Articles By Scott Henry

Path: /news/49ers-ginn-joins-even-more-historic-company
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Multiple stories about the San Francisco 49ers' 33-17 Week 1 victory over the Seattle Seahawks mention kick returner Ted Ginn Jr.'s returning a kickoff and punt for touchdowns in the same game.

Ginn became the 12th player in pro football history to accomplish that feat with his 102-yard kickoff and 55-yard punt return in a 59-second span of Sunday's season opener.

A much less publicized achievement is that the game was Ginn's second with multiple kick return touchdowns. Ginn took two kickoffs to the house against the New York Jets on November 1, 2009.

With his miraculous minute against the Seahawks, Ginn became only the sixth player in league history to have two different games of multiple kick-return touchdowns.

Devin Hester was the last to join that club when he returned a punt and kickoff against Denver on November 25, 2007.

Ginn is only the second player to have his two different double-TD games as a member of different teams.

The six repeat scorers:

DB Jack Christiansen, Detroit
October 14, 1951 vs. Los Angeles Rams
November 22, 1951 vs. Green Bay

RB Travis Williams, Green Bay
November 12, 1967 vs. Cleveland
November 2, 1969 vs. Pittsburgh

RB/WR Eric Metcalf
October 24, 1993 vs. Pittsburgh (with Cleveland Browns)
November 2, 1997 vs. Cincinnati (with San Diego Chargers)

WR Jermaine Lewis, Baltimore
December 7, 1997 vs. Seattle
December 24, 2000 vs. New York Jets

WR Devin Hester, Chicago
December 11, 2006 vs. St. Louis Rams
November 25, 2007 vs. Denver

WR Ted Ginn, Jr.
November 1, 2009 vs. New York Jets (with Miami Dolphins)
September 11, 2011 vs. Seattle (with San Francisco 49ers)

The 12 players to score punt and kickoff touchdowns in the same game:

Jimmy Patton (NY Giants) October 30, 1955 vs. Washington
Bobby Mitchell (Cleveland) November 23, 1958 vs. Philadelphia
Al Frazier (Denver) December 3, 1961 vs. Boston Patriots
Gale Sayers (Chicago) December 3, 1967 vs. San Francisco
Travis Williams (Green Bay) November 2, 1969 vs. Pittsburgh
Eddie Payton (Detroit) December 17, 1977 vs. Minnesota
Michael Lewis (New Orleans) October 13, 2002 vs. Washington
Dante Hall (Kansas City) December 8, 2002 vs. St. Louis Rams
Darren Sproles (San Diego) November 11, 2007 vs. Indianapolis
Devin Hester (Chicago) November 25, 2007 vs. Denver
Eddie Royal (Denver) October 19, 2009 vs. San Diego
Ted Ginn Jr. (San Francisco) September 11, 2011 vs. Seattle

--Scott Henry (@4QuartersRadio)

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Post date: Monday, September 12, 2011 - 22:04
Path: /news/new-nba-labor-proposal-bring-back-drafts-third-round
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As the NBA and its players resume labor negotiations today, intriguing possibilities on one minor issue have begun to trickle into view.

The third round of the NBA Draft, which was removed after 1988, may be making a return, according to former ESPN basketball insider Chris Sheridan.

Owners have proposed reinstating the third round, which could be seen as a job-creating concession toward the players. Players, for their part, have responded with multiple ideas to enhance the draft and address owners' concerns about competitive balance.

Some of the players' proposals, according to Sheridan:

  • Half-rounds: The 15 teams with the worst records would hold the first 15 picks, but would then make the 16th through 30th selections, as well. The 15 best teams would choose 31st through 45th, then cycle through again from 46th through 60th. Having the league's worst team theoretically choose 1st and 16th could allow for the drafting of two immediate contributors and a quick rally to respectability.
  • Bonus first-rounders: The teams with the eight worst records would receive a second first-round pick between the 23rd and 30th selections. The eight best teams would have no first-round pick, but they would drop back to the first eight picks of the second round (31st through 38th) and also maintain their choices at the end of the second.

The last time the draft featured a third round, only one player chosen went on to a lengthy NBA career: Anthony Mason, drafted 53rd by Portland. Argentinian center Jorge Gonzalez, chosen one pick later by Atlanta, would gain some notoriety as the Sasquatch-suited WWF wrestler Giant Gonzalez, but never saw an NBA court.

Other notable third-round selections include longtime Nuggets guard Michael Adams, Laker veteran Kurt Rambis, and infamous Detroit Piston Bill Laimbeer.

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Post date: Wednesday, September 7, 2011 - 03:23
Path: /nfl/worst-sports-owners-tournament-quarterfinals
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By Scott Henry (@4QuartersRadio)

We're down to the quarterfinals of the WSOT, where eight crazy owners duel to see who's the worst in each individual sport. In case you need to look back at where we've been, here are the links to the earlier rounds:

Monday, Week 1: Baseball Round 1
Tuesday, Week 1: Football Round 1
Thursday, Week 1: Basketball Round 1
Friday, Week 1: Hockey/Soccer Round 1

Monday, Week 2: Baseball/Hockey/Soccer Round 2
Thursday, Week 2: Football/Basketball Round 2

Monday, Week 3: Quarterfinals
Wednesday, Week 3: Semifinals
Friday, Week 3: Final

So, by the end of this week, you can decide who's the kookiest owner in the history of sport. Just throw some votes on it, whether in the comments here or on the Facebook pages of Athlon Sports or 4 Quarters Radio.

Without further ado, here we go with the finals of each sport's bracket, barreling headlong toward the final four.

Worst Baseball Owner Final:

(1) Frank and Jamie McCourt (Los Angeles Dodgers 2004-present)
vs.
(2) Jeffrey Loria (Montreal Expos 1999-2002, Florida Marlins 2002-present)

McCourts def. Wayne Huizenga, Arnold Johnson
Loria def. David Glass, Marge Schott

The McCourts were able to triumph over Arnold Johnson because, despite Johnson’s frequent deals with the Yankees, few of them gave the indication that Johnson didn’t care about his team succeeding. Many of the McCourts’ moves since taking over the Dodgers indicated that owning the team was more about making the owners celebrities than giving the fans a good experience. As for Loria’s win over Marge Schott, Marge may have been comically cheap and an inveterate bigot, but once again, she cared about her club and especially about her club’s fans. Loria brought the pain more toward his own fans, particularly in Montreal, than his teams have brought toward their opponents.

As seen from the inclusion of such otherwise talented and successful owners as George Steinbrenner and Al Davis in the WSOT, one of the worst things that an owner can do is create a sideshow that hinders the fan’s enjoyment of the team. At least in the cases of Skeletor and The Boss, there was winning going on at some time. Ever since the McCourts took over, it’s been nearly all sideshow. The insanity reached its comic zenith when Jeff Fuller made a visit to Taiwan in December 2009.

Now for the million-dollar question: who's Jeff Fuller?

As far as Taiwanese legislator Chou Shou-Xun knew, Fuller was a Dodger executive, making a diplomatic overture for the team to play exhibition games in Asia before the 2010 season. Everyone else knows Jeff Fuller as the driver who was accused of having an affair with Jamie McCourt, one that resulted in Frank McCourt firing his wife from her CEO position and launching the divorce proceedings that have brought the franchise to its knees. Fuller’s trip to Taiwan came three months after he was fired from his “director of protocol” position. At least he was well-qualified, since Middle America figures that it’s typical Hollywood protocol for everyone to be banging everyone else’s wives anyway.

Like Steinbrenner or Davis, Loria did some winning shortly after arriving in Florida. The Marlins took the 2003 World Series behind aggressive trading, then slumped back down the standings behind equally aggressive trading that brought in prospects instead of sending them out. It’s what Loria’s done since that has placed him on this list, and also the image that he and his employees have chosen to cultivate.

President David Samson is Jeff Loria’s stepson, and was also the president of the Expos, both of which go a long way toward explaining how he keeps his job despite being a lightning rod for South Florida’s disdain of the way the Marlins have plundered the city (see Round 1). Samson is the guy who did a weekly interview on Dan LeBatard’s radio show and was often known to make some off-the-wall jokes about the Marlins, many of which also involved pornography in some way. Whether it was suggesting the Marlins implement a Porn Night promotion, insinuating that he had sex toys in his office, or offering comments on which Marlin players looked like porn stars (mercifully, there was no discussion of the players’ shower qualifications, if you catch our drift), Samson’s radio diatribes would make most other owners facepalm him into unemployment. Loria keeps him on and continues to cut him in for those hefty “management fees” that enable both of them to suck tens of millions out of the club.

But hey, at least they won a World Series, right? Now, as long as the city of Miami wants to pony up the hundreds of millions that the Marlins just don’t want to spend for a new stadium, the team may think about trying to go win another one someday.

 

Worst Hockey/Soccer Owner Final:

(1) Tom Hicks (Liverpool Football Club, 2007-2010)
vs.
(3) Harold Ballard (Toronto Maple Leafs, 1961-90)


Hicks def. Charles Wang, Atlanta Spirit Group
Ballard def. Freddy Shepherd, Bill Wirtz

Hicks and the Atlanta Sports Group were surprisingly similar cases, bringing infighting into the owner’s box, but the trump card for Hicks was his sheer brass in claiming that the conspiracy against him was so wide-ranging that it even involved one of England’s largest banks. With ASG, the friction began and ended with the nine men originally involved. As for Ballard beating Wirtz, what may have put Ballard over the top was his criminal record and the sheer lack of repentance that he demonstrated later.

While Wirtz was taking an active hand in dealing with the NHL’s labor issues, Ballard contented himself with a lot of pissing and moaning. One of the Leafs’ most popular players ever, Darryl Sittler still holds a record by scoring 10 points in a single game. Sittler was represented by agent Alan Eagleson, who was also the head of the NHL Players’ Association.

Both Ballard and new Leafs GM Punch Imlach had little use for Eagleson, who also represented Sittler’s linemate and friend Lanny McDonald. Imlach thought Sittler had too much influence in the locker room and began exploring trade options. When Eagleson mentioned that Sittler had a no-trade clause and that it would cost half a million dollars to get Sittler to waive it, Ballard and Imlach decided to do the next best thing: trade McDonald to the pitiful Colorado Rockies just after Christmas 1979. Several Leafs trashed the locker room in response, and Sittler ripped the captain’s C off of his sweater.

The following season, Sittler was reinstated as captain, but by the 1981-82 season, he and Ballard were at war again. Sittler volunteered several teams that he would agree to be traded to, but Ballard dragged his feet so severely on a deal that Sittler’s doctor advised that he simply walk out on the Maple Leafs, citing mental depression. Owners can frequently annoy their players, but how many can really say that they made their star players ill?

Tom Hicks appeared slightly ill himself when he gave a 2010 interview to Sky Sports News and recounted the history of his transfer dealings as Liverpool boss. Hicks claimed that the club had spent $300 million (or perhaps £300M, he had difficulties keeping his currencies straight) in buying players during his three-plus years in charge, and recouped half of that in selling others. Liverpool fan sites and blogs, in some of that “Internet terrorism” that Hicks enjoyed so much (see Round 2), took great delight in recounting Liverpool’s transfer history over the past three years and noting that the gross spend came to £172M, way off of the claimed £300M (but not far off of the $300M). While Liverpool recouped £144M in selling their own players, not far off of Hicks’ claimed figure, his need to puff up the club’s activity underscored just how ineffectual all the spending was.

Much like Jeff Loria above, Hicks took a black eye from a family member making obscene statements. Tom Hicks Jr. was exchanging emails with a fan who was inquiring about the club’s transfer budget, and apparently the questioning got a little uncomfortable. Hicks Jr. called the fan an “idiot,” then followed that up with another message reading in part, “Blow me, f*** face. Go to hell. I’m sick of you.” Unlike Loria, Hicks actually persuaded his son to resign from Liverpool’s board, but the PR stain added to the club’s already filthy reputation.

 

Worst Football Owner Final:

(1) Dan Snyder (Washington Redskins 1999-present)
vs.
(3) Bob Irsay (Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts, 1972-1997)

Snyder def. Ralph Wilson, Mike Brown
Irsay def. Hugh Culverhouse, Norman Braman

Which is worse: apathy toward a team’s fans, or outright hostility toward a team’s fans? Snyder practiced the latter, and that’s what set him apart from Brown. Brown has little incentive to improve his team, as he continues to rake money from the city of Cincinnati, but how much liability does the city have to bear for that? For Irsay vs. Braman, do you prefer an owner who’s never around, or an owner who’s always there, usually half-tanked, and causing chaos at every turn?

In Round 2, we got into the drunken coaching change that Irsay made when Howard Schnellenberger told him to go bugger himself rather than consent to the quarterback change that the owner was demanding. Funny enough, that wasn’t the only time he demanded such a move. In 1980, the Colts were trailing Miami by seven at halftime, and Irsay wanted Bert Jones replaced with Greg Landry. Head coach Mike McCormack refused, and Jones ended up leading the team back to a 30-17 win. Irsay still let McCormack have it after the game, although he should have been thankful he didn’t lash him in front of the team, as he was often known to do.

The following season, Irsay reached his nadir. He barreled into the coaches’ booth and commandeered the headset, taking over the team’s playcalling. Jones rolled his eyes, and then practiced his own brand of insubordination. "[Irsay] couldn't have told you how many players there were on the field, never mind what plays we had," said Jones, who was rotated with Landry on a play-by-play basis. "All he was trying to do was embarrass the coaches and the players. When he told me to run, I threw. When he told me to throw left, I ran right." In a development that should come as no surprise, the Colts lost that game 38-13 to the Eagles.

Dan Snyder has never tried to take over the play selection, to our knowledge, but he has perpetrated a lot of other mean, nasty behavior on his coaches. Norv Turner coached the Redskins to a division title in 1999 and was 7-6 in 2000, but that wasn’t good enough for Sa-Dan Hussein, and Turner was canned with three games left. The next year, Marty Schottenheimer rallied from a 0-5 start to finish 8-8. That was a failure, too, and Marty was fired, too. Even Joe Gibbs couldn’t recapture his vintage form, finishing four games under .500 under Snyder’s watch. “Win or die” is a motto that any coach could be said to live under, but Snyder took it to a new extreme.

For the coordinators, it occasionally became “Win or I’ll mess up your office.” Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan shared a story in John Feinstein’s book Next Man Up regarding Snyder’s taste in both defenses and ice cream. Snyder derided Nolan’s defensive calls as “too vanilla,” and to illustrate the point, he left a gallon of some other ice cream on Nolan’s desk. Nolan didn’t get the hint, apparently, so later on in that same season, three giant ice cream canisters were left in his office with a note saying “I wasn’t joking. I do not like vanilla.” Nolan got the hint and bailed after one year of Snyder’s meddling, getting out of Dodge before the owner could apply ice cream to his office walls with a fire hose.

 

Worst Basketball Owner Final:

(1) Donald Sterling (San Diego/Los Angeles Clippers, 1981-present)
vs.
(3) Chris Cohan (Golden State Warriors, 1994-2010)


Sterling def. Joe/Gavin Maloof, James Dolan
Cohan def. George Shinn, Ted Stepien

Sterling and Dolan can go ego for ego, and that’s saying something. But at least Dolan’s never been accused of being a virulent racist. As for Cohan, his 16 years of incompetence easily outstrips Ted Stepien’s three, even if Teddy was so out of it that the league needed to save him from himself.

In Round 2, we talked about Sterling’s issues with a “plantation” mentality. Occasionally, though, he took it to a somewhat creepy extreme. In Elgin Baylor’s age-discrimination suit against Sterling, he included a complaint in the name of players Elton Brand, Corey Maggette, and Sam Cassell regarding a disturbing habit Sterling was cultivating. Baylor claimed that the players would complain to him about Sterling bringing women into the locker room, and more specifically into the shower. While the nude players stood cleaning themselves, the owner would proudly gesture to them and invite the women to “Look at those beautiful black bodies,” as if he was conducting an 18th-century slave auction.

The people that Chris Cohan treated like dirt usually weren’t the ones he was paying, it was the people that were paying him. When the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum was being renovated during the 1996-97 season, the Warriors reached a deal to play in San Jose, about 40 miles to the south. In an attempt to strong-arm his way into a guaranteed revenue stream, Cohan told his season ticket holders that they would have to renew for the season in San Jose or lose their ticket tenure and priority when the team returned to Oakland. Essentially, fans that lived north of Oakland needed to travel another hour or they’d be erased from the books and have to start all over again. Little wonder that the Oakland fans were booing him in front of his son and Michael Jordan five years later at the All-Star Game.

So, which would you prefer? The racist “massa” or the grumpy cuss out of touch with the reality of being a fan?

 

As usual, throw some votes on it, and let’s see who gets down to the final four. There are some real titans of terror here, so hopefully the reading helped you make an informed decision. Check back in on Wednesday for the semifinals.

Teaser:
<p> Eight crazy owners battle for spots in the final four</p>
Post date: Sunday, August 21, 2011 - 11:56
Path: /nfl/worst-sports-owners-tournament-footballbasketball-round-2
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By Scott Henry (@4QuartersRadio)

Welcome to the second round of the Worst Sports Owners Tournament. We're down to 16 of the craziest owners ever. Some won, but spent other people's money like drunken sailors to do it. Some lost, and made themselves look like spoiled children in doing so. Your mission, should you be brave and intelligent enough to accept it, is to decide which is a more grievous offense.

The tournament will roll through three weeks, and the votes will be decided between Athlon’s editorial staff, the comments you post below each piece, and comments on the Facebook pages of Athlon Sports and 4 Quarters Radio. Remember, you’re voting for the owners whose crimes against sport, humanity, and/or nature were the most egregious. We’ll offer anecdotal evidence of each owner’s evil/incompetence, and if you’ve got more, feel free to throw it in.

Here’s the schedule:

Monday, Week 1: Baseball Round 1
Tuesday, Week 1: Football Round 1
Thursday, Week 1: Basketball Round 1
Friday, Week 1: Hockey/Soccer Round 1

Monday, Week 2: Baseball/Hockey/Soccer Round 2
Thursday, Week 2: Football/Basketball Round 2

Monday, Week 3: Quarterfinals
Wednesday, Week 3: Semifinals
Friday, Week 3: Final

In this installment, we see four of the NFL's biggest scoundrels and four NBA owners who had major issues relating to others.

Worst Football Owners Bracket:

(1) Dan Snyder (Washington Redskins 1999-present)
vs.
(4) Mike Brown (Cincinnati Bengals, 1991-present)

Round 1 Results:
Snyder def. Ralph Wilson
Brown def. Al Davis

Snyder, much like Donald Sterling in the basketball bracket, had plenty of evil-incarnate acts on his résumé, more than enough to see off Ralph Wilson and his mostly good-intentioned bumbling. Brown and Davis had one of the more contentious matchups of the round, with some people absolutely incapable of comprehending why Al was even in the tournament. In the end, Brown advances because Al had 25 years of great work and service to the game of football before he became a total doddering sideshow. Brown has proved nothing aside from his cheapness and incompetence since taking over the Bengals.

While being a Redskins fan is often frustrating, at times Snyder’s made it downright dangerous. In addition to the restroom refreshments mentioned in Round 1, Snyder also scored himself a bargain in 2005, when Independence Air went out of business. He must have gotten a sweet deal on the remaining stash of peanuts, because a year later, Independence Air nuts were still being sold at FedEx Field. The nuts stopped being shipped before Independence went under, and according to the American Peanut Council, the shelf life of a foil bag of peanuts is around three months or so. So, in essence, Dan Snyder told thousands of Redskin fans to choke on his rancid nuts. Literally.

In a more figurative violation of the people who pay for his excesses, Snyder’s ticket office went all pound-of-flesh in 2009 on 125 season ticket holders who struggled to make ends meet when the economic recession hit. Fans that backed out of their 10-year agreements to renew tickets were sued for full payment, plus interest and attorney fees. 72-year-old realtor Pat Hill, who was living on $400 per month from Social Security, became the poster case for the outrage over the Redskins’ money-grubbing. The team actually won a judgment for more than $66,000 in Hill’s case, but eventually agreed to vacate the judgment and leave Hill in relative peace.

Of course, Redskins attorney David Donovan still asserted that the whole affair was Pat Hill’s fault, saying in an e-mail, “I wish that you had returned our calls in 2008 or reached out to me in response to the letters I and others had sent you and explained your situation. If that had happened, we never would have proceeded with the claim against you." Hill was able to enumerate multiple calls, letters, and even visits to the Redskins’ offices to remedy the situation.

Being a Bengals fan has hardly been peaches and cream in its own right, but to the best of our knowledge, there have been no poisonous foods or vicious lawsuits against grandmothers. What there have been in Cincinnati are player arrests. Lots of them. 27 different Bengals have been arrested since 2000, a total of 35 different incidents. The late Chris Henry counted for six of those by himself. In 2007, Mike Brown decided he was going to take a stand. He was mad as hell, and he wasn’t going to take it anymore.

So, what did he do to draw the line in the sand with his hooligan players? Absolutely nothing. No, the stand was against new commissioner Roger Goodell and his desire to strengthen the NFL’s personal conduct policy. When Goodell wanted to expand the consequences of illegal activity, Brown was the only owner to stand up and speak against the idea. In a moment of sheer comedic gold, Brown is alleged to have said, “We should each be able to manage our own organization without the league getting involved. If we can’t manage it ourselves, we shouldn’t be running our businesses.”

Many Bengals fans couldn’t have said it better themselves.

 

(3) Bob Irsay (Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts, 1972-1997)
vs.
(7) Norman Braman (Philadelphia Eagles, 1985-1994)

Round 1 Results:
Irsay def. Hugh Culverhouse
Braman def. Art Modell

Irsay and Culverhouse were surprisingly similar guys, prone to taking their mistakes out on others. While Culverhouse occasionally blamed the fans for the Bucs’ troubles, he never moved the team. That’s a big trump card. Braman emerged as the first round’s most surprising winner, primarily due to the fact that several votes came from devout Ravens fans grateful to Art Modell.

Much like Alan Eagleson took the fall for some of Bill Wirtz’s less scrupulous maneuvers, Bob Irsay had his own personal fall guy in general manager Joe Thomas. Thomas had helped to broker Irsay’s purchase of the Rams and the subsequent trade for the Colts, being named GM as payment for services rendered. Thomas frantically set about reshaping the team, making eight trades in 11 days in 1973, including sending Colt legends Johnny Unitas and Tom Matte packing. Thomas got in over his head in 1974 when a drunken Irsay demanded that head coach Howard Schnellenberger change quarterbacks, provoking Schnellenberger to suggest that Irsay perform a physically impossible act upon himself. After the game, Irsay canned Schnellenberger and announced that Thomas was the new head coach, terrifying everyone including Thomas. The team finished 2-12 that season.

When Ted Marchibroda took over, the team made a major improvement, finishing 10-4 and starting a string of three straight division titles. During the 1976 preseason, though, another Irsay tantrum provoked Marchibroda’s resignation. Coach Ted gave Irsay a he-goes-or-I-go ultimatum regarding Thomas, and the owner sided with Thomas. One player revolt later, Thomas was sent to beg Marchibroda to come back. After the second division title, Irsay finally let go of Thomas. For all of Thomas’s goofy trades and poor people skills, however, he was the only thing standing between Irsay and firsthand control of all the team’s operations. After a few years, Thomas would almost come to be missed.

Braman’s tenure as owner of the Eagles wasn’t marked by the sort of interpersonal turmoil as Irsay’s years in Baltimore, but the fans weren’t terribly impressed with his tight-fisted approach to the team. A man who spent months at a time at a villa in the south of France and flew to games in his private jet, Braman could afford all but the most outrageous operating expenses. Unfortunately for Eagles fans, those outrageous expenses included things like players and scouts. The team only employed three or four college scouts, compared to most teams using a dozen. His hardline stance during the advent of free agency has already been documented. Holdouts and contract disputes were commonplace. Meanwhile, documents unearthed during antitrust actions in 1992 revealed that in 1990, Braman had paid himself a salary of $7.5 million, writing it down as expense instead of a portion of team profits. It’s his money, and he’ll hoard if he wants to (hoard if he wants to, hoard if he wants to).

