the saint paul saints, our beloved local nine, will be giving away 2,500 of these fine collector’s edition bobblefoot keepsakes at sunday’s game at midway stadium.

the saints straight-facedly claim that the bathroom stall promotion was intended to coincide with national tap dance day, since one of the dangling feet is springloaded such that it “taps” or bobbles.

i’m not one to judge folks based on their worst moments (lest i be judged, i suppose), but this promotion seems innocuous to me. the saints don’t even mention the distinguished senator from idaho, though the bobblefoot might be construed as an homage to his foot-tapping and wide stance.

last year, the saints took some heat for giving away a michael vick dog chew toy. have they finally crossed the line with this promotion? a pioneer press poll put the question to readers. of 119 votes, 7 percent said “yes, it’s nothing to laugh at,” 30 percent said “no, it doesn’t offend me,” and 63 percent said “come on, it’s the saints! they gave away a randy moss hood ornament for cryin’ out loud! [note: mr. moss had recently run over a traffic officer].

let’s see, the game starts at 7:05 sunday. what do you think it would cost to purchase one of these fine bobblefoots on ebay this monday? i’m guessing that some tap dance afficionado would go as high as fifty bucks.

we’re all pretty much running from something, right? a lot of marathoners seem to use distance running to stay a step ahead of substance use and other problems. runner’s world just profiled ultrarunner charlie engel, an ex-crack user who ran 4,500 miles through the sahara in 111 days. it takes major hellhounds on one’s trail to average 40 miles per day across a freaking desert.

the denver post similarly profiles the nonprofit activity inspired rehabilitation foundation, as they sponsored 40 first-time runners in the colorado colfax marathon. as a longtime distance runner, i take it on faith that marathons are good for the soul. i’ve thought about designing a randomized trial in which volunteers would be assigned to either a running support group or an alternative drug treatment comparison group, but i’m reluctant to test my faith — lest it be crushed against the rocks of a rigorous scientific analysis. nevertheless, i sent the AIR folks a donation and wish them all the best. from their site:

The AIR Foundation was founded in 2007 to help defeat homelessness and addiction in the community through programs that support and inspire rehabilitation through athletic accomplishment and a positive connection to the community. Its unique approach, called “activity inspired rehabilitation,” was an immediate success, increasing the success of rehabilitation programs by as much as 50%.

Today, The AIR Foundation works with homeless shelters, rehabilitation centers and youth outreach programs to provide a physical and goal setting component to rehabilitation. How does Activity Inspired Rehabilitation Work?

  • Goal Setting helps participants stay focused on becoming healthy and productive members of the Denver community.
  • Incremental Accomplishment through training and races builds self-esteem and self-confidence as program members create new identities.
  • Professional Health and Fitness Training creates lasting change in the health and fitness levels of AIR members, building a foundation for a lifetime of health and self-sufficiency.
  • Positive Connection With The Community changes the way members feel about themselves, allowing them to make a positive connection to the people around them and become role models for others in need.

i’m doing a marathon in madison this sunday, so my personal goal for the week is simple, if contradictory: eat a ton of pasta and stay reasonably healthy.

for the first time in team history, the local call-in shows, letters to the editor, and message boards are awash in criticism of the minnesota wild. minnesota hockey fans are in revolt over the team’s recent trade for chris simon (left), the most notorious goon in hockey.

in truth, the term goon doesn’t do mr. simon Justice. for there is honor among goons and the wild’s latest acquisition has consistently violated the clear-cut norms and behavioral expectations of the enforcer role. as a criminologist, i’d characterize mr. simon as a violent recidivist. think that’s too strong? here’s how the strib summarizes his career accomplishments:

