1-2-3 Sports! Week of October 27, 2017

What’s the Point of Youth Sports, Part II: “Checkbook Baseball”

Here’s part II of the 3-part series from the Star Tribune. This “chapter” digs into the club sports epidemic, and its rippling effect. There are a lot of variables at play here: the cost (a lot), the perceived need to participate in order to keep up with other kids in the community, and the cottage industry club sports has become.

It wasn’t that long ago club teams were the exception to the rule:

Barely 20 years ago, clubs and organizations devoted to a single sport were few. Today, it’s become increasingly rare for an athlete to join a high school team in the most popular sports without having extensive, and often expensive, training from a club program.

Clubs offer the promise of exposure. A better chance to play in college is central to the sales pitch. Regional tournaments comprised of “select” teams are the most efficient way for recruiters to see the most talent in one place.

Yes, unless you’re really, really good – in which case, your talent transcends any system – club teams is how you are recruited. Again – and I want to emphasize I played at a small D-II school – but even at that low level, this is how I was recruited.

However, this trend doesn’t just impact players bound for collegiate athletics. If every high school volleyball player is at it 10 months a year, then the the ripple effect impacts anyone who even wants to play varsity. At some point, you need one of the top players, and if all of the top players in your community are busting ass most of the year, then you either need to follow suit or face the reality that you simply might not make the high school team.

“It’s staggering,” Storm said with a chuckle of incredulity in his voice. “It’s gone from only elite kids trying to play in college basketball to a situation where a kid says ‘If I want to make varsity, I better find an AAU team.’ ”

This ecosystem is how you produce the highest yield of exceptional players, i.e., D-1 athletes, but most simply aren’t that. So what is the impact on the majority of kids who simply want to partake in the high school athletic experience?

“Parents say, ‘We have to do it. There’s no way we can’t,’ ” Lakeville South volleyball coach Stephen Willingham said. “I call it FOMO: Fear of Missing Out. If I go to play basketball, while in the meantime 15 or 20 classmates go play winter volleyball, am I going to miss out on that training? What’s going to happen next fall? Am I going to make the team? People are fearful of stepping away from a sport and not being able to catch up.”

Let’s talk dollars here. Just how much is this? Last week I quoted a dad saying that he didn’t even want to think about how much he’s put into his kid’s youth sports. Here are some numbers to digest:

The costs of playing for a for-profit club go toward paying for coaching, facilities, tournament fees, administrative costs and travel, which eats up a significant portion.

At Northern Lights [Volleyball], the single-season cost to play for the program’s top level is $4,775. For the beginners, it’s $2,230. A season of play for Midwest Speed, the state’s top softball club, runs about $3,600. The Minnesota Baseball Academy, which runs the Minnesota Blizzard Elite program, charges $3,150 annually for players ages 12 to 18.

Often those fees don’t include camps and clinics.

“It’s a business,” Klinkhammer said. “We refer to it as ‘Checkbook Baseball.’ ”

I wonder, is there any greater force in the known universe than a parent’s fear of coming up short on providing his/her child every advantage to succeed?

And – to be clear – this isn’t about the Joe Mauer’s of the world. For no other reason than Catholic upbringing within St. Paul, I played against Mauer from sixth grade through my senior year in high school (his sophomore). Guess what: he was special when he was 10, he was special when he was 13, and he was special when he was 16. The scouts and USA Baseball found out about him because he was plainly special.

Here’s a lesser known example: Marty Sertich. We grew up in the same town. I spent many hours skating in his backyard rink (hell, I broke his garage window with an errant shot, and his dad, a US Olympic hockey player…maybe 5’7” didn’t even bat an eye). Marty was a year younger than me. From mites to high school, there was not one game in those ten years – not one – where the short, skinny kid with incredible hands and vision wasn’t clearly the best player on the ice. It was inarguable to anyone at the rink. He was undersized, but he won the coveted Mr. Hockey award in Minnesota, played a couple years of Junior hockey, then won the Hobey Baker at Colorado College – the college hockey equivalent of the Heisman. The rink in Roseville has a big painted sign over one of the goals that says “Marty Sertich 2005 Hobey Baker Award Winner”

The explosion of club sports isn’t for the Joe Mauers or Marty Sertiches of the world. Nope, it’s for the folks whose greatest fear is that their kid might be Mauer or Sertich if they only have the right coaching and exposure, but their kind of talent transcends systems. 

