Monday, August 06, 2007

The Last Hoorah

"Come on baby finish what you started."

No, not for this site, but for my days being a contributor to the "Daily Gamecock's" sports section. It was fun writing under deadlines and attempting to try and have a limited word count (I think I kept in under 500 words once...I'm not good at abbreviating). Anyway, here are my final two submissions. It will be fun when I go down on Saturday and pick up a paper, flip to the sports section, and see my ugly mug staring back at me (I know I'm not a good looking guy, but that is one of the most unflattering pictures of all-time...not my decision though). The first was a further elaboration of my thoughts on Bill Walsh, and the second was about MLB umpires refusing background checks. Hope you enjoy:

The Passing Of A Legend
After battling leukemia for over three years, Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh passed away on Monday

Very few men, whether it be player, coach, or owner, had the kind of impact on the game that Bill Walsh did.

Walsh, who is most known as the man who led the 49ers to three Super Bowls during the 80s, passed away at the age of 75. Walsh was initially diagnosed with leukemia in 2004, and revealed he was receiving treatment for the disease last year, but the cancer went into remission earlier this year, and ultimately claimed the life of a coaching legend.

Walsh’s mark initially was felt in the NFL as an assistant for Oakland, Cincinnati, and San Diego. His stop in Cincinnati was where Walsh crafted the famed “West Coast” offense. He had a brief stint in Stanford before returning to the NFL in 1979, this time, as head coach of the 49ers, a position he held for 10 seasons.

In his first year with San Francisco, the Niners also drafted Joe Montana in the third round of the NFL Draft. Montana went on to be a legend in his own right, capturing two MVP awards and all three of the MVP awards in the Niners Super Bowl victories. Walsh also was responsible for picking Hall-of-Famers Jerry Rice and Ronnie Lott, and trading for another Hall-of-Famer in Steve Young during his regime. The 49ers became the team of the decade, and Walsh was officially one of the greatest coaches in NFL history.

After taking a break from coaching, Walsh returned to the sidelines for his second go-around with Stanford. In his first season, the Cardinal went 10-3 and won a bowl game. However, the team floundered in his next two years, and Walsh again left football in 1994, this time for good.
Although he would go on to become a commentator and an analyst, Walsh will forever be known as a great coach, and in addition, a great teacher. What may be even more awe-inspiring other than his career marks are the coaches that tutored under him while he was in the NFL. If you look at Walsh’s coaching “tree,” you will find 16 of the NFL’s 32 head coaches, including Mike Holmgren, Mike Shanahan, and Tony Dungy.

While Bill Walsh may not be with us anymore, his legacy will outlive anyone. Whether it be the laminated play sheets, his famed offensive set, his masterful job coaching a dynasty, or the countless number of players and coaches he affected during his astounding life. Walsh always shied away from the praise he received over the course of his near-30 year career, but the way he went about his business, and his demeanor both on and off the field is something that will be talked about for generations to come.

Do Umps Have Something To Hide?
After umpires reject MLB’s request for background checks, questions continue to swirl about the integrity of professional officials.

Officials were already dealt a black eye following the Tim Donaghy scandal that broke last month. Now, it appears as though the ship may be thrown even further off its course.

The World Umpires Association, which is the union for all Major League Baseball umpires, rejected MLB’s request to conduct background checks on all currently employed umpires. The union sent a letter to Rob Manfred, MLB’s executive vice president of labor relations on Monday, calling baseball’s inquiry a “knee-jerk, misguided witch hunt.”

While the union’s reasons for turning down the request are indeed valid, calling into question the scope of the amount of information that is to be gathered, and who exactly will be able to see this information once gathered, it still doesn’t take away from the fact that fans of the game, and people in general, will read the headlines and continue to have a sense of doubt about if games are being called “straight.”

Since NBA commissioner David Stern came out and made it known that Donaghy was involved in gambling on games, and possibly having an impact on the outcome of the games he refereed, the general public’s view on officials has almost the same kind of feel as the issue of steroids in sports. If a player hits an unusual amount of home runs, it has now become second nature to suspect he is “on something.” Now, if a referee or an umpire makes a bad call, there will be a growing number of people who will accuse the official of fixing games, or having “mob ties.”

Still, the fans’ suspicion does have validity. Besides Donaghy, there have been an astounding number of “crooked” officials who have been caught all over the world for fixing games and gambling offenses. Yes, this is a problem that should have been dealt with before this scandal hit, but the fact that it is at least being dealt with means that baseball is taking some initiative to see to it that this sort of questionable behavior will not make its way out on to the diamond.

While the background checks will not be able to completely stop the possibility of a future incident, this will at least ease some of apprehension people may have in how an umpire calls a game. When a fan goes a game, they should go with the idea that the game will be decided by the participants, and that the officials, while integral, call the game how they see it, and not how they want to see it.

Have a good week, and thanks to everyone at the Gamecock for helping me do this. It meant a lot to write for my school paper and rep my thoughts through that medium. Too bad it came after I graduated. I probably should have thought of this before. Peace.


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