  • 30 games (December 2007): The longest suspension in NHL history, after Simon, playing for the Islanders, stomped on Pittsburgh’s Jarkko Ruutu with his skate on Dec. 15.
  • 25 games (March 2007): Then, the longest suspension in league history, for his two-handed stick attack to the face of Rangers forward Ryan Hollweg.
  • 5 preseason games (1994): While with Quebec, swung his stick at Ottawa’s Dennis Vial but missed.
  • 3 games (1997): With Washington, he used a racial slur toward Edmonton’s Mike Grier, who is black.
  • 2 games (2004): Crosschecked Tampa Bay’s Ruslan Fedotenko and then jumped on him and punched him.
  • 2 games (2004): Kneed Dallas’ Sergei Zubov.
  • 2 games (2001): Elbowed Florida’s Anders Eriksson.
  • 1 game (2000): In the playoffs with the Capitals, he was suspended for crosschecking Pittsburgh’s Peter Popovic across the throat.

the press even covers mr. simon as though he were a criminal rather than an athlete. the times, for example, writes that mr. simon needs help and counseling, while sports illustrated calls mr. simon a “hockey recidivist,” tracing his criminal history back to the junior leagues:

… In the Ontario junior hockey league Simon was a disciplinary nightmare. Although the OHL was unable to provide records, The Sault Star (of Sault Sainte Marie, Ont.) reported that in 1991-92 he was suspended eight times for a total of 34 games — 32 by the league and two by the team. The previous season, when the Soo Greyhounds acquired Simon from the Ottawa 67s, he was serving a 12-game suspension for having slashed Niagara Falls Thunder defenseman David Babcock in the face, breaking seven teeth and opening a gash that required 21 stitches.

i always teach a bit on chronic offenders in my delinquency class, citing marvin wolfgang et al.’s (1972) finding that 6 percent of the 1945 philadelphia birth cohort was responsible for 52 percent of that cohort’s police contacts. would a similar pattern of chronic offending hold in hockey?

my quick-n-dirty analysis of cbs sports‘ 2007-2008 penalty statistics indicates that 6 percent of hockey players are responsible for about 21 percent of the penalty minutes. if i throw 30-game suspensions into the mix, of course, the top 6 percent would be responsible for a significantly larger share of the penalty and suspension minutes.

violence is deeply engrained in hockey culture, so minnesotans can appreciate good physical hockey. after all, the real-life hanson brothers learned to play in virginia, minnesota (warning: bad language and worse violence in this clip, but this one seems to feature paul wellstone as a referee). while the violent hansons shocked their fellow players, however, chris simon reminds me of slap shot’s other goon: the feared ogie oglethorpe.

i almost expect the wild announcer to introduce him with a riff on jim carr’s movie intro: “Oh this young man has had a very trying rookie season, with the litigation, the notoriety, his subsequent deportation to Canada and that country’s refusal to accept him. Well, I guess that’s more than most 21-year-olds can handle. Number six, Ogie Oglethorpe.

having just posted on an espn magazine article about perceptions of the n.b.a. as an urban league, i came across a similarly thought- provoking observation in the same issue. brian scalabrine of the celtics offers this li’l thought experiment on race and perceived criminality:

“I think the misperception of our league is definitely race-driven. Suppose that for a whole year, none of our players got into a fight, no one got arrested, no one got ticketed for speeding. Do you think the public would have a different opinion of the league? I bet not. But I do think public opinion would be completely different if 75% of the players in the NBA were white instead of black. And if our image problem is race-driven, we can’t control that.”

i’m not sure he’s correct, but mr. scalabrine’s argument is so well-stated that i might have to try it out on my delinquency class this semester. having read the quote, i just had to check out to see where the young man went to school and whether he might’ve taken a good sociology course or two. sure enough, his bio notes that mr. scalabrine “earned his degree in social science from USC.”

okay, one last post about the seattle times’ series on the 2000 university of washington football team. the series ended on a positive note with an inspirational story about linebacker anthony kelly who went to college to become a football star and against the odds…became a student.

