Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Johnny Damon Needs to Follow A-Rod's Lead

As a veteran observer of all things Yankee, I don’t believe reports that the team’s divorce from Johnny Damon is final.

General manager Brian Cashman says the Yankees won’t resign the 36-year-old outfielder because the club needs to get younger and more athletic and keep the 2010 payroll under $200 million.

I’m not buying it.

When has payroll mattered to the New York Yankees?

The Yanks have never cared about paying a luxury tax (not even this season’s $25 million tax) for exceeding baseball’s salary threshold as long as they’re getting maximum bang for their bucks.

And a 27th World Series championship certainly qualifies as money well-spent.

During the Steinbrenner Era, the Yankees have always tried to field the best team money can buy.

The Yankees can achieve that again in 2010 if Damon takes the initiative and follows a strategy already executed by Alex Rodriguez.

No, that doesn’t mean Damon should divorce his wife and date free-agent starlet Kate Hudson.

Instead, Damon should tell agent Scott Boras exactly what A-Rod told him after negotiations with the Yankees had been severed following the ’07 season:

Butt out.

If Damon himself tells Cashman and the Steinbrenner boys, Hank and Hal, that he wants to stay, then they’ll make a deal.

Boras, in typically nauseating fashion, alienated the Yankees by saying publicly the club should give Damon the kind of multi-year deal it gave catcher Jorge Posada at age 36 and relief ace Mariano Rivera at age 39 and will give shortstop Derek Jeter who turns 36 in June.

That is not going to happen. Nor should it happen.

Jeter, Rivera and Posada have become Yankee icons. Along with southpaw Andy Pettitte, they’re the only on-field links to the dynastic Yankee teams of the late 1990s-early 2000s.

Those players have earned special treatment.

Boras also used the media to tell the Yankees not to make an offer to Damon unless it’s a three-year deal.

The Yankees essentially told Boras to take a flying leap.

The Yankees then traded for former Tigers All-Star Curtis Granderson—at 29, a superior athlete and outfielder to Damon—and signed free agent Nick Johnson, an ex-Yankee whose on-base percentage is one of baseball’s best.

Damon should remind Boras that he works for the player, not the other way around.

The Yankees would offer Damon a two-year, $16-million deal if he wants it. I’ve followed this club long enough to know that.

A-Rod is a Yankee today—with a world championship on his resume, finally—because he personally told the club he wanted to stay and he muzzled Boras.

There may be more upfront money elsewhere for Damon, or even a three-year deal, but he wouldn’t be a Yankee. He wouldn’t be playing for the reigning world champions, the most celebrated franchise in professional sports, in the media capital of the world.

It can’t make more sense to Damon to finish his career with the White Sox, Orioles or Royals.

Would the Red Sox offer him a return to Beantown?

Maybe. But only to try to tweak the Yankees, the team that tweaked them when Damon signed his four-year, $52 million deal after the ’05 season.

But that move wouldn’t make sense for the Sox, who need to get younger and more athletic just like the Yankee team they’re now chasing.

Damon should want to be part of the 2010 Yankees, part of what would be one of baseball’s most potent lineups ever:

SS Derek Jeter

LF Johnny Damon

1B Mark Teixeira

3B Alex Rodriguez

C Jorge Posada

CF Curtis Granderson

2B Robinson Cano

RF Nick Swisher

DH Nick Johnson

You could quibble with the batting order. You could even bat Granderson ninth (if he’s not insulted), but this lineup coupled with the Yankees’ pitching staff would be favored to win another world championship.

Damon should want a piece of that action.

But first he needs to follow A-Rod’s lead and check his agent at the door.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Brother, Can You Spare a Calendar?

Remember when you didn’t have to buy a calendar?

The local businesses in your neighborhood, the ones you patronized all year, the businesspeople you knew on a first-name basis, used to give calendars as a thank-you for your patronage.

Well, that has gone the way of the free toaster or blender you used to get from the local bank for opening an account.

“Do you have any 2010 calendars?” I ask the HSBC teller after cashing a check at my local branch in Yonkers, New York.

“Huh?” replies the teller who looks like she was born after the New York Mets’ last World Series title.

