The Criminals in College Sports Debate Verdict

March 29, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Sports Geek.


I must give my colleagues, Sports Geek and Loyal Homer, credit. After two years of working together, debating all the biggest issues in sports, they managed to bring out yet another first in TSD history!

For the first time ever, I actually disagree with BOTH arguments (well, at least partly).

The question was to debate whether or not coaches and universities should look into juvenile records before deciding which recruits to extend scholarship offers to. Both Sports Geek and Loyal Homer, although arguing for very different causes, essentially raised the same point – that character matters in sports.

According to Sports Geek, character matters in the sense that it helps people to gain experience. To Sports Geek, growth and second chances for everyone, not just athletes, to make us all better people. Past mistakes do not always serve as an indicator for future actions, though, and so Sports Geek feels that they should not be held against the children (that, after all, is what they are) who commit them.

On the other hand, Loyal Homer argues that character matters, which is precisely why college sports need to clean up their act. Too much is forgiven in sports, and it is tarnishing the reputation of what is supposed to be honest and fair play among student athletes. Instead, we hear more and more about Player ‘X’ from university ‘Y’ and their escapades that resulted in someone getting arrested, or worse, hurt.

But as I said, I disagree with both of them – Character does NOT matter in sports.

We like to SAY that character matters in sports, and realistically, it SHOULD matter in sports, but it is time for us all to stop perpetuating the lie.

We don’t care about character in our athletes at all. We want our athletes to win, and that’s it. We as a fan base may curse athletes who commit some act of moral or criminal wrongdoing. But then we conveniently turn that ire off when the player brings greater success to our team.

It is true that the Florida Gators had a plethora of criminal charges stocking their active roster for the past five football seasons. But they also have two National Championships during that stretch. What do you think Gator fans care about? Would any of them trade in even one of those two National Championships to clear the names of their beloved team’s roster? Hardly.

When Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes caught TD passes in the New York Jets playoff victory over the New England Patriots, were any of the Jets fans booing them?

How long did it take before Steelers fans welcomed Ben Roethlisberger back into the fold with open arms? My guess is about 20 minutes and 20 seconds into his first game back, when he completed a scoring pass to Mike Wallace.

It is time to stop pretending that we demand our athletes to live to a greater moral standard, because when push comes to shove we do not really care at all.

But now that it is time to step off of my soap box, I still need to crown a winner for this debate.

Just because I fundamentally disagree with the key message in both arguments, that does not mean I disagree with their entire arguments. And while I disagree with the principle of Sports Geek’s position, it is for that exact same reason that I am awarding him the verdict.

Because an athlete’s character does not REALLY matter to us in sports, past flaws should not be counted against recruits. As Sports Geek points out, kids make mistakes all the time. Some may be more serious than others, but that does not mean that they should be excluded from the opportunity to better themselves.

In fact, if we as fans REALLY want to see those games that we love cleaned up, then we absolutely MUST forgive the past transgressions of the kids that make childish mistakes. Those who are supposed to be “responsible” adults should assume that responsibility and actually COACH these kids. That’s right – It is the program administrators that must be held to the higher standard.

Coaches like Bruce Pearl, Jim Tressel, Lane Kiffin, and countless others are the ones setting the example for these kids that it is okay to bend and break the rules as long as you win games, and THAT is where accountability should be held.

In many cases, these coaches will have a greater impact on the lives of the student athletes than anyone else ever could. They need to act as mentors, role models, and leaders for the kids they are guiding. If they can live up to a higher standard, I can GUARANTEE you that the athletes will follow suit.

My Zimbio Blog Directory Sport Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory
Add us to your technorati favorites Digg!

Bookmark and Share


The Pick Your Cornerstone QB Debate… I Want to Live in Mr. Rodgers’ Neighborhood

January 17, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Optimist Prime.

Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Jay Cutler, or Mark Sanchez?

In the TV hit game show Million Dollar Money Drop, if those are my four options, I’m putting the whole $1M on Aaron Rodgers.

