Friday, January 28, 2011

PACKERS SHOULD BEWARE OF DREADED # "857"

ABOVE: The sun sets recently over Lake Michigan near Green Bay Wisconsin. The Steelers by this time are in the Packers' heads for sure. So is the number, 857.

Two weeks ago, the New York Jets defeated their arch-rival, the New England Patriots in a much-anticipated game for both teams. The Jets, as was very evident the following week, had experienced a "football high". They were doing cartwheels, doing flips, pretending they were Jets flying around the field. In short, they were celebrating the biggest victory they'd had in probably 42 years. But that was the problem. The Jets, unfortunately for them, were deliriously celebrating a crushing victory over their hated rival, the Patriots. They had forgotten that there were bigger fish to fry ahead if they wanted to win their first SuperBowl since number III. The veteran Steelers promptly handed them their heads.


ABOVE: "Surviving the World"- Lesson #857 

The Steelers conversely dispatched their own nemesis, the Baltimore Ravens, and performed no cartwheels. This team knows what the big prize is. The Ravens were handled and now they can fade away. There was no need to get delirious.

Fast forward to last Sunday. The Steelers were certainly happy to have won the AFC Championship and they very properly accepted their trophy. But make no mistake about it, the Lamar Hunt Trophy is nice to have, but no one keeps track of how many Hunt Trophies you've won.


ABOVE: The old USS King County proudly displays her #857.

The Steelers have a single mindset that they will claim their seventh Lombardi Trophy. For the 19 players on this team who already own one ring and the 10 who have managed to win two, they have an unquenchable thirst to do it again. They know that they are beginning to approach the same legendary status that the team of the 70s managed, winning four SuperBowls in six years. They want that legendary feeling attached to their names too.



ABOVE: "Herbie's" famous California license plate. "So where are we going with this," you ask? Read on...

Last week meanwhile, the Packers edged out their rivals, the offensively-challenged Chicago Bears who needed a third string quarterback to even make it a game. To be kind, the Packers and their all-world quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, did not look like world beaters on this day, but they won...just like the Steelers.  

I like the Packers. They're one of my favorite NFL teams. I really like Aaron Rodgers too. However, as I see it, the Packers are a year early to claim SuperBowl XLV. They'll lose to the Steelers but more than likely win it all next year (when the Steelers go into their post-SuperBowl funk). See, they're really not focused enough on the Steelers. They're still busy relishing that big win over their hated rivals, the Bears in Chicago no less and they're just thrilled to now be in the SuperBowl. 

The thrill of being in the SuperBowl plus the gigantic difference in experience on this big of a stage should be just enough to give the nod to the Steelers and have them cart home another piece of Tomlin "hardware". Look for the Steelers to "go for the jugular" early and often when the jitters are at their highest level. In fact, if they win the toss, I expect them to take the ball and not defer as they many times do. 

Pittsburgh getting 2 1/2? You've got to be kidding. That's like having a license to print money! In fact, I'm going to remortgage my house! Only kidding. The last time I bet on a football game Dick LeBeau was still playing!

Oh, and by the way, the Steelers have been to seven prior SuperBowls and won six of them. That's an .857 percentage!!! They don't go to the SuperBowl to lose, that's for sure and the one they did lose remains one of the greatest conundrums in SuperBowl history. Why go if you're not planning to win, right? The Steelers are a confident, talented, very veteran bunch. Will they be excited before the game? Sure. Will they be paralyzed in fear of making a mistake? No. That's why I'm confident that they'll bring home number 7 in grand style. Green Bay, however, with experience under their belts and the hunger to finally cash in, should be a favorite for SuperBowl XLVI.

ABOVE: The famous Dunlop KT 857. With as popular as this number is, how can the Steelers lose?


Thursday, January 27, 2011

HERE'S A HIGHLIGHT FILM TO "WET YOUR WHISTLE" FOR SUPERBOWL XLV

ABOVE: The legendary, late, John Facenda was the man with the deep resonating voice who for years was the narrator of N.F.L. Films. His voice was oftentimes referred to as, "The voice of God". Following the 1979 season, Ed Sabol came up with one of the best highlight videos of all time entitled "A Cut Above" that celebrated the Steelers fourth SuperBowl victory. The video is divided into several "chunks". Just click on each subsequent number to see the entire thing. It's certainly well worth watching for old Steeler fans to "remember when" and for young Steeler fans to get a much-needed history lesson regarding their Steeler ancestors! There's also great footage of Myron Cope and Jack Fleming the Steelers announcing team 32 years ago. Facenda's opening comment is one of the most memorable ever: "There are 27 teams in pro football and then there are the Pittsburgh Steelers" Another great line was, "It's been suggested that Pittsburgh's second unit could win the Central Division...Pittsburgh's first unit does."

