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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Good, the Bad and the Annoying

The Good:

Like many a Cal fan, I have a complicated relationship with DeSean Jackson. On one hand, he took my breath away more than any other athlete I've seen perform in person. His punt return against Tennessee in 2007 was one of the most unbelievable sports moments of my life. Never before had I been in a stadium with 70,000 other people all thinking and wanting the exact same thing as me:

"Man, wouldn't it be freaking sweet if he returned this punt for a TD right now.

Yeah, but everyone is expecting it. It'll never happen.


Holy crap, it just happened."

Considering the amount of publicity DeSean got before the season as the most "electric player in the country," a punt return TD on his first touch was almost too perfect to ask for. Like I said about the Duke-Butler game, rarely do sports work out 100% perfectly, just the way you would dream it up. This was one of those moments:

On the other hand, DeSean comes across as kind of a punk. He show boats, hot dogs, and whatever other terms you use to describe someone walking backwards into an endzone. He waves the ball behind him before crossing the goal line and does backflips. More than all of that though, he reps Long Beach Poly instead of Cal and that really irks me. If you don't like his arrogance on the football field, stop him. But the Long Beach Poly plug just always made it feel like he turned his back on Cal, which, after all, is the only reason any of us Alums give a hoot about him.

But it seems DeSean may have helped redeem himself in my eyes and the eyes of many others after a pretty touching show of compassion toward a boy who'd been bullied outside Philly.

I know he's not the only pro athlete to befriend a troubled young person and exchange cell phone numbers, but it's just nice to see athletes go out of their way to relate to other people on a human level. As much as it pains me to say it, Rick Reiley, gulp, wrote a really nice column on it. Ok, there, I said it.

Between this and hugging Aaron Rodgers after the Packers-Eagles game, I think I'm getting ready to forgive.

The Bad:
*Hockey Alert* -- humor me.

On Friday night, the Penguins and Islanders combined for 65 penalties, 346 penalty minutes, 10 ejections and 15 fighting majors. It was an all-out melee and the Islanders revealed themselves as the joke of a team anyone who follows hockey knows them to be.

They are bad, and that's not a biased opinion. They have the third fewest points in the NHL, can't pay people to take to their games, and if there is a God will be moving to Quebec soon.

I will admit, as I was trying to explain hockey fights to KB last night, I realized how much I sounded like a 12 year old trying to explain protocol in a WWF slam-fest. "You can't just grab a chair out of the stands, you have to tell the opponent you're grabbing the chair so he has time to prepare..."

But as dumb as it may sound to those who don't follow hockey, there is protocol, decency and order in the way fights and retaliation are handled. And the Islanders treatment of the whole ordeal made Hulk Hogan look like Gandhi.

Probably the most ridiculous part of hockey fights is the length of time retaliatory actions last. It goes something like "he hit me, so next time I hit him and then he hits me for hitting him for hitting me, etc."

In this case, on February 2, Max Talbot layed what the Islanders thought was a dirty hit on Blake Comeau. 10 seconds before the end of the game, Islanders goal Rick DiPietro took a jab at Matt Cooke as he skated by. Unhappy with that, Pens goalie Brent Johnson called DiPietro out and the two fought at center ice. Johnson absolutely clocked DiPietro landing a single punch square on his face. He shattered DiPietro's cheek and he'll miss at least a month.

The aftermath of that game is what sparked this fiasco. The Islanders, pissed about Comeau, DiPietro, having only 46 points and even fewer fans, were ready to erupt on the Pens. A 6-0 start to the game just made it the right time.

Now back to the WWF. If you want to retaliate, fine. It's part of the game. Just like hitting a batter in baseball or throwing behind a guy. But do it the right way. Hit him hard when he's coming head on across the ice. Check him hard into the glass. Challenge him to fight. This is all fine.

But don't sucker-punch a guy from behind when he's completely defenseless. It's cowardly. Don't cross check him up around his head when his back is turned. Don't go fight the goalie AFTER you've been ejected. And don't stand behind the glass on the way to the locker room and taunt a hurt player while he's lying on the ice being tended to by the medical staff.

It's weak, classes and cowardly. It makes you, your team and the whole freaking sport look barbarian, pointless and sad.

The Annoying:

Here's to hoping Albert Pujols signs a new contract with the Cardinals in the next 23 hours.

It seems to me like ever since the first Brett Farve melodrama a few years back more and more of sports news is being dominated by contract negotiations, free agency, holdouts and trade rumors. Look at Lebron, Farve, Cromartie and now Carmelo. Each dominated headlines during their time of indecision.

All of these athletes always say, "I don't want this to be a distraction." Well, it is a distraction -- it's distracting me from seeing actual athletic competition on ESPN.

It's naive for them to think that putting their contract negotiations on hold during the season is going to create less distraction. If anything, it creates more.

It distracts the media and the fans and ownership. If the Cardinals don't get this deal done before Wednesday, the entire baseball world will be wondering, writing and shock-jocking about whether or not this is Pujols' last season in St. Louis. Every time he goes 0-4, someone is going to write a column on how his attempt to keep his contract status separate from his play has failed. Not to mention the fact that all of St. Louis will be freaking out if the Cardinals have a sub-par year and just one writer drops the headline, "MLB Source: Pujols Says Winning More World Series Titles is Highest Priority."

I love Pujols. He's an incredible player and more importantly, one of the least dramatic elite athletes in sports today (until now at least). I don't want to see his name thrown around over the next six months like it was Farve's and Lebron's. I don't want to see a huge countdown to free agency and read reports of all the mystery teams courting Pujols during the Winter Meetings. I don't want to see Cardinals fans burning Pujols jerseys, filming YouTube rants and hijacking the Clydesdale Budweiser carriages and rampaging through the streets of St. Louis when he signs a deal with the Cubs. I don't want to see any of this.

My dad is a man with incredible baseball foresight and about 6 years ago he said, "Watch this guy, Pujols. He could go on to become the greatest player ever." And wouldn't you know it, he's right on track. He's 31 now and if he plays till he's 41, he could have 800 HR, well over 3,000 hits and a .330 career batting average.

If I'm the Cardinals, I give the man everything he wants and then 10% more. I give him the key to the city. I convert the St. Louis Arch into a giant swing set and give it to his children. I give him anything. A-ny-thin-g.

A summer of rumors, indecision and anxious fans is only going to lead to three things:

1. Too much Skip Bayless
2. Too much Colin Cowherd
3. The very distraction that everyone says they want to avoid.

1 comment:

  1. "I don't want to see Cardinals fans burning Pujols jerseys, making YouTube rants and hijacking the Clydesdale Budweiser carriages and rampaging through the streets of St. Louis when he signs a deal with the Cubs."

    I want to see this.