NGSC Sports

The DraX-Files Sports Commentary

The DraX-Files Sports Commentary: Jack Handy has Deep Thoughts. I just tell you like it is…

Not many things on this planet offend me. Political Correctness and Pittsburgh area drivers are at the top of the list.

So is the entire Baltimore Ravens organization. To me, they are the most classless franchise in all of sports, one that surpasses even the Philadelphia Flyers in my book.

From the owners, to the coaches, to the players, down to the fans, they are the epitome of vileness.

The way Art Modell stabbed the city of Cleveland in the back in moving to Baltimore after the 1995 season still stinks to high heaven. They have a statue of a man outside their stadium that once pleaded guilty to Obstruction of Justice in a murder case. The Ray Rice incident placed a black eye (pun intended) upon the NFL Shield. The “Cover-up” of the Ray Rice tapes from Baltimore GM Ozzie Newsome, to the Ravens’ owner Steve Bisciotti making deals with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to limit the then-forthcoming suspension of Ray Rice before “the tape” had been released by TMZ and all hell broke loose. All examples of a team with no absolutely no morals whatsoever.

Then there’s the dirty tactics often enacted by it’s players.

I’m all for physical, hard hitting football. But there’s a certain line that you can’t cross if you don’t expect to get called out for it. The Ravens are masters at crossing that line.

On Sunday night, as the Pittsburgh Steelers were busy pasting the Ravens en route to a 43-23 victory, LaGarrette Blount took a hand-off with just under eight minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter and was being tackled by a plethora of Ravens’ players, when Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs, trailing behind the play, decided–like a coward, to run full speed and dive at the back of Blount’s legs. Luckily, Blount wasn’t injured, but a full-scale war nearly broke out between the two teams as a result of the dirty hit.

Suggs continued to run his mouth at the Steelers’ sidelines for the rest of the game, but all Pittsburgh’s staff and players had to do was point to the scoreboard and laugh.

Suggs’ dirty hit was just one of many by Baltimore that night. The bear was poked early as Courtney Upshaw decided to take a shot at Ben Roethlisberger’s head well after Roethlisberger had released a pass. For a few moments, Big Ben had to regain his senses and check to see if his jaw was still attached. Ben Roethlisberger had the last laugh as he responded by going 25-37 for 340 yards and firing SIX touchdown passes against their hated rivals.

[airesizeimg src=”http://ngscsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/image1.jpg” alt=”Big Ben” class=”alignnone size-full wp-image-7695″ ]

Jack Lambert was once quoted as saying, “We are the Pittsburgh Steelers. We do the intimidating.”

From Roethlisberger torching the Ravens’ defense, to the Steelers’ resurgent defense led by James Harrison inflicting as much pain upon Joe Flacco and the Ravens’ skill players, the Steelers taught the Ravens a lesson in intimidation both on the field and the scoreboard.

Class dismissed.

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Pittsburgh Penguins’ defenseman Olli Maatta is an example of a true warrior. Only 20 years of age, Maatta received news that would make most people weak at the knees. Thanks to a preseason physical, Maatta had a tumor discovered on his thyroid that had an 85% chance of being cancerous. What did Maatta do when he heard the news? He didn’t break a sweat as he continued to play right up until his surgery was scheduled to remove the tumor. He is expected to miss four weeks.

On the ice, Maatta has picked up where he left off last season when he was among the NHL’s most polished rookies. He’s averaging more than 20 minutes per game, and he’s an essential player to the team’s transition game and defensive zone coverage. The young Finn has one goal and five assists in the team’s first ten games this season.

[airesizeimg src=”http://ngscsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Olli-Maatta.jpg” alt=”Olli Maatta” class=”alignnone size-full wp-image-7696″ ]

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There are a few things in life you don’t wanna mess with. Say for example grizzly bears, or trying to take an unfinished plate from Rosie O’Donnell. In hockey, it’s best if you avoid the penalty box if you’re facing the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Penguins are firing along at a 41.9 percent clip with the man-advantage as they scored eight goals this past week. To put that in some sort of perspective, only 11 other teams have scored more than eight power play goals all season.

