Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The death of Sean Taylor, tragic but sadly “predictable”

The sports industry’ $6 billion economic engine known as the National Football League is stunned today in the aftermath following the senseless death of Sean Taylor. Taylor, the fifth overall selection in the 2004 NFL draft was shot early Monday morning in his Miami home and died Tuesday. Anytime a 24-year old with his life ahead of himself dies is a human tragedy, but there are important lessons that can be learned from the life that Sean Taylor lived and from his passing. The reality is the life and times of Sean Taylor are much about how we are a product of our environment and the choices we make in our lives.

The Sean Taylor story that will be told over the coming days, weeks and months will be a tale of two people. Taylor's short NFL career, however, was overshadowed somewhat by controversy. He fired two of his agents, walked out of a mandatory NFL rookie symposium for which he was fined, and was accused of spitting on Cincinnati Bengals player, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who later called Taylor "a punk", during a 2004 game at FedEx Field. However, after an investigation, the NFL found nothing to substantiate the spitting allegation.

On October 27, 2004, Taylor was arrested at 2:45am for allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol following a birthday party for former Redskins' receiver Rod Gardner.

A Fairfax County, Virginia judge later acquitted Taylor of the charges in March 2005, after viewing a videotape of Taylor's roadside sobriety tests that, according to the judge, failed to demonstrate obvious intoxication. Taylor was, however, convicted for refusing to take a blood alcohol test requested of him by a Virginia state police officer. Yet when this case was heard on appeal in March 2005, Taylor was acquitted of refusing to take a BAC test, due to lack of probable cause for the request.

In May, 2005, Taylor, seeking a new contract with the Redskins, was the only Redskin who refused to appear for a Redskins' training mini-camp. Redskins coach Joe Gibbs acknowledged that the Redskins had had no contact with Taylor since he returned to Miami in January, 2005, and that he had failed to return repeated phone calls to him by Gibbs and other Redskins' coaching staff. Despite his legal and other difficulties, though, Gibbs has defended the drafting of Taylor, calling the preparation that went into his selection one of the "most researched things in the history of sports.

Taylor's agent was fellow University of Miami alumnus Drew Rosenhaus, widely considered one of the most aggressive agents then representing NFL players. Rosenhaus represented Taylor in his efforts to renegotiate his Redskins' contract up until his death.

Sean Taylor faced many challenges throughout his short NFL career that only began with his 2004 rookie season. Soon after missing the 2005 Redskins mini-camp:

On June 3, 2005, Taylor was named publicly as a "person of interest" by Miami-Dade County police in regard to a Miami assault case involving firearms, and was being sought for questioning. "We need to speak to him, we don't know if he's a victim, witness or suspect," Miami-Dade police spokesman Mary Walters said. Taylor allegedly was present at, and possibly involved in, an incident on June 1, 2005 in Miami, in which bullets allegedly were fired into a stolen vehicle.

On June 5, 2005, ESPN and The Miami Herald both reported that Taylor, accompanied by his lawyer, surrendered to Miami-Dade police at approximately 10pm ET on June 4 at Miami's Cutler Ridge district police station, where he was transported to Miami's Turner Guilford Knight correctional facility. He was charged with aggravated assault with a firearm, a felony, and misdemeanor battery.

On June 5, Miami-Dade police issued a statement indicating that Taylor had been arrested for aggravated assault with a firearm (a felony) and battery (a misdemeanor), for allegedly pointing a gun at a person over a dispute over two ATVs that Taylor claimed were stolen. Taylor then allegedly left the scene, but returned shortly and punched one person.

The Associated Press reported on June 5 that Taylor was held in detention at Miami's Turner Gilford Knight correctional facility and released the evening of June 4 after posting bond of $16,500. The Miami-Dade County Clerk's Office announced that Taylor would soon be officially arraigned on the charges.

The Washington Post reported on March 3, 2006 that Taylor's trial had been postponed until April 10, 2006. Days before that date, the trial was moved back once more, this time by a week, because of conflicts with Passover and Easter celebrations.

Taylor grew up in South Florida leading Gulliver Preparatory School in Pinecrest, Florida to the Florida Class 2A State Championship in 2000. Taylor was considered the No. 1 prospect in Miami-Dade County by the Miami Herald and rated the nation’s No. 1 skill athlete and an All-American by SuperPrep. He was also an Orlando Sentinel Super Southern Team selection, the No. 1 athlete on the Florida Times-Union Super 75 list, and rated the No. 1 player in Florida by the Gainesville Sun. He was considered one of, if not the best high school football player in America when he enrolled at the University of Miami in 2001. Taylor started for the Hurricanes in their defensive secondary helping lead the team as a true freshman to the 2001 NCAA Football Championship.

One of the fictional characters created for the ESPN series Playmakers was Demetrius Harris. "D.H.", a rookie running back. With all the talent a young football player could ever hope for D.H., D.H. is everything the NFL fears in coming to play on Sunday’s. Episodes three and four of the series dubbed “The Choice” focus on the tough choices D.H. is forced to make. Now that he’s a millionaire NFL rookie his ‘boys from the hood’, are still very much a part of his lifestyle. After a shooting at a nightclub D.H. and his ‘boys’ very much a part of a shooting incident at the club, D.H. is forced to choose between doing what’s in the best interest of his teams’ owner who wants to protect the image of his team or his ‘boys from the hood’. Without hesitation, D.H. chooses his ‘boys from the hood’.

Our life being a product of the surroundings we grow up in may have played itself out at the University of Miami. In the simplest terms in the last twenty-five years (the last few years aside) the most successful college football program on the field has been the University of Miami’s football team. Off the field, the football program has generated hundreds of millions of dollars in football related revenues. However, it’s away from the football field where the football program has brought a litany of embarrassment to its students, the school’s reputation and the City of Miami.

It’s important to note that while none of the incidents listed below took place while Taylor played for the Hurricanes, they clearly illustrate the culture that existed before, during and after Taylor was a member of the University of Miami football team. They certainly highlight the culture that existed during the key formative years of Sean Taylor’s life.

•December 1986-January 1987: Following its first-ever undefeated regular season in 1986, Miami is selected to face Penn State in the 1987 Fiesta Bowl at Tempe, Ariz. In contrast to the Nittany Lions, who attended team functions in jackets and ties, Miami players spent most of the week wearing camouflage fatigues and walked out of a midweek function attended by both teams. This was probably the first time Miami began to be perceived as a "renegade" program.

•October 1988: In the first of three meetings with Notre Dame, later billed as "Catholics vs. Convicts," Miami and Notre Dame players engage in a pregame shoving match in the tunnel outside the teams' locker rooms at Notre Dame Stadium.

•December 1995: The NCAA places Miami on three years' probation, issues a postseason ban for 1995 and cuts scholarships for the next two years for violations that include an academic adviser helping 57 football players improperly receive federal grants.

•December 2000: Players from Miami and Florida — police reports say 10 to 15; eyewitnesses say closer to 40 — clash on the streets of New Orleans in the days leading to their meeting in the Sugar Bowl. No charges were filed by police.

•February 2004: Linebacker Willie Williams was one of the nation's most-prized recruits at Carol City High in Miami. The same day he signed his letter of intent with the Hurricanes, the Alachua County (Fla.) State Attorney announced Williams was being investigated for three criminal complaints stemming from a recruiting visit to the University of Florida in January. Also, a record showing 10 arrests as a juvenile, including on felony burglary charges, came to light. After months of deliberations, Miami decided to admit Williams — with conditions. He suffered an injury in practice in August 2004 and was redshirted as a freshman. He played in 10 games in 2005 but left the program this summer.

•July 11, 2004: Cornerback Antrel Rolle is arrested and charged with a felony, battery on a police officer, in connection with an early-morning incident in Coconut Grove, Fla. Rolle is suspended indefinitely. Prosecutors later decide not to pursue the case, citing problems with evidence. Rolle is reinstated.

•November 2005: A rap song with sexually explicit lyrics, performed by a group called Seventh Floor Crew, surfaces on the Internet. Coach Larry Coker confirms that Miami football players are members of the group, which recorded the song two years earlier. Athletics director Paul Dee, saying the matter would be handled internally, noted that the song was performed in private and never was intended for distribution.

•Dec. 30, 2005: Several Miami players fight with LSU players following the Tigers' 40-3 win at the Peach Bowl in Atlanta, a brawl that quickly escalated into a melee in the tunnel leading from the field and had Georgia State Patrol officers intervening.

•July 21, 2006: Miami player Willie Cooper suffers superficial wounds to his buttocks after he is shot outside his residence near campus in what players contend was a robbery attempt. Safety Brandon Meriweather, one of those suspended for Saturday's brawl, returns fire at the alleged assailants. Police say he acted legally, noting Meriweather had a permit for the weapon. Three days later, coach Larry Coker says he would discourage players from having guns. "I don't really want our players to have firearms. I'd rather they would dial 911 to come and handle those types of problems," he said.

•Aug. 27, 2006: Wide receiver Ryan Moore, sent home from the Peach Bowl for violating team rules, is suspended for the first two games of 2006 for other violations. The Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office says it expects to charge Moore this week with misdemeanors stemming from an Aug. 26 fight with a woman. Moore hasn't played this season.

•Sept. 16, 2006: Shortly before the game at Louisville, virtually the entire Hurricanes' roster jumps on the Cardinals logo at midfield — an act widely viewed as a taunting gesture. Miami loses 31-7. Afterward, several Miami players chide teammates for their involvement in that incident.

•Oct. 14, 2006: A bench-clearing brawl breaks out among players on the field during the third quarter of a game against Florida International at the Orange Bowl. A total of 13 players are ejected after police and stadium security help break up the five-minute melee. TV cameras catch one Miami player wielding his helmet as a weapon and an injured FIU player swinging his crutches.

One of the greatest challenges young gifted athletes face is how they deal with fame and in Taylor’s case fortune. They are put on a pedestal from the time they played Pop Warner football, through their days as high school stars, to their time at multi-million dollar college football factories and for the future few when they’re good enough to play on Sundays. Sean Taylor’s life and how he lived that life will be dissected until there is nothing left to tear apart over the coming days and weeks. That is the nature of the 24-hour, seven day a week news cycle we live in. We love to worship our football heroes, but when they fall we rarely know how to help lift them back up.

