Category Archives: Sporting Daze


The Washington Capitals are the Stanley Cup Champions.   Doesn’t that sound great?  I wasn’t sure it was ever going to happen and this didn’t seem a very likely year.

We had a good season, but we had a good season last year and the year before.  But that didn’t stop Pittsburg from stomping us in the playoffs.  It seemed like we always played well during the regular season, but when the playoffs came around, the air just went out of our tires.  And during the playoffs, you have to increase the intensity of your game.  There was a playoff cloud over DC and its fans (and it was a very dark one).

Here is a statistic that will blow your mind.  In the playoff, the Caps have had 2-0 leads and 3-1 leads (all they needed was four wins) and have ended up losing 10 times!  We sat and watched some of those disasters.  But this was a different year.  

The Caps started off the playoffs with two defeats in their own stadium.  Then they came roaring back.  After watching part of their comeback, I said that I didn’t know how far they would go, but  they were definitely playing Stanley Cup hockey.  What did I mean?  I meant that they had increased their intensity through the roof.  Wherever the puck was on the ice, there was a Washington Capital flying towards it.  It is hard for an opponent to concentrate on making a good pass when a freight train is flying towards him.

You know one team is out playing the other when it appears that they have more players on the ice than the other team.  It is an optical illusion, but it is very real.  In 1989, the Calgary Flames won the Stanley Cup and I didn’t know the name of one of them.  But every one of them played like their hair was on fire.  Well, I would like to report that this year it was the Washington Capitals who played like their hair was on fire.

The Pittsburg Penguins have been our nemesis.  For so many years the Penguins had ended the Capital’s hopes.  But this year was different (it is worth saying twice).  And the team knew it (we fans didn’t).  The team was going to settle for nothing less than the cup.  Beating Pittsburg was just a step towards that goal.

They had to win four rounds to win the Stanley Cup.  In each round, they were behind,  but came back to win.  What a great group of guys.  And their captain, Alex Ovechkin, lead by example.  He put his body in the way of flying pucks.  It is not that hard when your hair is on fire.  Barry Trotz, the Caps coach, said with a smile, “I think we have exorcized all of our demons.”

As losers, we Cap fans were heard quite often saying, “Wait till next year.”   Now, we Can’t wait until next year, but for obvious reasons.

Written by PJ Rice at

Copyright 2018

Kaepernick – Whoa

I can’t keep quiet any longer.  I read all these articles on Colin Kaepernick looking for someone to have exposed the glaring truth and I just can’t find it.

I read that he is a fine (not great) quarterback.  I read that there are NFL quarterbacks out there who don’t have his skills who are being signed for big contracts.  Yet, no one wants Kaepernick.  The only conclusion that these commentators can come to is that Kaepernick is being punished for expressing his beliefs.  The owners have gotten together and formed a cabal for the expressed purpose of keeping him from playing.

Some will acknowledge that selecting our flag and the National Anthem wasn’t the smartest move.  Nor was his move when he wore police pig socks to practice.  Our flag is the same one that thousands and thousands of men and women have died fighting for.  These soldiers, sailors and airmen represent every race , creed, color and religion.

Again, the Washington Post interviewed Baltimore Raven fans on their team passing on Kaepernick.  Of the six interviewed, four would gladly take him.  One said the Ravens shouldn’t have passed on him just because he is a “very critical thinker,” and those fans who don’t want him are using “bigotry and racism.”  My word.

The elephant in the room that no one seems to be able to see is what he will do to the cohesion of a team.  Putting Kaepernick into a locker room will be exceedingly divisive.   Last year his team won two games and lost 14.  They finished 4th in the NFC West.  That is because there are only four teams in the NFC West.  There may have been other reasons for the 49ers doing poorly, but I guarantee that having Kaepernick churning the pot was one of them.  Can you blame any NFL team for not wanting to place an incredibly divisive unknown into their locker room?

Now Michael Bennett, a defensive end for the Seattle Seahawks, is going to sit during the National Anthem.  I guess we will be testing my thesis again.  I expect added turmoil in the Seahawk locker room.  I suspect this will hurt the team.  The media will certainly help.  You just don’t need additional distractions.

Written by PJ Rice at

Copyright 2017

You Like That?

