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Chapter 2: High Standards, Low Profile of Steve Bisciotti

Posted on 13 January 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

 

“Steve (Bisciotti) is straightforward and that makes it easy. He’s not a prima donna. He’s direct. He’s upfront. If there’s something he doesn’t like, he tells you. If he feels strongly about something, he tells you. There’s no secret agenda. There’s nothing you have to discover. Steve is a great believer in direct communication and he runs the business that way.”

— Baltimore Ravens President Dick Cass (March 2013)

 

IN MANY CITIES IN AMERICA the owners of sports franchises can still somehow stay or hide in the shadow of their local investment and create nary a stir when they enter a room. Being anonymous has its privileges and benefits, a thought Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti would certainly echo. But in Baltimore, where the owners of the local professional teams have been true newsmakers and iconoclasts for the better part of a half a century, owning the NFL franchise that a community treats like family or a personal treasure can be like carrying the collective weight of the civic mood on your shoulders.

Bisciotti did his best to remain a private citizen after taking over the Ravens from Arthur B. Modell in early 2004, but you can’t be invested in the most significant sports soap opera in the community and stand at the top of the pyramid making the most important decisions for the fan base without becoming a public figure of the highest order.

If you are a sports fan from Baltimore, Maryland, you have endured your fair share of abuse. In the 1970’s, the Baltimore Bullets were dragged down I-95 to the Washington suburbs by owner Abe Pollin, professional hockey went into hibernation with the Clippers and there were strong whispers of the Orioles going to D.C. to replace the departed Washington Senators. It got no better in the 1980’s. There was always the ominous and omnipresent shadow of Robert Irsay, the man who acquired the Baltimore Colts from Carroll Rosenbloom in a swap for the Los Angeles Rams in 1972 and later moved them to Indianapolis in a convoy of Mayflower moving trucks in the middle of a snowy, teary night for the Charm City on March 28, 1984 after a decade of tyranny and threats to the community of the inevitable move.

Since the turn of the century, both the Washington Redskins and Baltimore Orioles fan bases’ have been tormented and tortured by disastrous moves on the field and big moves downward in the standings since the involvement of Daniel Snyder and Peter G. Angelos have fallen upon the I-95 corridor. These two have shined a bright light on what can go wrong when poor decisions are consistently being made from the top of the organization and how quickly decades of support for enduring brands can erode and deteriorate when fans and customers smell the stench of poor ownership.

The reality in the 21st century is that with the scarcity of teams available and the cost of buying a sports franchise for hundreds of millions of dollars, no one wants to pony up the kind of money to be an owner without having a strong desire to be heavily involved in strategy and a strong desire to win – whether it’s on the field or at the cash register. Many of these thrill seekers have lacked proper training, background and the feel for sports ownership especially with such a public light illuminating every decision that is made in real time on the internet. What sounds like fun in the beginning becomes an albatross and a public nuisance once it becomes apparent how specialized each league, sport and business is from an ownership standpoint.

It was no secret that Art Modell was struggling financially in Cleveland and those ghosts of burgeoning debt followed him east to Baltimore in 1996. By 1999, the NFL and his debtors with the banks demanded that he find a partner to buy the team and help him find the exit door with the class and dignity that his departure from Cleveland clearly lacked.

The same man who found Modell in Cleveland and brokered the deal for the State of Maryland and the City of Baltimore in the Fall of 1995 was the same man who found a buyer four years later: local attorney and sports franchise expert John Moag. After Modell made the move to Baltimore, Moag became a trusted confidant and had all of the institutional knowledge that would be necessary to assist in finding a new owner for the Baltimore Ravens.

Moag knew Bisciotti and was privy to most of Modell’s financial struggles. The rest is history.

By any account, Steve Bisciotti is a sports nut. He’s long been a fiercely loyal University of Maryland supporter, close confidant of legendary Terps basketball head coach Gary Williams and a Ravens and Orioles season ticket holder at the time. At worst, he would’ve been a very educated sports radio talk show caller before he got involved in the purchase the Baltimore Ravens in 1999.

Bisciotti, born April 10, 1960 in Philadelphia, came to the Severna Park area of Anne Arundel County in 1961 when Bernard and Patricia Bisciotti moved from Philadelphia for Bernard’s new sales executive job. He was 8 years old when the Colts lost Super Bowl III to Joe Namath and the New York Jets. He was a huge Paul Blair fan during the heyday of the Earl Weaver-led Orioles in his adolescence. He journeyed with his friends up Richie Highway to Memorial Stadium in the 1970’s and loved the Bert Jones-era of the “Shake and Bake” Colts.

