Michael Vick/Donte Stallworth; Jason Giambi/Rich Aurilia; Denny Gren; Ted Williams
My initial reaction when Vick was accused of promoting dogfighting was horror. The very thought of cruelty to animals or chilldren is abhorrent to me Ė though readers from the South pointed out to me that dogfighting is fairly common in the region. Another reason Iím happy I donít live there.
But, Vick has served his time, 2 Ĺ years in Federal prison. Contrast that with Cleveland Browns receiver Donte Stallworth, who killed a pedestrian while driving drunk and got a whopping 30 days in a Miami jail, of which he only served 24. Wow!
Stallworth has been indefinitely suspended by Goodell. As far as Iím concerned, that suspension should never be lifted. He should be in prison for at least as long as Vick was. The Miami authorities said they were lenient with Stallworth because he ďcooperatedí with the investigation. Hello! He killed a man while driving when he was legally drunk. What part of that donít you understand? He should never play in the NFL again, and my intuition tells me that Goodell agrees.
Notwithstanding my feelings about cruelty to animals, I think a manís life is more important. But there is no group representing the man who was killed in Miami while PETA is keeping the Vick case in front of the public.
Enough, already. To repeat, Vick has served his time. Goodell has said he wants Vick to show remorse for his actions. Iím not sure how he can do that. (One person suggested that electrodes be attached to Vickís head to supposedly monitor his emotions. Really). Vick has certainly had plenty of time to contemplate the consequences of his previous actions, which should be enough for every one who doesnít think an animalís life is more important than a humanís.
Goodell has not given a time line for his decision, but NFL training camps will be opening in another week. If he does not end Vickís suspension by then, it will be a clear signal that he does not want Vick playing in the league this season, if ever.
Even if he gets the green light, thereís no indication that Vick will be the same player he was. Before he went to prison, Vick was a great athlete but an inconsistent quarterback, able to make great plays at times because of his feet as much as his arm, but lacking the consistent passing arm NFL teams want in their quarterbacks. Itís been a long time since he played, which certainly doesnít help him. Who would even want him? His original team, the Atlanta Falcons, has already released him and certainly, no top level team would be interested.
But there will be at least one team interested, if Vick is reinstated. He deserves that chance, commissioner.
RETIREMENT LOOMS: The Aís and Giants both used the disabled list for veteran players Jason Giambi and Rich Aurilia, a clear sign that their careers are near an end.
My gut feeling is that the end is closer for Giambi. I suggested in an Examiner column last week that the Aís retire Giambi, and this may be the first step. He was put on the 15-day DL because of problems with his quad muscles but there is no time line for his return. This may well be a way to ease him into retirement.
Giambiís problems are multiple. He should never have been used as a first baseman but had to be because Jack Cust should also be strictly a DH. Having to play in the field has hastened his physical breakdown.
When he originally played for the Aís, Giambi was a good all-round hitter, using all fields and hitting over .300 his last three season, with a high of .342 in his last season with the Aís before free agency.
With the Yankees, he changed his swing to take advantage of the short porch at the old Yankee Stadium, so he hit .300 only in his first season there. That approach doesnít work at the Coliseum, but heís still trying to pull the ball. Teams have put on a radical shift, and heís lost some hits because of the shift.
His main problem, though, is that he canít get around on a good fast ball any more. I saw him hit a ball about as hard as he can against the Angelsí John Lackey on Sunday Ė but it went to straightaway center and he was out.
Heís had a very good career but itís time to stop embarrassing himself. Instead of these lame excuses Ė itís not warm enough, his swing isnít quite in sync Ė he needs to face reality and retire.
Aurilia was put on the DL with a minor toe infection just so the Giants could bring up Ryan Sadowski to start against the Atlanta Braves. He's had a good career, though not the equal of Giambi's, but has been playing little recently. Manager Bruce Bochy wants to use Juan Uribe as the backup at three infield positions, though he's playing shortstop now with Edgar Renteria sidelined with an elbow injury. Meanwhile, the Giants plan to give Matt Downs an extended tryout at second.
