Mark Grace is serving time at Tent City. Specifically, every day from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. But after his arrest on aggravated DUI charges, you know what else Grace is doing with his time? Something worthwhile.
"I'm 48 years old. I'm too old for this. My family deserves better," Grace said from a picnic table within the razor wire at Tent City.
As a high-profile former major leaguer with the ability to instantly generate media coverage, Grace has decided to appoint a poster boy/spokesperson to drive awareness on drunk driving. Namely, himself.
"I made a rotten decision and ended up here," Grace explained. "I'm not an evil person."
Grace told the media he hasn't had a drink since his August arrest. And ever since sobering up, he's been delivering a sobering message.
"What you think is intoxicated and what the state of Arizona thinks is intoxicated are two different things," said Grace.
Two would also be the number of DUI convictions Grace endured over a 15-month span.
"Shoot, if you do what I did, not only once, but you're dumb enough to do it twice like I did, you belong here."
"If I do it again, I'm going to be in the Arizona Department of Corrections for over a year," Grace continued during a Wednesday night press conference. "Like I said, my kids deserve better than that. My family deserves better than that."
Back in high school, I had an old ball coach (no, not Steve Spurrier) who was fond of free advice to his motley collection of wanna-be-Ronnie Lotts: "Look, life really ain't that hard. Do the most with what you have. That's all you can do. And you owe it to everyone who doesn't have as much as you."
Right now, Gracie doesn't have much more than a bunk bed under an open air tent after his day job as a D-backs minor league coach, but I do admire the manner in which he's finding a way to create awareness.
If people live vicariously through pro athletes, then Grace is turning the tables and forcing people to look in his mirror and (maybe, just maybe) see themselves -- before it's too late.
"If I'm that stinking stupid to do that again, I want you to come punch me right in the mouth," Grace said emphatically.
No thanks. We'll take Grace's message as a verbal jab and consider it a message sent.
In fact, this weekend, we have plans to attend an annual fund raiser dinner, replete with complimentary bar. Sure, I'd like to go Paulie Pale Ale. But it's not worth it, not if I'm planning to drive.
Instead, that beer can wait until I get home for the night. Something Mark Grace can't do until his release on June 10th.
In baseball terms, it's a triple play of sorts. With Justin Upton back in town, it's natural for fans to wonder why the former number one pick had to go J-Up-Up and Away. In hindsight, it helps to follow the trail of responsibility around the horn. A triple play of culpability, if you will.
The Organization - the only thing approaching Upton's talent level (hence, our nickname: J-Upside), were the expectations. Naturally, the D-backs' mega-marketing campaign only fueled the anticipation. In fact, following the blockbuster trade to the Braves, the team has since admitted that the weight of those expectations capsized Good Ship Uptown. Too much, too soon with a velocity that was too intense. Especially without the presence of a veteran mentor as a next door neighbor in the clubhouse, which, alas, would've been invaluable (a Luis Gonzalez or Tony Clark-type player).
The Front Office - did the team create a self-fulfilling prophecy? With so many trade rumors becoming so public and so incessant, it became necessary to deal Upton. Simply put, the climate surrounding Upton eventually mandated that a change of scenery was necessary - for all parties. Turns out, that almost certainly undermined the value Upton commanded in return.
The Player - in the span of a single year, Upton went from receiving an All-Star standing ovation in his home ballpark to a constant chorus of boos after strikeouts. Did the injured thumb evolve from not just hampering his swing, but eventually bruising his standing with D-backs faithful as his poor play invited more scrutiny? In the clubhouse, multiple sources share that Upton wasn't a clubhouse cancer, but he wasn't exactly an asset to the atmosphere, either.
The Fans - all we know for certain is that the upshot of this Upton ordeal is that fans are deprived of watching the Goldschmidt-Upton duo hit in the heart of the D-backs' lineup for the next half-dozen years. And that's where the triple play becomes a grand slam and we're all out.
"I'm coming back out and they're going to see how much I've advanced."
That's what Dansby said during a conference call with AZ reporters in the week leading up to the Cards game against the Dolphins last season. At the time, it was a game matching up Dansby's current team against his former team.
Effective Friday, the Cardinals are Dansby's current team -- again.
And again, he'll be counted on to be a playmaker at inside linebacker, especially in the absence of Daryl Washington. By the way, that begets another former/current scenario. This time, we're talking about the last two guys to wear #58 -- Dansby and D-Wash.
"He's a dynamic player, what more can I say about him?" Dansby said last September, before going on to do just that about Washington. "He's a young guy, very athletic, very fast. He reminds me of myself, man, making a lot of plays, he helps the defense get set."
In fact, whether it's Dansby replacing Washington at LB (each had 134 tackles last season) or Dansby replacing some of the leadership lost with the absence of Adrian Wilson and Paris Lenon, Karlos had another telling comment last fall about Washington that he hopes rings true about himself when he said: "…they did a great job of getting a guy to fill those voids."
Until last month, I hadn't been to a tee-ball game in decades. So, it caught my eye right away: the pitcher wearing a batting helmet -- on the mound.
An odd sight, to be sure. Almost jarring. But, considering (another) terrifying comebacker on Tuesday night, a helmet replacing a pitcher's cap does something else -- it makes complete sense.
"I came in and watched (video of) it and I wish I wouldn't have," former D-backs pitcher Joe Saunders told the AP. "It was ugly. It was scary. I just hope he's going to be alright."
Blue Jays' pitcher J.A. Happ took a wicked line drive off his head that ricocheted into the outfield. Happ was wheeled off on a stretcher into an ambulance and rushed to a nearby hospital. He was released Wednesday morning.
Truth be told, I'm basing the above account on eyewitness reports, because I'm taking Saunders' advice on the replay -- just say "no."
Which is exactly what Major League Baseball has been doing on this topic of protecting the pitcher. Well, guess what, three strikes (to the skull) and ‘yer out. Enough. It's time for baseball to stop convening and start implementing.
Base coaches now wear protective headgear. Do we remember what it took to make that happen? Tragically, during a minor league game, first base coach Mike Coolbaugh was struck by a line drive, only to be pronounced dead about an hour later. That was July 2007. Come November 2007, MLB general managers mandated that base coaches must wear batting helmets.
"We are actively meeting with a number of companies that are attempting to develop a product, and have reviewed test results for several products," MLB spokesman Pat Courtney told the AP in an email after Happ was injured. "Some of the products are promising. No company has yet developed a product that has satisfied the testing criteria."
Would the players' union need to approve any sort of rule change to make big league pitchers wear helmets? Yes. Is there resistance? Yes el grande.
"You know the risks," Angels lefty C.J. Wilson said. "Guys get hurt crashing into fences. Guys get hurt tripping over first base and blowing their knee out. This is professional sports, and we are paid well to take those risks."
On the other side of the pitching rubber, Rockies lefty Jorge De La Rosa said if a helmet or liner is developed for pitchers, he'd gladly wear one.
"It wouldn't be hard for me," De La Rosa said. "To protect against those kinds of things, it's good for us."
Of course, here in AZ, we're well aware of how Brandon McCarthy absorbed a direct hit to the head by a line drive last September, causing a skull fracture, an epidural hemorrhage and a brain contusion that required surgery.
