Emptying the off-season notebook

With only a week until training camp, blogger Ryan Wilson wonders how he forgot about Jason Whitlock when lambasting the sports media earlier this week; has more thoughts on Stephen A. Smith (quite frankly, he's awful); offers the Steelers some advice on getting Santonio Holmes on the right track; and thinks this could be the year the Tartans – yes, the Tartans – finally turn the corner.

I think a prayer of thanks is in order:
O dear God, thank You. You are such a good God to us, a kind and gentle... and accommodating God. And we thank You, Oh sweet, sweet Lord of hosts... for the... smorgasbord... You have so aptly lain at our table this day... and each day... by day. Day by day by day. Oh dear Lord, three things we pray. To love Thee more dearly, to see Thee more clearly, to follow Thee more nearly... day by day... by day. Amen.
Or something like that. After my column Wednesday, where I basically whined about the current state of the sports talk medium, I came across this very timely post from Deadspin.com (and here's a link to a related story from the Chicago Tribune). Hence the prayer. What's particularly funny - other than the fact that Stephen A. Smith is imploding under the own weight of his suckiness - is that his Assistant Associate Audience Producer, Jackea Chan, has to spend large part of his work day visiting various message boards trolling for in-studio guests. I know this because a few days ago he posted this on the Steeler Nation message board. On the upside, Ike Taylor's appearance on the show will give me something to write about next week; on the downside, we're still dealing with Stephen A. Smith. Or, since we're slumming it on the D-List this week, his doppelganger, Doug Gottlieb (much, much more on this next week).

Still, it looks as if the winning combination of ridiculously low ratings and seemingly random time slots have all but sunk "Quite Frankly." The fact that nobody is tuning in is a good sign, and maybe we've reached the Sheer Stupidity Saturation Point when it comes to sports programming.

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Or maybe not …

Not to be outdone, Jason Whitlock pens his first football column of the 2006 season, and not surprisingly, it has Ravens fans VERY excited:

1. The Baltimore Ravens are my pick to win the Super Bowl.

I love the acquisitions of veteran Trevor Pryce and rookie Haloti Ngata for Baltimore's defensive line. Price and Ngata should make Ray Lewis unstoppable again. Steve McNair solves Baltimore's QB dilemma. Plus, I recently read John Feinstein's book about the Ravens, "Next Man Up," and the book made me like and respect Brian Billick.

Also, the city of Baltimore needs a feel-good story after suffering through the TV death of Stringer Bell and the incarceration of Avon Barksdale on "The Wire."

Here's the thing: when you have to rely on the witless meanderings of a guy who still thinks Jeff George is the best quarterback in the NFL, your team probably isn't very good.

And just to reiterate a point I've made countless times this off-season, I'm going to say this once more, in a very deliberate manner, just for the slow folks: It's the O-F-F-E-N-S-I-V-E L-I-N-E, stupid. Yeah, we get it, Baltimore traded for Steve McNair. In most seasons he's good for at least eight or nine games, but if the Ravens' atrocious O-line play doesn't improve, he'll be on the shelf by Columbus Day. But who knows, maybe Jeff George will sign as the backup before the season starts and solve all of Baltimore's problems.

And oh yeah, as Len Pasquarelli points out, the Raven's don't have a safety to play opposite Ed Reed. If we overlook these two glaring weaknesses, then sure, they're Super Bowl champs.

One more thing, the Worldwide Leader might want to hire some editors because Baltimore's new defensive end, formerly of Denver, spells his name Trevor "Pryce."

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The Steelers are slowly getting around to signing this year's draft crop, but there's still some work to do. Here's what the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported earlier this week:
The Steelers aren't close to a deal with Santonio Holmes, but they're making progress. They're also committed to giving Holmes a chance to resurrect his reputation, despite multiple run-ins with the law since the draft.
Good for the Rooney's for giving Santonio Holmes a second chance, but it sounds like some advice might be in order for the first-rounder. And who better to impart some sage-like wisdom than Smoove B!

Seriously, there had been some discussion among Steelers fans as to whether the organization would be wise to cut all ties with Holmes and wash their hands of the whole ordeal. Not even the resident Pittsburgh curmudgeon, Bob Smizik, thought this was a good idea. From a recent Post-Gazette chat:

Q: Hey Bob, Do you think the Steelers are trying to sign or trade Santonio Holmes given his arrest for domestic violence? It just seems like it would taint their reputation to sign him.

Bob Smizik: Under no circumstances will the Steelers trade Holmes. They've had bad boys in the past. Delton Hall, for one, comes to mind. Joey Porter is no angel. I think Holmes will sign and settle down and be a productive player. He's a young guy who has had money and fame thrust upon him. That's sometimes hard to handle.

If getting shot while running away from a dude with a gun makes you "no angel" then I guess Porter qualifies. Otherwise, I'm not sure what Smizik's referring to. Still, his overall point stands: Pittsburgh's had their share of knuckleheads, and Holmes is just a kid in need of some guidance. And who better to whip him into shape than the Steeler family (other than Smoove B, of course). Which leads me to this …

It's getting to the point where anyone remotely associated with the game of football can't go out of the house without something bad happening:

Miami Hurricanes reserve safety Willie Cooper was shot in the buttocks when confronted in his yard Friday morning by an unknown person who fled after another player returned gunfire.
Nothing like stepping out for the morning paper and promptly getting capped in the rump. But it gets better:
After Cooper was shot, teammate and roommate Brandon Meriweather pulled a pistol from his pants pocket and fired three times at the person, who jumped a fence and fled with another person in a car, police said. It was unclear if the assailant was hit.
Disregarding the fact that Meriweather had a permit, why is a college kid packing heat?

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Finally, as a Carnegie Mellon alum, I found this Q and A from Smizik's chat particularly amusing:
PensFan: Bob - what is your outlook on the Carnegie Mellon football team this fall? Do you think they'll be able to keep up their streak of 30+ non-losing seasons?

Bob Smizik: Under the tutelage of Rich Lackner, the Tartans will continue their winnings ways.

Let's go Fighting … Tartans!?!

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