Sports Outside the Beltway

NFL fines 5 Atlanta Falcons for Michael Vick tributes

They either wore eye strips or a t-shirt in response to their teammate being sentenced to twenty-three months in jail. From AP-

NEW YORK – Roddy White and four other Atlanta Falcons were fined by the NFL for violating uniform regulations with tributes to Michael Vick during last week’s Monday night game.

Vick, Atlanta’s suspended Pro Bowl quarterback, was sentenced to 23 months in prison on federal dogfighting charges the morning of Dec. 10. The Falcons played at home against New Orleans that night.

After scoring a touchdown, White displayed a “Free Mike Vick” T-shirt under his jersey.

He, along with tight end Alge Crumpler and cornerbacks DeAngelo Hall and Chris Houston, were fined $10,000 each. Crumpler, Hall and Houston all wore black eye strips with written tributes to Vick, which the league called “displaying an unauthorized personal message.”

Wide receiver Joe Horn was fined $7,500 for pulling up White’s jersey to show the black T-shirt with handwritten white lettering. The fines were confirmed Tuesday by NFL spokesman Randall Liu.

How many people could have seen the eye strips?

I think Vick got off lightly for the crimes he committed. His teammates defense of him is dumb to say the least, but was this display of loyalty really unexpected? I’m sure Vick has other supporters in the league.


Chris Simon takes leave from NY Islanders

The controversial left winger is probably facing another suspension from the NFL. From AP-

NEW YORK – Chris Simon stepped away from the New York Islanders before the NHL had a chance to toss him out.

That might be next for the troubled forward.

Simon and the Islanders agreed Monday he should take a paid break from hockey following his latest penalty for attempting to injure an opponent.

He had already missed the first five games of this season while completing a 25-game ban — his sixth NHL suspension — meted out in March. Simon played in only 26 games before he found more trouble on the ice.

He is likely in line for another long penalty after he took down and stepped on Pittsburgh’s Jarkko Ruutu last weekend. Simon is scheduled to have a hearing with NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell on Tuesday in Toronto.

“The actions of Chris Simon on Saturday do not reflect what the New York Islanders stand for,” Islanders owner Charles Wang said in a statement. “They were reckless, potentially dangerous and against our team concept of grit, character and heart.

“We know Chris as a respected teammate and as a gracious man away from the playing surface and believe strongly that he has earned our continued support. The Islanders are going to provide some time for Chris away from the team and give him the counseling he needs and the compassion he deserves. When Chris is completely ready, he will be a member of our team again.”

Wang’s defense of Simon is idiotic. Here’s the video of last Saturday’s incident.

Simon is a thug who deserves a suspension for a year at least, I’d ban him entirely if I was the NHL. Two strikes and you’re out. Go look what he did last year. This player is indefensible and if Islander management think this leave changes anything, they’re as warped as Chris Simon is.


Formula One star Lewis Hamilton banned from driving in France

He was caught speeding and it wasn’t at Circuit de Nevers Magny either. From AFP-

REIMS, France – Formula One star Lewis Hamilton has been banned from driving in France for speeding, a French police spokesman confirmed on Tuesday.

The 22-year-old Briton, who finished runner-up in the world drivers’ championship in his debut season this year, has been banned for a month after being caught speeding at 122mph in a Mercedes by police on a motorway near the northern town of Laon.

The speed limit on French motorways is 85mph.

“He admitted the offence immediately and was really very polite,” the police spokesman said, adding that Hamilton had said in his defence that the motorway was “very clear” at the time.

“It’s a section of motorway which is used regularly by foreigners who have a tendancy to speed,” the spokesman added.

The McLaren driver, who was also ordered to pay a 600 euro fine, will appear before a court in Laon in January.

No word yet if Hamilton will be allowed to drive in next year’s French Grand Prix. That formula one race, which was facing an uncertain future past 2007, is on next year’s race schedule.


How about them Dolphins? Miami beats Baltimore 22-16

The winning play from this afternoon’s game.

Miami pulled it off today, making my prediction look like a stroke of genius.(Just dumb luck really) The team avoided the infamy of 0-16 but are unlikely to go better than 2-14 this year which guarantees the Dolphins the #1 pick in next year’s draft. Considering the team’s recent draft history, I don’t trust the team not to make another blunder in April when selection time comes.

Time to enjoy the victory. The team certainly did afterwards. From the way Miami was acting, you think they had won the Super Bowl.


Weekly Miami Dolphins prediction

Baltimore plays at Miami this afternoon. Baltimore has lost seven in a row, Miami 16 in a row. Thirteen of which came this year.

