Column: Jimmie Johnson The Best Of All TimeDecember 1, 2016

It’ll Never Happen Again, by Tim Hardin Tim Hardin 1, 1966 Move over, Richard Petty. You too, Dale Earnhardt, Sr. Make room for Jimmie Johnson. The Mount Rushmore of NASCAR now includes three names after Johnson won his record-tying seventh Sprint Cup Championship at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. With the win, Johnson joins The King, Petty, and The Intimidator, Earnhardt, Sr. as the only drivers in history to achieve that lofty goal. And Johnson, the youngest of the three to win seven and the only active driver with more than one, may not be done. At 41, Johnson has the time, health, focus and team resources to win more titles.

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Column: New MLB CBA Will Look Like The Last OneNovember 24, 2016

How times have changed in Major League Baseball (MLB). No, we don’t mean the game on the field, although recent rule changes have sparked fan debate and lit up social media. The big change, one that has fattened the bottom line for everyone involved in the game - owners, players, media outlets and everyone else who generates revenue from the sport – is labor peace. Between 1972 – six years after the formation of the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) - and 1994 there were eight work stoppages in the sport, five strikes by the players and three lockouts by the owners. However, since 1995 MLB has had labor peace and not coincidentally, the sport has flourished. In the past 21 years, the parties have successfully negotiated five Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBA) without an interruption in play. During the same period, the other three Major League team sports – the NFL, NBA and NHL – have shut down a total of five times.

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Column: WADA Needs Watchdog of Its OwnNovember 17, 2016

Looks like the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the agency charged with assuring clean competition at the world’s most important sports competitions, could use a watchdog of its own. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) claims that it’s “responsible for delivering an anti-doping program for the Olympic Games that produces accurate and reliable testing outcomes, and that effectively deters cheating or detects any cheating that nevertheless occurs.” To accomplish this end, the IOC contracts with WADA which in turn employs Independent Observers (IO) to chaperone athletes and collect samples during the Games.

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Column: Harvard Punishes Wrong IndividualsNovember 10, 2016

Harvard University recently suspended the men’s soccer team for the remainder of the season after it was revealed that the 2012 men’s soccer team published a “scouting report” on their counterparts on the women’s team. The nine-page report had nothing to do with the women’s soccer ability; it was based on their sexual attractiveness and perceived sexual interests. In an email announcing the suspension to Harvard student-athletes, athletic director Robert L. Scalise said, “We strongly believe that this immediate and significant action is absolutely necessary if we are to create an environment of mutual support, respect, and trust among our students and our teams.” While the goal of his message is certainly important, the action designed to accomplish it - suspending the team - was wrong on a number of levels.

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Column: MLB's Instant Replay Doesn't Please EveryoneNovember 3, 2016

Baseball may be the sport most rooted in its traditions. Therefore, it should surprise no one that MLB was the last major sport to adopt instant replay. And not surprisingly, not everyone believes the current system improves the game. Instant replay was first introduced in Major League Baseball in 2008. Initially, it was limited to reviewing home runs. But since an expanded version of instant replay was adopted in 2014, managers can ask umpires to review plays on the bases, trapped balls and virtually everything else with the exception of balls and strikes. Those who believe that the most important thing is to get every call right are even clamoring for “robot umps” behind the plate.

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Column: Players & Teams Rebel Against NFLOctober 27, 2016

Paradise may not be lost, but clearly all is not well at NFL central command. The league is facing a rebellion from within as both players and teams are pushing back against what they view as unnecessary meddling and interference from administrators drunk with power. Commissioner Roger Goodell and his minions have never been shy about exercising their authority over players, on and off the field. But this year it has instructed referees to go beyond the limits of sensibility to petty and oppressive levels by flagging players for celebratory gestures. According to ESPN, penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct were up by 56 per cent through the first month of the season and much of the increase was due to excessive celebrations.

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Column: Mascots Are Getting a Hall Of FameOctober 20, 2016

For most athletes the defining moment of their career is when they are inducted into their sport’s hall of fame. But until now, “furry” athletes, the mascots who entertain fans at virtually every sporting event, haven’t had that opportunity. That is about to change. On October 21 a groundbreaking ceremony for a Mascot Hall of Fame will be held in Whiting, Indiana, a town of approximately 5,000 located 20 miles from downtown Chicago. The Hall, which will be located on the south shore of Lake Michigan, is expected to open late next year and according to Executive Director Al Spajer is projected to attract at least 100,000 visitors annually. Given the Hall’s location, the kid-friendly interactive design of the building, and the impact mascots have had on the American psyche for the past four decades, that number may be conservative.

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Column: NFL Ratings Decline InconsequentialOctober 13, 2016

The September TV ratings are in and viewership of early season NFL games is down 10% from last year’s numbers. That much is clear. What isn’t as clear is the reason behind the falloff. Speculation abounds on the cause of the lower ratings. Among the alleged culprits are the National Anthem protests by players, overexposure of the product, lousy matchups, the loss of key players such as Peyton Manning (retired) and Tom Brady (serving a four-game suspension for his alleged role in Deflategate), declining interest in a sport that has been vilified for the toll it extracts on its players, the legal attacks on the fantasy sports industry, and alternative methods of consumption, e.g., streaming video.

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Column: Arnold PalmerOctober 6, 2016

When Arnold Palmer passed away last month at the age of 87 the world lost a one-of-a kind legend. In the 1960’s, when televised sports were in their infancy, Palmer single-handedly brought the country club sport of golf to the masses and the masses in turn were drawn to the sport. His charisma, swagger and Hollywood good looks, along with his go-for-broke playing style, made him universally attractive to men and women alike. He internationalized tournament play by annually crossing the pond to play in the British Open, drawing other top players with him. His repeated heroics at the Masters Tournament – which he won four times - put the exclusive Augusta National Golf Club on the map.

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Column: Preller Suspension InadequateSeptember 29, 2016

San Diego Padres general manager A.J. Preller can’t seem to distinguish between ethical and unethical behavior. It recently came to light that Preller instructed his medical staff to maintain two sets of records on Padres players, one that was submitted to Major League Baseball and made available to all clubs per MLB rules, and one that was used for internal purposes only. The clear intent was to deceive his fellow GMs and obtain an advantage over them in trades. After a number of teams complained that they were not receiving accurate medical information on Padres players, MLB initiated an investigation. After reviewing the facts, the League slapped Preller with a 30-day suspension without pay for failing to provide the Red Sox with complete medical records prior to the consummation of a trade in July.

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