Environmental group threatens demonstrations if MLB player doesn’t quit his hunting hobby

Florida Marlins relief pitcher Logan Kensing enjoys hunting on his family’s property from a helicopter. What he does during the offseason – a legal sport, and to control an invasive species (wild pigs) – should be no one’s business. So why is the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition up in arms? This organization is threatening the Florida Marlins, saying “We want the Marlins to make him agree to stop.”

And what the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition has done is tantamount to blackmail, in my opinion, and they should be the ones who are worried. Here’s part of the letter received by Florida Marlin’s team owner Jeffrey Loria:

They have 10 days from Monday to reprimand the player for behavior that isn’t one of a role model. If they don’t, we will be persistent. We’ll infiltrate the fans and pull out signs. We’ll picket. If we’re willing to have 27 people arrested, it’s obvious we’re committed.

Here in Oregon, it’s always open season on feral pigs. They “destroy everything,” as Kensing said.

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What Went Wrong at Duke

– More than three dozen current and former Duke lacrosse players filed a lawsuit Thursday claiming they suffered emotional distress during the furor over the now-discredited rape case against three of their teammates. A.P. Report.

This new lawsuit comes after the three players wrongfully charged (and later declared innocent) with raping a woman at a team party in March 2006, sued Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong, the city of Durham, and the police detectives who handled the case. Those three players reached an undisclosed financial settlement with the university in June.

The current lawsuit was filed on behalf of 38 unindicted players and nine members of their families. It seeks unspecified damages for invasion of privacy, emotional distress and other injuries. The lawsuit accuses Duke University, the City of Durham and several school and police officials of fraud, abuse and breach of duty for supporting the prosecution of the case.

The entire team did, indeed, suffer, so I see merit in this case. The University canceled the season of the highly ranked lacrosse team, certainly implying guilt. The facts of the case against the three players are so egregious that perhaps this second lawsuit will send a clear message to Duke University, the city, the police, and the District Attorney’s office:

Do not ignore or suppress evidence. Do not fabricate evidence. Do not idly and callously stand by while students enrolled in your school are harrassed and abused on campus and off. Pay attention to the accuser’s changing story, mental instability and drug-dependence. Assume nothing.

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Patriots Spy Tapes: Why is the Government Involved?

Senior Republican Senator Arlen Specter (PA) wrote a letter yesterday to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wanting to know why the NFL destroyed the tapes of the New England Patriots spying on the New York Jets’ coaching signals.

There has been suspicion of the New England Patriots spy/surveillance tactics for some time, including taping hand signals and interfering with wireless communications between the opposing coach and quarterback. This is against NFL rules and is considered cheating. The spy games ended in September 2007, when Jets coach Eric Mangini, a former assistant under Patriots coach Bill Belichick, tipped off NFL security at the Jets-Patriots game, and a tape was confiscated with clear evidence of the cheating.

And now, apparently, six tapes have been destroyed by the NFL, from the 2007 preseason and 2006. The explanation from football Commissioner Goodell, given today in a new conference from Phoenix, just two days before the Super Bowl:

I am more than willing to speak with the senator. There are very good explanations why the tapes were destroyed by our staff — there was no purpose for them. We wanted to take and destroy that information. They may have collected it within the rules, but we couldn’t determine that. So we felt that it should be destroyed.

Arlen Specter said that explanation “didn’t make any sense at all.” I agree, it didn’t make sense to me either. But what also didn’t make sense to me was why Congress would care about NFL spy tapes. It seems like the NFL took care of the situation with the biggest fine ever imposed on a coach in team history. Goodell fined Belichick $500,000 and docked the team $250,000 and a first-round draft pick. But here’s the explanation for the involvement of Congress: antitrust exemption. As Specter explained his reasoning today, he inevitably brought up a sore subject:

The matter may not compare to the CIA’s destruction of interrogation tapes, but I do believe that it is a matter of importance. It’s not going to displace the stimulus package or the Iraq war, but I think the integrity of football is very important, and I think the National Football League has a special duty to the American people — and further the Congress — because they have an antitrust exemption.

