Jerry Sandusky/Joe Paterno; Football Playoff; A's-Giants; Bob Myers/Joe Lacob/Klay Thompsoon
JERRY SANDUSKY was found guilty last week on several counts of molesting children who were supposedly under his guidance but the man who was equally culpable, Joe Paterno, escaped any charges by dying, while his fans in Happy Valley remained loyal.
When an assistant coach told him he had seen Sandusky sodomozing a boy in the showers at Penn State, Paterno didn’t report the incident to police. Sandusky was no longer a coach at Penn State but Paterno continued to allow him access to the college’s facility for his program.
Of course, Paterno was a life-long Catholic and he was only following the practice of the hierarchy of his church, which has re-assigned pastors who were child molestors to other parishes, where they could continue their predatory ways.
I was one of Paterno’s admirers. I had met him one time when he was speaking in San Francisco and had a lengthy one-on-one talk with him. I especially admired the way he emphasized education for his players, which has seldom been a priority for big time college football coaches.
But all that was wiped out for me by the fact that he turned his back on the horrible actions by Sandusky. He could have saved several youngsters from being traumatized if he had done that.
I don’t think the Penn State trustees handled Paterno’s firing well, either, just sending him a note and not even facing him in person. But that doesn’t change the fact that he committed a crime of his own by not reporting what he had heard. In a very real sense, by allowing Sandusky to continue using the college facilities, he encouraged him to continue his atrocities.
Nittany Lion fans in Happy Valley don’t see it that way, of course. They turned out in thousands for Paterno’s funeral, and they still adore him. I wonder, though, what has gone through their minds when they heard the testimony from Sandusky’s trial. Football shouldn’t rule everything, not even in Happy Valley.
COLLEGE PLAYOFFS: My media colleagues are happy about the new plan for a college playoff, starting with four games. That’s just the foot in the door, of course. The goal is a 16-game playoff.
The forgotten pieces in this puzzle: The players. Only a small percentage of collegiate players ever play in the NFL. For the rest, this is it, and playing extra games of a brutal sport only increase the chance that they will incur an injury that will be with them for the rest of their lives.
And, for what? So media and fans can know the ultimate champion? Well, guess what. That may not work, either. Do you think the St. Louis Cardinals were the best team in baseball last season, just because they won the World Series? Were the New York Giants really the best team in the NFL, just because they won the Super Bowl? If you answered yes to either of those questions, you haven’t been paying attention.
Of course, few people involved in college football really care about the players. For most of them, the scholarships they get are a sham because they are kept in classes that will keep them eligible, not give them an education. Jim Harbaugh called out his own alma mater, Michigan, for that practice when I interviewed him for The Examiner after he was hired as Stanford’s head coach. That killed any chance Harbaugh would ever coach at Michigan – though there were many media rumors that he would replace Rich Rodriguez – but he didn’t care, because he didn’t want the job.
The old way was the best, with 10-game seasons and the bowl games. The best ones were rewards because players enjoyed going to southern California for the Rose Bowl, Dallas for the Cotton Bowl, New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl and Miami for the Orange Bowl. And, the most they played was 11 games.
But, college football is all about money now. When we discussed this on “Chronicle Live” last week, Ray Ratto noted that the college administrators were willing to dump the BCS formula because the emphasis on the title game had caused interest in the other games to decline, leading to lower ratings which would ultimately lead to less money.
WARRIORS: I sat in on a pre-draft briefing by new general manager Bob Myers last Friday and learned why the Warriors picked Klay Thompson in the first round last spring. Myers was talking about the decision-making process and noted, “Of course, Joe Lacob is a part of it because he owns the club. He’s the one who wanted Klay Thompson last year because he had seen him play and was very impressed.”
Now we know why Lacob was proclaiming that Thompson would be Rookie of the Year before the season even started, and when Thompson wasn’t even starting. He finished sixth in that voting but he’s shown he’s going to be a very good NBA player, so Lacob’s suggestion was a good one. In a way, it would have been better if the pick had been a bad one because it’s almost always a bad idea when the owner gets involved in picking players.
I had gone to the meeting more to get an idea of how Myers was working than in any real hope he’d say anything about a player they might be targeting. I’ve never known a GM in any sport to do more than give a broad outline of the type of player he’s looking for. Myers didn’t even do that, because this draft has one outstanding player – Anthony Davis – and several others who have generated different opinions. Myers also has said they’d be open to trading up, though he hadn’t had any appealing offers at that point. He said they had identified enough players they’d be happy to get that he was confident they could get one of them at No. 7, and he also said it was almost always a mistake to draft for need instead of getting the best player still available.
