Archive for April, 2006

The 2006 NFL Draft
April 28, 2006

The NFL Draft for me is like a Saved By The Bell marathon. If I don’t watch it, my life will be no worse for missing it. But if I start watching it, I won’t be able to stop. Just as I will sit glassy-eyed waiting for that episode where Jessie gets hooked on caffeine pills, I will get immediately sucked in by Mel Kiper Jr.’s analysis on which offensive lineman the Cincinnati Bengals should take and why the Arizona Cardinals will trade their fourth round pick to the Miami Dolphins for two sixth-round picks and a copy of the four-hour bootleg version of This Is Spinal Tap.

History has made clear that the outcome of the NFL Draft means very little in terms of who will succeed in the NFL. Nine words quickly summarize this fact: Ryan Leaf: Second Overall Pick. Tom Brady: Sixth Round. So draft coverage is on some level largely a parade of over-hyped and under-achieving players that you’ll never hear from again. But it is addictive television.

Plus, watching the NFL Draft keeps me inside and away from yard work, which always raises its ugly head this time of year.

Like most years, there are few sure bets in this year’s NFL Draft. Despite rumors that the Texans are considering taking DE Mario Williams with the first pick, it would be a shock if Houston doesn’t take Reggie Bush first. (But not as big a shock that ABC is actually foolhardy enough to bring Rosie O’Donnell back to daytime TV. The only way O’Donnell makes The View NOT the worst show on television is if her and Elisabeth Hasselbeck’s differing political views routinely boil over into physical violence during “Hot Topics.”) Williams will then go to the Saints, unless New Orleans trades down, which is the only time I will mention the word “trade” in this blog.

Some uncertainty clouds the Packers’ first pick: Most pundits predict that Green Bay will take linebacker A.J. Hawk from Ohio State with the fifth overall pick. Hawk would be a fine pick, but the Packers have bigger needs than linebacker. GM Ted Thompson could look to tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson from Virginia to shore up an increasingly porous offensive line, but it’s more likely that the team will thank Brett Favre for returning for another season by giving him a sorely needed offensive playmaker. That means Maryland TE Vernon Davis will be coming to Green Bay.

If Thompson goes with Davis, look for later picks to address the offensive and defensive lines. Marcus McNeil, a tackle from Auburn, or DeMeco Ryans, a linebacker from Alabama, would be solid second round choices if they’re available. Beyond the second round, the real key for the Packers (or any team) is to try to find a player who won’t be making a living washing cars by the time next year.

Elsewhere in the NFC North, the Vikings, knowing that the return of Brad Johnson as their starting QB is not a long-term solution, hope to snap up Vanderbilt QB Jay Cutler with the 17th pick in the first round. Look for Minnesota to trade up to acquire Cutler if they feel they need to. The Lions will try something unique and NOT draft a wide receiver in the first round for the fourth year in a row. Instead, Detroit will go with Texas safety Michael Huff. The Bears might add to their strength and go defense but would be better off giving Rex Grossman a fresh target, perhaps TE Marcedes Lewis from UCLA.

And what of Matt Leinart and Vince Young? Tennessee should take Leinart, the safer bet, with the number three pick, which leaves Young falling to the Raiders with the seventh pick.

Whatever happens, some choices won’t make sense, some players won’t want to play for the team that drafted them, and Vince Young’s Wonderlic score will be mentioned at least forty times on both ESPN and the NFL Network before the weekend is over. But I won’t notice, because I won’t be watching. Who am I kidding? Of course I will be. Unless . . . does TBS still air Saved By The Bell?

Favre’s Long Con
April 26, 2006

So Brett Favre is returning for what is presumably his final season in the NFL, ending an agonizing months-long process during which “Will Brett Favre return?” became the most ubiquitous question since “Who shot J.R.?” Packer fan should be thrilled but also not a little ticked at the Hall of Fame QB.

It’s unquestionably a good thing for the Packers and their fans that Favre is coming back. Despite a terrible season last year during which he often played so recklessly and irresponsibly that he seemed to be performing some sort of twisted parody of his “gunslinger” image, Favre still gives the Packers the best chance — by far — to win. He simply needs playmakers — healthy playmakers — around him.

Favre knows he needs more help than he had last year to avoid another losing season in 2006. He stated publicly several times this offseason that he wanted Green Bay to be aggressive in free agency, saying the Packers “have to make a statement again” like the organization made when it signed Reggie White in 1993. He personally talked to free agent linebacker LeVar Arrington on the telephone to try to convince him to come to Green Bay. The message to Packers GM Ted Thompson and new head coach Mike McCarthy was clear: Convince me we won’t be 4-12 again, and I’ll come back.

