QUITE FRANKLY: Where have all the sports heroes gone?

Once upon a time, there used to be a sports hero for everyone, no matter what sport you followed. A figure you could look up to and count on, someone you could always rely on with the game on the line. Even in the face of defeat, your hero stands tall, because in your eyes, he can do no wrong. What happens that invincibility is taken away? Are you left with an image of glory or an image of wrong?

rivera-win-nyy2.jpg Today's sports world doesn't offer up many sports heroes. Sure, there is an abundance of superstars, but how many of them are the "model" superstar? What makes a player a sports hero? Is it determined by a game winning hit in the World Series?, a game winning basket to clinch a playoff series?, a game turning drive that caps a comeback and sends your team to the super bowl? As a fan, do we hold off the field accusations and behavior against our heroes thus deflating some of our fondest memories? That depends on who you ask and the circumstances surrounding the player.

Former Yankee Jim Leyritz was charged Friday with DUI and manslaughter after killing a 30-year old women. He will forever be known for his historic game tying homerun in Game 4 of the 1996 World Series off of Atlanta Braves closer Mark Wohlers. The Yankees won that game and won the series. That homerun is looked at as the start of the last Yankees dynasty. Does this reckless act tarnish his place in Yankee history? Statistically, no. Theoretically....ask Roger Clemens how public opinion can alter one's accomplishments. Just two weeks ago, Clemens was arguably the greatest pitcher of all-time. Now, after allegations and accusations point at Clemens using performance enhancing drugs, his place as one of baseball's all-time elite is uncertain.

Take a look around at some of sports' biggest names and decide for yourself if they garner the right to be called a sports hero:

jeter-four.jpg

  • Derek Jeter: (A personal favorite of mine) New York's favorite poster boy. Fame, fortune, good looks, and countless outstanding achievements (including his four world series rings) is as close to a pure sports hero as there is. Unless you want to count the accusations of tax evasion against him. It's hard to look at Jeter as anything else than the heart and soul of the latest Yankee dynasty, his dives into the stands, consistent clutch October performances and never say die attitude will always forever be apart of the Jeter legacy.

  • Manny Ramirez: One of the best hitters to ever play the game, but a lot of Manny being Manny might dampen his image. Of course, who could forget his bathroom break during a mound visit in 2005. Although he has brought two world championships to the Boston Red Sox, a feat not many have achieved.

  • Roger Clemens: Undeniably his work ethic and workout regiment inspires many, both in and out of the game but a black cloud hangs over him concerning his steroid use. Maybe his accomplishments weren't a result of hard work and determination.

  • Mariano Rivera: Another Yankee with an outstanding resume. Loyal, humble and a great example of a class act. His many records led the Yankees to four world championships, thus cementing him as the best closer of all-time. Right along with Jeter, Rivera seems to have it all to make him a sports hero.

  • Tom Brady: The model guy for the model NFL franchise. He just led the Patriots to a 16-0 season, first in NFL history. He has won three Super Bowls, two Super Bowl MVP awards, has been invited to four Pro Bowls, and has the most touchdowns in a season. Not bad right? Did I mention he dumped his former girlfriend who was more than three months pregnant with his child and is now dating a supermodel? Wow.

  • Peyton Manning: Right along with Brady at the top of the NFL's elite quarterbacks. His consistent statistical performance has led many to believe he is one of the best QB's of all time. Though some consider Manning a sell-out for his over-exposure in advertising (Sprint, Sony, MasterCard, Gatorade, DirecTV, H.H. Gregg, the American Red Cross, ESPN This is SportsCenter ad, NFL Sunday Ticket and hosted Saturday Night Live) You can't knock the guy for capitalizing on his fame.

  • Lebron James: Today is his 23rd birthday and has quite a slew of endorsements (Nike, Sprite, Powerade, Bubblicious, and Upper Deck) for his age. He has already put himself up as one of the NBA's top players, has led his Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA Finals, and is ranked at #1 in the Forbes Top 20 Earners Under 25 with an annual earnings of 27 million dollars. James has two children at the age of 23, not really a great thing to look at and promote.

