2016 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 4

kickoff_footballThe mediocrity continues. Zach & I both went 2-3 last week. He correctly predicted Louisville’s destruction of Florida St., an outcome I still can’t wrap my mind around, while the Buckeyes of Ohio St. didn’t let me down. I’m stunned that the L.A. Rams actually won and that Minnesota somehow beat Green Bay in the first game in the Vikings new stadium. The NFL season is difficult to figure out just yet, but we have seen injuries take their toll and some young stars begin to emerge. Half of the teams in my pre-season college Top 10 have already lost a game. If I were getting paid to do this I’d have a lot of explaining to do, but thankfully we’re just having some fun.

My Season:     8-9

Z’s Season:     6-11

 

 

 

 

 

Florida      at      Tennessee (-6.5)

tennessee_volunteers_football_iphone_wallpaperThe Volunteers are very quietly hovering just outside the Top 10 with a 3-0 record and victories over…well…nobody in florida gators imageparticular, unless you want to give them kudos for beating Virginia Tech at Bristol Motor Speedway a couple of weeks ago. The Gators are also 3-0, in the Top 20, and haven’t really played anyone, but their defense has only allowed 14 points thru three games, and that’s impressive no matter what kind of cupcakes a team has beaten up on. Having said that, we cannot overlook the fact that their starting QB is injured. The good thing is that Florida’s backup signal caller is a graduate transfer who started 11 games in four seasons at Purdue, so that is atleast better than some 18 year old freshman being thrown into his first taste of bigtime college football in front of 100k fans on the road. Did you know that Florida has won this matchup 11 straight times?? Can they make it 12?? Ehhhhh…I don’t think so. Tennessee quarterback Josh Dobbs is a real talent who will be playing on Sundays in the not-so-distant future, and I think he is the difference. This will be a close one, but I think Tennessee covers the points. Conversely, Zach isn’t sold on Tennessee…at all. He thinks the Gators will win easily.

My Pick:     Tennessee

Z’s Pick:     Florida

 

 

Stanford (-3)      at      UCLA

ucla_bruins2The talking heads are really pushing Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey as a leading Heisman contender and I have no reason to photo.stanfordtreeargue. In two games McCaffrey, a hybrid RB/WR, has over 400 total yards and four TDs, and both victories were against solid competition. Stanford doesn’t blow the doors off of anything, but they get the job done. Meanwhile, the Bruins are 2-1 after the season opening overtime loss to Texas A&M. UCLA doesn’t even get the respect of a home field advantage, and I think that might be a mistake. For no reason in particular I’m going to venture out on a limb and predict the upset. Afterall, with my record what do I have to lose, right?? Zach is riding the Heisman hype and thinks Stanford will win by a touchdown.

My Pick:     UCLA

Z’s Pick:     Stanford

 

 

Penn St.    at      Michigan (-19)

I chose this game simply because of the challenging point spread. I have no doubt that the Wolverines will win, especially in The Big House. They have penn-state-logocruised to a 3-0 record and are probably glad to get into the conference schedule. The Nittany Lions are still alternately worshiping and fighting against the ghost of Joe Paterno, which atleast gives the talking heads something to yap about, but on the field they are 2-1, with a close loss to in-state rival Pitt balanced out by a close win over in-state rival Temple. I’m going to roll the dice again by predicting that Michigan will win but it’ll be a little closer than the folks in Vegas seem to think. Probably something along the lines of 42-24. Surprisingly Zach concurs.

My Pick:     Penn St.

Z’s Pick:     Penn St.

 

 

 

Arkansas  at      Texas A&M (-6)

I feel like the Razorbacks are a team that gets lost in the shuffle amongst the glitz & glamor of the SEC. I suppose that’s understandable given that theyarkansas-razorback-logo haven’t even sniffed ten wins since 2011. However thus far they are 3-0, including a triple OT win over highly regarded TCU. The Aggies are also 3-0, with solid victories over UCLA & Auburn. I must be in a gambling mood because I’m leaning toward another upset. I think this might come down to a last second field goal or something similar, meaning it’s possible that A&M could win the game but not cover the points. Zach thinks A&M is…scrappy. However he too is picking the upset.

