Category Archives: Book

WHAT FOOTBALL MEANS

This is an excerpt from the last chapter of my book “Just Watch The Game.” The chapter is called, “Mighty,Mighty St.B’s”

It’s about the football team at the Catholic grade school I attended more than 50 years ago.

The team lost one game in the 1950s.

Winning was important. Football was considered as much a part of a boy’s education as anything learned in the classroom.

And nobody apologized for it.

The Pastor, Father Lonergan, contributed columns to the weekly church bulletin.

I thought the first NFL Sunday was a good time to share this with the Twittersphere. Feel free to retweet it.

Or frame it.
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On September 10, 1950, here’s what appeared in the Sunday Bulletin under the heading “What Football Means At St. Bernard.”

Football at St. Bernard is not merely a form of recreation; it is much more.

Every person has certain fundamental problems to face in life. It makes all the difference in the world whether a person faces his problems honestly, with courage and intelligence, or tries to sneak around the problems of life

There is no place on the football field for the sluggard, the shirker,the leaner, the quitter, the coward, the egotist, the scatterbrain or the dolt.

Most of these faults are the result of pampering. In a football game, the opposing team is seldom inclined to do much pampering. Football is just clean, hard give and take.
What a training to face the stern realities of life.

We have a lot of fine boys in St. Bernard’s School and our aim is to bring out all of the best in them. We saw what football did to the boys last year.

(Undefeated championship team.)

The benefit was almost unbelievable. It is a pity that many boys are physically unfit to take part in the training. They are missing something, just on account of their physical handicap, they need most urgently. They are our problems. The real football boy is seldom a problem. He has learned to tackle problems.

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I know none of that explains Plaxico Burress, but, it was a different time.

LEGACY SCHMEGACY

Every ESPN TV and radio platform, when it isn’t shoving the World Cup in your face, is telling you that you really need to care about where Lebron James ends up next year.

I don’t care where he ends up because I don’t care about the NBA, but I understand it’s a story and it’s important to a lot of people.

What I don’t get is all the “legacy” talk.

I keep hearing and seeing discussions about LeBron’s legacy and how it will be affected if he leaves Miami and ends up on his third team.

Does anybody REALLY care about his legacy?

Does LeBron REALLY care about his legacy?

Why should he?

He should do whatever he thinks will make him happy now.

Do you really think that Wayne Gretzky cares that he made that stop in St. Louis to play for the Blues?

Would it have made sense for him to stay in Edmonton instead of agreeing to the trade to Los Angeles because it would make him happier now as a 53 year old man?

The media love to talk about this stuff, but can they really expect the players to take it seriously?

Myron Cope would say that the people obsessing on LeBron’s legacy sound like a bunch of card party women.

I would never say that in 2014 because it’s politically incorrect.

I wouldn’t want it to affect my legacy.

WORLD CUP? NO THANKS

It’s World Cup soccer time again.

Yep, every four years the planet Earth has a party, and I’m not invited. Well, actually, that’s wrong.

Everybody’s invited, I just have no interest in going. I’ve tried and I just can’t get into soccer.

Is it because I’m old?

There’s a good chance. I was a kid in the 1950s and 1960s. Do you know how many kids I knew who played soccer?

None.

I did not know one kid who played the game and was never asked to play. There was a mysterious organization near where I grew up called the Beadling Soccer Club. But I didn’t know anybody who belonged to it, and it was probably considered a subversive organization by the adults in my life.

Of course, I didn’t know one kid who played hockey, either, and I didn’t learn to skate until I was in my mid-30s, but I love hockey.

Maybe it’s no more complicated than the fact that I don’t have any interest in seeing humans play with a ball without using their hands. I’d probably like the sport a lot more if it was OK to pick up the ball and run with it.

I never played rugby, but I enjoy watching it every once in a while.

The best description I’ve come across for soccer was in a piece written in 2009 by Wabash College philosophy professor Stephen H. Webb, who wrote, “Think of two posses pursuing their prey in opposite directions without bullets in their guns.”

Webb also struck a chord with me when he compared soccer to baseball. He feels, as do I, that soccer is taking the place of baseball for lots of kids because it’s so much easier to join a group of kids and chase a ball around than it is to learn how to catch, throw and hit a baseball. Then there is the unavoidable individual attention that comes with each at-bat.

“The spectacle of your failure was so public that it was like having all of your friends over to your home to watch your dad force you to eat your vegetables,” Webb wrote about baseball.

North American sports such as baseball, football, basketball and hockey seem to do a better job of toughening kids up with a lot less writhing.

I still don’t get the writhing.

There’s no right or wrong here. I hope not liking soccer doesn’t make me a bad person. It’s a matter of taste. And maybe I’ll try again in four years. Meanwhile, you and the three billion other people will have to try to enjoy the party without me.

• There is no better example of the stupid and corrupt things that government will do with other people’s money than when politicians partner with teams and/or sports promoters. The waste and corruption associated with the World Cup being in Brazil is of epic proportions and will probably only be surpassed by the Olympics going there in 2016.

• In almost every case of government waste and corruption associated with the awarding of major international sporting events, it was only made possible by massive media cheerleading.

The American media, however, seems a lot more willing to expose the corruption associated with the major international events than it has been with the corruption and waste associated with the use of taxpayer funding for stadiums and arenas in cities here.

Billions have been given to major professional sports teams over the last 25 or 30 years and that has been no less wasteful or corrupt. It just happened in smaller increments. You know, only $300 or $400 million at a time.

• Am I the only person in Western Pennsylvania who doesn’t think Le’Veon Bell should be anointed the Steelers’ No. 1 running back for this season? The Steelers signed well-traveled back LeGarrette Blount as a free agent and the consensus seems to be that he will make a nice supplemental/short yardage back.

The Steelers will be Blount’s fourth team in four years and that raises a boatload of questions, but nothing in his career suggests that he should be limited to a few carries a game.

In fact, it’s the exact opposite. The more carries he gets, the better he is. Blount has carried the ball 15 times or more in 15 games. In those games, he averaged 4.95 yards a carry. He averaged more than five yards a carry eight times and more than seven yards per carry three times. He averaged less than four yards a carry only three times in those 15 games.

Bell never averaged five yards a carry in a game last season. He carried the ball 15 times or more in 12 games. In four of those, he averaged less than three yards per carry.

None of this is to say Bell stinks or even that he shouldn’t be considered the No. 1 back going into training camp. It’s just that Blount’s numbers and his highlight reel say that it should be an open competition.

John Steigerwald writes a Sunday column for the Observer-Reporter.