NCAA restores the roar, and 112 wins

The time is 1:06 p.m. on a Friday. I texted my father, who I assumed may have been on his lunch break at the time.

“NCAA restored all of Penn State’s vacated wins,” I sent.

“Just saw that. It’s about time,” my father, a long-time season ticket holder despite actually being a graduate of West Chester University, responded. “Now… where’s that statue?”

One thing at a time I suppose.

The NCAA announced Friday it had reached an agreement with Penn State and Pennsylvania state officials following a week of negotiations that will restore all vacated wins stripped from Penn State during the sanctions of 2012. All wins ranging from 1998 through 2011 have now been put back on the record books, with 111 going to Joe Paterno and one to Tom Bradley. Paterno, for the second time, is now Division 1 college football’s all-time winningest coach.

The agreement between the negotiating parties comes with some stipulations, which have already been approved by the Penn State Board of Trustees;

  • Penn State agrees to commit a total of $60 million to activities and programs for the prevention of child sexual abuse and the treatment of victims of child sexual abuse.
  • Penn State acknowledges the NCAA’s legitimate and good faith interest and concern regarding the Jerry Sandusky matter.
  • Penn State and the NCAA will enter into a new Athletics Integrity Agreement that (with concurrence of the Big Ten) includes best practices with which the university is committed to comply and that provides for the university to continue to retain the services of Sen. George Mitchell and his firm to support the university’s activities under the Athletics Integrity Agreement and in the areas of compliance, ethics and integrity.

Penn State was initially fined a penalty of $60 million as part of the hefty sanction terms levied on the program in the summer of 2012. I have been on record of suggesting that if there is only one portion of the sanctions that Penn State ultimately fulfills, it should be the fine as a gesture of good will towards a worthy cause. Here’s hoping that money is used properly to spread awareness of child sexual abuse.

Everything else after that is some mumbo jumbo that essentially allows the NCAA to avoid getting grilled in court at a time when the NCAA has a number of issues it actually has authority to control brewing.

Penn State already had scholarship limits lifted and was given a chance to perform in the postseason two years earlier than initially planned due to positive reports from George Mitchell in his annual reviews of the university and athletics department.

So, now what?

Continue reading full story on Nittany Lions Den.

Student Section: A memo to college football captains

The honor of being named a team captain comes with a burden of responsibility to uphold the image of the team, and in college sports, the university as a whole. Being named a team captain by your peers comes with great pride and is not to be taken for granted. Presenting the best your team and university have to offer and representing both on the field puts players in a spotlight for many good reasons. Unfortunately, this season has seen some captains take their positions for granted with signs of poor sportsmanship.

On November 1, new Big Ten member Maryland made its first trip to Penn State’s Beaver Stadium since 1992. Before Penn State joined the Big Ten in 1993, the Terrapins and Nittany Lions played almost every season dating back to 1960. Maryland had not beaten Penn State since 1961, and the last time the Terps avoided a loss to their neighbors north of the Mason-Dixon line came in the form of a tie in 1989. The Terrapins got off the bus in State College with a chip on their shoulders, and off-season comments made by former Maryland assistant coach James Franklin to Penn State alums and fans in the state of Maryland certainly added some fuel to the fire that Randy Edsall and his program would burn.

As the two Big Ten East rivals took the field, Maryland players got in the faces of Penn State players, starting a bit of a pushing and shoving match that was very uncommon to see in Beaver Stadium over the years. After things settled down, the team captains from both teams arrived at midfield for the pregame coin flip. As the Penn State captains extended their hands to their Maryland counterparts, this happened:

Maryland Captains Refuse Handshake

Maryland ended up having the last laugh with a late field goal giving the Terrapins the win, but after the game the college football world looked past the result and focused on the nonsense before the game. Even in victory, Maryland managed to give the program and university a black eye. Following the win, Edsall and Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson apologized for the pregame antics of their players. A couple of days later, the Big Ten issued a public reprimand of Maryland and the actions taken by the captains — Stefon Diggs, P.J. Gallo and Sean Davis.

Diggs was also suspended for one game for making contact with a Big Ten official during the pregame confrontation out of the team entrances. Maryland alternates team captains on a week-by-week basis. The Terps have not used Diggs, Gallo or Davis as a team captain in the two games since this incident at Penn State. You would hope that the attention given to this show of poor sportsmanship and ridiculousness would have sent a message to players across the country that this is frowned upon and ends up making you look silly. For the most part, you are probably right. Somehow, though, the message was never delivered to Central Michigan.

Continue reading the full story on The Student Section.

