Currently viewing the category: "Sports"

Some good stuff here with Rob Rossi of the Trib. He is not exactly bullish on the Penguins.

Every ESPN TV and radio platform, when it isn’t shoving the World Cup in your face, is telling you that you really need to care about where Lebron James ends up next year.

I don’t care where he ends up because I don’t care about the NBA, but I understand it’s a story and it’s important to a lot of people.

What I don’t get is all the “legacy” talk.

I keep hearing and seeing discussions about LeBron’s legacy and how it will be affected if he leaves Miami and ends up on his third team.

Does anybody REALLY care about his legacy?

Does LeBron REALLY care about his legacy?

Why should he?

He should do whatever he thinks will make him happy now.

Do you really think that Wayne Gretzky cares that he made that stop in St. Louis to play for the Blues?

Would it have made sense for him to stay in Edmonton instead of agreeing to the trade to Los Angeles because it would make him happier now as a 53 year old man?

The media love to talk about this stuff, but can they really expect the players to take it seriously?

Myron Cope would say that the people obsessing on LeBron’s legacy sound like a bunch of card party women.

I would never say that in 2014 because it’s politically incorrect.

I wouldn’t want it to affect my legacy.

It’s World Cup soccer time again.

Yep, every four years the planet Earth has a party, and I’m not invited. Well, actually, that’s wrong.

Everybody’s invited, I just have no interest in going. I’ve tried and I just can’t get into soccer.

Is it because I’m old?

There’s a good chance. I was a kid in the 1950s and 1960s. Do you know how many kids I knew who played soccer?

None.

I did not know one kid who played the game and was never asked to play. There was a mysterious organization near where I grew up called the Beadling Soccer Club. But I didn’t know anybody who belonged to it, and it was probably considered a subversive organization by the adults in my life.

Of course, I didn’t know one kid who played hockey, either, and I didn’t learn to skate until I was in my mid-30s, but I love hockey.

Maybe it’s no more complicated than the fact that I don’t have any interest in seeing humans play with a ball without using their hands. I’d probably like the sport a lot more if it was OK to pick up the ball and run with it.

I never played rugby, but I enjoy watching it every once in a while.

The best description I’ve come across for soccer was in a piece written in 2009 by Wabash College philosophy professor Stephen H. Webb, who wrote, “Think of two posses pursuing their prey in opposite directions without bullets in their guns.”

Webb also struck a chord with me when he compared soccer to baseball. He feels, as do I, that soccer is taking the place of baseball for lots of kids because it’s so much easier to join a group of kids and chase a ball around than it is to learn how to catch, throw and hit a baseball. Then there is the unavoidable individual attention that comes with each at-bat.

“The spectacle of your failure was so public that it was like having all of your friends over to your home to watch your dad force you to eat your vegetables,” Webb wrote about baseball.

North American sports such as baseball, football, basketball and hockey seem to do a better job of toughening kids up with a lot less writhing.

I still don’t get the writhing.

There’s no right or wrong here. I hope not liking soccer doesn’t make me a bad person. It’s a matter of taste. And maybe I’ll try again in four years. Meanwhile, you and the three billion other people will have to try to enjoy the party without me.

• There is no better example of the stupid and corrupt things that government will do with other people’s money than when politicians partner with teams and/or sports promoters. The waste and corruption associated with the World Cup being in Brazil is of epic proportions and will probably only be surpassed by the Olympics going there in 2016.

• In almost every case of government waste and corruption associated with the awarding of major international sporting events, it was only made possible by massive media cheerleading.

The American media, however, seems a lot more willing to expose the corruption associated with the major international events than it has been with the corruption and waste associated with the use of taxpayer funding for stadiums and arenas in cities here.

Billions have been given to major professional sports teams over the last 25 or 30 years and that has been no less wasteful or corrupt. It just happened in smaller increments. You know, only $300 or $400 million at a time.

• Am I the only person in Western Pennsylvania who doesn’t think Le’Veon Bell should be anointed the Steelers’ No. 1 running back for this season? The Steelers signed well-traveled back LeGarrette Blount as a free agent and the consensus seems to be that he will make a nice supplemental/short yardage back.

The Steelers will be Blount’s fourth team in four years and that raises a boatload of questions, but nothing in his career suggests that he should be limited to a few carries a game.