With the hiring of head coach Mike Johnston and assistant coach Rick Tocchet, the Pens look like they are enjoying hockey again, as evident to their 7-2-1 start. If it weren’t for a pair of blown two goal leads against Dallas and Detroit, they could’ve been looking at a 9-1 start. Sidney Crosby (7 goals-11 assists-18 points) has picked up where he left off as MVP last season, and has been flying since the drop of the puck in the season opener. Evgeni Malkin (5-10-15) is back in MVP form as well. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has been spectacular as well going 7-2 with a 1.89 G.A.A. and three shutouts. RW Patric Hornqvist (6-6-14) has been a superb addition with his grit and scoring ability, as has LW Blake Comeau (3-4-7) and D Christian Ehrhoff (0-4-4). Forwards Chris Kunitz (7-6-13) and Pascal Dupuis (4-5-9) continue to defy age.

So far so good, and the ‘Guins will only continue to improve, as they grow more and more comfortable with Johnston’s system, and the eventual return of talented winger Beau Bennett.

Now if they can only find a way to beat the Flyers at Consol Energy Center…

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As usual, there was a slobberfest over Tom Brady and Peyton Manning all last week, leading up to the Broncos-Patriots game. You hear the names of Andrew Luck, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, and heck, even Phillip Rivers when it comes to greatest quarterback and MVP discussions.

Rarely do you ever hear the name Ben Roethlisberger.

Roethlisberger’s numbers should speak for themselves. He’s been to three Super Bowls, winning twice. He’s the 4th fastest player too reach 100 wins in 150 games, trailing only Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw, and Tom Brady. He’s the only player in history to throw for over 500 yards twice, and the only the 2nd player ever to throw for 12 touchdowns in a two game stretch. So far this season, Big Ben has 2,720 yards passing with 22 touchdown passes and just three interceptions. His QB Rating is 110.6.

What more must the man do?

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Being an optimistic fan of Pitt football is the definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. For the 30+ years I’ve been watching them with my dad, every year they come up with new and creative ways to break your heart. If it isn’t blowing a 21 point lead to Cincinnati with a BCS Bowl on the line, it’s losing to Youngstown State or Akron. Two weeks ago, Pitt’s offense fumbled the ball away on each of it’s first five possessions. On four out of their first six snaps, they fumbled, and before five minutes had even elapsed, the Panthers trailed Georgia Tech 28-0. They were on pace to lose 336-0. Thankfully, they only lost 56-28.

Last week, they did the impossible yet again. The offense managed 594 total yards–263 yards of it via rushing by RB James Conner who also contributed three scores.

Two seconds remained on the clock and Pitt and Duke were tied 38-38. All that separated Pitt from victory was a 26-yard field goal attempt by kicker Chris Blewitt. Naturally, Pitt “gonna Pitt”, and Blewitt shanked the ball so far left, that the student who attempted a field goal at halftime for a prize came closer to making his kick compared to Blewitt.

In overtime, Duke blew through Pitt’s D to go up 45-38. Pitt and James Conner responded and made it 45-44 as Conner bowled over several Blue Devils into the endzone. Instead of going for two and trying to win the game right there, head coach Paul Chryst elected to tie it with an extra point, which they did at 45-45.

There were two definites in the match-up between Pitt and Duke: Pitt couldn’t stop Duke’s offense, and Duke couldn’t stop James Conner. So why not go for the kill right then and there if you’re Chryst? Three yards separated you from victory. Go for it.

Pitt, in the 2nd OT, ended up kicking a field goal to go up 48-45. In that possession, neither James Connor or star WR Tyler Boyd saw the field. Are you serious?

As a Pitt fan, you knew it was coming. Duke took the ball and rammed it right down the Panther’s throats as if they were facing a Junior High team, and ended up with the 51-48 double overtime victory.

