Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Time For Change in the CFL

December 1, 2018

by John Furgele (The Canadian 228)

It might be time.  If you watched the last two Grey Cup games, you know what I mean.  Last year, Toronto beat Calgary on a snow covered field in Ottawa and last Sunday, Calgary skated by Ottawa on an icy and slippery field at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium.

The CFL has always prided itself in the elements.  The Staple Game in 1974, the Ivor Wynne Blizzard in 1996 and the Frozen Carpet in Calgary in 1991 all hold a special place for fans of the three-down league.

But, this is the showcase event and shouldn’t it be played where the athletes—not the field—can be the stars?  The Super Bowl is always played in a warm weather locale.  Sure, they made an exception with the Super Bowl 49 being played at the Meadowlands, but they got lucky with a 50-degree day. They won’t be returning there–or anywhere in the Northeast–anytime soon.

The College Football Playoff title game is played in a dome or where the sun is, but the CFL continues to play games where the elements garner too much of the attention.

We all know that the CFL is limited.  There are 9 teams and perhaps only 10 available stadiums.  Montreal can offer Olympic Stadium and BC Place will always be condition friendly when to comes to hosting the big game up north.  Rogers Centre is no longer viable and it is now a baseball park.

Eight of the ten venues are open air, so the CFL is very limited as to where they can play to avoid Mother Nature’s wrath.  It would be unfair to rotate the game between Vancouver and Montreal for many reasons.  The host city does gain economic benefits by hosting and neither Montreal nor Vancouver are considered great CFL cities.  When the game comes to Vancouver, there is a general malaise in the air and they always struggle to sell all the tickets.  Hosting the game every couple of years would only increase fan apathy.  As for Montreal, the Big O is certainly big enough, but at some point, the place needs some upgrades and because they are tenant free, does anybody see that happening anytime soon?

Toronto proved its struggles with the 2016 edition when they were allowed a pizza chain to give away tickets when one ordered some pies.  Both Toronto and Hamilton have the best weather, but one most keep their fingers crossed at all times. The ’96 game offered proof of that.

Regina and Winnipeg have new facilities, so we know that they’ll want to host the game.  Edmonton has always shown great interest and is usually lauded for hosting and next year, Calgary gets to host.  Hamilton has Tim Horton’s Field and is eager to showcase it for a national audience.

So, what should be done here?  The answer is simple and is not new.  In 2017, CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie suggested that the season be moved up so the Grey Cup can be played on the last or second-to-last Sunday in October.  When I first heard this, I balked.  As an American who likes the CFL, I like having the game played right before or right after our Thanksgiving break. But, after watching the slipping, sliding and skating in 2017 and 2018, I believe change is needed.  The game should be played closer to Canadian Thanksgiving instead (the second Monday in October).

Let’s move the season up a month to May and conclude it on the last Sunday in October.  Can it be cold and icy in Canada in October?  Of course, but four weeks is four weeks and the odds are much better that weather will not be factor with an October conclusion date.

I would make the changes in time for the 2019 season, but since the 2019 Grey Cup is scheduled for Sunday, November 24, it looks like 2020 is the realistic target.

I’m not sure which model is better—the last Sunday or second-to-last Sunday.  If changes were made in time for the 2019 season, the first week’s game would have to be concluded by Sunday, May 26.  Assuming a 20-week season, the final Sunday would be October 6.  The playoffs—semis, finals would run October 13 and 20 and the Grey Cup Game would be set for October 27.

The second-to-last Sunday would see Week 1 end on May 19 and the regular season would be over on Sunday, September 29.  October would be reserved for playoff football and only playoff football.  An October 20 Grey Cup would be fine, too.

The other thing I don’t get is why the CFL insists on an 18-game regular season.  In the old days, the CFL played 16 games, but for some reason, 18 is the new norm.  Cutting two games means 16 games over 18 weeks and a June start date.  That said, owners never like to give up revenues and broadcasters like having inventory, so the chance of a schedule reduction is unlikely.  The players might not like playing 18 games, but they do like being paid for 18 rather than 16.

I tend to like the second-to last October idea best, so in 2020, Week 1 would be concluded on May 17; the season would end on September 27, the playoffs would be October 4 and 11 and the Coupe Grey on Sunday, October 18.

Finishing earlier has other advantages, too.  The NFL is still in its early stages; the NHL has barely started; and the NBA is just about to go.  The CFL would garner more attention, even though it would be contending a bit more with baseball.  But, it is impossible to avoid overlap, but it is possible to avoid snow, ice, slipping and sliding.

Change is hard……very hard.  For some, the thought of moving the Grey Cup to October is absurd, over-the-top and insulting.  But, those that say that are the long-time CFL fans; fans that aren’t going anywhere.  Old-timers like me complain about the way things were, but we still watch and the follow the sport.  Ambrosie and the CFL office knows they have us and truth-be-told, they don’t care about old-timers like you and I.  What Ambrosie needs to focus on is young people—the ones that are the future and likely have discretionary income.  The young fan wants to go to a game where it is comfortable; where WiFi works and where they can get a glass/carafe of wine or a gourmet coffee.  I’m sure Ambrosie and his associates have been canvassing and asking young people which direction the CFL should go in the years ahead.  The 25-year old is a very important demographic if the league wants to survive.  And, if they want a game in a warmer locale, you have to give it to them.

A warmer temperature means a better game, plain and simple.  And, for a league that’s trying to grow and is thinking of playing regular season games in Mexico as well as adding a 10th team in Halifax, warmer is better and in Canada, the difference between October and November is startling as this chart indicates.

City                 October High/Low     November High/Low

Regina                         52/31                          32/16

Winnipeg                    52/37                          35/22

Calgary                       56/30                          41/17

Edmonton                  51/32                          34/18

Ottawa                       55/39                          42/29

Hamilton                    60/41                         48/32

Toronto                      59/46                          48/36

Montreal                    Dome                          Dome

Vancouver                  Dome                          Dome

It would take a little getting used to, but eventually, an October Grey Cup Game would be just fine.  It doesn’t guarantee a great day—the chance for rain increases—but if it can prevent what we saw in 2017 and 2018, it would be a change for the good.

The worst thing an organization can do is get complacent.  The ones that thrive and survive are the ones that are not scared to make changes.  This is a change that should happen and in the long run, will good for the CFL.



Kansas Needs to Make a Football Statement with Coaching Hire

November 10, 2018

by John Furgele (The Grind It Out 228)

The firing season has begun, and Kansas has fired the first salvo by announcing that David Beaty will be terminated at season’s end. This is not a surprise; in fact, it wasn’t the worst kept secret because frankly, it wasn’t a secret. Once Jeff Long assumed the Athletic Director position at Kansas, Beaty’s days were numbered.

There are bigger schools in college football, but the Kansas hire might be the most important one in college football.


