Friday, July 20, 2012

Death Penalty Pt. 2- Penn State

I believe that Penn State Football deserves to receive the death penalty from the NCAA. I never thought I would favor the use of that penalty ever. It is a punishment that pretty would pretty much cripple any program for decades, if not permanently. I couldn't imagine anything happening within a program that would justify that penalty again. However, what happened at Penn State goes beyond the parameters of my imagination regarding a College Football Program.

The abuse that happened at Penn State is beyond anything that the NCAA should have to deal with and really has the capabilities to deal with. It isn't paying players. It's not recruiting violations. It's not lying to the NCAA about some silly little rules violation. This was NCAA institution believing that it's Football program was more important than the suffering of children. There was no perspective given. Penn State football and Joe Paterno and the whole damn brand were too important to allow for one minor stain and prompted this horrible cover-up.

Penn State did manage to avoid the minor stain, but is now the brand is completely tarnished.

Had officials at Penn State come forth once they had knowledge of Sandusky's actions it wouldn't have been much of a story. Yes, there would've been a fuss made about, but it would eventually blow over without affecting that athletic department to badly. As horrible as it sounds, anyone could make the mistake of employing a pedophile; they don't come with signs over there heads. However, it takes some insulated, egotistical and really just pathetic people to protect one.

Penn State didn't lack institutional control. In fact, it is hard to really put a traditional NCAA definition on what transpired there. Football was allowed to become too big. A Football coach was allowed to be too powerful. Administrators were desperate to protect the brand of the football program. And all the while children were being hurt.

The NCAA really can't issue any penalties in this case besides the Death Penalty. None of the usual penalties given by the NCAA fit the crime at all. This isn't a case where a program broke some NCAA rules; where a program was trying to gain an advantage and the NCAA punishes them by taking away scholarships or bowl bans to hurt recruiting. This is a case where a program not only became bigger than the educational institution, but became big enough to become the dominating force of the University and the area.

I think giving Penn State the Death Penalty is not only the proper punishment, but would make it clear the athletic programs should not be so powerful and important. College athletics are particularly prone to idol-worship and the danger of that has been made clear by the Sandusky case and all the fallout that has followed. Perspective is missing and it needs to be regained. The environment that was and still is in Happy Valley isn't unique and I think it's time for top-level college athletics to get a reality check.

Thanks for reading


Thursday, May 17, 2012

My Most Dramatic Games- Misses

So, I definitely left some great games out of my Top Ten. It is always difficult to draw that line between in and out. So here is a shortlist of games that I left out:

Brazil vs. United States, 2011 Woman's World Cup
N.C. State @ Ohio State, NCAA Football, September, 2003.
Michigan @ Ohio State, NCAA Football, November 2006
Ohio State @ Michigan, NCAA Football, November 2005
Superbowl XXXIV
Superbowl XLII
St. John's vs. Ohio State, NCAA Basketball Tournament, March 1999
Ohio State @ Purdue, NCAA Football, November 2002
Wisconsin @ Ohio State, NCAA Basketball, March 2007
France vs. Italy, 2006 World Cup Final
Ohio State @ Wisconsin, NCAA Football, October 2008

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Top Ten Most Dramatic Games- Part Two (1-5)

5.) Liverpool vs AC Milan, 2005 UEFA Champions League Final, May 25th, 2012: My favorite European side is Liverpool. Being an American with no cheering interest via lineage led me to make this decision mostly because that's where the Beatles are from. It looked pretty hopeless being down 3-0 at the half, but soccer is a funny game sometimes. Liverpool came out of locker room on fire and 2 brilliant goals and a rebound from a penalty had Liverpool equal to AC Milan before the game reached 60 minutes. Liverpools keeper Dudek and the defenders played heroically through the remainder of the game and extra time. The game was to be decided on Penalties, which is the cruelest way to decide a game. It is stressful to watch even without having a strong rooting interest, but when a club you support is involved it's nearly unbearable. Dudek made some great saves in the shootout and Liverpool won the Champions League on penalties 3-2.

