Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Lesson Learned

In what is usually one of the slowest news weeks, a controversy rages over President Obama’s reported conversation with Jeffrey Lurie, the owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, praising the franchise for giving Michael Vick a chance to perform after serving a twenty-three month prison sentence for dog fighting and related charges.

Peter King of Sports Illustrated, who had reported the conversation, is amazed at the reaction, tweeting recently (and inappropriately hilarious) that “this story has longer legs than Giselle,” referring to Giselle Bundeschen, the wife of Tom Brady, Vick’s main rival for this year’s MVP vote.

Fox News, the new standard-bearer for right wing craziness, spent much of Tuesday berating the President for his support of Vick. Tucker Carlson, filling in for Sean Hannity, actually opined that Vick “should have been executed” for his crimes. This from the Sarah Palin Network in love with the candidate who gloried in the shooting of a caribou for no other purpose than higher television ratings.

Michael Vick’s story is well known. Perhaps less publicized are the appalling facts about imprisonment in America. Currently, more than 7 million people are either in prison, on probation or on parole in the United States, which amounts to 1 in 18 adult males, more than four times the per capita rate in England, eleven times in a country like Norway. Of these, 70 % are people of color. Of those released from prison, about one third end up accused of another crime within three years.

Whatever one thinks of Michael Vick’s crime and punishment, his rehabilitation and maturation following his release can be a lesson in ethics. It should be a source of inspiration for the idea that people can change for the better and make much of their lives even after serving time. As a society, we can learn how to forgive those who have confronted their past and paid for their sins. The President was right to applaud the Eagles for their offer to Michael Vick and those who have criticized the President are wrong.

Monday, December 27, 2010

FIU wins Sports Law Blog Bowl

That was quite a game, with a lot of everything--multiple comebacks and apparent game-changing plays by all units on both teams, gutsy coaching (major props to Toledo Coach Tim Beckman for going for two and the win rather than playing for overtime), a hook-and-ladder to convert a 4th-and-17, and a game-winning-as-time-expired field goal. Oh, and too much instant-replay. I still am not sure that a commitment to an FBS football program is the best use of resources for a small, cash-strapped public university. But I watched the game very much as a fan--frustrated and mumbling about what-if when I thought we had blown the game, exultant when the kick split the uprights.

And again, I love Tony Packo's.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Golf and the Law

The New York Times published an interesting story a couple of days ago exploring the relationship between golf and the law. The story comes on the heels of a recent decision by the New York Court of Appeals holding that golfers assume the risk of injury from errant golf shots. Here is a snippet:
Ever since people have trod meadows and moors intent on striking hard white balls with bottom-weighted clubs, people have been suing one another for shots gone awry. Golf has evolved into the perfect litigation machine, beloved by lawyers, perhaps because so many are making a good living filing suits, defending suits and providing advice on injuries, course and product design, environmental damage, discrimination and almost anything that could conceivably find its way into a courtroom.

The entire story is available here.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I would have gone with "F-E-E-T, Feet, Feet, Feet"

Alan beat me to the punch. What struck me was the potential for some very interesting cheering-speech issues at this game; this is the sort of thing that fans will be unable to resist. How are the Bears and the NFL going to handle the inevitable signs, t-shirts, chants, etc. that are going to be about feet, foot fetishes, FOOTball, "Can I smell them," and everything else that this type makes possible for obnoxious and possibly drunk fans? What if (as one blogger suggested) the PA folks plays "Footloose" when the Jets take the field?

Is getting a tattoo a "benefit"?

As if 10% unemployment and the loss of two Congressional seats weren't enough, Ohio-ans now have to deal with the news that some of "the" Ohio State University's star football players, including last year's Rose Bowl MVP Terrelle Pryor, may miss this year's bowl showdown with Arkansas. According to the Columbus Dispatch, a number of players, including Pryor, are under investigation for receiving free tattoos.

