Friday, June 5, 2009

My Most Hated Opponents -- Non-Players Edition

A few weeks ago, I listed "My Most Hated Opponents -- Players." I said I would do it for non-players, and finally I have.

I have 2 eligibility rules: I will only consider post-high school figures, and only individuals who've been actively involved for at least 5 full seasons since I began watching sports on TV in 1977.

The no-high-school rule lets out Bob DeMarco, the head football coach at Old Bridge High School, arch-rivals of my Alma Mater, East Brunswick. Besides, DeMarco is a decent guy, and I find it easy to believe it was his players, not him, who chose to run up the score in certain meetings back when the school was still known as Madison Central. And his brother, former E.B. wrestling coach Greg DeMarco, is one of the most decent people ever involved in high school sports in Middlesex County, New Jersey.

I don't have a problem with Bob. It's his team I hate. I'm not sure I can even adapt, as British soccer fans have, the Monkees' song "Daydream Believer" to fit him: It doesn't feel right to sing, "Cheer up, Bobby D! Oh, what can it mean to a... sad purple bastard and a... shit football team!" He may wear purple and black, but he's not sad and he's not a bastard. As for his team, well, I've seen them win championships, but they'll always be shit to me.

The longevity rule lets out Walter O'Malley, the greatest villain in the history of baseball, because by the time I was old enough to start watching, the man who owned the Dodgers, in Brooklyn and then in Los Angeles, in part since 1942 and fully since 1950, was already a dying man, and his son Peter was pretty much running the team. Walter Francis O'Malley died in 1979, and would top the list if I were just a few years older. He gets a Lifetime Bereavement Award.

However, unlike with my Most Hated Opponents – Players edition, collegiate coaches are allowed. I couldn't make this list without one in particular.

10. Bobby Valentine, New York Mets. The only man ever to manage The Other Team to back-to-back postseason appearances, and along with Davey Johnson (whom we’ll see later) one of only two to manage them to more than one at all. He was funny sometimes, but he was such an arrogant little bastard. When did he earn that arrogance?

Still, Bobby V never really hurt the Yankees, so he's at the bottom of this list.

UPDATE: Bobby V went on to manage the Boston Red Sox in 2012, which might have lifted him higher on this list, if that season hadn't been such a train wreck for the Sox, and so much fun for Yankee Fans to watch. And Terry Collins managed the Mets to back-to-back postseason appearances in 2015 and '16.

9. Earl Weaver, Baltimore Orioles. A genius, but also a raging egomaniac and a very nasty little man. Much like the Yankees' own Billy Martin, except fat rather than scrawny.
I'll never forget him conveeeeniently forgetting to put the tarp down at Memorial Stadium in that game in '78, when the Yanks were desperately trying to claw back into the race. And the '79 team that outdistanced the Yankees – took me 20 years to realize that Ken Singleton was a good guy.

But he didn't hurt the Yanks that much while I was old enough to watch. If I'd been around for his entire managerial run, 1968 to 1982 and again briefly in '85 and '86, maybe he'd be higher on this list.

8. Bobby Cox, Toronto Blue Jays and Atlanta Braves. Despite the Yanks winning 8 straight World Series games against him in 1996 and '99, this is really more for what he did as Jays manager, particularly in that 1985 AL East duel. I was 15, and I don't think I've yet gotten over losing that race.
Still, it was sickening to see those unworthy Braves win the NL East year after year after year… Beats having the Mets do it, though, and hating Cox is one of the few people both Yankee Fans and the Flushing Heathen can agree on. That and his "Rain Man" pitching coach Leo Mazzone. Yeah. Yeah.

7. Bob Clarke, Philadelphia Flyers. There had to be at least one hockey opponent here, but what Ranger? Mike Keenan may have coached them for their only Stanley Cup win since FDR's 2nd term, but it was only for that 1 season. It's hard to bring up any feelings toward then-GM Neil Smith. Glen Sather? Nah, it's not like he was Jaromir Jagr, or Sean Avery, or his bald pal from Edmonton and The Garden, Mark Messier.