Two years ago, I decided that Kirk Cousins was the answer for the Redskins.  I watched him in the preseason and decided he had that very rare skill to find and hit an open receiver in a game that was going at 110 miles per hour.

This is a rare skill that is limited to the likes of Tom Brady, Payton Manning and Kurt Warner.  Hard to believe skills.  But then last year, when Kirk got his chance, it just didn’t work.  He didn’t look like the QB I had seen in preseason.  Hey, I’ve been wrong before.

Then, again, in preseason, I saw the same spark that I saw the previous year.  I know, I know, it’s preseason, but still I saw something.  Of course, Robert Griffin III, who is a great athlete  is not a great pocket quarterback.  He would get back in the pocket and if something didn’t click in the first two seconds it was over.  He would take off or just freeze.  I would hear others say, “His line doesn’t give him any protection.”  Well, if you stand there long enough, no line is going to protect you.  People would say, “You have got to respect his willingness to hang in there and take all that punishment.”  I would prefer he did something smart and avoided the punishment.

I can’t tell you how proud I was when Coach Jay Gruden announced that Kirk Cousins was his quarterback for this season.  What impressed me most was that Gruden made the decision well knowing that if it didn’t work, the owner, Dan Snyder, would fire him.  But what really startled me was Gruden asserting that he had the authority to decide who was to be his QB.  That may sound silly to you, but after watching Snyder run the Redskins for the last 15 years, I wasn’t sure how much authority our coach had.

I predicted the Redskins would go eight and eight.  At the time I made it that was a very optimistic  prediction.  Some commentators had ranked the Skins 32nd out of 32 teams.  But from what I had observed, I thought they would win some games.

Going into week seven, the Redskins had two wins and four losses.  Then they fell behind the Buccaneers 24-0.  But the Skins came back and won the game 31-30.  It was clearly the turning point in the season and after the game, Kirk screamed at the assembled media, “You like that?”  The expression has taken on a life of its own.  I don’t think it will take us to the Super Bowl like “Who Dat!” did for the Saints, but it sure guaranteed my eight and eight prediction and a trip to the playoffs.

The Washington Post sport writers who had been finding fault with Cousins were probably what lead to Cousins’ outburst – “You like that?”   Anyway, they have all acknowledged they were wrong and have done their mea culpas.  Me?  I’m doing fine.  I’m a little smug, but suffering with the Redskins for so long, I think I am entitled to be.  Go Skins!

Written by PJ Rice at

Copyright 2015

Dad, The Base Ball Player

I was going through some old files the other day and I came across my birth certificate.  It’s a real mess.  I have seen enough of my Dad’s handwriting to be reasonably certain that he filled out the top part with all the particulars.  They had decided to call me Jack, so he wrote in “Jack Paul Rice.”  Then, the “Jack” was scratched out and “Jackson” was inserted high on the line between “Paul” and “Rice.” I had noticed all that years earlier.  I used to kid that if I had been the oldest, I would have been worried about my   legitimacy (back when people worried about things like that).

The thing I did notice for  the first time was the listing of my father’s occupation.  It simply said’ “Base Ball Player.”  Isn’t that something? I suspect not too many people have listed baseball player as their father’s occupation on their birth certificate.  But it also made me feel guilty because I didn’t know much about his baseball career. By the time I started to kindergarden, his career was over and it was just something that never got discussed in great detail.  I knew he had gone  to Spring Training with the Chicago Cubs when he was only 19.  He played for the Little Rock Travelers for a few years, managed and played for the Lenoir Reds and ended his career with the Albany Senators.

Dad was a catcher.  We were all catchers (my brother, Bill, and yours truly).  Dad taught us the footwork to stop wild pitches, to catch foul balls and to throw out runners bunting for a base hit. Footwork is absolutely critical.  So now, as an old-timer, I drive my wife, Carole, crazy talking about mistakes made by catchers on TV. She likes baseball, but sometimes I drive her out of the room by running a play over and over with the remote control.  One announcer said that Yadier Molina (the superstar catcher for the Cards) was such a good defensive catcher because he had confidence.  Confidence?  It’s footwork (and a rocket for an arm).

Dad died over twenty years ago and I still miss him.  After retiring from professional baseball, he became the National Sports Director for the Junior Chamber of Commerce.  He formed what was called the Jaycee League and many kids throughout the nation, ages 10 to 15, played Jaycee baseball through those formative years.

