Not-so-smart moments in sports

In today's game of "How Dumb Can You Be?" our first contestant is the artist formerly known as the NHL.

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Sports are not easy. To be involved in just about any aspect of them is hard work.

Hitting a curveball, skating while handling a puck, making a basket with a hand in your face, trying to throw when the blitz is on -- all hard stuff. The professional athletes we watch are simply amazing. That's why we're fans.

That's also why we get so frustrated when they do dumb stuff.

In today's game of "How Dumb Can You Be?" our first contestant is the artist formerly known as the NHL.

I'm not taking sides in this latest labor dispute. In fact, I think both the owners and players are being incredibly stupid in their lockout.

So let's look at two central figures -- commissioner Gary Bettman and players union chief Donald Fehr as one. I know I'm not smart enough to break down all the issues, but it's obvious that both these guys are penny-wise and pound-foolish.

Consider the commish's side first. Some of the teams are actually not losing money by not playing this season. Most owners in any sport don't count on their teams as their primary source of income. But do these "smart" businessmen not see the collateral damage?  

"We'll show them, we don't need the income this year; it's for the greater good," they say.

The players declared war the second they hired Fehr. If you're trying to avoid confrontation, do you really choose the guy who caused the cancellation of the 1994 World Series? Was Saddam Hussein not available?

Does the NHLPA not realize that they're never recouping the money they're losing? Good luck to the fourth-line defensemen whose entire career might last only one or two seasons.

And it's not like the public is clamoring for hockey's return. Consider this:

DETROIT: 1. Lions 2. Tigers 3. RED WINGS 4. Pistons
: 1. Giants 2. Yankees 3. Knicks 4. RANGERS
: 1. Red Sox  2. Patriots 3. Celtics 4. BRUINS
: 1. Bears 2. Cubs 3. Bulls  4. BLACKHAWKS
PITTSBURGH: 1. Steelers  2. PENGUINS 3. Pirates

The point is, in the "major" U.S. hockey markets, the only place the NHL team ranks higher than third in fan interest is in Pittsburgh, and let's be honest, if the Pirates didn't have 20 straight non-winning seasons, that might change, too.

The other candidate for incredible stupidity is Wayne LaPierre. You likely have no idea who Wayne LaPierre is, so I'll give you some background.

Last week's terrible tragedy in Kansas City left the entire sports world shaking. Javon Belcher, a Chiefs linebacker, shot Kassandra Perkins, the mother of his 3-month-old child, nine times, then left his house and drove to the team's facility. There, he took his own life.

Once the shock subsided, society overreacted, as usual, speculating how football caused this horrific act: Belcher must have had brain injuries from playing football ... it's got to be tied to concussions, somehow.

Clearly, we should be leaving the diagnosis to the experts. Not many of us had ever heard of Belcher before last week, yet we can now explain the reasons for a murder-suicide?  

But I digress. The public's need to speculate on EVERYTHING is not where I'm going with this one.

Back to our pal Wayne LaPierre. He's the CEO of the National Rifle Association, and in Friday's USA Today, Mr. LaPierre dropped this line of thinking on us:

"The one thing missing in that equation is that woman owning a gun so she could have saved her life from that murderer."

I don't even know how to respond. This is the dumbest, worst-reasoned, cowardly rationalization I have ever heard.

I'm not getting into a debate about gun control. That's another column. But if Miss Perkins had a gun none of this would have happened?  

Does that mean if nobody owned a car, there wouldn't be any drunk driving deaths? If nobody had excess money, there wouldn't be a drug problem in our country?

I guess, in a twisted way, this is actually good news for the NHL. It shows that no matter how much owners and players try, there's always someone dumber, waiting just around the corner.

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