Braman was a busy man in the early ‘90s, also heading up the Super Bowl Site Selection Committee in charge of determining host cities for sports’ biggest event. Super Bowl XXVII was awarded to Phoenix, Arizona until the league was presented with analysis of Arizona’s civil rights record, including the fact that there was no statewide Martin Luther King holiday. The NFL demanded the holiday be approved, and when it was shot down, the Super Bowl was yanked. SB XXVII ended up being held in that bastion of early ‘90s civil rights peace…Los Angeles, California. The game was played mere months after the Rodney King riots, a slightly greater racial catastrophe than a missing holiday.

Worst Basketball Owners Bracket:

(1) Donald Sterling (San Diego/Los Angeles Clippers, 1981-present)
vs.
(4) James Dolan (New York Knicks, 1994-present)

Round 1 Results:
Sterling def. Joe/Gavin Maloof
Dolan def. Howard Schultz

Sterling the Original turned away the Sterlings in Training, again relying on a long career full of anti-social behavior to trump the Maloofs’ wandering eyes. Dolan has a similar string of inexplicable decisions to his name, and Schultz just didn’t have the longevity to compete.

Athletes have occasionally accused owners of treating them like slaves. When a crusty old white man attempts to wring every drop of blood and sweat out of young black men for his own profit and gratification, it only takes one contract battle and the PR war that ensues for the rhetoric to ramp up pretty fast. In Donald Sterling’s case, though, the accusations are many, and there are legal documents to back them up. During Elgin Baylor’s wrongful termination suit against Sterling, the ex-Laker legend claimed that Sterling expressed a dream of “a white Southern coach coaching poor black players,” which Baylor promptly branded “plantation mentality.” Further, Baylor recounted an incident during contract negotiations with 1988 No. 1 draft pick Danny Manning. Sterling reportedly balked at some of Manning’s requests, saying “I’m offering a lot of money for a poor black kid.” Never mind that that poor kid’s father Ed was a longtime pro basketball player and assistant coach. If they’re black, they must be poor in Sterling’s world.

White staff didn’t have it a whole lot easier. In 2004, assistant coach Kim Hughes was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Sterling wasn’t about to go above and beyond to cover an employee’s out-of-network procedures, since he’s rich enough to not be concerned about public relations. Four of Hughes’ players (Marko Jaric, Elton Brand, Corey Maggette, and Chris Kaman) put down chunks of cash to ensure that their coach was able to get the surgery he needed. The reason the Clippers gave when Hughes inquired about the surgery being covered was that if they helped one person, they had to help everybody. When given the opportunity to help, Donald T. can routinely be counted on to err on the side of cheap.

Members of Jim Dolan’s staff aren’t exactly putting him on their Christmas card list, either. In addition to the Anucha Browne Sanders lawsuit, the Knicks have had other hiring and firing mishaps that would keep any human resources director keeping a flask in the desk drawer. Announcer Marv Albert lost his job with NBC in 1997 after he was accused of sexual assault. Some would commend and some would condemn the Knicks for keeping Albert in the play-by-play chair during his personal turmoil. Once the issue blew over, Marv was hired to call games for TNT, and he would occasionally call a spade a spade and express some negative views on the Knicks’ on-court play. Obviously, biting and sodomizing a woman is perfectly acceptable content in Jim Dolan’s view, but pointing out that Jamal Crawford and Mike Sweetney suck is a firing offense.

The Knicks seemed to be moving toward respectability when they hired Hall of Fame coach Lenny Wilkens in January of 2004. Lenny is still the only coach to ever lead the Toronto Raptors past the first round of the playoffs, so if anyone knew how to handle terrible teams with me-first players, it was Lenny. The problem was that no one bothered to tell Don Chaney about the new hire, which was kind of a big deal. After all, Chaney was the guy Lenny was being brought on to replace. Chaney showed up for a game as scheduled, only to be informed that someone else would be sitting in his seat and that his services were no longer required. Chaney got to play the part of the guy finding someone else married to his wife before he was even served with the divorce papers. Of course, with Isiah Thomas shopping for the groceries, Wolfgang Puck couldn’t have cooked a tasty dish, and Lenny Wilkens was unable to win a playoff game before bailing a year after he arrived.

 

(3) Chris Cohan (Golden State Warriors, 1994-2010)
vs.
(2) Ted Stepien (Cleveland Cavaliers, 1980-83)

Round 1 Results:
Cohan def. George Shinn
Stepien def. Michael Heisley

In one of the closer matchups of Round 1, the Warriors’ persistent losing proved to be a major factor. Despite Shinn’s frequent attempts to draw attention from his team and later drag them all over the map, the Hornets have been an occasional contender, a claim the Warriors were never able to make during Cohan’s tenure. The Ted Stepien Rule is a big mark in the ex-Cavs owner’s “favor,” trumping Heisley’s money-grubbing ways.

Bless Ted Stepien, though, he tried to make the game entertaining. He was one of the first to introduce a dance team to the NBA, calling them the Teddi Bears. Some of his other halftime entertainment choices included Crazy George the World’s Greatest Ballhandler, and a guy named Don “Boot” Buttrey. Buttrey’s act usually consisted of crushing beer cans with his teeth and detonating firecrackers in his mouth; in essence, “Boot” mastered an act that would make any of us want to, well, boot.

Stepien also commissioned a fight song for the Cavs, a jaunty polka-flavored number, and he delivered copies of the song to local radio stations, bribing program directors with a pound of kielbasa. His other tastes in publicity stunts bordered on dangerous, including dropping softballs from the 52nd floor of Cleveland’s Terminal Tower. That idea resulted in injuries to pedestrians on Public Square, as one might expect when objects are dropped from high surfaces into public areas. We would suggest trying it, but there could be serious liability issues involved.

Chris Cohan could have faced his own liability issues at the 1995 All-Star Game, less than four weeks after he finalized his purchase of the Warriors. Already leery of the press, Cohan was determined that he was not going to speak to any of the local media. When a few reporters came toward his seat at the game, Cohan yanked his wife out of her seat and the pair sprinted through the arena as if reenacting a scene from “The Fugitive.” Eventually, Mrs. Cohan became dead weight, and Mr. Cohan gallantly left her behind, raced up a flight of stairs and ducked into a luxury box. If he was that terrified of press backlash four months in, how in the blue flames of hell did he survive 16 years?

Another reason that Cohan was fortunate to survive 16 years as the Warriors’ boss comes from simple hindsight. There are draft blunders, but then there are finding ways to screw up a potential no-lose situation. The loaded 1996 draft may be the greatest incoming class in NBA history. Allen Iverson, Marcus Camby, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Stephon Marbury, Ray Allen, and Antoine Walker had already been picked when the Warriors went on the clock for pick No. 11. Players like Kobe Bryant, Peja Stojakovic, Steve Nash, and Jermaine O’Neal were still available.

And the Warriors chose…Todd Fuller, a 6’11” white boy from North Carolina State. Fuller was an amiable kid with a nice smile, he had gone to a Christian high school, and was an avid believer in abstaining from sex before marriage. That serves as a stark contrast to many NBA players, who don’t believe in abstaining from sex before breakfast.

Fuller turned down a Rhodes Scholarship to play pro ball. His studies at Oxford would have taken almost as long as his pro career, as he was out of the NBA by the 2001-02 season. If they’d wanted a goofy-looking white guy, they could have at least chosen Vitaly Potapenko or Zydrunas Ilgauskas. At least with one of those two, the media would have been too busy struggling with pronouncing their names to rip apart their games.

 

With that, Round 2 comes to a close. Throw some votes on it, and let’s see if you can get some of your favorites through to the quarterfinals. On Friday, we’ll see which owners will battle to become the worst owners in the history of their particular sports.

Teaser:
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Post date: Wednesday, August 17, 2011 - 04:01
Path: /mlb/worst-sports-owners-tournament-baseballhockeysoccer-round-2
Body:

By Scott Henry (@4QuartersRadio)

Welcome to the second round of the Worst Sports Owners Tournament. We're down to 16 of the craziest owners ever. Some won, but spent other people's money like drunken sailors to do it. Some lost, and made themselves look like spoiled children in doing so. Your mission, should you be brave and intelligent enough to accept it, is to decide which is a more grievous offense.

The tournament will roll through three weeks, and the votes will be decided between Athlon’s editorial staff, the comments you post below each piece, and comments on the Facebook pages of Athlon Sports and 4 Quarters Radio. Remember, you’re voting for the owners whose crimes against sport, humanity, and/or nature were the most egregious. We’ll offer anecdotal evidence of each owner’s evil/incompetence, and if you’ve got more, feel free to throw it in.

Here’s the schedule:

Monday, Week 1: Baseball Round 1
Tuesday, Week 1: Football Round 1
Thursday, Week 1: Basketball Round 1
Friday, Week 1: Hockey/Soccer Round 1

Monday, Week 2: Baseball/Hockey/Soccer Round 2
Thursday, Week 2: Football/Basketball Round 2

Monday, Week 3: Quarterfinals
Wednesday, Week 3: Semifinals
Friday, Week 3: Final

In this half of the bracket, baseball's slimiest battle across from some of hockey and soccer's least lovable goofs. Read on.

Worst Baseball Owners Bracket:

(1) Frank and Jamie McCourt (Los Angeles Dodgers 2004-present)
vs.
(5) Arnold Johnson (Kansas City Athletics 1954-1960)

Round 1 results:
McCourts def. Wayne Huizenga
Johnson def. George Steinbrenner

In Round 1, the McCourts and Johnson both moved on because they faced opponents who actually, you know, won something. For the unseemly haste with which Huizenga tore the Marlins apart after the World Series win, at least they won a World Series. As for Johnson, there wasn’t so much of a groundswell of support for him as there was a backlash against Steinbrenner’s inclusion. Apparently, a lot of people have worked up some nifty cases of selective amnesia, choosing to forget George’s borderline-sociopathic behavior during the late 1970’s and all through the ‘80s. Either that, or 80% of Yankee fans still can’t legally get into bars. Once George learned to be quiet, stop firing people, and just write the checks, he turned the Yankees into a true flagship franchise, instead of a wild sideshow.

It’s hard to ignore Johnson’s role in keeping the Yankees on top, but there may have been a very real reason for his frantic offloading of talent. The Athletics’ lease with Kansas City contained a three-year escape clause that would have allowed Johnson to bolt if the team’s attendance dropped below one million fans. In 1957, the team’s third season, attendance fell to just over 900,000, giving Johnson the opening that he needed. Rumors had swirled that Johnson was seeking to move the club to Los Angeles, but if he was seeking to get there for the 1958 season, Walter O’Malley beat him to the punch, dragging the Dodgers out to the West Coast just in the nick of time.

With the Los Angeles escape route blocked, the A’s actually staged a mild rebound. In 1958 and ’59, the team recorded its first two 65-win seasons since the Philly A’s won 79 in 1952. Then, in spring training 1960, Johnson’s death (and the Roger Maris trade) put a halt to any momentum the team had gained. The A’s never finished higher than seventh in the American League until they were dragged off to Oakland.

Johnson’s ambition in getting a piece of the action in Los Angeles is something to which the McCourts could easily relate. For all of Frank McCourt’s hubris, his soon-to-be ex has had some lofty goals herself. She collaborated with Dodgers marketing/PR exec Charles Steinberg on an idea called “Project Jamie,” which involved various plans for Jamie using the Dodger brand to pursue public office up to and including President of the United States. Her platform was supposed to be bolstered by something called “Dodgers University,” which would include after-school programs for children, adult literacy classes, and sports business seminars. (Reportedly, the WAC has already invited the DU football team to join for the 2014 season.)

Steinberg envisioned a coalition of women, minorities, youth, Hollywood players and male sports fans that would carry Jamie to victory in any election. After all, the “rely on sports fans that support your egomaniacal husband’s product” electoral blueprint worked so well for Linda McMahon.

 

(3) Marge Schott (Cincinnati Reds 1984-1999)
vs.
(2) Jeffrey Loria (Montreal Expos 1999-2002, Florida Marlins 2002-present)

Round 1 results:
Schott def. Vince Naimoli
Loria def. David Glass

Even though the Rays only started winning once Naimoli sold majority interest, he simply lacked the name recognition to triumph over Schott, who became baseball’s Public Enemy No. 1 while Bud Selig was ignoring steroid evidence. Even though David Glass has evidenced his share of squirmy tendencies, his cheapness could not overcome the fact that Loria completely murdered the Montreal Expos.

The Expos’ death wasn’t a “we did everything we could, but the patient slipped away” kind of death. It was more like a “someone snuck into the room and smothered the patient with a pillow” situation. Granted, the Expos weren’t in the greatest of health, but a team whose attendance had just cratered at less than 10,000 in 1999 had some terrible luck with their broadcast contracts expiring that year. Loria was bound and determined that he would find someone to sweeten the existing deal, but no one was interested. He overvalued the rights, and as a result, Les Expos spent the entire 2000 season off the air, in both French and English. Montreal baseball fans were largely apathetic, but somewhere, Bill Wirtz was surely smiling.

There wasn’t much hope of a drastic improvement in the on-field product, considering that half the payroll for the 2000 season was earmarked for new arrivals Graeme Lloyd (11-8, 4.81 ERA as an Expo, didn’t pitch until 2001), Hideki Irabu (2-7, 6.69), and Lee Stevens (.243, 57 HR, 319 strikeouts to 291 hits).

Loria didn’t endear himself to the city, either, bluntly declaring “We cannot and will not stay here” in reference to Olympic Stadium. Canada has never been a hospitable place for sports owners begging for welfare handouts in the form of new stadiums, and by the time baseball cut the legs out from under the 1994 team, Montreal had little use for the Expos. The proposed downtown Labatt Park never broke ground, but it had a killer 12-by-12 model on display at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. In a sad twist, that model was demolished by teenage vandals a month after the Expos moved to Washington.

One good thing that can always be said about Marge Schott is that she loved the Cincinnati fans. Her staff and players, however, didn’t quite get the same respect. Her Saint Bernards, Schottzie and Schottzie 02, were frequently allowed to run free around the field while the players attempted to warm up. The dogs routinely nipped at players’ heels and defecated at various spots on the field. Shortstop Barry Larkin claimed that the dogs’ exploits were hard to forget about during games:The only thing I don't like is when the dog takes a crap at shortstop, because I might have to dive into that s---.”

For a woman in business, Marge wasn’t particularly keen on others following in her footsteps. She was not interested in the Reds hiring women of child-bearing age. After all, maternity leave is a big investment for somebody who won’t be in the office getting their work done, right? In a Sports Illustrated piece from 1996, Marge blamed a lot on working women: "Some of the biggest problems in this city come from women wanting to leave the home to work." Marge wasn’t interested in being an inspiration to other women in baseball, either: "I don't really think baseball is a woman's place, honey. I really don't. I think it should be left to the boys." She was an old-fashioned Cincinnati woman who grew up a tomboy with a father who had been dying for a son, and her attitudes were every bit as crusty as any man from her generation.

Worst Hockey/Soccer Owners Bracket:

(1) Tom Hicks (Liverpool Football Club, 2007-2010)
vs.
(4) Atlanta Spirit Group (Atlanta Thrashers, 2004-11)

Round 1 results:
Hicks def. Charles Wang
ASG def. Malcolm Glazer

Hicks and his buddy George Gillett were easy winners over Wang in Round 1, since Wang is far from the typical “I’m yanking my team off to some new town if you people don’t buy me a pretty new stadium” kind of owner. Hicks’ problems were largely self-inflicted, and he needed other people to dig him out of them. ASG took out Glazer because, even though both ownership groups were despised by fans and have terrible money management skills, Glazer’s crazed spending brought home a lot of wins and championships. ASG’s spending put Bentleys in lawyers’ driveways and braces on said lawyers’ kids’ teeth, while only producing one division championship and a subsequent playoff flameout.

Unbalanced people tend to blame everyone else for problems of their own making. Tom Hicks was no different. Despite the fact that Liverpool had received multiple extensions on their debts, which had reached £350 million in 2010, the Royal Bank of Scotland was setting in motion “an epic swindle” by finally calling in the loans, according to Hicks. An enormous conspiracy was afoot to undermine the club, and Hicks considered the RBS to be at the forefront:I can't go into the details but I can confirm the funds were available to pay off Royal Bank of Scotland entirely but between Royal Bank of Scotland, the chairman and the employees that conspired against us, they would not let us.”

British Airways chairman Martin Broughton, brought on by Hicks and Gillett to help oversee the sale of LFC, did his job and was then accused by Hicks of being in on this major conspiracy himself. According to Hicks, “Martin Broughton wanted a good PR event in his life and be seen as the guy that got rid of those Americans – and he sold to another group of Americans.” Hicks alleged that he had found his own unnamed buyer, but that mysterious party was scared off by “distress chatter and [an] organised internet terrorism campaign.” When the sale was finally completed, Liverpool was sold for £80M more than Hicks had bought it for, but when weighed against the more than £200M in debt on the club, Hicks and Gillett were out approximately £144M in the end.

Considering that Hicks had plunged the Texas Rangers and Dallas Stars into massive debt before doing exactly the same to Liverpool, he should count himself lucky he’s got enough of a credit rating left to finance a ham sandwich.

ASG had similar issues, fighting amongst themselves with 30 percent of the club in the balance. As alluded to in Round 1, the group was quick to realize that its members were in over their heads and tried to sell the clubs quickly. By that time, the Steve Belkin lawsuit had kicked off, and nearly a one-third share of the Hawks and Thrashers was in litigation. These two events are mutually exclusive, as very few buyers will make serious overtures knowing that their first action will need to be buying out a disgruntled partner. By the time the suit was settled, the rest of ASG had lost a substantial amount on legal fees and payments for Belkin’s share. Therefore, neither Hawks fans nor Thrasher supporters could look forward to any exciting moves to improve the teams.

 

(3) Harold Ballard (Toronto Maple Leafs, 1961-90)
vs.
(2) Bill Wirtz (Chicago Blackhawks, 1966-2007)

Round 1 results:
Ballard def. Freddy Shepherd
Wirtz def. Peter Pocklington

Ballard’s first-round win over Shepherd was simply a superior body of work. Ballard had three decades of crazed actions behind him, while Shepherd simply made silly football decisions after figuring out that Spanish cathouses weren’t good places to hang out. Wirtz likewise had a much longer tenure filled with goofy decisions and pinched pennies, beating out Pocklington’s bungling of the Gretzky trade. Other than the Gretzky deal, Peter Puck’s resume was somewhat inoffensive. He built a great team, then sat in irrelevance after everyone left. Now, two of hockey’s major tyrants get to go toe to toe.

Ballard had something to his name that very few of his competitors in the WSOT could claim: a jail term. After being charged with tax evasion in 1969, one would think that he’d be motivated to keep his nose clean. In a truly epic fail, then-chairman John Bassett was able to fire Ballard from the board, but did not force him to sell his share of the team. Within a year, Ballard and co-owner/co-defendant Stafford Smythe were able to fight to regain control of the team and force Bassett to sell out in 1971.

Shortly thereafter, Ballard was hit with 49 counts of fraud, theft, and tax evasion. The Crown’s attorneys accused him of renovating his home, buying motorcycles, and renting limos for his daughter’s wedding out of the coffers of Maple Leaf Gardens Ltd. In addition, some of MLGL’s money found its way into a private bank account that Ballard himself controlled. In August 1972, he was convicted on 47 of the counts, and was then sentenced to nine years in a federal pen. By October of ’73, he was paroled, and emerged none too repentant for his crimes. He claimed that prison life was like staying in a hotel, where one could enjoy the color TV, steak dinners, and even an occasional round of golf. He claimed to have pictures of himself tossing back some beers with his guards and even borrowing a uniform.

Bill Wirtz was never incarcerated, but his name certainly was banded about in legal documents in the latter half of the 1990’s. As head of the NHL’s Board of Governors, he was right next to the league’s president, John Ziegler, in labor negotiations with the players. NHL Players’ Association head Alan Eagleson was a lawyer/agent who was busy representing players at the same time that he was negotiating on behalf of all the league’s athletes. At various times, Eagleson was accused of skimming money from advertising and player pension funds and also taking large payments for himself out of player disability claims. These three men essentially ran the NHL during the 1980’s and early ‘90s.

In 1995, a group of former players filed a class action suit against Eagleson, Wirtz, and Ziegler, claiming that Wirtz and Ziegler had offered Eagleson a variety of bribes to keep the players’ salaries suppressed. Control of international events such as the 1972 Summit Series and the 1976 Canada Cup were granted through Eagleson agreeing to soften the players’ demands for free agency and reducing owners’ pension fund contributions. The NHL’s 1979 expansion, which included four World Hockey Association clubs, effectively destroyed the WHA and lessened players’ leverage in negotiations with their teams. All of this played into Wirtz’s desire to save money wherever he could. For his trouble, several owners helped put Eagleson into the Hall of Fame, an honor which was revoked in 1998. The first players’ association boss to ever make a sport’s Hall of Fame was also the first person booted out of his game’s sacred fraternity. And Bill Wirtz walked away whistling.

 

The quarterfinals kick off on Friday, and your votes will help determine who moves on. Remember, post them here or on the Athlon or 4 Quarters Radio Facebook pages. Happy reading and happier voting.

Teaser:
<p> Down to the sick 16 in Athlon's battle of the bad bosses</p>
Post date: Monday, August 15, 2011 - 16:59
Path: /news/rangers-cj-wilson-endears-himself-oakland-fans
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Texas Rangers pitcher C.J. Wilson is set to start the opener of a three-game series at Oakland's O.co Coliseum Friday night, but he doesn't sound happy about it.

Speaking to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Wilson had some caustic comments about the Coliseum, its pitching mound, and even the few intrepid fans who come to watch the A's.

"I hate pitching there," Wilson said. "The mound sucks. The fans suck. There are no fans there. The fans who are there are really adamant, but sometimes you'll go there and there's 6,000 fans. I just wish the fan base supported them a little more."

Wilson's former teammate Brandon McCarthy had a mild, measured response to Wilson's rant, saying, "The people that should be angry are the fans. They can choose to respond how they want. If the fans are on him, then I'm sure he knows that that's what he leaves himself open for."

Oakland catcher Kurt Suzuki was even less riled, claiming it was unfair to criticize the fans. "It's unfortunate to hear with the way thigns are going in this economy," Suzuki said.

This isn't the first time Wilson has savaged the A's this season. In May, he accused the team of playing "lawyer ball," defining it as not swinging and letting the umpires decide the game. That criticism came on the heels of Wilson walking four in a loss to the Athletics. The A's responded by sending him an autographed ball signed "From the law office of..."

Wilson is a free agent after the season, but has crossed this potential destination off his list already, claiming "you don't have to worry about me signing there after the season. The players on their team hate me."

--Scott Henry (@4QuartersRadio)

Teaser:
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Post date: Friday, August 12, 2011 - 11:29
Path: /news/hall-famer-mullin-golden-state-warriors-should-honor-run-tmc
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Newly minted Basketball Hall of Famer Chris Mullin has suggested that instead of retiring just his number, the Golden State Warriors should also include his famed running mates Mitch Richmond and Tim Hardaway in the ceremony.

Mullin spoke during a news conference for the Hall of Fame's 2011 inductees in Springfield, Mass., and suggested that the trio nicknamed Run-TMC, who became synonymous with exciting, up-tempo Warriors basketball in the early 1990's, should stand together throughout history.

"To me, it doesn't always have to be about one person," Mullin said. "I know I'd feel more comfortable. That would feel natural to me."

Hardaway was not reached for a response, but Richmond said, "That would mean so much."

Of the three, Richmond had the shortest stint in the Bay Area, playing only 251 games as a Warrior, including playoffs. Still, he averaged at least 22 points per game each season.

Hardaway's number is already retired in Miami, even though he was a member of the Warriors for a longer time and played 23 more games on the West Coast.

Mullin has become the modern-day face of the Warriors, playing more than 800 games for them between 1985 and 1997, with a brief return in 2000.

