Posted on: October 12, 2010 4:39 pm
Edited on: October 12, 2010 4:40 pm
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Journalism Watch List: D-Tread Not Dennis Dodd's

Journalism Watch List: D-Tread not Dennis Dodd's biggest problem

Write controversial articles.

That's the easiest part of Dennis Dodd's job this week, CBSSports.com's senior college football columnist. All he has to do it get people pissed off by writing insensitive, foul, and untrue attacks on good people who are on track to become major football head coaches after the Spartans' appointment in Pasadena, Calif. next January. The Spartans' trip to then-No. 18 Michigan showed that nothing was wrong between Mark Dantonio and Don Treadwell and lent some further definition to the Big Ten race. Otherwise, Dodd has to be really worried. He has got to know by now that CBSSports.com has a fallback, a first runner-up should he not be able to fulfill his duties as senior columnist. (Gratuitous Weekend Watch List parody if you don't get it.)

Point is, Burton DeWitt can write. Future Pulitzer candidate only, for now. That could change. Bleacher Report's featured columnist is 2-0 in showing Dodd who is boss this week, including a vicious retort to his unacceptable jab, even if it were tongue-in-cheek, last Friday on Treadwell. There is only one journalist left heading into Week 7 to give Dodd the business while also being competent. Technically, that puts DeWitt a class above Gary Smith, Tom Friend, John Feinstein, and Jason Whitlock.

You know the recent history. Dodd expects that his job is safe for all eternity after completely botching his attempt at satire. The plan, once again, is for Dodd to write Weekend Watch List from his computer in Kansas City, or wherever the hell he will be. The man knows when his job is being threatened. Dodd was texting other CBSSports.com writers from his bedroom last week asking for "column ideas."

You can bet he knows the Jimmy the Greek story. It's never good to cross the line in this business. That's why they speak of DeWitt in hushed tones around the CBSSports.comheadquarters. "Watch your back," they say. "He's taking credit for exposing you as a fraud," they whisper.

Yes, it's a power play and it's been ugly as Dodd attempts to move past his poor judgment.

"You can't keep me down Eastern Michigan-Ball State week," he said.

Meanwhile, DeWitt's career is littered with the broken careers he has stepped over on his way to undeniable greatness. Esther Vergeer still remains anonymous around much of the world despite DeWitt writing two excellent articles on her accomplishments. Bill Belichick still lost a Super Bowl despite DeWitt claiming the NFL should have suspended him for life for Spygate. It took three long years for Robert Kubica to get noticed as one of the best young drivers in Formula 1 after DeWitt wrote of him as a future champion in 2007.

Journalism Watch List could go on but why put more stress on Dodd? DeWitt is good, sneaky good. Columnist D knows what's at stake. It could be a trip to the Poor House. It could be Dodd being unemployed for the first time since Nick Saban was the Michigan State coach. It's about that future Pulitzer candidate trying to remove more than the future label. 

Watch your back, Columnist D. Watch your back.

Category: NCAAF
Tags: Dennis Dodd
 
Posted on: October 11, 2010 12:00 am
Edited on: October 11, 2010 12:03 am
 

Dennis Dodd needs to apologize for article

 

 

Dennis Dodd needs to apologize. Not should, not would be wise to, but needs to. And needs to first thing Monday morning.

Each Friday during college football season, Dodd publishes his Weekend Watch List in which he discusses the upcoming games. But this past Friday, he took it a step further.

Dodd wrote a scathing attack on Michigan State offensive coordinator Don Treadwell, referring to the “broken careers he has stepped over on his way to the top,” including NFL-bust Charles Rogers and former Notre Dame coach Tyrone Willingham who became the butt of many a joke after he turned Washington into a 0-12 team.

Treadwell had coached the Spartans under the interim tag to wins in their previous two games while head coach Mark Dantonio was recovering from a heart attack and blood clot. Clearly, Dodd thought Treadwell was dangerous.

But then, as if that wasn't enough, he told Dantonio to watch out.

“Treadwell is good, sneaky good,” Dodd wrote. “Coach D knows what's at stake. It's a lot bigger than a trip to the Big House. It's a lot bigger than Sparty being 5-0 for the first time since Nick Saban was coach. It's about that interim coach trying to remove more than the interim label."

“Watch your back, Coach D. Watch your back.”

Dodd furthered that by an unsubstantiated claim that people, referred to only as “they,” were speaking in “hushed tones around the Spartan football offices.”

“'Watch your back,' they say. 'He's taking credit for Little Giants, they whisper.”

In the harshest line of an otherwise insensitive article, Dodd wrote, “Yes, it's a power play and it's been ugly as Dantonio tries to reclaim his job.”