What that seems to mean is that because the NFL has been given an exception by the government, it is subject to the government. To understand an exception to antitrust, it’s helpful to know what antitrust means. Basically, its purpose is to ensure a competitive free market system unrestrained by monopolies, and dates back to the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890. The purpose of the Act, according to Wikipedia:

Despite its name, the Act has fairly little to do with “trusts”. Around the world, what U.S. lawmakers and attorneys call “Antitrust” is more commonly known as “competition law.” The purpose of the act was opposition combinations of entities that could potentially harm competition, such as monopolies or cartels. Its reference to trusts today is anachronism. At the time of its passage, the trust was synonymous with monopolistic practice, because the trust was a popular way for monopolists to hold their businesses, and a way for cartel participants to create enforceable agreements.

The Sherman Act was not specifically intended to prevent the dominance of an industry by a specific company, despite misconceptions to the contrary. According to Senator George Hoar, an author of the bill, any company that “got the whole business because nobody could do it as well as he could” would not be in violation of the act. The law attempts to prevent the artificial raising of prices by restriction of trade or supply. In other words, innocent monopoly, or monopoly achieved solely by merit, is perfectly legal, but acts by a monopolist to artifically preserve his status, or nefarious dealings to create a monopoly, are.

It’s interesting that a year ago, in December 2006, Specter wanted to introduce legislation to eliminate the NFL’s exemption from antitrust laws. So the New England Patriots cheating scandal is just one more reason for him to push that view, not the reason for his view. The issue Specter cited back in 2006 was the NFL’s ability to negotiate exclusive sports packages, such as DirecTV’s Sunday Ticket, a programming package that allows TV viewers to watch out-of-market football games. There seems to be a consumer fairness issue here, and a definite monopoly.

Should the NFL’s antitrust status be changed? The NFL has only a limited exemption from antitrust laws, and it was granted this exception under the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961, which allowed teams to pool their national broadcast rights for exclusive TV network contracts. This leaves a lot of viewers in the dark if they don’t subscribe to certain networks, and that has made for millions of angry football fans as well as legislators pushing to overturn the antitrust exception. However…

Mr. Specter should explain again exactly what the NFL exclusive network contracts have to do with destroying spy tapes. The antitrust issue doesn’t really seem relevant to Belichick’s tricky tactics. I don’t like the fact that the Patriots’ coach would resort to cheating, but to drag the government into this?

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Filed under National Football League, New England Patriots, New York Giants, Super Bowl

Patriots, Giants: Who Will Make History? Eli Manning.

Patriots v. Giants. The Perfect Patriots, 18-0, head to the Super Bowl XLII on February 3, 2008 in Glendale, Arizona. The only other team to complete an undefeated season was the 1972 Miami Dolphins. I’d say the Patriots have the odds against them, actually, even though they are widely predicted to win. The New York Giants (13-6) have quarterback Eli Manning. I think Peyton’s little brother will make history. The Giants have won 10 straight games on the road, and Eli Manning has been flawless in the postseason. Although the Las Vegas oddsmakers have made the Patriots a 13.5 point favorite, the younger Manning is getting hot at just the right time.

Eli Manning

This is not the Manning that most fans expected to see in the Super Bowl this year. The reigning Indianapolis Colts, led by quarterback Peyton Manning, was the expected star. However, after the Colts lost to the San Diego Chargers in the divisional playoffs, the focus eventually shifted to the other Manning.

The Chicago Tribune commented today on Eli Manning:

He has thrown 85 passes in these playoffs without an interception and showed more mettle and better concentration in outplaying Brett Favre in the NFC championship game.

The author did acknowledge that Manning is a young quarterback, possibly still on his way up, possibly not going any higher. However, Eli Manning certainly seems to have hit his stride. The New York Times reported today about a conversation Manning had with his brother, Peyton.

“He told me we were past the point of him giving me advice and that it might be the other way around,” Manning said. “I don’t know if I believe that, but it was good to hear him say that. He congratulated me and said he was proud of me.”

Aside from being an outstanding football player, Eli Manning promotes charitable work and giving. This past October, he led the USA Weekend’s Make a Difference Day, and had this to say:

My Dad, Archie, was an NFL quarterback who always gave back to the community, sending autographed pictures to charities, hosting an annual golf event for cystic fibrosis and helping dozens of organizations, from the Boy Scouts to the American Cancer Society.