When he was put on the DL, Aurilia didnít want to talk about it to writers because he knows the moves basically mean the end of his career with the Giants Ė and probably in baseball, period. Uribe is 7 Ĺ years younger and still able to play shortstop, which Aurilia canít. The Giants donít need two reserve infielders.
NEW LEAGUE: Ever since the AFL became a success in the Ď60s, there have been attempts to start a new football league. None have succeeded but another one is planned this fall, the United Football League, which will have a San Francisco team, playing at AT&T Park.
Two of the previous leagues have had franchises in the Bay Area.
The first one, which started in the spring of 1983, was the United States Football League, with a franchise in Oakland called the Invaders, an obvious attempt to snare the Raiders fans who had been disenfranchised when Al Davis moved their team to Los Angeles.
I thought the league had a good chance because it was playing in the spring, so it didnít compete directly with the NFL. The football was good, though obviously not at the NFL level. With football, the skill level is less important than relatively equal competition. Millions of fans enjoy college and even high school football, though the skill level of even the best collegiate teams is well below the NFL level.
The USFL originally stayed away from high-priced players but that philosophy was undercut when Donald Trump bought a franchise and signed up expensive players in an attempt to force his way into the NFL. Trump didnít succeed, and neither did the league. ďWhen a man with a bomb gets on a bus with 40 nuns, the nuns donít have a chance,Ē noted Invader owner Tad Taube.
The XFL self-imploded even faster. Like the new league, it had a franchise which played at AT&T. I went to a couple of games and enjoyed them, and I also enjoyed talking to the fans, a much younger group than at 49ers and Raiders games, in the parking lot before the games.
The XFL was trying a much different approach, similar to the style of pro wrestling, with silly nicknames and wham-bam advertising, though that was modulated when they discovered that it was the football that was primarily attracting fans and viewers.
But aside from that, the XFL made a fundamental error: Though it was sponsored by NBC, games were televised on Saturday nights. Duh. As one young male fan noted, ďThe young guys like me that the league is trying to get are out chasing young women on Saturday night.Ē
It will be interesting to see how the new league goes. The San Francisco team will have Denny Green as the coach, and he has a tie to the Bay Area through his years as a coach for Stanford. He is a writerís dream, too, because heís always willing to talk.
As is true of most of the country, football is definitely No. 1 in the Bay Area, and the UFL can go after fans who are priced out of the 49ers and Raiders games. With Cal and Stanford games also part of the mix, there will be plenty of football available this fall.
TED WILLIAMS: Thereís a new show on HBO on Williams that brings back memories of my youth.
In 1946, when I was first got serious about watching baseball, we moved from northern Minnesota to San Diego (for which I often profusely thanked my parents in future years!), where I watched the minor league Padres as part of the Knothole Gang and followed major league baseball through newspaper and magazine reports.
We lived in the same North Park neighborhood in which Williams grew up. My fifth grade teacher had gone to school with Ted, and she talked about him often. So, I became a Ted Williams fan and, by association, a Boston Red Sox fan, a continent away.
The only time I actually saw Williams was an exhibition game at Seals Stadium in March, 1957. The Seals were then a farm team of the Red Sox. I was on the Daily Cal sports staff and I got a press credential for the game. I remember nothing about the game but the fact that I finally got a chance to see my hero Ė and that wonderful swing.
The HBO show does an excellent job of examining all aspects of Williams career, including his thorny relationship with Boston writers. In those days, writers made the reputations of athletes. The Boston writers mostly painted Williams as a villain, while New York writers were sanctifying Joe DiMaggio. As their post-career lives made clear, neither depiction was accurate.
At any rate, I heartily recommend this show, even if you arenít a Ted Williams fan.
LINE OF THE WEEK: Reader Janice Hough writes, ďWhen all those asterisks are someday totaled up in baseballís record books, which will be more tainted Ė home runs in the steroids era or home runs hit in the new Yankee Stadium?Ē
What do YOU think? Let me know!
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