But the Packers never made the statement Favre so badly wanted them to make. Arrington signed with the New York Giants. The team has so far been unable to convince free agent cornerback Charles Woodson to become a Packer. Meanwhile, center Mike Flanagan and kicker Ryan Longwell have signed with other teams. Not to mention the team hired an inexperienced head coach. If anything, the Packers seem to be backpedaling from last year’s 4-12 campaign, perhaps knowingly gearing up for a year or two of re-building. This operational mindset was specifically what Favre said would keep him in Mississippi.

Yet he is returning. And while I don’t doubt that Favre considered retiring — you’d have to be crazy to get beaten up for 16 games, win only four of them, and not consider it — I do think that he always knew he was coming back. He knew he was healthy and he knew he didn’t want to end his storied career with a 4-12 season. He also knows the Packers always have a shot in the weak NFC North.

So Favre played up his supposed indecision, hoping that Thompson and McCarthy would buy into it and improve the team, thereby improving the chances that he could leave the game a winner a la John Elway. He bluffed and Thompson and McCarthy won — not only do the team’s chances improve with Favre, but the two won’t go down in Packer lore as being the two that chased Favre out of town. And they didn’t have to spend a bundle on free agents.

Favre’s decision makes winners out of Packer fans too, although some may let linger the hard feelings caused by Favre’s long con. But chances are, on Sunday afternoon, September 10, 2006, when Favre throws that first touchdown of the season and extends that right index finger to the sky, Packer fans will forgive Favre any offseason pain and suffering. And they’ll know he made the right decision to return. And Favre will know it too.

NBA/NHL Playoffs
April 25, 2006

If you’re a Milwaukee Bucks fan living in Madison and you’re hoping to watch Game 2 of the Bucks-Pistons series Wednesday night, you’re probably out of luck. The game is only available on NBATV, which in the capital city is only carried on some of the pricier tiers of DirecTV and Dish Network and is nowhere to be found on Charter’s channel line-up. Fans needing their Bucks fix can impose on their friends or family in the Milwaukee area, where the game will be carried on the local UPN affiliate. But fans are ultimately advised to stay far away, as game 2 in Detroit promises to be a rerun of Monday’s lopsided Game 1 Bucks loss. Only when the series moves back to Milwaukee for games 3 and 4 can fans hope for a win.

Apart from the two 1-8 matchups (Milwaukee/Detroit and Sacramento/San Antonio), the first games of the NBA playoffs were surprisingly close, even if Indiana did pull the only upset (over New Jersey). And while both the Clippers and Heat are already up 2-0, both of their home victories were by a narrow margin. So the first round is shaping up to be competitive, except for the two 1-8 series. Maybe the NBA should enact some sort of mercy rule with the 1-8 matchups, like if the underdog team can’t keep the final score within fifteen points in either of the first two games, the series gets called. Does anyone really need to see the Spurs trash the Kings four straight times? That’s one of the (many) advantages of the NCAA one-and-done men’s basketball tournament — we don’t need to see Duke beat up on Southern or Florida manhandle Belmont more than once.

Oh, and apparently there are NHL playoffs going on too. I can’t comment much on those games since professional hockey’s status as America’s twenty-third favorite sport means the games are only covered by fringe Canadian sports networks (TSN? RDS?) and Outdoor Life Network. And I took OLN off of my favorites once they stopped showing Survivor: Marquesas reruns. Seriously, Marquesas rocked. Remember when Kathy peed on John’s hand? Or when Pascal picked the purple rock? Or when Sean and Neleh formed a late alliance? Or when Sarah and Boston Rob flirted? I can’t believe Survivor didn’t win a Peabody Award that year. Or at least a Humanitatis.

I’m still picking Detroit to win the Stanley Cup. Dr. Cox on Scrubs favors the Red Wings, and that’s good enough for me, Martha.

10 Reasons Why The Milwaukee Bucks Will Beat The Detroit Pistons
April 20, 2006

I know you’ve heard all of the talk about how the Milwaukee Bucks, the only team with a losing record to qualify for this year’s NBA postseason, will quickly succumb to the Detroit Pistons, the team with the NBA’s best record, in the opening round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs.

