Sports

Sweetness And Light
3:09 am
Wed March 18, 2015

News From The Charity Stripe

Arizona State fans showcase their Curtain of Distraction during a game against UCLA on Feb. 18 in Tempe, Ariz.
Rick Scuteri AP

Originally published on Wed March 18, 2015 12:23 pm

It's the venerable custom in tennis and golf for the crowd to be still and quiet when players hit their shots.

Now, since even ordinary baseball batters have some success hitting against 98 mph fastballs with 40,000 fans standing and screaming, do you really believe that great athletes like Novak Djokovic or Rory McIlroy couldn't serve or putt with a few thousand fans hollering? If they'd grown up playing tennis or golf that way, that is. When disorder is a sustaining part of the game, players, in effect, put it out of their minds. Hear no evil, see no evil.

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Sweetness And Light
3:35 am
Wed March 11, 2015

Deford: NCAA Fans Continue To Drink Deeply Of The (Sports) Spirits

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, right, speaks with an official during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Duke in Durham, N.C., on Feb. 28
Gerry Broome AP

Originally published on Wed March 11, 2015 7:41 am

OK, after an eight-year investigation, the NCAA hit Syracuse University and its basketball coach, Jim Boeheim, with all sorts of penalties for academic and recruiting violations. Normally in sports media, nobody is particularly surprised whenever any coach is caught, so a great deal of speculation was then diverted to how this might affect Boeheim's "legacy."

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NH News
6:00 am
Thu March 5, 2015

UNH Law Panel Will Tackle Fair Play, Player Conduct Issues In Pro Sports

Credit <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/cc_chapman/4878972642/in/photostream/" target="blank">CC Chapman</a> via Flickr/Creative Commons

There’s been no shortage of controversies recently when it comes to questions of whether teams are playing by the rules, as well as the on- and off-the-field conduct of professional athletes.

But how do leagues respond when these situations arise?

A panel discussion Thursday night at the University of New Hampshire School of Law co-sponsored by Sports Illustrated will explore personal conduct and fair play policies in professional sports.

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Sweetness And Light
3:34 am
Wed March 4, 2015

Alex Rodriguez Is Back, For Better Or Worse

New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez watches from the dugout during an intrasquad game at a spring training baseball workout Monday in Tampa, Fla.
Lynne Sladky AP

Originally published on Wed March 4, 2015 5:27 pm

One of the very best old-time sports columnists was named Jimmy Cannon. He wrote after Hemingway, tough-guy style, and Jimmy had a lot of original devices, too. One was an occasional column he'd do in what I called the second person impersonal. For example, my favorite was about an aging hitting star when he was in a slump. Cannon began: "Your name is Stan Musial and all your bats are broken."

Now, that's how you start a column. And so, in honor of Jimmy Cannon: Your name is Alex Rodriguez, and nobody likes you.

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Sweetness And Light
4:11 am
Wed February 25, 2015

An Uneventful Week In Sports Could Still Go Down In History

Kurt Busch drives during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race in Fort Worth, Texas, on Nov. 2, 2014. Busch was recently suspended indefinitely amid domestic violence accusations.
Larry Papke AP

Originally published on Wed February 25, 2015 2:42 pm

Sometime in the future, when the Winter Olympics are being held in the tropics, in Zimbabwe, because there are no other dictators that want them and Robert Mugabe promised the International Olympic Committee he'd build an artificial ski mountain, historians will study what happened in sports during these last few days in February of 2015.

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Sweetness And Light
5:12 am
Wed February 18, 2015

John Calipari Gets The Best Out Of His One-And-Done Bench

Kentucky's Aaron Harrison and coach John Calipari watch from the sideline during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Mississippi on Jan. 6. Kentucky won 89-86 in overtime.
James Crisp AP

Originally published on Wed February 18, 2015 10:27 am

You may have your Bill Belichick and another Super Bowl, you may salute Mike Krzyzewski and his over 1,000 college basketball wins or you may even worship at the altar of Joe Maddon, who's the latest savior ballyhooed to lead the Cubs to heaven above. Forget them all. In the here and now, there is only one coach who stands tallest.

