bad sports, good sports

Bad sports, good sports: Why is it so bad when people speak their minds?

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Listening to interviews with athletes and team officials is often brutal. For the most part, no one will actually say anything anymore, as organizations are so afraid of either lawsuits or giving the other team “bulletin board material.” This has also carried over to commentators and sports talk show hosts, who try to offer what they might call criticism, but who usually soften it so much as to make it unclear what they are actually saying. Occasionally, though, someone manages to speak his or her mind, and you would think the world had come to an end to watch the reaction. This happened a couple of times this week, when two former professional athletes, baseball’s Jack Clark and football’s Bernie Kosar, forgot to hit the bland button before they spoke.

Jack Clark had a long career in Major League Baseball, playing for the San Francisco Giants for ten seasons before moving around a bit late in his big league tenure. He was a four-time All Star and hit 340 career homeruns. He had just started co-hosting a radio show in St. Louis with outspoken radio personality Kevin Slaten when he accused Los Angeles Angels star Albert Pujols of having used steroids at some point early in his career. Clark said that he had conversations with Chris Mihlfeld, who had been a personal trainer for Pujols and who was on a coaching staff with Clark at the time of the discussions in which Mihlfeld allegedly said he had injected Pujols numerous times. He has no other proof, so he was going pretty far out on a limb by saying this publicly. It will be interesting to see the fallout from this, as it is very easy to believe that a slugger used PEDs at this point. Pujols has denied it, of course, as has Mihlfeld, and Pujols has threatened a lawsuit against Clark and the radio station. Not surprisingly, WGNU has fired Clark (as well as Slaten…what did he do??) and distanced itself as much as possible from his comments.

Former Cleveland Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar was part of the team’s radio crew for its preseason game against the St. Louis Rams on Thursday, filling the role of the color analyst beside Jim Donovan, who was doing play-by-play. Kosar wanted no part of the usual vanilla commentary you usually hear during these games, instead ripping into the Rams players early and often. In particular, he found the team’s receivers lacking in just about every way, calling them “horrible,” and saying that their parents should be embarrassed. Sam Bradford, the Rams quarterback, was the target of Kosar’s barbs at times as well. Head Coach Jeff Fisher took exception to Kosar’s words, saying he “has such a lack of respect for players and for this game.” Cleveland CEO Joe Banner agreed, calling Kosar’s words unprofessional.

Here’s the thing, though. If you watched the game or read his words when put into context, it seems to me that Kosar really did not do anything wrong here. In fact, he was simply very honest and open with his comments. Was he a little over-the-top with some of them? Sure. He didn’t say anything that viewers weren’t saying while sitting on their sofas, though. The real issue here is how shocked everyone is that someone dared to openly and clearly criticize some very poor performances without couching it in soft, wishy-washy terms. I certainly do not have a future as a television or radio sports commentator, I guess, as my style would be far more like that of Kosar than it would be like virtually everyone else out there. Clark’s situation is a little different, as he opened himself and his employers up to a sure lawsuit with his claims. If he is confident that his information is true, then I guess he shouldn’t have much to worry about, but proving it will be difficult, and in the meantime, he has lost his job.

Bad sports, continued:

2) A bunch of baseball players received large suspensions this week after it was revealed that they had been involved with Biogenesis, the Miami-based company that reportedly supplied them and many others with steroids. Alex Rodriguez is the biggest name involved, and he is the only one that is fighting it, having appealed his suspension, which is for the rest of this season and all of next season. The rest accepted their punishments. Mark Cuban, the owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, criticized MLB commissioner Bud Selig’s handling of the A-Rod situation, saying that Selig has a personal vendetta against Rodriguez and that it has factored into this punishment, which goes far outside the lines of the league’s collectively bargained punishments for these sorts of offenses.

3) Speaking of organizations meting out punishments that ignore actual protocol and rules, the NCAA’s woeful couple of years continued this week when ESPN’s Jay Bilas tweeted about something he had discovered on the retail portion of the organization’s website. He found that searching on specific player names would take you to merchandise representing those players, despite the fact that the items did not have the players’ names on them. This put the lie to the NCAA’s claim that it does not profit off of individual players and gave the lawyers in the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit some more fodder for their case.

4) Bad guys will be bad guys. Michael Beasley and Justin Blackmon proved that this week. Beasley has had numerous problems in the past, particularly with marijuana. The vow he made when he signed with the Phoenix Suns last year to give up the stuff clearly didn’t take, as he was arrested for possession on Tuesday during a traffic stop. Blackmon, only 23 years old, has already had two DUI arrests and was suspended for the first four games of the upcoming season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. He was on the sideline during the Jacksonville Jaguar’s preseason game against the Miami Dolphins on Friday when he got in a verbal spat with teammate Jason Babin, who was suggesting that he stop trash-talking the opposing team when he wasn’t even in uniform.

5) NASCAR driver Tony Stewart broke his leg in a crash during a sprint car race in Iowa on Monday and will miss at least a few races of the league he is in that actually means something. He is almost certain to not make this year’s Chase, which he might have otherwise made.

6) Former NFL player and current ESPN analyst Hugh Douglas took a hint from Riley Cooper, who plays for his former team, the Philadelphia Eagles, when he got drunk and shouted racial comments at Michael Smith, who also works for ESPN. Douglas’ punishment is still being determined.

7) Seattle Mariners outfielder Raul Ibanez and Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher J.J. Putz (really his name) had something in common this week. They both made news for ridiculous-looking throws that hit the ground in close proximity to themselves. At least Putz had an excuse, as the stadium sound man messed up and started a very loud presumably-musical intro track just as the pitcher was uncorking a pitch to Justin Turner of the Mets. Ibanez simply forgot to let go of the ball as he tried to throw the ball back to the infield after a hit.

8) Mariano Rivera may have held on a bit too long. The New York Yankees closer has had a brilliant career that is sure to result in a Hall of Fame enshrinement on the first ballot after he become eligible, but his final season seems to be going off the rails a bit. He has actually had quite a good season, but on Sunday he blew his third consecutive save. This is the first time he has ever done that, and he has seen his ERA go from 1.56 to 2.44 during this streak.

Good sports:

1) The Tamp Bay Rays managed to pull off the old “hidden ball” trick on Saturday, picking off Juan Uribe of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who clearly was not paying attention. Oops.

2) Jason Dufner won his first-ever major on Sunday, pulling off a victory in golf’s PGA Championship by two strokes over Jim Furyk. Dufner has only four career wins on the PGA tour, but he nearly won this same event two years ago before blowing a four-shot lead with only four holes to play.

3) Golfer Matt Jones was not a factor in the PGA Championship at any point, but he did manage this crazy shot.

Bad sports, good sports appears every Monday

Alan Spoll is a software quality assurance director from the suburbs of Philadelphia where he lives with his wonderful wife and children. He has spent his entire life as a passionate fan of the Eagles, Phillies, Sixers, Flyers, and Penn State. Recent Phillies success aside, you will understand his natural negativity. Follow me on Twitter - @DocAlan02
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