The second part of Sean Taylor’s life was much shorter than his turbulent NFL career. Taylor’s life reportedly changed when his fiancé gave birth to their daughter Jackie a year ago. Numerous media reports talk of a different Sean Taylor, one beginning to understand what it takes to be a responsible person in today’s society.

Life is filled with second chances and the opportunity to right the wrongs in our lives. Clearly as members of the Washington Redskins noted – Sean Taylor was working at changing his life, almost trying to escape from his past.

"Sean was a dear friend to all of us. We're all like a family and it's like we lost a family member. Through this tragedy we all have to try to pull together, stay strong for each other.

"Our hearts and prayers go out to his family, his girlfriend, his little girl. It's a tough situation right now.

"Sean was a great person. I just wish that everyone had the opportunity to get a chance to know him because if you just sit down and you talk to Sean one-on-one, he's a special person, and you know, he's a great person and he had all the intentions of trying to do the right things for people in the community.

"If you just look at him from the way that he's changed in the last year, it's just been outstanding to have the opportunity to spend time with him because he's just a special person.

"He will truly be missed by all of us, we'll hold him close to our hearts, and it's just a tough situation right now,” said Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell.

"Over the last two years, I got a chance to really see him grow as a man off the field," Redskins owner Daniel Snyder offered. "Off the field, he became very, very important to me, our organization and Coach Gibbs."

"We thought we had some hope last night" when surgeons informed the group that Taylor "had made good progress and was responding but was still in extremely critical condition," Snyder said. He said he was informed of Taylor's death shortly after 5 a.m.

"This is a terrible tragedy, and we're going to miss him very, very much," he said.

Gibbs according to The Washington Post spoke of what he saw as Taylor's spiritual growth, saying, "I think he had a growing relationship with the Lord." He said Taylor, who came to the team four years ago "full of himself and young," had spent a lot of time with a team chaplain during the past couple of years and was voted by other Redskins players to a team leadership council.

"I felt like he was a real leader," Gibbs said.

That however does not erase the man Sean Taylor was before his daughter was born. With all due respect, you can make a strong argument the National Football League’s Conduct Code created by Adam “Pacman” Jones was at least in part inspired by Sean Taylor’s actions during the first part of his NFL career. Taylor remains the only player drafted by an NFL team who decided rather than attend the NFL’s rookie symposium, he’d pay the league mandated fine if an NFL rookie misses the event.

Taylor lived in an upscale gated community in South Florida – with a machete under his bed. The death of Sean Taylor was tragic but at the end of the day may have been all too predictable.

It’s sad when anyone dies, but even sadder when someone dies at such a young age and they were trying to change the choices they had made earlier in their life. Sean Taylor will never get the second chance in life that everyone deserves, and that might be the biggest tragedy in this unfortunate story.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited and used in this Insider Report: The Miami Herald, USA Today and Wikipedia.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Days of Destiny – looking back at the Mitchell Report

Nearly two years after Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig asked former United States Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell to conduct an investigation into the use of performance-enhancing drugs in MLB, Senator Mitchell’s report is expected to be released in the coming days. While Senator Mitchell and MLB officials haven’t yet announced when Mitchell’s report will be released from a public relations perspective, this Thursday November 29 would be the perfect day.

The MLB Winter Meetings begin next Monday. Presenting the report during the Winter Meetings would turn the focus of the Winter Meetings to the Mitchell Report. Offering the report after the Winter Meetings wouldn’t make much sense. The media might be ‘angry’ if after heading to Nashville for next week’s Winter Meetings, MLB announced one of the most important and potentially controversial reports in recent years immediately following the Winter Meetings. Two days from now works perfectly. While we’re living in a 24-hour, seven days-a-week news cycle news and sports reporting world, if the report is unveiled Thursday, the results will be everywhere Friday; the weekend sports fans’ focus will be on this weekend’s college and NFL games. That said, what may make sense from a public relations perspective may not make sense to Major League Baseball when it comes to the Mitchell Report.

Prompted by the revelations in the best selling book Game of Shadows (excerpts from the book appeared in Sports Illustrated in March 2006), on March 30, 2006 Selig announced he had authorized an investigation into reported steroid use by Major League Baseball players associated with the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative (BALCO). Selig made it clear Senator Mitchell and his team of investigators would have complete autonomy in their investigation.

"Nothing is more important to me than the integrity of the game of baseball," Commissioner Selig said at the time. "The unique circumstances surrounding BALCO and the evidence revealed in a recently published book have convinced me that Major League Baseball must undertake this investigation.

"Senator Mitchell is one of the most respected public figures in the nation. His career in public service is beyond reproach and his integrity and leadership ability are beyond question. Major League Baseball is fortunate and pleased to have a person of such high character and acclaim to lead this investigation."

Senator Mitchell said on that day: "I accept the responsibility placed on me by the Commissioner in full recognition of the seriousness of the many issues raised by the task. The allegations arising out of the BALCO investigation that Major League players have used steroids and other illegal performance-enhancing drugs have caused fans and observers to question the integrity of play at the highest level of our national game. These allegations require close scrutiny."

For those who may have forgotten, the probe originally was only going to focus on events since September 2002, when the sport first began testing for performance-enhancing drugs, but Selig and Mitchell have the authority to expand it.

If you’re wondering how MLB might try and spin this story on the same day Selig announced the formation of the Mitchell Commission, MLB released the following fact sheet relating to the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball.

• In 1994, even though the focus concerning steroids was on other sports, Commissioner Selig had the foresight to encourage the Clubs to make a comprehensive drug testing-proposal to the union that included steroids. Unfortunately, that proposal was rejected by the MLBPA. (When in doubt lets blame the MLBPA. And is this what really happened between MLB and the MLBPA in 1994 or was it the cancellation of the 1994 season and the World Series? As for Selig’s so-called ‘foresight’ that is almost nonsensical. This alone suggests Bud and the Lords of the Diamond won’t be held accountable when the Mitchell Report is released.)

• In 1998, after androstenedione was discovered in Mark McGwire's locker, the Commissioner, along with the MLBPA, funded a study to determine whether androstenedione was truly an anabolic androgenic agent. The study was done at Harvard and was an important impetus for the federal regulation of andro and other steroid precursors. (Even better when it comes to how MLB might try and spin this tale. Selig and the Lords of the Diamond were front and center when Big Mac – literally and figuratively – set a new single season home run record on September 8, 1998. Funny how Selig had time to fund a study and celebrate Big Mac becoming the new home run king – all in the same year.)

• In the wake of the androstenedione study, Commissioner Selig began to assemble a group of medical experts to deal with the broader issue of steroids. His efforts in this area started to bear fruit in 2001 when the Commissioner implemented a tough new policy on performance enhancing substances for the minor leagues. The Commissioner could act unilaterally and impose drug-testing in the minor leagues, but not in the Major Leagues where drug-testing is a matter of collective bargaining and must be negotiated with the Players Association. (Again let’s blame the players, while laughing all the way to the bank. Led by Barry Bonds establishing a new single season home run mark with 73 round trippers, MLB sets a new single season attendance record and the sport begins its financial climb. But again lets blame the players for the sports inaction – at the very least it remains what it was then, a shared responsibility between the players and the owners).

• It has been well-documented that this minor league policy has dramatically reduced the usage of steroids in the minor leagues. Even more important, the Commissioner has amended the policy to address new developments in the area of performance enhancing substances and has expanded its scope to cover all of professional baseball including the Dominican and Venezuelan summer leagues.

• In the next round of collective bargaining in 2002, Commissioner Selig again made drug-testing for steroids a bargaining priority. Over heavy union opposition, he succeeded in achieving the first random drug-testing policy ever in the Major Leagues. Since then, the Commissioner has spearheaded two re-negotiations of the drug policy, culminating in the current policy - 50 days suspension for a first offense, 100 days for a second, and a lifetime ban for a third - which is the toughest drug-testing program in professional sports.

• On the political front, Commissioner Selig lobbied aggressively to support federal legislation of steroid precursors that was eventually passed as the Steroid Control Act of 2004. Major League Baseball also provides financial support for steroid education through the Taylor Hooton Foundation and has partnered with the Partnership for a Drug-Free America in its anti-steroids efforts. (Let’s merge this bullet point and the above into one and suggest – let’s try and get real. Prompted largely by Jose Canseco’s book “Juiced” the United States Congress demanded Selig, Donald Fehr head of the MLBPA and a cavalcade of former and current MLB players. It was Congress’ insistence – their threats that forced Selig’s and Fehr’s hand. It’s fair to assume that without Congress leaning on MLB and the MLBPA the two sides might still be in quicksand when it comes to dealing with the use of performance-enhancing drugs.)

However as MLB’s own timeline illustrates when it comes to the use of performance enhancing drugs in MLB the tale is both long and sordid:

June 18, 2002: At a Senate Commerce Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., Senators Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and John McCain (R-Ariz) tell Commissioner Bud Selig and MLB Players Association executive director Don Fehr that a strict drug testing program at the Major League level must be negotiated during collective bargaining for a new Basic Agreement, which is about to expire. Up to this point, no MLB player can be tested for drug use without probable cause. Fehr tells the committee that the Congress should enact laws to ban over-the-counter sales of performance-enhancing substances.

July 8, 2002: The Players Association meets in Chicago the day before the All-Star Game at Milwaukee. Fehr gives a lengthy dissertation to the media after the meeting about where the union stands on a number of issues, including privacy concerns regarding random drug testing

August 30, 2002: MLB and the union unveil Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program as an addendum to the new Basic Agreement, which is bargained at the 11th hour just as the players are about to go out on strike. The new policy calls for "Survey Testing" in 2003 to gauge the use of steroids among players on the 40-man rosters of each club. The tests will be anonymous and no one will be punished.

Feb. 17, 2003: Steve Bechler, a Baltimore Orioles pitcher, collapses on the field in Florida during a Spring Training workout and dies from heat exhaustion. He is 23 years old. An autopsy showed that the over-the-counter, performance-enhancing drug, Ephedra, was found in his system and was considered by the medical examiner as the primary cause of Bechler's death. Subsequently, MLB places Ephedra on the list of banned drugs at the Minor League level and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) bans it from over-the-counter sales.

