Thursday, May 12, 2005

Going to the Dawgs

I sit here today wondering what my friends and I did wrong. I always hung with other athletes growing up. My best friend was a great high school point guard and could also high step on some 110 high hurdles. One of my closest friends was one of the best free safeties in Central New Jersey. One friend had the arm, the bat and the legs to compete with most major leaguers. Another was a real good tennis player, and yet another was a great martial arts fighter. I myself was a very good basketball and baseball player. We're all successful, but none of us 'made it big' in pro sports.

It's too bad, because I wonder if some of us wouldn't have 'come up' if the other had gone big time. Everybody brings their 'boys' and always has a little entourage with them wherever they go. Rocky Balboa gave his brother-in-law Paulie a job to sit in his corner - now most fighters have at least one fat, out-of-shape guy who knows nothing about boxing in their corner. M.C. Hammer gave away millions of dollars to his friends and family from Oakland, Calif., - helping him do nothing more than go bankrupt. Lots of famous people have a 'team' or a 'crew.'

But we really didn't see it with the elite athletes - Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky let the pros handle them. But that was then and this is a new age.

Let's talk about the decision earlier this week from one of the best basketball players in the world (with the potential to be the greatest), that he was firing his agents to hire his friends. I can just hear Randy Jackson from "American Idol" say to LeBron James, "Good job, dawg." C'mon! This is so stupid I don't even know what to think of it. LeBron fired Aaron and Eric Goodwin as his agent reps - these are the guys who were responsible for getting LJ more than $120 million in endorsement deals before he ever played in an NBA game. They got him a seven-year, $100 million contract with Nike and a six-year deal worth $16 million dollars from Coca-Cola. His current contracts have him making almost $140 million! AND THAT DOESN'T INCLUDE HIS NBA CONTRACT WITH THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS!!!

Who is James hiring to replace the Goodwins? His 'dawg,' Maverick Carter, one of his closest friends and a former high school basketball teammate. Rumor has it that LeBron's road manager, Randy Mims, will also be part of the 'crew' that will handle his business. Carter and Mims aren't sanctioned to be agents by the NBA Players Association - so they better clear that up real quick so that they can start doing NBA business for him when his existing contract comes due.

From my vantage point, the Goodwins seem like they've done a pretty good job for LeBron. They also represent NBA stars Gary Payton, Damon Stoudemire and Dwight Howard.

To me this was an attempt by LeBron to help his boys out. I understand if that's the case, but maybe he should've kept the guys that were doing a great job at making sure he gets the top dollar. Maybe he could've hired a few of his friends as 'consultants' or they could've done some other work for him. I hope this Maverick dude gets the same respect from big time corporations that the Goodwin team did.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

An Hour and a Half

I’m up in the air about my feelings regarding Jason Giambi. I just don’t know what to think about the entire situation. Stories about how the Yankees might just release him, and articles about how they might send him to the minor leagues. What should they do?

I honestly think Giambi would be smart to take the less than an hour and a half drive south to AA Trenton and get his swing and confidence back in the minors. Forget going to AAA Columbus – make sure he can get some good cuts in. Let’s face it, right now he’s a .250 hitter in AAA, but hopefully close to a .300 hitter in AA.

I have had mixed emotions about Giambi since he signed the gaudy contract with the Yankees in December of 2001. He was born and raised in California, went to college in California and was drafted in the second round in 1992 by the Oakland Athletics. He had the opportunity to stay on a team that had been to the playoffs for two straight seasons and the team that he won the American League MVP trophy for in 2000 for a boat load of cash. But Jason decided to move almost three thousand miles across the country for about $28 million dollars more money and to quote, “win a World Series.”

I like guys that stay loyal or don’t go for the fast buck. Guys like Mike Sweeney who stayed with the lowly Royals because that was the team that drafted him. Giambi had more money sitting on the table with Oakland than he could’ve ever wanted to spend…and he could’ve been written in Oakland and California sports history – but he chose the money and lure of the Yankees.

