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Padre Steve’s Thoughts on Super Bowl XLVII

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Well the NFL Season is now over and the Baltimore Ravens defeated the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII by a score of 34-31. It was a very competitive game with many twists and surprises.

I have always been a 49ers fan, well before the days of Joe Montana. I have nothing against the Ravens and had they been playing almost anyone in the NFC I would have been cheering them on.

I like both of the Harbaugh brothers, John and Jim. I love their competitive spirit and the way that they have brought their teams to such a level of excellence. I like the way that both adjusted during the season, with John replacing his offensive coordinator and Jim replacing his starting quarterback. I think both were proved right.

On the purely football side of the equation I was disappointed in the result of the game. I felt, and still feel that the 49ers are the better team and will be a factor longer in the NFL than the current rendition of the Ravens.  That being said the Raven’s deserved to win, they made the plays that needed to be made, Joe Flacco was outstanding and the 49ers underperformed. Now I expect that within the next couple of years that the 49ers will win the Super Bowl and Jim Harbaugh, his team and their young quarterback Colin Kaepernick will be vindicated with a Super Bowl ring.

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But Sunday was a day for the Ravens. Joe Flacco was simply amazing and continued a remarkable playoff run without an interception while facing three of the best defenses in the NFL during the post season. He ran his offense well and they responded. He made the big plays when he needed to and The Raven’s defense also found ways to hold, sometimes with what I thought was help from the officials in their non-calls in critical situations. That aside, Flacco was amazing.

Likewise the 49ers had plenty of chances to win the game, despite the officiating and have only themselves to blame for the loss. They had several chances to score touchdowns, tow of which ended in field goals and one which died with under two minutes left in the game. The Ravens made better adjustments to the 49ers offense than the 49ers did to the Ravens.

Had any of another plays gone differently the 49ers might be a six time Super Bowl Champion today. But that did not happen and the Ravens are the Super Bowl Champions. Joe Flacco deserved the MVP award. The game was competitive and the final score was in the balance until the very end of the game. Since so many Super Bowls have ended up in blowouts this was a good thing. I may not have liked the final score but it was a good game.

However at the beginning of the third quarter it didn’t look like it. The Ravens took 21-6 lead into the half after the 49ers secondary blew coverage on a Flacco pass to Jacoby Jones and Jones made the 49ers secondary look bad. The Ravens then took 28-6 lead on a 108 yard kickoff runback by Jones to open the 3rd quarter. I looked at my friend John at Gordon Biersch and said, “the game is over.”

Then the lights went out and after a 34 minute delay it seemed that the 49ers were a different team. They dominated the second half and had a chance to win the game with 2 minutes left, but couldn’t pull it off despite having a first and goal and the Ravens won.

A few thoughts on the game, some personalities and the festivities.

NFL: Super Bowl XLVII-CBS Sports Press Conference

The CBS Broadcasting Team: Not good, wish that Fox Sports had the deal. Much better announcing and commentary. To me it felt like the CBS crew was the home team play by play group for the Ravens. They ignored blatant bad calls and gave the officials the benefit of the doubt even when it was obvious that calls were bad, even when Jim Harbaugh challenged a Ravens first down which was obviously short, and won. I was disappointed in the coverage and expected far better.

Super Bowl XLVII - Baltimore Ravens v San Francisco 49ers

Opening Ceremony: The Rendition of America the Beautiful by the children of Sandy Hook Elementary School and Jennifer Hudson followed by the National Anthem by Alicia Keyes brought tears to my eyes. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZt749TIW-4

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Halftime Show: Better than the typical Super Bowl halftime show but something that I would not tune in to watch as a stand alone event. Beyonce Knowles has very athletic and attractive thighs which were worth the look and did not to be lip synced to.

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The Lights Go Out: When the lights went out I wondered what was going on. I wondered about a terrorist attack for a moment but figured that it was probably the spirits of people that died in the Super Dome during Katrina trying to get attention. That makes more sense than the power going out 10 minutes after the halftime show.

Commercials:

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The most memorable one was the one that made my stomach churn. That was the Godaddy.com commercial called The Perfect Match http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-1oixpSShs.

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The Budweiser Clydesdales commercial called Brotherhood http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2prAccclXs was excellent as were the M&Ms Love Ballad http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2prAccclXs 

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the Gildan Getaway http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hMcMgPGpspY . 

