• Member of The Internet Defense League

English Soccer Revels in Rivalries America is Losing

The British are coming! The British are coming! And they’re coming to play their game – or something like that.

While so many in this country are gleefully awaiting the start of American football season this weekend, the truth is that, across the Atlantic “football” season already began three weeks ago. And bad news for a lot of soccer-hating ugly Americans: More and more people are getting into it.

Yeah yeah, I know this is something we keep saying year after year. But there’s a new twist this year – in the form of a $250 million deal from NBC to broadcast the entire English Premier League season to the States, mainly via the NBC Sports Network. And given that the opening weekend of their coverage resulted in 67 percent better ratings than their competitors at Fox and ESPN broadcast last year, for now it looks like money well spent.

No, I’m not saying we’re on the verge of seeing the majority of this country prefer the game where you actually use your foot with the ball. There are still a number of obstacles toward getting more people used to “the beautiful game.” Games starting at five in the morning definitely aren’t going to help.

But there are a number of benefits a game like EPL soccer has that could explain just why that number id growing with each passing year.

First of all, this, like most soccer leagues outside this country, is a league that makes certain all teams play for success throughout the year. You finish at the bottom of the EPL, you don’t get first pick at the best amateur talent; you get kicked out, your entire franchise bounced down to the minor league. No “Team Tank” or “Suck For Luck” here. Just 20 teams forced to keep some level of integrity to their ticket-buying public.

Second is the excitement that these teams are just playing for their national league championship. In addition to the EPL, there is also the UEFA Champions League, with four English clubs (Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City) set to begin group play in three weeks. For the closest U.S. comparison, imagine what college basketball has with the conference season, conference tournament and NCAA Tournament. Now, instead of cramming those in succession over just three months, imaging them being played side by side over nine!

And that comparison proves the best segue into the biggest thing that makes the EPL – and most other pro leagues across the ocean – so exciting. Something that is sadly disappearing in our country.

Rivalries steeped in local ties are still alive and well.

This Saturday, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur will face off in the first game of what’s called the North London Derby between two clubs less than four miles from one another. And those are just two of six clubs within London’s area. And then there’s Aston VIlla and West Bromwich (3.5 miles), Newcastle vs Sunderland (10 miles) and Manchester United vs Manchester City (5.2 miles). And all 20 clubs within one country roughly the size of Georgia.

No wonder English soccer fans have such a reputation for insanity. Familiarity really does breed contempt.

But it’s still refreshing to see compared to what’s happening here in the USA, where regional rivalries, especially in college sports, are being destroyed for money and TV exposure. Dallas-Fort Worth has seen that as painfully as anyone, as SMU hasn’t played in a Texas conference since 1995 and TCU waited more than 15 years to get back to one. How tough must it be for Mustang fans to see this year’s games against Texas A&M and Texas Tech as “non-conference” matches?

Yeah, conference jumping like that will never happen in the case with the EPL. True, the league was created in 1992 by clubs who wanted to break away from  The Football League at the time. But you’ll never see Manchester United move into the German Bundesliga or Liverpool decide to go to the Italian Serie A, while over hear SMU’s athletics department tries to sell its fan base that playing the likes of Cincinnati and Rutgers will be worth watching.

I’m probably not going to convince anyone just from this article. A number of you are already dead set in your ways still.

Go ahead and get ready for TCU against LSU in a game that won’t affect any conference championship at all.

Me, I’m getting ready to see what this London Derby has to offer. Arsenal’s been on a tear with eight goals in three games, so Tottenham could be in real trouble.

My Disappointment in the Media and Where I Want to Take Rowdy Sports

DFWSportatorium - Logo6

I find myself frequently re-watching the ESPN-produced movie “Pony Exce$$” about the SMU scandal of the 80s, and what stood out most to me in that movie was the talk about the huge media war going on between the Dallas Morning News and now-defunct Dallas Times Herald at that time. The intense battle for readership was what drove those reporters to dig up one of the biggest scandals in the history of college sports.

Nowadays, I doubt any newspaper in the area would put much effort into unearthing any athletic wrongdoing at the University Park campus or the three other major colleges in North Texas.

