Archive for July, 2011

Christmas in July

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

Christmas has indeed arrived early for sports fans in America. The NFL is finally back in business following a protracted 134 day lockout. This means transactions involving signing free agents and undrafted rookies have to take place in a matter of days as opposed to the normal duration of several months. The timeline of transactions is a follows:

  • Thursday July 28, 2011, 4:01 p.m. ET: Teams can begin to cut players.
  • Friday, 6 p.m. ET: Teams can officially sign free agents. Players who sign must report to new teams but can’t participate in physical activities until start of league year Aug. 4.
  • Aug. 4, 4:01 p.m. ET: Clubs must be within salary cap.

 A shortened pre-season may have a huge impact on some teams particularly those with new head coaches. Eight of them essentially start from Square One in late July rather than mid-March. Leslie Frazier (Vikings), Jason Garrett (Cowboys), Hue Jackson (Raiders) and Mike Munchak (Titans) are at least familiar with their teams after serving on staff before their promotions. John Fox (Broncos), Jim Harbaugh (49ers), Ron Rivera (Panthers) and Pat Shurmur (Browns) will have a lot more ground to cover as they try to restore the luster to some of the prouder franchises in the league.

Continuity could pay off more than ever for stable franchises like the Ravens, Packers, Colts, Patriots, Jets, Eagles and Steelers. Their coaching staffs and systems have been in place for years. And these largely seasoned teams won’t be hurt as much as others who need more hitting, technique work and live repetitions in newly regulated practices.

Undrafted rookies may really pay after failing to land with a team in April’s draft. These players will be scooped up this week, but they could be even more hamstrung than their drafted peers as they battle for playing time and practice reps while trying to absorb sophisticated playbooks that they’re just receiving. And with veterans protected by the labor settlement’s new practice rules limiting contact, “camp bodies” may earn even fewer chances to shine.

Some notable trades and free agent signings of high profile players are already in the pipeline, and several well known quarter backs have jumped on the bandwagon. Donovan McNabb will be traded from the Redskins to the Vikings after agreeing to restructure his contract. Kelvin Kolb has been traded to the Cardinals from the Eagles for Dominique Rodgers-Cromarti who certainly rolls off the tongue.

 Matt Hasselbeck released by the Seahawks following 10 years of sterling service has signed a multi-year deal with the Titans. Movement of prominent quarter backs will continue unabated when the Dolphins and Broncos can broker a deal involving Kyle Orton moving to Miami.

Other big names on the trading radar include Reggie Bush agreeing to move to the Dolphins from the Saints. In a surprise move, malcontent Albert Haynesworth will be playing for the Patriots this coming season following his trade from the Redskins, aided and abetted by the narcissitic Chad Ochocinco who has joined the New England mile high club from the Bengals on a 3-year deal. Sidney Rice, one of the top wide receivers in the league, has jumped the Vikings ship and signed a five-year deal with the Seahawks.

On the local level, the Atlanta Falcons have several free agents who cannot all be re-signed under the constraints of the salary cap. The offensive line was one of the team’s success stories from last season, but three of its players are free agents: Tyson Clabo, Harvey Dahl, and Justin Blaylock. Clabo for example is looking for an improved contract compatible with the highest paid tackles in the league.

This presents a problem because the defensive line needs strengthening, but there maybe insufficient money available to sign a high quality defensive end to complement John Abrahams. Justin Babin would have proved a great fit for the Falcons but he has just signed for the Eagles. Ray Edwards is another highly touted defensive end but his financial demands could not be accommodated by the Falcons.

Fasten your seatbelts; the entertainment is only just beginning on the NFL  carousel. Merry Christmas.

Postscript: Friday afternoon, 29th July. Following a slow start the Falcons suddenly were buzzing. Free Agent Tyson Clabo was signed to a five year deal. Meanwhile former first round draft picks Jamaal Anderson and surprisingly Michael Jenkins were released this morning freeing $8 million under the salary cap. This was obviously part of a bigger plan since they later  signed defensive end Ray Edwards. As mentioned earlier in my post I wasn’t sure we could afford Edwards but then I do not have access to the  psyche of  general manager Thomas Dimitroff.

On the downside, offensive guard Harvey Dahl has signed for the Rams thus breaking up the effective tandem with Tyson Clabo. This was almost inevitable in view of the salary cap constaints and free agents looking for the big pay day. Another notable move involved punter Michael Koenen signing for division rivals Tampa Bay Bucs for exorbitant money; $19 million over 6 years with $6 million guaranteed.

I hope my son is reading this. To be continued………..

