Category Archives: Pittsburgh Steelers

The 12 sports (notes) of Christmas

It’s that time of year.

No, not the holiday season.

Well, OK, it is the holiday season, but it’s something else, too.

The end of the year.

And with the end of the year comes columns and columns of lame lists reflecting on the past year.

So here’s mine.

The carefully crafted image.

12 Mistresses flirting

Actually, at last count, the number is up to about 15 women who have claimed an affair with Tiger Woods. His astonishing fall from grace has supplanted Barry Bonds and baseball’s steroid rage as the story of the decade, and it’s become impossible to turn away. And the story is far from over — when will Tiger come back to golf? (Three weeks before the Masters.) What kind of player will he be when he returns? (Dominant — and angry.) When will Elin divorce him? (Finalized July 2010, the week before Tiger wins by 1,476 shots at St. Andrews.) Will we ever revere athletes to this degree again? (Yes, as evident in last week’s fawning Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year article on Derek Jeter.)

Sports' biggest heartbreak — if you don't count Elin Nordegren.

11-footer misses

Tom Watson, at 59, was on the cusp of perhaps the greatest sporting achievement in history until his approach shot from the 18th fairway took an improbable high bounce over the green. He chipped and needed to make a putt for par to win the British Open by a stroke, but missed badly and faded in a playoff to Stewart Cink. It was sports’ most devastating near-miss in… well, maybe ever. (I still can’t talk about this out loud. I thought about not including this at all. It hurt just to write it. Let’s just move on.)

Could've written more about Jimmie, but I mentioned Danica...

10 Boring races

NASCAR’s Chase for the Cup doesn’t seem like it will have much drama as long as Jimmie Johnson is around. Until Danica wrecks him…


9 Yankees spending

A-Rod, Jeter, Sabathia, Burnett, Rivera, Damon, Matsui, Posada, Teixeira — nine Yankees players made at least $13 million for last season. (Andy Pettitte just missed the cut at $10 million). They cruised to the World Series title, their first in eight years, and while baseball isn’t as much about the money as we’re led to believe — yes, it’s about the money, but not just the money — the Yankees’ ability to cash in (or should it be cash out?) during last season’s hot stove period helped push them to the top again.

Wheelin', dealin' — and losin'.

8 Bobcats trades

In his continued effort to make the Charlotte Bobcats relevant, Larry Brown has overhauled the roster three times over with a wide array of trades. So far, relevance eludes all, aside from one particular local sports talk radio show. (Note: this number could be nine, it could be seven, it could be 10, it could be six. Like I said, relevance eludes them. So let’s just say eight. Nobody cares; it’s the Bobcats.)

C'mon, the Pac Man-Mayweather fight better happen.

7 Title belts

Manny Pacquiao may be on the verge of resurrecting boxing all by himself (with a little help from Floyd Mayweather Jr. in March 2010). In 2009, Pac-Man was busy, destroying Ricky Hatton before demolishing Miguel Cotto for his seventh title, a first in the sport.

Now if only he could move up from welterweight to heavyweight, boxing would be back.

The best in 2009.

6 Tourney blowouts

North Carolina came into the college basketball season as a heavy favorite to win the NCAA championship. The Tar Heels lived up to the billing, winning each tournament game by at least 12 points, setting an NCAA record for something other than time outs unused.

Jake — and the Panthers — are done.

5 Cardinals picks

The end of the 2008 Carolina Panthers season only foreshadowed what was to come in 2009. When Jake Delhomme was picked off five times against Arizona in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs, a 12-4 team built on defense and the running game went meekly into the night. Now, without hope for a savior at QB for a long time to come, the Panthers may be headed for darker times. I’m sure Chris Weinke is available.

No words needed.

4 Wins in Cameron

I know, I know. Another Tar Heels’ reference, this one about the four straight wins the Class of Hansbrough enjoyed at Duke. And yes, I could’ve gone with Jimmie Johnson here.

Whatever. My school. My column.


3 Drug tests failed

Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz. Three titans of the game.

Three cheaters.


