Then They Was All Dopes!

Joe Theismann, former NFL quarterback, forever infamous as the guy in that video clip they show sometimes whose legs snaps in two during a game years ago, has been railing to the media about how it’s a “disgrace” that Ricky Williams is allowed to play football this year in the CFL.  Here’s his latest opinion, from the Miami Herald.  Maybe you need to sign-in to read that?  I don’t know.
I’m surprised that he’s still talking about it.  It’s been, like, a week since he’s been making headlines on – oh, I get it.  Now I understand why he’s still talking about it.  He’s making headlines.
Even beyond that, though, I find it interesting that Joe seems so worked up about this.  The NFL’s rules and penalties are not binding in the CFL, so I don’t really think there should be an issue with Ricky himself.  If you’re going to get mad, Joe, get mad at the CFL for not being tougher on drugs.  I guess he’s upset, also, because he used to play for Toronto?
Another thing I find disappointing about this whole thing is that there seems to be no difference, in Joe’s mind (or the NFL’s), between someone like Williams, who (used to?) smokes marijuana, and someone who traffics it, or someone who uses much harder substances.  To him, they are all equally guilty and all subject to the exact same (high) level of scorn.  Joe’s son was arrested in 2002 for use and distribution of crack cocaine, so I understand that he probably has valid reasons for speaking out about drug use.  He says his feelings have been consistent about drug use by players, but what I think he fails to acknowledge is that not all drug use should be considered on the same plain.  Personally, I think the NFL’s drug policy is far too tough on a lesser drug such as marijuana.  I don’t think players should be penalized for smoking, as long as it doesn’t interfere with their performance.
Finally, this quote from Joe:  “Clearly, Ricky doesn’t care about the rules that he has to live by to
play in the NFL. If that’s the case, let him go do what he wants.”  Joe, Ricky isn’t playing in the NFL.  And what does his playing in the CFL have to do with his caring or not caring about the NFL rules?  

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Sports Beat

Here’s what’s happening in the sports world, relevant to my interests:

  • The Wonderful Saga of Ricky Williams continues. Here’s the scoopula on running back Ricky Williams.  The New Orleans Saints traded all their picks one year to ensure that they could get him in the college draft.  They did.  He performed very well on the field, but didn’t really fit in with his team-mates.  He got traded to Miami, and I was very excited for him to be a Dolphin.  He performed very well for Miami, then suddenly decided to retire. A couple of weeks before training camp started.  At first, his decision to retire seemed kind of noble – “football doesn’t interest me anymore, and I’m more interested in pursuing other things in life”.  While it was maddening to have him quit when he did, I could accept it.  Then it gets revealed that he’s really retiring because he was going to be suspended a year anyway for drug violations.  He was an admitted marijuana user and was found in violation of the NFL’s (too strict, in my opinion) drug policies.  He spends the season “finding himself”, camping out under the stars in the Australian outback, finding spiritual enlightenment in Asia, being a generally odd type of person (as far as typical sports figures go).  He then claims he’d like to return to the Dolphins and play again.  He’s given up smoking and wants to commit to the team fully.  This claim comes shortly before it’s revealed that he owes the Dolphins something like 6 million dollars for breaking his contract earlier.  His commitment to football seems somewhat dubious based on his debts.  Still, after a 4 game suspension last year (the backend of his original suspension), he plays again for the Dolphins, primarily as a backup, and has a surprisingly good season.  By all accounts, he is the model athlete, and while still rather aloof to his team-mates, is in no way considered a disruption to the team.  The opposite, in fact.  After last season, it gets reported that he’s broken the drug policies again (although this time it’s not marijuana), and will once again be suspended.  He claims he hasn’t knowingly broken the rules, and places the blame of the positive drug testing on some herbal supplements that are part of his vitamin regimine.  He appeals and loses.  He gets banned for the upcoming season.  Enter the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL, who’d love to have him play for them.  The Dolphins (who still own his playing rights) say they’d rather not have him play in the CFL and expect him to be back with them next season (2007).  After assurances that he’ll return to Miami as soon as this season of the CFL ends, the Dolphins coach gives him permission to play with Toronto.  So, now, Ricky is an Argonaut and will play this summer/autumn with them.  How much weirder can this guy’s travels get?  And, still, after all the consternation he’s caused us Dolphins fans, I’m finding that I’m still rooting for him to succeed.
  • Formula One raced last weekend at Monaco.  While it’s hailed as the  prestigious race of the season (due to the exotic locale and racing through the streets of Monte Carlo and all), it’s usually a bore of a race to watch.  Very little passing, and once you get passed the thrill of seeing these super-fast cars racing around very narrow streets at seemingly impossible speeds, it becomes not much more than watching cars parade around for a couple of hours.  At this race, more than any other, being on pole at the beginning of the race is critical.  Stay at the front and you don’t have to pass anyone ahead of you.  Much better chance to win the race.  So, during the qualifying on Saturday, Michael Schumacher had the fastest so-far qualifying time, and as the hour of qualifying was drawing to a close, it seemed like he’d be on pole.  However, with only enough time to finish the qualifying lap each driver was currently on, Michael’s chief rival, Fernando Alonso was on a lap that looked like it would beat Michael’s already-posted time.  So, Michael, who was ahead of Fernando on the track, had some sort of mechanical problem, and stalled on the course.  This brought out the yellow caution flags and effectively ruined the last timing-lap of those behind him.  Therefore, Alonso lost his chance to beat Schumacher’s time (and it seemed like he would beat it to, based on earlier interval times on the lap).  Michael shrugs off the incident and blames it on a lapse in concentration or some such thing.  Everyone else, though, cries foul, and accuses Michael of cheating.  Of purposefully ruining the final qualifying lap of Alonso.  A seven hour hearing is convened and results in finding Schumacher guilty of purposefully stopping on the course.  His penalty is rather severe – all his qualifying times are wiped away, and he’s forced to start the race at the back of the grid.  Alonso, who had the second fastest qualifying time, then achieved the pole position.  Alonso then went on to win the race, and Schumacher actually performed quite remarkably, finally ending in 5th or 6th.  What makes this so interesting to me is that Michael Schumacher, in my mind, the greatest race-car driver ever to sit behind a wheel, has had more than his share of controversial moments in his career.  He was stripped of a season of points about a dozen years ago when he was found guilty of intentionally running into Jacques Villeneuve, who was his chief rival in the Drivers’ Championship.  Other incidents, too, have marred his spectacular career.  But I don’t recall any incident of his being so unanimously and vehemently chastised as this one.  The whole of Formula One is up in arms against him and it could potentially damage or tarnish his reputation as a champion.  And even through all of his dubious shortcomings, I still find myself cheering for him because of his immense and deep talents as a driver.
  • The World Cup is about to start, and I can’t wait.  Being of Scottish heritage, I find myself forced to cheer on England.  Failing that, I usually sub-cheer for one of the Scandinavian countries, followed by one of the more underdog of the South American entries.  I find it hard to cheer for Germany or France, and all those African countries are just too much of a puzzle for me.  I am unable to cheer on the USA in any international sporting event, even in an underdog situation like this, where them doing well would likely increase the popularity of the sport here in North America.  Depending on how the officiating goes (not so many dubious calls in favour of the home country please), I’ll go with my heart and say that this is the year that England wins.  And really, wouldn’t that be the best?

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Three Sports Updates

1.  The NCAA Championship in men’s basketball, otherwise known as March Madness, gets underway tomorrow.  In past years, my interest in the tournament has ranged from Total Disinterest to Mild Interest to Casual Watcher.  This year, though, I sense that my interest will be way up.  I plan on watching a lot of it.

2.  The Miami Dolphins traded a second round draft pick for Duante Culpepper.  Culpepper has been in the upper echelon of quality quarterbacks for most of his career.  Last year was less than a stellar one for him, but I’m hoping that was an anomaly.  Also, he injured his knee last October, so I’m hoping that won’t mean a significant decline in ability.  I am cautiously optimistic about his addition to the team.  I’m about 20% on the “Another Busted Acquisition” side, and 80% fervently hoping that he regains his 2004 outstanding qualities.  Okay, so maybe I’m not so cautious in my optimism.

3.  Formula One is back in action for another year.  I think I’ll like the new qualifying setup they implemented this year.  I don’t have much hope for Villeneuve, and expect this to be his last year.  Guess I’ll just try to enjoy any TV name-time he gets this season.  Hoping him to finish in the points in more than a few races, but nothing much more than that.  Looks like it could be a 3-way race for the driver’s title, between Alonso, Raikkonnen and Schumacher.  I don’t believe Button has what it takes to be considered a contender.  Montoya is done, I’m afraid.

