Shh…

Turn your ear to the West. Do you hear it?

Hold on. Let me help you.

That’s right. Way out in Napa Valley, CA, where the show is usually about grapes, grapes, and more grapes, the circus has come to town.

This Big Top arrived via hot air balloon. Inside the balloon was a clown with frost bitten toes and a leather helmet from yesteryear ready to put on a show.

All three rings of this circus are occupied by this guy.

Since floating out of the sky with the greatest of ease, Brown has been the opposite of easy.

To begin with Brown couldn’t practice because of severe blisters on his feet. It turns out he had frostbite from not wearing proper footwear while receiving cryotherapy. Fellow cryotherapists(yes, I’m making up words) have come forward stating its hard to believe someone would jump in the “cold machine” without wearing proper gear.

Brown got the therapy in France. Maybe it was a case of when in France, do as the French. More likely it was when you are Antonio Brown, do stupid things.

Furthermore, Brown has appeared to spend more time with his kids at camp than his new teammates. Reports surfaced from numerous unnamed Raiders that Brown is late for meetings, and when he does show up he pays more attention to his electronic devices than his coaches.

Finally the latest fiasco had Brown leaving camp last week and threatening to never play again. All because the NFL won’t allow him to wear his old helmet.

In an effort to protect its players the best they can, the NFL puts football helmets through strenuous testing to see which absorb hits the best and keep the head protected. Brown’s old helmet didn’t make the cut, and he feels restricted in the new helmet. Plus, Brown thinks quarterbacks like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers are exempt from changing helmets.

Brown says he isn’t budging, even after the Raiders sent him a video of Rodgers wearing the new helmet.

Every Steelers fan, player, and coach should be breathing a sigh of relief —after they pick themselves off the floor from laughing— that this circus, and the one that moved to New York, is no longer in town to cause turmoil.

I was going to link one of my old columns but then realized that between January 8 and now I have written my main column or my Final Thought about this saga too many times to count. I referenced the “clown” in January and pleaded with the Steelers to move this “circus” out of town in February.

After they finally made the trade, I referenced how peaceful things had become, and that the Steelers would be just fine, and probably better, without the sideshow. The Steelers certainly don’t come to me for advice, although that would be a helluva idea, but I think I’m right. It’s up to the team, and Mike Tomlin, to prove me right.

All I know is while Raiders owner Mark Davis and coach Jon Gruden, aka Chucky, plead with their star receiver to come join the party, the Steelers are busy lauding rookie receiver Diontae Johnson and raving about a new and improved James Washington. Oh and as reported by Alex Kozora of Steelers Depot(a great source for Steelers news) JuJu Smith-Schuster is catching 400 balls on the JUGS machine each day after practice and having a blast.

This helmet controversy is an all new level of crazy for Brown.

After watching him get pummeled like a rag doll over the years, I would think he’d welcome as much protection from injury as he could get. However, as I stated in a previous column on this topic, you can’t rationalize with crazy.

I sent up my conspiracy theory antennae and the only thing I could pick up on that radar was that he got to Oakland and realized the grass isn’t always greener and wants to find a way out. Thus “helmetgate”. That ranks up there with grassy knoll theories, I know, but we are dealing with a crazy man.

The problem for Brown with all of this is he would throw away approximately $30 million by staying home. Maybe he is getting advice from his former homie Le’Veon Bell. If AB starts rapping, then we will know for sure.

One other thing I predicted correctly was that Hard Knocks would be must watch TV. Just think, Richie Incognito hasn’t said anything offensive yet, Vontaze Burfict hasn’t tried to kill any of his teammates yet, and now Antonio Brown has gone AWOL.

Could this be the prelude to another in the series of Child’s Play movies?

  VS  

Steelers fans keep grinning, grab some popcorn, and be glad that you are viewing this train wreck from a safe distance.

Two Cent Takes

Baseball

~The New York Mets will make the playoffs. They are the best story in baseball right now, going 15-2 in their last 17 games.

Leading up to the trade deadline, people wondered where Noah Syndergaard and Zach Wheeler would be traded. Instead they keep those two, and add Marcus Stroman, from Toronto, to make one mighty starting rotation.

They have some nice young position players in Jeff McNeil (may win batting title), Michael Conforto, JD Davis, and Pete Alonso(may win rookie of year). With that pitching, and if they can get closer Edwin Diaz back to 2018 form, they will be a tough out in the playoffs.

~Chris Davis, still of the Baltimore Orioles for some reason, was upset last week when manager Brandon Hyde —yea, I’ve never heard of him either— pulled him for a pinch hitter. Davis was hitting .183 at the time. He went after Hyde in the dugout. Really?

Davis should be thrilled some team still allows him to put on a uniform. Don’t you have to cut this guy and just eat the salary. There has to be a young player you can put in the lineup that at least might be part of the future in Baltimore.

~I’m shocked to see another ex-Pirate playing really well for his new team. That almost never happens(Jose Bautista, Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton, Austin Meadows, Tyler Glasnow). Corey Dickerson has been red hot since Gabe Kapler decided it would be a good thing to play him. Unfortunately for the Phillies, Dickerson can’t pitch.

~The Cleveland Indians thought about a rebuild in the offseason. They dug a hole early in the season, prompting thoughts of selling off high priced talent at that point. They righted the ship and got in the playoff chase. Even so, the Indians still traded malcontent pitcher Trevor Bauer for malcontent outfielder Yasiel Puig, and others. With all that, the Indians have tracked down red hot Minnesota to tie them for first place. What an interesting ride in Cleveland, and most fans haven’t noticed.

