FAREWELL MY YOUNG FRIEND
I have not written a column for a while. It’s been nearly a month, maybe over a month. I could say I have been busy, but truth is…I really haven’t had much to say. Not working in sports radio anymore, I have started to find a distance growing between my love of sports and I.
My sports “takes” just aren’t as strong anymore. Plus, I have been put on meds for anxiety and anti-depression because before them, everything bothered me. So many things, both in sports and life itself, got under my skin. My irritability was affecting my marriage and my life in general. Being put on these meds has worked for me in one way—I am much more chill now and even tempered.
It has NOT worked for my writing. Reason being is that I haven’t had the fire about things in sports that I had before. Nothing gets me fired up anymore. Sports aside, I needed to write tonight. Reason being, that I have been put in touch with my own mortality today, probably moreso than I ever have been in my life.
I lost an old friend today. Well, not really an old friend, but a young friend…who I hadn’t seen or talked to in the last 27 years of my life. At one time, Joe Pavone was a big part of my life. My young life. My childhood.
I met Joe when I was probably around 12 or 13 years old. Back then, my parents had a summer cottage on Canandaigua Lake in the Finger Lakes of upstate NY. It was actually a mobile home, in a mobile home park in Vine Valley, right on the lake, off East Lake Road. Joe’s family had another mobile home in the same park.
After a few weekends of going down there, I began to assimilate into the culture. I started meeting new friends my age, and one of the first was Joe Pavone. He and I were pretty different. Joe had long hair for a boy even then. I didn’t. Joe was 100% Italian. I was 100% German. Joe was pretty quiet. I was pretty outgoing. Joe loved rock music. I loved sports. But together, we just clicked right off the bat.
I remember one of our first excursions. We decided to walk the Bare creek, which emptied into Canandaigua Lake but started somewhere inland. We weren’t sure where, but we decided to find out. We walked it about a half mile, when it turned from a creek into more of a pond. We decided we didn’t want to get wet up to our underarms, turned and went back. It was always one adventure after another for Joe and I.
I remember the night we saw a raging bonfire halfway up South Hill, which bordered Vine Valley. Joe had to find out what was going on up there, so we trudged up the dirt road up the hill. We got to where the fire was and heard people…singing and chanting. Joe insisted on going into the woodline and off the road to get a better secretive vantage point.
When we got to the perfect view, we saw a dozen or so 20-somethings, sacrificing some kind of animal over the fire while chanting. Pagan ritual? Satanic worship ceremony? We didn’t know, but we agreed on one thing—we had to get the hell outta there.
As we tried to sneak away, one of us stepped on a branch, and behind us, we heard the chanting stop and someone yell, “Hey, someone’s there! Who is it!? Let’s get em!” We just said to each other, “RUN!” and took off down the hill like bats outta hell (perhaps literally), jumping into a gully on the side of the paved road at the end of the dirt road.
We freaked out, ducking next to each other, while these weirdos drove slowly by in cars shining flashlights just over our heads. We somehow made it back to my cottage safely and unharmed, but that memory of that night with Joe remains vivid in my mind as if it just happened last weekend, not 30 years ago.
It was incidents like these that made me look forward to weekends at the cottage, hanging out with my pal Joe.
I had an orage huffy bike with a black bicycle seat at the time at the lake. Joe and I had to watch our favorite show at the beginning of each weekend—the Dukes of Hazzard. We came to call my bike, “the General Lee” of course, and Joe brought his bike down there as well. We would ride around everywhere together like little hellions, pretending I was Bo Duke and he was Luke. We would set up jumps at the end of the steep hill that led down to the water, and I still remember both of us flying 20-25 feet in the air after hitting our ramp, then landing and hitting the brakes, skidding into an impressive 180. All the other kids thought Joe and I were so cool.
When we felt like chilling out, we would take my boombox with us, and go out on the boat dock to my family motorboat sitting in its hoist. We would just get in the boat in the hoist and jam out to Van Halen, Foreigner, Molly Hatchet and so on for hours. All the other kids thought we were just so cool.
We used to do something called “tandem skateboarding” which we thought we invented. It consisted of laying both of our skateboards side by side, about a foot and a half apart. We would then sit down on them, facing each other. We would put our feet on each others board and grab each others biceps. Once you started moving, you would steer by leaning back or forward.
