Kevin Stallings, head coach of the Vanderbilt Commodores, missed a golden opportunity this week to not only make an important point, but set an example for athletes of all ages in regards to sportsmanship. After Vanderbilt beat the Tennessee Volunteers, Vandy player Wade Baldwin IV was seen clapping his hands in the face of Vols player Armani Moore. Stallings was informed of this by a Vols staff member. Stallings went off on Baldwin during the post-game handshake and berated him for his lack of sportsmanship. This was not the first time Baldwin has been involved in an incident of this nature. Unfortunately, he ended the tirade with “I am going to bleeping kill you.” It was actually nice to see a player being called out for poor sportsmanship as this is incredibly rare at least publicly in sports, but Stallings clearly went too far and that kind of outburst should cause us all to speculate about possible anger management problems for the Vandy coach. Coaches like Bobby Knight, Bob Huggins and Frank Martin should have taught us all a lesson.
One of the sure signs an athlete can’t control his anger is when that athlete (Rajon Rondo) in this case, can’t control his personality or frustration even though he knows it will perpetuate his image and directly impact his earning potential in the offseason. Typically, athletes are on their best behavior when it is a contract year. We all know the resume of Rondo. Difficult to coach, intensely competitive, high basketball IQ. But since he has joined Dallas, the Mavericks have not improved, his statistics have declined despite significantly more talent around him and now this blowup on the sidelines with Rick Carlisle. Apparently, Rondo was getting a lot of attention from Carlisle when he first arrived, but then when Amar’e Stoudemire arrived, Carlisle wasn’t paying as much attention to Rondo and this ruffled Rajon’s feathers. When Rondo is engaged, he is one of the most creative and exciting players in the league but Dallas has joined Boston in learning the hard way the baggage that comes with it.
LeBron James has a new source of stress. Colleges are already recruiting his 10-year old son. Is James upset because he thinks that is out-of-bounds or because he skipped college himself and sees college as unnecessary or maybe both? Recruiting has been out of hand for some time now and the limits are tested constantly. From the NCAA handbook: “In men’s basketball, a coaching staff member may observe an individual who has not entered the seventh grade participating in an athletically related activity, provided such observation occurs during a period when it is permissible to evaluate prospective student-athletes.” I’m getting a little nervous we are going to start seeing college and NBA scouts at the local Skyzone or Boys and Girls Club. The way the rule is written invites poor judgment and illicit behavior.
Russell Westbrook is having a truly dominant season for Oklahoma City and became only the second player (Michael Jordan) in 27 seasons to have 20 points, 10 assists and 5 rebounds in five or more straight games. He is averaging 27 ppg, 7 rebounds and 8 assists per game on the season and has led the Thunder to a 9-3 record over the last 12 games. Westbrook has outperformed Kevin Durant in all three statistical categories.
What in the world were the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim thinking when they signed Josh Hamilton to a five year 125 million dollar contract? The contract by the way includes a no-trade clause, access to a luxury suite and incentives that can add up to another almost million because realistically who can survive on 25 million per year alone? Hamilton suffered yet another drug and alcohol release this offseason. Hamilton took off from 2002-2006 due to a litany of personal and chemical dependency problems and one of the conditions of his reinstatement was that he undergo drug testing three times per week. He had alcohol relapses in 2009 and 2012 and has frequently discussed (understandably) what a difficult battle this was for him. The Angels signed Albert Pujols for 10 years and 240 million in 2011 and Hamilton in 2012 and 365 million dollars later, the Angels have some big regrets.
Can athletes who make obvious individual mistakes stop pointing to themselves after the play and stop saying “My bad”? We know it’s your bad because we just saw it play out in front of our own eyes. How about taking some accountability when we don’t automatically know it’s your fault? For instance, we often don’t know in football whose fault it is when there is an interception or an incomplete pass because we don’t know whether the receiver ran the wrong route or the quarterback made a bad decision. Or how about in basketball when a player didn’t know the play being run. That’s when I want to know whose bad it is!
I know this is a topic that was decided on a long time ago but every time I think about this… I can’t believe you get a point in hockey when you lose. So for those of you who aren’t familiar, by accomplishing the amazing feat of bringing the game to overtime or the shootout (if no one scores in the five minute overtime), you are awarded one point. This was done of course for parity and so more teams have playoff chances which of course helps sell tickets. Winnipeg and L.A. lead the NHL with a whopping 12 overtime or shootout losses. So if they just counted as losses, the Kings would be 29-32 and six points out of a playoff spot and be the 10th seed as opposed to the eighth seed. The worst part is this rule allows an accepted strategy to at least walk away with a point and completely can alter the way a team approaches the third period of a hockey game. Can you imagine if MLB said, hey good job going into extra innings, we will give you a half a win for that or some kind of extra credit? The only thing worse than this is when kids get trophies for participation in sports!
Interesting trade in the NHL where Columbus trades former Bruin Nathan Horton (who probably will never suit up again) to the Maple Leafs for salary cap anchor David Clarkson. Apparently the logic here was for Toronto, they get salary cap relief and would rather have a cap hit of 2.5 million for someone who never plays than an approximately 5 million dollar cap hit for someone who does? So Toronto didn’t even think Clarkson was worth the extra 2.5 million to suit up. For Columbus, they feel that for 2.5 million Clarkson is worth it. Toronto will take any kind of relief.
Don’t forget the cricket doubleheader front and center on ESPN today as perennial rivals Sri Lanka takes on England followed by the clash of Zimbabwe and Pakistan.