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July 13, 2011 8:00 AM

Column Awards of the Week (7/6-7/12)

By updating RealClearSports I read hundreds of articles every week but sometimes there are particularly passages that need highlighting. And to make these passages more palatable I'm doing them in award form! The awards are completely random and will change weekly.

Column Awards for slide.jpgI'm not going to blast Christian Lopez, the fan that got (he didn't catch it) Derek Jeter's 3,000th hit and gave it to the Yankees and Jeter. It's actually kind of cool that he did it and I'm glad he has no regrets (at least that's what he says). If he thinks that was the right thing to do then I'm fine with his decision.But on the flip side, I definitely wouldn't blast someone for selling it to the highest bidder and making a small fortune either. In fact, that's definitely what I would've done in his situation.

It's also nice that the Yankees stepped up and rewarded him with so much stuff. He gets four ticket to every home game this season (including the playoffs), some signed balls and bats from Jeter and a chance to meet the legend. Not bad at all. But just like when Oprah hands out cars or you win the showcase showdown on the Price Is Right you have to pay taxes on those gifts. The number being floated around is $14,000 he will owe in taxes on that haul. This from a guy that has $200K in student loans. This is a situation where the Yankees better step up and give him one of their best tax attorneys and get this thing squared away.

Frankly, I find it funny how much importance we place on the physical object. Is that ball really that symbolic? Is it the ball that allowed Jeter to achieve this feat? Does owning that ball bring you any closer to greatness? I used to collect autographs when I went to games as a kid but at some point I realized, what's the point? Seeing the players up close and the experience is what matters, not a few scraggly lines on a ball.

I asked one of our writers, Jeff Neuman, how he felt about the situation and he had an interesting take on it. He thought Jeter should've told the guy to keep the ball and sell it. Neuman also mentioned that a past great Yankee had done just that. Sal Durante wanted to give Roger Maris his 61st home run ball and Maris told him to sell it.

That ball means nothing to Jeter. Jeter has five championship rings, a World Series MVP award, multiple Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers. This one ball would just be one more thing to put in a very full trophy case. When asked about the ball, Jeter said, "I have it. Feels like all the rest of them." Sounds like someone that's really going to cherish that piece of history. On to the awards!

Sports Ain't What They Used to Be

Buzz Bissinger of the Daily Beast believes sports nowadays lacks big personalities: Are there any athletes in the modern-day era of sports either truly heroic or just truly colorful? I can think of Pat Tillman, who left a budding pro football career to join the military and so tragically died in the mountains of Afghanistan from friendly fire. I can think of New York Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter on the basis of how he has played the game with the quiet intensity and class reminiscent of DiMaggio. I can think of New York Jets football coach Rex Ryan, who has one of those brains missing the section that deals with self-censorship. But that's about it. And in the same league with Yogi or Namath or Ali? Not even close.

Earlier in the article Buzz mentions that athletes are trained not to say anything controversial and then he mentions Jeter as an outlier to that? Jeter provides some of the most vanilla interviews ever. No colorful characters? I'd argue that with the rise of social media we've discovered a ton more colorful characters. What about Ron Artest, Chris Cooley, Dwight Howard, Blake Griffin, Chad Ochocinco, Terrell Owens and Steve Nash among countless others. It does seem like there are less players taking stands today as there once were but I do believe much of Buzz's argument simply has to do with nostalgia. In 20 years we will be waxing poetic about Kobe Bryant and how unbelievable he was and his work ethic and how he's one of the greatest to ever play the game. People won't be focusing on his trade demand or rape accusation. It just seems like this piece lacks perspective and is grasping at straws.

Misplaced Anger

Carlos Zambrano has done some dumb things during his major league career. He has criticized his team, gone on temper tantrums and smashed water coolers among other things but Steve Rosenbloom of the Chicago Tribune is upset with Zambrano for the wrong reasons: Now get a load of this: Zambrano plans to fly to Guatemala over the All-Star break to prepare for the adoption of his son. Can you say "utter disrespect,'' boys and girls?

What's more, the Cubs have not said they will stop him. Dopes all around, it looks like. Zambrano continues to clown his team the way he clowned his manager with that bat-over-the-knee-episode and the team apparently says, "Thank you, sir, may I have another?''

So, Rosenbloom is upset because Zambrano is on the DL and could further injure himself on a a plane...or something like that. It really makes no sense at all. He's leaving during the All-Star BREAK to tend to his family and he's being called out for it? To further muddy his point, Rosenbloom mentions how the Cubs season is pretty much already over and it doesn't even matter anymore. Then what is the point of getting angry with Zambrano over this?

