Cal Will Break You Of Your Candy Cigarette Habit

Cal Ripken, Jr., rolled out a new product targeted at kids this week: Shredded beef jerky packaged in tins to look like chewing tobacco.

Cal Ripken Jerky For Kids

(No idea who the guy on the right is. Can’t be Cal.)

With the chewing tobacco business thankfully on life support, at least compared to when I was broadcasting baseball in the majors and minor leagues in the ’90s, not too sure why Ripken would want to remind kids that the biz actually still exists.

That wasn’t Ripken’s intention, as the product is a competitor to longstanding tobacco substitute Big League Chew gum, but is giving kids containers which only other use is to contain chewing tobacco products really a grand business strategy.

Then there’s this quote from Ripken in the company’s press release: Read more…

4 Youths Arrested For Stealing Ripken “8″ Statue

Eight is enough … to get you in trouble with the law after you try to steal a statue from outside a MLB ballpark. But that’s what happened to four Baltimore-area teens when they attempted to take off with a statue outside of Camden Yards dedicated to Orioles great Cal Ripken, Jr.

Cal Ripken 8 statue

Yes, that is the statue in question above. It is not a life-size portrait or even a bust of Ripken, but simply the number 8. Who exactly would want to swipe a giant “8″, anyway? Were the foursome going to try and sell it on eBay? Were they hoping to start a bidding war between the Ripken family & the Super 8 hotel chain?

Read more…

Speed Read: ESPN Pulls Its Punches With WWE

If you’ve watched ESPN for more than five minutes this week, you know that last night was the season premiere of “E:60″, ESPN’s version of “60 Minutes,” and the featured story was a “rare, behind-the-scenes” look at the WWE and a profile of Vince McMahon. Jeremy Schaap was sent out to watch as the organization prepared for Wrestlemania.

Vince McMahon at Chris Benoit special on Raw

The choice of reporters makes sense - McMahon is notoriously volatile with cable TV reporters and diminutive hosts alike, while Schaap is best known for not being as good as his Dad (in the opinion of Bobby Knight). And because of the controversy which always surrounds the WWE, there were a litany of hard-hitting questions that Schaap could have asked - questions that other reporters either didn’t know to ask or wouldn’t.

So what was the end result? If you guessed “a 13 minute long sloppy wet kiss to Vince McMahon from your friends at ESPN,” you win an autographed 8 x 10 of Mean Gene Okerlund. Because what Schaap and the E:60 crew put together was - at best - shockingly lax reporting bordering on the type of fawning, hands-off “journalism” you would expect from “Access Hollywood.”

Don’t believe me? Watch it for yourself, and pay attention to all the times Schaap completely whiffs on asking a tough question, or when he does, how it’s set up as the perfect softball for McMahon to nail over the fence. I would suggest making a drinking game of it, but this is a morning post and I don’t want people to get too plastered to go to work today.

Apparently in ESPN’s world, Owen Hart’s death never happened, and the XFL was just a figment of my imagination. And even the “tough issues” they touched on were either brushed over or poorly handled.

For example, let’s look at the segment on Chris Benoit. First off, Schaap mentions McMahon’s federal steroids trial and his own admission of steroid use, but never actually asks him a question about it. And he doesn’t follow up on the WWE’s “Wellness Policy” - which has been highly criticized in the industry - other than to say “why do you need one at all?” and give McMahon a perfect opportunity to play the role of the caring boss who only wants the best for his employees.

Of course, getting sidetracked into steroid talk overlooks significant issues in the Benoit case, like how much Benoit’s history of multiple concussions might have rattled his brain to the point of no return, or how the WWE’s insane travel schedules with almost no time off can crack anyone. (They did briefly mention the WWE’s treatment of wrestlers as “contractors”, but again they didn’t ask McMahon directly about it, or any of his current roster.)

Which makes me wonder: just how much did ESPN have to give up in order to get the “exclusive” access to the WWE? It sure seemed like there was a whole list of questions that were off-limits, or at least not fully explored. I think the level of “exclusive” access ESPN received is best summed up by the fact that they were kicked out of the weekly WWE production meeting midway through because they were hitting on something Vince McMahon didn’t want to share.

