Love it: Kevin Johnson goes old-school on a guy who "pied" him

Love it: Kevin Johnson goes old-school on a guy who "pied" him

Those who know me know that I'm not an advocate of violence and not somebody who favors fighting to settle a problem, other than in hockey, of course.

But when I read this story about Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson I couldn't help but smile a little. Johnson was attending a farm-to-table function when a 32-year-old man who has a history of "engaging" with Johnson at City Council meetings ambushed him by throwing a pie in his face.

Now the old pie-in-the-face thing works fine among friends -- always good for a laugh. You see it on TV a lot when a baseball player is being interviewed and his teammates sneak up on him and pie him from the blind side. Yeah, fun for all.

But really, when it's someone you don't know, somebody doing it at an inappropriate time, somebody who is doing it in a malicious way, there's a side of me that doesn't blame Johnson at all. Yeah, I know -- he is politically incorrect and so am I for praising it.

But sorry, I can't help it. This is the old school way of handling such things. Somebody assaults you -- hits you first, so to speak -- you respond in kind. These days, people are not accustomed to such a response. They expect to maybe get arrested and serve a day or two in jail, at worst, as some sort of martyr. Most times, they're just told not to do it again and smirk all the way home -- a hero to their followers.

Not this time.

And don't get me wrong -- I wouldn't have done that and don't advise anybody else to respond that way. But just for once, it was nice to see a punk get punked.

The Beatles and Hell's Angels: It's Vin Scully being Vin Scully

The Beatles and Hell's Angels: It's Vin Scully being Vin Scully

As we get close to the end of the baseball season, the clock is ticking down on Vin Scully's illustrious career as the play-by-play voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

I'm sure there are still unfortunates who haven't heard Scully who are wondering what all the fuss is about. So I thought with just a few games remaining it would be a nice time to try to review exactly what makes him such an iconic play-by-play announcer.

This story reveals what other baseball announcers say about the things that set Scully apart. They went immediately to his ability to weave interesting stories -- some about baseball and some not -- into the broadcasts of the games. That ability is well documented in this piece, which offers both text and audio of a recent Scully tale about the Beatles playing a concert in Dodger Stadium and not being able to get out because of the massive throng of enthusiastic fans. You really should listen -- it's vintage Vinny and a most interesting story eventually involving the Hell's Angels.

The Dodgers are doing their best to pay tribute to Scully, with a weekend full of activities leading up to his final game.

As a kid, I can remember the old radio in my bedroom in southeast Portland being almost grooved into the Los Angeles station that carried the Dodger games so I could tune in to listen to Scully late at night, when the reception cleared. His silky voice made major-league games seem like fine art and his storytelling was fascinating. I cannot imagine how many fans he made for his Dodgers through all those years.

If you have a chance -- through satellite radio, MLB.tv,  MLB Extra Innings or probably youtube.com, you ought to catch one of his remaining games. He is still working without a broadcast partner and his voice is simulcast on TV and radio for the first three innings before settling into just TV the remainder of the game.

He is the greatest of all time and I don't think there's much of an argument about that.

Helfrich is certainly winning the blame game -- as he should

Helfrich is certainly winning the blame game -- as he should

You can say one thing about Oregon Coach Mark Helfrich -- he doesn't run for cover when blame is being passed out for his team's problems (see above video). In fact, I've heard people figuratively falling on their sword to take blame many times -- but he's leaping on his sword from 10 stories up.

He's saying that "everything bad" that happens with the Ducks is on him. That includes not only decisions about going for two after touchdowns but piling up penalties at an alarming rate.

And, in a coaching sense, he's correct. I once heard a football coach at a clinic (yes, in the old days sportswriters went to clinics to learn more about the games they cover) say almost the exact same thing.

"Whatever happens with that team comes back on me," he said. "If we don't execute a play, it's my fault because we should have worked on it more or we should have never called the play. ANYTHING that happens comes back to preparation and I'm responsible for that preparation. If a kid drops a big pass, that's my fault for not preparing him better or for putting him out there on the field in a situation he couldn't handle."

This was at a coaching clinic and not a news conference. This wasn't posturing, it was a coach telling other coaches how he honestly felt about his job. I've never forgotten it.

And so when a coach refuses to take responsibility for something on the field, I shake my head in bewilderment. At the same time, when a coach continually throws himself under the bus, I also shake my head.

Of course it's your fault, Coach. Who else's fault would it be?

It's not mine.

