Mike Silva's Sports Media Watchdog

Should I Forgive Michael Vick?


This entry was posted on March 23rd, 2014 @ 7:49 am by Mike Silva.
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The inevitable happened when the Jets announced their 1-year/$5-million dollar deal with veteran QB Michael Vick. Twitter exploded with debate over the signing, mostly with respect to his off-the-field transgressions with dogfighting. As the debate has raged on social media and talk radio, I wonder if I can find a way to forgive Michael Vick.

I was one of the vociferous naysayers to a signing that, in my opinion, 22-bpdoesn’t hold much on-field positives. First, Vick clearly wants the starting job, and has been told it’s achievable with a solid training camp. This is probably why better alternatives – such as Josh McCown- weren’t connected with the organization.

I don’t believe Geno Smith is the answer at quarterback, but the goal was to bring in a veteran that could push him and be happy as a backup if he lost. That doesn’t appear to be Vick’s desire from his “as of now, Geno is the starting quarterback for this football team” comment. I also wonder how he can be a positive mentor to Smith when there is no record of such leadership qualities on his resume.

More importantly, for me, is my inability to get past the actual criminal act that Vick committed while still a member of the Atlanta Falcons. I won’t get into details - you can research those on your own- but as a dog owner and someone who believes that animals aren’t just inanimate pieces of property, I am disturbed by what happened at Vick’s kennel.

The acts committed against creatures that couldn’t defend themselves are a disturbing level of evil. Vick has since claimed the experience changed him for the better in his 2012 autobiography “Finally Free”:

“I went from the ground – a foundation of faith and family that positioned me for success…to the air – a dangerous and selfish rise that took me higher and higher in flight…to a crash – a wounding yet deserved fall that took me lower and lower …to the cage – a humbling and desolate state that helped me return to the ground, rediscover my foundation, long for redemption, and ignite a strong desire to change. To change and rise again…”

I am glad that Vick made this supposed change, but am I wrong to feel conflicted about glorifying his exploits on the football field? He certainly paid his debt to society by serving jail time. He has every right to employment in the NFL if a team desires his services. Does that mean I should be happy that teams still do? Should I not feel disgusted watching, talking and enjoying Vick on the field while my six-year old golden retriever sits by my side? Am I disrespecting the memory of the Vick dogs and the work of the good people that have tried to rehabilitate them?

This is why Michael Vick brings out so much emotion in me. As I get into my late thirties it does become harder for me to separate the men on-the-field from what they do off-of-it. I understand it’s impossible for any team in any sport to field a roster of good citizens. Alcohol abuse, sexual misconduct and crime are always going to be part of professional sports. I do, however, believe killing humans and animals takes a certain level of dementia that is almost unforgivable. There has to be a certain foundation of character the athletes on the field employ for me to feel comfortable.

Furthermore, if Michael Vick succeeds is that the type of karma he deserves? Back in 2011 I wrote the Michael Vick story couldn’t end with him as the hero. This was when many thought the Eagles were on the verge of being a “super team” like the Miami Heat. It didn’t pan out that way as the Eagles stunk, and Vick lost his starting job. Returning to glory with the Jets, in New York, almost doesn’t seem fair.

What do I think Michael Vick deserves? To toil and struggle at the one thing he loves: football. Those dogs deserved better, and fortunately some have been able to lead a good life. Not all were that fortunate.

I don’t wish harm or injury on Michael Vick. That would make me just as bad as him. What I do hope is that his football career continues to flounder until he fades into public obscurity. That is what he deserves as payback for his sins.

So to answer the initial question about whether I can forgive Michael Vick: no, I can’t, and I am going to have a hard time getting into Jets football this fall. That’s a shame because I like Rex Ryan, and think it’s great for New York to have two football teams competing at a high level. It’s certainly makes for great radio. Unfortunately, I don’t think I can do that and still honor the memories of the dogs that were killed by Michael Vick.

In short, no I can’t forgive Michael Vick, and I hope he doesn’t see much time on the field. That is the only way the 2014 Jets season will be palatable to me.

***

Want to do something useful today? Read about the Michael Vick dogs over the Best Friends Animal Society. I donate to this group, which used to have a television show “Dog Town” on the National Geographic Channel.

***

As you can see from the photo above, the New York Post is responsible for another tasteless back cover headline. A few weeks ago they made a faux pas with a headline about the Yankees signing of Masahiro Tanaka. Yesterday, it was how they used a dogfighting reference with the Jets decision to dump Mark Sanchez for Vick.

I am far from being a member of the political correct police, but there has to be a certain level of sensitivity towards the issue. Society has evolved where animals, especially dogs, are becoming a more important part of everyday life. To belittle what happened to the Vick dogs with such a headline shows poor taste by the Post.

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Jackson, Dolan, The Knicks and One Voice


This entry was posted on March 19th, 2014 @ 6:08 pm by Mike Silva.
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The main focus of the media, since reports of Phil Jackson taking over as Knicks president, has been about Jackson’s capabilities in the front office, and whether MSG Chairman Jim Dolan will give him the autonomy to do a competent job. I believe these are narratives meant to fuel agendas (see Frank Isola and the NY Daily News), increase internet traffic, fuel snark and fill the 24-hour news cycle. The only real discussion should be whether Jackson can do on a macro management level what was so successful behind the bench: get 100% buy-in from all Knicks and MSG stakeholders.

