What’s a Penn State Football Fan To Do?

I have no idea what I am supposed to do.

Joe Paterno is dead. Jerry Sandusky will spend the rest of his worthless life fighting off the sexual advances of Pennsylvania’s prison population. Silas Redd is a USC Trojan, Rob Bolden is an LSU Tiger (good luck LSU… HAHAHA), Penn State hired an Irish coach, and they added names to the backs of the most classic jerseys in all of sports.

I feel a little like I am reconnecting with a high school friend. We bump into each other at the mall and make plans to catch up later. When I arrive at the predetermined destination, I find my old friend has spent the last 10 years selling cell phones in the mall, blowing coke and dating girls that still have a curfew. He still looks like the guy I used to know. Except he has chest hair sticking out of his shirt, he missed the memo that blowouts went out of style and there is a ring of white powder around his nose.

Despite all these changes, I still find I cannot help but laugh at my old friend’s jokes and at the end of the night, after I have intervened to keep him from starting three fights, we make plans to meet out again.

This is me with Penn State Football. I was and am sickened by what took place at that school under Joe Paterno. I am ashamed that I defended him and all that he supposedly stood for. But to me, that has very little, if nothing to do with the players on the field. Although the next few years are going to be tough to swallow (thanks to the NCAA taking an absolute wrecking ball to the program), I am sure I will still at least check the scores. At least I should have more free time on Saturdays for the next few years.

I don’t think I have the capacity to change teams at this point. I am not sure I would be able to look at myself in the mirror if I did.

NFL Draft Round 1- Mark Barron and Doug Martin

As I stated yesterday, I was hoping the Bucs would come out of the first round with Morris Claiborne or Trent Richardson. My worst fear was that the Bucs would stay put at #5 and be left with neither.

When the Browns traded up from 4 to 3 to pick Richardson, I thought things were looking bleak for the Buccaneers. Little I did I know, GM Mark Dominik and head coach Greg Schiano had a plan all along.

Instead of moving up to pick Claiborne or Richardson, they moved back and selected Alabama Strong Saftey Mark Barron. I never really considered Barron for the Buccaneers, because sitting at pick 5, I didn’t think it was a good value. When the Bucs moved back to 7 and took him, I was surprised, but thrilled.

When I watch football, certain players jump off the screen. I can clearly remember watching Alabama’s drubbing of Penn State this year, and thinking that Mark Barron was a stud. The guy was all over the field making plays. He is big, strong, fast and really smart. Playing in a pro-style defense at Alabama under head coach Nick Saban, I have no doubt he can come in and start day one.

I went to sleep with about 5 picks to go in the first round and woke up surprised to see that the Buccaneers jumped back into the end of round one to grab Boise State running back Doug Martin. From everything I have read, he is a very complete back, out of a Ray Rice mold. As this was also a major need for Tampa (hence the interest in Richardson) I am fine with it. I would love to see the Bucs do some more wheeling and dealing and move into the top of round two to grab Nebraska LB Lavonte David. He is a stud and could eventually be a long-awaited replacement for my Mr. Derrick Brooks

