Thursday, May 29, 2008

Thanks, Coach Mc...

John McDonnell is entering the bell lap of his remarkable career as Head Coach of the Arkansas Razorback Track and Field team. McDonnell was Frank Broyles first hire we he became Athletic Director at Arkansas. Broyles told me a month ago how he hired John McDonnell as Head Track and Field Coach at Arkansas. In the mid 1970’s while still coaching the football team, Broyles saw a young coach leading the cross country team on a run. An hour later, McDonnell was still leading the team and right then Broyles decided to hire him to coach the track team. And as they say, the rest is history.

All he has accomplished in 36 years in Fayetteville is win 42 National Championships which includes 11 NCAA cross country titles, 19 NCAA Indoor Track and Field and 12 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. By far more McDonnell has won more national championships than any other coach in the history of college athletics. He also lead the Hogs to 5 national triple crowns which is winning NCAA titles in cross country, indoor and outdoor track in the same academic year.

I remember a story former Arkansas head basketball coach Nolan Richardson shared 10 years ago talking about McDonnell. You see Richardson and McDonnell were neighbors in Bud Walton Arena; there offices were next to each other. Richardson told the story of how he returned from Charlotte, N.C. after winning the NCAA Championship feeling pretty good about what he accomplished until he walked by McDonnell’s office and saw all the national championship trophies he had collected and at that time in was in the 30’s. Suddenly, he didn’t feel so good because Richardson knew he could never catch up.

You want some more mind boggling numbers. John McDonnell has won 84 conference championships but here’s an accomplishment that to me is off the charts. The last time Arkansas did not win a conference championship in cross country was 1972. McDonnell won 17 Southwest Conference and 17 Southeastern Conference championships in cross country. That’s 34 in a row during his long tenure coaching the Hogs.

While McDonnell’s teams have routinely outrun their opponents, McDonnell knows he can’t outrun father time. He will turn 70 in July and knew it was time to move on. He made his decision this past winter and made it official in April. McDonnell still has work to do. Arkansas should compete for a NCAA in outdoor track & field this June in Eugene, Oregon. Should the Hogs stand on top of the podium it will be McDonnell’s 43rd National Championship. After that McDonnell will hang up the whistle and trade his track shoes for a pair of boots. McDonnell’s days will be spent on his 2,500 cattle ranch in Eastern Oklahoma.

John Wooden and Paul “Bear” Bryant dominated their high profile sports of men’s basketball and football. There are others who are above their peers; Pat Summitt and Anson Dorrance come to mind. Who’s the greatest coach ever in college athletics? I believe John McDonnell’s body of work at Arkansas gives him that distention. Enjoy your retirement Coach Mc. There will never be another one like you.

That's it, I'm spent.

--John Wilkerson

Call...or No Call?

As a former high school basketball referee, it has been pounded into my brain that no game should ever end on a whistle. “The best ref is an invisible one,” my Nevada game assignor used to tell me. “Let them play, and let them win or lose on their own.”

I actually watched Game Four of the Western Conference finals between the Lakers and the Spurs the other night. Surprising I know, seeing as how the OSG spend most of our time ragging on how bad the sport is (Hey, I have 300 channels, and nothing else was on at the time).

Sure, I watched the Spurs let a 7-point lead slide away into magic nowhere during the last 50 seconds or so of the game. Offense wins games; defense wins championships.

As a referee, when calling a foul you look at whether or not the shooter was impeded from making a shot. You have to make that call in a split-second. I cannot blame Joey Crawford, Joe Forte and Mark Wunderlich – at all. Until you’ve had a whistle in your mouth during a pressure situation, you have no idea how difficult the job is.

Photo courtesy Jerry Lara / San Antonio Express-News

It was Crawford’s call, and his whistle was silent. In my opinion, Barry did not sell the foul enough. Kobe Bryant would have pulled out a Ric Flair flop. Barry just went up and took the off-balance shot. In my humble opinion, Crawford did not want to put a free throw shooter on the line with virtually no time left – possibly sending the game into overtime (FYI, Barry is a 95% free throw shooter on the year).

Not that Crawford ignored a sure foul – he’s been around too long to do that. He, in my opinion, just looked at the situation and deemed in not "enough" of a foul to warrant ending the game on a whistle. I’m sure if Fisher would have knocked Barry down and back across the half-court line, Crawford would have blown the whistle three ways from Sunday.

See, people all over the country – Spurs’ fans, sports radio announcers, troublemakers – are saying the NBA screwed up again. After the Tim Donaghy scandal, people are looking at referees with a microscope. If Crawford would have called that foul, he would have pissed off all the Laker fans for a ticky-tack foul. Damned if you do, and all that.

