Sunday, January 30, 2011

Retired Jersey Omissions

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

When the Detroit Red Wings retired Steve Yzerman's No. 19 in 2007, all this franchise did was enhance it's rich history.

It won't be long that The Captain who replaced The Captain, Nicklas Lidstom, will follow in Yzerman's footsteps, and his No. 5 will be hanging in the rafters at Joe Louis Arena, and if Owner Mike Illitch has his way, in a new stadium down the road.

But there are a couple of other Detroit franchises that seem to be lagging behind in the retiring of jerseys department.

I'm sure by now that the Detroit Tigers have been told that they waited too long to honor former Manager Sparky Anderson. Sparky's No. 11 should have been retired in a ceremony while he was alive, not while he's dead.

His family will appreciate the gesture and having his name out there on the outfield wall for the fans, is all well and good, but again in my eyes it's too late!

It's not too late for the Tigers to do the right thing and honor their legendary middle infield combination of Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker. Seeing Trammell's No. 3 at shortstop and Whitaker's No. 1 at second base, as this duo spent their entire career with the Tigers leading them to the 1984 World Series Championship, is something that local fans can be proud of.

Besides, how many players spend their entire careers with one organization? Not many.

I might even try to make a case for No. 47 Jack Morris of the Tigers because he did pitch a no-hitter in 1984 and was their best hurler in that year's championship season. In 14 seasons with the Tigers, Morris was 198-150.

The Detroit Pistons are becoming the biggest culprit of not retiring jersey numbers.

The No. 22 jersey worn by John Salley and Tayshaun Prince has been a part of three NBA Championships.

At some point, the No. 1 which Chauncey Billups wore proudly, that led to a title is something that should be recognized.

And on that note, what have the Pistons accomplished without him since he was traded to Denver for Allen Iverson, in what will go down as one of the worst moves in team history?

The Pistons are doing a great job burning their bridges with Richard Hamilton and I'd highly doubt it if we ever see his No. 32 jersey retired anytime soon. With his decreased playing time and the Carmelo Anthony trade rumors, it has to be tough for Hamilton to show up for work.

All of these individuals mentioned are deserving of this honor but whether we ever see it, is anyone's guess.

If we do, I just hope there isn't a repeat of the Anderson mistake and they're alive to be appreciated by the fans. They deserve the respect and have earned it.

In the Pistons case, I have a feeling the new ownership will do the honors and Joe Dumars won't be around to see this through. Then again, with the Billups and Hamilton fiascos, does he deserve to be?

It's sad because he built a great team that was of championship caliber and it didn't take him long to destroy it.

If I had to single out any one specific criteria where a player should have his number retired, it would be if they spend their entire career in one team. The only exception to that rule is if that player was instrumental in leading his organization to a winning tradition which could have resulted in a championship.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com.

Ahead Of His Time

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

When Pittsburgh Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin leads his team in the Super Bowl against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday February 6th at Cowboys Stadium, if he's fortunate enough to lead this franchise to their seventh title, he should be thankful that he's coaching in the era of the Rooney Rule, where minority candidates have to be considered for head coaching and management positions.

There is one former Steeler who didn't get that opportunity due to the lack of timing.

When Mean Joe Greene retired from the NFL in 1981, he was selected to the Pro Bowl 10 times and won four Super Bowls as the anchor of the famous Steel Curtain defense in a career that was from 1969-1981.

The 64-year-old graduate of North Texas State is not only known for his famous Coke Commercial that was filmed on September 1, 1979, but he was a respected Assistant Coach in the league for 16 seasons.

Greene began his coaching career in 1987 with the Steelers under Chuck Noll. He would later work with Don Shula of the Miami Dolphins and Dave McGinnis of the Arizona Cardinals.

I had the good fortune of meeting with Greene when I was writing about the Cardinals for three contests during the 2001 season. We mainly talked about his Super Bowl years with the Steelers and what it was like to play under Noll having Terry Bradshaw as his quarterback. Greene and I had a few laughs about his Coke Commercial.

But as I look at the list of African American Head Coaches over the years, there will always be the "What If" Greene had the opportunity to interview and land one of these positions?

How would he have fared?

We'll never know now. To learn from Hall of Famers like Noll and Shula is a great starting point.

As I look at Tomlin, Tony Dungy, Lovie Smith, Dennis Green, Jim Caldwell, Marvin Lewis, Herman Edwards, Ray Rhodes, Art Shell, Mike Singletary, Romeo Crennell along with the question marks that surround Leslie Frazier, Raheem Morris and Hue Jackson, it would have been interesting to see Greene match wits with these coaches.

But unfortunately, that will never happen as a result of timing.

Yet, as I watch the Steelers face the Packers, I'm amazed at how much history connects these two teams.

