Category Archives: Sports

Shaun Hill’s father dies in a tragic accident

On our refrigerator we have an autographed photo of Detroit Lions quarterback Shaun Hill. Pepe liked him when he played for the 49ers and he met someone on HP, I will keep his name private if he wishes, who actually knows Shaun. He was at Shaun’s wedding and coached him when he was in Little League.

Shaun Hill was a star quarterback in a little town in Kansas, and wasn’t recruited to many colleges, so he had to play at a junior college. He got his big chance at the University of Maryland. As a senior, he led his team to a 10-2 record and the Orange Bowl — and Maryland almost never plays in big bowl games. Not bad for a kid who wasn’t recruited much.

Then, he wasn’t drafted in the NFL. He made the Minnesota Vikings’ roster as a free agent, then moved on to the 49ers. He got a chance to play there, starting the last month of the season in 2007. He started nine games in 2008, putting up solid numbers (2,000 yards in a little more than half a season, 13 TDs and 8 interceptions, for a quarterback rating of 87.5, which is excellent.)

Despite his good year, the 49ers were committed to their No. 1 draft pick, Alex Smith, who had a big contract, while Shaun didn’t, and Smith ended up starting most of the games last year for the 49ers. Shaun played decently enough again, but that was the direction the 49ers went (Interestingly the coach who made that decision, Mike Singletary, several times this past season couldn’t decide if he preferred Alex Smith or Troy Smith, and he was ultimately fired, partly for his poor handling of the quarterback positions. Meanwhile, Alex Smith is expected to leave the team as a free agent.).

Shaun Hill playing with a broken arm

Shaun saw the handwriting on the wall and accepted a trade to Detroit in 2009. Again his tough luck continued. After starter Matthew Stafford got hurt, Shaun again played well, better than many first string quarterbacks, but had his arm broken on a tackle. He only missed about a month and came back and led the Detroit Lions to their best season in many years, leading them to wins in their last two games. The Lions won 6 games, the most they had won in three years. He passed for 2,600 yards, had 16 TDs, 12 INTs and a QB rating of 81.7.

And still, very few people have heard of him. He has always had to fight to get onto teams, first because he came from a small town in Kansas, then because he wasn’t that highly regarded in college, then because he’s never had a real chance in the NFL or played for a good team. But his career QB rating of 84.6 is better than a lot of “stars” such as Eli Manning or Mark Sanchez. His career record as a starter is 13-13, mostly playing for bad teams with poor defenses. He’s probably the best backup quarterback in football and could probably start for at least half a dozen teams.

What’s more than being a good football player, our friend tells us he is a good guy. Shaun suffered a terrible tragedy this week when his father fell off the roof while working on his barn and was killed. He was only 60 years old. Every bit of that toughness that Shaun showed to stick around the NFL when he was never highly regarded, and to come back and play a month after having surgery on a broken arm is kid stuff compared to losing a parent, especially in such a tragic way. We wish him well in his time of need and send him our condolences. And we will continue pulling for him to succeed.

And his photo remains in an exulted spot on our fridge.

Michael Vick — what are the boundaries of forgiveness and redemption?

How to feel about Michael Vick? Has there been anyone in sports like him? Maybe Mike Tyson. But, Tyson was a freak show to most of us. People watched him to see if he would self-destruct.

Michael Vick? A tough one.

How do you feel about him?

I’ve been blown away at some of the games he’s played this year. He was not that good of a quarterback before. He really wasn’t. He was a guy with an amazing amount of talent who was actually a fairly shitty quarterback. He’d make a half-dozen jaw dropping top-of-the-highlights kind of plays a year, surrounded by stats like 15 TDs, 15 INTs and 55 percent completion percentage.

Not anymore. Other than Tom Brady, he is the most dominant quarterback in the NFL.

I’ve been struck by the wide variety of reactions to Michael Vick. I know two hard-core Eagles fans who refuse to cheer for the Eagles as long as he plays for them. They both own dogs. We sat at a table the other night with a group of lesbian Eagles fans watching Philly lose to the Vikings, and their reactions were interesting. They didn’t like Vick, but they wanted him to play well.

As a bigtime Red Sox fan, I can relate. I despised — I mean, really despised that born-again Christian right-winger Curt Schilling. Couldn’t wait to preach about Jesus as soon as a mike was thrown in his face. Campaigned for all kinds of right-wingers like McCain and Sarah Palin. Still thinks Palin is God’s gift to America. Trust me, if she runs in 2012, Schilling will be on the campaign trail for her. I acknowledge most athletes are Republicans, but this guy just rubbed everyone’s faces in his neanderthal politics and religious bullshit.