For those reasons I have a hard time not being happy that I’ve never watched him hoist up the World Series trophy. But to be honest, I do feel a little sorry for him. He’s the only guy that has really admitted to doing something wrong and stupid with the steroids scandal. He has never said specifically what he kept apologizing about – but we all knew what he meant. I have to give him respect and credit for that much. He made a mistake, we’ve all made mistakes. The best thing to do in that situation is say you’re sorry and try to rectify the wrong doing and Giambi has tried. The only problem is that the baseball Gods have punished him with a slow bat that doesn’t have much pop anymore and nagging injuries in the last several seasons. Maybe it’s the same Gods that made Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Juan Gonzalez and so many other possible steroid abusers have injury-plagued careers?

Giambi needs AA more than the Trenton Thunder need him…My advice to him would be, go down there for a month and try to revive your dying career. The Yankees still might make the incredible decision to just release him and pay him his remaining $81 million, but Jason needs to give it his best to stay with the team that emptied one of its vaults for him. My feelings are that of mixed emotions – it’s hard for me, a die-hard Mets fan and die-hard Yankee hater, to have compassion for a Yankee, but I do. Giambi should’ve stayed on the West Coast where he was from but all that he’s dealt with since then…I wish that on no one.

Monday, May 09, 2005

His Spot in Canton Awaits Him

The greatest wide receiver in professional football league history may soon finally call it a career. At 42 years old Jerry Rice can’t find any teams that want to sign him – not even the San Francisco 49ers, the team that drafted him and watched him shine during his sixteen years being the greatest wide receiver on the planet. Rice totaled so many records and achievements during his twenty seasons in the NFL that you can’t argue that he was in fact the best ever.

One of the beauties of Jerry Rice is not what he accomplished in his career but where he came from and how he went about being possibly the greatest offensive player in NFL history. That’s right, I said greatest offensive player in NFL history. Who compares to Jerry? Not a single guy.

Jerry grew up in Crawford, Mississippi and starred on his high school football and basketball teams while also being a great track runner. He wasn’t a top recruit at the big colleges in the country and landed himself a college scholarship to play football at Divisioin II Mississippi Valley State. In Jerry’s four years playing wide receiver at MVS he totaled 4,693 yards and set 18 NCAA Division II records while earning All-America status in both his junior and senior seasons. In his senior season he scored twenty eight touchdowns and totaled 1,845 yards and was the Blue-Gray All-Star game MVP.

After graduating from Mississippi Valley State the 49ers drafted him and had high hopes that he would become one of the leagues premier receivers – I think he reached their expectations. He teamed up with Joe Montana and then Steve Young (84 career TDs together – NFL record) to form two of the greatest pass-catch combos in league history while leading the Niners to three Super Bowl titles and awards and records that still stand. After the 2000 season the 49ers decided that Rice wasn’t in their plans any longer and decided to let him sign with the other team from the Bay Area – the Oakland Raiders. It was a perfect fit for Jerry – he was able to stay in the same house that he and his wife built and raised their three children in. In his first two seasons in Silver & Black it was the same old Jerry…he teamed up with Tim Brown as the two became Rich Gannon’s dual target. In his second season with the Raiders they went all the way to the Super Bowl, but lost to the Tampa Bay Bucaneers. Jerry did his part catching five passes for 77 yards and hauled in a touchdown.

He holds more than a dozen NFL records and has been named NFL Player of the Year two times. Rice is a 13-time Pro-Bowl selection and caught 1,549 passes for 22,895 yards with 197 receiving touch downs – All NFL records. JR caught eleven passes for 215 yards and a touch down while being awarded the MVP in Super Bowl XXII.

Jerry needs to realize that his incredible career is over and he needs to walk away and enjoy the rest of his life. Twenty years in the NFL along with three Super Bowl rings and countless other awards and records – it would be fitting for the 49ers to sign him for a day and let him retire as the greatest ever. Thank you #80 – I’m glad I that I had the opportunity to see your classy career from start to finish.