It’s that time of year again. You know, that point in which NBA center Andrew Bynum’s name finds its way back into the headlines with a seemingly purposeful mission to smear the person and talents he once possessed. For example…
Kobe’s grocery store insult.
Operator-error car trouble.
Bad hair day(s).
The list goes on and on, which brings us to the present. Bynum, a former All-Star and two-time NBA Champion has been suspended indefinitely by his current team, the Cleveland Cavaliers for conduct detrimental to the team.
Gotta love how Bynum was able to sneak one last scandal in before 2014. Kudos.
Anyway, Yahoo Sports is reporting that a big issue with the 26-year-old is the fact that he just isn’t interested in playing basketball anymore. The game isn’t his cup of tea, a notion those of us in L.A. who watched Bynum with the Lakers have considered for years.
The man who perhaps best understands this situation is Laker-legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. One of the best big men to ever play the game, Abdul-Jabbar coached Bynum from the time he was drafted by the Lakers right out of high school in 2005 until 2009, when the organization reduced the six-time NBA Champion’s role with the team.
Abdul-Jabbar took to his Facebook page Sunday, addressing the situation surrounding his former pupil.
"I believe Andrew has always had the potential to help a team when he puts his heart into it. He just doesn’t seem to be consistent with his commitment to the game. That can lead to a lot of frustration for any team that has signed him.
"When I worked with Andrew I found him to be bright & hardworking but I think he got bored with the repetitive nature of working on basketball fundamentals day in and day out… but they are the keys to long term success.
"In my opinion Andrew is the type of person who walks to the beat of "a different drummer". So we won’t know the facts until Andrew decides to tell us what actually is the issue and shares his thoughts. @KAJ33"
This strikes a few chords. Abdul-Jabbar had the reputation of beating to “a different drummer” for decades and like Bynum, hails from the East Coast. While playing for the Lakers, Abdul-Jabbar buried himself in books and literature while Bynum spent free time building computers in the home he shared with his mother. Both men were considered unconventional NBA players when it came to off-the-court personality.
A fundamental difference between the two is love for the game of basketball, which became apparent to Abdul-Jabbar while working with Bynum (and doing a damn fine job if I may editorialize).
After Bynum was shipped to Philadelphia in the Lakers’ trade for Dwight Howard in 2012, Abdul-Jabbar told Lakers beat writer Mark Medina, “Andrew has been up and down on that issue [of commitment and winning]. There are times he wants to play, do a great job and he goes out and does it. Then there are other times where it seems like he’s not focused.”
Any professional athlete will tell you that without the proper incentives (enjoyment of the sport, public notoriety, and big-time paychecks, just to name a few), the strenuous physical and mental dedication to the craft just ain’t worth it.
It appears that the benefits of being a professional basketball player are no longer worth the time and effort for Bynum. For the sake of his teammates, fans, and Bynum himself, hopefully the still-young man will set his sights on a new, more enjoyable career that keeps him out of the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Park City trip was a success. Great crew w/ RJ & Mike and a fantastic interview w/ Olympic legend Dr. Eric Heiden. The best thing about Eric is the fact that what he did in the 1980 Games was just the beginning of a career in athletics and more importantly, helping people using medicine and surgery. His story embodies the epitome of the Olympic spirit.
You know what time it is… Another episode of Going Roggin on KNBC channel 4 is coming your way this weekend. FS1 analyst and former Florida St. QB Chris Rix and I will duke it out with Fred Roggin officiating. We’ll grade all of LA’s sports teams for the year of 2013 plus talk about how Kobe’s top dollar contract will impact the Lakers’ future. Plus we’ll debate baseball’s proposed rule change, the new sport of Chess Boxing and much more! Tune in at 3pm this Saturday and again at midnight on Sunday/Monday. As always, thanks for watching :)
Devastation From The Blind Side A Familiar Story For The Bruins
Boston Bruins enforcer Shawn Thornton made a serious error in judgement during Saturday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the TD Garden. The Bruins forward grabbed Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik from behind, threw him down on the ice and punched him in the face/head area a few times, which knocked Orpik unconscious. Orpik was removed from the ice on a stretcher and sent to a local hospital to be examined. The incident occurred after the whistle during the first period of an eventual 3-2 Bruins win.
The first period was quite nasty leading up to the Thornton incident as as Bruins forward Loui Eriksson was sidelined after suffering a concussion thanks to a hit from Orpik, and Penguins forward James Neal kneed Bruins forward Brad Marchand in the head while he was already down on the ice.