After Dad died, I obtained what would barely pass for his scrapbook. I had looked at it a few times, but never studied it.  So I decided to dig in.  What a mess.  What is so difficult about chronological order? All those great newspaper articles regarding his high school success, Muny League success and professional career glued on to pages where there happened to be room.  Some going up and down, some going sideways.  And, no dates whatsoever.  But I hung in there.

Dad played high school football for East St. Louis Senior High School. He was an All-State left end at 5 foot 8 inches and 167 pounds.  Did I mention that my Dad was tough?  They were undefeated, but lost the Conference championship because they tied two games and Granite City only tied once.  But, as my Birth Certificate stated, he was a base ball player.  While still in high school, he was playing semi-pro ball in what was called the Muny League.  He was 16 and a star.  When he graduated, he went to Alabama and caught for their freshman team.  Dad insisted that they batted him ninth, because he was a Yankee.

When Dad was 19, while playing in what was called the Trolley League (another semi-pro league covering Illinois and Missouri), he was observed by the Chicago Cub manager, Charlie Grimm.  Grimm liked what he saw and invited Dad to Spring training with the Cubs on Catalina Island.  Spring training with the Cubs at 19.  Heady stuff. Most of the players took the same train from Chicago to California. Dad joined them in Kansas City.  One article I read said that “Puffy” Rice was all over the train with his checker board “looking for victims to play him.”  He never lost.  Did I mention that Dad was competitive? 

After Spring Training, Grimm farmed Dad out to the Little Rock Travelers.  He was with them for three years and then moved to Columbia, South Carolina and into the Cincinnati Reds organization. He caught for the Columbia Reds in 1937 and 38.  In 1939, he was catching for the Waterloo Red Hawks in the Illinois-Indiana-Iowa League.  In the 11th inning of one game, the opposing catcher interfered with Dad’s bat.  That should have automatically given Dad first base.  However, the umpire insisted that he didn’t hear anything.  Dad told the umpire that he knew he was blind, but that was the first admission from the umpire that he was also deaf! Dad got the rest of the night off.

In 1940, Dad was the player/manager for the Lenoir Reds in the Tar Heel League (managing at the age of 26).  You know you can go on line and find out all about the players for the Lenoir Reds in 1940.  It turned out he hit .329 that year.  He had also been designated a scout for the Cincinnati Reds.  The next year, he was the player/manager for the El Dorado Oilers in the Cotton State League. He hit .348 for the short time he was with them.

Dad was relieved of his duties as El Dorado manager and became a free agent.  A Cincinnati scout named Frank O’Rourke notified the Albany Senator’s manager, “Specs” Toporcer that Dad was a free agent.  He said, “Don’t know whether you can sign him to a contract, but if you can you will get a better than fair catcher.”  He did sign with the Senators and we drove 1,600 miles in three days to join the team in Elmira, New York.  Keep in mind that there were no interstate highways.  And, you could figure that a tire would fail every 500 miles.  Mom used to say that back then, I would scream every time they took me near a car.  After that experience, at age three, I now understand my actions.  

Dad’s lasted two years with the Albany Senators before his career ended.  Back then, catchers didn’t wear hard helmets behind the plate (in fact, nobody wore what is now called a batting helmet). Today, catchers look like hockey goalies behind the plate.  I always believed that Dad got hit by what we called a “second swing.”  The batter swings and then the bat comes around a second time and whacks the catcher in the back of the head.  The catcher is protected back there by a soft baseball cap.  But it turned out to be even worse.  Albany was playing Wilkes-Barre and Wilkes-Barre had a man on first base.  The runner on first attempted to steal second base and Dad moved forward to collect a low pitch.  At that moment, the batter swung the bat and hit Dad behind the right ear. They carried him off the field and he was in the hospital for over a week.

Dad did recover enough that two weeks later, he pinch hit against
Elmira.  The pitcher for Elmira was none other that Sal, the Barber, Maglie, who gained his nick-name with the Giants, by giving out close shaves to the batters.  He nicked Dad in the midriff.  Here’s another little side note for baseball 
aficionados.  Dad’s roommate on the road with the Senators was Ralph Kiner.

