I APOLOGIZE

I owe lots of people an apology.

For the past few months I have been making an effort to get the Just Watch The Game blog back to where it was before I shut it down a couple of years ago.

I was disaaponted in the small number of comments I was getting from my posts.

I just realized tonight that there have been tons of comments and, because of the new configuration of the blog and my pathetic tech ineptitude, I missed them.

I always enjoyed the back and forth on the blog and probably answered seven or eight thousand comments myself during the time when the blog was getting 15,000 new visitors per month

Thanks for your recent comments and I’m looking forward to more discussion/debate like we had in the good old days.

If I can figure out how to do it, I’m hoping to start doing regularly scheduled chats.

Thanks again for your responses and keep them coming.

Clemente’s Basement

I think it was 1987.

I went to San Juan Puerto Rico to do an installment of “Pirates Treasures” for the Pirates pregame show.

I knocked on the door of the last house that Roeberto Clemente lied in and was invited in by his wife, Vera.

We sat in the living room on the last couch that he had sat on, surrounded by the last pictures and mementos that had surrounded him.

Vera had not changed a thing in her home since her husband died on December 31st, 1972, including a huge, framed picture of him hanging over the mantel.

I remember noticing that the carpet was frayed.

We eventully made it down to the basement so that she could show me Roberto’s trophies.

I expected a trophy case.

Instead it was a bin. The kind of bin your next door neighbor might have for storing his bowling trophies.

She pulled out a few gold gloves and a silver bat.

A World Serie ring.

Old gloves and shoes.

Vera was storing them until the Roberto Clemente Sports City finished its museum.

I’m glad there wasn’t a trophy case.

It made what was a ridiculously memorable moment in my life even more memorable.

I remember the standup I did from the beach where Clemente’s plane went down.

I said nothing summed up his death better than the giant neon sign on Mt. Washington that, for three days, flashed a two word message.

“Adios,amigo.”

Better Bell than Brown or Ben

LE’Veon Bell deserved to be the Steelers MVP. The players voted for him but, of the three MVPs on the offense, he is the easiest to replace.

The QB is always the most valuable player on an an NFL team.

If you don’t have a franchise quarterback, you’re almost certain to go nowhere.

Ben Roethlisberger had a great year and, because of the position he plays, is the player the Steelers can least afford to lose.

But it says here that Antonio Brown is the Steelers MVP.

Without him there is no way Roethlisberger puts up almost 5,000 yards.

Brown was targeted 181 times, three less than the league leader Demaryius Thomas of the Broncos.

Believe it or not Roethlisberger threw more passes than Peyton Manning this season.

It’s obvious that there is no way the Steelers win 11 games without him at QB.

But if they had Roethlisberger at quarterback but no Antonio Brown, the Steelers would be, at best, an 8-8 team.

Take Brown out of last night’s game against the Bengals and the Bengals win the game. He was the Steelers’ most valuable player last night and it wasn’t close.

Roethlisberger played OK but I don’t remember him returning a punt for a touchdown.

Le’ Veon Bell averaged 2.7 yards per carry in his last three games.

The Steelers won all three.

They can find someone to gain three yards a carry and catch check down passes.

Josh Harris was a good college running back. He won’t get the attention that Bell got and that could make things tougher on other people in the offense, including Brown, but the Steelers have shown they can win when Bell is a non factor as a runner.

If the Bengals had taken Antonio Brown out of the game, Roethlisberger would have had a bad night and the Steelers wouldn’t have won.

If Brown doesn’t play for the Steelers it really won’t matter who’s playing quarterback.

I think, when you take his return game into account, Brown is the best player in the NFL right now.

I’d have him returning kicks at least once in a while, too, by the way.

THE NERDIFICATION OF AMERICA

Was Santa good to your little athlete this year?

By athlete, of course, I mean video game player.

Were there lots of video games under the tree that could be the first step toward your son or daughter getting an athletic scholarship?

There was a time, long, long ago when boys and girls (mostly boys) would be thrilled to get a new football or football helmet, shoulder pads or a new basketball for Christmas and parents could dream of the day when they watched their kids playing in high school or college.

Or just be happy watching the kids hurrying outside to join their friends in the backyard to play with their new stuff.