My Pick:     Arkansas

Z’s Pick:     Arkansas

 

 

 

Houston (-2.5)   at      New England

houston-texans-mobile-wallpaperThis is really interesting. It isn’t often that you see the Patriots as underdogs at home. However Lil Tommy is still on Fidel Goodell patriotsimposed home confinement for tampering with his balls, and things got worse when backup Jimmy Garoppolo’s shoulder was injured last weekend. So now third string QB Jacoby Brissett, a rookie from NC State chosen in the 3rd round of the NFL Draft, steps up to the plate (I love me some mixed metaphors). The talking heads don’t seem to be all that concerned about the situation, which is confusing to me. Either Tom Brady is the best quarterback that’s ever graced a gridiron, or Bill Belichick is a mastermind with the combined coaching prowess of Vince Lombardi, Knute Rockne, & Mr. Miyagi who could lead the Patriots to the Super Bowl with the love child of Uncle Rico & Jamarcus Russell behind center…you can’t have it both ways. I tend to lean toward the latter since I think there are atleast a dozen legendary quarterbacks better than Brady, but there’s no denying that New England can never be counted out. If they were playing Cleveland or the Rams or Miami this week I’d probably be persuaded toward the Pats despite the QB situation. However, the 2-0 Texans have looked pretty darn good so far and have emerged as the clear favorites in the AFC South. The point spread is almost nothing, and I think Houston covers easily. Zach likes Houston’s defense, but like so many others he trusts Belichick’s particular brand of magic (which oftentimes looks an awful lot like cheating in my opinion).

My Pick:     Houston

Z’s Pick:     New England

Winning & Musing…..Volume 1.15

kickoff_footballThe Super Bowl is this Sunday but your humble Potentate of Profundity won’t be watching. I think it might be the first time in 42+ years on the planet that I haven’t bought into the hype. The truth is that my interests have shifted a bit in the past couple of years and I find myself less interested in sports than I once was. I find both teams involved to be somewhat loathsome. We know that the commercials won’t be all that interesting (there hasn’t been a truly memorable slate of Super Bowl ads in several years) and I can check them all out online on Monday anyway. They have a semi-talented harlot performing the halftime show which I am sure will thrill little girls with no taste and teenage boys attracted to the…well…not the music, that’s for sure. There’s just nothing there for me. My energy can be better spent reading a book or on any number of other activities. So, with that in mind now seems like the perfect time to wrap up the football season by tying some loose ends and pontificating on whatever else pops into my brain. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

I apologize that our Pigskin Picks of Profundity ended with such a whimper. I ran into some computer issues right before the final week of the NFL 1regular season. I am not opposed to taking a bye week, but that’s not how I wanted to finish the year. However it is what it is. C’est la vie. For the season Zach finished with a 46-50 record (he had a brutal final week…well, the final week that we picked), while I concluded with a record of 52-44. I’d put our records against any of the talking heads at ESPN.

 

Our bowl picks were even closer, but with the same result. I went 23-15 for a 60.5% winning percentage, while Zach was 22-17 for a 56.4% winning Ohio_State_Buckeyespercentage. Neither of us picked Ohio St. to win the national title or even make it past the semifinal. I am sure we weren’t alone in assuming Alabama would defeat the Buckeyes. Obviously we were wrong.

 

Looking back at my pre-season Top 25 a few things pop out. I had Florida St., Oregon, & Alabama in the Top 3, but made the assumption that Ohio St.’s NCAA_footballchances at a national championship were lost when QB Braxton Miller was lost to injury. I was way wrong. My 4th team was South Carolina, which ended up going 6-6. I said Boise St. would win 10 or 11 games (they won 11 in the regular season), although they did finish a few spots lower in the final rankings than I thought they would. Baylor, Michigan St., & UCLA had strong seasons as I predicted. I whiffed on Oklahoma, who I thought would be a Top 10 team but finished with just 8 wins. My Marshall Thundering Herd blew an opportunity to go undefeated and finish with a Top 15 record as I’d hoped, but did end up 23rd in the polls. LSU had a subpar 8 win season and didn’t finish ranked liked I thought they would. Ditto for Notre Dame. Arizona had a solid year and finished just about where I predicted. Ditto for Auburn.

 

My NFL prognostications were solid with few surprises. I got 5 out of 8 division winners correct. My Steelers really surprised me by winning the AFC nfl-footballCentral, while their Pennsylvania neighbors the Philadelphia Eagles completely fell apart down the stretch, losing 3 out of their final 4 games. I picked 5 out of 6 AFC playoff teams, although I said it’d be Denver representing the conference in The Super Bowl. Damn I wish I would have been right about that. I only got 3 out of 6 NFC playoff teams right and predicted Green Bay would go to The Super Bowl. If their coach wasn’t so conservative and they could play special teams at all I would have been right.