Well, hear me now, Bucks fans. There are many reasons Milwaukee can beat Detroit. Here’s just ten of them:

1. Pistons head coach Flip Saunders has had about as much success in the NBA postseason as Rob Schneider has had at the Cannes Film Festival. In ten seasons in Minnesota, he amassed a lousy 17-30 playoff record. Some coaches can’t inspire their players when the games matter most, and Flip is one of those coaches.

2. Pistons power forward Rasheed Wallace. Despite showing some signs of maturity recently, Sheed is still a hothead. If the Bucks can get into his head or if Sheed feels the game isn’t being called fairly by the refs, he can lose his cool and his effectiveness. And Flip (see above) isn’t the coach to keep him in line.

3. Detroit guard Richard Hamilton wears that goofy mask. If someone on the Bucks can find it and switch it with a Sponge Bob Square Pants Halloween mask, that might negate his effectiveness.

4. The pressure is on Detroit. There are more people that think Britney Spears is a qualified parent than think that Milwaukee can win. Milwaukee coach Terry Stotts should be able to use the ultimate underdog role to his and his team’s advantage. The Bucks will be loose — if they can keep the score close, the Pistons may tighten up and make costly mistakes.

5. Look at the 2005-2006 regular-season stats: Milwaukee has more points per game, assists per game, and has a higher free-throw percentage than Detroit. And Detroit only beats Milwaukee in field goal percentage by .162% and three point percentage by .004. These teams are not as uneven as people think.

6. One only has to look to the season series for further proof that the teams are competitive: While Detroit beat the Bucks three out of four games in 2005-2006, the average margin of victory was only six points. The Brewers routinely lose by a wider margin.

7. The Red Wings will win the Stanley Cup. The Sports Gods won’t allow Detroit to have two championships in the same year. Unless it’s seen as restitution to the city for having to suffer with the Tigers and Lions.

8. The Bucks have a deeper bench than the Pistons. Milwaukee uses its reserves more and they are more effective when used. The Bucks will be able to give their starters more rest and — with the Pistons’ advanced age — will have a better shot of wearing down Detroit than the other way around.

9. The Bucks have Charlie Bell. The reserve point guard is one of the league’s best-kept secrets. This year’s playoffs may be his official coming-out party.

10. Fans attending the playoff games at Detroit’s Palace at Auburn Hills will be sleepy from eating too many Big Boy hamburgers — which are sold at the arena — thereby negating any home-field advantage.

There you have it. 10 reasons to hope that the Bucks can win a game against the Pistons. What’s that? You were looking for reasons to hope the Bucks could win the entire series? Wow. I admire your optimism. But I’m dealing with reality here. I’m giving the Bucks a game. I’m afraid that’s all we can hope for.

Packers Need to Put "Fun" in Dysfunction
April 18, 2006

Before I get into today’s blog, I need to mention something: A couple of weeks ago I wrote here that neither Charter Cable nor Dish Network carry the NFL Network, which is televising exclusively a Packer/Viking game on December 21, 2006. Actually, the NFL Network is available on Dish Network, but only as part of some of their more comprehensive (read: expensive) packages. The NFL Network remains completely unavailable on Charter. Now on to today’s sports blog goodness:

It’s tough for Green Bay Packer fans to admit that the Minnesota Vikings are better at anything. The reverse is also true, but Viking fans are wary to get into any of those “my team is better than your team” arguments because they know that Packer fans hold the ultimate trump card (i.e, championships) in those debates.

But one area where the Vikings have always had it over the Packers is turmoil, a fact never more obvious than in 2005, a year that started with the Randy Moss “mooning” incident and ended with the firing of embattled coach Mike Tice. That year also saw the trading of Moss, Tice’s ticket-scalping fiasco, and most famously, the “Love Boat” scandal that saw four Vikings charged with indecent conduct and lewdness related to alleged sexual activities on board a Lake Minnetonka cruise ship. The Vikings were often mediocre on the field, but give them credit for being endlessly fascinating off of it.

Now, unfortunately for Midwest sports writers, that seems to be changing. Moss is long gone, his football and scandal career having since significantly slowed. After losing much goodwill with the Minnesota public following his part in the sex cruise (although indecency charges against him have recently been dropped) and reports that he was rehabilitating his devastating 2005 injury in a Florida Wal-Mart parking lot rather than a state-of-the-art NFL facility, Daunte Culpepper is also gone. New head coach Brad Childress is reportedly running tough, productive practices, and the team seems to be shedding its aura of cheapness and incompetence, shelling out big bucks for desired free agents and hosting visits from some of the most desirable players in this year’s upcoming NFL draft (the most recent being Texas QB Vince Young).