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Doritos Goat 4 Sale http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4d8ZDSyFS2g

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and Wonderful Pistachios Crackin’ Style http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rE6iiiDdTNY 

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Ray Lewis: I have tired of the show of Lewis hiding behind the Bible and God while two men lie dead following a murder in which he was involved. I admire him as one of the greatest Linebackers to ever play the game and on-field leaders. Since the NFL  elects players to the Hall of Fame purely on their on-field performance I am sure in a few years there will be a tearful induction ceremony for Lewis.  But between the murders, for which Lewis took a plea deal in exchange for testimony against his companions, who were acquitted as well as allegations of PEDs which have sunk the careers and reputations of Major League Baseball players are answered I cannot join in the tears of joy shed for Lewis at winning the Super Bowl in his last game. I am just glad that he won’t play again. Yes God loves, God forgives and God redeems, but there is the little thing called murder and God’s justice. To hear my Christian friends fawn on Lewis and excuse him from any responsibility in the murders that he was connected to while condemning women who have had an abortion is abhorrent.

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John and Jim Harbaugh: Possibly the best pair of NFL coaches ever. They both could end up winning multiple Super Bowls and both be in the Hall of Fame. Having them compete against each other and seeing the fire with which both teams played the game was an experience in energy, emotion and exceptional coaching talent that should make the NFL better for at least the next decade.

The Future of the NFL: As any reader of this site knows I am a no-holds barred Baseball fan for whom that sport is a religious experience. Football to me is just a game, even when my favorite team is playing. That being said, the NFL has managed to package its product better than any sport. Even with the latest controversies regarding PEDs and concussive head injuries and the crippling effects of them and other injuries on former players I believe, unlike some that the NFL is in no danger of going away anytime soon. Americans enjoy the NFL and comparisons of the NFL to the demise of Professional Boxing as one of America’s favorite sports are ill founded at best.

A Final Thought about the Game: I didn’t like John Harbaugh running the safety to run down the clock at the end of the game. The reason is that that kind of play is simply another means of running out the clock and ensuring that the opponent doesn’t get a last chance to win. Call me old fashioned but I find this particular facet of football quite unmanly. The late Earl Weaver put it well: “You can’t sit on a lead and run a few plays into the line and just kill the clock. You’ve got to throw the ball over the damn plate and give the other man his chance. That’s why baseball is the greatest game of them all.”

Just saying.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Well Golly! Gomer Pyle Gets Married and A-Rod Gets Outed Again

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Surprise, surprise, surprise! 

What a day. America’s favorite funny fictional Marine Gomer Pyle, officially came out of the closet and married his battle buddy of the past 38 years. The marriage occurred in the newly gay state of Washington. The marriage came just five years after he received an honorary promotion to the rank of Corporal from Marine Lieutenant General John F Goodman and about a year and a half after the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell rule was ended.

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Now, Pyle’s decision to marry doesn’t offend me at all because it has nothing to do with baseball and something happened today in baseball that did offend me. Alex Rodriguez, sometimes in better days known as “A-Rod” and after his initial admission of using Performance Enhancing Drugs, or PEDs as “A-Roid” and by his HGH and other PED dealer Anthony Bosch as “Cacique” appears to have have been outed by the Miami New Times. The evidence appears damning.

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No A-Rod wasn’t outed as a homosexual, but rather for using PEDs after he told God and everybody that he wasn’t the old “young and dumb” A-Roid of 2001-2003 but the older smarter and cleaner A-Rod. He told Jeff Passan in response to Passan’s question “have you used performance enhancing drugs since 2003?” “I have not. I would not.”

But the allegations and suspicions dragged on as Rodriguez battled injuries and saw his on field performance plummet. Today’s bombshell tore apart the web of lies that he surrounded himself with during the interregnum of 2003 and today. It was a period that he signed a monster 10 year 275 million dollar deal with the Yankees. Now, mid-way through that contract, with A-Rod still due 114 dollars the Yankees, are scrambling to figure out a way to unload him and his contract.

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I don’t feel sorry for them. They made the deal with Rodriguez knowing of past allegations and had to deal with the fallout when he admitted using them in 2009. The Yankee method of getting greedy to obtain the best ballplayers that they could afford blew up in their faces. Now they have to deal with it, which since I am an Orioles fan I say, good on them.

I hope that Jim Nabors does well. He has always been a decent and caring person who I have admired. Heck I remember hearing allegations that he was gay back in the 1970s and it was like so what.

