Sunday, March 12, 2006

Wood On Sports Special: The Missing Barry Bonds Grand Jury Testimony

= Who knew flax seed oil shrunk your testes?

The San Francisco Chronicle this morning printed excerpts from the forthcoming book, Game of Shadows, including direct testimony from Barry Bonds during the grand jury trial of the founders of BALCO. Since Bonds was subpoenaed to testify and his agreement with officials precluded him from utilizing the fifth amendment, he created an elaborate explanation for how illicit drugs entered his system without his knowledge.
Below is some actual testimony from Bonds found in Game of Shadows. After each quotation from Barry is lost transcript items that were not included in the documents revealed to the SF Chronicle reporters. To protect my source of these "lost quotes", I will refer to him only as "Deep Throw".

Barry: I was fatigued, just needed recovery you know, and this guy says, 'Try this cream, try this cream.'

Barry's Follow Up: When Greg first approached me about the cream, I said, "What you talking about? I've got perfect skin." And then he explained it would be indetectable and help me to hit home runs. I ordered two cases on the spot.

Barry: And he rubbed some cream on my arm ... gave me some flax seed oil, man. It's like, 'Whatever, dude.'

Barry's Follow Up: And then I was like "Greg, stop giving me this flax seed oil. It isn't doing anything. Give me more of the damn cream though."

Barry: You know me, I'm 39 years old. I'm dealing with pain. All I want is the pain relief, you know? And you know, to recover, you know, night games to day games. That's it. And I didn't think the stuff worked.

Barry's Follow Up: I didn't think the stuff worked, because I knew the stuff worked. You think a 39 year old can go nine innings, head back to a hotel room for a tryst with my away-game mistress, sign some more memorabilia to pay off said mistress' house, and then wake up the next morning and bang two home runs? Helll no. That's why I was rubbing in the cream...I mean, arthritis cream.

Barry: I never asked Greg. When he said it was flax seed oil, I just said, 'Whatever.' It was in the ballpark ... in front of everybody. I mean, all the reporters, my teammates. I mean, they all saw it. I didn't hide it. I didn't hide it ...

Barry's Follow Up: I definitely didn't hide it. In fact, I shared it with Benito Santiago. As long as I was pretending it was flax seed oil, what was there to hide? Plus, my lawyers told me to do it in front of everyone. I was always shocked Mark McGwire wasn't shooting up over at first base, because that's the least likely place someone would suspect him to do it. No one would be like, "Hey, why does Mark have a syringe out at first base and why is he pinching his own ass?"

Barry: You know, trainers come up to me and say, 'Hey Barry, try this.'

Barry's Follow Up: And I always say "No way!" Unless it's steroids, then I say, "Yes, please" and "Can I have some more?"

Barry: I don't know what G is

Barry's Follow Up: And if it was "Growth", wouldn't that "G" on the calendar be followed by "rowth"? (raises eyebrow to Grand Jury)

Barry: I never paid Greg for anything. I gave Greg money for his training me

Barry's Follow Up: And I've never contradicted myself. OK, once I did, but that was a long time ago.

Barry: Greg is a good guy, you know this kid is a great kid. He has a child.

Barry's Follow Up: And everyone knows that if you have a child, you can't be guilty. (looks over at lawyers sheepishly) And I have children too (raised eyebrows to the Grand Jury again)

Barry: If it's a steroid, it's not working.

Barry's Follow Up: So if you guys would like to suggest some possible steroids that might work, please be my guest (takes out pencil and paper)

Barry: T could mean anything. G could mean anything. And pee could probably mean anything

Barry's Follow Up: I mean, he could have written "pee", but actually meant the letter "p". Maybe he was teaching his kid the alphabet on my flax seed oil intake calendar? Kids are in such a hurry these days, no need to learn the rest of the alphabet (crickets chirping)

Barry: One, I'm black. And I'm keeping my money. And there's not too many rich black people in this world. There's more wealthy Asian people and Caucasian and white. And I ain't giving my money up

Barry's Follow Up: And yes, I don't know that Causasian and white is the same thing. But back to my point...I'm not buying Greg Anderson a mansion...but if you vote not guilty, I'm not saying that you white and Asian jurors won't find a very nice check in your mailbox. And you black jurors will become instantly rich, and remember there aren't too many rich black people in this world.

Barry: I don't really believe half the s -- I'm saying, anyway.

