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.

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.

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


The value of every statue on the planet took a tumble on Thursday. That’s the day when former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis got his.

The Ravens unveiled the statue of Lewis outside of M&T Bank Stadium and it now stands as exhibit “A” of what, in the last few years, has become rampant statue inflation.

Remember when statues meant something?
How much value would the Lincoln Memorial lose tomorrow if a Bill Clinton Memorial, with a statue the same size, were placed next to it?

Johnny Unitas’ statue had stood alone outside the Ravens’ stadium until Thursday. It was unveiled in 2002, long before the statue standard had been lowered.

Unitas is considered by millions to be the best quarterback in NFL history. He’s probably Baltimore’s number one sports star of all time, even though he played for a team that eventually sneaked out of town in the middle of the night.

Michael Jordan has a statue in Chicago.
Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, Bill Mazeroski and Mario Lemieux have statues in Pittsburgh,
Stan Musial has one in St. Louis, Bobby Orr in Boston, Bear Bryant in Alabama, Wayne Gretzky has two, one in Edmonton and one in Los Angeles.
Cam Newton has one in Auburn, Alabama. He was Auburn University’s quarterback for one year. He won the Heisman Trophy, which is a pretty nice statue in itself, but that is obviously no longer enough.
One season now gets you life size immortality,
Nick Saban got one in Alabama after four years as the head coach.
Statues are popping up everywhere and the more statues there are the less significant each one becomes.
Hundreds of people showed up for the unveiling of Lewis’ statue.

Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar weren’t able to make it, though. They’re both still dead.

They died on January 31, 2001 and Ray Lewis was charged with their murder. Ray eventually copped a plea to obstruction of a murder investigation in return for his testimony against two of his friends.

Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting beat the rap.
The blood-soaked, white suit that Lewis wore that night has never been found.

Nobody should call you crazy if you believe that Lewis knows who killed Baker and Lollar.
For that matter, until the murderer is found, feel free to include Lewis among the suspects.
When he was asked about it during one of the many media slobber fests prior to his appearance in Super Bowl XLVII, Lewis said, “You want to talk to me about something that happened 13 years ago right now?”

It’s okay to build a statue based on the past, but the murder is old news.

Lewis was celebrated by the media as the Ravens’ inspirational leader. Listen to his colleagues at ESPN and you would think he’s Martin Luther King.

His quarterback in Super Bowl XLVII, Joe Flacco, said 90 percent of his pre game speeches were “gibberish.”

He is unmarried and has six kids by four different women.(Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

While nobody would deny his greatness as a player, he will be remembered most for the ridiculous “dance” that he would do before every home game.

That’s why the statue outside M & T Bank Stadium captures him in mid-dance, head back, mouth open. They played his entrance song, “Hot in Here” by Nelly at the unveiling.
“No deceivin’, nothin’ up my sleeve, no teasin’
I need you to get up on the dance floor
Give that man what he’s askin’ for”

The families of Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar are still asking for justice. They probably believed they would get that before Ray-Ray got his statue.

Here’s hoping the pigeons in Baltimore do their duty early and often.


Mike Tomlin can’t count on a committee to get him to the playoffs for the first time in three years, and if the Steelers performance in the preseason is any indication, he just might be looking at his third straight year without a postseason appearance.

It’s easy to dismiss the preseason record as meaningless, but recent Steelers teams had bad regular seasons after losing three or four exhibition games.

An 0-4 preseason last summer led to an 8-8 regular season.

Bill Cowher went 0-4 in his last preseason in 2006 and finished 8-8 in the regular season. He finished 6-10 in 2003 after a 1-3 preseason and in 1999 a 1-3 preseason was followed by a 7-9.

If Tomlin ends up having three consecutive nonwinning seasons for the first time since Chuck Noll from 1969 to 1971, legitimate questions will be raised about his ability to maintain a winning program.

He inherited a good nucleus of players, including two possible Hall of Famers in Troy Polamalu and Ben Roethlisberger, the second-best quarterback in franchise history.

He also got a couple of good years out of Hines Ward, another possible Hall of Famer and one of the best wide receivers in Steelers’ history.

Where would Tomlin be without Heath Miller, Ike Taylor, and Brett Keisel, not to mention the defensive coordinator he inherited from Cowher, Dick LeBeau?

Aaron Smith, one of the Steelers’ best all-time defensive linemen, started 16 games in the Super Bowl season of 2008.

Then there were inherited players such as Casey Hampton, Max Starks, Larry Foote, Ryan Clark and James Farrior, who made major contributions. Willie Parker gained 1,300 yards for Tomlin in 2007, his first season as head coach.

Cowher inherited a good nucleus from Chuck Noll, but also won with players drafted and developed after he arrived.

Can the same be said for Tomlin?

Not yet.


Have you noticed that our institutions of higher learning do a lot of stupid things?

There’s no better example of that stupidity than the new playoff system that will pick this year’s major college football “champion.”
The fact that it’s only about 98% as stupid as the system that was in place since 1998 doesn’t mean it’s not still really stupid.

