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Sports Watching & Wondering

John Randloph RogersWhen Mike Singletary was named head coach of the San Francisco 49ers last year, he demanded that the team play better than it had done in the past. In addition, he sent one of the players to the locker room, and told him to remove his uniform once he got there. He said that every player on his team, would play hard all the time, or he would not play at all. The media pounced on Singletary, for being "too tough" for today's athletes. They suggested that the tactics used by Vince Lombardi were antiquated, and would not work today. The 49ers have fallen on bad times since the glory days of Joe Montana and Steve Young. They are now nearly as bad as the Raiders, or the Clippers.

So I did not know what to expect, when went I down to watch last week's game between the woeful Raiders and the pitiful 49ers. I then saw that the 49ers had become a well conditioned, highly disciplined team, that ran the ball well and made very few errors. I think that they were penalized only three times during the entire game, while the Raiders had more than twice that number. Singletary has turned around the culture of his team, and while he does not yet have the talent to win a championship, he does show promise of becoming a major coaching success and returning his team to the glory days of the past.

The Raiders are, of course, still the Raiders, a disorganized team with a number of outstanding players. They made the usual mistakes, and they lost the game. The game was shown locally on Channel 5, and the broadcasting team works for the Raiders. There must be some requirement in their contract for them to mention owner Al Davis in every sentence. Davis was the one man show who turned the Raiders into Champions. However, that was 50 years ago. He may have been the smartest man in football, until about 25 years ago.

Then the team began to lose and lose and lose, and Davis did everything that he could think of to get them back on the winning track, but he could not. Time had passed him by, but he could not be fired, since he was the owner. He is too egomaniacal to resign, or to entertain the thought that he is not still the smartest football man alive. He will not hire a successful head coach to run the team, since he wants to meddle in all phases of what the team is doing. Therefore, he hires and fires assistant coaches, with great regularity. Meanwhile, his formerly great team languishes near the bottom of the league, year after year. But all of the employees of that organization continue to tell Davis how great he is.

In today's world, the two-year prison sentence for Plaxico Burress is much too severe. Even a one year sentence would be a bit too much. What he did was stupid, but not malicious, and not a danger to society. The intent of the gun law in New York City is well-intentioned, but what they were trying to do was to deter criminals from owning guns and using them in the commission of crimes. It was not intended to be used to put some poor Doofus in jail for three years. Burress is 34 years old, and the reports are that he earns around $8 million per year. If he is in jail for the next two years, it is highly unlikely that he cannot resume his career at the age of 36. Therefore, in my opinion, some way needs to be found for him to serve just one year, and then be allowed to return to the NFL for the 2010 season. He used poor judgment and he broke the law, but not with criminal intent. Our jails are already bulging with dangerous criminals, and the costs for keeping them incarcerated are incredibly high. So, again in my opinion, the sword of justice must be tempered with some common sense and some compassion.

Michael Vick has told us how lonely his two years in prison were. He also told us that he spent many nights crying alone in his cell. He is now out of prison, and he has been signed to play for the Philadelphia Eagles of the NFL. He has agreed to follow a strict code of conduct, and he is forbidden to use either drugs or alcohol, under the pain of being sent back to prison. It was reported that he has been seen drinking cocktails. If those allegations are proven to be true, he could again be banished from the NFL, and sent back to prison. This risky behavior might seem normal to him, but it does not seem to be that way for any sane human being.

Happy days! It is almost time for college football. USC will again be a national powerhouse. UCLA will reintroduce itself to the world with a respectable football team. The annual game between the two schools will again draw a lot of national interest. USC is stronger and should win the contest, but they are not guaranteed a win. The winner is determined on the field, and that is why they play the game. Coach Carroll has been so successful at USC, that it is difficult to question what he does. However, it seems to me, that he has too many running backs, and too many quarterbacks. Most great running backs routinely carry the ball more than 20 times a game. A great USC running back, whose name I won't mention, once carried the ball 40 times in a game. Great running backs need to carry the ball that often in order to develop their skill, leadership and toughness. In that way the team knows who to call on, when they are in trouble. At USC, that used to be "The Tailback." He was the running back who was never injured, tired or discouraged. He just kept running the ball, until his team earned the victory. Fight On!

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