We would go up to the top of the steep S-curve beyond the Indian Village campground, where the road sign told drivers “15 mph”. We would then tandem skateboard down this S-curve, reaching speeds of around 40 mph by the time we reached the church. It was insane, and our parents would have surely killed each of us if they ever caught us doing it, but it was such a rush, and we trusted each other enough that we just KNEW we could avoid any cars if we ever had to.
It was such a carefree time. It was such a fun time in my life, and I have nothing but fond memories of that time in my life, and my time spent with Joe.
When I graduated high school, things changed, as they often do. I stopped going down to the cottage as much once I went away to college in Florida. I got a girlfriend, who I wanted to spend most of my weekends with. I grew up. Popping wheelies and doing 180 spins on my bike with Joe didn’t seem as much fun or as important anymore.
We pretty much lost touch around that time. I saw Joe one more time after I graduated and came home from college. I remember he came over to my house in Irondequoit, and we went out somewhere and had a few beers and just hung out. But being buddies away from Canandaigua Lake was never to be for us.
I found out today on facebook that Joe Pavone died this morning. I don’t have all the details, but from what I read, Joe had stage four cancer of the liver and kidneys.
The news hit me hard. Ironically, I had just had a dream within the past couple of weeks, that I had gotten together with Joe, Ed Kaiser, Brian Vincent and Ben Smith and we had a reunion of sorts with all my buddies from my youth at Canandaigua Lake. After that dream, I was honestly going to begin looking those guys up and see if I could make a dream come true and actually do that in reality. Now, the realization that won’t be happening saddens me deeply.
After I “friended” Joe on Facebook last winter, I had called the number on his page. I got a voice mail message. I left a message on it for Joe, but I never heard back from him. I guess I felt like he didn’t want to bother hooking up with me again.
Now I’m thinking, with him battling stage four cancer, he must have had other things on his mind.
The thing that is strange is that Joe Pavone will forever live in my mind as a teenager. I know he lived halfway into his 40’s, but the young Joe is all I know.
It also is very sobering. Joe Pavone can’t die! He is a 14 year old boy, jumping his bike 20 feet and skidding into an impressive 180 skid stop. That’s how I remember Joe. The always fun, exciting, up for anything, adventurous, exuberant kid.
I wish I could have known him as an adult though, and now, I’m very saddened that I will never get that chance.
If there is a moral of my story here, it’s that you should never wait til tomorrow or next week to look someone up. Don’t take for granted that they will always be there. Don’t wait around to tell someone what they have meant to your life. You may never get that chance.
Rest in peace, my friend Joe. Rest in peace. And save that other skateboard up there for me. We’ll ride again sometime.
ROGER, OVER AND OUT
Should Roger Goodell step down as the NFL commissioner? Should the NFL owners band together and fire Roger Goodell?
These are the two main questions that seem to be bouncing around on NFL themed TV shows, ESPN, Twitter, sports talk shows and every other sports media outlet.
It is the way it goes in the US workplace. Anytime anything goes wrong, there has to be a fall guy. There can't be any understanding. There can't be any second chances. If comeone screws up in any way, deceives or makes one bad decision, his head has got to roll! That is the way everyone sees things nowadays. It's one thing that bothers me now, especially since it happened to me.
I had a friend of mine rail against Roger Goodell the other day. He was saying how horrible it is that Goodell hasn't cracked down on this latest wave of domestic violence among NFL players. He was incredulous that Ray Rice originally only got a two game ban when the original video was known of, and then suspended indefinitely after the second part of the video was known. He says Goodell needs to send a firm precedent when punishing Adrian Peterson and Jonathan Dwyer and Greg Hardy and so on. He thinks it is appaling how NFL violence away from the field is spiking and out of control, and players need to be "taught a lesson". He says Goodell needs to lose his job.
He is not alone. Many, many other NFL fans seem to feel the same way.
So, do I feel that Roger Goodell should step down, or be fired? Well, to me, it all depends on the answer to one question. Did Goodell know of the NFL having the full Ray Rice video (or saw it himself) right from the beginning, and if so, did he fall victim to the Ravens owner and front office's pleas to "take it easy on him" and/or knowingly try to "sweep the incident under the rug"?
If the answer to that question is YES, then I believe a case could be made. If not, or it cannot be proven, then Goodell has the right to stay at his post.
The thing is, this whole domestic violence thing among NFL players is nothing new. This did not just start a few months ago with Ray Rice, or Adrian Peterson, or Greg Hardy. NFL players have been givin' whupin's at home since football was invented. It is a violent sport, and it is hard to turn that violent streak off once players walk in the door saying, "Honey, I'm home!".
