There is Something to be Said About Loyalty

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there-is-something-to-be-said-about-loyaltyThe late Tony Gwynn played 20 seasons with one team, the San Diego Padres. Despite a Hall of Fame career that included 8 batting titles, 5 gold glove awards, and 15 all-star appearances, Gwynn appeared in only 2 World Series, both times he was on the losing team. The Padres franchise had just a handful of winning seasons with Gwynn on the team. But the thought of leaving for another team never entered his mind. Gwynn is perhaps an example of loyalty.

There are other two names that come to mind, Shane Doan of the Arizona Coyotes and Joe Thomas of the Cleveland Browns. Both players have established themselves of being elite players on teams that would be best described as mediocre. Both deserve to be in their respective Hall of Fames once their careers are over. But neither have asked to be traded to a contending team nor have they gone on the market and signed with another team. They decided to stay where they are.

You could be excused if you were someone like Kevin Durant or LeBron James who left their respective teams to join ones who are already championship calibre or a so-called “Super Team” where the line up is made up of superstar quality athletes. But to those who stuck it out with one team or one organization throughout their entire career, you should be saluted. To them, it is more about being associated with one team than it is about winning championships. I find that people appreciate a player’s loyalty even if they had every reason to leave.

Loyalty is perhaps the most unappreciated quality in the world. No one seems to care if you dedicate yourself to one team or organization. In fact, loyalty is often seen by some as being associated with losers. But if you are one who works hard and shows up everyday, you maybe on a losing team but you are hardly a loser. Sometimes being a big fish in a small pond is better than being one of million in an ocean.

So let’s give kudos to those who are staying with the only place they knew for their entire lives. One maybe a lonely number, but for some, it is the only number they know.

Also see:

Stability Key to a Successful Team?
Backers Abandon Cam, Broncos Win One for Peyton
Is it Always Good to Go Out on Top?

Some Traditions are Worth Keeping

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I was asked why the first baseball game of the season is played in the afternoon. My reply was it is tradition. Yes, it was on a work day yet baseball fans find the time to get out to the ballpark and watch the game. Many marketing geniuses would suggest holding the first game of the season in the evening would make more sense because more people are off work and children are off school at that time. But we see many stadiums filled to capacity with thousands of people supposedly calling in sick. As the saying goes: if it ain’t broke, why fix it?

The latest attempt by Major League Baseball to appease those who don’t follow baseball is to replace the intentional base-on-balls rule. In effort to pick up the pace of the game, instead of lobbing four pitches away from the plate, managers will signal to the home plate umpire of their intentions to give first base to the batter without throwing a pitch. Another idea being bandied about is to start the half of each inning with a runner on first base if the game goes past the regulation 9 innings as a way to generate more runs to decide a winner thus ending the game a lot sooner. Those ideas may sound good on paper but whether it will work in reality remains to be seen. Already, a number of managers and players are against them even before it is put into practice. Are they being fickle? No. They know full well that it is not going to work. They, like a lot of baseball fans, understand that going through the motions of something even remotely uninteresting is part of the game. The only people who have a problem with the pace of the game are those who don’t watch it. You can extend that argument to those who don’t like the violent nature of hockey and football, and the lack of scoring in soccer.

Too many times, those in charge of sports leagues ruin what is already a great game to watch. They feel kicking a good number of diehard fans to the curb in favour of attracting a few casual ones is worth it. Hockey fans experienced this in 1992 with the Fox puck, a puck that glows on your TV screen. Fox carried NHL games in the US and felt putting a spotlight on the puck will make it easier for people to see it while watching the game on TV. But the gimmick became more of a distraction than an enhancement, and a couple of years later, Fox put the glowing puck, figuratively, on ice.

That is not to say there is room for improvement when it comes to the game. But sometimes it is best to leave things alone. Why do some changes make sense while others are not accepted? I can sum it up with one word, politics. Those who believe in legislating change, or forcing the issue on others, are doomed to fail while those who let nature take its course, meaning no political interference, are more likely to succeed. This is why leagues with rules that see hockey players get kicked out of the game and/or face supplementary discipline for getting involved in a fight are seeing their product diminish. It is kind of ironic that the people who were perhaps the most vocal against the Fox puck cling to the belief that there will be no more fighting in hockey. All I can say is: pity.

