Though there were some highlights in the next week and a half …
… it didn’t end well …
… though losing the World Series is better than not getting there.
Though there were some highlights in the next week and a half …
… it didn’t end well …
… though losing the World Series is better than not getting there.
The headline is a quote from Vin Scully, who has announced Los Angeles (and before that Brooklyn) Dodgers baseball since 1950. (Yes, 1950.)
Scully worked for CBS-TV in the 1970s and early 1980s …
… NBC during the 1980s …
… and before and after NBC CBS radio.
But Scully is obviously best known for his Dodger work, which spans from Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider and Roy Campanella to Adrian Gonzales, Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, with Maury Wills, Sandy Koufax, SteveDaveyBillRon GarveyLopesRussellCey, two Mike Marshalls, Tommy Lasorda, Fernando Valenzuela and Orel Hershiser in between. (Listing three hitters in 1950 and two pitchers in 2013 demonstrates the difference between the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers.)
The greatest sports announcer of all time hasn’t had national work since CBS Radio lost the Major League Baseball postseason contract. He is, however, working this year because the Dodgers won the National League West.
What is Scully’s secret? According to Sports on Earth, work:
He will turn 86 in November. He will start his 65th season as the voice of the Dodgers next April. He lives with the abiding love of a sprawling metropolis. He has gone from Gil Hodges and Duke Snider and Roy Campanella all the way to Yasiel Puig, whom he can cite as “a study all by himself,” comparable to none, with “his unbridled joy of playing, his enthusiasm, his recklessness.” Yet as another season depletes toward Game 162 and, in this Dodger year, beyond, Vin Scully still totes around a healthy fear of unpreparedness.
“Well, you can see what I’m doing and you can see all these notes, and this is a highlight pencil,” he says. “And it’s one of the things you have to do, because you’re overwhelmed with minutiae, and so I go through all this and I highlight a few things that I want to use on the air. So that at a glance, I will see, ‘Oh, I thought I would use this, so I highlighted this.’ But the problem with this is you start looking and you’re liable to miss a play on the field, and that of course is a killer, so in a sense you’re being lured onto the rocks by the Lorelei, you know, so you try not to do that.”
He still worries about missing a play, and that being a killer.
He continues: “As you can see, we have all kinds of notes, because of the computer, every team furnishes tons of numbers and notes. The first thing I do, if I can get the lineup, that’s the first, write the lineup in.”
He has done so.
“And then you start putting the record of the two pitchers. And then you write what the two teams have done against each other; in this instance, the Dodgers, they’ve won nine of 17, they’ve won four of eight here. You’re going to mention that sometime. And, if it’s a terrific pennant race of course, you’re going to talk about games in front or games behind, but since they’ve won the division, that’s superfluous now. Then you go in to check especially the visiting team, maybe somebody has a hitting streak, maybe somebody’s coming off a very hot game, whatever, then you try to make notes in your book. And eventually, by the time you prepare it’s about time to go on the air.
“I would say on average, I get here at 3:30, and I work somewhere close to an hour and a half. That gets it to five of five. I have to tape an opening. I have to tape a little thing they put on the board, notes on the game. I’ll come in and eat. I’ll be finished eating. If my wife isn’t at the game, automatically at six o’clock I’ll call her to let her know that I’m here and find out what she’s going through at home. And then after I make the phone call, I go back to look for any late notes, whatever. I might talk with one or two of the other team’s broadcasters, say, ‘What’s new, who’s doing what?’ And then, by the time you’re ready to go on, you have a head full of stuff.” …
Listeners often relish Scully for his storytelling. He provides living, compelling evidence that stories enthrall human beings long after the bedtime-pajama phase. So it’s curious to mull the fact that Scully does spend most of his broadcasts on the mandatory rudiments.
Now, there’s no one we’d rather hear explain how Zack Greinke hasn’t made an error since July 2010, or outline the biography of Juan Nicasio “from San Francisco de Macoris in the Dominican Republic,” including the scary August night in 2011 when a line drive hit Nicasio’s head. (Scully: “The screws and plate, by the way, are permanent. There he is out there, in danger again. It’s his livelihood.”) There’s nobody we’d rather hear call a Todd Helton first-pitch groundout, then lament that “we didn’t have a chance” to read off Helton’s career stats, then read those stats, then wryly lament not getting to read those stats because, “Darn it. Swung at the first pitch.”
The truth is, you wouldn’t mind listening to that voice read the earned-run average charts, which would come as a melody, but really, the ear seldom feels more pleased than in hearing Vin Scully say, “Wow, sunset time in Los Angeles and in Southern California, seventy-nine degrees and there the mountains are… What a view we should never take for granted.”
Still, it’s interesting to remember that while the storytelling helps make Scully great, he seems to spend more time making sure he’s good.
