Tag Archives: college football

The Death of a Tarnished Legend: Joe Paterno dead at 85

Legendary Penn State Football Coach Joe Paterno died this morning of complications of Lung Cancer in State College Pennsylvania.

He was college football’s winningest coach and led his teams to 409 wins. In 46 years at Penn State he built a football program that won two National Championships and came close on a number of other occasions. The program was built around the concept of winning with honor. Paterno said “Success without honor is an unseasoned dish; it will satisfy your hunger, but it won’t taste good”

For years it seemed that Penn State football was just that, a program that stood out among elite teams because of the lack of scandal. But that was before the revelations about former Penn State Assistant Coach and Defensive Coordinator Jerry Sandusky’s sexual abuse of young boys and the cover up of the scandal by the school. When the news of Sandusky’s arrest upon the release of the Grand Jury report it sent the university and much of the nation into shock and brought forth anger, much directed at Paterno for his apparent inaction when he learned of an 2002 incident in the locker room showers from Mike McQueary then a graduate assistant. The fact that allegations had been made and reported to the police in 1998 and went back to 1994 did not help.

Paterno refused to resign and the University trustees fired him along with the President of the University Graham Spanier.  The firing was done late at night and with a phone call, it should have been done in person but the university which refused to do anything to stop Sandusky was willing to unceremoniously dump Paterno.

From Paterno’s statements it seems that he really had no understanding of the gravity or the significance of the allegations. He said after the allegations came to light that “It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.”  He told the Washington Post in an interview just 9 days before his death that although Mike McQueary was not specific that had he been specific that “to be frank with you I don’t know that it would have done any good, because I never heard of, of, rape and a man. So I just did what I thought was best. I talked to people that I thought would be, if there was a problem, that would be following up on it.”

In the end maybe he was simply out of touch with the real world. Insulated in State College and consumed with football, it was his life. He said in 2004 “There isn’t anything in my life anymore except my family and my football. I think about it all the time.”

He will be remembered as one of the great, of not the greatest coach in the history of college football.  However that accomplishment in now obscured by the allegations against Jerry Sandusky and his inaction during the time. We probably will not know all that he knew or did not know about the incidents involving Sandusky.  On the surface one can imagine that he knew more than has been admitted and I believe that is probably the case.  At the same time he may have just been a man out of time who should have retired years ago.

Despite this he will be remembered fondly and with great respect by many of his players as well as the Penn State community. I would imagine that he died as much from a broken heart and spirit as he did lung cancer.  The fact that he was fired, shunned and blamed for the debacle that has destroyed program that was his life’s work had to be a part of his decline.  I imagine that the disgrace that he felt was more than he could bear.

Rest in peace JoePa, rest in peace.

Padre Steve+

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Padre Steve’s Thoughts on the Proliferation of Bad College Football Bowl Games

Northwest Nowhere State Defeats Middle of Nowhere University 3-0 to Win the Kruger Industrial Smoothing Absolutely Meaningless Bowl in Overtime


Minot North Dakota (AP) The Northwest Nowhere State Thunder Pigs defeated the Middle of Nowhere Rabid Foxes in the first annual Kruger Industrial Smoothing Absolutely Meaningless Bowl by a score of 3-0 on a last minute overtime field goal in front of 4633 fans.  Despite the low attendance and low television ratings the NCAA and the Kruger Industrial Smoothing officials consider the Bowl a success. George Louis Costanza spokesman for Kruger said “5-7 versus 6-6, right in the middle of the Bell curve. The teams weren’t flashy but they were real.” When he was asked about the quality of the game itself Costanza replied “whatever, where’s the toilette?”  The game was forgettable marred by turnovers penalties and sloppy play.  The winning score came with 12 seconds left in overtime after Nowhere State Quarterback Demond Winnemaker collided with running back Jarod Nutzinski causing a fumble which was recovered by Northwest Nowhere State at the 12 yard line. The Thunder Pigs kicking team was sent in and kicker Johnny Leadfoot booted a ball that grazed the inside of the left upright to score the winning field goal.  Neither team had more than 150 offensive yards causing ESPN commentator Chris Berman to remark to Mike Golic “My God Mike I have never seen such a bad game, why the hell did ESPN get into this?” Nonetheless Thunder Pigs Head Coach Levi Bergman commented in his post-game interview “This win was a triumph for the school and the kids and great for the program. Hopefully we can do as well next year.” Middle of Nowhere Head Coach Joe Pistichinni simply commented “Whatever” when asked about how his team played.

