About the Steve O Zone

Monday, June 16, 2008

The O Zone...


Yours truly has been very fortunate to have had the sheer pleasure of meeting and befriending people from all walks of life. It is with what I present, The-Not-So-Fab-5. It's quite simply 4 of my close friends whom I've summoned together.

Our goal is to share our insights with you on a myriad of topics. So from time to time, I'll throw out a topic, gather the thoughts of The-Not-So-Fab-5 and share them with you.

Before I get to today's topic, some brief intros are in order. So with all due respect to Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, et al... I give you The-Not-So-Fab-5.

First up is MQ, AKA Mark Quinlan, my trusty confidante/Eagle watcher, lo these past 20+ years.

Then we have Team Haberle, whom you've met before --- most recently when TH displayed his Equine prowess by astutely predicting why Big Brown would fail in his quest for infamy.

Next up is Rich Romig, who is a Libra who enjoys lattes and bubble baths. No... RR is my personal bhagwan; a man who knows all there is to know about all there is to know. He knows almost as much as...

...Isaac Segal. Jeopardy-champion, Bush-wacker and all-around massively intelligent homo sapien.

Lastly of course, you have myself, whom you know, love and/or loathe.

So, with that verbose intro out of the way, I give you the very first The-Not-So-Fab-5.

Today's Topic:

"The NFL's Tillman Offense"
Mary Tillman is petitioning the NFL to help her find out what really happened to her son, Pat. To date, the league has not offered to help.

In the words of one America's greatest, albeit fake, military commanders, Lt. Colonel Henry Blake, "There are certain rules about a war and rule number one is young men die." Unquestionably Pat Tillman is an American hero of the highest order and I, as all Americans, mourn his death. I cannot imagine the heartbreak of Mrs. Tillman and the Tillman family but to claim the NFL is exploiting their son's death is, in my opinion, wrong. The circumstances of Tillman's death whether at the hands of the enemy or by friendly fire do not diminish his life or death by any means whatsoever. The statues, the retiring of his number, the eulogies all of that should be a celebration of his life, not his death. Pat Tillman was a casualty of war. See Henry's Rule #1 above. The Tillman family has a right, God knows, to be angry about the death of their son but the NFL should not be held responsible for granting them closure. I wish them the peace they seek.

I feel badly for Tillman family and admire their persistent quest for the truth. However, realistically, I don't see the NFL getting involved. They don't take care of their former players with injuries (e.g., Conrad Dobler) who are still alive. Players are chattel to the NFL (much like soldiers are to the Army). And, believe it or not, even though the NFL is a major business entity, the league (and the individual teams) are run like small businesses (i.e., on a shoe string with a very small support staff). Now, having said all this, I really believe the Cardinals, whose ineptitude in almost all facets of the game is legendary should be the ones to step up and lead the fight on this (if for no other reason than to generate some very badly needed positive P.R.)

To me, it's interesting that this story is like the inflection point between 2 areas that the US armed forces and the NFL practically own and exploit to their advantage: The Warrior Mentality and Manufactured Reality. Kudos to Pat's mom for keeping the pressure up, but don't expect much from either monolithic body. The truth is ever-shifting, like the winds in the hills of Tora Bora. She's a lot like Cindy Sheehan camped out on George W. Bush's ranch two years ago -- probably won't amount to much, but I give her credit.

In some ways, the NFL not giving the Tillman saga their best investigative effort -- or blatantly turning a blind eye -- is strikingly similar to how poorly the league treats its retirees...the Earl Campbells and Bo Jacksons of the world who made beaucoup bucks for them and are struggling just to walk now. They're both examples of "out of sight, out of mind." You would think a league built on the backs of talented players would treat them like family all the way down the line, but it seems that most of the progress made in getting health benefits for ex-players has been due to the efforts of other ex-players -- not owners, not Tagliabue or Goodell.

Maybe if Tillman's mom enlists a few high-profile guys who played with Pat, their shared voices will be heard more loudly.

