The Heartless Heat and Pitino Trial and Other August Stories

published August 2, 2010

It’s August, and the dog days are upon us.  The Romans called them dies caniculares, believing the hot weather to be brought on by the morning appearance of Sirius, the Dog Star, to whom they sacrificed a brown dog in the hopes of appeasing the gods and abating the weather.

In our more enlightened time, we merely sacrifice Indians, Astros, and Cubs, or at least those with big or expiring contracts.

When it’s hot, and a full meal is too much, it’s more appealing to have a few appetizers instead.  In that spirit, I present some brief items that may have escaped your attention:

ITEM: The Miami Heat fired all thirty members of the ticket-sales staff on Friday.

If you still need a reason to root against the Heat, this is a pretty good one.  With LeBron James and Chris Bosh in hand, the team sold out its season tickets, leaving the sales staff nothing to do.  Rather than reassigning all or some of the employees – surely ad sales and marketing will require an ongoing effort and could use a little help – they were all dismissed.  According to the Miami Herald, the team is offering “a placement service to help those individuals find new employment.”

What a great way to build community support, especially in this booming economy.  Did the PR geniuses behind LeBron’s “Decision” lend their expertise to his new team?

Update: According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, some employees were offered up to a year’s severance pay and extended benefits.  The team may not have been as cruel as earlier reports indicated, though its failure to mention this in its official statement suggests it’s still pretty tone-deaf in PR terms.

ITEM: The extortion trial involving Rick Pitino turned into an X-rated southern edition of “Boston Legal.”

Bear with me here, because unless you’re on the writing staff of a daytime soap, you probably couldn’t make this stuff up or even follow it.

I knew that Pitino acknowledged having had sex with a woman in a restaurant booth after closing time, a story that came to light after she allegedly tried to extort money and property from him in exchange for her silence.  I somehow missed the fact that the woman subsequently married Pitino’s personal assistant, Tim Sypher, and that the first sparks of romance flew while Sypher was driving her back to Louisville from Cincinnati, where she’d gone to abort the fetus she said was Pitino’s, a procedure paid for by Pitino and conducted out of town at Sypher’s suggestion.

Sypher, who currently oversees operations of the Yum! Center, which contains the offices and training facilities for U. of Louisville’s men’s basketball and volleyball and women’s lacrosse teams, described this all in detail at the trial of his now-ex-wife.   I don’t know what the phrase meaning the exact opposite of “meeting cute” would be, but I think we’ve got a prime example here.

For good measure, Dana Kolter, the attorney who’d been hired by Karen Sypher to sue Pitino, testified on Friday that he and his client often had oral sex, and a photo of the two of them doing just that – taken by the attorney — was presented to the jury.  Karen Sypher told him that she had been raped twice by Pitino, though Kolter was skeptical since she described it as happening on a snowy night, which is rare in Louisville in July.

Pitino testified on Wednesday that the encounter at the restaurant was consensual and “lasted less than 15 seconds.”  Nice.  Short of someone ripping a toupee off Pitino’s head in the courtroom, it’s hard to imagine a series of events or admissions that would leave his reputation in so many shreds.

ITEM: Vikings report to training camp, Brett Favre stays home.

Relax.  He’s playing.  Veterans in ye olde days would stage contract holdouts that lasted just long enough to let them skip two-a-days.  Once the team breaks camp, he’ll rejoin them and take part in the more enjoyable parts of being a football player, like throwing a long spiral and not living in a dorm.

ITEM: Lots of action at the baseball trade deadline.

The Yankees added Lance Berkman, Austin Kearns, and Kerry Wood; the Phillies traded for Roy Oswalt; the Dodgers got Ted Lilly, Ryan Theriot, Scott Podsednik, and Octavio Dotel; the Angels picked up Dan Haren and Alberto Callaspo.

As Billie Holliday put it so eloquently, Them that’s got shall get; them that’s not shall lose.  (See Miami Heat item, above.)

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