Back to my Roots

Sunday, July 17th, 2011

The last few posts have been a little off my radar if I’m being honest. I’ve lurched from weiners to a criminal trial via foreign accent syndrome which is quite bizarre really. Consequently (a word I used regularly in my town planning career) I want to catch up with some sports issues which naturally are my favorite subject to write about.

I’m not a great fan of women’s soccer. Most of the women’s matches I’ve witnessed, and admittedly there were not many, remind me of non league soccer, so why settle for lava bread when you can have caviar? I happen to love lava bread but the analogy is appropriate so grant me a little poetic license here folks.

The USA women’s soccer team has reached the World Cup Final to be played on Sunday against “land of the rising sun,” Japan. Remember Pearl Harbor girls. I’m just kidding. Anyway USA defeated an arrogant Brazil in the quarter finals by overcoming them in a penalty shoot out.

What impressed me was the equalizer by Abby Wambach two minutes from the end of extra time. It came from an old fashioned cross from a winger and finished off with a classical header at the far post. It’s not often you see women heading a football and I take my hat off to the goal scorer. She looks and plays like she has more male testosterone flowing through her veins than I do right now, but then again she’s not competing in a beauty pageant.

Three days later the USA were pitting their wits against a very skilful French team who were technically far superior to the Americans. Technical ability is a great attribute but what matters at the end of the game is the scoreboard. USA scored early in the 9th minute and didn’t have another shot on target for 60 minutes. France equalized early into the second half and were so dominant for twenty minutes that they should have scored a hatful.

The USA’s coach made a couple of substitutions and a tactical change to the team’s formation which proved to be pivotal. From one of their rare forages up the field in the second half my new pal Ms.Wambach scored with yet another header from a corner kick, and it was good night Irene. The French resembled an over inflated balloon which was suddenly pricked, and they could not respond.

The Americans scored a well deserved third goal which was well taken by their young striker, Alex Morgan. She fastened onto a great through ball from midfield, and faced by a quickly advancing goalkeeper, coolly and skillfully chipped the ball over her opponent into the empty net. Basically USA defended better than their French opponents.

Later, it was reported that Harry Redknapp had sent representatives to Germany to sign Alex Morgan until they discovered she was a woman. Typically, Harry was not lost for words, and determined she would probably do a better job than the jokers he currently has in the squad.

Staying with association football, my home team, Swansea City, will be making their debut in the English Premiership in just little over a month’s time. I was a little concerned that they hadn’t signed a quality goalkeeper for the challenge ahead, but my fears were allayed (sort of) over the weekend when they announced the signing of 29 year old Jose Moreira from Benfica.

 During his career at the famous club, he played 148 times over an 11 year period with them but was relegated to 3rd choice last season. Yes, he has big game experience but the Premiership is a seething cauldron of intensity and drama played at a break neck pace which no other league in the world can match. Therefore I am reserving judgment until a few games into the season.

On the domestic front, we have arrived at the halfway point of the baseball season and the Atlanta Braves are lying second to the Phillies in the Eastern Division of the National League. If the season finished today, they were would qualify for the post season on the basis of winning the wild card. They remain 31/2 games back of the Phillies and one wonders if they have the tools to catch them in the second half the season rather than rely on the wild card. They have the 3rd best record in major league baseball thanks primarily to their pitching. Just look at their starting rotation stats:

  • Jurrjens 12-3 with and ERA 1.87
  • Hanson 10-5 with an ERA 2.44
  • Hudson 9-6 with an ERA 3.57
  • Beachy 3-1 with an ERA 3.21

Then there is Derek Lowe, the highest paid pitcher on the staff with a 5-7 record and a worrying 4.30 ERA. The bullpen has proved to be stellar in game winning situations providing O’Flaherty, Venters and Kimbrel   pitch in the 7th, 8th and 9th innings. The 14-1 loss to the Phillies before the All Star break was a not so gentle reminder that the bullpen is far from strength in depth, and there is the risk that the aforementioned three guys could be over pitched before 162 regular games are completed.

The Braves’ offense is a work in progress. They are 18th in runs scored, 26th in batting average, 27th in on base percentage and 19th slugging percentage. Run production is coming from the infield in the shape of McCann, Freeman, Chipper, and Prado and surreptitiously from Dan Uggla. At the break Uggla, recently signed to a big contract had recorded 15 home runs but was hitting for a .183 average.