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Sweetness And Light
3:41 am
Wed February 11, 2015

'Gentleman And Coach' Dean Smith Did What He Believed In

UNC Tar Heels head basketball coach Dean Smith gives instructions during a 1997 playoff game against the Colorado Buffaloes. Smith died Saturday. He was 83.
Doug Pensinger Getty Images

Originally published on Wed February 11, 2015 8:54 am

When I was a callow basketball reporter, I wrote critically of a stall strategy called the four corners that North Carolina Tar Heels coach Dean Smith would have his team use if they were ahead late in a game. He asked me why I didn't like the ploy, and I told him that it was my experience (my experience: I'm like 25 years old) that "sitting on a lead" — that's the expression — changes the emotion, the passion, and while it may be rational, it's dangerous psychologically.

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Sweetness And Light
3:42 am
Wed February 4, 2015

Dear Aging Athletes: Say Hello To Goodbye

Tiger Woods on the ninth hole during the second round of the Phoenix Open last Friday, in Scottsdale, Ariz. Woods, who'll turn 40 this year, is making Frank Deford wonder: How does an athlete know when to retire?
Rick Scuteri AP

Originally published on Wed February 4, 2015 9:13 am

When Fred Astaire was 69, he gave up dancing, explaining: "At my age, I don't want to disappoint anyone, including myself." All great athletes should keep that quotation up on their bathroom mirror.

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Sweetness And Light
3:32 am
Wed January 28, 2015

The Tennis Court Offers A Good Lesson For The NFL

Rafael Nadal (right) shakes hands with Tim Smyczek after winning a match at the Australian Open on Jan. 21.
Rob Griffith AP

Originally published on Wed January 28, 2015 1:06 pm

More than half a century ago, there was a best-selling book — and then a movie — titled The Ugly American. The title was a twist, because the plot featured attractive Americans who were, however, boorish and haughty, acting most unattractively when they were sent abroad to represent the country at a time (post-World War II) when the United States had never been richer or more powerful.

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Sweetness And Light
2:58 am
Wed January 21, 2015

Frank Deford To The NBA: Who's On Worst?

The Atlanta Hawks' Mike Scott scores over the Detroit Pistons' Greg Monroe in a game Monday. The Hawks are currently leading the NBA's Eastern Conference.
Dave Tulis AP

Originally published on Wed January 21, 2015 8:58 am

Even with free agency, our professional leagues show a reliable sort of sameness from year to year. Oh sure, each season there are a few teams that surprise, but mostly, changes in the standings are evolutionary. That said, I don't believe I've ever seen a league that looks so cockeyed as the NBA is this year.

First of all, it's just plain weird to see the two historically glamorous franchises, the Celtics and Lakers, both down near the bottom of the standings, while up top are teams that previously were nondescript also-rans.

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Sweetness And Light
3:15 am
Wed January 14, 2015

Not So Wicked Smaht: Boston's Olympic Hopes

Boston is in the running to host the 2024 Olympics.
walknboston Flickr

Originally published on Wed January 14, 2015 9:04 am

Oh, poor Boston. Where is Paul Revere when we need him to alert the citizenry? The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is coming! The International Olympic Committee is coming!

Boston, lock up your municipal bonds and pension funds.

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Sweetness And Light
3:39 am
Wed January 7, 2015

Crowning The 33rd-Best Football Team In America

The Yale football team in an undated photo. Commentator Frank Deford finds it curious that a sport as brutal as football became popular among the academic elite.
AP

Originally published on Wed January 7, 2015 12:35 pm

So, we finally have our first official college football championship, and something like 50 million or so fans will be watching to see whether Oregon or Ohio State is the 33rd-best team in the country. This statement makes me, I admit, both perfectly accurate and infuriatingly facetious.