 

Of course the little bit above is completely fictitious it is not too far removed from reality in today’s college football bowl season.   While I am not an avid football fan, my heart belonging to the one true religion of the Church of Baseball I do like a well played football game between quality teams, something way back when the College Bowl Season represented quite well, until well the money took precedence over the product.  College football is big business and major corporations of a wide variety of ilk’s line up to sponsor a bowl game.  There are 35 Bowl Games in 2010 which means that 70 teams will play in a bowl game this year. Now mind you there are only 120 Division schools and even my limited math skills tell me that 58% of Division I schools in the NCAA will play in a bowl game, I mean we are getting almost to the point of the NBA playoff system here where almost everyone gets a chance at the post-season.  It is not uncommon at all to see teams with a 6-6 record playing in a bowl and with the need to fill 70 slots there may be the day that a team with a losing record is invited to a bowl game; in fact the statistical probability of this happening in the next 5 years is quite high.

The NCAA doesn’t mind this because it is for all practical purposes a pimp that profits off of players that they don’t pay.  Not even going into the multi-millions of dollars that football generates for the member schools of the NCAA in ticket sales, television contracts, sponsorships and merchandise sales, which by the way include name rights to player’s jersey sales the bowl games are a cash cow for the NCAA. In fact this year a player was penalized and ruled ineligible because he sold one of his own game worn jerseys. Each of the BCS games pays out $18 million and even the paltriest of the bowl games net small schools a decent chunk of change on the average $1,141,225.58 excluding the 4 BCS games which are worth $72 million between them.

To be fair there are some “bottom feeder” bowls where the payout is under a half million, but on the whole it is a money making enterprise which feeds on the insatiable need of fans for more football regardless of the quality.  Frankly many bowl games are like fast foot, they fill you up but you will neither remember them nor care the next day, unless you are the school that makes money or a play hoping to get extra visibility in the NFL draft, which makes sense since they don’t get any money in college. Even the NCAA says that only 1.8% of college players will play in the NFL so in effect they are asking the players to throw themselves on a grenade for nothing.

Speaking of nothing, I won’t even go into the “scholarship” business because for the most part NCAA Division I Universities in the major conferences don’t give a damn whether the athlete learns anything or even graduates. The scholarship is a write off to make bigger money for the athletic program.  If a player is smart enough to take advantage of the scholarship knowing that he stands almost no chance of playing in the NLF then more power to him.  However the programs, agents and scouts with rare exceptions don’t care about what the players learn or even worse care about the injuries that these unpaid players will likely incur in their college football career that will impact them the rest of their lives.  The graduation rates for many of the top schools in division 1 football are abysmal with many below the average and only a few schools such as Stanford and Vanderbilt close to 90% both at 89%.  Auburn comes in at 63% while their title game opponent Oregon a dismal 49%.   Of course there are injuries with head injuries are a major issue at all levels of football as are knee injuries which can result in long term physical limitations and even in the case of the neurologic injuries death at an early age and early onset Alzheimer’s disease or forms of dementia.

But I digress….back to the bowl system and the proliferation of bowls that are nothing more than another way to milk the cash cow after the regular season and before the BCS bowls.

It wasn’t always that way.  In 1930 there was one, count it ONE, bowl, and that was the Rose Bowl. By 1935 there were 5, the Rose, Cotton, Orange, Sugar and Sun Bowls.  By 1950 the number of bowls had grown to eight and in 11 by 1970.  The number was up to 15 in 1980, 19 in 1990, 25 in 2000 and 35 now. Now obviously the majority of these games will not be high quality football, I mean who cares if two teams from pathetic conferences with barely winning records even play in a game unless they are the players working their ass of for nothing or the schools and sponsors that benefit from the bowl system?

This year is a case in point.  Even the most avid of college football fans and commentators are wondering what the point is in even watching many of these bowls. If you look at the 58% as a benchmark for which teams get into a post season bowl game and applied it to professional sports the NFL would have 18 playoff eligible teams and baseball 17.  Since the NFL stands to have a 7-9 team win a division can you imagine the quality of play if the NLF allowed that many teams in?

My argument is that the proliferation of bowl games is bad for college football in every way except the pocketbook. It is bad for the players that must sacrifice the Fall-Winter academics to play and risk injury with little payoff. It is bad for fans that are “treated” to game after game of less than quality football in games that due to the BCS system are all meaningless except for the National Championship game.   Of course I have to add to the players and athletic programs of the various schools they mean something but in real terms they matter little except to enhance revenue for the NCAA and the corporate sponsors.

Please know I’m not against business or even schools making money but this is just sad.