Enjoy!!! 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

STEELERS, HARRISON : UNSTOPPABLE

ABOVE: It's Tuesday, you're still enjoying Sunday's AFC Championship game. But right now you could really go for a good fix of some hard-hitting Steelers action. If so just click here for one of THE BEST Steeler videos ever made. Crack open a beer, turn up your speakers and be prepared to be swept to Pittsburgh Steelers nirvana land. It's titled "Pittsburgh Steelers: Unstoppable." You won't get an argument out of me, that's for sure!

Monday, January 24, 2011

(S)ANTONIO FULFILLS NOSTRADAMUS PROPHECY, STEELERS GO "ROPE-A-DOPE" IN SECOND HALF, SURVIVE 24-19

In a contest very reminiscent of the recent Pitt-Syracuse basketball game where the Panthers unexpectedly ran out to a 19-0 lead against the third-ranked Orange, only to see them storm back to a 19-17 score; The Pittsburgh Steelers surprisingly displayed smash-mouth football at its' very finest, running out to a 24-0 lead and only allowing a single field goal just before the half. But in the back of your mind you knew it would be a harbinger of things to come. This game was far from over.

The New York Jets didn't get this far by not being resilient. In fact, if there is a message to be learned here, resiliency is the very essence of what it takes to be an NFL champion. The Steelers clearly own the patent on resiliency as evidenced again last night and this entire season. Can anything stop these guys?

Taking on a team that had just defeated both the Colts and Patriots in convincing fashion, the Steelers started off with one of the most suffocating offensive drives to start off a game ever seen. The Steelers used up nine minutes of the first quarter by going right at the teeth of the Jets defense...and winning. During the course of this withering drive, their quarterback, certainly no Jake Cutler (who took himself out of his championship game earlier in the day) sustained a nasty knee to the thigh, a very painful injury. Limping badly, he continued on. His pro bowl rookie center, Maurkice Pouncey, then suffered a game ending high ankle sprain. The resilient Steelers continued on with Doug "Bronco" Lagursky gamely taking his place.

The first half was filled with typical Big Ben plays: Crucial first down throws, skillful scampers at the most opportune times as well as another defensive touchdown, this time caused by Ike Taylor nearly taking off quarterback Mark Sanchez' arm and the resultant fumble being scooped up and run in almost matter-of-factly by cornerback William Gay. His "acting like he's been there before" after scoring was epic in my eyes. In fact, it was downright refreshing. It said, "This was not about me, it's about my team."

But mostly it was Rashard Mendenhall left, Rashard Mendenhall right, Rashard Mendenhall up-the-middle. Mendenhall has rushed for more yards in a single game before, but never for this many (121) and with such devastating results on such a big stage. Guaranteed a lot more national "experts" know who Rashard Mendenhall is today. Yes, they are all very learned, we know that.


ABOVE: SuperBowl XLV will be played in Dallas at the new "House that Jerry Built." Ever willing to squeeze every last penny out of America, the N.F.L. will have large screens outside of the stadium for loyal fans who cannot get a ticket. The difference between Mario's T.V. and these Shylocks? The NFL is going to charge $200 to enjoy this privilige. They're all heart!

But clearly though, for all of their dash and bravado, the Jets looked like a team that had left most of their game on the field last week in Foxboro. Their win against the Patriots was subconsciously, their SuperBowl. By contrast there were no head flips and cartwheels last week when Steelers defeated their arch-nemesis, the Ravens. For that matter, there weren't even gymnastics on display last night after the Steelers hung on after gamely doing a 30 minute "rope-a-dope" in the second half. 

After the Jets and Sanchez had gamely come back to make it a 24-19 score including a second safety against the Steelers in one season (surely some kind of a record) it all came down to possessing the ball. It was now "Antonio Brown time".