He never said that my brothers, Cooper and Peyton, and I had to do anything, but that if we did, we should do it for the right reasons. Because if you’re not excited about what you’re doing, it’s not going to do much good.

I enjoy working with kids. I’m helping to raise $2.5 million for a state-of-the-art clinic at the Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital in Jackson, Miss., a part of the University of Mississippi, where I went to college.

You can get that same great feeling on Make A Difference Day by helping people in your path. Join a food drive, take your family to clean a park, ask your club or office to team up to paint a homeless shelter. Whatever you do, like my dad said, “Do it for the right reasons,” and you’ll do good.

And have you heard of trading for charity? This is a unique idea, and perfect for New York, famous for Wall Street. Several months ago, Eli Manning and a fellow player were involved in a Global Charity Day:

With the growing movement to turn the anniversary of September 11, 2001 into a day of charity work and community service, Giants offensive lineman Grey Ruegamer and quarterback Eli Manning joined the trend by participating in BGC Partners Third Annual Global Charity Day which raised over $6 million dollars for charity.

BGC Partners, a worldwide inter-dealer brokerage firm, pledged that 100% of revenues generated through trading on September 11th would be donated to a number of charities around the world, including the United States, United Kingdom, Europe, Asia and Australia. In the US, the receiving charities included The Cancer Research Institute, Books for Kids Project FIND, Wounded Warrior Project, Blythedale Children’s Hospital, and NARSAD.

Grey and Eli were not just casual visitors to BGC’s offices; they were an integral part of the day’s activity. It was a hectic scene as the whole office was busy with transactions, and after greeting employees and receiving a tutorial on what each group in the company handled, Grey and Eli quickly found themselves joining in on the action.

Both Grey and Eli spent time on the phone with other brokers encouraging them to complete trades on that day in order to raise money for the six charities represented. The office was a different atmosphere than what the players are most used to, but the cheers they received when a trade was finalized was similar to one heard during a game, and represented yet another donation for the six deserving charities.

For now, sports fans just get to prepare their Super Bowl parties, watch ESPN highlights and interviews, and wait for the big day.

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Filed under National Football League, New England Patriots, New York Giants, Super Bowl

Washington Redskins to move on without Joe Gibbs

Joe Gibbs, Washington Redskins
Joe Gibbs announced today that he is stepping down as coach of the Washington Redskins, for the second time. He retired as coach and president of the Redskins, but will remain as special advisor to owner Dan Snyder. The 67-year-old Gibbs will be discussing his retirement this afternoon at Redskins Park.

Joe Gibbs had his first stint as coach of the Washington Redskins from 1981-1992, earning three Superbowl wins and four NFC championships. This outstanding performance led to his induction into the Hall of Fame in 1996. Joe Gibbs was the only coach to win three Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks and three different starting running backs. It’s clear where the winning came from.

The first retirement was so Gibbs could focus on his NASCAR team, Joe Gibbs Racing, winner of three NASCAR Sprint Cup Championships. At that time he also cited health problems and a desire for more time with his family. Gibbs had no plans of returning to coaching, but Snyder got him back in 2004-07, to revive a Redskins team that was again floundering. Gibbs’ second tenure as head of the Washington Redskins was not as stellar as the first, but he still took the team to the postseason in two of the four seasons. And his firm leadership-style coaching this season, no matter the win-loss record, will surely go down in football history as something only a Hall of Fame coach could accomplish.

Gibbs’ contract extended for another season, however, various difficulties seem to have combined to cut this short. Possibly the death of safety Sean Taylor on November 27, 2007, was a factor. Following Taylor’s funeral, the Redskins came back from a mediocre season to win the final four games of the regular season, winning a place in the NFC playoffs. However, that emotional winning streak ended Saturday, with the Redskins loss to the Seattle Seahawks. On Monday, Gibbs commented:

It was the toughest [season] for me. When you go through a season like that, for a while it’s kind of hard to regrasp reality.

A family crisis has also been on Gibbs’ mind. Last January, his two-year-old grandson, Taylor, was diagnosed with leukemia. Joe Gibbs loves his grandbabies, and this medical trauma has taken its toll. I’m sure Gibbs will reveal more details of his retirement in the coming days, but surely his long, hard hours on the field, the emotional toll of it all, and the pull of his family have finally called him away.

