Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ruminating on Stevie's contract, CC's weight, Melo & Lin's compatibility and John Glenn

DOWN-AND-OUT-OF-BUFFALO? Apparently there isn’t good news out of One Bills Drive regarding the Stevie Johnson contract negotiations. I know many Bills fans would like to see Buffalo part ways with the talented but immature receiver because of his costly end zone celebrations. Hey, I didn’t care for his selfish theatrics either, but the guy is a super productive player (158 receptions, 2,077 yards, 17 touchdowns) and the Bills don’t have many of those. I agree with General Manager Buddy Nix’s decision to eschew putting the franchise tag on him – Stevie isn’t worth that kind of money – but I think the Bills really need to get him signed if they are truly serious about becoming a playoff contender again. Letting him fly will send another message to players in Buffalo and free agents considering Buffalo that the franchise isn’t willing to pay the price to win. Again, I understand there’s risk involved here, but the Bills cannot continue this trend of letting talented players flee.
A WEIGHTY TOPIC: That’s great that CC Sabathia reported to spring training considerably lighter than last season. But the same thing happened last February and look how that turned out. The Yankees ace wound up putting on all the weight he had lost plus several more pounds during the season, which may explain his late summer swoon. CC won 16 games through the first four months of the season, then went from Cy Young to sayonara with a 3-3 record and a 4.30 earned run average down the stretch. And he was even worse in the post-season with a bloated 6.75 ERA in two forgettable starts.
I like CC. He’s been a horse for the Yankees. Seems like a good teammate and a good guy. But it bothers me when a professional athlete making more than $20 mil a year doesn’t stay in shape. Hey, I’m intimately familiar with the struggles to maintain a healthy weight, but if I was making that kind of jack and had that kind of talent, I would hire a nutritionist and personal chef to ensure that I ate right.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman says he doesn’t believe in weight clauses in contracts. I disagree. If an athlete doesn’t do all he can do to stay in shape – particularly during the season – that should result in fines, and, in extreme cases, a voidance of his contract.
HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY? Going to be interesting watching how the beer-and-chicken wing faction of the Boston Red Sox roster responds to new manager Bobby Valentine’s strict edicts. The days of the patients running the asylum are over at Fenway. But I wonder if Sox pitcher Josh Beckett really understands that. He hasn’t apologized for his actions last season, but did concede that he is going to spend more time in the dugout cheering on his teammates in 2012. Wow! What a sacrifice!
NOT BACK FOR MORE: Talk is heating up that Syracuse sophomores Fab Melo and Dion Waiters will bolt following the season and declare themselves eligible for the NBA draft. I think both have NBA talent and great upsides, but neither is ready yet to make the quantum leap. Another season of college ball would benefit them greatly. Melo, a raw 7-footer from Brazil, needs to become much stronger, and Waiters needs to become more consistent.
“LET’S GO PLATINUM!” Not looking forward to SU’S platinum uniforms for the South Florida game at the Carrier Dome tomorrow night. Again, the school colors are orange and blue. This is what happens when you Nike gets a hold of tradition.
MELO-DRAMATIC: Like every else, I’ve been loving the Lin-sanity story, and I’m intrigued about how this next chapter is going to unfold. Carmelo Anthony could wind up being the fall guy if the Knicks crash back to Earth, which is entirely possible. I don’t agree with those who believe Melo is too much of a shooter and ball-hog to be compatible with Jeremy Lin. In fact, I think Melo will become a more efficient player, with nearly as many points on fewer shots, and, most importantly, more wins. But it’s going to take a little time for Melo to shake off the rust after being sidelined seven games with a groin injury, Anthony was the go-to guy on SU’s 2003 national championship team, but he also was a great team player. Don’t forget, Gerry McNamara was on that team, and took his fair share of shots, but that worked out well. I think it can work for the Knicks. It just might take a little time for Melo and Lin to develop chemistry. But we know patience is not a virtue among New York sports fans, radio sports talk show hosts and callers and tabloid headline writers.
GOD SPEED, JOHN GLENN: Yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of John Glenn becoming the first U.S. astronaut to orbit the Earth. I remember the excitement we all felt at the time, particularly in the Air Force Base town where I grew up – Rome, N.Y. I became enthralled with the idea of space travel and began spending more time gazing at the moon and the stars at night and thinking about how magnificent it would be to fly in a rocket ship. Just seven years after Glenn’s flight, we would feel even greater excitement about new frontiers and limitless possibilities when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. Those were seminal moments to be sure.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Hall snubs of Andre Reed & Bill Parcells, along with Fab Melo's triumphant return

