So naturally I have to write about the whole PSU blow up that started over the weekend. Even though I am a Marquette graduate, I have watched Penn State football for quite sometime. This season is turning out to be some what of a surprise much like 2005 was. The team does not win pretty or win with blowouts they win using solid defense (a PSU staple for as long as I can remember), heart and individual players stepping up when it matters (even if it with 2 minutes to go, at home, down a TD to Illinois).
When the allegations came out over the weekend regarding the involvement of former defensive coach Jerry Sandusky and his relationship with children from a charity group he founded I was disgusted and angered. As more details surfaced regarding the allegations my anger began to build- not just at this horrible human being but at all those involved. How can one simply report such a horrendous and terrifying crime and think that is enough? Yes, Pennsylvania law states that reporting the crime to your superiors is all someone would need to do- but as a leader of men, Joe Paterno should have done more. It is a shame that a man who is so well-respected through the nation, not just in the sport of football but in all walks of life, is going to have an event like this stain his career- especially in what could be (and now most likely will be) his last season. As a man who is in charge of fostering these young men into adults and not just teaching them about the game of football but helping them mature in life, he should have known that getting by with just the minimum of reporting it to his superiors was not satisfactory.
The most painful thing to watch through all of this is the reaction from students still there and recent alumni. The fact that the actions of ONE man are going to bring down a whole university is unfathomable. At the opposite end of the spectrum you have season ticket holders turning in their tickets or students saying they are going to boycott the football program. Each person is entitled to their own opinion- but take a second to think about this perspective. The current players, 18-23 year old men, have been playing their asses of this season and have provided the PSU community with a season that could bring more success than originally predicted. The idea of this team winning a Big 10 title was something I laughed at before the year began- now they are in the driver’s seat to win it. People need to realize- the current players did not commit the crime. The current players did not fall short on their responsibilities as humans beings to report these crimes. The student body and the PSU community as a whole should rally around THE PLAYERS. Boo the coaching staff, boo the administration but don’t boo the players. Don’t boycott the game because of the actions or lack there of from the administration and coaching staff.
These players are putting something together this season that is special. This Saturday will be the last home game for the seniors (fans and players) and probably the last game for Joe Paterno. As much as people can be angry at JoePa for his lack of urgency in the matter- he is the greatest coach in all of NCAA history and deserves to be honored at his “potential” last game. If there is one thing that can help to heal a university- it seeing the team succeed on the field on Saturday. During those few hours, 100,000+ people will pack the stadium to watch the players play their hearts out for each other to get a W. A win on Saturday could mean a lot more than taking one step closer to a Big 10 championship. When those fans chant WE ARE- it will have a slightly different meaning to it.
From the Windy City,
The Plan To Fix A Failing Team
With the republican and democratic parties bickering and getting nowhere in congress, I thought it wise to stay off the topic of politics and onto another topic that we Philadelphians have come to grips with: Change. As we notice, the leaves are changing, seasons are changing rapidly (more rapidly than we would like), and life changes before our very eyes. The change I want to talk about today has been talked about a lot in Philadelphia sports the past couple of weeks. The Philadelphia Phillies are in need of a change. Yes, they are in need of dramatic change. Here is my analysis of the situation:
Swagger? No, What We Need is Determination
For about 5 years now, sports writers, fans, players, and just about anyone that is interested in the Phillies has uttered this word: swagger. Since the 2006 and 2007 seasons when Pat Gillick came on the season and predicted this club would contend for a championship and Jimmy Rollins made his “team to beat” statement, all we have heard was “this team has swagger.” What is swagger? Swagger is a quiet confidence, it is a strut, it is the knowledge that you can beat anyone and do it on your own terms. This team possessed “swagger” in 2007 and got knocked out of the first round of the playoffs. My contention is this: The Phillies went into the next season with a new feeling, this one of “determination.” It was no longer swagger that made this team the way they were. It was the will to get to the playoffs and go farther. What happened in 2008 has already been detailed on this blog and we all know that the team assembled in 2008 would win it all. It was sheer determination and a will to achieve the highest honor bestowed in baseball.
The Core of It All
When this core of players was assembled by first Ed Wade and then by Pat Gillick, the expectations were great for this team. The Phillies were the team to beat and the winner of the 2008 World Series. The franchise had become one of the best in baseball and for the first time in a long time, players wanted to play here. The clubhouse atmosphere had changed from one of doom to one of humor and looseness. Come game time, these players were prepared to play and prepared to win every night. The team made it to the World Series yet again in 2009 but lost to the Yankees (I won’t go there). Then the team struck again and made it to the NLCS but was beaten by a scrappy, underachieving Giants team. This year, the Phillies, with the most firepower they have ever had with their pitching rotation and a payroll that would be second or third in baseball, had made it to the NLDS and lost. The question then becomes: What has happened in 3 short years that Ruben Amaro Jr. (RAJ) has unquestionably made this team the best team in baseball but we have fallen shorter and shorter each year?
Did I Mention The Word “Determination?”