After all this debate about players, Myers said, “I’m going to turn this back on you guys and see who you’d pick.” The others in the room were media people who either specialize in the NBA or are very close to the sport. So, who did Myers single out fo ask, “Who would you pick?” Me, of course. “I have no idea,” I answered.
There’snoting new on Lacob’s dream to have that waterfront arena in San Francisco, but there was an interesting story by John King, the architectural critic for The Chronicle, in yesterday’s paper pointing out the same problem that I’ve noted, that it will block the view which was opened up by the demolition of the Embarcardero Freeway. He predicted that it would have a difficult time getting approval from the state commission, which will look at its environmental impact.
King also noted that there were at least two sites in San Francisco which could accommodate the structure without negatively impacting the environment. But, that’s not what Lacob wants. This structure is supposed to be a monument to his ego, and it won’t have the same impact elsewhere that it would have on the waterfront, where it would be almost impossible to miss.
I’m surprise King’s story appeared in The Chronicle, which has been a public relations outlet for the Warriors since the team gave them a day’s jump on the story about Lacob’s plan. The biggest sports story this week by far is the Giants-Dodgers series, but that has been shunted to the side by Warriors propaganda. Yesterday, it was a story on their coach that took prominence. Today, they ran the same huge picture of the news conference at which plans for the super arena were announced, with virtually the same propaganda piece, claiming this would help them get free agents. Nobody who knows anything about the NBA believes that for a nano-second.
OH, THOSE UMPIRES: Baseball umpires are going to force the game’s hierarchy to adopt some form of Instant Replay if they continue their blatantly bad calls. The latest came Sunday when an umpire ruled that a drive by A’s hitter Seth Smith down the right field line, which would have driven in two runs, was foul, though it kicked up chalk dust that was visible on TV. When a ball hits the line, it’s fair, and there’s no way it can kick up chalk dust without hitting the line. That call was very nearly the decider in the game, which the A’s won with a three-run homer with two outs in the ninth.
If MLB had a retired umpire in the press box, looking at the TV monitor, he could have made that call in an instant. I like the personal element in the game but when an umpire is right there and can’t see something that obvious, something has to be changed.
GIANTS/A’S: There was a lot of excitement in the inter-league series at the Oakland Coliseum, and much of it was generated by the fact that fans from both teams were there. I suspect there are Giants fans who are priced out of games at AT&T, so this was their chance to see their team at lower prices for both tickets and parking. The game was a sellout and probably would have drawn 50,000 if almost all of the upper deck weren’t tarped off but that would interfere with Lew Wolff’s plan to demonstrate that he can’t draw in Oakland and needs to move the team to San Jose.
There was a lot of back and forth with the fans, chants of “Go Giants” being answered by “Go Oakland.” Fans were mostly staying in their seats, watching the game. That’s a big difference with the usual games at AT&T. The Giants have done a great job with their park. There’s a lot of excitement, but it’s not always about what’s happening on the field. The younger fans are often roaming around, checking out the many and varied food stands, texting their friends. It’s far removed from the traditional baseball experience.
That said, I was at last night’s Giants-Dodgers game – Nancy and I were sitting in the box of minority owner Allan Byer – and the atmosphere was much different. This crowd was really into the game, the Dodger rivalry as strong as ever, chanting “Beat L.A.” and mostly staying in their seats. There was great excitement throughout and even after, as we walked out of the park.
I enjoyed both games, though the atmosphere at the two was much different, and I was reminded how much I’ve enjoyed baseball, starting with my Knothole Gang years in San Diego when I was 10.
TENNIS, ANYONE? Bruce Jenkins is off to Wimbledon for two weeks, and I’ll read everything he writes. Bruce is very knowledgeable about tennis, and it’s a sport I’ve always enjoyed, though I can no longer play it. But I wonder how many of The Chronicle’s readers will follow it.