“I’ve had an account here for years,” I tell her. “You probably had a crush on Boyz II Men when I started banking here. You used to give out calendars every year.”

“Not me,” she says.

I think she actually thought I was referring to her specifically. So I thank her for attempting to answer my questions and I leave.

Is this the “new normal?”

I should no longer expect a calendar at the end of the year from the local bank, or dry cleaner, or insurance agent, or monolithic cable company, or grocer, or Chinese take-out joint?

Can they no longer afford that act of appreciation?

Or are we all still holding on by our fingernails and trying to survive the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression?

I’m afraid it’s the fingernail answer. Businesses now deem calendars an unnecessary expense.

I remember better days.

I grew up in a poor neighborhood. My brother and I used to go from store to store collecting calendars because that passed for entertainment in the Bed-Stuy section of Brooklyn.

(Bed-Stuy is where Spike Lee filmed Do the Right Thing 20 years ago.)

Nobody was rich in Bed-Stuy, otherwise you didn’t live there. But every business gave you a calendar at the end of the year just for asking.

The pet store, even though my parents wouldn’t let us have any more pets after my brother and I put our turtles in the freezer overnight just to see what would happen.

The liquor store. Yeah, they gave us calendars as part of some program to nurture a new generation of bitter, oppressed, alcohol-dependent customers.

The shoe store, the bodega, the Laundromat, the 5- and 10-cent store (now the 99-cent store) and the layaway stores that suckered poor folks into making monthly payments totaling $1,000 for a $400 color TV.

I used to get calendars from all those places.

Not anymore.

My Allstate agent used to mail me a nice refrigerator-magnet calendar.

But what’s the line from that Neil Diamond song?

“Used to be’s don’t count anymore

“They just fall to the floor

“And you sweep them away.”

That I still remember lyrics from a Neil Diamond song may be part of the problem. I remember how much better things used to be and I haven’t adjusted yet to the new normal.

If I want a 2010 calendar, I’m just going to have to buy it myself…after January 1 when it’s 50-percent off and the only ones left in the stores will have those boring pictures of dogs, cats or polar bears.

Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I'm Not Picky, Just Selective

Today, I went to see the new George Clooney movie, Up in the Air. But this isn’t about the movie, which I enjoyed, even though Clooney’s middle-aged commitment-averse character hits a little too close to home.

Instead, I’m writing about the personal drama that ensued before and after the movie.

I saw Up in the Air at the Clearview Cinema on 23rd & 8th in Manhattan. I could’ve seen the film closer to my Yonkers residence, but I like the three-story multiplex theater in Chelsea.

As a member of Cablevision’s Optimum Rewards program, I’m entitled to two free movie tickets on Tuesdays at any Clearview Cinema location. (Cablevision owns Clearview.)

This must be a well-known perk because an attractive, cocoa-skinned woman with long fake hair stood near the box office asking, “Anybody have an extra ticket?”

I was alone and OK with it (like the Clooney character, I would learn). I wasn’t looking to pick anybody up.

“Cocoa” looked to be in her twenties—young enough to be the daughter I don't yet have.

“I’ll get you a ticket,” I tell you. “What do you want to see?”

“What are you gonna see?” she asked a little too eagerly.

Up in the Air.”

“Me, too,” she said with a beauteous smile. “I saw on TV today that it got the most Academy Award nominations.”

“Golden Globe nominations.”

“Yeah. That’s what I said.”

“No, you said Academy Awards. The Golden Globes are different.”

“No, you didn’t hear me,” she insists. “I said Golden Globes.”

I’m not going to see her again, I sighed. So why belabor the point?

But then she says she wants to see the movie with me.

“It’s better to watch a movie with somebody,” she says with way too much emphasis on the last word.

"Well, it depends on the 'somebody,'" I say.

“I really hate to see movies by myself.”

“Then why didn’t you come here with somebody?” I ask.

“What are the chances of two ladies getting free movie tickets?” she answers as if my question made no sense. “You gotta do this by yourself if you wanna get in.”

So, she’s done this before. I just happen to be the benefactor this week.

OK, I thought. Why not? Watching a movie with a young woman is something I’d want to do with my daughter if I had one.