“Well, I think first of all, the average baseball fan knows a great deal about baseball,” he says. “I mean, he really does. He’s extremely knowledgeable. And unfortunately, it’s almost by rote, every day, ‘Ball one, strike one, foul ball…’ And I’ve always felt that part of the job, certainly, it’s impossible to entertain (except) to a limited degree. I mean, I want to be accurate. I want to be factual. I want to be interesting. And then if I can just drop in a little something once in a while, I like to do it, and since it’s hard to do, I mean I can do it once in a while, the stories, a lot of times I’m not even aware I have them in my head. Something happens and it triggers the story and it comes out, as natural as that.”
“So you haven’t jotted down…”
“Oh no, no. So what happens a lot of times is I’ll do the game, I’ll get in the car, I’ll start going home thinking about the broadcast, and I’ll think, Gosh,” — and he claps his hands — “why didn’t I remember (a certain story)? And you could kick yourself. No, it’s really all the stories, really, come out of the past and your own experiences, but what’s in there, it’s like a mine, you don’t know until you find it.”
“So they’re all impromptu…”
“Yes, which makes them a little difficult. I don’t want to be, what was it Mark Twain said, I don’t want to remember things that never happened, which is a good line, but yeah, I’m careful. I have to think through the story to make sure it’s accurate and that I can remember all the names in the story, and then I’ll tell a story.”
Such sustained humility of purpose stretches beyond the broadcasts.
Scully, by the way, will be the grand marshal of the 2014 Rose Bowl parade.
Let’s hope this marching band is also in the parade.
I’m announcing football tonight — a must-win for Platteville at Dodgeville (the first meeting: Dodgeville 48, Platteville 45) — and Saturday afternoon — UW–Platteville against UW–Eau Claire from the sidelines at http://www.theespndoubleteam.com. (But you knew that.)
The Badgers don’t play Saturday, but most other college teams do. And the Packers host Detroit (and the personal foul-accumulating Boy Named Suh) Sunday.
Which makes this from Daniel J. Flynn appropriate:
Amazon’s one-time chief financial officer, Joy Covey, who joined the $60 billion company in 1996 when its annual sales reached $16 million, tragically left us last week. Covey, like about 700 other Americans this past year, died in a bicycling accident. …
More Americans died from cycling accidents last week than died from football hits during the last three seasons combined. The tragedies led no one to call for a ban on bikes. Everybody seems to comprehend that the positives in health and transportation outweigh the considerable negatives of the pedal-powered vehicles. This measured perspective doesn’t extend to our collective view of tackle football, a far less deadly activity that, like biking, provides myriad social and health benefits. …
One thousand times more Americans die from swimming than from football hits. Last year, skateboarding collisions killed 15 times as many Americans as football collisions did. About twelve times as many people die annually from crashes on the ski slopes than die from crashes on the gridiron.
If you’re wearing a Riddell or Schutt helmet when you die, the Drudge Report surely will highlight your passing. If you’re not wearing a helmet in a fatal riding or skiing crash, Matt Drudge probably won’t notice. The war on football is as much a clash between perception and reality as anything else.
When journalists do notice serious injuries in sports not named football, calls for abolition do not usually follow. After Michael Ybarra, a Wall Street Journal“extreme sports correspondent,” died from a climbing fall in the Sierra Nevada Mountains near Yosemite National Park last year, no national debate emerged over the wisdom of mountaineering. The celebrity skiing deaths of Michael Kennedy, Representative Sonny Bono, and actress Natasha Richardson thankfully led to an uptick in helmets on the slopes but not in calls to abandon the sport. Caleb Moore’s death while snowmobiling at the Winter X Games earlier this year hasn’t led to a lawsuit against the event or equipment manufacturers. Football plays by a separate set of rules.
If the debate over football were about safety, then the scolds seeking to prohibit the game would table their ambition until after doing away with skiing, skateboarding, cycling, and dozens of other deadlier sports.
Safety works as a false front for what’s really motivating the attacks on America’s game. Rough and muddy football clashes with our increasingly risk-averse, passive-aggressive, unsoiled society. It doesn’t fit in a world of parentally monitored play dates, Xbox babysitters, and trophies for everyone. The war on football is a cultural tic calling itself a public-health crusade.
Football competes on a rigged playing field vis-à-vis other sports. Our standards for it, partly because of its popularity, are more stringent than our standards for other sports. If a fatality occurs in cycling, it doesn’t register unless it happened to Amazon’s CFO or someone similarly famous. When such an injury claims the life of an anonymous football player, every journalistic outlet runs with the story in part because it plays into an existing storyline.
This creepy exploitation of tragedy reinforces an impression about football that is at variance with the facts. Football is safer than it ever has been — and safer than many uncontroversial pastimes ever will be.
(Before you ask: No, I didn’t play football other than in my yard or at the park. The combination of lack of athletic talent and height but not weight would have gotten me broken in half.)
Commenters on Flynn’s post castigating him for not including the effects of concussions. Concussions are a problem in all sports, not just football. To say that concussions are a reason to ban football requires you to agree that concussions are a reason to ban women’s sports, since some studies claim girls get more concussions than boys.
