Tag Archives: championship

“Why Alabama is the Best & Oklahoma is Just OK; 2 Programs That Went In Opposite Directions”

 

nick_saban_09182012

What a difference 10 years makes.

As I looked over the Oklahoma media offerings this last week, I read 19 articles on the reason the media said Oklahoma lost to Ohio St.   Only 2 writers got it right.   Let’s go on a 10 year journey for answers to why Oklahoma is just OK, and Alabama is the best program in the country.

The Reality in Norman:

Dozens of Sooner fans either blocked or unfollowed me on Twitter at the start of the season when I said this was a 3 to 4 loss Oklahoma team.   In my mind it was a mistake that people had them as the #3 team in the nation. In fact at the start of the season I had Houston and Alabama playing for the National Championship. I’m a closet Sooner fan; I still have my throwback Billy Sims Jersey in my closet; but we need to look at the facts.

Bob Stoops
Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops comments on his team during the Big 12 Conference Football Media Days in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tim Sharp)

When Bob Stoops Arrived at Oklahoma:

When Bob Stoops and his defensive coordinator/brother Mike Stoops first came to Norman, it was a breath of fresh air. With one of the richest football traditions in the country, Bob took over after the John Blake era which was a train wreck. Bob Stoops won a national championship beating four top 5 teams along the way, including #1 Nebraska.

The Stoops brothers were aggressive and they had dominating defenses.  The Sooners dismantled Florida St in the National Championship game 13-2 with one of the great defensive performances in college football history.  It was a magical year in the OK state.

Stoops also embraced the tradition. Here is a school that still holds the record for most wins in a row in College Football history at 47. And he showed great respect for their head coach Bud Wilkinson. Many remember the hitch and trailer play against #1 Nebraska in the National Championship year to honor the team of the 1970’s who used that play to help beat Nebraska in Lincoln. Many also remember on their own 29 yard line in Tuscaloosa, using a fake punt in the third quarter and then throwing a bomb on the next play for a touchdown to help beat Alabama on the road. I remember a lot of great risks and fun payoffs. Those days are long gone.

I also remember Sooner fans booing for 3 hours a couple of years ago watching OU’s CB’s playing 10-15 yards off of the line of scrimmage against Baylor like it was pitch and catch in the backyard. The aggressive magic turned into old man conservatism.

Nick Saban Comes To Alabama:

People forget what a train wreck the Alabama Football program was before Nick Saban. There were several scandals, two probations, wins that were forfeited, and the firing of newly hired head coach Mike Price who was a little too wild at a strip club in Florida.   Add the over-matched Mike Shula’s coaching tenure and this once proud program had become a dysfunctional mess.   All that’s forgotten now.   Saban’s first press conference was filled with excitement.

 

Saban was the conquering hero at LSU in college but in the pro’s the media ate him up; especially during his second year which ended 6-10. Like most college coaches he was used to the college media bubble that can be mostly controlled by the coaches. In the pro’s a coach was like a raw steak in a lake full of piranha. His players didn’t like him, and neither did the media. After he left Miami, for months ESPN and NFL reporters all over the country destroyed Saban. They called him Nicktator and Nick Satan. I’ve never in my lifetime seen a coach so hated in one place and loved in another.   And to be honest he probably deserved a little of both. In 2010 he somewhat apologized for his “lack of professionalism” in Miami but it didn’t help.

The NFL Network has trashed him on several worst of lists including the below video (pretty harsh) naming him the 7th worst college coach to ever coach in the NFL. Many remember him scolding the Miami media for weeks saying he wasn’t leaving when in reality he had been talking to the late Alabama AD Mal Moore for weeks.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1LNA4eiqw4s

Here is the explanation in the book “Saban; The Making of a Coach”.

http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/sports/football/new-book-nick-sabans-wife-wanted-out-of-miami-push/nm2Ty/

Oklahoma Going Down, Alabama and the SEC Going Up in Recruiting:

When Saban arrived from Miami, he immediately went on a recruiting blitz. He didn’t have the time the other schools did to recruit his first year; he arrived late; but he immediately improved his first class in 2007 and didn’t just blow the year off. That helped set a tone.  The biggest reason Alabama is the best is because they recruit the best and have the best talent.  CBS reported that 80% of Bama’s players are 4 or 5 star recruits.  That’s unreal.

