I was honored this spring when asked to be part of a 16-person panel tasked with the responsibility of choosing the best players in the 50-year era of Athlon Sports. It was humbling to have my opinion considered with those of peerless press box friends Tony Barnhart, Ivan Maisel, Bruce Feldman, Tom Luicci, Bud Withers, Stewart Mandel and TMG’s own Herb Gould. This wasn’t about the time or work involved and I accepted this invitation, immediately, upon hearing Athlon was paying me a Founding Father (Benjamin). The magazine released its top-50 in its annual preseason kickoff edition in May. TMG was curious to see how it stacked up against the final Athlon rankings. Herb Gould, vacationing in Wisconsin, emailed me his top-50 from a rubber dinghy on Lake Koshkonong. I was commissioned, presumably, to provide west-coast context to a fan-mag printed not far from a Civil War monument commemorating the Battle of Shiloh. Athlon didn’t need TMG’s Jersey Guy (Mark Blaudschun) on its panel, apparently, because it already had the east region covered with a Jersey Guy panelist (Luicci, Piscataway) and the eventual naming of two (TWO!?) players from Pitt in the top 10. Gould, no doubt, was tabbed for his deep ties to the Big Ten. In fact, one of Gould Standard’s post-vote concerns was leaving Tony Mandarich out of his final 50. “Michigan State, all-galaxy OL, SI...Read More
Author: Chris Dufresne
Frank Kush’s death on Thursday, at age 88, unleashed a torrent of thoughts. If God has a sense of humor, Kush is doing bear crawls right now around the pearly gates. THE most polarizing figure in the history of college football was unique in that he was hailed or loathed, respected or despised. There wasn’t much middle ground on the man. His kind, frankly, could not exist anymore–would not be tolerated by the “snowflake” crowd and helicopter parents. “Hard-ass” Nick Saban, in comparison, is a bell-ringer for the Salvation Army. Kush’s sanctioned brutality, if attempted today, would probably land him in jail. The things he did to players at Arizona State are well documented, and don’t age gracefully over time. I did NOT like Kush at all growing up, mostly because I played for a Pop Warner coach who borrowed heavily from Kush’s torture handbook: unrelenting practices, verbal abuse, no water. Here’s the thing: My Pop Warner coach got fired, after only one season, for what he did to us. Maybe because we were only 12? Our coach once, I swear, made us run the same play, over and over, for an entire practice in 100-degree August heat. Without a single water break. I was a pulling guard on the play and ended up dry heaving. As we suffered, this sadistic, sorry, son-of-a-bitch sipped from a large “cone” of...Read More
Around my house they are simply known as “dad’s rules.” You can’t see my three grown-up boys now–but their eyes are rolling. Dad, the sportswriter: “If you are leading a basketball game by three points in the final seconds, never allow your opponent to tie with a three-pointer. ALWAYS foul to assure you get possession back with the lead.” Dad on baseball: “Thou shalt not make the first, or third out, at third base.” Dad on golf: “ALWAYS putt the ball, instead of chip it, if you can, even from a drop zone.” Dad on dining out: “If you tick my hard-earned paycheck off for no good reason your establishment may face a punitive, USC-type probation.” True story: We moved to Chino Hills in 1989 (years ahead of LaVar Ball’s family) and walked into a Basque restaurant that was supposed to be really good. We waited 15 minutes for menus before walking out. We have not been back. We hear it’s still really good. The “Islands” in town is just now coming off a “show-cause” 10-year sanction for refusing to split the check for parents after a Little League game. Dad does not also talk directly into a drive-thru order box at a fast-food restaurant. He needs to see the person messing up his order. No exceptions. I don’t often break the rules out for public consumption, but today...Read More
You know what they say: it’s never too early to start talking college football. Yes, it is. May is too early—at least for printed preseason magazines. Update: (Even early June is too early. Ask the set-in-ink periodicals that will forever have Bob Stoops coaching Oklahoma in 2017. More on that in an update below). I was shocked by two things this week strolling through my Barnes & Noble of Chino Hills. Actually, three things. The first was not seeing a display for LaVar Ball’s best-seller on the hard-scrabble raising of a basketball-family dynasty. Shouldn’t he have a book by now? –“The Time I beat Michael Jordan one-on-one (in my mind)” –“How to Succeed in getting a walk-on coach fired after a 30-3 season (without really trying)” –“Talk Radio and Me (How I duped an Industry by simply giving away my cell phone number) –“Steve Alford Owes Me…BIG. (How I saved a UCLA coach’s job and why that means he has to start LiAngelo)” –“One for the money, $495 for the shoe” –“Daddy Dearest” (Updated: June 1. Former Lakers star Jerry West emphatically told “The Dan Patrick Show” he did not want to discuss Lonzo Ball’s controversial father. And then West said “His dad, to me…I wouldn’t want a father like that.” Jerry West’s father, for the record, was no picnic. This was a compliment, though, compared to what...Read More
Brian Kelly said Tuesday he was tired of being misquoted in the public arena so, in a twist, he dropped a bombshell with a simple bob of his head. No actual words were attached to this proclamation yet dozens of attendees, including Rankman, seated at table 11, identified the affirmative nod at the silverware-clanking end of Kelly’s luncheon visit to The Notre Dame Club of Orange County. What Kelly said—I mean indicated–was outrageous. Kelly had flown West to honor the OC club for being the top booster organization in Notre Dame’s massive, nation wide, God-fearing, armada of football worshipers. The OC club is currently led by president Paul Irving, a fine young leprechaun and the son of lifelong friends on my wife’s side of the family. As a younger man, at holiday events, Paul would sometimes call me out for my pernicious L.A. Times coverage of Notre Dame football. About 1999, for example, I may have written the Irish finished 5-7 under Bob Davie. Also, in 2002, I covered a game during which undefeated Notre Dame, for no reason, coming off a thrilling victory at Florida State, decided to break out the “green” jerseys for a home game against Boston College. The only team in South Bend motivated by that move was Boston College. What Paul didn’t know was that I mainly went harder\overboard on Notre Dame to balance...Read More
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