But I’m sure that Schaap would argue the point tooth and nail with me…except that I read this interview with him about his profile of the WWE, and he basically admits that this was a softball piece:

I think our interview is very different and it revealed a different side of him. I didn’t go into it and put him on the defensive. We asked him the tough questions - you have to ask him the tough questions and he addressed them but he didn’t get defensive or angry as you’ve seen him in previous interviews because he understood we were approaching it from a perspective of giving him a chance and treated him with the respect that you would treat Paul Tagliabue or Roger Goodell now or Gary Bettman or George Steinbrenner. I’ve seen George Steinbrenner interviewed over the years many times - not recently of course because he has not been well - but George Steinbrenner is a guy who, with all due respect, is a felon. A guy who was kicked twice out of major league baseball, once for committing federal felonies, once for hiring a known extortionist and ex-con to dig up dirt on his best player Dave Winfield and yet, have you ever hear anybody interview George Steinbrenner on TV or in a press conference or any situation as rudely as sometimes Vince McMahon has been treated?

Good lord…sounds to me like Schaap is angling for a spot as a guest ring announcer at next year’s Wrestlemania. Have fun with that. Simply embarrassing - someone wake the ESPN Ombudsperson from her slumber and have her try to explain this to me.

Knee injuries in girls

Also needing to do a better job of explaining things: sports medicine expert Dr. Robin West, who was interviewed by the NBC Nightly News for a look at the rise of knee injuries among young athletes (surprise - they are being pushed too hard too soon by overbearing parents). In a Web exclusive, Dr. West talks about why female athletes are especially at risk for ACL injuries, and why menstruation might be a factor. Or not.

This is about as confusing as Newt Gingrich trying to explain why women can’t serve on the front lines in the military because they get “infections” once a month. So having a period makes athletes more susceptible to knee injuries? Got it. And goes a long way to explain so much about Tom Brady. ZING!

(Also, I question giving anything the title “Knees: The Achilles Heel of Girls’ Sports.” Wouldn’t the Achilles heel be the Achilles heel of girls sports? Unless women don’t have an Achilles heel - let me check my copy of “Our Bodies, Ourselves” and get back to you.)

Lastly, the computer the NFL uses to create its schedules - which I suspect has a computing power somewhere between the evil machine from “War Games” and Hal from “2001″ - finally spit something out last night for the rest of us to ponder. Among the teams cursing the results, according to THE SPORTING NEWS, are the Bucs, Panthers and Dolphins, while somehow the Steelers wound up with a relatively pothole-free schedule. Go ahead and start the conspiracy theories now.

Other stories that happened last night as you tried to come up with a worse way to die than being crushed by a palm tree:

  • It looks like TBS has found its baseball version of Charles Barkley, as they have announced the signing of David Wells as studio analyst for their MLB coverage. Much like Barkley, he’s fat, frequently in trouble and has a loud mouth. I’m sure he’ll mesh well with Cal Ripken.
  • david wells dodgers

  • You might remember a few weeks ago when members of the Oregon basketball team were accused of some Duck-on-duck crimes. The EUGENE REGISTER-GUARD reports that as punishment for shooting at ducks at a local park, head coach Ernie Kent has ordered the players to work at a local humane society.
  • The SPOKESMAN-REVIEW says that Washington State might be done with football players Romeo Pellum and Micheal Willis, after they were arrested early Saturday morning on separate driving charges (suspended license and DUI, respectively). At least they were able to save head coach Paul Wulff having to drive over to the jail twice to pick them up - how thoughtful.
  • According to the AP, Asian Football Confederation president Mohamed bin Hammam threatened to “cut off the head” of the leader of the Korean Football Association in a recent interview, which sort of irritated the Koreans. I can’t imagine why.
  • Speaking of soccer, Chelsea and Liverpool had one of the craziest games in recent memory yesterday during the second leg of their UEFA Champions League quarterfinal, with the game ending in a 4-4 draw and Chelsea advancing on a 7-5 aggregate. The LOS ANGELES TIMES has the blow-by-blow.
  • Don’t really know much about Masters champion and now two-time major winner Angel Cabrera? This piece in the SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE will change that, and give you a new appreciation of just where he’s come from - he’s no silver spoon, well-bred golfer.
  • New Jersey has just built a new state-of-the-art arena for the Devils and also upgrading the Meadowland’s Izod Center, the home of the Nets which is just eight miles away. As the NEWARK STAR-LEDGER notes, some people are wondering if this money could be put to slightly better use.
  • Apparently in Wisconsin, you can’t have junior hockey without booze, which is why the JANESVILLE GAZETTE says that Janesville City Council had to vote to allow the local ice rink to sell alcohol. The City Council did need to look up wine coolers online as part of their debate, making me wonder what self-respecting drunk hockey dad would be caught dead with a wine cooler?
  • The Mets opened Citi Field in ignomious fashion, with a 6-5 loss to the Padres. So it’s probably for the best that, as NEWSDAY reports, many fans weren’t able to see the game thanks to “obstructed view” seats.
  • Least surprising story of the baseball season so far: MLB.COM says Nomar Garciaparra left the Oakland A’s game against the Red Sox after one inning with soreness in his calf muscle.

