[Sports Central Newsletter] #130 - An Overdue Honor
The Sports Central Newsletter
November 2005 - Issue #130
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|-- IN THIS ISSUE... --|
* Words From the Editor
* The O-Files: "An Overdue Honor"
* Editor's Pick: "A Journey to the Top"
* Hot Topics From the SCMB
* Shots From the Lip: "Horn! I'm Outta Here!"
|-- WORDS FROM THE EDITOR --|
The Sports Central Message Boards started way back in November 2000, this month marking the five-year anniversary. Since its inception, it has grown into a terrific community and is approaching 200,000 posts. Thanks to a great stable of regulars that pride themselves on an intelligent, friendly community (read: no bashing, trolls, or the useless drivel that fills many communities), the boards (or SCMB, as we call them) have grown into "The Ultimate Sports Fan Community," our motto that has gradually come into fruition. In fact, a quick search for "sports message boards" on Google affirms this. Eat your heart out, CNNSI and Yahoo!
But history aside, the reason I'm bringing this up is because the SCMB underwent a total overhaul since last issue. It may look like a fresh coat of paint to match the main site's look, but it is also running updated software and is completely new under the hood. All this means a more modern site with a more appealing, cohesive look and many new features and improvements. So we hope you enjoy the new message boards and get a chance to check them out: http://boards.sports-central.org or http://www.sportscentralboards.com
Lastly, you may notice this issue marks the end of Mike Round's illustrious tenure as a newsletter featured writer. However, don't fret, as Mike promises to contribute to the site throughout the baseball season, at the least. And his successor will be revealed in our next issue.
-- Marc James
Sports Central Owner & Founder
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|-- THE O-FILES --|
AN OVERDUE HONOR
By Brad Oremland
Three years ago, in just my fifth article for the O-Files, I made the case that Art Monk should be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Most fans agree with me, but 2005 is Monk's sixth year of eligibility, and I don't like his chances. Sympathy for Monk's case has grown in the last several years, but competition has gotten much stiffer recently, as well.
The first major problem is that the voters don't like enshrining wide receivers. Last year, both Michael Irvin and Monk were turned down, to say nothing of Henry Ellard, who didn't even make it past the first round of voting. James Lofton, who should have been a no-brainer, needed three years to get in. Lynn Swann and John Stallworth were rejected a combined 20 times. In 2004, Bob Hayes was passed over as a seniors candidate, who are almost never turned away; not counting Hayes, nine consecutive seniors candidates have been inducted. Today, there are only 17 modern-era wide receivers in the Hall, compared to 25 running backs.
Monk's most vocal opponents are Sports Illustrated's Paul Zimmerman and Peter King. Zimmerman will never vote for Monk, and he's not shy about it, but King actively campaigns against Monk each year. Zimmerman argues against Monk on the grounds that he was an "eight-yard hook" receiver, King because he feels Washington's opponents didn't "fear" Monk.
I'll tackle Dr. Z's argument first. Contrary to what the "eight-yard hook" line might make you think, Monk averaged a respectable 13.5 yards per reception. That's not exceptional, but it is almost a full yard ahead of Cris Carter's 12.6, and Zimmerman has publicly stated his intention to vote for Carter. You can't hold that against one player, but not his peers.
It sounds strange, but I expect part of the problem is Zimmerman's extensive experience covering the game. Yards per catch numbers used to be much higher, and Monk, the prototype for today's bigger receivers, helped usher in an era of more receptions for less yardage. Even if Monk had been just an "eight-yard hook" receiver, he caught more of them than anyone else. In fact, he's the only eligible player ever to hold the NFL record for career receptions, but not have a place in Canton.
Dr. Z's reasoning is flawed, but King's is ridiculous. He scrapes the bottom of the barrel for every possible argument against Monk's induction, but his favorite is the line that opponents "feared" Gary Clark more than Monk. Clark was a deep threat blink and you might see him in the end zone. But Monk was putting nails in the coffin on 3rd-and-7 and opening running lanes downfield for John Riggins and Earnest Byner. 940 nails in the coffin. I mean, people feared John Jefferson more than Kellen Winslow, but Winslow's in the Hall and Jefferson's never even been nominated.
Last year, King even compared Monk to modern receivers like Marvin Harrison, Terrell Owens, and Torry Holt, noting that numbers "should be put in perspective." It's the one point on which he's correct, but King's idea of perspective is way off the mark. Perspective means comparing a guy to his peers, not players who began their careers after Monk retired.
The game has changed immensely. Monk was past his prime when the stat-friendly "West Coast" Offense spread throughout the league; when expansion made it easier for the best players to outdistance the guys they play against; when receiving numbers hit previously unheard-of levels; when the league re-emphasized the illegal contact rule. But compare Monk to his contemporaries and he stands out in a big way. When Monk caught 106 passes in 1984, no other player caught as many as 90 passes; Monk led the league by 17 receptions (almost 20%). The record stood for almost a decade.
