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Diary of a Mad Sportswriter: January 2006

Diary of a Mad Sportswriter

Stan Hudy is a sportswriter for The Saratogian and Community News. He covers high school and youth sports in the Saratoga County area as well as writing a weekly book review on sports books. He's not just a "stick and ball" sportswriter, he's willing to take on any sport as well as any subject.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Incompletion for Swann political route

Another former professional athlete is attempting to make a difference in political office and I’m glad that it’s Pennsylvania’s headache.
NFL Hall of Fame wide receiver Lynn Swann deferred, refused and then finally confirmed that he will make a bid for the gubernatorial bid for his home state of Pennsylvania this week. That’s great for him, but maybe not great for the people of Pennsylvania.

I think two words can confirm that…Jesse Ventura.
If that doesn’t scare the hell out of you, try…Arnold Schwarzenegger.

At first glance, Swann is selling his name, not his politics.
On the website www.draftswann.com the list of Top 10 reasons include deep political thinking items like:
No. 2 – Name Identification (duh, you know who he is).
No. 4 – It’s Geography, Stupid! (that’s what it says). Don’t you think you must live in the state in order to run for political office. Didn’t Hillary and Bill move prior to her running for the senate seat?
No. 9 – Money, Money and more money (people are more than willing to give money to a millionaire former athlete and current sports head!)

At least the site does include some of his platform’s ideals including the Republican standards of pro-life, pro-sportsman and pro-family. Add in the fact that he is buddies with the Bush administration, elected as chairman to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. That has fiscal responsibility written all over it!

It’s hard to knock Swann out of the race prior to the November kick-off date. He still has to face two other challengers in the Republican primary in May.
But is there a chance that Swann could ever live up to the high standards set by former New York Congressman and Buffalo Bills quarterback Jack Kemp or former US Senator from New Jersey, Bill Bradley. Currently, US Senator from Kentucky Jim Bunning, a former MLB pitcher is making a difference for his voters.

The former Steeler appears to be looking for a ‘Hail Mary’ in his first political venture, rather than looking for a high percentage quick out pass near the sidelines and running for a position at the town, county or district level.
If “Team 88” is going to have any success, they appear to be placing all of their hopes on old memories from the glory years of the Steelers and their baby-boomer constituents.

One more tip for Swann, don’t let Terry Bradshaw near the campaign, that would be his biggest fumble on the campaign tour.

Now Firing: The NFL

Their names came across the bottom of your screen during SportsCenter like the ticker on CNBC reporting stock quotes
Minn…Tice..Done….TEX…Capers…Gone…KC…Vermeil…Cry..Retire…then the list got longer with ….alert…GB…Sherman…finished…ST LOU…Martz…ill…too.bad… NO..no..Haslett..either…OAK..Darth.Raider.rules…Turner..banished…DET…Mauch..still.out…BUF..Tom.out..Marv..back..

And the lines just kept on coming, both in print and on the television, lines like: Donald Trump has never had a boardroom blow-up like this.
There were more hits on Sunday and Monday than a Soprano’s season finale.
For the first time in the history of the NFL there are more openings for head coaches than there currently are head coaches.

Commissioner Paul Tagliabue has a press conference to state that he is “confident” that the NFL will be in a position to hire a minority head coach.
What is the most amazing thing to transpire during the NFL’s version of “The Apprentice” final boardrooms this weekend… Baltimore Ravens head coach Brian Billick and Detroit Lions GM Matt Millen still have a job.
When the NFL is cleaning house, couldn’t somebody please take out all of the trash!?!

Just minutes, hopefully, after a victory, Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Tice was shown the door.
The only question is why they waited the announced 60 minutes after the win to get rid of Tice?
If he was a collegiate coach, the ticket scalping incident last year would have ended his tenure on Minnesota. Instead he got to laugh about it, pay some fine, apologize and then book the debauchery boat for his out of control football players. Anyone remember “The Whizzinator?”
Looking at the Vikings season, I guess that adage that “Sex makes your legs week” is true.
Tice was a “team guy” playing as a tight end for two and one-half seasons, then as an assistant coach and then the top spot for four years, compiling a .500 32-32 record. Even a 9-7 season wasn’t good enough to save this guy.
He’ll be on the sidelines or in the both with a headset, but don’t let this guy drive the bus again.

Apparently the NFL is also able to void the nation’s Family and Medical Leave Act along with other rules, regulations and state laws.
Mike Martz has to take a leave due to health reasons, heart attack, heart infection, etc. He misses the final 11 games due to this and is then fired.
Who the hell is running the HR department on this deal?
Martz still had $3.25 million left on his last year and was part of a St. Louis Super Bowl victory as an assistant and took them back versus the Patriots.
He’ll be back on the sidelines, promoting a new heart med or pacemaker and then have it licensed by the NFL at a team near you.

