Rahim Moore has kindly offered a preview for this weekend's activities. In the third quarter of the preseason game between Denver and Buffalo, the Broncos rookie safety closed on Bills receiver Donald Jones. The ball caromed off Jones' hands, but Moore had already committed to a particular task. That happened to be separating Jones from his senses, eliciting angry responses from the Bills sideline and garnering much love from his teammates. But the ultimate task, for Moore and everyone else, is to be in the team picture on opening day.

Watch closely this weekend. You may not recognize the names or the faces. But intensity will abound. It'll be most evident right after halftime. Some starters will remain, but most will have exchanged their shoulder pads and helmets for baseball caps. They'll stand near the bench and joke with one another or provide the sideline reporter with insight on some story line. Sure there's a few more exhibition quarters remaining, but for the most part those guys are looking ahead and taking one last deep breath before a long grueling season.

It's tradition that the first preseason game breaks the monotony of camp. The second game is bit more focused and involves some scripted plays and extended looks at certain players. By the fourth game the season opener is looming, and while coaches are loath to admit it, most personnel decisions have already been made. But in the second half of that third exhibition game, lots are cast. Players with the most to prove will fight to live another day. And they will fight. It may not be the best 'ball of the year, but refinement will come later. This game is about survival.

The method to the madness depends on one's tortured perspective. If you're an excitable rookie, you think that if you don't make the team, your career is over and you probably can't be convinced otherwise. But if you're a veteran whose been around the block, you're moved by reality. You know hard work will only get you so far. Sure, you can live in the team facility all winter long. You can lift weights until you're lightheaded, sprint until you drop, and you can break down more video footage than Ken Burns. When camp starts, you can go out to practice early and throw all yourself into every drill. But when late August comes and you're not running with the first or second team, you’re gonna get cut. Period.

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Your position coach knows this too. He may like you, but he has little power. The best he can do is get you into the game during that all-important third week. The coach knows exactly what you're thinking: You're thinking it's not about making this particular team, it's your audition for the rest of the league.

See, representatives from other teams are watching. Perhaps there's some scout who wanted to draft you a couple of years back, but his input was ignored by the coach, G.M., or player personnel director. He knew you were a bad fit for the team that picked you and now he wants to see if you're that same guy he held in such high regard.

After the final exhibition game has been played, perhaps the position coach will make a call. The coach will say something like "Hey, I have a kid here who taught himself to play every position in the secondary, he covers kicks, he’s a fearless punt returner, and he’s as mentally tough as anyone you’ll meet. You should give him a look."

And if you're me, all of these things tell the story of your five years in the National Football League.

Whenever I take issue with any team's personnel decisions, a lot of fans like to remind me that professional football is a business. This always makes me laugh. But they’re absolutely right. There's a finite number of players on each team and an equally finite dollar amount that governs the payroll. Sometimes, decisions are rather strongly influenced by economic concerns. Rod Woodson, a year removed from the Baltimore Ravens victory in Super Bowl XXXV, was less than pleased with the team's effort to repeat. Said Woodson at the time: "We have a lot of young guys here now. I know they’re cheaper than the guys they got rid of, but I don’t know if they’re necessarily better."

That's the thing about business. It's not always about ability. Sometimes it’s a matter of type casting. A manager in the National Football League is really no different from a manager in your office. Both fall prey to the lazy principles of group think. Sometimes an employee gets assigned a certain role from which there is no escape.

Few understood this better than a guy named Cornell Holloway. He played cornerback and was my training camp roommate for two seasons in Indianapolis. He had been a late-round pick by the Bengals. And after being cut he had ended up with the Colts. To his chagrin, Holloway had been designated what he called the "move man"—the guy who gets sacraficed whenever a team makes a roster move.

Say a linebacker gets injured. It's not enough of an injury to place him on injured reserve, but the team needs another linebacker to replace him. So to make room for the new backer, a player from another position has to be released. Holloway was that guy, meaning he was released and resigned several times during the season.

The only exit from the carousel is a decision-maker with the stones to rise above the herd. Warren Sapp has summed this very nicely: "All you need is one person in this league to like you."

This weekend, those who take the field in that frantic third quarter are hoping to catch the eye of a would be admirer. Some, like Dallas running back Tashard Choice still have a shot to make the team that drafted him. But others, like Saints cornerback Leigh Torrence, in his sixth year, is on his third team, have no shot at sticking around. Torrence is hoping that some young, eager quarterback challenges him early and often and he’ll get to show he still has the skills to play. It’s the only way to stay in the picture.

Any team picture.

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On the eve of her return to the site of one of her two career wins at the Canadian Open, Michelle Wie is getting peppered with questions.

That's not new.

The Hawaii native is being criticized by LPGA legend Annika Sorenstam.

That's not new.

But the questions are coming this week because Sorenstam recently wondered aloud if Wie is "distracted" by academics.

That is new. And it's ridiculous.

"She's very distracted with school, doesn't really play as much full time as I thought she would," Sorenstam told the press at this year's U.S. Women's Open. "I think she needs to come out here and compete more regularly."


We are deluged by stories of young athletes ditching school to focus on sports. How often have we seen talented teens leaving high school or college early for overhyped dreams of fame and riches in pro sports, only to see them end up out of work, out of money, and out of luck?

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Now, apparently, it's a bad thing when a young athlete makes the opposite choice: school over sports.

According to Sorenstam, Wie needs to drop those textbooks and get back on the golf course if she wants to be taken seriously by her peers and by the golf world.

We're not talking about modeling or cutting a record. This isn't Dwight Howard choosing an acting role over developing his post game. This isn't Ricky Williams bailing on football to smoke marijauna. This is an individual choosing a Stanford education over an individual sport.

Would the LPGA be more successful if Wie focused fully on golf? Probably. Would Wie be a better story if she had 200 career wins instead of two? Sure. But so what? The LPGA's problems are not Wie's problems. It's not like Wie is a member of a team. She's responsible to herself alone, and if she decides to be selfish enough to harvest her talent in the classroom instead of cultivating her ability on the golf course, then good for her. If only every 21-year-old made the same decision.