March 1, 2003: Drug testing begins in Major League Spring Training camps. Some teams, including the Chicago White Sox, consider balking at taking the tests to skew the results. A refusal to participate in the "Survey" phase is considered a positive test. That first year, all MLB players on the 40-man rosters are subject to be randomly tested once. In addition, MLB had the right to retest up to 240 players a second time by the end of the season. All players ultimately complied and took the tests.

Oct. 29, 2003: The FDA bans THG. The next day MLB places the designer drug on its testing list for the 2004 season, but is barred by its own agreement from retroactively re-testing the 2003 urine samples for THG traces.

Nov. 13, 2003: MLB announced that 5-to-7 percent of 1,438 tests were positive during the 2003 season, well above the threshold, setting in motion mandatory testing for performance-enhancing drugs with punishments for the first time in Major League history. The first positive test put a player on a medical track that includes treatment and further testing. Otherwise, there's no punitive for a first positive test.

December, 2003: Ten Major League players, including Barry Bonds of the Giants, and Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield of the Yankees, are called to testify in front of a San Francisco grand jury investigating the machinations of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO), owned and operated by Victor Conte. None of the players are charged with using performance-enhancing drugs, although four men, including Conte and Greg Anderson, Bonds' personal trainer and childhood friend, are indicted for tax evasion and selling steroids without prescriptions

March 10, 2004: The Senate Commerce Committee holds another hearing. Selig and Fehr again appear to testify. They are told in no uncertain terms that MLB's current drug policy is not strong enough. McCain says: "Your failure to commit to addressing this issue straight on and immediately will motivate this committee to search for legislative remedies," thus setting the legislative process in motion

April 8, 2004: The grand jury presiding over the BALCO case issues a subpoena to obtain the results of all the drug tests collected from Major League players during the 2003 season. After negotiations by the union, which argues that the subpoena is violating privacy rights afforded to the players in the Joint Drug Agreement, the drug tests are turned over.

May 11, 2004: MLB and the Players Association agree to move all of the collection of urine samples and drug testing for both the Major Leagues and Minor Leagues to World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) facilities in Montreal and Los Angeles.

June, 2004: MLB begins drug testing Major League players under the punitive phase of the Joint Drug Agreement

Oct. 22, 2004: President Bush signs into law the Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 2004 that the U.S. Congress passed earlier in the month. The bill added hundreds of steroid-based drugs and precursors such as androstenedione to the list of anabolic steroids that are classified as Schedule III controlled substances, which are banned from over-the-counter sales without a prescription. By virtue of MLB's own agreement with the union, all of the drugs banned by Congress are now on baseball's own banned list

November 2004: The San Francisco Chronicle prints portions of leaked grand jury testimony given the previous year by Bonds and Giambi. Giambi reportedly admits injecting himself with steroids and Bonds reportedly says he unwittingly may have allowed his former trainer, Anderson, to rub cream that had a steroid base on his legs.

Dec. 3, 2004: Commissioner Selig again publicly presses the union to accept stronger terms in MLB's current drug policy. Negotiations have been on going for since May, but have born no fruit. Citing the recent grand jury testimony revelations, Selig says for the first time he would welcome government intervention into the situation if the sides can't reach accord through collective bargaining.

Dec. 7, 2004: The Executive Board of the Players Association, meeting in Phoenix, authorizes its representatives to move forward "to attempt to conclude" a more stringent drug policy with the Commissioner's office, Fehr said.

Jan. 13, 2005: During a quarterly owners' meeting in Scottsdale, Ariz., the owners vote unanimously to accept recently concluded negotiations between MLB and the union strengthening the drug program. The new punitive measures for Major Leaguers are a 10-day suspension for the first positive test, 30 days for the second, 60 days for the third, and one year for the fourth. All without pay. On the first positive, the players name is released to the public. The program is separated from the Basic Agreement, which expires on Dec. 19, 2006, and is extended until 2008.

Feb. 14, 2005: Jose Canseco's new "tell all" book about his life in baseball using steroids and sharing them with some of his former teammates, hits the stores. The revelations are widely played in the media and carried by CBS in two segments of "60 Minutes" during which the former Oakland A's slugger claims he helped inject teammates McGwire, Giambi Rafael Palmeiro and Juan Gonzalez, among others. During the latter segment, Mike Wallace asks Sandy Alderson, then MLB's executive vice president, baseball operations, if baseball intended to investigate the allegations. After Alderson rejects that notion, members of Congress say they will investigate the matter for baseball.

March 2, 2005: Rob Manfred, MLB's vice president of labor relations and human resources, says that drug testing will begin at Spring Training camps under the auspices of the revised program even though it has yet to be ratified by the union.

March 5, 2005: Selig announces the results of the 2004 drug tests in Mesa, Ariz. Selig says he's "startled" by the drop in positive test results from 5-to-7 percent in 2003 to between 1-to-2 percent in 2004. The actual numbers were 12 positive tests in 1,183. No player tested positively twice, so under the rules of the old program, they were neither suspended nor had their names released.

March 8, 2005: The House Government Reform Committee calls a hearing in Washington to hear testimony from MLB executives, plus current and former players about steroid use in MLB. At first, the government sends out invitations, which are turned down by the various parties. The Committee then issues subpoenas, which are fought by MLB. In the end, all agree to attend, including Canseco, McGwire, Curt Schilling, Palmeiro, Frank Thomas, and Sosa, plus Selig, Fehr, Alderson and Padres general manager Kevin Towers.

March 17, 2005: At the 11-hour hearing that is sometimes contentious, Congressmen again tell MLB and union officials to beef up their drug program "or we we'll do it for you," said Henry Waxman, the committee's top Democrat. "And you don't want that." McGwire, almost in tears at times, tells the Committee that he has been advised by his attorneys not to discuss the issue. "My lawyers have advised me that I cannot answer these questions without jeopardizing my friends, my family or myself. I intend to follow their advice," McGwire said, declining to delve into the past

March 18, 2005: Various bills controlling the use and testing of drug use in professional sports begin to be formulated in several committees.

April 3, 2005: Tampa Bay's Alex Sanchez becomes the first big league player to test positively under the new Joint Drug Program. He is suspended for 10 days. By early May, five players on the 40-man rosters of various clubs have been suspended the requisite 10 days for testing positive.

April 4, 2005: MLB announces that 38 Minor Leaguers all tested positive for steroid use. Most of them were suspended for 15 games. By the end of the month, more than 50 Minor Leaguers have been suspended.

April 25, 2005: Selig sends a letter to Fehr stating that the recently strengthened drug policy needs to be strengthened some more with tougher penalties and more incidence of testing. Selig is now calling for a "three strikes and your out approach," to disciplining players who repetitively test positive for steroid use: 50-game suspensions for the first offense, 100 games for the second and third-time offenders to be banned permanently. Selig also says he will unilaterally institute these rules in the Minor Leagues next season.

May 2, 2005: Fehr responds to Selig by letter, saying the matter is open to discussion. After various meetings with MLB officials, Fehr says he must begin the long process of going club-to-club to gauge the sentiment of all the Major League players.

May 11, 2005: During a quarterly meeting in New York, the 30 owners vote unanimously to support Selig's drug proposal put forth in his April 25 letter.

May 13, 2005: A subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee calls the Commissioners and union leaders from all five professional sports leagues to testify at two days of hearings to discuss a proposed bill that would regulate the testing of players for steroid and amphetamine use. Among the proposals under consideration are penalties that match international and Olympic rules: a two-year suspension for the first positive test and a lifetime ban for the second.

May 16, 2005: Selig says in an open letter to baseball fans that he would support government intervention and the Olympic rules if MLB can't collectively bargain an enhanced drug policy with the union.

May 18, 2005: Selig, the NHL's Gary Bettman, the NBA's David Stern and the MLS's Don Garber appear before the subcommittee, which again tells them that the government is ready to intervene and set standards for drug testing in all professional sports. "In a perfect world I'd rather this just be done in collective bargaining or voluntary acceptance by the players in respective sports," said Congressman Joe Barton (R-Tex.)."But obviously we don't live in a perfect world. And in this case we need federal intervention. I think we've gone too long."

May 24, 2005: The House Government Reform Committee floats a bill also supported in the Senate by McCain. The new bill also calls for Olympic-type penalties of a two-year suspension for a first positive drug test and a lifetime ban for a second.

May 25, 2005: The House Energy and Commerce Committee passes its bill out of the subcommittee.

Aug. 1, 2005: Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro is suspended for 10 days by Major League Baseball for violating its Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. He denies any intentional use of steroids.

Aug. 2, 2005: Mariners pitcher Ryan Franklin receives a 10-day suspension for violation of the Major League Baseball Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

Nov. 2, 2005: Yankees outfielder Matt Lawton receives a 10-day suspension for violation of the Major League Baseball Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

Nov. 10, 2005: A Congressional subcommittee decided to not seek perjury charges against Rafael Palmeiro following its investigation of the player's Capitol Hill statement that he had not used steroids.

Nov. 15, 2005: Major League Baseball and the players association reached agreement on Tuesday on a plan that significantly strengthens penalties for steroid and other illegal drug use. Penalties for steroid use will be 50 games for a first offense, 100 games for a second and a lifetime ban for a third. The plan also includes testing and suspensions for amphetamine use.

Dec. 8, 2005: The players union formally approves by a unanimous vote the drug policy it agreed to with Major League Baseball in November.

March 7, 2006: A book written by two San Francisco Chronicle reporters and excerpted in Sports Illustrated alleged Barry Bonds began using steroids after the 1998 baseball season and came to rely on a wide variety of performance-enhancing drugs over the next several years.

March 30, 2006: Commissioner Bud Selig announced that former Senate majority leader George Mitchell would head an independent investigation into alleged steroid use by players associated with the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO). Selig emphasized that Mitchell has the authority to expand the scope of the probe if necessary.

April 28, 2006: Patrick Arnold, noted scientist in the sports nutritional supplement world, pleaded guilty to supplying the Bay Area Laboratory-Cooperative with the performance-enhancing drug known as "the clear."
June 6, 2006: Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Jason Grimsley told federal investigators he used illegal performance-enhancing drugs, according to court documents unsealed.

