Sunday, January 29, 2012

Thoughts from the Paterno Memorial

    On Thursday, January 27th, I was lucky enough to attend the memorial service for Joe Paterno with my wife Becky.
Being an alum, Penn State has always been a big part of my life. I attended games when I was a student there and now I have had season tickets for the last 6 years. Before the scandal,I always said that no matter what, I would be at Paterno's public service. Now more than ever, I felt it was important to show my support to my "Penn State Family"

   It was a surreal scene. I'm used to sitting in the BJC at "TailGreat" before home football games. The band is always playing and everyone is upbeat and happy. This was a totally different atmosphere. I saw people crying even before the service started.

    The service was exaclty what a memorial service is meant to be- a celebration of the person's life. Several videos showing Paterno through the years were mixed in between those who spoke. Players from six different decades spoke at the service. That to me, was amazing. Everyone who spoke had the same message-Joe Paterno was so much more than a football coach. He was a very charitable human being who cared for others as if they were family.

       The most poignant part of the service for me was when Jay Paterno spoke about his dad and gave us some insight into what it was like to be a part of his life. I felt that Jay was very well-spoken and held it together very well. Hearing him speak about his dad's final moments in the hospital and telling him, "Dad, we won, you can go home now" really brought me to tears.

       This was a historical event that I will never forget.  It was so great to be around so many Penn Staters who were all there to celebrate the great work that Joe Paterno has done. Penn State would not be half of what it is today without him.

       Now, I know that some people will say that Joe Paterno did not deserve a memorial service that praised him. There are plenty of people who feel he was an awful human being for helping to cover up the horrible child sex abuse scandal. 
The only thing I would say to those people is this- Joe Paterno reported what he was told and those above him dropped the ball.

     Paterno cared about Penn State and treated everyone that he coached as if they were family. No coach has ever done as much for their university as Paterno has done. The memorial service was exactly what I hoped it would be. A great celebration of a wonderful humanitarian.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Passing of a Legend

     The passing of Joe Paterno this morning will leave a void in the lives of thousands of people who were positively affected by him. The legendary coach leaves behind countless contributions to young people and a legacy of "Success with Honor"

    Sadly, I was not surprised by the news of his death. Can you imagine what this 85 year old man was feeling when he was abruptly fired in November? Paterno spent most of his life making Penn State one of the most prestigious universities and football programs in the country. It is not crazy to think that he simply lost his will to live. Penn State football was all Paterno knew for the last sixty years.
    Of course, Paterno's legacy will now be forever tarnished by the terrible Jerry Sandusky situation. Sure, a man in Paterno's position should have morally done more to make sure that the victims were being protected. But let's not forget, Paterno was cleared legally and it is well documented that he technically followed the correct protocol. What happened to those children is a horrible crime. However, Jerry Sandusky is the bad guy, not Joe Paterno.

     I had a brief encounter with Paterno while walking on campus one day during my senior year. I couldn't believe my eyes when I realized that the older man walking slowly towards me was actually the great Joe Paterno. Through my shock, I was able to muster a mere, "Hello Coach" as he approached me. He took five seconds out of his busy life to stop and say "Hello" back to me. Its moments like that that Paterno will be remembered for. He did so much for that university and meant so much to the people who attended it.

     The Penn State family lost its patriarch today. Alumni and fans alike will always remember the good times with Joe Paterno and everything he did to make Penn State football what it is today.

The coke-bottle glasses, blue windbreaker, khaki pants, and black Nikes is a memory that will live forever with all of us.
Rest in peace JoePa - you will live on in the hearts of Penn Staters everywhere.



Thursday, January 19, 2012

Ed Reed: Major Distraction or Master Motivator?

     As a Baltimore Ravens fan, I am looking forward to the AFC Championship matchup with the New England Patriots. However, instead of focusing on the game, the Ravens have had to deal with controversy all week. The team has had to answer questions about the comments star Safety Ed Reed made about Quarterback Joe Flacco.
     Reed, speaking honestly, said that Flacco was rattled by the Houston Texan's defense last week and he didn't seem able to handle the pressure. These comments were not a surprise to anyone who follows the Ravens. Defense has always reigned supreme in Baltimore. The offense has always been there to just "not screw up too badly."
     I have no problem with what Reed said.  A defense full of superstars is bound to get frustrated with an offense that struggles to find consistency. After Flacco's horrid performance last week, he needs something to wake him up. I just wish Reed's comments would have been kept private.
    The problem I have with this is now it has become a distraction to the team. Baltimore is gearing up for its biggest game of the year. They should be planning how to stop Tom Brady, not fielding questions about a defense that seems disgruntled with an ineffective offense. 
     Again, the fact that there is a rift between the defense and the offense is no real shocker. However, there is an unspoken rule in professional sports that a team's dirty laundry is not to be aired in public. Ed Reed later claimed that he was just trying to motivate Flacco. As true as his comments were, calling out a teammate days before a huge game is not the best motivation strategy.

Hopefully, this will be forgotten about by Monday morning and the Ravens will be celebrating an AFC Championship.

Friday, January 13, 2012

NFL Predictions

    After going 4-0 with last week's Wild Card predictions, I've decided to try it for this weekend's games. The divisional round usually offers some of the best games of the playoffs. Below are my quick picks for the weekend.

     Saints @ 49ers
       The 49ers are a great story, but Drew Brees has been putting up crazy numbers. The SanFran D will hold just under 400 yards. The Saints win this one easily.