While some at CBSSports.com tried to pass off this article as speculation, there was nothing speculative about it. Dodd was openly asserting that Treadwell was trying to steal Dantonio's job and that unnamed and undefined people at the school were warning Dantonio as such.

There was only one problem: Absolutely nothing Dodd wrote about Treadwell's motives were true.

As was later revealed when Gregg Doyel, one of Dodd's colleagues at CBSSports.com, posted on the article's message board, Dodd's entire article was tongue-in-cheek.

Treadwell trying to steal a sick man's job? Made-up. Dantonio fighting to save his? Made-up. People sneaking around the Michigan State offices? Made-up.

Nothing was factual.

I understand that tongue-in-cheek articles are fun to write. Hell, the most-read article I've ever written was a satire on Charlie Weis's job security at the end of last season. But it was clearly satire, even labeled as such.

But there was nothing in Dodd's article to tip us off that this was satire. Everything, except for the quotes, was believable, and the purported quotes seemed like nothing other than a 19th-century trick to bring evidence to a point-of-view that had no real proof.

Dodd's article appeared serious to everyone who read it except Dodd himself, fooling in the process even many of his own colleagues in the journalism world. And what he fooled us to believe for more than 36 hours before Doyel broke that the article was satire is incomprehensible.

Dodd inadvertently tried to convince us than Don Treadwell was a jackass. The article painted the offensive coordinator as a bad person who saw Dantonio's health problems as the key he needed to further his career.

Those that weren't convinced, myself included, thought Dodd was using his pen to settle some score with Treadwell. I thought Dodd was viciously trying to create a rumor, to stir the pot, maybe even to get Treadwell fired. It reeked of that low quality of journalistic standards usually reserved for sensationalistic tabloids and ESPN.com. It certainly did not meet CBSSports.com's normally high standards of output.

When I found out the article was tongue-in-cheek, more than a day after I first read it, I was shocked. Nothing had tipped me off; nothing was there to tip anyone off.

Then it dawned on me just how few people would actually see the message board post revealing the article was tongue-in-cheek.

The fact of the matter is an apology is in store. Thousands of readers were offended by the tone and message of Dodd's article, and most of those never found out that the article was in jest.

Many normally level-headed members of the CBSSports.com viewer community, people who always reply civilly to even the most outrageous claims by other CBSSports.com writers, were calling for Dodd's head. This article was that disgusting.

I'm sure if Dodd offended anyone at Michigan State, he has already apologized. But they're not the only ones who felt attacked by this article.

I've been coming to CBSSports.com since before CBS got involved in the site, back when it was Sportsline.com. The CBS part? I'm still having trouble drilling it into my mind. The site is my first-stop source for news in all four major sports, as well as golf and tennis. Even if I wanted to, I'm not sure I would be able to stay away.

There are many, many people who hold CBSSports.com in that same regard.

Dodd's article was a slap in all of our faces. The quality of the writing was nothing shy of abysmal, and the message in its most overt reading was vindictive, cruel, insensitive, and disgusting. It was unprofessional and indefensible. That an editor, no matter how low down the CBSSports.com staff, approved this article, is shocking to say the least.

But Dodd still has a chance to make it all right.

All he needs to do is write and publish and apology on the CBSSports.com website and post it to the site's front page. All he needs to do is admit the article was in poor judgment and say he's sorry for those who were offended.

I know many writers offend people, whether by choice or by fact; that's part of the profession. But Dodd's Weekend Watch List article about Don Treadwell is not journalism, at least not by today's standards.

Anything less than an apology will be just as unacceptable as the words Dennis Dodd has already written.

 

 

Category: NCAAF
Tags: Dennis Dodd
 
Posted on: April 1, 2009 1:06 am
 

Secluded Scout Who Found Ryan, Pujols Dead at 86

You probably don't know the story of Edgar Willard, not unless you knew the man. He did not want you to know him; he did not want you to know his story. Sure, people tried. What a funny word, tried. Could you really have tried when the odds of success going in were zero?

Yet, I knew Edgar Willard, lived next door to him for eight years. Shot hoops in the backyard and when I missed, the ball would roll into his yard. He'd pick it up and toss it back. Not a word.

One day I asked him why he kept silent, why he had no visitors, why he was so aloof, and he told me. He told me everything.

He told me how in high school he was the homecoming king, the class president, the fancy of every young schoolgirl. He told me how he threw two perfect games his senior year, striking out a sophomore pinch-hitter by the name of Ted Kluszewski to end one of them. Of course, it was only years later that he found out he had struck out one of the most feared power-hitters of the 1950s, when Kluszewski himself said in an interview that Willard had the best curveball he ever faced.

