Jimi I imagine musicians get a complex when they are about to
go into the studio and hear a recording of Jimi Hendrix. Jimi, as we all
learned in school, was a force of nature. He was like Mother Theresa and
Genghis Khan all rolled into one when he held a guitar in his hands. How can
anyone measure up to that, the musicians must think. Jimi was playing hard ball
and everyone else is just trying to bat it off a tee.

That’s the way it is for us sentence writers when Bob Ford and Mike Sielski walk into the room. Oh sure, it might sound like I’m
blowing smoke, and you know what… I kind of am. But whether they know it or
not, those guys know how to work a room and when they say things people have no
other people have no choice to but to take the words to heart.

So when Bob told me, “You’re awful,” well, I just
couldn’t write it off. After all, I have never known Bob to be wrong. Ever. The
fact is, he is smarter than almost every person you know. The same goes for
Mike, too. If he isn’t right about something, he can explain why better than
anyone out there.

But Bob is a good sport. He came into our little show,
drank his beverage, ate his ham sandwich and participated in a lively
discussion about everything. He even taught us about physics and the
international dateline. The same goes for Sielski, too. The guy is an author of
a book. Better yet, Mike wrote a real book like a real author and not some
nonsense about lists of perceived greatness according to some guy and his
faulty memories. Who wants to read that? Moreover, who wants to chop down trees
to print those pages?

Put it this way: Mike has contributed to our culture and
our collective discourse. Mike has a legacy.

And with that, the gang got together for the third
episode of our little dog-and-pony show with two heavyweights. Once again we
talked about the Olympics and hockey as well as Allen Iverson and the idea of exclusivity and media semantics.

Bob told a story about his days from hanging around with Charles Barkley and Mike just said a
bunch of smart things.

Oh yeah, Dennis
was back and offered a life tip, while Dan Roche stuck around long enough to offer some well-reasoned
points about the local basketball team. But guess what… Ol’ Dan bought a house
last weekend, too. Real estate bubble my ass…

Meanwhile, Sarah
and I just tried to keep up with all the wizened souls we brought
into our lair.

Here take a listen:



Also, keep sending in those comments and whatever else. Check
out the page we have on Facebook, too
. You’ll be glad you did.

Just a slight delay for Lance

Lance Armstrong flew back to the United States on Tuesday morning. After a stopover in New York, the seven-time Tour de France champion made home to Austin, Tx. in time for an appointment with his doctor.

It was during that visit with his doctor that Armstrong learned his “clean” clavicle break wasn’t so clean after all. As of 8:20 p.m. eastern time on Tuesday, the great bike rider was getting a CT scan after learning about the not-so clean break.

“Bummer,” he tweeted on his Twitter feed.

Meanwhile, while the health and pending comeback of Lance Armstrong was all being documented in real time via “new media” (and the death of the “old media” had a bit more dirt shoveled on it with each tweet), somewhere near Paris tired old men waited anxiously for the next update.

Yes, when Armstrong “tweets” folks take notice. And no, it’s not just the fans, either. Take those tired old men in France for instance. When they read that the collarbone might be a little more damaged than expected, those “nefarious Frenchmen” might just have been moved to “twirl their moustaches and laugh heartily at his plight,” as the great Bob Ford once wrote about Lance’s ex-teammate, Floyd Landis, a few years back.

Yes, the cycling bureaucrats are feeling pretty good about themselves lately. When Lance hopped on that plane to go home, it meant there was an entire ocean between him and the nexus of the cycling universe. CT scans and doctor’s visits that elicit tweets that read, “bummer” gets that twirling in full flight. The next one might even be enough to cause a World Series-style victory celebration full of champagne spray and maybe even some high-fives. Why not? They already made him cut his hair for DNA-style drug tests.

Only in this case it might be real champagne instead of the sparkling wine those gauche Americans like.


Continue reading this story …

Cooked case

floydWASHINGTON – Let’s just get it out of the way at the top…

I believe Floyd Landis got screwed. I believe that if his case were held to the same standards of the rule of law, Landis’s case would have never gone to trial. Hell, he would have never been indicted.

If Floyd Landis were a baseball player instead of a bike rider, he would still be out on the field without even the slightest threat of suspension.