Interesting that in Up in the Air, Clooney develops a friendship with a woman half his age. (I promise not to give away any other movie details.)

On the first of two long escalators that take us to the third level, she tells me she likes my name because it’s different.

She also tells me her name: Allison. I tell her it’s a pretty name because I think that’s what I’m expected to say.

Allison didn’t talk too much during the movie—a major plus with me. I don’t go to see movies in predominantly black neighborhoods anymore because of all the idle chatter from the audience, and the frequent scent of marijuana smoke. (I grew up in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. The 'hood. I know of what I write.)

“They’re gonna get together,” Allison whispers about Clooney and the young woman, referring to a carnal get-together.

“I don’t think so,” I tell her.

(I won’t tell you who was right.)

“Older men are such gentlemen,” she says, stroking my right hand. “Why can’t y’all be like that when you’re our age?”

I hate stereotypes. Some men in their 20s are perfect gentlemen. I used to be one. But I usually got overlooked by women in their 20s who only had eyes for bad boys.

When I told Allison that, she just shrugged and looked back at the screen.

So where am I going with this?

I’ll let you know.

Friday, December 11, 2009

When Will Tiger Woods Return? Late March

Tiger Woods, the world’s first billionaire athlete and golf’s Player of the Year (in more ways than one), is taking an indefinite leave from the sport, presumably to try to save his marriage and get his mind right.

How long will he be away?

My response is one borrowed from the Baptist church in which I was reared:

“How long? Not long.”

I believe Tiger will return to the pro tour at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, March 25-28, 2010, in Orlando, near his home in Windermere, Florida.

Not only is the Palmer Invitational played in Tiger’s backyard, it is also staged on a course he loves.

How much does Tiger love Arnie’s tournament? He’s won it six times, including each of the last two years.

On the Palmer Invitational Web site, it says, “Watch Tiger Woods defend his title at the Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando.

We know Tiger isn’t talking publicly to anyone these days—not even to a former journalist-turned-TV icon named Oprah—but don’t think Tiger would allow Palmer, one of his golfing idols, to use his name to sell tickets for the 2010 event without giving a tacit commitment to appear.

Playing in Arnie’s tournament makes perfect sense for Tiger because it comes two weeks before The Masters, the first Grand Slam event of 2010.

Tiger would be doing the legendary Palmer a favor by making his 2010 debut in Orlando. TV ratings and box-office revenue would go through the roof. His return would be the world’s biggest sports story that week. And it would also return the spotlight to Palmer, golf’s first TV star in the 1950s.

Tiger could then spend the next two weeks fine-tuning his game for The Masters, April 8-11, at the Augusta National Country Club.

Tiger is first and foremost a golfer. That is what made him great.

Not his personality. Not his charisma. Not even his supposed sexual voracity despite what we’ve heard from the publicity-seeking women identified as his “alleged mistresses.”

Tiger became a legend, a sought-after pitchman and a billionaire at the tender age of 33 because of his prowess in golf.

And what motivates Tiger is the chance to break Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 Grand Slam titles.

Tiger has 14. And, remember, he did not win a major in 2009.

(Given what we know now about his serial adultery, it is easy to see why he failed to win a major.)

It’s impossible for me to believe that Tiger would now take an entire year off, no matter how much he may want to repair his marriage.

A champion athlete does not sit out a year during the prime of his career unless he is forced to, as was Muhammad Ali after being stripped of his world heavyweight title and prevented from boxing for 3-1/2 years during the 1960s.

Although Ali recaptured the heavyweight crown twice after his return, he was never as great again.

Michael Jordan was not quite the same either after 1-1/2 years away from basketball to play minor-league baseball, his three additional NBA titles notwithstanding.

I have never met Tiger, but through his public statements he has always impressed me as a student of sports history.

Hence, there is no way he stay away from the sport he loves for a full year and allow his skills to atrophy, thereby ceding the world No. 1 ranking to, say, Phil Mickelson and endangering his chances of breaking Nicklaus’s record.

Take away all of Tiger’s non-golf endorsement deals and he’ll live.

But take away golf for an extended period and Tiger would not be able to function.