The rookie Brown competed all season simply "to get a hat" each week against fellow rookie receiver Emmanuel Sanders. For most of the year Sanders was leading in that derby but as the year has worn on, Brown has become more and more of a factor. In fact, his clutch play has become downright scary.

Last week he connected on that mammoth hookup that sent the Ravens flying back to Capistrano. This week when it came down to crunch time again, Brown once again was in the forefront.

The Steelers were leading 24-10 after three quarters, but you just knew what was coming...The Jets proceeded on an epic drive of their own, moving the ball all the way to the Steeler one yard line where the Steeler defense showed the depth of their resolve, stopping a largely ineffective LaDanian Tomlinson at the three inch line. Unfortunately, the dreaded "safety" reared its ugly head once again when Big Ben did not handle the next snap making the score 24-12. The Jets were coming now in a big way. They once again had regained their momentum. By the three minute mark, Sanchez connected to Jerricho Cotchery for a score making it 24-19. The Jets now had three minutes to get the ball back and score a touchdown... not an impossibility by any stretch of the imagination.

They elected to kick the ball low and squib style to the awaiting Antonio Brown. He scooped up the ball cleanly and in stride and cut up the left sideline taking the ball all the way to the Pittsburgh 40 and helping field position immensely. After a big first down catch by Heath Miller, the Steelers elected to run the ball twice. By this time the Jets had now burned all of their timeouts and passed the two minute warning.

Facing a third and six, commentator Phil Simms remarked that the Steelers should, "Run the ball here and not risk stopping the clock", sort of a "Don't try to win the game here, just try not to lose it" philosophy. To be completely truthful, this writer instinctively felt a pass to the ever-dependable Hines Ward coming at this moment. After all, he's done it a million times. This was contrary even to the words that had been stated earlier in the day by Nostradamus right here in "Pittsburgh's Black and Gold"!!! "Look for a young lad named 'Antonio' to dash the hopes of the invaders,". So as he said, it would be Brown who would come through again. "Don't you even read your own blog," you ask?

In retrospect, truer words were never prognosticated.

Ben then proceeded into one of his epic "Ben plays" where he this time rolled to his right and while pressured, threw to a diving and rolling...you guessed it, Antonio Brown.

All that was left was for Ben to kneel down twice while Rex Ryan was busy breaking his expensive Motorola headset. The Steelers finished ahead 24-19. But remember, style points don't count in either AFC Championships or hand grenades. They count for even less with a Lombardi Trophy on the line. This is why Ben Roethlisberger never gets respect from NFL fans. His stats aren't always the greatest, but guess what, he wins!!! The Steelers aren't in business to win fantasy football leagues, they're in it to win reality league championships. Fans on a national level forget this important fact. Steeler fans thankfully don't. That's also why the Steelers aren't ashamed of that cupboard full of Lombardi trophies either!

So this tale of two halves ended with the Steelers front office planning another trip to the SuperBowl, The Rooneys and Mike Tomlin politely accepting the Lamar Hunt Trophy "hardware" as Tomlin calls it, and the Steeler fans celebrating with a lusty version of, "I've got a feeeling, Pittsburgh's goin' to the SuperBowl again....."I've got a feeeling, Pittsburgh's goin' to the SuperBowl again.....Yes, it certainly is a good feeling. As sports fans living in "America's Most Livable City", we are certainly living a charmed existence and best of all, we know it! Let's enjoy it for awhile. There's time before we have to start worrying about the Packers, a confrontation between two resilient teams and the league's two most ardent fan groups. Tickets for this one will be in tremendous demand and at all-time high prices. It will no doubt be the most-watched SuperBowl in history.

I guess "P.B. & G." will be faced with paying Nostradamus for another prediction. This guy's really expensive, but good.

Photo by Allison Viron Photography

ABOVE: Caught up in Steeler fever this past Saturday night, Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury dons a Steeler helmet and terrible towel. You have to love how all of the athletes in different sports pull for their fellow "Black & Gold" brothers. The Steelers are frequent visitors to Pens games.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

NOSTRADAMUS FINALLY MAKES HIS PICK(S)




Having a guy on staff who is constantly under pressure from the "History Channel" to produce more and more "end of the world" shows doesn't make it easy for us to get him to find time to make a prediction for us. Since he works on a "per prediction basis", and he keeps raising his costs, it's become very expensive for us to keep him on board. But we only give you the best here at "P.B.&G.", so sit back and get your preview of tonight's game. 

