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Good Guys Do Finish First. Even if Overshadowed by the Worst.

Beamer, Benz or Bentley? Mazda.

Beamer, Benz or Bentley? Mazda.

So this week the Baltimore Ravens finally released Ray Rice for literally knocking the flipflops off his fiancée in a casino elevator (and TMZ became a reputable news outlet).

This after months of other NFL suspensions for pot, PED’s, and a little Percocet promenade by a team owner. NOT to mention Roger Goodell et. al. imposing sentences for these infractions that would give you whiplash (2 games-4 games-6 games-8, what don’t fans appreciate? Arbitrary penalties, that’s what.)

So for some relief, I asked my Facebook friends to tell me their favorite football players—no, any athletes—who demonstrate the good, honest, charitable side of sports–and just human nature. And they delivered (pro wrestlers! Woot!).

By the way, I’m focusing only on the fellas here, not because women athletes don’t have legal issues (Hope Solo, come on, honey), but it’s the gentlemen who have dominated the police blotters of late.

So here, in no order, are just a FEW gallant guys who are using their athletics platform (or just plain old good hearts) to make the world a place of shiny, happy people holding hands, not punching women with them:

Grapplers Giving Back
The longtime WWE favorite “Mankind,” Mick Foley, now donates hours lobbying against sexual assault with the group RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network). John Cena has granted more than 400 “wishes” for the Arizona Make-A-Wish Foundation, making him the current record holder.

Stop or I’ll Shaq!
Countless NBA players have or support charities—James, Jordan, Battier… But as the kid of a homicide detective, I find it quite touching that Shaquille O’Neal has applied to become a reserve police officer in Doral, Florida—a job he did once before in Miami 2005. That’s 7-1, 325 pounds of serving and protecting.

Feel-Good Football Players
I’ve written before about St. Louis’ Scott Wells and his three adopted Ugandan children. Now I have to give a nod to my Redskins, particularly Darrell Green, whose name was mentioned a LOT today. Not only an amazing athlete and Hall of Famer—maybe the best the nation’s capital has ever seen—but a true philanthropist, founding or supporting children’s charitable organizations, September 11 relief, education efforts and numerous boards and councils.

That said, I find running back Alfred Morris pretty awesome just for driving, still, his 1991 Mazda 626 that he bought for $2 from his pastor. OK it’s been fully restored, but it’s nice to see a player keepin’ it real.

Many friends like Holly Peterson Linder and Michelle Burstion Young pointed out not just one player but the entire Bengals organization not only for keeping defensive lineman Devon Still on the practice squad after being cut, but donating all proceeds from the sales of his jersey to pediatric cancer research. His daughter Leah is in Stage 4 with a 50-50 chance of survival. The good news is at this time his jersey is the highest selling Bengals jersey ever.

Don’t Mess With Widows
As for hockey, a classic name came up today. Mark Messier has served on a number of boards, including the New York Police and Fire Widows’ and Children’s Benefit Fund, and the Tomorrow’s Children Fund, as well as helped bring more ice rinks to the city. The NHL created the Mark Messier Leadership Award in his honor.

But most important, says my friend H. Paul Brandes, “Leading the Rangers to their only Stanley Cup in my lifetime should be considered a charitable act in and of itself.”

Children’s Home…Runs
Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw received rousing votes today from Vin Scully cousin Patti Shea and others, and it’s easy to see why. He and wife Ellen raised money to build an orphanage in Zambia and he recently hosted a massive ping pong tournament on the field of Dodger stadium as an ongoing part of “Kershaw’s Challenge.” He has already received the Roberto Clemente Award and the Branch Rickey Award for his humanitarian work – Cy Young is probably next, for, you know, like garden variety pitching and stuff.

The Phillies’ Chase Utley and wife Jennifer work closely with animal causes like the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and encourage people to adopt pets, not buy.

The Rays’ Evan Longoria is a downright superhero here when he saves a reporter from a stray ball.

I also still love how the Mets’ Daniel Murphy missed opening day this year for the birth of his son, despite some announcers’….different (dumbass) views of paternity leave and C-sections.

And finally, my friend Jeff Jackson sums it up: “Real athletes don’t tell everyone the good things they do, they just do it! Derek Jeter!”

Yes indeed, Shortstop, Number 2, Derek Jeter. Number 2.

PS – some of the honorable mentions today: Tiger Woods; Ole Miss’ Deterrian Shackelford; Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf; Brandon Marshall; Russell Wilson; Warrick Dunn; Caron Butler; Andrew Luck; Mary Lou Retton; Joe Torre; Albert Pujols; Serena Williams; Ryan Zimmermann; Ted Williams; Stan Musial; Mario Lemieux; Jacob Tamme; Brett Keisel; Kenny Perry; Vincent Lacavalier; Brooks Laich; Nicklas Backstrom; and duh…OVIE!