Certainly, no one would dispute that even the most miserable of the 32 NFL teams is far superior to any collegiate squad, but at the same time, a great segment of America will be deeply invested in watching what is, essentially, the equivalent of Triple-A baseball.

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Sweetness And Light
3:24 am
Wed December 31, 2014

Hockey's Doc Emrick And His 153 Verbs

Sports commentator Mike "Doc" Emrick waves to fans as he is presented with a jersey by the New Jersey Devils in 2012.
Bill Kostroun AP

Originally published on Wed December 31, 2014 12:06 pm

Even if you're a fairly enthusiastic sports fan — someone who can identify sportscasters Jim Nantz or Joe Buck by tenor and intonation alone — you may very well have never heard the name Doc Emrick.

Mike "Doc" Emrick is the world's premier announcer for what is America's fourth team sport: ice hockey. For those who know hockey, or those aficionados who listen to a few minutes of an NHL game just to hear Emrick talk about blue lines or poke checking, he is absolutely revered.

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Sweetness And Light
3:24 am
Wed December 24, 2014

Deford: It's Hard To Write A Christmas Story About Sport

A sculpture at Britannia stadium in the English city of Stoke-on-Trent commemorates the Christmas Truce, a legendary soccer game played between German and British troops in December 1914.
Rui Vieira AP

Originally published on Wed December 24, 2014 8:02 am

Several years ago, I wrote a sports Christmas story. It was about a greedy basketball superstar who, imbued with Yuletide cheer, helps save his small-market franchise.

A big-time producer wanted to make a TV movie out of it. So off I went to Hollywood to turn my story into a script and thereby, in keeping with the Christmas spirit, make a killing.

Let me tell you: It's hard to write a Christmas story about sport.

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Sweetness And Light
3:46 am
Wed December 17, 2014

What's A Sportsman Anyway?

San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner was named Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year.
David J. Phillip AP

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 11:29 am

Sports Illustrated named its sportsman of the year the other day, Madison Bumgarner of the San Francisco Giants, which reminded me once again that you only hear the word "sportsman" anymore about the time when Sports Illustrated names its Sportsman of the Year. The term seems so archaic that it would be as if Time magazine annually chose a Gentleman of the Year.

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Sweetness And Light
4:54 am
Wed December 10, 2014

Deford: What's Wrong With Pro Athletes Taking A Stand?

Members of the St. Louis Rams raise their arms to protest the grand jury decision in Ferguson, Mo., before a game last month. The players faced a backlash from St. Louis police and have been asked to apologize.
L.G. Patterson AP

Originally published on Wed December 10, 2014 6:23 am

A common complaint I've long heard was that current athletes were selfish and not politically involved like their passionate forebears –– players like Jim Brown, Billie Jean King, Bill Russell and Arthur Ashe.

My response was, "Well, how many of the modern athletes' peers are especially engaged in social controversy?" It wasn't fair to compare the sensibility of the athletes of, say, 1995 or 2005 to those of 1965; the apt comparison is with other members of their own cohort.

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Sweetness And Light
3:22 am
Wed December 3, 2014

Flag On The Play! Playoffs May Shift Focus From Football's Fumbles

Alabama defensive back Nick Perry (right) breaks up a pass on Auburn wide receiver D'haquille Williams (center) as Alabama defensive back Landon Collins looks on during the second half of the Iron Bowl NCAA college football game Saturday in Tuscaloosa. Alabama won 55-44.
Butch Dill AP

Originally published on Wed December 3, 2014 10:07 am

For years, the great brouhaha in college football was its lack of a real playoff. But at last we have one — the four qualifying teams to be announced Sunday.