So there, that is my take on the farce that we call the college bowl system. A 16 team playoff should be developed for the best teams in the country regardless of which conference they come from. The rest of the teams can go to bowls if they want but the bowl system as we know it needs to be abolished and the NCAA should lose its stranglehold on college football. Is that harsh?

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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Major League…Jake Taylor, Ricky Vaughn and Me…

major_league1Tom Berenger and Charlie Sheen in Major League

Today after doing some work around the house and hanging around with Molly the dog as the Abbess has been away most of the week, I set about working on my first week of preparation for the comprehensive exams in my Masters is Military History program.  After having finished all course work with a 4.0 GPA I want to kick this thing in the ass and get a “Pass with Distinction” on the exam.  So as I sat down this afternoon without a baseball game in sight I switched to a college football game.  I don’t mind college football, in person I like it better than the NFL, but it is not baseball.  Football in all forms is a war and with the war comes a lot of noise and it seems to me that no matter how low I put the sound, with the exception of pushing the mute button, that I get a headache.  It happened last week too.  So as I collected my thoughts I decided to pick out one of my myriad of baseball movies Major League. This has been one of my favorite movies ever since it came out and I probably watch my DVD of it a couple of times a year.  If I see it as I’m channel surfing I will watch it.  Today was no different. With Molly at my side and Judy out I began to work on five separate thesis statements within my concentration area, which happens to be World War Two.  If you have noticed my site has a decent number of military history posts and this is because I never really stop studying, reading or writing.  A find lessons that are often applicable to the present when I do this type of research and analysis.

molly and daddyMolly Giving Me Advice on My Work

Anyway, back to the movie.  Having been on some really bad softball teams and having my share of emotional moments even before my encounter with PTSD I really appreciate the movie.  I really like the characters of Jake Taylor played by Tom Berenger and Ricky Vaughn played by Charlie Sheen. I kind of relate to both more like Ricky Vaughn in my younger days, though occasionally as people who know me well can attest I can be like “Wild Thing.”  Mind you I have been tossed from ball games and tossed from the Army Chaplain Officer Advanced Course. However, now I relate more to Jake Taylor, the old worn out catcher with bad knees.  Like the character Crash Davis in Bull Durham Taylor is the glue that helps keep the team together even though he is struggling with his own life, past failures and uncertain future I find myself wrestling with those things while still continuing to play the game to the best of my ability and eke out a few more seasons, in this case one last promotion so I can stay in a few more years and do what I love doing.  I have no aspirations for much more on the Navy side because I’ve had a great ride and have gotten to serve far longer that I thought that I would when I started.

Of course the movie ended just in time to watch the Dodgers sweep the Cardinals in the National League Divisional Series.  To say the least I did not expect a sweep.  The Dodgers played extremely well while the Cardinals hitters couldn’t hit water if they fell out of the boat.  The Phillies and Rockies were postponed due to winter weather conditions in Denver….of all the places that should have built a stadium with a retractable dome,  Hey Denver can you spell Dome? I knew you couldn’t.

So I watched as I wrote and looked at the baseball fields and felt peaceful.  The noise of the movie didn’t bother me, it wasn’t disruptive or intrusive.  There is a song in it that touches me because of how much time I have spent away from Judy over the years.  It is Most of all You by Bill Medley.

Woke up one day, what did I find Holes in my pocket, memories on my mind

So many things I lost on the way but most of all you

Pennies and dreams carelessly spent

Pieces of time and who knows where they went

Is there a chance to pick up the pieces and try for it all again

Sometimes you’re just so busy running, running round in circles

You never see you’re going nowhere.

Sometimes you get so tired of chasing, chasing after rainbows

You look around your life and find no one’s there

No one’s there, nooooooooo one’s there

If there’s a time everyone sees they may have missed the forest for the trees

How could I let the best things roll by and most of all you

You knew me better than I knew myself

Somehow you always knew there’d come a day I’d put my toys away

I was a fool traveling so far only to find that home is where you are

You are the way there, just let me stay there

I’ll have it all, if most of all there’s you……….

Now we do have a good marriage but I always have a tendency to get consumed by my work and when I let that get away from me as I often have in the past I miss really important things with Judy. Like Jake Taylor who is trying to recover a blown relationship with his one true love Lynn Wells played by Rene Russo I find that I have had to make up for lost time over the years spent on deployments, travel, exercises or duty.  So anyway with that said it is time for me to get my ass to sleep.

Harrisburg 1Judy and I in Harrisburg PA on our 23rd Wedding Anniversary in between trips and deployments

Peace, Padre Steve+

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It’s Football Season…Not that there’s anything wrong with that…

“Baseball is a nineteenth-century pastoral game.
Football is a twentieth-century technological struggle.”