 

dfEven though I am ambivalent in regard to The Super Bowl the fact is that this DeflateGate stuff with the New England Patriots has been difficult to escape. Even non-sports news outlets are talking about it. I actually turned off the AFC Championship game at halftime and was in bed by 8:30pm that night. I could see where things were headed and just couldn’t stomach watching anymore Patriots “success”. So do I believe that they deflated balls in a covert attempt to win the game in an underhanded fashion?? Yes I do. Do I believe deflating balls helped all that much and altered the outcome of the game?? Not really. Although I do think those that are pointing out that New England outscored Indianapolis 28-0 in the second half after the subterfuge had been discovered and the footballs pumped up to their proper air pressure are missing the point. By halftime the game was over. The Colts’ spirits had been broken. Whatever kind of advantage the chicanery did provide in the first half was enough. I am a big believer in momentum. I think that if the score would have been 17-14 or 10-10 at the half it is possible that Indianapolis might have been more competitive. However, whether or not deflated balls made a difference in who won & lost the game isn’t really the most important issue. The fact is that over the past dozen or so years the New England Patriots, under the “leadership” of head coach Bill Belichick, have been proven to be built on a foundation of cheating and arrogantly thumbing their nose to the rulebook. If they win The Super Bowl will they really care about a fine of a few hundred grand or losing a draft pick?? Of course not. It’ll be a small df2price to pay. It is well known that NFL Commissioner Fidel Goodell is good buddies with Pats owner Bob Kraft. Goodell is an incompetent assclown anyway, and any kind of preferential, non-objective treatment of the Patriots in this situation would further call into question Goodell’s capability to carry out his duties properly. I know that this will never happen, but what I would do is fine the team $10 million, take away their 1st, 2nd, & 3rd round draft picks for the next three years, and suspend Belichick for the entire 2015 season. Surely this would be a stiff enough penalty to f-i-n-a-l-l-y get the attention of the folks in New England.

 

I had a huge problem with the NCAA ending all sanctions against Penn St. football a few months ago, penalties that had been handed down in the wake joe-paterno-psu1of the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal and resulting investigation. I thought the scholarship restrictions and post-season ban should have stayed in effect for the entire 4 years they had been originally set at. However, I don’t have any issue with former/late head coach Joe Paterno’s wins being restored. I have always believed that retroactively going back and changing record books and acting as if games never happened was kind of silly. We all know who won those games…why ignore it?? Eliminating the post-season ban and restoring full scholarship capacity is, in my opinion, a much bigger deal because I am not sure the citizens of Happy Valley and Nittany Lions fans have really been humbled and learned to put football in a proper perspective. It feels to me like they still assume that Penn St. is above the rules…and evidently they are right.

Paterno & Penn St.: Punishment, Penance, and Perspective

Most sports related scandals are like a geyser…they bubble up, spout forth for a brief moment, and then return to a state of dormancy within a brief period of time so the next big story can take its place at the top of the hierarchy for the talking heads on ESPN and talk radio to chew on ‘til it is deader than Pauley Shore’s career. But the events that have plagued Pennsylvania State University not only have continued to boil vociferously for nearly a year, but they have been simmering for more years than anyone really knew…except for those in charge in “Happy” Valley, which of course has been a huge part of the problem.

 

The NCAA has finally…and predictably…put in their two cents and lowered the proverbial boom. I have mixed feelings about the suits using the results of Penn St.’s own commissioned investigation against them instead of doing an independent inquiry, but I suppose it does make things more efficient and expedite the process. It isn’t as if a new report by a different panel would find anything all that different anyway.

 

