Category Archives: Sports

Ah, Another Scandal In Another Sport, But This One We Americans Don’t Care About

Mazher Mahmood and Amanda Evans at News Of The World:

In the most sensational sporting scandal ever, bowlers Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif delivered THREE blatant no-balls to order.

Their London-based fixer Mazhar Majeed, who let us in on the betting scam for £150,000, crowed “this is no coincidence” before the bent duo made duff deliveries at PRECISELY the moments promised to our reporter.

Armed with our damning dossier of video evidence, Scotland Yard launched their own probe into the scandal.

Last night three players – captain Salman Butt, and bowlers Amir and Asif hade their mobile phones seized by officers.

Trevor Chesterfield at Island Cricket:

From the time they were exposed as cheats four years ago over the ball tampering issue at The Oval, there has been a growing stench about modern Pakistan cricket -which has developed the habit of eschewing openness and with it, integrity.

That was a moment when Darrell Hair, and the strict and fair umpiring levels employed, were questioned by those who knew they had been fiddling with the ball; then they lied about it to escape being shown up as villains in a dishonest caper, all against the tenets of fair play.

With such a background, it should surprise no one that such Luddites as these have again openly displayed how their management is as dysfunctional, maladjusted and incompetent as it has been since the early 1990s. Ijaz Butt, the current president of the Pakistan Cricket Board is as fundamentally flawed in his administration as he was over the disastrous terrorist attack on the Sri Lanka cricket team’s bus in Lahore in March 2009. In the latest series of events in England, bowlers are said to have been involved in a no-ball betting scam. It is the tip of an unsavoury pile of garbage that has been collecting on its doorstep unmonitored for years -that has only become worse post Ijaz Butt, a pretentious Test player whose one moment of fame on the field was as a substitute.

In Pakistan’s first tour of the West Indies in 1957-58, during the third Test in Kingston, Jamaica, Butt managed to run out Conrad Hunte for 260 in his partnership of 446 with Sir Garfield Sobers for the second wicket. Sobers went in to score the then world record of 365 not out in a West Indies total of 790 for three, declared. Recalling the incident, the warm-hearted Hunte said how he and Sobers had forgotten Butt had been brought on for Saeed Ahmed, who had temporarily gone off for minor finger injury repairs.

Butt, in his new avatar, says that without “proof”, there will be no suspension of players. Such an interesting premise he has adopted here, as Pakistan try to cover with bluff and jingoism their already tarnished image.

Geoff Lemon at The Roar:

Like ‘hero’, the word ‘tragedy’ is thrown around all too easily in modern sportswriting. But if, as seems likely, the damning allegations against several Pakistan cricketers prove to be true, it will be a genuine tragedy for their nation and the sport as a whole.

Pakistan’s most common tag in the media is ‘troubled’. Its decade of instability due to religious extremism, including the exile of international cricket, has been capped off by the massive floods of recent weeks. The millions left homeless would have been looking to their team’s performance in England for some kind of solace or escape.

Captain Salman Butt delivered a win in the third Test against England, and dedicated it to his people.

But a few days later that intent had been cast aside, as the fourth and final Test was subsumed by the latest and most wide-ranging match-fixing scandal in Pakistan’s history.

The News of the World may not be the last word in top-quality journalism (with other headlines on its homepage including “Peggy Mitchell’s best bits” and “Elephant plays harmonica”), but the photos and recordings its undercover reporters made while posing as representatives for a gambling cartel make compelling evidence.

Mazhar Majeed, the UK agent for a number of Pakistani players, promised the reporters three no-balls in a day’s Test play, two from Mohammad Amir and one from Mohammad Asif, as proof the players had been bought and would follow directions.

The reporters would then be invited to pay for advance notice of rigged results in future matches. Aside from the bowlers, Majeed claimed to have seven players in his pocket, naming skipper Salman Butt and keeper Kamran Akmal.

A specific over and delivery was nominated for each no-ball. The next day, each was duly delivered right on time. “[He] will bowl according to any situation, or in such a way that the team requires him to bowl,” said Amir of his strike partner Asif in a recent interview.

Unfortunately this looked true in exactly the wrong kind of way.

Alex Massie:

There are different kinds of cheating and some offend us more than others. Cheating to win, while regrettable and reprehensible, is one thing, cheating to lose quite another. Few sports are entirely free of the former but the latter form of cheating is vastly more insidious since it undermines the whole point of the competition in the first-place.

That is, cheating to gain an advantage doesn’t guarantee victory but conspiring to throw a game is both easier (in some sports anyway) and makes a mockery of everything. That’s one reason why match-fixing in cricket is more offensive than, say, drug-taking in cycling. The same is true in horse-racing: doping to win is reprehensible but it doesn’t rob the public as surely as a non-trier does. It’s easier, perhaps, to prevent people from cheating to win than to stop cheating by losing deliberately.

There’s a policy aspect to this latest crisis too: prohibition does not work. At least some of the problems associated with spot-fixing are intimately connected to the fact that gambling on sports is an underground industry in India and Pakistan. A legal gambling industry – that is, one less in hock to and controlled by gangsters – would surely be better placed to combat this kind of corruption. Prohibition is far from the only villain but it certainly exacerbates the problem.

Primary responsibility lies with the players, of course, but the problems associated with cricket and gambling cannot be divorced from the nature of the betting industry on the sub-continent. Fixing that won’t solve everything but it would be a good place to start.

Mark Austin at The Mirror:

The simple fact is the players come from a culture where corruption is ingrained.

I say all this to explain the alleged behaviour of the players NOT to excuse it. And I say it too because it highlights the scale of the challenge facing the international cricket authorities.

If the allegations are proven, of course the players should be dealt with harshly.

If they are found guilty there should be a life ban for the captain Salman Butt.

The younger bowlers, who will have been leaned on and manipulated by unscrupulous scumbag middlemen, should, I think, get shorter sentences.

But this is the point. Life bans and heavy fines won’t solve anything.

The match fixers operating in the shadows will merely find other vulnerable, relatively poorly paid young stars to exploit.

What should happen is that the Pakistan Cricket Board must be made aware that if they don’t clean up their act the entire national team will be banned from international cricket altogether. Full stop.

Osman Samiuddin at The Guardian:

They are not as educated as the players who went before and, even if they were, consider that the public education system ceased producing quality long ago. Asif and Amir, like many others before them, landed up in the big time without connections, without any push and no money, nothing but their skill. That talent was spotted in a system, no matter how decrepit, but a system nonetheless. Both have since made a life for themselves in the big city; if that is not one by-product of democracy, the spotting and rewarding of merit, then what is? This is cricket as the one equaliser in a land of vast disparity.

The standard tale is that they come into more money than their families have seen in a lifetime – and quickly, too. They have more power than players of the past ever did; the modern board administrator is a clown, the modern player a public hero. They have more people watching them. They now need to bling it up. A fancy car, or three, is bought, a big house, maybe one for the family as well, who are also brought to the city. Other celebrities multiply around them. A girl, or three, appears on the scene. Suits are at them, wanting to put their faces up in brighter lights. Entire entourages grow around them, of extended families and drop-out friends, who have to be fed, clothed, kept and entertained. Muhammad Ali knew about them a long time ago.

These are not unique stories. They are everywhere; ghetto basketballers, working-class footballers, slum-town cricketers. Maybe cricket, currently trying to work out how much money it can make for itself, brings its own context. Money-making has become too serious a business in this business for it to be steered by transparency and accountability.

Perhaps Pakistan brings its own context, too. The impermanency of life here breeds a peculiar hoard mentality: get in quick, get rich quicker because you never know when you will be out forever, from a job, from politics, from a team. Over the past 10 years particularly, rampant consumerism has eaten away at urban Pakistan, which has long been sweet on ostentation in any case. Just having wealth is not enough. Showing people you have it is more important.

Moreover, gambling, even though illegal, is fine by most people. It is, some will argue, ingrained to an extent. A friend conducted a focus group of boys and young men recently on cricket and was shocked to learn that they were happily taking and placing bets on street matches.

And the Pakistan Cricket Board cannot be relied upon to handle an email, so handling the life and career of a boy is out of the question. They will not protect them from anyone; if fans, journalists, politicians and bookies want a piece of a player, the PCB do not get in the way. Neither have players here ever helped themselves; thrice efforts have been made to form a players’ association and thrice they have failed. It is the strongest indictment of a culture where every one is out for himself.

Nobody is there to warn young players of the ways of this new world they inhabit, because stardom in Pakistan really is the loneliest pursuit. And maybe it is not even as much about the rural-urban shift as much as it is a class shift, from making money to live to making money for money’s sake. Their place in life, in the grand unwieldy scheme of society, shifts visibly and firmly.

Yet too much can be made of their condition and too little of individual greed. Cricketers have come from places much smaller than Asif and Amir, from poorer backgrounds, and gone through entire lives – let alone a career – without a scandal to stain them.

Pakistan’s players do not get paid as much as counterparts around the world, it is being said. This is true. They have also missed out on the life-changing riches of the Indian Premier League. But at 250,000 rupees (£1,900), 175,000 rupees and 100,000 rupees per month in the three grades of the PCB’s central contracts, they are not paid peanuts. They live in Pakistan, not India, Australia or England, and in this country that kind of salary is seen by very, very few.

Add on match fees – roughly the same again as the monthly retainer – and on‑tour fees, board and personal endorsements, salaries from their first-class sides (which are run by organisations such as banks, airlines and power companies, offering the option of a stable, secure job after retirement), deals with counties and league clubs and now Twenty20 domestic sides, and most elite players really are kings of this land.

This is why the alleged leadership of Salman Butt is the most difficult aspect to grasp. Amir’s errors can too easily be explained by his youth and his background, and Asif has previous, having failed a drug test. But Butt? Whenever there is talk of him it is inevitably of his English-speaking and educated ways. He is a truly urban product, to a degree polished. “He’s been brought up well,” Bob Woolmer once said of him. Had he not been a cricketer, he could have been nine-to-fiving somewhere and who knows, his floppy locks might have got him into the music gig.

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“Burning Out His Fuse Up Here Alone”

A.J. Perez at Fanhouse:

Roger Clemens‘ precipitous descent from one of the game’s top power pitchers to landing under a multi-count federal indictment “was completely self-inflicted,” former Congressman Tom Davis told FanHouse on Thursday.

“He got caught in a speed trap like a lot of other ballplayers found in the Mitchell Report,” said Davis, former ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform where Clemens testified in February 2008. “Most of the others offered up an apology and many of them did just fine. He didn’t want to do that. He wanted to clear his name and we offered him a forum.”