It’s that simple. If I am running a professional football team with just one game left to win, and those are my four options, Aaron Rodgers is the guy I want under center, and for good reason. In the three seasons since taking over Green Bay’s drivers’ seat after what’s-his-name left, Rodgers has become one of the brightest young stars in the NFL.

In just a quick comparison between Rodgers and the guy he took over for (I think his name was Brett something… Favre, that’s it!) through their first three seasons as starters for the Packers:

  • Rodgers started 47 games, Favre started 47 games
  • Rodgers passed for 12,394 yards, Favre passed for 10,412 yards
  • Rodgers passed for 86 TDs, Favre passed for 70 TDs
  • Rodgers passed for 31 interceptions, Favre passed for 51 interceptions
  • Rodgers led the Pack to a combined record of 27-20, Favre’s record was 26-19

That’s right. Rodgers has already started off his career better than the greatest quarterback statistically to ever play the game. But the fact that he is already off to a better career than Favre at this point is only part of the reason why I would choose Rodgers as the field general leading my team into battle.

The REAL reason why Rodgers is the ONLY man I would want taking snaps for my team is not how he performs in the regular season, but how he performs in the post-season.

In three playoff appearances so far Rodgers has passed for 969 yards (323 yards per game average) with 10 touchdowns and only one interception. Oh yeah, he also has two rushing scores to add to that total.

It doesn’t matter who is on the field with him, Aaron Rodgers will find a way to get the ball into the end zone.

This season Rodgers has had to find ways to win without his Pro Bowl running back, Ryan Grant, and his favorite target, Tight End Jermichael Finley. Still, he managed to win games. Now he is leading the Packers into the NFC Championship Game as the hottest quarterback still playing.

Aaron Rodgers has already outgunned Michael Vick and Matt Ryan, two of the so-called top quarterbacks in the NFC. With those two out of the picture, and Tom Brady having fallen to the New York Jets, there is no quarterback left standing that can match Rodgers’ performance on the field.

Rodgers may not have the resume of Ben Roethlisberger, or the supporting cast of superstars like Mark Sanchez has in LaDanian Tomlinson and S’Antonio Holmes, but if I need one guy to win one game for me, Aaron Rodgers is that guy!

My Zimbio Blog Directory Sport Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory
Add us to your technorati favorites Digg! Bookmark and Share

The Publicly Grading Officials Debate VERDICT

October 14, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Bleacher Fan.

Today’s debate is not about whether leagues should grade officials, but whether those grades should be public knowledge.

This is an extremely important issue in sports because there is a great deal at stake. On the one hand, if publically grading officials encourages them to perform better then it would improve the overall quality of the sports we love so much, but if it does not have this effect than it could serve to seriously undercut the authority of officials.

Bleacher Fan based his argument off of the need for increased accountability through transparency in the way leagues evaluate officials. He believes that officials are afforded the ability to hide behind a wall of anonymity when it comes to corrective efforts meant to redress poor officiating. He finds this to be hypocritical considering the high profile nature of every other aspect of sports. He pointed out that the actions taken against players, coaches, and team management for poor performance is usually very public, yet the league’s efforts to correct problematic officiating remain highly secretive.

This point was definitely not lost on me. Sports fans are very aware of league actions taken against players and owners alike, but officials remain a different story. We all know about the not-so-private war between NBA commissioner David Stern and Dallas Maverick owner Mark Cuban. We all know about the leagues dealings with player with problematic players, such as Ben Roethlisberger and Michael Vick. But no one seems to know which officials, if any, are getting their butts handed to them behind closed doors. Bleacher Fan believes that this cloak in dagger approach cannot lead to anything good.

Bleacher Fan acknowledges the human aspect of the sports. He admits that no one is perfect, but that because we know that no one is perfect leagues should be more open about telling the public what officials grades are and what the leagues are doing to improve the lowest achievers.

