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New Zealander Bevan Docherty says he was snubbed by Lance Armstrong after winning the Panama half ironman on Sunday and knocking the seven-time Tour de France winner into second place in his first professional triathlon.
Docherty beat Armstrong by 31 seconds after overtaking the American on the running leg of the event, which was raced in searing heat in Panama City, not far from the western entrance to the Panama Canal.
An Olympic silver medalist, Docherty told New Zealand media that Armstrong brushed past him at the finish line without offering congratulations, but later briefly shook his hand and acknowledged his victory.
“I’m not sure what it was all about. I can only assume he was just disappointed to get beaten,” Docherty said.
“I did shake his hand a little bit later. He’s on a completely different level and planet to us guys (triathletes),” Docherty said. “It’s great to have him in the sport, he certainly adds something. It’s an eye-opener to see how he gets mobbed and the chaos around him.”
Armstrong didn’t address Docherty’s reaction in an interview on the event’s website, but did say Docherty “deserved to win.”
“I’d rather get second than walk home and get seventh,” Armstrong said. “I played it conservative — I knew he was going to have to make a big effort to catch me — he caught me.”
Docherty said he was surprised Armstrong didn’t dominate the race’s 55-mile cycling leg.
“I thought Lance would absolutely cream us on the bike, but he was probably in a similar position to me where he wasn’t too sure how to pace himself,” he said. “He certainly looked like he was holding back and that was probably why he ran so well off the bike.”
Armstrong led Docherty after the cycling, but the New Zealander made up ground on the 16½-mile running leg and passed Armstrong about 1½ miles from the finish.
“I think the one takeaway is the bike,” Armstrong said. “It is much different than I thought. Even though this is an individual discipline, and an individual sport, there’s more to it than that and you have to factor that in.
“You read about it, you hear about it, you see it in Kona,” Armstrong said of the iconic Hawaii Ironman. “You have to be consistent with your effort because you still have to run.”
“I don’t need a job, so I need a challenge in my life. I need some stuff to do. I like to train, I like to suffer a bit.
”– Lance Armstrong
Armstrong began his career as a triathlete before switching to cycling and winning seven successive Tours de France.
“It’s great that I could hold one up for the other triathletes and show that it’s certainly not a sport that you can just walk into and dominate straight away,” Docherty told the New Zealand Herald. “It’s quite an honor to see a seven-time Tour de France winner and someone you admire standing in second place below you on the podium. It’s a highlight of my career.”
Federal authorities decided Feb. 3 that Armstrong would not be charged after a two-year probe into accusations he and his cycling teammates systematically used performance-enhancing drugs.
“I don’t need a job, so I need a challenge in my life,” Armstrong said. “I need some stuff to do. I like to train, I like to suffer a bit. It’s great to be back. This sport has changed a lot. Back when I raced, I did Olympic distance races and sprint races. It was a very different game back then. Not better, not worse, just different.”
Armstrong said he was taken by surprise by the cycling portion of the event.
“The ride was harder than I expected,” Armstrong said. “Obviously, it started to get warmer and it was windy and the run was just an oven. I did what I could and stuck with my pace and I just didn’t have enough in the end.”
Armstrong said he trained hard in preparation for the run.
“I have been running a lot,” he said. “It’s no secret that’s the way you’re competitive here. That’s the way you win races. I said the other day, I think you ride for show and run for dough, and I mean it. At one point in my life I was a decent runner, so I just need to get back and rediscover that. I need to stick with it, get the repetition in, lose some weight, work on my stride, stay consistent and stay injury free.”
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
Josh Turnley and Dominic Canello, D1 Pittsburgh Prep Athletes, signed National Letters of Intent to play Collegiate Soccer at Georgetown University and Slippery Rock University. The letters were signed at D1 Pittsburgh and we caught it all!
ESPN.com recaps Super Bowl XLVI:
Eli Manning is all grown up. Sure, he finished his 2011 season on Sunday by winning the Super Bowl and taking home the game’s MVP trophy after completing an instant classic of a fourth-quarter drive, just as he did at the end of the 2007 campaign. The differences between the process enlisted by Old Eli and New Eli, though, are stark. The old Eli Manning struggled through an uneven regular season before raising his game to unforeseen heights during a shocking playoff run. The new Eli Manning? He’s been playing at an excellent level all year and rose to something even higher during the playoffs. In 2007, while Manning may have been playing the position traditionally associated with leadership, he wasn’t anywhere close to the best player on his team. He did not lead his team to a title; he was dragged, kicking and screaming, by a dominant defense. Four years later, Eli Manning stood at the helm and dragged a flagging defense to a second World Championship. This, so much more than 2007, was Eli’s title.
The numbers don’t lie. In each of his two Super Bowl runs, Manning has followed a four-year stretch with a playoff performance that dramatically improves upon his established level of play. Notably, during his two title runs, Manning has been able to essentially avoid interceptions while becoming a much more accurate quarterback than the guy he had previously been.