In fact, it’s the exact opposite. The more carries he gets, the better he is. Blount has carried the ball 15 times or more in 15 games. In those games, he averaged 4.95 yards a carry. He averaged more than five yards a carry eight times and more than seven yards per carry three times. He averaged less than four yards a carry only three times in those 15 games.

Bell never averaged five yards a carry in a game last season. He carried the ball 15 times or more in 12 games. In four of those, he averaged less than three yards per carry.

None of this is to say Bell stinks or even that he shouldn’t be considered the No. 1 back going into training camp. It’s just that Blount’s numbers and his highlight reel say that it should be an open competition.

John Steigerwald writes a Sunday column for the Observer-Reporter.

Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk fell into the same trap that way too many writers fall into when comparing Terry Bradshaw to superstar and/or Hall of Fame quarterbacks who have come after him.

They compare his stats (apples) to theirs (oranges) without taking the differences in the eras into account. Smith found lots of ugly stats from some of Bradshaw’s post season games and he makes the mistake of saying that Bradshaw had little to do with the Steelers’ first two Super Bowl wins.

Johnny Unitas had 7 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions in the post season and put up a 68 passer rating. Quarterbacks took all their snaps from under center in those days. They had two running backs lined up behind them and rarely had more than two wide receivers in the formation.   And their offensive lineman had to keep their hands off of pass rushers. There was a penalty called illegal use of the hands. And defenders  could knock receivers on their asses whenever they felt like it as long as the ball wasn’t in the air.

When those rules were changed to the ones that Manning plays under now Bradshaw put up great numbers. It’s scary to think what  Bradshaw, who did EVERYTHING better than Manning would do in today’s flag football offenses.

You know how many touchdown passes Joe Namath threw in that famous Super Bowl win over the Colts? None. You know what his completion percentage was the week before in the AFC  championship game? 38%. The Jets won the game. His career post season completion percentage was 42%. Namath, like Bradshaw, threw the ball downfield. There was no dinking and dunking.

In 1972, on the way to winning the Super Bowl, Roger Staubach, who also did EVERYTHING better than Manning, threw for 99, 103, 119 yards and had a total of three touchdown passes in three games. In 1978, the first season under the new rules, Staubach was 7-17 and 13-25 in the two playoff games before losing to the Steelers in Super Bowl XIII.

You just can’t compare Bradshaw to modern quarterbacks with stats alone. The guys today are playing a completely different game. Compare Bradshaw to his contemporaries and he looks just fine.

Tony Gwynn died on Monday from cancer. He was 54 and he died believing that his cancer was caused by over 30 years of chewing tobacco. This has caused more discussion about Major League Baseball banning tobacco. It sends a bad message to the kiddies. Quick question: What causes more disease and death, chewing tobacco or alcohol? Maybe MLB should stop taking all that advertising money from the beer companies. And maybe teams should consider eliminating beer sales at the ball park.  Fat chance.

When Chuck Noll died on June 13, 2014, I wrote this obit for my weekly sports column:

They say Pittsburgh is a football town. If it is, you can thank Chuck Noll, who died Friday night at the age of 82. When he showed up to coach the Steelers in  January of 1969, Pittsburgh was anything but a football town. The Steelers were not just the laughingstock of pro football. They were the laughingstock of American sports.

In Western Pennsylvania, the Steelers were something to do during Pirates seasons and they may not have been as popular as Pitt football, which stunk every bit as much if not more in the 1960s. In order to appreciate the job that Noll did, you have to understand just how bad the Steelers were before he changed them forever.

The Steelers had never won a a championship and were 45-72-6 in the 1960s with two winning seasons. They had two winning seasons in the ’50s and three in the ’40s. That’s seven winning seasons in 29 years. And their record didn’t do them justice.

They were worse.

A month before Noll took the job, the Steelers had played in front of a “crowd” of 22,682 at Pitt Stadium. They lost of course.

Fans were rooting for them to lose so that they could take O.J. Simpson with the first pick in the draft.

When they messed that up by going 2-0-1 in weeks 7,8 and 9, the plan was to do what they almost always did on the rare occasions when they hadn’t traded their top draft picks for more bad players.

They planned to draft the best available local guy who could help them sell tickets. That’s what they did when they drafted Pitt’s Paul Martha in 1964 and West Virginia’s Dick Leftridge in 1966.

