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Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category

World takes to social media to mourn Pat Summitt’s death, celebrate her legacy

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 29, 2016

Across sports and across generations, luminaries including Martina Navratilova, Mia Hamm and Robin Roberts took to social media to pay tribute to Pat Summitt.

Source: World takes to social media to mourn Pat Summitt’s death, celebrate her legacy

 

Yesterday was a very sad day, not only in the sports world, but in the state of Tennessee, in women’s athletics, and for me personally. I believe Pat was one of the most prominent Tennesseans to have ever lived and her death at such a young age is a devastating loss, but it’s wonderful to see how loved and respected she is/was too. These tributes by people from all walks, including Billie Jean King, Dick Vitale, Russell Wilson, and more, are both moving and telling of her impact on people. I hope you read this article and get a good idea of how much she was appreciated for being the most winning basketball coach of any gender in history, the winner of eight national championships, a coach for whom every woman who played for her graduated with a degree (which is an amazing statistic) and additionally every one who played for her played in a Final Four (equally amazing over 38 years). RIP Pat.

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NHL – 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs – Sidney Crosby’s legacy firmly established among the greats with second Stanley Cup win

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 13, 2016

Sure, Sidney Crosby has Olympic golds, numerous trophies and accolades. But his second Stanley Cup — and the way he won it — is what puts him firmly among the game’s elite.

Source: NHL – 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs – Sidney Crosby’s legacy firmly established among the greats with second Stanley Cup win

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Pens Fulfill Destiny with 4th Cup Title – 2016 Pittsburgh Penguins – Stanley Cup Playoffs Coverage

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 13, 2016

Pens Fulfill Destiny with 4th Cup Title

Source: Pens Fulfill Destiny with 4th Cup Title – 2016 Pittsburgh Penguins – Stanley Cup Playoffs Coverage

 

My Penguins started the year off pretty roughly, but ended up having a great season and were the hottest team in the league in 2016. It was a great playoff run against superior competition with a rookie goalie and a number of injuries, but we prevailed and excelled, to win our fourth Stanley Cup and I’m so happy and so proud and I’m simply elated. I’m happy for Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, as well as the few other remaining players from the 2009 Stanley Cup team, as well as the newer veterans and the young players we’ve been playing and our new rookie coach who has made such a difference for the team this year. This year has been remarkably like the 2009 Stanley Cup year and I was saying that three months ago to my wife. It just felt like destiny. I’m so happy. I’m happy for the team, for the managements and owners, for the fans and the city of Pittsburgh, and obviously for myself and my wife. I’ve been a fan since the early 1970s, when the team was fairly new, and my dad would take me downtown to watch the team play against brutal teams like Philly’s Broad Street Bullies. To a young kid, it was magical. I’ve been a fan ever since. I remember our first Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992, and of course losing the Stanley Cup in 2008 to Detroit and beating the same Detroit team the next year for our third Cup. This fourth might be the most special one because of all of the adversity we have faced, not only this year, but all of the previous years. It’s finally paid off. We finally have another Cup. This means everything. I’m so happy. Go Pens!

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A Review of Total Penguins

Posted by Scott Holstad on March 30, 2016

Total Penguins: The Definitive Encyclopedia of the Pittsburgh PenguinsTotal Penguins: The Definitive Encyclopedia of the Pittsburgh Penguins by Rick Buker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is without doubt the most comprehensive, well researched, exhaustive, thorough resource on any subject I have every encountered in my life, in this case, the Pittsburgh Penguins. It’s most impressive. Admittedly, it’s for a niche market. It won’t appeal to that many people and I doubt it’s sold well. But if you’re a Penguins fan, like I am, it’s completely invaluable. I can’t imagine a more important book to add to your library and your knowledge of the team and its history.

The book is a literally hugely proportioned 720 page hardback with stories and a synopsis of each season, beginning with the first expansion season of 1967 through the book’s publication date of 2010. Fascinating stuff. I particularly appreciated learning about the early teams because even though my dad and I went to Penguins games at the Igloo in Pittsburgh in the 1970s, I was so young, I really don’t remember the players and didn’t start to pay attention to them until the early 1980s, by which time the team had been in existence for 15 years. So I missed out on a lot of the team’s early history and players. And with each team’s synopsis, there’s a team roster listing each player’s stats, including games played, goals, assists, points, for goalies, goals against average, etc.

The next section of the book is huge! It’s about 120 pages of player profiles for EVERY player who has ever worn a Penguins uniform, even if it was just for one game. That’s stunning research. That’s simply amazing. It’s got their stats and everything, just like on old time baseball cards you used to collect when you were a kid. It’s freaking awesome! There are simply hundreds of them! I really enjoyed this section, although it took a long time to get through. It was fascinating to see all of the players we’ve had over the years.

The next section was on the coaches and general managers. A little less exciting, yes, but still, we’ve had some good ones over the years and it was exciting to read about Bob Johnson, Herb Brooks (of US Olympic fame), Scotty Bowman (the all time winningest coach in NHL history), Craig Patrick, and other big names who worked for the Pens. And, yes, it was even interesting to read about all of the owners the Pens have had over the years, although it was depressing to see how many loser, broke owners we had until Mario Lemieux bought the team in the late 1990s and ultimately saved the team from bankruptcy, keeping the team in Pittsburgh, where it belonged.

