Category Archives: Sports

To fight or not to fight

To fight or not to fight…

Next Saturday on September 1st, 2012 the UFC had scheduled a main event featuring the Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones against Dan Henderson.  A few days ago it was revealed that Dan Henderson has suffered damage to his knee which would make it impossible for him to engage in a professional fight, so Henderson had to pull out.  It was also revealed that the same day, the UFC had contacted Chael Sonnen to replace Henderson on a short 8 days notice in an effort to keep the event intact.  The only problem was that the one thing happened that they didn’t expect, the one thing that had never happened before…a fighter, a champion turned down the fight.  Jon Jones turned down the opportunity to fight Chael Sonnen on 8 days notice.  Enraging Dana White and bringing on the ire on many a UFC fan and other fighters.

Now we have a majority of the Mixed Martial Arts world criticizing Jones for not taking a fighter, he is being called a golden boy, entitled, a bitch, and selfish.  People are blaming him for the event being cancelled, but I just don’t see how it is his fault.  The fact is in the UFC that only the top fighters get paid the big purses and many on the under card get crumbs.  The pay disparity in the UFC is very much like that in the United States overall, a few big earners at the top and a bunch on a lower rung making crumbs.  Now, Dana White, Chael Sonnen, and other fighters have criticized Jones by saying that he should have taken the fight to help promote the industry and by not doing so he is forcing them to cancel an entire event which in turn means that around 20 other fighters on the under card won’t get paid.

First of all, the UFC doesn’t need any help promoting or growing, anyone with half a brain knows that they are a billion dollar industry and are in no need for charity from their fighters.  Second, Jones not taking the fight doesn’t force them to cancel the entire event, that was a decision made by Dana White and the UFC brass, not by Jones.  Yes, it does severely hinder their opportunity to put a championship fight on the card, but I just don’t see how that is Jones’ problem.  And third, why is it Jones fault or problem to make sure other fighters get paid?  He didn’t cause Henderson’s knee to give out, nor did he cancel the event, those were things out of his control.  I just don’t see why it is his problem to make sure others get paid, it seems like making sure fighters get paid is the problem of the business, the UFC.  Dana White in the face of criticism has always maintained that he takes care of his fighters.  Well, here is his chance, he should pay the fighters on the under card that he cancelled and stop trying to pass the buck on to Jones who has no interest in any other fight except the one in which he is performing in.

Now, let further make my point by saying that I don’t have a problem with Jon Jones turning down a fight in which he is the only person carrying any risk.  Chael Sonnen would have you believe that Jones refused to fight him on 8 days notice because he is afraid of Sonnen and is running like a chicken.  This proposition is simply the obnoxious ramblings of a guy with nothing to lose.  The fact is that Jon Jones in almost all likelihood would destroy Chael Sonnen, and when they fight in the future and you better believe they will; don’t forget I told you so.  But, why is it that in this specific scenario where the fight must go on in 8 days notice, that Jones carries almost all the risk and would likely receive little reward for that risk.

Let me explain.  Jones is the UFC light heavyweight champion.  He has dominated his weight class for the better part of three years, he has beaten every contender except for Dan Henderson (whom he has yet to fight), which is the reason Henderson was slated to fight him on September 1st.  After Henderson there literally is no one left in the weight class that he hasn’t beaten, any other fight would be a rematch. This is the reason Dana White had to go out of the weight class to find him an opponent in Chael Sonnen.    In this situation Jon Jones did a simple cost benefit analysis to decide what would be the best thing for his career.  I’ll present the scenarios and you decide which is the most attractive…(none of them are entirely attractive, he kind of got a raw deal here).

First scenario, he takes the fight against Sonnen (who is moving up a weight class and taking the fight without any training time) and he beats Sonnen.  He keeps his UFC title, but no one really regards the fight very highly because Sonnen was just being a sport and took the fight on short notice and people speculate as to what would happen if Sonnen would have had full notice.

Second, he takes the fight against Sonnen and Sonnen wins.  Well that doesn’t look too good on Jones record, losing a fight to a guy who is moving up a weight class and fighting you on short notice. In fact it looks horrible.

Third, Jones decides not to fight on such short notice (the scenario he chose) and accepts the backlash from the UFC and the fans.  The cost benefit analysis is this, will he tarnish his reputation more by taking a fight and losing or not taking the fight right now and looking like a bitch.  I submit to you that the looking like a bitch will go away once he fights Sonnen and destroys him; the loss on his record stays there permanently.