Since the Brewers aren’t playing in the baseball playoffs, let’s remember …
… when they did. The Brewers’ 2–1 win over Detroit Oct. 3, 1981, secured the franchise’s first playoff berth.
The NBC-TV announcers, by the way, were Joe Garagiola and Milwaukee native Tony Kubek.
One year to the day later …
… the Brewers won their first division title.
One week after that …
Remember when the biggest thing in the National Football League was the college-like read option?
Quarterbacks Robert Griffin III, Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson were going to revolutionize the NFL as recently as one year ago.
That is so 2012. Lombardi Avenue points out:
After two weeks there are 11 quarterbacks averaging over 300 yards passing per game. The end of the 2012 season saw only two teams average more than 300 passing yards, the New York Giants and Detroit Lions.
By comparison, the Green Bay Packers averaged 253 yards passing per game (source espn.com). But with the Pistol, or Read-Option offense being all the rave, and the big push to popularize it with players such as Colin Kaepernick,Michael Vick, Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III and even Cam Newton to name a few, the NFL is loving it.
Add Philadelphia Head Coach Chip Kelly and there is enough ‘star power’ on enough teams to help generate more interest from fans because of its fast pace and high scoring.
However, it will need to pass the durability test of time. To help it along during that critical phase in the NFL where it will either last, or it will fall by the wayside or stay in the playbook as a gimmick, the NFL is doing all they can to make it stick.
Several things … the aforementioned read-option quarterbacks I mention earlier have one thing in common … they are all on their rookie contracts (except for Michael Vick). That leaves a huge question that has yet to be answered and may not be answered for a couple of more years:
Will franchises still be willing to put their franchise players at risk once they sign $100 million-plus contracts?
Only time can answer that one.
In the meantime, don’t look now but the top seven passing leaders in the league are drop back pocket passers. That’s not really surprising considering the Read-Option is a running offense. The leader of the group is none other than
Aaron Rodgers, the forgotten man all offseason because of the young guns being promoted to garner the attention of the young and casual fans.Rodgers leads the league in passing, while the Packers offense leads the league in passing yards and first downs. He is tied for second in TDs with seven, and has a QB Rating of 127.2, behind only Peyton Manning.
To give some perspective on the Packers receiving numbers, consider this … Greg Jennings has eight receptions for Minnesota for 117 yards and zero touchdowns. Those numbers would be fifth on the Packers behind Jordy Nelson (10-196-3), Randall Cobb (16-236-2), James Jones (11-178-0) andJermichael Finley (11-121-2).
The difference an elite quarterback can make will always be in demand, even if the league wants to push this new fast-paced style.
I guess they don’t realize that quarterbacks such as Rodgers, Manning, Brees and Brady can run a fast-paced offense, too. They just go about it differently. It’s called the ‘no huddle’ – a clash of the old and the new.
Two weeks is a small sample size. But Griffin has looked decidedly ordinary in his first two weeks. Kaepernick beat the Packers in the first week with his arm (and wide receiver Anquan Bolden), not his legs. Michael Vick, playing the fast-forward Eagles offense, was 13 of 30 for 201 yards and two interceptions, one of them a pick-six, against Kansas City last night.
This is rather predictable for a couple of reasons. Defensive coordinators probably spent all offseason figuring out how to stop the read option, in part by visiting college teams that see much more read option than the NFL ever would. It’s one thing to try to prepare against it in one week (as the Packers and Atlanta had before their playoff games last year), or even two (Baltimore before the Super Bowl). You could write a book about NFL rookies who have huge first seasons, and after the rest of the league figures out how to play against them, less impact thereafter. And, of course, the average NFL player is a better athlete than the average Division I college football player.
Before we go on, some definitions: The read option is where a quarterback decides to keep the ball himself or pitch the ball to a trailing running back. The quarterback “reads” the defensive end on the side of the offense the play is to be run to. There are numerous high school and college variations — the I-formation option popularized by Nebraska under Coach Tom Osborne, the wishbone run by Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer, the flexbone (also called the “slotbone”) of Georgia Tech, the “pistol” (which looks like an I-formation without the quarterback; the quarterback lines up where the fullback normally lines up in the I, with a running back behind and/or next to him) and whatever that is Oregon is running at Mach speed.
In the true triple option (which requires at least two running backs), a quarterback has three choices depending on what the defensive end does — hand the ball off to the fullback, run the ball himself around the end, or pitch the ball to the running back who is running with him as he runs around the end. Oregon’s and the NFL’s read option, which is a variation of the old single-wing (the single-wing tailback is today’s quarterback back in a shotgun-like formation), is based on just one running back with the quarterback, so it’s really a double option — keep or pitch.
