It surely is the doldrums of winter for sports fans. With little else going on, the NFL playoffs are the best part of the season. The fact that the playoffs are a proving ground to see if you deserve to go on is what keeps the excitement and interest in the game. As John Madden said, “It’s the finality of it all." For example, who knew that Indianapolis would lose to San Diego? Not me, that’s for sure. With March Madness it’s the same thing: survive and advance, or one and done. I can’t wait for the month of March-- I love March Madness!
*After watching Roger Clemens on "60 Minutes" with Mike Wallace (and also at his press conference), I have one piece of advice for him: BE QUIET. Every time he opens his mouth, he sticks his foot in it. At his press conference on Jan. 7th, Clemens played a 12-minute phone call with his former trainer Brian McNamee. Clemens had secretly taped this call without McNamee knowing about it. In the tape, Clemens was not clear about what he wanted and McNamee repeatedly asked Clemens, “What do you want me to do?” This phone call, which Clemens taped, was on Friday, Jan. 4th; on Sunday, Jan. 6th-- before the press conference-- Clemens filed a defamation lawsuit against McNamee in Harris County District Court in Texas. The lawsuit listed 15 alleged statements McNamee made to the Mitchell Report. Clemens claimed the statements were "untrue and defamatory." On February 13th, Clemens and McNamee will testify in front of The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The hearing was postponed from January 16th-- giving lawmakers more time to gather evidence and to coordinate their investigation with the Justice Department. This should prove to be great political theater for those of us who are interested. The January 15th hearing before the same committee regarding the Mitchell Report (featuring Commissioner Bud Selig, Union leader Donald Fehr, and George Mitchell-- the report's author) will go on as planned. Stay tuned for an update in the near future.
*I’m glad to see university presidents coming out saying that schools truly need to regain control of the college football post-season. For years, the presidents have been opposed to a playoff system. Their opposition is largely based on academic reasons and because the season is already too long. I have heard two different proposals: a Final Four system and an eight-team playoff. I have talked about this before and have suggested a playoff, but I think you need all 11 conference champs to make it work. I also think all the involved conferences need to have championship games so you do not have a co-champion situation. I truly hope this is the start of people talking seriously about this subject.
*Congratulations to LSU for winning the Bowl Championship Series national title. At the end of the day, you won it on the field of play and that’s what really counts.
*I know this is a sports column, but my other interest is in politics. This year is a presidential election and the race for the White House is the tightest in a very long, long time. I cannot believe I picked the winners of both parties in the Iowa Caucuses and the Republican winner of the New Hampshire Primary. I think both races will be a fight to the end and be true dogfights until the parties’ conventions next summer.
*On a sad note, former U.S. figure skating champion Christopher Bowman died Thursday of a possible drug overdose. Bowman was one of the great showmen who elevated figure skating (in the late 80’s and early 90’s) to the level of popularity it enjoys today. His rivalry with Todd Eldredge drew me to the sport and I believe men’s figure skating has not had a rivalry like it since. We'll miss “Bowman the Showman.”
**This week's spotlight is an update on a story I told you about last June in my very first column. The story is about Oscar Pistorius--a double-amputee sprinter whose dream is to compete at the Beijing Olympics. Unfortunately, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) recently ruled him ineligible because of his prosthetic racing blades. The IAAF backed studies by German professor Gert-Peter Brueggemann--who conducted two days of tests in November on the prosthetic limbs--saying they give Pistorius a clear, competitive advantage over able-bodied runners. The findings only covered Pistorius’ specific j-shaped “Cheetah” blades and did not necessarily mean that all such athletes automatically would be excluded. Pistorius and his camp vehemently contest the findings and will appeal the verdict. The blades that Oscar races on are carbon-fiber extensions to his amputated legs. Personally, I’m not sure if Oscar’s blades give him a unfair advantage over able-bodied athletes, but I hope someone will come up with a way to allow a double-amputee or any other disabled athlete to compete in the Olympics with able-bodied athletes; that way, we won’t have to have separate games.
That's my take; I'd like to hear yours