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Archive for July, 2013

July 31, 2013 — The quarter-billion-dollar question

This evening, word has leaked out that Major League Baseball is strongly considering suspending New York Yankees third-baseman Alex Rodriguez for life for repeated and flagrant violations of the rules governing performance-enhancing drugs.

Rodriguez isn’t just a baseball player, and the Yankees not just a sports team. Rodriguez has been an entertainment commodity being paid nearly a quarter of a billion dollars to put fans in the seats. And the Yankees are a team which is the fourth most valuable on the entire planet, worth some $2.3 billion.

In terms of a sports/business enterprise, the last decade for Rodriguez in New York is mixed. He’s won league MVP honors and the World Series. He’s also hit a lot of home runs in his career, put a lot of people in the stands, and has had New York media types writing about his after-hours activities.

Still, you do wonder where some of these media types were when Rodriguez allegedly was a clientele of Biogenesis, a lab which supplied performance-enhancing substances.

And you wonder if Rodriguez will ever be looked upon the same again, especially given the financial hit that his expulsion is likely to cause the franchise.

July 30, 2013 — Prelude to the “other” trial

Remember this?

Yesterday, this happened.

I think this brings up an interesting court case starting just after Labor Day.

 

July 29, 2013 — But where’s the girls’ game?

Over the weekend, the U.S. Lacrosse Champion All-American Showcase was held in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., with a televised boys’ lacrosse final on the ESPN U network.

What was missing, however, was the girls’ game, which was played several days earlier and was archived on ESPN’s on-demand video service.

As has been the case with the Under Armour games in Baltimore, the total lack of airtime given to the young women in this showcase competition is befuddling, and I can’t believe I still have to point this out in 2013 — four decades after Title IX.

July 28, 2013 — Take the 3 points and run

It was a split result for the United States junior women’s national field hockey team in Moenchengladbach, Germany over the weekend as they stunned South Korea 4-1 in their Pool A opener on Saturday, then dropped a 5-1 decision to The Netherlands this afternoon.

Tara Vittese, who is still in high school, has scored three of the five U.S. goals as the United States has done better than most anyone could have hoped going into Monday’s rest day.

Should the U.S. defeat Ghana (a team that has lost its first two games by scores of 10-0 and 9-0), they will clinch a berth in the quarterfinal round of the tournament; the U.S. would therefore need just one win in its next three games to guarantee itself a better placement than four years ago.

July 27, 2013 — The Team USA you’ll hear a lot more of

Today, the seventh FIH Junior Women’s World Cup takes place in Moenchengladbach, Germany.

For the 16 teams in the field, it’s a chance to prove themselves on a world stage. And for the players on the teams, it’s a chance to show their senior national team counterparts that they belong.

The United States do not have the expectations heaped upon them as they did in 2009, when they were the host nation. The Americans are in the Group of Death along with two-time champion Korea and defending champion Holland, along with tournament debutantes Ghana.

It will be interesting to see how this team comes together. This is a group which has senior experience, as Emily Wold was on the World League team earlier this summer in London.

But all eyes are going to be on Tara Vittese, the youngest player in the side. The third of three field hockey-playing sisters (sound familiar?), Vittese is a skilled and fluid player who scored 49 goals as a high-school sophomore. She’s the only player on the team who isn’t playing in college this fall; she will still be a high-school senior at Cherry Hill Camden Catholic (N.J.).

Laura Gebhart, who was on the Junior World Cup team four years ago, is the team’s captain. Georgia Holland, the Yale captain, is an awesome transition player who will give other teams nightmares. I think also that Emma Bozek and Teresa Benvenuti are going to have to have good tournaments for the U.S. to succeed.

And remember the names coming from out of this tournament; some of them may be on a future Olympic side.

July 26, 2013 — The Team USA you’ve never heard of

The 19th Maccabiah Games are currently being held in Israel. And like most times over the last two decades, there is a United States field hockey team competing for gold.

But unlike the senior women’s national team, which is funded through the United States Olympic Committee, members of the U.S. Maccabiah Games teams have to fundraise and get sponsors in order to make the trip to the host site — in this case, Jerusalem. They compete just as hard as their sisters on the national team, and deserve your support.

Here’s how you can help.

July 25, 2013 — The quality of the opponent

Another former college classmate of mine, Suzanne Malveaux, has been developing a series of stories for CNN and its related properties on the devastating effects of ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

One very interesting story that came out this week is on a girls’ lacrosse coach in Georgia. Peachtree City McIntosh (Ga.) hasn’t gotten the notoriety of Milton (Ga.), one of the nation’s most energetic programs, but perhaps assistant coach Mickey Beard’s example will help their players reach that next level.

