Friday, February 02, 2007

February 2, 2007

-- A short installment of "Steeltown Sports: Live!" to air Saturday, Feb. 3 from Noon to Noon-thirty.

-- Penguins finally have a team.

-- Steeltown finally commits to a SuperBowl XLI prediction.

-- The lost art of sportsmanship in the pros.

---For a Limited Time...---

"Steeltown Sports: Live!" returns from a long hiatus with a very short show (apparently, I emerged from the ground, saw my shadow, and promptly returned). I'm giving yinz very short notice, too. Saturday, February 3rd from 12 noon until 12:30 (you take air time where you can get it).

Scheduled guest: Jim Shireman (a.k.a. "TheJim") from

In the Pittsburgh region (City and south, mainly), tune to 590AM.

Out of the area, listen online. Copy this link into your Windows Media Player:

---Finally a Contender---

One great disadvantage to working in radio (and another job on top of it) when it comes to sports blogging and the like is that you tend to either not actually "see" what's going on, or you're too tired to spend more than an hour or so looking at sports related stuff. Hence why my production in all stages of the blogging/broadcasting/(and especially) podcasting arena have been, in my own estimation, pretty sub-par. Much of what follows are things that I have pieced together from the select stories, blog entries, and events I've heard on the radio.

With the return of Mark Eaton after 35 games, the Penguins might actually be able to cling to a playoff berth. Few question his value to the team defensively. Imagine if he'd been healthy just three weeks earlier. There were two one-goal losses to Tampa Bay (one in OT), and another OT loss to the Boston Bruins. After his return, the Penguins beat a Western Conference playoff contender in Dallas on its home ice, then absolutely destroyed the streaky Coyotes. As I did not see or hear any of the Dallas game (much to my disappointment as I kept hearing how fantastic of a game it was), I don't know how Eaton played. But, according to our friends at ThePensBlog, he made at least one critical play. After losing some tough games without him, he may end up being the difference-maker if the Penguins hold on and have a playoff berth come April.

Marc-Andre Fleury has been playing above "acceptable" during this most recent stretch run of 7-0-1 (15 points in 8 games!) From portions of games I've seen and heard, some of the goals scored on him have been more the result of an unfortunate carom off a Penguins equipment. I believe in last night's win over the Montreal Canadiens, I heard that one of the goals went off Rob Scuderi, and another off of Gonchar's stick. He did get deked into next Tuesday during the shootout by former 'guin Alexei Kovalev. From what I've heard and read, God Himself would have had a tough time making that save.

And, the magic stat that I've been referencing since October, the SOG vs. SOGA, the Pens are at an OK -2.2 in the differential. There are 9 teams behind them, and only 3 of them (Calgary, Montreal, and Nashville) would be in the playoffs if they started today.

I wrote a post at the forum about how having a negative SOG/SOGA differential isn't necessarily the kiss of death, it's been fairly indicative of one's chances to reach, then advance in the playoffs. I can easily see it shaping up that way again. Still a ways to go yet.

Oh, and Sidney Crosby. He only leads the league by 12 points for the Art Ross Trophy. 2nd place? Alex Ovechkin.

And he's comin' to town tomorrow.

---XLI (part II)---

Firstly, I actually expect this to be a good game. And for once, I don't have to invest emotional energy into rooting for a team (Steelers last year), or against a team (New England, the two years previously). I can just sit back, eat pretzels, and watch football with no stress.

Secondly, I know enough people in Chicago from my days there that I'm kind of pulling for the Bears, though I really like Dungy and have felt bad for him since another coach took his Tampa Bay team to the pinnacle. I also wouldn't mind seeing Peyton Manning win, because I'm tired of the whole "monkey" thing. I would not, however, look forward to all of the endorsement that would follow. Heck, at that point, they might as well include PMN (Peyton Manning Network) on your basic cable/satellite package.

Third, I'm not sure why Brian Urlacher is seen as the godsend of this team. No doubt he's good. He has the potential to reach Singletary status (probably not Butkus, because today's rules don't lend itself to that kind of defense), but he actually is not the true anchor of the Bears defense.