The next section is on the Penguins Hall of Famers. Very fascinating. As of this book’s publication, 17 former Penguins had been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. It’s safe to assume former Pen Jaromir Jagr will make it at some point in the near future and it’s also a safe bet that Sidney Crosby will likely make it down the road too. There are a couple of other current Pens who have the potential to make it if they keep playing to their level of competition. The articles on these players are really well written and quite fascinating and give you an inside look at some special players. Of course, some of the players here are, naturally, Mario Lemieux, Paul Coffey, Ron Francis, Larry Murphy, Joe Mullen, and Bryan Trottier (who played most of his career with the Islanders, truthfully). The next section is interesting, too, though, because it’s the Penguins Hall of Fame, I guess, for those who don’t make the NHL Hall of Fame. These are for those who make a significant career contribution to the club who the league didn’t think merited a lifetime achievement award of the big one. I didn’t know all of these players and it was interesting to read about them. Some include Syl Apps, one of Pittsburgh’s first stars in the early ’70s, Les Blinkley, our first goalie, Anthony Cagglano, our longtime locker room assistant, Jean Pronovost, another early ’70s star, Vincent Lascheid, our organist of 33 years, and Ulf Samuelsson, our “enforcer” on our great early Stanley Cup teams. Very cool.

The next section is a 90 page section called The Stanley Cup Playoffs. It has a synopsis of every playoff series and most games from every year in the Penguins’ existence. It’s beyond in depth! I mean, this goes above and beyond research, above and beyond dedication. This book was only $29. I think this book is easily worth $100. The author spent 17 years — SEVENTEEN YEARS! — putting this together! That’s half a lifetime for some people. That’s the ultimate in dedication. Surely that should be worth more than $29. Anyway, it was fascinating to read about all of our playoff games we’ve had and to relive some of those moments of glory and agony. It started with St. Louis, moved to Philly, then to the Islanders, then I believe the Caps and Rangers became our playoff nemesis’s for a very long time (still are). In our Stanley Cup wins in the early ’90s, we beat Minnesota and Chicago. In this past decade, we’ve had to go at it with the Caps again, the Rangers again, Detroit several times, playing them twice for the Stanley Cup, winning in 2009. Pretty interesting stuff.

The next section is called The Greatest Games and it is the best and worst games as picked by the author and also the games with the best fights, which I really enjoyed since I miss the old days of fighting in the NHL and am often annoyed that fighting in the NHL has largely been curtailed. I found it amazing to note that one year, back in the early ’90s, 11 Pens players had over 100 penalty minutes on the year. This year, our leader has 65. No one will end up with 100 or anywhere close to it. In the old days, it wasn’t uncommon for enforcers to wrack up 300-400 penalty minutes a year. Now, if a player gets even 150 in a year, he’s considered a mega-tough guy, maybe even dirty. What a joke! I’ve read what Gordie Howe and some of the older former hockey players have said about today’s game and while they admit today’s players are very talented, they think they’re babied and coddled and they’re scared to mix it up and the league has gotten scared to let their players get hurt, even though in the old days, players were charged with, get this, MURDER on ice (not that I’m encouraging that, but you get the picture), so that today’s players, while more talented than yesterday’s players, would probably get the shit beaten out of them thoroughly by yesterday’s players, literally. Who cares what the final score is? The oldies would probably still win. Good point, Gordie.

There is also a section on the arenas, which is somewhat interesting, but far less so than the other sections. There’s only so much you can do with that. There also another section on all acquisitions, sales, trades, and drafts, which is mind blowing, considering how many people you’re talking about over such a long period of time. It’s amazing how much research went into this book. There’s an additional section on other Pittsburgh hockey teams and I had no idea about this. There have been many, including an NHL team called the Pittsburgh Pirates back around 1925. But there were Pittsburgh hockey teams back in the late 1800s, believe it or not. Quite possibly the first semi-professional hockey teams in America with the first real hockey rinks. Teams came from all over North America (including Canada) to play the Pittsburgh teams. There was a minor league club called the Pittsburgh Hornets that played there from from 1936-1967 that went 770-705-174 and won three Calder Cups, including in their last year in existence. Apparently the fans there loved that team.

The last section is a very long 150+ page section on statistics, awards, and honors. It has about any statistic you could possibly think of, no matter how obscure. It’s unreal. The awards and honors are what you would expect, of course, but include minor ones as well, ones you’ve never heard of. But the stats just blow you away. The all time All-Star team Selections. The All-Star Game Selections. Individual and team playoff records. All-time playoff goaltending leaders. Shootout wins and losses. By game, date, winning goal, winning goalie, final score and more! Single game records in just about anything. It goes on and on. You could keep learning for months. It’s stunning.

So, this is an amazing book. My only complaint, and this is no fault of the author, is that since it was published in 2010, it’s a bit dated. It only has Crosby, Malkin, Fleury, Letang, etc., stats through 2010. It’s 2016. I’d like to see where these players rank now in career standings! Back then Crosby was in the list of top ten scorers. Malkin was not. I know now Crosby is probably in the top five and Malkin is in the top ten easily. I also know that Fleury has surpassed Tom Barasso, my former favorite goalie, as the team’s all time winningest and winningest playoff goalie and I’d like to see that reflected in that stats. But until the publisher decides to come out with a new edition, that won’t happen. And frankly, I don’t see how the publisher could have made any money on this project. I’m sure they lost money. The book simply would have been too costly to make with too little revenue generated to recoup their expenses. So I don’t anticipate another edition any time soon, if ever, which disappoints me. So, that disclaimer said, this remains the greatest resource I have ever seen for anything. Obviously, it’s the greatest resource for anything related to the Pittsburgh Penguins, of course. Obviously, it’s a great hockey resource. There are tons of pictures and numerous stories of other teams, players, and coaches and their interactions with Penguins teams over the years, so even if you’re not the biggest Pens fan in the world, you still *might* find this interesting. Perhaps. But frankly, it’s for a niche market. To me, it was a gift from heaven. To me, this is just about the biggest five star book I can think of. To me, if you’re a Pittsburgh Penguins fan, there is no other book you should read before this one and I can’t recommend this book more strongly.

