Archive for June, 2007


June 26, 2007

I decided to go the column route for Wednesday’s paper…

Mention the words “professional wrestling” to the average person and you’re likely to draw one of three responses.

“Oh yeah, I watch that some.” Or, “I watched it when I was younger.” Or, my personal favorite, “It’s fake.”

It is scripted, and the folks at World Wrestling Entertainment and Total Nonstop Action make no bones about it, calling their product “sports entertainment.”

It’s a soap opera put on by guys in spandex and girls in not quite as much, and truth be told, I’m still a fan.

I’m tired of the dark underbelly of the business, though. Monday was the last straw.

Chris Benoit, 40, a wrestler on WWE’s roster, was found dead in his home along with his wife, Nancy, and seven-year-old son, Daniel. It is widely reported that Benoit killed his wife and son over the weekend before ending his own life Monday in his Georgia home.

Benoit skipped a house show on Saturday and a pay-per-view on Sunday, citing personal reasons.

No kidding.

I never met him, but I always liked watching him perform. I just think it’s sad that an industry that forces its workers to travel 200 nights a year (33 live shows are scheduled in July and August for WWE wrestlers) and has a mortality rate that rivals some third world nations doesn’t have to shoulder any of the blame for the problems of its employees.

Please don’t misunderstand me, if Benoit killed his family and then himself, it’s on his head, not WWE Chairman Vince McMahon’s. But I think it’s time we media types took an interest in sports entertainment, and the WWE’s role in the demise of its stars.

Benoit is the second wrestler to commit suicide this year, after 42-year-old Mike Awesome did so a few months ago. That alone is worth scrutiny. Toss in widespread steroid abuse and the fact that dozens of wrestling stars don’t live long enough to enjoy retirement and you get a “sport” that makes the NBA and Major League Baseball look like model organizations.

Guys like Chris Von Erich (21), Mike Von Erich (23), Louie Spiccoli (27), Jay Youngblood (30), Crash Holly (32), Kerry Von Erich (33), Yokozuna (34), Brian Pillman (35) and Eddie Guerrero (38) are just a few of the wrestlers who died far too young.

And from a man who faked his own death two weeks ago by staging a car bombing outside an arena, any WWE credibility in regards to life and death rings about as hollow as the 10-bell salute the deceased get at the next house show.

Owen Hart (33) fell to his death entering the ring at a pay-per-view in 1999, and the show went on as Jim Ross told us that Hart had fallen and was on the way to the hospital. He died on the way there, due to massive internal injuries after his harness – lowering him from the rafters – released about 60 feet too early.

At least they didn’t show the replay.

Baseball has the steroid issue, and football and basketball have certain criminal elements to them as well. Wrestlers are dying, and no one bats an eye.

No, it’s not a real sport. Guys get into the ring knowing who will win, almost no one bleeds without “blading,” or cutting themselves, and the storylines are just as far-fetched as anything you’ll see on a Tuesday afternoon soap in Genoa City.

But make no mistake about it. There’s nothing “fake” about death.

It’s time to start asking questions.

Contact the writer at


Same stuff, different year

June 21, 2007

Well, my favorite baseball team is at it again.

The Baltimore Orioles have fired Sam Perlozzo and have set off in search of a new skipper – probably Joe Girardi. Now I love Girardi and the job he did with the Marlins last year. But he’s only part of the solution.

The real problem lies at a much higher level.

Peter Angelos is a plague. He makes Daniel Snyder look good. The man has the baseball knowledge of a dustpan, but because he’s rich and owns the team, he feels compelled to meddle.

For example…

The Orioles could have Marcus Giles, Adam LaRoche, Erick Aybar and Ervin Santana on their roster right now in deals for Brian Roberts (whom I like) and Miguel Tejada (whom I’d like to see playing in Tampa). But Angelos nixed the trades made by his baseball people, with some apparent need to bolster his own ego.

Seriously, sell the team. Go back to being a slimy lawyer and get away from my O’s.

Oh, a quick shout out to my Kinston buddies. Had a great time at the Free Press, K-Tribe game and the after-hours entertainment. You guys might find it interesting to learn that Bryan Hanks got lost on the way to Grainger Stadium in a town he’s lived in for like five years. Of course, he still ended the night with more cool points than I did.

But there’s no need to get into that.

I was very impressed with the town and the people I met. I look forward to returning.