The SEC has 3 of the best recruiters in college football. Mario Cristobal at Alabama, Tommy Thigpen at Tennessee, and Corey Raymond at LSU.   These are the guys doing the dirty work of visiting high schools, kissing babies, eating mom’s apple pie and talking to dad’s about the good ol’ days. Imagine Mario Cristobal wooing you and then Nick Saban closing the deal.   That’s tough to beat.

Urban Meyer got all the credit at Florida but who was one of his key recruiters?   Charlie Strong the new Head Coach at Texas. Strong went on to great success at Louisville and just had a top ten recruiting class for Texas in 2016.

Another thing Alabama has done in the recruiting wars is dominate the offensive and defensive line position. In the last 3 years Alabama had the #1 ranked offensive line class in the nation.   Their defensive line doesn’t miss out either. They are either #1 or #2 for the last 6 years. The NFL draft shows the fruits of their success.

While most teams are going to finesse offenses using the spread, Alabama for the most part has kept their roots. Saban has allowed OC Lane Kiffin to open up things in the past but when the chips are down, the power running game is what they are all about.

Alabama’s first recruiting class with Saban in 2007 was #17 in the Nation. Then the magic started to begin. It’s amazing what happened.

Recruiting Rankings:

2007:

Oklahoma #5

Alabama #17

 

2008

Oklahoma #8

Alabama #3

 

2009

Oklahoma #11

Alabama #2

 

2010

Oklahoma #20

Alabama #3

 

Now let’s fast forward to the last 4 years.

(www.rivals.com)

2013

Oklahoma #15 (0 five star, 7 four star)

Alabama #1 (4 five star, 13 four star)

 

2014

Oklahoma #15 (1 five star, 8 four star)

Alabama #1 (6 five star, 13 four star)

 

2015

Oklahoma #14 (0 five star, 14 four star)

Alabama #2 (4 five star, 14 four star)

 

2016

Oklahoma #16 (1 five star, 10 four star)

Alabama #1 (5 five star, 10 four star)

 

2017

Oklahoma #4

Alabama #2

In some publications, Alabama just had their sixth straight #1 college football recruiting class. Oklahoma’s highest recruiting class in that time was #14.

In the last four years these are the 4 & 5 star players:

Oklahoma: (2 five star, 39 four star)

Alabama: (19 five star, 50 four star)

There is good news for the Sooners though; Bob Stoops has rebounded in 2017 and OU is now ranked the #4 recruiting class so far. That team from Tuscaloosa? #2 so far. Now many things can happen; some players change teams like the wind so there is still a lot of work to do. Remember you are dealing with teenagers; but hopefully OU is back on track.

Alabama a Step Above:

The #1 thing is obviously they have the best players.  No one recruits like they do.

Innovation isn’t Saban’s thing.  What makes him great is preparation, readiness, teaching quality fundamentals and technique and demanding perfection.  It’s one thing to have the best players but you have to teach and coach them properly.

My dad was a great coach and he taught me so much.  Proper footwork, tackle readiness/positioning, balance; football is more in depth than fans think.  I love watching well coached teams.  From Alabama to Jim Harbaughs teams, to the great dynasty at North Dakota St. in the FCS, I really enjoy watching the teams play. I especially love defense.  The rules in college and the pro’s have made it a federal crime to breath near a WR or QB so passing is much easier in today’s game. That means a great pass rush is VITAL.  While other teams are still only rushing 3 men, Saban and other SEC schools get that a pass rush is important.  Some teams still don’t.

The average fan says it’s a passing game now and defense doesn’t matter as much. Problem is they are wrong.  The Big 12 seems to feel this way.  In reality though good defenses will beat good offenses most of the time.  Ask the Carolina Panthers and the Clemson Tigers from last year.  Ask Tom Brady how he feels about the NY Giants DL in the Super Bowl.

