Ask Gary: Spreading a few Christmas wishes

by Gary Shelton on December 24, 2016 · 1 comment

in general

(Each week, the readers take over and play Ask Gary. They send in a question, or a couple, on Thursday night or Friday morning and we all talk about the world of sports.  Think of it as a radio show where you don't have to be on hold. Join us and ask a question, make a comment or be funny. Send the questions to

Saturday, 4 a.m.

What are your sports-related Christmas wishes? My best wishes to you and your family this coming year and may your subscriptions to this blog increase ten-fold!

Barry McDowell​

Barry, nice Christmas to you and yours.

Of course, the spirit infecting the sports world is open-ended. Let's start with success for the teams we follow, okay? Let's hope that Dirk Koetter -- who has had a fine first year -- turns out to be the coach everyone wants him to be. We've seen the other kind too much. Let's hope the Lightning rights the ship. Let's hope the Rays can get on the right side of .500 and avoid the Montreal headlines. Let's hope Charlie Strong is the real deal.

But I think you mean more than that. We want sports leagues that are about the right thing. Oh, the teams are going to turn a profit -- that's what they do, and most of us understand -- but let's cut down on the profiteering. Let's pass a rule where a team can't raise ticket prices unless it raises the victory total. Let's have leagues that care more about domestic violence than, say, under-inflating footballs. Let's stand for something. Remember when the Bucs had Tony Dungy and Warrick Dunn and Mike Alstott and Derrick Brooks and Randy Grimes? Let's get back to that.

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Why can't the other Tampa Bay sports owners emulate Jeff Vinik of the Lightning? Why not financially support good causes? Why not stand for something?

Hey, I'm a grown-up. I know that sports leagues aren't here to cure all of society's ills. But why not do what you can?

I'd like to see this, too. Two hours before every game, why not bring the kids down to the field and conduct a clinic? Why doesn't Gerald McCoy talk about staying in school? Or Jameis Winston talk about life? Seems to me, that would build the connection between the talent and the town.

I'd like to see the NFL take concussions more seriously. I'd like baseball to suggest a definite PED stance for the Hall of Fame. I'd like to see the Olympics go back to Sydney.

If you could have put Jerry Rice's head on Randy Moss' body, how would have that turned out?

Once, the actress Isadora Duncan wrote a letter to George Bernard Shaw and suggested they make a baby. "It would be great with your brains and my looks," she wrote. "Alas," responded Shaw, "with my luck, it would end up with my looks and, God forbid, your brain."

So be careful about the hybrids you build. You could get Moss' head and Rice's body.

Obviously, the player you suggest would be wonderful. No one was smarter than Rice. Few have ever had the physical gifts of Moss (size, speed). I think the NFL teams would have to play nickel defense just to try to stop Rice/Moss.

Actually, that's a pretty good game. Can you imagine Joe Montana with the arm strength of John Elway? A back with the elusiveness of Barry Sanders and the power of Jim Brown? A linebacker with the viciousness of Lawrence Taylor and the meanness of Dick Butkus?

One thing about Moss/Rice. Who throws him the ball? Montana or Tom Brady?

There were a couple of cases recently involving sports columnists being confronted or even threatened by professional athletes they cover. You must have had to deal with that over your career. What were some of the most memorable incidents?

 Larry Beller

Oh, I've had a few. Chris Hovan came off the field once and yelled at me. "Was that mediocre?" he screamed. Well, yes. It was.

Mark Duper and I were furious at each other once. He had dodged me for a week, and he did it one more time after a practice in Atlanta. "Fine," I said. "Bleep (not actually the word I used) it!"

Well, Dupe thought I said "Bleep you." So he got in my face. I yelled back. He called me a fat so-and-so. I called him a bleeping prima dona." So we were both fairly accurate.

Later on, I was concerned the players were going to freeze me out. They needed Duper. They didn't need me. But when I went into the bar at my hotel, I was never offered so many free beers. Turns out, players don't always understand the role of the media, but they admire feistiness. Both of us won that confrontation. And Duper and I got along famously after that.

There have been others. Nolan Pratt was a great guy, but he grew irritated at me at a Lightning practice. Pat Burrell never cared for me. Warren Sapp and I largely got along, but he could be testy.

Don Shula, of all people, was angry at me once. Joe Robbie, the team owner, dropped by practice one day. Shula was in the last year of his contract, and Robbie kept saying "at the end of the year, Shula will deal with the players and Ill deal with Shula." Finally, I asked "What does that mean? You aren't going to bench him. Are  you thinking about not bringing him back?"

Robbie stammered that he wasn't, so no one made a big deal about it. But Shula asked me that night, and again the next day, about it. I told him the truth. He said that another writer had accused me of "baiting" Robbie into saying it. "If I was baiting him, Don, I would have made a bigger deal of it." Shula said "Well, I think I've earned the right not to be asked about it." I said "Maybe you have, Don, but Robbie has made some strange decisions over the years." Well, Shula went nuts. Screamed and swore at me.

I still think I asked the questions that should have been asked.

The thing a writer has to keep in mind is that his job and the job the team wants aren't the same thing. You're going to ask tough questions some. And people are going to get ticked.

Tomorrow, there is a new game.

Regarding Joe Mixon: Did Stoops not learn anything from the Ray Rice situation?  What did he think the response would be when the rest of the rest of the world finally saw the tape of Joe Mixon egregiously assaulting that young lady?  Now he says he realizes the punishment wasn’t enough?  Many times on college campuses there are situations between student athletes and other students that are impossible to determine what really happened.  This is NOT one of them.  The video is very clear. The whole world now knows where Stoops stands on violence against women.  Will he really get a pass on this one? What say you?

Michele Forte

Stoops shouldn't get a pass. He had a weak response to a reprehensible action. There should be no forgiveness.

Yeah, Stoops signed a player who was good for the Sooners. But he embarrassed his school, his program and himself. Remember, he broke the woman's face in four places. He should never have been allowed to play for a major university.

Make this an unforgivable crime, and you'll see a lot less of it. There is zero doubt about that. Why do we, as fans, put up with this garbage. There are other running backs out there. I daresay a program like Oklahoma's can survive.

This is ridiculous. Did you see Mixon's apology? He went out of his way to say he was "retaliating" while accepting blame. If it was me, he'd be done at Oklahoma. Now.

Universities have to self-police these crimes. They have to know who they're signing, and what the history of the players are. There are no suggestions that Stoops didn't know.

If I was the president at Oklahoma, I'd be looking for a new running back tomorrow. And if anything like this happened again, I'd be looking for a new coach the day after.

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