  • Kobe Bryant: Another one of the NBA's best players. Has three championships under his belt, yet his reputation was tainted by a sexual assault case in 2003 and his endorsement contracts with McDonald's, Nutella, and Ferrero SpA were terminated. Recently, his on again, off again relationship with the Los Angeles Lakers has caused his home town fans to jeer him. Not much credibility goes to Bryant these days.

  • nba_a_kidd_2689.jpg
  • Jason Kidd: (Another personal favorite of mine) Was traded to the New Jersey Nets in 2001. He led the Nets to two consecutive NBA Finals appearances (2002 and 2003) and is considered to be one of the best players of his era. His presence turned around a laughingstock of a franchise into a championship contender. What goes against Kidd is his domestic abuse charge in 2001 and divorce with his wife. (During several games on the road, while Kidd is attempting a free-throw he is serenaded by a 'wife-beater' chant.) Great player, but domestic abuse? Not an interest of mine or the public.


There are other names I can put on the list as potential sports heroes but I do need to conserve space. There aren't any names for the NHL due to the lack of overall interest from the public on the sport. Hockey's biggest name Wayne Gretzky was involved in a gambling scandal in 2006. His wife was the one who drew most of the attention for the scandal. Gretzky hasn't been charged in the scandal. (So I guess I did get an NHL name in there after all). We all look to sports as a way to get away from reality, but we forget that nothing in this world is perfect and the same goes for our sports heroes. Whether you judge them by that one moment of glory or by their statistics, remember we are all human and nothing should take away from the greatest moments in sports and the people who made them possible.

(Frank's articles can also be found at OnTheBlockNY and HotStoveNewYork ).
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Former Yanks reliever tells tale of his drug use

The aftermath of the Mitchell Report has seen admissions and denials. Along with the admissions, we've heard the motives and stories as to why players decided to use steroids and HGH. In Sunday's NY Daily News, former Yankees reliever Dan Naulty tells his story of his drug use. An interesting piece, it's a definite read. Here are some highlights of his story...
amd_naulty-spring.jpg
"The night we won the World Series, I wanted to die. I didn't want to live. On the night that you would think was a big, happy celebration night, I wanted to die because my emotional state was in such disarray that I started thinking about suicide.""This is a story of a boyhood dream turning into a living nightmare. I had ruined my life, but at what cost?"

"Nobody ever told me, "Do whatever you need to do to gain weight." Nobody ever said, "If you've got to take drugs, man, take 'em." What everybody said was, "You're 6-6. Put on 50 pounds and you'll throw 100 mph and you'll make millions and millions of dollars." When I got to the professional level, I realized, "This is my last chance of playing. There's no other level after this."

"These memories have haunted me throughout the years."

"By day, I spent time with the Christians on the team and by night I was out on the town as a single man playing for the New York Yankees. That was my life. It was alcohol by night, amphetamines by day and steroids all off-season for years. It was a Jekyll and Hyde lifestyle. "

" The irony of this story shows what I thought was going to be a great life of fame and fortune turned into the destruction of other lives, and for me, a living hell - one filled with depression, anger, unhappiness, suicidal thoughts and God."

Life in the big city isn't always what it appears to be. This is just an example of how drugs can ruin you're life and your performance. Of course, that should be a given but for those that need to hear stories from people who lived through it, it should really open your eyes. Better late than never.

(Frank's articles can also be found at HotStoveNewYork)
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Rodriguez denies using performance enhancing drugs

"No" is the answer Alex Rodriguez gave in an interview Sunday night when asked about using steroids.

arod-bases.jpgIn an interview that aired Sunday night on "60 Minutes", Rodriguez denied using illegal preformance enhancing drugs and said he felt he didn't need them in order to compete.
"I've never felt overmatched on the baseball field," he said. "... I felt that if I did my, my work as I've done since I was, you know, a rookie back in Seattle, I didn't have a problem competing at any level."

After the Mitchell Report was released on Thursday, former slugger Jose Canseco said he couldn't believe A-Rod's name was not on the report. Earlier this summer, Canseco in an interview with WEEI in Boston said he had "stuff" on Alex regarding steroids and plans on sharing that in his next book.