Traditionally teams can usually rely on run production from one of their outfielders whether it is from right or left field but neither McLouth nor Heyward is cutting for me. McLouth has a batting average .229 with 3 home runs, and Heyward has a batting average .224 with 9 home runs. When the Braves won the World Series in 1995, right fielder David Justice had a .253 season batting average with 24 home runs and Ryan Klesko playing in left field had 23 home runs with a batting average .310.

There is an old adage in baseball that claims good pitching beats good hitting. The Braves pitching is very good but the Phillies rotation is better. The Braves offense is mediocre while the Phillies batting lineup has improved with the return of Chase Uttley from injury. Trading for a seasoned hitter with good run production could help the Braves down the stretch, but not at the expense of selling the farm.

Postscript: Japan defeated USA in a penalty shoot-out and the Americans have only themselves to blame. They were the dominant team, took the lead twice, but opted to protect their lead rather than go for the jugular.

Darren Clarke won the 140th The Open at his twentieth attempt proving there’s life in the old dog, and good guys sometimes win.

American Justice (Part 2)

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

The burden was on prosecutors to prove their theory: that Anthony suffocated her daughter by placing duct tape on her mouth and nose, wrapped her in a Winnie the Pooh blanket and black trash bags, kept the body in the car’s trunk until the odor was too strong, and then dumped it in the woods near her house.

Legal analysts agreed that prosecutors could not tie Anthony definitively to Caylee’s death. Prosecutors had no DNA, hair samples or other physical evidence that would do so. They introduced controversial forensic techniques, such as an air-sampling method never before used in a criminal court case. The researcher who pioneered the technique said the smell of decomposition filled the trunk of Anthony’s car. A defense witness countered that the smell could have come from food that had been found rotting in the trunk.

Anthony’s attorney, Jose Baez, created reasonable doubt when he said Caylee drowned accidentally and that her grandfather, Casey’s father, helped cover it up and dispose of the body. He also claimed that George Anthony had sexually abused Casey when she was a child. George Anthony denied both accusations. The fact that Casey Anthony was told about the drowning theory in jail by her own mother and that this is where she got the idea for such a defense was also brought up by the prosecution.

Prosecutors spent half of their case depicting Anthony as a liar and a bad mother, but that didn’t prove she killed her daughter, said Donald Jones, a professor at the Miami School of Law. “The jurors can’t look at this case as a soap opera or a reality show,” Jones said. “They had to put their emotions aside and look at the evidence. And they saw there wasn’t any.”

Here’s my theory for what its worth. I believe that Casey Anthony used the chloroform to knock her daughter out for a few hours so she could party the night away. Unfortunately the little girl could have suffered a chemical reaction and tragically died. Ms. Anthony panicked and with or without the assistance of her father placed duct tape over the little girl’s mouth and buried her in the woods at the rear of her parents’ house to make it look like murder.

 The defense attorney claimed the little girl drowned in the family swimming pool and Ms. Anthony’s dad helped her dispose of the body. If that was the case, wouldn’t it have been simpler to admit to the authorities that the little girl accidentally drowned as a result of careless neglect?

 The defense team trotted out several witnesses who claimed that Casey Anthony was a caring and loving mother, but what kind of mother allows 31 days to elapse before she reports her daughter missing? To add insult to injury the taxpayer paid for Ms. Anthony’s defense.

 I am convinced that America should introduce a law preventing the televising of criminal trials. In recent times there have been four highly publicized trials placed on television for the world to see: O. J. Simpson, William Kennedy Smith, Michael Jackson and now Casey Anthony. All four defendants were acquitted which begs the question of whether defense attorneys are better lawyers than their prosecuting counterparts because they are invariably better paid, or is it because the burden of proof lays firmly on the shoulders of the prosecution?

 I was emotionally involved in the conclusion of this case because I have two young granddaughters each of whom is less than two years old, and equally as cute looking as little Caylee Anthony. I cannot help feeling that Ms. Anthony’s parents are complicit in the death of this poor child, and I cannot comprehend how they or their daughter can live with themselves.

I knew it wouldn’t take long before someone introduced a civil case on the back of this trial, and lo behold a civil trial has been set for August 29, 2011. Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez, “Zanny the nanny” who wasn’t, filed a defamation suit seeking compensatory and punitive damages. She is alleging that Ms. Anthony willfully damaged her reputation, and it was reported that Anthony would exercise her rights under the Fifth Amendment in response to written questions in the civil case.

One crumb of comfort may emerge as a result of this trial. Various movements have arisen for the creation of a new law, “Caylee’s Law” that would impose stricter requirements on parents to notify law enforcement of the death or disappearance of a child. Lawmakers in four states (Florida, Oklahoma, New York and West Virginia) have begun drafting versions of “Caylee’s Law.”