First of all, I have no problem with the NCAA getting involved and handing out a punishment. While the scandal doesn’t have anything directly to do with on-the-field issues or even any kind of academic situation, the “cover-up” of proliferate child sexual abuse can be directly attributed to the desire of Coach Paterno and others to save the reputation & high standing of the university and the football program. Joe Paterno wasn’t the first football coach to attain far too much power and achieve god-like status in his gridiron fiefdom, and he won’t be the last. As much as I love sports even I must admit that collegiate athletics has, in many places, achieved such mythological, epic, grandiose heights of popularity & prestige that fans, players, media, and coaches are put on pedestals that rise to the heavens and cause a complete loss of perspective. That is exactly what happened at Penn St. Football became more important than the rule of law and the well-being of young boys who were being molested by a sick monster. An effort to keep things “in house” and not pursue proper avenues of justice enabled a perverted pedophile to continue his debauchery for an additional decade. Nothing can be done to erase what happened to those boys and the legal system has done its part in punishing Jerry Sandusky…all that remained was for Penn St. to answer for their sins, to have proper perspective be restored by any means necessary. It is true that those who actually committed the crimes and perpetuated the conspiracy of silence are long gone and that it seems a tad bit unfair that coaches, players, and administrators who had nothing to do with any of the wrongdoing are now going to suffer the consequences, but it had to be done. A message had to be sent. The NCAA had to make it clear that, as much as many of us enjoy those autumn Saturday afternoons…the roar of the crowd, the sweet music of the marching bands, the thrill of winning a rivalry game, the chase for a conference title, bowl bid, or even a national championship…there are more important things in life. Football is magnificent. College football is sublime. But God, family, the law…they must come first. If Penn St. and its fans have to wander through the desert of mediocrity and lose their status & reputation as one of football’s elite powerhouses for a while in order to regain proper perspective then that seems like the least they could do considering what their culture of pigskin profligacy cost others.

 

As far as the punishment goes…there’s no way around the fact that it is harsh, but frankly I was expecting worse.

 

There is a $60 million fine that will go toward programs benefiting victims of sexual abuse. At first glance that number seems outrageous. $60 million is more than you, me, and the 500 people on our Facebook “friends” list will see combined in our lifetimes (unless there are super wealthy folks reading The Manofesto, which if true…well…call me!!). However, it is the equivalent to ONE year of revenue for the football program. Stop for a moment and ponder that…just let it sink in and wrap itself around your brain. That is amazing. Now granted, whether you are dependent upon government social programs & are lucky to be able to afford ramen noodles & peanut butter, have a decent middle class income that affords you such luxuries as satellite TV and an annual trip to the beach, or are lounging on your yacht as your trust fund grows, the fact is that having a whole year of income taken away would sting a bit…but for Penn St. it shouldn’t have too big of an impact. They can survive.

 

I am not a big fan of vacating wins. It seems silly. Those games have been played and we all know who won. One cannot change the past. But the traditions of sport include record keeping and those records hold a lot of meaning for many people, so while I think that it is trivial that Penn St. has to vacate all games played between 1998 and 2011 I am fully cognizant of the fact that it is a big deal to others. What it specifically means is that Joe Paterno is no longer the winningest coach in the history of college football and has now fallen to an inconsequential 8th on that list. I guess it kind of stinks to pile on a guy that is dead, but hey…that dead guy should have stepped up and done the right thing when he was alive. Interesting trivia: a fantasy football buddy of mine pointed out that Penn St. and Ohio St. (which has had some issues of their own) played a game in 2010 that both have now vacated, so according to the record books it never happened. I bet the 100k people that were there that day might disagree.

 

A bigger impact will be felt by the on-the-field restrictions imposed by the NCAA and The Big 10 (they are still calling themselves that??). Penn St. is prohibited from competing for the conference title or playing in a bowl game for 4 years. They also lost a significant number of scholarships. NCAA rules allow a football team to have a total of 85 scholarships. Teams can offer up to 25 scholarships annually as long as the total number does not exceed 85. Penn St., for the next four years, cannot have more than 65 total scholarships each season and cannot offer more than 15 scholarships annually. That is huge. It will cripple the program for atleast a decade. The numbers combined with the lack of postseason and the now toxic (to say the least) reputation of the school means that instead of recruiting highly touted, extremely talented & athletic, elite 5 star football players the Penn St. Nittany Lions will be fielding teams populated with players that no one else wanted and might otherwise have been playing in front of 10k people at a Division III school. Penn St. will lose games…lots of them. They will not be on television. One can anticipate that instead of an electric atmosphere of 106,000 people at Beaver Stadium (the 4th largest stadium in the world…and two of the other three are soccer stadiums) the folks in State College, PA could lose interest and we might see only 50 or 60 thousand in the stands. Ancillary businesses…restaurants, hotels, retail outlets…will suffer. The NCAA may not have given Penn St. the dreaded “death penalty” (which in reality is simply a one year hiatus), but the punishment they did mete out is, for all intents & purposes, a far worse fate.

