Remembering Tony Gwynn and my grandfather

It was a summer night in 2002, and as I settled into the batter’s box with what felt like a thousand people surrounding me and my rapidly deteriorating grandfather slumped into a lawn chair behind home plate, I didn’t think about the pressure of a championship game or the overwhelming desire to give the strongest man I ever knew one triumphant final memory. I thought of Tony Gwynn.

I thought of Tony Gwynn virtually every single at-bat and it was important for me not to break habit. So, as I settled into the box, hoping to spark my team to a Pony League championship, thus capping what may have been the greatest baseball summer of my life, I took aim for right field.

Being a small kid–one of the smallest boys, or girls, really, in my class–I always had underwhelming power in the sense that I didn’t have any power at all. So from about the time I was old enough to understand Tony Gwynn’s greatness, I tried to emulate his style.

I figured that if I could become a right-handed version of Tony Gwynn in the batter’s box, flipping singles over the second baseman’s head and through the hole on the right side–my own 3.5 hole–I might be able to hang around the game just long enough to call myself a ballplayer.

I wore right field out that summer, spinning softly hit liners gently through/over the infield, occasionally getting lucky enough to have the ball kick into the short corner of McKinley Park so that I could leg out a double and describe it to my friends and family the next day as if I had hammered the ball into the gap.

On this night, however, as I tried to think of Tony Gwynn and how I wanted to attack this at-bat just as Tony would have done, I had another image of Tony sweetly crawl into my brain. I saw that famed exchange at the 1999 All Star Game between Tony and his friend Ted Williams, and I thought deeply about those two enjoying such a beautiful moment when it was clear that Ted didn’t have many of those moments left.

I stepped out of the batter’s box and looked back at my grandfather in awe of the spectacle. At the time, I wasn’t sure if he had any clue that the little boy at the plate was his grandson, but I could tell he was happy.

I stepped back in and flipped a single into right field. We won the game 5-4.

Not even a month later, Ted Williams was gone. The following spring, my grandfather was gone, too, a day after his 82nd birthday. He had cake and remembered my grandmother’s face before a heart attack took away his pain.

In the months between the game and his death, I visited my grandfather only a handful of times.  I wanted to maintain an image I always had of him at the dinner table, wearing a short-sleeved shirt, farmer’s tanned from a hard day’s work in the fields and asking someone to pass the salt or the butter in a way that only he could:

With a grunt.

I didn’t want to let the Alzheimer’s take that away from me.

However, the last couple times I saw him, during a time when I was told he typically didn’t remember anything, I had the luxury of him remembering me instantly. More specifically, I had the luxury of him remembering that championship game.

He didn’t know that I was emulating Tony Gwynn up there. By that point, he didn’t know who Tony Gwynn was, if he ever had (my grandfather was never a huge sports guy).

He didn’t know that I had developed an approach to hitting based off some contact hitter in an era where all any of the rest of my friends wanted to do was hit home runs. He just knew that it was me out there, and I had “hit that ball.”

Every time I think of Tony Gwynn now, I think of this moment that he gave to me. I think of my grandfather.

When I heard he had passed yesterday morning, I was instantly taken back to that night.

I never met Tony Gwynn. I never got to show him my appreciation for unwittingly giving me one of the best moments of my childhood. I never got to thank him for being the person I most wanted to be on a baseball field.

Many more people did know him, though, and he’s been eulogized beautifully by dozens who did have the privilege. They all paint a similar picture: One of a great baseball player and an even better human being.

I don’t have a personal story to add. There’s no little anecdote where I tell you about a time I met Tony and he made me smile. I just have a summer night in 2002 that will now ALWAYS remind me of Tony Gwynn and my grandfather.

I just wish I’d had the chance to say thank you… to both of them.

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Critical thinking confused with wild speculation in light of Sandy Hook conspiracy bullshit

In light of all the links to that awful Sandy Hook conspiracy theory video, I hopped on my high horse and wrote an 800-word Facebook status. Say what you will about the triviality of social media interaction, but at no other time, short of me going on the mic in front of a large crowd, can I reach that sort of an audience. So, here is that status in its entirety, because I think it’s an important conversation to have:

Dear newly-found Sandy Hook conspiracists,

Before you post that link to that video you just saw on somebody else’s timeline and had to share because it was so “eye-opening”, think about the consequences of A) How insanely dumb it really is, and B) How insanely desensitized it is. The video itself actively implores you to do your own research, so please do before you post something so ridiculous that it questions the motives of a parent based on two-minutes of soundless video of a mother who is smiling two days after the shooting.