June 12, 2006: Pitcher Jason Grimsley was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball, less than a week after federal agents raided his home during an investigation into performance-enhancing drugs. Grimsley's suspension was never served because he asked for and received his release from the Diamondbacks and then retired.

June 19, 2006: David Segui, a 15-year major league baseball player who last was on an MLB roster in 2004, said he was one of the players whose names were redacted in the IRS affidavit that said Jason Grimsley received two kits of human growth hormone on April 19.

July 20, 2006: A federal grand jury seated in San Francisco expired without indicting Barry Bonds on perjury charges. A new one was immediately empanelled to review the case.

Sept. 21, 2006: San Francisco Chronicle reporters Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada, who published excerpts from the BALCO transcripts in 2004, were sentenced to 18 months in prison for refusing to reveal their source to the grand jury.

Oct. 1, 2006: Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Miguel Tejada were among the players that a former major league pitcher accused of using performance-enhancing drugs, according to a federal agent's affidavit, the Los Angeles Times reported. Baltimore teammates Brian Roberts, Jay Gibbons and Tejada also were implicated in the sworn statement, the Times said.

Nov. 1, 2006: Mets reliever Guillermo Mota was suspended for 50 games, becoming the third player penalized in 2006 for violating Major League Baseball's toughened drug policy.

Jan. 18, 2007: Former Senator George Mitchell, who had been heading up a nearly year-long investigation into steroid use in Major League Baseball, told the owners that he needed more cooperation from them to complete his much-anticipated report.

Feb. 21, 2007: Troy Ellerman, former lawyer for BALCO president Victor Conte, admitted to being the source of the BALCO grand jury documents leaked to San Francisco Chronicle reporters Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada.

Feb. 22, 2007: Former Senator George Mitchell announced that investigators for his committee reviewing the use of performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball planned to visit Spring Training camps to conduct interviews.

Feb. 26, 2007: Barry Bonds and other players under suspicion of using performance enhancing drugs were asked by Major League Baseball's lead steroids investigator to turn over medical records and submit to interviews.

Feb. 26, 2007: The players' association would offer advice but said it's the choice of each individual whether to cooperate with former Senator George Mitchell's investigation into steroids use.

Feb. 27, 2007: An Orlando pharmacy was raided by a law enforcement task force, the climax of a large New York state grand jury investigation into Internet drug sales. Among the athletes reportedly on the customer list were Angels outfield Gary Mathews Jr. and boxer Evander Holyfield.

March 2, 2007: Texas Rangers utility player Jerry Hairston Jr. was named by a Sports Illustrated story as the recipient of a shipment of HGH from a New York pharmacy.

April 27, 2007: A former New York Mets clubhouse employee pleaded guilty to distributing steroids to Major League players and was cooperating with baseball's steroids investigation. Kirk Radomski, 37, pleaded guilty to felony charges of distributing steroids and laundering money, charges that carry sentences of up to 25 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

May 18, 2007: New York Yankees slugger Jason Giambi said Major League Baseball should apologize to the public for its widespread performance-enhancing drug problem.

May 23, 2007: Jason Giambi met with Major League Baseball officials over remarks he made in an interview that implied former use of performance-enhancing drugs.

June 6, 2007: Commissioner Bud Selig said that he wanted Jason Giambi to meet with former Senator George Mitchell during the next two weeks before determining whether to discipline the Yankees first baseman regarding statements about his alleged steroid use, which Giambi made to a newspaper last month.

July 6, 2007: Tigers infielder Neifi Perez became the first player disciplined under Major League Baseball's testing program for banned stimulants, receiving a 25-game suspension for a second positive test.

July 14, 2007: Yankees 1B/DH Jason Giambi became the first active player to meet with former Senator George Mitchell in baseball's ongoing investigation into steroid use by major league players.

Aug. 3, 2007: The only player suspended under Major League Baseball's new drug testing program for stimulants was suspended again. Tigers infielder Neifi Perez received his second such sentence in a month, this one an 80-game suspension for another positive test.

Sept. 7, 2007: Blue Jays third baseman Troy Glaus was the second Major League Player implicated for the purchasing of performance-enhancing drugs via the Internet during the 2004 season, SI.com reported. The news came only hours after the New York Daily News reported that Cardinals outfielder Rick Ankiel received a 12-month supply of human growth hormone in 2004 from a Florida pharmacy that was part of a national illegal prescription drug-distribution operation, citing records its reporters saw.

Sept. 9, 2007: SI.com reported that Orioles outfielder Jay Gibbons had purchased performance-enhancing drugs through Orlando-based Signature Pharmacy from October 2003 to July 2005.

Sept. 13, 2007: Members of the committee headed by former Senator George Mitchell met with representatives of the Albany, N.Y., prosecutor's office as a two-year-old probe into the Internet sale of performance-enhancing drugs continued.

Sept. 19, 2007: Baltimore Orioles outfielder Jay Gibbons became the second of the four players who have reportedly been linked to the procurement of performance-enhancing drugs through pharmacies doing business on the Internet to meet with officials from Major League Baseball.

Oct. 2, 2007: Pitcher Scott Schoeneweis was reported to have purchased six shipments of steroids from Orlando-based Signature Pharmacy while playing for the Chicago White Sox in 2003 and 2004.

Oct. 21, 2007: Prior to Game 7 of the ALCS between the Indians and Red Sox, Cleveland pitcher Paul Byrd was cited in a San Francisco Chronicle report as having purchased human growth hormone in large quantities between August 2002 and January 2005.

Oct. 31, 2007: Padres outfielder Mike Cameron is suspended 25 games, effective the beginning of the 2008 season, for testing positive for a banned stimulant. Cameron became the second player to be suspended for a banned stimulant, following Neifi Perez.

Nov. 6, 2007: Former Mariners outfielder Jose Guillen and two former Major League players -- Matt Williams and Ismael Valdez -- bought performance-enhancing drugs from a Florida clinic, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Nov. 7, 2007: Gary Matthews Jr., the Angels outfielder whose name was the first to surface earlier this year in the probe by an Albany, N.Y., district attorney into the illegal sales of performance-enhancing drugs, met with attorneys for the Commissioner's Office, an MLB official confirmed.

Nov. 15, 2007: Barry Bonds was charged with perjury and obstruction of justice for allegedly lying when he said he did not use performance-enhancing drugs. Bonds' trainer, Greg Anderson, was ordered released from prison by a federal judge after being held in contempt for refusing to testify to a grand jury.

Up next the biggest news of all… the release of the Mitchell Report.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited and used in this Insider Report: MLB.com

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Barry Lamar Bonds – up next the media and the Mitchell Report

This could be one of the biggest weeks in Major League Baseball history. Reports suggest Senator George Mitchell’s much anticipated investigation into the use of performance-enhancement drugs among Major League Baseball players will be unveiled in the coming days. Suggestions that as many as 11 different current Major League Baseball current free agent players will be named in the report if true could shake the core of MLB to its foundation. But will Barry Bonds name be among those included in the report and if so what conclusive proof will the former United States Senator and member of the Boston Red Sox Board of Directors offer relating to Bonds? Regardless of whether or not Bonds’ name is included by Senator Mitchell, Bonds indictment on federal perjury charges before the Thanksgiving weekend holiday will continue to be the media’s focus when it relates to substance abuse among baseball players.

Since Bonds was indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice on November 15, the media’s full frontal assault has continued seemingly unabated. But in what could be an important trend to note – the media in a series of op-ed pieces in various newspapers has been holding not only Bonds accountable for his actions, but has begun to question where the culpability of Major League Baseball (the Lords of the Diamond) lies within the Barry Bonds saga.

“It has been evident for years that some of the game's biggest stars have been swelling up with new muscle mass and acquiring more home-run power in their 30s than they had in their 20s. So why did Major League Baseball shrug off this perverting of the national pastime? (Full disclosure: The Globe's parent company is a part-owner of the Red Sox.)

“The commissioner and his water carriers say they could do nothing about the problem without proof. And the players' union, acting with a myopic kind of self-interest, fought against drug testing for its members. But the union was not protecting the true interests of the players. Eventually, the devil comes to collect his due. A witches' brew of steroids and hormones can destroy the health of an athlete seeking a shortcut to greatness. Each steroid user made his own bad decision, but in response to powerful incentives.

“For its part, the corporate establishment that is Major League Baseball traduced its own history and betrayed its integrity by selling something other than the team's collective competition in a pennant race. The owners sold home run records instead. They peddled individual achievements by grotesquely enlarged stars who had more in common with figures in a circus sideshow than with the great players of times past.

“The marketers of baseball sowed false values, and now they're reaping phony achievements in the record books. They got what they deserve. They perjured the game”

That from The Boston Globe (company that also owns The New York Times and a small percentage of the Boston Red Sox). Since the Globe became part of John Henry’s ownership group when Henry paid $700 million for the Red Sox in December 2001, the Globe has always separated their role as a member of the media and as part owner of a Major League Baseball franchise. The Globe calling out the Lords of the Diamond as strongly as they did when the news broke regarding Barry Bonds might indicate when the Mitchell report is released the Globe (and possibly the Times) will take a very tough stance against MLB and appear certain to hold MLB commissioner Bud Selig accountable.

The Philadelphia Inquirer asked an even better question – should Barry Bonds be singled out?

“Why has the Justice Department spent so much time and tax dollars on this case? Baseball is a game, not life or death. Don't the feds have anything more pressing to do, like track down terrorists, drug dealers or white-collar crooks?

“Bonds was indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice regarding his testimony on steroid use. Steroids are illegal, and lying to a grand jury is a crime that shouldn't be tolerated. But Bonds shouldn't be the main target of so much attention.

“If anyone should be indicted, it is Major League Baseball for enabling and rewarding steroid use. Not to mention the fans and media who for years celebrated the show provided by bulked-up batters and pitchers who never got tired.

“Bonds can be prickly. But being a jerk isn't a crime. This case illustrates how justice isn't equal for all. If the feds are going to prosecute Bonds, they need to investigate and prosecute every other ball player suspected of taking steroids. That's a long list.”