Bisciotti’s father died of leukemia when he was in elementary school leaving his sports-crazed widowed mother, who raised him by preaching faith, hard work, determination and manners. Nicknamed “Shots” by his college pals at Salisbury State, where he earned a Liberal Arts degree, Bisciotti became obsessed with making enough money by the age of 35 so that his wife and kids wouldn’t have to work if his father’s fate befell him. He had the early jobs of a kid who worked hard and learned the world: pumping gas, mowing lawns, and building piers in Anne Arundel County, where he graduated from Severna Park High School. He founded a staffing firm called Aerotek in his basement with $3,500 of seed money at age 23 during the Colts final season in Baltimore. He now owns a massive stake in Allegis

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Birk among Ravens’ veterans not taking playoff run for granted

Posted on 10 January 2012 by Luke Jones

As a member of the Minnesota Vikings’ 1998 draft class that included the phenomenal wide receiver Randy Moss, Harvard center Matt Birk took winning for granted at the beginning of his career.

Playing in an explosive offense that included the likes of Moss, Cris Carter, Robert Smith, Randall Cunningham, and Daunte Culpepper, Birk made two trips to the NFC championship game in his first three seasons. However, the Vikings fell short of the Super Bowl in both 1998 and 2000 as Birk was just establishing himself as a six-time Pro Bowl center on the Minnesota offensive line.

There would be other opportunities, Birk thought at the time, but the 14-year veteran — his last three seasons spent with the Ravens — is still seeking another conference championship appearance, let alone his first trip to the Super Bowl.

“At that time, I probably didn’t know what it meant or just how precious is was, and I haven’t been back since,” Birk said. “We have this opportunity in front of us to be in the playoffs and be in the second round now. You certainly don’t take it for granted, and as you get closer to the end, it just becomes that much more precious.”

Much like linebacker Ray Lewis and safety Ed Reed, Birk feels the urgency to win this season with his football future unclear. His contract expires after the season, and he and his wife Adrianna have six children, including a boy born just a few weeks ago. Even if Birk wants to continue playing, it’s unclear whether the Ravens, or any other contending team, will want a 36-year-old center for the 2012 season.

Unlike those near misses in the infancy of his NFL career, Birk fully realizes this playoff run may be his last chance to win a championship.

Despite going largely unnoticed, Birk’s play has been commendable after starting the season on a concerning note. He missed the entire preseason after undergoing arthroscopic surgery to clean out the bursa sac in his knee in early August. The procedure prompted the Ravens to sign five-time Pro Bowl center Andre Gurode just days before the start of the regular season.

At the time, it appeared to be a question of when, not if, Gurode would supplant Birk as the Ravens’ starting center, but he made all 16 starts, remaining healthy other than a sprained shoulder suffered against the Cleveland Browns in Week 13. The good fortune allowed the veteran Gurode to serve as the team’s top reserve on the interior line, making five starts in place of injured left guard Ben Grubbs in the first half of the season.

Despite early-season struggles due to the late addition of veteran left tackle Bryant McKinnie and the injury to Grubbs, the offensive line found its stride in the second half of the season, with Birk providing much-needed veteran leadership to complement the stellar interior play of Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda and Grubbs.

“From where we were a week before the start of the season, we’ve come a long way,” Birk said. “[We had] a couple pieces missing there during training camp, but I feel like we’ve gotten better as the season has gone on – certainly just the comfort level, chemistry, cohesion, whatever you want to call it.”

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NFL Week 1 game notes: Ravens vs. Steelers

Posted on 09 September 2011 by Chris Pika

Week 1 of the 2011 NFL schedule features a pair of teams that have waged one of the fiercest rivalries in the NFL over the past decade, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens.

Sunday’s 1 pm (CBS) game in M&T Bank Stadium may prove to be everything the NFL Kickoff opener was not Thursday night — a healthy dose of strong defense.

In our second edition of “From the notes …” for Week 1, we look inside the weekly PR game notes produced by the Steelers and Ravens PR departments and the NFL Communications office via the Elias Sports Bureau.

Pittsburgh won the AFC North last season with a 12-4 record. The Steelers were the AFC Champions, and the club advanced to Super Bowl XLV, where they lost to the Green Bay Packers:

SUDDEN START: Due to the labor impasse the 2011 offseason was all but lost, leaving just over a week for teams to sign undrafted rookies, free agents and their own draft picks that they selected back in late April.

For the Steelers the main focus was on resigning their own players to keep a nucleus in tact that had reaped tremendous success over the past few years.

Pittsburgh’s appearance last year in Super Bowl XLV marked the franchise’s third trip to the title game since 2005. The Steelers bring back 20 players that started in that Super Bowl.

Pittsburgh will also return 18 players that started at least 11 games last season, including 15 players that started 14 or more games.

Key players that the Steelers resigned in the offseason included CB Ike Taylor, LB LaMarr Woodley, OT Willie Colon, OT Jonathan Scott, K Shaun Suisham and NT Chris Hoke. Pittsburgh also signed LB Lawrence Timmons to a five-year contract extension.