The question is not whether previous actions by the Penguins warranted a response by the Bruins. Retribution for throwing shade on one’s teammate is a strong tenant of the hockey code, so Thornton certainly wasn’t wrong in that respect. The criticism comes from the fact that Thornton basically waged a sneak attack on Orpik as the two had not agreed to fight and from his vantage point, Orpik never saw Thornton coming. Orpik was defenseless.
Thornton, who was ejected and has an upcoming in-person hearing with NHL Senior Vice President of Player Safety Brendan Shanahan, appeared to be genuinely remorseful after the game (watch the video above, care of WEEI’s Mike Petraglia).
After the game, Thornton told reporters that he felt sick about the incident and that he never intended to do such damage to Orpik, a player he knows well.
“I know Brooksie,” Thornton said. “I’ve gotten to know him over the last several years here. I skated with him in the summer, over the lockout.”
Thornton said he sent Orpik a few text messages after the game and continued to apologize for the incident which turned out to be your typical hockey retribution fight, gone wrong.
“That’s always my job, I guess, to defend my teammates but I’ve prided myself for a long time to stay within in the lines,” Thornton told reporters. "It’s hard for me to talk about it right now."
There have been several overtly violent incidents in the NHL over the years, but the one that sticks out for me and anyone who has watched the Bruins in the last few years is the hit from then-Penguins forward Matt Cooke on then-Bruins center Marc Savard in 2010. The incident effectively ended Savard’s NHL career.
Thornton was Savard’s teammate at the time, and the Bruins took a lot of flack for their lack of retribution against Cooke in that game. The next time the teams met a few weeks later, Thornton went after Cooke within seconds of Cooke stepping on the ice.
In no way can I defend Thornton’s behavior on Saturday. For several reasons, including what happened Saturday, I would argue that fighting be removed from the NHL all together. Sure, the counterargument can easily be made that if Thornton had at least confronted Orpik face-to-face, that Orpik would have been able to defend himself, possibly lessening the impact of Thornton’s punches, and that the circumstance was the more dangerous than the punch itself.
Thornton once told me that when he was a kid playing hockey, his coach encouraged him to learn how to fight, telling Thornton that he’d better play that part if he wanted to continue to rise through the hockey ranks. Many enforcers of the past and present took on the role solely for self preservation as fighting and physically defending teammates became the only way they could remain in the game.
Between my conversations with Shawn and some of his public comments, I have the feeling he (and others in his position) has mixed emotions about his role as an enforcer. The bloody knuckles and broken noses have earned him a long NHL career, but success at the behest of violence has come at a price.
A price that is about to skyrocket.
Sporting events might just be the only authentic reality television. The personalties, athletic ability, competition, story lines and lack of a predetermined outcome captivate fans and audiences worldwide.
Historic rivalries provide some of the best drama sports has to offer. At a certain point, attempting to find new ways to spin old stories can become a bit tedious for writers, reporters and producers of sports content.
NFL Network recently found a brand new way of examining one of the NFL’s most popular modern rivalries, Tom Brady versus Peyton Manning.
One could easily argue that this isn’t quite a rivalry at all considering opposing quarterbacks never set foot on the field at the same time, but the games between Brady’s New England Patriots and Manning’s Indianapolis Colts (and now Denver Broncos) have given us suspenseful pleasures for more than a decade.
Before proceeding, you should know that I worked for NFL Network as a production assistant for nearly two years, and Anthony Smith, an NFL Network features producer who created the network’s latest series about Brady v. Manning, is a good friend of mine. That said, it never hurts to give credit when and where it’s due.
"The Rivals" is a multi-part video series that chronicles not only the history of Brady v. Manning, but also, examines the heart and soul of great rivalries, as told by several of the modern era’s biggest sports rivals.
"The concept came about this summer during a brainstorm for the current season," Smith, in his eighth year at the network, tells PepperOnSports.com.
"I was looking at a way of telling the Brady-Manning story in a way that I hadn’t seen yet."
"The Rivals" roster is long and accomplished as the following athletes participated in the series:
Jack Nicklaus & Arnold Palmer
Bill Walton & Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Goose Gossage & Carlton Fisk
Jimmie Johnson & Jeff Gordon
Martina Navratilova & Chris Evert
Pete Sampras & Andre Agassi.
"Pitching the project to the rivals was pretty easy. All of them immediately understood what the project was looking to accomplish," says Smith.
"All of these athletes are sports fans. And all of them followed the NFL, with the exception of Andre Agassi who was up front and honest about that."
Watching and listening to sports titans talk about their career rivals within the context of Brady and Manning is a treat for any sports fan, regardless of one’s familiarity of the historic rivals. “If you don’t know, now you know.”
One of my favorite lines in the series comes in the Bill Walton vs. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar episode when Walton says of Abdul-Jabbar, “that guy’s left leg belongs in the Smithsonian.”
