Here and There; Back and Forth…

Jay Leno started his new prime time comedy show this week. I will never sit and watch an entire show; I may graze through the channel and linger a while if someone interesting is performing. Nevertheless, Leno had an interesting comment on his inaugural program:

“I had a strange thing happen yesterday. I set my Tivo to record The Biggest Loser. Got the Lions game.”

It is debatable if the Lions or the Rams were the “biggest losers” for Week One, but anytime you go with a punch line that ties the Detroit Lions to losing, you are unlikely to get yourself in trouble…

At the other end of the NFL spectrum from the Lions and the Rams, the Pittsburgh Steelers are the only team in the league that has had a defense rated in the Top Ten in the league for every year of this decade. Moreover, they have been the overall “best defense in the league” four times in this decade including the past two seasons. Amazingly, they do this without ever signing any players to $100M contracts and even letting Pro Bowl caliber players leave to sign bigger contracts elsewhere. How do they do this? Good scouting and good coaching that results in good player development is the trail they blaze. If you wonder why other teams do not do this with similar results, perhaps you need to consider the competency of those other teams’ scouts and coaches with regard to player development.

My #1 son spent five years in Chicago getting his PhD at the University of Chicago. In that time he adopted the Cubs as his baseball team and “sort of” adopted the Bears as one of his favored NFL teams – – but not his favorite. After last week’s game between the Bears and the Packers where Jay Cutler threw four interceptions, he sent me an e-mail that was succinct and expressed the sentiments of at least some of the Bears’ fans for sure:

“Chicago – where quarterbacks go to die.”

Speaking of Chicago and the Bears, the “renovated” Soldier Field is a topic that seems to have dropped from the focus of many sportswriters over the past year or two. For a while, everyone decried what had been done to Soldier Field. To me, it looked as if the put a Star Trek Cap on top of a structure that looked like the Parthenon; that seemed to fall somewhere on a spectrum between “sacrilegious” and “butt ugly”. But what the heck, it did accommodate new luxury boxes for a bunch of nouveau riche folks who love football just enough to go to see it if they can do it without having to deal with temperatures and wind-chills below 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

Quietly, the desecration of Soldier Field has drawn recognition out side Chicago. Prior to the addition of the “Mother Ship” on top of the field, Soldier Field was a National Historic Landmark. Since then, it has been quietly “relegated” from that list. It is no longer “national” nor “historic” nor a “landmark”. Nevertheless, take heart Chicagoans, it will always remain – – ugly.

Let me put this in terms that people who never go to Chicago will understand:

    What they did to Soldier Field would be analogous to putting aluminum siding on the Lincoln Memorial.

I read a report that Hulk Hogan will be “starring” in a pro ‘rassling tour of Australia later this year; it will be called the “Hulkamania Tour”. Supposedly, Ric Flair, Brutus Beefcake and The Nasty Boys will be part of this tour. Let me be kind here; I am 99% sure that every one of those gentlemen qualifies for membership in AARP. I wonder if that the organizers of this extravaganza have been in touch with Dusty Rhodes to see if he is still ambulatory and someone just has to be trying to find a medium somewhere who might channel the spirits of Haystacks Calhoun and/or Andre the Giant for these events. Those two could stage the first pro ’rassling “Other Worldly Match”…

Reading this report, I was reminded of an observation attributed to David Whitley who used to be a columnist for the Orlando Sentinel and who now writes for AOL Fanhouse. He was writing about the demographic makeup of a NASCAR audience. This is a paraphrase because I do not have the exact line in front of me:

“Rhodes Scholars: 0 percent.

“Dusty Rhodes scholars: 90 percent.”

Mike Hampton will undergo surgery this month and the recovery period for that surgery will sideline him for all of the 2010 season. Folks, if you ever wanted a poster child for why guaranteed contracts are bad things, Mike Hampton – through no fault of his own – would be your guy.

There are reports that Isiah Rider wants to come back and play for an NBA team. I am sure David Stern is just thrilled by that report. Now he has two pariahs – – Isiah Rider and Stephon Marbury – – out there looking for work when no team with a sentient GM would have anything to do with either one. I wonder how long it might be until the two of them team up with Rev. Jesse Jackson to claim that these great talents on the basketball court are being denied an opportunity to ruin yet another NBA team – – er, I mean play for another NBA team – – on the basis of their skin color.

I am on record saying that I do not like Jon Gruden as an analyst on MNF. Several friends have said that I should put those feelings on hold because they think Gruden will “grow on me”. I told one of these friends that athletes’ foot fungus grows on me, but that does not mean that I like it. Whatever. On Monday this week, I did get to hear Mike Greenberg, Mike Golic and Steve Young do the Raiders/Chargers game. And I really enjoyed their coverage of the game.

Golic and Young actually added value to the telecast with their comments. They provided insight into the actions on the field; they did not dumb-down their comments to the level of the “expected viewer” which ESPN seems to think is a person with an IQ of 75 and an attention span of 110 seconds. These guys were critical of certain plays/decisions; they praised – and showed why players were worthy of praise – when it was appropriate and they did this without talking like a pair of “insiders” whose words can only make sense if you have a “magic decoder ring”.

Finally, here is a comment from Frank Fitzpatrick of the Philly Inquirer that relates to NASCAR matters – – sort of the way David Whitley’s comments related to NASCAR matters above:

“There’s something about the resume of Jerry Gappens, GM of the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, that suggests he needs a little career counseling.

“Gappens drove a hearse, became a sportswriter, and now runs a NASCAR event.

“What’s next, blacksmith?”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…

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  • Ed  On September 18, 2009 at 1:54 am

    No comments on the passing of your former target, Myles Brand?

  • The Sports Curmudgeon  On September 18, 2009 at 6:40 am


    I made no pretense that I ever thought Myles Brand was an effective leader of the NCAA nor did I think he was a man of great candor. Nevertheless, I never seriously considered that he was a person who had earned a horrible death at the hands of a horrible disease.

    When his diagnosis of pancreatic cancer was announced, I wished for him and his family the strength to deal with his dire circumstance. Now that he has passed away, I have no reason to remain critical of his actions as the head of the NCAA.

    May he rest in peace…

  • Ed  On September 18, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    Oh, I can understand not piling on, but I expected a mention of his passing. Even that post would have been fine.

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