Tag Archive: Sports Opinion

  1. Fuhrer: A ridiculous report


    In the 42-second Elevate raid video, a motionless Jordan Jefferson ’13 lies on the floor surrounded by several cops.

    “You’re f—-d,” a policeman says repeatedly.

    “Nine months in prison,” another one adds.

    “Nine months for what?” a girl next to the videographer asks rhetorically.

    The mumbling crowd is then silenced by the shouts of Officer Justin Marshall, Officer Matthew Abbate and Lieutenant Thaddeus Reddish.

    “Who’s next?” an officer yells.

    “Anybody else?” a man in S.W.A.T. gear adds.

    For days after the Elevate raid, students filed complaints with Captain Denise Blanchard and the New Haven Police Department’s Internal Affairs Unit. Thirty-seven students and other community members submitted written accounts of their experiences at Elevate, expecting that the University and the New Haven Police Department would take their statements seriously.

    As Dean Mary Miller wrote to Yale students in an Oct. 3 email: “We know that many students have experienced a very disturbing event. We have heard their voices, and we are committed to pursuing an appropriate resolution of the issues.”

    The University provided a lawyer, attorney Patrick Noonan, to assist student witnesses during the Internal Affairs investigation, while providing a space on campus for the IA Unit to conduct interviews. Over five months later, the IA report was finally released. It recognized the illegitimacy of orders to prevent cell phone use during the Elevate raid — this contributed indirectly to the complete dismissal of my charge of interfering with police. More importantly, it informed the cops that, yes, civilians can use their videocameras.

    However, we should not view the findings of the Internal Affairs investigation as an “appropriate resolution of the issues.” Student accounts were not taken with the same gravity as police testimonies and there were clear disagreements between the police and student descriptions of the Tasing incident — yet Sergeant J. Wolcheski concluded that excessive force was not used. He claimed that Jordan had actively resisted arrest, something refuted by many student witnesses.

    Sergeant Wolcheski clearly did not read the arrest reports of Seth Bannon and Steven Winter ’11, whose charges are still pending. He writes that they were arrested for interfering with an officer. In reality, Bannon and Winter are each charged with one count of disorderly conduct and one count of trespassing.

    But I am most disturbed by the testimony of Lieutenant Reddish. Reddish gives a far different depiction of the Tasing incident than anyone else, save Officer Abbate. He describes excessive use of profanity by students, while depicting an all-out fight between Jordan and several officers. Seated directly next to Jordan, I had a clear view of the entire “struggle” that Reddish attempts to portray.

    Reddish and Abbate seem to believe that Jordan was somehow capable of slapping officers and knocking out Taser cartridges near the top of his back, while he was faced forward with his hands at the small of his back.

    Besides the impracticality of “knocking out” a Tasing cartridge with one’s hands behind one’s back, the claimed removal of the cartridge wouldn’t have mattered. A Taser in drive-stun mode does not require the use of an air cartridge. Most policemen who claimed to have witnessed the altercation insinuated that Jordan “tensed up” and “flexed his muscles.” According to the IA report, a member of the New Haven Police Explorers program stated that he did not see anyone struck during the struggle and that Abbate’s Taser cartridge fell out without interference by Jordan.

    Reddish’s police report is dated Oct. 2, 2010, the night after the raid, rather than its actual completion date of Oct. 4, 2010. He claims that he “did not finish it until Monday morning because it was a supplement to the arrest.” However, his propensity for directly quoting students’ allegedly profane statements during the raid would lead you to believe that he taped the proceedings or wrote everything down immediately following the event. While several students indicated that the men in S.W.A.T. gear — Reddish and Officer Robert Strickland — were overly aggressive and used excessive amounts of profanity, the lieutenant’s verbal commands were not questioned by those in charge of the IA investigation.

    In reality, Jordan showed no indication of resisting arrest. He placed his hands directly behind his back as Abbate asked him to stand up. I saw no indication of resistance, nor of him “bracing, tensing, pushing; or verbally signaling an intention to avoid or prevent being taken into custody by using force,” which Wolcheski states are forms of active resistance warranting use of Tasers and fists.

    Upon reviewing Wolcheski’s report, Chief Administrative Officer Rob Smuts ’01 criticized the police’s poor leadership, training and understanding of the ability to use cell phones during an inspection. He stated, “That there were a significant number of civilians who testified about officer use of profanity in stark opposition to the testimony of all officers present is a problem of some kind, particularly notable since the issue at hand — use of profanity — is justifiable in this context.”

    While he states that there is no evidence supporting student claims of officer profanity, in the YouTube video written off by Wolcheski and Smuts, the listener can clearly hear officers standing over Jordan on the dance floor yelling “You’re f—-d” and “That’s nine months,” a claim both Tully McLoughlin ’11 and Marty Evans ’11 made in their testimonies.

    That New Haven police officers were willing to lie on tape about something as unsubstantial as profanity use should make community members question their credibility. The investigation is far from over, and the problematic IA report has not solved the problems plaguing our city’s police department.

    So, Dean Miller: You have heard our voices, and you claim to be committed to pursuing an appropriate resolution of the issues. Well then, make your next move.

    Zachary Fuhrer is a senior in Ezra Stiles College and a former Arts & Living editor for the News.

  2. Goldsmith: It’s all about ego in the post-Decision era

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    This fall — man, this is very tough — this fall, I’m gonna take my talents to Cambridge and join the Harvard Crimson.

    With those few words, I know that I have irrevocably changed the lives of you, my 14 readers. The world of sports columns will never be the same again.

    “King”-sized egotism aside, this summer, we have seen a change in the world of professional sports, and it goes much deeper than any one man’s Decision — this summer we witnessed (too easy) a paradigm shift in the sporting world, with implications that we are only beginning to comprehend.

    This might seem an outlandish claim as we now find ourselves with nothing but Major League Baseball on TV to keep us company during the dog-days of August, so let’s look back over these past several months and see where we stand. At the very least, maybe we can provide some clarity as to what I should do with my LeBron James poster.

    It began in late April with the beginning of the NBA and NHL Playoffs, but of course, we were all studying then. Those who so foolishly and irresponsibly overlooked their studies might have caught the first-round series in the NBA’s Western Conference between 21-year-olds Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder and the defending NBA Champions, Kobe Bryant’s Los Angeles Lakers. Sure, the kids lost in a close game 7, but they demonstrated poise, maturity and humility that earned them new fans and considerable respect.