It’s fair to be skeptical about Mr. Dolan’s claim about “willingly and gratefully” giving control of the team to Jackson. We heard the same story when Donnie Walsh was named team president in 2008, but saw that dissipate when the “summer of 2010 and Lebron” went wrong. Other big names- Isiah Thomas, Larry Brown and Mike D’Antoni- didn’t command the respect or have the resume of a Phil Jackson. The media praises Walsh as a savior, but how many rings has he won, to date? Also, there is a big difference between the affable Walsh and Jackson. It’s like comparing a workmanlike component player to a Hall-of-Fame impact player. To assume Dolan will treat Jackson like the others who have worked at MSG is naive and agenda-driven.

Pat Riley and the Heat seem to be the template for comparisons about the Knicks’ decision to hire Jackson. But can he achieve with his Zen methods what Riley called the “one voice” management philosophy to Drew Voros of ETF.com

“There’s a single voice. And the single voice is a big circle. The middle of that circle has to do with your philosophy as an organization and your culture. So we have one voice. That voice is [team owner] Micky Arison. That is my voice. That is Erik Spoelstra’s voice. It’s the voice of the players. There’s a universal way that we do things. But it’s the same philosophy. We all want the same thing. But Erik becomes the spokesperson.”

Whether you use Riley’s business approach, or Jackson’s Zen-like tactics, the end result needs to yield a “one voice” management of the basketball operations. The Knicks need Dolan to be on the same page, but what about everyone throughout the organization? This doesn’t mean Jackson just hires old cronies from his years in Chicago and LA, but bringing in the right executives, scouts and coaches that believe in the philosophy he is trying to build.

This is where Isiah, Walsh and others failed in the past. Part of being a successful executive is to manage up and down. Why is it that Glen Sather has successfully done this with the Rangers, but the revolving door of Knicks personnel has not? Why does Dolan interfere with the basketball, but not the hockey? Could this be failure of those running the Knicks to effectively manage Dolan? Shouldn’t that be an expectation of any MSG exec? Does anyone believe that any owner is completely “hands-off” with their operation? Perhaps it’s more about executives managing expectations than Dolan’s impetuous nature. Maybe Walsh is better suited for a small-town like Indiana than the big city pressure of New York. We all blame Dolan for Walsh, but there is always two-sides to every breakup.

In listening to Jim Dolan at the press conference podium, with Michael Kay on ESPN Radio and Mike Francesa on WFAN, it appears Jackson has won over the most important stakeholder. Now the hardest part is to get the rest of the organization to buy-in. If not, winning over Dolan will be a great accomplishment, but yield the same failed results of the past decade.

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All Good Things Come to An End- Even College Basketball


This entry was posted on March 18th, 2014 @ 6:55 am by Mike Silva.
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The latest ESPN 30 for 30 series, “Requiem for the Big East,” does a great job in achieving its mission to outline how the push for corporate dollars destroyed what was once the greatest college basketball conference in the world. Ezra Edelman gives you the blow-by-blow throughout the two hours starting with the birth of the league under Dave Gavitt. Fans were able to relive the characters, rivalries and even see some footage that never gets old. Who can’t appreciate seeing Rollie Massimino and Villanova celebrate one more time after defeating Georgetown? Mullin vs. Ewing at the Garden? How about a young Jim Boeheim complaining like the current version?

The film is not a walk down memory lane. The purpose was to make a statement about how television money, specifically from football, wooed original Big East schools such as Syracuse and Boston College away from the conference. It reiterates what we all know: how college basketball conferences are made for television instead of history and geography. That point can’t be argued, but isn’t the story about the collapse of the Big East a synopsis of modern college basketball?

While long-time college basketball pundits laud how mid-major schools have “closed the gap” on the Duke’s and North Carolina’s of the world due to one-and-done stars leaving for the NBA, what they fail to realize is how the lack of such stars maturing with their program takes away from the narratives that made the Big East the powerhouse portrayed in “Requiem.”

Patrick Ewing, Ed Pinckney and Chris Mullin – all portrayed- stayed in school till their graduation. Pearl Washington, who also was prominently mentioned, left after his junior season at Syracuse. Fans were able to see rivalries build and grow, culminating in the historic 1985 Final Four that included three Big East schools. In many ways Ewing was one of the main reasons the Big East was put on the college basketball map. Today he would have left Georgetown as a freshman. There is very little chance the Big East could have grown under the current system. Well, we actually will get to see them try as the “Catholic Seven” make up the foundation of the new Big East. It’s doubtful that today’s St. John’s-Georgetown matchup will ever be mistaken for what we saw during that magical ’85 season.

In general what will college basketball fans get to build on this year? Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins and Julius Randle will be gone before we get to know them. Remember how Duke had to learn how to lose to UNLV before they pulled off their 1991 upset? We won’t see much of that anymore. Wichita State you say? As great a story the 34-0 Shockers are, there isn’t a Laettner, Hurley or LJ on that roster. They don’t have the entertainment factor that builds drama and television ratings.

College basketball is about the coaches and the name of the university. Maybe it’s me, but it was about the players when I grew up enjoying the sport. Now I find myself evaluating “programs” with kids who fit into a system. You admire student-athletes that stay four years in these programs, but the lack of NBA talent takes away from the quality of the sport. We saw some awful basketball in last year’s tournament that prompted me to turn-off the television numerous times during March Madness. Stars and personalities sell since basketball, even at the college level, is about entertainment. Four-year seniors without NBA prospects are nice feel-good stories, but can’t carry the sport during a time where fans attention span is constantly decreasing.

