Remembering The “Fifth Down” Game

This past weekend’s Colorado/Missouri game marked the 20th anniversary of the infamous “fifth down” game in which CU was granted an extra down which they utilized to win the most controversial game in college football history.  The Buffs eventually would split the national title that year.  ESPN Outside the Lines recently wrote a terrific piece commemorating the event and it does an exceptional job capturing all the elements that went into the worst gaffe ever by a refereeing crew.  Please take the time to read the whole piece which describes every angle of one of the most bizarre stories in college football.  From ESPN:

“But the fact is, the crowd was chanting ‘Fifth down,’ too. The fans were bellowing it at the refs, and they were hollering it at the Missouri coaches, who seemed perplexed themselves. Caught up in the moment, Stull had lost track of the downs. But Andy Reid and another assistant, Steve Telander, began grumbling that the spike might have come on fourth down. The Tigers’ backup quarterback, a 4.0 student named Phil Johnson, also tugged on the coach’s sleeve, saying, ‘Fifth down.’ But no one seemed indignant about it. No one was sprinting on the field, waving his arms, kidnapping the football.

The play clock for down No. 5 was winding down, and Stull contemplated calling his last timeout to sort it all out. But first he looked down toward Montgomery, one of the most rabid Tigers fans he knew. Montgomery’s personalized license plate read ‘BGTIGR.’ If anyone was going to protect Stull’s interests, it would be Montgomery. ‘He was my guy,’ Stull says. ‘I mean, you cut his arms, little Tigers run out, OK? But he’s standing there. There doesn’t seem to be any problem with him.’

Dore remembers that same helpless look on Stull’s face, remembers thinking Stull was looking down to himfor advice. Dore hosted Stull’s postgame coach’s show. They were pals, too. But Dore didn’t know what to do or say. He wanted to flash a timeout signal to the coach, but he was frozen. “Bob’s mouth was open, his eyes very wide,” Dore says. ‘But I’m sure in Bob’s mind it was, ‘These guys are not going to make this kind of mistake. This can’t happen.’

Stull’s split-second decision was to forgo the timeout. He was worried that if he called time and was wrong about the number of downs, Colorado would be able to set up a well-conceived play and score easily. Or if he ran onto the field and waved his arms hysterically, he was concerned about getting a penalty, moving CU half the distance closer to the goal line. But if he made the Buffaloes just run a play, with a backup quarterback staring into a hostile crowd … maybe that was the ticket. He told his defensive coaches, ‘Even if it’s 10th down, we’ve got to stop ’em. Let’s stop ’em.’

And maybe they did.”

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Great Sports Writing: “Cut Off From The Herd”

With the trade of Randy Moss this week and Jerry Jones’ apologies to the wideout for not taking him in the draft, what could be more appropriate than SL Price’s terrific profile of Moss during his college days at Marshall?  It’s a captivating tale of a troubled young superstar athlete who is coming to grips with the world around him and never, ever forgetting those who didn’t give him a chance.  It’s well worth the time to take a glance back at this given Moss’ behavior and the stories that are starting to emerge from his time in New England.  From SI:

“Yet Moss is not much interested in image-mending. His first words this morning were that he slept through his communications class. His hair is braided in long rows against his skull, a style he knows will give the wrong impression. ‘People perceive: Only black thug guys have braids,’ he says, his voice carrying to a dozen tables. ‘If I want to grow hair, I’ll grow it. If I want to wear lipstick and makeup, I’ll do that. God didn’t put makeup on this world just for women. They perceive me as a thug? I’m not. I’m a gentleman. I know what I am, my mom knows what I am, most people know what I am. Don’t judge me until you know me.’

Notre Dame did just that, and Moss will never forgive the school for it. ‘They didn’t take me, because they see me as a thug,’ he says. ‘Then Florida State…I don’t know. You win some, you lose some. That’s a loss.’ Moss pauses, laughs a humorless laugh. ‘But in the long run I’m going to have the victory. In the long run…victorious.’

Moss is sure of this because he has sports’ trump card: talent. Better, Moss has the kind of breathtaking athletic gifts seen once in a generation. At 6’5″, with a 39-inch vertical leap and 4.25 speed in the 40, he established himself as West Virginia’s greatest high school athlete since Jerry West. Irish coach Lou Holtz declared him one of the best high school football players he’d ever seen. Moss was twice named West Virginia’s Player of the Year—in basketball. ‘He does things you’ve never seen anyone else do,’ says Jim Fout, Moss’s basketball coach at DuPont High in the town of Belle. Moss also ran track for a while. As a sophomore he was the state champ in the 100 and 200 meters.