It is rare that athletes are given the opportunity to discuss peers in other sports. The group chosen to participate in “The Rivals” legitimately loves the sport of football, and Brady v. Manning.
"I was pleasantly surprised by the vast football knowledge of all of them," says Smith.
The episodes debuted on the web and were shown during various televised programming on NFL Network in the week leading up to Broncos v. Patriots in week 12 of the NFL season.
I’d bet most of the “The Rivals” participants watched Sunday night’s instant classic that will undoubtedly find a place in rivals lore and further the legend that is Brady v. Manning.
I think it’s safe to say that Tucson will be one wild town tonight. Congrats Cats! Arizona 42 Oregon 16.
If you are receiving this email, that probably means we are pretty good friends. Since we are pretty good friends, you probably know that I grew up going to a sleep-away camp because I talk about it all the time.
"This one time, at camp…"
Here goes my attempt at somehow expressing the importance and impact of Camp JCA Shalom in my life while keeping this email from becoming a novel. Wish us both luck.
I attended my first session of sleep-away camp as a 7-year-old in the summer of 1991. I guess that one week was fairly awesome since I never looked back, and have kept camp in my life ever since.
As an only child at home, my counselors (teenagers whom at the time, I thought were for sure, super old…like, 25) took on the role of older sisters and living in a cabin with 15 other girls taught me about sharing and the dynamics of living with people other than my parents.
While I always had a lot of friends in school and daycare, I was constantly teased about my height (lack thereof) and weight (too much of). For reasons I still can’t quite understand, this was never an issue at camp. Not only was I accepted for who I was and what I looked like, but I was celebrated for it. Aside from relationship building, camp challenges kids and teens to step outside their comfort zones and try new things and activities. After camp, I took the confidence I gained back to school with me, along with new friends which grew my social group every year.
Over the years, I have watched countless kids who were outcasts at school transform into superstars at camp, carrying that fortitude and spirit out of Malibu and right back into daily life at home and school. On a personal level, the encouragement and confidence instilled by my camp experience has undoubtedly helped me not only to succeed in my career as a television sports reporter, but more importantly, to refuse to give up despite several failures and the constant rejection that comes along with the entertainment business.
After seven years as a camper, I wanted to give back to camp by becoming a counselor, and eventually, the teen program coordinator (TASC unit head). In my six summers as a staff member at camp, I “cured” homesickness, wiped away tears, removed splinters and bee stingers, helped kids navigate through divorce, depression, health problems, body issues, death and abuse at home, worked with special needs campers, provided unconditional love and support for kids who “came out of the closet” to me, and created programs about racism, social justice, tolerance and genocide in various parts of the world.
Also during that time, I wore a chicken suit while serving as the camp mascot, led 5-mile hikes from the mountains to the beach, donned a Sumo suit and wrestled other counselors, wrote songs and skits, made countless friendship bracelets, swapped outfits with my teen campers (girls and boys!) for camp dances, repelled down a cliff and through a waterfall, surprised my deserving staff with food and other treats from “the outside world,” and created programs about friendship, peace, love, and of course, the Beastie Boys.
At age 30, the majority of my closest friends are people I met at camp. More than 40% of campers currently attending Camp JCA Shalom are doing so on scholarship. Without the generosity of camp alumni and donors, those kids and teens could not afford to have what could be the best experiences of their lives. When I watch stories on the news about mass shootings, or young people who commit suicide, it pains me to think of how things might have turned out differently if they would have had the type of support and community provided by the sleep-away camp movement.
This is the time of year when Camp JCA Shalom holds it’s annual Gala fundraiser. If you feel compelled to do so, I kindly ask that you contribute to Camp JCA Shalom in one of three ways, all of which, are tax deductible.
1) “Straight cash, homie!” A standard donation of any amount is welcome. Yes, even $5 would be greatly appreciated.
2) Purchase a raffle ticket with a grand prize 7-night luxury vacation (need not be present to win). Click this link or email me for more info
3) Come hang out with all us camp folk at the Shalom Institute Gala on Thursday, Dec. 5 at the Petersen Automotive Museum in L.A. Click the link or email me for more info.
If you choose to support camp in any of the ways listed above, I ask that you please do so “in honor of” of Barri Worth, who is one of my closest friends and one of three Gala honorees. Barri and I met as bunkmates in cabin G-3 in 1992 and remained co-campers for years before going through the CIT (counselor in training) program together, and eventually becoming co-counselors.
Barri is an incredible woman and generous member of society who in her spare time supports many causes, charities and various communities. Barri has also chosen a career public service in which she served for several years in the Los Angeles Mayors’ office, and now, works for the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. If you could name drop her upon donating, I would greatly appreciate it.
