Monday, May 19, 2014

The Good, the Bad, and the Disliked

In time we hate that which we often fear. ~ William Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra

Sports Illustrated did a little slideshow on the most disliked people in sports, and it makes for an interesting collection. Generally speaking, it breaks down into some standard categories (with examples provided):

Team owners: Donald Sterling, Clippers; Jerry Jones, Cowboys; James Dolan, Knicks and Rangers.
Heads of leagues/sports organizations: NBA, NHL, FIFA
Jerks: See owners above, and add Lane Kiffen, and Julie Herrman, AD at Rutgers.
Fallen Heroes: Alex Rodriguez, Lance Armstrong, Tiger Woods
Major Successes: Sebastian Vettel, Tiger Woods (once upon a time), John Calipari (who could also fall into jerks), Bill Belichick, Nick Saban

Some of these are easy to understand. Team owners have a history of arrogance because, well, they're loaded, it's their money and their team. It's the taxpayers' stadium, but that's another story. At any rate, barring the occasional Art Rooney of Pittsburgh, nice guy owners are hard to find.

Heads of sports leagues are easy pickings. No matter what they do they make somebody unhappy. In some cases, it's the fans, sometimes it's the players. Seldom is it the team owners because that's how they keep their jobs.

Jerks? Well, that's self-explanatory, and, let's face it, they're everywhere.

It's the last two categories that intrigue me. These days, fallen heroes tend to be guys caught with the fingers in the drug cookie jar, although there are other causes. Generally, these are people that were once admired for their skills and success. When we find out that they have feet of clay (or steroids) we are monumentally disappointed. Alex Rodriguez was the great hope to go after Barry Bonds' home run record until it was found that he was imbibing. He didn't help matters by trying to avoid his suspension by trying to sue everyone in sight including the players union.

Lance Armstrong is a slightly different matter. He participated in a sport that is so dominated by performance enhancing drugs and blood doping that when his championships were taken away, they couldn't take a chance on giving them to runners-up because many of them had been caught doing the same things Armstrong did. Perhaps that's why we wanted to believe Armstrong's denials. He was a clean athlete in a sea of dopers. When he turned out to be just like the rest of them, it hurt. Still, I don't know if “dislike” is the term for these people. “Disappointed” or “let down” would seem more appropriate.

But it's the last group that fascinates me, especially Bill Belichick and Nick Saban. Now, neither of these guys has what I would call a charming personality. In fact, in Belichick's case it is doubtful whether he has any personality at all. But if we went by those who can't win Mr. or Ms. Congeniality contests, the list would have contained the likes of Bud Selig, Mack Brown, Urban Meyer, or Kimi Raikkonnen (the F1 racing king of no-personality). But, the thing about Belichick and Saban is not just that they've been successful; they've been dominators. And they're lousy interviews. Neither one cares for the stupid questions reporters ask over and over again; they're disciplinarians; and they know every trick in the book.

There was an attempt to crucify Belichick a while back over his taping of opposing teams signals. I've had my say on that, but the main point is that if you're going to do semaphore signals or hold up rebus cards, what do you expect? That the opposing team will turn around until you're done?

Saban has been criticized for signing more than the maximum number of players allowed, which means some of them are left out in the cold. True, I don't care for the practice, but he's hardly alone in doing this.

No, what people don't like is that these very no-nonsense characters keep winning, and they do it by running tight ships.

Lest you get the wrong idea, I don't mind seeing these guys lose at times, usually when they're playing a team I prefer over New England or Alabama. But, I don't dislike them. Heck, I've never met either one. In person, they might be downright lovable. Probably not, but they could be.

No, when it comes to success, we are a strange bunch. We love to see someone come along and set the world on fire, but we don't like to face the fact that the person might have human failings. Or that he/she might continue setting their part of the world on fire until it gets downright dull. We are fickle.

Me, I prefer to reserve my dislikes for the jerks. It's easier and almost never involves disappointment because jerks are so consistent.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Sick of the NFL Draft

Anyone else other than me ready for this draft to be over??? I mean why doesn't the baseball draft get any hype?? ~ Tweet from Carmen Rupp, catcher in the Phillies organization

Why, yes, Mr. Rupp. I've been ready for them to stop talking about the NFL draft. I'm tired of hearing about Johnny Football. In fact, I have the TV muted right now so I don't have to listen to the rap mix extolling what a fantastic superhero he is. This bit of tripe is part of the filler between games of the SEC softball tournament, which is one heck of a lot more entertaining. The next game can't start soon enough.

In fact, I'm pretty sick of hearing about the guy because he's beginning to remind me of Ryan Leaf or any of the recent USC quarterback flops.