Nearly every college wanted him, troubled or not. During Moss’s trial for the stomping incident, Kanawha County prosecutor Bill Forbes received a half-dozen calls from football coaches around the country assuring him they could make Moss a better citizen if he was released to their care. Florida State coach Bobby Bowden ultimately got Moss and quickly understood his colleagues’ hunger. Early in the fall of 1995, during an impromptu late-night footrace among the Seminoles’ fastest players, Moss came in second. When he went through practice the following spring as a redshirt freshman, the defense couldn’t stop him from scoring. “He was as good as Deion Sanders,” Bowden says. ‘Deion’s my measuring stick for athletic ability, and this kid was just a bigger Deion.'”

[SI]

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Jay Mariotti Is Out At Fanhouse And ESPN

He confirmed it in two seperate tweets last night (want to follow him?! User name: JayMariotti) in which he stated, “Column writing has been a labor of love for 25 years, allowing me to see the world and cover some of the greatest athletes and events in sports. But it’s time to step back from the daily sportswriting grind and focus on my other media ventures, including a book project,” and also that, “I express deep gratitude to AOL for a fun, productive experience. I wish the talented staff at Fanhouse.com nothing but the best in the competitive Internet world.”

Can he overcome this Buzz Bissinger style?  Or was he too hated?

[Twitter]

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Great Sports Writing: “The Boxer And The Blonde”

Frank Deford shows us why he’s one of the greatest sports writers of all time in this excellent piece profiling Billy Conn, the Irishman who nearly took out Joe Louis, but found love along the way.  From SI, “And then it happened. Billy tried to bust the champ, but it was Louis who got through the defenses, and then he pasted a monster right on the challenger’s jaw. “Fall! Fall!” Billy said to himself. He knew if he could just go down, clear his head, he would lose the round, but he could still save the day. “But for some reason, I couldn’t fall. I kept saying, ‘Fall, fall,’ but there I was, still standing up. So Joe hit me again and again, and when I finally did fall, it was a slow, funny fall. I remember that.” Billy lay flush out on the canvas. There were two seconds left in the round, 2:58 of the 13th, when he was counted out. The winnah and still champeen….”

This is a long one but a great one, well worth your time.

[SI]

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Collection Of Reaction Columns To LeBron’s Race Comment

Jason Whitlock does the usual Whitlock thing but brings up a good point, “In an attempt to justify his asinine statement and gain favor with The King, LeBron’s enablers launched a counter offensive. Rather than deal with the real catalyst for the LeBron backlash – The Decision – we heard talk about how troubled some white folks were by LeBron deciding on his own to take his talents to South Beach.  Are you kidding me? Shaquille O’Neal has played for damn near half the NBA. Shaq bolted Orlando and took his talents to Hollywood without turning off most of America.”  [Fox Sports]

Mike Freeman points out James’ hypocrisy, “LeBron James never stood for anything and now he suddenly wants to talk race? Tell me James is clowning us all.  He has previously avoided controversial topics. He has rarely — if ever — made any statement of significance about anything. James has gone out of his way to see no evil, hear no evil. Just play ball, make money. That’s been James’ mission.  There’s nothing wrong with that. Making money is the American way.  It’s just that now, James is trying to have it both ways. He has catered to corporate America, mostly ignored issues that affect people of color, and then when so many people turned on James, he’s now suddenly seeing the racial light. [CBS Sports]

Simmons contrasts LeBron’s situation to what happened with Michael Vick…errr…what?! “The difference between Vick and LeBron James — another superstar who hailed from a rough background and tarnished his image, only unlike Vick, he did so without intentionally hurting anyone or breaking the law — is that LeBron steadfastly refuses to admit his “Decision” was ruinously handled from start to finish. If he had a do-over, he would ram that butcher’s knife into Cleveland’s back all over again. How do I know this? Because LeBron never jettisoned the sycophants and opportunists who walked him into July’s public relations disaster. And because he still doesn’t seem to comprehend why so many found ‘The Decision’ so revolting, as evidenced by LeBron playing the race card this week. You know, because we’ve been so kind to Brett Favre these past two years.”  [ESPN]