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PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 28: Michael Vick  of the Philadelphia Eagles in action against the Minnesota Vikings at Lincoln Financial Field on December 26, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

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Did President Obama call Steve Bisciotti?

Posted on 30 December 2010 by WNST Interns

This weekend, the National Football League wraps up the regular season and enters the “elimination round” for determining the next Super Bowl Champion. Indeed, this is the most exciting time on many sports lover’s calendars.

Heck, we’ve already enjoyed a pretty entertaining and, at times, surprising slate of action across the NFL’s universe. All of us have been right, all of us have been wrong, and most of us have been simply shocked on more than a couple occasions …..

The Kansas City Chiefs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Chicago Bears have served as the most recent examples of fortunes changing for the better in just one season …..

At the same time, the Dallas Cowboys, Cincinnati Bengals and Minnesota Vikings have proven that NOTHING is ever guaranteed …..

And, to the chagrin of many observers, the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers have proven, once again, that dismissing their reputation and stability as major factors in overcoming injuries and depth issues is a foolish proposition …..

Indeed, the upcoming postseason will be representative of surprising entries, as well as the most dependable late season finishers. But, this is a reality of every playoff picture, right?

In addition to team results, individual performances have also been a major part of the game’s lure, in this 2010 season …..

Once again, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have lived up to reputations of being the best players in the game. Donovan McNabb was predictably snake-bitten by the Redskins dysfunction. And, as expected, Ray Lewis rattled off another Pro-Bowl caliber effort.

As for surprises, who really expected a long haired Clay Matthews to join the ranks of the most feared players in the game? Did any of us really know much about Arian Foster, just six months ago? Alas, did we expect Michael Vick to ever contend for another MVP award?

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 28: Michael Vick  of the Philadelphia Eagles in action against the Minnesota Vikings at Lincoln Financial Field on December 26, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Pleasant surprise performances are always a nice way of wrapping up a season and looking ahead to the future. But, unfortunately, these same surprising players can and will be exploited for the gains of others.

We shouldn’t be surprised to be seeing entourages of hawkers latching onto the NFL’s hottest, new or “reborn” commodities. Yet, to see the President Of The United States doing it is pretty disappointing …..

A few days ago, the world learned that President Obama called Philadelphia Eagles owner, Jeffrey Lurie, and commended him for giving Michael Vick a fresh opportunity, because “so many people who serve time never get a fair second chance.”

Fair enough, I suppose …..

But, if expressing such a humanistic approach to helping others and recognizing compassion is a mission during this holiday season, I do wonder if President Obama also used his trusty Blackberry to give Baltimore Ravens owner, Steve Bisciotti, a phone call with the same spirited message?

After all, Mr. Bisciotti has provided the very same effort for Donte’ Stallworth, right? A year ago, Stallworth had no clear indications of how or where he might be able to make a living. The Ravens have afforded him a “second chance”

Better yet, did President Obama spread a little more goodwill by gracing Cincinnati Bengals owner, Mike Brown, with such a spirited “attaboy !!!!” phone conversation? God knows Mr. Brown and the Bengals have doled out more second and third chances than Carmella Soprano and any girlfriend of Alex Rodriguez, combined.

Let’s not stop with football and current players, either …..

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ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 19: Quarterback Donovan McNabb  of the Washington Redskins on the sidelines against play against the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium on December 19, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

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The “Most Disappointing Performers” of 2010 …..

Posted on 22 December 2010 by WNST Interns

A week ago, I introduced my first LIST chronicling sports and events, in 2010. At the time, I guaranteed variations of such rankings, including the GOOD, BAD and downright PATHETIC. For some odd reason, developing this year’s lists has not been an easy endeavor. Hence, the delay in posting …..

Today’s list regards the “MOST DISAPPOINTING PERFORMERS OF 2010”. The criteria are simple; the list applies exclusively to professional athletes and the 2010 year. As always, I look forward to your thoughts and suggestions …..
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10) Donovan McNabb – while he certainly maintains a healthy core of supporters, it’s pretty difficult to blindly overlook McNabb’s tumultuous, yet brief stint in the nation’s capital. He’s grinding thru a tough season that has yielded the fewest touchdown passes (14) and most interceptions (15) of his 10 seasons as a starting quarterback.

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 19: Quarterback Donovan McNabb  of the Washington Redskins on the sidelines against play against the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium on December 19, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

It’s become quite obvious that McNabb and Mike Shanahan are not on the same page, as two benchings would certainly indicate. The Redskins are mired in another losing season, and regardless of a potential Hall of Fame career, McNabb must accept a great deal of accountability for a lackluster offensive attack.