Does the Morning News or Fort Worth Star-Telegram even have a beat writer covering SMU and/or the other local college programs individually? Maybe, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t. There are unfortunately too many sports and teams that get complete ignorance from the local papers, relegated to maybe three inches of copy on page six without even a byline, if that at all.

Back nearly three decades ago, Richie Whitt got his start in the news because the Star-Telegram was so needing a beat writer to cover a fledgling indoor soccer team called the Dallas Sidekicks that they took his GREATLY stretched claim (OK, maybe it was a lie) that he knew that game at face value. Nowadays, I don’t think the S-T even has a beat writer for the Stars.

You could blame the reduction in coverage and reporting on these publications cutting their budget and staff with each year and the supposed dying out of newspapers, which I’d love to just have a discussion one day with Richie or someone similar. But the fact is, the problems exist everywhere, not just with the newspapers.

Sports reporting, at least in this area, has grown grossly complacent. It doesn’t matter if it’s print, TV or radio, the expansion of media has sadly come with contraction of actual coverage.

Admittedly, this is not exclusive to sports journalism, as 24-hour news networks inundate us with constant reporting of just one or two supposedly “big stories” to the point that we’re sick of them.

Still, it’s frustrating that with new sports stations starting up, the internet providing instant information and multiple sports radio stations in one of the biggest media markets, nowadays coverage is exclusively on just the “major league” teams and everything else is completely ignored. And of course, the Cowboys get way more coverage than the other major teams.

When I studied journalism at UTA, one of the staples we were taught was that yes, we must cover the most popular issues in the area at the time, but it was also our job to inform the public of things they might not know about.

The media seems to be just ignoring the latter of those two tasks, and it’s especially true in sports. You can get four pages of Cowboys coverage, including a front page article every day, but you’ll be lucky to find where the Grand Prairie AirHogs story is printed.

The Ticket Ticker and Fan Flash reporters on the radio won’t even devote a few seconds to reporting a RoughRiders score, instead opting for spending half the report summarizing the same story about what happened in Cowboys practice that the talk hosts are just going to go into anyway.

And they always go back to the cheap, lazy excuse that they have to cover what the listeners want to get ratings. No one cares about those sports, so there’s no point in trying.

Why not? At one point in time, the Sidekicks could pack Reunion Arena, which had twice the capacity of the team’s current home in the Allen Event Center. The team was popular enough for star player (now owner/coach) Tatu to draw a six-figure salary. If you take the time to TELL someone about something they might not know is happening, maybe might get interested.

I’m not talking about the Hardline having to devote even a daily segment to soccer or minor league baseball. I’m saying, would it really kill Sean Bass to take five seconds to say FC Dallas is playing tonight?

That’s what I hope to do with Rowdy Time Sports; do whatever I can to inform you all of every possible sporting event as best I can.

It’s not easy, given that I’m one person with extremely limited resources trying to do this while working other jobs. At the moment, the best I can give you in addition to these columns are my “Rowdy Time Gameday” articles, giving you what games are taking place on this particular day and eventually updating them with the scores, in addition to providing you with what news stories I can manage on the individual pages or each team/sport.

I can’t promise this will be perfect; only that I will try my best. It’s thanks to my on-the-job learning of WordPress format that I’m now able to create tables and columns for line scores and the like, which has allowed me to post these articles in hopefully a more professional looking manner. This is in addition to only using one sidebar for ads and the other for scores/summaries to try and make the ads as un-intrusive as possible (compared to the DMN and ST sites, whose ads take up a third of the space).

I want his to be as much of an online newspaper as I can make it, putting the games and scores, even the ones you might not have know of but might draw interest in when seen, up front for you to easily find them rather than bury them under small links off to the side.

Is this going to change the way sports are covered in this area? I can’t make a bold guarantee like that. But someone has to start.

Anyone can be lazy and just focus on the big boys. And maybe that’s what needs to change in a world where Wal-Mart shuts down the neighborhood store, CNN cherry picks its coverage and the Cowboys get all the headlines and talk.

Manziel and Big-Time College Athletes Don’t Know How Good They Have It

I’ll give John Manziel this much credit. He clearly knows how to make money off of his name. He’s going to need that ability, as I doubt he’ll be playing much football once his time at Texas A&M is over, which may or may not happen soon.

