Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sports Saturday: 11/12/11

College football

There are approximately 10 million opinion pieces floating around on the internet right now regarding the Jerry Sandusky child molestation charges, the Penn State football program, the university itself, and of course, Joe Paterno. But I'm not going to get into all that, though, because that's all been beaten to death by people who are better at writing than I am. Instead...well, as someone who has followed college football closely for well over a decade now, I've reached my breaking point. I was already getting there when the season began, but now, I've had enough. Basically, it comes down to this: college football has gotten WAY too big. This idea that a university's football program, the money that comes with it, and the people that are associated with it, are somehow so important that it makes it worth repeatedly violating NCAA rules, or - worse - covering up child rape for a whole decade...well, it makes me wonder. How can I even watch college football, knowing what goes on behind the scenes?

I had already kind of resigned myself to the fact that all of the successful teams in college football are breaking NCAA rules in one way or the other. When it's just a matter of secret "under the table" payments or benefits to players, I can live with that. Can't really fault individual programs for trying to gain a competitive edge when the only penalty is "vacated wins". I mean, what is that? And college football is hardly the only sport with occasional widespread rule-breaking. Rampant cheating goes in cycles; eventually, the governing body (in this case the NCAA) will catch up and get everyone in line (e.g. MLB with steroids). I can also live with the NCAA pretending that college football is an amateur competition, when really, it's not. (Except in that the players don't get paid, of course. At least not officially.) College football is big business, now more so than ever. It's almost as big as the NFL is these days. Conference realignment was cool and interesting at first, but now it's just getting annoying, and when you have Boise State joining the "Big East", it only reinforces the whole "big business" aspect of the sport. And the BCS has always been crap, since the day it was born. But I've lived with all of college football's flaws for years, because 1) I have pride in my two alma maters, both of which have good college football teams, and 2) because football is entertaining to watch.

But now...yikes. Penn State was supposed to be one of the "good schools" that didn't live on the fringes of the NCAA rulebook and/or moral compass. So much for that, eh? And for what? To protect the football program? Regardless of whether the football program or the university administration are to blame, the way I see it, this is directly tied to football. Let's say Jerry Sandusky was a trusted, tenured university professor with zero impact on the football program. Do his child raping habits still get swept under the rug? Maybe, but probably not. God forbid we let this affect our storied football team! And it's not as if things like this happen outside the football department, right? Or do we just not hear about those? Is the will to win in college football so important that some people in positions of influence are even willing to overlook this? If so, then that is very, very sad.

So, I guess the point I'm trying to get across is this. I've had it with college football, and I am no longer emotionally invested in it. Sure, it would be nice if Florida State beat rival Miami (FL) today (Sat 3:30p, ABC), but the winner of that game will probably wind up vacating the win at some point anyway, so who cares?

As for Nebraska at Penn State - Sat 12:00p, ESPN: yeah, whatever. I'm kind of ashamed to be a college football fan at this point. But I am NOT ashamed to be a Penn State alumnus. I met a lot of great people at Penn State University, all of which uphold the highest moral standard, and none of which are affiliated with the football program.

College basketball

While still profitable, college basketball isn't quite the corrupt beast that college football is. And, they actually have a playoff at the end of the season! I don't think I'm even close to the breaking point with college basketball yet, so it's still more than watchable. Which is good, because part of the reason I didn't renew NHL Center Ice for 2011-12 was because I planned on watching more college basketball instead.

But aside from Friday's "aircraft carrier" game between North Carolina and Michigan State, I don't really see anything on the calendar that is all that appealing to me this weekend. So...we'll wait another week for this.

NFL

I am looking forward to this Sunday's Jaguars/Colts game way more than I should. Either the Jaguars win (which is always good to see), or the Colts win and decrease their odds in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes. It's win-win! But for the record, "Jaguars win" is a more preferable outcome. In fact, if they lose this game, I think they might as well fire Jack Del Rio now. Jacksonville at Indianapolis - Sun 1:00p, DirecTV 708

Other games of interest:
Tennessee at Carolina - Sun 1:00p, WRAL 5: Watching the Panthers, sometimes I forget that they have the same miserable record as the Jaguars. I guess good offense + bad defense looks more impressive than good defense + horrible offense.
Buffalo at Dallas - Sun 1:00p, DirecTV 704: Is the Bills' season going up in smoke?
Detroit at Chicago - Sun 4:15p, DirecTV 711: With the Lions actually playing well, football on Thanksgiving won't be so bad this year.
New England at NY Jets - Sun 8:20p, NBC: Hey, look, the Jets are on national television again! Barf. And next week, not only are the Jets in the NFL Network Thursday night game, but it's against Tim Tebow! Barf.

(Other locally televised games: NO/ATL - Sun 1:00p, WRAZ 50; NYG/SF - Sun 4:15p, WRAZ 50)

NHL

Time for my half-assed Carolina Hurricanes analysis of the week! Thank goodness for Jeff Skinner and Cam Ward (the latter of whom I think is a little underappreciated - do Hurricanes fans take him for granted?), because I think the Hurricanes would be a hopeless bottom feeder without them. Eric Staal has been a colossal overpaid disappointment so far this season. How the heck do you accumulate a plus/minus rating of -16 by the first week of November??? Well...still plenty of time to work this out, I guess. Pittsburgh at Carolina - Sat 7:00p, Fox Sports Carolinas

I'm very disappointed that NHL Network has opted to stop airing "Hockey Night in Canada" and instead air more of the American teams that Versus already shows plenty of as it is. Is this to spite me for opting out of Center Ice for this season? New Jersey at Washington - Sat 7:00p, NHL Network

Finally, there is Wednesday night's Philadelphia/Tampa Bay game, in which the Flyers' response to the Lightning's "neutral zone trap" defensive scheme was to stand there and do nothing. Who looks worse here - the Lightning for playing boring defense, or the Flyers for not advancing the puck? My take: the Flyers look worse. Both teams were within the rules, but I don't see how doing what the Flyers did actually helped them win the game. (The Flyers ended up losing.) Obviously, the NHL will need to do something about it if this becomes a chronic thing.

Auto racing

Yep...I can't help myself but talk about the points system again. Carl Edwards has zero wins in the Chase; Tony Stewart has four. But who's leading the points? Edwards is! And it's not like Stewart's non-win finishes have been terrible, either (7th, 8th, 15th, 25th). Even if Edwards wins the Cup with no wins (and only one on the entire season), I don't expect any retalitatory point system changes like we saw after Matt Kenseth won the Cup in uninspiring fashion in 2003. Fact is, if you're going to heavily stagger the points system at the top (which I have always been in favor of) and reward winning more than you penalize a bad finish, then you're leaving the door open for somebody to dominate and get a big points lead. I don't see anything wrong with that, but NASCAR seems insistent that EVERY championship battle come down to the final race. And that's why the point system is how it is. NASCAR Sprint Cup at Phoenix - Sun 3:00p, ESPN

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