The question asked about Wie over and over again, for a decade now, is "Does she love golf?" In my opinion, the answer is, "Not entirely." Wie always liked winning and hitting the ball far and being in front of cameras, but she never took to the drudgery of endless practice and putting. That, of course, is what Annika always did well. She mastered the boring. And it probably bugs her that Wie got rich by ignoring the boring.

Wie got a lot of glory (and cash) without doing decades of work. Now she wants to be a college student, which is decidedly more fun than beating balls at the range. Maybe that means she's not mentally tough -- "You wonder if she's mentally strong enough to finish at the top," Sorenstam said -- but who cares? A lot of people in this world are not mentally strong enough to win championships but happen to be mentally sharp enough to make a living and make the world a better place. Wie might be an also-ran in the golf world, but she can still be a big success in some other career, and just because Annika doesn't live in that other world doesn't mean it's not equally (or more) important.

The first time I heard the name "Michelle Wie" was in August of 2000, when I was interviewing then-Hawaii football coach June Jones. He mentioned a 10-year-old golf superstar on Oahu in the same conversation in which I asked him about Barry Sanders, who he coached in Detroit. Jones confided that he felt Sanders never really loved football. He was just good at it.

When Sanders walked away, choosing his own interests over football, he got trashed by people who felt he somehow owed something to his sport. Now, nearly 20 years later, Sanders looks like a genius. The Lions are still a doormat, Sanders is in the Hall of Fame, and he is healthy enough after years of pounding to enjoy watching his son play the game. You can never go wrong investing in yourself. That's what Barry did, and that's what Wie is doing by focusing on school.

Annika Sorenstam made an impact through golf. She then decided to make an impact through motherhood. She is a Hall of Fame player and she seems to be a Hall of Fame person. But Michelle Wie is barely an adult and she has the right to follow her own dreams. If those dreams include international relations or business or communcations -- areas she’s always had an interest in -- who is Annika Sorenstam to guilt her back to the golf course?

Whether you like Michelle Wie or hate her -- odds are it's the latter -- you have to agree she's intelligent. And I think it's pretty clear that of all the places the country needs intelligent people, the driving range is not high on the list.

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Russell Armstrong succeeded. He had a sinewy blonde wife, piles of cash, and a sprawling residence in the 90210. And oh my God, he was on a reality television show! A paid role in a vapid horror show like The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills is the Holy Grail of American existence in the 21st century. Before filing for divorce, Armstrong’s wife called him "a man's man." And he was very much that in the sense he possessed all the things that please other men. But it wasn’t enough to keep him from hitting his wife or hanging himself.

Did you know Ernest Hemingway was a man's man too? Running with the bulls in Pamplona, fishing for marlin in Mexico, and scaling Kilimanjaro wasn't just the stuff of literary inspiration; it was a lifestyle. Hemingway fancied himself an amateur boxer and in between manuscripts he was known to challenge people to impromptu duels.

Hemingway scholars like to drone on about his preoccupation with the "idealized self." It's a neurotic condition by which a person endows himself with "exalted faculties." The individual becomes "a hero, a genius, a supreme lover, a saint, a god." Hemingway has been taken to task for foisting these attributes onto many of his characters who are thought to resemble him. But as Hemingway's own life ended with a shotgun blast by his own hand, there's not much evidence to suggest he saw himself as anything but spectacularly flawed.

An idealized version of one self defines the American Dream. After all, the idealized version of you is what you see when you peer into the mirror of one your 10 bathrooms in your palatial digs in your gated community that is reserved for those who "work hard" enough to get it, right?

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But it seems the Dream is quite hazardous these days. Whether you're a baring your tortured soul in Beverly Hills, or scaling fences in Tijuana, tunneling under walls in Nogales, or cruising over the border in Laredo while doing your best imitation of cargo in the flatbed of an 18-wheeler, the pursuit of the Dream may prove costly. Even those make it, like Armstrong, are haunted by the specter of ultimate failure -- losing it all.

But Armstrong always succeeded. So when he wanted out, he successfully made his exit.

Corwin Brown is, fortunately, a little different. He played football in high school, then at Michigan and for the Patriots and Jets. He played well, too. Then he coached. And Brown did that well, too, becoming a college defensive coordinator at the young age of 37. This doesn't happen very often for men who look like Brown.

But then something took hold of the man. Perhaps it was something that had been there all along, and lay dormant until the conditions were just so. Perhaps it was there long before he ever pulled on his first set of shoulder pads or heard that sweet sound a chin strap makes when it's buckled to a helmet. But on August 13, Brown grabbed his wife and dragged her into their home. He then held her hostage by gunpoint. When police arrived, he held them at bay for seven hours. When he finally emerged, blood poured from a self-inflicted wound.

We know Brown was charged with one count of domestic battery and two counts of felony confinement. But we don’t know his motive.

Whatever the evidence may provide, Brown failed. He failed to keep his cool, he failed in his efforts to restrain from putting his hands on his wife. And after that standoff with police, he failed to kill himself. This, on the surface, is what separates Brown from Armstrong.

Of course Corwin Brown's hands on a woman means something different than Russell Armstrong's hands on a woman. Armstrong was apparently stressed out by the pressures of being a bookie, er ah ... venture capitalist, and from being on television.

Brown is a muscular man who was accustomed to being on television. And everyone knows athletes don't get stressed out, because that term suggests an evolved existence. In the sorting of complicated organisms, athletes fall just short of amoebas, so the response to an athlete’s troubles is something predictably formulaic. It’s either a sense of entitlement: "athletes hit women because they think they can do whatever they want to whom whatever they want." Or it’s just an issue of identity. "They simply struggle with real life after football." This seems to be the pervading theory anyway. It’s not my theory, mind you, but I know how these things are presented.

