Tuesday, April 15, 2008
We all know that the famed Mitchell Report has came and is now gone, but its effect on baseball will last for generations. But did it do all that it was set up for? First of all most of the names that came out we either already knew about, we could assume or they were of players that even die hard fans like myself have never even heard of. Another thing wrong with it was that with the new performance enhancing drug rules in place, none of the players mentioned will be in any trouble. (Except of course Roger Clemens but that is about perjury now.) The tests will now be beefed up to nearly once a month at random, and the players will not be tipped off the day of because they will happen as soon as they get to the ballpark. The new drug policy will be overseen for the first time by an outside administrator, which is very good news for baseball because they are finally recognizing the problem that they had. The second big addition to the testing policy is that the top 200 prospects will be tested at random just like the Major Leaguers. (This has already caught one victim Braves prospect, Jordan Schafer, here). However the suspensions to Jay Gibbons and Jose Guillen will not be assessed. Another very good thing that this new policy will institute will be that the Players Association and MLB will up their efforts to educate young children on the dangers of PED use. This may be the most positive addition to the MLB drug policy because up until a few years ago no effort was made to educate the children of the game, which are of course the future of America’s National Pastime. This new movement maybe a little to late for Bud Selig and Donald Fehr to enhance their image, throughout history. They will both be known as the men who turned a blind eye to steroids but at least now they are making an effort to change that. The new policies can be found here.
Earlier this week the Yankee-Red Sox rivalry took another turn, as a construction worker on the new Yankee Stadium buried a David Ortiz jersey in the concrete foundation of the visitor’s clubhouse, in an attempt to jinx the team. (Footage here). At first the Yankees played it off like it was a joke, but then when more and more reports started surfacing, and the worker who did it, Gino Castignoli came forward. In the Yankee- Red Sox rivalry you don’t joke about curses, you take them very seriously. So seriously that the Yankees spent thousands of dollars successfully digging the jersey up. This situation is being taken so seriously that the Yankees are contemplating bringing criminal charges against Castignoli. The Yankees originally thought of keeping the jersey buried, but then they didn’t want to reward someone who had such bad intentions. In sports it is not unusual to bury something in the foundations of playing venues for good luck. In the 2002 Olympics a worker on the ice hockey rink buried a Canadian coin near center ice, to give the Canadian hockey team good luck. Canada went onto win its first gold medal in over 50 years. An unknown good luck charm was buried in the foundation of the original Yankee Stadium in the 1920s to help the team win the World Series. The Yankees then went onto to win 26 World Championships, the most of any team in baseball. Was this as big of an issue as it became, no. But because it was the Yankee-Red Sox rivalry it became what it did. My apologies to Ohio State vs. Michigan and Auburn vs. Alabama in college football, to North Carolina vs. Duke in college basketball, to Cowboys-Redskins in the N.F.L., and any other rivalry we have in sports. This is why this rivalry is the best in all of American sports and nothing else is even close.
For the first time since seeding began four number one teams made the Final Four. A little school from nowhere started beating everyone, not that this was new but for a 10 seed, which barely anyone had ever heard of, to make it to the Elite Eight, it’s a big deal. They had a scorer named Stephen Curry who was dropping buckets like it was his job, he single handily beat Gonzaga and Georgetown, had a huge role in the defeat of Wisconsin, and had eventual National Champion Kansas shaking in their boots. Upsets were at a premium and last second heroics were present this year more than they have ever been before. The Final Four was one of the most boring in years as Kansas blew out overall number one seed North Carolina and Memphis didn’t even give UCLA a chance. With that being said however, Memphis and Kansas met up for one of the best National Championship games in years. With last year’s football and basketball championships being complete blowouts, as with this year’s football championship game as well, America needed a good game. It got one. Coming down to the final possession Mario Chalmers hit a clutch three with seconds remaining to force overtime. Memphis had an eternal enemy all year long, they disguised it during the NCAA Tournament, but it showed itself in the Championship game. Memphis couldn’t shoot free throws, in their two losses to Tennessee and to Kansas; they shot less then 60 percent from the line. You can have the best point guard in the game (and the did for a while, freshman Derrick Rose) you are still going to lose if you can’t shoot free throws. Memphis’s collapse down the stretch will be remembered for years, and the old saying was proven true again John Calipari cannot win the big one. This years bracket here.