I have a niece and a nephew going through the hockey club circuit in Minnesota. I don’t know a ton about scouting young talent, but I know they are good. Very good. They are also very young. I have no idea what becomes of this talent. Lost in all of this is…you know..puberty. We all played sports with kids that were Babe Ruth or Wayne Gretzky at 12, and then they didn’t grow another inch or acquire another skill. You blink, and you find yourself playing in high school wondering whatever the hell happened to so-and-so.

Here’s what I believe when it comes to my niece and nephew: the time they have spent with their dad at open skating and on the backyard rink has far more to do with how good they are than whatever club team they are on. They are good because they love to play, they love to spend time with their dad, and he knows enough to drill the fundamentals while keeping them laughing and having fun. It has much less to do with whatever super select team they are asked to play on (and their parent are asked to pay for). – PAL

Source: Club teams become the price of admission to youth sports”, Jim Paulsen, Star Tribune (10/23/2017)

TOB: My feelings here are mixed. First, the costs are outrageous. Nearly $5,000 for volleyball!? That’s not a knock on volleyball – I’d say that no matter the sport charging $5,000. Second, whether participation in clubs sports is “good” depends to me where the pressure comes from. If the parents have a grand scheme to get their kid a college scholarship and throw $5,000 a year for eight years (which is how many age levels Northern Lights volleyball has) at a volleyball club, well, congrats. You just spent $40,000 in hopes of getting a scholarship worth not much more than that, and pressured your kid into something he or she likely now hates. But if the kid really wants to play a club sport or wants to focus on a sport, I find it difficult to look down upon that. Hell, as an 11-year old I had a grand scheme to give up all other sports at age 13 to focus on basketball, and no adult put that idea in my head.

But what bothers me is the keeping up with the joneses. The Marty Sertiches of the world will probably benefit by focusing on a sport, though probably not as early as many kids do (I’ve read elsewhere coaches and experts think specialization should not occur until 16 at the earliest). In a perfect world, those kids would do so and everyone else would play multiple sports throughout the year like we all used to. Instead, “normal” kids are feeling the need to specialize, when they shouldn’t. Then they miss out on playing other sports, their parents spend a ton of money, and they risk getting burned out on the sport (as we saw in last week’s installment).

I don’t know what the solution is. The nuclear option would seem to be instituting a rule whereby participation in a club sport makes you ineligible for your high school’s team in that sport. Would that kill high school sports? Probably. It would certainly drain talent, which would lower interest, and then maybe high school sports start to disappear. What a bummer that would be. As the Beach Boys sang – be true to your school, let your colors fly.

The World Series Has Turned into Early 2000s College Baseball

On Wednesday, Phil and I both, separately, went to the Warriors game. The game began as Game 2 of the World Series was winding down. When I got to Oracle, it was 3-2 Dodgers, when Marwin Gonzalez hit a dinger in 9th off Kenley Jansen on an 0-2 pitch.

In the 10th, Altuve hit a dinger. 4-3.

Then Correa hit a dinger. 5-3.

Then Puig hit a dinger for L.A. 5-4.

Then the Dodgers got a two-out run on a walk-wild pitch-single, their first non-home run hit of the night. I repeat: the Dodgers scored 4 runs in 10+ innings and their first non-home run hit of the night came in the 10th.

In the 11th, Springer hit a two-run dinger. 7-5.

Then Culberson hit a dinger to make it 7-6  AND ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?

What is going on in baseball? Well, we know what’s going on. The ball is juiced – the seams are lowered, reducing drag on the ball, thus causing the ball to carry farther.