I guess we'll have to buy Canseco's book to find out what he has. What ever happened to commericals and good old fashioned ads to sell your product? Apparently controversy does create cash.

(Frank's articles can also be found at HotStoveNewYork.com)
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Quite Frankly: Mitchell Report adds another black cloud

Sometimes when you try to fix something that's broken, you end up breaking it a little more. In the wake of yesterday's revelations from the George Mitchell Report, we can now say Major League Baseball has a major problem.

clemens-tophat.bmpIn the Mitchell Report, Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte were amongst the names listed. Their names are now and will be forever linked to steroids thanks to their personal trainer Brian McNamee. Ok fine, I see where the connection here...their own personal trainer supplied them and injected them with steroids and HGH. That's the thought that immediately comes to mind. Sure, I understand that, but here's another thing that comes to mind.....where is your proof? This is where there is a big problem. Without having concrete evidence, how can the accusations made by McNamee be valid? In other cases mentioned in the Mitchell Report, there were detailed conversations, telephone records, shipping receipts and other forms of evidence to coincide with the allegations made. In the case of Clemens and Pettitte, where is all this? Where are the syringes, the bottles, the shipping labels, the receipts, the telephone records? Where is it? Clemens' attorney Rusty Hardin issued these statements on the accusations:

Via ESPN.com
"I have great respect for Senator Mitchell. I think an overall look at this problem in baseball was an excellent idea," Hardin said in a statement. "But I respectfully suggest it is very unfair to include Roger's name in this report. He is left with no meaningful way to combat what he strongly contends are totally false allegations. He has not been charged with anything, he will not be charged with anything and yet he is being tried in the court of public opinion with no recourse. That is totally wrong."

"There has never been one shred of tangible evidence that he ever used these substances and yet he is being slandered today,'' said Hardin, who called McNamee a "troubled man."

We live in a society of innocent-until-proven-guilty and that's the way you should look at this case.

Pettitte's agent Randy Hendricks issued this statement:
I have advised Andy that, as an active player, he should refrain from commenting until we have had an opportunity to speak with his union and other advisors.......At the appropriate time, he will have something to say."

Via Jayson Stark, ESPN.com:
"....one attorney -- a man who doesn't represent players, by the way -- said the entire case is "all based on one guy [McNamee], and there's no documentation."

True, there are checks written by McNamee to the human smoking gun, Kirk Radomski. But the report tells us, right there on Page 174, that Radomski admitted that McNamee never told him that Clemens (or Andy Pettitte) used steroids or HGH. It was merely implied, Radomski said."

But the other attorney we surveyed said that in an actual court, a judge would tell a jury that the testimony of a witness like McNamee, who had made a deal with the government, was "not sufficient for conviction. There must be independent corroboration."

This investigation was suppose to be for the good of the game, what it's done, is tarnish the game itself and it's legacies. The report could still have been made WITHOUT the names included. What does the inclusion of names really do for this report other than damage the integrity of the game?
"The main points in this report are good. But he really could have written this, and drawn the same conclusions, without the names. And I wish he would have."
--One baseball man

pettitte-troubled.bmp Now you have the greatest pitcher of this era (maybe of all time) Clemens and the greatest hitter of this era (maybe of all time) standing side by side as the faces of baseball's steroid era. Was it really worth going through all this? Spending all this money on an investigation that seems to put baseball in another big hole, which it now has to try and fix? The answer is yes, if it's done the right way. This report in my opinion isn't comprehensive. There's no mention of Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa. How credible is this? Sosa and McGwire hit 60 homeruns in consecutive seasons in the late 90's when baseball was trying to bring fans back into the ballparks after the strike in '94. It would be ignorant to think they were not on the juice those years as they shattered homerun records. You think MLB didn't think they were on some type of substance? They had a blind eye to the situation because the homerun is what intrigues people and brings them back to the ballpark. That puts MLB in question. Nonetheless, the investigation done by Senator Mitchell went back into the early '90's and there was no mention of Sosa and McGwire, so how comprehensive was this report. Their names do not appear anywhere in the 400 plus page report. That has to get you thinking. Don't release a report and start putting names into the public eye unless you get ALL the names, not just some. There were over 700 people interviewed during the investigation. I'm sure, as well as most of the public, beleives they're many more names that should've been included that weren't listed.