So it comes as little surprise that Corwin Brown’s family, in the heartbroken search for answers, has turned to the football-had-something-to-do-with-it-theory. They attribute his assault on his wife and attempted suicide to complications from playing football. They wonder if years of high-impact collisions led to Brown beating his wife and holding her hostage. They wonder if what plagued Brown is what felled Dave Duerson.

This makes sense. You know why it makes sense? Because football makes sense. Like everything else organized by human hands, certain aspects of sport are infected by the virus of politics. But whatever happens on the grass every Sunday afternoon is true. So everything related to that game must also be true.

Dave Duerson thought this. Talk about a man's man. Duerson was a member of that '85 Bears defense. 'Nuff said.

But Duerson was also troubled. When he needed answers for why he had lost the will to live, he went back to what had been the source of life -- 'ball. He'd suffered ten concussions. Surely there was a price for that. Surely those few times he lay completely blacked out on the field had some residual effect on his being. Turns out Duerson was right in one sense. After he shot himself in the chest, it was discovered that he had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a disorder linked to repeated brain trauma.

But does that explain everything? Does it explain what happened to Brown? I wish it did. If Troy Aikman or Steve Young were to become suicidal, heaven forbid, I might be more willing to accept the formula. I wish there were a quick and easy formula to solve the mystery of depression -- especially among athletes. But there isn't. Not yet anyway. Besides, there are plenty of men who've never lost consciousness on the field, who in pursuit of some elusive ideal, still fall headlong into the abyss.

Whatever dreams may come in death, I hope they aren't as painful as those realized in life. And after he emerges from whatever form of incarceration awaits him, I hope Corwin Brown will pursue his next dream because the one he had is over. There will be questions aplenty, especially from his children. And in time there may even be some answers. That's only because Corwin Brown, unlike Russell Armstrong, is still here.

-- -- Alan Grant played cornerback for the Colts, 49ers, Bengals and Redskins. He is the author of
"Return to Glory: Inside Tyrone Willingham's Amazing First Season at Notre Dame."

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"It's déjà vu all over again." -- Yogi Berra

"The more things change, the more they stay the same." -- Alphonse Karr, French novelist

The quotes seem appropriate considering the revelations coming out of the University of Miami from Yahoo! Sports' 11-month investigation.

Twenty-five years ago, a disgruntled linebacker from Southern Methodist University sat down with me on camera. David Stanley told me he received $25,000 cash for committing to SMU in 1983. He said that for the next two years, he and his parents continued to receive monthly payments of $750. Stanley said the payments were made by SMU assistant coach Bootsie Larsen and later SMU recruiting coordinator Henry Lee Parker.

In a rather dramatic on-camera confrontation, we presented Parker with an envelope Stanley and his mother claimed contained one of those monthly payments. The envelope was SMU stationary. Parker's initials were written on the return address. The date on the postmark meant SMU was eligible for the NCAA's death penalty, and the look on Parker's face said far more about the truth than his verbal denials.

The story culminated more than two years of work. SMU's president, athletic director, head football coach and recruiting coordinator abruptly resigned, and by the time the dust had settled, the NCAA handed down the death penalty that led to the cancellation of SMU's 1987 and 1988 seasons, the university changed its form of governance, boosters were banned for life, the Methodist Bishops investigated and the trail led to Texas Governor Bill Clements -- who admitted he had known about the payments and had ordered that they continue even while SMU had been on probation.

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The old Southwest Conference broke up, starting a trend in which the larger universities realigned themselves into super conferences.

As much as our story was aimed at SMU, it was also a test of whether the NCAA meant business when it enacted the death penalty. When presented with the evidence, would it actually pull the trigger? It did and SMU football has never been the same.

The question today is will the NCAA do it again? Are the things that agent/booster Nevin Shapiro says he did at Miami any different than what the SMU boosters did? Yes and no.

Shapiro has a 20-year federal prison sentence hanging over him after pleading guilty to securities fraud and money laundering. He's squealing about helping Miami break NCAA regulations because the players he helped wouldn't help him when he asked for bail money and other assistance. David Stanley squealed because he felt SMU ruined his chances for a career in the NFL when he was benched. Never mind that he had acquired a cocaine habit and SMU even paid to help him break his addiction.

Truth is, some of the same things that got SMU the death penalty 25 years ago have been going on at USC, Ohio State and Miami. The primary difference between then and now is the amount of money, and money is what it's all about. Ticket prices to games have soared. Larger stadiums are being built. Conferences created their own cable television networks, and now an individual school -- the University of Texas -- has its own cable TV channel.

After it became clear that the death penalty decimated SMU's football program, the conventional wisdom was that the NCAA would never again hand down such harsh punishment. So an atmosphere where no one was going to let the death penalty happen again provided the perfect haven for "anything goes." No one was going to do anything about it. What better environment for those who would cross over the line to operate in?

While those who argue against capital punishment question whether the threat of lethal injection would really cause a would-be killer to consider his actions before committing a heinous act, others will argue it is a deterrent. It reminds me of what Jackie Sherrill retorted after our 1985 story about quarterback Kevin Murray taking improper inducements from a Texas A&M booster: "Kevin didn't rob a bank. He didn't shoot anybody."

True, but some folks might say it's highway robbery when coaches, athletic directors, conference officials, college presidents, universities and television networks make millions of dollars off of college football players who aren't allowed to be paid a dime of that revenue for their contribution. In 1986, former academic All-American basketball player Dick DeVenzio argued that the only amateurs in big-time college sports were the athletes. He called for college players to form a union and strike the major bowl games. Perhaps it's finally time to go beyond the hypocrisy and do just that.

So does the NCAA have the courage to hand down the death penalty again?

Can it afford not to?

-- John Sparks is a 40-year veteran of television news and currently a professor at the Mayborn School of Journalism at the University of North Texas. His work in breaking the SMU pay-for-play story in 1986 resulted in the NCAA issuing its first and only death penalty to a college football program.

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In all the confusion and chaos of college football realignment, one thing is clear:

Nobody cares about the players.