    Undoubtedly, it was nice to see Los Suns of Phoenix push through to the Western Conference Finals during the first days of Arizona’s fascist state, but the rest of the NBA post-season was rather uneventful. Oh, except for that one thing when that one guy gave up and let down that one city’s generation of dreams.

    Meanwhile, we had some serious action over in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, with 14 overtimes and four series going the seven-game distance. I will never forget the adrenaline rush during the Philadelphia Flyers’ overtime victory over the Boston Bruins in game four of the second-round series in the East that sparked their push to the Stanley Cup Finals. It was a surge of emotion and passion that I knew transcended my fan partisanship — this was true sport.

    So we had a competitive NBA Finals, a nail-biting Stanley Cup that, at least for me, seemed to indicate a boost in the sport’s popularity. We had continued dominance at the Tennis majors by Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams, an uneventful bike race and a small soccer tournament.

    What? To think that it took this long to even mention the World Cup! Reflecting back over those weeks, however, it is hard to capture the emotion, the enthusiasm that the event inspires. It sneaks up on us, hiding behind qualifying games and work-up matches. But then it hits us, in full force. Three matches a day.

    With the United States fielding a team of real contenders, this year had an even more special feel. I have never sung the National Anthem, “America the Beautiful,”“My Country’Tis of Thee, “or recited the Pledge of Allegiance (all repeatedly and boisterously) with so much national pride as I did down on Stone Street in New York’s Financial District on the afternoon of the USA-England match.

    And then there was Landon Donovan’s stoppage time goal against Algeria. It is impossible to write anything about that, to describe the moment in some way. Attempting to fit it somehow into a discussion of the state of professional sports seems almost irreverent. Only the buzz of the vuvuzela can really do it any justice — the World Cup is timeless, feeding from some archaic and transcendent human energy. The World Cup is sport at its pinnacle.

    Quite the contrast from this year’s Tour de France. Ever since the doping-gate scandal broke out in professional cycling, especially surrounding the (former?) hero Lance Armstrong, it has made any serious fan skeptical. For years, I watched nearly every stage of the tour and became fascinated with the technicalities of cycling races. This year, I couldn’t be bothered, and when I heard that Lance Armstrong crashed and was dropping out of the race, it seemed only fitting.

    And then we found ourselves in mid-July with the MLB-only diet as the sports world took its annual vacation.

    In the vacuum that ensued, we got a few more LeBron-Wade-Bosh “Will it work?” articles hashed over for the 15th time. It almost felt like a relief when season two of “Favre-Watch” started.

    After the mockery that he made of himself last off-season, I was genuinely repulsed to hear that days after announcing his retirement, Favre said he would be back. I was surprised to notice that my disappointment was not shared. Even the often outspoken duo of Wilbon and Kornheiser hashed it out on PTI, submitting to their role in what has become the annual off-season news-filler.

    Only in a post-Decision world is the kind of John Kerry flip-flopping Brett Favre pulled on us in mid-August excusable.

    So where does LeBron James fit into all of this?

    He doesn’t.

    Somehow, the hour-long ESPN special devoted to LeBron James’s choice of teams stands out as the biggest sports spectacle of this past summer, despite this laundry list of real sports stories. It indicates something nasty about what our society values, something that I hesitate to dwell on knowing I was one of the millions who devoured LeBron James news all summer like a post-Toad’s wenzel.

    The Decision was not a sports story, but the story of one man’s ego. Sports stories are about little 12-year-old Robbie Wilson’s Auburn, Wash., teammates allowing him to fulfill his dream and pitch the last two outs in this summer’s Little League World Series, despite it being his first time on the mound. Sports stories uplift us, inspire us, awe us. They unite us in a dimension of humanity in a way that only something as innocent as a game can do.

    I may or may not burn my LeBron poster like theother disenchanted fans. I’ll let you know when I make my Decision.

  3. Golob: Yale sports’ charm

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    I have always felt a weird, magnetic draw toward sports, whether I was making some less-than-remarkable saves in goal for my high school soccer team or donning my blue and white L.A. cap once a week at Dodger games. That part of it always came naturally to me.

    What hasn’t been so natural is the hype surrounding sports, the ceaseless commentary and projection, the fantasy leagues or SportsCenter running on a constant loop. Anyone at the News could probably attest that given the choice between an entertaining ABC Family romantic comedy and the Blazers-Knicks game, I’d much rather watch the former.

    I think I appreciate watching sports for the sport itself. I love the feeling of walking in to a half-empty baseball stadium and watching it come alive on a warm summer night. I love when the crowd erupts after the home team scores. And I love the beauty and excitement of sport itself.

    After four years of watching sports at Yale, I tend to think that Ivy League athletics operate in the realm of the sports world I like best. They exist free from the maelstrom of media and fandom that surrounds most other college and professional leagues.

    This is not to say Yale sports are subordinate to those leagues. Yale boasts many world-class athletes, and those who have the potential to be.

    What I mean is that your average Yale-Penn basketball game will not be seen on TV, will not have any post-game coverage aside from in some newspapers or on WYBC-1340, and will not encourage much more conversation than from a select group of fans. Unlike Duke or Kentucky during March Madness, no one is going to be adding the Yale team to any kind of bracket.

    Yale’s biggest athletics event each year, The Game, is the only one that provokes the type of nation- and school-wide hype that most other teams are privy to year round. Yet even that was broadcast only on channel 200-something by Versus and was only available on one cable provider, not like CBS or ABC or FOX’s Bowl Championship Series coverage.

    Barring success in national tournaments, like the men’s hockey team’s in the past two years, most Yale teams operate under the radar and outside of the world of ESPN, NESN, YES, MSG and any other anagram you might throw out there. Even when the hockey team made it to the NCAA Tournament, ESPN still wrote it off — this year, at least.

    Consider Yale’s most continuously successful teams, like crew or squash or fencing. By all accounts, Yale is a squash powerhouse whose men’s team recently became the second-best in the nation. But very few people would have known that had it not been for a controversial incident in the national championship that wound up on SportsCenter.

