Sports Law Roundup – 4/14/2017

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I used to write the sports technology roundup at TechGraphs, an internet website that died, and now I am writing the sports law roundup at ALDLAND, an internet website.

Here are the top sports-related legal stories from the past week:

  • Aaron Hernandez: This afternoon, a jury acquitted Aaron Hernandez, who played tight end for the New England Patriots and Florida Gators, of charges that he murdered two people in Boston in 2012. Hernandez already is serving a life term without parole for a 2013 murder. Despite the acquittal on the murder charges, the jury did convict Hernandez on a firearm charge.
  • St. Louis Rams: The City of St. Louis has sued the NFL and all thirty-two of its teams for losses related to the Rams’ departure to Los Angeles in 2016. The suit alleges that the team failed to make a good-faith effort to stay in St. Louis before leaving in violation of league rules. According to a public statement by the city’s mayor, the city spent a substantial amount of public money in the hopes of keeping the team, and it did so in reliance on the expectation that the team would comply with NFL team-relocation rules.
  • Baylor sexual assault: Earlier this year, a former Baylor student sued the university because, she alleged, she was the victim of a group rape committed by two football players in 2013 that the school ignored. She also alleged that football players were responsible for numerous other crimes “involving violent physical assault, armed robbery, burglary, drugs, guns, and, notably, the most widespread culture of sexual violence and abuse of women ever reported in a collegiate athletic program.” She further claimed that, between 2011 and 2014, thirty-one Baylor football players committed a total of fifty-two rapes, including five gang rapes. Now, the judge overseeing the case has largely denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss, narrowing the plaintiff’s emotional distress claim but otherwise allowing her case to proceed, calling the allegations “disturbing.”
  • Volleyball sponsorship: Kerri Walsh Jennings, who won three Olympic gold medals for the United States beach volleyball team, is suing the Association of Volleyball Professionals for breach of a sponsorship contract. Walsh Jennings alleges that AVP still owes her $150,000 on a $450,000 agreement despite her compliance with all of the contract’s terms. Part of the backdrop of this dispute may be another dispute between Walsh Jennings and AVP over whether she will play in AVP’s 2017 professional tournament.
  • NFL memorabilia: What purports to be new evidence in two 2014 lawsuits against Eli Manning, Steiner Sports (a memorabilia company with which Manning has a formal relationship), the Giants, and a team equipment manager alleging that the defendants worked together to sell collectors “game-worn” items that were not, in fact, game-worn emerged this week in the form of an email exchange between Manning and the equipment manager. In it, Manning requests “2 helmets that can pass as game used,” and the manager responded that he “should be able to get them for tomorrow.” The collectors who filed the lawsuits contend that this exchange proves that Manning knowingly provided Steiner with “fraudulent” items to sell to fans. The team now says the email exchange was taken out of context, and that its release now constitutes an attempt to defame Manning.

Sports court is in recess.

Sports Law Roundup – 3/24/2017

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I used to write the sports technology roundup at TechGraphs, an internet website that died, and now I am writing the sports law roundup at ALDLAND, an internet website.

Here are the top sports-related legal stories from the past week:

  • Penn State child abuse: The criminal trial of former Penn State University President Graham Spanier began this week. Earlier this year, a court ruled that three former PSU administrators would face criminal charges stemming from the Jerry Sandusky sexual assault scandal inside the university’s football program. Last week, two of the three defendants– former PSU vice president Gary Schultz and former athletic director Tim Curley– pleaded guilty to one count each of endangering the welfare of children, leaving Spanier as the sole defendant, facing charges of child endangerment and conspiracy. Spanier has maintained his innocence ever since 2012, when he was charged, but prosecutors presented testimony from Schultz and Curley they hope will undermine that position. The prosecution concluded its case on Wednesday, and, after the defense rested on Thursday morning without calling any witnesses, the case went to the jury that afternoon. The jury deliberated for nearly seven hours yesterday afternoon without reaching a verdict. Those deliberations remain ongoing as of the publication time of this post.
  • Minor League Baseball wages: Earlier this month, a California trial judge handed a significant victory to minor-league baseball players suing MLB for higher wages and overtime pay when he granted their request for class certification. The defendants (which also include the Kansas City Royals, Miami Marlins, and San Francisco Giants) now have requested permission to immediately appeal that ruling. Because trial judges’ decisions on class certification usually, as a practical matter, are outcome-determinative, parties opposing those rulings have a large incentive to appeal them right away. Recent statistical research suggests that there is a relatively good chance the court will allow an immediate appeal of the sort the defendants in this case have requested.