Even looking at the replay – yes, I will admit there was some contact – but I agree that there was not enough of a shot adjustment to warrant a foul call. Now, the NBA had to go make the situation a lot worse by saying the Spurs got screwed. Who the hell do they think they are? Leaving Crawford out on a limb to hang high and dry – that’s bullsh*t in my opinion. Support your longtime, SOLID referee. Don’t backstab him.

The NBA should have kept their damn mouths closed. They had no right to get into the woods and kick the dead skunk. All they did was stir up one damn bad smell. What they should have done was come out and said, “You know, it’s a tough call. He made it, the game’s over, we have three more to play.”

Of course, when has the No Brains Association EVER made the right decision?

I’m not usually this deep, just deep in it. Trust me.

Reverend Pullhook

Brother Phil and I were out playing golf the other day…

Actually, to be more honest, we were just losing golf balls in some of the worst conditions we’ve ever played in. It was one of those courses that we all have in whatever town we live in.

The fairways aren’t fair...
The greens aren’t green...
And the hazards could scare the ever-living hell out of the local Civil Defense guys.

The guy who designed the course made the best of the situation, or was a direct descendant of Snidely Whiplash. Pick the most incredulous idea for where a hole ((and a hole location, for that matter)) should be- it’s there. This guy woke up on the wrong side of the planet and decided that his course design would resemble what the mind of a 4-year-old would make playing in a sandbox in his back yard.

Whomever felt compelled to call themselves “Greenskeeper” was an abject failure. There were sand traps on multiple greens, and divots that hadn’t been replaced on the same greens that had the bunkers on the other half. A putt could be heading for the hole for one of those rare pars either one of us had on the day, and the damn thing would take a right turn that would bring a red mark from any Driver Ed. Instructor.

But we’ve all been there...

You Sure This Is A Par-61...???

It’s not what the course did to you. It’s what you did on the course.

They call these kind of courses - “Executive.”

I call them “Executions.”

Even if there were transformers buzzing all kinds of electrical energy over your head. And, yes, they could reach out at any wayward moment and grab a ball you misplayed and shock the hell out of it. There was foam in the retention pond on the 2nd Hole- right next to the perpetual goose toilet for a tee box.

The sign, very wisely, pointed out there was to be no swimming or fishing. What it didn’t tell you was that the birthplace for the “Simpsons” three-eyed fish was what you were walking around.

The 8th Hole is, probably, best described as golf’s version of Chinese Handcuffs. The tee box was 208 yards away from pay dirt. Trees cover the cart path on the left. A ditch is under the trees that flank the right side of the chasm- right up to the green. Good luck with your long iron ((or in Phil’s case, a 3-wood that destroyed a few tree limbs as the ball disappeared into the afternoon)).

Balls dropped into hamstring-high rough - never to be found.
And the woods were laughing at their ill-swung gains...
But I took a leak in the woods on the 11th tee box.

We were even...

By the time we got to 16, my game was so bad, I couldn’t help but curse at myself for how bad I had become. Pull-hooks that never existed had emerged from some kind of anxiety closet that I couldn’t barricade with billy-clubbed cops.

So, I got a wild hair...

I teed up a ball ((initially a swoosh-brand, but Phil swapped out a crapper)) on the back of the green and wanted my shot at the electrical power station on top of the other mountain.

“Dude, there’s no way you’ll get it there,” Phil convinced me.

That didn’t keep me from taking my shot.

“I’m aiming for the shed in the front,” thinking that somewhere my driver would make up for all the bad ideas that ran through my hands for the last three hours.

He was right...

Reverend Pullhook and his chorus of perpetual laughter in four-part harmony drove something low and right a good 100 yards short of the target born in a moment of poorly-thought out machismo.

“You can hit it out there, but not that ‘out there.’”

Thanks for the reminder...

The lesson came on 18...

A 162-yard par three that was fairly straight, had bunkers on the right side of the green, and divots on the left side of the green. I pulled out an 8-iron.

And the Right Reverend was out to lunch...

12 feet for birdie and an easy tap in for par...

It’s holes like that that give you that sense of accomplishment. You’ve conquered someone else’s ideas of geography and geometry.

Snidely Whiplash be damned... Phil and I will be back...

Just not with our lunar landers for our next round...

And you will, too... Don’t lie...

Play it safe, everyone... talk to you soon...

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

End of an Era

Tuesday started out as just another day at Sportsnet. Nothing huge was on the schedule, so I started working on a CFL season preview piece.