Let’s reflect a few moments before closing. The Cable TV networks were ecstatic with the ratings achieved by televising the trial; shame on them! Late night talk show hosts, like Jay Leno and Bill Maher, were making jokes about the verdict only a matter of hours after it was announced; shame on them too!

 Following the verdict, the State Attorney and County Sheriff made statements praising their staffs for their work in this case. Are you kidding me? A little girl died violently and according to the verdict we are none the wiser who was responsible. The evidence and case produced by the authorities was at best circumstantial and naïve. At worst it was unprofessional, melodramatic and woeful; shame on them also.

Acknowledging the defense lawyer was successful in convincing the jury that the grandfather was implicated in the death of Caylee Anthony, the State Attorney should follow his lead and arrest the grandfather and put him on trial. Having avoided taking the stand at her own trial they could then subpoena Casey Anthony to give evidence against her father. Regrettably we will probably never know for sure, but its even money that Casey, Cindy and George are the three people who could tell us how Caylee Anthony really died.

American Justice (Part 1)

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

 Unless you were away visiting another planet these past couple of months or you are totally oblivious to current affairs, the TV networks had been giving extensive live coverage to the criminal trial of Casey Anthony accused of killing her two year old daughter Caylee. On July 5, 2011 she was found not guilty of first degree murder, aggravated manslaughter of a child, and aggravated child abuse.

 She was found guilty of four misdemeanor counts of providing false information to a law enforcement officer. On July 7, 2011 she was sentenced to one year in jail and $1,000 in fines for each count. With credit for time served and good behavior her release date was set for July 17, 2011. So a jury of her peers found her not guilty of murder, but guilty of being a pathological liar. For my benefit I’m recalling the facts that led up to the trial, so if you like you may skip Part 1 and leap to Part 2.

The trial became a media circus created primarily by Nancy Grace, a TV Cable legal analyst who pursued Casey Anthony for three years. Throughout the six week trial, she derisorily called the defendant a “tot mom.” I’m not quite sure what that means but it’s not intended to be complimentary. But why did this case attract so much attention, when countless other children disappear or die under mysterious circumstances without becoming widely known?

The decision by cable outlets to focus on the trial is one part of the answer. The case also had elements of a soap opera: a young woman whose daughter is dead, photos of her partying lifestyle, suggestions that Casey Anthony was sexually abused by her father and the emotions of Caylee’s grandparents, who lost a grandchild and were openly critical of their daughter as she faced charges that could have led to her execution.

According to Casey Anthony’s father, George Anthony, Casey left the family’s home on June 16, 2008, taking Caylee (who was almost 3) with her and did not return for 31 days. Casey’s mother Cindy asked repeatedly during the month to see Caylee, but Casey claimed that she was too busy with a work assignment in Tampa, Florida.

 At other times, she said Caylee was with a nanny, later identified by Casey as Zenaida “Zanny” Fernandez-Gonzalez, or at theme parks or the beach. It was eventually determined that although Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez did in fact exist, she had never met Casey nor Caylee Anthony, any member of the Anthony family, or any of Casey’s friends.

Caylee Anthony was reported missing to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office on July 15, 2008 by her grandmother, Cindy. During the same call, Casey Anthony acknowledged to the 911 operator that Caylee had been missing “for 31 days”. A distraught Cindy also told the 911 operator “There is something wrong. I found my daughter’s car today and it smells like there’s been a dead body in the damn car.”

On October 14, 2008, Casey Anthony was indicted by a grand jury on charges of first degree murder, aggravated child abuse, aggravated manslaughter of a child, and four counts of providing false information to police. She entered a plea of not-guilty to all charges, and Judge John Jordan ordered that she be held without bond. On October 21, 2008, an original charge of child neglect was dropped against Casey.

 In a statement that morning, the State Attorney’s Office explained: “The neglect charges were premised on the theory that Caylee was still alive. As the investigation progressed and it became clear that the evidence proved that the child was deceased, the State sought an indictment on the legally appropriate charges.”

Evidence was found that someone had searched the Internet on Casey Anthony’s computer for the use of the chloroform and how to make it. On November 26, 2008, officials released 700 pages of documents related to the Anthony investigation, which included evidence of Google searches of the terms “neck breaking”, “how to make chloroform”, and “death” on Casey Anthony’s home computer. The documents also indicated that Cindy Anthony stated to the State Attorney’s office that a Winnie the Pooh blanket was missing from Caylee’s bed. This type of blanket was found at the crime scene.

