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Top 5 Sports Stories

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Happy Wednesday everyone, here's my Top 5 for September 19, 2012 from Len Berman at www.ThatsSports.com.

1. Quick Hits

  • The president of NFL Films, Steve Sabol, is dead at the age of 69.
  • The Toronto Blue Jays have suspended shortstop Yunel Escobar three games for having a homophobic slur in Spanish on his eye black strips.
  • Baltimore scored two in the ninth to tie and two in the 18th to beat Seattle 4-2. The Orioles and Yankees are tied for first place again.


2. The Pressure Is Building

We haven't reached the breaking point with the NFL replacement refs, but we're getting there. You heard about the official who was dumped from working the Saints game because his Facebook page had pictures of him dressed up in Saints gear. Now Eagles running back LeSean McCoy says that a replacement official told him to step it up during the Ravens game because he had McCoy on his fantasy team. An NFL spokesman said the league doesn't allow officials to play fantasy football. Oh, that should settle it. But things are bound to get worse. The next "scandal" is right around the corner. What will it be, a player injury? A blown game? Or will it be replacement refs betting on games? Oh yeah, the league doesn't allow that either.

3. Rule Book

You guys had lots to say about the "kneeldown" controversy at the end of the Bucs/Giants game on Sunday.

H.K. I think Tampa Bay had every right to try to jar the ball loose and take it the other way, especially with the score as it was. It was up to the Giants to protect the ball in that situation. I applaud the Bucs for playing it to the end. If Coughlin and Manning don't like it, they should hand it off the next time and take their chances there.

M.L. Eli Manning was knocked backward and could have possibly twisted an ankle or knee as a result of the unexpected push from the Bucs. I wouldn't be surprised if going forward other teams give the Bucs a taste of their own medicine.

K.B. Was Bucs coach Greg Schiano really trying to win the game -- or the postgame press conference? Funny, isn't it, how the conversation is all about how his team was "playing hard to the end," not about how they blew a big lead and gave up 41 points.

I.L. on Facebook at "Len Berman's Top 5, TB did everything within the rules, because it was still theoretically a game they could have tied if they got possession. Maybe the Giants could have played the knee with a different quarterback.

4. Go Bucs (The other Bucs)

The first thing I check in the baseball standings each day is the Pittsburgh Pirates. Can they hang on? On August 8 they were 16 games over .500. It's now just one. When I think of the Pirates, I think of their late announcer Bob Prince rooting for a "bloop and a blast" on KDKA radio. It would be nice if a town with a great baseball history could make the playoffs, but that would be a bonus. I'd be happy with a couple of bloops and blasts and a winning season for the first time since 1992.

5. Steve Sabol
1942-2012


The NFL lost its most important non-player, non-executive. Steve Sabol was the president of NFL Films, succumbing yesterday after an 18 month battle with brain cancer. Not only did Steve set the standard for sports filming, winning 40 Emmys awards along the way, but he was a good guy who in my view was the "gatekeeper" for the league. There was a time when television didn't get every angle of a controversial play, but NFL Films did. And Steve would "tell the story" without bias or prejudice. I mean he was paid by the owners, but the game was the thing. And that meant the players. He glorified them into "warriors" who played on the "frozen tundra," voiced by the great John Facenda. Here's a snip. And along the way he helped grow the brand collecting more and more fans for the NFL. His dad Ed, who founded NFL Films and is still alive, is now in the Hall of Fame. Steve deserves a spot next to him.

Happy Birthday: One-armed pitcher Jim Abbott, featured in my brand new book for young readers, Greatest Moments in Sports: Upsets and Underdogs. 45.

Bonus Birthday: Jimmy Fallon. 38.

Today in Sports: The Orioles Davey Johnson ties Roger Hornsby's record for homers by a second baseman, 42. (They still jointly hold the record). 1973.

Bonus Event: Hey, let's have a film festival in Cannes. 1946.

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