The D-backs pitcher started against the Dodgers on Tuesday night. Afterward, McCarthy told reporters he won't watch video of Happ getting hit either.
"I don't know what the GMs and the owners have to do with anything. It's not like they're pitching," McCarthy said. "Until someone makes something that works, it's going to be tough for someone to wear it.
"You'd have to have something that protected the ear and then the face and beyond. So it's kind of a slippery slope. Someone will have to come up with something really good and really sound. Otherwise, I don't know how you answer that question."
We do. Big leaguers need to emulate Little Leaguers. Going to the mound should become just like heading to the batter's box -- grab a helmet.
"We've put things on the moon before, so I feel like we can create some sort of a device that sits over your head and protects you," McCarthy said as he expressed hope. "Someone will do it. It's just a matter of when, not if."
While attending the Suns press conference explaining the dismissal of GM Lance Blanks, I put a star next to this quote in my old school reporter notebook:
"We've got to do things in this offseason that begin to build trust and confidence that we're headed in the right direction."
Was that Suns president of basketball operations Lon Babby? Yes. Does he recognize that a skeptical Suns fan base needs to see progress or at least tangible evidence of a plan that promises improvement? Yes x 2.
Can the Suns gain that trust and confidence by hiring the GM candidate who finished behind Lance Blanks three years ago?
Uh, no. #Buzzer. Putting our finger to the wind of change, we'll forecast that there is no way orange-clad fans would buy into hiring a candidate who wasn't considered dynamic or impressive enough by the same Suns administration to beat out Lance "Flatline" Blanks.
That's not to say that Milwaukee Bucks assistant general manager Jeff Weltman isn't a worthy member of an NBA front office (Note: I'd much rather have the player the Bucks drafted from North Carolina 14th overall - 6'11" John Henson - than the Tar Heel the Suns selected 13th overall - Kendall Marshall. #HolyCannoliStat: Henson averaged 15 pts & 15 rebs over the final five games when Larry Sanders was injured.)
But, let's remember, the Suns state they're looking for a "first-rate talent evaluator."
So, are we to believe that a genuine first-rate talent evaluator has been sitting in Milwaukee the past three years? His valuable acumen to assess talent simply undiscovered? Nobody else has realized his skill set?
Hence, it's time to revisit the most pertinent question of all. As we've previously stated here at Calvisi Consulting on-air: it's not whether the Suns should hire a "first-rate talent evaluator." Indeed, we all nod accordingly.
The real question at hand is whether the Suns have the ability to hire that guy.
Can they identify the person who can identify NBA talent? #TickTock
America's Pastime has lost something off the ‘ole fast ball. That's right, two words. As in, baseball has a problem. And it's not the game itself.
Instead, here's the lament: there simply isn't enough baseball in baseball. Not anymore.
Stepping out of the batter's box -- after every pitch in every at-bat -- is not baseball.
Going through the rigmarole of readjusting your batting gloves -- after every pitch in every at-bat -- is not baseball.
Colorado Rockies starter Jeff Francis -- who redefines and personifies the words "methodical" and "deliberate" -- is not baseball. His pitching pace mimics his fastball -- slow enough to make you check your DVR to confirm the kids didn't hit the slow-motion mode.
Alas, if only there was more baseball in baseball. Well, guess what? That time has come in the Atlantic League, where they have put the game up on jack stands and they've been turning wrenches.
Time for a tune-up. Or, in this case, a speed-up. All courtesy of a minor baseball league.
"Duration and pace of games have become out of touch with our fan base who need to go to work and go to school in the morning," Atlantic League executive director Joe Klein said in a statement. "We hope to come out of this season with faster games and some ideas that could be considered."
Klein, a former general manager for three big league clubs, also said umpires will be instructed to call the strike zone as it exists in the rule book.
To me, that's a wild pitch. Calvisi Consulting isn't looking to alter the strike zone. Truth be told, I'm not interested in seeing pitches just below the armpits called strikes. #Buzzer.
Instead, I'll simply settle for playing the game itself, instead of playing the waiting game. Because, at this rate, forget about cup holders; every seat in every MLB stadium should come with a magazine rack, like the waiting room at the doctor's office.
"We are not trying to change the game," Klein said, "only to help to keep it in tune with the times."
Again -- it's not the game itself. And it's not that I don't have three hours. When it comes to football, we're all willing to invest the time necessary. Not a problem. Until those three hours feel like an eight-hour work day.
We've all heard of "dog years." If baseball doesn't do something soon, the younger generation will coin the term "dog hours," on behalf of baseball.
Where's the baseball in baseball? It's almost like we need to see a list of ingredients to determine what's pure and what's filler.
Thing is, it's the same way with any sort of entertainment option, like the cinema. At the movies, it's not the length, it's the pace. An epic and gripping three-hour flick can feel like 90 minutes. Conversely, buy a ticket for Mall Cop IV and the first half-hour feels like an all-day assignment in traffic court.
More baseball in baseball. #Ding.
Even better is when you consider that the minor leagues have historically innovated, this new/old/improved brand of baseball might be coming soon to a stadium near you. Can't wait.
Any chance that the Big Red Rage might have yielded the big clue we're all searching for? That is, if we're looking to employ our Draft Doppler and forecast the name the Cardinals will submit for their first round pick?
Okay, here we go with our 7-Day Forecast…err, #7-Pick overall.
See, during the radio show, when I asked GM Steve Keim if this year's draft class is indeed as deep in offensive linemen as advertised? Keim replied that the Cards scouting staff had just finished discussing that exact position group earlier that same day.
"It is a good group," Keim nodded. "From top to bottom. There are guys who are going to go in the first round that I think are going to have tremendous success. I think there are going to be guys you can find in rounds three through six who are going to be good quality NFL starters."
Ding! Here in the war room weather center, it's that comment about offensive line depth that just resulted in red and yellow imagery all over our storm tracker map.
If the big three OTs are indeed all off the board by the seventh pick, and if Keim is indeed genuine in his expressed on-air belief that the 2013 draft is mega-deep in offensive linemen (a position Keim knows well as a former All-ACC guard) and if a big-time pass rusher is still on the board?
If that all comes together, then our Thursday night forecast affixes a smiling yellow sun graphic right next to -- Dion Jordan, the outside linebacker from Oregon.
But, ya know what? Bring an umbrella, just in case.
There are media members who cover events. And then there are media members who are billed as the event.
And let's just say there's a reason that Peter King had his name on the Cardinals Pre-Pat's Run charity event recently.
As a longtime NFL insider for Sports Illustrated, Peter King writes. And people read. He churns out multi-media content and NFL fans consume on various platforms.
But last Friday, I had a few minutes to pose a few questions -- in person. After King eloquently responded to questions about Tillman and King's longtime former hometown of Boston, we audibled into the Arizona Cardinals.
For example, I asked King to bottom line Cards new head coach Bruce Arians.
"Players will play for this guy," King said slowly and emphatically. "X's and O's are very important. But there's also the motivation of men. Bruce Arians is going to motivate these guys."
