Cheaters.

There are rules set into place that we are all to follow. When an individual or group ventures outside of–or runs afoul of–these rules, there is a term often used for this individual or group.

Cheater.

It can be something simple or complex–perhaps the offender or offenders were not aware of the violated rule or rules. Or, perhaps there was a deliberate attempt made to circumvent or disregard the same.

It’s a little easier to accept the first example; much harder to forgive the second.

BUT–what if an individual or team cheated TWICE?

In 1919 the Chicago White Sox lost to the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series. It later came out that eight players from the Sox had accepted money from professional gamblers in exchange for essentially playing poorly enough to lose World Series games, “fixing” the games so those gamblers could place bets on the Reds and win what was now a sure thing.

The Commissioner of Major League Baseball banned these players forever from the Hall of Fame.

Former baseball great Pete Rose holds the record for the most hits in MLB history. In August of 1989, without admitting guilt, Rose agreed to a permanent ban from the HOF after he was accused of betting on games while manager of the Reds. (In 2008 Rose finally confirmed this activity, but said he did not bet on those games involving his own team.)

Baseball takes cheating very seriously. Witness how hard it has come down on players that have tried to gain a competitive edge–Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGuire, etc.–through the use of performance-enhancing drugs or altered equipment (“corked bats”).

There is a difference between seeking a competitive edge and going over the line by deliberately breaking the rules. (Just ask Richard Nixon, if he were still with us and would actually answer truthfully.)

In early 2008 the New England Patriots were found guilty of secretly videotaping opponent’s practices, going back perhaps many years. There’s too much to that story to go into here–check the link–but let’s just say that, apparently in order to gain a competitive edge, the team secretly and clandestinely recorded the practices of opposing teams for study later.

There’s no way around this–they cheated. They broke the rules. That activity is NOT ALLOWED, and the activity itself raises serious moral and ethical questions as to the violator’s intent.

On January 10, 2015, the Patriots defeated the Baltimore Ravens in an NFL Playoff Divisional game. Near the end of the game, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh became visibly upset and even drew an Unsportsmanlike penalty for coming onto the field after the Patriots had run several plays using different players in unusual scrimmage positions. (Basically, the Ravens had players covering Patriots that were lined up in a receivers position but had no intentions on catching the ball, but the ones that did catch passes were not in the established position to do so, and were not covered.)

Again–attempting to gain a competitive edge. But, this time it was legal. But barely.

So, you see the pattern here: a team that will stop at almost nothing to gain another Super Bowl ring. While it’s one thing to paint the visiting team’s locker room pink in an effort to gain the competitive edge, it’s another to go over the line…

…like say, tampering with equipment–like, under-inflating footballs.

It’s not a big deal if, say, the Jets did it. The Jets finished 4-12, hardly did them any good.

Oh, it’s the PATRIOTS that did that? Wait…isn’t that team in the Super Bowl?

Ah.

EXACTLY.

The St. Louis Rams’ Marshall Faulk STILL BELIEVES that Spygate–the videotaping–cost his team Super Bowl XXXVI.

So what’s the big deal? The big deal is, it’s a team that HAS ALREADY BEEN CAUGHT CHEATING ONCE. A team, remember, that found a way around the rules by–not illegally, mind you–reading between the lines and confounding another team, the Ravens, with little-used positional tricks. (Here’s some more history.)

And–get this–the Ravens actually tipped off the Indianapolis Colts–the team the Pats faced in the AFC Championship game–about the improperly inflated balls.

There is a Bleacher Report article that is almost required reading on this matter:

“Cheating Scandals Will Forever Tarnish Brady-Belichick Legacy” .

Last time, Belichick was fined $500K; the team was fined $250, 000 and lost a first round draft pick.

Belichick claims no knowledge of the improperly-inflated footballs.

Seriously, Bill? Didn’t you also claim no knowledge of the videotaping, as well?

Oh that’s right. YOU DID.

Baseball has dealt with its scandals in its own way. Now, Roger Goodell must deal with the NFL’s latest. Considering his past failings, the commissioner has to feel he must get this one right.

I think there’s only one acceptable solution: Belichick must be suspended for the Super Bowl. Seem too harsh? Remember Bountygate, and that New Orleans head coach Sean Peyton was suspended for the entire 2012 season for his role in the subsequent coverup of the evidence. (Bountygate involved Saints players playing for an “injury pool” to deliberately cause injury to certain opposing players). Consider that the head coach, ESPECIALLY after Spygate and Bountygate, MUST be held accountable for ALL that his team does. He must know all. Considering that, there’s actually quite a bit of support for this argument. He must pay the price. Maybe even suspend him for a few games next season.