Terry Hanratty was from Butler and was the quarterback at Notre Dame. Slam dunk choice. Chuck Noll said no and picked Joe Greene.

That was the first move in what may have been the best coaching job in the history of American sports.

Every Steelers fan knows what happened in the ‘70s. The Steelers went from being the worst major professional sports team in American history to the almost universally acclaimed best pro football team in the history of the planet.

Noll undid 40 years of ineptitude and embarrassment in five years.

Drafting Joe Greene was the first sign that the team was going to be built differently.

Noll won the first game that he coached and then lost the next 13 in 1969. What did he do to shake up the team in his second training camp? He got rid of the Steelers’ best player. Roy Jefferson was a wide receiver and the Steelers’ only star. He was coming off back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons, something no other Steelers receiver would do until Hines Ward in 2001 and 2002.

Jefferson wasn’t going along with the program, so Noll traded him to Baltimore for a mediocre receiver named Willie Richardson. Keep in mind that Noll traded his only star player and one of the best wide receivers in the league after he had taken a quarterback named Terry Bradshaw with the first pick in the draft a few months earlier.

And the plan was to start Bradshaw in Week 1.

Bradshaw threw six touchdown passes and 24 interceptions his rookie year. He could have used Jefferson.

The NFL awards the Lombardi Trophy to its champion every year. The Chuck Noll Trophy might make more sense. Noll won more Super Bowls than any other coach and no NFL coach has ever done a better job than Noll did from 1969 to 1979.

Not Lombardi.

Not Shula.

Not Walsh.

All great coaches, but the teams they inherited were better than the one that Noll inherited and Noll won more Super Bowls than all of them. And he did it after his defenses had forced the NFL to change the rules to make it easier to complete a pass.

They took away his ability to totally dominate with defense, so he turned his quarterback loose and beat them with offense. And if there is another coach in a major sport who has won back-to-back championships with only players that he drafted or signed as free agents, as Noll did in 1978 and 1979, I don’t know who it is.

It would be nice if you could say that Chuck Noll’s numbers speak for themselves, but they don’t. They apparently don’t speak loud enough for him to be mentioned very often in discussions about the greatest NFL coaches.

The great thing about Noll is that he did let his accomplishments speak for themselves. He was not a self-promoter. He had no interest in having his own TV show or doing car commercials. When he retired, networks weren’t lined up to hire him as an analyst because he made it clear that he wasn’t interested.

So, Chuck Noll will probably never get the recognition that a guy with his accomplishments deserves.

And, you know what? He couldn’t care less.

What a great man.

Steve doesn't know what the KHL is.One Hour Rebuttal is a new feature in which Joe Steigerwald attempts to discredit, rebut, or unmercifully troll a news report or story in one hour or less.

Tuesday, 2:02 pm:

Normally I wouldn’t bother mentioning or even acknowledging a website as pedestrian as theDailySurge.com. It’s a mundane, conservative ripoff of a thousand similar sites that regurgitate trending news stories with snappy headlines and bad commentary. However, being a Steigerwald, it is my duty to criticize poorly researched hockey articles. And we have ourselves a doozy.

Sanction Russian NHL Players,” written by Steve Eubanks, a New York Times bestselling author and former golf pro is a poorly thought-out, hastily written, unresearched collision of American exceptionalism and a misunderstanding of global hockey dynamics. No offense Steve, but you should stick to golf, never mention hockey again and recuse yourself from talking about politics while you’re at it.

Mr. Eubanks’ theory, which he finally stumbles onto after a “lesson” on the use of sanctions, is that:

If President Basketball Bracket wants to get the attention of the Russian people and send a strong message to Czar Putin the Shirtless, there’s one simple way to do it: revoke the work visas for all of Russia’s hockey stars, send them home and freeze their assets in the United States.

It’s hard to believe the Putin shirtless obsession and weak cliches aren’t the worst part of this sentence.

In order to properly refute this “theory” one has to be aware of the existence of one thing: the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), the number two hockey league in the world after the NHL. Now for those of you unaware, the KHL is played in Russia, home of Czar Putin the Shirtless. The KHL is also home to many world-class hockey players including Ilya Kovalchuk, who walked away from a $77 million NHL contract to go play in Russia. Using a fairly obvious simile, the KHL is to the NHL like Putin is to the United States. In other words, the KHL is unhappy with the NHL’s hockey hegemony and wants to be viewed as a legitimate competitor. The KHL endeavors to achieve this goal by poaching players from the NHL through lucrative offers. Dynamo Moscow of the KHL tried to lure NHL superstar Alexander Ovechkin during the NHL’s lockout.