4.) Tennessee vs. Ohio State, Sweet Sixteen 2007 NCAA Basketball Tournament, March 22nd, 2007: Ohio State trailed by as many as 20 points in this game and the deficit at halftime was 17. It really looked like what seemed like a team that was going to do great things was going to get knocked out far too early. However, the gap slowly closed and Ohio State took the lead with just over 8 minutes to play in the game. It was a back and forth, stress-inducing battle for the rest of the game. The game winning play was quite unusual for basketball. Mike Conley made his first free throw to put The Buckeyes up 85-84, but missed his second with 6 seconds remaining. Tennessee brought the ball up the court quickly and were poised to attempt a lay up to win at the buzzer. Greg Oden had other things in mind though as the center had hustled back down the court and blocked the potential game winning shot as time expired.

3.) Illinois @ Ohio State, NCAA Basketball, March 6th, 2005: This was one of those games that everyone had looked at months ahead of time as being a phenomenal match-up. Illinois was looking to become he first Men's College Basketball team to go undefeated since 1976. Ohio State, on the other hand, had self-imposed a post-season ban on its talented team. That made this game, on Senior Day against the number one and undefeated Illinois Fighting Illini the biggest of the season for the Buckeyes. Illinois kept Ohio State at an arm's length throughout much of the game, leading by 11 at the half. Ohio State had closed the gap to two points in the final minute. Ohio State decided to go for the win on its final possession and Matt Sylvester (I told you he'd come up again) shot up a three and drained it with 6 seconds remaining putting Ohio State up 65-64. The final six seconds were a bit choppy, but Illinois didn't manage a good look and Ohio State had a marque victory. After several down seasons, this put Ohio State basketball back on the map and began the Thad Matta era.

2.) Arizona State vs. Ohio State, 1997 Rose Bowl, January 1st, 1997: This game along with Ohio State's loss to Michigan before it are the first two football games of which I have any clear memories. However, one must remember I was only seven at the time, so my understanding certainly wasn't what it is today. Jake "The Snake" Plummer scrambled late in the forth quarter to put the Sun Devils up 17-14. I was devastated. I started crying (I have long since stopped crying over sport's results*.) However, Joe Germaine and the Buckeye's taught me a lesson that day: to not lose faith in your team. The Buckeyes drove down the field with a lot of help from Pass Interference penalties. That drive was capped off with Germain completing a pass to David Boston for a 5-yard touchdown. Arizona State block the PAT, which left the game at 20-17 Ohio State with 19 seconds remaining. Arizona State wasn't able to make anything of their final desperate possession and the Buckeyes hoisted the Rose Bowl trophy, which was so much cooler looking back then.

1.) Ohio State vs. Miami, 2002 BCS National Championship Game/2003 Fiesta Bowl, January 3rd, 2003: This was it. Ohio State finally had a chance to play for the National Title. 1999-2001 had been disappointing seasons by Ohio State standards. Not much was expected of the 2002 Ohio State team. However, they pretty much muddled their way to a perfect season to face the vaunted Miami Hurricanes. I felt pretty confident about Ohio State going into this game even though they were the decided underdogs. It was tight throughout with Ohio State's defense playing very well and the Ohio State offense largely being led by, surprisingly, Craig Krenzel's running ability. The game ended in regulation tied 17-17 and headed to Overtime. Miami got the ball first and scored a Touchdown. Ohio State was down to a 4th and 14 before Krenzel hit Jenkins to get the first down, which led to the big controversy. On another 4th down, Miami was called for defensive pass interference. I will maintain that an infraction was committed for as long as I am able to. The joy I felt when I saw that yellow flag flicker across the edges of the screen was as great as any I've ever felt. The Buckeyes punched in a TD and another to start the 2nd Overtime before Ohio State's defense held Miami on a 4th and Goal to win the National Title.

Thanks for reading and tomorrow I'll briefly talk about some games that were left off the list.

*For the most part

Monday, May 14, 2012

My Ten Most Dramatic Games- Part One (6-10)

I should start out by saying this list is 100% personal. I'm not trying to tell you what the 10 most dramatic games of all time are. This is about the 10 games I have witnessed as a fan that I found most dramatic. This means that there is a clear bias towards the teams I cheer for. This also is only going to be "Happy" Dramatic moments. That is to say the team I wanted to win won. This is likely to become a series of posts and the sad times may be documented later.