The only African American Head Coach in Packers History was Rhodes, who was 8-8 during his only season in 1999. Eleven years later, Tomlin is looking to win his second title in three years.

When I look at the Steelers and Packers contest, I'll view it as the "What If Bowl?"

What if the legendary Vince Lombardi faced Noll? Which coach would win?

How would Bradshaw have fared against Bart Starr or Brett Favre?

Will Ben Roethlisberger win his third title following Bradshaw or will Aaron Rodgers win his first championship as Favre's successor? We'll find that out soon enough.

If Roethlisberger is successful, Green will own his seventh championship ring because after he retired from coaching in 2004, the Steelers hired him to be the special assistant for player personnel. He is one of four people outside the Rooney family to have Super Bowl rings from the first six championship teams.

How would Greene have looked wearing those Motorola Head Sets talking to his Assistant Coaches in the Press Box and leading his team on the sidelines?

We'll never know now, but the question is worth thinking about as the 25th Anniversary of the Commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day has passed us.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at http://www.scottsports33.com/.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Modern Sports Absurdities

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

Today's athletes get paid great money to be role models with their superior play and endorsement contracts.

They may not like those roles but our society is based on recreation and entertainment.

In some cases, even coaches fail to set a good example by grabbing their athletes physically and make boneheaded & idiotic comments.

In this story, I've listed a few of my favorite Clowns in Today's Wide World of Sports.

In my last story, I predicted that San Diego State Football Coach Brady Hoke would land the University of Michigan job. That became a reality this week. The reason I never listed LSU Coach Les Miles as a serious candidate was he turned down the position three years ago and I felt he would do the same thing again.

Miles 62-17 record, five bowl wins and one National Championship with the Tigers, would have brought instant credibility back to his Alma-Mater. But instead, he received a contract extension to remain in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

I have no problem with Miles' decision to stay with LSU because he's done a fantastic job there.

But what I do have a problem with are the comments he made as to why he passed on the U-M job. He said that U-M "Wasn't the same place he left."

No kidding Les!

That's true.

His Coach and Mentor Bo Schembechler is deceased and now Michigan Stadium has expanded to 113,000 seats.

My advice to Miles is keep eating that Crawfish and Cajun Food.

The Wolverines made a good hire in Hoke.

When the New York Jets travel to face the New England Patriots Sunday, I'll be rooting extremely hard to see them get whipped for a second straight time.

On December 6, 2010, the host Patriots blasted the Jets 45-3 in a Monday Night Massacre. A 90-6 Patriots win would satisfy me greatly and former U-M Quarterback Tom Brady would like nothing better than to shut up the Jets and their talkative Coach Rex Ryan.

I can just imagine what another rout would look like in the New York papers and in the rest of the media.

I commend Baseball Hall of Famer and former Yankee Reggie Jackson, for ripping the Jets publicly saying their actions should speak louder than words. Jackson's advice to the Jets is to watch more film of their opponent and do less talking. Jackson's Mr. October exploits have earned him championships with both the Oakland A's and Yankees.

I wonder when Pro Football Hall of Famers will ever learn that they're not above the law.

Buffalo Bills legend O.J. Simpson, may have gotten away with murdering his wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman, because he had great lawyers in addition to faulty police work by the Los Angeles Police Department.

But the legal system did catch up with Simpson in Las Vegas, when he tried to recover his memorabilia using a concealed weapon while his voice was caught on tape. Now Simpson is rotting away in the Nevada Jail System. He was sentenced to up to 33 years in prison.

Through the years, former New York Giants legend Lawrence Taylor has had a track record of drug problems.

Now he's avoided jail time again working out a plea bargain after having sex with a minor despite claims that he thought the woman was 19, but in reality she was 16. Now Taylor will be forced to register as a sex offender.

What title will the public recognize Taylor by? A Pro Football Hall of Famer or Sex Offender/Predator?

Seeing Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis in the NFL Playoffs is a classic indicator that if you have good lawyers and a lot of money, you can get away with murder.

On January 31, 2000, Lewis and a couple of his friends were involved in a double murder after a Super Bowl Party in Atlanta. Lewis didn't get jail time for the incident because he cooperated with authorities. The only punishment he received was one year probation and a $250,000 fine by the NFL which was the largest fine levied against an NFL player for an infraction not involving substance abuse.

A year later, Lewis was named Super Bowl XXXV MVP.

When Lewis' career is over, he will be a lock to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame joining Simpson and Taylor. Over the years, he's been the face and identity of the Baltimore Ravens franchise.

Any chance of Manny Ramirez making it to the Baseball Hall of Fame were eliminated when the slugger was suspended on May 7, 2009, for 50 games by violating MLB's Performance Enhancing Drug Policy.