Ducks' PAT problems -- sometimes numbers lie, fellas

Ducks' PAT problems -- sometimes numbers lie, fellas

Whenever someone questions the Oregon Ducks about their decision to go for two-point conversions, the answer always comes back to mathematics. Charles Nelson, who is the player who quickly does the math at the line of scrimmage, talked to Kerry Eggers of the Portland Tribune about it after the Ducks' loss Saturday at Nebraska:

“We’re looking for numbers,” Nelson said. “If we don’t have numbers, we bring it in and kick the (extra point). We had numbers every single time; we just didn’t execute it right. The last two we didn’t get was just miscommunication.”

I get that. You count how many defenders are there against the number of offensive players. But my assumption is that everyone else who plays the Ducks knows it, too. I mean, seriously, do you think Mike Riley and his coaching staff at Nebraska didn't understand the personnel reads Oregon was making on those plays -- all but one of which the Cornhuskers foiled? It's not exactly calculus, for sure.

And isn't it about time to acknowledge that it's possible:

  1. Opponents are disguising what they are actually going to do against those plays prior to the snap?
  2. They are making it difficult for Nelson, or whomever is making the read, to actually see what's going on?
  3. Nelson isn't the right guy to be making these reads?
  4. The reads are getting too difficult for such a rapid and important decision to be made?

I just don't think it makes sense to continue to defend the decision to go for two based on "numbers" when it sure doesn't look that easy, does it? Certainly, it is hard to believe the Oregon coaching staff can be so convinced it is doing the right thing in the face of failures that may have cost them a game. Listen to head Coach Mark Helfrich in the same Portland Tribune account:

“We believe a lot in what we’re doing,” said Helfrich, whose Ducks are now 4 for 11 on 2-point attempts this season. “We’re in attack mode. It’s all based on the (defensive) look. The situation was exactly how we planned it. We just have to coach it better and execute it better.”

OK, but I would suggest that if you accept what he said, we will continue to see Oregon do its little swinging gate shift after every TD this season, sometimes kicking and sometimes going for two. And I would also suggest they better coach it and execute it A LOT BETTER if they are going to stay with it.

What they did Saturday was embarrassing and it portrayed a certain arrogance that the coaches think they have a football secret nobody else understands. I find it very difficult to believe other coaching staffs, with all the video being studied, don't completely understand the Ducks' number-crunching and are messing with it somehow.

And oh yes, what may work against UC-Davis or Virginia, whose personnel isn't up to par with Oregon's, may not work against the likes of Nebraska. Or Washington. Or Colorado. Or anyone else the Ducks will play this season.

At least, I wouldn't count on it.

 

Mistake-prone Ducks cannot overcome Huskers -- or basic math problem

Mistake-prone Ducks cannot overcome Huskers -- or basic math problem

Yes, there were problems all day with basic mathematics. One times five is always greater than two times one. Everytime you do that little exercise it comes out the same.

Oregon scored five touchdowns and chose to go for two-point conversions every time. And only once did it get the two. Had it merely kicked the PAT for one point after each touchdown, it would have scored 35 points, which would have looked better than the 35-32 loss it suffered to Nebraska Saturday afternoon. And forget about what the score would have been had the Ducks just taken the two points it got on the first TD of the day, called it good and just settled for one after that. I wasn't a math major but I think there's a possibility Oregon could have then finished with 36 points.

Discussion about that will go on for years. So let's focus on what happened at a critical juncture of the game -- near the end of the first half when the Ducks had a 20-7 lead and the ball with a little more than a minute to play. At their own 17, the Ducks called two running plays and an incomplete pass even though it appeared it might be a time to continue to put the pressure on a discombobulated Nebraska defense. Or just call three running plays, keep the ball in bounds and run the clock out.

But Oregon did neither and punted with 50 seconds to go and the roof caved in. First, Oregon's Charles Nelson rammed De'Mornay Pierson-El before he caught the ball, but didn't seem to affect Pierson-El at all, who returned the kick 45 yards to the Duck 19. If you are going to interfere with a punt reception, at least tackle the man so he can't return it down your throat. The Cornhuskers went on to score a late touchdown and had all the momentum at halftime. By the time Oregon got the ball back in the third quarter, it trailed by a point.

After dominating most of the first half.

All in all this game was a dumpster fire for Oregon, which was penalized 13 times for 126 yards. Many of those penalties kept drives alive for Nebraska or killed Oregon drives. This was a mess, including an early leg injury to Royce Freeman and a possible serious knee injury to Devon Allen, who for some reason was covering a punt on special teams. An Olympic hurdler on the punt team? Why? I don't know.

