Archive for November, 2011

Top 25 Ballot: New #1
November 28, 2011

UNLV hit the way back machine, looked like the old Runnin’ Rebs and dusted Number 1 North Carolina Saturday night 90-80. That puts Kentucky in the top spot for me this week.. Here’s the rest of my ballot for November 27:

1) Kentucky
2) Duke
3) Syracuse
4) Ohio State
5) North Carolina
6) Louisville
7) Baylor
8) Connecticut
9) Xavier
10) Wisconsin
11) Kansas
12) Pittsburgh
13) Alabama
14) Vanderbilt
15) Memphis
16) Florida
17) Michigan
18) Missouri
19) Mississippi State
20) UNLV
21) Gonzaga
22) Marquette
23) Georgetown
24) Texas A&M
25) Harvard


Towson Center: Staples Center East
November 27, 2011

The visit from the First Couple for the basketball game at Towson today made for an atmosphere never before seen at the Towson Center. I think it was a little hard though for the fairly packed house to completely embrace the event considering President and Mrs. Obama were there to cheer for the visiting team (Oregon State’s head coach Craig Robinson is the brother of the First Lady.)

Regardless, a raucous standing ovation was delivered, along with a rendition of Hail to the Chief. Towson Athletics Director Mike Waddell embraced the opportunity to host the President and stated unequivocally that within that soon the crowds would arrive not for a VIP vistor, but because Towson would win. He stated first year coach Pat Skerry would win a CAA title within 5 years. And for those not familiar, Towson didn’t win a conference game last season.

Considering the Towson football team, which won only a single game in 2010 celebrated at halftime today its CAA Championship, it doesn’t seem too far fetched.

Not all the VIP’s though rooted for Oregon State. Legendary comedic actor Bill Murray took in the game as well. His son Luke is a first year assistant for Pat Skerry, so maybe Murray will become a regular. At the least he could help control the gopher population on campus.

Here now, all the shots I snapped today from Towson:

Thanks to Craig Hollander for sharing this photo with me!

Choosing hope
November 23, 2011

Jameel McClain/Baltimore Sun

When the chances to succeed are remote.  When the the easiest path is to become what society expects.  When giving up is what most people do.  Why do some choose to persevere? From where does the strength come to ignore the pull of the streets and keep fighting for a dream?

I’ve asked these questions twice this week and found different but powerful answers both times.

First on Tuesday I sat down with Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain for our Thanksgiving night Ravens Countdown TV show.  I helped keep generations of inner city youth from breaking a cycle of poverty.

Jameel though broke through.  A year of living at a Salvation Army shelter did not dampen his spirit, it forged it.  He told me the strength to persevere came from seeing exactly what he never wanted to become.  And seeing it day after day.  He had no specific role model, just an intense level of self motivitation.  “It’s not in my blood to quit!” he exclaimed. 

So when he went undrafted out of Syracuse McClain remained unfazed.  And when critics complain that he can’t cover a running back out of the back field, it’s no wonder he shrugs and rolls his eyes.  When you’ve metaphorically climbed Everest with no oxygen or guide, the impact of detractors is minimal.

Then this morning I received a call from Gregory Brown.  I met the 23 year old this summer at Herman “Tree” Harried’s basketball camp.  Greg was helping out as a counselor.  He told me briefly how he still hoped to play professionally, and I said “give me a call when you sign.”  Given his lack of basketball pedigree, I did not expect to hear back.

Brown played at Lake Clifton for two seasons, and then went to Anne Arundel Community College to continue his career.  But an injury nine games into the year ended his season, which led to academic failure.  

Greg Brown seemed out of chances.

But for three years he kept working on his game, putting his efforts to motivate his younger cousin Cleveland Melvin and his younger brother Quinton Harper.

That’s where the temptation to quit, to join life on the corner, came up short.

Brown told me this morning, as the oldest child in the family, he had to be the role model.

“I knew if I went out and sold drugs, or did drugs, they would to.”

So Gregory Brown focused on being their for his family.  And now as a father and husband, he kept working on his dream.  Brown kept playing, trying out for teams including a trip to Idaho and the NBDL tryouts. Of the 300 to work out 32 earned contracts.  He was ranked 54th.  No contract, but competing  well with players who had enjoyed full college careers bolstered his confidence.

And now, through hard work Gregory Brown’s dream has come true.  He signed with the Scranton  Wilkes-Barre Steamers of the PBL and leaves Thanksgiving Thursday for the start of a career.   

