All they have to do is say, “No.”
How difficult is that?
If only they could quit Manny.
See, the McCourts and their general manager Ned Colletti made a brand-new offer to outfielder/savant Manny Ramirez late this week to sweeten a one-year, $25 million deal. This time the Manny and agent Scott Boras were offered a two-year contract worth $45 million. Not only that, but there were plenty of sweeteners in it, as if $45 million during the worst economy the U.S. has faced in 80 years isn’t sweet enough.
Nevertheless, the McCourts offered Manny a deal that not only would make him the second-highest paid player in history, but gave him a chance to opt out after the first season. Moreover, of Manny were to get hurt and not able to play, the $45 million is guaranteed. In other words, he could foul a pitch off his big toe in the very first game of the ’09 season and walk away with all the loot.
Yes, it’s a pretty sweet deal. It’s especially sweet when one considers that Manny already has been paid nearly $163 million during his big-league career. Not bad work if you can find it.
On another note, had a nice little chat with Gonz the other day and we both came to the conclusion that Bob Ford is our "hero." And by hero we mean someone we aspire to be like if this media business we have chosen to work in continues to exist.
But for those who don't know or haven't had the pleasure to meet Bob, he definitely has a Marlboro Man vibe to him... better yet, he's almost exactly like Sam Elliott as The Stranger in The Big Lebowski... sans 'stache.
So in tribute to the much-deserved recognition we say to Bob, "I like yer style, Dude."
On another note, we're swamped working on another project today, but will come back with a full slate of material for both Finger Food and Center City on Friday. Among the topics we'll dive into are Donovan McNabb, NFL free agency, steroids in baseball/football, Charles Barkley and Manny Ramirez.
So come on back, I'll have a few stories to unfold.
Yes, those New York Mets.
So for the past three years this friend of mine watched from the inside as the Mets choked in a seven-game series to the Cardinals in the NLCS, choked during September with a 6½ game lead and less than three weeks to go in ’07, before pulling the trifecta in ’08 by choking a 3½ game lead during late September.
Needless to say, my friend has seen that the Heimlich doesn’t always work on a baseball team. No, these have not been happy times for the Mets, especially considering which team went on to win the World Series last October.
Those elements make the question so much more interesting.
“Tell me,” he said. “Are Phillies’ fans as obsessed with the Mets as the Mets’ fans are with the Phillies?”
As regular readers of this little dog-and-pony show know, we love the bike racing here. Just love it. Actually, it’s all of the endurance sports – the tougher, the better. As such, if I worked for Versus I’d send me to France this summer to help with the coverage of Le Tour… hell, won’t cost them nothing. I’m already on the payroll.
Be that as it is, we watched last week’s Tour of California with great interest. Many reasons for this were obvious – most of the best riders in the world were there, it’s California and a punishing event, etc., etc.
But the biggest reason, of course, was the return of both Lance Armstrong and Floyd Landis to the racing scene. Depending on how one looks at things, the final results were mixed. Lance played a pretty good supporting role for Astana teammate and race champ, Levi Leipheimer and finished sixth overall. Lance rode well, though not spectacularly. He may have been the third best rider for Astana (behind Leipheimer and Chris Horner), and maybe the fourth-best on the team right now.
Of course it’s still early and the big test – Le Tour de France – is five months away. That doesn’t change the fact that Astana, the best team in the world, has some figuring out to do. Is Leipheimer or 2007 Tour de France champ Alberto Contador the leader of the team? And if so, where does that leave Lance? Certainly he didn’t come out of retirement to be a domestique.
Regardless, where Lance really distinguished himself in the Tour of California (the most-viewed spectator event in state history… over 2 million people witnessed various stages of the race that started in Sacramento and finished near San Diego), was with a certain spectator.
Actually, the spectator was dressed in a bumble-bee type costume… with horns on his head… and a trident with syringes attached… oh yeah, and a cape – the dude was wearing a cape.
Nevertheless, when the guy got a little too close and a little too annoying, Lance gave the bumble-bee man with a needle a shove that sent him sprawling into the snow. Then he just rode off, since, you know, it was a race.
