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Right before I sat down to write this week's column, I happened to catch some of the 6 PM SportsCenter. During the show, they showed a video clip of Redskins Clinton Portis and Chris Samuels discussing the Michael Vick dogfighting case. In the clip, Portis tell us "it's none of our bidniss", while Samuels stands by, laughing most of the time. Yes, YouTube is all over this:

This is what Roger Goodell is up against. Despite all of his threats and suspensions, you still have guys like Portis and Samuels going on TV and making NFL players look even worse, if that were somehow possible. So who did this duo blame for the hysteria of the Vick case? The media, of course. You know, the media that went to Vick's house and planted all of those injured dogs, blood, and tools used to pry apart a dog's jaws.

Goodell means well, but he may be fighting an impossible battle. Do the two ignorami on that YouTube clip sound like anyone that you'd like representing your league or business? And they haven't even done anything, other than give some unenlightened opinions.

Following the Vick report, SportsCenter cut to John Clayton for some "insider" NFL talk. His chat covered Justin Miller, the Jets' Pro Bowl returner just arrested for punching a woman in a nightclub; Chris Henry, the already suspened Bengals receiver who may or may not have failed a drug test; and the arrest and subsequent release of Bengal A.J. Nicholson. There was never any "real" football discussed in the entire segment.

This is a league totally out of control. 2007 is easily one of the worst offseasons in NFL history, if not the worst.

If you need refreshing, here's some of the "great stories", post-Super Bowl, that the NFL has had looming over their collective heads:

--PacMan Jones makes it rain, and a man ends up paralyzed. Not only does this event cast the NFL in a bad light, but it manages to drag the NBA through the mud, as it happened during NBA All-Star Weekend in Vegas. Admit it, pulling down two leagues in one weekend is no simple chore.

--One of the faces of the league (Vick) is facing heavy evidence of involvement in dogfighting, after just dodging a major bullet with his hidden compartment water bottle

--Ricky Williams surfaces, only to fail yet another drug test.

--Steve McNair was arrested with a DUI.

--Two prominent players (Joey Porter and Levi Jones) brawled in Las Vegas.

--Atlanta's Jonathan Babineaux was arrested for animal abuse. This slipped under the radar, but in the light of his more prominent teammate's allegations, that's two dog-related incidents from the same team.

--A now-former Steeler ran a prostitution ring, also in Vegas. That's three Vegas stories out of seven incidents I've mentioned.

--Other arrests include incidents such as hitting a pregnant woman in face, carrying a concealed weapon, marijuana posession, grand theft of a firearm, and drunk driving.

Sports is a reflection of society. And our society is pretty scary. Turn on the local news any night, and you'll probably see a list of stories along the lines of "war, rape, murder, murder, kidnapping, murder".

So with that being the case, we shouldn't be surprised when Sportscenter played out like Court TV on Monday night. Before the NFL police blotter, we had a good five minutes on the legal ramifications of Jason Giambi's steroid comments. After the NFL police blotter, we had several minutes on Floyd Landis' court case and his unsavory manager. I could not believe the volume of legal-related news to lead a sports program.

As hard as Roger Goodell tries to deter crime, just like in society, it's going to happen. How many murders are still committed in this country, despite the threat of the death penalty in 38 states?

The commissioner will never stop the crime. He can only "police" it. And how he polices it will truly be the legacy that he started when he took over for Paul Tagliabue. Good luck to you, Roger Goodell. You're not going to be a commissioner, you're going to be a principal.


A few links for your Tuesday viewing pleasure:

--The Global Icon had 10 points in his Cleveland's 79-76 loss to Detroit in Game One of the Eastern Conference finals. So which one of his personae will he blame for the poor night: Athlete LeBron, Kid LeBron, Wise LeBron or All-Business LeBron?

--Ron Cook looks at the quick and perplexing decline of one Zach Duke:

In '05, Duke went 8-2 with a 1.81 ERA. Teams hit .253 against him.

This season, Duke is 1-4 with a 5.19 ERA. Opponents are hitting a mind-blowing .340 against him.

