Spring Game Attendance Signals That Football isn’t …

OSU
OSU

The Buckeyes saw nearly 100,000 people attend its' Spring Game. I'd say football is doing fine.

There were almost 100,000 people in Ohio Stadium yesterday and there wasn’t even an actual football game being played. There wasn’t even a Rolling Stones concert either. On the turf of the Horseshoe in Columbus, Ohio Saturday the Ohio State Buckeyes played the… Ohio State Buckeyes.

That’s an awful lot of people for a game that means little other than “who solidified himself as a starter at said position.” To be sure, the defending national champions have holes to fill and Spring Football is where coaches start to recognize just who is capable of being the “next man up.”

At two other Big Ten schools, Nebraska and Penn State, the Spring Game crowds were around 77,000 and 68,000 respectively. At Michigan, where prodigal son Jim Harbaugh has returned, the Wolverines had 60,000 in attendance.

Top schools in the Southeastern Conference like Auburn and Alabama saw Spring Game attendance marks around 60-65,000 as well. For them, that’s not really anything too surprising.

What’s hard to make sense of is that football is supposedly a dying sport. From concussion lawsuits, players behaving badly off the field and an overall condemnation of the game from more and more parents, you’d think the game was in rapid decline.

Tell that to the tens of thousands that attended Spring Games this season already.

The game of football isn’t struggling nearly as much as many think it is but there are worse times ahead. Participation in many states across the country is declining as more and more parents fear for the future of their children. Far be it from me to tell parents how to raise their children but I want parents to be educated and I don’t want them to done so with a biased approach.

Both soccer and hockey are facing concussion problems yet we hear little about those statistics and the reason for that is simple. Any time you are the top dog everyone wants to knock you off of your perch. That’s where football finds itself today.

The National Football League has problems. It has a former player off to jail for life with a murder conviction and it has players being arrested from everything from marijuana possession to domestic violence. Yet, it finds itself as the premier professional sport in North America. No sport is watched more by more people and of different genders and ethnicity than any other right now.

With the growth of fantasy football as well, the NFL is doing fantastic business so how can it or college football possibly fail?

If you follow football closely, then you may have noticed a new trend defensively that is making the game a little bit safer. What many call “Hawk tackling” because of the Seattle Seahawks’ use of it, the method of tackling aims to take the head out of the process. The style actually takes its’ roots from rugby where as you know, there isn’t any equipment used by the players.

There are still big hits and great tackles, but the form is much safer in terms of potential head injury. Will it make such a difference that the game is ultimately without problems? Of course not, but at the very least all levels of football are addressing the concerns of safety whether traditionalists like it or not.

Football isn’t going anywhere anytime soon as we can tell from the attendance at Spring Games, but it still has plenty of issues to address.

 

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Need to Laugh? Here are My April Fools Jokes for the Rest …

JV
JV

My April Fools Day Jokes begin with Justin Verlander and his main squeeze Kate Upton.

As “The Joker” once said, “Why so serious?”

I think it’s time to have a little fun on this April Fools Day and I’m the one providing all of the jokes. Therefore, here’s my list of “April Fools Gags” you know you want to see.

Major League Baseball

Justin Verlander finally kicks Kate Upton to the curb. He goes 35-2, wins the Cy Young, AL MVP and pitches all four games in a World Series sweep over the LA Dodgers.

Clayton Kershaw takes another line drive to the jaw. This time all of his teeth are knocked out and he returns to the dugout looking like “Jaws” from the James Bond movies.

The Chicago Cubs steamroll the competition and take the National League Central by 18 games. They go undefeated through the divisional round and NLCS and lead the Red Sox 3-0 in the World Series when Boston decides to just give up giving the Cubs the title.

RG

Roger Goodell resigns? Don't I wish?

National Football League

The New England Patriots are stripped of their Super Bowl XLIX title after the NFL finds Tom Brady deflated all of the balls personally.

Rodger Goodell resigns citing his total inability to actually make a decision.

Jerry Jones has more plastic surgery. Wait….

Jay Cutler takes his internet image of “Smokin’ Jay Cutler” to a new level when he lights up a Marlboro in the huddle of a four interception first half against the Packers.