10.) Queens Park Rangers @ Manchester City, English Premier League, May 13th, 2012: In terms of soccer drama, it is hard to get better than this; at least when you aren't really a supporter of either team. This game had implications on the top of the table as well as the relegation zone on the last Sunday of the season. With nine other games going on simultaneous to this one and the results of two of the other game having a direct impact on how the table will end up in regards to these two teams, it was very dramatic. The results from the other games changed the attitudes of the supporters of both clubs, which added to the fantastic nature of this game. It really looked like Manchester City were going to suffer another heart break, but two stoppage time goals gave them the title in the must unbelievable of fashions.

9.) Wisconsin @ Ohio State, NCAA Football, October 29th, 2011: This is the only regular season Ohio State football game that will make the list. There have been many great ones, but I think this one was the most emotionally turbulent one for me. I felt like Ohio State had the game pretty well in hand when the Buckeyes took the lead 26-14 with just 4:39 left in the game. However, the Ohio State defense that had played so well had a meltdown in the final 5:00 and two quick Wisconsin scores later it was 29-26 to the Badgers with 1:18. I had basically conceded defeat at that point. The ineffective nature of the Buckeyes' passing game made me think even field goal range was unlikely. However, Ohio State managed to score on a late deep pass as Wisconsin broke down in coverage as Braxton Miller scrambled. Ohio State won 33-29. This was the highlight in what was otherwise a very disappointing season last year and given the way that team struggled it made this victory all the better.

8.) LSU @ Ohio State, NCAA Basketball, December 31st, 2005: This is the only one on the list that I actually attended. A New Year's Eve match-up between two surprising team early in the 2005/2006 college basketball season. It was looking pretty hopeless for the Buckeyes'. LSU was absolutely dominating the paint and Tyrus Thomas was seeming blocking every shot Ohio State put up. Things began to turn when LSU's Point Guard commuted an intentional foul with about 5 minutes left and the Tigers up 15. The Buckeye's were down 10 with about two and a half minutes to play. However, LSU had scored what would end up being their last basket with around 3:30 to go and the Buckeye's made a frantic run ending with a Matt Sylvester (more on him later in the countdaow) to put the Buckeyes up 78-76 with 12 seconds left to play and that would be the final score.

7.) Texas vs. USC, 2005 BCS Championship Game/2006 Rose Bowl, January 4th, 2006: This was a heavy-weight match-up, between the two giants of that College Football season. It was a game that saw Texas have a strong first half, but USC came roaring back in the second half. The Trojans were up 38-26 deep in the forth quarter, but a scoring drive led by Texas QB Vince Young narrowed the gap to five points. USC took a gamble on 4th and 1 with around two minutes left to go expecting to get a first down against a Texas defense that had struggled against the run. Texas made the stop and that led to the dramatic Touchdown scramble by Young into the corner of the Endzone to give the Longhorns their victory 41-38.

6.) Algeria vs. The United States, 2010 World Cup, June 23rd, 2010: This was a crucial game for the United States Men's National Team. A win guaranteed advancement in to the knock-out stages of the World Cup and first place in their group (which is an exceedingly rare thing for the USMNT.) An early goal by Clint Dempsey was disallowed an a phantom offside call, which brought to mind the terrible blown call that disallowed an American goal by Maurice Edu in the previous game against Slovenia. Algeria was playing a terribly negative. They packed it in, fouled to make the game choopy and despite there being a possibility for them advance seemed quite content to just spoil the U.S. World Cup hopes. It was a bit overwhelming as a U.S. fan as the game approached the 90th; one felt that his or her team had been fucked by the referees and the universe and how unfair it would be to knocked out like this. However, in stoppage time after an Algeria cross and header, GK Tim Howard threw a quick, but deep outlet pass to Landon Donovan and the break was on. A few passes and a Goalie deflection later, Donovan drove the ball into the back of the net to get the United States a place in the Round of 16 with the 1-nil victory.

Thanks for reading and part two with the top 5 will be out tomorrow


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Perilous Game

Today, tragic news broke about the death of retired All-Pro Linebacker Junior Seau. He likely committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest. That particular method of suicide has become a bit of trend for former NFL players as it seems to be a way to preserve the brain for research. Most notably, former Bears Safety, Dave Duerson, shot himself in the chest telling his family beforehand to donate his brain for research.