The Inquirer makes a great point, but here’s an even better one. The trail of Grand Juries that failed to indict Barry Bonds has been well documented. All told, according to an ESPN report, the Federal Government has already spent $6 million to prosecute Barry Bonds. That’s $6 million and the trial has yet to begin. It’s conceivable that by the time Barry Bonds trial ends, the cost to American taxpayers could exceed $10 million. Does it make sense to make an example of Barry Bonds by spending $10 million to prove if he lied 19 times during a December 2003 Grand Jury hearing into BALCO?

Lets be clear about this point, it wasn’t illegal to use steroids in the United States of America until 2004 (it was illegal to sell them). And Major League Baseball didn’t have a comprehensive testing policy that dealt with performance-enhancing drugs until 2004. Barry didn’t break any laws if he used steroids before the 2004 baseball season. As for rules of baseball, the allegations Bonds is facing, if proven true would certainly paint him as being unethical, but again he broke the rules of baseball that didn’t exist at the time. Those rules exist today, but they weren’t in place when Bonds is alleged to have used steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs.

The Orlando Sentinel’s editorial stance – lets call it as it is, and where it is, Major League Baseball has to bear their share of the responsibility.

“The indictment is a sad day for baseball, for sure. But it is a day that ought never to have arrived. Major League owners, the players union and Commissioner Bud Selig ignored the rising problem of performance-enhancing drugs for years. As Mr. Bonds and others grew to freakish proportions and smashed records, baseball cared only about soaring revenues.

“Now the evidence may confirm what most people already believe: Baseball's home-run record -- perhaps the most hallowed record in sports -- is held by a cheater.

“The fans deserved better, from Mr. Bonds and Major League Baseball.”

In last Monday’s (November 19, 2007) Insider, the issue of Barry Bonds responsibility if he in fact has lied (remember we’re still dealing with allegations that need to be proven in a court of law) but what did Major League Baseball know when it came to the use of performance-enhancing drugs? Major League Baseball loved the 1998 home run single season home run derby Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa embarked on helping to revive the league and moving baseball forward as a business. The Lords of the Diamond had better ask themselves what they knew or didn’t know. And what impact did the 1998 MLB and Bonds assault on the single season record in 2001 have on helping MLB generate $6.07 billion in total revenues in 2007?

Not all of the sampling of newspapers op-ed pieces being looked at in today’s Insider Report hold both MLB and Bonds accountable. Several of the newspaper editorials either choose not to look at the role MLB played in the Bonds story or decided to wait until the release of the Mitchell Report later this week. The San Jose Mercury News took Bonds to task but still saved some of its venom for MLB.

“The controversy over (Barry) Bonds' possible use of steroids began in the spring of 1998, when he returned from the off season, at the age of 34, with a newly sculpted body. It appeared that in a matter of months he had gained 20-25 pounds of pure muscle.

“He promptly began swatting home runs at a pace he never achieved during what is considered to be a baseball player's peak years of performance - between the ages of 28 and 32. Then, at the age of 36, when most players' skills are seriously eroding, he broke McGwire's single-season home run record, hitting homers at a pace never seen before in baseball history.

“Two years later, in the fall of 2003, while Bonds was beginning to close in on baseball's most cherished record - Hank Aaron's all-time home run mark - he was called to testify before a federal grand jury in the wake of the Burlingame Balco scandal.

“Bonds repeatedly denied using steroids or human growth hormone. But the federal indictment specifically says Bonds tested positive for anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs.

“Regardless of whether the federal government has sufficient evidence to convict Bonds, it should be clear by now that Major League Baseball and its players have done the game a great disservice. Their refusal to face up to the impact of the pervasive use of steroids has destroyed the average fan's faith that the players are competing on a level playing field.

“Baseball officials and the players union effectively buried their heads in the sand as profits and ticket sales soared along with the increased home run totals.”

And then there is a matter of what to do with Barry Bonds’ records. Bonds now holds the MLB career home run record, but for those who have chosen to ignore this, Bonds’ 73 home runs also represent the single season home run record. And if anyone wants to take away Bonds records, would it be fair to revert back to the 70 home runs Mark McGwire hit in 1998? And if McGwire’s records are to be tossed aside, is Roger Maris’ 61 home run season set in 1961 going to be the single season record? The Maris family was very much a part of McGwire’s assault on the single season record. The Maris family was in St. Louis on September 8, 1998 helping Big Mac celebrate his moment in time. Does anyone believe the Maris family is going to put time back into a Bottle and live through that experience again?

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (the home of Bud Selig and where Hank Aaron began and ended is MLB career) needless to say didn’t come to Bonds’ defense, but did seemingly remember Selig their native son.

”Even if Bonds is found innocent of the charges, the publicity from the trial, as well as the indictment itself, which revealed "positive tests for the presence of steroids and other performance-enhancing substances by Bonds and other professional athletes," will have further sullied his reputation and that of baseball.

“But as arrogant as Bonds has been about this whole affair, the culpability isn't only his.

“For far too long, Major League Baseball dragged its feet, and when it finally got down to confronting the issue head-on, the players' union threw up hurdles until the U.S. Senate turned up the heat and forced the union to capitulate.

“Unfortunately, as the Bonds case has so dramatically shown, the new policy on performance-enhancing drugs and other substances, widely acknowledged as the toughest in pro sports, came too late. If Bonds is found guilty, baseball will have to pick up the razor-sharp glass shards.

“That challenging and thankless job will fall to Commissioner Bud Selig. While many fans will no doubt ask that Bonds' record be stricken, the more practical alternative probably would be to attach an asterisk behind Bonds' name and record.

“Either way, it will be a painful moment for baseball and especially for Selig, who can otherwise point with pride to the many accomplishments during his tenure.”

On March 30, 2006 Selig announced former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell -- and then and now a director of the Boston Red Sox would lead an inquiry into the use of performance-enchantment drugs in MLB. For those who may have forgotten the probe originally was only going to focus on events since September 2002, when the sport first began testing for performance-enhancing drugs, but Mitchell had the authority to expand it. Sometime this week the results of the report are expected to be announced. Stand by baseball fans; it’s going to be a rough ride, one you’re not going to want to miss.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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Friday, November 23, 2007

NFL games on the NFL Network – Season 2 debut

In the 1997 movie The Assignment, Adrian Quinn plays the role of an American naval officer who is recruited for an operation to eliminate his look-alike, the infamous terrorist Carlos The Jackal. In order to make Quinn feel like Carlos, his handlers force him to eat nothing but plain oatmeal for days on end. Not oatmeal with brown sugar, not oatmeal with cinnamon, not oatmeal with raisons, strawberries or any flavor you might add to make the blandest food ever created to taste better, but just oatmeal. After two weeks of eating nothing but oatmeal Quinn explodes in a fit of rage, he’s had enough. Being forced to eat bland, tasteless oatmeal for days on end might drive someone to the edge of the abyss – similar to watching a National Football League game broadcast with Bryant Gumbel handling the play-by-play.

Thursday evening Gumbel, one of America’s pre-eminent sports broadcast journalists kicked off the NFL Network’s second season of regular season NFL broadcasts. Teamed with one of the better NFL broadcast analysts Chris Collinsworth, try as he may, listening to Bryant Gumbel do the play-by-play for an NFL game is worse that watching paint dry on a cold winter day.

As the host of Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, Gumbel’s forte is his tremendous insight into how the sports industry works. As was the case last year when Gumbel and Collinsworth teamed together to broadcast the NFL Network’s series of games, hearing someone scratching on a blackboard (that nightmare sound) is more appealing than listening to Gumbel’s play-by-play.

Collinsworth on the other hand, was solid and insightful as ever. Collinsworth managed to navigate the transition from football player to football broadcaster seamlessly. One of the features the NFL Network has added to their coverage this year are “snapshots”, pictures from that games broadcasts. That was about as effective and exciting as Gumbel’s play-by-play. The NFL Network has enough distribution issues, what it doesn’t need is the “voice of the NFL Network” causing viewers to wish the that it returned to NBC’s infamous silent broadcast on December 20, 1980.

On that Saturday, if you tuned into NBC between 1 P.M. and 4:30 P.M., you witnessed something extraordinary: an end-of-season football game between the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins with no one describing it to you. There was, in fact, no intelligible talking at all, just crowd noise, the stadium public-address system and whatever grunts and pad smashing the field-side microphones could pick up - some three and one half hours of announcerless air, the one and only protracted blank in history's ongoing, chatter-filled recording of broadcast sports. That would be more exciting to listen to than Bryant Gumbel handling the play-by-play for an NFL game.

Distribution remains the biggest issue the NFL Network continues to face -- the Lords of the Pigskin and the Czars of America’s Cable TV Universe. The War of the NFL Network and the Cable Operators continued unabated in the days leading up to Thursday night’s broadcast. As was the case 12 months ago when the NFL Network broadcast their first eight live NFL games on the league owned network, the biggest issue the NFL Network faces is the lack of distribution in America’s cable universe. In a 500 channel universe the NFL Network is in has many homes (the 35 million range) as sports “titans” the Golf Network, Speed, and ESPN Classic. The NFL as Commissioner Roger Goodell made it clear earlier this week, is fed up and won’t take it anymore when it comes to dealing with America’s cable carriers.

“We are working as hard as we can to get the NFL Network and all other cable systems on terms that don't involve charging our fans extra. None of the current distributors of NFL Network have raised their rates due to adding our channel to their system. Right now some big cable operators want to make the NFL Network a pay extra or Pay-Per-View option. That is not good for our fans or fair to our fans, and we are not agreeing to that as such.

“The problem we face is that those big cable operators treat independent programmers differently than the channels they own. It's not a level playing field. We are fighting to be treated like their own channels. That's what's best for our fans and what we want our fans to understand. We want these upcoming games starting Thursday night and everything else on the NFL Network, including our two college bowl games, available to all fans on terms that will be good for all involved, including the cable operators that are currently holding out.”

The marketing/sales strategy the NFL used a year ago to drive cable carriers into adding the NFL Network was both costly and a complete disaster.

Using their eight game late season schedule as leverage, the NFL Network hoped to be in 25 million more homes by Thanksgiving Day November 23, 2006 when the Denver Broncos traveled to Kansas City to meet the Chiefs in an 8 PM game, the first live broadcast of an NFL regular season game on the NFL Network. The NFL Network created a $100 million advertising campaign that focused on the major cable operators that have yet to hear the call of the NFL Network (and 15 months later have still yet to hear that call).