Barry's Follow Up: But you fine jurors should believe 100% of the s-- I'm saying. I want to thank you all for your time, and let you know that your autographed BALCO t-shirts are in the mail. And don't forget, you too can look this ripped at 39 years of age solely by using flax seed oil and the occassional arthritis cream.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

This Week In Sports---Barry, Daunte and the Little Cheerleader That Could

= Mini-Barry...with hair, testicles and fairly little back acne

Barry Creams the Ball: It feels like my birthday is coming up in only 12 days. Small-time publisher Gotham Books has moved up the release of the the Barry Bonds tell all, Game of Shadows, from March 27th to March 23rd. SI has an excerpt of the book, and it is fan-tastic. The two SF Chronicle writers who covered the Balco scandal have written a compelling look at the life and lies of one Barry Lamar Bonds. Though I'm loathe to necessarily trust a book whose leading source is an ex-mistress, count me on the list of people that are pre-registering with Amazon to get this book when it hits the shelves. Here are my thoughts on the book:

1. Could someone please get me Greg Anderson's home phone number? Barry put on 15 pounds of solid muscle during one off-season, going from a svelte 210 to a solid 225. I've tried protein shakes before and all I've gotten is a bad chalky aftertaste. I think I'm ready for the cream and the clear, especially since Anderson reportedly supplies these at cost.

2. Note to celebrities: Don't leave voicemail messages. It brought down Pat O'Brien. It's helping bring down Barry. Ex-mistress Kimberly Bell apparently has tape upon tape of Barry threatening to kill her.

3. Second note to celebrities: Don't have a mistress. And if you must have a mistress, don't buy the mistress a house. Even if your agents in LA pay for the mistress' house, there is in fact a paper trail. And when you tire of her and find a new mistress to take on road trips, you still have to make payments on mistress #1's house in Scottsdale.

Daunte's Invierno: Now that Spring has sprung, and NFL's free agency has finally started, the question arises: Who wants to trade for Daunte Culpepper? The answer: seemingly no one. The guy's got shoddy knees that make him a liability. But the most likely scenario has him going to the Oakland Raiders, relieving the recently cut Kerry Collins. But isn't this a case of jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire? You're going from the Vikings sex cruise to the Oakland boos cruise? And do you really want a reunion with Randy Moss? Even Romy and Michelle would skip that one.

NFLers Go Back To School: Several NFLers went back to school recently, at least for a few days, to the executive MBA program at Stanford University. The problem is that the guys who go to these programs are similar to Donnie Edwards (UCLA) and Coy Wire (Stanford): educated and ambitious. They had a similar program at Harvard Business School a while back, and the attendees included ex-Stanford Cardinal Tank Williams. They need this program for the 78% of players who end up divorced, bankrupt or unemployed less than two years after football. Perhaps someone should tell the Ravens' Chris McAlister about this course.

Cheerleader Suffers (But Still Can't Spell) Concussion: 18 year old Kristi Yamaoka has stirred national debate recently by embarrassingly falling during one of Southern Illinois University's cheer routines, then managing to do some sort of spirit-like arm motions as the medics wheeled her off on a stretcher. Now there's debate as to whether cheerleaders should be thrown into the air at all during basketball games. Here's my take: throw out a few more free t-shirts, give out a free pizza or two, and skip the aerials. We come for the brawls and for the your aerials for late night ESPN2 competitions.

Stay tuned tomorrow for a very special second weekend edition of Wood On Sports...

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

A Look Back---Tamir Goodman, "Jewish Jordan"

= Like Mike, Only Jewish

If you have a radio in your car, and anything resembling a commute, chances are you have heard the Hasidic stylings of Matisyahu, the Jewish rapper/reggae star. Born Matthew Paul Miller (perhaps his parents intended for him to be a serial killer), Matisyahu is a bit of a contradiction. In an industry that now celebrates "crunk" and the street life, Matisyahu tends to glorify things like Joseph's saving of the people of Egypt. He's a latter day Jewish Bob Marley, if you will.

Matisyahu's recent success reminds us of another famous member of the chosen people, Tamir Goodman. Dubbed "The Jewish Jordan" by Sports Illustrated for his skills on the basketball court, Goodman was a media darling in the late 1990s for his jumpshot and his uncompromising devotion to his chosen faith. He took up the game at six years old, by his sophomore year at Talmudical Academy was already averaging 27 ppg and impressed many of the scouts who came out to see him play. There was only one caveat: he refused to play games on Saturday during the Jewish sabbath.

Nevertheless, the University of Maryland offered him a scholarship, vowing to schedule as few games as possible on Saturday afternoons. But I guess the Terrapins didn't think Goodman was as important as Steve Blake or Steve Francis (perhaps if his name were Steve Goodman?). They failed to accomodate his schedule, and he handed back a scholarship that would have allowed him to play on an ACC basketball powerhouse team.

