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Long Before the Miracle

In MEDIA SOUND BITES Leonard Shapiro on January 19, 2018 at 4:50 pm
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MEDIA SOUND BITES Leonard Shapiro

In MEDIA SOUND BITES Leonard Shapiro on November 9, 2013 at 4:35 am
Not long ago, a lawyer acquaintance dropped me a note after the University of South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier dismissed starting quarterback Stephen Garcia, allegedly because of his problems with alcohol and marijuana, according to ESPN.
“The reason I thought of you is because a while back, we exchanged a few emails about how alcohol has pervaded college athletics,” he wrote. “I’m sure you have heard of the recent troubles with our quarterback who was finally let go. Alcohol was a big problem for him. The University also had a problem with alcohol and its fraternity rush that was so bad that it had to suspend rush for several weeks this fall.
“It seems to me that it is inconsistent with the University’s and Athletic Department’s policies to have Budweiser as the primary sponsor all of the
pregame shows. At the same time, Coach Spurrier has a line of wines bearing his name and then he appears in radio spots warning against drinking and driving and touting designated drivers. I wrote to the athletic department 2010 but was summarily ignored.”
I’m not all that familiar with the South Carolina situation, but his e-mail doesn’t surprise me. College athletics couldn’t exist these days without the advertising and sponsorship money that major breweries pump into big-time college football and basketball, not to mention the NFL, which has its own problem with far too many athletes drinking too much.
Spurrier, by the way, does own Steve Spurrier Vineyards. A Google search, in fact, revealed the following story posted by a South Carolina television station on the vineyard’s newest product.
It reads, ““Coach Steve Spurrier has announced the latest offering from Spurrier Vineyards–”Gamecock Garnet”–with proceeds set to go to the Steve Spurrier Foundation and USCGolf programs.The wine is offered at more than 50 retail locations throughout South Carolina, including several in the Midlands.
Spurrier said the commemorative wine is offered through a partnership between Southern Wine and Spirits of South Carolina.  Southern Wine and Spirits Vice President and General Manager Tom Collins said in a news release that the wine celebrates the Gamecock Football Team’s SEC Eastern Division championship in 2010.
“The wine is a great way to recognize the title and also benefit South Carolina 
Golf
 & Coach Spurrier’s charities,” Collins said.”
I like a glass of Chardonnay as much as anyone, and I suspect Spurrier must be something of a connoisseur, as well. But the notion that a football coach at a major state university who just released his star quarterback for excessive drinking owning his own vineyard that produces an alcoholic beverage surely smacks of some serious hypocricy, even if the golf team and other charities are beneficiaries.
Wonder how many kids at the school are heading to their local Piggly Wiggly and showing their school spirit (pardon the expression) by plunking down $15 for a little Gamecock Garnet, and then getting blitzed guzzling it down on Saturday night after the big game.
With so many campuses facing serious problems with binge drinking on campus, one might think the university might have something to say about the head coach’s wine business. Apparently, as long as the Gamecocks keep winning, it’s no problem for anyone save the star quarterback, who is no longer with the football team because he can’t handle his alcohol.

SPORTS LANDSCAPE Bill Sullivan

In MEDIA SOUND BITES Leonard Shapiro on November 9, 2013 at 4:30 am

The Richmond Spiders bowed out of the NCAAs after cracking the NCAA Sweet Sixteen but the campus is still celebrating.

Coach Chris Mooney surprised the college basketball world by signing a contract extension at Richmond through 2020. With ACC coaching vacancies at Georgia Tech and N.C. State, somehow Mooney and his Princeton-style offense remained in the Atlantic 10

Now if Shaka Smart can stay at VCU – busy this week with an affair called the Final Four – it’ll be a coup for the Commonwealth’s Capital.

In the past five years, Mooney and George Mason Coach Jim Larranaga chose to stay at their Mid-Major venues instead of stepping onto the “coaching Broadway.” Coach L said “No” to his alma mater – Providence – after leading the Patriots to the 2006 Final Four. Maybe life in Mid-Major Land isn’t so “middle of the road.” Let’s see, you have job security, you’re assured of 20 wins a season, courts are named after you and your team is likely to reach the NCAAs year after year.

In Larranaga’s case, maybe it was the blustery Rhode Island winters that kept him in sunny Fairfax. Jim and his wife can grill out in early March, whereas in New England, you don’t retrieve the patio furniture from the garage until June. Plus, it’s easier to outrecruit ODU, VCU and James Madison that it is Connecticut, Villanova, Syracuse and St. John’s.