Not a good day for the Phillies, but college football is coming

ruben-bad-day

It was a a rough day as a Phillies fan on Thursday. Sure, the Phillies toppled the Washington Nationals, 10-4 in D.C., but Cliff Lee left the game early with his elbow causing problems once again and the trade deadline went by with nary a move out of the Phillies front office. Cue the rage.

I put together a quick Photoshop this morning (seen above) to go with a post on Macho Row sharing my thoughts and reactions to what went down, or what did not go down, yesterday. The image is based off an image from one of my favorite books as a kid, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. I took out the teddy bear from the original illustration, replaced it with a Phillie Phanatic. I also replaced Alexander’s head with Ruben Amaro’s face, and then added a 2008 World Series championship banner for good measure.

Here is the original image from the book…

For me though, August 1 is a good day because for the first time since January I can look forward to college football being played this month. I shared some happy thoughts on No 2-Minute Warning this morning.

A dose of reality for the Philadelphia sports fan

Watch sports long enough and you will come to understand certain things will never change. Some observations I have made over the years are as follows;

1. Philadelphia fans will never hear the end of the Santa Claus story, booing Donovan McNabb or any other tired story that is painfully and all-to-easily resurfaced by lazy national or local media from outside Philadelphia.

2. All fans will boo their own players under the appropriate conditions, regardless of locale.

3. Philadelphia fans are negative and will not shy away from booing players on the teams they root for.

The recent leading question served to DeSean Jackson on a platter by a reporter from CSN Washington has caused a stir on the local sports radio airwaves on 94 WIP and 97.5 The Fanatic. It is no surprise because those on the radio have also been served an easy talk radio topic to fill hours of conversation. Jackson was led to being able to take a shot at Eagles fans, at least that is how it has been interpreted, and he praised Washington fans. What else would you expect from a puff interview piece during training camp by the newcomer to the team? The intent of this question and response is to poke a stick at a rival team’s fans and sin the praises of the new fans.

Nothing Jackson just said in that specific segment was false or misleading. Not. A. Word.

I am as loyal of a Philadelphia sports fan as they come, at least I like to think that is the case. I can also let my optimist side run wild with the best of them, although I also like to pull in the reigns and give myself a dose of reality. Sometimes I think the vocal portion of the Philadelphia fan base needs a dose of reality as well. So here are two hard truths about the Philadelphia fan, as I see it.

We are a loyal and dedicated fan base, but there is a fair portion of bandwagon fans. Guess what, it is the same in every city in America. There is nothing to be ashamed of, and when someone does suggest you are a front running city, just take a look at the attendance at Phillies and Sixers games before you go on a rant about how great you really are.

We do boo our own players. Often it is deserved though, and it is only a sign of how much we genuinely care about and want to be winning. If you are going to get in a huff about someone daring to say you boo your own, pay close attention to what is happening with Ryan Howard and Jonathan Papelbon (although Papelbon clearly brings it on himself). We are a city that expects results. If a $25 million a year player is struggling on a nightly basis, he is going to hear it. This is the nature of sports. Those players do not get automatic cheers included in their contracts. That contract is with the team, not the fans. If a player cannot understand that, then the problem is on them and not the fans. And you know what, 10, 15 years or so down the road when a player like Ryan Howard returns for an anniversary celebration of the 2008 World Series, there will not be a boo in the stadium.

After all, he’s not Adam Eaton.

We are pretty paranoid. The city gets up in arms to react and defend ourselves as fans and as a city every time a former player or national media member or local columnist drags up Santa Claus, Michael Irvin’s injury or throwing batteries. Hey, if you’re going to say something about us, you better be prepared to back it up and receive a counter argument. Unfortunately, the counter argument always gets left in the dark of the minds speaking out with their tired and stale criticisms of the city. Yes, those things happened in Philadelphia. Bad things have happened in other cities too, sometimes worst things. But there is one thing we should take from all of this. Opinions of those unwilling to admit when they go overboard or lack doing original research will never change. Wasting your energy trying to combat it is often a futile effort. The best thing you can do is let the haters go on hating and you can rejoice even more when times are good.

We know Philadelphia is a great city and the surrounding region is a great one. We know we are a great sports community. We don’t need anyone else to validate that for us.

Desean Cowboys Haters Gonna Hate

Helmet sticker to The 700 Level.

Taking the soccer plunge by adopting three teams

I have caught a mild case of soccer fever. The World Cup did that to me, even though the United States failed to advance past the first of the elimination rounds. With another World Cup in the books, I wanted to see if I can get myself to pay some closer attention to some of the other soccer going on. I have tried this before but I am giving it another shot by picking a few teams to adopt for some sort of rooting interest, which I hope will keep me checking for updates.