About his Run-TMC mates, Mullin said, "Tim had the ball, Mitch had the talent, and it was the perfect balance." He added, "I understand Mitch was only here three years. But he made such an impact way beyond that. Tim may have had bigger moments in Miami where his number is retired. But for whatever reason, (Run TMC) was somewhat of a very beloved team."

Mullin will be inducted into the Hall of Fame Friday evening in a ceremony beginning at 7 PM Eastern and broadcast on NBA TV.

 

Run-TMC's Career Statistics with the Golden State Warriors

(regular season only)

Tim Hardaway: 502 games, 8,337 points, 16.6 ppg, 7.8 apg

Chris Mullin: 807 games, 16,235 points, 20.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg

Mitch Richmond: 234 games, 5,301 points, 22.7 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 3.4 apg, .486 FG%

--Scott Henry (@4QuartersRadio)

Teaser:
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Post date: Friday, August 12, 2011 - 10:36
Path: /overtime/worst-sports-owners-tournament-hockeysoccer-round-1-0
Body:

By Scott Henry (@4QuartersRadio)

If your team has an owner or owners who treat the fans with respect, be grateful.

If your team has an owner who spends within his/her/their means, but can still improve the team, enjoy it.

If your team has an owner who is capable of dealing with the team’s home city in a respectful, civil, and productive manner, don’t take that for granted.

After all, you could have ended up with one of these schmucks.

Welcome to Day 4 of the WSOT. The Worst Sports Owners Tournament brings together 32 of the worst owners in the history of sport for a no-holds-barred battle to the death, which you, the faithful reader, can decide. If you think a cheap owner is worse than one who picks up his team and hauls it off to some other city, here’s your chance to voice that opinion. If you’re reluctant to get behind your team on the field when the owner is a criminal off it, vote them up right here and remind everyone just how big a scumbag your team’s boss was/is.

The tournament will roll through three weeks, and the votes will be decided between Athlon’s editorial staff, the comments you post below each piece, and comments on the Facebook pages of Athlon Sports and 4 Quarters Radio. Remember, you’re voting for the owners whose crimes against sport, humanity, and/or nature were the most egregious. We’ll offer anecdotal evidence of each owner’s evil/incompetence, and if you’ve got more, feel free to throw it in.

Here’s the schedule:

Monday, Week 1: Baseball Round 1
Tuesday, Week 1: Football Round 1
Thursday, Week 1: Basketball Round 1
Friday, Week 1: Hockey/Soccer Round 1

Monday, Week 2: Baseball/Hockey/Soccer Round 2
Thursday, Week 2: Football/Basketball Round 2

Monday, Week 3: Quarterfinals
Wednesday, Week 3: Semifinals
Friday, Week 3: Final

All in all, our little tourney isn't too different from the World Series of Poker. There's stacks of cash, gaudy jewelry, and the occasional tantrum involved, but at least there are no epileptic seizures from staring at Greg Rayner's shades.

There are two other major team sports with some following in America, and they had to be uneasy roommates in this tourney. After all, a 40-person tournament could get a little awkward in the semifinals. Anyway, here are some of the goofiest and nastiest from hockey and soccer (or football, if you're English).

 

(1) Tom Hicks (Liverpool Football Club, 2007-2010)
vs.
(8) Charles Wang (New York Islanders, 2004-present)

Tom Hicks has owned or helped to operate four different clubs in three different sports, and in all honesty, he could have been a contender in this bracket or the baseball tournament. At all four clubs, Hicks’ ownership either alienated fans or put the organization into unsustainable debts. In the other corner, we have Charles Wang, a relative novice in the sports arena who’s admitted to serious regrets about purchasing his team, regrets that are shared by said team’s fan base.

When Wang bought the Islanders in 2000, he gave then-GM Mike Milbury complete carte blanche to spend cash for free agents or trades, anything to improve the team. He quieted the threats of the previous regime regarding a potential move to some other city, at least for the time being. That first season ended with a dismal crash and burn, with the worst record in the league. Fortunes would pick up behind acquired talent like Alexei Yashin and Mike Peca, but after two straight trips to the playoffs, coach Peter Laviolette was fired in 2003.

Still, most of the fits and starts could be charged to Isles GM Mike Milbury, as Wang had given him full autonomy over personnel. In January 2006, though, Milbury announced his resignation from the job. It took Wang five months to settle on former Rangers GM Neil Smith as Milbury’s replacement, and Smith’s tenure lasted a successful and distinguished…five weeks. Wang’s next choice after firing Smith was backup goalie Garth Snow, who retired from playing to move upstairs. That had to be a trippy time for the coaching staff, similar to what you'd experience if Guido from shipping was suddenly your supervisor one morning.

Snow had no sooner accepted the job than he was in negotiations with the man he had been backing up on ice, Rick DiPietro. Wang wanted DiPietro in an Islanders sweater for the rest of his career, and the goalie’s new contract would seem to make that very likely. The deal was for 15 years and $67.5 million, a deal which raised eyebrows at the time and causes snickers now, since DiPietro has played 39 games over the last three seasons, recording a 3.28 goals against average. Yashin’s 2001 contract was shorter, but even bigger, weighing in at 10 years, $87.5M.

Wang was seeking a replacement building for Nassau Coliseum, but has had several privately funded proposals shot down. Just this month, a referendum was on the ballot for a public funding plan, and the voters turned that down. To Wang’s credit, he has never explicitly threatened to move the club. When the Nassau Coliseum lease expires in 2015, things could be very different. Really, the largest claim against Wang is a very shaky track record of hockey decisions.

If a few personnel moves were all that was stacked against Tom Hicks, he might actually still own something. Leaving aside Hicks’ issues with the Texas Rangers and Dallas Stars, his Liverpool misadventure smacks of everything that voters hate about politicians: exorbitant promises that aren’t kept, terrible budget management, and lying about the decisions that were made.

Hicks and co-owner George Gillett promised that within 60 days of their takeover of the club, fans would see “a spade in the ground,” beginning work on a new stadium to replace the aged Anfield ground, which opened in 1884. Other than a couple of fences going up around the intended property, there wasn’t a shovel to be found. Perhaps there should have been little surprise that Hicks and Gillett were unable to secure financing for construction, since they had needed to borrow £185 million from the Royal Bank of Scotland just to buy the club.

The stadium project was kept in the forefront by periodic releases of design sketches, but the consultants and architects in charge of distributing those sketches hit Liverpool up to the tune of almost £50M by themselves. Designs had already been put in place and work was scheduled to start before Hicks and Gillett demanded a redesign, effectively short-circuiting all the work that had already been done.

The debt that was already incurred during the purchase wasn’t being serviced as the team worked through the next few seasons, and Hicks needed some help. Refinancing efforts were protested by club supporters, to the point that lenders backed out and left the owners holding the bag.

The difficulties that Hicks and Gillett were facing were exacerbated by the fact that, a year into their partnership, the two were barely on speaking terms. The team’s chief executive, Rick Parry, was a favorite of Gillett’s, and when Hicks proposed sacking Parry over inadequate stadium progress, Gillett was not consulted. He was very unhappy about being out of the loop.

English football fans don’t enjoy the idea of Americans owning their clubs, and with people like Hicks and Malcolm Glazer (more on him in a bit) involved, it’s hard to blame them.

 

(4) Atlanta Spirit Group (Atlanta Thrashers, 2004-11)
vs.
(5) Malcolm Glazer (Manchester United Football Club, 2003-present)

“Can’t we all just get along?” The immortal words of Rodney King should echo loudly while discussing the stories of the Glazer family and the Atlanta Spirit. Personal relationships go a long way in the business realm, and the destruction of same contributes mightily to difficulties in any industry.

The nine-member Atlanta Spirit Group couldn’t get along with each other, but before that, they managed to alienate someone who wasn’t even officially connected with the franchise. ASG took over the Thrashers in 2004, and the wheels of commerce were allegedly greased by a little old-fashioned nepotism. Ted Turner and Time Warner owned the club, and ASG’s membership included Turner’s son Beau, son-in-law Rutherford Seydel, and a couple of Ted's former TBS employees. Texas businessman David McDavid got salty over the sale, claiming that he had a $215 million deal to buy the Thrashers and the Atlanta Hawks. ASG paid $250M for both clubs and Philips Arena. Time Warner settled McDavid’s lawsuit last year after he was awarded $281M in damages for breach of contract.

After that auspicious start, perhaps karma was never going to be on ASG’s side. Events beyond their control, such as the death of forward Dan Snyder in a car accident that also injured star winger Dany Heatley, conspired against the Thrashers, but in 2007, the team reached its peak in winning the Southeast Division. When they started the next season 0-6, coach Bob Hartley was fired, despite still having a winning record with the club, the only Thrashers coach who could make that claim.

By then, the group was already drawing their swords for a legal battle with itself. ASG member Steve Belkin had attempted to block a 2005 trade to bring guard Joe Johnson to the Hawks, and the rest of the group banded together to force him out. The contract drawn up by the team’s lawyers was described as “botched” and “fatally flawed,” so much so that ASG sued their own attorneys. The lawsuit was not settled until two days before Christmas 2010. The litigation reportedly cost ASG $130 million over its length, and that money could have easily been spent to keep the Thrashers competitive.

The lawyers ended up getting paid more handsomely than the players. Reliable scorers like Marian Hossa, Pascal Dupuis, and Ilya Kovalchuk were shipped out of town to make room for prospects. Kovalchuk was a particularly galling case, as the Thrashers made him a $101M offer only to watch him turn it down because the ownership group could not reassure him that the club was staying in Atlanta. ASG couldn’t make any assurances because, as they later admitted, they had been trying to sell the Thrashers and Hawks since 2005, one year after taking control. When they finally did, it was an immediate end of hockey in Atlanta, as the club was packed off to Winnipeg.

In both of these cases, somebody’s been unhappy with an ownership arrangement. The Thrashers’ owners themselves wanted out, but in the case of Manchester United, everyone but the owners has clamored for a sale.

By 2005, Man U supporters had their choice of two evils. The club’s biggest shareholders, J.P. McManus and John Magnier, were attempting to force legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson out the door because of a dispute over a racehorse that the three jointly owned. On the other hand, there was the creeping threat of American tycoon Malcolm Glazer buying up a steadily expanding chunk of the club. Glazer reached an agreement in May 2005 to buy out Magnier and McManus, although the deal was not without its white-knuckle moments, as detailed in BBC Sports editor Mihir Bose’s 2007 book Manchester Disunited.

Glazer secured the funds for his repeated Man U share purchases through a series of loans, money lent by hedge funds and secured against the club’s assets. One of the hedge funds failed to transfer its money by the deadline to secure the deal with Magnier and McManus, and the deal appeared doomed to collapse. Another bank stepped in and rescued the deal, a transaction that symbolized the Glazer family’s takeover perfectly.

The level of debt incurred by the time Glazer secured his 100-percent takeover was nauseating to supporters on two levels. For one, the club had operated virtually debt-free for years before Glazer’s consolidation of power saddled it with nearly a billion pounds of freight. Additionally, once Glazer reached 75 percent ownership, he was able to de-list the club from the London Stock Exchange, removing the opportunity for shareholders to profit from their support of United, never mind the additional cash that would have continued to flow to the club itself.

Approximately 220 million pounds had been acquired in the form of payment-in-kind loans that ended up being sold to hedge funds. While the club itself was not liable for the loans, the Glazers faced a 2017 deadline to pay the balance or face losing their shares in the holding company that controls the club. In essence, the club itself would be repossessed. To cover the payments, the Glazers secured a bond issue that would allow them to take half of the club’s cash profits to pay down the loans. The loans were reportedly paid off in late 2010, but questions linger about the origin of that money, too, since the Glazers shifted control of the club to a company headquartered in Delaware, a state where companies can keep their revenues and shareholders in secrecy.

So, in this matchup, there’s a difficult choice of two methods of shoddy ownership: letting petty legal squabbling distract from keeping a team competitive or leveraging the club to its eyeballs and playing chicken with the future of its ownership. Take your pick.

 

(3) Harold Ballard (Toronto Maple Leafs, 1961-90)
vs.
(6) Freddy Shepherd (Newcastle United Football Club, 1997-2007)

Many of our favorite teams’ owners are still fellows who grew up in the early part of the 20th Century, before the advent of women’s lib and the strengthening of feminist ideals. Some of them are downright crusty old chauvinists with very little in the way of respect for the fairer sex. Both Harold Ballard and Freddy Shepherd would seem to fall into this category, making headlines with some very famous misogynistic tirades.

While being interviewed by CBC Radio’s Barbara Frum in March of 1979, Ballard was at his irascible best, repeatedly demanding that she keep quiet and stop interrupting him. The gems were his claims that hearing women on the radio was a complete joke and that the only good position for them was on their backs. Harold’s vanilla sexual tastes aside, the Leafs’ fan base tended to feel like they were the ones getting screwed during his tenure. And they weren’t the only ones.

Ballard recognized that television could aid the spread of hockey’s popularity, and just after the popularity of color TV began to boom in the mid-1960’s, he installed a new lighting system in Maple Leaf Gardens. The lights were good for TV viewers, but the heavy glare made life difficult for the players on the ice. Since the biggest favor was being bestowed on the CBC’s viewers, Ballard would be damned if he and his club were going to be the ones to pay for it. He brandished a fire axe and threatened to cut CBC’s main cables before a Hockey Night in Canada broadcast, demanding that the CBC or its sponsors pony up for the lights. CBC did.

Such strong-arm tactics made Ballard legendary. When the Beatles were touring North America in 1965, they made a stop at Maple Leaf Gardens, where Ballard had sold tickets for two concerts. That was news to the Beatles, who were contracted for only one. On a hot summer day, Ballard had turned up the thermostats, shut down the water fountains, and ordered concession stands to sell only large sodas at triple the normal price. With fans sufficiently hot and cranky, Ballard told band manager Brian Epstein that the band would have to play twice, or else the fans would tear the building apart with the Beatles in it. Once again, Ballard got his way.

Ballard was also a vicious combatant in the war between the NHL and the AHL, pulling out all the stops when the upstart league changed the Ottawa Nationals into the Toronto Toros. While Ballard was in jail for fraud (more on that in Round 2 if he wins here), the Aeros’ owners agreed on lease terms at MLG with Ballard’s son Bill. By the time they played the first game there, though, Harold was out of jail and he was pissed. Ballard senior demanded $15,000 per game just for the privilege of playing, plus another $3,500 for use of the lights, which come in kind of handy unless the puck, goals, and all the players glow in the dark. (Actually, that might be sort of cool, but I digress.) Plus, he denied the Aeros access to the Leafs’ locker room, so unless they wanted to file into the men’s room in shifts to get dressed, they had to build their own for another $55K. He even yanked the cushions off the home bench for Aeros games. The intruders lasted one year before shuffling off to that noted hockey mecca…Birmingham, Alabama.

In fairness, many of Ballard’s most infamous antics, the CBC and Beatle scraps included, took place before he even became the principal owner. In a similar vein, Freddy Shepherd was still just a member of the Newcastle United Board of Directors when he traveled to Spain, accompanying fellow director/chairman’s son Douglas Hall. While visiting a brothel, the pair met a wealthy Arab sheikh. Since all men tend to strike up chats with fellow whorehouse patrons (or so we've heard), the group began to talk business. Hall and Shepherd were allegedly a bit tipsy as they launched into tales of laughing at the “mugs” who paid exorbitant prices for club merchandise, called Newcastle legend Alan Shearer “Mary Poppins,” and claimed foreign prostitutes were so much better than Newcastle women, who were derided as “dogs.”

The sheikh turned out to be Mazher Mahmood, a reporter for News of the World, and the conversation was splashed across newsstands all over England. Another claim made in the expose was that Newcastle had knowingly sold striker Andy Cole to Manchester United knowing that he needed serious surgery. Both Hall and Shepherd were made to resign from the board, but since they were majority shareholders, they could vote themselves back onto the board, and Shepherd was actually able to take over as chairman.

Once he did, he struggled to find the right manager to run the club on the pitch. Big names like Ruud Gullit and Graeme Souness, a manager who was staring down the barrel of getting Blackburn relegated when Shepherd came calling, couldn’t put Newcastle back up toward the top. Ex-England boss Sir Bobby Robson put the club back into European competitions, but at the end of the 2003-04 season, they were in the UEFA Cup, not the more lucrative Champions League. Shepherd announced that Robson’s contract wouldn’t be renewed, completely rendering him a lame duck. Players bucked Robson’s authority, including midfielder Kieron Dyer's refusal to play in a game after being slotted into a right wing position. Four games in, Robson was canned, and he came out swinging.

Shepherd was accused of making multiple transfer signings without consulting the manager, and when Robson did ask for status updates on contracts, he was repeatedly denied. Robson and other managers noted that most of the club’s money was being sunk into these mysterious transfer deals, with very little headed toward improving the stadium or even the training ground. Graeme Souness noted in 2005 that the shabby ground was responsible for 600 days’ worth of training lost because of a series of hamstring injuries.

Perhaps Freddy was too busy sinking money into a place to store the club’s spare merchandise. Shepherd’s brother Bruce bought a warehouse for 175,000 pounds in 1997, and just a year later, he was reportedly making 150K per year in rent from Newcastle United Football Club. Bruce was guaranteed 2.5M over a 17-year period. Rent for other properties around the 15,000-square-foot building typically ran four pounds per square foot, so 60K per year would have been considered fair.

While Harold Ballard could have done well to read How to Win Friends and Influence People, Freddy Shepherd should have been gifted a copy of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. He at least had the not-really-trying part mastered, unless one counts trying fans' patience.

 

(2) Bill Wirtz (Chicago Blackhawks, 1966-2007)
vs.
(7) Peter Pocklington (Edmonton Oilers, 1978-98)

Which is a more reprehensible offense: years of sticking to the antiquated notion that games should not be broadcast on TV because people won’t come to the arena, or one seismic trade involving the sport’s GOAT (Greatest of All Time, just in case) that changes the entire future of the game? Our final first-round bout pits a pair of hockey honchos from completely different markets.

Bill Wirtz’s largest legacy may have been his never-ending disdain for broadcasting games on television. His famous quote, “Once you give something away, you’ve set a precedent,” echoed loudly when his club was playing for the 1989 Campbell Conference championship. He still refused to let those games be shown on Chicago’s SportsChannel. In his mind, it was only fair to the loyal season ticket holders, but he may have also neglected the possibility of drawing new, casual fans to the arena. By 1992, he did relent and allow regional broadcasting…if the fans who wanted to watch were willing to pony up for Hawkvision, a pay-per-view service charging $29.95 per month. Over the course of the season, that would come to almost $240, which was astronomical for a TV service at the time. In 2002, the Hawks’ playoff games were finally allowed to be shown on Fox Sports Net. Still, Wirtz’s claim that the Blackhawks were “happy” to bring the games to the fans rang a little hollow.

Doing even greater damage to the game was Wirtz’s role in the 2004 lockout that obliterated an entire season. While the rest of the NHL was spending payroll money that bankrupted some owners, the Blackhawks’ 2003 payroll stood at 47 percent of revenue. Compare that to the 66 percent the league was spending as a whole at the time. Good business? Sure, for the owner that’s only interested in that season’s bottom line. Wirtz, however, was notorious for letting talented players walk, which becomes really bad for ticket sales after a while.

Blackhawk icons like Denis Savard and Jeremy Roenick were traded, just like Phil Esposito, who went on to become a Boston Bruins icon. Chicago native Chris Chelios was dealt to the arch-rival Detroit Red Wings, of all teams. Future Hall of Fame goalies Ed Belfour and Dominik Hasek were allowed to leave in free agency. Perhaps most damning was the 1972 loss of Bobby Hull to the World Hockey Association’s Winnipeg Jets. The WHA was so desperate to have Hull on its ice that all the league’s owners passed the hat to collect the million dollars that Hull had jokingly requested. He was perfectly willing to bail due to irritation with how little Wirtz was paying him compared to his preeminent stature in the NHL.

Wirtz wasn’t above using underhanded methods to deny the players additional earning opportunities, and we’ll hear more about that in Round 2 if Wirtz wins. His opponent, longtime Edmonton Oilers owner Peter Pocklington, actually allowed many players earning chances they would not have normally had, even if he had no idea at the time.

Pocklington’s entire sporting destiny, good and bad, was tied to hockey’s messiah, Wayne Gretzky. The Oilers were a middling playoff team in the WHA before Pocklington purchased the club and was afforded the opportunity to buy Gretzky from the Indianapolis Racers. Gretzky turned out to be the trump card that got the Oilers into the NHL, due to Pocklington coming up with an end run around the terms of the impending merger between the leagues. On Gretzky’s 18th birthday, Pocklington signed Gretzky to a personal services contract, rather than a standard player contract. (A 21-year personal services contract, by the way.) A standard deal would have forced the Oilers to officially protect Gretzky from being claimed by established NHL teams as a merger condition. Having him under a personal services deal ensured that he was Oilers property for as long as Pocklington wanted him to be, so if the NHL wanted Gretzky, they had to take the Oilers.

Once they were there, Pocklington and his staff began assembling a club that would go on to win four Stanley Cups during the ‘80s. They almost did it as the Toronto Oilers, though. Pocklington claimed in his autobiography that Maple Leafs owner Harold Ballard had approached him about the possibility of the two teams swapping cities. PP admitted that he was highly excited about the possibility, seeing dollar signs over the potential profits that could be mined from Toronto. By the time the book came out, fans were already surly with PP, so what did he have to lose?

Why were they surly? The events of August 9, 1988 provoked the burning of Pocklington in effigy, caused controversy all the way to Parliament, and were generally heralded as the first sign of the Apocalypse: Wayne Gretzky was traded to the Los Angeles Kings, a mediocre club in a non-traditional hockey market. For a comparison, think Michael Jordan being dealt to the Toronto Raptors. Conspiracy theorists whispered after the fact that the league had brokered “The Great One” being dealt to a sunny climate in order to precipitate hockey’s growth into warmer locations like San Jose, Tampa, Miami, and Atlanta. Most of the conspiracy theorists at the time, though, Pocklington included, chose to blame Gretzky’s new wife, actress Janet Jones. Edmonton’s never been considered a movie mecca, so Los Angeles was the prime place to continue her career. Of course, her career never did move any further, since there was no way she was ever going to improve on the cinematic masterpiece that was “American Anthem.”

PP claimed that Gretzky had been impossible to deal with after he began seeing Jones. The trade was defended as being economically necessary, since Gretzky was a year away from free agency, and there was no way that the Oilers would have been able to afford a fair contract for him. Pocklington made it personal, though, claiming that Gretzky’s tears at the press conference announcing the trade were fake and that Wayne had “an ego the size of Manhattan.” Adding to PP's unrepentant reputation was the title of his aforementioned autobiography: I'd Trade Him Again.

The Oilers were later forced to part with the rest of the players who built their dynasty, guys like Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, Glenn Anderson, and Grant Fuhr. Trying to cling to someone with the nostalgia of winning clinging to him, Pocklington personally negotiated a huge raise for pesky left winger Esa Tikkanen. Tikkanen went on to miss 54 games over the next two seasons, scoring fewer total points in that span than he had in any of the last five seasons. Salaries like that aided the market’s rapid inflation, indirectly helping drive the league off the cliff that it reached in 2004.

So, Wirtz and Pocklington both helped set up the 2004 lockout, even though Pocklington was six years gone from Edmonton by then. But who’s got to shoulder more blame? That’s up to you.

 

Remember, it’s all about the votes in deciding which owners did more to screw over their fans and their leagues, so leave some comments and discussion below or on the above-linked Facebook pages. You guys will decide who you'd like to read more eye-rolling tales about in Round 2. Happy voting.

Teaser:
<p> Part 4 in a series pitting 32 of sport's worst owners in all-out battle</p>
Post date: Friday, August 12, 2011 - 00:16
Path: /nba/worst-sports-owners-tournament-basketball-round-1
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By Scott Henry (@4QuartersRadio)

If your team has an owner or owners who treat the fans with respect, be grateful.

If your team has an owner who spends within his/her/their means, but can still improve the team, enjoy it.

If your team has an owner who is capable of dealing with the team’s home city in a respectful, civil, and productive manner, don’t take that for granted.

After all, you could have ended up with one of these schmucks.

