Bud Foster’s Proposed Fines Are College Athlete Exploitation 101

College football season is now just four days away; that’s awesome, awesome news.  One of the headline games of the sport’s opening weekend will occur Monday night in Blacksburg, when the Hokies of Virginia Tech bring their lunch-pail D, their Beamer Ball, and their Enter Sandman into Lane Stadium as they host the defending champion Ohio State Buckeyes; again, wonderful.

However there is one piece of not-so-awesome news that pertains to college football, and specifically Virginia Tech, and that is the thought of fining players for various transgressions.

Now, you must be thinking that this is some kind of sick joke; that’s what I was thinking when I first heard the story.  But it isn’t, and there is even photographic evidence:

Yeah, a fining system makes perfect sense… in the pro game.  For the record, Virginia Tech Athletic Director Whit Babcock put an end to the system that was initially proposed by Defensive Coordinator Bud Foster.  So how was Virginia Tech going to get away with this, if Foster got his wish?

On January 17th, the schools in the Power 5 conferences got together at the NCAA convention and voted 79-1 in favor of a cost-of-attendance stipend.  These schools were able to get this done because, as you may remember, they were given autonomy by the NCAA last August to make their own rules, free of those set by the NCAA.  This is what ESPN’s Mitch Sherman wrote about it at the time:

Stipends, determined by institutions under federally created guidelines, have been estimated at $2,000 to $4,000 annually. They are designed to cover the cost-of-living expenses that fall outside athletic scholarships.

Group of Five and other non-football playing Division I conferences can opt to enact the proposals passed Saturday as early as next fall.

And many schools are doing just that; Virginia Tech is one of them. As I understand it, this stipend is designed to help the players pay to live on campus and keep a roof over their heads.  There isn’t anything wrong with that; even if you are opposed to the payment of college athletes, this rule tangibly benefits the players without actually paying them, per se.

Another godawful element to the Foster Fine System?  The inconsistency.  Go take another look at the chart and you’ll notice something.  That something is the difference between, say, missing a Monday class and getting an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.  Not being in that Monday, Wednesday, or Friday class will set you back $30, but a lapse in judgment on the field will cost you $100.  The other things that will cost a player more than missing a Monday, Wednesday, or Friday class?  Forgetting your equipment for practice, having a dirty dorm room, and having a dirty locker.  That’s nice.

And you’re still thinking that Virginia Tech is the only school even thinking of doing this.  No, no, no, no, no, there’s another school and another coach deliberating the adoption of this practice, per ESPN’s Joe Schad:

Yes, now there are two schools who have at least given thought to the idea of taking a chunk of the little money the players get because of minor off-field transgressions.  Kevin Trahan of VICE Sports wrote to this point a couple of days ago:

This time, the athletic director was on the coach’s side, as Cincinnati AD Mike Bohn said that he supports using fines as “a tool”—a tool to take money out of a supposed academic-based scholarship due to “accountability” related to athletics.

That’s all well and good, but expect Bohn to get a memo from the NCAA soon enough. Subject line, Re: Shut up. There will be no fines at Virginia Tech this season, or at Cincinnati, because nobody riding the gold-plated gravy train of big-time college sports administration wants the association to lose its future legal battles.

In the NFL, teams can fine players because those players are employees earning salaries, and they’ve agreed to having those salaries docked through collective bargaining. In college football, players don’t have those same fundamental economic rights. At least not yet.

Absolutely.  Players in the NCAA don’t have collective bargaining. Whether they should or not is a matter of much debate; after all, the NLRB recently denied the request of Northwestern football players to unionize.  No matter what you think, it simply isn’t fair that players who have no workers’ rights have to also allow their coaches to take their money.

Before you ask: sure, players should be going to class (that’s why they’re there) and there’s nothing wrong with coaches wanting to incentivize class attendance/good in-class behavior.  But, in Foster’s case, fining the players only $30 for missing certain classes but a full $100 for unsportsmanlike conduct?  Come on, especially when you consider that the stipend the players receive may only be $2,000.  So a player could hypothetically lose 5% of his stipend because of one dumb play.

It should bear repeating, however, that Virginia Tech’s AD killed the idea very shortly after Foster announced it.  He probably killed it because he didn’t think that the Hokie players were employees of Virginia Tech or head coach Frank Beamer.

And this is something that Spencer Hall of SBNation has already written about:

Virginia Tech laid waste to the system in a matter of hours for a good reason. Fining athletes is something professional leagues do because they are professionals — paid, well-compensated employees of a corporation, the kind of companies that have definite labor laws, obligations to their employees, and rules for behavior. (In the NFL, the person in charge of some of those rules is Roger Goodell, so maybe “rules” and “consistent standards” are misnomers, but let’s get back on topic.)

If you are a student-athlete — a designation Virginia Tech and every other college football program would love to keep around — then you are not an employee. You play for the love of the game alone, plus a scholarship and cost of attendance and maybe a few under-the-table fringe benefits on the side. Those side benefits are vastly overrated in value. Mostly a few hundred here, maybe a few thousand there if you’re lucky.