So like the azaleas in full bloom on Amen Corner at Augusta National, Tiger will be back in the spring, and we will not be able to take our eyes off him.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Tiger Woods & His $exy Logo$

Tiger Woods should be damaged goods.

But he’s really not.

And he won’t be unless we find out he has fathered enough cubs outside of marriage to give former NFL running back Travis Henry (nine kids by nine different women) a run for his money.

Such transgressions would not be so easily explained on

We thought we knew Tiger, but we didn’t.

Just days ago, we learned there’s something he loves almost as much as golf:

Cocktail waitresses.

Especially if, like, they sound like they come from, uh, ya know, The Valley.

We have also learned there’s something Tiger loves even more than cocktail waitresses and nearly as much as golf:

Corporate logos.

That’s why a man whose public image was as counterfeit as a three-dollar bill, or a Fox News “exclusive,” continued to sign on the dotted line as a pitchman.

It hardly seems to matter that news of his adulterous romps only gets worse. A British cocktail waitress is set to tell her story of “Shagging with Tiger” in a Fleet Street tabloid tomorrow.

If she's telling the truth, that would bring the number of Tiger’s extramarital affairs to four in case you’ve lost count.

Nevertheless, six of Tiger’s 10 corporate sponsors have issued statements of love and support.

The six are Nike, PepsiCo (makers of Gatorade), Gillette, EA (computer games), Net Jets (luxury jets) and TLC (laser vision eye care).

Tiger’s other sponsors—AT&T, Accenture (business consultancy), Tag Heuer (watches) and Upper Deck (sports cards and memorabilia)—are laying low, at least for now.

Hence, Tiger is batting .600 in the corporate game.

Soon, he’ll be back to batting 1.000.

Tiger gets $100 million a year from endorsements alone.


Either Tiger’s corporate sponsors believe an association with him is still good for business, or each is afraid a competitor would quickly sign him.

I suspect it’s the latter.

Tiger is as closely associated with Nike as any athlete since Michael Jordan, and thanks to Tiger, Nike Golf is an enormously successful brand.

Since Tiger is still young—he turns 34 on December 30—and could conceivably win on the PGA Tour into his late 40s, then begin a successful run on the over-50 Champions Tour, Nike would be insane to drop him.

If Nike dumps Tiger, a competitor would sign him to a multi-year deal in less time than it takes to read this sentence.

If PepsiCo says, “Tiger, we’re through,” Coca-Cola would say, “Hello, handsome.”

If Gillette says, “Tiger, you disgust me,” S.C. Johnson & Co. (makers of Edge shaving gel), would swoon, “Oh, Tiger, what a gorgeous face you have!”

Corporations will still line up to have a relationship with Tiger, his character flaws notwithstanding.


He’s the best in the world at what he does…on a golf course.

Now keep in mind, this has nothing to do with whether Tiger Woods, the pitchman, actually moves products other than those associated with golf.

American Express and Buick actually ended their affairs with Tiger in 2007, but only after enough focus groups told them they didn’t believe Tiger really drove a Buick or needed an AmEx card.

Tiger’s other non-golf sponsors know the same thing about their products. Yet they still adore him.

Truth is they can’t resist him.

That’s why Tiger has oodles of hush money and revised pre-nup money to throw around these days.

It’s all because of his most ardent lovers—the ones with the sexy logos.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Cult of Lucy Ricardo

Maybe you were like me on that weekday afternoon a month ago, watching President Barack Obama on TV answering serious questions from real Americans at a town hall meeting in New Orleans when suddenly the picture shifted to an object resembling a bag of Jiffy Pop floating through the air.

“There is believed to be a 6-year-old boy inside that balloon,” the CNN anchorwoman said breathlessly.

How is that possible? I wondered.

This can’t be true.

I switched to MSNBC and saw the same giant popcorn bag.

I put on Headline News.

Jiffy Pop.

As a last resort, I switched to Fox News Channel.

Jiffy Pop.

Everybody’s showing the Jiffy Pop bag and talking about “Balloon Boy.”

This kid is so big he bumped the president off every network!

We know by now the story was a hoax and the so-called “Balloon Boy” was honest enough to call out his scheming parents, telling reporters, “They told me to stay in the attic because they were doing something for a show.”

