Column: Track & Field Athlete Takes a Stand on PrincipleAugust 24, 2015

“A principle is not a principle until it costs you money.” Bill Bernbach Founder of ad agency Doyle Dane and Bernbach Nick Symmonds can relate to Bernbach’s statement. A two-time Olympian, Symmonds won the 800 meters at the U.S. Trials earlier this month which automatically qualified him for a spot on this country’s World Championship team. But while the team is currently competing in Beijing, Nick is home watching the competition from his couch. Symmonds’ predicament is a direct consequence of his principles. As a condition of participation in the Worlds, USA Track & Field (USATF), this country’s governing body for track and field athletes, required all participants to sign a “Statement of Conditions.” The statement requires all athletes to wear "designated team uniforms at official team functions," which on its face isn’t an unreasonable requirement. But to USATF, team functions apparently include every waking hour from the time athletes boarded the plane to China until they return to the States. Their definition covers not only training sessions, press conferences, competitions, and award ceremonies but sightseeing jaunts and lounging around the hotel. And – get this - photos on Facebook.

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Column: Video Gaming Goes CollegiateAugust 17, 2015

Given a choice, most parents would probably prefer that their children spend more time playing sports and less time playing computer games in the hopes that the former may lead to a college scholarship. Now, the latter may also lead to a free education. Robert Morris University (RMU) in Chicago and the University of Pikeville (UPike) in Kentucky are the first institutions of higher learning to offer scholarships for what is commonly known as eSports, what laymen refer to as playing computer games. Competitive gaming on the professional level has been around for decades but the collegiate version dates to 2009 when students at Princeton challenged their counterparts at MIT to a match of StarCraft. Around the same time a student at the University of California San Diego started his own team and the two groups decided to form a league which they named the Collegiate Starleague (CSL).

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Column: Ray Rice Deserves a Second ChanceAugust 10, 2015

Most NFL players who violate the league’s personal conduct policy get a second chance – or more. New York Jets backup quarterback Michael Vick got a second chance after serving 18 months in federal prison for running a dog-fighting ring and abusing his dogs. Vick made his way back to the NFL by proving he was truly sorry for his actions. Former Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy was convicted of assaulting his girlfriend. He was slapped with a 10-game suspension, reduced by an arbitrator to four games and will suit up for the Dallas Cowboys in week five of the season.

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Column: NFL Overreacts to DeflateGateAugust 3, 2015

If you want to see how much incompetence $10 billion can buy, you need only look to the new rules the NFL has adopted in response to the DeflateGate scandal. The NFL created a mountain from a molehill by escalating a simple rules violation that carried a $25,000 fine into a loss of draft picks against the New England Patriots and a four game suspension of quarterback Tom Brady. And the controversy seemingly without end now resides in federal court.

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Column: Would You Pay $36 Per Month for ESPN?July 27, 2015

Growing up in the family business – wholesale meat and groceries – I was always looking for ways to improve operations. Every time I made a suggestion my father couldn’t or wouldn’t support, his standard response was “It sounds good.” I learned early on those were his final words on the topic. There was no discussion or explanation. Nor did he ever indicate whether he didn’t like the idea or had tried something similar in the past without success and didn’t want to hurt my feelings. This brings me to the concept of a la carte cable television, the option to purchase only those channels we want to watch. The cable industry prefers the concept of bundling where we are forced to buy a package of channels, most of which we never watch. It’s frustrating listening to a cable representative explain their offerings, none of which truly mirror our viewing preferences. If it was available, most of us would instinctively choose the a la carte option. But would that result in a lower cable bill? Maybe, or maybe not.

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Column: Coaches vs. Medical Personnel - Who Rules?July 19, 2015

With colleges on the cusp of pre-season football practice, there’s an off-field battle worth keeping an eye on: Coaches vs. medical personnel. Head coaches at a majority of the big-time college football programs insist on hiring, supervising and firing the doctors and athletic trainers that attend to their student-athletes. Not surprisingly, medical practitioners don’t believe the practice is in the best interest of the student-athletes. Two years ago, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, joined by five other medical groups including the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, issued a public statement along with a set of recommendations against the practice. In their words, “Freedom in their professional practice is ensured when neither the team physician nor the athletic trainer has a coach as his or her primary supervisor, and no coach has authority over the appointment or employment of sports medicine providers.”

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Column: MLB Underpays ScoutsJuly 13, 2015

Almost every group of MLB employees seems to think they’re underpaid. In the past two years the league has been besieged by complaints and/or lawsuits from clubhouse attendants, administrative workers, interns, “volunteers,” and Minor League players. They all complain that MLB violates the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) along with state wage and hour laws by failing to pay minimum wage and overtime. In some cases, the plaintiffs have also alleged that MLB’s practices violate federal and state antitrust laws. Now, scouts have jumped on the litigation bandwagon. Two weeks ago former Kansas City Royals scout Jordan Wyckoff filed a class action lawsuit in a New York federal court claiming that many MLB scouts make less than minimum wage and aren’t properly compensated for overtime, practices that violate the FLSA. In addition to his FLSA argument, Wyckoff also alleges that MLB teams conspire to keep scouts’ wages depressed in violation of state and federal antitrust laws.

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Column: Pete Rose Still Belongs in HallJuly 6, 2015

Here we are again, discussing Pete Rose. Does he deserve to be reinstated to Major League Baseball? Should he be eligible for election to the Baseball Hall of Fame? It seems to be a discussion without end, yet it shouldn’t be. It’s not that complicated. In 1989, as part of a plea agreement with then MLB Commissioner Bart Giamatti, Rose agreed to permanently be placed on baseball’s ineligible list. In return, MLB suspended its investigation into Rose’s gambling activities. The agreement came after John Dowd, a former federal prosecutor turned investigator, submitted a report confirming allegations that Rose had bet on baseball while managing the Cincinnati Reds. Two years later the Baseball Hall of Fame voted to exclude anyone who was permanently ineligible from appearing on a Hall ballot. While that decision covered a number of former ballplayers, it was clearly directed at Rose who was about to appear on the ballot for the first time.

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Column: Cardinals Hack AstrosJune 29, 2015

If it can happen to retailers like K-Mart, Target and Home Depot, and even the U.S. Government, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that it happened to the Houston Astros. But in this case, the perpetrators weren’t a criminal element in Eastern Europe or the Chinese government but apparently employees of another MLB team, the St. Louis Cardinals. In what is the first known case – security experts believe it has likely happened before - of computer espionage in professional sports, the FBI is investigating several Cardinals’ employees for allegedly hacking into the Astros’ computer system. The obvious questions are which employees are responsible and what was the purpose of the nefarious activity? Perhaps an answer to the first question will shed light on the second. What we know for now is that there is animosity tinged with jealousy between the two organizations.

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Column: Another Victory for TV ChoiceJune 15, 2015

Slowly but surely, fans are forcing sports teams and leagues to add to the limited viewing options they have historically offered us. In what can only be described as a huge victory for freedom of choice, the NHL and its broadcasters recently settled their portion of a class action lawsuit that has been lingering in the U.S. District Court for several years. MLB, also a defendant in the suit, is now left to singularly defend against allegations that they use blackouts to limit out-of-market games in order to protect local teams’ revenue.

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