    I think this detachment allows Yale sports to be played and appreciated by fans purely for the value of the sport itself. As much as I love the Dodgers, I cannot go to a game without being bombarded by advertising around the stadium or hoping that a great play ends up on that night’s highlights.

    But when I went up the hill to Ingalls Rink every Friday and Saturday night, I knew I was in for a night of great hockey and a fantastic atmosphere of raucous students and die-hard New Haven fans, not TV-timeouts and corporate sponsorship.

    Watching countless soccer games at Reese Stadium has made me appreciate the beauty in the game of soccer and the hard work athletes put into their sport.

    Witnessing the football team’s effort in The Game this year made me appreciate how, even when a season is effectively over, athletes will work as hard as they can to win a game.

    Seeing members of the cross country team endlessly circle the field while I’m listlessly participating in an IM soccer game reminded me of the dedication required by these athletes.

    All of these things sometimes get lost in the box scores and fantasy rankings or in contract negotiations and front-office politics that plague professional sports leagues. Or in the convoluted BCS system and athletics scholarships offered by other schools. Yale athletes are primarily students. None receive full rides just for sports, barely any will leave school early to go pro, and only some will be ranked among the best in the nation in their sport.

    Don’t get me wrong, I live and die by Major League Baseball and have been glued to the National Hockey League playoffs these past weeks. But watching Yale athletes compete over the past four years has reminded me why it is that I watch sports.

    Ivy League sports are special because they highlight only the team or individual. No attention is given to that team’s graduation rate or to that individual’s draft stock.

    Yale’s athletics have reminded me what is pure about sport because of their focus on the sport itself. They have reminded me why I love the simple thrill of the game.

    Brittany Golob is a senior in Ezra Stiles College and is a former Sports Editor for the News.

  4. Song: In Tebow I trust

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    Tim Tebow. Those two words have created more contentious viewpoints than Meatless Monday. With the NFL draft tonight, no man has generated more vitriol, worship, and uninformed opinions over the course of the past 24 hours. Even my completely sports-illiterate neuroscientist mother had an opinion. “The (Jacksonville) Jaguars are going to buy him, right?” she asked. Besides getting the buying/drafting part of the verb use wrong, even my mom was insinuating that homeboy had to get drafted by the Jags — if for no other reason than her remembering that my friend played on his Little League team. (That’s right — I knew Tim Tebow through a friend!)

    Then come the questions. Will he succeed at the next level? What position will he play? Will he switch to H-back? Tight-end? Towel boy? As I was watching ESPN’s draft coverage and digesting their googolplex of mock drafts, I was constantly on head-explosion patrol. I made a point of DVRing (mentally, of course; there’s no way my parents would pay for something so detrimental to my GPA) every sports show in sight just in case any expert’s head actually spontaneously mushroomed from pure banana split.

    Look, the fact of the matter is that nobody knows how Tim Tebow will perform in the NFL. He could be one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. He could be so bad that even Ryan Leaf sends Tebow portions of his government unemployment checks. But despite all these unknowns about the man, the legend, the deity, Timothy Richard “Tim” Tebow (his full Wikipedia name), one thing is for certain: I will always love him. Uh … root for him.

    And that brought me to a very introspective question (no, it has nothing to do with my sexuality — ladies, continue to MySpace me): to what extent do I, as a sports fan, root for one individual rather than a team? What happens if the dreaded Pittsburgh Steelers, fresh off Ben Roethlisberger’s debauchery, just says, “Eff this, we’re going for the super Christian, grounded, on-track-to-be-a-saint Tim Tebow.”

    I hate the Steelers. They’ve always irked me because whenever we (the Jacksonville Jaguars) play the Steelers, there’s almost more Steeler fans in the crowd than Jaguar fans. Where did they come from? Where did they get so many yellow towels in Jacksonville? Does Bed Bath & Beyond just run out of yellow towel inventory whenever they come into town? What’s the profit and loss of Bed Bath & — OK, sorry, I’ll cut off the consulting lingo there. But the point is, I hate the Steelers, hate their fans, and hate how they’re always taking over my stadium.

    What if Tim Tebow suited up in the yellow and black? Does my personal love for him as a player trump my love for the hometown Jaguars? Does it override my hate for the Steelers? Who said sports fans didn’t have to make decisions?!?

    Thinking through all this stuff, I realized that it really has to do with your connection to your community. For most of us, our rooting interests all have to do with our community links. People root passionately for their college teams most likely because they either went there or had some kind of connection there that defined them in some way. People root for their hometown teams because they grew up rooting for them, had parents who were crazy about them, or — like the young, naïve, virginally-sports-uninitiated John Song — just (literally) drank the team’s Kool-Aid from a free cup at the local supermarket.

    But when it comes to the homegrown heroes like Tim Tebow, it all has to do with the relationship of the people to the player and the player to the people. When Reggie Miller was drafted by the Indiana Pacers instead of hometown product Steve Alford, fans booed the selection. Then Miller embraced the city, brought them swagger against the big bad New York Knicks, and became the most accomplished long-distance marksman in NBA history. The boos turned into cheers.

    In a way, if Tim Tebow is drafted by any team other than the Jaguars, he can definitely pull the reverse-Reggie Miller. Instead of being a foreigner who captured a local team’s hearts, he could be the hometown son who continued to love his community despite playing for a different team. He could form great grassroots programs, donate up the wazzoo, and make a lasting impression with the people of Jacksonville — all without actually playing for the Jaguars.

    But how will the fans take it? Ask rap genius Lil Wayne, who was apparently rooting for the Minnesota Vikings in this year’s NFC Championship despite being from New Orleans. Why? Because he’s been a Brett Favre fan all his life and has signed memorabilia from his favorite quarterback. He turned his back on the city that he grew up in because of one man. (If you don’t believe me, Google “Lil Wayne” and “Minnesota Vikings.”)

    But there are examples on the other end of the spectrum. In an informal poll of one person conducted yesterday, I asked my friend Mike (a die-hard Washington Capitals hockey fan and willing donor to fund medical research in order to carry Alexander Ovechkin’s unborn children) if he would root for Ovechkin even if he no longer played for the Caps. Sure, he said, before noting that Ovechkin has literally 10 years left on his contract and, hence, that would be impossible. I then asked Mike to choose a side whenever Ovechkin rolled into town. Without any hesitation, Mike went with his hometown team, the Caps.

