The returns would seem to be in regarding the NFL's acceptance of University of Missouri senior Michael Sam, the league's first openly gay player -- or at least the man who would be the league's first openly gay player if he's drafted in May.
Shannon Sharpe, former All-Pro and now commentator for CBS Sports, tweeted, "I don't know Michael Sam but I think he wants to be known as a gr8 FB player, that happens to be gay.Big ups M.Sam, make us proud."
Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams told his followers, "I could care less about a man's sexual preference! I care about winning games and being respectful in the locker room!"
Tiki Barber commented, "Great courage by SECDef POY [in English, that's Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year]. It's time for the NFL to show its colors!"
And the NFL did show its colors, sort of.
In June of this year, the Voice unfolded the curious tale of Ken Tarr, a 32-year-old serially unemployed Los Angeles man who found his true calling as a reality TV scam artist. Tarr managed to talk himself onto eight different reality shows, playing a variety of outsized characters: an inebriated "Gypsy" birthday party clown, an amorous trucker whose love for prostitutes was only matched by his love for the lotto, an jetsetting "security expert" two-timing his girlfriend, who was -- twist! -- also two-timing him, a steaming mad plumber, furious over being locked in a mortuary overnight. None of the show's producers ever made a serious effort to verify his ridiculous backstories, which were all flimsy as a cardboard backdrop in a '60s Western.
Photo by C.S. Muncy Ken Tarr, photographed for our June cover story.
At the time, reporter Graham Rayman called him "one of the most prolific television hoaxers in U.S. history." Not just TV, as it turns out; Tarr was also apparently expanding his areas of interest, diving past reality shows and into actual reality. The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office announced yesterday that Tarr is being charged with felony eavesdropping for a series of prank calls he made to athletic coaches, offering them nonexistent jobs. He was also eager to brag about what he was doing, which in retrospect was probably a bad plan.More »
Ten minutes into Lenny Cooke, the documentary's star sits on a couch, watching the 2001 NBA draft with two friends. They debate who is the best player in the NBA: Allen Iverson, Tracy McGrady, or Kobe Bryant. This is the Post-Jordan Era, and there is no clear king on the NBA's throne.
Red Bucket Films
It's an era of irreverence and optimism. Of Iverson talkin' 'bout practice, of NBA scouts combing through high schools searching for the next Kobe and T-Mac, of a Wild West summer league hoops circuit where AAU coaches and shoe company reps jockey for control of the next generation of ballers.
It's an era of youth and wealth. Of Cash Money Millionaires and Jacob the Jeweler. Of MTV Cribs, Hummers in the driveway, Mitchell & Ness throwbacks in the closet, Cristal bottles in the fridge, stripper poles in the boom-boom room. "The post-modern American Dream," Josh Safdie, one of the film's directors, called it in an interview this week.
Lenny Cooke was riding the wave in 2001. The Bushwick, Brooklyn native was the top high school basketball player in the country at a time when the country was giving high school basketball players millions of dollars. As he notes to his friends in the film, he had "less than a year to make a decision," less than a year until he is eligible for the NBA Draft and competes for the throne. Moments later, Cooke watches the Washington Wizards select Kwame Brown with the number one pick, making him the first high schooler ever taken in the top spot.
"That n---- a millionaire right now," the young Cooke says in the film. "Eighteen years old."
Two of the next three picks are high schoolers as well. By the time the clock starts for the ninth pick, four preps have gone off the board.More »
America's views on youth football are shifting quickly. This became particularly apparent on Thursday, when ESPN reported that participation in Pop Warner dropped by 10 percent from 2010 to 2012, and Robert Morris University released the results from a poll showing that 40 percent of respondents supported a ban on kids playing tackle football before high school.
Christopher Farber Brownsville's Mo Better Jaguars.