The SEC Formula; Nick Saban’s Way:

The SEC formula that Nick Saban uses is based on the 1970’s NFL; the greatest era of NFL football. It includes 5 things.

-have great team speed

-stop the run to make offenses predictable

-put great pressure on the QB and control the tempo

-have a great offensive and defensive line

-have a good power running game to run the ball when you need and want to.

Now some will say well of course you will win if you do all those things.  Then why doesn’t everyone do it?

Think about it.  The Big 12 struggles defensively and isn’t physical.  The Pac 12 isn’t physical other than Stanford and they lack team speed.  Michigan & Ohio St. are changing this but for the most part Big 10 teams lack team speed and the ACC; who has the worst winning % in the bowl series of any Big 5 Conference; also struggle defensively and lack physicality.  There are exception but this is the reality of each conference.

While many teams have fallen in love with the spread offense and throwing 50 times a game, Nick Saban goes with what brung him; defense & a physical running game makes him tick.

This is the way the Big 8 used to be when Oklahoma and Nebraska were winning National Championships. Bo Schembechler, Woody Hayes and Bear Bryant did it; it’s old school football that Alabama plays with a little more modern passing offense. None of Sabans QB’s will tear up the NFL, but his defensive and offensive lines will.

Saban’s Way Saved the Mississippi Game:

I tweeted at halftime of the Mississippi Alabama game, “RUN THE BALL, RUN RUN RUN”. Alabama threw 23 times in the first half for 2.8 yards a reception. Bama was behind 24-17 and were lucky to be so close. They put the game’s hands in the arm of Jalen Hurt; a freshman QB; on the road. Hurt isn’t a particularly accurate thrower and he missed on some key passes, but wow can he run.

Alabama passed only 8 times in the second half and ran for over 334 yards and won 48-43. They ended the game with 7 yards per rush, and only 5.1 yards per reception. Don’t think for a second that Nick Saban didn’t tell OC Lane Kiffin at halftime, “we aren’t throwing 23 times this half”.

Bob Stoops To LSU?:

Many in Oklahoma are not real happy with Bob Stoops. There are rumors that he is being eyed for the head coaching spot in LSU. Because of the failures of late, Stoops has taken a beating in the media. I saw one article calling him Big Shame Bob instead of Big Game Bob. OU is now 8-9 in bowl games with Stoops as coach.

It’s hard to see him leaving OU but if he is going to stay he has to hit the recruiting trail. (LSU Job? Tom Herman of Houston is the sexy pick and I’d think he’d come but if he doesn’t, with Chip Kelly in a mess at San Francisco with their lack of talent; Kelly @ LSU?)

Some say Stoops got complacent in recruiting and the numbers back that. So if I were talking to Bob I’d tell him, “It’s ok Bob; you can keep the spread but you have to go back to what made your teams great from the beginning. A great OL & DL & a great defense. I have my 5 part formula above that you can use when recruiting. And if you don’t want to listen to me, get a hold of Nick Saban.  He’s got a copy”.

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“Chyna’s Last Video; In Death She Get’s The Respect She Always Deserved In Life”

chyna

Chyna’s last words on her Youtube video from Sunday was “Love Y’all and Peace.”  As is seen so many times; in death she sadly finally is getting the respect and appreciation that she always longed for in life.

Here is an update of “The Reconstruction of Chyna which will be out in 2017”

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/angra/the-reconstruction-of-chyna/posts/1511550

Yesterday when it was announced that WWE/WWF 45 year old legend Joanie “Chyna” Laurer died at her place in Redondo Beach from a possible prescription drug overdose, the collective heart of wrestling fans and present and former wrestlers was broken.  If there was ever a wrestler who fans felt so much love and sympathy for it was Chyna.

Let’s be real.  The lack of acknowledgement over the years from the WWE about Chyna’s career and not burying the hatchet was unacceptable.  I’m not stupid.  It wasn’t a coincidence that the first WWE voice that talked about her passing was Stephanie McMahon.

From doing a pedigree off of the top rope against Chris Jericho, to gorilla pressing wrestlers like Eddie Guerrero. Chyna was indeed the 9th Wonder of the World.

