Column: MLB's Instant Replay Doesn't Please EveryoneNovember 3, 2016

Baseball may be the sport most rooted in its traditions. Therefore, it should surprise no one that MLB was the last major sport to adopt instant replay. And not surprisingly, not everyone believes the current system improves the game. Instant replay was first introduced in Major League Baseball in 2008. Initially, it was limited to reviewing home runs. But since an expanded version of instant replay was adopted in 2014, managers can ask umpires to review plays on the bases, trapped balls and virtually everything else with the exception of balls and strikes. Those who believe that the most important thing is to get every call right are even clamoring for “robot umps” behind the plate.

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Column: Players & Teams Rebel Against NFLOctober 27, 2016

Paradise may not be lost, but clearly all is not well at NFL central command. The league is facing a rebellion from within as both players and teams are pushing back against what they view as unnecessary meddling and interference from administrators drunk with power. Commissioner Roger Goodell and his minions have never been shy about exercising their authority over players, on and off the field. But this year it has instructed referees to go beyond the limits of sensibility to petty and oppressive levels by flagging players for celebratory gestures. According to ESPN, penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct were up by 56 per cent through the first month of the season and much of the increase was due to excessive celebrations.

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Column: Mascots Are Getting a Hall Of FameOctober 20, 2016

For most athletes the defining moment of their career is when they are inducted into their sport’s hall of fame. But until now, “furry” athletes, the mascots who entertain fans at virtually every sporting event, haven’t had that opportunity. That is about to change. On October 21 a groundbreaking ceremony for a Mascot Hall of Fame will be held in Whiting, Indiana, a town of approximately 5,000 located 20 miles from downtown Chicago. The Hall, which will be located on the south shore of Lake Michigan, is expected to open late next year and according to Executive Director Al Spajer is projected to attract at least 100,000 visitors annually. Given the Hall’s location, the kid-friendly interactive design of the building, and the impact mascots have had on the American psyche for the past four decades, that number may be conservative.

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Column: NFL Ratings Decline InconsequentialOctober 13, 2016

The September TV ratings are in and viewership of early season NFL games is down 10% from last year’s numbers. That much is clear. What isn’t as clear is the reason behind the falloff. Speculation abounds on the cause of the lower ratings. Among the alleged culprits are the National Anthem protests by players, overexposure of the product, lousy matchups, the loss of key players such as Peyton Manning (retired) and Tom Brady (serving a four-game suspension for his alleged role in Deflategate), declining interest in a sport that has been vilified for the toll it extracts on its players, the legal attacks on the fantasy sports industry, and alternative methods of consumption, e.g., streaming video.

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Column: Arnold PalmerOctober 6, 2016

When Arnold Palmer passed away last month at the age of 87 the world lost a one-of-a kind legend. In the 1960’s, when televised sports were in their infancy, Palmer single-handedly brought the country club sport of golf to the masses and the masses in turn were drawn to the sport. His charisma, swagger and Hollywood good looks, along with his go-for-broke playing style, made him universally attractive to men and women alike. He internationalized tournament play by annually crossing the pond to play in the British Open, drawing other top players with him. His repeated heroics at the Masters Tournament – which he won four times - put the exclusive Augusta National Golf Club on the map.

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Column: Preller Suspension InadequateSeptember 29, 2016

San Diego Padres general manager A.J. Preller can’t seem to distinguish between ethical and unethical behavior. It recently came to light that Preller instructed his medical staff to maintain two sets of records on Padres players, one that was submitted to Major League Baseball and made available to all clubs per MLB rules, and one that was used for internal purposes only. The clear intent was to deceive his fellow GMs and obtain an advantage over them in trades. After a number of teams complained that they were not receiving accurate medical information on Padres players, MLB initiated an investigation. After reviewing the facts, the League slapped Preller with a 30-day suspension without pay for failing to provide the Red Sox with complete medical records prior to the consummation of a trade in July.

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Column: Females Coaches in Major League SportsSeptember 22, 2016

The NFL season kicked off in the usual fashion, a number of close games, a few upsets, a touch of controversy, and a New England Patriots win, even without future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady. Tom Terrific was home with his supermodel wife, Gisele serving his Deflategate suspension. And in addition to a new Patriots quarterback, there were some other new faces along the sidelines and in the league office. At the end of last season, the Buffalo Bills hired the NFL’s first fulltime female coach, Kathryn Smith. Smith had worked for Bills’ coach Rex Ryan for seven years, first with the Jets and for the past two seasons in Buffalo, although not as a fulltime coach. At the end of the 2015 season, Ryan offered her the position of Quality Control-Special Teams.

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Column: US Soccer Releases Hope SoloSeptember 15, 2016

At what point is a superstar athlete more trouble than they’re worth? The treatment of Hope Solo, the former goalie for the U.S. national soccer team, may provide an answer. In case you haven’t been following Solo’s saga, here’s a quick primer. After her team’s shocking loss to Sweden in last month’s Rio Olympics, Solo went off on her opponents. She accused them of being a “bunch of cowards” for playing defensively and claimed that the best team didn’t win the match. If the goal of playing a sport is to win, on the former point Solo is dead wrong. Smart teams with good coaching use whatever legal and ethical tactics are appropriate given the circumstances. If playing a defensive game increases the chances of winning, and surviving, then it is sound strategy and every team should embrace it. Solo conceded as much in follow up comments.

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Column: The Many Facets of Colin Kaepernick's ProtestSeptember 8, 2016

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the national anthem as a form of protest against our country’s treatment of black people has sparked outrage, sprinkled with a small dose of support. In this view, neither is justified. In some circles, Kaepernick is being compared to Muhammad Ali, which is perhaps the greatest outrage in this entire controversy. The key difference – there are many others - between Kaepernick and Ali is the level of sacrifice each made by protesting injustice as they saw it in this country. In 2014, Kaepernick signed a 6-year, $114 million contract with the 49ers that included a $12 million signing bonus and $61 million in guaranteed salary. By engaging in a sit-down – now a kneel-down - protest, he forfeited none of his $73 million in guaranteed money.

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Column: What We Can Learn From The Ryan Lochte AffairSeptember 1, 2016

If you thought the Rio Olympic Games morphed into the Ryan Lochte saga, you can be forgiven. Lochte, a 12-time Olympic medalist in swimming - six gold, three silver and three bronze – created a firestorm that took on a life of its own, one that seemingly won’t die. By now, it’s hard to find an American who can’t recount the circumstances that gave rise to the controversy. Lochte and fellow Olympian Jimmy Feigen claimed they, along with U.S. swimmers Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger, were robbed at gunpoint on the night of August 14 during a night on the town in Rio. The perpetrators, according to Lochte, were Rio police.

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