Friday, November 11, 2011


I’m not a reporter. Not that there was any confusion before, but I don’t want there to be any confusion now. I’ve been reading up on this cluster of a story out of Penn State, and based on a few things I’ve learned, I’ve started to draw some of my own conclusions. More like assumptions, and I hope I’m wrong, but I fear I am not.
Most of these facts have been well covered, obviously. We know that Jerry Sandusky is a gigantic piece of shit. He’s an evil piece of shit, who is accused of some of the most heinous crimes imaginable. We know multiple people heard at the very least, rumors, and didn’t do everything they could to find the truth. We know of one large man who is 6’3” and 265lbs, who allegedly saw a child being raped, and left the scene completely.
Here’s another slice of the story, which is public record, and finally now being talked about. When Sandusky was investigated for showering with a young boy in 1998, the case made it’s way to the desk of the county District Attorney, a man by the name of Ray Gricar. Mr. Gricar chose not to prosecute Sandusky at that time. It was left with Sandusky promising not to shower with kids anymore. Point 1, if you have to promise not to shower with young kids anymore,  you should also resign your position within a charitable organization (that you started) that aims to help children. Obviously, there’s something inappropriate (at best) going on.
The following year, Sandsusky resigned as assistant coach at Penn State. Most football coaches don’t retire at age 55, but he wanted to spend more time with his charity. The timing is a bit interesting, right? Then in 2002, we have the alleged assault in the shower. The Grand Jury testimony states that Gary Schultz, senior Vice President of Finance and Business at Penn State is among those informed of the assault. Among Schultz’s responsibilities at work, he oversaw the campus police department.
Ray Gricar was still the District Attorney in Centre County at this time. Three years later, Gricar phones his girlfriend that he’s on his way home. He never shows up. He’s never seen again, and his body is never found. His car is found near a bridge, much like his brother’s car was found near a bridge in 1996. His brother’s body was found in the river, an apparent suicide. What is found, is Ray’s work laptop. The U.S. Secret Service and the firm which successfully recovered data from the hard drive from the Space Shuttle Columbia, were unable to recover any data from the laptop. On Ray’s home computer, they find that internet searches such as “how to wreck a hard drive”, “how to fry a hard drive,” and “water damage to a notebook computer.” In July of this year, Gricar is declared presumed dead. First, think of a reason why someone might want to erase their hard drive. Next, think of reasons why someone might commit suicide. Did you get to the same conclusion as me?
Everything above is a matter of public record. The rest is based on my gut feelings, as well as some facts. Those facts being and this is uncomfortable (to say the least): Ray Gricar was raised a Catholic. Jerry Sandusky’s grandparents emigrated from Poland, where 89% of the population is Catholic. Joe Paterno… Catholic. Google “Penn State,” “Catholic Church” and “parallels” and you get 127,000 results.
I am not saying that all Catholics molest children or are involved in the molestation of children. I don’t, for a second, believe this is a religious thing or anything like that. My point, and fear is, with abuse so rampant in the church for such a long time that perhaps it is passed on through the generations. I’ve done some reading in the link between victims who become the predators, and at this time “the existence of a cycle of sexual abuse was not established.” Although some studies estimate that 79% of offenders were victims as children.  
I also totally realize how this might sound ultra bigoted. If someone pointed out how Bernie Madoff and Lou Pearlman, two Jews, ran two of the biggest Ponzi schemes in history, that might offend more than a few. I am not attempting to point the finger at an entire religion, but the fact remains, the Church has a well documented history of this sort of thing. And a lot of the big players in this case, happen to be men of that faith. I don’t believe that being of any single faith makes a person do anything, but I do firmly believe that things like this can be learned through experience.
I’d bet every dollar I have that Sandusky was a victim of abuse as a child. Just like I’d bet OJ Simpson grew up in a home where there was violence against women. I really don’t mean to demonize everyone in the Church, but there’s so many cases where the Church acted so much like those involved in this case, I can’t help but think they learned their reactions (or even actions) from the Church.
I hope I’m wrong.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

