Each week, Dan Rubenstein, Ty Hildenbrandt and Jacob Osterhout will jump on e-mail and riff about various subjects in the news offered up by SI.com's Jimmy Traina.
Traina: Was Roger Goodell's ruling on Michael Vick fair?
Osterhout: I thought the semi-punishment was about as fair as it could be. Roger Goodell had to impose some sort of punishment to appease the puritanical puppy lovers and maintain his image as a tough enforcer, but he couldn't be seen as picking up the slack for the American justice system. Goodell came up with a nice compromise. Vick can't play for the first six weeks of the season, but he can practice, and he might even return sooner if he says please and thank you. After spending 19 months in jail, Vick is going to need those six weeks to ease his way back into playing shape anyway. Also, this moderate punishment doesn't scare off future teams that might be interested in signing Vick, so the man, theoretically, can get back to work.
Hildenbrandt: I agree entirely. We knew he'd get back in eventually, and he's paid his debt to society, so there's really no reason he can't resume football-related activities with an NFL team. I think Goodell is well within his rights as commissioner to allow a "conditional" reinstatement, seeing as how he's the chief manager of the league's image. Plus, he needed to react somewhat heavy-handedly to give the impression that his strict policies know no exceptions. I'll say this, though: the least of Vick's worries should be Roger Goodell. PETA will be hawking after him no matter where he goes, for the rest of his career.
Osterhout: I was thinking about the PETA issue, and I really can't see PETA activists showing up at the sidelines for a football game. They'd just be out of place. I mean, if there is one thing a die-hard, slightly overweight, slightly over-served football fan hates, it is a bleeding-heart liberal activist. Maybe I'm over-generalizing, but the last time I went to the Meadowlands to see the Giants play, I saw a lot more beer guts than "puppy power" bumper stickers.
Rubenstein: Seems pretty fair to me. Roger Goodell appears to be letting Vick dictate how soon he can come back based on his behavior, even if the meaning of that is somewhat vague. The biggest thing, obviously, is to show that he has made some new friends. Another interesting question will be to see how much he physically puts into being an NFL QB again, and for what reasons. Is it a cash grab to repair broken finances? Did he desperately miss football? The attention? Will he accept a complimentary role? My apologies for ending this paragraph with so many questions, it feels like the end of a Rocky and Bullwinkle episode.
Osterhout: That being said, Rocky and Bullwinkle are no doubt ardent PETA supporters and they would fit right in at a NFL game, so maybe I was wrong. (Plus, Bullwinkle could do some damage with those antlers.)
Rubenstein: It's no fun when we all agree. Goodell made a sound judgment call to let Vick back on the NFL's terms. The only people who will truly take exception are those who think there should be no repercussions or think that a lifetime ban is in order. As is the case in many instances in life, when you please the moderates, you're doing all right. I agree with Jacob re: PETA -- they'd be out of their element. It depends on where the game is, but I'll jump ahead and assume that there won't be much traction in N.Y., Pittsburgh, Chicago or Dallas. Any organization that takes the time to recognize the brave efforts of Hayden Panettierre isn't one that many fans will be taking that seriously.
Hildenbrandt: Well, I'll save my own hide and stop short of getting into any deep PETA discussion. I'm exercising my fifth amendment rights to silence. I'm still getting angry messages from Georgia fans for an article I wrote two years ago comparing their team to the Ultimate Warrior. That's more than enough for me for now.
Osterhout: Your right to silence is my right to throw you under the bus. I found your description of Georgia football as having "no real defining characteristics" not only apt, but also telling. The Bulldogs are always in the hunt for a national title in the preseason, but give them a few SEC games and they have to revert to antics for motivation. Here's the big question, are you more scared of Georgia football fans or PETA activists?
Hildenbrandt: Georgia football fans, and it's really not even close.
Traina: The New York Mets have had a miserable season, filled with embarrassments. How bizarre is this latest incident in which Omar Minaya called out a reporter for trying to take down Tony Bernazard so said reporter could get that job? Is there any way the Mets can keep Minaya on as GM?
Hildenbrandt: For the sake of our Tuesday "E-Mailing It In" segments, I hope Minaya is given a lifetime contract and lives to be 160. This recent incident is so many different levels of bizarre (and fantastic!) that I stopped counting. In general, the whole "calling out a reporter" decision is almost always one that comes back to haunt a team executive, even after an inevitable, hollow apology is issued. And I'd imagine it didn't quite work out the way Minaya envisioned it in his dreams, you know, when he called out Adam Rubin, met him by the bleachers, and gave him a bloody nose. I'm sure Minaya is frustrated, as are all Mets fans, but has this tact of challenging a reporter ever been successful?
Osterhout: Listen, I'm a Nationals fan -- yeah, that's right -- and there is no team that I would rather play than the Mets. This alone should get Minaya fired. He has spent a boatload of money to put together a team that has achieved sub-par results. Granted, some of that is due to bad luck, such as injuries and one of the baseball gods getting late-season indigestion. But, barring a miracle, this will be the third season in a row that the Mets have missed the playoffs, and I think Minaya is feeling the heat and knows that the end of his days are right around the corner. His bizarre incident with New York Daily News beat reporter Adam Rubin is the last desperate flailings of a GM on his last legs.
Rubenstein: Does anyone really have any idea what's going on with the Mets' front office? Outwardly, it appears the front office is trying to put together a winning team, but the team couldn't be more flawed. It's odd to think they need to clean house given how much they've been spending, but every free-agent signing looks like duct tape for a bigger problem, the organization itself. The injuries have been brutal, sure, but the Mets are venturing into bizarre territory.
