Tuesday, May 8, 2007
Looking for perspective in the sports world
By Tim Keown
Whatever you do today, you need to listen to the audio of the live reporting of Roger Clemens' announcement on the Yankees' radio network.
We all know signing Clemens is the biggest of big deals, and oh-so-surprising, but if you listen to Suzyn Waldman's on-air hysterics, you would think the Yankees cured cancer, ended poverty and won every war in the past 2,500 years.
Honestly, it was something else.
Printed words can't come close to capturing the ecstasy of the moment -- described on Wikipedia as a "sportgasm" -- but here's a sample:
"Of all the dramatic things I have ever seen, Roger Clemens standing right in George Steinbrenner's box announcing he is coming back!"
(There aren't enough exclamation marks alive to convey the ferocity of her excitement.)
"You should see what's going on in the Yankees' dugout!"
(Apparently, guys like Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte were smiling.)
"Attention, fans! He is here and we don't have to discuss who takes that place in the rotation!"
(OK, we won't.)
Finally, John Sterling said something about Clemens' arrival being maybe a little bit down the road.
When John Sterling is the voice of reason and calm, you know you're in trouble.
Ivan Basso wants to devote his life to cleaning up cycling now that he's admitted he's one of the guys who made it dirty in the first place.
It might not be that big a story in this country, but Basso would have been favored to win the Tour de France this year. He was thrown into Operation Puerto last year and was denied a chance to ride in the Tour. Discovery Channel, Lance Armstrong's old team, signed him at a time when the other top cycling teams had agreed to treat him as poison.
Through it all, Basso proclaimed his innocence and said he was victimized. He knew nothing of the doctor, or the doping, or even the allegations.
I know this, because he told me personally, in an interview in San Francisco in February as I was reporting a profile to run as part of the Tour de France preview for ESPN The Magazine. And just last month in Georgia, his team's director, Johan Bruyneel, known for helping to guide Armstrong through his seven Tour wins, told me he had no problem signing Basso once the Italian cycling federation cleared him to compete.
Basso's lawyer says the lying got to him, turning him into a nervous wreck. To me, he seemed pretty good at it, although he did have convenient language difficulties when it suited him.
Now, according to his lawyer, he will "plan his future around the fight against doping."
Wow, that was quick. Like going from criminal to cop before a minute of the sentence is served.
At one point in the early 1990s, San Francisco Giants general manager Bob Quinn grew concerned that several members of his team were drinking too much in the clubhouse after games. There was a huge refrigerator in the lounge/food room, and it was filled with cans of domestic beer.
After games -- and remember, 12:05 games were sometimes over by 2:30 -- guys would come in, walk to the fridge, grab a few beers and either head back to their lockers or sit in the lounge and talk shop.
This was part of the game, and always had been. The clubhouse was one of the only places in the world where employees never had to leave the job site to drink. One of the other places was the press box, which traditionally had beer at the ready for the media after games.
Quinn, unlike Billy Beane in Oakland last season, didn't ban beer from the clubhouse. Instead, he took out the refrigerator and replaced it with a chilled keg and a stack of plastic cups. His theory: If his players had to walk back and forth from the room to their lockers every time they wanted a beer, it would reduce consumption.
And what happened? The first day, the players complained about the arrangement. And the second day, four or five of them showed up for work with pitchers, which they filled after the game and brought back to their lockers.
It seemed kind of funny back then, not so much now. Beer is becoming less prevalent in big league clubhouses, and Josh Hancock's tragic death is another reason to change that culture. The Cardinals have taken alcohol out of the clubhouse, not a small concession for a team with the closest organizational ties to the beer industry.
And at some point, you've got to hope Tony La Russa stands up and addresses the issue with more conviction than he has so far. Since issuing a statement regarding his DUI during spring training, La Russa has refused to discuss his arrest.
Following Hancock's death and the reports that he may have had a problem the team covered up, maybe it's time for La Russa to adopt a cause other than animal rights.
This Week's List
• What you learn from listening to Dick Stockton: Confidence, apparently, is measured in decibels, as in "a shot like that should make his confidence rise a few decibels."
• One of many reasons the UFC is surpassing boxing in terms of fan interest: When a UFC bout is over, you always know who won.
• David Wells will get all the attention for criticizing Clemens for not traveling with the Yankees when he isn't scheduled to pitch on a road trip, but if you're looking for more reasoned criticism, try this from Greg Maddux: "I can't imagine doing that. I like the game. I like the atmosphere. I appreciate what it has to offer. I want to play the whole year."
• And finally, this means one thing -- Mark Sweeney's girding for the worst: Former Giants Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda was arrested for speeding in Northern California, and he says the drugs they allegedly found in the car weren't his.
Tim Keown is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. Sound off to Page 2 here.