Monday, April 14, 2008
Michael Jordan the living legend has been the face of his own marketing campaign since it’s beginning. In 1985, Jordan flew through the air, tongue out and made one of the most memorable slam-dunks in history. On his feet, the first pair of his custom Nike’s. In bright red and dark black they were unlike anything that anyone had ever seen before. With big Nike swooshes on the sides, the empire was born. Jordan now commands millions of dollars each year for his custom sneakers. Top N.B.A. players like Carmelo Anthony, Richard Hamilton and Ray Allen all are signed to mega deals by His Airness. Derek Jeter, Terrell Owens and Andruw Jones are other athletes signed to the Jumpman. The launch day for his signature line of sneakers is near his birthday, which occurs in February. Athletes wearing Jordan shoes have preformed some of the most memorable moments in sports. The shot he hit against the Cavilers in the Eastern Finals came while he was wearing the fours, the Dream Team he wore red, whit and blue seven’s, and the shot over the Jazz in the 1998 Finals were the 14’s. His brand name isn’t just a shoe; it’s a subculture that exists in both the sports markets and the sneaker world. Famous advertising campaigns like the Mars Blackmon ads starring Spike Lee, the Carmelo Anthony I want the last shot ads and the most recent There are no Cinderella’s during this years March Madness are just a few of the successful commercials he has had. There are now 23 different editions of his signature line, and tons of other shoes like team and half models. Jordan isn’t just the name of the greatest basketball player of all time; it is the name of one of the most powerful brands on the planet. His website can be found here.
Since 1948 the Brooklyn now Los Angeles Dodgers have held their spring training camp in Vero Beach, Fl. A small town, with a broken down military base was all Branch Rickey and the team needed to teach the Dodger way to play baseball. Dodgertown has street names named after Dodger legends like Jackie Robinson, Roy Campenella, Duke Snyder and Tommy Lasorda. The facility looks like a high school baseball park and is barely able to keep a major league team happy. But it does, and it did a great job for 60 years. Dodgertown is closing down because the team is moving to Phoenix because they want to be closer to their fan base, however the team has a great number of fans in Vero. Phoenix will offer the Dodgers financial consideration and a brand new state of the art facility to prepare for the season. What makes Dodgertown unique besides the history and the town, is the openness. There are no high fences, very few restricted areas and the players are within an arms reach, pretty much all the time. Since it’s an older facility, the players have to walk to and from the fields on the same paths the fans take. This allows for unparallel access to your favorite ballplayers. The Dodger Ambassador, former manager Tommy Lasorda still drives around the camp in his golf cart, kissing babies and signing autographs for kids. The memories that will be left in Vero will last a lifetime, and it is time for new memories to start in Arizona. Dodgertown will truly be missed. A video from the New York Times has a vdeo on this story here.
Joba Chamberlain burst onto the scene last August and became an immediate fan favorite. His electric personality, his lights out fastball and the famed “Joba Rules” have all contributed to his immense popularity. A story was written last year by the Daily News gave the first look into the unbelievable relationship between Joba and his father, Harlan. Harlan, has had polio since he was nine months old, cannot use his left arm and has to get around on a motorized scooter. Harlan raised Joba and his siblings alone, in a small apartment near Lincoln, NE. Joba’s real name is Justin but after spending time with a Native American Indian Reservation he changed his name to reflect his relationship with them. Joba says his father is not only the man who created him, he is his best friend. During the rubber match of the first Red Sox- Yankees series of 2008, Harlan Chamberlain collapsed. Joba’s sister broke the news to him over the phone shortly after the game, and not even Joe Girardi the Yankees manager could console him. The Yankees flew to Tampa for a short series with the Rays and Joba was with them. However shortly after landing, Joba took a flight to Lincoln to be by his Father’s side. Joba and Harlan are the epitome of the Father-Son relationship in baseball. A game that has been passed down for generations, Joba shows what’s really important, not money, not fame not even the game of baseball. Family. Harlan Chamberlain get well soon.
As the New York Yankees play their final season in “The House That Ruth Built” the New York Daily News has launched a website and special Sunday pullout section of their paper. The pullout chronicles different era’s in the Stadium, from its beginnings in the 1920s to its last goodbye. Everyone from Ruth, DiMaggio, Berra, Rizzuto, Hunter, Jackson, Munson, Mantle, Maris, Ford, Jeter, Torre and even Rodriguez and many more will all be covered. The section features articles written from past and present columnists, photos of all the greats and even has a “Yogisms” section. The photos capture the detail and presence of all of the greats. There are several pictures of Babe Ruth in which you see the massive presence that he had wherever he went. You see a picture of him with soldiers, and he towers above even the tallest ones. The website is extremely well put together and it uses the new media technology that is present to further enhance the print version. An interactive timeline, quiz, photos both submitted by Daily News photographers and even the readers are just some of the features available on the site. The site even has a blog, which is being written by the columnists of the Daily News Sports section. The blog focuses on what is currently going on in the Yankee Universe and what happened on that day in Yankees history. What is really well done by the site is how interactive the readers can get with it. Besides posting their own photos, readers can submit postings on their favorite moments at Yankee Stadium. The House That Ruth Built may be torn down next year, but sections like this and the great memories in all Yankee fans hearts, will keep it standing forever.