Welcome to Day 3 of the WSOT. The Worst Sports Owners Tournament brings together 32 of the worst owners in the history of sport for a no-holds barred battle to the death, which you, the faithful reader, can decide. If you think a cheap owner is worse than one who picks up his team and hauls it off to some other city, here’s your chance to voice that opinion. If you’re reluctant to get behind your team on the field when the owner is a criminal off it, vote them up right here and remind everyone just how big a scumbag your team’s boss was/is.

The tournament will roll through three weeks, and the votes will be decided between Athlon’s editorial staff, the comments you post below each piece, and comments on the Facebook pages of Athlon Sports and 4 Quarters Radio. Remember, you’re voting for the owners whose crimes against sport, humanity, and/or nature were the most egregious. We’ll offer anecdotal evidence of each owner’s evil/incompetence, and if you’ve got more, feel free to throw it in.

Here’s the schedule:

Monday, Week 1: Baseball Round 1
Tuesday, Week 1: Football Round 1
Thursday, Week 1: Basketball Round 1
Friday, Week 1: Hockey/Soccer Round 1

Monday, Week 2: Baseball/Hockey/Soccer Round 2
Thursday, Week 2: Football/Basketball Round 2

Monday, Week 3: Quarterfinals
Wednesday, Week 3: Semifinals
Friday, Week 3: Final

All in all, our little tourney isn't too different from the World Series of Poker. There's stacks of cash, gaudy jewelry, and the occasional tantrum involved, but at least there are no epileptic seizures from staring at Greg Rayner's shades.

Today, it's the NBA's turn to have some of its black sheep sheared. From wheelers and dealers to franchise movers to the occasional sexual predator, the Association's had a little bit of everything in its owner's boxes. Read on.

 

Worst Basketball Owners Bracket:

(1) Donald Sterling (San Diego/Los Angeles Clippers, 1981-present)
vs.
(8) Joe & Gavin Maloof (Sacramento Kings, 1999-present)

California is home to perhaps the best-run team in basketball, the Los Angeles Lakers. As if karma demands a payback, the state’s other two clubs are in perpetual chaos. The owners of one are dying to bolt from the state’s capital to Southern California, and the owner of the other would be cheerfully run out of town if enough people bothered to care about his woeful team.

When they were in their 20’s, the Maloof brothers were seen sitting courtside at the NBA Finals. Their dad had been the owner of the Houston Rockets, but he died the year before the Rockets played for the championship and Gavin had installed himself as president. He was 24 at the time. Family squabbles forced the Rockets to be sold in 1982, but the brothers were constantly anxious to get back in. Taking over the Kings in 1999, one of the league’s perennial failures became a contender, coming one game away from the 2002 NBA Finals in one of the more controversial series in recent memory.

Since then, the multimillionaire owners of the Palms casino have sought help from the city of Sacramento, in much the same way that bank robbers “seek” cash from their financial institution of choice. An August 2006 agreement would have seen the Maloofs paying only $72 million of a reported $542M package to build a replacement for the building formerly known as Arco Arena II. That package would have even called for taxpayers to pay for any cost overages. A month later, the brothers were walking away over the size of parking lots, retail surroundings, and final control over arena design. Measures were still put onto Sacramento municipal election ballots, and rejected with the same kind of zeal that would have gone into shooting down a statue of Richard Chase, the “Vampire of Sacramento.”

Bound as it was to Las Vegas, the Maloofs’ fortune took a major hit in the economic downturn, so much so that they’ve been forced to “recapitalize” their investment in the Palms. (Read: half of the casino’s been repossessed, except the creditors paid for what they took.) They’re using the cash as a lifeline to keep the Kings in Sacramento for one more year, while making it read like a tremendously magnanimous civic-minded gesture.

They’re anxious to pick up stakes and move to Anaheim, where they would share the Honda Center with the Ducks. Even then, the Maloofs demanded that Anaheim pony up for the NBA’s relocation fee and assorted other debts that they had incurred. Ducks owner Henry Samueli was first in line to splash the cash, likely seeking to make it back in tenant rent. For the Maloofs’ minds, it’d be better than holding down the aged Power Balance Pavilion, a name that was obviously settled on when Shamwow Center and Shake Weight Stadium were taken. Never mind the fact that the Lakers and Clippers aren’t the slightest bit pleased at the notion of sharing their market with yet another team.

While the Kings wouldn’t be a bug on the Lakers’ windshield, the Clippers have something to lose. Namely, the 12 fans they still have left after the insanely chaotic reign of Donald Sterling.

In his book “The Game,” former Montreal Canadiens goalie Ken Dryden claims that sports entrepreneurs buy teams for the celebrity of it, the ego-stroking that comes with the fans’ attention, good or bad. Donald Sterling fancied himself a celebrity from day one. When he first purchased the San Diego Clippers, he plastered his own face on billboards all over town, believing that fans came to games to bow to the owner as opposed to watching the players. Considering their biggest stars were Freeman Williams and Swen Nater, it’s not that big a stretch, but still.

Before that first season was even over, Sterling was getting hammered with a $10,000 fine from the NBA for musing out loud that it wouldn’t be so bad if the team lost enough games to “earn” the first pick in the draft, with which they could select Ralph Sampson. Deferred contract payments, including monies due people like John Havlicek and Dave Cowens, went unpaid due to Sterling’s complete ignorance of who those men were. Of course, who knew what his excuse was for not paying Paul Silas, since Silas was actually the coach of the Clippers at the time.

He’d never claimed to know much of anything about basketball, so it made sense that he would appoint someone who knew even less about the game as an assistant GM. Patricia Simmons was a model and “companion” of Sterling’s who was hired to an executive position and stationed in Silas’s office while he was gone on an NBA goodwill trip to China. Silas found his belongings stacked in the hallway.

As insanely rich as Sterling was and is, he often seems as willing to spend money on his team as the Pope would be to spend money on hookers. During his first season, he brought to Silas an unusual line of questioning, wondering if the players really needed a trainer. After all, being an ex-player, the coach could surely tape them up before games, couldn’t he? Training camp expenses for the second year were cut from around $50,000 to around $100. (Perhaps, camp was going to be conducted at the local YMCA? If so, would the team have to vacate for a seniors’ yoga class?) The team budget for scouting dropped to around $1,000, medical was cut to $100, and advertising was trimmed to $9,000, a 95% cut from its previous $200,000.

Occasionally, team hotels didn’t get paid, so what hope did the players have? More on them in Round 2, if Sterling knocks off the Maloofs.

 

(4) James Dolan (New York Knicks, 1994-present)
vs.
(5) Howard Schultz (Seattle SuperSonics, 2001-2006)

Egos run rampant in the owner’s offices of professional sports teams. In the offices of these two men, the egos aren’t a part of their story, they are the story. James Dolan’s reign with the Knicks has been marked by doing whatever it is he damn well pleases. Meanwhile, Howard Schultz bailed on the Sonics the moment someone let him know that he couldn’t do whatever he wanted.

Dolan has had a case of battered-woman syndrome that would put any shrink’s kids through their own med school career. His smiling tormentor has been Basketball Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas. Thomas made the kinds of personnel moves that would make Redskins owner Dan Snyder smile, but made other observers shake their heads and Knicks fans order another shot. Names like Penny Hardaway, Stephon Marbury, Vin Baker, Maurice Taylor and Steve Francis may have been solid acquisitions during the 1990’s, but by the time Thomas was hired, there was no tread left on anyone’s tires.

Multiple first-round picks were traded for a player whose career was in doubt from a potentially fatal heart condition, and while Eddy Curry had three fair-to-middling seasons as a Knick, the traded picks turned into budding stars LaMarcus Aldridge and Joakim Noah.

Dolan’s leash on Isiah was exceedingly long in the face of both mounting losses (141-241 record with Isiah as Knicks VP) and legal/PR insanity. When the team began showing signs of life in 2006-07, contending for the final playoff spot in the East at 29-34, Isiah got a big extension to keep coaching the Knicks. The team then bottomed out and lost 15 of their last 19. Isiah was getting paid big to lose, but even that’s better than his predecessor Larry Brown, who bailed on the club after a power struggle with Isiah during his first season in charge. Brown got paid $28 million for one year of coaching after Dolan bought him out.

Flushing money on players and coaches is one thing, but when you’re flushing cash for legal fees, changes may need to be made. Dolan didn’t really get the memo. The memo that he did get came in the form of a sexual harassment complaint by team marketing executive Anucha Browne Sanders. She had accused Thomas of inappropriate touching and calling her a “ho” when she shot down his advances. Rather than even examine the complaint, Dolan simply canned Sanders without bothering to consult his legal team. Two years later, Dolan was settling a lawsuit for $11.6 million, money that could have easily been spent to buy out another coach or failed player. The scary part for Knicks fans is that Isiah still pops up every now and then, allegedly having Dolan's ear even to this day. A re-hiring could occur any day, once Isiah stops pretending to coach at Florida International.

The last time Howard Schultz was connected to the Seattle SuperSonics, he was in the midst of legal proceedings himself. He was dropping a lawsuit that he had filed against Oklahoma City businessman Clay Bennett, to whom Schultz had sold the Sonics two years prior. Schultz claimed he wanted the team back once Bennett announced that the club was moving to Oklahoma City. Anyone who had watched Schultz over the last few years of his team ownership had to scoff at the idea that he wanted any more to do with the NBA.

Schultz was an excitable new owner during his first season, easily visible and jumping around like he was mainlining his own Starbucks coffee when the team was winning. They weren’t the power that they had been in the 1990’s, but they made the playoffs, at least. Schultz still had an instant dislike for his team’s best player, point guard Gary Payton, and Payton thumbed his nose at the boss by skipping the first day of training camp in 2002. By the end of the 2002-03 season, Payton was in Milwaukee.

Schultz also didn’t care for the way Rashard Lewis handled contract negotiations. Lewis sat across the table from the owner, but never spoke, never looked at Schultz, never raised the baseball cap from over his eyes. Lewis’s agents did all the talking, which bothered Schultz to no end. Still, Lewis got over $60 million in a seven-year deal, enough money that he never had to bother caring about basketball again.

By then, the Sonics had started losing, and Schultz tended to wear it all on his sleeve. Slumping down in his front row seat so far that he looked like he was in a beach lounger ordering a pina colada, Schultz’s blue aura began to infect the crowd and the team. Even as he soured on the team, he kept fighting for a new arena, going so far as to threaten to move the Sonics just four days before the Seahawks were to play in their first-ever Super Bowl. Despite the fact that Starbucks was selling coffee to the entire world, Schultz was adamant that the city was going to be the one paying for a new arena. NBA Commissioner David Stern was perfectly willing to walk into the Washington state legislature with Schultz and level veiled threats of his own, alluding to relocation as nonchalantly as any Seattleite would discuss the rain.

Sonics fans were okay with Schultz selling the club, but if they’d known that it would mean the team leaving town, could they have tolerated him a while longer? Knicks fans, for their part, are dying to see Jim Dolan sell as well, and the benefit of living in New York is that there’s always something else to do. Why subsidize Dolan when they could go down to Rucker Park and see better ball for free?

 

(3) Chris Cohan (Golden State Warriors, 1994-2010)
vs.
(6) George Shinn (Charlotte/New Orleans Hornets, 1987-2010)

“Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” Words that many choose to live by. Both of these owners managed to make enemies of their friends by the time they got out of the sports industry.

George Shinn’s Hornets were the toast of Charlotte when they began play in 1988. They drew nearly a million fans to see a 20-62 team in their inaugural season, leading the NBA in attendance. It was 1998-99 before the club fell below first or second in attendance. Five years in, the Hornets were a playoff team with a great young nucleus including Larry Johnson, Alonzo Mourning, and Kendall Gill along with veterans Dell Curry and Muggsy Bogues.

Then, Icarus flew a little too close to the sun when Shinn inked Johnson to an outrageous 12-year, $84 million contract, the richest the NBA had ever seen. Immediately, LJ suffered a back injury, one that would plague him for the rest of his career and force him to adapt into more of an outside game. The contract instantly altered the league’s entire economic structure, especially the one in Charlotte. Mourning wanted $100M, but Shinn blanched at the idea of two players eating that much salary cap.

Mourning was quickly peddled off to the Miami Heat, and it was only a couple of years later when Johnson was sent to the Knicks. Shinn’s rep as a tightwad was being cemented, but he would quickly wish that that was the worst thing the public had to say about him.

In 1997, a woman came forth with the claim that Shinn had raped her. She alleged that he took her to his house and forced her to perform oral sex, under the guise of taking her to his lawyer for help with some child custody problems. His trial was nationally televised on Court TV, and after he was forced to admit other adulterous affairs under oath, he decided to withdraw from the limelight. This was somewhat understandable for a man whose image was as one of the most pious members of the NBA’s ownership fraternity, but he admitted years after that it was not a prudent move. The Hornets even had a prayer read before games in their early days, which made Shinn’s off-court problems even more stunning.

Upon further review, Shinn didn’t completely disappear, because he needed to complain to someone that he needed a new arena. When the Charlotte voting public declined to foot the bill for said arena, it was time to pack up and move to New Orleans. Charlotte was so disillusioned with their NBA experience that the well was poisoned for the Bobcats, the new expansion club that the city was given as a peace offering. The Bobcats have yet to finish higher than 21st in attendance, a pathetic showing in hoops-mad North Carolina.

The San Francisco Bay area isn’t nearly as crazy about basketball as Tobacco Road, but the Warriors have played to over 90 percent of capacity each of the last five years. That’s an amazing figure for a team that’s struggled to make the playoffs, and one that’s slightly counterproductive for a fan base that was trying to get its owner to sell the team. Chris Cohan had that kind of effect on people, and if he didn’t, he could surely achieve the proper reaction by suing them for something or other.

If you know or have done business with Chris Cohan, you’ve probably seen him in court. It took a lawsuit for him to gain full control over the club from ex-partners Jim Fitzgerald and Dan Finnane, one apparently brought because he hadn’t been made full owner as quickly as he’d been promised. He sued two former coaches, Don Nelson and Rick Adelman, apparently for a piece of earnings made after they left the Warriors. The Oakland Alameda County Coliseum Authority tied him in knots for back rent, premium seat revenues, and facility fees. A concession-vendors’ union brought an unfair labor suit against the Warriors in 1998. Employees with the overblown titles of “Season Ticket Account Executives” sued in 2008 for unpaid commissions and overtime wages.

Cohan’s stockbroker, insurance agent, and primary attorney were all sued for various reasons. Not so unusual, except for the fact that all three were longtime friends of his, and two were actually in his wedding. Cohan’s reason for his attorneys getting more calls per day than the average Domino’s Pizza joint? He has “sometimes gotten [himself] into trouble for being way too principled,” a self-aggrandizing critique on the order of telling a job interviewer that you work too hard and that you’re too much of a perfectionist.

Even the IRS got involved in 2007, badgering Cohan about $160 million in taxes and penalties related to the sale of his original business, Sonic Communications.

All of this creates an oddball sideshow detracting from a team that could use some attention itself. A domino sequence of trades kicking off with the banishment of Chris Webber, less than a month after Cohan took over the Warriors, ended up bringing in names like Tom Gugliotta, Donyell Marshall, and Antawn Jamison, but ultimately netted little more than the remains of Avery Johnson, Nick Van Exel, and Popeye Jones.

For all the cash splashed on the attorneys, Cohan and his longtime chief executive Robert Rowell had an odd view of what were acceptable expenditures. Despite often proclaiming a willingness to pay luxury tax bills to get great players and a chance at a title, the Warriors demurred when offered a chance to add Kevin Garnett in the summer of 2006. Adding KG to a perimeter nucleus of Baron Davis, Stephen Jackson, and either Jason Richardson or Monta Ellis (depending on who would have been traded) could have made the Warriors even better than the plucky number-eight seed that pulled a stunner on Dallas.

With an owner that seemed to spend more time and money on legal fees than on his team, is it any wonder that Cohan’s own Oakland fans booed him when he hosted the 2000 All-Star Game?

 

(2) Ted Stepien (Cleveland Cavaliers, 1980-83)
vs.
(7) Michael Heisley (Vancouver/Memphis Grizzlies, 2000-present)

Many of the 32 owners in the WSOT set the bar high in terms of incompetence. But as far as we can tell, only one actually had his league’s rules changed to protect him from himself.

There’s a rule on the NBA’s books forbidding teams from trading first-round picks in consecutive drafts, and it’s commonly referred to as the “Ted Stepien Rule.” Stepien took over the club in 1980, and it was 1987 before the team actually made the draft pick that was granted by its record or lottery placement. (Actually, they did make their own pick in 1985, but that pick was donated to new owners George and Gordon Gund as a sympathy bonus for all of Stepien’s madness.)

The players that ended up in Cleveland as a result of the trades included Don Ford, Chad Kinch, Mike Bratz, Geoff Huston, Larry Anderson, Richard Washington, and Jerome Whitehead. That's an All-"Who?" team if you ever saw one.

Some of the traded picks turned into James Worthy, Sam Perkins, Roy Tarpley, Derek Harper, and Detlef Schrempf. Dallas fans had to have put Stepien on their Christmas card list by 1989.

He wasn’t a very keen judge of on-court talent, and his eye for coaches wasn’t the greatest, either. Stepien tore through five coaches during his three years of tumult, including a college-trained fellow named Chuck Daly, who went 9-32 during the 1981-82 season. The other three coaches that year combined for a 6-35 mark. Stepien on Daly after the firing: “I don’t feel guilty at all. I don’t feel Chuck ever totally accepted us. He had a great opportunity. I don’t think he’ll ever get it again.” Within the next 20 years, Daly would win over 600 games and two NBA titles, eventually being inducted into the Hall of Fame. There is no word on Stepien's comment regarding Daly's induction.

The previous full-time coach before Daly was a guy named Don Delaney, who had never been a head coach above the community college and NAIA levels. Unsurprisingly, Delaney went 7-19, which may have qualified him for a contract extension or even sainthood by the Cavs’ standards of the time. Compounding the misery, Delaney came down from the general manager’s office onto the bench, which made him at least complicit in a lot of the hideous deals going down at the time.

Stepien at one point threatened to move the Cavs to Toronto, which would have given Canada its first taste of pro basketball action since the Toronto Huskies folded in 1947. From an owner who pondered going into Canada, we move on to one who couldn’t wait to get out of the Great White North.

The NBA was insistent that whoever purchased the Vancouver Grizzlies try to make a go of it in British Columbia for five more years. Heisley made it one year, then sprinted to Memphis. Former owner Arthur Griffiths eventually accused Heisley of “bankrupting the fan base, alienating people, not marketing the team, presenting the argument that basketball didn’t work in Vancouver, which was hogwash.” Even if basketball had some tough sledding in a hockey-crazed city like Vancouver, Memphis’s status as one of America’s premier basketball towns should have helped the turnstiles spin.

It hasn’t. Only once since coming to Memphis have the Grizzlies sat higher than 24th in the NBA in total attendance. That 2004-05 season is the only one in which the team nudged above 90 percent capacity for the year at FedEx Forum.

Oh, and speaking of FedEx Forum, the new arena’s naming rights generated some controversy when Heisley, desperate for quick cash, securitized the cost of the deal into a bond and took a $60 million lump-sum payment for the club. (Such a deal would actually be funny and appropriate if the building was being named the J.G. Wentworth Center, but anyway, back to the story.) Minority partners considered the loss of the annual revenue a major hit to the team’s potential value, but Heisley needed the cash.

That potential value is a big deal, since Heisley claims to have been seeking an exit strategy since practically the moment the team moved. Earlier this year, he told the Vancouver Sun, “If I’d analyzed the situation in Vancouver the way I analyzed all the other businesses I’ve had, I never would have bought them.” The team was almost sold in 2006 to a group led by former NBA player/still-Public-Enemy-No.-1-in-Kentucky Christian Laettner. No other buyers have been interested in even nibbling at his $300 million asking price.

Vancouver media coverage seems to indicate that the NBA would be welcomed back with open arms into a much more economically friendly climate, but probably not with Heisley anywhere involved. Just wait, though. Maybe once Dan Gilbert gets a few effigies burned in Cleveland, that Cavs-to-Canada move could be feasible 30 years after Stepien first brought it up.

 

Remember, it’s all about the votes in deciding which owners did more to screw over their fans and their leagues, so leave some comments and discussion below or on the above-linked Facebook pages. You guys will decide who you'd like to read more eye-rolling tales about in Round 2. Happy voting.

Teaser:
<p> Part 3 of a series pitting 32 of sport's worst owners in all-out battle</p>
Post date: Thursday, August 11, 2011 - 06:29
Path: /nfl/worst-sports-owners-tournament-football-round-1
Body:

By Scott Henry (@4QuartersRadio)

If your team has an owner or owners who treat the fans with respect, be grateful.

If your team has an owner who spends within his/her/their means, but can still improve the team, enjoy it.

If your team has an owner who is capable of dealing with the team’s home city in a respectful, civil, and productive manner, don’t take that for granted.

After all, you could have ended up with one of these schmucks.

Welcome to Day 2 of the WSOT. The Worst Sports Owners Tournament brings together 32 of the worst owners in the history of sport for a no-holds barred battle to the death, which you, the faithful reader, can decide. If you think a cheap owner is worse than one who picks up his team and hauls it off to some other city, here’s your chance to voice that opinion. If you’re reluctant to get behind your team on the field when the owner is a criminal off it, vote them up right here and remind everyone just how big a scumbag your team’s boss was/is.

The tournament will roll through three weeks, and the votes will be decided between Athlon’s editorial staff, the comments you post below each piece, and comments on the Facebook pages of Athlon Sports and 4 Quarters Radio. Remember, you’re voting for the owners whose crimes against sport, humanity, and/or nature were the most egregious. We’ll offer anecdotal evidence of each owner’s evil/incompetence, and if you’ve got more, feel free to throw it in.

Here’s the schedule:

Monday, Week 1: Baseball Round 1
Tuesday, Week 1: Football Round 1
Thursday, Week 1: Basketball Round 1
Friday, Week 1: Hockey/Soccer Round 1

Monday, Week 2: Baseball/Hockey/Soccer Round 2
Thursday, Week 2: Football/Basketball Round 2

Monday, Week 3: Quarterfinals
Wednesday, Week 3: Semifinals
Friday, Week 3: Final

All in all, our little tourney isn't too different from the World Series of Poker. There's stacks of cash, gaudy jewelry, and the occasional tantrum involved, but at least there are no epileptic seizures from staring at Greg Rayner's shades. Read on.

 

Worst Football Owners Bracket:

(1) Dan Snyder (Washington Redskins 1999-present)
vs.
(8) Ralph Wilson (Buffalo Bills 1959-present)

You know you’ve made an impression on your city when a local paper prints an illustration of you as the Devil, then stands by the writer when you sue. That’s Dan Snyder in a nutshell.

Snyder grubs money, changes coaches more often than he changes shoes, cuts every operational corner he can find, and generally seeks to strong-arm the media like some tinpot South American dictator. He’d probably repossess his mother’s car if he heard her listening to those mean sports talk radio guys.

We know this series is essentially laden with hatchet jobs, but let’s see if we can find something positive about Osama Dan Laden. Hmmm…

Okay, how about this? He’s big on family connections within the organization. His coaching staffs are poster cases for nepotism. Marty Schottenheimer, Steve Spurrier, Joe Gibbs, Mike Shanahan, Al Saunders, and Gregg Williams all managed to get their sons jobs with the club during their tenures. Conversely, players who share DNA also share a total lack of job security. After long snapper Dan Turk botched a field goal snap in a 1999 playoff game, both he and his brother, punter Matt, were released. And you think your idiot brother used to get you into trouble.

Let’s see, another positive trait. Snyder’s a marketing innovator, putting himself at the vanguard of potentially lucrative marketing trends. In 2006, the Redskins became the lone NFL team to sell 9/11 commemorative gear, sewing flag-colored Pentagons on the side of regular black Redskin caps and asking $23.99 for them. He also slapped an extra $4 “security surcharge” onto ticket prices shortly after the aforementioned 9/11. Apparently, the club was taking up a collection to have fighter jets circle FedEx Field?