It has become quite evident that the brain injuries suffered by professional football players are creating major mental health issues for former players and very early onset for neurological problems. There's also the problems that come along with the game even without head injuries. The physical toll of football is immense. Chronic, crippling pain, and disability are the reality for a lot of retired NFL players and that must take a terrible toll on one's mind.

Along with brain damage, often there is another stress that goes along with the end of a career in professional sports. Retirement age for a NFL player is probably going to happen when a man is in his 30's. To make it in the NFL, you have to be an elite talent, an elite athlete. It is what that person does for the majority of their life up to the point where they can no longer do it. They work to become a professional football player for years and then have to work to stay at that top level for years.

An NFL player, who is good enough to make the field (and therefore suffer injuries) is  put on a pedestal throughout his career. They are revered by fans. They are on T.V. and their play or contract or haircut is the subject of debates on sports talk radio. In the fall, tens of thousands of people come to cheer him on or root against him every Sunday

Then a player retires. He instantly stops being that guy. People now talk about him in the past tense and he is no older than 40. A player works since his teenage years, if not before, to become a professional and before the age of 40 he has reached his pinnacle with so much life left. One is forced to live with the feeling that he has already served his primary purpose in life. Even if he doesn't have to worry about finances, that is still a terrible strain on the mind; to feel like you've done your job and are just waiting to die.

We continue to learn about how unsafe the game of football actually is. It is such a fantastic that it is hard to advocate that it should be banned. However, the risks are too great for one to advocate it continuing in its current form.

The NFL and NFLPA need to work together to ensure a future of football. Former players need easy, affordable and anonymous access to mental and physical healthcare as well as a guarantee of their financial security given the tremendous sacrifice an NFL player must make. The NFL can change the rules all they like, but that isn't going to stop the danger in the game. Safety gear needs to innovated to protect the after-football life of current and future players.

A story like the death of Seau, makes me wonder whether or not football is worth it. Not every former player lives in misery after their career, but it seems as though a disproportional amount suffer from pain, mental illness, and neurological problems, which is fatal combonation in too many cases. There just has to be a better way to do this though. There is no way to justify continuing this spectator sport, if it is causing such problems for its participants. There needs to be a change in the mentality of football and an improvement in the technology of football, because we can't continue to have a game that is killing its players.

Thanks for reading


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Season Preview: Columbus Crew

The Crew's success in 2011 was surprising. The expectations were low given Warzycha's implosion of the team following the 2010 seaswon. The team peaked reaching the top of the Eastern Conference in mid-August, but after an embarrassment in Seattle the team limped through September, only earning one point in that month, and only managed to make the playoffs as a wild card. After the 1-0 defeat in Colorado, it was a disappointing end to a season that looked promising during the summer.

The issue the Crew had last season was a severe lack of attacking prowess. The struggles were particularly evident early in the season, but while they improved later on the attack was far from potent. Double-digit goal scorer Andres Mendoza didn't have his option picked up by the Crew this nor did MLS and Columbus Crew all-time scoring leader, Jeff Cunningham. These losses are not particularly painful as Mendoza may be the worst player ever to score more than 10 goals and Cunningham was unproductive in his return to the team last season.

The attack has had two big additions this off-season. Milovan Mirosevic and Olman Vargas were brought in from Chile and Costa Rica (respectively) on non-DP contracts. Mirosevic may add the vision and skill going forward from the central midfield that the Crew lacked so desperately last season. Vargas could be a Strike partner for the returning Emilio Renteria who had an injury plagued season in 2011. There could also be more additions to the strike force before the start of the season or even during. The club would like to add a DP striker but hasn't been able to snag one preseason and will likely try again during the Summer Transfer Window.

The defense was strong prior to the late-season meltdown. There was a lack of depth at Center Back, which was most painfully exposed by Julius James' absence against Seattle. Depth has been added with the addition of Carlos Mendes. The new area of concern is Left Back. Shaun Francis is the clear starter with the loss of Josh Gardner in the Expansion draft to Montreal. He doesn't really have a back up though. It looks as though Warzycha is going to address this with an "unnamed target".


