Sports

Friday, October 31, 2008

Pitarresi: A little more civility needed

A while back I wrote a little bit about the lack of civility on the part of sports fans.

 

On talk shows. In blogs. In conversation.

 

Lot of good that did.

 

I had a call on my message function today. The guy was upset by something we did or didn’t do. Actually, we did it the day before he was looking for it. He just didn’t see it.

 

Okay. If we are guilty, I don’t mind the criticism. But the language he used in denouncing us was beyond the pale. I tried calling him back, but he’d called from work and already was gone.

 

Two things:

 

If you’re upset with me or the sports department or the newspaper, okay, but if you are going to leave messages with extreme language, be man enough to leave your name, too. I’ve already got your number.

 

And, can we all just tone it down a little?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Pitarresi: Steuben Field must be updated

Steuben Field used to be a great place to play football.

 

It isn’t now.

 

Hamilton and Williams played in a sea of mud Saturday, and that hurt both teams. It wasn’t fair to the players or the fans.

 

A great thing about football is that you do have to adapt to the elements – wind, rain, cold, snow, yes, mud – but this went beyond the ability to deal with adversity.

 

Another thing. Hamilton has some great athletic facilities – pool, field house, soccer field, lacrosse and field hockey field, fitness center and weight room – but the football and baseball fields are right out of the Roaring 20s. Both are simply inadequate, and the state of the football field will hurt the Continentals when it comes to recruiting.

 

Steuben Field needs to be significantly upgraded, and right away.

 

 

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Pitarresi: Jim Rome needs explaining

 

I wish someone could explain Jim Rome to me.

 

Half the time I have no idea what he is talking about, or what his “clones” – I think those his fans - are talking about.

 

I would never turn on Rome’s radio show (noon to 3 p.m. on a couple of local stations) except that I drive to Syracuse a couple of times a week and I have to kill some time. Occasionally, he’ll have a good guest on and he often elicits some great comments, even though he rarely grills anyone and just tosses out softball questions.

 

Otherwise, his show is mostly “in” references between him and listeners, and a litany of hip  comments. I am way, way past my college years, so I don’t expect to get a lot of the chatter, but I get hardly any of it and I wonder who does.

 

Rome obviously is after the male 18-to-35 age group – the current makeup of which is perhaps the most self-satisfied, shallowest and emotionally selfish demographic in the history of the United States – and I simply find the whole deal weird. Rome just turned 44, is married and has two young sons, yet he sounds like a college frat boy. He’s knowledgeable – none of these talk show guys are near as knowledgeable as they try to imply – but his approach is often sophomoric and wears thin quickly, unless you are a “clone.”

 

And, tell me, if you aren’t in your truck driving to wherever, how do you have time to listen to Jim Rome? Get back to work!    

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Pitarresi: Another good running back on the loose

 

I watched another good running back today.

 

Williams College’s Brian Morrissey was just outstanding in the Ephs’ 14-7 win over Hamilton, piling up 201 yards on 42 carries and scoring the winning touchdown with two minutes to go.

 

Morrissey is my kind of back. Not fancy, just tough, smart, strong and determined. Thurman Thomas as opposed to Barry Sanders. Know where the sticks are, run for first downs and then look for the big gain.

 

Hey, I hate to see the home team lose, and Hamilton is my alma mater, but I enjoyed watching Morrissey work.

 

How about these scores?

 

California 41, UCLA 20 – The Bruins are 3-5 and going nowhere fast, but watch. They’ll probably beat USC at the end of the year.

 

Colgate 52, Bucknell 28 – What is it about Colgate and running backs? Marv Hubbard, Dom Fischer, Mark Van Eeghen, Rich Erenberg, Kenny Gamble, Jamal Branch, Jordan Scott. Scott gets hurt, and freshman Nate Eachus comes in and runs for 455 yards in the last two games.

 

 Michigan State 35, Michigan 21 – Football ain’t easy. It used to be for the Wolverines, but not any more. They are headed for their first losing season in more than 40 years, and they won’t get any sympathy from anyone.

 

Rutgers 54, No. 17 Pittsburgh 34 and Louisville 24, No. 14 South Florida 20 – The Big East is just crazy. Rutgers scored a total of 42 points in its previous three games. Louisville had won four games, but three of them were against teams below their class. And what do those rankings mean? Apparently, nothing.