Loyal Homer, however, states those grades should remain a secret. He challenges the logic behind releasing private evaluations to a public that is already highly critical of the job officials are doing in the first place. As Loyal Homer explains in his argument, public evaluations would only serve to further undermine the authority of officials.

He made a strong point for his argument when he aptly pointed out that evaluations are not intended for the purpose of establishing worst-to-first ranking of officials, but rather to specify the areas where each official needs to demonstrate professional growth. The goal behind assessing the job officials are doing is to encourage improvement, not to invalidate their authority, which very well could be the result of releasing performance evaluations. Loyal Homer stood firm in his belief that the mere fact that performance evaluations and the incorporation of assistive technologies (i.e. replay) exists to help officials is enough to ensure their validity and reliability as an arbitrator of the rules.

Loyal Homer’s argument raises concerns over the potential dangers of labeling officials due to their performance review grade. If publicized, referee and umpire ratings would be akin to restaurants sanitation grades. Can you imagine the grumbling and second guessing that would surround the calls of an umpire with a “C” rating (the equivalent of a sketchy IHOP)? Regardless of the accuracy, there would be those who would second-guess them solely on the basis of their performance grade. Similarly, in the mind of the public it would not matter whether the official met the minimum competencies established by the league because any official with a less than perfect score would be perceived to be doing a bad job.

Ultimately it was this comparison that made my decision. In the real world, not all workers deserve perfect performance reviews. If they did there would be a lot more Fortune 500 companies out there. The truth is that there are excellent, above average, average, below average, and poor employees in virtually every industry, including professional sports. Some officials are better than others, but publically acknowledging that fact and then highlighting the underachievers would only serve to create a distracting spectacle. Publically grading officials would do nothing to help them improve. Do you really think Jim Joyce would have tried harder to call Armando Galaragga’s near perfect game if he knew his evaluation would be in the media at the end of the year? I honestly think when an official screws up, the media usually covers it sufficiently. Ultimately it is because there is nothing gained but controversy and the undermining of authority by publically grading officials that I award this victory to Loyal Homer. Bleacher Fan can throw the red flag all he wants to, this is one call that is final.

My Zimbio Blog Directory Sport Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory
Add us to your technorati favorites Digg!
Bookmark and Share

The Best Game of THIS Weekend Debate… Defensive Showdown in the Steel City

October 1, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Sports Geek and Babe Ruthless.

The best football game taking place this weekend is happening in the state of Pennsylvania.

No, it is NOT Donovan McNabb’s return to Philadelphia. The REAL action will be taking place in Western PA, as the Baltimore Ravens travel to Pittsburgh to take on the surprising 3-0 Steelers.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, WITHOUT Santonio Holmes, Ben Roethlisberger (or even Dennis Dixon and Byron Leftwich) have somehow managed to storm through the first three weeks of the regular season, remaining one of only three unbeaten teams left in the NFL. While it may be surprising that they have remained unblemished without the majority of their offensive talent from recent seasons, it is no secret how they have done it – defense!

Behind the leadership of Troy Polamalu, the Steelers currently claim the stingiest defense in the league, allowing a league-leading 33 total points on the season. In terms of rushing yards, they have posted the third best performance in the NFL to-date, allowing only 59.7 yards per game on the ground to this point in the season. That is especially impressive when you consider that they had to stop Michael Turner and Chris Johnson in accomplishing that feat.

As exciting as this start has been in Pittsburgh the team is still a week away from seeing Roethlisberger return to the field, at which point the Steelers can finally add some offense to their repertoire.

But, facing Baltimore sans-Roethlisberger will be the toughest challenge yet for Pittsburgh, and may end up being the toughest challenge faced all season. Although the Steelers have a top-ten defense, their week four opponents, the Baltimore Ravens, boast the absolute BEST defense the NFL has to offer.