With the Pirates, pretty much every player who they count on disappoints in some way, shape or form. Cook cites LaRoche, Sanchez, and Paulino. Smizik cited half the team in his column the day before. I'm convinced, this team will never win under this ownership regime. But hey, they still believe!

--The Penguins screwed themselves over this year with a playoff appearance. That ruins their four-year run of getting five-star, blue-chip, world-class hockey players at the very top of the draft. But that's a sacrifice I can live with. This year, they'll be selecting 20th, and they'll also try and sign a few of the key vets before then.

--The Joey Porter-inspired "Pittsburgh Sports and Mini-Ponies" tells us about new Steeler Lamar Woodley's Yahoo rookie journal. As PSAMP points out, Woodley does have some colorful characters in his world, including a financial advisor named Marty Blaze and a brother who sings backup for Keith Sweat. But if he thinks those guys are colorful, just wait until he gets to know Alan Faneca.

--Are you aware that the currently remarried Joey Buttafuoco and Long Island Lolita Amy Fisher are "dating" for a planned reality show/trainwreck?

I suppose a woman who shoots your wife in her head is now considered an attractive personality trait

--Ever since pet project Sanjaya was voted off, Howard Stern's "news department" has a new cause: exposing American Idol for the fraud it is. Two weeks ago, they reported before the show that Lakisha Jones would be going home, as Fox had arranged for her exit before she even performed that week. That came true. Now word has it that Jordin Sparks, daughter of former New York Giant Phillippi Sparks, has been the producers' long-scheduled winner of Idol. Imagine, a "reality" show being scripted! What's next, Joey Buttafuoco and Amy Fisher are just for show? counts down the worst sports video games of all time. Nintendo's "Major League Baseball" was named as the worst ever. I wish I had this list before spending $50 of chore money on this atrocity when I was 11 years old.

--Britney Spears demanded to be let off a flight to Miami because the plane didn't have leather seats. Come on, you've never done that?
And now, your mail...
--Michael in Dallas has a problem with the Pirates' jerseys...among other things:

I am compelled to write about the horrendous ketchup red jerseys the Pirates are wearing for some home games. Living in Dallas without the MLB package, I usually catch the highlights on SportsCenter. I did another double take this weekend after seeing the red jerseys for a second time. Add this to a long list of marketing efforts gone awry; right up there with the “Gimme Gimmes”. Would somebody please inform them that all the uniform changes, bobbleheads, fireworks, pups, etc. are not going to change the real problem -14 straight losing seasons. Maybe I am the one that is na├»ve. Maybe it is these very gimmicks that have kept people coming to the park and as the losing continues, the marketing will get more and more outlandish. I don’t want to sound like an old, “change is awful” kind of person, but can we not just stick to black and gold and leave out the red? If they are not going to wear the home whites, then I would prefer the awful black/gold mismatched ensembles of the Jason Thompson, Johnny Ray, Marvell Wynne days.........As for the NLCS, you brought back some very painful memories of childhood. To this day, every time the highlight of game 7 comes on, I have to either leave the room or change the channel. On that fateful night, I went outside and head butted a brick wall and destroyed just about anything in my path. My parents wanted to commit me to an asylum, but the damage was already done. I think most of us knew the window of opportunity had closed shut the moment that Bream crossed the plate. Three straight division titles and nothing to show for it. Who would have thought that the Pirate fans would not have seen a winning season since? As the economics of baseball seem to grow further and further out of line, it makes the future even more ominous. So as Bonds breaks the HR record next month, Leyland and Van Slyke coach a division contender, and the Braves make a run at a 14th trip to the playoffs, the Pirate nation pines for a .500 season and another weekend of fireworks and red jerseys.
I get a lot of emails like these. This is a fan base that is just plain beaten down. I mean, we're to the point of even being angry about uniforms and promotions. And the truth is that Michael is totally right.
The bobbleheads, fireworks, and Gimme Gimmes may occasionally draw them in on the weekends, but consider this: they drew just 24,282 on a perfect Sunday afternoon against Randy Johnson. The four-game series against Florida drew a total of 50,395 (average 12,598).
Kids are not growing up as Pirate fans. They are growing up as Steeler and Penguin fans, but not Pirate fans. Keeping in mind my belief that the youngest person to have any decent memory of a winning Pirate season has to be at least 21 years old, that's an entire generation of people that will grow up and not buy season tickets when they have the money. But we shouldn't worry. I'm sure the Pirates will be winning by the time younger kids can buy tickets. I hear they have a five-year plan...
By the way, you're right, those jerseys are hideous. Much like Michael, I'm not a traditional "Your Daddy's Team" guy, but I think they should stick to the black-and-gold.
--Brian, formerly of the North Side, wonders about the future of the Bucco nucleus:
Raul - Assuming this Pirates season continues down its current path and the losses mount, here's my question: Who do you think will still be wearing Black & Gold hats in 2009? If I had my way, here are the only guys we'd keep: LaRoche (only if he returns to his pre-Pirates form), Bay (though he's far from a superstar...or even really a star), Bautista (one of my favorites and a lock for the future if his bat picks up), and Sanchez (the only reliable bat on the team). That's it. I'd say Paulino, Doumit, and most of the young pitchers are on the fringe, but I think everyone else has to be gone if this losing continues. Wilson, Duffy, Castillo, whoever else...just dump 'em all. Trade them, cut them, whatever. Enough is enough. Do the Pirates' higher-ups have the intellect/balls/know-how to pull this off? Probably not, but all I can say is this: if Opening Day 2009 features a 240-lb Castillo booting a routine grounder, while Wilson meekly grounds out three times and another "promising young pitcher" gets shellacked in the first five innings, my tenure as a Pirate fan is probably over.
At this point, there are a grand total of zero Pirates that I would consider untouchable in the entire organization besides Andrew McCutchen, and he's only hitting .181 these days. I guess he's becoming a "True Pirate" earlier than anticipated.
The problem with the Pirates is that they always have a bunch of half-decent players, but a lack of great players. Take a guy like Rob Mackowiak. Decent player, good guy...but he played in 155 and 142 games his last two seasons here. That's way too much. On a better team, like the White Sox, he had only 255 at-bats last season and hit a respectable .290. He's an example of a guy who seems to produce less as he plays more. He's good in small doses.
Those kinds of players are great...if you're a team like the White Sox. They can pinch hit, spot start, play a few games if there's an injury...But on the Pirates, those players are in the lineup. That's another reason why the Pirates' bench (Kelly, Castillo, Eldred, McLouth) is hitting just .187 with 41 strikeouts.
The Pirates had the look of a quasi-stable lineup coming into the season, but the players they really leaned on for production (Sanchez, LaRoche, Bay, Duffy, Paulino, Nady, Wilson, Bautista) have let them down. Yes, I named all of them on purpose. None of them has an average over .280 or more than five home runs. I think Jack Cust hit five in the last three hours.
As for 2009, I'm hoping that guy who found the $500 million sunken treasure buys the team and puts some money into scouting and development by then.
--Koz in Fishers, IN was not happy after last week's mailbag:
Here's last week's Q&A he was referring to:

Back to the topic of Pirate announcing, Anthony F. asks, How annoying and blatantly un-true do you find Lanny Frattare's tag-line "And there was nooooooo doubt about it?"
Because we're talking about the Pirates, there is ALWAYS a doubt about it. Maybe Lanny needs to sit down with Mike Lange to come up with something more original to say after a Pirate win. The lines Lange throws down after a Pens goal always bring a smile to my face. Sure Lange's lines can get a little old after a while, but at least he tries. I don't think Lanny even tried with this one.
And here's my answer:
"No doubt about it" has to go, for the reason you cited. There's always doubt with a Pirate lead, especially this season, with a shaky closer. Any legitimacy that Lanny had goes right out the window when he utters that line.
And here's Koz, who's not very happy with me...or Anthony.
Way off base here, Mondesi. I’m disappointed in you. It works because of sarcasm. Bob Prince used to say “we had ‘em all the way!” which of course is just about the same sentiment, and hardly ever true. Boo to you and Anthony F. for missing the point here.