Hmmm …. do you think they’re smiling up in Philly?
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9) Alex Rodriguez – I never thought this name would appear on such a list; well, not in 2010, anyway. However, I think it’s pretty fair to say A’Rod easily suffered through the worst season of his career as a starting 3rd baseman/shortstop.

Aug. 11, 2010 - Arlington, Texas, USA - August 11, 2010. Yankees third baseman ALEX RODRIGUEZ in the dugout as The New York Yankees played the Texas Rangers in a Major League Baseball game at the Ballpark in Arlington, Texas.

While the Orioles (and a few other teams) would gladly receive a 3rd baseman who hits for a .270 clip, with 30 homers and 125 RBI, the New York Yankees expect much more production. And, when they’re paying that player an annual salary of $33 million, I’d say such demands are warranted.

The 2010 season was a downer for A’Rod, as he’s still counted as a true five-tool player. At 34, his best days are assuredly in the rear view mirror …. but, I’m sure the Steinbrenner’s still expect a batting average in the vicinity of .300, with 35 homers, 30 doubles, 10 steals and 125 RBI.

And, for the money they’re spending …. I don’t blame them.
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#8) Chris Johnson – I think everybody remembers Johnson’s season of domination, in 2009, right? He became the sixth player to rush for 2,000+ yards, in NFL history. He basked in the spotlight and became the top pick in most 2010 Fantasy Football Drafts.

JACKSONVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 18: Running back Chris Johnson  of the Tennessee Titans warms up prior to the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on October 18, 2010 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

Of course, Johnson fed the adoration and suspense by predicting he would rush for 2,500 yards, in this 2010 season. It was a ludicrous goal to set and an even crazier hope for a growing collection of fans. With a couple games remaining, Johnson finds himself with 1,267 rushing yards.

Not a bad year, huh? By most accounts, it wouldn’t be a disappointing season …. but, even Johnson expected and guaranteed more.
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7) A.J. Burnett – here’s the one guy who justifies Andy MacPhail’s reluctance to overpay free agents, huh? Just a couple years ago, A.J. Burnett shared prospective shopping lists with Mark Teixeira. As we know, the Orioles made token offers and both players ended up in pinstripes.

New York Yankees starting pitcher A.J. Burnett throws a pitch in the first inning against the Texas Rangers at Yankee Stadium in New York City on April 17, 2010.  UPI/John Angelillo Photo via Newscom

While Teixeira has produced at an expected level, Burnett has struggled to achieve the lofty statistics that rendered him one of the most coveted pitchers in the 2008 shopping market. And, 2010 was simply a season to forget, as Burnett produced a 5.26 ERA and 1.51 WHIP, while finding a way to lose more games than he won.

Perhaps, A.J. Burnett is on the shortest leash, heading into 2011. The Yankees are a team that can withstand bad contracts, and unless he recaptures some dominance, Burnett might find himself pitching in Kansas City or Baltimore …. sooner rather than later.
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6) Dale Earnhardt Jr. – I have never maintained the belief that Earnhardt was among the very best talents in NASCAR, let alone comparable to the legend of his father. However, I also never foresaw him performing this badly, either.

CONCORD, NC - OCTOBER 14: Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the  AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet, stands in the garage during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on October 14, 2010 in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

We’re approaching three years since Earnhardt won his last race, and he’s finished outside the Top-20 in season standings for two straight years. On a weekly basis, he’s being viewed as just part of the field, rather than a threat win any particular race.

Still, Dale Earnhardt Jr. remains NASCAR’S most popular competitor and he easily earns more money than any fellow driver (and most ballplayers) on an annual basis. Only in America, huh? What’s the incentive to win? Perhaps, Earnhardt’s popularity really is undermining any hunger to win …..
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5) Greg Oden – as he’s shelved in his fourth season as a pro basketball player, Oden stands to potentially become one of the biggest BUSTS in NBA history. To date, the former #1 overall pick has earned almost $20 million, while playing in just 82 career games.

ATLANTA - MARCH 30:  Greg Oden #20 of the Ohio State Buckeyes warms up during practice for the NCAA Men's Final Four at the Georgia Dome on March 30, 2007 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Hmmm …. my calculator says that’s about $230,000, per game. Not bad for a night’s work, huh? In 2010, the figures are even uglier – Oden hasn’t played a single game, this year. But, he’s being paid $4.3 million for such services.

To suggest Greg Oden has been a disappointment, in 2010, is an absolute understatement. Then, again, maybe the Trailblazers don’t expect anything from him – which is exactly what he’s giving them.
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4) Randy Moss – how about a standing ovation and resounding applause for the first dude who makes both of my BAD lists, in 2010. As the 2010 season winds down, Randy Moss finds himself making no real contribution to the Tennessee Titans offense.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 11: Randy Moss  of the Minnesota Vikings looks on against the New York Jets at New Meadowlands Stadium on October 11, 2010 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Jets won 29-20. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Ironically, the same can pretty much be said for his brief stint, in Minnesota, as well. That’s right, it’s been a couple months since Moss forced his way out of New England – where they’re readying to seize the top seed in the AFC playoff picture.