Meanwhile, as the Vikings appear to be running efficiently, the Packers seem to be an organization lost. Instead of working to turn itself around following last year’s abysmal 4-12 campaign, Green Bay hired a woefully inexperienced head coach, lost some fine free agents (Antonio Chatman and Ryan Longwell to division rivals, no less!), is again forced to deal with a star player’s trade demands, and has shown no eagerness to spend money on quality veteran free agents like Charles Woodson or Levar Arrington despite being way under the salary cap. These not-insignificant problems seem like afterthoughts though when compared to the ever-increasingly bizarre situation with Brett Favre, who with each passing day of indecision is losing more and more of the enormous goodwill he has built up with Packer fans. But Packer fans shouldn’t be as frustrated with Favre as they should be with GM Ted Thompson for letting Favre hold the team hostage.

But if the Packers are trying to become as dysfunctional as the Vikings have been, they have a lot to learn. Brett Favre’s indecisiveness and Javon Walker’s unhappiness aren’t embarrassing enough. Leno and Letterman aren’t going to work Walker’s contractual demands into their nightly monologues, and Favre’s waiting game isn’t going to be immortalized as a Milwaukee Brewer giveaway promotional item, as the Vikings sex cruise has been by the minor league St. Paul Saints.

Only a scandal of “Love Boat” proportions could spice up what is looking to be an uneventful and unsuccessful year from the Green and Gold. Come on, Packers, learn a lesson from the Vikings: If you’re not going to be good, can’t you at least be interesting?

Brewers at Mets Important Early Series for Both Teams
April 14, 2006

Apart from what teams are going to the NBA playoffs and how much you’re paying (or getting back) in taxes, pretty much nothing is decided in April. Especially in Major League Baseball, unless you’re a Kansas City Royal or Pittsburgh Pirate, which means that you can already start making plans for an October vacation.

But the lack of championship stakes doesn’t mean that April can’t have its share of intriguing matchups, and this weekend’s series between Milwaukee and the New York Mets at Shea Stadium certainly qualifies. The three games should give an early indication of whether these fast-starting teams will be playing in the postseason.

Brewer fans were certainly brought back down to earth after a three-game losing streak sullied a 5-0 start. But escaping St. Louis — always a tough place for Milwaukee, and especially with the atmosphere surrounding the opening of the new Busch Stadium — with an extra-inning victory on Thursday meant that Ned Yost’s club was still tied for first in the NL Central and for second overall in the National League.

The team holding the best record in the National League are the Mets, who are suddenly stacked at offense with Carlos Beltran, David Wright, Cliff Floyd, and Carlos Delgado, who have been giving their stellar pitching rotation that includes Tom Glavine, Pedro Martinez, and Victor Zambrano good doses of run support. The Mets’s performance so far as done nothing to dissuade those prognosticators (including yours truly) who picked them to end Atlanta’s 14-year stranglehold on NL East division titles. But the knock on the Mets has of course been their schedule — they’ve played the Washington Nationals six times and the Florida Marlins twice (one game was rained out), two teams with a combined record of 4-14.

In short, the Mets and their fans have the same question the Brewers and their fans do: Is our team for real? (Well, Brewer fans are also eager to find out if starter Ben Sheets, who is scheduled to make his first start of the season on Sunday following a strained upper back muscle, can stay healthy.) Not all will be known by the end of the weekend — this is only April, after all — but Brewer fans can hope that they’re not asking themselves, “Weren’t we supposed to be good this year?” come Monday morning.

Eastern Conference Dichotomy Dooms Bucks
April 12, 2006

They’re a team that entered the season with high hopes but ended the year limping toward a .500 finish. No, I’m not talking about last year’s Milwaukee Brewers — or the Minnesota Vikings of the last three years — I’m talking about the Milwaukee Bucks.

Heading into Wednesday’s home game against the Washington Wizards, the Bucks are 37-40, needing four wins out of their last five games to reach .500. Fortunately for the Bucks and their fans, a .500 or even slightly below .500 record in the Eastern Conference of the National Basketball Association is good enough to secure one of eight playoff spots. Depending on what happens in the last week of the regular season, the Bucks could finish as high as fifth in the Conference or as low as ninth. A ninth place would eliminate the Bucks from playoff contention for the second straight season.

