Saturday, December 18, 2004

Ohio welcomes Frank Solich

Well, in the shock of all shocks, Ohio University signalled to the college football world on Thursday that it is interested in fielding a real football team. OU hired former Nebraska coach Frank Solich to be the new head coach in Athens.

I think that everyone involved in Solich's hiring ought to be commended. This guy never had a fair shake at Nebraska, where he followed the legendary and unbeatabvle Tom Osbourne. The shoes Solich had to fill in Lincoln were simply too large for any decent coach to fill properly.

Solich is an Ohio native, and people in Athens will be a lot more forgiving than people in Nebraska. For many Bobcats, a winning season would be enough to guarantee Solich a job for life.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Preparing for a Christmas party

My wife and I are presently preparing for the first Christmas Party we will ever host together, being held tomorrow night at our place. We are excited about having our good friends come to our home and celebrate this wonderful season with us. Everyone attending the party will be bringing something to eat or drink that everyone can enjoy. My wife and I are doing the lion's share of the work, she'll be making chicken wings, two kinds of punch, cookies, and perhaps homemade candy.

Getting ready for a party can be a real pain, though, and we've learned that the hard way that doing this right takes a lot of effort. What's more, we have a long list of people we want to invite to the party, but we couldn't invite nearly as many as we wanted because our apartment is a lovely place, but reality demands that we face the fact that it is small. Hence, we were put in the unenviable position of picking and choosing who to invite. We have no favorites..we simply based our list on who among our friends was most likely going to be able to come anyway. (Our guesses proved to be largely correct.)

Our party experience hasn't been a perfect one, but it is our hope that when the party does finally happen tomorrow, those attending truly enjoy themselves, and that they'll want to come back.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Where are the Nationals now?

The poor Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals/Whatever-Team-they-are-today may still be without a home and out of luck in 2005. As it turns out, the District of Columbia may fall through on its agreement to provide for public funding for the renovation of RFK stadium for the Nationals to play in, followed by a new stadium to be ready for use the following year. D.C. City Council amended the stadium legislation in such a way as it now requires at least half the financing for the new park to be private money. Major League Baseball is saying "no dice" to the new legislation. "The legislation approved by the District of Columbia City Council last night does not reflect the agreement we signed and relied upon after being invited by District leaders to consider Washington as a home for Major League Baseball," said Bob DuPuy, MLB's president and chief operating officer, in a statement that was issued Wednesday evening. "The legislation is inconsistent with our carefully negotiated agreement and is wholly unacceptable to Major League Baseball."

DuPuy's subsequent statement places the whole future of the movement to put baseball back in the nation's capital in serious doubt. In fact, judging by what was said next, officials at MLB offices in New York must be operating under the assumption that it is not going to happen at all.

"Because our stadium agreement provides for a December 31, 2004 deadline, we will not entertain offers for permanent relocation of the club until that deadline passes. In the meantime, the club's baseball operations will proceed, but its business and promotional activities will cease until further notice. We thank the fans of Washington, D.C. for their support and enthusiasm, but given the present uncertainty, any ticket purchaser who entrusted us with a deposit may request a refund through the club's ticket office."

On the one hand, I have always been of the opinion that stadiums built to house privately-owned teamsshould not be financed with public money. On the other hand, I am a realist, and I understand fully what the nature of economics in major league sports is like today. As much as I don't believe stadiums for private teams should be built with public money, I know that a major league team won't come to my city or stay there unless the owners reach a stadium deal with local authorities. Unfortunately, not every city can be like Green Bay and own its sports team as a public trust. It would be better for professional sports if more cities could afford to emulate that model.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

More info on Buckeye grade padding

For more information on what appears to be a pattern of grade padding and abuse, it may help to read the story of Sammy Maldonado. His experience seems to buck-up Clarett's story in a significant manner.

It's time for Ohio State to come clean

Everyone who knows me well knows what a huge Ohio State football fan I am. Each fall, I eat, sleep, breathe, and live the Buckeyes as if there is little else in the temporal world that actually matters. I'd go so far as to say that Nicole is right when she says that I am obsessed. For many Ohio boys, it is a healthy obsession, one of which dreams are made. I wasn't physically able to play college football, and I knew this from an early age, and yet, like so many other little boys who grew up in these parts, that did not stop me from fantasizing about being the quarterback who threw the winning touchdown against Michigan, or being the one to get the winning score to win a National Championship in the Rose Bowl. Football is the non-Sunday religion here, and the church meets every Friday night in home town fields all over this state, with Saturday afternoon in Columbus being the rough religious equivalent to St. Peter's Square in Rome.