 

Penn State 13, Ohio State 6 – This wasn’t easy, but the Nittany Lions showed some resolve. I still think they are a great team with few weaknesses. They have Iowa, Indiana and Michigan State left, and as good as they are, they can lose any of those games. I hope they don’t’, and that they get a shot to play for the national championship

Friday, October 24, 2008

Pitarresi: Hockey shootout provides excitement

 

Shootout hockey?

 

It was on display tonight at the Fredonia-Utica College hockey game.

 

Everyone seemed to love it. The fans sure did. More than 3,000 were roaring as the Blue Devils and Pioneers squared off after tying 3-3 after 60 minutes of regulation and five more minutes of overtime.

 

Shootouts are an experiment in nonleague college hockey games this season. That didn’t make any difference. The coaches were excited. The players were excited. And the fans, many of whom might not have realized that the result would not count, sure were excited. UC got the best of it when captain Bryce Dale, the seventh Pioneer shooter, beat Pat Street, and then UC’s Anthony Luckow stopped Alex Morton.

 

Is the shootout a good thing? If you are a fan, you bet it is. And if you are a coach or a player, you have nothing to lose. You already have a point for a tie, and you might get another for a win.

 

Pity the poor sportswriter or sportscaster working on deadline, though. A shootout adds 10 or 15 minutes to a game. That means less time to write or to prepare a broadcast.

 

So, I’ll be waiting for all those sympathy cards the next time I cover a shootout.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Pitarresi: World Series still a big deal

 

Well, we have a World Series.

 

That’s a good thing. The Rays’ 4-2 victory tonight squares things at 1-1 and also proves these teams are very close … although the Phillies seem to be better at leaving people on base.

 

I was laughing the other night when I heard someone on a very loud and depressing national sports talk radio show saying that no one cared about a Philadelphia-Tampa Bay World Series. I care. I’d care even if it was Milwaukee and Texas, I think. The World Series always means something, no matter who is playing.

 

I guess the first World Series I really remember was 1955, when the Brooklyn Dodgers won their only title. I think I wanted the Yankees to win, but it didn’t’ really bother me that they didn’t. I don’t remember crying, anyway.

 

Those were the days of daytime baseball. Very often, the teachers would have the game on the radio, all the kids would listen – I mean all of them – and not very much work got done. When school got out at 3 p.m., we’d all race home to watch the rest of the game on our 12-inch black and white televisions. I lived about 100 yards from school in a straight line, but you’d have to jump a couple of backyard fences to cut it down to that distance. I remember doing that, and after a while Yogi Berra jumping into Don Larsen’s arms after the perfect game in the 1956 World Series.

 

It was a big deal. The World Series always is a big deal. Maybe not as big a deal as it was back then, but still big enough. I’m enjoying it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Pitarresi: Bryce Dale represents UC well

 

One of the great things about this job is meeting people of all kinds.

 

So, today, I was speaking to Bryce Dale, the senior captain of the Utica College men’s hockey team. I think I’ve spoken to Dale once before, after a game last year or the year before, but I don’t really remember.

 

This time, I was impressed immediately with this young man. He was smart, well-spoken, mature, personable, very comfortable speaking to someone almost old enough to be his grandfather. There is no wonder why he is the captain … for the last two years.

 

He was a very good representative of the college and the team. So, good luck to Bryce and the Pioneers.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Pitarresi: Icing the kicker not so hot

Icing the kicker just before the kick is the big fad in football this season.

 

I don’t know about it being such a great strategy. It seems to backfire as much as it works, if, indeed, it is the last-second timeout that makes a kicker miss in the first place. I mean, how do you know the guy missed because you called time out? Some guys just aren’t great kickers and probably have just as good a chance of missing on the first try.

 

I can see the tactic working with high school kickers. There aren’t a lot of good ones to begin with. In college, as you climb up the divisions, kickers get better and better, physically and mentally. By the time you reach the NFL, the kickers are so skilled and so professional, I think they rarely are rattled by such things.

 

This tactic has been studied by statisticians, and they say it has some effect, although that seems like a strange conclusion. You can have a miss and miss, a miss and make, a make and make, and a make and miss. How does a miss and a miss get counted? Some say the sample used was too small to reach a conclusion anyway.

 

A couple of weeks ago, Princeton tried to ice Colgate kicker Jacob Stein by calling two timeouts in a row near the end of the game. Stein didn’t care, and kicked a 33-yard field goal to win.