This forum, however, came with a caveat: the seven-time Cy Young Award winner had to go under oath with no promise of immunity. That public relations move fully backfired Thursday as United States Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. and Shawn Henry, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington field office, announced that Clemens would face one count of obstruction of Congress, three counts of making false statements and two counts of perjury.

Clemens, whose appearance in front of the committee was completely voluntary since he was not subpoenaed, faces a combined maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a $1.5 million fine, although he would likely only serve 15-21 months if convicted on all six counts under current sentencing guidelines.

Barry Petchesky at Deadspin:

The Rocket, responding to his indictment on perjury charges: “I never took HGH or Steroids. And I did not lie to Congress. I look forward to challenging the Governments accusations, and hope people will keep an open mind until trial.”

‘Duk at Yahoo Sports:

Today’s news is bound to produce a bevy of reactions that will all sound something like “why is the government wasting resources and taxpayer money pursuing this case?” In fact, I would guess there’s a good chance you’re saying something similar right now.

But I’ve never liked that line of thinking much because we have rules about lying under oath for a reason. And those rules become absolutely worthless if we summarily pardon anyone who is suspected of doing so.

Now, if you want to argue that Clemens shouldn’t have been summoned to a position where he could be accused of lying, that’s a different debate altogether. With much bigger battles out there to fight, the insistence of politicians on becoming involved with sports and PEDs is probably more misguided than any of our shrugs over this Clemens charge.

But because it may have happened, it’s important that prosecutors hold Clemens accountable for his actions — so long as they’ve built a case they actually have a chance of bringing home. Federal perjury charges were first brought against Barry Bonds in November 2007 and the prosecutors still aren’t any closer to being able to convict him. (Bonds’ perpetually delayed trial, by the way, is now set for March 2011.)

In other words, if the prosecutors are going to start this controversial job, they better have a pretty good idea of how they’re going to finish it in a timely and efficient manner.

And if they don’t?

Well, that’s where our real issue with this action should lie.

Shaun Powell at ESPN:

Wouldn’t a simple “my bad” have spared him a fidgety appearance at a 2008 congressional hearing that was both sad and hilarious, where he used awkward words (“misremembered” being my favorite) and a variety of silly replies to charges made by Brian McNamee, his former trainer? Wouldn’t Clemens have been better served by taking the road followed by Andy Pettitte, his close friend and training partner, who ‘fessed up and still enjoys hero status in the Bronx? Would Clemens be facing the same disgraceful fate as Marion Jones, the Olympic sprint queen, who was locked up for nearly six months?

Yes, it was arrogance that doomed Clemens, nothing more or less, and exposed him as a fraud. You can understand why. For years, that attitude served him well. It allowed him to intimidate hitters with those strike zone-seeking missiles he threw with amazing consistency for 24 years and two tours of duty with the Yankees. It encouraged him to famously fire some high heat at Mike Piazza‘s head and then grab a broken bat and hurl it at Piazza’s feet. It made him do whatever possible, even if it were illegal, to strike back at then-Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette, who dismissed “The Rocket” as being finished when Clemens left Boston.

And arrogance told Clemens he was a better man and would cut a more believable figure at that hearing than McNamee, who in the big picture was a complete nobody. At least the Republicans on the panel thought so, anyway.

Don Suber:

Let me make this clear: I dislike Roger Clemens — Rajah — a guy whose achievements on the field do not match his outsized ego, and considering he won 354 games, that is saying a lot.

So why in the hell are federal prosecutors dogging the man?

Why are they indicting him?

Because he used steroids? Hell, they all did in the 1990s, including A-Rod. If the difference between making $1 million and making $10 million was taking a banned drug, I would take them.

But the feds cannot get him for that because of the statute of limitations.

So he will be indicted for lying to Congress.

That’s like breaking wind in a stockyard.

Jonathan Tobin at Commentary

Joshua Tucker:

Relieved to hear he was indicted, but I was still kind of hoping they were finally going to get him on assault and battery for this:


For those of you not permanently traumatized by the 2000 World Series, yes, that is Roger Clemens about to throw a bat at Mike Piazza’s head. And no, not only was he not arrested, he wasn’t even thrown out of the game. Go figure.

Scott Lemieux:

My official reaction to the indictment of Roger Clemens is that I don’t like perjury charges that are an outgrowth from “OMG baseball players use different kinds of PEDs than the good, clean ballplayers of my youth did” witch hunts. On the other hand, something bad has happened to Roger Clemens, so you can see my dilemma here. Maybe the feds can get him to name Jeter so we never have to hear about steroids again…

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“I’m Pat F*cking Tillman.”

Andrew O’Hehir at Salon:

The death of Pat Tillman, the National Football League star turned Army Ranger who was killed by friendly fire — or “fratricide,” as the military puts it — in Afghanistan in April 2004, was a strange event in recent American history. On one hand, Tillman’s death was covered far more extensively than those of any of the other 4,700 or so United States troops killed in the Iraqi and Afghan combat zones. To put it bluntly, he was the only celebrity among them.

On the other hand, Tillman’s story remains poorly understood and has little social resonance. As a colleague of mine recently put it, Tillman didn’t fit, either as a living human being or a posthumous symbol into the governing political narratives of our polarized national conversation. That’s true whether you’re on the right or the left. If he struck many people at first as a macho, hyper-patriotic caricature — the small-town football hero who went to war without asking questions — it eventually became clear that was nowhere near accurate. Yet Tillman was also more idiosyncratic than the equally stereotypical ’60s-style combat vet turned longhair peacenik.

Mind you, Tillman might well have become a left-wing activist, had he lived longer. He had read Noam Chomsky’s critiques of U.S. foreign policy, and hoped to meet Chomsky in person. But as Amir Bar-Lev’s haunting and addictive documentary “The Tillman Story” demonstrates, Tillman was such an unusual blend of personal ingredients that he could have become almost anything. It’s a fascinating film, full of drama, intrigue, tragedy and righteous indignation, but maybe its greatest accomplishment is to make you feel the death of one young man — a truly independent thinker who hewed his own way through the world, in the finest American tradition — as a great loss.

Eric Kohn at Indie Wire:

Narrated by Josh Brolin, “The Tillman Story” tracks the uneasy investigation into the reality of the player’s death launched by his family in the wake of an official attempt to celebrate him as a hero. Each step of the way, the corruption grows slightly deeper: The military waits until after Tillman’s funeral before declaring that he was killed by friendly fire, but his parents and siblings determine that the story runs even deeper than that. An unnaturally humble public figure, Tillman never revealed his intentions for going to war—but a twisted publicity campaign launched in the wake of his death assumed otherwise.

The government turned Tillman into a hero, elevating his posthumous stature while burying the atrocious errors that led to his death. Recounting the events through interviews with the Tillman family and previously classified government documents, director Amir Bar-Lev provides an exhaustive account of the wrongdoings at hand. It’s not the sole definitive version of the story—Jon Krakauer’s “Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman” came out in 2009—but by framing the story as a conspiracy thriller, Bar-Lev finds a natural cinematic hook: Coming across like “The Manchurian Candidate” as a ghost story or “All the President’s Men” with civilian journalists, “The Tillman Story” is loaded with dramatic potential.

Bar-Lev assembles the story with layers of media, old and new. He finds a compelling plot point in the contrast between the mainstream Tillman narrative and his family’s background struggles.Voice-overs accompany footage of Tillman’s stone-faced relatives at a massive memorial held in the Arizona stadium where he used to play for the Cardinals. They express their frustration on the soundtrack while news cameras capture it on their faces. Distraught over the elevation of Tillman to the level of a trite patriotic symbol, their anger drives them toward detective work. “He didn’t really fit into that box,” exclaims Tillman’s mother, Mary, sounding both mournful and disappointed that the country her sons served let them down.

Kurt Schlichter at Big Hollywood:

Call me fussy, but I prefer that my conspiracies and cover-ups actually involve conspiracies and cover-ups.  The Tillman Story, a new leftist documentary on football player turned Army Airborne Ranger turned friendly fire casualty turned symbol of…something…posits a massive conspiracy to do…something…and an enormous cover-up of…something…but never quite explains what.  However, there are lots of ominous shots of George Bush and Karl Rove, so we can somehow gather that whatever it is is, in some way, all Bushitler’s fault.

This is a bad film, both in its execution and its intent.  As a lawyer, it insults my intelligence.  As a veteran, it insults my professionalism.  As an audience member, it failed me as a film.  Pat Tillman, first seen in footage sitting nearly silently in a studio, begins the film as a cipher and ends as a cipher.  I know little more about the man or his motivations than I did coming in.  All I know is that I could not wait for it to be over.

This over-praised documentary is based on the premise that there was an enormous, mysterious conspiracy surrounding the death of Pat Tillman, which is a problem for the filmmaker since it is clear there is no giant, mysterious conspiracy surrounding the death of Pat Tillman.  The filmmakers cannot explain who conspired, or what they conspired to do.  Was there a cover-up?  Of what?  The film desperately wants there to be one, as does the family – perhaps that would give them the story the producers need and generate the meaning the family wants.  But, as the film demonstrates beyond all reasonable doubt, there isn’t one.  This is a story of mistakes, not malice.

Pat Tillman died in a tragic battlefield accident.  That happens – young men, powerful weapons, and “the fog of war” all combine to make fratricide a terrible and ever-present reality of infantry combat.  I know nothing about the circumstances of Tillman’s death other than what the film showed (including several instances where the camera focused on Army investigation documents that revealed information the filmmakers did not highlight).  But what the film shows makes it clear that there are no “unanswered questions.”

John Nolte at Big Hollywood:

On May 3rd, 2004, a memorial for Pat Tillman took place in San Jose’s Municipal Rose Garden. Tillman was posthumously awarded the Silver Star and both his family and the whole world believed he had been killed in a Taliban ambush during a brave attempt to draw their fire in order to save his own men.  Just a few weeks later, the Army would come forward to acknowledge that this narrative was wrong and that Tillman had been killed by friendly fire.

At this point, the question that came to my mind was why would the Pentagon and the Bush Administration voluntarily come forward and uncover their own conspiracy? The film makes no mention of any outside pressure on the Pentagon from the Tillman family or even the media to get the bottom of anything. Meaning that at this point everyone believed the initial report and apparently all the Administration and military had to do to keep us all believing was to keep their mouths shut.

So the question is: If the idea was to use Tillman’s death for nefarious pro-war purposes, why just a few weeks after the memorial service would those with the most to lose from doing so, voluntarily kick over a political hornets’ nest by telling the truth? Why not milk the situation for as long as possible and for as much propaganda as possible, especially with a presidential election just five months off? At the very least, why not save all the political heartache and fallout this revelation was sure to bring (and did) and stall until after Bush is reelected?

