The Terrelle Pryor in the NFL Debate… Size Isn’t Everything

June 14, 2011

Read the opposing argument from Babe Ruthless.

On February 6th, 2008, every high school football senior in the country with hopes of playing at the next level had to make a decision. It was National Signing Day, where those recruits commit to the college program they wish to be a part of.

Every recruit, that is, except one.

A quarterback out of Jeannette, PA, by the name of Terrelle Pryor thought he was special, and that the rules of everyone else didn’t apply to him. And so, while everyone else was announcing their intentions for the fall, Pryor decided that he would not make his announcement until more than a month later, on March 19th.

We should have seen it coming then.

Terrelle Pryor has fallen right in line with many other phenom talents who are targeted at a too-early age as the next great athletic superstar. Throughout their formative years, when most kids are learning very important life lessons about maturity, responsibility, and accountability, these teenage “superstars” are instead being told they are ‘special’. Exceptions and excuses are made on their behalf for their mistakes, and before you know it, they are shut off from the rest of the world, living within the bubble of “I am better than everyone else.”

Think about the recent antics of other children (which is exactly what they are) who were thrust far too soon into the limelight that is sports stardom – LeBron James and Bryce Harper quickly come to mind. All of these amazingly talented athletes may be physically prepared for the rigors of top-tier athletic competition, but none have shown the maturity necessary to cope with those rigors, and none have demonstrated an ounce of consideration for anyone around them, DESPITE the fact that they all play TEAM SPORTS.

Still, we hope with each new kid brought to us by ESPNU or Rivals.com as the ‘next great thing’ that THEY will be different. We continue to blindly believe the myth that age naturally brings wisdom and maturity, when so many before them prove time and again that is just not the case in sports. We believe that a kid who hasn’t even gone to prom yet can manage a multi-million dollar lifestyle, when most adults aren’t capable of it.

And with every new revelation made about the misdeeds of Pryor and his cohorts while at The Ohio State University, it becomes more evident that he has continued to behave as though the rules just did not apply to him. HE was the superstar, and everyone else should be grateful that HE is a part of their system.

So it came as a surprise to no one when he once more ducked out on accountability and consequence by running away from the NCAA.

Once again, while his so-called ‘team’ will be suffering the wrath of the NCAA, Pryor gets to just walk away, untouched by sanctions that will largely (if not entirely) be levied specifically because of his actions.

Terrelle Pryor is special, and the rules don’t apply to him.

Does that sound like someone an NFL General Manager, Head Coach, or FAN would want on their organization?

Character issues to the side now (which are more than enough to turn any NFL GM off to the prospect of Pryor as a member of their organization), there are plenty of reasons from a performance standpoint that would ALSO be reason to look the other way when Pryor and new agent Drew Rosenhaus come knocking at your team’s door.

Yes, Terrelle Pryor is a physically gifted athlete. He undeniably has the build required to play in the NFL, and is an all-around athlete. His combination of size and speed are what got him noticed in high school, and what led the Buckeyes to an amazing 33-6 record during his three-year tenure with the program.

But for Pryor, the REAL story is not in the wins, but in the losses. His poor decision making ability in many of those games led to very costly turnovers, some of which decided the outcome of games.

When Pryor is leading a juggernaut team against the bottom-feeders of the NCAA, it is easy for him to look good. The talent of the team around him, and the support of a stifling defense that was the hallmark of Ohio State football under Jim Tressel, all compensated for Pryor’s inability to make good decisions.

He extends plays far too long, creating opportunities for the defense to force turnovers, and he forces passes into areas that should not be tested. That is why his ratio of barely more than two TD passes for every interception pales in comparison to TRULY successful quarterbacks of recent years such as Cam Newton (4.3 TDs to every INT), Sam Bradford (5.5 TDs per INT), or even fellow Buckeye Troy Smith (4.2 TDs per INT).

With very few exceptions, any time that Terrelle Pryor found himself in a pressure situation with the game resting on his shoulders, he failed to deliver. Instead, he USUALLY committed a costly mistake which actually hurt his team more than if he had done nothing at all.

And to top it all off, the projection for his pro potential is not even at the position he played in college. You see, everyone knows that he can’t hack it as an NFL QB, so they are instead HOPING that his size, speed, and strength will make him a successful weapon somewhere (anywhere) on the field.

So if I were General Manager of an NFL franchise, and was presented at the supplemental draft with the opportunity to draft a low-character, poor decision making, selfish, prima donna attention-seeker who will have to learn an entirely new position because everyone already knows he cannot be successfull at the only position he has experience in, my answer is a resounding ‘NO THANK YOU!’