Remember Lawrence Phillips? The St. Louis Ram and former Nebraska great running back who once dragged his woman down a flight of stairs after knocking her out? Remember Rae Carruth? The Carolina Panther receiver that shot and killed his pregnant girlfriend and is now doing life in prison? Remember those pictures we saw at OJ Simpson's trial? The ones of Nicole's face all battered and bruised by OJ when he was still playing with the 49ers? Remember Larry Johnson, the all-pro running back, who was arrested on THREE separate assaults of his significant other? Remember Michael Vick, who committed atrocities to dozens of pit-bulls, killing many?
No, NFL players engaging in domestic violence has been going on for a long time. Sadly, domestic violence has been going on in general since the days of the caveman. We like to think we have evolved. We like to think that humanity has become a world of pacifists. For some of us, that is true. For others, it is not...unfortunately.
The main difference is that now, there are far more cameras, everywhere, that are standing guard to catch those of us who commit that domestic violence. With more and more people (mostly men, but some women) being caught doing it, and better media covereage of these people, more people are aware of it than every before.
And this is a good thing!
But does it mean that Roger Goodell should be fired? I don't think so.
Goodell has shown something that you don't often see in a sports commissioner: contrition. He has admitted that he made a terrible mistake in his handling of the Ray Rice matter. Because of it, and the backlash against it, he realized how upset the rest of the world is by his lack of a punishment. I highly doubt he will be lenient with anybody anymore.
Goodell has been a good commissioner for the NFL. He has the support of the owners. He has been strong with most of the punishments for spygate, bountygate and all the other fiascos during his tenure. He has been strong with his enforcement of NFL rules, punishing hundreds of players with serious fines over the years. He has done whatever he can to help players safety--from equipment changes, to rule changes and enforcement. And the bottom line--he has increased the popularity of the league since he took over from Paul Tagliabue.
Even with all of the outrage over the domestic violence recently, NOBODY has stopped watching! The NFL is the lead on sportscasts all over the country. The NFL Network has become one of the most popular cable networks. Fantasy football keeps growing in popularity among both sexes every year. A recent poll showed that 89 % of those polled said their viewing of NFL games will not be affected by all of the recent domestic violence incidents.
As long as that is the case, and advertisers are not walking away from the NFL, I don't think Roger Goodell is going anywhere.
NFL DOUBLE STANDARD IS WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS COUNTRY
I read a story today that incenses me. That is nothing unusual. Many, many things about this world that I live in currently insense me, but this is particular made my blood boil.
The story has to do with Robert Griffin III, and a post game interview after his game yesterday. Griffin, of course, got hurt yesterday in his game, dislocating his ankle, which will keep him out of action for 4-6 weeks.
It was after this game, that Griffin was heading to a press conference to discuss his injury and the team's performance. He happened to be wearing a t-shirt that said "Know Jesus, know peace" on the front of it. As he was heading to the presser, NFL uniform police inspector Tony McGee told Griffin that he couldn't wear the shirt "because it wasn't a Nike product", according to a reporter from the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Griffin was still allowed to wear it though, but he had to turn it inside out. This seems like bull to me. If he couldn't wear it, then he shouldn't have been allowed to wear it. Making him turn it inside out certainly makes it look like something else to me. It makes it look like the NFL is discriminating against religious messages.
Unless the brand name was clearly marked aside the message on the front, it doesn't make any sense to me why RG3 wouldn't have been allowed to wear it. If censure is the main purpose of that conversation, that is wrong, and it shows one of the things that is totally wrong with this country.
It shows how the liberals are winning.
What if Griffin wanted to go to that press conference weating a shirt that said "Jihad rules!"?
I'll tell you what would happen. No one would say anything, and he would be allowed to wear THAT shirt. Why? Because the NFL would never want to offend pro-Muslim groups. It's the way it goes in our society nowadays.
It sickens me that putting down Christianity is en vogue in the US. It's ok for networks to cut away from an interview from a player when he starts praising God, Jesus, or his faith, but by all means, don't stop anyone when they say anything about Allah. Wouldn't want to offend those folks, but if someone is Christian, and proud of it--go to the next shot.
It's one of the main explanations why Tim Tebow is not in the league anymore. It's why so many people are reviled by Tebow, and yet, so loved by others.
The liberal left has created a double standard in this country that is becoming so pervasive, yet no one is saying anything about it. They can't, or they fear the reprisals.