We’ve had this discussion before, and we’ll have it again right now. Things are not free, unless they’re classified as amateur sports. The company store has been theoretically outlawed in the United States for years, unless we call it amateur sports. We are completely opposed to paying people with things they often don’t want or need, unless it’s amateur sports. You can’t underpay people for decades on end, unless we’re talking about amateur sports.

You don’t defend a system that deliberately shorts people their worth unless: amateur sports.

And this is the way of amateur sports: screw over the players while the coaches and institutions get all of the wealth and power.  And who does a good lion’s share of that work for the coaches and institutions? The players.

For the record, this isn’t an essay in favor of paying college athletes. But there is no doubt that these players should be able to make money off themselves and their likenesses; their inability to do so has at least partially helped to rob our conglomerate of the delightful NCAA Football video game series.  But that game shouldn’t be made again until the players can make money off their appearance in it; we all know who this dude is, from NCAA Football 14:

QB #2 was the previous year’s Heisman winner and maybe the most unstoppable sports video game character this side of Madden 2004 Michael Vick.  QB #2 went on to be a first round pick in the next year’s NFL draft.  QB #2 couldn’t make any money off of his awesomeness in the game, but he did try to make money off other things.  And QB #2, like the Virginia Tech and Cincinnati football players, had no collective bargaining rights to protect himself in case of something like a fine system being enforced on him.

You’ve figured it out; QB #2 is Johnny Manziel.  Anyway, let’s get back to the point.

While I understand why student-athletes want to be paid, the value of receiving a free education in the greatest country in the world is kind of a huge benefit, too.  While some student-athletes are really more athlete than student, many athletes do go to college for the education. But this is why it’s easy to understand the plight of college athletes: they are being treated like employees without being compensated like employees would be.

And it would be fair for employees to be fined for shortcomings; NFL players are fined every single day.  That’s fair; those players are getting paid to do a job, and are expected to do it well.  But, in amateur sports?  The players are being fined, even though they are nothing near employees.

They’re volunteers, playing for the love of the game and being exploited time and time again by the amateur system.

The system that allowed Foster and Tuberville to think about fining their players in the first place.

The WDBJ Tragedy Should Give Us a New Respect for Journalists

Journalism keeps you planted in the earth. – Ray Bradbury

This is a sports blog.  You know that by looking at the name.  But today is different.  I can’t stick to sports today.  I just can’t.  And it’s because of what happened at 6:45 this morning in Moneta, Virginia, just outside of Roanoke.

At that time, reporter Alison Parker was interviewing Vicki Gardner, a high-ranking official in the local Smith Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce, about the current state of tourism in the area.  Routine interview.  Or so it seemed.

Then, as Gardner was speaking, a gunshot rang out.  It was captured in this video (WARNING: Video contains extremely disturbing content).

The end result was the worst possible one: Parker and her cameraman (Adam Ward) were dead; the general manager of WDBJ confirmed this much on the air later in the morning.  Parker was 24; Ward was 27.

But then, the shooting took an even more horrifying turn.  The shooter, 41-year old Bryce Williams, posted a video (presumably taken from a GoPro) of the shooting on Twitter and Facebook.  As bad as this, too many people were subjected to it; due to auto-play on both applications, many on both social media accounts saw the shared or retweeted video on their timelines and were unable to stop it.

This was as surreal of a story as there you could ever imagine.  What made it more unbelievable was the fact that all of it was caught on live television, or, as we found out later, a GoPro.  So why I am I writing this article on a sports blog?

Well, it’s a complicated answer, but the main reason is at I am an aspiring future journalist.  I think of myself as something of a journalist now, with this blog, but not really.  I’m not in the industry, I’m not out covering stories, and I’m not subjecting myself to harm like Ward and Parker did.  And I have all the respect on the planet for real-world journalists, especially after the events of today.

On-camera reporters often face distractions during their reporting, and they’re usually very innocuous.  Most of the time it’s people like this (WARNING: video contains a brief moment of mature content).

But, in reality, the Baba Booey guy is representative of the distractions field reporters face 95% of the time.  There also exists another popular, sexist, and extremely inappropriate phrase that many reporter-hecklers have used in a live shot (you can find out for yourself what it is).  But, the consequence of those occurrences?  The reporter throwing back to the studio, the studio anchor apologizing, and the newscast moving on.  No one is physically harmed.

So this is a new frontier.  And it should make us realize: a journalist/reporter’s job is really hard.  We often see certain people on TV and think, “That’s just another teleprompter-reading, stupid TV anchor/reporter”, and that could not be further from the truth. Even singer Don Henley crooned in his solo hit “Dirty Laundry”, “We got the bubble-headed bleached blonde, comes on at five/she can tell you ’bout the plane crash with a gleam in her eye”.  Again, this opinion of reporters couldn’t be further from the truth.  TV, and in particular, reporting, takes so much more than a smile and a hair color.  Unfortunately, part of that includes shutting out extraneous distractions, something that Parker and Ward had to do in the last moments of their lives.