He entered the 2010 season as one of the most legitimate receivers in the NFL. Yet, thru 14 games, Moss has just 5 touchdowns and 27 receptions. Of the 5 scores, he has only two over the last couple months. Is he disappointment? Yes, very much so …..
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3) Lebron James – you can call him King James, All Star or Chosen One …. just don’t call him a WINNER. While his 2010 has been the tale of two cities and teams, Lebron James has failed to establish himself as the driving force behind a corps capable of winning BIG GAMES.

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James stands on the court during the fourth quarter against the Chicago Bulls in game 3 of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at the United Center in Chicago on April 22, 2010. The Bulls won 108-106 and trail the Cavliers 2-1 in the best of seven series.  UPI/Brian Kersey Photo via Newscom

He packed it in against the Celtics, back in May. He chose to flee a team he commanded for a team where he’s surrounded. Leaders don’t need such security – just see Jordan, Magic or Bird.

The story of the 2010-2011 Miami Heat has not been written. They’re winning regular season contests, but will they win the postseason games, where leadership is a MUST? Based on his past, it’s pretty safe to assume Lebron cannot be counted upon when it matters most – and such a reality defines disappointment.
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2) Brett Favre – if he just had a crystal ball, huh? In some distinct ways, I feel badly for Favre. He obviously plays the game with a sheer love for the competition, and a legend of his stature should not walk away in such a beaten state.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 05: Brett Favre  of the Minnesota Vikings leaves the field after defeating the Buffalo Bills at the Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on December 5, 2010 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

But, Brett Favre gambled on one season too many. Buoyed by last January’s NFC Championship Game …. and near miss, he caved to pressure from the Vikings and returned for another season and shot at the Super Bowl.

It has proven to be a mistake. Favre wasn’t healthy when the season began and he should’ve been smart enough to realize and accept it. Of course, America’s favorite bimbo, Jenn Sterger, has only added to the dysfunction of this disastrous season.

In the words of the great Clint Eastwood, “a man must know his limitations.” Unfortunately, Brett Favre did not recognize his limitations, as 2010 became his worst season, ever.
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#1) Tiger Woods – well, could it really be anyone else? As the entire world knows, Tiger’s life unraveled into a sordid, corrupt mess, in 2010. From adulterous affairs, to domestic discord and lost sponsorships, Tiger lost an awful lot …..

Tiger Woods waits to hit off of the 11th tee box during the first round of the Quail Hollow Tournament in Charlotte, North Carolina on April 29, 2010.  UPI/Kevin Dietsch Photo via Newscom

The losing also carried onto the golf course. He played the worst golf of his professional career and looked totally lost, at times. From the hecklers speckled in the galleries, to the gaudy airplane banners soaring overhead, Tiger’s presence at a golf tournament became very “tabloid-ish”.

However, I think Tiger Woods is the MOST DISAPPOINTING PERFORMER of 2010, because we expect such greatness from him. He is easily the most dominant athlete of the last decade. And, to see his game struggle due to something other than the natural progressions of age or injury is very sad, indeed.

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Oct 16, 2010; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans coach Lane Kiffin gestures during the game against the California Golden Bears at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. USC defeated California 48-14. Photo via Newscom

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The “Controversial Sports Personalities” of 2010 …..

Posted on 16 December 2010 by WNST Interns

As we make our way into mid-December and the final weeks of the year, excitement starts to build with many people, young and old. From the anticipation (or stresses) of the holidays, to the culmination of another NFL season, many of us look forward to this part of our annual calendar.

In my own way, I look forward to this time of year, because I’m a “list” kinda guy …..

Be it BEST OF, WORST OF, MOST INTRIGUING, MOST OVERRATED, MOST POPULAR, MOST HATED and just about any related combination, I like compiling lists of my personal rankings regarding people and events of any given year.

Of course, my lists revolve around sports, in one context or another. From the famous to the infamous, and the champions to the chokers, I’ll give you the spin on how 2010 shakes out in my conflicted mind.

Today, we’ll begin with the “TEN MOST CONTROVERSIAL SPORTS PERSONALITIES OF THE YEAR” …..
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10) Lane Kiffin – The ultimate coaching mercenary, huh? Many of us were snookered into believing Kiffin was the sympathetic figure depicted in his dysfunctional ride with Al Davis and the Oakland Raiders. Little did we know his loyalties would tend to run as deep, or shallow, as his former boss …..

