Roger Goodell, Rob Manfred leading their leagues backwards

It’s a weekly tag-team match, with Roger Goodell and Rob Manfred taking turns to force their sports into submission by smashing chairs over our heads. 

How many sexual assault civil suits would have to be filed against a member of Goodell’s NFL office staff before Goodell was moved to, at the very least, indefinitely sideline that employee pending the outcome of one or more of those suits? 

One? Two? 

How many such suits could be filed against you and remain employed? 

Yet the record will now show that on Goodell’s gutless, pandering watch, quarterback Deshaun Watson, with 22 such filings against him, has signed a record guaranteed contract for $230 million. Watson has denied the allegations. 

Cleveland Browns fans, especially the sober ones, are stuck. Can they root for a fellow who couldn’t choose among 22-plus women to be his massage therapists? They surmise there’s too much smoke here to have caused no fire. Wanna buy a Deshaun Watson jersey? 

And how will the NFL Networks’ TV voices handle this one? Just treat it to the quick, dismissive and obligatory “well-documented off-field issues”? Just the usual in and out? Twenty-two individual claims of sexual misconduct? All huddled up to join a gold-digging conspiracy? 

Roger Goodell, Rob Manfred
Roger Goodell, Rob Manfred
Getty, AP

Over at MLB, Manfred and Associates have allowed The Game to fall further into gimmick-driven disrepair by conceding to the players union’s desire to extend the COVID-era artificial additive that extra innings begin with a designated runner on second base. 

The retention of this rule seems a salute to weekend softball leagues that need the field for the next game. 

As MLB pays its players more and more to do less and less, is the strain of extra innings too much? Or is this a concession to a game that MLB has allowed to grow slower and boring? 

We’re in a deepening, darkening hole, with easily suckered gamblers, not football and baseball fans, the sports’ most valued witnesses. Extrication from that hole is never even a commissioner’s consideration. The cure escapes them. Just slap on another Band-Aid, prescribe another placebo. 

As Homer Simpson, trapped with others in a deep well, instructed, “Dig up!” 

Hannibal races to provide opponent helping hand

Trae Hannibal, ladies and gents, Sportsman of the Week. 

There have been a few rare magnanimous, humanitarian moments during this NCAA Tournament. Too bad, but not surprising, CBS and Turner have chosen to ignore them in favor of the usual, played-out garbage. 

Most noteworthy occurred Saturday on CBS, with 7:00 left in Murray State-Saint Peter’s. Off a steal, the Racers’ Hannibal went on a breakaway when, at the basket, he was caught by Saint Pete’s KC Ndefo, who blocked Hannibal’s layup then went flying into the crowd beneath the basket. 

KC Ndefo blocks Trae Hannibal's shot during Saint Peter's second round win over Murray State.
KC Ndefo blocks Trae Hannibal’s shot during Saint Peter’s second round win over Murray State.

Hannibal first pivoted in vain appeal for a foul call, then spotted Ndefo entangled on the floor. Hannibal immediately turned and ran toward Ndefo to see if he was hurt then to offer his hand to lift him. Wow! Is that even allowed, these days? 

For all the slow-motion replays that TV shows of basketball and football players demonstrating their immodest post-play self-regard — as if such is the essence of the sport, why we watch — this replay would’ve held value. It would have been striking, memorable as special. 

Fat chance. We never saw it again. Yet, in the previous game, after a North Carolina player hit a 3, he made an all-about-me gesture toward the crowd. CBS rewarded him twice with slow-motion replays of his self-aggrandizement.

As annually anticipated, Charles Barkley’s inclusion as an NCAA Tournament studio show contributor is based in nothing better than a superfluous and tired novelty act — Bill Murray in the Pebble Beach Pro-Am — bereft of preparation and knowledge of the teams. 

Sunday on CBS before Houston-Illinois, Barkley pretended to be serious: “I like Illinois, even if Houston is the better team.” He added that “the pressure’s off Illinois,” though why the pressure was off made as much sense as picking against “the better team.” 

Free from pressure against the better team, Illinois lost, 68-53. 

Reggie Miller made a lot of noise then some news when he bashed the ref for calling a technical against Illinois’ RJ Melendez for hanging on the rim after a breakaway slam. 

But Williams, a) didn’t grasp the entire play, and b) didn’t know the rule. 

After hanging form the rim, Melendez could’ve simply let go, but he chose to needlessly swing himself around. And as rules correspondent Gene Steratore soon added, there was no one below for Melendez to avoid landing on, thus his flourished delay in letting go made for a by-the-book technical. 

What you won’t hear on TV about University of Houston basketball coach Kelvin Sampson during NCAA Tournament coverage: 

This is his fourth major program head-coaching gig — after Washington State, Oklahoma and Indiana. 

Kelvin Sampson
Kelvin Sampson
Getty Images

At Indiana he committed recruiting violations so egregious that he was hit with a five-year ban from any NCAA program or presence. At that time he was head of the National Association of Basketball Coaches committee on — get this — ethics. 

Still, Houston, for some reason or reasons, was eager to hire him. Must’ve been impressed by his résumé.

Introducing Saint Seton

Jim Spanarkel, a son of Jersey City, home of Saint Peter’s, Saturday during the Peacocks’ game against Murray State said, “Murray State has gone into a 1-3-1 defense, which has Seton Hall confused.” Had Spanarkel confused, too. 

Is nothing sacred? Silly question. The Toronto Maple Leafs, an original 1917 NHL team, have unveiled their new “third” uniforms. Surprise! They’re mostly black. 

Follow his money: As seen in those NCAA Tournament AT&T commercials, Mike Krzyzewski doesn’t always represent Duke, but, as per his conspicuous wearing of its logo, he always represents Nike. 

Mike Krzyzewski
Mike Krzyzewski
Getty Images

The NBA now stands for Nightly Bombs Away. Last week’s Bucks-Timberwolves included 189 field-goal attempts, 99 of them — 52 percent — 3-point tries. The NBA has become the Home Run Derby, sans Chris Berman. Another sport left to rot. 

From what I’ve seen from spring training, no one, again, seems the least bit interested in beating the shift. Guess they’re waiting for MLB to treat another diminished skill with a rules change. 

How many NCAA Tournament University of Miami basketball players are from Florida? None. They’re from Greece, New Zealand, Australia, the Netherlands, Detroit, Chicago and Philadelphia, but none from Florida. 

Indiscriminate insanity: At 16-14, Creighton over Kansas with 13:00 left in the first half Saturday, CBS felt it important that we cease watching to read how many lead changes there have been. If the guy seated next to you distracted you to deliver that info, you’d call pest control. 

Mike Francesa, the worst tout since the Chicago Tribune in 1948 declared “Dewey Defeats Truman,” has hooked up with a sports-gambling operation. His best “inside info” touts remain non-sports, including his authoritative declaration that Lenny Dykstra, always conspicuously short on credibility, is an investment genius — right before Dykstra was charged, convicted and imprisoned for fraud. 

Reader Joe Sammartino is hoping new Yankees infielder Isiah Kiner-Falefa is a spray hitter, not a home run swinger, thus relieving John Sterling “of the frantic search” to find words that rhyme with his name. 


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