1) I can't resist saying something about Norv Turner, hired today by the San Diego Chargers. I picked on Turner a few weeks back, when discussing the Rooney rule and, as far as I know, his 58-82-1 career coaching record hasn't changed since then. I know that Turner installed the current offense that San Diego uses six years ago (according to Michael Smith), but is this a reason to hire a man to be the head coach?
After a number of turbulent years in which general manager A.J. Smith and coach Marty Schottenheimer just couldn't find a way to get along, the Chargers were looking for a nice guy who won't make waves. Turner is the perfect choice. In San Francisco, people in the office refer to him as Uncle Norv. Turner is such a nice guy, office employees and players loved coming by his office just to enjoy his company and conversation.
Say goodbye to dysfunction in San Diego.
If this is the key criterion for head coach, I am seriously disappointed that I wasn't considered. Ask my friends - I am a nice guy, too. I can't believe Clayton is serious about this. The Chargers passed over some promising younger candidates, like Ravens' defensive coordinator Rex Ryan and Mike Singletary. But, like the aforementioned Michael Smith, Clayton thinks experience rightly won out in this case, and also credits Turner for his work with Alex Smith, the 49ers quarterback. I have never really been sold on experience, particularly when the experience is of losing consistently, as has been true for Turner. Clayton also credits Turner for his work with QB Alex Smith in San Francisco. Smith was improved over his rookie season, but not only did he finish with a below average 74.8 passer rating, but he really stunk the last ten games of the season, with only three games above 70.
For all I know, Turner will turn out to be the next Joe Torre: a nice guy with a previous record of failure at multiple stops, brought in to skipper a team with championship talent but in need of a calm, steadying hand in an organization riven by dysfunction - so, I'll hedge my bets here by saying "you never know." But Turner proves that our vaunted American meritocracy often doesn't extend to the process of hiring NFL head coaches.
2) Phil Mushnick, long-time writer/curmdugeon for the New York Post notes in an article today the unreflective handling of violence and fighting in hockey by sportscasters:
Late in the Flyers' 5-3 victory Saturday at the Garden, ex-Ranger Mike Knuble had an accidental, full-stride collision with Brendan Shanahan. Both hit the ice like out-of-sight airline luggage. And both stayed down. Knuble was out of it, but only half as much as Shanahan, whose head had smacked the ice. He stayed stretched out, motionless, his eyes vacant.
Finally, Knuble rose and was helped off. Rangers fans responded with applause while players on both benches hit their sticks against the boards in caring, respectful salute.
Later, Shanahan, his head immobilized, was lifted onto a gurney and wheeled toward an ambulance. His departure brought applause and a chant from Rangers fans, and more stick-banging of the boards from players on both teams.
Moments after the game was re-started, Rangers tough guy Ryan Hollweg took a violent run at Joni Pitkanen. With Pitkanen exposed along the boards, Hollweg drove both hands into Pitkanen's jaw then dropped his gloves, an invitation to a fistfight.
How Hollweg had the stomach for blood so soon after Knuble and Shanahan had been removed is beyond us. But on MSG Network, that never came up.
And then, because Pitkanen was unwilling to fight, Philly's Alexandre Picard grabbed Hollweg. And then Aaron Ward grabbed Picard. And then Picard and Ward shook free of their gloves and had a fistfight. They tried to punch each other in the head as hard as they could.
And when it was over, the crowd applauded. And both teams, from their benches, again used their sticks to bang out their admiration.
On MSG, Sam Rosen and Joe Micheletti never put the two episodes together, never asked that we even consider this episode had soon followed that one. It was as if that Knuble-Shanahan train wreck, the one that brought a sustained and solemn silence minutes earlier, had never happened.
When I first scanned the article and saw the phrase " On MSG, Sam Rosen and Joe Micheletti never put the two episodes together" i thought Mushnick was referring to another recent brawl in Madison Square Garden, involving the Rangers' co-tenants, the New York Knicks. Despite Chris Russo saying, ridiculously, at the time of the Garden Brawl, that there's no fighting in hockey anymore, there is, of course. And fans applaud, rather than wring their hands about the coming of the Final Days.
3) Jemele Hill,ESPN Page Two columnist, raises some interesting issues in her column today about Matt Leinart and Tom Brady fathering children out of wedlock:
Brady is now the second white NFL quarterback in the last year that has become embroiled in baby-mama drama.
First there was Matt Leinart, whose baby mama -- USC basketball player Brynn Cameron -- gave birth to their child last October. And if you count back the months, Leinart might have been juggling Cameron and Paris Hilton around the same time. Now that's what I call a scramble play. Good work, Matt.
So, what's going on here? Does ESPN The Magazine need to do a Where's (White) Daddy cover story? [In 1998, Sports Illustrated had a cover story about athletes having babies out of wedlock and that feature focused predominantly on black athletes.] Do white NFL quarterbacks now represent the new at-risk baby-daddy population?
She also adds this little sarcastic dig:
For so long, baby mamas and illegitimate children were stereotyped as problems only associated with black athletes. But this proves that ghetto-fabulousness knows no color.
Welcome, Matt and Tom, to the world of outrageous child support payments. Welcome to being labeled contributors to the country's moral decay and growing out-of-wedlock birth rate.
As I recall, Larry Bird's name came up in that 1998 Sports Illustrated piece, but Hill's point is well-taken here.