 

Then, Saturday, Utica College coach Blaise Faggiano called timeout just before the snap when Alfred’s Eric Lockwood was attempting a field goal late in the second quarter. Lockwood kicked and missed. He made the 34-yarder on his second chance, and Faggiano was seen shaking his head and laughing at himself.

 

“I’ll never do that again,” Faggiano said this week.

 

Then, Sunday, the Jets’ Jay Feely was setting up for a 52-yard field goal, pretty much out of his range. Raiders coach Tom Cable called timeout, and the kick bounced out off the left upright. On the next try, Feely made it. Luckily for Cable, Sebastian Janikowski eventually responded with a team-record 57-yarder to win in overtime.

 

So, tell me how it is a good strategy? Maybe, in high school, or if you know the kicker is a Nervous Nellie in college or the pros. Otherwise, what you’re doing is giving the guy a practice kick. Plus, it is a tiresome and boring.

 

Of course, coaches always look for an edge. Maybe you’ve just got to do something. So, if it is a gimme field goal, maybe you think about icing the guy. If it is 45 yards or more, I think you’re better off taking your chances.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Pitarresi: Colgate's Eachus no surprise

How about that Nate Eachus?

 

The Colgate freshman was part of a special defensive package going into today’s game against Cornell, and he made three tackles and had a sack in the first quarter.

 

Then, all-time leading rusher Jordan Scott goes down with an ankle injury. Eachus moves to tailback, and carries 37 times – in three quarters – for 241 yards and three touchdowns. That’s a great day’s work.

 

The Colgate coaches aren’t surprised. Eachus rush for 2,196 yards and 28 touchdowns for Hazelton, Pa. High School last season. He also was a state wrestling champion. Oh, are the Raiders glad no big-time school went after the kid. I guess we know who is going to get the ball after Scott graduates this year.

 

How about these scores?

 

South Florida 45, Syracuse 13 – Again, Curtis Brinkley ran well, and the Orange were in the game for a while, but the defense just doesn’t get any stops. It is almost impossible to give up 487 yards and win a game.

 

Northern Illinois 38, Toledo 7 – The Rockets beat Michigan 13-7 last week, one of the greatest victories in their history but it wasn’t a Mid American Conference game. Then they lose badly to the Huskies in a game that really counts in the standings.

 

Maryland 26, Wake Forest 0 – Apparently, the Deacons are no longer Demons and their bubble really has burstMaryland is the strangest team. They beat Delaware just 14-7, beat ranked California and Clemson, and lose to Viginia 31-0 … last week? Then beat the supposed No. 21 team in the nation. Come on.

 

Alabama 24, Ole Miss 24 – The Rebels couldn’t squeeze out five more points? I have nothing against ‘Bama, but – and I’m exactly sure why – but I am definitely not a Nick Saban fan.

 

Penn State 46, Michigan 17 – They didn’t look good early, trailing 17-7, but the Nittany Lions came on strong and really have a shot at a national championship. I wish they’d get it so Joe Paterno can retire. He’s been a great, great coach, but he’s not safe on the sideline and he looks very out of place up in the box.

 

USC 69, Washington State 0 – Do you know how hard it is to keep playing when you’re taking a beating like that? I don’t, either, but almost. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

 

Friday, October 17, 2008

Pitarresi: The game isn't over until the last out

Friday, Oct. 17, 2008

 

Whatever happened to the curse of the Bambino?

 

The Red Sox seem to be a pretty lucky – and good – team the last few years.

 

How about last night? Down 7-0 and coming back to win? Pretty sweet. The great thing about it was that a lot of the Red Sox fans I know didn’t see it. They gave up before the comeback started in the seventh inning.

 

I like the Red Sox and I don’t mind Red Sox fans, but what a bunch of fatalistic people! They always assume the worst.

 

Well, things were looking pretty gloomy, and the odds still are against Boston making the World Series, but the game isn’t over until the last out. And it wasn’t like it was the middle of the night when the game ended. Okay, it was a little after midnight, well before my bedtime. I do understand if you had to get up early to feed the chickens.