Here’s the thing: I didn’t watch the game. I followed on MLB’s app. But when I got home, every sportswriter was raving about what a wild, amazing game this was. Funny, it feels like so many other games this postseason. For example, the AL Wildcard game. Game 5 of the Nationals/Cubs NLDS. Most of that Yankees/Indians ALDS. The ball just won’t stay in the park. Dinger after dinger. No lead is safe. Look at this graph:

Flyballs are carrying out of the park at unprecedented rates. It’s a fascinating graph. The rates were slowly rising for decades, peaked at the height of the Steroid Era around 2000, began a steady drop and then…boom. All-time highs beginning 2014. Dingers are fun, sure. But what makes a dinger fun is that it doesn’t happen that often. In the playoffs, especially, runs should be at a premium. When home runs are hit as often as they are being hit, it just sorta feels inevitable. It’s like a sugar rush – it’s great in the moment, and then you feel empty. Please, MLB, fix the ball. It’s gotten out of hand. -TOB

Source: What the Hell Was That“, Lauren Thiesen, Deadspin (10/26/2017)

PAL: It’s also worth noting the temperature at game time was in the 90s. The ball carries in that kind of heat. Obviously, that doesn’t explain the broader trend, but I wanted to add that bit of info.

I love the College World Series comparison. In 1998, both LSU and USC hit 17 home runs at the CWS. SC needed six games, while LSU needed just four. LSU averaged over four home runs per game!

It was bad for college baseball. The bats they were using simply needed to be modified. While they should’ve just gone back to wood bats, there was too much money at stake from bat makers to quit cold turkey on aluminum or carbon bats.

Since big leaguers are already using wood bats – yes – we need to take a look at the ball. As TOB says, runs should come at a premium in the playoffs, and home runs should not be the primary way teams are scoring. I wish I could say Tuesday’s game was an outlier, but it’s clearly a trend.

Kill the Frat

Frats are bad. To me, this is not a particularly hot take. But former and current frat guys are very defensive about the benefits of frat life, and I enjoy every opportunity to shine a light on how stupid and dangerous frat life really is. In this case, the subject is Tim Piazza, a sophomore at Penn State, who died this past February following a frat initiation. The name of the frat doesn’t matter, they’re all the same. And Tim is certainly not the first frat guy to die – that’s been happening, more or less at least once per year (there have been sixty in the last eight years), since frats first took hold on American college campuses. But Tim’s story is especially heartbreaking because the house was extensively equipped with security cameras that captured the entire thing. Tim’s story also highlights the dangers of unintended consequences.

“Hey, man, what the hell. Stick to sports,” you’re probably muttering right now. But in this case, the author gives me just enough cover to pretend that I am:

When I talked with people about Tim Piazza’s death, many brought up an earlier Penn State crisis, the Jerry Sandusky scandal, in which the longtime assistant football coach was convicted for a decades-long practice of sexually abusing young boys, and the university’s head coach, Joe Paterno, was abruptly fired. Both cases gestured to a common theme: that of dark events that had taken place on or near the campus for years, with some kind of tacit knowledge on the part of the university. There is also the sense that at Penn State, both the fraternities and the football team operate as they please. To the extent that this is true, the person responsible is Joe Paterno.

It’s hard to think of a single person with a greater influence on a modern university than Paterno, who died in 2012. Because of his football team—which he coached for half a century—Penn State went from an institution best known as a regional agricultural school to a vast university with a national reputation. He was Catholic, old-school, elaborately respectful of players’ mothers—and eager to wrest their sons away and turn them into men, via the time-honored, noncoddling, masculine processes of football.

To say he was a beloved figure doesn’t begin to suggest the role he played on campus. He was Heaney at Harvard, Chomsky at MIT. That he was not a scholar but a football coach and yet was the final authority on almost every aspect of Penn State life says a great deal about the institution. He was also a proud Delta Kappa Epsilon man and a tremendous booster of the fraternity system, and—as was typical for men of his generation—he understood hazing to be an accepted part of Greek life.

In 2007, he gave the practice his implicit endorsement. Photographs had surfaced of some members of the wrestling team apparently being hazed: They were in their underwear with 40-ounce beer bottles duct-taped to their hands. “What’d they do?” he asked during an open football practice that week. “When I was in college, when you got in a fraternity house, they hazed you. They made you stay up all night and played records until you went nuts, and you woke in the morning and all of a sudden they got you before a tribunal and question you as to whether you have the credentials to be a fraternity brother. I didn’t even know where I was. That was hazing. I don’t know what hazing is today.” He wasn’t upset that the wrestlers had engaged in hazing; he was scornful of them for doing it wrong.

Looking back at the past two decades at Penn State, we see a university grappling with its fraternity problem in ways that pitted concerned administrators against a powerful system, and achieving little change.