Take a look (photos from Drunk Cyclist):
Meanwhile, Lancaster County native Floyd Landis had an up-and-down Tour of California. In his first race since that now infamous 2006 Tour de France, Floyd finished 23rd. He struggled early, partially because of a fall during training on his surgically-repaired hip, caught a cold, got tangled up in a mid-race crash, yet hung in. By the end, Floyd finished strong and rode strong and tough during the race’s final stage.
Hell, by the end of the race the once loquacious-turned-silent Landis was even talking to the press again. Albeit it briefly and after a feature appeared in The New York Times.
Floyd also appeared on the cover of glossy/fancy cycling mag, Road, though the only cool part about the featured interview was the photos. The interview itself was pretty unrevealing and pedantic, but the pictures were cool.
Or, just go to this URL to cut out the middle man. However, in the near future typing in johnfinger.com will automatically guide you to a new page. You will have to do nothing -- hell, keep the same bookmarks. Nothing is going to change aside from who gets to count the number of visits.
Bottom line, folks, bottom line. All about them digits.
Meanwhile, Finger Food is the blog and "Center City" is the column. OK, the title column is a little too old-fashioned for my tastes, so let's just call them essays. I'll be an essayist in the same way in which some dudes are "humorists." Then again, a humorist is someone they only think is funny on NPR.
So just scratch that whole last paragraph except for the part about Finger Food being the blog and Center City is the column (or whatever). Just look for three-to-five Center City things per week.
There it is. All cleared up. We'll dive into it this week so be ready.
No, he didn't get those nine gold medals and one silver in four different Olympics by accident. Nor was it a mistake when Sports Illustrated named Lewis the greatest U.S. Olympian of the 20th Century.
Chalk that up to clean living (Lewis is a vegan and a fitness devotee even though he retired from professional sports after the 1996 Olympics), which is a concept that doesn't seem to jibe with modern pro sports based on the latest headlines.
Then again, Lewis is all-too familiar with the seamy side of athletics. Actually, he had a front-row seat for a few of sports' all-time dirtiest moments. Of course none were more notorious than the September day in Seoul, Korea where Lewis ran a time good enough for a new world record in the Olympic finals of 100-meters only to watch as Canadian Ben Johnson ran away from him like he was stuck in the mud.
Three days later Johnson was disqualified when his drug test was tainted with the steroid Winstrol. Coincidentally, Winstrol is the same steroid baseball player Rafael Palmeiro tested positive for in 2005 and is also reported to have been used by Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens during their careers.
So yes, Lewis knows a thing or two about drugs in sports, and, he thinks he has some idea about when an athlete might be using it.
"The reality is that most people are clean," Lewis, the Willingboro, N.J. native, said following his appearance on Daily News Live. "When you have two out of 100 that's two percent, but if those two are in the finals, suddenly that's a very high percentage. And if two win medals, that's two out of three. That's  percent. Just so quickly, it goes up."
Bolt out of the blue
Take Usain Bolt, for instance. Bolt, as most recall, stole the show at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing by running for three gold medals, all in world-record time. Bolt, just 21 and from a small, impoverished town in Jamaica, burst onto the international track scene early last summer when he ran a world-record 9.72 in the 100-meters in New York City before crushing the field with a mind-boggling 9.69 in Beijing.
Some say that had Bolt not spent the last five full strides celebrating his victory, he could have run 9.59 - simply an unheard of time for 100 meters.
Bolt was just getting warmed up, though. A few days after his gold-medal run in the 100, Bolt blasted Michael Johnson's seemingly untouchable 200-meters world record by clocking 19.30 - into a headwind, no less - for his second gold. The world-record trifecta was completed later that week when he ran on the 4x100-meter relay for Jamaica.
But unless one is an ardent fan of track and field, not many people knew the name Usain Bolt. Then again, why would they. After all, until May of 2008, the Jamaican had not broken 10 seconds in a 100-meter race.
Needless to say, Bolt's amazing Olympics raised a few eyebrows, including Lewis'. Interestingly, Lewis says if he were competing today instead of the 1980s and 1990s, Usain Bolt might still just be another guy with world-class speed.
"Things would be different. Things would be very different," Lewis said. "You wouldn't know Bolt... I'll tell you that right now. He wouldn't pull that stuff with me around, I'll tell you that right now. Just leave it at that - he wouldn't pull that stuff on me."