Oct 16, 2010; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans coach Lane Kiffin gestures during the game against the California Golden Bears at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. USC defeated California 48-14. Photo via Newscom

Earlier this year, Lane Kiffin deserted the University of Tennessee – the institution that gave him a second chance – on a whim to return to his coaching roots, at the University of Southern California. Kiffin garnered a lot of rightful criticism for switching jobs, midstream, while so many people, in Tennessee, depended on him.
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9) Cam Newton – Well, we all know this name, huh? Yet, a year ago at this time, only the hardcore college football fans really knew anything about Newton. Only in America …. can a sports personality rise from anonymity to celebrity, in the span of a few months.

NEW YORK - DECEMBER 11: 2010 Heisman Trophy candidate Cam Newton of the Auburn University Tigers speaks at a press conference at The New York Marriott Marquis on December 11, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

I suppose we should really be recognizing Cam’s father, Cecil, for being the “straw that stirred this combustible cocktail.” He obviously lobbied for money in exchange for his son’s services, and regardless of what the NCAA might be saying, most of us don’t really believe young Cam is blameless.

Hmmm …. how long will it take for him to surrender that trophy?

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ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 11: Quarterback Matt Ryan  of the Atlanta Falcons converses with quarterback Joe Flacco  of the Baltimore Ravens after the Falcons 26-21 win at Georgia Dome on November 11, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

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Blog & Tackle: NFL one-liners through Week 13

Posted on 09 December 2010 by Chris Pika

The 2010 NFL season has reached the three-quarter mark, and like any good game on Sundays, it’s usually the fourth quarter that decides success or failure.

It’s a chance to take stock of each conference after 13 weeks and 12 games with one-liners on each of the teams. Below are some stats, observations and conjecture as we look ahead to the final four weeks.

First, here is a look at the AFC by divisions. Records are through Week 13:

AFC East

New England Patriots (10-2): Patriots have won last four, including huge win over the Jets to solidfy their claim as AFC’s best team behind conference-best (+110) scoring differential; road to AFC title will go through Gillette Stadium and coach Bill Belichick.

New York Jets (9-3): Despite 3-1 stretch, Jets went from potentially being in line to host AFC title game to very vulnerable after shredding of New York’s vaunted D by the Patriots.

Miami Dolphins (6-6): Dolphins continue to confound with 5-1 road mark, but 1-5 home record — that will be main reason they will not make playoffs as well as offensive woes (-23 point differential).

Buffalo Bills (2-10): Bills finally saw results after 0-8 start with two straight victories, but close loss to Steelers and blowout defeat to Vikings has slowed Buffalo’s progress.

AFC North

Pittsburgh Steelers (9-3): Steelers have grabbed choke-hold of AFC North after winning the war in Baltimore last week behind QB Ben Roethlisberger and stout defense; now Pittsburgh could host AFC Divisional Playoff at always-tough Heinz Field.

Baltimore Ravens (8-4): Only home loss of season so far to Steelers was costly as Ravens may have three straight playoff games on the road instead of one or two home games; predicted high-production offense has gone cold at bad times.

Cleveland Browns (5-7): Cleveland continues to be a “tough out” thanks to solid running game behind RB Peyton Hillis; if they get QB (and maybe head coach) situation settled in offseason, could be 2011 team to watch in AFC.

Cincinnati Bengals (2-10): The wheels have completely come off the cart for one of the preseason favorites to win the division — nine-game losing streak may spell the end of the Marvin Lewis era in Cincinnati.

AFC South

Jacksonville Jaguars (7-5): Jaguars, after 3-1 stretch, find themselves on top in the division, despite worst point differential among all division leaders (-43) — only question is can they hold off slumping Colts?

Indianapolis Colts (6-6): Colts’ injuries have finally taken a toll; forget Peyton Manning for a moment, being in position of having to pass so much has allowed opponents to tee off in crucial situations — but Indy can still catch Jaguars for division title.

Houston Texans (5-7): Lack of strong starts have doomed Texans, 1-5 in their last six games — last chance for Houston (and maybe coach Gary Kubiak’s job) comes with Monday night visit by Ravens in Week 14.

Tennessee Titans (5-7): When you didn’t think anybody else could surpass Minnesota as NFL’s best soap opera, here comes the Titans; normally unflappable coach Jeff Fisher has had to deal with Vince Young, Randy Moss and owner Bud Adams in recent weeks.

AFC West

Kansas City Chiefs (8-4): Chiefs seem to have control of the division after a three-game win streak and perfect 6-0 home mark; can they hold off the Raiders and Chargers over the final four weeks?

Oakland Raiders (6-6): Progress has been slowed by 3-2 mark in last five games, but 4-0 division record could be factor if they get help before Week 17 showdown at traditional rival Chiefs.