If he’s still the Patriots head coach, that is. Reporter Tom E. Curran of CSNNE isn’t so sure he’ll be back, thinks owner Robert Kraft might actually consider firing him, per the video included in the piece and this quote:

The Patriots cannot comport themselves with a “do business as business is being done” mentality. They forfeited the right to that mentality in 2007 when they got pinched for filming defensive signals and the 72 miles of fire and sharp glass the team got dragged through as a result should have convinced them.

If it didn’t, in March of 2008 should have. That’s when Belichick and Robert Kraft had to stand up at the NFL Owner’s Meetings in West Palm Beach and apologize to the assembled owners, head coaches and general managers of the other 31 franchises for the Spygate scandal.

At those meetings, owners unanimously approved a policy proposed by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell titled “Integrity of the Game and Fair Competition.” It required all owners, executives and head coaches to certify annually that they have complied with league rules and policies and have reported any violations they know.

Real big deal was made of it. It was Goodell’s baby. Goodell is Kraft’s boy, probably more so than Belichick.

Spygate caused the league embarrassment. It caused Kraft humiliation. In Gary Myers’ 2012 book called Coaching Confidential Kraft recounted this exchange

“How much did this help us on a scale of 1 to 100?” Kraft reportedly asked Belichick.

“One,” Belichick replied.

“Then you’re a real schmuck,” Kraft said he told Belichick.

Even if Belichick had no clue this was being done (if it was being done), it will be painted as a lack of institutional control. It will also be implausible because Bill could be on another floor and know within 20 seconds if somebody misses a trash can with an apple core in that place.

….

Like it or not, the clock may start ticking on arguably the greatest coach in NFL history.

Nothing personal. Just business.

So there you have it. Scenario: Belichick is suspended from Super Bowl; Patriots lose game. Kraft summarily fires him (or they agree to “a parting of the ways”)…Belichick goes on to coach, say, the Oakland Raiders and is effectively removed from any more championships (personnel needs, etc.–and no Tom Brady).

How about that for a legacy?

Go ahead. Making a great legacy into an eventual tragedy? Ask Richard Nixon about it.

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NFL: Black Monday

Ken Whisenhunt is a good man. A former Eagle scout, he and his wife have two daughters.

Romeo Crennel is also a good man. He had hip replacement surgery in 2009 and decided to take that year off. Andy Reid is another fine individual–he and his wife have raised five children, three boys and two girls. Pat Shurmur is a man of good character who met his wife at Michigan State–they have three girls and a boy. Norv Turner has been an inspiration to many people, a trait that should benefit him in the future.

These five men, along with Lovie Smith and Chan Gailey, will be tied forever to this day, individually and collectively. Because, according to ESPN.com, today was Black Monday for the National Football League. The day following the regular season…traditionally, the day that head coaches considered to be less than successful by their bosses are let go.

Whisenhunt was the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals; Crennel, the Kansas City Chiefs; Reid, the Philadelphia Eagles; Shurmur coached the Cleveland Browns; Turner, the San Diego Chargers; Smith ran the show for the Chicago Bears; and Gailey, the Buffalo Bills.

Most of them–perhaps all–deserved better. Crennel was a first-person witness on December 1 to Jovan Belcher’s suicide. Two of Reid’s sons were each involved in separate serious automobile crashes in 2007 that resulted in assault and drug charges brought against both. This past August his other son died of an accidental heroin overdose while at the team’s training camp.

Several of the coaches were given only a couple of years to turn their teams around, with little success. It can take several years of great draft picks to turn a team around–and let’s not forget what I believe are the three determinants for success in the NFL: talent, coaching and luck. Most of these coaches had enough of the first, an average to above-average amount of the second, and nowhere near enough of the third.

Three of them–Whisenhunt, Smith and Reid–took their teams to the Super Bowl, only to see each suffer a loss. Getting there sets the bar even higher, and for most fans and owners, winning it is a head coach’s only redemption.

None of these men have ever led a team to that Super Bowl victory.

And, in the NFL, as in life, the quality of a person can have little to do with the quality–or the longevity–of one’s job.

Be assured that each will find work in the near future elsewhere in the world of professional football. But at least one might have had enough.

[A prosperous and Happy New Year to all!]

Why Wallace and Mendenhall will not be Pittsburgh Steelers in 2013

Mike Wallace is part of the changing face of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

This face likely includes Rashard Mendenhall, who was just suspended one game for “conduct detrimental to the team.”

Mendenhall, the former first-team starter and 1000 yard rusher, has managed to likely play his way out of Pittsburgh.