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A Review of The Game

Posted by Scott Holstad on February 29, 2016

The GameThe Game by Ken Dryden
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Boy, I don’t get it. I really don’t. I’m sure I’ll take some criticism for saying this, but I just don’t understand why Ken Dryden’s The Game is considered by most to be the best hockey book ever written and by Sports Illustrated to be one of the greatest sports books ever written. Hell, I hardly read anything about sports in it! Geez, it’s about Dryden’s family, law school, desire and efforts to pass his bar exams, his disillusionment and boredom with hockey and intense desire to retire after a measly eight seasons when truly great players like Jaromir Jagr play through age 44 and beyond, or the great Gordie Howe until age 52. Dryden is so uninspiring a player and so uninspiring and dull a person that I have no idea how he accomplished the few, puny things he accomplished in his pathetically few years in the league. Most of my favorite players have played 10, 12, 15, 18 years in the league. Eight years? And he’s considered one of the best ever? By whom? What the hell did he do that was so damn great??? I know he helped Montreal win five Stanley Cups in eight years. While impressive, that’s a team accomplishment and by his own admission, he was surrounded by all stars, superstars even, so I don’t know how much he contributed. He did win at least three Vezina Trophies for best goalie, which says something, but even then, he levels criticisms at himself in this book that make you wonder how the hell he won the damn things. He apparently split time with another goalie. He got lit up repeatedly by opposing players. Was he really a money player? Hard to tell from this book. I don’t know. I do know that he didn’t seem to have much of a passion for the game, something he basically admits from the beginning. Hardly cared at all for it. Oh sure, like every Canadian kid, he said he liked to play every day growing up, but unlike every other Canadian kid, he didn’t even grow up playing ICE hockey! He played TENNIS BALL hockey in his back yard! Excuse me, but WTF? Seriously? And this guy didn’t go into the juniors. Instead, he went to an American college, which was highly unusual at the time. Why? I don’t know why. And this is the reason. I didn’t even make it a full 100 pages into the book before I became so disgusted with this wimp of a man, this pathetic excuse for an athlete and a human being that I gave up on this autobiography and am left wondering why this has a 4.09 rating on Goodreads and why I have read all of these five star reviews. Who are these reviewers? Why are they so impressed with this book? I don’t get it. I mean, who plays eight years when they are allegedly at the top of their game and part of a dynasty. He writes that he could see the wheels coming off the Montreal dynasty his last year, so basically he bailed on the team rather than sail through rough waters. Like a real champ. What a winner. Would definitely want him in my foxhole. Like hell, I would! This book was boring, there are hardly anything at all about his games or specific games or anything very sports-specific (although there was insightful analysis of his old coach, Scotty Bowman, that was actually good), it was depressing, it was cold, it felt dead, and I hated it with a passion, perhaps as much as I’ve hated any bio I’ve ever read. I can’t tell you how putrid I think this book is and how unimpressed I am with Ken Dryden the man. Dryden, the player, was a few years before my time, so I can’t say anything about him in that respect. If you want to be impressed with a book’s good reputation, I suppose you could invest in this, but I sure wouldn’t waste my time. Most definitely not recommended under any circumstances!

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A Review of Willie Stargell: A Life in Baseball

Posted by Scott Holstad on February 5, 2016

Willie Stargell: A Life in BaseballWillie Stargell: A Life in Baseball by Frank Garland
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve got to be honest. When I was a kid, Willie Stargell was my favorite baseball player. Actually, he has been my whole life. But see, he was my favorite player to see in person! I lived in the Pittsburgh area back in the 1970s and went to as many Pirates games as possible, so I got to see “Pops” play a lot and got to see the magical “We Are Family” 1979 World Series year and remember those wonderful Stargell stars everyone loved and the home runs, god, the home runs! Willie Stargell “only” hit 475 career home runs – because he played half of his career in gigantic Forbes Field, which I’ll get to in a moment, but which is estimated to have robbed him of some 150 career home runs, which is staggering by anyone’s standards – but the thing I think Stargell is best known for is his towering strength, how damn FAR he could hit his balls! Hitting balls out of Montreal’s Olympic Stadium. Hitting balls out of Dodger Stadium multiple times. Hitting balls out of Philly’s Veteran’s Stadium. Hitting the upper deck and roof of gigantic Forbes Field numerous times. Hitting the ball out of the ballpark at Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field replacement, Three Rivers Stadium. There’s an entire chapter in this book dedicated just to this! 506 feet at Dodger Stadium. 458 feet into the upper deck at Three Rivers. May 20, 1978: 515 feet, Montreal’s Olympic Stadium. 475 feet onto right grandstand roof at Forbes Field, 1967. He also had the longest home run at Houston’s Astrodome: 490 feet on May 28, 1966.