The Bowl Championship Series, which was introduced 16 years ago, was 99% as stupid as the system that dates back to the days of Pop Warner and Knute Rockne. what’s sad is that the four team playoff that will take place after this season has been embraced by 99% of the national sports media.

The BCS used polls and computer rankings to determine the top two teams in the country and had them play for the “championship.” I’ll bet you didn’t know that the NCAA actually used astrophysicists to interpret the data. That’s right. They turned picking a sports champion into rocket science.

The 2014 “champion” will be determined by a playoff between the top four teams at the end of the season, which would be fine if those four teams were determined, you know, on the field of play.

Nope. The geniuses at the NCAA have a 13 person committee that includes current athletic directors, former coaches and players and a former Secretary of State.

Condoleeza Rice and 12 other people will meet every week beginning and they’ll list the Top 25 teams every Tuesday, beginning October 28th. The top four teams at the end of the season will play for the “championship.”
It’s just a more roundabout way to vote for a championship instead of having the teams play for one.

And it’s still stupid.

And it will be a Mythical Champion.

How will these 13 really smart people make this stupid idea work?

1. Each committee member will create a list of the 25 teams he or she believes to be the best team in the country, in no particular order. Teams listed by three or more members will remain under consideration.

2. Each member will list the best six teams, in no particular order. The six teams receiving the most votes will comprise the pool for the first seeding ballot.

3. In the first seeding ballot, each member will rank those six teams, one through six, with one being the best. The three teams receiving the fewest points will become the top three seeds. The three teams that were not seeded will be held over for the next seeding ballot.

4. The 13 committee members will compete in a round-robin arm wrestling tournament with the winner awarded the honor of picking the best team in the country.

Okay, I made that last one up, but there are two more steps. Are you interested in hearing them? Didn’t think so.

The champion of every other major team sport on the planet is decided on the field of play and the NCAA could pick its football champion the same way, especially now that the Power 5 conferences have separated themselves from the rest of the riffraff.

Have the champions of the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12, ACC and three wildcard teams (chosen from the Power 5 using a formula based on wins and losses) play off in an eight-team tournament.

In other words, keep it simple, stupid.


What are the chances of getting the NFL to pay me to watch the Super Bowl halftime show?
Or better yet, how much would it take to get the NFL to forget the 30 minute halftime extravaganza and just take the usual 12 minute break?

In case you missed it, the money-grubbing capitalists, who are the NFL, have decided that it’s time to ask the Super Bowl halftime performers to pay for the privilege.
Of course, the first reaction from just about everybody is that the NFL is greedy.
That would be correct.

NFL owners want to squeeze every dollar they can out of every man, woman and child in America and the dollars they can’t squeeze, they’re happy to have the government squeeze for them.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the top choices for this year are Katy Perry, Coldplay and Rihanna. They wouldn’t have to actually buy the halftime show. They would agree to give the NFL a percentage of their post Super Bowl tour earnings.

Here’s hoping all the acts tell the NFL to go pound salt.

If nobody agrees to pay to play, real football fans might actually be spared the over the top, most likely lip-synched or auto-tuned 30 minute delay between halves and get the normal 12 minute break.

It took a few years before the NFL and various TV networks decided that a normal halftime break was too short and that the fans deserved a concert instead of a long bathroom break.

The first Super Bowl halftime show featured the University of Arizona Symphonic Marching Band, The Grambling State University Marching Band and trumpeter Al Hirt.

Super Bowl II in Miami settled for the Grambling band.

Super Bowl III, also in Miami, went for the Florida A&M University band and some local high school bands.

That was the year of the famous Joe Namath prediction, when the New York Jets upset the heavily favored Baltimore Colts. I don’t remember anybody saying, “Boy that was a great game, but when are they going to come up with a better halftime show?”

In the ‘70s, famous entertainers such as Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and Andy Williams started showing up but they still managed to work in some type of marching band.

As late as 1984, Super Bowl XVIII’s halftime show was just the University of Florida and Florida State Marching bands. Don’t remember any complaints that year, either,

The NFL closed out the ‘80s with somebody named Elvis Presto and a bunch of South Florida area dancers at Super Bowl XXIII in 1989.

When did the halftime show take a turn for the worse for people interested in, you know, just watching the game? January 31, 1993. Super Bowl XXVII. Michael Jackson. The TV ratings went up at halftime and real football fans were doomed.

Let’s bring sanity back to the Super Bowl halftime show. Maybe the NFL could ask real football fans to send in a donation and if enough money is raised, fans who wouldn’t walk across the street to see Katy Perry, won’t have to worry about how to fill the 30 minutes until the second half kickoff.

The 12 minutes could be filled with an old standby act that would be more entertaining than most, if not all, previous Super Bowl halftime shows and it wouldn’t cost more than a couple hundred dollars.

A dog and a Frisbee.

Two Games for Ray Rice. 42 Months for Shaneen Allen

The horses are out and Roger is ready to shut the barn door.

Yep, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell got the message -that a two game suspension given to Ray Rice for slapping his then fiance around was another slap in the face to women everywhere and would do little to prevent domestic abuse by NFL players in the future.

