Tag Archives: NFL

How to talk to your kids about Richard Sherman

While trying to keep an open mind, I’ve been watching the arguments unfold the past couple of days in the wake of Richard Sherman’s bombastic remarks after the Seahawks defeated the 49ers in the NFC championship game.

Outrage was in abundance that night, with many football fans denouncing Sherman as an ungracious lout and vowing to root for the Broncos in the Super Bowl to spite him. (I’ve read, too, that there was a lamentable racist slant to many attacks on Sherman, although I  observed none from those I follow on Twitter.)

A contrarian view came up in response to the denouncers, and that is that it was “refreshing” that a player would speak so openly in an era of the NFL devoid of controversial figures.

My take?

I approach it the way my father did when teaching me about sportsmanship, and I hope I conveyed the same message to my own children: Compete as hard as you can. Never taunt, never boast, never gloat. When the game is over, be gracious in victory or defeat. Shake your opponent’s hand and say “good game.

That’s the code you follow to become a man (or woman).

I wouldn’t have to ask my father what he thought of Sherman’s outburst, and I’m sure my kids don’t have to ask me what I think.

 

 

 

 

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Who’s the more aggrieved Bay Area athlete – Alex Smith or Brian Wilson?

There’s nothing “tender” in the dispensing of major league contracts to baseball players. San Francisco last week declined to offer a contract to Brian Wilson, the fierce and funky closer who in 2010 helped the Giants win their first World Series since the franchise bolted New York for the West Coast.

Wilson has been rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.  He was grounded for the season after two early appearances in 2012, a year in which the Giants would again be champions. Although he wasn’t on the mound after April, he remained a spirited force in the dugout and clubhouse the entire season. His full bearded, goofy antics — playing organ on a teammate’s cap — were an integral part of the Giants’ personality for several seasons.

In the end, that meant bupkis.

Wilson reportedly is angry and ready to sign with another team, and who can blame him?

But is Wilson the most aggrieved athlete in the Bay Area? Consider Alex Smith, the 49ers quarterback who’s been benched after sustaining a concussion and having to watch Colin Kaepernick step in and lead the team to consecutive victories.

Wilson’s arm injury was serious and a second go-round, keeping him out of play essentially for a full season while Sergio Romo eventually took over as closer, was tested for weeks during the season and playoffs and was nearly flawless as the Giants swept the Detroit Tigers in the World Series.

Not to diminish the impact of his injury, but Smith suffered a concussion and wasn’t able to play for just two games.

Kaepernick, in his second season, stepped in. He took the snaps in a game when the Rams and 49ers tied, then performed phenomenally as the 49ers stomped the Bears on Monday Night Football. He did well again last weekend against the Saints.

It’s Coach Jim Harbaugh’s call to make, but I think he owes Smith better treatment.

Under Harbaugh’s direction, Smith emerged as an excellent quarterback in the 2011 season, taking the team to the NFC championship game. The game was lost in overtime when an inexperienced 49ers player botched a punt return in overtime; the Giants got the ball and kicked the winning field goal.

The 49ers have treated Smith shabbily over the years, and demoting him is just another kick in the pants. I actually think he’s getting a rawer deal than Wilson is. Wilson’s situation evolved; Smith’s changed suddenly.

Either way, I wish both players nothing but success in 2013, when they’ll both be wearing new uniforms.

New York vs. Boston again – but I’m OK with that

On these posts I’ve complained, whined and kvetched about how America’s major television networks and the media overall are obsessed with the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry.

Super Bowl XLVI is upon us, and we have another Boston-New York matchup with the Patriots and Giants. The network executives must be mighty pleased that those two big northeastern markets are reprented, but NFL execs are always  pleased with whatever teams are playing.

The Super Bowl is the biggest thing in sports – in this country, anyway – and it will draw monster ratings even if Tennessee is playing Tampa Bay. The big game rules regardless of the market size of the competing teams.

In the NFL, talent is dispersed, dynasties are rare and most teams have at least a strong  hope every few years at getting a shot at glory. Except maybe the Cleveland Browns.