Speaking of team leaders, I put the following question to King: "If quarterback, head coach, and general manager are the lifeblood of any NFL organization, then how do you think the Cardinals will fare with Palmer, Arians, and Keim in the years to come?"
"That's a great question. In my opinion, if there was one quarterback out there this off-season, including the rookies, who this team could've acquired, I think it would've been Carson Palmer. Because Arians wants a QB who can throw the ball downfield. He wants a QB who's a veteran, who's been there before. And Carson Palmer really fits that," King said.
And when it comes to Palmer, King made sure to mention that acquiring Palmer via trade is not just a matter of answering "who" is playing QB, but "how"...as in, "how much?"
"Let's be honest, they paid nothing for Carson Palmer. And that's a little baptism by fire for Steve Keim. That's really his first big decision, when you think about it.
"(Keim) won that one. He routed the Raiders on that one," King continued. "Of course, the Raiders didn't have a lot of choice because everybody knew they had to cut him, but Keim made a really good trade."
What sort of fit will Palmer prove to be? And what's the upside? That was the final topic.
"Carson Palmer, I think, has been bruised and battered by his experience in Oakland," said King. "Carson Palmer has always wanted to throw the ball downfield. He's always wanted a weapon like Larry Fitzgerald."
That was the response from Larry Fitzgerald when I texted him with an inquiry -- any chance he might be available for an edition of our offseason tradition "Five with Fitz" via text message?
So, here we go, from cell phone to cell phone to this printed piece of cyberspace…
Question 1 - "Do u have a favorite Draft day memory or funny story from 2004 when u were the #3 pick overall?"
Larry Fitzgerald: "I was asked to come to New York. They wanted me to come out bad but I had lost my mother a few months prior to it, so I wanted to be close to my family and friends. So we rented out a room at the downtown Chicago Hilton and celebrated together. It was the best. All of my grandparents and I will always remember that experience."
Question 2 - "What are your early takeaways from working with Carson Palmer so far?"
Larry Fitzgerald: "A cerebral guy who really wants to play at a high level and win. It's fun working with a quarterback of his pedigree. I'm excited as are my teammates about the opportunity we have with him and also Coach B.A."
Question 3 - "How much respect do u have for MMA guys? If u could be a 2-sport athlete, would u start training with Benson Henderson?!"
Larry Fitzgerald: "I love MMA. It's one of my favorite sports. Such tough hard working guys. You have to be so mentally and physically tough to compete. Benson is a special human being who happens to be a champion. I would love to train with those guys, but I have no desire at all to be in the octagon."
Question 4: "For newcomers to #FitzSoftball…whatz it all about?"
Larry Fitzgerald: "It's a family event that raises proceeds for worthy causes to support people in need. There will be fan engagement and plenty of autograph opportunities." Click here for information.
Question 5: "Can u give us a highlight that still resonates from your offseason travels?"
Larry Fitzgerald: "Standing on an iceberg in Antarctica."
Don't Press Send. Perhaps the D-backs should add Herm Edwards to the roster as a bench coach. Because, in a way, this whole "Treat LA" episode stands as an example of what happens when a sports franchise fails to follow Edwards' longtime mantra -- "Don't Press Send."
As in, don't send the team owner to press fans on changing out of Dodger Blue. That's when the Sedona Red alarm should sound.
Look, if you don't like the look of fans rocking Dodger gear in seats closer to home plate than the pitcher's mound, it's one thing to mull it over. It's another thing to perhaps even mutter it. Either way, you'll probably get away with it.
But as soon as the owner gets out of his seat and is spotted with flapping arms and flapping gums, well, you are it. The bigwig becomes the big story.
And, hey, we all get it -- seeing opposing colors make team officials see red. But are the D-backs alone in trying to drown out their sorrows? Uh, no. Here in the A-Z, those bar stools are occupied with patrons from every local team.
Think about it, when the Coyotes host the Red Wings, what do we get? How ‘bout every winged-wheel sweater this side of Gordie Howe.
When the Lakers are in town, what populates the stands? Kobe Bryant jerseys ad-nauseum. When ASU hosts UA at Wells Fargo Arena, heck, it's like somebody stole the curbs off the streets as Tempe temporarily morphs into Tucson North.
And when the Cardinals play the Cowboys, Bears, Giants, Packers, etc… what do you see (and hear) from the tailgate area through the front gate? Yes -- a melting pot of NFL jerseys in all their visiting team glory.
Frustrating? Maddening? Ding and ding. But we are the Valley of the Transplant. Non-native Arizonans leave their family, friends and hometowns yet refuse to leave behind their team allegiances.
We all know this, just like we know the following: if you win, they're in. Literally. Into your team shop to get into your gear.
Hence, why so sensitive? Attention D-backs -- don't go all Carlos Quentin here. Take the Dodger bean ball in the back and take your base.
No need to charge the mound. Or, in this case, change the clothes. It can always get worse. And you know what's worse than looking at Dodger Blue in box seats? Looking small.
So, with special thanks to Herm Edwards, let's all remember: the "D" in D-back should stand for - "Don't Press Send."
I'd feel a lot better about Tiger Woods if he didn't feel so good about himself.
In fact, the creative department at Calvisi Consulting envisions Eldrick starring in a sort of post-Super Bowl Disneyland commercial. Except, this would be the antonym version. The exact opposite of the ad that annually features the Super Bowl MVP.
[Announcer]: "Tiger Woods - you just lost the Masters! Again. You're NOT going to Butler's Cabin. What do you have to say about your game?"
Then Tiger would simply repeat verbatim what he told the media after a ninth straight year without another green jacket.
"I certainly had a chance. If I would've posted a number today, I was right there," Tiger said. "I was four back starting out the day. I thought I really played well this week. Made my share of putts this week as well."
Once upon a time, Tiger Woods would lose a tourney and proceed to lose his cool. He was demanding, especially in majors, of himself. He would curse and gripe and grouse, sending TV networks scrambling for the bleep button.
Not anymore. Not even close. Alas, he now gives himself a pep talk worthy of tee ball, where everyone gets the same trophy.
"You lose more tournaments than we win out here on tour," Tiger reasoned. "So, it's just part of the process. I'll get back to it."
No, you won't. Not gonna happen. The losing will continue until you lose the diplomatic demeanor, especially under the intense pressure of a major. When you get back to being the erstwhile Tiger and find that previous mentality (read: ruthless assassin), you'll get back to winning.
With all due apologies to Billy Payne, we're going to mix Augusta National Golf Club with a line from Talladega Nights: "If you ain't first, you're last." That's the motto that Tigers need to adopt - again.
Since Tiger hired and fired virtually every notable swing instructor in the game, I think it's now our turn. Paulie 3-Putt says if Eldrick wants to swing like the Tiger 1.0 version, then he needs to sound like it.
Otherwise, we're getting ready to blame this majors drought (five years and counting) on Tiger's caddy, or lack thereof.
How else do you explain the following Holy Cannoli Stat: Steve Williams was on the bag for 13 of Tiger Woods' 14 major titles.
Hmmm. Any chance that Williams might actually demand more of his players (Adam Scott) than Tiger currently demands of himself?
"I played well,'' Tiger said. ``Unfortunately, I just didn't make enough putts."