Because Kansas is awful in football and it’s time for the university to think outside the box.   The Hawks play in the Big 12; a pass and point happy league where skilled offensive athletes take to the field each week. Kansas doesn’t have enough athletes to win 49-43 games. If you watched West Virginia’s 42-41 win over Texas last Saturday and then watch a Kansas game, you’ll see for yourself.

Kansas needs to think outside the box. The goal for Kansas is to be a 7-5 team; a modest goal for sure.  For that to happen, a lot of things have to fall into place. The problem with many college football programs is they don’t accept what they are. If Auburn is 7-3, they wonder what the coach’s buyout is so they can find a guy who can go 11-1 and make the CFP.  And, if a coach goes 11-1 at a Group 5 school, he gets hired at a Power 5 school where they expect a similar result. Exhibit A: Tom Herman, Texas. Exhibit B: Gus Malzahn. Exhibit C: PJ Fleck

The first thing Kansas should do is schedule as soft as they can in the nonconference. There is no reason for them to play games in which they can’t win. They seem to be doing a decent job at this right now. This year, they scheduled an FCS school, a G5 school and Rutgers, a low level P5 school. No need to play Alabama, Ohio State or Clemson. They are better off playing a few FCS schools and maybe a G5 school.   If you go 12-1 and are left out of the CFP, that’s a problem that Kansas officials would love to have. I’m sure nobody in Lawrence would scoff at playing in the Fiesta Bowl.

I have no problems with Kansas playing two FCS opponents if they choose. The best way to re-energize the fan base is by winning. Beating Furman 30-21 is okay for those attending games in Lawrence; it’s something that’s good for the fans to see.

The next thing they need to do is to hire a coach that will run the Triple Option offense. Kansas will never get the players that Texas, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Oklahoma State and even Iowa State does. The only way that happens is when the flagship schools are down. When Texas is down, TCU and Baylor benefit; when Oklahoma is down; Oklahoma State benefits, but when the flagships rise, the schools with more than one name suffer. Look at Oklahoma State and TCU this year—they’re down. And schools like Baylor, which are named after people, not states or cities–they suffer, too.

Kansas will never get the 5-stars, so how do you compete? By doing something that nobody else in the conference does. Running the Triple Option can limit offensive possessions and thus, keep your already undermanned defense off the field. We saw Army come to Norman and take it to the Sooners. They ran 80 times, and yes, even though Oklahoma scored just about every time they had the ball, they only had the ball for 15 minutes and prevailed in overtime, 28-21.

Jeff Long might try to make a splash by hiring a Les Miles, but he needs to reach out to Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo, Army coach Jeff Monken, Georgia Southern’s Chad Lunsford, and if Paul Johnson is let go at Georgia Tech, him, too. My favorite is a darkhorse, Brian Bohannon from Kennsesaw State. Yes, the Owls play at the FCS level, but four years ago, the school didn’t have football and now, they have become a FCS juggernaut. And, unlike the others, he would likely come to Kansas for modest pay.

Monken left Georgia Southern for Army and I would be surprised if left West Point right now. He inherited a depressed program and in a just a few years, has them on the right track, at 7-2 this year. As we know, all three military academies run the Triple Option because if deflects reliance on one person and because of deception can help teams that are smaller than their opponents. The other coach that has experience with the Triple Option is Brent Thompson at The Citadel. Why not reach out to him, too?

Kansas, like Army, Navy and to some degree Air Force, is undersized and not as athletic as the nine others in the Big 12. If you want Kansas to win; to get to 7 more years than not, then you have to do something different; something that the others don’t do.

It will add intrigue to the conference. You can imagine the press conferences the week of the Kansas game. You’ll see Oklahoma State play games to the tune of 58-53, 49-43 and 51-44 and then, here come the Jayhawks. You’ll hear head coach Mike Gundy say things like “we can’t replicate in practice what they do,” “they’re tough to prepare for in one week,” and “we need to maintain discipline if we want to stop their offense.”

Today, teams know that when Kansas comes up, they will be able to move the ball with regularity and score lots of points. The Triple Option can help Kansas—to a degree—even the playing field.  As the saying goes–dare to be different, and this is the opportunity for Kansas to be different.

We all know how good the Kansas basketball program and there are those that say, “you have basketball, who cares about football?”  But, football does matter–a lot.  More people watch and care about college football and those that run universities know it.  Look at Duke.  They are a basketball superpower, but the football program has come around and now they’re competitive, something that alums and boosters take notice of.  No matter how good you are in basketball, it hurts to be bad in football.  Why not be good in both?

This is an important hire for the university and for Jeff Long. Sure, calling a Dino Babers makes sense, but he won’t win there with his up-and-down in seconds offense. Kansas needs to channel their inner Barry Switzer/Tom Osborne and go back to the Big 8 days when the options offense reigned supreme.



Failing The Passing Test

October 17, 2018

For Buffalo Bills quarterbacks, the futility is beyond astonishing

by John Furgele (The I Don’t Understand It 228)

How hard can it be?  In a league where just about every team is pass happy the Buffalo Bills remain an enigma.  It took until 1984 for Dan Marino to become the first NFL quarterback to pass for over 5,000 yards and since then; it’s been done eight times.  Moreover, the 4,000 yard barrier is done routinely by starting quarterbacks.

Not for the Buffalo Bills.  In a time where 200 yards per game is a given, the Bills struggle to throw for 100 yards.  The Bills look like an NFL team playing in the 1950s or 60s, that’s how bad their passing game is.  Josh Allen is a rookie, he is raw and he is experiencing baptism by fire, but c’mon now; is it really this hard?  Before leaving Sunday’s game with an elbow injury, he was 10 for 17 for 85 yards, a paltry five yards per pass attempt.  After leaving, enter Nathan Peterman who did throw a nice touchdown pass to Zay Jones before giving the game away with an absolutely horrible and ill-advised pick six.

Peterman was 6 for 12 for 61 yards, a touchdown and two picks and combined, Allen and Peterman were 16 for 29 for 145 yards.  Texans quarterback DeShaun Watson also struggled, going 15 for 25 for 177 yards, a touchdown and two picks, but Watson has had monster games in his brief career.  In seven games in 2017, he threw for 1,699 yards (243 per game) and included in those totals were one 300 yard game and one 400 yard game.

In 2017, the Bills threw for 2,825 yards, an average of 177 yards per game.  Those are 1960s and early 1970s numbers when teams ran more and defensive players mauled receivers and tight ends.  Last year’s starter, Tyrod Taylor, did not record one 300 yard game and amazingly, the Bills finished 9-7 and made the playoffs.

The Jets are playing a rookie in Sam Darnold and like most rookie QBs, he is struggling, but he does have one 300 yard game to his credit.  Baker Mayfield is learning the ropes too, but he has a 300 yard game to his credit and you know what, both Darnold and Mayfield have thrown for over 100 yards in every start!