A-Rod on the other hand was probably one of the most talented players of his generation. He was a high school phenom that the scouts could not say enough about. He could hit for power and average, he was graceful in the infield and was fast. A few years ago when he reached the 600 home run plateau people were predicting that he would break the all-time home run record set by fellow accused PED user Barry Bonds. But for whatever reason that was not enough. He had to jump into the boat of scandal and cheating a second time, knowing that baseball, after years of turning a blind eye to it was scrutinizing everyone and that the media was watching. And to compound his problems he went to a man already known for dispensing PEDs for his fix. That wasn’t smart. Even less smart was issuing a statement denying it again because no one believes him anyway.

I don’t know why he had to go back to the well again after telling everyone that he was clean. Perhaps is was the desperation that he felt from his decreasing performance and injuries compounded by the hubris that he would not be caught, then… Shazam!

What more can be said?

Peace

Padre Steve+

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29 Years, Preparing for a Garage Sale and Roger Clemens Strikes out the Prosecution

A Young 1st Lieutenant Padre Steve on the East Side of the Berlin Wall in 1986

It was 29 years ago today that I was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the US Army at UCLA.  Time flies. Back then Ronald Reagan was President, the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union were still standing, Iran and Iraq were engaged in a brutal and bloody war, and Hosni Mubarak was just settling in as leader of Egypt. Moammar Ghadaffi was sponsoring terrorist acts against the United States and the Marines were attempting to help stabilize Lebanon.  Speaking of Mubarak it has just been reported that his doctors have declared him clinically dead following more strokes and a heart attack yesterday.  This means that if things keep going as they are in Egypt he very well could be re-elected as President.

It really is hard to believe that it has been so long and so much has transpired in the past 29 years including my own transition from the Army to the Navy some 13 years ago. One thing that I do on such occasions is to re-read my oath as a Commissioned Officer. It reminds me that no matter who the President is or which party controls Congress that my duty is always to the Constitution and the nation, above any party ideology.

In my time I have agreed or disagreed, sometimes most stridently with the various policies and politics of the men who have served as President and I have done the same with those that have served in Congress.  It serves me well to remember that regardless of which side controls the reigns of government that I know who and what I serve.

Taking the Oath again in 2006 as a Lieutenant Commander with the Marines

“I, (state your name), having been appointed a (rank) in the United States (branch of service), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the office upon which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

That obligation that I and every other officer takes is one that should transcend politics even when we have deeply held opinions. Lord knows that I certainly have some deeply held opinions. Anyway, it is always a good thing to think about especially when the country is so deeply divided among political, ideological and even religious lines.

That being said I am taking a few days of leave in order to get rid of a load of stuff that we haven’t touched for years but have been paying rent to keep in a storage space. Early tomorrow before it gets too hot I will be emptying out the storage space and taking the things to our guest room where we will sort through all the stuff which includes more items than I can imagine, and hopefully, Lord willing sell a decent amount before hauling  whatever remains to Goodwill or keep to sell on E-Bay.  With that we won’t have to pay for a storage space again.

Roger Clemens outside the Federal Courthouse in Houston

Finally when I was eating dinner last night it was announced that Roger Clemens was found not guilty of all counts in his perjury trail where he was accused to lying to Congress. The trial, like that of Barry Bonds was a colossal waste of time and taxpayer money. It showed the ineptness of the prosecutors who having the thinnest evidence provided by some of the most disreputable sources decided to take on Clemens. I think that they wanted Clemons to plead but he wouldn’t give them that. He stared them down and like he did some many times as a pitcher struck out the side. One may have their opinions of whether they think Clemens did performance enhancing drugs and lied to Congress about it but the fact of the matter was that the prosecutors bit off more than they could chew in this case. Clemens may have done them but like Bonds there was no positive drug test. The fact is that during the steroid era a good number of players used various performance enhancing drugs. Clemens very well could have been one of them However, he still was an amazing pitcher and in my opinion the fact that his defense team totally shredded the credibility of his chief accuser Brian MacNeemee who by the way was the only person that made actual accusations that got Clemens on the now infamous Mitchell Report and which were the basis for the prosecution. The longer the trials of Bonds and Clemens went I realized that I was not watching a process of justice, I was watching a witch hunt in which Federal Prosecutors and the media feasted on them and others without much in the way of evidence. I tend not to be a fan of witch hunts. I don’t know if Clemens used or didn’t but I am glad that the trial is over and hopefully the prosecutors will find some real criminals to prosecute, maybe the bankers and financiers that about destroyed the economy in 2008. That would be a great place to start, none of them have even been charged with a crime despite their criminal malfeasance that has wreaked havoc here and around the world. But with the prosecutions latest track record maybe we better not go down that road.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Juiced and Loving It