Of course, Stargell was more than just amazing home run power. He was also a great hitter, finishing a 20-year career with a very good lifetime average of .282. Perhaps far more importantly, he was a great natural leader, from a very young age. He led quietly and he led by example. When he came up in the majors, Clemente was his leader, took him under his wing, became his friend and example. After Clemente’s premature death, Stargell assumed his role in the clubhouse and never relinquished it and remained the effective team captain for the rest of his career, which prepared him for his post-playing days of working with his ex-manager, Chuck Tanner, in the Braves system to coach and evaluate young ball players in Atlanta for a number of years before ultimately winding back in Pittsburgh for the last couple years of his life before he died a very, very premature death at age 61, I believe. This book was also enlightening in that it showed how a young man from northern California, brought up in an integrated area in the 1950s, is thrust into the deep south and southwest, and is made to play in the minors during the late ‘50s and early ‘60s and is made to suffer humilities and indignities and taunts and things that would have been hard to imagine 15 years ago, as I write this in 2016, if we hadn’t have seen the true colors of the Republican Tea Party as the racists in them come out to show their hatred of Obama and black and Hispanic people everywhere, which makes it stunning to see how far we have NOT come since then. Simply stunning. And very sad. Whatever the case, Stargell survived without anything of an outward complaint, made the big club as an outfielder, had a serious arm rivaling Clemente allegedly, but was ultimately moved to first base, started hitting serious home runs, made some all star teams, helped win the World Series in 1971, when Clemente was the MVP, won the World Series again in 1979 when he was the Series and league MVP and retired in 1982. Stunningly, he never even made half a million dollars a year in his career and indeed, never made much money at all until the final few years of his career. How someone so talented and how someone who became the 17th player to make the Hall of Fame on the first ballet could go so damned unpaid, essentially, is beyond me, but I guess that’s what owners do, so there you have it. He had advertising deals and other things to supplement his income. He also had a sickle cell foundation because his sister had the disease.

While this book certainly sings Stargell’s praises, it’s not all fun and games. It also discusses his three marriages (but how he got along with all three wives, during and after all marriages) and five children through four women (and how they all got along together as in one big, happy family, amazingly). It discusses allegations two former colleagues made against him in the 1980s that he gave them drugs, which tarnished his reputation. Needless to say, this was looked into thoroughly, as was the case with everyone named in the investigation. Stargell’s name was personally cleared by the baseball commissioner. He had done nothing wrong.

The first thing Stagell did upon retirement was agree to perform in a symphony performance made just for him by a Pulitzer winning composer in which he would perform spoken word content set to symphonic music about Martin Luther King, Jr., one of his heroes. He was excited, but very nervous. So were the composers and musicians. However, he tackled it with his usual professionalism and did quite well. Their first performance was, I believe, at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington DC. He acquitted himself well. Indeed, as they traveled the country performing, he did better and better so that he became quite a star in a brand new field. This chapter was quite interesting and I confess I knew nothing about this part of his life.

Stargell’s last few years are painful to read about. His last few years were spent on dialysis. Yet he was still working, first for the Braves, then for the Pirates. Then his overall health started failing and he started losing weight and feeling quite a bit of pain. During his last year, he became unrecognizable to former teammates who encounter him in airports and other places. He tried to avoid people, as he didn’t wish to be seen in this condition. On April 9, 2001, in honor of the opening of the Pirates’ new ballpark, PNC Park, and only the third such new statue, a new large bronze statue of Willie Stargell was unveiled publicly outside the entrance to the park. Unfortunately, Willie couldn’t be there. More unfortunately, he couldn’t be there because he had just died during the night. He’d never get to see the new park or the amazing new statue for which he felt so amazingly honored. People were stunned. He was too young. He was Pittsburgh. He was the Pirates. He was “Family.” He was one of the most beloved Pittsburgh athletes of all time. And now he was gone. Just like that. While his service was in North Carolina, where he had most recently lived with his third wife, a large service was held at a church downtown near where Willie lived and worked for decades. He loved working with the people of the city, of the inner city, with the young people. He loved teaching, giving people hope. And now he was gone. Utter tragedy.

475 career home runs. When he retired, that was a lot. Since then, a lot of hitters have passed him by. But frankly, most of those players have been from the steroid era and are suspect, such as Barry Bonds, Mark McGuire, and Sammy Sosa. So do they even count? Unfortunately, they’re in the books and records ahead of him and nothing can be done about that and that boils my blood. Even more unfortunately, he played half of his career at gigantic Forbes field. I said I would address that. Let me. PNC Park has these basic dimensions – 320 feet to the left and right field walls, 399 feet to center field. Going off my memory, Forbes Field was 360 feet to left, 376 feet to right, and a gigantic 462 feet to center! No wonder Clemente drove in a ton of runs but was a doubles hitter and not a big home run hitter. No wonder the most home runs Stargell ever hit in a season was 48. So, if the estimate that Forbes Field robbed him of 150 home runs is accurate at all, he could have finished with 625 home runs, which would have placed him pretty high up the career list by anyone’s standards. It’s a real pity that couldn’t have occurred.