The read option has almost never been seen in the NFL until last season. (Legend has it Lou Holtz, in his one season coaching the New York Jets, thought about running the option until he saw quarterback Joe Namath’s knees. The irony is that Alabama ran the option most seasons under coach Bear Bryant, with Namath and quarterback Ken Stabler, who became as mobile as a statue in the NFL.) Lombardi Avenue mentions one reason you’re unlikely to see it very much in the future. It’s one thing to have quarterbacks making a couple million dollars in their rookie contracts running it; it’s quite another to have a quarterback making Aaron Rodgers money run it with the accompanying risk of having a linebacker crush your quarterback while he pitches or runs the ball past the line of scrimmage.
Before football players became better athletes at every position, the best defense I saw to stop the option was in the 1985 Orange Bowl, which featured Oklahoma and its wishbone. The Sooners’ opponent, Washington, created for the occasion a defensive formation with just two linemen (instead of the usual three or four), five linebackers and four defensive backs. The middle linebacker was assigned to the fullback, the outside linebackers were assigned to the running backs, and the other two linebackers were assigned to the quarterback. The cornerbacks covered the receivers (usually just one split receiver), and the safeties filled in.
The number one rule of defense against any option offense is: Hit the quarterback. Every time. The NFL ruled before the season began that a quarterback running the read option is a running back, and he loses all the usual protections the NFL gives quarterbacks. In high school and college, there are no special protections for running quarterbacks other than the usual personal-foul rules. If the defense establishes the tone early by pounding the quarterback every time he keeps or pitches the ball, the quarterback is likely to become a bit hesitant to do either.
The NFL is a tremendously imitative league. In my lifetime of watching the NFL, arguably there have been two, and only two, trends that have lasted — (1) soccer-style kickers and (2) the league-wide adoption of what was called the West Coast offense three decades ago — put another way, the possession-passing game — as the basic NFL offense.
When I started watching, every team ran the 4–3 defense. Then teams started playing the newfangled 3–4. Then teams went back to the 4–3. (In the Packers’ case, after signing free agent defensive end Reggie White in 1993.) Now teams are roughly split between the 3–4 (to which the Packers returned in 2009) and the 4–3.
This blog has tried to point out during the bad times for Wisconsin sports teams that it used to be far, far worse than today.
Wisconsin’s bad past (1988: a combined 5–22 record for the Badger and Packer football teams, those last two words applied loosely) appears to now be Minnesota’s present. The Vikings are 0–2, and the Gophers … all I need do is pass on the words of a former boss, a graduate of the U of M:
Lou Holtz clearly enunciated his words and his speech pattern was perfect when he when he stood up in Little Rock and declared, “I’m going to be the head coach at Minnesota.” It’s a tough job, some say cursed, that sucks the life out of mortal men. All the way back to Warmath, every UM head coach is addled, dead or irrelevant. This is what happens when you lose to Washington and the UPI votes you national champions. It was a deal with the devil that has haunted the program since. It’s UM’s curse of the Bambino. Having a coach named Kill?….. just too easy for spirits.
Norwood needs to slaughter a goat at midfield, throw a co-ed into a volcano (a sinkhole would do) or bite off live chicken heads in Dinkytown. Then go find a new coach. Who? It has to be the guy who played the voodoo witch doctor in the James Bond movies. It’s our only hope. Even Tony Dungy couldn’t pull us out of the flushing swirl that’s leading to exoneration from the Big 10, reluctant acceptance into the football subdivision and a schedule of home & away series with the likes of UW-Platteville, Parkside, DeVry, Lawrence and a Madden challenge with the University of Phoenix. Hell, even NDSU beat – no, whupped, throttled, schooled, put foot up our ass, embarrassed us… Oh well, we’re gonna kick some ass in the MN state championship playoffs this year. If we can get past South St Paul in the quarterfinals I think we can win it all, of course that’s if the coach is available to coach.Norwood, in the name of all that is holy, man up, build the practice facility and hire a coach who can build a solid program from next to nothing. John Koronkieweicz would be a great choice, but UM can’t afford him and he’s too good a man to be sacrificed like that.
(Koronkiewicz is the long-time coach at Waupaca High School, by the way.)
The glory days of Wisconsin football have been in the past 20 years — six Rose Bowl appearances and three Rose Bowl wins in the past two decades. Before that, Wisconsin had three Rose Bowl berths — after the 1952, 1959 and 1962 seasons — all of which ended in losses.
The glory days of Minnesota football have been … uh … well, they went 34–0–1 between ’03 and ’05. That’s 1903 to 1905. The Gophers won three national championships between 1934 and 1936, and two more in 1940 and 1941. They also won the national championship in 1960 (as voted upon after the regular season). They had back-to-back Rose Bowls in 1961 (losing to Washington) and 1962 (beating UCLA), and last won (one-third of) the Big Ten title in 1967.
Henry L. Williams, of the 35-games-without-a-loss streak, Bernie Bierman, of the five national championships, and Murray Warmath, who coached from 1954 to 1971, are the three most successful Gopher football coaches. After those three is Glen Mason, who went 64–57 in 10 seasons. Mason’s last game was the 2006 Insight Bowl, in which Minnesota led Texas Tech 38–7 in the third quarter only to lose 44–41 in overtime. The ignominy of the biggest collapse in Division I football postseason history got Mason fired.