And a piece written by Jaye Watson on her blog absolutely knocks it out of the park.  Read it.  It is the best piece of writing I have read on this senseless tragedy and maybe one of the best essays I’ve ever read. Here is the last part of it, which perfectly encapsulates the role of a journalist in making the world a better place:

It’s enough to make you wonder, who in the hell would want to do a job like that?

Us.

Because deep down inside, we are the same in believing that we can make a difference.

We can change things.

We can expose rot.

We can give a voice to the voiceless.

We can make people happy.

We can make them angry.

We can be the catalyst for change.

We are the ones at the shooting, the city council meeting, the hospital bedside, the big high school game, the war zone, the grieving family’s living room.

We take what we hear and I swear we do our damndest to regurgitate it back to you the best we can.

We want you to know what we know.

I didn’t know Alison Parker or Adam Ward, but I would bet they entered this business with an idealized, deep desire to make the world a better, more informed place. They wanted to tell good stories. They wanted to be part of the change.

One person, a Glock and GoPro toting person, stole the promise of their lives, ensuring they would experience no more ‘firsts,‘ of any kind.

I beg of you to remember one thing.

He was not one of us.

And this is why journalists are so important; they make the world better.  They force change through ingenious investigative reporting. Going back to sports for just one second, if it weren’t for two journalists (Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru), we wouldn’t have had the information about Cris Carter’s fall guy comments at last year’s NFL rookie symposium.  And if it weren’t for great investigative reporting, we likely wouldn’t have ever found out about Watergate, the horror of the Vietnam War, or the unethical surveillance ways of the NSA.

Journalism is essential.  It was attacked today.  Whether you like it or not, today was an attack on free speech and journalism, by a disgruntled reject from the outside.  We shouldn’t be talking about the shooter’s motive right now (he killed himself this afternoon) but it probably had nothing to do with attacking free speech.  From all accounts, the gunman had been fired from several outlets, was not easy to work with, and had an anger issue.  He was fired from WDBJ in 2013 and reportedly refused to leave the offices.  (He would later file a wrongful termination lawsuit against WDBJ; it was unsuccessful.)

But we can try to figure out motives later.  This moment is about remembering Alison Parker and Adam Ward, two aspiring journalists, doing something they did every day: their job.  Two innocent lives, put in danger by a savage gunman aiming to finish them.  And, the saddest part, two soon-to-be-spouses.

Ward was engaged to one of the producers at the station, and (this is terrifying), she had to watch his death from the control room.  It was her last day at WDBJ, and Parker had supposedly brought in balloons for the celebration.  Parker had moved in with fellow station reporter Chris Hurst, and according to Hurst, they had future plans for their lives, too:

This is the real shame of today; they were young.  They had most of their lives ahead of them.  But that all ended at 6:45 this morning.

But this is what I hope comes out of this: I hope people respect the role of journalists in our society.  The job always brings its perils, and while we usually equate reporters being harmed with their reporting in war zones, those perils walked into the living rooms of the greater Roanoke area just after dawn today, and maybe changed the journo industry forever.  While the piece Parker and Ward were doing was an everyday, routine piece, people like them serve a big role in our society, as a conduit to the American public.

But they’re gone now.  And may they rest in peace.

The MLB Playoff System Is a Problem, but Its Solution Is Simple

If you follow baseball, you’re probably at least decently aware that both the American and National leagues have three divisions each; this has been the way of baseball since 1994.  And winning the division has always meant a ticket into the playoffs.  But, inevitably, as is the case with the NFL and just about every other major sport, some divisions are evidently better than others.

This year, the best division in the majors has been, by a wide margin, the NL Central.  It’s about to field three playoff teams (Cardinals, Pirates, Cubs) and each one of those three teams is at least 20 games over .500.  The three playoff teams in the Central also happen to be the three best teams in the NL.  However, with the way the playoff structure works, the Pirates and Cubs will be subjected to a one-game playoff to decide which one advances to the division series.  The worst part?  The winner of this game is going to have to play the Cardinals, the best team in the game and a potential 100-game winner.

So even though the Pirates and Cubbies are the second and third best teams in the NL by record, one of them will be left out of the senior circuit’s final four.  But two of the teams that will be one of the last four standing in the NL will be the NL West champ (either the Dodgers or Giants) and the NL East winner (most likely the Mets). Both teams currently sit at 67-56, a whole 4.5 games worse than the Cubs.

Hypothetically, let’s just say that the Pirates win the Wild Card game. In this case, the Buccos would be forced to play the Cardinals in a match-up of the NL’s two best teams record-wise.  One of them would be eliminated in this series.  The winner would then play the winner of the Mets-Dodgers series (that’s what we’ll call it for the sake of this discussion).

So, here’s what would happen under the current format: two of the three best teams in the NL would be out before the League Championship Series.  Does this sound like a fair way to decide a champion?  I don’t think so.  We could be left with a very interesting LCS matchup (the Mets and Dodgers are two of the most dangerous teams in baseball if they make the playoffs) but the system won’t reward the most successful regular season teams.

So I came up with a very simple way to fix the big issue plaguing the MLB playoffs, the one in which the best teams knock each other out early in October.  Here is my solution so that problem.