Times are a changing and technology is offering new ways to do things that are more convenient. But some (like me) are what people like to call “old-school”. We continue to perform tasks today that were first created dozens of years ago. We like to hold up and flip through pages of a newspaper, or prefer to speak to a person in-person when buying a big-ticket item. Recently, vinyl records have seen a resurgence by people in their late teens and early 20s (a.k.a.: millennials). They are discovering what a lot of us already know and enjoy.

Some often mistake tradition for laziness. But we don’t change just for the sake of it. Sometimes the best way of doing things is what we have already been doing for years. And that is why some traditions are worth keeping.

Also see:

Political Correctness has No Place in Sport
What Happens When the Passion is Gone?
Outsiders Strike Again

2016 Saw the Return of Toronto as a Sports Town

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Getty Images

Getty Images

In 2016, Toronto showed the world why it is a sports town. For the record, I never thought for a moment that Toronto lost its place in the sports world. But over the last number of years it became dull, predictable, and snobbish. Nothing could have lit a fire under a Toronto sports fan. Then came the recent playoff runs of the Blue Jays, Raptors, and Toronto FC. The Blue Jays went 22 years without a post-season berth before making back-to-back playoff appearances the last two years. People would point out that Blue Jays games rarely sold out or that there are those still burned by the player’s strike in 1994. These folks must have bad knees because they like to use crutches. The fact there are at least 20,000 coming to every game means those who are there are not only Blue Jays fans but also true baseball fans.

A year before Josh Donaldson’s dash home, Jose Bautista brought fans to their feet:

If you watched the NBA playoffs, you would have witnessed Jurassic Park, an area outside the Air Canada Centre where Raptors fans gather and watch their team play whether the team was at home or on the road. Thousands of people braved the elements to watch their team play. LeBron James noticed it moments after he and the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Raptors in the NBA Eastern Conference Final. So did actor and comedian Jamie Foxx when he made an appearance on ESPN after the game. People do pay attention.

Then you have fans of Toronto FC who are in a league of their own. 20 years ago, no one would even think about watching an outdoor sporting event by the lake in the middle of December. But there it was, BMO Field, filled to capacity for the MLS Cup Final. A number of spectators probably wore the same attire at that game as they did to one on a hot, sticky summer day. The loud noise may have caused residents living in Liberty Village across the railway tracks to lose some sleep that night. Passionate? Dedicated? Vocal? Did Donald Trump become President of the United States?

USA TODAY Sports

USA TODAY Sports

Part of the resurgence is due to rapper Drake. Yes, we’ve had other Toronto-born celebrities showing off their hometown pride (i.e. Mike Myers, Will Arnett) but no one has made an impact quite like Mr. Graham. He is also the reason Hogtown is now known as The Six.

The CFL’s Argonauts missed the boat (no pun intended) when they failed to make the playoffs in the year where BMO Field hosted the 104th Grey Cup. The Maple Leafs have missed the playoffs in 11 of their last 12 seasons. But the foundation is now in place after the Brendan Shanahan regime took over in 2014. It will only be a matter of time before they join the likes of the Blue Jays, Raptors, and TFC.

Toronto is often ridiculed (and sometimes rightfully so) for being a fairweather sports town. They sit on their hands, offer a polite applause, wondering why can’t they let us win? Not anymore. Things have changed. There are new people living in the city have they have brought their own approach to watching sports. Some we are not used to seeing: large gatherings outside stadiums to watch games on big screen TVs, wearing the team colours with pride, and screaming so loud it would blow out ear drums. This is not your father’s Toronto sports fans. I can only imagine what 2017 will be for Toronto sports fans.

Also see:

People Don’t Watch Sports, Fans Do
Habs Fans Becoming Snobs
Leafs Nation Needs a Housecleaning

 

Women Should Stay Away from Trash Talking

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Kate Upton went on Twitter to express her displeasure after news that Boston Red Sox pitcher Rick Porcello won the 2016 Cy Young Award over her fiancée, Detroit Tigers hurler Justin Verlander. This despite the fact that Verlander had more first place votes than Porcello. It was later revealed that Verlander’s name was not on two of the 30 ballots that were cast. Upton took to Twitter to call out the two writers that didn’t put down his name. That prompted a reporter for the New York Times who covers the Yankees to throw shade towards her. Verlander had to come his fiancée’s defense. Personally, I believe Baltimore Orioles reliever Zach Britton should have won the Cy Young. But that’s an argument for another day.