Sports court is in recess.

Sports Law Roundup – 11/25/2016

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I used to write the sports technology roundup at TechGraphs, an internet website that died, and now I am writing the sports law roundup at ALDLAND, an internet website.

Here are the top sports-related legal stories from a short holiday week:

  • NFL head injuries: A new lawsuit, filed Monday by thirty-eight former NFL players against the league and its teams, seeks an amendment to the NFL-NFLPA collective bargaining agreement to provide for workers’ compensation benefits for CTE, the disease found in people who suffer from repeated brain trauma, for living patients, as well as loss-of-consortium compensation for their spouses. The plaintiffs, including Detroit Lions All-1990s lineman Tracy Scroggins, allege that they have symptoms of CTE. While doctors typically cannot diagnose CTE until the patient has died, allowing for a more thorough brain examination, this lawsuit shifts the focus to those demonstrating CTE symptoms while they are alive. Advances in brain-imaging technology and a newly developed blood test may provide medical support for legal claims based on “living CTE.”
  • Professional athlete Ponzi scheme: On Monday, a banker pleaded guilty to conspiracy, wire fraud, and money laundering in connection with a Ponzi scheme she ran with former NFL player Will Allen designed to defraud investors with a plan to make loans to professional athletes seeking offseason financing when they weren’t receiving payments from their team salaries. The athletes’ identities are not public information, but, according to the banker, they include “the second-best player on a National Football League team, two other pro football players, two pro baseball players and a hockey player.” Allen, who already entered a guilty plea, spent more than a decade in the NFL as a defensive back for the Giants and Dolphins.

Sports court is in recess.

Taylor Swift and Phish deserve 2016 World Series rings

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Taylor Swift’s influence on this year’s historic World Series is well-recognized. First, she cleared the Chicago Cubs’ path through the National League side of the playoff draw by failing to release a new album in an even year for the first time since 2006, thereby removing the true and powerful source of the San Francisco Giants’ even-year magic. Things wobbled a bit when, on the day of game three of the NLDS (in which the Cubs held a 2-0 series lead over the Giants), Swift announced that her first concert in nearly a year would take place later that month and, some thought, hinted at a new album release that would spirit the Giants to another world championship. San Francisco avoided elimination by beating Chicago that night.

Swift performed her concert, but she ultimately declined to release a new album, thereby halting the Giants’ playoff run and allowing the Cubs to advance to the World Series.

As all baseball fans know from the parable of the angels in the outfield, though, a team’s supernatural helper– be it Christopher Lloyd or T-Swizz– only will carry the team so far. In the World Series, the Cubs faltered again. Their offensive power, which had floated them to a regular-season-best 103 wins, suddenly became scarce in the playoffs, and they quickly found themselves in a 3-1 hole against Cleveland in the final round. Backs against the wall, Chicago would have to win three straight games in order to claim the title. To do that, their first baseman, Anthony Rizzo, would have to start hitting.

At twenty-seven years old, Rizzo qualifies as a wise old veteran on this young Cubs team, and he knew a change was necessary for the Cubs to have a shot at winning the series, so he made one. All year and throughout the playoffs, Rizzo had used Swift’s “Bad Blood” as his walkup music, and it had served him well. With one game left at Wrigley Field, the first of three consecutive must-wins, Rizzo hit shuffle on the jukebox, swapping “Bad Blood” for the Rocky theme. It worked. Rizzo hit a key double and scored a run, and the Cubs won 3-2, sending the series back to Cleveland, where they would win twice more, including a dramatic game-seven victory in extra innings. And it’s all thanks to Taylor Swift.