A producer once told me that whenever you have a film character open a refrigerator door you either have to show them close it or include the sound effect of the door closing, or else the audience will get unsettled thinking the door has been left open. Bar-Lev’s refusal to address or explain why a supposed-group of conspirators would of their own volition blow the whistle on their own supposed conspiracy leaves that door open. And no fancy camera move or sinister scoring is going to close it.

Stephanie Zacharek at Movieline:

Bar-Lev — whose previous directing credits include the 2007 My Kid Could Paint That — trusts his instincts enough to know that he doesn’t need to embellish or intensify any angle of this story to make it more dramatic or more affecting. His treatment of Tillman’s parents is particularly low-key. Dannie Tillman, who has since written a book about her son’s case, speaks at one point about how uncomfortable it is to be a parent grieving intensely and privately in the midst of a grand and glitzy public outpouring of grief. Against that, Bar-Lev shows footage of Dannie, Patrick Sr. and Marie standing stiffly and politely on a football field as earnest speeches are made and marching-band music is played. At one point, incomprehensibly, a team of prancing and high-kicking dancers line up before them, a truly weird way of honoring a fallen soldier.

The Tillman Story is often painful to watch, even when the images in front of us are nothing more than military documents that have been marked, by Dannie, with a highlighter. Dannie was given thousands of pages of official reports and documents by the U.S. military, a sea of pages with every significant name or detail blacked out; the presumption was that once she started going through this material, she’d simply become exhausted and give up. But with Goff’s help, Dannie unearthed many of the more excruciating secrets surrounding her son’s death, notably the fact that the soldiers responsible for it (their story isn’t told here, and appears to be wholly shrouded in secrecy) explained their actions by saying, “I was excited,” and, “I wanted to stay in the firefight” — details the U.S. military wouldn’t be particularly eager to publicize, for obvious reasons, and which can only intensify a parent’s suffering.

Bar-Lev recently lost an appeal to have the MPAA ratings board change the rating for The Tillman Story from an R — for the movie’s use of, as the ratings board so delicately puts it, “excessive language” — to a PG-13. That’s particularly cutting considering that one of the most piercing revelations in The Tillman Story is that Tillman’s last words, shouted out as a last-ditch effort to keep his fellow soldiers from shooting at him, were “I’m Pat f*cking Tillman.” Sometimes the use of an expletive, beyond being a sticking point for a group of de facto censors, really is a matter of life and death.

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Filed under Af/Pak, GWOT, Military Issues, Movies, Sports

Some Television Coverage Of Their Own?

Eddie North-Hager at the University of Southern California:

Even the ESPN Ticker gives women short shrift – 96.4 percent of the information scrolling along the bottom of the screen was dedicated to men’s sports.

The finding is part of a 20-year study of sports coverage released by USC sociologist Mike Messner and Purdue University sociologist Cheryl Cooky. Though it was not surprising to discover that men’s sports gets more coverage, it was eye-opening when researchers found that women’s sports accounted for less than 2 percent of network news and ESPN’s SportsCenter.

“There’s a message that sports is still for, by and about men,” Messner said. “When will the news catch up?”

Just as surprising is that as more women than ever participate in all levels of sports, coverage of their gender is drastically declining. In 2004, network affiliates dedicated 6.3 percent to women’s sports. Last year it dropped to 1.6 percent.

“News programs are supposed to be a window to the world and there is a journalistic responsibility to reflect that,” said Messner, an expert in the sociology of sports.

In 1971, 294,000 high school girls played interscholastic sports. Today 3.1 million play, much closer to the 4.4 million boys who play high school sports.

Yet network affiliates ran 60 stories on NCAA men’s basketball in March 2009. There were no stories about women.

It’s not that ample coverage of men’s sports leaves no time for women. The researchers found that newscasts routinely air light sports features, such as a story about a hamburger with 5,000 calories and 300 grams of fat sold at a minor league baseball park in Michigan.

The discrepancy is important, Messner said, as it reinforces the stereotype that sports proves men are superior to women, that the women’s product isn’t the same quality or would not have the same mass appeal. Messner points out those arguments have been used before, such as when African Americans weren’t considered good enough to compete in Major League Baseball.

Fred Bowen at The Washington Post:

So if you love women’s sports, what can you do? First, support women’s teams and go to the games. Ask your parents and friends to go to the games. Get tickets for the Washington Mystics or the Freedom soccer team. And don’t forget all the wonderful local women’s college teams.

Second, watch women’s sports on television whenever you can. Women’s teams need all the fans they can get. Television news shows and newspapers are businesses that cover the most popular sports. In Washington, TV stations, radio shows and even KidsPost talk about the Redskins because so many people watch the games and are interested in the team.

Finally, don’t give up. Recently, I read the book “When the Game Was Ours,” about basketball legends Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. Author Jackie MacMullan mentions that Game 6 of the 1980 NBA championship between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Philadelphia 76ers was not on live TV. It was on tape delay late at night.

Thirty years ago, even the men’s NBA was not a big-time sport. It took years for the NBA to become so popular. Maybe with a little help, the same can happen with women’s sports.

Christina Hoff Summers at The American Enterprise Institute:

But the heavy focus of news and highlights shows on men’s sports is not only fathomable but obvious—that is where the fans are. And that is where advertisers expect to find customers for “male” products such as beer, razors, and cars. Men’s professional sports are a fascination (obsession is more like it) to many millions of men, because they offer extreme competition, performance, and heroics. Women’s professional sports, however skilled and admirable, cannot compare in Promethean drama.

Even women prefer watching male teams. Few women follow the sports pages and ESPN, but many enjoy attending live games—featuring male athletes. According to Sports Business Daily, 31 percent of the NFL’s “avid fans” are women.

Nyad and the USC study authors demand that television cover women’s sports “fairly and equitably,” but the study never once mentions the word “attendance.” Shouldn’t fan interest in the games drive the media stories? Economist Mark Perry, my colleague at the American Enterprise Institute, looked at the numbers. For the 2009 season, the NBA got 92.3 percent of the total attendance for pro basketball (NBA plus WNBA), while the WNBA got only 7.7 percent of the total attendance (see chart below). But according to the USC study, the WNBA received 22.2 percent of the coverage. Perry’s conclusion: “So women’s pro basketball got a hugely disproportionate share of media coverage. Total attendance at NBA games was 12 times greater than attendance at the WNBA games, but media coverage was only 3.5 times greater for men than for women.”

Rod Dreher:

I’m not a sports fan, but it seems pretty clear to me that almost nobody wants to watch professional women’s sports. The question is why. I suppose the feminists would say that the market actually is there, if only the people who run TV sports would notice. Really? You think that people who really only want to make money, and don’t care how they do it, are turning their nose up at an opportunity to exploit an untapped market? Highly doubtful. The more interesting question is why, in a sports-crazy nation, people — even many women — only really care about male sports.

Conor Friedersdorf at The American Scene:

Sports journalism has changed a lot since 1989, and contrary to what the USC study implies, anyone who wants to follow women’s sports is actually a lot better off now due to niche media that both offers coverage of practically any team one would want to follow, and helps explain why mass market programs like Sports Center and network news sports shows cover teams or athletes with niche audiences less — if you’re interested in the WNBA, you can buy a package through your cable company to get all the games, follow the season on, join a fantasy league, etc.

As a high school athlete, and a recreational athlete still, I’m totally behind the move to give girls an equal opportunity to benefit from college athletics, and if I have daughters one day, I’ll encourage them to play sports by installing a basketball hoop on the driveway and buying them surfboards. Upon going to college, I’ll want them to have an equal opportunity at getting an athletic scholarship. But there isn’t any reason why network news and ESPN should give equal time, or anything approaching it, to women’s sports — they should follow market demand (and when they depart from it, they should televise less golf, a sport with a tiny audience of very rich consumers).

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The Week That Was Landon Donovan’s Goal

USA Today:

Here’s a video that marvelously compiles the national reaction to Landon Donovan’s game-winning goal at the World Cup yesterday, from Nebraska to Arizona to New York, and even to “some dude in Arkansas.” Look closely, you might see someone you know.

Charlie Corr at ESPN:

Emotions built as the clock ticked away Wednesday during the United States’ final Group C match against Algeria in the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Which way would the tide flow for the U.S.? Would the Americans fall short once again from advancing through the group stage, or could they pull off the miracle goal?

In the 91st minute, the U.S. found that long-awaited clutch strike as Landon Donovan’s second-half stoppage time goal carried the Americans to a 1-0 victory over Algeria and first place in Group C.

The U.S. could not afford a draw, because also on Wednesday, England advanced through the group stage with a 1-0 win over Slovenia.

“It’s a match where both teams need to win, so it turns into a very wide open game,” former Chicago Fire and current U.S. head coach Bob Bradley said in the postmatch news conference. “Algeria is a very good team, skillful and well-organized, but the game now takes on a different tone just because of the need for both teams to win.”

If you were attempting to watch the two Group C matches simultaneously, there were some key sequences to pay attention to on both screens.

In the 20th minute of the U.S.-Algeria match, the Americans were involved yet again with another disallowed goal. Clint Dempsey was called for offside before striking the ball into the back of the net. But replays showed that he was level with Algeria’s back line.

Flip over to England-Slovenia, and in the 23rd minute England garnered a much-needed goal from Jermain Defoe to take a 1-0 lead. If things stood that way, with England topping Slovenia and the U.S. level with Algeria, that meant England and Slovenia would advance.

Back to the split-screen, in the U.S. match in the 57th minute, Dempsey hit the post off of Jozy Altidore’s cross. While that was going on, England’s Wayne Rooney had the ball one-on-one against Slovenia goalkeeper Samir Handanovic in the 58th minute. But Rooney’s strike hit the left post after the ball ever-so-slightly deflected off of Handanovic’s finger tips.

Aside from a near disaster at the start of the match — almost allowing a 6th-minute goal to Algeria — the U.S. created the better chances of the two teams. But the Americans were unable to finish.

From the U.S. viewers’ standpoint, they were grasping for any advantage, whether it was the U.S.’s match or Slovenia hoping to find an equalizer against England. Even if it meant an Algerian booking — Dempsey took a knock to the face from Antar Yahia in the 81st minute and Altidore was fouled from behind by Medhi Lacen in the 82nd, but neither foul (Yahia’s was not even called by the official) had any bearing on the match. Around the 90th minute of the England-Slovenia match, Slovenia had a few attacking moments to try and level things up.

But that little bit of assistance would not come. The Americans had to overcome this obstacle on their own, and Donovan came through with the tally.