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What Manziel and Morris Day Have in Common

It was amazingly easy to find a volunteer for this photo. Thanks?

It was amazingly easy to find a volunteer for this photo. Thanks?

Well Johnny Manziel, after being fined $12K for flipping the bird to MY Washington Redskins during Monday Night Football this week, you can take heart that you are in some pretty historic company making that gesture.

And I must admit, having tossed up a few “salutes” myself over 20 years of Washington DC traffic, I got to thinking “What does the bird mean anyway?” (Besides a really awesome Morris Day and the Time song.)

Dating back to ancient Greek and Roman cultures, not surprisingly, “the finger” means a phallus, and the two fingers on either side, the testicles. In fact, whether Latin, Greek or otherwise, the etymology almost always means sexual affectations.

In other words, with the exception of those who showed the sign as a way to thwart evil, you silly boys haven’t changed one bit in 3,000 years. Classical scholars such as Aristophanes, Erasmus, and Diogenes Laertius referred to it; today, Madonna, Ronald Reagan, Johnny Cash, Ron Artest and Justin Bieber have publicly let their finger flag fly.

The gesture is reputed to have arrived in America after the Civil War, likely through Italian immigrants. It wasn’t long, however Johnny, before athletes found it useful. The first documented use of “read between the lines” appeared around 1886 by baseball player Old Hoss Radbourn, a pitcher with the Boston Beaneaters—he definitely did it in a photograph (top row, far left); allegedly it was to send a message to their rivals, the New York Giants.

So that’s something you can think about, Johnny Football, as you’re sitting the bench in the #2 spot for Cleveland. You are in good company, sure, but next time, when you have yet to take a single snap in a real NFL game as a starting quarterback, put your money where your finger is.

Oh wait, you just did.

A League of Her Own

You should see what she can do in a swimsuit.

You should see what she can do in a swimsuit.

So it was just announced a really hot girl is on the cover of Sports Illustrated. So what?

Turns out the “hot” girl is 13-year-old baseball sensation Mo’ne Davis, pitcher (and infielder, and outfielder…) for the Philadelphia Taney Dragons Little League team. Last week, she recorded the first ever complete game shutout by a girl in Little League World Series history (4-0 vs. Nashville). And Sunday, she hit a single against the Pearland, Texas team to become only the sixth girl to record a hit in the Little League World Series and help the Dragons to the win.

Her success has drawn praise from the likes of Michelle Obama, Kevin Durant and Lil Wayne. Now she will become the first Little Leaguer—girl or boy—to grace the cover of the famous sports magazine.

We doubt it will be the last. The 5-4, 111-pound phenom hopes to play basketball for the national champion Connecticut Huskies someday. Let’s hope they…yes, “show her the Mo’ne.”

(Insert trombone playing wohn-wohhhnnn here.)

Catch Mo’ne again Wednesday against Las Vegas—the one game standing in the way of the Dragons’ U.S. Championship game.

#WoofWednesday! Congrats to Becky Hammon, Michele Roberts!

Cody, courtesy of @BeckyHammon, Twitter

Cody, courtesy of @BeckyHammon, Twitter

Although San Antonio Stars STAR Becky Hammon’s pup Cody departed us in June, we thought he would want to celebrate with us here as his mom (a GIRL) is the new Assistant Coach of the World Champion San Antonio Spurs (SMELLY BOYS!).

Congratulations to Becky as she transitions from being one of the greatest WNBA players of all time to coaching one of the best NBA franchises. Cody would be proud!

Meanwhile, last week, Washington DC attorney Michele Roberts was voted in as the new Executive Director of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), making her the first woman to head up a major North American sports union.

Tiger Tuesday and a Diamond in the Rough

A Swedish massage from ex-wife Elin Nordegren would be pretty good right now, right Tiger?

A Swedish massage from ex-wife Elin Nordegren would be pretty good right now, right Tiger?

So in a golf story that makes me feel very olllld, 38-year-old Tiger Woods withdrew from the World Golf Championship Bridgestone tournament Sunday on the ninth hole after straining his back on an awkward shot at the second hole.

Woods, who had surgery to alleviate a pinched nerve in his back March 31, deteriorated quickly after that, in his third tournament back on a Firestone Country Club course where he has won eight times. He opened the tournament with a 68 but got progressively worse and was 3-over par when he withdrew.

Now the golf world awaits whether Woods will appear in this weekend’s PGA Championship in Louisville. (Meanwhile the women of the world say, “tough nuggets, cheating moron.”)

While 38 is certainly not “old” for golf, Woods is not considered a spring chicken either, and he’s a chicken who has taken some battering both physically and spiritually the last decade. But he won his last major on a torn ACL six years ago, so don’t count him out yet. He is seeking his 15th major tournament win, four shy of Jack Nicklaus’ record 18.

