Tuesday, November 27, 2012

KLEMbardi?: Campaigning to be Purdue's next Head Football Coach

Election season is over; No more political ads, Nate Silver's time as the Electoral College Mel Kiper has gone on hiatus, and CNN now can only bust out its Minority Report-style technology to break down whether or not Tickle Me Elmo dolls will sell more or less than previous holiday seasons. (In light of recent developments, Tickle Me Elmo probably needs to be renamed, just a thought.)

While November 6th is long gone, I picked up some valuable insight along the way and am now ready to launch a campaign of my own.

I.  Samuel Aaron Klemet officially announce my candidacy for Head Football Coach at Purdue University!

You read that correctly.  My headset is in the ring.  I want to lead the Boilermakers back to prominence.

Now, I know what the majority of you are thinking - my dad probably isn't thinking yet because he hasn't been able to compose himself from laughing so hard at the mere thought of me leading anything - but, for the rest of you who are composed enough to think this is a bizarre idea, let me do my do my best Don Draper impersonation and sell you on why I would, in fact, be a great hire to replace Danny Hope.

Earlier today, I came across the job posting for the Head Football Coach position on Purdue's website.  You can see it here.

As I read through the description, I was shocked and excited at the realization that I actually meet the criteria.

Right off the bat, I easily qualify for several requirements.

Bachelor's degree - Check.  Michigan State University Journalism program is top five nationally.

Knowledge of sport-specific fundamentals, techniques, and safety rules and regulations - Check. If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball.

Ability to analyze, interpret, communicate and adhere to University, Big Ten Conference, and NCAA policies, procedures - I will do a better job than Jim Tressel, a fellow rumored candidate.

Proven winner
Excellent communication (oral and written, interpersonal, presentation and facilitation), planning, organizational, interviewing, strength training and counseling skills - I don't mean to brag, but those THREE Indiana Society of Professional Journalism Awards didn't just fall out of thin air.

Personal computer and related software skills, e.g., word processing, spreadsheets, data query, Internet - I am blogging right now, correct?

I meet those benchmarks with no problem.  Really, my resume falls in line with the bulk of the job description.

The one area that I'm sure Athletics Director Morgan Burke and the rest of the Purdue community will point to as a reason for my disqualification is this....

Five years coaching or playing football at the collegiate level or above.

At this point you would think my resume would be getting the Gary Danielson treatment and being thrown deep into the trash.  *Insert Lee Corso* Not so fast my friend.

I am a journalist.  Details are the centerpiece of my profession.  Nowhere in that line do I read anything of Intramural experience being excluded.

Proof I played!
At Michigan State, I played for three years on I.M teams. I like to think of myself as a Deion Sanders/Charles Woodson-type.  I was a shutdown corner who could occasionally make a game changing play in the passing game or on special teams.  Plus, I was a showman. 

Since coming to Purdue to work at WBAA, I have used my faculty status to play for two years on I.M teams on campus.

I'm no math major, but three plus two usually equals five.  That means I meet the "Five years coaching or playing football at the collegiate level or above" criteria.  COUNT IT!

Now that we've established that my resume at least deserves to be kept on the pile, let's delve into what I can bring to the Purdue football program.

First: In the press conference to announce Hope's firing,  Morgan Burke said one of his top characteristics in the next coach needs to be an understanding of the long, storied history of successful Boilermakers quarterbacks.  In West Lafayette, they call it the "Cradle of Quarterbacks," that includes Drew Brees, Danielson, Curtis Painter, Kyle Orton, Jim Everett, and Bob Griese.

Burke and interim head coach Patrick Higgins
I understand.  

My offense would pass more than LeBron James in the fourth quarter and that includes my punter.  Cody Webster, who on Twitter highlighted his running back skills, would also need to fine tune his arm, because I don't believe in punting, either.  Anytime he stepped on to the field would be to execute a fake punt pass or serve as a decoy.  

The Boilers offense under Sam Klemet would make the Colt Brennan/Kliff Kingsbury offenses from Hawaii and Texas Tech look like Georgia Tech of the 1970s.  We would throw as much as Jack Taylor shoots.

So, no worries there Morgan, I bring an exciting offense to the table.

Second: Burke mentioned one of the reasons Hope was let go was because of a drop in attendance.  Ross-Ade Stadium was often half empty or more by halftime.  With Sam Klemet as head coach, attendance will be a non-issue.

I was raised in Detroit.  The birth place of Motown.  No other genre knows how to put on a real show better than Motown.  That's what a game at Ross-Ade Stadium would be like under the Klemet-regime.  It would be a spectacle that people would want to see.

My third quarter tradition to rival Wisconsin's "Jump Around" would be to play James Brown's "Get Up Offa That Thang" and all the cheerleaders would put capes around my players' shoulders before they went back on the field for the final 15 minutes.  