During this holiday season as we reflect on what is good in our lives, be thankful for those that ignore hardships and patronizing expectations to overcome and achieve.  And maybe the stories of Jameel McClain and Gregory Brown will help a kid out there who wants to break free, know that it can be done.

Top 25 Ballot 11/20/11
November 22, 2011

The top five remained the same for me.  I dropped Duke to 8 as the Blue Devils have, at the very least, looked vulnerable. Naturally, in Memphis’ 1st challenge of the season, after I moved the Tigers to 6, they lose to Michigan in Maui.   Early season polls, challenging to say the least.  Later today I’m posting a bunch of pics from the last week.  Had a few interesting stops…   Here’s my ballot this week, as always, have at it.

1)      North Carolina

2)      Kentucky

3)      Ohio State

4)      Syracuse

5)      Connecticut

6)      Louisville

7)      Memphis

8)      Duke

9)      Baylor

10)  Xavier

11)  Wisconsin

12)  Kansas

13)  Pittsburgh

14)  Vanderbilt

15)  Alabama

16)  Florida

17)  Cleveland State

18)  Michigan

19)  Arizona

20)  Mississippi State

21)  Florida State

22)  Gonzaga

23)  Texas A&M

24)  California

25)  Marquette

Top 25 Ballot
November 15, 2011

College basketball, as I referenced earlier, enjoys all eyes that love the sport.  And the season begins with an unprecedented bang.  North Carolina and Michigan State playing on the USS Carl Vinson offered imagery never before seen.  Then tonight begins another 24 hour marathon hoops (you may follow along in live blog form with A Dash of Dachille).  The showcase of the 12 game outing is Kentucky vs Kansas at Madison Square Garden. An  unbelievable matchup for mid November.

Closer to home, I had the pleasure of watching the first half between Coppin State and Loyola at Reitz Arena Monday.  I can’t get enough of Jimmy Patsos.  The minister of bombast, Patsos already sounds completely horse two games in.

Jimmy Patsos: 8th year at Loyola

He has a nice team that will compete for a MAAC title.

Still a ways to go for the Top 25, here’s my ballot this week along with this week’s finished poll underneath. Let me know what you think.

A.P. Top 25 Ballot 11/13/11
1. North Carolina
2. Kentucky
3. Ohio State
4. Connecticut
5. Syracuse
6. Louisville
7. Duke
8. Memphis
9. Pittsburgh
10. Baylor
11. Kansas
12. Florida
13. Arizona
14. Xavier
15. Wisconsin
16. Vanderbilt
17. Cleveland State
18. Belmont
19. Texas A&M
20. Michigan
21. Florida State
22. Gonzaga
23. Alabama
24. Temple
25. California

A.P. Poll 11/13/11
1 North Carolina (62) 2-0 1,620
2 Kentucky 1-0 1,519
3 Ohio State (1) 1-0 1,486
4 Connecticut (2) 1-0 1,429
5 Syracuse 1-0 1,358
6 Duke 2-0 1,274
7 Florida 1-0 1,132
8 Louisville 2-0 1,122
9 Pittsburgh 2-0 1,084
10 Memphis 0-0 1,017
11 Baylor 2-0 962
12 Kansas 1-0 835
13 Xavier 1-0 806
14 Wisconsin 1-0 801
15 Arizona 3-0 607
16 Alabama 1-0 497
17 Michigan 1-0 475
18 Vanderbilt 1-1 454
19 Texas A&M 2-0 444
20 Cincinnati 1-0 410
21 Marquette 1-0 406
22 Gonzaga 1-0 311
23 California 2-0 295
24 Missouri 1-0 200
25 Florida State 1-0 132

Others receiving votes: Temple 79, Michigan State 78, Washington 47, Cleveland State 43, New Mexico 34, UCLA 34, Belmont 21, Creighton 19, Villanova 19, Texas 18, Drexel 13, UNLV 9, Saint Mary’s 6, Purdue 5, San Diego State 3, George Mason 3, Harvard 3, Butler 3, Long Beach State 3, Utah State 3, Illinois 2, Marshall 1, Minnesota 1, Akron 1, West Virginia 1

We need a break, Cleveland Browns misery to the rescue
November 10, 2011

There is no denying what a terrible week this has been and the emotional toll taken on anyone that cares about child sexual abuse, Penn State, college football, sports in general..   Here to help provide a diversion,  Mike Polk from Cleveland.. Enjoy.

