OK, if you buy into my theory – that we are in the middle of the worst week (or, I guess at this point, worst MONTH) in recent sports memory -- here's the question:
How would you rank the current headline scandals in terms of their debilitating effect on fans, on their leagues and on sports generally? In no particular order (that's your job):
(1) Donaghy: NBA. Gambling/game-fixing.
(2) Vick: NFL. Top 5 star indicted/dog-fighting/torture/killing
(3) Bonds: MLB. Most revered stat in the game eclipsed/tainted.
(4) Tour de France: Cycling. General cheating implosion.
(5) Wild Card: Your call! Pick/predict another scandal.
Vick Update: Instead of being at Falcons training camp, Vick will be in court and will enter his plea on the dog-fighting conspiracy charge. I think we're safe in assuming he'll plead "not guilty." Watch out for a circus of visuals as activists protest outside (perhaps inside?) the courthouse.
Donaghy Update: Is the NBA in jeopardy because of the scandal? That was the question that True Hoop's Henry Abbott asked of a bunch of NBA experts (and others of us who are not). It's a pretty interesting mix of perspectives (and, yes, some spinning). Here's the link to the full batch of replies, and here's what I wrote to him.
"The future of the league was already in doubt, at least in its relevancy as one of the 'Big' pro sports leagues. The Donaghy scandal simply (and instantly) became the most convenient excuse for that erosion to continue: For casual NBA fans to continue their trend to be less engaged. For the emasculated media to pounce on previously indomitable David Stern. And for the league itself to assign blame for its larger issues on this ugliest of fiascos. 'Donaghy' merely gives the NBA's long-term problems a short-hand label."
Bonds Update: Gary Sheffield's name again pops up. The "clear" chemist (and what a contribution to society HE made... before you rip me, yes, I understand that when used for "good," the "clear" is probably incredibly beneficial to sick people who need it, but you never hear about those cases... only the way that the "clear" basically contributed to ruining baseball and Barry Bonds) says that Sheffield used the "clear," too.
This "Costas Now" show was just killing Bonds. Curt Schilling chimed in (OF COURSE he did), saying that Bonds not issuing a denial was tantamount to admitting he cheated. (I always thought Bonds DID deny using steroids... I guess Schilling wants Bonds to sue his accusers as proof that he is truly innocent. How litigious of him.)
Meanwhile, Bonds had a funny-ish response: "Don't worry, my day will come," and said Costas is a "midget who knows (nothing) about baseball." Now THAT is funny. Let's see if Costas issues a denial that he either (a) is a midget or (b) knows nothing about baseball.
MLB Trade Deadline: Teixeira to the Braves?
MLB Milestones: We're on the "A-Rod 500" Watch after he hit No. 499 last night. There are 21 players in the "500 Club," and consider that A-Rod turns 32 tomorrow. (Sorry ONLY 32.) By the end of the season, he could end up ahead of Willie McCovey and Ted Williams at No. 15. (There's a significant leap between that and Foxx/Mantle at 14/13. But that'll happen early next season.) By the way, George Brett said that A-Rod is the best player ever. Not a bad endorsement.
More Milestones (and, yes, another from
NFL Moves: After a lot of speculation, it looks like the Jags (MY Jags – Deadspin Preview of the team in Season 2 of my fandom coming early next month!) aren't going to sign Daunte Culpepper. Good news for Byron Leftwich, for whom I am in the bag.
Meanwhile, Priest Holmes (who will always have a place in fans' hearts as one of the most prolific single-season fantasy football performers of all time) will try to return from injury at Chiefs camp starting this weekend.
NFL Retirements: Curtis Martin has officially retired. The fourth-leading rusher in NFL history could be the most underrated player (or under-the-radar Hall of Famer) in modern NFL history. Based on his career body of work (and where he stands near the top of so many all-time stat lists), he is certainly a first-ballot NFL Hall of Famer.
Tour de France: The epidemic -- of athlete cheating and of lost credibility with virtually every fan – truly justifies a "re-set" moment with the sport, where they allow any/all forms of performance enhancement. It can't possibly be worse than the current state. For goodness' sake: They sent home the LEADER of the FRIGGING RACE because he was cheating (lying about where he was training)!
(Parents out there: As I attempt to curb my swearing in front of the kid, is "frigging" appropriate? How about "effing?" How about "flipping?" Aren't they all just watered-down versions of using the "F-word?" And isn't it wrong to indicate that use of an F-word – either the real thing or a proxy – isn't the best way to communicate? I also have realized that, of my many vices, swearing might be the most deeply rooted and difficult to change.)
By the way: At the risk of blasphemy, given the state of the sport (particularly this month), does that make you more or less (or, um, more) likely to disbelieve that Lance Armstrong NEVER cheated.
College Football: UCLA receivers coach Eric Scott was arrested on burglary charges. Burglary? What the hell? (Normally, this wouldn't make my radar, but at one point, Eric Scott was the greatest recruit to ever join Northwestern. As a freshman, he was electrifying. Gave NU fans hope that Gary Barnett was turning the corner. Once other coaches figured out he was great, he was wooed away and transferred, to UCLA. NU, of course, went on to win the Big Ten title – twice – without him. I guess he never should have left. That karma is a brutal mistress.)
More: Is the Big Ten expanding? The TV network certainly lets that happen, and the move from 12 teams seems logical (I mean, they've already blown the whole "Ten" thing with an 11th team), given that they can then have two divisions with a lucrative conference-championship game. (Yes,
Still, my question is which team should the Big Ten target? Notre Dame is obvious, but what's their incentive to join?
NASCAR: Will race coverage on ESPN boost the sport's TV audience? You can't escape NASCAR programming on ESPN. It instantly became one of the jewels of the network's collection of sports. (Below NFL, obviously, but on par with college football and the NBA.)
The issue has always been this: Avid NASCAR fans will watch, no matter what channel the races are on. The question is whether ESPN can expand NASCAR's audience to either casual NASCAR fans (if such a thing even exists) or flip non-NASCAR fans into mildly (or very) interested NASCAR fans?
Sports Media: Michael Silver is leaving SI for Yahoo Sports. That's a great pick-up for Yahoo. I wonder if Silver is going to miss writing those long-form NFL stories he was so good at? Because that stuff just doesn't work (or need to work) online. I want quick. I want pointed. I think he'll enjoy it. It's a hell of a lot more timely and fun to write (and read) than the long-form SI articles.
Plus, Silver will apparently be competing with Peter King on Monday mornings. But please keep it all in perspective: Online sports content is NOT a zero-sum game. People will not stop reading King's MMQB because they're reading Silver's column. They'll read both. And that's a good thing. Kudos to Yahoo on the hire.
By the way, I wonder how much they paid him? Not for any other reason but that I'll bet it was a lot, and I'll bet it was a number that they could have hired, say, Big Daddy Drew from KSK for.
The question remains: Is the big sports sites' blind spot for hiring mainstream media "names" the wrong direction of that kind of investment when organically grown blog superstars not only are better suited for the medium and its consumers, but actually bring far greater "name" recognition -- not to mention credibility -- than their mainstream counterparts? (Great example: True Hoop vs. Hash Marks.)
On second thought: As much as I'd like to see my blogging colleagues get paid, I like that mainstream media continues to mostly overlook them, because it means that the sports-blog universe continues to thrive and flourish. Still, would it kill someone in the mainstream to give B.D. Drew -- or any of the KSK guys -- a regular column gig? (Embrace the racy humor!)
NHL Scandal! Dog-fighting? No. Game-fixing? No. Steroid-tainting? No. The Staal Brothers, Eric and