The Win-Loss Record, Stupid

 

I’m not calling anyone stupid; I just wanted to inject a little James Carville into this article to make it a tad more interesting.  Anyway, let’s get back on track.

The way to fix this simple issue has everything to do with rewarding the teams with the best records in baseball.  In my playoff format, I would disregard division winners and not automatically reward them with a reprieve from the Wild Card game.  I would treat divisions as a way to geographically separate the teams as well as a process to solve tiebreakers.  For example, if two teams had the same record, the first tiebreaker would be in-division records.  I feel that it is a fair enough way to hash things out if two teams with the same record either get into the playoffs or are fighting for the last ticket to the dance.

So how would this seeding work?  This is how.

  1. Best record
  2. Second-best record
  3. Third-best record
  4. Fourth-best record
  5. Fifth-best record

Not that much would really change from the format we have now. The only difference would be that seeding would be determined by record, not winning the division.  Tiebreaker would be the aforementioned in-division record.  And the four and five seeds would play in a one-game playoff, just like in the current system.  It’s not perfect, but I believe that this is definitely better than having two of the three best teams knocked out of the postseason before the Championship Series.

So how would the playoff picture actually shake out using this method?  Here are the playoff seedings for both leagues, sorted by win-loss record.

AL

  1. Kansas City Royals- 75-48
  2. Toronto Blue Jays- 69-55
  3. New York Yankees- 68-55
  4. Houston Astros- 69-56
  5. Texas Rangers- 64-59

NL

  1. St. Louis Cardinals- 78-45
  2. Pittsburgh Pirates- 74-48
  3. Chicago Cubs- 71-51
  4. New York Mets- 67-56
  5. Los Angeles Dodgers- 67-56

*Note: Mets win in-division record tiebreaker.

If you look closely at the teams in my playoffs, you’ll notice something: the teams that would make the postseason if the regular season ended today are the exact same teams that would make it in with the current system.  I’m just rearranging the deck chairs, if you will, to reward the teams with better records.

And, this is just a personal aside, but I think the match-ups in this version of the playoffs would be more scintillating than they would be in real life.  A one-game playoff between the Dodgers and Mets, along with a potential clash of Jacob deGrom and Zack Greinke, the two best pitchers in the game by ERA?  Yes, please.  An in-division meeting of the Yankees and Blue Jays?  I’ll take that.  And the potential of either another Dodgers-Cardinals meeting or a bout between the two best pitching staffs in baseball?  That would be good. The possibilities are endless.

One More Note on How This Would Work

 

In my baseball, home-field advantage would not be decided by the All-Star game.  I would decide my World Series home-field by regular season performance, but that leaves one small ambiguity to clear up. Hypothetically, let’s say the Cubs (the NL’s three-seed) and the Blue Jays (the AL’s two-seed) meet in the World Series.  While the Blue Jays have the better seed, the Cubs have the better record (this is a general theme; the NL is better than the AL this year).  This would leave a conundrum as to who would get home-field.  Here is the answer, if I ruled baseball (imagine that for just a second):

The Chicago Cubs.

This is the fair way to conduct the World Series, and this is how home-field advantage would be decided; not by seeding or meaningless exhibition game, but by win-loss record.  It’s consistent with the way the rest of these playoffs work: rewarding winners, regardless of what division they play in.

So, other than re-seeding, I’d keep the exact same playoff format.  The Wild Card game is great, especially considering its urgency and random nature.  It’s given us awesome:

And, at worst, talked about:

And the winner of my Wild Card game would play the one-seed, just like in the current format.  Not much really changes.

So, making one little change to the way the Playoffs work would make a world of difference, in my opinion.  It’s not some huge, earth-shattering change like getting rid of divisions all together, and because we are keeping the divisions, we can still have the same wild and crazy in-division rivalries that we do now.

So all this is is a very minor change to the system; some may argue otherwise, but I don’t think it’s a big deal.  It rewards regular season performance while still giving an incentive to win inside the division. It’s the little change that can go a long way to fixing the problem with the MLB playoffs.

It’s the win-loss record, stupid.

The ‘Elite’ Discussion is Ridiculous; Joe Flacco is Proof Positive

You’ve probably heard, especially recently, the discussion of NFL quarterbacks, and particularly which ones are “elite” and which ones aren’t.  This debate has extended to, among others, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco.  Flacco led his team to a Super Bowl title in 2013, and his postseason run got him a new six year, $120.6 million contract.

As you can imagine, pundits have taken their time to debate Flacco’s eliteness.  But first, we have to understand what elite means. According to dictionary.com, the definition of “elite” is: “representing the most choice or select; best.”  Okay, so with that out of the way, NFL fans have had hypothetical debates, especially recently, over the eliteness of Flacco and others.  And you are going to hear the word elite a lot in this article.

But this debate has become utterly ridiculous.  Why?  Because it’s gotten so far out of control it can’t be saved.  It started two years ago, in the midst of the Ravens’ Super Bowl run.  As transcribed by Rodger Sherman of SBNation, the Ravens’ website has fed the elite fire.  Here are a few article titles since then:

Jan. 14, 2013: “Joe Flacco not elite? ‘You’re crazy.’

