I remember when I was 22 I thought I was incredibly valuable to the company I worked for. Each day I wandered in there six minutes late it was a blessing to them that I bothered to show up because there was absolutely no way that this corporation could even exist if I didn’t punch in every day. The paycheck they gave me was more of an obligation than anything I earned, because if they paid me what I was worth they’d go fucking broke.
Then I got fired. I realized that I’m a useless piece of shit like everyone else.
Such is the basketball life of Dwight Howard except he’s never had that moment of cognizance, to realize that he is ultimately replaceable and it is not the privilege of any team for him to suit up. His time in Orlando was great, sure, but he had a really awesome supporting cast and steroid fueled Hedo Turkoglu. How else to explain Stan Van Gundy trudging a team along to the NBA Finals? That in and of itself is a lesson in improbability.
We all know the to-date Howard story. A phenom and physical freak who flamed out everywhere else he landed. The summer of Dwight that landed him in LA was an unmitigated disaster and squandered Kobe’s last good years. Houston lead to first round playoff bounces. He actually made Atlanta decidedly worse. Statistically he’s put up good numbers most of his career, but this isn’t the hall of statistics, it’s the hall of fame. Having 8 good years does not a hall of famer make, and a career devoid of rings doesn’t help.
Now he’s shipped off to Washington in exchange for some magic beans and a left shoe. Quite honestly this is his best last shot at a ring. The Wizards were a really, really good team last year that lacked a lot of defense and tenacity. IF, and it’s a big IF, Howard can regain that youthful passion for defense and hustle, he could have a shot at the wide open east crown and a chance to shut down Boogie in the finals.
Just like when I stopped trying to work for others and became a piece of shit for myself.
Last season, I kind of allowed myself to gush, to wax poetic on the childhood dreams, to revel in the playoff run that shouldn’t have been so surprising if you were paying attention. I currently find myself with a bit of apprehension; should I allow myself to be so excited for “Your 2014 Pittsburgh Pirates”? The short answer: YES.
Prognostication isn’t my business and it usually ends poorly for me especially when I talk about things on Facebook. It’s uncanny how often my bragging seems to result in a meltdown, an embarrassing loss and ridicule from my friends who are fans of the opponents (A.K.A. the Raiders). Typing out what I want to happen, what I feel can happen won’t help anyone here, but I’ll do it anyway. I really think that the Pirates can make it.
Yes, make it. Make it all the way, make it to the World Series and make it to a win and make it back to prominence in the city of champions. This isn’t a prediction, I just know they have what it takes and that all starts with Clint Hurdle. He made it in Colorado of all places and when they hired him I knew he could do it here.
Following that, the lineup is filled with talent. Deep, rich talent that permeates the farm system. Drafting and acquisitions have been keen under Neal Huntington and are paying great dividends. Everything that big-money teams like the Angels, Rangers, Mariners and Yankees can’t figure out how to master, the exception being the Red Sox who learned the Billy Beane way and have out-Oaklanded the Athletics.
Today’s heroics by the one guy who lives the dream of every single boy who grew up a Pirate fan, regardless of age, are certainly motivating and perhaps a preamble to this season. Perhaps the Buccos have trouble with Smadjanotgonnaworkhereanymore every single time they face him including when they gave up one of his two career homers. Opening day requires a temperance because it’s the most exciting day across the league because everyone has hope and dreams. I think what has made this opening day different isn’t the 10th inning walk-off, the team record tying 10 KO’s from Liriano, it’s that hope has been replaced.
Hope has been replaced with confidence, swagger, and expectation.
Yesterday I defied the heading you just read. I’ve been frustrated with the Penguins performances lately, and whilst I’m not watching every game, I try to follow the team as close as time allows and watch games whenever I can, albeit most often just the 2nd and 3rd periods. I encountered an article that proposed an argument of why the Penguins should fire Dan Bylysma and didn’t disagree with it. I still don’t. Problematic to me is that it’s not all his fault, I don’t blame him for last year, that was on Ray Shero. He took a pick axe to the locker room chemistry. It’s been tried before and failed, but it worked when last the Pens won the cup; Bylysma coached up Therrian’s team, who had lost the locker room.
