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27 Januar, 2012

Enduring Conflict: JoePa

This is the first of what I hope will not be an often posted series. Today I want to talk about what it truly means to endure.

First, wow, I know it is late. I have stewed on this topic and debated whether to write on it for a long time. Ultimately my decision came down to the fact that this is a big topic and deserves attention. Joe Paterno passed this past week. If  you do not know this you either live in a cave, literally, or you have made a conscious decision to ignore it. In either case I highly doubt you would be reading my blog if  you fit in these categories.

I sent my condolences via Twitter, and Facebook. I think in this day and age it is sort of symbolic of how Joe's life has finished. He lived a life shrouded in mythology. If any one college football coach was above all else, it was him. The students of Penn State believed it. And to a fault so did the faculty of the university. What it led to was the downfall of the winingest coach in college football, and by proxy the university itself. Don't read this and assume that I think what happened was right. Or that the death of a legend should be related only to his most recent actions. I don't believe any of that. What I do believe is that JoePa lived a life of greatness. He was married to the same woman for most of his adult life. He helped raise countless fatherless, hopeless athletes, and turned them into men. There is no downplaying that. We as a society have a high standard though. It is a good thing. We want everyone to be perfect, and to a fault we like to see the ones we hold high fall from grace. The tabloids are full of it. Jim Tressel is another example. The bottom line is that we will hold JoePa dear, and caveat that with his inaction against the worst kind of criminal.

I want to believe that he did what he though was right. I can't help but think though, that he did what he thought would minimize the trouble for a close friend of his. A person he thought would be incapable of such wrong doing. All of this is still to be determined in a court of law, and I will wait to pass judgement until all facts are heard. If it is true, I think that JoePa should have done a lot more. A simple few phone calls to follow up. That's all I want. Make sure the charged is indeed being brought to justice. But he was still a great man. He knew how to connect with young men. His program rarely had legal issues, and his top recruits usually made it in the NFL. What I hope people don't do is label his life as one of failure. He had far more ups than downs, and his final year was one that even he realized was unlike any other in his 85  years on earth.

Many people will choose to remember the only black mar on his record. Don't destroy his memory by remembering only the last thing that he was published about. I urge you to research him and find as many stories as you can about him. Dig up as much dirt and put it into a 60 year coaching perspective. 60 years is a long time. If you can say you have lived a perfect life in 60 years, your name must be Jesus, because none of us are perfect. DO him the honor of remembering that.

My deepest heartfelt condolences go out to the Paterno family. I hope they find some measure of peace in the support that has flowed since his death.  JoePa was a legend. Endure the time of mourning. Things must get better. On this site, and in this man's eye, JoePa will remain an iconic piece of college football history. I will remember him for the time he devoted to young men. I will remember that he helped many children become adults. The rest can do what they choose.

Fortitudine Vincimus

08 Januar, 2012

Football Season Wrap Up

Another new year passes, and another football season ends. This is the way of the world. At least, this is the way of my world. You see, college football ends on New Years Day, more or less. And Dallas, well they haven't been relevant in the new year for a long time. Soooo, lets start the wrap with the more depressing of the two.

Dallas Cowboys: Another season has come and gone, and another season has seen the Cowboys fall into mediocrity. A few weeks ago I had plans to write about a Dallas collapse that was imminent. I never got around to actually writing it, and of course now I wish I had, because this is EXACTLY what I have come to expect out of them the last few years. I have a love hate relationship with this team. More so than any other team I think. I root for the Cowboys to do well. I never want to see them fail. I have, however, grown to expect it because of TWO critically important people.

One is the owner. Jerry Jones is a rich kid with a VERY expensive toy. He wants waaay too much control of it, and it has shown in the way he micromanages the team. From the day to day coaching down to the draft selection. He is not the greatest football mind in America, yet he insists that his will be done regardless of whoever else is telling him he is wrong. I have mentioned that great leaders will surround themselves with great people. Well Jerry surrounds himself with people he knows he can manipulate and push around. Not always the best combination. When he hired Bill Parcels I thought, "Finnaly, he has realized his follies and is learning!" That clearly wasn't the case as he quit, and JJ was left with a gap to fill in the Head Coaching spot. Once JJ relinquishes day to day football operations to a knowledgeable football mind, this team will succeed.

