Wednesday, February 27, 2013



After Lance Armstrong, Manti' Te'o, Roger Clemens, Marion Jones, and a host of other athletes
who lied to everybody's faces, the sports world finally has somebody who is completely honest.
Zack Greinke, who signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers for six years and more than $140 in the
off-season, said the reason for it was simple: it was about the money. Yep, it was ALL about the money and the former Angel wasn't keeping his fingers crossed behind his back

“I could play for the worst team if they paid the most,” Greinke to John Heyman of “If the last-place team offers $200 million and the first-place team offers $10, I’m going to go
for the $200 million no matter what team it was."

And there you have it. A professional athlete who tells the truth. Strike up the band and start
partying like it's 1999. It's close to a miracle. Greinke's honesty is refreshing in a world where athletes lie more often than most Americans update their Facebook status. The former Cy Young award winner, who has battled anxiety issues during his career, had no fear about coming right out
and being criticized for being a greedy athlete. I'm sure he'll hear it from a lot of fans when
he has a rough outing and Greinke might just become baseball's Gordon Gekko. You remember
Gekko in the movie, "Wall Street",  famously saying, "greed, for a lack of a better word, is good."

But is sure is nice to hear about an athlete be honest rather than hide behind what has become their
anthem: it's not about the money.

At least Greinke  wasn't like Albert Pujols who turned his back on loyalty a year ago, taking the
gateway to the West to sign a $250 million contract with the Angels. Pujols said it had nothing to
to with the Benjamin's but rather a conversation he had with God, who apparently, thought he'd look
good wearing a halo. Nope, it had absolutely nothing to do with the money. Nothing.

In 2000, Alex Rodriquez signed a 10-year, $252 million contract with the Texas Rangers, which
was the richest ever signed in Major League Baseball history by $63 million. But of course, it had
absolutely nothing to do with making $25 million and change per season. A-Rod would never lie,
would he? Yes, he just wanted the opportunity to play for a last place team with no pitching in a city where it's 110 degrees in the shade during the summer. Money played no factor in his decision
whatsoever. Right.

Professional athletes keep score, they know who's making what and for how long. Last summer,
Deron Williams of the New Jersey Nets was a free-agent and as a Dallas native, had a desire to
play for the Mavericks. Mark Cuban  offered a 5-year deal worth $75 million, but the Nets

showed him a max contract worth an extra year and $25 million. What do you think Mrs. Williams
was thinking? "Um, Deron, you can go back to Dallas to live in the off-season or as soon as you
retire, but there's no way you're going to leave all that money on the table. Not while I'm your
wife." If Williams took less money, other players in the NBA would look at him and say, "You're
a fool."

Tom Brady is a no fool. On Tuesday, Sports Illustrated reported the Patriots quarterback
re-structured his contract to help give the team more salary cap space. At first, everybody was
like, "Wow, he's the ultimate team player," and "Brady is so unselfish. Why can't be other players
like that?" Some of those other players were rolling their eyes and saying, "it's not what you all

By re-doing his deal, Brady saw the guaranteed money in his deal nearly double to $54 million
after signing a three year extension. There are no guaranteed contracts, only guaranteed money
in the NFL and there's a big difference. In 2011, Michael Vick signed a 6-year, $100 million
contract with the Philadelphia Eagles. If this were baseball and Vick got hurt in say, his second
year, or stunk as bad as Carl Crawford in Boston, he'd still get every penny of that $100 million.
The NFL doesn't work like that  After his  second year, the Eagles were on the verge of cutting
him with Vick not earning even half of  that $100 million. Both parties recently agreed to a 1-year, $10 million deal for next year.

Brady agreed to re-structure his contract in exchange for getting a lot more guaranteed money.
$54 million in guaranteed money. As he gets older and his skills erode and the chances of injury
increase, there's no telling if Brady could even make it to the final few years of the contract and
he'd get nothing. With this new deal,  he gets a nice sweetener. Even though Brady's wife, Gisele
is worth more than $300 million and Brady has done well for himself, there is no way he's going
to just give up $20 million just to make his employers happy. Would you?

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning restructured his deal three years ago to give his
team more cap space. Nobody made as big deal out of it as they did with Brady, but the cases
are similar. Manning gave the team some relief in exchange for a sweetener (more guaranteed
money). No athlete gives back money that he has earned. That's not the way it works because
after all, it's ALL about the money.

Zack Greinke knows it and so does just about every fan in the country. It's about the money,
always has been, always will be. But give Greinke for being honest. More professional athletes
should follow his lead.

