While many are getting ready for Christmas and others are in the midst of Hanukkah festivities, somewhere Frank Costanza is putting up the Festivus pole. One of the ways to celebrate Festivus is the airing of grievances.
In honor of my favorite all time television show, Seinfeld, I give to you my second annual airing of grievances.
- Umpires/Replay- First off, replay in baseball is atrocious. It slows an already slow game even more. Often plays that shouldn’t have been the intention of replay are reviewed. For example players are being called out because, during the process of a perfectly fine slide, a toe comes off the bag for a millisecond. Now, in addition to that, umpires have agreed to cooperate with MLB in the development of automated strike zones. The human element has been part of baseball for well over 100 years. I remember when the American League had a different strike zone than the National League. Enough with automation and replay. Umpires, just be better. I’ve got a big problem with replay.
- $$$- Money in baseball is slowly ruining the sport. A salary cap is needed. Players will still get paid. Superstars will still get paid a lot. Owners will still make money. A salary cap will force salaries of middling players to be more commensurate with their abilities. Most importantly, a salary cap will allow for more than the usual six or seven teams to be consistently competitive. It would be nice to see small market owners, who deal with a small window of opportunity to win, speak up and fight for equality here. Losing, but making money might be okay for some owners, but it sours the fan base. I’ve got a big problem with baseball’s financial system.
- Bob Nutting- Speaking of small market owners who are making money, I give you the most miserly one of all. Nutting does not care about winning. That is obvious to anyone paying attention to how the Pirates are operated. He can change managers and general managers and team presidents, but it’s still going to be the same business plan in place. He is losing fans already, and will continue to do so until moves that show different intentions begin to occur. I’ve got a big problem with Bottom Line Bob.
- Goons- I’m fine with guys dropping the gloves and having at it. It’s part of the fabric of hockey. However, being a goon or making goon-like plays should be over. It will never end as long as the NHL disciplinary group is led by former goons. The fact that Washington Capitals resident goon Tom Wilson consistently gets slaps on the wrist for repeat violations tells me this won’t end any time soon. I’ve got a big problem with goons.
- Season too long- Hockey should not be played in June. Teams in the Stanley Cup finals only have three months off before preseason begins. That’s nuts. I know, because of the rigors of the sport, that guys can’t be playing four or five games a week. Maybe a shorter regular season and a best of five first round would do the trick. I love hockey, but I’ve got a big problem with the length of hockey season.
Just kidding. I’ve got a big problem with the Flyers, but Gritty is cool.
- Defense- Actually, I should say lack of defense. Jalen Rose does a hilarious segment calling out guys who lack defensive…um…intensity. Moving aside to allow a guy to make a dunk never used to fly. I’m not suggesting I want to go back to the cheap shot days of the “Bad Boys” Detroit Pistons, but how about someone take the occasional charge. Zone defense being allowed was the first sign of the apocalypse, and it isn’t getting better. I have a big problem with these cement shoed defenders.
- Season too long- See hockey #2 above. Same applies here.
- Pace of Play- Bryson DeChambeau and his brethren of slow players must speed up. Allegedly the PGA has modified pace of play rules, but they won’t release any information on those modifications. This young crop of golfers, along with a healthy sprinkling of Tiger, is fun to watch. Slow play ticks most of them off, and makes viewing less desirable. I also hate it when I’m playing golf myself. Keep it moving if you are in front of me. I have a big problem with slow playing golfers.
- Change of schedule- I’m not a big change guy, so it goes to figure that i didn’t like the new schedule last year. I’d prefer the PGA Championship going back to the end of the line. Golf disappeared from many people’s minds after the British Open ended. There were still six weeks of summer left. I like the FedEx Cup system they have in place, but the season now starts in the fall. Huh? You have to be the die hardiest of golf fans to keep track of that. I have a big problem with this new PGA schedule.
- Last Minute Reviews- The last minute of a basketball game often takes longer than it should. Now the powers that be have allowed review of questionable calls in the last minute. The result has been laughable at times. Referees, fearing a crucial mistake, now review everything. Some games have been stopped upwards of five times in the last minute. In addition, the reviews aren’t quick. Instead they stand at the scoring table staring at the monitor for far too long. I have a big problem with end of game reviews.
- Conference scheduling- Please don’t start the season in early November with conference games like the ACC did this year. Conference games are too important to be placed at the front end of teams’ schedules. November and early December are for out of conference games. It is a time to work out the kinks and figure out your team. With mega conferences, more conference games are being played. It is up to conference commissioners to figure this out. I have a big problem with conference schedules.
