2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner
  • Carney’s finale

    Mon, December 31, 2007 by David Ramsey with no comments

    Shaun Carney refused to take an easy exit. As he reclined on the field at Amon Carter Stadium, he knew his Air Force football career was over. He knew the injury to his right knee was severe.

    But he didn’t want to leave on a stretcher. He wanted to leave with his head up, his eyes on his teammates. He took a slow journey to the end of his college football career.

    Carney silenced critics – including this writer – during his senior season. He delivered a wise performance as the leader of Air Force’s offense. He wasn’t the star. That honor goes to Chad Hall, but he was the quiet, precise director of a powerful attack.

    As he departed the field, many in the crowd stood to applaud and cheer. This tough, smart leader kept his dignity and class during his final exit.

  • Broncos descent

    Tue, December 25, 2007 by David Ramsey with no comments

    Two seasons ago, the Denver Broncos might have been the best team in the NFL. They earned home-field advantage in the AFC Title game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. They boasted a maruading defense. They were favored.

    Sure, they lost to the Steelers, but Dick Vermeil told me a few weeks later that the loss had been a fluke. The Broncos, he said, boasted the best organization and the best collection of talent in the NFL.

    So what happened? How did the Broncos tumble so far? Denver got hammered by San Diego Monday night, and the Chargers – especially Phil Rivers – spent the fourth quarter mocking their vanquished foe.

    In the offseason, Mike Shanahan must find a fresh collection of defensive hitters. This edition of the Broncos defense is too old and too timid. The Broncos desperately missed Al Wilson, who saw his career end after a neck injury. Wilson carried a sense of doom around him. He made enemy ball carriers fear to tread near him.

    Ian Gold ranks among the worst starting linebackers in the NFL. D.J. Williams isn’t tough enough or strong enough or motivated enough to anchor the Broncos defense at middle linebacker. Shanahan must find a worthy successor to Wilson.

  • Another loss at Air Force

    Fri, December 21, 2007 by David Ramsey with 1 comment

    Tyler Burke is back home in Warsaw, a small town in Missouri. He departed the Air Force basketball team earlier this month. He’s another illustration of how difficult it is to build a winning program at the academy.

    “I just decided the military wasn’t for me,” Burke said by phone. “I just didn’t like the complete structured lifestlye. Just not being able to leave and the insane amount of rules.”

    Burke was one of Air Force’s top recruits. He averaged 20 points and five assists as a senior at Warsaw last season and probably would have eventually started for the Falcons.

    It was difficult, Burke said, to leave coach Jeff Reynolds.

    “I think Coach Reynolds is a hell of a coach,” Burke said. “He’s easily the best coach I’ve ever been around. I just really like him. He brings discipline but you can really tell that he cares more about you than you do. He said that he respected my decision because he could see that I wasn’t happy.”

    Burke plans to transfer to a Division II school so he can play immediately.

  • Bowl ratings

    Thu, December 20, 2007 by David Ramsey with no comments

    A 32-game bowl schedule is about to invade the lives of college football fans. The schedule would be better – more exciting, more inticing – if it shriveled to, say, 16 game.

    The Los Angeles times rated the 32 bowls. It’s no surprise that the Independence Bowl, which pits Colorado vs. Alabama ranks as the worst bowl.

    “School (Colorado) that lost to I-AA Montana State last year faces team that lost this year to Louisiana-Monroe.”

    The Armed Forces Bowl comes in at No. 24. Air Force and Cal meet New Year’s Eve Day in Fort Worth. Air Force soars into the bowl while Cal, on a long losing streak, stumbles into Texas.

    “One school was brilliantly coached and exceeded all expecations and the other school is Cal,” The Times observes.

  • Anarchy in the Golden State

    Sat, December 15, 2007 by David Ramsey with no comments

    Baron Davis and his Golden State Warriors offer the best entertainment in basketball. They play a zany, improvisational brand of basketball, full of yapping at officials, launching 3-point shots, playing only a semblance of defense and, strangely enough, winning.

    The Warriors defy most of the game’s most sacred rules, but boast the talent and the spirit to win anyway. On Friday night against the Los Angeles Lakers, the Warriors played spectacularly awful basketball in the first half but used Baron’s last-minute heroics to escape with a victory. The Warriors collected three technical fouls, took a wide assortment of wild, stupid shots and allowed the Lakers easy rides to layups. Didn’t matter. They won anyway.

