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 2007 Pro Football

About Super Bowl 42 - Here's a Different Slant on the Giants' Upset Win to Become World Champs

There is a reason why the winner of the Super Bowl earns the Vince Lombardi Trophy as a symbol of excellence in the football world. The New England Patriots understand that better than ever after going 18-0 only to lose to the New York Giants 17-14 in Super Bowl 42. Perhaps Vince Lombardi said it best: "If it doesn't matter who wins or loses, then why do they keep score?" Lombardi was a winner and now the Giants are too.

2007 NFL Playoffs: Seattle Seahawks Croak as Packers Kick Them Silly in the Snowflakes, 42-20

Mike Holmgren's Seattle Seahawks did absolutely nothing to disturb the greatness of the NFL's most historic venue at Lambeau Field Saturday (1-12-08) in Green Bay, Wisconsin, home of the advancing Green Bay Packers. The Seahawks also did absolutely nothing Saturday to advance their chances of getting into their second Super Bowl appearance in 3 years. In short, the Seahawks defense did nothing but lose, 42-20.

A Sports Fan's Dream: All 3 of Your Favorite Teams Win Their Game in the Same Weekend - Part 1

It was a magic weekend for this sports fan in Western Washington. All three of the teams I care about won—the Seattle Seahawks, the University of Washington Huskies and the Michigan State Spartans. The Seahawks won their exhibition game against Oakland 19-14 but lost their mega-sized defensive tackle Marcus Tubbs for the season with an ACL injury.

Dear Dallas: Thank You for Bringing Your "Rookie" Quarterback to Seattle

A botched 19-yard-field-goal attempt on fourth down with only 79 seconds left caused the Dallas Cowboys to be one point short and one yard short of a first down as the Seattle Seahawks hung on to advance in the 2006 NFC playoffs, beating the Cowboys 21-20 at home in Seattle. Untested quarterbacks who become starters historically screw up in big games, and Tony Romo of the Dallas Cowboys did not disappoint. Romo, the holder, blew the game-winning attempt when it counted.

Jerramy Stevens: A Troubled Tight End, a Great Talent, a Greater Disappointment

Welcome to Seattle. I would like you to meet our poster child for success. Shake hands with Jerramy Stevens, our troubled tight end who used to play for the Seattle Seahawks and never will again. He has worn out his welcome with the sorry excuses of a loser. He could have been one of the greatest tight ends in the history of the National Football League, and even have ended up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. At the rate he is disintegrating, it is more likely he will end up in jail or dead.

2008 Pro Football

Leonard "Green Shoes" Weaver Leads Seahawks to Second Victory in 7 Games

Football should be about fun and the Seattle Seahawks finally made it so by running the San Francisco 49ers off of their home field Sunday (10-26-08) behind the catch and run explosion of Leonard "Green Shoes" Weaver and the pass snatching ability of Josh Wilson, winning 34-13. Get the full story.

It Is Not a Good Idea to Have a Football Team Anywhere Near Seattle, Washington

What has happened to the Washington Huskies, Washington State Cougars and Seattle Seahawks this year has been horrific—all three of the state's flagship football teams have inadvertently raised losing to an art form. Find out how bad it has been.

Does Seattle Have Too Many Stars and Not Enough Football Players?

Whatever bloom was on the Seattle Seahawks football team has officially faded with the soon to be falling leaves of autumn. It was nice while it lasted. Fans were gifted with 4 consecutive National Football Conference West Division titles, a NFC championship and a Super Bowl appearance. What has caused the demise of a once elite team?

Seattle's Only Hope for Sports Success Is Now Hiding in a Dumper Somewhere

First the basketball Supersonics were ripped out of Seattle and taken to Oklahoma City. Then the baseball Mariners became the first MLB team to lose 100+ games with a $100 million payroll. Then the football Huskies made Washington the worst college team in the nation by going 0-5 to open their season. Now the football Seahawks have opened their season at 1-3 with a defense so porous that homemakers all over Seattle could use it as a strainer to pass liquids.

Will Seahawks' Woeful 2-0 Start Leave Them Out of the Chase for the Super Bowl Title?

If you set your goal to not only get to but win the Super Bowl this season, it is not a good idea to lose your first two games. During the 8-year period from 2000 through 2007 only 6 of the 70 National Football League teams that started the season at 0-2 went on the make the playoffs, much less win the Super Bowl. The Seattle Seahawks started the season at 0-2.

Seattle Seahawks' Opener in Buffalo Proves an Awful Study in Ineptitude

Many Seattle fans grew physically ill watching the Seahawks NFL opener against the Buffalo Bills on the East Coast, and I was one of them. This was no way to start Mike Holmgren's final season in Seattle. Holmgren deserved better. Seattle's effort was a study in ineptitude that should not be repeated anytime in the next century.

NFL Football Preview - Brett Favre May Be New York Jet, But He Is Hardly a Jet "All the Way"

After playing 16 seasons with the Green Bay Packers and then being faced with riding the bench in favor of a lesser light (backup "rookie" quarterback Aaron Rogers), Brett Favre chose to do what he does best, act like a winner about to win again. Favre (pronounced Farve) forced Green Bay to trade him, and he ended up as a New York Jet. He will get $12 million this season and the Jets may make a quick $300 million on the deal. Read the full story.

NFL Football Preview - Here Comes the Seahawks: Stumbling and Bumbling into Holmgren's Last Year

Just when Seattle's Mike Holmgren is entering his last year as head coach, his Seahawks are now stumbling and bumbling their way into what appears to be a Larry, Mo and Curly comedy routine. After dusting off the Minnesota Vikings 34-17 in their first 2008 preseason game on the road in Minneapolis, the Seahawks narrowly escaped defeat in their home preseason opener against the Chicago Bears, winning 29-26 in an error-prone display of ineptness. For the Seahawks' faithful, it was no laughing matter.

Say It Isn't So Brett, That You Will Shed Your Green Bay Packer Uniform

So say it isn't so Brett, that you will shed your Green Bay Packer uniform. To see Brett Favre in another uniform will not help his legacy one iota. It is doubtful that it will help Green Bay's legacy either. As much as the Green Bay faithful want to see Favre back on the field, it may well be better for him to have stayed retired. Find out why.

Can the Seahawks Find the Grit to Deliver Holmgren a 2nd Super Bowl Winning Team?

Mike Holmgren is part of a select group of only 5 NFL coaches who have taken 2 teams to the Super Bowl and won once but not twice. The others are Bill Parcels, Dan Reeves, Don Shula and Dick Vermeil. As Holmgren enters his last season as the Seattle Seahawks' head coach, does his team have the grit to deliver him another Super Bowl victory with a second team?

Pro Baseball:

At Safeco Field and Elsewhere, an Outpouring of Treasured Memories for a Great Baseball Radio Broadcaster - The Northwest's Own Dave Niehaus

Dave Niehaus, the Voice of Seattle Baseball Since the Mariners Inception in 1977, All Too Suddenly Goes Silent - Legendary Broadcaster Dies

"Dave Niehaus Was Part of the Northwest Family" - Sports Columnist John McGrath

The Dave Niehaus I Remember, and Why His Voice Alone Touched Us in a Significant Way

Three More Great Vibes on the Legendary Dave Niehaus

Jamie Moyer at Age 45? Priceless. Put Him on a MLB Mound & He Wins

Jamie Moyer became the oldest active player in Major League Baseball in 2008. He also posted a 16-7 record with a 3.71 ERA and won the final game of the season that earned the Philadelphia Phillies their second consecutive National League East Division title and post-season appearance. The Seattle Mariners, who finished this year as the first MLB team to lose 100+ games with a $100+ million payroll, dumped Moyer in 2006 because they thought he was too expensive. Live and learn.

How Does a 45-Year-Old Pitcher Slip By the Radar in Professional Baseball?

Until the Major League Baseball playoffs start in October, baseball holds little interest for me when the college football season starts. That is, until this headline in the local daily popped up in front of me: 'Old Man' Moyer Does It Again. Read about one of the best untold stories in baseball.

The Silliness of Major League Baseball's Stupidity with Payroll

Richie Sexson of the woeful Seattle Mariners is simply the latest example of the silliness of Major League Baseball's love affair with high-priced superstars whose production is pathetic. Sexson's lousy 30 RBIs this season have cost the Mariners $290,226 for each and every paltry one. Will Major League Baseball, team owners and general managers ever learn how stupid this policy is that gives free agents horrendous salaries on the dare that they will produce rather than occupy space and demonstrate a bad attitude?

Baseball: Tom Glavine, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez and Craig Biggio All Reach Milestones - Part 1

It has been a year of milestones for Major League Baseball. From Tom Glavine to Barry Bonds to Alex Rodriguez to Craig Biggio the records have been piling up like poker chips in a major tournament. Glavine won his 300th game, Bonds captured the career major league home run record, A-Rod (Rodriguez) hit his 500th career homer, and Biggio picked up his 3,000th hit. Check their stats. All are headed to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Baseball: Barry Bonds Is a Whole Lot More Than Just a Home Run Hitter and Record-Setter - Part 2

When Barry Bonds broke Hank Aaron's major league career home run record with his 756th dinger, he had hit homers off of 447 different pitchers. Bonds also holds the major league career records for walks with 2,540 and intentional walks with 679. He holds the all-time single season major league records for most home runs (73), on base percentage (.609), slugging percentage (.863), and walks (232). Could he be the best ever?

Baseball: Craig Biggio Punches His Ticket to the Hall of Fame with His 3,000th Hit - Part 3

Earlier this year Craig Biggio of Houston Astros became the 27th player in major league history to get 3,000 career hits. If it were easy to get 3,000 hits, many players would have done it, however, three factors stand in the way: 1) Injuries. 2) Longevity. 3) Consistency. Craig Biggio has it all and proved it by punching his ticket to the Baseball Hall of Fame when he retires.

Could You Be a Fan for a Team That Loses 10,000 Baseball Games?

Philadelphia Phillies' fans are arguably the least patient and most volatile in baseball, and I know why. A report in USA Today (7-3-07) notes that the Phillies are on the verge of becoming the first pro sports franchise to record 10,000 losses. They had 9,996 losses as of July 3, 2007. The next nearest teams in losses are the Atlanta Braves (9,675) and Chicago Cubs (9,421). I would have guessed the Cubs but not the Braves.

If You Think as a Parent that Little League Baseball Does Not Teach Important Survival Skills, Think Again

Sometimes as parents we forget how simple and subtle the lessons in life can be. With all of the violence we are now seeing with youngsters who solve their supposed "problems" by shooting their perceived "enemies" (many times friends and family), I am reminded that some of our children today seem less able to cope with adversity, and even less so with patience. How is it that they clearly lack coping skills and patience, two necessary traits for survival as an adult?

On Cars, Baseball and the Halcyon Days of Summer

A 10-year-old boy reminisces about the summer of 1954, remembering the cars (Nash, Hudson, Studebaker and Packard) 10 year olds today never knew, and remembering how, with his best friend, they played baseball on the scorching blacktop for hours before stopping at the drugstore fountain for cherry Cokes, baseball cards and bubble gum. Those were the days.

What Exactly Is a Jimmy Jack?

A reader recently wrote to share this message with me. Someone reading my Blog may be interested in his information, so I published it for your information.

Seattle Baseball Fans May Have Seen a Record as the Mariners Get 5 Consecutive Two-Out Hits

There is new hope in Seattle. The Mariners were behind 4-3 with two out in the 8th inning. It was looking a lot like Mudville with Casey coming to bat. Then, it was as if the skies parted in a night game and some mighty power from above said, "Swing the bat and I will give the ball eyes to see a friendly spot to land." In short order, five consecutive two-out hits had the Mariners beginning the 9th inning with a 7-4 lead. Seattle is now 29-25, 4 games above .500 for the first time in 4 years.

Seattle Mariners Notch Second Straight Late Inning Comeback, Nip Orioles 5-4

Seattle's superstar center fielder Ichiro drove in the winning run for the second consecutive night Tuesday (6-5-07) as the Mariners once again staged a late-inning rally to nip Baltimore 5-4. Ichiro is hitting .423 with runners in scoring position (RISP) this season. There was talk earlier this season of trading Ichiro when the Mariners were stuck in first gear. It just goes to show you that most fans are as stupid as they are admiring when things are going well. Trade Ichiro and you would be replacing him with the grounds crew. Nobody is going to do what he has already done and will continue to do this year.

Pro Wrestling:

The Apparent Murder-Suicide of Chris Benoit Really Creates More Questions Than Answers

News of the apparent murder-suicide of well-known and well-liked WWE wrestler Chris Benoit left me with mixed emotions: sadness and dismay. I do not believe that Vince McMahon, the World Wrestling Entertainment owner and arguably the most gifted of sports entertainment promoters ever, could really tolerate a person so quiet and respected as Christ Benoit. There are no words to describe my anguish over Chris Benoit. Perhaps Benoit's father Michael said it best: "It's impossible to come up with a rational explanation for a very irrational act."

Article Updates on Wrestling's Chris Benoit and College Basketball's Spencer Hawes

The toxicology report is in and WWE wrestler Chris Benoit's body contained 10 times the normal level of testosterone, according to authorities in an Associated Press story.  Also present were the anti-anxiety drug Xanax and the painkiller hydrocodone. Spencer Hawes, the 7-foot freshman center for the University of Washington, decided to go pro recently rather than return to the Huskies. This did not surprise a lot of Dawg fans.  Get the full story on both athletes.

2008 Beijing Olympics

Dara Torres Provides Perfect Example for Every Masters Athlete in America

There could not be a better role model for masters athletes in the United States than 41-year-old Dara Torres, the five-time Olympian who lost a gold medal by 1 one-hundredths of a second at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. At 41, she is the oldest Olympic swimming medalist in history, and the only swimmer to win a medal in 5 Olympic competitions.

"Jamaica Me Fast" Takes Over Track and Field's Sprint World

That was not a lightning bolt you saw on television during the 100-meter dash at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. It was Usain Bolt, Jamaica's 6-foot-5 answer to sprint dominance worldwide. He won the sprint double (both the 100- and 200-meter dashes) in world record time. Bolt and his Jamaican teammates won 14 more medals in the 100, 200, 400 and 4x400 relay. Find out how Bolt runs so fast.

Revisiting 9 Great American Victories During the 2008 Olympics in Beijing

The afterglow of the Beijing Olympics has caused me to cogitate on some of America’s great victories. In no particular order of importance, here are some of the greatest American victories we witnessed on television and on the computer during the 2008 Olympic Games in China.

America's Middle Distance Running Disaster at the 2008 Beijing Olympics

Despite all of the United States' great success in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, there was next to nothing to cheer about its middle distance runners in the track and field competition. If it was not for Shalane Flanagan's third-place finish in the 10,000, the United States would not have won a single medal in the middle distance events. Her 30:22.22 clocking was good enough for the bronze medal and an American record.

So How Long Has Michael Phelps Been Training to Be a Champion?

Stories about teenage phenoms winning gold medals and setting world records at world-class swimming competitions are legion. The list is long and you can add Michael Phelps' name to the list. Find out what Phelps had to do, and how he did it to get where he is today.

Phelps' 8 Gold Medals Could Net Him $100 Million in Future Income

Sports agents that should know decided some time ago that winning a gold medal in the Olympics could be worth $12 million in appearances and endorsements. Michael Phelps' 8 golds at $12 million apiece works out to $96 million in possible income. Phelps' agent, Peter Carlisle, agrees, but will Phelps be a success or a failure as a marketable personality for companies seeking his services?

Michael Phelps' 2008 Olympic Legacy: 8 Gold Medal Victories, 7 World Records

Is there anyone who watched the Beijing Olympics on television who does not already know that Michael Phelps won 8 gold medals, setting 7 world records and 1 Olympic record in the 8-day swimming competition? Get all the facts, records and race information on Phelps' historic effort.

2007 Pro Football

February 6, 2008

About Super Bowl 42

Here's a Different Slant on the Giants' Upset Win to Become World Champs

Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley

There is a reason why the winner of the Super Bowl earns the Vince Lombardi Trophy as a symbol of excellence in the football world. Lombardi encouraged his Green Bay Packer players to pursue perfection so they might catch excellence.

As it turns out, Lombardi and his players caught a lot more than 5 National Football League titles and the first 2 Super Bowl titles. They developed a bond among themselves that lasted a lifetime for those who have passed on, and still survives for those who continue the memory of Lombardi's great leadership and their great work ethic.

Perhaps some years from now the New York Giants will experience that same kind of bond that comes with such a great triumph as their conquest of the New England Patriots and the NFL world this year.

There is no way the Giants could have lived and played through the last 5 weeks of their season without becoming "one" with a purpose bigger than the odds they faced.

New York started by traveling to Tampa Bay and defeating the NFL's second-ranked defense on the Buccaneers home turf. Then the Giants traveled to Dallas to upset the Cowboys on their home field, becoming the first team to defeat a No. 1 seed in the NFL playoffs.

New York then played through a wind chill factor of 23 degrees in Green Bay to turn back the Packers and win the National Football Conference championship, earning the right to play the Patriots in Super Bowl 42. After upsetting New England 17-14 they walked away with the Lombardi Trophy and became the first NFC wild-card team to do so.

Perhaps Vince Lombardi said it best: "If it doesn't matter who wins or loses, then why do they keep score?" Lombardi was a winner and now the Giants are too.

New England, which won Super Bowl 36, Super Bowl 38 and Super Bowl 39, will now be remembered as the team that was the first to go 18-0 and then lose in Super Bowl 42 to the Giants. Coach Bill Belichick's jaws were so wired after the defeat he barely uttered 10 words.

The 1972 Miami Dolphins remain the only undefeated NFL team in its 88-year history with their 17-0 record and Super Bowl 7 victory over the Washington Redskins, 14-7.

Embedded in the hard-drive of my mind 40 years from now (assuming I live to be 103) will be two memories:

1) Eli Manning, seemingly surrounded by Patriot rushers, breaking away like a magician from the grasp of an arm not strong enough to rip off his jersey, coming clear in desperation to heave an arcing pass down the field and a heretofore nobody named David Tyree leaping upward over rivals to catch the ball over his head, falling backward, and hanging on even though he was viciously hit in his arm on the way down by Patriot safety Rodney Harrison in an attempt to knock the ball free.

Tyree's 32-yard catch against all odds on 3rd-and-15 with 1:15 left on New York's game-winning drive has to be one of the greatest catches in the history of championship football at any level. Incredible is a weak description of just how good his catch and hold was. He will likely never have such a great moment if he plays another 15 years in the NFL.

Almost forgotten in all of this is just how close Manning was to being sacked and the Patriots going on to preserve their then 4-point lead and possible victory.

New England's great run to an 18-0 mark now becomes a lot less with their Super Bowl loss to the Giants. It is too bad for the Patriots; the Giants could not be happier.

2) Manning's 13-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Plaxico Burress in the corner of the end zone with 35 seconds left happened because 6-foot-5, 232-pound Plaxico Burress was left isolated one-on-one with 5-foot-9, 195-pound cornerback Ellis Hobbs. Hobbs was at least 2 steps behind Burress and in no position to even contest for the ball, which would probably have been useless anyway with Plaxico's tremendous leaping ability, kind of like 5-foot-9 me going one-on-one against Michael Jordan.

Do not blame Hobbs for the loss. Patriot quarterback Tom Brady, who had the snot beat out of him from taking hits all afternoon by the Giants' much faster defensive rushers, did his usual come-from-behind last minute drive to give New England back the lead, 14-10.

Even linebacker Teddy Bruschi, the heart of the Pats defense, had embraced fellow backer Junior Seau on the sideline after the Pats went ahead and prior to the fateful drive, acknowledging that Seau was about to earn his first, long-awaited Super Bowl ring. Somebody forgot to stop Eli Manning and the Giants during the last 2 minutes of the game.

Burress, who had predicted a Giant victory amid the laughs and derisive remarks of almost everyone, caught the winning TD pass. He is a Michigan State University product just like myself. I could not be happier for Plaxico. It pains me to acknowledge that Plaxico was born 11 years AFTER I graduated from MSU.

Last fall I made up my mind to cover college football in my blog and did not even attempt to cover or comment on the NFL. It has now proved to be an excellent decision. I cannot imagine following the New England Patriots all year, fawning over their perfect record run, and being so let down in the Super Bowl.

All hail to the Giants, well, at least until the first NFL kickoff next season, then it will be go Seattle Seahawks for me. What was the name of that almost perfect team? I seem to have forgotten already.

January 14, 2008

2007 NFL Playoffs:

Seattle Seahawks Croak as Packers Kick Them Silly in the Snowflakes, 42-20

Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley

Mike Holmgren's Seattle Seahawks did absolutely nothing to disturb the greatness of the NFL's most historic venue at Lambeau Field Saturday (1-12-08) in Green Bay, Wisconsin, home of the advancing Green Bay Packers.

Packer Quarterback Brett Favre (pronounced Farve) had a 7-2 postseason record at home that is now 8-2. He had a 4-2 record in the playoffs against Seattle that is now 5-2.

Favre is statistically the greatest signal-caller in National Football League history with a record 253 consecutive regular-season starts (second best in history at ANY position), a record 61,665 career passing yards, a record 442 career touchdown passes, and a record 160 career wins, the most by any starting QB.

And, oh yeah, Favre is the only 3-time NFL Most Valuable Player. He won in 1995, in 1996 when Seattle coach Mike Holmgren coached the Packers to the Super Bowl 31 title by beating New England, 35-21, and in 1997 when the Holmgren-led Packers lost Super Bowl 32 to Denver, 31-24.

The Packers record for playoff wins at Lambeau Field was 14-2 before Saturday. Now it is 15-2, thanks to Seattle. In a 2003 survey by ESPN The Magazine, the Packers ranked as the No. 1 franchise among the 121 major sports teams in North America.

The Seahawks also did absolutely nothing Saturday to advance their chances of getting into their second Super Bowl appearance in 3 years. After jumping out to a 14-0 lead by converting two fumbles by first-year running back Ryan Grant into touchdowns during the first 4 minutes of the game, the Seahawks laid down and died a slow death among the falling snowflakes at Lambeau Field.

The (we thought) vaunted Seahawk defense allowed the Packers to get back into the game and dominate it by giving up 6 straight touchdown drives to Green Bay. It was game, set, match, period, end of season.

Oh, the guy that fumbled twice to start the game, he finished with 201 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns. Favre? He was 18-of-23 for 173 yards and 3 touchdowns. Seattle put on a pathetic rushing display with a total of plus 28 yards to 235 for the Packers. Same field, same snow coming down, same slippery turf, same clogged cleats.

Green Bay will now advance to play the New York Giants (21-17 winners over the Dallas Cowboys Sunday) in the NFC Championship Game next Sunday. I hope the Packers dominate the Giants the same way they did the Seahawks.

