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Madden: Paterno, Lions head for disaster

Saturday, September 08, 2001

The NFL season starts tomorrow with a full slate of games, each more enjoyable than the last. In tribute, here's a full slate of refreshing sports notes, each as entertaining as a Steelers win:

If you missed the disastrous second coming of Johnny Majors as Pitt coach from 1993-96, a period that destroyed the Panthers' program nearly beyond repair, just become a Penn State fan. That major Majors disaster is about to be re-enacted at Happy Valley with Joe Paterno in the title role. Paterno's unwillingness to pick a set lineup and update his offense will combine with his growing inability to relate to and recruit superstar black athletes and Penn State's reputation as a graveyard for quarterbacks to take the Nittany Lions to sorry depths. At least, Pitt was able to can Majors. Penn State can't ax JoePa.

Hey, I missed the beginning of the Penn State-Miami game. I guess Adam Taliaferro didn't lead Penn State out onto the field, huh? If he would have, all that emotion would have combined with those 109,000 roaring fans to drastically close the talent gap between the teams, right? What a joke that game was. If Jimmy Johnson were still coaching Miami, the Hurricanes would have won by 80. Penn State fans should thank 'Canes Coach Larry Coker for calling off the dogs.

Sorry, but I can't get that excited about Pitt football until the Sept. 27 game against Miami. I consider that the opener. East Tennessee State, South Florida and UAB might be able to give Pitt a game if you combined the three rosters.

Barry Bonds is facing the ultimate pressure situation: Chasing Mark McGwire's home-run record and trying to get San Francisco into the playoffs at the same time. What if Bonds goes into the last game of the season with 70 homers and the Giants are in a must-win situation? I see Barry hitting an inside-the-park grand slam in the ninth inning to rally the Giants from a three-run deficit. Or striking out.

If Bonds ends up with 70 home runs, Pittsburgh sports fans will say he choked. Which is an example of the absurd judgment employed by Pittsburgh sports fans.

Shawn Green of the Los Angeles Dodgers is going to miss a key game against San Francisco to observe Yom Kippur in accordance with his Jewish faith. That's OK by me if Green doesn't get paid that day and if he observes the other tenets of his faith 24/7. That probably not being the case, Green should play. He makes far too much money and the Dodgers are in too tight a playoff race for him to sit out.

Anybody else heard that the Pirates want to get first baseman Sean Casey and middle infielder Pokey Reese from the Cincinnati Reds?

The locked-out NFL referees better hope the replacement NFL referees affect some results with a few badly blown calls tomorrow, or the "real" refs will end up on indefinite hiatus until they come crawling back for whatever the NFL deigns to pay them. And really, with instant replay, how badly can a call get blown?

Tony Siragusa of the Baltimore Ravens gave new quarterback Elvis Grbac this how-do-you-do: "We won the Super Bowl without you, so don't screw it up." Siragusa might have been laughing when he said it. But he definitely wasn't kidding.

Steelers 16, Jacksonville 13. A quarterback might blow this game, but it won't be Kordell Stewart. Mark Brunell of the Jaguars can't throw deep anymore, and his declining mobility has lessened his effectiveness outside the pocket. Look for Joey Porter and Jason Gildon to drop in on Brunell with a few wake-up calls -- with Porter exploiting Jacksonville tackle Tony Boselli, also on a swift decline -- while nose tackles Kendrick Clancy and Casey Hampton abuse center Jeff Smith, the weak link in Jacksonville's offensive line.

Check out this quote from Kordell in Sports Illustrated: "I have been through hell in this city, frickin' hell." It almost sounds as if he's blaming Pittsburgh for the misery he has experienced since his breakout season in 1997. Hey, Kordell, want to know what "frickin' hell" is? Three years of subpar play at quarterback.

SI picks Tennessee to make the Super Bowl, but I don't see it. In fact, it wouldn't shock me if the Titans struggle, especially early. Quarterback Steve McNair and running back Eddie George are coming back a bit slow from off-season surgery, the Titans have a couple potential head cases at defensive end with Jevon Kearse and Kevin Carter, and they're weak at the corner opposite Samari Rolle. I'm not saying the Steelers will catch Tennessee. But I am saying it's possible. Unless Neil O'Donnell becomes Tennessee's starting quarterback, in which case, the Titans will go undefeated.

Martin Straka was unhappy with his arbitration award, so the Penguins gave him a new contract. Darius Kasparaitis is unhappy with his arbitration award, but the Penguins aren't even negotiating a new deal with him. This either means the Penguins don't care about Kasparaitis being unhappy or that he'll be gone as soon as another team makes a decent offer for him. Or probably both.


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

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