 

 Still, if you are a fan, you’ve got to hang in there. The classic example for me came at the Carrier Dome in 2002. Syracuse was 3-6 and playing No. 8 Virginia Tech. The game went into overtime, and Orange quarterback Troy Nunes threw an interception right away. There were 48,239 fans at the game, and when that happened, 20,000 of them went stampeding for the exits. I hollered down from the press box to people I knew, “Where are you guys going?” They just kept right on.

 

The problem was, about a half hour, 25 plays, and three overtimes later, Syracuse had won, 50-42.

 

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Pitarresi: SU will be good, face tough time

The Syracuse Orange look pretty promising.

 

The basketball Orange.

 

Thursday was media day for the basketball team, which always has high hopes and will again this year. Given that Eric Devendorf and Andy Rautins are back from injuries and that Jonny Flynn, Paul Harris, Arinze Onuaku and Kristof Ongenaet all are back after solid to spectacular seasons, the future certainly appears good.

 

This will be a very good basketball team, if it can play a little defense.

 

However … the Big East will be The B’East this season. Coming off a season in which underclassmen dominated the league’s all-star team and other honors, there a half-dozen of more very, very good teams. SU has tremendous competition ahead from UConn, Pitt, Louisville, Notre Dame and the rest. The Orange could be very good and still just .500 in the league. That really could happen.

 

Coach Jim Boeheim said Thursday this team will be more mature that last year’s. It’s going to have to be to deal with the kinds of challenges it will see this season. We’ll see.

 

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Pitarresi: Local colleges play worthwhile football

Despite all the troubles and lack of success in recent years, Syracuse University is still the big dog in college football around here.

 

That doesn’t mean exciting, hard-hitting football isn’t being played at our other local colleges.

 

Colgate, Hamilton, Utica College and Morrisville State all can be very entertaining, and they are worthy of your support.

 

I covered Colgate’s game with Princeton Saturday, and it was terrific. Good football, with a dramatic and successful ending for Colgate. And there aren’t a lot of settings quite as nice as Andy Kerr Stadium in October. Hamilton’s Steuben Field is very nice, too. They’re all great, really, and if it isn’t college football at the highest level, it’s still all very competitive, hard-hitting and well-coached.

 

Colgate, Hamilton and Morrisville all are on the road this week, but UC has an important Empire 8 game with Alfred at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Charles A. Gaetano Stadium. There will be some local kids playing key roles for both teams. You might want to take a look.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Pitarresi: No more mystique

The University of Michigan has won 870 football games.

 

That’s the most in the history of college football.

 

Unfortunately for new coach Rich Rodriguez, only two of those wins have come this year.

 

You think Greg Robinson has it tough, having to hear what an idiot he is with an 8-33 record through three and a half seasons? Rodriguez, who had things cooking during his years at West Virginia, took over a program that prides itself on its century-long elite status. The Wolverines stumbled badly in losing to I-AA power Appalachian State last year. They certainly dropped the ball in losing to very ordinary 1-4 Toledo Saturday.

 

 Rodriguez will get a pass this season no matter the final record. If the Wolverines finish with just three or four victories, the fans will be angry but manageable. If the same thing happens next year, they will be much more impatient than Orange fans are now.

 

Well, here’s the reality. Of those 870 Michigan wins, maybe 400 came against teams that had no chance whatsoever to beat the Wolverines. That’s not Michigan’s fault. The Wolverines superiority for more than 100 years was due in part to the fact that they were one of the very first great programs, and they built on that. Success breeds success. Notre Dame and Yale and quite a few of the traditional powers fall into the same category. They built histories that made players want to go to their schools and intimidated opponents.

 

That means much less now. Thanks in part to an 85-scholarship limit, parity in college football is a fact of life. You can bet the Toledo players were not afraid of the Wolverines. Mystique is only powerful if you let be. All you have to do is look at the Top 25 polls week to week the last couple of years. There is no stability. A lot of fans don’t like that. I do. Very few teams roll over now for the power teams. You have to prove yourself on the field every week.

 

I think what you’ll see in the future is teams that are very good for a few years, then ordinary or maybe even bad, and then maybe back again. That’s a good thing.

 

 

 

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Pitarresi: Redemption a good thing for Stein

I’m feeling good for Colgate University kicker Jacob Stein today, and bad for the Syracuse University football team.

 

Stein kicked the winning field goal in Colgate’ s 27-24 win today in a very entertaining football game on a beautiful day at Andy Kerr Stadium, one of the best places to watch a game – at least on a sunny October afternoon - you’ll ever visit.

