Sports Beat “The NFL Means Well,  But”

By Lloyd Carroll

     The National Football League generated  backpage headlines this past weekend when it was learned that the league is pushing for penalties and possible game suspensions for players who use  “N-word” slur during a game. The NFL was acting primarily in response to such lunkheads as the Miami Dolphins’ Richie Incognito and the Philadelphia Eagles’ Riley Cooper who brought shame to themselves and the NFL last year for using that disgusting term.
   

  Sorry, ACLU supporters, I support the NFL’s decision in this matter. What wasn’t clear however was if NFL referees will have the power to issue penalties for slurs made against other ethnic groups, races, or differing sexual orientations. If you are trying to take a principled and responsible stand against prejudice then you can’t have situations where some groups are protected and others are not.    
   

  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has put himself in an uncomfortable hypocritical situation. He has gone on record supporting Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder in his battle to keep the team’s name as it stands even though it is clearly derogatory towards Native Americans. You can certainly see how some would say that the NFL has a double standard when it comes to sensitivities.
   

  As expected, the United States won its fair share of medals at the just concluded Winter Olympics held in Sochi, Russia. Fair or not, the event that most of us will remember from the Games is the women’s hockey finals between the United States and Canada.
 

     Team USA was up by a score of 2-0 with approximately four minutes left to go in the game. They wound up losing 3-2in overtime. Yes, there was some egregious officiating but true champions find a way to overcome adversity.
 

     What I found galling after the game ended was that on social media, and even in the mainstream press, was a fear of criticizing Team USA for “collapsing down the stretch” or “failure to seal the deal,” both of which are polite euphemisms for choking. Instead the politically correct assessment of the USA-Canada showdown for the gold medal was to say, “It was a great game!” and stop right there.
    

  If we are to take women’s sports seriously, and I know that I do, then we have to criticize female athletes the same way that we do their male counterparts. To blindly praise the USA Women’s Hockey for their play on the big stage last Thursday as if they were young Little Leaguers is pathetically patronizing. You can be sure that if the same thing had happened to the US Men’s Hockey Team, (who did not even qualify for a medal this year), the reaction would have been a lot more vociferous.
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      Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long was right on the money when he stated that former Yankees second baseman, and current member of the Seattle Mariners, Robinson Cano did not hustle out of the batter’s box. Of course I never heard anyone in the Yankees organization complain about Cano’s nonchalance when he was playing for them.
   

   The Columbia Lions men’s basketball team is having their best season in years. They even beat Yale 62-46 in a rare appearance on national television as the NBC Sports Network broadcast the game from Columbia’s Levien Gym last Sunday afternoon.
     

    Columbia has not won an Ivy League title since 1968 but if they can finally end that pathetic streak this year it could lead to some big things. Joel Fisher, the Executive Vice President of Sports at Madison Square Garden, would like to have the Lions play at the “world’s most famous arena” but they need to be able to sell tickets. If they were to be Ivy League champions it would be a very important step to getting exposure at MSG which would greatly help recruiting.
  

    While it certainly wasn’t the main motivator for the Brooklyn Nets signing center Jason Collins, the first professional athlete on an American team sport to announce that he was gay, to a ten-day contract, you can be sure that Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov sees it as a way to send a message to his homophobic political rival, Russian president Vladimir Putin.
    

    Forget going to Disney World. Michael Robinson, a fullback on the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, is a big fan of the CBS soap opera, “The Young & The Restless,” and it was his wish to appear on it. He will have a small part on the March 13th episode.
  

     The annual Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue was published last week marking the 50th one in the magazine’s history. I have never met anyone who has ever bought this issue who was not already an SI subscriber. While I have nothing against seeing beautiful women wearing bikinis in exotic locations it does seem to be a bit of anachronism in 2014.
  

     It’s debatable how much revenue the swimsuit issue directly generates for Sports Illustrated, there can be no doubt however about the promotional benefits for the Time Warner subsidiary which is is in a dogfight with ESPN The Magazine for the Generation Y and millennial markets. It’s impossible to assign a dollar value on the buzz that the issue generates through specials such as the one NBC broadcast about the gold anniversary of the SI Swimsuit issue two weeks ago.
  

    Appearing in SI is like being knighted for a model. By virtue of having a photo shoot in the swimsuit issue, the term “supermodel” is immediately bestowed. In addition, Sports Illustrated jets the women who grace its big issue to first class places such as Miami Beach’s swanky Fontainebleau Hotel where they get to do meet and greets with local media as well as key SI advertisers.
  

    The annual New York International Toy Fair took place at the Javits Center last week. Franklin Sports has long been popular with Major League Baseball players for its batting gloves and it has quietly become a giant player over the years in nearly every sport.  Baseball however remains its first love. The company has long made terrific products for youngsters learning the game. Its new MLB Super Star Batter! 2 in 1 is a wiffle ball set which allows you the choice of hitting off a tee or stepping on a pedal and trying to make contact with a ball in the air. It definitely enhances eye-hand coordination.
  

    World Wrestling Entertainment was very visible at Toy Fair as both Mattel and Wicked Cool Toys were displaying action figures and other WWE playthings while USAopoly has created a Monopoly-inspired game with WWE characters as John Cena, The Miz, Randy Orton, and one of my all time-favorites , CM Punk (real name: Philip Jack Brooks), who earlier this month announced that he is leaving the organization. Hopefully he’ll be back.
  

    San Antonio Spurs point guard (as well as actress Eva Longoria’s ex-husband) Tony Parker is an investor in a French skateboard company, Maverix, whose products made their American debut at Toy Fair.

      From the non-sports side of Toy Fair, Alex Toys displayed a 14-carat gold Slinky that retails for $125. Ohio Art now has an offshoot of Etch-A-Sketch called Doodle Sketch. Two board gamed caught my eye. The Presidential is a humorous civics game that pokes fun at what the US goes through every four years. “Your candidate just endorsed the legalization of marijuana. Pick up six chips for Colorado” says one of the game cards. Landing Mr. Right is a fun look at adult dating and from the distaff viewpoint as various male stereotypes as geek, rock star, and CEO are dissected.

      Editor Showcase: Health & Nutrition is an annual trade show for media to learn more about how both new as well as familiar brands can improve health as well as satisfy palates. The National Peanut Board, and the world’s largest peanut brand, Planters, had booths in which they touted the anti-oxidant and cardiac benefits of peanuts. There are even studies that show that peanuts reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes. Of course unsalted is better for you than salted varieties.

      Queens’ own Garden Lites was promoting its Veggie Muffins. For those who enjoy the taste of milkshakes malteds but want a healthier alternative, Lifeway Kefir is yogurt-style beverage that is high in both calcium and protein.

        Aldi Supermarkets, which has a store in Rego Park and plans to open more throughout Queens and other parts of greater New York, is introducing an affordable organic apple juice through its Simply Nature line. For those who want a fresher orange juice alternative to Tropicana and Minute Maid, both Natalie’s Orchid Island Juices (they make the best O.J. that I have ever tasted) and a new company, Uncle Matt’s Organic Juices, are promising to be on the shelves of neighborhood supermarkets instead of just Whole Foods and various specialty stores. Orange juice, besides having a sweet and refreshing taste, is a great source of cold-fighting Vitamin C.
   
  Contact Lloyd: PeterPoon@aol.com