Philip Rivers has seven more children bringing his family’s total to 14 kids.

Arizona Head Coach Bruce Arians decides he no longer likes his Kangol and switches to a bucket-style hat.

Marshawn Lynch publishes a book on how to deal with the media in ten words or less. It becomes a best seller and wins numerous awards despite being one page in length.

National Basketball Association

Phil Jackson becomes coach of the Knicks. They go unbeaten in the 2015 calendar year despite only having three players on their roster.

Rajon Rondo and Coach Rick Carlisle spend the summer backpacking across Europe together.

The Lakers re-structure Kobe Bryant’s contract. He will now make $75 million this season.

Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili return for another season using walkers with tennis balls on the bottom of them.

Derrick Rose plays all 82 games of the season.

Lance Stephenson blows into the ear of Marcus Smart and gets punch in the groin.

LeBron James takes his talents back to Miami after losing in the Finals again with Cleveland. Cavs’ fans box up jerseys rather than burning them knowing he’ll be back after a couple more titles.

College Football

Michigan will insist that Jim Harbaugh wears Adidas brand khaki pants. Harbaugh refuses instead choosing to stay with $9 Wal-Mart pants as Michigan goes unbeaten.

Nick Saban leaves just prior to the season to take over at Notre Dame after they fire Brian Kelly. Notre Dame pays Saban $15 million per year and tells him most of the players “aren’t catholic.”

Lane Kiffin takes over at Alabama. He’s run out of town after team loses home finale to Charleston Southern.

Florida State Head Coach Jimbo Fisher resigns. Becomes Jameis Winston’s personal man servant in Tampa Bay.

With all three quarterbacks healthy, Urban Meyer decides to go with true freshman equipment manager to play entire Spring game. All three QBs hurt anyway as they trip over their headphone cords.

 

 

 

 

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Bullets Are Back for a Frigid Sunday

Lavine
Lavine

Zach LaVine is a worthy slam dunk champion but wouldn't it be nice if some actual stars participated?

I’m not sure where you are on this Sunday in February but I hope you’re warmer than I am. It’s always a real eye-opener when you look at the digital readout on the counter and it says “minus.” Ya, that’s not good but let’s talk some sports.

-I stopped watching the slam dunk competition a long time ago because it got stale and rarely did any of the game’s top stars actually participate. With that thought in mind I give you last night’s Slam Dunk Champion Zach LeVine of the Minnesota Timberwolves. I just watched his dunks and I admit, they were pretty darn spectacular. The problem is that most casual NBA fans have no clue who LeVine is. He averages about seven points per game. I’d rather watch LeBron take on Kevin Durant in H-O-R-S-E.

-The New York Jets yesterday decided not to extend running back Chris Johnson who now becomes a free agent. Johnson becomes just another one of those running backs who had a couple of big seasons and then petered out.

-Major League Baseball is apparently toying with the idea of shrinking the strike zone for 2016. Since new MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred took over, he’s mentioned outlawing the defensive shift against pull hitters and now wants to make the already small strike zone even smaller. If you want more offense Mr. Commissioner then how about having umpires use the original strike zone? Then maybe hitters would be more apt to swing more often?

Petrino

If this man recruits your son, I'd look elsewhere.

-By trade, most college football coaches are salesmen. They have to sell themselves, their school and their program in order to get the talent they desire. That said, if Louisville Head Coach Bobby Petrino ever sent so much as a post card to my son I’d send it back express with a big middle finger on it. Many high schools in South Carolina have now banned Petrino after he pulled a scholarship offer promised to a player. Yes, it’s a business, but it doesn’t have to include people like Petrino. Just look at the way he’s conducted himself wherever he’s been.

-UFC President Dana White has a growing problem whether he is willing to admit it or not. More and more of his fighters are testing positive for everything from cocaine to performance-enhancing drugs. These aren’t his middle of the road fighters either. Guys like Jon Jones and Anderson Silva have tested positive after recent fights and White has to recognize that this isn’t a good look for his sport.