2 Feet a-dragging

Remember when it seemed every Super Bowl ended in a 55-10 drubbing? Not lately. A year after the Eil and Tyree Miracle, Ben Roethlisberger scrambled, then lofted a pass to the back corner of the end zone. Santonio Holmes made a fingertip grab and tippy-toed his cleats in bounds to cap a thrilling last-minute drive to lift the Pittsburgh Steelers past the Cardinals and ensure that the apocalypse would be held off for at least another year. (’Cause surely the end would be nigh if the Cards ever win the Super Bowl, right? It’s in Revelation somewhere, I think.)

Addition by subtraction?

And a new team for Milton Bradley

Chicago Cubs fans are, by nature, a hopeful bunch. So maybe now after the team has found somewhere other than 1060 West Addison for the clubhouse cancer of all clubhouse cancers to play ball, fans of the North Siders won’t be singing the wait-til-next-year blues at spring training. (Too bad their current optimism is just the egg nog — or Old Style — talking.)

Happy holidays.


Filed under Alex Podlogar, Alex Rodriguez, Arizona Cardinals, Boston Red Sox, British Open, Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Bobcats, Chicago Cubs, College Basketball, Danica Patrick, David Ortiz, Designated Hitter, Duke Blue Devils, Golf, Jimmie Johnson, Major League Baseball, Manny Ramirez, NASCAR, NBA, New York Yankees, NFL, NFL playoffs, North Carolina Tar Heels, Pittsburgh Steelers, Sports, Sports columns, Super Bowl, The Sanford Herald, Tom Watson, Tyler Hansbrough, UNC Tar Heels, World Series

The PODcast — Brick City Bowl recap″

The guys open with a minute of U.S. Open banter before going into the Brick City Bowl, a nice gesture by Southern Lee’s football coach, some ACC talk and then their picks for the upcoming NFL season.

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Filed under Alex Podlogar, Brick City Bowl, Burton Cates, Cape Fear Valley Conference, Chicago Cubs, College Football, Designated Hitter, Duke Blue Devils, East Carolina Pirates, Eric Puryear, Florida Panthers, Florida State Seminoles, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Lee County High School, Major League Baseball, Maryland Terrapins, Miami Hurricanes, N.C. playoff brackets, N.C. State Championships, N.C. State Wolfpack, New England Patriots, NFL, NFL playoffs, North Carolina Tar Heels, Oklahoma Sooners, Pittsburgh Steelers, Prep sports, Sam Bradford, Southern Lee High School, Sports, Sports columns, The Brick, The Podcast, The Rant, The Sanford Herald, Tim Tebow, Tri-9 Conference, Tyler Hansbrough, U.S. Open, UNC Tar Heels, Virginia Cavaliers, Virginia Tech Hokies, Wake Forest, WDCC 90.5 FM, Western Harnett

The PODcast, Aug. 12

Should there be an amendment to the Chase rules, one that, this year, would help out Kyle Busch? Check out the PODcast to find out what we think.

Should there be an amendment to the Chase rules, one that, this year, would help out Kyle Busch? Check out the PODcast to find out what we think.″

Sanford’s sports talk radio show delves into the NFL exhibition season, a preview of the PGA Championship, MLB and NASCAR.

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Filed under Alex Podlogar, Auto Racing, Barry Bonds, Boston Red Sox, British Open, David Ortiz, Designated Hitter, Major League Baseball, Manny Ramirez, MLB playoffs, NASCAR, New England Patriots, New York Giants, New York Jets, NFL, NFL playoffs, Padraig Harrington, PGA Championship, PGA Tour, Phil Mickelson, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Steelers, Sammy Sosa, Sergio Garcia, Sports, Sports columns, Super Bowl, Terrell Owens, The Podcast, The Rant, The Sanford Herald, Tiger Woods, Tom Watson, U.S. Open, WDCC 90.5 FM, World Series

For The Birds — Steve Jones and the Cardinals

Steve Jones, from his days as one of the greatest Duke Blue Devils of all time.

Steve Jones, from his days as one of the greatest Duke Blue Devils of all time.


I’m posting last week’s column in this space because, well, because I was pretty pleased with how it came out, and as a writer, that doesn’t always happen. So allow me to feel good about myself for a bit. And if you missed the column about local sports star Steve Jones and his ties to the NFL’s Cardinals, here you go:

For The Birds

They get together every year now.