the idea of studying abroad captured kelly’s imagination and he won a scholarship to study in south africa. there, he worked with children and found a love for learning. as he said: “I had a chance to engage. To feel, touch and smell what I was reading in these books. That’s when I had the big idea of education as an engaged experience.” even as a number of his teammates were racking up long criminal records, kelly became a family man with big dreams for the children of south africa.

kelly is now working toward his master’s degree in education; he is currently in south africa again, this time leading a group of about twenty students on their own study abroad experience. he has ambitious goals and the drive to achieve them.

if you have a few minutes, it’s definitely worth the time to read the full version of his story.

the seattle times continues its series on “victory and ruins” — providing an in-depth look into the criminal histories and lenient treatments of players on the university of washington’s football team from 2000. the bad dawgs profiled so far are star tight end, jerramy stevens; “key” linebacker, jeremiah pharms; and starting safety, curtis williams. williams’ story is a tragic one for many reasons, but husky fans will never forget the hit against stanford that left him paralyzed from the neck down. williams died 18 months later just after his 24th birthday.

the series by the seattle times is an important one, but it’s also discouraging. to counter the discouragement, i found a happier dog story that still involves football and crime, but offers a little more hope, at least for some of the victims. more than four dozen pit bull dogs were rescued from michael vick’s bad newz kennels. fortunately for these mistreated canines, the Justice department wanted to give the dogs a second chance. the court appointed a guardian and special master, and as part of his plea bargain, vick agreed to pay for the dogs’ care. each dog was evaluated individually and most went into foster care to be socialized and given the chance at a better life. some will even train to become therapy dogs. it’s a happy ending to a sad case.

the dog in the picture is my own dog, talah, adopted from the humane society in may 2005.

today’s seattle times has in-depth coverage of the “last great UW team” — that’s university of washington football, in case you were wondering, and the article is referring to the 2000 squad that went 11-1, won the rose bowl, and ended ranked 3rd in the nation.

how is this related to public criminology? unfortunately, that “mystical, magical season” included a disturbing amount of criminal behavior by team members and an equally disturbing lack of punishment/sanctions by anyone in authority.

as the times reports:

When that Rose Bowl season began on Sept. 2, 2000, against the University of Idaho, the UW’s starters included:

• A safety who, according to police reports, had cut his wife’s face, broken her arm and broken her nose. He had already served time for choking her into unconsciousness. While playing in front of 70,000 fans on Montlake that day, he was wanted on an outstanding warrant.

• A linebacker under investigation for robbing and shooting a drug dealer. He had left behind a fingerprint stained with his blood. By the season opener, police knew the print was his — but they didn’t charge him until the season was over.

• A tight end under investigation on suspicion of rape.

At least a dozen members of the Rose Bowl team were arrested that year or charged with a crime that carried possible jail time. At least a dozen others on that team got in trouble with the law in other seasons.

i hate to add to any stereotypes of athletes as criminals, but sometimes the behavior of individuals is egregious. the lengthy story on jerramy stevens–the team’s star tight end–shows just how far privilege can go in protecting elite athletes. stevens was convicted of assault, accused of rape, and accumulated a number of hit-and-runs and DUIs during his UW and professional career.

i may use this profile of stevens in class as yet another illustration of inequalities in punishment. i knew jerramy when he first came to u-dub — he was an incoming freshman in the last class i taught the summer before heading off to a tenure track job. there were several football players in that class and they all behaved well, did their work, and didn’t cause any noticeable trouble.

i wonder what would have happened if jerramy had never become a star on the field or if the team had been less successful. would he have been a better person? there’s no way of knowing, of course. but, i’ll try to use his story as a cautionary tale this summer when i teach a class of incoming freshman football players who will have their whole college experience still ahead of them.

this fall, the debate over offensive team nicknames flared up again at the minnversity. nobody objects to our golden gophers nickname — at least nobody outside the close-knit rodent urophiliac community. nevertheless, many question whether our gophs should continue to take the ice against the fighting sioux of north dakota.