The best thing for Pryor AND for the NFL would be for him to spend a few years in either the CFL or the UFL, developing some strong character traits, and proving to the world that he is more than just hype and bad publicity.

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The Does April Really Matter in MLB Debate

May 3, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Bleacher Fan.

Here we are in early May and the MLB standings are a bit confusing. The team with the best record in baseball is not the team many predicted – it’s the Cleveland Indians of all teams. A 18-8 April does not earn any team a championship, but it is as noteworthy as the New York Yankees’ 17-8. It’s as good as the Phillies as well. Since the Yankees and the Phillies are legitimate name-brand contenders, then the Indians must be for real also, right?

Unfortunately, that question does not have a simple answer… making it a great candidate for an eternal baseball debate. Does a strong April REALLY matter for Major League Baseball teams?

Loyal Homer will argue that an excellent April is not indicative of a great season while Bleacher Fan will argue that a great April means a great season is in the works.

Who do you agree with? Check back here and find out how the judge rules later this week.

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The Does April Really Matter in MLB Debate… Pride Goeth BEFORE the Fall, and Winning in April Goeth INTO the Fall

May 3, 2011

Read the opposing argument from Loyal Homer.


The first month of baseball is officially in the books, and the biggest story from the month of April has been the play of the Cleveland Indians.

The upstart Tribe has just turned in the greatest start in the 110 year history of their storied franchise, finishing April tied for the best record in baseball at 18-8, and currently owning a 4.5 game lead in the AL Central.

This is a better start than any of the AL Championship teams from the 1990s ever saw, and it’s better than the World Series Champion 1948 team. In fact, even the 1954 Indians (a team that went on to win 111 games that year) would have trailed its 2011 counterparts by two games when April turned to May.

So, why is it that most people are STILL not yet ready to give the Indians (who own the best record in baseball) any respect? Many writers around the country are reluctant to do more than acknowledge that the Indians had a good start to the season. And, of all the major publications online, only CBSSports.com has the guts to put the Indians atop the Power Rankings (most still refuse to put Cleveland even in the top three).

I am not trying to make a claim that the Indians are destined for a World Series championship, but the team has clearly played as the best team in baseball so far. They swept five of their nine series, and have not lost at home in over a month. They swept the pre-season AL favorite Boston Red Sox, and just completed a thrilling sweep of the Detroit Tigers, a team many analysts’ pick to be the AL Central champions.

With the exception of a couple bumps in the road (which every team has), the rotation has been outstanding, and the bullpen has been virtually unhittable. Meanwhile, on the offensive side of the ball, the Indians are tied with the Texas Rangers for scoring the most runs in the AL, and the Indians trail only the equally surprising Kansas City Royals for the best team batting average at .272.

So, why are people still doubting the Indians? Because 30 days ago, NOBODY thought the team could be a contender this year (I even predicted a season with fewer than 72 wins). But is a prediction from 30 days ago really any reason to discount the Indians today?

Perhaps Indians outfielder Shelley Duncan sums it up the best – “Did you ever notice that people don’t want to be wrong?”

Rather than admit that they might have actually gotten a prediction wrong, analysts-turned-prognosticators like Jayson Stark would instead try to diminish a tremendous start to the season for teams like the Indians or the Royals by attempting to tag their records with an asterisk that “this is only the first month of the season… it doesn’t really MEAN anything yet.”

DOESN’T REALLY MEAN ANYTHING?!

That’s like saying that the first inning of a game doesn’t matter, because there are still eight innings left to be played.

Let’s forget the obvious fact that the first month of the season is JUST AS important as the last month of the season. The notion that games played in the month of April should not serve as an indication of what to expect through the rest of the season for a team is absolutely absurd.

Every team is now at least 25 games deep into their season. Every team has already dealt with injuries and road trips, slumps and streaks. They have played in good weather and bad, and in front of fans both friendly and hostile. If a team after 25 games can’t at least say that they have indication of what to expect in the weeks and months ahead, then their problems are greater than where they sit in the standings.

The NFL crowns their champion after only 19 games, but baseball doesn’t mean ANYTHING after playing 25 or more? Child, please.

Last year at this point in the season the AL standings had Tampa Bay, Minnesota, and Texas leading their divisions, with the Yankees sitting in the Wild Card spot, just one game behind Tampa. Guess where things stood at the end of September… the AL standings had Tampa Bay, Minnesota, and Texas leading their divisions, with the Yankees sitting in the Wild Card spot, just one game behind Tampa.

And do you think there is a single person in the league – whether a player, manager, GM, or owner – who is shrugging their shoulders at their April performance because, “It doesn’t matter, anyway”? Of course not! Every single person in baseball would LOVE to have a 4.5 game division lead at this point in the season. It builds confidence for the athletes, and it sets a team that much farther ahead of the competition for the next 25 games (and more).