San Diego Chargers (6-6): Amazing how one loss changes things after blowout defeat by Raiders last week that stopped four-game win streak; season on the line vs. Chiefs this week.

Denver Broncos (3-9): A three-game losing streak coupled with Spygate-like scandal in London finally cost Josh McDaniels his coaching job; Eric Studesville gets his audition but the supporting cast is not there.

And now for the NFC by divisions:

NFC East

ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 11: Quarterback Matt Ryan  of the Atlanta Falcons converses with quarterback Joe Flacco  of the Baltimore Ravens after the Falcons 26-21 win at Georgia Dome on November 11, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Philadelphia Eagles (8-4): The Eagles are tied for the division lead, but arguably have the NFC East’s toughest schedule left with two games vs. Dallas and one each against the Giants and Vikings — for what was originally expected to be a transition year, a lot is still on the table.

New York Giants (8-4): Giants are playing as well as any team in NFC right now, but head coach Tom Coughlin’s team must navigate Minnesota, Philadelphia and Green Bay the next three weeks to stay in the division and Wild Card mix.

Washington Redskins (5-7): The Redskins season has become a trainwreck as head coach Mike Shanahan has had to deal with several distractions, including DT Albert Haynesworth’s suspension for conduct detrimental; the Skins defense should be suspended as well, allowing the fifth-most points in the NFC.

Dallas Cowboys (4-8): The Cowboys have gotten off the deck to become a team no one wants to face down the stretch; Dallas could play spoiler in the NFC East and help Jason Garrett remove the interim coaching tag.

NFC North

Chicago Bears (9-3): The Bears have won five straight to hold the division lead by one game thanks to resurgent play by QB Jay Cutler and LB Brian Urlacher; Chicago has murderous final four weeks capped by Week 17 visit to Packers.

Green Bay Packers (8-4): Despite injuries, Packers are firmly in the playoff mix, but key Week 12 loss at Atlanta looms large as well as final three games against New England, Giants and Chicago — win those and Green Bay will have earned its postseason ticket.

Minnesota Vikings (5-7): A change in head coach to well-respected assistant Leslie Frazier has helped the mood in Minnesota, but the final four weeks will be all about Brett Favre’s literal limp to the finish of his career (I think).

Detroit Lions (2-10): Some of the strides made early in the season by the Lions have been erased by the current five-game losing streak; coach Jim Schwartz is still looking for consistent winning formula.

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons (10-2): The hottest team in the NFC with six straight wins, the Falcons may do something no Atlanta NFL team ever has — host the NFC Championship Game in January; but they have to get through Week 16 Monday Night game vs. Saints.

New Orleans Saints (9-3): The defending Super Bowl champions are playing like it for first time all season with a current five-game win streak as the Saints try to go stride-for-stride with the Falcons; back-to-back road contests at Baltimore and Atlanta in Weeks 15-16 are New Orleans’ key games.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5): The air has finally come out of the Buccaneers’ balloon with two straight losses, but Tampa Bay is just one game out of a Wild Card spot with favorable matchups in the next three weeks before Week 17 at Saints.

Carolina Panthers (1-11): The Panthers just want the season to be over, and the housecleaning will begin soon after starting with head coach John Fox; Panthers are a NFC-worst minus-153 in point differential.

NFC West

St. Louis Rams (6-6): The Rams have quietly put themselves in position to make the playoffs out of a weak NFC West, but don’t mistake St. Louis as a weak team — QB Sam Bradford is one of the league’s feel-good stories of 2010, and division could come down to Week 17 tilt at Seattle.

Seattle Seahawks (6-6): The Seahawks are in position to capture the NFC West, but head coach Pete Carroll’s squad still has worst point differential among NFC teams with a winning record (-49); Week 17 vs. St. Louis could be the decider.

San Francisco 49ers (4-8): San Francisco not officially dead in NFC West race, but last gasp could come this Sunday vs. Seattle; if they win, they still have games vs. St. Louis and Arizona — teams they have already beaten in 2010.

Arizona Cardinals (3-9): Cardinals have gone south for the winter as they have lost seven straight and hold NFC’s second-worst point difference (-138), but have three winnable games in final four weeks.

For up-to-date Tweets on the NFL and the Ravens, please follow me on Twitter (@BlogAndTackle). For more national NFL stories, please visit my personal site at BlogAndTackle.net.

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GREEN BAY, WI - NOVEMBER 07: Aaron Rodgers  of the Green Bay Packers looks for a receiver against the Dallas Cowboys at Lambeau Field on November 7, 2010 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Cowboys 45-7. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

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Sunday Money – 6-Pack

Posted on 26 November 2010 by WNST Interns

Well, if you followed my advice, last week, your pockets are undoubtedly overflowing with plenty of cash for today’s Black Friday shopping spree. That’s correct …. I gave three LOCKS for the Week #11 NFL schedule, and I delivered in each one …..