What may be the most disgusting aspect of this story is how long it's been out there without any coverage or follow up in the mainstream media--who earlier fell all over themselves covering Pat Tillman when he enlisted, and when the first fabricated accounts of his death came out. As soon as the story had any potential to refute the party line, it fell off the radar.

It's hard enough to lose a son and brother the way the Tillman family did. But to then be lied to by your own government about the facts of his death is beyond imagining. Unfortunately, the failure of the press to cover this story is far from the only example of their greater failure to stand up to the White House and their corporate masters over the past two decades. Imagine if just a fraction of the coverage given to mindless crap like Anna Nicole Smith and Lindsay Lohan had been devoted to presenting the Tillman family's story.

The NFL is just as complicit. If anything, their betrayal of Pat Tillman is even more unforgivable. I wouldn't expect the owners or Gene Upshaw to take any action that might slow down the NFL money machines, but you'd expect at least, but you would hope that at least one or two of them might have spoken out.

You would, however be wrong.

As a once (very) reluctant draftee who came to appreciate many things about the service, I think I understand why Tillman would leave fame and fortune behind. What I can't understand is why it has proven so hard to honor his sacrifice simply by speaking the truth.

There so many things wrong with this entire situation, from the six investigations and two congressional hearings to the way the NFL itself exploited Pat Tillman's death.

But of course the most egregious thing is the fact that you have a mother who is simply try get a measure of peace in her life by asking the same question ANY parent would given the same situation: How did my son die?

Unfortunately from the government's perspective, it's yesterday's news and from the league's... well, they don't need to talk about this anymore. They've squeezed as much as they can out of it and since Pat Tillman -- dead or alive -- is not making them any more money, then why bother talking about him?

Mary Tillman herself put it best:

"Pat would have gone through a wall to find out the truth. So, it's the least I can do and the least any one of us can do is to find out how he died."

Godspeed Mary Tillman.

'Til next time.


Thursday, June 12, 2008

The O Zone...

Short and sweet today my friends...

What's a Jayson Werth?
Not much after yesterday’s ill-advised decision to bunt with the bases loaded and the game tied in the 9th Inning. Had they gone ahead there, it would have been Lidge time, but...

David needs to be Stern...
The NBA Commish needs to be stern and then some when it comes to the whole Tim Donaghy affair. I realizes it’s a bit of embarrassment, especially in light of the storied rivalry being resurrected but, he needs to make a statement at the very least to quell the fans ever-growing cynicism toward his beloved league.

Torre Pines...
I don’t really have anything to say here, I just like the headline and play on words with Torrey Pines being the site of the 2008 U.S. Open Golf Championship. Maybe something about how Joe Torre doesn’t pine for his days as Yankee skipper given their current plight. Yeah, that's what I meant all along. Yeah thats the ticket...

Til next time.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The O Zone...

Had to go back to Team Haberle one last time to get this take on the simply bizarre goings on at The Belmont Stakes.

I caught up with him late last night as he was preparing to board a flight to Brunei, something about the Sultan owing him some scratch from the Stanley Cup Playoffs or something. Seems the Sultan is a Pens fan. Who knew?

Ever since the demise of Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio, when a nation needs to have the inexplicable explained, they turn their lonely eyes to Team Haberle. So, naturally, we at The O Zone turned to Team Haberle (the genius formerly known as Uncle Robs) for answers as to what unfolded at this past Saturday’s Belmont Stakes.

TOZ: Was it the heat and humidity that kept Big Brown from winning?
TH: I don’t think so, Nephew Steve. He looked fine in warm-ups and the post parade. He wasn’t lathering heavily prior to the race. He seemed OK to me at the start.

TOZ: Was it the rail post position?
TH: Well, possibly that had something to do with it. He looked distracted (like he was peering into the infield) going into the first turn. However, once they got into that first turn, that didn’t appear to be a factor any longer when Desormeaux swung him outside to steady him.

