Monthly Archives: May 2017

Greatest hits in sports hero apologies

These days, even more interesting than the stories of the crime and punishment of our sports heroes are the stories of their mea culpas.

Love may mean never having to say you are sorry. But these days, sports means having to say it all the time, say it without really saying it, or not saying it at all.

Michael Vick’s appearance in the confessional of Sunday’s night’s “60 Minutes” on CBS was one approach. The former NFL star and convicted dog-fighting felon appeared as if he would have admitted to, and been contrite about, stealing the Hope Diamond had he been asked. His message was consistent throughout: Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.

Interviewer: “Michael, there are some who say that you are the lowest form of slime on the face of the Earth, that the very sight of you disgusts them, that were you to be going slowly under in quicksand and they were nearby with a rope, they’d coil it up and walk away. What do you say to that?”

Vick: “I’d agree.”

All right, so the question wasn’t quite that bad, but it was fascinating to watch the juxtaposition of a somber and penitent Vick in coat and tie, with the film of his playing days, when he was a cool guy with an entourage.

To CBS’ credit, the most obvious question was put directly to Vick: Is this remorse real or is it all part of an orchestrated plan designed by a roomful of lawyers and public relations spinmeisters to rehabilitate your image en route to several more rich NFL contracts?

Vick said it was real. That he is real.

We’ll know in about six months, or whenever he stops going to those promised sessions in which he is supposed to tell kids to be good to their animals.

Vick isn’t the only member of the Assn. of Role Models (ARM) who had to face saying sorry.

So many nonapology apologies. So little time.

There was, of course, our Manny Ramirez, who made it short and sweet: “Hey, man. I screwed up, but I ain’t gonna say no more.”

No dead dogs there, so that seemed to work and life is good again in Mannywood. The several million fans who idolized him and/or cherished the sanctity of the game and the numbers he put up are probably near the end of their therapy sessions now. So it’s OK. Just Manny being Manny.

His former running mate in Boston, David Ortiz, took a slightly different approach. On the day the news broke that he, along with Manny, had grown muscles somewhat more quickly than one does at the gym and used them to hit lots more home runs than guys who do push-ups and take Advil, Ortiz was almost upbeat.

“I’ll get to the bottom of this,” he said. “I’ll get the details and tell all. Just let me get the specifics.”

One news conference later, there were no specifics forthcoming, other than the suggestion that some supplement he took was tainted with illegal stuff. (Someday, organized sport will pool resources and track down the guy who is going from one supplement store to another, all over the country, contaminating Gatorade.)

Nope, when it came time to say he was sorry, Big Papi was a big poop-out.

Then there was Alex Rodriguez, the Yankees’ A-Rod, caught like others with his hand in the steroid jar. He had several public airings, articulated some self-loathing, talked about the culture of the day — the old “everybody was doing it” — and then took the low road by ripping the reporter who got the goods on him.

It was a C-minus performance, a weak Yankee Doodle.

Oh, and speaking of Yankees, remember Roger Clemens, who wouldn’t say he was sorry because he kept misremembering? He continues to misremember while Congress ponders whether it is worth its time and our tax money to take action, since he misremembered specifically under oath in a public hearing before them.

Barry Bonds has never said he is sorry. But then, he has never admitted that he did anything to be so. Interestingly, Major League Baseball isn’t saying it’s sorry for keeping him on the sidelines this season. Probably because it isn’t.

Call it common-sense collusion.

Rick Pitino said he was sorry about having a fling and giving the woman $3,000 that she used for an abortion. Louisville, where he coaches, quickly said it was enough for him to say he was sorry because they need him to win lots of games and make lots of money for the university.

Sorry. They didn’t exactly say that. They just meant it.

Vick will probably get to return to the NFL sometime in October. He will be playing in Philadelphia, where the fans are about as forgiving as a pit bull.

Female cave bug sports ‘penis-like’ sexual organ, study says

Talk about clingy! A newly discovered cave insect can copulate for up to 70 hours, possibly because the female has a “penis-like” sexual organ that penetrates deeply into her male partner, anchoring him for the duration, scientists say.

In a paper published recently in the journal Current Biology, researchers described the exotic sexual characteristics of Neotrogla, a genus of winged insects that inhabit guano-speckled Brazilian caves.

Though a dizzying array of courtship and mating behaviors have been observed among insects, study authors say Neotrogla is unique.

The female possesses a “highly elaborate penis-like structure, the gynosome,” wrote lead author Kazunori Yoshizawa, an entomologist at Hokkaido University in Japan.

This external, or intromittent, sexual organ is curved, spiky and inflatable, Yoshizawa and his colleagues wrote. During copulation, the female mounts the male insect, which itself lacks an intromittent organ. Instead, the male is equipped with a “simple” opening that exposes its seminal duct.

Once sex begins, it typically lasts between 40 and 70 hours, researchers said. The female holds the male so tightly from the inside that when scientists tried to pull one couple apart, the male insect was ripped in half “without breaking the genital coupling.”

So why the gender-bending switcheroo?

Scientists speculate that it has to do with the bugs’ rather barren surroundings. The caves they populate are extremely dry, and the insect’s primary food sources are dead bats and bat dung, which are relatively scarce.

