TONY COX, Host:
I'm Tony Cox and this is News & Notes. From Super Bowl Sunday to racy high school cheerleader dance routines to the revolving top of college basketball, it's time for sports. And there's a lot to talk about on today's "Sports Bloggers Roundtable" joining us are Chad Brown of alphablogsports.blogspot.com and Erika Hernandez who is the features editor for "Rego Magazine." Hello, everybody.
Ms. ERIKA HERNANDEZ (Editor, Rego Magazine): Hello.
Mr. CHAD BROWN (Writer, Alphablogsports.blogspot.com): Hello.
COX: Well, the big day in football finally here. Super Bowl Sunday could be one for the history books from a couple of perspectives. While the Pittsburgh Steelers are going for their record sixth franchise Super Bowl trophy, the Arizona Cardinals are making their Super Bowl debut. For Arizona, Chad, just being there is historic, in and of itself. After all, they've been organizationally challenge, fan-challenged, player-challenged, coach-challenged, but not this year.
Mr. BROWN: (Laughing) No, you're absolutely right. This is unbelievable. If you had said at the beginning of this season or this time last year, the Arizona Cardinals would be representing the NFC in the Super Bowl, nobody would believe you. But having said that, since they got whipped in New England they have - they play like they deserve to be here. They are forcing turnovers, Larry Fitzgerald has been a beast and Kurt Warner, he's now taken a team that relocated to St. Louis and the team that relocated from St. Louis to the Super Bowl. It's unbelievable.
COX: Absolutely it is. You know, Erika, this is isn't Cardinals' quarterback Kurt Warner's first Super Bowl, as we've just said which is good for the Cardinals, of course.
Ms. HERNANDEZ: Right, absolutely.
COX: He's a former league and Super Bowl MVP. A good performance here, a win, for example, he's back in the hunt for the Hall of Fame, isn't he?
Ms. HERNANDEZ: Yes, he is. I think. I mean, I think just with the win over the Eagles definitely people started talking. They were talking all along but now, with - if he does, you know, leave with a ring, I think guarantees him a spot in the Hall of Fame.
COX: I think you're right about that. Hey Chad, the Steelers' quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, has been there as well as a winning Super Bowl quarterback. His health, though, was an issue because of the concussion he got in the last regular season game. But which one of these guys would you rather have starting for you on Sunday, Ben or Kurt?
Mr. BROWN: It's a tough one. I - in an ideal world I take either, or. But I would probably - I'd actually I'd give Kurt Warner the slight edge, even though I'm picking the Steelers, just because he's been there and performed well before. Ben, by his only admission, while he's played well in this post-season, his last Super Bowl trip, he did not do well by his own admission. But, you know, you wipe the slate clean. He's two years removed from that performance. He can do well, but Kurt has just been unbelievable. And it's not even - obviously, the long throws to Larry Fitzgerald or Anquan Boldin, but even the little things like the third-down pass against Atlanta that sealed the game. I thought that was unbelievable. And the screen - and the shovel - and the screen pass for the touchdown against - the game-winning touch down against the Eagles when they had been in a drought. I mean, this guy has really seen everything before. The flipside is they'll be going up against Dick LaBow who has been a - Dick LaBow's defense. And he's been around as long as the National Football League has been around, I believe.
COX: That's true.
Mr. BROWN: But...
COX: It's going to be a real test for him. Who do you like as a quarterback better, Erika?
Ms. HERNANDEZ: I would say right now at this moment it would have to Kurt Warner for the same reason that Chad has given.
COX: Really? Because he does seem to be a little bit on - have momentum going his way but still Kurt could stop that. We'll find out. Speaking of the Steelers, by the way Chad, their Coach Mike Tomlin may also be making history if Pittsburgh wins. He would become only the second black head coach to ever win a Super Bowl, Tony Dungee, the first. Ironically, though, Tomlin was hired by the Rooney family which owns the team. They are the folks who created the so-called "Rooney Rule" under which NFL teams must at least interview minorities for vacant head coaching jobs, talking about paying off.
Mr. BROWN: Oh, absolutely. And actually, it's interesting. He actually wasn't the quote, unquote "Rooney" candidate for the Steelers. They'd interviewed Ron Rivera, the Chicago Bears' defensive coordinator at the time. But thanks to the Rooney Rule of expanding the pool of candidates, they took a look at Tomlin, they had him in for an interview. He blew them away and they had him again. So, he definitely has made use that both in terms of getting in and also in terms of staying. And I've - for me personally, I think the "Rooney Rule" has been good, because it not only expands the pool of candidates, not only on a racial level, but even as far as age level, just expanding the candidacy might not normally looked at. So, now when they're being hired and fired there's not as much outcry as there was when there were fewer African-American coaches and people might have been wondering, why is he being fired? Why he is not? Now, it's - it's more of an even field. I would like to see the rule expanded than more to front office positions as well concerning the jobs that guys like Ozzie Newsome and Gerry Reese have done in constructing championship teams.