Dom Capers followed the golden rule of taking one for the team in Houston.
The former Houston Texans coach made it look like a contest, losing to San Francisco, 20-17, to finish with a 2-14 season, worst in the league and secure the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft.
For his efforts, he was fired.
The one thing he may have learned is that next time, don’t take a job with an expansion team.
Capers spent four seasons with the Carolina Panthers, fired in 1998 after their first four seasons and followed-up with the Texans.

The big surprise was the Brett Farve may come back one last time, but Mike Sherman won’t be there to hold the door for the superstar.
A six-year record and 57-39 record made Sherman’s firing a surprise. A 4-12 season greased the slide for his departure but it still came as a shock.

In Oakland Darth Raider was quick with his light saber and looked to pacify Raider Nation with the beheading of Norv Turner after only two seasons. Losing the last six games of the season and eight of nine for a 4-12 mark proved that the Force was not with Turner so Davis struck quickly.
Look for Art Shell to give up his cushy NFL Vice-President job and return to the Dark Side next season.

Jim Haslett thought Hurricane Katrina caused enough of his headaches this year, but after coaching his teams in more hotel rooms than a Rolling Stones Tour, his efforts weren’t appreciated in New Orleans.
The 2000 Coach of the Year was let go, compiling a 45-51 record, picking up after Mike Ditka’s draft fiasco and keeping the team as well as community wasn’t enough. It just proves where nice guys always finish.

It wasn’t a surprise that it would be a teary good-bye from Dick Vermeil as he retired for the third time. He goes out somewhat on top with a 44-36 record and is at a loss after KC is the only team that he didn’t take to the Super Bowl. After 15 years and a 125-114, let’s hope that he enjoys retirement this time.

In case you forgot, Steve Mariucci…still fired. Former Bears coach Dick Juron came on and continued to wallow at the helm, going 1-4, in the final five games as intierim head coach.
Way to build that resume Dickie!

Writing of old, how about them Bills!
Tom Donahue is fired by owner Ralph Wilson after five years as the president and GM of the Bills and it is rumored Marv Levy may be back with the team in the front office.
I think the biggest mistake was keeping coach Mike Mularkey.
Someone may want to tell Wilson that when these moves are made, isn’t the corporate jargon supposed to be about the organization getting younger?
Maybe Vermeil likes the cold.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Hudy’s Hardcovers: The Best of 2005

This past year saw some of the best and the worst books to be reviewed as a Hudy Hardcover. There were highs from new authors, lows from some of the big names. Former athletes made us laugh, some cringe and others join the cast of “The Surreal Life.”
To start the year off right, he’s a look at the Top 10 Hudy’s Hardcovers of 2005.
Here's the short list:
1. Stride for Stride: The Legacy of Bright Dawn by Thomas Marshall
2. Where Dreams Die Hard by Carlton Stowers
3. Tale of Two Cities by Tony Massarotti and John Harper
4. First in Thirst by Darren Rovell
5. Slim and None by Dan Jenkins
6. Win it for… by Sons of Sam Horn
7. Travel Team by Mike Lupica
8. Boys of Winter by Wayne Coffey
9. The Pitch That Killed by Mike Sowell
10. The Professor, the Banker and the Suicide King by Michael Craig

No. 1 Stride for Stride: The Legacy of Bright Dawn
By Thomas Marshall

First-time author Thomas Marshall hits a home run with his first novel about two horses born in Ireland, one an amazing colt the other a beautiful, but smaller mare. The birth of the second, the mare, is kept a secret until the mare becomes a winning horse in her own right.
The book is the jumping off point for Marshall, allowing the story line to grow and allow for both a continuation of the lives of both horses as well as at least one back story.
It is a heart-warming work of how these animals truly touch the lives of the characters as well as leap into the heart of the reader. With any luck another Marshall work will land on the shelves in 2006.
No. 2 Where Dreams Die Hard
By Carlton Stowers

The only difference between most of the squads competing in the United States and the 112 public high school teams competing throughout Texas, is that they do it a little differently. For those smaller Lone Star Schools, whose student enrollment falls below 100, they play under their own Friday Night lights in the glorious game of six-man football.
Author Carlton Stowers became tired of his own newspaper’s front pages, dedicated to the misdoings of others, bombings and mayhem he had seen from a news reporter’s eyes. He made the decision to turn his reporter pen and pad towards a quieter town, in a quieter portion of Texas and follow the world of six-man football for a season. His travels took him to the small town of Penelope and it’s populous of 211 residents and the Wolverines six-man football team.
It’s a book about football, about life, pain and suffering, but also about wins and losses, a winner for any football fan.
No. 3 Tale of Two Cities
By Tony Massarotti and John Harper