Now if Obama decided to send the 28 Russian born players in the NHL (down from 64 in 2004) back to Russia who would that benefit? Is the answer A) the NHL, America’s premier hockey league or B) the KHL, pride of the Russian motherland. Obviously the answer would be B.

So when Steve opines that:

Given the option of heading home to an unknown future or “defecting” and continuing to draw a paycheck, you’d have to believe a few would bid the Motherland a fair adieu.

Granted, NHL honchos would have a conniption fit, but not like the full-blown, chest-beating meltdown the Russians would have. Hockey is football in Russia: closer to religion than sport.

If you want Muscovites protesting Putin’s every step and pressuring him to stop his westward advance, hit them where they live. Send their hockey players packing.

Let’s see how many of today’s modern stars give up their lifestyles for a CCCP jersey and the honorary rank of captain in the new Soviet Army.

It’s not Steve is dumb, it’s just that Steve doesn’t understand that there is another hockey league that operates in Russia and has been trying to do, for years, the exact thing that Steve has just proposed. Okay maybe he is dumb (or incapable of using Google). Or maybe he had never heard of the KHL. Maybe he wasn’t aware that going back to Russia to earn comparable paychecks and playing in their homeland was not only a possibility, but one with strong allure for many Russian players.

Putin would love to see the Russian hockey players back home, in front of the Russian people, generating money for the Russian state. The KHL would receive a massive boost in credibility, and the NHL would in turn suffer. KHL fans would get to watch their heroes in person instead of tape-delayed from the US and the league would undoubtedly flourish.

So, sorry Steve, your brilliant strategy of leveraging the Russian NHL players in backing down Putin’s unstoppable march towards Europe probably isn’t going to work. It was a really stupid idea, without any real thought and you would be laughed at if you suggested it to anyone other than the Daily Surge.

End. 3:07 PM. Total time 1:05 minutes. I promise to do better next time. Don’t be a doofus, follow me on Twitter. And like The Stag Blog on Facebook while you’re at it.

espn-native-american-expert-rick-reilly-washington-redskinsJust call him Rick Reilly, Indian whisperer.

As much as I hate the PC crowd, there are lines. Lines that white 11-time sportswriters of the year from ESPN probably shouldn’t cross. It’s not that I’m against anyone opining on any subject. But if you’re going to write about why the Redskins shouldn’t change their name it’s probably best if your star witness isn’t your part American Indian father-in-law.

I guess this is where I’m supposed to fall in line and do what every other American sports writer is doing. I’m supposed to swear I won’t ever write the words “Washington Redskins” anymore because it’s racist and offensive and a slap in the face to all Native Americans who ever lived. Maybe it is.

I just don’t quite know how to tell my father-in-law, a Blackfeet Indian. He owns a steak restaurant on the reservation near Browning, Mont. He has a hard time seeing the slap-in-the-face part.

Reilly, whose wife’s father speaks for all Native Americans, doesn’t care, so you’re off the hook, America.

Who cares if the dictionary defines Redskin as dated and offensive, who cares if the team was named by one of the most notorious racists in the history of professional sports. Who cares if Reilly himself was one of the first sportswriters to come out against professional sports teams who caricatured Native Americans, before he was against it.

Who cares that the Oneida Indian Nation is actively protesting the name?

Of course Reilly has the right to express his opinion on the matter. This is America, (and his opinion isn’t any stupider than that of Redskins owner Daniel Snyder). But as Americans who possess brains, we have the right to berate the hell out of Reilly for doing so. And we Americans have spoken. Our response? Reilly is an idiot. Chris Greenberg from Huffington Post, Bobby Big Wheel of Kissing Suzy Kolber, Dave Zirin of The Nation, and Tim Marchman of Deadspin are just a few of the many sportswriters piling on Reilly for his over-generalized, anecdotal defense of the name “Redskins.”