He told me how he was the best football player in the state of Illinois, the best halfback to run down the gridiron since Red Grange a decade prior. He told me how he would have gone to the University in Champagne had his mother not found a wartime job in a factory in central New Jersey. He could not enter the second World War due to 20-100 eyesight, something that miraculously did not hinder him on the playing field.

He enrolled at Plainfield Teachers' College in 1941, but an ankle injury in the first game pushed him out of the lineup. Unfortunately for him, he would never play again. Another freshman, Johnny Chung, rushed for over 400 yards the next two games, earning the starting spot. He dropped out of college after the semester to try to make it in professional baseball.

But the injury continued to haunt him.

While he still had all the physical abilities, he started to lose it mentally. He felt detached, alone. As the war dragged on, he wished he could be serving his country. He began to drink heavily.

“He had all the mental anxieties of a soldier without any of the experience,” said Boo Ferriss, a minor league teammate of Willard before his 1945 call-up by the Boston Red Sox. “He drank, cursed, moaned, heck, I think at some point he even shot himself in his non-pitching hand to create a battle wound.”

On June 16, 1946, pitching for the Roanoke Red Sox, Willard threw a no-hitter against the Asheville Tourists, the class B affiliate of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Three days later, he gave up a minor league-record 15 consecutive hits to start the game. It would be his last appearance in organized baseball.

(As an interesting side-note, the man called up to replace him was Earl Grayson, a career minor-league pitcher who in 1952 struck out Willie Mays in Mays's last at-bat before being called up to the Major Leagues for good.)

However, he left his mark on the game.

He had an eye for talent unmatched by anyone else. Anyone. It was almost uncanny. Despite never serving as the scout for any team or coaching any team, he would find people.

He discovered Nolan Ryan as an eighth grader and contacted a friend in the New York Mets' front office.

“I told him this kid is the real deal,” Willard told me with a tear in his eye. “He's almost unhittable.”

Little did Willard know just how correct he was.

His time helping the Mets did not end with Ryan.

In 1983, he convinced the Mets to draft a little-known Buddhist boy by the name of Sidd Finch. While Finch retired before pitching in the big leagues, he created a splash during spring training in 1985 with a fastball that shattered all previous records. Spiritual obligations made baseball a second priority for the young Finch, who had been a 43rd-round selection.

And his success was not just with pitchers.

Willard met Albert Pujols when he was just a child in the Dominican Republic in 1991.

“He took a liking to me that no one had ever shown before,” Pujols said during the 2004 World Series in an interview with the Boston Globe. “He could not speak a word of Spanish, but he found someone who did and made sure to stay in contact with me.”

When Pujols moved to New York City with his family in 1996, it was Willard who found work for Pujols's family. He saw New York as a bad place for Pujols and found them an apartment in Independence, Mo. Willard made sure the now-teenaged Pujols was enrolled in high school. Finally, he tried to make sure Pujols was drafted into baseball.

“He called every team, he called every executive, everyone,” Pujols said.

It took 402 picks for anyone to listen.

He found Tommy John for the Cleveland Indians and Don Sutton for the Brooklyn Dodgers. At the same time, he warned the Atlanta Braves against selecting Todd Van Poppel during the 1990 MLB Draft. Bobby Cox does not want the help forgotten.

“There were a lot of factors that went into selecting Chipper Jones that year, but [Willard's] analysis probably swayed the most,” Cox said. “He said Van Poppel could be good, but Chipper was a sure thing. He said we'd be dumb not to select him.”

But Willard did not want the recognition; it was not him. He just loved baseball and loved being alone. If he saw talent, he wanted the talent to be recognized. But he never wanted anyone to recognize him.

For years, Willard would refuse to talk to the media. When Pujols's story broke, there were a rush of people to my neighborhood. They all wanted a word with him. Instead, Willard called the cops.

He told me how he never married. Sure, he courted women, including one girl whom he lived with for 15 years, but he never married. His life was his life, his time his. He could never grasp the ability to share it. Maybe it was the injury in college; God knows he wasn't a hermit before that. Maybe it was his sobering-yet-drunken experiences in the low rungs of professional baseball. Who knows?

His only escape into reality was baseball. His only connection to the world was baseball. Nobody ever called him unless he called them first, and he never called anyone unless he had found a superstar. But when he called, teams listened.

I write this not because I want to break Willard's confidence; God knows I could have done that at any point over the past five years. But I could never do that. He told me his story because he knew I would not tell it.

But Edgar Willard died last week in his home. He was 86. His body was found last night upright in a chair. He was wearing an autographed Albert Pujols jersey.

It's fitting that the story has gone under the table, but it needs to be told. Sometimes, the unknown recluse needs to be outed. Sometimes his accomplishments need to be brought back to life, if only for one fleeting article.

So Rest In Peace, Edgar Willard. Your contributions to the game live on even as your connection is forgotten. Just as you always wanted it.

