Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Niagara won't fall for it

A recent news article related the story of the Niagara University men's basketball team, dismissing fifth-year senior Kamau Gordon for conduct "unbecoming" to the program. Good for Niagara, a small Catholic university in upstate New York. Athletic Director Ed McLaughlin said the university holds it student-athletes to a higher standard, and it was clear Gordon did not want to live up to those standards. Niagara plays in the MAAC Conference, with such schools as Siena, Marist, Fairfield and Loyola. These are all fine colleges, where the administration runs the basketball program, not the other way around. Niagara was 26-9 last season and played in the NIT postseason tournament, missing out on an at-large NCAA bid after falling in the MAAC tournament. From that spot, Niagara understandably could have bent a rule, or "made an exception," to try to reach the NCAA tournament and the pot of gold that goes with it. But the university stayed true to its values and mission, and should be lauded for that. Too often, the media is quick to tear down a program for running afoul of the rules (see the last few Binghamton posts in this blog) but slow to cite a program for doing things the right way. One big reason that Niagara does things the right way is that coach Joe Mihalich has been running the program for 11 years, and is quite happy to work at the mid-major level. No dreams of grandeur for Mihalich, no visions of roaming the sidelines at Kentucky or UCLA. He played and later was on the coaching staff at LaSalle University in Philadelphia -- for 17 years! He's comfortable with himself at this level, and the program has thrived because of the stability and continuity he brings. So kudos to Niagara for maintaining its high standards and emphasis on strong values, even at the possible expense of a few wins -- and perhaps a trip to the NCAAs.
-- David Rubinstein

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Binghamton Making Right Moves

Last week, I called Binghamton on the carpet for running a basketball program that seemed to place more emphasis on winning than on developing athletes as students and citizens, after its best player was arrested on cocaine possession and distributio charges. So today, I give the university some "props" for doing some housecleaning. The school last week dismissed five other players from the team for conduct detrimental to the program. I understand coach Kevin Broadus was backed into a corner; the perception that he is running a renegade program was growing and moves had to be made. But the fact that they were made is a sign that Binghamton recognized its program was headed in the wrong direction and took drastic steps to address that.
Also deserving of mention in this is new SUNY schools chancellor Nancy Zimpher, who does not tolerate athletic programs that run afoul of the rules. Zimpher was president of the University of Cincinnati when coach Bob Huggins was pressured to resign after a DWI conviction and the arrests of several of his players. She sent a strong signal to Binghamton expected that action would be taken, and it has been.
That said, let me say it's a certainty that some other small athletic program will be dazzled by the allure of big-time basketball -- and the revenue that comes with it -- and look the other ways as rules are bent or broken in the quest to move up. And that's too bad, because more players, coaches and universities will be damaged along the way.
-- David Rubinstein

Friday, September 25, 2009

Kudos to Commack.. and Brentwood boys soccer!

Saw in the paper that Commack knocked of Brentwood in boys soccer yesterday. Going into the game, Brentwood was top high school team in the country, according to ESPN. Newsday's Adam Ronis covered the game, and did a fine job of keeping the focus on the field. He did note that Brentwood was missing four of its players, but did not allow that to overshadow Commack's accomplishments. And Brentwood coach Ron Eden was gracious, saying "Commack is a good soccer team. They did a very good job."
Congratulations to the Commack players, who said the win over the best team in the nation felt like the World Cup. And congratulations to Brentwood for BEING the top team in the nation.
-- David Rubinstein

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Arrested at Binghamton? Really??

This from today's New York Times:
"The Binghamton point guard Emanuel Mayben was arrested Wednesday night in Troy, N.Y., on a charge of selling crack cocaine."

Wouldn't you expect to see this kind of story out of a major program, where a player's background is secondary to whether or not he can help the team win a title? But at Binghamton? What, they've won an America East title and gone to the Big Dance, so now that program sees itself on a par with the big-time programs?

It's not as if university officials could not see this coming. Mayben was recruited by big-time Syracuse, among others, but didn't make the academic cut, so he tried UMass for a season, and that didn't work out, so he then transferred to Hudson Valley CC before joining the program at Binghamton. Coach Kevin Broadus should have seen more than a player who could help lift his program to another level.

Broadus is a big part of the problem at Binghamton. This arrest -- the third since he took over the program in 2007 (that's an average of one arrest per season, for those of you scoring at home. That's gotta be some kind of overlooked NCAA record!) One player, a recruit from Serbia, reportedly beat another man into a coma in a bar fight, and then fled to his native land. Another was arrested for stealing condoms from a local Wal-Mart.