Last week, Allen threw for 82 yards in a win and when you add the 85 from Sunday, that’s 167 yards in two games! Once Allen left the game, who in Western New York was excited to see Peterman come in?

How pass happy is the NFL?  Brock Osweiler, a whipping boy for the fans and media, started for the Miami Dolphins Sunday and threw for 380 yards in the Dolphins 31-28 overtime win over Chicago.  Let me repeat, 380 yards for Brock Osweiler.  Again, Brock Osweiler.

If Brock Osweiler can do it, can’t one Buffalo Bill do it?  The last time the Bills garnered more than 300 yards through the air was December 24, 2016 when they were credited with 317 passing yards. Tyrod Taylor threw for 329 in a memorable overtime loss to the Dolphins in what was the last game of the ill-fated Rex Ryan era.

This is baffling. When Bills QBs go back to pass, you are hoping that nothing bad happens.  That’s not optimal.  When Tom Brady drops back, you expect something good stuff to happen.  The same can be said for most starting QB, even guys like Mitch Tribusky and yes, Baker Mayfield.  The league is designed to reward passers and passing.  If a defensive back even sneezes on a receiver a flag is thrown.  The rules are set up for the passing game, yet the Buffalo Bills can’t pass.

The fact remains that the Bills haven’t had a good QB since Jim Kelly and old number 12 retired in 1996.  Drew Bledsoe had some nice games and a 4,359 yard season, but he was on the back nine when he arrived and sure, Doug Flutie was fun, but that was 20 years ago.

What is the answer?  I guess it all depends on the severity of Allen’s injury.  I suppose the Bills brass can say Allen needs three to four weeks off and they can start the recently acquired Derek Anderson.  They certainly can’t play Peterman anymore, can they?  If I’m Terry Pegula, a conversation needs to take place with head coach Sean McDermott.  Here is what it should be like.

Pegula:  Hello Sean, Terry Pegula.  We are releasing Nathan Peterman.  What should we do about getting another QB since we’re not sure about Josh’s injury.

McDermott:  Hi Mr. Pegula.  Excuse me, what did you just say about Peterman?

Pegula:  We are releasing him ASAP.  What is your plan? 

Any other option is unacceptable.  There is simply no way Peterman can play in Buffalo anymore.  I’m sure he’s a great guy, but it’s time for him to use that college degree to find other employment. Yes, that’s harsh, but that is the harsh reality.  To put him out there for Bills fans to watch again is arrogance of the highest degree by the entire Buffalo Bills organization.

Hindsight is always 20/20, but the Bills look bad for trading AJ McCarron to Oakland for a fifth round pick.  McCarron is no Earl Morrall, but he has had some success in the league and surely, he could throw for 100 yards in a game.

Sadly, the Bills are looking at 35-year old Derek Anderson as their possible starter for their next game and beyond.  How good is Anderson?  Until last Monday, he was unemployed.  Anybody who expects Anderson to lead the Bills to wins is misguided.

The list of free agent QBs is downright atrocious; the only one worth a look is Matt Moore.  The Bills have to get the Allen pick right and even though he has shown some “Kelly toughness,” the stories about inaccuracy appear to be true.  He had some chances Sunday, but missed badly on some throws.

If Brock Osweiler and Ryan Fitzpatrick can throw for 380 and over 400 yards respectively, why can’t the Bills find a guy who can throw for 250 and look solid in doing so?

In 1962, Bart Starr averaged just over 174 passing yards per game in an era where the 13-1 Packers relied on running the ball and stingy defense.  The Bills would love to have 174 yards in a passing game because that’s better than the 85 right now.

Too bad Starr is 84 years old.



A Historic Day at a Historic Place

October 14, 2018

My first trip to the Yale Bowl was a good one

by John Furgele (The Ivy Leaguer for a day 228)

NEW HAVEN, CT—The Yale Bulldogs were dominating yet hanging on.  In their game against the Mercer Bears, they had jumped to big leads only to see the Georgia school get to within seven points.  Momentum seemed to be on the Mercer side when Yale got the ball back with a 35-28 lead and about five minutes to play.

The Bears kicked off and Yale took over at their 36-yard line.  After two plays that gained one yard, the Bulldogs (Elis for us old people) faced a 3rd and 9.  It certainly looked like the Bears might get that opportunity to tie the game.  Yale QB Kurt Rawlings had other ideas.  The junior from Bel Air MD, as he did all day used his impeccable footwork to shift around, step up and find receiver JJ Howland for 14 yards and a first down.

Yale then ran two more plays and faced a 3rd and 5 from the Mercer 45 and once again, the feet of Rawlings proved too much for the Bears as he used that subtle shiftiness to find Alan Lamar for eight yards and a first down that essentially sealed the win.  The Bulldogs were able to run out the clock and improve their record to 3-2.

Rawlings is 6-2, 210 pounds and is an athlete.  What impressed me the most about him was his pocket awareness.  Several times, he was able to scramble and scamper away from pressure to make big plays.  In the second quarter, he was flushed to his right and while doing so, motioned to his receiver to run the post.  His pass fell incomplete, but it showed how savvy The John Carroll School product is.

It is unlikely we will see Rawlings suiting up in the NFL, but guys like this make watching college football enjoyable.  The NFL has the gifted athletes, but often, one game blends into the next.  College football is not like that at all.  There are four levels—FBS, FCS, Division II and Division III—and each level offers something different.  He may not play after Yale, but if Rawlings became a football coach that wouldn’t be a surprise at all.

After the game, I approached a woman with two young sons (her third was at home) wearing Yale t-shirts.  Because I’m a people person, I approached her and we started gabbing.  Her husband, Sean McGowan is the defensive coordinator for Yale.  Ashley McGowan was surprised that her Elis won the game, but both her and her sons were pleased with the outcome.  Before coming to Yale, her husband was coaching at Boston College, an ACC school that plays at the highest level of college football.  Naturally, I asked her what brought the family to New Haven.

“We love it here,” she said.  “We love the schedule; 10 games in 10 weeks, it’s great for our young family.”

We talked about Rawlings and how crafty—and good— he was in this game.  He was 23 for 35 for 344 yards and four touchdowns.

“As good as a QB that he is, he’s an even better person,” she said.

We make assumptions in life, so I came back and said, “Aren’t most of these Ivy League kids good?”

Her reply.  “Yes.”

There are bad apples everywhere.  To assume Ivy League kids are nicer and better than those that play elsewhere is unfair, but to hear Ashley McGowan say this made me feel good about Ivy League football.  Every week, all you hear about is which teams will make the College Football Playoff; and does this loss knock Georgia out or was Notre Dame’s 19-14 win over Pitt a “bad win.”

The Ivy League does it differently and that’s probably a good thing.  They play 10 games, they don’t worry about the FCS playoffs and instead of prepping for an opponent on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, the players and coaches are home eating turkey with the families.