 

Posted on: September 14, 2008 1:19 am
 

Oklahoma and Southern California for BCS Title

Pen it in now. Jot it down. Permanent ink. It's not going to change.

Oklahoma will play Southern California for the national title. It's set. Plan your trip to Miami.

Not Georgia, not Florida, not Wake Forest, not Wisconsin. Not East Carolina or Fresno State, not Boise State or Brigham Young.

Oklahoma and Southern California. No point to play it out. It's set.

I'm not saying these are the two best teams in the country. They might be, although I doubt it. I still hold that Georgia is more talented and more deep than either could dream of being. But it does not matter.

After everything else has settled.

After conference play and conference championship games, rivalry week and the upsets.

After Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Washington, and Clemson are looking for new head coaches.

After Larry Munson has uttered what may be his final words as Georgia play-by-play announcer.

After Tim Tebow wins his second Heisman Trophy, maybe.

We will have Oklahoma and Southern California, one and two, not necessarily in that order, but both in the BCS National Championship Game. Both playing for all the marbles.

Who is going to beat Oklahoma? Who?

Maybe Missouri, maybe, if the Tigers can reach the conference title game.

Texas is too fragile and unproven in the secondary and too weak at linebacker to stop the Oklahoma assault that has already hung 50 on Chattanooga, Cincinnati, and Washington.

Texas Tech, well, this is possible. The Red Raiders are more talented defensively than any team Mike Leach has ever coached, but they're not that talented. Not talented enough to go to Norman and slow Oklahoma, that's for sure.

Besides that, there aren't really any games that should even cause the Sooners to blink. Bob Stoops is not going to let Colorado happen again. There are not going to be any 27-24 stunners. He's too good of a coach.

Who is going to beat Southern California? Who?

Talk about an advantageous schedule. California, Oregon, and Arizona State, the three-best teams in the PAC-10 besides the Trojans, all come to the Coliseum.

No PAC-10 team other than Stanford has defeated Southern California in the Coliseum under Pete Carroll. That's a scary thought. Why should that change now?

California's defense should be much better than the injured squad that surrendered its most points per game since 2001. Heck, besides its no-show Saturday in what was a 9 A.M. kickoff pacific time at Maryland, the team has been in synch on both sides of the ball.

Oregon has overachieved so far. Can Nathan Costa be ready for a defense with the size, speed, depth, and skill of Southern California the first Saturday in October?

And Arizona State? No way. Dennis Erickson single-handedly coached this team to 10 wins last year. Still, the team was run out of Tempe when Southern California came to town, 44-24.

The only challenging road game is the finale at UCLA. There is no telling what UCLA will show up on any given weekend, whether it will be the team that takes down Tennessee or the laughingstock that goes down 59-0 to Brigham Young.

So mark it in.

Oklahoma and Southern California. Southern California and Oklahoma. Undefeated, one and two. All the way.

Who else will run the table?

Georgia? Too unlikely. Look at the depth in the SEC. Georgia struggled to beat Steve Spurrier's South Carolina squad, the same South Carolina squad that went down to Vanderbilt nine days earlier.

Florida? Too many questions. How will the defense handle SEC speed? Will Tim Tebow avoid injury? Can Urban Meyer outcoach his colleagues out of halftime?

LSU? Auburn? Alabama? They all have to beat up on each other.

Texas? The defense is too shaky.

Missouri? What defense?

Wisconsin? First, the Badgers have to beat Fresno State. Then they have to take care of Ohio State and Penn State consecutive Saturdays in Madison.

South Florida? Wake Forest? Does it matter if they go undefeated? It does not.

Sure, one of these teams could run the table. One of these teams could jump into the title picture if it does. But it is not likely. It's almost as unlikely as Southern California or Oklahoma losing any of its remaining games.

They just have too much more talent than any of the teams they're scheduled to play.

It is not their fault. They are just better.

Looking at the schedules, looking at the rosters, there is only one game for each team that there's more than a possibility that they'll lose: January 8 in Miami Gardens, Fla.

Nowhere else can either of these two schools lose. Not this year.

So jot it down in permanent ink. There won't be any need to change it.

Right or wrong, it is all we are left with.
Posted on: September 12, 2008 4:06 pm
 

Lack of Coverage of Paralympics is a Crime

Will someone slap me in the face? Please? Will someone bring me back to reality?

Not tomorrow or next week, not after Hurricane Ike destroys my apartment in the upcoming 24 hours, not on Saturday when I find out, but now. Slap me back to reality.

Maybe I've been brainwashed; maybe I've been lied to. Or, maybe, but unlikely, I am just missing something. The first two seem the likeliest.

This, the United States of America. This, the greatest, freest nation in the world. This, the superpower of the world, a leading power militarily, economically, communicationally, technologically, you name it.