I saw that Anderson Cooper interview, you know what she was smiling about? SHE WAS REMINISCING ABOUT THE INNOCENCE OF HER DEAD CHILD. You know, telling anecdotal stories. Nearly half that video relies on the assumption that people grieve in a linear fashion. C’mon. Have you ever lost somebody? Did you cry exactly the same way the person next to you cried? Did every single person affected go weeks without smiling?

I’ll give you this, the video raises some eyebrows in terms of all the differences in reports out there. But, the reality of the situation is that the only thing you can really draw from all that is, there are a lot of REALLY bad journalists out there. I mean, it’s a tough job to begin with because you have to rely on people to help you craft the story and advance the narrative, and, you know… PEOPLE ARE REALLY DUMB.

They just don’t know very much about anything, and a lot of them aren’t exactly skilled orators. So they wind up saying something based on, not only their own experiences, but their own deduction and reasoning. The result is often factually inaccurate, and it’s not because they’re trying to deceive you, it’s because they’re dumb and were generally misunderstood. Children, for instance, really haven’t had a lot of life experiences, so they don’t know a lot of things. A 7-yr old that a camera catches coming out of a massacre at an elementary school probably hasn’t touched on rhetorical figures of speech in English class, so when you ask him what it sounded like and he says, “It sounded like a door was being kicked in,” that’s probably what he thinks a gunshot sounds like. Were you expecting him to say something that would be confused with a passage from a Tom Clancy novel? Or, maybe someone kicked a door in.

Some people are just crazy. Like that guy who was in the Screen Actors Guild. I’m not a clinical psychologist, so I won’t say with certainty, but in my limited dealing with crazy people, I’ll say that guy seemed a little on the kooky side to me.

Then of course there’s that chief medical examiner, otherwise known as a coroner. You know, a guy who works with dead people. Ask anyone in the medical profession what the general consensus on coroners is. Go ahead, ask them. The general consensus is that they’re weird people. A lot of times they’re uncomfortable with social situations, which is why they chose to apply their medical expertise to people who are already dead. Doesn’t that explain that awkward giggle and the headspin that the video plays like 19 times consecutively a little better than “The shooting either A) didn’t happen or B) was a major government conspiracy.” Doesn’t it? Also, as a medical examiner in a city of 30,000 people with a minuscule crime rate, excuse me if I don’t consider him a ballistics expert.

The point is, the people who made this video are asking you not to take anything anyone tells you at face value, while expecting you to accept their own conclusions at face value. Sure, they say you should do your own research, but they realize that the vast majority of the public won’t actually take the time. They’ll either write if off immediately as slander, or they’ll be scared, or sometimes even thrilled, into accepting it as a conspiracy.

Questioning authority is good. Postulating wildly and assuming the absolute worst (along with the most absurd) is bad.

This is long, I know, but I felt the need to respond and I think you’d be hard pressed to address a 30-minute video in 140 characters. Unless, of course, you just said something simple like “This is bullshit.” Unfortunately, I’m a little wordier than that. Blame my chosen profession.

Now, notice near the top that I said the video was “insanely dumb” and not you (the video posters.) That’s not normally my style, but I’m trying to muster as much civility as possible right now. Critical thinking is more important nowadays than ever. That video is NOT an example. If five people make it to the end of this, it’s worth it to me to fuck up your newsfeed. Even if you still think I’m an idiot.

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The NIU BCS Formula

The MAC Championship is under way, and after working for the past couple weeks on profiling Jordan Lynch in this ChicagoSide piece, I’m certainly intrigued by NIU’s story and their potential BCS chances.

I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I have a grasp on BCS algorithms any more than I do dark matter, but with Northern Illinois still in the hunt for a BCS bid, I been doin’ some figurin’.

Listening to pundits, it seems like NIU’s path into the BCS is complicated, and it’s certainly not a given. However, it’s very plausible and if the favorites in every game that affects NIU’s chances win, NIU will be right at either No. 16 or 17 in the BCS. It’s that 16th spot they’ll be banking on to punch their BCS ticket.

