Late February Super Bowl, Lew Wolff, Sammy Sosa
by Glenn Dickey
Jun 17, 2009

NFL PLANS: Since commissioner Roger Goodell announced that he’d like to see an 18-game regular season with just two exhibition games, the league office has been working with owners to figure out how it could be done.

There are two main problems in extending the regular season:

1) Though everybody agrees that cutting the number of meaningless exhibitions – which teams include in season ticket packages – would be a good thing, the regular season can’t start in August because the television networks fear (probably correctly) that their audience would be down because people are still on vacation.

2) Football, as Duffy Daugherty once famously declared, is a collision sport. Players get injured frequently and playing more games would inevitably create more injuries.

The plan that has been informally agreed on is to continue to start the season in September, have two bye weeks during the season and play the Super Bowl in the third week of February. As a point of reference, the Raiders won their first Super Bowl on January 9, 1977.

This plan would have to be agreed on by the NFL Players Association in talks over the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Those talks have already loomed as contentious because some owners are saying that the players’ percentage for salary cap purposes is too high. Can anyone spell greed?

The NFLPA is already fighting a rear guard action against players who retired before the current players’ pension plan was in effect. The position of the current players is shameful because they have no regard for those who paved the way for the league’s current prosperity. Current players are making far more than players of earlier eras, but they don’t want to share their pensions in any significant amount. Again, I say, can anybody spell greed?

One point the NFLPA should stress in negotiations: elimination of the OTAs (Organized Team Activities) which are just a way of getting past the restrictions on mini-camps. Only the name is different.

Coaches are very competitive; as long as one coach has these workouts, every coach thinks he has to do it, too. If they can’t get their points across in mini-camps and training camp, they aren’t doing their jobs. Football is a demanding sport, physically and mentally. The players need more down time to be at their best in the regular season.

ANNOUNCERS: One of the casualties of the extended seasons in all sports is the two-sport announcers. “I don’t think we’ll see guys like Bill King and Lon Simmons in the future,” said Ted Robinson, the new voice of the 49ers, as we talked yesterday at a 49ers practice. (King actually broadcast three sports, basketball, football and baseball.) “Announcers just won’t be able to fit their schedules into the longer seasons.”

Robinson has done multiple sports, too, but tennis is his only other broadcasting gig now. He’ll be doing Wimbledon again this month. “The U. S. Open (in September) might be a little dicey,” he said.

EERIE COMPARISON: Is A’s owner Lew Wolff a movie buff? Reader Steve Coleman has pointed out a clear parallel between Wolff’s attempt to drive down attendance in Oakland so he can make a case for moving the franchise to San Jose with the 1988 movie “Major League,” starring Charlie Sheen and Tom Berenger. In the movie, the new owner of the Cleveland Indians, a showgirl who inherites the team when her husband dies, tried to run down attendance by putting an inferior team on the field, so she could move the team to Miami. A’s fans can certainly relate.

There’s a message for Wolff, though. Cleveland had set a major league attendance record in 1948 when Bill Veeck owned the team, but attendance had gone into the toilet under incompetent management since. A few years after the movie came out, playing in a new stadium in Cleveland, the Indians became the first major league team to sell out for the season. Miami has a team now but, despite some success on the field, has not drawn well. Going into Sunday’s game, their average attendance was just over 16,000 – about a thousand less than the A’s.

Like the Indians of the past, the A’s set attendance records (for the Bay Area) when the Haas family owned the team and paid money to bring in big stars and championship teams. Wolff and his money man, co-owner John Fisher, are content to promote the myth that the A’s are a small market team, keeping the payroll low and their profits high because of MLB’s revenue-sharing policy.

SOSA NAILED: Another result from what were supposed to be secret tests has surfaced, with a New York Times article claiming that Sammy Sosa tested positive in 2003.

Those test results were seized by the Feds, who claimed they needed them for investigations. Seriously? Now, there’s talk that they might prosecute Sosa for lying to a Congressional cosmmittee when he said he hadn’t taken any performance-enhancing drugs. Ohmigawd. They’ve already wasted a ton of taxpayer money for their fruitless attempt to convict Barry Bonds of perjury (their case is currently on an appeal which legal authorities think is going nowhere). The Justice Department should tell their attorneys to drop that case and discourage any potential trial for Sosa. Enough is enough. There are many more important crimes to prosecute.

Now, the hypocrites among baseball writers – and there are a ton of them – will have another player to vilify. Mark McGwire’s low vote total shows how many writers simply will not vote any PED user into the Hall of Fame. Of course, all HOF members are morally pure. Suuuure.

Any writer who has spent much time around baseball for the past 20-plus years and claims he didn’t know what was going on is either a liar or stupid, or both. Yet, nobody but Thomas Boswell, with his famous 1988 column on Jose Canseco, ever wrote seriously about it before Barry Bonds. That juxtaposition is not a coincidence. Many writers hated Bonds and were just looking for an excuse to hammer him. Steroids gave them that excuse and now, they’re stuck. They can’t admit it was all about Bonds, so they bleat about not wanting “cheaters” in the game.

What a joke. Baseball has always had a culture of cheating. Another example surfaced recently with an article in Sports Illustrated about Harvey Haddix and his 12-inning perfect game in 1959, which he lost in the 13th inning because his team couldn’t score any runs for him; Giants and A’s pitchers can sympathize. It turns out, the Milwaukee Braves were stealing signs, a common practice in baseball over the years, not that it did them any good.

I didn’t write about the steroids issue in the ‘90s, either, because I wasn’t bothered by it. I’m not a moralist. I didn’t vilify the cocaine users in an earlier era, either, nor the heavy drinkers that have always been a part of baseball. (An earlier generation of writers castigated the “dopers” while giving the drinkers a pass because they were big drinkers themselves.) People have the right to make their own choices, and I’m realistic enough to know that athletes are always going to look for something that gives them an edge.
We know enough about PEDs to know they only help those who had great talent to start with, but that won’t prevent .200-hitting utility infielders from thinking they’ll help.

And, please no more e-mails about what a bad example athletes are setting. If a father can’t convince his son that he shouldn’t take steroids, the problem is with their relationship. And, there’s a reverse problem that’s probably worse: The parents who live through their kids and will do anything to help them succeed. How many fathers do you think have encouraged their sons to take PEDs to boost the speed on their fast balls?

The only sensible solution would be to allow PEDs but only if athletes admit to taking them and are regularly monitored for side effects.

That won’t happen, of course, because hypocrisy rules in baseball, from the media to the commissioner’s office. So, there will be a significant and shameful vacuum in the Hall of Fame as many of the best players will not be voted in – unless the Veterans Committee exhibits more common sense when its members get a chance later.

CORRECTION: I misspelled the name of Anthony Giraudo in an item last week. A golf tournament to raise money for scholarships in his name will be held July 20 at Boulder Ridge. Anthony was a baseball player at Serra High and Canada College before being killed in a fight after a Giants game on May 9. For more information on the golf tournament, go to www.AnthonyGiraudo.org.


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