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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Banshee Blitz

This is the third edition of the Banshee Blitz.  That basically means that I've been preoccupied with my real job while a bunch of sports stories were breaking.  So, instead of in depth analysis, you're gonna get some off-the-cuff commentary.  And, let's be honest.  That's what the Interwebs are best suited for.  So, here we go.

Stewart at Southern Iowa Speedway
(Mary Willie/Des Moines Register)
Extracurricular Racing:  If you tuned into the NASCAR race this weekend to See Tony Stewart, then you were sorely disappointed.  Instead of taking the green flag at Watkins Glenn, Stewart was stuck in a hospital after undergoing a second surgery on his broken right leg.  Stewart broke his tibia and fibula in a sprint car race at Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa, Iowa.  That is a half-mile, dirt oval.  If you want a better idea of how small time this race really was, check out the video.  Not just the wreck itself but the cleanup, too.  There is no word yet about if or when Tony Stewart will return to the Sprint Cup circuit.  But, it is clear that the injury has eliminated the #14 team from a chance for a slot in the Chase.  I understand that racing is just in Smoke's blood.  I know that it's what he does for a living, and it is what he does for fun.  But getting hurt during the NASCAR season at a place like SIS just strikes me as ridiculous.  This would be like Bubba Watson showing up at your local municipal course on a random Wednesday and getting injured by some careless duffer's errant shot hitting him in the head.  Okay, that's not a perfect analogy, but you get the picture.  Auto racing is incredibly dangerous.  If you are a world class driver, then you need to limit your death defying appearances for the ones that really matter.

(Yong Kim/MCT)
Riley Cooper, Racism and the Eagles:  If you're reading this blog, then you are probably already well aware of the video of Riley Cooper angrily spewing the n-word.  Not in a casual rap-quoting manner but in an angry and threatening manner.  You're probably also aware that Cooper has since been dismissed from practice, fined by his team, sent to sensitivity training and reinstated on the Philadelphia Eagles roster.  That all occurred in the space of about 5 days.  The swiftness of the punishment and secrecy of the fine caused a lot of national talking heads to demonstrate surprising levels of cynicism about the motives of all authority figures involved.  But, since that time, I have read and heard some very intelligent discussion about this specific incident and the larger topic of race relations in our culture.  Joseph Nardone's piece on and Scott Burks' piece at the Klown Times are just two examples.  So, I just want to add one brief thought to the discourse over this ugly incident.  And, I use the word "ugly" intentionally.  What Cooper did was not illegal.  And, thankfully, no one was physically harmed during the incident.  What Cooper did was nasty and mean and unbecoming.  But, sports have long been an instrument to bring about social change in our nation ... especially on the topic of race.  I believe the behavior of Cooper and the other Eagles going forward can serve as a great lesson to all of us about contrition, forgiveness and reconciliation.

(Photo by @LBroookeee)
Johnny Manziel:  At this time last year, very few people knew the name Johnny Manziel.  Back then, he was just waiting for his freshman year of college to start and hoping that an offseason arrest wouldn't derail his college football career at Texas A&M before it even got started.  In less than a year, "Johnny Manziel" was transformed into "Johnny Football."  He became the first freshman to win the Heisman trophy and took on folk hero status along the way.  Manziel's image was greatly aided by head coach Kevin Sumlin's rule banning freshman from talking to the media.  Then then the gag came off.  And ever since then, Manziel has found himself in a whirlwind of fame and controversy.  Although Manziel avoided any arrests this offseason, he spent the spring and summer jet-setting, globe-trotting, hobnobbing, drinking, partying and running his mouth on Twitter whenever anyone had the gaul to criticize his extravagant and reckless behavior.  And all the while, the media chorus alternated between reporting on his childish exploits and chastising anyone for judging what the chattering class deemed to be the behavior of every 20 year-old "kid."  Sure, a lot of college kids to stupid things.  But, it was 20 year-old "kids" that have for generations poured out their blood on foreign soil as enlisted men in the United States military.  So, let's just dial it back a bit with this idea that Johnny Manziel is too young to be expected to behave with dignity and maturity.  And, my concern over Johnny's offseason behavior was never over one particular incident.  Ignoring the parking ordinances in College Station is not a capital crime.  And a few underage beers aren't going to ruin anyone's life.  But an overwhelming sense of entitlement and constant disregard for the rules of society eventually leads to trouble.  And now Johnny Football is facing the possibility of having his collegiate career terminated prematurely because he allegedly took money in exchange for putting his signature on TAMU memorabilia.  Is this a stupid NCAA rule that should change?  Probably so.  But, it's still a rule ... just like the underage drinking laws and the parking ordinances.  And disregarding the rules has consequences.  Part of me hopes this finally serves as a real wake-up call for Johnny Manziel.  After all, he is fun to watch on the gridiron.  But another part of me hopes there is a serious penalty in his future so that he can serve as a warning to the 16 year-olds who are looking up to him right now.

In Support of Taunting:  There was some chatter last week about the NFL's renewed focus on banning all forms of taunting.  I'm a conservative and low key person, so it might come as a surprise to many of you that I detest these rules in the so-called No Fun League.  But, let me be clear ... Personally, I abhor taunting and showboating in all forms.  If you score a touchdown, you should act like you've done it before.  Same with a sack.  Same with an interception.  And, for the love of all that's holy, I do not believe that gaining four yards for a first down is not worthy of an Adonis pose.  But, as Bob Costas once said, "Sports is drama without a script."  And, drama thrives on good guys battling villains.  This is something pro wrestling has understood and exploited for the better part of fifty years.  When the NFL legislates bad behavior out of sports, it takes away some of the fun of choosing a team to root for.  Cleansing the game of unattractive behavior has also removed any opportunity for the good guys to stand out.  I miss the days of Terrell Owens preening on the star in Dallas.  Not because I liked that nonsense.  But because I liked the chance to root against it.

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