Battle Of The Herald (Sports) Hacks

Dan La Batard had the audacity yesterday to infer in his Miami Herald column that erstwhile Heat coach Pat Riley dumps his team when it's losing and jumps back on when its rising (and Shaq is back on the court). Here's a taste:

"Anybody else with less aura and less credibility and less jewelry would be getting savaged for how selfish and convenient his timing has appeared lately in deciding when to coach and not coach the champion Miami Heat.

Riley doesn't coach when the team is in last place or laboring or even bored. But Riley returns triumphantly whenever Shaquille O'Neal does. Riley suspends James Posey and Antoine Walker for fatness, then leaves poor Ron Rothstein to take the beatings without them. Shaq and Dwayne Wade are healthy? Suddenly, so is Riley."

Those who trudge through the local sports pages on a regular basis might have been invigorated by the column -- tough, unflinching analysis of Pat Riley's worm-like maneuvers has been hard to come by. But Greg Cote, Le Batard's colleague at the Herald, wouldn't stand for such insolence. In his blog, Cote stood up for Riley's honor:

"... I'm not real sure that anyone is suspicious other than, apparently, Le Batard. Dan sees a nefarious, plotting, devious Pat Riley timing his return to the Heat to coincide with Shaq's good health and the team's rising fortunes ... cynicism based solely on scattershot suspicion is some of why a pretty sizable gulf exists between media and fans."

You know what gives that gulf even more girth? Sychophantic sports writers who give "legendary" coaches (as Cote put it) like Riley license to do backstabbing, cowardly things without repercussion. Cote also ate up the infamous dumping of Stan Van Gundy ("I'd rather spend time with my kids this winter than win a championship with Shaq and Wade") like a kid with cotton candy at a carnival stand. It's one thing to be a gutless wonder, but it's another altogether to criticize a fellow writer for failing to be one too.

(Oh, and Cote, there's another sports writer who shares a bit of Le Batard's wacko ideas about Riley. Read Ethan Skolnick's well-reasoned column this morning in the Sun-Sentinel).

After the Jump: Violent Con Man Proves Life Begins At 80

Oh sure, you could see Marc Benayer as a scheming, violent monster. That would be the easy position to take. After all, he stands accused of trying to rip off a widow then shooting a man -- outside a synagogue during Rosh Hoshana, no less -- who was apparently trying to help her fend him off. Once in jail, he set about having an attorney named Mark Levy, a good friend of the shooting victim who was also helping the widow, offed by a hit man.

Too bad for him, the hit man turned out to be an undercover Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office detective. PBSO Lt. Wallace has taken to calling "evil." You can read about the case today in the Palm Beach Post (Kimberly Miller) and Sun-Sentinel (Jerome Burdi).

But the man is 80-years-old. Bad as he is, and man does it look like he's bad, it's hard not to be impressed by the passion for life (and death, in the case of his rivals) he keeps as he heads into his ninth decade on this mortal coil. Dude is the Jack La Lanne of violent sleazebags, and there's something to be said for that.

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