    But it’s interesting to note here that Mike felt an unnatural connection to the Caps. After studying abroad in Egypt last year, he felt that the only consistent connection he had to America was the Caps. He started reading all their blogs, following their statistical analytics, and even waking up in the wee hours of the night to stream grainy games on his laptop. Even though he wasn’t a die-hard fan before, his experience in Egypt made the Caps a part of who he was.

    And that’s the answer to my question of who to root for. It’s easy to say that, obviously, you root for whichever one you’re more attached to. But for the true, die-hard, can’t-live-without-you sports fan, it’s a matter of realizing which side, the team or the player, is more inherently tied to your oneness. Your zen. Your very essence as a human being.

    Maybe I’m being a little melodramatic, but I truly feel that the institutions of sports, fandom, and sports-team loyalty have contributed unfathomable amounts to who I am as a person. The first thing I think about in the morning is how my teams did. The last thing I check before bed is ESPN. I eat, live, and breathe sports.

    When I first set out to write this column, I (egomaniacally) thought that it would just be a great forum for me to spread all of my wonderful ideas about sports to the Yale community and/or world. But after writing a couple columns (and realizing that nobody actually read what I was writing), it became much more than self-publicity. It was a way for me to get to know myself and introspect about my root feelings for something that I loved. This is my last article for the year, and while I don’t know if I will continue to write next year, I can’t describe how much this column has enlightened me on … me. I know that I’m not nearly talented enough to ever get to do this for a living, but this experience — of walking down the street and meeting random people who had a glimpse of my article and loved it, of late nights writing on Wednesday, of hanging out at the News’ headquarters on a regular basis — will stay with me forever.

    And after writing this article, I know that something else will stay with me forever: Tim Tebow. He has simply been too much a part of my life. Returning to the idea of rooting for your community, I realized that Tim Tebow WAS my sports community. When I made the pact with the Fates and said that if the Florida Gators had somehow won the football national championship, I would get into Yale, Tim Tebow seemed tangentially responsible for my shining little acceptance packet. Did that make sense? No. Timmy T had as much to do with me getting into Yale as Snooki’s SAT score had to do with her catapulting into national prominence.

    But some spiritual, unrelenting and irrational part of me still feels that, to this day, I’m here at Yale because of his jump pass. As a junior who’s about to start the last leg of his Yale experience, I feel like Tim’s career and I have been linked together. His touchdowns are a part of me as much as my lack of luck with the ladies. And I’m not about to depart from either one any time soon.

    So who am I choosing? Tim Tebow — I will always root for you. But can you do me a favor? Please ask your BFFL upstairs to get you on the Jacksonville Jaguars? Kthanxbye.

    John Song is a junior in Berkeley College.

  5. Gutman: BoSox need offense

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    Don’t mess with success.

    There can’t be any more straightforward a rule than that one, yet some people seem to ignore it. Like this year’s Boston Red Sox.

    They’ve won two World Series, sold out hundreds of consecutive home games and rekindled memories of the glory days of the Sox thanks to one weapon: offense. Sure, they’ve pitched well, but the trademark of the Red Sox teams of the last few years are Big Papi’s shots past Pesky Pole and Manny Ramirez’s moonballs over the Green Monster.

    Then Manny left. Then Jason Bay walked over the offseason and Big Papi went into another predictable deep slump. The major question with this year’s Red Sox, Big Papi aside, remains: where is the power going to come from?

    With the offseason signings of John Lackey, Mike Cameron, Marco Scutaro and Adrian Beltre, the Red Sox signaled a clear shift in philosophy. They were going to emphasize defense and pitching at the expense of power and offensive prowess. In other words, they were saying bye-bye to Jay Bay Bay and hello to 1–0 games.

    They messed with success.

    There seems to be one fundamental truism about the American League East, the division in which the Red Sox play almost half their schedule — these teams can hit.

    The Yankees can hit homers like no other team in the league … when Mark Teixeira isn’t slumping, A-Rod isn’t being moody or staying up late with Madonna, and Jeter looks 23 not 53, as he occasionally does. Tampa Bay has a lineup full of players nearing or at the peak of their careers ranging from Carl Crawford to Ben Zobrist, while the Orioles have always hit the ball well, despite forgetting there is another side to baseball. And the Blue Jays have a lot of question marks, but seem to have drawn enough power from big bats like Vernon Wells, Travis Snider and Adam Lind to get off to a hot start.

    Meanwhile, the Red Sox are off to a terrible start, and have scored only 50 runs through 13 games, good for fifth worst in the major leagues. Their much vaunted defensive improvements haven’t even worked, as the Red Sox’s 10 errors in 13 games ranks seventh worst in the league. And let’s not talk about the number of unearned runs they have allowed.

    So much for pitching and defense.

    Some low-budget teams have built themselves around pitching and defense with great success. It’s very possible to be a decent team without spending tons of money on guys who hit homers and do little else. But it seems difficult to be a championship-caliber team without real offensive weapons up and down the lineup. Kevin Youkilis is a phenomenal player and Dustin Pedroia is looking like he could be in line for another MVP-type year, but from top to bottom this Red Sox lineup simply has too many offensive liabilities to look like a team that can slug with the best in the league.

    The Red Sox play in a division of heavy hitters. They play in one of, if not the, smallest ballparks in the league. No matter how many Gold Glovers patrol the field, they cannot stop a ball from bouncing high off the monster or from banking off Pesky Pole. A team that plays half its games in Fenway Park needs the ability to outscore opponents.

    The Red Sox need to realize they are a big market team with a big budget payroll, and stop attempting to get by on pitching, defense and banking on young prospects. They need to deal Clay Buchholz or Michael Bowden with a couple other prospects for San Diego’s superstar first baseman Adrian Gonzalez (and move Kevin Youkilis to the hot corner and Adrian Beltre and Mike Lowell to the scrap heap).

    They also need to find a power-hitting left fielder, because there is no sense in having the super-speedy Jacoby Ellsbury patrol a miniscule left field backed by the Green Monster.

    Unless Yale alum Theo Epstein ’95 brings his team back to its offensive roots, the Red Sox are in for a long season. But there is good news for Boston sports fans: I just saved 15 percent on my post-graduation car insurance by switching to Geico.