“Now, I’ve mentioned football. Baseball & football are the two most popular spectator sports in this country. And as such, it seems they ought to be able to tell us something about ourselves and our values.”

George Carlin

“The one constant through all the years has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past. It reminds us of all that once was good, and what could be again.” – James Earl Jones in Field of Dreams (1989)

068Tranquility: Harbor Park, Norfolk VA

It’s football season again…not that there’s anything wrong with that, but my heart is elsewhere, the lush green diamonds where baseball is played.  The minor league season is over, the Norfolk Tides have gone home and baseball is only on television for me.  I don’t see how I will see a game in DC or Baltimore before the end of the season; the schedule isn’t going to work out.  Football, Hockey and Basketball will all be going soon; football of course has already begun and my winter has already started.

I have nothing against football.  I find that it is an occasionally interesting diversion during dreary fall and winter days.  Football does not hold the same fascination for me that I have for baseball.  I have played football in my sophomore year of high school.  We’ll I went to a lot of practices and got into two games for a total of about 6 plays at the end of the season.  However as a scrawny defensive lineman I did get in on two tackles and a sack.   I also had two penalties called on guys who committed personal fouls on me.  Of course they were both a lot bigger than me and somehow when I got around them one took a wing at me and another gave me a block in the back.  Now I was not very good, I worked hard but I was small and slow.  Somehow I got my sophomore letter and was named as “most inspirational player.” Now being most inspirational means that they know that you suck but appreciate the effort.   I later became one of the team trainers in my senior year.  That was a better fit, I got to fix guys rather than be clobbered by others.

So anyway, football is merely interesting to me.  I can get interested in a really good game on television. However, going to a professional game doesn’t do it for me.  Even in good seats you are pretty far from the action. For me it’s like watching 22 center fielders scrambling around the field from the upper deck.  And I’m sorry I don;t like big bucks park a half mile from the stadium.  Nor do I find that having to  watch the game on the Megatron scoreboard while I am sitting in the elements freezing my cold wet ass off to be my particular style.  Likewise drinking $10 domestic beer and eating a cold soggy hot dog is just not what I enjoy doing.  I don’t need to do that. I can actually enjoy a football game more at home, or actually the best place at Gordon Biersch brewery restaurant bar.  I actually like Biersch the best for it is the good beer and the great people that make it fun..

There are some things that make football just a game for me, versus the one true faith, the Church of Baseball.  One is the limitations of the field, I find the gridiron  to be simply confining.  It is a battlefield where the limitations of time, space, time outs and other stoppages of play break up the flow of the game.  The parity imposed by the league has in my opinion taken away from the the luster of the game, we don’t really have great dynasties now like the Raiders, Steelers, Cowboys, Broncos and 49ers.  Now we have a lot of mediocre teams mixing it up with a few really good teams.  Sure it means that the game is “more competitive” and that small markets get to see their team in the playoffs.  However the lack of dynasties and big time rivalries between dynasties has made professional football rather ordinary.  The big NCAA programs still have that but not the pros.

I find that the insufferable amount of replays does nothing for the flow of the game.  Likewise the use of the video review for almost anything seems almost to be a way remove the human element out of the officiating a football game.  In an attempt to make things “fair” the NFL has taken away much of the controversy which made the the game memorable.  Who can forget the Franco Harris catch against the Raiders in the AFC Championship, or the “immaculate deception” when the Raiders beat the Chargers.  To make mistakes is human and adds to the drama of the game.  Reply and review kill that and when I see a coach throw down the flag to request a review I want to throw up.  What I like about baseball is that bad calls are still legal because no one is perfect, especially umpires.  It is part of the game.  Sometimes I wonder if the NFL is taking humanity out of the equation.  This even comes down to silly penalties for “excessive celebration” by guys that score touchdowns.  Assessing a 15 yard penalty because a team or player is happy?

allenson arguing

“The job of arguing with the umpire belongs to the manager…” Earl Weaver

Now I have to admit that the NFL has the best television production of any sport. They manage through an incredible amount of talk, animation, commentary and replay from every possible angle with the exception of the Center’s sphincter to show the game in all of its gory glory.  Can you imagine the sphincter cam view of the center-quarterback exchange?  I can just see and hear the John Madden commentary now “Did you see how Brady got his hands on that snap?” Or “wait a minute those fingers aren’t supposed to be there…when I was a coach….” The TV production is awesome and it  does make football on TV a pretty good deal. But for me football with all of its self imposed limitations  is not the same is baseball which is not bound by arbitrary time limits nor defined by replay. Baseball is played on a field that with just a few aspects is different in almost every stadium, how big the outfield is, how fast the infield is, how much foul territory between the foul line and the stands and even the outfield fence or wall give a stadium a personality all its own.  There is only one Fenway Park, or Wrigley Field.   A football field is a football field maybe one has better turf than another but apart from that there is little difference between one and another.