Forget about the numbers, though. Consider the excuses that we could come up with when trying to analyze Manning’s performance from four years ago, and how few of them actually apply now. The famous “Helmet Catch” from 2008 was one of the most memorable and exciting plays in NFL history, but it was a dangerous throw and a miraculous catch as opposed to some sort of perfectly executed decision. Manning’s throw down the sidelines to Mario Manningham also required a brilliant catch, but the play worked because Eli hit Manningham with an even more impressive pass. The Helmet Catch, somewhat infamously, was preceded by a terrible Manning decision that saw him launch a would-be season-ending interception to the sidelines, only for Asante Samuel to let the clinching pick go through his fingertips. There was no such play this time around. The Helmet Catch oozed luck and good fortune. Manning-to-Manningham oozed a different class of skills.
Those Giants were also a different team, something we discussed in the Super Bowl preview. That team was built around running the ball and playing tough defense, two things it did with aplomb. Those Giants averaged 4.6 yards per carry, good for fourth in the league, and had an offensive line that was so good it garnered MVP discussion the following year. It created a play-action passing attack and provided easy reads for its limited quarterback. These Giants averaged a league-low 3.5 yards per pop and looked shambolic at times over the past two weeks. Eli was able to throw the ball in spite of them, not because of them.
The defense from 2007 was above average before raising its game in the playoffs, notably dominating the Patriots on the line of scrimmage and sacking Tom Brady five times. This year’s defense was below average by most any metric, including a 25th-place finish in points allowed. To put that into context, Eli Manning just won the Super Bowl with a defense that allowed more points per drive this season than the Rams did. They were able to get pressure on Brady during the final two drives of the fourth quarter, and forced a safety on Brady’s first pass attempt, but both the safety and two sacks appeared to be coverage-caused pressure. Either way, most of the crutches Eli might have relied upon to boost his production in 2007 don’t seem to stand up very well in 2011.
Eli’s big win also started the chatter about his legacy and eventual case for enshrinement in the Hall of Fame. That’s where we pull the brakes. Winning two Super Bowl MVPs is a remarkable achievement, one pulled off by just four other players. Of those four, three (Joe Montana, Bart Starr, and Terry Bradshaw) are in the Hall of Fame, and the fourth (Tom Brady) will be voted in at the first moment of eligibility. So he’s off to a good start. You’ll probably hear that Manning has won two Super Bowls before finishing his age 30 season, just as Joe Montana did in San Francisco. That’s true. On the other hand, remember how we noted Manning’s improvement from 2008 to 2011? Those were his age 27 through age 30 seasons, and over that time frame, he was 13th in the league in cumulative completion percentage, eighth in yards per attempt, and 10th in passer rating. Montana, during those same seasons in his career, was first in completion percentage, third in yards per attempt, and second in passer rating.1 For Manning to take the next leap forward from very good quarterback and playoff hero to elite, surefire Hall of Famer, he has to continue to play at the new level of ability he established during the two Super Bowl runs. If he can do that, even for a few years, there’s no way the Hall of Fame will be able to keep Manning out.
That’s all gristle for another day, anyway. Right now, it’s time for Eli Manning to celebrate a title all his own. He’s finally led his team to a Super Bowl victory.
Super Bowl XLVI ended up being quite interesting, even if it wasn’t always all that pretty. It felt like a game that was constantly teasing to become a classic shootout, always one play-action fake and a long look downfield away from suddenly morphing into a track meet. Both teams attempted to take away the deep pass by sacrificing yards underneath, which turned the game into a chess match of pick plays, sweeps, and passes into the flats for small, consistent gains. Outside of the Manningham catch, the longest play of the game was a 21-yard reception by Chad Ochocinco on a two-man route, one of the rare occasions where the Patriots did go with the play-action and provided Tom Brady with maximum protection. On that play, Brady had eight blockers; most of the time he had five as part of an empty backfield look that was designed to stretch the Giants horizontally and create an open receiver before the pass rush had a chance to get home.
As frustratingly cliched and simplistic as it is, this game came down to two big plays and a smattering of luck. When Wes Welker got open up the seam for a huge play with 4:06 left in the fourth, a catch might have sealed the game for the Patriots. If Welker went on to score a touchdown, the Pats would have led by 10 points with four minutes (and one Giants timeout) to go. Only the Cowboys can blow that kind of lead to the Giants. Even if Welker were tackled and the Patriots stopped, they would have been able to kick a field goal and go up six points with about two minutes to go. Instead, the pass didn’t go quite as planned. While Welker was open, Brady had to throw the ball away from the safety in the middle of the field to keep Welker from getting creamed. In attempting to do so, he overthrew the pass and forced Welker to make an awkward turn for the ball. Welker still could have made the catch, but it was far more difficult than it needed to be. The receiver has tried to take responsibility for the play, but it’s likely more on Brady than it is on Welker. Welker dropped his game-changing bomb, and when the Giants were backed up on their 12-yard line two plays later, Manningham got free up the left sideline and caught his. Flip the success on those two plays and the Patriots win.