The Seahawks will be watching television from here on out, wondering why they could not handle the snowflakes in Green Bay. The answer, of course, was Brett Favre in snow-crazed conditions having the time of his life playing football.

In short, the Seahawks defense did nothing but lose, 42-20. They did not fight off blocks. They did not tackle. They did not cover. They did not react. They did not bring their A Game against Green Bay's "hogs" up front who dominated the line and the game. Forget the charity trip. If the 'Hawks did anything at all, why did Green Bay score touchdowns on 6 STRAIGHT possessions?

Mike Holmgren, the Seahawks, the Seattle fans, the owners, the brain trust, the Seattle media and myself did not get what we wanted. I asked for too much. I wanted a game in which no one gets hurt on either side of the ball that comes down to the last play in a classic confrontation between two worthy teams.

Watching this playoff game was painful for me. After suffering through an entire season watching the Washington Husky defense raise ineptitude to an art form, I had to endure the Seahawks' supposedly much improved defense get demolished. This is not how you increase your fan base.

In the meantime, the San Diego Chargers waltzed into the Indianapolis Colts' playground Sunday and walked away with a 28-24 victory against the defending Super Bowl Champions on the road to advance to the AFC championship game against the New England Patriots (31-20 winners over the Jacksonville Jags Saturday).

Do not give me all of this crap about how hard it is to win on the road. Tell it to the San Diego Chargers, who had injuries to their stars, played some scrubs and won anyway. That is called desire. That is called attitude. That is called guts. That is called, "I do not want to win this game, I NEED to win this game."

And now for two disclaimers: 1) Brett Favre has been my favorite NFL player since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. Favre is a gamer. 'Nuff said. 2) I am one of the few Green Bay Packer stockholders who was not totally uphappy when Holmgren moved from coaching Green Bay to coaching Seattle.

I was born and raised in Michigan and distanced myself from my family by following the Green Bay Packers closer than the Detroit Lions. Let me say that the Packers have let me down less over the years than the Lions.

I moved to the Puget Sound Area of Washington 34 years ago and so, of course, I have become a follower of the Seattle Seahawks. The only difference is that I am a fair-weather follower of the Seahawks, as you can tell. I do not apologize for it, I take pride in it. I hate losing. It takes no talent to lose, it takes talent to win. Any no good can lose.

Holmgren has done well in Seattle. He has taken the Seahawks to the playoffs 5 straight seasons, has won 4 consecutive NFC West titles, and has taken them to the Super Bowl in 2005, winning an NFC title along the way.

Seattle needs more and better players, and it is not Mike Holmgren's job to get them. That chore falls on the shoulders of President of Football Operations Tim Ruskell and Seattle Seahawk Owner Paul Allen.

September 3, 2007

What Are the Odds?

A Sports Fan's Dream: All 3 of Your Favorite Teams Win Their Game in the Same Weekend – Part 1

Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley

It was a magic weekend for this sports fan in Western Washington. All three of the teams I care about won—the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday, the University of Washington Huskies on Friday and the Michigan State Spartans on Saturday.

Even though the Seahawks game was only an exhibition before the start of Pro Football's NFL season next weekend, it is always better to celebrate victory rather than defeat.

The Seahawks 19-14 win over the Oakland Raiders in Seattle did come at a price—the season-ending loss of mega-sized defensive tackle Marcus Tubbs who suffered a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) in his right knee.

Tubbs was counted on heavily as a run stopper because the Seattle defense gives up too much yardage without him.

In the five games Tubbs played last season, the Seahawks allowed an average of 82 yards; in the 11 games while he was injured and required micro-fracture surgery on his left knee, the defense allowed an average of 147 yards per game.

The 26-year-old Tubbs, a 6-foot-3, 318-pound college prospect out of nationally-ranked Texas, was the first-round pick of the Seahawks three years ago. He has never played a full season due to injuries.

Seattle had crossed its fingers on Tubbs hoping he would not be injured again following successful surgery and apparent recovery on his initial left knee surgery. He tore the ACL on his right knee early in the Oakland game on Thursday after twisting his leg awkwardly.

Tubbs career in the NFL may be all but over. I would not give you two cents for his chances to recover from yet another disastrous injury. ACL injuries have ended the careers for many NFL running backs.

Tubbs could also be a player who is just huge, talented and brittle. The NFL can be a vicious playground and, as one player said, "this is a place where you can legally hurt people real bad."

While Tubbs' injury was clearly an accident, some players hold up better than others.

One is Bruce Matthews who holds the NFL record as an offensive lineman for the most games played—296—and most seasons played—19.

Matthews was an All-American at the University of Southern California and a first-round draft choice of the Houston Oilers. He played his entire career with the Oilers as they moved their franchise which later became the Tennessee Titans.

Matthews tied Merlin Olson's NFL record by being selected to the Pro Bowl 14 times. He was an All-Pro pick 9 times and an All-AFC pick 12 times.

Bruce Matthews was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame this year along with Dan Marino, Eric Dickerson, John Elway and Jim Kelly.

The Seattle Seahawks have another injured-prone lineman in Floyd "Pork Chop" Womack. Pork Chop is a very versatile player on the line and as brittle as a potato chip in action. He spends more time on the injury list than on the active roster.

(Editor's Note: This is Part 1 of a 3-Part Article.)

January 12, 2007

How Sweet It Is

Dear Dallas: Thank You for Bringing Your "Rookie" Quarterback to Seattle

Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley

A botched 19-yard-field-goal attempt on fourth down with only 79 seconds left caused the Dallas Cowboys to be one point short and one yard short of a first down as the Seattle Seahawks hung on to advance in the 2006 NFC playoffs, beating the Cowboys 21-20 at home in Seattle.

While there was blame enough to pass around for the loss in the wild-card game, the final mistake came when "rookie" quarterback Tony Romo lost control of the ball on Martin Gramatica's 19-yard-field-goal attempt.

Romo, the holder, caught the ball cleanly but bobbled the ball when placing it down for Gramatica's attempt. Romo tried to scamper into the end zone on the play but was stopped short by Jordan Babineaux's game-saving tackle at the 2-yard line, one yard short of a first down.

Untested quarterbacks who become starters historically screw up in big games, and Romo did not disappoint. He did not make any excuses for costing Dallas the victory and advancement in the playoff game, and Romo deserves credit for shouldering the blame.

He was the holder on kicks for the Cowboys last year before replacing Drew Bledsoe this year. He blossomed into a Pro Bowl pick by winning five of his first six starts and turning the Dallas season around at that point. Romo's fast start and big statistics fell apart quickly as the season progressed.

Many money players (including myself) bet Seattle to win behind Matt Hasselbeck's experience and Romo's inexperience in the playoffs.

True to form, Hasselbeck was 18-of-36 for 240 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, both of which resulted in Dallas field goals. Matt Hasselbeck was a Pro Bowl pick last year but was bothered by injuries and a weaker offensive line this year.

Romo was 17-of-29 for 189 yards and a touchdown and no turnovers, but all it took was the botched kick attempt to mar his effort.

Pushing aside all statistics, the ball clearly bounced right for Seattle and wrong for Dallas, but that is why we play the game. As a Seattle Seahawk fan, it almost goes without saying that I love first year starting quarterbacks playing for the opposing team.

Two other big plays helped Seattle advance in the playoffs.

The first big play happened when trailing 20-13 after failing on a fourth-and-goal play with 6:40 left in the game. The Seahawks started their comeback with two points on a safety when defensive back Kelly Jennings forced Dallas receiver Terry Glenn to fumble the ball into the end zone when the Cowboys took over deep in their own territory.

The ball shot out of Glenn's arms and took one bounce into the end zone as three Seattle defenders converged on the opportunity for the Seahawk defense to score in the Cowboy's end zone.

Linebacker Lofa Tatupu, an All Pro rookie last year, dove for the ball to keep it from going out of bounds and tipped it back into play then safety Michael Boulware recovered it for what appeared to be a touchdown.

A replay showed Tatupu was out of bounds when the ball was tipped inbounds, so the Seahawks were awarded a safety and the Cowboys lost possession of the ball.

The second big play came when Seattle received the ball on a free kick following the safety. The Seahawks took the winning lead on a 37-yard touchdown pass from Matt Hasselbeck to Jerramy Stevens.

Stevens arguably had the best day of his 5-year career, catching five passes for 77 yards and two touchdowns, his first touchdown being a 15-yarder to give Seattle a 13-10 lead in the third quarter. The Seahawks could not have won without Stevens because Seattle's go-to wide receiver Darrell Jackson (D-Jack) and D. J. Hackett both left the game with injuries.

Dallas was not to be denied as Romo drove the Cowboys right back down the field and into position for the win when a pass to Jason Witten was initially ruled a first down. A replay showed the Cowboys were short.

It looked as if Dallas Coach Bill Parcells was tempted to go for it on fourth-and-1 as he left his offense on the field until Seattle called for a timeout. Then Parcells sent in Gramatica for the ill-fated field goal attempt.

This playoff game was as exciting as any wild-card game ever played.

Miles Austin, an undrafted rookie, had a 93-yard kickoff return for Dallas that became the first kickoff return for a touchdown in the Cowboys playoff history. Austin's electrifying run put Dallas up 17-13 in the third quarter only 11 seconds after the Seahawks had gone ahead.

Defending on the play were such no-names as John Howell, Rich Gardner, Ben Joppru, Oliver Celestin, Marquis Weeks and Lance Laury.

Seattle lost starters Kelly Herndon and Jimmy Williams with season-ending injuries against Tampa Bay a week before the game. Starter Marcus Trufant, one of the best tacklers at cornerback in the NFL, suffered a high ankle strain earlier in the year.

Thrust into the spotlight to defend against Terrell Owens (arguably the best current receiver in the NFL) and Terry Glenn (arguably the fastest receiver in the NFL) was rookie Kelly Jennings (who caused the fumble that resulted in Seattle's safety), safety-turned-cornerback Jordan Babineaux (who covered Terrell Owens and made the game-saving tackle on Tony Romo) and nickel back Pete Hunter (who was out of football a week prior and was working as a loan officer in Dallas).

If you are not impressed by the performance of Jennings, Babineaux and Hunter, you are most certainly a Dallas homer.

The Seahawk defensive secondary that had been decimated going into the playoff game helped hold the Cowboys to a season-low 14 first downs, its second-lowest total yards at 284, its second-lowest net yards passing at 168 and only 23% conversions on third downs.

A lot of Seahawks played tough on defense and the defensive secondary, which figured to get a lesson in what not to do against Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn, held its own like the Seattle Seahawks NFC conference championship team of a year ago that went to the Super Bowl.

Is there unfinished business in Seattle? Yes, there is. Next stop is in Chicago against the Bears, the No. 1 seed in the NFC. The Seahawks come in as a 9-point underdog.

The Bears humiliated Seattle 37-6 earlier in the season on their home turf, but as a betting man, I like Seattle to upset the Bears and continue on their run to another Super Bowl appearance.

The Seahawks earlier defeat by the Bears was played with a banged-up offensive line, Shaun Alexander was unable to play because he had a cracked bone in his left foot and Michael Boulware left the game with a concussion.

Let the Seahawks try again, this time healthier, stronger, hungrier and more focused on the prize that eluded them last year when Pittsburgh beat them 21-10 to win Super Bowl 40 (XL).

March 16, 2007

Sports Commentary:

Jerramy Stevens: A Troubled Tight End, a Great Talent, a Greater Disappointment

Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley

Welcome to Seattle. I would like you to meet our poster child for success.

Shake hands with Jerramy Stevens, our troubled tight end who used to play for the Seattle Seahawks and never will again. He has worn out his welcome with the sorry excuses of a loser.

Stevens has proven to be a troubled tight end, a great talent and now a greater disappointment.

He could have been one of the greatest tight ends in the history of the National Football League, and even have ended up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. At the rate he is disintegrating, it is more likely he will end up in jail or dead.

Stevens was arrested Tuesday morning (3-13-07) in Arizona on suspicion of DUI (driving under the influence for the uninitiated) and marijuana possession at about 2:30 a.m. (like after the bars close at 2 a.m. and you cannot drink any more so you get into your vehicle and drive home after admitting to drinking “four or five margaritas” according to the Scottsdale police report).

Stevens, a quarterback at River Ridge High School in Lacey, would play his college ball at the University of Washington as a tight end and create enough of a stir on the field to catch the attention of then Seattle Seahawks General Manager and Head Coach Mike Holmgren. Holmgren made Stevens the Seahawks' number one draft choice in 2002.

He was a 6-foot-7, 265-pound tight end that was not hard to miss.

Stevens was also no stranger to trouble. His criminal history dates to 1998 with convictions for assault, hit-and-run property damage and reckless driving.

Before he arrived at his first Seahawks' preseason camp, he had spent five days in jail for violating his probation after driving into a nursing home in 2000 in a hit-and-run case. He was a student and athlete at the University of Washington at that time.

In 2003 he pleaded guilty to reckless driving in a plea deal after being stopped in a Seattle suburb on investigation of drunk driving and spent another two days in jail.

Sixteen days after this arrest in 2003 was clocked traveling 90 mph in a 60 mph zone, his sixth infraction in an eight-month period.

His on again-off again performance on the field showed just enough possible greatness to escape harsher punishment for his indiscretions.

As an unrestricted free agent in a market short on tight ends, Stevens could probably have made a guaranteed $15 million during this signing period.

Among the many platitudes you can say about Stevens' talent you, can also say he will never be mistaken for a mental giant.

Holmgren clearly took a chance on drafting Stevens and giving him the opportunity of a lifetime to live a privileged existence that working stiffs could only dream about.

Holmgren also drafted another problem child a year prior when he took Koren Robinson as a number one pick in the 2001 draft. Robinson, a talented wide receiver from North Carolina, blew his opportunity of a lifetime and was released after too many run-ins with the law.

You may fuss at Mike Holmgren for his judgment in making those draft picks but in doing so you must also credit him for his first round draft choices of Shaun Alexander and Steve Hutchinson, both of whom became All-Pro players and legitimate All Stars in Seattle's 2005 Super Bowl season.

If you rounded up every miscreant like Stevens in the NFL over the past five years, you would have enough players to field a NFL expansion team.

We have far too many talented millionaire professional football players and players in every major sport who are simply underperforming adults with little sense of responsibility, accountability, judgment, common sense and decorum.

If you were to bring them together in one place you would have a room full of medicore minds. I am sure the majority of them would either find someone else to blame for their own stupidity or seek more sympathy for their miserably inadequate behavior while still refusing to correct it.

Enough is enough.

Those who would refer to Jerramy Stevens as a man-child simply enable him to act like a child in an adult world. He is a perfect example of a 27-year-old who acts like an irresponsible 13-year-old child.

We expect a 13-year-old to do something irresponsible during his maturation process. We expect a 27-year-old adult to grow up, take responsibility for his actions and do more to help himself.

Seattle Times sports columnist Steve Kelley had this to say about Stevens' latest encounter with stupidity: "Second chances are handed out like breath mints in Stevens' world. Every misstep is excused. Every arrest is forgiven. Every dropped pass is explained away." I agree.

Far too many sportswriters say this about miscreants like Stevens: "Trouble follows Jerramy Stevens." I say garbage. Jerramy Stevens follows trouble. He can and should make better choices.

I have little sympathy for Stevens. He and other talented millionaire professional athletes like him can grow up anytime they decide to do so.

Millions of working people without their God-given talent, opportunities and income manage to solve much greater personal problems than Stevens and his ilk ever thought about having, much less solving.

In football and in life there are really only two outcomes to any action: results or excuses. People who cannot produce results will always have excuses. Excuses are a game that losers play, not winners.

Pro Football:

November 6, 2008

Football Teams That Lose

All 3 Main Washington Teams Get Scorched, Outscored by Only 140-7

Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley

The State of Washington's three main football teams—the Washington Huskies, the Washington State Cougars and the Seattle Seahawks—all lost last weekend by a combined score of 140-7 (not a misprint).

The No. 7 Southern California Trojans shut out the Huskies 56-0. How bad was it? Well, the Huskies turned the ball over 3 times and Southern Cal scored touchdowns on its first 6 possessions of the game.

It was the Huskies first shutout since a 38-0 loss at Southern Cal in 2001, their worst loss since their 65-7 disaster at Miami in 2001, and their worst shutout loss since a 58-0 beating they took at Oregon in 1973. The Huskies have been outscored this season 113 to 333. Yes, they have no offense, no defense, no special teams play and no apparent coaching results.

Washington coach Tyrone Willingham has been told to hit the road after this season but chose to hang around for the last 4 games before departing. This tactic has some fans and boosters scratching their head, wondering if this has not become a festering sore in such a negative environment.

The Stanford Cardinal shutout the Cougars 59-0. How bad was it? Well, the Cougars had 4 turnovers and 3 dropped passes that gave Stanford a quick 31-0 lead and things just kind of went downhill from there.

There are 3 more Pac 10 games remaining on the Cougars' schedule yet they have already broken the Pac 10 Conference record for most points allowed in league games—a whopping 350.

The Conference records date from 1916. Who knows how many more points the Cougars will add to their new record before this season mercifully comes to an end. Overall, the Cougars have been outscored this season 111 to 443.

The Seahawks were burned at home by the Philadelphia Eagles, 26-7. Were it not for a 90-yard, record-setting pass and run play from Seneca Wallace to Koren Robinson on Seattle's first play of the game, the three Washington teams would have been shutout 140-0. The Seahawks have been outscored this season 151 to 210.

The Washington Huskies are 0-8 thus far, the Washington State Cougars 1-8 and the Seattle Seahawks 2-6. Their combined record is 3-22. The three teams have been outscored by a combined 375 to 986.

It is not the year for football in Washington. An entire sports depression hangs over the state like a pestilence in the Middle Ages.

The Seattle Mariners lost more than 100 games this year with a $100 million payroll, setting a major league record for investment futility. The Seattle Supersonics were hijacked out of town and surfaced as the Oklahoma City Thunder.

When you add up the consecutive losses between the three main Washington teams mentioned, the number is 14. Fourteen straight losses. If that is not some kind of record, it should be.

Is there no end in sight? We will find out this weekend when the Huskies face Arizona State, the Cougars face Arizona, and the Seahawks face Miami. Some folks would not give you 2 cents for the chances of any of them winning. It may be the first election hangover since Barack Obama became President-elect of the United States.

October 29, 2008

Pro Football:

Leonard "Green Shoes" Weaver Leads Seahawks to Second Victory in 7 Games

Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley

Football should be about fun and the Seattle Seahawks finally made it so by running the San Francisco 49ers off of their home field Sunday (10-26-08) behind the catch and run explosion of Leonard "Green Shoes" Weaver and the pass snatching ability of Josh Wilson, winning 34-13.

On a day when Seattle's defense not only showed up but played, Weaver turned two short receptions by back-up quarterback Seneca Wallace into 43 and 62-yard touchdowns.

Just watching Weaver stream down the sideline in shoes with a prominent lime green presence was worth the price of admission. Weaver, Seattle's 6-foot, 242-pound fullback, was high-stepping and high-styling in taking the rock to the house twice. Normally Weaver is the lead blocker for running backs Julius Jones and Mo Morris.

Weaver's green shoes are reminiscent of another more famous athlete from the mid-1970s, Billy "White Shoes" Johnson. Johnson, a 3-time, All-Pro selection as a kick return specialist, wore white shoes when everyone else wore black shoes.

Johnson had great speed, and long before showboating became an end-zone pastime in the NFL, he was one of the first players to launch scoring celebrations, initially by doing the then-famous soul dance, the "Funky Chicken".

Josh Wilson, the Seahawks' second-year defensive back and kickoff return specialist, picked up a fumble in last week's 20-10 loss at Tampa Bay and was scampering for an apparent 96-yard touchdown when some official whistled the play dead.

It came as no surprise Sunday when Wilson picked off a J. T. O'Sullivan pass and took off on a 75-yard inception return to put Seattle up 20-3 with 31 seconds left in the 1st half. Coach Mike Holmgren saw Wilson's theft as a tremendous momentum shift for his
Seahawks.

The Seahawk defense had sacked O'Sullivan 8 times in their first meeting this year in Seattle, but the 49ers walked away with a 33-30 overtime victory. This time they got to San Francisco's quarterbacks 5 times but forced starter O'Sullivan to fumble twice, and 6-foot-5, 272-pound defensive end Patrick Kerney picked up one of the fumbles and ran 50 yards, setting up a second field goal in the 1st quarter.

Seattle's missing defense earlier in the season showed up in J. T. O'Sullivan's backfield, putting so much pressure on O'Sullivan that new 49er coach Mike Singletary yanked him in favor of Shaun Hill. It didn't seem to matter because Seattle left San Francisco on top this time.

The Seahawks, now 2-5 on the year, are tied for 2nd place in the National Conference's weak West Division with the St. Louis Rams. The Arizona Cardinals are leading the division with a 4-3 mark.

October 23, 2008

Losing Has Become Contagious

It Is Not a Good Idea to Have a Football Team Anywhere Near Seattle, Washington

Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley

The losing tradition and slide to mediocrity among the State of Washington's three marquee football teams really started at the end of last season when Washington State ended its season by traveling to Seattle and beating arch-rival Washington 42-35 in Husky Stadium. The Cougars ended their season at 5-7.

Washington then traveled to Hawaii and lost to the Warriors 35-28, ending its season at 4-9.

The Seattle Seahawks would end their regular season last year at 10-6 before beating the Washington Redskins 35-14 in their first playoff game, and then being eliminated 42-20 by the Green Bay Packers in the second round.

What has happened to the Washington Huskies, Washington State Cougars and Seattle Seahawks since then has been horrific—all three of the state's flagship football teams have inadvertently raised losing to an art form. Here is the score:

The Washington Huskies have not won a game this season, losing 6 straight times (and 8 times including last year's two season-ending losses). They have been beaten by Oregon 44-10, Brigham Young 28-27, Oklahoma 55-14, Stanford 35-28, Arizona 48-14 and Oregon State 34-13. They have been out scored 244 to 106.

Not to be outdone, the Washington State Cougars managed to beat 1-AA Portland State 48-9 but have lost 7 other games. They have been beaten by Oklahoma State 39-13, California 66-3, Baylor 45-17, Oregon 63-14, UCLA 28-3, Oregon State 66-13 and Southern California 69-0. They have been out scored 385 to 111.

The Cougars have given up 60+ points 3 times, and their 69-0 shutout loss to Southern Cal was the first time Washington State has not scored in 280 consecutive games, dating back to 1984, 24 years ago. First year coach Paul Wulff has to be beside himself implementing his system with on-the-field players he did not recruit.

The Seattle Seahawks managed to beat the St. Louis Rams 37-13 but have lost 5 other games. They have been beaten by Buffalo 34-10, San Francisco 33-30, the New York Giants 44-6, Green Bay 27-17 and Tampa Bay 20-10. They have been out scored 171 to 110.