Oddest Angle to the All-Star Game

Mike Lopresti of the USA Today took an interesting approach to writing about the All-Star game. Since Ted Williams' head is frozen near Chase Field, he decided to write a letter to him: So here I am, gazing at the slate gray front of the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, in a quiet neighborhood of deserted office buildings on a Sunday afternoon. Your bust is in Cooperstown, but your head is in Alcor, maintained, they say, at minus-196 degrees. Since it hit 100 outside this weekend, nice to see someone remaining cool.

Is writing a letter to Ted Williams' frozen head really the best angle you could come up with? Is this not extremely disrespectful to his legacy and his family? And how does he end the letter? Good to stop by, Ted. Stay cool.

Playing the God Card

A lot has been said about Shannon Stone, the fan that fell to his death trying to get a souvenir ball for his son. There have been pleas for more safety measures at ballparks but mostly people have seen it as just a horribly tragic accident. Gil LeBreton of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram doesn't believe in accidents: Now the stadium's memories have another chapter. A father and his son, hoping they would catch a baseball. By the end of the night, Cooper Stone's father would be dead.

To everything there is a time. And a purpose.

You think this is all part of God's plan? You think depriving a child of his father for the rest of his life by an event that will scar him forever is in God's plan? No this was a an accident that had no purpose. It's simply a devastating story with no happy ending. Sometimes that's the way life is.

Confusing Argument

Stephen A. Smith of ESPN believes NBA players playing overseas is detrimental to the league and selfish: Forgive New Jersey Nets star guard, Deron Williams, and his ignorance. The man just doesn't know any better. We can't say the same about Michael Beasley, but that's primarily because his ignorance appears beyond repair. The former has decided he wants to play in Turkey if the NBA lockout continues; the latter simply was ticketed for alleged misdemeanor possession of marijuana. But the fact that the two have decided to commit their respective acts in the midst of a contentious collective bargaining negotiation dismantles any notion of togetherness on the part of NBA players.

First of all, comparing Williams going overseas to Beasley getting ticketed for marijuana is hilarious. One is illegal and the other is a business decision that makes a lot of sense. Playing overseas is not a criminal act and actually could help the player's union. Most experts believe that the fact that players can play overseas gives the player's union an advantage. Unlike the NFL, the NBA players legitimately have other options. And if you're the NBA this is another way to expand the brand when those players come back to the U.S. It's pretty much a win-win for the player and the player's union and could potentially benefit the entire league in the long run.

Bowing Down to Jeter's Greatness

Obviously, Jeter has been the hot topic recently. Leading up to 3,000 it was about how he has slowed down and should be removed from the shortstop position. But then he went 5-for-5 and hit a homer for his 3,000th hit and it was a torrential downpour of praise heaped on the legend. If you want to read the column that took the praise to the next level, check out Deadspin's breakdown of Ian O'Connor's article (NSFW - language).

Biggest Reason for Jeter's Popularity

Paul White of USA Today has an interesting theory why Jeter is so popular: Image is what solidifies Jeter's place among the Yankees greats. He has been single for his whole career. The gossip columns have thirsted for details of his dating, which, like everything else in his life off the field, Jeter ferociously guards.

It's the same reason Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Tom Brady, Wayne Gretzky and Cal Ripken were all so famous as well...oh wait. Or maybe it's because he's the best baseball player in the biggest market and has been for 15 years and is attractive. I mean, those things might have something to do with it.

Insane Fans Story of the Week

And no - it's not about the idiot who almost fell during the Home Run Derby. This comes from Shannon Owens of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Owens believes NBA players will be in for quite a shock if they play overseas. They won't be boarding private jets or even flying first class. They will be piling into buses with no per diem to speak of. But it's what fans do in Turkey that caught my attention: Turkish basketball fans are a passionate bunch and it's pretty common for aggravated fans -- particularly during rival games -- to take a lighter and heat a coin before throwing it at players on the court. In case you were wondering, it does burn a little...

Hot coins?? Take some notes Philly fans. You guys have nothing on the Turks.

Columnist Takedown!

Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution lays into Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press. Drew Sharp wrote that Jair Jurrjens wouldn't be an All-Star if he were still on the Tigers. Jurrjens went into the break with a 12-3 record and an ERA of 1.87 but Sharp believes that if Jurrjens was in the American League his record would be around .500 and his ERA would skyrocket. It's a pretty ridiculous claim that switching leagues would make THAT much of a difference and Bradley takes him to the woodshed. You should really click on the link and read the whole thing - it's pretty brutal.

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