I have no problem with a coach starting at a lower level of basketball, winning, and moving up to a big-time program. It happens all the time. Jay Wright is a fine example of that; he coached right here at Hofstra and had great success before taking the top job at Villanova.

But Broadus, and his win-at-all-costs attitude, is not good for basketball, or Binghamton, or the NCAA. One player goes astray, you say, 'OK that happens.' But when THREE run afoul of the law in three years, you have to question the coach and his motives. Clearly, he's one of those coaches who sees a great athlete with a troubled past, and believes he can be the one who straightens the kid out. He sees it as a no-lose situation. If the kids toes the line and lifts the level of the program, the coach is a hero, a brilliant educator and shaper of young men. If the kid goes the wrong way, he can say, "I gave him a chance to straighten out, but he didn't have it in him." Broadus sees himself as blameless. But the fact is, his reputation is damaged, and certainly, people now look at Binghamton as running a program that places more weight on winning than on developing a student-athlete.

Yes, Tiki Mayben is to blame, for getting mixed up with crack cocaine. But Broadus and the university are equally to blame for running a program that doesn't take the character of the athlete into consideration, but only looks at whether or not he can get the school to the Big Dance -- and ultimately, the Big Payday.

What do you think?
-- David Rubinstein

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Plaxico Burress Goes to Jail

From Super Bowl hero to Ulster Correctional detainee. How Plaxico Burress has fallen!
We all know the story of how he was carrying a concealed, unlicensed weapon into a nightclub and then accidentally shot himself in the leg when he grabbed for the gun as it fell from his waistband.
Interesting, though, how most of the area newspapers covered this story in the sports pages. The voices we heard were those of sympathetic sports columnists (we'll call them FOPs ... Friends of Plaxico) who pretty much all believe that Burress got a raw deal, that he was made an example because of his celebrity status, that his crime did not warrant the punishment he received.
Make no mistake. Plaxico Burress committed a crime, violating the laws of the state of New York. Whether he hurt someone other than himself or not is not the issue. And the point to all this is quite clear. The FOPs, and Burress himself, should not blame the judge for the sentence he imposed. They should not blame New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who called for the stiffest penalty allowable under the law. The blame here lies squarely with Burress. Had he not knowingly broken the law by carrying his concealed weapon into the nightclub, his life would be different today. He would not be kissing his pregnant wife and young child goodbye for the next two years. He'd most assuredly be playing wide receiver in the NFL today, whether with the Giants or another team. He might even have had a chance to be Super Bowl hero again last year, but his arrest derailed the Giants after they looked for all the world like the team to beat in the NFL after 12 weeks.
It comes down to making good decisions. Burress and his FOPs think he was made an example of by the judicial system. Now, after his prison term, Burress should make an example of himself, and offer himself up to speak to community groups, as an example of what making poor choices can to do what by all accounts had been a very successful life.
-- David Rubinstein

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Welcome Back!

Well, another school year is under way, and football and soccer are now dominating the sports pages in the local media (which includes the Internet). We'll be watching, ready to bring you the best of what's happening in Long Island sports, and point out the not-so-good stuff too.
If athletes participate for the right reasons, if coaches don't let their egos or visions of grandeur blind them to the needs of their players, and if parents simply enjoy watching their children participate without the need to inject themselves into the proceedings, then sports can be a truly rewarding experience. It's only when things go askew -- parents confront coaches and officials, coaches run up the score against weaker opponents to prove something to themselves, and players take a cheating route to gain an upper hand on the competiton -- that we're forced to examine sports as whole, and wonder if it can be saved. So... PLAY BALL!
-- David Rubinstein

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

What "disposable income"??