Tommy Craggs at Deadspin

David Roth at The Wall Street Journal:

In the short run, the repercussions of Landon Donovan’s game-winning goal in the 91st minute against Algeria are pretty clear – the U.S. won its group and sealed a knockout round date with Ghana, the team that eliminated the U.S. from the 2006 World Cup. And yet focusing on the short run falls dramatically short of capturing the moment’s significance. More to the point, the goal was pretty awesome, and judging by the response to it – it nearly broke the internet and launched millions of high fives – Donovan’s improbable goal might’ve accomplished another improbable goal in turn: finally turning recalcitrant American sports fans into soccer fans.

“This was huge,” George Vecsey writes in the New York Times, “not because it put that foreign sport over the top, which is never the point, and not because it meant anything less about Algeria — a smaller nation and a skilled, competitive team — but because it felt like a sporting event that could unify America for a few screaming moments.”

All true, all well put, but perhaps most important of all: It was seriously, seriously exciting. “Remember June 23, 2010: the day the lame old ‘Soccer is Boring’ argument finally died in the U.S.,” the Journal’s Jason Gay cheers. “If you weren’t completely, utterly thrilled, exhausted and satisfied by Wednesday’s 1-0 Team USA World Cup thriller over Algeria, you’re a lifeless sports corpse.”

Stefan Fatsis at The New Republic:

The guy standing near me was crying, too. It was my new best friend, Ian Ainslie of the fan group American Outlaws, and after the fourth Foer brother — tell me that Landon and this blog’s editor aren’t separated at birth — scored the most important goal in American soccer history (later, Paul Caligiuri), tears were streaming down his face. Streaming, I tell you. Ainslie borrowed my notebook and wrote, “I don’t even have words.” I really think he couldn’t speak.

Inside Loftus Versfeld Stadium, the 90 minutes before bedlam were an anxious and frustrating referendum on US soccer. We had seen this movie before: the sloppy defending, the missed sitters. Jonathan Bornstein? Seriously? Here were my worries: a three-draw exit, capped by a nil-nil result, would rearm the wingnuts and the Reillys. More important, it would buzzkill what I gather is genuine hype and excitement — and good ratings — back home. Sunil Gulati told me before the Slovenia game that, while he doesn’t believe in tipping points, this likable team, this seriously ESPNed tournament and a bid-in-progress to host a World Cup presented a rare opportunity for the sport. I’m in the bag for Sunil, whom I’ve known for a long time. Backdated to 1984, he talked about a 50-year plan for American soccer; I’ve been yapping about a 20- to 30-year one for a while now. Fucking Jozy, I said. How do you not just tap that ball in?

And then it happened. Sunil cried, too. And he woke up this morning to escort Bill Clinton and shake the trees for votes from FIFA’s 24-member Politburo for that 2022 World Cup bid. (Clinton is the bid’s honorary chairman; he got a big cheer when his face appeared on the video board last night.) ESPN was assured another weekend of USA-fired ratings. And given that we’ve landed for the first two knockout rounds in the best group since the Beatles, the possibility for advancing further than any modern US men’s national team is real. Project 2010, anyone?


Anyone with a dust speck of knowledge of US soccer’s place in the world understands that the euphoria surrounding Donovan’s goal and the prospect for the US in this World Cup have nothing whatsoever to do with reinforcing American cultural might and everything to do with celebrating a long-time-coming (and still-not-there) American ascendancy in the rare place it hasn’t existed. Those chants of “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” aren’t an expression of American superiority. They’re a foam finger in the world’s eyeball from a historically and justifiably overlooked, disrespected, disregarded second-rate soccer country. It’s all about redemption on the field, not politics off of it.

Daniel Drezner:

The USA’s thrilling, last-minute victory over Algeria yesterday seemed tailor-made for pushing the popularity of the sport in this country to the next level.  Americans like winners, but they really like last-minute, come-from-behind winners, and this American team seems to excel in that area.

On the other hand…. I’m not sure I really want Americans to care that much about what happens on a soccer field football pitch.  To see why, consider this Steven Erlanger story in the New York Times about how the French elite has reacted to that country’s ignominious exit from the World Cup:

The philosopher Alain Finkielkraut, who has often criticized the failures of French assimilation, compared the players to youths rioting in the banlieues, France’s suburban ghettos. “We now have proof that the French team is not a team at all, but a gang of hooligans that knows only the morals of the mafia,” he said in a radio interview.

While most politicians have talked carefully of values and patriotism, rather than immigration and race, some legislators blasted the players as “scum,” “little troublemakers” and “guys with chickpeas in their heads instead of a brain,” according to news reports.

Fadela Amara, the junior minister for the racially charged suburbs who was born to Algerian parents, warned on Tuesday that the reaction to the team’s loss had become racially charged.

“There is a tendency to ethnicize what has happened,” she told a gathering of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s governing party, according to news reports. “Everyone condemns the lower-class neighborhoods. People doubt that those of immigrant backgrounds are capable of respecting the nation.”

She criticized Mr. Sarkozy’s handling of a debate on “national identity,” warning that “all democrats and all republicans will be lost” in this ethnically tinged criticism about Les Bleus, the French team. “We’re building a highway for the National Front,” she said, in a reference to the far-right, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim party founded by Jean-Marie Le Pen….

Mr. Sarkozy himself called a meeting on the disastrous result on Wednesday, summoning Prime Minister Francois Fillon, Sports Minister Roselyne Bachelot and Rama Yade, the junior sports minister. In a statement, he said he had ordered them “to rapidly draw the lessons of this disaster.”

Now, to be fair, there have been a few moments in the past when a US team has performed so abysmally on the global stage that it prompted a minor, ugly political kerfuffle (I’m thinking of the 2000 Olympic men’s basketball team).  Still, in order, here’s what I don’t want to see happen in the United States:

1.  Philosophers using a national team’s sporting performance to opine about the state of the union;

2.  Any politician blaming the performance of a national sports team on the country’s government;

3.  A Minister of Sport;

4.  A head of state summoning the head of government and other policy principals to discuss the broad socioeconomic lessons that can be drawn from the failures of a f***ing football team.

David Zirin at The Nation:

I personally felt almost a little drunk at the excitement of it all (which unfortunately may have come across on air.) The United States is not my favorite team by a long stretch. I’m an Argentina guy, myself. But I was reminded of the words of Eduardo Galeano, author of Soccer in Sun and Shadow, who said, “Years have gone by and I’ve finally learned to accept myself for who I am: a beggar for good soccer. I go about the world, hand outstretched, and in the stadiums I plead: ‘A pretty move, for the love of God.’ And when good soccer happens, I give thanks for the miracle and I don’t give a damn which team or country performs it.”

Yet after the show, I was reminded about why when the United States wins in international tournaments, it can bring a nasty undercurrent in its wake. I was listening to a DC sports radio show called the Sports Fix with Kevin Sheehan and Thom Loverro (Loverro writes a sports column for the Washington Times). Loverro was dismissive about the quality of the victory, saying, “When I think of Algeria, all I think about are terrorists and Abbott and Costello movies.” (Given what Algeria suffered at the hands of French occupiers, they probably have a different definition of terrorism.) The two then debated whether United States vs. Algeria was “a Grenada game” or “a Vietnam game,” comparing the soccer game to the two wars—Grenada of course being the easy win and Vietnam the tragic loss.

It reminded why these kinds of international competitions can leave me with such a sour taste. Why can’t we just recognize that Algeria played gallantly against a better US team, which won by the skin of its teeth? Why must an insanely miraculous athletic victory also be a reinforcer of cultural supremacy? It’s yet another reminder why it is so important for progressives to not just thrill to the joys of sport but be conversant in the politics of sports. The right will forever try to pump the worst kind of racist, nationalist garbage through our play, even at moments that by all rights should be above and beyond politics and just about the electric thrill of the moment. Especially given the right’s (and Loverro’s) contempt for “the beautiful game”, soccer of all things shouldn’t suffer the curse of being a cheap, political football.

Jonathan Tobin at Commentary:

In the NPR universe, the reluctance of the vast majority of Americans to embrace the so-called “beautiful game” is a symbol of our Bush-like arrogance and refusal to march to the same drummers as those enlightened soccer hooligans from Europe, South America, and even North Korea (whose representatives made the 32-team final in South Africa). For soccer lovers who see the sport’s minor-league status here as an affront to their globalist sensibilities, the World Cup is the quadrennial chance to boost its status, so the fortunes of the American team are a matter of deep concern to them. If the Americans succeed, as they have so far in this World Cup, then they hope that somehow this will translate into more prestige for U.S. soccer or at least a chance that the sports manifestation of American exceptionalism is in decline. Notwithstanding our sympathy for the boys running around the fields of South Africa in red, white, and blue, that is an outcome we should not desire. Soccer is just a game (albeit a boring one), and there’s no need for patriots to abuse it or its fans. But let’s just say that as long as Americans don’t share a common sports culture with Algerians and Iranians or even Europeans, we need not fear for the future of the republic.

But there’s the rub for hardcore leftists like Zirin, who hope that one day we will be no different than the rest of the world. Zirin wrote last week that the real reason that most Americans don’t like soccer is racism and looked forward to Glenn Beck’s dilemma when America was a World Cup favorite, as the right-wing broadcaster would have to choose between supporting the flag and his anti-soccer faith. But American successes, such as yesterday’s U.S. victory, provide Zirin with his own problem. In order for soccer to do well here, he’s got to root for the American team against Third World victims like Algeria (he admits he’s really an Argentina fan) and be subjected to jingoist soccer rhetoric about America’s “cultural supremacy” on sports talk shows. He confesses that is why international competitions leave him “with such a sour taste.”

While I find Zirin’s soccer evangelism as well as his aversion to rooting for his own country risible, he’s actually right about that last point even if he doesn’t follow it to its logical conclusion. While I wish the American World Cup team well, as I would any endeavor in which my fellow citizens represent our country, the business of wrapping team sports in national flags is sheer humbug. Which is why I despise the World Cup in the same way I detest other instances of sports globaloney, like the Olympics or our beloved national pastime of baseball’s own World Cup, whose absurd out-of-season international tournament has produced little interest here the two times it was played. It is far better to leave this nonsense to the denizens of Old Europe, unstable South America, and the despotic Middle East, whose one democracy, Israel, is not allowed to compete against its neighbors in soccer but must instead play against the powerhouses of Europe to get into the World Cup, and thus has never been allowed to participate.

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Do They Break Out The Vuvuzelas For This?