That may not have been the best decision UM made, given what followed Mason, namely Tim Brewster, who went 15–30 in four seasons. Kill, who was very successful at Northern Illinois, is 15–16 going into Saturday. After Warmath were Cal Stoll (39–39 in seven seasons), Joe Salem (19–35–1 in five seasons), Holtz (10–12 before running to Notre Dame), John Gutekunst (29–36–2 in six seasons) and Jim Wacker (16–39 in five seasons).
Wacker has an indirect tie to Wisconsin. While Gutekunst coached the Gophers to mediocrity, Don Mor(t)on coached the Badgers to six wins — one, over Minnesota, in 1988 — in three seasons. Mor(t)on was a protege of Wacker, who at the time was running the veer offense. Mor(t)on ran the veer at North Dakota State, then Tulsa, then Wisconsin, if that’s what you want to call his three-year reign of (t)error in Madison. Minnesota hired Wacker in 1992, but by then Wacker had abandoned the veer for the pass-wacky run-and-shoot offense, which worked slightly better than Mor(t)on’s veer. Lesson: Never, ever, ever, ever, ever hire a system coach. Any coach who has gotten where he is on his system can’t coach anything but his system, and then where are you when his system craters? (See Wisconsin, 1988 and 1989.)
There is a second, more direct, tie to Wisconsin. That is Joel Maturi, formerly an assistant athletic director at Wisconsin (largely because he was a well-known football coach and athletic director at Edgewood High School) and, after running the University of Denver’s athletic department, Minnesota’s athletic director. Maturi was replaced by Norwood Teague.
What prompted my ex-boss’ screed was an unfortunate event Saturday — the epileptic seizure suffered by Gophers coach Jerry Kill during the game, which prompted Minneapolis Star Tribune sportswriter Jim Souhan to write:
Jerry Kill suffered another seizure on another game day, and this time his boss chose to pretend nothing was wrong.
How can a school continue to employ a football coach who has had four seizures during or after the 16 home games he has coached at the school, along with an unknown number of seizures away from the public eye?
How can the athletic director in charge of that coach avoid speaking publicly about such a public and newsworthy event?
Kill suffers a seizure on game day as the coach of the Gophers at TCF Bank Stadium exactly as often as he wins a Big Ten game. He’s 4-for-16 in both categories.
His latest epileptic seizure, suffered on Saturday, evokes sympathy for him and his family. He appears to be a good man earnestly trying to elevate a woeful program while searching for ways to manage his disease.
Even those who admire him most can’t believe that he should keep coaching major college football after his latest episode. Either the stress of the job is further damaging his health, or his health was in such disrepair that he shouldn’t have been hired to coach in the Big Ten in the first place.
The face of your program can’t belong to someone who may be rushed to the hospital at any moment of any game, or practice, or news conference. No one who buys a ticket to TCF Bank Stadium should be rewarded with the sight of a middle-aged man writhing on the ground. This is not how you compete for sought-after players and entertainment dollars.
Kill’s case is sad. He did good work his entire life to reach a position that his system can no longer handle.
The irony here is that Souhan wrote this after a Gopher win, 29–12 over Western Illinois. The bigger irony is that the Gophers are 3–0, although Nevada–Las Vegas, New Mexico State and Western Illinois remind no one of Ohio State or, for that matter, Wisconsin.
Souhan then had to respond to those who responded to his column:
-Yes, I understand that the University of Minnesota can’t and shouldn’t fire Jerry Kill because he has epileptic seizures. I do believe the administration should ask him to step aside, and believe Kill should do so.
-No, I don’t believe it’s OK for everyone to accept that Kill will not be able to coach frequently because of his seizures and that his assistants can handle his duties. The U didn’t hire Kill’s assistants for more than a million dollars a year to handle his duties. They hired Jerry Kill with the assumption that he could handle the job.
-Yes, I am sympathetic to Kill. I expressed that in my column. But his is not the average job. He can’t pretend to be the same as someone who works 9-5 in a cubicle. He is in the entertainment industry. He is the face of a program and by extension a University.
-No, I don’t think I’m being cruel, I think many of you are being cruel. Kill has had four seizures on game days in 16 home games at Minnesota. The stress of the job seems to have a negative effect on him. You shouldn’t want him to put himself in that position for your entertainment.
-No, my criticism of Kill has nothing to do with his coaching. I think he’s a solid coach who has a chance to succeed here. But he’s not doing the program or himself or his family any favors by risking his health.