He ended up playing at a school close to his hometown outside of Baltimore, Towson University. Towson is certainly not a household name, though it can boast of famous alumni such as NFL kick-returner Dave Meggett and actor John Glover (the father of Lex Luthor on Smallville). But Goodman thrived under coach Mike Jaskulski, and averaged close to 6 points per game his freshman season. Jaskulski was ultimately fired for his team's poor performance, and the school ironically brought in a coach that Goodman claimed was anti-semitic. The new coach Michael Hunt (who I doubt ever went by a shortened first name) allegedly kicked a stool into Goodman in 2001, and the boy once dubbed the Jewish Jordan walked away from college basketball forever.

So where is our favorite yarmulke-wearing baller now? He dropped out of Towson completely, taking up an offer to play with Maccabi Tel Aviv, a powerhouse in the European league. He has since played on a number of other Israeli professional teams, gotten married, had a child and served his time in the Israeli army (see above picture). He has since returned to the United States (not 100% sure if that is a permanent move), and hit the speaker circuit with other famous Jewish celebrities such as rapper Etan G and mentalist Marc Salem.

Goodman once said: "I remember when I was a kid how many times people told me that because I was religious I could not play sports. I want to show kids that if you try to use (your talent) in the right way, Hashem is going to be there to knock down all the doors so you can be successful." (source) And so it was that Tamir Goodman, aka Jewish Jordan, knocked down not only doors, but jumpshots to enter our collective conscious. So while Steve Francis and Steve Blake make the big bucks in the NBA, Goodman is scoring points with Hashem, the ultimate commissioner of basketball (sorry David Stern).

Monday, March 06, 2006

Editor's Note

To encourage readers to come back on a more regular basis, I'm going to start posting on the below schedule:

Monday: The Top 4 List-A list of four things...Kinda like The Sports List, minus Summer Sanders (Interesting note from the SJ Mercury News: Summer Sanders' family likes the Olympics).

Wednesday: A Look Back-A look back at a player, coach or event that you probably had forgotten about.

Saturday-Sunday: This Week in Sports-Pretty self-explanatory...commentary from the previous week in sports.

Let me know what you think. Changes take effect on Wednesday. Suggestions on topics always welcome. Check out this update on where Freddie Mitchell isn't partying.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

5 Things that Would Be Different in the Sports World if the South Had Won the Civil War

= President Gordon Throwing Out the First Pitch?

What if Bill Buckner wouldn't have let the ball trickle between his legs in 1986? Would the Red Sox have gone on to score in the top of the 11th, ultimately breaking the Curse of the Bambino? Would Buckner have been celebrated instead of villified, earning more than 2% of the vote in his first time on the Hall of Fame ballot? Or would Keith Hernandez have hit a game winning home run in the 11th, thus vaulting him in many people's minds above Tom Selleck on the "Best Mustache of the 1980s" list?

CSA: The Confederate States of America, Kevin Willmott's new thought-provoking mockumentary, asks a similar what-if question: What if the South had won the Civil War? Scenes of Abraham Lincoln escaping via the Underground Railroad and the CSA clashing with "Red Canada" are inspired, to say the least. But Willmott's adventure in conjecture makes me wonder: How would the sports world be different if the South had won the Civil War?

Ostensibly, there wouldn't be too much change. Texas would have still won the BCS Football Championship and College World Series last year, University of North Carolina would still have won the NCAA basketball championship in 2005 and Baylor would have won the women's tourney. But dig deeper, and you will find that the American sports landscape as we know it would be turned on its head. Below I venture to examine 5 Things that Would Be Different in the Sports World if the South Had Won the Civil War:

1. NASCAR Would Be America's Pastime:

If there's one thing Southerners like as much as a lynching (<-obvious satire), it's NASCAR. There's nothing they like more than watching a bunch of grown men in jumpsuits making five hundred left turns on a Sunday. Monday Night Football would effectively be replaced by Monday Night Racing. Cooperstown would be replaced by Daytona. Darrell Waltrip would be bigger (figuratively) than John Madden. And Jefferson Gordon would be President of the Confederate States of America...and shooting your hunting partner with birdshot would be legalized.

2. Denny's Wouldn't Just Sponsor the Pro Bowler's Association...They'd Sponsor Every Sport!

Athletic companies are inherently Northern...Nike=Oregon, Reebok=Massachusetts, adidas=Germany. Restaurant chains that lead to obesity are inherently Southern...Denny's=South Carolina, Hooters=Georgia, Popeye's Chicken=Georgia. It's safe to say sponsorship as we know it would be turned upside down if the South had won the great war. "Welcome to the US Track & Field Championships, presented by White Castle."