Is there a solution? No, as the cat is out of the bag. Coaches and universities can’t turn down revenue from football that triples what the basketball program produces. I don’t blame the players for leaving early. The value of a college degree is watered-down today, and even a mid-first round pick can earn about $4-million dollars from their rookie contract. How many students on campus can say their degree will yield that return in their lifetime? The NBA has reached the level of “stupid money” where there is little upside for an NBA prospect to stay with their program.

Watch “Requiem of the Big East” and enjoy the video of a sold-out Madison Square Garden for St. John’s – Georgetown. Remember a time when college basketball took the local pro teams off the front page. Enjoy it because it’s not coming back. Providence-Creighton drew a little over 15,000 fans this past Saturday night for their Big East Championship Game. No offense, but the Friars 65-58 win didn’t get the juices flowing like the good old days. Even St. John’s, the city’s team, was barely cracking 10,000 at the Garden during their failed run at an NCAA bid.

I guess all good things come to an end- even college basketball

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Hey, NCAA, Let Penn State Go to Bowl in 2014


This entry was posted on October 22nd, 2013 @ 3:34 pm by Jed Weisberger.
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OK, what happened with Jerry Sandusky was what happened – reprehensible.

The football penalties Penn State took as a result were severe. Thanks to a coach the level of Bill O’Brien, the Nittany Lions football program has remained competitive in the Big Ten, in fact recording an exciting 43-40 win over Michigan.

A few weeks ago, the NCAA relented a bit, giving Penn State back some of the scholarship spots it took away as part of the penalty package, recognizing Penn State has made progress.

Go to a Penn State game like the aforementioned Michigan affair, A capacity crowd of over 100,000 watched a superb battle between the Wolverines and Nittany Lions. And guess what? Sandusky’s name wasn’t even mentioned.

In other words, Penn State on the surface is beginning to move past this. In the background and under the surface, the school is settling its lawsuits and doing the best to take care of its victims. Progress has definitely been made and will continue to do so.

My point here is it’s somewhat ludicrous to continue to ban the present players from a bowl game. The NCAA ought to lift that sanction with an agreement any share of Penn State’s bowl money would go to programs battling Child Abuse and other needed areas.

That way, Penn State’s obligations in putting the Sandusky debacle to rest are being fulfilled, and up-and-coming stars such as freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg are not being penalized for something that came about before most of the present Penn State players were born.

Players such as Hackenberg – granted they knew the situation when they committed to Penn State, and it is to O’Brien’s credit he recruited that well under the circumstances – have paid their penance for issues they had nothing to do with. For the classy way the program has handled itself, as a proud member of the Big Ten, give today’s players a break.

These are tough times for the NCAA, which is not at the top of the respect game. It’s so-called investigation into the Miami (Fla.), situation, which was finally resolved this week, was bungled. This would be an upper for college football.

Naturally there are those who feel Penn State’s program ought to be buried for a decade after the Sandusky debacle. We can understand and respect those feelings.

However, Bill O’Brien has refuted that theory because his Nittany Lions are not only competitive, but a lot more than that. And, NCAA people, what other institutional violations has Penn State ever been guilty of? Nothing. While you are at it – since there is always talk of the “student athlete,” one of the best football graduation rates is staring you in the face.

So let the Nittany Lions, with the above-mentioned stipulation, go to a bowl next year. Not only will it be good for Penn State, but for college football as a whole.

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NBA Free Agency: As Good as it Gets


This entry was posted on July 7th, 2013 @ 12:27 pm by Mike Silva.
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Now that our national “Dwight-mare” is over, and Dwight Howard has reached (hopefully, there still is until July 10th) a decision to join the Houston Rockets, NBA free agency can begin to unwind. Summer Leagues will be starting in Orlando and Vegas. Players will go away on vacation and, without the Olympics, we probably won’t hear too much about hoops until training camp in October. Think about that… We have been talking basketball since before Halloween, Hurricane Sandy and the school year that just ended.

We talk about MLB being 24/7/365, and it is here in New York. But from a national perspective the NBA operates 10 of the 12 months of the year. If you include last year’s Olympics, it’s 11 of the last 12 months.

As someone who started his media venture covering only baseball, I can appreciate the offseason. For writers it often is busier than the regular season because of its unknown nature. For the fans it also takes on a life of its own. I can predict my day when a 7:30 game starts. Unless there is a crazy triple-OT game (looking at you Nets-Bulls circa Game 4), your NBA viewing pleasure will begin around 7:00 pm and end somewhere in the 10:30 range. Bloggers particularly need this type of certainty since they often have to work a real job to supplement their sports passion.

If you thought the NBA was done after Game 7 of the Finals, think again. After a brief blow, the junkies began their draft coverage, and just days after the final call by Adam Silver in the second round, free agency began. About 7:00 PM last Sunday the craziness started as rumor floated about Andrea Bargnani going to the Knicks. It continued throughout the week as Dwight Howard made his rounds, and teams rebuilt their roster in anticipation, only to have to refocus after D12 eliminated them.