While it’s true that he’s been injured and was lost to the team with a torn ACL since the last game of the 2011 season against the Cleveland Browns, all you need to do is look to the state of Minnesota, Adrian Peterson and his amazing recovery.

It’s true that each individual is different, and everyone heals differently. But you don’t see Peterson fumbling twice against an arch rival like the Browns, and not showing up for a game because he’s not the starter.

As for Wallace–he’s actually starting to resemble all that was bad about Terrell Owens’ lack of focus, minus the sideline yelling episodes. This article by Scott Kacsmar from Bleacher Report.com tells you all you’ll need to know about his past and future with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Here’s an excerpt:

…If we can go back to the second half of 2011, Wallace’s production declined heavily after Brown emerged as a very good receiver himself. By year’s end, it appeared that Brown was the preferred target of Ben Roethlisberger.

In the offseason, we examined the catch radius for each receiver based on the type of catches they made in 2011. Brown was more impressive.

Wallace had the incredible three-year start to his career, and established himself as a great deep threat. But can he run all the other routes expected of No. 1 receiver as well? The big question heading into this season was which receiver, Wallace or Brown, would emerge as the true No. 1 in Pittsburgh.

Haley’s goal was to get the ball out of Roethlisberger’s hands more quickly to limit the hits on him. Go figure, Roethlisberger suffered the most significant injury of his career, but that’s another topic.

The change was in the average pass length, which limits what Wallace does best. The offense was dominating on third down early in the season, and a big part of that was their success in the short-passing game.

Wallace started the season with a touchdown catch in four of the first five games. Though he did not put up the big yardage numbers he started with in 2011, he was still playing adequately.

It was a prime time game in Cincinnati in Week 7 when many football fans were able to see Wallace struggle with several bad drops (at least three), and even some of his catches were uncomfortable. This was a sign of things to come.

Walgl_original

In his last eight games, Wallace has managed to catch only 38 of his 70 targets (54.3 percent) for 383 yards. It projects to a 16-game season of 76 catches for 766 yards and eight touchdowns.

Does that sound familiar?

In his last eight regular season games of 2011, Wallace only had 29 catches for 393 yards and three scores. He finished it off with a miserable playoff performance in Denver, catching three of 10 targets for just 26 yards, and dropping a 52-yard gain in the second quarter.

Wallace’s recent level of play is definitely not worth over $10M per season to the Steelers, or to any NFL offense.

He’s got much more information and statistics in the rest of his article.

When the legendary head coach Chuck Noll was running the Steelers from 1969-1991, he had an interesting way of telling a player that his time with the team was over.

“[Player’s name] should get on with his life’s work,” Noll would say.

The writing is on the wall, and they’re both likely done with the Steelers organization.

Wallace and Mendenhall should both get on with their life’s work.

Is Tomlin to blame for Steelers’ head-scratching losses?

Head Coach Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers has taken some heat for some of his recent coaching decisions, particularly after the alarming loss to the San Diego Chargers last Sunday. I’ll get to that in a minute.

The Steelers have lost to four of the eight AFC teams that have the worst win-lost records in the AFC. It could easily have been five, if kicker Shaun Suisham misses the overtime field goal that defeated the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 10.

The disturbing part is: it could just as easily have been all wins. All wins, against–as the season has played out and shown us–decidedly inferior teams. Again, more on this in a minute.

I’ve always said that winning a football game comes down to some combination of talent, coaching and luck. You can have good talent but coaches who are one step behind the other team–you’ll probably lose. You can have great coaches but not as much talent–again, you’ll probably lose to a better team. And, as far as luck goes, good coaching and good talent can minimize the luck factor…but go ask the Buffalo Bills about luck after Scott Norwood just misses the game winner in Super Bowl XXV…or the Tennessee Titans after Kevin Dyson just-can’t-get-that-extra-yard in Super Bowl XXXIV…or, the New England Patriots after the New York Giants’ David Tyree somehow makes that bubblegum-on-the-helmet catch to help kill New England’s “perfect” chances in Super Bowl XLII. The football has an odd shape for a reason.

The Pittsburgh Steelers now stand at 7-6, and in my mind have only one loss that was even close to legitimate–the opener against the Denver Broncos. An argument could be made that even that loss could have easily gone the other way.

The other loss that has any legitimacy is to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 11, 13-10. The Ravens’ only touchdown came as the result of a punt return. If the Steelers are capable of even a field goal, that game is tied and possibly goes to overtime.