3. Tiger Woods Would Be Known as the Greatest Golfer Never to Play in a PGA Event.

I think it's safe to say that if the South won the Civil War, African-Americans would still be banned from the golf links to this day. Hootie Johnson would be OK with having an African-American as his caddie, but if someone without lilly white skin were to pick up a club, chaos would ensue. Eldrick Woods (nobody would bother to call him "Tiger") would still bang the ball 300 yards, but not on the PGA Tour. He would probably be relegated to the NPGA tour (you can surmise what the "N" stands for), and be nicknamed "Cool Papa" Woods. Fuzzy Zoeller, of course, would still be just as racist as ever.

4. Nobody Would Watch Ice Hockey

Guess no change there.

5. NBA Would Be a Bunch of 5'9 White Guys

Have you ever wanted to watch a starting lineup consisting of Luke Ridnour, Jason Williams, Troy Murphy, Wally Szczerbiak and Chris Mihm? Neither have I. But if the North had not defeated the South, you can bet there would be no emancipated slaves, and hence just a bunch of chumps tossing the round ball into peach baskets.

All-Star Dunk Contest? Forget about it. Coach Carter? Would be portrayed by Tom Hanks. Short-shorts? All the rage. Air Jordans? More like Ground Murphys. NBA franchises in Canada? Not a chance. Washington Wizards? Try Washington Grand Wizards. Philadelphia 76ers? Philadelphia Antebellums. Golden State Warriors? Golden State Subjugates. And Spike seats closer than fifth row.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Whatever Happened to #1 Draft Pick Brien Taylor?

= Would You Make DJ Jazzy Jeff Your #1 Draft Pick?

Spring is in the air...the birds are chirping, tax filing season is rapidly approaching and Roger Clemens is pretending to still be relevant (note to Roger---please see Chris Chelios re: aging with dignity). Spring is also the time for debutante balls, a period where women make their formal "debut" in front of bourgeois society. Spring Training acts as a pseudo debutante ball for players selected the previous June during the MLB Draft, allowing up-and-coming players the opportunity to justify their ever-increasing signing bonuses.

In 2004, due to some arcane rule, the San Diego Padres selected first over the far inferior Detroit Tigers. Their pick: a local high school product by the name of Matt Bush. Though it's still too early to render a final verdict, Bush has been a complete bust, particularly when compared with Detroit's pick, pitcher Justin Verlander. Besides the obligatory trouble with the law, Bush was also described by in this less-than-flattering manner: "A shortstop who doesn't hit, doesn't walk, is a singles hitter and was terrible in the clutch."

A look back on former #1 overall picks is less than encouraging: some household names (Darryl Strawberry, Harold Baines, Shawon Dunston), but certainly no first-ballot Hall of Famers (A-Rod will change that once he retires). In the last 20 years, on that list of #1 picks, one name stands out above the rest: Brien Taylor. Who? The Yankees' #1 pick in 1991, and my nominee for "Biggest MLB Draft Bust Ever."

The story of Brien Taylor is nothing if not interesting. The son of a mason and a crab processor, hard throwing southpaw Taylor was selected by the Yankees with great expectations. Contract negotiations did not go smoothly though, as uber-agent Scott Boras (acting as an "advisor" because of certain MLB rules) demanded Taylor receive Van Poppel money (a reference to the $1.5 million Todd Van Poppel had received the prior year by the pre-Moneyball A's). Taylor threatened to spend the year at a local Community College, rendering him ineligible for the MLB season, if he didn't receive the money he thought he was owed. George Steinbrenner ultimately opened up his pocketbook to the tune of $1.55 million, and the Yankees had their man.

There's two certainties in baseball: 1. If there is a game, Pete Rose is probably betting on it. 2. Strong armed left-handed hurlers, though a rare commodity, are incredibly unpredictable. Brien did his best Rick Ankiel impersonation during a couple of years bouncing between minor league teams, ultimately rendering any possibility of a major league career void when he tore his labrum in a bar fight. Brien attempted a number of comebacks with other major league teams, ultimately retiring with the same number of major league wins as yours truly. He was only the second #1 draft pick since the inception of the draft not to reach the majors (Steve Chilcott being the other).