The week before, Kaela Carpenter, the wife of Buffalo Bills kicker Dan Carpenter, took some shots at Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman. During the game, the Bills were lining up to attempt a field goal when Sherman jumped ahead of the snap and made a dash towards the ball. Sherman made a diving attempt at the ball before Carpenter kicked it. But at the same time, he made contact with the kicker which by rule is considered a penalty. A penalty was called for the offside but none was called for the hit. Carpenter appeared to be injured but was able to continue playing. Afterwards, Kaela Carpenter went on Twitter to suggest Sherman be castrated for his hit on her husband. Not one to that looks the other way, Sherman went to call her statement racist (even though it wasn’t). One can understand when your husband gets decked by an apparent cheap shot (which it was) but Carpenter’s wife had no idea what she was getting herself into or who she was up against.

Then there’s April Reimer, wife of former Maple Leaf goaltender James Reimer. She was caught in the middle of Twitter tirade over her husband’s performance in net after the Leafs were eliminated by the Boston Bruins in the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs. And she DIDN’T initiate anything. Some Leaf fans wanted to express their displeasure and, since James did not have a Twitter account but his wife did, she took the brunt of the criticism. It makes you wonder how blind people can use a smartphone. But as I have so eloquently explained, it can be done.

If there is one suggestion I would make to the wives, girlfriends, mothers of professional athletes, stay away from trash talking on social media especially if it is towards a male athlete. Women believe they can get a free pass when they get into a verbal war with reporters, fans, teammates, etc.. This puts men in a position where they don’t know how to respond. The thinking is: if he keeps quiet, then she has a point. The other side is: if he speaks up, he will be called a sexist or misogynistic (or racist if it involves two people of different ethnic backgrounds). Then you have those who see the posts and they react to them, often negatively. The result usually ends up having people being drawn into an arena that they can not get out alive. There is also the psychological effect of getting into a war of words especially if it is with someone you don’t know. It is one thing if you have Sherman going up against someone like Floyd Mayweather. But Sherman vs. Mrs. Carpenter becomes an awkward situation.

The Internet is already full of psychos who are more than willing to fire shots at people in the name of free speech. Don’t add to this by putting someone in the crosshairs because your future husband didn’t win an award. He made have deserved it, but don’t take away his accomplishments because you wanted to point out the omission by a couple of journalists. It isn’t worth risking your reputation, credibility, and most importantly your career.

Also see:

Where are the Free Speech Advocates Now?
Everyone’s a Critic
Getting Dirty About Talking Sports

 

Even a Genius Makes Mistakes

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FOX Sports

Buck Showalter is considered one of Major League Baseball’s best managers. His Baltimore Orioles were in control in the American League Wild Card Game against the Toronto Blue Jays last Tuesday night. And his bullpen has been one of the best this season. Which was why many were scratching their heads as to why Showalter did not put in his best reliever in the game when a berth into the American League Division Series was on the line? Showalter kept his closer Zach Britton in the bullpen despite the Blue Jays having the winning run in scoring position with only one out in the 11th inning. Edwin Encarnacion crushed Ubaldo Jimenez’s first pitch into the second deck over the left field wall for a walk-off home run and a trip to Arlington, Texas in the division series against the Rangers.

Showalter did what anyone else would have done when their team is on the road, he saved his closer for a lead. Critics like to point out that no one would have left Britton in the pen and let Jimenez pitch to Encarnacion. These are the same people who complain that managers/coaches don’t follow conventional wisdom.

This also goes to show that even someone with an extremely high IQ is prone to the occasional brain fart. You don’t have to look too far back to see another so-called genius make a serious blunder in a big game. The Seattle Seahawks were coming off a one-sided victory in Super Bowl 48 and were one play away from making it back-to-back championships. The Seahawks were down by 4 late in the 4th quarter but had the ball inside the New England Patriots 2-yard line in Super Bowl 49. Head coach Pete Carroll decided to call a pass play instead of letting running back Marshawn Lynch run it in for the potential winning score. Russell Wilson’s intended pass to Jermaine Kearse was intercepted by Malcolm Butler in the end zone to seal the win for the Patriots.

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick himself was caught making a questionable play call. With the Patriots leading the Indianapolis Colts by 6 points late in the 4th quarter on November 15, 2009, Belichick decided to go for it on 4th down and 2 yards to go… from inside his own 30 yard line. Gutsy call to be sure but Tom Brady and the offence were not able to get those yards needed for a 1st down and ended up turning the ball over. Peyton Manning then wasted little time to lead his offence for the winning score to keep the Colts, at the time, undefeated. Belichick was able to quickly put that behind him as the Patriots went on to beat the New York Jets the following week. Unfortunately for Carroll, he had the entire off-season to think about what he had done. Showalter will now have to do the same.