Fixing the NBA

June 13, 2007

From Thursday’s Dispatch

As the NBA Finals winds towards its inevitable conclusion, I’m left with only one question:
Does anybody care?
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy watching Tim Duncan and LeBron James play individually, but it’s the other eight guys on the floor at any given time that make this series boring and predictable.
The sad thing is that the NBA can be entertaining. It could close the gap on baseball and vie for becoming the second-most important sport in America behind the NFL.
But some changes need to be made. Soon.
So, free of charge, here’s my plan to save the National Basketball Association.

Fix the schedule – Good grief, what idiot is making the NBA Playoff schedule?
Game 3 of the Finals tipped off last night at 9 p.m. in the East and it wrapped up (mercifully) about 11:45. That means that more than half of the 50 largest cities in the country had to stay up to almost 11 or midnight to watch the second-lowest scoring game in the history of the NBA Finals. I’m guessing this won’t make for a great rating.
People who work a normal shift can’t stay up that late to watch TV. Move the tip back to 8 p.m., at the latest.
And the playoffs started back on April 21. Is it really necessary to drag it out this long?

Less is more – There are 30 teams right now in the NBA. There should be 24. Set it up like the soccer leagues in Europe. Next year, have the bottom six teams sent to the developmental league. The following year, you could drop the lowest two and promote the two best teams from the D-League.
Or just straight-up contract. Whatever gets the NBA down to 24 franchises.
This would serve several purposes. For starters, teams would start using their entire rosters. There were 10 guys in uniform Tuesday night that didn’t play. That’s silly. Having fewer teams means that the players are spread around more. Better benches means better players and that makes for better games.
Keeping with the same theme, the 82-game schedule needs to be cut down. I’d like to see it cut in half, but I think mathematically, it has to be in the low 60s. There’s no urgency in the regular season. Guys are mailing it in, and this would cut down on that.

Money, money, money – Get rid of guaranteed contracts. Teams that make mistakes on players (Hello, New York?) should be able to cut guys and start over. The NFL model works well. Give them bigger signing bonuses, but let teams fix their mistakes. This will also help teams make trades, giving woeful franchises the chance to turn things around quickly.

Enforce the rules – No tonic for the NBA would be complete without addressing the rulebook. Call the walks, please. Call the handchecks. Blow the whistle when players aren’t in the lane, for a change.

These things will never happen. They make far too much sense for the league to ever adopt them.

Contact the writer at

Fantasy focus

June 8, 2007

A former friend once told me something that I think is an excellent piece of fantasy baseball advice:

Don’t look at the standings until July.

If you’re like me and out of first place here in early June, don’t panic. In my last two seasons, I’ve had two very different teams.

One was dominant for much of the campaign, topping out at a staggering 95 points at one point in a 5×5, 10-team roto league, before fading away like a Paris Hilton jail sentence.

The other was mediocre all year but won me the championship with a furious last-month rally.

Here are a few pointers to get you back within striking range:

Trim the fat – Most underachieving squads have at least one guy that was drafted high that’s stinking up the joint. In April and May, patience is a virtue. In June, it’s time to bail.

Stuck with Johnny Damon (.257), J.D. Drew (.224) or Richie Sexson (.197)? Trade them away to an opportunistic soul who’s willing to wait and hope for a turnaround.

Meanwhile, you should…

Hit the wire – Unless you play in a 20-team league, there are players on the waiver wire that can help you. Steals and saves can be a little hard to come by, but the other eight categories are there for the boosting.

Need some homers? Carlos Pena, who’s reviving his career with Tampa Bay, has a dozen while eight more guys who are playing on a regular basis are available in my league with at least eight long balls.

There are 14 guys that can be had in my league with at least five wins. Some of the decent WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) and ERA guys in that group are Jorge Sosa (3.22 ERA, 1.05 WHIP), Jeff Francis (3.70, 1.31) and the ageless Greg Maddux (3.82, 1.23).

Work the league – Make trades. It’s a simple piece of advice, but you’d be surprised at how many owners draft their teams and then stand back and make little or no changes.

There’s been one deal in my league this year, and I’m the one who made it. I took some heat for shipping C.C. Sabathia and his nine wins out for Curtis Granderson. But with my astute wire pickup of Tim Lincecum, I had some excess pitching and I used it to patch up my less-than-stellar outfield.

Check around. There’s an owner out there who might be willing to work with you. You don’t have to sucker somebody to get a good deal.

But it doesn’t hurt to try.