To further display his marketing acumen, Snyder gave an interview in 2000 to a PBS show called CEO Exchange and shared some of the tricks of his trade. “We saw that the aging baby boomer demographics were coming on strong. That meant there’s going to be a lot more diabetic patients, a lot more cancer patients, etc. How do we capture those market segments?” No truth to the rumor that he’s actively sought sponsorships from some of the illnesses in question. (“Diabetes: The Official Metabolic Disorder of the Washington Redskins.”)

For a time, it seemed Snyder was actively trying to expand the “chronically ill” market segments that he was prattling on about. In October 2009, a video surfaced on YouTube showing FedEx Field beer vendors peddling pilsners in the pisser. The notion of beer vendors in the bathroom drew a succinct reaction from Barbara Hyde, spokeswoman for the American Society for Microbiology: “Ewwwww!” That just might say it all.

All of this wackiness would be tolerable if the Redskins had been winning, but they’ve been to the playoffs twice since Snyder’s first season, and he had to go back and dig up Joe Gibbs to manage that. In comparison, Ralph Wilson’s Bills were one of the teams of the ‘90s, but they haven’t been to the playoffs since the ‘90s.

Wilson has little of Snyder’s marketing savvy, as any visitor to the Bills’ stadium can attest. Say what we like about selling out when a stadium owner peddles naming rights, but it is a financially lucrative maneuver. Wilson is said to be one of the louder players of those ol’ small-market blues, and yet his team still plays in Ralph Wilson Stadium as opposed to, say, Molson Field.

Molson would be a natural sponsor, since Wilson’s negotiated a deal to allow his team to play “home” games in Toronto since 2008, a deal set to end in 2012. Fans are concerned that the series foreshadows the franchise fully picking up stakes and moving to Toronto, while other owners simply rubber-stamped the idea hoping that it would stop Wilson’s grousing about small markets and revenue sharing.

Fans’ fears about relocation could be very valid, as the 92-year-old Wilson has made no plans for the club’s future when he passes away. Buffalo has had as bad a time in the economic downturn as any city in America, and the odds of finding a local buyer who can keep the team in town are slim. The team’s value suffers in the bargain, and the supporters are bracing themselves for the worst.

On the upside, if the team gets a new owner as weaselly as Snyder, he likely won’t want to stay around, and few would want to keep him anyway.

 

(4) Mike Brown (Cincinnati Bengals, 1991-present)
vs.
(5) Al Davis (Oakland/Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders, 1972-present)

Paul Brown performed tremendous service to football in the state of Ohio, founding both the Browns and Bengals. His son Mike is threatening to undo all the good will that his family has earned.

One thing for which Bengals fans and critics alike have to give Brown credit is that he’s not one to shirk blame for his team’s hideous play. Okay, maybe he is, but it rarely works, since there’s no one to shirk it onto because Brown refuses to hire a general manager. Any other team who had suffered through 204 losses in 20 years would have been through seven or eight GM’s by now. Okay, except the Detroit Lions, but they’re a whole other story.

Brown’s great for his coaches, as well, since they have tremendous job security. Mike would rather go 4-12 every year than pay contract buyouts, which is the only possible explanation for four-plus years and 53 losses’ worth of David Shula.

Players are slightly less thrilled about life in Cincinnati, but God help them if they speak on their anger. In 1998, punter Lee Johnson was cut after a reporter asked him if he would come to Bengals games as a fan. Johnson’s response was, “No, no way…why would you? […] I’d sell my tickets.” This assessment was a bit too honest for the boss’s tastes, so he cut Johnson for “conduct detrimental to the team.” The funnier aspect of Johnson’s case was that Brown attempted to fine Johnson for his comments after he released him.

That conversation had to sound like something out of Office Space. Picture your boss calling you on Tuesday, telling you you’ll be written up for not coming to work on Monday after he just fired you on Friday. Now, picture it in Bill Lumbergh’s voice.

It’s not too surprising that Brown’s fining and releasing people over the comments they make, because what else is there to worry about? Despite Cincinnati being one of the NFL’s smaller markets, Forbes pegged their 2010 profits at just short of $50 million. The team’s deal with Hamilton County entitles the Bengals to nearly all Paul Brown Stadium revenue for Bengals games. In addition, as of December 1, 2010, the team pockets all revenues in excess of $150,000 annually for non-Bengals events, since they manage the stadium. Oh, except for the fact that the county pays for all the maintenance and property taxes. The line about a sucker born every minute seems to apply here.

With all the cash pouring in, one would think the Bengals could afford more than one scout. But which is worse, being the only scout for the team or being a scout whose recommendations get ignored whenever some dude runs a 4.3 40-yard-dash at the NFL Draft Combine? Welcome to life under Al Davis.

In five of the last six years, at least one of the Combine's top five 40-yard dash times has been recorded by a player who went on to be drafted by the Raiders.

2006: Michael Huff, 4.34 (5th fastest)
2008: Tyvon Branch, 4.31 (2nd), Darren McFadden, 4.33 (5th)
2009: Darrius Heyward-Bey, 4.30 (fastest)
2010: Jacoby Ford, 4.28 (fastest)
2011: DeMarcus Van Dyke, 4.28 (fastest)

While Huff and Branch have become solid NFL safeties, McFadden has started to grow into the hype after early injuries, and Ford started off hot as a dangerous all-around weapon in his rookie year, picking Heyward-Bey seventh overall is still a choice about which many point and laugh at Al. If that was the most whacked-out of Davis’s idiosyncrasies, though, he’d be a cherished football treasure to people other than those who wear face paint and spiked shoulder pads.

After all, back in the 1960’s and ‘70’s, the Raiders were one of the flagship franchises in football, whether Pete Rozelle liked it or not. Since winning Super Bowl XVIII, though, success has often been fleeting, just like Al’s coaches. Since 1988, Davis has channeled his inner George Steinbrenner, churning through ten coaches. And just like Steinbrenner, Al has his own personal Billy Martin, giving Raider Hall of Fame lineman Art Shell two tries as a coach.

His hopping between Oakland and LA has tried the patience of fan bases in both cities, not to mention that of the NFL itself. Even after moving back to Oakland, Davis tried to call dibs on Los Angeles, sort of reminiscent of a woman’s ex-husband trying to ensure she doesn’t meet any new boyfriends. The claim was part of a lawsuit against the NFL, claiming that the league interfered with plans to build a new stadium at Hollywood Park. The move back to Oakland took place in 1995, but it took until 2007 for the California Supreme Court to put the case to bed.

Davis has an odd sense of loyalty that seems inversely proportional to the success that one has brought his franchise. Marcus Allen was the MVP of Super Bowl XVIII, accounting for more than 200 total yards and two touchdowns. A decade later, Allen stomped off to Kansas City having been accused of faking injuries and labeled a cancer by the man who had drafted him. Fast forward to the 2009 preseason. New coach Tom Cable was accused of punching an assistant coach in the face and breaking his jaw, and charges later surfaced that Cable had physically abused two ex-wives and a girlfriend. Never one to concern himself with others’ definition of propriety, Davis allowed Cable to run the team for two years before the inner Steinbrenner took over again and fired him.

Actually, the line above about Cable, or any coach for that matter, “running” the team is used quite loosely. Like Mike Brown, Davis serves as his own de facto general manager, but even Brown hasn’t made a habit of meddling in the coach’s business. When Marcus Allen finally went public with his grievances to Al Michaels of Monday Night Football, they included Art Shell's claim that Allen’s playing time was “out of his hands” and in Davis’s alone.

WWE honcho Vince McMahon had a famous line: “Don’t cross the boss.” It applies well to Al Davis, too. ESPN’s Adam Schefter cited a source that said the NFL has had to get involved in disputes with four of Davis’s last five coaches over money. Davis sued Lane Kiffin, was sued by Tom Cable, and the Raiders were involved in multiple lawsuits revolving around Cable’s conduct. Apparently, the only people enjoying the current state of football in Oakland are connected with law firms.

 

(3) Bob Irsay (Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts, 1972-1997)
vs.
(6) Hugh Culverhouse (Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1976-1993)

Two men who bought into the league in the 1970’s, Bob Irsay and Hugh Culverhouse have both faced accusations of unfair dealings with business associates. One was occasionally tight-fisted with players, and the other managed to completely alienate an entire city.

The video of the Mayflower moving trucks hauling the Baltimore Colts’ football operations to Indianapolis has become a part of NFL legend. Of course, if Bob Irsay had his way every time he wanted it, the Colts would have been hitting the road long before 1984.

As far back as 1976, Irsay had been irritating the Baltimore and Maryland governments alike by complaining that Memorial Stadium did not have the luxury boxes that were starting to come into vogue at the time. Phoenix, Los Angeles, Jacksonville, and Memphis were all reported as possible landing spots for the Colts. When the state finally agreed to work with him and issue a bond for stadium renovation, Irsay flatly refused because the deal was predicated on the Colts signing a new 15-year lease. Irsay was angry that Orioles owner/Memorial Stadium co-tenant Edward Bennett Williams was not being asked to sign a similar deal.

While he was shuffling all over the map to negotiate with various cities, Irsay seemed deeply concerned that the entire affair be kept on the hush. He repeatedly did his best to convince anyone who asked that the Colts weren’t going anywhere. A memorable impromptu press conference at the Baltimore airport, with mayor Donald Schaefer at his side, no less, featured the reportedly tipsy Irsay spouting calm, soothing reassurances like “I don't know what in the hell this is all about. I have no intention of moving the goddamn team.” Bob wasn’t about to confirm to anyone that he had come back to Baltimore after abruptly canceling a hush-hush meeting with Arizona governor Bruce Babbitt.

The state of Maryland wasn’t about to take any of this lying down, though. One chamber of the state legislature passed a resolution that would allow the city of Baltimore to seize the Colts under eminent domain. Within 48 hours, 15 trucks were on the road to Indy...and all were taking different routes, just in case the 5-0 wanted to set up roadblocks or call in the National Guard tank battalion or something. According to ex-coach Frank Kush, no one knew exactly where the team was going while the employees were packing up their offices, and it wasn’t until the trucks arrived that the secret was out.

When football came back to Baltimore in 1996, Browns/Ravens owner Art Modell (more on him in a bit) wanted to be able to call the new team the Colts, since he’d had to leave the Browns name in Cleveland. Bob Irsay had once indicated that he might relinquish the name if Baltimore got a new team, but by ’96, he and son Jim wanted $25-to-50 million to even consider the idea.

Now, let’s step back for a moment and examine exactly how Bob Irsay got into the league. Colts owner Carroll Rosenbloom wanted to get out of Baltimore just like Irsay would later do, but was okay with leaving the team there. He wanted the Los Angeles Rams, but he needed someone who would be willing to trade teams straight up. Rosenbloom helped broker a deal for Rams owner Dan Reeves (not the future Broncos and Falcons coach, by the way) to spurn one offer for a higher bid from one Robert Irsay, then he and Irsay simply traded football teams like kids would trade football cards.

While it’s a noteworthy deal in its own right, it takes on a new context here because of that spurned bidder who was beaten out by Irsay: a successful tax attorney named Hugh Culverhouse.

Culverhouse sued, claiming a conspiracy, and the resulting settlement ensured that Rosenbloom would throw his influential support behind an expansion franchise for Culverhouse. Eventually, he was offered the new 1976 expansion team in Tampa. It wasn’t a great start for his Buccaneers, as they lost the first 26 games in franchise history, at one point leaving Culverhouse in his Mile High Stadium luxury box as the team bus steamed toward the airport.

Despite all the losing, Culverhouse was a popular boss in all quarters, admired by players, coaches, fans, and fellow owners. Then came the 1982 players’ strike. Culverhouse was an influential member of the league’s negotiating committee, and his work during the labor dispute cost not only him, but his coach and close friend John McKay.

Culverhouse was accused of lying to his players in telling them that they were on one of football’s three highest-paying teams. Reports distributed by the NFLPA indicated the exact opposite, placing the Bucs 21st in the league in payroll, while pocketing the fifth-highest gross income of any team in the NFL. Players were also incensed when the coaching staff violated National Labor Relations Board policy by calling them and asking if they would come back to team headquarters for informal workouts. Bucs player rep Dave Stalls called it “a blatant attempt to split the players.” Imagine the thunder that DeMaurice Smith would have called down if that had occurred this summer. McKay sided with the owner and could never repair his relationship with his team.

Culverhouse’s frugality manifested itself in ways both amusing (painting walls at team’s One Buc Place HQ white to avoid need for projector screens) and disheartening (highly conservative price range for player signings). That cheap nature on contracts started the snowball effect that sent the Bucs from a solid playoff team back to laughingstock status. The contract of one player in particular was the talisman: Doug Williams.

Williams had led the team to the 1979 NFC Championship Game and to a division title in 1981. By 1983, the Bucs were expected to contend for the Super Bowl again. Williams was making $120,000 per year, which wasn’t one of the premier quarterback salaries in the league, even then. It wasn’t even in the top 40. Williams wanted $600,000, but Culverhouse offered $400,000. When the owner wouldn’t budge, Williams bailed for the USFL’s Oklahoma Outlaws. All of this came while Williams was struggling with the death of his wife and adapting to life as a single father.

To guard against the loss of Williams, the Bucs signed quarterback Jack Thompson from Cincinnati, but had to surrender their 1984 first-round pick as compensation. When Thompson flopped, they dealt a 1984 fourth-rounder and 1985 second-rounder for Steve DeBerg, who went 6-10 in 1984. In the 1984 supplemental draft for players coming over from the USFL, they selected Steve Young. Young would eventually become a Hall of Famer in San Francisco, but in Tampa, he was 3-16 with a TD/INT ratio of 11-21.

Now, what could have been:

--The 1984 first-rounder turned out to be No. 1, which became Irving Fryar. Players like Dean Steinkuhler and Carl Banks (an All-Pro in 1987) were also readily available. Even if the team had been a playoff contender as expected, players like WR Louis Lipps (2 Pro Bowls), RB Greg Bell (1), DB Scott Case (1), or OL Jim Sweeney (172 straight starts from 1985-95) would have been available late in the round.

--The traded fourth-rounder was used to select defensive back Randy Robbins, who went on to play eight solid years in Denver. Center Joel Hilgenberg (1 Pro Bowl) and DB Martin Bayless were also available later in that round.

--That supplemental pick used to select Steve Young could have become Reggie White, a logical successor to Lee Roy and Dewey Selmon as a terrorizing force on the Bucs’ defensive line.

--Finally, that 1985 second-rounder could have become Williams’ heir apparent at QB, a mad scrambler named Randall Cunningham, or linebacker Simon Fletcher, who recorded 97.5 sacks in 11 years as a Bronco.

If only Culverhouse had known that just a little more cash to Williams could have bought him a receiver (Lipps), a steady defensive back (Robbins), one of the game’s best-ever pass rushers (White), and either Cunningham’s electric athleticism or Fletcher’s ability as a blitzer, it would have gone down as some of the best money ever spent.

 

(2) Art Modell (Cleveland Browns/Baltimore Ravens, 1961-2004)
vs.
(7) Norman Braman (Philadelphia Eagles, 1985-1994)

In many cases, owners’ reputations can rise and fall with the production of the players that they employ. These two bosses employed all-time legends, but unfortunately ended up running them off.

When Art Modell purchased the Cleveland Browns in 1961, two other famous Browns came under his employ: founding coach Paul and bruising runner Jim. Paul Brown was still very much in control of the team’s decisions and player moves, and a trade for 1961 Heisman Trophy winner Ernie Davis particularly rankled the new owner. Brown refused to play Davis following his diagnosis of leukemia in 1962. Doctors said that Davis’s body could handle the pounding of NFL action, and Modell wanted him on the field. Brown never did play Davis in a game, and the man they called “The Elmira Express” died in May of 1963.

By the time Davis died, Paul Brown had already been terminated. Modell fired him in January of 1963, and conspiracy theorists note that the uproar was muted by a local newspaper strike that was ongoing at the time. It seemed like a solid deal at the time, considering that players had chafed under Brown’s authoritative hand. Besides, the much looser Blanton Collier coached the club to the 1964 NFL Championship, so Paul Brown was barely missed at the time. Of course, the team never reached that level again.

Jim Brown, on the other hand, loved Modell early on. Modell encouraged Jim to have his own radio show, which served as a great platform for Jim to rail against Paul Brown’s now-predictable playcalling. Modell often placed Brown’s star power above the rest of the team and especially above the coach, which provoked Paul Brown to ponder trading Jim. Word got back to Jim Brown, and he immediately requested that Modell put a no-trade clause in his contract. All the latitude that Modell gave Brown came back to bite him in 1966, when Jim decided to retire and finish filming “The Dirty Dozen” rather than report to training camp.

Brown’s decision may have left Modell in a surly mood, as he attempted to play hardball with several of his players the following year. Five black players, including Jim Brown’s close friend, guard John Wooten, and Brown’s replacement Leroy Kelly, refused to come to camp. Modell responded by putting out a press release talking about how he and the Browns had “paved the way” for blacks in the NFL, never mind the fact that he was taking credit for Paul Brown’s decisions. Four of the five were gone within the next year.

Oh, yeah, and Modell yanked the Browns out of Cleveland altogether, giving us the Baltimore Ravens. But more on that in Round 2, if Modell makes it that far.

Just like Modell, ex-Eagles owner Norman Braman could be hard-nosed on a contract. Braman’s misfortune was to be the owner of a NFL franchise in 1993, the dawn of full-fledged football free agency. Like Modell, Braman employed one of the NFL’s all-time great players, defensive end Reggie White. The Eagles of the late 1980’s and early ‘90’s had solid offenses, but were defined by dominant defenses that were loaded with star-quality players. White, Clyde Simmons, Seth Joyner, Eric Allen, Wes Hopkins, Jerome Brown, and Andre Waters led a defense that may have peaked in 1991, ranking first overall, against the pass, and against the run.

By then, however, White and Braman were already in a hostile relationship. White accused Braman of lowballing him on a prior contract and getting away with it by offering White’s agent, Patrick Forte, an Eagles front office job. Braman didn’t care for White constantly proclaiming his faith during interviews and personal appearances. By 1993, when White became the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit that led to NFL free agency, Braman had already made up his mind that he was letting Reggie go.

When White became a free agent, he said that he would be waiting for a sign from God to tell him where to go. Braman at first told White’s agent to test the market and get back to him with a request, then ignored the calls when they came. When White signed with the Green Bay Packers, Braman said, “He did what was in the best interests of his family, and he did a super job of marketing himself. I give him credit. But I was not going to become part of a circus. And the press fell for all that crap about God.” It went along with Braman’s comments after White objected to the firing of coach Buddy Ryan: “Reggie may be devout, but his first love is the almighty dollar.”

Braman certainly stuck to one principle: “You stay with veterans, and one day you wake up and they’ve all gotten old.” By 1995, all the players listed above were gone, and so was Braman.

 

Remember, it’s all about the votes in deciding which owners did more to screw over their fans and their leagues, so leave some comments and discussion below. You guys will decide who you'd like to read more eye-rolling tales about in Round 2. Happy voting.

Teaser:
<p> Part 2 of a series pitting 32 of sport's worst owners in all-out battle</p>
Post date: Tuesday, August 9, 2011 - 04:55
Path: /mlb/horrible-bosses-sport-tournament-baseball-round-1
Body:

By Scott Henry (@4QuartersRadio)

 

If your team has an owner or owners who treat the fans with respect, be grateful.

If your team has an owner who spends within his/her/their means, but can still improve the team, enjoy it.

If your team has an owner who is capable of dealing with the team’s home city in a respectful, civil, and productive manner, don’t take that for granted.

After all, you could have ended up with one of these schmucks.

You've heard of the WSOP, we're sure. (That's the World Series of Poker, just in case.) We're pleased to welcome you to the WSOT. The Worst Sports Owners Tournament brings together 32 of the worst owners in the history of sport for a no-holds barred battle to the death, which you, the faithful reader, can decide. If you think a cheap owner is worse than one who picks up his team and hauls it off to some other city, here’s your chance to voice that opinion. If you’re reluctant to get behind your team on the field when the owner is a criminal off it, vote them up right here and remind everyone just how big a scumbag your team’s boss was/is.

The tournament will roll through three weeks, and the votes will be decided between Athlon’s editorial staff, the comments you post below each piece, and comments on the Facebook pages of Athlon Sports and 4 Quarters Radio. Remember, you’re voting for the owners whose crimes against sport, humanity, and/or nature were the most egregious. We’ll offer anecdotal evidence of each owner’s evil/incompetence, and if you’ve got more, feel free to throw it in.

Here’s the schedule:

Monday, Week 1: Baseball Round 1
Tuesday, Week 1: Football Round 1
Thursday, Week 1: Basketball Round 1
Friday, Week 1: Hockey/Soccer Round 1

Monday, Week 2: Baseball/Hockey/Soccer Round 2
Thursday, Week 2: Football/Basketball Round 2

Monday, Week 3: Quarterfinals
Wednesday, Week 3: Semifinals
Friday, Week 3: Final

All in all, our little tourney isn't too different from the World Series of Poker. There's stacks of cash, gaudy jewelry, and the occasional tantrum involved, but at least there are no epileptic seizures from staring at Greg Rayner's shades. Read on.

Worst Baseball Owners Bracket:

(1) Frank and Jamie McCourt (Los Angeles Dodgers 2004-present)
vs.
(8) Wayne Huizenga (Florida Marlins 1993-1998)

After the Marlins won the 1997 World Series, Wayne Huizenga should have been smiling. Instead, he was crying. More specifically, he was crying poverty.

Claiming that he was losing a ton of money, Huizenga ditched the team’s stars, guys like Gary Sheffield, Kevin Brown, Moises Alou, and Al Leiter. The resultant trades netted the Marlins Preston Wilson, A.J. Burnett, and a whole bunch of historical footnotes. The Marlins sank like a stone in the standings, dropping from 92 wins to 54, the worst season of any defending World Series champion in baseball history.

Still, at least Huizenga had money to lose at some point.

Frank McCourt leveraged his purchase of the Dodgers to the hilt, with almost half of his purchase price of the team made up of a line of credit from News Corp, the team’s previous owner. A South Boston parking lot was used as collateral.

As far as McCourt was concerned, the Dodgers’ money was his money, free to be used as he saw fit. The IRS is investigating the McCourts for tax evasion stemming from $105 million of alleged withdrawals from the team to cover personal expenses. Some of that cash could probably have been spent on such minor details as paying the players, or at the very least, a few extra security guards to ensure that Giants fans didn’t get pummeled into comas on Opening Day.

If the Dodgers get any more desperate for money, they're going to have to resort to some truly wild measures, like individual sponsors for each player or outsourcing the pitching staff to India like their creditors' customer services departments. ("Now pitching for the Dodgers...brought to you by Del Taco, Home of the Nacho Crunch Burrito...RAPID RAJIV NIRAPATHPONGPORN!")

So, which is worse: watching a proud franchise slide into a morass of debt, or watching a nouveau riche club spend enough to win a title, then strip the ride down for parts?


(4) George Steinbrenner (New York Yankees 1973-2010)
vs.
(5) Arnold Johnson (Kansas City Athletics 1954-1960)

If you’ve ever watched a sporting event, chances are that at some point, you’ve blurted out that a referee/umpire/underachieving player has been paid off. This statement is rarely true, usually being motivated by the emotions of a dramatic game.

But what if another team really did have your owner in its pocket? If that were true, you would understand what Kansas City Athletics fans dealt with from 1954 to 1960, the club’s first years in town.

Arnold Johnson dragged the Philadelphia Athletics to Kansas City after Connie Mack’s family fell into financial trouble. This was immediately after he sold his interest in Yankee Stadium. Johnson also owned KC’s Blues Stadium, which was where the Yankees’ top farm team played. He sold it to the city, and they paid to have it remodeled to major league specifications…by a construction company owned by Yankees co-owner Del Webb.

Stories continue to persist that Webb and his Yankee partner Dan Topping held the note on a mortgage that Johnson could not procure for himself, and the veracity of those tales is up for debate. What isn’t up for debate, though, is that for the next six years, some very good players took express trains from KC to New York, even though the team in Kansas City was allegedly no longer a Yankee farm club.