June 5, 2013: “Pres. Obama to Joe Flacco: ‘You’re elite.’

Dec. 12, 2014: “Joe Flacco sending ‘elite’ subliminal message?

Jan. 3, 2015: “Joe Flacco ‘The best quarterback in football’

(We are counting this as an assertion of eliteness.)

Jan. 3, 2015: “Joe Flacco leaves elite tip in Pittsburgh

(To be fair, we had the same headline.)

Jan. 5, 2015: “Why isn’t Flacco considered elite?”

Jan. 8, 2015: “Is Joe Flacco an elite QB?

(The answer was yes.)

Feb. 18, 2015: “Is Joe Flacco elite? Gary Kubiak’s awesome answer.

May 28, 2015: “Why Joe Flacco will break into elite QB club under Marc Trestman

WAIT I THOUGHT HE’D BEEN IN THE CLUB THIS WHOLE TIME

July 24, 2015: “Torrey Smith’s brilliant response to Joe Flacco elite question

Aug. 20, 2015: “Eagles head coach Chip Kelly calls Joe Flacco elite

That, in and of itself, is the reason why we shouldn’t be debating this stuff.  It’s perfectly easy to understand the team promoting its best player, but their borderline obsession with his being “elite” is insane. And this is from the same people that brought you this gem last summer.  But they aren’t the only ones.

On August 6, the Republican Debate was held in Cleveland, Ohio. MSNBC, among other networks, was there to cover it.  During Chris Matthews’ “Hardball”, a man bearing a sign with a very specific message could easily be seen behind Matthews’ set.  (Keep in mind, “Hardball” is a political show on a political cable news network.)  Here’s the image:

Yes, that is someone with a sign asking if Joe Flacco is an elite quarterback.  While the occurrence was extremely funny when it happened, it was really just a denotation of our infatuation with a completely random debate like this one.

To show how obsessed we are in America about football, and debate like this one, the guy holding the sign has a known identity.  While we don’t know his real name, he goes on Twitter by PFTCommenter; PFT stands for NBC Sports’ football blog, Pro Football Talk.  He’s no joke, either: he has 56.7 thousand followers.

And he also has a Wikipedia profile.  Here it is:

PFT Commenter (alternatively spelled PFTCommenter or Pro Football Talk Commenter) is a pseudonymous and satirical sportswriter who covers the National Football League for online publications including Kissing Suzy Kolber, SBNation, Football Savages, and his own site, StrongTakes.com, as well as on Twitter. PFT Commenter, whose name references Profootballtalk.com, mimics the “macho posturing and racism”,[1] or “hot takes“,[2] in the website’s comment sections.

His writing style is characterized by “didactic misspelling, erratic punctuation, barely veiled racism, not-quite-latent homophobia, conspiratorial anxiety, and arrogant disdain for critical thought” and the character is “dumb on purpose”,[3] earning a comparison to the Stephen Colbert character on The Colbert Report[1] with his ability to “undermine the league’s resident apologists and party-liners.”[3] PFT Commenter often overpraises white players for their blue-collar attitudes, criticizes black players for being selfish and overrated, and “eagerly takes the truth-y NFL party line on every possible issue”.[1] In response to criticisms of his poor spelling, he wrote, “Im on record that I dont care about spelling, I care about TELLING.”[2]

PFT Commenter began as a commenter on ProFootballTalk.com[4] before starting the @PFTCommenter Twitter account in 2012 and eventually becoming a contributor for SBNation, Kissing Suzy Kolber and Football Savages.[2]

PFT Commenter has also written a self-published[2]e-book, Goodell vs. Obama: The Battle for the Future of the NFL, which imagines a dystopian future in which PresidentBarack Obama attempts to turn the Dallas Cowboys into a soccer team in Kenya, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell fights him in a boxing match to stop him.[5]

PFT Commenter (alternatively spelled PFTCommenter or Pro Football Talk Commenter) is a pseudonymous and satirical sportswriter who covers the National Football League for online publications including Kissing Suzy Kolber, SBNation, Football Savages, and his own site, StrongTakes.com, as well as on Twitter. PFT Commenter, whose name references Profootballtalk.com, mimics the “macho posturing and racism”,[1] or “hot takes“,[2] in the website’s comment sections.