With football being such an ever-present aspect of life here, it is easy to see how some people can get carried away. It has been said that if you live in a small town in Ohio, to be considered someone who is a part of the community, you had better know who the quarterback of the local football team is, how many yards he threw for in last week's game, what his favorite food is, and who he took to the homecoming dance. We are a people consumed, to some degree or another, with an oblong ball made of pigskin. The center of the consumption for many people in Ohio is the Buckeye football program.

Because of the seriousness with which Buckeye fans take the team, the outside reader can only imagine the jubilation that I felt, along with so many other people, when Ohio State won the National Championship two years ago. All of our longsuffering years waiting for a chance to be a part of the championship party were at an end, and they came to an end in an honorable way with an honorable coach, Jim Tressel, so we believed.

There was a dark shadow hovering over our joy, however. Maurice Clarett, a young man of barely 19 years old, said he wanted to leave the program as a freshman to try his hand at the NFL draft. The NFL wisely said no, of course, and so did the court system, by and large. Maurice's odyssey, however, really took a turn for the worse the week before the National Championship Game at the Fiesta Bowl in 2002-03, when Clarett called Ohio State administrators "liars" for saying that Maurice had not filled out the proper paperwork to go home to attend the funeral of a friend who had been shot to death on the mean streets of Youngstown, Ohio. Clarett's name became mud, blackball for many of us who took the program seriously. His reputation dipped among NFL GM's, and his football career may be all but over.

There is more to it than that, Clarett told Tom Friend of ESPN The Magazine last month. Clarett made serious allegations of academic fraud on the part of officials at Ohio State. Clarett says that not only was his schedule made for him (and, he says, this was the case with most of the other players on the team), but it was crafted in such a way that it was "friendly" toward players, and was designed not for their academic advancement, but specifically designed to keep them academically eligible. It is true that such practices are widespread in NCAA D-IA football, but what makes this a bit different is that not only was it a cupcake schedule, and not only did Clarett's academic advisor create it to be so, but that he was "hooked up" with tutors who would write papers and do work for him.

Normally, I might be inclined to dismiss Clarett's allegation, considering this young man's known history of taking money from boosters and having a sense of entitlement that goes back to his days at Warren Harding High School. He has been known, after all, to be less than truthful about his involvement with boosters, and even been known to lie to the police. Clarett alleges, however, that members of the coaching staff at Ohio State set him up with boosters who provided him with cars, money, even women. Clarett says that Coach Jim Tressel turned a blind eye to all of this, even introduced him to a few of these people, then said "I don't want to know what you know" about what the boosters did for players. Clarett alleges that among other things, he got high-paying, "do-nothing" jobs over the summer. (It isn't a violation of the rules to have a job over the summer per se, it is a violation of NCAA rules to pay players more than a normal employee would make, which is what Clarett says was happening...special privileges from "special" people.) All of this, says Maurice, while the administration turned a blind eye.

It would be one thing if Maurice Clarett were the only major player making such allegations, but now other former players are backing up Maurice Clarett's story. If some of these former stars are to be believed (and many are people of integrity) the culture of privilege is one that stretches all the way back to the Earle Bruce era, and that the things Maurice Clarett describes happening at Ohio State are normal procedure for players on the team. Former Ohio State running back Robert Smith has said he believes Clarett, although he has said he doesn't think the coaching staff is fully aware of the scope of the abuse, and Smith claims that the booster culture Clarett describes has been happening for a lot longer than Clarett (or Coach Tressel) have been around.

If these allegations are indeed true, the constitute a major series of NCAA rules violations. Perhaps worse, if what Maurice Clarett says has happened at Ohio State proves correct, he has been used as the fall guy to save the neck of a program that has utterly no institutional control, and he only lied, he said, to save his coaches the embarrassment. Clarett says he wants to come clean and save his own reputation. He admits that this is, in part, a move to save his own career, but no one can really blame this young man for that. He does claim, after all, that Ohio State Athletic Director Andy Geiger did a hatchet job on him to sour his reputation with NFL GM's. That really can't be proven, but whether this is true or not, it can't be denied that the mess at Ohio State hasn't helped Clarett's reputation one bit.