I agree, sarcasm is good. I don't know, this point, I think it's kind of lame. I mean, I'm sure when Lanny started doing it years ago, it was cute. But that was before the 15 years of anguish that this team has put what their remaining fans through. I'll put it to you this way: does anyone hear that and really get a chuckle? If you're going to be sarcastic/ironic, at least make it interesting and mix it up a little. And if you're not willing to do that, you should have a catchphrase that's good for society, like, "Help control the pet population. Have your pet spayed or neutered."
--Patrick in Freeport has some thoughts on Alan Faneca:
Rick Smith, Alan Faneca’s agent sheds some light on the contract situation. Mr. Smith claims that when the Steelers signed Faneca to his last contract the team said they would renegotiate the contract with one year remaining on the deal. That time has arrived; unfortunately the Guard position has recently become a position that is grossly overpaid, and the Steelers, understandably so, do not want to pay a guard, any guard, even Alan Faneca, that kind of money.

This entire situation makes sense to me now. Faneca is mad because he was told he would get a new deal at this point in his contract, and he expects to be paid comparable money to the other top guards in the league, you can’t blame the guy for that. The Steelers on the other hand are not interested in paying a guard the over inflated salary and signing bonus that other guards are being paid these days.

Unfortunately what this mean is that Faneca is indeed playing his last year with the Steelers. The Steelers will not give Faneca the kind of deal that the top guards are getting paid these days, even if they could fit that deal under the cap with new deals to Ben and Troy, the Steelers just don’t want to pay a 30+ year old guard that much money. Assuming Faneca does not get hurt this season, (knock on wood), someone will give Faneca huge money in free agency.

That's pretty much where we stand on this week in "As the Faneca Turns". His options are limited, he's getting older, and he's not going to get what he wants. The Steelers are as stubborn of an organization as you will find in sports. You will not beat them. You will never beat them. And the sooner Faneca realizes that, the sooner he can worry about Xs and Os and not get called out by his coach.

--Brad from WVU has some thoughts on Wannyball:
As much as I would like to agree with you in your optimism about Pitt this fall, I'm going to pull a Woody Paige (trust me, its not a permanent behavioral pattern) and tell you to look at the schedule and be wary. I think for starters, you can almost chalk up 3 certain losses right now, regardless of how the QB situation and defense pan out:

at Louisville, at Rutgers, at WVU

Those are 3 teams almost guaranteed to be in the top 15 or 20 in the polls Pitt plays on the road.

On the same merits, you can chalk up a few almost certain wins:
Eastern Michigan, Grambling State, Syracuse
All teams they should be better than that they are playing at home.

That leaves 6 games I see as up in the air, looking at this year
at MSU
UConn(only because of what happened last year and because it is early)
at UVA

Looking at those first 3, I don't like MSU because it is a road trip early in the year to a Big 10 school, and Pitt more than likely will still not have their QB situation settled. I don't need to remind you of that UConn debacle that ultimately cost them the bowl bid, and if UConn is anywhere close to healthy this year (something they were not last year), that is by no means an easy home win. Good tailbacks (of which UConn has one) and mobile QBs (Hernandez ring a bell?) give Pitt problems. UVA closed well after an awful start last year, have most of their players back and will be better this year. Given Pitt's problems in stopping the run, Navy is not a great matchup, even at home, and they almost always gets one major conference scalp each year, it seems. USF will probably creep around the fringe of the top 25 this year, and Cincinnati is sort of an unknown quantity, given they have the new head coach with the crazy offense, the Wake Forest transfer coming in at QB, and a decent part of their solid defense back.