In fact, the Ravens have allowed the fewest yards per game in the league – 244.3 yards per game – through the first three weeks of the season (a total which would have been MUCH lower if not for Peyton Hillis’ surprise performance last weekend). To give you an idea of just how good the Ravens’ pass defense is, there were five different quarterbacks last week who passed for more yards in a SINGLE GAME than the Ravens have allowed in a combined three games.

The Ravens are no slouch in the points-allowed category either, ranking fourth by giving up only eight points more than the Steelers with 41 points allowed.

Now on offense, these two teams are a different story, although both seemed to come alive a little bit last weekend.

For Pittsburgh, offensive struggles were expected since Roethlisberger is still serving his suspension. So when they managed to put up 38 points last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they were likely just as surprised as you and I.

Baltimore, on the other hand, has been a bit of a let down on offense.

Thanks to the additions of Anquan Boldin and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, along with Joe Flacco and Ray Rice, everyone expected offense to be Baltimore’s strongest suit of the season (especially after they lost Ed Reed to injury). But even with those weapons on offense, the Ravens have only managed to put 44 total points on the board (the fifth worst total in the league). Fortunately, when you have Ray Lewis on your roster, 44 points is still enough to start the season off at 2-1.

Forget about Michael Vick and Donovan McNabb, this Sunday in Pittsburgh we will get to see the league’s top defenses duke it out in an AFC North showdown to determine whose really is the best in the league.

My Zimbio Blog Directory Sport Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory
Add us to your technorati favorites Digg! Bookmark and Share

The Attending 2010 NFL Training Camp Debate… Where the Steel is No Longer Stainless

July 19, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Sports Geek.

Last year at this time spirits could not have been higher in and around the city of Pittsburgh.

The beloved Steelers were coming into training camp as the reigning Super Bowl champions. They were returning many of the stars that helped them one season earlier. The team appeared as likely as any other team in the NFL to be right on course for another playoff-caliber season (with the hopes of successfully defending a championship at another Super Bowl well within reach).

What a difference a year makes!

As the 2009-2010 NFL season (and offseason) wore on, the Steelers were on the short end of many sticks, both on AND off the field. The result today is a sense of frustration, and perhaps desperation, replacing that previous feeling of jubilation as the Steelers commence with preparation for a season loaded with trepidation (I feel like a boxing promoter!).

The past 12 months have been one long series of disappointments for the Pittsburgh Steelers. After riding into opening weekend with the highest of expectations, the team stumbled out of the gates, needing overtime to win its first game, then falling to Chicago and Cincinnati in the next two. Later in the season the Steelers would suffer a five-game losing streak – three of which embarrassingly came at the hands of Kansas City, Oakland, and Cleveland, who last season COMBINED for only 14 wins.

Players began attacking and criticizing each other and the phrase “Steelers Stink” was heard for the first time in many years around Pittsburgh. It became very clear that the Steelers organization was in trouble. When the curtain fell on the 2009 regular season the Steelers became only the 13th team in NFL history to fail in its attempt to reach the playoffs as reigning champions.

Off the field the Steelers had a fair share of issues as well, highlighted by the legal troubles of wide receiver Santonio Holmes and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

This was not the first time either player had been involved in off-field scandal. The result for the Steelers is to be without both offensive stars as the 2010 season commences.

Despite the fact that Holmes was a Super Bowl MVP, and was the team’s leading receiver, the Steelers traded him away to the New York Jets for nothing more than a fifth-round draft pick. Meanwhile, Roethlisberger will serve a six-game ban to kick off the new season as punishment for his indiscretions. Add to those issues the very impressive performances by the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals last season, and the Steelers begin to look like a franchise on the verge of self-destruction.

Now the Steelers must face the prospect of a new season with many more questions than answers.

Perhaps the largest question looming over the Steelers as camp opens is how to handle Ben Roethlisberger’s involvement in preparation for the upcoming season. Will he practice with the first team, or will the backups be spending most of their time lining up with the starting crew? Also (and perhaps most importantly), what if the Steelers find success behind a backup quarterback during the weeks that Roethlisberger is suspended? Should the team stick with what is working or go back to the guy getting paid more than $100M to play that position? Do not forget that the Steelers were actively soliciting trade offers for the former Pro Bowler around draft time. They have clearly been disappointed in Big Ben’s off-field antics, and could be looking for any excuse to relegate his status on the field.

