Whew, after four days in Paradise (also known as the Virgin Islands) it's nice to be back. I don't think I've ever seen so much liquor in all my life. You walk into a trinket gift shop in St. Thomas and I guarantee you'll find ten shelves of cheap booze in the back. It's the only place I've ever seen a $9 bag of chips and a $5 bottle of rum. That is, when they weren't just giving the stuff away. Good rum at that, as the five bottles sitting in my room will attest.
Since so much has happened in the past week that bears discussing, I have decided to do as I've done a few times in the past, and do a comprehensive list which will also include some interesting tidbits I found outside the world of sports.
1. It doesn't surprise me in the least that the Atlanta Falcons have been caught protecting Michael Vick during some of his past transgressions. It's sad that it has to take a federal indictment for them to acknowledge that he might not be a part of their future. His attitude since his indictment shows that he still hasn't grown up, that he still expects to play the season under a cloud and that he feels like nothing can happen to him. He's in for a rude awakening, because the feds don't play.
Michael Vick is a selfish thug who does not deserve to be the face of a sport that, like the others, is in decline suffering from image problems. My gut feeling is that even if he is declared innocent, it will be more on technicalities than actual proof of innocence. That's how prostitutes masquerading as lawyers would defend a piece of trash like that. I say that because, as a dog lover (If you think about it, dogs are the least judgmental and most forgiving creatures on the face of the earth) the callousness of what's being alleged is appalling. I mean it's not bad enough that he's fighting dogs, but he has to hang, electrocute, drown, shoot and slam them too? Those are the signs of a man who has to be in complete control. The man is only 27 and believes himself to be invincible. But this is one pass rush he won't be able to outrun.
2. Why are the Texas Rangers talking about signing Eric Gagne to a contract extension? Is it to increase his trade value? I hope it is, because if Jon Daniels goes through with it, gives him $12 million a season and watches him go down again, that should cost him his job on the spot. Gagne has been lights out up to now, and his trade value will never be higher. Get the prospects for him, and then if you want him back bad enough, sign him again in the offseason.
As for other Rangers trade chips, Sammy Sosa and Kenny Lofton will only bring marginal prospects in return, but Joaquin Benoit has been on a hot streak and might command a premium prospect in return. The Rangers might be wise to deal him before they are faced with the decision on whether to pay him upwards of $4-5 million per season, which would be in ther best interests not to do. Finally, it seems the Braves and Angels may be putting packages together for Mark Teixeira. Let me just say that any Braves offer without Jarrod Saltalamacchia or any Angels offer without Brandon Wood should be summarily ignored.
3. The more I think about it, the more I like Jason Kendall as a Chicago Cub. He gives them an experienced All-Star catcher who could be with them for at least the next 2 years. Throughout his career, Kendall has been steady and consistent, and would appear to have at least an outside chance at Cooperstown provided he plays another 3-4 years at a high level.
4. Everyone quit hating on Tiger Woods. The man is entitled to a bad showing every now and then. He's still going to break Nicklaus' record before he turns 35, so just relax.
5. Now that he's won another improbable fight, Bernard Hopkins says he has another couple bouts left in him. Based on his last 2, it's hard to disagree with him. Could another title fight be in the offing, perhaps against Stipe Drews or Zsolt Erdei, or the long-discussed rematch with Roy Jones Jr.? Should the latter occur (Geezers at Caesar's, anyone?) and Jones wins, he would be the Ring Magazine light-heavyweight champion and could therefore retire at the top. Should be very tempting for him.
6. When I heard the NBA referee betting scandal, I wondered how David Stern was going to extract himself from this one. In a league where thuggery and style triumph over professionalism and substance, this is a hit that the NBA might never recover from. In some strange twisted sense, I hope it never does. Maybe that feeling comes from the fact that the sporting business abandoned the common fan years ago. One could even argue that march began with the Dodgers move from Brooklyn to L.A. So no, I am not sympathetic when it comes to the question of how a multi-billion dollar enterprise which emphasizes corporate sponsorships and employs corporate-controlled athletes picks itself up when it has no one to blame but itself.
7. I guess the Phoenix Suns are happy with their roster for the next 3 years. I know they need salary cap relief, but in two trades they managed to ship key reserve James Jones and their 1st rounder this year (Rudy Fernandez) to Portland for $3 million. Then they send Kurt Thomas and 2 1st rounders to Seattle for a conditional 2nd rounder and an $8 million trade exception that they probably won't use. All I can say is they must really be counting on Grant Hill this year, because once again this team will face depth questions. Only this time there won't be any young relief coming.
8. 753 down, 3 more to go. Not only a new home-run record, but the first record set by a walking bobblehead. Kind of makes you pray for the Apocalypse.
9. I will laugh out loud if the Yankees overtake the Red Sox again. I sometimes wonder if this is how Steinbrenner scripts it. I mean he hasn't lost a division title in years, and I wonder if this whole fall-behind early bit is just a scheme to create excitement until the next playoff collapse. We'll see.
10. I know this column's been heavy on baseball, but an already-thin list of elite pitchers was further reduced when it was announced that Chris Carpenter would be having Tommy John surgery. Let's all pray for a speedy recovery for one of the finest pitchers in baseball.
My Favorite Non-Sports Tidbits of the Week
1. Has anyone seen that joker in Florida who's claiming to be Jesus Christ reborn? You know, the one who's in the process of divorcing his second wife, has a gambling addiction and has somehow convinced his followers that he's God and entitled to a nice fat portion of all their stuff? As a devout Christian I am sickened by this charlatan's slander of the Savior I serve. The Bible says that in the last days no one will be able to say "here he is" or "there he is." I only hope he doesn't barricade his followers inside a building and pull another Koresh.
2. While taking a tour in St. Thomas, my wife and I passed a palatial house on our way to a timeshare presentation (the rewards for which included, among other things, two free bottles of rum) that we learned had been built by one Osama Bin Laden before September 11. Apparently, El Numero Uno Terroristo was going to live there, but after the attacks was barred for life from ever returning.
3. On the same trip I saw an old Danish fortress dating to the 17th Century that is apparently being turned into the island's fire station. As a history major, when I learned this the first thing I wanted to get my hands on was the neck of the idiot responsible for that little gem of a decision.
4. With the death of Tammy Faye Bakker Messner, I would like to bring one small item to light in the wake of a seemingly endless string of negative press involving Christian pastors. It's one thing to claim to be God like the guy in number 1. In that case, medical help is advisable. But it can't be stressed enough that pastors are first and foremost human, and are subject to the same trials and temptations that any of us encounter. That does not make them any less Christian or men of God. It just shows that even pastors (men like Jim Bakker, Ted Haggard, and others) need help from time to time. I think that one of the things the Church (and even non-Christians in the community) suffers from these days is the tendency to place these pastors on a pedestal, and when they stumble be quick to dismiss the whole message. As my pastor likes to say, don't pretend you ain't never been through nothing.
5. Count me among those rooting for Tyler Perry's House of Payne to have a long run on television. Imagine, a down-to-earth sitcom depicting real-life problems and emphasizing morals and tasteful wholesome entertainment. Can it be?