Call it the nerdification or the wussification of America, but that’s becoming more rare every year.

Video game playing has been slowly replacing the actual playing of the games for a long time and the proof may be coming to a college near you.

Robert Morris University Illinois gave athletic – that’s right, ATHLETIC – scholarships to 35 students this year as part of its new e-sports program.

As reported in the New York Times, they trained this fall in a room, “Decked out with jet-black walls, mood lighting and leather game chairs with red piping.”

What athlete doesn’t appreciate mood lighting?

Yep, people who play pretend versions of sports are now officially being considered athletes.
Actually, the Robert Morris Illionis e-athletes aren’t playing pretend sports. They’re League of Legends players. It’s the most played PC game in North America and Europe, with 27 million players per day.

It’s about superheroes fighting other superheroes and trying to destroy the other team’s nexus. Or something.

It ain’t electric football.
Madden Football scholarships can’t be too far away.

Riot Games produces the games and, according to Wikipedia, has organized the League of Legends Championship Series which consists of eight professional teams on each continent.

So, while you may think that the video game you bought for your son or daughter is just another Christmas toy that will end up on a shelf in the garage, it could be your kids’ ticket to a college scholarship.

The kids at Robert Morris Illinois are getting half their tuition and room and board paid for each year –about $20,000.

RMI competes in the Collegiate Star League and, according to the standings I found, is in first place in the North-Illinois Division with an 8-0 record. There are 23 divisions in the North American Region.

Game companies are contributing money for scholarships.

Last February the University of Washington team won the North American Collegiate Championship. It was watched by 169,000 people online.

Athletic Directors around the country are concerned by the decrease in attendance at college football games. Pretty scary to think that more and more kids would rather watch virtually real competitions between fictional characters controlled by joy sticks than actual humans playing a real game, but that may be what we’re looking at here.

As the New York Times points out, Twitch, the most popular website for watching people play video games was bought by Amazon.

For $1.1 billion.

So, apparently the next crisis for American parents won’t be getting their kids away from their video screens to go outside and play. It will be getting their kids to play their own video games instead of watching other kids play theirs.

And now for the money quote from Kurt Melcher, the Associate Athletic Director at Robert Morris Illinois, who told the Times that he has received more than a half a dozen calls from athletic directors at other universities, who are interested in developing e-sports programs.

Sorry, the quote actually came from Melcher’s wife, who asked, “Why should (athletic scholarships) only be given to some kid who can put a ball into a hole?”

The fact that Melcher agreed with her is more than a little disturbing.

BYE BYE TRIB LIVE

In case you missed it on Twitter today, I will no longer be working as a co-host on TribLive Radio.

It was a good four year run and I enjoyed it as much as any job I’ve had in the media.

I’ll miss going in every day to laugh it up with Ken and Guy and the rest of the guys at the Trib.

It was not my choice.

My contract expired at the end of this month and the Trib chose not to renew it.

I was told that it was a desire to promote the Trib brand with their own people.

More once-a-week shows made more sense to them than a three man rotation from 10-2 which, Ken Laird, Guy Junker and I had.

They know better than I if it’s a good business decision.

I learned a long time ago that all you can do is show up everyday and do your thing until somebody decides they don’t want you or can’t afford you or both.

I learned a lot doing a talk show for four years.

I love doing it.

And I’m still good at it.

I also learned not to apologize for my age.

I can’t count the number of times that my close to 60 years of watching Pittsburgh sports provided a unique perspective.

There’s nobody doing talk radio in Pittsburgh who watched the Pirates in Forbes Field and the Steelers in Pitt Stadium.

I hope to be doing talk radio somewhere in Pittsburgh as soon as I can – as long as I can do the kind of talk radio I like to do.

In the meantime, I appreciate all the kind words on Twitter and I’ll see you on WPXI’s Final Word Sunday nights.

(I’ll be Mark Madden’s guest on 105.9 The X this Friday at 4:15)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL HYPOCRISY 101

“It’s all about the kids.”

I love it when college football and basketball coaches say that right after they make a move that’s all about themselves. That’s what Paul Chryst did when he officially became Pitt’s most recent former football coach Wednesday night.