If you could only attend one training camp all year long, Pittsburgh is the place to be. The Steelers are one of the league’s best franchises in recent history wins two out of the last five Super Bowls, but all signs currently point toward a continued collapse. Will Byron Leftwich and the return of Antwaan Randle El be enough to keep the Steelers competitive through the first half of the season, or should fans in Pittsburgh already start looking ahead to the 2011 season… when the franchise can truly start anew?

My Zimbio Blog Directory Sport Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory
Add us to your technorati favorites Digg! Bookmark and Share

The 2010 Biggest Pre-Draft Move Debate… Spring Cleaning in the Steel City

April 23, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Sports Geek.

There have been some big moves in the weeks leading up to the 2010 NFL Draft.

Included within those moves are face lifts for two teams that have traded away the very people who for the last decade, in the San Diego Chargers (who released LaDanian Tomlinson) and the Philadelphia Eagles (who traded away Donovan McNabb).

In terms of blockbuster deals, no trade has been bigger than that of Brandon Marshall, who was sent to the Miami Dolphins after a season in Denver where his on-field success was unfortunately overshadowed by several issues that have somewhat diminished the perception of what this dangerous receiver can consistently do.

But with all of those transactions, where teams have put forth the off-season efforts they hope will improve their organization, the team facing the biggest changes to their team is doing so as a RE-active, rather than PRO-active, measure. The biggest pre-draft moves of the NFL 2010 season were the penalty-induced suspensions and transaction of Santonio Holmes and Ben Roethlisberger.

First comes the story of Santonio Holmes, who has been in legal trouble, it seems, since entering the league in 2006. He has admitted to having sold drugs prior to seriously pursuing football, and since 2006 has been hit with assault charges, domestic violence charges, drug charges, and is once again facing a lawsuit for allegedly throwing a glass at a woman in a bar.

And then there is Ben Roethlisberger, who recently was under investigation for the second time with regard to sexual assault allegations.

You know – Really CLASSY actions!

As a result of their respective misdeeds, both Holmes and Roethlisberger are facing suspensions for the first four to six weeks of the upcoming regular season. This presented a very big problem for the Steelers, because both Holmes and Roethlisberger were integral parts of the Pittsburgh offense.

Holmes, a former first-round draft pick (and the MVP of Super Bowl XLIII) was coming off of one of the best seasons in his career as a Wide Receiver. Meanwhile, Roethlisberger had been developing into one of the most successful quarterbacks in the game today. In fact, the Steelers saw fit to reward Roethlisberger’s success back in 2008 with an eight-year, $102M contract, making him one of the highest paid players in the entire league.

Despite that success from two of the Steelers’ most promising offensive stars, patience with the oft scandalized tandem has finally run out, prompting the team to retool their offense.

Two weeks ago, the Steelers dumped Santonio Holmes and all of his baggage in a trade with the New York Jets, where all they received in return was a fifth-round pick in this weekend’s draft. Clearly, Holmes’ stock had drastically plummeted in the eyes of Pittsburgh and its fans. To value a player with Holmes’ on-field credentials as only being worth a fifth-rounder speaks volumes with regard to their opinion of his character.

Following the announcement of Roethlisberger’s suspension, the Steelers began talks in trying to trade him away as well. To this point, they have not been able to find a suitable partner, but there is a long way to go before the season begins, and a lot of negotiation can take place in the meantime. Don’t forget, also, that even IF Roethlisberger remains on the team, he will not be available to suit up until week SEVEN. That is a lifetime when you consider that the NFL season is only 16 weeks long!

So much for the Steelers’ original plans.