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Sweetness And Light
4:15 am
Wed November 26, 2014

Be Thankful This Year For The San Antonio Spurs

San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan celebrates with his teammates after defeating the Miami Heat in game five of the NBA finals in June.
Ashley Landis EPA/Landov

Originally published on Wed November 26, 2014 8:53 am

Has there ever been a team in any sport in the United States that everybody loves as much as the San Antonio Spurs? Sure, there have been popular teams — the Yankees, the Dodgers, the Cowboys when they were America's team and not Jerry Jones' team, Notre Dame — but all those teams engendered almost as much hate as love.

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NH News
7:14 am
Mon November 24, 2014

UNH Football Heads Into Playoffs With Number One Seed

Credit Via UNH Wildcats website

The University of New Hampshire football team is heading into the playoffs as the number one seed.

UNH clinched the Colonial Athletic Association title this weekend, defeating the University of Maine on Saturday, 20-12.

The title, the school’s first since 1994, earned UNH an automatic bid into the NCAA Division 1 FCS Football Championship.

UNH was awarded the number one seed on Sunday, giving the team a first-round bye. UNH will host either Fordham or Sacred Heart at Cowell Stadium in Durham on Saturday, Dec. 6.

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Sweetness And Light
3:49 am
Wed November 19, 2014

Outside Of The Games, Are Sports Corrupt?

The executive committee of FIFA — the international organization that regulates soccer — was so suspected of taking bribes that FIFA ordered its own internal investigation. It's no surprise, says Frank Deford, that it found no wrongdoing.
Kirill Kudryavstev AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed November 19, 2014 9:03 am

We so regularly excuse the chicanery of sport. We fans suspect that our team is just as guilty as whatever ooze bubbles to the surface elsewhere, so let it go lest we be the next one caught. For us privileged to actually be down in the rabbit hole, the sins have been so present for so long, they simply become accepted as a benign part of the landscape. Hey, it's all just fun and games, so go along, be a — well, be a good sport.

Only, every now and then ...

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Sweetness And Light
3:50 am
Wed November 12, 2014

Chicago Or Cleveland: Whose Teams Had More Downs Than Ups?

Joe Tinker of the Chicago Cubs and Bill Bradley of the Cleveland Naps around 1910.
Library of Congress

Originally published on Wed November 12, 2014 8:09 am

For those of us in sports who like to wallow in extended misery, this has been one terrific time. The Chicago Cubs hired a popular new manager, reminding us again, interminably, that they have now gone 106 years without winning the championship, eating up 51 managers in the process.

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Sweetness And Light
3:32 am
Wed November 5, 2014

Americana: Hot Dogs, Apple Pie And Football?

Cleveland Browns inside linebacker Karlos Dansby celebrates during a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday in Cleveland. The Browns won 22-17.
David Richard AP

Originally published on Wed November 5, 2014 7:02 pm

Every election suggests change, so given all the scandals involving football, now's an appropriate time to envision what reforms might be forced upon the sport. Well, I'll tell you: It's tough to mess with football.

Now, to begin with, from hindsight, it was probably misleading to call baseball "the national pastime." The claim was, essentially, based almost entirely on the fact that baseball was the only team sport that boasted a professional presence. The World Series was our World Cup and the Olympics rolled into one.

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Sweetness And Light
5:00 am
Wed October 29, 2014

Start World Series Games Earlier; Let Us Sleep

Fans cheer during the 2014 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals at AT&T Park.
Rob Carr Getty Images

Originally published on Wed October 29, 2014 10:48 am

Let me ask you a question: No matter what the sport, if you could only see the start of a game or the finish of a game, which would you prefer? Of course, any fool would choose to see the finish of the game.

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Sweetness And Light
4:33 am
Wed October 22, 2014

College Football's Big Ten Conference? Try The Littler Ten

Brandon Wells of the Mississippi State Bulldogs takes the field before a game against the Ole Miss Rebels last year.
Stacy Revere Getty Images

Originally published on Wed October 22, 2014 10:24 am

Nothing in sport reflects the changing demographics of the country more than college football — most especially the decline of the Big Ten Conference and the ascendance of the Southeastern Conference.