Not too long ago, Paulie Preschool fulfilled his parental duty and took his turn reading to his daughter's class during story time.
Thursday night, during the Big Red Rage radio show on Arizona Sports 620, it was my turn to listen.
And, no doubt, we had some solid inside stories spun by both Arizona Cardinals GM Steve Keim and receiver Michael Floyd.
In fact, Floyd shared a meeting he had with Bruce Arians just a few hours before show time.
"Coach Arians comes up to me and he told me to come up to his office and he asked me just basically the question - ‘how great do I wanna be.'" Floyd reiterated.
Ron Wolfley followed by asking the 13th pick overall in the 2012 NFL Draft the same question -- "how great DO you want to be?"
"I think everyone's dream, well, mine personally, is to be a Hall of Fame wide receiver. And I'll do anything for that," Floyd said to applause from the crowd at Majerle's Sports Grill.
With a full season now under his belt, I asked Floyd to name the best cornerback he faced all season.
"I would say Antonio Cromartie from the Jets. Both Seattle corners are pretty good," Floyd answered.
Then, Wolf asked him a rhetorical question of sorts, "Sherman does a lot of talking out there, doesn't he?" Floyd nodded immediately and added, "A lot of talking, yeah."
Of course, Floyd will be a main target of new quarterback Carson Palmer. What sort of first impression did the veteran QB make with GM Steve Keim?
"We took him to dinner," Keim shared about Palmer's visit to Arizona before the trade. "After that, we were going to try and get him over to the facilities. Well, he calls me at 6:15 in the morning and he's begging me to come pick him up at the hotel so he can go watch tape. I mean, for a 33-year-old quarterback who's played nine years in the league, I love that passion."
As for potential draft picks who might be protecting Palmer along the Cards offensive line, I asked Keim if the upcoming draft is indeed as loaded with offensive line prospects as we've been hearing.
"We finished talking about most of the offensive lineman today and it is a good group," Keim said. "Not only from top to bottom, there are guys who are going to go in the first round that I think are going to have tremendous success. And I think there are going to be guys you can find in round three through six who are going to be good quality NFL starters."
Speaking of offensive lineman, as we wrapped up our interview with Keim, I asked the Cards GM for a "Breakout Player" nominee here in 2013? Ssshhh. But after a few moments of deliberation, Keim says to keep an eye on right tackle Bobby Massie.
Right now, there are two things that I just can't get out of my head.
First, that McDonald's TV commercial. We've all seen and heard it. Fishy, Fishy.
Second, I can't rid my mind of how the Suns game ended in Houston. Fishy, Fishy.
With the score tied and a game winning shot attempt in the air with no time on the clock, Jermaine O'Neal committed an egregious goaltend. Game over.
Congratulations -- the Phoenix Suns just invented a new way to lose. In some ways, it was truly ingenious and innovative, to be sure. But it was something else as well -- very beneficial.
Let's not forget, the Suns are currently engaged in a very tight race. No, it's certainly not the playoff race. #JimMora #Playoffs?!
In hindsight, the Suns were mathematically eliminated from the postseason the very moment they signed Michael Beasley. (Cue Coach Singletary - "I want winners!")
At the moment, the Suns are 1 ˝ games worse than the Cavaliers, which means they're 1 ˝ games ahead of Cleveland for what both teams lust after -- that third slot behind Charlotte and Orlando for worst record in the NBA.
(By the way, kudos to the Cavs, who blew a 20 point lead in the 4th quarter to win.. err, lose to the Pacers. Fishy, Fishy.)
Hence, Paulie Ping Pong Ball simply ain't buying that a 17-year veteran somehow commits an innocent game-losing goaltend at the buzzer. Sorry, considering the circumstances, it's really not plausible. Not when he touched the ball and the rim. You know, for good measure, just in case the officials missed one or the other. Fishy, Fishy.
Although the Suns sort of mustered up an argument and feigned insolence, the video review was an absolute slam dunk. Game over. (Cue Al McCoy: "Suns Lose! Err, wait…Suns Win!")
After the game, O'Neal went thru the motions of protesting the ruling (wink, wink).
"It was off the rim, for sure,'' O'Neal said. ``He (ref) is saying it was still in the cylinder when I did it. The problem is that they called a goaltend and counted the basket before they did the review. So there's not enough evidence to change the call."
Here's what the reporters should've written down on their notepads: "Fishy, Fishy."
Let's just say that the referee had a different assessment, with video replay serving as indisputable evidence.
"Jermaine O'Neal touched it while it was in the cylinder,'' David Jones told a pool reporter. "The ball was on the rim and in the cylinder."
Look, if NBA teams didn't tank games in the past, we wouldn't even have the current lottery system. Tanking games is not akin to a Big Foot sighting. It exists beyond doctored photos.
Furthermore, when the Suns strategically benched Goran Dragic for two straight games recently, let's just say their motivation came into question. Fishy, Fishy.
So, as non-playoff teams play out the string and jockey for position, let's all remember that the best indicator of the future is the past. Ten straight losses for the Suns. Fifteen of their last 17. We know the Suns are planning to lose, we're just not sure how. Fishy, Fishy.
By now, I really thought it would wear on me in a good way. Instead, it's worn me out.
Shorts that look like zubaz (circa 1991). Jerseys with sleeves, akin to pajama tops. Circus shorts in need of "The Big Top."
College hoops has put the "mad" into March Madness alright. Uniform designers have gone mad and we're hopping mad. And, yes, the collective "we" goes way beyond Paulie Pastel.
In fact, all the way to the top. In going thru his bracket with ESPN prior to the tourney, President Barack Obama cited the uniforms as a reason Notre Dame wouldn't advance past the first weekend, saying "that neon glow wasn't working for me."
We'd love to say that college basketball looks great. But, we can be honest, right? Forgetting the blocking/charging debate for a moment, when it comes to the recent look of college hoops and Adidas reinventing the uniforms, basketball is trying way too hard. And it's hard to watch -- literally.
Here's what basketball is not -- it's not football. It can't pull off a multitude of multiple patterns and multi-layered color schemes -- it's like multiple personalities.
Who am I watching again? And who did this school used to be? Which personality are they today? Louisville? Are you sure? Can I see some identification?
Watching these Adidas teams reminds me of the guy far beyond the 18-34 age demo who's spotted wearing skate gear T-shirts and flat-bill caps (What? How dare you stare straight at Paulie Mid-Life Crisis!?)
Just like "That Guy," it's time for basketball to look itself in the mirror. That is, if it can stand the sight.
Based on recent fashion trends, I know that I can't. For instance, I grew up watching the Golden State Warriors. Recently, when they busted out their "Ode to the Banana Peel" uniform combo with Tour de France leader jersey tops, I threw up watching the Warriors.
We've all heard the saying -- if it's too loud, you're too old. Well, the new uniforms are most definitely loud, no doubt. But it's not the volume, it's the message. It screams that college basketball is desperate. When uniforms inspire comparisons to Underoos with Fruit Stripes, then it's painfully obvious that the sport is eager to sacrifice tradition in hopes of becoming part of an imagined in-crowd. Or worse, to create an additional revenue stream.