Chyna’s Big Break; How the N.W.O. Played a Role:

Chyna was trained by Killer Kowalski.  Luna Vachon; another wrestling great; tells the story of this big weight lifting woman.  “Here was this girl; cute as a button with strawberry blond hair; a weightlifters body and this squeaky little girls voice and you fell in love with her in a minute.  She was so adorable with her sweet personality.  I remember at times she got screwed out of her pay and I made sure she was paid what they said.  At times I even gave her some of my pay because they took advantage of her.  She was very naive.”

In 1996 Shawn Michaels and HHH saw her at a wrestling show and loved her immediately.  Vince McMahon originally did not want her involved in WWE.  He had always liked his women to be the Barbie doll types; (still does); big chests and pretty faces.  What changed McMahon’s mind though is their Monday night wars nemesis WCW.

WCW was fresh and exciting.  They were signing many of the stars from WWE and they were always edgy and fun the way WWE used to be.  One of their angles was to sign Chyna as the only female member of the newly formed N.W.O. which was taking the wrestling world by storm.  Killer Kowalski; who trained Chyna; stated that he went to Shane McMahon and told him about the plans that WCW had for Chyna and Shane then signed her.  Chyna originally had a verbal agreement with WCW but then went against it to go to the WWE.  The rest is history.

Changed The Wrestling World:

Chyna was unlike any female wrestler before or since.  At 5’ 10” 180 pounds, she was a physical specimen.  She was a weight lifter and a gym rat and her work outs rivaled many of the male stars of the day.  She didn’t have the smooth wrestling moves of a Madusa or Wendy Richter, or the amazing wrestling prowess of the Fabulous Moolah, but she did have a physical presence that had never been seen before or since.

She originally gained fame with Degeneration X as the body guard of HHH and Shawn Michaels.  She usually just sat back with her arms crossed looking intimidating, while DX did all of their classic bad boy stuff.  She would sometimes help them cheat in matches with her famous “low blow” so that they could win and DX became a fan favorite.

Many of the male wrestlers were very leery of letting a female get the best of them in matches thinking it would hurt or ruin their careers.  In 1999 however, Chyna became the first female entrant of the Royal Rumble by being chosen #30 to enter the match.  She was eliminated by Stone Cold Steve Austin.

The Dark Side of Chyna: How She Changed:

It was obvious she would destroy the likes of Lita, Ivory and Trish Stratus (she beat Trish in 90 seconds) but this is wrestling.  Many said she refused to sell other wrestlers moves and that she became mean and seemed very insecure and troubled.

Here is the last video that Chyna ever did on April 17th from her Youtube page.  It’s obvious she is in a bad way and possibly under the influence of something.  It’s still unclear exactly when she died but this is a sad thing to watch.

Breaking Barriers by Wrestling Men as a Singles Competitor:

No offense to any female wrestler or wrestling fan of today, but I smile wide when fans try to tell me how awesome female wrestlers of the WWE are.  With all due respect they could not carry Chyna’s gym bag.

Chyna broke away from HHH in 1999 and became a singles competitor.  She became the first woman to ever qualify for the King of the Ring series, and amazingly was the first to be the #1 contender for the men’s WWE World Championship.

Her breakout feud that launched her as a fan favorite was with Jeff Jarrett.  Her first match with Intercontinental Champion Jarrett was at Unforgiven which Chyna lost.  Jarrett’s contract was up at WWE and he was moving on so he had to give up the belt.  Chyna has said in shoot interviews that Jarrett agreed to lose to her straight up if the WWE paid him $300,000.00 dollars.  The WWE agreed and Jarrett lost to Chyna at No Mercy.  She thus became the one and only female Intercontinental Champion in WWE history!

She wrestled many men, but her most vicious feud was with Chris Jericho.  In one segment Jericho went back stage and beat up Chyna splitting her head open with a hair dryer pounding it against her head when she was down.  Jericho was great at creating heat and putting people over and it worked.  WWE fans were even more passionate about her.