The way Ramirez violated it is mind boggling. He used a women's fertility drug typically used by steroid users to restart their body's natural testosterone production as they come off the steroid cycle.

The drug Ramirez used was called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG).

Finally, anything that LeBron James says and does off the court is absurd. Even if he wins a title for the Miami Heat, how many people will really care? If he had done it in Cleveland, that's another story.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Great Lakes F-Ball Massacres

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

When my best friend Gus Pantelides won the Tom Selleck look-a-like contest several years ago at the Clearwater Mall after receiving a rousing applause, I told him he it was a no-brainer that he emerged as the clear cut winner. His response was the old Yogi Berra saying, "It's not over until it's over." As it turned out, Pantelides did win the contest handily and the Selleck contest was over early.

But I'm sure that Pantelides was sick to his stomach on New Years Day as the Alabama Crimson Tide thrashed his Michigan State Spartans 49-7 in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando.

Unfortunately, this contest was over quickly as former Spartans Coach Nick Saban's Alabama team cruised to a 28-0 first half lead and never looked back. Alabama scored five touchdowns on its first five possessions of the game and set the Capital One Bowl mark for largest victory.

But Pantelides can at least be thankful that his Spartans did have an excellent 11-2 mark even if the last game's result will sting MSU for awhile.

Regardless, Pantelides had to wish the Spartans early ending, resembled his win at the Clearwater Mall. However, that wasn't meant to be.

But knowing Gus, he just spent the rest of the day with his beautiful family and would scoreboard watch to see how his rival the Michigan Wolverines were doing.

Pantelides has never been shy about his dislike for the Wolverines but it looked like the Mississippi State Bulldogs weren't phased by being on the same field with the winningest program in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

The Bulldogs blasted the Wolverines 52-14 in the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida. Michigan set a school bowl record by allowing 52 points in what appears to be Coach Rich Rodriguez' final game. It's inevitable there is going to be a major shakeup at Michigan. Even if Rodriguez is retained, his Defensive Coordinator Greg Robinson will be terminated.

But now the question is, who will lead U-M?

The natural choice is former U-M quarterback Jim Harbaugh, who has led the #4 Stanford Cardinal (11-1) to the Orange Bowl. But Harbaugh has shown a desire to stay at Stanford and who knows, there is talk that the San Francisco 49'ers might be interested in him.

The wild card candidate is San Diego State Coach Brady Hoke, who guided the Aztecs to their first bowl win since 1969, a triumph over Boston University in the Pasadena Bowl.

In two seasons with the Aztecs, Hoke is 13-12 but his team's impressive 35-14 win over Navy on December 23, 2010, in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, sealed a 9-4 season.

The last time San Diego State appeared in a bowl was in the 1998 Las Vegas Bowl, a loss to the North Carolina Tar Heels.

Where did Michigan go wrong with the hiring of Rodriguez? I only have one explanation for this. They didn't hire a "Michigan Man" that understands Wolverines football. He wasn't a good fit.

Harbaugh played there and Hoke was the defensive lines coach for Lloyd Carr from 1995-2002.

There was talk during the Aztec's win over Navy that Hoke would be a good fit and take this job if it were offered. We'll know soon enough.

But even if Rodriguez does get fired, I have a feeling he won't be unemployed long.

Despite his 15-22 record with Michigan, he was 60-26 with West Virginia. He led West Virginia to six bowl games and won two.

The Pittsburgh Panthers fired their new football coach Mike Haywood, 2 1/2 weeks after being hired, when he was charged with felony domestic battery in the presence of a minor.

Why would Rodriguez be a good fit for the Panthers? The Big East knows him real well with his body of work with West Virginia and I'm sure the Mountaineers would be sick if he returns to their conference.

Besides, if Rodriguez lands another job quickly, it wouldn't surprise me if he makes an attempt to take his quarterback Denard Robinson with him. The signal caller from Deerfield Beach, Florida, is the first quarterback in NCAA History to rush and pass for over 1,500 yards in the same season.

It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out.

But for those Rodriguez critics, they'll have a field day when the #6 Ohio State Buckeyes (11-1) face the #8 Arkansas Razorbacks in the Sugar Bowl Tuesday Night.

Arkansas Quarterback Ryan Mallett transferred because his drop back pocket-quarterback skills weren't a good fit for the spread offense that Rodriquez was bringing to Ann Arbor.

Mallett finished seventh in voting for the 2010 Heisman Trophy and has guided Arkansas to a 10-2 record.

Have to wonder how Wolverines fans will feel if Mallett does have better results against a Buckeyes team that whipped U-M 37-7 at Ohio Stadium on November 27, 2010.

Let the intrigue begin at 8:30 PM on Tuesday Night on ESPN. Hopefully, this game will be competitive unlike the Spartans and Wolverines New Years Day Massacres where these games were over before lunch.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com.

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