Big Ten territory represents steel mills and coal mines, blue collars and black smoke, where America's pigskin heroes used to be weaned on frozen fields. But the SEC, in the growing Sun Belt, has completely taken over. Mississippi State is the No. 1 team in the country. Excuse me: Mississippi State? This is like Antiques Roadshow soaring to the top of television ratings.

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Sweetness And Light
3:39 am
Wed October 15, 2014

Nonprofit NFL Seeks Super Bowl Volunteers, Again

Super Bowl volunteer Ben Schreiber distributes fan guides for Super Bowl XLVI festivities in 2012.
Chad Ryan CSM/Landov

Originally published on Wed October 15, 2014 2:18 pm

That familiar old preface we so often hear — usually from long-winded people — is: "To make a long story short." I've noticed lately that that expression has become more common, but, to make a long story short, it's been shortened to just "long story short." I'll even bet it's gotten initialed in the text universe to LSS.

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Sweetness And Light
3:17 am
Wed October 8, 2014

Deford: A New Sports Talk Show By Women, But Will People Watch?

NFL sideline reporter Alex Flanagan (center) interviews Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick last year.
Mark Zaleski AP

Originally published on Wed October 8, 2014 12:22 pm

Probably the three biggest recent stories involving women in sports have been Mo'ne Davis, Michele Roberts and Becky Hammon.

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Sweetness And Light
4:58 am
Wed October 1, 2014

Goodbye To All That: Farewells In Sports

Rulon Gardner took off his shoes to symbolize his retirement after defeating Sajad Barzi, of Iran, during the men's Greco-Roman 120kg wrestling bronze medal bout at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.
Mark J. Terrill AP

Originally published on Wed October 1, 2014 8:04 am

No, no, I promise: This is not about Derek Jeter. May bats fly down my chimney and trolls enter my door if I inflict any more Derek Jeter farewell upon you. But, of course, I am a sentimental creature, and the player whose name dare not be spoken again did gush forth memories of other grand finales.

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Sweetness And Light
4:02 am
Wed September 24, 2014

What We Talk About When We Talk About Race And Sports

Florida State fans cheer Rashad Greene after a 74-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game against Clemson in Tallahassee, Fla., on Sept. 20. In college sports, African-American student athletes and white student audiences are the norm. Commentator Frank Deford asks why this dynamic does not make us more squeamish.
Mark Wallheiser AP

Originally published on Wed September 24, 2014 1:31 pm

There is no doubt that race, ever sensitive in sports, is most sensitive in basketball. Given the history, this is perfectly understandable, for when African-Americans began to appear on the court in larger numbers, there was resentment, even quotas.

To many whites, men of my vintage, men I knew, there was a sense that their game was being stolen. It was a very visceral racism.

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Sweetness And Light
4:19 am
Wed September 17, 2014

Is The NFL Too Big To Fail?

The NFL has had a lot of bad press lately. But it doesn't seem to have any impact on sponsors or fans.
AJ Mast AP

Originally published on Wed September 17, 2014 7:50 pm

There has been a crowded docket in our preeminent sport. Let's take just three cases. The defendants: the NFL, Roger Goodell and football itself.

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Sweetness And Light
3:25 am
Wed September 10, 2014

The National Anthem, And The National Pastime

The Star-Spangled Banner, played before every baseball game, has become so tied to the sport that an old joke asks, "What are the last two words of the national anthem?" and answers, "Play ball!"
Michael Dwyer AP

Originally published on Wed September 10, 2014 11:09 am

This Sunday, Sept. 14, marks the 200th anniversary of the writing of Francis Scott Key's poem, "The Defence of Fort McHenry" — better known today as "The Star-Spangled Banner."

And is any national anthem so identified with sports as ours?

The association is probably because the song is played before every baseball game, and baseball games are legion. It is even responsible for that oldest of sports jokes: "What are the last two words of the national anthem? Play ball!"

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