Dad’s vision was never any good after the bat hit him, at least not for a professional baseball player.  So he retired when I was four. However, I did get to see him play once when I was eleven.  My brother’s Jaycee team (ages 14 and 15) had invited a team from St. Louis to come over and play a practice game.  The team that showed up consisted of 18, 19 and 20 year olds.  So they worked out a deal where Dad and the assistant coach (a Muny League pitcher) would play for my brother’s team.  The only thing I remember about the game was Dad batting.  What a beautiful swing.  It was lightning fast.  I was so excited.  The pitch came and Dad swung and the ball went straight up in the air.  When it finally came down, the shortstop had caught it.  I was crushed.  I was sure he was going to hit the ball a long way.  The good news is that I am no longer eleven and all I can see now is that beautiful swing. He was a great dad and he taught me the footwork, but he couldn’t teach me to swing a bat like him.  Not many people could

Written by PJ Rice at

The Hapless Redskin Plight

It’s OK to kick me.  I’m a Redskin fan.  Bumps and bruises come with the territory.  We have to have a good memory to remember our Super Bowl victories.  The last was the 1991 season.  But, having a good memory just makes it that much worse to suffer through the Danny Snyder era.

Snyder bought the team in 1999 and has made lots of money off the team.  But, marketing the team to make lots of money isn’t the best way to build a winning team.  Signing a big name player, like Donovan McNabb in 2010 may be great for selling jerseys, but the team was six and ten that year.  McNabb played 12 games and threw 14 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.  He was a Viking the next season (his last).  While Mike Shanahan was the coach with final authority on all football matters, no one will deny that it was Snyder who caused McNabb to come to Washington.

My frustration is that I don’t think we will ever have a successful team as long as Dan Snyder is the owner and I can’t see him selling the team.  He’s like a kid with a gigantic Tinker Toy set.  He can build whatever he wants and then tear it up just for the hell of it. We have seen him do time after time.

Now that Mike Shanahan has been fired (24 & 40), Bruce Allen, our invisible General Manager, steps forward and states that he will interview and select our next coach.  Does anybody believe that? First of all, I accept that the owner has the right to select his coach. The coach is one of his Tinker Toys.  But why have Allen step forward and announce that he is going to make the selection? More smoke and mirrors. 

I am not going to relive some of the stupid, idiotic things that Snyder has done.  Let’s leave it that in 15 years we have won 104 games, while losing 136, and we are now looking for our eighth head coach during the Snyder follies.

Maybe I should find a new team to cheer for.  That’s tough when I have been a Redskin fan for so many years and I live in the Greater DC area.  Maybe I should move to someplace like Jacksonville or Oakland.  I picked those places to encourage me to stay.  Our daughter, Missy, lives in Jacksonville and we felt sorry for her cheering for the Jaguars.  But it turned out that they won more games than the Redskins!  When you have a really miserable year, you then are rewarded with a high draft choice for the next year. But our first round draft choice belongs to the St. Louis Rams, just as it did last year and will also in 2015!  We should at least get a thank you card.

Maybe it’s the indian curse because of our name.  Maybe it is a conspiracy between Obama and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Then I realized that they are both way to screwed up to come up with a successful plan. And, of course, the dissenting indians were beating their drums outside the stadiums while the Redskins were inside winning Super Bowls.

I think the answer is for me to buy the Redskins.  I will need a lot of money.  Please send me a lot of money.  If I am unsuccessful, I will notify you from my villa in the Bahamas.

Written by PJ Rice at

The NFL’s Dumb Instant Replay Rule

Dumb, dumb, dumb.  I guess I wouldn’t be so upset with the NFL if it weren’t that college football has handled the instant replay issue so well.  The college system isn’t perfect, but it gets to the correct result, correcting egregious mistakes, and does it quickly.

The NFL is always learning.  This year they learned that helmet to helmet hits resulting in concussions, and cheapo replacement officials were not good for the game.  Hopefully, they will learn that the purpose of instant replay should be to obtain the correct result.  It should not be driven by some arcane system made up of red flags, time outs, and hooded monitors.

For years, the NFL had no instant replay system for fear that it would slow up the game.  It’s better to be wrong than go over their allotted TV time.  Then, they came up with the red flag system where the coach could challenge a call two or three times a game, by throwing a red flag on the field.  This, of course, has to be done before the next play.  If the coach throws the flag and no one sees it (it has happened), it’s just like the tree that falls in the forest and no one hears it.  Neither makes any noise.