"P.B.& G.": So which team's defense will be more effective in this game?

NOSTRADAMUS: I can answer that, but I'll have to charge you additional if I do. Your contract states that I will "provide you with the result of the Pittsburgh Steelers-New York Jets game.

"P.B.& G.": But don't you have to already know that in order to make your prediction?

NOSTRADAMUS: Sure I do. So what, you want me to give these away for free?

"P.B.& G.": Never mind. The fans have heard all of that until they're now blue in the face anyway. So let's get down to brass tacks. Who do you think will win this game?

NOSTRADAMUS: I predict: The team that scores one more point than the other will win this game.
"P.B. & G.": Hey, we paid way too much money to get a garbage answer like that!

NOSTRADAMUS: Alright, alright, settle down. I was just fulfilling another prophecy that I made just last week that said, "And the editor was furious. His wallet literally burned in apprehension."

"P.B.&G.": C'mon, get on with it, it's almost kickoff!

NOSTRADAMUS: Boy, I can tell that you're uptight over this game! Settle down!! Here's your quatrain: The men of the many rivers will prevail again. The suffocation will be difficult for the faint-hearted to watch. Expect a 20-9 score. Oh, and look for a young lad named "Antonio" to dash the hopes of the invaders. (There, I threw that one in at no additional charge).

ENJOY THE GAME...HERE WE GO STEELERS, HERE WE GO!!!!!!



Saturday, January 22, 2011

ADOLF HITLER'S PITTSBURGH STEELER "BUNKER MENTALITY"


ABOVE:  Actor David Bamber's portrayal of Adolf Hitler discussing the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Jets is "spot on".

A great fellow blogger, "D.J." from the Mon Valley, sent this "adaptation video" to me from the recent World War II movie, "Valkyrie". It was so hilarious that I just had to put it up. In it, Hitler's words are mistranslated into battle strategy regarding the Steelers-Jets game. Yes, this is the lunacy of playoff fever that we've become used to here in Pittsburgh just about every other year it seems. Lucky us!!! Thanks D.J.!!!

Friday, January 21, 2011

THE REASON IT'S BEEN 42 YEARS SINCE JETS WON A SUPERBOWL


ABOVE: Commissioner Pete Rozelle can explain to you why the Jets were so bad for so long. He was there to witness it in person!  Just check out this link!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

STEELERS VS JETS INVOKES BAD MEMORIES FROM DAYS OF YORE


ABOVE: Yes, it truly has been a long time since the New York Jets have had anything to cheer about (now 42 years). Let's hope that the Steelers remember full well that the Jets beat them at home earlier this season!

On the heels of a fantastic comeback win against the hated and despised Ravens last week and with, lo and behold, an unimaginable Jets victory over the "invincible" Patriots in Foxboro, we now find Pittsburgh, fortunately, being the location of yet another AFC Championship game. Of course we all know that this game has never been a "lock" for the Black & Gold.

Although it would have been nicer to have not had such a terrible first half last week, we'll instead try to keep as a long-lasting memory, the incredible second half that the Steelers came up with to enter this final step before as yet another SuperBowl. 

Speaking of long-lasting memories, since the "high-flying" Jets are now coming to town, I'd like to share with you a Jets-Steelers story from a long time ago...

The year was 1979, 32 years ago, and I was publishing a Pittsburgh sports tabloid named...you guessed it, "Pittsburgh's Black & Gold". The Steelers had just come off of their fourth championship at the end of the prior season and were now the most storied team in NFL history. That following summer, the Steelers were still going through the interminably-long six game exhibition season when I noticed that they had an exhibition game scheduled for the then "brand-new" Meadowlands Stadium in New Jersey. In retrospect, I guess one way that you know that you're getting old is when you see stadiums that you saw built being torn down for new replacements. Out with the old, in with the new, right?

ABOVE: The thirty-year-old "junky" original Meadowlands Stadium (right) sits next to the then as-yet-unfinished New Meadowlands Stadium a couple years ago.

Anyway, my news editor, Ben Mount, contacted Joe Gordon of the Steelers and put in a request for two media passes. Joe, as usual, came through for us and when Ben went down to the stadium to pick them up, he was given two regular seats on close to the 50 yard line. Joe explained that the New York media had had so many requests for credentials that the Jets' press box was full. If we were to attend, the best they could do would be two tickets on the 50 in the first level of the stadium.

