1. Notre Dame and the NCAA
This past football season a student-camera man fell 40 ft. from a hydraulic lift while filming Notre Dame football practice and died. The wind that day was gusting at 53 mph that day.
The Blue Guy: I suppose it’s pretty inconsequential in the world of on-field sports, but the story of the student-camera man dying during this past football season needs to be talked about. I’m sure we’re all pretty much in agreement on the fact that it’s sad, but can we also agree that whoever makes the rules there should get a slap in the dick?
From an ESPN article on 4/19/11, with the tagline — “Notre Dame Report: No one to blame in student’s death:”
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The final investigation into the death of a student videographer who died after a 40-foot-high hydraulic lift he was atop blew over in a 53 mph gust during a University of Notre Dame football practice ended Monday without anyone involved being faulted or punished.
University officials acknowledged that their procedures and safeguards weren’t adequate but said they couldn’t find anyone to blame for 20-year-old Declan Sullivan’s death. No one was monitoring wind speeds when the lift blew over, but it wasn’t anyone’s job to do that, executive vice president John Affleck-Graves said.
The Rev. John Jenkins, the university president, said he ultimately was responsible, but he doesn’t expect any action to be taken against him.
“We did not find any individual who disregarded safety or was indifferent to safety. Consequently, there was not any individual discipline,” Jenkins said. “Our conclusion is that it’s a collective responsibility that must be deal with collectively as we move forward.”
KG: Look, here’s the thing. Notre Dame is the epitome of the “rah-rah our program is the only program that matters” that so many schools and their fans believe. You take a kid, who I don’t know anything about, but if I were a betting man, I would say was probably a die-hard Notre Dame fan. Through some way or another he gets a fan’s dream job and gets to be a part of his favorite team in some sort of fashion. Bad weather is not going to stop this kid from doing whatever it takes to impress whoever his superior is so he can get even closer to the team. At what point does someone with any sense tell someone that this is an unsafe environment - let’s get that kid down from what is practically a metal tree house?
The Blue Guy: I think the point about him being a fan is a good one. I also think that the mental image of him going to Brian Kelley to tell him that he wasn’t taping his football practice because it was windy out is incredible.
The Blue Guy: The more I read that clip the more impressive it really gets. The school “officials” decided that their procedures and safeguards weren’t adequate, but that it was not anyone’s fault…. what!? There was no one monitoring wind speeds, but it was no one’s job to do that…. oh, true.
The Blue Guy: And finally, the university president accepts responsibility, but he doesn’t expect any action to be taken. HAHA. So wait, was it no one’s fault, or it’s this guy’s fault? And why shouldn’t the guy who’s fault it is be punished? What is this, Wall Street??
KG: It’s a joke and a prime example of what is INCREDIBLY wrong with college sports. Firstly, Brian Kelly… you’re fired bro. Well he should be. Doesn’t look like he will be, but he should be. As a head coach of a program, in ANY college sport, your “it.” You are the face and the ass of the team in good and bad times. And if this university thinks that they can let this slide because there’s no designated “wind speed checker” is absolutely idiotic on all accounts. You could stick a baby outside and he could tell you if its windy or not. As Bob Dylan famously sung, “you don’t need a weather man to tell which way the wind blows.”
The university’s 130-plus page report found that while several members of the football staff were monitoring wind speeds before practice, they stopped checking after they went out for practice about 2:45 p.m. But Sullivan, a junior film student from Long Grove, Ill., checked later and saw a warning indicating the possibility of gusts up to 60 mph. He tweeted that the weather was “terrifying” and wrote: “Gusts of wind up to 60 mph today will be fun at work … I guess I’ve lived long enough”………………..
Peter Likins, an engineer and former University of Arizona president, reviewed the university’s report and said he agreed no one could be blamed.
“Though a needless loss of life cries out for one to shoulder blame, the facts here do not support any single individual finding of fault,” he wrote.
The report came out two days after spring football practices ended. It said staff checked the weather at about 2:45 p.m. on Oct. 27 and saw that winds of 23 mph with 30 mph gusts had been measured by the National Weather Service.