Those plays aren’t lucky, of course, but what happened with the game’s two fumbles was. Fumbles from Hakeem Nicks and Ahmad Bradshaw bounced dangerously on the Lucas Oil turf, but the Giants were able to get to each ball and fall on it before the Patriots could recover. The Bradshaw fumble would have been particularly devastating, as it would have given the Patriots the ball on the Giants’ 11-yard line early in the fourth quarter with the chance to go up two scores. A third Giants fumble was recovered by the Patriots, but came on a play where New England had 12 men on the field, which returned the ball to the Giants and wiped the fumble off the books.
Now, angry Giants fans, let us clarify what “luck” means in this context. The Giants were not lucky to win Super Bowl XLVI because they fumbled twice and fell on both of them. They played a very good football game against a great football team, but it’s pretty clear that this game was close enough that either team could have won without the other team feeling like they had something stolen from them. In tight games like this one, the reality is that the difference between winning and losing often comes down to the bounce of a football or some arbitrary fluke of timing, like who gets the ball last in a shootout or (under the old rules) won a coin toss at the beginning of overtime. That doesn’t mean that the Giants were lucky to win! It means that the two teams were so close that an act of randomness was important enough to dramatically shift the game in their favor.
If Bradshaw’s bouncing fumble was picked up by the Patriots and returned for a touchdown as part of what eventually became a Patriots win, would the Giants be any less talented of a football team? Would they have deserved to win any more or any less? Of course not. There’s no shame in getting the breaks. Someone’s got to get them, and they’re incredibly valuable. The Giants recovered eight of the 10 fumbles that hit the ground during their four playoff games, and had they failed to recover either of the Kyle Williams muffed punts or the Bradshaw fumble on Sunday, they might not have won the Super Bowl.
A third factor, of course, were the effects of Rob Gronkowski’s high ankle sprain. After two weeks of talk about how Gronkowski was 100 percent, he was just the latest victim of that dreaded injury, struggling through a game where he was clearly a shell of his normal self. Gronkowski caught just two passes for a total of 26 yards, and according to ESPN Stats and Information, he played a season-low 72.6 percent of Patriots plays. He was the intended receiver on the lone turnover of the game, a bomb where Gronkowski was one-on-one against Giants middle linebacker Chase Blackburn. That would normally be a huge mismatch for the Patriots, but Brady underthrew his pass and Gronkowski wasn’t able to make a creditable play on the football in the air, allowing Blackburn to pick off the pass.2 Of course, Gronkowski was also unable to come up with a deflection off of the Hail Mary on the final pass of the game, and while it’s not clear that he would have been able to do so with a healthy ankle, it’s hard to imagine that he wouldn’t have had a better shot at it.
It didn’t take an injured Gronkowski, some friendly bounces of the ball, and a win in the biggest two-play exchange of the game to get the Giants to win this Super Bowl. They might have been able to beat a healthy Gronkowski, get past a long completion to Welker, and even survive a lost Bradshaw fumble. They only play each Super Bowl once, though, and in the game that played out on Sunday, those tiny differences qualified as the margin of victory.
In the World Series, two of baseball’s worst in-game tacticians engaged in something resembling a comic slapfight of idiocy. Not so in the Super Bowl. Despite the huge stakes and the veteran nature of each coach, both Tom Coughlin and Bill Belichick were aggressive in trying to improve their respective teams’ chances of winning, even if it meant doing something that most coaches would never consider. In fact, while he’ll never admit it, Coughlin may have deliberately broken the rules and been absolutely, positively right to do so.
Let’s skip to the fourth quarter and take on the game’s three big coaching decisions in chronological order. We’ll start with Bill Belichick’s decision to throw the red challenge flag out on Mario Manningham’s enormous catch for 38 yards with 3:46 left, a play that finished virtually right in front of Belichick on the Patriots’ sideline. Neither Belichick nor his video people likely got a chance to review a replay before throwing the challenge flag, which is normally a sign of a terrible challenge, but this was a situation where throwing the flag made total sense. It was a low-risk, high-reward challenge.
Why is that? Well, the reward is obvious: If Manningham happened to step out of bounds, the Patriots wipe the game’s biggest play off the books and send the Giants back to their 12-yard line. It’s an enormous shift in field position, particularly in a game where big plays had been so hard to find. If you believe in the power of momentum, a replay review would calm down the Giants-friendly crowd and give the Patriots a chance to recover from the shock of the play, even if the challenge ended up unsuccessful. The risk of losing a challenge is basically nil, since the Patriots had two challenges left with just under two minutes of game time to go before they lost them. The risk here is that you lose one of your three timeouts, and as it turned out, the Patriots ended up wishing they had that timeout when they were trying to stop the Giants near the goal line. Had the Patriots been able to stop the Giants short on three consecutive plays after the two-minute warning, they could have held Big Blue to a field goal attempt and still had plenty of time to try a drive for the win with Brady. That’s why it’s low-risk and not no-risk. Every decision like this in a close game carries a certain amount of risk and reward; a good coach considers risk without being unnecessarily averse to it. Bill Belichick, as you might suspect, is a good coach.
