But more than anyone, I thought about Pat Tillman. I found myself wondering [if] the 19 year olds who were turning Ground Zero and the White House into a frat party last night even knew who Pat Tillman was. And if they were aware that a man named Pat Tillman once walked among us, which Tillman did they know? Did they know the Tillman the NFL wants us to remember? That Tillman was a star safety who turned down a multi-million-dollar contract after 9/11 to join the Army Rangers, only do die in combat 22 months after enlisting. In the immediate aftermath of his death Tillman became a caricature, used to promote and encourage war.
But the Pat Tillman his family has fought to be known is the actual, thinking, opinionated human being. This Pat Tillman believed that 9/11 had been manipulated to justify an illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq. As journalist Jon Krakauer said, “He thought the war was illegal. He thought it was a mistake. He thought it was going to be a disaster. And in the Army, you’re not supposed to talk about that. You’re not supposed to talk politics. And Pat didn’t shut up. He told everyone he encountered, ‘This war is illegal as hell.’” He started reading the anti-war theorist Noam Chomsky and sent word that he wanted to meet Chomsky upon returning to the states. This Pat Tillman died not at the hands of the Taliban but in an incident of “friendly fire,” a fact hidden from his own family for weeks after his nationally televised funeral. Pat’s family has spent years fighting to get the true facts of his case known. I thought about Pat’s brave mother Mary and I was just so sad. We killed bin Laden and all it took was three wars, a million deaths, a trillion dollars, and infinite broken families and broken hearts.
In the big-bucks world of professional sports, it is all too easy to fall prey to thinking that Sunday’s Heroes are something other than regular, everyday folk, with long-held and heart-felt hopes and dreams for personal success, in the face of daunting odds and untold anxieties.
Best not to forget, however, that … when all is said and done … they, too, are but mere mortals, who laugh, and cry, and sweat, and bleed, just like every other man.
The featured game of Week 1 – at least, in these parts – took place in Steeltown, where the hometown team emerged with a hard-fought victory over the Atlanta Falcons, 15-9 [OT].
If you’re interested in the NFL game, from a wagering perspective, then, you should know that the current edition of the Steelers was a very strong play yesterday [+2] … as a home underdog, in the first game of the season, playing without their starting quarterback … while possessing one of the highest rated defensive units in the entire league.
Except for a missed 40-yd field goal attempt, in the final minute of regulation time, by the usually reliable Jake Reed – who had connected earlier on attempts of 52, 36 and 34 yards – the Steelers did an outstanding job of controlling the tempo of the game with their defense, limiting the Falcons to a paltry 58 Total Rushing Yards.
Since the Steelers will be playing the first 4 weeks of this season without Ben Roethlisberger [Starting QB] in their line-up, due to his league-imposed suspension [i.e. for poor off-the-field conduct]:
Week 1 – PIT 15, Atl 9 [OT]
Week 2 – Pit @ TEN [1-0]
Week 3 – Pit @ TBB [1-0]
Week 4 – PIT vs Bal [0-0]
yesterday’s contest was an almost must-win situation for 2008 Super Bowl Champions, if they hope to contend for a playoff position again this season.
Yours truly would be remiss, if another day was to go by without marking the passing of former NFL defensive great Jack Tatum.
For the benefit of those who might not be old enough to know the story …
At one time, there was no better defensive safety tandem in the harsh world of pro football than what took the field each week for the Oakland Raiders of the 1970′s, in the form of Jack Tatum [SS] and George Atkinson [FS].
When the original book was written on how to most “effect” the outcome of an NFL game, from this specific vantage point on the field, the authors were none other than these two fiercesome competitors, whose everyday ‘defensive’ mantra was to:
Ask for no quarter.
Give none, in return.
Take no prisoners.
As integral parts of ’Raiders Nation’, and indelible precursors to “the single best pro sports team rap video” of all-time:
We wear the Silver, we wear the Black, we never retreat, we always attack …
Offense doesn’t win, and neither does D,
It takes both to make me beam,
A Commitment to Excellence to make my team,
With Pride and Poise we’ve had a ball,
For three great decades we’ve won it all.
We wear the Silver, we wear the Black, we never retreat, we always attack …
“But at the same time that life put my father in a situation that he couldn’t feed himself when he wanted to.”
Derek Stingley saw a report of Tatum’s death on ESPN’s news crawl and immediately called his grandmother, Hilda Stingley.
“This brings back all those memories,” Derek Stingley said. “I’ve just been almost in a daze today.”
On that fateful night in 1978, Grogan threw to Darryl Stingley on a crossing route in a meaningless game. The ball sailed incomplete. Tatum blasted him head-on anyway. Darryl Stingley didn’t get up.