The core of players like Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels, and Shane Victorino is now getting older and they have one ring. To me, this team looks like it has quit despite having the best record in the regular season. The Seattle Mariners proved that regular season win records mean nothing(Go look at their 116 win season all come crashing down in the NLDS). The “real” season is played in October. This team has taken the attitude that they have already won, what more do they need to do? While this opinion may be unpopular, I believe it is the right assessment of the aging core of this team. Determination wins championships, not swagger.
I’ve Got The Hunger
What does this team need this offseason? It certainly does NOT need a total shakeup but I believe Ruben needs to send a clear message to this team. He has already come out and say that this team needs to change its approach offensively next year. Here is my plan for 2012: You can agree or disagree (or agree to disagree) but it is a plan that will get this team back in the driver’s seat and hungry once again.
1B – Chase Utley until Ryan Howard can return
2B – Placido Polanco – While he does not have as much range, he will be a serviceable 2nd baseman until Howard can return.
3B – Aramis Ramirez – Type B Free Agent that may not command a huge salary. He has pop and will fill in nicely for the lack of Howard in the lineup.
SS – Freddy Galvis – Anyone who has been around me lately has heard me chirping for his call up to the big leagues. Rollins was a great player here for 15 years. However, he has worn out his welcome with his injuries and his lack of hustle. Just as Rollins was thrown into the “mess” as a youngster, Galvis must also be thrown in. (See: Elvis Andrus and Starlin Castro). This will send a clear message to the team that nobody is safe.
C – Carlos “Chooch” Ruiz – Need I say more?
CF – Shane Victorino – Great guy, high energy still, can fly with the best of them
LF – Dom Brown/John Mayberry Jr. Platoon – I believe this will work. Again, thank you Raul for your time here but we need to get younger and the future is now.
RF – Hunter Pence – Is VERY hungry as per his comments the other day. I think he takes the “Good season, but I am still starving” approach.
Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Blanton, Worley – I am fine with not re-signing Oswalt. I believe Worley would be a gem at the 5th spot.
Again the future is now: Bastardo, Stutes, Herndon(as much as that pains me), Joe Savery, Justin De Fratus, Michael Schwimer. Our closer should come from within. I would not pay Madson the money that Boras will demand. Maybe we get a veteran closer.
This team has a great mix of veterans and rookies. It WILL become hungry again and also can acknowledge that our window is still upon us. It has not shut and if the Phillies can pull this off, we will become an even better team. I saw a Cardinals team with talent and HEART win the World Series. As much as I wanted to die the night they won, it is the Cardinals that we are chasing and another World Series that we desire.
To Another World Series in 2012,
Today’s rant actually comes about from a conversation I had with my dad earlier in the day. We were on our way to lunch and the subject of connectivity came up. We both were talking about how society today is certainly different than that of when he was a kid (50’s and 60’s). The difference we keyed in on was that of connectivity with our cell phones vs. connectivity with others when you are with them.
If you are one of those that whips out a cell phone every 5 seconds to check how popular you think you are (like me), you may realize when you step back how ridiculous you look. My uncle made a very astute observation the other day about iPhones and other smartphones. He brought up the point that wherever you go now, people are always constantly on their phones. It could be at the mall, the ballpark, the city streets, even at the bar or restaurant. Everyone’s faces are lit up because their screens emit all of the light. Some may ask the question, “what is so important, that it could not wait a little amount of time?” These folks are valid in their thinking but we must first take a look at what society used to be like when my dad and uncle were growing up.
The 60’s and 70’s yielded some crazy times and movements that grew not from social media or even the news media, they grew from word of mouth. People with bullhorns seeking others approval of their plan or their “way” dominated the scene some 40 years ago. Movements spread from coast to coast because people literally drove there and told their story. Nobody had a cell phone or could fathom what a cell phone would even look like. When you were in places such as a mall, restaurant, city street, or ballpark people talked to each other instead of on their cell phones. People were interested in what the next person had to say.
Fast forward now to 2011 where social media outlets dominate the culture and we now live in a world where we are less concerned with whatever whoever we are with has to say and more concerned with what we have in our inboxes or our texts. We claim to be more well connected with others and yes, while we may have resources now that people of the generations before us would only dream of, society as a whole seems married if not ensconced in their phones or iPads or iPods.
So the very simple question that comes of this that I thought about all day is: Are we a more connected society today than we were when my father was growing up? Can this movement toward more technology in our lives be labeled as progress? I want to get your thoughts.
Until the next one,
Hello everyone- as Seth mentioned I will be a guest/co-writer on this blog.
Anyone who knows me is aware that sports, in particular Philadelphia sports, is what helps to define who I am. I live and die with every win, heart breaking loss, bone-head decision and in 24 years of watching- every non-championship that could have been. Since 2001 the Eagles have been picked every year by the media as one of the teams to make the Super Bowl and occasionally the team to win it all. The city gets wrapped up in this mania and the team comes short every time. The Flyers, coming off a surprise appearance in the Stanley Cup (that ended horrifically in a game 7 OT goal from an impossible angle. Michael Leighton is still looking for where the puck got through), were picked to make it back to the championship and some even picked them as the favorites to win. An amazing 3/4 of the season later, the Flyers sat a top the conference only to watch their lead diminish and go crawling into the playoffs where they put up little resistance to the eventual champs, the Bruins. And who are the Sixers?
