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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014

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Members of the 1919 Chicago White Sox, the "Black Sox," remained banned by MLB for throwing the World Series.
Members of the 1919 Chicago White Sox, the "Black Sox," remained banned by MLB for throwing the World Series. (Photo: Wikicommons)

What is the worst athletic "crime?"

Ryan Braun's 65-game, season-ending suspension for violating Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Agreement is unprecedented in a lot of ways, but the 2011 National League Most Valuable Player isn't the first prominent athlete to be banished from his sport for an off-field indiscretion. 

Braun's suspension, and the ensuing fan reaction, got me thinking: How bad is it, really?

American professional sports have been littered with gamblers and game-fixers, which in my book is far worse than using a performance enhancing drug.

The 1919 "Black Sox" and Pete Rose (MLB), Art Schlichter (NFL), Dan Gallinger and Billy Taylor (NHL) were all banned for life for betting for or against their teams or their sports.

Here in Wisconsin, that brings me back to the 1963 suspension of Green Bay Packers running back Paul Hornung for gambling. Initially banned for life, Hornung admitted to his wrong doings and was reinstated for the 1964 season.

Hornung is now not only a beloved Packers Hall of Famer, but is enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Does time indeed heal all wounds? In 30 years will Braun have his number retired by the Brewers? Will he be in Cooperstown?

 

Wu-Tang Clan is celebrating the 20th anniversary of its first release.
Wu-Tang Clan is celebrating the 20th anniversary of its first release. (Photo: Wu-Tang Clan | Facebook)

Of love and hip-hop

A friend of mine posted an NPR link on my Facebook wall the other day – "20 years ago, Tupac broke through."

I won’t link to it (because it’s not particularly good) but it got me thinking: 20 years? Really!?

The breakthrough he’s talking about was Shakur’s second studio release as a solo artist, "Strictly For My N.I.G.G.A.Z." Two decades. Wow.

I was 12 years old for most of 1993 (late birthday), and that year changed my musical life forever. MTV was actually MTV and I was exposed to hip hop, and it blew my mind – especially Shakur. It wasn’t the bikini’s in the "I Get Around" video, either – it was the rawness of "Holler If Ya Hear Me." That video, that sound, was etched in my brain.

So, I pedaled to a local record store, bought the cassette with my allowance – waiting out the adults so I could buy something with the "Parental Advisory" label on it. (And when I say local, I mean nine miles round trip on a bicycle down the "busy" street. Holy crap my parents would’ve killed me if they knew I wasn’t out playing baseball down the street).

I had to hide that tape, too – only listening to it on my headphones.

My best friend then introduced me to this crazy sound with the coolest cover art I’d ever seen – and frankly, still have ever seen – in "Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)." Again – it touched a nerve, somehow, some way, in a kid in the south suburbs of Chicago.

What was awesome was he had an older brother, so through him I got dubs of other ’93 releases like Ice Cube’s "Lethal Injection," the Menace II Society soundtrack and Too $hort’s "Get In Where You Fit In." Of course, Snoop Doggy Dogg’s debut record, "Doggystyle," was everywhere and easily accessible, and I taped countless songs off the "real" rap station in Chicago – 106.3 back in the day. (In later years they wouldn’t even bother to edit Bone Thugs-n-Harmony!)

What’s funny is that period of hip hop is often considered angry, "gangsta," – whatever – but I ha…

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Could Ryan Braun be banned for life?
Could Ryan Braun be banned for life? (Photo: David Bernacchi)

Could MLB ban Braun for life?

UPDATE: On July 22, nine days after this blog was originally published, Ryan Braun was suspended by Major League Baseball for the remainder of the 2013 regular season for violating the league's Joint Drug Agreement.

There is a saying, "where there’s smoke, there’s fire."

This can apply to a whole bunch of things, but in sports it’s often used in trade talks and performance enhancing drug investigations.

Ryan Braun finds himself shrouded in smoke, thanks to reports about the Florida-based Biogenesis lab that date back to February.

On Friday, ESPN Sports Business Reporter Darren Rovell took to Twitter to push the clouds in a whole new direction:

 

It’s been about 24 hours since Rovell’s tweets, and there hasn’t been a single follow-up report anywhere reputable that I could find. Now, I’m sure someone, somewhere mentioned that a lifetime ban could happen, so doubt Rovell is making that up – ESPN has allowed the tweets to remain in his timeline, after all – but this is just ridiculous. So much has to happen yet for anyone to be suspended, let alone leaping to a lifetime banishment.

I, too, believe that when there’s smoke, there’s fire. But sometimes, the fire isn’t where you think it is and it’s just someone blowing that smoke in your face.

 

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K'NAAN was powerful, and soulful, on July 6 at Summerfest.
K'NAAN was powerful, and soulful, on July 6 at Summerfest. (Photo: David Bernacchi)
K'NAAN brought energy to Summerfest.
K'NAAN brought energy to Summerfest. (Photo: David Bernacchi)

K'NAAN moves the Summerfest crowd

In December of last year, K’NAAN wrote an op-ed in The New York Times essentially to apologize for his third studio release "Country, God or the Girl," which had been released in October. In the letter, he admitted he bent to the wishes of the label, of wanting to become more popular in America, saying "I had made an album in which a few genuine songs are all but drowned out by the loud siren of ambition."

Since then, the Somali-born Canadian rapper has been largely absent from the performing scene, making his headlining appearance on the Briggs and Stratton Big Backyard stage on Saturday night at Summerfest an interesting choice by the promoters.

K’NAAN rose to more widespread prominence with his 2009 release of "Troubadour," which featured "Bang, Bang" with Maroon 5 front man Adam Levine and a re-working of "If Rap Gets Jealous" with Metallica’s Kirk Hammett. That led to "Country, God or the Girl," which featured a variety of producers and guest appearances by Nelly Furtado, Bono and Nas. His stage shows had become a bit more produced, as well.

But, based on that letter to The New York Times, I expected a stripped down show and wondered how many new songs he would play.

Sure enough, he appeared with his five-member band on the keyboard, drums, bongo, bass and electric guitar, with no elaborate lighting or theatrics. It was K’NAAN, the mic, and his own drum up front, and he did not disappoint a small but enthusiastic gathering with a nearly 90-minute set.

And as one could probably expect, he only played one song off of his newest record, introducing "70 Excuses" with "The album is OK, but there are some songs I really like. Like this one…"

K’NAAN seemed incredulous that the crowd would know anything off his first studio-release, 2005’s "Dusty Foot Philosopher," and his joy was evident when the crowd sang, or rapped back, lyrics to "Soobax" and "Strugglin’" as well as the tremendous response to a medley of "Smile" and "What’s Hardcore?"

He m…

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