Why We Should Take Oscar De La Hoya’s Retirement Seriously

April 15, 2009

Anytime a boxer retires, the first question to follow usually is “Okay, so when is his next fight?” It’s a common for boxer’s to announce their retirement, only to return to the ring soon after. Some fighters stage the retirement in order to boost the payout of a future fight. Most recently, we’ve seen “Money” Mayweather and Roy Jones Jr. do it, in order to increase the purse for their next fight.

Meanwhile, others are serious about walking away from the sport, only to find out they have squandered millions of dollars which leaves them with nothing to live off of. This is often the saddest part of the sport, when athletes are returning to the ring in order to secure finances for the future, because oftentimes they’ve aligned themselves with embezzling agents or wasted their money on jewelry, houses, cars, etc. Take Mike Tyson or Evander Holyfield. Both were forced to return to the squared circle, because they could no longer fulfill their debts. Sadly, their skills had passed them by and they embarrassed themselves in the ring, tarnishing their legacies.

So why should we take Oscar De La Hoya’s retirement seriously? De La Hoya is successful in arenas outside of the boxing world. His financial future is not tied to whether or not he fights. The Golden Boy didn’t squander his winnings, but rather invested them into profitable business ventures. He formed Golden Boy Productions, a boxing promotion company, with 2 other boxers. His firm represents some of the top fighters in the sport, including Ricky Hatton, Bernard Hopkins (a part owner), Shane Mosley (a part owner), Manny Pacquiao and Winky Wright. He makes money from boxing without needing to fight again. Golden Boy Productions have branched out to mixed-martial arts, a sport which is gaining ground on boxing, has purchased 4 boxing magazines, and now owns 25% of Major League Soccer’s Houston Dynamo. Money should not be a motivating factor in forcing De La Hoya back to the ring.

One of the most accomplished fighters in histroy, De La Hoya has held titles in the following weight classes: Super Welterweight, Middleweight, Light Middleweight, Welterweight, Light Welterweight, Lightweight and Super Featherweight.

One of the most accomplished fighters in histroy, De La Hoya has held titles in the following weight classes: Super Welterweight, Middleweight, Light Middleweight, Welterweight, Light Welterweight, Lightweight and Super Featherweight.

What about as far as legacy as a motivating factor? It shouldn’t be. De La Hoya is one of the most accomplished boxers the sport has ever seen. He won the only gold medal in the U.S. history at the 1992 games. He has won 10 world titles in 6 different weight classes over his 16-year career, amassing hundreds of millions of dollars along the way to a 39-6 record. One of the most profitable, successful, and popular fighters in boxing history, Oscar De La Hoya should walk away from the sport with his head held high and not turn back. He doesn’t need to come back and tarnish his legacy, as so many others before him have.


Jackie Would Be Disappointed Today

April 15, 2009
A great ball player, a great man, he was still out here, though.

A great ball player, a great man, he was still out here, though.

Sixty two years ago Jackie Robinson started a fight that benefited everyone in American society and much of the world.  You can argue that Robinson’s breakthrough in baseball was as crucial as most points in the civil rights movement.  Like Jesse Owens before him, Jackie Robinson was a quiet, honorable man on the field, and that made it hard for fans to dislike him (though most found ways, for a long time).  But today, the thing this great man fought for, baseball, is no longer desirable in this country.

Jackie would not be disappointed in African Americans specifically, but everyone when it comes to baseball.  Baseball has become somewhat of an elitist game.  The age of the Sunday pickup game has given way to the tournament weekend in Tennessee, and much of the fun has gone with it.

You must dig deeper to find the cause.  The lack of freedom of the American child has a lot to do with it.  Many people seem to think their kids are freer today than they ever were, but think a little harder.  Kids today don’t leave the house.  They play videogames or find kids with funny names on facebook.  When kids do venture out into the great unknown it is for a formal sports practice or a scheduled playdate.

Now, I hate to sound all Wilford Brimley on you here, but when I was younger (born in ’85, not that long ago) we were barely allowed in the house.  There is a general fear among parents of child abduction or sexual predators and whatnot, which their child may have a better chance of finding online.

There are no longer really public fields as well.  Sure, they exist, but there is always some type of practice going on.  Baseball training has become work.

You think this is how Rizzuto learned?

You think this is how Rizzuto learned?

How many kids play an instrument when they are younger?  In my region at least half, but within a couple of years most of them quit.  Why?  Because it is work.  All they see is notes, and there is not much fun in that.  Baseball has become somewhat of the same experience.

Also, Compared to other sports, baseball is difficult to pick up.  From one of my top 5 films, “It’s the hard that makes it great,” but its also the hard that makes kids quit after a year or so and pick up soccer.  I will get to soccer in another article.

