by Bert Beiswanger
I’ve got various sports topics from this week in-hand. It’s time to address them before they melt in my clutch (a nod to the creative geniuses Rankin and Bass and their popular character, Heat Mizer -and a wish that warmer days were ahead).
It’s Miller George Time!
Yes, I somehow stayed up for the entire Pacers-Kings game last night. And at no point did I really think the Pacers were going to mount a comeback and beat the Kings, who were playing without Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins. The Kings built a huge lead and the Pacers looked road weary. But with 18 seconds remaining and the Pacers down four, this Reggie Miller-esque moment happened:
I have to chime in on the whole Leigh Steinberg influence the 1998 draft story that unfolded earlier this week. Kent Sterling addressed this very well in this piece : Leigh Steinberg Claims 1998 Draft Was Manipulated, But Bill Polian’s Choice Was Manning All Along
This had all the feeling of a snowball rolling down a hill type of story. What started as nothing more than Steinberg revealing in his new book, ”The Agent: My 40-Year Career Making Deals and Changing the Game,” that HE manipulated the draft by suggesting Ryan Leaf skip out on a meeting with Colts coach Jim Mora at the NFL Combine to help assure the Colts would draft Peyton Manning, turned into some conspiracymanipulation theory that people spent time wondering who knew what and who was in on it. A story on espn.com called Steinberg’s idea one “that would change the course of NFL history.”
So, let me get this straight: Bill Polian and the Indianapolis Colts were “duped” into drafting Peyton Manning? Are you freaking kidding me? If you believe that then I’ve got beachfront property in Antarctica to rent you for a winter getaway.
I listened to Mike and Mike on ESPN Radio during a snowy hour commute Tuesday morning and the show was all about this draft manipulation stuff. And I will say, while Mike and Mike couldn’t seem to get their hands around the real context of this (that the Colts took Manning simply because he was better than Leaf), they did a good job of rolling out guests such as Steinberg, Polian and former player personnel brass from the San Diego Chargers during that time.
So what’s the deal here? Here are the connected dots:
- Leaf didn’t want to play for the Colts. He wanted to play for the Chargers
- Steinberg told Leaf to skip out on a meeting with Mora and that would shy the Colts away from Leaf, assuring he would go to San Diego. For Steinberg to suggest that he had so much power that he influenced Bill Polian’s and the Colts’ decision is a pretty big stretch. Frankly, it sounds stupid, especially when you consider the player at the center of this draft: Peyton Manning.
- This is where I don’t understand the notion that former Chargers GM Bobby Beathard was “in on it.” Steinberg told Beathard what was going on. Why? Because he didn’t want Leaf to look bad in the eyes of Beathard and the Chargers brass, too. So what? How is that involving Beathard in some plot to manipulate the draft? Beatherd had the second pick! He had no influence on the draft regardless. The only thing Beathard could do was take the player the Colts didn’t.
- Did Leaf skipping a meeting help reveal the fact he had issues? Sure, it did. But that wasn’t the only thing. The fact is, Leaf did have issues and not a very deep resume (one big season). Do you honestly believe the only reason Polian didn’t take Leaf was because of the meeting deal? Come on… the fact is as time goes on, the cream rises to the top. When it was put up or shut time, Manning had no holes. He was the safer pick. Both teams would have taken Manning and former Chargers personnel folks confirmed that.
Now if Beathard had paid/planted a trusted Polian informant with false negative information on Leaf to get the Colts to pass on him because the Chargers really wanted Leaf (and Leaf was actually deserving of being drafter ahead of Manning)… then you have some juicy conspiracy story. But this whole thing seems pretty stupid to me. The Chargers had the #2 pick, no control, and would have taken Manning too. But it didn’t stop ESPN from covering it as some conspiracy and media and fans from taking the bait on this.
Gee, Peyton Manning ended up testing out ahead of Ryan Leaf? Shocker! Hey, I was pulled into the Leaf hype, too, back in the day but Manning was the safe bet, just as Luck was. What’s next, people are going to tell me RG III and his peeps manipulated the Colts into taking Andrew Luck?
Richard Sherman Moment
It is possible to be a jerk at a moment in time but be great person overall. Why is this so hard to understand? After Sherman had his moment of rampage immediately after the win against the 49ers, the “Richard Sherman’s a Really Good Guy” campaign began, led by Richard Sherman. I’ve read nothing but great things about Sherman and how he conducts himself on and off the field. But he went nuts in a moment of classlessness. It happened. How does the fact that he’s an overall good guy change what he did after the game? I never grasped that. We’ve all had those “that’s not really who I am” moments. They happen. Some will forgive and forget. Some won’t. And Sherman’s moment was, while a little nuts and classless, harmless overall. The best thing he can do is to shut up and move on.
A new era of sports car racing – and the racing season in general – kicks off this weekend as the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, a product of the merged Grand-AM and the American Le Mans Series, takes to the track for the Rolex 24 at Daytona. While watching 24 hours of racing isn’t necessarily edge of your seat stuff, this is always a very welcomed race for me. I enjoy seeing drivers from various series – NASCAR, INDYCAR, SportsCar – come together to compete. But more than that, it always comes at a time when winter is starting to wear thin, especially this year. I don’t get tired of seeing palm trees and race cars on TV, and 24 hours of it is fine by me.
Ball State Basketball Has Potential
Ball State notched it’s first Mid-American Conference win Thursday night, downing the mighty Buffalo Bulls. “WE’RE BACK!” I’m kidding, folks. At 4-15 talking potential may seem ridiculous. But I think the program has real potential in the long-run. Despite the record, I’m confident in the new coaching regime of James Whitford, Brett Nelson and company. The basketball program has been in a haze the last seven to eight years, thanks to the JoAnn Gora era and a string of bad hires. But BSU has good athletic leadership in place now and a head coach who spent years alongside Sean Miller at Xavier and Arizona. Whitford has the best arena in the MAC to use as a recruiting tool, promising freshmen like Pike’s Zavier Turner and South Bend Concord’s Franko House to build around and a deep pool of Indiana talent to recruit from. It’s going to take BSU three years before they can truly compete with MAC’s best, but I believe it will happen.
Speaking of Potential, I leave You With This
My son got a letter in the mail identifying him as a student with the potential to succeed in certain courses of study. I chimed in with a little truth/sarcasm: “The key word in that letter being ‘potential.’” To which my son replied, “Yeah, Sarunas Jasikevicius had potential, too.”
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