Some of my other thoughts about round 1

  • The Browns gave up too much to move up one pick, but no one will care in a year when Trent Richardson is among the top 5 backs in the league
  • There was not enough excitement about picks 1 and 2. These guys are both going to be great players. But because we knew where they were going ahead of time, it killed the drama and excitement. All anyone cared about was pick 3 and beyond.
  • Something about Morris Claiborne worries me. He just has a look in his eye that screams that his score on the Wonderlic was not a mistake
  • Miami will regret the Tannehill pick. Mark my words.
  • Buffalo getting my son, Stephon Gilmore is cool. Danielle and I have planned for a long time that if/when we have a son, his name is going to be Stephon Gilmore. And damn is the young man good-looking.
  • One of the reasons I love watching sporting events with Danielle is that she doesn’t have any knowledge of most things ahead of time, so her reaction is based on nothing but what she sees, which is really refreshing. I usually know most of these guys back stories, and have a ton of accumulated knowledge that shapes my opinion. So when Seattle selected Bruce Irvin with the 15th pick and they showed his face, her immediate response was, and I quote: “He looks like a damn criminal.” As it turns out, that is exactly what he is. Terrible pick, terrible value. They could have gotten this guy at any point last night or tonight. If they loved him so much, move back and get him later. Rule #1 of drafting, don’t take a guy in the first round when you can get him in the 3rd. It’s just stupid. Pete Carroll always strikes me as thinking he knows more than everyone else.
  • Rex Ryan, when you draft a guy in the first round, and Mel Kiper spends five minutes questioning his effort and attitude, you probably took the wrong guy.
  • It turns out that the Browns had no intention of drafting Brandon Weeden with pick 22, but when Kendall Wright was taken at 20, on a whim they decided to scrap their entire plan (that being Colt McCoy at QB) and took Weeden. I think Weeden is going to be OK (maybe not much of an upgrade over McCoy) but in 15 minutes, the Browns front office made choices that will impact their team for a long, long time.
  • This is a great opportunity for the Bills to trade for McCoy, whom I thought they should have drafted when they had the chance three years ago.
  • The Steelers never blow anyone away with their picks, but they are always good picks. DeCastro is going to be a monster.
  • Did Jon Gruden ever see a team take a guy and have a negative thing to say about it? For a guy who scowles so much, you think he would be bubbling with negativity.
  • Speaking of Jon Gruden, is there anything worse for a Jon Gruden hating Buccaneers fan than having to listen to him discuss what is wrong with the Buccaneers, when so much of what he is talking about was his fault? I watch the draft to see Mel Kiper break down players, but when you stick Gruden on the set, in the middle of the table and allow him to talk non-stop for four hours, it becomes almost unwatchable for me. I know the picks were coming in fast, but Mel is the guy whose opinion I care about, not Chucky.
  • I am very excited about tonight.

RIP-B.C.S.

I have written about this BEFORE, and BEFORE, and BEFORE and BEFORE

But I think it bears repeating, I hate the BCS. I hate that someday I will have to explain to my children that we used to select the national champion of college football by letting computers rank teams and arbitrarily throwing the “top” two together, often leaving out of the mix other, equally or more deserving teams. I hate the excuses BCS people offer for why they think this system is the best they can do. I hate that they fail to see the reason and benefits of a playoff. I hate literally everything about it.

All of this is coming from someone who buys into the nostalgia of the bowls. I love the Rose Bowl, I love watching the sun set over Pasadena during the game. But the BCS needs to go.

It looks like that FINALLY may be happening. Change is a slow process, especially when there are entrenched interests who want nothing more than to protect their cash-cow. A four-team playoff is not perfect, but it is absolutely a step in the right direction. Ultimately, I would love to see an 8, or even 16 team playoff.

For now, baby steps.

The End

If you have read anything that I have written here concerning college football, you know that my sports-watching life has revolved around the Penn State Nittany Lions. The first sports team I ever followed, the first team I identified with, wore plain blue and white with black shoes.

I still have pencil drawings I did in elementary school of Curtis Enis, Joe Jurevicius, Courtney Brown, LaVarr Arrington and Brandon Short. I remember watching Larry Johnson go over 2000 yards against Michigan State. I was a kid then, I am a father now, and I have taught her the “We Are… Penn State” chant. I taught her that Joe Paterno was “Grandpa Joe”.

This week has been a hurricane of emotion. I sat at my computer last Saturday morning and read the grand jury testimony. I have my own personal reasons to feel a connection with those boys, and it was that connection that fueled my outrage, my disgust, my anger, my sadness, my heartbreak. The fact that this happened is hard to grasp, the fact that his happened at my school, under my coach, the coach who has built a 60-plus year career on doing the right thing, on doing it the right way, is beyond anything I have ever felt.

