Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Back after the 'Morning Drive' experience; Thoughts on the goings on -- World Series, Moneyball, BCS, Stern and Gumbel, and Notre Dame
I took last week off from the blog for the simple reason that I was waking up at 4:30 each morning in Orlando to co-host ‘Morning Drive,’ on The Golf Channel and I found it difficult to do the show, spend some time out at Disney (for the golf tournament not for Mickey Mouse—sadly) and THEN sit down and write. Twenty years ago I probably could have pulled it off; maybe even 10 years ago. Now, not so much.
Actually I had a choice most afternoons: I could swim or I could blog. I opted to swim. That probably worked out best for everyone.
Life’s back to normal now—or at least my definition of normal—and I have a number of thoughts on all that’s going on in sports, which is a lot.
Let me start though, with the ‘Morning Drive,’ experience. The 4:30 wake-up calls sucked (I’m one of those people who always wakes up before the alarm or the call regardless of the hour. I’ve always wondered how that works, but I swear to God I rolled over in bed at exactly 4:25 each day) but the rest of the experience was fun. Everyone I worked with could not have been more welcoming and I like the way the show sets up: the hosts talk a lot. I like to talk.
If you’ve ever watched the show you know the hosts dress casually, no jacket and tie. I was told to wear whatever I wanted but NOT Golf Channel gear. So, the first day I showed up in a Richmond basketball shirt that Jerry Wainwright gave me years ago after I spoke at the team’s pre-season banquet.
The Richmond shirt got far more attention than anything I said all morning. Kevin Streelman, who is a Duke graduate, was an in-studio guest. “What’s with the Richmond shirt?” he asked on-air.
Fred Couples, who came on to respond to Greg Norman criticizing his pick of Tiger Woods for The Presidents Cup team, answered my first question about what Norman had said this way: “Didn’t you go to Duke University?”
“Yes,” I said. “They gave me a degree if I promised never to come back.”
“So why are you wearing a Richmond basketball shirt? What’s your connection to Richmond?”
“Duke never sends me stuff,” I answered.
I thought wearing an Army shirt two days later would get a lot more comment than the Richmond shirt but it didn’t. I guess people DO know my connection to the military academies even though it isn’t what it used to be.
Overall, I enjoyed the experience. I wish we’d had more time with Kelsey Grammer, who was doing a satellite tour to promote his new show and undoubtedly looked at his schedule and said, ‘Golf Channel, why the hell am I doing Golf Channel?’ I still watch Frasier most nights when I’m home and I still think Niles is one of TV’s all-time funny characters. Trivia: Did you know that Frasier was originally created for a six-show stint on ‘Cheers,’ and was supposed to be written out after Diane left him at the alter? The producers liked the character—and Grammer—so much they kept him in the show and he ended up playing Frasier for 20 years, winning Emmys for playing him on THREE shows—he won one as a guest-star on ‘Wings,’ in addition to ‘Cheers,’ and ‘Frasier.’
Okay, enough of that. On to some real stuff.
--The World Series. Riveting. Four games out of five have been terrific and the one blowout had the Albert Pujols three home run performance. I truly hope that Pujols stays in St. Louis. Great baseball towns deserve great players and Pujols is clearly that. For the record though, Tony LaRussa’s explanation that no one told Pujols that the media wanted to talk to him after his gaffe in game two doesn’t hold even a little water. No one wanted to talk to him after game 2 of the World Series? Seriously? Oh wait, maybe it’s that he’s not an important player. No. That doesn’t work either. Come on Tony, you’re better than that.
Pujols should stay in St. Louis and Prince Fielder should stay in Milwaukee. The latter isn’t likely to happen. Fielder’s going to go where he gets offered the most money and one of the big-money teams will probably come in with a blow-away offer. Too bad. Milwaukee is also a wonderful baseball town.
--On another baseball note I saw, ‘Moneyball,’ on Saturday. It’s good theater. Michael Lewis is brilliant and Aaron Sorkin is a genius so that’s about as good a writing combination as you can have. That said, I’d recommend people read my friend David Maraniss’s op-ed in the Tuesday Washington Post because it sums up pretty well how I feel about the whole ‘moneyball,’ concept. In the movie, Miguel Tejada, Tim Hudson, Barry Zito and Mark Mulder essentially don’t exist.
I’m not saying there isn’t merit to the whole ‘moneyball,’ way of thinking. I think the best organizations combine good scouting with all the Bill James stuff. I also think if Dave Roberts hadn’t stolen second base in game 4 of the ALCS in 2004, the whole concept would not be glorified the way it is. And the A’s and Beane haven’t looked quite so brilliant since the above-named players left town. Still, I enjoyed the movie just like I enjoyed the book although I couldn’t help but feel badly for Art Howe. (Philip Seymour Hoffman was great. He was also superb in ‘The Ides of March.’ I’m on a roll seeing movies of late).
--The BCS. Oh please. Or, as my good friend Bill Hancock said over the weekend, “good grief.” I’m hoping and praying for four undefeated teams so the politicians in two states can go ballistic when ‘their,’ teams don’t make the championship game.
--The NBA lockout, David Stern and Bryant Gumbel. The lockout is getting uglier by the minute. More and more people I talk to think the whole season is going by the boards. I’m still not buying it. I think both sides will cave after New Year’s; they’ll agree on something close to a 50-50 split on revenue and a harder though not totally inflexible cap. Stern is a tough guy to play poker against but he’s also smart enough to know he needs the playoffs on TV. Kobe Bryant isn’t getting any younger. For that matter, neither is LeBron James, believe it or not. I wonder how a second round pick like Maryland’s Jordan Williams, who hasn’t yet seen a penny and isn’t guaranteed a penny once the lockout ends, feels about leaving school right about now.
Gumbel is a very smart guy and you can bet he knew exactly what he was saying when he compared Stern to a plantation owner who is ‘treating men like boys,’ in his commentary on HBO’s ‘Real Sports.’ Gumbel knew what the reaction would be when he said what he said but he was clearly tired—as many people are—of Stern’s tactics and wanted to be SURE he got that message across.
I’m a Stern guy. I think he’s been a great commissioner. Can he be imperious? You bet. But I also know that implying in any way that what he’s doing has racial connotations is ridiculous. This is business, pure and simple. Stern’s been charged by the owners with getting them a better deal and he will do and say what has to be said and done to get that deal. Charles Barkley—of all people—brought up a telling stat: Since Stern became commissioner in 1984 the average player salary has gone from $300,000 a year to $5.1 million a year. And that’s in a league not nearly as successful as the NFL where there are STILL no guaranteed contracts. If Gumbel should have a problem with a commissioner or a group of owners for the way they treat their players he should focus on football.
Finally: Did Brian Kelly REALLY say the following when he was asked if he was concerned about quarterback Dayne Crist’s mental state after Crist fumbled a snap on the one-yard line with Notre Dame trailing Southern California 17-10: “No. I don’t have to worry about it he does.”? Seriously? He said that?
Wow. Talk about standing up for your players. Kelly also threw his whole team under the bus for a poor first half but refused to second-guess himself for his team’s preparation for the game coming off a bye week. Kelly cited his record coming off bye weeks the last 20 years as the reason he KNEW he didn’t do anything wrong.
So what’s his record coming off a bye week THIS year? Does this guy take responsibility for ANYTHING?