In total, Washington's three flagship teams this season have a current combined record of 2-18 and have been out scored 800 to 327. It is currently not a good idea to have a football team anywhere near Seattle or in the State of Washington.

The talent pool at Washington and Washington State is dreadful; the losses run up by the talent pool of the Seahawks are inexcusable. Excuses aside, Washington coach Tyrone Willingham, Washington State coach Paul Wulff and Seattle Seahawk coach Mike Holmgren are having terrible seasons.

But what about the fans and supporters? I thought you would never ask. They are not taking it very well. They are angry, upset and intolerant of failure. Sounds pretty normal to me. Who wants to back a bunch of losers?

It certainly does not take any talent to lose. Unfortunately, the prospect of any of these teams doing diddly-squat this year is slim to none, and Slim left town a long time ago.

October 16, 2008

Pro Football:

Does Seattle Have Too Many Stars and Not Enough Football Players?

Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley

Whatever bloom was on the Seattle Seahawks football team has officially faded with the soon to be falling leaves of autumn. It was nice while it lasted. Fans were gifted with 4 consecutive National Football Conference West Division titles, a NFC championship and a Super Bowl appearance.

The apex of Seattle's rise to prominence was 2005 when the Seahawks went 13-3, won the NFC Division title, won the NFC championship and played Pittsburgh in Super Bowl 40 (XL for the Roman numeral freaks), losing to the Steelers 21-10.

This year the Hawks started the season with an eye on returning to the Super Bowl and winning, which would have given Mike Holmgren his second Super Bowl victory in his last season before leaving Seattle to take a year off. Holmgren would have gone down as the only NFL head coach to take two different teams to the Super Bowl and win.

Here is what Seahawks have done so far: They traveled to Buffalo and got their tails whipped by the Bills 34-10. They lost 33-30 in overtime in their home opener against San Francisco. They managed to beat St. Louis at home 37-13 (an almost turnaround). They took a bye week. They traveled to New York and got humiliated by the Giants 44-6. They spent last Sunday (10-12-08) losing to Green Bay at home 27-17.

I was at the Green Bay game watching the current mess called the Seattle Seahawks. After Green Bay scored a touchdown to go up 24-10 with approximately 11 minutes left in the 4th quarter, I got up and left with my friend. Thousands of fans literally got up and left with me.

After 50+ years of watching football games, covering football as a sports editor for a daily newspaper and being a lifelong fan, I can tell when players have tanked it in and could not come back and win if their life depended on it. I was right, they eventually lost 27-17.

Whatever magic Seattle has had in the past has gotten up and left the franchise. The Seahawks are terrible right now. They could get better but they will still stink.

Some fans think the Seahawks' demise is because of an inordinate number of injuries to wide receivers or a banged up quarterback Matt Hasselbeck who is probably lucky to be able to get out of a chair at the moment.

The team returned all 11 starters from last year's defensive unit, but someone forgot to tell them that they still have to play again this year. They are not where they need to be, they look dazed and confused, and even All-Pro, lock-down cornerback Marcus Trufant could not stop Green Bay's Greg Jennings from scoring on a 45-yard touchdown pass.

All of which causes me to ask a simple question: Does Seattle have too many stars and not enough football players?

Think about it. There is Walter Jones, arguably the best left tackle in the history of the NFL. There is Matt Hasselbeck, one of the best quarterbacks. There is Lofa Tatupu and Julian Peterson, two of the best linebackers in the NFL. There is Leroy Hill, who many fans think is as good as Tatupu or Peterson, and some think even better. There is Marcus Trufant, a lock-down corner.

At least 5 of these stars have big time contracts, only Leroy Hill, who will become a free agent this year, does not.

Noticeably missing from the 2005 banner team is guard Steve Hutchinson (gone to the Minnesota Vikings in a salary tiff) and running back Shaun Alexander (former NFL Most Valuable Player in 2005 who just signed with the Washington Redskins as a back-up).

It is easy to get caught up in the press clippings and even easier to ease up when you make big money. It takes no talent whatsoever to blow assignments. It takes a lot of talent to stay on top year after year, game after game, and play after play.

No one goes very far without talent, and some players do not go very far with talent. What separates the great players from the good players from the average players?

Consider at least 4 things: 1) Talent. 2) Focus. 3) Consistency. 4) A white heat, deep down burning inside to be the best of the best and ahead of the rest. If you have no idea what I am talking about, watch some game film of Brett Favre (pronounced Farve).

There have been more talented quarterbacks than Brett Favre, but none have been tougher, played harder or gone farther. The statistics tell the story, but there is no measure for Favre's heart, desire and pure joy on a football field. No wonder he cannot stay retired.

The Seahawks might need a little less of the "it's all about me" attitude and a little more of the "we are one" mentality. Teams win games and titles, not individuals. There is no sport that requires so much teamwork to succeed as football.

The Seahawk players—not the coaches or fans—need to decide if they are going to be a team of players with stars, or a team of players that wins.

October 11, 2008

Pro Football:

Seattle's Only Hope for Sports Success Is Now Hiding in a Dumper Somewhere

Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley

First the basketball Supersonics were ripped out of Seattle and taken to Oklahoma City. Then the baseball Mariners became the first MLB team to lose 100+ games with a $100 million payroll. Then the football Huskies made Washington the worst college team in the nation by going 0-5 to open their season, becoming the only BCS eligible school without a victory.

Now the football Seahawks have opened their season at 1-3 with a defense so porous that homemakers all over Seattle could use it as a strainer to pass liquids.

The Hawks lost their away opener to the Buffalo Bills 34-10 (the scourge of the AFC East that finished 7-9 last year), lost in overtime at home to the San Francisco 49ers 33-30 (the 49ers finished at 5-11 last year), finally beat the Los Angeles Rams at home 37-13 (the Rams were 3-13 last year), and they lost on the road to the New York Giants 44-6 (the Giants won the Super Bowl last year).

This Sunday (10-12-08) Seattle hosts Green Bay at home. Before arriving in Seattle, Holmgren spent 7 years compiling a 75-37 regular season record with the Packers while winning 3 consecutive NFC Central titles, and making 2 trips to the Super Bowl and winning one.

So how bad are the Seahawks stinking it up on defense this year? Real bad. They rank 24th in rushing defense (among 32 NFL teams), 25th in passing defense, 27th in total defense, and 29th in scoring defense. They have given up 24 big plays of 20+ yards in their first 4 outings.

These negative statistics become more significant when you know that 1) Seattle's defense was much better last year, 2) They led the NFL in fewest touchdown passes allowed last year, and 3) They returned all 11 starters from last year's defensive team.

To add insult to injury, Seattle has not played well on the road and supposedly has an East Coast jinx. Seahawk Coach Mike Holmgren is not hearing or believing any of the East Coast blather. Before the Hawks trip to New York and loss to the Giants, Holmgren said this in no uncertain terms:

"You lose (an away) football game for the same reason you lose a football game at home . . . you lose because you played lousy. You fumbled the ball, you threw interceptions, and you missed tackles. Period. I don't want to hear it."

Mike's an imposing man of size with success and earned authority. When he speaks, you shut-up and listen. When you win 8 NFC Division Titles, take your team to 3 Super Bowl appearances, and win the Super Bowl, then you can speak.

I totally agree with Holmgren. The Seahawks have talent, proven success and experience at key positions. Perhaps the lapse in their away game performance is nothing more or less than a head problem.

The Seahawks have played much better defense at home—where they are fueled by their raucous supporters—than on the road. Cooler heads know that if your play is based more on emotion than self-control, you have a serious problem in that you cannot take the emotional fan support with you on the road.

The more control you have over your thoughts, words, emotions and behavior, the more effective outcomes you will achieve when push comes to shove. That is why smart players stay out of trouble (on and off the field) while other players get into trouble.

When you have a lot of stars on a team—Matt Hasselbeck, Walter Jones, Lofa Tatupu, Julian Peterson, Leroy Hill and Marcus Trufant—sometimes the stars become bigger than the team and there is not enough room on the playing surface to accommodate all of the egos.

Knute Rockne may never have coached pro football, but he was one smart football coach. Here is a quote from Rockne in the 1920s that is applicable today to any team at any place at any level:

"The secret (to success) is to work less as individuals and more as a team. As a coach, I play not my 11 best, but my best 11." (Read Rockne's last sentence about 20 times and you may get it.) Every team in the NFL has stars, but only one team wins the Super Bowl.

September 28, 2008

Pro Football:

Will Seahawks' Woeful 0-2 Start Leave Them Out of the Chase for the Super Bowl Title?

Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley

If you set your goal to not only get to but win the Super Bowl this season, it is not a good idea to lose your first two games. During the 8-year period from 2000 through 2007 only 6 of the 70 National Football League teams that started the season at 0-2 went on the make the playoffs, much less win the Super Bowl.

So here come Mike Holmgren's Seattle Seahawks, all full of spit and vinegar and wimpering out while losing their first two games, a 34-10 thumping from the Bills in Buffalo and a 33-30 overtime loss at home to the San Francisco 49ers, a National Football Conference West Division rival.

In two games the Seahawks, which returned all 11 of their defensive starters (almost unheard of in pro football), gave up 33.5 points a game.

One explanation for their lapse of playmaking came from defensive coordinator John Marshall, who maintained that there were not many blown assignments as much as the players simply not trusting their teammates and overcompensating in their own areas to make up for what they perceived as a shortcoming somewhere else. It kind of sounds like they were minding everyone else's business but their own.

There are, of course, some other perhaps less plausible but more understandable explanations, such as spending too much time:

1) Reading the press clippings about how great they were going to be this year.

2) Placing a quick cell phone call to their agent to see what new endorsements might put them more in the spotlight.

3) Figuring out the quickest route to the hot dog stand after the first half ends.

4) Trying to figure out if that foxy looking blond in the 4th row on the starboard side is approachable.

The defensive front did record 8 sacks but the defensive secondary was last seen somewhere near Tukwila, 12 miles south of Qwest Field in downtown Seattle.

The six exceptions to the 0-2 rule of going nowhere fast were:

1) The 2007 New York Giants who went 10-6 and won Super Bowl XLII (Super Bowl 42 to people in the real world, as opposed to NFL executives).

2) The 2006 Kansas City Chiefs who went 9-7 and lost the AFC wild card game.

3) The 2003 Philadelphia Eagles who went 12-4 and made it to the NFC championship game.

4) The 2002 Atlanta Falcons who went 9-6-1 and made it to the NFC divisional game.

5) The 2002 Pittsburgh Steelers who went 10-5-1 and made it to the AFC divisional game.

6) The 2001 New England Patriots who went 11-5 and won Super Bowl XXXVI (Super Bowl 36 to people in the real world, as opposed to NFL executives).

Alexander Pope, the master of the heroic couplet, penned "Hope springs eternal in the human breast, Man never is, but always to be blessed" and so it is with the Seahawks.

After being mired in a pitiful state like fraternity boys caught with their pants down outside in the dead of winter, the Seahawks made a 180-degree turn at home last week and routed the St. Louis Rams (another division opponent) 37-13.

With all of Seattle's starting wide receivers banged up and left with major inexperience at the wide receiver position, the Hawks' handed off to Julius Jones 22 times for 140 yards (6.4 yards per carry), including a 29-yard touchdown scamper. They handed off to T. J. Duckett 19 times for 79 yards and 2 short TD runs, and that was that.

Did I mention that rookie tight end John Carlson (all 6-foot-5, 251-pounds of him) continues to look good and actually catches the ball when you throw it to him? Carlson comes to Seattle from Notre Dame. He is not the first great tight end from Notre Dame.

That honor belongs to the immortal Leon Hart, the 1949 Heisman Trophy winner and the only lineman to win 3 national titles in both college (1946, 1948 and 1949 national championships at Notre Dame) and pro football (1952, 1953 and 1957 NFL championships with the Detroit Lions).

Leon Hart is also the last and only 1 of 2 linemen ever to win the Heisman Trophy. He was an All American tight end on offense and defensive end on defense. That was when men were men rather than self-centered, spoiled, multi-millionaire, petulant stars who show up but don't always play for fear of being hurt.

Seattle has a bye this week but travels to New York on Sunday (10-5-08) to face the defending Super Bowl Champion Giants. We shall see if the Seahawks can duplicate their last game success at home while on the road in East Rutherford (NJ), where Giants Stadium is located. There is a rumor going around that the Giants are really happy to see the Seahawks coming, something about patting their 3-0 record.

September 12, 2008

Pro Football:

Seattle Seahawks' Opener in Buffalo Proves an Awful Study in Ineptitude

Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley

Many Seattle fans grew physically ill watching the Seahawks NFL opener against the Buffalo Bills on the East Coast, and I was one of them. This was no way to start Mike Holmgren's final season in Seattle. Holmgren deserved better.

The Bills won 34-10 while controlling both sides of the line, watching Seattle's running game flounder like a wounded duck, watching the Seahawks' depleted receiving corps drop pass after pass, and watching Seattle's special teams unit miss tackles and give up 24 points. It was a study in ineptitude.

John Donne is his Meditation XVII said "no man is an island" but Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck must have felt like he was on an island isolated without pass protection as he was knocked down more times than 10 pins at a bowling alley. There was little pass protection and, when there was, receivers dropped balls like little leaguers at play.

To add injury to insult, Seattle lost its only healthy, competent wide receiver as Nate Burleson suffered a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) in his knee and will be lost for the season. Both veteran starters Bobby Engram and Deion Branch are injured and have not played yet this season.

It is not the end of the world (for fans who take these losses seriously and emotionally), but it could be the beginning of the end if the Seahawks do not snap out of it and get control of their game and future.

The Seattle Seahawks do not have modest aspirations this year, they aim to win the Super Bowl and send Mike Holmgren away from Seattle as the only coach to lead two teams to Super Bowl victories. Holmgren won a Super Bowl in Green Bay and has already led the Seahawks to the Super Bowl in 2005.

Seattle has lost its opening game before and done well. In 2005, the Seahawks lost to Jacksonville on the road, returned home to beat Atlanta and then won 12 of 13 games to assure home field advantage in the playoffs.

They went on to win the NFC West Division title and the NFC title before losing to Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl, a game that shall live in infamy as injuries to the Seahawks' secondary leading up to the Super Bowl cost them the game.

So how bad was the opening-game loss? Well, the mild mannered Mike Holmgren canned a player. Punter Ryan Plackemeier lost his job and place on the team as he was shown the door out of town.

Plackemeier was followed by Jordan Kent (who dropped too many passes) and Justin Forsett to make room for suspended players Rocky Bernard and Jordan Babineaux. The Seahawks immediately signed former Green Bay Packer punter John Ryan to replace Plackemeier.

After Sunday's inept performance, Holmgren could have fired any one of 20 players who underperformed and are overpaid. I'm glad to see Plackemeier hit the road. It puts the other players on notice that the dinky-dorking around is over; they need to start earning their salaries and privileged place in America as professional athletes.

(Editor's Note: I do not cover pro football because too many of the games are about as exciting as slicing an apple in two and watching it turn brown.)

August 24, 2008

NFL Preview:

Brett Favre May Be a New York Jet, But He Is Hardly a Jet "All the Way"

Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley

After playing 16 seasons with the Green Bay Packers and then being faced with riding the bench in favor of a lesser light (backup "rookie" quarterback Aaron Rogers), Brett Favre chose to do what he does best, act like a winner about to win again.

Favre (pronounced Farve) forced Green Bay to trade him, and he ended up as a New York Jet. Favre was "family" in Green Bay, a small metro-market town compared to the glare and lights of the Big Apple. In New York, Favre will be roasted, toasted and filleted by the media pundits and fans, who are not patient and not happy most of the time.

As a Green Bay Packer stockholder, I did not agree with the management decision to let Favre go. I understand that Favre will not play at his normal level forever, and that Aaron Rogers has spent 4 years as Favre's backup (I hope Rogers was paying attention).

However, Favre is a gamer. He passes the test on every measurement you cannot make—courage, heart, determination, inventiveness and guts. Moreover, he owns nearly every NFL career record you can measure that is worth talking about—most touchdown passes (442), completions (5,377), attempts (8,758), yards gained (61,655), QB wins (160) and consecutive starts (275 including playoffs). Yes, he is durable.

Did I mention that he is a 9-time Pro Bowl selection and the NFL's only 3-time Associated Press Most Valuable Player? There are probably 100 more impressive things that could be said about Favre, all of which left Green Bay's management and coach unimpressed and still looking at Aaron Rogers. Is it possible that they simply did not like Favre?

Green Bay's loss is the New York Jets gain. Favre's new Jets jersey went on sale the day after he signed a one-year contract for $12 million, approximately the same amount he would have received in Green Bay. Once Favre was a Jet, his new jersey began selling at a record pace--3 shirts every two minutes.

You may not know that Favre's No. 4 Green Bay Packer jersey is the best-selling jersey in NFL history. The arrival of Favre will help the Jets convince season ticket holders to pony up $300 million in seat-license revenue in connection with their move to a new stadium.

New York is on the rise. The Jets dropped $140 million revamping their roster after last season's poor 4-12 showing, they dropped another $75 million on a state-of-the-art practice facility in New Jersey, and look to build a $1.6 billion new stadium.

So how will Favre do as a Jet? He is not the first current or future Hall of Fame quarterback to switch teams at the end of his career. Broadway Joe Namath went from the New York Jets to the Los Angeles Rams, and Joe Montana went from the San Francisco 49ers to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Namath made no impact in Los Angeles, but Montana was huge in Kansas City. He led the Chiefs to an 11-5 record and the playoffs his first year. Montana led a 27-24 come-from-behind victory over the Steelers in the AFC wild card game, and led the Chiefs past Houston 28-20 on the road. Kansas City ended up in the AFC championship game but lost to Buffalo 30-13.

A year later the Chiefs were playoff bound for the 5th straight year after compiling a 9-7 mark, only to be eliminated by the Miami Dolphins 27-17 in their first playoff game. I think Favre will do well as long as he is healthy. Everyone loves a winner, and Favre is a winner.

Whatever happens, Favre will not take New York like the stage play "West Side Story", wherein the song proclaims "When you're a Jet, you're a Jet all the way, from your first cigarette to your last dying day."

In Favre's case, I think not. His 16 seasons in Green Bay has made him a living legend. He will go into the NFL Hall of Fame as a Packer, not as a Jet.

August 21, 2008

NFL Football Preview:

Here Comes the Seahawks: Stumbling and Bumbling into Holmgren's Last Year

Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley

Just when Seattle's Mike Holmgren is entering his last year as head coach, his Seahawks are now stumbling and bumbling their way into what appears to be a Larry, Mo and Curly comedy routine.

After dusting off the Minnesota Vikings 34-17 in their first 2008 preseason game on the road in Minneapolis, the Seahawks narrowly escaped defeat in their home preseason opener against the Chicago Bears, winning 29-26 in an error-prone display of ineptness. For the Seahawks' faithful, it was no laughing matter.

There are big hopes in Seattle this year, especially since Holmgren is entering his last year after winning an AFC West Division title, an NFC Wildcard berth, 4 consecutive NFC West Division championships (2004 through 2007), an NFC championship, and taken the Seahawks to their first-ever Super Bowl appearance in 2005, which they promptly lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers 21-10.

Against Minnesota, the Seahawks became ballhawks, forcing 5 fumbles, recovering 4 and picking off an interception. Backup quarterback Seneca Wallace completed 15 of 20 passes with 3 touchdown passes after starter Matt Hasselbeck looked solid in the first two series of the game.

Against Chicago, the Seahawks were on two sides of another planet.

On the good side, their 7th-round draft pick from Georgia, place-kicker Brandon Coutu, went 5-for-5, including the game-winning 36-yard field goal in overtime to win. Seattle's other 7th-round draft pick from California, 5-foot-8 Justin Forsett, picked up 261 all purpose yards—excluding a 50-yard-plus return called back for holding—and with all 136 of his rushing yards coming when he played in the second half.

Coutu is a backup to Olindo Mare, a former Pro-Bowl, 12-year veteran with the Miami Dolphins and New York Giants. Forsett is 4th on the running back depth chart behind Maurice Morris, Julius Jones and T. J. Duckett. Jones (from the Dallas Cowboys) and Duckett (from the Detroit Lions) are new pickups this year to replace the release of former All Pro and 2005 NFL Most Valuable Player Shaun Alexander.

In 2005, he became the first player in NFL history to score 19 rushing or receiving TDs in only 10 games. That mark eventually aided him in breaking the NFL single-season mark for touchdowns with 27. Alexander, hampered by injuries the last two seasons, was Seattle's all-time leading rusher with 7,817 rushing yards and 89 rushing touchdowns in 5 seasons.

On the bad side, the Seahawks had to overcome 2 blocked punts and an interception return for a touchdown to finally win at home. Third-string quarterback Charlie Fry completed 20-of-35 passes but was intercepted 3 times. Seattle only won because the Bears' Pro Bowl place-kicker missed a potential game-winner from 47 yards as regulation time expired.

Seattle remains excited about new 2nd-round draft choice John Carlson from Notre Dame. Holmgren's West Coast Offense was in sore need of a tight end that could play effectively.

The addition of veteran guard and former Pro Bowler Mike Wahle from the Carolina Panthers should shore up an offensive line that was excellent in 2005 and became a whole lot less so with the departure of guard Steve Hutchinson to the Minnesota Vikings. Hutchinson was unstoppable beside Walter Jones, the Seahawks premier tackle who is an 8-time Pro Browler and 6-time All Pro.

Unfortunately, the Seahawks underestimated the positive locker room presence of Hutchinson, who created a leadership role that has been left unfulfilled.

While Seattle appears stable in its coaching transition (Jim Mora, a current Assistant Head Coach and Defensive Backs Coach, will replace Holmgren next year), there is a lot of turnover among coaches.

The Seahawks have added Mike Solari from the Kansas City Chiefs (the new offensive line coach), Bill Lazor from the Washington Redskins (the new quarterbacks coach), Kasey Dunn from the University of Maryland (new running backs coach), and Mike DeBord from the University of Michigan (new offensive assistant coach).

Like most NFL teams, the 'Hawks have a lot of coaches to go with Holmgren, 19 of them in fact. In some cases, they work harder than the players they are coaching.

Seattle, and the NFL in general, has a lot of players who are overpaid and underperformed. Two of them are defensive tackle Marcus Tubbs, a huge man who could block the middle if he was not hurt every 10 minutes of his career, and offensive tackle Floyd "Pork Chop" Womack, who the Seahawks like because he can play more than one position on the line.

Womack, like Tubbs, is hurt more than healthy. Seattle mercifully cut Tubbs loose earlier in the preseason camp. However, they resigned Womack, a dubious move at best. It is as if the Seahawks could not find another decent, healthy backup tackle on the face of the Earth.