How exactly does realignment enrich the student-athlete experience? How does it help if parents can't travel to games as much, if kids at schools like Texas A&M, Nebraska and Pitt can't play in rivalries against friends they grew up with, if there are more also-rans yet still more games in which players can get hurt?

Nobody thinks about these things because nobody has to. The players will go along with it. And if the players suffer, well they had it coming anyway because they're being "paid" a scholarship and they get to be on television and, the argument goes, they're probably selling memorabilia or getting yacht trips.

Maybe that line of reasoning worked in the past, but not in the era of bazillion dollar television networks, concussion-related dementia, and 9.1 percent national unemployment.

Even the NCAA knows it. "Moving young men and women around in the middle of the week or over extended weekends, over those kinds of distances, is pretty hard to square with support for the academic success of students," NCAA president Mark Emmert told USA Today.

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It's fine if major conferences make business decisions, but if education is going to be ranked lower (or not at all) on the priority list of those in power, players should get employee rights instead of just students' rights.

In other words: players should get the right to organize.

Yes, the students signed up to play big-time college football, and their scholarships are certainly generous compensation. But a scholarship shouldn’t be hush money. Players are bringing in major income for universities and conferences, and they deserve a voice when major changes are proposed. That means a college football players union.

"There's a significant problem when there’s not a voice," says Duke law professor Paul Haagen. "If the players have no voice, then you’re currently running on an enlightened despotism model. We haven't liked that since the 18th century."

Granted, a player's union would be a radical shift in college athletics. It would open up a Pandora's box of challenges, including possible taxation on scholarships, per diems and even training table meals. But the current system, wherein players are disenfranchised on matters that involve them, is somewhere between unfortunate and un-American.

How many college football players want superconferences? How many want a playoff? How many want weeknight games? We have no clue, and with the rash of Twitter bans at schools like South Carolina, Kansas and Boise State, we’ll never have a clue if something drastic isn't done. Even stars who bring about a boatload of jersey sales are often kept from speaking to the media and encouraged to say very little -- or else.

And that's really the crux of the problem. The coaches aren't really mentors as much as they are bosses. They can pull scholarships on a whim. That puts them in charge of compensation. But in return, the players get no "rights" of their own. It’s take it or leave it. Get in line or get lost. That makes for good football, but it also makes for unfair pressure.

Although they will never admit it, college presidents are rendered largely powerless against the almighty head coach. If the players have a seat at the table -- or at least a team representative with a seat at the table -- presidents could better gauge the interests of the athletes. So could the press. And so could fans, who often have no idea something is amiss on their favorite team until it's far too late.

If practices are so intense that players are at risk of passing out or worse, how will we know? If players with dizziness or vomiting are told to suck it up and go back into the game, how will we know? If a university representative if doing something untoward or even illegal, how will we know?

We won't, because nobody on the team is empowered to speak up. And those who do could lose their dream for a college diploma.

Even Olympians have a representative to their national governing bodies. So why can’t college football players stand up for themselves?

The knee-jerk solution we always hear is, "Pay the players!" But that's just an empty argument. Universities across the country are having serious financial issues and aren't about to start budgeting hundreds of thousands of dollars each year for student-athletes.

Player treatment won't get better with pay, anyway. It might actually get worse, because there will be resentment coming from everywhere. If Florida quarterback John Brantley gets paid $100,000 per season, and he throws 15 interceptions in his first five games, how many fans will feel they are literally being robbed? That's not in the players' interests.

But a union would be.

Just because college players aren't paid doesn't mean they don't deserve the right to organize. In fact, because they aren’t paid, they deserve it more. We saw all summer how important player solidarity was in the NFL lockout. Sure there were varied opinions within the ranks. But players did have a voice and the media (and therefore fans) got a sense of how they felt. We're nowhere near that point with college players. If each senior captain was automatically empowered to speak with the university president and the press on player-related matters, at least we’d know more about the student-athlete experience.

Teaching assistants can organize. Lab techs can organize. They are considered employees of the state, at least in the case of public universities. They have looked at the long hours they've spent helping to make other people money and they’ve come together to fight for protection. In some places, like Yale and Michigan, they've gotten it.

Now, some may scoff at the comparison. It's not like seedy boosters are handing lab assistants suitcases full of cash. But think about it: Researchers are helping to develop cutting-edge software and cures for diseases. The money that can be made off those projects makes Miami booster Nevin Shapiro seem small-time.

"If you look elsewhere in the university," says former Michigan president James Duderstadt, "we do have student-employees, and we pay them education and salary. They are defined as employees. They have the right to unionize. With football players, the value generated is not showed in how we support them. We don't even treat them as well as other students."

That's for sure. A study done in 2009 by Ithaca College and the National College Players Association -- the closest thing to a union currently -- found that "full-ride" scholarships still leave players with an almost $3,000 shortfall. It would be nice if players could negotiate for that amount -- especially considering the extra travel they will be taking as part of a superconference realignment will be making far more than that for their schools.

This isn't a way to clean up the game. That will never happen. Getting kids to stop taking money and freebies is about as impossible as cleaning up Wall Street or stopping politicians from having affairs. If someone is offering you something with no apparent strings attached, not many can say no. That won’t change even if players are paid, because there will always be boosters around to pay more. Keep in mind that even though Yahoo! Sports reported Miami players were getting mind-boggling perks, the program still lost many of the best recruits over the past decade to other schools. What does that tell you?

So banish the thought of the end of shamateurism. Even an NCAA as powerful as the 1980s Kremlin won't eliminate greed. Instead, let's go after a far more important benefit to organizing: long-term health. NFL players saved themselves untold injury and trauma by keeping the season at 16 games. They are able to fight for health benefits and post-career care. What about college players? Their concussions and injuries are just as severe -- just look at Rutgers defensive end Eric LeGrand -- and yet there are no assurances that anyone at the university will help them if they suffer from concussion-related dementia or mental illness.