Meanwhile at the same tournament, Sergio Garcia (who is no buddy of Tiger’s after the two have accused each other of racism and cheating in the past) knocked the diamond from a fan’s ring with his tee shot on the third hole Sunday.

As fans tried to help her find it, Garcia, the leader at the time (he finished second to Rory McIlroy) still had to play. Normally a golfer will give an autographed ball or glove to a fan he hits, and he did, while also continuing to look for the diamond. He asked for her contact information, but luckily the diamond was found and returned.

Filanthropy Friday

Amid all the commotion around the Ray Rice domestic abuse situation the last week, my friend Michelle made a very good point. She said she was so tired of hearing about the bad guys in sports, she was going to make a conscious effort to seek out the good ones.

So with that in mind, I thought I would periodically shine my tiny bloglight on athletes who are, as far as we can tell, living their lives for the good of others. Whether it’s giving wheelchairs to children (David Beckham), donating their own money to orphanages (Clayton Kershaw), or just leaving a waitress a good tip (actually, a lot of guys), there really are sports stars out there who seem to appreciate that they are rich, gorgeous, and talented and don’t mind sharing a little love with the rest of the huddled masses.

Big Daddy. (Twitter.com)

Big Daddy. (Twitter.com)

This week, I’m introducing you to St. Louis Rams center Scott Wells and his wife Julie. A year after their son Jackson was born in 2004, the Wells’ underwent the tragedy of losing premature twin sons on Thanksgiving Day. Eventually they gave birth to daughter Lola and son Langston, but the specter of their sadness remained.

But a solution was becoming apparent. Feeling what they believed to be God’s influence, the couple decided to adopt two children from Uganda, Elijah and R.J. It wasn’t an easy trip. Scott was recovering from knee surgery and had to return to the U.S. while Julie stayed for three months to get to know the children. The couple faced corruption in a system known for bribes and taking advantage of the wealthy.

But if there was any doubt, then God REALLY showed up. R.J., it was discovered, had a sister, Caroline. The Wells’ hardly gave it a thought.

“We decided to keep the brother and sister together,” Wells said. “I said, ‘What’s the difference between five and six kids?'” he said in a St. Louis Post-Dispatch interview.

Now the 300-pound Pro-Bowler, who holds two degrees in history and sociology, has a team of six, counting the three “transfers.”

And for their sake, not a moment too soon.

“To us, and talking to people who have done mission work over there and have adopted over there, the need was great,” Wells went on in the same interview. “HIV’s huge over there, malaria, tuberculosis. The life expectancy’s not great; it’s very low. The majority of the population’s young because people don’t live to be old. So we really just felt … that’s where we were being led.”

And for that, Scott Wells, the Ladies Room leaves the seat up for you.

Two Pro Stars Punished for Domestic Violence. (Allegedly.)

Thug life, or hug your wife. Pick one.

Thug life, or hug your wife. Pick one.

I must admit, you see this so much I barely notice anymore. It’s time we all wake up—you cannot have character on the field and be a wife-beater off it. And I do not mean the tanktop.

Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice has been suspended (yawn) two games for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy following his offseason arrest for domestic violence.

Which was an “altercation” (read: Punching and dragging her by her hair. Unconscious. On camera.) with his now-wife (yes, really) at an Atlantic City hotel.

A “first-time” offender (can you believe we have to number them?), Rice was given the standard month-or-less suspension. In the last three years, only 12 players have received more than four-game suspensions, and all were repeat offenders.

On missing Rice for the two games, coach John Harbaugh responded “It’s not a big deal.”

Yeah. so the head coach himself acknowledges the punishment is anemic.

To be fair, Rice was also fined additional penalties and more than $500,000, and has stated, “I failed in many ways… I am better because of everything we have experienced since that night. The counseling has helped tremendously…My goal is to earn back the trust of the people, especially the children, I let down because of this incident.”

Let’s hope so.

Meanwhile, you gotta love the word “allegedly.” It covers all manner of sins.

Like for former Minnesota Twins star Chuck Knoblauch, who was arrested Wednesday night for allegedly assaulting his ex-wife.

As a result, his scheduled induction into the Twins Hall of Fame has been canceled.

This I actually find a bit more on par with the alleged crime (PS – he was convicted of hitting a previous wife in 2010 and sentenced to a year of probation. That sure worked.) It’s not hitting your wallet that hard, but puts a permanent asterisk on your character.

Knoblauch divorced Cheri Knoblauch in 2012. He was the 1991 Rookie of the Year and a four-time All-Star with the Twins.

Do I sound mad? I am. Am I being fair? Who knows.

But if it hits a woman like a duck, and drags a woman like a duck, or rapes a woman under the influence like a duck, it’s a criminal and deserves real punishment. Period.