To its credit, Seattle has drafted replacements; to the drafted players discredit, none of them have proven capable of getting the job done, so back comes Womack for another season, that is, until he is injured again.

So who else is hurt? I thought you would never ask. Pro-Bowl quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has enough back problems to make an orthopedic surgeon wealthy, new go-to wide receiver Bobby Engram has a cracked shoulder and will be out for awhile, and high-priced wide receiver Deion Branch is recovering from knee surgery.

A host of other players are whining over normal bumps and bruises. Big deal, this is football, not tiddlywinks.

July 27, 2008

Protecting a Legacy

Say It Isn't So Brett, That You Will Shed Your Green Bay Packer Uniform

Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley

What a difference a day makes. Imagine how much difference three months could make. If you are Brett Favre (pronounced Farve) of the Green Bay Packers, it could make all of the difference in the world.

In March of this year, Favre—a man's man and the perfect pro football teammate—could not hold back the tears as he officially retired to another life. He would go out on top, and as a first-ballot Pro Football Hall of Fame selection in the future. He had stood the test of time during his 17-year career, and his numbers were record-setting in every important statistic for a NFL quarterback.

His 160 wins as a starting quarterback are the most in NFL history. His 275 consecutive starts streak (including playoffs) as a quarterback are the most in NFL history. His 442 career touchdown passes, 5,377 career completions, 8,758 career passing attempts, and 61,655 career passing years are all the most in NFL history.

Favre is also a 3-time AP NFL Most Valuable Player (the most in history), and a 9-time Pro Bowl Player that led the Packers to 7 Division titles, 2 Super Bowl appearances and 1 Super Bowl victory.

There was nothing really left for him to accomplish. For the last few years, no one was certain that he would return to Green Bay for another year. In March this year he declared his career as a player was finally over.

There was just one problem—apparently he did not have another life. Brett Favre eats, drinks, sleeps and thinks football 24/7 and so, after apparently rolling out of bed one morning with no pain, and going through the day without always being reminded of past injuries, he felt ready to come back for another season.

Suddenly there was a second problem. Green Bay had decided to move on with his replacement Aaron Rogers (their 2005 first-round draft pick), so while Green Bay did not want Favre going any other place, they would only welcome him back to ride the bench.

Favre does not ride the bench. He could start tomorrow for the majority of NFL teams and improve their offense and chances of winning more games. Other than Peyton Manning, Peyton's brother Eli Manning, Tom Brady, Matt Hasselbeck and perhaps a couple of others, there is not a team in the NFL with a better quarterback than Brett Favre. Put it this way, of the 32 NFL teams, Favre could definitely start for at least 20 of them, and each of the 20 teams would be better with him as their starter.

Favre's situation is stressful and will be resolved before the season starts, but it is stressful for me as well because I am a Green Bay Packer stockholder, Favre is my favorite NFL player, I do not want to see him in a different color uniform, and I am concerned about his legacy.

So say it isn't so Brett, that you will shed your Green Bay Packer uniform.

Why would he return? For another $12 million season? I doubt it, he has enough money already to live the rest of his life in leisure. To make his NFL records impossible to reach? Brett knows records are to be broken, that is how he acquired them. There is no reason for him to return other than love of the game and camaraderie.

Favre is a player's player. If you polled Green Bay's players and said who do you want to start: Brett Favre or Aaron Rogers, you can bet that Favre would win by a landslide. That said, Green Bay management is not moving off of the dime. They are drawing a line in the sand.

To see Favre in another uniform will be painful for me, and will not help his legacy one iota. It is doubtful that it will help Green Bay's legacy either. As much as the Green Bay faithful want to see Favre back on the field, it may well have been better for him to have stayed retired.

When an all-time great player has been forced to start for another team at the end of his career, and especially a mediocre team, the result has NEVER been good. This is one situation Favre may not be able to outrun or conquer.

At worst, he risks being labeled as a "drama queen" and if the label sticks, his stature will diminish. Fans will put up with a lot things, but erosion of their favorite player's legacy is not one of them. This is not about the money or ego, but too many fans will remain unconvinced.

Relationships and trust are like glass, once broken it is never well mended.

June 19, 2008

A Legend in His Last Year

Can the Seahawks Find the Grit to Deliver Holmgren a 2nd Super Bowl Winning Team?

Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley

Mike Holmgren has spent his life teaching, currently as Head Coach of the Seattle Seahawks.

Holmgren started out coaching and teaching at his high school alma mater in San Francisco. Now, after 36 years of coaching in high school, college and the pros, he begins his last season with the Seattle Seahawks in quest of a second Super Bowl victory with a different team after winning Super Bowl XXXI (31) when his Green Bay Packers beat the New England Patriots, 35-21.

For Holmgren, already acknowledged as one of the very best coaches in National Football League history, it would be the icing on the cake as no coach has ever won the Super Bowl with 2 different teams.

Holmgren is part of a select group of only 5 coaches who have taken 2 teams to the Super Bowl and won once but not twice. The others are Bill Parcels, Dan Reeves, Don Shula and Dick Vermeil. Parcels and Shula are genuine legends in their own right.

It has been quite a ride for Mike Holmgren. His influence in the NFL is nothing short of awesome. He will be in the NFL Hall of Fame at some point in the future, the only question is will he be the first to coach 2 different teams to Super Bowl victories and world championships?

That triumph, should it happen in his final year as coach of the Seahawks, would be a long way from losing 22 straight games as a high school coach in San Francisco, a streak that almost led him to quit coaching. Thankfully, he continued on, not knowing the success he would eventually achieve.

Like touchdowns coming one after another when his West Coast Offense hits its stride, his legacy will include:

Molding future Hall of Fame quarterbacks Joe Montana, Steve Young and Bret Favre (pronounced Farve) during his tenures as a quarterback coach with the San Francisco 49ers and head coach of the Green Bay Packers.

In 6 years with San Francisco as the quarterbacks coach and then offensive coordinator, the 49ers went 71-23-1 (75%) in the regular season and reached postseason play 5 of 6 years, won Super Bowl XXIII (23) over the Cincinnati Bengals and Super Bowl XXIV (24) over the Denver Broncos. His offense was No. 1 in the NFL in 1989.

In 7 years as head coach of Green Bay, the Packers went 75-37 (67%) in the regular season, 9-5 (64%) in the postseason, had 2 Super Bowl appearances and won Super Bowl XXXI (31) over the New England Patriots. By winning at least 1 game in 5 consecutive postseasons, Holmgren joined John Madden as the only coaches to ever do so.

At his apex, he led Green Bay from 1995 to 1998 to an NFL-best 48-16 (75%) record, finished 1st in the NFC Central Division 3 times, and had a 7-3 playoff mark. He led the Packers to 6 consecutive postseasons, setting a franchise record with a team that had just 2 winning seasons in 19 years prior to his arrival.

In 9 years as head coach of Seattle, he took the Seahawks to postseason play in his first year, breaking a 10-year playoff drought. Since then he has won an AFC West Division title, an NFC Wildcard berth, won 4 consecutive NFC West Division championships (2004 through 2007), an NFC championship, and taken the Seahawks to their first-ever Super Bowl appearance in 2005.

In Seattle's stellar 2005 campaign, Holmgren's Seahawks were 13-3 (81%) in regular season play (a franchise record), won a team record 11 consecutive victories, and won their first playoff game since 1984. He molded Matt Hasselbeck into a Pro Bowl and Super Bowl quarterback, and coached Shaun Alexander to the NFL's Most Valuable Player award and an NFL-record 28 touchdowns in a single season.

Holmgren is just the 3rd coach in NFL history to lead his team to 7 straight postseason appearances (6 in Green Bay followed by 1 in Seattle), joining two all-time legends—Tom Landry and Chuck Noll.

In short, in 21 NFL seasons, Mike Holmgren has a 218-116-1 record (65%), has 12 double-digit win seasons, made 16 postseason runs, won 3 Super Bowls and competed in 2 other Super Bowls.

Gone from Seattle's 2005 Super Bowl team are two mainstays—MVP Shaun Alexander and Pro-Bowl guard Steve Hutchinson. New arrivals include wide receivers Deion Branch and Nate Burleson, defensive backs Deon Grant and Brian Russell, defensive end Patrick Kerney, and running backs Julius Jones and T. J. Duckett.

Seattle does not have a world-beater team. It has a few Pro-Bowl players—quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, tackle Walter Jones, defensive end Patrick Kerney, linebackers Lofa Tatupu and Julian Peterson, and cornerback Marcus Trufant—and some seasoned veterans.

Seattle will not be picked in pre-season polls to win the Super Bowl, and it begs the question: Is this a team that has the grit to deliver Mike Holmgren another Super Bowl victory and help him go down in history as the greatest NFL coach ever.

2009 Pro Football

2010 Pro Football

Pro Baseball

November 12, 2010

Legendary Broadcaster Dies

Dave Niehaus, the Voice of Seattle Baseball Since the Mariners Inception in 1977, All 'Too Suddenly Goes Silent

(Ed's Note: The voice of baseball broadcaster Dave Niehaus was as distinctive as the Pacific Northwest audience he served. To the millions of fans who heard his voice during his 33-year run with the Seattle Mariners, Niehaus will be venerated as a family friend whose sound linked us to the great sport of baseball. This article by Larry Larue of The News Tribune tells us why he will be remembered so fondly. Some of us are old enough to remember The News Tribune as the Tacoma (WA) News Tribune before its name change.)

By Larry Larue of The News Tribune

On the deck behind his home, enjoying his second-favorite view of the Northwest – Safeco Field being the first – Dave Niehaus had a heart attack Wednesday (11-10-10).

At 75, the voice of the Seattle Mariners died, leaving an extended family that included players and fans in mourning.

"I just drove home from the grocery store and someone called to tell me the news, and I almost threw up," former Mariners outfielder Jay Buhner said. "I haven’t cried since my mom died last year. This hurts. I lost a family member. We all did."

For anyone who ever listened to a Mariners broadcast, from the first pitch in the Kingdome in 1977 to the last at Safeco Field in 2010, Niehaus was the familiar voice describing the game.

Wife Marilyn, his three children and his eight grandchildren were his blood, but baseball was his life.

"He’s what you think of when you think of the Mariners," said former first baseman John Olerud. "Dave was baseball in the Northwest."

When then-owner Danny Kaye hired Niehaus away from Southern California, where he had broadcast everything from UCLA football to Angels baseball, he brought in a man who became an icon.

"We had the good fortune of hearing Dave all of our lives in the Northwest, and we have to appreciate and cherish that," said pitcher Jamie Moyer. "The celebration of a life and how he touched so many people is what it’s all about."

Through the lean, early years of Mariners baseball, Niehaus may have done as much as anyone on the field to keep baseball alive.

"The most amazing thing was, you’d have thought we were the New York Yankees and had 27 championships – he made our games sound like we were going to the World Series," former M’s second baseman Harold Reynolds said. "We might be 20-81, but he made it sound like we always had a chance."

Niehaus received the Ford C. Frick Award in 2008, reaching a cherished goal – induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

His often-heard "My, oh my!" became his signature call, and his broadcast of the ’95 postseason captured the imagination of fans listening to a ragtag group of Mariners beating the New York Yankees.

The Call That Every Mariner Fan Remembers

When Edgar Martinez doubled Ken Griffey Jr. home for the deciding run in that American League Division Series, this was Dave’s call:

"Right now, the Mariners looking for the tie. They would take a fly ball, they would love a base hit into the gap and they could win it with Junior’s speed. The stretch … and the 0-1 pitch on the way to Edgar Martinez … swung on and LINED DOWN THE LEFT FIELD LINE FOR A BASE HIT! HERE COMES JOEY, HERE IS JUNIOR TO THIRD BASE, THEY’RE GOING TO WAVE HIM IN! THE THROW TO THE PLATE WILL BE … LATE! THE MARINERS ARE GOING TO PLAY FOR THE AMERICAN LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP! I DON’T BELIEVE IT! IT JUST CONTINUES! MY, OH MY!"

Small wonder when the Mariners opened Safeco Field, fans voted to have Niehaus – not a player – throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

"Dave has truly been the heart and soul of this franchise since its inception in 1977," team president Chuck Armstrong said. "Since calling Diego Segui’s first pitch strike on opening night in the Kingdome … Dave’s voice has been the constant with the franchise. He truly was the fans’ connection to every game."

Niehuas had a history of heart problems. Twice he had angioplasty procedures in 1998. But he returned to the booth soon after, having quit smoking and drinking. That didn’t surprise his radio producer, Kevin Cremin.

"Dave was the best there ever was. Best guy, best announcer, best friend. No one could draw you into the moment, the drama of a game like he could," Cremin said. "His style, his mannerisms, he was one of a kind.

"He was like a brother, an uncle, a relative to me. He brought me here; it will never be the same without him. No one could paint the picture like Dave. The Voice has been silenced, but we can still hear him. We always will."

Reynolds, then a young second baseman, said meeting Niehaus had a profound effect on him.

"I was 19 when I met Dave, and he was one of the greatest people I’ve ever known," Reynolds said. "He loved everyone. Those of us who spent time around him, he was a father to everyone – no matter what race, religion or what color, he loved everyone."

Ken Griffey Jr., in a radio interview Wednesday, was obviously moved.

"It’s tough because he’s like that grandfather to all of us, especially Jay, me, Edgar (Martinez) and Dan (Wilson) and so many other Mariners," Griffey said. "He would give you a little bit of advice, and he was tough on you when he needed to be. This is a day that I was hoping would never come.

"When I got drafted he came up to me and just looked at me and said: ‘You’re going to be a good one,’ and he said, ‘go out and have fun.’ Those are the things that I’ll never forget because he was caring and loving.

"You didn’t know if you were the number one guy on the team or the number 25 guy on the team, he treated everybody the same."

Those who shared the broadcast booth felt the same.

"I’m so grateful I called some games this year – and the absolute pleasure and honor of sitting next to Dave for four innings a night with one of the most recognizable names in America," Buhner said. "He could be full of bleep, but he was a beautiful person, a great storyteller. I’ll miss those (ugly) white shoes and the orange coats – and his hugs. I loved him."

Ron Fairly recalled Niehaus the fan.

"The thing that sticks out about Dave is that he genuinely loved baseball and the Mariners," Fairly said. "What you heard on the radio and TV, that was exactly Dave. He put everything he had into the Seattle Mariners and the broadcast every night. He was a huge Mariners fan, probably the biggest one in the Northwest."

Former M’s relief pitcher Norm Charlton remembered Niehaus away from the broadcast booth.

"Dave did it his way. He never stopped working and having fun," Charlton said. "He always had a smile on his face, always had a joke or two . . . I’ll miss him. It’s a sad day for baseball."

Hours after the news of Niehaus’ death, baseball commissioner Bud Selig issued a statement.

"All of baseball is terribly saddened tonight by the tragic news that Dave Niehaus, the voice of the Seattle Mariners, has passed away," Selig said. "He was one of the great broadcast voices of our generation, a true gentleman and a credit to baseball. He was a good friend, and I will miss him.

"But he will be sorely missed, not only in the Pacific Northwest, where he had called Mariners games since the club’s inception in 1977, but wherever the game is played. Dave was a Hall of Famer in every way. On behalf of baseball, I offer my condolences to his wife, Marilyn, his children and grandchildren, to the Seattle Mariners organization, and to his many fans."

In an interview last year, Niehaus explained why he did what he did.

"I love the game, the broadcast booth, seeing the diamond in every ballpark we go to," he said. "It’s all I ever wanted to do, and I’ve gotten the chance to do it for a long time.

"I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. I’m a lucky man."

larry.larue@thenewstribune.com

November 12, 2010 - 2nd Article

Columnist John McGrath:

"Dave Niehaus Was Part of the Northwest Family"

By John McGrath in The News Tribune

Dave Niehaus was smiling the last time I saw him.

This was on Oct. 20, after the Mariners had formally introduced new manager Eric Wedge in the interview room at Safeco Field.

Since the 1977 inception of the Mariners’ franchise, Niehaus had called more than 5,000 games, while attending not quite as many press conferences.

During the announcements of firings, he would stand in the back of the room and look on with a regal expression that would convey gloom, but never doom. The happier occasions would find Niehaus, eyes glowing on high beam, as huggable as a teddy bear.

The hiring of Wedge was an especially happy occasion for Niehaus, a southwestern Indiana native eager to explore his common background with Wedge, who grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Niehaus and Wedge were born a generation apart, but they shared Indiana roots that included everything from a childhood infatuation with baseball to the soothing sound of ice cubes rattling in a tea pitcher on a steamy summer evening – along with grandma’s rye-bread salami sandwich.

For Mariners fans who had come to think of Dave Niehaus as the distant uncle who moved into their house for six months a year and yet never wore out his welcome, the news of his death Wednesday inspired an appreciation of a man born with a gift.

Actually, it was a gift package: a distinctive, melodious voice of somebody who had seen the world; a mind able to spontaneously process moments in vivid detail; and, most of all, a spirit that never strayed from the premise that if baseball is a perpetually unfolding story, baseball broadcasting should be steeped in story-telling.

Had Niehaus spent the last 33 years of his career as a provincial secret known only to those of us in the Pacific Northwest, his life still would have been fulfilled in both professional and personal terms.

That he was brought to the brightest stage in American sports – the Baseball Hall of Fame, which inducted him into the broadcasters’ wing in 2008 – gave permanent credence to what the rest of us knew all along.

Regrets? Well, there was the failure of the Mariners to reach World Series. The giddy energy of the 1995 team, which vaulted from the wild-card fringe in September to an American League West championship and then a stirring resurrection in the division series – "the Mariners are going to play for the American League Championship! I don’t believe it! It just continues! My, oh my!" – finally lost its steam against Cleveland.

And there was the 2001 team that cruised, like a luxury car designed with sophisticated gadgetry, to a record-tying 116 regular-season victories.

Capable of elevating baseball to an exercise in beautiful precision during the summer, those Mariners stumbled through the first round of the playoffs and were unable to escape the second round.

It was our misfortune never to hear Niehaus describe the final at-bat that would’ve delivered the Mariners into the World Series. But having had the privilege of listening to that voice provide games in high-definition detail for more than three decades, why dwell on what could have been?

Better to celebrate what was. Niehaus endured two angioplasties in 1996. His three kids were grown up, his status as a local legend secure. Retirement was a plausible and perhaps healthy alternative.

Except by then a new Seattle ballpark had advanced beyond artists’ conceptions and primitive blueprints. Nothing about baseball appealed to Niehaus more than the scene – the sun, the clouds, the breeze, the configuration of the mowed grass – and when the Mariners relocated from the Kingdome to an outdoor park with a retractable roof midway through the 1999 season, the heart-surgery patient was rejuvenated.

Despite a second 101-defeat season in three years, Niehaus remained on top of his game in 2010.

Sure, the ball-strike count wasn’t always accurate, and a few names were misidentified – as if it’s possible to consistently distinguish light-hitting shortstop Jack Wilson from light-hitting shortstop Josh Wilson – but the edge was there.

Here’s Niehaus describing reliever Jesus Colomé’s struggle to throw a strike: "Watching him pitch is like watching a hen lay a dozen eggs all at once. It’s gotta hurt!"

Baseball broadcasters are employed by the club – it’s their job to negotiate the fine line between conveying disappointment and disgust.

Niehaus, the Hall of Famer recognized as the Mariners’ most endearing personality, didn’t have to abide by those rules. He called it like it was, to the ugly end of a grim season.

And yet, two weeks later, he was back at Safeco Field, bubbling about the energy Eric Wedge figured to bring to the dugout in 2011.

Definition of a broadcasting treasure: A man who calls games for the same team over 34 seasons, and when he dies, more than four months before the season opener of his 35th season, we already miss the voice we came to recognize as part of the family.

john.mcgrath@thenewstribune.com

November 13, 2010

"My Oh My!"

The Dave Niehaus I Remember, and Why His Voice Alone Touched Us in a Significant Way

Copyright © 2010 Ed Bagley

When I was knee-high to a grasshopper in 1954, baseball was THE sport in America. It wasn't about football as it is now.

Every kid I knew made the corner grocery store owner a fortune by buying baseball cards. It was all about getting a Mickey Mantle rookie card. If you spent all of the money you earned cutting lawns and being a newspaper carrier and still could not score a Mickey card, you sucked in your gut and traded your next best dozen cards for Mickey.

It was all about Mickey, and the gum of course. There was nothing like the bubble gum in baseball cards. We tried to build up enough chewing gum so we could push it out in our cheek, like Nellie Fox, the sure-handed second baseman for the Chicago White Sox with the biggest chaw of tobacco in his cheek you ever saw.

The New York Yankees won 5 consecutive World Series from 1949 to 1953, and every kid knew that. If you did not know that, you weren't a kid and you didn't play baseball. But every kid in my neighborhood played baseball.

We lived on the wrong side of town. We played fastball in the street with a back-up catcher, and yes, we broke some windows, both in cars and houses. I know because I was the catcher.

I took my glasses off so I would not break them. I caught without a catcher's mask because I couldn't afford one. That could be why I took two fastball foul tips, and a nasty curve ball, in the mouth.

I bled like a pig, and my top front teeth looked like I had been hit by a '48 Chevy Coupe in a fender bender. I think I was in shock because I wouldn't cry; I would get on my bike and ride home, giving my poor mother the fits when she saw me. When I got into organized baseball, they gave me a mask.

We thought we were tough as nails, and some of us had the mangled front teeth to prove it.

Fast forward 20 years when I arrived in Seattle. In the beginning, there was no baseball team. The Seattle Mariners cranked up in 1977 as a replacement for the old Seattle Pilots, a one-season wonder in 1969 that became the Milwaukee Brewers.

In 1977 the Seattle Mariners were born, and that was my introduction to Dave Niehaus. Niehaus called the Mariners action for 34 seasons before his voice recently went silent.

Dozens upon dozens of baseball fans, players, coaches and friends waited patiently in line to extol the virtues and impact of Dave Niehaus upon their life, and it was all deserved.

If you were a baseball fan, you were as close to the voice of Dave Niehaus as he was to home plate on game day.

There will never again be another Dave Niehaus. His time and his generation has passed and, as he aged, the world changed. The impact of play-by-play broadcasters on the radio has diminished with the advent of television, and more especially the Internet, and the technology that comes with the Internet.

And that is a sad fact.

But celebrating the life of Dave Niehaus will be a joy for those of us who adopted him as our uncle, father or grandfather, and cherished the connection of his voice to our baseball world.

A friend once said to me that "Time and memories are eternal, memories come from time . . . but time from memories, never."

And that is now how it is with Dave Niehaus – we have wonderful memories, but his time is up.