Former Major League Baseball slugger Jose Canseco wrote a book in which he described his use of performance enhancing drugs, or steroids. The book not only detailed his use but made accusations that many players were using such substances helped to reveal a culture in MLB that saw many players using while owners and management turned a blind eye. My version of being “juiced” to borrow Canseco’s book title is far different. I prefer citrus and other fruits run trough a blender to anything that I might have to inject with a needle. I don’t like needles or shots. 10 years of allergy shots  given 1-2 times a week as a kid cured me of that.

For 30 years in the military I have struggled with being in my weight standards. My problem is that I am undertall. just a bit about 5 and a half feet tall with a barrel chest and thick body build.  But in the military which is ruled by tall skinny people with the exception of Army Chief of Staff Ray Odinero defines undertall as overweight, even if you are in otherwise excellent physical condition and can kick ass on the Physical Fitness Test. The older you are the harder it gets, especially when the services are downsizing, no pun intended.

Since I entered the Army in 1981 until now the standards for physical readiness have increased. In fact to score an equivalent score to what I needed to get a maximum score in the Army in the 1980s I have to do as much or more. My weight limit is basically what I had to meet when I was in my 20s. Now I don’t know about you but not many people in their 50s are anywhere close to their physical condition when they were in their 20s and most civilian employers don’t care so long as you can do the job.  As a 52 year old in the Navy I have to meet weight, body fat and physical standards that are little different from when I first entered the Army over 30 years ago. I am not complaining but that is the way life is, as some say in the Navy “choose your rate choose your fate.” I chose to continue to serve as an old person in an organization which is designed for young people. The men and women that I entered the military back in 1981 are almost all retired or have otherwise left the military. I am now a dinosaur. When I entered the Army if you were over 50 you were exempt from the standards. the same in the Navy. It is not that way now. Fat people are easy targets when ranks need to be thinned, no pun intended.

My body type is a prime target. I am for all practical matters a fireplug. Depending on my height on a given day I can be 66” or 67” tall, which in the Navy is a difference f 5 pounds. Thus if I go beyond the maximum weight on the weigh for my height in I am subjected to a Body Fat Composition determined by a highly subjective measurement of my abdomen and neck.  In the year following my tour in Iraq when I was physically, emotionally and spiritually a wreck I tipped the scales a bit too heavy and was taped. I passed the physical fitness test with aplomb both times but because I was over my body fat I failed both times. In the Navy if you fail 3 times (weight/body fat/PT test) in 4 years you are out.

Thus I ended up on what I call the “BCA (Body Composition Analysis) Death Watch. This means that if I fail the weight standards again before 2014 I am out. As I mentioned I am have a fireplug body build. Even way under my official weight limit I am not skinny and since my neck is not thick if I fail the weight limit I am probably going to be near, at or over my body fat limit no matter how hard I try. Thus I need to be under the weight limit.

I didn’t have a real problem with this until I came back from Iraq in 2008  Then everything went to hell. I gained a lot of weight, suffered from PTSD, severe depression, loss of faith and had a number of nagging physical injuries that I kept re-injuring. I self medicated with beer and donuts. Tasted great, made me feel better but made me fat. Nothing like 4-6 hot and fresh Krispy Kreme Glazed donuts with a couple of good amber lagers to wash them down just before bed. However as good tasting and satisfying as the combination is it is not healthy and I don’t recommend it, unless done in severe moderation which was not my habit back then.

Now it has been a couple of years since I failed a BCA. I have worked hard, but not without struggle. I gained more weight than I wanted to after I broke my leg last summer and was really afraid to do much on it. However as it healed I began to test my physical endurance and helped by a switch of running shoes, enabled me to really get back in shape. For the first time since before I deployed to Iraq in 2007 I ran over 7 miles last weekend. I have developed a really good conditioning regimen that exercises all of my body and supplement it with running on the beach near my apartment. But exercise is only part of the equation. The other part is diet.