Before 2007, that didn’t happen. After all, the morning after the team he owns, the Arizona Cardinals, punched its ticket for the franchise’s first Super Bowl, notoriously frugal owner Bill Bidwill drank day-old coffee — grounds that were made 24 hours earlier, and rewarmed twice.

But he said he drank it smiling, so there’s that.

Since Bill’s boy Michael took over football operations, though, former Cardinals, be they of the Chicago variety, who last won the franchise a championship in 1947, or the St. Louis form, who shared a name and a city for nearly three decades with the more popular — and certainly more prolific — baseball team, are treated like the heroes dads of the X-Generationers wistfully believe they are.

Steve Jones is one of those guys. One of these birds of a feather.

And so when he was invited in the fall to fly out to Phoenix for a weekend bash of Old Timers, he jumped at the opportunity. Put up in a swanky hotel, Jones rubbed shoulders with the men who opened holes for him, a unit that once included the still-mountainous, thoughly slightly softened blocks of granite like Hall of Famer Dan Dierdorf and three-time Pro Bowler Conrad Dobler, considered by lore as the one of the game’s dirtiest players. 

On that Sunday, they went to a game at the palatial University of Phoenix Stadium. Astroturf, the stuff that doesn’t look like grass but does indeed feel like rock, the knee-grinding mistake that blanketed the concrete and served as the playing field for many of them, was nowhere to be found.

And there, before him, Jones could see it.

That same logo, on that same helmet.

That same red jersey, though maybe a slightly different — let’s call it cleaner; brighter, definitely — shade of crimson. 

And those white lines, charting the gridiron. White lines that were the same as the ones he played on and in between in Sanford. In Durham. In Buffalo backing up O.J. Simpson for a year.

In St. Louis.

Steve Jones may be Lee County’s most decorated athlete. Some may say NASCAR champion Herb Thomas, and they could make an argument. But Jones’ case would hold water. He led Paul Gay’s Sanford Central teams to three state championships from 1966-to-1968. His high school record as the standout running back? 42-2-1. From there, Jones ran roughshod over the ACC at Duke, setting a school record with 2,951 yards rushing, a mark that stood for 31 years until Chris Douglas finally came along and broke it in 2003. Duke honored Jones by enshrining him in the University’s Hall of Fame in 1992.

“He could have been a college star as a linebacker, could have played there in the pros,” Gay said when Jones was inducted into the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame in 2006. “He was a great athlete, a hard worker and one of the most knowledgeable players I ever coached.”

But Jones kept running — on offense. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in the fifth round of the 1973 draft, the 129th player selected. He was traded to St. Louis, though, and later waived to Buffalo, just in time to see Simpson’s rewriting of the record books with the historic 2,003-yard season.

Jones, after starring in Sanford and Durham, graced this 1977 Topps football card.

Jones, after starring in Sanford and Durham, graced this 1977 Topps football card.

Jones joined the Cardinals a year later. And get this — the Cardinals were good.

Yes, the Cardinals. The team that has now lost 674 regular season games, or, as ghastly as it may seem to point out, 105 more than the Detroit Lions. The team that, should it beat the Pittsburgh Steelers and win Super Bowl XLIII on Sunday, would double the 88-year-old franchise’s previous number of playoff wins in a single postseason.

Jones didn’t tote the rock much in ’74, but he rushed 54 times for 275 yards and two touchdowns in ’75 when the Cards and coach Don Coryell won the NFC East with an 11-3 record. That put Jones and Dierdorf and quarterback Jim Hart in elite Cardinals company — Cardinals players with a playoff resume. Sure, St. Louis lost to the Rams 35-23 in the divisional round, but Jones scored a touchdown on a 3-yard scamper.

It was the last Cardinals’ postseason touchdown for seven years. 

Jones was even better in 1976, rushing for a career-high 451 yards and eight touchdowns as the Cards missed the playoffs, but finished 10-4 and second in the division. Two years later, however, even after rushing for 392 yards in 1978 as the Cards spiraled into mediocrity, Jones was out of football because of a neck injury. He played in 63 games, covered 1,204 yards of NFL real estate running the football, and 629 yards of it after catching the ball. He hit paydirt — the end zone — 17 times.