The two clubs made the whopping total of 18 trades in six years. The Yankees sent pitcher Ralph Terry to the A’s in June 1957, then “recalled” him two years later. Terry won 76 games in five-plus seasons, including an AL-best 23 in 1962. Outfielder Roger Maris was dealt to New York in December of 1959. All he did was hit 100 home runs in the next two seasons, winning both MVP awards and toppling Babe Ruth’s hallowed single-season record in the process.

Other guys like Bobby Shantz, Clete Boyer, and Hector Lopez left KC to win some pennants in New York, while the A’s got back players like Billy Martin (yes, that one), who was exiled after a fight at the Copacabana. The Maris trade returned a washed-up Hank Bauer, who was KC’s manager by 1961, and Don Larsen, plus baseball’s ultimate lovable loser, Marv Throneberry.

All in all, 10 players on the 1961 Yankees team, often called the greatest ever, came directly from the Athletics. Following Johnson’s death, that talent pipeline was closed off by new A’s owner Charlie O. Finley, and the Yankees began their descent soon after.

It’s safe to say that George Steinbrenner would have loved that kind of cozy arrangement. While baseball’s rich-get-richer economics could still see it happen, Steinbrenner rarely kept a manager or general manager in place long enough to know what to do with new players.

In the first 23 years that “The Boss” reigned in the Bronx, he acquired and discarded 20 managers. Despite a .591 winning percentage, two World Series appearances, and one championship, Steinbrenner yo-yoed Billy Martin (yes, him again) in and out of the manager’s office five times. From 1975 to 1990, only seven of the 16 seasons did not involve at least one change of managers. Even Yankee legend Yogi Berra wasn’t safe, being canned 16 games into the 1985 season because The Boss questioned players’ efforts in workouts.

The 1981 season summed up Steinbrenner’s bombast beautifully. After Game 3 of the World Series in Los Angeles, he showed off a hand in a cast, claiming it was from a fight with two Dodger fans in a hotel elevator. When the Series was over, the owner second-guessed manager Bob Lemon for an early Game 6 pitching change, and then issued a public apology when the Dodgers won the Series. Many players were livid over the statement, including Reggie Jackson, who bolted to the California Angels (and a “Naked Gun” cameo).

Unsurprisingly, Lemon was fired early the next season. The Yankees didn’t make the playoffs again until 1995.


(3) Marge Schott (Cincinnati Reds 1984-1999)
vs.
(6) Vince Naimoli (Tampa Bay Devil Rays 1998-2005)

One was anti-social to fans and reporters. One was anti-social to umpires and entire races of people. Tough call.

Vince Naimoli doesn’t carry the name recognition of some of his fellow combatants here, but those who worked for and with him will remember him vividly, perhaps as long as they live.

Naimoli was the founding owner of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, but that was only because he was shot down in an effort to buy the San Francisco Giants and move them to the St. Pete area. Devil Rays employees had to wonder what exactly they were in for before there was even a name on the team stationery.

A Tampa TV reporter got wind of the new team’s name and called the Rays’ attorney to confirm. Despite the attorney’s warning not to report the story, at risk of embarrassment, Mike Deeson did just that. The media gathered in Palm Beach to announce the new Rays and Diamondbacks franchises, and Naimoli let Deeson have it, launching a stuttering rant in a full room of reporters.

The print media didn’t always fall on Naimoli’s good side, either. When the St. Petersburg Times ran a cartoon depicting Naimoli as Tony Soprano, he pulled all the Times’ paperboxes from Tropicana Field and threatened to sue. In April 2004, he threatened to yank the press pass off of a Baltimore beat writer who entered the press box carrying a pizza, which he had bought at the Trop’s very own concession stand. Apparently, Naimoli was not a fan of the “sportswriters feasting on free press box food” stereotype.

Of course, the public at large has little sympathy for the mistreated sportswriter. But when racial slurs are flying and the dead get disrespected, that snaps people to attention. Longtime Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott was an equal-opportunity bigot, at least. Whether it was calling Dave Parker and Eric Davis “my million-dollar n-----s,” claiming that “sneaky goddamn (Semitic people) are all alike,” or wondering why people got offended over the word “Jap,” Marge ranted on more different ethnicities than Archie Bunker, Mel Gibson and George Wallace combined.

Her televised comment about Adolf Hitler, “He was good in the beginning, but went too far,” was a bit too close to Nazi sympathizing for some, and she was banned from running the Reds for two years by Major League Baseball.

The cherry on her Sundae o’ Racism was her comment to Sports Illustrated’s Rick Reilly about a baseball goodwill visit she had taken to Japan. Schott claimed that the prime minister of Japan said to her, “No want Cadirrac, no want Rincoln, want Mosh Shott Boo-ick,” with the prototypical Charlie Chan parody accent.

As if that wasn’t enough, the on-field death of umpire John McSherry moments before Opening Day 1996 was merely one more inconvenience: “Snow this morning and now this. I don't believe it. I feel cheated.” She at least sent flowers to McSherry’s funeral…never mind that they were allegedly a regifted bouquet that someone had given to her. Her attempted apology two weeks later had three notable factors:
1) it was directed toward a completely different umpiring crew;
2) she blamed the media for stirring the whole thing up in the first place;
and 3) it was angrily refused.

Was it something she said, or was it the swastika armband?


(2) Jeffrey Loria (Montreal Expos 1999-2002, Florida Marlins 2002-present)
vs.
(7) David Glass (Kansas City Royals 2000-present)

Even in today’s highly interconnected, news-as-it-happens communications climate, there are some places where people feel that they can get away with whatever they like. Kansas City and Miami are two such places, at least in the minds of Royals owner David Glass and current Marlins owner/Expos killer Jeffrey Loria.

Glass made his money as CEO of Wal-Mart. He made his name on a December 1992 edition of the NBS news program Dateline. An investigation of Wal-Mart’s “Made in America” marketing campaign unearthed several Bangladesh sweatshops producing those “American Made” clothes. His excuse was something about how Asians are short, so it’s hard to tell how old they are. Anything in the name of saving money, eh?

That philosophy carried over to his takeover of the Kansas City Royals following the death of founder Ewing Kauffman. Glass was the interim CEO and Chairman of the Board until he ponied up $96 million to buy the team outright. The sale flew in the face of pesky details like, oh, a higher bid. MLB’s other owners refused a $120M offer from New York attorney Miles Prentice in the face of KC-area political concerns about a potential move and MLB’s own concerns about Prentice’s net worth.

Once Glass took over, the club assumed a Wal-Mart approach to its payroll. It wasn’t until 2010 that the Royals climbed out of MLB’s bottom 10 in player salaries. The penny-pinching served little competitive purpose, as the Royals won the fewest games in baseball from 2001 to 2010. Glass rarely hesitates to pull out his proverbial harmonica and play the small-market blues, blaming baseball’s economic structure for the Royals’ struggles. Never mind that the Rays made the 2008 World Series with a payroll $14.4M short of what KC was spending that year.

It wasn’t just the players that were skimped on, either. Scouts told embarrassing stories of having no company cell phones, and then having limited minutes when they did get them. The minor-league affiliates had difficulties keeping their equipment maintained. One year, prospective draft picks were asked if they would accept a $1,000 signing bonus, and those who would not were hung up on. Perhaps most famously, a Negro Leagues tribute game, which would go over huge in the home of the legendary Monarchs, was cancelled because full sets of uniforms would be too expensive.

Lots of rumors have circulated during Glass’s tenure about him pocketing the Royals’ revenue-sharing money while still crying poor. Jeff Loria’s the subject of similar stories, but his have had a little bit of proof attached to them thanks to leaks of Marlins financial documents last year. Miami politicians were outraged to discover that the publicly funded stadium they had just signed off on would end up costing Miami-Dade County an estimated $2.4 billion after 40 years’ worth of balloon payments and interest.

The Marlins are estimated to have profited to the tune of more than $91 million in the three years preceding the passing of the stadium plan in 2008. This is with the club spending slightly more than $45M in player payroll during the 2006 and 2007 seasons.

Meanwhile, on the documents that were leaked to Deadspin, a corporation called Double Play Company was listed as the Marlins’ managing general partner and was paid a total of $8.6M from 2007 to 2009. The state of Florida recognized Jeffrey Loria as CEO and his stepson (and Marlins president) David Samson as president of Double Play.

Essentially, $9M went directly into the pockets of the Marlins’ bosses without passing Go while they pressured the city for public stadium funding and kept receiving welfare checks from teams like Boston, the Cubs, and the Yankees. Willie Sutton, the Alphabet Bandit, and the Ex-Presidents couldn’t have pulled off a bigger heist.

But, at least the Marlins won a World Series, right?


Remember, it’s all about the votes in deciding which owners did more to screw over their fans and their leagues, so leave some comments and discussion below. There are certainly points about each owner that we’ve yet to discuss, but hey, we’ve got to keep something available for Round 2. Happy voting.
 

Teaser:
<p> Part 1 of a series pitting 32 of sport's worst owners in all-out battle.</p>
Post date: Monday, August 8, 2011 - 04:30
Path: /news/randy-moss-retires-does-canton-clock-start-now
Body:

The agent for former Vikings and Patriots wide receiver Randy Moss announced that Moss was retiring Monday, potentially calling an end to one of the most famous, and infamous, careers of any receiver in NFL history.

The news comes as a surprise, just weeks after the same agent, Joel Segal, claimed that Moss was in "freakish shape" as a result of "two-a-days, all spring and summer in West Virginia."

Players pondering retirement rarely put themselves through grueling two-a-day practices at home, which leads to speculation about Moss's "retirement" being a ploy to avoid a team's training camp.

The possibility remains that a team could offer Moss a contract if they suffer a rash of injuries, but for now, no offers appear forthcoming. Moss "retiring," therefore, is his way of telling the 32 NFL clubs, "You can't fire me, I quit."

If Moss does fade into the shadows in the same way Marvin Harrison did after his release from the Indianapolis Colts in early 2009, the Canton Clock starts now, counting down the five-year waiting period for his enshrinement.

Moss could become eligible for the Hall at the same time as another veteran wide receiver with eye-popping stats and equally impressive off-field baggage, Terrell Owens.

Like Moss, Owens has spent his last few seasons bouncing from team to team in search of the next big highlight. Their career numbers are similar, down to both catching exactly 153 career touchdowns to date. Still, both have burned enough bridges with bad decisions over the years that teams are leery of signing them, so further NFL employment is by no means certain.

With that in mind, if you had to make one wait to get into Canton, which would it be? The man who bagged 17 touchdowns as a rookie, or the one who took the torch from his 49ers predecessor, Jerry Rice? The player who immortalized the phrase "straight cash, homie" or the one who gave us the tearful "that's my quarterback"? The guy who tried to run over a meter maid or the one who liked to call press conferences in his driveway?

First, the numbers. T.O.'s advantages over Moss are 124 catches and 1074 yards in 17 extra games. Sizeable, but a motivated Moss could easily put the yards up. Catches are less likely. As said before, touchdowns are dead even. ADVANTAGE: Push.

Playoff performance: Moss erupted in his first several playoff games, recording nine scores in seven games. Only Gary Anderson's inexplicable case of the yips kept Moss from appearing in the Super Bowl as a rookie. From there, indifference took over. His best game from 2005 on was 5 catches, 62 yards and a score in Super Bowl XLII, when Eli and the Miracles snatched a ring from his grasp.

T.O.'s production was much more pedestrian, save lighting up the Giants in 2002 and his 122 yards for the Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX, when he made a stirring return from a broken leg. ADVANTAGE: Moss

Team performance: Neither man won a Super Bowl, and each only appeared in one. Interestingly, though, the Patriots' loss to the Ravens after the 2009 season was the first time that Moss had been on a team that lost its first playoff game. Moss was on six playoff teams, Owens on eight.

Still, the Dallas teams that T.O. was on had to rank with some of the most disappointing groups in NFL history. Those Cowboy teams had great talent, but small results. ADVANTAGE: Moss

Public opinion: Moss is a physical freak who played at 80-percent effort. T.O. is an unrepentant attention hound who personifies the "diva receiver" stereotype. Moss's off-field baggage occasionally skirted the edges of legality, with the meter maid incident and frank admissions of marijuana use. T.O.'s issues were minor in comparison, save a hotly denied suicide attempt. ADVANTAGE: Owens

Both men provide classic case studies of why some football fans clamor for the return of the Wing-T formation, back before wide receivers were paid handsomely to do wind sprints for most of the game. They're polarizing figures, making fans choose between shaking their heads at amazing feats on the field and doing the same at boneheaded actions off of it.

Still, if forced to choose between one, this writer backs T.O. because of one old saying.

"Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard." We can say what we want about Terrell Owens, but it was hard to outwork him on the field.

--Scott Henry (@4QuartersRadio)

Teaser:
<p> Between Randy Moss and Terrell Owens, which one deserves to be in the Hall of Fame more?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, August 2, 2011 - 05:44
Path: /college-football/north-carolina-vs-ohio-state-violations-scorecard
Body:

Two programs, one with a middling college football tradition and one comfortably nested among college football's elite, currently face the heavy hammer of the NCAA's compliance police. Both have removed personnel from their ranks, including the head coaches, and claimed that those moves have exorcised the demons haunting their offices.

But who deserves a greater dose of punishment in the NCAA's kangaroo court, North Carolina or Ohio State? So much depends on your interpretation of whether the NCAA's rules are even fair to begin with.

The crux of the matter at Ohio State is based on the widespread Columbus custom of trading Buckeye sports memorabilia and tickets for benefits ranging from tattoos to cars. Sports Illustrated alleged that players had also traded swag for marijuana, but the NCAA, due to its lack of subpoena power, was unable to fully investigate those allegations.

Meanwhile, coach Jim Tressel's e-mail trail indicates that he knew about the issues over a year prior to the kickoff of the investigation, and his preferred plan of action may have been sticking his fingers in his ears, humming "la-la-la," and searching for any shred of plausible deniability.

If we want to judge the Buckeyes' case by the company the players were keeping, there are certainly grounds for suspicion and reprisal from the NCAA. Edward Rife, owner of Fine Line Ink in Columbus, has pled guilty to drug trafficking and money laundering. He's not exactly the kind of guy a university wants having extensive connections to its football program. For the sake of OSU's own image, they needed to cut him off with haste, and perhaps his jail time will accomplish that purpose.

Rife was also an avid collector of Buckeye memorabilia, and the players who provided the items he craved were allegedly compensated for them in a variety of ways. Still, one point gnaws at me and makes me question the NCAA's true allegiance to student-athletes.

That point is this: why is a university being attacked for players selling their own possessions? Rings, helmets, assorted awards, they're all wonderful items for a player to point to later in life and reminisce about his past achievements.

Or, the players can act like typical 18-to-22-year-old guys and hock their stuff for some cash to go clubbing with. People sell cars, televisions, musical instruments, all sorts of items that may or may not have any sentimental value when they find themselves in dire financial straits. I'm still smarting from selling my once-vast CD collection for 10 cents on the dollar after bouncing a car payment back in 1998. Stuff happens.

The NCAA demanding a pound of flesh from a university because its players sold items given out as awards makes as much sense as locking a parent in jail because their kid went to school, traded a baseball card for a baseball bat, and beat someone with the bat. Coaches and administrators are fond of saying that they can't monitor their players' every move, and this is a prime example.

If selling this sort of memorabilia is going to be a "crime," why not make it a capital-C crime? Postpone the giving of awards until some homecoming five years down the line, so championship rings and other such valuables aren't left dependent on the whims of a teenager wondering how he's going to afford to take a coed to a nice restaurant.

Insist on a player signing waivers that put him at risk of prosecution if he sells this particular piece of property, barring unforeseen circumstances as deemed permissible by the school. Essentially, those awards would be rented. If the players don't want to participate under those conditions, then so be it. They get no championship rings to show to their kids and grandkids.

Ohio State's case is full of violations that should not be violations. Now, should they skate? Absolutely not, but the shrapnel from this explosion needs to travel a bit further up the food chain than half of the starting offense.

Athletic director Gene Smith did everything but physically slap a hand over Jim Tressel's mouth at the March press conference where the case was blown open. He was making sure that Tressel admitted nothing that would land the university in further hot water, full disclosure be damned. Any sanctions that would end up impacting the university should tail him for the remainder of his career, just as they will Jim Tressel.

It's unknown whether Smith knew something and when he knew it, but he knew it at that press conference, and he made certain that Tressel didn't slit his own throat when there was a chance that OSU could make the whole thing disappear.

The worst words a university can hear from the NCAA are "failure to monitor." In this case, Ohio State was certainly monitoring. However, "failure to report" should be even more damning. The NCAA settling for Tressel's head on a platter and some Liquid Paper over a line in the proverbial record book is shameful. If these particular violations are going to be considered violations, the penalties need to pack some teeth or the rules need to be removed.

Let's compare this with North Carolina. The Tar Heels' allegations ranged from academic cheating to payment of players' parking tickets to employing an assistant coach who was on an agent's payroll. Nearly all of these should rate a bowl ban, loss of scholarships, a few weeks at Guantanamo, something. Something more than the vacated games that Ohio State levied against itself, the "let's pretend that season didn't happen" defense. Until the Men in Black start walking around and neuralyzing everyone, this defense needs to go away faster than "Hey, you wouldn't hit a guy with glasses, would ya?"

UNC employed a tutor who spent her own money to make players' parking tickets go away, bought a plane ticket for one, and gave away tutoring sessions at no charge to players or school.

And a word about those parking tickets, if I may. 395 tickets totaling more than $13,000? Are you kidding? We all know that faculty and staff get all the good parking spots, but when it takes a lower-class annual salary to make the tickets go away, the coaching staff may want to boot everyone's cars themselves and tell them to take the bus.

Assistant coach John Blake took over $31,000 from agent Gary Wichard's Pro Tect Management, primarily for steering players to said agency. Pro Tect and other agencies, along with assorted Tar Heel alumni, were alleged to be handing money directly to players.

On top of all of it, defensive tackle Marvin Austin lit the fuse by extensively tweeting about the parties that he was attending in Miami, parties thrown by sports management firms. All of this sounds like the treatment for a sequel to Blue Chips.

The largest takeaway that most coaches were left with was summed up by Alabama's Nick Saban, who memorably called agents "pimps" at an early-season press conference last year. Agents are evil, Twitter is a tool of the devil, and our players are as pure as the driven snow.

Bollocks.

College football players have mostly been told how awesome they are since they were 12 or 13. The typical teenage air of invincibility is heightened tenfold with athletes. As Annie Savoy told us at the end of Bull Durham, "The world was made for those who aren't cursed with self-awareness."

When you and I were teenagers, life was all about having fun at all times and at all costs. If things like school work could be avoided, they often were. Are agents exploiting this basic aspect of human nature? Absolutely. Are the players wide-eyed innocents with no culpability to any of it? Not one bit.

The university let in a lot of people with bad intentions, so it's no surprise that those dreaded words "failure to monitor" are being heard in the Chapel Hill affair. UNC's efforts to keep the agents barking outside the door must have been truly pitiful, and for that they will pay.

The sheer depth and breadth of the North Carolina violations mean that the Tar Heels are going to get hit a lot harder than the Buckeyes, and it's not just because Ohio State is Ohio State and ESPN loves them. All of the things of which North Carolina's program has been accused are all of the things that are reputed to be the deepest, darkest evils possible in college football. Academic fraud and agents handing over cash do and should trump players selling helmets and pants.

Only time will tell us exactly how heavy the damage will be to both programs. Ohio State's date with the NCAA is scheduled for August 12, and North Carolina's is October 28. Those who would like to see some reform in college football have to hope that the punishments are more the size of Gulliver and less the size of Gachnar.

--Scott Henry (@4QuartersRadio)

Teaser:
<p> Which school went further off the rails with its disregard for NCAA rules?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, August 2, 2011 - 04:22
Path: /news/rockies-entertaining-more-offers-ubaldo-jimenez
Body:

Sources indicate that the Colorado Rockies are switching into selling mode as the Major League Baseball trade deadline approaches, particularly with starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez.

Sources tell Fox's Ken Rosenthal that several teams are lining up as suitors, including the Tigers, Yankees, Reds, Red Sox, and Indians. Still, the Rockies are not considered desperate to move Jimenez, and are negotiating hard for the right price.

Double-A pitching prospects Jacob Turner (Tigers) and Drew Pomeranz (Indians) are among the names that Colorado is rumored to be seeking. Both prospects' current clubs are considered highly reluctant to move the players in any deal.

First baseman/outfielder Yonder Alonso is a Rockies target in the Reds organization, and Red Sox farmhands Kyle Weiland and Will Middlebrooks are drawing interest, as well.

The Yankees may be the leaders in the Jimenez derby, if they're willing to part with major-league starter Ivan Nova, giant Double-A pitcher Dellin Betances, and Triple-A catcher Jesus Montero. There are currently conflicting reports as to whether the Yankees will accept such a proposal.

Rosenthal reports that the Rockies are fully aware that their price is high, and that, for that reason, a deal may not get done.

--Scott Henry (@4QuartersRadio)

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Friday, July 29, 2011 - 09:37
Path: /news/reggie-bush-headed-saints-dolphins
Body:

NFL News: The Miami Dolphins have reached contract terms with running back Reggie Bush, clearing the final hurdle to a trade between the Dolphins and New Orleans Saints.

Bush escapes a crowded backfield where he would fight for touches with Pierre Thomas, Chris Ivory, and first-round draft pick/Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram. His primary competition in Miami will be Kansas State rookie Daniel Thomas.

Bush has missed 16 of his past 42 games due to various injuries, and the Dolphins are not expected to use him as their featured running back. What he does provide is a potentially electrifying change of pace from the larger, slower Daniel Thomas, who is more equipped to be an inside runner than Bush.

Bush has caught 294 passes in his NFL career, accounting for more than half of his 4,232 yards from scrimmage. In 2008, he averaged 13.5 yards per punt return with three touchdowns, and the Dolphins hope he can recapture that kind of lightning for them.

The Saints may be deciding between Ingram and Pierre Thomas for the majority of their rushing carries. Ivory is continuing to recover from a Lisfranc injury to his foot that cost him the finale and playoff game of an otherwise stirring rookie season as an undrafted free agent.

How Kim Kardashian feels about this trade is still unknown.

--Scott Henry (@4QuartersRadio)

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Thursday, July 28, 2011 - 11:42
Path: /news/patriots-redskins-close-albert-haynesworth-trade
Body:

The Washington Redskins are reportedly close to a deal that would send former Pro Bowl defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth to the New England Patriots for a 2013 fifth-round draft pick.

Haynesworth is coming off of a 2010 season more memorable for conditioning drills and off-field incidents than on-field tackles and sacks. Still, the Patriots appear willing to take a chance that they can motivate him to reach his former level of play. For their part, the Redskins are happy with not needing to release him and watching him take his talents to NFC East rival Philadelphia, where Haynesworth's former position coach Jim Washburn now works.

The Redskins' training camp turned into a circus when new head coach Mike Shanahan ordered Haynesworth to pass a shuttle run drill before being allowed to practice, a drill which took the player several days to complete.

During the 2010 season, Haynesworth's most highlight-worthy play was the picture of him taking a leisurely nap on the turf at FedEx Field during a Monday night game against the Philadelphia Eagles. By season's end, he had been hit with a suspension for conduct detrimental to the team, costing him the last four games of the season.

After the season was over, Haynesworth made headlines for punching a fellow motorist in a road rage incident and accusations of misdemeanor sexual abuse of a waitress in a Washington-area hotel. As a defense against the latter, he claimed that the waitress was angry over him having a white girlfriend and he made the immortal claim that "I don't even like black girls."

The Patriots have had success motivating troubled players in the past, most notably running back Corey Dillon and receiver Randy Moss. Haynesworth may not be a positional fit in New England's 3-4 defense any more than he was in Washington, but coach Bill Belichick may be more willing to use the player as a 3-4 end and allow him to rush the passer.

In Belichick's first press conference of the year, he was reluctant to go into any detail about Haynesworth, but the fact that the notoriously tight-lipped coach brought him up at all is a big indication that the deal is all but done.