Monday, February 25, 2013


Less than three weeks after reeling in the top-rated recruiting class in the nation, Nick
Saban is thinking outside the box, but well within NCAA rules. The head coach at Alabama
offered a scholarship to one of the best young football players in the country. Dylan Moses
is 6'1" and 245 pounds and can run like the wind, clocking the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds.
Saban has visions of Moses spearheading the Crimson Tide defense, going sideline-to-
sideline to make bone-crushing hits.

Trouble is, Saban has to wait a while. Moses is an 8th-grader out of Baton Rouge, LA. That's
right, the kid is only 14-years old, but Alabama wants him now. In the words of legendary
coach Vince Lombardi, "What the hell is going on out there?!" For college programs to even
THINK about recruiting an 8th-grader is truly ridiculous. What's next, AJ McCarron and
Katherine Webb pro-creating to give Saban his first blue-chipper in the class of 2031?

Most people in the sports world already know  the NCAA has more than a issues than Lindsay
Lohan. Some of their rules are absurd and how they enforce them, a travesty. But the governing
body of college sports has to do something about this. If they don't do something now, a lot of
young kids will get screwed up,exploited, and taken advantage of. The world of college recruiting
will get more sleazy and salacious than it already is and the impact it may have on our nation's
school systems, from elementary to high school, could be dangerous.

It used to be a big deal when a high school junior was offered a scholarship, now we have a
kid in junior high school being offered one. I'm sure by this time next year, we'll be reading
about how the child of Manti Teo's  girlfriend who is dead but didn't really exist, has been
offered a scholarship to Notre Dame. He can't run a lick like his old man and can't process
information quite fast enough, just like Manti, but he still has great pedigree, at least that's
what Roniah Tuisasosopo will tell us.

This tsunami is starting to build. If the NCAA doesn't do something to stop it, college athletics
could end up in a worse state than it presently is. From the spread offense to combinations of
uniforms, college sports, much like the professional ranks, likes to play copy cat. After seeing
Saban and Alabama offer and 8th-grader a scholarship, you don't think 100 other coaches
and programs are going to do the same thing? Heck, Saban saw Les Miles and LSU offer Moses
a scholarship before he entered the 8th-grade. What other college is going to be on the doorstep
of Moses by tomorrow morning?

This move by Saban could set off a fire chain of events from college recruiters targeting
players at the Pop Warner level to school administrators imposing restrictions on coaches who
want to set foot on their junior high school campuses. As we've seen over and over, coaches
cheat and try to bend the rules all the time. If they can't get near the school, I'm sure more
than a few of them will camp out in town, in the recreation center, or even at the church in
town, just for the opportunity to talk with the kid.

Insane. This is really going to get out of control if the NCAA doesn't act.

Pressure is already intense for kids and their parents when it comes to sports. Everybody thinks
little Johnny is good enough to get a scholarship to college and play Division I. There
are travel teams, personalized attention, and elite summer camps already. Saban and other college
coaches offering scholarships to kids in the 8th-grade will take the pressure to an entirely
differently level.

And really, you don't think something could happen between the 8th-grade and senior year
of high school, when college recruits can officially sign their letter-of-intents? Just look what
happened to Te'o in the forty days from the regular season to the national championship game.
A player can get hurt, lose interest, and fail out of school in large part because he feels secure
in knowing that he's got a full-ride already offered to him and he doesn't stay committed to
his work.

It's a joke, it really is. What is the benefit of offering a kid a scholarship in the 8th-grade? He
can change his mind as much as he wants until the day he has to sign the letter-of-intent
during February of his senior year. You don't think other coaches will try to talk him out of
their "first offer" and commitment? Did you see Urban Meyer work his magic at Ohio State?

And when will the parents start looking for a hand-out and some "grease" to get their kid
to accept that scholarship offer from a school? Oh, right, like that's never happened before,
especially at an SEC school. College recruiting is dirty, nasty, and ruthless. This will make
its cess pool even murkier.

This has disaster written all over it. I realize the NCAA has been busy lately with the University
of Miami scandal, in addition to their own. And that was just after the whole Penn State ordeal
which took a lot of their time and energy. But the NCAA needs to step up and do something
about this.

It is dangerous and it's not good. Not for the game, the colleges, the parents, but most importantly,
the kids.

Friday, February 22, 2013


If there was a food label on Chris "Mad Dog" Russo, it would read: all natural, no ingredients or preservatives added. The New Canaan resident and sports talk radio star is genuine, grounded and has a passion for sports that is very real.

