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Something To Talk About

Serena Williams (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Serena Williams (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Campbell_Bill-FEATURE-img Bill Campbell
Bill Campbell, known to all Philadelphiasports fans as “The Dean,”...
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By Bill Campbell

Fortunately there is a team worth talking about besides the Phillies.

The 76ers finally made some roster changes during the period of free agency. The Sixers have waived veteran forward Elton Brand by using their amnesty move, agreeing in principal to a one-year, $6 million deal with Nick Young. Young will replace Lou Williams, who has opted out of his free agent contract. In this unusual move by the Sixers, Brand will be paid $18.2 million in salary making him the ninth highest paid player in the league for the 2012-13 season. Brand’s contract comes off the team’s salary cap and allows the team the flexibility to, perhaps, add another player through free agency. Brand becomes a free agent and can sign with any team that is under the salary cap by auction. There are reportedly several teams interested in Brand including Dallas, Charlotte, Houston, Cleveland or Phoenix.

The Sixers gambled on Brand, a former Number One pick of the Chicago Bulls, who averaged 24.7 and 20.5 points in Phoenix before incurring a major injury. Brand never came close to those figures in Philadelphia. His best season here was in 2010-11, when he averaged 15 points per game. Last season he averaged only about 29 minutes per game and 11 points. The Sixers preferred to sign the 27-year-old Young to a one-year deal rather than a longer term deal with Williams, whose agent Leon Rose said, “I am advised this morning that the Sixers decided to part ways with Lou Williams. Lou’s goal was to remain a Sixer and we had communicated that to the Sixes and we had begun our negotiation talks recently. But both the result and the process were disappointing.” On Twitter, Williams expressed his disappointment in not returning to Philadelphia, “but the 76ers decided to move in a different direction. That was a 76ers business decision,” he said.

No matter the sport, the business aspects continue to overwhelm the playing of the game and the won-lost records; and no matter the sport, more and more it’s all about money.

Wimbledon

The big story at Wimbledon was Serena Williams’ winning for the fifth time and capturing her fourteenth overall major title at the age of thirty. Seems like she just made her debut as a teenager yesterday but that’s just not the case. She was incredible as she defeated Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, 6-1, 5-7, 6-2 under the sky in London. And then she went on to win the doubles tournament with her sister, Venus, that day. But the men’s final between Roger Federer-Andy Murray also was interesting for a lot of reasons.

Murray had reached four straight Wimbledon semi-finals but the finals had always eluded him. In Federer he took on an opponent who had beaten him in straight sets in the 2008 U.S. Open final and in the 2010 Australian Open final. In Murray’s only other major final, the 2011 Australian Open, he lost in straight sets to Novak Djokovic. Recalling those previous matches against Federer prior to this one, Murray said, “I’ve had experience playing Roger in the finals before. I’m going to try to use that to my advantage and this time from the things he always does well.”

Murray was trying to become the first British player to win Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936. It didn’t happen. Federer won 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, and 6-4 at center court with the roof on, for a record-tying seventh championship. Only Pete Sampras has won as many times in the modern era. Federer has been Number One in the world for 286 weeks, also tying Sampras’ record. He has no plans to stop now. England’s 76 year wait for a homegrown grass court champion at the All England Club continues.

Golf

The golf story this week was written by NaYeon Choi who hung on to beat Amy Yang, her playing partner, in the U.S. Women’s Open at Kohler, Wisconsin. She had shot a spectacular 65 in the third round and had a five shot lead entering the back nine in the final. Although she came a bit unglued then, she managed to recover and win easily by four shots with a 73. Finishing at 7 under, it was the first major win and sixth career LPGA victory for the twenty-year- old South Korean, who came into the tournament ranked fifth in the world. Yang, also from South Korea, shot 71 to finish second. NaYeon Choi is the fourth player from South Korea to win the U.S. Women’s Open in the last five years. Paula Cramer was the top American to compete but she finished ten shots back.