Bonus:  I like the goaltending move the Canadiens did at the trade deadline.  Cristobal Huet is standing on his head for them now, but he needs rest and a solid backup is required.  Getting David Abeischer (sp?) from Colorado, a streaky starting goalie is a great move when all you need is a competent backup.  Now, if the Habs could only find a way to score a few more goals, they’d have a legitimate shot at going a few rounds into the playoffs.

Boom Goes The Dynamite, Part Three

My nephew, Johnny, has autism. He’s an incredibly good looking 5 year old boy, with a ton of energy and, once he gets to know you, a smile that lasts forever. Ever since he’s been born, I’ve had a soft-spot for stories that relate to the autistic. In fact, I’ve been interested in autism since university when I learned about it when I was an undeclared psychology major.

This story got me choked up when I first watched it. Then, when I called my wife in to watch it too, I welled up and cried tears. Something I don’t do very often. It’s one of those feel-good stories.
Check it out, why don’t you.

Win or Lose, I Win or Tie

Only one more game to be played in the NFL this season.  That means only one more pick left to be made in The Annekenstein Monster’s NFL pick’em pool.  Currently, I am one game ahead of reverseflash for the lead of our pool of four players.  That means that no matter what happens in the final game, I will be either tied for first or will win the pool out-right.
It was a hard-fought battle, with a few lead changes throughout the season.
Thanks to everyone for playing.  By “everyone” I mean the three guys who played.

As for the NFL season itself, I think it was a pretty good one.  The Colts prove once again that the pursuit of the perfect season can be devastating to a team’s motivation, heading into the playoffs.  With nothing of substance to play for in their final three games, the Colts had lost their edge when it came time to getting back to playing a meaningful game again.  I’d rather my team lose a game early in the season, get that “perfect season” stuff out of the way early, then have your final game of the regular season be of some import.  Preferably import such as Win and you get home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

As for my beloved Dolphins, I can’t be upset about their season even though they didn’t make the playoffs.  New coach Nick Saban seems to have the team definitely moving in the right direction.  They were substantially improved over the season before.  The future looks good for the Dolphins, and will look especially bright if they can acquire a good young quarterback.  Nothing but care-taker qbs since Marino retired has gotten really tiring.  Time now to get a quarterback who can be a star.
I hope, too, that the Ronnie Brown-Rickie Williams running back tandem stays in place.  With last week’s  announcement that Mike Mularkey (a run-first type of coach) has signed on to be Offensive Co-ordinator,
it’s looking like it might be a good idea to keep the two RBs.  Keep them, and Chris Chambers at receiver, and add a good qb, and the Dolphins could have a pretty sweet offense next year.
In any event, a run for the playoffs should definitely be an attainable goal for the Dolphins next year.

Pigskin Pick’em Oinkers

Ugh.
In an earlier post, I mentioned how I was having trouble picking which NFL teams would win this weekend, and how I had, earlier in the week, made my selections but then changed 3 of the 4 of them.
Well, my earlier picks were:

Washington over Tampa Bay by more than 2 1/2 points
New England over Jacksonville by more than 7 1/2 points
NY Giants over Carolina by more than 2 1/2
Pittsburgh over Cincinatti by more than 2 1/2 points.

If I had kept them, I’d have been 3 out of 4.
But I switched them.  To this:
Washington over Tampa Bay, beating the spread (I was pretty sure the underdog Redskins were gonna win this game.  Because my brother is a fan.)
New England over Jacksonville (I thought NE would win, but I didn’t think they’d win by more than a touchdown, so I changed my pick on this one.  I lost to the spread.
New York over Carolina (I thought Eli Manning would play a good game.  And I underestimated the Panthers)
Bengals over Pittsburgh (I shoulda stuck with Pittsburgh.  But I lost.)

Anyway, the Washington/Tampa Bay game was fantastic.  The New England game (I really hate NE) looked like it could go either way (neither offense came to play, it seemed) until the third quarter when either the Patriots elevated their game or the Buccaneers gave up on their’s), when it became a blowout.
Didn’t watch much of the Giants/Panthers game, but didn’t look like it was really close.  Same for the Pittsburgh (shoulda stuck with Pittsburgh) game.

Results in a 1 and 3 weekend for me.  So, I’m likely down to second place now, in the Pick’em pool.
Next weekend’s games look like they’ll be fantastic.