Because, like James Brown, we would be "The Hardest Working Team in Show Business." (By business, I mean intercollegiate athletics, where ACADEMICS come first.)

And, for pregame introductions, I would take a page out of the great CEO Vince McMahon's playbook.

WWE style entrances.  

Could you imagine Ricardo Allen, Raheem Mostart, and Ryan Russell walking onto the field under the lights, while "The Graveyard Symphony" is playing, with Paul Bearer by their side holding an urn containing what would be our opponent's "ashes" inside?  That would be EPIC. 

And we would switch it up every week.  We are a team of the people, so one game we may do a "Ladies Special" and emulate Val Venis' entrance or on "Family Weekend" come in like the Dudley Boys.

You would want to see that.  You would NEED to see that and because it would be done at the beginning of the game, the issue of late or no attendance is immediately solved!

Third:  Ties to the Big Ten are important.  I understand that.  Again, I grew up and went to college in the Big Ten.  I learned exactly what NOT to do by going to Michigan State during the John L. Smith-era. I'm pretty sure if I do everything the opposite of what "ole slappy face" did, Purdue will have no problem competing and recruiting in the Big 14 with me on the sidelines.

Fourth: While this wasn't mentioned for hiring, there could be some serious history in tapping me as the next coach.

Just like Barack Obama became the first biracial President in the United States, I could be the first biracial head coach in Purdue History.  Is it too cliche to have my slogan be "A Change from Hope?"

Fifth: Burke said having connections to Purdue is not a prerequisite, but would be a tie breaker.  Well, call me Adam Vinatieri because I just broke that tie. 

For the past two-and-a-half years I have secured a nice corner cubicle in the basement of Elliot Hall of Music, one of the premier buildings on the West Lafayette campus.  During that time, I have covered just about every aspect of the university, including the football program for three seasons.  I have current ties to Purdue tighter than those in a scene in Fifty Shades of Grey.

Sixth: Obviously finances play a role in any hire.  Purdue is said to have a $4.5-million package in place for the next coaching staff.  Picking me as head coach comes with significant savings.  I would work for no more than $150,000.  A big raise for me, cost savings for the university. Win, Win!

If the athletic department wants to give me bonuses, I would accept, but only based on performance.  I would use the rest of that money to hire a top tier assistant coaching staff.  I have already put out a call to Wayne Fontes to serve as an adviser.  I'm pretty sure he is in. 

I would then recruit Nubie from the Little Giants, also known as the mastermind behind "The Annexation of Puerto Rico." Could you possibly hire a more offensive genius than him? (Rhetorical).

For my defensive coordinator, it was a no-brainer. Terry Tate "Office Linebacker" will lead that side of the ball.  He brings the perfect balance of professionalism and intensity not seen since the days of Ronnie Lott.

Coaching staff set. Check!

I would do it for Purdue
Finally, and probably most challenging, is the history of Purdue coaches sporting strong mustaches.  More important than the "Cradle of Quarterbacks" is the "Cradle of 'Stache." 

Joe Tiller had a great upper lip blanket and Danny Hope's nose neighbor made Sam Elliot's look like one of a teenager who just hit puberty.

I currently do not sport a mustache.  My girlfriend locked that down real quick for MOvember and I grow one slower than Antonio Cromartie trying to recite the names of his kids.  But, if hired as head coach, I would be fully committed to growing a Mouth Brow.  I may have to negotiate the hair equivalent of "Chia Pet" products as part of my contract to get that done, but, I think we can all agree that would be a good allocation of funds.

So, there you have it.  That is my case for becoming Purdue's next football coach.  There may be other, more polished candidates out there, but come on, after reading this can you really argue there would be a more intriguing hire?

Boiler Up. Hammer Down. Klemet 2012!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Red, White, Honolulu Blue. America

It's hard to sell the Detroit Lions as America's team.  That designation is traditionally bestowed upon the Packers, Steelers, or Cowboys (Jerry Jones' ego resembles American cholesterol levels).

But, no team may represent where our country stands today better than the boys from Motown.

Tuesday, the country re-elected Barack Obama as President.  Obama came to Washington promoting a powerful message of hope and change.  He set high expectations for complex problems.  In his first four years he won some battles and lost others.  But in that time, for various reasons both logical and illogical, the country split quicker than a pair of Phillip Banks trousers after eating a carton of Haagen Dazs.

America became truly divided.  Civility went out the window on both sides of the aisle and that halted progress.  Politicians made it their mission to prove they were right regardless of what that meant for the nation, as a whole.  Agendas were pushed more than progress and because of that, while things are statistically getting better, specifically regarding the economy, we as a nation are still battered and bruised.

Today, we get to hit the reset button, not necessarily on specific legislation, but more so on philosophy.