But make no mistake, Ivy League schools have athletes.  Yale didn’t win this game because they were craftier and smarter than Mercer; they won because they had the better athletes.  Rawlings was the best player on the field, but the Bulldogs enjoyed strong games from running back Alan Lamar (21 carries, 116 yards), and receivers JP Shofi (6 catches, 152 yards) and Reed Klubnik (7 catches, 86 yards).

The only thing that was disappointing was the announced attendance of 2,861 at the historic 61,446 seat Yale Bowl.  Yes, people are busy and yes, FCS football is not SEC football, but a pretty good game was ignored by most in the New Haven area.  The positive was the number of Mercer fans that were at the game.  Most were proud alums who were enticed by the opportunity to visit a prestigious university and a place that was designated as a National Historic Landmark back in 1987.

The Yale Bowl is not an eyesore but she will never enter and win a beauty contest. Except for the wooden bleachers, the place is pure East German concrete.  But in her day, she has seen some things!

It opened for play in 1914; 104 years ago and is in decent shape except for the field itself.  As much as we’d like to see the natural grass remain, the clumps, the slips and sogginess indicate that it’s time for the old bowl to join with the others and put some field turf in.  Ashley McGowan agreed with me.

“Hopefully, next year,” she said with her fingers crossed.



The International Trot Is Just That

October 12, 2018

10 horses from seven countries running for $1 million

by John Furgele (The International 228)

The Kentucky Derby is perhaps the most well-known race in the United States, if not the world.  It’s the first Saturday in May; it gets attention and also gets very good TV ratings.  But, it is a restricted race, for 3-year olds and because of that, a horse and its connections get one shot at immortality and the glory that goes with that.

On Saturday, a different race takes place at fabled Yonkers Raceway as the International Trot prepares for its annual renewal.  The only thing this race has in common with the Derby—-both are run at 1 ¼ miles.  Yonkers Raceway will never be confused with Churchill Downs and there won’t be 150,000 in attendance either.  But, unlike the Derby, there will be a unique atmosphere come Saturday afternoon at Old Hilltop.

The International Trot is truly that as trotters from seven countries will be represented.  Canada, USA, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Italy and France all have horses entered in the $1 million race.  Twister Bi (Italy) won last year’s edition and set a world record for 1 ¼ miles on a half mile track, when he ran 2:22.1.  Marion Marauder, the 2016 Trotting Triple Crown winner finished second and unlike Twister Bi, “MM” is back to race in 2018.

That’s another quirk of the Trot.  Yonkers Raceway is a half-mile oval, meaning the horses will tour it 2.5 times.  Yes, that’s a lot of turns and for many North American horses, it’s a distance that’s rarely run.  But, because trotters jog daily, most will have no trouble going that extra quarter-mile. And just because the race is long, don’t think it is set up for closers.  Last year, Twister Bi was right near the front and ran the last ¾ mile all alone.  In 2016, Oasis Bi wired the field to win in 2:23.1, which was the world record until his Italian counterpart shattered it.

This will also be the last International Trot under Rooney family ownership.  Earlier this year, the family sold the track and Empire City Casino to MGM Resorts, and while the soon-to-be new owners have said all the right things, who knows if the International Trot will continue to be run.  Will MGM Resorts come in and eliminate the high stakes races or will they continue to show the commitment that the Rooneys have?  This is the same group that owns Northfield Park in suburban Cleveland and that’s a track that runs 220 days per year and has several high stakes races each year.  Based on that, one would think that the International Trot should be around for years to come.

Ariana G will represent the United States.  She was better in 2017 than she has been this year, but she still has 5 wins in 11 starts and has banked over $500,000 in earnings.  Marion Marauder (Canada) brings his never-say-die attitude into the race.  The ’16 Triple Crown winner is 4 for 6 this year with over $544,000 in earnings.  And, unlike some, the added distance likely helps him.

The other Canadian entry is Will Take Charge.  He has 9 wins in 21 starts and seems to be in top form.  As for the others, I must be honest, they are unknown, but Italy has won the last two and foreign horses seem to take well to this event.  The complete field:

  1. Marion Marauder        Canada
  2. Up and Quick                France
  3. Ariana G                        USA
  4. Ringostarr Treb           Italy
  5. Pastore Bob                 Sweden
  6. Cruzado Dela Noche Sweden
  7. Will Take Charge       Canada
  8. Arazi Boko                  Italy
  9. Lionel                          Norway
  10. Slide So Easy             Denmark

In addition to this race, there are two $250,000 races; one for pacers, one for trotters.  The Harry Harvey Invitational Trot features 10 horses going 1 ¼ miles with the headliner being Homicide Hunter and his $354,000 plus in earnings.

The Dan Rooney Pace is a one mile event with many of the Yonkers regulars in the field.  These include Bit of Legend; Evenin of Pleasure, who won the Joe Gerrity Memorial at Saratoga in July; Always at My Place and Mach it So.  They will be joined by two very interesting newbies.  The first is the so-called “Wonder from Down Under,” the New Zealand bred Lazarus.  Before coming stateside, he won over $289,000 and in five starts here has two wins and three seconds.  The other horse of intrigue is McWicked.  Arguably the best older pacer in training, he has done all his damage on longer tracks and based on past comments, I’m surprised he is trying things on a half-mile track.  But, with the Breeders Crown just two weeks away at Pocono Downs’s 5/8 mile surface the connections might be using the Rooney to prepare him for the tighter turns that is short-track racing.

The 12-race card offers $1,796,400 in total purses, certainly nothing to sneeze at.  It should be a good day for racing as the 2018 International Trot readies for another running.





Ivy League Football Is Here

September 15, 2018

While other conferences chase money and post-season glory, the Ivy League remains steadfast with its values.

by John Furgele (The Intellectual 228)

If you looked at my high school transcript, you would have concluded that a lightning strike was more probable than seeing me accepted at one of the 8 Ivy League institutions.  But, for some reason, I have always been enamored with Ivy League schools and Ivy League sports.  I sometimes close my eyes and see myself walking to class with a cup of coffee in my left hand and the hand of a beautiful co-ed in my right.  Being there in the fall when the leaves change, reading Thoreau on a bench overlooking a stream; it just sounds like university doesn’t it?

That said, I used to celebrate grades over 75 in high school, so the Ancient 8 was not on my radar back in the day.  But, just to note, I used to tell my Dad that a 75 meant that I was correct three out of every four times.  That’s pretty good, right?

That’s what dreams are for, I suppose, and that above scenario is far from reality.  But, for some reason, I do hold a special reverence for Ivy League sports.  I probably shouldn’t, because they have had their share of scandals, issues and problems just like any other institution that corrals young adults that are within the ages of 17 and 23.  But, for the most part, they consider sports as part of the college experience, not the college experience.