Like I’m sure many are, I’m beyond tired of hearing what Johnny Goofball/Johnny Lohan/Johnny Khardashian or whatever you want do call him is doing next. But this most recent one is a biggie for sure, with reports that the most overly hyped college athlete out there took money from vendors in exchange for autographing so much stuff that his season might be in jeopardy from carpal tunnel. Or from the fact that that’s a pretty big no-no by the NCAA’s standards.

At first, it looked like Johnny getting the boot was a given. Then the press went and turned on the NCAA, pointing out how much stuff related to Johnny they were selling on their own website. Suddenly, people were no longer lashing out at a spoiled brat acting out like the rules don’t apply to him but instead going back to whining about the rules being unfair.

The NCAA actually acquiesced, and suddenly player shirts and jerseys were no longer for sale via the official NCAA shop. But the damage was done, with yet another outcry for the “owners” of college sports to stop profiteering and start actually  paying their athletes.

The ironic thing is that Manziel is one guy who more than anything is not hurting for money; he could have gone to A&M sans scholarship thinks to his supposedly wealthy parents. (I say supposedly because, according to guys like RIchie Whitt, Manziel’s family may not be as well off as some think.)

Yet he has become the new cover boy for the opponents of the NCAA’s strict guidelines on amateurism, saying it’s so unfair that student athletes generate so much revenue and get nothing in return.

Right. They’re getting shafted because all they get is a completely free ride to the college of their choice with room, board and no fear of leaving with any type of student debt. This argument is as old as what it’s arguing against, and it still stands.

Their supporters clam big time athletes should have the financial freedom to attend movies and buy their school’s own expensive clothing like everyone else. Never mind that most students who also work jobs can’t afford those activities either because they’re salvaging every dime they can to pay their student loans.

But above all that is the one factor so many ignore. Johnny Manziel and the athlete who could, in theory, deserve compensation, are the minority. Same goes for the schools that could actually afford to pay them.

To listen to the likes of Jay Bilas and Jason Whitlock, you would think every school in the nation that plays Division I football and/or basketball is a cash cow franchise that is just churning out millions of dollars on the backs of its beleaguered, hard-working, exploited athletes. Nothing could be further from the truth. For every University of Texas, there is a University of Texas-San Antonio, a school who’s entire athletics budget practically equals Mack Brown’s salary alone and struggles to stay within that. They don’t have obscenely wealthy boosters willing to fund UT’s decision to fly its entire football team to Dallas for its annual game vs OU, when Dallas is just a three-hour drive from Austin.

It doesn’t matter what sort of “compensation plan” these so-called experts could come up with that they think is fair, because 90 percent of the colleges out there still wouldn’t be able to pay it. I don’t think enough people know quite how bad the disparity between the haves and have-nots is; it’s already similar to forcing AA and AAA baseball teams to play against the majors every year, and you want to make it even worse? It’s bad enough that small schools have to subject themselves to getting blown out on Big U’s home field in exchange for a big check. (Really, UT? You’ll buy yourself an easy win vs New Mexico State but you won’t play A&M any more?)

Thus you would essentially destroy college sports by making it financially impossible for almost all of the schools who don’t play in those elite conferences (are there still six of those? My head’s still spinning from all the realignment.) to field a team. They now have to offer stipends for their athletes along with a full scholarship for a chance to compete? Hundreds of schools would be forced to say “I’m out.”

I will not deny that I am biased from having seen this first hand for years. My alma mater, UT-Arlington, hasn’t played football at even the I-AA level since Back to the Future was in theaters. As long as I can recall, our men’s basketball team couldn’t offer the maximum number of 13 scholarships; I can only hope that moving to College Park Center has helped alleviate this. What they do have, however, is an athletics program with integrity. They have never faced NCAA sanctions for cheating. They make sure they get student athletes who go to class. They graduate players.

There are actually more UTAs out there than University of Miamis, who just look to buy football players over real student athletes. The schools who use athletics the right way – allowing kids to use their abilities toward getting an education – greatly outnumber those who are using America’s obsession with football to make millions of dollars.