NCAA Bylaw 16.02.3 prohibits student-athletes from receiving "extra benefits" not offered to the general public from university employees and boosters:
“An extra benefit is any special arrangement by an institutional employee or a representative of the institution’s athletic interests to provide a student-athlete...a benefit not expressly authorized by NCAA legislation. Receipt of a benefit by not a violation of NCAA legislation if it is demonstrated that the same benefit is generally available to the institution’s students...on a basis unrelated to athletics ability."
Here, the athletes' tattoos were supposedly provided by Columbus parlor "Fine Line Ink." Presumably, the expansive definition of booster would sweep in the shop in question.

Although it seems these players will get to watch the game from the hotel, there are two possible lines of defense. First, is getting a tattoo, which one will surely regret years from now, really a benefit? (OK, probably). But is it a benefit not available to the general public. According to Fine Line Ink's myspace page, free tattoos are available to anyone willing to host a tattoo party:
Call and ask us how you can get a free tattoo for hosting a party at our place or yours! Invite all your friends, for food, drinks, and Tattoos & Piercings! Some restrictions apply call shop for details.
So maybe this was a "party"?

Coach Jim Tressel no doubt regrets being so sanguine the last time Terrelle's ink made the news.

T-O-E-S Toes Toes Toes

Let me first confess I am an old Baltimore Colts fan (Diner era) and still hate the Jets for embarrassing us in 1969. But this is just too much to hold in.

First we saw Strength Team Coach Sal Alosi and the Gang of Four, standing toe to toe, trying to keep the Punt team’s gunner from returning to the field of play and then tripping him. Such behavior eclipsed Spygate as the worst case of sportsmanship in recent NFL history.

Now we have Toegate with the Head Coach of those same Jets supposedly starring in a series of YouTube videos demonstrating deep admiration for his wife’s extremities. What next? I know I always write about the need to judge professional athletes by their work on the field, accepting that they are as flawed as the rest of us outside the lines. But for the life of me, I never expected to see something like this. It’s not exactly unethical. In fact, I don’t know what to call it. Let’s just say it gives new meaning to what Football is all about.

No Country For Old Football Coaches?

Are older college football coaches being fired, or not hired, in part because of age? This is a topic that Stewart Mandel writes about in an column. Here is an excerpt:
* * *

Over the past week, new athletic directors at West Virginia and Maryland forced out incumbent coaches who, by most reasonable standards, had been relatively successful. Mountaineers coach Bill Stewart, 58, has won nine games in each of his first three seasons. Terrapins coach Ralph Friedgen, 63, has taken his team to seven bowl games in 10 years and was named the ACC's Coach of the Year this season.

* * *

In that respect, Maryland and West Virginia are merely following the national trend in coaching hires: Youth and energy trump age and experience. Pittsburgh recently replaced 58-year-old Dave Wannstedt, an NFL and college head coach for 17 seasons, with 46-year-old Michael Haywood, a head coach for two seasons at Miami (Ohio). Colorado axed Dan Hawkins, 50, who's been a head coach for 15 seasons, and hired Redskins tight ends coach Jon Embree, 45, a CU alum who'd never previously served as even an offensive coordinator.

New Florida coach Will Muschamp is a 39-year-old first time head coach. Indiana (Kevin Wilson) and Vanderbilt (Franklin) went with first-time head coaches, too. Franklin, 38, is 18 years younger than Robbie Caldwell, the man he replaced. In fact, all eight BCS-conference hires to date are younger than the coaches they're replacing.

* * *

To add to Stewart's discussion, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act protects people 40 and up from discrimination due to age. I would be interesting in knowing 1) if coaches' termination settlements (fired coaches usually get about half of their remaining salary) include release of age discrimination claims in exchange for payment; 2) whether there is any empirical support for a finding of age discrimination; and 3) whether the EEOC has looked into this subject. Might not be a bad topic for a student looking for a law review/journal note topic.