Each week, The Reporters put their thumbs out to the good and the bad in the world of sports. This week, they discuss Michael Vick owning a dog, the documentary 9.79, champagne celebrations in the clubhouse and the NFL.
Bruce Arthur, National Post: My thumb is down to Michael Vick, who announced that three years after he spent 19 months in prison for running a cruel and criminal dog-fighting operation, he owns a dog. He's legally allowed to do so, but it should still make a person queasy thinking about it. In a statement, Vick said, "as a father, it is important to make sure my children develop a healthy relationship with animals. I want to ensure that my children establish a loving bond and treat all of God's creatures with kindness and respect." That's pure PR from a paid representative, but maybe this is a commendable thing. Maybe this is rehabilitation. Maybe it's ok that Michael Vick has a dog; as long as it's just the one.
Steve Simmons, Sun Media: My thumb is up to director Daniel Gordon for the exceptional work done in the documentary 9.79, made for an American audience. The film goes back to the 100 metres race at the Seoul Olympics in 1988; the most bittersweet event in Canadian sporting history. One night a nation celebrated with Ben Johnson. A few days later came the national crush that was his disqualification. Gordon cleverly used his film-making skills and his reportial savvy to view Johnson as a victim of the times, who paid a heavy price for a dirty sport while the director offered up numerous conspiracy possibilities along the way. For any Canadian who lived through the emotional upheaval of those times and wants to understand them better, this film is essential viewing.
Michael Farber, Sports Illustrated: My thumb is down to clubhouse champagne celebrations, which, like Christmas storefront displays in October, appear ever earlier. Now even the winners of Wild Card play-in games spray champagne with impunity - a waste of time and alcohol. One game does not warrant a bubbly bath. The spraying makes me appreciate NHL captains who stand stoically beside the Prince of Wales and Campbell trophies, refusing to touch them because, as they say, "we haven't won anything yet." Bud Selig should go all Roger Goodell on baseball's backside and limit these celebrations to division titles and the World Series. The champagne industry's loss is sanity's gain.
Dave Hodge, TSN: My thumb is down to the NFL, and it's not alone, for allowing pre-game talk of the sort offered this week by New York Giants' offensive co-ordinator Kevin Gilbride. In advance of Sunday's game in San Francisco, Gilbride made a point of alerting officials to the alleged illegal tactics of 49ers' defensive standout Justin Smith. According to Gilbride, Smith is a master at holding offensive blockers and "gets away with murder". Remember those refs everyone wanted back at work? Well, spare them such comments; they're damned if they throw a flag on Smith today and damned if they don't. If coaches aren't supposed to criticize refs following games, it's actually worse when they do so before games.