Taking a Step Back
I don't think I'm stepping out on a ledge saying this past weekend was the busiest sports couple-of-days of this year. Most of that was because of the worst story of the year: The suicide-murder by Jovan Belcher (above), who played linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs.
- Jovan Belcher killed his girlfriend/mother of his kid in front of her mom on Saturday morning and then drove to the team’s practice facility and killed himself in front of his coach and general manager. It's an unmitigated tragedy that's left a three-month-old orphaned, and, less importantly, left a team and fans and writers confused and saddened. We don’t know what happened to spur this, and while a brain biopsy may help figure out what was in Belcher's head, it also might not. One of Belcher’s friends wrote in to Deadspin to say the problems were a long time coming, and that his relationship with his girlfriend Kasandra Perkins was an unhappy one. This buddy of Belcher said that the linebacker got conked in the head a bunch during a recent game, sat out last week’s contest, and by this past week was losing his memory to the point where he forgot why he got into a fight with Perkins. To what extent is that a factor in what he did? Fuck if I know, and it's very very dangerous to follow this story from a pure football standpoint because Perkins, and her and Belcher's poor orphaned daughter, get shunted to the background. Brady Quinn, the Chiefs' QB, said some pretty sharp stuff in the post-game presser, but he was mainly dealing with the death of his friend and teammate and not the woman who that teammate killed. Bob Costas, meanwhile, made a speech that turned the story into a debate about gun control. It's obvious that most of the coverage, in the sports world anyway, will focus on Belcher over Perkins, and while that's expected, it's incredibly unseemly. His story is more confusing than anything, at least for now; it's best to not rush to judgment. But there's no confusion on what happened to Perkins. It's every level of sad. Her becoming a footnote to her own story just makes it worse.
- I’ll try to segue smoothly into normal sports stuff, but as Sunday's pregame shows demonstrated, that's not easy to do. The Jets finally benched their awful quarterback Mark Sanchez for Greg McElroy, the third-stringer from Alabama, who threw a TD on his first drive. They won the game. He’s awesome. The Jets won games when another awesome Alabama quarterback, Joe Namath, was at the helm. Coincidence? Yes, but don't sweat it.
- Colin Kaepernick, the new future stud of the 49ers, led San Francisco and its top-ranked defense to a nifty overtime loss in St. Louis. Wait, what?
"I'm sad because of sports." - Sad sports dude.
- Alabama beat Georgia for the SEC championship, and Jesus Moshing Fuck was it a good game, probably the best football game of the year (and that includes college, pro, electric, or Madden). In case you missed it, Georgia and 'Bama traded points all game and the Dawgs almost won but lost when they fell short by five yards on an 85-yard drive up the field in the last minute. It was as abrupt an ending that there’s been in college football. Just an outstanding game. 'Bama will face ND for everything in January.
- WIsconsin spanked Nebraska for the Big Ten championship, though Nebraska pulled off the play of the week (year?). The Badgers will be playing in the Rose Bowl, even though they stink, thanks to OSU (a top-three team) having that bowl ban and Penn State, well, you know. The Big Ten continues to have 12 teams.
- Northern Illinois University might be playing in a BCS bowl game, a sentence that didn’t mean anything to me until I typed it for the first time just now. Now that I’m finished typing it, it means even less.
Pops to Stern: "You're dead to me."
- Commissioner David Stern (right) fined Spurs coach Gregg Popovich (left) $250,000 for sending home his team’s three biggest stars and fielding a limp lineup against the Heat on Thursday. Reaction has been mixed—Popovich's shit wasn't a big deal, says Yahoo's Adrian Woj; yes it was, says Mark Cuban—but Stern bringing the hammer down can't honestly come as a surprise to anyone. Sitting players for no reason and with no bullshit loophole excuse opens the door to a precedent where teams can field rosters that aren't competitive, which opens the door for teams not wanting to win (in order to get a better draft pick) and games—which people pay money to see—not mattering. Of course, that's already kind of the case—check out the end of the Cavs' 2003 season, when Darius Miles started at point—which makes the fine seem, at first blush, like bullshit. But the Spurs should have bullshitted something to get out of the fine (e.g., "All our guys have colds."). That said, the Spurs were only fined money, and teams make loads of that. An owner ponying up $250K is better than having a Hall of Fame coach suspended. Anyway, everyone has pretty much moved on, and the Spurs won Saturday.
- Rasheed Wallace was ejected for a technical on Sunday for yelling "ball don't lie!" God, he's cool.
"Please hire me, Mr. Epstein. I went to Yale."
- It’s Winter Meetings time! They started last night and last until Wednesday. If you’re not familiar with them, they're when everyone in baseball all hangs out together in a big hotel in a minor-league city. This year it's Nashville. Some teams sign some awesome players, some teams sign some worthless players, some worthless players get drafted. There's also a career conference, so if you go you’ll see a ton of little intern-looking kids in giant suits handing out their cards. Remember them; one of them will be running a team in six years.
- Marvin Miller, undoubtedly the most important non-player in baseball history after Branch Rickey (the guy who invented the Minor Leagues and put Jackie Robinson in the bigs), passed away on Tuesday at the age of 95. A lot has been written by him, much of it good. I recommend his unreal quotes at the bottom of this strong piece, and Tommy Craggs’s sharp take at Deadspin. Sometimes sports seems dumb; there was nothing dumb about him or his story.
- The Braves signed BJ Upton, who has a .255 career average, to a $75 million contract. There was some criticism of the deal but it's unwarranted, and here’s why. Upton will be young for the whole contract, so he won’t get worse; he’s an incredible defender, and he has serious power. Players like Upton and Mike Trout, who have skillsets that don't translate directly into stats, might get shafted by writers, but not by general managers and scouts. Upton will never win MVP, even if he deserves it. But he deserves the contract; the commentary will catch up in time.
- The league and the players' union had another meeting but it didn’t go anywhere; they’re going to have another meeting that they hope will go somewhere. There are still no signs of hockey appearing anytime soon, but now the players are getting stipends so they can have money to spend on protein shakes and boot-cut jeans and party shirts and hairgel and stuff.
- Tiger Woods ponied up $4 million of his own money to hold a tournament. Man, someone get him a girlfriend.
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