For some reason, this book only has a 3.89 rating on Goodreads, yet every review I’ve read – all four and five star reviews – have nothing to say about how to improve the book. Frankly, I don’t know if this is the BEST sports biography I have ever read, but offhand, I can’t think of a better one and I’ve read a ton of them. This is a very good book. It’s well researched, it’s detailed, comprehensive, well written, has good pictures, is edited well. It’s a good book. A very good book. I can think of no reason not to give it five stars. I can think of no way to improve this book as a sports biography or as a biography of Willie Stargell. So, how can this not be a five star book then? I think Frank Garland did an excellent job and I’m really glad I bought and read this book. I learned a lot about my childhood hero and I’m glad that he remains a hero of mine and always will be. Good old number 8. One night, I was at Three Rivers in the upper deck and Willie hit the ball and he hit it straight up and it went up a mile. He hit it out of the stadium. I’ve never in my life seen a ball hit so far straight up. It went way past my head and kept on going, up, up, up past the top of the stadium before finally starting to fall straight back down. It took forever. It was a foul ball. He was out. The first baseman caught it. But it was one of the most impressive non-hits I had ever seen. What strength! I’ll never forget that. And of course, I got to see a few of his awesome home runs too. I’ll never forget the feeling that I was honored to see those. Willie Stargell graced us with his presence. He graced Pittsburgh, Atlanta, and Oakland with everything in his life. He had a lot to give and he always gave a lot. As long as people remember him, he will be missed. In my biased opinion, Willie Stargell will always be the best, most feared home run hitter of all time. Five star book. Definitely recommended.

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A Review of The Ones Who Hit The Hardest

Posted by Scott Holstad on January 4, 2016

The Ones Who Hit the Hardest: The Steelers, the Cowboys, the '70s, and the Fight for America's SoulThe Ones Who Hit the Hardest: The Steelers, the Cowboys, the ’70s, and the Fight for America’s Soul by Chad Millman
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

What a dud! What a waste of time and money. What a bitter disappointment. And how about that subtitle — “The Steelers, The Cowboys, The ’70s, and the Fight for America’s Soul?” What a load of crap! What horseshit is that?

I’m a lifelong Steelers fan with a healthy memory and respect for the Pittsburgh/Dallas rivalry and that’s what I expected this book to be about. It wasn’t. It was a book about the Steelers, yes. It was mostly about the Rooney family, about Chuck Noll, Mean Joe Greene, Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Jack Lambert, Andy Russell, Jack Ham, with mentions of Mel Blount, Mike Webster, Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, Rocky Blier, Terry Hanratty, LC Greenwood, Dwight White, Fats Holmes, etc. Some decent stuff on the players and team. Almost all of it well known already. Virtually nothing new. How about the Cowboys? Equal treatment? Hardly! You get Tom Landry, Duane Thomas for a couple of years, for some unknown reason — literally makes no sense — and then, Tony Dorsett, who’s from Pittsburgh and who’s portrayed as a mega-asshole. That’s it. Okay, I guess we don’t need to know anything else about the Cowboys.

Well, if we don’t learn anything new about the Steelers and if we don’t learn much at all about the Cowboys, what is in the book at all? Um, the steel industry and labor unions. Literally. At least one third of the book, perhaps a great deal more, is a history of the steel industry and labor unions dating from the late nineteenth century centering in the greater Pittsburgh area. If you’re into Pittsburgh manufacturing history or even US manufacturing history, I guess that’s pretty damn great for you. Since it’s virtually not even remotely tied into the the alleged “true” topic of the book — the Steelers and the Cowboys — I don’t really give a flying fuck about it. That’s not why I bought the book. There’s more info in this book on labor union bosses, even on people who ran for labor union president and FAILED — like that fucking matters about anything!!! — than there is about fucking football in this stupid fucking book!

Oh, and the rivalry? There’s infinitely more spent on the “true” rivalry between the Steelers and the Raiders than there is on the Steelers and the Cowboys.That’s obviously the true rivalry. There’s a little bit about the first Super Bowl the Steelers win and then the book ends abruptly with the second Steeler Super Bowl win over the Cowboys. That’s it. There’s been this huge steel industry self destruction buildup and the battle of labor union bosses and the war of words between the two teams and then the game is over and there’s a paragraph or two following the game and that’s fucking it. No conclusions, no epilogue, nothing. It’s a stupid waste of a book, a stupid waste of time and money. I can’t believe these idiots wrote something like this. I hope they took a huge loss on this. I hope they didn’t make a dime on this. I hope I make something decent when I sell it to the used bookstore. This is easily the worst Steelers book I’ve ever read. The worst. Even though there’s interesting stuff about the history of the city and the ethnicities making up the city, that’s not why I bought the book. If you’re a Steelers fan and want to learn about the team and its rivalries, just skip this book, because you won’t learn a damn thing and you’ll feel screwed after reading it. Most definitely NOT recommended. Poor excuse to talk about steel labor unions using the Pittsburgh Steelers as cover. Bullshit. Biggest piece of shit ever!

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A Review of Orr: My Story

Posted by Scott Holstad on December 30, 2015

Orr: My StoryOrr: My Story by Bobby Orr
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Well, this book was a massively huge disappointment! For years, I had heard about how great Bobby Orr was, one of the greatest hockey players of all time. Some even said the greatest. He was a little before my time, so I never got to see him play and I know virtually nothing about him, other than he played for Boston and is in the Hall of Fame. So, I put this book on my Amazon Wish List and my wife got it for me for Christmas. Imagine my surprise when I opened it to find him writing that he wasn’t going to write about his career (basically) in terms of stats, honors, awards, anything. He says that’s all in the record books, that’s all in the history books, it’s all there. Well … yeah, that’s why I wanted to read this damn book, asshole! To learn about why you were apparently the best player of all time, the best defenseman of all time, the best scoring defenseman of all time, the youngest player ever inducted into the Hall of Fame. I wanted to learn about the Hart Trophies, the Norris Trophies, the Stanley Cups. I wanted to know something about you and your career. Is that so bad? Is that so unusual? Shouldn’t you be the damn source for this?