There was outrage from all quarters when the verdicts were announced not least from the media who effectively had assumed the role of 13th juror. During the six week trial of Casey Anthony, various TV Channels were awarding points to the Prosecution and Defense teams depending on their performance on a daily basis. Questions were raised about the validity of the jurors, but also ignoring the fact that the prosecution and defense teams had agreed on Casey Anthony’s jury of peers. Selecting members of the jury is a skill in itself and apparently the defense performed a better job than the prosecution.

The key arguments of the case were as follows:

Prosecutors said: Anthony suffocated Caylee with duct tape on her mouth and nose.

But: There was no DNA from Anthony on the tape found on Caylee’s remains.

Prosecutors said: Anthony wrapped the child’s body in a blanket.

But: No fluid from decomposition was found on the blanket, which was with the child’s remains.

Prosecutors said: Anthony kept the girl’s body in the trunk until it smelled.

But: The defense said the smell came from rotten food in the trunk.

 Legal analysts and court watchers said that despite the seemingly endless hype surrounding the investigation and trial, the prosecution’s case simply didn’t hold up. There was no forensic evidence — such as DNA or fingerprints — directly linking Anthony to her daughter’s death. In fact, the precise cause of the girl’s death was unclear.

The prosecution put out a lot of dots, but they couldn’t connect them,” commented Lawrence Kobilinsky, chairman of the Department of Sciences at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. Kobilinsky had advised Anthony’s attorneys on the forensic case against her but was not involved in the trial.

After a trial of a month and a half, jurors took less than 11 hours to find Anthony not guilty of first-degree murder, aggravated manslaughter and aggravated child abuse. Surprisingly, the jurors did not ask the judge any questions during their deliberations; neither did they request to review any of the exhibits submitted as evidence during the trial. To be continued:

I get irritated when……

Saturday, July 2nd, 2011

I am forced to pay the full price for a haircut when I’m follically challenged. To add insult to injury most of the hairdressers I have used make a dog’s dinner over cutting my short back and sides.

The ungracious Williams sisters don’t understand why they are unloved at Wimbledon. This will be the first Wimbledon ladies’ final this century not to include Serena or Vanessa. Good riddance!

My doctor  never addresses me by my name (neither first or last,) and has no idea what I am doing in his consulting room until he cranks up his lap top to spew out my medical history.

Fading champions like Roger Federer fail to admit their era of dominance is all but over. Federer lost in five sets at the quarter final stage to an opponent he would have swatted away like a tiresome fly a couple of years ago. It’s also the first time Federer has lost a match in a grand slam tournament when leading by two sets. 

The Georgia DOT converts 15 miles of existing High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes to High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes on Interstate 85 in Atlanta for the princely sum of $11.7 million. Most of the money has been spent on the installation of sign structures designed to confuse the hapless motorist.

The Atlanta Braves offense is one of the worst in the League but nobody appears to question the ability of the new hitting coach Larry Parrish. Brian McCann is the hottest hitter in the major leagues right now, but earlier in the season when he was in a slump, who did he turn to for advice? His brother!  Chipper Jones was struggling for a while until receiving advice from his dad.

The Republican Party does not have a viable candidate to defeat Obama at the next election. Romney finished third for the GOP nomination four years ago and nothing has changed to make him electable. Michelle Bachman is a Zionist, Huntsman and Pawlenty are wimps and Gingrich has his foot in his mouth. Rick Perry is a possible option, but he is from Texas and will follow an agenda from oil men.

The Swans do not have a first team goalkeeper with the Premiership season about to begin in a little over six weeks. Their Dutch stopper, DeVries, who was a key figure in their success during the past four seasons became a free agent and signed for Wolves as their No.2. The management must surely have had an idea that DeVries would not sign a new contract. Having an experienced and reliable goalkeeper for your first season in the Premiership is an essential element for survival, and they don’t grow on trees.

A Nigerian of dubious character is permitted to board an aircraft using an  expired boarding pass belonging to someone else, and produces an invalid ID. In contrast law abiding citizens are groped, patted down, forced to remove belts, shoes and metal objects in the interests of airline security

The media believed that Andy Murray could beat a healthy Nadal  at Wimbledon providing he played aggressively. Are they delusional?  I am afraid Murray will mirror his fellow Scotsman, Colin Montgomerie, and fail to win a major/slam. They are good at their respective sports but lack the special ingredient of a true champion.

I first open my eyes in the morning, but as you may agree, with good reason. I do believe I’m turning into a curmudgeon. Does that mean I could change color? Silly me, that would be a chameleon wouldn’t it?