And nowhere in it can I watch the Summer Paralympic Games.

Not on NBC, not on its subsidiaries, not online except for one event a night, that event usually being swimming or track. Nowhere.

You couldn't watch Erin Popovich, the American swimming sensation who won seven gold medals in Athens in 2004. Those, in addition to the three from Sydney and four she has won so far in Beijing give her 14 gold medals, the same amount as Michael Phelps.

Popovich was born with achondroplasia, a genetic disorder that restricts the growth of her limbs. Does that make her any less deserving of our attention?

You couldn't watch Jennifer Schuble, the American cyclist who won gold in the women's 500 meter time trial.

Schuble suffered two traumatic brain injuries, one while in commission officer training at West Point in 1996. She picked up the sport after the 2004 Summer Paralympics, becoming the best in the world in an ungodly short time.

You couldn't watch Jessica Long win two more gold medals to the three she won in Athens.

You couldn't watch Jerome Singleton take the silver in the men's 100 meter sprint.

You couldn't watch the men's goalball team stun top-seeded Slovakia in the quarterfinals, keeping alive longshot medal hopes in the sport designed for legally and totally blind persons.

If you were in Canada or Britain or China, or, well, any other major nation, you possibly could. You also probably would have heard when your athletes won.

The CBC in Canada is airing two hours of tape-delayed coverage on each of the four weekend days. It is also providing streaming video online.

The BBC in Great Britain is airing daily coverage, much of it live, both on air and online.

In the host China, up to ten hours a day of coverage is being broadcast on the state-owned television networks.

NBC? Nothing.

Yes, I know that NBC is not a state-owned network. I know it has to make a profit, and the Paralympics  will not do much to aid that attempt. Yet, NBC could do something.

NBC could sell or give the rights to the Paralympics, the rights it owns exclusively, to ESPN or another entity that would air the games.

NBC could air the events in poor time slots on its subsidiaries.

NBC could stream the events online for subscription. They already have access to the official olympic feed, so why not allow people to view it online.

But NBC has done just as much as nothing. It has put one event online each night on universalsports.com. It has made arrangements to air on tape delay a few events, not now, but in October, on the satellite network Universal HD. It has agreed to air one two-hour segment on NBC in October comprising the entire games.

The entire Paralympic games, all 471 medal events, in one small segment. Boy, that works.

And as I've already said, I understand the economic reasons behind everything. I get it. But NBC could at least do something.

There is a reason the United States is behind China and Great Britain in the gold medal count. There is a reason the United States has won barely more total medals than the Ukraine or Spain.

Nobody here knows that they are going on.

Sure, you probably have heard of the Paralympics. At the very least, you should have heard of them. But did you know that they are currently going on, that they've been going on for the past week?

I doubt it.

If anyone televised it, whether it was NBC or ESPN or even a fringe network like Versus, you can bet people will pay attention. In a world with enough people crazed for sports, we'll watch.

We'll watch, that is, if it is on.

And if it is on, some little boy or girl who is handicapped, whether mentally or physically, whether genetically or through some accident – it does not matter – will watch and say, “I want to be the next Erin Popovich.”

The same little boys or girls who last month watched Michael Phelps and wanted to be the next him, even though they know in their hearts that it can never be.

It's depressing to want something that you know you can never get, ever, no matter if everything goes your way.

And you can bet your behind that little kids in Canada and Great Britain and China have watched the Paralympics and become inspired to become a world champion.

The same world champion as Michael Phelps or Nastia Liukin or Serena and Venus Williams.

In the general scheme of it, there's no real difference between Phelps and Popovich: both have won 14 gold medals and are the best short-distance swimmers in the world.

Well, let me retract that last statement.

There's one real difference between the two: thanks to NBC, no one saw any of Popovich's remarkable achievements. No little boy or girl is going to idolize her.

And trust me, they should. There are no better athletes in the world.

There are Olympic equals, but none that are better.
Posted on: September 5, 2008 7:45 pm
 

Laveranues Coles is Still a Hero

This is not topical. Not at all. It is not breaking news; heck, it barely was three years ago. It should have been, but things like this never are. We don't think of NFL stars as people.

About three years ago, Laveranues Coles, a Pro Bowl receiver, then as now a New York Jet, admitted that he had been raped, not sexually abused as he tried to portrait it, but raped by his step-father when he was a pre-teenage boy. Raped.

One of the most talented and prolific wide receivers of his era, raped. Not once, as if the number of times matters, but continually.

After the Jets defeated Miami in their week two game in 2005, Coles publicly admitted that a man his mother was dating and would latter marry started raping him. For three years, Coles lived through the hell of being raped. For more than a decade, he lived through the hell of feeling unclean and unwanted because of it, eating away at his mind every day when he woke up.

