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Madden: Palmer on Martin ~ Way out of bounds

Saturday, January 27, 2001

I can't wait for the Super Bowl ... to be over. Meantime, here are some refreshing sports notes guaranteed to be more entertaining than the big game and guaranteed to get me paid.

Has there ever been a more disgusting sight than Baltimore Ravens tight end Shannon Sharpe practically sitting on Ray Lewis' shoulder like a trained parrot and telling the wretched media how to treat poor, poor pitiful Ray? I know the media. I am a member of the media. When Sharpe and Ravens Coach Brian Billick ordered the media to not ask Lewis about his involvement in a murder case, it guaranteed that the media would turn up the heat on such questioning. New York Giants quarterback Kerry Collins got it right. He humbly bared his soul regarding his checkered past Monday, then hardly had to deal with it again all week. Collins was smart, unlike the aforementioned Baltimorons.

When Tony Siragusa waddles purposefully onto the field tomorrow, he won't just be playing for a Super Bowl ring. He won't just be playing for the Baltimore Ravens. No, the Goose goes onto the turf at Tampa's Raymond James Stadium representing grotesquely fat men everywhere. He is living testimony to the power of mind over way too much matter. You go, Goose. "O" fries are on me afterward.

I'm sure you're expecting a Super Bowl prediction, so here it is: To quote "Semi-Tough" author Dan Jenkins, I like boredom over tedium by a fumble. There rarely has been a less compelling Super Bowl, and the subdued hype during the week proved that. This game has relatively little buzz.

The Steelers have to sign Jerome Bettis, given that he's the team's MVP and the key component of an offense which emphasizes power running. But, just like the Pirates with Jason Kendall, the Steelers will have to overpay Bettis to keep him. Pittsburgh is not a dream destination for a big-time offensive weapon, so the Steelers would find it nearly impossible to replace Bettis, and the Rooneys don't go hunting for high-priced free agents, anyway. Richard Huntley isn't the solution, so overpaying Bettis will be.

"Polish Hammer" Krzysztof Oliwa is just about ready to make his Penguins debut after recovering from a broken arm. Oliwa is, by any reckoning, one of hockey's top 10 enforcers. To be effective as a deterrent -- to keep the opposition from messing with Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr -- Oliwa has to play on the Penguins' third line. Not the fourth line, but the third. Oliwa needs to be out there on a regular basis to keep foes looking over their collective shoulders. Luckily, Oliwa can play just well enough to function in that capacity. I was afraid he'd beat me up if I didn't write that, by the way.

Milan Kraft was playing pretty decent hockey before the Penguins sent him to their Wilkes-Barre/Scranton minor-league club, so why did they do it? Well, Kraft was playing on the third (checking) line when he was in Pittsburgh. He's on the top line with the Baby Penguins. Maybe -- and I emphasize the word maybe -- General Manager Craig Patrick wants Kraft to get used to playing on a skill-style line so, ultimately, he can be plopped easily onto the first or second unit with the Penguins should a trade be made involving, say, Martin Straka or Robert Lang for a defenseman or goaltender. Maybe.

Kevin Stevens is definitely the man to play with Lemieux and Jagr. He hits, digs, goes to the net and clears valuable space for Nos. 66 and 68. Stevens isn't as good in his own end as Jan Hrdina, but Lemieux is one of the best defensive forwards in hockey when he chooses to be. Right now, he's choosing to be.

Golf legend Arnold Palmer has campaigned against Casey Martin's quest to use a cart, a case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court. Arnie believes Martin, who is physically handicapped, should have to walk. Riding is against the rules, after all. You can't violate the sanctity of the game. Unless, of course, there's money to be made promoting a driver banned by the United States Golf Association for its springboard-like action. Face it, if Arnie had an endorsement contract for carts -- or maybe crutches -- he'd be speaking to the Supreme Court on Martin's behalf. Arnie should just endorse hypocrisy.

If golf establishment types get their way, Martin will have to walk -- or, more accurately, quit because he can't walk. Of course, if golf establishment types had their way all the time, Tiger Woods would be a caddie, Karrie Webb would be schlepping drinks at the 19th hole, and a despicable cripple like Martin would have never been allowed near a golf course in the first place. Golf, because of silly little things like the law and equal rights, hides its snobbery and prejudice these days. But they're still there.

Aliquippa High School's Josh Lay made a great public relations move locally by vacillating between Penn State and Pitt. Had Lay just selected a school and stuck with it, he would have been merely another midlevel recruit. But now, he's the kid who screwed over Penn State for Pitt. Considering how much the Panthers' faithful hate Happy Valley, Lay is a Pitt hero before he ever plays a down.

Mark Madden is the host of a sports talk show 4-8 p.m. weekdays on WEAE-AM (1250).

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