    Collin Gutman is a senior in Pierson College.

  6. Another ‘last’ at Yale


    Dearest readers,

    This is my last column for the News (tear) … ever.

    For this momentous occasion, I had planned to write something dramatic, provocative, new and different. Maybe even something well thought-out.

    But no, senioritis strikes again.

    Instead, I kept putting this column off hoping to come up with something a little more inspired ­— some words of wisdom that would hopefully fall in place at the last moment.

    But then I realized, summing up a column running over a year and a half is no easy task. As a Yale senior, so much pressure rides on making the most of all of our “lasts,” and this is definitely no exception. Senior athletes experience this too — the pressure to hit a home run on your last at-bat, get a hole in one on your last course or break a record in your last race. The feelings surrounding “lasts” leave us with a worry that we might somehow do it wrong and, thus, waste a chance at a memory forever.

    But I don’t think life works like that.

    More often than not, when I overanticipate something, it inevitably can’t live up to my expectations. For example, knowing I wanted to write something special, I should have started this column a week ago. The same goes for athletics — if you spend all your time straining to make statements or capture the perfect memory only at the end, you miss the point entirely.

    That point, my friends and readers, is the importance of the journey.

    After all, if we don’t enjoy the journey, the “lasts” really don’t have that much meaning anyway.

    My time as a Yale varsity athlete, club athlete and sports columnist has hammered this point home for me. My last at-bat would have been meaningless without the practice before it. My last column would lack significance without experience editing and writing. Even winning the club volleyball national championship would have been less momentous if we hadn’t bonded as a team. All of the little things involved in working toward those “lasts” — those give everything else meaning.

    I guess my point is that we should try to translate the intense focus we given “lasts” to our everyday lives. If you take pride in the little things, it will make the big things even better. And for Yale athletes, there is really no better place to do that than on the field, on the court, at the rink, on the water or wherever your sport takes you.

    One good aspect of encountering a “last” is that it allows us to take a look at the past and change how we approach the future.

    As for my future, I’m not sure if it will include sports writing, or any writing for that matter. I do know that it will include all of the wonderful people who have supported this column since January of 2009 (thanks, y’all, I love you!). I also know that it will be a future of appreciating every moment for what it is, athletic or otherwise, and knowing that it will make the “lasts” all the more enjoyable.

    Tracy Timm is a senior in Pierson College.

  7. Song: Madness was mediocre

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    I’m glad Duke won the NCAA Tournament.

    Before you fire up the iPad to spam me for my false idol worship, let me put my cards on the table: I’m not one of those deranged Cameron Crazies screaming “It’s the Dookies, baby!” in my best imitation Dick Vitale voice. I don’t paint my hair blue or put on a Carrot-Top-meets-the-Smurfs wig. And I definitely don’t have a picture of that doe-eyed Jon Scheyer sitting on my bookshelf (OK, maybe I do, but it’s only for special occasions like weekdays and weekends).

    To be honest, I was just glad that I actually had a rooting interest one way or the other in the game. Ever since Cornell was wiped out by the 2011 NBA All-Rookie team (aka the 2010 Kentucky Wildcats), all I had going for me was the tattered remains of what used to be a bracket. Sure, all the upsets in the first week made the tournament crazy fun to watch. But now? I realized I wasn’t all that excited about rooting for Xavier (where is it?) or Butler (who?).

    Luckily for me, Xavier lost pretty quickly. Unluckily for me, Butler forgot that it was supposed to lose. Led by a coach who looked like he was still in college, the entire Butler team looked bright-eyed and unathletic. Their star player, Gordon Heyward, looked like a 12-year-old kid who’d swallowed a bottle of Skelo-Gro and shot up to six-foot-eight (yeah, that was a Harry Potter reference). Their other workhorse player in the middle, someone I didn’t even bother to learn the name of (on principle), resembled Andy Samberg, but with a wispy ’70s style adult video mustache. Basically, my brain was so struggling to associate Butler with basketball that I resorted to associating their players with Harry Potter and comedians.

    At the beginning of the tournament, 71.6 percent of those who responded to an unofficial ESPN poll said that they’d prefer to root for the underdog, even if it ruined their brackets. And on opening weekend, that was perfectly legit. You had multiple games going at once for 12 hours at a time. Chances are, you were inebriated for 11 of those hours. The prospects of drunkenly rooting for multiple buzzer-beater upsets was the hip and cool thing to do.

    But once you get to later stages in the tournament, you want to see your big guns. You’ve had your fling with the Ali Farokhmaneshian (the future name of my unborn daughter) upsets of the world — by now, you want to see big, athletic, well-coached teams firing on all cylinders.

    Instead, what happens? Kentucky gets knocked out. Michigan State’s best player gets injured. Syracuse had been missing its post intimidator Arinze Onuaku since the Middle Ages. And what’s left?


    From a regular, unbiased fan’s perspective, it just wasn’t supposed to end like this. Duke emerged from a weak ACC conference this year with a bunch of soft, finesse guys. Butler emerged from wherever they came from with a bunch of soft, finesse guys. I wish I could’ve taken the Vegas over/under of the number of dunks in the game — set at eight — and invested all of Yale’s endowment on the under.

    Once the actual game started, I continued to not be impressed. The play was slow, plodding and slothful. Yeah, I just broke out the thesaurus to find three synonyms for sleepy — which is what I was after watching a half of the snorefest. Both teams seemed allergic to the paint (you know, the area around the basket where you might actually have the off chance of feeling physical contact from your opponent) and it was a jump-shooting affair.

    But my sleepiness was not echoed within the band of people that I was watching the game with. Duped by the carrot of a potential David vs. Goliath upset, they hollered like asses when Butler entered the half down just one point.

    Then came the second half. Everyone focuses on how close and exciting a game it was. “Neither team was up by more than six points!” they holler. Be that as it may. What’s a more telling stat is that neither team managed to score for over seven and a half minutes to start off the second half. Mmm, sounds like a tasty game, doesn’t it?