Even as he caught more than 80 passes for 1204 yards and six touchdowns on the way to the Pro Bowl one season.

If this had happened to me, I don't think I could have gotten out of bed in the morning. I don't think I could have gone to school and put a fake smile on my face. I'm just not that strong.

Do you think you are?

Instead, we are lucky enough to be able to sugar-coat things like this when we see them and push them aside. We don't want to address the problem; we don't want to think about it.

We want to believe Coles is the exception; we want to think he's the only one who will suffer through this.

And we are right when we think he is the exception: he is one of the few who is willing to admit what happened to him.

According to data compiled by stopitnow.com, 88 percent of all cases involving “sexual abuse” of children is never reported. Ever. Eight-in-every-nine-cases. Coles is the exception.

But that's the only place where he is.

About 20 percent of girls will be sexually abused in some way as a child and between five and 10 percent of boys. Many of these cases are not as severe as Coles, but some are. Additionally, 70 to 90 percent of these children will be victimized by someone they know.

They will be victimized by an aunt or uncle, mother or father, brother or sister, cousin, anyone. Maybe the parent of a friend. Most likely, no one will ever find out.

And that really makes sense.

Think of your most embarrassing moment. Whatever it is. Could you go up to a random stranger and tell them about it? Of course not. At the very least, I know I could not.

Somehow, Coles did. And his “embarrassing moment” is something so much more surreal than anything I could make up.

No, let me rewrite that.

His "embarrassing moment" is something so much more real than anything I could ever dream up.

"I just want to help kids because I think it happens to more people in this world than actually allow ourselves to believe,” said Coles in 2005. “Coming up, I always felt like I was the only one that ever happened to. Then, when I started going to different sessions, they let me know that it happens to a lot more people."

That still is, three years later, the greatest quote I have ever heard out of a professional athlete.

Do I like Coles as a player? Would I be happy if my team traded for him? No, I would not.

But there is not a person in the National Football League, there is not a person in professional sports that I respect more than I do Coles. Not one.

There might never be.

The fact that he had the courage just to pull through this is remarkable.

The fact that he was man enough to seek counseling despite being a jock is just mind-boggling.

The fact that he would come forward and tell the world in hopes that it would help other kids suffering through the same hell he once did is heroic.

And we need to think of Laveranues Coles as such, as a hero. Every day.

In a sports media world that is dominated by and continually obsessed with the Jeremy Shockey's and Terrell Owens's, we need true heroes.

We can have our fake ones, the guys who on any given day lead our favorite teams to unprecedented heights, the ones we would emulate as children. Those we can dehumanize and idolize as if they are gods.

Laveranues Coles is a real hero; he is the type of man that everyone should emulate to be. He is the type of person we need to wake up each morning and wish we could be as talented as.

Not necessarily on the football field, but mentally and courageously.

He is a true hero because after what he has gone through, he is more human than any of us hopefully will ever have the burden of being.

That is why I am reminding you of this story.

I hate the New York Jets; I always will. But I also will never scream louder, jump higher, smile realer than whenever Coles scores a touchdown.

I might not want to, but the internal love I have for this man is that rooted in me.

There is no data as to how many people have sought help because of Coles, but I am sure it is plenty. Even if it is one, then Coles has earned his moniker.

Not “Trouble” like he once went by. No, that one doesn't fit anymore.

“Hero.”

At least that's what I will always call him.
Posted on: August 15, 2008 11:55 am
 

The Real Stories of Week One of the Olympics

There is Elizabeth Poblete of Chile, smiling jubilantly Friday afternoon after she snatched 86 kg on her first attempt in the 75-kg weightlifting woman's final.

Sure, it was 45 kg less than the existing world record set by Natalia Zabolotnaia of Russia in 2007, but it set her up to try a personal best 93 kg on her final attempt. That 93 kg attempt, her maximum, was still seven kg less than the minimum attempt of any of the other 12 competitors in the event.

While she failed, she showed the true spirit of the games. Poblete soaked in every minute of it and smiled as she walked off, even though her lifts would not have been even warm-up lifts for anyone who followed.

And there is Tuvshinbayar Naidan of Mongolia, standing on top of the podium Thursday evening crying as he sung his country's anthem, the first time it has ever been played at any Olympic games.

Naidan won the 100-kg Judo title after defeating Kazakhstan's Askhat Zhitkeyev in the finals, ending a long history of heartbreak for Mongolia. Before Thursday, Mongolia had won 16 medals in its Olympic history, all silver or bronze, by far the most of any country without ever earning a gold.

You could see it in his eyes; you could hear it in the crowd. It did not matter that China had by the end of that day won 22 golds in this Olympiad alone; not at all. This one seemed more meaningful to the Mongols than any one specific medal has to China, even the men's team gymnastics one. It seemed to define Mongolia.