They didn’t know those reports were nearly an hour old and didn’t see a later report of winds of 29 mph with 38 mph gusts, which would have caused the lifts to be lowered. The investigation found there was an unwritten policy of lowering the lifts when winds exceeded 35 mph, and two other lifts being used that day were not supposed to be used in winds of more than 28 mph, although they were less susceptible to tipping than the one Sullivan was on.
But it also said that an engineering analysis found that “wind speeds significantly higher than 35 mph were necessary to tip the lift.”
The Blue Guy: So this guy Likins sucks, too. There was a designated wind speed checker and he didn’t check the wind properly. It could have been this guy’s fault. There was even an acceptable tolerance for how fast the wind could be before the lift was lowered! It was an unwriten policy (what the hell is that??). I think they might write it down next time. Poor kid; even he knew it was too windy. He never had a chance and he knew it.
Does the NCAA exploit youngins? Does Elmer Fudd have trouble with the letter R?
KG: Here’s the issue that nobody wants to talk about - Notre Dame isn’t going to get any sanctions. They’re not going to lose any scholarships. They didn’t violate any NCAA rules. But then again, I can see why sending a few extra text messages and having some recruits over for dinner is a bigger problem to a university. Frankly, Notre Dame doesn’t care. If they cared, they would do something.
The Blue Guy: If the kid played wide receiver ND would name a hall after him. The NCAA is so twisted in the way they go about their business that it leaves a web that confuses too many people. They dare congress to get involved in every big decision with the hope that people will get pissed when taxpayer money goes to NCAA investigations. I’m confused as shit. Do I hate ND for not taking responsibility? Definitely, but when has the NCAA ever taken responsibility for anything? When kids graduate with 4.0 GPAs they get mentioned at the halftime of big games. When kids get a girl pregnant and drop out they get mentioned on the news 2 years later for armed robbery. Have you ever heard an explanation on why the NCAA maintains the football bowl games in place of an inclusive playoff system? Me, either.
KG: Well we don’t need an explanation. If they gave us an explanation, they’d be lying. It’s a bunch of scum bags with dirty balls running around. It is the biggest front since the Corleone’s olive oil company. And the fact of the matter is kids are always going to college. That’s never going to stop. So they’re always going to have fans no matter what. This isn’t a MLB mid-90s type of thing where people are going to be walking out of the stadiums. This business has no boobie traps.
2. The American League East - When you thought you knew everything, you know nothing!
KG: Lets talk about the AL East for a minute. At 9 - 5 this early in the season, there isn’t much to be said about the Yankees at this point. We knew that lineup would crush and we knew their rotation would struggle. It’s everyone else that has us leaving our thumbs stuck up our asses. You’ve got the O’s leading ESPN.com and Sportscenter stories and then falling back to earth with an 8 game losing streak that has everyone reminding each other we’re all morons. Toronto has one of the more interesting rosters in the league and the Rays have more problems than anyone would have guessed this early into the year. And of course there’s da Sox.
The Blue Guy: I gotta say, I’m not down to talk standings this early in the season. Especially in the AL East. This division is a slugfest every year. Right now, the bottom team (Boston) is only 4.5 games back of the top team (Yanks, obviously.) There are 148 games left to be played. It’s going to be a long year.
KG: I hear ya, but I think we can deduct a few things from what we’ve seen thus far. For one, 3 potential Cy Young winners in CC Sabathia, Jon Lester and David Price may not have much affect on the way this division shapes up. These 5 teams have so much offense, every game looks like a softball game.
The Blue Guy: I have a tough time buying the 3 big pitchers not having an impact on the pennant race. No reason to discount CC, he starts slowly every year before rebounding, and this year he’s in a contract year. Lester is as good of a lefty pitcher as there is in the game right now (but the Yanks have been taking care of lefties). Price is only getting better.
The Blue Guy: The Rays offense is kinda wack, especially once they lost Manny for smoking weed again. Someone told me it was juice, but I know better. The Orioles are an injury away from 4th place at the end of the year. The Jays don’t have much pitching to go with their bats, so they’re probably in line for another .500 year…
The Blue Guy: Which leaves the Yanks and the Sox. It’ll be these 2 at the end of the year.
KG: I agree and I’m not going to be the one to say that those two won’t be. But just a few seasons ago, this was a two team division. It’s quickly developed into a 5 team division. Some one is going to have to lose… that’s how sports work, but they’re all going to be competitive. The three “other” teams have young pitching cores that really have potential in the next few seasons to catch the Yankees and Sox by such surprise that it will take more millions to catch up to them. These guys have homegrown talent that doesn’t cost them anything…. until it will. The question is, will they be able to compete before that time comes?