I feel badly for Andre Reed. He deserves to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but the longer he’s denied – he’s now been a finalist six times – the harder it’s going to be for him to be elected. He may very well face the fate that Art Monk did. Monk, the former Washington Redskins great, had to wait 14 years before having his bust sculpted.

When assessing Reed’s career you can’t just go on numbers, although his are certainly Hall worthy. (951 receptions; 13,198 yards, 87 touchdowns.)

Back in the day, when Andre was a major cog in the Bills unprecedented Super Bowl run, he was regarded in many circles second only to the immortal Jerry Rice among pass-catchers. A distant second, mind you, but second nonetheless. He and Rice were responsible for importance being placed on a relatively new statistical category – YAC, yards after catch.

I covered his entire career in Buffalo and I believe the Bills probably wouldn’t have made it to four Super Bowls without him. He helped pave Jim Kelly’s way to Canton. The two of them became one of the most dangerous passing combinations in the game's history.

But wide receivers often have a tough time achieving enshrinement. The fact that Reed is competing for a bust at the same time as Cris Carter and Tim Brown has created a wide receiver log-jam. And they’re soon going to be accompanied by a number of guys with stats inflated by the fact the league is more pass-happy than ever before thanks to NFL rules that make even looking at a receiver the wrong way grounds for pass interference.


The biggest snub from yesterday’s Hall voting was Bill Parcells. How do you deny entry of the former Giants, Jets and Patriots coach with the two Super Bowl rings when you’ve already inducted a number of coaches (Marv Levy, Bud Grant among them) who never won the Roman numeral game?

That’s not to say Levy and Grant don’t belong; they do. But, come on, Parcells was a dominant coach for more than a decade.

And the timing of having him go in this year would have been so cool, considering two members of his coaching tree – Giants head coach Tom Coughlin and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick – are squaring off in Super Bowl 46.


Speaking of Canton, a win today should probably lock up a future spot for Coughlin. It would give him two Super Bowl titles and move him into a tie with Levy for 17th place on the NFL's all-time victory list.

The interesting twist on this is that should Coughlin gain induction he would join his Syracuse backfield mates - Floyd Little and Larry Csonka - in Canton. I wonder if there is another collegiate backfield that could make the same claim.


I like the Giants in a nail-biter, 30-27. You can read my reasons why at Channel 8’s website, www.rochesterhomepage.net


Didn’t take Fab Melo long to remind us how important he is to this year’s Syracuse basketball team. The 7-foot sophomore center from Brazil’s high-energy performance - a career-high 14 points along with three rebounds and two blocks in just 21 minutes upon his return in yesterday’s rout of St. John’s – was further evidence that the Orange men are a Final Four contender with him and just a nice team without him. He changes the entire dynamic for them on both ends of the floor, particularly in the back of that 2-3 zone.

It’s going to feel like old times in the Carrier Dome Wednesday night when the red-hot Georgetown Hoyas lock horns with second-ranked Syracuse. Savor it, because with SU going to the ACC, this rivalry is destined to become a distant memory.


Looking forward to speaking at the Rochester Rotary at the Riverside Convention Center this Tuesday at noon. I’ll be talking about my book, Color Him Orange: The Jim Boeheim Story, and the good and bad issues on and off the court regarding the SU hoops program.