But if these stats are early signs of football's decline, they are very early signs. Football is America's Game, entrenched in the culture. It is the product that drives a multi-billion-dollar company. It is the thing we watch most each week and each year. "It is righteous, and only a jackass would cancel it," Hunter S. Thompson wrote in 2004,
Into that quicksand steps Bronx Assemblyman Michael Benedetto, who in February became the first legislator in America to introduce a bill banning youth football in his state. His Thursday stood in contrast to the data about how much people were turning against football.
"I received a awful lot of criticism about this bill," Benedetto, who represents the 82nd Assembly District in the East Bronx, said at a press conference that day, the Times-Union reported. "I have certainly received dozens of emails for and against -- mostly against -- this proposal, I'll be honest."More »
Last week, ESPN reported that Pop Warner football participation dropped by around 10 percent from 2010 to 2012. The abrupt decline -- which followed decades of non-stop growth and comes at a time when the NFL is as popular as it has ever been -- suggests that evidence of football's long-term harm on the brain has convinced many parents to pull their sons from the sport, at least at the youth level.
As we wrote on Thursday, the data may stand as a very early sign of football's decline -- its pool of extraordinary athletes shrinking the way boxing's did a generation or two ago.
Just how much the pool shrinks is a worthy but unanswerable question. But it's a good bet that the primary variables are the parents of those potential NFL stars. And, so far, the future looks grim for football.
Around 40 percent of Americans support a ban on kids playing tackle football before high school, according to a new survey by the Robert Morris University Polling Institute. Eleven percent were unsure.
A sport's decline begins with the athletes. The great boxing writer Bert Sugar quipped a few years ago that "the best two American heavyweights today are Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher." But they chose football.
These days there's much talk about football soon following boxing's path -- a downward slide from mainstream titan to premium channel novelty catering to connoisseurs of the craft, those with an eye for the brutal dance and a stomach for blood. How soon and to what extent this happens is a good late-night bar debate. Over/under 2050 when basketball passes football as America's Game?
There will be early signs, many of which we'll only identify in hindsight. But one will be as precise and jarring as a helmet-to-helmet hit on a high throw over the middle: The kids will stop playing.More »
Updated Monday night to include response from Pujols's lawyer.
The defendant: Jack "The Ripper" Clark
Earlier this month, slugger Albert Pujols sued former New York Yankee (and St. Louis Cardinal and San Francisco Giant) Jack Clark for defamation.
Now, through his attorney, Clark has responded by challenging Pujols to a duel. Clark's weapon of choice: the polygraph.
Clark, known in his playing days as Jack the Ripper, ripped into Pujols on a St. Louis radio show in August, stating that he knows "for a fact" that Pujols, who played 10 seasons for the Cardinals before jumping ship for the Los Angeles Angels in 2012, used steroids.
Pujols filed suit October 3, alleging that "[i]n an attempt to generate ratings during the first week of his The King and the Ripper radio program, for his own personal gain, or for other wrongful reasons yet unknown, Clark targeted Pujols and published and disseminated malicious, reckless and outrageous falsehoods about him, falsely asserting that Pujols used steroids and illegal performance enhancing drugs."
Next: If Clark's allegations were outrageous, attorney Albert Watkins's letter to Pujols's counsel--who received it Monday morning--gives them a run for their money ...More »
On Friday, in the third quarter a western New York high school football game, 16-year-old Damon Janes ran for a five-yard touchdown. A few minutes later, there was a big hit and Janes walked off the field in a daze. He collapsed unconscious on the sidelines.
The boy died on Monday.
It's the sort of tragedy that pulls the common refrain of questions to the front--Can this be prevented? Should I let my kid play football? Are we watching the last days of football as we know it?
With each collision-related football death, the questions grow louder. Knowledge on football brain injuries is quickly advancing, and each time a young player dies, we have more information than the last time it happened.More »
The revelations last week over beer prices in major league baseball stadiums gives us a chance to use it to illustrate what has become a central topic in this year's remarkable mayoral campaign--the city's shrinking middle class and the ever broadening economic gap between the rich and poor.
This all began when the Team Marketing Report released this year's version of a report looking at stadium costs in major league baseball. (More after the jump)More »