Archive for July, 2012
Yesterday when the NCAA announced its sanctions on the Pennstate football program, I watched Facebook, Twitter, ESPN.com article comments and other sources to gauge the reactions of Pennstaters to this apparently devastating hit to their once-proud football program.
I’m not sure I read anything from a Pennstater agreeing with the penalties. Not a one. Many said that the full story hadn’t been written, that the NCAA should have waited until the trials of Spanier, Curley & Schultz had laid out more evidence. A few continued to stress that the NCAA had no jurisdiction to sanction the football program. Some concentrated their wrath on the media for its supposed feeding frenzy. Others lashed out at the current administration for copping out to the NCAA. And so many many others simply screamed into the void, “We are [still] Pennstate!”
I have to ask, what penalties, if any, would they have accepted as fair? 2-year bowl bans, 5 scholarship reductions/year, no monetary fine? Only a monetary fine? More NCAA oversight? Or perhaps, nothing.
Surely, nothing better is going to come to light after the verdicts for Messrs Curley, Spanier and Schultz. Joe Paterno is not going to be magically exonerated. The culture of Pennstate’s all-power, all-encompassing football institution, whose power engendered this cover-up, won’t be seen in a softer light. And make no mistake about it, Pennstate football was and is an institution, not just a program.
I don’t think the public can be expected to believe Pennstate’s own proclamations that it’s reforming its culture and so should be left alone. Oh so, Curley, Spanier and Schultz are gone or placed on leave. Paterno was fired. Maybe the Board of Trustees will be the next to go. Well bully for yinz gahz.
Every measure taken that even tangentially touched the football program or the culture that Paterno fostered has been fought. Fire Paterno – riots. Take down the Paterno statue and people go nuts. Rename Paternoville to Nittanyville and Facebook explodes. The Freeh report itself was commissioned by PSU’s own administration and many Nitters still don’t believe it, whether about Paterno or the football institution.
We (myself included) trusted Pennstate for decades that their “success with honor” motto was real and tangible; that the sanctimony, however annoying, might be earned. No more. Welcome to the club of ordinary universities, Pennstate. You don’t get the benefit of the doubt anymore.
Talent as much as hard work perseveres in college football. Many of the great high school athletes play two positions in high school – RB/LB, WR/LB, QB/DB, etc. They then pick one position for college. It’s up to the college coach to put his players in a place to success but the truly gifted can probably still get by on talent in college. Some let the coach pick, others insist on a particular position.
Sometimes selfishness pays off. Pitt great Larry Fitzgerald recently revealed that he was nearly swayed by the grand experiment, the “success with honor” bullsh*t peddled by Joe Paterno at Pennstate. He nearly became a Nittany Lion linebacker.
More than 10 years ago, this [numbers-first] attitude led to a life-changing decision. He said no to Joe Paterno, who wanted Fitzgerald to play linebacker, to be part of a great Penn State tradition.
“I played linebacker all the way up to my senior year in high school,” Fitzgerald said. “I was heavily recruited as a defensive player. I had about 25 to 30 offers coming out, and probably 70 percent of them were defensive offers. I grew up watching Penn State, and was really enamored by the defense at Linebacker U.”
Except Fitzgerald was chasing something else, and he did something rare. Like Tony Dorsett, he chose the University of Pittsburgh instead, where Fitzgerald would be the team’s star wide receiver, catching 34 touchdown passes in two seasons before jumping all the way to the NFL.
Despite their well-worn reputation as “Linebacker U”, perhaps Pennstate should stop trying to turn every great athlete into a linebacker!
LaVar Arrington was a RB/LB in high school. In fact, he was known as much for his running skills at Mars & North Hills High School so it was a surprise to me when he switched over to LB fulltime at Pennstate. Paterno may have gotten it right on this one but I’ve always wondered how Arrington would have done at running back.
Pro football Hall of Fame Quarterback Jim Kelly grew up in East Brady, PA, in the heart of Pennstate country. He always wanted to play at Pennstate. The only thing he wanted to do more than play at Pennstate was to play quarterback. But Joe Paterno wanted him at LB. So Kelly chose to go to the University of Miami instead. Bam.
Former Pitt QB Rod Rutherford was one of most sought after recruits in the country during his days at Perry Traditional Academy. Almost no one thought he would end up at Pitt, especially after the sainted Paterno paid an in-person visit to the Rutherford house. But Pitt coach Walt Harris did what Paterno wouldn’t do. He promised Rutherford the opportunity to play offense, namely QB, not linebacker or safety. Two years later, Rutherford scampered 60+ yards for the only touchdown in the last game Paterno ever coached against Pitt. For his career, Rod Rutherford finished with 458 completions in 840 attempts, passing for 6,725 yards and 60 touchdowns.
Photo Credit: John Beale, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
[As an aside, I don't really feel like commenting on the whole PSU/Paterno/Sandusky conflagration. So instead, I'll rip on Pennstate in the way they'll best understand, on the gridiron].
… Or Reclaiming a Lost Pirates Generation
When I was growing up, in a time so long ago that Barry Bonds was sometimes overshadowed by Bobby Bonilla and the name Francisco Cabrera didn’t yet induce cringes, we played stickball in the summers. Oh sure, we also played football and street hockey but the fact is that baseball existed here in southwestern PA.
Over the past 19 years, as the Pirates have gone from the franchise that invented the World Series, the only franchise to win the World Series on a Game 7 walk-off to perennial laughingstock, an entire generation of Pittsburghers have been robbed of meaningful sports summers. Some turned to other baseball teams – the Yankees most notably, I’m sure – while others just re-focused their time on the NFL’s hot stove ligg. The childrens I have observed started playing football or street hockey at all times of the year.
But an amazing thing happened this past weekend. The kids decided to played baseballs! Well, whiffleball actually, but the sheer fact they wanted to play ball bowled me over. Some of them didn’t even know all the rules (such as a runner on first base is forced to advance on the hit… the kid was like 8 years old, ok). And of course as is often the case with juveniles (and those who still act like juveniles), the game became quite heated and much shouting over stupid sh*t occurred.
It’s good to have baseball back (fingers crosst).