Sports Outside the Beltway

Italian Soccer Teams Play Without Fans

I guess the Serie A teams should hope they have good TV deals.

Only six soccer stadiums in Italy meet security requirements, meaning that league games in other arenas will be played behind closed doors.

The Olympic Stadium in Rome made the list that was drawn up during a meeting of security and sports officials Thursday, while the San Siro stadium in Milan did not, the Interior Ministry said.

The other stadiums that were deemed safe were in Genoa, Siena, Cagliari, Turin and Palermo. Arenas in Florence, Naples and Bologna were among the 25 considered unsafe.

This is all going to go under review, according to the article, and they may choose to open more stadiums in “coming days”. Night games are also out.

Wow. I can’t imagine not being allowed to attend games at my football team’s stadium. What a development. This is, unfortunately, the only way to send a message to fans that this is not acceptable – control over admission is the only instrument a sport really has over its fans. Authorities hope that things don’t get too out of hand, and are faced with hard decisions when they do.

What a fall from winning the World Cup last year – first the deregulation of top clubs, and now this. Italian soccer has fallen far in world opinion in only a few months.


Cincy Bengals Have Another Player Arrested: Vets Angry

The recent arrest of yet another Cincinnati Bengal, cornerback Johnathan Joseph, has members of the team up in arms.

The team’s front office did not comment on the latest arrest, saying its policy is to not comment on pending legal matters. But in his end-of-season news conference, coach Marvin Lewis said he would be far stricter with the team in 2007.

Defensive tackle John Thornton and other Bengals told the Cincinnati Enquirer that the arrests are dragging the team down. Everyone in the locker room is affected, he said.

“Willie [Anderson], Carson [Palmer], John Thornton, the guys who do things right, have been forced to answer for the guys who decided not to do the right thing,” linebacker Brian Simmons told the newspaper. “The perception of the team across the country is bad. It’s as if it’s going around like the plague.”

“If it doesn’t stop, we’re not going to have any fans left, and I don’t blame them. It’s ridiculous,” Palmer said in comments posted on the team Web site.

“We can’t get through a month without getting a guy arrested. It happens on another team and they’re shocked and surprised to hear about it,” Palmer said. “With us, you hear about it and it doesn’t surprise you and you just shake your head and say, ‘Another one,’ ” he said.

It seems that the embarrassment is finally getting to the team. Good. While I don’t wish the Bengals well, I also don’t like an entire franchise being seen as a negative force in the NFL. Getting several people on your team arrested over the course of a season is not good for a team or its fans. Here’s hoping that this stops, and that the Bengals learn to be law-abiding members of society.


Reaction to the Tomlin Hire

With the hiring of Mike Tomlin, it seems that a large percentage of Steelers fans have gone nuts.

Blog ‘N Gold the Post-Gazette’s Steelers blog, has collected an obscene amount of fan reaction. Some of it is positive, some is “wait and see”, some is “trust the Rooneys”, and then you have the “I wanted Russ Grimm” haters.

The haters aren’t happy, not one bit. They say things like this:

The Rooneys need to sell the team and move because they have just destroyed the thing every Steeler fan holds sacred. Russ Grim was the obvious choice, a native, a real football player. Russ did not play for some Bill and Mary School that hasn’t even successful at the IAA level. This Tomlin has never been in the trenches, he wasn’t good enough to make it to the next level. He was an AVERAGE PLAYER AND HAS BEEN AN AVERAGE COACH FOR LOSING TEAMS. Russ on the other hand was good enough to play in the trenches at the next level and knows what it takes to be a HALL OF FAMER. I think the Rooneys need to be checked in the head. I don’t want to hear the sob sorry about this guy either about he is just like Bill Cowher, he’s not Cowher played in the NFL. Good Luck Ruineys, my tickets are for sale.

This is fairly representative. Here’s a few things that this guy, Matt, forgets:
1. Cowher hadn’t had much experience before his hire.
2. Cowher was an average football player, and coached under Marty Shottenheimer, who’s playoff “success” has been well documented.
3. Cowher wasn’t an internal hire. He was from outside of the organization, apparently at a time when Mean Joe Greene, the penultimate Steeler, was available. Looking back, I think that went well.

I love the comments that say “they should have gone from within. That’s what Noll would have done.” These comments ignore the fact that Noll didn’t do that (well, the management above Noll didn’t do that). The Rooneys went with Cowher over internal assistants.