College basketball is an example of how “out of hand,” college athletics have gotten.  At the beginning of the year, colleges send their teams to Hawaii, Puerto Rico and all over the place to play basketball.  You might see Seton Hall play Syracuse in Maui.  Why they can’t play in Syracuse or South Orange, NJ bewilders me.  Because of this, students miss tons of class time as the schools seek exposure and the almighty dollar.

Ivy League schools like money too, and for proof, check out their endowments.  But, in basketball, Ivy League games are played on Friday and Saturday nights, so the “kids” can attend classes Monday thru Thursday. Ivy League schools also participate in the NCAA playoffs for every sport, meaning that they, too, are away from the lecture halls during the academic year.  There is one sport that is different and that is football.

College football is a beast.  It is the moneymaker in college athletics. Saturdays are huge deals and as you know, coaches are paid millions of dollars to coach 12 games per year and satisfy alums who want to win national titles.  The bowl system used to be the money maker and for years, college presidents refused to change it for a playoff.  Eventually, an actuary (probably with an Ivy League degree) did the math and said that there is more money out there by staging a 4-team playoff.  In a few years, somebody will conclude that an 8-team playoff would be more lucrative than what is currently in place now.

The Ivy League schools play at the FCS level; a level that has a 24-team playoff, yet they do not participate in it.  Some call this Ivy arrogance; others say that they are keeping sports, and in this case, football in its proper perspective.  Sure, LSU makes money in college football, but Louisiana is ranked at the bottom for public school education.  Teachers are grossly underpaid yet the football coach makes $3 million per season.

The Ivy League uses its own model.  Games do not begin until the third Saturday in September.  This gives the students time to move in to their dorms, attend some classes, do some studying and then play live games.  They only play 10 games as opposed to 11 for FCS schools and 12 for FBS ones; they play those 10 games in 10 consecutive weeks and the season ends on the Saturday before Thanksgiving.  That means the players can go home and eat Thanksgiving turkey with their families and meet up with their high school buddies over the long weekend.

And, Ivy League schools won’t use a tiebreaker to determine its champion.  If Brown and Penn both finish at 6-1 in conference play, they’re both declared champions.  It doesn’t matter if Brown won the head-to-head matchup 49-7, both teams get rings.  Perhaps if they were sending their camp to the FCS playoffs things would be different, but they’re not, so two champions it is.

For those of you who think Ivy League football is glorified Division III ball, think again.  ESPN just outbid NBCSN to broadcast Ivy League games.  If the product was sub-par, that wouldn’t happen.  Most games will air on ESPN Plus, a streaming service that costs $4.99 per month, but enough games will be on ESPN, ESPN 2, ESPNU and ESPN News for you and I to get a feel. The Ivy League, which insisted on Saturday only games for decades, did relent by agreeing to take some money to play on Friday nights.  As I stated before, Ivy League schools like money, too.

The Big Game remains Harvard and Yale and that game is set for Saturday, November 17 at Fenway Park of all places and will be on ESPN, so in that regard, the conference does have some clout on the big stage.

Ivy League football is here.  It’s different, but it’s also the same.  Check out a game and enjoy.




Buffalo Hoping 2018 is Year of the Bulls

August 29, 2018

Can Bulls keep making strides and gain a foothold in pro sports town?

by John Furgele (The No-Bull 228)

Expectations are high for the University at Buffalo football team.  Last year’s edition finished on a three-game winning streak to finish at 6-6 and despite being eligible for a bowl game, they were not selected.

There is plenty of optimism on the Amherst campus for 2018.  Last year, the Bulls lost to Northern Illinois by one point, Akron by one point, Army by four and who can forget their epic 71-68 loss to Western Michigan in seven overtimes.  The Bulls also beat Lane Kiffin and Florida Atlantic and were very competitive in a 17-7 loss at Minnesota.  Their other loss was 24-14 to the Miami Redhawks.

The Bulls have three bonafide stars in quarterback Tyree Jackson, wide receiver Anthony Johnson and linebacker Khalil Hodge.  By the end of last year, nobody could stop the Jackson-Johnson duo and MAC coaches will be losing sleep trying to game plan for them this season.

Before optimism runs amok, the Bulls have to take care of FCS opponent Delaware State in the season opener.  The Hornets play out of the MEAC and truth be told are bottom feeders in that league.  It is a no-win scenario for the Bulls.  They are supposed to win and win big and even a hiccup or two will have Buffalo fans reeling with self-doubt.

Week 2 features a matchup with the Temple Owls in Philadelphia.  Temple, like Buffalo came on late last year to finish 6-6, and, unlike Buffalo, the Owls played in a bowl game, where they routed Florida International in the Gasparilla Bowl.  The Owls play in the higher rated American Athletic Conference, but there is no reason why the Bulls shouldn’t be in this game.  It might not be a 50-50 game, but it’s a game the Bulls can win.

Game 3 is at home against Eastern Michigan.  The Eagles, once the doormat of the MAC have improved greatly over the last two years and this is what we call a tester.  Game 4 is the Bulls annual cash a check game when they travel to New Jersey to take on Power 5 foe Rutgers.  To be fair, Rutgers is one of the worst Power 5 schools in the land, but if Buffalo could beat the Scarlet Knights, they would receive some national attention.  It’s a game where one would expect the Knights to be the heavy favorite, but something tells me that might not be the case.  I won’t calculate the Bulls chances to win here; it’s certainly not a 50-50 game, but it’s a not 10-90 one either.

Game 5 to me, the Game of the Year, The Army Black Knights return to Buffalo on Saturday, September 29.  In 2016, Buffalo defeated Army in overtime and last year, the Knights returned the favor with a 21-17 win at Michie Stadium.  These two New York schools have potential to become rivals.  The key is for both institutions to keep scheduling one another.

The Knights are an independent, so they certainly have enough scheduling flexibility to keep Buffalo on its schedule.  And, for Buffalo, it really is a no-brainer.  Army may not be Notre Dame, but the Black Knights are a national brand.  All of their home games are televised by CBS Sports Network, which would guarantee the Bulls exposure on TV (not just the internet) every other year.

Army and Buffalo won’t play each other in 2019, but the Bulls do travel to West Point in October, 2020.  What surprises me is that Army plays two FCS opponents this year in Colgate and Lafayette and two more next year—VMI and Morgan State.  I understand the uniqueness of Army football and truth be told, if any FBS team should be allowed to schedule FCS teams, its Army, but four teams in two years?

Of course, seeing FBS teams schedule FCS teams is nothing new and if you ask 25 people, you might get 25 different opinions.  Some will argue that since there is no pre-season (thank goodness) in college football, FBS-FCS games are good for both teams.  The FBS team should win and get lots of players into the game, and the FCS team can test itself against the highest level in preparation for future opponents.

FCS teams also cash nice checks, called guarantees.  Why does Wagner travel to BYU?  For $900,000 that’s why.  When Delaware State comes to Buffalo, they get two things:  a probable beating and anywhere from $250,000 to $400,000.  For schools like DSU, that keeps the athletic department swimming and perhaps saves a sport or allows one to travel somewhere exotic.