Joe Paterno: the gift that keeps on giving. But the hold frats have on campuses like Penn State are truly baffling. In the wake of Tim Piazza’s death, Penn State trustee William Oldsey told the Philadelphia Inquirer that Piazza’s death was not an indictment, but an endorsement of Greek life at Penn State because, get this, “This is a good enough system that it attracted a kid of the high caliber and character of Tim Piazza.” OH FUCK YOU, DUDE.

The details of Tim Piazza’s death are heartwrenching. I reproduce the timeline here in full because each new detail is as shocking as the last, and I simply couldn’t pick-and-choose what to omit. It’s long, but I urge you to read:

So here is Tim, reaching for his good jacket—in a closet that his mother will soon visit to select the clothes he will wear in his coffin—a little bit excited and a little bit nervous.

“They’re going to get me fucked up,” he texts his girlfriend, and then he pulls closed the door of his college apartment for the last time.

He has been told to show up at exactly 9:07. Inside, the 14 pledges are lined up, each with his right hand on the right shoulder of the one in front of him, and taken into the living room, where they are welcomed into the fraternity with songs and skits. And then it is time for the first act of hazing in their pledge period: quickly drinking a massive amount of alcohol in an obstacle course, the “gauntlet.” Court documents and the security footage provide excruciating detail about what comes next.

About an hour after the gauntlet begins, the pledges return to the living room, all of them showing signs of drunkenness. At 10:40, Tim appears on one of the security cameras, assisted by one of the brothers. The forensic pathologist will later describe his level of intoxication at this point as “stuporous.” He is staggering, hunched over, and he sits down heavily on the couch and doesn’t want to get up. But the brother encourages him to stand and walks him through the dining room and kitchen and back to the living room, where he sits down again on the couch. And then Tim tries to do something that could have saved his life.

He stands up, uncertainly, and heads toward the front door. If he makes it through that door, he may get out to the street, may find a place to sit or lie down, may come to the attention of someone who can help him—at the very least by getting him back to his apartment and away from the fraternity. He reaches the front door, but the mechanism to open it proves too complicated in his drunken state, so he turns around and staggers toward another door. Perhaps he is hoping that this door will be easier to open; perhaps he is hoping that it also leads out of the fraternity house. But it is the door to the basement, and when he opens it—perhaps expecting his foot to land on level ground—he takes a catastrophic fall.

On the security footage, a fraternity brother named Luke Visser points toward the stairs in an agitated way. Greg Rizzo clearly hears the fall and goes to the top of the steps to see what’s happened. Later, he will tell the police that he saw Tim “facedown, at the bottom of the steps.” Jonah Neuman will tell the police that he saw Tim lying facedown with his legs on the stairs.

Rizzo sends a group text: “Tim Piazza might actually be a problem. He fell 15 feet down a flight of steps, hair-first, going to need help.” (Rizzo, who was not charged with any crimes, told the police that he later advocated for calling an ambulance.)

Four of the brothers carry Tim up the stairs. By now he has somehow lost his jacket and tie, and his white shirt has ridden up, revealing a strange, dark bruise on his torso. This is from his lacerated spleen, which has begun spilling blood into his abdomen. The brothers put him on a couch, and Rizzo performs a sternum rub—a test for consciousness used by EMTs—but Tim does not respond. Another brother throws beer in his face, but he does not respond. Someone throws his shoes at him, hard. Someone lifts his arm and it falls back, deadweight, to his chest.

At this point, the brothers have performed a series of tests to determine whether Tim is merely drunk or seriously injured. He has failed all their tests. The next day, Tim’s father will ask the surgeon who delivers the terrible news of Tim’s prognosis whether the outcome would have been different if Tim had gotten help earlier, and the surgeon will say—unequivocally—that yes, it would have been different. That “earlier” is right now, while Tim is lying here, unresponsive to the sternum rub, the beer poured on him, the dropped arm.

A brother named Ryan Foster rolls Tim on his side, but has to catch him because he almost rolls onto the floor. Jonah Neuman straps a backpack full of books to him to keep him from rolling over and aspirating vomit. Two brothers sit on Tim’s legs to keep him from moving.