For Shame

Everyone is angry. I get it, and you know what, we all should be. In fact, this is the first thing, in a long time, that the majority of Americans agree about. Children were brutally victimized, and a lot of adults, some in very high profile positions, didn’t do everything in their power to put a stop it. It’s sickening, literally.
But I still don’t know that firing Joe Paterno was the “right” thing to do. Which doesn’t mean that I think it was “wrong” either. Something happened to those boys, something terrible. I have no doubt in my mind that this sick bastard being charged is guilty. I don’t know what exactly he’s guilty of, but I know there’s no way to properly punish him either.
That said, there’s still due process in this country. The accused is still presumed innocent until proven guilty. And Paterno wasn’t charged with a crime, so I have a hard time seeing him punished. Look, without question, every single person who saw or heard something, had a moral obligation to run to the police. I don’t give a damn about the law. It was the right, no, it was the only thing to do. Even if nothing actually happened, just to clear the assholes name, you make sure it’s properly investigated. That didn’t happen, and there’s enough blame to go around.
I just don’t know what firing Paterno accomplishes. Penn State is over a decade late to take the moral high road. I’ve heard the, “what if it was your kid?” question. And you don’t have to ask me that, that’s the first thing that ran through my head when I heard about this. “What if it was my family?” My blood boils. But you know what? Unless you’re going to allow me, as the parent, the opportunity to gut the sonuvabitch myself, and look ever one involved in the eye, as I tell them the details of what my child went through, well I could care less how they’re punished. All that should matter is getting those children the help they need. And doing everything possible to ensure it never happens again.
Paterno could hide, until he’s called to testify, and never speak of this again. Not that I expect that he would, but now he has that option. I do not understand or see what firing him accomplishes. I can admit, unfortunately, that I’m not thinking clearly here. I like Paterno, because I like what he’s always stood for. Seeing this tiny, fragile old man, on a sideline surrounded by beasts that would run through walls for him is a pretty remarkable sight. I didn’t want to see his legacy, 60+ years in the making, tarnished. It’s too late for that. I accept that. Someone, please, explain to me how firing him is justice or right.
He could have done more. He absolutely should have done more. Firing him is doing something just to say you did something, and that’s not really doing anything.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Miss the Sport from SportCenter

Most of my life, ESPN’s “SportCenter” was so reliable, it was almost a good friend. Great highlights, fresh and funny hosts and enough stats to keep a geek like me happy. I can’t say when it changed, but it has. “SportCenter” has become as depressing as the evening news, and sports have become as disgusting as “real” life.
ESPN can still produce great television and their “30 for 30” series is some of the best television, regardless of genre. The “E:60” series is almost always interesting and well done, and it’s gotten to the point that I’d rather see and read about those kinds of stories, more than I want to watch a game or see any highlights.
As salaries soared out of this world, fans found it easier to be more cynical about sports. I’m not longer sure if the majority of fans would rather find something to cheer for than they’d like to find something to get pissed about. I’m guilty too, but in my defense, I’m just pretty cynical in general. So there’s that.
I hate to pile on, and this isn’t just about the Penn State scandal, as heart breaking and stomach churning as that is. But what are the major sport stories of the last, say 16 years?
Why 16? Because of OJ Simpson, that’s why, that story that forever changed us. Perhaps, even more than 9/11. Wait, don’t stop reading. I am serious. We can all agree that it changed how the media covered major events. With that case, entertainment news found its way on to the front page on almost every paper, every day. CNN and the 24/7 news networks hired so many of the major players. This statement is worth some more thought and a separate post at another time.
So lets get back to that white Bronco, and look at the major stories in sports since then. The baseball strike that cost us a World Series, sucked the life out of baseball for years. What is credited with bringing the fans back to the game? Well a historic home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. We’ve now seen both of those men sit in front of Congress and answer, or not really, questions about steroids.
Almost all of the athletes or teams, that captured my imagination over the last 15 or 16 years, are remembered as much, or more, for scandals.
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez, Kobe Bryant, Lance Armstrong, Ohio State football, Kentucky basketball, Tiger Woods, Brett Favre, New England Patriots,  USC football and Reggie Bush, Joe Paterno and Penn State. I’m sure I’m missing more than a few, but these are some pretty big names. A lot was accomplished by these athletes and teams, but you can’t read any of these names without thinking of some pretty horrible stuff too.
Right now, the biggest stories on are: Joe Paterno announced that he’ll retire at the end of this season, the NBA lockout and a story about NBA player’s getting “plantation” treatment. We ask a lot of sports. We want to be inspired, we want to feel a part of something bigger than ourselves, we want to escape our lives and we just want to be entertained.
I’m sure most of these activities aren’t new, we just have so much more access today. I know this as well as anyone, I don’t need help to remember that I grew up cheering for Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, Lawrence Taylor, Mike Tyson and Magic Johnson. Those were, without a doubt, my five favorite athletes while I was growing up. But their stories were big news and it was rare that off the field/court actions would make headlines.
I’m exhausted. I’m cynical and angry. Mostly, I’m just sad. It’s no wonder that the world can get caught up in a train wreck like Kim Kardashian, it’s easier to watch her and mock than it is to let ourselves get attached to a team or athlete, when another big disappointment will be leading off on “SportsCenter” tomorrow, and it might just be about your team.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Mr. Fix It