But noooooooo! Not Orr. He doesn’t like to talk about individual honors. He could care less about them. Says they’re really team honors and even more than that, a reflection on everyone who’s ever influenced that person, such as their pee wee coaches, etc. Yep. Okay.

In this book, he devotes an entire chapter to his parents and his upbringing about the time he was eight years old in a small town in Ontario, Canada. There’s really nothing special about them. They didn’t really do anything special for him. They didn’t even attend many of his games. Frankly, I don’t know how they influenced him at all. I have no idea why he even wrote this useless chapter.

Other chapters are about his pee wee playing years with his buddies in elementary school, about what a poor student he was (seems most good hockey players were for some reason), about how he essentially dropped out of school at age 14 to play hockey, about how he signed his first hockey contract at age 14 with the help of his parents, about how he played in the juniors for four years and then made the Bruins at age 18. He writes next to nothing about his rookie year, except to describe his first goal, the team had the worst record in hockey, and oh yeah, he won the rookie of the year award. No big deal, right? Nothing else. It’s like it never happened. He writes more about his roommates.

The next chapters are about continuing seasons and how the Bruins improve. He has injuries, but the Bruins finally win the Stanley Cup. At least he mentions that. During this time, he must have been doing something somewhere to merit inclusion in the Hall of Fame at age 31 since his career was so incredibly short, but nowhere does he mention how many points he scored or what awards he won or anything relevant at all. Nothing. Why the bloody hell read this shithole excuse for a hockey autobiography? Well, I’m not finishing it. I’m halfway through and I’ve had enough. If I wanted to read about his views on parenting, I’d have Googled that and looked for a book on that topic. Instead, I wanted a book on the HOCKEY PLAYER Bobby Orr, you know, someone who played hockey, apparently quite well. It doesn’t exist in this book. What a damn waste. I’m embarrassed and ashamed that my poor wife wasted her money on this pile of crap. I hope I can get a decent amount for it at the used bookstore when I sell it to them. This is without a doubt, the WORST sports biography I have EVER read! Most definitely not recommended, ever.

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A Review of Andy Russell: A Steeler Odyssey

Posted by Scott Holstad on December 17, 2015

Andy Russell: A Steeler OdysseyAndy Russell: A Steeler Odyssey by Andy Russell
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This much wanted book was a HUGE disappointment! I feel really upset about it. I’ve been wanting to get this book for two years, but it’s been out of print. I saw I could get a used copy via Amazon and put in on my Wish List some time ago, but recently decided to just go ahead and buy it for myself. It was only a penny, plus shipping. I waited eagerly.

For those of you who don’t know, Andy Russell, two-time Super Bowl Champion and seven-time Pro Bowler, was one of the all time great Steeler linebackers. Maybe the first in a long line of great Steeler linebackers. Drafted in 1963 out of Missouri, he played his rookie year, served in the army for two years, came back and was able to rejoin the team, played on some terrible teams in the 1960s and then on some incredible 1970s teams before retiring midway through the decade. He was a ten time team captain. He was a great player, a great leader, and a great person. And it just so happens that as I moved to the Pittsburgh area as a very young child in 1971, I grew up loving the Steelers and I remember hearing about him, but I really don’t remember seeing him play that much. I don’t remember many of those great early ’70s teams. I guess I didn’t really start watching until the mid-70s. So I pretty much missed out on his career, even though I had heard so much about him. And therefore I’ve always wanted to learn something about him. Thus, when I found he had written a book (actually two books), I had to get it. And here it is and I just finished it.

Let me tell you what I was expecting. I was expecting to hear about his great college career at Missouri, his rookie year with the Steelers, the army years, trying to make the team again when he returned from the military, becoming a starter, playing on all those losing teams and then playing on all of those amazing winning teams and the differences between them, stuff about the players from both decades, the coaches, opposing players, maybe the fans, the city of Pittsburgh, the media, what it was like to be selected for playing in the Pro Bowl, and even year by year details on important games. That’s what I expected. That’s not what I got.

What I got was a chapter about him that touched on his college career, where he got a lot of interceptions for a very successful coach and team, where he was drafted low but made the team, went to Germany, came back and made the team again, negotiated his own contracts, terribly, suddenly fast forwarded to winning a Super Bowl and then retirement. That was pretty much his life. He kind of left a shitload of stuff out. I have no idea why.

The next chapter came as a shock. It was about a 1968 USO tour to Vietnam with four other NFL players where they arrived in Saigon on the eve of Tet and everything got blown to hell and they got shot at and they got flown around to bases surrounded by Viet Cong and had to run from helicopters into the bases, where they got mortared, where they were driven around by maniacs intent upon not being killed by VC snipers, etc. When he went, he was a conservative hawk. When he left, after seeing all the senseless carnage and deaths, he was a dove and thought maybe all of those disgusting long haired hippies were right after all. It was an interesting chapter. It would have made an excellent chapter in another book. But not this one.

The next chapter began a series of player profile chapters with his best friend, center Ray Mansfield. It was interesting and I enjoyed it, like I enjoyed all of the player profile chapters. Those were the best chapters in the book. The players profiled in the book included Mean Joe Greene, Terry Bradshaw, Jack Ham, Rocky Bleier, Jack Lambert, Franco Harris, and coach Chuck Noll. The best one may have been on Noll, whom he respected more than just about anyone else he ever met.

