What should be the prevailing vibe of Thanksgiving weekend? Perspective, of course. Perspective and turkey legs, perspective and family, perspective and friends, perspective with bottles of red and white. Perspective with a profound appreciation of what you have, not what you have not, and perspective with the common sense to push aside all demons and laugh at relatively inconsequential fare such as sporting competition.
Yep, until Mike Tomlin goes wacknut on us and tries to stop Jacoby Jones from scoring on a kickoff return, intentionally stepping into traffic and pretending he was doing nothing but innocently watching the play unfold on the stadium big screen.
And until Jason Kidd, losing in the final seconds and out of timeouts, goes goofball on us by having his player intentionally collide with him and knock a cup of soda from his hands, which allowed his assistant time to devise one last play while the court was mopped.
Gentlemen, you both need vacations. Maybe long ones.
Tomlin is the coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, heretofore a dignified organization known for sustained excellence and fair play. He is not supposed to be on the playing field at any time, much less when a kick returner for the Baltimore Ravens is clutching the ball and sprinting up the very sideline where Tomlin was standing. Slyly, Tomlin kept his back to the play as he planted his right foot on the field, in essence giving the Steelers a 12th defender. Jones had to slow down, just before Tomlin retreated from the field, and was tackled after a 73-yard play. Not only did Tomlin cost Baltimore a touchdown in a game of heated divisional rivals, his wandering act could have led to an injury.
Unsportsmanlike conduct? That and utter mindlessness, yes.
Fortunately, the Ravens won anyway, the Steelers sealing their fate with a dropped two-point conversion with 1:03 left after an earlier botched field-goal attempt in a 22-20 loss. But Tomlin still should be fined heavily by the NFL, which would plant a seed for any coach in the future who ponders maniacal, heat-of-the-moment actions. Tomlin also must apologize to Jones and the Ravens on behalf of the Steelers, who never should stoop to such desperation. But his initial reaction was to be a smart ass, which worked when Tomlin was a Super Bowl-champion coach but not when he’s 5-7 and on the outside of the AFC playoffs looking in.
“I always watch the returns on the JumboTron. It provides better perspective for me,” said Tomlin, who might want to watch from his living room next time. “I lost my placement as he broke free and saw at the last second how close I was to the field of play.”
Really? And there are palm trees in Pittsburgh, too? Doesn’t Tomlin know that the thick white stripe beside the sideline also is forbidden territory? Why was he so far out there? “Tell me something I don’t know,” he shot back. “I do it quite often, like everybody else in the National Football League. I was wrong. I accept responsibility for it.”
Which is fine if Tomlin is accepting responsibility for his guilt. But he’s claiming it was unintentional. I don’t buy it, nor do the Ravens. Remember when their quarterback, Joe Flacco, was caught by NFL Films half-jokingly telling teammates before the final play of the Super Bowl to run on the field and tackle 49er returner Ted Ginn Jr. if necessary?
“That’s exactly what he just did,” Flacco said of Tomlin. “He was looking at the big screen the whole entire time. He knew where he was, knew where Jacoby was. He pulled my move.”
Jones was more disturbed that he didn’t score a touchdown anyway. “It broke my stride, but I still shouldn’t have been caught,” he said. “If I was him, I’d do the same thing knowing I was back there. … I don’t blame other people’s actions. I still should have scored.”
Cracked Ravens coach John Harbaugh: “I was wondering, did they credit him with the tackle on that? I really don’t know what to say about it other than stuff like that happens.”
No one would have been laughing had the Steelers won.
Kidd, struggling mightily in his first season as in-over-his-head coach of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, was fined $50,000 by the league for “Spillgate.” Knowing his team would get a final chance to tie or win the game, Kidd told guard Tyshawn Taylor to “hit me” as the Lakers’ Jodie Meeks was making the first of two free throws, putting the Nets in a 96-94 hole. The spillage allowed Nets assistant John Welch to devise a final play — while two Lakers players listened in the Nets huddle — while Kidd was making a substitution as the cleanup crew finished up. Paul Pierce missed a three-pointer, and the Nets slipped to 4-11.
Like Tomlin, Kidd tried to bluff afterward. “Cup slipped out of my hand while I was getting Ty,” he said. “Sweaty palms. I was never good with the ball. In the heat of the battle, you’re trying to get guys in and out of the game, and the cup fell out of my hand.”
Taylor bluffed too. “I wasn’t paying attention. I just kind of bumped him. I didn’t even know he was holding (anything). Coach was drinking a soda on the sideline. I was like, `What’s he doing?’ It could ice a free throw shooter and be a timeout when you don’t have one, but that wasn’t the thought process. I was just coming out, and he was in my way. `Coach, get out of my way, bro.’ ”
This is what a coach does, bro, when Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, Jason Terry and Andrei Kirilenko are injured. This is what a coach does when the Russian owner, Mikhail Prokhorov, already is issuing votes of confidence for Kidd after committing to $190 million in payroll and tax charges. This is what happens when Pierce has questioned Kidd’s substitution patterns, Kevin Garnett is moping and perceptions are spreading that Kidd is doing nothing but standing around and letting assistants do the coaching.
“We created this monster,” Garnett told the media. “We’ve got to deal with it. We’ll have the business of basketball come into play, I’m sure. Management is probably going to do what they got to do. That’s out of our hands.”
So was the cup of soda.
Petty crime doesn’t pay, especially in sports, particularly during the holidays.