Sure, I would have preferred sitting in the press box, but they were at least taking care of us. The game was being played on a Saturday night and in order to save a considerable amount of money, I decided that Ben and I would make the drive to New Jersey.

At this time we were dealing with a major gas-shortage problem. Rationing became the rule of the day and depending on whether you had and "odd" or "even" number to start your license number would determine if it was your "day" to get gas. Since I had an even number and it was my day to be able to get gas, I filled up prior to leaving. I would get gas after the game, I reasoned, before the trip back home.



As we left Saturday morning, the trip east was thankfully, uneventful...until we got to the Meadowlands exit. Then it became utter massive gridlock, some of the worst I've ever seen. In fact, it was so bad that after initially being very early for the game, we barely made it to our seats by kickoff.

The Jets had a horrific team. Everybody knew this game was going to be a first-class blowout and true enough, soon the rout was on. The Steelers were "laying the lumber" big time in this game as there were many incredible defensive hits that took place. Then, after halftime, the real game started...

I have never seen anything remotely as bad as what took place in that stadium that night. Whether it was alcohol-induced or because their team was being shellacked by the Steelers, this crowd suddenly became very ugly. One after another fights were breaking out all over this stadium. At various moments, when there was nothing going-on on the field, you would hear a small roar and when you would look around, invariably you would see two guys throwing punches at each other.


ABOVE: Take it from me, if you ever find yourself in this situation, you'll agree that it is not the place to be.

The way that the stadium police responded was almost laughable. They would allow the two combatants to first beat themselves silly, then they would arrive en masse: ten to twenty officers with billy clubs and beat the daylights out of them. In one notable confrontation, I saw a phalanx of officers toss one ever-feisty combatant down a flight of concrete steps into the awaiting arms of some batons awaiting below. Amazing as it may sound, the fights in the stands became more interesting to watch than the Steeler rookies who were now on the field in this blowout game.

"Fortunately we're sitting in the good seats," I said to Ben. There's no riffraff in these seats". Wrong.

ABOVE: Your travel tip: Beware of hot dog vendors in New York area stadiums.

Just after we had watched the mop-up procedure of the guy who had made an unplanned trip down the steps inside Meadowlands Stadium, I saw a hot dog vendor walking down the steps in our section. Since we were sitting on the end of a row, it was very easy to conduct my transaction. The vendor put down his heavy metal steam cabinet and while he was getting our hot dogs, I noticed a few people lining up behind him in order to get their hot dog. It was then that I started hearing the complaints: "Hey sit down." "Hey idiot, I can't see." Then, "Hey, why don't you shut the hell up!" Then came the obligatory, "Hey why don't you come over here and try to shut me up?"

Before I knew it, I was smack dab in the middle of one of these stadium "bar fights". I ducked down in my seat as the punches were being thrown all around me. It seemed that they were coming from three or four different directions. After the militia came in and restored order, I said to Ben, "Let's get out of here. We'll beat the traffic and get in line to get gas. This game is over anyway and it's only an exhibition game. I don't need to get killed over it." He heartily agreed and we beat a path to the already-gridlocked parking lot.

It was already now after ten p.m. and it took us well over an hour to get out of the once-again gridlocked stadium area. We had about 40 minutes to still get gas and the first station I saw, I got into a very, very long line. Every five minutes or so you would move forward about 15 or 20 feet. I kept looking at my watch as the line crawled forward. By the time I got to the pumps it was now, incredibly, 12:15 a.m. . I kept hoping that no one would notice that I now had the wrong numbered license plate.

ABOVE: A typical late 70's gas station line. What a nightmare this was!

As I pulled up to the pump, the attendant came back to my window and said, "Sorry buddy, but you have the wrong number."

I responded back, "I've been in this line since 11:20. My number was good then."

He said, "See that car over there? That's an unmarked car. That guy in there is just waiting for me to give you gas."

I said, "I'm an out-of-state traveler, your state has a reciprocal agreement with Pennsylvania  to give gas to out-of state travelers."

He answered, "New York has that agreement, New Jersey does not. All that I can do is sell you one gallon of gas."

Needless to say, I was really steamed over this. I paid for my gallon of gas and took off, worrying about how I was going to get home. As I got onto the Pennsylvania Turnpike I became fixated on the gas gauge. When would I run out of gas? Would I be in the middle of nowhere when it happened?