-NBA Commissioner Adam Silver addressed the state of his sport yesterday and he touched on a couple of issues that I think fans will like. First of all, he wants to tweak the schedule to get players more rest and that includes cutting back on preseason games. He also appears to be open to altering playoff seeding as well but that may take awhile. My hope is that Silver also decides to cut back on regular season games period. There are too many games that are meaningless especially ones where the top players are getting rest.

-I have no idea how the game of cricket is played in terms of rules but I can tell you that India defeated Pakistan in the 2015 Cricket World Cup. What I find most interesting is that these are two countries that politically, ethnically and religiously despise each other. Yet once again sports has shown that nations can get along for a little competition every once in awhile.

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Signing Day Craziness Plus the NFL’s “Second …

NSD
NSD

National Signing Day has become a complete circus in my opinion.

There was a time when yours truly was actually recruited to play football at the moderate D-1 level and basketball and baseball in the D-3 level. I’m not going to get into how long ago that was but lets just say the Buffalo Bills hadn’t lost a Super Bowl yet.

I tell you this because I was fortunate enough to be in the presence of some guys who were recruited by the big boys in football and it was nothing like it is today. I’m not saying that this is bad, but if you would have told me that national signing day (NSD) would become a “national holiday” I would have told you that you were nuts.

If you head over to the worldwide leader you’ll get an NSD bonanza that provides you with just about everything you need to know. You’ll get player rankings and team rankings and you’ll also get the schools that did the best job and those that did the worst.

But wait! There’s more! You can also get the best fashions of NSD! Just what every college football fan wants right?

Sorry but that’s where I have to draw the line. We are already putting enough pressure on these 17 and 18 year old kids but now we are going to critique what they are wearing when they sign on the dotted line? Let’s just end the shenanigans and call college football what it is; the National Football League Developmental League.

Making matters worse are the full-grown adults who attack these same kids on social media. “You didn’t come to my school!?!? How dare you!” What makes this scenario even worse is that the vast majority of these “fans” aren’t even graduates of the schools they love so much. I’m not suggesting you have to be an alum of a school to root for it but perhaps it  would help your case.

Ya I probably sound like ‘grumpy old man’ but I really don’t care. It’s completely out of control and it isn’t going to get any better.

Guion

Here's the stash Green Bay's Letroy Guion had when he was arrested.

The NFL’s Second Season Off to a Fast Start

The National Football League’s 2014 season is officially over but the “excitement” of the second season is already underway. If you aren’t sure what the second season is, it has nothing to do with free agency or the combine or the draft. This is now the time where players who are no longer under the constant thumb of their teams start getting arrested and/or in trouble.

The biggest name in trouble since Super Bowl XLIX ended was Hall of Famer Warren Sapp. The now ex-NFL Network analyst was arrested for soliciting two prostitutes and assault in Arizona.

Also in recent days, Indianapolis linebacker D’Qwell Jackson was cited for simple assault when he got into an alteration with a pizza delivery man. You probably already know that Cleveland’s Josh Gordon has formally been suspended for all of next season for his repeated issues with drugs and alcohol.

Perhaps least known name is the one with most surprising arrest. Green Bay defensive tackle Letroy Guion was picked up by police in Florida with over 350 grams of marijuana, a 9mm semi-automatic handgun and almost $200,000 in cash.

Behavior like this is far from rare. Arrests of NFL players almost always spike in the days and weeks following the end of the season. Perhaps Commissioner Roger Goodell could take a few minutes from all that time he gives the media to address the situation.

 

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Super Bowl Sunday Bullets From Across the Sports World

Serena
Serena

Serena Williams captured another grand slam and moved closer to Steffi Graf's career record.

Super Bowl Sunday is upon us and I’m tackling a number of stories that have developed in recent days.

-If you haven’t placed a wager yet on Super Bowl XLIX, then you may want to add a bit of research before doing so. So much action has been coming the Seahawks’ way that most Vegas sports books have moved the game to a “pick’em” selection.

-Congrats to Serena Williams for her victory in the Australian Open. She is now three grand slam titles away from tying the great Steffi Graff.