    I love the show. If the Warriors can find a consistent big man to defend the lane, they could torment basketball fundamentalists and take their wild ways to the NBA Finals.

  • Bush and steroids

    Fri, December 14, 2007 by David Ramsey with no comments

    It ranks as one of George Bush’s best moments of leadership. Our president sees the world in stark terms. There is evil. There is good. He doesn’t spend much time bothering with the in-betweens.

    In a speech nearly four years ago, Bush spoke against steroids. He said the rampant cheating shouted to young people that “performance is more important than character.” He commanded the leaders of professional sports ot “get tough” and “get rid” of steroids.

    “Now,” he said.

    We can be thankful those leaders are finally obeying Bush’s commands. The release of the Mitchell Report, which names dozens of MLB players as users of performance-enhancing drugs, is a crucial step in the battle against steroids. No longer can players expect to cheat in the shadows. The report is not a negative document, though it will cause pain to those who took the wide, easy road reserved for cheaters.

    It’s a positive document, motivated by idealism. It will lead to better baseball tomorrows.

    “My hope,” Bush said, “is that the report is a part of putting the steroid era of baseball behind us.”

    Well spoken, Mr. President. I even like the way you butchered the pronunciation of steroids, saying “stir-roids” in your West Texas drawl.

    I wrote a column in 2004 applauding Bush for taking a stand and heard from readers who said Bush should pay attention to the budget and the Iraq Conflict and problems in our public schools and on and on. They wondered why Bush needed to speak against problems in sports.

    I didn’t agree. I don’t agree. Bush spoke up during a time when many Americans remained asleep, oblivious to the lurking threat of steroids.

    It was a great moment of leadership.

  • Patriots overload

    Sun, December 9, 2007 by David Ramsey with 1 comment

    I’m weary of the New England Patriots quest for perfection.

    I don’t want to hear any more commentary from Mercury Morris, the colorful – and slightly crazed – star of the 1972 Miami Dolphins squad that won every game on its way to a Super Bowl title.

    ESPN has adopted the Patriots. NFL officials have apparently also adopted the Patriots, helping this already overly blessed team with several generous calls in their win over the Ravens.

    The Patriots quest has become a national sports obsession. And it’s pointless. The point is not for the Patriots to win every game. The point is for the Patriots to win the Super Bowl.

  • Time to celebrate at AFA

    Sun, December 9, 2007 by David Ramsey with 3 comments

    Paul Johnson has departed Navy to coach football at Georgia Tech.

    That means it’s time to party at the Air Force Academy. Johnson owned the Falcons during his six seasons at the Naval Academy. If he had stayed in Annapolis, chances are he would have continued to own the Falcons. Johnson departs NAvy with an 11-1 record against his former service-academy brethren.

    Johnson can be arrogant and paranoid. He fills his players with stories – most only vaguely based on truth – about disrespectful words spoken by opponents.

    But he’s a master at building a winning football team. He converted the Midshipmen from one of the worst teams in college football to the undisputed kings of service-academy football. His triple-option offense, which borrows heavily from Fisher DeBerry, is a thing of beauty.

    He fills his playes with belief. Earlier this season, Navy had apparently beaten Notre Dame in overtime before an awful interference call rescued the Fighting Irish. Johnson could have been stomping in anger, but when TV cameras found him on the sidelines, he was laughing. His players could sense his confidence, and the Midshipmen stopped the Irish on the next play to win the game.

    No doubt, the man can coach. Johnson will build a winner at Georgia Tech. Meanwhile, Air Force football can celebrate the departure of the program’s greatest nemesis.

  • Officials shouldn’t work in the shadows

    Sun, December 2, 2007 by David Ramsey with no comments

    The Mountain West Conference reprimanded Air Force coach Jeff Reynolds last week for daring to mildly criticize officials. The reprimand is part of a senseless attempt to shield officials from public scrutiny.

    Coaches can criticize their players. Coaches can criticize opponents. But coaches can’t criticize referees.

    That’s not right. Coaches should be able to speak their minds about officials, who play a huge role in basketball games. If a coach is upset about a call, let him – or her – speak up.

    Good referees can survive scrutiny. They have nothing to fear. Referees should speak with reporters, explain their decisions and be involved in public discussion of their rulings.

    Officials don’t hover above the game of basketball. They should quit residing in the shadows and step into the light. Sure, there would be uncomfortable moments, but there also would be a natural filter for coaches who griped too much in public about calls.

    Remember, these coaches would have to face officials, armed with whistles, in the next game.