J. Steigerwald column for 1.31/2.01.14

Let’s hope that Richard Sherman’s about-to-be born son is as disciplined as Sherman expects him to be.

Earlier this week, Sherman was asked about the choice he might have to make if his girlfriend went into labor with their son on Super Bowl Sunday.

Sherman said he expected his son to be a disciplined young man and “stay in there” until after the game.
Should this really be a tough choice?

It’s a choice that athletes have been faced with only fairly recently. And just about everybody seems to have decided that there really is no choice.

Johnny Unitas would never have been faced with choosing between playing and being there for the birth of his child because, when he played, fathers were not allowed in the delivery room.

Yep. Shocking as it may seem, billions and billions of babies have been born without their fathers being present in the delivery room and most of them survived.

Come on. We’re talking about the Super Bowl here. Sherman has a contract that guarantees he will make $40 million over the next four years.

He plays for a team. This isn’t Phil Mickelson leaving after the third round of a major tournament.

There are 52 other players on the roster who have been working toward the goal of winning a championship for seven or eight months and Sherman will be at least the second most important Seahawks player in the game.

He’s employed by a billion dollar company that stands to lose millions of dollars if his absence costs it the game.

The knee jerk reaction when players are faced with this choice has become, “Family always comes first.” No it doesn’t. Or at least it doesn’t always have to come first.

When you are part of a team and when you are paid millions of dollars because you are an invaluable member of that team, sometimes putting your family first is being selfish.

We’re not talking about a death or some kind of medical emergency. Then there is no choice. We’re talking about passing up what could be a meaningful personal experience to fulfill an obligation and a promise every player makes to his team.

If it’s a shortstop missing one of 162 games, that’s a different story. For an NFL player, there are, at most, 20 games including playoffs and missing a regular season game could easily cost your team a playoff spot.

Shouldn’t your employer be allowed to expect you to make some family sacrifices if he’s paying you $600,000 a week?

Sherman’s coach, Pete Carroll, made light of the situation when he was asked. He, of course, said “It’s about family first and we’ll support his decision. I can’t wait to see little Petey.”

What else could Carroll have said?

The media would crucify him if he would dare to suggest that Sherman should consider his obligation to the team.

Again, because it’s become accepted that nothing should prevent a father from being present for the birth of a child.

It would be nice if a coach or an owner would have the guts to say that he expects his player to take one for the team and show up.

Carroll, by the way, is 63. You can be sure his father wasn’t in the delivery room when he was born and you can be almost certain that he wasn’t there for the birth of his kids.

The father witnessing the birth is a relatively new phenomenon and it’s an improvement over past practices, but have we become so sensitive and self-centered that it had to evolve so quickly into being mandatory with no exceptions?

By the time you read this, “Little Petey” might already be among us or maybe he’ll wait until the game is over.

But if Sherman chooses to play in the game and misses the birth, we shouldn’t worry too much about “Little Petey.”

What kid wouldn’t think it was cool to tell his friends that his dad missed his birth because he was playing in the Super Bowl?


A suggestion for 93.7 The Fan.

Lose the sports updates.

If you’re telling me the details of last night’s Penguins game and last night’s Pitt basketball game at 10:00 in the morning, you’re wasting my time and yours.

It’s 2015.

I probably watched the Penguins game last night. Every game is on TV. It’s not 1984 when 20 Penguins games and three or four Pitt games were televised.

I also probably watched the post game show and heard all the post game comments.

If I didn’t watch the games, there’s a pretty good chance I know what happened. Maybe I went on the interwebs. They tell me you can get scores and highlights on one of them fancy cell phones now.

The updates every 20 minutes are fillers. If anybody knows what happened with the Penguins last night, it’s someone who has made the choice to turn on an all sports station. THEY ALREADY KNOW. Stop insulting your listeners’ intelligence.

Now, my wife doesn’t care about the Penguins, Pitt, the Steelers or the Super Bowl, but she’s not The Fan’s target audience. She doesn’t need updates. She ain’t listening.

There are good reporters working for The Fan.

Let them report.

But let them work on stories that are new and interesting and break into the regular talk only when you think you’re telling your audience something it doesn’t already know.

It’s a waste of good talent to have good reporters sitting around waiting to regurgitate the same old news every 20 minutes.