After the Mansfield chapter comes another USO chapter, from the same tour, this time in Thailand with a group of American pilots. One night. A whole chapter about one night. He gets really introspective and thinks that instead of these men worshiping him and his NFL colleagues, they should be bowing down to the pilots and their colleagues, who are giving their lives daily. An interesting chapter, again, but for another book.

And then begins the most disappointing aspect to the book. Aside from the few player profile chapters, each chapter is basically about Russell and his post-retirement business partner traveling to mostly Asian and third world countries looking for investment opportunities. They hit the Middle East, where they’re basically laughed out of town by the super rich Arabs, and they finally strike it rich in Germany at the end of the book, but each chapter is about trying to do business in Japan, Singapore, Calcutta, and so on and so on. Like I give a holy shit about that! Honestly, does anyone buying this book, virtually all of whom are undoubtedly Steeler fans, give a shit about Russell’s post-retirement investment business opportunities?

There’s NOTHING about the teams and players from the 1960s, almost nothing about the teams and players from the 1970s, a little bit — just a little — about the first Super Bowl, nothing about his second Super Bowl, nothing about the fans or media, nothing about the city of Pittsburgh, virtually nothing at all about the Pro Bowls, practically nothing about opposing players, virtually nothing at all about specific seasons or even big games in his career!!! I mean, WHAT THE HELL???!!! What kind of football biography is this? What the hell does he think he is writing? How dare he? Why does he think people are even buying this damn book? What an asshole.

The only thing that saves this book from getting a one star review are the last two chapters. The next to last chapter is simply a chapter detailing information about other players he played with who he didn’t profile, including Hall of Famers like Mike Webster and John Stallworth, as well as lesser known players like JT Thomas and Mike Wagner. It was interesting to read the synopsis on each of the players and that was the type of stuff I had been waiting for throughout the whole book. The last chapter was his outlook on “today’s,” game, bearing in mind that this book was published in 1998. First, Russell states that current players, with their larger size and faster speed, could undoubtedly beat the better teams of the old days. But then he goes on to say what I’ve been saying for years. Despite their talent, they’re basically glory seeking, asshole fuckups. He doesn’t use those exact words, of course, but he bemoans the players who have to celebrate like idiots every time they make a damn tackle, saying — like me — isn’t that their job? Why are they celebrating for doing what they’re paid to do? Maybe if it was a big touchdown or something, okay, but just a simply tackle or a simple first down run? Seriously? Idiots. And they don’t know how to tackle anymore. They’ve lost their technique. They go for the big time tackle and simply miss half the time, and my wife knows I’m always screaming at players on TV to “wrap up.” For the life of me, I don’t understand why players don’t realize that the easiest way to make a sure tackle is to wrap up, but instead, these dolts, going for the big shots, lead with their heads or even their shoulders and the runners or receivers evade them or bounce off of them and keep going … because the stupid defender didn’t WRAP UP! It’s called tackling technique. And today’s players don’t have it. Russell also gets annoyed with the attention seeking players who get “injured,” lying on the field for five minutes, having to be helped or carried to the sideline, only to be back in the game three plays later. Frauds. He states that Mean Joe or Lambert would have never put up with that shit. When he was a rookie, Hall of Fame defensive lineman Earnie Stautner got a fractured hand where his the bone was sticking out through the skin of his hand and he just went to the sideline, after making two more tackles, wrapped some tape around the fracture, and went back in and played. A real man. It’s different now. Russell admits that every generation says the previous generation was better and he sounds like an old fogie, but that’s just the way he feels and I can’t help but agree with virtually everything he writes in this chapter. I despise most of today’s players and I hate the way they go nutso when they make a play or taunt their opponent after a play, etc. It’s pathetic. It’s not football. The 1970s Steelers played football. And so did Andy Russell. It’s just a shame he didn’t write about it in his book. One more thing. The publisher sucks. This is the worst excuse for a professionally edited and published book I’ve ever seen. There are so many grammatical mistakes and typos, it’s unbelievable. I can’t believe they apparently decided not to hire an editor. One example from a late chapter. Something should have “seemed” apparent, but in the book, it “seamed” apparent. Stupid mistakes like that are all over this book. And the few photos in this book are a joke! All black and white, the photos and text accompanying them bleed over each other on back to back pages, so when you’re looking at a page of two photos, you’re actually seeing four from two pages, with four paragraphs sitting on top of each other. It’s beyond unprofessional. It’s an embarrassment. As a former editing and publishing professional, I’m appalled. I’ve deleted his other book from my Amazon Wish List. If you’re a Steeler fan, don’t waste your time and money on this book. It’ll be a major disappointment. Definitely, definitely not recommended.

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A Review of Patrick Roy: Winning. Nothing Else.