But whatever. Righteous indignation is typically the rallying cry for losers. Everybody gets screwed at one time or another. However, the part in the case against Floyd that seems so… wrong is that it doesn’t seem as if he was given due process. That’s really the crux of my righteous indignation, aside from the notion that Floyd seems A LOT more believable than Dick Pound, Travis Tygart and the rest of those bureaucrats.

Look, I don’t care if Floyd was cocktailing HgH with winstrol and deer urine all while freezing his rest-day blood in a hyperbaric chamber. Due process is ESSENTIAL.

Wizened old sage Bob Ford, who has been around the loop at the Tour de France numerous times and could be the best cycling writer in the world, dropped me an e-mail minutes after I received one from Floyd’s PR representative, Pearl Piatt, to announce the arbitrator’s ruling. The subject line said it all:

“Cooked case.”

The rest of the email would have made a hell of a column, but it’s football and baseball season in Philadelphia so such things as a doping case involving a Mennonite bike rider from Lancaster County tend to get buried.

Except for here.

As Bob wrote last May:

Landis was caught by the Laboratoire National de Dépistage du Dopage in Châtenay-Malabry, a facility in a suburb just southwest of Paris. The methods and procedures at the lab are sloppy, and the results it issues are increasingly suspect. Recently, the International Tennis Federation announced that drug tests from the French Open – held in Paris, by the way – would be shipped to a lab in Montreal rather than shuttled to Châtenay-Malabry. The ITF said it was an economic decision, but what was it going to say?

The French lab has spit out approximately three times as many positive results as other labs sanctioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency. Those results, particularly the ones involving notable American cyclists, are also quickly leaked to L’Equipe, the French sports newspaper, which happens to be owned by the company that owns the Tour de France. So it’s quite a racket.

Does any of this mean Floyd Landis is innocent, set up by nefarious Frenchmen who twirl their moustaches and laugh heartily at his plight? No, it does not. He may well be guilty. It means only that you can’t trust the evidence.

This would be fine for Landis if his case was being heard in a court of law that adhered to innocent-until and the overriding escape hatch of reasonable doubt. Instead, his arbitration, which is being prosecuted by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, will be judged by a three-man panel, and was probably decided before it began.

Each side in the case picks one arbitrator, and the third is supposed to be mutually agreed upon. That didn’t happen, and the compromise member of the panel is someone who almost always rules against athletes. The decision is cooked, in other words, and Landis is done.

Floyd won the 2006 Tour de France, fairly, I think. But even for as much as I’d like to say his incredible ride in Stage 17 is still one of the most exciting days in sports I have ever seen, I’d be lying if I said it’s not a little tainted now. Yes, Floyd will probably continue to race and could one even go back to ride in the Tour de France, but it will never be the same.

And that just sucks.

That’s OK, we’ll take him

The trading deadline came and went without too much fanfare for the Phillies, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t make a little bit of noise. Aside from adding Tadahito Iguchi last weekend to replace Chase Utley, as well as starting pitcher Kyle Lohse to bolster the starting rotation, general manager Pat Gillick traded with Seattle for reliever Julio Mateo for minor leaguer Jesus Merchan.

For the interim the Phillies have sent Mateo to Double-A Reading until he’s needed with the Phillies. So how come the Phillies just don’t send Mateo to Triple-A Ottawa to face more capable hitters before returning to the Majors?

Besides, Mateo can’t go to Canada because he is waiting to go to court on Sept. 4 for his third-degree domestic assault charge in which the story in The Associated Press describing the arrest noted that Mateo’s wife needed five stitches on her mouth. In other words, the law is keeping close tabs on the new Phillie.

Needless to say some web sites and others in the media had a little fun at the Phillies’ expense in discussing the move for Mateo. On Deadspin, the crème de la crème of sports blogs, the headline was, “The Phillies got another wife beater to hang out with Brett Myers.” Sure, it’s a little inaccurate, but the point is duly noted. The Phillies didn’t exactly go out and get a model citizen.

It’s doubtful that Mateo will have any influence at all with the current Phillies, though. After all, the strongest personalities in the clubhouse are also solid guys. Chase Utley, Aaron Rowand, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins are names one will never see in the police blotter. Meanwhile, Cole Hamels has grown up a lot since his brawl outside of a bar in Florida before the 2005 season.