The other one, and for those who know my wife you know that I am treading on thin ice here, is Tony Romo. Go ahead, throw statistics at me. Tell me he had the fourth best passer rating this year. Or in 2009 he was in the top ten. I will counter with this though: in the last game of the season, a game that by the team's own admission was a playoff game, he laid an egg. An INT, and a fumble in the game. And he only threw for 289 yds on 37 attempts. He seems to do well at the end of games when the game is on the line, but when it is pressure packed to start with, he just doesn't do well. Take a look at his playoff record, and his record in games at the end of the season that really matter. This quality, unfortunately,  is transferred to the team, which all too many times takes the traits of its star player. JJ is inexplicably devoted to TR, and I guess that is good in the sense we are not always wondering who the QB is going to be. And to be fair, they had a lot of other issues this year as well. A new defense was supposed to start off rocky and then build to elite by the end of the season. That didn't happen. And for some reason the running game is only good against inferior opponents. I actually see that as a trend in most of the professional teams. Most teams run to make the PA seem like it might work, and if the defense doesn't respect the run, then they pound it in there. Most NFL teams are content to throw it a gazillion times a game and hope it all works out. That's another post though. Back to TR. He has had ample time, in my opinion, to rectify his problems. He is still making a lot of the same mistakes that he made in his rookie season. The difference is now there is a scouting report on him and people know how to defend him, and he can not get away with it any more.

Getting back to their season, and more importantly the end of the season, they said that the last 4 games essentially added up to an extension of the playoffs. They wanted to win them all and go into the post season with the momentum that the win streak would provide. At the time they had a TWO game lead on the Giants and instead of coming out that week and beating them to put them away, they lost. Something the team has grown accustomed to doing. That was when I was going to write the blog, because essentially they had already been eliminated in their own little playoff, and that was not going to bring good things. Additionally they went on to lose 3 of their last 4, including the ultra important "Win and your In" game. Their problems run deeper than any one player, and my dislike of Romo aside, they have the talent at all of the positions to get the job done. I am not sure what else they need, except to put it all together. That is what young head coach Jason Garrett needs to do. Start leading the team and getting them to gel. Make them work for each other, instead of the paychecks that JJ signs. There is always next season. I will endure the offseason with thoughts of drafting the one magical player that will fix all problems. Of course that will not happen, but maybe, just maybe, the team will come out better and stronger next year.

Michigan Wolverines: I have not neglected this team like the professional team I root for. A large part of that is actually that over here, it is much easier (and cheaper) to follow college sports than the NFL. I purchased one package through ESPN that lets me follow all college football aired on the ESPN family (which is about 90% of the teams that I follow). I don't have that option with the NFL. But since I have documented quite well my feelings on Team 132, I will not go on and on. I will wrap up this season by simply saying it was a refreshing change of pace to the last three years. I saw a clear outlined picture for goals that was established early in the year, and adhered to as the year went on. At the conclusion of the season, there was not talk about being happy with a 10-2 record, it was a disappointment that there was not a B1G Championship trophy to display. Goals. RR never seemed to value these set in stone goals to shoot for. I don't know if that had any influence on the seasons, but it was refreshing to see them this season.

ETC. All my attempts to load the hype/highlight video of the season that I made have failed. No one wants to hear my awesome selection of music that I put to it. If you want to see it, go to YouTube and check it out on my channel (ChThrillHill). It will be without music though.

Good luck to Alabama and LSU. Can't say that I will be staying up all night to watch that one, but it should prove to be a defensively competitive game. Their combined secondaries are probably better off than 1/2 the NFL secondaries (Dallas' definitely included).

Speaking of NFL, good luck to the remaining teams. I have no dogs in the fight but I guess if I had to pick any team left it would be the Texans. They seem to be playing good team ball right now.