Everton_F.C._(2014–)Rather than just adopt my local Major League Soccer team and end there, I wanted to be sure to pick up a European team, since that is where all the talent is from what I have gathered. That led me to picking a team from the English Premiere League. After gathering some recommendations and thoughts by many on Twitter, as well as doing my own brief research, I landed on Everton. Having US goalie Tim Howard as its goalkeeper helped get me to making that decision, given Howard’s impressive performance in the World Cup. Apparently Landon Donovan claims to have been a fan of Everton as well. So that is good company, right?

I wanted to pick up an EPL team because matches are regularly on in the United States at convenient times for me to watch, whether on Saturday mornings or during the week. How many Everton matches I will be able to watch is something I will have to check on at a later time, but this is the team I am going to go into this year’s EPL season following.

Celtic_FC.svgJust for kicks, I decided to pick a team from some other European leagues as well, even if it means never getting a chance to actually see them in action. From the Scottish Premiere League I decided to adopt Celtic FC. Why? I like the logo, given my Irish background, but I have actually seen this club play. I watched Celtic FC take on the Philadelphia Union of the MLS in the Union’s first year. I covered the game and happened to catch some rough video of flares being set off in PPL Park. I uploaded that to YouTube and CBS 3 asked to have me one for a brief video interview that aired on the evening news a day or two later. As it turned out, I got scolded by a Union media contact for the interview and was threatened to have my media credential pulled because of it. Whatever. Go Celtic FC.

Also, this sort of sealed the deal for me…

Since I was picking teams from the homeland of my ancestors, I hastily decided to follow the Shamrock Rovers on Twitter to keep my soccer fix going. This gave me a team from Ireland and the League of Ireland to keep tabs on, but if any team falls of my radar I would guess it may end up being the Rovers at some point. We’ll see. I like the name and the logo (with some striking similarities to Celtic FC), so we will see how it all goes.

Philadelphia_Union_2010.svgLiving in the Philadelphia area, calling the Philadelphia Union my Major League Soccer team was a no-brainer. Hey, I was there for the first game in franchise history, so this is only natural. Besides, when it comes to sports in this country, I will always pull for the local team.

I know at least a bit about this team already, although I admit to having passed on coverage of it since I stopped covering matches on an old blog years ago. The regular season is already in play so I have some catching up to do with the Union. I am not ready to say you will find me down on the Delaware River wearing a Union scarf and chanting songs while following the lead of the Sons of Ben, but I am here to say I am no longer going to overlook the Union in the Philadelphia sports scene.

Doop.

I believe that soccer won in the United States

Has the United States finally embraced soccer on a more mainstream level? I am not ready to suggest soccer is replacing any of the top sports in this country just yet, but I do feel very comfortable saying soccer has found a home in America, and that has to be considered a win for the sport in this country.

Over the last few years I have started to pay a little more attention to the sport, mostly on the international level when the big events like the World Cup or European championships come along. I am still not at the point where I will give the Philadelphia Union much of a thought, nor am I waking up early on Saturdays to watch the English Premiere League just yet. I do not consider myself a soccer hater the way I once would have been labeled. I just do not find myself getting sucked into the sport the way I will college football or baseball. I’m not saying it is wrong to get into the sport that deep either. In fact, I can see why people can be drawn to the sport.

One of the best things about watching the World Cup is the sense of national pride that spreads throughout us across the sports world. The viewing parties for the US matches have been impressive in size, but I think you would be a fool to think every single person there was a soccer diehard. There will always be a section of fans going to viewing parties as an excuse to be a part of the crowd, maybe enjoy a few beverages in the middle of the afternoon and get out of work early. And that’s OK, because ultimately it is about supporting the team, the country.

As a college football writer I see plenty of contrasting sports views all day long, and whenever I publish something I tend to see a dividing line in the comment section or in my Twitter replies. It’s all a part of the game as far as I am concerned. But when the US men’s national team is playing, all of those fences are torn down for a greater good. We’re all Americans and we want to be the best, or at least take steps toward being the best. Let’s be there to support the team when that happens.

I will never understand why anyone would actively root against their country in any sporting event, just because they do not like the sport. It makes no sense to me. None. If you do not like soccer, it’s cool. Nobody is forcing you to watch it. Why not just leave it at that?

The US may never win a World Cup. Soccer may never be the number one or two sport in this country. I get the sense soccer fans in this country know this will always be an uphill battle, but the journey up that hill is half the fun along the way. That’s what I will take away from this World Cup.