They cover up any reference to God on buildings behind politicians who are making speeches in front of those buildings, but any group who wants to pray to Mecca is allowed to do so anywhere they want, even if it invonveniences others.
They are trying to get God written out of all government documents and the Pledge of Allegiance. Schools make children who are wearing religious shirts to school, go back home and take them off, but any child who wants to wear a burqa to school is allowed to do so without anyone batting an eye.
Religious freedom is one thing. The US Bill of Rights allows for freedom of religion for anyone in this country. Oppression of religion is another, and that is what has been happening more and more in this country.
And that pisses me off.
I am admittedly not the most religious person in the country. By far. I am by no means a bible thumper. I am a Christian though, and I am proud of, and stand by my beliefs. It totally ticks me off when someone else who is a Christian and wants to testify to THEIR beliefs, get told that they can't.
Robert Griffin III wanted to wear a religious themed shirt in a press conference. What would really be wrong with that? Why would that be hurting anyone? With all the domestic violence, child abuse, drug use, assaults and murder going on with NFL players lately, why would outlawing a player wearing a religious shirt be the best choice?
The double standard doesn't stop at just religion of course. Racism has a major double standard that no one has a problem with. A black person can call another black person the N word all day long, but there is no problem there. A white person ever utering that word even once in their lives, and their entire life is ruined (Paula Dean). Charles Barkley can say all he wants about a white player being slow and not being able to jump, but if a white person ever says anything about black people being bred to be better athletes (Jimmy the Greek, Al Campanis), their lives are ruined.
We will never be able to move forward in this country until there is equality as to what is accepted and what is not. You can't have freedom of expression for some, but repression of expression for others.
It's just not right, and it's just not fair.
WHY IS EVERYONE SHOCKED ABOUT RICE?
People are stupid.
How else can you explain the huge story that rages on this week about Ray Rice.
We got ten extra seconds of video from TMZ about Ray Rice and that unfortunate incident with his wife back in February, and suddenly, the whole world changed! For Rice. For his wife. For the Ravens. For the Ravens fans. For football fans. And most importantly, for victims of domestic violence.
Don't get my point wrong folks. I am not saying that this is unfortunate for Rice and that I am saying this weeks news minimizes things for victims of domestic violence. My point it that the outrage everyone is feeling this week should have been felt when news first came out MONTHS AGO about Rice hitting his wife.
We are such of a visual society aren't we? What happened this week proves that. We don't believe ANYTHING unless we see it with our own eyes! If I don't see it, it didn't happen. That is how most of us obviously look at things in our world.
I'm not talking about the average person here either. I am talking about dozens and dozens of people who should have known better from the start.
The Ravens organization, who soldiered up for Ray Rice, and supported him during "this tough time", and pledged their unwavering support for one of their own, who is dealing with a tough situation.
The national media, who covered the story, showed the video and somehow, still focused on how this will affect the Ravens, and what Rice's fantasy stock is, and showed his apology in his press conference about the event.
The NFL and Roger Goodell, who "punished" Rice with a debilitating TWO GAME SUSPENSION for the event. The incident where Rice had domestic violence with his wife, and was seen dragging her out of an elevator like a caveman dragging his kill back to the fire. Meanwhile, Josh Gordon, who smoked a little pot and got caught for it, gets a full season suspension. Wes Welker downs some cold medicine and gets four games. Same for Matt Prater. And so on and so on and so on....
To his credit, Roger Goodell came out to the media last week and admitted that he made a mistake in the Ray Rice situation. He did so before the shit hit the fan, saying that two games was not anywhere close enough to what Rice should have gotten.
Now, days after that admission, ten extra seconds of video came out, and Ray Rice now has an INDEFINATE suspension from Goodell and the NFL. He was fired in essence, by the Ravens and the NFL. He can't work his craft for the Ravens, or any other team in the NFL.
Where was this months ago?
People are stupid.
Now, all of the media are questioning why the NFL never saw a 2nd tape. Did the NFL or the Ravens see the 2nd tape before this week?
It's all BS. That shouldn't matter.
This is all because of ratings. This is all about "THE STORY". This all should have happned months ago.
When the Ray Rice story first broke early in the spring that a tape of Rice dragging his unconscious wife out of an elevator at a casino hotel, everyone should have done what they did this week.