Katherine Rust at The Atlantic with a round-up. Rust:

While American soccer fans reveled in the glory of Landon Donovan’s game-winning goal yesterday, for the nation’s tennis supporters victory was not so sweet–until today. American John Isner and Frenchman Nicolas Mahut spent the better part of Wednesday, and Tuesday, and Thursday playing in what was to become the longest tennis match in history. Battling for some 11 hours over the course of three days, the contest finally came to an end when Isner slipped a backhand past Mahut, winning the match and leaving commentators exhausted, overwhelmed and awe-struck. Regardless of the result, the day had several winners. Who came out on top?

Kamakshi Tandon at ESPN, before Isner won:

At 41-41, the net broke down. At 47-47, the scoreboard broke down. John Isner and Nicolas Mahut, however, were still standing at 59-59 in the fifth set as the match was suspended for darkness a second day.

All of tennis’ longest match records lay in tatters. And all over the grounds, all over the world, people got up knowing they had witnessed something truly historic in the annals of tennis. The longest match ever. By far.

At the end, both players were able to walk off the court without losing and everyone else was left to consider the statistical enormity of what they had just witnessed.

“What I can tell you? It’s just unbelievable. I can tell you 10 times in a row, unbelievable,” said Arnaud Clement, whose 6-hour, 33-minute match against Fabrice Santoro at the French Open in 2004 had been the previous record for the longest-ever match.

Isner and Mahut have gone longer than that in the fifth set alone, playing for 7 hours, 6 minutes.

“Everybody is watching in all the TVs here,” Clement reported of the locker room. “Players … all the staff.”

Walking off the court shaking his head in incredulity, Isner’s coach Craig Boynton said, “It’s all uncharted territory right now. The match is going to be over three days, they’ve played over seven hours. It’s nuts. What do you do? There’s no playbook.

“Physically, we’ll get him ready [for Thursday]. We’ll make a few adjustments tactically. What do you say — ‘It’s 59-59. Go have fun?’

“I’m going to put my arm around the kid and tell him how proud I am, win or lose here.”

Hal Spivack at Fanhouse:

Here is the record-setting time breakdown of the first-round match for the ages (all London time):

On Tuesday, the match began at 6:13 PM.

On Tuesday, the match was suspended due to darkness at 9:07 PM after Isner won the fourth set and tied the match up at two sets apiece.

On Wednesday, play resumed with the players square at the start of the fifth set at 2:04 PM.

After 118 games on Wednesday with no breaks of serve in the fifth, play had to be suspended due to darkness again at: 9:10 PM, tied 59-59 in fifth-set games.

On Thursday, the match resumed at 3:43 PM at 59-59.

The match finally ended on Thursday at 4:48 PM in the 138th game of the fifth set, with Isner winning 70-68, finally breaking Mahut’s serve.

The fifth set alone – at eight hours, 11 minutes – took more time to complete than any other previous completed match in the history of Open Era tennis.

Fabrice Santoro
and Arnaud Clement had previously held the record for the longest match in Open Era history by playing a six-hour, 33-minute contest over two days at the 2004 French Open. Santoro defeated Clement 6-4, 6-3, 6-7 (5), 3-6, 16-14 at Roland Garros that year.

The match lasted longer than any Major League Baseball game ever played. The White Sox played the Brewers in an eight-hour, six-minute contest that spanned 25 innings in 1984.

James Fallows, before the Isner win:

Last summer my wife and I went to the Legg-Mason tennis tournament in DC, early in the week’s play. By far the best part of seeing any pro tennis tournament in person is on the first couple of days, when you don’t have to sit in the stadium seeing matches from a distance but can wander around the side courts and see players from a few feet away.

At one of the practice courts, I saw what seemed to be an absolute giant warming up with a partner. It was Isner, whom at that point I’d never heard of, and some also very tall Eastern Europe person. I was able to stand directly behind the fencing — that is, 20 feet behind Isner’s opponent as he waited behind the baseline to deal with Isner’s incredible serve. On TV it is really hard to get an idea of the velocities, reflexes, and different-from-the-rest-of-us skills of top-level athletes. I watched Isner wallop serves for about an hour and was amazed that anyone could touch any of them. He is said to be 6’9″ but appeared to be about 11’2″, hitting serves more or less straight down

Peter J. Schwartz at Forbes:

Whether or not John Isner’s name is ultimately engraved on the Wimbledon trophy next weekend, he’s already emerged as this year’s champion. Earlier today, the former NCAA standout won what was, by far, the longest match in tennis history, measured in both games (183) and elapsed time (11 hours, five minutes). He obliterated the records for aces (112) and winners (246) in the process. Afterwards, his opponent, Nicolas Mahut, called it “the greatest match ever.” The three-day marathon was Isner’s Tin Cup moment, an event so dramatic that it is likely to overshadow the rest of the tournament. (It already stole the limelight from the Queen, who visited the All England Club on Thursday for the first time in 33 years).

What’s more, Isner’s win could make him rich. The retirements of Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi created a huge vacuum in American tennis. Try as they might, Andy Roddick and James Blake haven’t been able to fill that void. Last year, those two players pulled in a combined $19 million in endorsements and appearance fees, $6 million less than Agassi’s take five years prior.

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You Know What’s Inside A Trojan Horse? College Football And Basketball Players

Lonnie White at Fanhouse:

There’s no question the University of Southern California enjoyed the success its football and basketball programs had during the high-flying days of Reggie Bush and O.J. Mayo.

But the Trojans have to question whether it was worth it now that the NCAA Committee on Infractions has spoken.

USC was placed on four years probation, which includes a two-year football postseason ban; a one-year basketball postseason ban; forfeiture of regular season and postseason wins for three sports that used ineligible athletes and scholarship reductions for football and basketball.

“We acknowledge that violations occurred and we take full responsibility for them,” Todd Dickey, USC’s senior vice president for administration, said in a statement after the sanctions were announced Thursday. “However, we sharply disagree with many of the findings … Further, we feel the penalties imposed are too severe for the violations identified in the report.”

USC plans to appeal the penalties it considers excessive. “We will accept those sanctions we believe to be consistent with penalties imposed upon other NCAA member institutions found guilty of similar rules infractions. We are hopeful that the NCAA Infractions Appeals Committee will agree upon our position on appeal, and reduce the penalties,” the statement said.

Dashiell Bennett at Deadspin:

I was hoping to avoid talking about the conference thing again until something official was announced, but it now seems rather pertinent (and unavoidable.) Unless Notre Dame throws a Hail Mary, it looks like Nebraska will be invited to join the Big Ten on Friday. That means Texas will want out of the Big 12 and the Pac-10 will be waiting with open arms. (Allegedly, they’ve already started by poaching Colorado.) So in addition to being smacked with the only real penalty the NCAA ever dishes out, Lane Kiffin is about to find out that by the time his team becomes bowl eligible again, Texas and Oklahoma will have already taken over the lease at the Rose Bowl. So much for their cute little dynasty.

(Oh, and the newest rumor is that a new Pac-16 will want TWO BCS bids instead of a conference championship game. Which is total bulslhit, right? Let’s just write them a check for a billion dollars and we won’t even have to play the games anymore.)

Formal announcements from the NCAA and USC (including a possible appeal) will come later this week. Meanwhile, Reggie Bush sleeps the sleep of the just.

Jim Litke at AP:

If you think the bite the NCAA took out of USC on the playing field was painful — forfeited wins, a postseason ban and lost scholarships — check out the fine print. It says no more “non-university” personnel — a.k.a. “celebs” and “hangers-on” — at practice or on game-day sidelines. In LA, where being seen is everything, that’s the really diabolical part.

Being told to hide the 2004-05 national championship banner, white out a few wins in the record book, maybe even give back Reggie Bush’s Heisman trophy — those things might bother alumni, but not the talented kids who made it so glamorous to be around Football U. Yet this guarantees the Trojans will be seeing less and less of them, and possibly for a very long time.

The Trojans’ vaunted recruiting machine took a big hit when Pete Carroll lit out for Seattle and the NFL a step ahead of the law. Now Lane Kiffin, Carroll’s successor and a promising fast-buck artist in his own right, has 30 fewer scholarships to hand out and no way to promise those kids they’ll be on TV much, let alone sniff the postseason for at least two more years.

Trust me, you wouldn’t want to be in the living room when he tries to explain to some 18-year-old kid why he won’t get the chance to low-five Will Ferrell or Snoop Dogg coming up the sideline of the Coliseum after taking it to the house.

Ted Miller at ESPN:

Yes, USC will right itself. Eventually, no doubt. The right coach at USC, which may or may not be Kiffin, will win, just like the right coach at Alabama or Ohio State or Florida or Texas will win.

Just know that these sanctions have teeth. A loss of 10 scholarships from the next three recruiting classes will significantly damage overall depth. And, as Tom Luginbill points out, the margin for error in recruiting will become razor thin. A couple of busts and the program could find itself with gaping holes heading into the 2013 and 2014 seasons.

But it’s not just about the loss of 10 scholarships per class, it’s also about the remaining 15. Kiffin will be challenged to convince elite prospects who have no emotional ties to the program to sign. The bowl ban won’t matter that much. Even with the 2011 class, you’re talking about an incoming freshman only missing one postseason (though an appeal would mean the Trojans could play in a bowl after this season but not the next two). No, the recruiting challenge will emerge from USC not being in the national title hunt in the near future. A recruit who signs this February or the next one or the next one probably can’t count on being a member of a national contender.

Phil Wallace at L.A. Observed:

Now whether Todd McNair lied on his own volition, or whether he was asked to by someone within the USC program is a question that may never be answered. But regardless, USC should fire McNair if he doesn’t resign first. The sanctions included a one-year recruiting ban for McNair.

I’ve also said that Mike Garrett should resign too, and USC needs to completely rebuild its athletic department with competent administrators who understand NCAA rules. While the sanctions were exceedingly harsh, that doesn’t excuse USC for being completely blindsided by them. For several years, USC has acted as if it’s done nothing wrong, and continued business as usual. Better cooperation with the NCAA might have resulted in a lesser penalty, along with better awareness of its own misdeeds. Ultimately, Garrett allowed his own student athletes to be punished for what seems like a shoddy handling of the investigation.

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“Are You Ready For Some Futbol?!?”

TNR’s world cup blog

Jonathan Last:

It’s happening again.

The most puzzling part of anti-American soccer obsession is that it’s not like Americans don’t like the game of soccer. We all play it at the youth level and–for the most part–have a good time. It’s just that we graduate up to other sports and don’t have much of an appetite for soccer played at the elite level.

And what’s wrong with that? Our interest level in soccer is the mirror image of our interest level in football, which, comparatively few people play at the youth level, but which has great popularity at the professional level.

But the thing is, you never hear football–or baseball, or ultimate frisbee, or tennis, or cycling, or hockey, or curling–or any other kind of fans railing against people who don’t share their passion as if there’s something morally and politically wrong with them. Why is it that soccer fans care so much about what American’s don’t care about?