Lets get to the point. Can Miami avoid the infamy of 0-16? If they are going to do it, it has to be this week with games against the Patriots and Bengals left. I’ll go out on a limb with my prediction- Miami 17, Baltimore 13.


Comcast Sues NFL

Comcast is mad as hell at the NFL telling its customers to switch to satellite if they want to see games on the NFL Network and isn’t going to take it any more.

Comcast and the NFL Network are going back to court, with the nation’s largest cable company claiming the league is violating a contract over which the two sides are already embroiled in a lawsuit.

The complaint, filed with the New York State Supreme Court in New York County on Thursday, asks for unspecified damages because of NFL officials’ efforts to encourage customers to switch from Comcast and other large cable providers to television services that carry the network as part of basic programming.

“It seems to us that, after repeatedly telling you and us that its customers don’t care about our channel, Comcast seems to be a little nervous about our perfectly legitimate efforts to make sure that consumers know all of their options for getting NFL Network,” network spokesman Seth Palansky said in an e-mail.

The suit acknowledges the NFL’s campaign has been successful in persuading customers to leave Comcast. It alleges the league’s actions violate its contract with Comcast by depriving the cable company of revenue it would otherwise receive.

The two sides have feuded over Comcast’s desire to include the channel on a premium sports tier that customers must pay extra to receive. The NFL Network sued Comcast in October 2006 in the same court, trying to prevent the cable provider from moving the channel off its basic digital tier. In May, Manhattan state Supreme Court Justice Bernard J. Fried ruled in favor of Comcast. The network has appealed.

I don’t know the terms of the NFL’s contract with Comcast, if any, and the dispute will likely hinge on the precise wording. Otherwise, though, you’d think the NFL would have every right to tell angry Comcast fans to switch to another provider.


12 Former Braves Named in Mitchell Report

A dozen former Atlanta Braves were among those named in yesterday’s Mitchell Report documenting the abuse of performance enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball.

Former Braves All-Star outfielders David Justice and Gary Sheffield and pitchers Denny Neagle and John Rocker were among 12 ex-Braves players linked to steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs in the Mitchell Report released Thursday.


Among former Braves named, three (Sheffield and pitchers Paul Byrd and Darren Holmes) were cited for incidents during their time with the Braves. Other ex-Braves named: pitchers Kent Mercker and Mike Stanton, catcher Todd Pratt, and infielders Matt Franco, Ken Caminiti and Wally Joyner.

Sheffield, Byrd and Rocker were cited for allegations from previous investigations, rather than new information.

Justice, a Brave from 1989 to 1996, was said to have purchased human growth hormone in 2000 from a former Mets clubhouse attendant, Kirk Radomski. The report said former Yankees strength coach Brian McNamee recalled Justice asking him about human growth hormone in 2000 or 2001, while McNamee and Justice were both with the Yankees. According to McNamee, Justice admitted he obtained HGH from Radomski. Justice, recently inducted into the Braves’ Hall of Fame, could not be reached for comment.

Radomski and McNamee were the sources for most of the new information in the report. Some players expressed concern over the report’s heavy reliance on statements from those individuals.

“Unless you have hard truth, you’re just taking the word of a clubhouse guy,” said Braves right fielder Jeff Francoeur, Atlanta’s player representative. “If you have anything with substance, we want to know. We want to rid that [drugs] out of the game, but I think you have to have some evidence. You just can’t take someone’s word for it.”

I think that’s right.

The news coverage also is doing a poor job distinguishing between steroid use to build big muscles and the use of HGH to aid recovery from injury under a doctor’s care.

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Danny White Loves Him Some Romo

Danny White was a terrific player for the Dallas Cowboys for years. Despite setting team records that stood for years, however, he was under-appreciated. That’s what happens when you follow Don Meredith and Roger Staubach and are followed by Troy Aikman.

His name’s being bandied about for something other than his legendary Arena League coaching career again, though, now that Tony Romo is shattering those old records. As always, number 11 is handling it with class.

Danny White 2007 Photo Danny White, former Dallas Cowboys quarterback, is now head coach of the Utah Blaze in the Arena Football League. “At least they’re not being broken by some jerk,” White said.

Since 1983, White has held most single-season passing records for a franchise with guys named Meredith, Staubach and Aikman at the QB position. Sound impressive? Well, it is.

Or was.

That’s why it’s not easy for Danny White to get in touch with his feelings at a time like this. “When all is said and done, I think Romo will be one of the great quarterbacks in the history of the game. I’m happy for him,” said White. “But to be honest about it, I enjoyed holding those records. I hate to see them go.”