While this 2005 release has the familiar ring of the classic written by Charles Dickens, it took two authors to produce a work that is worthy both of the name and the plot line of this modern day baseball classic.
Baseball beat writers John Harper of the New York Daily News and Tony Massarotti of the Boston Herald have shared writing space as well as barbs about their two hometown teams and now take their grievances public in “A Tale of Two Cities.”
The idea for the book took shape just moments after Aaron Boone’s ALCS-winning homer cleared the fence at Yankee Stadium in 2003. The two minds agreed that their combined beats and insights gave the reader a truthful and exciting behind the scenes look at this historic battle.
Whether your bed sheets have Yankee pinstripes on them or you are a member of Red Sox Nation, “Tale of Two Cities” gives “your guy” a chance to argue for your favorite team.
No. 4 First in Thirst
By Darren Rovell

You’ve seen it on the sidelines of football, basketball, baseball and soccer. It comes in big orange coolers and in little green paper cups. It has been drunk, spit out and often poured over a coach. Along the way, millions of people have had a drink of that green colored sport drink.
Now, ESPN.com’s business reporter Darren Rovell takes the reader into the laboratory, along the sidelines and into the board room of the sports drink juggernaut Gatorade and how it claimed an 80 percent share of the sports drink industry.
Rovell reveals the drinks putrid taste beginnings, to the science inside and the lawsuits along the way. Whether you have drunk it, poured it on a coach or are working towards your own MBA, “First in Thirst” should be on your bookshelf.
No. 5 Slim and None
By Dan Jenkins

Author Dan Jenkins provides a follow-up to his earlier golf fiction work, “The Money-Whipped Steer-Job Three-Jack Give-Up Artist,” returning PGA golf professional Bobby Joe Grooves onto the Tour in “Slim and None.” Grooves is a forty-four year old tour pro who has the unpopular label of having yet to win a major championship and the clock is ticking.
“Slim and None” follows Grooves on the tour and during his rounds at all four professional golf majors, giving the reader the behind the greens look at what life on the PGA tour is like.
Jenkins utilizes his experience following the game, utilizing real-life nicknames, facts, and subbing several characters for current real-life golf personalities. Along with the names and faces, Jenkins provides real-life voices as well as profanities from several of those characters which may be the only turn-off for some readers.
No. 6 Win it for…
By Sons of Sam Horn

Courtesy of Al Gore himself gave birth to sports chat rooms and message boards and in 1998 a Red Sox message board www.dickiethon.com was born. Due to its popularity the site crashed in 2000 and it was recreated by fan Eric Christensen with a new server and new name, www.sonsofsamhorn.com.
It is from those 1,900 members of Red Sox Nation that Christensen culled his book of postings during the 2004 season.
There are postings for winning it for former Red Sox players, deceased friends and family members along with the future of Red Sox Nation. Some are funny, some are sad, but all are from true fans. For any current or former resident of Baastan, rooting for their ‘Boys, bring a box of tissues and enjoy the sense of belonging in Red Sox Nation.
No. 7 Travel Team
By Mike Lupica

New York Daily News columnist and ESPN Sports Reporter panelist Mike Lupica once again takes the reader on a believable journey in his novel, “Travel Team.” Whether the author used his own experience with youth basketball or borrowed a few horror stories from his own children, Lupica’s fiction is entertaining, witty and draws the reader close to the book’s hero, Danny Walker.
Easily compared to “The Bad News Bears” and “The Mighty Ducks,” “Travel Team” revolves around the small world, literally, of Danny Walker and his seventh-grade travel basketball team. Readers throughout the nation can relate to the conversations revolving around travel ball, tryouts, playing different town teams and most importantly, making final roster cuts.
Lupica takes the reader back into the classroom and the hallways of junior high school and reminds us how cruel other children can be and how important everything can seem at that age.
No. 8 Boys of Winter
By Wayne Coffey

It was 25 years ago that the small town of Lake Placid became the center of the universe for Olympic history and along with it a ‘miracle.’ Every adult who things of the ‘Miracle on Ice’ can remember where they were whey they hear ABC’s Al Michaels call those final tape delayed seconds of American history as a group of brash amateurs defeated the Russians, 4-3, on their way to a gold medal in ice hockey at the 1980 Olympic Games.
While the names Herb Brooks, Mike Eruzione and Jim Craig fall off the tongue of anyone who thinks of that fateful night in Lake Placid, Daily News sportswriter and author of more than 30 books, Wayne Coffey, makes it his mission to point out the names of the heroes we worshiped during that glorious contest.
What makes “The Boys of Winter” riveting is Coffey’s ability to recount each period, each score and along they way remind the reader that champions are not built singularly, but most successfully as a team.
No. 9 The Pitch That Killed
By Mike Sowell