I might be a tad bit obsessive compulsive. I’d look into it more, but I’m afraid it’d consume me. Anyway, I’ve been mulling over how I would fix sports. You know, if someone would create the job, and then hand the job over to me. I’ve been thinking about this since I decided that championships are basically BS.
The first thing that I realized is, the regular season is a mess too. They are far from fair. Teams don’t play the same opponents the same amount of times. Which lead me to questioning the logic behind leagues, divisions or conferences. Like the post season, they’re based on providing drama and entertainment. Rivalries are developed over years, often starting with geographic location. They are absolutely a positive aspect for the fans. I’d hate to see the end of the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry for example.
(I’m sure I’m not the first person to think of all of this, and I know I’ve read bits and pieces of my ideas in other places. I simply don’t remember where or when, so I can’t give proper credit)
So with that said, the first thing I’d do is get rid of the American and National Leagues. It’s Major League Baseball, that’s the league, also, no more divisions.  Don’t stop reading just yet. Now it comes down to deciding what to do about the Designated Hitter, and I like to consider myself a purist, so I’d love to see it erased. But because I’d also contract by two teams (which results in a more competitive league, since there would be 50 less roster spots available) I’ve decided to keep the DH, taking it league wide.
Now there are 28 teams competing for 12 playoff spots. I decided to keep the wildcard games, because hell, I like money too. The two teams that I’m closing the doors on are the San Diego Padres (don’t worry, I’m moving the Angels to San Diego) and the Florida Marlins (don’t worry; I’m moving the Rays down to Miami and the new stadium). I told you the league would be more competitive, right? Well look at the names that would be available in the contraction draft: Hanley Ramirez, Mike Stanton, Javier Vasquez, Anibal Sanchez, Mat Latos, Tim Stauffer, Health Bell to name a few.
To address the scheduling issue I mentioned before, every team would play every other team. That’s six games against each team, three on the road and three at home. That doesn’t take the rivalry games away from us, it amplifies them. The Sox and Yankees only meet six times? All the passion gets condensed into two weekends.
Now the regular season means even more. Teams aren’t just jockeying for a spot in their division now, every opponent is a road block.
As for my new playoff system: the top 12 teams make the playoffs, with the top four getting byes the first round. For example (based on 2011, which I realize has an unbalanced schedule) the Philllies Yankees, Rangers and Brewers are 1-4. Seedings would change with each round, so that the best teams always have the advantage. If the Phillies lost to the Red Sox in the second round, the Yankees would then take over the #1 seed.
You can’t tell me the team that finishes the year with the best record, with this set up, isn’t the best team. But we’ll still have the post-season, only I’m changing the stakes. A trophy isn’t all they’re playing for. The players get cash, a 10% bonus.
Then I’m doing almost the same thing in the NBA. I’m taking out the divisions, as well as two teams. Sorry Toronto and Sacramento. To even out the schedule, each team plays three against every other team. But to keep things fair, it’s one game at home and one on the road. Then one at a neutral location. Some of those would be NBA cities, for example the Lakers and Celtics would play their third game in Denver. With a good amount of those games would be played in cities without teams; Kansas City, Seattle, Las Vegas, San Diego, Toronto, and Memphis for example. I haven’t figured out the split yet, or how that’s determined. But I’d like to see arenas get 30 games a year (rather than 41 that they get now)
This part I don’t like, but sometimes it’s all about the Benjamins. I’d expand the playoffs to 16 teams. Follow the idea I explained in the baseball section, with the playoffs being re-seeded after each round (if a higher ranked team Is upset) and to help make up for the lost revenue from the 10 lost home games, I’d expand the playoffs so that every round is a best of seven.
I haven’t yet figured out how to improve the NFL, other than following the trend of getting rid of divisions and seeding the post season based on the best 12 or 14 teams from the regular seasons. No longer will winning a horrible division with a 7-9 or 8-8 record, earn a team a trip to the post season. I just can’t figure out how to improve the schedule, since you can’t play every team once, let alone twice.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Over Mr Head

Once in a while, I find myself wondering about the connection between parents and their children’s subsequent religious beliefs and political associations. My question being: how many of us have the same beliefs, either politically or religiously, as our parents?
I found a study online, by Tom Smith of the University of Chicago. His survey reports that 65% of Americans stay with the religion in which they were raised. Of the 35% who do change religions, a third of them change religions multiple times, so I’m not sure how many of them find their way back to their original religion.
Based on my observations, I feel there’s a strong correlation. Which makes me wonder: what’s the point? The two strongest institutions in our society may be largely based on how we were raised. Which by itself, doesn’t make them wrong, but it does open them up to be deeply flawed. And the evidence is overwhelming, they are both very flawed.
We turn to both for some similar answers; either moral dilemmas, legal questions and often to determine what is best for “us,” either as a country, individual or family unit. As a country, we claim there’s a legal separation between church and state, but if you watch any election race, religion is always a central issue.
Obviously, since these are two strong forces in our lives, our parents’ beliefs will be reinforced, almost every second of the day as we grow up. The dinner table conversation, the television viewing choices, careers, hobbies and social circles we grow up around are directly influenced by our parents’ political and religious beliefs.
But as a “free” society, we absolutely have the right to make up our minds for ourselves; I just don’t think we do that. This isn’t to bash religion or politics, but I’ve figured out one thing about both: since there are so many different beliefs within both, they can’t all be right. They can, however, all be wrong. So maybe this is one of those times where we shouldn’t just listen to mom and dad.
I’m conflicted, because I know it’s impossible to prevent this from happening. Much as it’s impossible to prevent our race or sex from helping to shape our opinions and experiences.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Champion Shmampion