Romo, born the same year White became a Cowboys starter (1980), already has wrested away one White team record — touchdown passes: White, 29 in ’83; Romo, 35 TD passes.

Here are other White marks expected to fall:

White, 3,980 yards in ’83; Romo, 3,654, needs just 327 yards with three games left.

White, 334 completions in ’83; Romo, 287, needs to average 16 a game over the final three weeks.

When White set these club records, he barely missed out on becoming one of only six passers in NFL history to eclipse 4,000 yards in a season.

“Coach Landry took me out of our last regular-season game [at San Francisco] because we were either way ahead or way behind [actually, the Cowboys lost 42-17],” White recalled. “He had no idea. He had no clue. That was Coach Landry. He didn’t bother himself with stuff like records.” And so, White was pulled just 20 yards shy of 4,000.

Before ’83, only Joe Namath (Jets), Dan Fouts (Chargers) and Brian Sipe (Browns) had thrown for 4,000 yards or more. That season, Lynn Dickey (Packers) and Bill Kenney (Chiefs) became the fourth and fifth 4,000-yard passers in NFL history.

Since then, by comparison, 31 players have joined the NFL’s 4,000-yard club, including five last season alone.

“It’s still a pretty darned good season,” White said of his 3,980 yards. “So, I really thought that [would stand] for awhile. But 29 touchdown passes is a low number for a franchise record, so I knew it was just a matter of time before that one got broken.”

In ’83, Dallas finished 12-4 and made the playoffs as a wild card (Washington won the NFC East). The Los Angeles Rams, behind Vince Ferragamo and Eric Dickerson, bounced the Cowboys 24-17 in the first round.

For White, who is now head coach of the Utah Blaze of the Arena Football League and lives in the Phoenix area, 1983 remains special in his memory bank. Ron Springs impressed Landry so much as a receiver out of the backfield that Springs ended up leading the ’83 team with 79 catches. “We spread the ball all around that year,” said White, who had six receivers with 40 or more catches (Springs 79, Tony Hill 49, Drew Pearson 47, Doug Cosbie 46, Butch Johnson 41 and Tony Dorsett 40).

By comparison, Romo will end up with four 40-plus catch receivers: Jason Witten, Terrell Owens, Patrick Crayton and Marion Barber.

“I’m looking forward to meeting Tony sometime,” White said. “I’ve heard great things about him. Everyone tells me he’s a genuine guy. I can see he plays the game with a lot of passion. I like that.”

White laughed when asked to compare Romo’s social life to his own in 1983. By then, Danny was married a dozen years. “I hope someday — aside from breaking my records — Tony can get as lucky as I did when it comes to finding a wife. I really got lucky,” said White, who celebrated his 36th wedding anniversary earlier this week.

One wish that White has for himself: To come back and play in the spread-out, wide-open NFL offenses of today. “The Cowboys have a great one,” White said. “Look at Brett Favre in Green Bay. He’s back for one more year just to play in an offense where you throw caution to the wind. That’s how the game is played today.”

On the Romo-Favre comparison, White can see it. But he also sees a subtle difference. “Romo is a little more conservative,” White said. “Favre throws a lot of bad passes and makes a lot of bad decisions … usually when pressured. That might happen to Tony someday. But right now, he’s getting great protection from that offensive line of his.”

Comparison across eras is fruitless because of the constant evolution of the game. White was one of the best of his era, although not quite on par with Joe Montana, Dan Marino, John Elway, and others who played in the 1980s. Romo has the potential, at least, to surpass White’s career if he can lead this team to a Super Bowl.

He’s got some doing, though, to catch up to White as a man. That’s not a knock on Romo, who seems like a genuinely good guy. But like White in taking over for Staubach, he’s got some mighty big shoes to fill.


The incredible Tomas Vokoun

He scored his second shutout in three games as goaltender for the Florida Panthers last night versus the St. Louis Blues.

ST. LOUIS — The Panthers are going to have to learn that one goal is almost never enough to win in the NHL. But Thursday night, it was.

For the second straight game, the Panthers took a 1-0 lead in the second period and tried to make it stand up. This time, they did it.

Stephen Weiss knocked in the rebound off a Nathan Horton shot 1:10 into the second period and Tomas Vokoun stopped 33 shots to register his second shutout in three games and third of the season as Florida tied a franchise record with its fourth straight road win at the Scottrade Center.

The Panthers (14-15-2) have won four straight games on three previous occasions, the last of them coming in February 2003.