ABOVE: Something you don't want to have staring at you for three hours.

I stopped at a station on the turnpike at around 1:30 a.m. and got the same, "No gas, you've got the wrong plate" from the attendant. This time I couldn't even use the "out-of-state" line, because I no longer was! Interestingly, I saw another unmarked car parked not too far from the pumps with an officer inside. I managed to get one more gallon of gas and I was then sent on my way.

As you would expect, this did nothing to move the needle on the gas gauge, and I went back to driving under this same incredible stress. Finally, about an hour later at 2:30 in the morning, I pulled into another station, our car literally running on gas fumes by now and drove right up to the gas pump. As you can imagine, traffic on the road had really thinned-out to a trickle. The attendant began filling up my car and never said a word about my plate. There weren't even any cops around either. Thank God for bad employees!

So whenever I think about the New York Jets, I invariably recall that awful night where I unwittingly got in the middle of a stadium brawl and spent the next several hours dealing with the gas crisis of the 70's. Let's hope Sunday's game will help to develop a newer and more pleasant set of memories.

Oh, by the way, when I got home, I learned that on the local telecast that Sam Nover had said that, "The fights in the stands were better than the game on the field."... I can certainly vouch for that, depending on where you were sitting of course!

LEFT: Former Channel 11 sports anchor and occasional Steeler broadcaster, Sam Nover. He knew a good fight when he saw one!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

STEELER FOOTBALL REACHES ACTUAL RELIGION STATUS


ABOVE: We've always known that Steelers football is our passion, but imagine the excitement when we learned this week that Steelers football is now an official religion! Does that then make Ben a"patron saint"? We don't know, but one thing is for sure. Like our masthead says, "Pittsburgh: A hard-drinkin' town with an all Pittsburgh sports problem!"

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

THE BRILLIANCE OF ATHLETES REVEALED FOR THE FIRST TIME

Special thanks to reader "A.C" from the North Hills for forwarding the "intellectual material" for this story...

So why is it that some athletes can't hold down a regular "normal-type" job outside of their sport? There will be no doubt in your mind after reading this.

1. Chicago Cubs outfielder Andre Dawson on being a role model:

"I wan' all dem kids to do what I do, to look up to me. I wan' all dem kids to copulate me."


2. New Orleans Saint RB George Rogers when asked about the upcoming season:

"I want to rush for 1,000 or 1,500 yards, whichever comes first."



3. And, upon hearing Joe Jacoby of the 'Skins say:


"I'd run over my own mother to win the Super Bowl,"

Replied Matt Millen of the Raiders:

"To win, I'd run over Joe's Mom, too."

4. Torrin Polk, University of Houston receiver, on his coach, John Jenkins:

"He treats us like men. He lets us wear earrings.."

5. Football commentator and former player Joe Theismann:


"Nobody in football should be called a genius. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein."


6. Senior basketball player at the University of Pittsburgh (name not disclosed to protect the innocent).


"I'm going to graduate on time, no matter how long it takes."

 Now that's admirable!

7. Bill Peterson, a Florida State football coach:

"You guys line up alphabetically by height."
And then,

"You guys pair up in groups of three, and then line up in a circle."

8. Boxing promoter Dan Duva on Mike Tyson going  to prison:


"Why would anyone expect him to come out smarter? He went to "prison" for three years...not Princeton.


9. Stu Grimson, Chicago Blackhawks left wing, explaining why he keeps a color photo of himself above his locker:

"That's so when I forget how to spell my name, I can still find my clothes."

10. Lou Duva, veteran boxing trainer, on the Spartan training regimen of his heavyweight, Andrew Golota:


"He's a guy who gets up at six o'clock in the morning, regardless of what time it is."



11. Chuck Nevitt , North Carolina State basketball player, explaining to
Coach Jim Valvano why he appeared  nervous at practice:


"My sister's expecting a baby, and I don't know if I'm going to be an uncle or an aunt."


(I wonder if his IQ ever hits room temperature in January)

12. Frank Layden , Utah Jazz president, on a former player of his (and my personal favorite by the way):


"I asked him, 'Son, what is it with you? Is it ignorance or apathy?'


He said, 'Coach, I don't know and I don't care.'