But Clarke, while undeniably a great and courageous player, was also first the leader of the Broad Street Bullies, the Flyers who beat up everybody including the early Devils; and then the GM of the Flyer teams that gave the Devils such fits from 1995 to 2004.

And, as Flyer fans will tell you, it was easy to root for "Bobby" Clarke the player, who is up there in the Philly pantheon with Connie Mack, Richie Ashburn, Mike Schmidt, Chuck Bednarik, Wilt Chamberlain, Julius "Dr. J" Erving, Tom Gola and Rollie Massimino; but it's a lot harder to root for "Bob" Clarke the GM, who made the Flyer roster respectable again, but made the Flyer front office unworthy of respect.

Granted, the Lindros family – Eric, Carl and Bonnie – weren't angels, but Clarke could have handled it much better. You didn't have to like Lindros to dislike Clarke. But I can't have him all that high on this list, simply because his greatest era of potential harm came before I was old enough to really understand hockey.

6. Dual entry: Jim Calhoun and Geno Auriemma, University of Connecticut basketball. Their successes cannot be denied, but neither can their arrogances. They do like to rub it into the faces of their opponents, especially Geno to his 2 main rivals, Pat Summitt at the University of Tennessee and Vivian Stringer at Rutgers. The fact that both Calhoun and Auriemma are also big-time Red Sox fans is enough to induce vomiting.

Some people think of UConn as a New York-area school because Connecticut is part of the New York Tri-State Area. But it's also part of New England, and the Huskies' Gampel Pavilion is 86 miles from Boston's Downtown Crossing as opposed to 139 miles from New York's Times Square.

5. Jimmy Johnson and…

4. Tom Landry, Dallas Cowboys.
They both had to be on here. At least Johnson wasn't a hypocrite: He knew he and his team were a bunch of, to put it charitably, rogues. Landry was a sanctimonious hypocrite who looked the other way as his crew claimed to be "America's Team," all the while looking more like "South America's Team" (because of certain players' copious consumption of drugs) or "America's Most Wanted" (other crimes), which got worse in the Johnson era.
This is why Landry is higher on the list: Because he gave off an aura of knowing better, but chose to look the other way for his criminals. Why separate entries for them, while I combined the UConn coaches into one? Because the UConn coaches coached (and still do) at the same time, while these Cowboy coaches were in 2 different eras.
3. Pat Riley, New York Knicks. Yes, he won 4 titles with the Los Angeles Lakers and 1 with the Miami Heat. But I liked him with the Lakers because, like most people with taste, I hated the Boston Celtics. And I excused him with the Heat, because I was a Nets fan, and he wasn't really the Nets' problem.

But as coach of the Knicks, he A, got in the Nets' way when they put up their best team between the 1976 ABA crown and the 2002 Eastern Conference Title; and B. practically ruined the NBA with his thuggish defenses, turning a game of 110-100 scores into a game of 84-78 scores. Fans want scoring. You think we give a damn that Chamberlain holds the record of 55 rebounds in a game? No, we talk about him scoring 100 points.
The player who symbolized Lakers-era Pat Riley was Magic Johnson.
The player who symbolized Lakers-era Pat Riley was John Starks.
The difference is the difference between 1980s and 1990s NBA.

It's one of the great ironies of sports that Riles won titles with the '80s Lakers, the ultimate fast-break team, the team known as "Showtime"; then, when Patrick Ewing could have been his Kareem, Charles Oakley could have been his James Worthy, and while he didn't have a Magic Johnson type (how many of those have there been? Very few), he could still have played fun basketball. Instead, he brought the mid-1980s Big East (all those cheap shots from John Thompson's Georgetown and Louie "the Sweater" Carnescca's St. John's) to the NBA Atlantic Division.

I wonder if it dawned on him that he didn't win another World Championship until he had another Kareem (Shaq) and another player who almost resembled Magic in style (Dwyane Wade)?

