Horses Escape, Obama Closes the Barn Door

Our president is about 30 years too late.

In his latest budget proposal, Barack Obama will call on Congress to put an end to tax exempt funds to finance stadiums.

This would have been really bad news for most of the zillionaire sports owners around the country who have benefited from what may be the biggest and worst political scandal in America over the last 35 years.

Hey, Mr. President, the horses just escaped, would you mind closing the barn door?

According to a story in Bloomberg News back in 2012, when the New York Giants were about to open the season against the Dallas Cowboys in their new stadium, there were 21 owners whose teams were playing in new or renovated stadiums built in the last 25 years with tax free public borrowing.

The story let Giants fans know that they had already helped Jerry Jones pay for his $1.2 billion, 80,000 seat stadium in Arlington, Texas.

How? Because every American taxpayer is forced to pay for new stadiums that are subsidized by tax free borrowing.

According to Bloomberg, tax exemptions on interest paid by municipal bonds for stadiums cost the U.S. Treasury $146 million a year. By the time all the publicly financed stadiums are paid for, taxpayers will have paid $4 billion.

And, of course, back in 2000, President Obama, when he was an Illinois state senator, was more than happy to vote in favor of the $587 million renovation of Soldier Field in Chicago.

That was one of the all time worst examples of government theft of taxpayer dollars to subsidize a billion dollar sports team.

Here’s what University of Chicago sports economist Allen Sanderson said at the time:

“If we started out to build the ugliest stadium in the country for the most money with the fewest alternative uses in the worst possible location, we’re pretty much there.”

The future president was part of one the worst taxpayer rip offs in history.

In Novemeber of 2000, while 99% of media attention was focused on Bush, Gore and the hanging chads in Florida, the Illinois legislature rammed the Soldier Field proposal through.

No referendum.

No public hearings.

One poll of 1,200 registered voters showed 66% opposed to the plan.

During a presidential debate in 2007, Obama defended his support of the Soldier Field debacle by saying that it led to economic development in Chicago.

Pretty amazing for a guy who is so quick to quote the consensus of scientists on climate change, to ignore the consensus of economists who believe that sports facilities and major events almost never lead to economic development.

Meanwhile, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is trying to talk the NFL into bringing the Super Bowl to his city and he wants to add 5,000 more seats to Soldier Field to reach the NFL’s required 65,000 capacity.

Who will pay for them? Who cares?

Meanwhile, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, who is emerging as a strong candidate for the Republican nomination for president and who sells himself as a strong fiscal conservative, recently came out in support of a nice new building for the Milwaukee Bucks.

In their thank you statement to the governor, the Bucks promised “an economic catalyst for the entire state.”

George Will and Charles Krauthammer, two of the country’s most prominent conservative commentators are also two of the country’s biggest baseball fans.

Both spend lots of time at Washington Nationals games in their beautiful, new, government financed, voter-opposed ball park.

I did a lot of Googling and couldn’t find a column by either one that questioned the funding or called the Nationals beneficiaries of corporate welfare.

Meanwhile, back in Illinois: In December the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, by a vote of 4-3, made 30 year old Lou Bertuca its $160,000 per year Executive Director.

The four yes voters were all outgoing Governor Pat Quinn’s appointees. Beruca, who has no experience with sports facilities, was Quinn’s campaign manager.

It never ends.

SteigerWorld Podcast | Ep. 1

Welcome to the world of John Steigerwald

My first podcast with the “Pittsburgh Podcast Network” has arrived. We will be doing this on a weekly basis every Wednesday.  The podcast is Gluten Free and will be a mix of mostly sports, culture, some politics when appropriate, a guest here and there and I am bringing back “Stag at the Movies” which was a very popular segment I did with Ken Laird on  Trib Live Radio.

I hope you enjoy this and thank you for the continued support.

PODCAST TALKING POINTS:
- About the Podcast
– Terrible decisions in sports
– Noll versus Belichick
– The Super Bowl in Pittsburgh
– “Why we may be Doomed”
– Don’t call me Mr. Steigerwald
– Bruce Jenner
– “Stag at the Movies”

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* Produced at talent network, inc. in Pittsburgh, Pa. by Frank Murgia and Wayne Weil.
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TOM BRADY BEST EVER (IN THE DINK AND DUNK ERA)

I’ve always had a hard time accepting Tom Brady’s greatness.

But then I also question the greatness of Jerry Rice.

Believe me, I know that both are great players, but I always question the mob mentality that is created in the media when they decide to declare this player or that player the greatest of all time.

Jerry Rice might be the greatest of all time, but not because of his numbers.

There are lots of other factors involved. Including the offense he played in and the rules that were — or weren’t– in place during his era.

I don’t think Tom Brady is the best quarterback of all time. In fact, I don’t think he’s close and I don’t care how many Super Bowls he’s won.

I do think he’s the greatest dink and dunk passer of all time and I give Bill Belichick most of the credit for that.

Belichick tied Chuck Noll last night with his fourth Super Bowl win.

And in a strange and roundabout way, Belichick can thank Noll for helping him tie his record.

Noll put together the best team in NFL history by exploiting the rules that were in place in the ’70s.

Bump and run.

Head slap.

Offensive lineman couldn’t use their hands.

He put together defenses that were so good that the league had to pass rules to overcome them.

And he built his offense around the running game because he saw the futility of trying to win with the pass against the defensive rules that were in place.

The end of the bump and run gave birth to the West Coast offense. Bill Walsh, when he was offensive coordinator at Cincinnati, was smart enough to realize that, if defenders couldn’t touch receivers more than five yards beyond the line of scrimmage, he was going to make a living throwing seven and eight yard slants.

Hello Joe Montana. Have you met Jerry Rice?

Belichick flamed out in Cleveland when he was a defense first kind of guy.

BY the time he got to New England, after a few years as a defensive coordinator, he had had learned what offenses did to drive him crazy.

Dink. Dunk.

Over the past few seasons rule changes and enhanced enforcement have made it almost impossible for defenses to stop the short passing game.

The New England Patriots are the greatest dink and dunk team of all time and Tom Brady is the greatest dink and dunk quarterback of all time.

That’s not to say that Brady can’t make all the throws. Of course he can. Anybody who has seen him play knows that.

The point is that he is rarely asked to make the tough throw.

In his first five Super Bowls, Brady had attempted 21 passes longer than 20 yards.

He completed one of them.

In the win over the Seahawks, I counted 10 passes that went 10 or more yards beyond the line of scrimmage.

The first one was intercepted.

He also made an absolutely perfect “long” pass to Gronk for the Patriots second touchdown.

Of the first 8 passes beyond 10 yards, two were intercepted, one went for a touchdown and the rest were incomplete.

When Seattle punted the ball away with four minutes to go and a three point lead, I knew that the game was at least going to overtime.

The Patriots offense -because of the design – is almost impossible to stop when the opposing defense can’t afford to give up the big play.

The Seahawks had to force the Patriots to take a lot of plays and had to concede the short stuff.

And Belichick was more than happy to dink and dunk his way to the end zone.

Tom Brady did his job. But his job is so much easier than so many quarterbacks who came before him.

And the credit for that goes to Bill Belichick.

And maybe Chuck Noll.

JUST PLAY THE GAME

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?

ALL SPORTS RADIO IN THE 21ST CENTURY

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.

WHAT ABOUT ANDREW LUCK’S BALLS?

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?