Chyna did beat Chris Jericho at Survivor Series with an amazing pedigree from the top rope cementing her as a true icon of the wrestling world.  I’m not the biggest Jericho fan but I give him tons of respect when he put Chyna over.  Jericho has also said some glowing things about Chyna.  “The only woman to ever knock me down.”

Mamacita & Latino Heat: 

This is probably people’s most fondest memories of Chyna.  Very few performers were as good as Eddie Guerrero and it was a match made in heaven.  Chyna became the on screen girlfriend of the latin bad boy who used his Latino Heat charm to steal her heart.  Behind that wry smile you knew Eddie was lying, cheating and stealing but he sucked you in every time.

It also showed fans a more feminine, vulnerable and softer side of Chyna that made people love her even more.  In one of the funniest scenes I remember, Eddie was found taking a shower with 2 other women on secret video.  Chyna was engaged to Eddie and she was crushed.  Eddie tried everything to win her back but it was a puppy that finally did it.  Their connection was very fun to watch and super entertaining.

Here is Eddie in a rare shoot interview talking about Chyna saying that it was fun to work with her but that at the end it was obvious she was in pain for things that had happened.

Her Abrupt Departure:

Chyna went in depth about her painful breakup with HHH on podcasts and shoot interviews.  She said that she heard phone messages from Stephanie on Helmsley’s phone and found a love letter from her.  All the while everything was denied.  When the cat was out of the bag, she talked about the coldness and lack of remorse that Stephanie and HHH had.  “A simple sorry would have helped a lot”.  Vince McMahon told her to go home and that they would send a proposal for a new contract.  The fax came and it said she was no longer needed.  She never entered a WWE ring again.

After that she was a mess.  She lost her job, her finances went to pot and then she got into a relationship with HHH’s friend X-Pac who was chasing his own demons.  She turned to drugs and did porn movies and sometimes gave crazed interviews or Youtube videos.  She did a reality show and went on Howard Stern and the treatment people gave her was just criminal.  Instead of helping her or supporting her many used her for target practice.

Why Isn’t She in the Hall of Fame:

Here is another let’s be real moment.  The WWE Hall of Fame IS NOT a real hall of fame.  It is a made up award for people that are in good standing with WWE and who have made contributions to the company.  No offense to some of the recipients but it’s starting to be somewhat of a joke with some of the people that are in it.  Bruno Sammartino took forever to get in due to his negative comments about the company.  The rumors of Macho Man Randy Savage and Stephanie are said to be why he never got in while he was alive.  The great Rick Rude isn’t in but I’m sure he will get in fairly soon.  He is just too talented to keep out.  I’m sure him surprising WWE by showing up on television and signing with WCW on the same day he was shown on WWE television is the reason.  Scott Steiner trashes WWE any time he can so he’s never getting in.

HHH has said Chyna shouldn’t be in because he doesn’t want his kids to do a Google search on Chyna and see what she’s done.  Talk about insulting our intelligence.  Is he kidding?  Do a search on WWE wrestlers; male and female; and look at how many did porn or naked photos to make money.  How many sleazy story lines have their been in WWE; how many drug overdoses and wrestlers have been linked to drug scandals?

Vince McMahon has always wanted to do a storyline on incest.  He wanted one where he would be the father of Stephanie’s baby.  When she said no, Vince suggested Shane.  She again said no.  He once wanted an angle with Ken Shamrock doing an incest love affair with his “sister” Ryan Shamrock (who he was actually dating).  Ken said no way and magically his push ended.

http://www.wrestlezone.com/news/211209-backstage-update-vince-mcmahon-approves-incest-storyline

HHH himself cheated to get Stephanie and then lied about it.  And just try to find a wrestler over 35 who didn’t take steroids.  And while HHH and WWE is shining up their halo’s, they promoted WWE into soft porn by making huge deals with playboy for several years.  I’ve never heard ANYONE use HHH, or the McMahon’s in the same sentence that you use the word moral or ethics.

Will Chyna Get Into The HOF:

Yes; just like in anything, death erases barriers.  In my opinion in time all will be forgiven and this is now a time to save face and to look gracious.  “This went on too long and we need to forgive.”  Look for Chyna to get into the HOF and all of the people that had been blocking her getting into the HOF and trashing her in interviews will now have a chance to glowingly speak kindly of her.  It’s hard not to be cynical.

