Pujols, Paul Just Part of Wild Week in Sports
December 12, 2011

I know Hanukkah is still over a week away, but (with apologies to Adam Sandler) these have been Eight Crazy Nights. From Monday night to Monday night, this has been a wild sports week. It began with the opening of baseball's winter meetings where the always frugal Florida (now Miami) Marlins opened their wallets, got shortstop Jose Reyes, and made a mega-offer to slugger Albert Pujols. Also add Pujols ultimately going to the Angels, an MVP testing positive for steroids, a twice-rescinded NBA blockbuster, a brawl, UCLA getting a new coach, and today, two NFL coaches getting fired. And that's not to mention the awarding of the Heisman Trophy, the Dallas Cowboys blowing a fourth quarter lead, and Tom Brady caught on tape in a shouting match with his offensive coordinator. Oy.

It's really difficult to pick just one of those events to write about, but the most glaring to me is how NBA Commissioner David Stern bungled the Chris Paul situation in New Orleans. If you haven't been following, Paul, the Hornets point guard who will be a free agent after this season, was dealt to the Lakers in a three-way trade with Houston that would have brought four good players (including the Lakers' Lamar Odom) and a draft pick to the Crescent City. The monkey wrench here is that the league owns the Hornets, so Stern stepped in and blocked the move. Stern said his decision was made for “basketball reasons”, but the real reason was timing. This deal was made Thursday, the very day that both the owners and players ratified the new collective bargaining agreement. The new deal was supposed to help create more competitive balance between small-market and large-market teams, so many owners cried foul.

I will say this for Stern though, how does it look when on the day of a new deal, New Orleans (the smallest market in the league), loses its superstar to the almighty Lakers? Stern was definitely put in a situation, but he over-reacted. What Stern should have done, in my opinion, was yellow-light the deal Thursday night instead of ascending to his throne and making his negative proclamation. He could have stated the obvious, that the timing was bad, and that he should go over the deal to make sure that the Hornets were getting fair value. Then, after 24 to 48 hours, he would have seen that the deal actually did make sense, and the trade could be approved. I believed this could have saved face with Paul, the Hornets, Lakers, small market owners, fans, and media.

Since then, the Lakers have dealt Odom to the defending champion Dallas Mavericks for a first round draft pick and a salary cap exception. The reason for the deal is a little bewildering to Laker fans, and Kobe Bryant isn't too pleased either. The Los Angeles Clippers are now trying to deal for Paul, but Stern has put the kibosh on that as well. Poor Dell Demps, the Hornets general manager. He was told he had autonomy to run the team. Reports say he almost resigned this week. I'm guessing he won't be lighting candles and eating latkes at the Sterns anytime soon.

Pujols: It came as a big surprise Thursday, when it was announced that the best hitter in baseball agreed to a ten year, 254 million dollar deal with the Angels. Especially after ESPN's Tim Kurkjian reported Wednesday night that the Angels were not involved in negotiations. Oops (The Angels did swoop in late, but this was definitely not a Kurk-gem)...My big question with Pujols leaving St. Louis is, “Who is the villain here?” Pujols said he'd stay for less money, but the Cardinals weren't exactly proactive in contract talks.

Ryan Braun: He doesn't exactly fit the PED profile does he? The National League MVP reportedly failed a drug test, and could face a 50-game suspension if the test is upheld. A spokesman for Braun told ESPN, “There are highly unusual circumstances surrounding this case which will support Ryan's complete innocence and demonstrate there was absolutely no intentional violation of the program.” The so-called “unusual circumstances” could be a bigger story than the test itself. We'll see.

Backyard brawl: Kudos to University of Cincinnati basketball coach Mick Cronin for at least saying he was embarrassed in his post-game news conference after the brawl with crosstown rival Xavier in the final seconds of the game. Cronin made all his players take their jerseys off, saying the behavior was not representative of Cincinnati. Yancy Gates and Cheikh Mbodj were each suspended for six games, and should have been kicked off the team. Gates threw a punch at Xavier senior Kenny Frease, and Mbodj stomped on Frease after he was down. Two other Cincinnati Bearcats and four Xavier players also received suspensions. The Bearcat players will also be required to apologize publicly and have some sort of interaction with young people, explaining why their actions were wrong...It's too bad that more people are talking about that than Indiana's buzzer-beating win over top-ranked Kentucky. Great game.

Heisman Trophy: Why would ESPN sabotage their own program? They televise the Heisman Award presentation live, but have been running on their “bottom line” crawl all week a survey of the voting totals, which turned out to be pretty accurate. Dumb idea if you ask me...Despite only watching the final 10 minutes of the one-hour program, I thought award winner and Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III sure came off as one classy guy. Nice shot of his parents during Griffin's acceptance speech. Mom was beaming with pride and dad was almost in tears.

Coaching Changes: UCLA settles on former NFL coach Jim Mora Jr. as their guy, I guess after everyone else turned Westwood down. I was hoping for Boise State coach Jim Petersen, mainly because he is from Yuba City..The Miami Dolphins fired coach Tony Sparano (not Tony Soprano) today after a 4-9 season. The 'Fins had won four of five after an 0-7 start before losing yesterday. Odd timing...The Kansas City Chiefs fired coach Todd Haley today after a 5-8 season. The Chiefs won the division last year but have been decimated by injuries this year. Odd timing.

Something you never see in the NFL: The Niners and Raiders playing at the same time (or the Giants and Jets). That happened this weekend when the 49ers were at Arizona and the Raiders-Green Bay game was in the 1:15 window instead of being played at 10am. I don't know why this happened but, even though neither game was on NBC, I'm guessing that network's “flex scheduling” had something to do with it.

This just in: So with the Angels, Lakers, Clippers, and UCLA all included in this wild sports week (oh, and it was learned that Dodgers first baseman James Loney was arrested on DUI charges—forgot to mention that), the Los Angeles Kings have gotten involved. The Los Angeles Times reports the Kings have fired coach Terry Murray. The Kings have lost four straight, but Murray is the third all-time winningest coach in franchise history. Odd timing, but this week, maybe not.

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