The intention of the investigation was to clean the sport up, get rid of illegal drugs and to bring baseball to a competitive and level playing field, for both the fans and the players. What you did was place an even darker cloud above the black one hovering over the sport. In the end, I beleive the average baseball fan will still show up to the games and still watch the games. People just want to be entertained, who cares what these guys do off the field or behind the scenes. They are entitled to do whatever they please, just as you and I in our everyday lives. Stop trying to make the game of baseball perfect. Nothing in this world is perfect, certainly not this report. Good job Senator Mitchell, I'd say thank you but I don't have enough evidence to show my gratitude. But hey, maybe that's good enough.
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No comment from Matsui over trade talk

matsui-giants.jpgThe Yankees have had dicussions this week with the Giants regarding Hideki Matsui. On Saturday, Matsui spoke publicly for the first time since his name was linked to trade rumors.
"I have not heard anything from the Yankees and my agent," Matsui told Sankei Sports, the Japanese sports daily, in remarks translated by one of its reporters. "I cannot comment about any reports or rumors. I am going to think about (whether to waive the no-trade clause) only when the team or my agent calls me."

"All I can do right now is to prepare for the next season. Especially I have to rehab for my right knee during this offseason."

According to a source close to the situation, the talks regarding a trade are in the beginning stages. The Giants have interest in Matsui (.285 average, 25 homers, and 103 RBI in '07) due to lack of power in their lineup, now that Barry Bonds isn't returning next season. The Yankees have interest in lefties Jonathan Sanchez (1-5, 5.88 ERA in 33 games last season) and Noah Lowry (14-8, 3.92 ERA last season). In the event a trade is pulled off, Matsui would have to waive his no-trade clause.

I don't think this is a move the Yankees really need to make. If it does end up happening the Yanks will see themselves with two new lefties, one being a reliever and one a starting pitcher. If you believe Matsui is on the downside of his career and is starting to break down, then you would have to agree with the deal. Trading a proven star for young talent is always a risk, but Yankees GM Brian Cashman has committed to youth this offseason, lets see if that trend continues.

(Frank's articles can also be found at HotStoveNewYork.com )
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Kidd returns, Nets still lose to Rockets

kidd-jefferson-upset.jpgOn Wednesday, Jason Kidd had the world's most famous migraine. On Friday night, Kidd returned to the Nets starting lineup, but that wasn't enough as New Jersey (9-11) fell to the Houston Rockets 96-89, at the Meadowlands.

The Nets played as if they all has migraines. They fell behind early and often. They were down by 10 at the end of the first quarter. It marked the 15th time in the last 20 games that they trailed by double-digits. The loss brings the Nets to 4-8 at home this season. Richard Jefferson scored 29 points in a losing effort, was vocal on his team's performance.

Via Julian Garcia NY Daily News:
"It's a joke," said Jefferson. "The fact that we even have nine wins right now is amazing to me the way we've been playing. It seems we've been down double digits so many games. I don't know what to say."

"The first 10 to 13 minutes of every game we're terrible. We're awful," Jefferson said. "It's almost a joke. I'm as responsible as anybody. It's frustrating because after that we either play even or better than our opponent. I think more times we've probably played better. It's just that we're trying to come back from such a deficit every single game."