Some of the Power 5 conferences strongly discourage these matchups.  West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen was on record as saying that these matchups should cease, but his Mountaineers played Delaware State last year, face Youngstown State this year, James Madison next year and Eastern Kentucky in 2020. I’d like to hear Dana’s explanation for this.

The Big Ten banned FCS schools altogether and then made an exception.  Because teams play a nine-game conference schedule, that means that in some years, teams only play four conference games at home.  When that’s the case, teams are allowed to play a FCS team to get the extra home game.  Purdue wasted no time by booking a home date with Indiana State in 2022.

Because I like FCS football, I don’t mind the games, but here’s the rub.  Last week, Duquesne played at UMass and was drubbed while Buffalo prepares to host Delaware State on Saturday.  The best scenario would see Buffalo play UMass and Duquesne face Delaware State.   But, as we know, when money is involved, things are done with that in mind.  Duquesne and Delaware State would rather have that money than play in Dover or Pittsburgh before 1,500 fans.  And, Buffalo and UMass want the win over what would be a pick’em game.  That’s the business of sports.

Back to Buffalo football.  After Army, the Bulls return to MAC play for the rest of the season with games at Central Michigan, Akron, @Toledo, Miami, Kent State, @Ohio and @Bowling Green on Black Friday.

The team is good enough to contend for the East Division title and with that, a spot in the MAC Championship Game.  Street & Smith’s College Football magazine picked the Bulls to finish third in the East behind Ohio and Miami, with a bid to the Potato Bowl.

Projecting wins and losses, to me, is futile, but everybody loves to do it.  The first five games will set the table.  They’ll beat Delaware State, but the next four are tough.  On paper, they will be underdogs at Temple.  A win there against a team from a better conference would look good.  Eastern Michigan is no slouch; Street & Smith’s has them going to the Bahamas Bowl and even though Rutgers struggles, they’re a Big Ten team and that’s the one game they probably won’t win.  Army has turned things around under Jeff Monken and they have done so in quick manner.  To make things even harder, the Black Knights run the triple-option offense and if they throw the ball more than five times in the game, that would be a story.

When you look at the five games, the Bulls could be 1-4, but they could be 4-1..  One would think that as long as they have two wins, they should be okay, but the goal should be at least 3-2 going into the All-MAC rest of the schedule.

If you ask the coaches, they’ll say that the goal is to be 12-0, win the MAC title game and represent the Group of 5 in a New Year’s Six bowl, but what is realistic for Buffalo?  I would think that 7-5 is the minimum requirement; anything less than that would be disappointing for a program that looks like it made significant progress last season.

An 8-4 record is not unrealistic, nor is 9-3.  You can’t get too far ahead of yourself here, but if you ask head coach Lance Leipold in a dark alley what his realistic goal is;  I believe he would say that 8-4 is the minimum. That wouldn’t make him jump up and down with joy, but he would—secretly—accept it.  But, in his mind, he is thinking more than 8.

If the Bulls play 2018 like they did over the final three games in 2017, it should be a good year, and heck, maybe people will notice.  We all know that apathy reigns supreme in Western New York for college sports.  It is so consumed with the Buffalo Bills and Sabres that it often forgets about the big university in the epicenter of Western New York.

The Bulls know what they need to do.  They need to create a buzz and get the papers, the radios, the TVs, the internet and the people talking.  This could be a special year and by the end of September, we should know just how special.




The Program Lives On: There’s a Game on September 1

August 25, 2018

Courtney Smith never had a chance against The Program

by John Furgele (The Far From Surprised 228)

The Program remains intact; did we really think that the Ohio State trustees were going to tear The Program down?  You can badger Urban Meyer for his poor performance at Wednesday night’s “presser,” but deep down, who really cares about that.  After a 16-day investigation, it was concluded that nothing is more important than The Program—the football program at Ohio State University.

In today’s society, we want somebody’s head.  There are those who wanted Urban Meyer to be fired from the outset, facts be damned.  Those people are disappointed.  There were those who said that Meyer can’t be blamed for the actions of another grown adult.  Those people are less disappointed.  For as it stands, Meyer can coach the team at practice starting September 2, but can’t be on the sidelines until the Buckeyes’ fourth game of the 2018 season.

It was clear that the committee was formed to do one thing:  find enough evidence to retain Meyer.  The man has won many games; he is 73-8 since taking over in 2014.  There are reports that say that Ohio State, if valued like an NFL franchise is worth $1.4 or $1.5 billion.  Meyer oversees this operation; the committee and most at the school wanted to retain him to keep The Program; hell; the Empire intact.

I stated in my pre-investigation piece, The Program is the most important thing in college sports.  Football is not the only sport that has a program.  Other examples include UConn women’s basketball, Oregon cross county/track and field and so on and so forth.  Take Geno Auriemma away from the UConn ladies, The Program crumbles.  Some programs might be bulletproof.  Duke is such a name in college basketball, that when Coach K retires, The Program likely lives on.

When Syracuse basketball was hit with sanctions, many thought Jim Boeheim should go, but Boeheim built The Program and those in charge knew that canning Boeheim would likely kill The Program.  Boeheim stayed and Syracuse made the Sweet Sixteen last spring.

Let’s get back to Meyer.  How much did he know?  When did he know it?  And, what did he do when he knew about it?  We may never get those answers and Meyer seemed more irritated at the Wednesday presser than he was contrite.  It was clear that Meyer made it known that any attempt to remove him would be met with heavy resistance and likely legal action, so there he was, clearly agitated that he had to account for himself Wednesday evening.

What do we make of all this.  It seems like Meyer did his mentor, Earle Bruce a favor by hiring his grandson, Zach Smith, as an assistant coach.  Smith seemed to be one of those guys that liked being a coach because it sounds cool when trying to pick up women.  We’ve seen these guys a million times.  In short, they’re meatheads, but they use their cool title to lure women in.

Smith and his wife Courtney had a rough marriage.  They argued often and apparently things got physical.  In addition to Zach assaulting Courtney, there were probably some instances where Courtney attacked Zach.  One can easily see Zach coming home late, Courtney angry and all hell would soon break loose.  We all know that a man should never hit a women—ever, ut nobody—not even Meyer—knows what goes on behind closed doors.

Coaches are a tight knit family.  There is no way that Urban Meyer didn’t know that Zach and Courtney were having problems; that Zach was promiscuous and truth be told, not a great football coach.  Because, if he were, wouldn’t he have been promoted?  Most guys that are hired as a wide receiver coach move up the chain.  In coaching terms, a WR coach is sort of like an entry level position.  The goal of most coaches is to become a highly paid offensive or defensive coordinator and then, if they’re really good, a head coach.