I’ve decided that the term “best” needs to be taken more seriously, and I hope to have a new site up soon, dedicated to determining the best in all sorts of categories. But first, I need to debunk the idea of the “champion.”
Other than sports like boxing and UFC, championships are complete crap. Super Bowl, World Series, March Madness or the NBA Playoffs don’t actually determine which team is the best team. They generate mountains of money and they’re great fun, but they’re also a lie. They can give us great drama, but they’re more of a yearend celebration than anything else. That’s not to say the “champions” weren’t the best teams in their respective sports, they just weren’t the best because they won the championship.
The evidence is clear, and it’s plentiful, and you don’t have to look far. There’s the “World Champion” St. Louis Cardinals, who just won the World Series a week or so ago. And then this weekend, there’s an epic match up in college football between the top two ranked teams, Alabama and LSU.
The Cardinals played well most of the year, in spite of the fact that they lost their second best pitcher before the season even began. They played very well down the stretch, but needed the Atlanta Braves to have a historic collapse (which thrills me to no end) just to make the playoffs. Three teams in the National League alone won more games during the regular season than the Cardinals, and seven teams total. But the Cardinals played their best ball when it counted, I just don’t know what it counted for exactly. Glory, pride, bragging rights and some cash is all I can figure.
Now looking forward to tomorrow’s game between the top two ranked teams in college football, Alabama and LSU, we see a game with “National Championship implications.” That’s what everyone keeps saying. But if these are the two best teams, and we see one team beat the other, we know right then which team is the better team. Therefore, we know which the best team in the country is. We don’t need to wait for a bowl game in early January to decide this. Although we’re told we do, and in the end, the season may end with neither team being the champion.
It just makes no sense. I can’t think of another line of work, which is what this is, where the best is determined by a yearend competition. We won’t decide that the iPhone was the best phone of the year based on how well it does against HTC in December. The best sales person at my company is the best because they do the best all year long. Looking for the best surgeon? Well you look at his/her complete body of work, not just some arbitrary surgeries.
These championships impact more than just deciding the best team of each season. Not that it actually matters, but sport fans love to debate the best in every sport. Hell, we’ll argue the best at each position in each sport. Michael Jordan supporters often refer to his six rings, as evidence of his greatness. While Kobe Bryant is one ring behind him, with his fans believing he’ll equal Jordan’s greatness with one more title, and pass it with two. What? That’s ridiculous. Michael Jordan won his sixth ring on June 14, 1998. He wasn’t a better player that day than he was on June 13th. Yet somehow, we’re supposed to believe he was.
I understand, and appreciate, that because those games “mean” more, that those games are played at a higher intensity. Hell, I’ve witnessed it countless times. So Jordan is perceived as a guy with ice in his veins, because he wasn’t fazed by the situation. But the fact is, his Bulls were the best teams those seasons, the post-season wasn’t necessary to decide that. For crying out loud, it’s called the “post-season.” You know, as in, after the season
Want more proof? This one pains me, but the 2007 New England Patriots didn’t win the championship that year. They went 16-0, the first NFL team ever to do, and they completely dominated their opponents all season long. They scored more than twice as many points as they allowed. Then they played my Giants in the Super Bowl, a team that only outscored their opponents by 22 points for the entire season. A nice 10-6 team that made the playoffs as a wildcard. Then a completely fluke play, which included Eli Manning actually moving his feet and the most insane catch ever, and next thing we know, the Giants are “World Champions.” You’ll never find anyone argue that the Giants were the best team that year, but that’s how the record books remember them. And my teams have been on the flip side of that coin, as MU fans like to remind us. There have been multiple seasons where Kansas was arguably the best team in the land, only they choked in the first round of the NCAA tournament against lesser schools.
In boxing, if you beat the champ, you are the champ. Although you still might not be the best, you at least take the title, very literally, from the previous champ. There is no fight at the end of the year, or round robin tournament.
In the meantime, I think I'll declare myself the World Champion of Bloggers. Not bad for my first post in months, right?