Mark the Gopher added:
It’s not so much the record as it is the decency to prevent the man from hurting himself. Teague risks being thrown in with the guy who picks a drunk off the bus stop bench and drops him off at the liquor store. Kill won’t quit until… (too easy, too gruesome, too real, reboot, reboot). Teague has to make him stop before something really serious happens. I don’t know anything about seizures other than they’re not normal, not good for you and they’re a sign of a serious health issue. Can Kill continue without damaging his health? Seems unlikely, but let’s say maybe. The problem then is what’s the story of the game or the season? …”Gophers lose but Kill seizure free!”, “O-Line shaken by Badger D; Kill by Epilepsy”; that’s just wrong on so many levels. If viewership and ticket sales go up because NASCAR’s season is over and the people who watch races to see a horrific wreck are checking in to… Ah, this is just getting worse and worse.
I’ve suggested that the next Gopher coach will be former Badger coach Bret Bielema, after Arkansas discovers he really can’t coach and, upset with Arkansas’ inability to compete with Texas and Alabama to its east and west, fires him. Mark doesn’t want to wait four more years.
I don’t believe I have ever known anyone with epilepsy, so I can’t make a medical comment. Certainly having four seizures during games looks bad, but is it bad for his health? I don’t know. The more cold-blooded issue is that the Gophers are drawing less than 50,000 people per game (their best attended home games are usually Wisconsin, for the Paul Bunyan Axe, or Iowa, for the Floyd of Rosedale cast pig) into their new outdoor stadium, and Kill may or may not be making the program a contender. (Wisconsin has won nine in a row over Minnesota.)
The one thing Minnesota had better have in mind is an on-staff successor if Kill has to quit. Wisconsin found that out the hard way after Dave McClain died and Jim Hilles was quickly found to not be the answer. (Then again, Don Mor(t)on was the answer to the wrong question.) Barry Alvarez had an answer in Bielema, though I doubt he knew about Bielema’s less publicly presentable side.
Wisconsin’s experience after Mor(t)on demonstrates what you have to do to develop a program from the depths. (And UW football was clearly in the depths when Alvarez came to town.) The administration must make a commitment to the program, in terms of facilities (and practice facilities are at least as important as a stadium, because players spend more time at practice than in games) and other areas that require money. You have to find a coach who can recruit on blue sky — we’re not good now, but we will be, so why not come in on the ground floor — and a coach who can win in the rugged Big Ten, by fundamentals, not flashy scheme. (The Big Ten is not the three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-Astroturf-flakes it used to be, but if you can’t play defense, you won’t last long.)
A look at the history of football on TV shows some of the most compelling games have featured three opponents — the home team, the visiting team, and the weather.
There are also plenty of examples from college football. The picture at the beginning of this article was taken during the 1950 installment of the Ohio State vs. Michigan rivalry game with a Big Ten championship on the line. It was a late November game, played during a snowstorm, that featured very little scoring and 45 punts. Columbus, Ohio recorded 7.5 inches of snow for the day, with a high temperature of only 20 degrees – still the coldest maximum temperature for that date.
Of course I could go ahead and list or rank many of the “worst weather football games”. I’ve already briefly discussed two that stand out in the professional and college ranks. That concept had interested me originally, but many have already done that and the process would be quite subjective. I prefer numbers, and so I’ve decided to approach weather and football from a statistical and climatological perspective. With the new college football season beginning around the time I started this project, I decided to develop a climatology for locations where teams from the Football Bowl Subdivision play.
Recognize any logo in this graphic of September-to-November weather?
Situated nearly a mile and a half (7165 feet) above sea level amongst mountain ranges is Laramie, Wyoming, home of the University of Wyoming. It was settled in the mid-19th century along the Union Pacific railroad, and the university followed shortly thereafter in 1886. War Memorial Stadium, home of the Wyoming Cowboys, has the distinction of being the highest elevation stadium in the Football Bowl Subdivision. With that in mind, it’s not too surprising that the Cowboys ended up with the coldest stadium location by average temperature by a considerable margin. …
As you can see from the rankings above, no matter which measure you choose Laramie comes out on top as college football’s coldest spot. Average temperature is merely a simple average of the high and low temperatures on a given day. I also ranked the various stadium locations by average maximum temperature, as many of the games are played at some point during the afternoon hours, which is when the warmest conditions usually are. I didn’t consider minimum temperatures because they often occur very late at night, or close to sunrise, when football games are not played. Therefore, it could be argued that the average maximum temperature would be the most representative measure of coldest college football locations. Either way, it makes no difference to which stadium ends up in first place, and very little difference to the top five – the same stadiums are in slightly different order.
So the five coldest college football locations can likely be considered to be a combination of Wyoming, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Washington State, and Central Michigan. Minnesota makes the list having just recently switched from a domed to outdoor stadium in 2009. The change makes the Minnesota-Wisconsin rivalry game one of the coldest on average in the FBS. The Gophers and Badgers have been battling it out for the Paul Bunyan Axe since 1948, and have been contesting the rivalry game since 1890. 11 of the last 18 games (1995-2012) have been played in November, but only 1 of the last 4.
Long-time Badger fans know that Wisconsin and Minnesota used to be the last game of every season, until Minnesota decided that instead of ending the season battling for the Paul Bunyan Axe, they wanted to end the season battling Minnesota for Floyd of Rosedale. (For those unaware: Floyd is a pig.)