Since I gained more weight than I wanted over the winter I had to find a way to shred it without resorting to starvation type diets. What I found was my blender. Yes most parts are edible. Actually no, it was what I put in the blender and what I am now loving. My mix which produces about a liter of juice follows:

2 medium Ruby Red Grapefruit, 1 Banana, 1 Medium Navel Orange, 2 cups Strawberries (Halved)  8 ounces water

I lover this. I drink this during the day rather than eating donuts and high fat/sodium junk foods and then follow up with a healthy dinner, low in fat but rich and balanced with appropriate amounts of proteins, carbohydrates etc…. Once in a while I will splurge and have a big burger or pizza and an occasional dessert but generally I have switched over to healthy items taken in moderation. I also did not have to stop drinking beer which I have with dinner every night. The result was that I lost weight and feel better. In fact after I passed my weigh in today I had more of my juice before going out for a big burger reward.  When I came home from dinner I made another batch of juice. I like it and plan to continue it because like I said I like it. I figure now why not? If I keep up my physical conditioning while watching my diet I will be better off and in the fall during the next Physical Readiness cycle I will not have to change habits.

For physical conditioning I alternate running on the beach with doing a type of circuit training that I designed to fit me. I have a course that is about 4/10th of a mile. I run it and at a predetermined point stop and do 25 sit-ups, 15-20 oblique sit-ups on each side, 70-100 flutter kicks and 15-25 push ups. I then stand up, start running and repeat. I try to do this for at least an hour pausing only to tie my shoes if they come undone. In an hour this means I run about 4 miles, do 150-250 push ups, 250 regular sit ups, 300-400 oblique sit-ups and 700-1000 flutter kicks during the work out. As I get in better  shape each week my number of repetitions has increased on each exercise and my running distance has increased. It is a good thing. I have to think my old assistant who was my body guard in Iraq, RP1 Nelson Lebron for helping me figure out something that would work for me. Nelson is a beast and has been on Team USA and the All Navy Team in Mixed Martial Arts and was a Gold Gloves Boxer.

My blood pressure and cholesterol always surprise my doctors because they are better than most people younger than me. Part of this has to be genetics but part is conditioning, diet and hard work.

As far as overall physical condition I am happy and pleasantly amused that at age 52 I can outdo many younger people who should by all accounts leave me in the dirt.

Reward (But in Moderation): The American Burger at Rucker John’s Emerald Isle

I am blessed that I have recovered from injury and am back in shape. It has taken a lot of work but it is worth it. I feel better and it is a good thing. Tonight I celebrated with a big burger and a couple of beers at a local restaurant. Tomorrow I will do my juice, get in a strong workout and eat a healthy dinner. However I may continue my celebration with a dinner at the local Mexican restaurant before going back to salads, soups or small pasta dishes with an occasional steak or burger.

Here’s to health.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Baseball in February: The Freedom Classic and an MVP Beats a Drug Charge

I was able to go to a baseball game today. It is hard to believe that there are ball games going on outside of Spring Training but NCAA College Baseball has been underway for over a week. Today drove up to Kinston to take in a game between the Naval Academy and the Air Force Academy. The occasion was the Second Annual Freedom Classic.

It was a cold day with temps in the low 50s and winds blowing 15-25 miles an hour but I was able to get together with my friends in Kinston to watch a game for the first time since the Kinston Indians final season ended with a loss to Frederick in the Carolina League Championship series on September 15th.  Though the weather was cold it was good to be back with my friends watching a game at a wonderful baseball venue.  I hate the fact that the Indians owner sold them without a replacement team and did not offer the city a chance to find an owner that would keep the team in Kinston. But at least there was baseball in Kinston this weekend.

Of course spring training is underway and all of the teams are working out.  Lots of moves were made in the post season following one of the most dramatic seasons in baseball history. Big names moved, Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson to the Angels, Prince Fielder to the Tigers, Ozzie Guillen taking over the Marlins and a host of other situations.

But despite all the positives there was a cloud during the post season involving the National League MVP, Milwaukee Brewers Left Fielder Ryan Braun reportedly failed a drug test for Performance Enhancement Drugs (PEDs).  Braun appealed the results of the test and Friday it was announced that Braun won his appeal based on issues with the chain of custody of the sample. Evidently the collector of the sample who was required to immediately send the sample to the testing lab via FedEx held onto the sample.