Fans wondered: “If Byron Leftwich couldn’t complete any of those last passes, at the end, then why was he still in the game at that point? The cameras showed him repeatedly doubled over and grimacing in pain after a play…why did Tomlin leave him in there? Why not put in a healthy Charlie Batch?”

We perhaps got a clue the next week as to why Batch wasn’t inserted late in that game, as the Steelers played what could be their worst game in decades against the Cleveland Browns, since the days even before Chuck Noll became head coach in 1969. (“Same Old Steelers,” indeed.) There were a total of eight turnovers…and while Batch only accounted for three of them as interceptions, he still was not the Charlie Batch we saw in his masterful 23-20 game victory the next week against the Ravens, snapping their 16-game home winning streak.

Back to Tomlin…he’s had to answer, among many other questions, why his team has allowed inferior opponents to win games; why he didn’t elect to go for a two-point conversion toward the end of the Chargers game; how his team could play so well one week and then so awful the next (again, facing a lesser opponent); and why he didn’t put Batch in at the end of the Ravens game when Leftwich clearly could not go.

Taking these in no particular order: after the Ravens loss he said he had the QB in the game that he believed had the best chance to win it. As I said before, we saw how rusty Batch was in the next game. So, there’s your answer–although I would argue that even Heath Miller (emergency QB–he played the position while in college at Virginia) would have been a better choice than the damaged Leftwich by the end of the game.

As for dismissing the two-point play, here’s the scenario at the time: the score is 34-16 and Pittsburgh has just scored with 6:07 left, pending the extra point try. If the two-point conversion is successful, it’s 34-18. If the Steelers can score another TD and another two-pointer, it’s 34-26. Now–if you can score AGAIN and get another two-point conversion…well look at that, it would be 34-34. Otherwise, it’s 17 points–two TDs, two extra points, and a field goal. Tomlin chose to kick the extra point. When Tomlin was asked if he considered going for two points, he responded:

“No. Until we stopped them it was going to be insignificant. I was holding the two-point plays for that reason and that reason only. Now, we still have them in our hip pocket. Those specialty plays we didn’t want to put on tape unless we had an opportunity to close the gap. As you can see, we didn’t.”

[Asked if this meant he thought the game was out of hand]

“I didn’t say the game was out of hand,” Tomlin said. “I said that I was going to hold it until I saw signs of us being capable of stopping them.”

I’m actually okay with his decision, despite what the above-linked author says. I’ve watched a lot of two-point attempts since the NFL has made it an option, and I’m not convinced the Steelers could have made a pair of two point conversions, yet alone three…especially if the defense knows what’s coming. It’s no indictment of the quality of the Steelers’ play (although it was very suspect on this day), but it’s simple math. If the team fails to convert even one of those, then even the combination of a touchdown, extra point and field goal leaves you one point short. I know that there’s a belief that if you don’t try to win you won’t, but I still think it’s unrealistic to expect to convert three two-point plays in less than six minutes.

Finally, the Steelers kind of have a history of playing down to the level of their opponents. This didn’t start with Tomlin, but happened with both Noll and Bill Cowher. The team’s records, especially since 1969 and the start of the Noll Era to present, show seemingly inexplicable losses to teams with lesser win-loss records.

Tomlin has won 60 games faster than only four other NFL coaches in history–in fact, with the victory against the New York Giants in Week 9, he became the fastest of any current coach to achieve that mark at just 88 games. As ESPN’s Jason Helmsley reports:

The only coaches to record their 60th win faster have been: San Francisco’s George Seifert (75 games), Washington’s Joe Gibbs (84) and Chicago’s Mike Ditka (85). Tomlin…also edge[d] out former Steelers coach Bill Cowher, who didn’t celebrate his 60th victory until his 90th game.

He has taken the team to two Super Bowls and a 1-1 record. He has never had a losing season. Before one makes the argument that he did it with Cowher’s players, remember that Barry Switzer, who took over the Dallas Cowboys head coaching job from Jimmy Johnson, did win Super Bowl XXX with the prior coach’s talent. However, he was not able to repeat that success, and he resigned soon thereafter.

Point being: it’s easy to win with the other guy’s players. But when you’ve drafted and signed new players and they’re now yours, it’s a lot harder. Still, Tomlin has kept winning, and has generally kept his team able to compete for and win its record seventh Lombardi trophy.

He’s still learning at this job…and, like the benching snafu of the running backs in the Cleveland game, he’s going to make some little mistakes. A good team should overcome those, and the Steelers had plenty of chances in all of those losses.

There’s enough blame to go around in this most recent stumbling effort…from Mike Wallace’s befuddling dropped passes to a defense that seemed unable to stop third and long conversions to a blown fourth-down attempt that caused a spark, alright, but for the other team.