As for Wyoming: Wisconsin played two games against the Cowboys in the ’80s — in Laramie in 1985, and in Madison in 1986. Both games were in September, since they were nonconference games. Badger fans who went to Laramie woke up to snow the day of the game.
Alex goes on to say that snow is relatively rare in college football because the regular season is usually done by Thanksgiving weekend. (Regular-season games played after that usually are in warm climates, such as Hawaii.) Rare, however, is not never:
This is the end of halftime from the 1985 Michigan State–Wisconsin game, the final game of that season. (And the last game Dave McClain coached the Badgers; he died two days after the Cardinal and White spring game, five months and about 50 degrees later.) I’m in the diagonal of the N. It is one of the legendary moments in UW Band history; it wasn’t snowing during morning practice, but when pregame began, the artificial turf was instead a sea of white.
What about other weather?
The same year of the aforementioned snow game, it seemed that it rained at every game. My first year in the UW Band, if it rained during a home game, the Badgers won, and if it didn’t rain, the Badgers lost.
This graphic is pertinent since Wisconsin is at Arizona State Saturday night. Of course, with the old artificial turf (which seemed to be more like green-painted asphalt), if it was 80 degrees in the stands, it was 100 down on the field. Wearing wool band uniforms made things hotter.
The Badgers’ indoor practice facility is named the McClain Center. There’s some irony in that, because as far as bad weather for practices was concerned, McClain was fond of quoting his coaching mentor, Woody Hayes: ”As Admiral Nimitz said, if you’re going to fight in the North Atlantic, you have to train in the North Atlantic.” (Given UW’s record during McClain’s career — which was better than his predecessor, John Jardine, or his successor, Don Mor(t)on, but not up to today’s standards — perhaps he should have used another Hayes quote: “If we worked half as hard as our band, we’d be champions.”
With the NFL season starting in earnest today, here are a few starts — openings of NFL broadcasts over the decades.
We begin with the novel concept of football on Monday nights:
A lot of Midwesterners are familiar with this:
Believe it or don’t, ABC had a Monday Night Football opening without Hank Williams:
Until Fox Sports showed up, CBS traditionally carried NFC games …
… and NBC carried AFC games …
… and then Fox grabbed the NFC rights …
… and then CBS took AFC rights away from NBC …
… and then NBC took Monday Night Football away from ABC and moved it to Sunday night.
No discussion of NFL music would be complete without mentioning the music with which millions of backyard football games are played — NFL Films music:
Though school in Wisconsin doesn’t start for 10 more days, the high school football season starts tonight.
I will be on the air in Platteville tonight announcing that rarest of things, a big early-season game between Darlington, apparently the prohibitive favorite in its conference, and Platteville, one of two favorites in its conference, at 7 p.m. on WPVL (1590 AM) in Platteville and online worldwide at http://www.theespndoubleteam.com.
Similar to where I used to announce, Ripon, Platteville is embroiled in its own conference problems, about which you can read my thoughts here. Those thoughts may seem similar to my thoughts one year earlier (and before that elsewhere) because as far as Platteville goes, not much has changed.
The more I watch the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association, which sanctions Wisconsin high school sports, the less I’m impressed. The I in its initials could stand for (dis)Ingenuous, as in essentially all its arguments in its lawsuit against Gannett Newspapers, which dared to broadcast postseason basketball without going through the right WIAA hoops (so to speak).
The WIAA claims to be a voluntary association, which in truth is as voluntary as holding a driver’s license. Do you need a driver’s license? Only if you want to drive. Driving is theoretically optional, but factually mandatory. One of those A’s in WIAA should stand for “arrogance,” too, given that the WIAA refuses to acknowledge that none of its activities would be possible without taxpayer dollars — the taxpayer dollars that build and maintain the schools (including UW campuses and UW–Madison’s Camp Randall Stadium and Kohl Center) that hold high school events, the taxpayer dollars that pay coaches (most of whom are teachers, whose salaries are paid for by us taxpayers), the taxpayer dollars that buy many athletic supplies, and so on.
On that happy note, enjoy the season.
Maury Brown of the new Gammons baseball website, blames for Ryan Braun’s PED problems … you:
From comments by fans for articles on the internet, to social media, to your local bar, right now someone is railing on about performance-enhancing drugs in baseball. They seethe on one side of the argument or the other, pouring out venom (and often expletives) in extra-large doses. Many times, in 140 characters or less, adjectives are sprinkled about and dripping with snark. To them, the matter is offered in black and white terms.
As if blame is ever that easy. The PED issue in baseball has plenty of blame to go around.
Start by blaming the jar of “greenies” that used to sit on the clubhouse table. We don’t talk about this much because we like to think that those players “back in the good-old days” didn’t need to performance enhance. Maybe they simply used them like one downs espresso and energy drinks but even Henry Aaron admitted to using “greenies”.
