- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 7, 2003

Is it just me, or did the sports world overreact a bit to Raiders coach Bill Callahan calling his team dumb? (As in: “We’ve got to be the dumbest team in America in terms of playing the game.”)

After all, plenty of other sports figures have thrown the word around without creating a stir. For instance:

• Johnny Pesky on Red Sox teammate Ted Williams: “He used to call his own pitchers stupid. He’d say, ‘You guys are some of the dumbest SOBs I’ve ever seen.’ They’d go into orbit. But they’d all listen.”

• Bob Knight, Texas Tech basketball coach, after a 71-64 win over Houston in 2001: “We made three of the dumbest plays I’ve seen in my life at the end of the first half.”

• Steelers owner Dan Rooney on shortening the preseason from four games to two: “That’s the dumbest thing this business could do. The main position is quarterback. If you’re going to play two [preseason] games, you’re going to play your starting quarterback one game and his backup the next. The third guy is never going to get in, so you’re not going to know how he can play. He’s never going to get any experience. You wouldn’t be able to develop offensive linemen, defensive linemen. It’s crazy.”

• Former Reds owner Marge Schott on the team signing Ken Griffey Jr. to a nine-year, $116.5million contract: “That was the dumbest thing they could have done, bringing that boy in. [Then-Seattle manager] Lou Piniella, I’m sure he wanted to get rid of him. To spend that kind of money is ridiculous, honey. He has been hurt all the time, but he is getting paid every bit. We should have just used better judgment.”

• Franz Beckenbauer on soccer’s golden goal rule (which replaced two guaranteed 15-minute overtime periods with sudden death overtime): “It’s the dumbest rule ever invented. … Whoever invented the rule, he must be declared an enemy of soccer.”

• Bulls and White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf on skyrocketing salaries: “In paying ballplayers, we are at the mercy of our dumbest competitor.”

• Reds radio announcer Marty Brennaman on the umpires’ plan to resign en masse in 1999: “The umpires waited until the last year of the last century to make the single dumbest decision of the entire millennium.”

• •

Most Creative Use of the Word “Dumbest”: Before the 2000 NCAA baseball tournament, Florida coach Andy Lopez said, “I like coaching dumb people because they think they can do the impossible. This is the dumbest group I’ve ever coached.”

• • •

A year ago, the Detroit Free Press asked its readers to rank the Lions’ “10 Dumbest Recent Moments.” (How could they decide on just 10?) Coming in at No.6 was: “Bobby Ross goes for two [1999].”

(That was the infamous game in which Detroit — at Bobby’s direction — failed twice on two-point conversions in the second half against the Cardinals, costing them a chance at victory. Had the Lions simply settled for the PATs, they could have tried for the winning field goal after driving to the Arizona 10 in the final minutes. But because they were behind 23-19, they had to keep throwing passes, and the last three fell incomplete.)

• • •

Of course, sports folk are always calling themselves dumb (or something similar). Nobody ever gets too worked up about that.

Golfer Roberto Di Vicenzo after signing an incorrect scorecard and losing the 1968 Masters: “What a stupid I am.”

Indiana’s Dane Fife after fouling Duke’s Jason Williams on a successful 3-pointer late in a 2002 NCAA tournament game, with the Hoosiers up by four: “I’ve seen some dumb plays, but in the history of Indiana basketball, that was the most idiotic play.”

Mike Tyson before his bout against Clifford Etienne earlier this year: “I’m tired of being stupid.”

• • •

OK, I’m done with dumb.

• • •

From Tom FitzGerald of the San Francisco Chronicle: “Notre Dame coach Tyrone Willingham defended his fake punt attempt while leading Stanford by 50 points on the grounds that the Cardinal were lined up to try to block the punt and ‘you’ve got to make them pay.’ He probably found that explanation in ‘How to Run Up the Score Without Having to Say You’re Sorry’ by Steve Spurrier.”

• • •

My friend Robert, the Mad E-Mailer, says the Redskins’ penchant for near misses “reminds me of another Washington football team that was only one or two plays away in many of their games — the 1983 Federals.”