The coaches can teach technique, but the desire to win comes from within.

And, to be fair, the Chargers were not like the Titans or Oakland Raiders, teams that have underplayed all season with better talent. When news broke earlier in the week that head coach Norv Turner would be fired at the end of the season–and this news allegedly came from the team’s from office (although no official word was released), the Chargers team reportedly decided that it would play its last four games for its embattled head coach and would just “have fun.” A fake punt that surprises the other team and gets you a first down is a great way to have some fun.

In a previous post I talked about the Steelers playing down to its expected level of competition. I do believe that it is the coaching staff’s job, collectively, to properly prepare a team for what it should expect, and to ensure that the team is ready for the challenges that lie ahead.

There are three games left. If the coaching staff has done its job correctly, there will be no repeats of the terrible and subpar performances we’ve seen so far.

Talent, coaching and luck.

Can the Steelers win these last three games? While the luck factor cannot be accounted for, Pittsburgh has the talent and coaching to beat any team in the league. No joke.

Will it happen? That depends on the coaching staff ensuring that it has the tools it needs to win, and getting both itself and the Pittsburgh Steelers football team poised for a long playoff run.

And if the players can fully realize that history is theirs to be made.

Costas’ ‘Mistake’ is incorrect focus on cause of tragedy

On Sunday night, during halftime of the “Football Night in America” broadcast, veteran announcer Bob Costas delivered a commentary on the tragedy that had happened less than 48 hours before, involving the murder of Kasandra Perkins by Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher, who later committed suicide right in front of GM Scott Pioli and head coach Romeo Crennel.

The Washington Post‘s Cindy Boren reported on the aftermath of Costas’ comments:

Bob Costas said he made a “mistake,” violating his own rule of not trying to compress a nuanced topic into small bit of air time, with his controversial halftime commentary Sunday night on the murder-suicide committed by Jovan Belcher of the Kansas City Chiefs the day before.

“My mistake is I left it open for too much miscommunication,” Costas said in a lengthy interview on “The Dan Patrick Show.” The 90-second weekly spot, he said, doesn’t offer enough time in which to adequately discuss the issue of “the football culture, the gun culture, domestic violence.”

“For a long time, I’ve been wanting to get off my chest my disgust with this idea that every time something tragic happens, no matter what it may be, that in any way touches sports, there’s a chorus of people saying, ‘you know, this really puts it in perspective.’ Which is a bunch of nonsense, because if that was true, we wouldn’t have to have that perspective adjusted every time the next tragedy occurs. It’s a bunch of nonsense,” Costas said. “And what I was trying to say was, that if you want some perspective on this, there are a number of issues related to this that we could begin to talk about and think about. The problem was that I didn’t have enough time to get to many of them. And that, I think, was my mistake, to be quite honest, Dan. A friend of mine in broadcasting pointed this out to me yesterday, and I agree with him. He said, ‘you violated your own rule.’ Because we have had this discussion before: I’ve always said, if you’re going to get into touchy topics, nuanced topics, make sure that you have enough time to flesh them out … or save them for forums where you do. In this particular situation, the timeliness of it was, if you’re going to comment on it at all, it had to be this Sunday.”

In his commentary, Costas cited a column by Jason Whitlock of Fox Sports and concluded that “if Jovan Belcher didn’t possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins [Belcher’s girlfriend] would both be alive today.”

Costas felt the heat for his comments immediately on Twitter and in lengthier criticism Monday, when some were calling for NBC to fire him.

I’m not a “gun nut,” one who believes that gun ownership cannot be restricted–nor am I an individual who believes in stronger gun control laws. What I am is someone who was taught long ago by responsible gun owners that a gun is like anything else–when used improperly, results that could at best be considered “unfortunate” can occur.

I believe that guns have a place in society. But I also believe that “using a gun improperly” means pulling its trigger several times to end the life of your 22 year old girlfriend and mother of your 3 month old child. Then, driving 20 minutes away and putting the gun against your skull and pulling the same trigger again while you are in full view of your boss and your boss’s boss.

It’s not the purpose of this posting to argue the uses of a handgun…but I’m almost certain that no one will argue that amongst its purposes are suicide and the murder of an innocent young woman. Or any innocent, for that matter.

Responsible gun owners–those that take a firearm safety course, or have been taught firearm safety by another–have learned all this (if it wasn’t already self-evident). The student is taught the gun’s power, how to properly discharge it, unload and clean it. The class also warns of the weapon’s lethal results.