 

One of the things that defenders of Paterno have consistently pointed out over the course of the past several months is how much he contributed…financially and otherwise…to the school and the town for many many years. That is all true and should not be completely marginalized. However, his (and others) actions…or lack thereof…in regard to the heinous crimes of Jerry Sandusky are now having a destructive effect on the school and the town. The decision to protect the status of the program has instead almost extinguished its flame. What a sad yet well-deserved irony. Perspective has indeed been restored at Penn St., and I suspect the people there will never again think so highly of themselves and their precious football team. I wonder what Coach Paterno would think about that??

 

 

Winning & Musing…..Volume 8.12

Mid-summer provides us with another lull in the sports calendar, with baseball’s annual All Star break insuring that there is virtually no action except soccer for a couple of days, and really who give a rat’s petoot about soccer?? Oh…it’s the most popular sport in the world?? Well this is America, and WE couldn’t possibly care less about soccer. So THERE rest of the world…take THAT!!

 

 

 

Back in November of last year, shortly after Penn St. head football coach Joe Paterno was fired but before his death, I wrote that “in due time I am sure society will find a balance between the success Joe Paterno had & the good things he did versus the mistakes he made & the negative way his legacy has been permanently tarnished”. It looks like finding that balance might take a lot longer than I thought. Since I expressed that opinion a few things have happened. Paterno died. Serial pedophile Jerry Sandusky was convicted and will be behind bars for the rest of his life. And now an inquiry commissioned by the university to find out where it all went so wrong has published their findings. Despite the dramatic parsing of the report by the sports media, the conclusion that the top brass at Penn St…the university president, the athletic director, Paterno, and a few others…participated in a “callous and shocking” cover-up and “failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade” is hardly a new revelation. We’ve known that for months now. There is a stubborn unwillingness of some people to wrap their heads around the idea that Paterno…who most thought was such a stand-up guy…would exhibit such a heinous disregard for the safety of children (not to mention the neglect of upholding the law) in favor of protecting the reputation of the school & the football team. I understand that reluctance. However, the facts are the facts, and now they have been uncovered. It is what it is. Paterno’s reputation and legacy are down the toilet and will never recover. It’s time to move forward. Overanalyzing this story on TV and in other media over & over cannot change what happened. I suspect dredging it all up repeatedly just causes further pain to the victims and it does nothing to help those left to clean up the mess get on with their jobs.

 

 

Was anyone shocked that Commandant Fidel Goodell refused to overturn his own decision on the suspensions of New Orleans Saints players allegedly involved in the bounty scandal?? I am not defending the players involved, but the disciplinary process in the NFL…where Goodell reigns supreme and there is no system of checks & balances…seems flawed at best. It is mind boggling that the Players Association agreed to the new collective bargaining agreement last summer without addressing this issue.

 

 

My Pittsburgh Pirates were once again in 1st place at the All Star break, just like last year. I just hope they don’t fold like a cheap suit like they did in 2011. There seems to be an ardent belief amongst those paid to know about these sorts of things that there will not be another collapse, that this team is legit and will be in the fight for the long haul. We’ll see. Two decades of futility have taught this fan to proceed with caution.

 

 

So I guess we have another Olympics starting soon. I do like the summer Olympics a lot better than the winter version. I look forward to watching good quality basketball, and I am comfortable enough with my machismo to admit that I kind of like the gymnastics. Some of the track & field stuff is cool too, and of course the opening & closing ceremonies are usually grand spectacles well worth watching.

 

 

I’ve grown weary of the Dwight Howard drama, as well as the hand wringing over Drew Brees’ contract. This is the kind of crap that sports fans weren’t bothered with 30 years ago. Just play the damn games and entertain us.

 

 

It was odd turning on the MLB All Star Game and seeing Erin Andrews reporting for Fox. I don’t know what the heck is going on in Bristol, but in the past few months ESPN has lost hotties Andrews and Michelle Beadle while hiring guys named Prim Siripipat, Adnan Virk, Dari Nowkhah, and Anish Shroff. I suppose it matters not, as long as we sports fans have our hunger fed. But come on ESPN…replenish the eye candy supply!!

 

 

Speaking of the All Star Game…

It looks like baseball is in the midst of a transition. Guys like Chipper Jones, Derek Jeter, and David Ortiz are on their way out, while youngsters like Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Stephen Strasburg, Arnoldis Chapman, and Starlin Castro are making a fast impact. That’s good for the game and a positive for the fans. The product needs freshened up every once in a while.

