This Week
  • Renovation work begins this fall on the Sibley Building. Click on the image for a slideshow.

  • Eber Bros. is in a legal fight with the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.

  • Tapping into a business model mostly used in larger cities has led to growth at Inde.

  • Suzanne Nasipak-Chapman is Rochester market executive for First Niagara Financial Group.

  • New hotels add to Rochester's hospitality scene, but their impact is not yet certain.

  • The new Golisano Children's Hospital is dedicated.

On Sports

Brady fans, LeBron, the NCAA and Syracuse's fabled 44

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Rochester Business Journal
May 29, 2015

They say fan is short for “fanatic,” which may help explain the latest foolishness involving Deflategate. On Memorial Day, roughly 100 New England Patriots fanatics gathered in the parking lot of Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass., for a “Free Tom Brady Rally.” The organizer, who takes hero worship to a new level, claims the Pro Bowl quarterback is “half god, half man.” There were pro-Brady chants and signs as well as anti-Roger Goodell chants and signs during this made-for-social-media tailgating event. One woman held up a sign calling Brady “a true American hero.” That’s right. On a day when we honor the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice, we’re calling a football player who is suspended four games for cheating “a true American hero.” Sheesh!

But, wait. It gets better. The family of Patricia Shong, a 72-year-old Auburn, Mass., woman who died last week, included this gem in her obituary: “She would like to set the record straight—Brady is innocent!!’’ (That one actually made me chuckle.) Perhaps the true American hero who is Tom Brady can have that obit entered into the record when Goodell, the NFL’s judge/jury/executioner, hears his appeal in the not-so-distant future.

Look, I love the passion of sports fans. It’s one of the reasons I’ve enjoyed covering sports for a living. But it’s also one of the reasons I don’t enjoy covering sports, especially when we confuse entertainers with heroes; when irrationality goes over the top.

Now that Pats owner Robert Kraft has decided to punt and accept the punishments levied by Goodell, it will be interesting to see how far Brady will go in his fight. Should the commish play hard ball, Brady could sue the NFL, meaning this silly saga will become even sillier. Goodell has to hope it doesn’t come to that because he hasn’t fared well in cases involving impartial arbiters. In fact, he’s zero-for-three in recent high-profile cases, having had decisions overturned in scandals involving Bountygate, Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson.

A more likely scenario would be for Brady and Goodell to meet halfway, with the suspension cut from four games to two. Brady could curry favor by being more forthcoming than he was during the NFL-sponsored Ted Wells investigation. He could turn over his text messages and argue that he was indeed tough on equipment assistant John Jastremski and clubhouse attendant Jim McNally about the inflation levels of his footballs, but maintain that he never asked them to go below the league’s prescribed level of 12.5 pounds per square inch. The Buffalo Bills obviously are awaiting this outcome with bated breath because they are scheduled to host the Patriots in the second game of the season.

As I’ve said from the start, there are no heroes in this tawdry tale. Brady’s reputation has been permanently stained. And Goodell, particularly if he reduces the penalty, will continue to be perceived as a puppet of Kraft, his powerful friend and confidante. I hope, from this point forward, the league takes full responsibility for the preparation and monitoring of game balls. Handing control of the balls to individual players and teams is what led to this mess.

I still think Michael Jordan is the best basketball player of all time, but LeBron James is closing the gap. And if he were to will the injury-plagued Cleveland Cavaliers to an NBA championship in his first season back in Ohio, he would become even more like Mike. In their victory against Atlanta in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Finals, James had 37 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists. Those monstrous numbers speak to the all-around brilliance of his game. They say you can’t go home again, but King James seems hell-bent on proving wrong the man who uttered those words. The Cavs still have a ways to go, but if James continues playing like this, Cleveland could celebrate its first professional sports championship since the Browns won the NFL title in 1964.
 
Here’s yet another reason I’m not a big fan of the rules-obsessed NCAA: Boston College golfer Brian Butler recently made a hole-in-one to win $10,000 in a tournament. But because it wasn’t an NCAA event, he was forced to give the money back in order to maintain his collegiate eligibility. Give me a break!
 
Speaking of the NCAA, it recently served the University of North Carolina with a notice of allegations stemming from a university-commissioned investigation that discovered as many as 1,500 Tar Heel athletes took bogus courses over a period of 18 years. These transgressions appear far more egregious than those that resulted in the Syracuse University basketball program forfeiting more than 100 wins and losing 12 scholarships over the next four years. So you might expect the NCAA to hammer Carolina more harshly. But you never know how the governing body of college sports is going to mete out punishment. UNC has 90 days to file a response, and the infractions committee could take 60 to 90 days to make a ruling. It’s unlikely the university will self-impose sanctions because its basketball team could contend for a national championship this season. Like the Syracuse case, this one could drag on well into the season.
 
SU last week announced it was going to erect statues of Jim Brown, Ernie Davis and Floyd Little, the three running backs who made No. 44 arguably the most famous two digits in college football history. At the same press conference, we were told the number, which had been retired in 2005, was being brought out of mothballs. This created several angry tweets from the school’s greatest quarterback, Donovan McNabb, who also happens to be a member of SU’s board of trustees. McNabb lambasted the move, saying it was disrespectful to the men who had worn the number with distinction.

Personally, I have no problem with it being offered again. And neither do Brown and Little, who gave their blessings. SU football is coming off a 3-9 season and hasn’t been nationally relevant in years. If the legend of 44 can convince a blue-chip recruit to play for the Orange, that’s a positive thing. And even if the next young man to wear the number flops, big deal. It doesn’t diminish the legacy established by Brown, Davis and Little. The truth is, numerous players wore it after Little graduated in 1967, few with any success. That didn’t change what the holy trio of SU football achieved.

Scott Pitoniak is the Rochester Business Journal sports columnist.

5/29/15 (c) 2015 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.


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Phillip Wunder at 8:27:02 PM on 5/29/2015
Great takes. As far as LeBron and MJ, note MJ's 6 titles were won in the "dead space" of competition of the 90's with, correct me if I am wrong, 3 of the 6 titles coming against teams that had never even been to a title game before and 2 against teams that had only been to ...  Read More >

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