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Sunday column: Sochi preview

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

Morning, Lunatics …

The Sunday column serves as my preview to the Sochi Olympics. I’ll be leaving Tuesday, expecting to arrive sometime … I don’t know, like Thursday or something. It’s an 18.5-hour total trip, and Sochi’s nine hours ahead, so we’ll just see what time it is when wheels touch tarmac.

Evgeni Malkin might be the main man in Sochi, by Rob Rossi in Phoenix.

Robert Morris’ Brianne McLaughlin eyes hockey gold of her own, by Jason Mackey.

Here’s the Trib’s Olympics page.

And here’s an official Sochi 2014 video about the venues that simply has to be seen to be believed …

We’ll have more on Sochi and, of course, that little football game tonight on a live edition of WPXI-TV’s Subway Final Word. at 11:35 p.m. I’ll be joined by the Trib’s Mark Kaboly, 105.9 the X’s Mark Madden and WPXI’s Alby Oxenreiter.

Author: Dejan Kovacevic

Dejan Kovacevic, a lifelong Pittsburgher, is an award-winning sports columnist for Trib Total Media covering the Steelers, Penguins, Pirates, Pitt and more, including his fourth Olympics in Sochi, Russia. He also appears on WPXI-TV's 'Subway Final Word’ and hosts a weekly show on TribLIVE Radio. For 2011, he was named one of the top four columnists in the country -- highest circulation category -- by the AP Sports Editors. For 2012, he was named one of the top three columnists in the country by the National Headliners Awards. For 2013, he was named top columnist in the state by the Keystone Awards and second-place by the Pennsylvania AP Managing Editors.

67 Comments

  1. Happy Super Bowl Rodent Day !

  2. “These Olympics (may not have) a Michael Phelps or Usain Bolt,” but I’m sure we’ll have some new darling of America emerge from women’s figure skating. Around this time one month from now, she’ll be making the rounds from The Today Show to The Tonight Show. I couldn’t tell you what her name is yet, nor do I know if she’ll actually take home the gold (Michelle Kwan never did either). But American television viewers – especially viewers like my wife — LOVE the women’s figure skating. They love the women’s gymnastics in the summer and the skating in the winter. Nothing wrong with any of this. While these sports don’t really do it for me personally, no denying the extreme popularity with so many of the pageantry of it all. Some young lady who for years and years now has been waking up at 3 am everyday to practice before going to school, will finally have her day. NBC will be more than happy to tell us all about her and we’ll fall in love. And why not? Let the next Gabby Douglas step forward and charm a nation.

    DK: I don’t see it, Ghost. The Americans have fallen way behind in women’s figure skating, and I’ve already budgeted to do a full column on exactly that from over there. Since Kwan and Kristi Yamaguchi, it’s been nothing. And Yuna Kim of South Korea is the runaway favorite again this time.

  3. The Bus got snubbed again. Some will be upset that Ray Guy got in, yet Bettis didn’t. I don’t have a problem with Guy — by far and away the best at his position for an era and probably of all time. He constantly kept opponents at bay and greatly helped his own defense, game in, game out, year after year.

    I do have a problem with Andre Reid being deemed more worthy than The Bus. Reid was part of an offensive scheme. For several years, Bettis WAS his team’s offensive scheme. He retired No. 5 of all time in yards rushing. He was one of the greatest 3rd-and-short — everybody knows who’s getting the ball — backs of ALL TIME. Come on, voters. Get it right next year.

    • It’s flat out ridiculous that Bettis is on the outside looking in as far as the NFL HOF goes.
      But…It’s clear to me that it’s more important to add to Buffalo and Arizona and Oakland, as opposed to adding more black and gold.
      A horrible mess of a snub, if ever there was one…..

      • Bettis is also at the mercy of Ed Bouchette’s presentation skills. That could be a factor.

        • +1

          Pompeani had a nice, rational, convincing presentation yesterday on the Fan. Maybe Ed could deputize him next year. ;-)

        • That is a great point, 21. The way the MLB does it seems to be pretty much a disaster in some way every year now. But, I’m not convinced how the NFL does it is perfect, either. I bet if we had a chance to actually be a fly on the wall at those closed door meetings, we’d hear all sorts of things that make a lot of NFL writers look like idiots as well. I mean, have you ever heard some of the things Peter King says?

          Overall, though, I think their consensus yields a better result than for MLB, for sure. It’s like making hot dogs. Even if you like the end result, I bet you wouldn’t want to see it made from start to finish.

          • With almost 600 voters, I don’t think the MLB’s system is anywhere near a disaster. I don’t like the NFL’s process at all.