 

 

Let me get this straight…the Washington Nationals are in 1st place in the NL East while the Philadelphia Phillies are in last?? Strange things are afoot at the Circle K.

Winning & Musing…..Volume 1.12

The first W&M of 2012 finds us ever so close to the annual sports “dead zone”, when football will be over, Nascar not quite back yet, baseball still several weeks away, and only college basketball (which isn’t all that exciting until March Madness) and the NBA (completely useless until the playoffs begin) to keep us company. And no, I have no interest in hockey in case you are wondering. Take heart sports fans…it’s the perfect time to catch up on your reading, hone your culinary skills, and of course become Manotized!!

 

 

 

I must admit that I did not watch one second of the NCAA championship game between LSU & Alabama, and from what I have heard I didn’t miss anything as it wasn’t that much more interesting than the first time the two teams met a couple months ago. Come on NCAA…it’s time for a playoff!! One argument that I have heard ad nauseum by opponents of a playoff system is the ol’ “College football’s regular season IS a playoff every week…lose and you’re out!!”. Well…not quite. LSU did what it was supposed to do by defeating Alabama in the regular season and were still forced into a rematch, which of course they lost. So that “logic” has now officially gone down in flames. The regular season game between the two meant zero, zilch, nada. I have absolutely no clue why we can’t have a 4 team playoff (which this season would have included ‘Bama, LSU, Oklahoma State, and most likely Oregon) and still maintain a thriving, robust bowl system. There’s just no reason for not doing it.

 

Speaking of the bowl games…

I am usually not one to boast, but I have to give myself a bit of a public pat on the back. I picked 28 of the 35 post-season games correctly, which is an 80% winning clip and by far the best I have ever done in forecasting those slate of contests. Go Me!!

 

Conversely, my NFL predictions were mediocre at best. My two Super Bowl teams were San Diego & Tampa Bay. They finished a combined 12-20 and didn’t make the playoffs. Oops. I owe a huge apology to the Cincinnati Bengals, who I picked to go 1-15 and have the top pick in the draft. Instead they went 9-7 and made the playoffs as a wildcard. Mad kudos to Bengals’ rookie quarterback Andy Dalton, who exceeded all expectations and in my universe would be a slam dunk choice for Rookie of the Year. Sadly for him that honor will instead go to Carolina Panthers’ signal caller Cam Newton. I was also way wrong on the NY Giants, who I predicted to go 5-12…far from the division winning 9-7 record with which they ended up. I totally whiffed on the Philadelphia Eagles, but everyone else did too so I don’t feel so bad. I nailed the AFC North race by saying that the Steelers & Ravens would tie, with Baltimore winning the division in a tiebreaker and Pittsburgh being a wildcard team. That is exactly what happened. I pretty much had the AFC East & NFC North pegged right on as well. I did not see the utter implosion of the Indianapolis Colts coming, but then again no one did because the extent of Peyton Manning’s injury wasn’t made known until after the season began. I got 2 of the NFC’s 6 playoff teams right, while in the AFC I chose 4 of 6 correctly.

 

NY Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez needs a change of scenery. He has obviously lost the confidence of his coach, his teammates, and the fans. That’s tough enough anywhere, but in New York I just don’t think it’s something from which he can recover.

 

If I am in charge of the Indianapolis Colts I trade the #1 overall choice they “earned” (with a dreadful 2-14 record) for everything it’s worth, which should be atleast a half dozen picks including a slightly lower first rounder. Andrew Luck, as much potential as he has, is overhyped. There will be a next “greatest prospect ever” coming ‘round the bend in a few years (maybe even next year, when Matt Barkley finishes up at USC). Assuming his neck heals Peyton Manning has probably 3 or 4 years left, but he needs a better team around him.

 

To the Penn St. alumni & former players who have been critical of the hiring of new head coach Bill O’Brien…what is your freakin’ problem?? I fully understand the penchant of college sports teams to hire “within the family”, aka a former player or assistant coach who understands the tradition & history of the program. However, in this case, does it shock a-n-y-o-n-e with a brain that the powers-that-be in Happy Valley want to make a completely fresh start and decided to go with a guy with absolutely no ties to the school, the team, and especially any connection whatsoever to Joe Paterno or his former coaching staff?? Sure in a perfect world interim head coach and long-time Paterno assistant Tom Bradley would have gotten the gig as a reward for all his years of loyalty. But in this case that simply was NOT going to happen. They HAD to have a 100% clean break from the past. It’s a drop in the bucket compared to the issues the school faces and the unseemly reputation they must now fight an uphill battle to overcome, but it is a step in the right direction and was the only choice that could be made.