I have been cheering for this team so long that I remember when Mike McQuery was the redheaded quarterback, not the former GA who witnessed his coach raping a young boy.

I have tried to approach this with a level head, with a sense of perspective. There are those, like the kids “rioting” last night, who believe that Joe was unfairly treated, that he did what he was supposed to do by forwarding what McQuery told him up the chain of command, and that he has been little more than fodder for a witch hunt. To those young people who are so upset over the treatment of a man who they held up to a God-like status, I would remind them that Joe is not the victim here. The victims are those young boys who safety was not looked after by the people who had the power to do something for them.

It is my belief (read opinion) that Joe did what he thought was best for the program. I believe that Joe knew what was happening in ’98 when he informed Sandusky he wouldn’t be taking over as head coach. I believe that Joe knew that if he were to report it then, or in ’02, that it would look bad for the program, that Sandusky’s actions would topple the program, and he therefore sat on what he knew, did the bare minimum, and went on enabling the violation of those boys.

I understand people’s anger towards McQuery for not stepping in and stopping what he witnessed in that shower. I would only caution people to remember that McQuery grew up with Paterno and Sandusky’s kids, and at the time, he was a 22-year old GA, hoping to someday get a job coaching at the school. I can see how, seeing what he saw, and his relationships with Paterno and Sandusky, he must have thought he was doing right. Clearly, he wasn’t and as such, should be out of a job today as well.

My sports world is in complete turmoil right now, and it is causing me to feel very conflicted about all of this. The manner in which this all came about is just about the worst set of circumstances imaginable. The fac that it needed to happen, that Joe needed to be shown the door, was inevitable. Clearly, in his arrogance and stubbornness, witnessed through the statement he released yesterday, Joe was never going to leave of his own accord.

This program needs to begin to rebuild itself. The problem is, that unlike other schools, where fans identify with the uniform, or the stadium, or the team colors, or the helmets, or touchdown Jesus, fans identified with the 84 year-old man who was shown the door last night following the biggest scandal in the history of college sports. Never again will he stalk up and down the sidelines yelling at no one in particular, black shoes, white socks, khakis rolled up, coke bottle glasses…

Saturday’s game against Nebraska with a potential Rose Bowl bid on the line, was supposed to be the start of the fair well. A chance for fans to start to say goodbye to the man who was Penn State football since before anyone who is reading this was born. Now, there is no telling what  Saturday is going to be. As of right now, Mike McQuery is still on the staff (but for how long?). As of right now, Jay Paterno is still on the staff. There is no telling how long any of these guys will continue to be employed. My guess is that this offseason the Board of Trustees will clean house. Which is going to be a necessary step towards rebuilding and repairing what as of this moment seems so broken.

For my entire sports watching life, the players names changed but the uniforms never did. The number of teams in the Big 10 changed from 10, to 11, to 12, but the coach on the PSU sidelines never did. Until now.

I don’t feel sympathy for Joe Paterno, he had 15 years to do what was right for those kids. I feel sympathy for those unnamed young men, and those who have yet to come forward. I feel sympathy for Silas Redd, Justin Brown, even Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin, the guys who are sitting in that locker room right now, the locker room where Jerry Sandusky perpetrated the acts that led to all of this, trying to figure out where to go from here, and how to focus on Saturday, which in the big scheme of things is nothing more than a meaningless football game when compared to the gravity of what has happened. Those kids didn’t ask for any of this.

I will be there Saturday, in front of my TV, I will wear my PSU shirt, and hat, and cheer for Silas Redd, Nate Stupar, Gerald Hodges, DaVon Still, Joe Shuey, and every other kid wearing the blue and white.

Because We (still) Are… Penn State.

We Are, Penn State

 Although I am disappointed by the results from the season, It would have been crazy of me to expect much more. Penn State started the first true freshman quarterback in Joe Paterno’s tenure.