His writing style is characterized by “didactic misspelling, erratic punctuation, barely veiled racism, not-quite-latent homophobia, conspiratorial anxiety, and arrogant disdain for critical thought” and the character is “dumb on purpose”,[3] earning a comparison to the Stephen Colbert character on The Colbert Report[1] with his ability to “undermine the league’s resident apologists and party-liners.”[3] PFT Commenter often overpraises white players for their blue-collar attitudes, criticizes black players for being selfish and overrated, and “eagerly takes the truth-y NFL party line on every possible issue”.[1] In response to criticisms of his poor spelling, he wrote, “Im on record that I dont care about spelling, I care about TELLING.”[2]

PFT Commenter began as a commenter on ProFootballTalk.com[4] before starting the @PFTCommenter Twitter account in 2012 and eventually becoming a contributor for SBNation, Kissing Suzy Kolber and Football Savages.[2]

PFT Commenter has also written a self-published[2]e-book, Goodell vs. Obama: The Battle for the Future of the NFL, which imagines a dystopian future in which PresidentBarack Obama attempts to turn the Dallas Cowboys into a soccer team in Kenya, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell fights him in a boxing match to stop him.[5]

To be honest, good for him.  He has built a cult following out of giving hot takes on the game’s most talked about players and made a living off of it.  He is popular mainly because of our football-obsessed culture in America and our constant need to talk about something related to the sport.  But as they say, don’t hate the player.  Hate the game.

That game is the Flacco debate.  But here is why we shouldn’t be doing this: it won’t help the Ravens win or lose any games.  It’s a futile discussion to have.  Most of all?  Joe Flacco has one more ring than anyone debating whether he is elite or not.  That says it all.

There’s no reason to debate this; it’s not important.  It fills the time until the NFL season starts and gives sports pundits something to talk about related to football.  And, do you know the best part?  People will probably try to determine his “eliteness” by quantifying his value to their fantasy teams.  That is the culture of NFL fandom, ladies and gentlemen.

So this debate is stupid and ridiculous.  But here’s the problem:

It’s not going away anytime soon.

College Football Preview- SEC Projections

hi-res-7622448_crop_north

EAST

TeamWinsLosses
Tennessee102
Missouri84
Georgia 84
Kentucky66
South Carolina57
Florida48
Vanderbilt111

I have Tennessee winning the SEC East.  I’m picking against the favorites, Missouri and Georgia (entirely at my own risk) and betting on the returning talent of the Vols.  Kentucky will also improve this season, making a bowl game for the first time since 2010.

WEST

TeamWinsLosses
Auburn102
Mississippi State93
Alabama93
Arkansas93
Ole Miss84
LSU75
Texas A&M66

While the SEC West is one of the best single divisions in college football, it’s going to cannibalize itself.  Auburn will survive and make the league title game, but it won’t contend for a spot in the Playoff.  But there aren’t any bad teams here.

Conference Title Game: Auburn over Tennessee

Biggest Surprise: Tennessee

Biggest Disappointment: LSU

Player of the Year: Leonard Fournette, LSU

Playoff Teams: 0

College Football Preview- Pac-12 Projections

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SOUTH

TeamWinsLosses
USC102
Arizona State93
Arizona93
UCLA84
Utah75
Colorado39

No really huge surprises here.  USC brings back a lot of talent, and Cody Kessler may be one of the five best quarterbacks in the country.  UCLA won’t settle its quarterback position, which will cost them.  Arizona and Arizona State fight tooth and nail for the Territorial Cup, but both will be very solid.

NORTH

TeamWins Losses
Stanford111
Oregon 102
Washington57
Washington State48
California48
Oregon State39

Stanford takes the crown here, amid the quarterback uncertainty of Oregon.  Other than those two teams?  Not much happening in the North.  The South is stacked.  The North is… not.

Conference Title Game: Stanford over USC

Biggest Surprise: Stanford

Biggest Disappointment: UCLA

Player of the Year: Scooby Wright, Arizona

Playoff Teams: 1 (Stanford, Playoff 4 seed)

 

 

 

 

College Football Preview- Big 12 Projections

 

TCU v Baylor

TeamWinsLosses
Baylor120
TCU111
Oklahoma State93
Oklahoma84
Kansas State84
West Virginia84
Texas 57
Texas Tech48
Iowa State39
Kansas111

Baylor and TCU are the two runaway teams in this year’s Big 12.  Oklahoma State is a pleasant surprise, while Texas and Texas Tech disappoint.

No conference title game, because One True Champion.

Biggest surprise: Oklahoma State

Biggest Disappointment: Texas

Player of the Year: Trevone Boykin, TCU

Playoff Teams: 2 (Baylor, Playoff 1 seed; TCU, Playoff 3 seed)

 

2015 College Football Preview- Big Ten Projections

Ohio State Navy Football

EAST

TeamWinsLosses
Ohio State120
Penn State102
Michigan State93
Michigan75
Rutgers66
Indiana57
Maryland48

Ohio State is the clear favorite in the Big Ten this year, and their schedule will cooperate.  Their toughest opponent, Penn State, will put it all together this season, while Michigan State disappoints.

WEST

TeamWinsLosses
Minnesota102
Wisconsin102
Nebraska102
Iowa84
Purdue57
Illinois48
Northwestern39

Three teams get wedged at the top of the West this year, but Minnesota wins the head-to-head tiebreaker over Nebraska and Wisconsin.  Northwestern and Illinois pick up the rear and likely ax their head coaches in the process.