Joe Gibbs is known as a hard working man of faith, both on and off the field. An outspoken Christian, he has mentored hundreds of players in more than just field plays, but life itself. His passion for providing a strong foundation for young people led Gibbs to found the Youth For Tomorrow center in nearby Manassas, Virginia, a “residential program combining character rehabilitation, quality education, personal faith, and life skills,” according to the mission statement. Since opening in 1986, Youth for Tomorrow has served 800 young people. The campus includes several specialized schools, a library, gymnasium, computer labs, auditorium, and more.

Photo Credits: Getty Images

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Sean Taylor of the Washington Redskins will be missed

Redskins step on field after Taylor's death
In this AP photo from the New York Times, the Washington Redskins stepped back on the field together for the first time since the death of fellow Redskins safety Sean Taylor. He died on Tuesday, November 27, a day after being shot, apparently by an intruder, in his Miami, Florida home.

Sean Taylor leaves behind an 18 month old daughter, his girlfriend, parents, siblings, and friends. Sean’s father, Florida City Police Chief, Pedro “Pete” Taylor, spoke to mourners at Redskins Park on Wednesday, encouraging them to go win the next five games and make it to the playoffs, in Taylor’s memory. “You felt a surge in the room,” Brett Fuller, a team chaplain, said. “It was kind of like he gave the team permission to play.”

A funeral service for Sean Taylor has been scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday in the arena at Miami’s Florida International University. Redskins owner Daniel Snyder is flying the entire team and the rest of the Redskins organization to the service. Coach Joe Gibbs Gibbs said he had spoken by phone to 49ers coach Mike Nolan about his experiences in coaching his team following the death of Thomas Herrion in 2005 when the offensive lineman died of a heart condition. Gibbs commented:

He just volunteered to call me, so I talked to him for quite a while last night. He had some good information for me, and we took some action based on what I felt was important.

The Washington Redskins face the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. It’s going to be a challenge for them to stay focused. “Every time your mind drifts for a second, you start thinking about Sean,” linebacker Marcus Washington reported to the New York Times. “The toughest part, for me, is knowing that his girlfriend and his daughter will never see him again. That’s really hard to take.”

My deepest sympathies go out to Sean Taylor’s family and friends and the entire Washington Redskins team.

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Kurt Warner – The First Thing

Kurt Warner-Arizona Cardinals
Among today’s many Christian athletes is Arizona Cardinals Quarterback Kurt Warner – #13. He is in his tenth season as a pro-football player and formerly played for the New York Giants, and most notably the St. Louis Rams, during which time they won the 1999 Super Bowl. Kurt earned the title of Super Bowl XXXIV MVP and has twice been named NFL MVP.

This outstanding American football quarterback is noted for his accuracy, with a career completion percentage of 65.5%, an NFL record. Warner is also ranked third all-time in career passing rating (93.8), trailing only Steve Young and Peyton Manning. Kurt Warner fans are hoping his left elbow injury heals quickly, however, as he is still wearing a bulky brace on the left arm and is handing off with his right. Warner will continue wearing the brace this Sunday when the Cardinals play at Tampa Bay.

As compelling as Kurt Warner’s NFL history is, his personal life is even more captivating. His charitable foundation, First Things First, sums it up. As Warner stood on the Super Bowl platform after the winning game, a reporter asked him, “First things first, did you say anything before you guys went out for that play?” referring to his historic touchdown in the last seconds of the game. Kurt Warner’s response:

First things first, I gotta give the praise and glory to my Lord and Savior up above! Thank you Jesus!

His dedication to Jesus was not always his first priority. That came after years of living with his faith somewhere in the background of his life, although he was raised in the church. He finally came to know his Lord and Savior at about 25 years of age, after some questions about his faith were raised, and experiencing life swimming upstream. He realized it was about a relationship with the living God.

We all come to a crossroads in life to find out what matters and what our lives are really all about. Hopefully, we all find out that the starting place of where that journey begins is in Christ, and sometimes this reality comes to us through hardship or sudden dramatic events. Kurt experienced both of those as he struggled financially, in football, in his family and through grief and loss.

