Penn State/Joe Paterno; A's/Hanley Ramirez/Lew Wolff; Tiger Woods; Changes in Sports; Warriors
THE HORRIFIC situation at Penn State is still another example of how the football machine has gone out of control. The extensive investigation by former FBI director Louis Freeh showed that not only did Joe Paterno and the Penn State administration know that former Paterno assistant Jerry Sandusky had molested young boys in his program but that they willfully covered up. E-mails seemed to show that it was Paterno who was guiding the coverup Ė and allowing Sandusky to continue his awful actions, using college facilities.
In light of that, last Friday in my Examiner column, I called for NCAA president Mark Emmert to give Penn State the ďdeath penaltyĒ, arguing that this was far worse than SMUís ďslush fund,Ē which caused it to get that penalty. Emmert didnít follow my advice, but the punishment he leveled, including a $60 million fine, no eligibility for bowl games for four years, loss of 20 scholarships for each of the next four years and expunging all the wins since the first discovery of Sanduskyís activities will certainly sink the schoolís program for many years.
But, what have we heard from Happy Valley? Many comments about how unfair it is Ė to the memory of Paterno, to the school, to the economy of the town. Even before the decision, there were many who criticized the school for the decision to take down Paternoís statue, erected after he passed Bobby Bowden for most career wins. (Officially, Bowden is back in first place.)
Nowhere have I seen any comments from Happy Valley citizens expressing sympathy for Sanduskyís victims Ė officially 10 in the court case but likely many more than that.
Nice set of values there.
Some things are obvious in this. Claims that the NCAA or the college administration have besmirched Paternoís reputation are mistaken. He did that himself. Despite the many self-serving statements he had made earlier about helping people, when the opportunity came to help youngsters who were being sexually abused by his former assistant, he whiffed. The only thing that mattered to Joe Paterno was that he get the most career wins, and he wasnít going to let anything get in the way of that. Thatís Joe Paternoís legacy.
The other thing that is most obvious is that the football program at Penn State was totally out of control, dwarfing the school itself. When the university president gets his marching orders on a case as horrific as this from the coach, it speaks volumes about whatís most important. Emmert said in his decision that this was the worst case he had seen in college football, but the schoolís administration, the townís citizens and Paterno couldnít see that. Unbelievable.
The reaction of the townís residents didnít surprise me. Too many people simply lose perspective when it comes to their favorite sports or teams, especially when it involves allegiance to a college.
I observed that 30 years ago when Father. John LoSchiavo, then president of USF, shut down the basketball program for numerous violations, including a sexual assault, though not a rape, in a college dorm of a nursing student by Quintin Dailey, who pleaded guilty. Other violations were of the usual kind, funneling money illegally to recruits, including Dailey.
I supported the decision. Iím not a Catholic but I felt a religious school should, if anything, have higher standards than a school which is strictly secular. But, many of USFís alumni were horrified by the decision. Among them was Ralph Barbieri, who railed about it on his KNBR talk show.
USF basketball came back in 1985 but it has never regained the stature it had before the program was shut down, although I think Rex Walters is doing a good job as coach and the team will soon be contending for a conference title.
Thatís not the most important point, though. Father LoSchiavoís decision was a moral one, and the right one. I would say the same about Emmertís decision.
But Iím sure the residents of Happy Valley will never agree.
SWINGINí AíS: Last week, I wrote that I didnít expect either the Aís or Giants to be dealing before the end of the month. But at the time, I thought the Aís would get beaten up in their first week, when they hosted the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees, the two best teams in baseball. Instead, they split the two games with the Rangers and then astounded everybody, especially the Yankees, by beating the New Yorkers in four straight one-run games. They extended their win streak to six with a win over the Blue Jays in Toronto last night.
So, while the Giants situation remains much the same Ė the Giants are almost certain to make the playoffs because of the overall weakness of the National League Ė the Aís situation has changed dramatically. As of this morning, they were essentially tied with the Anaheim Angels for the first wild card slot. Obviously, thereís a lot of baseball yet to be played but the Aís position now raises a question of what managing general partner Lew Wolff will do.
Have no doubts: Wolff will be the one making the decision, not general manager Billy Beane. I know Billy and heís very competitive. Heíd love to make a deal to strengthen the team at this point, but that might destroy one of Wolffís talking points in his quixotic drive to get to San Jose: that the Aís cannot win in Oakland.
It certainly seemed in the offseason that the Aís were giving up on this season when Beane made a series of trades that sent away star pitchers Trevor Cahilll, Gio Gonzales and Andrew Bailey, but only Gonzales is having a good year. Meanwhile, Beane Ė because of good scouting reports Ė has put together another strong staff of young pitchers, who have been nurtured by pitching coach Curt Young, whose specialty is working with young pitchers.
The Aís offense has been inconsistent but their hitters have an ability to hit home runs that Giants manager Bruce Bochy must surely envy. That has enabled them to come back when theyíve trailed, sometimes winning with the home runs, other times tying the game and setting up a win later. If you look at their batting averages, it doesnít seem like a potent lineup Ė but it certainly plays like one.