The Rooney family has been very vocal in their displeasure of the situation that Holmes and Roethlisberger put them in, and has taken measures to demonstrate that there is no room within the Steelers organization for thoughtless and reckless behavior, no matter how successful those players may have been on the field. As a Cleveland native you won’t hear me say this often, but I must applaud the Pittsburgh Steelers for having taken such a strong stance in these matters!

The message that the Roger Goodell (now with the support of at least one well-respected owner) is sending is a simple one – being a part of the NFL is a privilege, and must be taken seriously. When a player puts their career at risk by participating in these foolish (and possibly criminal) activities, they put the whole organization at risk. These moves by the Steelers (which may not be over yet) have clearly made the most impact, not only in Pittsburgh, but to the entire NFL.

My Zimbio Blog Directory Sport Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory
Add us to your technorati favorites Digg!
Bookmark and Share

The 2010 Biggest Pre-Draft Move Debate… Pre-Draft Story Drought

April 23, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Bleacher Fan and Sports Geek.

The NFL Draft kicked off yesterday and I could not have been more lukewarm about it. You have probably heard the expression “No news, is good news”, but that is not really the case for a football fan around the NFL Draft. There just was not that much to get excited about. Aside from, Brandon Marshall’s deal to the Dolphins and Donovan McNabb’s in-division trade to the Redskins, things have pretty much been a total yawnfest. The biggest story leading up to this NFL Draft was the lack of stories leading up to the NFL Draft.

Ben Roethlisberger did more than his fair share to try and stir up NFL storylines and prompt trade talk, but the deal never got done. Although Big Ben did not verbally demand a trade out of Pittsburgh, his actions sure did. After putting himself in compromising situation after situation, the Steelers’ QB made himself increasingly expendable, and when the news broke just days ago that he was going to be suspended for six games during the 2010 season, he really gave the Steelers a reason to let him go. There were plenty of teams who would have benefited from the on-field talents of Roethlisberger under center (and he is sure to keep the local legal team busy with defense cases), but only the Oakland Raiders emerged as serious suitors. It seemed like the Oakland Raiders were a logical match who would surely jump at the opportunity to acquire a quarterback with a Super Bowl winning pedigree, but the two sides could not come to an agreement. Maybe the Raiders thought they could get off cheaper trying to draft a quarterback or maybe they were just trying to protect the co-ed population in the greater Oakland area, but it seems that Big Ben will be back in Pittsburgh in 2010 after his suspension runs its course.

There was hope that things might pick up after Donovan McNabb was traded to the Washington Redskins. Many thought that this was a sign of wilder wheeling and dealing to come, but again… nothing. There There was some minor speculation that Washington might sign free agent Terrell Owens, which is a deal I wish had gone down because it would have been supremely entertaining. Watching McNabb and TO team up again while both are trying to prove they are still elite competitors would have been either an unbelievable comeback story for the once dynamic duo, or a delicious train wreck of epic proportions. Either way the public would have gotten to enjoy the show, but are instead left wondering about what might have been.

Another Redskin, Albert Haynesworth, got the rumor mill going as well this off season, as trade talk emerged about a potential return to Tennessee for the former Titan. Despite cashing in on a huge payday last season signing with Washington, Haynesworth seemed to have no interest in adjusting to the Redskins’ defensive schemes. There was talk that he might make his way back to Tennessee in time to mix up the draft board for the two teams and potentially add some more drama to the draft. But like every other rumored move lately it did not happen. The big man may still rumble back in to the Music City, but he’ll do so after the kickoff of the NFL draft.

I really did not see this wave of inactivity coming. Usually the NFL is abuzz with pre-draft stories and big moves. Picks and players swapping teams set the tone for an entertaining draft, but this year it was all quiet on the football front leading up to draft day.

In the end, the draft itself proved to be far more exciting (with Cowboys trading up to get Dez Bryant and Tim Tebow being drafted above Jimmy Clausen) than any pre-draft story.

My Zimbio Blog Directory Sport Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory
Add us to your technorati favorites Digg!
Bookmark and Share