COX: Yeah, I think you're right. That's an interesting point. You know, something else we should quickly mention before we move to our next topic is this. Everybody loves the Super Bowl right, Erika?
Ms. HERNANDEZ: Yes.
COX: Right. And at least they used too, I mean, I'm not hearing a lot of talk. It's just I'm hearing talk, but I'm not hearing a lot of excitement about this one, outside perhaps of Pittsburgh or Arizona. NBC is back as the TV host for the game for the first in a long time, that means, John Madden will be back on the mic, and that's usually entertaining, but, I don't know, the buzz just is not there, is it?
Ms. HERNANDEZ: I don't think it is, but I think with this whole Kurt Warner talk and just the whole Manning and Warner thing, I think it's actually sparked it a little bit.
COX: Do you think so?
Ms. HERNANDEZ: I think so.
COX: Chad, you think so?
Mr. BROWN: I would agree to a sense, I think another think you have to look at, remember last year at this time, you had the New England Patriots that were going for 18-0 and you have the New York Giants who were on a tear and also representing two the bigger media markets, bigger fan bases. So, while the Steelers you know, they're going to pack and travel everywhere, the Cardinals, I mean, with no the disrespect to their fans, were kind of like: "Really? Wow, we're going to the Super Bowl? OK." So, that could feed into it, as well.
COX: Yeah, you're probably right. Plus, there's no real bad boys, you know, nobody is misbehaving. Nobody has been in jail or drunk, accidents, any of that sort. It was terrible to say that, but that is part of what makes the storylines so interesting when you have a Dallas and some other kinds (unintelligible).
Mr. BROWN: Yeah, and they didn't even make the playoffs.
Ms. HERNANDEZ: Right.
COX: Yeah, absolutely. So, these are good guys, presumably we'll find out what happens on the court. All right, let's talk about another rule in sports. It has a lot of folks hot under the collar in the state of Texas and beyond. You might call it the "mercy rule," Erika, where in youth sports, the idea is not to embarrass a team that's getting their butts kick. Here's what happened at a high school girl's basketball game in Dallas: The Covenant School slaughtered the Dallas Academy, 100 to 0. That's right, I said, 100 to 0. Ouch. Then, officials from Covenant later apologized, offered to forfeit the game and then fired their basketball coach, calling the team's behavior on the court "embarrassing and shameful." And I should add, I guess, the losing team's players were learning-disabled. Erica, there's a lot to talk about with this. What was your initial thought when you heard about this game?
Ms. HERNANDEZ: Well, everything I read was coming from the Covenant's perspective. I never heard any of the girls - from the Dallas girls, actually complain or feel any type of embarrassment because they lost, actually they kept going. I think in the fourth quarter, they held them to 12 points. So, obviously, they were still in that, too. You know, even if you're just - they held their heads up high and they continued. They didn't want to quit. So, I don't think - I think that mercy rule shouldn't have had any effect in there. As far as, I think there was one of the coach or one of the kid's moms said that you just felt like it was too - like a lay-up drill and they were embarrassing Covenant's kids were just cheering them on. But at the same time, the Dallas girls weren't complaining. They went out there and they kept going.
COX: They did the best that they did. Well, you know, Chad, the team that lost, as I said, was made up of students with learning disabilities. They haven't won a game in four-plus years. Should they even be in a league where they are so outclassed athletically?
Mr. BROWN: Well, I don't think you want to deprive the girls of chance to play it all. So, maybe if you're going to move them into a lower league where, they would have a chance to win, obviously through the same competitive rules. But it seems like with regards to the reactions, I read where the Dallas Academy athletic director said that he was proud of the girls for never having quit. It seem like they were - like Erika said, they were - they weren't - they weren't happy with the results, but they weren't disappointed in the girls, everyone kept on trying. But I did see, they're also, they're also not going to compete with Covenant anymore. So, I guess that takes some of the sting out. So, I don't know what the answer is necessarily.
COX: They certainly appeared on, they appeared on one of the morning shows, I think it was ABC. And they were happy about the effort that they put out and they felt good about themselves, in spite of what their parents and their school may have felt about how the whole thing went down. Question, though, for you Erika is the coach of the winning team got fired, got thrown under the bus for this. You agree with that?