Gee, I’d almost forgotten (or maybe I’m just trying to suppress those memories). The Feds truly were the Heartbreak Kids that season. They lost nine games by a touchdown or less, including back-to-back losses by a point, another by two points, two by a field goal and one (by six) in overtime.

• • •

Did you see where Brooks Barnard, Maryland’s erstwhile punter, got picked up by the Patriots (after being cut by the Bears in training camp)? “This is awesome,” he told the Boston Globe. “You can’t get more storybook. I’m a rookie on the street, and now I’m on this team that has an opportunity to win it all. That’s what I’ve been waiting for — just staying in shape, getting ready for a situation like this.”

Best of luck, Brooksie. And try not to put too much pressure on yourself. The Pats, you might be interested to know, have never had a punter make the Pro Bowl, not once in 44 years. If you can get the ball in the air — and headed in the right direction — you’ll do just fine.

• • •

Just wondering: Oklahoma has beaten Texas A&M; 77-0 in football and Arkansas-Pine Bluff 94-24 in men’s basketball in recent weeks. Could the Sooners possibly be the first Division I school to have a 70-point win in both those sports in the same year? (Probably not. But I’ll bet it isn’t a very long list.)

• • •

It’s a pretty impressive feat, you have to admit. Consider: BYU spanked UTEP 83-7 in football in 1980 — at the same time that it had the best basketball team in its history (led by Danny Ainge). But the Cougars’ biggest blowout in hoops that year was by a mere 32 points over Michigan State.

• • •

FYI: John Wooden’s UCLA basketball teams, great as they were, never beat anybody by 70. The Bruins’ largest margin of victory under Wooden was 65 points, in a 122-57 pummeling of Portland in ‘67.

• • •

Chaminade over No.1 Virginia in 1982 is the all-timer, without question. But as college basketball upsets go, Division III Williams’ 78-71 whupping of Holy Cross the other night — at Worcester — has to rank right up there.

• • •

The previous item has nothing to do with the fact that I spent four years of my life in Williamstown, Mass.

• • •

August 2003 — White Sox fan who attacked Royals coach is sentenced to 30 months’ probation.

December 2003 — White Sox fan who attacked umpire is sentenced to 30 months’ probation — plus six months in jail.

What exactly is the message here? That we’re going to protect umpires, but coaches will have to fend for themselves?

• • •

If I were Don Zimmer, I’d hire a bodyguard.

• • •

Buddy Silverman, author of the just-released “100 Greatest Jews in Sports” (which was discussed in This Space last week), sends along this tidbit on Sandy Koufax:

“It might have been fitting for his eventual Hall of Fame plaque to have been presented by Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal. … On May 23, 1960, Israeli Prime Minister [David] Ben-Gurion announced that Wiesenthal had captured the despicable Adolf Eichmann, a Nazi Holocaust kingpin. That night, a potentially great Jewish baseball pitcher with control problems and a career losing record pitched a one-hit shutout. And from that point on, the Jewish pitcher dominated major league baseball as no pitcher ever had — hurling four no-hitters, including one perfect game, winning three times as many games as he would lose and striking out more than one batter per inning over the next six years. From that point on, Sandy Koufax exhibited the self-confidence he lacked in order to achieve the greatness that had been predicted for him.

“Record from 1955 through May22, 1960: 28 wins, 31 losses.

“Record after the announcement that Eichmann had been arrested: 137-56.”

• • •

And finally …

Have to share with you this e-mail I got from my 13-year-old’s middle school:

“DEAR HOOVER PARENTS:

“IMPORTANT!!! Please note the following change in next week’s schedule for Hoover boys basketball tryouts:

“Tuesday, December9 and Thursday, December11:

“NEW START TIME — 6:45a.m. BOTH DAYS.

“This is a change from the original time of 2:50-4:00p.m.”

Tryouts at 6:45 in the morning? Who’s coaching this team, John Chaney?


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