Monk had to overcome some serious obstacles to accomplish what he did. His quarterbacks in Washington were Joe Theismann, Jay Schroeder, Doug Williams, and Mark Rypien, of whom only Theismann was above average. Monk also had to split his catches with Clark and speedy Super Bowl XXII hero Ricky Sanders. And let's not forget that Joe Gibbs prefers ball-control offense. In 1983, the year before Monk shattered the single-season reception record, Washington ran the ball more than twice as often as it passed. And of course, Monk's numbers would be even higher if he hadn't missed a dozen games in his prime because of two strike seasons.
Despite all those challenges, Monk was the last player to concurrently hold the NFL records for receptions in a career, receptions in a season, and consecutive games with a reception. He held the career receptions record for two years and was ahead of everyone except Jerry Rice for four more. Guys like Isaac Bruce and Jimmy Smith don't outdistance their peers like that. Monk was a groundbreaker and a consistent and clutch performer. He was also perhaps the best blocking wide receiver of his era.
King has also argued against Monk on the basis of his relatively few all-pro selections (2) and Pro Bowls (3). Let's see if this year King votes against Troy Aikman, who was never all-pro. Charlie Joiner was all-pro once in 18 years, and he's in. And here's a quiz for you: what do Terry Bradshaw, Ozzie Newsome, and Lynn Swann have in common? All of them went to only three Pro Bowls. Heck, Ray Nitschke only played in one.
King wants Russ Grimm and Joe Jacoby in Canton they both had four Pro Bowl selections. That one extra puts them over the top? Not only is King's reasoning flawed the Pro Bowl is a popularity contest, nothing more but he's using it selectively. You have to apply the same standards to everyone.
Let's sum up. Monk became the NFL's all-time leading receiver in 1992, set several other NFL records, has three Super Bowl rings, ushered in the era of 100-reception seasons, is still among the top 10 in history in receptions and receiving yards, and was one of the classiest guys in the game. What more do you want? That he played with below-average quarterbacks and was surrounded by other talented receivers? That his stats could have been even better if not for missed games during two strike seasons? That he was a first-round draft pick (Washington's first in 11 years) who lived up to his potential? If anyone deserves not to be passed over again, it's Art Monk.
Brad welcomes your feedback: mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org?subject=O-Files
(Copy and paste the address if it isn't clickable.)
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|-- EDITOR'S PICK --|
There have been 16 new articles posted on Sports Central in the last week. Check them all out at: http://www.sports-central.org. The Editor's Pick is:
A JOURNEY TO THE TOP
By Danny Sternfield
Many times in sports, teams focus so much on the grand prize that they forget how they got there. But not the 2005 world champion Chicago White Sox, who know full well that without the journey, they'd never have reached the summit.
|-- HOT TOPICS FROM THE SCMB --|
What's the buzz at the ultimate sports fan community?
[MLB] 05/06 Hot Stove League Thread
[MLB] Post Season Awards
[NBA] NBA Thoughts of the Day
[NBA] 2nd Annual Battle of LA Sapremacy: Clippers vs Lakers
[NFL] T.O. Suspended Indefinitley
[NFL] HOF 2005 List
[NHL] What the hell! It's the NHL! (Running Thread)
[CFB] Who falls next?
[LOUNGE] Thank you Liberal Media
|-- SHOTS FROM THE LIP --|
HORN! I'M OUTTA HERE!
By Mike Round
Like Theo Epstein, this faithful correspondent is moving on. This is my last newsletter for this esteemed website and I can honestly say it's been an honor and a privilege to rant at you guys for the last God-knows-how-many years. Even the hate-mail has been fun.
Epstein is leaving his spiritual home because he feels slighted by his boss, Larry Lucchino. He was offered $1.5 million a year to stay and swallow his pride, but walked away.
Marc James has never slighted me once. He's also never offered me $1.5 million to stay. I'm leaving because I don't watch enough sports a major problem for anyone who writes about sports. Maybe it's just a temporary thing, but to me, sports just arent as good as they used to be. Writing a sentence like that scares the hell out of me at my age, there's always the danger of turning into a BITGOD.
If you're unsure of what a BITGOD is, think Tommy Lasorda. "Back in the Good Old Days" guys hate the modern athlete, the money they earn, the exposure they get, the status they hold in the community, and most of all they really hate their "look at me" attitude.
I don't think I'm Tommy Lasorda quite yet. I do hate a lot of today's athletes, but can we really say that there are more despicable characters in modern sport than there were 20, 30, or 40 years ago? Judging from the numerous books about him, even Joe DiMaggio was a grubby, money-mad, wife-beating, jealous, and narcissistic low-life. Worse, he seems to have lived his life without any semblance of a sense of humor.
The history of sports is full of flawed men, most of them revered for their sporting achievements. L.T., O.J., Pete Rose, Shoeless Joe, Maradonna, George Best, Mike Tyson, Ben Johnson ... the list of supremely talented men from the past with a flawed genius is endless. Today is no different in that respect.