With everything great that has already been said about Dave Niehaus, and all of it is true, here is my takeaway:

The thing I admire and relate to the most about Dave Neihaus was his gratitude.

Two quotes by Dave come immediately to mind:

"I love the game, the broadcast booth, seeing the diamond in every ballpark we go to. It's all I ever wanted to do, and I've gotten the chance to do it for a long time. I've enjoyed every minute of it. I'm a lucky man."

And this phrase from his speech during his induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame:

"I know there are several bigger names who have preceded me in winning this award. And there will be several bigger names after me to win this award. But no one will ever be more appreciative."

A man who lives his life with gratitude is a giant of a man. So how tall was Dave Niehaus? I'm glad you asked. Dave Neihaus was 20 feet tall, and he will continue to grow in stature as the years go by.

Goodbye, Dave. Thanks for the journey, and may God greet you when you arrive.

November 13, 2010- 2nd Article

Three More Great Vibes on the Legendary Dave Niehaus

(Ed's Note: Larry Larue is the Seattle Mariners beat writer for The News Tribune in Tacoma, WA.)

By Larry Larue in The News Tribune

(Antidote One)

One spring about 15 years ago, the Seattle Mariners front office and staff challenged the media to a softball game in camp, and we played it on the half field of the Peoria complex -- the one with the regulation infield and an outfield fence right on top of you.

Howard Lincoln was playing first base, Rick Rizzs was at third and I'd hit home runs in my first three at-bats against traveling secretary Ron Spelecy -- two of them on fly balls that would have been easily caught on a normal softball field.

About midway through the game, Dave Niehaus wandered over and stood near the first base dugout, happily amused by all our efforts.

My fourth at-bat, I walked to the plate and suddenly heard that voice describing my first three at-bats as if he were broadcasting to the entire Northwest. Suddenly, I was the strong left fielder from The News Tribune, taking a pitch from the crafty Spelecy, waving the aluminum back and forth.

I think everyone on the field smiled, and I had no more hit one of Spelacy's floaters than Niehaus went into maximum volume.

I heard "That ball is belted' and 'it will fly, fly away' and by the time I got to second base, laughing, Dave was wildly describing my fourth home run of the day as if I'd actually accomplished something. When I trotted home, Dave was beaming and so was I.

He knew the impact his voice could have and he'd actually enjoyed mock-broadcasting the moment for me.

Try forgetting something like that.

(Antidote Two)

Dave broadcast what he saw, what he felt and what he thought, and there were times players didn't always like what he said -- usually having had it told to them through some second party who listened to the broadcast.

The year Tony Phillips came into Seattle with the White Sox and was ejected from two games, Niehaus described both on-field blowups. A week later, in Chicago for a series there, he and I were sitting in the visitors dugout watching the White Sox take batting practice when Phillips spotted him. He walked over, clearly irate.

"Niehaus!' Phillips yelled. "I got a bone to pick with you! I heard you said I needed anger management."

Dave didn't blink, though he might have shaken his head.

"No," he said. "I said you were a candidate for anger management."

"Oh," Phillips said. "Well, that's true."

All three of us laughed.

(Antidote Three)

I'd been covering the Mariners 20 years with Dave when I had a heart attack in 2008 and died. I got better, but I was in a coma for a few days, in the hospital three weeks.

One of the first telephone calls to my home that first night was from Dave. I wouldn't hear if for a few weeks, but my wife heard it when she got home from the hospital and it may have saved her sanity. We still have the message.

Here was that wonderfully warm, familiar voice telling me I was going to get through this, describing his own attacks in '96 and how he'd come back as strong as ever. When she heard it, my wife cried. When I heard it, I did, too.

Dave Niehaus could do that to you, and his voice was only part of it. He was a Hall of Fame broadcaster in the booth, and out of it a man who cared for those around him. He may not have been family, but he made you feel he was.

November 14, 2010

The Northwest's Own Dave Niehaus

At Safeco Field and Elsewhere, an Outpouring of Treasured Memories for a Great Baseball Radio Broadcaster

(Ed's Note: Larry Larue is the Seattle Mariners beat writer for The News Tribune in Tacoma, WA.)

By Larry Larue in The News Tribune

At the main entrance to Safeco Field, there were candles, flowers and signs – and more than a few salamis – left in tribute to Dave Niehaus on Thursday (10-11-10).

Inside the ballpark, the Seattle Mariners tried to cope with the death of the man who had broadcast each season in franchise history.

Team executives, fellow broadcasters and former players shared tears and laughter with secretaries, department heads and members of the media. It was, as CEO Howard Lincoln said, one of the more difficult days for a team that has known its share of them.

"The people in our organization are taking this very hard. A lot of our fans are, too," Lincoln said. "We all cared very deeply about him. There will never be another Dave Niehaus. Everyone knows that.

"Our job now is to celebrate his life."

To help the process along, the team brought in Edgar Martinez, Dan Wilson, Jay Buhner, Dave Henderson, Rick Rizzs and team president Chuck Armstrong to drop some memories.

Armstrong talked about how Niehaus, who turned 75 last February, would come to spring training every year full of excitement about the new season.

"After about three games he’d complain that spring training lasted too long," he said, laughing. "I’d tell him, ‘Dave, you can go home, take some time off and get ready for the season’ and he’d be in the booth the next day.

"If he wasn’t working, he’d be in the booth keeping score. He loved it that much. We could never get him to take time off."

Buhner recalled the "earthquake game" at the Kingdome and how Niehaus and long-time radio producer Kevin Cremin bailed out of their booth and didn’t return.

"I think Dave called in the postgame show from the bridge on his way home," Buhner said.

Cremin begged to differ, but only slightly.

"That game, there was a nice crowd. When the booth started rocking, Dave thought it was the fans making it rock," Cremin said. "I told him we were having an earthquake and he said on the air, ‘We’re going to get out of here’ and we ran down the ramps – until he remembered he’d forgotten his cigarettes.

"On the TV side, they didn’t leave, and they had this shot of the empty radio booth. It was pretty funny."

Martinez probably spoke for millions of fans.

"I’d hear replays when I played, and since I retired, I heard more of him on the air," he said.

"Dave was so good at calling the game, I think we all took him for granted. Next year, it’s going to be very different – very difficult.

"For all of us who played for the team, Dave is part of our careers. A lot of our memories are wrapped around him."

Wilson added: "We’re going to miss him most when it’s an 80-degree day outside and you’ve got the windows open so a breeze goes through the house and the Mariners game is on. That’s Dave.

"In the booth, it was the stories he told, the pictures he painted for you. It was all about the game. It was Americana."

Henderson, who shared the television booth with Niehaus after retiring as a player, said he rarely heard him while he was playing.

"As players, we’d only hear him if we were hurt and on the trainer’s table during the game," Henderson said. "Then you’d listen to him do the game and think, ‘Man, this guy is pretty good!’

"Players play instinctively, and Dave was the same way with his voice. He saw situations first, he’d set up plays and then they’d happen. And that voice would just capture you."

What was it like sharing air time with Niehaus?

"What always amazed me was, he’d start a story with two outs and two strikes on a hitter, and always manage to finish it before the end of the inning," Henderson said. "I could never figure out how he did that."

Armstrong said the longer Niehaus broadcast, the more often he’d ask him how much longer he wanted to keep doing it.

"Dave had the second- and third-generation Mariners fans listening to him," Armstrong said. "And when I’d ask, he’d always say ‘Until I get my (World Series) ring.’ We lost the greatest Mariner ever. Every time I think I’m OK, I start to puddle up again."

Rizzs, who spent more years in the booth with Niehaus than any other broadcaster, kept wiping away tears, too.

"It just hurts. Hearing that voice for so many years, not hearing it is going to be a shock to all of us," he said. "Fans loved him, and he loved them back. He gave us some of the best moments in broadcast history."

Someone asked Rizzs and Cremin about the legendary "cough button" moments in the booth, when Niehaus would kill his mike with a toggle switch and say things he would never say on the air.

"Dave would use that cough button a lot and I used to wish that button would record what he said next," Cremin said.

"It was usually reserved for some pitcher who was in the process of walking someone. He’d hit the cough button and just cuss the pitcher out, then go right back to the broadcast as if nothing had happened."

Rizzs managed a smile at that, then found another memory.

"I remember one time, Dave’s son-in-law came into the booth in the ninth inning, with Tom Niedenfuer on the mound," Rizzs said.

"Dave hit the button and turned to his son-in-law and said, ‘This guy can give up some serious distance!’

"Then he went back to the broadcast, "Here’s the 1-1 pitch and that ball is BELTED DEEP TO LEFT FIELD ...’"

larry.larue@thenewstribune.com

October 6, 2008

Pro Baseball:

Jamie Moyer at Age 45? Priceless. Put Him on a MLB Mound & He Wins

Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley

When the Seattle Mariners decided to trade Jamie Moyer to the Philadelphia Phillies in August 2006 for a couple of no-name players, they basically felt his performance did not justify his salary. At the time, Moyer was as much the heart of the Mariners as any other player worth talking about.

On the day he was traded, his season record with Seattle was 6-12, and he was the oldest active player in the American League. Few fans know that Moyer is one of the all-time leaders in 1-0 complete game losses, having lost 8 games while surrendering only 1 run during 9 innings. Moyer was also the 25th southpaw (left-handed pitcher) to win 200 games in the majors.

Moyer ended his 11-season stint in Seattle with a 145-87 record and a 3.97 ERA (earned run average). He was the franchise leader in wins, starts and innings pitched (exceeding Randy Johnson).

He did not want to leave Seattle, but he was not wanted so he packed his bags and said hello to the raucous Philadelphia fans. He finished the 2006 season as a Philly, winning 5 of 7 decisions with a 4.03 ERA.

In 2007, Moyer compiled a 14-12 won-loss record and pitched the final game of the season to determine if Philadelphia would break an 88-win tie and become the National League Eastern Division Champions. Moyer pitched 5+ innings, gave up only 3 hits and no runs as Philly won to clinch the championship.

During this year's 2008 season, Moyer posted a 16-7 mark with a 3.71 ERA. He became the oldest active player in Major League Baseball at 45, and he won his 235th career game, along with at least one victory over each Major League team.

More important, Moyer again took the mound in September against the Washington Nationals in a game where the Phillies could clinch the National League East title with a win. He delivered by pitching 6 innings, giving up only 1 run as Philadelphia won 4-3.

How important has Moyer been to the Phillies this year? Well, Philadelphia's division title was its second consecutive, giving the Phillies their first back-to-back post-season appearances since 1980 and 1981.

And the Seattle Mariners? The Mariners won 61 games this year and lost 101, finishing 39 games behind the American League West Division-winning Los Angeles Angles at Anaheim. The Mariners became the first team in MLB history to have a $100+ million payroll and 100 losses in the same season. Talk about pathetic. They canned their general manager and are in disarray.

Seattle's leading pitcher this season was Felix Hernandez, who pitched exactly 200 innings and went 9-11 on the season. Two other Mariners shared the next most wins on the staff with 6 apiece. Remember that Moyer won 16 games this season.

Since the Seattle Mariners have given up on Moyer, his record as a Philly is 35-21. Moyer is the exact definition of a finesse pitcher, his fastball tops out at 83 miles per hour, but he also adds a circle changeup, a cut fastball and a curveball.

He does not have the heater (fast pitch) of a Randy Johnson in his prime, and is not as talented as many other pitchers. He simply performs beyond his potential year after year, game after game.

Is it any wonder that the hard-hats in working class Philadelphia love Jamie Moyer?

September 13, 2008

Pro Baseball:

How Does a 45-Year-Old Pitcher Slip By the Radar in Professional Baseball?

Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley

Until the Major League Baseball playoffs start in October, baseball holds little interest for me when the college football season starts. That is, until this headline in the local daily popped up in front of me: 'Old Man' Moyer Does It Again.

In an instant, even though he now plays for the Philadelphia Phillies on the East Coast, I knew Jamie Moyer was a former Seattle Mariner who should never have been pushed out the door by the Seattle club management.

All Moyer did Thursday (9-11-08) was pitch 5+ effective innings on 3 days' rest to allow the Phillies time, with the help of Ryan Howard's major league-leading 43rd home run, to beat the Milwaukee Braves 6-3 and climb within 3 games of the National League's East Division-leading New York Mets.

"He's been consistent all year," said manager Charlie Manuel after the game. "Goes to show you the old man can still pitch."

Seattle originally picked up Moyer for Darren Bragg in a 1996 trade with the Boston Red Sox. As a Mariner for part of 1996, the 9 full seasons from 1997 through 2005 and part of 2006, Moyer's won-loss record was 145-87 (62%). He went 20-6 in 2001 and 21-7 in 2003. He helped Seattle win titles. He was the Mariners' opening day pitcher in 2000, 2004, 2005 and 2006.

The Mariners figured his good days were gone. They guessed wrong. Moyer is 14-7 with Philly this year and 7-1 in his last 13 starts. His victory Thursday moved him past Hall of Fame pitcher Juan Marichal and into a tie with Jack Powell for 49th on the all-time win list with 244 wins during his 22-year career.

When the Mariners dealt Moyer in 2006, they got Andrew Barb and Andy Baldwin, a couple of minor leaguers who never did squat for Seattle. The Moyer trade was not just a bad deal, it rates as one of the worst deals in the history of baseball.

Moyer was admittedly only a contributing factor with the Mariners, but there is no arguing the fact that Seattle's baseball fortunes went into the dumper when he was let go.

The Mariners, currently stuck in last place with 88 loses among the American League West teams, may well become the first team in MLB history to lose 100 games in a year with a $100+ million payroll.

Having followed the Mariners for too many years to count, I can tell you that Moyer was just one of 4 huge mistakes management has made.

Another was pushing Randy "the Big Unit" Johnson out of the door to Houston; Seattle thought his winning days were over, and did not want to pay the freight. Randy would go on to win 4 Cy Young Awards as the best pitcher in the National League, and also a World Series ring with the Arizona Diamondbacks while the Mariners were watching him on the tube.

Another gaffe was getting rid of Ken Griffey Jr. rather than Alex Rodriguez. Rodriguez was all about the money, signing a 10-year, $250 million contract with the Texas Rangers. Griffey was a player looking for a World Series ring; he would end up at home in Cincinnati, be perpetually injured and flounder while never being the same player with the Reds that he was with the Mariners.

A 4th mistake was not sitting on Alex Rodriguez when he came to the bigs. Alex just had to play shortstop because he was going to be the greatest player of all time (he may end up as just that). However, that meant Seattle dumped a far-better fielding shortstop in Omar "Little O" Vizquel.

Someone in management should have taken Alex Rodriguez aside when he came up and said, "Son, you are going to become the greatest power-hitting third baseman in the history of baseball." As fate would have it, when Rodriguez was acquired by the New York Yankees, there was no way the Yankees were going to let Rodriguez play shortstop, that position belonged to Derek Jeter, the Yankees' captain and heart and soul of the team.

In hindsight, had the Mariners put Rodriguez at third base, left Omar Vizquel at short, kept Randy Johnson, dumped Rodriguez and kept Griffey, their fortunes would have continued longer. Now Seattle is but a late-afternoon shadow of the team it once was.

I will concede that Ossie Smith of the St. Louis Cardinals is the greatest fielding shortstop in baseball history. "The Wizard of Oz" won 13 consecutive Golden Gloves in the National League, a record that has never been matched. I still believe that the Venezuelan-born Omar Visquel is the greatest fielding shortstop in the American League.

So am I upset that Seattle let go of Jamie Moyer? Nah, stupid is as stupid does. I am happy as a grandfather that Moyer can still pitch with the best at age 45. I hope he pitches long enough to win 300 games and end up in the Baseball Hall of Fame. He may not have the stats, but he sure is made of the right stuff.

At his worst, Moyer just may be one of the smartest pitchers in baseball; from the view of many, he has certainly played far better than his actual talent. Is there any wonder why millions of fans who never had the talent to make it to the bigs identify with Jamie Moyer? He is our guy, and we will always root for the underdog.

July 15, 2008

Latest Example: $290,000+ Per RBI

The Silliness of Major League Baseball's Stupidity with Payroll

Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley

Richie Sexson of the woeful Seattle Mariners is simply the latest example of the silliness of Major League Baseball's love affair with high-priced superstars whose production is pathetic.

Pity the Seattle Mariners, whose 37-58 record through Sunday (7-13-08) in the American League West Division was tied for the second worst in the majors, a whopping 20 games BEHIND the league-leading Los Angeles Angels at Anaheim, who are 57-38.

Only the Washington Nationals in the National League East have a worse record at 36-60; they are 16 games behind the division-leading Philadelphia Phillies at 52-44.

The San Diego Padres in the National League West Division match the Mariners 37-58 mark, but the Padres are ONLY 10 games behind the division-leading Arizona Diamondbacks, who sport a 47-48 mark (.495 win percentage). The Diamondbacks have nothing to write home to mom about, but the Mariners are even more horrific.

Interim General Manager Lee Pelekoudas had seen enough Sunday when he gave over-priced and under-achieved Richie "The Rich Man" Sexson his walking papers. Seattle released Sexson and will pay the remaining $6,793,000+ due on his contract just to get him out of the clubhouse.

"Richie wasn't going to play regularly," said Manager Jim Riggleman, "and I saw his body language on the bench . . . that was reason enough to do this. We can't have negativity on the club. I think the players would agree—Richie needed a change of scenery."

Over the past 3.5 years, Sexson had hit 105 home runs and driven in 321 runs. This season Sexson hit the halfway mark batting .218 with 11 home runs and 30 RBIs in 74 games. His departure was prolonged by three weeks when the Mariners canned General Manager Bill Bavasi and Manager John "Johnny Mac" McLaren.

So the Mariners get nothing for Sexson because they could not even give him away to another team with his $15.5 million contract this season. Sexson has already received $8,706,000+ in pay for doing much of nothing, and will now get another $6,793,000+ for doing absolutely nothing. This is what you call a bad hiring decision. Such is the state of big-time contracts in MLB.

Sexson's lousy 30 RBIs this season have cost the Mariners $290,226 for each and every paltry one.

Will Major League Baseball, team owners and general managers ever learn how stupid this policy is that gives free agents horrendous salaries on the dare that they will produce rather than occupy space and demonstrate a bad attitude?

Whatever happened to the idea of developing the team's farm system, paying players a whole lot less and giving them more time to prove themselves at the major league level, and then bumping up their salary to keep them on board.

Raul Ibanez is the perfect example. He was picked up by the Mariners in the 36th round of the 1992 amateur draft. The Mariners would bring Ibanez up to the majors, give him a couple of weeks to prove himself and then, unhappy that he did not tear it up, send him back to the minors.

Ibanez spent 8 years in the minor league system and made all of $275,000 his last year before Seattle lost him to the Kansas City Royals, who were willing to pay him $800,000 his first year.

During his second year playing full time in Kansas City, Ibanez hit 24 home runs, drove in 103 runs and batted .294, so Seattle brought him back at a first-year cost of $3.9+ million. In his last 3 full seasons in Seattle, Ibanez hit 74 homers and drove in 317 runs.

Raul Ibanez' salary for his last 3 years COMBINED was nearly $3 million less ($2,916,666 less) than Richie Sexson's $15,500,000 salary for THIS YEAR alone. Sexson has been one overpaid, underachieved multi-millionaire with the Mariners.

We can only hope the Mariners' owners and front office staff have learned something from this experience. Paying players a lot of money does not correlate to winning world championships. If it did, the New York Yankees would win the World Series EVERY year.

August 16, 2007

Future Hall of Famers:

Baseball: Tom Glavine, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez and Craig Biggio All Reach Milestones – Part 1

Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley

It has been a year of milestones for Major League Baseball.

From Tom Glavine to Barry Bonds to Alex Rodriguez to Craig Biggio the records have been piling up like poker chips in a major tournament.

Tom Glavine of the New York Mets has arguably the most prestigious record so far, notching his 300th career win on August 5, 2007 with an 8-3 victory over Lou Piniella's Chicago Cubs in an away game at Wrigley Field.

The historic win was Glavine's 10th this year against 6 losses.

Glavine won 242 of his victories pitching 16 seasons for the Atlanta Braves, and he has won the last 58 after coming to the New York Mets as a free agent in 2003. He is in his 21st season and is one of baseball's winningest pitchers in the National League.

Glavine is a five-time 20-game winner and a two-time Cy Young Award winner, and is one of only 23 pitchers in major league history to earn 300 career wins.

He is also only the 5th left hander among the 23 300-game winners. He joins a select group that includes Warren Spahn (363 wins), Steve Carlton (329), Eddie Plank (326) and Lefty Grove (300).

Glavine is a lock to become a Hall of Fame Player when he retires. He has also been long known as an excellent fielding and hitting pitcher. The 41-year-old left hander will pass Lefty Grove and Early Winn on the all-time list as they both had exactly 300 wins when they retired.

Besides Tom Glavine and Early Winn, pitchers who have 300 career wins since 1958 include Warren Spahn, Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Steve Carlton, Nolan Ryan, Don Sutton, Phil Niekro, Gaylord Perry and Tom Seaver.

In addition to Lefty Grove, the old-timers include Cy Young, Walter Johnson, Grover Alexander, Christy Mathewson, Pud Galvin, Kid Nichols, Tim Keefe, John Clarkson, Eddie Plank, Charles Radbourn and Mickey Welch.

No one will ever break Cy Young's record 511 career wins. Walter Johnson had 417, and every other pitcher has between 300 to 373.

More old-timers than modern day pitchers appear on the list because in the early days baseball teams used a two-man pitching rotation, giving old-timers many more starts and many more chances to notch 300 victories.

Modern day teams use a 4 or 5-man pitching rotation, and the arrival of specialists including set-up men (for the 7th and 8th innings) and closers (for the 9th inning) have meant that today's pitchers log far fewer innings.

Speculation now abounds about whether any other player (right-hander or left-hander) will be able to achieve 300 career victories.

The smart money is on 44-year-old Randy Johnson who has 284 victories and a back problem that will not go away. No one else is even remotely close.

Following Johnson in career wins is Mike Mussina (247), David Wells (235), Jamie Moyer (227) and Curt Schilling (213). Logging 300 career wins is a sure ticket to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

One reason Glavine notched 300 wins is longevity (21 seasons and still pitching), and another is that he amazingly has never been hurt and on the disabled list.

(Editor's Note: This is Part 1 of a 3-Part Series.)

August 17, 2007

Could He Be the Best Ever?

Baseball: Barry Bonds Is a Whole Lot More Than Just a Home Run Hitter and Record-Setter – Part 2

Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley

A day prior to Tom Glavine's historic 300th career victory, Barry Bonds hit his 755th homer to tie Hank Aaron's career mark, and Alex Rodriguez became the youngest player in major league history to hit his 500th homer.