-If you ever needed further proof about just what kind of person NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is then I give you his “State of the Game” Presser on Friday. CNN’s Rachel Nichols asked a very direct question related to the conflicts of interest regarding investigators the NFL has chosen to run its’ investigations. Goodell was clearly annoyed and couldn’t even look Nichols in the eye as he gave a condescending answer. He even badgered her at the end of the his diatribe.

-My dreams of an unbeaten NCAA Championship Game in college basketball went out the window last night. Duke went into Charlottesville and knocked off second-ranked Virginia 69-63. Now I can only hope that Kentucky gets there unbeaten to give the game just a little more added flavor.

Bus

Jerome Bettis was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame last night along with seven other worthy candidates.

-Congratulations to the eight men selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame yesterday. Junior Seau, Will Shields, Jerome Bettis, Tim Brown and Charles Haley were the modern-era selections. All in my opinion are worthy and should come with no debate whatsoever. Also elected were Mick Tingelhoff who was elected by the Seniors’ Committee and team executives Bill Polian and Ron Wolf.

-This is one of the rare Hall of Fame classes that should come with no debate across the board.

-UFC 183 saw Anderson Silva return from a 399-day layoff to defeat Nick Diaz in a unanimous decision. The bout was an odd one with Diaz taunting Silva throughout and even faking a knockdown at one point. Last we saw Silva, he suffered that horrible broken leg against Chris Weidman. At 39 years old, Silva is considering retirement but has announced nothing at this time.

-Tiger Woods shot a career-worst 82 Friday and finished dead-last and missed the cut at the Phoenix Waste Management Open. Heading into the tournament, Woods was very excited about his newly crafted swing and added length off the tee. To his credit, Woods didn’t give the typical excuses we’ve become used to after his poor rounds. He instead went with humor and even resorted to Marshawn Lynch’s “I’m just here so I won’t get fined” comment.

-Speaking of golf, how can you not love the atmosphere around the 16th hole? Golf purists of course find it to be a disgrace to the game, but the arena style par three is fantastic for fans and makes great television. Are there people a bit out of control at the 16th? Of course, but then again this isn’t a major so let’s just take a deep breath and enjoy it.

-Aaron Rodgers won his second Most Valuable Player Award last night and J.J. Watt became the first-ever defender to unanimously win the Defensive Player of the Year Award. I can’t argue too much with the selection of Rodgers but if Watt can’t win the MVP with the year he had then I don’t see a defender ever winning the award again. Watt wasn’t just a great defender though, he was a great player who probably deserved better.

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Sports in America Twenty Years From Now

Soccer
Soccer

Twenty years from now I see soccer becoming the dominant sport in America like it or not.

Welcome to 2035! Jump on board the time machine with me as I give you my thoughts on what sports in America will look like 20 years from now.

The biggest change overall will be the rise of soccer. If you read my column regularly then you know this just destroys me but it’s what I see happening. The world is a smaller place now because of technology and social media and the most recent World Cup proved just how crazy Americans are getting over soccer.

The vast majority of the fan base right now is kids, teens and twenty-somethings with smatterings of older adults thrown in here and there. If you advance things 20 years, that means the current fan base will be a prime mixture of fans in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s.

Soccer has long been treated as a red-headed step-child in America but with the fear police assaulting football, I see it growing by leaps and bounds.

Speaking of football, I have a gut feeling participation nationally will continue to drop as parents keep their kids from playing for health reasons. Far be it from me to tell any parent how to rule over their child but I believe much of what has happened to “make the game safer” has largely been blown out of proportion.

I also believe that college football will actually become bigger than the National Football League. I feel this way because the NFL will continue to lose viewers. Recent polls have shown that men over 50 is the largest demographic that is no longer watching pro football.

That speaks volumes because if they stop watching then their kids will become less interested as well. The pro game in general has become a shell of its’ former self with the violence of the game all but removed and defense becoming an after-thought as everything favors offenses today.

If the NFL moves teams to Europe I also predict that will quicken the pace of its’ demise.

LeBron

The NBA will need to have more personalities twenty years from now as LeBron will be long gone from the court.