Sonnen has absolutely nothing to lose in this situation.  He gets paid to fight Jones, if he loses he doesn’t suffer too much harm because he was just manning up and taking a short fight, and if he wins he gets a huge reputation boost by beating a guy on short notice while moving up a weight class.  Why wouldn’t Sonnen take this fight, it’s a no brainer for someone in his situation.  Especially when you consider that Sonnen just got his ass beat twice in a row by Anderson Silva, which means that it will be a long time before he gets a chance to fight for the title in his own weight class.  His best bet is to move up or down.

The UFC has also nothing to lose in this situation.  If Jones wins, they keep their golden boy who they have been promoting as such for two years and he fights Henderson in January.  If Jones loses then they have created a new rivalry in the light heavyweight class (they don’t currently have a rivalry there because Jones has destroyed everyone) and Jones and Sonnen fight again in December/ January and all parties make a bunch of money.

Looking at this situation, I don’t know what the right course of action is, maybe Jones should have taken the fight.  The way I see it he was in a potentially lose-lose situation while all other parties were in a win-win situation.  The UFC and Dana White would like you to believe that he has an obligation to take this fight, but I firmly submit to you that he does not.  Especially after watching the actions and listening to the words of Dana White over the past two days.  Why on Earth does Jones owe anything to the UFC?  This is the entity that promoted the hell out of him to make a bunch of money when they could control him and now that he makes a decision that they don’t like, one that is beneficial to him, they are blasting him with criticism.  Doesn’t sound too kosher to me.  So Jones will fight Vitor Belfort on the 22nd.  He will fight Henderson in December/January and all the while Sonnen will probably be running his mouth about Jones being afraid.  Ultimately building up to a big time show down next year between Jones and Sonnen, this will make Jones, Sonnen, and the UFC a lot of money.  So, for the time being Jones looks bad but that will pass and he will continue destroying opponents in short order.

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“The Curse of the…Terry Francona?”

It wasn’t long ago, 7 years  actually since the sports world really sympathized with and enjoyed the Boston Red Sox.  After 86 years with no World Series they had become one of baseball’s “loveable losers”.  Though they came close a few times over the years they hadn’t won the coveted prize since 1918.  Most fans in Boston both seriously and sarcastically pointed to “The Curse of the Bambino” as the reason for their team’s losing.  You see, in 1920 the owner of the Boston Red Sox actually sold Herman “The Babe” Ruth to the New York Yankees.  From the date of that sale in 1920 to 2004, the Red Sox didn’t win one World Series while the Yankees went on to win 26.  By the time 2004 rolled around, most people were able to sympathize with the Red Sox and their inability to come through.  The Yankees had spent most of the 90’s and early 2000’s buying every free-agent on their way to 4 World Series in 5 years drawing the ire of most sports fan not located in the 5 boroughs.  And while the rest of the sports world spent that time hating the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox spent that time losing to the Yankees.  For that reason I think most people would always side with the Red Sox and hoped they were the team who could upend the Yankees and make us all happy.  No doubt they drew our highest praise in 2004 when they erased a 3-0 deficit in the ALCS and went on to win the World Series and once and for all reversed the curse!

But something else happened that October in 2004, the Red Sox changed.  They were no longer the loveable losers from Boston, they had become something else.  It wasn’t apparent back then but sitting here in 2011 these last 7 years have shown us their true colors.  They aren’t the loveable losers anymore, they are something else, dare I say – annoying?  Just more than a week ago the Sox parted ways with manager Terry Francona.  Given the catastrophic meltdown of the team at the end of this season it was hard for anyone to wonder why he was fired.  Francona himself admitted in his farewell press conference that it was perhaps time to go because he felt that the players were not responding to him anymore.  With his firing, the Red Sox could put this season behind them and start anew in 2012.  But, as it turns out, his firing was only the beginning of the drama and chaos in Boston.  In the last two weeks we have seen the media and “team sources” going back and forth with allegations about the team, Francona, the players, and the general manager.  The team is saying Francona didn’t want to come back, he is saying they didn’t offer to pick up his option for 2012.  Many media outlets are reporting that the starting pitchers would drink beer, eat chicken, and play video games in the club house during their off days while the team was on the field.  Then you have “Big Papi” basically saying he wants out of Boston because he is tired of the drama.  Theo Epstein is on the first plane out of town to Chicago.  Jon Lester is calling all the local papers and stations to defend his team and his credibility.  In the midst of all this, the Red Sox, through these mysterious “team sources”  threw Terry Francona under the bus.  Only to have owner John Henry come out the next day and vehemently deny releasing the information.  Now ordinarily I couldn’t care less what is going on up in Boston, the way I see it, the more drama they have the better.  But, I took exception to what the Red Sox did to Francona and here is why;