What is most disheartening for those of us who love Ohio State football is that whether the trophy is removed or not, this charges put a sour not on our beloved 2002 National Championship. It can be legitimately argued, perhaps, that some NCAA rules are patently ridiculous, and allow major universities to make millions of dollars off of these young men, all while players not only see no monetary benefit, but can't even borrow a car from a booster to take their girlfriend out for a nice dinner. Those are legitimate issues and complaints, considering that these people put their bodies on the line to enrich the universities for which they play. That there is a need to reform the rules to preserve the status of "amateur" for the vast majority of players who won't play on Sunday, but allow them to have some privileges because of the countless hours they put in each year training, practicing and playing for their good old team while others make a buck off of them. (Most players and former players who seek reform aren't asking to be formally paid, they just want to be allowed some recognition for the services they give a university.)

Nonetheless, the present rules are as they are, and Ohio State, just as other universities, is bound to abide by them. If the rules were broken, the only way for Buckeye football to preserve its great honor and long tradition is to come completely clean. Anything else would tarnish our championship, destroy the trust of the fans of the state of Ohio, and forever scar the name and honor of Buckeye football.

Two great blogs I recommend

From some responses I have gotten to posts I make here, I have gathered that I do have a readership for this weblog. Whether you generally agree with the things I write here, or whether you think I am a bat out of Hell, I am glad you are reading. If the sort of content you find here is the kind of content that interests you, I have a couple of other blogs I'd like to recommend to you.

The first is a blog that belongs to my long-time college friend, former Dayton-area bluegrass radio host and current National Review music critic Aaron Harris. His blog is called Listen to the Lion, and it is a running commentary on politics, life, music, and culture from his eyes. Like me, he tries to interject a bit of local flavor into his posts. Unlike me, Aaron formerly interned for the Associated Press in Jerusalem, so his commentary is seasoned with some very interesting life experiences unique to his station as a well-travelled young bachelor journalist.

The second recommended blog is a brand new one with its first post about to be up this very day. It is the blog of my fomer radio colleage and co-host Matt "Stat-Man" Daley, called The Stat Man's Rumblings. Matt has a decent mind for political writing, but he is one of the best sports commentators I know of that isn't on ESPN. If you want a fresh perspective on what's going on in the world in general, and the sports world in particular, I really recommend checking his blog frequently.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

A response on the nature of Holy Matrimony

I frequently get plenty of feedback from my regular column on American Daily. I received one that was anonymous and unsigned about my column on marriage and divorce. It read as follows:

"I'm very glad that you encourage participation in covenant marriage. It is way to easy to say no to the commitments we make in marriage. But what exactly do you mean when you say, 'save marriage from the gay agenda'?My agenda (as a gay man) is to protect my family in the same way that you do. Are my concerns for my family something that marriage needs protection from? I don't understand why conservatives wish to exclude certain families from the same rights and protections that others have. I would think that you would want to encourage familes to stay together."

I thought this deserved some level of response.

It seems to me that some people in our society operate under the notion that marriage is a contract between two people, and that it can therefore be entered into by anyone seeking to enter into a contract. Since it is just a contract, it can therefore be entered into by a man and a woman, two men, or two women. Operating under the assumption that it is a contract, into which people of age are able to enter in a binding way, why limit marriage to two of anything, why not three, or four, or as many as those entering into the contract may choose to allow to enter into said contract? If one group of two people entering into that contract choose to limit the participants in the contract to two people, they may do so. If other participants in a marriage contract wish to open that contract to multiple signatories, why should they not be allowed? It is, after all, just a contract, and everyone should be allowed to enter into contracts, and have the same rights as everyone else, regardless of their sexual orientation, right?

Or is marriage more than a mere contract...

What is apparent (and becomes moreso every day) is that the two sides of this debate really come from two different and totally opposing perspectives. One side believes marriage to be essentially a contract, and that two (or more) parties may enter into it at will, and should not be denied that right. The love of two people should be the only factor in determining whether such a contract, heretofore known as marriage, should be entered into.

The other side believes marriage, heretofore known as Holy Matrimony, is a sacred and holy sacrament, designed by God for the procreation and advancement of the human family. It exists as the divine means by which the Almighty demonstrates his love for humanity, as well as the means which He intended for the propogation of the human race. The family was indended as a model of the Church as a whole, indeed the family, Pope John Paul II has insisted, is a sort of "domestic church."

Nearly all orthodox Christians accept that there was such a thing as the "first marriage," whether they accept a literal six day creation or not. The Biblical account of that first marriage can be found in Genesis 2:18-24:

And the Lord God said: It is not good for man to be alone: let us make him a help like unto himself.
And the Lord God having formed out of the ground all the beasts of the earth, and all the fowls of the air, brought them to Adam to see what he would call them: for whatsoever Adam called any living creature the same is its name.