The hit was considered legal at the time, the kind of vicious shot Tatum delivered on a regular basis. No flag was thrown. The NFL didn’t discipline Tatum. That Darryl Stingley suffered two broken vertebrae and was paralyzed from the chest down was considered bad luck.
“I’ve seen the hit over and over,” said Derek Stingley, president of the
What happened in the days, weeks and years after the hit was what Grogan — and much of the Patriots family — deemed unforgivable.
“I have a hard time trying to find something nice to say,” Grogan said about Tatum. “That bothers me because I’m not like that normally. You may talk to guys that played with him, and they might tell you he was greatest teammate in the world and everybody loved him.
“The circumstance that we were involved with, just the way he handled it, that will never come out of any of our mouths or minds.”
Tatum never spoke to Darryl Stingley after the injury — although he did suggest a televised reconciliation to coincide with the release of a book. Tatum wrote three of them: “They Call Me Assassin” in 1979, “They Still Call Me Assassin” in 1989 and “Final Confessions of NFL Assassin Jack Tatum” in 1996.
“When something like that happens and you can’t apologize for it, go out and write a book to make money and try to get famous off the incident, that’s just not right,” Grogan said. “I thought he handled it very poorly.”
In a 2003 Boston Globe story,
“If he called me today, I’d answer,” Darryl Stingley said. “If he came to my house, I’d open my door to him. All I ever wanted was for him to acknowledge me as a human being. I just wanted to hear from him if he felt sorry or not. It’s not like I’m unreachable. But it’s not a phone call I’ll be waiting for anymore.”
Darryl Stingley also claimed he harbored no hatred for Tatum.
“It’s hard to articulate,” Darryl Stingley said. “It was a test of my faith. The entire story. In who, and how much, do you believe, Darryl? In my heart and in my mind I forgave Jack Tatum a long time ago.”
at some point, in the aftermath of the most unfortunate consequences imaginable, which resulted from his untimely actions, 32 years ago.
R.I.P., Mr. Tatum.
You were Oakland’s first legendary #32 … warts and all.
Henry Abbott: You sitting there with Jerry West and the salt shakers and the mustard containers … this is where this field will develop, right? The statistical mind meeting the basketball mind. The more you’re speaking the same language, the more useful your statistics are going to be, it seems.
Jeff Ma: I think that’s kind of the key.
When I first met Bill Walsh, we had developed this football system that was supposed to measure success on any NFL play. If you’re first-and-ten and you gain five yards, is that a success or is that a failure? We kind of graded out the plays and the people in the plays based on that. We came up with a statistical system based on four years of NFL data looking at every play, a team’s winning, and we could tell you how you did on this down and how that affected your team’s chances of scoring.
But we needed a way to validate that. We went to Coach Walsh so he could help validate us. So we asked him some very simple questions. So, on first-and-ten, what’s a success? He said well, four yards is probably not a success, five yards probably is. Somewhere in between.
Our numbers showed that four-and-a-half yards was the threshold.
Then on second down he says well, I think you need to gain at least half a yard. And that’s exactly what our numbers showed also.
What we learned from that, and I would never use this quote because it’s very self-promoting, but he once said to our CEO: “I have no idea how he gets it, but he’s in my brain.” And he was talking about me. That was kind of like the biggest compliment that he could ever give me, because that’s all I was trying to do.
There are people out there like Jerry West and Bill Walsh who can make really good decisions without a spreadsheet behind them. But there are only a few of them. And so the goal is to create a mathematical system or methodology to use data and information that can make as good a decision as Walsh and West made, in a more structured and regimented way, so anyone can make them.
So what you’re saying is absolutely true. What you’re saying is absolutely true. The goal is to take what’s between Bill Walsh’s ears and put it in a spreadsheet, so people can actually understand what it all means.
Amen to all concerned!
The best speadsheets in the world are simple attempts to blue-print the mental machinations of the best coaches in the world who already have the capacity to think the game accurately with nothing else but the benefit of their own experience.
The ability to generate an average gain of 4.5 yards on 1st down is the real objective here … whether on the ground - in a cloud of dust - or, through the air – via a Sid Luckman or a Don Coryell-inspired piece of artistry.
It is both the accomplishment which counts and the method of the madness … because – depending on the time, and the score, and the other complicating circumstances – the one is intricately connected to the other.
Despite the best efforts of this corner to assert otherwise over the course of the last 2+ years, there are still a fair share of individuals who would try to suggest that the image which exists of Toronto, Canada in the hearts and minds of most American-born professional athletes is that of a backwater wasteland.