The challenging coach loses a time out if he loses a challenge.  If he has used all of his time outs in a particular half, then he can’t challenge.  So in the first half of the Green Bay game against Minnesota last week, Green Bay was out of time outs.  Minnesota was credited with a completed pass, but the replay showed clearly that the ball hit the ground.  It was obvious to all.  But the play was not in the last two minutes of the half (where there are booth replays) and since Green Bay had no time outs left, they could not challenge.  They still had another challenge, but would have to wait till the second half, when they had a new batch of time outs.

In the NFL, all challenges are decided by the referee on the field.  The red flag is thrown.  The referee goes over to the sidelines and talks to the challenging coach.  Then the referee announces to the crowd what every one already knows.  Then the ref goes over to the “Field Level Monitor” – the hooded thing-a-ma-jig.  The NFL rules state that he can only spend 60 seconds under the hood.  This was to speed up the game.  But no time limit was set for how long he may chat with the “replay official” in the “replay booth” before he goes under the hood or after he comes back out.  The whole think is like Kabuki Theatre.  Eventually, the referee will announce whether the play stands or is reversed.  If the play stands, the challenging team loses a time out.

On Thanksgiving Day, the Houston Texans were in Detroit.  On one play, the officials determined that the Texans had scored a touchdown.  In fact, the runner’s knee and elbow were on the ground before he scored.  Detroit’s coach Jim Schwartz, threw his red flag.  Ah, but wait!  Scoring plays are automatically reviewed.  Schwartz should not have thrown his silly red flag.  That constituted a 15 yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.  AND, teams who are penalized are not permitted the benefit of a challenge review.  Thus, the touchdown counted even though the runner was clearly down before the score.

I’m sorry, but I thought the idea of replay was to get the thing right.  The rule is “indisputable video evidence.”  If there is indisputable video evidence that the call on the field was wrong, then it is reversed.  If it can’t be positively decided the tie goes to the runner. No, no.  That’s a different game.  If it can’t be decided, the play stands as called on the field.

I think almost all challenges are ruled on correctly and it is amazing how many times the real (not rental) officials on the field get it right.  But my complaint is, should a horrible call stand just because the coach doesn’t have another challenge?  Or, even worse, he has a challenge, but no time outs?  Should a team be poorly treated because the officials have made so many bad calls that all the team’s challenges are exhausted?

That can’t happen in college ball.  There are a lot more reviews and they do it in less time.  No Kabuki Theatre.  The NFL needs to adopt the college review procedures.  I know, I know.  When pigs fly.  Did I really say that?

Written by PJ Rice at

Thanks Bubba – You Da Man!

My golf game has improved.  It is not my imagination.  The numbers don’t lie.    And, I owe it all to Bubba.  That’s right, Bubba Watson is my hero.

First of all, there is something about the name Bubba.  Only in America.  The name conjures up images for all of us.  Years back, when I heard there was a golfer on the pro circuit named Bubba, I was amused.  I guess that tells you what type of image it conjured up for me.  I wondered if when he bent over to address the ball, his butt crack showed.  He had to be somehow related to John Daly.  After all, like Daly, he does have his own line of clothes (“Bubba Golf” -what else?). 

I couldn’t wait to see what Bubba looked like.  I couldn’t wait to see him play.  Then, I saw he was swinging from the wrong side.  But how can you not pull for a guy named Bubba.  It also turned out that he was a nice guy.  Bubba “Nice Guy” Watson.  And, can he hit the ball!  His longest drive on the PGA tour was 416 yards.  I can’t hit the ball that far after I have hit it twice.  Bubba is leading the pro circuit with a driving average over 305 yards.  He generates a ball speed of 194 miles per hour.  Bubba is faster that a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive.  That’s right, Bubba is Superman!

And, he didn’t just win the Masters; it was the way he won it.  Bubba is a magician with his clubs.  He probably has a boomerang shot where the ball comes back to him.  This saves on retrieving practice balls.  Anyway, as many of you know, he executed one of his impossible shots to win the Masters.  Deep in the woods on the second playoff hole, from 164 yards away, he put 40 yards of hook on his 52 degree gap wedge shot to put the ball on to the green.  The rest was history.