13. Shelby Metcalf, basketball coach at Texas A&M, recounting what he told a player who received four "F"s and one "D":

"Son, it looks to me like you're spending too much time on one subject."

14. In the immortal words of N.C. State great Charles Shackelford:

"I can go to my left or I can go to my right. I am amphibious."


15. Amarillo High School and Houston Oiler coach Bum Phillips when asked by Bob Costas why he takes his wife on all the road trips, Phillips responded:

 "Because she is too ugly to kiss good-bye." 

Ouch!

ABOVE: Happy couple Debbie and O.A. "Bum" Phillips.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

PEDERSON, NORDENBERG IGNORE REGIONAL SENTIMENT; TODD GRAHAM, "MOST HATED MAN IN HOUSTON", PITT'S NEW COACH

"CLEARING MY DESK"

Hard-hitting Pittsburgh sports commentary                     by Angelo Spagnolo

Steve Pederson and Mark Nordenberg managed to out-do even themselves.

By ignoring the overwhelming sentiment of Southwestern Pennsylvania football fans, in lieu of hiring Penn State's Tom Bradley, they opted instead for Texas native, Todd Graham, an upwardly-mobile coach who most-recently coached at Tulsa University. This could first be called a "mystery", but to be kind, I prefer to describe it as Pitt hiring a "carpetbagger" to now lead their football program.








LEFT: "Mr. Arrogance", Pitt A.D. Steve Pederson.

RIGHT: Pitt "Head honcho" Mark A. Nordenberg. Don't dare try to tell him who to hire!

By deciding against hiring a man of extreme loyalty and integrity, Pederson and Nordenberg demonstrated that their knowledge of history is very flimsy, as is also once again, their own flawed vetting process.

ABOVE: Pitt gave Bradley two interviews, feigning interest in order to shut up their fans. Bringing in Todd Graham didn't satisfy the many who wanted Bradley for Pitt. Was it a slap at Joe Paterno and Penn State? It sure looks like it (not that JoePa doesn't deserve it by the way).

Before I go on, let me first say that in researching this story that I first found that Graham has compiled a very impressive mark during his five years as a head coach. His overall record, including three of four minor bowl wins, is 46-24 (.657%). During his four years at Tulsa and one year at Rice, he had three first place finishes, one second and one third place in Conference USA. Certainly not bad and much more impressive overall than Mike Haywood's record at Miami of Ohio.

ABOVE: Graham commanded $2 million for himself and $2 million total for his nine assistants, an average of $222,000 per man. This means that Pitt will have over $5.3 million per year tied up in coaching payroll for the next three years (counting Dave Wannstedt's salary through 2014).

So what caused Todd Graham to gain the distinction of being called "The most hated man in Houston" you ask?

Graham had been an assistant at Tulsa and took the head coaching position at Rice. After going to Rice (located, by the way, in Houston) Graham had the most successful season for that school since 1960. He turned a 1-10 program into a 7-5 second place finish and a New Orleans Bowl appearance in his first year. Pretty impressive stuff! In fact, the school was so impressed that it then committed to spending $5 million to upgrade Rice Stadium and offered Graham a very significant salary increase after just one season. However, with a better salary dangled in front of him by his former school, Tulsa, Graham took the money and ran, infuriating Rice University and their fans.

Graham was so reviled for his disloyalty that the next year the Rice Band put on a home halftime show titled "Todd Graham's Inferno" that depicted the stages of hell where Graham best belonged, complete with scoreboard photos and an announcer explaining the various hell levels. The show was so "inflammatory" that Tulsa actually filed a complaint with Conference USA...over a band show! This is the type of person that Pitt is getting. So be prepared to be heartbroken again, Panther fans.



ABOVE: This is the actual "Gates of Hell" image that was used as a visual during the Rice Band's halftime show celebrating Graham's return in 2007. My sentiments for Pitt exactly. BELOW: Another image that the Rice Band used to describe their intense affection for Graham.



West Virginia's newly-hired "Coach-In-Waiting", Dana Holgorsen, (another joke waiting for a future column) had a major run-in with Graham who apparently was guilty of "stretching the rules" (also known in some circles as cheating).

During a game against Houston (where Holgorsen was then coaching), there were instances where multiple players were accused of feigning serious injuries only to reappear later in the same game. Holgorsen was so incensed that after the game he accused Graham of cheating and creating timeouts. While this past animosity is admittedly a great foundation for added hatred between Pitt and West Virginia, to me this isn't the sort of thing that you like your new coach to have on his (non)resume. Neither is having no loyalty towards whoever happens to be his current employer either.

