Surprise! There is a lot to cover this week, so let's get started.
There has been a lot of good writing about this story over the past twenty four hours and I am sure that there is more to come. Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post has a pretty good piece, but I am recommending that you check out what Jason Whitlock has to say on Fox Sports. I know a lot of you don't like Whitlock, but I think his piece is pretty much spot on in terms of the bigger picture here.
For those of you who have been on vacation or have been otherwise distracted, an investigation conducted by the Louis Freeh, ex-Director of the FBI has revealed that Penn State officials including head coach Joe Paterno were aware of what Jerry Sandusky was up to as early as 1998, and engaged in a deliberate cover up. There is now widespread and serious discussion of applying the death penalty to the Penn State football program. For those of us in Steeler Nation with ties to Pennsylvania and the football culture there (there won't be any snickering at Ohio State for a while I guess) have to absorb a pretty severe shock to our systems.
This is one of those stories that if you harbored any doubts as to whether there is a God or some form of universal justice, here is some strong evidence. I have been pulling away from big time college football for quite some time now. I had a serviceable excuse; I work on Saturdays and tend to miss many of the games. But if you have been anywhere near the sausage making of the big revenue making college sports (men's D-I football and men's basketball) then you could be excused for being a little disenchanted with what you saw. Ask Dogthebus, a college employee, and one of the many thoughtful folks who share themselves so generously with us at BTSC.
Pushing past the rather horrible particulars of the story, what better metaphor for the state of college football; the exploitation (rape) of young boys for the entertainment and prestige of adults. Am I going too far? Some will want to say that these young men (the players) get an education in exchange for their labors which is certainly true for many (and to keep things straight, this is not an issue with the Penn State program that has been better, much better than most in this regard), but in all too many instances an education is received in spite of the efforts of the adults tasked with guiding the players. Ask Steelers safety Myron Rolle who was criticized widely for being ‘disloyal' to his team for choosing to pursue a Rhodes Scholarship.
Given the state of college education in general, the fact that people like Nick Saban and Urban Meyer are not only the highest paid individuals at their universities, but also of their entire states (including Governors) with the attendant distortions of power and influence, then something is terribly out of whack. Paterno was the choirboy who supposedly redeemed and justified the system. Penn State was lifted up to demonstrate that what corruption existed was only due to a lack of will to doing the right thing. Many of us will reassure ourselves by portraying Paterno and others at Penn State as monsters; totally unlike you or me. But that's not giving systemic corruption its due. To the extent that we continue to watch and support the game knowing of the excesses that are committed in its name than I suggest we're not all that different than they are. When the Penn State program dies a lot of innocence is likely to die with it.
I was prepared to go into a whole 'woe are the Saints' because of their contract difficulties with the quarterback and with the Monday deadline for signing franchise players looming. But word just came in that the two sides have agreed to a five year 100 million contract (I got to get me one of those someday), with 60 million guaranteed. A wise investment I think by the Saints. Now the team can devote its undivided attention to suspensions and lawsuits.
The pending Hall Of Famer and former Steelers center is part of a group of 47 former players who have filed suit against the NFL over the issues of head injuries sustained while playing football as reported in the Post-Gazette. What is particularly poignant about this that Dawson has followed in the huge footprints of Mike Webster with his on field play and is about to follow him into the Hall Of Fame. Will he also follow Webster into tragic physical and mental difficulties later in life?
Len Pasquarelli on CBS Sports adds an Amen to Ron Cook on the issue of extending the Steelers head coach sooner rather than later. The article doesn't break any new ground in terms of the substantive issues or suggest any heightened sense of urgency, but it makes it points well and provides insight into and a reminder of the Pittsburgh sports psyche. It also provides a tidbit or two about Tomlin that the average fan might not know. You may find it worth the read.
The Hall Of Fame fullback and one of Joe Paterno's staunchest supporters has jumped into the fray in the aftermath of the Freeh Report. Harris, interviewed by the Post-Gazette, is not ready to pass final judgment yet based upon concerns he has about the motives of the investigating group. Specifically, he was disturbed by the leaking of Paterno emails prior to the release of the report. Harris, who has been on travel and has not had time to fully examine and digest the report's conclusions, contends that people are drawing conclusions based upon their agendas and he prefers to wait until the trials of some of the key players brings additional information to light. He added that he was open to yielding to the truth of the matter, but feels that the information gathering process is not yet complete.