About 10 years ago, I put my name on the New York Giants wait list for season tickets. At the time, I was told the list moves at a glacial pace, and that I might not ever be called. Today, I got an e-mail from the Giants offering me a chance to buy personal seat licenses and tickets, but limited to the three most expensive areas in the new stadium. The cheapest seats involved a PSL of $7500 per seat and tickets at $400 per game. So, if I got one seat, the total cost for an eight-game season (not including parking) would be $10,700! Divide by eight home games, and the average cost of going to a Giants game in the Mezzanine Club level (second deck) is $1337.50! And those are the CHEAPEST of the three remaining seating areas. Can you imagine spending that kind of money for a three hours of entertainment sandwiched between three hours of standing still in bumper-to-bumper traffic? Who's got that kind of disposable income these days? Are the Giants oblivious to the fact that we're in the worst economic condition since the Great Depression? I'm still angry that the Giants missed their estimate of how much a new stadium would cost and want the fans to foot the bill with these PSLs. I didn't ask for a new stadium, I didn't authorize a new stadium, and now, because of the price, I won't be going to the new stadium.
And speaking of disposable income, the trustee overseeing the bankruptcy case of swindler Bernard Madoff is selling Madoff's season tickets to Citi Field, in attempt to recover money to reimburse investors who were scammed out of their retirements and more. Madoff paid $80,000 for the pair, in the second row behind home plate. That's an average of nearly $500 a seat over the course of the 81-game home season. Of course, the closest that Madoff now will get to Mets games this year is by sitting close to the 13-inch black-and-white television in the prison "lounge" -- and it's just what he deserves.
-- David Rubinstein

Thursday, February 5, 2009

'Sorry' Doesn't Begin to Cover It

"I'm sorry. I made a mistake. I know it was wrong, and I regret the embarrassment I've brought upon myself and my family."

Wouldn't it be great if we could break laws, or fly in the face of acceptable societal conduct, and not have to worry about any kind of punishment? Well, it seems that professional athletes -- not to mention Cabinet-level appointees, and other public figures -- have that "get-out-of-jail-free" card to play that the rest of us don't. And it's not right.

A few examples: Jason Giambi. An outed steroid user, he offers us a lame apology to Yankees fans -- without ever saying what it was he was apologizing for -- and he's lauded for being forthright. No one's talking about locking up Giambi for breaking laws regarding the use of illegal substances. Compare this to Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, pariahs of the sports world -- and rightfully so -- for failing to admit anything in the face of apparently overwhelming evidence that they used steroids. Moreover, if any of them are found to have broken laws (perjury, use of illegal substances), they should be penalized beyond being shut out of the sport, or kept out of the Hall of Fame (although there is something sweet about that). They should go to jail.

More recently, there's the case of Michael Phelps, caught on film inhaling from a bong (we can only assume the substance he was smoking was not tobacco). This behavior comes on the heels of a DWI arrest. Yet he's trying to play the "I'm sorry, I made a mistake" card. Well, it doesn't wash with me. One occurrence might be a mistake you can talk up to youthful experimentation. Two, and it's a lifestyle choice -- and a bad one, at that, for all the reasons we know. His apology might not be enough. Investigators are looking into whether or not any laws were broken, and if so, he could see jail time.

And if so, he should. There should not be two sets of rules in a society. If we common folk drive drunk, or use illegal substances, or fail to pay our taxes, or hit our spouses, we go to jail. We can't use the public apology as our penance. And neither should athletes, politicians, musicians or actors. What gives them the right? You're athletes.. what do you think? Comment below!

Friday, January 23, 2009

A milestone in East Meadow

Kudos to AHA member Azfar Khan of East Meadow, who scored his 1000th point this week. Khan is the leading scorer for the boys basketball team, whose efforts this season have not been reflected in the win column. Despite that, Khan continues to lead by example. Newsday's Kimberly Martin captured the moment in a well-written feature piece this week.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Islanders on the power play

It seems my post after the Rangers-Islanders game this week regarding the enthusiasm Islanders players displayed in the face of outside pressures was spot-on. Newsday's Jim Baumbach reports today that owner Charles Wang is making veiled threats to move the team if Nassau County doesn't give him the approval he seeks to build out Nassau's "Hub" with his Lighthouse Project.
I, for one, hate this tactic.
The Yankees built their new stadium on the backs on state taxpayers by receiving tax-exempt bonds to finance the construction. So did the Mets. So, while our taxes go up, and ticket prices go up, the Steinbrenners and Wilpons (and Wangs) of the world -- already rich beyond most people's dreams -- sit back and rake in mountains of more money while we get squeezed even tighter. Have you seen the ticket prices the Mets have set for seats in Citi Field this year? I'd rather take my family on vacation than sit through games against Colorado and Houston this year. And let's not forget the personal seat licenses the Giants and Jets are looking to extract from us because their estimates of how much a new stadium would cost were ineptly low.
We talk a lot about fair play, and civility, and sportsmanship, and rightfully demand that our athletes possess those qualities. Don't we as fans have the right to expect the same kind of behavior out of team owners? We've supported their teams with our hard-earned dollars for years -- we buy the jerseys and hats, go to the games, pay for the privilege of parking miles from the stadium -- and the payback for that loyalty is the threat of a move if we don't give them even more??
We can at least be thankful that the East Meadow football team can't move to Massapequa because that district might allocate more resources for athletics, or that the Duke University basketball team won't play its home games at North Carolina State University because that gym holds thousands more fans and generates more revenue. But you get the feeling they would if they could, don't you?