What is the greatest prop in the history of wrestling?

View Results

Speed Read: Phelps Gets Free Pass In Bong Flap?

It’s been a few days since the whole Michael Phelps bong-gate exploded onto the scene, and the reaction has been overwhelmingly this: So?

Michael Phelps

(”Dude, I think I’m seeing robots”)

Well, now some people are wondering why it is exactly that everyone is giving Phelps a pass, especially the sponsors who pay him millions to represent their brands. This is a guy who was arrested for DUI in 2004 and now has been shown in public using an illegal drug (whether or not the drug should be illegal or the level of outrage that pot use should inspire is not the issue here). And it’s not like sponsors were overly harsh about this. If anything, they’ve been downright supportive.

The WASHINGTON POST’S Michael Wilbon isn’t really having it, and wrote a column critical of Phelps’ defenders that, to his credit, wasn’t filled with hyperbolic overreaction to the pot use itself:

There should be zero tolerance for (drinking and driving), and Phelps doesn’t get a pass for that, nor for his bong hit. The latter, in and of itself, certainly isn’t heinous. But it is stupid, given what’s at stake. And everybody excusing it, Sally, doesn’t help Phelps get the message that he’d better be careful and vigilant. Being granted a pass at every turn usually breeds a sense of being bulletproof, as we saw in the much more serious case of Michael Vick, who actually squandered $100 million or more. And Phelps isn’t cast in the role of bad boy or tough guy. His marketing representatives have set him up to be the guy who walks the straight-and-narrow. 

The DETROIT FREE-PRESS’ Drew Sharp makes a comparison between Phelps and Santonio Holmes, who was suspended for a game after being arrested for marijuana possession:

According to the police report, Holmes was cooperative and contrite. He wasn’t belligerent. He readily owned up to his mistake.

Holmes admitted to the Miami Herald a few days before the Super Bowl that as a teenager he sold drugs on a street corner near his Florida home. He thought it was time that he publicly acknowledged the poor decisions of his youth.

Maybe it would serve as an example to others at that age doing the same things because they don’t believe there’s a lawful alternative to changing their lives.

Applying the new Phelps standard for decorum when busted, shouldn’t Holmes get a free pass because he has fully acknowledged his sins and appears repentant?

Speaking of Holmes, he thanks all of us for the new $85,000 Escalade he was given by Cadillac for winning the Super Bowl MVP. He got to choose the Cadillac he wanted, and of course he picked the most expensive one…that is being subsidized by tax money.

santonio holmes catch

A couple of months ago, I made the now ridiculous claim that North Carolina might win all of their basketball games this year. And even though I was off there, why have the Heels suddenly fallen off the radar? Sure, they lost two games, but there’s no indication that they are no longer the most talented team in the country. They’ve fought their way back up to the #3 ranking again and blasted Maryland 108-91 last night at the Dean Dome. UNC and Duke play their first of three games (because, let’s be honest, they’re playing each other in the ACC final) a week from tonight.

Manny Ramirez has turned down the Dodgers’ one-year offer of $25 million. Frank McCourt says he still wants Manny back, but concedes that eventually they’ll have to move on (perhaps to Adam Dunn and others). If talks fall through in L.A., who’s left? San Francisco seems to be the only other team willing to enter the discussion, now that Brian Cashman has said that the Yankees are done spending.