Given that none of that ever happened, the NFL is using a different strategy this year, taking their message to the FCC and other politically like-minded groups. According to American Business First, as part of a new political lobbying effort, the NFL network wants the Federal Communications Commission to let a third-party arbitrator solve the four-year carriage disputes by determining if and how operators should carry the channel.

Earlier this week Comcast having had enough of the NFL’s tactics, delivered a cease and desist letter to the NFL demanding that the Lords of the Pigskin end their campaign of aggression against cable operators, or in simpler terms stop telling people to switch to the satellite operators (both DirecTV and the Dish Network) offer the NFL Network.

"Comcast offers the NFL Network to all of its interested customers today and they can watch every NFL game the league makes available on cable television. The fact is that the vast majority of our customers have elected not to receive NFL Network. Under our agreement with the NFL, which the league negotiated and signed, we offer the NFL Network as part of our Sports Entertainment Package. This is the best and fairest way to provide the NFL's expensive programming to customers, because viewers who want to watch the channel will be able to see it, while others who prefer not to receive it will not be forced to pay.

“While the NFL claims that it wants its games to be seen by the widest possible audiences, it's actually their rules that limit which games fans can watch. It's the NFL that designates which cities can have over-the-air broadcasts of specific games. It is also the NFL that decided to take these eight games off of free broadcast television and to try to enrich themselves at the expense of their fans by creating a multi-billion dollar asset called the NFL Network.", said David L. Cohen, Executive Vice President, Comcast Corporation.

It really remains a matter of dollars and cents, and it makes not lack much sense (pardon the bad puns). All one needed to do was compare the value (and fees) associated with what ESPN offers cable careers to what the NFL Network continues to demand.

The NFL Network continues to demand around 70 cents per month from cable companies for each home that carries the NFL Network, while ESPN charges cable carriers around $3 per month.

ESPN offers Monday Night Football, thousands of Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association, and NCAA football and basketball games – all for $3 per month. The NFL Network can say whatever they’d like (and yours truly happily purchases the NFL Network as part of Rogers (Canada) Cable’s digital sports package) but at the end of the day beyond the eight games, the NFL Network is no more than niche programming. At 70 cents a month, compared to the value ESPN offers sports fans the difference is astounding.

Goodell doesn’t believe it’s a matter of dollars and cents – Goodell doesn’t believe 70 cents a month is a stumbling block.

“First of all, let me remind you that we have a deal with Comcast. This was carried on Comcast last year and they paid that rate and they didn't pass it onto their consumers, at least directly. And when they took it off earlier this year against our wishes, I don't recall and I don't believe that they gave a refund to those customers. In fact, they just put through a price increase in the last several weeks that was significant; it was over $50 or $60 a year.

“I don't think we feel we're painted in any corner at all. I think what we're trying to do is get fair value for what we think is a tremendous channel 365 days a year. It's not just about eight games. We think the programming on a yearly basis is extraordinarily popular, and we do very well with it and our fans want to see it. We obviously want to make sure we get fair value for it, and we will negotiate for that. But we are willing to negotiate and we are willing to be flexible because we think it's important to our fans to get to the broadest possible audience.”

But as far as the NFL is concerned, none of that matters. Goodell believes the NFL continues to offer the cable carriers a viable, affordable product that deserves wider distribution.

“First off, the question on expanded basic -- we had backed off of that earlier this year, back in January, I believe. We're looking for digital basic distribution. We've heard the issue of sports tier. You're all familiar with it. We don't believe that the cable operators are committed to a viable sports tier product. We're not seeing it.

“What's on the sports tier besides the NFL product? On the sports tiers we're just not seeing the kind of distribution that they have indicated there would be for this. They put all of their own sports channels on expanded basic or digital basic. They have put other sports, including Major League Baseball, on digital basic. So we're not seeing that they're committed to a real sports tier.

“We believe that they're just putting us on the sports tier either to charge their fans more money or our fans more money by wanting to create a new tier that can generate new revenues, and we don't think that's right for our fans.

“As one example, Comcast last year had us on a digital tier where we were in roughly 8 million homes, which I think will be closer to the million this year. They took us off and against our best wishes to put us on a sports tier that's less than a million, and that was very troubling to us. And now to get that back as a fan you are required to pay at least $5, probably closer to $8 on a monthly basis, to get the NFL Network, and we think that's wrong for our fans. We don't see that commitment to sports tiers on behalf of the cable operators that would be viable for us to get the broadest possible audience, which is what our objective is.”

One of the major battles continues to be fought over the rights to broadcast NFL Sunday Ticket, the leagues out of market broadcast package. In the most recent NFL broadcast agreements that began in 2006, DirecTV pays $700 million annually to carry NFL games. That's comparable to the $712.5 million that Fox pays annually, and more than CBS' $622.5 million annual fee, in order for each network to put games on free TV. DirecTV has the right to offer all of the Sunday afternoon NFL games. The NFL’s two other major broadcast agreements, NBC’s Sunday night $600 million annual package and ESPN’s $1.1 billion Monday Night series do not involve DirecTV’s Sunday ticket since those games are broadcast nationally as single broadcast.

According to a September 2007 CNNmoney report, if DirecTV winds up with as many as 3 million subscribers for NFL Sunday Ticket, that could wind up yielding more than $800 million in revenue. DirecTV charges subscribers $249 for the rights to Sunday Ticket.

According to CNNmoney’s Paul R. La Monica Qaisar Hasan, an analyst with Buckingham Research estimated that DirecTV had about 2 million subscribers for its NFL Sunday Ticket product in 2006 and that total sales from the offering came in at about $550 million. To put that in perspective, DirecTV finished last year with about 16 million subscribers and $13.7 billion in revenues.

And Haisan told CNNmoney that NFL Sunday Ticket he believes is a healthy, growing business for DirecTV. He estimated that the company generated $380 million in sales from its NFL package in 2004 and $430 million in sales in 2005. And this year, he is predicting a 13 percent increase in sales from 2006, to $620 million.

Each NFL teams receives approximately $106 million each year from the NFL broadcast agreements that collectively generate $3.75 billion for the league’s 32 franchises. DirecTV’s $700 million contribution is an important piece of the puzzle. And as the numbers suggest it’s a win for the NFL (the $700 million) and a win for DirecTV (just look at the numbers in this Insider Report). The cable carriers might be much more amenable to carrying the NFL Network on their basic tier if they had a bite of the NFL Sunday Ticket apple, but according to Goodell that isn’t about to happen anytime in the near future.

“They've expressed interest in the Sunday Ticket package, and we are aware of that. We've had discussions with them. We've had negotiations with them, and we haven't been able to reach a conclusion that makes sense for either party. So do I think that they continue to have an interest in that? I'd say yes on one level, but on another level they tell us that all of the football fans that actually want Sunday Ticket have already got a satellite, and we don't accept that either. So I'm not sure they express interest in having it but on the other hand they say there are not a lot of customers that still want it out there, and we don't agree with that.

“Our big focus that you should be aware of is we want to make sure we maintain a quality free television product. We need to have all our games on free television in the home market, and free television is very important to us as we continue to grow our game and bring more football to more fans.”

Keeping on message – Goodell continues to paint the NFL as the defender of the American consumer against the big bad cable operators, denying sports fans their right to watch the eight (seven left after last nights game) games on the NFL Network.

“You're aware of the fact that the FCC is focusing on the position of cable in today's media world. Is it becoming too dominant? That's something they're looking at on a broad level. Many of the issues don't affect us. There is an FCC mechanism that's been used before in the case of regional sports networks, and we think that it potentially could be helpful to us in our situation as well as some other independent programmers like Hallmark that are trying to get distribution at a reasonable rate, and we have engaged with them and we would be willing to do that.

“We think that that type of a structure and the history shows that there's usually a settlement of the issues rather than actually going through that process because both sides reevaluate their position and come to an agreement. So we would welcome that. We are looking for any process that would help us reach a resolution as quickly as possible on terms that both sides can be comfortable with.”

Try as they may, what the NFL Network really needs are marquee match-ups. Next Thursday night the Lords of the Pigskin will have that opportunity. Next Thursday night on November 29th, the Green Bay Packers will travel to Dallas to meet the Cowboys. With both teams winning yesterday the two top teams in the NFC both with 10-1 records will face each other in a potential NFC Championship game preview. The game has tremendous playoff, home field and Super Bowl XLII implications. Similar to the last live NFL game the NFL Network will broadcast a month later on December 29 (New England at the New York Giants) in a game that will have NFL fans salivating.

NFL fans couldn’t care less about the War of the NFL Network and the Cable Operators, all they’re going to care about next Thursday night is watching the two 10-1 NFL teams, two marquee sports franchises, two of the biggest brand names in the sports industry facing each other in a must-see TV game.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited and used in this Insider Report: The New York Times, USA Today and CNNmoney

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Barry Lamar Bonds – should he go to jail?

Monday was an interesting day in the life and times of Michael Vick. The former quarterback of the Atlanta Falcons spent Monday evening at Northern Neck Regional Jail just outside of Richmond Virginia, and began the sentence he’ll receive on December 10 after pleading guilty to dog fighting conspiracy charges last month. Vick’s rationale was simple – whatever days he spends in jail before his December 10 sentencing will count towards the numbers of days he’s sentenced to. Michael Vick wants to play football again, he wants to pay his ‘debt to society’ and get back to the life he lived. It remains to be seen if Michael Vick will be given that second chance and have an opportunity to start his life over again. The Michael Vick story will reach its conclusion in the coming months, certainly the next – what happens next in the Barry Lamar Bonds saga is an entirely different story.

Thursday evening Bonds was indicated on charges he had lied before a Federal Grand Jury in December 2003. He hadn’t lied once; he had lied 19 different times. The question is can you send someone to jail for lying? The simple answer is yes, the practical answer is far more complex.

"There is not a minute that goes by that some federal agent or federal prosecutor or law enforcement figure somewhere is not being lied to by someone," said Jean Rosenbluth, a former federal prosecutor in Los Angeles who teaches law at the University of Southern California in an Associated Press report

"What the government tends to do is not prosecute perjury unless it's a high-profile case," Rosenbluth said. "You can send the message out worldwide saying, 'Do not lie to us.' Barry Bonds is a perfect example."