The Rockets (11-9) did their part in making the game frustrating for Jefferson and company. Tracy McGrady scored 24 points, while Yao Ming scored 25 points to go along with 11 rebounds. The duo of McGrady and Ming have combined for 44.6 points a game this season.

kidd-worried.jpgNew Jersey opened the second half on an 8-0 run thus cutting Houston's lead to seven but never drew closer. Vince Carter led all scorers with 32 points. Kidd, missed Wednesday's game against the Knicks citing he had a migraine, played 36 minutes contributing 10 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists. Head coach Lawrence Frank said Kidd was playing with a head cold and still felt the effects of his migraine.
"I have a cold but I learned my lesson not to make a big deal about it," Kidd said.
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Pettitte returns to the Bronx for '08

The wait is finally over. Andy Pettitte will be back in pinstripes in 2008. He declined his '08 player option for $16 million last month citing he was either going to play for the Yankees in 2008 or retire.

pettitte08.bmpAccording to the Houston Choncrile., Pettitte told former Houston Astro teammates and current Yankee teammates that he would come back and play in the Bronx this season. Pettitte's agent Randy Hendricks has informed the Yankees of Andy's decision.
“Many teammates have called urging Andy to return as well as manager Joe Girardi,” Hendricks said. “It’s well known that the Yankees have publicly stated that they were ready for Andy when Andy was ready.”

The decision to return to the Yanks is a big one, as the Yanks' offseason agenda continues to progress. The agreements with Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, Alex Rodriguez and now Pettitte, assure New York that most of their heavy lifting this winter is done. Pettitte was 15-9 with a 4.05 ERA last season. He pitched one of the best games of his career in Game 2 of the Divison Series against the Cleveland Indians.

He spent his first nine seasons in the Bronx before going to play for his hometown Houston Astros. Pettitte returned to the Yanks last winter and signed a one year $16 million, with a player option for '08. A good move for Pettitte who returns to a rotation that looks to include 2 or 3 rookies. His experience and competitive drive will be looked at to hopefully help young pitchers Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy, and Joba Chamberlain.

Andy has 4 World Series rings with the Yankees and has reached 7 (one was with the Astros in 2005). He has a career record of 201-113 with a 3.83 ERA in his 13 big league seasons. He has 2 All-Star game appearances and is 18-7 with a 3.97 ERA in 35 postseason games.

Pettitte's return is very much appreciated in the Bronx, by both the fans and the Yankees themselves.


(Frank's articles can also be read at OnTheBlockNY )




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Knicks rebound in comeback against Bucks

knicksnov30.jpgIt is only the first day of December and yet many people have counted out the New York Knicks this season. With everything that has gone on, why wouldn't you? Apparently everyone at Madison Square Garden last night didn't get that message.

A night after one of the worst losses in franchise history (104-59 against the Celtics), the Knicks responded with a game that showed hustle,determination, and heart.. They overcame a 17 point deficit to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks 91-88. After the game Jamal Crawford apologized on behalf of the Knicks to the hometown crowd for their performance the night before. Crawford along with Zach Randolph scored 25 points in leading the Knicks to victory.

Via ESPN.com:
"That's not who we are, honestly, and their support means everything," Crawford said. "So it was a tough loss and I'm glad we bounced back tonight."

The Garden crowd throughout the night had let their displeasure be heard, from the pre-game introductions, to missed free throws by Stephon Marbury, to the lack of defense in the 3rd when the Knicks were trailing double digits again and looked prime for another knockout. On this night, the Knicks woke up before it was too late. Marbury had 13 points until he was forced to leave the game in the 3rd quarter because of a right shoulder muscle spasm. His replacement, Fred Jones provided a spark off the bench, he scored all 10 of his points in the last quarter and put an exclamation point on the comeback with an infatic dunk leaving 0.4 seconds on the clock. Crowd favorite David Lee played limited minutes but his presence on the floor led to key rebounds late and also contributed to the Knicks late spark.

For Milwaukee, Micheal Redd scored 27 points in the losing effort. He had two chances late to put the Bucks ahead in the final minute but failed to deliver.
"I'm speechless," Redd said. "I'm more speechless about us losing three in a row, not that we lost to the Knicks. The Knicks are a talented team. We knew they would come back and fight hard. When you have a lead like that, you've got to be able to defend and put your foot down and take advantage of the situation, and we didn't do that tonight."

The Knicks (5-10) have won three straight at the Garden and have won three of their last four. Isiah Thomas' job is safe for another day.


Frank's articles can also be found HotStoveNewYork
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Knicks need to start over

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