    Broncos @ Patriots
        Tom Brady and the Patriots made Tim Tebow and the Broncos look silly just a few weeks ago in Denver.. Noone in their right mind would pick the Broncos to win this game. That is exaclty why I am... Tebow Mania lives on for yet another week.

    Texans @ Ravens
         If the Ravens were on the road I would be a little worried. Lucky for them, they get to play in the friendly confines of M&T Bank Stadium surrounded by 70,000 purple-clad maniacs. Two good defenses will keep this one a close, low-scoring affair. Baltimore prevails.

    Giants @ Packers
          Only the Patriots defense was worse than Green Bay this year. The Giants can control the clock with their run game and Eli Manning can sling it when necessary. This Packers team is vulnerable, even with the home field advantage. Both teams will probably put up over 30 points, with the Giants finishing on top.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Penn State: Starting Fresh

     With the hiring of Bill O'Brien, Penn State has officially closed the door on the Joe Paterno era. It was an era that saw the university grow into one of the most storied football programs in the country, only to be abruptly ended by a terrible scandal involving a former coach.

       As an alumni and a season ticket holder, I've had mixed feelings since that terrible day in November when Paterno was fired before all of the facts had been gathered. The alleged actions of Jerry Sandusky are reprehensible and the fact that there was a cover up by people in power makes it even worse. It's just unfortunate that a legendary figure in college football had to take the fall.
      In the months since Paterno's firing I have come to peace with the fact that Penn State needs to move on from this terrible situation and start fresh. That means clearing out the old regime and starting over with a fresh perspective. Keeping Paterno around would have meant always facing questions about the scandal.

      O'Brien's hiring has caused a huge backlash from alumni and former players. Most are upset that a "Penn State guy" was not hired. I am ok with someone from the "outside" being hired, I would have just preferred a coach with a more impressive college resume.  Former linebacker Lavarr Arrington stated that he is done with Penn State and will be getting rid of all of his Penn State memorabelia. According to Arrington, "We are Penn State is no more for me."

      I am appalled at the statements from Arrington. I can understand his anger at the situation and feeling that the Univeristy Board is blaming the wrong people. But how can he turn his back on the university that made him who he is? In this trying time, it is imperative that all Penn State alumni and fans unite together. The student athletes who will be wearing the famed blue and white in the coming years had nothing to do with what went on in the past.

     Bill O'Brien and the new staff will be burdened with the task of restoring "Penn State Pride" and rebuilding the motto of "Success with Honor."

     Though I may not agree with the way everything went down at Penn State, I will still proudly wear my blue and white and cheer loudly from section NC on Saturday afternoons this Fall.

            For now and forever... We Are Penn State!!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Wild Card Weekend Predictions

     This weekend marks the start of the NFL playoffs. The Wild Card round traditionally presents some opportunities for upsets. (Remember Seattle over New Orleans last year?) Below are my thoughts on all four match-ups

     Bengals @ Texans 
        Probably the least watched game of the weekend, rookie QB T.J. Yates leads the Texans against fellow rookie Andy Dalton. This game could be an ugly, defensive battle. The Texans boast more playmakers on offense- I'll take them.
      Lions @ Saints
         The Lions, two years removed from an 0-17 season, are a great story this year. However, Drew Brees has been putting up video game like numbers and making good defenses look silly. Throw in the lightning fast Superdome turf and this game will probably be out of hand early. I'll take the Saints in a run-away.

     Falcons @ Giants
          I keep going back on forth on this one, both teams have been extremely inconsistent all year. Atlanta looked great in their last game, albeit against one of the worst teams in the league. Just when I thought the Giants would be contenders this year, they went and got swept by the "Dead"skins. I'll take the Giants in this one- only because they are at home.

     Steelers @ Broncos
          I told myself I wouldn't be biased with this pick, but who am I kidding?! I am the biggest Tebow fan this weekend. All joking aside, I feel the Broncos have a better than decent shot in this game. Not only are the Steelers playing without their starting running back and safety, Ben is still hampered by a bum ankle. I'll probably watch the game on mute so I don't have to hear the 52 references about how tough Roethlisberger is. Yes, Tebow will need divine intervention to get this win- I have faith.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Too Many Bowls

     In the few spare minutes that I had over Christmas break I spent some time flipping through several college bowl games. The more games that I watched, the more I realized that something is terribly wrong. Every game that has been played so far has been pretty much meaningless. Whatever happened to the days where making a bowl game actually meant something special? Teams can now have a .500 season and still make a bowl. Heck, I watched UCLA play in a bowl game with a 6-7 record!

      The NCAA is so blinded by money now, that they have fogotten the tradition that used to make the college football so great. Watching the nation's top teams compete in  classic bowls on New Year's Day is what people used to love.  Instead of just bowls like the Cotton, Rose, and Orange- We are now stuck with several terrible matchups in strangely named bowls that began way back on December 17th.  Who cares about the Belk Bowl or the Humanitarian Bowl? Don't get me wrong, I will be cheering loudly for my Nittany Lions in the Ticket City Bowl. But, does the outcome really matter?

     I do not forsee this problem going away anytime soon. As long as companies are willing to pay money to sponser these bowls, the games will stick around. At the very least, the NCAA needs to raise its standards for making a bowl game. As it stands now, a team only needs 6 wins to be bowl eligible. I feel that at least 8 wins would guarantee that being bowl eligible is actually special.

    Message to the NCAA: We can live with out the Little Caesars Bowl or the Compass Bowl. Bring back the great New Year's Day tradition and restore the integrity of the league.