Two student good one bad

Two events, one good and one bad, took place this past college football season that I found interesting because both relate to what Athletes Helping Athletes represents, sportsmanship/civility and the importance of student in student-athlete. One concerned Rudy Carpenter, the star quarterback of Arizona State University -- considered the Sun Devils' best-ever signal caller. The other is Myron Rolle, starting free safety for the Florida State University Seminoles.

Carpenter represents the bad because he was tossed from a sporting event by the officials. The ejection, strangely enough, did not take place on the football field, but rather at a girl’s basketball game Carpenter attended with his girlfriend to cheer on her sister. He violated our Fair Play Agreement when he and his group got on the officials so much they really had no choice but to force Carpenter and company to leave the arena.

Other than being ejected, no further action was taken against Carpenter either by his school or law enforcement, and while he later denied any wrongdoing, it most likely had an effect four nights later when the senior was to play his final game against archrival University of Arizona Wildcats, whom he had defeated three years in a row. Carpenter and the Sun Devils lost.

We travel across the country to find the good -- Myron Rolle, the perfect example of an athlete who is both a student and an athlete. His coach, defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews, said following a game against the Miami Hurricanes that he had just witnessed the finest performance by a safety he had seen in his 25-year career.

Of Bahamian descent, Rolle, who was raised in New Jersey, graduated with a pre-med degree from Florida State in just 2 ½ years and now joins former President Bill Clinton and former senator and basketball great Bill Bradley as a Rhodes Scholar.

On the afternoon Rolle had to be in Birmingham, Ala., for the Rhodes Scholarship interview, his team was scheduled to play that night in College Park, Maryland against the Maryland Terrapins. Because the NCAA wisely bent their rules, Rolle was permitted to fly by private jet to College Park, arriving in time for the second quarter, where he was mobbed by his teammates who had learned he was awarded the scholarship.

A shoo-in to be drafted by an NFL team, Rolle decided to put a pro football career on hold and journey to Oxford, England to study medical anthropology.

Without question, Myron Rolle has put student in student-athlete! We cannot forget, though, that he is a star athlete, and we congratulate him.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Rangers 2, Islanders 1

One of the great rivalries in all of hockey resumed at the Nassau Coliseum last night, with "YOUR FIRST PLACE NEW YORK RANGERS" scoring a thrilling 2-1 victory over the LAST PLACE New York Islanders. The beauty of this series is that regardless of how the teams are faring in the standings, they always play these cross-town games with passion and fire. And the crowd certainly lends a playoff-type atmosphere to the proceedings, even in January. It must be galling to Islanders fans, though, to look around and see more Rangers jerseys than Islanders sweaters in the stands, but I guess it'll be that way until Islanders management commits to putting a winning team on the ice. (But that won't happen until Nassau County officials commit to owner Charles Wang's plans to rebuild the "Hub" with a new arena and a surrounding village.)
With all that swirling around the team -- and despite having the fewest points of any team in the league -- it was good to see that the players still brought their 'A' game to the rink, and competed to the best of their abilities. And, unlike the Detroit Lions, the Islanders even manage to win a game every now and again.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Big Blues?

The New York Giants were "Eli-minated" (thanks to Newsday's headline writers) from the NFL playoffs yesterday. Today, the "experts" in print and on the radio have been having a field day dissecting "what went wrong" with the Giants.
I ask you.. did something go wrong with the Giants? Isn't a 12-4 season, the NFC East championship and a berth in the playoffs a succesful season? I'm sure the fans in Detroit, or Oakland -- or those that root for the OTHER New York football team -- would think so.
Look, I'm not naive. I understand that in today's world, winning is the highest priority. But aren't there positives that the Giants can take out of their season. The 11-1 start? The way they overcame the losses of Michael Strahan, Osi Umeniyora and then Plaxico Burress to stay together as a team and win 12 games? The way they became just the fifth team in NFL HISTORY to have not one but two running backs gain more than 1,000 yards in the same season?
I'm sure that after the bitterness of yesterday's loss subsides a bit, the players will reflect on this season and see there are many positives upon which to build for NEXT season, and the next chance to win a Super Bowl title.
Is anything less than a championship a failure? ARE there any positives the Giants can take away from this season? Has sports become "all or nothing?" What do YOU think?