The WNBA ended its season on Friday with Phoenix completing a 3-game sweep over Chicago to claim the title. All well & good, but the stigma remains that the WNBA is a short-season spring-summer league that serves as a buffer for ESPN while the NBA is on summer vacation. The season starts during the NBA playoffs, you see. That needs to change. The NBA season starts in late October-early November, and stretches all the way into June as the league and its media partners (ESPN/ABC, TNT) milk the playoffs more than the regular season. In an era where women's sports have gotten attention (i.e. soccer, basketball), almost as much as the men, the feeling is that more folks will respect the WNBA more if it's allowed to stand on its own without the stigma of being the NBA's "kid sister", if you will.
In all sports, we have to remember that game officials are human and fallible, just like the athletes. Unfortunately, that fallibility strikes at the most inopportune times.
Take for example what happened in Milwaukee on Thursday. You know how Miami slugger Giancarlo Stanton was drilled in the face by Milwaukee pitcher Mike Fiers and had to be removed from the field on a stretcher. The sadder part is that plate umpire Jeff Kellogg ruled that Stanton, in attempting to swerve out of the way, swung at the pitch.
That ain't the end of it, though. Instead of being awarded 1st base, Stanton gets carted off, and Marlins skipper Mike Redmond has to send up a pinch-hitter to finish the at bat. Veteran outfielder Reed Johnson comes up, and Fiers hits him, too. Kellogg exacerbates things by calling Johnson out on strikes because, in the umpire's blurred vision, Johnson also swung to avoid getting hit. Redmond would eventually be ejected, but not for protesting the bogus calls. Instead, after a Marlins pitcher plunked Brewers star Carlos Gomez, said hurler and Redmond were sent packing. I haven't seen the full video of this folly, but I read enough to know that Kellogg didn't do his job correctly. Therefore, he gets the Dunce Cap Award this week.
But if you think that was bad, think again.
After the NFL extended Ray Rice's 2-game suspension for domestic assault to ad infinitum, the Baltimore Ravens cut ties with the Super Bowl hero, whose otherwise sterling reputation has been forever tarnished. What bothers me more is the amount of time between the night of the assault (February 15 in Atlantic City) and when TMZ, a gossip site founded by lawyer Harvey Levin, first released footage of the incident, in July. A 2nd, more detailed, video surfaced on Monday, and Rice was dismissed. He's lost endorsement deals as well as the respect of his teammates and the league. Commissioner Roger Goodell, on the other hand, is taking heat for his Keystone Kops approach to the entire case, and is hearing it from the media as well as the predictable activist groups, such as the National Organization for Women (NOW). Another group plans to rent planes and fly a message over selected NFL stadiums on Sunday, calling for Goodell to resign.
It gets worse. It's been reported that Minnesota Vikings star Adrian Peterson was accused of beating his 4 year old son with some old school discipline. Peterson took a tree branch, stripped off the leaves, making the branch a "switch", and proceeded to spank the child around the legs, and, reportedly, around the genital area. That approach might've worked when Peterson or any of us were kids, but not today in our hyper-sensitive society. Gary Myers, writing in today's New York Daily News, called for Goodell to throw the book at Peterson, too, treating this case the same as the Rice case in terms of punishment. The Vikings acted quickly, ruling Peterson inactive for tomorrow's game vs. New England. Peterson turned himself in to police overnight, and was quickly released.
The message sent? Our role models in sports cannot afford to let darker, baser natures overcome them off the field. Of course, it could get worse after they retire. They could end up like former Cincinnati star Ickey Woods, now shilling for GEICO.....
Mr. Woods, The Biggest Loser is calling.........