Here’s the interesting part about Mateo and perhaps shows a difference between the Mariners and the Phillies. Though the reliever was 1-0 with a 3.75 ERA in nine appearances this season for Seattle, team general manager Bill Bavasi suspended Mateo for 10 days without pay following his arrest in Manhattan in May. Moreover, Bavasi said there was no way that Mateo would ever pitch for the Mariners again following that incident aggressively looked to trade him.

Even though Mateo pitched well in Triple-A, Bavasi stuck to his guns.

“Our approach with him was that it would be better for us and for him if he broke back in elsewhere. And he didn’t fight that idea,” Bavasi said, while declining to detail what led the Mariners to conclude that. “It was collaborative effort to get him a new home.”

Meanwhile, Brett Myers was allowed to pitch for the Phillies only hours after being let out of the lockup following his arrest for a domestic incident in Boston in June of 2006. It was only after a loud public outcry that Myers was allowed to take a “leave of absence” from the Phillies.

Mateo, who turns 30 on Thursday, is 18-12 with two saves and a 3.68 ERA in 219 games over six seasons in Seattle. He had a 0.79 ERA in 24 games at Triple-A Tacoma, allowing just three earned runs in 34 1-3 innings. Opponents batted just .200 against him. Those numbers indicate that he is a pretty good pitcher – perhaps even just as good or better than Myers.

Nevertheless, the Mariners weren’t interested in having a player heading back to court for a domestic abuse charge on their roster… regardless of how good his numbers were.

“We treat it seriously,” Gillick said, according to AP. “We’re very aware of the situation.”

But apparently it isn’t a serious enough issue to pass on the trade. After all, the Phillies don’t have to go to Canada at all this season.

The injuries continue to mount for the Phillies. Along with Utley’s hand and Ryan Madson’s case of Brett Myers 2 1/2 –month-shoulder-strainitis, Michael Bourn is out after injuring his ankle tripping over the bullpen mound that is on the field along the first-base side at Wrigley, while Shane Victorino had a slight tear of his calf muscle.

According to the Phillies, Victorino’s injury is less severe than Bourn’s sprained left ankle, but as someone who deals with chronic calf problems let me tell you that I don’t necessarily agree. For one thing the calf muscle is the engine that serves as the anchor of the leg muscles. It is from the calf that the hamstring and the Achilles get their power. Any athlete who runs knows that all calf injuries are serious. I’m certainly no doctor but I’ll be very surprised if Madson and Victorino make it back before the end of August.

Jemele Hill of ESPN.com wrote a story in which she wondered what American professional sports would look like if they had a drug testing policy like cycling. Hill writes:

Had the NFL had the same rigorous testing as cycling, the Carolina Panthers might have showed up for Super Bowl XXXVIII a little shorthanded. As it turned out, several Panthers reportedly used performance-enhancing drugs during the 2003 season, and two of them allegedly had prescriptions for steroids filled right before they appeared in the Super Bowl. And while we can make all the jokes we want about Floyd Landis, last year’s Tour champion, the most glorified record in American sports is on the verge of being shattered by a man with numerous ties to performance-enhancing drugs. Tour officials already don’t recognize Landis as the champion and are pushing the United States Anti-Doping Agency to strip Landis of the title. Bud Selig wishes he had such an option with Barry Bonds.


What Americans would never, ever want to do is what cycling officials did. We would never want to let a band of doping experts loose on American athletes. We are far too comfortable being entertained by dirty athletes to want to see any real cleansing take place.

Just imagine if the same vigilant testers used in cycling set up shop in American pro sports leagues. How many times would we read about American athletes being busted for performance-enhancing drugs on the ESPN crawl?

That’s an uncomfortable discussion. That’s why despite the blustering and grandstanding with all the major sports leagues on Capitol Hill, they would be unlikely to sanction a universal system that would require random testing of pro athlete.


Meanwhile, two more riders are implicated in doping scandals. Basque Iban Mayo failed a test for EPO (there’s a test for EPO?!) and Tour de France champ Alberto Contador as been linked to doping by a German doctor.

The best would-be cycling writer in the U.S., Bob Ford, offered this one in today’s Inquirer.