(Thanks to where I 1st saw this AWESOME video)

Arrogance and Blindness lead to Horror and Outrage, a Penn State saga
November 9, 2011

I begin writing this at 2:35 EST Wednesday afternoon, knowing that by the time I finish, this sordid story will take another horrifying twist or embarrassing turn.

The furor surrounding Jerry Sandusky’s alleged evil has turned its focus to the iconic head coach Joe Paterno.  JoePa deserves all the attention right now, and then some. We’ll get to that.

First though, I can’t stop thinking about the boys, the victims.  And please, Penn State fans chanting “Joe Must Stay!” remember, Paterno is not a victim.

Joe Paterno: courtesy Patriot-News

Boys aged 8 to 11, numbering at least 9 right now, have allegedly been assaulted.  And given that these children have no ulterior motive, and an eyewitness account comes from PSU assistant coach Mike McQueary, and Sandusky was overheard by police in 1998 apologizing to a mother of a victim, I think we can safely assume some manner of actual malfeasance occurred.

I don’t believe you have to be a parent to properly sympathize with the victims, but as a father of three small children, this story eats at my soul.  I am so sad for kids that may never come close to reaching their full potential because they have lost the ability to wholly trust..  We all lose our innocence at some point, but to have it ripped away in the most personal and violent manner breaks my heart.

The legal process will dole out punishment in due time. The moral process however endures no such time constraints.

Jerry Sandusky, if guilty of a tenth of his alleged crimes, will rot in prison.  He is vermin that deserves far worse, and is worthy of discussion no more.

Joe Paterno  though, earns much more discussion.  Today he fights to leave Penn State in the manner he feels entitled.  Damn the fact that his willful blindness allowed Sandusky’s alleged crimes to continue.

Paterno, after not meeting with the media this week (I don’t care who said a press conference was canceled, if the lord of Happy Valley wants to talk to the media he can) issued a statement today:

“This is a tragedy. It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more. My goals now are to keep my commitments to my players and staff and finish the season with dignity and determination. And then I will spend the rest of my life doing everything I can to help this university.”

I wanted to hear from Paterno in the hopes I had misjudged his potential role in this debacle.  I couldn’t find a reason to think a man of his stature, the most powerful person in State College, would hide behind “protocol” when it came to the rape of a child.  I hoped he could offer some explanation that made sense.

Instead we read of hindsight.  What more did he need to see? If you believe the grand jury testimony from Mike McQueary, his former quarterback while badly shaken told Paterno how his former defensive coordinator raped a 10 year old boy.  If you just believe Paterno, McQueary was a shaken mess telling him a story of “something” between Sandusky and a 10 year old boy in a shower?

Paterno then reports to Athletics Directory Tim Curry his tale from McQueary, washes his hands, and puts the blinders back on.  I guess it makes sense that he needed hindsight as Paterno had his eyes closed for 9 years.

The end of Paterno’s statement crystalizes the myopic world in which he lives. When done as coach, he will focus his efforts on making Penn State better.  How about focusing efforts on the children Paterno allegedly allowed to be sexually abused because he kept his mouth shut?

I still can’t fathom how someone seemingly so obsessed with doing things the right way would turn his back on child abuse.  My wife, who often sees things on a grander scale than me, offered not an excuse, but a possible explanation.

She brought up the fact that Paterno was raised in a time when things like sexual abuse simply weren’t discussed. The rape of a boy was terrible, but more importantly, shameful.

I immediately thought sure, but this is 2011.  These kinds of horrors are no longer to be ignored.  But think harder Pete.  The campus of Penn State and the region have changed relatively little since 1966 when Joe Paterno became head coach. It is a small, insular community run by a beloved and seemingly benevolent football dictator.  The only change to his fiefdom came in the number of seats at Beaver Stadium and the budget for his football program.

The reason though matters little to the boys who suffered at the hands of a vile predator, and the institution that ignored his crimes.

That’s why Joe Paterno should not retire at the end of the season, but be fired right now.  His willful blindness and chosen ignorance betrayed all the things he claims to hold dear.   Paterno wants to go out on his terms.  With a career that reaches into six decades I can understand that desire.  That however is a right he forfeited by choosing the protection of Penn State’s “Happy Valley” image over the safety of children.