We’ll never know.

Will at The League:

But despite the thoroughly artificial media blitz surrounding the World Cup and the obnoxious social signaling that goes into American soccer fandom, I’m really looking forward to the tournament. So I thought I’d take a stab at explaining how soccer differs from American sports and why I find its distinctiveness so enjoyable.

Lumping team sports together is a chancy business, but I think there is one important commonality between football, baseball and, to a lesser extent, basketball that distinguishes them from soccer. All three American sports are characterized by short, action-packed intervals followed or preceded by pauses – an inbounds pass that leads to an easy dunk; a pitch that results in a strike that ends an inning; an end-zone reception immediately following a thirty second pause. This is not to say there aren’t fluid sequences in American sports – witness fast-break basketball or baseball’s hallowed triple play. But American teams usually see action in short, frenetic bursts instead of the slower build-up of a good soccer match.

To an outsider, the notion that a two hour football game only consists of 11 minutes of televised action must seem absurd. At its best, however, the pauses accentuate tension and allow for more elaborate plays, more back-and-forth adjustments between the teams’ respective coaches, and a level of athletic execution that would be impossible in a less controlled, faster-paced environment. For the most part, this is a trade-off I can accept. To take another example from American sports, good pitching duels include plenty of pregnant pauses. I don’t think this detracts from the action so much as it heightens the tension of athletic competition.

Soccer has fewer pauses, fewer substitutions, and no timeouts. As a consequence, the manager (coach) has very little opportunity to pause or direct in-game play. Soccer also tends to be more spontaneous, more dynamic, and less scripted. While physical contact or bad execution will sometimes slow the game down to an unbearable pace, the rules of soccer allow for a level of fluidity that would be impossible in an American context (transition-oriented basketball is the only exception I can think of, but that’s  still broken up by frequent timeouts, inbound passes, and the tempo of the opposing team). The build-up to the first Dutch goal in the 1974 World Cup final is a classic example of soccer’s distinctive style – despite a slow start, the Dutch control the ball for over a minute before Johan Cruyf streaks through the defense to draw a penalty kick.

Maybe the contrast between the short, frenetic play of American athletes and the fluid build-up of a European soccer match offers some insight into our respective cultural psyches. But I suspect a more fluid style of play already appeals to American sports audiences. Fast-paced, transition-oriented basketball was the calling card of Magic Johnson and the Showtime-era Lakers. A quarterback-directed hurry-up offense is often the most exciting part of a football match. So if you like fast-paced team competition, give soccer a try. But if the World Cup isn’t your thing, I won’t hold it against you.

Daniel Gross at Slate:

Being a soccer fan at World Cup time in America is a little like being Jewish in December in a small town in the Midwest. You sense that something big is going on around you, but you’re not really a part of it. And the thing you’re celebrating and enjoying is either ignored or misunderstood by your friends, peers, and neighbors. It can be a lonely time. But the World Cup is much bigger than Christmas. After all, only a couple of billion people in the world celebrate Christmas; the World Cup is likely to garner the attention of a much larger audience. Yet in the world’s largest and most important sports competition, the American team, and the American audience, is a marginal, bit player. And for those of us who love the game of soccer and the World Cup, and for the few of us who followed the ups and downs of Landon Donovan’s career, these next couple weeks are likely to be bittersweet.


Oh, sure, you can find other enthusiasts. A few Slate colleagues pass around YouTube links to the latest sick goal. Urban hipsters are obliged to show some interest in the game, the same way they do in CSAs, and facial hair (for men) and yoga (for women). On the Internet, there’s the high-brow crew over at the New Republic, (which features an ad for a book from Cornell University press on Spartak Moscow), the fine blogs No Short Corners and Yanks Abroad, and a rising volume of press coverage. But there’s nothing like the volume and sophistication of stuff our frères at are doing. If you want to follow the game, wince with every missed shot, and question coach Bob Bradley’s personnel choices, you’ll have to venture into the fever swamps of There you will find some people who live and die with status updates of defender Oguchi Onyewu’s knee. But they’re only avatars.

Following the U.S. national team in the World Cup is a somewhat solitary endeavor in part because the scheduling doesn’t lend itself to social or family watching. Unlike the Olympics, the World Cup is not scheduled or televised according to U.S. preferences—the last time the quadrennial tournament was staged in the Western hemisphere was 1994. To watch the United States’ opening game in the 2002 World Cup, I had to go to the Irish pub across from my New York apartment at 4 a.m. This year the schedule is only slightly better: this Saturday against England at 2:30 p.m. ET, Friday, June 18, against Slovenia at 10 a.m. ET, then Wednesday, June 23, at 10 a.m. ET, against Algeria. Yes, pubs and sports bars will be showing the games. But how many people will leave work, or take the day off, or skip the Little League game or pool party, to sit indoors and watch a soccer match? My guess is that when the U.S. plays England, the bars in New York and Los Angeles will be like Condé Nast in the 1990s—overrun with Brits.

I won’t be there. On Saturday afternoon, I’ll be at a family gathering, one at which I’m confident nobody will be checking scores or talking about the potentially epic matchup with England. I’ll have to tape it and watch it later, most likely alone. At least I’m confident none of my close friends or family members will call, e-mail, or text me with scores or updates, and that I can safely listen to the radio without the result intruding. On the other hand, I might have to shut off my Twitter feed. I follow a few foreigners.

Matthew Philbin at Newsbusters:

Time magazine is leading the “Ole’s” for soccer this year, putting the World Cup on its cover and dedicating 10 articles to the sport in its June 14 issue.

One of those articles proclaimed in the headline, “Yes, Soccer Is America’s Game.” Author Bill Saporito argued that “soccer has become a big and growing sport.”

“What’s changed is that this sport and this World Cup matter to Americans,” Saporito asserted. “These fans have already made the transition from soccer pioneers to soccer-literate and are gradually heading down the road to soccer-passionate.”

Soccer is even in the White House, Saporito pointed out. President George W. Bush was a former co-owner of a baseball team. And although President Obama played basketball, his daughters play little league soccer, and current White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs played soccer in high school and college.

On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on June 3, host Joe Scarborough noted the importance of the World Cup to other countries, but explained that Americans just don’t understand “what a huge sport this is.” Still, he said hopefully, “It is a growing sport in America as well, isn’t it?”

Growing, but not “huge” by any standard. The final game of the 2006 World Cup drew 16.9 million viewers in the United States. While that number may seem respectable, it pales in comparison with the 106 million viewers that tuned in to watch the 2010 Super Bowl. The final 2009 World Series game drew 22.3 million viewers, and 48.1 million tuned in to watch Duke beat Butler in the 2010 NCAA men’s college basketball championship.

A look at game attendance figures is instructive, as well. According to Major League Soccer’s MLS Daily, as of June 7, 2010, the highest drawing pro soccer team, the Seattle Sounders, averaged 36,146 attendees over seven home games. Conversely, the Seattle Mariners baseball team has averaged 25,314 over 32 home games.

The Mariners are dead last in the American League West division, and 24th in the league in batting average, 30th in home runs, 27th in RBIs and 25th in number of hits. In short, they’re horrible. With a record of 4-5-3, the Sounders aren’t very good either, but they play in a very liberal city, are currently benefiting from World Cup year interest in their sport, and they play a schedule that allows far fewer opportunities for fans to attend.

Another number is Hollywood box office. John Horn of The Los Angeles Times contemplated on June 6 about Hollywood’s lack of a mainstream movie about soccer. In “Why is There No Great Hollywood Soccer Movie?” Horn pointed out that each sport has its own hit movie except soccer.

Robert Costa at The Corner:

When it comes to soccer, I’ll quote Churchill: America, it seems, still has “sublime disinterestedness.”

Michael Agovino at The Atlantic:

During this World Cup, I know there will be kids like me from the Bronx—a soccer wasteland in 1980s; a wasteland period, to some—watching this strange new game and devouring it. Where is Valladolid? Vigo? Bilbao? Cameroon? El Salvador? Algeria? Why does Algeria wear green, Italy blue? Why is it Glasgow Celtic and not the Celtics? Where’s this team Flamengo? Or Corinthians? Why is that skinny man with the beard named Socrates?

They’ll be some curious 14-year-old or 12-year-old or 10-year-old (kids seem so much smarter these days) and maybe they’ll start by bugging their parents for a Kaizer Chiefs jersey. Then, better still, they’ll get the atlas off the shelf, or more likely online, and trace their finger on the computer screen and look for Polokwane and Bloemfontein and Tshwane. Maybe it will take them to the photography of David Goldblatt or to the music of Abdullah Ibrahim (no room for him at the concert last night I suppose), or of the late Lion of Soweto himself, Mahlathini. (Don’t laugh, my first encounter with Joan Miro and Antoni Tapies were from 1982 World Cup posters.) Maybe they’ll learn that the “word,” long ago, was “Johannesburg!”

And they’ll ask questions—why is this stadium named for Peter Mokaba, that one for Moses Mabhida, and who is Nelson Mandela? And they’ll learn and they’ll be obsessed for life.

And that makes me do one thing: smile. Now, may the games begin.

UPDATE: Dave Zirin at NPR

Jonah Goldberg at The Corner

James Fallows

UPDATE #2: Daniel Drezner

UPDATE #3: Stefan Fatsis at Slate

Jonathan Chait at TNR

UPDATE #4: Marc Thiessen at Enterprise Blog

Matt Yglesias on Thiessen

UPDATE $5: Bryan Curtis and Eve Fairbanks at Bloggingheads


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“I Cost That Kid A Perfect Game”

Brian Dickerson at The Detroit Free Press:

Armando Galarraga is an artist. But my fondest hope for my children is that they grow up to be like Jim Joyce.

Every Detroiter with a TV knows Joyce as the first base umpire whose blown call in the final inning of Wednesday’s contest between the Tigers and the Cleveland Indians cost Galarraga a perfect game, at least in the official annals of Major League Baseball. Unless he figures out how to plug the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, Joyce has likely written the first paragraph of his obituary.

But what I can’t stop thinking about is what happened next, and how Joyce conducted himself in the aftermath of the gaffe seen ‘round the world. Because from the split-second after his errant call, Joyce’s conduct was as faultless, and as inspiring a demonstration of grace under pressure, as Galarraga’s pitching performance.

The festival of indignation began with a collective gasp, continued with a torrent of close-range abuse from Galarraga’s manager and teammates, and crescendoed into the most sustained bombardment of boos young Comerica Park has ever witnessed.

