2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner
  • Opinionated

    Wed, July 30, 2008 by David Ramsey with no comments

    Received an e-mail last week from a woman who didn’t appreciate my column about Nate Sassaman, the Classical Academy football coach, former Army football star and anti-hero of the Iraq War.

    She wondered why I injected my opinion into the column. She wanted to draw her own conclusions. She even talked about my use of “venom.”

    First off, I read and consider all criticism from readers. I learn from the criticism. I respond to nearly all the criticism, except the extremely rare e-mailers who seem a little dangerous. So, please, if you don’t like something I write, let me know. If you want to call me names, that’s fine, too, but you don’t have to engage in name-calling to get my attention.

    Second, it’s my job to write analysis about local sports. It’s my job to be opinionated. It’s my job to draw conclusions. Newspapers don’t always do the best job of explaining the business to readers. Many readers don’t understand – because they’ve never been properly told – that columnists are encouraged, even required, to write opinion.

    Another e-mailer wondered how I could make judgments about Sassaman even though I’ve never engaged in combat. It was a good question, but I could have returned the question right back to him. How could the reader make judgments about my writing when he has never worked as a sports journalist? Rush Limbaugh and George Will and Michael Kinsley and Maureen Dowd make judgments, often harsh,  about politicians and none of these journalist/commentators has ever been elected to public office.

    The Sassaman tale is complicated. I have my view. You may have your view. I take what I do seriously, but I would never pretend to offer the final word on anything. That’s one of the blessings of marriage. My wife taught me early in our 24-year marriage that  I didn’t know everything. Readers who bless me with responses to my work stretch my mind,  make me look at my work from a different angle.

    Yes, I have strong beliefs, but please remember that one of those beliefs is to listen to  others.

      

  • Brandon and Rod

    Tue, July 29, 2008 by David Ramsey with no comments

    Rod Smith said goodbye to the Denver Broncos last week. He leaves as a feel-good story, the free agent who became the greatest receiver in the team’s history, the no-nonsense leader who inspired teammates by his work ethic, not his endless talking. As Smith walked into the sunset, he might have ranked as the most popular human in Colorado.

    Brandon Marshall doesn’t enjoy such popularity. He keeps getting in trouble. He’s in danger of a long - maybe four-game – suspension  from the NFL. He’s a confused, loud kid who can’t  seem to understand the concept of limits.

    It’s easy to forget that eight years ago, Smith tumbled into his own troubles. He pleaded guilty to verbal harassment of a former girlfriend. He enrolled in anger management sessions and was later seen spilling his heart to America’s counselor, Oprah Winfrey.

    The lesson is right there for Marshall to see. Smith took the proper steps to bury his demons. He didn’t stay stuck in his mess. He climbed out.

    Marshall is talented, really talented. He could bust Smith’s records. He’s that good. But his arrogant, clueless approach to life could doom him. Talent isn’t enough. If Marshall wants to enjoy a long NFL career – if he wants to squeeze every last drop of his talent like Smith did – he must change.

    Now.

      

  • Goose and friends

    Mon, July 28, 2008 by David Ramsey with no comments

    Goose Gossage was asked Saturday why he didn’t get to know George Brett during their playing days.

    “I didn’t want to know him,” Goose said before explaining that he believed, and still believes, it drained his competitive fires if he knew an opponent.

    I don’t agree. I believe competition increases, not lessens, when you know your opponent. The most competitive times of my life have come  while battling against my brothers. I know them, love them and desperately want to beat them.

    Even Goose contradicted himself. If he knew a batter, he said, he wondered if he could intimidate him with inside pitchers. He wasn’t sure he could throw a fastball that  would whiz right past a friend’s ear.

    Yet he told a story of the first time he faced Dave Winfield. They had been close friends as teammates.

    Goose threw a pitch that forced Winfield to do serious gymnastics to avoid getting hit. Goose wanted Winfield to know, friendship or not, he was a nasty, dangerous competitor. He wanted Winfield to walk to the plate in fear.

    Friendship doesn’t dampen the fires. Friendship increases those fires.

      

       

  • Goose and The Boss

    Wed, July 23, 2008 by David Ramsey with no comments

    Goose Gossage and George Steinbrenner have enjoyed, and endured, a long, complicated relationship.

    During the 1982 season, when Steinbrenner went through three managers, five pitching coaches and five hitting coaches,  Gossage grew tired of the whole crazy scene. Steinbrenner’s wild ways inspired one of the great quotes in baseball history.

     “I want out,” Gossage said Aug. 16, 1982. “I’m sick of everything that goes on around here. I’m sick of all the negative stuff, and you can go take that upstairs to the fat man and tell him I said that.”

    The Fat Man was Steinbrenner, of course. During the 1982 season, the Toronto Globe and Mail, a dignified publication that serves as Canada’s version of the New York Times, began referring to Steinbrenner as “Frankensteinbrenner.” I like that.

    During the 1981 World Series, Steinbrenner injured his face and hand. He claimed he suffered the injuries during an elevator brawl with two young Dodgers fans. They had, he said, spoken mean words about his Yankees. The fans never stepped forward and no one has ever tracked them down.

    The elevator clash remains a murky incident, subject to several theories.

    Goose and his Yankees teammates had their own theory about who had inflicted the damage to Steinbrenner’s face.

    “We speculated that his wife gave him the black eye,” Gossage said this summer.