You know what updates every 20 minutes constitute? Lazy radio.

It may seem like a small thing but it’s not.

It demonstrates a lack of creativity, originality and enterprise — three things that separate the average from the really good.

It also demonstrates complacency and taking an audience for granted.

Good, creative, original, enterprising reporters should want the stupid updates to go away. It would give them a chance to show their stuff and increase their value.

Meanwhile, If you need me, I’m on with Mark Madden 3:30 Friday’s on 105.9 The X.


J. Steigerwald column for 1.24/25.14

Had enough of Deflategate?

It couldn’t happen to a more deserving organization. The New England Patriots are known cheaters. Everybody remembers Spygate. The Patriots had a first round draft pick taken away and their coach Bill Belichick was fined $500,000 for illegally taping the signals of opposing teams.

The Patriots and the NFL would like to have you believe that it wasn’t a big deal and that it gave them no real competitive advantage.

Ridiculous. First round draft picks are cherished a little less than the average NFL coach’s first born child. Only a serious offense would move a commissioner to take one away.

And, of course, the NFL destroyed the video.

As of Friday, as far as anybody knew, the NFL had not contacted Tom Brady to ask him if he knew anything about how 11 of the Patriots’ 12 game balls for the AFC Championship had become under inflated.

The NFL has been investigating the situation since Sunday night but it wants this story to go away.

It might if President Obama were to sign an exectutive order some time in the next 15 minutes banning all sports talk shows.

Sorry. This one is going to linger until the Super Bowl kickoff and beyond. And it should.

If you are among the many who dismiss the issue because the Patriots blew out the Indianapolis Colts 45-7 in Sunday’ AFC Championship game, you’re missing the point.

If the balls were deflated to accommodate Tom Brady and the wet conditions, it was done because somebody thought it would make it easier for him to throw the ball.

The Colts’ quarterback, Andrew Luck, as far as we know, never got a chance to throw an easier-to-grip ball. He completed 12 of 33 attempts for 126 yards and two interceptions.

Could he have done better with a ball that was more conducive to throwing in wet weather?

We don’t know because Andrew Luck didn’t cheat to find out.

If the Patriots had spiked Andrew Luck’s pre game meal with Ex-Lax would that have been dismissed because of the 45 points scored by the Patriots?

Did Nancy Kerrigan winning the Silver Medal at the 1994 Winter Olympics make the attempt by Tonya Harding’s friends to eliminate Kerrigan from the competition by smashing her leg with a police baton any less relevant?

And don’t let anybody tell you that NFL teams aren’t protective of their game balls. I traveled on the Steelers’ team charter to every away game in 2007. That was the first year of the rules change -pushed by Brady and Peyton Manning – that called for the visiting team to provide their own game balls instead of having the home team provide them for both teams.

The Steelers brought their ball “boy”, a 50-something man, on the plane and put him up in the team hotel. His only job was to take care of the footballs.

By virtue of their record, the Patriots were also given a built in advantage in the AFC Championship game. It’s called home field advantage. And that advantage is increased at least a little when a team in a cold weather city is hosting a team that plays its home games in a dome.

Ask Peyton Manning.

So, it is not far fetched at all to believe that Brady, Belichick and/or the entire Patriots organization would try to enhance that outdoor advantage a little more by negating the wet weather with an easier to grip football.

According to the NFL’s investigation, the deflated balls were discovered at half time and replaced by fully inflated balls in the second half.

Would Brady having to play with a ball as slippery as the one Andrew Luck played with in the first half have been enough to overcome a 45-7 blowout?

We’ll never know.

That’s why another Patriot’s AFC Championship will always be tainted.

Cardale Should Have Gone For The Cash

Cardale Jones should have gone pro.

After quarterbacking Ohio State to the NCAA’s most recent version of the Mythical National Championship Monday night, he had until Thursday to declare his eligibility for the NFL draft.

He decided to go back to school because he doesn’t believe he’s ready for the NFL and he wants to focus on getting his degree.

Jones has NFL scouts confused. He only started three games but they were three of the biggest games in Ohio State history and he won all three.

He’s 6-6, 250 and has a cannon for an arm.

The consensus seems to be that he would have been at least a second round pick. Depending on where in the second round he would go, it would mean anywhere from $750,000 to $4 million in guaranteed money.