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Almost all of it, anyway. The touring phenomenon that is the band Phish has been making music together since 1983. In the more than thirty years of their existence, they have performed in Chicago numerous times. In fact, prior to this year, they’d played in Chicago twenty-eight times (I’m counting their five appearances in Rosemont), including a 1991 gig at the famous Cubby Bear bar. (For more on that storied venue’s history with music and baseball, enjoy this brief video from 1984.)

Until 2016, though, they never had performed inside the (helping) friendly confines of Wrigley Field. In the 108th year of Chicago’s north-side championship drought, however, Vermont’s finest made their Wrigley Field debut on June 24. We joined them on night two of their two-night Wrigley run, and they were excellent. The second night’s second set, in particular, was sublime.

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I don’t recall any explicit baseball references from the band that evening, but the first set offered some clues:

  • Waiting All Night (a World Series game seven preview)
  • 46 Days (sung as a reference to the days of 1946, the year after the Cubs’ last World Series appearance)
  • I Didn’t Know (You Were That Far Gone – from a World Series championship)
  • Good Times Bad Times (acknowledging that the Cubs and their fans have had their share of both)

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Are there musicians more closely associated with the Chicago Cubs than Taylor Swift and Phish? Probably. Eddie Vedder comes to mind. Michigander and ostensible Detroit Tigers fan Jack White has had his public flirtations. It is clear from the foregoing, however, that no musicians did more to help the Cubs break their various curses and claim a World Series title for the first time in 108 years than Swift and Phish. If Manny Ramirez is getting a World Series ring this year, then so should Taylor, Trey, Jon, Mike, and Page.

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Related
World Series Game 7 in two tweets
Book review: Chicago Blues: The City & The Music

Game 162: Talking baseball at the end of the 2016 regular season

Every MLB team is in action beginning at 3:00 this afternoon for the final* day of the 2016 regular season. Before heading down to Turner Field to catch the Tigers and say farewell to baseball in downtown Atlanta, I was a guest on today’s episode of the Banished to the Pen Podcast, in which I rambled about wild card scenarios and made severely underinformed playoff predictions.

Stream or download the podcast here.

* Final as to all except Detroit and Cleveland, which likely will need to play a makeup game tomorrow.

Catching Fire: Ian Kinsler is the San Francisco Giants of the MLB All Star Game

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Last night, MLB announced the rosters for the 2016 All-Star Game. Not included: Detroit Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler. All Kinsler has done since coming to Detroit in the Prince Fielder trade is quietly build what some have called a Hall-of-Fame career.

The last time I wrote about Kinsler, I noticed that, after his rookie season (2006), he had made the All-Star Game in each even-year season and been left out each odd-year season. Basically, Kinsler is the San Francisco Giants of All-Star Games. While Kinsler’s omission from the AL’s initial ASG roster places that streak of sorts at risk, hope for its continuation remains in the form of the “Final Vote,” in which fans now may vote for one of five candidates in each league for the final roster spot on that league’s roster.

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That means that anyone reading this, along with the many, many people who are not reading this, can make Kinsler an all star by voting online here or texting “A1” to 89269 on your variable-intelligence mobile telephone. It’s pretty easy, minimally invasive, and needs to be done, if at all, before 4:00 pm on Friday.   Continue reading

ALDLAND Archives: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Lion: A tale of two teams?

Last night, the Detroit Lions opened NFL preseason action by stomping– when the Dan Orlovsky scores on you, that qualifies as a “stomping”– the New York Jets, 23-3. Before Lions fans run off to soil their newspaper pages, web logs, Twitter feeds, and MLive.com comment sections with flowery projections of now and present greatness, some perspective may be helpful, and I’m not even talking about the manual/surgical realignment of Gino Smith’s jaw. We all hope the Lions have a good season and make a good showing on Thanksgiving Day, but if you are a fan of these or any other Detroit Lions, it will benefit your sanity to recall that a win (or four) in the preseason is but a nugget of fool’s gold.

Here, then, to cut through your Honolulu Blue hangover of victory is a selection from fairly deep in the ALDLAND Vault, such as it exists, that seems as likely as anything else we’ve published to be of perennial import. -Ed.