The Crew along with the other teams in the Eastern Conference got a boost this offseason with the change to the MLS schedule format with the addition of Montreal. In 2011, teams played 34 games with each team playing each team in the League at home and away. In 2012, MLS is moving to a 'conference-based' schedule. A team in the Eastern conference will play seven of the other teams in the conference 3 times and the remaining two twice as well as playing the nine teams from the western conference once.

The Eastern Conference was undoubtedly the weaker of the conferences in 2011 and looks to be the same in 2012. Avoiding a game with L.A. or Seattle and replacing it with one against Toronto or Chicago helps a team's chances at acquiring points significantly. It also means that the point totals from the Eastern conference are going to be bloated making the Supporter's Shield less significant.

Starting 11

I think it is likely that the Crew will go with a 4-4-2 or a variation of it for this season. Warzycha has shown himself to an aggressive manager, but he isn't entirely immune to the 4-5-1 bug, but I think two strikers is the best way to go. Here's my predicted starting 11:

GK: Hesmer
D: Miranda, James, Marshall, Francis
M: Gaven, O'Rourke, Mirosevic, Duka*
F: Vargas*, Renteria

*Position not secure

The two biggest exits of the offseason were Emmanuel Expo and Robbie Rogers. They were every game starters in the midfield last season. Expo never really adapted well to playing in the central midfield and Mirosevic will be an improvement in that slot. Filling Rogers' spot down the left wing is a little more tricky, which is what makes Duka not secure in that spot.

Dilly Duka seems to be the guy next in line and seems ready for a breakout year. However, the wing may not be the best place for him. He is also a right footed player and that always has the danger of making the field narrow going down the left side. His best competition for that spot would definitely be Bernardo Anor. He is left footed and showed a lot of promise when Robbie Rogers was away for the Gold Cup last season. He is also pretty good with set pieces, which is something that the Crew need with the loss of Josh Gardner.

Up front Vargas is likely the starter right now. Heinemann has a chance at the spot, but it seems that the team are going to add another striker to pair with Renteria.


The point total will be inflated compared to 2011, but I think 2012 won't be much of an improvement in end result. The Eastern Conference was very muddled last season, so a finish could be anywhere between 2nd and 6th for the Crew depending on how things go this season. Ideally the Crew would be able to avoid the Wild Card round by finishing in the top three. I'm fairly confident the Crew will be playing the post season.

Thanks for reading and please comment


Sunday, January 8, 2012

National Champtionship Prediction

I think the National Championship game this year stands in stark contrast with the turn college football* seems to have complete this year. These are two teams with outstanding defenses that are the highlight of their teams. They both actually have pretty damn good offenses as well, but they're defenses carry the day. Defense has really come to be a bit of a relic as the smart people who come up with offensive schemes have realized just how handicapped the defense is by the rules.

When Alabama and LSU met in the regular season, it was a game dominated by defenses and mistakes**. It was pretty clear that both defenses were well ahead of their offensive counterparts. I do think Alabama played a better game than LSU and would've won by a relatively large margin with an average Field Goal Kicker.

When looking at the game tomorrow there is one major variance from the last time. Jarrett Lee is no long in the picture for LSU. Sixty minutes of Jordan Jefferson at QB will be an improvement for the LSU offense.

However, even with LSU's improvement at QB is likely to be outweighed by the long layoff. A month between games causes rust and rust generally favors the defenses. I think Alabama's defense is better than the LSU defense. I also think Alabama's running game is stronger, which is less effected by the layoff.

I think the game will be similar to their first meeting. I don't see a lot of scoring or even an average amount of scoring. It'll be a game of field position and ball control. I think Alabama did both of those things better in the first game, but missed field goals did them in. That problem hasn't been remedied, but I think Saban will do a good job of working around it. I expect Alabama to punt at the edge of Field Goal range and trust their defense. Also, I expect Alabama has prepared for having to attempt quite a few fourth down conversion.

I think Alabama is going to win the National Championship game. I don't think the 'home-field' advantage is going to be nearly as strong as it has been for LSU in New Orleans in the past. Alabama will score touchdowns in what will otherwise be a battle of fields goals due to necessity and that will win the game.

Alabama 14
LSU 13


*The NFL is in much the same boat.
**Normal people seem to call it boring, but I'm not normal