"Sports have always been my friend. I was an only child and the relationship with my parents was a little rocky as an only child," said Russo. "Sports were sort of my sibling growing up and they are personal to me. I look at sports as a one-on-one scenario."

Russo's career in sports was almost over before it really even started. After graduating from Rollins College in Florida in 1982, Russo flew to Hawaii for Major League Baseball's Winter Meetings hoping to get his first big break. He ended up landing a job with the Jacksonville Suns, the AA affiliate of the Montreal Expos. Unfortunately, his stay on the payroll didn't last very long.

"They hired me to sell advertising time and do play-by-play for their games," Russo recalled. "But they fired me after six weeks and before the season even started. I wasn't the red-hot salesman they thought I was — they used me. Then I banged on the door of a radio station in Jacksonville and got a job three days later doing talk shows. That triggered my career."

Russo went from Jacksonville to a station in Orlando where the general manager sent him to speech therapy because listeners had trouble understanding what he was saying. Undeterred, Russo secured
a job at WMCA in New York where he got tagged with his nickname by Bob Raissman of the New York Daily News in 1988.

"He first called me, 'the excitable one'. Then he gave me the name, 'Mad Dog', which I liked," Russo said. "When I got a job at WFAN, Imus played it up, and the next you thing you know, I have a burgeoning career."

In 1989, Russo was paired with Mike Francessa to form the incredibly successful Mike and the Mad Dog show. Amid reports of dissension between Francessa and Russo, the program came to an end nearly two decades later.

"That was a unique run," he said. "How many people get the chance to do the same show in the same town for 19 years? How many people stay married for that long? The show needed a break and was getting stale. But when it's all said and done, the Mike and the Mad Dog show is probably what I'll be remembered for."

In 2008, Russo signed a 5-year deal with Sirius XM radio, which gave "Mad Dog" his own channel. He says there's no chance of a reunion with Francessa in the future, but is happy with his current job and the place he and his family have called home since 1996.

"I love New Canaan. This is a good town for me," he said. "There are a lot of successful people who are not wrapped up in what you do. They're not that impressed. I can do what I want to do and fit in well. Plus, it's great for kids."

Russo can be heard on SiriusXM radio Monday through Friday from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m

Thursday, February 21, 2013


The characters have changed, but the the similarities between the OJ Simpson murder case and
the events taking place in South Africa right now, are becoming more striking by the hour. Oscar
Pistorious, who like Simpson, gained him fame with his legs, albeit carbon-fiber ones, has been
charged with murdering his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkemp, perhaps in the same type of jealousy-fueled
rage that cost Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman's their lives.

Like OJ, did in 1996, Pistorius  might just get away with it.

This high-profile case, much like the Simpson one, is turning into a circus with police leaks, bad
information, posturing, police blunders, and shockingly, the potential for another rogue cop who could
make this case about everything but the murder of an innocent woman. The only thing missing is a Kato
Kaelin-type of character to play dumb on the witness stand. But as we know, there is plenty of time left
for that to happen.

On Thursday, it was revealed that Hilton Botha, the lead investigator in the cast against Pistorius faces
attempted murder charges himself  over a 2011 incident, a potentially damaging blow to the prosecution. Are you kidding me? Attempted murder? Who missed that one? This case hasn't even gotten to the trial phase yet and it already has its Mark Furhman. Furhman was the LA detective in the Simpson case who found the bloody glove but was discredited after a recording  of a racist rant he made to a woman was played for the nearly all-black jury to hear. It was pretty much game over and an acquittal for Simpson
after that.

The defense team of Pistorius must be still be grinning ear-to-ear after this startling revelation. Punching
holes in his credibility won't be all that hard, will it? Botha found a witness to the events of Valentine's
night in the gated community where Pistorius lived. That witness supposedly heard a shouting match
between Pistorius and Steenkamp from 650 yards away. That's more than 2,000 feet or four city blocks
away! I'm not Columbo or Matlock, but creating reasonable doubt with a jury over that story won't be
overly difficult.

In the two days of bail hearings in South Africa, it's shockingly apparent the prosecution and police investigators are making a lot of the mistakes the LAPD and district attorney's office did in the OJ
Simpson case more than a decade ago. They made an error in saying the substances in the boxes found
in the bedroom of Pistorious were testosterone before the results of the tests on them had been returned.
The testosterone "revelation" was, of course, leaked by somebody in the police department to support
some kind of theory that Pistorious had a sudden case of 'roid rage, which caused him to go ballistic
after finding out an alleged text that Steenkemp received from a former boyfriend.