And Adam called all the beasts by their names, and all the fowls of the air, and all the cattle of the field: but for Adam there was not found a helper like himself.
Then the Lord God cast a deep sleep upon Adam: and when he was fast asleep, he took one of his ribs, and filled up flesh for it.
And the Lord God built the rib which he took from Adam into a woman: and brought her to Adam.
And Adam said: This now is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man.
Wherefore a man shall leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they shall be two in one flesh.

Now this is the nature of Matrimony if one believes the Sacred Scriptures. The nature of marriage as a mere contract (the prevalent opinion in society today, if one believes the statistics of our high divorce rate) is the position embraced by those who believe marriage is a mere matter of "love."

There is really no compromise between the two, either people believe in one or they believe in the other.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Willingham to Washington--Charlie Weis to coach Notre Dame

Father Edward Malloy, President of Notre Dame, said he was upset the university fired Tyrone Willingham. "In my 18 years, there have only been two days that I've been embarrassed to be president of Notre Dame: Tuesday and Wednesday of last week," Malloy said. I don't retract what I said about Willingham in this weblog one whit, but I will say that it says something about the integrity of the man that he has such backing. It also says something about how things actually work in South Bend when the President of Notre Dame has no say-so in the hiring and firing of a football coach. There is little doubt that this was an alumni and booster-inspired move. As head coach at Notre Dame, Tyrone Willingham didn't impress many people (myself included), but there were also many who thought highly of Willingham as a human being. One individual I talked to put it bluntly, saying "[Willingham] did everything at ND except win."
Regular readers will recall, however, that I also said I thought Ty Willingham would get another shot at coaching. That happened in short order. He'll return to the Pac-10 to coach the Washington Huskies. Word has it that a lot of people up in the Northwest are excited about the chance Willingham has to be a success at Washington. Considering that he came from Stanford to begin with, this is a bit of a homecoming for him, and he is probably better suited to coach there.

There are some mixed reviews about ND's new coaching choice, Charlie Weis. Much of the sports media is making this out to be a sort of Rudy story, as if Weis is the darling of South Bend today. One ND fan I spoke with today (who also happens to be one of the most well-informed college football minds in this area) said that Weis has "all the charisma of watching paint dry," and said he doesn't think ND boosters and alumni will give Weis much of a honeymoon period. (The same source was a believer that the Irish should have hired Bills offensive co-ordinator Tom Clements.) I don't think Weis will last five years in South Bend...but as my old radio colleague Matt Daley said "considering they couldn't get their first choice, Notre Dame did extremely well, considering he was the offensive co-ordinator for a team that won two of the last three Super Bowls." We'll wait and see. For ND's sake, and for his own, I hope Weis does as well as the press seems to think he will.

ESPN Wire Service contributed some information to this post.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

No greater man born of woman

In today's Gospel (Matthew 11:1-11), Jesus tells his listeners that up to that point in history, there had not been a greater man born of woman than John the Baptist. (I think it is fair to assume that Christ was practicing the virtue of humility by not including himself in that statement.)

What was it that made John so great a prophet? What made him fit to be the one who would prepare the way of the Lord? I am of the opinion that what made John a great man and a great prophet was that John not only believed in the message he was proclaiming, he stuck to it. John could not be swayed, and as Jesus was keen to point out in the verses subsequent to this reading, John's enemies were the same enemies Jesus had. These people weren't only religious leaders, but just about anyone from soldiers to tax collectors who didn't want to hear the truth. Most importantly, none of the people who were the enemies of John the Baptist wanted to be confronted with the reality of their own need for repentance. People like the lustful and power-hungry Herod Antipas, who feared John, but hated the message that he was living in adultery by marrying the wife of another man, more specifically his brother. (As we know, Herod's brother's wife hated the message even worse. She ultimately persuaded her daughter to dance for Herod, and then convince him to bring her John's head on a platter.

John was beheaded because people didn't want to hear his message of the need for their own repentance. Many of us today also don't like to hear of that need for repentance as it applies to us. Often, when we are confronted with this need for repentance, we accuse the messenger of being unloving or un-Christian, because they have bothered to point out that we need to get our lives right with God, and put God first in our life.

This Advent, let us as a people remember that we each have a need for repentance, and if a messenger points out the things in our life that need to be made right, let's not shoot the messenger, let's amend our life!

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