“It’s nice to win,” said Vokoun, now 7-0 against the Blues since the end of the lockout in 2005. “We’re not in a position where we can give games away. We were two points out of last place in the league. We have to start winning on the road if we’re going to go anywhere.”

The Blues came into the game as one of the more productive teams in the league, having scored 13 goals in their previous three games and three or more in seven of their past 10.

After a slow start this season, it appears Tomas has come into form finally. This is good news considering how much Florida gave up to get the Czech born former All-Star goalie.

The way the Panthers have been scoring of late, Vokoun needs to shut out opposition teams. Florida has scored only 4 non-empty net goals in the their last three games. In spite of Vokoun shutting two of those teams out and allowing only one goal in regulation or overtime in the same three games, Florida is only 2-0-1 result wise.

Florida has a good enough team to win the Southeast Division. They have to start producing offensively.


Fernando Vina

Of all the criticisms leveled in the on-going baseball steroid scandal, the one receiving the least attention is the effect media blindness played in the unfolding of the scandal. As it happens, ESPN has in their employ a player named in the Mitchell Report. Fernando Vina had a fairly long major league career spanning 12 seasons.

Fernando Vina played several positions with five teams in Major League Baseball from 1993 until 2004, the Seattle Mariners, New York Mets, Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals, and Detroit Tigers. He played in the 1998 All-Star game and won two National League Golden Glove Awards as a second baseman. During the 2007 baseball season, he was a commentator for ESPN’s Baseball Tonight.

While Radomski was working for the Mets as a clubhouse attendant in 1993, he met Vina, who was then in the Mets minor league system. Radomski stated that he sold anabolic steroids or human growth hormone to Vina six to eight times during 2000 to 2005. Radomski produced three checks from Vina. Radomski stated that these checks reflected a March 2003 purchase by Vina of human growth hormone, an April 2003 purchase by Vina of steroids, most likely Winstrol, and a July 2005 purchase by Vina of Deca-Durabolin.

ESPN suddenly has a dilemma. During the season, discussion of steroids and performance enhancing drugs occurred often. At no time did their analyst Vina step forward and acknowledge what is alleged in the Mitchell Report. This creates a credibility gap with the network mockingly referred to as the WWL (World Wide Leader in sports). Does ESPN sacrifice Vina to attempt to save some aspect of their credibility, or do they choose to stand by their guy?

Consider that even analysts have a responsibility in a news organization to the truth. That Vina was linked to this report demands both a reckoning on ESPN’s part, and some kind of statement from Vina as to the veracity of these claims. He can deny them, and without more evidence, that would be that,a he said, he said spat. But the reality of the accusation must be acknowledged.

My axe is ground against the media, who with their access to athletes knew more about this scandal than they let on. Some reporters have acknowledged that they could have and should have dug deeper to get to the story. But Vina’s case points out the difficulty that is faced in sports journalism.

Stories are gained by access to the clubhouse, to the athletes and to the support personnel. Write up something that puts a player in a bad light and a reporter might mind him or herself shut out. As a former player, the primary reason to appear on shows or in print is because of the forged contacts made as a player, contacts that give an advantage at understanding the inner workings of the game. Quite literally in this case, inside baseball.

Would Vina retain his value to ESPN if he with one of the reporters broke a story about that particular aspect of the Mitchell Report? Clearly the answer is yes. That’s investigative journalism. And the Ennuipundit loves himself some good old fashioned well-researched tasty investigative journalism. But it would be a Pyrrhic victory, as the access to the players that Vina had would be compromised by the exposure of the misdeeds of his former teammates.

In the modern era of reporting, which is little more than the dutiful recitation of carefully worded press releases crafted by agents and publicists and fed to a media, nominally devoted to truth, but profitted from running a well-oiled hype machine, such exposes are becoming frustratingly rare.

ESPN’s credibility is compromised by Vina’s continued presence as an in studio analyst, precisely because he has access to players, which is used selectively not in the furtherance of truth, but rather to promote an agenda. ESPN, the WWL, profits from the broadcast of major league baseball games. They have a vested interest in being able to provide that coverage with the dugout interviews and other nonsense, which in all frankness, detracts from the experience of watching a game. To lose that access would damage their bottom line. And so the stories go untold. The truth about whether a game is clean or not is obscured.

No one believes that the inane ramblings of the “announcers” at WWE wrestling events have any connection with truth. They are employees of the WWE and are compensated solely and wholly to say what Mr. McMahon wants them to say. Adherence to the bottom line has taken such a priority over pursuit of truth in sports coverage, that much of what is passed off as sports information is unwatchable. Do the suits at ESPN have more sway than the journalists when deciding stories? The answer sadly seems to be yes.


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