The Tribune-Review and SI.com both reported on Friday that the Steelers ILB was the intended victim of an investment fraud scheme. He has filed suit in a Michigan court.
Between the concerns over the health and continuing utility of veteran Casey Hampton and the promise of fourth round draft pick Alameda Ta'amu, nose tackle McLendon is usually an afterthought. He was profiled this week on Steelers.com in a piece that emphasized the confidence that the coaching staff expressed in him. He also spoke of his close relationship with Ziggy Hood. The two came to the team together as a first round draft pick (Hood) and as an UDFA.
Ask The Steelers
Steelers.com's question and answer series continued this week with pieces on three players. Ryan Clark fielded questions on the frustration of having to sit both during the team's loss in the playoffs last season as well as for the season opener at Denver, the loss of veteran teammates and leadership issues, the change in league rules related to legal hits and the competition for spots in the secondary. Cameron Heyward addressed his progress in mastering the system, improving his level of play and the challenges faced by the D Line with Hampton's absence. Antonio Brown discussed his training regimen and the transition to Todd Haley's offense.
Nine Million Visitors
The Pro Football Hall of Fame celebrated the occasion of its nine millionth visitor this week. It turns out that visitor was a young Steelers fan. Ten year old Alex Duff, a fifth grader at Dallastown Intermediate School (What kind of name is that for a community in Pennsylvania?) was accorded the honor this past Sunday.
The blog for Seattle Seahawk fans published a piece on the prospects for the Steelers 2012 season (relying heavily on the insights of someone from Nice Pick Cowher). The forecast was okay, reasonable and the writer gracious. But it was also clear that Seahawk fans are still absolutely obsessed with the idea that the Steelers, aided and abetted by the zebras, stole 'their' Lombardi. I haven't reacted much to the whining from the Great Northwest over the years, but in reading this something inside of me snapped. So, if there is anyone with Seahawks ties that happen to be lurking out there (DeCastro?, Ta'amu?) what follows is for you.
First question: if the only thing standing between the Seahawks and greatness was some chicanery and collusion involving the Steelers and some corrupt zebras, how come you haven't managed to get back to the Super Bowl in six seasons? Our guys have been back twice. Where have you been?
Have you considered the possibility that you could have still won that game in spite of the evil machinations of those Irishmen from Pittsburgh and Goodell's striped minions if your receivers would have, ahem, caught the passes thrown to them? A novel idea I know, but try it. It works most of the time.
Has anyone explained to you that dicey officiating is like injuries and bad weather, part of the gauntlet you have to run and overcome in order to triumph? In other words, it happens to everyone. Did you happen to see that Whopper they called on Polamalu during the divisional game against the Colts a few weeks prior? The league even had to admit that it was pretty messed up. We survived and moved on. You could too, provided you stop bitching.
Finally, what about that butt whippin' you took in Pittsburgh last year? Now, granted, the game was played in the dead of night Seattle time. And the Steelers were a little salty given the fact that had gotten their butts whipped the previous week. But here was your opportunity to get REVENGE. You could have shown those Steelers just who their daddy was, like the Ravens did the week before. So what happened? Did the zebras put rat poison in your pregame meal? (Bastards!) Okay, I'm better now. Let's move on.
The Browns made what I believe to be a good move by obtaining Baylor wide receiver Josh Gordon. This addressed a glaring need for Cleveland. And this is the AFC North. You have to come strong or...
The NFL has filed a grievance with the Players Union in the hope that they can get Jonathan Vilma to drop his lawsuit against the league. Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was arrested and charged with resisting arrest following an incident at a Houston nightclub. A court date was set for August 6th. ESPN.com reports that Terrell Owens owes over $20,000 in child support and could potentially face jail time. Peyton Manning has purchased a 16,000 square foot house in Denver. Training camp for rookies commences next week in New England, Tampa and Washington.
We're getting close.