    • The case against him is that he never led the league in rushing or touchdowns and only led the league in any statistical category once, when he led the NFL in rushing attempts with 375 in 1997. Bettis’s yards per carry average is also low, at just 3.9, and he wasn’t much of a threat in the passing game. Also had Ben not made that shoe string tackle in the afc championship game we would have a very different view of his legacy.

      • Also hall of fame running backs are not the backup to the likes of Amos Zereoue, Duece Staley and Willie Parker.

        • No one has a HOF season every year. Most guys stick around long enough to have reduced roles. Look at how the careers of most great QBs ended, especially before the gigantic money being paid today.

          You cited some good reasons in your first post, Steve. I think the Bettis selection is going to take awhile.

      • There is no case against Bettis….Period.
        It’s simply a case of the NFL (and those involved) in wanting to spread this around to other franchises.
        It’s an organized waiting game for any Steeler because of the amount of great players since the 70′s.

        • Yes. There is a case against Bettis and people have made it. I’d put him in but he is by no means a no brainer. There is no conspiracy here. They didn’t put Dawson in and say that’s enough Steelers for now.

          • It’s no conspiracy….Do you understand?
            It’s NOT a conspiracy.
            Take a look at the list of players from different franchises in the HOF.
            There’s a few that are pushing thirty, and the Steelers are one of them.
            On the other hand (one example)….TB had very few.
            They’ve added two (questionable ones in my opinion) in the past two years.
            It’s common business sense….NOT a conspiracy.

            • I don’t think that because several franchises have been very successful they’re penalized through the Hall. I don’t know what you mean by common business sense.

              • Spread the wealth around!….That’s what I mean.
                HOF players add interest….Interest results in ticket sales, merchandise and more.
                I never used the word “penalized”….I used the term “organized waiting game.”

              • Your theory doesn’t make any sense to me.

  4. Nobody gameplanned to stop Brooks or Reid. JB was the guy you had to commit to stopping. the last couple of years his average fell due to lack of carries. In his prime he was above 4.0 and was a terriffic runner. He certainly should be in the HOF.

    • Brooks was a no brainer.

      • Brooks was nothing special at all in my opinion.
        If Brooks is in….Lawrence Timmons is on his way to having a shot too.
        Their stats are more than comparable after seven seasons.

        • Agreed 100% Daquido!!
          The only player I thought was a lock this year was Strahan……. due to him playing for the Giants, SB being held in NYC.

          All the other players are ok, but I don’t think they should have been put in ahead of Bettis. Jones? Not even the best OT of his era. Brooks? Since he got in, I guess 50 other LB’s will get in now. Williams? Good grief…….. talk about the Hall of Very Good….

          Just more proof that HOF’s are agenda-driven. Baseball’s HOF has too many electors….. maybe fooftball’s has too few? Seems Hockey and basketball get it right without much controversy.

          Oh well……. Bettis will just have to settle for being loved in Pittsburgh. Canton will be a pipe dream for the foreseeable future, based on who becomes eligible in the coming years.

        • Not only did Brooks get in on the first ballot, all of the more reputable sites that I’ve read said that Brooks was the most qualified this year.

          • Well…Some “reputable” sites even contest that Bob Nutting is a good owner.
            Can’t always believe what you read.
            Derek Brooks was an above average LB….A more publicized Lawrence Timmons.
            Nothing more as far as I’m concerned.

  5. Well, the Pens lost last night, Jerome Bettis didn’t make it to the Football Hall Of Fame, and Punxataney Phil predicts 6 more weeks of winter. In the meantime, at least the temperatures for the Superbowl will be milder than first predicted.

  6. Duke played an amazing game against Pitt on Monday at the Pete. They also played very well against Syracuse at the Carrier Dome before a record 35,000+ yesterday. That was one of the best CBB games we’ll see all year. Duke’s foul trouble did them in, as they had no size to defend late.

    I still think Pitt is a pretty solid team, although they are a notch or two below those teams on most nights. I also think UVA is rounding into shape as the season goes along. They’ll likely give Pitt fits today. The top end of the ACC is very good. I will predict 56-50 in favor of the Panthers today in a “must win” game of sorts. Their regular season is running out of quality opponents.

    Mr. Shero, please get Sid some legit help at wing! He creates so many more scoring chances than anyone in the league, but a lot of them are wasted.

    Seattle wins by less than 5.

  7. Joe Starkey has a good article today about Chuck Noll. Basically, it is about why Noll is not talked about much these days, except when some coach or some team is closing in on one of his accomplishments.