For this and other similarly impudent acts, I blame Lucy.

Lucy Ricardo. The original Desperate Housewife.

Through reruns shown for more than a half-century in every conceivable language, Lucy has taught the world that everybody should be in the show, and needs to be in the show.

Lucy's goal, back in the quaint 19'50s, was stardom at the Tropicana, the nightclub where her bandleader-husband held sway.

Today, in the multimedia age, the cultists’ goal is to get their own show.

A so-called “reality” show, just like the erstwhile rapper with the oversized clock around his neck, or the stripper who says she got sacked by the football player, or the single mother of six with no source of income who proudly popped out eight more.

Heck, she’s her own brand now.

Octomom ®.

It’s all Lucy’s fault.

Yesterday’s Vitameatavegamin pitchgirl is tonight’s prime-time player on Bravo.

Lucy once rode the New York City subway with a loving cup stuck on her head, a cup that was supposed to be presented to famed jockey Johnny Longden at the Tropicana.

And when Lucy presented it—with her head still attached to it—we laughed.

She was funny. She was adorable.

Unfortunately, she inspired a cult.

This week, the Cult of Lucy gave us two married Washington, D.C.-area residents who crashed Barack Obama’s first state dinner at the White House.

Upstaging the president again?

On their Facebook page (a prerequisite for all Lucy cultists), we see the couple in formal wear greeting the president on the receiving line and smiling with Vice President Joe Biden and Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.

“They could have had anthrax on them," Congressman Peter King of New York told The New York Times. “They could have grabbed a knife from the dining room table.”

That’s coming next, if these cultists aren’t stopped.

The D.C. cultists lied about being invited to the dinner, and got a camera crew to follow their high-society trespassing in the hopes of landing a gig on “The Real Housewives of D.C.”

Why, of course.

And they’ve already been booked on CNN's “Larry King Live” next week.

Oh, sure. Had to happen.

And the female cultist says she wants to be a host on the “Today” show.

She would probably be an improvement over Kathie Lee Gifford, but that’s beside the point.

Starstruck Lucy was a problem only for Ricky, but her cultists have raised her naked ambition to the 10th power. Their obsessive desire to be in the show has become dangerous—and criminal.

So let’s give them all a show of their own.

The network and time slot are already available.


Saturday nights, 6pm to midnight.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What if Tarantino had directed Precious?

If you intend to see Precious, a manipulative attempt to condemn society for generations of personal irresponsibility, don’t read this.

The billboard reads: “Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry Present Precious, Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire.”

If the film is nominated for an Oscar, I wonder if the title will be read that way on awards night in March 2010.

What I also wonder is would Precious be considered racist were it directed not by Lee Daniels, an African-American, but by a white director, say, Quentin Tarantino?

We are supposed to believe Precious is different because Winfrey and Perry have placed their pop-culture imprimaturs upon it.

And because the film is based on a book written by a black woman.

Well, I don’t buy it.

In 1997, Tarantino directed Jackie Brown, a film adapted from a book by Elmore Leonard. Jackie Brown featured Pam Grier in her first major-studio starring role in nearly a quarter-century, since the days of Coffy and Foxy Brown.

A controversy arose because in Jackie Brown, some characters had a seemingly obsessive compulsion to say “nigger.”

Spike Lee even accused his fellow auteur of racism.

That’s how these characters talk, Tarantino replied.

That’s how a lot of black people talk, he added.

Lee and other blacks disagreed.

Apparently, only black artists should be allowed to degrade black life.

I have never subscribed to that notion.

That is why the sounds and imagery and blatant emotional manipulation in Precious annoy me as much as the slur-fest in Jackie Brown.

Precious includes a scene showing the morbidly obese title character stealing a bucket of fried chicken, and another scene in which Precious’s mother throws a baby to the floor.

Another scene depicts a knock-down, drag-out fight between Precious and her mom.

Another scene shows the incestuous rape that produced both of Precious’s children, and refers to her first delivery, which occurred at home while mom kicked Precious in the head.

In yet another scene, mom demands Precious please her sexually.

Somewhere, D.W. Griffith is smiling.