Hey, on the track there are no facades. That's especially the case with sprinters like Lewis, who would try to intimidate and play mind games with their opponents. Yes, stepping onto a track is exactly like climbing into a boxing ring - there is no place to hide and only one way home. So it's no wonder that Lewis still has that part of his game well intact. Once a fighter, always a fighter.
But stuff? Did Lewis mean the celebration and the histrionics Bolt displayed before breaking the tape? What stuff?
"I just mean, and I've said this publically, it's just interesting how... the improvement was just too dramatic not to be questioned," Lewis said, choosing his words carefully. "We'll see. I could be totally wrong and I hope that I am. I haven't heard any discussion, but time will tell and it always does. But it's strange that the Jamaicans stopped coming to America [to train] and all of a sudden started running faster."
Lewis says Bolt should take a stronger stance in the anti-doping movement.
"That's the thing, too. We're a sport where when something like that happens, everyone says, 'OK, what the heck is going on?' You have to cognizant of that and the thing that disappoints me is that he is a perfect voice to speak out on this issue, so why are you silent? Get out there," Lewis said. "If athletes want to be successful and they want it to mean something, they have to take a stand. He has a perfect chance right now and he could be remembered for 50 years because of that."
Yeah, but could Bolt just be young and naïve? Could he just be wildly talented and finally putting it all together?
Doesn't Lewis remember what it was like when he was Bolt's age?
"How old is he now? (Told 21). OK, 21 for me was '83 so I was already down the road," Lewis said. "When I was at the Olympics in '84 I had just turned 23 and everyone just got all over me and said, 'Oh my, you made this mistake.' When I look back now, I was such a kid and like anyone who looks back on their 20s they think, 'What was I thinking?' But at the end of the day what I didn't know I tried to find out. I always felt like I needed to be a voice for my sport. I knew that just running on the track fast wasn't going to be enough."
Fair enough, but at the same time Lewis came from a tightly-knit, two-parent family. He went to college, had a strong support system and had something to fall back on if sports didn't work out. Lewis says it himself that "sports are a privilege, not a right."
"The biggest influence on a kid isn't the athlete, it's the adult or the teacher who says, 'You're going to be a good athlete one day,' or, 'You're NOT going to be a good athlete one day.' Or that parent that says, 'You're not signing up for that team because I don't want to drive you there,'" he said. "So we have to take it off the field and make it so everyone is together. We have to get it back to 'we.'"
That's the issue with baseball, Lewis said. With its record profits and highly-paid commissioner, baseball seems to care more about its bottom line than the image it projects or its legacy. The fact that Alex Rodriguez tested positive and admitted to steroids use shouldn't really come as a surprise at all since MLB fostered its "Steroid Era."
"For me, the first part of my career I didn't understand why I was so good in a lot of ways. I did things that I was always building toward. I jumped far and ran fast even though I was a little skinny kid," Lewis, the former "fastest man on earth," explained. "And then I understood the magnitude of what I was doing and why I started to speak out against drugs so much. I realized that if we didn't stop it early, it could destroy the sport. Baseball is just in the beginning of destroying it. To me, even with an A-Rod, that situation is - what really bothers me is how it's just been spun. But the reality is you took drugs and just say that and deal with it.
"My thing is you look at A-Rod and you look at Marian Jones - please (rolls eyes) are you kidding me - people do cheat. ... But what the heck was going on? Why would you cheat?
In the Olympic sports if the drug tests come back dirty and after the arbitration process has been exhausted, medals, money and awards are stripped. Gone. Just like that they're taken away. Perhaps that's a model baseball can follow? If a player tests positive, maybe his team should be eliminated from the playoffs?
Just don't expect much in the way of sympathy.
"I don't think I feel sorry for them, but there has to be a reason why they cheat," Lewis said. "I don't think there are very many evil people in the world - there just aren't many evil people. But there are a lot of unfortunate people, a lot of people who make ridiculous decisions, and that's why I really believe in rehab. Because I think we can have 99 percent of the people come back and do the right thing. But what I don't like is, for a lack of a better word, a bull crapper. Just say it and say what it is."
Nope, Lewis never had any trouble with that.
