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On Sports

Some thoughts on Yogi, Tyrod, the Pearl and Brady's bunch

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Rochester Business Journal
October 2, 2015

The news of Yogi Berra’s passing last week at age 90 inspired one New York tabloid to run a large photograph of the smiling baseball legend with a simple headline: “It’s over.” It was a clever takeoff, of course, on one of Yogi’s signature sayings—”It ain’t over until it’s over”—which he first uttered while managing the overachieving New York Mets to the pennant in 1973.

Although he’s gone from this earthly realm, I would contend that it isn’t over for Yogi and never will be. The kindness the Yankees Hall of Fame catcher/philosopher showed me and countless others will live on. So, too, will his words. Each time I read or hear one of his unforgettable malapropisms, it’s déjà vu all over again. A huge smile creases my face. I can’t help but chuckle. His words of wisdom and humor will continue to evoke smiles and chuckles for generations to come. He will continue to be a gift that keeps on giving. That’s a pretty neat legacy if you ask me.

Yes, it’s very early—just 3/16ths of the National Football League schedule has been played. But I like what I see from the Buffalo Bills, especially quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Through three games, he has completed 74.4 percent of his passes for 714 yards, seven touchdowns and a 116.1 passer rating, which ranks him fifth in the league. The quarterbacks ahead of him are Aaron Rodgers, Andy Dalton, Tom Brady and Carson Palmer. The quarterbacks behind him include Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck and the Manning brothers, Peyton and Eli. It’s admittedly foolish to extrapolate statistics for an entire season because so much can happen, but if Taylor were to continue this pace, he would finish with 3,808 passing yards and a franchise record 37 passing touchdowns.

The former Virginia Tech star and Baltimore Ravens understudy looks like the guy who can stop the revolving quarterback door that’s been spinning furiously at One Bills Drive since Jim Kelly’s retirement following the 1997 season. Yes, there’s sure to be more growing pains along the way, similar to the ones T-Mobile experienced in his first game against Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots two Sundays ago. But even in that game, in which he threw three interceptions and was sacked eight times, he showed moxie. He kept fighting and helped lead a comeback that made the game closer than it should have been.

I really like Taylor’s composure, football intelligence and skill set. He has a strong arm and running back speed. If the Bills have in fact found their next franchise quarterback, Bills coach Rex Ryan will deserve a great deal of credit: He’s the guy who encouraged Buffalo to sign the signal caller who backed up Baltimore’s Joe Flacco the previous four seasons.

I’ve been following Syracuse University basketball since the mid-1960s when Dave Bing and his skinny, bespectacled backcourt mate Jim Boeheim were leading the Orange to the NCAA East Region finals. Bing remains the greatest hoops player I’ve ever seen at the ‘Cuse, but he wasn’t the most electrifying. That distinction belongs to Dwayne Pearl Washington, whose mesmerizing Harlem Globetrotter-like dribbling skills convinced 30,000 people to regularly show up at the Carrier Dome in the mid-1980s and purchase T-shirts proclaiming: “And on the eighth day, God created the Pearl.”

After surgery to remove a benign brain tumor in the early 1990s, Pearl returned to SU to complete his undergraduate studies. He came back for games on numerous occasions through the years and relocated to Syracuse about a year ago to attend graduate school. Sadly, he was diagnosed with another brain tumor this summer and underwent more surgery on Aug. 25. It was reported that this tumor was malignant and that doctors were unable to remove all of it, so Pearl will have to undergo radiation treatments and chemotherapy.

The outpouring of support he’s received from his legion of fans has been overwhelming and uplifting. He can’t thank people enough for the cards, letters and prayers. “The thing about the Syracuse fans that I meet and that I’ve heard from is they don’t just care about who I was as a player,” Pearl recently told my friend Mike Waters of the Syracuse Post-Standard. “I think that people really do care about who you are as a person. That relationship between me and Syracuse fans—that’s special. … I just want to say to Syracuse fans, they’ve been important to both me and my family. I do appreciate everything that God has blessed me with. It’s all good. It really is all good.’’

A year ago this week, we experienced one of the biggest overreactions in recent sports history. The New England Patriots had just been embarrassed, 41-14, by the Kansas City Chiefs on national television to drop to 2-2. Tom Brady had played poorly, and even Boston sports commentators were beginning to write the obituaries on Brady’s career and the Patriots dynasty. To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of their death had been greatly exaggerated. Since that time, Brady’s bunch is 16-2, including a fourth Super Bowl victory.

Many wondered, even hoped, that the Deflategate scandal would take the air out of the Patriots. Just the opposite has occurred. As was the case when they went unbeaten in the regular season following the 2007 Spygate scandal, the Patriots look like a team on a stick-it-to-the-NFL mission. They’ve scored a franchise record 119 points during this season’s 3-0 start, and Brady is playing like he’s 38 going on 28. His 119.6 passer rating is 23.6 points above his career average.

I’m not about to jump on the Patriots-will-finish-undefeated bandwagon, however. They will stub their toes at some point. The often smug Belichick could get his comeuppance if he continues to keep Brady out there during latter stages of blowouts. The longer Brady is on the field, the greater the odds of his getting injured.

Scott Pitoniak is the Rochester Business Journal sports columnist.

9/25/15 (c) 2015 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email

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