When Winthrop’s Gregg Marshall shunned the Friars for Wichita State, it branded the Mid-Major level anything but “mid.” He averaged 22 wins a year for Winthrop and continued the pace, winning an average of 20 a year in Wichita. I don’t think he’d have the same winning percentage at PC, NC State or Georgia Tech.

Mid-Majors have the coaching but not the publicity. The Bracketbuster – featuring clashes between the Mid-Major giants, lasts one weekend in February. League commissioners should stage a 3-4 day event (like the ACC-Big East Challenge), where every game is televised – nationally. Games involving Butler, UAB, Rhode Island, Cleveland State, Tulsa, Creighton, Murray State, Bucknell, College of Charleston, Northern Iowa, Bradley, Xavier, Dayton, Southern Illinois, Wichita State, Mason, VCU, Old Dominion and Siena would be seen by athletic directors who huddle on the NCAA selection committee – great exposure while programs tweak their postseason-hopeful portfolios.

The Colonial had TWO different teams in the Final Four in the last five years — proof a Mid-Major can compete with any league in the nation. Only problem is the nation isn’t aware of it until they’re shocked by what Mason and VCU accomplished.

And consider Wichita State (under Mark Turgeon), Southern Illinois (under Bruce Weber), Southwest Missouri State (under Steve Alford) and Northern Iowa (under Ben Jacobson) each have reached the Sweet Sixteen in very recent years.

In their Final Four runs, Mason and VCU knocked off SIX former national champions: North Carolina, Michigan State, Connecticut, Villanova, Georgetown and Kansas.

VCU’s athletic director should be huddling with Richmond’s athletic director right now on “how to keep your coach.” The alternative is calling Florida Coach Billy Donovan, who provided the Rams their last two coaches – Anthony Grant and Smart.

Though big money can be guaranteed at the big time, success isn’t. Consider these coaches who left their Mid-Major posts only to fail on the bigger stage.

Siena lost Mike Deane to Marquette and Paul Hewitt to Georgia Tech. Both are now jobless.

VCU lost Jeff Capel to Oklahoma but was fired after failing to elevate the Sooners to the glory days under Billy Tubbs (Elite Eight) and Kelvin Sampson (Final Four and Elite Eight).

Western Kentucky lost Dennis Felton to Georgia. Once in Athens, Felton was 84-91 with only one NCAA appearance in six years.

Butler advanced to a pair of Sweet Sixteens under Todd Lickliter before he left for Iowa. In Iowa City, Lickliter was 38-57 and a putrid 15-38 in Big Ten games.

Xavier lost Pete Gillen to Providence and later, Virginia but he failed to achieve the same success in the Big East or ACC. Like others, he is now out of coaching.

Richmond lost Jerry Wainwright to DePaul, which was his last stop in coaching.

George Washington made the Sweet Sixteen under Coach Mike Jarvis, who left for St. John’s. With the Johnnies, he advanced to an Elite Eight and won an NIT before being fired after six games in 2003-04 when the NCAA learned he paid a players for four years. Jarvis is now at Florida Atlantic, where he lost 42 games in his first two years before he took the team to the NIT this year.

Kent State’s Stan Heath was lights out with the Golden Flashes, winning 30 games and landing a berth in the 2002 NCAA Elite Eight. When he left for Arkansas, it took him three years just to muster a winning record. He since has moved to South Florida, where he’s 41-54 after four seasons. Looking back, Heath’s Mid-American Conference schedule included Toledo, Northern Illinois, Miami of Ohio and Ball State. Now, the menu features Connecticut, Georgetown, Syracuse, Villanova, Marquette and Louisville – all of whom have national championship trophies. And his league’s “weaker“ teams – West Virginia, Notre Dame, Providence and St. John’s – have all advanced to Final Fours in their histories.

Remember Duke’s Tommy Amaker? He had success at Seton Hall before taking the Michigan job. When he failed there, he ended up in the Ivy League at Harvard. So much for the big-time.

Conversely, consider coaching “giants” who never left their Mid-Minor venues. Pete Carril coached at Princeton 29 years. Jim Phelan spent his entire 49-year career at Mount St. Mary’s. Don Haskins coached little ol’ Texas Western to a national title during his 38-year stay in El Paso.

Maybe these coaches savored success more than most – even if the masses never heard of their schools.