TOZ: What about Kent Desormeaux’s ride? Desormeaux got hammered pretty good by Dick Jerardi in the Monday Daily News/Philly.com
TH: With all due respect to Dick Jerardi (who I really like because he’s one of the few media people in Philly who writes and talks horse racing), I think he’s way off base here. Kent Desormeaux is a Hall-of-Fame jockey. Literally. And, there is no way he wanted to be denied the Triple Crown after so narrowly missing with Real Quiet in 1998. The only issue I had with Kent’s ride was that he took Big Brown out wide in the first turn and kept him there. At some point, I would like to have seen him duck back inside behind Da’Tara to save ground (vitally important in a route of 1.5 miles). I understand why he took Big Brown out there (to steady him and get him to relax). I’m just not sure why he kept him there. However, remember, he’s not driving a car. He’s piloting a big, 4-legged, animal with a mind of his own. It ain’t easy.

TOZ: Was it the patched quarter crack on his left front hoof?
TH: Very doubtful. If that were the case, the problem would have shown up long before there was 5/8 mile of a mile to go. Most likely it would’ve manifested itself near the start (at the very least by the half-mile pole)

TOZ: What about the first turn, bumping with Anak Nakal?
TH: Well, keep in mind he (Big Brown) caused that bumping. I looked at the replay to see if they clipped heels. I thought that might be a factor. However, again, I think if it was, it would’ve manifested itself long before there was just a little over a half mile to go.

TOZ: What about Big Brown not getting his usual 15th of the month steroid injection?
TH: I think that could be a contributing factor, but I don’t think it’s the sole factor. Horses are creatures of habit (very much like cats in that respect). Any deviation to their routine can upset them. I remember John Servis talking about the great “Philly Flyer”, Smarty Jones routine. Whenever Smarty came on the track to warm up at Philadelphia Park, he had to walk to his left to the far turn, turn around and come back to start galloping clockwise around the oval. It’s just the way horses are. They’re used to training at certain times, eating at certain times, getting bathed at certain times, and getting injections, etc. at certain times. Any break in the routine is not good.

TOZ: Was it trainer Richard Dutrow's decision to breeze him only once in the three weeks between the Preakness and Belmont?
TH: No, I don’t think so. Keep in mind; he was the only horse in the Belmont field that had run all three Triple Crown events. So, he’s already fit and you would expect him to need less work to maintain his fitness level.

TOZ: OK, if it was none of those things, then what was it Unc…er…I mean, Team Haberle?
TH: Glad you finally asked the million dollar question, Nephew Stephen. Remember, one of the things that I said could stop Big Brown from winning the Triple Crown was injury. And, injury includes not just the obvious visible problems (like the catastrophic leg injury suffered by the late, great Barbaro), it includes internal injuries. His inability to fire when asked, and the way Desormeaux pulled him up, appears, to me, to be consistent with a horse bleeding into his lungs (and thereby substantially cutting off his air supply). Now, that is not unusual with thoroughbreds. And, it, generally, is not life-threatening. In fact, many trainers shoot their horses with phenylbutazone prior to races to keep them from bleeding into their lungs. I don’t know if Dutrow did this. And, even if he didn’t, it would be tough to criticize him for not doing so if the horse had never needed it before. Generally, you wouldn’t want to start a horse on a regimen of Bute right before a big race like the Belmont. So, bottom line, I think when everything comes out, we’ll find that Big Brown was not 100% or even close to it once he reached the mile pole.

TOZ: OK, well then, where does/should Big Brown from here?
TH: To join his buddy, Smarty Jones, at stud. What is the point of continuing to race him? The Triple Crown is over. His owners’ have already syndicated his breeding rights. What exactly is to be gained by running him in the Travers Stakes or the Breeders Cup? Sure, his stud fee (on a per cover basis) will be less than they would have been had he won the Triple Crown. But, his owners have pretty much amassed a fortune already with the syndication rights. Let Three Chimneys worry about the stud fees. Why risk injury to him? What would be the point? To prove the Belmont was a fluke? It’s not worth it IMHO.

‘Til next time.


Friday, June 6, 2008

The O Zone...

As many loyal readers of The O Zone are aware, from time to time, I will tap into the dark recesses of the greatest mind not enough people know of... Team Haberle. That will all be changing in the very near future, stay tuned for details.

In fact the image you see posted is in fact a logo yours truly created specifically for TH.