The assumption that is prevalent among the haters is “why are we shaking up a Super Bowl caliber team?” I disagree with the premise. As things stand right now, the Steelers aren’t a Super Bowl caliber team. They won last year, but this was because they got slightly lucky and they had a drive, a motivating force in Jerome Bettis. Sure, he wasn’t the player he once was, but he pushed that team to the big game with his motivation. Without him, and with Cowher wavering, the Steelers lost that edge. A new coach there for the long haul, with something to prove, should provide a spark, especially if the team comes to respect him.

Tomlin is an unknown. However, so is Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm. I personally wasn’t inclined to reward anyone from our offensive unit with this job – they offense went backward this year. Someone from the defense, maybe, but not the offense. The only gripe I have is them passing over Rivera so quickly, but perhaps they had made up their minds after their initial investigation of him, and interviewing him again wasn’t going to change anything. I say give the new guy a chance, and I am looking forward to next season.


Where There’s Smoke, There is Fire – Steelers hire Tomlin as new Head Coach

Mike Tomlin is the new head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Steelers have informed Mike Tomlin, the Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator, that he will be their next head coach. The team plans a news conference to announce his hiring.

The sides were negotiating a contract tonight for four years and an option year.

As the article says, this continues the Steelers hiring trend of picking young assistant coaches to take over their head coaching vacancies – at least, as much of a trend as the Steelers can have, really. It is going to be really strange to see someone other than Cowher coaching this team – and especially someone like Tomlin, who has no physical similarities to Cowher whatsoever. I wish him the best in continuing the Steeler tradition of having true, lengthy coaching eras.


Mike Tomlin NOT Hired as Next Steelers Head Coach Tonight

Apparently, an Sports Illustrated report came out saying that sources within the Steelers organization were indicating that Mike Tomlin, Vikings defensive coordinator, was about to be hired as the next Steelers head coach. However, the Steelers, Mike Tomlin, Russ Grimm, and everyone else has indicated that this is not the case.

Steelers chairman Dan Rooney today denied a Sports Illustrated story that said the team had chosen Mike Tomlin as its head coach.

“There’s nothing to that story on the wire,” Mr. Rooney said of the account that appeared earlier today on

Other sources, most unwilling to go on the record, also denied there was any truth to the story. Mr. Tomlin, the defensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings, denied it publicly.

“It is untrue,” Mr. Tomlin told ESPN’s Chris Mortensen. “I have no idea where it’s coming from. I have not talked to the Rooneys today.”

A source close to Russ Grimm said yesterday afternoon that he had heard nothing from the Steelers. Mr. Grimm, the team’s offensive line coach and assistant head coach, is one of three finalists for the job.

The other finalist, Ron Rivera, was unavailable for comment due to his being involved in the Bears playoff game. In any event, this report is being denied by everyone. While it wouldn’t surprise me if the Steelers are leaning in that direction, this is one of those coaching rumors that was quickly refuted, indicating to me that the Steelers aren’t ready for their announcement yet, and also indicating that they do not want the name of their favorite candidate out in the media yet, unlike the Cowher rumors, which after a certain point, weren’t denied any more.

UPDATE: ESPN retracts their story that the Steelers are NOT hiring Tomlin. (via Steelers Fanhouse)

Interesting. The more we hear, the more I tend to think that where there’s smoke, there’s fire. I’m not sure if we’re going to hear soon, though – maybe Monday, maybe later.


Steelers Finalist List

With the recent hiring of Ken Whisenhunt by the Arizona Cardinals (and many Steeler fans heaving a sigh of relief after a mediocre year of offense), the franchise announced their three finalists.

Looks like the next Steeler head coach will be either Russ Grimm, Steelers o-line coach, Mike Tomlin, defensive coordinator of the Vikings, or Ron Rivera, defensive coordinator of the Bears.

Whisenhunt was the only choice that made me nervous. He strikes me as similar to Mike Mularkey – a decent offensive signal caller, but not able to run a whole team. Also, I don’t trust Cowher o-coordinators as a rule, because they tend to call weird plays that fail spectacularly.

The o-line has usually been good, this year being an exception – and I don’t know how much that has to do with the coach. The Vikings defense isn’t bad, and the Bears defense has been exceptional over the past two years. So I’d say all three would be good picks, and really don’t have a preference. In this coaching market, these choices seem to be the best ones.


Cowher to Resign TODAY

New sources indicate that Cowher will make his announcement to retire from the Steelers at 1 PM today.

Not much to add to that. Looks like he made a decision before he thought he would. Again, I wish him all the best, and congratulations to Jeff Fisher, who now will be the longest tenured NFL coach with one franchise with 13 seasons. He does leave open the possibility that he will be back, but unless it is at Carolina, a job I don’t see as being open, I doubt he’ll take another NFL job.

