Friday 4: A shame, an apology, a champion, and something stupid

Welcome to Friday, so that means another installment of “Friday 4”, the four things I’m thinking about the last week and the upcoming weekend in sports and the world in general.

Sports are full of great people. Now it would be easy for me to say that hockey has more great people than any other sport, but that’s just my personal bias coming through as I’m around more people involved in the game of hockey than the other professional sports. One of those great people I was around a good amount in the early aughts was then Manchester Monarchs’ head coach Bruce Boudreau.

Many head coaches of that era, including those of the Worcester Icecats, wouldn’t give bloggers the time of day if they were standing in a watch factory. Boudreau was different, often answering my question like they were the most important thing he was asked that day. In fact, he’d often answer my questions before he’d take any from Manchester Union leader reporter Kevin Provencher. That meant I wasn’t one of Provencher’s favorite people.

In 2011, Provencher pled guilty to two counts of deriving support from a prostitute, two counts of procuring a person into prostitution, two counts of solicitation for prostitution, and one count of witness intimidation. Of course, there’s no reason for me to bring that up other than to say Provencher isn’t one of the great people of hockey. Nope, no reason at all.

At any rate, Boudreau has been on my “good guy” list for a long time. Former Worcester Telegram reporter Bill Ballou has a great story about Boudreau when years after the miracle 7-6 IceCats comeback over the Monarchs Ballou asked if Boudreau remembered it. Not only did he remember it, but he also called it the worst loss for any team he’d ever coached, and recalled lots of stuff about the on-ice action like he had watched it the day before.

It’s absolutely despicable the way the Vancouver Canucks treated Boudreau and his firing. Canucks president Jim Rutherford, and in fact everyone involved in the management of the Canucks, should be absolutely ashamed of themselves for not only the way they handled the situation but also for their lack of accepting any blame for everything they did wrong.

“It was the speculation that drove this. It wasn’t us,” Rutherford said at the press conference introducing new head coach Rick Tocchet. “It’s played out in a way that was out of our control. We can only do our business in the way we see fit. We can’t change our business based on speculation.”

What’s missing from that statement is it was Rutherford’s own comments that started the so-called “speculation”, which, by the way, turned out to be completely true.

One also has to wonder why you’d fire a head coach after 103 games over two half-seasons but keep on general manager Patrik Allvin, who has essentially done nothing to improve the team, and why you’d fire a head coach your fans love and support. If you’re not going to win, and trust me Vancouver and Rick Tocchet aren’t going to any time soon, you should at least attempt to keep your fans happy.

If they really felt a change was needed the Canucks absolutely could have given Boudreau some cover out there every day he needed to talk to the press, and it wouldn’t have taken much to do it the right way instead of leaving one of hockey’s great people hanging out to dry.

Dear celebrities,
This is how you apologize for being an ass in public

I don’t always agree with Shannon Sharpe, in fact, it’s probably better to say I hardly ever agree with him. But it’s hard to not respect someone who apologizes like that. Didn’t hedge, didn’t make excuses. Stared right into the camera and took responsibility for his actions and acknowledged how they impacted others.

I’m still not watching his show, and I think his co-host Skip Bayless is the biggest turd on TV.

But the level of respect I had for Sharpe as a person just went through the roof.

When I started these “Friday 4” posts I didn’t intend for the third spot to be inspirational, but here we are at week number three, and here is another great story.

A tennis pro with 50 major titles to his credit recently retired, and it’s a shame that it got essentially zero press. Shingo Kunieda, a wheelchair tennis superstar and currently world number-1, announced on Twitter a couple days ago that he was retiring from the ITF wheelchair tennis tour.

Now I’m hardly an aficionado of wheelchair tennis. I only knew about this because I was looking for info on Jelena Ostapenko and her disliking the Hawkeye electronic line calling system–for those who care, she hates it–and stumbled into the article about Kunieda. I don’t get how someone with 699 singles wins, spent 582 weeks as the number-1 rated singles player, and 102 weeks as the doubles number-1 doesn’t get any sort of mention on most of the major sports news sites other than the “staff report” AP-type mentions.

Kunieda, who is paralyzed below the waist due to a tumor in his spinal cord found when he was age 9, won 50 Grand Slam titles across singles and doubles, and four Paralympic gold medals in 28 years of competing. Those are absolutely astounding numbers for any athlete. Heck, just competing at the top level of any sport for 28 years should get you tons of press when you retire.

I get that wheelchair tennis is a fringe sport in terms of dollars and viewers, but you’d think that sports websites that depend on traffic to make money would put more effort into getting every single person they can to their sites. And it wouldn’t be hard to come up with some sort of clickbaity title to drive even more traffic to stores like Kunieda retiring.

Makes me wonder how many more great stories go untold just because some editor couldn’t be bothered to assign them to someone.

I really like it when I get to laugh at a pro sports team for doing something stupid. And the Dallas Cowboys did something stupid in their final play against the San Francisco 49ers last Sunday night.

First, if you somehow have no idea what I’m talking about, here is the play in question.

Now I get the comparisons to the play the Indianapolis Colts ran against the New England Patriots a few years ago, but those comparisons are really off base. The Colts’ play was that the ball wasn’t supposed to be snapped, but due to a personnel change that small fact wasn’t known to the center. OK, maybe that’s a big fact. Well, at any rate, the Cowboys intentionally snapped the ball to Dak Prescott in their play.

But that’s not the stupid thing they did.

No, really. The thought behind the play makes a bit of sense: get the ball forward and then set up for laterals. The stupid parts were they had offensive linemen on the field at all, and they had no need to throw the ball.

We’ll tackle, no pun intended, the easy part first. Dallas should have had 11 guys out there that are used to handling the ball so they’d be able to catch and/or lateral efficiently. Since offensive linemen don’t usually handle the ball, Cowboys’ head coach Mike McCarthy should have substituted in every available receiver and running back, and filled the rest in with defensive secondary personnel. It’s legal, all those players need to do is have five players report to the referee as ineligible receivers, and line them up correctly.

The stupidest part of the play was the pass. Why would you throw the ball to the middle of the field to a guy that’s easily covered by two defenders with no offensive player remotely close by to lateral to? Even if he gets the pass with some space what does he do next? Can’t run, the defense is right there. Can’t lateral, there’s no one near him. The only player calling for the ball after the catch is Prescott himself, and he’s still behind the line of scrimmage.

What exactly was the best-case scenario once the ball was caught?

What the Cowboys should have done was put everyone closer together like a standard play, picked a direction based on the defense, and then just run the ball that way like it was rugby. You’d have plenty of people to lateral to and some could get out in front to run a bit of interference. The key is everyone would be able to catch, run, or lateral as needed. But sometimes coaches outsmart themselves and look stupid for doing it.

And then we all get to laugh at them.

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