Braun was out proclaiming his innocence today. He was articulate and appeared humble but at the same time there are still questions in many people’s minds about the test and if he was clean or not.  Having been in the military for over 30 years I have been repeatedly drug tested and as a Company Commander had to oversee a unit drug testing program.  When I heard about the process used and the actions of the collector I was appalled. Chain of custody does matter in any type of drug test that can impact someone’s career no matter what line of work they are in.  Failure to safeguard samples undermines the integrity of any drug testing program and there are cases every year where positive results are thrown out because of a chain of custody violation.

I learned about the importance of chain of custody as a Company Commander back in 1986. I had a soldier test positive for THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. We were sticklers about maintaining a solid chain of custody and based on the test results and the un-impeachability of the chain of custody I offered non-judicial punishment under Article 15 and reduced the soldier in rank. Since the soldier was otherwise a good soldier and back then a commander did not have to separate a soldier under pay grade E4 for a first drug related offense I elected to keep the soldier in the Army. The soldier appealed the sentence as is his right and to my surprise I was called to my higher headquarters and had my ass chewed by the group commander and Sergeant Major for not maintaining the chain of custody. I knew that was not the case but the Platoon Sergeant who had accompanied the soldier to the headquarters for the appeal inadvertently left the chain of custody documentation on his desk. When the group commander reviewed the paperwork he thought that the chain of custody had not been maintained. Within 5 minutes I produced the original documents which changed the nature of the conversation, the sentence was upheld and the ass chewing stopped. But I learned that the chain of custody for a drug test or paperwork regarding a failed drug test needs to be airtight to maintain the integrity of the system.

In the case of Ryan Braun I have my doubts, I but the incompetence of the collector who did not adhere to established rules of shipping a sample brought the chain of custody into question. If Braun was indeed innocent as he maintains then he will always have a cloud that follows him. If he lied and the test was really positive then justice was not done because chain of custody was called into question.

The little things do matter.

Since I got home I have had the MLB Channel on all night, that is so much more relaxing than almost anything else on television. Only about a week until the first Spring Training games begin. It may be cold but spring is in the air.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Good the Bad and the Ugly: The Day in Sports

Well sports fans it has been a day hasn’t it?  Now most of my day has been spent in transit getting Judy and Molly down to North Carolina so I can go back to work and give Judy a chance to continue to recuperate. With the exception of listening to ESPN radio on the trip and catching the last few minutes of the Army Navy game when we got here I have been playing catch up on sports stories. Of course the Molly loved the ride down here and is passed out on our bean bag at the Island Hermitage as I get ready to call it a night. Of course Molly knows that the trip is all for her benefit and she has already had several long walks and is looking for the deer that populate the neighborhood.

This was an interesting day. There was a doping scandal, a bench clearing brawl, an unexpected winner, a buzzer beater, a major upper level ownership gaffe and a continuation of a decade of dominance and that was just at the Republican debate.  But I jest, the sports world was as scandalous as politics today as several stories broke to steal the limelight from the Presidential primary debaters in Iowa.

Ryan Braun NL MVP Busted? 

Topping the news from the baseball standpoint was the report that National League MVP Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers tested positive for a banned Performance Enhancing Drug (PED.)  This was a surprise and Braun has been denying the report and appealing the ruling.  If the test is upheld and his appeal denied Braun faces a 50 game suspension.  This is a blow to the Brewers who will most likely lose free agent First Baseman Prince Fielder and the loss of Braun will hurt.  Braun was not someone that I would have thought to have done PEDs but I guess anything is possible. He never in the minors or majors tested positive prior to this.  Baseball is no longer playing games with PED use and I expect that Braun will be suspended as no one else has ever won an appeal for PED use.  However it hurts the game because baseball has worked hard to clean up the mess created during the steroid era and has the most stringent policies in place of any professional sport.  Baseball is not going to mess around with this and because of the risk to reputations as careers goes the extra mile to ensure that if a test is positive that it is not a “false” positive.  From what I have read it appears that baseball and its testing agency are sure that this was an accurate test.  Too bad as the season was one of the most amazing in baseball history and this takes away some of the shine from all of the players and teams that made it great.