Bill Apter interviews Chyna in October of 2015:

 

Chyna really wanted to be inducted.  Three weeks ago she tweeted that she would like for one day to return to WWE so she could thank the fans that supported her so much.  “Without them I am nothing.”

Her Legacy:

NO ONE was ever as physically dominant as Chyna, but I think what people will remember most is her sweet personality during the good times.

Her friends and fans will remember her for her kindness and her good heart.  In my limited interactions with her she was a sweet fun person.  I loved her interactions with her fans.  She loved them and they adored her.

The wrestling business usually leaves few survivors.  In this sexist men’s club, she blazed trails and gained the respect and adoration of millions.  She was a beacon for many women who weren’t 100 pound blond cheerleaders to be who they were and to be the best and that you can do anything a man can do without selling out.

At worst she was a sad tale of insecure out of control pain that couldn’t find peace while leaving a trail of wreckage behind her.  I think all of us could relate to Chyna even a little bit to the times when we are/were lost and felt in pain.

At her best she was the essence of sweetness and kindness and appreciation for whatever she got, making sure a positive and kind message followed her.

Chyna’s last words on her Youtube video from Sunday was “Love Y’all and Peace.”  I think I speak for every fan, writer, announcer and wrestler in saying to Chyna that we love you too.  Thank you so much for all you did for everyone. And lastly eternal, sweet peace to you too.

“In 3 Minutes the Two Most Famous Goals in World Cup History Shocked the Soccer World”

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While Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi rule the soccer world today, if you were to ask historians who the greatest soccer player of all time is, you would probably get two answers.  For many, the majestic and magical Pele’ may be their answer. To others though it would be the great Diego Maradona.  While in today’s soccer world athleticism and speed is a huge tool for players like Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, Pele’ and Maradona used their ball handling skills and imagination to delight the world of soccer. They were more than soccer greats, they were artists.

The 1986 World Cup quarterfinal in Mexico between Argentina and England had a deep rooted meaning of anger and bitterness. In 1982 the Falkland War between Argentina and the UK had begun.   It was a 3 month war that created extreme friction between the two countries. This game meant so much to both teams.

Maradona had electrified crowds with his vision, cunning, and amazing ball handling and playmaking skills.   Listed at 5′ 7″ tall, in reality he was only 5′ 5″ tall but he had a strong, stocky build with muscular legs. He led Argentina into the quarterfinals with dominating expertise on the pitch.

The talented England squad had a lot of expectations. They had their only World Cup win in 1966 when they were the host country. England and Argentina were both soccer crazy countries and if you add the Falkland War into the mix, this game meant much more than a World Cup semi final birth.

On June 22, 1986, Estadio Azteca in Mexico City was magical. The place was rocking with an amazing 105,000 people jammed into the stadium. Chants, songs, and every noise device known on earth were in full effect from the fans. On a warm, sunny day the electricity in the crowd along with all the beautiful colors would create a once in a lifetime experience.   Half Wizard of Oz, half religious experience, this game would be one for the ages.

The first half was a feeling out period for the most part. Both sides being wary of the scoring talents of the other. England’s star Gary Lineker was watched closely by Argentina. Lineker would later win the Golden Shoe award for the highest scorer in the World Cup.

In the second half Argentina came out more aggressive. In the 51st minute, Maradona went on one of his patented drives.   As he entered the goal box, he attempted a give and go move to his teammate. The English defender intercepted the pass but kicked the ball toward the English goalie. Maradona; who had kept going in the hopes of getting a return pass; jumped up in front of the goalie and hit the ball. GOAL!   But was it? The England team protested wildly saying that he had hit the ball with his hand. The referee said he did not see that and allowed the goal.

Later when he was interviewed and asked about the goal, the Argentine star said that the goal was scored, “A bit with the head of Maradona and another bit with the hand of God”. From then on in sports lore, this goal was known as the “Hand of God” goal.