For crying out loud, there was even the supposed bloody cricket bat to go with the bloody glove
in the Simpson trial. However, the cricket bat isn't going to be the smoking gun the Simpson
prosecution team thought the glove was in 1996, but they screwed that one up, didn't they?

I realize this case hasn't even gotten to trial yet, and won't for quite some time. Whether or not Pistorious
is released on bail will probably be decided before you read this. However, the tent is getting pitched
and will probably won't be enough to cover what is becoming much more than a three-year circus.

What's that old adage? Those who don't learn from history are bound to repeat it.

We know the Pistorius killed Steenkamp, just as most of us realize that OJ murdered his ex-wife and Goldman. But if the police and prosecution keep screwing up like they are in South Africa, the end result
will remarkably be the same.

Monday, February 18, 2013


Last week, Josh Hamilton told the media that God had been waking him up in the wee
hours of the morning so he could watch infomercials on "The Juice Lady." The new Angels
outfielder figured this was divine intervention and a call to juice fruit and vegetables, which
shed 20 pounds from Hamilton's 6'3" frame.

The year before, God told Albert Pujols to take the money and sign with the Angels. I wondered
in an article I recently posted, when God is going to quit talking to guys who are stinking rich
and give me some kind of sign or suggestion for my life.

Early Monday morning, I think He did.

I was awoken from a deep sleep to howling winds just outside my window. I couldn't sleep, so I
did what I always do. I raided the refrigerator and turned on the television. I don't normally flip
to ESPN anymore, the anchors always seem to be auditioning for "Comedy Central" and it's quite nauseating. But while surfing past it, I saw a picture of someone I had never seen before in the
flat screen and was intrigued. Stu "Boo-Yeah" Scott was introducing a story about a girl who
had been a tremendous athlete in Detroit. I was glued to the TV and was suddenly amazed,
inspired, and  truly moved by what I seeing.

Latipha Cross was a then-17-year old junior who had born into a life of hard knocks delivered by
a sledgehammer. Her mother abandon her when she was six, she saw her sister killed, got beat up
by her foster parents, sexually abused by her biological father, and was homeless during the final
years of her high school career. Um, those are what you called being dealt some real bad cards.

But it gets worse. Cross battled cancer, not once, but twice before she graduated. Still, she
found the strength and determination to set the Michigan state record in the 400-meter run. Media
members often describe certain players as "warriors" and "heroes" just because they beat a blitz
or buck the odds of being a low-round draft pick to reach stardom in a professional league. Please.
If they read the story about Cross, they would all be embarrassed.

I sat on my couch frozen and in awe of this physically small girl with the heart the size of that
meteor that landed in Russia. Abused, homeless, cancer-ridden, and she never gave up and never gave in. She had been sleeping in a park somewhere near Detroit wondering if she'd even make it through the night. Yet, she somehow has the will, focus, and determination to become an elite
runner who earned a full-scholarship to Eastern Michigan. Unbelievable.

Latipha Cross is my new hero. Unlike Hamilton, I'm not certain that God woke me up at that
moment to make me watch five minutes of the most inspiring television in a long time, but I might just become a true believer.

Years ago, my life couldn't be better. I was enjoying life in the fast lane. I was single, had my
dream job, and was making a lot of money. Then one of life's Mack trucks hit me. It not only knocked me off the road but it turned around and ran me over several more times. Then
my father died. We've all dealt with adversity, but all these hits just seemed to keep on coming.

Somebody once said, "It's not what happens to you in life, but how you react to it that matters."
I never quit and I'm truly thankful for being blessed with the great things I have been in my life,
but I often wondered where all these hard knocks were taking me.

After watching the story of Latipha Cross early this morning, I am no longer wondering. God often
tests our will, spirit, and belief in ourselves. He tested Cross again and again and again with hardships
that few people have ever had to endure. Ever. She kept getting knocked down by the fiercest of
punches and just kept getting back up to achieve her dream. And she did.

Latipha Cross may never win another race or show up on ESPN ever again, but she is the most
amazing person I've never met and my hero.

Friday, February 15, 2013


After the recent scandals of Lance Armstrong and Manti Te'o, and the ones involving
Tiger Woods and Michael Vick long before them, we shouldn't really be surprised by
anything that happens with athletes anymore. However, when news broke that Oscar
Pistorius, a double-amputee who defied the odds to compete in the able-bodied Olympics,
had murdered his girlfriend, more than a few people were downright shocked.

