Monday, November 28, 2011

Stevie Johnson = clown; Caleb Hanie = dud

My favorite sports story from the weekend has to be Bills receiver Stevie Johnson catching a TD pass, doing a celebration that mocked convicted felon Plaxico Burress and then suffering the consequences.

First, Johnson was penalized 15 yards for his silliness, a penalty that directly led to a Jets TD -- by Burress, no less.

Then, with the Bills desperately trying to drive for the winning score, Johnson dropped a perfectly thrown long pass that hit him right in the hands.

Finally, with one last chance to redeem himself, Johnson failed to make what would have been a very nice play on a catchable ball in the end zone.

Karma is a bitch.

Oh, and Johnson later said that when he pretended to shoot himself in the leg, he really wasn't trying to mock Burress' infamous nightclub-gun-fun episode. Oy.

Look, I like TD celebrations. Many are fun and clever -- and most are no more disruptive or planned than the Lambeau Leap.

If you're gonna do them, however, you have to own them. You can't later deny your intentions. More than anything else, you have to be good enough to back up your actions with deeds on the field.

Little Stevie, as immature as his name suggests, failed on all counts.


And speaking of failing ...

For all those who really think the Bears would be better off without Jay Cutler, well, may I present to you ... Caleb Hanie.

NFL executives screw up sometimes. For example, nobody drafted Kurt Warner. Not many other QBs who weren't drafted at all even have played a down in the league, let alone been any good.

What I'm trying to say is that Hanie wasn't drafted for a reason.

I don't particularly like Cutler, one of the more overrated, overhyped guys in recent Chicago sports history. But at least he's got viable NFL quarterbacking skills.

Frankly, I'm amazed the Bears were able to stay as close to the Raiders as they did.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

It's Turkey Time!!

Politicians don't get to have all the fun. Jocks get to be turkeys, too, which is why I count down the top sports gobblers every Thanksgiving.

This tradition dates back to my first year as Copley Newspapers columnist, 1998, when Michael McCaskey had so mismanaged the Bears that his mommy took the team presidency away from him and demoted him to official Halas Hall gardener.

Since then, it's been one doofus, doper or downer after another: Jerry Krause (1999); Bobby Knight (2000); David Wells & Frank Thomas (2001); Dick Jauron(2002); Sammy Sosa (2003 and 2004, an unprecedented back-to-back showing!); Andy MacPhail, Jim Hendry & Dusty Baker (2005); Aramis Ramirez (2006); Charlie Weis (2007); Choking Cubbies (2008); Milton Bradley (2009); Mark McGwire (2010).

(You'll notice that from 1998-2009, most of those fine folks had Chicago connections. That's because I columnized and blogged mostly about Chicago sports during those years. Having moved to Krispy Kreme Kountry last year, the Turkey Countdown has a different look.)

As always, I dedicate this tradition to my absent friend, Gene Seymour, my Copley columnist predecessor and one of the great guys I ever encountered in journalism.

And now for the countdown ...

10. WILLIAMSES. Rough year for Stevie, Serena, Hank Jr. and Ken. Oh, and last we knew, Ted's head was still frozen somewhere in Arizona.

9. TIGER WOODS. Remember when he used to ... I don't know ... be really good at golf?

8. RON ZOOK. Who's got next? Somebody? Anybody? Please?

7. DALE EARNHARDT JR. & JR HILDEBRAND. On the very same May Sunday, Earnhardt and Hildebrand put on a clinic on how to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. With the checkered flag just seconds away, Hildebrand crashed into the wall, making a winner of Dan Wheldon at the Indy 500. Hours later, a half-mile from the finish line at the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte, Earnhardt ran out of gas as Kevin Harvick claimed victory.

6. ADAM DUNN. Arguably had the worst offensive season in baseball history. The only reason I say "arguably" is that the White Sox stopped playing their $56 million man the last couple of months, keeping him from putting up some truly eye-popping failure numbers.

5. JIM TRESSEL. Really? You really have to cheat to win football games at Ohio State? I mean, I'd understand it if Zook did it. But Tressel?

4. LeBRON JAMES. Selfish and clueless, he is a perfectly good representative on this list for all the millionaire players, owners, agents and lawyers responsible for shutting down the NBA. (Oh, and we're still waiting for him to start delivering those seven titles after taking his talents to South Beach.)