Ms. HERNANDEZ: Absolutely not. And I think it was a wrong move by the Covenants. I just don't think that he needed to be fired. If anything, maybe a suspension, some kind of disciplinary action, but, as far as being fired, it was uncalled for.
COX: Well, the argument was that, and I didn't see the game, I've seen clips of it that they ran the score up in the second half. He said that he took his starters out, but whoever he put in, in the second half of the game, they were still firing up three-balls and still stealing and just running circles around these girls from Dallas Academy.
Ms. HERNANDEZ: He still cares about his girls that he wants them to perform as best as they could. And you know, I'm sure he probably didn't it at that moment, didn't think, you know, these Dallas girls are probably going to feel bad at the end of the game. You know, it's just for him, it's more like you know, these girls have worked hard, so why not, you know, especially if you took the starters out, let the other girls go in and play their game.
COX: Really? What do you say, Chad? What should the coach do in a situation like it? There is no mercy rule in high school athletics.
Mr. BROWN: Yeah, it's a tough call because you're going to put, whether they're your starters or back-ups, you're going to put your players and just say, OK, just give 50 percent? I mean, it's definitely a tough call. And the coach even said afterwards, you know, obviously, this is not - obviously a result like this shows no compassion, but that's not the case. You know, we feel, we feel bad about this. So, it was a bit of a roll reversal, but in terms, in general, I think, I don't know, I think sometimes if the score gets out of hand. I know, when I was playing, when I was on the high school football team, if the score got - if we were 30-nothing, 36-nothing, then we pretty much called off the dogs. So, I don't know, if they - I mean, obviously it's a different sport and different circumstances. So, I don't know, maybe there should be some benchmark but I'd have to agree with Erica. I don't really see why the coach should have been fired in this situation.
COX: Well, this next and last item isn't about mercy, but you could say, it's about taste and what some see as the lack of taste by an Arkansas High School girls dance team that performed during a basketball game. A Jonesboro high school team was disbanded. The coach was removed after the team performed a provocative dance at a basketball game. A video showed up on YouTube - where else - called "The Sluts of Jonesboro" which displayed the girls' performance in thigh-high stockings, short shorts and under-sized shirts. Provocative, sluttish, some pretty harsh descriptions, but I suppose there are anybody that's every seen a game, professional or high school where they have these women performing and girls performing, have seen this kind of thing before. Do you think this went too far?
Ms. HERNANDEZ: Absolutely. At the high school went way too far. I mean, I watched all six minutes of the video. And three minutes until you see the chairs come out. And you know, the lap dancing, you know, starts - that's just too much. You know what? They were wearing, I mean, would it have made a difference if they were wearing more clothing, I don't know. But I mean, the lap dancing just went way too far.
COX: Well, I didn't see them do that. I saw the video. They were around the guys. They never really sat on their - on their laps.
Ms. HERNANDEZ: They didn't, that's true.Yes.
COX: That would have been completely, clearly over the line. My question for you, Chad: You would think somebody approves these dance routines before they are presented to the public, wouldn't you?
Mr. BROWN: Yeah, I would think so. And everything I've read says that it was approved at the time and that something happened in-between the approval or the final practice and when it went it on. But that - there really is no excuse.
COX: (unintelligible) Beyonce and others do this sort of thing on T.V. all the time and they make millions from it, but Beyonce is an adult artist, these are teenagers. But is that enough to make a difference?
Ms. HERNANDEZ: I think so.
COX: You think so. Yeah? What do you say, Chad?
Mr. BROWN: I would have to agree. I would have to agree.
COX: All right. Before I let you go, one more thing. Your Super Bowl picks, Erika.
Ms. HERNANDEZ: Pittsburg 28-17.
COX: And Chad.
Mr. BROWN: Pittsburgh 31-27.
COX: So, you think it's going to be at least interesting before Pittsburgh walks away with their sixth trophy?
Mr. BROWN: I think it's going to be very interesting. There a bunch of factors - there a bunch factors at play here. And I would again, I'm picking Pittsburgh, I wouldn't be - I'm not going to hedge, I wouldn't be surprised if it was the same score the other way around. But I think it's going to be a great game.
COX: I'm pulling for Arizona, I don't know why. I think they're going to lose. I'm just pulling for them just because I'm interested in the story line by Kurt Warner, for sure. All right, Erika. Erika Hernandez is the features editor for "Rego Magazine." She joined us here in the studios of NPR West. And Chad Brown writes for Alphablogsports.blogspot.com. He joined us from NPR's Studios in New York City. Thank you both.
Ms. HERNANDEZ: Thank you, Tony.
Mr. BROWN: Thank you, Tony.
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