It’s been reported that Jevon Belcher liked guns, that he had several. Kansas City police spokesman Darin Sapp confirmed that Belcher used two handguns, both legally registered to himself. He liked to go to the firing range, sometime with Perkins, whom he was teaching how to shoot. He either never had a firearm safety course, or forgot what he learned.

Here’s the thing: Taking away guns is a short-term answer. The long-term solution and one much more difficult to implement is to properly educate gun owners. True, it might not stop robberies or drive-by shootings or other random acts of violence like Aurora or Columbine, CO…but it might just prevent ordinarily well-thinking individuals like Belcher from carrying out his deadly acts.

People don’t intentionally drive automobiles into crowds of pedestrians on the street…it’s just not done. There’s nothing physically stopping you, in most cases, from doing it. But I’m sure there are many reasons why it rarely happens, the biggest reason being: It’s not something you do.

Around the world there are many countries that own lots of firearms but also have a low rate of gun-related crime: Germany and the countries of the Netherlands come to mind. In those countries, the thought is the same, because that’s how it’s taught since childhood: It’s not something you do.

It was reported that the murder was prompted by an argument between Belcher and Perkins…that she had stayed out too late the night before with her friends. (It was also reported that Belcher himself had been out the night before, and had appeared at a few places, described by an eyewitness who knew him as “very drunk.”)

It’s not too hard to imagine a certain amount of irrational jealousy, rage and mistrust brewing within Belcher if Perkins came in too late to suit him. Perhaps there were drugs and alcohol involved, although at the early hour of 7 am–when the situation was already unfolding–one would hope not.

Belcher could also be a victim of the repeated blows to the head common to an NFL player’s life, that caused the dementia that affected and ultimately caused the suicide of Junior Seau and many others. Perhaps steroids were also part of the cause.

But this is where Costas really gets it wrong. His comment at the end–quoting from that column by Jason Whitlock–that “if Jovan Belcher didn’t possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today” sounds good at first, but misses the point.

Suppose Belcher had run down Perkins with his car, and in the process fatally injured himself. Doesn’t it then follow that “If Jovan Belcher didn’t possess a car, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today”?

Costas failed to address how education that could end or at least curtail domestic violence would make the gun issue moot. If the argument never escalates, then the murder-suicide doesn’t occur.

Or: “If Jovan Belcher didn’t possess anger [and possibly jealousy and mistrust], he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today.”

It is unthinkable to me how anyone could point a gun and shoot another human being over anything that is not a non-threatening situation.

Properly taught, that’s not even an option you’d consider.

Here is the video of Costas’ comments during the Sunday night halftime broadcast:

NFL: Let’s all be good sports, agree to end the postgame handshake; Ravens-Steelers rivalry

On Sunday, December 2, 2012 at M&T Banks Stadium in Baltimore, MD, the Pittsburgh Steelers bested the Baltimore Ravens in a National Football League contest, the outcome of which could have a major impact on both teams’ postseason plans.

Pittsburgh was without Ben Roethlisberger, its MVP candidate and two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback. Minus his contributions, the Steelers had lost the first Ravens game two weeks prior. The following week the team lost to the Cleveland Browns, turning the ball over eight times, more than any NFL team since 2001.

So, this second Ravens game was practically a must-win for Pittsburgh. In fact, Ravens v. Steelers is fast becoming the most combative in the NFL. But more on that later.

The game was followed by the traditional postgame handshake between the two coaches, Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin and Baltimore’s John Harbaugh–an exchange that could have best been described as “testy.”

While it wasn’t as bad as the one the Ravens coach’s brother Jim had with Detroit Lions’ head coach Jim Schwartz last year, it looked like it could have easily degenerated into that kind of confrontation.

Jim Harbaugh was a pretty good NFL quarterback with the Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts. He was Stanford’s head football coach before moving on the same position with the San Francisco 49ers. After a game at Detroit, Harbaugh used perhaps a bit too much exuberance for Schwartz’ liking:

This past Sunday, the other Harbaugh was the loser, but seemed upset that Tomlin did not offer more enthusiasm to his good sportsmanship handshake and comment:

Harbaugh stared at Tomlin walking away in a manner that made you think the Baltimore coach believed he was Cyclops of the X-Men.

There have been many instances of one coach or another blowing off the postgame handshake. CBSSports.com’s Clark Judge has his thoughts on the handshake, and he wrote about them after the 49ers-Lions game last year:

Fining coaches for turning postgame handshakes into WWE throwdowns isn’t going to change anything, but I tell you what will: Getting rid of the handshake altogether.

You heard me. Make it as obsolete as the single wing, now and forever.

