Athletes today are bigger and stronger - but are they tougher?

April 5, 2013

Tougher and dumber - Athletes and coaches from generations past talk about today’s athletes not being as focused and tough as previous generations, conceding, “But they are bigger and stronger and more explosive.” One of my favorite quotes: “Players in my day would run through a wall for a coach, but today they ask, 'Why should I run through a wall; what’s in it for me?'” It is totally illogical to me that the bigger and stronger modern-day athletic population should be less rough and tough and less committed to excellence unless they did little more to earn their power and grace than eat a bunch of meatloaf from hormone- and steroid-jacked beef while they were growing up and were born to a mother who was a serious consumer of grade A beef burgers. Watch any “Classics” sports competition and you can easily see that as a population, athletes' mean muscle mass is bulging but only gets in the way for a population whose hunting skills are using GPS on the smartphone to find the closest McDonald’s. blames it all on beef-eating pregnant women. Seriously, how crazy is that, know what I’m saying?

Who’s in your pocket? - There is no doubt that ESPN is a corporation inside the pockets of sports franchises; hence the term “broadcast partner” is all so intertwined, which is why all the real top-flight sports journalists have taken flight or been booted off the network. ESPN will televise live for the first time in conjunction with its new broadcast partner, the WNBA. The telecast will also be available at WatchESPN. Or you can get the app and watch it live while driving your new Fiat. The draft is April 15 and normally in Delaware we wouldn’t care, but since homegrown Elena Delle Donne has emerged as the best overall player on the planet we are curious - especially Joe Biden - which is why Elena intends to throw her smartphone in the Brandywine River immediately after the selection. The top five teams picking are Phoenix Mercury, Chicago Sky, Tulsa Shock, Washington Mystics and New York Liberty. If I’m Phoenix, I’m picking Delle Donne, then Chicago has to go Skylar Diggins, then Brittany Griner to Tulsa. It’s about long-term marketability and face of franchise. WNBA doesn’t need to put fans in the stands with a broadcast partner already in the pocket. The team salary cap for a WNBA team is less than the poorest-paid NBA player. If you’re an Atlantic Seaboard fat cat basking on the sun porch and reading this column, would you relocate to Phoenix, Chicago or Tulsa for $100K a year with a chance at major shoe endorsements? Not me; I’m staying in my own playground.

Abusive behavior - "Gone gone like a turkey through the corn."  A coach like recently fired Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice who throws a ball at a player or pushes him or calls him a degrading name should be fired prior to any investigation when presented with video evidence. And before anyone says, “I’d like to see someone throw a ball at me,” he or she should realize that an adult out of control is most times befuddling to an athlete and teammates. We all have stories to tell. I wish I could go back to third grade and slap a penguin or return to ninth grade and floor a friar with a wet plank. I’ve heard some crazy stuff come out of the mouths of coaches, some of it by people I respected, then I immediately repressed the experience. And Rutgers - of all places - after the flap over Don Imus' comments about its women’s team has that guy Rice running around? Makes no sense, but crazy never does.

Snippets - Little League opening day is April 20.  If you like parades and small-town America, this is a great time for families and cellphone cameras. Pets are not allowed at Little League fields; the problem is, most of them don’t know that. See: “Ruby Dog arches her back in center field stopping game until flat head shovel arrives.”

Olde Tymers Softball of Delmarva is a recreational slow pitch league for players 55 years of age and up. You have to love the directions to the Church of God fields at Routes 113 and 26 in Dagsboro: “Enter on Route 26 west of Route 113, turn left at the green mailbox.” Call President Bo Wood at 302-945-1849 or email him at Bo was a 6-foot-3-inch, 245-pound linebacker for the North Carolina Tar Heels - a corn-fed Camden boy before performance-enhanced steer burgers and drafted by the NFL's New Orleans Saints in 1967.

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