Next, Belichick sullied all that is right about the game of football by allowing the Giants to score on an Ahmad Bradshaw run with 1:04 left in the fourth quarter, giving the Giants a four-point lead while allowing his team to get the ball back in an attempt to drive for the winning touchdown with some reasonable amount of time. Bradshaw now-famously realized what was going on mid-play and tried to delay himself from scoring, but let’s review the decision-making heading into the play. What should each team have done?
Win Probability charts aren’t perfect because they don’t adjust for the teams involved, but they’re the best tool for answering a question like this. Here, the Giants-Patriots WP chart on advancednflstats.com notes that the Giants had an 89 percent chance of winning the game when Hakeem Nicks picked up a first down on the New England 7-yard line with 1:09 left. From there, the Giants could have chosen to kneel three times, force the Patriots to use their final timeout, and then attempt a game-winning field goal with seconds on the clock without ever giving the ball back to the Patriots. The model might even be underestimating their chances; history suggests that an average field goal kicker will convert a 24-yard field goal about 96 percent of the time, and the Giants were playing on turf with the options to both move the ball onto Lawrence Tynes’ desired hash mark while falling on the ball and trying again in the case of a bad snap. And if you think Tynes is a terrible kicker, note that he’s 56-of-57 on kicks from 20 to 29 yards during his career.
Instead, when Bradshaw scored the most mournful game-winning Super Bowl touchdown in history, the Win Probability analysis suggests that the Giants’ odds of winning decreased to 85 percent. That’s right: Bill Belichick was likely correct to allow the Giants to score, and the Giants should have taken a knee and decided to kick the chip shot field goal instead.3 If you use the 96 percent win expectancy that we’re suggesting instead of the model’s 89 percent, it’s patently obvious that the Giants should have kneeled and kicked.
Instead, they scored and got to sweat out an exciting final minute of football before the confetti shower began. They might even have exploited a funny little loophole in the rule book. With 17 seconds left, Tom Brady took a snap and desperately searched around for an open receiver. He eventually launched a pass to a well-covered Aaron Hernandez that fell incomplete, but not before eight seconds had passed and a flag had fallen to the ground. The penalty? The Giants had 12 men on the field, a five-yarder that would allow the Patriots to replay the down from their own 49-yard line, but not reclaim the time on the clock.
In a situation where a team needs a touchdown with 20 seconds or so left in the game, time can be far more important than yards. Trading eight seconds for five yards there is a decision the defense will take every time, and even if the Patriots had the ability to get off a free play, the Giants had 12 men on the field and were more likely to stop such a play from succeeding. It’s brilliant. It’s illegal. But was it on purpose?
Normally, we wouldn’t accuse a coach of employing such a strategy. Tom Coughlin certainly doesn’t have a reputation for stretching the rules. But fellow Grantland contributor Chris Brown pointed out that there’s a precedent for such behavior: Buddy Ryan’s “Polish Defense” tactic, a move he employed near the goal line. Take it away, playbook:
THREE EXTRA LINEBACKERS GO INTO THE GAME.
Situation: The opponent is inside the 5 yard line going in to score. There is less than 15 seconds left. We want to stop their offense from scoring and in the process, we want to run the clock down to where they have enough time for just one play. So, we will stop them, get penalized half the distance to the goal, but leave them with enough time to run one play. We will then go back to our regular goal line defense and stop them to win the game.
Chris’ post also notes that Ryan later placed 14 men onto the field for a last-minute punt while considering the same sort of strategy, and actually got away with it when the referees failed to recognize the extra men and didn’t throw a flag.
It’s easy to see how this might work for the Giants. By taking eight seconds off the clock, they force the Patriots into a situation where they essentially will have to throw a Hail Mary on the next play (or, in the worst case, two plays later). In fact, just as Ryan lamented not having 15 men on the field for the punt, the Giants probably should have run 13 men4 onto the field for the play, ensuring that a completion was almost certainly not forthcoming before taking their lumps.
In reality, the Giants probably just screwed up and put 12 men on the field amid all the excitement and drama of the final series. But don’t be surprised if an NFL team remembers this situation next season, refers back to Ryan’s mantra, and throws 14 players on the field for a key defensive snap inside 30 seconds. The NFL would be smart to close this loophole in the rules and turn the defensive 12-men penalty into a true free play, allowing the offense to either take the result of the play or the option of accepting a five-yard penalty with the time run off from the play added back onto the clock.
Seriously. It’s ok. We want these, too. Thanks, MSNBC.com!
I am a fanatical Giants fan. My father got me watching the games with him at the beginning of the 86-87 season and by the time they got to the Super Bowl that year I was already hooked for life. Whenever they reach the big game we always throw a huge party, so we’re already hard at work making plans. If you had told me a month ago that the Giants weren’t really a bunch of bums, I would have planned ahead and ordered up some of these absurd gadgets to make the party even more fun.