NIU currently sits at #21, but Michigan is the only idle team between 16 and 21 in the BCS standings. Everybody else has a game that will dramatically affect their ranking. Boise State and Texas play in late regular season matchups against Nevada and Kansas State, respectively, and UCLA plays Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship. Kent State, of course, takes on NIU tonight for the MAC Championship.

So, for NIU to qualify they need a few things to happen. Obviously they’ll need to win, but they’ll also need losses from Texas and Kansas State in their games. Meanwhile, Boise State is a virtual non-factor, as the Huskies should leapfrog the Broncos with a win regardless of if they win or lose.

It’s a daunting scenario at first glance, but, luckily for NIU, both Texas and UCLA are fairly heavy underdogs in their matchups. So, if things go as planned, that would leave NIU and Michigan jostling for the 16th and 17th positions. This is where style-points come into play.

The computers don’t factor in margin of victory, but they only make up 1/3 of the rankings. Human polls make up the other 2/3, and on a nationally televised stage against a BCS-ranked opponent, a convincing victory will go a long way for the Huskies.

It’s difficult to say how badly they’d have to beat Kent State to jump Michigan in the standings, but obviously the more dominant the better. Unfortunately, even if they dump-truck the Golden Flashes, they’ll be forced to play the waiting game because of the Friday evening slate.

The Huskies could win by 40, but if Texas or UCLA pull off the upset, they’re out. But, NIU’s path is far from impossible.

It should make for an exciting weekend.

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Penn State community still struggling to get the message

Unless you’ve been heavily sedated for the past eight months you’ve probably already arrived to the conclusion of outrage in regards to the Penn State child molestation scandal, but to the unbelievably indifferent few of you, today offered one more opportunity to gather your bearings and charter your vessel for saner, calmer waters.

As 3,000 students rallied in front of the Lasch Football Building, the symbolic hell on earth for the eight acknowledged victims (and likely dozens more) of former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, once again, a misguided community showed their undying allegiance to a program whose leaders actively concealed information that could have led directly to the end of Jerry Sandusky’s heinous crimes.

They rallied to show their support for the players – the same players who have been afforded the right to distance themselves from a toxic community and receive a scholarship to play football and receive an education at any school willing to take them free of penalty. In reality, 3,000 people gathered in an effort to influence the decisions of those players; to try to cling on to the only thing that’s ever truly mattered… football.

I’ve got news for you, Happy Valley: It’s not about the players.

The NCAA penalties imposed against the Penn State football programs isn’t an absurdly misappropriated punishment that somehow falls unjustly on the shoulders of past and present Nittany Lions. Vacated wins won’t take away the memories from a guy like Adam Taliaferro – a man who was paralyzed during a game in 2000 and fought his way back onto his feet before walking back, against all odds, into Beaver Stadium – no matter how much outrage he feigned.

The vacated wins were a direct shot at Paterno, and were done in an effort to vanquish Paterno from atop college football’s most prestigious list.

Similarly, the postseason ban and revoked scholarships aren’t effecting players either. Players will be given similar opportunities elsewhere to play competitive football and obtain valuable degrees from respected universities. Those penalties were a shot at the pocketbook of the school and its administrators, the ones who have profited greatly from the expansive power of the football program – power we found out was wildly abused.

It’s not about the players, and, as a matter of fact, it’s no longer about Jerry Sandusky, Joe Paterno, Graham Spanier, Tim Curley, or Gary Schultz either. They’re all ultimately responsible for what has taken place, but they’ve all either come to reckoning, or will eventually face their day in court. Paterno is dead, and Sandusky will spend his lifetime in a jail cell if he’s lucky and will possibly find himself with a needle full of death juice in his arm compliments of the State of Texas after violating federal law when he transported a victim over state lines for sexual purposes at the 1998 Alamo Bowl.

The other three administrators directly named as knowing conspirators in former FBI director Louis Freeh’s report have all knowingly perjured themselves in front of a grand jury and will likely face serious consequence. It’s no longer about any of them.

It’s about you now, Happy Valley.

For eight months, a judicious and diligent process has slowly unfolded before your eyes, affording you countless opportunities to put aside your doughy-eyed affection for Penn State football and walk willingly to the desirable side of right and wrong. Instead, as evidenced by today’s protests and countless other unfathomable and woefully ignorant displays of support, you’ve continued to acknowledge that football is the rabid dog that you simply refuse to put down.