I mean, the ritual is overblown as it is. Coaches see each other before games, talk things over and, generally, are civil to each other. They shake hands then, and they should. They’re composed, they’re cordial and they’re ready to play a game of May The Better Team Win.

But that’s before the game.

Afterward, what they want is to get into a locker room and meet with their players. One guy’s delirious; the other not so much, and nowhere was that more apparent than in Detroit where the 49ers’ Jim Harbaugh and the Lions’ Jim Schwartz had to be separated after a postgame handshake turned into a Jerry Springer audition.

“Coaches talk before the game and are pleasant,” said one NFC executive, “because the score is 0-0. But the rawness of winning and losing is so wide that on a scale of emotion it’s 100 million times for the winner and minus-100 million times for the coach who just lost. A lot of times when the game is over these guys have nothing to say. They just want to get into the locker room and talk to their teams.

“I’ve watched postgame press conferences where you could turn the sound off and tell which coaches lost because of the looks on their faces. They look like they need medical attention. There’s a lot of stress on these fellas.”

That doesn’t mean coaches can’t meet afterward. They can if they’d like. It just means they can do what Hall-of-Fame coach George Allen did and wave to opponents as they’re exiting the field. That happens occasionally, but usually by coaches who can’t get to midfield for the customary sendoff because some nut job is in their grills or because there’s a mob that stormed the field or something.Exactly. Which is why we should turn the NFL’s postgame handshake into the halftime marching band and lose it.

What happened in Detroit last weekend is not unprecedented. Heck, last year we had Kansas City’s Todd Haley failing to shake hands with Denver’s Josh McDaniels. We’ve had New England’s Bill Belichick stiff Eric Mangini, and we’ve had Pittsburgh legend Chuck Noll wag his finger in Jerry Glanville’s face after Noll thought Houston players were spearing his Steelers.

The postgame handshake isn’t a big deal except when it is. And it was last weekend because two emotional coaches met after a difficult and long game and behaved like … well, jerks. So it happens. Let’s make sure it doesn’t happen again.

“I don’t know,” said one head coach. “The problem with that is that we’re telling our kids all the time to shake your opponent’s hand after a game and to be a good sport. To be able to walk across the field and shake someone’s hand … to me it’s modeling. You’re basically saying, ‘I can be a good sport, too.’ ”

Except when it comes to sportsmanship and winning at all costs, I’ll tell you what comes first in the NFL — and it’s not decorum. “Show me a good and gracious loser,” Notre Dame’s Knute Rockne once said, “and I’ll show you a failure.”

There’s also a more commonly-known saying about nice guys that Jim Harbaugh must buy because he’s the coach who only a week earlier had his quarterback throw on fourth-and-3 with four minutes left … which is OK, except he was ahead 41-3.

“Here’s the upshot of this thing,” said our head coach. “We tell our players all the time to play under control and not to take stupid penalties. So how do you yell at someone for taking a 15-yard personal foul when you can’t control yourself after a game? You tell him to control his emotions, and his response is, ‘Yeah, you mean like you?'”

One NFL coach I trust said the minute he watched videotape of the Throwdown in Motown he thought, “These guys are going to regret it in the morning. They just bought a film clip for life.”He has a point. But that’s why I want to abolish the ritual. Hey, coaches in three-piece suits was a ritual once, too, but that’s gone. If these guys can’t behave, then don’t make them. Yeah, I know, it was a couple of guys who spoiled the postgame ceremony for the rest of the group. But isn’t that what usually happens?

So spare them the embarrassment. In the heat of the moment, they’re not thinking about the consequences of their actions. So take the thinking out of the equation by taking the handshake out of the game.

I mean, I don’t know of anything meaningful that is said in postgame meetings, anyway, and maybe Noll would disagree. Nevertheless, I doubt that what he said to Glanville … or what Haley said to McDaniels … or what Schwartz said to Harbaugh … had much, if any, impact. In fact, I know it didn’t with Harbaugh because he said later that he wouldn’t apologize because “apologies seem like excuses.”

Hmmm, I always thought apologies seemed like admissions of wrongdoing. I guess if you can’t admit you were wrong then why try, right? Maybe that’s what Harbaugh was saying. I guarantee that’s not what he was saying after Sunday’s game, so let’s just cut to the chase and figure out how we prevent this from happening again.

I just did. Tell these guys to quit the phony baloney and wave to each other as they’re leaving the field. That way no one gets offended, no one has to apologize and no one has a film clip for life.

Pittsburgh radio talk show host John Madden is known as someone who says what he thinks, whether you like it or not. His column about Sunday’s game has some hometown bias, but he makes some solid points:

Winning is always fun. But even more fun when you beat a jackass.