THE SPORTS LANDSCAPE Bill Sullivan

In MEDIA SOUND BITES Leonard Shapiro on October 22, 2013 at 9:02 pm

this is a test

MEDIA SOUND BITES Len Shapiro

In MEDIA SOUND BITES Leonard Shapiro on October 19, 2013 at 1:46 pm

The latest edition of Real Sports on HBO offered yet another reason to praise the anthology show as best in breed on cable or network television.

The September show began with a feature on sleazy FOX Sports NFL information guru Jay Glazier, followed with a damaging and well-reported story on the obscene amounts of money bowl games are taking in (and paying out to their chief executives) and ended with a poignant piece on Dexter Manley, the former Redskins’ defensive lineman who is still battling demons that twice sent him to prison for abusing drugs.

The Glazier piece was most revealing in terms of how he goes about getting his so-called scoops. Granted, he breaks a lot of stories on FOX, though I suspect not quite as many as HBO gave him credit for, including the announcement the recent NFL lockout was over.

But the Glazier segment definitely raised this old sportswriter’s eyebrows over the way he conducts his business.

Glazier takes great pride in being “friends” with most of his sources, a violation of every basic tenet learned in Journalism 101. I’ve always felt it was wise to be friendly with your sources, while also letting them know that you wouldn’t even think twice about going to print or on the air with information they might not particularly care for.

Watching the piece, I had to wonder how many punches the man has pulled over the years, holding back on so-called negative information to protect his pals.

There was Glazier being filmed by HBO cameras as he made his way around training camps earlier this summer, slapping hands, bumping fists, hugging and mugging with players, coaches and team executives to let the audience know he’s more than just a reporter, he’s really their best bud, as well.

During an interview with a properly skeptical Bryant Gumbel, Glazier was asked if his reportorial tactics, not to mention his side business in training NFL and other athletes in mixed martial arts, didn’t break all the rules about fraternizing with the people he covers.

Glazier essentially insisted that as far as he was concerned — hey, it’s just sports — and the rules have changed. Says who?

Sadly, as long as his employers at FOX don’t seem to have a problem with his multiple conflicts of interest (he even does commercials for Subway sandwiches), I suppose he’ll continue to get away with some of the most egregious breaches of journalistic ethics ever witnessed on network television.

Nice job by HBO in exposing him for exactly what he shouldn’t be.

This Just In — In a recent post on this site, I speculated that Brett Haber’s decision to leave his sports anchor post at the CBS affiliate in Washington, DC (WUSA Channel 9) to pursue other opportunities may actually have been a case of the the station deciding not to renew his contract. According to the web site DCRTV.com, his boss at Channel 9 shot down that premise.

WUSA News Director Fred D’Ambrosi told DCRTV.com “Brett’s departure is voluntary and was initiated by him. As he explained in the Washington Post when he announced his departure August 1, Brett finds the night-side schedule of a local sportscaster tough on his family, and he intends to move into doing more live sports.”

D’Ambrosi added, “Brett was under contract to WUSA through 2013, and we would have been happy to have him stay. He is a great writer, sportscaster and journalist, and we are proud to have him on our staff. The claim that we were not planning on renewing his contract is also completely false.”

As for sports budget cuts at Channel 9, D’Ambrosi told DCRTV.com his station recently added another full-time producer. “We will continue to improve our sports coverage and are looking at a options, including adding additional personnel,” he said.

TV ON-AIR TALENT Ross MacCallum

In MEDIA SOUND BITES Leonard Shapiro on October 19, 2013 at 1:32 pm

Ross, the creator of Throwback Baseball 1.0, also blogs about sports memorabilia at: www.aberdeentradingco.com

THE SPORTS LANDSCAPE Bill Sullivan

In MEDIA SOUND BITES Leonard Shapiro on October 19, 2013 at 1:24 pm

BEST-SELLING AUTHORESS Jane Leavy

In MEDIA SOUND BITES Leonard Shapiro on October 19, 2013 at 1:21 pm

TELEVISION ON-AIR TALENT Ross MacCallum

In MEDIA SOUND BITES Leonard Shapiro on October 19, 2013 at 1:14 pm

LET ME GET THIS STRAIGHT Ross MacCallum

In MEDIA SOUND BITES Leonard Shapiro on February 15, 2012 at 5:05 pm

LIN-SANITY & SKIN-SANITY

The Washington Wizards could have Jeremy Lin right now. In reality, every team in the NBA could have Jeremy Lin right now. They all passed on him. All of them.