But too many people with microphones and keyboards think the needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many.

Allowing the elite schools and programs to pay their athletes could only work if they were barred from competing against the rest of the NCAA programs. That’s even less likely to happen.

So, sorry to offend anyone, but here’s my take on Johnny Manziel and his cronies saying student athletes are being treated unfairly: Shut up.

You think it’s not fair that you toil for an organization that profits off your work without actually “compensating” you? Tell it to the millions of people who work unpaid internships during and after college just in the hopes that the experience will lead to something bigger.

Almost every athlete who could make money off himself from his play in college will once he’s eligible for the pros to come calling. Or, in the case of Manziel, just selling his own name.

The majority shouldn’t be forced to suffer just because you guys can’t be patient.

Suspensions Allow Many to Reveal Their Ethics and Sanctimony

Have you ever fudged on your taxes? Cut in front of someone in line? Done a few miles per hour over the posted speed limit?

If so, maybe you should think twice before condemning Nelson Cruz or any other member of the Biogenesis Bunch, branding them as worse human beings than Charles Manson.

The decision has gone down, and Cruz is among the dozen players reluctantly accepting to be suspended for the rest of the year (It’s either 50 games or 50 days; I’ve heard both and still am not sure which) for nothing more than being linked to a lab distributing performance enhancing drugs and not failing a single drug test. Expect the owners to be making plans to blacklist these players over the final two months to ensure none of them get a contract again as MLB continues its crusade against the unforgivable evil of performance enhancing drugs – the ones whose effects led to their coffers getting filled 15 years ago.

Already the fan base is split and crying, as this was a no-win situation for Nellie either way. Accept the ban, and he’s walking out on his teammates as they rush to catch the A’s in the standings. Appeal like A-Rod, and he refuses to “be a man” and admit his mistake.

Cruz, for what it’s worth, has issued a defense. According to KRLD’s Mike Young, Cruz suffered from a serious illness following the 2011 season that caused him to lose several pounds. At the suggestion of his agents, he obtained medication from Biogenesis. He has now fired those agents.

Personally, I trust Young as a journalist, so I see no reason to doubt this. But I know a bunch of holier-than-thou fans refuse to accept this and fully believe he was shooting himself up with a pint of steroids a week. They want any reason to castrate a professional athlete in order to make their own miserable lives look better, and this is prime fodder for them.

Of course, many of these are the same people who likely would have loved to see Cruz die of that illness since his failure to catch that final out in the World Series so horribly ruined THEIR lives.

And no, I don’t buy the claim that: If Cruz really was just after medication, MLB would have gone easy on him, just like they did before with Gio Gonzalez.

Different scenario; MLB wants no leniency this time, as they are on a crusade to liberate baseball from this unforgivable evil and come off as the great shining white knights out to save the sacred game. Even though I wouldn’t put it past a few of these owners to have slipped in the drugs themselves in the 1990s. In fact, I’d bet that their leniency in Gio’s case led them to refusing to do so now, since they missed out on a chance to make a statement then.

But what’s worse is this: Nelson Cruz could possibly never play baseball again. Aaron Hernandez, on the other hand, could technically suit up for an NFL team tomorrow.

I know what a radical statement this is, given that the former New England Patriots player is currently behind bars awaiting his murder trial. But you can’t tell me that at least 10 to 15 teams haven’t at least considered going to a judge and arguing that signing him to a contract would give Hernandez the incentive to honor bail, thus allowing his release and giving said team at least one season with him as court proceedings drag out.

Now yes, Hernandez can’t sign with anyone without the commissioner’s approval; of course, no team can sign any player without that. And Roger Goodell is just the type of person that might just stamp his foot and prevent an accused murderer from being signed.

But why not just make it completely official and suspend Hernandez indefinitely? Why not take the stand Robert Kraft did, stating that Hernandez putting himself in such a situation is enough to make him someone the Patriots don’t want to be associated with, guilty verdict or no?

Of course, Goodell’s attempt to ban players from intentionally and seriously hurting each other on the field failed miserably. Michael Vick was allowed to return to the field after slaughtering dogs, and Donte Stallworth and Leonard Little were allowed to keep playing after killing people with their cars. It’s only a small step for the NFL players union to say “ you don’t have the right to deny someone’s ability to make millions just because he’s ACCUSED of blowing a guy’s head off!!”