Today, however, Toronto is a road trip just about every pro athlete looks forward to. Some say the city has a cool, international vibe that increasingly stands out. Some like the plentitude of cheap concert tickets—a boon for athletes with big posses—or the convenience of the must-be-19 drinking law. (Rookie guard DeMar DeRozan of the Raptors, who is 20, was ordering chocolate milk at dinner before his teammates told him the good news).
Athletes get a warm welcome at the city’s relatively libertine gentlemen’s clubs which, according to a spokeswoman for the Toronto Convention and Visitors Bureau, tend to “clear out the champagne room” for visiting athletes. And it helps that the tentacles of the tabloids and gossip Web sites rarely extend this far into the frozen north. “People like to come here to party,” says Raptors power forward Chris Bosh.
Basketball stars like LeBron James and Shaquille O’Neal of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Jamaal Magloire of the Miami Heat (a Toronto native) have come to Toronto for fun—even during the NBA offseason. Since the Buffalo Bills began playing annual games at Toronto’s Rogers Centre (formerly SkyDome) in 2008, an increasing number of NFL players have started passing through “the 416,” which is the city’s area code. Baseball players, who’ve been coming here since 1977 to play the Blue Jays, have good memories.
From a reputable source like the Wall Street Journal, no less.
As Leigh, a friend and blogger from New Orleans, said to me,
“The energy in this entire town is incredible. People here have been ready for this for decades…but the way the media is treating the Saints as underdogs isn’t a surprise to any of us. The people of New Orleans have been subjected to those attitudes for a long time ourselves, and we still are in too, too many ways, but we’re still here. And those who are still unable to return here due to the displacement caused by the storm, or the recession, or other circumstances – they’ll return in one way or another, because this is a town that can teach the rest of this country how to live. It always has, and it always will, despite it all.”
Leigh’s pride runs across NOLA tonight. The same week that Education Secretary Arne Duncan outrageously called Hurricane Katrina “the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans”, the city has delivered a counterpunch to Duncan as well as any and all doubters. Their ascendancy means that the arduous post Hurricane recovery work has gotten more publicity in the last two weeks than it’s received in the last two years. This is maddening but many New Orleans residents wouldn’t have it any other way. As Saints linebacker Scott Fujita’s wife Jaclyn said, “The people of New Orleans love the Saints not because they provide a distraction from their fall but because they are a reflection of their rise.”
Whether you believe that or not, the proof is in the very vibe of the city. The French Quarter is hopping tonight. The Ninth Ward is hopping tonight. Algiers is hopping tonight. People in New Orleans are feeling damn good right now, and to scoff at that is to scoff at the very resiliency that makes us human. Community activist and former Black Panther Malik Rahim who has lived in the city for three decades and still works in Algiers, told me, “I haven’t seen people this happy since Katrina. No question about it.” That doesn’t mean all – or even some – questions about the future of New Orleans are solved by a Saints Super Bowl win. Jobs, housing, and the right of return for displaced residents still need to be at the forefront of everyone’s mind.
But it does mean that folks of the Big Easy are feeling fearless tonight. Every last person – from Bush to Brownie – that wrote this city off has to now bend down and kiss the ring. President Barack Obama, who often seems allergic to saying the words “New Orleans” must now greet the team at the White House and acknowledge both the Saints and the city that bears their name. Even if tomorrow is unbearably hard, we have today. And today feels mighty fine.
In case you might not know of him, just yet, Dave Zirin [Edge of Sports] is one of the finest sports writers in America today.
For the benefit of those who are regular readers of this space …
What you need to know is:
On an annual basis, the Super Bowl is the single most wagered upon event in North America.
Successfully prognosticating upon the outcome of weekly NFL games is what first developed an interest in the field of “sports handicapping”, in general, on the part of yours truly, some 33 years ago.
Since that time, one thing which has gradually become crystal clear … across an array of sports … is that successfully handicapping BIG GAME [single day] events is an Art & Science, unto itself, and a “calling card”/specialty for yours truly.
Not everyone who is a successful “sports handicapper” can do this consistently.
In fact, few “sports handicappers” can authentically lay claim to the following statement:
“______________ is a service which nails the outcome of BIG GAMES,”
as an accurate description of what it is they provide for their clients.
If you have only 1 sporting proposition to make this year, today is the opportunity to make it …
based on the selection provided by yours truly, in the post above this one, titled: “Khandor’s Sports Service, Games Of The Day.”
It is listed under the category of, “KSS GOTD Selections, NFL – GOTW [Super Bowl XLIV], Game 1,” and comes at a cost of $100.00.
As always, the choice of whether to act, or not, is yours to make.
Either way …
Enjoy today’s BIG GAME and the remainder of your Sunday, hopefully, with friends and family.
“Life is short; and, things happen quickly.” - Derek Fisher