July 24, 2013 — What Chivas USA’s troubles can teach us

A couple of days ago, my former college classmate Soledad O’Brien of HBO blew the lid off a story which has been simmering in American soccer circles for a few months.

A professional soccer team in Los Angeles, called Club Deportivo Chivas USA, has been competing in Major League Soccer since 2005. Billionaire Jorge Vergara purchased a franchise in the American league to not only market to a large Mexican-American population in the American southwest, but to develop players for his primary club, Chivas Guadalajara.

Chivas of Guadalajara, the parent club, has had a long-standing tradition of only hiring Mexican players and coaches. The first year of Chivas USA’s existence, that policy led to the team finishing at the bottom of the MLS table with just four wins on the season.

But when Chivas USA broke with the tradition the next hear, hiring an American coach in Bob Bradley, then former U.S. international Preki afterwards, Chivas USA made the MLS Cup playoffs four straight years.

Too, the team was able to break with its all-Mexican tradition and at one juncture had players from nine different countries on its roster.

The last few years, however, Vergara has, for whatever reason, increased his grip on the club, forcing out coaches and players to go back to its all-Mexico policy.

Only now, that policy could see Vergara and his team run afoul of U.S. employment law. Ted Chronopolous and Dan Calichman, who ran the Chivas USA Academy teams, are alleging racial discrimination on the part of Chivas de Guadalajara.

The lack of diversity has hurt teams in other fields of endeavor before. It has, oddly enough, strengthened others. The University of Minnesota, for years, has recruited only in the state, and staunchly refused to go to Canada for players. Oddly enough, it worked, bolstering the high-school hockey culture in the state.

But there are four non-Minnesotans on the 2013-14 projected rosters. Times change. And so must Chivas if it wants to survive.

July 23, 2013 — Why lacrosse isn’t ready for the Olympics, part 2

If there’s a prerequisite for an athletic competition to sweep the globe and make a popularity push which could vault it into the Olympics, it is to hold worldwide competitions with a minimum of fuss so that everyone can enjoy the spirit of fair competition.

For the second consecutive world tournament, the Federation of International Lacrosse has failed in this task.

First, it was the controversy over Haudenosaunee passports not being recognized by the British government for the men’s World Cup in Manchester three years ago.

This year, it was the FIL’s intransigence in making the Israel national team play on July 19th — on the Sabbath.

I can’t believe that nobody in the vast infrastructure of the Federation of International Lacrosse, Canada Lacrosse, or the people who run the Oshawa Civic Center even entertained the thought that Israel would make the championship round, and would therefore have to play their final-round games on a Saturday.

I also can’t believe that the schedule wasn’t altered in order to accommodate the team.

Now, that seventh-place game, between the Israelis and the women who make up the Haudenosaunee team, has gone into the books as a 1-0 forfeit.

The teams are lining up their schedules to play a friendly in the fall. And it’s interesting that the two nations wronged by FIL inaction the last few years are getting together in the spirit of competition.

“The Haudenosaunee Nation women’s lacrosse team respects Israel’s right to stand up for what they believe in and we wish them all the best with their program,” Haudenosaunee chair Kathy Smith said in a prepared statement last week. “We understand the importance of national identity and are respectful of the sacrifices the Israelis are willing to make to uphold what is important to them.”

I’ll present that last statement without comment.

July 22, 2013 — Why lacrosse isn’t ready for the Olympics, part 1

In June 2013, the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) earned membership into the International World Games Association (IWGA). It is an umbrella group for several non-Olympic sports and even some sports which used to be in the Olympics, such as the tug-of-war, underwater swimming, and softball.

Lacrosse used to be in the Olympic Games as well, and it’s hoped in many circles that the game may make the next World Games which are being held in Poland in 2017.

But there are a pair of reasons why lacrosse isn’t quite ready for prime time.

I believe one main reason is that the game doesn’t nearly have the reach that other sports have, nor does it have competitive balance.

You see, even though there were a number of new teams on the docket for the 2013 FIL Women’s World Cup, there were only 19 teams who made it into the competition. None are from Africa or South America.

Too, the dominant fashion in which the United States played in winning this championship was likely the worst thing that could have happened to the women’s game worldwide. Most other nations, save England, Canada, and Australia, would consider playing against the U.S. team a fool’s errand. And it’s gotten to the point where American citizens have been playing for other countries the last few World Cups.

It was such a lack of competitive balance (i.e., one team winning all the time) that likely sunk the games of baseball and softball as Olympic sports — not to mention the rampant drug use that has stained professional baseball up to this day.

But there’s another important reason why the game of lacrosse isn’t exactly ready for prime time. More on that tomorrow.