Bonds' record-tying Jimmy Jack (homer) was a 382-foot opposite field smash off San Diego Padre pitcher Clay Hensley in an away game.

When Bonds tied Hank Aaron with 755 homers, he had played in 343 less games than Aaron and had 2,596 less at bats.

Bonds would break Aaron's record on August 7, 2007 with a 435-foot home run into the right-center field bleachers off Mike Bacsik of the Washington Nationals. His homer came on a 3-2 count.

At the time he achieved his record, Bonds had hit homers off of 447 different pitchers.

In addition to the new home run record, Bonds also holds the major league career records for walks with 2,540 and intentional walks with 679.

He holds the all-time single season major league records for most home runs (73), on base percentage (.609), slugging percentage (.863), and walks (232).

Barry Bonds is a whole lot more than just a home run hitter and record-setter.

He has been a record 7-time National League Most Valuable Player (next closest player has 3 MVP Awards), 3-time Major League Player of the Year, 14-time All-Star, 8-time Golden Glove winner and 2-time National League batting champion.

In addition to power hitting and excellent fielding Bonds also has something else going for him—speed.

Bonds is the only member of the 500-500 club, meaning he has hit at least 500 home runs (758 and counting) and stolen 500 bases (514 and counting). He is also only 1 of 4 players all-time to be in the 40-40 club, meaning he has hit 40 home runs (42) and he has stole 40 bases (40) in the same season.

Many baseball fans and pundits feel that Bonds record is tainted because of possible steroid use, but the vast majority of San Francisco Giant fans love Barry Bonds.

Steroid use or not, he still had to hit the ball, field the ball and run the bases. Make no mistake about it, Barry Bonds is one incredible player; some would argue that he is the best baseball player ever.

At the top of this article I said that Glavine's accomplishment was better than Bonds' home run record. I said this because Alex Rodriguez at age 32 already has 500 home runs and, unless he has extraordinary injury problems like Ken Griffey Jr., will likely break Bonds' record.

Despite his injuries in recent years, Ken Griffey Jr. has hit 590 home runs and counting. Griffey is 37 but a strong finish to his career (now that he is healthy again) could mean that he could break the all-time home run record before A-Rod.

The projections say A-Rod could top 800 home runs before he retires. Frank Thomas (known as "The Big Hurt") smacked his 500th homer earlier this season and at 39 is much older than A-Rod.

A-Rod hit his 500th homer 8 days after his 32 birthday, surpassing Jimmy Foxx (32 years and 338 days) as the youngest player in history and 22nd player in history to reach 500.

After A-Rod jacked out No. 500, New York Yankee Manager Joe Torre said, "His prime years are ahead of him . . . this is a stop-off for him . . . not a destination."

A-Rod may not be the last word in baseball, but he will be heard. Consider this:

Since 1996 (his first full season) through 2006 (11 seasons) Alex Rodriguez leads the major leagues in home runs, runs scored, runs batted in, total bases and extra base hits.

Of all players in baseball history at age 30, he is 1st all-time in both home runs and runs scored, 2nd in total bases and extra base hits, 3rd in runs batted in, and 4th in hits. The former Seattle Mariner is on fire and smoking hot. And check this out:

In his first 11 years, A-rod has more homers, ribbies, runs and base hits than all-time leaders Barry Bonds (homers), Hank Aaron (ribbies) Rickey Henderson (runs scored) and Pete Rose (hits) did prior to their 30th birthdays.

A-Rod is also known for signing the richest contract in sports history, a 10-year, $252 million deal.

It is true that soccer wonder David Beckham recently signed a 5-year, $250 million deal with the L.A. Galaxy team, however, only $27.5 million of Beckham's deal is salary, the rest comes from endorsements.

And Beckham cannot even win on the endorsement front as once-in-a-lifetime golfer Tiger Woods earns $112 million annually on endorsements alone.

(Editor's Note: This is Part 2 of a 3-Part Series.)

August 18, 2007

Speed, Power and Versatility Too

Baseball: Craig Biggio Punches His Ticket to the Hall of Fame with His 3,000th Hit – Part 3

Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley

Earlier this year Craig Biggio of the Houston Astros became the 27th player in major league history to get 3,000 career hits. Another 84 players have 2,500 career hits.

If it were easy to get 3,000 hits, many players would have done it, however, three factors stand in the way:

1) Injuries.
Players like Ken Griffrey Jr. would have many more career homers than his current 590 were it not for his injuries.

After moving to the Cincinnati Reds from the Seattle Mariners, Griffey had four injury-prone seasons during which he hit 22, 8, 13 and 20 homers per season. Take away those 4 years from his 19-year career and Griffey averages 35 dingers a season. Without injuries he would have 665 career homers at this point.

2) Longevity.
The majority of players have an 8 to 10-year major league career. Only a rare player could average 200 hits a season, and even at that, he would have to play 15 seasons to get 3,000 hits.

Biggio, who is playing his 20th season, has been with the Houston Astros his entire career. He started as a catcher, became a second baseman and has also played in the outfield.

Biggio is the only player in major league history to be chosen an All-Star both as a catcher and as a second baseman.

3) Consistency.
Biggio became known as a reliable, consistent leadoff hitter with speed and unusual power for a second baseman. He has 289 career home runs, and needs only 11 more to join the 300-300 club (300 homers and 300 stolen bases), a feat only 6 players have ever accomplished.

Should he reach the 300-300 milestone he would be the only player in history to do it playing for the same team throughout his career. With his 3,000 hits he would join legendary Willie Mays as only the second player ever with 300 homers, 300 stolen bases and 3,000 hits.

Biggio, a 7-time All-Star, is the only player in history to reach at least 2,700 hits
(now 3,000 and counting), 250 homers, 600 doubles, 400 stolen bases and 1,000 runs batted in during his career.

Biggio also holds the National League record for lead-off career home runs with 52, and has the modern-era, career hit-by-pitcher record (285 times). Despite getting hit by so many pitches, Biggio has never charged the mound or been injured by a pitch.

Reaching 3,000 hits is a huge accomplishment. Every eligible player who has reached the 3,000 hit club after 1962 has been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on the first ballot. Nineteen sixty-two was the first year players were inducted on the first ballot.

Craig Biggio plans to retire after this season.

Only two players in major league history have 4,000+ career hits. Pete Rose holds the record with 4,256 and the legendary Ty Cobb has 4,191.

Besides Pete Rose, players who have 3,000 career hits since 1958 include Hank Aaron, Stan Musial, Carl Yastrzemski, Paul Molitor, Willie Mays, Eddie Murray, Cal Ripken, Jr., George Brett, Robin Yount, Tony Gwynn, Dave Winfield, Rickey Henderson, Rod Carew, Lou Brock, Rafael Palmerio, Wade Boggs, Al Kaline, Roberto Clemente and Craig Biggio.

In addition to Ty Cobb, the old-timers include Tris Speaker, Cap Anson, Honus Wagner, Eddie Collins, Nap Lajoie and Paul Warner.

(Editor's Note: This is Part 3 of a 3-Part Series.)

 
July 8, 2007

No Wonder They Drink Beer

Could You Be a Fan for a Team That Loses 10,000 Baseball Games?

Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley

I have seen New York Yankee baseball fans throw things at opposing players in the outfield. Sometimes a roll of pennies, perhaps a used battery from a flashlight, or anything they have not finished eating and do not like.

Philadelphia is know as the City of Brotherly Love yet Philly fans who get upset might chuck things at their own players, like rocks or car batteries for the drunken, brawny types.

Philadelphia Phillies' fans are arguably the least patient and most volatile in baseball, and I know why.

A report in USA Today (7-3-07) notes that the Phillies are on the verge of becoming the first pro sports franchise to record 10,000 losses. They had 9,996 losses as of July 3, 2007.

The next nearest teams in losses are the Atlanta Braves (9,675) and Chicago Cubs (9,421). I would have guessed the Cubs but not the Braves.

It should be pointed out that the Braves and Cubs were in the original National League in 1876, and the Phillies and Giants came into the NL 7 years later in 1883.

Here are some interesting facts about the Phillies' dubious record:

The Phillies lost at least 90 games a season 20 times in the 25 years from 1921 to 1945.

From 1919 to 1945 (27 years) the National League Phillies finished last 16 times and second-to-last 7 times. That is 23 out of 27 years in last or next-to-last place. No wonder the working class men drink so much beer in Philadelphia.

One of their managers during their aforementioned lean years was Doc Protho, a practicing dentist whose son, Tommy, was head coach of the NFL's Los Angeles Rams (1971-1974) and San Diego Chargers (1974-1978).

Former Seattle Mariner and current Philadelphia starting pitcher Jamie Moyer grew up in Philadelphia, and there is one Phillies loss he will never forget. In 1986, as a member of the Chicago Cubs, Moyer beat the Phillies and his boyhood hero, Steve Carlton, 7-5 for his first big-league win.

The Phillies went 47-107 in 1961 and finished 46 games out of first place, but the lowest point was a 23-game losing streak that remains the majors' longest since 1900.

The Phillies most excruciating losses came in a 10-game stretch during September 1964. Philadelphia was leading the NL by 6.5 games on September 21 with 12 games to play. They lost the next 10 and the St. Louis Cardinals won the pennant.

The halfway point to 10,000 losses came on July 24, 1945, at Chicago's Wrigley Field when the Cubs won 8-3 before a scant crowd of 8,393. When you do not win, no one wants to come see you play.

The Phillies do own the NL record for 100-loss seasons, but here is a perspective worth noting: The Phillies had 13 100-loss seasons during their first 63 seasons and only one in the next 62 years.

Despite the bad news, there is some good news to report.

Philadelphia won the World Series in 1980 and played in the 1993 Series against the Toronto Blue Jays. Unfortunately, they lost in Game 6 of the 1993 series when lefty closer Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams gave up a series-ending home run to Toronto's Joe Carter at the Sky Dome.

If any of this sounds familiar, think of the baseball movie, Major League, with Charlie Sheen as Rick "Wild Thing" Vaughn.

Here is the one really great thing you can say about the Philadelphia Phillies: Mike Schmidt.

Mike Schmidt is arguably the best third-baseman in major league history. There is Brooks Robinson of the Baltimore Orioles to think about, but remember that Schmidt was a three-time (that is three-time) Most Valuable Player and also won 10 Gold Gloves.

Did I mention that he also hit 548 home runs (before steroids), had 1,595 ribbies and 2,234 hits. His 48 home runs in 1980 set the single-season record for a third basemen. Oh yeah, Mike Schmidt is in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

May 9, 2007

Lessons in Life:

If You Think as a Parent that Little League Baseball Does Not Teach Important Survival Skills, Think Again

Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley

Sometimes as parents we forget how simple and subtle the lessons in life can be.

I was reminded of this yesterday afternoon when I heard the cheering of youngsters playing a Little League baseball game in the nearby city park. It is amazing when the noise of kids at play can carry the sound a half-block away and into the open window of your living room.

Little League baseball games can get noisy. Kids are excited when the bases are loaded and their next hitter sends a screaming line drive into the outfield.

They know that the outfielder will likely boot the ball, and as it gets by him on its merry way to the fence, all three players on base will score and the hitter will probably come home safe with an inside-the-park home run and 4 ribbies (runs batted in) to his credit.

Ah, baseball, spring is in the air and summer is approaching.

The pure fun of sport is so normal and so natural to our human experience.

I read a study once that interviewed hardened criminals spending life in prison for capital crimes, such as murder. A psychologist asked inmates what they missed most now that they were spending the rest of their lives behind bars without possibility of parole.

The answer stunned me, and it should stun you too. What they missed most was not their girlfriend, or sex, or drinking, or drugging, or gambling; it was the sound of kids playing. Perhaps the one, real, positive memory they have of their life was when they were a child playing.

These are two compelling extremes: children at play without a care in the world, and incarcerated criminals who are burdened with the reality that they will never again be free to play.

With all of the violence we are now seeing with youngsters who solve their supposed "problems" by shooting their perceived "enemies" (many times friends and family), I am reminded that some of our children today seem less able to cope with adversity, and even less so with patience.

How is it that they clearly lack coping skills and patience, two necessary traits for survival as an adult?

It will take someone a lot smarter than me to give you the right answer to this question.

I will leave that answer to what some educated professionals who study psychology think.

In the meantime, I choose not to tell you what I think, but to share with you what I know.

Here is one thing about Little League baseball that is being taught by some parents and some leaders in some organizations that is really not worth teaching, and that is this:

Certain organizations have adopted the misguided practice of rewarding every kid on each team regardless of their effort or performance. In other words, a team can lose every game all year and each kid gets a trophy for participating, a team picture and his or her own baseball card with their mug on it.

Apparently some parents do not want to hurt their child's feelings even though the child makes little effort, is clearly incompetent at improving on any skills of the game, does not understand the game, and really could care less.

I doubt the parents in the example given have a clue about the lessons they are teaching their children by insisting on this foolish practice of making their child feel like he or she has accomplished something.

First, they are encouraging mediocrity by rewarding nothingness. Practice this stupidity a few more generations and we will have our children thinking they can show up to work as an adult, do nothing and get paid for their lack of skills, effort and production.

Second, they are rewarding children for having no concept of goal-setting and achieving goals. The parents are not encouraging any concept of self-improvement and providing no incentive to do so.

Third, they are teaching no learning skills in how to cope with failure, and not providing a shred of understanding about the function of failing. Losers would be astonished to learn that successful people have failed more than losers ever thought of failing.

One of the big differences between losers and winners in the game of life is that when winners fail, they get right back up, dust themselves off, learn from the experience, and try again.

Fourth, they devalue the kids who do work hard, fail and then succeed by rewarding a bunch of kids who haul off and do nothing, learn nothing, and have no sense of real accomplishment.

I remember going door-to-door as a 9-year-old kid, looking for a sponsor for a baseball team I was putting together. I instinctively knew kids would want to be on my team if I could get them a free baseball hat and shirt; we would then look like a real team. I had played on a team that had nothing; we could not afford uniforms, we were lucky to have a glove or borrow a glove.

I found that sponsor, a business called Jewell Realty in Flint, Michigan. I found a sponsor because I was looking for a sponsor. The people that owned that business were impressed that a 9-year-old kid would have the guts to walk all over town and ask businesses to sponsor his rag-tag team. I put up with the nos and getting kicked out of places because I wanted it that bad.

The year was 1953 and we were terrible; we lost more games than we won. We were put upon, put down, slapped around and got the crap kicked out of us, but I never quit, and I made sure my teammates didn't quit either. When someone quit trying, I kicked him off the team and found someone else.

Two years later we won the league championship, and when we did, I was surrounded by winners who had become my friends. I did not need my parents to do this for me, I did not need some meddling adult or juvenile counselor to do this for me, I needed to do this for myself.

When I got the guys together and we took that trophy down to Jewell Realty, we all shared in the excitement of being winners. Later that summer I would walk by Jewell Realty, see that trophy in the window, and know who I was and what I had become: a winner. Jewell Realty did not win that trophy, I won that trophy, and I knew what it would take to win another.

Our parents never saw us play, they were too busy working.

If someone had come around after that first season and given each of us a trophy for losing, we would not have accepted it. Think about it: the message they would have been sending us was we think you are so bad that you could never win a title, so in order to sooth your precious little feelings, here is a trophy for being a loser.

I think I would have spit in their face. I was that competitive. I might have been a 9 year old but I did not need some meddling parent setting goals for me that I thought were so low I would trip on them walking across the baseball diamond.

If you think a 9-year-old child cannot have some dignity, you are dead wrong, and have probably been wrong about a lot of things in your life.

Once we won that championship and experienced our moment of victory, you could have taken that trophy away and it would not have mattered. I knew what I had sacrificed to win that trophy, and after all of the blood, sweat and tears, nothing any stupid parent or adult could do would have made me feel less about myself. I knew I was a winner, and I wasn't going to settle for anything less.

Parents, if you do not understand one thing in raising your children, understand this: if your child goes through his or her entire schooling period (kindergarten through high school graduation) and never experiences real success at anything at least one day is his or her life, your child will be handicapped for life. Nothing could be more arcane, stupid and bovine.

Don't you dare try to prevent your child from failing. Let them try and when they fail, pick them up, dust them off, and encourage them to try again. It is in failing that we learn to succeed.

If you as a parent cannot be a winner in your own pathetic life, if all you have to offer is whining and complaining about this and that, and bemoaning how your child is treated, then get the hell out of the way and let your child fail to ultimately win on his own.

Take a snapshot of two pictures.

In one a child is given a trophy, a team photo and a baseball card with his picture on it featuring a loser who accomplished nothing. In the other snapshot, a child is given only a trophy, or the team is given one trophy to admire, because they have worked their butts off, improved their skills, played their hearts out, taken risks and won a league title. Which is your child?

Any child who has worked to get to the top of the mountain, and experiences the sheer joy of competing and winning, is someone who will go much farther in life.

I can tell you from experience in hiring that there is an incredible correlation between having athletic success at the high school or college level and success later in life. The reason is simple: winners win and losers don't.

Do not misunderstand what I am sharing here. It is not that you cannot win bigger and better in life unless you are a successful athlete in your youth, it is that you need to have a sense of accomplishment and recognition doing something that takes hard work, dedication, effort and goals. It could be singing, it could be acting, it could be playing a musical instrument; suffice to say any activity that allows you to fail, learn, improve and succeed over a period of time.

It certainly helps to have a strong father in the house to help teach his children what it is to be a winner, to learn coping skills, patience, hard work, dedication, effort, improvement and success. A strong single mother can do the same.

Do not play patty-cake with your children when they are 9 years old, do not knowingly set them up in life to fail, let them struggle and succeed. If you do not do this someday they will be adult and not know how to act when they are put down, put upon, made fun of and beaten up emotionally. They will figure it out if you do not protect them and their feelings so much they become helpless and inept.

They will learn to cope and be stronger for the experience. When they reach adulthood they will be able to dismiss people around them who have mediocre minds and are mental midgets. They will be polite as they treat these losers as irrelevant (which they are) and be unaffected by their negative presence.

Then they will move on quickly to be with the winners. It is the losers who are left standing alone and wondering why.

Do not play to participate, play to win. It is not winning that is the be all to end all, it is that in the process of winning we learn important skills that make us much more effective in playing and winning in the game of life. After all, life is not a resting place; life is a testing place, it is now and will continue to be as long as you live.

A wise man said it and it bears repeating here: When everyone is somebody then no one's anybody.

November 10, 2006

A 10 Year Old Reminisces:

On Cars, Baseball and the Halcyon Days of Summer

Copyright © 2006 Ed Bagley

The automotive world was introduced to economies of scale in 1954 as Nash and Hudson (yes, those were makes of cars exactly 52 years ago) merged to form American Motors. Both Nash and Hudson models are history now. Heck, American Motors has taken a hike since then too.

Two other auto manufacturers—Studebaker and Packard—also merged their production in response to economies of scale. They are both gone now as well.

As these four auto manufacturers were headed toward oblivion, another entrepreneur was just getting started. Ray Kroc founded McDonald’s in 1954 and went on to create the fast food restaurant industry as we know it today.

The first nonstick pan was produced in 1954, leading to Teflon (a trademark for polytetrafluoroethylene), and Reagan (who would become the Teflon President) was not even President. It was another guy named Ike (Dwight David Eisenhower), who in 1944 was made Supreme Allied Commander for the invasion of Europe during World War II.

While Ike was busy making war plans, I was born in Flint (MI), then headquarters of General Motors and its vast manufacturing facilities.

The New York Yankees, who had won five consecutive World Series from 1949 through 1953, were watching the World Series from the sidelines in 1954, as the National League Champion New York Giants (the other team from the city so nice they named it twice) swept the American League Champion Cleveland Indians in 4 games.

Leo Durocher, the Manager of the Giants, could not say “Nice guys finish last” that year.

Interestingly enough, Cleveland’s Bob Lemon lost games 1 and 4 of the Series and Early Wynn lost game 2. Both Lemon and Wynn are in Baseball’s Hall of Fame. Cleveland’s Bobby Avila also won the American League batting title in 1954 with a .341 average (now that is what you call a trivia question), and Larry Doby (who broke the color barrier in the American League) won the home run title with 32 dingers.

For the Cleveland Indians, it became what some would call a bad year. Imagine getting to the promised land and coming up short with two eventual Hall of Fame pitchers, a batting champion and an eventual Hall of Fame home run champion.

I remember the 1954 Series as the one at the Polo Grounds when Willie Mays made "The Catch," a dramatic over-the-shoulder catch off a line drive by Vic Wertz to deep center field which could otherwise have given the Cleveland Indians a game one victory (remember, the Giants swept the Series that year, winning four straight games).

A lot more happened in 1954, but here you get the tidbits I learned later in life, much later. I celebrated my 62nd birthday June 27.

In 1954 I was 10 years old and just about my whole world was baseball. We played during the school year but there was never enough time. Summer was a dream come true, no school and lots of hot, sunny days. After rolling out of bed, eating the requisite breakfast and meeting my buddy Tommy, we walked two blocks to St. Michael’s, the private school in our lower middle class neighborhood.

We could not afford to go there, but we wore out the brick wall on the side of the school all summer.

The Catholics who built St. Mike’s meant for it to stand for a long time. At that point in time, Christianity had been around for 19.5 centuries, and they built it like they meant for it to be there for another 19.5 centuries.

No one ever ran us off the property. We were very lucky, too small or too insignificant to be noticed. Maybe they thought we were their students.

Back then Tommy and I played several games a day. We were there by 10 and did not quit until after 3. Man, it was hot most days. Having a game with only two players was simple. The home team pitcher took the mound, an appropriate distance away, and fired in a rubber ball. The batter stood about 5 feet from the brick wall, and if he did not swing at the pitch or swung and missed, the ball bounced off the wall and back out to the pitcher.

You learned pretty fast how to throw strikes, because if you did not, you were running all over the blacktop lot to retrieve the ball after each pitch.

When you connected, the distance of the ball in the air determined what kind of hit you had, hit it to the chain link fence on the fly and it was “Good-bye Baseball, Hello Home Run.” The rubber ball you hit never went as far as you thought it would. You had 3 swings for each out, and 3 outs to an inning. Balls were ignored to not cause disputes.

The sun would get hotter as the day wore on. Even at age 10, we thought we invented sweat because it was so prevalent in the blistering sun. No one ever called us to come home, both our parents worked when it was not the thing to do. I think it was called survival on the wrong side of the tracks.

We never thought about lunch. We were a couple of 10 year olds, dreaming about the 9th inning with the scored tied, 2 outs and a 3-2 count on the batter. Always we thought of Mickey on that fateful pitch.

Mickey Mantle of the Yankees did not win the American League home title in 1954, but even at 10 we knew he was a legend was in the making. Mantle did win the home run title the following year (1955) and added 3 more titles in 1956, 1958 and 1960.