Now I am no graphic designer, nor do I play one on TV BUT... I was able to conceive this logo, along with the extremely appropriate, dead-on tagline.

As I said more will be forthcoming on Team Haberle and The O Zone in the near future and trust me, the world as you know it will never be the same.

As you know, a few weeks ago I went to altar of TH to get his thoughts on Big Brown

And now, on the eve of what could be an historical day, I wanted to go back to TH again for his take on the big horse's chances of winning the Triple Crown. After gaining the necessary top-level clearance, I was able to converse with TH (thru a protective Plexiglas window of course and under the shroud of darkness and cover) and this is what he had to say:

Nephew Steve O (NOTE: those close to TH are able to achieve the status of Nephew or Niece as the case may be... and trust me, this familial designation is not easily achieved nor taken lightly to those it is bestowed upon)...

As you recall, I was on record writing only two things could stop Big Brown
from reaching horse racing immortality:

1.) Injury

2.) Boxing him in

Well, I am not called the Nostradamus of the Equine for nothing. Right after I wrote that, The Big Guy cracked one of his hooves and his trainer, Richard Dutrow, accused Edgar Prado (Barbaro's jockey and author of the book, "My Guy Barbaro") of trying to box in Big Brown.

Am I The Man or am I the Man? You know the answer is an emphatic, "Yea,

Anyway, it appears as though Big Brown's hoof problem is just about completely
healed. The attending Vet said as much and that BB doesn't need any more follow up care other than a small, fiberglass patch they’ll put on it.

In fact, he did his last workout before the Belmont Tuesday morning at 6 furlongs and was apparently none the worse for the wear. It doesn't really matter at this point that he missed a couple days of workouts. He’s very fit. Big Brown is the real deal. A Real Big Brown Deal. I'm not sure, even if they try to box him in, that he can be beat. I’ve heard the “bounce” theory espoused again (i.e., because of two herculean efforts he’ll fall back – “bounce”). Yeah, well, they said that before The Preakness and we all know what happened there, right? Fact of the matter is this: BB doesn’t need to be 100% to beat this crew. Let's just hope they all run a fair race so that Big Brown gets a clear path and a legitimate shot at immortality. Also, say a prayer The Big Guy doesn't sustain another injury (however minor) before

If all goes as it should, Big Brown will become the first Triple Crown winner in 30 years (since Affirmed). And, he'll do it on my birthday. I can't think of a better present. If and when BB takes care of business, then we can talk about where he ranks with the greats like Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Sir Barton, Citation, Whirlaway, and War Admiral.

If you're betting the race, the only value will come in the exotics (i.e., exactas and trifectas). Take Big Brown to win and then look at the 3rd and 4th best odd horses. Not Casino Drive (the Japanese horse who won the Peter Pan over this same track and who will likely be the bettors 2nd choice). Maybe box them underneath BB in the Tri. If you’re betting any other horse than Big Brown to win, why not just send your money to Team Haberle now? Why? Because you'll be wasting it anyway, and I'll make better use of it than your fellow bettors.



I can't let this opportunity go by without commenting on Charlie Manuel and the whole Jimmy Rollins affair.

I have been one of the biggest bashers of Uncle Charlie from the outset but what he did yesterday could very well have changed my view forever.

I'm surely not going to rehash everything, we all know what happened.

But I will say I gained a tremendous amount of respect for Charlie Manuel.


Because this was not some utility infielder we're talking about here folks. This was not some journeyman outfielder, either. This was the reigning National League Most Valuable Player.

And he (Manuel) did not blink when he saw something he did not like and decided to pull Rollins from the game --- which by the way was still a long way from being decided.

How many other coaches/managers would have the audacity, gall AND temerity to do the same thing?

Ok, yes it was not a playoff game, it was not even a game vs. a divisional rival. And perhaps the magnitude of a playoff game or divisional game would impact how Charlie handled the situation, the face remains every game counts in the standings and it took some serious grit to make such a decision.

'Til next time.


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The O Zone...

Rambling thoughts and observations from the annals and dark recesses of The O Zone.

