Archive for the 'Sports' Category


Which way is up?

You know, over the years in my journalistic career, I’ve seen a lot of tragedy. I remember all of the reports from 9/11, all the pictures that didn’t run, all the heart-wrenching accounts that didn’t quite make it to press. I remember the horrible pictures that came out of the fighting between the Israelis and the Palestinians — the activist who was run over by an Israeli bulldozer; the Palestinian man who held up his hand, coated in an Israeli soldier’s blood, to show a mob that they had killed these men. I could go on and on and on about this, but I opt not to. Instead, I tend to push it all out of my mind, and I tend to tune out the news when it comes on.

Honestly, since I entered the world of IT, I have become a news hermit.

But then the PSU scandal broke. I can no longer turn a blind eye to the news, or pretend not to hear it. Beyond the obvious reasons of why I can’t escape it, this is a bizarrely fascinating story, and people’s reactions to it are equally fascinating.

At first, I was angry because any story about pedophilia will send me into an internal rage. JoePa reported it to his bosses after he heard about it, so he fulfilled his obligation, as did McQueary. But I was still angry at them, because these guys did the minimum when it came to potentially protecting the welfare of kids. I mean, let’s face it … all JoePa had to do was call the police and have them investigate. He had a credible witness in McQueary. Have a 3rd party investigate, and resolve the issue once and for all. Yes, that meant that there was a chance that JoePa could have been fired back in ’02 and that PSU would have suffered a black eye. But at least his conscious would be clean, PSU could have put an end to this nightmare, children would have been spared, and everyone would have a chance to heal.

However, he opted not to go that route. He put in the report in the hands of others, and never followed through on it. Sorry JoePa supporters, that decision is irrevocably on him, and it was enough to cost him his job.

But then JoePa’s firing came. Trust me, I took no joy in watching it transpire. I sincerely wondered what he knew … because surely, a man so well respected could not have been in the know on what was really happening. Someone had to have lied to him, which is why he didn’t take a stand. In other words, even though I took a strong stand against Paterno, I will admit that there was some doubt lingering. He looked so befuddled when the firing came … like his kids just came to take his car keys away because he couldn’t safely drive on the roads anymore.

He just didn’t seem to get it.

And I kinda began to wonder if Sandusky had managed to play everyone exceptionally well.

But then there was a report today about Sandusky actively recruiting for Penn State in 2011. JoePa knew that Sandusky had been investigated in ’02, and more than likely knew Sandusky was currently under investigation. McQueary, recruiting coordiator, ABSOLUTELY knew about Sandusky’s actions. PSU also had to have known. And yet they sent a man, an alleged sexual predator and child rapist, to represent them and their football program, to minors.

Penn State University, your actions (and lack thereof) are appalling.

JoePa, any sympathy I had for you as a human being is irrevocably gone.

McQueary, there will be a special place for you in hell. A very, very special place.

For all of my friends who graduated from PSU and who whole heartedly supported them, I cannot even imagine what you are feeling. The man who was the cornerstone of your school and a source of pride absolutely failed you. I may have bashed you in the past, but it was all friendly rivalry stuff — I would have never wished this tragedy on anyone or their school. Trust me, I long for the day that this whole thing will be behind us, and we can go back to talking shit on each other. But sadly, I have a feeling that’s not going to happen for a long, long time.

Side note to JoePa: I’m sure during your 61 year tenure, you gave your players a speech or two about what it means to be a man, and rising up to faces challenges, no matter how big they were. And yet when confronted with your own personal challenge — what to do about a former coach accused of molesting children — you opted to sit down and pass the buck. Funny how you couldn’t walk what you talked.


Still proud

As I’m sure we all know, the Steelers lost the big game. And right now, there’s many people playing the blame game, or throwing “their team” under the bus.

Not me.

In fact, this could be one of my favorite Steelers seasons.

Bear with me here.

See, this season played out like a movie. The embattled jerk QB getting suspended, but coming back to lead them to a winning season. The injuries and the players stepping up to fill the shoes of the starters. The commissioner seeming to have a grudge against the team and the double-standard that ensued after that. Seriously, if a writer wrote this season up, he’d be told there was no way that all of this could actually happen.

And yet it did.