  • Cutler’s burden

    Sun, July 20, 2008 by David Ramsey with no comments

    Check out Frank Schwab’s training camp preview in Sunday’s Gazette. It’s a fun, in-depth look – Mike Shanahan looks terrifc as Underdog – at the Broncos chances this season.

    Those chances are looking pretty slim. This is now Jay Cutler’s team, but  he carries an unfair burden. Think back to 2003, when Jake Plummer arrived in Denver. Plummer was surrounded by offensive might. He could hand off to Clinton Portis, pass to Rod Smith and Shannon Sharpe while enjoying the protection of one of the toughest, most athletic lines in the NFL.

    Cutler enjoys few of those blessings. His running backs are either unproven (Selvin Young) or aged (Michael Pittman). His best receivers, Brandon Marshall and tight end Tony Scheffler, are beat up. 

    Cutler has the tools to become an elite NFL quarterback. Sure, he has faults. He needs to improve his search for secondary receivers. He needs to dampen his intense romance with his throwing arm. But mingled in with his faults are a powerful arm and a linebacker’s toughness.

    Still, no quarterback can carry a team to the playoffs. Any quarterback needs help.

    And I’m not sure Cutler’s supporting cast will lift him and the Broncos to the postseason.

  • Stephon’s ad space

    Sat, July 19, 2008 by David Ramsey with no comments

    Knicks guard Stephon Marbury – make that, soon-to-be ex-Knicks guard – has taken his enthusiasm for the shoes he endorses to an alarming extreme.

    He has a tattoo of the shoe’s logo on his head.

    I’m not kidding.

    This could start a frightening trend. I can already see the Nike swoosh adorning Carmelo Anthony’s forehead.

    Click here to see a photo of Marbury’s tattoo.  http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/blog/ball_dont_lie/post/Photo-fun-Stephon-Marbury-s-new-head-tattoo?urn=nba,94008

  • The Shark lives again

    Fri, July 18, 2008 by David Ramsey with no comments

    Greg Norman, owner of golf’s fiercest nickname, leads the British Open. It’s been 10 years since The Great White Shark won a non-seniors tournament. In a delicious twist, he leads Camilo Villegas by one stroke. He is literally twice Villegas’ age.

    The Shark has wandered into interesting times in his 50s. In 2005,  when he visited Castle Rock for The International, Norman talked about how precious it was for him to spend time with his family.  He had cut back on his golf after giving the game virtually everything for three decades and now he just wanted to relax with his wife and children.

    Sure, Greg.

    He spoke those – heartfelt, I’m sure – words before Chris Evert entered his life. Before he handed one of the biggest settlements in world history – $100 million – to his now former wife. Before he and Evert were married last month.

    Evert has encouraged Norman to play golf. She’s pushed him to again chase greatness, and he has certainly responded.

    Norman’s focus is amazing. I followed him for an entire round at the 2005 International, and he was often brilliant. His drives were magnificent. His approach shots were accurate. One problem: On this day, he couldn’t putt. He missed a 6-foot  putt for an Eagle on 17 and moaned as he barely missed a birdie putt on 18. He immediately stalked to the putting green, where he spent several minutes muttering to himself while practicing his short game.

    But this is the part I remember best:

    He then ditched reporters and ran straight to the clubhouse to sulk.

  • Gold medal unlikely

    Thu, July 17, 2008 by David Ramsey with no comments

    Abby Wambach broke her leg in Wednesday’s exhibition victory over Brazil, and the United States probably waved goodbye to its chances to win a gold medal in the Beijing Games.

    The men’s competition at the games isn’t anywhere close to world-class, but the women’s games are as important as World Cup competition. The women play, in essence, for a world title every other year.

    With Wambach, the United States faced a struggle to top Germany and Brazil. Without Wambach, the U.S. seem doomed to settle for the bronze.

  • Favre and Elway

    Sat, July 12, 2008 by David Ramsey with 1 comment

    The Brett Favre sage has taken a sad turn. The player who defines the modern Green Bay Packers is squabblng with his team. He wanted to retire. Now he doesn’t. He wants to return as the Packers starter, but they want to move on.

    This twist reminds me how rare – and how wonderful – it was to watch John Elway’s exit. We all watched what was – and what might always be – the ultimate sports farewell. After years of frustration, Elway walked into the sunset with consecutive Super Bowl titles and even, to top it off, beat his old nemesis Dan Reeves in his final game.

    It could  not have been better.

    It’s easy to forget that John Unitas ended his career in San Diego, far away from his beloved Baltimore. Or that Joe Namath limped along for the Rams. Or that Michael Jordan squandered a slice of his legacy by trying a comeback with the Wizards. Favre should pay attention to sports history. Everyone gets old, even the greats. He might be chasing something that’s gone. 

    Elway played his entire career for one franchise. He departed at the perfect time. I know the word perfect is overused, but I’ll say it again.

    He left at the perfect time.

  • Respect for Troy Calhoun

    Fri, July 11, 2008 by David Ramsey with no comments

    The Air Force football team has been shredded by graduation. Chad Hall, Drew Fowler, and John Rabold are gone, and the team has a depleted look.

    But coach Troy Calhoun remains. That’s the only reason I can see for The Sporting News picking the Falcons to finish fourth in the upcoming Mountain West Conference race. The pick is a sign of respect for Calhoun’s coaching abilities.