Bethlehem Shoals of Fanhouse’s “The Works” feels that LeBron’s not a drone but that he just doesn’t understand timing yet when it comes to public comments, “My reformulation: LeBron isn’t brainwashed, he just can’t figure out that whole timing thing. Bringing out this side of the discussion at this point makes it into an afterthought, and yes, cheapens the entire discourse of racial discrimination. If James really felt strongly about the role race played in the public outcry against him, he could have said so at any number of other crucial junctures. Instead, it’s like a last resort. Once again, LeBron daring for once to try the unfamiliar is canceled out by poor execution.”  [Fanhouse]

And JA Adande pretty much knocked it out of the park and we should end all the debate after reading his column.  “Now James has entered the fray himself, simply by acknowledging the presence of something we’re never comfortable talking about. It came to his porch and he finally opened the door.  The counterargument is that James never felt compelled to address the league’s racial element when everybody was an ally. No one wondered about the racial motivations of reporters and fans when they were writing praise and buying jerseys.  That’s because race doesn’t affect acceptance, it affects tolerance. When people behave in a manner accepted by society at large they are easy for everyone to embrace. It’s who chooses to align with the outcasts that is telling.  LeBron quickly evaporated his reservoir of goodwill with the self-serving ‘Decision.’ His own actions were responsible for the ignition and the acceleration of the vitriol. Where race comes in is the continuation. The racial element won’t be measured in the condemnation, which came from all corners. It will be measured in the willingness to forgive. [ESPN]

Adrian Wojnarowski is a little late to the party, but still manages to find a good angle, “James was moving past the summer in a natural way, and somehow his handlers have gone and made a mess of everything again.  With James, less is more. With Carter, less is too much.  Carter ought to stop crowding James on a stage where’s there’s no room for him, no good use. After all, this wasn’t about a belated damage control for LeBron, but for Maverick. Carter crafted a hit-and-run that would work to restore his crumbled standing in the marketing world. Carter wanted to change the dialogue on ‘The Decision’ for his own good, not James’.” [Yahoo! Sports]

More to come, I’m sure…

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Great Sports Writing: “The Heart of Los Angeles”

We’re going to have two posts of “Great Sports Writing” today as we just had one come to our attention that we couldn’t pass up.  Joe Posnanski completed a memorable profile on Vin Scullythat was published yesterday on SI.com and if you’re a baseball fan you simply cannot pass up the opportunity to read this.  It captures what makes Scully so successful at what he does and why he is so important to baseball.  We defer now to Posnanski:

“Vin Scully begins his stories with apologies these days. He’s reached that plateau of fame. ‘I’m sorry if I’m repeating myself,’ he says. ‘I know you’ve probably already heard this,’ he says. ‘I’ve told this many times before,’ he says. It is a mark of the man’s grace that he is the one apologizing repeatedly and not the reporter who asks him precisely the same questions people have been asking for 50 years. Scully genuinely — and generously — wants to help the writer tell a good story.

‘I know you’ve probably heard about the radio’” he says, and indeed I have heard it, but I ask if he will tell it again.

‘When I was a little boy in New York, we had this radio that stood on four legs,’ he says. ‘It was huge, or at least it seemed that way to me at the time. We lived in a little fifth-floor walk-up apartment then, and the radio was just about the biggest thing in there. I remember — I couldn’t have been older than 4 or 5 — I used to crawl under that radio with my pillow. There was no baseball on the radio then, but there were football games, and I remember I used to love listening even then to the crowd.’

I wait for it. Vin, I think, knows that I’m waiting for it.

‘That sound of the crowd would just engulf me,’ he says, and then (I’m almost mouthing the words with him now), ‘it was like water out of a shower head.’

Like water out of a shower head.No announcer in the history of sports has used crowd noise more musically than Scully. Can it be a coincidence? Sinatra used to say that his musical instrument was not his voice, it was the microphone. Scully uses crowd noise as his orchestra. When Henry Aaron hit his 715th home run, Scully was there, and he called the home run, and then he took off his headset, walked to the back of the room, and let people listen to the crowd cheer. Like water out of a shower head. ‘What could I have said that would have told the story any better?’ he asks. And he pauses: ‘You know what? I still love listening to the sound of a crowd cheering. Don’t you? Don’t you just love that sound?’”

[SI]

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Jay Marioitti Pleaded No Contest Yesterday

He was sentenced to three years probation and will have to complete 40 hours of community service.  Sports by Brooks has the full story, “ESPN Around the Horncommentator and AOL Fanhouse columnist Jay Mariotti pleaded no contest, which has the effect of a guilty plea, to a misdemeanor charge of domestic violence against his girlfriend in exchange for the L.A. City Attorney dropping six additional charges against him stemming from his August 21 domestic violence arrest in Los Angeles.”