in contrast to the ongoing campus debates at illinois, florida state, north dakota, and elsewhere, i’ve heard absolutely no outrage, zero indignation, and nary a protest as the washington redskins prepare for the playoffs this weekend.* isn’t redskins the most racist and offensive team name in sport? we’re not talking about a borderline moniker like warriors or even chiefs. redskins is a degrading ethnic slur, pure and simple, stubbornly attached to the home football team in Our Nation’s Capitol.
i’m an old-school sports traditionalist, so my first official act as nfl commissioner would be to return the nicknames of the colts and the cards back to the good citizens of baltimore and st. louis, respectively. my second official act, however, would involve harsh economic sanctions on the redskins until they changed the name — to ‘skins, to reds, or to my personal favorite, the washington wonks.
i’ve got nothing against the washington football team. as a chubby li’l pee-wee fullback, my hero was the the great riggo. like john riggins, i was a north-south runner (mostly south in my case, now that i think about it). while i could always forgive mr. riggins’ ungentlemanly remarks, the redskins nickname just bugs me more and more each year.
i simply can’t see a good argument for keeping such an ugly nickname. tradition? well, the washington team was originally called the braves. the boston braves, in fact. moreover, at least part of the storied redskins tradition is a well-documented history of racism. the team’s management so resisted african american players that shirley povich was inspired to report, “Cleveland Browns fullback Jim Brown “integrated the Redskins’ goal line with more than deliberate speed.” in truth, it was not until 1962 that the redskins were integrated, and only then when facing direct threats from the kennedy administration.

though my childhood hero once led the ‘skins to glory, i’ll be rooting for seattle’s seahawks in tomorrow’s game. i’ll return to washington fandom, however, once the redskin moniker departs — whether by lawsuit or by a new owner who shares my vision.

*i did come across a couple older op-eds: see michael tomasky in american prospect and salim muwakkil in alternet.

the local press are abuzz over derek boogaard’s saskatchwan summer “fight camp.” mr. boogaard is the designated enforcer of the minnesota wild, our professional hockey team.

fighting is clearly the camp’s focus and mr. boogaard’s most marketable professional asset. as the blood-spattered t-shirts make clear, this is not your typical skills camp with a little demo discussing fighting as a necessary evil. this is a fight camp.

i’m most interested in the parents of the 12-18 year-olds in attendance. real hockey moms and dads truck their kids to rinks and camps year round, but savvy parents are probably sending their budding rocket richards and dominik haseks to stickhandling camp or goalie camp. so, who sends their kids to fight camp? a few hypotheses:

1. parents who give in to their kids might reluctantly sign off on fight camp. i can certainly envision some young lads making the camp a real priority and working and/or whining hard to attend. this seems the most likely scenario to me.

2. parents who can only afford fifty bucks might send their kids to fight camp. they get a chance to interact with a famous and/or infamous hockey player but needn’t break the bank to do so.

3. parents who think their boys should be doing a bit more masculinity might send their kids to fight camp. if the little nipper has a nice hockey skill set but shrinks from the violence, the parents might see mr. boogaard’s camp as an efficient karate-kidlike corrective.

4. parents who think their boys should discipline their violence might send their kids to fight camp. if the young palooka has shown a propensity for wanton violence, a fight camp might be seen as just the thing to discipline or attenuate it before the authorities step into the picture.

i could spin off a few hypotheses on family structure (frustrated hockey dad or single mom?) and social class (emasculated middle-class or working-class focal concern?), but i’d need to know more about hockey and fighting to do so effectively.

a few more questions: do you think attendees are likely to get into more fights next season relative to last season? would participating in a one-day $50 fight camp have any effect on behavior on or off the ice? do teammates view attendance positively or negatively? i imagine that my lad would ridicule any teammates who thought they needed summer school remediation in this area. i know that he’d ridicule any parents who thought that such a camp could toughen up their kids.