Every local sports area has the iconic guy that people either love or hate. Usually that guy is decidedly negative and always has a crappy opinion about everything, and how it’s all terrible. If you’re not a Pittsburgh sports fan, this guy is Stan Savran. He’s the guy who never quit waiting for the other shoe to drop during the Pirates run to the playoffs, and when they lost in the divisional round espoused “I told you so’s” like manna for the people. During the Pens pregame I’m watching he came on to talk about how terrible they’ve been since the Olympic break. In the graphic they showed, pre-Olympic Penguins were 6th or tied for 6th in goals, power play goals and assists (respectively). Post-Olympics, they’re tied for 4th in goals with 9, 2nd in power play goals with 3, and last in assists with 12.
I hate being on the side of Stan Savran, and I’m not after seeing that graphic. Statistically they’re not worse, it’s just that the pressure is on. The assist statistic is the sole reason that they’re losing games. I’ve never seen anyone pass more poorly, at all, ever. They may as well intentionally be passing it to the opposition because at the rate they miss their passes they’d be more likely to hit their own player with the puck. #1, #2, #3 on what to fix is passing. The rest are defense. I understand he’s not going to give up the ghost on dump and run, push to the blue line and hope for the best style of offense, but if you can’t pass it’s just not going to work. I’m not going to panic, I’m going to hope that I can spend my birthday watching the Pens competing for the Stanley Cup.
Baseball was my first love as a kid. In my formative years in the 80’s the Steelers weren’t very good with Bubby Brister at the helm (and my friends who liked the Browns pointed that out a lot), and I hadn’t really been introduced to hockey yet because my Dad wasn’t much of a fan. But baseball, glorious baseball, was all consuming. My brother and I, along with the neighborhood kids played religiously. The wide open adjoined back yards of our house and the Gaber’s, and even the tree lines on each side made a great field. Sometimes we’d go to the end of the block and play at the Pelinski’s house on the corner. If there were enough kids the games were over in the parking lot at Tech, and always ended up in an argument or just playing home run derby.
We went to Pirates games nearly as long as I can remember, literally. I think I went to my first game when I wasn’t more than six or seven years old. Our seats were in right field at Three Rivers. We’d join the crowd in heckling Chris Sabo and Daryll Strawberry chanting their names. My Dad and uncle would smoke there in the stands, and have a few beers. I’m sure they were annoyed by our constant pestering for peanuts and what not, but I was sure oblivious to that. The Pirates played winning baseball back then and it was all that mattered.
Fast forward twenty years. What was the joy of my childhood has become something different. For many of those years you assumed they’d lose. Eventually, when those games would be a random win, the joy was gone. A few years ago we went for my older brother’s birthday and it was an extra innings walk off win by the Pirates over the Dodgers; I felt nothing. After that I didn’t go to any games for a few years (we had gone to at least one a year for a long time).
Now that you’ve read my unsolicited back story, I’ll actually cover something relevant: the opening game of the 2013 season. I didn’t exactly have butterflies during the announcement of the starting lineup, but I was excited. Then some bluegrass fiddle players did the National Anthem and it was terrible and I nearly had to turn it off. I persevered. Here’s what I learned:
1. AJ Burnett is old. He’s a beast, but he’s old. His ten strikeouts was more of a result from the Cubs being a terrible hitting team than the filthiness of his stuff. On opening day, you should not be gassed before you get to the 6th inning. His counterpart, Jeff Szmardja, Smurja, Smnotgonnaworkhereanymore, was the definition of filthy. Really he’s like Burnett was as a young up and coming star.
2. Help us Andrew McCutchen, you’re our only hope. The Pirates don’t look like they’ve improved at the plate at all. The atrocious hitting that led to the late season collapse last year continues, and if they’re going to be a contender in September that’s unacceptable. As I said, Samardzja (how do you spell that anyway) was filthy, but they took terrible strikeouts and were not stellar on the basepaths, either.
3. DON’T PANIC! In previous seasons, an opening day slap like that would have set the tone, the tempo, and everything else for the down-in-the-mouth Buccos. Same ‘ol same ‘ol. Not under Clint Hurdle. I don’t think anyone in baseball is more optimistic and at the same time more driven to improve and succeed. There’s hope with him at the helm still. There has been marked improvement in both of his first two years. It took him five years to get the Rockies to the World Series, and as hard and impossible as it seems, we as Pirates fans need to continue to be patient. But he has to give us a little bit. We need a season over .500 and he’ll get a damn parade.
It’s a long season, and I love all of it. After the initial glow wears off I’ll be paying attention to the Penguins and Knicks, and the Steelers draft, but some day this July or August you’ll see me and my family sitting somewhere in PNC Park chanting “LET’S GO BUCS!” no matter what the record is. I can’t help it!
