Sloppy performance by Terps provides food for thought over TV dinner

September 19, 2004|By PETER SCHMUCK

WHEN CHRIS HENRY caught that touchdown pass in overtime to give seventh-ranked West Virginia a 19-16 overtime victory over the Terps, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

I'm guessing that Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen was not similarly conflicted, but if the Terrapins had come out of yesterday's game undefeated, it would have been the greatest injustice since I got cut from the baseball team at Santa Ana High School for the third year in a row in 1972.

The Terps had to battle to survive their opener against gritty Northern Illinois. They looked only workmanlike against a Temple University team that needed winless Florida A&M to get them off the schneid yesterday. And, at Morgantown, they might as well have let the Mountaineers have the ball for five straight possessions to open the game.

There were three turnovers before I got my Hungry Man TV Dinner out of the microwave (it actually says "1 1/2 POUNDS OF FOOD!" on the box) and there were a total of five Maryland turnovers in the game.

Now, how can I put this as sensitively as possible? There probably are situations where "The Fridge" wouldn't mind having five turnovers, but it certainly would not be during a football game - at least not one he's coaching.

You don't win football games when you turn the ball over five times. You definitely don't win games when you turn the ball over five times on the road. The notion that you could turn the ball over five times on the road against a top 10 team and still have a field-goal attempt for the win with a minute or so to go in regulation ... well, that's something for the Mountaineers to think about while they're waiting to see if they're still in the top 10 this week.

Friedgen is not a moral victory kind of guy. He can talk all he wants about the character of a team that kept things together long enough to make it a real interesting afternoon - and he can say nice things about his stubborn defensive unit - but yesterday's sloppy first half showed that the Terrapins aren't quite ready for prime time.

Texas Rangers reliever Frank Francisco deserves the 16-game suspension and $10,000 fine that was levied on him by Major League Baseball for throwing a chair into the stands at Network Associates Coliseum in Oakland the other night. No question about it.

He was stupid and reckless and will likely never completely live down the incident, which left a female fan with a broken nose and a few hundred drooling personal injury lawyers on her answering machine.

If you've ever seen a drooling lawyer, you know what this woman is going through, but it would be nice if there was a little perspective. The police arrested Francisco for felony aggravated battery, which might be a bit harsh considering that people have been charged with less after shootouts.

Francisco's lawyers might want to check and see how often a charge of that magnitude has been pursued in Oakland after six drunken Raiders fans beat the bejesus out of somebody in a Denver Broncos jersey. I'm guessing not very often.

Baseball officials had no previous experience with chair-throwing incidents, other than watching Jerry Springer or ESPN Classic's Bobby Knight documentary. That's because most stadiums don't have folding chairs in the dugouts and bullpens, and most players cool down by the time they get a stadium operations guy to unbolt the bench from the floor.

Perhaps the closest parallel would be the 1991 incident in which Albert Belle drilled a heckler in the chest with a baseball. Belle, who also injured a Sports Illustrated photographer with a thrown baseball during his volatile career, was suspended for seven days and did not even face misdemeanor assault charges.

Final word: If you're wondering why you don't see young Joe Christensen, our new national baseball writer, interviewed on television much, it's because his Minnesota accent is so thick they would have to use subtitles. I think that was his leg sticking out of the wood-chipper in Fargo.

Contact Peter Schmuck at peter.schmuck@baltsun.com.

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