--Scott Henry (@4QuartersRadio)

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Thursday, July 28, 2011 - 11:07
All taxonomy terms: NFL Free agency, ticker, updates, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/nfl-free-agent-signing-ticker
Body:

The NFL's offseason frenzy, where moves can be conducted at warp speed, has been kicked up to ludicrous speed, and Athlon will try its best to keep you informed with up-to-the-minute updates as moves get made. Keep this tab open and refresh it liberally as players and teams start reaching agreements.

Texans Continue Secondary Revamp With Bears Safety Manning

--After spending their entire existence being tormented by a Manning twice a year, the Houston Texans have agreed to terms with their own, adding safety/kick returner Danieal Manning (no relation), formerly of the Bears. Manning gives them a rangy center-field style free safety, and also a threat on kickoff returns. Since 2008, Manning has more kickoff returns of 40-plus yards than anyone in the NFL.

Jets Release Veteran QB Brunell

--As the Jets try to clear cap room for Nnamdi Asomugha, they have released three more players, including backup QB Mark Brunell. Brunell has passed for over 32,000 yards in his career. Mark Sanchez will miss him more than anyone.

Bears Add WR Williams

--Former Lions and Cowboys receiver Roy Williams has managed to land on his feet, agreeing to a deal with his former division rivals, the Chicago Bears. Williams gets another chance to play under offensive coordinator Mike Martz, with whom he had his two most productive seasons in Detroit. In the last four years, Williams has averaged 389 yards on 28 catches while missing 19 games.

Texans Agree Terms With CB Joseph, Back Out on Asomugha

--Cornerback Johnathan Joseph, the consensus No. 2 cover man in this year's free agent market, has reportedly agreed terms with the Houston Texans. The Texans were considered a leading suitor for top corner Nnamdi Asomugha, but this deal almost certainly takes them out of that market. Joseph may be even more productive than Asomugha, according to metrics from Football Outsiders. Joseph was targeted twice as many times over the past two seasons, but allowed almost a full yard less per attempt. Joseph also has 14 interceptions in the last four years.

Eagles Move Fast on QB Young

--Only a day after Vince Young received his official walking papers from the Tennessee Titans, he's made a deal with the Philadelphia Eagles, according to the NFL Network's Albert Breer. Young will receive the opportunity to back up another scramble-happy QB in Michael Vick, while getting to throw to a better crew of receivers than he ever saw in Nashville. For the Eagles, replacing the more pocket-based Kevin Kolb with Young makes for fewer offensive changes in case of an injury to Vick.

Saints Quickly Replace Bush With Sproles

--The New Orleans Saints replaced one electric kick returner/backfield receiver with another by agreeing terms with former Charger Darren Sproles. Sproles' deal comes on the heels of the trade sending Reggie Bush to Miami. The deal for Sproles is a reported $14 million over four seasons, a substantial savings from the $12M that Bush was slated to make just this year. As a rookie, Sproles was a teammate of Saints QB Drew Brees in San Diego.

Kolb to Cardinals Finally Being Confirmed

--ESPN's John Clayton is getting some use out of his new Twitter account, reporting that the Kevin Kolb-to-Arizona trade is finally being confirmed. The price is apparently CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second-round pick. Kolb is also said to be signing an extension worth $63 million over five years with $20M guaranteed.

Redskins Shaft Cowboys in Signing DE Bowen

--The Washington Redskins threw a large amount of cash at DE Stephen Bowen, prying him away from the Dallas Cowboys for $27.5 million over five years. The large contract not only guarantees that the cap-straining Cowboys would have been unable to match the deal, but also sets a new, higher market on other potential targets such as ex-Packer Cullen Jenkins. Bowen has 72 tackles and 5.5 sacks over his five-year career.

Raiders Sign Bulk of Draft Class, Including New Wisniewski

--The Oakland Raiders are close to signing their entire draft class, with only third-round offensive tackle Joseph Barksdale yet to confirm. The class is led by second-round center Stefen Wisniewski, whose uncle Steve is a former Raider player and current assistant coach.

Bears Poach Jaguars Punter

--The Chicago Bears parted with longtime punter Brad Maynard earlier in the week and moved quickly to replace him, coming to terms with the Jaguars' Adam Podlesh. Podlesh's tweet about the deal may have contained a Ferris Bueller joke, but the Bears can only hope he doesn't rack up as much mileage for them as Cameron's dad's car.

Bengals Add Gradkowski as QB Insurance

--The Cincinnati Bengals have agreed to terms with veteran quarterback Bruce Gradkowski to aid in the development of rookie Andy Dalton. Gradkowski has experience in new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden's system from their days in Tampa Bay. He also served as a reasonable fill-in during the 2009 season with the Oakland Raiders.

49ers Sign Full Draft Class Before Camp Opens

--The San Francisco 49ers are puffing out their chests about getting all of their draft picks signed before the first day of training camp. Second-round QB Colin Kaepernick was the most important signing, primarily on a pure numbers basis. The team still plans to release veteran backup David Carr, and needs all the arms they can find during camp.

Colts Retain Safety Bullitt, Kicker Vinatieri

--Indianapolis radio station 1070 The Fan is reporting that the Colts have agreed to new terms with safety Melvin Bullitt, keeping him available to pair with Antoine Bethea. Also, ESPN's AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky tweeted that the Colts have locked up kicker Adam Vinatieri for three more seasons, citing his agent's office as the source.

Matt Leinart Stays in Houston

--Despite reports that he was seeking a starting opportunity and was set to rejoin his college coach Pete Carroll in Seattle, QB Matt Leinart has reportedly agreed to stay in Houston, according to the Chronicle's John McClain. Perhaps Seattle's frequent rain would infringe on Leinart's legendary hot-tub schedule.

Texans Keeping WR Jones

--According to the Houston Chronicle's John McClain, the Texans have agreed to a three-year, $10.5M deal with receiver Jacoby Jones. The deal carries $3.5M in guaranteed money. Jones is expected to return to his role as Houston's No. 3 receiver and kick returner.

Report: Dolphins Exploring Trade for Kyle Orton

--As speculated here, the Miami Dolphins are talking to the Denver Broncos about a trade involving Denver QB Kyle Orton. The Broncos are said to be asking for a "premium" pick. Reuniting Orton with receiver Brandon Marshall could have a very positive effect on the production of both. The Dolphins have had mixed results with former Purdue quarterbacks. Bob Griese helped the team to a perfect season and Super Bowl title in 1972, and they passed on Drew Brees in favor of Daunte Culpepper before the 2006 season.

Report: Kevin Kolb to be Cardinal by Week's End

--Sources are telling ESPN's Adam Schefter that a deal to send Kevin Kolb to the Arizona Cardinals could be finalized by the weekend. The deal is reported to involve Cards cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a draft pick in return for Kolb. Depending on how fantasy owners feel about Kolb, this could bump Larry Fitzgerald up a whole round or more in drafts.

Panthers Decide Not to Give Up On Season, Sign Charles Johnson to $76 Million Contract

--With $30 million in guaranteed money, the Carolina Panthers put their money where there mouth is by giving one of the top pass rushers in the game a giant contract. Rumors had both the Falcons and the Broncos (coached by Panthers ex coach John Fox) had contacted Johnson before he re-signed with Carolina. 

McNabb Trade to Vikings Close To Being Done

--Donovan McNabb is almost a Viking. According to reports, the deal is done to send him from the Redskins to Minnesota is done in principle, with just the financial details left to work out. Nothing is finalized, but it looks like McNabb will be throwing to Percy Harvin's migraines this season. It also means Christian Ponder will have a season to figure out why he was drafted so high.

Jets Close To Re-Signing Wide Receiver Santonio Holmes

--The New York Jets have put a long-term offer in front of coveted wide receiver Santonio Holmes and it looks like they will have him under contract soon. Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum made Holmes his "top priority" and expect to sign the Supr Bowl MVP in the next 48 hours.

Titans RB and Top Fantasy Pick Chris Johnson Holding Out

--Tennessee's star running back has made it clear that he is not reporting to camp until he gets a new contract. Pardon me while I slip a little fantasy advice in here, but new QB + new coach + hold out = do not draft. He may have a good year, but he will not be worth the #1 or #2 pick overall.

Seahawks Announce First Batch of Rookie Free Agents

--The Seahawks are the first to put out their list of undrafted free-agent signings. Here are some of the bigger names involved:

Pierre Allen, DE, Nebraska

Ladi Ajiboye, DT, South Carolina

Jarrett Crittenton, DE, Middle Tennessee State

Michael Huey, G, Texas

Ricardo Lockette, WR, Fort Valley State

Mike Morgan, LB, USC

Complete list can be found here, with NFLDraftScout comments on Allen and Lockette. (7/26/11, 4:10 PM CT)

 

Seahawks Reach Agreement With Mystery QB

--Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times is reporting that the Seahawks have come to terms with a quarterback and are officially bidding farewell to Matt Hasselbeck. The Titans and 49ers are rumored to be the main bidders for Hasselbeck, while Pro Football Talk is guessing that Tarvaris Jackson is the new Seahawk. (7/26/11, 3:24 PM CT)

Logan Mankins Not Repeating Holdout

--ESPN Boston reports that Patriots guard Logan Mankins will sign his franchise tender and report to camp on time rather than reprise last season, in which he held out for the first half. (7/26/11, 3:00 PM)

Giants Trimming Offensive Line

--It's a bad day to be an offensive lineman in the NFC East. ESPN New York reports that the Giants have released center Shaun O'Hara and guard Rich Seubert. (7/26/11, 3:00 PM CT)

DeAngelo Williams Staging Bidding War?

--According to Fox Sports Radio's Peter Burns, RB DeAngelo Williams is putting out the notion that he wants to retire a Panther as a way to drive up the bids of both Carolina and Denver. (7/26/11, 2:40 PM CT)

Cowboys Releasing RB Marion Barber, Too

--Add Marion Barber to the list of heads that are rolling in Dallas. When the Cowboys drafted DeMarco Murray to pair with Felix Jones and Tashard Choice, the writing may have been on the wall for Barber.

Cowboys to Release WR Roy Williams

--Just months after get dropped by his girlfriend, Brooke Daniels, after mailing her an engagement ring, the Dallas Cowboys are dropping disappointing wide receiver Roy Williams.

The Eagles Want A Future First Round Pick From Seahawks For Kolb

-- The Philadelphia Eagles don't seem to be interested in any of the Seahawks players, so they are demanding a minimum of a future first round draft pick in return for Kolb. Which the Seahawks don't seem to want to pony up, for reasons unknown (isn't Kolb worth a first-rounder since he's proved he can at least play a little bit?). Arizona still seems like the most likely spot for Kolb to end up. (7/26/11, 1:25pm CT)

Bengals Owner: Carson Palmer is Retired

--According to Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer, Bengals owner Mike Brown considers his longtime quarterback "retired." Of course, he's also got a parting shot to throw in there as well. So, if your team was banking on trying to make a Palmer deal, it might be time to bark up some other tree. (7/26/11, 1:00 PM CT)

Ravens Release Four Veterans; Making Way For Asomugha?

--The Baltimore Ravens released four veterans -- Willis McGahee, Todd Heap, Kelly Gregg and Derrick Mason -- in a move that cleared a ton of cap space. The questions is: Will they attempt to re-sign some of these players for lesser salaries, or does this mean they are clearing some space to go after the #1 most-coveted free agent Nnamdi Asomugha? (7/26/11, 12:30pm CT)

Pat Devlin, QB, Delaware: Signed with Miami Dolphins

Devlin followed a similar winding path to his Delaware predecessor Joe Flacco, except for the whole first-round pick part. Devlin reportedly turned down the Cardinals, where he would compete with John Skelton and Max Hall, for the Dolphins, where he hopes to compete with Chad Henne. (7/26/11, 12:26 PM CT)

Rumor: Cowboys cutting O-linemen Leonard Davis, Marc Colombo

Guard Leonard Davis has reportedly been told that he is not invited to training camp, according to ESPNDallas.com. Word on tackle Marc Colombo is not quite so definite, but he does sound resigned to being unemployed by week's end. The Cowboys have also parted ways with kicker Kris Brown. (7/26/11, 12:18 PM CT)

Rumor: Tennessee Titans looking hard at Matt Hasselbeck

--The Titans don't have a dependable quarterback, and with the shortened training camp, they know that first round pick Jake Locker will probably not be ready to be thrown into the starting role right now. It looks like they are making a push to make Hasselbeck their QB this year. (7/26/11, 12:11pm CT)

Rumor: Packers' Nick Barnett says he will be released.

--It was clear this would be the end of the road in GB for Barnett when the Packers re-signed A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop. Barnett has been a star for the Packers for a long time. This marks the end of an era for one of Green Bay's veterans. (7/26/11, 12:02 CT)

Dane Sanzenbacher, WR, Ohio State: Signed with the Chicago Bears

--Sanzenbacher actually took less money because he wanted to play in Mike Martz's offense. He was pursued by 25 of the 32 NFL teams and could find a starting spot in the Bears weak WR corps. (7/26/11, 11:58 CT)

Zane Taylor, C/G, Utah: Signed with the New York Jets

--Zane took an undrafted free agent deal with the Jets. No word yet on the numbers of that deal. (7/26/11, 11:52 AM CT)

Josh Portis, QB, California (Pa.): Signed with Seattle Seahawks

--Portis is a travelin' man, starting out at Florida, then going to Maryland, and finally dropping down to Division II. According to Seattle Times writer Danny O'Neil, he's now headed to the other end of the country. (7/26/11, 11:06 AM CT)

Ryan Pugh, C, Auburn and Darvin Adams, WR, Auburn: Both signed with Carolina Panthers

--Pugh tweeted that he's on his way, and it's widely reported that Adams is joining him. With these two and OT Lee Ziemba in camp, new franchise QB Cam Newton has a serious comfort zone. (7/26/11, 11:00 AM CT)

Kendric Burney, CB, North Carolina: Signed with Carolina Panthers

--Burney's not going far, according to his Twitter account. (7/26/11, 10:52 AM CT)

Isa Abdul-El Quddus, SS, Fordham: Signed with New Orleans Saints

--Another agreement tweeted out by the man himself. The Times-Picayune has also reported it. (7/26/11, 10:46 AM CT)

Mark Herzlich, LB, Boston College: Signed with New York Giants

--Herzlich tweeted it himself that he's decided to become a Giant. He'll be a story to watch as he continues his comeback from Ewing's sarcoma, a form of bone cancer. (7/26/11, 10:32 AM CT)

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Post date: Tuesday, July 26, 2011 - 16:35
Path: /news/nfls-ten-high-priority-moves-lockout-ends
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By Scott Henry (Twitter: @4QuartersRadio)

With free agency’s usual five-month time frame being condensed into five weeks, the phones of both team executives and the players they’re pursuing are about to be set ablaze with constant activity. Some teams would rather lay low, but the ten teams that follow have one available move that would fill a tremendous need, offer roster or cap flexibility, or simply get the fan base excited.

1. Cardinals trade for QB Kevin Kolb
If the Cardinals attempt to head into the season with John Skelton or Max Hall under center, they run a serious risk of alienating the face of the franchise, WR Larry Fitzgerald. This deal is rumored to be all but done, and what remains to be seen is how big a package of picks the Cards are willing to part with. The possibility of CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie being a part of this deal is also gaining traction. The coaching staff may be tired of harping on Cromartie for his inconsistent play and work ethic. A straight-up Kolb-for-DRC deal would also save Arizona from having to part with those precious picks.

2. 49ers attempt to sign CB Nnamdi Asomugha
Executives for the 49ers have already gone on record stating that the team intends to move forward with the players they currently have. Asomugha should be an exception. Current Niners CB Nate Clements has been decent, but decent shouldn’t rate a $14 million salary. If he doesn’t take a pay cut, he could take a pink slip, and the Niners’ pass defense (24th in 2010) can’t afford that. After hiring head coach Jim Harbaugh from Stanford, the 49ers face another unique opportunity to add a big name with local ties in Asomugha, a Cal product. The combination of dominant production and local cachet could go much further toward the political goal of securing a new stadium than owner John York’s brusque, condescending attitude toward the very people he needs to schmooze.

3. Saints trade RB Pierre Thomas
Sure, Reggie Bush is a lot more expensive. True, Bush’s primary value is on kick returns rather than handoffs. What’s also true is that Bush is reportedly willing to take a pay cut to stay in New Orleans. Thomas just signed a four-year contract extension, but that was before Alabama RB Mark Ingram fell into the Saints’ laps in the draft. It’s a lot easier for Ingram and former street free agent Chris Ivory to replace Thomas than Bush, plus Thomas’s deal, while lengthy, isn’t the bloated price tag that Bush carries.

4. Titans attempt to sign QB Marc Bulger
Much has been made of the connection between the Titans and veteran QB Matt Hasselbeck, but it may make sense for Pete Carroll to try and re-sign the longtime Seahawks signal-caller. With Bulger, the Titans could get everything that they would get with Hasselbeck: veteran presence, extensive experience as a Pro-Bowl-level starter, and unfortunately, extensive experience on the trainer’s table. Still, Bulger has had a year to heal his bruised body and psyche as Joe Flacco’s backup, while Hasselbeck has continued to trot out to the Seattle huddle and take abuse. If Bulger can buy the Titans even most of a season to teach Jake Locker how to be a professional, he’ll pay his freight, which is also likely to be less pricey than Hasselbeck’s.

5. Colts attempt to sign S Quintin Mikell
Bob Sanders missed more games after last Thanksgiving than Mikell has missed in his entire eight-year career. Sanders’ release leaves a void at strong safety that the Colts did not attempt to fill with a draft pick. Mikell isn’t the kind of safety that offenses have to game plan around, but the simple fact that he’s also not a guy that his defense has to plan to play without counts for a lot. He’s recovered five fumbles (returning one for a touchdown), intercepted five passes, and broken up 27 more in the past two seasons, numbers that speak to him being an underrated big play threat. With Mikell next to Antoine Bethea, the Colts’ safety duo would be a definite position of strength for someone other than the team’s doctors.

6. Broncos attempt to sign RB DeAngelo Williams
John Fox’s Carolina offenses were run-heavy, and succeeded when there were two solid backs to split the load. Who better for Fox to bring into his new digs in Denver than one of those same two running backs? Williams’ injury-shortened 2010 season should be a glaring indication that he could benefit from another committee approach, as could Denver’s inconsistent incumbent, Knowshon Moreno.

7. Cowboys attempt to sign S Michael Huff
The Cowboys didn’t make a run at Bob Sanders and essentially ignored the secondary in the draft. Huff is a former University of Texas standout who has yet to miss a game in his five-year career. As a bonus, Huff was a second-team Associated Press All-Pro last year. He’s had experience at both safety positions, an invaluable bonus in case ex-coach/new Houston defensive coordinator Wade Phillips decides to poach strong safety Gerald Sensabaugh.

8. Bills re-sign LB Paul Posluszny
Posluszny took to Buffalo’s new 3-4 scheme like a duck takes to water, placing third in the league with 151 tackles despite missing two games. Without him in the lineup, the Bills’ linebacking corps would be led by the inconsistent Andra Davis and the remains of Shawne Merriman. There may be no free agent in this market who holds more power over his team’s future. If owner Ralph Wilson wants to keep the seats remotely filled in his namesake stadium, he’ll need to break character and shell out serious cash to keep “The Poz,” who’s being heavily linked to ex-Bills DC Perry Fewell’s current employer, the New York Giants.

9. Dolphins trade for QB Kyle Orton
New Dolphins offensive coordinator Brian Daboll got good work last season out of Cleveland’s Colt McCoy. When asked at his introductory press conference about his prospective starter in Miami, Chad Henne, Daboll said, “Well, Chad, yeah, he’s on our roster.” As ringing endorsements go, that one rings about as true as a manager’s vote of confidence from George Steinbrenner during the ‘70s and ‘80s. While the Fins might not be quite ready to show Henne the door, a veteran option would be helpful, and Kyle Orton might be the best one on the market. From most indications, Orton’s set to lose his starting job in Denver to Tim Tebow, and he’d like an opportunity to remain a starter. Stepping in to push, and potentially replace, Henne could be a rejuvenating change of scenery for Orton, not to mention the effect it could have on Orton’s former favorite target, Brandon Marshall.

10. Rams attempt to sign RB Darren Sproles
Steven Jackson is among the last of the workhorse running backs. At the age of 27, he’s already in the NFL’s all-time top 40 in terms of carries. And he likes it that way. Still, as the Rams continue to improve the offense around young quarterback Sam Bradford, they need some way to keep Jackson’s mileage down. While Darren Sproles is far from a featured back, he’d make a great fit in the same role that Kevin Faulk played under current Rams OC Josh McDaniels when the two were together in New England. Sproles has caught 104 passes the last two seasons in San Diego, making him a great fit on third downs when Bradford needs a safety valve out of the backfield. Also, Sproles is still a danger on kick returns, which would take some workload off of one of Bradford’s favorite receiving targets, Danny Amendola.

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<p> With player transactions about to kick off, some teams have big moves to make.</p>
Post date: Monday, July 25, 2011 - 15:09
All taxonomy terms: Steve Williams, Tiger Woods, News
Path: /news/tiger-woods-ex-caddy-talks-wasted-time
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Two days after news broke of the split between golf's former top player and his longtime caddy, Steve Williams is still upset at Tiger Woods. And he's still telling the press all about it.

Williams told the New Zealand Herald that he feels he's "wasted the last two years of [his] life" waiting around for Woods to get his body and mind back in working order.

After staying with Woods through the disintegration of Tiger's marriage and reputation, Williams called the timing of his termination "very poor."

"Realistically I could look back, and I've wasted the last two years of my life because he's played infrequently, he's been injured and played poorly. I was prepared to hang in there through thick and thin so I find the timing extraordinary," Williams told the newspaper.

The firing was actually done weeks ago, but both men kept the decision quiet until after the British Open, not wanting to be a distraction to Adam Scott, whose bag Williams has been carrying this summer.

Williams and Woods were the best men in each other's weddings, and Williams' wife was a good friend of Tiger's ex Elin Nordegren.

For his part, Williams is no stranger to controversy. At the 2002 Skins Game, he hurled a fan's camera in a lake after the spectator took a picture during Tiger's swing. Also, at a December 2008 charity event, Williams caused a flap by calling Phil Mickelson a "prick."

Caddying for Woods has made Williams a millionaire, earning $1.27 million in 2007 alone for carrying Tiger's clubs. Still, for Williams, his reaction to his firing is based not on money, but respect.

Williams told the Herald, "Obviously I lost a tremendous amount of respect for him ... and I told him that he had to earn back my respect. Whatever respect he may have earned back, he's just lost."

--Scott Henry (Twitter: @4QuartersRadio)

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Post date: Friday, July 22, 2011 - 10:50
Path: /news/nfl-nflpa-finally-agree-rookie-salary-system
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The final hurdle to NFL labor piece may have been cleared Thursday night.

ESPN reported that the league's owners and the NFL Players Association have reached a tentative agreement on a new rookie wage system, which has been said to be the final stumbling block toward a new collective bargaining agreement.

Contracts for first-round picks would be a fixed four years in length, with teams holding options for the fifth year. If the team chooses to exercise that option a year early, after the contract's third year, the fifth-year option salary is guaranteed to the player.

Each rookie would likely receive a standard slotted salary in the first four seasons, and then the option year's wage would depend on the player's draft slot.

The top 10 picks would receive a salary equal to the average of the top 10 salaries at their respective positions. Picks No. 11 through No. 32 would get the average of the Nos. 3 through 25 salaries at their positions.

As an example, let's use the NFL's current poster boy for outperforming the rookie contract, Tennessee Titans RB Chris Johnson.

Drafted No. 24 in 2008, Johnson would fall into that latter group. The average of running back base salaries No. 3 through 25 in 2009, according to the USA Today Salary Database, was $2,679,833, which would be a marked improvement from the near-league-minimum $385,000 Johnson pulled down that season. Undoubtedly, the Titans would have already exercised Johnson's option, guaranteeing him that money.

For point of comparison, the average of the top 10 running back salaries from that year would be $4,092,940.