2. Davey Johnson, New York Mets and Baltimore Orioles. Although he's managed other teams, this is for his management of the Mets at their 1984-90 peak, when they were the most arrogant team in the history of New York baseball. Even John McGraw's old New York Giants, they of "the look of eagles," were modest compared to these bastards.

But if Davey was any damn good at managing, how come they only won the 1 World Series – and only the 1 Pennant? And only reached the Playoffs 1 other time?

Then, of course, there was Davey's O's, who tried a different drug from the one that the '80s Mets seemed to enjoy: Steroids. And yet, he had an unholy hissyfit when Derek Jeter hit that home run in Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS. As if it was Jeter's intention to "cheat." Davey, you insufferable snot, you lost all 3 games at Camden Yards in that series. If you can't defend your home field in the Playoffs, don't whine about some kid in the stands.
In fact, with the '86 and '88 Mets, the '95 Reds, the '96 and '97 O's, here is Davey's record at home in postseason play: 10-13. At home. This is not the mark of a good manager. (UPDATE: After managing the Washington Nationals to the 2012 NL East title, but choking in the NLDS, his home postseason record stands at 11-15.)

Yet he always thought the umps were against him. No, Davey, what was against you was your own ineptitude. The Mets won it all in '86 in spite of you, not because of you. A good manager would've gotten that team at least 1 more Pennant, and possibly as many as 4 more. (Then again, maybe they weren't really that great.)

But, as they say in the Highlander franchise, In the end, there can be only one.

1. Joe Paterno, Pennsylvania State University football. Ol' Ratface spent the better part of 30 years picking on the teams now in the Big East Conference, then went to the Big Ten. Penn State fans whine about how, with undefeated teams in 1969, 1970, 1973 and 1994, the Nittany Lions were not awarded the National Championship.
Admit it: He does look like a rat.

Maybe it's karma for Paterno running up the score on weaker Eastern opponents, thus inflating his team's record. And also for poaching players from other territories. Two of his best players -- Franco Harris of Mount Holly and Rancocas Valley High, and Kenny Jackson of South River -- were among the many he has poached from New Jersey, and whose first choice could have been Rutgers. He's taken New Yorkers away from Syracuse, New Englanders away from Boston College, and Chesapeake Valley players away from Maryland, Virginia, Virginia Tech and West Virginia.

The last time Penn State played Rutgers, at Giants Stadium in 1995, Penn State was leading 52-34, and Paterno had his quarterback pass. With an 18-point lead near the end of the game. Touchdown, 59-34. When it was over, Rutgers coach Doug Graber -- whose job was in jeopardy and was indeed fired after the season, though he has returned to RU as a radio broadcaster -- did not shake Paterno's hand afterward, instead telling him what a classless SOB he is. Well, that may not have been Graber's exact phrase, but it might as well have been.
And this great patriotic conservative Christian known as "Saint Joseph" among his fans, he cursed right back. Later, he apologized to the press for his profanity -- but not for his classless coaching, saying, "I should not have to apologize for (my quarterback) doing what he has been coached to do." (I won't name that quarterback here: He's a henchman, not the villain.)

Now that Rutgers is a consistent winner, that cowardly old bastard won't play us. Come on, Ratface, you deserve one last lesson in manners before you head off to that great press box in the... core of the Earth.
Among Rutgers' football opponents, there is no Number 2. Princeton? The last time Princeton football mattered at what we would now call the Division I-A level, I wasn't born yet, and besides, how can I hate Princeton? They have done nothing to upset me.

Syracuse? Nah, aside from their ugly uniforms, and that horrid carpet that passes for a field at the Carrier Dome, there's nothing truly offensive about them. Pitt? Well, Jackie Sherrill… Nah, he didn't piss me off enough. UConn? In football? Forget it. Probably the closest is Bobby Petrino from his Louisville days, but that was a brief interlude, much like the Mets-Braves "rivalry."