As for the money they earn, personally, I could not care a hoot. When was the last time you went to the movies and heard anyone complain that the $10 they paid to get in would only be $5 if only Tom Cruise didn't get $25 million a movie? A sportsman is a working stiff like the rest of us. He or she has the ability to ask for whatever they can get. If the boss pays up, fine. Move on, people. If you resent it, don't pay for a seat. Simple as that.
Maybe Epstein has come to the realization that sport is way overblown and over hyped, particularly in sports-obsessed Boston, where the Sox are a daily soap opera. I came to that conclusion many years ago, but it didn't prevent me from enjoying the great irrelevance that is sports.
Epstein's father is a respected author, his sister a big shot in TV, and his grandfather wrote one of the great movies of all-time, "Casablanca," but it's his brother, Paul, who is the darling of the family. He works as a social worker with the disadvantaged in society and on the day Theo was announced as the GM of the Sox his father said, "Whatever Theo accomplishes, even if that includes winning the World Series, cannot equal what Paul already has accomplished. He has saved lives."
Listening to your Dad say something like that is bound to sow seeds of doubt in the head of a thoughtful, intelligent young man like Epstein. If he's walked away from $1.5 million a year to do something more rewarding but less glamorous, good for him. If he resurfaces in Philly or L.A. for $2 million a year and a private jet, then he's just another working stiff using the system.
Maybe, like me, Theo tired of the crass and never ending drivel that accompanies sports. I'd like to think that he walked away from Boston because he couldn't stand to hear another moronic announcer yes, that's you Chris Berman and Rick Sutcliffe say, with an exaggerated chuckle, "that's just Manny being Manny." Or, just maybe, he drew a line in the sand when it came to FOX's baseball coverage, complete with Scooter, the inane Jeanne Zelasko, everybody's least favorite uncle, Kevin Kennedy, Steve "I Need to Try Decaf" Lyons, and that pompous, stuffed mannequin that goes by the name of Joe Buck.
Announcers can kill your love of sport in an instant. Why is it that TV executives are all over manic, hyped-up idiots like Michael Irvin, Paul McGuire, and the rest of those cretins wearing odd-colored suits and a deranged look that infest our screens on a Saturday and Sunday? Is it just Dr. Z and myself that detest these morons or are we in a majority? One of the prime reasons I drifted away from the NFL was the ludicrously overblown hoopla that comes with pro football. That and the fact that most of the games and teams are mediocre.
Having said I don't watch as much sports as I used to, I still managed to watch over 150 baseball games this season. I know this because I counted them up in my scorebook. Sadly, as an unreconstructed nerd, I score every game I watch, even on TV. I realize this makes me a geek because my wife has told me exactly that over 150 times since April. I don't care scoring a game helps me watch it with a keener eye. It keeps you in the game, even if it's a clunker, because nobody ever starts scoring a game then quits before the end do they?
Watching 150 baseball games in your den from April to November, then spending the winter in Home Depot trying to get back in the wife's good books is not a recipe for a successful sports writer (or marriage), unless you're Rob Neyer or Peter Gammons.
While I'm on the subject of Gammons, isn't it time ESPN's baseball sage was honest and threw his hat into the ring as Epstein's successor? Why not? Matt Millen went from TV to GM in Detroit. Personally, I'm tiring of Gammons acting as unofficial spokesperson on ESPN for the ownership group and Larry Lucchino, just as a lot of Red Sox fans have tired of the Boston Globe's spin on behalf of Henry and Lucchino. He makes no secret of his love of the Sox, owns a season ticket at Fenway, has more contacts in the sport than almost anybody, and has an encyclopedic knowledge of baseball. Put your money where your mouth is, Peter, or stay in your cozy chair on Baseball Tonight but if you stay put, leave the sharp knives for Epstein's successor at home.
Epstein has gone public in denying there was a split with his mentor Lucchino, but has only succeeded in muddying the waters further. If it wasn't money or ego, then why walk away from your dream job at 31 with a city at your feet? As of last Tuesday, when the Globe starting spinning on behalf of the beleaguered Lucchino, the sound of Henry and Lucchino's lackeys briefing against Epstein could be heard down the I-95 and right into Brian Cashman's office.
Speaking of Cashman, one of the saddest aspects of Epstein's departure from Fenway is the end to the friendly rivalry between these two bright, determined, and thoughtful young men. Both are class guys, something sadly rare in both the Yankees and Red Sox organizations. Cashman has been brave in standing up to George Steinbrenner as, surely, The Boss must have been haranguing him for years to join in with the anti-Sox vitriol. I've never once heard Epstein sink to the gutter a path many have trodden in this bitter and overblown rivalry.
So, that's it, folks. Like young Theo, I'm out of here, though I do intend to fill up the baseball section of the website with my random thoughts. I need a rationale for watching 150 games this year and sentencing myself to a long winter of home improvement. Enjoy my successor and best wishes to each and every one of you. Thanks.
Mike welcomes your feedback: mailto:email@example.com?subject=SFTL
(Copy and paste the address if it isn't clickable.)
(Thanks for reading! Next issue will arrive on 12/08/05.)
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