Conference Title Game: Ohio State over Minnesota

Biggest Surprise: Penn State

Biggest Disappointment: Michigan State

Player of the Year: Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State

Playoff Teams: 1 (Ohio State; Playoff 2 seed)

2015 College Football Preview- ACC Projections

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ATLANTIC

Atlantic Division

TeamWinsLosses
Clemson111
Florida State102
Louisville84
Boston College75
NC State57
Syracuse39
Wake Forest111

No huge surprise here as Clemson takes the Atlantic.  Louisville and Boston College will perform admirably, while Wake Forest will be unspeakably awful.

COASTAL

TeamWinsLosses
Georgia Tech102
North Carolina93
Miami (FL) 75
Virginia Tech75
Pittsburgh66
Duke57
Virginia39

Georgia Tech takes the coastal, but Carolina will have a successful season.  Miami is a wild disappointment.

Conference Championship Game: Georgia Tech over Clemson

Biggest Surprise: Georgia Tech

Biggest Disappointment: Miami (FL)

Player of the Year: Justin Thomas, Georgia Tech

Playoff Teams: 0

NOTE: I am including Notre Dame here, with the ACC.  I have them going 10-2, not making the Playoff.

Some Thoughts on the Waterways of Rio De Janiero

Did I ever think that I would actually be writing about the quality of water in a South American country?  No, but that’s life, and that’s become sports, too, recently.

To catch you up on recent events (if you haven’t been following), the Associated Press published an investigation into the water that the athletes of the 2016 Rio Olympics will be swimming and rowing in next August.  Here’s an excerpt:

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Athletes in next year’s Summer Olympics here will be swimming and boating in waters so contaminated with human feces that they risk becoming violently ill and unable to compete in the games, an Associated Press investigation has found.

An AP analysis of water quality revealed dangerously high levels of viruses and bacteria from human sewage in Olympic and Paralympic venues — results that alarmed international experts and dismayed competitors training in Rio, some of whom have already fallen ill with fevers, vomiting and diarrhea.

It is the first independent comprehensive testing for both viruses and bacteria at the Olympic sites.

Brazilian officials have assured that the water will be safe for the Olympic athletes and the medical director of the International Olympic Committee said all was on track for providing safe competing venues. But neither the government nor the IOC tests for viruses, relying on bacteria testing only.

Extreme water pollution is common in Brazil, where the majority of sewage is not treated. Raw waste runs through open-air ditches to streams and rivers that feed the Olympic water sites.

As a result, Olympic athletes are almost certain to come into contact with disease-causing viruses that in some tests measured up to 1.7 million times the level of what would be considered hazardous on a Southern California beach.

Despite decades of official pledges to clean up the mess, the stench of raw sewage still greets travelers touching down at Rio’s international airport. Prime beaches are deserted because the surf is thick with putrid sludge, and periodic die-offs leave the Olympic lake, Rodrigo de Freitas, littered with rotting fish.

That’s disgusting.  FIFA and Sepp Blatter look at that and say, “that’s despicable”.  But this is no laughing matter.  And lest you think it won’t get worse, it does.  Back to the report:

The AP also measured fecal coliform bacteria, single-celled organisms that live in the intestines of humans and animals. Fecal coliforms can suggest the presence of cholera, dysentery, hepatitis A and typhoid.

In 75 percent of the samples taken at the Olympic lake, the number of fecal coliforms exceeded Brazil’s legal limit for “secondary contact,” such as boating or rowing — in two samples spiking to over 10 times the accepted level. The Marina da Gloria venue exceeded the limit only once, while at Rio’s most popular tourist beach, Ipanema, fecal coliforms tested at three times the acceptable level in a single sample. At Copacabana, the AP tests found no violations of fecal coliform counts.

Fecal coliforms have long been used by most governments as a marker to determine whether bodies of water are polluted because they are relatively easy and cheap to test and find. Brazil uses only bacterial testing when determining water quality.

In Rio, the fecal coliform levels were not as astronomical as the viral numbers the AP found. That gap is at the heart of a global debate among water experts, many of whom are pushing governments to adopt viral as well as bacterial testing to determine if recreational waters are safe.

That’s because fecal coliform bacteria from sewage can survive only a short time in water, especially in the salty and sunny conditions around Rio. Human adenoviruses have been shown to last several months, with some studies even indicating they can last years.

That means that even if Rio magically collected and treated all its sewage tomorrow, its waters would stay polluted for a long time.

The diseases mentioned (cholera, dysentery, typhoid, and hepatitis A) are all bad, so bad that they all have death rates.  While these death rates are minimal, they increase dramatically when untreated.  A swimmer/rower coming down with this disease and not treating it is very plausible, the athletes may not be aware of the symptoms.  These athletes may also want to push through that pain, especially because of the absurd amount of training that goes into the Olympics.  Nonetheless, the risk of death exists for two reasons: the IOC and the Rio government.

The IOC stands for International Olympic Committee, and it essentially runs the Olympic games.  Most importantly, it’s a corrupt organization that has fallen under a multitude of controversies just in the last ten years.  So it shouldn’t come as a surprise when this was announced just yesterday:

RIO DE JANEIRO — The International Olympic Committee ruled out conducting viral tests of Rio de Janeiro’s sewage-laden waterways ahead of the 2016 games, a top official said Wednesday, despite an Associated Press study showing dangerously high levels of disease-causing viruses at all aquatic venues, with experts saying athletes are almost certain to be exposed to pathogens.