There’s a lesson for Major League Baseball in the NFL’s universal success. Football has unified national appeal. Baseball, while enjoying broad appeal nationwide, is at heart a region-by-region, market-by-market affair.  And the game pays a price for that.

The baseball season ends, and winter begins

It’s no coincidence: The baseball season concluded last night as the Cardinals knocked off the Rangers in St. Louis, and it’s snowing this morning in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and New York.

What more do fans of the Phillies, Pirates, Yankees and Mets need to remind them that the 2011 season didn’t go their way?

But what a season it was! The Pirates were winning for most of the first half of the year, while two hours away in Cleveland the Indians were leading the American League Central, and the Tigers eventually won that division.

The Brewers got back to the playoffs for the first time in 29 years, and the Diamondbacks smoked the National League West.  The Red Sox dominated for so long, then fell apart.

The Rangers rolled through the season and the American League playoffs to get another crack at the title. And the Cubs still sucked.

But the best story of all was the Cardinals, coming from way back to sneak into the playoffs as the AL Central Wild Card and ultimately win the World Series in seven games.

The series got better ratings than in previous years, helped by wild and crazy Game 6, which is already a big chapter in more than a century of Major League Baseball lore.

Baseball’s detractors will coldly point out that the playoffs’ and series’ ratings pale in comparison to the ratings the National Football League games get, and there’s no arguing the point.

The NFL has our wallets.

But baseball has our hearts.

It’s baseball season. Enough of these other sports.

I turned on the car radio this afternoon hoping to catch a baseball game only to find a couple of NBA playoff games. I found that a bit depressing – not because I don’t like the NBA, but because it’s April 16 and these are just the first games of the first round.

The hockey playoffs got started earlier in the week – again, I like the NHL a lot – but they’ll drag on until June, skating parallel with the NBA.

For fans, there should be a couple of golden months each year when the sports overlap. September, say, when the NFL cranks up and the baseball races tighten up. And I’m OK with April sharing the glory with the new baseball season and the hockey and basketball playoffs.

But late May? June? No. That’s time for baseball.  And November? Save it for football.

Labor troubles, the NFL and a bit of perspective

National Football League owners and the players’ union broke off negotiations today, and a whole lot of stuff I don’t understand will follow.

What I do understand is that if the football season is delayed or scrubbed, I will survive and life will go on.

That’s a lesson I learned from the long Major League Baseball strike that washed out the last month and a half of the 1994 season and canceled the playoffs and World Series. As that strike approached, I thought suspension of play would cut me to the core.

It didn’t.

While I missed listening to the Oakland Athletics day in and day out and scanning the headlines for news of the other teams, I shrugged it off and went about my daily routine. I was happy when play resumed the next season, but not overjoyed.

I have little memory of the 1981 strike, likely because I was preoccupied with the pending birth of our first child. I was in high school during the brief strike in 1972, and I probably took it as  positive because there was less chance the Indians’ games in Cleveland would get snowed out.

The strikes chipped away at the corners of my loyalty to the game, and while distrusting the owners and never siding with them, I tended to fault the players more as their salaries sailed farther and farther away from my middle class bearings.

But the more I’ve read of baseball history, and the history of pro sports in general, the more I’ve come to see how the owners have taken advantage of the players over the decades.

In pro sports, there’s plenty of money to go around. I hope football works out its troubles for the sake of everyone, most especially the beer vendors and souvenir hawkers and others whose modest earnings hinge heavily on the riches of the  NFL.

Peering past Super Bowl Sunday to the start of Spring Training

We have one more week of bread-and-circus hoopla leading up to the Super Bowl, and then we can shift our full attention to what really matters: baseball.

Spring training is just around the corner. Knowing that pitchers and catchers will soon be breaking out the balls and mitts keeps us going through the cold months.

As much as I anticipate the return of the daily ritual of baseball, I know that these long weeks of winter are necessary to keep the love of the game alive.

For this San Francisco Giants fan, this will be the shortest off-season in my lifetime. I hung on every game through the end of the World Series, which ended in November, for goodness’ sakes. The new season starts early, on March 31.

Bring it on.