But seriously, as tragic and unfathomable as it was, nobody can be "shocked" by anything
that happens with these athletes ever again. Ever. Haven't we learned a great deal from the
other scandals involving Joe Paterno, Bobby Petrino, Brett Favre, and even Suzy Favor
Hamilton, the former Olympian runner who went from her girl-next-door image, to the
girl who was turning tricks for an escort service in Vegas.

Did we stick our heads in the sand when Marion Jones, Roger Clemens, A-Rod, and
countless others were outed in steroid scandals? Perhaps. A big problem with our society is
that people actually think they really know these athletes. We see a 15-second clip of them
being interviewed on "SportsCenter" and come away feeling like they are good people. We
watch them every night and during every game of the season and, by golly, we feel like we
know everything about them. Then, when athletes show up on the police blotter, people are
shocked and say, "No way!, I thought he was a really good guy."

We all thought Oscar Pistorious was a really good guy. He was born without fibulas and had
a double-amputation below the knees before he was one years old. The South African battled
through adversity and overcame tremendous odds to become a Paralympic champion. We fell
in love with him last summer when he competed in the London Olympics against able-bodied
athletes. He was a hero to many of us even though we never met him, really heard him talk,
or knew of his background. Still, Pistorius was an inspiration and gave millions of people
around the world with disabilities, real hope.

Today, Pistorius has very little hope of having a normal life again. His life, as he knew it, is
over. The fame, celebrity, endorsement deals, and gravy train, are finished. He remains in custody
in a South African jail, charged with the shooting death of his girlfriend. His fans, just as
those of Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong, Joe Paterno, Brett Favre, Michael Vick, and Manti
Te'o are crushed. They are devastated because all their "heroes", were not the people they
thought the were.

The trouble with our society is that we "deify" these athletes. The media makes them out
to be the second-coming of Jesus Christ because they can run fast, jump high, and hit a baseball
out of Yellowstone Park (wth the aid of PED's, of course). Fans chase them around just to get
their autograph or a picture of them just so they can post it on Facebook for all their friends to see.

Why is it that we are so intoxicated by celebrity? Why do we spend a minute caring about
people who could care less about us? It is so strange and really, so wrong. Oh, sure, there are
many who will argue that our children need heroes to look up to and emulate. They need role
models to pattern their games and lives after? Really?

Maybe Charles Barkley was right all long when he said, "I am not a role model." Sir Charles is
funny and entertaining as a NBA analyst, but he's a man who got a DUI, beat up a few people and offended millions of others. He knew he wasn't the person that people made him out to be and he was honest about it.

Many of these athletes like Armstrong and Woods carefully crafted their images to be attract
sponsors, which in turn, made them millions of dollars. But then the truth came out. They were
not the people they wanted us to believe they were.

None of these athletes are. We don't know them. We actually really know nothing about them.
Nothing. Oh, right, they speak well in an interview, smile just the right way for the cameras, and
make sure to sign an autograph for a boy in a wheelchair when everybody is watching. Trouble
is, when nobody is watching, they turn out to be at their worst. Tiger, Lance, Paterno, Te'o, and
now Pistorious.

In many ways, all these high-profiles athletes are just like the rest of us, filled with nicks,
flaws, and other imperfections. And in many ways, these people like Tiger, Lance, Paterno,
Te'o, and Pistorius, are a lot worse than us. They fooled us with their carefully crafted images
and we bought it without every really knowing them.

We don't know these athletes. We really don't.

Thursday, February 14, 2013


God is talking to athletes again. Before watching Jacoby Jones take his position as a kick
returner during the Super Bowl, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis went over to his
teammate and rubbed his hands down his chest. The San Francisco 49ers special teams unit
then parted like the Red Sea and Jones  ran nearly untouched for 108-yard kick-off return.

Lewis then went up to his special teams coach and said, "God told me to touch Jacoby and
looked what happened." I don't know if Lewis should be a candidate to be the next Pope or
take a seat next to the guys on those Bud Light "Superstitious" commercials who feel by
sitting how and where they do, gives them the powers to do special things---like make their
team win.

On Wednesday, new Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton arrived in camp 20 pounds lighter than usual and it all happened because of divine intervention:


"The Lord kept waking me up in the middle of the night over a month and every time I'd wake
up there'd be a doctor on [TV] talking about what you put in your body and how it makes you
feel," Hamilton said. "And then the juice lady was on. It was like, all right, I always pray the Lord will help me feel better. Well, that's all great, but am I doing my part? Now its time for me to do
my part."