"This is the latest in a long litany of America's near-obsession with the troublesome black athlete. Whether it's Terrell Owens, Michael Vick or now Barry Bonds, black athletes who don't toe the line are going to be held accountable," said Steven Millner, chairman of the African American Studies Department at San Jose State University.

It remains to be seen what tact Barry Bonds’ lawyers will take, but ESPN legal expert Lester Munson doesn’t expect Barry Bonds to do what Michael Vick did-- plead guilty. The well respected Munson fully expects Barry Bonds to have his day in court.

“He has been defiant in the face of a massive investigation. His answers to questions asked before the grand jury show an attitude of righteous indignation. He has enormous wealth and is able to battle federal prosecutors, the FBI and the IRS. Expect him to fight the charges to the end and hope for favorable treatment from jurors in San Francisco, where he remains a hero for many.”

Barry’s days as a hero might have come and gone, but it does appear Bonds’ legal team is getting ready to fight the battle along the lines Barry expects them to, an in-your-face defense, full pedal to the medal.
"Barry got up on the stand and did his best to answer questions and to answer them truthfully," Bonds' lawyer, Michael Rains told The San Jose Mercury News. "He told them like it is."

"Everybody has an opinion about Barry. A lot of people love and respect him and a lot of people dislike him. He understands that," Rains told The San Jose Mercury. "Whether you like him or dislike him, the way the federal government has proceeded in this case is going to be a very, very sad commentary on the enormous power of the government to ruin people's lives and to scar their reputation for no good reason."

The trail of Grand Juries that failed to indict Barry Bonds has been well documented. All told, according to an ESPN report the Federal Government has already spent $6 million to prosecute Barry Bonds. That’s $6 million and the trial has yet to begin. It’s conceivable that by the time Barry Bonds trial ends, the cost to American taxpayers could exceed $10 million. Does it make sense to make an example of Barry Bonds by spending $10 million to prove if he lied 19 times during a December 2003 Grand Jury hearing into BALCO?

Lets be clear about this point, it wasn’t illegal to use steroids in the United States of America until 2004 (it was illegal to sell them). And Major League Baseball didn’t have a comprehensive testing policy that dealt with performance-enhancing drugs until 2004. Barry didn’t break any laws if he used steroids before the 2004 baseball season. As for rules of baseball, the allegations Bonds is facing if proven true would certainly paint Barry Bonds as being unethical, but again he broke the rules of baseball that didn’t exist at the time. Those rules exist today, but they weren’t in place when Bonds is alleged to have used steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs.

And putting an asterisk beside Bonds’ name in baseball’s record book, let’s stick one beside Babe Ruth at the same time. He played in an era when African-Americans weren’t allowed to play Major League Baseball.

And is Barry Bonds the first athlete to face federal charges, is he the first to allegedly have stepped astray of the law during his athletic career. Gander this “partial” list from ESPN. How many episodes could the writers of Law and Order create from this list of sports ‘luminaries’?

Marion Jones: The three-time Olympic gold-medal winner pleaded guilty in October 2007 to lying to federal investigators in 2003 when she denied using banned drugs. She also pleaded guilty to a second count of lying to investigators about her association with a check-fraud scheme. She announced her retirement, and returned five medals she had won in the Sydney Games. She is scheduled to be sentenced in January.

Tim Donaghy: Former NBA referee admitted to gambling on games he officiated. He pleaded guilty to felonies -- conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to transmit gambling information across state lines -- for taking cash payoffs from gamblers and betting on games he officiated. He has been free on $250,000 bond and is scheduled to be sentenced in January.

Sean Jones: Former NFL defensive lineman was indicted June 14, 2007, and pleaded not guilty to bank fraud charges alleging he and four others ran a scheme to pocket portions of more than $42 million in mortgage loans. The trial date is Aug. 6.

Michael Sherrod Hall: Samford University football player was arrested in June on federal bank robbery charges for allegedly holding up a bank in Hoover, Ala.

Gustavo "Gus" Dominguez: Former sports agent was indicted Oct. 31, 2006, on charges of conspiring to smuggle prospective major league baseball players from Cuba into the U.S. for profit. He was convicted in April 2007 and sentenced to five years in prison.

Henry James: Former NBA player was charged in September 2006 and sentenced in May to five years in federal prison after pleading guilty to distributing a controlled substance.

Lonny Baxter: Former NBA player was arrested by Secret Service agents in August 2006 after shots were fired from a vehicle about two blocks from the White House. He served a two-month jail sentence.

Steve Riddick: Former Olympic sprinter and coach was indicted in 2006 and awaits sentencing after being convicted in U.S. District Court in Manhattan of conspiracy, bank fraud and money laundering in a scheme with others to steal money from banks by cashing counterfeit checks.

Tim Montgomery: Olympic gold medalist, who is coached by Riddick, was indicted in April 2006 and pleaded guilty in the conspiracy to cash $5 million in counterfeit checks. Montgomery is to be sentenced Dec. 12.

Pete Rose Jr.: Baseball player and son of Pete Rose was indicted in November 2005 and pleaded guilty to distributing GBL, sold under the counter at retailers as a sports performance enhancer as well as a sedative. Rose Jr. served a month in federal prison.

Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd: Indicted in November 2005 for threatening a former girlfriend and her son. The charges were later dismissed.

Jamal Lewis: NFL running back was indicted in February 2004 and faced a possible 10-year sentence if convicted of cocaine conspiracy charges. He served four months after pleading guilty to a lesser charge of using a phone to make a drug deal. He was suspended for two games, and was out of prison in time to play 15 games for the Baltimore Ravens in 2005.

Bam Morris: Former NFL running back pleaded guilty in August 2000 to two federal marijuana distribution charges. Morris, the leading rusher in Super Bowl XXX for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1997, served 30 months in federal prison.

Tony Martin: Former Miami Dolphins wide receiver was indicted on five counts in 1999 related to laundering drug money. He was found not guilty.

Eddie DeBartolo: Former San Francisco 49ers owner was indicted in a federal corruption case against former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards and pleaded guilty to a lesser charge in 1998 in return for his testimony against Edwards. DeBartolo was fined and had to surrender control of the team to his sister in 2000.

Don King: Boxing promoter who, in 1998, was acquitted by a federal jury of nine counts of wire fraud, the second time he was tried on charges of attempting to defraud Lloyd's of London insurance syndicate out of $350,000 following cancellation of a boxing match involving Julio Cesar Chavez.

Northwestern University student-athletes (football and basketball players): Indicted in 1998 for point-shaving during 1994 and 1995. Eleven people, including eight student-athletes, were charged and convicted.

Darryl Henley: Former Los Angeles Rams cornerback was indicted in 1993 and convicted in 1995 of drug trafficking. He is in federal prison in Marion, Ill.

Sammy Smith: Former Miami Dolphins and Denver Broncos running back was indicted in 1995. Smith pleaded guilty in 1996 to two charges of possession and distribution of cocaine. He was sentenced to seven years.

Mike Danton: Former pro hockey player pleaded guilty in July 2004 to attempting to hire a hit man to kill his agent, David Frost. Danton was sentenced to 7½ years.

Eric Moore and Mark Duckens: Former New York Giants offensive lineman and Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end were both hit with charges of possession of anabolic steroids and conspiracy to distribute in 1992. Moore pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges, drew three years of probation, served a four-game suspension and played out the 1993 season with the Giants. Duckens' career ended after the Bucs released him following a plea to lesser charges.

Pete Rose: Major League Baseball's all-time hits king served time in a federal prison camp in 1990 after pleading guilty to charges of filing false income tax returns.

Mike Bell: Former Kansas City Chiefs defensive end was indicted in 1985 and convicted in 1986 on two counts of using a telephone to arrange a cocaine sale. He served a four-month sentence.

Pittsburgh drug trials: Several Pittsburgh Pirates -- Dale Berra, Lee Lacy, Lee Mazzilli, John Milner, Dave Parker and Rod Scurry -- and other major league baseball players, including Willie Aikens, Vida Blue, Enos Cabell, Keith Hernandez, Jeffrey Leonard, Tim Raines and Lonnie Smith, were granted immunity to testify in a federal drug case in 1985. Commissioner Peter Ueberroth suspended some players; others were required to perform community service.

Willie Wilson, Willie Aikens, Vida Blue and Jerry Martin: Former Kansas City Royals players pleaded guilty in 1983 to federal misdemeanor drug charges for attempting to buy cocaine, and served 81 days in prison. Aikens since has been convicted of additional drug-related charges and remains in federal prison in Atlanta.

New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner: Steinbrenner was indicted for making illegal campaign contributions to Richard Nixon's re-election campaign in 1974, was found guilty, fined and suspended for two years. President Ronald Reagan pardoned him in January 1989.

BALCO-related figures

Victor Conte: The founder of BALCO served four months after pleading to one count of conspiracy to distribute steroids and a second count of laundering a portion of a check.

Patrick Arnold: Chemist who created designer steroids that were at the heart of the BALCO scandal served three months in federal prison.

Troy Ellerman: Lawyer, who at one point represented Victor Conte in the BALCO scandal, was sentenced to 2½ years in prison for leaking secret grand jury testimony to San Francisco Chronicle reporters.

Remi Korchemny: Track coach ensnarled in the BALCO scandal received probation after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor.

Trevor Graham: Rival track coach and whistle-blower in the BALCO scandal has been indicted for lying to federal agents. His trial had been scheduled to begin Nov. 26, but earlier this week a judge granted a request by two of his defense lawyers to be removed from his case. That development is expected to delay the start of his trial.

Tammy Thomas: Former elite cyclist pleaded not guilty to lying to a federal grand jury investigating the BALCO scandal.

Greg Anderson: Former trainer to baseball star Barry Bonds, Anderson served a four-month sentence for his role in the BALCO scandal. Anderson had been jailed since August for contempt of court for failure to cooperate in the federal government's perjury case against Bonds. On Thursday, a federal judge ordered his release from prison.

The media loves pointing out that Barry could face as many has 30 years in jail. ESPN’s Munson cleared up that misconception.