My picks …..

New England (-3.5) vs. Indianapolis = MONEY

Dallas (-0.5, 40/over) vs. Detroit = MONEY

Baltimore (-13) vs. Carolina = MONEY

To add a little bit of credibility, I even predicted the Ravens vs. Panthers final score. Yep, it’s in the blog : Ravens 37 – Panthers 9

Thank me, NOW …..

For the believers among our WNST faithful, you’ve been rewarded with a financial pitfall …. and you’re welcome !!!! As for the more cynical crowd, you’ll get a shot at redemption, this week.

Don’t screw it up this time !!!!

Without further delay, here’s your trusted 6-pack for Week #12’s NFL games, along with a few personal guarantees …..

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GREEN BAY, WI - JANUARY 9:  Wide reciever Randy Moss #84 of the Minnesota Vikings jokes with teammates on the sideline while taking on the Green Bay Packers in the NFC wild-card game at Lambeau Field on January 9, 2005 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  The Vikings defeated the Packers 31-17.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

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Ravens smoke signals; are they interested in Shawne Merriman?

Posted on 03 November 2010 by WNST Interns

Over the past couple days, most nationally promoted NFL storylines are tied to the Minnesota Vikings’ abrupt release of perennial clunes, Randy Moss, and the immense bag of personal garbage he seems to drag behind him, wherever he goes.

I wrote about my opinions on Moss, yesterday. Thus, there is no need to dwell on him or his sordid reputation.

“He is what he is” …. which is a commonly used reference in avoiding any further critical assessments of a guy.

However, I will sum up my Moss musings with the details of an incident involving the conflicted receiver and a caterer, who fed the Vikings after a recent practice. A brief synopsis really regards Moss losing his temper and shouting obscenities among mixed company, when he didn’t like the selection of food provided by the caterer ….

“What the (expletive) is this? I wouldn’t feed this (expletive expletive) to my (expletive) dog”, Moss loudly complained, as he looked at the spread.

The incident left the food staff feeling embarrassed, and it caused several Vikings teammates to become upset with him. One player told him to SHUT UP. But, Moss continued, by saying “you know, I used to have to eat that crap — but now I’ve got money.”

A big deal in the grand scheme of an NFL team’s universe? Of course, not.

It was likely just a frustrating incident piled upon another incident, piled upon another incident in the brief month of this hasty marriage.

GREEN BAY, WI - JANUARY 9:  Wide reciever Randy Moss #84 of the Minnesota Vikings jokes with teammates on the sideline while taking on the Green Bay Packers in the NFC wild-card game at Lambeau Field on January 9, 2005 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  The Vikings defeated the Packers 31-17.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

Such situations only serve to validate the suspicions that Randy Moss is not a GENTLEMAN or a person who can be counted on to exhibit a decorum demanded of professional representatives of any organization.

By the way, the caterer, Tinucci’s Restaurant, is a favorite of current Baltimore Ravens center, Matt Birk. When asked for his opinion on Moss, yesterday, Birk said “Some people don’t have any taste. Some people don’t have any manners. And some people don’t have either.”

You can find the story of the incident (HERE)

So, now onto a more potentially productive topic for Ravens fans …..

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Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre and wide receiver Randy Moss slap hands after a completion against the New England Patriots in the third quarter of their NFL football game in Foxborough, Massachusetts October 31, 2010.    REUTERS/Adam Hunger   (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

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Randy Moss: has baggage …. will travel

Posted on 02 November 2010 by WNST Interns

Just go ahead and admit it …..

As soon as you’re convinced Bill Belichick has finally outsmarted himself and pulled the trigger on a dumb deal, he figuratively fools all of us and snookers another sucker.

Tomorrow marks the one month anniversary of the very public divorce between Randy Moss and the New England Patriots. It’s offically been 27 days, so my conflicted memory still recalls the morning the news broke, quite vividly.

While the deal was not an earth-shattering shocker, it did fuel reaction from a lot of sideline critics. As the football world learned Bill Belichick dealt his sole deep threat receiver to the Minnesota Vikings, a collective bewildering day of sports talk commenced.

Randy Moss was returning HOME, to the team and city where his Hall Of Fame career began. And, all seemed right in Minneapolis ….

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre and wide receiver Randy Moss slap hands after a completion against the New England Patriots in the third quarter of their NFL football game in Foxborough, Massachusetts October 31, 2010.    REUTERS/Adam Hunger   (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Brett Favre was being teamed with a guy who could catch those Sportscenter-highlighted touchdowns.

Brad Childress was acquiring the player who could validate all the effort devoted to kissing Favre’s ass for an entire offseason.

And, poor Bill Belichick was selling on the “short” …. while walking away with just a measly 3rd round pick in next April’s NFL draft.

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