But, there are still holes. The obvious one is at shortstop, where Cliff Pennington is out with a shoulder injury that may be partially the cause of his .197 batting average. I havenít seen enough of Brandon Hicks to know if heís good enough, or if heíll hit on the major league level, as he has in the minors.
Meanwhile, Susan Slusser reported this morning in The Chronicle that the Aís are talking with the Miami Marlins about Hanley Ramirez, whoís currently playing third base but whose natural position is shortstop. The 28-year-old Ramirez is owed $7 million for the rest of this season, easily affordable for the Aís, who have the lowest payroll in the majors, at $53 million. Ramirez has two years left on his contract, but he does not have a no-trade option, so the Aís could move him after this season if they decided he was to expensive to keep.
Itís the moment of truth for Lew Wolff. Does he really want a playoff team Ė or is he still just looking at the Aís as a possible real estate deal in San Jose? Well, we all know the truth, but if the Aís make the playoffs, it will be hard to argue that they canít win in Oakland. If he stops a deal or, worse, forces Beane to trade off good players, his old fraternity buddy, Selig, is going to point out that his behavior has become too obvious to other owners, so he wonít help him get to San Jose.
Pardon me while I shed some tears for poor Lew. Heís tried so hard to run the franchise down, but now itís bounced back. There is no justice.
AS WE GROW older, we often try to hang on to habits or activities from our younger days, in a vain attempt to prove weíre still, well, not young, but vital.
Iím guilty of that myself. Though I get most of my news on the Internet these days, I still canít imagine not having a newspaper to read with my coffee at breakfast. When my daughter-in-law told me I should be using Kindle, I told her I liked the feel of a book in my hands. So, Scott and Sarah gave us their Kindles and they bought new ones. And, now almost all the books I read are on Kindle.
But, Iím not on Twitter or Facebook, and I donít have an I-phone, nor do I want one.
Iím not resistant to change in sports, though. Iíve accepted the designated hitter in baseball as a logical change, I embraced the new mathematics brought forth by Bill James in the mid-Ď80s, though the formulas are far beyond me. Unlimited substitution in football came in before I became a sportswriter, but I canít imagine the sport without it. And, Iíve enjoyed the verve that Latinos have brought to baseball. I like the idea of a salary cap in football, though the NBA salary cap is so convoluted itís ridiculous. But in football, the salary cap has helped bring parity to the sport. Baseball still favors the richer clubs, especially the New York Yankees. The attempt to even competition with revenue-sharing often just gives owners of those clubs the chance to pocket money, because thereís no provision that the money they get be put into either the major league payroll or minor league operations.
Why do I accept change more readily in sports? I think itís because Iím not a fan. Every sportswriter I know got into the business originally because of a love of sports, but fairly early in my career, I realized that the important thing for me was the writing, not the games themselves. Iíve been fortunate to have access to some of the most brilliant coaches, managers and front office executives in sports, and Iíve tried to use that access to explain sports to fans who donít have that advantage.
Obviously, my methods are not universal. Many writers never change, remaining fans throughout their careers. Iím sure you can tell the difference.
TIGER WOODS had another disappointing effort in a major, his time the British Open, last week. Tiger finished in a tie for third, three strokes back of winner Ernie Els, but thatís misleading. He was never really a factor at any time during the four rounds.
Adam Scott had an epic collapse, blowing a four-stroke lead with four holes to go, which allowed Els to win. But, Tiger had a triple-bogey on one hole and finished at 73 for his final round. He was leap-frogged by Els, who had been a stroke behind him as Sundayís play started.
Tigerís admitted strategy was to play it safe on the bunker-ridden course, which hardly sounds like the Tiger Woods who was winning majors in bunches earlier in his career. Now, heís become timid. He still has the strokes to win a major but he no longer appears to have the attitude. As Iíve written before, I donít feel even a tad bit sorry for him. He brought his problems on himself.
WARRIORS: Iíve continued to be amazed by The Chronicleís breathless coverage of the Warriors, even covering the Summer League, which is considerably less important than either baseball spring training games or football exhibitions.
Though the Warriors have a devoted following, theyíve always been a relatively minor story in Bay Area sports. The 49ers have always been the biggest story, followed by the Giants. Cal football is big because of the huge alumni fan base in the area, Stanford occasionally when they have really good teams, as in the Andrew Luck era. The Raiders and Aís have gotten in the mix when they were winning. My rule of thumb when I was a columnist for The Chronicle was that I usually didnít write about the Warriors until football season was over. Most years, the Warriors season was over by then,too.
Of course, thatís all going to change because the Warriors are going to have a magnificent arena on the San Francisco Embarcadero by 2017. Sure, and Santa Claus really exists.
COMCAST TV: For those of you who live in the area, Iíll be on ďChronicle LiveĒ on Comcast Thursday afternoon at 5 p.m., re-broadcast at 10 p.m.
What do YOU think? Let me know!
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