All of a sudden, word came down from the bad boys at Sportsnet that Damon Allen was retiring. Next thing I know I was working like mad to put together a Damon Allen career retrospective. Wednesday, Allen will say goodbye to the Argos and say goodbye to his remarkable 22-year football career.

Blessed with rare genetics, Allen broke into the CFL in 1985. Consider this. Allen was named the outstanding offensive player in the 1987, the 1993 and the 2004 Grey Cup. Allen threw for more yards than any other quarterback in the history of pro football.

Allen’s dad swung a hammer in the hot Southern California sun for years in order to provide a good home for his family. Allen’s dad also infused his sons Damon and Marcus with the kind of drive and work ethic necessary to make it in pro football.

Putting the piece together, it was amazing to see some of the old footage of a young Allen gliding around his offensive tackle to break off a long run. I say “glide” because that’s the only word I can come up with to describe the smooth way in which Allen used to run through CFL defences. I can still remember like it was yesterday when Allen came off the bench in the 1987 Grey Cup and led the Eskimos to an incredible win over the Argos.

After a solid stint with the BC Lions, Allen arrived in Toronto in 2003 amid whispers around the league that he was washed up. At the age of 41 he led the Argos to the Grey Cup and was named the game's top player. At the age of 42 he won his first and only Most Outstanding Player award of his career.

Approaching his 45th birthday, father time has finally caught to up the seemingly ageless Allen. I find it hard to believe the CFL will ever see another quarterback who plays as long and puts together the kind of epic numbers that Allen accumulated over two-plus decades of pro football.

I have had the pleasure to get to know Allen over the years. Of all the stories that come to mind when talking about his career, there is one that sticks out above the rest. Two nights before the 2004 Grey Cup, the Argos held a team dinner. Damon Allen stood up and looked each and every player in the eye and told them he didn’t want to win Sunday’s game for himself. He said he wanted to win that game for all of them. Receiver Michael Palmer told me next year at training camp that he got a lump in his throat when Allen gave his speech. It was a great example of the kind of leadership that Allen was never given proper credit for.

Allen is not a man or a player without fault. But no one can ever take away his incredible career numbers.

More importantly, no once can ever deny the fact that Damon Allen took his game to another level in the Grey Cup.

--Jim "Clubber" Lang

One of Sportsnet's most versatile reporters, Jim covers the Leafs beat, can be seen regularly on Connected and can be read weekly on

(This blog republished with permission from its author)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

We're Baaaaaaaaaaack!

Yes, we are back. The OSG is back and we are badder than ever. We’ve missed everyone over the past several months, but we are damn glad that you are coming back. For those of you new to us, sit down, get comfortable and take a look around - the OSG is Sports, all Sports, nothing but Sports all the damn time!

We’ve been Busy...

There’s been a lot going on, in all of our lives and jobs and everything in between. For me, hell, I’ve been all over the place, the adventures still continue and in some cases they’ve been stranger than ever.


I’m skipping January because J-Dub graciously posted my story about the Georgia/Hawaii Football game (The Sugar Bowl). Take a look if you have a minute, it was a lot of fun and there were a couple of funny photos in there.

The other big story was the Falcons hiring yet another new coach, Mike Smith. When he was hired, there was a collective “Huh?”, but as we’ve gotten to know the guy, we’ve grown to like him and wish him nothing but the best of luck - he’s going to need it.

February as usual was Braves Spring Training. Spring Training is always a lot of fun, probably one of my favorite things to cover and there are always a ton of interesting and fun stories to tell. This year, intrepid Sports Anchor Mark Harmon and I got to meet the Quilt Lady, she and her friends were a hoot. Their main objective- to get everyone who plays for the Braves to sign the Quilt.

There were a few other good laughs in there, family dinner with the other TV Crews is always a highlight, and this year was really special. It was WSB-TV Sports Anchor Bill Hartman’s last, he’s retiring in September (future column and possible OSG Radio Interview). Bill spent the evening at the Columbia Restaurant telling stories from when he got in the business back around 1969 or 70. Very cool stuff about things like Jerry Quarry and Muhammed Ali, historical stories, things that have never been talked about much, I can’t say enough about how much fun it is to hear Bill tell these stories.


March, well, it certainly lived up to the “March Madness” nickname. Brother Wilkie touched on the Tornado-strewn SEC Basketball tournament, I was there as well and let me just say, “I’ve seen a lot of things, but I damn sure ain’t seen anything like that.” It was just a scheduling fluke that I wasn’t at the Georgia Dome when the tornado hit, with Georgia playing late (after 10pm) we decided not to go because we couldn’t turn anything for the 11pm News.

