2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner
  • Goodbye to the Mastermind

    Wed, December 31, 2008 by David Ramsey with 2 comments

    Mike Shanahan was concerned. We were standing in a hallway at Broncos headquarters. We had just met. He was the emperor of the Broncos. I was the new sports columnist at the Colorado Springs Gazette. It was April 2003.

    He thought I was replacing Kamon Simpson, the Broncos beat writer, and I was having a hard time explaining to him that I wasn’t replacing Kamon. He told me how much he enjoyed working with Kamon, what a great guy Kamon was.

    This impressed me. It showed Shanahan’s attention to detail. It showed a human side of Shanahan that is often missed. He could seem a little clinical, a little soul-less.

    Shanahan treated me well. He treated journalists fairly, if a little distantly. He answered every question, even the ones that ticked him off. He didn’t try to run from his many mistakes. He just made sure to bring up his many triumphs.

    He was done in Denver. He had lost his mojo, lost his edge.

    I have no doubt he can regain his magic in a fresh destination.

    I’m just wondering what he’ll do with his 35,000 square foot home.

  • Cutler and Ringo

    Sat, December 27, 2008 by David Ramsey with no comments

    San Diego Chargers defensive end Jacques Cesaire has made a grave insult. This week, Cesaire told  the San Diego Union-Tribune he’s not a fan of Jay Cutler’s hairstyle. This is the kind of deep, meaningful trash talking you expect leading up to an ultra-important game.

    “My biggest complaint with him is he looks like Ringo Starr, you know. I’m just not feeling his haircut,” Cesaire said.

    Cesaire should immediately apologize.

    To Ringo Starr.

  • Shanahan and the National Football League

    Wed, December 24, 2008 by David Ramsey with no comments

    Been listening to Mike Shanahan talk for the past six seasons.

    On Sunday, realized I had never heard him say, “NFL.”

    For Shanahan it is always – always – “the National Football League.’

    The man has no use for abbreviations, which is too bad. He’s probably wasted eight or nine hours of his life saying “National Football League” instead of “NFL.”

  • BYU finale

    Mon, December 22, 2008 by David Ramsey with no comments

    A few weeks back,  I said BYU’s football team was overrated. After BYU beat Air Force, Cougars defensive lineman Jan Jorgensen said he and his teammates had shut me up “a little bit.”

    Jorgensen shouldn’t have been worrying about me. He should have been worrying about BYU’s porous defense.

    The Cougars surrendered 79 points in their final two games, lost both and deserve to tumble out of the final top 25.

  • Goodbye to Sam Baugh

    Sun, December 21, 2008 by David Ramsey with no comments

    Twenty-five years ago, I spent an entire day sitting and talking on Sam Baugh’s front porch. We watched road runners sprint by. We gazed at the miles and miles  of flat, dusty land that surrounded Sam’s massive ranch in the middle of nowhere in West Texas.

    We sat there and talked. We talked for seven straight hours.

    Sam Baugh died last week after a long struggle with various illnesses. He was 94. I called Sam’s house last spring and talked with his daughter-in-law. She said the Sam I had known – funny, sarcastic, friendly and strong – had been gone for a few years. He was, she said, just hanging on.

    At his peak, he was a football titan. You can make an argument that Baugh was the greatest football player ever. (I’d place him in the top ten, with Jim Brown as the obvious No. 1.) Sam was a superlative quarterback, a shutdown defensive back and a spectacular punter. He led the Washington Redskins to two world titles. He and Don Hutson will always tower as the greatest players of the NFL’s infancy.

    Baugh loved talking about the old days, but he was remarkably modest. He was never the star of his stories. Someone else – a teammate, a friend, a family member - served in the lead role. Sam was always just a role player.

    This wasn’t accurate, of course, but it was refreshing. Baugh had no pretensions, no need to prove himself.  He was comfortable in his own skin. And he was comfortable at his sprawling ranch. Visiting Sam’s ranch was like stepping into an old-timey Western. I half-expected John Wayne to come riding over the hill to join us on the front porch. His nearest neighbor was three miles away. He loved the solitude, loved the nights filled with stars and quiet. At the end of each NFL season, Sam wasted no time before returning to his ranch. He packed his wife and kids in the family vehicle and drove straight home.

    Sitting on that porch, traveling back to the past with Sam Baugh will always rank as one of the best days of my career.

     As I was leaving Sam’s home I saw the only trophy that was on display.

    It was a trophy honoring his son as the top senior boy at Rotan High School.

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  • More from Calhoun and Jefferson

    Wed, December 17, 2008 by David Ramsey with no comments

    I wrote a column for Thursday’s Gazette on AFA quarterback Tim Jefferson’s future.

    Here’s more from interviews with Jefferson and coach Troy Calhoun.

    1.) Calhoun and Jefferson were asked about their least-favorite Jefferson throw this season.

    Both offered the same answer:

    The late interception against Brigham Young, which helped doom the Falcons to a 38-24 loss.

    “I got greedy,” Jefferson said. He had a receiver – he thinks it was Ty Paffett – open in the flat, but instead lofted a long pass to the end zone. The interception all  but ended the game.

    Calhoun didn’t want to seem too critical of his freshman quarterback.

    “He’ll get better at this,” Calhoun said.

    But the coach wishes Jefferson had thrown the pass to the end zone in such a way only his receiver could have caught the ball.

    2.) Coach and quarterback had a different answer for favorite pass.

    Jefferson said it was his 28-yard touchdown pass to Josh Cousins in the second quarter of a 29-28 win over UNLV.

    Calhoun mentioned a play from the same game, but made a surprising choice.