So here is where I stand with soccer today. When it comes to the World Cup, I’m all in. Beyond that I will pay mild attention to the developments following the US team, but I will leave the analysis and commentary from those who watch the sport on a more daily basis and feed off of their opinions and insights. I do want to pick up more on the European club action that takes place across the Atlantic, because I have been told time and time again that is where the real action is, but I will also take note of the developments of the Philadelphia Union in the MLS and continue to hope they find a way to bring Philadelphia a championship.

Finally, I am not here to convince you to watch soccer if you have not already. For whatever reason soccer remains a bit of a polarizing sport. But if you give the sport a chance, as I believe I have, you will find it can be fun.

Mario Marathon keeps me coming back

Mario Marathon is an annual event in which money for Child’s Play Charity is raised by playing video games from the Super Mario franchise, from Super Mario Bros. through Super Mario 3D World. The marathon team is made up of a group of friends in Indiana dedicated to having fun while playing through Mario games. These are far from expert Mario gamers, but they do excel in having fun while raising money for a worthy cause. This year marked the seventh year for the event and the grand total over that time pushed past $500,000 raised, which is remarkable. This year’s event raised a little over $85,000 over five days.

Mario Marathon

(Left to right) Chris Deckard, John Groth and Brian Brinegar suit up in homemade Mario Brothers costumes and raise money for Child’s Play charity. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)

What is it about Mario Marathon that keeps bringing me back year after year? If I had to choose one word, it would be “community.”

You see, the Mario Marathon gang extends far beyond the guys who are playing the games. The group has assembled a wonderful supporting cast over the years with friends coming in to help with social interaction while games are played. There are people who come in specifically to keep the audience entertained, whether it be Jed with his songs and games, Sundeep with his fortune-telling or Ben with his constant interaction with the live chat. The chat room that watches the marathon together has become a rather tight group itself, supporting the marathon while cheering on and providing moral support when the fails start piling up. The community following on Twitter has grown as well, perhaps leading to a special nod from Wil Wheaton on “The Wil Wheaton Project” this week.

A few years ago I interviewed Brian Brinegar, the mastermind behind the marathon who also hosts the event in his basement. When I asked him why he thought Mario Marathon has become as popular as it has, he told me the goal is to make everybody watching feel as though they are a part of the experience.

We try to be as inclusive as we can and make people feel like they’re hanging out with us playing games,” Brian told me in 2011 for a story on Examiner.com. “It’s fun to play games with friends, so we just build on that.”

And that’s just the thing. Mario games have always been about having fun. I have been playing them for as long as they have been around, from the NES through Super Mario 3D World, which just so happens to be my wife’s favorite game right now. Mario is about fun, and Mario Marathon embraces that in everything they do. The best part is the marathon raises money for a good cause, with donations going toward providing games and toys for children in hospitals or shelters.

Congratulations to everybody involved with this event this year and each of the past marathons. Here’s looking forward to Mario Marathon 8 a year from now.

Related:

The Philadelphia Eagles drafted who?

As the NFL Draft’s first round unfolded Thursday night in New York City, all of the players I wanted the Philadelphia Eagles to target were being removed from the big board. I wanted the Eagles to go with defense but was fine with picking up a wide receiver. Sammy Watkins was an unrealistic dream that did not come true. Other options like Mike Evans and Odell Beckham Jr. were also probably reaches. They came close to being able to pick up the defensive player I really wanted, Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, but the Green Bay Packers grabbed him one pick before the Eagles went on the clock. Calvin Pryor and Anthony Barr were also off the table.

When the Eagles were finally on the clock, I wonder if they were stumped and left wondering what to do. Rather than take a chance on drafting Johnny Manziel, they traded down and allowed the Cleveland Browns to take the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner. Then other defensive options were picked up by other teams, like Darqueze Dennard, Dee Ford and Jason Verrett. Finally, the Eagles went back on the clock with the 26th pick. The selection?

Louisville linebacker Marcus Smith.

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This was pretty much the collective reaction of the Eagles fanbase, and I sort of expected to see that if not a little more outrage. The Eagles took a shot on a linebacker that many felt would be available in the second round and perhaps even the third round. For months Eagles fans had become fixated on drafting a wide receiver or defensive back or safety because that is what the mock drafts told them was going to happen. Heck, few people saw this pick coming at all, never mind it coming in the first round. The reality is the Eagles needed bodies in the front seven as well to create a pass rush, and Smith will have a chance to add something to that 3-4 package in time. Read More »

Starting Seven: Jack, Don and Happ getting their business done

Some thoughts as I drink my morning coffee, not out of a Chicago Cubs mug…

1. The clock ticks again for Bauer

24 Live Anther Day

I have been looking forward to the return of “24” since the dream became a reality, and last night’s two-hour season premier did not disappoint me. We got vintage Jack kicking butt against any number of people thinking they finally had the upper hand on the misunderstood national hero. We learned that Chloe has gone underground since her final days with CTU and Jack feels he has no friends. As this season progresses I look forward to sharing more of my thoughts on the 12-hour series.