Unfortunately for the Bucks, there are two types of Eastern Conference teams heading into the postseason — contenders and pretenders. The teams that have already locked up the top four spots — Detroit, Miami, New Jersey, and Cleveland — could all compete for the Eastern Conference title, with Detroit being the clear favorite. Of those four, only Miami has shown signs of struggling, but their struggles didn’t prevent them from a convincing 26-point victory over the Bucks just a week ago. Of the teams that could make up the lower half of the playoff picture in the East — Washington, Indiana, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Chicago, Orlando, and Boston — only the Wizards (for now) have a winning record and only the Magic seem capable of turning late-season momentum (they’ve won nine of their last ten) into a postseason upset.

So what that means for the Bucks is their best-case scenario puts them in a series against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. King James’s presence might help the Bucks sell playoff tickets and get higher TV ratings, but it doesn’t help them if they want to advance to the second round. The worst-case scenario — besides them missing the playoffs entirely, which is a real possibility — pits them in a series against the Pistons juggernaut, in which case the Bucks have to hope that Flip Saunders’s well-documented playoff troubles with the Timberwolves follow him to Detroit. But given that the Pistons have lost only fifteen games all season, does anyone expect them to lose four of seven to the Bucks?

Regardless of when the Bucks end their season, this does not deserve to be the final season for first-year head coach Terry Stotts. Stotts has engineered what could amount to be a twelve-game win-loss improvement over last season, and the Bucks starters — particularly Michael Redd and rookie Andrew Bogut — are young and improving. And the recent Charlie Bell / T.J. Ford controversy at point guard is the type of “problem” NBA teams love to have.

If this year’s Bucks are a disappointment, it’s due more to unrealistic preseason hopes than the actual play of the team. Often teams are a season or two late in fulfilling fans’ increased expectations. Expect bigger things from the Bucks over the next couple of years. As for the 2005-2006 season, the Bucks, Wizards, Pacers, and 76ers just aren’t in the same league as the Pistons, Heat, Nets, and Cavs.

Good Weekend To Be a Wisconsin Sports Fan
April 7, 2006

By Monday morning, we could be celebrating a national championship in men’s hockey, a 6-0 Milwaukee Brewers start, and the increasing likelihood of the Milwaukee Bucks securing a spot in the NBA playoffs.

Best of all, with an announcement promised for this weekend, we’ll hopefully be able to put the whole “will he or won’t he” Brett Favre retirement issue to bed. At last. No matter what, that could be the best news of all to come out of the next couple of days.

Then we can concentrate on more important issues, like who is going to replace Meredith Vieira on The View? Me, I’m hoping for that sassy Bea Arthur. There’s someone I’d like to start my mornings off with . . .

Got NFL Network? The Packers 2006 Schedule Is Out
April 6, 2006

Well, we still don’t know for sure who the team’s quarterback will be, but we do know who and when the Packers will play during the 2006 season, as the full schedule of games was announced today by the NFL. Actually, we don’t know for sure when some of the Packers games will be, thanks to the NFL’s new “flexible scheduling,” which allows for NBC to reserve quality late-season Sunday games for its national coverage. Here’s what we do know:

Right now, Charter Cable and Dish Network subscribers in the Madison area won’t be able to see one of the regular season Packers games — and it’s not just any game, but a home game against division rivals Minnesota. The Vikings visit Lambeau field on Thursday, December 21, and the game will be televised only by the NFL Network as part of the channel’s new series of late-season Thursday night games.

The problem for most local TV viewers is that neither Charter nor Dish carry the NFL Network. Charter had the network as part of its digital tier, but dropped it around the first of the year. Packer fans shouldn’t look elsewhere for coverage — no local Madison stations will be allowed to pick up the game either, since the NFL doesn’t consider Madison a “home market” for the Packers. That leaves fans two options: Hope that Charter and/or Dish adds the network before December 21 or switch to DirecTV, which carries the NFL Network as part of its most basic package. I’m biased to the latter, since that’s the service I subscribe to.

Local NBC affiliate WMTV is undoubtedly happy to have the NFL back, but probably not happy at the very real prospect of zero Packer games. None of the Packers’ early season games have been scheduled for NBC, and although the network could pick up one later in the year, it’s unlikely to happen if the Packers don’t play better than last season. And it doesn’t help WMTV’s cause that the Packers’ late-season opponents include league doormats the Jets, the 49ers, and the Lions. The best chances for a late-season Packer Sunday night game would be the November 19 game against the New England Patriots, which would mean local CBS affiliate WISC would lose one of its only two Packer games. But of course, both WISC and WMTV are in a enviable position compared to WKOW, home to the now NFL-free ABC. (How “official” can the “official Packers station” be if it is possibly the only one of the four big network affiliates not to air any regular season games?)