So, how has Bubba helped my game.  He hits left handed, I hit right.  He drives over 300 yards.  I’m happy when I get it out there 175 yards.  He’s 6′ 3″, I’m 5′ 7″.  I had been serving as a Army JAG officer for 16 years before Bubba was born.  But, when I am going through my pre-shot routine, the last thing I say to myself is, “What would Bubba do with this shot?”  That thought is so ridiculous that it causes me to smile and relax.  When I smile and relax, the tension disappears.  Without the tension the swing is smoother and just better.  The ball has a greater chance of going where I intended it to go (and it also goes farther). 

Thanks Bubba.

Written by PJ Rice at

Bracketoology – Is It an Art or a Science?

March Madness!  You bet.  What a great time for college basketball.  And each year, the TV coverage gets better.  This year, every game was on TV.  Even in earlier years when the games were only on CBS, they made sure they would switch over and catch the exciting ending of every game.  My son, Paul, even schedules his vacation days so he catches every minute of the fantastic first week.  So what went wrong for me?  I hope you have a few minutes.

First, I generally don’t get into a pool.  I hate losing.  About the only exciting thing for me is filling out the brackets.  After that, everything goes down hill.  My main frustration is that I am terribly conflicted.  It is my general rule that if I don’t have a dog in the fight, I pull for the underdog (My dog/dog rule).  However, when I filled out my brackets, I usually picked the favorite to win.  So there I am cheering against myself.  This has nothing to do with the glass being half empty.  It’s a zero sum game and if I win, I lose.

But this year, a friend of mine was running a sophisticated pool and I did have a dog in the fight.  So I went against my better judgement and jumped into the pool.  Splash.  I even recorded a couple hours of ESPN bracketing.  I’ll never do that again.  I got more out of the commercials.  Would it surprise you that Digger Phelps likes Notre Dame’s chances?  Dick Vitale liked everybody, baby.  Geez.

VCU was one of my underdog favorites.  I liked their coach and they did well last year.  But, in doing my “research,” I discovered that a lot of “experts” liked Wichita State to go deep.  Wichita State was a five seed and VCU was a 12.  I had never seen Wichita State play, but all the buzz got me excited.  So I scratched out VCU (who, of course, won) and went with Wichita State to not only beat VCU, but also Indiana.  If I picked stock the same way I picked my brackets, I’d be broke.  In fact, during the era, that’s how I did pick my stocks and I lost my shirt.  Some of the stocks I invested in can now only be found in time capsules.

Of course, my alma mater, MIZZOU, was a two seed and picked to go far in the tournament.  I have previously written about what a great team they are and what fun the are to watch (see Fun Ball – MIZZOU B-ball).  They lost in the first round to Norfolk State.  State could do no wrong and we just couldn’t find that spark.  That was my personal disaster and dropped a shroud over the entire tournament.  I looked at Kansas and said to myself, “We beat them.”  I looked at Baylor playing in the Elite Eight and said, “We beat them THREE times.”  It would have been so much fun to see how MIZZOU would have done against a Michigan State or a Louisville.  But it was not to be.  It is easier to say, “Get over it,” than to do it.

My friend, Chet, who is running the bracket pool is so prolific.  He sends out a report after every day’s play.  Charts, lists, diagrams, he does it all.  And so almost every day, I am reminded that I didn’t know and don’t know what I am doing.  Enough!

President Obama picked MIZZOU to be in the final four.  Maybe that is what jinxed it.  Having that guy on your side has got to be trouble.  But with all the help he got, I suspect he did better than I did.  In fact, I did so poorly in my predictions that a number of high level Republicans have approached me and requested that I predict that Obama will be re-elected.

Written by PJ Rice at

Redskins – One More Stinking Loss

Monday’s headline in the Washington Post sport’s section read “For Redskins, Tough Losses.”  The article on the game’s loss mentioned we gave up three touchdowns in the 4th quarter.  The problem with the Redskins’ game plan in the 4th quarter was that they weren’t trying to win, they were trying not to lose.