As much as it pains me to agree with The Nation or Huffington Post, they’re right. Once one of the most respected sportswriters in the country, Rick Reilly’s fall from grace since leaving Sports Illustrated is well documented. But his weak defense of “Redskins” is so monstrously out of touch and misbegotten that it’s more likely that it will have the opposite effect as intended and will drive people over to the other side of the debate. Really, Reilly couldn’t have penned a better article for those arguing for a name change. A middle-aged white man, using anecdotal evidence derived from relatives and some high-school employees, yeah, that’s going to change a lot of people’s minds.

Reilly takes the few Native Americans that he spoke to across the country and uses that as proof they don’t care about the name. Hell they’re even proud of it.

“I’ve talked to our students, our parents and our community about this and nobody finds any offense at all in it,” says Tim Ames, the superintendent of Wellpinit schools. “‘Redskins’ is not an insult to our kids. ‘Wagon burners’ is an insult. ‘Prairie n—–s’ is an insult. Those are very upsetting to our kids. But ‘Redskins’ is an honorable name we wear with pride. … In fact, I’d like to see somebody come up here and try to change it.” […]

“We have two great tribes here,” says Kingston assistant school superintendent Ron Whipkey, “the Chicasaw and the Choctaw. And not one member of those tribes has ever come to me or our school with a complaint. It is a prideful thing to them.” […]

“It’s a name that honors the people,” says Kingston English teacher Brett Hayes, who is Choctaw. “The word ‘Oklahoma’ itself is Choctaw for ‘red people.’ The students here don’t want it changed. To them, it seems like it’s just people who have no connection with the Native American culture, people out there trying to draw attention to themselves. […]

“My kids are really afraid we’re going to lose the Redskin name. They say to me, ‘They’re not going to take it from us, are they, Dad?'”

Nice try, Reilly, but what you’ve forgotten to mention in your strawman argument is that no one is trying to scrub the moniker “Redskins” from all America’s sports teams — just the one that has no affiliation with Native Americans.

Reilly is unmoved even by his fellow ESPN employees are jumping on the hate wagon.

Edmundo Macedo, vice president of ESPN’s Stats & Information group, told ESPN ombudsman Robert Lipsyte that the term Redskins is abhorrent. “We would not accept anything similar as a team nickname if it were associated with any other ethnicity or any other race,” Macedo said.

Oh, yes, we would.

In fact, ESPN and many other media companies cover the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, the Cleveland Indians and the Atlanta Braves without a single searing search of their social conscience.

Doesn’t matter. The 81-year-old Washington Redskins name is falling, and everybody better get out of the way. For the majority of Native Americans who don’t care, we’ll care for them. For the Native Americans who haven’t asked for help, we’re glad to give it to them.

Trust us. We know what’s best. We’ll take this away for your own good, and put up barriers that protect you from ever being harmed again.

Kind of like a reservation.

A lesser property than Reilly would have been fired on the spot for that last line. But Reilly is still gainfully employed (for now).

As far as the other teams mentioned by Reilly are concerned, Indians is not considered a slur, neither is Braves. Notre Dame Fighting Irish could be construed as an insult but as Joe Flood at Buzzfeed notes, “the key difference between Notre Dame and the Washington Redskins: Notre Dame is a Catholic, largely Irish institution. ‘Fighting Irish’ is their term to use.” Just like “Redskins” is okay for Native American high schools that want to use it.

It’s safe to think that Reilly wouldn’t have been so bold in talking about a larger, more powerful minority group. If he had been talking about African-Americans would he have had the gumption to write “plantation?”  No, because Jesse Jackson would have been on him before he finished typing the sentence. And therein lies the crux of the problem. Since Native Americans only make up 0.6% of the population of the United States, they don’t have the power to make their voices heard over the NFL noise machine.

Would Reilly be okay with a sports team from Cape Town being named after an ethnic slur for black people? How about a team from Berlin being named the “kikes?” Would Reilly substitute “reservation” for concentration camp? Of course not. That would be unbelievably racist and insensitive to the genocide that took place in the 1930s and ’40s. But in Reilly’s world the two are different. Native Americans were murdered and forced out of their lands back in the 1700 and 1800s and Reilly, like most Americans, develops convenient amnesia about that genocide. Moreover, the city where the proclamations and laws permitting genocide against Native Americans originated decided to “honor” them by naming its sports team after them. If I were Native American, I’d be as upset about being associated with Washington D.C. as I was the name “Redskins.”