These Precious scenes are from a decade-old book adapted just in time for the administration of the first African-American president.

“We’ll teach you darkies not to get all proud and uppity.”

– The Man

There’s no doubt in my mind we would hear certain black ministers call for marches on studio corporate headquarters and Birth of a Nation-type boycotts outside theaters if

Precious had been directed by a white person.

While I don’t consider Precious a contemporary version of 1918’s Birth of a Nation, Precious contains enough racist imagery to hinder rather than enhance the storytelling.

We don’t need to see Precious running down the street with a stolen bucket of fried chicken to know that her parents do not value her.

We don’t need to see her mother throw her newborn grandson to the floor to know that this woman is severely damaged.

Precious needed not a hammer, but a more subtle approach to telling the story of poor, ignorant black folks in 1987 Harlem who do not value themselves, and one girl’s struggle to break that cycle.

Spike Lee made a similar error in his 2000 film, Bamboozled, in which the call for an end to the negative imagery of blacks on television was blunted by his heavy-handed approach.

Precious is an interesting story not well-told.

Would Tarantino have done a better job?

Who knows? But given his ear for dialogue, the melodrama might have been leavened with some much-needed humor.

Precious has a hopeful ending, not a happy one.

We hope Precious breaks the cycle of ignorance and poverty in her family, but we don’t know. The single teen mother of two is just beginning to understand the value of education.

Now I wonder, and worry about, what Hollywood will learn from this film.

If Precious does well at the box office and wins an Oscar, there are bound to be other adaptations of ghetto-themed literature.

Alas, your neighborhood bookstores are full of them.

Full of books plumbing the depths of African-American ignorance and immorality that if adapted for the big screen would make the “blaxploitation” era of the 1970s look like the Golden Age of Cinema.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Does Mark Mangino Eat His Players?

The cult of the dictatorial football coach goes back as far as the game itself.

There’s nothing new about a coach using any available tactic to try to motivate his players.

Take, for example, Vince Lombardi, the coach whose name graces the National Football League’s championship trophy.

Lombardi (a fellow graduate of my alma mater, Fordham University), transformed the Green Bay Packers from perennial door mats into NFL champions in the 1960s by any means necessary.

As Packers guard Jerry Kramer wrote of Lombardi in the book, Instant Replay, “He treated us all the same…like dogs.”

Lombardi is probably an icon to Mark Mangino, the 450-pound head coach at Kansas University.

But it is likely that Mangino’s means of motivating players through fear and intimidation sorely lacks Lombardi’s well-known compassion for those who turned his teachings into victories on autumn Sundays.

Beneath Lombardi’s crusty exterior was said to be a fatherly figure who loved his players unconditionally.

Beneath Mangino’s crusty exterior appears to be an overabundance of girth and mean-spiritedness.

Current and former players—each of whom is African-American—are speaking out about cruel, despicable remarks allegedly made by Mangino.

Why now?

Kansas is losing, 1-6 in the Big 12 Conference, two years after winning the Big 12 and representing the conference in a BCS game, the Orange Bowl.

Players who have long incurred the wrath of Mangino now see blood in the water and want nothing better than to harpoon him.

Former player Raymond Brown, whose brother had been shot and wounded, said Mangino told him, “I’ll send you back to St. Louis where you can get shot by your homies.”

Former linebacker and team captain Joe Mortensen said Mangino threatened him by saying, “I’ll send you back to the ghetto. You can stand on the corner and drink out of a paper bag.”

Former Kansas wide receiver Dexton Fields said he heard Mangino tell another player, “You want to be a lawyer? You’re going to be an alcoholic just like your dad.”

For a college student of limited means on an athletic scholarship, the threat of having that scholarship revoked creates a chilling effect.

It is nothing short of psychological torture.

My attempts to reach former Kansas All-America Aqib Talib, now a rookie cornerback with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, have been unsuccessful.

But I’ll keep trying.

Mangino brought his demoralized Jayhawks to Texas last Saturday night, where they were slaughtered by the Longhorns 51-20.

One Texas fan brought the following sign to the game:

“Mark Mangino Eats His Players.”

Whether the players’ allegations are spot-on or exaggerated, Mangino appears to be a goner at KU.