Twitter has become the lifeblood of media consumption, especially for sports fans. The newspapers and internet have the recaps and final outcome, but Twitter gives you the daily minute by minute- blow of what is going on. You could miss quite a bit if you stepped out to grab a bite for only an hour.

Even smaller free agent deals became a soap opera. Knicks fans were following closely to see what JR Smith’s market would be as O.J. Mayo, Kyle Korver and Tyreke Evans signed their deals. Pablo Prigioni, an unknown a year ago, became their most important target this year. Also a year ago, Chris Copeland was planning on playing in the Summer League (who cares?), and now he gets a multi-year deal from the Pacers- much to the angst of the orange and blue faithful.

Whether you team was trying to maintain its contending status, upgrade to the penthouse or tank in order to rebuild, you were probably following the action closely. The best part is that most of the remaining free agents will be signed by the beginning of next week, making the NBA offseason the quickest of all four major sports. Yes, the writers weren’t able to enjoy the 4th of July like the rest of us, but they certainly will be able to take a blow for the next ten weeks or so. Baseball drags it offseason out for four months. Sometimes major free agents wait till after Valentine’s Day to sign, making the daily rumor mill as much of a grind as the 162-game schedule. The NFL has a similar binge like the NBA, but major talent rarely moves and only a select few care about a DB or OL getting a big contract. Hockey? A fourth tier sport gets even worse coverage during its offseason.

Maybe I am biased since it seems to have been like this since the 2010 summer of Lebron the Knicks were involved with. However, with top players rarely signing contracts over 4 years, the NBA resembles the old college game: build your team, make a short run, break it down and repeat. The Knicks are planning on “re-booting during the summer of 2015″ If they contend the next two years that makes it about a four-year span in between roster reconstruction. With one and done freshman going to the NBA, it’s actually a bigger window than college!

In an era where fans attention spans are 7 seconds or less, the shorter the event the more likely they will embrace it. NBA free agency gets in, gets out and moves on. Teams know what their rosters are going to be before the MLB All-Star game. I understand that is the nature of building a pro basketball team, but it seems to be the way it should be. There really isn’t time or attention to long drawn out processes.

Baseball’s Winter Meetings have become boring because there seems to be more false rumors and posturing than deals. Maybe if teams actually executed more deals at the Winter Meetings, or at the very least, during a short 2-3 week span, it would be more exciting. Maybe it would eliminate the need for writers to conjure up rumors and stores. I almost feel that MLB has a “call me when something happens” approach to their offseason. At least that is how it appears that last few years.

Or maybe it’s me since the Mets and Yankees punted this past offseason.

In any event, the NBA has its issues. Parity seems to get worse, not better. Star players run the league making it their own personal pickup game. Regardless, the fans seem to enjoy it and connect with it. Baseball will never shorten its season or have the “in and out” nature of an NBA event, but at the very least it should look into seeing if they could create an offseason event like the NBA has done with the first week of July.

I think people talked more about the NBA this week than baseball…. on our nation’s holiday no less!

***

“Scott Boras, you over baby. Robinson Cano, you coming with me.”

Those were the lyrics by Jay-Z in his new album that debuted this past week.

I took some heat on Twitter for criticizing athletes that signed with Jay-Z’s new sports agency, Roc Nation Sports. Mike Lupica wrote today how we may be talking about Jay-Z in the future the same way were talk about Scott Boras today. I say nonsense.

First, I think talking trash about Scott Boras, the best sports agent in the business, when your agency has four clients- one of which a WNBA player (yawn) – is comical.

God Bless Jay-Z for making his way from the projects into the multi-billion dollar businessman he is today. That’s what happens when you spend your time marketing a skill, versus getting caught up in drugs and crime- something that is prevalent in the area from which he came.

Do I understand how hip-hop, which glorifies violence and guns, went mainstream? No, I don’t. I laugh when I see kids out here in the suburbs of Long Island dressing that role when they probably wouldn’t last 8 seconds in a housing project. I have actually worked in crime-riddled areas doing sales, in convenience stores no less. It wasn’t fun, believe me. That’s why you will never see me glorifying it on my personal time.

That’s not my issue with Jay-Z; my main point is I don’t see how he helps any of the players he represents. Will Jay-Z pull off a player-friendly contract ala Rafael Soriano and the Yankees a couple of years ago? Will he squeeze a record-setting deal out of nowhere like Barry Zito in 2006? Will he get Oliver Perez a 3-year/$36-million dollar contract? Scott Boras did all that; the same Scott Boras who he calls out in his latest album.

***Side note: Isn’t it sad that people are actually worried about a rap album coming out on the 4th of July – our nation’s birthday***

Jay-Z’s initial clients are Robinson Cano, Geno Smith and Kevin Durant. Last I looked two of the three are established. Other than getting them a music album or mention in a rap song, what can he do for Cano and Durant?

If you read Roc Nation’s mission statement from their website it says:

Roc Nation Sports will focus on elevating athletes’ career on a global scale both on and off the field. In generating business opportunities for clients, Roc Nation Sports will assist in marketing and endorsement deals, community outreach, charitable tie-ins, media relations and brand strategy.

Let’ see, Kevin Durant already seems to have a pretty good national profile. Robinson Cano isn’t exactly a likeable figure, especially in Kansas City. Not sure an ESL athlete can get much in terms of an endorsement appeal nationally in this country. Maybe they can help him in the Dominican Republic.