The Packers open (at home) and close (in Chicago) the season against the Bears, marking the first time in the history of this long rivalry that this scheduling oddity has occurred.

New Packers head coach Mike McCarthy will return to San Francisco on Sunday, December 10, to lead his new team against his old. McCarthy was the 49ers offensive coordinator last year.

Although it’s always hard to predict these things in these times of NFL parity, the Packers appear to have one of the league’s easiest schedules: Out of 16 games, the Pack play only four games against 2005 playoff teams, and two of those are against division rivals the Bears, who haven’t been able to string together back-to-back winning seasons since the days of Ditka.

Here is the 2006 Packer regular-season schedule:
Sun, Sept 10 Chicago (3:15, FOX)
Sun, Sept 17 New Orleans (12 noon, FOX)
Sun, Sept 24 at Detroit (12 noon, FOX)
Mon, Oct 2 at Philadelphia (7:30 PM, ESPN)
Sun, Oct 8 St. Louis (12 noon, FOX)
Sun, Oct 15 OPEN DATE
Sun, Oct 22 at Miami (12 noon, FOX)
Sun, Oct 29 Arizona (12 noon, FOX)
Sun, Nov 5 at Buffalo (12 noon, FOX)
Sun, Nov 12 at Minnesota (12 noon, FOX)*
Sun, Nov 19 New England (12 noon, CBS)*
Mon, Nov 27 at Seattle (7:30 PM, ESPN)
Sun, Dec 3 New York Jets (12 noon, CBS)*
Sun, Dec 10 at San Francisco (3:05 PM, FOX)*
Sun, Dec 17 Detroit (12 noon, FOX)*
Thu, Dec 21 Minnesota (7 PM, NFL Network)
Sun, Dec 31 at Chicago (12 noon, FOX)*

*games that could be moved to 7:15 PM to accommodate NFL flexible scheduling.

Rev. Jackson, Barry Bonds, and the Turkey Baster
April 5, 2006

Not that anyone cares, but Reverend Jesse Jackson — whose career high point to me is still his 1984 guest-hosting stint on SNL (remember “The Question Is Moot”?) has given his unsolicited opinion again on something that he has no immediate association with — this time the Barry Bonds/syringe-tossing incident at Petco Park during Opening Day.

On Monday, following the eighth inning of the San Francisco Giants’ road loss to the San Diego Padres, a fan threw what appeared to be a syringe at the embattled Bonds. The object did not hit him, and Bonds disgustingly carried it off the field. Security officials at San Diego’s Petco Park remarked that approximately a dozen other similar objects were confiscated from fans attending Monday’s game. Several other fans held aloft signs critical of Bonds and his alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs.

Despite apologies from Padre officials and the discovery that the object was simply a toy and no larger or harmful that a turkey baster, the Rev. Jackson saw an opportunity to get his name in the papers, calling for the fan’s arrest and a complete investigation of the incident. Noting that Bonds is creeping closer to Babe Ruth’s home run total, Jackson also compared Bonds’s treatment by the fans to that of Hank Aaron’s when Aaron was himself closing in on Ruth’s HR record of 715.

Now while I certainly do not condone throwing objects at professional athletes while they’re earning their living, Jackson’s comments are far more offensive than some idiot’s fan’s dumb idea of a joke. Hank Aaron was a class act, a man who performed at an amazing level while being the target of unspeakable hatred and racism by those who for some reason felt that only white players should hold major league baseball records. Bonds is one of the least-liked figures in pro sports history, an insufferable, humorless egomaniac whose admittedly impressive legacy will forever be tarnished by the increasingly believable allegations that he has been playing baseball for several years under a steroid haze. He is not targeted for ridicule because he is black, as the Rev. Jackson alleges. He is targeted for ridicule because he is a jerk.

The Rev. Jackson’s call to arms to protect a spoiled superstar from almost being hit by turkey basters threaten to diminish the memory of the real racism faced by one of America’s true sports heroes. Jackson should leave the Bonds story alone and go back to sketch comedy. Judging by the last time I watched, Saturday Night Live could use him.