At Greenbriar, rookie Ted Potter, Jr. made a four-foot putt for birdie on the third play-off hole with Troy Kelly to win the Greenbriar Classic for his first PGA Tour win. He became the sixth first-time winner on the tour this year. Golf fans have a lot to look forward to in the young players, men and women, who are playing these days.

Penn State

There are more rumblings at Penn State.

The ongoing investigation led by former FBI chief, Louis Freeh, may have much more to do with determining the significance of the influence, if any, Joe Paterno had over the whole operation. The handling of the Jerry Sandusky crisis seems to have triggered a battle between the administrations of the Athletic Department and the overall university, and the Freeh investigation appears to be focused upon settling the question of which of the two factions should bear the most responsibility. For the moment, the football people seem to have the last word.

There isn’t much doubt that the Freeh inquiry will greatly center upon which set of administrators exerted the most influence in school matters that required discipline, which goes well beyond the Sandusky matter. As to who was the major influence for the good of the athletic program or the reputation of the university as a whole, we await the Freeh findings. Initially, it was promised that the Freeh report would be released sometime this summer. Now we are told it could be some time this week. The next meeting of the Board of Trustees is scheduled for Friday in Scranton and it is expected that this session will deal with everything – protocol, procedures and processes. The trustees hired Freeh in November with instructions to investigate everything including previous allegations against Sandusky, who was recently convicted of 45 counts of child abuse. The investigative committee is said to have interviewed more than 400 people including current and former trustees and myriad Athletic Department personnel. Investigators have been a constant presence in the Athletic offices, poring over all kinds of documents, student discipline records, emails, files plus correspondence between University President Spinier, former athletic coaches Curley, Schultz and Paterno. Considering all of this, it could well be a revealing and important week in the history of Penn State athletics. Hopefully, it will result in a fair, honest conclusions and a set of recommendations to prevent such problems from repeating themselves in the future.

The Phillies

Shane Victorino was in the starting line-up for the Phillies last Sunday for about an hour.
His name as the starting center fielder was on the card posted for the players but then it was taken off by manager Charlie Manuel. “He’s got a lot on his mind,” explained the manager, “and I just thought he needed time to get his act together.”

Victorino was replaced by Jason Pridie, who has done most of his playing with the Triple A Iron Pigs in Allentown this season. Pridie plays all three outfield positions and, before Sunday, had played in 16 games, 13 of them with the Iron Pigs, just 3 with the Phils — mostly as a pinch-hitter. He said he was taking practice swings in the batting cage when he found out he was starting. On Sunday, he contributed a double and a home run in his appearance. Wonder what Victorino was thinking as he watched Pridie’s performance?

Charlie Manuel says he thinks the 37-50 team is capable of having a special run in the second half and making the play-offs. But they have ended the first half having lost 10 of their last 11. They scratched their center fielder because they were unhappy with his play. Chase Utley has played in three straight games for the first time, reporting no ill effects. Ryan Howard went 2 for 8 in two games over the weekend. And the Phillies are 12 for their last 65 with runners in scoring position, working out to an average of .185.

Skipper, that run had better be very special.

Final Thought

Every year, Missouri native, Ryan Howard, hosts a party the night before the All Star Game. He did it again this year. But every year before the season begins Ryan Howard visits the Negro League baseball Museum in Kansas City and walks among the statues of Buck O’Neill, Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard and Cool Papa Bell. A mile from downtown Kansas City, where the Negro League was born in 1930, the museum shares a building with the American Jazz Museum and the Buck O’Neill Education and Research Center. It has not fared well during the last few years. All desperately three are in need of funding and Ryan Howard is a solid contributor to the place that inspires him.

I remember one time when I was broadcasting baseball and was doing an interview with Willie Mays. He described to me the speed of Cool Papa Bell in these words, “When he entered a room,” he told me, “he would turn out the lights and before the lights went out he would be in the sheets and under the covers.” That is really fast.

We could use a little of that around here.

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