It’s as if, blinded by loyalty, you’ve taken every last shred of human decency within your community and woven it into a piece of cloth, then taken that piece of cloth and jammed it into a bottle of gasoline to make a Molotov cocktail that burned every resemblance of common sense to the ground.

Obviously, not every single one of you has turned a blind eye to the misdeeds of your state’s flagship university. However, in a way, those of you that understand the difference between what is right and what is wrong but have allowed the self-aggrandizing to continue are equally fallible.

This is much bigger than a football program and it’s time for you all to accept that and move forward, so that something like this never happens again.

It’s about you now. After all, YOU are, Penn State.

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Bomani Jones, the Lonely Tailgater, and my meager role

I think it’s safe to say that we all understand that race relations in this country are a hot-button issue, and they’re sure to garner a lot of attention at multiple levels of society, as they should. No one can forget that we’re still less than 150 years removed from slavery entirely, and we’re only a little over 40 years removed from the turbulence of the 1960’s.

Things have gotten better, but not to the extent that we think. So when someone as prominent in the world of sports media as Bomani Jones addresses the issue of race as it pertains to a guy like Cam Newton, we all owe it to ourselves to stop, read, and digest. (Bomani’s column on Cam.)

I don’t doubt or even question Bomani’s larger premise, which is that Cam Newton, as well as many other black quarterbacks, have had to deal with a stigma that is completely dependent on their race and not their own personal skill levels or football acumen. However, that doesn’t mean that because I agree with the overall concept that I have to agree with the reasoning and the methods that led Bomani to this conclusion as a whole.

For example, the notion that Rodney Garner, the recruiting coordinator at Georgia (and an African-American), was somehow racially motivated when he “unequivocally told Newton’s high school coaches Newton would never play quarterback in the SEC,” is beyond ridiculous (Southern Miss wanted Brett Favre to play safety, for the record.) However, it pales at comparison to the idea that Florida, who recruited him as a quarterback, was also racially motivated in not playing Cam over Tim Tebow (not to mention the absurd notion that Newton wouldn’t have played over John Brantley.)

It’s as if someone asked Bomani to add one, two and three, then he proceeded to multiply instead. He might have come up with six (the correct answer), but that way of thinking isn’t always going to apply.

All of these points, plus several others were addressed by John Stansberry, or as you know him from his Twitter handle, “Lonely Tailgater.” I follow John on Twitter and have had nothing but pleasant interactions with him, as his snark certainly isn’t lost on me.

John questioned Bomani’s reasoning in the same sort of truculent manner as usual in a post on his website That’s simply the way the man does business. I read what he had written, which includes excerpts from Bomani’s original column as well as refutes a few of Bomani’s claims, and in the end I decided that beyond the argumentative posture of the article, I agreed with the point I thought John was making.

I tweeted my approval with a simple, “Ding-Ding-Ding” reply to John’s link.

Jones response, having not been addressed directly, was to tweet John and myself and call us “poor schmucks.” Essentially it led to a well-publicized Twitter battle where Bomani and John had it out with each other.

In turn, that led to a blog by CFN Columnist Matt Zemek, which examined the dichotomy of Jones and Stansberry’s interactions and the larger aspect of race relations in sports as a whole. Zemek tried to toe the line, but ultimately sided with Jones, which is fine, but once again I’ll  ultimately have to disagree (with whom he sided with, not the article in its entirety which I thought was well-written.)

Is it truly necessary that Bomani Jones be placated so as not to damage his already inflated sense of self-importance? I read what Bomani wrote, I disagreed. His response wasn’t to discuss the matter, but to inflame it by pandering to the notion that anyone who didn’t agree with him was unintelligent and didn’t understand.

Maybe Bomani was off-put by the terse nature of Stansberry’s article, that I certainly can’t control (nor do I want to.)

At the end of the day, Bomani Jones alluded to a notion that I largely agree with (black quarterbacks often face unnecessary criticism), but he lost my sentiment when he chose to attack Newton and alleged racism in certain instances during Cam’s career where I think it’s a stretch. Period, that’s it.

There is no reason that myself or anyone else who read and agreed with Lonely Tailgater’s article should have to apologize for that, and if you stand on the other side of the fence that is fine. But don’t start heaving shit into my side of the yard.

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ESPN: The four-lettered word

Why do we gravitate to sports?

Six simple words and an enigmatic punctuation with an answer that is so heavily layered that it could easily be mistaken for a New York City high-rise. In their simplest form, sports are simply fun, a game that is meant to be played for enjoyment and entertainment.