And please, at some point for my own sanity, could we please not run play-action passes on fourth-and-whatever with the game on the line? Drives me crazy to see everything slow down for a run fake that nobody is buying. But don't worry about it, I'm sure it doesn't bother anyone but me.

Oregon, at some point, is going to have to realize it can't rely on its defense to win against good teams. It is going to have to focus on staying aggressive on offense and not squandering scoring chances or even possessions. This very likely could be the most difficult environment the Ducks will face all season, but I'm not sure it's the toughest team they will face. The offense is going to have to carry this team, like it or not.

And at some point, some homework will have to be done on basic math: 1x5=5, but 1x2=2 and 5>2.

Expect a lot of points in Nebraska with Ducks coming out on top

Expect a lot of points in Nebraska with Ducks coming out on top

After watching much of Nebraska's game last week against Wyoming, I'm pretty convinced the Cornhuskers are going to run and pass the ball up and down the field with relative ease against Oregon in their big matchup Saturday afternoon.

Nebraska can run and it can pass and the offensive approach is familiar. Former Oregon State Coach Mike Riley is going to want to throw downfield and from what we've seen of the Ducks so far, that approach will probably meet with success. I expect Nebraska to move the ball in chunks however it wants to do it.

But I also expect Nebraska to make just enough mistakes on offense to allow Oregon to win the game. It's going to be a track meet and you don't want to get into a track meet with the Ducks -- they win those. It's going to be the kind of game where fumbles and interceptions are critical not because of field position but because your team is going to need to score on most of its possessions.

I don't expect a lot of defensive stops in this one -- or in many of the Ducks' games this season.

Oregon should score a bundle against Nebraska, too. Mark Banker, still Riley's defensive coordinator, has not had a lot of success stopping the Ducks over the years -- even when he had some pretty good talent. The Duck quickness is going to give the Cornhuskers some trouble -- I just don't see Nebraska being able to run the field with Oregon, whose balance will hurt the Huskers.

The Ducks usually win games like this and the listed over/under of 74 seems a bit low for these teams. I would expect Nebraska to score in the 40s and still lose the game. Oregon is going to put up enough to win the game, even though it is a three-point underdog. The Ducks are 7-1 straight up and 8-0 against the spread in their last eight road games and have won the last three road games as the underdog. I never tell anybody to bet on sports because it's a good way to lose the rent money -- this info is used only to provide some prospective for my pick.

I expect Oregon to win by about 52-44.

Podfather Godcast with Chris Haynes

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Podfather Godcast with Chris Haynes

This week's podcast is breaking away from its normal format, but for good reason. Chris Haynes, who was CSN's first Trail Blazers Insider, joins the podcast with his wife Charlotte to share a heartbreaking story. On September 11th, Robert Reynolds, Chris' brother-in-law, was gunned down in Fresno, CA. It's another senseless killing that we've all grown immune to. But, Chris and his wife have a call to action. 

Have a listen. 

And if you'd like to help donate to the Robert Reynolds GoFundMe page, click here

From the GoFundMe page:

Robert was a the youngest of 6 on our mother side and several on his father side. He was all about music, making people smile and encouraging others to pursue their dreams. He had dreams as well as a bright future ahead. He has always been loved and had a heart so big that no matter what he loved and cared about you. Even if he was upset, like most in our family, if we could put a smile on someone else face, that alone will brighten our day. He had been taken far too soon. This has really torn a hole in our family. Life as we knew it will never be the same. One thing for sure is that healing can only come from one person and that is God. Though our wounds are deep, and our hearts are heavy we still have yet to face one of the most difficult things this life will ever bring, burying our brother/son/friend! Please help our family raise this money so that we can give him what he deserves and we can all come together and say our goodbyes. Thank you in advance and God bless! 

Good job, Raiders -- going for two is often the smart play

Good job, Raiders -- going for two is often the smart play

I don't claim to be a statistical wizard like these guys, and can't tell you too much about the percentages of such things, but I've watched a lot of football games in my time -- too many, perhaps -- and I think the Oakland Raiders made a brilliant move by going for two after a late touchdown Sunday at New Orleans.

Winning the game in regulation -- and the odds are close to 50-50 on two-point conversions -- seemed much preferable to giving the ball back in overtime to Drew Brees, who had already passed for 423 yards. It makes sense, if the coach is secure enough to handle the second-guessing if it doesn't work, to just go for it.

What I've seen most is college teams reluctant to make the same gamble. And I've watched several games when I think they should have. Tired teams on the road at the end of one of those four-hour college games should consider going for two, rather than heading out for overtime periods when their defense is getting run out of the stadium.