 

I will address this issue once & only once, and then I will never speak of it again and erase the abomination from my memory. If the debacle that was the Denver Broncos’ shocking overtime victory over my Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL playoffs taught us anything, it is that, despite their ranking as the league’s #1 pass defense, the Steelers’ secondary is atrocious. They somehow managed to make quite possibly the worst “quarterback” in pro football history look like the love child of Dan Fouts & Dan Marino. When April’s draft rolls around the Steelers simply MUST spend atleast 2 or 3 picks…including their 1st rounder…on new cornerbacks. If there are any talented corners available in free agency they need to sign one or two of them as well. Ike Taylor, their supposed top CB, would be no better than a dime package backup on most other teams. And guys like Bryant McFadden, Anthony Madison, and the atrocious William Gay need to be given their walking papers. This has been an issue for several years that has not been properly addressed by the team’s braintrust. Well gentlemen…the time is now. It may also be time to begin grooming a successor for 74 year old defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau. Undoubtedly he has been very successful, but he’s not getting any younger and in two consecutive seasons post-season opponents…the Broncos this year and the Packers in last year’s Super Bowl…have outcoached him and played his defense like a fiddle.

 

Some things never change. Even after the death of nutjob owner Al Davis the Oakland Raiders are as dysfunctional as ever. The new regime just fired head coach Hue Jackson after ONE season…a season in which they went 8-8, tied for the division lead, and fell one tiebreaker short of making the playoffs. Really?? Do the suits there think they’ll be able to lure a big name coach that’ll do any better?? Maybe…maybe…twenty years ago. But not now. When will people learn that organizational stability is the cornerstone of success in sports?? Certainly they haven’t learned that lesson in Tampa, where the Bucs also foolishly fired a coach after one bad season. Raheem Morris was in his third year as head coach and had lead a 7 game turnaround, finishing 10-6 in 2010, a vast improvement over their 3-13 record in his first go round in 2009. In 2011 the team admittedly took a step backward, going 4-12. However, based on the success of the 2010 season I feel like Morris should have been given one more chance. Unfortunately I don’t own an NFL franchise.

 

Adios Joe Paterno

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

–       Edmund Burke

 

When a hot topic arises that I feel compelled to address in this forum I try to do so in a timely manner. However, there are occasions when it takes a bit for my thoughts to gel together. I have learned to go with the flow rather than go off half-cocked and let emotion get the best of my senses…atleast most of the time.

 

As a kid growing up in northcentral West Virginia and a WVU Mountaineer fan, I always hated Penn State. The Nittany Lions were among the nation’s elite college football programs and one of West Virginia’s biggest rivals. Unfortunately it was pretty one sided, with the Mountaineers only winning 2 games against their foes in my lifetime. A 1984 upset victory broke a 25 year WVU losing streak in the rivalry and is still considered one of the most memorable moments in Old Gold & Blue history.

 

The annual matchup came to an end after 1992 because Penn St. joined the Big Ten, and over time my stance softened. Coach Joe Paterno became an elder statesman, the kind of old guy that one tends to root for because it’d be nice to see him “go out on top”. I’m a sucker for those kind of stories, like when John Elway won the Super Bowl and was named MVP in his last game or when Ted Williams hit a home run in his final at bat (although that happened before I was born). Alas, such a storybook ending was not in store for college football’s all-time winningest coach. Not by a long shot.

 

Several weeks ago a firestorm erupted when former long-time Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was arrested for allegedly molesting atleast 9 young boys dating back as far as 1994. That is bad enough and Sandusky will have his day in court eventually, but the issue was complicated by implications that Paterno and other university officials had been alerted about Sandusky’s…activities…especially on one specific occasion in 2003. The story is that apparently Paterno was told by another assistant coach, reported the incident to his athletic director, and then took no further action. He did not call law enforcement, nor did he follow up with his bosses (the AD and school president). The accusation is that Joe Paterno…the most powerful chief in his little kingdom…did the bare minimum then went on his merry way without really confronting the issue, choosing instead to bury his head in the sand in a misguided effort to protect the reputation of his school and his football program.