But before we dive into the mysteries of chemistry, calculus and why hockey fans bother to care why the rest of the sporting public doesn't care much for their sport, I hope there is someone who can explain the allure of the television broadcast of the Academy Awards.
I get the Academy Awards as much as my wife understands the appeal of a 162-game Major League Baseball season, the three weeks of the Tour de France or why I sit on the edge of my seat to watch people run for 26.2 miles. No, it's not insanity or some sort of self-mutilation. Far from it. Instead it's an appreciation of nuance and ... wait, no, it's insanity.
So tonight I will join in some good, old-fashioned insanity and watch the Super Bowl of glamour (nice sports metaphor, huh?), debauchery and depravity with my old lady (it's a term) and tune into the Academy Awards. I will also comment on the fashion choices of the stars in attendance without irony. The fact that the accessories worn by Angelina Jolie will likely cost more than my house isn't the issue. Instead, I will just act like the Academy Awards are oh so important and are rightly celebrated at a level higher than the Nobel Peace Prize.
So as America spirals into the cultural and economic abyss, we might as well handicap it. Might as well check into that whole live Twittering thing, too. Might be going to hell in a bucket, babe, but at least I'm enjoying the ride.
Here goes, and yes, I know there is no way to judge art or acting unless all of the actors play the same part. I also know that the Academy Awards are inherently a big pile of BS.
Supporting actress: Taraji P. Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
OK, I hated this movie. Actually, that's not right... I hate racism and inequality. I just disliked The Curious Case of Benjamin Button a whole bunch. Nevertheless, I couldn't wait for Ms. Henson to get back on the screen. More importantly, Ms. Henson shares the same birthday as Ted Leo (same date and year according to wikipedia), was born in The District (holla!) and kicked ass in Hustle & Flow. She can act the way you can rack up out-of-control credit debt.
Supporting actor: Heath Ledger, The Dark Night
Duh. He definitely stole the show in this one. Plus, there's that whole death thing... maybe not the best career move, but it definitely earns points with the Academy.
Actress: Kate Winslet, The Reader
I missed this one, but I read that Kate Winslet said this picture is the last one in which she appears nude. End of an era?
Actor: Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
Daniel Day-Lewis could be on the screen speaking Arabic and I would rave. There's just something about that guy... or maybe it's the fact that he skipped out on becoming the biggest movie star ever and disappeared for years because he was learning how to be a shoe cobbler. Hey, people need shoes.
But Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler was almost to Daniel Day-Lewis levels. He was sublime and brutal much like DeNiro in Raging Bull. Just awesome and easily the best performance of the year. More importantly, Mr. Rourke could win and then make a speech that will put the dude with the dump-out button to work.
On another note, my wife says Sean Penn is far superior as Harvey Milk... yeah, probably. But c'mon, a 'roided up Mickey Rourke rasslin'... She also says Meryl Streep gave easily the best performance of anyone this year, but that's a given. She's like the Harlem Globetrotters to everyone's Washington Generals.
Director: The guy who made Slumdog Millionaire
Missed this one. It was showing the day I took the kids to see WALL-E, or Bolt, or Kung-fu Panda or something like that.
Best picture: Slumdog Millionaire
Whatever. I'm not going to pay money to watch kids get hurt and people suffer. I already know life is difficult and I don't need to get "perspective" from a movie. I can read the news or look at pictures of Dick Cheney if I want to know the world can be a horrible place.
Speaking of the Academy Awards, inevitably the hosts and presenters will always tell us, the viewer, how many people are watching worldwide? How do they know? And if they know how many people are watching the Academy Awards worldwide, don't they also know how many people turned on the TV and fell asleep? Or how many people turned it on but left the room to take a phone call or something?
I really don't think they know what they're talking about.
Yes, I generalize because I can.
Here's the thing. I'm a huge fan of track and field, long-distance running and professional bicycling. I just love it. It's a tough, grueling sport that just gets me all wound up just anticipating a big race or meet. But here's the thing... I don't want the mass populace to get it because that way I don't have to share my passion for some dumbed-down mass audience. So please, folks, let me have my geeky endurance sports with all my dork friends. Here's an idea: go watch some hockey. They really seem to want you to.