And that’s the big thing here. There is a bit of a difference between taking drugs to improve your performance on the field and TAKING AWAY ANOTHER PERSON’s LIFE. I hope to never commit an act of violence against another person, which is why I have no issue being judgmental on Hernandez.

But sadly, as Cruz and A-Rod are being castrated in the media while other NFL players walk the streets wearing “Free Aaron” caps, it’s clear what we as an overall society think is worse.

It shouldn’t be too surprising, coming from a society that has glorified violence and death all the way back to the ancient Romans.

But it’s still a bit disheartening to think that in three years, Aaron Hernandez could be wearing a jersey again while Nellie Cruz may not.

Big East’s Breakup Has a Familiar Southwest Feel

Once upon a time there was a conference called the Big East. You should have seen it.

It wasn’t known as a great football conference, which is why it might not have been as well known to the people of the South and West. It was known as a basketball conference, and that was all it needed to be for years. Its collection of Northeastern powerhouse programs like Connecticut, Syracuse, Villanova and Georgetown all vied for basketball supremacy in the nation besides just their conference, culminating with the annual Big East Tournament at the ultimate venue, Madison Square Garden. It was so deep in the 1980s that 1985 saw three Big East teams reach the Final Four.

Sadly, the good times were not to last. On Sunday, March 17, 2013, Louisville defeated Syracuse in the tournament final, and the conference as it has been known for years ceased to be. The Big East will still exist, and MSG will still host the tournament, but it may be a shell of its former self thanks to football, greed and bitterness tearing it apart.

Earlier this season, a collection of schools within the bloated conference, which became known as the “Catholic 7” for all the schools being affiliated with that sect, declared they were splitting up with the ever growing number of other schools that was approaching 18 and might never have stopped. Negotiations finally allowed them to officially part following the 12-13 seasons and take the Big East name with them.

This was only the final blow in what had been boiling for years. As the conference began adding more and more teams further and further away from the Northeast to try and increase its status as a football school, it saw its older teams depart – West Virginia to the Big 12, Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the ACC. This was years after they had already lost Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech to the ACC. After the conferenced declared it would add SMU, Houston, Boise State and San Diego State, the Catholic 7 finally said enough. No more of long time traditional basketball schools like Georgetown, St. Johns and Villanova having to travel further and further for conference games so this group could claim it was a football conference – a sport that none of the Catholic 7 played at the D1 level anyway. They were being disrespected and cast aside like the red-headed stepchild, and they were finally taking their ball and leaving.

They would take the name, but the tradition was lost for good in the breakup, as the departures of Syracuse, West Virginia and Pitt had already guaranteed the conference would be beyond anything people would recognize.

One might wonder why this story is being told on a site dedicated to North Texas sports. But the scene is all too familiar to what happened in this state nearly 20 years ago, when another tradition-rich conference ceased to be due to greed and infighting. Granted, the Southwest Conference was more known for football, and the Big East isn’t completely dissolving like the SWC did in 1995, but the similarities are there.

Many still point the finger at the small campus in Dallas’ backyard for the SWC’s end, blaming SMU’s “death penalty” scandal in 1987, but that’s a cheap scapegoat. Once the path was cleared for conferences to negotiate their own TV contracts, the Southeastern Conference poached away Arkansas, who gave up its status as the SWC’s outsider to a lifetime of mediocrity in the SEC. (Though the Razorbacks have won a national championship since the move – in BASKETBALL.) With the SEC forming the first “super conference” with a championship game, Texas jumped at its opportunity to make big money and partnered with Texas A&M, Texas Tech and the Big 8 to form the Big 12, and the SWC was dead. Feelings were hurt everywhere with the conference’s end, especially in Fort Worth, where they felt the Big 12 pulled a dirty deal with then-governor Ann Richards to bring in her alma mater Baylor over TCU.