So, here’s what I loved about the season in a nutshell: How the team handled the adversity. From the coaches (who can forget Tomlin’s “The standard is the standard” line) to the players who did whatever it took to help the team (Doug Legursky is a prime example) to the guys who kept their heads up when everything seemed to be going against them (James Harrison being fined for touching opposing players). And let’s not forget the injuries — not only on the Offensive Line, but to Troy, Keisel, Aaron Smith, McFadden, Dixon … lots of players down or playing hurt. And let’s not forget about the early distractions — Ben accused of rape; Holmes failing a drug test and being traded, and Skippy Reed being traded in mid-season for a kicker who had been out of the game because he didn’t play all that well.

This team had every reason to quit or play under their abilities; but they didn’t.

In fact, they came together as a TEAM and played well enough to win games that they had no business winning. Hell, I find it remarkable that despite all of their fuck ups in the Super Bowl, they were still in a position to win with that last drive. To be honest, I was fully expecting them to come back and win the game by 1 point, because they’ve done it so many times in the past.

This season made me a bigger fan of Coach Tomlin. It actually made me a fan of Big Ben (as a player … I hope he is truly a changed man in his personal life), and you can guarantee that if I can get a hold of a Legursky jersey, I’m wearing it.

I really don’t know what to expect next year … but with this team’s work ethic and professional attitude, I can think of no reason why they won’t be Super Bowl champions in the future.


a little venting

So, the Steelers/Raiders game has been talked to death in Western Pennsylvania. And for good reason — the officiating was arguably some of the worst I’ve ever seen in any NFL game. It wasn’t like they blew 1 call … it was a constant barrage of bad calls. It was one of the most frustrating games I’ve ever seen.

And with that has come crazy talk — conspiracy theories about a bias against the Steelers. I don’t believe that — truth be told, I don’t believe in any conspiracy theories — but man, it’s hard to NOT think that someone has a hard on to screw the Steelers. From Ryan Clark’s “helmet to helmet” penalty (when anyone could clearly see his helmet hit the guy mid-back) to James Harrison’s “landing on the quarterback” penalty, things certainly seem to have hit a new point of ridiculousness in the NFL.

For example, James Harrison’s hit on Jason Campbell:

The hit results in a penalty.

However, the Giants hit Tony Romo with a similar tackle, which results in a broken bone …

Nothing. No flag, no fine, no nothing. Clean hit.

Come on, now. Seriously. It’s essentially the same hit. Why is one a flag and why is one not? I don’t get it. And no, I don’t expect the refs to get every single call right … but I’ve seen this exact same tackle a million times … the ones that are penalized are ones that are obviously late, or are low or hit the QB’s helmet. That wasn’t the case here. It was “landing on the QB while tackling,” according to the refs. Oooooookay.

Then there’s the punch … Richard Seymour just turning and belting Ben Roethlisberger. Hey, I don’t care if you like Big Ben or not, or if you believe that Ben somehow “instigated” Seymour or not, or if you thought that was karma for Ben’s actions in Georgia: that was a flat out sucker punch, and illegal in the game (as well as in life).

Now, in the pre-Roger Goodell days, I would have accepted Seymour’s ejection as penalty enough. Players get frustrated and do dumb things. Got it. Fine with it. Let’s move on.

But we’re in the midst of the Goodell regime, where penalties fly with reckless abandon and suspensions lurk around every corner. So, obviously, Goodell was going to make an example of Seymour, right? That’s what the Steeler Nation was thinking, especially with James Harrison being fined for everything under the sun.

Nope. Word came down that it was a $25,000 fine. That was it.

I heard that the $25K fine is the maximum fine for “fighting.” Well, I guess I have a different definition of fighting that the NFL does. However, if Harrison would have done the same thing to  Tom Brady (or Jason Campbell or any QB, for that matter), I’m 100% certain that the punishment would have been something more than just a maximum fine. Why? Because Harrison has been labeled as a “repeat offender” and is getting some … uh … extra attention this year. (Except that Seymour has apparently punched other players in the past … but I guess the NFL can just look past that.)

As a fan, I’m getting frustrated. The hypocrisy of what will be called and what won’t be called is maddening. And on top of that, it sure as hell feels right saying “What will and what won’t be called on the Steelers” — because apparently, they’re getting some special attention this year, too.

Really, it’s come to the point where I’m considering not watching the rest of the season. I just don’t need the epic stupidity and the extra frustration of watching my favorite sport slide down the tubes.