What a way to lose.

*

Pitt AD Steve Pederson has done a marvelous job with Pitt Basketball. They have one of the best facilities in all of College Basketball, and one of the top programs to boot. Head Coach Jamie Dixon has been excellent despite not having a roster full of McDonald’s All-Americans like Duke and Kansas have each year. They are a yearly fixture in the NCAA Tournament.

The football program leaves much to be desired, however, especially with Pederson, who has managed to estrange himself from many alumni and high paying donors who used to contribute to the athletic program.

I’ve never seen a program that turns a deaf ear to it’s fan base quite like Pitt does.

The little things add up over time.

Take for example, when a football goes into the pavilion via kick by a Pitt player and into the hands of a fan. Security will chase you down and take the ball away–and offer nothing in return. Several times I have witnessed little kid’s eyes light up in joy as they got a ball, only to have their hearts crushed as some schlub takes the ball back. I understand kickers have special footballs they use, but how about giving another ball back, or a gift certificate? You have a hard enough time getting fans to attend games, why not treat the ones who do show up like gold? This is not a Top 10 program that averages 100,000 fans like Ohio State. Pitt needs every fan they can get.

Never bite the hand that feeds or supports you.

In the open end of Heinz Field, where the pavilion is located under the scoreboard, there are also portable stands in place. Hardly anyone ever sits in them during Pitt games. Last season, with around three minutes left in a blowout, some older Pitt fans just decided to take a seat in them to watch the rest of the game. No one was sitting there. No one was sitting anywhere–the stadium was empty. Within seconds, a security guard came over and told the people they weren’t allowed to sit there. When the obvious questions as to, “Why not?” was asked, the guard said they were “reserved”.

For who? Invisible fans? Where they going to finally show up with just three minutes left?

Truth be told, new University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Patrick Gallagher needs to make some changes. It’s time for Steve Pederson to go. Pitt needs someone with charisma to lead the program and bring back the faithful. Former head coach Dave Wannstedt would be a perfect choice. The alums love him. I believe he would work tirelessly to pump some money into the football program that it so desperately needs. They need resources to recruit better, especially in the south. They need better funding so they can find coordinators that are qualified, unlike the ones they have now.

Throughout all of the failures, Pitt has put some of the best players the NFL has into the league. Do the names Mike Ditka, Tony Dorsett, Dan Marino, Reuben Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, LeSean McCoy, and Darrelle Revis ring a bell? That’s just a few.

It can be done. Pitt has some fantastic players right now. There’s no reason why it cannot compete for an ACC Coastal Division crown every year. If Duke can, Pitt sure as hell can, too.

Wannstedt could make that happen. It’s up to Pitt to finally listen to it’s fans…and do the right thing.

[airesizeimg src=”http://ngscsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Wannstedt-Dave-09.jpg” alt=”Dave Wannstedt” class=”alignnone size-full wp-image-7703″ ]

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If there was ever a year for Pittsburgh Pirates owner Bob Nutting to put his money where his mouth is, now’s the time. The Buccos announced a 10% hike in prices across the board for tickets. The fans have spoken. They endured 20 years of hell before setting attendance records for the last two years. It’s time for the owner to respond in kind. There’s no excuse for the Pirates to have a payroll less than Milwaukee. They are in a great position to win it all next season. It’s time to open the checkbook, sign catcher Russell Martin, solidify the bullpen, and improve the bench. The Pirates must strike while the iron is hot.

So cover your hands in Crisco Mr. Nutting, slide those hands into your pockets, pull that paper out, and write the check.

*

That’s all folks! Till next we meet!

 

 

 

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Mike DrakulichYour source for Pittsburgh sports!
From Midland, "The Basketball Capital of Pennsylvania", located 35 miles NW of Pittsburgh along the Ohio River. This former steel town was home to storied athletes such as Dave Alston, Norm Van Lier, Simmie Hill, and the legendary 1965 Midland High School Basketball Team.

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