- USC Administration- All my other grievances pale in comparison to this one. It doesn’t seem to matter who the university president is, or who the athletic director is, they have collectively managed to bury the football program. Ever since Pete Carroll left it has been mostly a disaster. Lane Kiffin was fired on an airport tarmac, Steve Sarkisian was hired when instead he should’ve been in AA, and ultimately Clay “Gomer” Helton was hired, then retained, then retained again. They passed on Ed Orgeron as their head coach because the snobs at USC didn’t think he talked so good. They’ve allowed Helton to be a lame duck coach not once, but twice. He has lost 11 games the last two years with the most talented team in the PAC 12. He fixed that last week by having the 78th ranked recruiting class in the country, right behind Bowling Green. I really have a big problem with everything USC football related…well, except for the horse, song girls, and marching band.
- The Playoff System- If you win your conference you should make the playoffs. Four teams doesn’t allow that. I also don’t trust guys dressed in suits, locked in a room, making decisions. Finally, the bowls being locked in to certain conferences and relying on the committee rankings have made for some lousy matchups. I have a big problem with the college football playoff system.
- Officiating- First, the targeting rule needs adjusted, as does the punishment. Getting ejected for making an honest attempt at a legal hit is too much punishment. Officials also shouldn’t be tasked with judging intent. Otherwise, referees need to start keeping their flags in their pockets. This year I saw repeated occurrences where it appeared they were making up calls that didn’t exist. I have a big problem with college football officiating.
- Scheduling- Teams need to be rewarded for scheduling good out of conference games. There were weeks that not more than two decent games were on the schedule. This is especially true in September. Scheduling nothing but cupcakes isn’t good for the sport. It would help if the playoff committee would prove that. I have a big problem with college football scheduling.
- Early Signing Day- I know schools want to get kids in to college early so they can start practicing with their new teams. It stinks for fans who looked forward to early February. That February date put college football back in the spotlight for a few days. It is also an extra burden on coaches, as Mack Brown outlined on ESPN last Wednesday. December is for bowls, not recruiting. I have a big problem with early signing day.
- Pass Interference- Now we are replaying pass interference calls and still getting them wrong. Replay stinks in the NFL in general. Thank you Al Riveron for that mess. Just like the catch rule, referees seem to have no clue what pass interference is. It is slowing the game down, it is frustrating coaches who don’t know when to challenge, and it makes the officials look even worse. I have a big problem with pass interference in the NFL.
- Randy Fichtner- Fichtner is in over his head as an NFL offensive coordinator. He doesn’t adjust to his personnel. He gets cute when cute isn’t necessary. He makes Todd Haley look like a genius. No Randy, the Wildcat is no longer clever. I have a big problem with Randy Fichtner.
- New England Patriots- The Patriots are good at a lot of things, including cheating. Do I need another reason? I have a big problem with the Patriots.
To be honest, I have a ton more grievances. I am bothered easily. There just isn’t time for them all. Plus, we have to get to the feats of strength. Happy Festivus!
Two Cent Takes
~Want your team to be number one? Think again. Kansas lost to Villanova Saturday, making them the fifth number one to go down. Next up…Gonzaga.
~Gonzaga is the best team right now. They don’t duck competition. They have played Oregon, Michigan, Washington, Arizona, and North Carolina. They could hold the top spot for awhile, as they hit the West Coast Conference portion of their schedule.
~We like to make fun of football and basketball west of the Rockies. No jokes this year in basketball. In addition to Gonzaga, you have Oregon, Arizona, Washington, Colorado, USC, Stanford, Oregon State, St. Mary’s, San Diego State, Utah State, and New Mexico who will all be vying for tournament bids, and higher seeds at that.
~With Gonzaga rising to the top spot in the rankings, it will be another week of shakeups in the polls.
- Overrated: Maryland- struggling to win on the road against decent teams.
- Underrated: Auburn- at 11-0, Bruce Pearl has the magic wand working again.
- Sleeper: West Virginia- there will be no sleeping the next two games vs Ohio State and Kansas.
~Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia, and LSU were the top five in the recruiting rankings. I wonder why we keep seeing those same teams in the playoffs each year? Hmm…
~I had to click the “load more teams” button to find USC, ranked 78 in the recruiting rankings. Clay Helton is burning the Trojan football program to the ground. This is bad for USC. This is bad for the PAC 12. This is bad for college football. USC is the West Coast presence needed in the grand scheme of college football. Somebody better tell the new administrators.
~Two Cent Bowl Predictions:
- Penn State 31 Memphis 20
- Baylor 24 Georgia 20
- Oregon 27 Wisconsin 24
- Florida 26 Virginia 13
- LSU 35 Oklahoma 20
- Clemson 31 Ohio State 27
~Houston wins the AFC South after Tampa Bay hands them five turnovers. Otherwise the Texans were completely outplayed. Tough team to get a handle on.
~Tennessee lost, but thanks to the Steelers losing to an AFC team again, the Titans control their own destiny. Beat Houston and they are in.
~New England won the AFC North for the bajillionth time in a row. Buffalo is close, but just not quite there.New England’s soft schedule is going to secure them a first round bye, which is a big deal.
~San Francisco’s defense has fallen on hard times at a bad time. They gave up 31 points to the Rams this week. They will need that defense to return to form if they are going to get to Miami in February.