The Blue Guy: That window in baseball closes faster than the “window” in life for a 39 year-old woman. Price will want a fat deal and Hellickson will be starting to re-up, too.
The Blue Guy: The season could really come down to what Brian Cashman can do. If the Yanks get another stud, the division could be a wash. I think the Sox will push them because they’re pretty deep in the rotation, and they’re too talented offensively not to come around. I don’t drink the Carl Crawford Kool-Aid, though. I think his skill set is much better suited for Tampa Bay. His best assets are his speed and his athleticism. Batting him in the 3-hole in Boston (opposed to 2nd in Tampa) won’t get the things out of his legs that make him worthwhile. And having a short porch in left field with only a little foul territory doesn’t make him as indispensable in the field as he would be in a stadium with a ton of space out there. He’s definitely not a 7-year/$142 mill player.
KG: I think you’re right on a few things there. Fenway itself may not be the best stadium for a guy like Crawford, but we’ve seen Ellsbury be successful there for a few seasons now, when healthy, that is. But that’s the problem. Ellsbury and Crawford are too similar. They do the same thing for your team. And yeah, you could get by with having both of them in the lineup if Crawford would hit in the 2-hole, but they got the best 2-hole hitter in baseball in Pedroia. So where does Crawford fit in to this team. He said he doesn’t want to leadoff, but he just may have to. I think he gets his swing going, but not at the rate we’d expect with a contract like that.
KG: But back to his old home of Tampa, that Manny Ramirez thing isn’t a huge deal to the team but it’s definitely an unneeded distraction for a team that has enough problems when their star player can’t get on the field in Longoria. It’s actually a good segway to our next topic.
3. Where’s the Hall heading?
The Blue Guy:The Barry Bonds trial has brought baseball’s black eye back to the public forum. While the trial itself is important to few people, the larger implications of the findings should be important to all baseball fans. The bigger picture revolves around the integrity of the game and where steroids will fit in its’ history.
The Blue Guy: Baseball is a game all about history. And nothing represents baseball more on a historical level than the Hall Of Fame. For ages the HOF has been reserved for baseball’s best players. In recent years, though, baseball’s best players have been juice heads. We’ve seen how juice heads are viewed by the voting committee (See McGwire). So with Bonds, A-rod, Palmeiro, Clemens, etc most likely not getting in any time soon, the notable omissions from the Hall will include (arguably) the best pitcher of all time, the guy with the most hits all time (Pete Rose-not a juice head but he’s not in the hall), the top 2 (pending A-rod) home run hitters of all time, and 6 of the top 15 home run hitters of all time.
The Blue Guy: The question is, what does MLB do with these people? Especially juice heads… Do they get their own hall? Are they included with the rest of the “clean” players? How do we know who was “clean” and who wasn’t?
KG: First off, for anyone who hasn’t been to Cooperstown, get your ass in the car and go… now. That place is truly amazing and the history of the game can literally be felt in the Hall. It’s an incredible feeling. With that being said, the Hall is there to pay homage not just to players, but the game itself. Whether we like it or not, the game got cloudy for a few years. And for us to just go about and ignore a decade-plus of the game’s history is ridiculous, as the way the voters have handled the first wave of juicers - they’re not getting in.
KG: But like I said, the Hall isn’t there just to show who had the greatest numbers. Guys like McGwire and Sosa, especially, along with Bonds and Clemens were more than just baseball players. They were contributors. Are we forgetting the excitement that was on display on a nightly basis during the Summer of ‘98? I was just an 11 year old kid, and I have the distinct memory of watching that late season Cubs-Cards series where McGwire and Sosa brought baseball back on the radar. When McGwire hit 61, I remember running in the hallway of my parents home screaming, knowing, at age 11, I just witnessed history. These guys, numbers aside, deserve to be in the hall for stories like that alone.
KG: And let’s face it. The early users weren’t really breaking any rules. The drug testings didn’t get established till the deed was done. And now we’re punishing them? Look, if I get caught with my hand in the cookie jar before dinner and I don’t get sent to my room… who’s the real villain?