Just because you had a tape of the aftermath and not the actual tape of the violence, shouldn't have mattered in this situation. What did everone think....that the "Casino Elevator Ghost" took a sledgehammer to Janay Rice that night? Did they think that Janay Rice decided to push the hotel floor elevator button with her nose and lost her balance? Did they think she tripped over Ray Rice's giant running back feet getting into the elevator and banged her head into the elevator wall?
No, SHE WAS UNCONSCIOUS!!!! Even if ANY of those things happened, chances are, she WOULDN'T BE UNCONSCIOUS!!! She wouldn't have had to be DRAGGED out of the elevator! I mean, C'MON! Have a little grasp of reality here folks. Smart folks, who should have known better.
You have two people who go into an elevator in a casino hotel high rise. One comes out of the elevator dragging the other one....what do you think happened? Sheesh, it should not have taken a swami to figure that out!
The bottom line is that so many people got this wrong from the start. The NFL got it worng.... BADLY. The sports media got it wrong....BADLY.
Now, Ray Rice and his brand new wife Janay have to start out their new marriage....BADLY.
I feel sorry for them actually. After the incident, Janay actually went through with the wedding, marrying Ray Rice, the NFL running back, who made millions doing his job. Now, because of this incident on video caught on tape, Rice is out of football. Can this loving couple make it work, with all this media crush on them and now, with Rice losing his considerable salary?
I take that back....I feel sorry for Janay. Not Ray.
He deserves everything he is getting now and should have gotten months ago.
She deserves much better.
We all need to learn from this. The bottom line is that PUTTING YOUR HANDS ON A WOMAN IS WRONG!!! Hitting a woman for any reason is wrong!
I know this. Most of you guys know this. Hopefully, the rest of you guys who didn't know this will now learn it. Ray Rice better learn it, because now that he doesn't have the protection of the NFL, if he does it again, it's serious jail time, which will be well deserved. And there won't be any media coverage.
THE SOCCER REVOLUTION IS NOT COMING
I'm hearing it again. That low rumble of the population talking. Like a train coming in the distance. Like the sound of thunder in the distance.
It's actually growing louder now. You hear it when you are walking around the supermarket. You hear it when you are sitting in a restaurant. You hear it next to you when you are working out at the gym.
It is the talk of America...that with the popularity of this years World Cup, soccer will be the next big thing in this country.
You hear this talk every four years. Maybe every two years if it is a Summer Olympics year. It comes on strong for a couple of weeks, then, leaves a few weeks later with a whimper.
AND THEN NOTHING CHANGES!
It takes everything in my being to hold back and not tell the people I hear saying that, that IT IS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN!
I've heard the arguments for years. Decades, really. The soccer proponents say "Oh, there are so many kids playing soccer right now. It's such a cheap sport to play--all you need is a ball, a t-shirt, a pair of shorts, socks and for the lucky ones, cleats. Youth soccer is so well organized, with leagues all over the country, in every big city and small town. It can't help but grow, and when these kids grow up, they will be so good from playing since they were toddlers, that the US team will succeed and win a World Cup eventually, and then, watch soccer really take off!"
I have heard that soccer talk since the early 1970's, which was really the first wave of soccer optimism in this country. Hell, I was a part of it.
That first wave of interest started around 1975, when the New York Cosmos signed the Michael Jordan of soccer, Brazilian star Pele. They soon also added Italian star Giorgio Chinaglia and German star Franz Beckanbauer. American goaltender Shep Messing also became a household name and starred in numerous TV commercials.
Around that time, soccer gained popularity big time. The NASL drew huge crowds, especially when the Cosmos came to town, and kids like me joined soccer leagues everywhere.
I soon found out that as cheap soccer was to play, it was even more boring to actually play. When you are ten years old, a soccer field seemed as large as some small counties, and most of the time, you just would run back and forth, up and down the field, errr, pitch. The ball would bounce around from kid to kid who actually knew how to "dribble" the soccer ball and then kick it, while the rest of us just ran up and down, back and forth, on the off chance that one of these kids would actually lose the ball or accidentally kick it to one of us.
In these games, scoring was reserved for these soccer wunderkinds, and half the kid's on the field wouldn't come close to kicking the ball once. Some times, the goaltender on one of the teams would eat an apple or two or a twinkie while the "action" was on the other end of the field, which could be for hours.
Needless to say, I was not enamored with playing the game of soccer, and my experience lasted only one season. Of the guys on the team, I think only Scott Kroner and I never figured in a goal. In fact, I think the two of us touched a soccer ball (with our feet of course) a half dozen times all season. It was a joke and a complete waste of time.