~Last week it was Jarvis Landry arguing with Freddie Kitchens on the Brown’s sideline. This week:
Odell Becham Jr. is not happy and he's letting Freddie Kitchens know about it. pic.twitter.com/Ovy7YmWhNI
— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) December 22, 2019
Oh those wacky Browns.
~The Eagles held Dallas to 9 points. 9. Dallas is the most mismanaged team in the league. There are worse coaches, but none with the players Jason Garrett has. The Eagles even lost their only remaining receiving threat, Zach Ertz, to injury and still did enough to win. Dallas should be embarrassed. The Eagles still have to beat the Giants next week. The Giants gave them a real run two weeks ago.
~Congratulations to the Cincinnati Bengals. You are officially on the clock for the first pick in the NFL Draft.
A Penny For My Final Thought…
Injuries can really sidetrack a season. It took awhile, but the Steelers have officially been sidetracked.
The Steelers have played all or parts of the season without their Hall of Fame quarterback, the back up quarterback, number one running back, number one receiver, number two receiver, one of the back up running backs, defensive tackle, and center.
Mike Tomlin has a mantra of “next man up”. Another mantra of his is “the standard is the standard”. Until last week, those two mantras have held up.
It looks as though they have run out of spit and bale wire. In this business, even though there are legitimate excuses, blame needs to be assigned.
James Conner had a game changing fumble that cost the Steelers a game in San Francisco. He also seems to be made of glass. A guy that has overcome so much health wise just can’t keep himself on the field. That has been a problem, but not the biggest problem.
JuJu Smith-Schuster was supposed to step up in the absence of Antonio Brown as the number one receiver. He, too, has fumbled away a playoff spot a year ago and a game versus Baltimore this year. Moreover, JuJu has been hurt and took awhile to get back on the field. He came back Sunday, but let a potential game winning pass slip through his hands.
JuJu has been criticized for having his social media team follow him around with cameras everywhere he goes. He is marketing himself, as we all do to some extent. Most of us market ourselves to bosses, wives, girlfriends, boyfriends, etc. JuJu markets to his fans. It is financially beneficial to him. It won’t be for long if he doesn’t start playing better football. Football made him famous. Football will make him inconsequential.
His best spot is playing the slot receiver. Moving him back there would help. Having said all of this, JuJu is not the biggest problem.
Duck Hodges has a gunslinger mentality without the gun. I compared his attitude to Bubby Brister. Much like Brister, Duck had a limited shelf life. Last week he was exposed. This week he was benched. Still, he’s a third string quarterback, and this is not the biggest problem.
Ever since being drug off the field like a bobble head with no face mask earlier in the season, Mason Rudolph has felt like this.
My thoughts exactly…
— Tim Clark (@TrojanTim66) December 23, 2019
He actually has some upside. He has a good arm, but needs to improve his footwork. His benching earlier in the season was richly deserved. However, he is not the biggest problem.
The defense has been tremendous. TJ Watt should be defensive player of the year. Minkah Fitzpatrick is, and will continue to be, better than anyone they would have drafted in the middle of the first round. The defense isn’t a problem at all.
So what then?
Age, one new player, and a coaching change has left the Steelers offensive line a shell of its former self. Ramon Foster has seen better days. I assume he won’t be back. Matt Feiler moved in to the starting rotation at right tackle. He looks like a backup. He gets beat far too much, and often makes the wrong read on blitzes. Maurkice Pouncey, when on the field, has taken a step back, including making bad snaps in the shotgun. Ditto that for Alejandro Villanueva. David Decastro is the only one of the bunch who has played to the standard.
With Ben Roethlisberger out, the receivers trying to find themselves, and a running back by committee, it was the offensive line that the team needed to lean on. They just have not been there for most of the season.
Regardless of who is quarterbacking, they haven’t had many clean pockets. Whether it was Conner, Benny Snell, or one of the other many backs that played, there weren’t a ton of holes to run through. Even with other teams playing the run, the Steelers desperately needed the offensive line to allow the offense to grind out yards rushing the football. It just hasn’t happened.
The Steelers have one more opportunity, with even more question marks than already existed. The Ravens may sit some starters, including Lamar Jackson. Like last year, the Steelers need help from another team. This time it is the Houston Texans, who most likely will sit starters in their game against Tennessee. The odds are not good.
The shame of it is a great seasonal performance from the Steelers defense may go for not.
In life, everyone looks for someone who they can lean on when times are tough. The Steelers rock was supposed to be the offensive line. Not James Conner. Not JuJu. Not Duck. Not Mason Rudolph.
The offensive line is the biggest problem for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Just my two cents…
Tim Clark is a columnist and editor for PennSports.LIVE, and a wonderful writer of words. He is a lifelong sports fanatic with an eclectic mix of favorite teams including USC Trojans football, Louisville Cardinals basketball, and the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins in pro sports.