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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Lion: a Tale of Two Teams?

September 7, 2011

The NFL’s as-yet-unabridged preseason finished up last weekend, and the Detroit Lions turned in another dominant performance, posting a 4-0 record and notching an especially impressive win over the New England Patriots. Analysts and commentators repeat the common mantra that the preseason doesn’t mean a lot, but in the same breath, many of them are pointing to this year’s Lions as a team that could be a surprise success. . . . Read the rest . . .

Free Baseball: Patient Braves fashion dramatic comeback to beat the Giants in extra innings

giant bravesOn a muggy night in Atlanta, the Braves opened a three-game series with the visiting Giants at 7:10 pm– actually a bit before then, by our watches– Monday. Atlanta’s starter, Mike Foltynewicz must’ve missed the memo, though, because he spent about an hour of game time serving batting practice to the San Francisco hitters, who responded by bombing fly balls to the deep reaches of Turner Field, netting them three homers to left, one to center, and a 6-0 lead by the fourth inning.

The rain that fell amidst the sunshine– likely the prompt answer to a desperate prayer from Foltynewicz, who, unbelievably, was sent back out to pitch the fifth and sixth innings– seemed to cool the Giants’ bats and, eventually, nurture the opposite effect for the home team. In the bottom of the sixth, Jace Peterson’s three-run homer halved the Giants’ lead, and (remember this name) Adonis Garcia’s follow-up double chased San Francisco starter Matt Cain. A Nick Markakis RBI single scored Garcia, and the Braves ended their productive sixth inning having trimmed the Giants’ six-run lead to two.

Atlanta would edge even closer in the next inning, thanks to a solo shot from the once and prodigal BABIP king Chris Johnson, but a two-out rally in the top of the ninth allowed the Giants to extend their lead to 7-5.

Two San Francisco relievers later, the Braves were down to their final out, trailing by two with no men on. Johnson kept his team alive with a hard-hit single, and A.J. Pierzynski’s third hit of the night landed in the outfield seats, tying the game and sending it to extra innings. Continue reading

Go to your home: Visualizing baseball team run-conversion efficacy

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In my latest post at Banished to the Pen, I attempt to visualize in graphic fashion the effectiveness of all thirty Major League Baseball teams at converting baserunners into runs and, having done so, speculate only a little bit wildly about the reasons why two of those thirty teams– the Detroit Tigers and San Francisco Giants– are not scoring as many runs as they probably should be given their large number of opportunities to do so (i.e., baserunners).

The full post is available here.

When do baseball teams score runs?

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One of the marks of a smart baseball writer is the ability to sense a trend, research its existence and nature, place her findings in context, and present her conclusions in a way that meaningfully educates readers. Inherent in this ability is the wherewithal to know when to stop researching a trend or pressing on a concept, realizing that the fruits of the work have been or soon will be exhausted. Sometimes a person who is not a “smart baseball writer” by the foregoing definition will noodle about on an idea for so long, he’ll end up with a small pile of research that no longer has any bearing on any meaningful conclusions.

Two years ago, I decided to investigate a hunch that the Detroit Tigers were having trouble scoring runs late in games. My initial research mostly seemed to support my hypothesis, and a follow-up look appeared to confirm it more strongly. More than merely interesting (and fleetingly self-satisfying), it also was informatively concerning, because it placed the team’s well-known bullpen problems in a more nuanced light: relief-pitching woes alone weren’t the problem, because the lack of late-game scoring was compounding the problem of surrendering leads during the final frames. As strange as it seemed, the Tigers had interrelated shortcomings on both sides of the plate.

One comment I received in the course of sharing those findings stuck with me: I needed to place this information in context. After all, there are plausible reasons to believe that all teams might, perhaps to varying extents, experience decreased run production in the late innings.

And so it was that, two years later, I finally discovered Retrosheet, a site that compiles inning-by-inning scoring data to a more useful degree than the resources I’d utilized back in 2013. What follows are two graphs of the inning-by-inning scoring of sixteen teams for the 2014 season. Continue reading