If they split those 6 (losses at MSU, UVA, home to USF, wins against UConn, Navy, Cincy) that leaves them at 6-6. Albeit, there are a lot of things that can happen (Grothe gets hurt and USF falls off, its 20 degrees when they play USF [college football's Tampa Bay Bucs with regards to game temperature], MSU struggles early under a new head coach, etc.) , but I just see this team struggling to get to 7-8 wins. You may counter I am being negative and taking a worst case scenario, but when has this program overacheived in the last 6 years? (I was a freshman in '01 when there was BCS sleeper talk until the historic loss to USF and a 1-5 start that left them scrambling to get to the Tangerine Bowl) Also, what does another potential subpar season mean for Wanny? His contract carries him through '08, he can't recruit nearly as effectively without an extension, does he get one after another mediocre season? As much as I would like to be positive about things this year (especially since I am returning to Pgh for work and will be able to get to most of the home games), that the stud recruits will step up and the defense will finally mesh, and that the QB situation will develop positively, I just don't see it, I think they are still a year away.
I had to go back and see what I wrote last week. Was I that optimistic? Basically, I downplayed the players they lost because they weren't high draft picks. I thought that they would have a winning season but 2008 will be the big payoff. And I still believe that.
But don't get me wrong, this is a HUGE year for Dave Wannstedt. He needs to win at least seven and it would help him tremendously if he would finally get a signature victory. And you have to beat the teams you're supposed to beat. They can't have any more debacles like at UConn. That being said, I think it will be interesting to see some of these gazillion blue-chippers have some kind of impact as early as this season. notes a perceived slight from 0-time Super Bowl Winning QB Boomer Esiason:
This is from an interview yesterday before he AND Ben participated in the Marvin Lewis Golf Classic:

“Carson Palmer is the best quarterback in the division,” said Boomer Esiason of CBS TV and Radio and the man to last quarterback the Bengals to the playoffs. “Everything is around him to be great.”Esiason gives “all due respect” to Cleveland’s Trent Dilfer. He says the jury is “still way out” on Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger. And Palmer is not Kyle Boller, the much-maligned Baltimore quarterback who has struggled to catch on.“Carson is clearly the best at his position in the division,” Esiason said. “Everything is around him to be great. The wide receivers. The running backs. The offensive line. Above all, he’s got the ability.”
I hate the Bengals. I hate the Bengals. I hate the Bengals Let me clear up any gray areas: I hate the Bengals. Fitting that this comment comes from no less than Boomer Esiason, a guy that has no Super Bowl rings, but loves to constantly point out the postseason failures of his colleague, the mighty Dan Marino.
It's funny that you should mention the Bengals, because I needed an excuse to get some anti-Bengal rage out of my system. I was in the car on Sunday and was listening to NFL Radio. On comes some jerk Bengals fan and says that the only team that concerns him in the conference is New England.
Yo, tough guy: this current group of players has won ZERO playoff games. ZERO. Only once before (the 2004 Red Sox) have I seen a city be transformed from beaten-down to arrogant in such a short time frame.
And there's always an excuse why the Bengals fail. In 2005, it was all Kimo's fault. Mind you that in 2001, in the AFC Championship game on the road, Tom Brady got knocked out of the game and the Patriots still found a way to win. But no, it's easier to just blame a Steeler for 2005. And in 2006, oh, it was that tough, tough schedule!
This is a team that's had five guys get arrested since the start of this column and they're making reservations for the AFC Championship and wondering who's going to cover Randy Moss? Try worrying about having enough guys to suit up for a game! And have some humility---your team is an embarrassment to the city and to the league. Arrogance is not a nice cherry on top of that resume.
--Mike in Lawrenceville sticks up for Santonio:
With half of the NFL in hot water with the league over offseason off-the-field problems, maybe some credit should go out to our own Santonio Holmes for being as quiet as a church mouse this offseason. Last year at this time, mistakenly thinking the Bengals drafted him, we was racking up paternity suits and civil disobedience hearings. This year......nothing. Add to that his improved play towards the end of last season and who knows, maybe we'll have a bonafide dangerous receiver on the team this year. Your thoughts?
A keen observation from another very astute reader. If Santonio listens to his new coach and continues what he started last year, I think we'll be pleasantly surprised by his progress. Oh, and he'll need to not stand in the middle of the street in Miami.
--We'll close this mailbag with Dave F., who always gives me plenty of A-grade questions. He entitled this edition "Ronnie Florian Edition". We really need to get Ronnie to the masses via YouTube. He's a GwenJen-level star in waiting. A few of Dave's Ronnie Florian-flavored inquiries:
No offense to Mr. Florian, Mr. Schwab, and that family from West Virginia, who are all tremendous spokespeople for the Pirates, but where did they find these guys? Did they hold an open audition like American Idol? Yinzer Idol? What was the thought process behind these ads (if there even was one)?
I think they were like those Mentos know, so absolutely horrible that you discuss exactly how bad they are, thus giving their advertising buck even more we're doing right now...
Let me get this straight... Ronnie Florian missed seeing Clemente get his 3000th hit, so now he never turns down an opportunity to watch baseball? Where is the logic in that? He's never going to see anything that historic watching the Bucs these days (at least historic in a good way).
Well, he could say he saw Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, the steroid era, and Lloyd McClendon stealing first base. Other than that, I see your point.
What do you think: "In My Own Words: Ronnie Florian"? What would you give to hear Ronnie Florian broadcast a Pirates game? Or sing the national anthem? The man definitely deserves his own show on FSN Pittsburgh. But then he would never finish building his porch!
I'd plunk down a hard-earned $20 for a DVD of In My Own Words: Ronnie Florian, just so I could watch it over and over. And even giving Ronnie one guest-inning in the Pirates booth would give the booth life that it hasn't seen since "The Freak Show" of '97. There's just one rule--he has to say "There was nooooo doubt about it" at the end of the game.
I encourage you to send your thoughts on anything to for the next installment.