In 1961, Roger Maris of the Yankees would break Babe’s record with 61 humdingers. We were so excited on that day we could not pee straight.

After hours of play we headed to the local drugstore. Both Tommy and I worked or we would not have had money. I had a TV Guide route with about 200 customers. Youngsters today would have no idea that TV Guide, long before it relied on grocery stores and direct mail for sales, had routes just like paper routes. We delivered once a week and collected monthly.

We lived for two things at that drugstore, baseball cards and cherry Cokes. I purposely down-cased the “c” in cherry because back then you could not buy Cherry Coke off the shelf at your local supermarket like you can today.

You got Coke and the fountain person would squirt in cherry concentrate and stir it up, pour in ice and bam, once that hit your throat after 5 hours in the hot sun, it was like visiting another world.

We would sock down 4 or 5 of them while buying baseball cards, and with each pack of cards we opened, the bubble gum would go into our mouth, every last slice of it. We were looking for that elusive Mickey Mantle card, and when we got more than one, we had an awesome bargaining chip for trades.

Always, we tried to build up enough chewing gum so we could push it out in our cheek, like Nellie Fox, the sure-handed second baseman for the Chicago White Sox with the biggest chaw of tobacco in his cheek you ever saw.

Fox was another Hall of Famer, and probably would have been even without the chaw of tobacco. He was a 12-time American League All-Star who never struck out more than 18 times a season in 15 full seasons, and was the American League Most Valuable Player in 1959.

We loved Nellie because he was a little guy like us that made it big. Fox had 200+ hits in 1954 and a .319 batting average (his best year in the majors). Man, we thought Nellie was something.

We then walked home, exhausted, happy, poor kids who never knew any better. It would be a number of years before we got our first car, and cruised the A&W Root Beer stand on Friday nights after the high school football game. But without any cars or car repair bills, 1954 was a great summer.

November 3, 2007

            What Exactly is a Jimmy Jack?

Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley

Editor's Note: A reader recently wrote to share this message with me. Someone reading my Blog may be interested in his information, so here it is:

"Ed,

"Noticed that you recently referred to Barry Bonds Record setting home run as a Jimmy Jack.

"I have recently created a game called JIMMYjack Baseball that I started marketing this past spring. It has been well received in the limited time and markets it has been exposed to.

"In addition to the Chicagoland market area, JIMMYjack baseball is also being sold at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum gift shop. It interested you can visit my web site at:: http://www.manning5games.com

"Jack Manning"

June 6, 2007

8th Inning Rally Beats Baltimore

Seattle Baseball Fans May Have Seen a Record as the Mariners Get 5 Consecutive Two-Out Hits

Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley

You will have to forgive Seattle baseball fans for getting a little excited about their team after the Mariners managed to come-from-behind and earn a 7-4 victory against the Baltimore Orioles Monday (6-4-07).

The score and the victory look pretty pedestrian until you learn that the Mariners were behind 4-3 with two out in the 8th inning. It was looking a lot like Mudville with Casey coming to bat. Only once in the preceding 53 games had Seattle come from behind after being down going into the 8th inning.

Then, it was as if the skies parted in a night game and some mighty power from above said, "Swing the bat and I will give the ball eyes to see a friendly spot to land."

In short order, five consecutive two-out hits had the Mariners beginning the 9th inning with a 7-4 lead.

The rally started with singles by shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt and all-purpose utility player Willie Bloomquist who played third base for starter Adrian Beltre and then moved to center field.

Then the normal designated hitter Jose Vitro, who was taking the night off due to a bruised finger, was tapped to pinch hit and delivered a grounder off second baseman Brian Roberts' glove and into center field to tie the game at 4-4.

Seattle's superstar center fielder Ichiro, the designated hitter in place of Vitro, delivered his third hit of the night, a solid single to left making it 5-4. By now, Mariner fans were on verge of mixed emotions: joy and happiness.

The topper and break away hit came from second baseman Jose Lopez who delivered some helpful insurance with a two-run double to right field to make it 7-4.

In came Seattle's lights out closer J. J. Putz who recorded his 14th save in 14 attempts. Game over. Turn out the lights and Mariners left Safeco Field with a 29-25 mark, the first time they have been 4 games over .500 in three years.

So what is the big deal in Seattle? Two things:

1) Maybe the big league franchise team in your hometown comes from behind with five consecutive two-out hits in the eight inning to win. This has NOT been happening in Seattle in at least 4 years, and maybe never. I am not sure if statistics are kept on this occurrence.

I have watched more than 1,000 baseball games and have never, ever, seen a team come from behind by getting five consecutive two-out hits in the 8th inning to win. Usually there is a walk, a balk, a hit batter or an error combined with fewer hits that allows a team to accomplish a come-from-behind victory so late in the game.

2) Despite the rainy history of Seattle, it has been a long time between rains when it comes to a winning Mariner team.

After a miracle 1995 season that saw the Mariners win its first American League Division Series against the New York Yankees in another miracle comeback 3-2 (lost the first two games and won the last three), Seattle supported the building of Safeco Field, a state-of-the-art baseball venue.

Local fans remember the Mariners going on to win the 1997 AL West title, the 2000 AL West title and the 2001 AL West title with a record-setting 116-46 finish.

Then Seattle had identical 93-69 seasons in 2002 and 2003, and followed that by sucking pond water with three consecutive losing seasons, unable to even break .500.

So Monday's "miracle" finish brought back memories and hope that the Mariners are once again on the rise back to the top of the heap.

Seattle is getting some wind in its sails on the Puget Sound, and the blue skies of summer remind us of why baseball is, and always will be, summer's pastime game.

June 7, 2007

Ichiro Comes Through Again

Seattle Mariners Notch Second Straight Late Inning Comeback, Nip Orioles 5-4

Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley

Seattle's superstar center fielder Ichiro drove in the winning run for the second consecutive night Tuesday (6-5-07) as the Mariners once again staged a late-inning rally to nip Baltimore 5-4.

The Orioles sailed into the 7th inning with a 4-1 lead as reliever Danny Baez took over for starter Brian Burres.

Baez, who is welcome back to Seattle anytime this season, promptly gave up a leadoff single to right fielder Jose Guillen and walked both left fielder Raul Ibanez and catcher Kenji Johjima to load the bases. Then Baez was sent to the shower stall to think things over.

In came Baltimore reliever Jamie Walker who got designated hitter Jose Vidro to fly out, but Guillen scored and Ibanez moved to third base. Ibanez was not on third long as Walker uncorked a wild pitch to send him home with the Mariners second run of the inning.

First baseman Ben Broussard legged out an infield single to put Johjima on third, allowing shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt to single home Johjima and send Walker to the shower stall with Baez.

The Orioles' next reliever Chad Bradford got third baseman Willie Bloomquist to hit into a fielder's choice, but the table was set for Ichiro who lined a soft double to left field bringing home the winning run.

"I can't put my finger on it, but we definitely have something going on," said Ichiro. "I'm not sure what that is, but I definitely feel something."

Once they got the lead the Mariners showed the Orioles how to win late.

Rookie Brandon Morrow struck out two in a 1-2-3 eighth inning to set up J. J. "Lights Out" Putz who picked up his 15th save in 15 attempts.

It is easy to forget just how good Ichiro is when fans expect him to hang the moon at night games and go 5-for-5 every night. In the past, some impatient fans have groused about Ichiro not coming through went it counted. Apparently they have been eating too many dogs and drinking too many beers.

Ichiro is hitting .423 with runners in scoring position (RISP) this season.

Ichiro has played in just over 1,000 games as the leadoff hitter for 6 years with the Seattle Mariners and has logged in 1,432 hits with a career .331 average, hit 164 doubles, 52 triples, 66 homers, knocked in 388 ribbies, stolen 250 bases and boasts a .438 slugging percentage.

Did I mention he has 6 Golden Gloves and is a six-time All Star?

How about being the 2001 American League Rookie of the Year and 2001 American League Most Valuable Player?

There was talk earlier this season of trading Ichiro when the Mariners were stuck in first gear. It just goes to show you that most fans are as stupid as they are admiring when things are going well.

Trade Ichiro and you would be replacing him with the grounds crew. Nobody is going to do what he has already done and will continue to do this year.

Look out, American League West, the Mariners are on the move.

Pro Wrestling

July 7, 2007

My Emotions: Sadness and Dismay

The Apparent Murder-Suicide of Chris Benoit Really Creates More Questions Than Answers

Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley

News of the apparent murder-suicide of well-known and well-liked WWE wrestler Chris Benoit left me with mixed emotions: sadness and dismay.

Unlike so many men past 60 who would not be caught dead admitting to watching pro wrestling on television in a polite, worldly, sophisticated public environment, I embraced the admission and stood my ground.

I believe Chris Benoit would have done the same. Benoit's boob tube presence was never a good interview, never as charismatic as we would have liked, never a loudmouth, never a blowhard, never obnoxious, never foul mouthed but always quiet, real, genuine and tough as nails.

There is no telling how many World Championships Benoit (pronounced Ben-WAH) would have been allowed to win if he was all of the things that other wrestlers like "The Nature Boy" Ric Flair, the "Heartbreak Kid" Shaun Michaels or "The Cerebral Assassin" Triple HHH (Hunter Hurst Helmsley) flaunted.

Do not misunderstand what I am sharing here. I respected Triple H, I loved Ric Flair and Shaun Michaels as competitors and I loved Benoit even more as a pure competitor.

Benoit, Flair and Michales have probably taken more punishment in the ring, won more matches and won more titles than any other competitors. Few competitors and few fans ever figure out that everyone can dish it out in pro wrestling, but the ones who can dish it out AND withstand the punishment are eventually the champions.

Chris Benoit was born in Montreal, Canada and grew up in the same wrestling community as Stu Hart and his sons, most notable of which were Bret Hart and Owen Hart. Benoit was the consummate mat wrestler with talent and skills only matched by Flair and Michaels and perhaps exceeded by Bret Hart.

Benoit was a former World Heavyweight Champion, Intercontinental Champion and several time Tag Team Champion. His ring names included "The Canadian Crippler" and "The Rabid Wolverine".

Benoit reminded me a lot of of Eddie Guerrero. Both Owen Hart and Guerrero died prematurely, Owen from a tragic wrestling promotion accident that should never have happened, and Guerrero from an apparent overdose of prescription drugs.

Like Owen Hart and Eddie Guerrero, Benoit was almost universally liked by his fellow superstars and sports entertainers in the WWE locker room.

I do not believe that Vince McMahon (Vinny Mac), the World Wrestling Entertainment owner and arguably the most gifted of sports entertainment promoters ever, could really tolerate a person so quiet and respected as Christ Benoit.

That is why it came as such a shock to me that Benoit could have allegedly strangled his 43-year-old wife Nancy, strangled his 7-year-old son Daniel and then committed suicide by hanging himself on the cable of a weight-training machine at his home. I cannot comprehend the unspeakable horror of his wife or son realizing their circumstance when Benoit apparently lost control of his life.

Their bodies were found in three separate rooms of their home off a gravel road about two miles from the Whitewater Country Club near Atlanta. Holy Bibles were left beside Benoit's wife and son.

Benoit had maintained an Atlanta address from the time he wrestled for the defunct World Championship Wrestling. The Fayette County Tax Assessors Office listed the value of the house, situated on more than 8.5 acres, at nearly $900,000. The same house and property in Connecticut, California or Seattle, Washington would probably be valued at $2+ million.

I know the pain of suicide as my sister Loretta committed suicide. She was a victim of MS (multiple sclerosis) and had apparently lost any hope of living a better life in the advanced stages of her disease. I came to know that people who commit suicide have lost all hope of a better life.

I certainly do not condone killing one's immediate family on the way to committing suicide; murder in this circumstance seems cowardly to me, and if there is one thing I never, ever, thought about Benoit was that he was a coward. I thought him to be just the opposite.

Since this tragic story has unfolded it has taken on a life on its own in the national media, in part because of the incredible events that have surfaced since the tragedy. These include:

 The rumor that Benoit and his wife constantly fought about money, even though he apparently made $500,000+ as a professional wrestler for WWE.

 The rumor that Benoit and his wife fought about the best way to raise their son Daniel, who was undersized and possibly a special needs child.

 The fact that Benoit's wife filed for divorce in 2003, saying their three-year union was irrevocably broken and alleging "cruel treatment." She later dropped the complaint as well as a request for a restraining order.

 The fact that Benoit's page on Wikipedia, a reference site that allows users to add and edit information, was updated about 14 hours BEFORE authorities say the bodies were found on Monday, June 25. The update said the reason Benoit missed a match on Saturday of the fateful weekend was "stemming from the death of his wife Nancy." The source was traced to a user in Stamford, Connecticut, but claimed no connection to WWE, which has its headquarters in Stamford.

 The fact that anabolic steroids found in Benoit's home led officials to wonder whether the drugs played a role in the killings that started the weekend of June 22. Some experts believe steroids can cause paranoia, depression and violent outbursts known as "roid rage". Toxicology tests on Benoit's body have not been completed.

 The fact that Benoit had seen his personal physician and friend, Dr. Phil Astin, and been given prescription medications on June 22.

 The fact that Dr. Astin prescribed a 10-month supply of anabolic steroids to Chris Benoit every three to four weeks between May 2006 and May 2007, according to a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent in a filed affidavit.

 The fact that the DEA acknowledged that Benoit's name had surfaced in a drug probe investigation before the tragedy occurred. The probe was called "RX Weight Loss" and Benoit was identified as an excessive purchaser of injectable steroids.

 The fact that Dr. Astin was charged exactly a week after the tragedy with improperly prescribing medications to two patients, but not Benoit. More charges may be coming.

 For the record, since 1997 about 1,000 wrestlers 45 and younger have worked on pro wrestling circuits. Of the 1,000, at least 65 have died since 1997 according to a report in USA Today (3-12-04 edition), 25 from heart attacks or other coronary problems. Many had enlarged hearts. Another statistic from another source purports that 104 wrestlers have died prematurely in the last 10 years.

 The list of steroid or prescription drug users include some big names: Hulk Hogan (real name Terry Bollea), former Minnesota governor Jesse "The Body" Ventura, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper (real name Roderick Toombs), "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, Bret "The Hit Man" Hart (Hart was also know as "The Excellence of Execution"), Paul Michael "Triple H" Levesque (also known previously as Hunter Hearst Helmsley), Mark "Johnny B. Badd" Mero (Sable's husband), "Superstar" Billy Graham, Jim "The Ultimate Warrior" Hellwig, Kevin "Big Sexy" Nash, Jeff Hardy, Mike "Road Warrior Hawk" Hegstrand, Mike "Crash Holly" Lockwood, Scott "Raven" Levy, Eddie Guerrero, "The British Bulldog" Davey Boy Smith, and the lesser known "Strongman" Johnny Perry.

Why do they use steroids and prescription drugs? That is an easy answer.

During a 15-minute match, pro entertainment wrestlers exchange choreographed body slams and punches. Some leap from top ropes onto cement surfaces outside the ring.

No matter how choreographed the moves, imagine lying in the ring and your opponent does an Eddie Guerrero "Frog Splash" on you from 15 feet in the air. Stand on top of a 15-foot stepladder in your front yard, dive off, flatten yourself out so you hit parallel to your lawn. Does it hurt landing? You better believe it.

In the more physical "hard-core" matches, wrestlers are smashed through tables, whacked in the head with steel chairs and punctured with barbed wire and tacks. None of these dangerous antics are fake. And you thought pimping was hard. Try being a pro wrestler.

Pro wrestlers have my total respect. They are incredibly well-conditioned, talented athletes who put up with a lot for my viewing enjoyment.

My heart sinks when I see an genuine icon like Ric Flair wrestling at his age and being allowed to get the holy hell stomped out of him for the sake of ever-more violent entertainment.

There are no words to describe my anguish over Chris Benoit. May God have mercy on his soul, and may God take Benoit's wife Nancy and son Daniel into his arms in Heaven.

Perhaps Benoit's father Michael said it best: "It's impossible to come up with a rational explanation for a very irrational act." My condolences go out to Chris Benoit's family and to all of those who knew and loved Chris Benoit as one of the greatest pro wrestling entertainers of our generation.

July 23, 2007

The Continuing Story:

        Article Update on Wrestling's Chris Benoit

Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley

The toxicology report is in and WWE wrestler Chris Benoit's body contained 10 times the normal level of testosterone, according to authorities in an Associated Press story.  Also present were the anti-anxiety drug Xanax and the painkiller hydrocodone.

Benoit (pronounced Ben-WAH) apparently killed his wife and young son last month and then hanged himself in the family's home.

The testosterone found in Benoit's body, a synthetic version of the primary male sex hormone, is considered an anabolic steroid.

Georgia's top medical examiner, Dr. Kris Sperry, said it appeared to have been injected shortly before Benoit died.

Sperry said that there was no evidence of any other steroids in the wrestler's body, and there was nothing to show that steroids played a role in the death of Nancy and Daniel Benoit.

He also said Daniel appeared to have been sedated with Xanax when he was asphyxiated, and Benoit's wife Nancy had a "therapeutic" level of sedatives in her body. She tested positive for Xanax, hydrocodone and the painkiller hydromorphone.

Sperry said there is no consensus that the use of testosterone can contribute to paranoia, depression and violent outbursts known as "roid rage".

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said Benoit tested negative for alcohol.

Federal authorities have charged Benoit's personal physician, Dr. Phil Astin, with improperly prescribing painkillers and other drugs to two patients other than Benoit. Astin has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Before he was charged, Astin told the Associated Press that he had prescribed testosterone for Benoit, a longtime friend, in the past. He would not say what, if any, medications he had prescribed when Benoit visited his office June 22, the day authorities believe Benoit killed his wife.

This story will continue to take its legal course and has raised a lot of questions about steroid use as well as the self-regulation and testing practices in professional wrestling and the WWE in particular.

Read my original article titled "The Apparent Murder-Suicide of Chris Benoit Really Creates More Questions Than Answers" in my Blog Archive.

2008 Beijing Olympics:

September 8, 2008

Beijing Olympics:

Dara Torres Provides Perfect Example for Every Masters Athlete in America

Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley

There could not be a better role model for masters athletes in the United States than 41-year-old Dara Torres, the five-time Olympian who lost a gold medal by 1 one-hundredths of a second in the 50-meter freestyle at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Torres lost to Germany's 24-year-old Britta Steffen, the former world record holder in the 100-meter freestyle, and someone young enough to be her daughter.

Almost lost in her quest for another gold medal was the fact that Torres won the silver medal in the 50 and then added two more silver medals by helping her teammates become runners-up in the 4x100 freestyle relay and the 4x100 medley relay.

At 41, she is the oldest Olympic swimming medalist in history, the only swimmer to win a medal in 5 Olympic competitions, and the oldest American swimmer ever. Her 12 career Olympic medals ties her with Jenny Thompson for the most by an American female athlete.

Masters' competitors are 40 and older and senior competitors are 50 and older, and generally compete in 5-year, age-group brackets (40-44, 45-49, 50-54, up to 95-99).

Because Torres is a professional athlete, she does not compete in masters' meets, however, she makes it evident that being 41 does not mean that you cannot be a world-class athlete competing in international competition at the highest level, the Olympic games.

Dara Torres has been a continual inspiration over the years when other athletes have retired and never returned.

Torres gained national prominence when she was 16 by winning her first gold medal in the 4x100 freestyle relay at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. She returned for the 1988 Seoul Olympics and won silver and bronze medals. She retired a year later, and then came back to win another gold medal in the 4x100 freestyle relay at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

Seven years later, after retiring a second time, a friend suggested she return to major competition. The result was 2 more gold medals, both in the relays, and 3 bronze medals in the 50 and 100 freestyle and the 100 butterfly at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

In 2005, she began swimming once again to stay in shape during her pregnancy for her daughter Tessa. There was no thought of returning to competition, but she kept swimming after Tessa's arrival and then launched a third comeback.

A year later, in 2006, she broke her own American record in the 50 freestyle at the National Meet, acquiring her 15th career national title 25 years after her first in 1982 when she was 14. Torres held her 15-month-old daughter Tessa in her arms as she collected her medal on the awards stand.

She looked incredibly fit at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Torres has been a print model in the past and was the first athlete to appear in the famous Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue in 1994. She has also gained national recognition by being a feature correspondent for Good Morning America, and working on-air for ESPN, TNT and the Fox News Channel.

Torres did not accomplish what she did in Beijing by herself. Her team of assistants included her coach, Michael Lohberg, two stretchers, a strength coach, two massage therapists and a sprint coach. She has proven that a post-40 athlete can not only look terrific but can also compete with the best athletes in the world as a masters athlete.

Like all great athletes, Dara Torres is an ordinary person doing extraordinary things with a lot of desire, an experienced support team, intense work, focus, determination and performance when it counts.

She remains a tremendous inspiration to every athlete who continues to compete not only in the game of life, but also in game of athletic competition.

Read my other 2008 Beijing Olympics coverage, including:

"Jamaica Me Fast" Takes Over Track and Field's Sprint World"

"America's Middle Distance Running Disaster at the 2008 Beijing Olympics"

"Revisiting 9 Great American Victories During the 2008 Olympics in Beijing"

"Michael Phelps' 2008 Olympic Legacy: 8 Gold Medal Victories, 7 World Records"

"Phelps' 8 Gold Medals Could Net Him $100 Million in Future Income"

"So How Long Has Michael Phelps Been Training to Be a Champion?"

September 7, 2008

Beijing Olympics:

"Jamaica Me Fast" Takes Over Track and Field's Sprint World

Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley

That was not a lightning bolt you saw on television during the 100-meter dash at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. It was Usain Bolt, Jamaica's 6-foot-5 answer to sprint dominance worldwide.

Bolt not only ran the 100 meters, he ran the 100 meters faster than any person ever on planet Earth, winning the sprint double (both the 100- and 200-meter dashes) in world record time. He became the first sprinter to break both the 100 and 200 world records at the same Olympics, and the first man to win gold in the sprint double since America's Carl Lewis did it in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

Bolt did not just win the 100 and 200 dashes, he literally ran away from the field. Bolt ran 9.69 in the 100 to break his own 9.72 world record set two months earlier in June, and came back in the 200 to run 19.30 and break Michael Johnson's 19.32 world record set 12 years ago in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

Then Bolt teamed with Nesta Carter, Michael Frater and Asafa Powell to run 37.10 in the 4x100 relay breaking the 37.40 world record set by an American team in Stuttgart (Germany) in 1993. For Bolt, it was three wins in three races and three world records.
For the world, it was a wake up call proclaiming Jamaica as the most dominate sprint power in the world today.