Jones is 22. He went to military school after graduating from high school and was red shirted his freshman year. After training camp, he was made Ohio State’s third-string quarterback.

Braxton Miller, who is also an NFL prospect, will return from his season ending injury next season and is expected to be the starter.

Cardale should have gone for the cash.

Forget the degree. He’s majoring in African-American studies.

I haven’t researched it but I’m going to guess that there aren’t a lot of African American Studies graduates making $100,000 a year.

Especially former college football players not playing in the NFL.

If Jones were to get $4 million in guaranteed money, that’s $100,000 a year for 40 years.

If he sits behind Braxton next season, his draft stock will go down. If he had been drafted, he would have sat behind an NFL quarterback and be paid lots of money for doing it.

If the degree is really important to him, there’s nothing preventing him from using his NFL money to pay his tuition.

Jones has a two-year old daughter. A nice NFL signing bonus would allow him to put a nice chunk of money in a trust fund for her and make her a rich woman when she’s 22.

Maybe he’ll beat out Miller for the starting job next season or maybe, after sitting a year, he’ll start in 2017 and play well enough to be a high number one pick.

There’s also just as good a chance that he will see his draft stock fall or he’ll get injured or both. An insurance policy will bring him some major money if he suffers a career ending injury, but falling draft stock could cost him millions.

This should really be a no-brainer.

If Jones were a drama major and Stephen Spielberg called and offered him a million dollars to appear in one of his movies, would anybody suggest that he stay in school, perform in the Ohio State Theatre’s production of Kiss Me Kate and get his degree?
So, please, let’s forget about the degree.

Would a junior majoring in Criminal Justice be wise to turn down a job with the FBI in favor of getting the degree?

Take the job. Use the money you’re paid to pay for tuition.

Cardale Jones’ decision was a football and a football only decision. Nothing wrong with that. It was just the wrong football decision.

But, here’s something that isn’t discussed enough: Did you know that there are two players on this year’s Ohio State hockey team who were drafted by an NHL team?

They didn’t have to make the choice Jones was forced to make. They were drafted, went to NHL training camps and maintained their eligibility while pursuing their degrees.

There are 289 current NCAA hockey players who have been drafted by NHL teams.

What a concept, eh?

Why is amateur purity so much more important for football players?


You can’t do a story on the Baseball Hall of Fame balloting without mentioning steroids.

There was – and will be for a long time – as much if not more discussion about who was not elected to Cooperstown this week as there was about the four players who got in, John Smoltz, Craig Biggio, Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson.

No Barry Bonds.
No Roger Clemens.

Arguments about whether suspected and/or convicted juicers like Clemens and Bonds deserve to in the Hall of Fame are as predictable as pitchers and catchers reporting in February.

Bonds received 36.8 percent of the vote. Clemens got about the same, 37.5.

Both deserve to get in on the first ballot based on their statistics but the writers who vote have decided that they deserve to not get what they deserve.

It’s punishment for using steroids.

For some reason, you can find plenty of stories about the Pro Football Hall of Fame voting that never mention steroids.

I would bet that anyone who has been in an NFL locker room in the last 20 years can look at the list of 15 NFL players, who were announced as HOF finalists on Thursday, and name several suspected juicers.

Doctor Charles Yesalis, one of the world’s foremost experts on the use of performance enhancing drugs in sports, has estimated that 85 percent of the players in the NFL are using some kind of PED.

So, why is there hardly a peep from any of the Pro Football Hall of Fame voters about steroids?

Most of the voters have been going into NFL locker rooms for at least 25 years. Only an idiot wouldn’t notice the ridiculous amount of muscle in the average NFL locker room and not believe that most of it was unnatural.

So what’s up?

Are home runs more sacred than touchdowns?

Strikeouts more sacred than sacks?

No sane person would believe that Barry Bonds could hit 73 home runs in a season with the body that he had prior to 1998, when he looked like a college basketball point guard.

Nor would any sane person believe that Roger Clemens could put up the numbers that he put up after 40 without all of those drugs his trainer never gave him.

NFL players weren’t dragged in front of Congress the way Major League Baseball players were.

Why not?

You could make a good case for Congress staying out of it altogether, but if the purpose was to expose the dangers of PED use and prevent young athletes from using them, why weren’t the athletes from the sport that introduced steroids to American sports more than 40 years ago, also called in?
Unnaturally oversized football players have been walking the Earth a lot longer than unnaturally oversized baseball players.