(He’s Pitt’s third coach, not counting interim coaches, since 2010.)

At the press conference to introduce him as Wisconsin’s new coach, Chryst talked about how hard it was to leave Pitt after only three years as head coach: “It was also hard because of the players at the University of Pittsburgh, and that’s why we do this.”

Why “we” do what?

Sign meaningless contracts and make meaningless promises to young men, who make potentially life changing decisions based on your promises?

Paul Chryst, who grew up in Wisconsin, played and coached for the University of Wisconsin, took his dream job and the prevailing notion is that nobody should blame him.

Many of his Pitt players supported him on Twitter immediately after the move became official.

Okay, let’s give him that. You can always be forgiven for taking your dream job when it’s offered to you, but could we be spared the “It’s about the kids,” or the “We’re in this for the players” routine?

Paul Chryst is in it for himself. If it really were all about the players, he would still be Pitt’s coach.

It’s about Paul Chryst taking his dream job.

If the players feel abandoned or cheated, or if the athletic director, who gave you your first head coaching job, is fired because of your decision to leave, too bad.

Pitt fired Athletic Director Steve Pederson about 40 seconds after Chryst was introduced in Madison.

Chryst isn’t the first college head football coach to walk away from his players or his commitments to better himself.

It’s done so often that a coach is rarely criticized for it if the job is seen as a step up for him — or, of course a dream job.

How much criticism do you think he received from the Wisconsin media?

College football coaches, many of whom are guilty of exploiting kids, who have no chance of succeeding academically, as they squeeze as many eligible seasons as they can get out of them (See the University of North Carolina.), are in it for themselves.

If they cared about the kids and living up to their commitments, they might be willing to sign contracts that actually mean something. You know, the way the national letter of intent players are required to sign, means something.
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Big time college football has been a cesspool for a long time and there is no reason to believe it’s not getting worse every year.

The University of Michigan has reportedly offered San Francisco 49ers head coach and former Michigan quarterback Jim Harbaugh $48 million for six years. That would make him the highest paid coach in college football — a million more per year than Nick Saban at Alabama.

There’s a lot of stupidity going around in college football but it’s hard to believe the people in charge at Michigan would be offering a football coach $8 million a year if they didn’t think it would be profitable for them.

Harbaugh is said to be torn between going back to his alma mater, where he can get back to having it be about the kids and listening to what’s being offered by other NFL teams after his inevitable split with the 49ers.

If he would take Michigan’s $48 million offer, Harbaugh would be getting a $3 million raise from his salary with the 49ers and he would be making as much as the two highest paid coaches in the NFL, Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints and Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks.

But, as we all know, it’s not about the money in college football.

It’s all about the kids.

PITT JUST AIN’T IT

It’s scary to think that I’ve been following Pitt football for almost 60 years and covering it for 37, and I think it may be time for people to come to the same realization that I have.

Pitt is not a national power waiting to happen.

There were a couple of decent Pitt teams (Mike Ditka) in the late 50s and early 60s and an excellent team in 1963 that went 9-1, with the only loss being to Roger Staubach and Navy.

From the mid 60s until 1973 Pitt football was worse than it is now.
Much worse.
I remember when they had to have a mercy clock in the second half against Notre Dame.

If it hadn’t been allowed to run, Pitt might have lost by 100 points.

Pitt was almost as pathetic as the Steelers, and, trust me, that’s saying something,

Things changed in 1973 when Johnny Majors was hired.
Keep in mind that, at the time, Johnny Majors was the hottest coach in the country.

He just happened to show up at the same time that a kid named Anthony Dorsett was graduating from Hopewell.

He was told to bring in as many players as he wanted and not to worry too much about their level of literacy.

That was the beginning of the nine year period that Pitt and Pitt fans keep telling themselves can happen again.

It can’t.

Not unless Pitt hires a superstar coach, who can immediately compete with the top programs for players, cheats more and/or lowers its academic standards.

The first thing everybody connected to the Pitt program –including fans—needs to do is lower the expectations.

Dave Wannstedt didn’t eliminate the impatience but he had Pitt on the way to respectability.

Respectability looks pretty good right now.

Whoever is up next has a long way to go to get there.