And please include your city and state if you can.


The Duke from Dukes Court said...

While Major League Baseball is by far one of the worst sports games ever My vote for best baseball game on NES is Baseball Stars.

The Duke from Dukes Court said...

I have to defend Lanny and his use of "There was nooooo doubt about it."

Even if the line isn't really true, it's just tradition at this point, the guy has been using that line for over a decade. I like the fact that Lanny keeps using this classic line it helps me remember games back in the early 90s when he would use this line after a win that actually mattered.

Steeltown Mike said...

I agree w/ boredinpgh. It's virtually a trademark. Many announcers have them. "Cubs win! Cubs win!", for example.

Though the "No doubt about it" line should also make appearances after a Pirates loss.

HotDog_Zanzabar said...

Cubs Win, Cubs Win! Dropping loads!

Louis Lipps is my homeboy said...

"There was noooo doubt about it!" is good I think. He's been doing it for awhile. I grew up with it, so I like it I guess.

Plus, it's a lot better than that asshole screaming "Yankees win! THHHHHEEEEEEEEEEEE Yankees win!" I'm not joking when I say that if I ever meet the announcer who does that, I'm administering a beatdown of epic proportions on him.


As for the Bungles, has there ever been a more overrated team? Carson's a top QB, Johnson's a top WR... then what?

Look, the facts are that they've still only had one winning season since about 1990. I'm surprised no one brings this up. And in that season, they only won the division by tie-breaker, didn't get a bye, and lost in the first round. Then regressed to 8-8 the next year.

Yet all I hear is about how great they are. They have NO defense whatsoever.

We dominated them twice last year... and that's what drives me nuts. The only reason the last game was close was Parker inexplicably dropped the football while running into the end zone for a ten yard touchdown VIRTUALLY UNTOUCHED that would've but us up by two scores.

We racked up about 200 yards on them in the first game too, unfortunately we just decided to turn the ball over about five times thus wasting a game we physically dominated.

But beating them isn't hard. Run the ball well, and DON'T TURN THE BALL OVER (like the Steelers seem to do against them).

Also, on defense you're not going to stop them all the time, but when you have the chance hit 'em hard. They're not a physical football team.

So yeah, mediocre team with a superstar QB and wideout, plus a few other good players on offense and a pourous defense.

They are definitely bigtime benificiaries of NFL star QB hype.

Now the Ravens, that's a team that I hate that scares me. Because they're actually tough.

Joe said...

Forget 10 or 15 years, Lanny has been using "no doubt about it" since at least 1983 when I started listening to Bucco broadcasts as a little kid.

BTW, everybody seems to think of Bob Prince as the classic Pirates radio man, but Lanny has now been doing games for even longer than the Gunner. I hope Lanny gets his due someday in the hall of fame where he belongs.

Anonymous said...

1. I think I saw Joey Buttafuoco and Amy Fisher at last Saturday's Yankees-Mets game at Shea.

2. The Pirates' red jerseys are emblematic of the state of the with shame.

3. "Baseball Stars" was a great game until your 1988 Oakland A's team that took you 6 weeks to build gets erased b/c the power goes out in a rain storm.