We always hear from university presidents. We always hear from coaches. We always hear from media pundits. But we rarely if ever hear from players. It's time for that to change.

"College football's as great as it's ever been," Texas coach Mack Brown said Monday on the Big 12 conference call, "but we better keep considering what's in the best interest of the players or at some point they're going to get so frustrated it won't be fun for them."

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It's been a year of vindication for Mark Cuban. The owner of the Dallas Mavericks quieted a lot of the critics who said he was a loudmouth who didn't know how to run a basketball franchise. Now his team is the best in basketball.

But Cuban is also proving somewhat prophetic in a much more unsettling way. In the spring of last year, only three days after the harrowing May 6 "Flash Crash" that temporarily plunged the Dow Jones Industrial Average more than 1,000 points within minutes, he wrote a blog post that seems chilling today. He titled it, "What Business is Wall Street In?" And toward the end, he wrote in bold, "There will be another crash."

Granted, there are a lot of doomsayers out there. But Cuban is not that. He's a successful businessman -- he sold his Internet start-up in 1999 for $5.9 billion in Yahoo! stock -- and he says he's been involved in the stock market for the better part of a decade. But what makes his post stand out even more is that he named a specific reason for the predicted "crash" -- professional traders.

"The only people who know what business Wall Street is in are the traders," Cuban wrote on May 9, 2010. "They know what business Wall Street is in better than everyone else. To traders, whether day traders or high frequency or somewhere in between, Wall Street has nothing to do with creating capital for businesses, its original goal. Wall Street is a platform. It's a platform to be exploited by every technological and intellectual means possible."

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And more than a year later, a lot of Wall Street experts are blaming high frequency trading for this month's extreme stock market volatility. The swings are wild, to the tune of hundreds of Dow points within minutes, and "the machines" profiled last year by 60 Minutes are getting a lot of the blame.

Cuban went on to make another point, about how entire nations are now bought and sold within seconds and even nanoseconds:

"It’s hard to believe," he wrote, "but evaluating countries as an investment is now easier than evaluating companies."

Lo and behold, the current malaise on Wall Street is tied not to the earnings of public companies -- which are largely strong -- but to the debt load of national economies.

But Cuban came back again to the traders, whom he called "hackers" because, he said, they look for weaknesses in the system to exploit for short-term gain.

"The Government needs to create incentives for this business," he wrote, "and extract compensation from the traders/hackers for the systemic failure level of risk they introduce."

He concluded again in bold text with a scary forecast that, although not completely unique to him, now looks more and more accurate:

"There will be another crash, because there are too many players looking for the trillion dollar score."

As of this writing, the Dow Jones sits at 10,719, within 200 points of the 10,520 price at the close of trading on May 6, 2010, the day of the Flash Crash. The Dow has dropped almost exactly 2,000 points in the last month.

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When I was 7 years old, my dad opened his own liquor store in Compton, Calif. Every summer he'd wake me up at 5 a.m. to help him get the day started. Each day began with my sweeping the parking lot. I hated it. Before sunrise, in the dark, the lot seemed endless. But there was nothing else to do and nowhere else to go until we went home at dusk. So after a while I challenged myself to make it perfect. I took the same approach for stocking the shelves and keeping the walk-in freezer clean.

I always think of this when I watch the Hall of Fame ceremony. You know what makes this yearly ritual so compelling? It's because every man who steps to the podium makes a beeline for his childhood. And when he does he takes us all back to where we began. Each one speaks of the values acquired in his youth, about how at the time none of them knew where these values would take them. And this brings all of us to tears.

I was most interested in listening to Deion Sanders last weekend. Maybe it's because I played cornerback. Sanders didn't just play cornerback; it was his position. Sanders discovered something early in life that took me years to figure out: He knew image had greater value than ability. Sanders created an image that was sure to leave an impression. Like he said last weekend, "You either loved it or hated it." The Prime Time persona was genius. Sanders was a pioneer, in a way. Tricky work, pioneering. Most folks don't appreciate your efforts until you're in the dirt.

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But some of us have always known what Sanders brought to the game. Before his arrival, most of the dynamic athletes were found at the receiver and running back positions. There were exceptions to the rule -- like Darrell Green, of course. But Deion Sanders did for pass defense what Magic Johnson did for passing the basketball -- he gave a once utilitarian task a certain cache.

Then there was the speed. I remember talking to Merton Hanks shortly after Sanders joined the Forty Niners. "I knew he could run," Hanks told me. "But I didn’t know he could run like that."

To fully comprehend Deion Sanders, you have to play the corner. Among the keys to playing the position are patience and the ability to bait the quarterback. This is usually accomplished while playing zone defense, where a defender can disguise his coverage and fool the quarterback into throwing his way. But rare is the talent who can do this in basic man-to-man.

In Sanders' first year with the Cowboys, they played the Raiders. Sanders was covering Rocket Ismail on a post route. It was a blitz, so Sanders had no deep safety help, meaning there was nothing but open field. Sanders allowed Ismail to get two steps ahead of him. Oh, I should probably remind you that Ismail was nicknamed "Rocket." When he got a step on you, let alone two, the race was over.

By all appearances Ismail was open, so the quarterback threw the ball. This was Sanders' plan. With the ball in the air, Sanders slipped into another gear -- a gear that only he had and that he employed at will. He closed the gap between himself and Ismail. He then hovered over Ismail's back shoulder, and without touching him he reached over Ismail and picked the ball, briefly holding it aloft much like an outfielder would, before proceeding the other way.

He made it look easy, too. But that's not such a good thing. For most of his career, Sanders was a lightning rod as there were few public personalities who invoked stronger reaction. And when a talented, passionate, and confident person makes his craft look easy, it often leads to resentment.

This is where sport diverges from the "real world." The "real world" craves humility. But in these days of simplified logic and extreme points of view, humility is often conflated with self-loathing. Look at Tony Dungy. He's humble. But he likes who he is.

