Vick's Future, A's Radio, Giants Geezers, 49ers
My answer: Never.
The judge whoís in charge of the Vick case, who is known for his tough sentencing, may take care of Vickís NFL future, because he can sentence Vick to as many as five years in prison. Michael Vick is not going to walk out of prison after five years and onto an NFL playing field.
But if the judge doesnít end Vickís career, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will. As soon as Vick decided to plead guilty, Goodell announced he was under indefinite suspension. I believe heíll continue that suspension for as long as necessary.
Because stories of NFL players being arrested have been so prevalent in recent years, as his first significant act as commissioner, Goodell announced a get-tough policy on playersí off-field behavior. That had to be worked out with Gene Upshaw, head of the NFL Players Association, but Upshaw was willing to go along with it because, as a former player, he was disgusted with the image players were getting. Goodell subsequently used his new powers to suspend Pacman Jones for a year and Tank Johnson (who was later released by the Chicago Bears) for six months.
This case is far more serious. I think media observers and fans sometimes get so caught up by sports that they donít realize when a case transcends sports, as this one certainly does. Itís been a top national news story since it broke, leading television reports, on the front page of newspapers, on talk shows, all over the internet.
The details in the indictment to which Vic pleaded guilty are horrific. It went far beyond the dog fighting, which is much more common in the south than in other areas of the country. When details of the treatment of the dogs and the way they were killed came out, everyone was aghast.
I had to laugh when I saw a column this week which said people should stop making excuses for Vick. In fact, nobody has. There have been womenís groups who have tried to get attention for their cause, wondering why there isnít more attention paid to domestic violence (a position with which I agree) but they certainly havenít been defending Vick.
The NAACP hasnít defended Vick. Black leaders like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, who are always careful to judge the feelings of their people so they can jump to the front of the parade, have condemned Vickís action.
There is still another reason for the NFLís concern: The betting aspect. The NFL has tried very hard to disassociate itself with betting, not an easy thing for a sport which is the No. 1 vehicle for sports betting in the country. For an NFL player to be involved in high-stake dog fights is a real no-no.
You can also factor in the fact that Vick lied to both the commissioner and Atlanta owner Arthur Blank when first asked about this story.
But the main problem is that this story will not go away, even when Vick is released from prison. If he returned to the NFL, it would just revive the image of the tortured dogs. Goodell certainly doesnít want that. Heíll continue Vickís suspension and, Iím sorry, but my sympathy gland doesnít seem to be working.
AíS RADIO: Next year, the Aís may move to a 50,000-watt station, KRTB, 860 on the AM dial, which has moved from Modesto to San Francisco. The stationís format will be mostly talk shows, but a source close to the station says that some sports programming is contemplated and preliminary talks have already been started with the Aís.
That would be a godsend for the Aís and their fans. The Aís have been continually frustrated by their inability to find a station with a strong AM signal to carry their games, unlike the Giants, who have 50,000-watt KNBR. Currently, the Aís have a widespread group of stations throughout northern California because the signal of KYCY, their flagship station, doesnít carry far.
CLUTCH HITTERS: One of the lasting gripes of Aís fans is that their club doesnít hit in the clutch. But there may be a different explanation.
Years ago, when Bill James was doing his baseball books, he did a study which debunked the theory of clutch hitting. It was Jamesís theory that it was simply a matter of good hitters versus bad hitters. Backing up his theory with voluminious statistics, James showed that the good hitters also hit in the clutch and bad hitters didnít.
If you look at the Aís, the only hitter with at least 300 at-bats who is even close to .300 is Shannon Stewart, currently at .286 Ė and Stewart is the one hitter fans think has been a clutch hitter.
Then you fall to Jack Cust and Nick Swisher at .269, Mark Ellis at .260 and Dan Johnson at .234. The two hitters who are the focus of fansí complaints, Eric Chavez and Bobby Crosby, are both on the disabled list, with averages of .240 and .226, respectively.
Any way you look at it, these are not good hitters, so itís not surprising that they donít hit in the clutch, either. General manager Billy Beane has to address this problem in the off season. If he can get better hitters in the lineup, you can bet theyíll start hitting better in the clutch, too.
GIANTS GEEZERS: Some Giants fans were unhappy that the team kept playing the superannuated veterans when the team was well out of contention, but management was trying to showcase the older players, hoping to entice a contender into trading for one or more of them.
No luck so far, which is not surprising. In addition to the Giantsí weakness in evaluating talent, they are terrible negotiators. Who else would have given Dave Roberts a three-year, $17 million contract, or signed Ray Durham to a two-year contract. The only way the Giants can lose these duds is by swallowing part of their contracts.
NFL SYSTEMS: If anybody doubts that a quarterback is only as good as the system in which he plays, just look at whatís happened to a couple of young Raider quarterbacks in recent years.
When Marquess Tuiasosopo was drafted in 2001, Jon Gruden was the coach, and Tui fit his system, a good athlete who could throw on the run or even put the ball down and run for yardage Ė much like the incumbent, Rich Gannon.
But then, Gruden left for Tampa Bay, and the Raiders went to a system emphasizing the deep pass. Tui no longer fit, and he languished on the bench.
While that system was in use, Andrew Walter was drafted, because he was a big, strong-armed quarterback, though not very mobile. Then, the Raider system changed again this year, back to one similar to what Gruden ran.
And now, itís Walterís turn to languish on the bench, No. 3 in the quarterback rotation Ė and potentially No. 4 if the Raiders ever sign JaMarcus Russell.
NELSONíS CONTRACT: Even readers who are sympathetic to Don Nelson have questioned why he wonít continue under the terms of the contract he signed before last season. As one reader commented, ďI didnít read anything to suggest that Nelson had a gun to his head.Ē
No, but it was an unusual situation. Nelson had been away from the NBA for some time and he had to prove that he could still be a successful coach. So, he agreed to a contract which put him in the bottom half of NBA coaches, though he got another $2 million when the Warriors reached the second round of the playoffs. Now, heís proven that he is in the top tier of NBA coaches, and he should be rewarded for it.
SMART MAN: Forty-Niner coach Mike Nolan followed my recommendation in last Fridayís Examiner and replaced right tackle Kwame Harris with rookie Joe Staley.
Alex Smith and 49er fans everywhere thank you, coach.
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