So where is the prodigal pick these days? Investing in no-name Summer League teams like Van Poppel? Hitting the speaking circuit with freakish looking mascots, a la fellow #1er Andy Benes? Singing duets on a Bronx street corner with Kevin Maas? Wondering how the heck he got picked ahead of Manny Ramirez, Shawn Green and Cliff Floyd in the `91 draft? Or getting writer's cramp from signing as many autographs as humanly possible? (current value: $4 each)

The answer to that question I do not know. He retired in 2000 after pitching three innings of minor league baseball that season. I suspect he probably returned to his North Carolina roots, where he was a boyhood superhero, putting the town of Beaufort on the map (also the seen of his career ending barfight). If someone is willing to underwrite a journey, I would be interested in trying to track him down and find out how much of that $1.55 million he still has (and how much went towards Scott Boras' mansion).

When originally drafted in '91, Taylor told the media, "In high school nobody ever got on base so I've got some adjusting to do." It's safe to say that adjustment didn't go so smoothly. Taylor is still referred to as a cautionary example of why: 1. You shouldn't negotiate with Scott Boras 2. You shouldn't trust a lefty known for his strong arm and 3. You shouldn't draft players too stupid to qualify for even one college scholarship (Billy Beane wouldn't have touched this guy with a 10 foot pole). The story of Brien Taylor is sad, interesting and all-too-common in baseball. My advice to parents: while all the other little boys are playing baseball, steer your son towards physics.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Top 4 Rivalries at the 2006 Winter Olympics

= World's Largest Banned Substance?

With the Olympics coming to an end this weekend, we look back fondly on the 50+ plus hours we spent with Bob Costas. Heck, most of us spent more time with Bob these last two weeks than with our significant others. But what we reflect on most is not the amazing triumphs or the spirit of athletic endeavor, but rather the wonderful rivalries that developed during two crazy weeks in the Italian Alps. There sadly was no “Dan vs. Dave” (kinda like in the 1992 Olympics) or "Tonya Harding vs. Shoelace” this year, but what we did have was the following “Top 4 Rivalries at the 2006 Winter Olympics”:

Johnny Weir vs. Stereotypes: Weir broke into the national collective conscious by showing that not all male figure skaters are slightly built, effeminate divas. He earned our admiration by going shot-for-shot with Bode Miller in an Olympic village bar, by going out shopping for what can only be considered the most rugged of clothes, and by blaming solely himself for his poor showing at the Olympics. We salute you Johnny Weir…you have surpassed Mike Weir as our favorite 5'9 Weir. To answer the question offered up by South Park’s Kyle, “What would Brian Boitano do?” Probably get his ass kicked by you.

Shani Davis. vs. Melissa Stark: Shani Davis proved this Olympics that while there is no “I” in team, there is somehow an “I” in the name “Shani”. Davis’ reluctance to race in the team speed skating event supposedly cost Chad Hedrick his opportunity to win five gold medals. In reality, Hedrick’s slow skating cost him the opportunity to win five golds. And honestly, isn’t three medals enough? Bruce Jenner only won one gold medal (1976 Decathalon), and he's doing fabulous.

But the Hedrick v Davis feud doesn’t even make this writer’s top 4 list. What does make the list though is Davis' complete stonewalling of NBC's Melissa Stark during their post-race interview. Did she really even have to ask, "Are you angry, Shani?" We know that if Joe Namath would have won the 1,000 meters, things would have been a little different.

Bode Miller vs. Apathy: I love Bode Miller…not in the way Johnny Weir probably does, but in a “I want to hang out with that guy” sort of way. I love that he injured has ankle playing pick up hoops. I love that he refuses to wear a ridiculous looking USA beanie. But I love most that he doesn’t care about winning the gold.

Some people cry when they fail to win a medal. Some blame the bus system (see Johnny Weir). Bode…he just takes another shot of Jager. Whatever. He’s just glad to be there…on Nike’s dime.

NBC vs. Crappy Reality Shows: Did you see the ratings the Olympics pulled down these last two weeks? Probably not, because you were too busy watching American Idol or Dancing With the Stars. We’d apparently prefer Jerry Rice doing his best Huggy Bear impersonation over Sasha Cohen eating ice. NBC counters that more people were following the Olympics via the Web…yeah 8 hours before the events happened on tv, so we wouldn’t have to miss a single minute of some prematurely greying AI contestant fall back to his stock Ray Charles impersonation.

But honestly, the problems with NBC's coverage were threefold: 1. Not enough Dick Button. Can we clone this guy and have him cover every single event? 2. Not enough human interest stories…I care more about the last 3 years and 363 days of training than I do about this one 45 second run down a mountain. 3. Not enough scandal. The banned Austrian coach sneaking back in with the team (a la Bobby Valentine in a 1999 interleague game) was good, but is that the best we could do? And when there is a good potential scandal (ie skeleton's Tim Nardiello), the USOC quashes it. If you want us to turn the dial away from a Mad About You rerun, you gotta give us something good...