The aftermath of that divorce is still felt in Texas. SMU and TCU have refused to be part of the same conference since the Frogs left the WAC – the second of five conference changes TCU has made since 1995. SMU was willing to become a real outsider in the Big East for a shot at a BCS game – a shot that no longer exists. And then, the most shocking breakup of all: Texas A&M leaving the Big 12 and ending its rivalry with Texas due to the Longhorns’ arrogance and the Aggies’ jealousy over the Longhorn Network, which almost tore apart the Big 12 as well.

Fans of college sports in Texas are now forced to hear from their schools that A&M playing Mississippi and Florida or SMU facing UConn will be just as good as when they all faced each other for bragging rights in the Lone Star State.

Now the fans who grew up with the Big East and looked forward to their rivalries are being forced to hear the same snake oil sale. So what that UConn may never play Syracuse again? They now get to face Clemson and Florida State! C’mon, West Virginia fans – you can get just as fired up for playing Texas Tech and Baylor as you did for Pitt!

But no, it won’t be the same. College sports were built on regional rivalries – being able to brag to your compatriots that your school beat their school from just 50-100 miles away, not the school 900 miles away.

As the Catholic 7 look to find members to flesh out the new Big East and the dumped other members that include SMU, Houston and Cincinnati try to find a name for what’s left of their conference, the fans who looked forward to those road trips to old rival teams and bragging to familiar opponents at MSG are the ones getting the shaft.

Just like the fans of the Southwest Conference got it in 1995. All because of greed tearing tradition apart.

Cheaters and Killers – What’s Real Justice?

I don’t want to sound sanctimonious and elitist. I really don’t.

Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs and opinions; I get that. But this – I just can’t understand this.

The professional football championship game is here – yeah, also never thought I’d be writing something about the NFL on this blog either – and the Baltimore Ravens are still alive, which means everyone is still talking about Ray Lewis. Talking about how he is ending his career on the highest of high notes. Ending a career that will certainly see him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Completely ignoring that his career should have ended 13 years ago. By having him sent to prison for life.

Yes, everybody in the US sports media that wants to keep kissing pro football’s ginormous ass is just sweeping under the rug that Ray Lewis murdered someone at around this same time in 2000. Okay, yeah, I know he wasn’t found guilty of actually murdering Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar. But he wasn’t found NOT Guilty either, despite what so many of his apologists cry. He was convicted of obstruction of justice for throwing his two friends under the bus AFTER admitting he gave false information. His two friends were found not guilty of murder, so no killer has ever been found. And evidence like Lewis’ missing bloody white suit continue to point a finger at him.

And at least one of the victims’ brother says he fully believes Lewis drove the knife, which s pretty strong to me. We believe Nicole Browns’ parents beliefs that OJ Simpson killed their daughter, why do we make it different here?

But what gets me most is what looks like blatant hypocrisy here.

At this same time, Lance Armstrong has finally admitted he used steroids to go from cancer’s death door to winning the Tour de France seven times – wins he has now been stripped of. Lance is being burned at the proverbial stake by the press as a pariah for the unforgivable sin of using performance enhancing drugs.

I don’t condone drug use at all. But let’s look at this realistically.

According to so many who follow sports: Cheating at the sport is unforgivable. Murder is forgivable AND forgettable.

And it’s not like these are the only recent examples. The baseball writers stood on their moral high horse by refusing to vote in a single entry into the Hall of Fame this year, sending their anti-PED message loud and clear. Meanwhile, Dallas wrapped their arms around Josh Brent in their support of him, chastising anyone who dared try to crucify him for killing teammate Jerry Brown in a drunk driving crash. Brown was his best friend, they all whine. He should just be forgiven and let go.

Yes, once again, forgive the guy who killed. Burn the guy who dared cheat at his sport, because HE’s the disgraceful person with no humanity.

And I’m gonna get called out for saying this and be declared a holier than thou snob. Just because I can’t just up and ignore this, believing that taking a life is a serious crime.

There’s nothing I can do here to change the opinions of people who believe that this new modern form of cheating should be permanently branded with a scarlet letter, but that football players committing acts of violence is perfectly acceptable because well, that’s just what they do.

Nothing I can do but shake my head and wonder why.

And hope this will be the last I hear of it for a long while…

Oh, Jay Ratliff was in a drunk driving accident? And Nellie Cruz is being tied to PEDs?

Here we go again.