That's right, the Lord made Hamilton sleep walk right into commercials about the juice lady.
Good, Lord. A few months ago, I kept waking up at 2am every day for about a week. I'd turn
on the television and see Jim Lampley wearing those hipster glasses with no-lenses all the time.
Was this a sign from God for me to start wearing the black-rimmed glasses to jump start my
broadcasting career? How did I not see the sign? How dumb could I possibly be? God was
talking to me and I just didn't see it! I'm going to to get me a pair right now.
Look for me anchoring "SportsCenter" next week.

I'm really starting to believe that God is a huge sports fan and really likes athletes more than
the rest of us. I mean, two years ago, he told Albert Pujols to take the $250 million from Arte
Moreno and be an Angel. I just wonder what Pujols would've done if God wanted him to be
a Pittsburgh Pirate. Pujols would've looked just great in the black and gold. But when God wants
you to be an Angel (and a very rich one) you must follow the yellow-brick road to Anaheim.

Last June, former USC defensive back Kevin Ellison torched his bed and turned his apartment
into a towering inferno. When asked by authorities upon his arrest for arson why he did it, Ellison said, "God told me to." Ellison also texted his friends that night saying he was Jesus
and the second coming.

I'm really starting to wonder if Ray Lewis and Josh Hamilton have God on speed dial or have
Him as one of their five favorites on the cell phone plan. Those two guys talk to their Almighty
one more than Manti Te'o spoke to his dead girlfriend that didn't exist.

I was sitting in church on Wednesday waiting to get my ashes for the start of Lent. I stayed awake
long enough to hear the sermon by the priest which was very informative and compelling. The
priest said that God prefers that people pray in private and refrain from putting their faith on
display. He said the Lord's followers should not boast of their relationship with the Almighty
One and put everything out there for all to see.

I'm just wondering if God told all these athletes the same thing,  or perhaps, they're
just not getting the message.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


Long before LeBron became King James, he was "The Chosen One." In 2002, Sports Illustrated put a 17-year old kid on the cover and anointed him the heir to Michael Jordan's throne as the best player on the planet. The basketball God's had seemingly taken all the talents of Magic, Michael, and Bird and instilled them into this prodigy from Akron, Ohio.

Shortly after gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated, James was booked to appear on "Countdown To Signing Day", a college basketball recruiting show on Fox Sports Net which I hosted for several years in Atlanta. James was projected to be the sure-fire number one player taken in the following year's NBA draft, so there was no way in hell he was ever going to put pen to paper and sign a letter-of-intent to play college basketball.

However, Scott Alexander, the executive producer of the show, convinced James to fly to Atlanta to appear on the signature program of the network. Of course, Alexander had to agree to pay for the flights of two of James' friends, as well, because after all, when you are "The Chosen One", one must have a small posse, even if you are just 17.

James arrived for the show on time, but quickly chided Alexander for not sending him first-class plane tickets, the first sign that we had a real live diva on our hands. Alexander responded, "LeBron, you're not going to ever have to worry about flying anything but first-class next year."

I must admit, I didn't know a whole lot about James before meeting him. The recruiting show was one of five I was doing on a day that took me from 10am to 2am and I had covered so many of the "next Jordan's" in my career, that I wasn't particularly phased by "The Chosen One."

I can't say I was too impressed with his wardrobe for his appearance, either. James showed up in a Chicago Bulls jersey with half of Mr. T's starter kit around his neck, and his hat turned backwards. The kid flies all the way from Akron to be on a television show and he's wearing that?

I guess when you're the "Chosen One", you can choose whatever you want to wear. I kiddingly said to him, "If you want to change into your coat and tie, the dressing room is just the hall." Of course, he looked at me like I had three heads with a spike protruding from the middle one.

When James got on the set and we proceeded with the show, he was poised and pretty polished, except for the fact that he was slumping over just a bit in his chair. He did look like a 5-year old in his uniform sitting next to Bobby Cremmins, the basketball coaching legend, who acted as our analyst. Cremmins, with his gray-white hair and stylish wardrobe, certainly made him look a lot older than he really was when sitting next to James

I felt ridiculous asking him where he might be attending college, but after all, this was a college basketball recruiting show and it needed to be asked. For the record, James said he was looking at UNC, Duke, and Ohio State. But it was like A-Rod saying he wasn't going to use steroids again. You just knew it wasn't going to happen.