Where do you think the Father of Baseball Juicers, Jose Canseco got the idea?

(By the way, have you noticed how many former NFL players have shrunk since going to work for ESPN?)

I decided a long time ago not to care who gets in any hall of fame. I lost my patience with the stupidity.

I know Barry Bonds was a Hall of Fame player and I also know that he was juiced to the point where it looked like one more injection or pill would cause his gigantic head to explode.
He chose to take an unorthodox, questionable, unethical approach to breaking some of baseball’s most sacred records.

So, now the Hall of Fame voters are taking an unorthodox, questionable and, in many cases, hypocritical approach when casting their ballots.

Too bad for Barry and the rest of the juicers.

The voters’ and the media’s standards for the two halls of fame are obviously different.

If you don’t believe me, just do some Googling on the two election results this week and count the number of times you find the word steroids in the baseball stories.

Then see how long it takes you to find one Pro Football Hall of Fame story with the word steroid in it.

My unscientific guess would be that the Hall of Fame in Canton has three steroid users for every Major League Baseball player ever suspected of using.


Remember when big sports stories took place on fields, courts, rinks, tracks, courses and inside rings?

Have you seen the lists of the top sports stories for 2014?
According to a poll of 94 Associated Press sports editors, the biggest sports story of the year took place in an elevator.

Yep. Ray Rice knocking out his fiance.

According to the AP, domestic violence in the NFL was 2014’s biggest sports story.

Forty years ago the biggest story was also about violence in an enclosed area – The Rumble in the Jungle. That was the night that Muhammad Ali knocked out George Foreman to regain the heavyweight championship.

Ali was voted AP Athlete of the Year. Not bad when you consider that Henry Aaron had broken Babe Ruth’s career home run record a few months before.

The story that finished second in the AP voting was Donald Sterling. You remember Donald. He used to be owner of the Los Angeles Clippers until the team was taken away from him based on stupid, bigoted remarks that were recorded without his knowledge (and probably illegally).

Another sad and pathetic story, but having nothing to do with anybody doing anything athletic.

After LeBron going back to Cleveland and the first openly gay athletes in the NBA and NFL, none of which included anything that actually involved, you know, competition, the voters finally got around to an athletic exercise at number five -the Giants winning the World Series.

Six is the success of the College Football Playoff, which is kind of about an actual sporting event. Seven through 10 are all stories about athletic competition – assuming you consider sprint car drivers athletes- Tony Stewart’s fatal accident is number seven.

Eight is the World Cup.

Nine is the Seahawks winning the Super Bowl and 10 is the Sochi Olympics.

The only problem I have with five, eight, nine and 10 is that those events always qualify as the biggest stories of the year. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to call the Super Bowl one of the year’s biggest stories.

Here are three real sports stories that the AP missed.
1. The Kansas City Royals making it to the World Series. Come on. This is a small market team that used to be a model Major League Baseball franchise.

They hadn’t won a playoff game in 30 years because of MLB’s ridiculous economics. ESPN surveyed 43 experts for their 2013 predictions.

Two picked the Royals to make the playoffs.

They overcame all of the stupid roadblocks that exist in Major League Baseball and went to the World Series. That used to qualify as a pretty good sports story.

2. The demise of Tiger Woods. This guy was pretty good at one time. He finished 69th at the 2014 U.S. Open and missed the cut at the PGA Championship.

It wasn’t all that long ago that no sports figure in America was bigger than Woods. Maybe if he had smashed a few more windshields with his five iron he would have made AP’s list.

3. The end of defense in the NFL. Has anybody noticed how many scoring and passing records, both single season and career, are being broken in the NFL?

For quarterbacks having a good day, 400 yards is the new 300. Defense is all but inconsequential in a league that used to be defined by it. Now it’s all about turnovers.

Pretty soon it’ll be all about who has the ball last. The game is going through a major metamorphosis.

Maybe our friends at the Associated Press feel a need to measure the scope or value of a sports story by how clearly it reflects everything that’s wrong with the human race.

Do you?

Meanwhile, the AP left out what was the biggest and most important non-sports sports story of the year. Academic fraud in the University of North Carolina athletic department.