And that’s just my reaction as a fan: I can only imagine how frustrating all these rule changes — in mid-season, no less — are for the players. Seriously Goodell, why couldn’t you have made these changes in the off-season, so players and fans could adjust in pre-season to this unicorn-friendly version of professional football?

Oh NFL, I hope you get your shit straightened out soon. Consistency is the key here, and right now, it seems like there’s none. I really don’t want to give up Sunday football, but if this is the way things are going to be in Goodell’s NFL, I may be better off without it.


… it’s how you whine after the game

Normally, I’m not a huge sports guy. I mean, I enjoy following and watching the Steelers and Pens … and that’s about it. I just can’t get into following every team, or even specific players. And even in the blogging word, there are far better sources to read for sports opinions … I’m just a fan, not a guy who sits and analyzes games. Hell, I don’t even have a fantasy football team.

But sometimes I do have a vested interest in watching other teams lose. For example, hearing of a Flyers losing streak would obviously brighten my day. If the Ravens would have lost to the Bills, I would still be giggling like a school girl when I’d think about it. Pats destroyed by a meteor hit? Break out the champagne!

I just don't know what to make of this.

And you can safely add the Dolphins to my list of hated teams.

Now, to be fair, I kinda grew up a little bit of a Dolphins fan. I was a kid, the Dolphins were really good (that whole 16-0 season pride thing), and I lived in South Florida. I remember going to a local field and getting autographs from players. But then the Steelers hit their 70s Super Bowl magic, and the parents reinforced the Pittsburgh heritage, and that was over. Been a Steelers fan ever since.

So, when I returned there after college, I was kind of ambivalent to the Dolphins. I didn’t really care. But after the first year, I would kinda chuckle when they lost. By the second, they annoyed me. By the third year, active hate. The reason why was aptly taken from a glorious saying I heard from a Cowboys fan … “Nothing cries like a wounded Dolphin.”

And he was right. In my 6.5 years there, I turned into an active hater solely because of their fan base. I call them the “Mahi Mahi” — the Hawaiian word for the fish called dolphin — because people down south had a habit of confusing the fish with the mammal. And in that vein, I didn’t want the cool dolphin mammals to be confused with that football team.

I remember going to my first NFL game there. Monday night game. Steelers vs. Dolphins in Pro Player Stadium. Tommy Maddox (giggle) vs. Dan Marino. We won, but the abuse I took was laughable. I went in wearing a Kevin Greene jersey … even though he had been traded that year to Carolina. As I was walking in, some guy behind me yelled, “I bet Greene doesn’t score any touchdowns tonight!” I turned and yelled back, “You’re right, he won’t. This is 91, Kevin Greene, defense, who now plays for Carolina. They played yesterday, so he’s not scoring tonight. You’re thinking of (former Steeler) Eric Green, 86, who is a tight end that plays for you guys, and you’re right — he’s not scoring tonight, either.”

Dude was stunned. You could see the wheels in his brain turning as he struggled for a comeback.

“You suck!”

Bravo, sir, bravo.

And I would have written it off as 1 stupid fan, except the exact same exchange happened 3 more times as I went to my seat. With 3 different fans. Really, if you’re going to trash talk, at least know who plays for your team, ya know?

It was also a close game. There were like 2 minutes left, and the Mahi-Mahi had the ball. A bunch of their fans started leaving. I sat there befuddled. I mean, they had Dan-fucking-Marino as a QB. He was more than capable of pulling off a winning drive in the final 2 minutes. But no, the majority of Mahi-Mahi fans filed out. Could. Not. Believe. It.

Meow meow meow meow meow.

So flash to yesterday’s game. The Mahi-Mahi lose. There’s a controversial call. And I can only imagine the shrill, squeaky crying and clicking coming from South Florida today. I’m sure “conspiracy,” “game is rigged” and “ref favoritism” are all reasons being flung about for the outcome of that game.

When it comes to these situations, I have a saying that is apt in any sport: “Don’t let the game hinge on a bad call.” I’ve watched enough games to know that referees are human. They will make bad calls or miss obvious calls. We all know that to be true.

But here’s the deal, Mahi-Mahi fans — you had 2 golden opportunities to take control of your destiny and win the game. You had 2 recovered fumbles around the Steelers’ 20 yard line, and you settled for field goals. That’s not how you win games. Scoring 1 touchdown out of either of those 2 possessions would have given you the win.