It appears CAA is actually the driving force behind Jay-Z’s agency. The music industry is more about style than substance, so I doubt we will be seeing many athletes that have challenging contract negotiations sign up with Roc Nation.

CAA has done a good job with infiltrating the NBA in a big way. Some believe (see Frank Isola on the Knicks) they are running teams. It sounds like they are trying to do this in baseball and the NFL. Derek Jeter is a client of CAA when his agent, Casey Close (who has since left), was poached by the agency. The Yankees weren’t pushed around by their modern day Joe DiMaggio. Brian Cashman actually encouraged Jeter to shop for offers during the 2010 offseason when Jeter was a free agent.

Lupica points out how Jay-Z brilliantly fooled everyone into thinking he owned the Brooklyn Nets when he actually had less than 1%. Knowing that template, doesn’t it sound like Jay-Z is being used as a name to lure impressionable athletes who grew up listening to his music?

The real force is CAA, not Jay-Z who is just a fraudulent of an agent as he was an NBA owner. When it comes to baseball, CAA has met its match with Scott Boras. The league changed its draft rules because of Boras. You don’t overthrow a legacy that easily because of throwing around Jay-Z’s name. Besides, sports with a lower percentage of minority athletes (like baseball) are less likely to fall for the legacy of Jay-Z than others (see NBA and NFL).

The only good thing about Jay-Z is his affinity for big markets, which may help the Knicks when Kevin Durant is a free agent in 2015.

By the way, Scott Boras’ response to Jay-Z’s trash talk (another staple of the hip-hop culture) was brilliant:

“My music taste, I love jazz. I’m a huge Bernie Williams fan.”

Hip-hop tends to focus more on violence and trash talk. Give me Scott Boras’ intellect and pen over the sword any day of the week.

The funny thing is, I am not even a fan of Scott Boras and his tactics, but I will take him over a fraud like Jay-Z.

***

Magic Johnson, one of the top NBA analysts was pleading with Dwight Howard to stay in Los Angeles earlier this week.

Am I the only one that seems to think this is wrong or conflict of interest?.

As of this column Magic hasn’t given his “analysis” on what kind of fit Howard is with Houston.

Shaq weighed on Dwight Howard signing with the Rockets while Lakers Nation burned Howard jerseys.

Two things: former Lakers probably shouldn’t be hired as objective analyst. I also am beginning to wonder if Lakers fans make the Yankee Universe a bastion of objective sanity.

Snoop Dogg is showing his support for Aaron Hernandez – yes that is normal

How does Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports get all the scoops? He had all the draft picks minutes before they were announced, and he seems to be glued in to just about everything that is going on. Has the NBA selected him as the de facto “go to” writer? I understand procuring sources is hard work, and I am not saying Woj hasn’t earned it, I just find it peculiar that one writer has such an advantage over the pack. Although Sam Amick of USA Today did beat him to Dwight Howard. 

Mets ace Matt Harvey was named to the All-Star team last night. Mike Francesa will be back tomorrow to continue praising Harvey. Funny how things have changed in less than a year.

What a great piece by Howard Megdal at Sports On Earth. Chase the Golden Thunder, the bat-dog for the Yankees Double-A affiliate, was given a retirement ceremony. This dog has touched many lives, including Thunder beat reporter Mike Ashmore.

The most pain I have felt is when I lost my Golden Retriever PJ at 11-years old back in 2008. I adopted my current Golden, Sammy, a month after his death. A dogs unconditional love is something that we take for granted and often don’t appreciate until its gone. Chase leaves a legacy in Trenton that no player, in my opinion, can or will ever match.

Ryan Spilborghs talks about PEDs in MLB. The 30-man roster he discusses won’t happen (follow the money trail), but mandatory days off? Maybe something that should be considered. Although with the escalating cost of player contracts we saw some of this in the NBA this past season, so why not in MLB? Meanwhile, Roger Goodell wants to expand the regular season for the most violent sport… can’t make it up.

I personally think the sports viewing experience is better at home than at the stadium. At the very least it saves you money during a time where we all need to cut back. The Jacksonville Jaguars are trying to bridge that gap by having the Red Zone channel on their scoreboard during the game. If anyone tells you the NFL is not about gambling or fantasy football, think again.

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Jason Kidd the Right Hire for Brooklyn


This entry was posted on June 12th, 2013 @ 10:43 pm by Mike Silva.
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Billy King and the Nets might have pulled off the biggest surprise of the NBA season with their decision to hire Jason Kidd as their head coach. Just a week after he retired as a Knick, Kidd returns to his former team as the savior he once was when they inhabited New Jersey. This may not be the glamorous move that Mikhail Prokhorov wanted (see Phil Jackson), but it certainly is gutsy and, quite frankly, exactly what the franchise needed.

Despite the buzz that followed the Nets’ move to Brooklyn I believe last season was a failure. It was more flash than substance, and certainly didn’t live up to the hype. Deron Williams had an uneven season, Joe Johnson was a bust, two coaches were canned and the team lost a terrible Game 7 to a Chicago team that was afflicted with every injury but the plague. Unless you count merchandising sales and Jay –Z sitting courtside as success, the inaugural season in Brooklyn was a disappointment.