According to the Washington Post, Goodell is considering a new policy that would result in a four-to-six game suspension for a first domestic abuse offense and a full season for a second.

That’s good news and bad news if you’re the wife of an abusive NFL player. It might serve as a deterrent and make it safer for you to live under the same roof with him.

The bad news is that, if he does beat you up and you report it, your household income could be reduced by a few million dollars.

If an NFL wife has already caused her husband to lose 25% or 30% of his salary, how hard would it be for him to talk her out of pressing charges the second time if it means not losing eight or 10 million dollars?

Have you noticed that discussions about the punishment fitting the crime come up a lot in the NFL?

If it’s not domestic abuse, it’s a DUI or an assault.
Sometimes it’s murder. Of course, Roger Goodell probably won’t have to suspend Aaron Hernandez.

If the district attorneys and judges were a little tougher on pro athletes who break the law, maybe Goodell wouldn’t feel compelled to increase the penalties.

For knocking his fiance unconscious and dragging her out of an elevator by her hair, Rice got two games from Goodell, but he got bupkus from the state of New Jersey.

New Jersey Superior Court Judge Michael Donio and and D.A. Jim McClain kept Rice out of jail by putting him in a diversion program for first time offenders.

They weren’t feeling quite as merciful when single mother of three Shaneen Allen was pulled over for a traffic violation and volunteered to the cop that she was carrying a gun, for which she had a Pennsylvania concealed-carry permit. (She lives across the river in Philadelphia.)

She didn’t know that New Jersey didn’t recognize Pennsylvania’s permit to carry. (We’ll leave the stupidity of that for another time.)

Allen was arrested and neither Donio nor McClain has been willing to dismiss the charges or send her to a diversion program.

Allen is looking at a mandatory 42-month prison sentence if she’s convicted.

If she is convicted and does the jail time, she probably won’t get a standing ovation when she goes back to any of her three jobs as Rice did when he showed up for the first day of Baltimore Ravens training camp.

Shaneen Allen decided to become a legal gun owner after she had been robbed twice. Her intent was to prevent herself from being the victim of another crime.
Ray Rice committed a crime and got a pass.

The media outrage over the NFL’s puny penalty was long and loud.
Do you recall hearing a lot of outrage over Rice avoiding jail time?
It’s time to direct some loud and long outrage at Judge Michael Donio and District Attorney Jim McClain.
Let’s make Shaneen Allen’s story as well known as Ray Rice’s.

Dr Seuss’ Lesson For The NCAA

“Everything stinks until it’s finished.”
Dr. Seuss.

The good doctor probably wasn’t thinking about the NCAA when he wrote that, but he could have been.

The NCAA isn’t finished yet and it sure does stink. I thought it would be a good idea to quote the author of “The Cat in the Hat” and other great contributions to American literature because I’ve seen few if any references to what effect the new Power 5 conferences will have on the academic integrity of their 65 members.

But I do remember seeing former University of Memphis football player Dasmine Cathey showing Bernard Goldberg of HBO’s Real Sports the stack of Dr. Seuss books he had under his dorm room bed. Cathey used those books to learn how to read after he had received his football scholarship.

I also know that a former academic counselor at the University of North Carolina has claimed that 60 percent of the football and basketball players she tutored read between the fourth and eighth grade levels.

One major college football or basketball player reading at the fourth grade level should interest the media more than any story about conference realignment or rules changes, but the media stopped paying attention to academic integrity about 20 minutes after the institutions of higher learning did.

In case you missed it, the NCAA has decided to allow the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, PAC 12 and ACC to govern themselves.

It would be great if, when the announcement was made, your favorite college president had said, “We believe that the emphasis on football and basketball has compromised the stated mission of this great university for too long. The NCAA has failed. This partnership with the other four conferences will allow us to return to a healthy balance between academics and athletics, with the emphasis decidedly on academics.”

But the college presidents haven’t said much since the NCAA made the announcement. It’s been mostly athletic directors and coaches talking about how this is going to be so much better for the fans and, of course, the student athletes, who will be getting more money.

Meanwhile, the solution to everything that’s wrong with college football might be just two months away.

Minor league football.
You know, what Major League Baseball and National Hockey League teams have been using for player development for the last hundred years or so.

The Fall Experimental Football League starts in October. The FXFL will have eight teams playing an eight game schedule. The 40-man rosters will be stocked with players cut from NFL teams. Players will earn between $1,000 and $1,250 a week.

The long term plan is to be a developmental league for the NFL, with players being eligible at any time to be called up to the big leagues. Just like baseball and hockey.

It could eventually be an alternative to college for football players who aren’t college material.

The idea has been endorsed by several current and former NFL general managers and personnel directors.

The NFL will be careful not to be too enthusiastic about the idea right away because it doesn’t want to jeopardize its free minor league system that has been provided by the colleges for the last 90 years.

Of course, the NFL would have no choice but to get behind the idea if the college presidents did their jobs and returned to the days when college football was for real college students.

Dasmine Cathey could tell them what he learned in Dr Seuss’ “The Lorax:
“UNLESS someone like YOU cares a whole lot, NOTHING is going to get better. It’s NOT.”