Paterno is eternal. An eternal evil. When he finally dies, the Shittany Lions will probably mummify him and turn the Beaver Stadium press box into their own version of Lenin's Tomb. They already call the stadium "Saint Joe Paterno Cathedral."

For longevity, for amount of defeats, for size of defeats, for style of defeats, for arrogance, and, yes, for ugliness (he really does look like a rat), Joe Paterno tops the list.
Congratulations, Penn State: You are Number 1. You dirty bastards.

UPDATE: You'll notice I wrote this 2 years before the scandal that brought him down, and probably ended his life months or years before it otherwise would have ended.


Jim said...

Mike McQuery was the QB.
He threw to Chris Campbell.

It was backup McQuery's only pass of the day and backup Campbell's only catch of the day.

Hardly running up the score with backups.

If you read contemporaneous accounts of the game, you will see that it was close until Herring's INT with 13 minutes left in the game. The sudden points came as a result of that INT and a surprising TD engineered by back up players on offense.

Also, if you take a broader look at Paterno's record, you will see that "running up the score" has not been part of his repertoire.

Unknown said...

In addition to Jim, you might want to take note that PSU and Rutgers will be renewing their football series in 2014. It's been finalized.

Oh and your record over the last 8 years is 46–51. Hardly a regularly winning team...

Unknown said...

Hmm, I've never heard of anyone calling it Saint Joe Paterno's Cathedral.

Unknown said...

Shittany Lions, that one is new to me. Since when did 5 mediocre years out of 100 plus years of football make Rutgers a consistent program? Not running up the score is what many believe cost us a chance at the National Championship in 94. I can honestly say he doesn't do it.

You couldn't find a Rutgers football fan before the program's moderate success and now they come out of the woodwork. No one stole any recruits, they left after being pressured into committing.

Let's see who wins the recruiting wars in the next few years though. I don't want to hear any excuses when we play the next game.

FFT said...

Sour grapes over Paterno. If Eastern teams were better coached and better performers, they would not have been such patsies for PSU. That Rutgers game? Paterno apologized for the "B*llsh*t" remark. But his 3rd string QB (if recall correctlly) was given a designed run play, not a pass play. But he saw a receiver get wide open, and he did what he was trained to do, toss it downfield. Not HIS fault that Rutgers had a porous defense. Scheduling? No Big East team will agree to play PSU in anything but home-and-home series, but PSU has too big a stadium and too many non-revenue sports for PSU to give charity to more non-conference teams. So Div I-AA will play 2 games at PSU for every one at home, helping PSU pay its bills, but still come out richer. Schiano is a fine coach at a storied program that is past its prime; 3 more year, and Schiano will be gone, sorry to say.

BSmith717 said...

This is flat out adorable Uncle Mike, really it is. But seriously? You're going to hate Joe Paterno, who doesn't even do all of the recruiting incidentally, for out-coaching and out-recruiting your poor excuse for a football program? Come on buddy, this is flat out sad. I do, however, have to commend you on trying to turn one of the most lovable and respectable figures in all of sports into a cartoonish super villain. Kudos my friend. Trust me on this though, you aren't going to be able to get PSU fans to consider rutgers an actual rival, however, this won't make the embarrassing ways in which we beat you in '14 and '15 any less sweet.

Unknown said...

Great. A 40 yo accountant who can't find a woman sounds off on a great American like Joepa! He's either a skinny weakling or loudmouth obese slob. Just because Joe wins in recruiting and beathing the eastern patsies doesn't even compare to the Yankess buying players, making the clueless fans pay for them and the team can't win anything anymore anyway> LOL Joe recruits ethically and gives kids a genuine chance to start life with a good head

FYI Graber used the F word also which fired Joe up.

Who's next to hate? Hopefully TB's Joe Maddon a PA native who will dominate the aging Skankees for years to come. He's another classy guy like Joe, unlike Uncle Mike the NJ version of the 40 yo virgin! LOL

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