Pitt quarterback Phil Jurkovec was awful against Cincinnati on Saturday night. He threw more than twice as many incompletions as completed passes. He was the No. 1 reason, among many, why Pitt was embarrassed in a 27-21 home loss.
But, somehow, Jurkovec found a way to be worse after the game. He took on an unbeatable opponent when he ripped the Acrisure Stadium fans for booing him and his lame offense. It was disappointing to hear his comments.
“I think if you’re a grown-ass man booing in that stadium, then you’ve got to look at things yourself. I think that’s pathetic.”
Seattle Mariners starting pitcher George Kirby was bad against Tampa Bay on Friday night. He gave up a score-tying, two-run home run to Rene Pinto in the seventh inning of what became a 7-4 loss. It was his 102nd and final pitch of the game.
But, somehow, Kirby found a way to be worse after the game. He took no responsibility for what was a hurtful loss for the Mariners, who are in a fierce fight for a playoff spot, which would be just their second in the past 22 years. It was disappointing to hear his comments.
“I wish I wasn’t out there for the seventh, to be honest. I was at 90 pitches and I didn’t think I needed to go anymore. But it is what it is.”
Two different sports.
Two bad mistakes.
Jurkovec’s frustration is understandable. He is a Pittsburgh guy who was taking his first real test as Pitt’s new quarterback. He failed miserably, completing just 10 of 32 passes. He had two chances to lead Pitt to a winning drive, the second starting at the Cincinnati 43 with 5:44 left in the game.
To Jurkovec, it must have felt like the fans were piling on every bit as much as the Cincinnati defense. No player likes to be booed by his home crowd. No quarterback likes to hear his offense booed.
But to call the fans “pathetic” is flat wrong. It’s never smart to get into a hissing contest with the paying customers. Pitt has a hard enough time attracting decent crowds to Acrisure. No Pitt player should do anything to antagonize those fans who actually pay for a ticket and show up. Countless people pointed that out to Jurkovec harshly on social media, where he has taken a beating since Saturday night.
I hear people say college kids are not professional athletes and should not be booed. But college football has become more and more like pro football. The players love that. They love to be paid through name, image and likeness. They love to be free agents through the transfer portal.
Pitt is Jurkovec’s third stop since leaving Pine-Richland High School. He played at Notre Dame and Boston College. This is his sixth year of college. He will turn 24 in November and is older than many players in the NFL.
In his defense, Jurkovec did follow up his “pathetic” comment by saying, “We didn’t play well enough. We’re going to be better.” And it’s not like he can’t win the fans back. He just needs to give Pitt a better chance to win Saturday night at West Virginia and then in the next home game against North Carolina on Sept. 23.
By the way, if Jurkovec didn’t like what he heard from the home fans last weekend, he might want to wear ear plugs in Morgantown. I’m guessing that isn’t going to be a friendly crowd.
Kirby is in a much tougher spot. His comments were widely criticized on social media for, as one site put it, “his lack of desire, excuse-making and disloyalty to his manager and teammates.” Several former players all but called him soft.
Actually, they did call him soft.
“Can’t imagine ever having that thought at any point on the mound or during a game. Much less repeating to reporters,” former big-league pitcher Mark Mulder tweeted. “Crazy that someone can be so mentally weak who plays a sport at a high-level.”
Kirby’s comments couldn’t have played well in the Mariners clubhouse. How are the other players supposed to believe in him during their stretch run? How can they be expected to want him on the mound in a big game?
Seattle manager Scott Servais was concerned enough about the Kirby situation that he talked to him “for a long time” Friday night and Saturday morning. Those conversations, of course, led to the obligatory apology from Kirby later on Saturday: “Obviously, I screwed up. That’s not me. Skip’s always got to pry that ball out of my hands. Just super uncharacteristic of me as a player and who I am out on the mound. I love competing.”
Kirby, 25, is in his second MLB season. He is 10-9 this season with a 3.48 earned-run average. His next start is scheduled for Friday night at home against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Is it hyperbole to suggest it will be the biggest start of Kirby’s career?
I don’t think so.
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