3. CARLOS ZAMBRANO. He's been a few cards short of a deck for a decade now, but the dude I call Cra-Z completely lost his mind when he threw at Atlanta batters because he couldn't get them out. Once just a bit quirky, Cra-Z has joined Milton Bradley, Phil Nevin, Kent Mercker, Dave Kingman and a select few others on the list of least cuddly Cubbies of the last 40 years.

2. JOSH BECKETT, JOHN LACKEY & JON LESTER. Booze-swilling baseball buddies put the "club" back into clubhouse. And the choke back into the Red Sox.

And now -- drumstick roll, please -- the 2011 Turkey of the Year ...


JoePa quietly passed the buck upon learning that a sexual predator was molesting kids right in his locker room.

When the allegations finally came to light years later, thousands of students protested -- not because kids had gotten raped on JoePa's watch but because Penn State fired the old ostrich who had stuck his head in the sand.

I'm not sure if this says more about our deification of coaches, our societal woes or the value of a Penn State education.

All I know is that JoePa is a doting father and grandfather many times over ... and if he had received word that one or more of his progeny had been molested, he wouldn't have just told his boss and then moved on.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Herman Cain, we hardly knew ye

So I'm reading the McClatchy Newspapers account of Tuesday's GOP debate -- the 406th of 874 scheduled debates, I believe. And I'm reading about the foreign policy opinions of Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul and Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann and Jon Huntsman. And then I get to the final paragraph:

Businessman Herman Cain and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum also took part in the debate.

Kind of reminds me of the time I flew from Oslo, Norway to Goteborg, Sweden on a small prop plane with members of the 1994 U.S. Olympic hockey team. The player in the seat next to me was sweating out the bumpy ride when I turned to him and said: "At least people will cry about the loss of you and your teammates. The newspapers won't even mention me until the final paragraph: 'Also perishing was a sportswriter from Minnesota.'"

Yes, Mr. 9-9-9 has reached that level of insignificance. It takes a special kind of incompetence to fail so miserably in that field of knuckleheads.

Oh, and speaking of turkeys ... tune back in tomorrow for my annual Turkey of the Year countdown. More fun than a trip to Plymouth Rock!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Today's High Five: Tebow, Tiger and (who?) Sveum

5. This whole Tim Tebow thing is pretty amazing. I'm not sure I've ever seen a situation in which a QB can play so consistently bad for so long and then somehow rally his team at the end.

But here's the deal Tebow's giddy worshippers might not get: This can't last. It just can't.

Either Tebow will develop at least some true quarterbacking skills, or he will not be able to play long-term in the NFL.

While acknowledging that Tebow has been impressive (in his own weird way) so far, I am at least a year or two away from admitting I'm wrong when I say I doubt he will be a standout NFL QB.

There's a reason the likes of Bobby Douglass and Tarvaris Jackson and Kordell Stewart didn't succeed over the long haul while Steve Young and Roger Staubach and Randall Cunningham did.

Either you learn to be an NFL quarterback and use your mobility to enhance those skills, or you become just another guy destined for those "remember him?" stories.

4. Tiger Woods isn't anywhere near "back," so I wish commentators and reporters would stop saying it every time he makes a spectacular shot or has a decent round.

We'll know Tiger is back when he wins a major. Period.

He judges himself by how he does in majors. Why should the rest of us judge him any differently?

3. Big win for my Lady Bucs, as we rebounded from our season-opening loss to handily defeat one of our archrivals, Providence Day.

Our defense was impenetrable in the second half, when we didn't allow a single point.

As I told the girls afterward: Nobody ever has lost a basketball game when shutting out the opponent.

2. Interesting that both the White Sox and Cardinals hired former players with no managing experience to replace World Series-winning skippers. Robin Ventura and Mike Matheny are born leaders, so it does make some sense.

It's a cool trend, and I hope it works.

1. In his first big move as new Cubbie Savior, Theo Epstein did something very different from his predecessors.

Jim Hendry and Andy MacPhail, feeling pressure from media and fans, always hired a big name -- a.k.a. "the best manager available": Lou Piniella, Dusty Baker, Don Baylor, Jim Riggleman. Each man had some good times but each ultimately failed.