You didn’t take control of the game when you had the chance. Stop blaming the refs or throwing out lame conspiracy excuses.

Or to quote from this ESPN article: “If you lose, you lose,” Dolphins inside linebacker Channing Crowder said. “You can make all the excuses, but our record’s 3-3. There’s not going to be an asterisk next to the third loss. Who cares? Good call, bad call, I don’t know the rules. But we should’ve won. We never should have been in that situation. To put it in the ref’s hands was our fault.”


The protest

Photos: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

As every Steelers fan knows, yesterday was a big day … the day Big Ben came back to play for the team following his suspension for his antics down in Georgia, in which he was accused of raping a 20-year-old woman in a bar.

Now, his return didn’t sit well with some folks. And really, I can’t say I blame them — who wants to cheer on someone that they *think* is a rapist? But the key words in all of this are “accused” and “think.” He was not charged. He did not go to trial, nor was he convicted. He was suspended from playing by the NFL on, essentially, “moral issues.”

Some people wanted to get rid of Ben. And once the season got underway and we were off to a 3-1 start, they said, “We don’t need Ben … look how well Charlie [Batch] is doing! We love Charlie! He’s the greatest!” But they seemed to forget that Charlie faced rape accusations, too.

(Oh, and don’t forget when the beloved Jerome Bettis got accused as well.)

Regardless of all that, some felt the need to protest Ben’s return at Heinz Field.

Now, personally, I don’t mind protesters. If you want to protest, go ahead and protest. As long as it’s done properly (ie, not burning stuff to the ground, not hurting anyone, has permits, etc), it’s your right as an American.

But here’s what gets me: Some of the people protesting opted to wear handkerchiefs to cover their faces, G20 protest style.


Their Che shirts, which were made in China, were underneath Walmart made-in-Ecuador hoodies.


That really pisses me off.

Here’s my thinking: A lot of G20 protesters hid their faces because they were up to no good. They were lighting things on fire, fighting with police, and in general, causing problems. Some were wanted by the authorities. They hid their faces because they didn’t want to get caught, or wanted to negate the effects of tear gas, should the police open up on them.

Here, the protest was a least noble-esque. They’re protesting the return of a man who is accused of being a rapist. Why the need to hide their faces? Did they expect police to tear gas their mob of 20? Were they intending to set someone’s tailgate on fire? No? So what does their anonymity mean?

That they wanted to remain anonymous while slandering Ben?

I’m not a Big Ben apologist. Hell, I rarely buy a jersey supporting specific players because, like the rest of us, players are generally very flawed individuals.

But if you’re going to stand outside of someone’s workplace and hold up signs calling them a rapist, you should at least have the guts to put your face behind your words.


A question of value

So, right now the Steelers Nation is dealing with the fact that the club just dumped a Super Bowl MVP for a 5th round draft pick. That’s right, no more Santonio Holmes. He’s now with the Jets.

On Facebook, I threw out a comment that I’ll repeat here: I hate losing a player of Santonio’s quality. But I love losing a douchebag of Santonio’s quality.

Remember, here’s a guy who has faced many drug charges in the past, and who just screwed up again and was looking at a 4 game suspension. Then there’s those other shenanigans … getting on Twitter and yelling at fans. Getting on Twitter and saying “I expect to be PAID.” Getting on Twitter and telling a woman that she should “drink something and die.” Not good PR for the Rooneys, the Steelers or the city of Pittsburgh.

I think a lot of fans get where the Steelers are coming from. Most of us absolutely loathe douchebag players … otherwise, I think we’d be Cowboys fans. But what they are more upset about is that we seemed to have gotten such a shitty trade for him.

I think there’s 2 factors at work here:

  1. The Rooneys are tired of the players’ shenanigans. From Jeff Reed to Big Ben, THEY. ARE. PISSED. This is going to let every coach and player in the league know that you aren’t above getting dumped, no matter who you are.
  2. In Santonio’s personal life, it seems he’s on a downward slide. He can’t keep his mouth shut on Twitter … talking about “Waking and baking,” barking back at fans, telling a woman she “should drink something and die,” getting involved in a nightclub fracas. He can’t seem to keep clean … or simply doesn’t want to. I think it’s pretty obvious that it’s just a matter of time before he self-destructs.

