn't matter who - there were always spectators.

In spite of this, I had an issue with stage fright while growing up. I was horrible at delivering oral reports for this reason. It didn't occur to me at the time that my ability to perform in the athletic arena should have been no different. Except for the fact that execution on the athletic field had always been in front of a crowd. Execution in the academic arena had not.

I digress.

I bring this up because neither of the two students that performed last night were athletes. I spent as much time before the performance assuring them that there was nothing to worry about as I did tweaking their form. And in spite of all the panic and worry they showed before going on stage in front of several hundred people, the two performed well.

I think it's easy to forget that performing at the highest levels in professional athletics in front of huge crowds comes with a pressure most of us never feel.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not making excuses for the highly regarded who fail at the highest levels of athletics when the pressure is on - particularly since that is the living they chose and they have trained to get to that point, usually their entire lives. I can get where a highly regarded prospect coming into Major League Baseball can crash and burn - until they hit the majors, they're never in front of a crowd in the minors like they see in the majors (unless the guy plays for some team in Florida). I'm less understaning of football wherein most division I college teams play in front of crowds larger than the crowds they see in the NFL - which is why I have to tip my hat to Giants tight end Kevin Boss, who went from playing in front of crowds no larger than 6,000, to crowds larger than 60 thousand.

Then you have other sports - like Olympic gymnastics, figure skating, tennis, and sometimes even golf and soccer - where an enormous amount is expected at an unrealistically young age. Then we end up with people like Freddy Adu and Anna Kournikova who are considered disappointments in their respective sports before they even reach the age of 21.

My personal favorite whipping post of the young crowd has been Michelle Wie. But if you go back and look at what I have said about her, it usually relates to the special treatment she gets at the hands of the press and the tournament sponsors who grant her exemptions as though her career has shown that she has earned the special treatment. Ultimately, though, it appears that her problems come from how she has dealt with the pressures that have gone along with the expectations, both internal (from her family), and external (the media and fans) that she has faced.

As for the teams that I follow...

It's a hard thing to play in places like New York or Boston, where the media and the fans will absolutely crush a player - and it takes a special mentality to pull it off.
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