That never happened with Zach Smith.  He remained a WR coach from 2009 until his firing in the summer of 2018.  It appears that Meyer was hiding this guy as a favor to Grandpa Earle Bruce, who was dying of Alzheimer’s and sadly, didn’t know what was going on anyway.

For Meyer, firing Smith would indicate that The Program was leaking oil.  I’ll assume that Smith was a great recruiter; there had to be another reason for keeping him besides the fact that he was the grandson of the man that succeeded Woody Hayes.  If The Program leaks oil than your rivals can pounce on that opportunity to bring it down.

If Meyer was coming off a 9-4 season or an 8-5 season, he likely would have been fired because The Program has to win big.  I do chuckle at the sudden affection for “legendary” Earle Bruce. Bruce coached the Buckeyes for nine seasons.  After going 11-1 in 1979, Ohio State went 9-3 for six consecutive seasons.  Those are “nice records,” but the pressure was mounting.  The so-called Buckeye Nation was wondering aloud if Bruce could sustain The Program.  In the 1980s, nobody thought of Bruce as legendary; they believed he was underachieving.

Now, don’t misinterpret here.  When teams go 9-3 every year and the coach get fired, it shows just how out of whack college athletics has become.

In 1987, the Bucks were 5-4-1 and the week before the Michigan game, trustees announced that Bruce could coach the finale, but would be terminated at season’s end.  In an emotional game, Ohio State beat Michigan to finish 6-4-1.  Bruce, with an 81-26-1 record was gone.

In 1986, Bruce’s Buckeyes were 10-3; one bad season later and out the door he went.  Meyer was fortunate.  His 2017 team went 12-2, so there was no performance pressure to fire him.  Had he done a 1987 Earle Bruce last year, he’d likely be on the sidelines.

So, for now, The Program lives on.  It has a black eye, but black eyes heal and so too, will The Program at Ohio State University.  On September 1, the Oregon State Beavers will come to town to get throttled before 105,000 at Ohio Stadium.  When the Scarlet and Gray run out of the tunnel, the crowd will rise and yell at the top of their lungs in approval for their beloved Buckeyes.  That’s how it is in sports.  Ray Lewis, despite all his troubles, was always cheered in Baltimore; the same went for Barry Bonds in San Francisco.

They will cheer, they will yell and the I will be dotted by the marching band.  The Courtney Smiths of the world will be forgotten, because The Program has a game to play and money to make.  The Beavers will try their best to deliver a blow to The Program, but they will likely head back to Corvallis beaten and bruised.

All will be right in the world.


In College Football, Nothing Is More Important Than The Program

August 13, 2018

Will Ohio State let a WR coach bring it down?

by John Furgele (The One and Only 228)

College football is about The Program.  The Program is the most important thing to establish.  In pro sports, athletes get old, sign with other teams and things change and change quickly.  I offer the Kansas City Royals as an example.  They made the World Series in 2014, won it in 2015, but this year, just three years later they might lose 110 games.

In college, it doesn’t matter who the players are.  What matters is finding the right coach who can establish The Program.  The Program is bigger than any player, any All-America, any Heisman trophy player.

Look at little Baylor.  For years, they struggled until Art Briles came in and established The Program.  The Program did well.  They won lots of games and even produced a Heisman Trophy winner in quarterback Robert Griffin III.

But, sometimes, you have to cut some corners to get The Program up and running.  You know what I mean; admitting kids who have no right being in college; overlooking some arrest records; blaming that sexual assault charge on youthful indiscretion.  If your team has 100 choir boys, the police blotter will show a zero, but so too, will the win column.

At Baylor, some of the players took it upon themselves to assault women.  When Art Briles caught wind of this, he worked with police and prosecutors to sweep it under the rug.  The players stayed and the team kept winning.  But, like most cover-ups, eventually things are exposed and now Baylor is back to being little old Baylor and Briles is mulling an offer to coach football in of all places, Italy.

When a player gets arrested, the cops call the coach in an attempt to remedy things before the media finds out.  The coach promises to talk to the player, telling him that he is not bigger than The Program.  If the player is average, he will be dismissed; if he is great, he will stay on the team and will continue light it up on Saturdays.

Coaches lie in order to protect The Program.  Jim Tressel did it during his tenure at Ohio State and was dismissed.  Joe Paterno, for years, did it at Penn State.  When rumors began flying about the deviance of Jerry Sandusky, Paterno had a football team to coach; a Program to protect.  There was a game to prepare for, young boys be damned.

We now live in sensitive times.  No longer can bad things go undetected.  Women can no longer be shamed into not coming forward to allege assault.  But, that hurts The Program. The Program can’t ever be off the rails and when a woman accuses one inside The Program of assault, it throws everything off.  And, as we found out, it’s not only the players, but coaches, too.

When Ohio State fired Jim Tressel, they did it reluctantly.  They had to because he lied, but they feared that The Program would crumble.  A 4-8 season, or worse a 7-5 one with a berth in the Liberty Bowl; that hurts The Program.  That’s irrelevant in college football for schools that have The Program.  The only way to keep The Program going was to find another coach who can build and maintain it.

They found the guy in Urban Meyer.  He built Programs everywhere—Bowling Green, Utah and Florida.  There was no doubt that the Ohio native would build another in Columbus.

Meyer came in and The Program was built in days.  The Program captured the 2014 CFP Championship and has been a perennial power each and every year since.  When Ohio State goes 12-1 and wins the Fiesta Bowl—and misses the CFP—it’s considered a disappointing season.

The Program means teams go 10-2 at the worst each year.  A 9-3 season is unacceptable; too many get you fired—ask Mark Richt.

As we said, The Program almost requires some bad seeds to be included.  At Ohio State, that bad seed was a coach—Zach Smith.  Smith got married, but unfortunately, his marriage was rocky.  He and his wife Courtney fought and apparently, fought often.  In 2009, he was investigated for assault while he was a part of Urban Meyer’s staff at Florida.  Smith stayed and The Program stayed intact.  In addition to Smith’s indiscretions, 31 Gators were arrested during Meyer’s tenure there.  But, good guy Tim Tebow was there and because he was the poster boy for Florida football as well as morality, things were swept under the rug.

When Meyer moved to Columbus, he brought Smith with him—an alleged woman beater.  In 2015, Smith allegedly assaulted Courtney Smith again, but again, was not dismissed from the staff.  Meyer did not want The Program to show any weaknesses, especially with Jim Harbaugh threatening to re-establish The Program at Michigan, the chief rival of the Ohio State Buckeyes.  And, to make things even dicier, it appears there might be Programs being established at Penn State and Michigan State and heck, even Wisconsin.

At first, Meyer lied, saying he knew nothing of the 2015 allegations against Smith, even though it appears that Courtney Smith told Shelley Meyer (the wife of Urban) about the assaults.  Urban then backtracked and is now on paid administrative leave while an investigation takes place.