The Blue Guy: Sosa really makes me laugh. Not only did he juice, but he also corked his bats. I don’t even know if that should be considered the same sport as the one Derek Jeter plays.
The Blue Guy: What’s really sad to me is that 11-year old story. Finding out these guys weren’t really just guys was probably like finding out Kermit wasn’t really a frog, or that Lance Armstrong didn’t really have cancer. No, he probably did, but he also probably “juiced.” You and your blood oxidizer can’t fool me Lance. I digress.
The Blue Guy: Acknowledging the importance of the human element in baseball is what makes it special. No one can bat 1.000. The best are lucky to get hits 3-4 out of every 10 times! Humanism is as relevant on the field as it is off. Mantle was a drinker and a womanizer. Ty Cobb beat a quadriplegic up in the stands and may have or may have not killed someone. Ruth was fat. Shoeless Joe threw the World Series. In that spirit, steroids sound just like another notch in the belt for ball players. The first 3 are Hall of famers. Where do we draw the line? What is ok and what isn’t?
KG: Not only that, but we can’t quantify what steroids actually do. Clearly, we’re not qualifying it. But, the idea of getting a leg up on your opponent in baseball is almost as part of the game as the seventh inning stretch. And we have no idea what was going on pre-late 80s’. Whether things worked or not, you can’t tell me guys in the clubhouse aren’t going around telling each other to try this or that to improve your swing even if it may not be “within the rules of the game.”
KG: Back to the human element though, baseball is just that. The umpire has no “set” strike-zone. There are no lines. It’s this one guys unbiased opinion. This is baseball. Every stadium has different dimensions. Can’t we say these types of thing lend to unfair advantages to certain players?
KG: My point is, we’re penalizing guys for the unknown, when in reality we should be penalizing those that allowed it to happen. Wasn’t there some Greek dude who once said your rules are only as strong as your police? I dunno, maybe I just made that shit up, but someone should write it down. Watch, Bud Selig will one day be in the Hall and he’s more guilty than anyone with a siringe an inch deep in their ass cheek.
The Blue Guy: Bud allowed the “game of shadows” to go on because it saved baseball. After the strike in ‘94, baseball had a tough time getting fans back in seats. Someone at that point whispered in his ear, “Chicks dig the long ball.” And thus the steroid era was born. All of a sudden people were drawn to their TVs and 11-year old boys were screaming through their parents halls like butt pirates.
The Blue Guy: That commercial juxtaposes the two sides to the story on-field. McGwire vs. Maddux and Glavine. The latter 2 are champions by any standard. They’re 300 game winners (a pitcher’s holy grail) and they did it without questions about the legitimacy of their physiques.
The Blue Guy: Players juicing were able to recover faster, hit the ball harder, and play for longer. Suddenly, 40 became the new 30. How do you think that makes Nolan Ryan feel? And what if he was a juice head? There are tons of players that feel cheated by the fact that they were clean while others were not. This is/was how their families were fed!
The Blue Guy: There are so many what-ifs in this story that it is almost impossible to make a sound judgment. I think the only way to go about it is to acknowledge the black eye so that the fans can move on. Make a ruling that all players from ‘85-’08 get an asterisk and a side-note that they may or may not have juiced. It’s sad because that kind of ruling would rob a whole lot of work from a whole lot of clean players, but in the long run it allows baseball to maintain its integrity. And who knows if there were even any clean players?
KG: Maddux is actually not entirely clean. A pal of a buddy is chums with the great Jeff Blauser and he tells the story fairly regularly of Maddux’s secret weapon, a signature pitch, if-you-will. The Duck Butter Dipper. In ‘93, his first year with the Braves it was the Crime Dog who suggested it to him, and actually offered his own duck butter during the dog days. Mad Dog, Crime Dog, Dog Days…. you can fill in the blanks.
KG: Of course, that’s untrue. But, are you telling me Maddux may have never wiped the sweat off his brow just before he worked the ball as pitchers do nearly between every pitch? Again, it’s baseball. It’s all part of the game. I don’t know if the asterisks are the answer, as for some reason, whenever there’s some irregularity in baseball we go for the asterisk as if it’s the ace of our rotation. There isn’t going to be an answer we can all agree on, but we need to at least acknowledge the last 20 plus years.