Ryan Stieg is back to throw some (figurative) pies
Guess who’s back? That’s right, everybody. I’ve returned from my almost nine-month hibernation and I’m back to spread some Thanksgiving cheer.
During this “rest period,” if you want to call it that, I wondered if I’d ever write a column again. In case you couldn’t tell by my lack of articles, I was furloughed in March and didn’t return until late August.
During those days, even though I had a feeling I’d return to the Journal lineup, I had a sinking feeling that maybe my days as a sports writer were over.
After all, I know several people who were socked in the jaw with a furlough or a layoff at their own jobs, and they still haven’t gotten back on their feet.
The good thing is I did get back up, but I still wasn’t sure if I’d write a column again. I was still in a mental funk and who would want to read the opinions of a guy who’d just write negative things over and over?
Things started to change, though, in the last couple of weeks. My wife said people she knew were wondering if I’d ever get back to column writing and I started to reconsider it.
Then on Wednesday night, I was convinced to return. There’s an annual tradition in Minneapolis where Minnesota sports fans read Star Tribune columnist Patrick Reusse’s “Turkey of the Year” column.
Reusse’s column is the motivation behind my annual “Pie in the Face” column and he retired it last season before bringing it back this year due to popular demand. After reading it, I realized that if he can bring his back, I can do the same.
So without further ado, here are this year’s list of pie-deserving people.
• Number 5: Commissioner Kevin Warren and the Big Ten
Warren edges out Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who decided to hire DUI-prone Tony La Russa to be his new manager; Detroit Tigers owner Chris Ilitch, who hired disgraced manager A.J. Hinch to be his new skipper; and former NFL quarterback Matt Leinart, who did his best to make the top five with a recent Twitter rant about California’s COVID-19 restrictions. My thoughts and prayers for you through this difficult time, Matt.
Some might say Warren should be higher on the list and I get that, but he’s on the low end because he was trying to do the right thing, eventually.
With the idea of playing fall sports still up in the air, Warren announced in August that after consulting with medical experts, the conference’s Council of Presidents and Chancellors voted to postpone fall sports, including football.
This was a controversial decision, but I believe that they did it with the best of intentions. Warren also said that the Big Ten wouldn’t revisit the decision, only to go back on that in September and bring football back.
Just one month later, the conference went from forcefully standing by their decision to then changing it. I’m definitely not applauding the Big Ten’s original decision, but if you’re going to cancel or postpone a season, then stand by it.
If you go back on it, it makes you look incompetent and scared, rather than strong as a leader. For their wishy-washy behavior, the conference and Warren all get a cherry pie to their faces.
• Number 4: Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash
Does one man deserve a spot just for one decision? Of course he does, especially if you ask my diehard Rays’ fan-wife. Cash’s overthinking in Game 6 basically changed Tampa’s fortunes in the World Series and helped lead the Los Angeles Dodgers to their first title since 1988.
With Rays’ ace pitcher and former Cy Young Award-winner Blake Snell breezing his way through the Dodgers lineup and maintaining a 1-0 lead with Tampa’s season on the line, the analytics-loving Cash inexplicably pulled Snell during the sixth inning in favor of a reliever. After a visibly disgusted Snell walked to the dugout, struggling reliever Nick Anderson came in and promptly coughed up the lead and the Dodgers won.
Cash was blasted relentlessly on social media and deservedly so. He was worried about what might happen instead of watching he game in front of him. Cash earned AL Manager of the Year honors, but he’ll never live that decision down and for that, he gets a blueberry pie to the face.
• Number 3: University of Michigan football head coach Jim Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Don Brown
It’s hard to feel bad for fans whose teams have had a long history of success, but I have sympathy for Wolverines’ fans now. After some missteps in hiring coaches with Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke, Michigan seemed to have found its savior in Harbaugh, but he hasn’t delivered a national title, or even a trip to the Big Ten Championship game.
And then you have Brown, who has this reputation for being this great defensive guru (we’ll meet another so called guru later), but then gets thrashed by Ohio State year after year, and this year by Indiana of all teams, who beat Brown’s defense with the deep ball all game.
This is a bad Michigan team and it’s shown it consistently. It lost to a weak Michigan State team, got blown out by the Hoosiers and Wisconsin and needed three overtime periods to beat freaking Rutgers.
You can tell Harbaugh thinks it’s over when he’s on the sideline (it probably will be for Brown at the end of the year) and it should be. Both of them deserve a pie and it’s a pumpkin one with whipped cream.
• Number 2: 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan
Nobody chokes like this guy. Shanahan was the Atlanta Falcons’ offensive coordinator during their famous collapse to the New England Patriots during Super Bowl LI, and he played a big role in that loss.
His smart play calling helped Atlanta build a 28-3 lead, but instead of using the Falcons’ effective running game to milk the clock in the second half, Shanahan decided to play aggressive and go to their passing game. The offense started to stall, the Patriots rallied and the Falcons lost.
Earlier this year, Shanahan had a chance to exorcise those demons as he took San Francisco to Super Bowl LIV.
With the ‘Niners leading Kansas City by 10 points going into the fourth quarter, Shanahan pulled a “Kyle” once again by switching from San Fran’s power running game to the passing attack, led by quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who’d been up and down all game. As we all know, the ‘Niners started to struggle and the Chiefs came back to win.
For the second time in four years, Kyle had been part of a big second-half Super Bowl collapse and since he didn’t learn from his previous failure, he gets an apple pie to his mug.
• Number 1: Lions head coach Matt Patricia
Who can top Kyle Shanahan? Why the Detroit Lions, of course. Lions fans know this franchise is inept, but Patricia has brought Detroit back to almost 2008-level awfulness.
After firing Jim Caldwell, who led the Lions to two playoff berths, Detroit went with Patricia, a so-called defensive wizard out of New England.
Instead of getting a wizard like Albus Dumbledore or Harry Potter, the Lions got Gilderoy Lockhart, a fraud who got credit just for being associated with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.
In his brief time in Detroit, Patricia has gone 13-29-1. He looks lost out there and he hasn’t exactly endeared himself to the press during a time that they might help save him. This is a man who seems to care more about press-conference posture of reporters than putting together a decent game plan.
If there was any lingering doubt that Patricia needed to be let go, it was clear Thursday. With the Lions front and center on televisions around the country on Thanksgiving Day, they flopped against against a bad Houston squad, which had already fired its head coach-general manager during this season.
It was embarrassing to watch, even for owner Sheila Ford Hamp, who buried her face in her hands in the owner’s box at one point during the game, unable to watch the debacle in front of her eyes.
Detroit GM Bob Quinn deserves some of the blame, but ultimately, it’s Patricia who is in charge during games.
Now the question isn’t if he’ll be fired, but when. He could be already before you read this, but that won’t spare him a pie. So here you go Matt. A sticky pecan one that’ll probably get stuck in your beard.
All in all, this was fun and it’s nice to be back, Journal readers. I hope you enjoyed it and that you had a safe and happy Thanksgiving with some delicious pie.
Hopefully, you didn’t get any on your face like these guys did.
Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.