What started out as a bad day for Ray Allen ended pretty well for him. Allen buried a 3-pointer with 0.5 seconds left to beat the 76ers 100-99 in Philly for the Celtics’ 12th win in a row. The BOSTON GLOBE reports that Allen had flu symptoms during the day, including chills and a nosebleed — but then made a miraculous recovery after a “steamy” shower and a nap. To top it off, Jameer Nelson’s dislocated shoulder opened a spot on the All-Star team — one that may be filled by Allen, who scored 28 points in last year’s game as a replacement.

Ray Allen

• The NEW YORK DAILY NEWS is now reporting that the substance Barry Bonds tested positive for in the sample seized by federal agents is in fact “The Clear.” If this is true, then we’ve really learned nothing because Bonds has already admitted to taking the substance. So much for that smoking gun.

• The DAILY MAIL says that David Beckham needs to stay in Europe to have any chance of playing for England in the 2010 World Cup, because coming back to MLS would apparently make him regress as a player so much as to become completely worthless in international competition.

AC Milan fan

(This Milan fan might be willing to convince Becks to stay in Europe)

• After weeks of searching for someone else (anyone else, really) to coach the team, the Raiders have finally just given up and brought back Tom Cable to get fired in October, according to the PRESS DEMOCRAT.

• Seems that the NBA has been listening to Bill Simmons, as they’ve started up a H-O-R-S-E competition for All-Star weekend. Participants TBA.

• HOME RUN DERBY brings us this video of a guy who made a portrait of Cal Ripken out of thumb tacks. My Lite-Brite Rob Deer suddenly seems so much less impressive.

Kevin Costner is bringing a big-budget, but ultimately disappointing, minor-league baseball team to Zion, Illinois, according to CBS SPORTSLINE.

• IT’S METS FOR ME congratulates Omar Minaya for bidding against himself to sign Oliver Perez for $36 million when it looked like nobody else was prepared or willing to offer him anywhere near that much. In other news, the Mets are out of the Manny Ramirez sweepstakes.

• FOX NEWS BUSINESS is saying that some in Congress are pressuring Citigroup to pull out of its $400 million naming-rights deal with the Mets for their new stadium. No, it has nothing to do with money. It’s so that we all don’t have to be subjected to this god-awful logo anymore:

Citi Field

At least the Mets still have all that money Bernie Madoff’s been taking care of for them.

• If you’re going to come out of the stands to attack a referee, you probably should make sure the guy isn’t also a state trooper. Patrick Rempala didn’t do his homework, and now is charged with battery and resisting arrest after attacking the trooper/ref at a high school game in Indiana, so says the AP.

• A Manchester United supporter riding a bus home from Man U’s road win over West Bromwich really needed to pee, so he decided to go to the bathroom in the back of the bus. Unfortunately, he didn’t know the lay of the bus very well, because he opened the emergency exit, fell out, and then was hit and killed by a car. The guy was drunk, of course. UPI has the story.

What do you think of the reaction by media and sponsors to Michael Phelps’ pot smoking?

View Results

Cal Ripken Didn’t Beat Up Kevin Costner. Oh Well.

On “Talk of the Nation” to shill for his latest motivational book, Cal Ripken found himself exposed to NPR’s version of sports talk radio callers. They’re an awful lot like the ones in the hotel commercials, actually, but with worse comedic timing.

Kevin Costner Revenge

Since “Talk of the Nation”’s producers aren’t nuanced enough in the world of sport to catch all the rascals, one person slipped through security to ask about an old rumor: did the Orioles once cancel a night game with ‘electrical problems’ because Ripken couldn’t be found?

Ripken denied the rumor (and SNOPES.COM agrees), but UMPBUMP reminds us about the juicy subtext to the probably false story: Ripken supposedly disappeared because he was stewing in jail after pounding Kevin Costner into the ground for seducing his wife.

Read more…

Blog-O-Rama: The Dolphins Select…Forrest Gump

• Lights, camera, you’re on the clock! TIRICO SUAVE projects the NFL Draft using gridiron stars from the silver screen.

Forrest Gump Bill Parcells

• MJD of YAHOO SPORTS checks the dates, and believes Brett Favre’s consecutive game streak is more impressive than Cal Ripken’s.

• Move over, Lorenzo Lamas: THE GHOSTS OF WAYNE FONTES is now smitten with bad boy Butler coach Brad Stevens.

Read more…