In an interview with AP, Jeff Halmos, part of the menswear designer duo Shipley & Halmos, termed the uniforms "ultra-forward." Yet, don't call it a compliment.
"I was so shocked at UCLA. If I was part of a storied franchise like that, I'd say, 'Absolutely not.' I would tell my team that it's an honor to wear this traditional jersey, and I wouldn't cheapen it," he said. "There's a threshold to which innovation crosses a boundary. The 'throwback era' -- when classic uniforms had a mainstream moment a few years ago -- that was so much better. To me, there's so much in menswear that's about heritage."
For years, we've been calling it the "Uniformication" of college sports. Essentially, it comes down to whether your school has a rich history that fans would miss.
Boise State rebranding -- good. I mean, what sort of heritage does Spud State really evoke, right? Feel free to experiment with new uniforms every single game for all anyone cares.
But a Michigan-Ohio State game where you can't recognize either team -- not good.
And now, we see that college hoops has something up its sleeve alright. Both of ‘em.
If we're talking zip code, then we don't have a clue. But if we're talking whether the Coyotes are going to the postseason? How can you not say -- "no way." Right?
And that's not us talking. That's what the recent roster moves say to everyone, including the Coyotes dressing room.
Two points away from a playoff spot with a dozen games to play and the front office trades it away? How can that not be our takeaway when it comes to the trio of trades made before the deadline on Wednesday?
Gone are veterans Raffi Torres, Steve Sullivan and Matthew Lombardi. Coming back in return to help fuel a season ending run would be...uh, wait, hang on, gimme a moment. Oh, here we go: a minor league player and future draft picks. #AlrightyThen
What happened to the immediate future? And, for once, we're not talking about the Coyotes existence or staying power in Arizona (although that's coming in a moment).
Instead, we're talking about the playoff push. Well, truth be told, we would have until the team brass decided to push the eject button.
"This is not surrendering the white flag," Coyotes assistant general manager Brad Treliving said in the absence of GM Don Maloney, who was unavailable due to a death in the family. "This is doing what we have to do from a management level to maximize the assets we need to maximize and give opportunities to people we think deserve opportunities."
Look, it's not like somebody needs to take our car keys. We're perfectly sober. Ask us if the postseason should be considered a long shot? Yes, most likely. Especially since the Coyotes are missing the key cog from last year's squad that made the miraculous run to the Western Conference Finals -- goalie Mike Smith (injury).
But, hang on. That's the Coyotes DNA. Virtually everything is a long shot when it comes to the outfit that still lives by its 2012 marketing mantra "Hockey the Hard Way."
And considering everything that Coyotes fans have endured, don't the suits in the Coyotes front office owe fans a similar devotion? Heck, the front half of the season already got buzz-sawed by the NHL lockout. After yesterday, it now appears that the back end of the season will be trimmed by the lack of a complete commitment.
Actually, you know what? Forget the fans for a moment. What about the Coyotes players? And we're not talking about the three players who just got traded. Fact is, all three veterans (Torres, Lombardi, Sullivan) are set to become unrestricted free agents after the season. So, if you want to list 'em on eBay, go right ahead.
"Where we are at now, with our ability to sign these players going forward and into next year, we felt it was prudent to see what kind of assets we could recoup," Treliving said.
Gotcha. But if you're going to hit the subtract button on the calculator, then you have to follow up by punching the button with the plus sign on it. You must add something or, in this case, someone to the mix. Otherwise, what message, or lack thereof, do you send to your own locker room? ("Yeah, uh, boys, the standings may say we're close to the playoffs…but, yeah, we didn't really believe this squad was capable...so instead of putting on the foil, just take it off.")
And, yes, we realize the Coyotes are handcuffed by the ownership dynamic (read: 29 other owners crowding the Coyotes kitchen).
Comprendo. But, with the clock (almost assuredly) ticking on the NHL in the A-Z, it still would've been nice to see the Coyotes leave behind a different final impression.
What did the Arizona Cardinals need last year? A quarterback that did NOT lose games.
Yet, after Kevin Kolb went down with injury, what did the Arizona Cardinals have last year? They had multiple quarterbacks who lost multiple games. Single-handedly.
As evidence, may we present the following stats? Kevin Kolb - 8 TD, 3 INT. Skelton/Lindley/Hoyer - 3 TD, 17 INT. Game over.
As a refresher, touchdowns tend to win games while turnovers typically lose games. That is, with the exception of the Atlanta game last season, where the Cards defense forced a half-dozen turnovers and the Cards still lost. Why? Everybody now -- they had QBs who lost games.
So, what do the Cards need again this year? (Hint -- it doesn't include the word "liability").
Unlike a signal caller who loses games all by his lonesome, the Cards really do not require the flip side -- a player who will win the game all by himself. Now, would they welcome that? Uh, yes. A thousand times yes. But, barring a miraculous Russell Wilson discovery in the middle of the draft, a veteran/winning QB will have to suffice as the search continues.
Translation -- a quarterback with a track record of success. Currently, the Cards have a collection of QBs with…potential. Yeah, that's an apt description.
What the Cards don't have is a proven player at the position. A proven performer who will turn the unknown into a known. A competent QB who eliminates the guessing game from game to game by the coaching staff and front office.
What's more, the Cards need a QB who will generate buy-in from the rest of the roster.
At his breakfast meeting with the media a couple weeks ago, Bruce Arians told the story of how a veteran defender saw a single pass from Andrew Luck during a Colts practice and exclaimed -- "hey, we're back!"
Ding. That's what the Cards need -- a belief. A confidence they can compete. A quarterback that will help the team help itself, instead of inducing defeat before they break the huddle.
The Suns played to lose. And guess what? They lost 103-88 at Utah.
We're not exactly sure what the pregame whiteboard listed as the "Keys" Wednesday night, but, essentially, all that really needed to be written: "Goran Dragic: DNP-CD = L."
Did not play - coach's decision. Equals loss. That was the pep talk guaranteed to deliver.
Although, if we were sitting courtside and keeping the box score, the more accurate acronym would've read: DNT-TW: Did Not Try - To Win.
Indeed, an NBA franchise that has railed against its roster for mailing in games just licked a first-class stamp in Utah.
Let's get this straight -- the team expects the locker room to go all out, yet the front office just bailed out?
By not playing their best player, who was coming off the best overall game of his career (31 pts, 12 assists, 9 rebs), the Suns did not give their best effort, to be kind.
And this is how a franchise goes about establishing a culture where everyone leaves everything on the court?
Was Dragic dealing with injury? No. Playing his fourth game in five nights? Not even close. Turns out, the schedule graced the Suns with a couple of off-days prior to squaring off against the Jazz.
Now, were the Suns trying to win ping-pong balls? Shazam! It doesn't take Paulie Percentages to realize that now we're getting somewhere.
When the Jazz win, the Suns win. So, facing Utah Wednesday night, the Suns set out to lose. Which, in turn, they hope will result in a win-win on draft day -- a pair of lottery picks.
See, if the Lakers miss the playoffs, the Suns gain the Lakers' first round pick (not lottery protected) from the Steve Nash trade.