The Grill Sergeant Apron The Super Bowl is coming. Time to lock and load your Grill Sergeant tactical apron and get cooking. Condiments? Check. Grilling utensils? Check. Six rounds of beer? Check. All right soldier, here’s your burger. Remember — there are many like it, but this one is yours. Here’s a beer. You may fire until drunk. $19.99 — Perpetual Kid via That’s Nerdalicious
Porta-Pizza oven This 12V portable pizza oven plugs right into your dashboard, making it perfect for tailgating … or sustaining yourself until the fire department comes with the Jaws of Life. $36 — Stupididiotic
Football cocktail shaker This cocktail shaker is the ideal way to make mixed drinks for your Super Bowl party. Just fill the steel shaker inside the foam-covered football with your ingredients of choice then toss it around to your friends until ready. Booze, running and flying cocktail shakers — what could go wrong? $16.62 — Amazon via Nerd Approved
Brewsees sunglasses No need to pack a bottle opener for your tailgate this time around because Brewsees sunglasses give you double the functionality with a metal-reinforced opener behind each ear. So now you can literally blame your indiscretions on a bad case of beer goggles. $29.99 — Brewsees via That’s Nerdalicious
Blacktop 360 grill The Blacktop 360 is the Swiss Army Knife of grills. It’s portable and features a 20-ounce deep fryer surrounded by a griddle, warming plate and infrared grill that can heat your meat up to 650 degrees. Small propane canisters are all you need to get cooking. $249.99 — Blacktop 360 via That’s Nerdalicious
Human organ cooler Whenever I’m on the grill for a big cookout, I often set aside a few beers, sauces and the like in a small portable cooler so they are always at arm’s length. This human organ transplant lunch cooler fits the bill while insuring that nobody goes snooping around inside. It also works great as a theft deterrent in the office break room — except when you’re an EMT. $20 — ThinkGeek via That’s Nerdalicious
Potato chip wand I’m going to need my fingers to be grease-free so that I can use my smartphone to furiously tweet about the ridiculous holding penalties on the Giants. The answer to this dilemma is this chip-holding hand wand from Japan. It delicately holds your chips and helps you bring them cleanly to your mouth. How have we lived so long without this groundbreaking product? Price not available — Takaratomy via Nerd Approved
Beer pouch sweat shirt In addition to grease-free fingers, I’ll also need my hands free from time to time to deliver a well-timed high five when Victor Cruz converts on a crucial first down. Thankfully, a hoodie exists that allows you to store your beer like a boozy kangaroo baby. $29.99 to $34.99 — Vat19 via Fashionably Geek
Brass knuckles meat tenderizer One way that I can take out my frustrations when the Giants get stuffed on third-and-one is to tenderize meat for the grill with these specially designed brass knuckles. Thanks to their lackluster running game, my steak will be delicious. $9.95 — CoolStuffExpress via That’s Nerdalicious
Beer Froster fridge When it comes to determining whether or not a beer is cold, your hand is woefully obsolete. But don’t rely on cold-activated bottles to aid you in the quest for the perfectly chilled beer — step up your game with a Beer Froster fridge. It holds the temperature at a frosty 24 degrees at all times — the coldest beer can get without freezing. $599 to $2,800 —Beerfroster via That’s Nerdalicious
ASPEN, Colo. — Texan brothers Colten and Caleb Moore shared the Snowmobile Freestyle podium at Winter X Games 2012 on Thursday night with Colten winning the gold, Joe Parsons taking silver, and Caleb claiming bronze.
“I knew I had to come bring everything I have, plus some,” Colten said moments after securing the gold. “For a few months I’ve been training as hard as I could, and I knew I had to come out here and stomp the best run of my life, and that’s just what I did. I’ve never rode so good in my life. I’m so pumped right now I can’t even breathe.”
Many fans at Buttermilk were surprised to see Colten competing in finals at all after a big fall in his second run during Heat 1 of the elimination round: Moore let go of a double grab in midair and came crashing into the landing away from his sled, ducking his head and flipping onto his back just in time to prevent a serious injury — a testament to the aerial awareness he’s developed while training over a foam pit and in more than a decade of experience as an ATV quad rider. He walked away from the crash and came riding into finals as if it had never happened.
The night’s other big surprise, it should go without saying: having two brothers from Krum, Texas, of all places, on the podium in a snowmobile event. Neither of the Moore brothers had ever been on snowmobiles before deciding to get into the sport three years ago.
“It’s been a quick road in the snowmobile world, but a lot of people don’t know we’ve been on quads for about 10 years now,” Moore said, after securing his first Winter X Games gold. Colten finished in eighth place as a rookie in 2010 and in fifth place in 2011. “It gave us a lot of background and made it to where we could hop on a sled and do the same stuff.”
Six different athletes have now topped the podium in the six-year history of Snowmobile Freestyle at Winter X Games. This year’s competition saw some shakeups as a result of injuries in the lead-up to Winter X Games: 2011 Snowmobile Freestyle and Best Trick gold medalist Daniel Bodin is out after fracturing a vertebra during training earlier this month, and 2008 gold medalist Levi LaVallee is out after breaking his left tibia while training over a foam pit less than two weeks after pushing the distance, jumping record to 412 feet, 6 inches on New Year’s Eve at the Red Bull New Year. No Limits event.