Jason Kidd will change that. This is not only a huge win for the Nets, but a tremendous loss for the team across town. Everyone measured Kidd’s value on the stat sheet, but you had to watch the Knicks daily to appreciate what he brought to the table. He did the little things defensively, set the tone for protecting the basketball and really was Mike Woodson’s floor general. In essence he was an assistant coach from the first day of training camp. It should be no coincidence the Knicks had the least amount of turnovers this past season after ranking next-to-last the prior year. That was a huge part of their success, and you have to wonder if it will continue going forward.

Now Kidd brings his desire to win to Brooklyn. His switching sides could potentially sway the balance of power in the Atlantic Division. Experience is overrated as he will be surrounded by a staff that will help him with the details of the position. His job is to help build a culture of winning and credibility. They need him to motivate this group and maximize their talent level. Anyone can do Xs and Os, but not everyone can connect with a roster. Can he resurrect Deron Williams’ career and return him among the league’s elite point guards? Can he continue to push Brook Lopez to greater heights? If healthy, can Joe Johnson live up to his max contract? Will this group collectively put out a winning effort nightly? This is why he was chosen over other experienced options.

What is the risk? Where is the downside? Brooklyn will never take over the Knicks because of real estate. That meme has to be put to bed; no one cares about how the borough is “up-and-coming.” The Nets are dead last in the New York pecking order. If they do have a punchers chance of taking over the city’s basketball hearts (or be relevant) it has to be with their play. The whole Brooklyn fad will wear away very quickly. No coach with a winning resume wants to be the Knicks’ step-child. That is why Phil Jackson, Doc Rivers or the Van Gundys weren’t realistic options. Once Kidd put his name into the mix he became the best choice.

This could work out fabulously well for both sides. Kidd could become the next Pat Riley and lead the Nets to a decade of success. It could also be a disaster, and the off-the-court demons rise to the surface and become the story. It is high risk/high reward, but do the Nets really have any other choice? Does Kidd? He needs to establish himself on the sidelines. The Nets need someone that has the guts to put Brooklyn on the basketball map. It’s a perfect marriage.

In the end this is the right move because it was the only move that can give them a chance to get to the next level.

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MDR Radio Done as of Sept 1st, Russo’s Future 50-50


This entry was posted on June 10th, 2013 @ 8:50 pm by Mike Silva.
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Have we seen the last of the Mad Dog?

Sources have told me that Mad Dog Radio will no longer be as of Sept 1 of this year. Additionally, it appears Chris Russo’s chances of staying with company are 50-50.

I am a long-time listener of Russo since he started at WFAN in 1989. He and Mike Francesa were an inspiration, and why I have always been interested in radio. They invented the way sports talk should be conducted. Unfortunately, they both are a shell of their former shelves despite the fact their bank accounts state otherwise. Anyone who listened to “Mike & The Mad Dog” circa the early 90s understands what we hear from the duo these days is a cheap facsimile. Russo specifically has failed in his management role at SXM, and although I think his show is solid, it lacks the “juice” of Mike and the Mad Dog. Russo needs a partner to bounce ideas off to be effective. Furthermore, his brand name doesn’t have the recognition nationally to anchor a station. Russo admitted this last year after the company conducted a brand awareness survey with its listeners.

Where would Russo go if he bolted SXM? There was an unconfirmed Twitter rumor that 98.7 ESPN is looking to team him up with Michael Kay during their afternoon drive show. Right now Kay’s partner is Don La Greca. Although I think La Greca does a great job, his name doesn’t bring the cache of the Mad Dog. ESPN has to decide if they are going to continue to take a regular beating from WFAN and Francesa, or finally come to play. I believe not only would bringing in the Mad Dog close the gap, but it might actually make Francesa sweat for the first time since the 2008 breakup. Another option would be to have Russo sign-on with the CBS Sports Radio Network and host a national show; perhaps going up against Francesa, as well. The problem is that he would eventually run into the same issues that he currently has at SXM. Again, this is all unconfirmed and total speculation.

Where should SXM go post-Russo? There is talk of SXM creating another new channel, described to me as their most aggressive sports radio project since undertaking MDR five years ago. If Russo isn’t going to be a part of it, who will be? I can’t see the suits spending big money for another “name” looking for a retirement annuity. I suggest they fill it with up and coming names that are either on SXM now or trying to move to a bigger platform from traditional radio. It should be about energy and content, not star power. They can’t afford to make the same mistake that NBC and CBS has with their new networks.

SXM’s new station needs an anchor, but who can that be? I think Dino Costa makes the most sense. Costa has alluded publicly on Twitter to the fact there is interest in his show on a multi-platform level. Agree or disagree, Costa has been one of the few members of the station to embrace what new radio is: a combination of traditional radio, blogging, video and social media. He has a strong opinion and knows how to polarize an audience without cheap radio gimmicks. Dino would provide the station with a passionate voice that is looking to be a change agent, not someone trying to collect a paycheck and live off yesterday. Why go out and pay for a big-money free agent when you have homegrown talent right in your own backyard?

This is exactly what SXM needs to inject energy into a brand that, quite simply, needs some traction.

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Fun With NBA Nicknames


This entry was posted on May 26th, 2013 @ 11:58 am by Mike Silva.
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I know it’s time to talk baseball 24/7 until NFL training camps start in ten weeks, but the news the Charlotte Bobcats have decided to go back to their roots in 2014 and bring back the old Hornets moniker brought to light how screwed up some of the NBA nicknames are.