I actually hope the guy gets to write again as I’d be fascinated to see what his first column would discuss.

[Sports by Brooks]

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The Truth Hurts

A Tampa Bay area colunist has come to the conclusion that the city might not be a baseball town.  After all these years…say it ain’t so!  From the Tampa Tribune, “But it works both ways, so don’t blame the Tampa Bay Rays for wondering whether they really have a future around here after 12,446 fans showed up Monday at Tropicana Field on a night when the home team could have clinched a playoff spot.  Two of the Rays’ brightest stars – Evan Longoria and David Price – went public after the game.  Longoria called it ‘disheartening’ in a lengthy chat with reporters. Price used Twitter to call it ’embarrassing.’  Price quickly retreated, sending a follow-up tweet that read, ‘If I offended anyone I apologize. I did not think it was gonna turn into this …’  Actually, it has been “this” for a long time, and I’m surprised it has taken until now for players to speak up about it. You can go all the way back to the beginning, when the second game that the then-Devil Rays played had plenty of available seats. A lot of them have stayed empty, even though these Rays have become a model organization.  I said before how I feel about this. The Trop is a lousy stadium in just about the worst location that could have been chosen for a franchise that serves the entire area. Throw in a bad economy plus the fact you can watch almost every game from the comfort of your living room on the hi-def, and it’s a no-brainer that attendance is going to be significantly affected – especially on weeknights.  But all that means is that what people outside the area are saying about this place might be true. This really might be a lousy baseball market.”

It makes me sick.  So many cities across the country would kill for a roster like the Rays have right now.

[Tampa Tribune]

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Great Sports Writing: “Sportsmen Of The Year” 2004

This is your editor signing off for the day.  In honor of my trip to see the Yanks/Red Sox matchup, here’s Tom Verducci’s 2004 article profiling the 2004 Red Sox team that finally broke the curse. “The cancer would have killed most men long ago, but not George Sumner. The Waltham, Mass., native had served three years aboard the USS Arkansas in World War II, raised six kids with a hell of a lot more love than the money that came from fixing oil burners, and watched from his favorite leather chair in front of the television–except for the handful of times he had the money to buy bleacher seats at Fenway–his Boston Red Sox, who had found a way not to win the World Series in every one of the 79 years of his life. George Sumner knew something about persistence. � The doctors and his family thought they had lost George last Christmas Day, more than two years after the diagnosis. Somehow George pulled through. And soon, though still sick and racked by the chemo, the radiation and the trips in and out of hospitals for weeks at a time, George was saying, “You know what? With Pedro and Schilling we’ve got a pretty good staff this year. Please let this be the year.” � On the night of Oct. 13, 2004, George Sumner knew he was running out of persistence. The TV in his room at Newton-Wellesley Hospital was showing Pedro Martinez and the Red Sox losing to the New York Yankees in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series–this after Boston had lost Game 1 behind Curt Schilling. During commercial breaks Sumner talked with his daughter Leah about what to do with his personal possessions. Only a few days earlier his wife, Jeanne, had told him, “If the pain is too much, George, it’s O.K. if you want to go.”

Great read to honor one of baseball best moments.

[SI]

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Woody Paige’s Shocking Revelation

The Denver Post columnist and Around the Horn panelist came out with an absolute stunner of a column this morning in which he revealed he contemplated suicide eight years ago.  This comes in the wake of the death of Broncos WR Kenny McKinley, who is presumed to have killed himself earlier this week.  Paige:

“Why would a smart, personable, resolute, “happy-go-lucky” Kenny McKinley — with a college education, a young son, a $385,000 contract and a bright future in football and life — commit suicide Sept. 20, 2010?

Why?

I think I understand why.

I know an older man who eight years ago this month was committed to committing suicide.

Me.

The last, desperate, despondent, despicable act was all planned out. The Broncos were playing on Sunday, Sept. 15, 2002, against the 49ers. I would fly into San Francisco the day before, drive up to Napa Valley, enjoy a bottle of expensive red wine and check into a nice inn. The next morning I would head over to the coast and swim out in the Pacific Ocean far enough that I couldn’t make it back to the beach.

My death would be termed an “accidental drowning,” and my family and few friends would be horrified, but spared the humiliation.

I figured out the details while laying on the sofa staring at the ceiling for hours, as I did daily, and swallowing the pills a prominent Denver psychiatrist had prescribed over a period of months — Prozac, Ritalin, Xanax, Valium, Ambien and Zoloft — and swilling Jack Daniel’s.”

Wow. 

[Denver Post]

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