“Bonds has a clean record. His only problems in court have been divorces. If he is convicted of all of the charges, he would face a year or two in federal prison. The law provides for a sentence of as long as 30 years, but it will never happen. The federal guidelines and the record of past sentences indicate only a year or two of incarceration.”

Barry Bonds is society’s true anti-hero. He’s everything Cal Ripken never was. It’s so easy to not like Barry Bonds; you can almost count on court of public opinion counting down the days until Barry is behind bars. But before anyone gets too excited, just consider what other athletes have done and how much money has been spent on proving what everyone has long known about Barry Bonds – he is a bad person, who may have lied. Is Barry Bonds even worth our time anymore?

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited and used in this Insider Report: ESPN and the San Jose Mercury News

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Barry Lamar Bonds – Liar, Liar Pants on fire

The American judicial system has been built around the premise that everyone is innocent until they are proven guilty. Barry Bonds will have his day in court, but regardless in the court of public opinion Barry Bonds has long been guilty. Barry Bonds and his team of highly priced and paid for lawyers may yet find a way to prove the alleged 19 lies the Federal Grand Jury believes Barry made before a Grand Jury in 2003 never took place, but of this there is no doubt – Barry Bonds has brought shame to Major League Baseball with his boorish behavior throughout is MLB career.

His achievements as an athlete aside – Barry Bonds has earned $187 million in his 21 year MLB career, an astounding amount of money, and with that much money came a sense of responsibility, a sense its clear Barry Bonds never had.

Throughout his MLB career Barry Bonds has had at best had a fractured relationship with the media. The story that will unfold in the coming weeks and months relating to Barry Bonds will provide the media with all the ammunition they’ve ever needed to bury whatever remains of Barry Bonds reputation. The sad truth – Barry could care less.

That aside, the issue that needs to be considered – should athletes be held accountable, should professional athletes be held to a higher standard than we do others in society? The short answer – absolutely. If you are a professional athlete and you’ve been paid $187 million to play baseball (regardless of how great an athlete you are) you need to be held to a higher standard. If you don’t want to be held to that higher standard than find another career path.

As has so often been the case throughout his professional baseball career Barry Bonds has been his own worst enemy. The federal indictment is just the latest in litany of Bonds related stories that clearly demonstrate how Bonds thinks about his place in the world.

This remains one of the classic Bonds as a bad guy stories of all time. In June 2005 excerpts of former Chicago White Sox Ron Kittle’s book were leaked. The passage that found its way to various media outlets focused on an encounter Kittle had with Barry Bonds, an alleged tale that painted Bonds in the worst possible light.

The Bonds incident involved Ron Kittle and a meeting Kittle didn’t enjoy with Bonds at Chicago’s Wrigley Field in 1993. Kittle hoped to auction a signed Barry Bonds jersey at a golf event, with the proceeds being given to a children’s charity. Kittle has written a book, “Ron Kittle's Tales from the White Sox Dugout” and included Bonds reaction to being asked to autograph a jersey which would benefit needy children.

"I paid about $110 of my own money for them, so they could be auctioned off at the golf outing. I did that all the time for stars like Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Derek Jeter and Roger Clemens. When I tell them how their autographs help the cause, every player gladly signs — with one exception.

I walked up to Bonds at his locker in the Wrigley Field visitors' clubhouse, introduced myself and said, "Barry, if you sign these, they'll bring in a lot of money for kids who need help."

Bonds stood up, looked me in the eye and said, "I don't sign for white people." If lightning hits me today, I will swear those were his exact words. Matt Williams and other Giants were in the room and they heard what Bonds said.

I stood there for a minute, and the veins in my neck were popping. I've only been that mad a few times in my life. I was going to beat the (heck) out of him, really kick his (butt), but Williams saw what was happening, so he came over and got between us. Matt said, "Ron, that's just the way he is."

I said, "White guys aren't the only ones who get cancer," but Bonds had turned his back on me and walked out of the clubhouse. Somebody must have run in and alerted Dusty Baker, who was the manager of the Giants then.”

Bonds, initially choose to ignore Kittle’s accusations. Bonds spoke with MLB.com’s Rich Draper and fired these words of wisdom in Kittle’s direction.

"Who is Kittle? How long did he play? He played in our league?" asked an incredulous Bonds. "So what did he say? Ha! Do you guys truly believe that? Do you guys truly believe it?"

Bonds says "it's common sense" in denying Kittle's claims.

"Out of fairness to me -- do you guys know my life history a little bit? So why don't you write it's a bunch of [garbage] -- why don't you write that? One, you insult my children, who are half-white; I was married to a woman who was white, so let's get real.

"And I don't even know the guy. And tell him he's an idiot. Tell him that. Somebody said he wanted a piece of me; tell him I'm at 24 Willie Mays -- what's this street called? -- Plaza, and he can come meet me any time he wants to. With pleasure."

Takings Bonds comments at face value, clearly the man has issues with what Ron Kittle is accusing him of doing. Everyone has the right to be upset when they are accused of making terrible comments and in Kittle’s case while he doesn’t come right out and call Bonds a racist the implications are clear – by refusing to sign the Barry Bonds baseball jersey because , "I don't sign for white people.", if true Bonds is indeed a racist.

Instead of attempting to set the record straight (in Bonds mind he may indeed have done that), Bonds called Kittle an ‘idiot’ a term Johnny Damon and members of the 2004 Boston Red Sox may have found endearing but most others do not. Barry also offered this assessment of Kittle’s Major League career "Who is Kittle? How long did he play? He played in our league?" Just a silly inane comment from a bitter Barry Bonds.

All Barry Bonds managed to accomplish with his rude and boorish behavior was to further damage whatever was left of his terrible image. Great people rise above bad things that are said about them and move forward. Great people are never afraid to admit they have made a mistake and move forward. Great people set examples as to the type of people they are and move forward. Barry Bonds didn’t do any of those things in reacting to Kittle’s story; all he managed to do was bring credibility to what Kittle said about him and further embarrass himself and MLB.

As for Kittle, he offered these comments to the Associated Press at the time: "It's the truth. I don't lie," Kittle told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday. "I tell it as it is. It's unfortunate it happened. And I didn't bring it up to sell the books."
Incidents and similar experiences others have had with Barry Bonds fuel how the media (and therefore the public feel about Barry Bonds). It’s impossible to speculate why Barry Bonds acts the way he does, but that hasn’t stopped some from trying.

Former Sports Illustrated writer Jeff Pearlman who former Major League pitcher John Rocker once called a "liberal Jew with an agenda", wrote the best selling book Love Me, Hate Me: Barry Bonds and the Making of an Antihero in 2006 (published three weeks after Game of Shadows was released) offered the definitive look at Bonds personality when he spoke to 524 people about Barry Bonds.

Pearlman spoke with the publishers of Deadspin.com shortly after his Bonds book was released sharing a number of thoughts on Barry Lamar Bonds.

“Bonds is normal in that he's very kind to children around the clubhouse, he likes TV and, uhm, yeah. But there's an important point to be made here, and I can't underestimate it: A lot of this is not his fault.

“What else should we expect from a kid whose father raised his son to win at all costs; who was never taught the value of money or hard work and never learned about treating people with dignity? From a very early age, Barry that that athletic brilliance is a ticket to the easy life, and that if you are blessed with great physical skills, you will be worshipped and admired without fail. He saw that with his dad, with Willie Mays, with the other guys in the Giants clubhouse in the late 1960s and early 70s. In short, he was groomed to be the man he is.” Pearlman told Deadspin.

Many of the issues concerning Barry Bonds go back to the many challenges Bobby Bonds faced in his life. Pearlman made one issue clear to Deadspin – Barry is a better father than Bobby ever was.

“Unquestionably. Barry tries with his kids--he genuinely tries. He showers them with a lot of love and attention. On the other hand, he can also be very condescending to his kids, and his judgment is often, uhm, questionable. For example, last spring when he begged cameramen to include his son Nikolai in the frame during a tirade against the media. The poor kid looked like he wanted to be anywhere but there. But we all have lapses, I suppose.”

But should we hold professional athletes accountable when and if they lie?

"There is not a minute that goes by that some federal agent or federal prosecutor or law enforcement figure somewhere is not being lied to by someone," said Jean Rosenbluth, a former federal prosecutor in Los Angeles who teaches law at the University of Southern California in an Associated Press report

"What the government tends to do is not prosecute perjury unless it's a high-profile case," Rosenbluth said. "You can send the message out worldwide saying, 'Do not lie to us.' Barry Bonds is a perfect example."

"This is the latest in a long litany of America's near-obsession with the troublesome black athlete. Whether it's Terrell Owens, Michael Vick or now Barry Bonds, black athletes who don't toe the line are going to be held accountable," said Steven Millner, chairman of the African American Studies Department at San Jose State University.

Richard Lapchick, director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida, told The Associated Press that regardless of whether racial bias made Bonds subject to disparate treatment, it remains an important issue for professional sports and society because the perception is there.

"If you are a kid trying to decide what sport to play and look at Major League Baseball, and then see the person who is arguably the greatest player of his generation not being a favorite of the media even before the steroids story became as pronounced, you are going to be less likely to choose baseball," Lapchick said in an AP report.

"We live in a culture where the biggest sin seems to be getting caught lying or cheating, and this would be a federal entity saying that Barry Bonds did both," Lapchick, a sports ethicist at the University of Central Florida added in a Washington Post report. “We're talking about, arguably, the greatest player of his generation now being subject to this federal indictment. Though it's been expected by a lot of people, it says something about not only Barry Bonds, but about the failure of baseball for so long to monitor the situation that it became acceptable among players to take these kinds of steps."

In the coming days, weeks and months the Barry Bonds story will be the most debated issue not only in the sports world but among the nation’s news pages as well. There are many different issues concerning Bonds indictment that will be well worth looking in the near future, but at but at least today, in the pages of Sports Business News its this issue –should Barry Bonds who earned $187 million he be held culpable for his actions on and off the field. This isn’t about whether Barry Bonds perverted the rules of baseball for his own self gain, but rather the moral standard he (or didn’t) set as a man. Sorry Barry, you wanted it, you earned it now you’ll have to pay the price.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited and used in this Insider Report: Deadspin.com, the Associated Press and The Washington Post

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