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It was so easy to root for team-first WVU

| Monday, March 28, 2005

I heard from some Pitt fans over the past week who said they couldn't root for West Virginia under any circumstances. One guy told me he could only pull for the Mountaineers if they were playing Penn State.

But I heard from many more Pitt fans who just couldn't help themselves from jumping on the West Virginia bandwagon in their improbable run to the Elite Eight. It makes practical sense in that they were carrying the banner for a Big East Conference which, in general, had a bad NCAA Tournament. A rising tide floats all boats. Never mind that Louisville, which defeated West Virginia on Saturday, will be in the Big East next year.

But the sentiment towards WVU made sense from an emotional standpoint as well. Sports today are dominated by superstars who are bigger than life, and certainly bigger than their individual teams.

But West Virginia played with an old fashioned unselfishness that may have best been exemplified by their first half against Louisville. Every player who got into the game scored, and all but one first-half basket had an assist attached.

Regardless of most fans' usual affiliations, these 'Eers were easy to root for.

  • The Associated Press conducted a poll of baseball Hall of Fame voters last week, and it's clear Mark McGwire damaged his chances by his performance -- or lack thereof -- during his testimony as part of the Congressional hearings on steroids earlier this month.

    While some of the effects of that will fade with time -- McGwire's not even eligible for the hall for two years -- I wonder if he is Cooperstown material anyway.

    His 583 home runs and 1,414 RBIs most likely would make him a shoe-in, but he's just a .263 lifetime hitter, and he was never anything special with the glove.

    The other guys in the 500 home run club had other things going for them, like speed, fielding wizardry and great arms. I'm talking about players like Willie Mays, Frank Robinson and even Babe Ruth, who was a great pitcher as well. McGwire was basically a one-trick pony, and the trick he performed regularly was most likely aided by chemistry.

    Barry Bonds was part of the same poll, and while he did better than McGwire, he doesn't at the moment have the support a player of his stature should. But Bonds was a hall of fame type player before he started hitting 60- and 70-plus homers a year. He was a great base stealer, won gold glove awards, and hit for average.

    Without steroids, I think both deserve to be in the hall of fame. With steroids, McGwire is a tough sell, but Bonds deserves strong consideration anyway.

  • Speaking of Bonds, his pity party in Arizona last week was almost laughable. If he thinks any member of the media is going to feel badly for their treatment of him, he's nuts.

    He brought 90 percent of this grief upon himself. He should direct his anger at his long-time mistress for writing her book. He should direct his anger at the person who leaked his grand jury testimony to the San Francisco Chronicle.

    I could care less Bonds ever plays again, but he will. Still, he could play another 100 years and still just not get it. You can't be one of the greatest baseball players ever and make millions of dollars while living in a vacuum. But that's what he wants.

    Why do you think most famous people lose perspective and have such strange lives• It's the same with movie stars and rock stars. Bonds has never been good with the fans, the media, or even the guys in his own clubhouse. His own college teammates hated him before he had any reason to be so bitter.

    Bonds will be back. He will break Hank Aaron's home run record. But what could have been one of the greatest moments in baseball history will just have another cloud over it. The same cloud that Bonds has allowed to stay over his head for his entire caree despite dazzling sunshine underneath it.

  • I hate that the Pirates are planning on carrying 12 pitchers again. I know their starters aren't ready to go seven, eight, or nine innings yet, but there are only 24 games in 30 days in May, and 11 pitchers should be plenty. If I were managing, I would want that extra guy on the bench.

  • If New Orleans Saints coach Jim Haslett wanted to come clean with his admission of steroid use last week, more power to him. I admire him for telling the truth. But he had no right in pointing fingers at a 1970s Steelers team, claiming that steroid use in the NFL started with them. Haslett was not even a part of that team.

    In his book, Jose Canseco accused a lot of people of a lot of wrongdoings, but they were things he at least claimed to be witness to, or took part in. Haslett may have played against those Steelers teams back then, and eventually he coached for the organization, but he was treading unfairly in the water.

    Haslett may be right. In fact, I believe most of what he said. The Steelers of the 70's are almost untouchable around these parts, and it's extremely unpopular to criticize them in any way. That's not why Haslett should have kept it to himself; It's just not for him to say.

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