Posts will continue through the off season. As I said in the first blog, I follow a lot of sports, so as the relevent ones come around, I will post on them. Expect a Super Bowl blog, a March Madness Blog, and of course opening day of Baseball is coming up. In the mean time, stay safe, and enjoy the off season (only 237 days left).

Fortitudine Vincimus

04 Januar, 2012

Enduring Happiness: An Offseason to Look Forward to, and a Beach Full of Brunettes Never to Forget

Without further ado: Congratulations to the 132nd Michigan Football team. Much has been made of your season in the short time this blog has existed, but you banded together and created a lasting memory. Well done, as a fan I thank you, but your accomplishments mean so much more to you than they can ever mean to a man sitting by his computer tapping away at a keyboard. You endured like no other UM team has ever needed to, and you came out victorious. Those who stay will be champions, and no one understands that better than you. Well done. Enjoy your off seasons, prep for respective classes or camps. Those that are NFL bound, best of luck. Those coming back, follow your senior examples and be LEADERS!

Now, some thoughts on the game. The hype leading up to the bowl was actually its lack of hype on a national scale. It seemed no one thought that either team belonged, and you couldn't read a column, blog, or feature story that didn't start with: "(Pick a team) has taken a lot of criticism for being selected..." The coaches for both sides handled it with grace, proclaiming joy at being selected, and reminding everyone that they had no choice in the selection. I am sure they would have happily played a day earlier in Florida if that was to be their fate. It wasn't though. And both teams set out to prove they belonged. Perhaps along the way UM over-hyped themselves and lost the timing that is crucial to its offense. Maybe they bought into the media that showered praises of their 10 win season, and told them how easy it was going to be to win the 11th. I don't think anyone but the players and coaches will ever know exactly why they came out flat. VT's defense was stout, absolutely no doubt about that one. The secondary disguised coverages and made a play on just about every ball that Denard threw. The zone read never took off, and Fitz had a MSU-esque rushing day. Still, when the game was over, it was UM on top. By a field goal. A BRENDAN GIBBONS field goal no less. Who would've thunk it? Not this guy. Even after a season of making the easy ones, and a hard one or two, I still caught my breath when he lined up to kick. No offense to the guy, he has more than proved himself, but some things are not easily forgotten, and the debacle of last years kicking game is one of them. So how did he do it? How did he put last year behind him and pull through in the clutch every time he was called upon? Brunettes my friend. Brunettes. Personally, I am more of a blonde kind of guy. Ask my wife. But if thinking about brunettes on a beach can somehow calm this guys nerves, well go for it Brendan. Cindy Crawford laying out on the beach is just what the doctor ordered then.

The intriguing thing about this story to me is not the color of the women's hair that he thinks about though. No, to me, this is just another example of how great a leader Brady Hoke is. Gibbons came into the year as the backup place kicker. A walk on usurped his job last season after making only 1 of 5 attempts. He stayed beat out by the guy who only made 3 of his 9 attempts. By all rights, Gibbons should have packed it in and left Ann Arbor. Hoke came in though and gave him a clean slate. And a better way to do things. After what I can only assume was RichRod screaming at him for a year (thats just what RichRod does) a new approach was obviously what he needed. Well done Brady. Some guys just know how to coach, and more importantly connect to their players. The sample size on Hoke is small. One season with a roster full of mostly RichRods recruits. But clearly this guy knows how to motivate and how to get the best out of his players. No one expected much from this team. Brady did. No one expected to contend for a B1G championship this year. Brady did. No one expected a victory in a premier bowl game. Brady did though. And he made the players believe. Couple that with the strong senior leadership already discussed in this blog and the team was bound to exceed all the outside expectations.

So once again, congratulations to team 132. My hope is that team 133 will be as inspiring and as devoted to each other as this team was. Well done, and I look forward to blogging the off season recruiting and draft picks bound to happen. Endure the off season, I will spend it by latching on to other sports all while counting down the days till kickoff (241 by the way).

Fortitudine Vincimus