However, to those who have played, coached, or fanaticized, the answer is a lot deeper within, almost intrinsic yet inexplicable. They play for competition. They root to feel as though they belong. For some it’s inherited and for others it’s simply a matter of geography, but whatever the reason, sports simply has a hold on us.

It can evoke so many emotions that it often serves as a microcosm of life, with each game and each season representing an entire lifetime of its own. However, at the same time it also offers respite from ordinary life. In life there are grey areas while in sports there is winning and losing as defined by the scoreboard. It’s about as close to black and white as it gets.


Four letters standing as both an acronym and the globally recognized symbol for the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network. It’s a byproduct of our societal love affair with sports, and over the course of the last 30 plus years it’s earned the moniker of sports’ “Worldwide Leader.”

But has ESPN effectively saturated the meaning of the game?

There is no questioning the importance of ESPN in the growth of televised sports in this country and across the world. ESPN has effectively built a platform for sports the likes of which have never been seen, but is it possible that the stage has just gotten too damn high?

The answer is easily and irrefutably yes. ESPN has propelled the world of sports to heights that were simply unfathomable just over 30 years ago, but as the face of the entire sporting world, ESPN has failed the average fan and corruption has seeped into so many levels of the organization that it could reasonably be mistaken for 1860 Tammany Hall.

What was once fan’s greatest resource has become nothing more than its greatest source of disappointment. An agenda driven corporate machine, ESPN has lost the quality and charm of its earlier days, and it’s hopelessly diluting sports as a whole.

The folks at the Walt Disney Company and the Hearst Corporation (ESPN’s parent companies) would like you to think that ESPN serves as a vessel for growth in sports, but when you peel back the covers you’ll find the cruel mistress that drives ESPN to destroy its foundation (surprisingly it’s not Craig James.)

As is often the case with a corporate entity, money has simply sunk its teeth into ESPN and sucked the life out of it, and seemingly in a trance, ESPN has nonchalantly gone about infesting individual sports like a colony of termites, slowly but surely compromising the structural integrity of each sport until it nears collapse. Unfortunately, it’s the fans and athletes who have been put in harm’s way.

Bit by bit, ESPN seems content to chip away at its core demographic and alienate their most loyal viewers, but who’s to stop them? They have a stranglehold on the market, so they do virtually whatever they want when they want.

They attack our sanity with repetitive storylines, trotting out formerly respected athletes and journalists and giving them predetermined stances to drone on about like leashed terriers. Even guys like 11-time sportswriter of the year Rick Reilly has been relegated to reading what equated to third-grade poetry on the air. ESPN, the Guantanamo Bay of sports journalism.

They stake Ed Werder out on Brett Favre’s perfectly manicured front lawn with up-to-the-second updates on the hue of his bowel movements. Then, of course, you have “The Decision,” an hour of programming so enraging that, for a moment, even charitable folks considered the feasibility of carpet bombing a Greenwich, Connecticut Boys and Girls Club (a harrowing thought, even for a cynic like myself.)

However, as maddening as ESPN’s coverage of professional sports has been, nobody has gotten it worse than collegiate sports.

The notion of amateur athletics simply doesn’t compute to ESPN (maybe they SHOULD have access to those BCS formulas.) What’s that? You want these kids to play sports, and WITHOUT getting paid for it? That doesn’t exclude us from making a couple bucks here…. does it?

No, apparently it does not.

If you’re heading for the doors now, I promise you this isn’t another “pay the players” article. I’ll leave my feelings on that matter out entirely, but I do have some pretty strong feelings about ESPN throwing around money in order to strong-arm the NCAA.

The corporate big-wigs were almost solely responsible for all the conference realignment nonsense. By effectively dangling briefcases full of money on a string, ESPN has coaxed conferences to add/subtract in a way that suits the “suits” in Bristol quite nicely. Sports like basketball and football are big money, so in order to maximize profit the formation of super-conferences was encouraged and rewarded.

Yet, nobody is out there looking out for the athletes and fans of non-revenue sports. Of course I won’t watch an SEC swim meet on a Wednesday afternoon, but that doesn’t mean that an Aggie diver should have to travel all the way to South Carolina mid-week, driving up travel costs, decimating study time and giving athletic departments every reason to cut these “lesser” programs altogether.

