Cheer: Jim Harbaugh. Not into his pomposity. But the coach of the San Francisco 49ers sure can make the tough call. He could easily have stuck with Alex Smith. The quarterback shot the Niners so close to an NFL title last season. And had them rushing to one this fall. Yet Harbaugh benched him in favor of Colin Kaepernick. Hard enough to spell the Dutch name. But to spell a former No. 1 draft choice and leave your prospects to a near rookie? Takes balls. Footballs. Also takes brains. Harbaugh is right. The Flying Dutchman is exactly what Frisco needs to zip past the Giants, Falcons and Pats to the championship. Will be the Niners’ first since the 1994 season. All because the coach went callin’ on Colin.
Jeer: Coaches who lack the Harbaugh backbone. Namely Rex Ryan, who wrecks the Jets. And Mike Tomlin, who’s been out of it with the Steelers. Ryan sticks with Mark Sanchez. That’s the safe nonmove. Sanchez shot Ryan to two straight conference title games, so the coach sticks with him at quarterback. While the Jets dive toward the Hudson. Would take Ryan’s considerable gut to eject Off The Mark and put Tim Tebow in the pilot’s seat. Rex evidently listens to Tebow naysayers wallowing in his style rather than his stellar record and feels frozen. Ryan simply can’t shift. Until he’s pushed out the door at season’s end.
As for Tomlin, he sees Ben Roethlisberger go down and shoehorns in Charlie Batch. This was the safe decision. Batch had won a few for Pittsburgh. But he’s old. Played in Detroit so long ago, probably replaced Bobby Lane. Harbaugh would’ve pulled the trigger with Brian Hoyer, the young gun who backed up Tom Brady in New England the past three years. Better yet, he’s the son of Ed Hoyer, a buddy of mine from our Heidelberg High School days in the 1970s. Tomlin is no Harbaugh. Went with Batch. And lost against lowly Cleveland. Time for some Steel in that back, Mike.
Cheer: The Knicks. This is my old flame, back when they lit up in the NBA in the early 1970s. They even kept me warm during a Boy Scout camporee in Germany while winning their first world trophy. Because of the time difference, I stayed up till dawn in my pup tent yelling for Clyde Frazier and Dick Barnett to beat the Lakers. Ultimately they did, in seven games. Now they’re back, in the thick of NBA Eastern Conference contention.
Jeer: The Knicks. For letting Jeremy Lin go. His exciting brand of basketball was THE reason I watched New York do in Dallas last season. These days the guard plays in Houston. The NBA had a sweet star in the Big Apple. Now he’s gone to Texas, as the old book title went. David Stern, the commish whose name means Star, should’ve shone during the summer and kept Lin in Madison Square Garden. As it is, Lin’s a Rocket man lost on the regular fan.
Cheer: The Mets’ cap logo. The same NY design as that of baseball's old New York Giants. Now if only my team could win like today’s Giants, who wear their orange and black in San Francisco while reigning as champions for the second time in three years. The Mets stole half the Giant hue, orange, and half that of the Dodgers, blue, when they filled New York’s National League void in 1962. Yet the Mets couldn’t duplicate the winning of the Giants and Dodgers, who after moving to the West Coast tied atop the NL 50 years ago. The Mets still can’t keep pace, finishing 24 games out of first this year. At least they look good with their hat, which I loyally wear every day.
Jeer: Altered uniforms in the National Football League. Especially the Steeler ones. You catch the striped, prison garb of a few weeks ago? More asinine than the pink shoes every team wears in October. Bring back Johnny Unitas, black hightops, horseshoe on the helmet, done. Thing of beauty.
Cheer: Fight songs that nobody knows, namely those of the Universities of Illinois and Maryland.
Jeer: Pedestrian college tunes that run ad nauseam only because Texas and Southern Cal win on the football field.
Cheer: TV theme songs that rock. Particularly for the NFL on Fox, college basketball on ESPN, pro hoops on ABC. Too bad the NBA left NBC, home of the hoppingest number of all time.
Cheer: Johnny Football. The coolest nickname in sports since White Shoes for old Houston Oiler receiver Billy Johnson. As for this Texas A&M quarterback, this is all anyone calls Johnny Manziel, especially since he pronounces his surname all wrong: Manzell. This week when college football passes America’s top trophy his way, he can go by Johnny Heisman.
Jeer: Fake names. They’re Ron Artest and Chad Johnson. Cut the clown tags. Metta What? Cinco Who? Play ball, not gall.
Bucky Fox is an author and editor in Southern California.