2. Don Draper is back to work as well

I caught up on “Mad Men” on Monday as well after skipping it on Sunday night. Nice try getting Don to force the agency to kick him out, but after a good talking to by his friend Freddy, Don gets a grip on the situation and looks like he is determined to prove his doubters wrong, including Peggy. I don’t really care for the family drama angle for Roger, but it was funny seeing him tumble in the mud in his suit. He got a bit of an eye-opener as well, it seemed.

3. Shoulda kept Happ?

The Phillies got shut down Monday night by the Toronto Blue Jays. Former Phillies farm product and starting pitcher J.A. Happ went five scoreless innings , getting his business done. Kyle Kendrick was not terrible, but he took the loss in a 3-0 final. It was just about what you expect from Kendrick and that should give a team a chance to win often enough to live with it.

4. Rutgers is a mess in so many ways

The single most inspirational figure with Rutgers ties right now may be former football player Eric LeGrand. LeGrand says Rutgers offered him  chance to deliver a commencement speech, but apparently that offer was withdrawn in favor of former New Jersey Gov. Thomas H. Kean.

5. $499 for an HD-capable NES? Uh…

What if I told you that you could play original Nintendo games in full high-quality high definition? Interested?? You probably are. How much you ask? Oh, just $499. Uh, no thanks. I’ll just hack a Wii and load up some NES games on an SD card.

6. Harry Potter vs. Star Wars

I am not sure how many people have had this debate, but judging by the total views on this viral video I am just now seeing, it seems plenty of people have asked the question. Jedi or wizard? Give me the Jedi every time. (One NSFW line)

7. Just for good measure, let’s see how The Boy Who Lived fares against Luke Skywalker…

This video is older but compares and contrasts Luke Skywalker and Harry Potter to determine who would win in a battle to the death.

Starting Seven: The force was with me at the Broad Street Run

Some morning thoughts as I drink my morning cup of coffee…

1. Heck yeah I can run 10 miles

 I ran in the Broad Street Run on Sunday in Philadelphia. This was my first time running 10 miles, so I set a personal record for farthest distance. I also put in one of my best times running as far as pace is concerned. I managed to beat my record for fasted 10k distance in the process of running this race. I had some concerns going in after getting off schedule with training runs between work and the weather but I found myself feeding off the energy of the crowd along the route. Between giving people high-fives and enjoying the many acts of musical entertainment along the way, I had more energy than I expected.

2. The Amazing Spider-Man an amazing disappointment, again

I was not thrilled with the idea of a Spider-Man relaunch so soon after the Sam Rami trilogy. So far I am still waiting to be amazed. I was not at all thrilled with the first “Amazing Spider-Man” but I was really looking forward to the sequel. Now I am left hoping the third movie makes up for two disappointing films. For whatever reason, I was never really fully captured by “Amazing Spider-Man 2.” Can we just get to the next X-Men movie already?

3. Phillies take two of three from Nationals

The Phillies managed to take a weekend series from the Washington Nationals. Yesterday Roberto Hernandez put in a great effort as the Phillies hung on for a 1-0 lead from the first inning all afternoon long. It was a good weekend for the Phillies, no doubt, and they even had to bump Cole Hamels back to tonight. Wining division games will be key for the Phillies this season.

4. Didn’t watch Mad Men

I went to bed early last night and passed on watching “Mad Men” live. Will be watching it this evening on DVR, so no spoilers please, Internet.

5. Jack is back!

“24” returns tonight with the start of a 12-episode mini-season. When we last saw Jack Bauer he was on the run from the Russians and the Americans after flat-out embarrassing both nations the only way only Jack Bauer can. So now he will be showing up in London as the suspected bad guy. Yeah, right.

6. The science behind the demise of the Death Star

In honor of Star Wars day yesterday, Wired takes a look at the science behind the explosion of the Death Star.

7. Somebody at Mashable needs to lighten up on Star Wars Day

May 4 has become a trendy day for Star Wars fandom and companies are cashing in. Someone at Mashable thinks we have now gone too far with exposing the day.