    Now, the Butler apologists and Cameron Crazies among you may be saying, “that’s because great defense was being played!” Um… excuse me? You mean to tell me that Butler sticking a six-foot-two guard on Duke’s Kyle Singler — all six-foot-eight of him — for the entire second half was great defense?!?!?!?! How about the fact that Singler avoided the paint like the plague during that time span, despite the size advantage? Was that great offense too?

    Fun fact: How many fouls did Brian Zoubek, Duke’s “tough-guy” (quotations because calling somebody tough on Duke means has as much significance as putting band-aids on a gunshot wound), have when he checked into the game at the 8:39 mark of the second half? Four — meaning one more foul and he’s out! How many fouls did he end the game with? Four — meaning not a single Butler play took it hard at him towards the hoop.

    The fact of the matter is that this year’s NCAA championship game was lame. There were no/marginal numbers of future NBA players on either team, and being a Duke hater can only take you so far when you knew they ultimately had to prevail against a glorified Division II team.

    Now, I know you guys are looking at me/the snarky picture of me at the top of this column with your mouths agape, ready to hurl stinging rhetoric at me. I’m sorry, but this year’s tournament fell flat after an exciting start. Despite arguments in the contrary, parity in the game does not make for great champions.

    Speaking of champions, here’s why I was happy that Duke won: at least a No. 1 seed won the thing. Some semblance of normalcy was restored in the universe.

    So you wanna talk about “One Shining Moment”? More like One Sleeping Moment. Wake me up in another 30 years — when the Ivy League advances the Sweet Sixteen again.

  8. Gutman: NBA trading flawed


    When the Celtics landed Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in 2007, they went from bottom feeders to instant championship contenders. The Boston faithful viewed it as a new age of hope for their once proud franchise. Since that trade the Celtics have taken home a title, regained their storied franchise’s legitimacy and emerged as one of the more complete teams in the NBA.

    We all understand how those trades helped the Celtics in that Glen “Big Baby” Davis and Ray Allen from Seattle and The Big Ticket, Kevin Garnett, from Minnestoa have been crucial components to the Celtics’ recent success. The Celtics seemingly mortgaged their future and simultaneously built the futures of two franchises by trying to restore Celtic pride.

    But the NBA trading system is flawed. In baseball, landing prospects for veterans is a proven strategy for rebuilding. In football, teams can stockpile draft picks to rebuild quickly. There are relatively few “prospects” in the NBA that blossom; most of the time you’re either a star or a role player from the second you enter the league. That title rarely changes.

    Of the massive haul that Minnesota received for Garnett, only Ryan Gomes and Wayne Ellington (the person they took with the first round pick traded to them by the Celtics) have made much of an impact. But neither of them “developed” into superstars. The same can be said for Al Jefferson and Gerald Green, participants in the trade who found themselves unable to make a lasting impact on Minnesota’s fortunes.

    A couple of years removed from the trade, the Wolves still stink — they’re the worst team in the West by a significant margin. Trading superstars may free up salary space, but it really doesn’t appear to contribute to the rebuilding of the team that is losing its star. With the trend toward “protecting” draft picks, meaning high first round draft picks are often exempt from a trade, it seems as though teams trading Garnett-like players can only receive role players and middling draft picks in return. Getting a future star for a current player, like when the Lakers received Kobe Bryant for Vlade Divac, seems to be a notion of the past.

    The way in which the NBA structures itself, therefore, completely fails. Terrible teams have a tougher road to rebuilding than bad teams in other sports. The best way to turn around a franchise is to get extremely lucky and land a spectacular player in the draft, as a perennially bad Cleveland Cavaliers franchise did when they drafted LeBron James.

    The Oklahoma City Thunder got lucky as well, landing a No. 2 overall draft pick and selecting Kevin Durant. But once again, the reasons behind Oklahoma City’s success have nothing to do with the players they landed for Ray Allen — a solid-but-never-spectacular Jeff Green is the best player they obtained for Allen. They’re making a complete resurgence mostly because of Durant.

    But can you imagine that team with Ray Allen? They’d be spectacular. Can you imagine the Timberwolves with Kevin Garnett? They might be mediocre. The Nets with Jason Kidd? Same deal.

    Each trade deadline, NBA teams trade off their best players for “prospects.” These prospects, in modern basketball more than in any other sport, do not turn around franchises. In fact, trading your best player often makes your team worse, as logic would dictate.

    The moral of the story is as follows: Don’t trade your best players. If you’re lucky enough to land a superstar in the draft, you’ll be a contender. If you still can’t find a way to win, at least you won’t be the Nets. Think about where the Heat would be if they decided to trade Dwyane Wade. Think about where the Wizards are (and will be next year) without Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler.

    For the fans, for your team and for your dignity, NBA GMs, don’t trade your best players for a bunch of expiring contracts and underperformers. No amount of salary saved is worth the death spiral that we’re seeing in Minnesota, Washington and New Jersey.

    Collin Gutman is a senior in Pierson College.

  9. Helene: The Rivalry exposed

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    If you are a baseball fan, the odds are you probably hate me. And quite frankly, I understand why. I am a Yankees fan, a supporter of the most evil franchise in all of sports.

    But while I came by this fandom honestly — my Dad was raised in the Bronx and therefore fittingly plopped a Yankees’ hat on his Brooklyn-raised son before he could even walk — the stereotypes would have you believe that I am necessarily:

    a) A proponent of buying championships (I actually believe that a salary cap should and must be installed in order to hold GM’s properly accountable for performance),

    b) A product of the ruthless “If you ain’t first, you’re last” New York fan culture (truly, every real fan feels this at heart, but it just so happens that New York has more media outlets to opine),

    and c) An embodiment of the typical bad-mouthed, bad-mannered New Yorker who believes New York is more important than every other city.

    In truth, however, I admit to fitting only one Yankee-fan stereotype: I am spoiled by my team. (OK, maybe I’m also a little bit of stereotype c.)

    Oh, how I am spoiled, though.

    I won’t brag about the achievements I have witnessed during my lifetime; we already know what I’m talking about. You know, the five championships, the seven World Series appearances, the three-peat, the 14 playoff appearances, the 11 AL East titles, the 125-win season. You know, stuff I don’t even need to mention.

    But what spoils me most is both entirely separate and entirely inseparable from the success I just mentioned. It is, rather, the element of Yankee fandom that transcends the game itself: Yankees versus Red Sox, the greatest rivalry in all of American professional sports.