If you read this you already know how I feel about the B.C.S., I don’t want to hear about how the system worked. Once again I have been forced to enjoy a college football season through partially closed eyes, so as not to look too closely and realize that in reality, very little of what I was watching mattered at all.

What I have chosen to do instead, is just try to enjoy a game, whatever game, for what it is, a single entity to occupy my mind for three hours. Unlike the NFL, where I watched Sunday’s Buccaneers/Falcons game knowing that the Buc’s entire season was potentially on the line, I watch Penn State games simply to enjoy that one game.

This will again be the case on New Years Day, when Penn State takes on Florida in the Outback Bowl. Nothing will really be on the line (I do think Penn State can win this game, Joe has done surprisingly well against SEC teams in bowls in recent years) but I will still enjoy it. I will actually love watching it. I mentioned this on Facebook, but it bears repeating here, I believe this will be Joe’s last game on a Penn State sideline. The last time those Coke bottle glasses, high water Khakis and black shoes run out of the tunnel. Joe seems to have aged very quickly over the last year. He has lost much of the energy that just a year ago seemed to defy age and time. It is actually heartbreaking to listen to his press conferences and interviews.

A few years ago I promised myself that I would support Joe as long as he wanted to stay. For my money, Joe is college football, Joe is everything that I love about the team I cheer for. It is not hyperbole to say that there will never again be one like him. No coach will ever win the number of games at one school that Joe has. Period. That is saying nothing about the graduation rates, the donations to the school, the fact that Penn State has never had a violation of NCAA rules, the man who literally coached generations of the same family. I believe January 1st will be Joe’s last game. It would be fitting, I cannot see Joe wanting any part of a year-long celebration of his career. Which is exactly what next year will turn into.

So I will enjoy the game, I will watch, cheer, and probably cry. But, I know it will mean nothing.

We Are…

I think Penn State is going to win on Saturday. I think they are going to win and I am not the only one who thinks so.

I realize I could be completely wrong about this. I realize The Tide my roll right over us and our true freshman QB and inexperienced D.

But, you know what, I don’t think they are going to. Honestly, I am not overly impressed with Alabama (or any SEC team this year). I think we have the ability to stretch the field with our experienced receivers. If Evan Royster can get any type of running game going, we are going to be in this thing.

The hard part for me, and lets get this out of the way early this year, is if Penn State loses, season over. With the ridiculous system we have, one loss (Hi Virginia Tech) or one big win (Boise State is not the third best team in the country) you make or break your season. The system sucks, and takes an ostrich like ability to place one’s head in the sand to be able to enjoy the sport that I love so much.

I could take a few minutes and link back to all my old posts about the need for a playoff and the B.S. that is the B.C.S, but I just don’t feel like it right now.

All I know is, at 7:00 pm on Saturday, I know where you can find me.

His Name is Robert Bolden

His name is Robert Bolden, and he is an athlete.

One of the hardest parts of being a College Football fan is getting to know the new faces every year. Another difficult part, is once you are stuck with a guy, chances are you are stuck with them for 2, 3 or 4 years. This was the case with interception machine Daryll Clark. I was never a fan, he was never Michael Robinson.

I am immediately impressed with Bolden (20-29 for 240, 2 TDs and 1 Int in his first every college action doesn’t hurt).

Yes I realize that Youngstown State is not Ohio State. But having said that, Evan Royster is supposed to be a Heisman Trophy contender, and could not get anything going Saturday, while Bolden was making plays all over the place with his arm. He looked polished and confident. He did not have to use his legs at all, which I am interested in seeing.

I am reasonable enough to realize that we are not going 12-0 and winning a BCS championship, I am also aware that Alabama will most likely roll us Saturday night. But, they might not. They too have an inexperienced QB and a great running game/defense. Maybe we can hang with them, maybe we have a QB who steps up in big games, unlike Mr. Clark, and the guy who proceded him, whose name I have already wiped from my memory.

All in all, great first weekend in College Football. How long can I keep the delusion going that I won’t just be disappointed at the end of the year?