Diego Maradona had just started. Three minutes later he took a simple pass on Argentina’s side of the field. Maradona then took off like a jet and dribbled through 5 English defenders and went the length of the field. English goal keeper Peter Shilton could do nothing as a rocket shot went past him. The Argentina crowd went crazy and the stadium was electrified. Famous Spanish Speaking announcer from Argentina, Victor Hugo Morales, was going nuts actually thanking God for seeing such a goal. Immediately people knew they had seen something special. In 2002 FIFA and the soccer world voted this goal as the goal of the century and the greatest goal ever scored.

Argentina was up 2-0 now but England was not going to go away quietly. At the 70th minute England substituted in John Barnes.   Immediately his energy and passing skills changed everything. Barnes began to pound the goal area with crosses. England looked like a different team and in the 81st minute a cross was put in the goal by Lineker. It wasn’t over yet. At the 87th minute with the crowd on their feet, another great Barnes cross was sent over the middle to an open Lineker but it was inches out of his reach. A few minutes later the crowd roared when the three whistles of the referee marked the end of the game. The game meant so much that many in Argentina felt this was partial revenge for the bitter military conflict between the two countries.

After the game the media and the soccer world was buzzing. People knew they had seen something special, and the charismatic Maradona fueled that fire on and off the field.

To this day Maradona is celebrated by most fans, especially in Argentina where he has icon status. For Americans to understand what a star Maradona is; especially during his heyday; think Michael Jordan and Babe Ruth; COMBINED. And that isn’t an overstatement.

Some fans though are also disappointed and embarrassed by his lifestyle and mistakes.   He was suspended for 15 months in the Italian league in 1991 when he tested positive for cocaine and he was also sent home from the 1994 World Cup in the U.S. for testing positive for stimulants. He owes millions in back taxes in Italy and has had more than a few run ins with the law, the press, and even soccer officials in his own country.

For all the turmoil Maradona has created in his life, the 1986 World Cup will always be his shining moment.  To this day just the sound of his name brings back great memories to Argentina and the soccer world. And in a 3 minute span, he created sports history that will be talked about forever.

 

 

Steve Kerr brings toughness to the Warriors Through a Heartbreaking Past:

kerr_family
Steve Kerr, his 3 siblings and his mom and dad

Whenever change comes to a professional team there are always extremes when it comes to fan reaction. You have some fans who think every move is a good one and all will be great, and you have others that think the sky is about to fall and that all is lost.   Thankfully some fans wait to see what actually happens. The Steve Kerr hiring as the Golden State Warriors coach elicited all of those reactions.

After listening to local talk shows and sportscasters giving their two cents, some have questioned whether the toughness that Mark Jackson seemed to bring will be lost with the more calmer and people oriented Steve Kerr.   In all honesty, there are few tougher than Steve Kerr.

Steve Kerr grew up the son of Malcolm and Ann Kerr; brilliant parents; with Malcolm having an extreme love for the middle east. The Kerr’s were a part of 3 generations of world travelers with Steve actually spending his freshman year in high school in Cairo, Egypt.   Eventually in time, Malcolm finally got his dream job which was president of the American University in Beirut.

Steve through luck, circumstance, and calls from his father to Lute Olson, finally got a scholarship offer from coach Olson and the University of Arizona.   Olson didn’t think much of Kerr as a player, but to have such a great character guy on the team was something he wanted.

Malcolm couldn’t wait to see his son play. When Steve and the family met in Beirut for the Christmas of 1983, Malcolm got to see grainy film of his son play for Arizona. His eyes lit up. It was a dream for him to see Steve play college ball, and you couldn’t wipe the smile off of his face if you tried.

But in the early morning hours of January 18, 1984, Steve got a phone call that would change his life forever. Islamic terrorists had ambushed his father in Beirut and shot him execution style. His crime?   Being American. His mom Ann said, “for us 9/11 started on 1/18/1984.” It ended the life of one of the worlds kindest and most understanding souls and a friend to the Arab world. The rest of his family was thankfully unharmed.