And finally, there is Emanuel Thabiso Nketu of Lesotho, who after losing his first round boxing match 17-8 to Bruno Jolie of Mauritius, hugged his opponent and lifted him up to bring him over to his corner.

Sure, he had lost, blowing a 4-0 first period lead in the process, but Nketu did not care. His respect for his opponent was so great that he was willing to submit defeat to Jolie by carrying him to his coach.

Maybe that's tradition in Lesotho, a tiny nation of two million landlocked entirely within South Africa; maybe he just felt it was the honorable thing to do; it does not matter.

Of course I could tell other tales of pride, of sportsmanship, of love and desire. They are everywhere. No matter what I watch during the Olympics, I find something of that sort.

And that is what the Olympics are all about.

The Olympics are all about Elizabeth Poblete enjoying herself for the sport of it, even if not even in her grandest dream could she stand on the podium accepting a medal.

The Olympics are all about Tuvshinbayar Naidan crying as he is hearing his anthem played, the first time it's ever played on such a stage, because he has earned it for his countrymen.

The Olympics are all about Emanuel Thabiso Nketu embracing his opponent, giving all his happiness to his opponent, after his opponent beat him in his match.

And those are the stories that I love.

I love the story of Derek Redmond at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. I love how, after his hamstring pops, he gets up and hobbles to the finish, how his dad rushes down from the stands, how he does cross the finish line. I love that.

I love the story of the 1980 Zimbabwe women's field hockey team. I love how, after most every competitor pulled out to protest the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan, the Soviets called Zimbabwe two weeks before the games and asked them to come. They call up people and form a team at the last minute, fly to Moscow, and win the gold.

I love the story of Jesse Owens in 1936 in Berlin. Had he not been given advice from German competitor Luz Long, who would take the silver, he might not have even qualified for the final. He had faulted on his first two jumps before Long told him to mark a spot short of the line and just jump from there. Owens of course went on to win gold.

These are the stories that make the Olympic Games what they are.

These are the stories that make the Olympic Games compelling.

11,028 athletes from more than 200 entities in 28 different sports. Almost all in Beijing at the same time. And each with a story.

You'll never have time to hear each one's story; there's just too many. But if you take the time, you can at least catch a glimpse.

How do I know what was going through Poblete's mind when she snatched 86-kg? Or through Naidan's? Or Nketu's?

Sure, I can ask them, but I don't need to.

Each was there to bask in the Olympic spirit, to represent his or her country with class and dignity and to understand what that entails.

Do you really think Ron Artest understands what it entails to represent the Houston Rockets? Or Roger Clemens to the New York Yankees? Or John Daly to anyone?

No, they don't. That is why god willing none of them will ever be Olympians.

And of course, there are those who do sneak in. There are those who are forced to return medals, whether immediately or years later, for doping. And that is sad.

Those are the stories that I quickly forget.

But I will never forget Poblete or Naidan or Nketu, just like I never forgot Thomas Bimis and Nikolaos Siranidis of Greece from the 2004 games.

Unquestionable longshots before the games began to even contend for a medal, Bimis and Siranidis found themselves in fourth place heading into their final dive in the men's synchronized diving 3-metre springboard final, less than a point and a half out of third. However, they trailed first-place China by more than 14 points.

Bimis and Siranidis performed the dive of their lives, then watched as China, the United States, Russia, and Australia all botched their dives.

It was the first gold medal of the games for the host nation and no doubt the unlikeliest.

The entire building shook; no one, not even Bimis or Siranidis, could comprehend what just happened.

Sure, Michael Phelps's quest for eight gold medals is nice, but I'd rather watch the other events. That is where the truly memorable stories are, at least for me.

That is where the stories that define the Olympics are written.
Posted on: August 10, 2008 12:22 pm
 

Oak Tree to Unretire Seven of the Greatest Jockey

Oak Tree to Unretire Seven of the Greatest Jockeys of All-Time, and Julie Krone

Something here is not right.

Like the kids game, which of these is not like the other: Cordero, Vasquez, Hawley, Day McCarron, Bailey, Stevens, Krone.

Krone? Julie Krone? Amidst a list like that?

Yet when the Oak Tree Racing at Santa Anita meet sends out eight horses on October 18 for a special pari-mutuel wagering race, “The Living Legends Race,” those eight jockeys will be the representatives.

From all the retired legendary jockeys, the Oak Tree Racing Association picked a great cast. But I must question the selection of Julie Krone.

In case you don't recognize the names or don't remember the names, I'll go through each of the jockeys one-by-one.

Angel Cordero, Jr., 65, won more than 7000 races in his career, including six Triple Crown races.