In sport, there's no room for self-loathing. See, in order to function in the world of competitive sport, you must possess an unwavering belief in yourself. Without it, you won't last a day.

Prior to each draft, when an NFL coach or executive sits down with a player and he asks that player why he should draft him, he wants to hear one answer: "Because I'm the best player at my position and drafting me will make your team better." In fact, some coaches will tell you, "Act like you belong."

Deion Sanders belongs in the Hall of Fame. I'm sure most agree with that now. But it's okay to admit that you once hated the man. You hated the bravado, the jewelry, and oh, all that dancing. But as you listened to him speak with genuine emotion, introspection, and reverence about his mother, his career, and his life's journey, you heard something else. You heard a man who, despite his public perception, was humbled by the fruits of his labor.

There's another guy who belongs in Canton. And sometime, perhaps in the near future, he'll step to the podium and speak to us about his journey. His name is Terrell Owens and I'm quite certain you hate his guts. I understand why. The guy has alienated teammates, orchestrated spectacles, and constructed for himself one of the most troubling personas in the recent history of sports.

It's fitting that Terrell Owens followed Jerry Rice. There are similarities. Both came from small, dusty towns in the south. And after wreaking havoc at small schools, both were asked to play in San Francisco, a most affluent place already overrun with mythical figures. And both were temperamental lads whose desire to constantly prove their worth could make them rather explosive.

When Rice arrived in San Francisco, the team had already won two Super Bowls. Joe Montana, Roger Craig, and Ronnie Lott left little room for original personalities. But Rice went to work forging his anyway. In time, he had his own brand of excellence. But by then he was also consumed by it.

I was a teammate of Jerry's when, after not having the ball thrown to him on a scoring drive, he turned over a table of Gatorade and screamed, "I’m not a [expletive] decoy!" If you're around the game, you know this is normal behavior. Of course as he got older, Rice mellowed and those eruptions were eclipsed by the overarching legend.

Terrell Owens was drafted in the shadow of that legend. And in Rice's final year with the Niners, Owens had that game against Chicago where he caught a then league-record 20 passes. After that game, Rice told Owens "It’s your team now." But Owens needed more than just a record setting afternoon and Rice's blessing. Jerry was taking his body to Oakland, but his myth was staying put. Owens had to solidify his own legacy.

Man, was he ever earnest in that pursuit!

After the infamous pose in the middle of Texas Stadium came the humiliation of Jeff Garcia, the alienation of Donovan McNabb, and the contrived reality show.

Times change more than people do. Now, if there's an eruption on the sideline, we'll all see it. And whatever the network cameras miss, the cell phone lens will pick up and disperse to every nasty little nook and cranny of the universe. This is the universe that feeds Terrell Owens. He's no pioneer. He's an opportunist. He knows you're watching him. And he knows that in sport, love is fleeting, but hate is deep and lasting. The villain gets as many hits, shares, and air time as does the hero. Maybe more.

And there's the rub. Terrell Owens' bizarre saga of existential angst begins with a young man who had yet to visit the awful tree of knowledge.

Surely you recall that '99 playoff game between San Francisco and Green Bay. After four crucial dropped passes and a fumble, Owens caught the game-winner while being hit by two defenders. Then he collapsed and broke into tears, briefly crushed beneath the moment.

Steve Young provided all the analysis we needed for that day and every day since. After the game, Owens apologized for the dropped balls and told his quarterback he was afraid Young might not throw his way at crunch time. Young replied, "Are you kidding? You're the most physically dominating receiver I've ever seen."

And that, folks, is pretty much all we need to know about Terrell Owens the athlete.

Everything else -- born to a 17 year-old mother, raised by an alcoholic grandmother, and the discovery that his estranged father had always lived just across the street from him -- will be discussed at a later time.

At least it should be.

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My daughter likes puzzles. Among her favorites is a map of the United States. Each state is identified by a familiar descriptor: a Cowboy boot for Texas, the Golden Gate Bridge for California, and Mount Rushmore for South Dakota.

And stamped in the middle of the likeness of Ohio is a football.

While other states are identified by wonders of nature or transcendent works of architecture, Ohio is identified by the esteem its people have for 'ball. It's a rather powerful image and I thought the manufacturers of the puzzle might have overstated this particular assertion.

This came to mind as we made our way to Youngstown, Ohio, for a family wedding. Route 77 runs right through Canton. I was in my last stage of the drive when without warning, a building appeared on my left. It had a roof that resembled one of those old school juicers painted gold. It was the Pro Football Hall of Fame and it gave me pause. It was smaller than I had imagined. And despite the garish roof, unpretentious. And even from a distance, it offered a presence that was ... hallowed.

Later that night, during the rehearsal dinner, I was getting started on a plate of pasta when the folks at the table next to ours called me over. After a brief introduction one of them asked me what I thought about the fate of Ohio State and more importantly, the fate of coach, Jim Tressel.

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They all leaned in. But before I could even clear my throat, this crowd of eight let loose with a barrage. It seems the recent developments have made Tressel, the former Youngstown State coach something of a martyr in these parts. "All Tressel did was win games and graduate his players," said one man. Another woman pointed out that what happened at Ohio State was happening at every other school and to a greater degree. "They (the NCAA) just had it in for us," exclaimed another woman. Silverware was set down and plates pushed aside as their voices ran together and the volume rose. This continued for several minutes.

But I had questions for them too. I wanted to get their thoughts on the NCAA's decision to vacate all of Ohio State’s 12 wins from last season. I wanted to ask them if they shared my opinion, that if Ohio State had to vacate its wins from last year, then the fans who attended those games should get their money back.

Despite the fact the 2010 Ohio State football team will be designated as the team without a victory, The Ohio State University still got its share of the gate and concessions. I'm quite certain the books will reflect this.

I wanted to share my thoughts on the absurdity of it all. I mean, what's the premise of vacating wins? If you pretend it never happened, then what? There's no shame? There's no guilt? This is the most effective method for addressing the problem if the problem is a night of drunken behavior and bad decision-making. Provided there are no impending court appearances, this is the way to go.