At the end of three quarters the score was 13 – 13.  With about 10 minutes and 30 seconds left, we pinned the Jets back on their 11-yard line.  The defense held and after three plays, the Jets were punting from their own 20.  Banks ran the punt back for the Redskins and guess what?  We had the ball on the Jet’s 31 yard line!  Just 31 yards from a touchdown.  But rather than try to score, we went into a shell.  I said to my wife, “We aren’t trying to score, we are just positioning ourselves for a field goal.”  We ran the ball three times, gaining very little and then kicked a 46- yard field goal.  That gave us a three point lead.

I am satisfied that not going for a touchdown on that series destroyed our chances of winning.  The Jets came right down the field and five plays later, we were behind.  Then, our uphill battle went to hell in a hand basket.

My problem is who is in charge?  Who decided that three points would do, when everybody watching knew we needed a touchdown.  When you go for it, is there a chance that a pass will get intercepted?  You bet.  There is also a chance for a touchdown.  In the words of the state lottery, you need to play to win!

I am a board certified, level 7, armchair quarterback and kibitzer.  From my years of observing, I have determined that if you pass on running downs and run on passing downs, you will have more success than doing the obvious.  Against Seattle, we did pass on running downs and we were quite successful, but I didn’t see much of that against the Jets.

I think that the owner, Dan Snyder, is a big part of the problem.  He has done some really stupid things like firing Marty Schottenheimer after one 8 and 8 season in which Marty won his last five games.  And who did Snyder hire?  He hired the “ball coach,” Steve Spurrier (12-20), who is probably a decent college coach (probably also a good high school coach), but he turned out to be a rotten pro coach.  Another disaster falling on the shoulders of Snyder is the hiring of Jim Zorn.  Jim was a nice guy, but had no business being a head coach (12-20).  After six games in his second season, Snyder stripped Zorn of his play calling duties.  Snyder could have fired him rather than humiliating him.  But that might have cost Snyder more money.  If he could get Zorn to quit, he could save some money.  Never mind what this stunt was doing to the football team.  As long as Snyder is making money, I don’t think we can get rid of him.

I am not a big Shanahan fan.  He was 6 and 10 his first season and probably won’t be any better this year.  But firing the coach every two years doesn’t seem to be the answer.  Who knows, things can’t get much worse.  Give him a couple more years to put a team together.

Of course the headline regarding “tough losses,” also referred to our two players (Trent Williams, starting left tackle and Fred Davis, starting tight end) who have been suspended for the rest of the season for smoking pot.  They were tested three times over an extended period and failed the test each time.  They both knew if they failed the third time they would be suspended, but they did their thing anyway.   I love Thomas Boswell’s line about it in the Post where he said,  “Sometimes a drug test is really an IQ test.”

Written by PJ Rice at

Cardinals, Cardinals, Forever Cardinals

There isn’t much that most people agree on.  But, most people agree that St. Louis is a great baseball town.  The people of St Louis love the Cardinals.  They also are great, knowledgeable fans.  They respect the players and don’t boo a botched play.  They also applaud for an opposing player who makes a great play.  That is the atmosphere I grew up in.

When I was a little kid, I used to go to bed each night listening to Harry Carey and Gabby Street broadcasting the Cardinal games.  As soon as the team would get close to 500 ball, Harry would start figuring what we had to do to get into first place.  Back then, there was no National League playoff.  You either won the pennant or you went home.  The Cardinals won their share in the Forties, not in the Fifties.

My dad had been a professional baseball player and in the early 50’s was scouting for the Cardinals.  In 1952, we were invited over to Sportsman’s Park to see a new pitching phenom.  The young pitcher was Stu Miller and the Cards were playing the Brooklyn Dodgers.  We were sitting right behind home plate.   Miller had a slow curve that swept from inside the plate to way outside.  I still remember Miller striking out Roy Campanella.  After the last strike, Campy leaned on one leg and the bat and stared out at Miller.  It appeared he was thinking, “Where in the world did that pitch come from?”

In 1954, I was there the day that Stan the Man hit five home runs in a double header against the New York Giants.  I guess I have made it quite clear that I grew up with the Cardinals as a main part of my childhood.

Through the years, we Redbird fans have had our ups and downs.  After beating the Milwaukee Brewers (then in the American League) in 1982 to win the World Series for the 9th time, we took on Kansas City in 1985 for number 10.  We were ahead 3 games to 2 and 1-0 in the 9th inning of game six.  The first ball hit in the bottom of the ninth was to the Cardinal first baseman Jack Clark who tossed it to pitcher Todd Worrell.  The runner was clearly out, but umpire Don Denkinger called the runner safe.  Denkinger later admitted that he had blown the call.  Things went down hill after that and we ended up losing 2-1.  Game seven was a Cardinal debacle.  KC was the world champs.