On November 11, 2009, the "Houston Chronicle's" Steve Campbell wrote:

..."Either Graham has no regard for his players' safety (for putting them back in after supposed serious injuries) or he was coaching them to fake injuries. Which one was it Tulsa fans?"

I wonder if Pitt's crack vetting process unearthed these facts? Ah, that would fall under the heading of "doubtful". 

Amazingly, Pederson and Nordenberg were so enamored with Graham that they agreed to pay him more than they're now paying Jamie Dixon! Dixon,who just signed a new contract last year, is reportedly making between $1.6 and $1.8 million. Graham will earn $2 million in his first year before winning a single game for Pitt. How is this right or even fair to one of the best basketball coaches in the country? While Dixon need not apply for food stamps, these types of clumsy decisions tend to create unnecessary discord nevertheless. Graham reportedly turned down $1.6 million the last go-around before Pederson hired Mike Haywood on the cheap.

Would it have cost $2 million to get Tom Bradley? Doubtful. Would Bradley leave with the first offer that came his way? Just ask Joe Paterno, he'll tell you. Would Bradley ever be called "The most hated coach in Pittsburgh"? Never. Do you think that Phil Stewart, Dana Holgorsen or any other Big East coach would ever be so incensed that they'd call Bradley a cheater? Impossible. The man has a reputation a mile long and is one of the most highly-respected coaches in the country.

So why isn't Bradley the new Pitt coach? Simple, there are two reasons: First, Nordenberg doesn't want to create the impression for one instant that regional sentiment or even worse, boosters, will make Pitt's decisions for him. Second, Pederson wants to play his contrarian role to the hilt and prefers taking more chances with yet another man with skeletons in his closet instead. Yes, his ego really is that big. That's why his alma mater, Nebraska, ran him out of the state.

Todd Graham (just like Mike Haywood very possibly could have) may win a lot of games at Pitt. But this isn't all about just wins and losses. In the same way that Haywood blew up in Pitt's face because of past and present domestic violence issues, Graham will no doubt leave at the first sniff of more money elsewhere, say to the prestigious SEC. Three years, in retrospect, may be a long time for him to stay at Pitt, especially if he has any early success whatsoever. By hiring Graham, Pitt has created an image as a "stepping stone" job, not a destination.  In Tom Bradley they had a man of the highest integrity who, like Dave Wannstedt, would have stayed there until they carted him off the field on a stretcher or unless he proved that he couldn't win. He also would have never embarassed the university with his personal conduct either.

While Dave Wannstedt was a great guy and a wonderful representative of Pitt, he showed that he couldn't take the team to the next level. He was given plenty of time to get it right but had exhausted his chances. Never for a moment did I ever feel though that he would leave Pitt for another job or embarass the university...but you still have to win.

I've always been big on continuity and integrity, much like the Steelers are. What I'm not big on are woman beaters and opportunistic-carpetbaggers. The Steelers, well known as being probably the best-ever at hiring coaches in the modern football era, highly-recommended Tom Bradley to Pitt. "So what do they know" the good folks at Pitt say to one another? As for me? I just shake my head. How could they screw up such a slam dunk? Ego, pure and simple.

Today at his press conference, in response to a reporter's question about how loyal he would be to his new job, since most of his coaching has taken place in the southwest. Graham stated that, "As you move forward... my goal was to have a BCS job, coach in major bowl games and compete for a national title at one of the finest schools in the country. Just watch, you'll see."

Write that last sentence down, because like all good snake oil salesmen, Graham talks a great game. If LSU, Alabama or any SEC school called him tomorrow though, he'd be packed up to move by sunset. You can take that to the bank.

Historians like to tell history students that, "We study the past for our use in the future". Apparently neither Nordenberg nor Pederson ever gets over to the Pitt History Department or they never would have passed on Bradley, ever, or ignored Graham's past.

Graham may very possibly do well at Pitt and that's the irony. The better he does, the shorter his coaching tenure there will be. So Pitt fans shouldn't expect him to be hanging around very long.

That counts for a lot where I come from. Apparently it was down the list of priorities for the people who made this decision. Brace yourself for another coaching search inside of three years.