Two days after his fathers death, Steve came off the bench against Arizona St.   His first shot was a long three that hit nothing but net. Lute Olsen and many others in the crowd had tears in their eyes. As Lute Olsen pointed out, “we had so many emotions going on that night that it was hard to keep the feelings inside”. The Arizona fans were so touched by Steve that it was like they held him in their arms. After Steve would make a basket, the P.A. announcer would yell “STEVE KERR” which was always followed by the crowd repeating, “STEVE KERR”.

Steve worked hard and moved up the ladder and helped make the Wildcats one of the best teams in the country. In his senior season though, one of the ugliest things from a college crowd was seen on the road in Tempe against rival Arizona St.  Before the game during warm ups, students started to taunt Steve.  They began chanting “where’s your daddy” and “PLO, PLO”. Some even told him to go see his dad in Beirut.   It was so ugly that some Arizona St. students came down to the bench to apologize to Kerr.

People wondered why the PLO chant was yelled out because the PLO had nothing to do with it, but no one said all college students are very bright. (I think Tempe has more bars per capita than any other city in the country so that tells you something.)

Kerr was overwhelmed. He began to shake and tears filled his eyes. He sat on the bench and his teammates comforted him.   He later said he could not believe people could be so cruel and he became really upset. His teammate Tom Tolbert said it was the only time he ever thought of going into the stands to hit a fan. After regaining his composure, Kerr played his heart out. He was 6-6 from 3 point range and had 20 points at the half and ended with 22 in a 28 point thrashing of their rivals.

When Steve Kerr was chosen in the second round by the Phoenix Suns, few thought Steve would stick with anyone in the NBA. He was considered a journeyman at best who never really found a nitch until he was picked up by the Chicago Bulls. With the Bulls he had a role and he played it well. He was smart, tough, and could shoot in the clutch. In game 2 in the championship series against the Jazz, Kerr missed a 3 pointer but got the rebound and made a great pass to Michael Jordan who made a key 3 point play. In the clinching game, he broke the tie after Michael passed to him as he drained a 3.

At the end of his time with the Bulls, Kerr again found a home at San Antonio. He played the same role that he did in Chicago; make clutch shots and do the little things that win games. After his unlikely career was over, Kerr had 5 titles.   That was 2 more than Larry Bird, and 3 more than Wilt Chamberlain.

He had mixed reviews as a young GM for the Phoenix Suns, including the Shaquille Oneal trade, but he was professional and calm and never shied away from criticism. He later moved into sports casting.

When people talk about Steve Kerr today, they use terms like hard working, winner, and he HATES to lose. Kerr said the only game that he really can’t get over is the final four loss to Oklahoma in the NCAA playoffs when he was only 2 for 12 from 3 point range in an 8 point loss.

Part of his strength is that Steve has his parents charm and heart.   He gets along with people and is honest and caring. He likes to be underestimated by using an aw shucks mentality all the while he is ambitious, smart and competitive to a fault. All his life he’s been told he’s not going to make it but in the end he always seems to succeed and do it with a smile.

The first thing Steve wanted to do before he met with the local media is to meet with the Warriors employees. No not the players; he wanted to meet everyone. He wanted to meet people in marketing, and who worked the ticket sales and the offices. He wanted to meet the people behind the scenes. He also didn’t just call Stephen Curry; he called all of the players and talked to them. He was humble and respectful in a way his dad would be proud of.  He actually is thinking of going to Australia to meet with Andrew Bogut.

Will Steve Kerr be a good coach for the Warriors, especially with the nitpicking type of atmosphere that has been created by the microscope that is social media? I think so. I love the hire.  I know one thing though. The Warriors will be tough, smart, and hard working. They will have a coach that will answer questions and not shy away from criticism. In Kerr they have someone that will demand professionalism and smart play and defense which will take the Warriors to the next level.   I still think they are a player away from doing something special, but adding Steve Kerr as their head coach is a great move.

There hasn’t been this much excitement in Oakland since the Run TMC days.  So go ahead and underestimate Steve Kerr. Go ahead and be fooled by his choir boy demeanor.  In reality this guy is as tough as nails.  And somewhere above you still can’t wipe the smile off of his proud father Malcolm’s face.