 

That was great, because Stein missed an extra point and failed on a 39-yard field goal attempt when Princeton edged Colgate in overtime on the same field in 2006. Redemption is a very good thing.

 

I was following the SU game on the internet while covering Colgate, and I was excited to see the Orange, trailing 10-6 in the fourth quarter against a 25-point favorite, were going in to score. The next thing I knew, the Mountaineers were kicking and extra point.

 

“How can that be?” I thought.

 

Well, SU was stopped at the WVU 5, and a few plays later Noel Devine goes 93 yards to score. Game over. Hey, the Orange are getting better, but they aren’t good enough yet. I feel very badly for those kids.

 

I got to see Hamilton College play for a quarter – the Continentals are getting better and defeated Bowdoin 28-17 – and was very impressed with freshman quarterback Jordan Eck. He has to get bigger and stronger, but he has great presence and you seldom will see a small college quarterback get rid of the ball more quickly or cleanly.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Pitarresi: Express didn't get it quite right

“The Express,” the just released movie about Syracuse University Heisman Trophy winner Ernie Davis, is becoming almost as controversial as the statue of Davis that depicted Ernie wearing Nike football cleats even though the company wasn’t founded until several years after he died.

 

There are several scenes in the movie that don’t follow the facts, including one in which West Virginia fans are shown throwing garbage and hurling racial epithets at Davis and the SU team.

 

People in West Virginia are upset. They say it never happened. They appear to be correct.

 

To start, Syracuse did not play at WVU in 1959, the year SU won the national championship. The game was at Archbold Stadium. The Orange won, 44-0. For another, Dick Easterly, the Orange quarterback, said the incident was completely fictitious. So did center Pat Whelan.

 

“Jeez, where did they get that from?” Whelan said.

 

Some people have weighed in and said it doesn’t matter. They say the incident reflected the attitude in West Virginia. Variety, in its review of the movie, said the state, along with Texas, were – or are – not exactly bastions of racial tolerance. Maybe so, but how racially tolerant was Central New York 50 years ago?

 

If you are going to make the accusation, you have to provide evidence, and there doesn’t appear to be any. You can think what you want, but you can’t make things up. Ernie Davis certainly faced a lot of intolerance, but not in that way in that place at that time.

 

Yes, it’s a movie, and, from everything I’ve heard, a good one that honors a great player who was very highly thought of as a man, but you’re dealing with real events and real people. Do not indict people for sins they did not commit.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Pitarresi: You'll see a lot of Brinkley Saturday

Earlier this week, coach Greg Robinson wouldn’t say what his running back rotation would be when his Syracuse University Orange visit West Virginia.

 

Robinson probably will have Curtis Brinkley, Paul Hogue (a tweaked ankle against Pittsburgh), Delone Carter (coming back from a pulled hamstring after missing two games) and freshman Antwon Bailey all ready to go.

 

The last few games, Brinkley has been the starter, and Hogue would play every third series. Against Pittsburgh, however, Bailey came in when Hogue was hurt. Okay, but the score was tied 24-24 and Brinkley, who was having a very good game, was sitting on the bench. The Orange didn’t move the ball, and they eventually lost the game. True, the defense failed to stop the Panthers at any time in the second half, but SU still had a chance to control the ball and score more points.

 

I get the sense you won’t see that happen again, and that you’ll see an awful lot of Brinkley Saturday. He is SU’s best offensive player and he has to be in there 75 percent of the time.   

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Pitarresi: Edwards injury bad news for Bills

You knew, didn’t you, Buffalo Bills fans, that when quarterback Trent Edwards was clocked by Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson on the third play of the game Sunday your team was in big trouble?

 

I was sitting in the press tent at the Turning Stone Resort Championship when I saw the play, and I told everyone within earshot that Edwards, who has been very, very good this season, was done for the day and the Bills might be, too. He was and they were.

 

J.P. Losman came in at quarterback, mostly played like a guy who was rusty and less than ready to go, and the defense failed to respond to the challenge. The Bills couldn’t get to Kurt Warner, who remains a very good quarterback when he is unpressured, and with his receivers, look out. It was a bad day all around.

 

The good thing for the Bills is that they have a bye this week. Maybe Edwards will be back, and maybe the defense will get things together by the time the Chargers arrive Oct. 19.