The “team sources”, who apparently don’t include owner John Henry, or soon to be former GM Theo Epstein told various media outlets that Francona was fired because they felt his divorce  from his wife of 30 years was affecting his ability to manage the team and further, that they felt he was addicted to painkillers.  These two allegations, even if they were true, are a total violation on behalf of the Red Sox and are only further compacted by their cowardice to not even come out and say it openly but to release it through team sources.  The only thing I can say to John Henry and the rest of the Red Sox brass it next time, don’t be a douche-bag.

When Francona was questioned about the allegations he expressly denied that his divorce affected his ability to manage the team.  He said that he did move out of his home and into a hotel but that he spent more time at the ballpark with the team this year than he did in any of his eight years in Boston.  And I believe Francona on this one, it seems fairly obvious, no wife to go home to, hence, more time to spend at the ballpark doing what you love.  Without the old ball and chain calling you home every five minutes, you can actually get some work done at the ballpark.  As for the allegations of addiction to painkillers, Francona addressed that as well.  He has had over 20 surgeries on his knees, including one over this past off-season.  He had fluid drained from his knee at least 5 times during the course of this past season.  He says that he used painkillers to relieve discomfort when he would have fluid drained.  Francona even consulted a team doctor about said pain killers earlier this year, if there was really an issue I think we would have had heard about it before. 

The fact is, the Red Sox were wrong to throw him under the bus in the media whether it be true or false.  When a man is separating from his wife of 30 years, you don’t use that against him.  To me that seems untouchable.  I am not going to claim that his divorce or his supposed addiction to painkillers didn’t affect his ability to manage a baseball team.  In my opinion, both of these points are moot when it comes to the Boston Red Sox.  This is the manager that led your team from 86 years of losing and then three years later helped you to another World Series.  Quite honestly, I don’t care if Francona spent the entire year in the dugout crying his eyes out pining for his wife or if he started a freakin’ meth lab out back of Fenway Park, you owed him more loyalty and respect than that.  This is the sort of thing I expect from the Yankees who notoriously left Joe Torre off the video tribute to Yankee Stadium or the Philadelphia Eagles who sent the heart and soul of their football team packing to Denver.  This is not the sort of thing we expected from the Red Sox, we thought they were run by better men than that.

Something happened to the Boston Red Sox in 2004.  Maybe they forgot who they were or maybe we thought they were something they weren’t.  The winning went to their heads I guess.  Sitting here in 2011 we have seen their true colors and looking back on it maybe they were kind of annoying all along but we just didn’t see it.  Think about it, the whole “Red Sox Nation” thing, taking over other teams ballparks (kind of annoying), ESPN’s exaggerated coverage of Curt Schilling’s bloody sock (kind of gross), “Manny being Manny” (really stupid), Josh Beckett and Jon Paplebon (are just dicks),  “Big Papi” (well, Big Papi is actually pretty cool except for the whole steroid allegation thing) but I digress.  The point is, Terry Francona is a stand-up character who led this team from the abyss.  The Red Sox should have treated him much better.  And because they didn’t, I hope they don’t win another World Series for 86 more years!  And in the year 2093 I hope they are still talking about the day they fired Tito and how they are doomed by “the Curse of the Terry Francona”!

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“Winning”

Winning.  What is it about winning?  Why does everyone want to win so badly?  Is it just about getting what you want?  Is it really that intrinsically self-centered?  Why is winning synonymous with being happy and losing synonymous with being unhappy?  I sit here on Saturday October 8th, 2011 questioning all these things.  After last night when the Phillies lost a game, and a series that many people expected them to win, I sat there completely annoyed, angry, hurt, disappointed, worried, and basically just sad.  And I wondered to myself, why the hell am I so sad right now?  The obvious answer was of course that the Phillies didn’t win!  But my immediate and subconscious arrival at this answer kind of scared me for a minute.  How is it that 25 guys whom I have never met could have such a profound impact on how I am feeling?  My inquiry here is not to establish why they didn’t win, how they can do more winning, when they will win again, or even whether this team should have won.  I simply am looking to know why am I and every other sports fan so obsessed with the win.