Bolt's performance stole the show, but Jamaica's women were just getting started, going 1-2-3 in the 100. Shelly-Ann Fraser took the gold (in 10.78), Sherone Simpson the silver (10.98) and Kerron Stewart the bronze (10.98). A botched baton exchange cost Jamaica another 4 gold medals in the 4x100 relay.

In the women's 200, Veronica Campbell-Brown won gold in 21.74 and Kerron Stewart won the bronze (22.00). In the 400, Sherica Williams won the silver medal in 49.69, and Williams teamed with Shereefa Lloyd, Rosemarie Whyte and Novelene Williams to give Jamaica the bronze in the 4x400 relay.

Fortunately, American Florence Griffith-Joyner's (FloJo) 100 meter 10.49 world record and 10.62 Olympic record still stands, and her 200 meter 21.34 world record and 21.34 Olympic record at the 1988 Seoul Olympics still stands.

Usain Bolt's post-victory celebration after his 100-meter victory was joyful to say the least. He kneeled and kissed the ground, danced down the track, blew kisses to the fans and generally made a spectacle of himself, much to the dismay of some of his competitors and Olympic officials. More than one person told Bolt to put a lid on it.

His height and God-given speed wrecked havoc on his shorter competitors. Each of his long, graceful strides cover more than 9 feet on the track, while more compact sprinters cover slightly less than 8 feet per stride.

In essence, Bolt's 6-foot-5 frame has him running a foot longer with every stride. Even if his competitors match him stride for stride, they lose a foot with every single stride Bolt takes. His margin of victory in the 100 and 200 were devastatingly obvious.

Bertland Cameron, Jamaican assistant track coach, said it best, "You won't see another one like that for another 50 years." Well, maybe we will. There is already talk that Bolt might run the 100, 200 and 400 at the 2012 London Olympic Games.

The 22-year-old Bolt did not just burst onto the international scene. At 15, he became the youngest 200-meter winner at the World Junior Championships. You might say that he is just now hitting his stride.

Only time will tell if Bolt continues to lower his world records and compete at the 2012 London Olympics, but this much is certain: as of today, when you talk about sprint dominance in the world, you start with Jamaica.

Read my other 2008 Beijing Olympics coverage, including:

"Michael Phelps' 2008 Olympic Legacy: 8 Gold Medal Victories, 7 World Records"

"Phelps' 8 Gold Medals Could Net Him $100 Million in Future Income"

"So How Long Has Michael Phelps Been Training to Be a Champion?"

"America's Middle Distance Running Disaster at the 2008 Beijing Olympics"

September 6, 2008

Highlights from China:

Revisiting 9 Great American Victories During the 2008 Olympics in Beijing

Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley

The afterglow of the Beijing Olympics has caused me to cogitate on some of America’s great victories. This most important of international competitions on a world stage has been shrunk this year to the size of a personal computer in all corners on Earth.

In no particular order of importance, here are some of the greatest American victories we witnessed on television and on the computer during the 2008 Olympic Games in China.

1) Basketball’s Dream Team prevailed in the finals against a stubborn Spanish team 118-107 to restore America's claim as the best hoops power in the world. Led by an all-star cast that could compete with Hollywood, the sting of finishing 3rd in the 2004 Athens Olympics will soon be forgotten.

For once, for America, all of the individual statistics and personal glory of the National Basketball Association’s elite players were set aside. Credit U. S. coach Mike Krzyzewski with bringing the world’s best players together, including Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwayne Wade. Krzyzewski is coach of the Duke Blue Devils during the college basketball season.

2) Basketball's Supreme Team (so dubbed by Lisa Leslie) won the gold medal for the 4th consecutive time in Olympic competition, and Lisa Leslie picked up her 4th gold medal as a member of the teams in Atlanta, Sydney, Athens and now Beijing.

America's team, with point guard Sue Bird of the Seattle Storm, won 8 games to get to the finals and then destroyed Australia 92-65 to win the gold medal. Bird is 1 of only 6 women to win an Olympic gold medal, a NCAA championship and a WNBA championship.

3) Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh successfully defended their gold medal title in Beach Volleyball at the 2004 Athens Olympics by defeating the Chinese team in Beijing. May-Treanor and Walsh have been called "the greatest beach volleyball team of all-time". May-Treanor has won more tournaments than any other female player with 103 career wins.

4) Goaltender Hope Solo's play helped the American women win the gold medal in soccer by shutting out the heavily favored Brazil team 1-0 in overtime. The victory was great for America and great for Solo, given the controversy after Brazil's 4-0 romp in last year's World Cup semi-finals when Solo was famously benched.

5) Angelo Taylor won the 400-meter hurdles and gold in track and field competition, and Taylor was followed by Kerron Clement (who took the silver) and Bershawn Jackson (who took the bronze) for a perfect 1-2-3 sweep.

6) LaShawn Merritt upset defending champion Jeremy Wariner to lead an American sweep in the 400 meters. Two-time world champion Wariner struggled to win the silver and David Neville did a head-fist dive across the finish line to win the bronze.

7) Merritt, Wariner and Neville would later team up with Angelo Taylor to win the 4x400 meter relay and set an Olympic record in 2:55.74. Wariner anchored the relay with a 43.18 split, the fastest of all competitors.

8) Sanya Richards, who had to settle for a bronze medal in the women's open 400 meter, ran a come-from-behind anchor leg to lead an American victory in the 4x400 relay. Mary Wineberg was the leadoff leg, Allyson Felix ran the second leg in 48.55, the fastest leg among all 32 women competitors, Monique Henderson ran third and Richards got the baton several steps behind the Russian leader. Richards brought the crowd to their feet as she closed the gap and passed the Russian in the final 10 meters to win by 89 one-hundredths of a second.

9) Michael Phelps led the United States swim team to glory in the pool by winning 8 gold medals, setting 7 world records and 1 Olympic record. Many Olympic watchers thought Phelps' performance was the greatest of any athlete in Olympic history.

Read my other 2008 Beijing Olympics coverage, including:

"Michael Phelps' 2008 Olympic Legacy: 8 Gold Medal Victories, 7 World Records"

"Phelps' 8 Gold Medals Could Net Him $100 Million in Future Income"

"So How Long Has Michael Phelps Been Training to Be a Champion?"

"America's Middle Distance Running Disaster at the 2008 Beijing Olympics"

September 1, 2008

Beijing Olympics:

America's Middle Distance Running Disaster at the 2008 Beijing Olympics

Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley

Despite all of the United States' great success in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, there was next to nothing to cheer about its middle distance runners in the track and field competition.

America's hopes rode squarely on the shoulders of Bernard Lagat and Ryan Hall. The Kenyan-born Lagat had become an American citizen and was a proven winner in international competition, and Hall had become our American-born hope to medal and perhaps win in the marathon. Lagat sought gold in the 1500 and 5000-meter runs.

In the end, neither of them was even close enough to think about sniffing a medal. Worse yet, all of America's men and women competitors in the 800, 1500, 5000, 10,000, 3,000 steeplechase and the marathon could muster only 1 of 36 possible medals.

If it was not for Shalane Flanagan's third-place finish in the 10,000, the United States would not have won a single medal in the middle distance events. Her 30:22.22 clocking was good enough for the bronze medal and an American record.

The next best American finish was Shannon Rowbury's 7th place in the 1500 in 4:03.58. Rowbury's 7th place was the highest finish ever by an American woman in an Olympic 1,500-meter final.

The United States did not even have any qualifiers who made it to the finals in the men's and women's 800 and the men's 1500. Lagat was eliminated in the semifinal heat for the 1500. The medalists in the 1500 clocked 3:32.94, 3:33.11 and 3:34.16.

Lagat was considered among the favorites in the race, having won both the1500 and 5000 titles at the 2007 World Championships in Osaka (Japan) last year. He went 3:34.77 in the 1500 and 13:45.87 in the 5000.

In the Olympic 5000, Lagat was way out of the money, finishing 9th in 13:26.89. Apparently, competition at the World Championships in Osaka was not nearly as difficult as it was in the Olympics since Lagat won the 1500 title in 13:45.87. The medalists in the 5000 at the Olympics clocked 12:57.82, 13:02.80 and 13:06.22.

Legate is known for his finishing speed. In both the 1500 and 5000 at the U. S. Olympic trials (which he won), he was content to go with a slow pace and simply out sprint his competition in the last lap. Having seen his Olympic 5000 effort, I would put Lagat's last 400 at 52 and change. The problem was, unlike the U. S. trials, all of his competition in the Olympics ran as fast or faster.

For all the hoopla and bragging rights at the World Championships, the World Championships are simply not as big, not as important, not as competitive and not as fast as the Olympic Games. There is a reason why the Summer Olympics are held only once every 4 years. Once it was clear that Lagat would not perform at his best, we then learned of an injured left Achilles tendon. Whatever.

Hopes were high for Ryan Hall because in April of this year he placed 5th at the Flora London Marathon in 2:06.17, breaking his own record for the fastest ever marathon run by an American-born citizen. The marathon winner at the Beijing Olympics ran 2:06.32 to set an Olympic record.

America's best finisher in the marathon was Dathan Ritzenhein in 2:11.59. Hall was 10th in 2:12.33 and Brian Sell was 22nd in 2:16.07. Both Ritzenhein and Hall got some valuable experience in Olympic competition, but no medals.

America could not buy a medal in any of the other events—the men's 10,000 and 3000 steeplechase, and the women's 5000, 3000 steeplechase and marathon. Such is the state of middle distance running in the United States in 2007.

Our American record-holder in the mile, Alan Webb, did not even qualify for the U. S. Olympic Team in the 1500. Seems some grand training plan of Webb's went awry. Whatever.

When the day of the Olympic Trials or Olympic finals comes, you have to compete despite your physical, mental or emotional condition. You either qualify or you do not. You either medal in the competition or you do not. The Olympic Games are not a dress rehearsal.

Is there hope for improvement in America's middle distance runners? I'm glad you finally asked. There are currently two answers to that question. First, well, certainly, there is always hope. Second, it reminds one of a cowboy movie with a two-member posse, there is Slim and none.

Unless our middle distance runners develop some genuine desire and belief that they can actually beat foreign runners, we are always going to be over-hyped and under-performed. We will never be the lead dog in the pack, we will always be looking at someone else's backside, and Iditarod is a long race.

Read my other articles on the 2008 Beijing Olympics, including:

"Michael Phelps' 2008 Olympic Legacy: 8 Gold Medal Victories, 7 World Records"

"Phelps' 8 Gold Medals Could Net Him $100 Million in Future Income"

"So How Long Has Michael Phelps Been Training to Be a Champion?"

August 31, 2008

Beijing Olympics:

So How Long Has Michael Phelps Been Training to Be a Champion?

Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley

Stories about teenage phenoms winning gold medals and setting world records at world-class swimming competitions are legion. The list is long and you can add Michael Phelps' name to the list.

Phelps began swimming for the North Baltimore Aquatic Club at age 7. He was diagnosed with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and was encouraged to take up swimming to provide him with an outlet for his energy.

He attended the 1996 Olympic Trials as a 10 year old to watch his sister Whitney finish 6th in the 200-meter butterfly while trying to make the Olympic Team. He cried when she didn't. His other sister, Hillary, would later swim for the University of Richmond.

A year later, when Michael was 11, he caught the eye of Bob Bowman, former swim coach for the University of Michigan. Bowman began coaching Michael at age 12 and outlined a program for his development. While competing at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club, Phelps was nicknamed the "Baltimore Bullet".

By age 15, Phelps made the United States team by finishing as runner-up in the 200-meter butterfly for the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney (Australia). Despite his age and lack of international experience, he qualified for the finals in Sydney and finished 5th as the youngest member of the U. S. team.

Five months after his Olympic race in Sydney, Phelps became the sport's youngest male world-record holder by winning the 200-meter butterfly at the 2001 World Championships in Japan. He was 15 years old, and he held a world record.

Before he arrived at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens (Greece), he would set 4 other world records in international competition. In Athens, Phelps would win 6 gold and 2 bronze medals while setting 1 world record, 3 Olympic records and 2 American records.

Before he arrived at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing (China), he would set another 8 world records in international competition. In Beijing, Phelps would win another 8 gold medals while setting 7 world records and 1 Olympic record.

So what does it take to perform like Michael Phelps? Start with very intense and very tough training under Bob Bowman's watchful eye since age 12. In his peak training for the Beijing Olympics, Phelps was swimming 80,000 meters a week (49.7 miles). If he trained only 6 days a week, Phelps was swimming more than 8 miles every day he trained.

All of this training could make a guy hungry. Phelps reportedly eats up to 12,000 calories a day, about six times the intake of a normal adult male.

This endurance training is what helped Phelps win his 100 butterfly event at Beijing. He was in 7th place at the turn and somehow surged past 5 competitors to close the gap in the last 50 meters and took a half stroke at the wall to win by 1 one-hundredth of a second.

Phelps endurance training really paid off as he had to swim 17 times in 8 days to get through preliminary and semifinal heats to get to the finals of the 8 races where he won gold medals. Even though Phelps set 7 world records at Beijing, he does not have a sprinter's speed and could be beat at shorter distances.

His endurance training would be what runners call base training, only it is likely that Phelps was much more intense in his effort than a runner would be, in part because it is easier to swim than to run. In swimming, you are buoyant on the water; in running, every stride you take on land you are lifting your body weight, which is why running is much tougher on your joints than swimming.

So how does he beat competitors who also intensely train for years? Phelps has a very unusual body that gives him a physical advantage in the water. He is 6-feet-4 and 195 pounds, but has a 6-foot-7 wingspan (arms stretched out) that is 3 inches longer than his height. His torso is also longer compared to his legs, allowing him to ride high on the water. He also has flexible ankles and size 14 feet, allowing him to use a powerful kick.

He uses his physique with an impeccable swimming form and efficiency to literally churn through the water faster than his fastest competitors.

After training at Michigan's Club Wolverine with Bowman in Ann Arbor, home of the University of Michigan Wolverines, both Phelps and Bowman will return to the North Baltimore (MD) Aquatic Club, where Bowman will be the new chief executive officer. Bowman was coach of the University of Michigan men's swim team. Phelps was a student at the school but did not compete for Michigan's swim team because of his professional status.

Some people might think that Phelps' accomplishments are too good to be true. In fact, they are true. Phelps was tested 9 times during the Beijing Olympics for performance enhancing drugs, and passed every test with flying colors.

Like the greatest athletes of all time, Phelps can be beaten and his records can be broken. Should you want to try, I suggest you start very early in life and work very hard. It also would help to have his physique, his inexhaustible work ethic, his ferocious competitive drive and a phenomenal coach.

Read my running articles, including:

"Updated USA Prep Track & Field Records and the New Best 2008 Top Performances"

"A St. Patrick's Day Toast to Irish Runners Marcus O'Sullivan and Eamonn Coghlan"

"Millrose Games Celebrates 100th Birthday as Track's Most Prestigious Indoor Event".

"2008 Nike Prefontaine Classic – Maria Mutola Wins Her 16th Career Victory at Hayward Field"

"Meet 'Pre' – America's Greatest Running Legend and Greatest Middle Distance Runner"

August 30, 2008

Beijing Olympics:

Phelps' 8 Gold Medals Could Net Him $100 Million in Future Income

Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley

Sports agents that should know decided some time ago that winning a gold medal in the Olympics could be worth $12 million in appearances and endorsements for a very marketable athlete.

Michael Phelps earned 8 gold medals in swimming competition at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, breaking Mark Spitz's American record of 7 gold medals at the 1972 Olympics in Munich. Eight golds at $12 million apiece works out to $96 million in possible income. Phelps' agent, Peter Carlisle, agrees.

"What is the value of 8 golds in Beijing before a prime-time audience in the United States?" said Carlisle, posing the question. "I'd say $100 million over the course of his lifetime." Carlisle leads the Olympic and Action Sports Division at Octagon.

Even before China brought down the curtain on the closing ceremonies at the Beijing Olympics, companies were already drafting offers for Michael Phelps' services as a spokesman. Carlisle has confirmed that he is getting up to 50 pitches a day.

When Phelps acquired his 7th gold medal in the 100 butterfly final, it automatically triggered a $1 million bonus from Speedo, one of his many sponsors. Phelps was not exactly broke before he competed in Beijing. His agent Carlisle estimated Phelps' current earnings between $3 and $5 million a year, and Carlisle expects his income to double following the Olympic Games.

Pizza Hut is giving Phelps and his teammates on the men's and women's United States swim teams free pizza and pasta for a year. Phelps will soon have a book out titled "Built to Succeed", and his advance fee is a cool $1.6 million. Phelps already has top endorsements from companies that include Visa, Omega, Hilton, AT&T and Speedo.

It is a good thing to be Michael Phelps today. Phelps popularity is huge at the moment. On the online social networking site Facebook, more than 795,000 people have officially declared themselves fans of Phelps. Advertisers are fully aware of Phelps presence in the marketplace.

The big question is: Will Phelps be able to translate his swimming presence in the pool into a marketable personality outside the pool? Mark Spitz had many possibilities in 1972, but Spitz just did not have it—so to speak—as a marketable personality.

Like all new Olympic heroes, it will be 4 years before another opportunity. In the meantime, new heroes will arise and Phelps could easily fade into the woodwork as Spitz did. The uniqueness of his feat will only carry him so far.

To succeed in the marketplace as a highly paid spokesperson for a company, he will need a personality that continually draws people to him, and possess qualities that make people care.

John Sweeney, director of sports communication at the University of North Carolina's School of Journalism and Mass Communication, will seek answers to these questions as Phelps does interviews to hype his popularity:

"Is he funny? Is he warm? Is he interesting? Does he say things that make you want to listen more, or is he the great athlete who is pleased to be here and he's done?"

Mark Spitz did not have the personality to pull it off. He made money but not nearly what he could have made.

Mary Lou Retton won exactly one gold medal in the 1984 Olympics but has been able to parlay it into a career of speaking engagements, television appearances and ongoing commentaries.

Phelps already has his eye on the 2012 Olympic Games in London, and breaking the Olympic record for the most medals—18—set by Soviet gymnast Larysa Latynina. Phelps has 16 medals to date—14 golds (6 from the 2004 Games and 8 from 2008) and 2 bronze medals. Three more medals in London of any kind would give him the record.

Beyond Phelps' performance at Beijing, I am impressed that earning $3 to $5 million a year before he arrived did not affect his ability to produce on cue. So many athletes work so hard for a big payday and then their skills and performance diminish in inverse proportion to their rising income.

Read my running articles, including:

"Updated USA Prep Track & Field Records and the New Best 2008 Top Performances"

"A St. Patrick's Day Toast to Irish Runners Marcus O'Sullivan and Eamonn Coghlan"

"Millrose Games Celebrates 100th Birthday as Track's Most Prestigious Indoor Event".

"2008 Nike Prefontaine Classic – Maria Mutola Wins Her 16th Career Victory at Hayward Field"

"Meet 'Pre' – America's Greatest Running Legend and Greatest Middle Distance Runner"

August 29, 2008

Beijing Olympics:

Michael Phelps' 2008 Olympic Legacy: 8 Gold Medal Victories, 7 World Records

Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley

Is there anyone who watched the Beijing Olympics on television who does not already know that Michael Phelps won 8 gold medals, setting 7 world records and 1 Olympic record in the 8-day swimming competition?

Of course not, so let it be known that Phelps broke American Mark Spitz's record of 7 gold medals while competing in the swimming events at the 1972 Munich Olympics, a record that stood the test of time for 32 years. Many pundits thought that Spitz's accomplishment would never be broken, but others like me know that records are made to be broken—that is the whole point of keeping records.

There is not an adequate adjective to describe Phelps' performance, they have all been used up on other, lesser performances and become hackneyed phrases. Here are the gold-medal winning events and records in order as history was made for the whole world to see:

1) 400 Individual Medley – World Record: 4:03.84 - Broke his own record by 1.41 seconds, no one was even close.

2) 400 Freestyle Relay – World Record: 3:08.24 - Broke USA record by 3.59 seconds, a huge margin for the United States with Phelps as the lead leg on the team with Garrett Weber-Gale, Cullen Jones and Jason Lezak. Team USA won by 8 one-hundreds of a second thanks to Jason Lezak, who swam the fastest-ever 100-meter relay split, catching France's Alain Bernard in the final 10 meters and beating him at the wall.

3) 200 Freestyle – World Record: 1:42.96 – Broke his own record by 18 one-hundredths of a second. The 200 freestyle was the only event Phelps did not win at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

4) 200 Butterfly – World Record: 1:52.03 – Broke his own record by 6 one-hundredths of a second. Despite his goggles filling with water and leaving him without clear vision, he counted his strokes, made his turns properly, and won anyway. No excuses, just a champion swimmer adjusting to the circumstances and coming away with the gold.

5) 800 Freestyle Relay – World Record: 6:58.56 – Broke USA record by 4.68 seconds, another runaway victory for the United States with Phelps as the lead leg on the team with Ryan Lochte, Ricky Berens and Peter Vanderkaay. Phelps had less than an hour after his 200 butterfly world record to prepare and swim in this event.

6) 200 Individual Medley – World Record: 1:54.23 – Broke his own record by 57 one-hundredths of a second.

7) 100 Butterfly – Olympic Record: 50.58 – This race was the most dramatic of his victories and arguably the most dramatic finish in Olympic history given the historic record set by Phelps in winning 8 gold medals. Phelps was in 7th place and trailed the Serbian-American Milorad Cavic at the turn. Somehow, he surged to pass 5 competitors and closed the gap on Cavic, who appeared to win.

The automatic timers told another story. Phelps, in a desperate move, took another half stroke at the wall and beat Cavic by 1 one-hundredth of a second—50.58 to 50.59. When a protest was lodged, cameras beneath the water provided positive proof that Phelps had touched before Cavic. This is why they have automatic timers and visual, photographic proof at world-class, international meets.

8) 4x100 Medley Relay - World Record: 3:29.34 – Broke USA record by 1.34 seconds. Phelps swam the 3rd leg on the team with Aaron Peirsol as the lead leg, Brendan Hansen second and Jason Lezak the anchor leg.

In fairness, Phelps faced bigger challenges than Spitz did when he broke Spitz's record of 7 gold medals.

One factor is that in the 100- and 200-meter events, Phelps had to compete in preliminary and semifinal heats to qualify for the finals; Spitz had to swim only one heat to qualify for the finals in 1972. Phelps had to swim 17 times in 8 days to win 8 gold medals.

Another factor is that there are more swimmers who are bigger, faster and stronger, and also the USA team in 1972 was much more dominant among world competition than it is today.

Could Michael Phelps do for swimming what Tiger Woods did for golf? Time will tell. Remember Michael Phelps' moment in history because you may never see another Olympic performance like his in your lifetime.

 

  EzineArticles.com Platinum Author

Editor's Note: Ed Bagley is a Ezine Articles Expert and Platinum Ezine Articles Member

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