Usually an error in judgment in a game of big significance is a serious hit to one’s credibility. But I think Showalter, Belichick, and Carroll are too good to let their mistakes hang over them. It will hardly make a serious dent into their armour and they will move past this. This is what winning championships will allow you to have, some margin for error.

Also see:

Nobody’s Perfect
Everyone’s a Critic
Only Losers Look for Someone to Blame

 

NFL: A League of Outlaws

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Colin Kaepernick’s decision not to stand for the US national anthem prior to the start of an NFL pre-season game is the latest stunt by athletes who buy into this belief that their small action can change the world. I’m sure Kaepernick’s “statement” will make police think twice about arresting a black man (or woman) when investigating a crime.

While there have been opinions on both sides, people seem to forget (or don’t want to know) the underlying message Kaepernick wanted to send out. That is black people (or other visible minorities) should not be subject to a police investigation when they are suspected of committing a crime. He feels the colour of one’s skin is enough to justify one’s action against a biased law that governs the country. This is what I like to call the literary equivalent to diving.

What Kaepernick did was outrageous and everyone was right to criticize him. But I also think he was able to pull off his stunt because there are also those who blindly believe in the blacks-are-being-marginalized rhetoric that will support him. And that is the result of the work environment they all play in.

The NFL has been a league of outlaws since the days of Jim Brown and Lawrence Taylor. There is no respect for authority and the inmates are running the asylum. This is not to be confused with outlaw league which is totally different. Compare that to the NHL, a league where acts of being disrespectful (i.e. Sean Avery) are few and far between. There is no way Kaepernick would get away with his stunt if the league wasn’t an organization full of criminal behaviour. Ray Rice, Ricky Williams, and Ray Lewis are other examples. There is no leadership from the league’s office who are more concerned about deflated footballs than actions like Kaepernick’s. Tom Brady must be laughing at the television set as he sits in his luxurious home with his beautiful wife serving his 4-game suspension.

The easiest solution is to boycott the NFL. But to quote Stephen A. Smith, that move would be  “blasphemous”. I for one will continue to watch NFL games for this reason, there are still people in football that play football. You know, the game? As in moving a 12-inch pigskin down a 100-yard field avoiding several figures that stand in your way. Despite the problems the NFL is facing, the game of football is still the only thing that matters. Even in a league full of outlaws.

Also see:

Sports is Not a Platform for Activism
Racism Knows No Bounds
Before the Confederate Flag, There was the Springbok

Draft, Schmaft

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Draft Schmaft

Editor’s Note: I started writing this piece last June around the time of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. That was the one where Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel were selected first and second overall respectively. For some reason I was halfway through it and decided to put it on the shelf. But with the recent NFL Draft and the NHL Draft Lottery, I have decided to dust this off and finish it up.

The NHL draft sees some of the top junior players around the world get the opportunity to play in the NHL. But outside the 211 taken in the draft, there are dozens more who have not been draft for whatever reason. Some of them have made it to the NHL despite not being a first-round pick, or getting drafted period.

Martin St. Louis of the New York Rangers is the best example. Another is Rangers’ defenseman Dan Boyle. Both those guys went through the draft without having their name announced. But instead of sulking because they were not picked by a team, they used that as motivation to work hard and eventually become a reliable player for their clubs. Another example is Tom Brady. He is arguably the best quarterback in the NFL today. Brady was taken in the 2000 NFL draft but was a 6th round pick by the New England Patriots, a team that selected Drew Bledsoe 1st overall seven years earlier.

The success of late round or undrafted players happens even in junior hockey. Barrie Colts forward Andrew Mangiapane twice had 100-point seasons and more recently put up 51 goals. Did I mention he was not drafted by an OHL club? Mangiapane’s teammate Justin Scott was not drafted by an NHL club. But his performance in the OHL playoffs have caught the eye of several NHL teams and was eventually signed by Columbus.

The draft is kind of like a school yard pick ’em. Everybody gathers around in a room and the two sides pick players to form a team. Their decisions are based on the physical attributes of the individual player. The thinking is anyone who is 6-foot-2, 200 pounds can throw a pass or knock one out of the park. But part of the decision also involves how well these players perform in game situations. Hitting home runs in batting practice is different than in an actual game.

