By Joe Santoro
Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . .
Who is to blame for the Kevin Hart fiasco? Hart, Fernley head football coach Mark Hodges and the media - in that order - are at the top of that unfortunate list. The media should have asked some basic questions that apparently were never answered - at least not in print or over the airwaves. When did anyone from the Cal coaching staff show up at a Fernley football game to watch Hart play? When did a member of the Cal coaching staff make a visit to the Hart home? How much telephone contact did Hodges have with the Cal coaches over the past few months? Why would Pac-10 schools, namely Cal and Oregon, be so anxious to recruit a lineman from a little school in rural Nevada - a school, by the way, that has never sent a football player to a D-I school on a scholarship? Also, why would Fernley conduct a press conference in front of the entire school and media announcing Hart's verbal commitment before signing day? That event is usually reserved for the moment the athlete sits down at a table with pen in hand, ready to sign the Letter of Intent. Of course, Hart and Hodges could have made up some fancy lies to all those questions. That's why the media is not at the top of the blame list here.
It is difficult, though, to see how Hodges could escape blame here. Hodges should have been in constant contact with someone on the Cal coaching staff from the first day Cal or Oregon showed any interest in Hart. If Cal or Oregon was actually recruiting hiim seriously, someone on their staff would have called Hodges every week, asking for updates on Hart after every game. And when Hart said he got an offer from Cal, Hodges should have been on the phone with someone on the Cal staff asking some basic questions. Those questions - questions that coaches only answer honestly to other coaches - should have been asked by Hodges. How many other linemen is Cal recruiting this year? What are Hart's chances of actually seeing the field at Cal anytime soon? Do they want Hart to lose or gain weight before he shows up this summer? Do they want him to work on anything this spring and summer, like, say, improving his strength or footwork? And, oh, here's a big one - Did you guys actually give my lineman a scholarship offer? If Hodges didn't do any of that, he simply wasn't doing his job as Hart's coach.
The fact that Nevada never offered Hart a scholarship should have been a red flag for everyone, namely Hodges and the media. Then again, the Wolf Pack has been known to hold off on giving Nevada kids scholarship offers until another school offers first.
When Hart made his college "choice," he said he wanted to break the "standard" at Fernley, where kids after high school just "stay in town and get drunk or go to UNR." Hart should have more respect for the people of his hometown. That ridiculous stereotype is precisely what kids in rural Nevada have had to fight for decades. Hart now might have to find another town in his post high school days in which to stay in and get drunk.
The larger question here is why Hart felt the need to attempt such a silly lie. Only Hart can answer that question. Was it embarrassment over not getting a Division I offer? So what? No other Fernley football player has ever gotten such an offer. Is it because the lie of Pac-10 schools recruiting Hart was started long ago and this week's announcement was just the culmination of that lie? Is it because the media has gone overboard in recent years publicizing the recruitment of prep athletes with inane Web sites that have no problem with printing rumors and outright lies?
Here's hoping that some junior college gives Hart the chance to play football in the fall. It would also be a nice gesture for Nevada to allow Hart to walk on this summer. Yes, the kid made a mistake. It's a mistake that hopefully every kid around the country will learn from. Also, Hart has already admitted his mistake. That shows a lot of maturity. It took Pete Rose more than a decade to admit his mistake. Don't forget that Hart is now paying a dear price for his mistake. Let's hope he doesn't pay the price for the rest of his life.
The New York Giants' victory over the New England Patriots has to be considered the greatest pure upset in Super Bowl history. The New York Jets' victory over the Baltimore Colts was more meaningful. It showed the world that the AFL could compete with the NFL. But anybody who watched the AFL in the 1960s knew that the Jets were just as talented as the Colts. The Patriots were supposed to be the greatest team in NFL history. The Giants barely made the playoffs. It was a true upset.
The real fallout of the Giants victory is that it might be a long, long time before Nevada's sports books put out a Super Bowl point spread of more than nine points.
Where do the 2007 Patriots now rank on the list of greatest teams of all-time in the Super Bowl era? No better than No. 43. Each of the 42 Super Bowl winners has to be ranked ahead of them.
The Super Bowl I really wanted to see was the 1972 Dolphins against the 2007 Patriots. Hey, don't laugh. Yes, those Dolphins are now in their late 50s and 60s but Bob Griese could still find an open Paul Warfield, Larry Csonka would still bury his head in the chests of opposing linebackers and Don Shula never had to resort to cheating to win a game. Also, the old Dolphins, even to this day, would still have an average age younger than that of the 1972 Washington Redskins, the team they beat in Super Bowl VII.
The Shaquille OíNeal trade to the Phoenix Suns for Shawn Marion makes no sense. O'Neal can't play more than two games in a row now. He can't play any defense. He still can't play in the final minutes of a close game because he still hasn't learned how to shoot a free throw. His plodding style doesn't fit in with what the Suns do best and Marion, when healthy, is one of the most underrated players in the NBA. Who are the Suns going to get next? Charles Barkley to play power forward? What are Alvan Adams, Neal Walk and Dick Van Arsdale up to these days?
Does anybody realize that the New England Patriots are 12 well-placed points away from being 0-6 all-time in the Super Bowl? The question needs to be asked whether or not Bill Belichick is truly a big-game coach. If not for Adam Vinatieri, we would have to mention Belichick in the same breath as Bud Grant and Marv Levy when talking about Super Bowl losers.
OK, Bobby Knight is not a nice man. Not all of the time. We get it. When Knight from college basketball coaching this week, the media couldn't wait to jump at the chance to remind us all of how much Knight acted like a jerk during his career. It's time to give it a rest. Knight acting like a jerk certainly doesn't put him in an exclusive club in college basketball coaching circles.
The longer this whole Roger Clemens and steroids mess continues, the more I tend to believe Clemens. Unless Clemens is literally insane or incredibly stupid, why would he lie in front of congress? Brian McNamee, a guy with questionable integrity and character, is looking more and more like a guy who was jilted by his idol. This is starting to look like a messy divorce between former childhood sweethearts. Clemens deserves the benefit of the doubt until McNamee can present overwhelming proof. You can thank Bud Selig and his laughable Mitchell Report for this ugliness.