Let’s go back to 1992, when Kurt was Northern Iowa’s starting quarterback, and he met his future wife, Brenda. She was a former Marine and single mom with two children, one of whom was disabled, having suffered severe brain damage as an infant after being dropped by his biological father.

Brenda Warner

Warner, however, was not a bit reluctant to pursue a single mother with a special needs child, and ended up marrying Brenda in 1997 and adopting her two children, Zachary and Jesse. The Warners went on to have five beautiful children together.

Many other hardships presented obstacles to Warner as he chased his dream of playing professional football. After being signed as a free agent by the Green Bay Packers in 1994, he was cut before the regular season. To make ends meet, he worked for a time as a stock boy at the Hy-Vee grocery store in Cedar Falls. He spent the next several years playing Arena football and with NFL Europe. It wasn’t until 1997 that he was taken on as the St. Louis Rams third string quarterback. The rest is history.

A family tragedy may be most responsible for Kurt’s faith today. In 1996, Brenda’s parents were both killed in a tornado in Arkansas, where they had just retired. In the aftermath of this ultimate blow, Kurt and Brenda both struggled with those questions of why God didn’t intervene. This is one of Kurt’s reflections on that ordeal:

That situation showed me that you don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow. You have to live life for today and for this moment. It was at that point that I realized the Lord needed to be at the center of my life. I couldn’t wait until tomorrow or next year. It needed to be right now.

As Christians we all know that our lives are held up in front of us like a reflection in a mirror, but for Christian celebrities it is a particular challenge living in a glass house. Kurt seems to have turned this to his advantage. In a 2003 interview with Today’s Christian Woman, Kurt had this to say:

I’ve been a Christian in the public eye for so long now, the publicity helps keep me accountable. I know I have a responsibility to live up to Christ’s standards on the field and off.

Perhaps the real test of Warner’s reputation comes from his former team. Last month when the Arizona Cardinals played the St. Louis Rams at St. Louis, the Rams fans gave Kurt Warner a standing ovation. Not many visiting team players receive that kind of reception from the home team, especially when they get beat. This man is simply a class act, and through his First Things First Foundation, has accomplished enormous amounts of charitable work in the St. Louis area, as well as in Iowa and Arizona.

Last year, Warner was replaced at quarterback by rookie Matt Leinart, and there was much speculation over whether Warner would retire and if he would ever be a starting quarterback again. However, a combination of ineffective starts and injuries on the part of Leinart have led to Warner starting many games since, and he currently is named starter for the remainder of the 2007 season, with Leinart on injured reserve due to a broken collarbone.

These ups and downs seem to be a part of Kurt Warner’s destiny. Even at Northern Iowa, he waited four years before starting at quarterback, finally getting his break as a fifth year senior. The New York Giants sidelined him for a rookie as well – then-rookie Eli Manning. Warner’s current injury of torn ligaments in his left elbow certainly casts doubt on his continued ability to start for the Cardinals. The one thing that doesn’t shift up and down, though, is Kurt Warner’s unwavering faith and commitment to God and his family – first things first.

Right now his First Things First Foundation is part of the America’s Team Ball Drive, an outreach to provide our soldiers overseas with new or gently used sports equipment. The foundation’s arms are wide reaching as Kurt and Brenda work to support single parents, personally host week-long Disney World vacations for children with life threatening illnesses, make frequent visits to children’s hospitals, host Special Olympics clinics, host Thanksgiving dinners for the homeless…the list of projects goes on and on. The most remarkable thing about Kurt Warner’s foundation is his and Brenda’s very personal involvement. They are right there in the middle of it all, touching lives in the name of Jesus with their own hands.

You can also find Kurt on the “Good Sports Gang” videos for children as Coach Warner, where he acts as advisor to a lively gang of cartoon bouncing balls with diverse personalities. These videos are designed to promote faith, self esteem, good sportsmanship and ethical behavior.

photo credits: nfl.com and celebrityphoto.com

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Filed under Arena Football, Arizona Cardinals, Green Bay Packers, National Football League, New York Giants, NFL Europe, Northern Iowa University, St. Louis Rams, Super Bowl