Unfortunately for soccer, there are too many kids like Scott and I. Even the lil' soccer "stars" in youth soccer often grow up and found that playing baseball, football or basketball was much more fun to play, more popular, and made it easier to get chicks.
Here is the other thing about soccer that annoys most people when they are not watching the World Cup: NOBODY SCORES!
Most Americans couldn't give a rats ass about all the chess maneovering of soccer. All the going forward towards the goal and then passing the ball BACKWARDS five times until the team with the ball is back near their own goaltender again, who says "hey, the other goal is THAT WAY". Then "attacking" again, going forward toward the opponents goal, only to go backwards again. Doesn't make sense to most fans. A team seems like they can have the ball in their possession for ten minutes and not get off a single shot!
With soccer, there isn't another sport that can have such a level of activity--players are always moving, the ball is usually in play--with so little actually happening. In short, soccer is a sport with a whole lotta NOTHING going on.
People are watching the World Cup. That's great for a sport! Problem is, when anyone watches a soccer game where two of the world's best teams aren't playing, they are bored to tears. That's NOT a great thing for a sport.
Quick....name three teams in Major League Soccer?! I doubt many can do it. I can think of the New England Revolution, the New York/New Jersey Red Bulls (or did they fold?), the Portland Timbers, the Seattle Sounders
annnd how about the LA Galaxy. Or is that the WNBA team? And I bet I am on the high end of people who can think of US professional teams.
In that league, the average attendance is 19,996 per game, which is skewed because some teams, like Portland and Seattle, sell out all their games in the soccer crazed Pacific Northwest. Twenty thou a game isn't terrible, but it's not rivaling major league baseball.
Soccer is a niche sport, that is loved by foreigners, immigrants and assimilated Americans. For folks in most other countries, it is the primary sport, mainly because there aren't any other sports the masses can afford.
For Americans, it will continue to be a niche sport. It will NEVER take over as the primary sport in the US. Never EVER! It will not become more popular than baseball, football, basketball or hockey. Not in my lifetime. Most likely, not in our grandkids lifetime. No matter how many World Cups we win.
The next time I hear anyone saying how soccer will become the next big thing, I am seriously going to tell them they have taken one too many "headers".
HEY LPGA--GOOD RIDDANCE!
No-el, No el, No LPGA!
Remember that oh so annoying radio and TV commercial that used to air all the time around the holiday season? It used to air constantly around the Rochester area, urging golf fans to buy their tickets for the upcoming summer's LPGA tour event.
It would implore you, that if you didn't get your tickets soon, there would be "no Lopez, no Sorenstam...no Natalie Gulbis as your favorite stocking stuffer!"
Little did we know at the time all those years, it would also be a very prophetic little diddy. That's because after this August's Wegmans LPGA Championship, the golfers will all be packing into their little golf carts, and driving away from Rochester for good.
Twenty...fifteen, maybe even ten years ago, I would have been devastated by this news. The annual LPGA tour stop was a big deal here in golf crazed Rochester.
The event started way back in 1977, when Pat Bradley won the "Bankers Trust Classic". What was a Bankers Trust anyways? It was a local bank I believe. It's been so long ago, that I can't even recall what Bankers Trust eventually morphed into. It was a nice new little tour event that didn't really catch on until the next year when a young upstart named Nancy Lopez was becoming the "Jack Nicklaus of the LPGA tour". Lopez won a record fifth straight weekly tour stop at Locust Hill, and a legend...and a tournament...was born.
Rochester galleries fell in love with Nancy Lopez and "Nancy's Navy" would push her to more tournament wins in the Roc and great success. It was a mutual love affair too. Nancy Lopez fell in love with Rochester as much as the town embraced her.
Largely because of Nancy Lopez, the yearly LPGA event was a "can't miss" event in town. It was a place to socialize, and catch up with fellow fans many would only see once a year--at the tournament. The "fan favorite" mantle began to fade from Nancy as her game did the same, and that torch was passed to Patty Sheehan--a diminutive warrior in golf slacks and a visor. Sheehan would win FOUR times in Rochester, many in thrilling fashion.
After Sheehan, Rochester adopted Rosie Jones, Karrie Webb and Lorena Ochoa, who all won twice here. They also fell in love with Anneka Sorenstam and Laura Davies along the way. Yes, it was a great tounament for many years.
That all seems so long ago.