Then there are parts of the game itself that make me wonder.  The “extra point” or as it is officially known as the “Point After Touchdown”  is something that makes little sense to me. A team that scores a touchdown gets 6 points.  If they kick an abysmally short kick they get an extra point.  Of course they can do a 2 point conversion where they try to run or pass the ball into the end zone to get two points from like the 2 ½ yard line.  Now if there was something similar in Baseball it would get weird.  Think about it.  A guy hits a home run and scores. The play stops, the pitcher turns around and the guy who hit the home run goes to second base with his bat and faces home plate.  Once they are set up the pitcher pitches off the back side of the mound and the hitter gets another run by hitting the ball into the grandstand behind home plate.

Then there are “special teams.”  Are these guys really that special, unlike Jerry’s kids, and if they were why aren’t they getting more than the league minimum?  I mean really people hit on the American League for the designated hitter.  In football everyone is a designated hitter, everyone is a specialist and there are coaches for everything, Head Coach, offensive and defensive coordinators, quarterback coach, running back coach, offensive line coach, special teams coach, receivers coach, defensive line coach, linebacker coach, defensive secondary coach, strength and conditioning coach,and probably more that I am not counting. That’s like 12 coaches, maybe with all the legal problems of the players they should have a court and jail coach?  Now I’m sure in many cases having all these specialized coaches  makes the players better but once again I think it takes some of the life out of the game.  There was a time there were just a few coaches and when were not so specialized. There was a time when some football players played both offense and defense and the majority of special team’s players had roles on the offense or the defense.

The time limit that allows teams to simply run out the clock when they get a big lead takes the excitement out of the game.  How many times have you turned from a game because the game got really boring about the middle of the second quarter because one team has a huge lead and the other team is sucking like a Hoover?  In baseball you can’t run the time out, you have to pitch to each batter until you get the 27 outs.

Now I don’t take anything away from the players. There are a lot of tremendous athletes playing football and the rate of injuries and normally short career of a player that you have to respect them for the efforts that they make and the risks they take to play the game.   However, I think that the way the pros get their players is somewhat detrimental to the game and to education. Football gets almost all of its players through college football programs and invests little in player development.  Major League Baseball teams invest a huge amount of resources into layered minor league systems taking the time to develop their players.  Even the Yankees do this.

Now football, despite all the delays, replays and other stoppages can be exciting when big plays are made or when a quarterback methodically leads his team back in the final minutes of a game to win the game. At the same time there are plenty of times that the game devolves into a scrum of short gains and losses, the “three and out” that many games turn into series after series.

But most of all the games represent two distinctly different views of life and sport.  Football has become the technological gem of professional sports, but in my opinion has lost a lot of its humanity in doing so. It has become a high tech battlefield of speed and violence.  Baseball on the other hand as George Carlin said is more pastoral game from a bygone era.  A game that calls us back to more timeless American values exist.  A game which like life is played over a long season filled with ups and downs, great plays and errors.  Bad calls and weather delays keep the game real to what people experience at work or int their family.  Baseball is a game where people still matter and the public has higher expectations of the players and organizations.  I think his is why the steroids and performance enhancing drug scandals that have rocked Baseball for more than similar allegations in any other sport.

For the record my dad was a Raider and 49er fanatic who really got into the game.  He taught me baseball, but he could get very spun up about football.  He always talked about how he saw the first Oakland Raider game against the “Dallas Texans” which became the Kansas City Chiefs in the old American Football League.   I do have my favorite team, the San Francisco 49ers and my favorite player of all time is Joe Montana.

Anyway, my game is baseball, as George Carlin once remarked:

“In football the object is for the quarterback, also known as the field general, to be on target with his aerial assault, riddling the defense by hitting his receivers with deadly accuracy in spite of the blitz, even if he has to use shotgun. With short bullet passes and long bombs, he marches his troops into enemy territory, balancing this aerial assault with a sustained ground attack that punches holes in the forward wall of the enemy’s defensive line. In baseball the object is to go home! And to be safe! – I hope I’ll be safe at home!”

moon over harbor parkMoon Over Harbor Park

Having gone to war and having studied it for years, I can say that I need the peace of baseball, may April 8th come quickly.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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