He won both the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes aboard Bold Forbes in 1975. He also won the Kentucky Oaks twice.

He won four Breeders' Cup races in the first eight years of the event before suffering a career-ending injury in 1992, four years after his induction into the United States Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame.

Three times, in 1982, 1983, and 1985, Cordero won the Eclipse Award for most outstanding jockey.

Jacinto Vasquez, 64, is one of only 23 North American jockeys to ever win 5000 races. Among those are two Kentucky Derbies, one aboard Foolish Pleasure and a second aboard Genuine Risk.

Vasquez might have been the greatest rider of fillies in American history, guiding Ruffian and Genuine Risk for their entire careers, as well as the very-underrated Princess Rooney, winner of the first Breeders' Cup Distaff. Vasquez did not ride her in that triumph, but he did have the mount in 1983 when she won the Kentucky Oaks.

Sandy Hawley, 59, might be the greatest jockey in Canadian history, rivaled only by Don Seymour.

He won nearly 6500 races, including 10 Canadian Triple Crown races and the Canadian Oaks eight times. In fact, Hawley won the Canadian Oaks five years in a row from 1970 to 1974.

His greatest victory came in 1987 when he beat skin cancer. The following year, he won the Breeders' Stake aboard King's Deputy at Woodbine, the final Canadian Triple Crown race victory of his career.

Pat Day, 55, was one of the three most dominant jockeys of the 1990s, winning six Triple Crown and eight Breeders' Cup races during the decade. He is the only jockey to win three consecutive Preakness Stakes, having done so from 1994 to 1996.

Lifetime, Day won nine Triple Crown races and 12 Breeders' Cup races, those twelves Breeders' Cup triumphs are more than anyone except Jerry Bailey.

He won four Eclipse Awards for outstanding jockey, the last in 1991. In that same year he was inducted into the United States Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame.

Chris McCarron, 53, has won more than 7000 races, nearly achieving the Triple Crown aboard Alysheba in 1987.

He won the Breeders' Cup Classic a record-tying five times, the last two aboard Tiznow, the only two-time winner of the continent's richest race. He dominated California racing for two decades, winning the very competitive Del Mar riding title five times.

Jerry Bailey, 51, is arguably the finest jockey ever to race in the United States. At the very least, he is the best since Bill Shoemaker.

Although he only won six Triple Crown races, he dominated everything else. He won the Breeders' Cup Classic five times among 15 overall Breeders' Cup races.

Bailey also won the Dubai World Cup, the world's richest race, four times.

Most remarkably, he won the Eclipse for most outstanding jockey seven times, three more than anyone else since the award was first issued in 1971.

Finally, there is Gary Stevens, now 45.

Stevens won eight Triple Crown races, coming the closest to winning the Triple Crown in 1997 aboard Silver Charm. Stevens also won seven Breeders' Cup races.

He retired at 42, falling 112 wins shy of 5000 for his career.

He also spent the last two years of his career racing mainly in France.

Which brings us to Julie Krone.

Now, there is no doubt that Krone, now 45, was a fine jockey, one of the better ones of her era. But if she was a man, there is no way she would be in this race.

Krone won one Triple Crown race, the 1993 Belmont Stakes aboard Colonial Affair in the fog in a race marred by the fatal breakdown of Preakness Stakes winner Prairie Bayou. It still is the only Triple Crown race won by a female jockey.

Krone retired in 1999 before returning in 2002. The following year, she became the first and only female jockey to win a Breeders' Cup race, doing so aboard Halfbridled in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

An injury late in 2003 effectively ended Krone's career.

But if you were to compare Krone to other jockeys, to Shane Sellers and Walter Blum, you'd find very similar careers. Would you really ask either Sellers or Blum to participate in this event alongside these other seven?

Of course not.

I give Oak Tree credit for setting this up; I give Oak Tree credit for convincing the other seven jockeys to unretire for a day and attempt to add one more win to their already impressive resumes. Amongst themselves, they already have 45,459 wins.

Add in Krone and they have 49,163 victories.

Add in Krone and you have a mismatch.

I love Julie Krone; what she did for the sport, what she did to cross the gender line and show that female jockeys could be more than mediocre is earth-shattering. But to put her in the same class as Cordero, Vasquez and Hawley, McCarron and Stevens, Day and Bailey, to put her in that class is just not correct.

She's a Hall of Fame jockey but not on the same level as the other seven. Putting her in this race is an insult to her.

For all she has achieved, she has earned the right to be thought of as just a jockey, to not be thought of because she is female. Putting her in this race only works to diminish that.

She'll be thought of as the token female jockey because alongside that competition, that's what she is.

Krone deserves better than this.

Oak Tree, keep her out and you do her a service. Put her in and you just belittle what she has already done.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com