    I think it can be summed up pretty easily. The guy was the genuine article. He was not a self-promoter. He was actually a humble guy, who had done his job very well and just went away when he retired. That’s how pretty much all sports figures used to do it. My dad used to tell me stories about how Honus Wagner, in retirement, would play baseball with kids near his house in Carnegie. Can you imagine that today?

    I will always remember one thing about Chuck Noll in retirement. He gave back of his time and efforts in fundraising at the alma mater we shared – University of Dayton. He was the fundraising chairperson for a big undertaking that I recall, and I received a letter from him asking me to consider supporting the effort. It was an understated letter, as you might imagine. I also received a random phone call from him during that fundrasising effort. It was chilling for me, a guy who grew up idolizing the Steelers, to talk to the man who had built that dynasty. He thanked me for being a Steelers fan, but then talked in detail about the projects planned at our school. That was Chuck Noll. It was never about him.

    John Gruden also graduated from UD. I assume I will get a fundraising letter from him some day as well. No offense to John, but I don’t think it will be as memorable for me if he calls.

  8. Link about Orioles’ interest in a starting pitcher:

    http://m.mlb.com/news/2014/02/01/67365598/

    • Just my opinion, but I think the O’s have a ton of interest in AJ. They are much like the Pirates from the standpoint of young, talented pitchers that are not all ready to stick in the rotation this year. So, I think they would love somebody for ONE year. AJ is perfect for that, and the other quality options seem to want at least 2 years. I know Duquette poo-poo’d the report from Peter Gammons that the O’s are “all in” on AJ. But, my guess is he just did that to try to not tip his hand and, hopefully, keep the asking price down a bit. I believe the O’s feel they have the inside track on AJ, due to where he lives, and his stated desire to spend more time with his family. But, they may only want him for one year and I don’t think they want to pay $15M+ for him any more than the Bucs do.

      • Conventional wisdom, despite the “way past his prime” Peter Gammons blather, is that AJ will pitch for the Pirates, Orioles or Phillies in 2014. That gives the Pirates every chance to make it happen IF THEY WANT TO. I can’t see the O’s in position to pay much more than the Bucs can afford and I truly don’t think Phillies are a major threat at this point, but I could be wrong.

        The Bucs must offer, IMHO, between $13 and $15M for 2014. For AJ, he needs to decide if pitching in the AL EAST, for perhaps a $1M-$2M more, is really a wise choice. My guess is that NH and FC are factoring this in and trying to “win this deal” somewhere lower than that, perhaps $11 or $12M. I really HOPE they don’t try to be too cute and end up losing out on what would be a very good investment.. one more season of AJ at $14M say, to me is good value. Despite all the age-related issues and concerns with starters… the Pirates have the payroll available and don’t look to have a lot of other places to spend it as of now (i.e. 1B)…

        • I just think it goes against a lot of what the Pirates cost-control, invest in young talent doctrine is- giving a 37 year old pitcher a 1 year deal.

          While I do think it was a mistake not to offer the QO, I think a bigger mistake was not upgrading this offense. The last impression people have of this club was the NLDS lineup. Byrds gone, Morneau, Jones. I’m a little stunned the attitude is, no the offense is fine? Really? In limited ABs Lambo homered once, Gaby Sanchez, Travis Snider, early 2013 Tabata…thats why the Pirates had to trade for Byrd, Morneau in the first place.

          Although im intrigued by Polanco, its not unreasonable to think he’s going to struggle at times like Marte did when he came up.

          While I hear the arguments that criticize the Pirates on not adding to the payroll, I think it can be debated upon what they should have spent that money on.

          The AJ issue really bothers me as Cutch’s salary continues to rise. What happens when he gets beyond 10-12 million?

      • Orioles are at PNC 5/20 and 5/21

        Wonder if AJ will want one of those games if he signs with Orioles?

  9. * Jerome Bettis was a HOF personality, good running back but when I think of HOF, I think of greatness. Sure, there were moments but I’m not losing any sleep over him not getting in. What I do find hilarious is Walter Jones getting in…. he wasn’t even the best OT during his era.

    * Which leads me back to the HOF overall, they are all a joke. When average to good are getting in, it taints the true legends who were great in their eras. I laugh hysterically when sports writers go on the offensive about voter decisions. Seem to recall a local columnist (cough, gag, cough) that mentioned just the same.