Last year I said pretty much the same thing, but I made a mistake. I made a mistake in phrasing what I meant to say. I said last year that the local tour event was suffering from a real lack of interest over the last few years because of the preponderance of foreigners (specifically asians) on the tour.
It was a controversial opinion. It was an opinion that got my ass fired amidst a national controversy. It was an opinion that got me booked on numerous national radio shows to talk about my opinion and my firing because of it. It was an opinion that still to this day makes dozens of twitter followers of my column think I am a horrible racist. It was an opinion that, when people have met me over the past year, most have shared with me, and most are shocked that I was fired over it. It was an opinion that, for better or worse, changed my life.
A year has now passed, and you know what? I still have the same opinion. I would change one thing about it though--the wording of it. What I should have said is this: The LPGA is suffering with waning popularity because there are not enough dominant AMERICAN golfers!
That fact has hurt the interest level here in Rochester, and I'm sure it is affecting the interest level in most other AMERICAN cities. As for Rochester, it has nothing to do with what the tournament is called, whether it's a major or not or what course it is played at. It has just not been the same since the 90's or earlier. Why? Because of the lack of sucess of American golfers, plain and simple.
Take a look at the winners of the Rochester LPGA tour stop since 2000. The first year it was a major, 2010, American Christie Kerr won it. Since then, there has been a winner from Taiwan, a winner from China and one from South Korea. Prior to 2010, when it was just the Wegmans LPGA yearly tour stop, only ONE US golfer won, and her name was Kim Saiki, in 2004. You have to go back to 2000 to find another American born winner of the event and that was Meg Mallon.
That's THIRTEEN local LPGA events in Rochester, and only TWO US citizens who have won. Three for fourteen if you include Mallon.
That is why I said what I said last year. It has nothing to do with racism. It has to do with a sinking ship in this country, and the LPGA's misplaced aggression towards the future. By continuing to turn their back on the real problem, they will continue to see declining popularity in this country.
It is the same thing with tennis. Tennis used to be a big deal. A HUGE deal! Back in the 70's and 80's and into the 90's. Back in the day when Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Pete Sampras, Jim Courier and Andre Agassi were dominating the grass, clay and hardcourts. Now, no one cares about tennis. Why? Because there hasn't been a halfway decent American male tennis player since 1997 and only the Williams sisters have saved the country from complete embarrassment the last decade and a half.
The game of womens golf is headed down the same road, and the people in charge continue to have the blinders on as to reasons why. The tour bosses would rather watch their tour fade away into oblivion, than do anything to address the issue.
I understand the LPGA tour is an international tour, and there are events held in other countries, but at tour events held on US soil, why can't the tour think about restricting the number of foreign players in each event? The Japanese baseball league does it, and no one calls them anti-American racists. In Japanese baseball, each team may not have more than four foreign players in their active lineup, including the pitcher. They can have one foreign pitcher and three position players, but that's it. Why do they do this, do you think? Because they realize that Japanese fans like to cheer for Japanese players!!!
It's not rocket science folks. Call me a racist all you want, but I stand by my contention that it does no one any good when nine of the top ten finishers of most LPGA events in US cities are South Koreans and if the fans are lucky, maybe Paula Creamer sneaks in there. When you watch the Olympics, don't you cheer for the Americans??? When did it become a crime to be a proud American?
The LPGA Championship is moving onto a rotation of courses in and around New York City. They are going to get way more money from corporate sponsorships, and raise the purses. That will be great for the Koreans and other asian golfers, who'd love nothing more than taking all the American dollars they can get, and taking them back home to convert into their national currency to spend there. Meanwhile, the scores will plummet as these women golfers try to play Shinnecock Hills or Winged Foot or Westchester Country Club, and while the events will be televised by ESPN and other larger networks, fans will surely see more birds and squirrels taking in the event than actual fans.
The LPGA tour took the money grab, and in doing so, they are turning their backs on the good fans that actually still care about watching the event here in Rochester. They say it will be good for women's golf. I say it will backfire by showing the whole country of the United States what the tour has become--a tour that is dominated by foreigners--and that no one is attending the event.
I used to love the local LPGA tour stop. That was a long time ago. Now, I can fondly wave goodbye.
As a matter of fact, I wish the LPGA tour had left Rochester two years ago. I'd still have a job.
DID NFL ORCHESTRATE SAM DRAFTING?
Something seems a tad suspicious to me about the NFL draft and Michael Sam.