This is the moment when Kordel Davis arrives and attempts to save Tim’s life, only to be thrown against the wall by Neuman. Davis disappears from the video, in search of an officer of the club. By now Tim is “thrashing and making weird movements,” according to the grand-jury presentment.

Daniel Casey comes into the room, looks at Tim, and slaps him in the face three times. Tim does not respond. Two other brothers wrestle near the couch and end up slamming on top of Tim, whose spleen is still pouring blood into his abdomen. Tim begins to twitch and vomit.

At this point, Joseph Ems appears “frustrated” by Tim, according to the grand jury. With an open hand, he strikes the unconscious boy hard, on the abdomen, where the bruise has bloomed. This blow may be one of the reasons the forensic pathologist will find that Tim’s spleen was not just lacerated, but “shattered.” (Ems was originally charged with recklessly endangering another person, but that charge—the only one brought against him—has been dropped.) Still, Tim does not wake up.

Forty-five minutes later, Tim rolls onto the floor. The heavy backpack is still strapped to him. He rolls around, his legs moving. He attempts to stand up, and manages to free himself from the backpack, which falls to the floor. But the effort is too much, and he falls backwards, banging his head on the hardwood floor. A fraternity member shakes him, gets no response, and walks away.

At 3:46 in the morning, Tim is on the floor, curled up in the fetal position. At home in New Jersey, his parents are sleeping. Across campus, his older brother, Mike, has no idea that Tim is not safely in his bed.

At 3:49 a.m., Tim wakes up and struggles to his knees, cradling his head in his hands; he falls again to the hardwood floor. An hour later, he manages to stand up, and staggers toward the front door, but within seconds he falls, headfirst, into an iron railing and then onto the floor. On some level he must know: I am dying. He stands once again and tries to get to the door. His only hope is to get out of this house, but he falls headfirst once again.

At 5:08 a.m., Tim is on his knees, his wounded head buried in his hands. Around campus, people are beginning to wake up. The cafeteria workers are brewing coffee; athletes are rising for early practices. It’s cold and still dark, but the day is beginning. Tim is dying inside the Beta house, steps away from the door he has been trying all night to open.

Around 7 o’clock, another pledge wanders into the living room, where Tim is now lying on the couch groaning, and the pledge watches as he rolls off the couch and onto the floor, and again lifts himself to his knees and cradles his head in his hands, “as if he had a really bad headache.” The pledge lifts his cellphone, records Tim’s anguish on Snapchat, and then—while Tim is rocking back and forth on the floor—leaves the house. A few minutes later, Tim stands and staggers toward the basement steps, and disappears from the cameras’ view.

The house begins to stir. Some fraternity members head off to class, and in the fullness of time they return. And then, at about 10 a.m., a brother named Kyle Pecci (who was not charged) arrives and asks a pledge, Daniel Erickson (who was also not charged), a question that seems to both of them a casual one: Whatever happened to that pledge who fell down the stairs at the party? They come across Tim’s shoes, and realize that Tim must still be somewhere in the house, so they look for him. The search reveals him collapsed behind one of the bars in the basement. He is lying on his back, with his arms tight at his sides and his hands gripped in fists. His face is bloody and his breathing is labored. His eyes are half open; his skin is cold to the touch; he is unnaturally pale. Three men carry him upstairs and put him on the couch, but no one calls 911.

Fraternity brothers with garbage bags appear in the footage and start cleaning up the evidence. Brothers try to prop Tim up on the couch and dress him, but his limbs are too stiff and they can’t do it. Someone wipes the blood off his face, and someone else tries, without luck, to pry open his clenched fingers. Clearly the brothers are trying to make this terrible situation appear a little bit better for when the authorities arrive. But they do not use their many cellphones to call 911. Instead one brother uses his phone to do a series of internet searches for terms such as cold extremities in drunk person and binge drinking, alcohol, bruising or discoloration, cold feet and cold hands.

Where is Tim right now, as his body lies on the couch? Are his soul and self still here, in the room, or have they already slipped away? He has put up a valiant, almost incredible fight for his life, but by now he has lost that fight. When he was a little boy, he used to make people laugh because he got so frustrated with board games; he didn’t like playing those games, with their rules and tricks. He loved sports, and running, and playing with his friends at the beach. But his body is cold now, his legs and arms unbending.