Never mind how the New Orleans Hornets never made sense. There are a few other names that should be under consideration to change:

Utah Jazz - I personally would scrap the Pelicans and re-name New Orleans to the Jazz. You could then return the Utah name back to its ABA roots and name them the Stars. There is probably too much Malone/Stockton/Sloan history here to make the change. It was something that should have been done thirty years ago. Pistol Pete wasn’t a Pelican or a Hornet.

Memphis Grizzlies - Vancouver has Grizzlies, Memphis has Elvis. The Kings make a lot more sense, especially if the Hansen group was successful in moving Sacramento to Seattle. Something has to be done to change this name; it just doesn’t make any sense. I am having a hard time thinking of another nickname here. Give me some help.

Washington Wizards - The only reason this silly name came into existence is due to the PC crowd connecting D.C. violence with the Bullets. Wes Unseld, Earl Monroe and Elvin Hayes were Bullets, not Wizards. Heck, even Chris Webber, Juwan Howard and Rod Strickland were Bullets. It will never happen, especially in our current gun-control sensitive society, but returning to the name Bullets makes sense. I doubt there are any studies that can intellectually connect the Wizards name reducing homicides in Washington, D.C. The name Bullets has as much to do with homicides as those Law & Order marathons. Last I looked the latter wasn’t banned in the District of Columbia.

Los Angeles Lakers - There is too much history here to change, but the Timberwolves really should be the Lakers. If the league decided to do something radical and rename this historic franchise they could take the “Kings” away from Sacramento (see Memphis above) or, like Utah, honor the ABA by taking the Stars name from their former counterpart. Kings sounds better since the Lakers are the kings of Los Angeles.

In the end you have a bunch of conflicts with Kings and Stars. Realistically, I can live with Grizzlies and Lakers if you change the New Orleans team to the Jazz, Charlotte to Hornets and make Utah the Stars. I am not even going to fight the Bullets battle (another no pun) since it’s a loser.

In the end there is probably too much history in Utah to make a move on the Jazz name, so New Orleans Pelicans and Charlotte Hornets are a good compromise. I was hoping for Sacramento to return to Seattle so the Sonics can return (it’s the right thing to do). Is there a team around longer with less history than the Kings? I know there is the Chris Webber/Mike Bibby era, but outside of the wild home court in the Arco days, it’s a franchise I am more than willing to chuck.

Perhaps with the old name the Hornets can return some of the “buzz” (no pun intended) the old Coliseum use to have. Many forget that old place had 364 sellouts from the Hornets inaugural year (1988) up until 1997. The Mourning, LJ and Bogues trip wasn’t a championship contenders, but a pesky 4 or 5 seed that you didn’t want to play in a short series. The old hive was an uncomfortable place to play (ask those mid-nineties Knicks). It will take a lot of work by Michael Jordan and his staff to bring that kind of energy back to the city. The Bobcats have been so bad for so long this, coupled with the bad taste from George Shinn, is a tall order.

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A Lot of Questions for the Knicks Going Forward


This entry was posted on May 19th, 2013 @ 2:03 pm by Mike Silva.
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The Knicks championship dreams died last night at Indiana’s Bankers Life Fieldhouse. It seemed all season it was the basketball gods will for this squad to make it to the NBA Finals and bring home their first championship since 1973. No Knicks team excited New Yorkers like this group, perhaps not even the ’94 and ’99 squads that made it to the Finals. These Knicks had a superstar like those teams, but the surrounding cast was athletic, shot the lights out of the ball and a persona (thanks to social media) where you felt a connection. No matter the injury or obstacle it appeared they would persevere. The 90s Knicks were tough, rugged and gritty- a lunch pail team that identified with the underdog. This team was glitter and glamour, more finesse than rugged. They could blow you out of the building with their three-point shooting at any given moment. Quite frankly, it was a fun team for which to root.

Unfortunately, the “live by the three, die by the three” mentality became undone in the playoffs. In a lot of ways it reminded me of Rick Pitino’s “Bomb Squad” in 1988: great regular season, but undone when it came to physical half-court playoff basketball. Pat Riley used to say “no rebounds, no rings” and it rang true for the 2012-2013 Knicks. It was clear after Game 6 this team needs to diversify its offense and institute some toughness and rebounding. They also can’t do it by relying on past-their-prime players like Kurt Thomas, Rasheed Wallace and Marcus Camby.

So what do these Knicks do? It won’t be easy to improve the roster in a big way due to their salary cap situation. I am not captologist (nor will I pretend to play one on this blog), but it probably comes down to re-signing J.R. Smith. They then will have to find value via the draft, free agency and Europe to fill the defensive and rebounding needs. With Stoudemire’s immovable contract and the lack of available cap room even without Smith, Glen Grunwald is going to be asked to be every bit the Executive of the Year candidate he was this past season.

You can’t expect Carmelo Anthony to carry the offensive load as he did this season. Not only would I consider moving Anthony from the power forward, position where he is getting banged up, but I would think it’s time to have a legitimate second post scorer that can help with the offense One issue all season is that Anthony has to work for all his points; nothing came easy. The Knicks don’t have a David West or Roy Hibbert down on the blocks. Tyson Chandler is good for defense and some pick-and-rolls, but he isn’t anywhere near a reliable post presence. The problem is I don’t really think this player is acquirable with or without Smith’s contract on the books. In the end, it really may come down to the Knicks living and dying with the mercurial Smith at shooting guard.