Thing is, it doesn't take Herm Edwards to realize that if a team doesn't play to win the game, then why would fans even begin to care about the game? Why should the media cover the game? (Hey, any chance that money-back guarantee policy still exists?)
At the very least, Wednesday night certainly wasn't worthy of the regular season. More fitting would be if someone petitioned the league office to record the loss in the preseason standings.
Hit zoom out for a moment -- are the Suns currently weighing the future of the franchise? No doubt. Right now, the Suns front office has decided that winning games is not nearly as important as winning ping-pong balls.
Two problems here: first, isn't the very existence of the lottery system designed to prevent the intentional tanking of regular season games? Meaning, when someone does place that call to NBA headquarters, please ask for David Stern.
Second, what sort of message does playing to lose ultimately send? More importantly, what sort of team culture does that allow to flourish?
"Focus might be an issue, you hear the word ‘effort' used a lot. And they're basically saying ‘hey, it won't be tolerated, we're going to play through it consistently,'" Dudley said. "Any NBA team you should play for, you should always play hard, you should always play together, you should always play smart."
Do what I say, not what I do. In parenting, there is a concept called modeling. Children see what their parents do and model their behavior after it.
The Phoenix Suns might be drilling into their players that a lack of effort "won't be tolerated," but their lineups say otherwise.
Did NASCAR penalize anyone in any way for the FFF - Fantastic Fontana Finish?
Of course not. Not even in the aftermath of a crash, a fight and a broken back. Why not?
That's easy. Over the past few years, NASCAR ratings have been lagging and sagging. Television, ticket sales and corporate sponsorships have all waned. The sport has been in need of an overall turbo boost of popularity.
Hence, a couple years ago, the NASCAR suits (business suits, not race suits) announced a new policy fashioned around the longtime saying - "Boys, have at it." In other words, if the road rage carries over to the garage area (Ex: PIR 2012 - Clint Bowyer vs Jeff Gordon) or payback is exacted in punching each other instead of the throttle, well, boys will be boys.
As longtime Valley resident and two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Arie Luyendyk tweeted afterwards: "Drama always attracts fans and viewers." Then, he added that "@dennyhamlin is lucky to survive that crash and @joeylogano is lucky to survive @tonystewart."
Arie is talking about the FFFF on Sunday - Fantastic Fontana Fireworks Finish. After the checkered flag flew, so did the fisticuffs. Simply put, Stewart was more revved up than his race car. He left his four wheels behind for his own two legs and made a straight line for Logano. As expected, crew members separated the two drivers. After a straight right hand, Stewart brought the straight talk regarding the 22-year-old Logano.
"He's sent Denny to the hospital and screwed our day up," Stewart said. "He's talked the talk, but he hasn't walked the walk yet. He's always got his crew guys walking the walk for him. He wants to talk about it? We'll talk about it.
"If NASCAR wants to let the guys have at it, it shouldn't be any different than hockey—let us have it and when one guy goes to the ground, it's over," Stewart said.
Hit the brakes right there! Maybe that's the ticket that will sell tickets. Tweak the mantra that states "have at it, boys" to read "stand back and actually allow the boys to be boys, I'll be gol-danged."
"After he threw the water bottle at me like a little girl, we'll go at it now. I'm not going to listen," Stewart said. "I don't care what he has to say. It's just words right now. Actions speak louder than words."
And so do TV ratings. NASCAR's overnight TV ratings one week after Logano feuded with Denny Hamlin were up 32 percent, according to Fox.
Stewart was mighty angry. Thing is, the veteran NASCAR driver might've also been a visionary.
What's that old business saying - see a need, fill a need. Well, with the NFL and NHL rapidly decreasing the violence and physicality in their respective sports, perhaps NASCAR needs to ramp it up?
Fans don't connect with metal. They don't bond with the vehicle itself. They share emotionally with other human beings -- drivers.
At PIR last fall, I was covering NASCAR. All of a sudden, the grandstands roared upon the sight of Bowyer chasing after Gordon on the big screens, with the media then chasing after Bowyer (I'm still winded).
As Brad Keselowski told the media this past week, a fight is the type of "water cooler conversation" fans relish.
"Whether it is joy or anger, that is what the fans crave," he said. "They want to see us be human, and humans are emotional."
Hmmm. Maybe Stewart has hit on something by essentially scribbling "hockey fight" on a slip of paper and stuffing it into the suggestion box.
Meaning, speaking of boxes, maybe the time has come for NASCAR to install a penalty box.
On a recent weekend, I attended a housewarming barbeque for a buddy. And, it should be noted, he's a bachelor.
(This is important because I made the mistake of bothering to shower, wear a presentable shirt, and bring an actual gift purchased by the wife. Geez, what a bonehead move on my part considering not a single other attendee had even bothered to shave, much less bathe or shop. Think housewarming party at a frat house.)
That said, it's probably not surprising that the biggest and best furnishing in the house? You guessed it. By far, the television. A big screen, flat screen TV featuring non-stop UFC pay-per-view bouts all evening.
Yes, we're trying to paint a picture and set the scene: beer, bbq, Doritos, MMA, backward baseball caps and sports talk. In fact, we should've simulcast the conversation on Arizona Sports 620. No doubt, we covered all the hot topics -- Cards QB question, D-backs minus J-Up, Suns stink, LeBron vs MJ, dudes with idiotic workouts at the gym and ...wait for it… women's college basketball?!
In hindsight, it was a good thing we were on the patio as the conversation turned because I reacted with an involuntary spit take into the bougainvillea.
Yes, a bunch of guys spontaneously started talking women's hoops unprompted. No joke, no embellishment. Although, truth be told, the talk revolved around a single woman hoopster -- Brittney Griner.
And right there, that's why the Phoenix Mercury will draft Griner #1 overall next month.
Can she play? Can she block shots? Can she dunk? Absolutely. But that's not groundbreaking. Not at all. Diana Taurasi is the more decorated player and she already sports a Mercury uniform (how many corporate logo patches this season -- three?)
The bigger question is -- does the WNBA player matter? Ding. Does she create chatter? Double-ding. And, most importantly, will Brittney Griner move the meter in the marketplace? Ding-a-cha-ching.
Sunday night, Griner had her 15th career dunk amongst 33 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks. Defending national champion Baylor opened the NCAAs with an 82-40 jackstomping of Prairie View.
That's great. But once again, what really separates Griner is that people aren't just watching her, they're talking about her.
"Her wingspan is amazing," said Latia Williams, the SWAC Player of the Year. "Her hands are huge. When she grabbed my hand and helped me up, her hand was on my forearm. She's cool."
No, what's really cool is that Griner's celebrity is starting to exceed her skills.
"It was amazing. It was amazing," said Prairie View guard Jeanette Jackson. "We got star struck."
And we're not just hearing from opposing players. What if we said, like my buddies at the bbq, that LeBron James opined on Brittney Griner recently.
"She's awesome," James said. "It's not like she's just catching and laying it or dunking every time either. She's shooting turnaround jumpers. She's drop-stepping over her left shoulder, right shoulder, shooting jumpers. She's got a fade-away jumper. And she's dunking the ball, too. She's great."