Joyce didn’t turn his back, or look at his shoes; he looked his critics in the face, then resolutely returned to his unfinished work. His annoyance flickered when first baseman Miguel Cabrera refused to abridge his uncomplimentary remarks, but mostly he absorbed the waves of invective in stoical silence, holding his ground and his peace even when Leyland returned to deliver a post-game tongue-lashing.
Then, still withholding his own verdict on his performance, Joyce went inside to check out the evidence.

The unblinking camera confirmed, with clinical dispassion, what Leyland & Co. had been screaming from the get-go: Joyce had blown the call of his life.

Keith Olbermann:

“I don’t know what to do,” says first base umpire Jim Joyce about the worst safe/out call since the 1985 World Series. “I cost that kid a perfect game…Biggest call of my career and I kicked the **** out of it.”

What you do, Jim, is to put baseball etiquette and umpire pride on the shelf for a moment. Even if you’re sure, you consult with your colleagues. Even if you have no doubt, you listen to Jim Leyland. Hell, ask the runner Jason Donald.
In fact, you do what Frank Pulli did, 11 years ago this past Monday. He was in Florida and Cliff Floyd banged one off the visual obstacle course that was the scoreboard in left. Above the line it’s a homer, otherwise it’s a double. There were more lines on the scoreboard than on a volleyball court or a parcheesi board. Frank says to himself, I want to get this right, so he went over to a tv camera and asked to look at the replay. Mind you, this is nearly a decade before they passed replay, but Frank didn’t care. The call counted, not the rule. The integrity of the game was not supported by adhering to the protocol, it was undermined by it.
Frank Pulli invented, ad hoc, tv replay. And he got grief for it, from commentators, from his bosses. But he got the call (double, not homer) correct.
That’s what Jim Joyce should’ve done. He should have said to himself, I’m going to get grief for this call anyway, I might as well get the grief for going above and beyond to get it right. He should’ve, ad hoc, expanded the replay rule.
More over, that’s exactly what baseball should do right now. The Commissioner should appoint an emergency committee to examine the expansion of replay on a formalized basis with set rules. And in the interim, in fairness to Armando Galarraga, in fairness to Jason Donald, in fairness to the fans, and especially in fairness to Jim Joyce, he ought to do a little ad hoc of his own: overrule Joyce’s safe call and give Galarraga what he in fact accomplished, and only the arrogance of authority is denying him – the perfect game he pitched tonight in Detroit, the majors’ third this season, second in five days, and fourth in the 135 days of play dating back to Mark Buehrle’s job last season.
This is not the time to stick to the rules. The rules failed the sport tonight.

Ross Douthat:

Extraordinary cases make bad law. In a sense, Armando Galarraga’s non-perfect perfect game, spoiled by an umpire’s call on what should have been the 27th out, offers the strongest possible exhibit for expanding instant replay’s role in baseball. Who wouldn’t want to have seen Galaragga take his rightful place in the history books, making this remarkable baseball season — whose first two months have already featured two perfect games and a no-hitter — more remarkable still? And after watching the post-game agony of Jim Joyce, a distinguished umpire whose career will be forever marred by this one unforgivable call, who would deny the next disastrously-erring ump the chance to watch a replay on a video monitor and make the whole thing right?

But extraordinary cases make bad law. There’s a reason that sportswriters immediately reached for Don Denkinger’s botched “safe” call in the 1985 World Series, which sent the Cardinals tailspinning to defeat, as the closest analogy to what happened last night — because blown calls this high-stakes and this egregious are exceptional, once-in-a-decade events. (The particular circumstances of last night’s call will probably never recur in a lifetime.) Whereas the solution to the problem — some kind of football-style system, in which managers get one or two replay “challenges” per game — would affect almost every baseball contest, week in and week out, across the entire 162-game season. To avoid the extraordinary bad calls, you have to start overturning the quotidian bad calls, the gaffes and brain cramps that have always been part of the warp and woof of the game and that have never detracted a whit from anyone’s enjoyment of it. And I’m pretty sure that would be a mistake.

Not a disastrous mistake, mind you: Baseball with instant replay would still be baseball, and I’m sure there would be many moments, across games and seasons to come, where I would be grateful for the technology’s existence. But baseball is also a game where history matters, and where continuity — those mystic chords of memory, connecting the Tiger fans who watched Charlie Gehringer and Hank Greenberg and Al Kaline and Mickey Lolich to the Tiger fans watching Armando Galarraga last night — matters even more. True, often it’s just the illusion of continuity (part of the fury over the steroid scandal reflects the rage of a fan base having part of that illusion stripped away), and starry-eyed sportswriters can go overboard heaping metaphysical significance on what is, in the end, an athletic contest and a multi-billion dollar business, and not necessarily in that order. But still, baseball’s past is real, those mystic chords are real, and a hundred years and counting of bad calls are part of the sport’s history, part of the legacy of glories and grievances that one generation hands down to the next.

So Cardinals fans have Denkinger. Orioles fans have Jeffrey Maier and Rich Garcia. Red Sox fans have Ed Armbrister and Larry Barnett. Braves fans have Eric Gregg and Livan Hernandez. Now Tigers fans have Armando Galarraga and poor despairing Jim Joyce.

Allah Pundit:

I’m seeing arguments today that blowing the call was, in a way, actually better than getting it right since it created a more memorable moment than the perfect game would have been. To which I say: Tell it to Cardinals fans who are still smarting over Don Denkinger’s blown call in the 1985 World Series. The rule says that if the ball beats the batter to first base, he’s out; that’s what happened last night, yet the rule wasn’t enforced — although it could have been, in about five seconds, if the umps were simply allowed to look at the Jumbotron. If, in the name of baseball romance and magic and whimsy, you want terrible calls to be “part of the game,” then Selig should pull the umps aside and tell them to boot one every now and then just to keep things interesting. If, on the other hand, you don’t want players deprived of hard-earned achievements due to human error that can easily be corrected via technology we’ve had for decades, then replay it is. Count me in the latter camp.

Jay Mariotti at FanHouse

Ed Price at Fanhouse:

Bud Selig, fortunately, did not become Pandora.

OK, if Selig had overturned Jim Joyce‘s mistake from Wednesday night, he wouldn’t exactly have opened a box that unleashed all the evils onto the world. But it’s a good thing that, as a Major League Baseball source indicated to FanHouse, such interference in the result was never seriously considered.

Had Selig declared that a runner called safe — by an umpire, in a game that continued on and wasn’t protested — was actually out, he would have set a terrible precedent.

If the All-Star Game slogan is, “This time, it counts,” then the regular season slogan would have been, “This time, it might not count.”

Of course, Jim Joyce was wrong. Of course, Armando Galarraga and the Tigers were robbed. Of course, we all would like to have seen what should have happened.

But it’s passed. You can’t undo history.

// <![CDATA[// Selig, wisely, understood that.

Todd Spangler at The Detroit Free Press:

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said today that President Barack Obama’s administration was working on an executive order regarding the perfect game Tigers’ pitcher Armando Galarraga’s would have been awarded but for a blown call by an umpire on Wednesday night.

He was joking.

Just as he was concluding the daily press briefing in Washington, Gibbs was asked whether baseball should consider instant replay. He responded: “I hope that baseball awards a perfect game to that pitcher.”

He was then told it appeared that Major League Baseball had decided against that. Gibbs said offhandedly, “We’re going to work on an executive order.” The White House later confirmed it was meant as a joke – which is understandable with everything on the president’s plate and the fact that, as far as we know, he is not a Tigers fan.


Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm—or GovGranholm as she’s known on Twitter—just tweeted to her 15,066 followers that she’s overruling an apparently blind Major League Baseball umpire, Jim Joyce, and issuing an official state proclamation declaring that Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga did, in fact, throw a perfect game last night against the Cleveland Indians.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock since last night, you know that Galarraga lost his bid for a perfect game on the 27th batter when Joyce called Indian base runner Jason Donald safe at first when he was clearly out.

Granholm, who is certainly politically savvy enough to know that there is no other topic more important in the state of Michigan today, tweeted soon after the game last night that she was going to make amends, writing, “As governor, I’m issuing a proclamation declaring Galarraga pitched a perfect game!”

Micheline Maynard at The New York Times:

Less than 18 hours after Mr. Galarraga’s effort was spoiled by an admittedly wrong call by umpire Jim Joyce, Mr. Galarraga, a pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, received a red Chevrolet Corvette convertible with a beige rag top in a ceremony before Thursday afternoon’s game. The car, whose sticker price starts at $53,580, was driven onto the field at Comerica Park by Mark Reuss, the president of General Motors’ North American operations, who jumped out from behind the wheel to shake Mr. Galarraga’s hand.

Chevrolet is a sponsor of the Tigers, whose outfield features the ivy covered Chevrolet Fountain. The park stands within view of G.M. headquarters on the Detroit River.

Mr. Galarraga did not speak, but he grinned and patted the top of the car as he posed with it for photographers. A teammate, first baseman Miguel Cabrera, looked even more excited than Galarraga, peering inside the driver’s side window as other Tigers grouped around the car.

Mr. Reuss said the pitcher deserved the car for the way he handled himself after Mr. Joyce’s call at first base, which took away Mr. Galarraga’s perfect game. Mr. Joyce said after the game that he made the wrong decision and apologized to Mr. Galarraga, who hugged him.

Joe Posnanski:

Galarraga pitched a perfect game on Wednesday night in Detroit. I’ll always believe that. I think most baseball fans will always believe that. But, more than anything it seems that Galarraga will always believe it. The way he handled himself after the game, well, that was something better than perfection. Dallas Braden’s perfect game was thrilling. Roy Halladay’s perfect game was art. But Armando’s Galarraga’s perfect game was a lesson in grace.

And when my young daughters ask, “Why didn’t he get mad and scream about how he was robbed,” I think I will tell them this: I don’t know for sure, but I think it’s because Armando Galarraga understands something that is very hard to understand, something we all struggle with, something I hope you learn as you grow older: In the end, nobody’s perfect. We just do the best we can.

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The Question Is, What Are We Witnessing?

Kelly Dwyer at Ball Don’t Lie:

I don’t think it’s an overreaction to tell you that it’s all over for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Five days ago we were wondering if the Celtics had it in them to force a tie with the Cavs. Two weeks ago, we were wondering just how many games it would take for the Cavaliers to bounce the C’s in a best-of-seven. All year, we’ve been wondering if the team that was built to down the Orlando Magic — rightfully built to down the Orlando Magic, mind you — would be able to down the Orlando Magic. The Cavaliers never got a chance to down the Orlando Magic.

Instead, they fell in the second round. And it was about as public and as swift a realization as you tend to see in professional sports. All at once, the Cavaliers were revealed as undercoached, uncoachable and a frightened little thing. All at once, a column on what the Cavaliers will do next season falls right in line with a column about what the Hawks will do next season. We don’t know, because we don’t know who will be around.