Heath Frisby, the fourth rider in Thursday’s finals showdown, finished off the podium in fourth place with a fun run full of throwback tricks, seemingly content to focus on Sunday’s Snowmobile Best Trick competition; he’s a favorite to win it and rumors abound about what he has planned, but he and the other riders say they are trying to keep it under wraps.
“It’s going to be the sickest thing you’ve ever seen if he pulls it,” Parsons said, leaving it at that for the time being. The Snowmobile Best Trick contest will take place at 7 p.m. MT on Sunday.
Check out full results from the Snowmobile Freestyle finals.
While Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Bruce Arians announced his retirement Friday, team sources told ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen the Steelers chose not to retain Arians, against the wishes of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Arians, 59, has been the only offensive coordinator in coach Mike Tomlin’s five seasons with the Steelers. During his time as coordinator, he turned the Steelers from a run-first team to a pass-heavy one to better suit Roethlisberger.
Pittsburgh ranked in the top half of the NFL in offense over the past three seasons but finished a disappointing 12th this past season.
“Bruce Arians has informed me that he will retire from coaching,” Tomlin said in a statement. “I appreciate his efforts over the past five years as the team’s offensive coordinator and for helping lead our offense to new heights during his time with the Steelers. I am grateful to Bruce for contributing to our success and wish him nothing but the best in his retirement.”
The Steelers have a history of promoting from within at offensive coordinator. Arians joined the Steelers in 2004 as the wide receivers coach and was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2007.
Information from ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen, ESPN.com’s Jamison Hensley and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Joe Paterno, the longtime Penn State coach who won more games than anyone in major college football but was fired amid a child sex abuse scandal that scarred his reputation for winning with integrity, died Sunday of lung cancer. He was 85.
His family released a statement Sunday morning to announce his death: “His loss leaves a void in our lives that will never be filled.”
“He died as he lived,” the statement said. “He fought hard until the end, stayed positive, thought only of others and constantly reminded everyone of how blessed his life had been. His ambitions were far reaching, but he never believed he had to leave this Happy Valley to achieve them. He was a man devoted to his family, his university, his players and his community.”
The Pennsylvania hospital where Paterno died confirmed the cause of death as a spreading lung cancer.
Mount Nittany Medical Center said in a statement that Paterno died at 9:25 a.m. Sunday of “metastatic small cell carcinoma of the lung.” Metastatic indicates an illness that has spread from one part of the body to an unrelated area.
The hospital said Paterno was surrounded by family members, who have requested privacy.
Paterno’s son had said in November that his father had been diagnosed with a treatable form of lung cancer during a follow-up visit for a bronchial illness.
“He will go down as the greatest football coach in the history of the game,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said after his former team, the Florida Gators, beat Penn State 37-24 in the 2011 Outback Bowl.
Two police officers were stationed to block traffic on the street where Paterno’s modest ranch home stands next to a local park. The officers said the family had asked there be no public gathering outside the house, still decorated with a Christmas wreath, so Paterno’s relatives could grieve privately. And, indeed, the street was quiet on a cold winter day.
Paterno’s sons, Scott and Jay, arrived separately at the house late Sunday morning. Jay Paterno, who served as his father’s quarterbacks coach, was crying.
Scott Paterno said on Nov. 18 that his father was being treated for lung cancer. The cancer was diagnosed during a follow-up visit for a bronchial illness. A few weeks after that revelation, Paterno also broke his pelvis after a fall but did not need surgery.
Paterno had been in the hospital since Jan. 13 for observation for what his family had called minor complications from his cancer treatments. Not long before that, he conducted his only interview since losing his job, with The Washington Post. Paterno was described as frail then, speaking mostly in a whisper and wearing a wig. The second half of the two-day interview was conducted at his bedside.
“As the last 61 years have shown, Joe made an incredible impact,” said the statement from the family. “That impact has been felt and appreciated by our family in the form of thousands of letters and well wishes along with countless acts of kindness from people whose lives he touched. It is evident also in the thousands of successful student athletes who have gone on to multiply that impact as they spread out across the country.”
The final days of Paterno’s Penn State career were easily the toughest in his 61 years with the university and 46 seasons as head football coach.
Penn State president Rodney Erickson said the university is grieving Paterno’s death and plans to honor him for his contributions to the school.
In a statement released Sunday, Erickson called Paterno “a great man who made us a greater university.”
Erickson said Paterno’s “dedication to ensuring his players were successful both on the field and in life is legendary.”
It was because Paterno was a such a sainted figure — more memorable than any of his players and one of the best-known coaches in all of sports — that his downfall was so startling. During one breathtaking week in early November, Paterno was engulfed by a scandal and forced from his job, because he failed to go to the police in 2002 when told a young boy was molested inside the football complex.
“I didn’t know which way to go … and rather than get in there and make a mistake,” he said in the Post interview.