UPDATE (1045): The Post-Gazette is reporting that Cowher will take a year off from all coaching. Exactly what I expected.


Cowher to Decide Future Monday?

So say the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s sources.

Bill Cowher will return to Pittsburgh and make an announcement about his future Monday, at which time he is expected to retire as coach of the Steelers, sources with knowledge of the situation have told the Post-Gazette.

No press conference has been scheduled by the Steelers, but Cowher has told several people he will come back from Raleigh, N.C. and announce his decision Monday.

Good. This thing has dragged out long enough, and the Steelers assistants (who I think the Rooneys would prefer) are starting to interview elsewhere. Cowher started coaching the same year I started taking any interest in the Steelers (mostly BECAUSE of the hype surrounding Cowher’s hiring). It will be sad to see him go, but he gave us many good years. Compared to places like Arizona or Houston, the Steelers have had good success under Cowher: at the beginning of the year, you always felt like the Steelers had a shot at the playoffs. He took several teams to the AFC Championship game, coached two Super Bowl teams, and finally got the illusive “One for the Thumb” after fourteen years of coaching. While Cowher isn’t the best coach in the NFL (that goes to Bill Belichik), he is a lot better than many currently in the league.

My feeling is that he’s gone, and that come next year, we’ll have only the third Steelers head coach in 39 years. My guess is that Cowher wants a break from NFL coaching, and will either do something at the collegiate level, or just relax for a few years. If he wanted to coach at the NFL level, I don’t think he’d be leaving the Steelers – the Rooneys have kept him around through thick and thin, and he knows he won’t get that treatment from most of the league owners (except for maybe Tennessee, but they have a coach who they are currently keeping). So thanks for all the memories, Cowher. This is one Steeler fan who will miss the jaw, and the lack of Cowher Power around the ‘Burgh.


Blizzard May Keep AI from Denver

A blizzard may keep Alan Iverson from joining Denver when they face Phoenix.

DENVER – With a blizzard blowing through town, the Denver Nuggets don’t expect Allen Iverson at Wednesday night’s game against Phoenix.

“Highly improbable to next to impossible,” said Mark Warkentien, Denver’s vice president of basketball operations.

But he wouldn’t rule it out.

“As we speak we’re exploring every alternative way,” Warkentien said. “Is there another airport that’s open within driving distance? Is there a military base that’s open? If there’s any way we can do it, we’re trying. But I don’t want to paint a picture that he’ll be here.”

With the Suns on a hot streak, they could have used Iverson. However, the weather is not under the Nuggets’ control.

Also, they make it sound like they are trying to get the President in for a vital summit meeting. “Check all the small airports! Military bases! AI MUST GET THROUGH!” I find that amusing, but in the end, this will delay Iverson’s arrival for one game: no one is going to remember this five years from now except the ESPN statisticians who are paid to pop up weird stats during games.


Pittsburgh Penguins Meeting to Discuss Future of Arena

The new casino for Pittsburgh was announced, and it was not Isle of Capri.

PITTSBURGH – Pittsburgh Penguins ownership planned to discuss the state’s rejection Wednesday of a slot-machine casino application by Isle of Capri Casinos, which had promised to build a $290-million arena if it got a license.

The Penguins ownership group, headed by Hall of Fame player Mario Lemieux, did not immediately comment on the decision by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to reject the slots license.

After the decision was announced, the Penguins practiced at Mellon Arena, the 45-year-old building the team says must be replaced for it to remain viable in Pittsburgh.

The board voted unanimously to award the city’s only slot-machine license to Detroit-based casino developer Don H. Barden’s PITG Gaming. Barden’s group proposes building a casino and entertainment development on the city’s North Shore, near Heinz Field and PNC Park.

Barden had promised to contribute some money for a new arena over 30 years under a plan proposed by city and county officials that would include public funds. But that plan also calls for the Penguins to help pay for the facility.

The short of this is, the Penguins had been counting on Isle of Capri to build them a new arena – as things currently stand, they cannot easily afford to help pay for the arena. Now, they are without an arena, and are back in the sales market after the interested buyer ran into a dispute with the NHL and pulled out. The question of whether the Penguins will stay in Pittsburgh is looming over the team, and a lot depends on what they hash out over the next few weeks. In addition, they need a new owner as soon as possible. The future is very uncertain for this franchise. Unless they net an owner with deep pockets dedicated to making this work, they may be reaching the end of their tenure in the Steel City.


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