I'm sick of hearing about a South Carolina linebacker who looked liked like crap in his opening game last year, apparently because he hadn't bothered to get into shape. Basically, you have another defense that funnels plays to this guy, sort of like Notre Dame did for a certain linebacker that got humiliated in the BCS Championship game.

Or maybe he's more like Brian Bosworth whose NFL career pretty much went in the dumpster when Bo Jackson ran through him for a touchdown in Jackson's first NFL appearance.

I am sick of mock drafts which seem to contradict one another until the last day or two when suddenly they all agree.

I'm tired of opening up the sports section in the local paper only to see speculations about where this or that Alabama, Auburn, Troy, Alabama State, or whatever state school hotshot is going to be drafted.

While I'm on the subject of the NFL, I'm pretty fed up with owners who think they know more than the football people they hired to make picks.

I'm downright ill with teams that don't really bother to improve themselves because they've already turned a profit from TV money.

I didn't watch a single NFL game last year (Super Bowl included) because the NFL is a crashing bore. The draft is a sad attempt to use the popularity of college football to somehow show that the NFL will be more interesting this year.

Yeah, yeah, the ratings for NFL games are through the roof (I guess; I haven't checked, but the networks sure pay them enough). Take away gambling and the NFL would have a viewer rating lower than NASCAR.

I guess the draft is on tonight and tomorrow. It would be so nice if that was the end of it. Unfortunately, after the self-celebratory orgy that the draft presentation has become, Mr. Rupp and I will be assaulted by the post-draft analyses that will fill up the sports pages and sports web sites. Fortunately, I can skip those and just check on the baseball scores and follow the softball league and national championships.

In fact, one great thing about listening to softball is the fact that there's no real “next step.” Oh, there's a pro league, and there's international play, but for the vast majority of these players, this is it. So, we don't have to hear the announcers constantly talking about how these players will do on the “next level” as they do for football, basketball, and even baseball.

So, for those who must, go watch your NFL draft. I'll be watching actual sports.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Equal pay? Equal to whom?

The lady doth protest too much, methinks ~ William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Let's get something straight up front: Women, in general, get paid less than male counterparts. This is the way it's been for as long as I can remember, and, apparently, it hasn't gotten a lot better. Oh, I suppose that the gap isn't as large as it once was, say in the 1950's, but it's there and that's a bad thing.

That being said, Francine Katz, formerly a vice president at Anheuser-Busch, isn't going to garner any sympathy from me or much of anyone else any time soon.

Seems Ms. Katz is suing the beer boys because she found out that her predecessor, John E. Jacob, was making $4 million a year when he left the company while she only got a paltry $1 million when she moved into the position. Notice that she is comparing her starting salary to his finishing salary. Mr. Jacob reached that salary in two years (1989 to 1991); Ms. Katz's finishing salary after 6 years on the job was $14 million.

Say what? That's over three times what the other guy made. The article points out that part of here compensation her last year was due to stock options, but surely Mr. Jacob also made use of any options he had when he left. And there's no mention of any annual bonuses she may have been pulling down during those six years.

Oh, and ironically enough, Mr. Jacob is an African American, a group that's been on the wrong side of the salary divide many times.

August Busch III testified that Mr. Jacob had impressive credentials that far outstripped those of Ms. Katz. Well, let's see. He was head of the National Urban League, is chairman emeritus of the Board of Trustees at Howard University, and has 19 honorary doctorates. He is well known for his work in civil rights. In other words, he's a heavy hitter.

Which, frankly, looks pretty damn good to me.

That's not to say Ms. Katz is not worthy of a vice president's salary. The question is was her salary in line with her qualifications and the responsibilities of the job. Apparently, the beer company lawyers are spending a lot of time describing the policies and procedures involved in determining her pay range and pointing out that Mr. Jacob's position involved more responsibilities.

Interestingly, there's no mention anywhere in the story that she felt underpaid compared to her current colleagues, which would be a much more telling argument. She did claim that she had to fly on separate flights from other executives and was excluded from “corporate golf tournaments and other functions.” The airplane business doesn't shock me. Many companies make it a policy that executives will not fly together to avoid all of them being taken out by a plane crash. As to the exclusion from corporate playtime, well, perhaps, just perhaps, she had indicated she wasn't interested. From experience, I know that all you only have to beg off once to be excluded forever.

Which never bothered me, but I wasn't making $14 million a year.

What's really wrong here is that there are people dedicated to fighting equal pay for equal work or, for that matter, just a decent working wage for everyone. When you get a complaint that looks like a naked greed play, these fine folks will be the first to use it as an excuse to say that the pay gaps don't really exist.

Ms. Katz is asking for $9.4 mil plus the good ol' punitive damages. If she wins, perhaps she'll take some of that dosh and go to work to strengthen laws regarding pay equity.

But I doubt it.