Hildenbrandt: Excellent point, Dan. On paper, it would appear as though the Mets should be a contender in the NL. Obviously, the Mets have been snakebitten by injuries all season; however, at some point (read: three weeks ago), you have to start wondering if the chemistry on this team is inherently flawed. If that's the case, then the only solution might be to blow things up and start over. And if we get there, I don't see any way for Minaya to be the one in charge of rebuilding the franchise.
Osterhout: See, if Minaya were smart he would have pinned all the blame on this Tony Bernazard character. I mean, can you think of a worse guy to be around? He yells at his underlings. He challenges young ball players to a fight. He screams at club house employees. He pretty much sounds like a high school football coach with his jock strap on too tight. How did this guy flourish in the Mets organization for so long? Minaya kept saying that he was a "good baseball guy," but at a certain point that doesn't matter anymore. What matters is that you are contributing to the betterment of the organization. Minaya should have tossed Bernazard to the street without defending him and he could have looked like a guy standing up for the common good of the Mets organization.
Rubenstein: Minaya challenged a reporter in the No. 1 media market, no less! Anytime you start challenging reporters, you're essentially telling everyone you have no other strategy to try to bail out a sinking ship. Minaya's in a bar fight, wildly throwing punches against a much bigger guy who's holding his head far enough away that nothing's connecting.
Osterhout: My favorite was the split screen video that SNY broadcast. Rubin's reaction was awesome. You could tell he was blindsided. One second he was just another faceless reporter covering a major league baseball team and the next he IS the story. That was a great moment caught on tape.
Rubenstein: It's most likely a case of Bernazard being the bulldog in the organization. He tried to keep people in line. He fought the battles far enough away so that Minaya's hands stayed clean. I'm sure, to some extent, that every team has a more professional version of Bernazard fighting the daily battles that an organization faces, but most do it more quietly and without ripping their shirts off in a minor league clubhouse. Psh, amateurs.
Hildenbrandt: Is it really necessary to rip your shirt off before challenging someone to a fight, unless you're involved with UFC? I don't see the intimidation value there. It certainly didn't work for Nigel Gruff in The Replacements.
Traina: Enough about the Mets. We've spent too much time on New York baseball's second citizens. Let's get to something way more interesting. Shaquille O'Neal appeared on Monday Night Raw last night. Has there ever been a better fit in terms of an athlete appearing on a wrestling program? Also, once Shaq's playing days are over, what do you see him doing? Broadcasting? Cop? Wrestler? All three?
Osterhout: I love writing about Shaq because I can use a different nickname every time I refer to the big man. By all accounts, The Diesel was a natural on Monday Night Raw, but I don't see him going into wrestling after his playing days are over. It's too hard on the body, even a body as massive as Shaq Fu's. And The Big Aristotle will continue to do his police work on the side, but that will never become his full-time gig either. I think we'll probably see Shaqovic behind a camera somewhere. His stage presence is very similar to Charles Barkley's, although, God help us all if the two of them are on the same show.
Rubenstein: I think the wrestling thing will be one and done. He's taken too much abuse and made too much money to sacrifice the ability to walk later on. He'll probably do something with law enforcement, but nothing routine. Maybe a special project here and there to raise awareness about certain issues, but I don't see a second career here. Shaq will inevitably stay in the spotlight as a broadcaster/analyst and general face of the game, which he absolutely will excel at. Nobody will know when he's being serious or not, but nobody will care. I'm secretly excited for Shaq using only adjectives that contain the word "shaq" to break down a player's abilities, i.e., "Joakim Noah really improved shaqleticism during the offseason, and it's really starting to show."
Hildenbrandt: You're right, Jimmy. He's the perfect fit for anything with a shred of humor, especially the fantasy world of make-believe wrestling. (Yes, it's not real. Sorry to burst the bubble.) What will he do after his NBA career is over? I'm in favor of just about anything as long as it doesn't involve remaking Kazaam!. I can definitely see Shaq spearheading a reality show that broadcasts him 24/7, kind of like Stephon Marbury did the other day, only without the random periods of crying. There's no way this wouldn't work, and people would probably leave it on their televisions as they slept, as a means of comfort, like The Truman Show. Just the image of a giant man doing normal, everyday activities would be amusing. Plus, with Shaq, you could never be sure if he'd be sitting down for a quiet dinner or swimming the Amazon amid a school of hungry piranhas. Or dropping in, unannounced, at the White House, just to see if he could get in... like he did on Sunday.
Rubenstein: The shame of everything is, as great a personality as Shaq is, he was a better player. He could be a great big man coach, a la Pete Newell, but people love him way too much to let him simply coach. That said, he's Shaq and he'll find time to do whatever he wants. He'll be America's favorite TV dad, he'll box a kangaroo, he'll host a game show, he'll feed 10,000 kids, and eventually, he'll teach a huge, awkward 19-year-old a drop step and some low-post moves.
Osterhout: And The Big Baryshnikov is good with animals. He just had his photo taken with a panda, and I don't know who looked cuter.
Rubenstein: Just so we're clear, the odds of Shaq appearing on Dancing with the Stars within five years are 1-50. I'm taking all bets at this time.
Osterhout: Has there every been a player in our generation who has been as loved as Shaq?
Rubenstein: 1. Shaq; 2. Mark Madsen; 3. Either Lopez Twin.
Osterhout: Climbing this list rapidly is Birdman out in Denver. They love that guy out there. Of course, he only has one nickname, so he'll never get close to Shaq.
Hildenbrandt: Dan is biased because Shaq made him squeeze into an infant-sized Phoenix Suns jersey during a video shoot last season.
Osterhout: Yeah, I saw that video once. It kind of reminded me of how they make sausages.
Hildenbrandt: Somewhere, Kobe Bryant is reading this conversation and slamming his keyboard with two angry fists. Just saying...
Rubenstein: If Kobe Bryant is actually reading this conversation, the Lakers aren't repeating.