Conference realignment decimated rivalries and made certain programs irrelevant while handsomely remunerating schools that appeased them with bags of money (ahem Texas.)  It’ll get worse before it’s all said and done, and schools that are afraid to bite the hand that feeds them will assimilate or be destroyed (awkwardly appropriate Star Trek reference.) Forget hundred-dollar handshakes; we’re talking about multi-million dollar payoffs.

However, conference realignment barely scratches the surface of the transgressions by ESPN against sportskind.

If ESPN didn’t flummox you enough as an acronym, there is their three-lettered partner in crime, the BCS. With the backing of the boys in Bristol, the BCS has been given free rein to shoot from the hip while ranking collegiate football teams and selecting the sports’ national champion.

The results should be considered a crime scene. While stabbing in the dark, the BCS has seemingly gutted an already mutilated system, leaving something so abstract it makes Picasso look like a realist. Six computer formulas and two weighted human polls combine to form….. something.

Nobody is really sure what it actually is, because not even the BCS knows everything about the BCS. As outlined by Yahoo! Sports columnist Dan Wetzel in his Nov. 29 column, the BCS doesn’t even have access to five of the six computer formulas they use in their rankings. The rights to the formulas are held by their developers, and only Wes Colley makes his rankings available to the public, and even worse, Colley’s ranking have been proven wrong on multiple occasions.

As for the others, BCS officials can’t even check their accuracy, so there is no actual way to verify anything that the BCS says. It’s like banking on the honor system or trying to take test without any questions. What are they actually looking for and how do we even know our investments are safe?

The next logical step for ESPN and the BCS is to just simulate the games on NCAA 2012. EA Sports does have exclusive deals with both ESPN and the BCS after all. ESPN doesn’t like to get serious with its partners, but they’ve become the poster boys for “friends with benefits” in the business world. Only in this case, you have full license to hate the player and not the game.

ESPN doesn’t know what the BCS does, but they’ve been in bed with each other since 1998 and that thing that BCS does where they throw heaps of money around really drives ESPN wild if you know what I mean.

Whatever the BCS formula actually is, it seems to make plutonium look remarkably stable. Yet, we use it to select the participants of our national championship? 120 teams whittled down to two with mysterious computers and let’s not forget the polls, the Coaches’ and the Harris. Sounds remarkably similar to something you’d find in a spell book.

At risk of repackaging the words of Mr. Wetzel, the polls are nearly as big of a mockery as the computer systems. The coaches don’t actually watch football and the Harris voters seemingly watch too much, as they are easily influenced by media coverage.

The BCS is a sham in and of itself, but how does this all tie back into our suspect at large? Well, for a nominal fee, ESPN does everything it can to lend it legitimacy by trotting out so-called experts on an hour-long special every weekend to reveal their rankings. Sure, the brass may allow Chris Fowler to vehemently oppose the BCS from his soapbox every Saturday morning, but with BCS rights in tow, who do you think the network is really backing?

Maybe you don’t mind the BCS or conference realignment.  How has ESPN recently wronged you outside of the three years of wall-to-wall Terrell Owens coverage?

There’s always the poor news coverage as a whole and the blatant hypocrisy. ESPN was almost 24 hours behind several other news outlets when news of the Penn State scandal broke. Then when news of Joe Paterno’s firing broke and the ensuing riot broke out, ESPN was absolutely destroyed by CNN in live coverage. A dainty British broad directed traffic seamlessly and CNN put boots on the ground in State College and eviscerated the Worldwide Leader without any knowledge of football (she had to ask if Penn State had a game that week.)

Despite the seemingly unlimited resources of the worldwide leader in sports, ESPN failed to get any live coverage of the actual riot. Deciding to fixate what appeared to be their only camera on Tom Rinaldi and his aggressively pink tie while having every analyst in their stable talk about their feelings back in Connecticut. It was like a public television broadcast of “The View,” except instead of a diverse group of women, we got a bunch of middle-aged ex-athletes who have all shown signs of post-concussion syndrome at one point or another.

Was there anything more disingenuous than Matt Millen sobbing like a schoolgirl at the thought of child molestation, yet defending Joe Paterno’s “right” to due process at the same time? I’m no Roger Cossack, but I don’t think an issue of morality is privy to the right of due process. Even if it was, in my mind, those rights were suspended the moment that Paterno neglected the courtesy of an investigation that should have been afforded to those kids.