Blame the players or those that were “above 5% using steroid” as part of the survey test in 2003. When those players tested positive, it put in place the mandatory drug testing policy. While it was the first step in addressing the steroid issue, since then we’ve all become jaded. A player starts to perform above their norm—for whatever reason—and our immediate reaction is they “juiced.” Somewhere, Jeff Bagwell is nodding his head.
Blame the shifting sands on what was and wasn’t banned and how that changed the view (see androstenedione). Hate how the system was not yet fully formed at the time with testing, certification, and a case of where the MLBPA had fought tooth and nail because the rank and file hadn’t gotten any balls yet, and those that juiced had the upper hand. Who doesn’t remember Gene Orza, the former COO of the MLB Players Association, saying of steroids, “I have no doubt that they are not worse than cigarettes.”? Who can’t remember Donald Fehr fighting the battle for his constituency, the players?
Blame Commissioner Selig for either being blind to seeing it all go down, or as some think, letting it slide when McGwire and Sosa were in the midst of their historic (and PED fueled) race for the single-season home run record (I have always thought Bud simply couldn’t put 2 and 2 together on it). If, as Selig said, he really had no idea it was going on, where were those that must have seen it occurring and didn’t advise him? …
Blame the fans for their inability to really care about PEDs in the game. Only when it’s the high-profile player or when the sacred records or being molested do you jump up and down. You can cite records dating back to the game’s beginnings but all but a handful recount that Alex Sanchez of the then Devil Rays was the very first player suspended for PEDs in Major League Baseball. Fewer still are concerned about the near daily reports of Minor Leaguers being suspended for this drug or that. Ultimately what fans care about with PEDs is building star athletes up, and then (sadly) tearing them down. …
Blame the league and Commissioner Selig for over-stepping the boundaries of the Joint Drug Agreement in the Alex Rodriguez/Biogenesis case. A-Rod’s no saint, and seems to have juiced (he hasn’t denied it, nor has his team of lawyers), but you’re all in a tizzy over the fact that he wouldn’t go quietly on a 211 game suspension when there’s nothing outlined in the drug agreement, that you agreed to with the union for the players that allows for such stiff penalties. Not only does it put you in a position of looking weak should arbitrator Fredric Horowitz overturn the suspension, or more likely, lower the number of games he’s suspended for, it more importantly puts labor peace in jeopardy. Congrats. Not since the owners colluded has there been an action on your part that could potentially kill the game’s golden goose. …
Blame poverty for the Latin kids who juice to want a better life. Blame the minor leaguer who’s juicing to make the show. Blame the high-profile players for greed. At every level of the game, a single source is the issue, which is …
Blame the money. Blame the salaries. Blame it on the revenues. This is what fuels it all.
Finally, blame yourself. Don’t act shocked. Don’t be aghast at the comment. Be honest. The incredible salaries which fuels this hyper-competitiveness that leads some to PEDs is what drives it all. You’re appalled, and yet like some drug addict you go to games, watch on television, and buy the merchandising. In that sense, those that are griping the loudest are those that are the biggest hypocrites. You’re the enabler. If the money stopped—if we all became Howard Beale in Network and said, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”—it would slowly subside. In the end, the issue of performance-enhancing drugs in sports is tied to you. Ultimately, that’s where the power resides. I know it. I’m one of them. The only difference is, it’s all not as simple as it’s often portrayed. All I ask is that the next time you want to lay a finger at those “lying cheaters” or call Selig “the sport’s biggest overreacher” you remember that. Be mad. Want the game to be clean (if it ever has been). But, I can’t take the easy path on it. I can’t accept the arguments. I see it as Pandora’s Box, and we’re not going back. Am I apathetic? Maybe. Am I tired of it all? I think you can read this and say, no. You can’t see it but my shirt reads, “Reality Sucks”. Welcome to reality.
There is, however, an opposing view:
Nothing personal against you, Maury, because I like you, but really: Blame the fans for “not caring enough” about steroids until a superstar is involved? Or even worse, for continuing to listen to and watch and attend games at all? What a load of BS. We the fans are not the caretakers of the product. Baseball and the franchisees are. We love baseball and we simply watch the product put in front of us. Baseball are the ones using the interest fans have to justify their turning a blind eye to the dangerous drug element in the game in the service of what they believe is more profitable. I don’t even blame the players so much–rather than engaging in evil for the purpose of subverting the Game, they are only doing what they feel they have to to go all in on a career in baseball, where the difference between making it versus almost making it is the difference between achieving wealth versus living check to check, if even that. It’s a skewed incentive that few of us could resist if we were confronted with it ourselves. That’s a different discussion, though. But honestly–blaming the fans? That’s basically blaming the victim for the sin of following human nature. What a load of crap. We would be happy watching the best available product, whatever it is.
The corollary to that is that there is little fan interest in a baseball team that loses 100 games every year. And if you’re looking for sports figures to be heroes instead of just players you enjoy watching … well, you know how I feel about that.