If Ohio State can fire Tressel over lying about free tattoos, they can certainly fire Meyer over covering up physical assault by a husband against his then-wife.  But, things are different. Because of the money and the CFP, it’s more important than ever to have The Program.  The Program brings in more money, more donations, better coaches and of course, the best players.  Who wants to play for the 9-3 teams when they can play for The Program and go 12-1 each year?

The bizarre thing is that Urban Meyer might lose his job because he covered up for a WR coach.  Yes, a WR coach, perhaps the least respected coaching position in college football.  This wasn’t Tom Osborne covering for Lawrence Phillips, nor was it Jimbo Fisher covering for Jamesis Winston.  This was a WR coach, the most ordinary, obscure and unimportant positon on a college football coaching staff that might be Meyer’s undoing.

When Woody Hayes punched Charlie Bauman in the 1978 Gator Bowl, he had to go.  But, that was easy; Hayes was old and The Program was crumbling.  If that was 11-0 Ohio State in the Rose Bowl…….?

Gary Moeller coached Michigan.  In 1995, he got drunk at a local restaurant and was shown the door.  Of course, Moeller didn’t have Michigan at the current level of Meyer and Ohio State, but still, they decided that The Program had to be representative and that started at the top.

I’m not sure what will happen at The Ohio State University.  With all the attention focused on assaults against women, how can a person who likely covered up a transgression by one of his coaches remain on his job?  The #MeToo movement, the allegations against Matt Lauer, Harvey Weinstein and others are way too sensitive to ignore, aren’t they?

That said The Program could be in jeopardy if Meyer is forced out.  The fear of losing The Program will make many people at the university very, very nervous.  The Buckeyes got lucky; they didn’t have to suffer for long after Tressel left.  They found Meyer and within two years, The Program was back and better than ever.

So, who will win out?  Logic or The Program?  If Meyer really cared about protecting women, he would resign and devote time to helping women or teaching men that striking women is wrong.

But, I think Meyer cares more about The Program and his coaching legacy.  The fact that he seems to be fighting for his job indicates this.  It’s worrisome because if Ohio State was coming off an 8-5 season (like rival Michigan is), Meyer likely would have been gone already.  When The Program is down, easy to fire; when The Program is up, hard to fire.

This decision will leave its mark on college football one way or the other.  I hope it’s the right way.


While Chicago Kills Itself, Let’s Worry About Terrell Owens, Kneeling and Jerry Jones

August 8, 2018

America has its priorities in order, doesn’t it?

by John Furgele (The I’ll Never Get It 228)

Love him or hate him, Terrell Owens should have been a first ballot Hall of Famer.  The fact that he had to wait three years was simple:  the media didn’t like him.  As we have seen in baseball and now football, those that write about the game have far too much power.  I’m not saying that they shouldn’t have voting privileges, but they need to have some terms dictated to them.  Right now, they want to be the dictators despite the fact that they never played the game of football, at least professionally.

To add to the absurd, now the writers and the Hall of Fame want to mandate that if a player gets voted into the Hall, he must promise to show up in Canton for enshrinement.  This is yet another example of the society we are becoming.  Do it our way, or else!

We are supposed to be a nation that respects the opinions of others, but sadly, this isn’t the case anymore.  If we don’t like your views, we yell, scream and exclude.  Somewhere, George Washington, Ben Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, and even Lyndon Johnson are rolling over in their graves.

Was Owens a me guy?  Sure.  Was he the only me guy to ever play in the NFL?  Of course not, but they want to make an example of somebody and Owens fits the bill.  What about Lawrence Taylor?  Was he a team guy?  Sure he was, because he won two Super Bowls and was ferocious on Sundays, but what about the drinking, the cocaine, the crack, hanging out with prostitutes and showing up to charter airplanes in flip flops, no shirt and a sports jacket?  That’s not selfish is it?

And, then there is Ray Lewis, another gem of a human being.  Sure, he preaches the good word now, but what about his checkered past?  Did we forget that he was indirectly responsible for the murders of two individuals?  That he plead guilty to obstructing justice so he wouldn’t have to face murder charges? That he has six children with four different women?  Nah, that’s water under the bridge now.  He won two Super Bowls and bringing that up would interfere with erecting a statue of him outside M&T Stadium in Baltimore.

Owens had every right to skip the enshrinement ceremony.  It is his right—as a free American—to politely decline or accept an invitation to make a speech in Canton.  He chose to be in Chattanooga and to me, that’s fine.  Yes, it might be Owens being a “me” guy, but when he played in the Super Bowl on a broken ankle that wasn’t fully healed all he did was grab 9 passes for 122 yards; he also made one of the greatest clutch catches in playoff history when he somehow held onto to a ball thrown by Steve Young in a Wild Card game against the Green Bay Packers that won the game in the final seconds. We will forget that because…how dare he show up the NFL, the writers and the Hall of Fame ceremony!

Speaking of the NFL, Jerry Jones continues to be a laughingstock and a fraud.  The outspoken owner who wants to please President Trump and more importantly NFL advertisers says he will forbid any of his players to kneel before the national anthem.  Yet, this was a guy who led the players to midfield and knelt before the national anthem in a game against Arizona.  Is that the same thing as kneeling during the anthem?  No, but to me it is nothing but hypocritical.  He sympathized with the players then because he supported their cause, but when Anheuser Busch got nervous, so too, did Jerry Jones.  His about face in one word—–astonishing.

I cringe when I hear pundits say that kneeling during the anthem is an insult to veterans.  What about all Americans?  Why are veterans always spoken of first?  Most veterans fought to preserve the rights of all Americans.  Many died in doing so.  Kneeling during the anthem never had anything to do with veterans or the military; it was to bring attention to cops shooting and profiling black men, as well as other injustices they face.  But, somewhere along the way, it got turned into hatred against the military and those that served.

What really should be discussed and dealt with is the tragedy—or should I say carnage–that is taking place in Chicago.  Last weekend, 71 people were shot and 12 died, most being black men shot by other black men.  Where is the outrage here?  Why isn’t this being protested?  Is it because it doesn’t fit the narrative; the narrative being whites shooting blacks?  When that happens, it is front page news and dominates the air and radio waves.  When blacks shoot and kill other blacks, it’s just another violent weekend in a violent section of town.

The facts are simple; a person is more likely to get struck by lightning than shot by a cop. Furthermore, most black men are shot and killed by other black men.  The figures don’t lie and Chicago is further proof of these sad and awful numbers.  This is what our leaders should address. Instead, we worry too much about Don Lemon, LeBron James and President Trump throwing verbal barbs at one another while the inner city of Chicago teeters on anarchy.

Maybe all the NFL players should head to Chicago, go to its most violent section and kneel to show solidarity and unity in a place that could use some of it.

Instead, we’ll worry about making sure another Terrell Owens won’t embarrass the Pro Football Hall of Fame and those great writers who were insulted by his no-show status.