    * Losing a game isn’t a concern, never is when a team is well on their way to the playoffs but my complaints on the Pens is more about how they are playing, how they lose. They are almost always the same recipe of defeat. Crosby and/or Malkin are shutdown, third and fourth lines do nothing offensively, power play doesn’t produce, Bylsma gets outcoached from a line matching / tactical perspective, and players lose their mind and get frustrated like we saw last night with the selfish penalty by Malkin on the 2-minute unsportsmanlike conduct for dishing out more F bombs to the referee than shots on goal.

    * That diving call against James Neal was absolutely the wrong call. If you get tripped, held… that’s one thing to dive but getting hit from behind near the boards isn’t a play you should be calling a diving penalty.

    * Other than hockey, not sure anything has my attention for the Olympics. I’ll probably watch some events here and there.

    • Im willing to give Smith some credit for coming up big at home. However, Gibby needs to stop making minor league cross ice passes that aren’t there. Bottom 6 has needed addressed since the summer but most teams still fancy themselves playoff contenders so here’s hoping some options become available soon.

      Why isn’t Chris Stewart wearing black n vegas gold yet??? #Stewartwatch

    • Eric, always like your posts, even if I disagree, because they’re marked by thought and are delivered in a level-headed manner. But man, you gave me a laugh today with your take on the Pens’ loss.

      Isn’t that pretty much the blueprint for every NHL team’s loss, especially a team with some star power? Not being all sarcastic here, and wasn’t laughing derisively. Just made me laugh is all.

      Go Pens!

      • Of course shutting down the stars is a good recipe to beat a team w star power.

        It’s just far too easy to do vs the Pens for a multitude of reasons.

    • Sid has looked seriously disinterested lately….I have to hope he’s just saving it for Sochi.

      Eric your 3rd point is spot on….lack of better fitting Ws for Malkin and Crosby contribute to the shutdown.

  10. Sun halfway up an almost cloudless blue sky, burning off the last of a low lying morning fog. Mist still hangs above the surface of Lake Tarpon, but it is a losing battle.

    66 degrees, rising to 81. A slight breeze. The aroma of dampness just before the fog and dew disappear.

    A beautiful day, and a wonderful place for a Super Bowl.

    Oh wait…

    • No Super Bowl, but you have super-sized bugs, swamp gas and the spectre of June, July & August to look forward to.

      • They have this new thing now. It’s called air conditioning.

        The most challenging part of summer is that every restaurant seems to set its AC at 45 degrees.

        • Same thing in Tidewater Virginia. My wife always kept a sweater in the car for dining. As I recall, the only thing worse than soaking the back of your shirt in the car, was the bone chilling effect of entering a restaurant.

    • I cleared snow out of the driveway yesterday – again. Some of the spots where it was packed down by tire tracks that I coudn’t quite remove completely have melted a bit with the sun this morning. So, I know exactly how you feel today, Drew.

  11. I don’t watch a lot of hockey but I did turn on the Pens game last night for a little bit.
    And one of the first things I noticed was how big the Coyotes’ goalie (and pads) was – and how little room there seemed to be to fire the puck into the net. I’m not sure if making the net larger is the answer. Maybe making the pads smaller is. But it does seem like there needs to be more room.

    I called DK to tell him what I saw and that I kinda agreed with him. He never picked up.

  12. Hey DK

    Safe travels to Sochi. I am looking forward to the Olympics and especially the hockey. Would love to see USA bring home the gold. Will be pulling for my sentimental favorite Slovakia due to family ancestry.

    Didn’t catch the Pens last night but hoping they can get some front line help and a bit more scoring from the bottom six.

    Will try to catch the Pitt/UVA game today before the kiddos tube in for the Puppy Bowl.

    No real rooting interest tonight but have got caught up a bit with the Seahawks. Having both Michael Robinson and Russell Wilson as local talents.

    Take care all and enjoy the day.

    Randy in RVA.

  13. If Bettis had been a Raven, I doubt anyone on here would be stumping for him.

    I honestly think HOFs avoid guys like Bettis, because if u put him in, who else do you now have to consider? Face it, he’s a guy you have to think about, and you all know what they say about that.

    Ward will even be a bigger fuss, even though I think he is a HOF.

  14. Ok so no one wants to point out or notice PM’s choke job last night. Soff in front of net and lousy decision making in neutral zone. Bet you team usa staff noticed…

    Can only imagine if 58 did anything of the sort…

  15. DK,

    Hopefully you’ll have a safe and memorable time covering the Olympics. But as an NHL fan, I have no interest in the games and do not like the three week break. I don’t like seeing Crosby go against Opik or Geno. I have no interest in seeing what nation is the best in hockey. I hope this is the last time the NHL sends its players to the Olympics.

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