Which leads me to my #1 team (and no, they were always my #1 team, not just since ’08)- the Phillies. I am not going to talk about this season for 2 reasons 1) I am still hurting 2) It is a dead horse- no need to explain why or how it happened, it just sucked. I want to talk about “the season”- 2008.
Flashback to September 2007, my sophomore year of college (WE ARE MARQUETTE). The Phillies made a comeback that can only be described by one word- unfathomable. I had not seen a NL East title winner other than the Braves since 1993 and even then, I was so young it didn’t seem like a big deal. Watching Brett Myers finish the come back and seal the collapse of the Mets (who are still trying to build themselves back up, LOL METS) was one of the greater moments in my Philly Phandom (see what I did there?). Getting into the playoffs and losing to the Rockies was fine by me- I was just happy to be there. But in ’08, winning the division and getting to the playoffs was not going to be enough- not just for the fans, but for the players too.
2008 was a weird season. One stretch of the games the team would look like a contender and the next stretch like a pretender. When the playoffs started you did not know what to expect from the team- but something clicked, the switch was turned on and the team was on a mission.
Now to the point of this long rant. People always talk about remembering where they were for specific events in their life, whether they be personal or something everyone was apart of. My parents talk about the JFK assassination or the Challenger explosion. The generation before that talks about Pearl Harbor. My generation talks about 9/11. Notice a trend with all of those events? All the events were horrific and terrifying events that created fear, depression and hysteria. Now obviously, other memories come to mind for different people- birth of a child or the first time you met your spouse and all of those are better memories. But collectively, as a group of people- by school, city or nation- the events mentioned before are the events that we all experienced together. Perhaps that is what made the events even more remarkable, but for the better. We all went through it together and came together to help each other. But what about events that were joyous or celebrations that we all experienced together- when or what were those events. 2008, in particular late September through the end of October, for Philadelphia was one of those moments.
Overall, things were not going well in this country at that time- the economy was hitting rock bottom, people were losing their jobs, their homes, their lives. Yet for a 4 to 5 week span, as group, we were able to forget about all of that and watch something magical. Worrying about finding a job or an internship suddenly seemed distant. Worrying about what to do with my life seemed like it could wait until Lidge closed the game out. Every inning brought some kind of emotion out- happiness, anger and thankfully- very little sadness. This was just what I needed, and the city needed. The celebration feels like it was just yesterday (so cliche). I have never seen anything like the parade (which I had to fly cross country for 10 hours after the final strike). People in the streets- crying, smiling, cheering, drinking. Everyone hugged- not just friends but complete strangers. Everyone talked about where they were when Victorino hit the grand slam against the Brewers or where Matt Stairs became a legend with one swing or when Lidge got the final strike. Everyone talked about where they were- with happiness.
Baseball has been called America’s pastime. Not just because it has been around since the late 1800s but because it is a game where we played it as kids and watch as adults. I saw grown men (my own father) turn back into kids when watching the 2008 team. Baseball in 2008 brought a reprieve to the city of Philadelphia. Everyone bonded together and forgot about all the noise going on in their lives. It was more than just a game. It was a distraction that helped everyone get through a rough time. It was a chance for people to re-connect with friends and family. It was a moment where a city that is often divided by politics, demographics and culture was able to embrace in one common celebration.
Like James Earl Jones said, the one constant in America has always been baseball and while this season ended in disappointment- there were moments where it helped me get through low points in the year. And when the Phillies do win the World Series again, whether it is next year or another 28 years from now, I am going to treat it like the first- embrace it and cherish it.
From the Windy City-
I am pleased to introduce David Miller who will co-write this blog with me and provide even more expertise on the city of Philadelphia and the current issues that we all must face. Lets get this blog off the ground!
This is a cartoon that I came across today on Facebook. It speaks true to the situation in schools today where our dependence on standardization may hurt a child’s chance to succeed in our social world.
We are so focused on making sure that all of our schools meet a standard that we ARE losing these individuals and all creativity is squashed.
I put this question to you: Does our focus on standardization in this country provide a hindrance to learning or does it truly measure the future success of humans on some basis?
Amongst the different interests I have, food came to mind when writing this post. My girlfriend and I recently took a trip to Cooperstown, NY to see the Baseball Hall of Fame. It has been almost 13 years since I have visited the hall so it was intriguing to see the differences. One difference made our night on Saturday.
We both realized that the restaurants closed early because it was the offseason up there so we raced to this restaurant called “Nicoletta’s” and just barely got a table. We did not know what to expect but from apps like Yelp and UrbanSpoon, we got a pretty good idea that people liked the place.
After a glass of Shiraz, lasagna, and tiramisu this meal was one of the best I have had at an Italian restaurant. The bread was topped with cheese and basil, the shiraz was not too dry and just fruity enough. The lasagna and sauce were out of this world and of course the tiramisu was homemade and melt in your mouth. Service was impeccable and the atmosphere was second to none.
If you ever get the chance to get to Cooperstown all you baseball enthusiasts, you MUST go here! This place deserves an A+. It will be the standard by which I rate Italian places moving forward.