I’m sorry, but LeBron James(notes) is leaving this. Whether by design or defeat or both, he’s made it possible to get out while the going is great. To hand-pick another group of sycophants to have his way and never have to answer for His Way, however misguided. The tri-state area, Miami, Chicago, who knows? He doesn’t even want to know. He just wants to get back to remembering what it’s like to be the self-proclaimed “King.” The sort of guy who has to remind you what he wants his nickname to be.

Doesn’t have to answer for nine turnovers in a deciding game. Won’t have to answer for not attempting to take control of the game until the latter stages of the fourth quarter, and only in the form of a couple of desperate 3-pointers that happened to go in. Won’t have to answer for that defense, which was embarrassing. Just has to answer to the question, “Who’s the NBA’s best player?”

It’s still James, you know. Just because we don’t really care for him at the present, it doesn’t take away from his greatness. We’ve all got brains big enough to handle him being the game’s best player and a crushing failure as a leader when it counted most in this series. If anything, it should add to the enmity that you’ve no doubt developed over the last week for this ghost. This person who should know better, but doesn’t want to hear it.

I’m not going to even try to get into James’ head. I haven’t been famous since high school, so there’s no point in pretending to have an idea. To me, millions are millions, and they all start to blend together once you get past eight figures a year, so I would go for the situation that would make me happiest. And the thing that would make me happiest would be a place where I could win a championship. Cleveland, had James actually deigned to try, should have been that place.

What makes James happiest, if all the rumors are true, is a place that won’t make him answer for anything. A place that, with the newness and brilliance of “LeBron James is in town!” so sharp in everyone’s minds, allows us to forget the self-imposed wreck that was his final two games as a Cleveland Cavalier. I don’t know where it will be, but even if he’s suiting up for my or your hometown team next season, it will be a cruel disappointment. This man failed the team he was paid to lead.

Scoop Jackson at ESPN:

I’m mad at LeBron because from now on (and “from now on” can be a very long time) I have to sit on the set on ESPN’s “First Take” and listen to Skip Bayless tell me (and everyone else that sits in that seat), “I told you so.”

And he will torture me (us) with it like we’d been captured and sent to Guantanemo Bay. He even sent me the email with the early confirmation, a warning of how he was going to make my life a living LeBron hell.

“Scoop, you have no idea how miserable you made my ‘First and 10’ life the last three years — you, Jalen [Rose], Jemele [Hill], The Stews [Doug and Ryan)] Jay [Crawford], Dana [Jacobson] ridiculing me day-after-day for calling him ‘Prince’ James and LeBrick. Even Wale and Common let me have it about LeBron. And now, finally, the ‘First and 10’ tabletop has turned! Get ready for at least one long year of payback. Now, when you all call me crazy, I can — and will — fire back: ‘How crazy was I about LeBron?'”

LeBron, I still love you, but you just made the next year of my life miserable. The worst thing that could have happened just did: You proved Skip Bayless right. And I’m the one that’s going to have to live with it.

Bill Simmons at ESPN:

As summer free agency approaches, LeBron’s camp will shift public blame to his coach (Mike Brown, who could be sued by Cavs fans for coaching malpractice after this series) and his GM (Danny Ferry, who dropped the ball at the 2009 trade deadline and never found LeBron a Pippen-type supporting guy). His people will make the following sentiment clear to Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert: For LeBron to even consider staying, you need to splurge on a better coach and a better GM. And even then, LeBron might leave. Part of me doesn’t blame him.

Part of me.

Because the other part feels as if we learned something substantial about LeBron James this spring. I always thought his ceiling looked like this: Jordan’s DNA crossed with Magic’s DNA crossed with Bo Jackson. Nope. Take the Jordan DNA out. Have to. Jordan was a ruthless mother******. Jordan was a killer. Jordan didn’t care if his teammates despised him. Jordan never, ever, not in a million years, would have allowed his team to quit in the final two minutes of Thursday night’s game the way LeBron did. His teammates feared him, loathed him, revered him and played accordingly. Bird had that same quality. In the second half of his career, so did Magic. Winning meant so much to those guys that their teammates almost didn’t have a choice; they had to follow suit. Or else.

LeBron James is 25 years old. He has played seven seasons — 548 regular-season games and 71 playoff games. There’s a feeling that he can still get better and, with better teammates, maybe he could. But fundamentally, to paraphrase Bill Parcells, he is what he is at this point — a gregarious, larger-than-life, supremely gifted basketball player who’s better at making us say “WOW!” than anything else. If he owned that cutthroat Jordan chromosome, or Magic’s leadership chromosome, it would have surfaced by now. In Wednesday’s column before Game 6, I mentioned how there comes a point in every great player’s career when you have to pour the cement, let it harden and see what you have. We poured the cement for LeBron in this series. It hardened last night. We know what we have.

Allen Barra at The Village Voice

Michael Wilbon at WaPo:

So we’re stuck with this conversation for 45 days, all the way until July 1 to be exact. Six-plus weeks of leaks and sources, of wooing and recruiting, of LeBron James being sighted at a haberdashery in Midtown Manhattan or a restaurant in Chicago’s West Loop or at a private party on Miami’s South Beach. Anywhere he shows his face it’s sure to be “BREAKING NEWS.”

The Cleveland Cavaliers’ stunning elimination from the NBA playoffs on Thursday night means the most curious guessing game in the history of modern sports in America is on, officially. Even though LeBron’s presence hardly means a trip to the NBA Finals, he still guarantees immediate and long-term contention, not to mention nightly sellouts, a run on jerseys and media coverage that will tilt the entire town toward the pro basketball team. And with that as the backdrop, the serious contestants are, in alphabetical order: the Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat, New Jersey Nets and New York Knicks.

Oh, I nearly forgot the Cleveland Cavaliers, although this particular discussion is built on the premise that LeBron cannot stay in Cleveland after this defeat, especially not after rumored locker room disharmony between LeBron and a teammate. It doesn’t seem he can stay in Cleveland, short of management rebuilding the entire team. The trade for Shaquille O’Neal appeared smart at the time, but Shaq seemed to have aged three years between last season with the Suns and this season in Cleveland. He might help some team and somebody will certainly sign him, but he’s mostly incompatible with LeBron.

Even if Cleveland was able to package young J.J. Hickson and Delonte West, bringing in one all-star and another front-line player in one summer is very, very unlikely, so we move to the other options.

The big issue is whether LeBron is going to make a basketball decision or one geared toward marketing, exposure and his personal life. After talking to several veteran NBA players and several club executives over the past 48 hours, it was somewhat surprising to hear that few people believe LeBron will make primarily a basketball decision. Nobody I talked to believes LeBron was humiliated by the loss to Boston. None of the players I talked to believes LeBron is motivated by winning in the same obsessive way Magic, Bird and Jordan were, or Kobe is. They believe that LeBron thinks he has years to win, and isn’t particularly pressed at the moment to do so.

A former league executive, a former coach and a current general manager all told me LeBron is one of the most spoiled and coddled players of this generation and as a result isn’t particularly accountable, as evidenced by his refusal to shake hands with the Orlando players after they whipped him in last year’s Eastern Conference finals. It’s a particularly disappointing thing to hear repeatedly because, if true, it suggests LeBron has this AAU mentality that values individual accomplishment over winning. I could live with hearing this about, say, O.J. Mayo, but LeBron James?

A.J. Daulerio at Deadspin:

Yes, in the past two hours, many of you have sent in an email that looks exactly like this:

Subject: Please Read Lebron

My uncle is the general contractor at the Q and has been for the last 7 years. He is good friends with a lot of guys at the Q including some of the bigger boys in the organization and knows Gilbert personally. I was just told from my brother that a very reliable source informed my uncle that Delonte has been banging Gloria James for some time now. Somehow I guess Lebron found out before game four and it has destroyed our chemistry and divided our team. This is no joke, the only player worse then Lebron has been Delonte. I am not making this up, I wish it wasn’t true but it happened. Wait and see if lebron stays you will not see Delonte in a cavs uni again.

Or maybe this one, in which the source has climbed the ladder all the way to David Stern’s office:

A large number of NBA employees received a VERY interesting email today regarding a developing LeBron James story. I figured before the ESPN assholes get wind of it, you guys should break the story. The word from David Stern’s office is that Delonte West has been sleeping with LeBron’s MOTHER for a couple months now, and LeBron has recently found out. For some reason Delonte is still alive, but not for long – when Cleveland fans find out that for this reason LeBron wants out of Cleveland no matter what. This could explain Delonte’s decreased playing time of late, and who knows – maybe why LeBron hasn’t seemed to have his head fully in the game.

Of course, this should all sound very familiar. This time, however, it’s the mother of the star player — a particularly dirty twist on the classic locker-room urban legend. Unfortunately, this one’s picked up steam and become an “exclusive” for one site, even though it probably has as much basis in reality as the one about Joe Horn and Willie Roaf’s wife, or Jeff McInnis and Phil Ford’s wife, or Corey Fisher and Scottie Reynolds’s girlfriend (or was that Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher’s girlfriend?).

But yes — this rumor is spreading all over the place, and just remember that it is most likely coming from a bunch of 4chanish wags preying on the vulnerability all those sad Cavs fans searching for answers right now. Just for fun, we had Crashtern David Matthews call the Cavs’ media relations department seeking comment. No call back yet!

Jordan Ruby at SB Nation:

This morning, the laboratories of SB Nation Science had a hypothesis that at least 50% of Friday’s hour-long SportsCenter would be devoted to LeBron James in some manner. So, we tested it. The results:

Of the 42 minutes Sportscenter spent on the air (commercials make up the other 18 minutes), 25 minutes were devoted to coverage of Lebron James and his future in Cleveland. (That’s nearly 60% of the time. Hypothesis confirmed.) Only seven were spent talking about  the Celtics, the team that dominated Lebron and the Cavs throughout the series, and is still alive in the playoffs.

Six of the eight MLB games that were played Thursday were not mentioned; including a game-saving play at the plate in Baltimore, and a walk-off hit in extra innings by Vladimir Guererro.

In those 25 minutes of LeBron-centric coverage, I watched countless analysts and beat writers give their expert opinion on which jersey Lebron will be wearing next season. They mentioned a number of possibilities, but ultimately came to the same conclusion: “Well, umm…I don’t really know yet.” Its going to be a loooooong six weeks.

UPDATE: Trey Kerby at Ball Don’t Lie

Chad Ford at ESPN

Scott Raab at Deaspin

UPDATE #2: And Lebron goes to Miami. David Matthews at Deadspin

Michael Wallace at The Miami Herald

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