And, it’s through pretty much shear dumb luck that the Knicks are even the proud owners of Lin at the moment. Because, like the Warriors and Rockets before them, the Knicks had no idea what they had parked on the far end of their bench. Heck, they had him down in the D-League for a game in January.

The All-Ivy League, Harvard grad went undrafted in 2010. And then he mostly spent time on the bench of his hometown Golden State Warriors and ultimately the New York Knicks until injuries, a little luck, and some really rotten play by the Knicks gave Lin the break he needed.

Wizards fans know Lin all too well — 23 points, 10 assists in a 107-93 Knicks’ win on February 8th — Lin’s first-ever NBA double-double.

More serious Wizards fans, if there are any, will recall the 2010 Las Vegas Summer League. Lin, then auditioning for the Dallas Mavericks, outplayed Wizards rookie guard John Wall in their first head-to-head meeting. Wall would be named the Most Outstanding Player of the Vegas League, but was he really just the bigger name?

After all, John Wall was the number one overall pick in the ’10 NBA Draft after a single season at Kentucky. The “can’t miss” guy. The “gotta have him now” guy. The “face of the franchise for years to come” guy.

And now, a season and a half into his NBA career, Wall is the point guard, the quarterback if you will, of a struggling franchise that fired its coach after a less than lackluster start. Wall might be at the point where he realizes that he needs to “realize” his potential. Maybe Lin’s emergence is the alarm clock Wall has needed.

Until Lin got the call off the bench in the midst of a lousy Knicks game with the Nets on February 4th, he had barely been getting single-digit minutes in a handful of games. Since that night, Lin has simply and inexplicably exploded. He helped New York beat the Nets, and the Knicks haven’t lost since. And, the guy from the far end of the bench has not scored under 20 points since Mike D’Antoni gave him what nobody else had been willing to give him—a chance. Jeremy paid the coach back less than a week later when he dropped a career-high 38 on Kobe and the Lakers.

John Wall, in that same 6-game stretch, delivered games of 9 and 14 points. And, Wall has only been able to put together back-to-back 20-point games twice this season.

What I’m getting at is: Talent is really hard to judge… in advance.

Wall looked the part of the all-everything point guard in high school and college. Athletic. Unstoppable. Great dance moves. You get my drift.

Lin, on the other hand, looked nothing like the prototypical point guard despite some really nice performances (he scored 30 in a narrow loss at UConn). Asian-American. Not known for the greatest moves on the court (just ask Jeremy ,himself). Harvard-grad (I read where even Harvard initially regarded him as a Division III talent). You get my drift here, too.

So, how did the NBA, and every major college outside of the Ivy League, completely miss the most exciting thing the sport has seen this century? How did Jeremy Lin go from getting cut on the first day of training camp (new Warriors coach Mark Jackson never even took a look at him), to getting waived on the night before the season opener by Houston, to getting signed by New York as a third-string insurance policy, to playing in the D-League, to turning the Knicks…THE KNICKS… into winners, to watching his #17 jersey fly off store shelves, to being the biggest sports sensation from here to Beijing?

I suspect that roughly 29 NBA owners would like their GMs to explain that right now.

Which brings me to the Redskins…

So, how exactly does Jeremy Lin segue into the Skins?

Well… as we have just seen, talent scouting is not an exact science which is precisely why the Redskins can’t simply bank on finding their “Jeremy Lin” in the upcoming NFL draft.

The Skins desperately need a new “point guard.” They can try to trade up with the Rams, mortgage the future, and get their hands on Robert Griffin III, or they can sit back and hope that a Kirk Cousins, Brandon Weeden, or a Ryan Tannehill falls into their lap.

No matter which approach the Skins take, it will be fraught with peril. Unproven, untested, un-everything is the only way to describe whichever quarterback prospect they choose to draft. Even Peyton Manning wasn’t a “sure thing” when he came out of Tennessee in 1998. Remember Ryan Leaf? It was a 50-50 gamble. Manning or Leaf? The Colts got it right. The Chargers… not so much.

Fourteen years later, of course, Manning is the proven player, the known quantity. Which is why it makes incredible sense to go after him, if he and the Colts choose to part company. Naturally, due diligence is required when it comes to assessing Peyton’s road to recovery from the four neck surgeries and passing the physical. But, Peyton Manning gives the Skins the best chance to win now because whichever college QB they draft (and they absolutely, positively must draft a QB!!!) is a “Ryan Leaf” until he proves otherwise.

Ross, the creator of Throwback Baseball 1.0, also blogs about sports memorabilia at: www.aberdeentradingco.com