But as a solution for a season and a program gone awry, it's laughable.

Think about it:

If you were among the 100-plus thousand in the stadium where the Buckeyes regularly commit football, you have been requested to expunge from your mind any thrilling moment you had last fall -- simply because those moments led to a victory.

Remember that Miami game? No, you don’t. Talk about ironic, this one was conceived by memories. It was the rematch from the epic 2002 Fiesta Bowl. But you've been asked to forget the Hurricanes trailed 26-17 at halftime, and upon taking the kick to open the second half, they rushed to the Ohio State 9-yard line. You’ve been asked to forget what happened at the 11:26 mark. That’s when Miami quarterback Jacory Harris tried to throw to his man in the seam. But in the finest application of the zone blitz principle, defensive end Cameron Heyward gingerly stepped in front of Harris’ throw and intercepted it. You've been asked to forget how the 300-pound Hayward then high-tailed it 80 yards downfield before finally being caught from behind.

That’s a lot to ask, I think. Since you been asked to do so much, perhaps a reimbursement is called for. Memories are priceless -- except under the guise of sanctions. So there is a price. I think face value should about cover it.

But I never go to present that to the table.

So I asked Uncle Frank, my wife's uncle. He's a Buckeye fan. He lives in Columbus, Ohio. His daughter is an Ohio State alum. His 5-year-old grandson wears an Ohio State jersey on fall Saturdays. He's even been taught to recite the popular quip of the day:

"How do you make Michigan cookies?" he asks. "Put 'em in a bowl and beat 'em for three hours!"

I always enjoy talking to Uncle Frank because his passion for Ohio State doesn't eclipse his love for football. If there's a game on, he'll watch it. He talks about how Marcus Lattimore is the best running back in the country, and how he's never seen a team as fast as Oregon. Two years ago he admitted to tearing up during Mark Ingram’s Heisman trophy speech.

"So do you think the fans should get their money back?" I asked.

He shrugged impassively. "There’s nothing in place for that," he said.

Then he laughed. "They played the games, didn’t they?"

He didn't seem to be interested in the money lost. But he was eager to offer his own solution to the dilemma, now that the players have had their "J.T." wrist bands confiscated.

"You know what the team should do? They should get little sweater vest decals and put 'em on the back of their helmets! That’ll piss people off!"

I learned some things. No, I had some beliefs reaffirmed. I can't say with any certainty -- after just one weekend or thoughts evoked by a child's puzzle -- that football is the defining characteristic of Ohio. But I do know it can't be thoroughly or properly discussed in terms of something as simple as a financial investment. At least not with these folks. Those who really love 'ball, can’t think in such crass terms. I returned to my table to finish my dinner.

"What was that about?" my wife asked.

Just hanging out with some fans.

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For the past month, much of our nation has been gripped by intense heat and humidity. For most of us, it has been uncomfortable and irritating. But for some, it has been deadly. Those who follow football have become morbidly accustomed to the late summer ritual: Every year, it is almost expected that at least one football player will die from heat-related causes before autumn ushers in more humane weather. The deceased are often kids -- high schoolers hoping to make rosters and secure starting positions.

Last week alone, three high school football players died after practices. And as far as investigators can tell, all three deaths have been heat-related.

For years, reformers have tried nearly everything to stem the trend of fatal football practices: mandating water breaks, limiting practice time, shifting practice sessions from midday to early mornings and evenings, practicing less frequently with pads, and who knows what else. But nothing has worked. Kids continue to die.

Perhaps we would see fewer fatalities had Commonwealth of Kentucky v. David Jason Stinson turned out differently. In August of 2008, at Pleasure Ridge High School in Louisville, Ky., during an afternoon football practice, head football coach Jason Stinson made his players run the length of the football field again and again in 94-degree heat because they were not paying attention as he set up drills. It was a scenario that had played out across America at countless high schools for generations, but on that day, Max Gilpin, a 15-year-old sophomore on the team, collapsed and died while running. And, unwilling to accept the senseless death, David Stengel, now Kentucky's Commonwealth Attorney, decided to prosecute Stinson.

The facts, as Sports Illustrated would later report, were ugly. Stinson's own attorneys admitted the coach was being harsh that day, telling his players they would run until somebody quit. Nonetheless, as the prosecution proceeded, Stengel, rather than Stinson, emerged as the villain. He was roundly assailed, both within the community and around the country, as a misguided wimp.

After all, sang the chorus, Stinson was simply engaging in a time-honored football tradition: putting his charges through the sort of workout that separates men from boys. Indeed, Stinson had endured such practices under his college football coach at Louisville, Howard Schnellenberger. And Schnellenberger had endured such practices under his college football coach at Kentucky, Bear Bryant, perhaps the most deified college football coach in American history. Stinson was descended from football royalty; he coached football in the same way Bryant had, and as such he had done nothing wrong. Or so the argument went. In the end, the jury acquitted Stinson, just as Stengel -- who knew how much Louisville, Kentucky loved football -- predicted it would before the trial even began.

But maybe Stengel had the right idea. Law exists to maintain order when the community at large is unable to police itself. And with respect to football -- which leads to far more heat-related deaths than any other sport played in American high schools -- we have proven unable to police ourselves.

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There is nothing to indicate prosecution would be appropriate in last week's football practice deaths, and, in fact, until the norms surrounding summer football practices change, any criminal prosecution related to a death at practice (other than one in which there is clear malicious intent) might reasonably be viewed as an ambush.

That is why the norms have to change. Detailed national high school football practice standards should be established to guide coaches with respect to everything from minimum water intake to maximum mileage run based on the prevailing heat index. If a death occurs during a non-conforming practice, prosecution should be a presumption. Conviction, of course, would depend on the facts of the particular case, but the non-conforming practice should be enough to invite legal inquiry.