The Hansen Brothers and Dean Wormer enter NCAA Basketball

Meanwhile in Cincinnati Xavier and Cincinnati were playing in their yearly “cross town shootout” and with 9 seconds left in the game a bench clearing brawl better suited to a Charlestown Chiefs hockey game and the Hansen brothers.  Both University Presidents issued comments about the brawl reminiscent of Dean Wormer and his comments about Faber College’s Delta House. Methinks that some of these players will end up suspended as well.  Too bad they don’t have a penalty box. See the fight: http://rivals.yahoo.com/ncaa/basketball/blog/the_dagger/post/Yancy-Gates-decks-Kenny-Frease-in-wild-Xavier-Ci;_ylt=AiT3clAGA6sDmaDIcDxL7cPevbYF?urn=ncaab-wp6817

Classless and Clueless David Stern tries even harder to Blow up the NBA

Not to be outdone in the “no class” category the Commissioner and Dictator of the NBA David Stern made a complete ass of himself and embarrassed a sport already reeling from the self inflicted wounds of the just ended player’s strike. Stern’s office voided a deal between the LA Lakers, New Orleans Hornets and Houston Rockets that would have sent Hornets star Chris Paul to the Lakers. The trade made sense for all the teams involved. In doing so Stern figuratively shot himself and the league in the balls to try to show that he was the boss. He has since back-peddled and the trade will probably be approved in a modified form. By doing this Stern showed his hubris and probably has ensured that the end of his reign as dictator will be only slightly less bloody than that waged by other dictators.  The sad thing is that people were starting to get interested in the NBA again.

Christian Watford and Indiana Shock Kentucky

But the bad news was balanced with good news, unless you are a fan of the Military Academy, University of Kentucky basketball or anyone not named Robert Griffin III at the Heisman Trophy presentation.  The unranked but undefeated Indiana Hoosiers knocked off the No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats when Christian Watford sank a last second 3 pointer to defeat the favored Wildcats by a score of 73-72.

Navy Dominates

In Washington DC the Midshipmen of the Naval Academy defeated the Cadets of the US Military Academy, the Black Knights of the Hudson for the 10th time in the last 10 years. It has been termed the Decade of Dominance.  Though I am an ardent Navy fan I do feel bad for the Army players who like the classes before them have went a full college career without having beaten the Midshipmen.

Robert Griffin III wins the Heisman Trophy 

And finally in a presentation of an award that any of the players nominated could have won Baylor Quarterback Robert Griffin III was awarded the Heisman Trophy.  While I was hoping that Stanford Quarterback Andrew Luck considered the top draft choice in the upcoming NFL Draft would win I think that Griffin was deserving. He s the first player from Baylor to win the Heisman.  Griffin completed 72 percent of his passes for 3,998 yards.  He had 36 touchdown passes and led the nation with an 192.3 efficiency rating.

It was an amazing day in sports and like life it was a day of the good and the bad and the ugly. But that’s life.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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One, Two, Three Strikes You’re Out: Federal Prosecutors blow the game in Clemens Mistrial

Roger Clemens leaves the Courtroom after the Mistrial- Photo Jonathan Ernst/REUTERS

First it was the lengthy and painful investigation and trial of Barry Bonds where Federal Prosecutors came up short on their primary charges. Today it was the rapid mistrial called by Judge Reggie Walton as the prosecutors opened their case against Roger Clemens on the first day of Clemens trial.  To me they looked like the prosecutors thatAlanShore(James Spader) made fools of in the television series Boston Legal.  This was supposed to be a “slam dunk” for the government and instead it was a debacle.

Assistant US Attorney Steven Dunham opens his case -Dana Verkouteren / Associated Press

 Today lead prosecutor and assistant U.S. attorney Steven Dunham went against the Judge Walton’s ruling by introducing evidence of former Clemens team mate and friend Andy Petitte’s wife that Petit had told her that Clemens had admitted using HGH. Walton had already deemed the video admissible in rebuttal. Instead Dunham introduced it invoking Walton’s ire and lead defense attorney Rusty Hardin asked for a mistrial.

Rusty Hardin argues for the Defense-Dana Verkouteren / Associated Press

Walton granted the mistrial even though prosecutors argued that the judge could simply instruct the jury to disregard the evidence.  Judge Walton remarked “I don’t see how I un-ring the bell,” in that they could not know the effect of the evidence in jury deliberations.  Walton noted that “Government counsel should have been more cautious,” noting the cost to taxpayers already incurred and that “I think that a first-year law student would know that you can’t bolster the credibility of one witness with clearly inadmissible evidence.” A direct comment that the prosecution’s case hinged on the testimony of and evidence supplied by former Clemens trainer Brian McNamee.