“This is a sad day!” Sandusky said in a statement released by his attorney. “Our family, Dottie and I would like to convey our deepest sympathy to Sue and her family. Nobody did more for the academic reputation of Penn State than Joe Paterno. He maintained a high standard in a very difficult profession.
“Joe preached toughness, hard work and clean competition,” Sandusky’s statement said. “Most importantly, he had the courage to practice what he preached. Nobody will be able to take away the memories we all shared of a great man, his family, and all the wonderful people who were a part of his life.”
McQueary testified that he had seen Sandusky attacking the child and that he had told Paterno, who waited a day before alerting school authorities. Police were never called and the state’s top cop later said Paterno failed to execute his moral responsibility by not contacting police.
“You know, (McQueary) didn’t want to get specific,” Paterno said in the Post interview. “And to be frank with you I don’t know that it would have done any good, because I never heard of, of, rape and a man. So I just did what I thought was best. I talked to people that I thought would be, if there was a problem, that would be following up on it.”
Paterno’s successor, Bill O’Brien, who will be leaving his job with the New England Patriots as offensive coordinator, said in a statement that the Penn State football program had lost a “great man, coach, mentor and, in many cases, a father figure.”
“There are no words to express my respect for him as a man and as a coach,” O’Brien said in the statement. “To be following in his footsteps at Penn State is an honor. Our families, our football program, our university and all of college football have suffered a great loss, and we will be eternally grateful for Coach Paterno’s immeasurable contributions.”
The Patriots said O’Brien did not address Paterno’s death with the team on Sunday, when New England won 23-20 to advance to the Super Bowl. That means Penn State will have to wait another two weeks before O’Brien takes over the job full-time.
Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush also released a statement.
“I was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Joe Paterno,” Bush said. “He was an outstanding American who was respected not only on the field of play but in life generally — and he was, without a doubt, a true icon in the world of sports. I was proud that he was a friend of mine. Barbara and I send our condolences to his devoted wife Suzanne and to his wonderful family.”
On the morning of Nov. 9, Paterno said he would retire following the 2011 season. He also said he was “absolutely devastated” by the abuse case.
But the university trustees faced a crisis, and in an emergency meeting that night, they fired Paterno, effective immediately. Graham Spanier, one of the longest-serving university presidents in the nation, also was dismissed.
According to Lanny Davis, an attorney retained by the trustees as an adviser, board vice chairman John Surma regretted having to tell Paterno the decision over the phone. Surma declined to comment Sunday.
The university handed the football team to one of Paterno’s assistants, Tom Bradley, who said Paterno “will go down in history as one of the greatest men, who maybe most of you know as a great football coach.”
Thick, smoky-lens glasses, rolled up khakis, jet-black sneakers, blue windbreaker — Paterno was easy to spot on the sidelines. His teams were just as easy to spot on the field; their white helmets and classic blue and white uniforms had the same old-school look as the coach.
Paterno believed success was not measured entirely on the field. From his idealistic early days, he had implemented what he called a “grand experiment” — to graduate more players while maintaining success on the field.
He was a frequent speaker on ethics in sports, a conscience for a world often infiltrated by scandal and shady characters.
His teams consistently ranked among the best in the Big Ten for graduating players. As of 2011, it had 49 academic All-Americans, the third-highest among schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision. All but two played under Paterno.
The Nittany Lions look to continue the tradition established by Paterno on the field as the program scored its biggest recruiting haul under its new coach on the same day as Paterno’s passing.
Penn State landed oral commitments from Da’Quan Davis of Towson (Md.) Calvert Hall, Jonathan Warner of Camas, Wash., Eugene Lewis of Plymouth (Pa.) Wyoming Valley and Akeel Lynch of Athol Springs (N.Y.) St. Francis.
ESPN ranks Lewis as a four-star prospect and the No. 7 player in Pennsylvania. Lynch grew up Penn State fan and said hopes to help build upon what Paterno constructed at Penn State.
“Joe Paterno built a great dynasty,” he said. “I want to add on to it.”
“He teaches us about really just growing up and being a man,” former linebacker Paul Posluszny, now with the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, once said. “Besides the football, he’s preparing us to be good men in life.”
Calls for his retirement reached a crescendo in 2004. The next year, Penn State went 11-1 and won the Big Ten. In the Orange Bowl, the Nittany Lions beat Bobby Bowden’s Seminoles.
Paterno certainly had detractors, as well. One former Penn State professor called his high-minded words on academics a farce. He was criticized for making broad critiques about the wrongs in college football without providing specifics. A former administrator said his players often got special treatment compared to non-athletes. His coaching style often was considered too conservative. Some thought he held on to his job too long. There was a push to move him out in 2004 but it failed.
But the critics were in the minority, and his program was never cited for major NCAA violations. However, the child sexual abuse scandal prompted separate investigations by the U.S. Department of Education and the NCAA into the school’s handling.
At the highly anticipated wrestling match Sunday between Iowa and Penn State at Rec Hall on Penn State’s campus, the gym announcer asked fans to observe a moment of silence, and then the capacity crowd of more than 6,500 gave a 30-second standing ovation while an image of Paterno flashed on two video boards.