See that bold/italic part? This is why they didn’t get more for him. He’s like my old VW — well-known to have reliability problems, will cost a lot to keep around, and could just up and die for no real good reason. Sure, I could have gotten more for it when I traded it in — but by that point, I just wanted rid of the damn thing. And I think that’s where the Rooneys are with Santonio. 4 game suspension, looming contract demands, off-field headaches — who needs the grief, right?

Now, the other factor the people are screaming about is “Hey! How can you trade Santonio without being pissed about Big Ben? Isn’t rape way worse than weed and boorish behavior?”

Yes. Absolutely it is.

But here’s what I think the difference is: Ben was never found guilty of anything.

In Ben’s first fiasco, it seemed pretty obvious that he was the victim of someone trying to make a quick buck by screaming rape. I remember reading some of the papers submitted to court on The Smoking Gun — it was pretty eye-opening. Admittedly, this second incident has definitely raised eyebrows — everyone is saying, “Hey, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” But the truth of the matter is he hasn’t been charged with anything (yet), let alone found guilty in a court of law. He’s only guilty in the eyes of the public.

To be honest, I don’t think that this “lack of being charged” has endeared Big Ben to the Rooneys. I think the Rooneys are as sick of his stupidity as we are, and that he’ll be residing in Chateau Bow-Wow for the rest of his time here. If he would get charged in this incident or would be involved in another, I think it’s safe to say that he’ll be gone, too.

I’m sure this off-season is killing a lot of us Steelers fans. We’re not used to this kind of drama with our players/team. But I think the spring cleaning is due, and personally, I trust the Rooneys. They didn’t get to be one of the most successful franchises in sports by being stupid.

Gonna be an interesting upcoming season, that’s for sure.


Different view of Big Ben

I found myself having an interesting discussion yesterday. I was talking to my mom about all the normal stuff … she was catching me up on family news … when we somehow drifted to the topic of Ben Roethlisberger.

Now, mom talking about football in any way, shape or form, other than “When is this done?” or “I’m over this already,” is highly, highly unusual. So, even with Big Ben’s current problems, I found myself kinda shocked that she brought it up.

Mom claims she knows what’s going on with Big Ben.

Now, mom isn’t an accountant. She’s not a homemaker. She worked for years in differing degrees in the psychiatric field. She has more degree initials after her name than letters in her last name. Some of the names of the doctors she’s worked with are well-known throughout the area, and are highly recognizable in the psychiatric field. She’s been a nurse and an instructor, and trust me, she knows her stuff.

Mom says Big Ben is expressing the first signs of permanent brain damage.

According to her, “poor judgement” is the first sign. Now, most people chalk that up to being a rich 28-year-old professional athlete with a stereotypical “jock” mentality. I mean, really, how many stupid decisions would I have made when I was 28 if I had millions in the bank? A lot, that’s for sure.

However, mom says that no one is talking about possible brain damage because it can be difficult to see if you haven’t worked with brain-injured people before. So, it’s getting chalked up to other things.

But for mom, it’s clear as day.

She said she called her old friend and co-worker, and they talked about Big Ben’s shenanigans. Without expressing what she thought was going on, her friend confirmed her thoughts: Displaying first signs of permanent brain damage to the frontal lobes.

And let’s face it, Ben has taken his fair share of shots to the head. Not only concussions from the game, but a faceplant into a windshield. To rule out permanent brain damage seems a little foolhardy, even if it seems entirely too early for something like that to have happened.

Of course, this is all speculation. Neither of them have seen Big Ben’s records or charts. Mom is retired — her friend is also retired and lives in South Carolina. They don’t have access to anything on Roethlisberger. I think both have been retired before Ben even came to Pittsburgh — so this isn’t “inside scoop” or an “inside leak” or anything like that — this is the opinion from 2 retired professionals who worked with the brain-injured.

But having grown up around nurses, I can tell you one thing: They often see things that doctors don’t. In military terms, they’re the soldiers on the front while the doctors tend to be the commanders. And when it comes down to it, a good nurse needs to be a good observer so they can relay proper information to the doctors.

Whether they’re right or not, only time will tell. But I’ll be curious if this is the beginning of an inexplicable, downward trend for Big Ben — and something we’re likely to see more of in the future.

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