Unseating President Obama can no longer be the top priority for Republicans and true bipartisanship needs to be the main focus of Democrats.

There needs to be some give and take on both sides.

Enter football.

The Detroit Lions also get to hit the reset button of sorts.

Like President Obama, the Lions entered the year with expectations sky high. Coming off its first playoff appearance in more than a decade, Detroit appeared headed in the right direction as a franchise.

But, off-season arrests, an unbalanced offense, and lack of on-field discipline led to the Lions limping out of the gate to a 1-3 start.

Then, the team changed.  Are there still penalties? Yes.  Is the secondary still inconsistent? Yes.  But, since the passionless, putrid beginning to the season, the Lions have become a more complete offense, establishing a solid running game.  They also have started to get elite performances out of the highly touted defensive line.  And at times, even, dare I say it, playing smart (only at times).  Those efforts have led to the team winning three of its past four and working back into the playoff mix.

Barack Obama is back in charge.  He has another four years to take an economy that is picking up three or four yards per carry to one that busts through the hole for 40 and 50 yard gains.  In his elegant and poignant victory speech, Tuesday, in Chicago, the President said "Despite all the hardship we've been through, despite all the frustrations of Washington, I've never been more hopeful about our future."

The President is vowing to move forward.  The Lions must as well.

To do this both must learn from the mistakes of their first term - or half of the season - build on the best parts, and mesh those two aspects together to create something truly special.

There is nothing better than a comeback story. President Obama can author America's and the Lions can be the NFL's.

The Detroit Lions may not be America's team, but it can represent the nation's rebuilding story.

Red, White, and Honolulu Blue.  America.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Detroit Should Emulate Cabrera's Crowning

I don't know if a city needs a superstar athlete more than Detroit needs Miguel Cabrera.

The newest member of baseball's elite Triple Crown family represents transformation, sacrifice, and excellence.  He may never be honored with a Joe Louis fist-type statue, but if the Motor City follows his lead, the impact may be even more powerful.

Cabrera's talent has never been in question. Any baseball expert will tell you he's always had the potential to be MLB's most feared hitter, but it took him awhile to understand how to elevate his game to that level.

Miggy exploded on to the baseball scene about a decade ago as a central piece of the Florida Marlins 2003 World Series championship run.  He became a perennial All-Star and one of the highest paid players in the game.  But, as impressive as he was, Cabrera left many desiring more.

He was often criticized for being out of shape.  You know what, let's not pull any punches, Cabrera was fat. After signing with the Tigers, he was arrested several times as he battled problems with alcohol and, subsequently, anger issues.

He is even good at mugshots!
Cabrera's off-field problems were an embarrassment to him, the franchise, and city and held him back as a player from turning the corner from good to great.

At some point, he said 'enough' and decided to get out of his own way. Cabrera changed his life.  Miggy stopped drinking, got in shape, and is now the deadliest player to step to the plate.

Less than two years after his last legal run-in, Cabrera became the first player in 45 years to capture the Triple Crown. He did so in a season in which he switched positions.  Cabrera moved from first to third base this spring to make room for the Tigers to bring in $250-million man Prince Fielder.  Miggy knew the value of having another power hitter in the line up and sacrificed his role for the greater good of the team.

He slimmed down and dedicated himself to become a solid defender on the hot corner, while not loosing focus of his job at the plate.  The combo of Cabrera and Fielder is a big reason why the Tigers won back-to-back division championships, something the franchise hadn't done since the mid 1930s.

Not only has Cabrera become a GREAT baseball player and teammate, he has become a great man.  Earlier this week, Major League Baseball awarded the Tigers' slugger with the Roberto Clemente Award which is given to the the player who best represents baseball through positive on and off field contributions, including sportsmanship and community involvement.

Miguel Cabrera is a perfect, vivid example of checking himself, correcting himself, and now enjoying the fruits of his transformation.

You would think the city he plays in and represents so proudly would take notice and follow his lead.  You would think....but, sadly, that's not the case.

This week, Miguel's smiling face covered the front pages of the Detroit Free Press and News.   His accomplishments are certainly reasons to celebrate.  Unfortunately, he shared the front pages with "leaders" who are submerged in scandal and embarrassment.

May Godbee with you...
Detroit Mayor Dave Bing placed police chief Ralph Godbee Jr. on a 30-day leave for a sex scandal involving another officer who isn't his wife.  (Side note: fellas, if you are cheating on your wife with a woman who takes pictures like THIS?! you need to re-evaluate what you are looking for in a woman, but I digress.)  Oh, and not to mention, Godbee is a pastor.  Amen.

So, on one side of the front page we have a historic achievement, on the other we have a playboy police chief, and then if you look down a few lines you will see another gem, the corruption trial of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.  The Hip Hop Mayor already spent time behind bars and appears likely to be on his way back.

