John Steigerwald's Sports Column
Is there a doctor – or a dentist – in the house?
Is there a future doctor or dentist in college football? This weekend was a good time to ask that question. As part of its homecoming festivities, Pitt honored the 1963 team that went 9-1 and, because of a schedule change caused by the assassination of John F. Kennedy, did not get a bowl invitation.
Fifteen of the players on that team went on to become dentists and three became doctors. Several others became lawyers and engineers. The star of the team, Paul Martha, would become CEO of the Penguins.
How many future doctors and/or dentists played in games involving the top 25 college football teams Saturday? I’m asking the question, and I’m way too busy to look it up. But I’d be willing to bet there weren’t as many on the top 50 teams combined as there were on the 1963 Pitt team.
Fifty years might as well be 500 years ago, but the big change in what college football is about started about 40 years ago. In 1972, after having several years of embarrassingly bad teams, Pitt did what most other schools did and relaxed the standards for football players.
It paid off with a mythical national championship in 1976.
In 2013, the debate isn’t about going back to the academic standards of the past. It’s about whether the players should be paid.
That should tell you all you need to know about how the institutions of higher learning sold their academic souls.
• A few of the Steelers, including some of their young stars, might be interested to know that in the country where they are playing the Minnesota Vikings today, they are considered children. And this might explain a lot of the behavior problems that we see from athletes in all sports these days.
According to the BBC, psychologists in the United Kingdom have been given new guidelines. They’ve been told to extend the age of adolescence from 18 to 25. If the UK experts are right, here in the Colonies, we’ve been handing millons of dollars to children and expecting them to act like adults.
The NFL prevents players from signing with a team until they are three years removed from high school. Maybe it’s time for all the major leagues to make 25 the draft eligible age. According to the BBC, it’s hoped that the initiative “will stop children being rushed through their childhood and feeling pressure to achieve key milestones quickly.”
So, according to the Brits, Ben Roethlisberger was a child when he quarterbacked the Steelers to a Super Bowl back in 2005. He was only 23.
And we’re rushing a child toward achieving the milestone of winning a National League MVP Award. Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates will be an adolescent until he turns 26 Oct. 10.
What we’ve done to Sid The Kid, who just turned 26 last month, borders on child abuse.
One more sign that there really is very little hope for the human race.
• Robinson Cano of the New York Yankees, who becomes a free agent in December, has said he’ll be asking for $305 million over 10 years. The Los Angeles Dodgers are probably the only team that will entertain the idea, but he’s going to get at least $250 million. That’s why you should enjoy McCutchen and this Pirates team as long as you can. He’s four years younger than Cano and is under contract for four more years with an option. If McCutchen keeps performing at an MVP level, he will be a $25 million player.
And he’ll be gone.
• I would have been a lot more impressed with this Pirates team if it hadn’t rushed it with the champagne. They broke out the bubbly and the goggles Monday night in Chicago after clinching a playoff spot. The division championship was still very much in play and, since the Cardinals also had won Monday, they were wildly celebrating when they should have been a little disappointed.
I know it ended the 21-year nightmare and I know it was a great accomplishment, but Clint Hurdle, as the manager, should have shot down any suggestions for a champagne celebration. High fives and lots of pats on the back would have been fine. They should have been followed by something like this: “We’re happy to have clinched a spot in the playoffs, and we hope the fans who have suffered through the streak are partying away, but we’re holding off on the champagne until we win a series.”
• A 24-year-old Dodgers fan, Jonathan Denver, was stabbed and killed outside of AT&T Park in San Francisco Wednesday night after a Dodgers-Giants game. He was wearing Dodgers gear. Michael Montgomery, 21, was arrested on charges of suspicion of homicide. According to Montgomery’s father, his son acted in self-defense, and the fight started when Denver yelled “Giants suck,” at his friend, who was wearing a Giants hat.
The stupidity of someone being killed over something so juvenile is beyond comprehension.
One of these days a team is going to have the guts to prohibit the wearing of certain “gear” in their stadium or ballpark.
John Steigerwald writes a Sunday column for the Observer-Reporter.