How can he (or any assistant) walk into the home of an African-American recruit whose background approximates those of the players assailing Mangino and convince a parent that their son would be in good hands?

That Coach Mangino would care for their son as if he were his own?

Too many players, past and present, are making too many of the same allegations about Mangino for them to be purely coincidental.

On a radio show last week, Mangino claimed “99 percent” of his players at Kansas have had no problem with him.

Well, where are they?

So far, I have heard just two Kansas players defend Mangino.

Quarterback Todd Reesing told the Associated Press, “He came here to a team that was undisciplined and a program that lacked it and he established discipline and got guys to work hard and believe in themselves.”

Reesing may be accurate in describing his relationship with Mangino.

But it’s worth noting that Reesing is not African-American.

Nor is he from a family of limited means or a hardscrabble neighborhood.

Mangino probably has never spoken to Reesing in the same disrespectful tone he is alleged to have used with the black players.

Perhaps Mangino bullies players without displaying any tough love to try to compensate for his own shortcomings.

The unmistakable fact is when Mangino stands on the sideline he resembles a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade float at rest.

Clearly, this morbidly obese man is not able to manage his own body, which would make it impossible for me to entrust him with my progeny.

While Mangino does not literally eat football players, he also does not seem to nurture their spirit or teach them anything that will make them better men.

A Lombardi he most certainly is not.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Putting the Ire in Ireland

American sports fans almost got to know Thierry Henry because of a Gillette commercial in which he appeared in 2007 with Tiger Woods and Roger Federer.

Almost, but not quite.

Henry was replaced in the Gillette spot last year by New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter.


American audiences did not recognize Henry, a black French soccer star.

Outside of the U.S. and Canada, Henry still appears in the Gillette spot.

Anonymity is something Henry (pronounced AHN-ree) might prefer today.

Instead, he is Public Enemy No. 1 in Ireland because of a hand-aided goal in a World Cup qualifying match yesterday that will send France to the world’s biggest sporting event instead of Ireland.

“Yes, the ball touched my hand,” Henry admitted to reporters. “But I’m not the ref.”

Henry is right. The referee should have disallowed the goal.

But Henry’s answer will never sit well with the Irish, or with anyone who wants athletes to be sportsmen.

Henry cheated. The ball didn’t hit his hand by mistake.

That Henry got away with it does not justify the act.

The ball went from Henry’s left hand to his right foot and across the goalmouth to teammate William Gallas who scored to give France a 1-1 tie—and a 2-1 edge in goal differential in the two matches against Ireland.

That is why France, the 2002 World Cup champions, is going to South Africa for the 2010 Cup and Ireland is going home kicking and screaming.

“Outrageous!” “Disgraceful!” “Cheat!”

Those are the some of nicer headlines in the international media because of L’Affaire Henry.

This is, quite simply, the biggest sports story in the world outside of North America.

Here, we call the sport soccer. The rest of civilization calls it football.

Ireland’s justice minister is calling on FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, to replay the match.

To do otherwise, he argues, is to officially sanction cheating.

A replay would be the fairest way to decide matters. Either that, or resume the match with France throwing in the ball in Ireland’s end at roughly the point when the tainted goal occurred.

But don’t expect either to happen.

Germany didn’t get a do-over in the 1986 World Cup final after losing to Argentina on Diego Maradona’s infamous “Hand of God” goal.

That Henry readily admitted touching the ball yesterday doesn’t make him a better sportsman than Maradona.

Henry had little choice. Sports fans around the globe have seen Henry’s sleight-of-hand frame by frame, in super-slow motion, from multiple angles.

Now, FIFA has no choice but to use video replay technology in the World Cup.

But only for goals, as the National Hockey League does.

Not for offside calls. Not to hand out yellow cards or red cards retroactively for infractions missed by the referee.

But there’s no way TV viewers should know more about what’s happening in a World Cup match than the referee on the field.

Can you imagine the international outcry if the World Cup was awarded on a goal that would have been overturned by video replay?

Given the outsized passion of soccer fans, lives could be lost.

At least some good should come out of L’Affaire Henry…albeit not for Ireland. Alas, the luck of the Irish has run out.