This proposal will surely be branded, like Stengel was, as wimpy and misguided. But as a civilized society, we cannot continue to reasonably and sickeningly anticipate, year after year, that late summer will mark unnecessary deaths of children on football fields. If it means our high school football players grow marginally softer and less rugged, so be it. I guarantee the scores of parents who have mourned their football-playing children's deaths over the years wouldn't mind, and nor would the scores more who, if history is any guide, will mourn in the future unless we make a change now.

-- N. Jeremi Duru, a law professor at Temple University, is the author of "Advancing the Ball: Race, Reformation, and the Quest for Equal Coaching Opportunity in the NFL."

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The Red Sox and Yankees face off in a three-game set this weekend, and no doubt the pregame highlights on Fox (where it's the Saturday game of the week), and ESPN (where it's the Sunday night matchup), will include familiar clips of Pedro Martinez throwing Don Zimmer to the ground, Bucky Dent and Aaron Boone hitting iconic home runs, and Dave Roberts stealing second base as the Red Sox started their improbable rise from a three games to none deficit to win the 2004 American League Championship Series. In short, all the clips will be old and not particularly moving, because the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry is not particularly moving these days. Like a fire, it needs oxygen, and the oxygen went out of the room as soon as the Yankees won the 2009 World Series. Why? Because Alex Rodriguez winning a title eliminated the last compelling storyline of anyone currently involved in this rivalry.

Up and down the Yankees and Red Sox rosters, you find players who've won the World Series. You won't find anyone on either team who's still labeled a postseason choker or a debilitating underachiever. Sure, AJ Burnett has not played to the level of his contract, and John Lackey has been downright dreadful in his two years in Boston. But they both have World Series rings. Lackey won his with the Angels, yes, and not with Boston; but he did it by winning Game 7 of the 2002 World Series as a rookie. You can call John Lackey a lot of things, but gutless and incapable of handling the spotlight are not among them.

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For a time, that description seemed perfectly suited to Rodriguez, and it was used by fans on both sides of the rivalry. His wonderful regular seasons were regularly eclipsed by small postseasons, and questionable actions -- most notably, slapping at Bronson Arroyo's glove in the 2004 ALCS -- opened him up to ridicule. But what is a self-respecting Red Sox fan supposed to say by way of smack talk about Rodriguez nowadays? That he allows Cameron Diaz to feed him popcorn? Yeah, how humiliating. Conversely, what's a Yankee fan supposed to say that’s going to get under the skin of a diehard Red Sox fan?

"Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz both did performance-enhancing drugs, therefore the 2004 and 2007 World Series are tainted, and therefore 1918 still stands as the ... "


The whole rivalry is a snoozer these days. Yes, the teams are doing well as always. But where's Hank Steinbrenner tossing insults at Red Sox Nation? Where's Brian Cashman swooping in and overpaying Carl Crawford last December? Where's Cashman outfoxing the Sox at the trade deadline? Where's a bench-clearing brawl -- sorry, skirmish -- like we witnessed when Jason Varitek stuck a mitt in Rodriguez's face in 2004? The tension on the field will often reflect the tension in the stands, and let's face it, Red Sox and Yankee fans just don't care as much as they used to about this rivalry. Sure, the television ratings for this weekend’s games will still be much higher than those of the average broadcast. But so what? People still watch Notre Dame football every week, too. Watching and caring -- truly caring -- are not synonymous.

For many years the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry was defined by Boston's inability to win in October. But when the Red Sox won their second World Series in four years in 2007, followed by the Yankees missing the playoffs in Joe Girardi's first year as manager in 2008, it seemed like the rivalry had been flipped on its head. Everything was going Boston's way, and people began noting that the Yankees hadn’t won a World Series since 2000. And critics were saying that Jeter’s fielding was hurting the team. And Red Sox and Yankees fans almost unanimously agreed that A-Rod would never, ever, come through in October. But then he did in 2009. And the rivalry's never been the same since.

Both teams have had too much recent success and not enough failure. They've become Goliath versus Goliath, indistinguishable to most fans outside the rivalry (and some within it). The Yankees brought in CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and AJ Burnett before the 2009 season, spent $423.5 million on their contracts and hoped to ride their new acquisitions to a title in the inaugural year of the new Yankee Stadium. And they did.

Just imagine for a second if the Yankees hadn't won that year or in 2010. Imagine if Jeter had gone into this past winter’s free agency negotiations with his .270 batting average, .370 slugging percentage, dreadful fielding metrics -- and his 2000 World Series ring. Boston has long been accused of mistreating its aging stars, but just imagine how well The Captain would have been treated by the Yankees and their fans with that middling portfolio. That would have been great fodder for the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry, but it's all supposition. Once upon a time you didn’t need your imagination to produce compelling storylines in this rivalry, but that’s what it’s come to.

It's been seven years since the Red Sox and Yankees faced off in the playoffs, and while fans of other teams are no doubt pleased by this reality, baseball as a whole benefits when these two teams are at each other's throats. Certain developments over the past few years have promised to reignite this rivalry to its full bluster, most recently Mark Teixeira's decision to jilt Boston and join the Yankees prior to the 2009 season. But what can a Red Sox fan say of Teixeira now? Like it or not, he's a winner. And so is Robinson Cano. And so is Joba Chamberlain.

And what can a Yankee fan say of Jonathan Papelbon? Or Dustin Pedroia? Or Kevin Youkilis? Or any of the other players they despise on the Red Sox? That they’re jerks? Yippee.

This rivalry is suffering from a lack of losers. It needs its chokers and it needs its goats. There's been too much winning on both sides. Right now the only losers are the fans of this rivalry, who need some compelling new storylines. This weekend might offer a start, but more likely it'll take another date in October. It'll take some of the Red Sox new blood –- Crawford or Adrian Gonzalez -– coming up small in pressure situations. Or it'll take Hank Steinbrenner living up to the standard set by his late father and rolling a word grenade up I-95.

Someone needs to add some oxygen to this smoldering rivalry, to make it burn brightly again.

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