This season was a treacherous one for my beloved Steelers. To say it was a dissapointment is understating the obvious. I considered it a disaster, when I know they had the talent to at least go 12-4. Much of this, nearly all of it, was on the offense. Being a team not prone to change, taking on a guy like Todd Haley and re-working everything they did was a risk, one that did not pay off in the end. After a slow start the team really got rolling, both the passing and running games were quite successful. Then Ben Roethlisberger got hurt. And had a kid. And it became clear his heart wasn’t in it for the rest of the year, and if your QB’s head isn’t in the game and he doesn’t believe in the system, you’re doomed.
Now that the NFL coaching carousel is in full spin, a plethora of offensive minds are available for the taking. I’d like to take a look at what I think the top five candidates for the job presuming that Haley heads back to warmer climes (in no particular order).
1. Chan Gailey. Do you remember when he was the OC in pittsburgh before? He made guys like Neil O’Donnel and Kordell Stewart into stars. I know he didn’t do well in Buffalo, but who does? Many coordinators don’t make great head coaches, especially with the lack of talent the Bills have. He was successful at Georgia Tech, and took the Cowboys to the playoffs two years in a row at the tail end of their run in the 90’s. He’ll be 61 tomorrow, combined with Dick LeBeau I’m sure the Steelers would have the oldest coordinators in the business. Combine that with one of the youngest coaches, that’s a hell of a summer-winter relationship.
2. Ken Whisenhunt. This isn’t as obvious of a selection as it may seem. Don’t forget he’s the guy that got passed on by the Rooney’s for Mike Tomlin. Would he be willing to come back, tail between his legs, after he unceremoniously bailed before the final decision? I’m thinking not. Aside from that, his return would mean a rebuilding process that would take longer than the remainder of Ben’s career.
3. Chris Ault. A 200 game winner with the Nevada Wolf Pack. Well respected. Experienced. He even innovated the pistol offense that the Steelers use as the basis for their two minute offense and use elements of in their regular offense. You’ve seen Colin Kapernick running this with great success in San Francisco. He retired from Nevada (again) this year, and could take a look at the NFL before hanging up his headset for good.
4. Norv Turner. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. I hate him, I hate the Chargers, I hate the Raiders. He looks like he was hit in the face with a bag of hot nickels. The fact that he remained the head coach in SD for so many years is beyond me, then again they had the worst GM in football and perhaps the most overrated quarterback. Now that the trash talk is out there, he is/was a fine offensive coordinator. He’s not an overall leader of men and can’t coach defense worth a damn, but offense he’s got down pat. Maybe he’d want to take a step back to collect himself before going for another head coach job? He might have to whether he wants to or not, his recent disappointments in San Diego (German for whale’s vagina) might keep him from being considered by a majority of teams.
5. Randy Fichtner. I may have inadvertently saved the best, most logical candidate for last. He was considered before the hiring of Haley, but they went with the “splash play” that Tomlin is so fond of. He’s coached the wide receivers to a high level. He’s the QB coach, he and Ben are tight. I think at this point in his career Ben deserves a say in who they hire. He’s the guy, the man, he pivotal cog, and if he’s not happy, no one is happy. He’s a wide-open offense kind of guy, but that’s what the NFL is today. Additionally, they need to do something with him or they’ll lose him anyway without maximizing the potential. He’s interested in returning to his alma mater, Memphis, as the head coach there.
If Haley goes nowhere, the Steelers might too if Ben doesn’t buckle down and be a “team guy”. In truth it could be the deciding factor on whether or not Ben retires a Steeler great or spends the last few years of his career with another team then puts a Steeler hat on when he hits Canton. At 31, it’s something to be considered as his style of play isn’t conducive to being 40 and playing at a high level. Everything in Pittsburgh depends on him.
1. Fact or Fiction: The Knicks were wise to want Mike D’Antoni out.
At first glance, the answer is clearly fiction. Take a step back and listen to what Melo and Amare had to say after the “resignation” and you can tell that the answer is a resounding TRUE. The only person who I think wouldn’t admit to not buying into the system is Melo. The core of the D’Antoni-Melo-drama (see what I did there?) was rooted in Melo’s coaching upbringing. Under Jim Boeheim at ‘cuse he was basically allowed to run roughshod on the court, and it worked. In Denver, he played for George Karl, the world’s foremost “player’s coach”. D’Antoni is a system guy, and you have to fit into his system or you don’t succeed. Melo don’t play that.