Finally, at 10:48 a.m., a brother calls 911—perhaps realizing that it would be best to do so while the pledge is still technically alive—and Tim is delivered from the charnel house. Soon his parents will race toward him, and so will his frantic brother, who has been searching for him. They will be reunited for the few hours they have left with this redheaded boy they have loved so well, and at least it can be said that Tim did not die alone, or in the company of the men who tortured him.

Fourteen of the frat guys face a total of 328 criminal charges (though a judge threw out charges of involuntary manslaughter). The actions of these guys is truly disturbing and shows a callousness that is frankly incomprehensible to me. But in this we also see the unintended consequence of the zero-tolerance policies put in place. In the 1980s, parents of dead fraternity members began suing fraternities and winning huge amounts of money. Insurance companies refused to insure the frats any longer. So frats created a joint council and pooled their money to self-insure. Then, the frats banned hazing, and a host of other activities that everyone associates with frat life: underage drinking, drinking games, etc. They also set absurd rules that would be impossible to enforce. For example, “During a party, alcohol consumption must be tightly regulated. Either the chapter can hire a third-party vendor to sell drinks—and to assume all liability for what happens after guests consume them—or members and guests may each bring a small amount of alcohol for personal use and hand it over to a monitor who labels it, and then metes it back to the owner in a slow trickle.”

The national fraternities then indemnified themselves, so that the individual frat members would be the ones responsible in the event someone got hurt or killed while being hazed, or even while just partying. This is diabolical. And so what we see in the actions of Tim’s fellow frat members is the response to, as the author puts it:

“Liv[ing] under the shadow of giant sanctions and lawsuits that can result even from what seem like minor incidents. The strict policies promote a culture of secrecy, and when something really does go terribly wrong, the young men usually start scrambling to protect themselves. Doug Fierberg, a Washington, D.C., lawyer whose practice is built on representing plaintiffs in fraternity lawsuits, told me that “in virtually every hazing death, there is a critical three or four hours after the injury when the brothers try to figure out what to do. It is during those hours that many victims pass the point of no return.”

We see this clearly in Tim Piazza’s death. Just before the party that killed him began, the fraternity president texted the pledge master, “I know you know this. If anything goes wrong with the pledges this semester then both of us are fucked.” We see it in the reluctance, even outright refusal, to call 9-1-1 when Tim Piazza’s dying body was found, even with another fraternity member begging they do so. We see it the next day, when fraternity members were texting each other:

“Between you and me, “what are the chances the house gets shut down?”

“I think very high. I just hope none of us get into any lawsuits.”

It’s sad, isn’t it? These fraternities, and their members, did terrible things, and lots of people died. So we made rules to try to stop it, but things didn’t stop, and we just throw up our hands and accept it as a part of growing up, for (mostly) white, affluent kids from the suburbs, anyways. But it doesn’t need to be like this. This stuff happens because the traditions keep being passed down, despite the national organization’s lip service to ending them. So, kill the damn frats. There will be no one to pass the traditions to, and kids like Tim Piazza won’t die, slowly, while their friends pour beer on them and assault them, refusing to get them the medical attention they so desperately need, for fear of the “house” getting “shut down”. -TOB

Source: Death at a Penn State Fraternity”, Caitlin Flanagan, The Atlantic (November 2017)

PAL: Terribly sad story. And I agree – there’s no need for this greek institution on college campuses. Regardless of their stated intent, they are the setting for needless deaths and dangerous binge drinking. This isn’t a fun sports story.

While poor choices and binge drinking are not unique to the greek system on a college campus, I can appreciate the environment frats create can lead to people not acting in the best interest of an individual in dire straits. No one wants to be responsible for “shutting the house down”, which, on the other side of thirty, is just absurd. I can understand the thinking, and the environment that breeds this logic, but it’s just absurd.

My real beef with this story concerns the Joe Paterno connection.

Before I jump into that, let me state this clearly: I am not a Paterno apologist. I believe he knew what Sandusky was doing within the football complex – surely enough to make it stop taking place within the football complex – and he did nothing. Criminal.