However, the debauchery didn’t stop there. Over the next couple of days, ESPN justifiably condemned Paterno for jeopardizing the safety of children and failing to report the alleged sexual abuse to the proper authorities. Seemingly desperate to make up for botched coverage in the immediate aftermath of the scandal, the suits relentlessly hammered away at Paterno and Penn State, but little did we know the blatant hypocrisy of it all.

Weeks later it was learned that ESPN withheld critical evidence of sexual abuse within the Syracuse basketball program for eight years. The same organization that crucified Paterno and the Penn State administration had been guilty of the exact same thing for nearly a decade.

The reasoning? To protect an exclusive, and do then to have the audacity to stand behind Shield laws. Talk about morally reprehensible.

The sad part is that it’s all gone on under our noses for quite some time. They’ve effectively lobotomized their viewers and they’ve rolled up anyone and everyone who has tried to stop them. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t seem like there is any stopping them.

The Internet serves as a better source of information, but it doesn’t look like anyone can cut into ESPN’s market share on television. NBC Sports is trying to mount an offensive, but the “Mothership” is entrenched, and it looks like there’s no way around it.

So without options, we’ll sit back and subject ourselves to Craig James grunting his way through an entire telecast and Linda Cohn cackling like a wounded pterodactyl for six hours in a row on SportsCenter, but we sure as hell won’t like it. In the case of James, you almost have to hope that he wins a Senatorial seat just so that I can maintain my sanity while ESPN force-feeds me an obscure Thursday night college football game like I’m some sort of dope-fiend.

But, there’s nothing we can do. We have a societal addiction to sports, and we need rehab. We’ve all been in a state of denial, but how many of you have horror stories where you’ve sideswiped parked cars and run women and children off the road just so you could make it back from Publix in time to get your frozen pizza in the oven and plop down on the couch to watch Paul Finebaum talk about the Iron Bowl (college football’s equivalent of the Cold War) for an hour?

Maybe that last one was just me, but chances are that if you made it through the first 2,200+ words of this column you’ve done something remarkably similar, and we all have ESPN to blame. We know it’s taking a toll on us, but now we need it, and ESPN knows it.

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Why the hell are we rioting?

Has your team won a championship? Has your team lost a championship? Did your superstar sign with another team? Did your coach leave town in the middle of the night? Are you just drunk and looking to burn some shit?

If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions that apparently licenses you to start a riot in this day and age.

Rioting may be the single dumbest premise, not only in sports, but in all of human nature. The idea that you should burn and pillage your own local businesses and properties is beyond ridiculous. Yet, people have rioted since the dawn of time for good causes, bad causes, historically insignificant causes, and for just no damn reason whatsoever. However, last night at Penn State, rioting got taken to an extreme new low.

With reports that Penn State’s board of trustees is currently planning an exit strategy in regards to Joe Paterno’s status as head coach, a group of nearly 1,000 Penn State students took to the street. Joe Paterno has undoubtedly built up an unbelievable amount of leeway when it comes to his status as the head coach. The man could practically be comatose, and the Penn State faithful would still owe him the luxury of going out on his own terms.

However, that hasn’t stopped people from complaining that Joe needs to be forced out before. From 2000-2004, Penn State posted losing records in four of five seasons and people pleaded for Paterno to step down. The Nittany Lions weren’t winning, Joe was a recruiting liability, and by golly it was just time for him to go.

So how now, after you bury the details of an alleged child molester can Penn State fans possibly justify standing by Paterno? No matter how much slack the man has been given, surely this is enough to sever ties, right?

Yet, Tuesday night, Penn State took to the streets, rioting in support of their coach. A man who failed to report accusations of a heinous child molestation crime to the authorities and potentially subjected a number of other children to the same fate. How is that possible?

The sad truth, if Penn State wasn’t 8-1 and on top of their division in the Big Ten, they likely wouldn’t, and therein lies a problem. Should wins and losses ever trump right and wrong?

There’s certainly a grey area in right and wrong; for example, if we’re talking about hundred-dollar handshakes to student athletes who can’t afford to provide for their families that’s one thing. However, when it comes to protecting the innocence of a child, it’s cut and dry, and wins and losses should never even enter the equation.

The bottom line is, you could be virtually certain that none of those students show up in Joe Paterno’s support if Penn State is 4-5, and that is wrong on so many levels.

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