Speaking at a news conference dominated by questions about Rio’s sewage pollution problem, Olympic Games Executive Director Christophe Dubi said the IOC will be sticking to World Health Organization guidelines recommending only bacterial testing.

The AP’s independent analysis of water quality showed high levels of viruses and, in some cases, bacteria from human sewage in all of Rio’s Olympic and Paralympic water venues, including the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon, where rowing will take place, the Guanabara Bay, where the sailing competition are to be held, and at Copacabana Beach where distance swimming events will take place.

In two separate emailed statements following the AP’s July 30 publication about its study, the World Health Organization said it was advising the International Olympic Committee “to widen the scientific base of indicators to include viruses.”

However, in an emailed statement Monday, the organization backpedaled and said that “WHO has not and will not issue an ‘official recommendation’ on viral testing.”

So, the IOC’s reaction to human sewage, bacteria, and disease-causing viruses is, basically, “Yeah, whatever.”  You may have heard stories like the one that came out of Rio last week, in which thirteen of the forty rowers on the United States Rowing Team fell ill with stomach problems.  The team doctor believes that the sicknesses are due to impurity in the Rio waters that the team was training in, and she’s probably right.

But the IOC, in another episode of being the IOC, not only deemed the waters safe but also denied the doctor’s claims.  Nawal El Moutawakel, the leader of the inspection team in charge of checking the waterways that will be used in the Olympics, said this:

The IOC puts on the highest priority the athletes and our friends around this table are doing their upmost so that this issue of water quality is being heavily dealt with so the athletes can compete in secure and safe environments.

Yeah, sure you do.  I’ll take hypocrisy for $1,000, Alex.

Answer?  Daily Double.  Daily Double because she said that the athletes and the playing conditions are the two highest priorities, both taking precedent over special interests.  This is a double dose of BS from a company full of it.  Is there more?  Of course there’s more!

The city of Rio De Janeiro was awarded these Olympics in 2009, giving them seven years to prepare, and preparing for the games includes cleaning up the water.  Per the International Business Times, the Rio government didn’t exactly do that:

Rio’s Olympic officials vowed in 2009 to address 80 percent of the area’s water pollution before the 2016 games began. Earlier this year, city government officials said funding for cleanup efforts would be drawn from an $8.8 billion budget devoted to “legacy projects,” such as water pollution and transportation infrastructure, USA Today reported. But Andre Correa, Rio’s environment secetary, acknowledged an 80 percent cleanup was “not going to happen” and said it would cost about $3.8 billion to establish a sewer system capable of fully addressing Rio’s needs.

A monthslong Associated Press investigation found in July that all of Rio’s Olympic waterways were brimming with bacteria and viruses from human waste. In one case, the level of water pollution was more than one million times worse than an acceptable standard on a California beach, the AP reported.

Oh yeah.  The fun starts with the money being taken out of the “legacy projects”, which were supposedly being used to help the city’s infrastructure and pollution.  However, the goal of an 80 percent cleanup was obviously never going to happen, so why did the government promise to get it done?  It’s obvious that the city did not want to let the IOC down, but an 80 percent cleanup was still unrealistic.

And even this is on the IOC, too.  With the knowledge that the water was contaminated and even a total cleanup would still leave a good deal of the pollutants in the water, why did Rio get the games?  With swimming and rowing events occurring in these waters, how did the country with the most polluted water get the right to host them in the largest worldwide competition there is?

As you can imagine, these pieces of news, along with the handling of the situation by the IOC and the Rio government, have drawn complete outrage from many.  The loudest critic of the IOC recently has probably been ESPN’s Mike Greenberg, and he said this today on his radio show, Mike & Mike:

Interestingly enough, this question was actually asked to the IOC officials last week.  This is how that scenario went down, per CBS News:

Asked whether they themselves would swim in the bay to prove the water’s quality — as Rio’s state environmental secretary did on a television program earlier this year — the officials laughed jocularly and shifted in their seats.

“We will dive together,” said El Moutawakel with a giggle, pointing to other IOC officials she said would take the plunge with her.

But honestly, if you really think that the IOC officials are going to dive into the polluted water together, you are probably losing a grip on reality.  It’s not happening.

The IOC and the government of Rio have combined to make this the most dangerous Olympics in recent memory.  We have to get past the corruption and bribery of Olympics past, because this is worse. Human lives are now at risk.

There wasn’t any bribery with these Olympics (that we know of). There wasn’t much controversy until now.  But there may be some major illnesses for the athletes involved, which is the real shame in all of this.

Every athlete in the Olympics has pushed himself or herself to his or her maximum potential.  Making the games is a dream come true for everyone involved, and, as I said before, these games are a once in a lifetime opportunity.  And, for swimmers and rowers, that once in a lifetime may involve cholera, dysentery, or other ills that put these athletes in very real and serious danger.

Danger brought about by the Rio government and the IOC.