 

Legendary college basketball coach John Wooden once advised to “be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” Taking that up several notches, 1 Chronicles 28:9 says “The Lord searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts.” No one knows what really went through Joe Paterno’s head or heart except God, and that must sorted out between the two of them. However, Paterno has had to deal with this pesky little thing we call the court of public opinion, and it’s a battle that he seems to have lost handily. One of my Undeniable Truths of Life is that perception is reality and reality is perception, and the perception is that Coach Paterno chose the heretofore untainted reputation of his football team ahead of the safety of children, and that has angered a lot of people.

 

Two things need to be noted at this point. First of all, one of the reasons my dislike of Penn State football dissipated as I matured was the general belief, held by most fans, that Paterno and Penn St. were one of the few programs that were aboveboard and unblemished. In a world beset by cheating scandals of all shapes & sizes over the last few decades they seemed beyond reproach and were highly respected for conducting business the right way & not forgetting that the student athletes were in school primarily for an education. Joe Paterno’s graduation rates usually hovered around 90%, which is remarkable and certainly among the best in his profession. Over the course of his 46 years he was known to have given back to the school & the community in the form of millions of dollars in donations that had far reaching benefits. Even their plain blue uniforms with the unadorned white helmets conveyed a sense of cleanliness & purity. Secondly, as rabid as many sports fans…including yours truly…can be, most of us have a sense of perspective. We realize that there are many many things in life far more important than the outcome of a game.

 

Taking these two things into consideration, it is not surprising that the situation at Penn State took an ugly turn very quickly. For one of the “cleanest” programs in college football to be plagued by a scandal is shocking enough. For that scandal to involve repeated sexual assault of children is unspeakably horrifying. Joe Paterno and his sterling reputation would likely have survived some recruiting violations or other relatively benign indiscretions that aren’t uncommon in big time collegiate athletics, but to seemingly ignore sexual abuse of young boys was just too big of a transgression to overlook. Paterno’s legendary career came to an abrupt end when he was fired, a conclusion that no one in their wildest dreams could have ever foreseen just a few months ago.

 

Sure, there have been many that have been calling for an end to the Paterno era for several years. He was old, out of touch, just a figurehead. But even though the Nittany Lions haven’t really been in the national title hunt for most of the past 15 years they were, for the most part, still very successful and won a lot of games. That fact combined with Paterno’s legendary status, his record of community service & involvement, and the unsoiled status of the program made him virtually unchallengeable. But there was no way that he could survive the battering that he & the institution he served so faithfully for over a half century have taken in the past several weeks.

 

I think it is vitally important to make a clear distinction between Jerry Sandusky and Joe Paterno. No one is defending Sandusky or feeling any kind of sympathy for his plight. Though under the outstanding American legal system he is technically innocent until proven guilty there seems to be enough smoke to indicate that there was indeed fire, and if he did commit the acts for which he is accused to say that he is a vile, revolting, sinful, sick & twisted dirtbag would be a huge understatement. The general attitude toward Paterno is much more ambiguous and diverse. Few are denying that he made a huge error in judgment, but just how sinister that mistake was and how harshly he should be scorned is a spirited topic of debate.

 

There is little argument that the Board of Trustees made the right decision by dismissing Paterno. They were put in a very difficult position and did the only thing that made any sense for the long term good of the school, the town, and the victims of the alleged crimes. However, it is also a fact that Joe Paterno is not being accused of doing anything illegal and that when the situation was reported to him he did tell his immediate superior. It’s not that he did nothing, it’s that the general consensus is that he did not do enough under the considerably serious circumstances.

 

There is a part of me that feels very sad for Coach Paterno. In contrast to my fondness for heartwarming stories in which people retire at the height of their glory, his fall from grace has been so rapid and so precipitous that it is hard to really wrap one’s head around the epic descent. Complicating matters is the fact that the man is 85 years old. There will be no comeback, no opportunity for absolution, and that is disheartening because we all love a good redemption story. However, with the aforementioned proper perspective we should all realize that Joe Paterno, Penn State University, and the Nittany Lion football team are largely inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. The fact is that 9 or more young boys were violated in a way that will have an ineradicable impact on their lives. No legal outcome, no amount of money, no public apologies, no job dismissals will ever erase that. My prayer is that those young men have and will continue to find a way to move forward, seek happiness, and not let what one disgusting pervert did to them ruin their lives. In due time I am sure society will find a balance between the success Joe Paterno had & the good things he did versus the mistakes he made & the negative way his legacy has been permanently tarnished, and that’s about as much as can be expected.