King Kaufman's Sports Daily

The sacking of Quincy Carter: It makes sense, but it's deeply strange. Plus: Big Ten football will try instant replay. And: A great read -- about cycling!

By Salon Staff
Published August 5, 2004 7:00PM (EDT)

Even though the Dallas Cowboys firing quarterback Quincy Carter was somewhat logical given the team's needs, it still has me shaking my head.

A number of press reports, citing sources close to the team, say that Carter failed a second drug test. Carter denied to the Dallas Morning News that he'd tested positive for cocaine, as had reported, but he didn't deny the many reports that he'd tested positive for marijuana.

A second positive means a fine of four game checks under the NFL's substance abuse program. A third would mean a four-game suspension. Carter had a nice year last year but he's nobody's Hall of Famer, so going into the season with a just-pretty-good quarterback who's one tainted micturition away from missing a quarter of the schedule isn't a bad thing to want to avoid.

The Cowboys also said they were displeased with Carter's attitude and on-field progress this summer, and they do have ancient Vinnie Testaverde to keep the chair warm while they try to figure out whether Drew Henson and Tony Romo, a pair of young quarterbacks they like, will be a viable option, though make no mistake, Carter wasn't cut because of his performance.

Why the NFL should care whether its players smoke weed in their down time is a legitimate topic for debate, but the league has its P.R. needs and marijuana is illegal, after all. And it's not like Quincy Carter or any other NFL player doesn't know that if you smoke marijuana and get caught, you're putting first your paycheck and then your career in jeopardy. If he did toke up, he wouldn't have to look far to place the blame for his newfound unemployment.

So what has me shaking my head? A year ago this month, Bill Romanowski of the Raiders attacked teammate Marcus Williams in practice, ripping his helmet off and punching him in the face, causing injuries that cost Williams the entire season. Romanowski's punishment? He was suspended from practice for one day, which is a little like being punished by being sent home from jury duty, only way nicer.

In Rams camp right now is defensive end Leonard Little, awaiting trial on charges of persistent drunk driving after his arrest in April. Little pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter six years ago after an alcohol-related accident that killed a woman. He was suspended for half a season then, but kept his job, as he's kept his job following his arrest this spring. Sure, he hasn't been convicted of anything this time -- but neither has Quincy Carter.

Even though every step along the way is sort of logical, it still leaves me shaking my head that you can attack a teammate or be a lethal public menace on the roads and still keep your job in the NFL, but light up a couple of J's after practice and you're on the street.

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Big Ten replay: Worth a shot [PERMALINK]

The Big Ten is going to experiment with an instant replay system this football season. We'll see how it goes, but it sounds like it'll be a lot less intrusive than the ponderous NFL system, which is officially known as "Let's Stop This Game for a While, It Was Getting Too Exciting."

I'm a fan of the inconvenient imperfection of humanity and believe that bad calls are a part of the game and a part of sports lore, and that they tend to even out over time. It's not worth it to hand over a sport to bureaucracy, technocracy and timeouts in an always-futile attempt to eradicate them.

But the Big Ten system sounds pretty decent. It's not aspiring to an unattainable perfection, entertainment values be damned. It's an effort to fix the worst calls without doing too much damage to the flow of the game.

Coaches and officials on the field won't be able to call for replays. There will be an advisor in the press box with two assistants, two TV monitors and a digital video system. He can stop the game by paging the officials before the next snap if he thinks a call needs to be reviewed, and he can overturn a call only if he finds indisputable evidence onscreen.

The Big Ten says on-field officials will be instructed not to defer to the replay system, the way NFL officials do by simply not making a call on some plays so that the replay official will have more options, since some calls can't be overturned. The replay advisor's decision will be final, though. And the system, which will be in place for all conference games and all non-conference home games where the visiting team has agreed to it, will only be used to review non-judgment calls, so no overturning a pass interference or holding penalty.

The conference says it looked at tape of 68 games from last year and found 42 plays that would have been reviewed, with 23 calls being reversed. In more than half of the games, no call would have been reviewed. And the Big Ten says that while there's no time limit on a review, it shouldn't take more than a minute.

We'll see. I'm skeptical about the delays being kept to a minimum. But it's worth a try.

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A great read -- about cycling! [PERMALINK]

Patrick O'Grady of Velo News, the Journal of Competitive Cycling, has written a fabulous "foaming rant" against, well, against people like me, people who write negative things about Lance Armstrong and the Tour de France.

His venom is aimed specifically at Mike Imrem of the Daily Herald, a suburban Chicago newspaper, who last week wrote a column disputing the idea that Armstrong is the world's greatest athlete.

Main thesis: "Anybody who ever carried the football once in the NFL is a better athlete than even cycling's best ever."

OK, he takes things a little further than I ever did. A lot further. Crazily further. And for his troubles gets eviscerated hilariously by a sputtering O'Grady, who writes, "I've read a few of his columns, and the best I can say of them is that they are definitely words in a row -- sentences, of a sort, with an occasional paragraph mark thrown in, probably by a round-shouldered copy editor who subsists entirely on Marlboros and coffee and is counting the hours until retirement."

O'Grady then wanders off into making fun of Cubs fans for a while, but of course he's right. Armstrong may or may not be the world's greatest athlete, and I would argue there have been NFL running backs who were better ones, but to say that any NFL running back, even any good NFL running back, even any great one, is a better athlete than Armstrong is just silly.

But I must rise to the defense of copy editors, the goalies of the publishing world. They have to be experts not just in writing and the language but in every subject covered by the publication they work for.

They spend all day making sure us writers don't look like idiots, and if they catch 100 misteaks and miss one, readers right in saying, "Don't you people have copy editors?!" Why yes, and their almost always better writers than the writers they clean up after everyday. Imagine the mess if they stopped working for even one paragraph!

And for this they get pictured in the popular imagination as round-shouldered, ink-stained, chain-smoking, caffeine-addled wretches. It ain't right.

If you've got a water balloon and you want to get a good writer wet, throw it at the copy desk.

Previous column: Dream Team smoked: Good!

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