Ray Chapman was a shortstop for the 1920 Cleveland Indians and Carl Mays was a submarine style starting pitcher for the New York Yankees. The lives of the two men became intertwined in baseball history during an afternoon game on August 16, 1920 at the Polo Grounds.
It took only a matter of seconds, from Mays’ wind-up, his right shoulder dropping to deliver the ball and then history, the ball striking the left side of Chapman’s head.
As the title infers, Chapman never survived that fatal pitch, Mays was never looked at the same way again and a city, Cleveland, found a way to manage the pain associated with the loss of one of their favorite sons.
Sowell utilizes his writing talents to draw the reader into the historic period along with the lives of the primary characters as well as those famous names who surrounded them. The author brings the era to life with statements and facts from players of the day, including Cleveland player-manager Tris Speaker and New York Yankee manager Miller Huggins.
No. 10 The Professor, the Banker and the Suicide King
By Michael Craig

Poker is one of today’s fastest growing types of entertainment and author Michael Craig’s latest work, “The Professor, the Banker and the Suicide King” is the inside look at the world of high-stakes poker.
With an appreciation for the game of Texas Hold ‘Em, Craig takes the reader on a trip that spanned more than three years, involved thousands of hands of poker among some of the best known names in the world of poker along with a new face, that of banker Andy Beal.
With the help of the famous Doyle Brunson, Beal got his wish and was playing heads up against the likes of Doyle Brunson, Jennifer Harman, Todd Brunson, Johnny Chan and “the professor” Howard Lederer.
“The Professor, the Banker and the Suicide King” chronicles Beal's trips to Las Vegas over a three-year period, his continuing practice at the game as well as his focus on his business interests. The work culminates in a private table $10 million winner-take-all showdown.
There were also some duds along the way that couldn’t be mentioned in the 2005 Top 10. Here’s hoping that 2006 can bring out an even stronger list for Hudy’s Hardcovers.

NFL wrong on Dungy death

The death of 18-year old James Dungy was shocking as well as tragic and that is the way it should have stayed. Unfortunately, the media as well as the NFL made it even worse.
The death of James Dungy at his own hand is something that no parent, friend or family member should ever have to deal with. For a parent to lose a child is unimaginable.
What made matters worse was the media frenzy that followed, both immediate and orchestrated.
According to Kuebler-Ross’s five stages of grief, none of them include headlines, media play, promotion of suicide, memorializing the deceased, promoting the funeral service, press conference and more follow-up stories.
James Dungy was not taken from this Earth by his creator. James Dungy, at the age of 18, with a lifetime full of experiences, both good and bad ahead of him, chose to circumvent any other plans.
Suicide is a selfless act that solves the problem of the individual, or so they think. Meanwhile, it leaves a wake of pain and grief across hundreds, if not thousands of individuals.
Apparently, no one clued in the media or the NFL.
Everyone involved was so quick to jump on the story to get it reported under the guise of how tragic this is for one of the NFL’s “good guys” in Dungy.
While everyone was rushing to show their support, they missed the opportunity educate the public about the selfless act and memorialized James Dungy.
Videos rolled of the teenager laughing, smiling, apparently enjoying life. The funeral services were surrounded by cameras to record the Who’s Who of football prominence in attendance. This was supposed to be a private moment, not an introduction into “He who has the biggest names at his funeral wins” a new series on FOX.
The media horde was so large that the father of the dead teenager, NFL coach Tony Dungy, in case you forgot, had the class to appease the jackals.
I wish Tony Dungy had a momentary lapse in class for the first time in his life and tell the whole three and four-lettered sports networks to go to hell.
This wasn’t practice, this wasn’t a win or a loss, this was the final time a man would ever be close enough to touch his son.
Prior to the services, the media showed moments of silence held in football stadiums across the nation for the Dungy family. The NFL joined in the fray, allowing a decal (JD) to be worn on the Colts helmets during last week’s games.
Broadcasts were filled with Tony Dungy’s players both past and present offering their thoughts on the father as well as the son. This wasn’t a Barbara Walter’s Special, this was Sportscenter and 20 minutes past the hour on local sports broadcasts.
Who was more wrong, James Dungy or the media?
Instead of memorializing a teenager with severe problems, (that’s right, healthy people do not kill themselves), how about speaking out about wrong it was for James Dungy to take his own life. Why didn’t the NFL immediate blast public service announcement about drug use, depression, teen suicide and even gun control.
The reason is that it wouldn’t sell the NFL experience or the almost dream season of the Indianapolis Colts. After a season with the Minnesota Vikings episode of the “Love Boat” and Terrell Owens’ inability to get along with anyone, the suicide of a coach’s son was better stuff.
May God take care of Tony Dungy, his family and friends in this tragic time and the hell with everyone else.