Counsel Approach the Bench Judge Reggie Walton takes control and declares a mistrial-Dana Verkouteren / Associated Press

The government considered Pettitte’s testimony essential because he is viewed as “critical witness” because of his honesty and good reputation.  This was even more important after Wednesday’s opening arguments where Hardin managed to turn the trial into one of the reliability of the prosecution and its key witness, McNamee.

That happened after Dunham on Wednesday morning showed a capped needle, a syringe and three cotton balls which the prosecution said contained steroid residue and Clemens’ DNA. It seemed to be a strong start, but then Dunham was warned about the testimony of Petitte’s wife.  Then he elected to reenact Clemens’ Congressional testimony using an FBI agent and a former Congressional staffer leading a columnist to write “by mid-afternoon the jury had to despise Dunham.”

Hardin on the other hand held the jury in his hand weaving a trail of government investigators canvassing the country to find evidence with which to convict Clemens and only having McNamee’s testimony with which to attempt to send Clemens to prison.  Hardin put the prosecutors and McNamee on trial showing a map of 72 locations across the country where the government went to prepare 229 investigative reports.  Hardin pushed the prosecution hard and gave the jury a lot to think about regarding the evidence and the reliability of their chief witness.  I think that this is most likely why Dunham introduced the Pettitte video most likely hoping to make an impact on the jury while having Walton simply let them off with a warning.

The play didn’t work. It was like a pitcher having been warned for throwing at a batter doing it a second time and getting tossed from the game. However in this case with wasn’t just the pitcher tossed it was the end of the game.

Judge Walton: “I don’t like making orders and lawyers not abiding by them. This clearly runs afoul of my pre-trial rulings.” AP Photo

Judge Walton has scheduled a new hearing for September 2nd to determine if there will even be a second trial.  Given Walton’s statements today one has to seriously believe that he will not order a new trial. A gag order imposed by Walton is still in force and it is believed that Walton considers that a case of double jeopardy exists and that Clemens may be immune from further prosecution. If there is a second trial it probably will not take place until 2012.

In the end it is another case of over eager government investigators and prosecutors spending millions of taxpayer dollars to target high profile athletes.  The fact is that for baseball the Steroid Era is over.  It is likely that hundreds of players took varieties of performance enhancing drugs.  The evidence of this is the marked decline in home runs and run production as well as injuries to older players that were less frequent than during the era.

As for those implicated as users they will be judged by the fans, their fellow players and the sportswriters who vote players into the Hall of Fame.  Those innocent will be under as much scrutiny as those that have admitted or actually tested positive.  Those that used whether they ever tested positive or not cheated, but cheating  in sports is something that is not the job of government to police or Congress to investigate.  Those that love the game of baseball will view records set during the era with suspicion because that is what baseball fans and writers do. We examine statistics and records; we live and die by them.  But the fact is that baseball records are often products of their times.  There were few home runs in the “dead ball era.” Many of the great home run hitters played in hitters parks and were surrounded by a strong supporting cast that forced pitchers to pitch to them.  Many players that held records played in a shorter season, 154 vice the current 162.  The National League doesn’t play the Designated Hitter which has extended the careers of many hitters whose defensive skills are declining to the point that they are a liability in the field and would have had to retire in previous times.  From their inception until last year players used amphetamines to increase their alertness.  That was legal and baseball did nothing about it until last year.  In days past pitchers used the spitball, cut or sanded balls to get an edge.This was illegal but many did it and Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry admitted this even before being elected to the Hall of Fame.

What I have never thought right was Congress calling hearings and grilling ball players while the country was at war and suffering from a terrible economic downturn.  That was a waste of time and taxpayer money.  The one good thing is that it forced Baseball to get its act together regarding PED use, testing and enforcement.  I am glad for that.

As far as the prosecutions they have been terrible a waste of taxpayer money and the results bear that out.  It is time to end this mindless pursuit, let the players live their lives in retirement and let the fans, writers and their colleagues judge them.

Rusty Hardin and Clemens after the Trial Photo- Mark Wilson, Getty Images

As Clemens left the courtroom he was hounded by reporters and photographers, some even trying to get his autograph he had to push his way through like someone trying to escape a Zombie attack. As he did so an inebriated man waving a cane shouted “Leave the man alone! Leave the man alone!”  Maybe it is time that we do, not only with Clemens, but Bonds and all the others that Federal investigators, notably Jeff Novitzky and prosecutors have investigated for years on our dime.

“Leave the man alone!” I second that.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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