I’ve played both golf and tennis, and I much preferred tennis. It’s real exercise, for one thing, and quick moving. It also doesn’t take forever to play. My wife and I used to play mixed doubles when we belonged to a club in the Oakland hills, and in an hour or slightly more, we’d have a good workout and then time for a soft drink and conversation with our friends and playing partners. When I played golf, I was usually ready to call it quits after 12 holes, and that was a time when you could play a round in three hours. Now, it takes four hours at a minimum, and the golfers, mostly men, then sit around the bar with their male friends and discuss their rounds for another 2-3 hours. I’ve often felt that one of the chief appeals of golf for men is that it gives them an excuse to get away from their families, which I never wanted to do.
But as a spectator sport, I think golf has many more followers than tennis. The U. S. Open, for instance, was a huge event for San Francisco. I can’t think of a tennis event that would come close to it.
Golf has a huge built-in audience because of the recreational golfers who play at country clubs, and the televised events have no trouble getting sponsors because these recreational golfers are, by definition, men with money to buy expensive items.
Tennis clubs are much less elaborate because the emphasis is on playing, not the social aspect.
There’s another factor which showed up when World Team Tennis started in the late ‘70s. The owner of the local franchise, Dave Peterson, advertised heavily in area newspapers until he learned that tennis players often didn’t even read the sports pages. They were interested in playing, not reading about the game. So, Peterson started putting up posters in local tennis clubs. Cheaper and more effective.
When I was writing for The Chronicle, I wrote about tennis only when a local tournament was played. The rest of the time, I wrote primarily about the 49ers and Giants, because that’s where the interest was. I did write about Wimbledon once, when I was in England with my family in 1978 and we saw matches there. But, those columns were for The Sporting News, not The Chronicle.
CHANGE: The world is changing at a much more rapid rate than ever before, but my attitude remains the same: I adopt those changes that help me and ignore the rest.
For instance, when The Chronicle finally got a good computer system, I welcomed it enthusiastically. I had been working out of my home since 1972 and this gave me a much easier way to get my columns in. The Internet has also been a huge help because, instead of having to call the Giants or A’s about minor league prospects, I can look them up myself, along with all the other information that’s available, for sports or news. Though I still love to have a newspaper to read with my morning coffee, I find that I’m getting more and more news on the Internet.
My son and daughter-in-law, Scott and Sarah, introduced me to the Kindle. I now do most of my reading on Kindle and I am working on a book on my career in sportswriting that I intend to self-publish as an E-book. I’ll give you details when it comes out.
At the same time, I have no interest in Facebook or LinkedIn (neither do Scott and Sarah). Scott showed us his Notepad, which is invaluable for him because otherwise, he’d have to lug around a briefcase full of papers. But, it’s something I don’t need. Nor do I need an I-phone to send messages; I can send all I want from home.
I approach changes in sports the same way. Pro football, for instance, has seen significant changes since I started covering the Raiders in 1967. Quarterbacks no longer call plays; coaches send them in. Defenses change on every down, with nickel and dime coverages (five defensive backs, six DBs). Defenses may have 4-3 or 3-4 alignments, and blitzes are frequent and different. Older readers think the game was better when they were young, but I don’t think so. The game is faster and better.
Baseball fans think of their game as unchanging, but it isn’t. For openers, the background of the players is different, with so many Latinos in the game. They play with an enthusiasm I enjoy. Managers watch pitch counts in a way they didn’t when I broke in, and starters are not allowed to throw much more than 100 pitches. There are writers near my age who hate this, but I remember how many pitchers broke down because they were overused – many of them under Billy Martin, with the A’s and Yankees – so I think that, overall, this is a good thing.
In 1972, the American League put in the designated hitter for what was supposed to be a two-year experiment. I watched it with an open mind and, one of the positive things I noticed right away was that managers no longer had to take out an effective pitcher for a pinch-hitter. The more I watched, the more I thought the DH made sense, because it was a logical change, an offensive specialist replacing a defensive one. When baseball started in the 19th century, it made little difference that the pitcher couldn’t hit because nobody could do much with the dead ball being used. But now, when a pitcher is a dead weight in the lineup, it makes no sense for him to have to go to the plate. That’s not just my opinion. High school teams, college teams and all the minor league teams use the DH, because they regard it as the more logical system.
Next year, Houston will move to the American League and the two leagues will be joined in an alignment more like the NFL model, which will require an inter-league game each day – as well as the midseason games between geographical rivals like the Giants and A’s. It would be silly to continue using two styles of play. Logic will prevail, which means the National League will adopt the DH, no matter how many older male fans dislike it.
What do YOU think? Let me know!
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