Yes, getting the best player through the draft can no doubt help your team in the long run. But not getting the first overall pick (or a Top-5 pick for that matter) is not the end of the world. Finding great players that were initially passed over is where general managers and scouts make their money. As St. Louis and Boyle will tell you, the draft is not the be all to end all as a lot of people may think.

Also see:

Getting the First Overall Pick: Big Deal? Or Big Deal?
The Maple Leafs Need Their Own Bringer of Rain
Get the Right Player First, then Spend the Money

Backers Abandon Cam, Broncos Win One for Peyton

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Backers Abandon Cam Broncos Win One for Peyton

48 hours after the dust settled, I am still dumbfounded at the way the Denver Broncos were able to smack the Carolina Panthers around and win Super Bowl 50. The professor, Peyton Manning, was able to get the better of the student, Cam Newton, in this match up of two former first overall picks. While there are those who are picking apart what went right for the Broncos and what went wrong for the Panthers, there are two things to take away from this game.

People give too much credit to the Bronco’s defence for winning the Super Bowl. While Denver’s pass rush was great, their secondary couldn’t keep up with Carolina’s receivers. Guys like Ted Ginn Jr., Greg Olsen, and Corey Brown were able to get open or make catches despite the coverage. It was the offensive line of the Panthers that could not protect Newton. They were being dominated by the Broncos’ defensive line letting get to Newton time after time. That really was the difference in the game. Had Newton been able to find his receivers, this Super Bowl would have had a totally different outcome.

Newton took a lot of heat after the game, mostly from those who believed the Panthers would win the Super Bowl. To hear them criticize Newton is outrageous. They point specifically to one play where he got stripped of the football and didn’t try to recover it in the scrum. But they fail to notice that he was playing with a bad left shoulder throughout the game. Then there was his post-game news conference where people got on him for saying very little. It goes to show how ignorant fans and the media can be. They slowly coddle players and then are quick to turn on them. But there is nothing you can do about it. Backstabbing is part of the game.

On the other side of the field, Manning didn’t have a great game. Compared to his previous Super Bowl appearance in 2014, he should have lost this one too. But you hear how Denver players say after the game that they won this for Peyton. That to me says something about the respect Manning has with his teammates. Even through the bogus HGH allegations against Manning, they were willing to go through a wall or stand in front of him to stop a bullet. That to me exemplifies a championship team.

I had my money on Carolina, but I also felt good that Manning is getting an opportunity to go out on top like his predecessor and current boss, John Elway. There is nothing like walking out as a champion. Someone better start carving out a bust of Manning.

Overall, this was a pretty good Super Bowl. Sure, it would have been nice to see Manning and Newton show off their stuff. But it was relatively close through the most part. A low-scoring, one-possession game is better than a one-sided affair. I’m sure Newton will take this game as a learning experience and it will motivate him to get back to the Super Bowl. As for Manning, he will be riding off into the sunset on his way to Canton.

Also see:

Is it Always Good to Go Out on Top?
What Happens When the Passion is Gone?
Still Think Defense is Overrated?

The Curse of Rush Limbaugh

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The Curse of Rush LimbaughSports is filled with tales and folklore. One of them is curses. Fans of teams that have not won a championship in years will often blame the drought on a curse. These so-called curses also result in other consequences. Take for instance the recent news of the St. Louis Rams going back to Los Angeles after leaving the City of Angels for the Gateway City 22 years ago. You can chalk that up to the curse of Rush Limbaugh.

Now some of you may be wondering: what is this Limbaugh curse and why is he the reason the Rams are heading to the west coast? First off, let me tell you who Rush Limbaugh is. Many who follow American politics knows Limbaugh. For those who don’t, he is the controversial US talk radio host known for his conservative views and penchant to ridicule liberals from Democrats to Hollywood. To say he is Barack Obama’s biggest critic would be an understatement.

Now that we know who Limbaugh is, let’s go into why I believe he is connected to the Rams moving back to LA. In 2009, there was a group that was looking into buying the Rams after owner Georgia Frontiere passed away. That group included former St. Louis Blues owner Dave Checketts and Limbaugh. However, there were a few NFL owners that did not want Limbaugh to own the team even if it’s a minority stake. One of them was Jim Irsay, owner of the Indianapolis Colts. Irsay was perhaps the most vocal in his opposition to having Limbaugh be part of the group. Checketts ended up removing Limbaugh from his group and continued his pursuit of buying the Rams. That deal eventually fell through and the team ended up being sold to current owner Stan Kroenke. Having Limbaugh as part owner of the Rams would not have prevented the team from moving. But it is hard to argue the futility the Rams have experienced since then. For the readers in Rio Linda, futility means a string of bad results.