After the show was over, James posed for photographs with many of the employees who came to be a witness to greatness. I don't normally pose with any athletes, much less one who is just 17-years old and has yet to play a game of any significance, but I put down
my guard because I had a slight feeling that he just might live up to all the hype some day and it would make for a great keepsake.

James certainly did, but it wasn't all that easy. I'm not a big NBA and rarely watch games, however, I did watch his ascent to greatness with a keen eye. When he left Cleveland the way he did, with the whole "Decision" fiasco, I can't say I was surprised. When you're called "The Chosen One" at just 17-years old and have been coddled all your life, all sense of reality can be lost.

I thought back to the time when he got upset with our producer because he didn't get to fly first-class and felt his behavior regarding the "Decision" was just an extension of that. I don't really think that LeBron had a problem with the coach tickets  he was sent, but I think his friends got in his ear and said, "You  are King James, you should be flying first class. Don't let them disrespect you like that!"

Every time James opened up his mouth and said something stupid, I cringed. But again, he lost all sense of reality years ago when Sports Illustrated put him on that cover and proclaimed him "The Chosen One." When he got on that stage in Miami and predicted the Heat would win maybe 5, 6, or 7 NBA titles, I nearly lost my cookies. James bought into everything that had been said about him and forgot to get a filter for the things that came out of his mouth

But James learned the hard way. He became one of the most hated athletes in the country simply because of his arrogance and the way he handled things. James has gotten much better at the public relations game and has taken his game to an entirely different level, one in which few athletes, not even Jordan, have ever gone before.

James has grown into more of a social activist while helping thousands of kids in
his hometown of Akron. He has pledged more than $40 million to ensure that high
school seniors who qualify, go toe the University of Akron for free. There is no
bigger voice in basketball and few athletes in the world wield the power that
James does.

He is no longer "The Chosen One", but rather, "King James". It's still a little too much, however, that's the way of our sports world where we deify athletes and then try to tear them down. It's not often you can say, "I knew him when..." but it does make me chuckle a bit when I think of the time I met him back then.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


10.  SAMMY SOSA Remember when Sosa got in front of Congress and was asked about
       using steroids. "I speak no English. I no understand the question. Ask McGwire."
       Well, the part about asking Big Mac wasn't true, but the rest of it is. Classic, Sammy.

  9.  MANNY RAMIREZ  After getting busted in 2009 for high-levels of testosterone,
       Ramirez claimed his doctor "unknowlingly" prescribed him a female fertility drug. I
       hate when my primary care provider does that to me.

  8.  RYAN BRAUN He's turning into the Lance Armstrong of baseball. Lie, lie, lie,
       or just blame it on somebody else. In 2011, his drug test showed extremely high
       levels of testosterone. The former National League MVP blamed it on the FED EX
       man who didn't get it to the lab on time, saying the chain of command was broken.
       Now, the Milwaukee Brewers star says, yeah, he visited the clinic in Miami, but it
       was just to get intel for his appeal back in 2011. Oprah? Oprah? I think you're needed.

   7. ANDY PETTITTE The Yankees pitcher's name showed up in the Mitchell Report and
       he was, at one time, the best friend and workout partner of Roger Clemens. He said
       he received HGH injections just twice to heal his elbow faster, which, by the way, is
       cheating, no matter how you slice it. Pettitte said he felt, "obligated to return to the
       team faster." Zzzzzzzzz.....yeah, right.

   6. BARRY BONDS. The steroid-fueled home run king admitted that he took something
       that Victor Conte, the mad scientist who also pumped up Jeremy Giambi and a cast
       of thousands who came to the BALCO labs for his magic potion. Bonds said he
       "unknowingly" rubbed some cream into his skin, which knowingly made his head
        grow to the size of a pony keg.

   5. PAUL BYRD. Former pitcher who played for the Indians and Mets was outed
       in the Mitchell report for using HGH. Byrd said it was prescribed by a doctor for
       a pituitary tumor. Byrd couldn't name the doctor, nor locate his pituitary gland.

   4. GREGG ZAUN Former major league catcher who also showed up in the Mitchell
       Report was tagged by Kirk Radomski, supplier to the stars, who said he personally
       injected Zaun. When asked about a check he wrote to Radomski, Zaun said it was
       probably used to cover a gambling bet. Good one, Greg.


  3.  GUILLERMO MOTA After flunking a second test, the veteran pitcher was facing
       a 100-game suspension. I guess Mota felt he had to be really creative. He blamed it
       on his child's cough medicine, which he said contain a banned substance. Really?
       Nice try. The 100-game suspension stood.