Posted by Scott Holstad on December 4, 2015

Patrick Roy: Winning, Nothing ElsePatrick Roy: Winning, Nothing Else by Michel Roy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There are some who consider Patrick Roy to be the best goaltender in the history of the NHL. I’m not one of them. But I do think he’s one of the best, and perhaps the best if you go by some statistics. For instance, Roy played in more games than any other goalie in history. He won more playoff games than any other goalie in history, not even close. He won four Stanley Cups and three Vezina Trophies. All really good statistics. But he played from 1984 to 2003, 19 years. And while he was named to 11 All Star teams (why not 15, 16, or 17?), he was named First Team All Star only four times and Second Team All Star only twice. I think that’s pretty telling. And even though three Vezina Trophies for best goalie in the league is pretty impressive, are you telling me that the best goalie in HISTORY could only win three in NINETEEN years and he’s still the greatest ever? No, I don’t believe it. Even though this book sings his praises and, apparently, so do many other people, evidently not enough of his peers and NHL management thought highly enough of him to honor him while he played so that says a lot to me. And even though both Montreal and Colorado retired his jersey after he played for both teams and even though he made the Hall of Fame, I consider him to be merely one of the greatest goalies ever, although I hesitate to say who’s the best. Perhaps I would put him up with Billy Smith and Ken Dryden, among others. Grant Fuhr, to a far lesser degree. Some of the older goalies from previous eras, too, no doubt.

The main problem with this book is it’s written by his father, who is a Quebec government official, not a sports writer or journalist, and certainly not objective. And to make matters more irritating, the first part of the book seems more intent upon describing the author’s own life and career rather than Patrick’s boyhood and beginnings. It’s rather hubristic. Eventually, though, Michel Roy settles down and starts telling Patrick’s story and it’s startling grim to start out with. His entire minor league career is ugly. He plays on horrible junior hockey teams, just wretched. And one thing I never understood is, while he was apparently decent, the few times his father listed his junior numbers, they weren’t that good, which his father attributed to his teammates’ ineptitude rather than his son’s, and so I never understood why Patrick went on to become considered the top junior goalie in the league at some point. His numbers sure didn’t reflect that and he sure never led his teams to winning seasons. Weird. Usually winners hoist their teams on their backs and lead their teams to winning seasons. Not Roy.

Finally, he got invited to Montreal’s camp. He barely spoke English and had to play mostly in non-Quebec cities for the first time. It was difficult. He didn’t last and was sent back down, but the following year was back. His (real) rookie year in 1985-86 was good, but not great. But when Montreal made the playoffs, something happened and he caught fire and never stopped. He led the Canadiens to a Stanley Cup win and was named MVP of the series, which was pretty awesome for a rookie. And so it began.

He had a series of difficulties with coaches in Montreal. During his first few seasons, for some reason, he was forced to share goaltending duties with another goalie, which was pretty humiliating, considering he was much better. There was a possible reason. In the juniors, he had hooked up with this young, new untraditional goalie coach who had helped him develop a new “butterfly” technique of goaltending, which the NHL had rarely seen and detested. His style was frowned upon and he was actually punished by numerous coaches for using his own style no matter how effective it was. It wasn’t until he had established himself with a new coach in Montreal, and with this goalie coach, that his career took off and he started winning lots of games and he started getting career lows in goals against averages.

His second year was a down year, but then he came back and established himself. His general manager was always messing with the team though, trading good players to get new players, messing with the chemistry. It was tough to repeat as Stanley Cup champions with that going on. Nonetheless, Roy won Vezina Trophies in 1989, 1990, and 1992. And he led Montreal to another Stanley Cup victory in 1993. However, the team and even some fans began to get somewhat disenchanted with Roy by then, for reasons I never entirely understood. He was making too much money and was standing up to a new asshole coach. Big deal. So they did the unthinkable and traded him to Colorado in 1995, their old Quebec Nordiques nemesis recently moved to the Rockies. Roy would have to start all over again.

By this time, Roy was married and had a couple of kids. One of my complaints about this book is his father mentions the fact that Patrick meets a pretty woman and starts seeing her. Later, surprise, they get married! Later, they apparently reproduce. The only time we actually see her at all is when they have a massive public fight on their front lawn in Colorado, which I thought was going to end their marriage, but which evidently did not. In fact, Michel Roy didn’t delve very much into Patrick’s inner being and psyche very much at all, other than to assert that he wanted to play and win more than anything and anyone else at all. Over and over again, he beats that into your head. It gets pretty repetitive.

Whatever the case, Roy adapts to Colorado pretty quickly. His coach is his old agent in Quebec. He leads the team to a Stanley Cup win his first season there and becomes a huge celebrity in that state, according to his father, bigger than any other athlete in the history of Denver or Colorado, including John Elway, which I personally find ridiculous and impossible to believe. Utterly impossible. Roy kept putting up good numbers and Colorado eventually traded for aging superstar Raymond Bourque, who would likely be a Hall of Famer but had never won a Stanley Cup. The team decided to dedicate themselves to winning one for him, for some reason, and Roy made it his obsession. And they did in Bourque’s last year, 2001, when Roy won his third Conn Smythe award for playoff MVP while winning his fourth Stanley Cup. He then retired in 2003. After his retirement, he got involved in coaching junior hockey in Quebec and is now the coach of the Colorado Avalanche, his old team.

This isn’t a bad book. At times, it’s fairly interesting. But I’ve read many better sports bios, as I’ve read a lot of them, and I’ve read better hockey bios. As I mentioned, I don’t think it helped that Patrick’s father wrote this. He really should have had an unrelated professional write this. It would have been more objective and written better with more and better information about the man himself, I’m guessing. Still, if you’re a fan of Roy, you’ll probably like it. If you’re a fan of Montreal or Colorado, you’ll probably like it. Even if you’re simply a hockey fan, it’s possible you’ll probably like it to some degree, like me. Otherwise, I’d probably avoid it. Cautiously recommended, but obviously only for hockey fans. No point in reading it otherwise.

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