Especially in college games, when the rule is now that if the teams are still tied after two overtimes they must then go for two after every touchdown, anyway. Just go for two after a TD late in regulation when the momentum is going your way and you've likely had the opponent's defense on the field for a while. I especially like this without a timeout prior to the PAT. Good teams have excellent two-point plays in their arsenal just for such situations. Score and go for two -- fast.

I would think the Oregon Ducks would profit from such a strategy this season. I think they are going to be a scoring machine without much defense -- college football's version of Loyola-Marymount basketball in the old days. And a team like that should choose to decide a game with its offense, rather than its defense.

Go for two. And if you don't make it, know that at least you've made an aggressive move that shows confidence in your team. And as a coach, if you fail to convert, you've taken the heat off your team for losing a close game and put it on your own shoulders for what will be called a bad gamble by the second-guessers.

And as a coach, taking the heat off your team is always the right move.

 

 

 

A pick-six and a fumble-six is no way for Mariota to start a season

A pick-six and a fumble-six is no way for Mariota to start a season

It stinks to be a quarterback drafted by a bad team. You're carrying the burden of being expected to turn that team around but without help, that's a difficult chore.

On the other hand, when a team spends a high draft pick on you, like the Tennessee Titans did on Marcus Mariota with the No. 2 pick, you also get every chance to succeed.

Last season, Mariota opened with a terrific performance in his first NFL game, a sensational debut that ranks among the best ever among rookie signal-callers. But his season-opener in his second year Sunday was nothing to write home about. The Titans dominated Minnesota in the first half, leading 10-0 after two quarters, but lost 25-16 after Mariota -- deep in Minnesota territory -- threw a pick-six and then later botched an exchange with DeMarco Murray that resulted in a fumble that was turned into another Viking TD.

It was a disastrous second half for the Titans and Mariota took the blame for the critical turnovers.

I'm sure the Tennessee coaching staff still has plenty of faith in Mariota, but this is a crucial season for the young quarterback. He came from a spread-option system at Oregon that did not necessarily prepare him for the NFL game. He was battered and bruised behind a leaky offensive line last season. The question is, will he be able to get that franchise turned around? Does he have the tools around him to make it happen?

And if it doesn't happen, will he get the blame?

Or could he be on the disappointing road to one of those careers doomed by being drafted by the wrong team or perhaps just not having the right skill set for the NFL? Obviously, it's too early in his career to write him off. But the NFL is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league and there are always people waiting to call you a bust.

It's going to be a very interesting story.

Prukop, Freeman take focus off leaky Duck defense

Prukop, Freeman take focus off leaky Duck defense

Royce Freeman's 85-yard touchdown run was a thing of beauty, what with the sterling block by wide receiver Jalen Brown as his escort. And there were all those passes by Dakota Prukop, some long and some short, some under pressure and some not, that nearly stole the show.

So much to see on the Oregon offense. So much talent and glitz. That offense is a three-ring circus.

It almost overshadowed the problems with the Ducks' defense, the dark sideshow to that circus, which continues to look like an anchor that's going to keep one of the country's flashiest and most efficient offenses out of consideration for anything big in the postseason.

Virginia rushed for 193 yards -- 4.8 per carry -- and consistently found an open lane up the middle of the Duck defense. There has been a lot of talk about new defensive coordinator Brady Hoke's shift to a 4-3 defense but it looked Saturday night as if a 12-6 defense might be the only solution. Not only did the defense struggle, it compounded its problems by committing silly penalties.

Oregon plays at 2-0 Nebraska next week, where former OSU Coach Mike Riley and his staff await with all sorts of experience in dealing with Oregon's system.

Teams are going to score against the Ducks, but they are going to have to score plenty. Oregon's offense is going to be something special once its offensive line starts to get comfortable with each other.

Prukop was borderline sensational against Virginia, calmly going through his progressions on passing plays and running the option as if he's been doing it all his life. His talents are perfect for what the Ducks want to do and if he can continue to do it as the competition gets better, the Ducks will have found one of the best quarterbacks they've had this side of a Heisman Trophy winner.

Freeman? No surprise there. The speed and power are apparent and when he gets his touches, good things are going to happen.

On offense, Oregon has the skill positions locked and loaded. It is going to run up some incredible numbers this season, too -- mostly because it won't be sitting out many fourth quarters with big leads as it has in the past. With the kind of defense the Ducks are going to play, the offense is probably going to have to go hard, beginning-to-end, and not make many mistakes.

This could be one wild season.