My crystal ball sees the National Basketball Association staying popular but it faces some challenges. First and foremost the game must have personable stars that provide the face of the league. LeBron James is clearly that face today but Michael Jordan set the bar so high I wonder if it is unreachable. I have yet to see a player with Jordan’s ability to be an assassin on the court and be friendly off it has been unmatched.

I also think the NBA will shorten its’ season. We are seeing a rise in star players spending more time on the bench for rest and for minor injuries. Fans will demand this going forward.

Major League Baseball will continue to see Latin players flood the rosters. This is not a bad thing in any way. MLB’s biggest issues will be keeping the games as short as possible as well how to deal with pitching injuries that are on the rise. Don’t be surprised if MLB contracts a few teams in an effort to keep competitive balance high.

I also see contraction in the National Hockey League where some teams just aren’t filling seats. The NHL will finally have some personalities and players that will draw fans in that haven’t normally been there in the past. The game itself is in good shape, but it will need to do more to draw in those fringe fans and I think it will once Gary Bettman is no longer the commissioner.

Al in all, sports will continue to dominate our lives but I see changes coming and for me personally I’m not real crazy about them.

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Restoring Paterno’s Wins is No Cause for Celebration

Paterno
Paterno

Joe Paterno had his 112 wins restored but in the end does it really matter?

Ya know what? I don’t know every fact there is to know about what happened at Penn State University when Jerry Sandusky was there abusing children. In fact, there are very few among us who know everything but at least I’m willing to admit it.

Yesterday, the NCAA, who completely botched the investigation from the start, restored 112 wins to the record of Joe Paterno. Those wins had been stripped from the school and Paterno as punishment for the Sandusky Child Sexual Abuse case. With the restoration of those wins, Paterno now has 409 career victories which once again makes him the leader in total wins among college football coaches.

As you might imagine, there was great joy throughout Happy Valley when this announcement came down.

Let me tell you exactly what I know. First, the NCAA screwed this whole thing up from the very beginning and once-again proved when there are criminal activities involved they need to step aside until the authorities can do their jobs. Secondly, there is no disputing that Jerry Sandusky sexually assaulted many children. Perhaps more than we’ll ever know.

Sandusky

Jerry Sandusky is where is belongs but could he have been there sooner had Paterno used his power in the proper way?

He used his power as a football coach to coerce and dominate over kids. He’s in prison where he belongs.

Third, Joe Paterno did not do enough to end Sandusky’s reign of terror and there is no denying this. To say Paterno “did enough” when he contacted Athletic Director Tim Curley is laughable if only this were a laughable situation.

Curley was a former Paterno player who had been positioned by Paterno himself to become the AD. To suggest that Curley was going to act without input from Paterno who was Penn State, is ridiculous.

But let’s strip of all that away though. The culture of football being the horse the moves that cart at many universities is true, especially at Penn State but take all of that away for a second. A boss is told that one of his top assistants is committing horrible crimes and that boss then reports this to his own boss.

Chain of command right? Once the boss did his job by telling his own superiors, his job was done right?

This is the argument by those who have always defended Joe Paterno. He did his duty to report the witnessed crime to his superiors and then moved on to other things. In the world outside of college campuses where a football or basketball coach is a god, this is appropriate behavior.

Unfortunately, Paterno abused his power by not using it. If you think for one minute that Paterno didn’t hold court over that university then your blind. This doesn’t mean that Joe Paterno was not a good man, a good coach and a father figure to many because he was and that shouldn’t be forgotten.

The problem is that Paterno made one, awful choice. He chose to stand pat and let those “above him” handle a situation that he could have handled it himself. Paterno would have even added to his legacy if that were possible by choosing what’s right over loyalty and probably some disbelief.

The wins restored are being celebrated as a justification of Paterno doing nothing wrong. This isn’t true. They have been restored because the NCAA couldn’t find its’ way out of a paper sack and screwed this thing up from day one.

Lost in all of this is not how fans of the Nittany Lions are reacting to the restoration of 112 wins. What is lost is the regard for the victims who once again see themselves being shoved aside by the very same things that kept their stories from being revealed in the first place.

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