Griner to the Mercury. That's going to be slam dunk number 16 in her career.
How did things taste at the NFC Coaches Breakfast Wednesday morning at the Biltmore here in Phoenix? No clue. Hey, I was too busy interviewing Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians before bolting back to KTAR to be on-air. (I mean, how do you think I maintain my nickname -- Paulie Pencilneck?!)
Enough of that, I had a chance to chat for a few minutes with Bruce Arians. So, let's run the no-huddle Q&A with the Cardinals new head coach.
And let's get specific. Since Drew Stanton hasn't taken a regular season snap in two years, what can Arians tell us about his former Colts backup?
"Extremely bright. Very competitive. Can make all the throws. Is a little bit too tough for his own good sometimes. He'll go running up in there and take some guys on. He's a fiery competitor and that's what it takes to play the game," Arians said. "I've been around him for a year and I've never seen one (QB) improve his, I call it ‘swing,' just like a golfer, in a year as much as he did. His accuracy was off the charts by December."
Of course, last year, the Cards had a QB competition that spanned the entire offseason and five-game preseason. This season, it appears the QB competition will be decided before Mother's Day.
"There will be NO quarterback competition," Arians said when I asked the proverbial quarterback question. "If you have two, you have none. We will have a quarterback set by May 1st."
Speaking of QBs, Coach Arians told the assembled media that he sees a half-dozen quarterbacks in the upcoming draft that will play a "long time" in the NFL, right?
"I do. I think they'll play a long time," Arians confirmed. "How soon? I don't know. How dynamic will they be as rookies will totally depend on the team and the system."
As for the offensive line, I asked Arians what he sees when he flips on the game film from last season?
"I see a revolving door. Every film you turn on there's five different numbers up there, so you're not going to be very good because it takes some continuity and cohesiveness to play as a group," Arians said. "We have good depth. We're going to have some good competition. And with that competition, we should have a pretty good offensive line. Now, we throw one more guy into that mix and we could have a really good offensive line. And that's what it's going to take for our division."
Of course, as a direct result of the O-line woes up front, the Cardinals wound up last in the NFL in rushing. So, what does Rashard Mendenhall bring to the Cards backfield?
"Dynamic player," said Arians, who coached Mendenhall in Pittsburgh. "He's still young, he's only 25. Carried us to the Super Bowl. He's an every down player. He's 230 pounds with 180 pound feet. He's got unbelievable jump cut ability. He can catch the football. He pass protects. He never has to come out of the game. We rode him to the Super Bowl in Pittsburgh."
Can the Phoenix Suns beat the Heat? And we're not talking about the dreaded summer heat that's straight ahead in our weather forecast.
No, we're talking about the upper-case version: the Miami Heat. Hence, in the spirit of "Spy vs. Spy," we're launching a campaign called "Streak versus Season."
Sure. After Monday night's comeback win at Boston, the Heat currently own the second-longest winning streak in NBA history -- 23 straight. And after beating the Lakers Monday night, the Suns have won 23 games -- this entire season.
Hit the brakes. That's a #HolyCannoliStat that says it all, right? Sure again. But that ain't no fun. At the risk of going all Paulie Pocket Protector here, let's bust out a line graph in order to track our two teams and crunch some more numbers.
Entering Monday night, if you set up a compare/contrast Tale of the Tape between the defending NBA champions and the Worst in the West, let's just say they have a lot of opposites in common. That makes sense, uh, right?
For instance, Miami just finished a stretch of holding its opponents to under 100 points in 10 straight games. Prior to the injured and worn out Lakers coming to AZ (Steve Nash: "We just hit the wall"), the Suns had allowed their last six opponents to score more than 100 points, including the league's lowest-scoring team (Wizards) torching the Suns for 127 points on Saturday night.
After shooting 58% in a win against Toronto, Miami is now 31-2 this season when shooting at least 50 percent from the field. Through 68 games, the Suns have shot 50% or better a grand total of five times, going 4-1 in those games.
What's more astounding when it comes to shooting percentage is that the Suns' defense entering Monday night had allowed opponents to shoot 49% over the past seven games... from three-point range!
During their current winning streak, the Heat have beaten three different teams multiple times (Philly 3x, Toronto 2x, Atlanta 2x). Believe it or not, the Suns have now beaten six teams more than once this season (Cleveland, Charlotte, Sacramento, Portland, Memphis, Lakers).
And one other polar opposite these two teams might have in common by the end of the season? The numero uno. As in, the Heat is tracking to wind up #1.
Same with the Suns, sort of. As in, maybe, just maybe, if we pray to the great ping pong ball in the desert sky, the Suns might wind up with the #1 pick.
(Note: if we're wondering whether the Heat can extend the streak? Miami's next four opponents -- Cleveland, Detroit, Charlotte and Orlando -- have the four worst records in the East. Also, eight of their next 11 games are against teams with losing records.)
If you open up an Oreo cookie, you will not find the Phoenix Suns. No way, no chance. This Band of Backups is most definitely not creamy white filling. There is virtually nothing in-between about Suns games.
At first glance, those figures read like high/low temps for Phoenix in August.
We wish. Turns out, we did not consult the National Weather Service. Instead, those numbers come from Suns box scores. Yep. They happen to be final scores from this season, all XL lopsided losses by the Suns.
Hence, we pose a question: Why is it that when the Suns (rarely) win, they win. #Ding. But when the Suns lose - look out.
As in, look out below because the Suns scream "cannonball" and then smack the water from the roof of the garage, like an episode of Jackass.
The latest example had Johnny Knoxville and Planet Orange Cones in Houston. At least, the NBA schedule listed the Suns as allegedly taking on the Rockets. To date, we're still looking for tangible evidence that an actual game took place.
See, thing is, at the risk of getting all metaphysical here, did you really play a game if you didn't compete? #BuellerBueller
And we're not talking about expertise, where the Suns are challenged by a dearth of talent. We're citing effort, or the lack thereof. Did you even try? We know NBA salaries are guaranteed. And, based on this season, we now know something else: effort is not guaranteed. (By the way, forget maximum effort. We're realistic. We'd settle for respectable/acceptable effort.)
How else can you explain a game where you flipped on the TV to find the score was an eye-popping 100-64 midway thru the 4th quarter? In fact, we'd like to petition the NBA stat geeks to register a honkin' huge "DNP" across the Suns section of the final box score. #JackStomp
"Those that go along with the program will be here," Lindsey Hunter said on Wednesday night. "Those that won't...will eliminate themselves."
Nice to hear the coach deems it unacceptable. Thing is, it's happening on his watch. And, of course, Hunter has a business card that reads "interim" head coach.
Meaning, it's his team that's failing to consistently respond. (#HolyCannoliStat: 6 times under Lindsey Hunter, the Suns have committed 20 or more turnovers. Under Alvin Gentry, that happened twice this season.)
On Seinfeld, if memory serves, didn't Jackie Chiles offer up that "If you don't compete, thou shalt feel the heat," or something like that.