Coming from someone who will readily admit to being the sorest loser in the history of competition, this is not an easy question to answer.  Being a Philadelphia sports fan one would think that I should be quite used to not winning.  Before 2008 our town went 25 years without a championship in any of the 4 major sports.  Technically that’s 100 seasons of losing!  Regardless of that, you can bet your bottom dollar that I was somewhere sulking and probably crying every time one of our teams lost.  Like in ’93 when Carter hit that home run, I was only six but I may or may not have sent Mitch Williams death threats.  Or in 1997 when the Flyers got swept in the Stanley Cup Finals, I literally cried my eyes out.  In 2000 when the Flyers squandered a 3-1 series lead to the Devils with two of the last three games on home ice.  In 2001 when the Sixers beat the Lakers in game 1 of the Finals and conned us into thinking they had a chance in that series.  In 2004, the year we were sure the curse of William Pen would be lifted (T.O.T.O.T.O.) but we still watched Tom Brady and his beautiful hair take another championship up to bean town.  How about in 2009 when we watched the hated Yankees celebrate yet another World Series.  Or even 2010 when that stupid runt Patrick Kane and his cursed mullet celebrated on our home ice!  I remember them all!

So, what is so bad about 2nd place?  Sure as hell beats 3rd or 4th.  It definitely beats not making the playoffs at all (cough cough Mets and Braves).  But seriously, what is it that is so bad about losing that it caused hundreds of Vancouver Canucks fans to literally try to destroy their beautiful city after a game 7 loss.  Or in Chicago where the blame an entire NLCS loss on a dude in a green turtle neck and headphones (it’s ok Steve you can come out of hiding now).  How about in almost every major city worldwide that has a soccer, excuse me, football team that take to the streets in riots every time their team loses.  Or here in Philadelphia where people actually sent Mitch Williams death threats after the 1993 World Series.

Is it expectations?  Is it worse when our team is expected to win the World Series and they end up losing in the first round?  Sitting here watching the Cardinals celebrate on our home field I am tempted to say yes.  But only until I look back to 2010 when the Flyers lost in the Stanley Cup Finals.  The Flyers were not favored to win the Stanley Cup that year but their magical run through the playoffs made us hope that they could pull off the seemingly impossible.  But what about hope?  Whenever we are watching the game we always have hope that our team can pull through and find a way to win until that final horn sounds or the final out is recorded.  I am willing to bet that 99% of all the Phillies fans (and I mean the real fans, not you posers who jumped on board after 2008) still had hope in the bottom of the 9th on Friday with Chase Utley, Hunter Pence, and Ryan Howard coming to the plate.  And when they didn’t produce all that hope had to go somewhere and for most of us it turned to frustration and despair. And as sad as we all are right now, next October we’ll still be here ready to cheer on our Fightins once again.

Maybe there is some sort of strange genius behind the phrase “There’s always next year”.  Maybe I’ll never quite get the answer to my question about why we want to win so badly.  I don’t know why I love winning, I just do.  Winning is more than bragging rights and glory.  It’s more than the final score and the trophy.  I surely hope it’s more than what Charlie Sheen has.  Winning has a way of making us forget all the bad times and just be – happy.  It’s the only thing that allowed the Red Sox fans to forgive Bill Buckner after twenty years.  It’s the only thing that allowed Phillies fans to forgive Mitch Williams after 15 years.  It’s the thing that makes Cubs fans hate Steve Bartman, black cats, and …goats?  It’s the only thing that can make me forget about all the losing seasons, the blown series, Mitch Williams, Joe Jurevius, Patrick Kane, Brian Wilson, Kobe Bryant, Patrick Kane’s mullet, Joe Carter, and the Detroit Red Wings.  That one October night in 2008 when we stood outside Citizen’s Bank Park in the freezing cold huddled under a tent, that night I had been waiting for – for 21 years to arrive.  That night that I would wait another 21 years just to experience again.  And Bud Selig told us to go home because it was raining too hard.  So we came back two nights later and all of our hopes and dreams and faithfulness were rewarded.  There is only one thing that could make a bunch of crazy fools stand outside in the freezing rain watching baseball on a 30 inch television — Winning.

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