Everyone keeps asking me who I will be rooting for, Celtics or Lakers and I tell them as I will tell all of you: I would rather be forced to watch an Adam Sandler movie-marathon with Rosie O'Donnell on one side of me and Louie Anderson on the other and one only box of popcorn between the 3 of us than EVER root for the Boston Celtics. Lakers in six.

Growing up in the prime of the Mike Schmidt era, I didn't always stop and appreciate how lucky I was to be seeing the greatest third-basemen of all time. Phillies fans, myself included, need to stop every now and then and appreciate the current Phillie who could arguably be the greatest at his position when all is said and done, Chase Utley.

Last night's Pens/Wings game was truly a classic, no doubt about it. And no one was happier with the outcome than the network, even more so than the Pens fans. This sport desperately needs to stay in the proverbial limelight as much as possible and for as long as it can before the Celtics/Lakers take over. The over-the-top ESPN hyperbole machine has already begun and it's only going to get worse once the they actually start to play.

So The Shuffle now wants to dance on the side of the disco, huh? Reported exclusively by ESPN950's Brian Seltzer, the Eagles have had discussions regarding disgruntled cornerback Lito Sheppard lining up and playing some wide receiver. Naturally all parties involved have vehemently denied the story but just as is the case when a manager or coach receives the dreaded Vote of Confidence, the opposite is more than likely true. So look for Lito at wideout this year for a few plays and look for Mets Manager Willie Randolph on a golf course in the very near future.

Remember on Seinfeld (the greatest show in the history of the entire entertainment medium, how's that for hyperbole?) when Jerry was hooked up to the lie detector to see if he did in fact watch Melrose Place? Well clearly Moises Alou needs to be strapped in once and for all and answer the question: Would you have caught the infamous Bartman ball in 2003 had you not been interfered with? In March, Alou was quoted by the AP as saying that he would not have caught it. Now he says he would have caught the ball. So hook him up and let's get this over with and while we're at it, ask him what he really thought about Amanda and Billy.

And finally today... heard a conversation on the radio the other day regarding Madonna and her pending trip to Philly for some reason or another, I don't really care to be honest with you. The host was reminiscing about the last time Madge was in town and he heard about a story told by someone who worked at the hotel in which The Material Girl was shacked up in.

Seems this hotel employee -- and all hotel employees for that matter -- were given explicit instructions to NEVER look Madonna in the eyes, to NEVER make eye contact with the star.

Now this got me thinking. First off, how would she OR anyone ever know if anyone ever made eye contact with her UNLESS she herself (not likely) or one of her posse (likely) noticed the egregious eye-contacting thereof and reported it to the local vision police? So you can make the assumption that one or more of Madonna's staff has in their job description: "Be on the lookout and report all illegal vision-esque communications immediately."

Then I got to thinking how utterly and ridiculous our society has become in regards to how we treat celebrities. See, it's not their fault they're the way they are. Tom Cruise used to be a normal guy, but he got famous for making movies, went off the deep end and now thinks he's the chosen one to spread the word of a former science-fiction writer.

We glorify these people for what? Making movies? Singing songs?

I had this vision of St. Peter at the Pearly Gates reviewing everyone's record for possible admittance into heaven. But on this given day, St. Peter had an appointment with his chiropodist and his replacement was a former editor of People magazine named Bernie.

"Ok, next. Let's see, what do we have here? You were a movie star...You made hit records... You toured around the world... You did drugs... wow, lots of em from what I can see here... You were in rehab.. how many times? Jeezus Chr...oops, can't say that! Boy you've had a great life! Come on in!

Ok, next. Let's see... so you were a fireman AND you served in the National Guard? You saved 5 people, including 3 kids and a dog from a burning building... You single-handedly destroyed an enemy convoy in Iraq... And you organized charities to help under-privileged kids. Hmmmm... How many times you been married? Just once, huh? Any kids from more than one woman? No? That's too bad. Alcoholic? Not that, either? Ever steal anything? (deep sigh) Look, I'd love to get you in but... we're kinda booked solid right now. Thanks for stopping by."

'Til next time.