I don’t really care about J.R.’s nightlife, celebrity dating or tattoos. What I do mind is the apparent lack of focus and composure when he was needed the most. I don’t take Twitter seriously when it comes to athlete’s behavior, but from the outside it didn’t appear that Smith understood how the playoffs requires a different level of focus and dedication. His high-risk/high-reward persona is a huge risk with any contract the team offers.

What are the non-Smith options? There still is the Chris Paul sign-and-trade dream that some have outlined the past few months. Does Paul believe in the Clippers? Does he want to be second fiddle to the Lakers for the rest of the prime of his career? Paul would be the perfect copilot for Anthony, but the machinations needed to make it a reality render this conversation moot.

What about Tyson Chandler? Can the Knicks package him for a scoring and defensive power forward? He was clearly hurt, but all-season he was soft and lacked composure against some of the top teams. Funny, but doesn’t David Lee look awfully good over Stoudemire these days? You can never question the PR importance of Stoudemire coming to New York in the summer of 2010, but from a basketball standpoint Lee might fit in better with this group.

And on that Stoudemire note, what can be expected of him? He probably needs to accept running the second unit due to his minute’s restrictions. He has two ticking time bomb knees that were surgically repaired this season. He doesn’t play defense, nor is he a particularly good rebounder for someone of his size. With his lift and explosiveness going south he has become a very ordinary and flawed basketball player. Forget about living up to the remaining $40 million owed, does he have any value to this club?

Then there is the coach. Mike Woodson has done wonders cleaning up Mike D’Antoni’s mess. At least under Woodson there seems to be accountability and better effort. You get the feeling, however, that Woodson is overmatched versus other top coaches. Frank Vogel clearly was better on the sidelines this series. Woodson has shown to be rigid and incapable of making the type of adjustments you see in other great coaches. Is this a learning experience or who he really is? Remember, his tenure in Atlanta was full of 50+ win seasons and early playoff exits.

What is a Knicks’ fan worst nightmare? Is they have signed up for another two seasons of 55-win regular season basketball with second round ceilings for their team. They have the Heat dynasty in front of them and two well-coached teams in Chicago and Indiana right with them. They easily could be the fourth-best team in the Conference come next season, with a large gap between them and number three.

There are a lot of questions for the Knicks going forward. Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be any easy answers. The Knicks’ hierarchy is going to need another A+ summer to keep this thing moving forward, or it the 2012-2013 season might be the best experience of the Carmelo Anthony era.

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For Knicks, Toughness Starts at the Top


This entry was posted on May 16th, 2013 @ 5:59 am by Mike Silva.
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It was disappointing to hear that MSG hierarchy pulled the plug on Mike Woodson’s regular segment on ESPN-98.7 with Stephen A. Smith and Ryan Ruocco. I don’t believe this is much of a loss from a radio standpoint – Woodson’s matter-of-fact interview style probably would annoy the bloodthirsty fans  - but from an organizational Q-Rating  it’s a black eye. I also think it sends the wrong message to the team.

There is always a conspiracy theory around the Garden. Five years after his dismissal there are those that believe Isiah Thomas is still managing the roster. I believe some of that is naive paranoia, but when MSG puts up the iron curtain during difficult times it promotes such a mentality.

Twenty years ago the Knicks suffered perhaps their worst loss in franchise history during Game 5 of the Conference Finals. Down one, Charles Smith had four chances at the basket only to be rebuffed by one of the Bulls big three. The 97-94 loss snapped a 27-game home winning streak and put the Knicks in a position where they had to stave off elimination at the old Chicago Stadium. Everyone knows what happened next.

During the days between Games 5 and 6, the fans and media killed Smith and the Knicks for their performance. Despite that, no player hid from the media. The following year after the Reggie Miller-Spike Lee episode, I distinctly remember Pat Riley going on WFAN with Mike & the Mad Dog to discuss the team’s mindset going into Indiana. Again, no one was hiding during tough times. How would the Garden react to those two terrible losses today? I shutter just imagining it.

Everyone is calling for the Knicks to show some toughness in this series. I don’t often agree with Mike Francesa, but when he said the Knicks need to “stop trying to be tough games and play their game,” he couldn’t be more correct. The Knicks are an energy and passion team, not a tire iron crew like Indiana. This isn’t Riley’s or Jeff Van Gundy’s Knicks. They don’t have to be as they are good enough to win if they play their game. That doesn’t involve wrestling in the post, but rather up-tempo energy and ball movement.

If the Knicks lose tonight at MSG and go home, the media meme of toughness will be pervasive throughout the blogosphere and Twitterverse. I have a hard time believing a team that suffered as many setbacks as these Knicks aren’t tough. I think they have shown a propensity to panic during some challenging segments. Even so, they found a way to settle down and right the ship. The win in Utah during the west coast trip is a perfect example.

In the end, I don’t blame the players if toughness is a problem. This all starts and stops at the top. Mike Woodson didn’t cancel on ESPN; it was the Garden Gulag that feared the radio appearance. In the end, what kind of message does that send to the team? How does it make Woodson look as a leader? It certainly isn’t one that says man up and win three ballgames in the next five days.

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