With that said, for writer Caitlin Flanagan to make the leap that Paterno was somehow implicit in Piazza’s death is outright ridiculous. Let’s go back to the portion about Paterno TOB quoted in his writeup (emphasis mine)

To say he was a beloved figure doesn’t begin to suggest the role he played on campus. He was Heaney at Harvard, Chomsky at MIT. That he was not a scholar but a football coach and yet was the final authority on almost every aspect of Penn State life says a great deal about the institution. He was also a proud Delta Kappa Epsilon man and a tremendous booster of the fraternity system, and—as was typical for men of his generation—he understood hazing to be an accepted part of Greek life.

In 2007, he gave the practice his implicit endorsement. Photographs had surfaced of some members of the wrestling team apparently being hazed: They were in their underwear with 40-ounce beer bottles duct-taped to their hands. “What’d they do?” he asked during an open football practice that week. “When I was in college, when you got in a fraternity house, they hazed you. They made you stay up all night and played records until you went nuts, and you woke in the morning and all of a sudden they got you before a tribunal and question you as to whether you have the credentials to be a fraternity brother. I didn’t even know where I was. That was hazing. I don’t know what hazing is today.” He wasn’t upset that the wrestlers had engaged in hazing; he was scornful of them for doing it wrong.

Paterno says, “That was hazing. I don’t know what hazing is today.” For her to draw the conclusions as to how we felt (“he wasn’t upset…he was scornful of them doing it wrong..”) is quite a leap. Was he asked if he was upset? Is there a quote from him clarifying if he meant he was scornful for them doing it wrong? She is attaching feelings that, as presented, we don’t know to be Paterno’s, in order to connect the dots between one historic scandal and the death of young man at a frat house.

Also, Paterno wasn’t the final authority, goddamit. He was a powerful football coach, perhaps powerful to an unprecedented extent, but he was not the final authority on the greek system, and for anyone to suggest that without also explicitly criticizing actual leadership at Penn State is, well, making a leap and providing an incomplete account.

Paterno did irrevocable harm by standing by as rape and sexual abuse of minors was taking place within his football program. I have no loyalty or appreciation for him. Still, Flanagan uses him to broaden the web of an already tragic story that upon which doesn’t need to be expanded. The greek system full of dangerous loopholes. She doesn’t need to sensationalize it by adding Joe Paterno where he simply doesn’t belong.

TOB: I dug a little into Paterno’s quote. Some context here. First, it should be noted this was the Penn State wrestling team, not a frat. Second, photos of the wrestling team’s hazing were sent to the team’s coach and a local paper, and that’s what got them in trouble. Paterno is asked about the hazing and says:

“What’d they do?” he asked. “When I was in college, when you got in a fraternity house, they hazed you. They made you stay up all night and played records until you went nuts, and you woke in the morning and all of a sudden they got you before a tribunal and question you as to whether you have the credentials to be a fraternity brother. I didn’t even know where I was. That was hazing. I don’t know what hazing is today, you put it on a Web site ‘ “

Paterno said the environment of the country is changing and said even he has to be aware of what pictures he allows himself to appear in.

“I’m down there on a vacation and a pretty little girl comes over to me in a bikini and wants to get her picture taken with me with her boyfriend,” he said. “I’m scared to death. You know what I mean? I mean ‘ I get my picture taken with a cute kid and the whole bit, put it on a Web site, there’s that dirty old man.”

What Paterno is really criticizing is the fact they took photos in the first place. So, yeah, he’s saying they hazed wrong. Either she framed it poorly, or it was edited poorly. I see why you had a beef, but I think she was ultimately correct.

More importantly, though, I understand her larger point. She’s saying this is a university completely out of control, with leadership rotten to its core, that cares about all the wrong things. Preserving the greek system…while kids die! Preserving the football team…while kids gets raped! Hazing happens at campuses all over; what’s concerning here to me is the response. William Oldsey, a university trustee, saying that Tim Piazza’s death is an endorsement of the Penn State greek system is just so gross. I don’t think she’s blaming Paterno. I think she’s arguing Paterno is symptomatic of a rotten core.

PAL: I misspoke on the Wrestler/Frat element. However, she does not present it as explicitly as you do within her story. The context you provide is absent from her story, and that’s part of my critique. If you’re going to make that connection, there can be little-to-no inference on the reader’s part. It needs to be explicit, because it’s that serious. She presents an incomplete connection without qualification, and is relying on the reader to use what they know of Paterno with regards to his ambivalence in the Sandusky tragedy to make the leap with regards to Piazza. This matter is too serious to be this loose.