The Cardinals played on without Jones, who would remain in the St. Louis area and work later for Anheuser-Busch. They would make the playoffs just twice more, winning only once, and trail only baseball’s lovable losers, the Chicago Cubs, in the most dreaded of all professional statistics — years since its last championship. Even a move to sun-drenched Arizona in 1988 couldn’t put a shine on the Cards, whose title-drought clock is ticking at 61 years.

But here they are now, these Cardinals. Armed with smart draft picks, a ring-wearing veteran quarterback and a no-nonsense and skilled coach, the Birds clinched the NFC West division title two-thirds of the way through the season. And then they clipped a wing, limping into the playoffs having lost four of their last six games.

But, out of nowhere it seemed, the team rose like a… well, like a phoenix. Three improbable playoff wins later, the Cards are, for a change, on the doorstep of history, not the doormat of it. 

And Jones, from his perch in the St. Louis area, retired from football and from work, is still watching.

“I am so glad to see them make the Super Bowl, especially after they played so poorly at the end of the season,” Jones said by telephone from his home. “To come back like they did, and the long, long layoff from any playoff appearance, to make their first Super Bowl, I’m happy for the franchise and for the players.”

The franchise. It began in Chicago, lesser appreciated than the crosstown Bears, but loved by the Mob. A franchise that once fired a coach by changing the locks on his office at halftime of a game. 

The players. They make millions now, many of them do. Some of them celebrate first downs. Have groups of hangers-on some call posses. One might even scream at his offensive coordinator as the team wins the NFC Championship, angry that he wasn’t on the field for the game-winning drive that clinched the Super Bowl berth.

Very different than in Jones’ day.

But very similar, too. 

That logo.

That helmet.

That jersey.

That franchise.

“It’s like I heard Dan Dierdorf and Jim Hart talking,” Jones said, “we never thought we’d ever hear ‘Cardinals’ and ‘Super Bowl’ in the same sentence.”

He’ll watch the big game with a few family and friends, the 57-year-old grandfather of two will. He likes to hear the announcers, follow the action and keep from being distracted from the exploits on the screen by the crush of a crowded party.

Here in Sanford, you don’t have to dig deep into the soil, even under the most manicured of football fields, like the one in the stadium that bears Coach Gay’s name, to find clay. 

And like that clay, with a few short strokes, there underneath the mild manner, the softly spoken words, even the grounded anticipation of the world’s greatest sporting spectacle, in Steve Jones, still to this day, even with them some 1,500 miles west of his home, you will find the Cardinals.

His Cardinals.

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Filed under Arizona Cardinals, College Football, Designated Hitter, Duke Blue Devils, Lee County High School, N.C. playoff brackets, N.C. State Championships, NFL, NFL playoffs, Pittsburgh Steelers, Sports, Sports columns, Steve Jones, Super Bowl

Boss Time at the Super Bowl

My prediction before the Super Bowl was a simple one. In 12 minutes, I picked Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band to play three songs at halftime, and in order, my thoughts were: “The Rising”, followed by “Glory Days” before finishing with “Born To Run”.

Two out of four ain’t bad.

My favorite part from my favorite band? That The Boss and Little Stevie did the whole “What time is it?” thing, closing it out with “Boss Time!!!!!!!!”



Filed under Arizona Cardinals, Bruce Springsteen, Designated Hitter, NFL, NFL playoffs, Pittsburgh Steelers, Sports, Sports columns, Super Bowl

The PODcast — Super Bowl XLIII Preview Edition″
Sanford’s only sports talk radio show has the boys giving a tale of the tape in the matchup between the Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers.

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Filed under ACC, Arizona Cardinals, BCS, BCS Championship, Boston College, Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Bobcats, Designated Hitter, Duke Blue Devils, Final Four, Los Angeles Lakers, NBA, NCAA Tournament, NFL, NFL playoffs, North Carolina Tar Heels, Pittsburgh Steelers, Sports, Sports columns, Super Bowl, The Podcast, The Rant, UNC Tar Heels, WDCC 90.5 FM