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Jan 08, 2004

Racing and Sports Today

By: John Piesen

I must confess there are days when I feel ashamed that I spent my life as a newspaper journalist.

I’ve had several of those days recently.

Consider the following stories that found its way to page one:

----Brittany got married and unmarried in Las Vegas to a college football player from her native

Louisiana. I know I don’t care. And everyone – adult and kid – I’ve discussed this subject with

could care less than I care. I feel embarrassed spending 100 words to write about this.

----Pete Rose admitted he bet on baseball. For goodness stake, the Newark (N.J.) Star Ledger on

Tuesday ran a screaming three-column photo and the following headline across the top of page one:

“Rose says it’s so: I bet”

I devoted a whole column to the Pete Rose Story on this web site a year back (check the archives),

and I pretty much spelled out my position there. Basically, I believe that Pete Rose a) is an

arrogant, miserable human being, and b) he belongs in the Hall of Fame.

Now, I want to make three quick points:

----Do you really believe for a minute that Pete Rose is the only baseball figure to bet on baseball?

----Is betting on baseball worse than a coked-up Doc Gooden throwing a 100-mph fast ball at some

poor schnook’s head?

----Lawrence Taylor just wrote his biography in which he brags about the drugs, booze and women he

encountered during his NFL career? Different sport of course, but why is Rose treated like a

murderer, and Taylor a hero?

This brings us to last week’s bowl games.

Overall, I was – for selfish reasons – happy with the results since, if you’re not keeping score at home, I

had 18 winners (including USC and LSU) from 28 games on my site at

That said, I couldn’t take the announcers, the coaches, the celebrating and the officiating. All get Fs.

With rare exceptions, every announcer spent his time giggling and telling us how great every player and

every coach is. Rarely did they dare to criticize anyone, and rarely do they come up for air. The worst of

course was the ageless Brent Mussburger, who spent four hours Sunday evening telling us what a great

game (LSU-Oklahoma) we were watching when it was obvious both teams were awful.

No player was more awful than Oklahoma QB Jason White, whose performance made you wonder what

the Heisman voters were looking at. I saw at least a dozen better QBs during the bowl season, and is

it any wonder why this guy is projected as no better
than a sixth-round draft pick by the NFL?

How can the Heisman Award have any credibility?

Next, the coaches…

I watched the Oregon coach call two time outs, while Minnesota, out of timeouts, desperately was trying

to get into range for a game-winning field goal. There’s no way Minnesota would have had time to get

the kick off if Oregon hadn’t stopped the clock twice.

Then I watched the Georgia coach call for a running play instead of taking a knee with his team up three

on Purdue with 1:30 to play and Purdue out of timeouts. Of course, the Georgia guy fumbles, Purdue

recovers, kicks a game-tying field goal only to see Georgia win by seven and cover in OT.

And how ‘bout the Hawaii coach trying to score a covering TD while up by seven with a minute left and

Houston out of time-outs. Yes, it’s true, a TD would have made the cover. Unfortunately, Hawaii threw

an incomplete pass out of the end zone and missed a 20-yard FG.

Given a minute to play with, Houston went 80 yards for the tying TD to force overtime. And, if there ever

was a spot for a coach to stand up and show some guts by going for a two-point conversion, it was

Houston. Of course Houston kicked the tying PAT, and lost the game in the third OT.

And what was the Oklahoma coach thinking when he didn’t have a return man back there for LSU’s

punt at the gun?

But perhaps – no, make that definitely – the worst moment of all was Texas Tech celebrating a late

TD that made it 31-14 over Navy.

Phil McConkey, a Navy grad and Super Bowl hero, expressed his feelings as follows to the New

York Post:

“The entire (Texas Tech) offense stands in a circle, and one guy throws the ball up in the air. When it hits

the ground, they all fall down like they’re dead. This is against guys who will be facing bombs and

grenades in a matter of months.

“It’s the most disgusting, disrespectful thing I’ve ever seen watching football. It was an orchestrated slap

in the face to these guys who are going to sacrifice their lives in a matter of months.

“You would think someone at Texas Tech would have the class to understand all this.”

Finally, I was told that the ESPN announcers (Theisman and company) declared during the Titans-Ravens

game that Ray Lewis is the “greatest linebacker of all time.”

Maybe so…but aren’t LT and Dick Butkus in the ballpark?

PIESEN CUES: Dr. Alex Harthill, the Babe Ruth of racetrack vets, announced his retirement last week

at the age of 78. Doc Harthill didn’t give a reason for his retirement, but I understand it was health issues.

I have two great Doc Harthill stories to tell, but I’ll save them for a slow news day…Congratulations to

colleague Nick Kling, the racing handicapper for the Troy (N.Y.) Record. Kling made
handicapping history in 2003 when he became the first racing handicapper to show a flat-bet profit on

$2 win bets for an entire year. This is a super-human accomplishment, worthy in fact for the Racing Feat of the Year.

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