Obviously, there is a lot of baseball left to be played. There is a reason the playoffs are not based on season standings at the end of April. But that is the exact same reason why teams play the April games.

It is true that the Indians could blow the 4.5 game April lead over the rest of the division. But that same lead can also be blown in September. It is true that the Tigers, Twins, or White Sox could get hot, and make a stronger push for the AL Central than has been made so far. But it is also true that the season could end just as it started, with the Indians outright dominating the rest of the competition.

I’m not trying to make the case that the Indians are on course for a World Series championship. I’m not even arguing that they have the AL Central locked up. But I can guarantee you that teams like the Texas Rangers, New York Yankees, and Boston Red Sox are taking the Indians seriously, and the White Sox, Twins, Tigers and Royals are taking the Indians VERY seriously.

If the other teams in the league are putting stock in the performance of teams like the Cleveland Indians, shouldn’t that be good enough for Jayson Stark and company?

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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.

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The Criminals in College Sports Debate

March 15, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Sports Geek.

College football coaches are always on the lookout for the next possible gridiron superstar.

Each coach’s wish list is different, but the criteria is almost always the same – speed, smarts, and size usually rule the day.

So where does an intangible like character come into play?

Every program would love to have a guy like Tim Tebow in their locker room. He was a good player with a solid moral foundation to back it up. He was a leader on the field and off, and became the poster child for the ‘good guy’ in college football.

But while Tebow was hoisted up as the pristine face of the Florida Gators, the rest of their football program were certainly no Eagle Scouts. Since 2005, 25 different players from the Gators have been arrested, including 12 charges of felonies or violent misdemeanors.

Florida is not the only program to deal with criminal activity from its players, either.

Every year we hear more reports about college athletes who find themselves involved in illegal matters that can make Ohio State’s tattoos and Brigham Young’s honor code violations sound like a church bake sale.

As further evidence of this growing problem in college sports, a recent study has uncovered that there is an alarming number of student athletes with criminal records, specifically among the ranks of the top programs.

Because these athletes become high profile representatives of high profile schools, does it make sense for those universities to dig even further into the respective pasts of their prospective recruits?

Should Universities in the NCAA examine the juvenile records of those students they intend to recruit?

Our resident Loyal Homer believes that universities absolutely should begin examining those juvenile records, while Sports Geek feels that they should not.

Is this a viable way to clean up the game and its programs? We are about to find out…

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The Criminals in College Sports Debate… Character Matters More Than Oversight

March 15, 2011

Read the opposing argument from Loyal Homer.

At times we have an inclination as a culture to abdicate responsibility for things rather than commit to being accountable. Sure, we could take the lead on that project at work, but it would be visible to management and it’s easier to play it safe. Yes, I could run down that dude that just stole that old lady’s purse, but it’s safer to stay put and hope things work out for her. Being accountable – having a true sense of responsibility – is often hard to come by as our culture evolves. But it is an absolutely essential trait to having good character – and winning in sports.

You may be wondering what the heck I am writing about. Fair. I am reminding everyone of a simple principle it seems all too easy to forget – that character matters in sports.

Reality dictates that not everyone is perfect. Translation? People screw up! No single demographic group screws up more in life than high schoolers. They have nearly adult bodies, and a poor understanding of how to properly use them. That means poor choices are made. Sometimes poor choices put a kid in jail, giving them a juvenile record. Should that juvenile record prevent a kid from being recruited as a college player? Absolutely not.

If character is important and must be measured, then this is one area where the world can do with a bit less oversight and regulation, and bit more people owning up to their actions.

I concede that young kids, especially high schoolers, are dangerous ones to invest the future of a high profile athletic program in. Just ask Jim Tressel what his most recent opinions on the subject are.

But, if a kid is going to commit a crime, knowing about an existing juvenile record isn’t necessarily a key indicator that they are sure to commit of committing another crime. America is a country of second chances, remember? If everyone that ever made a mistake was not given a second chance, we would be missing out on an awful of great businesses, and I’m sure a few important personal relationships, too.

It’s worth repeating – young kids make mistakes, mistakes that even put them in jail. In fact, they are entitled to make mistakes. Yes, that’s right – entitled. Mistakes are often how a youngster gains experience – some better than others. Some experience is gained easier than others

But that does not necessarily mean high schoolers with a juvenile record are broken human beings, or unworthy of competing in athletic competition. More than anything, college sports coaches are leaders that try to instill values in their players in addition to winning ballgames. Leaders need young men to lead, those who can benefit from their influence. Athletes who have made past mistakes need leaders willing to “take a chance” on them. Leaders willing to invest in their character.