I'd been driving myself crazy with wondering why the Bears defense went to Hell in the last few weeks of the regular season.

After some cursory searching, DT Tommie Harris is the answer. I did not realize how important he was to the Bears scheme. Pre-injury (including the game in which he was injured): 12.5 points per game allowed, and some of those were off turnovers and don't count against the defense. After (including playoffs): 23.8

That's almost double.

The Colts, meanwhile, as far as wins and losses, appear to be hitting their stride at the right time, too. The comeback over New England is the only thing that has impressed me about their playoff run. Peyton Manning was ineffective against Kansas City, and only slightly better against Baltimore.

Kansas City game-planned into Indy's hands and Baltimore just didn't have the rushing attack to keep their offense balanced. Indianapolis, really, has only had one really good half of postseason football.

I look for Chicago to be more effective on the ground, helping take the burden off another embattled quarterback in Rex Grossman. And, a steady rushing attack will help take time off the clock. Chicago is skilled enough in the secondary, even without Mike Brown (who's been out since week 6) to disguise their coverage packages to be able to get Peyton Manning to make a couple of mistakes.

Urlacher will have to be used like Troy Polamalu. He's fair in pass coverage and a great run-stopper. Get him in the backfield, and he can make things happen. He won't be the MVP, but:

Bears 24, Colts 20 (MVP - Devin Hester)

---Downward Spiral---

I guess the average Joe Sportsfan doesn't care much for seeing athletes respect each other.

I'm not referring to the SuperBowl Media Day stuff where each team takes turns throwing each other bouquets and saying nothing more of their own team than something like, "We've put ourselves in a position to have a chance, and we're looking forward to it." All that fluff is to avoid saying something dumb (a la Jerramy Stevens) to get players on the other side riled up. It's a part of their job as "professional athletes" to keep the self-praise to a minimum and the compliments to the opponent in steady supply.

I'm not even specifically talking about the athletes.

People would rather watch Jason Varitek and A-Rod go at it than the St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers shake hands after a playoff series. Oddly enough, some of these same folks hate boxing and "wrestling".

Perhaps it's my experience in the martial arts that has taught me that physical conflict is largely an unnecessary thing. Most of that conflict can be avoided through a willingness to calmly discuss differences. But that's considered boring in a society where political parties are regarded as sports teams. Why isn't the physicality of sports itself enough?

I was very surprised by a column at Mondesi's House that says the lack of friction in the days leading up to the Superbowl is a "blogger's nightmare". When it happens, I'll gladly admit that it does make for interesting reading and speculation. Maybe I've implied the wrong thing here, but it almost seems like the author wishes for these things to happen, rather than just accept whether these things unfold (or don't).

There are still displays of good sportsmanship out there in the pros. Even during some heated rivalry games in football, following the final gun, players from both sides kneel together in a circle and pray, or can otherwise be seen congenially speaking. At the conclusion of playoff hockey series, both teams form the handshake line.

The attention, however, goes to what T.O. is doing now or who Randy Moss fake-mooned (which really wasn't that bad when you consider the gesture was a returned jab at the Packer fan base who actually DO moon the opposing team's bus). We focus on Michael Barrett's child-like response to a collision with A.J. Pierzynski.

It seems we love to see things like the Denver Nuggets' Carmelo Anthony run away from a fight he pretty much instigated, or, even closer to home, Jack Lambert light up an opposing quarterback, then emphatically tell him not to get up. Is it additional bragging rights we as fans seek? Or are we gradually headed toward the day when there'll be an experimental TV show that features two inmates on death row engaging in mortal combat?

Mortal KONbat?

If large, grown men throwing themselves (and each other) around the gridiron, mashing each other against the rink's plexiglass, or blocking the plate with a runner bearing down aren't enough, I guess it's not a surprise why "Bumfights" was such a smash hit.

The reason why that's necessary, however, may never be explained properly to me.


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4/19/2007 7:17 PM  

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