Epstein could have pleased many fans (and followed the White Sox-Cardinals trend) by tabbing Ryne Sandberg. Instead, he went with a relative unknown, the beautifully bald Dale Sveum.

Then again, this being Cubbieland, does it really matter? They all come in full of life and they all go out in a figurative body bag.

After he fires Sveum in 2-3 years, I'll be curious to see who Epstein goes with next.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

No lockout for Coach Mike

Rough start to the season for my Lady Bucs of Charlotte Country Day. I'm the assistant coach of the 8th grade girls basketball team, meaning I've moved up a grade and have most of the same kids from last year (but a different head coach). We played without last season's leading scorer, who is just now recovered from a concussion -- darn soccer! -- and we weren't quite able to overcome our turnover-filled, first-game jitters.

I do like this team, though. Plenty of good athletes who are very willing to learn and just a lot of fun to be around. They keep me young. Or maybe I should say youngish. (OK, I'm old. Leave me alone.)

Anyway, I know I hadn't posted in a while. I've been busy counting my money from all the income the blog brings me. Let's see ... where was I? ... oh yeah ... zero.

Which means I'm making as much in my writing career these days as most NBA players are.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

JoePa had to go

Has any college coach in history done more for his institution than Joe Paterno has done for Penn State these last five decades?

The school became famous during his tenure, he made "Nittany Lions" synonymous with success, he ran a clean program and he donated millions of dollars to the academic side of the university.

And yet ...

Under his watch, a heinous act took place repeatedly: an assistant coach's predatory sexual behavior. Because Paterno passed the buck instead of directly addressing the problem, numerous youngsters were scarred for life.

So when the truth finally came to light, JoePa had to go.

I applaud the Penn State trustees who summoned the courage to fire Paterno, denying the 84-year-old legend the kind of feel-good farewell tour that would have taken place over the next two months had he been allowed to resign at season's end.

As for the Penn State students rioting in the streets in protest of the trustees' decision, I wonder how they would feel if their little brothers or nephews or cousins were among the molestation victims. Grow up, kids, and learn an important life lesson: Everyone -- no matter how tall one's stature in the community -- must be held accountable for one's actions (or in JoePa's case, inactions).

Though we shouldn't dismiss the wonderful things Paterno did for Penn State and for college football, the sad truth is this:

He lost his chance to go out on his terms when he knowingly failed to protect defenseless children from harm.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Today's High Five

5. It's never been more obvious that the NFL MVP is Peyton Manning.

How would you like to be paying big money for Colts season tickets this season?

And please ... I don't want to hear anybody say the Colts should try to lose to secure the draft rights to Andrew Luck. The Colts don't have to try to lose. They are quite accomplished at it.

4. Were I voting for guys actually playing this season, my midseason MVP ballot would read: Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Rodgers and Aaron Rodgers.

Followed (in no particular order) by Frank Gore, Calvin Johnson, Matt Forte and Matthew Stafford.

And then, finally, Aaron Rodgers.

3. Fox ran a graphic chronicling Tom Brady's comebacks when the Patriots have trailed or been tied late in games.

Um ... if the game was tied, how is that a comeback?

2. If you're like me, you're on pins and needles with this whole NBA lockout thing.

1. LSU coach Les Miles is right: His team's win over Alabama doesn't "prove" anything other than the fact that the Tigers have the upper hand in the SEC West.

The victory certainly doesn't prove LSU is the nation's best team. With the current system, there is no way to determine that. And, given the extreme limits of the BCS, there won't be any way to measure it come January, either.

It's just an opinion.

No matter who plays in the season's final game, it will be for nothing more than the mythical national title -- just as in the days when sportswriters and coaches chose the "champion" in polls.

At least back then, smart people didn't pretend something actually had been decided on the field of play.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Did Steve Carell take all the writers with him?

Not a single chuckle, chortle or tee-hee-hee. And certainly no guffaws.

What the hell happened to The Office, which now just might be the least funny show on TV?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Kardashian dumping Humphries ... how gay!

The reality TV wedding of talentless Kim Kardashian and NBA benchwarmer Kris Humphries earned the bride 18 million bucks. It also earned the groom endless humiliation, what with Kardashian having filed for divorce after less than 2 1/2 months of wedded bliss.

All I can say is thank goodness it wasn't a gay wedding!

Because that would have been a crime against the sanctity of marriage.