Still unknown is the fate of cap maneuvers like option bonuses, which helped Rams QB Sam Bradford, last year's No. 1 draft pick, make an extra $18 million on his rookie contract, or whether first-round picks' contracts will be able to contain roster bonuses.

Signing bonuses aren't likely to go anywhere, and may still be allowed to be quite substantial. NFL rookies will not be able to cry poverty, but they won't be guaranteed $50 million the moment they first set foot in the team complex, either.

--Scott Henry (Twitter: @4QuartersRadio)

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Post date: Friday, July 15, 2011 - 12:07
All taxonomy terms: Charles Barkley, Shaquille O'Neal, News
Path: /news/shaq-joins-turner-sports-call-him-big-analytical
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Anyone who has been clamoring to hear Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal trade jabs and comments about the NBA will soon have their wildest dreams granted.

Fresh off a retirement that concluded an unquestioned Hall of Fame career, Shaq has signed an agreement to join the Turner Sports team, including the studio show Inside the NBA. Shaq will fill the fourth chair alongside Barkley, Kenny Smith, and host Ernie Johnson, as well as provide content for NBA.com and occasionally show up on NBA TV.

Placing O'Neal, who's known for occasional verbal outbursts as an interview subject, alongside Barkley, who's never stopped his outbursts as an analyst, could lead to fantastic TV, some of the most entertaining sports coverage ever taped. It could also lead to a flaming trainwreck playing out in the nation's living rooms.

First off, let's remember that Chuck and Shaq once faced off in a memorable fight. All is forgiven now, but wait until someone gets the bright idea to have a re-enactment. A ball comes flying in from offcamera, clocks Shaq in the head, and it's on.

Eh, for that matter, that might be pretty entertaining, and the two of them would almost certainly play it for laughs now.

Okay, what about criticizing former colleagues? Well, Shaq has had his fun with comments about the likes of Greg Ostertag, or at least a Karl Malone dummy in Shaq's hands did ("Glad I'm playin' with a center, that Greg Ostertag was a bum."). And there was also his contentious relationship with the Sacramento "Queens."

So many rookie analysts, however, have difficulties criticizing former teammates. Well, maybe Shaq's already got that problem licked. (Okay, unfortunate choice of words. Right, Kobe?)

You know what? Never mind. It's time to get that new NBA labor deal done, so we can be assured of seeing Shaq and Chuck suited up for Opening Night as soon as possible.

David Stern, free The Big Analytical now.

--Scott Henry (Twitter: @4QuartersRadio)

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Post date: Friday, July 15, 2011 - 10:04
All taxonomy terms: NBA lockout, News
Path: /news/nba-players-association-supports-taking-talents-europe
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According to the New York Times, NBA Players Association executive director Billy Hunter has sent a letter to 450 players, fully blessing any athlete who explores the option of playing abroad during the league's lockout.

In the letter, Hunter said that the lockout's purpose was to "economically pressure our players to agree to an unfavorable collective bargaining agreement." He also added, "If the owners will not give our players a forum in which to play basketball here in the United States, they risk losing the greatest players in the world to the international basketball federations that are more than willing to employ them."

In the wake of New Jersey Nets point guard Deron Williams' agreement to play for the Turkish club Besiktas this fall, nearly every other star player in the league has had to face questions about his own plans for a protracted lockout. Knicks forward Amar'e Stoudemire tweeted that he had decided against Europe as a viable option, but backpedaled from that stance on ESPN Radio this week.

Stoudemire's reversal seems telling, especially in the wake of Hunter's letter, the published excerpts of which read like labor-leader posturing from word one. The letter's stance seems likely to inform responses from every player who gets lockout questions from now until Dealday.

Williams claims to have talked to many players highly interested in playing for European clubs. Stars like Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, and Kevin Durant aren't ruling anything out. Their waffling rings hollow, though.

According to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, Williams' Besiktas contract will pay him $200,000 per month. His Nets contract is set to pay him $199,509 per game for the 2011-12 season. Players like Williams and the others mentioned above don't need the money one bit. At least they shouldn't, but you never know. Antoine Walker never seemed to need the extra cash, either.

Players like Sonny Weems are a different story. The Toronto Raptors' forward, slated to make $850,000 this year, signed with a club in Lithuania. Philadelphia forward Darius Songaila is headed to Turkey for $1.5 million, not much less than Williams.

The risk of contract-voiding injury is likely too great for guys like Wade or Durant to entertain traveling to a different country to play for what amounts to pocket change. Especially when there's a likelihood that they may not even see said pocket change.

Phoenix Suns swingman Josh Childress told ESPN's Ric Bucher that "If a guy isn't playing well or a team is out of the playoffs, they'll just stop paying you. I know tons and tons of players who just walked away because they didn't want to go through the hassle of going to court to get their money."

Childress, who spent two years playing for the Greek club Olympiacos, doesn't understand why any player with a large guaranteed contract would go to Europe and put it all in jeopardy. Players like Weems, Songaila, and Thunder center Nenad Krstic, who's bound for Russia, don't fall into that category. They're also not the kinds of names that will move the needle stateside, for fans or the league.

Kobe and Wade understand the politics of the labor negotiations well enough to know that ruling out options takes pressure off the owners to move on their proposals. Amar'e needed a little reminder after getting carried away on Twitter.

If David Stern thought for a moment that all of his owners' high-priced superstars were ready to throw it all away to play for clubs whose names are only familiar to dedicated soccer fans, there might be a bit more urgency in negotiations. Guys like Sonny Weems and Darius Songaila, however, may just be written off as collateral damage.

Unfortunately for Billy Hunter, it's guys like Weems and Songaila who are the only ones who really have any motivation to make this move.

--Scott Henry (@4QuartersRadio)

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Post date: Thursday, July 14, 2011 - 13:03
Path: /news/k-rod-trade-brewers-ticket-glory-or-misery
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In Major League Baseball's post-All-Star-break horse race toward the playoffs, the Milwaukee Brewers became the first to make a big move on the outside, acquiring veteran closer Francisco Rodriguez from the New York Mets for a pair of players to be named later.

In a move that would seem excessive for a team that already has an established closer, the Brewers bring in "K-Rod"'s 291 career saves and tout him as a backup plan for John Axford. Brewers GM Doug Melvin said, "In a pennant race, there's a chance you could go out and have six straight one-run ballgames. There's no way that any one guy can close six games in a row."

As a factor in the deal, Rodriguez's contract has been downplayed by his former employers in New York. K-Rod would receive a vesting option paying him $17.5 million next season by finishing 55 games over the course of the season. To this point in the season, he has finished 34.

Escaping that option is undoubtedly a benefit for the Mets as they face uncertain decisions over the futures of the rest of their nucleus. David Wright, Jose Reyes, and K-Rod faced rumors from the start of the season. Now, the Brewers have the clock running to influence their usage of Rodriguez.

That usage may turn out to be the most difficult juggling act not involving chainsaws or torches. K-Rod's new agent, Scott Boras, told New York's Newsday earlier this week, "Francisco Rodriguez is a historic closer. He’s not going anywhere to be a setup man.” Boras added, “Closers don’t make good setup men. Does anyone want an unhappy setup man in their clubhouse?"

Rodriguez has shown in the past that he can quickly make a situation ugly when he's unhappy. Last August, the Mets were pondering proceedings to void his contract when he assaulted his girlfriend's father in a Citi Field lounge.

The Brewers have to gauge their use of Rodriguez carefully, as his potentially historic 2012 salary would be an enormous drag on any attempt to keep Prince Fielder in next season's lineup.

No matter how the Brewers use him, K-Rod will need to weigh his words and actions just as carefully, especially if he runs out of games to close and faces the free agent market. The rehabilitation of his image would be aided immensely if he helps Milwaukee to the playoffs with only a handful of saves, being a good company man all the way.

Axford is 23-of-24 in save opportunities with a 1.99 ERA since blowing one on Opening Day, so anything that would upset his rhythm could easily backfire, even if the motive is based around getting him some extra rest.

The addition of K-Rod is certain to increase everyone's stress level, from Melvin to manager Ron Roenicke to all the players to the fan base. The one certain benefit is that the fans may have to make several more runs to the beer stands to take the edge off.

--Scott Henry (@4QuartersRadio)

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Post date: Thursday, July 14, 2011 - 09:50
Path: /nfl/successful-ex-qbs-offer-role-models-pryor
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By Scott Henry (Twitter: @4QuartersRadio)

Optimistic words continue to filter out about the end of the NFL lockout, heralding the possible beginning of free agency, training camps, and the preseason. Also looming will be the Supplemental Draft, where former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor will learn his NFL destination.

When he gets there, however, the team that drafts him may not be so interested in stationing him behind center. Pryor has been projected as a more intriguing prospect at tight end or wide receiver than at QB. Simple math dictates that a change of positions may not be a terrible career move for Pryor.

Most NFL teams carry three quarterbacks, leaving only 96 positions available for which rookies can compete. Meanwhile, receiver, defensive back, or running back beckon as positions with much deeper depth charts, ergo more potential job openings.

Marlin Briscoe’s example shows players that ex-quarterbacks can carve out fine careers for themselves at other positions. Briscoe became one of the AFL’s first black starting quarterbacks, but was abruptly shoved to wide receiver, then released, by Broncos coach Lou Saban before the 1969 season. Undaunted, he played eight more seasons as a receiver with five teams, including the undefeated 1972 Dolphins, finishing his career with over 3,500 yards and 30 touchdowns.

Some recent college quarterbacks have taken Briscoe’s approach to heart, thriving at other positions when personnel evaluators suggest changes. These 11 players let prospects like Pryor know that leaving the pocket permanently doesn’t need to mean leaving the game.

11. Scott Frost, DB (1998-2003)
Frost led Nebraska to the 1997 national title, but as many other quarterbacks have shown, the Husker option attack was not optimal preparation for running a NFL offense. Most former quarterbacks opt for the other end of the pigskin rainbow, the life of a receiver. Frost took the opposite approach, wanting to see what it was like for defenders making life difficult for the passer.

As a safety and special teams player for the Jets, Browns, and Buccaneers, Frost recorded 54 tackles, 30 coming in 2000 with New York. His lone interception came on September 17, 2000 against Buffalo’s Rob Johnson. He also racked up his only career sack that season, bringing down Oakland Raider Rich Gannon.

As a result of his moving from one side of the ball to the other, Frost’s coaching career has also moved back and forth between meeting rooms. He was linebackers coach and later co-defensive coordinator at Northern Iowa before being hired to his current position as the receivers coach at Oregon.

He’s also a handy man to help defuse a fight, as he was seen on national television trying to restrain Ducks running back LeGarrette Blount after Blount touched off the infamous brawl with Boise State in 2009. Frost proved himself a far cry from the stereotypical “I don’t like contact” quarterback.

10. Brad Smith, RB/WR/KR (2006-present)
Smith’s legs were his big selling point during his four seasons at Missouri. As the first Division I player to amass 8,000 yards passing and 4,000 rushing, his athleticism was easy to spot.

Drafted by the Jets in the fourth round of the 2006 Draft, Smith seemed perfectly fine with playing wherever the Jets asked him to play. He’s established himself as a game-changing kick returner, and also a solid kick coverage man, recording 60 special teams tackles in 76 career games.

He’s been frequently used in the Jets’ “Tigercat” package, but despite his pedigree, he’s thrown only seven pro passes. It’s likely that Smith will be somewhere else in 2011, so his landing spot will have a large impact on how many different hats he’ll continue to wear.

9. Matt Jones, WR (2005-2010)
Jones’ athleticism earned him the admiring nickname “The Freak” from attendees of the 2005 NFL Draft Combine. At 6’6” and 237 pounds, he was still able to run a 4.4-second 40-yard dash and post a vertical jump near 40 inches. He was being slotted as a wide receiver after setting the SEC’s career quarterback rushing record with 2,535 yards, a record that has since been obliterated by Tim Tebow of Florida.

He was selected 21st overall in the 2005 NFL Draft, ahead of such players as Aaron Rodgers, Roddy White, and Lofa Tatupu. Worse for the Jags, it took him three seasons to amass 100 catches as he struggled to get acclimated to a new position on a run-oriented team.

In 2008, it finally seemed that Jones was getting the hang of being a pro receiver. Through 12 games, he had recorded 65 catches for 761 yards. His season was then ended by a three-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. He has not played in a regular-season game since.

Jones turned down an invitation to try out for the Redskins last November, and appears to have chosen retirement.

8. Ronald Curry, WR (2002-2008)
Curry’s high school accomplishments were impressive enough to overshadow the budding career of another future pro that played at a rival high school. That player was Michael Vick. Curry was also the MVP of the 1998 McDonald’s All-American basketball game, and his hoops potential led him to attend North Carolina instead of his previously favored school, Virginia.

Despite a successful career as the Tar Heels’ signal-caller, Curry lasted until the seventh round of the 2002 Draft, ending up with the Oakland Raiders. He took three years to break into the Raiders’ rotation as a receiver, but in 2004, he broke out with 50 catches for 679 yards in only 11 games before tearing an Achilles’ tendon. Re-injuring the same tendon in 2005 cost him all but two games.

Once the tendon was finally repaired, Curry led the Raiders in receptions in 2006 despite only starting four games. He repeated the feat in 2007, but foot surgery hindered his preparations for the 2008 season. New Raiders coach Lane Kiffin appeared to have little interest in using him.

Curry started 10 games in ’08, but only recorded 19 catches. Being cut by the Raiders led to Curry bouncing from the Lions to the Rams to a tryout with the Ravens, but he was not seen in the NFL again after his run-in with Kiffin.

7. Patrick Crayton, WR (2004-present)
Crayton was already a receiver for his first three years at Northwestern Oklahoma State, but he was pressed into quarterback service as a senior. Needless to say, his passing exploits against NAIA competition were not impressive enough to get him reps in training camp after he was chosen in the seventh round of the 2004 Draft.

Similar to Ronald Curry, an early injury slowed Crayton’s development with the Cowboys, but by his fourth year (2007), he was starting 13 of the 15 games that he played. The king’s ransom that Jerry Jones paid to acquire Roy Williams from the Lions in 2008 dictated that he had to take Crayton’s starting position. Miles Austin’s 2009 explosion also spelled a trip to the bench.

Crayton also established himself as a danger on punt returns, running two of them back in 2009 after Allen Rossum (signed to take over Crayton’s job at that position) was injured on his first runback as a Cowboy.

Finally, Crayton could take no more and demanded a release in 2010, after which he signed with the San Diego Chargers. After the way he’d been dealt with in Big D, not many rational fans could blame him.

6. Josh Cribbs, RB/WR/KR (2005-present)
Cribbs’ athleticism was off the charts all the way back to high school. He lettered in baseball, swimming and basketball in addition to football at Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C. At Kent State, his career followed a similar path to that of Antwaan Randle El’s at Indiana, struggling to complete a high percentage of his passes and finishing with a mediocre touchdown/interception ratio.

He wasn’t even drafted in 2005, signing with the Browns as a street free agent. He only touched the ball once from scrimmage, but established himself as a fearsome kickoff returner immediately. Cribbs ran one back 90 yards in his fourth pro game, starting a streak of five straight seasons with at least one return score, second only to Dante Hall’s six. His 30.7-yard average in 2007 was the best since Ron Brown’s 1985 season among return men with 25 attempts or more.

When the Wildcat came into vogue in 2008, the Browns understood they had the perfect weapon to implement their own package. Cribbs ran for almost 550 yards in ’08 and ’09. He began catching more passes in 2010, averaging 12.7 yards on his 23 grabs. It’s beginning to appear that if the Browns want him to make contact with the ball any more, he may have to work on his kicking.

5. Drew Bennett, WR (2001-08)
Bennett was a quarterback in high school who passed on playing at Princeton to walk on at UCLA. He didn’t see much action in college until his junior year, when he was pressed into a rotation with starter Cory Paus. He had only occasionally played receiver when he was sent an invitation to training camp with the Tennessee Titans.

Injuries to drafted rookies Justin McCareins and Eddie Berlin allowed Bennett to see steady action as the Titans’ third receiver over his first three seasons, but it was his fourth year (2004) that he really burst onto the scene. Oddly, it began with an injury not to another receiver, but to the starting quarterback.

Steve McNair struggled with nagging injuries in the last half of the ’04 season, frequently giving way to undrafted backup Billy Volek. In a three-game span in December against the Colts, Chiefs, and Raiders, Bennett hauled in 28 passes for 517 yards and eight touchdowns.

Unfortunately for Bennett and the Titans, that was the peak of his career. After that season, he had only one more multi-TD game and three games of more than 100 yards. Bennett finished his career with the Rams in 2008. His final totals topped out at 307 catches, 4412 yards and 28 scores, highly respectable figures for a man who can justly claim that 10 percent of his career was accomplished in three games.

4. Bert Emanuel, WR (1994-2001)
At 5-10 and 180 pounds, Emanuel clearly lacked prototype QB size, despite a respectable career at Rice. The Falcons made him a second-round pick with every intention of grooming him at receiver.

He hit the ground running in 1994, racking up 46 catches for 649 yards and four touchdowns, then amassing at least 900 yards in each of the next three seasons. After that solid start, he left Atlanta to sign with Tampa Bay as a free agent. Unfortunately for him, being away from the Falcons’ frenetic run-and-shoot offense took the wind out of his statistical sails, but he did get to experience a playoff win for the first time.

After that win in 1999, the Bucs sat one game away from the Super Bowl, but they were matched against the force of nature that was the St. Louis Rams’ Greatest Show on Turf. In a monumental upset, the game’s final score was 11-6, and what could have been Bert’s moment of glory turned out to make him a footnote in the NFL rulebook.

Emanuel caught a pass at the Rams’ 22-yard-line in the final minute, but the referee overturned the catch because the tip of the ball touched the ground. The rule was changed for the following season, and became popularly known as the “Bert Emanuel Rule.”

After another couple of seasons, Emanuel retired and began marketing his own line of clothing, called KAOS. In 2009, the company signed a deal to make clothing for the U.S. Army, including sports bras for the female soldiers. Bert Emanuel can truthfully say that few do more to support the troops than he does.

3. Antwaan Randle El, WR/KR (2002-present)
Randle El completed barely half his passes at Indiana, throwing as many interceptions as touchdowns. He also averaged over 100 rushing yards per game and scored 21 times, two more touchdowns than he threw. It seemed obvious that his future was not as a passer in the pros.

The Steelers picked him late in the second round of the 2002 draft, and unlike players such as Jones and Curry, he saw the field immediately and took to the new position well. Randle El accounted for over 600 yards from scrimmage and also averaged 22.9 yards on kickoff returns, recording a 99-yard score in his fifth pro game.

Randle El’s been productive in every area of the stat sheet during his nine-year career. He’s even gotten to throw 27 passes, more than anyone else on this list. He’s completed 22 of those for six touchdowns and no interceptions. The biggest play of his career came on a 43-yard throw to Hines Ward that blew open Super Bowl XL.

In nine years with the Steelers, Redskins, and the Steelers again, Randle El has caught 15 touchdowns and recorded five on punt returns, in addition to the six passes. During the 2008 playoffs, he also did some reporting for the NFL Network, tipping his hand as to what he’d like to do after his playing days.

 

2. Anquan Boldin, WR (2003-present)
Counting Boldin as a former quarterback requires a bit of a stretch, as Bobby Bowden rarely had a use for him behind center at Florida State. For his college career, he completed 7-of-16 for 111 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, he caught 118 passes, 21 of them for scores. Needless to say, he was not a second-round pick for any of his passing skills.

Some players are said to make an immediate impact, but Boldin rewrote the record book the first time he took an NFL field. His 217 receiving yards against the Detroit Lions set the record for most receiving yards in a debut and tied Billy Sims for most yards from scrimmage in a debut. His 101 receptions remain a rookie record.

Boldin is not one to shy away from contact, and that trait has cost him 17 games over his eight-year career. Despite missing two games in 2005, he still recorded 102 catches and 1402 yards, making his season one of only 31 in NFL history to finish at over 100 receiving yards per game.

After still being treated as Larry Fitzgerald’s caddy instead of the top receiver that his stats would seem to suggest, Boldin was traded to Baltimore for a package of draft picks. His season was subpar by his standards (64 catches, 837 yards, seven TD’s), but he did become the fastest player to reach 600 receptions, doing it in his 98th game.

1. Hines Ward, WR (1998-present)
Ward was recruited to Georgia as a quarterback after starring in a high-powered shotgun offense in high school. Early on, he subbed in at running back for injured starter Terrell Davis and made the most of his opportunity. It wasn’t until late in his sophomore season that he got QB action, and by then, he’d stopped practicing with the quarterbacks and had little grasp of the QB’s playbook. Still, he rallied and posted 413 yards against Virginia in the Peach Bowl.

All the shifting around wasn’t great for his draft stock, and he lasted until the 92nd pick, late in the third round, before being taken by the Steelers. By his second year, he was tied for the team lead in receptions. Once he adapted to life opposite newcomer Plaxico Burress, the offense blossomed and produced plenty of catches for both receivers. From 2001 to 2003, Hines recorded 94, 112, and 95 catches, establishing himself as a feared target.

In 2005, he became the Steelers’ all-time leader in receptions, passing Hall-of-Famer John Stallworth. He capped that year by hauling in the aforementioned bomb from Antwaan Randle El in Super Bowl XL, a play that clinched the Super Bowl MVP award for Ward.

Ward has twice been named the NFL’s dirtiest player in polls of his peers, stemming from his habit of laying crushing blocks from the sides of his opponents. Part of the disdain could also stem from defenders’ shame at being routinely laid out by a former quarterback.

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All of these athletes had the same kind of physical skills in their prime that Terrelle Pryor possesses now. Whether he can capture lightning in a bottle and maintain a decent NFL career the way these players did appears completely up to him.

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<p> OSU's controversial quarterback could take notes from others who made a change.</p>
Post date: Monday, July 11, 2011 - 07:34
All taxonomy terms: NFL, NFL Labor, NFL Lockout, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/nfl-nflpa-eyeing-date-lockouts-end
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According to a report on ESPN this morning, the NFL and NFL Players Association are close enough to an agreement that a deal could be ratified during the league meetings that begin July 21 in Atlanta and end the lockout.

Sources have indicated that the largest remaining stumbling block is a rookie wage scale. The NFLPA has agreed to cut wages in half, but refuse to sign off on a deal allowing rookie contracts to run longer than four years. Players are concerned that owners being allowed to control their draft picks for too long a time allows the “rookie wage scale” to infringe on veteran wages.

Confidence is high enough that a document called “The Transition Rules” has been released, laying out an actual timeline for the start of the league year. Originally designed for a July 1 deal, the dates have been reconfigured for a deal to be reached on the 21st.

July 21: Educate clubs on new league rules and allow voluntary training

July 25: Sign undrafted rookies and give free agents a chance to re-sign with current teams

July 28: League year starts, free agency begins

August 2: Rosters set at 90 players

August 3: Deadline for restricted free agents (RFA) to sign offer sheets

August 7: Four-day match period for teams to match RFA offers

August 12: Deadline for rookies to sign contracts (still under negotiation)

August 16: RFA signing period ends, along with period for franchise/transition tenders

August 29: Deadline for players to report, or forfeit accrued season toward free agency

The new agreement’s treatment of rookies will go a long way toward the speed of its acceptance. It’s still unknown what the consequences would be if a rookie chooses to violate the deadline to sign his contract, but owners are concerned that holdouts increase the likelihood of injury or career failure. As indicated, that section of the timeline has yet to be agreed upon by the players.

This timeline also puts the August 7 Hall of Fame Game between the Rams and Bears in serious jeopardy, falling directly in the middle of the restricted free agent period. Still, most training camps would be able to begin on time, even if owners and general managers might not get to drive around on golf carts and watch practices as much as normal.

Talks on Wednesday and Thursday are considered the most telling days for whether the July 21 ratification is realistic. The most important takeaway from today’s report is that by the end of this week, football fans may finally have the answer to their plaintive question, “Will we have football on time in 2011?”

For more on the NFL lockout, click here.
 

--Scott Henry (Twitter: @4QuartersRadio)

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Post date: Monday, July 11, 2011 - 05:34

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