2. Fact or Fiction: More Melo will be good for the Knicks’ offense.
Fiction. A more efficient Melo will be good for the Knicks offense. Nothing more needs to be said on this.
3. Fact or Fiction: Linsanity is history.
Of course it is. So is Tebow-mania. It happens, and it has to happen so the team can operate normally. Statistically, Lin isn’t doing much different than he did in his debut games, it’s just that the (Tomlin-ism incoming) “standard of expectation has changed”. This guy blew in, started running the offense and averaging around 15/8 a game. Ok, you’ve done that Jeremy, what’s next? That’s what this world is all about. You’ll see Linsanity in full throat if the Knicks can get through the first round, or damnit at least to a game 5.
4. Fact or Fiction: The Knicks will make some noise in the playoffs.
Faction. That’s right I’m making it up. With three decisive wins under Woodson, things certainly look promising, but that’s not entirely uncommon for a coaching change. We won’t have any idea how to predict this until they face some adversity, and I don’t mean on the court. Certainly the Pacers are a worthy adversary. If Woodson keeps peace in the locker room, he’ll have a happy court. Then they’ll see real adversity on the court without that excitement and energy that comes from the players getting what they want.
5. Fact or Fiction: Phil Jackson will and should be the next N.Y. coach.
Kobe, Fisher, Shaq. Jordan, Pippen, and whoever the hell the center was. Melo, Lin, Chandler? Wait, what about Amare? I’m not sure this team is built for the triangle, and neither Jackson nor the Knicks fans have any tolerance for rebuilding again.
As an addendum on this stolen story, much has been said of the performance of the bench players under Woodson. Looking back on the seven games of Linsanity, the bench was the key. The stars were on the sideline and the bench got major minutes. Utilizing the talent on the bench of this team has to be the key going forward.
Saturday morning one-liners
Posted by Josh Alper on January 8, 2011, 9:33 AM EST
|Brian Moorman has now punted more often than anyone else in Bills history.|
Wanna know how I know your team sucks?
|Former Dolphins RB Jim Kiick thinks coach Tony Sparano should have told the team to “stick it” when they flirted with Jim Harbaugh.|
The guy took a team that went 1-15 to the playoffs two years in a row. Its not his fault that his stupid GM drafted Chad Henne to replace Chad Pennington. That’s like cleaning dirt with more dirt.
|QB Joe Flacco wants the Ravens to be more aggressive on offense in the postseason.|
How’s it feel to want? That neanderthal might be more successful if he goes back to throwing rocks at dinosaurs.
|Playoff time has been a very productive time for Steelers LB LaMarr Woodley.|
Playoff MVP maybe?
|Said Colts QB Peyton Manning of having running backs Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes, “That feels familiar. Everybody keeps talking about ‘a great job of bringing Dom back,’ and I can’t quite figure out why he left.”|
Perhaps because you have the world’s second most arrogant GM? He got unbelievably lucky replacing Marshall Faulk with Edge. He then promptly got rid of Edge to replace him with… er, a series of middling RB’s like Addai, Rhodes and now Brown. Peyton, you’d have so many rings if your boss respected the run game.
|FB Tim Castille was in fourth grade the last time the Chiefs won a playoff game.|
Against the Steelers, 92. Bill Cowher’s second year.
|With Jason Garrett installed as head coach, all eyes are now on who the Cowboys’ defensive coordinator will be next season.|
I hire Dave Wanndstedt ASAP.
|A Redskins report card finds them wanting at most offensive positions.|
Those positions are:
QB, RB, FB, C, RG, LG, RT, LT, and WR. They have a decent TE.
|Bears WR Rashied Davis fights against the notion that he’s just a fringe NFL player.|
|The Lions won’t raise ticket prices for the 2011 season.|
Yea generally you have to have success to do that. And not like people in the D have a lot of extra money to toss around anyway.
|Having a healthy QB Matt Ryan and RB Michael Turner meant the Falcons offense improved across the board in 2010.|
In other news, you have to score points to win games.
Solid game plan, Pete. I suppose you’d also like to score points? Good luck doing either of those things. I’m not sure if you’ve been paying attention but you did start Charlie Whitehurst last week. If you’ve broken down film on the Saints you’ll see this little scheme called tarantula defense you may want to look out for. Starting the Sphinx, er, Hasselbeck, with your horrible O-line and total lack of a run game… the Seachickens don’t have a prayer. 52-10.