NFL

~Preseason week one is only matched in uselessness by preseason week 4. Having said that, the Steelers should be ecstatic by some of what they’ve seen to this point. James Washington, Mason Rudolph, Joshua Dobbs, Zach Banner, and certainly first round pick Devin Bush have all impressed in their own way.

~The Eagles should have fun in the red zone this year. Dual tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert are joined this year by 6’3” JJ Arcega-Whiteside. Carson Wentz will have a lot to pick from around the goal line.

~I can’t wait for games to hinge on a replay of pass interference.

College Football

~Check out this week’s Two Guys Talking podcast where Jed Donahue and I will debate the best college football stadiums. My top ten in no particular order:

  • Beaver Stadium(Penn St)-Incredible scene for whiteout games.
  • Tiger Stadium(LSU)-Night games in Death Valley. Enough said.
  • Rose Bowl(UCLA)-Not For UCLA games, but Rose Bowl. Prettiest scene in all of sports.
  • Michigan Stadium(Michigan)-When they are rolling and the band is playing Hail to the Victors, look out.
  • LA Coliseum(USC)-History, history, history.
  • Neyland Stadium(Tennessee)-Most beautiful surroundings anywhere.
  • Husky Stadium(Washington)-When those blasted air raid sirens are sounding the Huskies are barking. Look out!
  • Ohio Stadium(Ohio St)-It’s shaped like a horseshoe. C’mon, that’s pretty cool.
  • Memorial Stadium(Clemson)- The tradition of touching Howard’s Rock is one of the best.
  • Folsom Field(Colorado)- surrounded by the Rocky Mountains. Snow late in the season adds to the beauty of this place.

Honorable Mentions: Georgia, Arizona St, Notre Dame

~As I state in the tweets below, Mike Leach is a national treasure. With practice barely underway, he gave us these two gems.

Golf

~Brooks Koepka is leading the charge to speed up play on the PGA Tour. He has been joined in the fight by Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, and Lee Westwood.

At the Northern Trust this weekend in New Jersey, notable slow player Bryson Dechambeau didn’t disappoint. At one point he took 2 minutes 20 seconds to hit, and miss badly, an 8 foot putt. Playing partner Justin Thomas called him out for his nonsense after the round.

Then a day later, after hearing Koepka’s rant, DeChambeau told Koepka’s caddie to have him say it to his face. Moments later Koepka was in his face. The PGA should offer Koepka a bonus for addressing a situation they should have taken care of by now.

I’m all in. I hate playing with slow golfers. I hate watching slow golfers. I’ve been accused of having a man crush on Koepka, or at least his biceps. But it goes so much deeper. Koepka is the type of guy who shows up on the first tee five minutes before teeing off, takes a couple practice swings, and is ready to go. Me too. Driving ranges are the dumbest things ever invented.

This is all Jack Nicklaus’ fault. He hovered over putts for hours. I don’t know how he didn’t fall over. He also was the best player in the game. Thus, many players feel like stepping off yardage and slowing their routine is vital to good golf. To quote the world’s greatest golfer, Donald Trump, “wrong!”

A Penny For My Final Thought…

There is a car broken down along Federal Street in Pittsburgh.

It’s unsightly, it stinks, and someone is going to have to pay for that mess.

The Pirates haven’t won a baseball game all week. They are 4-24 since the All Star break. They are a disgrace.

When a team is on a plunge of historic proportion, someone has to take the fall. That is where manager Clint Hurdle and pitching coach Ray Searage come in. Although they are the least of the problems with the Pirates, firing them —or having them resign— is the easy fix.

The owner is not concerned with winning, but Bob Nutting isn’t going anywhere.  Make no mistake, Bob Nutting is the biggest problem for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Nutting shows no inclination to sell the team to someone who may want to, you know, try to win. The team is worth an estimated $1 billion, but there is no real incentive for Nutting to sell. Whether he sells the team tomorrow or in ten years he will make a gigantic profit. In the meantime, Nutting rakes in between $30 and $40 million each year running the team on the cheap.

Frank Coonelly, the team president, is incompetent on his good days. He should have been fired seven years ago when he was arrested for a DUI while driving down the wrong side of a road. He could be fired today for sheer uselessness.

General manager Neal Huntington has not drafted and developed one superstar in twelve years. He rarely produces an all star. His trade record is spotty, but it’s his developmental process that should get him fired. He really didn’t deserve his latest contract extension. Make no mistake, this guy is the architect of this burning pile of rubble. However, he works without complaint under the tight financial constraints of the owner, thus it would be stunning to see Huntington fired.

Alas, that brings us back to Hurdle and friends.

Firing these guys is akin to changing the wiper blades on that broken down car that needs a new engine and transmission.

In the last week, the Pirates have botched a rundown…again. Their third baseman made a play at the wrong base…again. A guy that has no business playing left field was nearly killed by a fly ball. Then there was this play that sums it all up.

Fat pitch, unnecessary relay throw, third baseman stuck in quicksand, pitcher not backing up the proper base.

Let me add this little nugget. Elite closer —who should have been traded for high end prospects— Felipe Vazquez has 2 save opportunities in the last 50 days. Hurdle rarely brings him in for non save situations. So the best pitcher on the roster sits and twiddles his thumbs most days. When wins are few and far between, keeping a game close is important. Apparently Hurdle doesn’t think so.

Yea, there is no doubt the wiper blades need changed.

Oh, the new wiper blades will look nice, and hey, maybe they’ll even give the car a fancy new paint job. Unfortunately the car still won’t get anywhere with that bum engine and transmission.

And there ain’t Nutting anyone is going to do about that.

Just my Two Cents…