Column: Five troubling sports stories on a dreary day
When you awake to a dreary day, it puts you in a bit of a mood.
Especially when you’re a journalist, which for some of us is essentially a synonym for grumpy cynic.
Considering we’re still more than four months way from Festivus and the annual Airing of the Grievances, let’s see if there’s room for a new summer tradition.
Five Things That Are Bugging Me.
Here we go (in no particular order of irritation):
— Deshaun Watson will return to the football field this season, albeit after sitting out an 11-game suspension, paying a $5 million fine and getting some long-overdue treatment for his shocking behavior.
The Cleveland Browns quarterback got off easy after being accused of sexually harassing and coercing two dozen women during massage therapy sessions while he was with the Houston Texans. A former federal judge who heard the case called Watson’s behavior “more egregious than any before reviewed by the NFL,” which is really saying something when one considers the league’s epic roll call of misbehavior down through the years.
Nevertheless, Watson got what he wanted most of all — a chance to get back on the field sometime this season. He should use the down time to make himself a better person, but we’re not holding our breath on that one.
— In what sounded like perverse bid to show how hard everyone is working to save his job, Nebraska football coach Scott Frost proudly boasted of his offensive linemen puking 15 to 20 times a day at practice.
Frost gave the credit — blame might be more appropriate — to their position coach, Donovan Raiola.
“It’s not because they’re not in shape – he’s just working them hard,” Frost said, according to the Omaha World-Herald. “I think they love it. He’s kind of freed them up to go be aggressive and I love the way they’re coming off the ball.”
Now, I’m no doctor, but turning your program into the Junction Boys is disturbing at the very least, if not outright abusive.
Frost is clearly in desperation mode after going 15-29 over his first four seasons at the helm of a once-proud program that is now just a laughingstock.
And maybe even a dangerous place to play.
— The debate over transgender athletes has taken a totally expected turn with news out of Utah that a girl was secretly investigated — without her or her parents being told — after high school officials received complaints from the parents of two girls she beat in a competition.
This wasn’t the first time, either. The Salt Lake Tribune reports the Utah High School Activities Association has looked into other complaints involving supposedly transgender athletes, with a spokesman saying some involved girls who “doesn’t look feminine enough.”
None of the complaints have been verified, of course, but overbearing parents now have a convenient excuse anytime their kid loses.
The issue of transgender athletes is a complicated one, and we’ve said before that any measures should be based on nuance, compassion and science. Instead, we’ve had a bunch of states hastily approve bans that are nothing more than an attempt to score political points. At least a judge put the Utah law on hold Friday while legal challenges play out.
Gov. Spencer Cox, a Republican whose veto of the Utah ban was overridden by the Legislature, put it best: “My goodness, we’re living in this world where we’ve become sore losers, and we’re looking for any reason why our kid lost.”
— Here’s your weekly update from the home of the regime that’s funding the breakaway LIV golf tour.
A court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced a doctoral student, who is also the mother of two, to 34 years in prison for spreading “rumors” and retweeting dissidents.
Activists and lawyers say the harsh sentence is shocking even by Saudi standards of justice, with condemnation coming in from around the globe.
But, hey, at least there are still plenty of golfers willing to cash massive Saudi checks and look the other way on such matters.
— In announcing a mammoth new television deal, the Big Ten didn’t even bother with the silly pretense that it’s an association of schools supposedly dedicated to higher education.
No, this is a professional sports league that wants to be just like the NFL.
Beginning in 2023, the $7 billion media rights contract will line up the conference’s top football games across three major networks every Saturday.
If that sounds familiar, it should.
Commissioner Kevin Warren said it’s modeled after an NFL Sunday, with three marquee games across three different networks, airing from noon to nearly midnight on the East Coast.
“We had a very unique opportunity because we have the institutions that could do it,” he said, though it would have been more accurate to call them franchises.
Here’s another unique opportunity: With the Big Ten’s soon-to-be 16 member schools set to collect roughly $1 billion a year, how about following the NFL model in an additional way.
Pay the players.
Well, that’s a wrap on a troubling week.
All the griping probably won’t do much good, but it never hurts to try a bit of hope.
Paul Newberry is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberry(at)ap.org or at https://twitter.com/pnewberry1963
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