Mating males produce “voluminous” spermatophores, capsules of sperm and nutritious compounds. Competition among females for a male’s “nutritious gifts” may have caused them to develop gynosomes, authors wrote.

“This organ may have a premating function grasping reluctant mates or a postmating function holding mates to ensure prolonged copulation, although these functions are not mutually exclusive,” the authors wrote.

For branding, many places adopt signature scents

Between the bouncy music and the stacks of colorful jeans, visitors to the Benetton store on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue might catch a whiff of a growing marketing trend.

Mounted high in the corner beside the store entrance, a scent diffuser, installed in November, spreads a bright spring fragrance modeled after Benetton’s Verde cologne.

“It finishes the emotion we are trying to create in the store,” said Robert Argueta, director of visual merchandising for the United Colors of Benetton, who also is testing the scent in Benetton’s New York flagship store. “It’s the first and last impression a customer gets.”

Long the domain of casinos and hotels, marketing using scent is catching on among retailers and in car showrooms, sports stadiums, airports, banks and apartment buildings that seek to distinguish themselves with customers via the deeply influential sense of smell.

“It’s a way to market above the clutter,” said Roel Ventura, a Seattle-based ambient designer with Ambius, which designs business environments.

The tactic also is gaining traction among businesses hoping to drum up sales, thanks to research that has shown the right scent can open people’s wallets, project a sense of comfort and home (think hotels), shorten the time people believe they’ve been waiting (think banking) or even improve one’s sense of performance (think gym.)

Although smells can be a turnoff or cause health problems for some people, the global scent marketing industry is growing, grossing an estimated $200 million in revenue last year and growing about 10% annually, said Jennifer Dublino, vice president of development at ScentWorld Events, the industry’s trade group in Scarsdale, N.Y.

Scent marketing is divided into two main categories: ambient scenting, which fills a space with a pleasant smell; and scent branding, which develops a signature scent specific to a brand, like an olfactory logo. The former can cost $100 to $1,000 a month depending on the size of the space. The latter can run anywhere from $3,000 to $25,000 plus a monthly maintenance fee.

If the aim is to improve consistency or to create or maintain an iconic brand, a signature scent may be best, said Ed Burke, director of marketing and communications at ScentAir, a leading scent marketing company based in Charlotte, N.C., that says it scents 70,000 locations, including Benetton. Less than 10% of the company’s clients go that route, he said.

“Hugo Boss is a great example of a signature scent,” said Burke, whose company created the rich tamboti wood scent that Hugo Boss pumps through its stores’ heating and air conditioning systems, the preferred delivery method for large spaces. The high-end brand, an early retail adopter of scenting in 2011, at the time sold its apparel mostly in other stores such as Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus, so scenting was a way to tell a consistent brand story, Burke said.

Some venues use multiple scents. The scent program at the Marlins Park baseball stadium in Miami, launched last month, includes the smell of caramel popcorn in the general concourse areas to create a “whimsical, family atmosphere,” a more sophisticated black orchid aroma in the stadium’s luxury Diamond Club, and a muted orange scent in the team store to reflect the stadium’s history of hosting the Orange Bowl, Burke said.

Some banks have signed on, with research suggesting that scent can shorten the time you feel you’ve been standing in line, said Roger Bensinger, executive vice president for AirQ, a division of Milwaukee-based Prolitech.

AirQ, whose retail clients include Abercrombie & Fitch, luxury designer Pierre Cardin, LensCrafters and Goodwill stores, also has several large gym chains in test mode, a promising opportunity because certain scents, such as peppermint and lemon, can improve the perception of performance, Bensinger said.

Sports To Be Eliminated

A look at the status of the sports to be eliminated at Cal State Long Beach:

MEN’S AND WOMEN’S SWIMMING–“I have to tell my kids that it’s over,” Coach Tim Shaw said Wednesday. “We didn’t save it and it’s time to move on.” Shaw said it was impossible to raise $300,000 by June 1. He had an alternative plan, under which he would have tried to raise $60,000 by Friday to cover the cost of his five scholarships and also work for free. “We couldn’t get close to $60,000 by Friday,” Shaw said.

MEN’S TENNIS–“It’s pretty tough,” said Coach Peter Smith. “I was told I have to raise $75,000 by June 1 and another $70,000 by Jan. 1. Bake sales are out the window.” For help, Smith is looking to one or two individuals and a corporation and is considering holding an exhibition match between pro players he knows. “We have a good following, but unfortunately it’s a middle-class following,” said Smith, whose team is 4-0.

MEN’S GOLF–The operating budget is $40,000 a year, said Daniel Gooch, co-chairman of a committee trying to save the sport. Gooch said he’s given Athletic Director Corey Johnson a budget of $36,000, but that Johnson hasn’t responded. Gooch believes it is unfair that Johnson wants a guarantee of $80,000 to keep the program running for two years. “We’re not assured that the continuation of the men’s golf program is uppermost in Mr. Johnson’s mind,” Gooch said. Coach Del Walker has indicated he would work without his $14,000 in salary and benefits.