John Harbaugh is just such a jackass. When Mike Tomlin didn’t put much fuss into their post-game handshake yesterday, the Ravens coach tugged Tomlin back and said, “Hey, I said, ‘Congratulations.’ ” Tomlin seemed only slightly more interested. Good.

Who appointed this pair of clown shoes the arbiter of post-game decorum? His brother, 49ers coach Jim, had the big handshake incident with Detroit’s Jim Schwartz last year. You both put your hands out, and you shake. Anything else, save for the shower.

Ed Reed=ANOTHER JACKASS. Ravens DB Bernard Pollard was heaping deserved post-game praise on Charlie Batch when Reed, mock-coughing, said, “Bull****.” What a LOW-RENT SCUMBAG.

Which is to say, THAT’S MORE LIKE IT. Post-coital animosity is far preferable to what happened two weeks ago, namely Reed and Ryan Clark cuddling. YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO HATE. SO HATE!

Read my timesonline.com column about Charlie Batch’s massive performance. I never thought Batch could win at Baltimore, let alone play so well. But, in this case, I’m OVERJOYED to be wrong. Batch is PURE CLASS. If that’s his NFL swan song, WHAT A WAY TO GO.

Make no mistake, the Steelers need Ben Roethlisberger back. Batch did great. But Roethlisberger’s NFL MVP candidacy became even stronger in Ben’s absence.

The Ravens-Steelers rivalry is well on its way to becoming the most bitter in the NFL, if it’s not there already. It is true that the Ravens team has only existed since 1997 (before that, they were the Cleveland Browns), and the rivalry has only really meant something since 2009 (the first year the Steelers beat the Ravens in an AFC Championship game). Some would say that it’s not in the same class because it doesn’t have the history of, say, Bengals-Browns, Raiders-Chiefs or the grandaddy of them all, Bears-Packers (the first two NFL teams), to name but a few.

Maybe so.

But, just ask anyone from Pittsburgh or Baltimore what they think of the other team. If you have a sensitive disposition, you might want to cover your ears.

Steelers making road opponents look like Super Bowl contenders

I’ve complained on this site before about my favorite team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, and how this season’s edition wouldn’t be able to spell a Road W-I-N if you spotted them the “W” and the “I”–to paraphrase former Dallas Cowboy-and-two-time-lottery-winner-Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson, about Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw.

Interesting reference. Thursday night Ben Roethlisberger broke Bradshaw’s all-time Steelers passing yardage mark. I’m sure he’d rather remember this night with a win…which could have happened if:

  • …The Steelers can manage to hold a 4th quarter lead;
  • …Roethlisberger manages to connect to his receivers near the game’s end as well as he connected to Mike Wallace for the Steelers’ first TD;
  • …Players stop falling down from injuries–was it the heat and humidity? You could see by the sweatmarks on the Titans’ jerseys that it must have been humid on the field. I know Coach Mike Tomlin won’t accept injuries as a reason for a loss–and to his credit on that. Still, at some point it does become a factor;
  • …Ike Taylor is finally able to get over being badly torched by Demaryius Thomas in the playoff OT loss to Denver. It seems like he is now on a mission to show every NFL receiver he covers that he’s tough, like Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder in “Stir Crazy”–“We bad, we bad!” Problem is, he’s not, and his efforts are hurting the team. He’s committing fouls and extending plays for the opposing offense, when he’s not allowing TDs. Thomas not only lives but is renting space in Taylor’s head now;
  • …The defense compensates for the loss of Troy Polamalu. After 2009, the Steelers are 7-9 *ERRRRR* make than 7-10 (after the Titans’ loss) without him. He plays the game full-speed, lights out. Is it unreasonable to think that he’ll never again play a full season without some sort of nagging injury?
  • …The Steelers had a legitimate pass rusher? I know Lamarr Woodley was out, and it’s a different game if he’s there. But he wasn’t. The defensive line and linebacking corps need some serious infusion of young talent. Watch the Houston Texans play defense, and remember when you used to make plays like that. Choose a couple of good pass rushers in the 2013 NFL Draft…which shouldn’t be a problem, as it looks like you’ll be drafting plenty high enough.

Oh, there’s probably more…but that’s enough for now. On a more positive note: I think it’s great that the Pittsburgh Steelers are being unselfish, and giving–and I do mean giving–other AFC teams the opportunity to compete for a championship in their absence. How nice to see to it that everyone has a chance, and that no one goes away empty-handed!

I’m certain Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, Greg Lloyd and Mel Blount would be pleased with their concern for the rest of the league’s feelings.