I can’t put into words what Camp JCA Shalom has meant to me and how fondly I remember hundreds of the counselors, campers and experiences I’ve had there over the years.
Thanks again for reading my schpiel!
'91-'99 camper, CIT 2000, staff '01-'05 and again in 2011.
The NFL hasn’t exactly provided a wealth of positive stories over the past several days. From the alleged bullying saga in Miami, to health scares for both the Broncos and Dolphins head coaches, professional football has left us little to smile about as of late.
Leave it to original Houston Texans offensive lineman Chester Pitts to neutralize some of the negativity, as he and other current and former Texans players will drive senior citizens to the voting booth on Tuesday, Nov. 5. Literally.
Pitts, who retired from the NFL in 2011 and now works for local television station KPRC in Houston, is joining forces with the Harvest Community Center for the second consecutive year in helping the elderly members of his community to vote.
Last year’s event went so well that Pitts decided to do it again, and not just in light of the Houston mayoral race, the fact that the elderly are often an infringed voting group, or because it’s a mitzvah. But also, because old people are awesome.
"Seniors, you can learn so much from them and just being around them for the length of time we were, was an amazing experience," Pitts told PepperOnSports.com.
"Their gracious attitude told me this was something I had to keep doing."
Joining Pitts behind the wheel of several large passenger vans that will shuttle seniors from various community centers to the polls will be current Texans offensive linemen Duane Brown and Brandon Brooks, as well as former Texans defensive lineman Travis Johnson and former Houston Oilers receiver, Haywood Jeffries. Johnson also participated on election day last year.
Tuesday will be the Texans first day off since a demoralizing Sunday Night Football performance in which the team gave up a 21-3 first half lead over the Indianapolis Colts, ultimately losing at home, 27-24 and dropping their season record to 2-6. Texans head coach Gary Kubiak collapsed on the field during halftime with a still unknown medical condition. It’s pretty cool that despite a trying season thus far, some of the Texans are willing to give up what little free time they have to help out strangers within the community.
"There is no responsibility for professional athletes to do this," Pitts told PepperOnSports.com.
"But as a professional athlete you are a role model and I believe you should always do what is right. Helping others, especially our seniors is always important and as long as I am able, I want to do just that."
Pitts says that as a media member, he has approached different players about helping out with the event in the locker room following Texans games. He hopes player involvement will increase each year.
(photos courtesy of Chester Pitts)
(Top photo, Pitts and Brown. Bottom photo, Brooks and Pitts)
Goodbye, St. Paul. It was fun talking Olympic hockey with the crew, Zach Parise & Gary Smith.
Attended the premiere of fellow sports reporter Angela Sun’s outstanding new documentary “Plastic Paradise.” It was eye-opening and will change the way you use plastic. It’s a Must-see film and I couldn’t be more proud of Angela. What an inspiration!
Scott Niedermayer interview. Captain of gold medal-winning Team Canada 2010, Ducks coach and Champion of all things hockey
Mike Eruzione, nearly 34 years after scoring the game-winning goal vs the USSR… Miracle On Ice.
Dodger stadium got loud when the @dodgers scored. Too loud, according to Scott Van Slyke.
Set your DVR - Showbiz Tonight, on HLN at 8pm PST / 11pm EST. We’re talking serious sports issues…Bob Costas v. Redskins and Adrian Peterson playing after the death of his young son. We even had a little fun talking our casting choices for the 50 Shades of Grey movie (hence the smiles). Should you miss the first run, the show re-airs multiple times tonight.
Dodgers Are Heading To The NLCS…But Did You See Puig Dance?
The Dodgers are heading to the NLCS for the first time since 2009, and the city of Los Angeles is going berserk. Perhaps the craziest, most enthusiastic of us all is Yasiel Puig.
Before calling up the young phenom to the majors in June (BP), the Dodgers were 23-32 and on the brink of collapse. After the 22-year-old Cuban arrived at Chavez Ravine (AP), the Dodgers went 69-38, finishing the season with a 92-70 record.
That’s right folks…
Not too shabby. But the Wild Horse -a nickname bestowed upon Puig by legendary Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully- is good for so much more than just baseball.
Not only is Puig stellar at spraying celebratory Champaign, but my gosh, does he have some incredible dance moves. And by incredible, I mean, well…see for yourself.
This isn’t Puig’s first time out on the dance floor. If you recall, Puig busted out "The Worm" and channeled his inner Soviet solider after the Dodgers clinched a playoff berth at Chase Field (resulting in pool-gate).
Even if you aren’t a fan of the Dodgers, how can you not root for more of this?