Ron Burgundy would've been a good choice to call the game Saturday from the Chase Field broadcast booth:
"Boy that escalated quickly. I mean, that really got out of hand fast. "
Yep. That'd pretty much describe the scene in the 9th inning, when WBC stood for World Basebrawl Classic between Team Mexico and Team Canada. #Fisticuffs
In some ways, it was your typical baseball free-for-all. Meaning, an unwritten rule was violated. Therefore, thou shalt be punished with a fastball between the shoulder blades. Moments later, let there be fight!
Thing is, that's where this became an atypical baseball melee. Instead of huffing, puffing, and pretending, the players (and coaches) were actually swinging, punching, and wrestling. For real, no WWE here. In fact, snarky media types joked that maybe the Canadians suddenly thought a hockey game had broken out.
And since our rule is it can always get worse, well, it did just that. In the stands, a Raider game broke out, as fans launched objects towards dugouts. In fact, video shows a water bottle striking the Team Canada pitching coach upside the head.
My initial reaction? Thank goodness. Good thing that I watched it on television and not in person. Hey, Paulie Pugilist likes a basebrawl as much as the next dude, but I immediately gave thanks that I decided to take my 6 year old, just starting his first Little League season, to the D-backs spring training game on Saturday instead of the World Baseball Chaos game downtown.
As we all know, 6 year olds ask a lot of questions. And let's just say that I felt more than a little relieved that I didn't have to explain why NAFTA violations were occurring all over the diamond, not to mention fans leaving in handcuffs.
But forget being a parental unit altogether, how sad that the most memorable moment in the short history of this event now happens to be a violent brawl. Isn't the WBC supposed to showcase the game and spirit of baseball? Actually, yes. It's in the mission statement all in the name of growing the game internationally.
Let's see, a batter drilled. Dugouts emptied. Baseball uniforms alongside police uniforms. Not only does that fail to grow the game worldwide, it's actually instilled fear in other nations.
According to AP reports, video of the fracas has spread across the globe and "caused concern in Japan, where bunting is a big part of the game and baseball brawls are rare."
Yet, officials of the World Baseball Classic decided not to suspend or punish a single participant, despite the fact that seven players were ejected.
``Because at least one club - and potentially both - will not advance to the second round, WBCI has determined that disciplinary measures would not have a meaningful corrective impact,'' WBC officials said in a statement.
So, apparently, it's only players that mete out punishment. Thereby reinforcing why players feel compelled to take matters into their own hands, especially when the consequences are non-existent.
If it was up to me, I'd re-enact Nolan Ryan on Robin Ventura.
Attention Team Mexico: while the World Baseball Classic occurs every four years, you're invited back in eight years. See you in 2021. By then, you've had ample time to study up on why this tourney is held in the first place.
I got hit by Adrian Wilson. Sure. Hit, shoved, bumped, brushed, duped and mocked. But that's life on the sideline as the pencilneck sideline radio guy.
It's inevitable and unavoidable. You get your pen hit out of your hand. Your notebook smacked to the ground. Beware the punter, kicker & long snapper, who like to joke they're aiming for you during warm-ups.
Look out for the hit ‘n run forearm shiver when it's deemed you're too close to the bench area. And fear the final moments of a big win when your headphone volume leaves you unaware (cue the Jaws impending doom sound effect) of what's coming next. Namely - ice, smelling salts, snowballs, rolls of athletic tape, or the proverbial fountain of fluid from a water bottle at long distance.
All in great fun, mind you. It's absolutely nothing like what AW did to opponents. (Otherwise, this would be an obituary instead of a blog). But, just like quarterbacks, I learned to constantly ask myself - where's #24?
Now, we're done looking. The next time we see his name & number will be in the Cardinals Ring of Honor. And attention wide receivers, it's not going anywhere.
Larry Fitzgerald will always be the most iconic Arizona Cardinal. By far, the most important and valuable draft pick in Arizona history. If nothing else, Fitz resonates on a national basis, something no other sports entity in Arizona can currently claim (unless you count Scottsdale resident Danica Patrick).
But Adrian Wilson brought as much loyalty as he did lumber. And, at the time, that was far from the norm. Anquan Boldin had the same level of ultimate locker room respect, but even Q felt the need to leave. Not AW. It would've been easy and, ultimately, forgiven by AZ fans. But not A-Dub. He re-signed long-term contracts not once, but twice.
And let's not forget that a year in the NFL should be considered a dog year (7x) in virtually any other profession. Between staying healthy, staying productive, and staying away from being a salary cap casualty, lasting a dozen years in the NFL as a position player is staggering.
So, if we hit "zoom out" for a moment, I do believe we have the rare perfect storm in sports where all parties actually got their money's worth: the franchise player, the franchise itself, and the fans of the franchise.
Alas, that doesn't mean that come Sundays in September, I won't be conditioned to still look for Adrian Wilson. And thing is, rarely did he ever say a word on game day. Didn't have to. The eyes behind the facemask conveyed the message that his shoulder pads delivered. Heck, I'll even miss the good-natured Deacon Jones head slaps that sent a message as well.
But, you know what? We all got hit by Adrian Wilson.
And, that's why, if we think about what he did in his career and what it meant, when it comes to Arizona sports history, AW will serve as the definition of a true impact player.
"I think last year we competed a lot better," Telfair told Arizona Sports 620's Craig Grialou while in town with the Toronto Raptors.
"I understand they're going in a new direction, but I wished we would've known that this summer. I really can't understand it. I'm not mad at nobody, but I don't understand it."
Can we get a show of hands here? Who else doesn't quite get it? #NoComprendo.
From here, we see a front office that has cornered the market on mediocrity. Planet Orange is more like Planet Ordinary.
Between players and picks, if the name of the game is amassing non-star talent that would never start a game for a contending team? #Ding. Or if the plan is to accumulate all the mid-first round and/or second round picks possible, then somebody please cue Al McCoy because "Suns Win! Suns Win!"
Thing is, when it comes to box scores and turnstiles, the NBA is a star-driven league. Get a superstar to drive your team into the passing lane or you're marooned in the bike lane with your blinker on desperately trying to merge into traffic.
Right now, the Suns are the snowbird in the Buick sporting Wisconsin plates. Their only hope appears to be hitting the lottery before the lottery hits back. Meaning the Suns better pray those ping-pong ball bounce their way or virtually every draft pick they possess will net a mid-round rookie. And how has that worked out recently (Robin Lopez, Earl Clark, Markieff Morris, Kendall Marshall)?
Once upon a time, when the Suns stank out loud, Jerry Colangelo would take a big chance. BIG, BIG chance. Trade All-Star Larry Nance for a young Kevin Johnson. What? My team still stinks? Let's make history with the blockbuster free agent signing of Tom Chambers.
Hey, that still doesn't put us over the top? Move the meter and trade for Charles Barkley. Heck, you ain't trying if you ain't trading. Tom Gugliotta. Penny Hardaway. Jason Kidd. Stephon Marbury.
None of that works? Let's call Knicks GM Isiah Thomas. Still not championship caliber? Hey Bryan Colangelo, please make a midnight recruiting visit to bring back Steve Nash. The Big Cactus.
Bold attempts for legit star power; that's what's missing with the current iteration of the Phoenix Suns. Anybody ever see pawns moved around a chess board, only to be followed by the word "checkmate" shouted out? Yeah, me neither.