   2. RAFAEL PALMEIRO Remember when Palmeiro wagged his finger in front of
       Congress and said, "I have never used steroids, period." Right, and the head of
       Barry Bonds grew like a chia pet because he was drinking protein shakes. Palmeiro
       eventually flunked a steroid test then threw teammate Miquel Tejada under the bus
       Palmeiro claimed that B-12 Tejada injected him with, must have been tainted. Wow.

   1. MELKY CABRERA. After getting busted last year, Cabrera had an associate
       create a fake web site that advertised supplements. Cabrera said he bought those
       supplements off the site and they just happened to contain a banned substance.
       Until Roniah Tuiasosopo came along, Cabrera had the most warped imagination
       the sports world had ever seen.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


Rob Gronkowski has a passion for at least two things we are certain of: football and dancing.
Unfortunately for him, he only excels at one of them The All-Pro tight end of the New England showed up on again dancing like a clown on crack, bare from the belt buckle up,
his left arm in a cast, enjoying life in Vegas.

Last year, after the loss to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl, "Gronk" was caught on
camera dancing like a fool also. At least, Bill Belichick won't have to worry about Gronk
showing up on "Dancing With The Stars", because he looks like a drunken scarecrow on
the floor.

Gronk was criticized then and he's being harpooned now. Media critics and unofficial and
unpaid experts are shouting out loud that it's time for the 23-year old cult hero in Boston to
grow up. They say he has to think about the team and be a professional. I say, let the Gronk
be Gronk. His carefree style, outgoing personality, and performance on the field have already
made him a legend around New England. Does everybody on the team have to have the
personality of a cigar store Indian?

In three seasons, Gronk has caught 187 passes, with 38 of them going for touchdowns, the
most by a tight end in his first three seasons in the NFL. Everybody knows that a healthy
Gronkowski is a game-changer, trouble is, he hasn't been able to stay in the line-up and this
is one of the reasons why they feel it's time for Gronkowski to reign himself in.

Forget about that. People can moan all they want when Gronkowski doesn't produce, but
to criticize him for having some fun after the season is over is absolutely ridiculous. I realize
he has a broken arm and he's doing moves normally scene in the WWF or E or whatever
it's called these days, but let the kid be. What is he doing? Dancing? Please.

Seriously, how many NFL players have ever gotten hurt on the dance floor. Emmitt Smith,
Jerry Rice, and Donald Driver did pretty well and never got hurt through their countless hours practicing for "Dancing With The Stars" and a lot of their moves were more dangerous than Gronk's.

I realize Gronk has been a magnet for controversy off the field. There were the pictures on
Twitter of he and porn star Bibi Jones and he's photographed with his shirt off more than
Matthew McConaghey. But so what? I know he sometimes gets photographed out partying
with biking-clad women, but he's single and not pulling a Tiger Woods. Gronk is not showing
up on the police blotter or in celebrity rehab, either.

Man, Mickey Mantle used to have a great time when he played, too. The Yankees legend
chased woman and drank all night, but nobody had a problem with him when he was belting
50  home runs while driving in 120 every year.

It's not like Gronk is skydiving or trying to do 360's on a snowmobile in the X-games. He
is dancing. Big deal. Oh, I know all the folks in New England are calling for him to be
more professional and act "the Patriots Way". First of all, how has the "Patriots Way" been
doing since their last Super Bowl win in 2004? Oh, sure they win a lot of games, but they
haven't won anything in a long time. AFC Championships are for the Buffalo Bills to
revel in, not the Patriots.

Gronk is harmless and he is definitely entertaining. He's also a stud who has changed the
tight end position. Linebackers can't cover him and he opens up the passing game for
Tom Brady and the Patriots. They might have gotten to the Super Bowl if he didn't re-break
his arm. But injuries happen in the NFL, they rarely ever happen on the dance floor.

Gronk is living life and enjoying it. So what, what's wrong with that? Oh, right, every player
in the NFL is sitting on the couch just so they won't get hurt. Please. I know that Belichick
and Robert Kraft will tell Gronk to turn down the dial, but as long as he keeps producing
like he does on the field, I don't think they are going to demand he make any lifestyle changes.

The NFL is all about production. You either produce or you don't. It's that simple. Tim
Tebow can walk the straight and narrow, but that hasn't really helped him be productive,
has it?

Let Gronk be Gronk. He's living his life the way he wants. Just keep living yours the way
you want.