Character has to matter in college athletics. A recruit should never be in a situation where a records search dictates whether or not a player is offered a scholarship. It should never come to a records search. If it does, then the recruit is hiding something or trying to fool the coach, and it is wise to stop pursuit.

It is true that these kids are important representatives of their respective universities. A kid a recruiting coach meets as young junior in high school could one day blossom into the face of an athletic program, and the brand of an entire university. Such is the case with college sports today. That potential evolution of a recruit to college superstar further solidifies the importance of character.

During the recruiting process, coaches should carefully inquire about important matters such as a juvenile record. And kids should readily admit mistakes what they learned. If the coach does not have a good feeling that the youngster has learned from the mistakes, then they probably will not be very coachable either. In other words, they are a bad recruit. But that determination is made through conversation, not through a end around background check.

It is fair for additional oversight to be added – if anywhere – within these college programs themselves. To force a head coach to always know where every player is at all times and what they are doing just isn’t realistic. Ensure that collegiate institutions are doing what they are supposed to be doing in protecting the youngsters they give responsibility and scholarship to, but let their lessons learned be part of their admitted character – not a sneaky way to prohibit to a second chance.

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The High School to College Jump Debate Verdict

March 3, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Bleacher Fan.

I get teased for this a lot, but I have a great deal of respect and admiration for Michigan State head basketball coach institution Tom Izzo. He is a rare coach in college basketball, having taken six of his past 12 teams to the Final Four. He is also known as a coach who cares a great deal about graduating players. He is disciplined and tough, he doesn’t let players get away with stuff they should not. More than anything, he is fair. His players know his rules and standards, and they know the consequences of not living up to them (see Izzo dismissing two starts from this year’s team mid-season).

So when Tom Izzo stands up and says something is a good idea, it’s worth a listen. However, I had reservations about the idea of forcing high school kids to choose the NBA or three years of college at such a young age. It is a decision that has lasting impact and millions of dollars on the line… but it is made by a 17 or 18-year-old kid. Pressure anyone?

It is true that some of those kids do make good decisions. But, some don’t.

I understand the point Babe Ruthless is making about some of the most talented players in basketball being straight out of high school. But, just because a player is talented does not mean a player is great. There is a distinction. Many of the talented high school players the Babe lists off have taken years to evolve in the game because at the professional level a player needs beyond raw talent. They also, for example, must fully understand how to play effective basketball. They must be smart, and they must be good teammates to consistently win championships.

My point? For every Kobe Bryant there are 10 players like Darius Miles. Is that really good for the league? In reality, the NBA had to invent an entire developmental league – and even TITLE it as such – simply because the caliber of player that was entering the league was not ready to play basketball on a professional level. That proves there are a whole lot more players like Miles that need more seasoning to have a chance to cut it playing professional basketball.

The proposal on the table also isn’t quite as black and white and Babe Ruthless paints it. Players may choose when they are being recruited if they wish to enter the college ranks or attempt to make it in the NBA. But, if they choose college it is a three-year commitment. To me, this is not only prudent, but eminently reasonable.

Bleacher Fan wins this debate because he is sadly correct that supporting casts provide as much support as a 25-year-old bra. The overall quality of the talent in the NBA is down. Part of that is because of the expansion of the league over time diluting the talent pool. But a counteraction to that dilemma is to improve the quality of the players in the league. The NBA Development League has not, to this point, improved the overall quality of the NBA product. The reality is that college basketball is a better proving ground for great basketball talent, and the NBA is smart to back any proposal that feeds the league better players.

Given this construct, it is important to note that an obvious benefit is an overall improvement to the college game. These benefits are not the focus of this debate, as Bleacher Fan rightly states, but they are impossible to ignore.

Many of the college basketball teams that many of us have taken notice of at this stage of the season are playing well, in part, because their rosters are comprised of seniors. You bracketologists know that St. John’s, Purdue, Wisconsin, San Diego State, and many other schools have risen to the top of our minds because they have experienced players. A rule like the one Izzo is backing would promote the idea that more programs would have upperclassman, raising the overall quality of the college game AND improving the caliber of player in the professional game.

The proposal does not limit a player’s ability to earn money, as Babe Ruthless intimates. It gives them freedom – options – to choose which path they want. That doesn’t mean that pressure is non-existent. If a high school player wants to play professional ball, then pressure is part of the overall package – and if they are going to cut it, they can’t shy away.

Bottom line, Bleacher Fan has convinced me that this proposal is good for college basketball, and good for professional basketball – not to mention the players themselves. It’s a win-win.

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