You know the story by now. Michael Sam came out of the closet around the time of the NFL combine. Said he was gay. Said he was content being gay. Wanted the world to know. Wanted the NFL to know. Sam wanted to be known as the first openly gay football player in history. Sam knew that his announcement was big news. He didn't seem to care. In fact, it seemed that he actually played the whole situation up, enjoying every interview.
Draft experts said that Sam, the SEC defensive player of the year, would likely be a third or maybe fourth round draft selection inthe May draft. They said that although Sam was a bit undersized, he had a non-stop motor and skills as a pass rusher. They said someone will take him in the draft, never minding the whole gay issue.
When the NFL draft actually came around though, a funny thing happened.
The third round went by, and Michael Sam wasn't drafted. The fourth round came and went, and Michael Sam wasn't drafted. The fifth and sixth round rolled by, and Michael Sam STILL wasn't drafted.
What in tarnations was happening? The NFL draftniks were surprised. The TMZ people, who were following the draft just to exult over Sam being drafted, were aghast. All the TV shows, like "Inside Edition" and "Access Hollywood", and all the pro gay media were besides themselves. How could it be that Michael Sam was still on the board halfway through the seventh round?
As the final round wore on, and team after team made their picks leaving Sam undrafted, the NFL offices had to be concerned.
Here the NFL was, in the middle of this huge human rights story. The NFL had a stake in this too. They helped stir up all the Michael Sam hoopla. The league's PR people set up interviews with Sam and numerous media outlets. This was supposed to be a crowning moment for them--that the NFL was happy to welcome an openly gay player into their ranks. They said that being gay wouldn't matter, and they were happy to help Michael Sam live his dream.
As the final round rolled by though, and Sam still wasn't drafted, time was running out on this NFL "feel good story". The NFL apparently miscalculated. Apparently, being gay DID matter to many NFL teams. How else would you explain Michael Sam falling like a stone into a pond?
This is where I am surmising that the NFL sprung into action. This is where Roger Goodell and the PR people in the NFL's offices must have gotten together for an emergency meeting. They couldn't let Sam go undrafted. What a public relations nightmare that would be, after all the hype over the previous months.
"What can we do about this", they commiserated. At the same time, the talking heads at ESPN that were announcing the draft, kept saying things like "The big story here now is when Michael Sam will get drafted". Not IF he would get drafted, but WHEN? It was almost as if they KNEW.
The other strange thing was there was no talk about drafting Michael Sam in the Rams war room minutes before they took him. Usually there is discussion and teams have an idea of who they will be taking with each pick, but in this case, it was like the Rams just decided at the last minute to take Sam.
I think Roger Goodell and company reached out to the Rams. Since Sam went to college at Missouri, the Rams were the natural fit. I think Goodell called Rams GM Les Snead in the war room and said to him, "We've got a problem. After all the hype and hoopla, we need to get Michael Sam drafted, so that we don't end up with egg on our collective faces. We've gone to bat for you,rescinding the suspension of Gregg Williams and allowed you dto hire him as your defensive coordinator. We helped to facilitate the RG3 trade for you and stood up for you when all the talk about moving the franchise back to Los Angeles, so we need you to do us a solid. Draft Michael Sam."
Again, how else would you explain it? The Rams biggest position of strength is defensive end. The Rams had the most sacks in the NFL last year. Chris Long and William Hayes combined for 13 and a half sacks. On the other side, Robert Quinn and Eugene Sims combined for 21. They drafted defensive tackle Aaron Donald in the first round. If there ever was a team that WOULDN'T need another pass rushing defensive end, it would be the Rams!
That being said, when training camp rolls around, you can bet on one thing--Michael Sam will NOT be cut. Even though the Rams have the positional depth of the Pacific Ocean at defensive end, they will not want to deal with the backlash from gay rights groups if the Turk axes Sam.
I predict that Michael Sam is put on the St. Louis Rams practice squad. He will stay there and practice with the team for a couple of years until all the hubbub dies down. Perhaps, late in the season, the Rams will add him to
the active roster if there is a game they don't need to win, just so that he can make a special teams tackle and give the gay rights people something to cheer about.
In my opinion, Sam went about this the wrong way. Instead of coming out quietly, like Jason Collins did, he came out with the bluster of a ringmaster in a three ring circus. In doing so, he is making it much tougher for any future gay athletes who are thinking about coming out.
It's really a shame to me. It should be all about what the guy can do on the football field. With Michael Sam though...it's not.