    (Note: If — for all non-Yankees and non-Red Sox fans out there — you resent the idea that I think you care even a little bit about this topic, let this be yet another reminder that this is a rivalry you can’t escape. It will be on SportsCenter again. And again. And again. And again. And then it will be on Baseball Tonight right after.)

    But what makes and has made this rivalry so unique? And why do the media feel the need to devote so much attention to these two teams, so much so that Brett Favre and Tiger Woods are almost forgotten? In no particular order, these reasons include:

    1. Tradition/Historicism. This is almost self-explanatory, so for the sake of space and sparing non-rivalry fans from having to read about a history completely irrelevant to their own teams, I will summarize it in a handful of quick phrases: The Ruth Trade in 1919. The Williams-DiMaggio rivalry of the 1940s. 1978: the Red Sox Collapse, the Boston Massacre and Bucky Dent. The birth of the 1918 chant in 1990. The 2003 ALCS. The 2004 ALCS. The Red Sox finally wining the World Series. Jimmy Fallon consequently starring in “Fever Pitch” and delegitimizing all Red Sox fans. Sox fans being too drunk on happiness to realize. The 2005 Division Race. The Red Sox winning again in 2007, while the collective Yankees population dies a little (I am spoiled. I admitted to this already). Essentially, the history is more than there, and you can’t think Yankees without Red Sox (much like you can’t think of the Nationals and think, “Wait, who?”).

    2. The Hatred of the Other Teams’ Fans. This is an intense hatred, one as strong as the hatred of the opposing team, but stronger. There is nothing more loath to a Yankees fan than a Red Sox fan and vice versa. Yet the irony is that while Red Sox fans used to just be Yankees fans with inferiority complexes (as said by ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption” host Tony Kornheiser last week), the past decade has caused this inferiority complex to vanish. Which leaves us with the following reality: Red Sox fans are now the exact same as Yankee fans. Look at the three above stereotypes and insert Boston in for New York. Which stereotype don’t they fit? The only discernible difference is that Boston fans say words funny. This is a fact. You can look it up anywhere.

    3. The Players We Love to Hate. The rivalry would be nothing if not for those players who, year after year, torture your team. These players add continuity and familiarity to the rivalry, and, in addition to allowing the players to develop bad blood and resentment toward one another, the fans grow to understand whom they are rooting against. (This inherently intensifies the rivalry. There were multiple brawls between 2003-2005.) As a fan, you love to hate these players. You’re given the unique opportunity to plant seeds of a superficial hatred and watch these seeds blossom into a beautiful, vindictive, deep-rooted hatred over the course of multiple years. The fact of the matter is that you grow to love to hate these players so much that you don’t really know what to do with yourself when they’re gone. (See Ramirez, Manny.)

    4. The Drama. And there is plenty of it. Since 1998, the Yankees and Red Sox have finished either first or second to each other in the AL East every year except for two. And while the regular season is always competitive, often taking on an October feel (the Pedro-Zimmer brawl in 2003, Jeter’s catch in the stands in 2004 and the A-rod-’Tek altercation two weeks later, Sheffield’s altercation with a fan in 2005), the past decade has featured two of the best playoff series in the history of the sport. The 2003 ALCS (Boone walk-off to win the series) and the 2004 ALCS (Yankees blow a 3–0 lead, and, no, that’s not referring to one game) speak for themselves.

    However, these two series, in my opinion, mark the apex of the rivalry, and it has been slightly downhill since. Despite the fact that the regular-season record between these two teams since then is 49–43 in favor of the Yankees, a pretty competitive record over a five-year span, as Dane Cook once told us (may his career rest in peace), “There is only one October!” Unfortunately, these teams haven’t met in the playoffs since 2004, and although the regular-season games are still incredibly competitive — demonstrated by Sunday’s game — as we saw last year, the urgency isn’t necessarily always there. (The Yankees lost the first eight and then went on to win nine of 10). Furthermore, it hasn’t helped the drama any that the rivalry has seen the mass exodus of Manny, Schilling, Matsui and Damon (the rivalry hermaphrodite of the decade) and the diminishment of players like Mike Lowell and David Ortiz in recent years.

    Am I saying the rivalry is weak right now? Absolutely not. Both teams have the talent to win it all this year. But let me say that a new, 2003-’04-type peak is approaching. 2008 was an off-season during which the Yankees locked up three marquis-free agents for the long-term; you can bet the Red Sox will break the bank in a stacked 2010-2011 free agent class to match them.

    But in the meantime, Yankees and Red Sox fans can hope that on Oct. 1, the teams will be within three games of each other.

    Because those three games in Fenway could be the beginning of a new era of drama. And if that’s the case, you non-rivalry fans better find a new SportsCenter.

    David Helene is a sophomore in Ezra Stiles College.

  10. Timm: Give Yale baseball some love


    “Hot soup! Soup’s hot!”


    “Hum babe!”

    Anyone who has been to a Yale baseball game will quickly recognize these otherwise unusual phrases. After all, how could you forget hearing 30 guys yelling about the temperature of soup?

    The Yale baseball team is currently enjoying one of the best starts in program history. In fact, this is the best start the Yale team has seen since head coach John Stuper’s first season, in 1993.

    Trust me, this is a bandwagon you want to jump on — and fast. Since tallying a 6–3–1 start during spring break, the team has kept its momentum to improve to 11–6–1 on the season.

    Not too shabby for a team that posted only 13 wins all last year.

    Speaking of which, isn’t anyone else a little surprised? After all, a less-than-stellar 2009 season and the loss of starting pitcher Brandon Joselyn ’09, the hurler with the most wins last season, didn’t exactly scream “break out year.” Did anyone actually see this coming?

    Yes. The players did. And they won’t let you forget about it.

    The 2009 season was a rebuilding year. It’s everyone’s favorite term to throw around when the chips are down and team is struggling, but in retrospect, its plain to see that the experience the team gained last year has been invaluable to its success this season.

    Consider the following:

    Every current starting player is enjoying either his second or third year as a regular in the lineup. Six of the Bulldogs are batting above .300 with Gant Elmore ’11 and Trygg Larsson-Danforth ’10 leading the pack at .400 and .388, respectively. The team’s overall batting average is a more-than-formidable .327. Dust your shoulders off, boys. Not bad.