Still, I cheered for him when he took the mound.

I came to hate Manny Ramirez. Represents everything wrong with professional sports. Steroids user, overpaid, lazy, maligner, faked injuries (couldn’t remember which knee he hurt), then pouted because he was “only” making $20 million a year.

Still, I cheered for him when he came to bat.

It’s a complicated thing. It’s easy now for me to hate that pompous prick Schilling and that idiot Ramirez (no, not THAT one). But when they played for the Sox, I found myself cheering for them — for the team — for the win. I’m glad I don’t have to face that conflict, anymore, though I kind of don’t like Papelbon.
In talking to people about Vick the reactions I’ve seen are:

* They were just dogs. It’s not like he killed a guy.

* He did his time.

* He should never be allowed to play football again.

I just about blow my top at that first reaction. I’ve heard from a few, but not many.

Yes, he didn’t kill a guy. But, he did torture and murder dogs — many, many dogs — for fun and profit. He didn’t just “make a mistake,” like get a DUI or get in a drunken brawl in a bar that got out of hand. This was something he did for two-plus years, knowingly. It was sick, cruel, even psychotic.

Should he be allowed to play football again? My take on it, is what he did was bad. Really bad. But, he was convicted, and he got sentenced to time — real time in a real prison. 18 months in Leavenworth, not a day care camp. That’s Leavenworth.

So, I guess my personal attitude is, he did his time. Maybe he should have got more than 18 months. But, 18 months is what the system decided he deserved. He lost millions of dollars in salary and endorsements.

He paid a debt. Was it big enough? That’s up for everyone to decide for themselves.

My attitude is, like any other ex-con, he has a right to move on with his life, and make a living. He is a high-profile ex-con in a high-profile job, but I don’t see him as any different than a guy who did a couple of years in the state pen for armed robbery. Maybe sitting in a prison cell for 18 months in Leavenworth woke him up. I have to believe that more than a few times in his cell, he thought to himself, “Man, did I ever fuck up…”

You don’t have to like Vick, and if you don’t, more power to you. I don’t blame people for hating him. I don’t blame people who don’t want to see him playing football. I guess I just don’t completely agree. Cheer against him. Hope he loses. But let him play. I’m conflicted myself. I’m amazed at how good of a player he has turned into. I’m amazed at some of the plays he makes. But, Jesus, did he ever do some bad things.

There was a guy at the University of Montana this past year. He really did kill a guy. He got into a spat with his aunt’s boyfriend and went over to his house with a loaded rifle and shot the guy to death because he was pissed the boyfriend was beating up his aunt. Then he and a buddy drove back to Montana and didn’t bother telling anyone what happened.

The guy spent two or three years in jail. His first trial for murder ended in a hung jury. He was acquitted by a second jury, because frankly, there were no witnesses. He claimed it was self-defence and there wasn’t much evidence to the contrary. So, he came back to Montana and played his senior year there. It was kind of weird. This guy really, actually killed a guy. A douchebag, but he committed a homicide nonetheless. Maybe losing two or three of his life for killing an abusive douchebag was punishment enough. Maybe it was self-defence, maybe not. No one knows but him … and the dead guy.

People still cheered for him.

You know what? People in Pittsburgh still cheer for Roethlisberger. He got away with rape. (I’m convinced of it, personally.) That bothers me. I really believe he got away with committing a crime.

Giants fans (and only Giants fans) cheered for Bonds. I didn’t get that, honestly. The guy was an unrepentent cheat. He probably committed perjury (though I suspect he’ll never be convicted.).

There is something to be said about the power of forgiveness; the power of redemption. Literature is chock full of stories of redemption, going all the way back to Mary Magdalene. Vick, because of the horridness of his acts, pushes those boundaries of forgiveness, and frankly has much to atone for; the bar is quite high for any kind of redemption, in my book.

Perhaps because he is so talented, and is so exciting to watch play on TV, people are quicker to forgive. Would they be so quick to forgive if he were a lowly janitor? I don’t know. I can imagine how people would shun him.

I guess when you really want your team to win, many of us will cheer for just about anyone.

At least Vick did his time.

That’s my only point.