The screen flashed the words “Joseph Vincent Paterno. 1926-2012,” just below a picture of a smiling Paterno, wearing a blue tie and blue sweater vest with arms crossed across his chest.
At a women’s basketball game Sunday, Penn State players wore a black strap on their shoulders in memory of Paterno.
A moment of silence was also observed before the Nittany Lions men’s basketball team’s 73-54 loss at Indiana.
Paterno played quarterback and cornerback for Brown University and set a defensive record with 14 career interceptions, a distinction he boasted about to his teams all the way into his 80s. He graduated in 1950 with plans to go to law school. He said his father hoped he would someday be president.
When he was 23, a former coach at Brown was moving to Penn State to become the head coach and persuaded Paterno to come with him as an assistant.
“I had no intention to coach when I got out of Brown,” Paterno said in 2007 at Beaver Stadium in an interview before being inducted into the Hall of Fame. “Come to this hick town? From Brooklyn?”
In 1963, he was offered a job by the late Al Davis — $18,000, triple his salary at Penn State, plus a car to become general manager and coach of the AFL’s Oakland Raiders. He said no. Rip Engle retired as Penn State head coach three years later, and Paterno took over.
At the time, the Lions were considered “Eastern football” — inferior — and Paterno courted newspaper coverage to raise the team’s profile. In 1967, PSU began a 30-0-1 streak.
But Penn State couldn’t get to the top of the polls. The Lions finished second in 1968 and 1969 despite perfect records. They went 12-0 in 1973 and finished fifth. Texas edged them in 1969 after President Richard Nixon, impressed with the Longhorns’ bowl performance, declared them No. 1.
“You can’t ignore the great years he had at Penn State and the great things he did for Penn State. That university is known for Joe Paterno and Sue. It’s just a great tragedy.
”– Bobby Bowden
“I’d like to know,” Paterno said later, “how could the president know so little about Watergate in 1973, and so much about college football in 1969?”
A national title finally came in 1982, in a 27-23 win over Georgia at the Sugar Bowl. Penn State won another in 1986 after the Lions picked off Vinny Testaverde five times and beat Miami 14-10 in the Fiesta Bowl.
They have made several title runs since then, including a 2005 run to the Orange Bowl and an 11-1 campaign in 2008 that earned them a berth in the Rose Bowl, where they lost 37-23 to Southern California.
In his later years, physical ailments wore the old coach down. Paterno was run over on the sideline during a game at Wisconsin in November 2006 and underwent knee surgery. He hurt his hip in 2008 demonstrating an onside kick.
An intestinal illness and a bad reaction to antibiotics prescribed for dental work slowed him for most of the 2010 season. Paterno began scaling back his speaking engagements that year, ending his summer caravan of speeches to alumni across the state.
Then a receiver bowled over Paterno at practice in August, sending him to the hospital with shoulder and pelvis injuries and consigning him to coach much of the season from the press box.
“The fact that we’ve won a lot of games is that the good Lord kept me healthy, not because I’m better than anybody else,” Paterno said two days before he won his 409th game and passed Eddie Robinson of Grambling State for the most in Division I. “It’s because I’ve been around a lot longer than anybody else.”
Paterno could be conservative on the field, especially in big games, relying on the tried-and-true formula of defense, the running game and field position.
“They’ve been playing great defense for 45 years,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said in November.
Paterno and his wife, Sue, raised five children in State College. Anybody could telephone him at his modest ranch home — the same one he appeared in front of on the night he was fired — by looking up “Paterno, Joseph V.” in the phone book.
He walked to home games and was greeted and wished good luck by fans on the street. Former players paraded through his living room for the chance to say hello. But for the most part, he stayed out of the spotlight.
Paterno did have a knack for joke. He referred to Twitter, the social media, as “Twittle-do, Twittle-dee.”
He also could be abrasive and stubborn, and had his share of run-ins with his bosses or administrators. And as his legend grew, so did the attention to his on-field decisions, and the questions about when he would retire.
Calls for his retirement reached a crescendo in 2004. The next year, Penn State went 11-1 and won the Big Ten. In the Orange Bowl, PSU beat Florida State, whose coach, Bobby Bowden, left the Seminoles after the 2009 season after 34 years and 389 wins.
“I thought I could outlast him,” Bowden said. “That was kind of my goal in my last years of coaching, but my record wouldn’t allow it. I enjoyed [the battle with Paterno] and kind of fessed up to it. Joe would always say, ‘Oh, I’m not interested in it.’ At one time, I was ahead of him. He was the best.”
Bowden said he hopes Paterno will be remembered as a great leader and coach, and not for his role in the Sandusky scandal.
“You can’t ignore the great years he had at Penn State and the great things he did for Penn State,” Bowden said. “That university is known for Joe Paterno and Sue. It’s just a great tragedy.”
Information from The Associated Press and ESPN.com’s Mark Schlabach was used in this report.