    Yale also boasts possibly the best defensive infield in the league with only seven errors to date among the four current starters. They also have at least a season’s worth of experience on which to build.

    Additions to the team have also been important this season, especially in what was thought to be the biggest question mark for this season — pitching.

    Bulldog quarterback/pitcher Brook Hart ’11 has seamlessly made the transition from the gridiron to the bullpen, and fortunately for the Bulldogs, Hart’s three years away from the game haven’t hurt his slider. With a 2.62 ERA and two Ivy League Rookie of the Week selections under his belt, Hart has quickly made a name for himself and improved the consistency of the Yale pitching staff.

    But statistics can only say so much — the real difference this year has been the way each player has stepped up to the challenge at hand.

    For instance, Andrew Kolmar ’11 has already earned Ivy League Player of the Week honors while enjoying a .304 batting average. Ryan Brenner ’12 hit three bombs in one game to help lift the team to a win. Vinny Lally ’11, Pat Ludwig ’12 and Chris O’Hare ’13 are combining raw talent and hard work to toss a collective ERA below 4.00. Greg Lyons ’12 earned Ivy League Pitcher of the Week status with his first career win. Trey Rallis ’11 returned from a two-season hiatus to add a .377 batting average to the team efforts.

    All of these are great examples of this year’s squad’s biggest asset: the ability for new players to step up each game and get the job done.

    This recipe has spelled success for the Bulldogs so far. But if I know anything about baseball and the men who play it, they will probably be a little reluctant to talk about it. After all, in the words of Bull Durham, “A player on a streak has to respect the streak.”

    And that usually means not talking about it.

    So get out to the fields and enjoy a little of this newfound success..

    Tracy Timm is a senior in Pierson College.

  11. Goldsmith: Teams sell out their fans

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    The Final Four in a historically entertaining March Madness is set, and if the tournament so far is any indication, we are in the midst of several great sports moments.

    Tiger Woods heads to Augusta National next week to make his return to the PGA, which undoubtedly promises to be the most widely followed professional golf event in recent memory — probably ever. Yale’s own hockey team just capped off another successful season, coming up just short against Boston College, the number four team in the nation, in the NCAA Regional final.

    Naturally, therefore, I see it only fitting to devote this coveted space to a passionate questioning of the Philadelphia Eagles’ decision to solicit trade offers for their franchise quarterback, Donovan McNabb.

    For those less interested in such esoteric (but not really) football dealings, I promise there is a greater issue at stake here. If you are unfamiliar with his body of work, Donovan McNabb is a six-time pro-bowl quarterback, who has led the Eagles to five NFC championship games and a Superbowl during his time as the team’s unchallenged starter and unquestioned leader. To quote CBS Sports’s Mark Kriegel, “McNabb is a good husband and father. He’s never been arrested for slapping a woman or killing a dog, offenses that have inspired demonstrations of support for lesser men and much lesser quarterbacks.”

    Moreover, McNabb has been the workhorse of this Eagles team for the last 10 or so years, as his receiving core has seen talent come and go, and the newly departed fragile premier back Brian Westbrook has demonstrated that he’s only good for about 10 games a season. Despite personnel changes and the distractions surrounding players like Terrell Owens and Michael Vick, McNabb has asserted himself in his role as the team’s leader, and he has not let them down in that regard. He has one more year left on his contract, he has been an Eagle his whole career, and he is a perennial fan favorite.

    But at this point, it looks like he might be spending the season in Oakland, one of the worst teams in the NFL.

    Sadly, this is the nature of the modern sports era. While it is a tremendous overstatement to call all owners and front offices “out of touch,” there is no denying that league structures, player contracts, salary caps and draft orders often lead major sports franchises to act with misaligned incentives.

    Look no further than the recent Gilbert Arenas controversy in the NBA. Agent Zero (Agent … Six?) has let the Wizards and his fans down for the past two seasons. He spent last year out with injury and finally came back to play a few games this season before being found guilty on federal gun charges.

    How did the Wizards respond? They handed Caron Butler to the Mavericks, solidifying them as a contender, maybe even the favorite, in the NBA’s western conference. They gave Antawn Jamison to the Cleveland Cavaliers (thank you), similarly bulwarking the chances of another NBA Finals hopeful. The worst part is that big Zydrunis Ilgauskis, a career Cavalier and Cleveland favorite, was sent to Washington, where he was not signed, allowing Cleveland to reclaim him after 30 days.

    How do the owners of the Washington Wizards justify any of this to their fans? Should a front office accept that they are nothing without their star player and submit their fans to a few months of “rebuilding?” Most perversely, the ownership is probably hoping their team does poorly enough to ensure a good pick in the draft. The team traded away the best players on its roster to continue paying a player who has been suspended for the season.

    The Wiz’s saga highlights only a few of the countless problems that plague the NBA, but the story is emblematic of an overall lack of accountability that ownership feels to its fan base.

    Over spring break, one of the hot trade topics was Brandon Marshall’s likely departure from Denver. It’s not worth digging up the relevant statistics, but anyone who has watched the NFL over the last two or three seasons likely agrees that Marshall is one of the top five wide receivers in the league. So far his biggest courtship has come from the Seattle Seahawks, yet that organization has said it is unwilling to use its sixth overall pick to acquire the 26-year-old pro-bowler.

    That makes perfect sense. Why would a franchise waste a draft pick on an untested college athlete when it has the opportunity to pick up a guy who has a professional reputation for beasting fools over the last few years as one of the most dominant receivers in the league?

    My frustration on this subject is clear. I could dig up these examples all day and we wouldn’t get anywhere closer to understanding why the owners and managers of professional sports teams make the decisions that exacerbate us, the fans. Any owner is quick to justify unpopular decision making habits with the age-old cop out, “Sports are a business, and unfortunately we have to run our franchise as such.”

    While this is true to a degree, sports franchises have recently shown such a baffling lack of interest in their fan bases, it is unfair to compare these owners to businessmen who actually respond to customers. The Eagles may or may not trade McNabb, but I can tell you for sure that what devoted fan Samuel Goldsmith has to say will not register in the slightest on owner Jeffrey Lurie’s radar.

    Sam Goldsmith is a junior in Branford College.