In 2006, the Cardinals finished the season the same way Boston and Atlanta did this year.  With two weeks to play, the Cards had an 8 1/2 game lead over the Houston Astros.  The Cards lost seven games in a row, including four to the Astros.  Well, the Cards lost the last game of the season, but so did the Astros, causing the Cards to limp into the playoffs.  I figured they would lose in the the first round of the playoffs, but at least they weren’t humiliated by missing the playoffs completely.

It turned out we raced through San Diego and squeaked out a seven-game win over the New York Mets.  Yadier Molina hit a home run in the top of the ninth to give the Cards a 2-1 lead.  In the bottom of the ninth, rookie closer, Adam Wainwright, ended up with the bases loaded, two outs and Carlos Beltran at the plate.  Beltran had destroyed the Cardinals for years as an Astro.  But with two strikes on Beltran, Wainwright buckled Beltran’s knees with a curve ball that caught the center of the plate.

After the playoff with the Mets, the World Series with Detroit was anti-climatic.  We weren’t supposed to beat San Diego or the Mets.  We were a prohibitive underdog against the Tigers, but we beat them in five games.  I guess that’s why they play the game.  We seem to make Las Vegas look bad.

But nothing, I mean nothing, in my life long love affair with the Cardinals prepared me for this years World Series against the Texas Rangers.  We weren’t supposed to be there.  Duh.  We weren’t supposed to even make the playoffs.  I guess you and I must have heard the next line regurgitated by announcers and commentators hundreds of times – “12 1/2 games out of the Wild Card on August 25th.”  You need help to make up that kind of distance and we got it.  We made the playoff on the last day of the season.  Of course we were the underdog against the Phillies and the Brewers.  Does that sound familiar?  We beat them both and guess what?  Texas was the prohibitive favorite to win the World Series.  Somewhere along the way, it would seem that at least some of these odds makers would scratch their head and wonder what is going on.

At the end of five games, Texas was ahead three games to two.  Let me just mention that in most major sports, there is a clock.  Working the clock is just another weapon the team that is ahead may use.  My wife, Carole, would go crazy when North Carolina would go into their four corner offense.  But baseball has no clock.  You must get the last out to win the game

In the 9th inning, with two outs, the Cardinals were down by two runs with men on first and second.  David Freeze was down to his last strike.  I had my finger (really thumb) on the off button of the TV.  And, somehow Freeze cracked one off the right field fence scoring two runs to tie the game.  Thumb removed from TV button.  There was life, there was hope.  Then in the top of the 10th, Texas Ranger Josh Hamilton blasted a two-run homer.  The air went out of Busch Stadium.

So here we go again.  The first two cardinals, Daniel Descalso and John Jay got base hits.  Pitcher Kyle Lohse pinch hit and hit a sacrifice bunt to move the runners  into scoring position.  Then Ryan Theriot grounded out to third scoring Descalso.  Texas intentionally walked Albert Pujols.  No one and I mean no one should question that decision.  So with two outs, again, and two strike, again, and my thumb on the TV off button, again, Lance Bergman laces a single to centerfield scoring the tying run.  This was better than Friday Night Lights – and it was for real!

In the 11th inning, after Texas failed to score, David Freeze hit a monster home run to the deepest part of center field.  I was acting like a seven-year old.  We had lived to play game seven.

Game seven was tense, but the Cardinals edge farther and farther ahead, winning the game 6-2.  Chris Carpenter pitched six great innings giving up two early runs.  Timely hitting by Freeze, Allen Craig and Molina was all that was needed.

Some will say that if it hadn’t rained postponing game six, then Carpenter couldn’t have pitched game seven and the Rangers would be World Champs.  Anybody that talks like that doesn’t believe in destiny.  I remind you of August 25th and 12 1/2 games behind.  Let’s face it, the Force was with us.

There may have been teams that were better on paper than the Cardinals.  But no team was better prepared than Tony LaRussa’s team.  And no team had the heart, guts and nevergiveupidness.  Go Redbirds!

Written by PJ Rice at