    On AFA’s final drive, which resulted in a game-winning Ryan Harrison field goal, Jefferson was in the shotgun formation and had to leap to catch a high snap. He saw his first two options covered but - “somehow,” Calhoun said – found his fullback for a 5-yard gain.

    He was under intense pressure, which easily could have produced a 6-yard loss. 

    Instead, Calhoun said with a smile, the Falcons faced a second-and-five and were on their way to victory.

    3.) One last note:

    Jefferson grew up in Georgia, where he was a fan of Falcons quarterback Michael Vick.

    He’s no longer a fan, which just makes sense. We all know about Vick’s senseless descent from football  hero to worst enemy of man’s best friend.

    For more – well, make that virtually everything – about AFA sports, check out Jake Schaller’s blog:

    http://gazetteafasports.freedomblogging.com/

     

     

                                                     

     

     

  • Root, root, root for the home team

    Sun, December 14, 2008 by David Ramsey with no comments

    I’m not a fan of the teams I cover. That means I’m not an Air Force fan, not a Colorado College fan, not a Denver Broncos fan, not a Denver Nuggets fan, not a Colorado Avalanche fan and not a Colorado Rockies fan. You get the idea.

     

    Recently, a fan of a local team expressed outrage after reading my confession that I didn’t join him in fandom. I can understand his anger, I guess, but it seems obvious to me that journalists must be fiercely interested in the teams they cover but at the same time can’t be fans. Want to read what fans write? Read a message board.

     

    I get e-mails from fans who believe I’m too harsh on the Falcons or the Tigers or the Broncos. And I get e-mails from fans who think I’m too forgiving to those same teams. That shows I dwell right where I want to dwell:

     

    In the middle.

     

    I respect the impassioned messages I get from fans. I respect these messages because I’m a fan, too. I hope I’ve already endured the worst five minutes of my month. Those minutes came when I landed in New York and received a text message from my son that Abilene Christian University, my alma mater, had lost in the NCAA Division II football playoffs. My head hurt. My gut hurt. Everything hurt.

     

    My brother played for ACU’s football team. So did my uncle. My parents graduated from ACU. So did my wife. My father-in-law served as a professor. Two of my children are students there. I’m not rational when it comes to ACU sports. I’m a fan, totally devoid of logic.

     

    For a few years after graduation, I covered Abilene Christian games as a detached, objective journalist, and it remains one of my least-favorite assignments. I couldn’t be a fan anymore. I had to be a professional, had to be rational. It was torture.

     

    When an Air Force fan watches a game, he or she watches that game with altered eyes. The fan watches with the eyes of love. I watch with the eyes of a professional journalist.

     

    And we often don’t see things the same way. That just makes sense.

     

     

    Am I fair to the home team? That’s for each reader – and each fan – to judge.

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • Spencer Larsen and BYU

    Fri, December 12, 2008 by David Ramsey with no comments

    Spencer Larsen grew up in a devout Mormon home, but Brigham Young University would have faced a difficult recruiting job.

    Difficult, that is, if BYU coaches had bothered to recruit Larsen.

    “To tell you the truth, I never really had any desire to go to BYU,” Larsen says. “I wanted to go somewhere I could be little different. ”

    At BYU, Larsen explains, he would have been just another Mormon athlete. “I felt I could have more influence somewhere else.”

    Still, it’s obvious Larsen wanted to be wanted by BYU.

    And he wasn’t.

    “They told me I wasn’t a Division I athlete,” Larsen said. “They felt I wasn’t capable. That’s what the recruiting coordinator told my high school coach, and I’ve kind of had a chip on my shoulder ever since. It always helps to hear negativity if you take it the right way. Negative words are going to help you more than any other.”

    Larsen went to the University of Arizona, where he started four seasons and collected 131 tackles as a senior.

  • Spike Lee at CC

    Wed, December 10, 2008 by David Ramsey with no comments

    Saw Spike Lee speak Tuesday night at Colorado College. He was very gracious to the two dozen women and men who asked questions after his lecture. He was very funny.

    Lee is a huge fan of New York sports teams and the best-known fan of the New York Knicks.

    “Watch out,” Lee said, “LeBron James is  coming to the Knicks in two years.”

  • Bzdelik in Boulder

    Tue, December 9, 2008 by David Ramsey with 1 comment

    Life isn’t so wonderful for Jeff Bzdelik in Boulder. As you probably remember, Bzdelik spent two happy years at Air Force Academy before skipping off to more money and greater opportunity at the University of Colorado.

    Bzdelik was going to revive the Buffs. That was the plan. Athletic director Mike Bohn had gone on a crusade lasting  several months to bring Bzdelik to Boulder.

    I thought at the time Bzdelik had arrived a college basketball graveyard. Not much has happened since to change my view.

    Last  Wednesday, CU lost to TCU in a nearly empty Coors Events Center and afterward Bzdelik offered tough words of criticism.

    For himself.

    “The worst feeling for a coach is when your team doesn’t play with emotion, doesn’t play with discipline, doesn’t play with passion and appears to be disorganized. That’s on me. That’s a rotten feeling. To be honest, if I was Mike Bohn, I’d  be searching for a new basketball coach because this was unacceptable,” Bzdelik said.

    Bzdelik can coach. He’s a master of detail at practice and he’s a strong, clear-headed strategist during games.

    Recruiting will define his time in Boulder. Can he persuade recruits to come play in a town that doesn’t much care for college basketball? Boulder is a great, groovy town, but it’s also one of the centers of college basketball apathy. Elite recruits want to play where the game is big, big, big.

    That’s not the state of mind in Boulder. So far this season, Bzdelik’s Buffs have played to crowds of less than 3,000 three times. The Buffs look on their way to a long, painful season in the Big 12.

    And that revival is nowhere in sight.