Standing on the floor of Georgia Tech’s basketball arena watching the SEC tournament on that Saturday had to be one of the most surreal things I’ve ever seen. Seeing Georgia win the first game against Kentucky wasn’t much of a surprise, you could tell 5 minutes in that it was going to happen. Seeing them win, then beat Mississippi State 4 hours later…no way. Seeing them win the next afternoon over Arkansas…never.

Three days later, I found myself on the floor of the (_____ insert phone company here) Arena in Washington D.C watching the Bulldogs prepare to play Xavier in the first round of the NCAA tournament and the only thing I could think was, "How the hell did this happen?"


April didn’t offer tons of relief. Masters Week came a week later than normal, but it came…and went…and was over before we knew it. There really wasn’t a whole lot of intrigue or excitement, the tournament just kind of happened. I guess for lack of anything else, the highlight of the week was the new and improved press dining area (yes, they have one of those). It actually had food other than the traditional bagged sandwiches and it was pretty good.

The biggest of the strange sights of the past few months would have to be the Hawks and the 1st round of the NBA Playoffs. I’ve got to say, if you had said “How are the Hawks going to do against the Celtics in the Playoffs?” I would have said “They are going to get swept.” Well, not only did that not happen, they gave the city of Atlanta and the NBA world notice, “You better take us seriously.” I’ve got to say, the sight of a full Philips Arena and the deafening sound of the crowd was one of the most exciting settings I’ve been around in a long time. For game 3, I turn around and right behind me on the floor, Rapper T.I. and a little later I saw Jermaine Dupri in the crowd. There were old Hawks and new Falcons; it was an actual event surrounding a basketball game, something not seen in a long, long time in Atlanta.

The other highlight would be the NFL Draft. The Falcons picked former Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan. Again, there were more than a few raised eyebrows over that one, but the more we see and interact with Ryan, the more we believe that he just may be the “Real Deal” (No, not Evander Holyfield).


There hasn’t, thankfully, been as much going on in May and that quite frankly is a good thing. There have been the traditional Braves stories, a few football stories and a few other odds and ends - but no holy crap moments.


This brings us to today, the grand, triumphant return of the OSG. Hopefully it will be more successful than other such returns like the Four Horseman or Degeneration X but only time will tell. We just want you to keep reading, keep checking us out and keep in touch. We’ve got a lot of things that we are working on, if they are successful, you’ll be seeing us a lot more often in a bunch more places. Yes, like everyone else on the Internet, we have a plan for Global Domination, the plan is still coming together, but with your help it WILL come to fruition and we will be able to entertain and inform in the best way possible.

--Phil Cantor

"The time has come, my song is over, thought I’d something more to say”- Time (Pink Floyd)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Just Plain Weird...

I have been to many big events with huge crowds but what I witnessed Sunday during the final of the SEC Tournament was bizarre. I was one of 1,500 invited guests at Alexander Memorial Coliseum on the Georgia Tech campus that witnessed Georgia’s most improbable run to a SEC Championship. It was more of a State High School Tournament atmosphere complete with the old school buzzer in the arena. All that was missing was the Booster Club selling bad hot dogs and microwave pizzas at the concession stand.

The 2008 SEC Tournament was just plain weird. First, what are the odds of a F2 Tornado ripping through downtown Atlanta and damaging the Georgia Dome while the game is still going on!!! I’m glad I left the building a hour and a half before all hell broke loose. That the Georgia Bulldogs had to play and also win 2 games on Saturday with the Dogs first game vs Kentucky going overtime, then win the SEC title on Sunday on sheer guts and lastly, cutting the nets in the building of it’s bitter in-state rival, Georgia Tech.

Looking back on the series of events this weekend at the SEC Tournament, it’s easy to be tougue and cheek over this but in all seriousness, the Southeastern Conference had a herculean task ahead of them. Executive Associate Commissioner Mark Womack and his entire staff made the best of an extreme situation and pulled it off. Think about all the logistics that had to be worked out. Finding a venue, getting cooperation from the athletic directors of the remaining schools playing and the television partners to re-schedule the games and what to do with the fans who travelled with their teams, these were all challenges for the SEC. I asked Womack Sunday how much sleep he’s gotten and Mark just smiled and said "Not very much."

Next year, the ACC Tournament takes place at the Georgia Dome and yes, they do have a plan in case all hell breaks loose again in downtown Atlanta. But if I reveal it, they would have to kill me.

That’s it, I’m spent.

--John Wilkerson