AAU has replaced any local pride a kid had in his youth and Legion teams.  AAU has also priced out much of the best athletes.  It provides the best exposure for players and therefore gives kids who can’t afford it a hopeless feeling, and sets their future in the sport in stone.

In Baseball today, the coaches or scouts don’t come to you, you have to go to them, and in many cases, you must pay for this, too.  It is bad enough the bats cost three hundred bucks, a decent glove $150, and new spikes $75.  A season of baseball could easily cost a 13-yr old kid $5 grand these days.

I would also argue that the baseball in Robinson’s day was better.  Many argue that the players are faster, stronger, and in better shape, but does that make for better baseball?  For a while, homeruns made us forget what a hit and run, double steal, and sacrifice bunts were.  Through the nineties, baseball players were 6-4, 220 lb weight lifters with very little athletic ability.  Look at Joe Dimaggio, Phil Rizzuto, Pete Rose, Hank Aaron, and Jackie.  These guys were great athletes who got good at baseball playing with their friends.  Not in some academy.

Others argue that the best players are produced in academies.  The academies they speak of are in the Dominican Republic, though.  My response to them is that the alternative to the academy there is not pretty, and they understand the spirit of baseball because of that.  Baseball, a game, can get them out of poverty.  That is how baseball was for a long time here.

But, alas, the sandlot has made way for the state of the art practice batting cages for kids 10-12 to hone their skills with video to show them the flaws in their changeup grip.  It is good to see smaller guys making their way in the MLB.  And its good to see that only a few guys put up massive home run numbers last year.  Maybe the game won’t scare off as many kids.

As the WBC showed us, baseball is far better in other countries.   Baseball is becoming a sport where all Americans are the minority.


Why Are the Browns Dying to Trade Braylon?

April 15, 2009

The rumors are circulating that the Cleveland Browns are aggressively shopping number one receiver Braylon Edwards.  Why?  The 26 year-old receiver is an unrestricted free-agent at the end of the 2009 season and they are leery of their ability to resign him. It is reported that Edwards wants a contract paying him $10 million per year or more. The Browns are said to be demanding 1st– and 3rd– round picks as a base to any Edwards deal.

The New York Giants are said to be the team hottest for Edwards and it’s no secret why. They’ve cut former number one receiver Plaxico Burress, after struggling to renegotiate a new contract with the troubled player. When the Giants lost Burress last year after the notorious gun-in-sweatpants incident, which ended with Plax with a bullet hole in his thigh, they were not the same team. They are in dire need of a big, fast receiver for Eli to under throw down the field.

The reason for Cleveland’s interest in trading Edwards is not enough to make sense. They aren’t sure that they can resign him at the end of the year? There are 2 issues with this excuse. The first issue is that Cleveland can always use the Franchise tag on the star receiver next year. While it is not a perfect way to settle the issue, it is an option that will allow them to keep the player. The second issue is that they can Franchise the player and trade him for picks then. For a team that is short on star power and is set to have a quarterback competition in trading camp, does it make sense to trade the best player on your team?

Trading a bona-fide number one receiver, with a career 16.0 ypc, is not a way to build a successful team.

Trading a bona-fide number one receiver, with a career 16.0 ypc, is not a way to build a successful team.

Beyond Edwards, Cleveland has second year player Syndric Steptoe and newly signed David Patten as the players following Edwards on the depth chart. That is not inspiring for a team that is trying to be competitive. Trading Edwards is not giving either of your quarterbacks a legitimate shot at succeeding in 2009, especially after trading tight end Kellen Winslow for a second round pick earlier this offseason. The Brown, headed by new head coach Eric Mangini, would surely draft Edwards replacement in the upcoming draft, as they currently have the 5th overall pick and two 2nd round picks (among others) and would be adding another 1st and 3rd to their pile. But as we’ve seen in the past, drafting players is no certainty of success, let alone that there is no guarantee that the desired player is available when you are drafting. Furthermore, rookie wide receivers face one of the steepest learning curves for incoming players, due to the complexity of pro-style offenses, timing of routes, and the increased skill of opposing corners. So there isn’t a certainty that the receiver that Mangini drafts will succeed. And after witnessing some draft flops he’s had in the past (Vernon Gholston anyone?), the Cleveland brass should be weary of trading a proven commodity. And given the negative perception Mangini has around the league, signing free agents in the future is no promise either.

Successful teams in the NFL don’t trade away proven players and improve. Rather, they take a few steps back and there is no telling if they will be able to compete in the future. The Browns need to keep Edwards for the 2009 season and draft to improve a bottom-feeding defense. Then, after the season, they should take stock in what their needs are and address the Edwards situation accordingly. Rushing to make a deal for the sake of making a deal is not a good way to run a business. But then again, hiring Eric Mangini to steer the ship wouldn’t be they way I run a business either. Good luck Brown fans, as the future is not looking too bright for you now.