The Rams are not the only team caught in the Limbaugh curse. The Colts themselves have been in a freefall since Irsay threatened to block Limbaugh from buying the Rams. The Colts continue to make the playoffs since 2009 but none of their appearances resulted in Super Bowl championships. Their franchise quarterback Peyton Manning was cut from the team after having two neck surgeries, and their current franchise quarterback, Andrew Luck, is dealing with his own health setbacks. Irsay himself was victimized when he was arrested for DUI and drug possession.

In 2003, Limbaugh worked at ESPN as an analyst on the Sunday pre-game show. His comments on former Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb caused negative criticism particularly those from the black community. Limbaugh ended up leaving the show. He said the parting was mutual but you wouldn’t know it from his comments of the network after his departure. Since then, ESPN has lost a number of viewers to the point where they are laying off staff in order to keep the channel on the air. As I mentioned in a previous piece, no one is watching ESPN because of their lack of sports coverage.

The point here is anyone who has crossed, double-crossed, or attempted to cross Limbaugh has ended up hurting themselves. They won’t necessarily admit it but as I have explained in this piece they have gotten themselves into a deep hole that they have never been able to get out of. It is perhaps why Donald Trump is still in the running to become the next President of the United States. Contrary to popular belief, Trump and Limbaugh are often at odds on political issues especially on sending military troops to Iraq. But Trump has, to this point, managed to avoid getting into a war of words with Limbaugh.

The Limbaugh curse doesn’t have the notoriety as the Billy Goat or the Bambino. It is going to take at least another 10 years before it gets to that level. But it is hard to ignore the sports teams and figures who have not been able to get out of a funk as a result. Just ask football fans in St. Louis.

Also see:

Everyone’s a Critic
In Defense of George Stroumboulopoulos
Sports is Not a Platform for Activism

Bettman is the Best Commissioner in Professional Sports

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National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks with the media at a press conference announcing the start of the NHL season at the Westin Times Square on January 9, 2013 in New York City. *** Local Caption *** Gary Bettman

The headline maybe a bit of a stretch but I would argue it is not farfetched. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is by far ahead of the other 3 including the boss of the so-called best sports league in the world, Roger Goodell.

Goodell’s latest defeat, Deflategate, has many questioning his ability to execute his role as NFL Commissioner. In exonerating New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, the judge presiding the case basically compared Goodell to Joseph McCarthy. And perhaps with good reason. Despite media reports, there have been no concrete evidence to link Brady to the underinflated footballs. The case against Brady was a sham from the beginning and was destined to fail. Anyone who goes on a fishing expedition gets what they deserve and those who buy into it just helped raise former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s IQ by 30 points. Add to that his botching of Ray Rice, bounties, and concussions and the results see Goodell take a nosedive on the commissioner depth chart.

Adam Silver of the NBA and baseball’s Robert Manfred are rather new to the sports commissioner biz. Some would say Silver gets brownie points for his handling of former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. But I would advise Mr. Silver that pandering to groups that could less about your business is not a sign of good leadership. Manfred came on board just as the Biogenics case wrapped up and Alex Rodriguez was handed a season-long suspension. So in this case, he has not been tested yet.

Bettman meanwhile has been playing it cool in the heat of scrutiny. You can question some of his ideas but his approach to the game both on and off the ice has been close to being pure genius. For better or for worse, the game of hockey has grown in popularity during Bettman’s tenure especially in non-traditional markets. Bettman has resisted calls for change in the game from both traditionalists (i.e. those who care about the game) and the politically correct crowd (i.e.: those who could care less about the game). He has also stood tall in labour disputes with the NHLPA. It is like sending stiffs to go up against a heavyweight champ. Bob Goodenow, Ted Saskin, and now Donald Fehr, all have tapped out to the little man in the end. Bettman continues to get plastered with bullets from the media but manages to dust himself off in the end. That or sports journalists are simply bad marksmen.

We could debate whether Bettman is the best commissioner in sport but there is no doubt that he is looking good while his counterparts are either sitting on the sidelines or getting beaten up in the courts or in the media. Perhaps it is time to give Bettman his due. Goodell would do himself some good by calling Bettman and getting some pointers.

Also see:

The Past is Starting to Catch Up to the Patriots
Why We Like to Lay Blame and Not Give Credit
If It’s Panned, It Must be a Good Move