This Doping Scandal is Different (?)

Readers, I regret to inform you there is another steroid scandal brewing, one that calls into question the legitimacy of an American sports institution. It involves some of the very best athletes in the sport.

You guys, the Iditarod is full of dogs that are juicing.

Well, they aren’t juicing so much as they are being juiced.

A doping scandal has hit the world’s most famous dog-sled race, the 1,000-mile trek through Alaska that ends in Nome each March. Four dogs on a team run by Dallas Seavey, a four-time champion and the most dominant musher in the sport, tested positive last spring for high levels of Tramadol, an opioid pain reliever.

Why would anyone partake in doping dogs? Oh, the winner receives 75K? Gotcha. But mushers are different, folks. They do this for the love of the sport. And mushers stick together. None of Seavey’s competitors believe he did it. Quite the contrary, in fact.

The thought that another musher would taint Seavey’s dogs sounded unlikely to his competitors. The sport is a tight and insular one, in constant need of sponsors and promotion, and setting off a doping scandal would hurt the sport as much as it would damage Seavey. And Tramadol would be a strange drug choice; it is not commonly used in the world of dogsledding. Royer said she had never heard of it.

That reasoning led some to speculate that outsiders who protest the Iditarod and similar events might be involved.

Well, that kind of makes sense. Yeah, why would he dope his dogs while knowing they will be tested after the race. And it doesn’t even sound like Tramadol would even be the drug to use anyway? This is dog-sledding after all. Just hard-working, everyday Americans with an appreciation of that Jack London Alaska…

And that’s how it happens, folks. How many times have we read about doping scandals? How many time (be honest) have you thought the excuses made sense? How many times have those excused proved complete hogwash?

He wanted to win. $75K is a good amount of money. He’s competitive, he wanted to win, so he gave the dogs that had been busting ass for god knows how long a little extra.

He did it. Right? Right. Right? It does make sense that those who believe the sport is animal abuse would look to damage it in a way that makes the dogs even that much more the victim…DAMMIT, I fell for it again! – PAL

Source: Iditarod Doping Mystery: Who Slipped Tramadol to the Dogs?”, John Branch, New York Times (10/24/17)

Jared Goff, Stud Tackler

This is really well done. Last week, Jared Goff threw an interception. On the run back, he made an incredibly smart and athletic play to make the tackle and preserve the shutout.

Lolololololol. Let’s take that frame by frame, all pics and captions courtesy of some guy named Beefjurky.

The apex predator, Goff, locks in on his prey, Tyrann Mathieu, a much smaller human. Once Goff locks in there’s no hope for escape.

Goff, the superior athlete, strategically dodges the entire slew of lead blockers with an agile twirling leap.

Goff, the genius, is now in place and just has to wait for his prey to fall right into his trap.

Mathieu, the fool, has fallen right into his trap. See that white horizontal blur in the middle of that group of men? That’s Goff’s fucking arm of death. Once that thing comes up, it is GAME OVER.

Goff looks pitifully as his prey comes crashing down to Earth. The smug victor doesn’t even move, showing that he barely even used a fraction of his full power.

Goff’s job is done. Mathieu is down and will now go to lick his wounds among his other wimpy bird friends, to perhaps lose again another day. Jared slowly but calmly rises, because alpha predators like him are in no rush to be anywhere.

That’s just good internet content, folks. -TOB

Source: “Breakdown of Goff’s TD Saving Tackle on Mathieu“, Beefjurky, imgur (10/26/2017)

Video of the Week

Bonus Video:

Bonus Video:

I don’t know how we missed this last year, but shoutout to new 1-2-3 reader Ted for sending it along. Amazing.

PAL Song of the Week – Leonard Cohen – “True Love Leaves No Traces”

Like what you’ve read? Let us know by following this blog (on the right side, up near the top), or:

Email: 123sportslist@gmail.com

Twitter: @123sportsdigest


Instagram: @123__sports

“I like eating nachos and lip synching. I always have.”

-Vice Principal Gamby


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.