Kwame...oh, Kwame
Between Godbee, Kwame, and the on going "efforts" of the circus that is the Detroit City Council, it's not a surprise the city, my hometown, continues to be a punchline and struggles to get back on its feet.

While there has been progress to rebuild one of the cities hit hardest by the recession, Detroit still has a long way to go.

There is no clear cut solution.  It takes a collective effort, but it starts with realizing the current path isn't leading to one of true prosperity.  It may be good, but not great.  It's not Triple Crown worthy.

The city needs to continue to commit to educating its youth and make sure all students leave high school not only with a diploma, but with a solid educational foundation where they can be a valuable member of the community.  Allowing more than a third of Detroit Public School students to drop out ends poorly for those children, their families, and the community as a whole.  In short, no one benefits.

Detroit needs to demolish its dilapidated homes. Take pride in the city's appearance or no one else will.

And most importantly, Detroit needs real leaders.  That means those who care about the overall health of the city, now and in the future, and not their personal notoriety and satisfactions.

Those who lead Detroit have proven selfish and not committed to the greater good of the city.  And as Detroit goes, so does the entire state of Michigan, and in many ways, the United States.

Instead of being fat, out of shape, and lazy, Detroit's leadership needs to look at the city's current brightest star and commit to the same transformation made by Miguel Cabrera.

The resulting change will be fit for kings, the kind with three crowns.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Too Big To Fail, Fails

The National Football League doesn't have an officiating problem, it has a culture problem....OK, OK. It does have an officiating problem, but that's not the league's MAIN problem.

The travesty that happened in Seattle, Monday night, is less a reflection on the replacement referees as it is on an organization that has become too big to fail.

I can't add much to what has already been said about Russell Wilson's game winning interception.  Golden Tate clearly pushed off and never had control of the football.  M.D Jennings picked the pass off.  The Packers should have won. They didn't.  They were robbed.  And such is life.

This game may come back to haunt Green Bay or unfairly help Seattle in their quests for playoff spots.  But, it's also just a Week Three game and there is a ton of football to play.  Both teams will have plenty of opportunities to overcome this officiating blunder.

The question is why are we here in the first place?  Why is America's favorite sport being labeled a joke?

I place little blame on the replacement referees.  I believe they are trying their best, but simply aren't cut out to officiate at this level.  I tried my best to be a great basketball player, but sadly my meager stature and non-existent vertical jump put a wrinkle in those plans.  Sometimes you just don't have it.  These refs don't.

The real problem is greed.

The NFL is slated to pull in about $9-billion this year alone.  The referees on strike are asking for changes to their retirement plan and a pay increase.  The officials are definitely paid handsomely already.  They make an average of about $150,000 for calling games on Sundays. That's a ridiculously good rate for part-time employees. The requested raise would bring that figure up to about $200,000 over the next seven years.

But, the collective bargaining deal that recently expired was constructed in 2006.  Believe it or not, the NFL has grown in popularity and financially by leaps and bounds since.  In fact, according to the referee's union, NFL revenue is up 50-percent in that time frame and is expected to grow even more when new TV contracts take effect in 2014.

Players are getting paid more.  Owners are raking in the more.  It seems appropriate that referees should, as well.  They are a part of the game and, from what we learned Monday night, a very critical part of the game.

Yet, it comes as no surprise to me that the NFL is playing it cheap, because it can.

Professional football in this country has transformed from a game to an obsession.  Struggling families find ways to justify shelling out $50 to park at a game they paid $100 per ticket for to sit in the nosebleed section.

Fans waste hours throughout the day analyzing and adjusting their fantasy rosters.  Television networks call it "breaking news" when a starting quarterback throws a pass that hits a backup quarterback in the head.

We are obsessed with football.  I'm no exception and it's disgusting.

It's also the reason Roger Gooddell and 31 of the league's owners (Green Bay excluded, because they are publicly owned) can continue to be cheap and diminish their own product and brand.

They know we football fans will tune in anyway.  We will gripe and complain about bad calls all week, but come Sunday, you better believe we will be at the stadium, or bar, or on the couch wearing our $80 jerseys, tracking our parlay bets, hoping a third-string tight end can manage a touchdown to help our fantasy team and, oh yea, even our real teams win.

We need the NFL. It's too big to fail.

Reform is needed.

Fans and players are being forced to accept an inferior product.  With the replacement referees, that's what is being rolled out on Sundays.  (Well, also Thursdays, Wednesdays, Mondays, and later in the season Saturdays, but you get the point.)

The league has compromised quality and its integrity to save a minute percentage of revenue. 

That's what happens when the powerful become too powerful.  They pull the strings and those below them dance.  But, if the show is unwatchable, is it worth it?

The NFL flexed its power muscle with its sanctions on the Saints Bounty Gate.  I actually didn't have a problem with these, because the league is pushing for more safety, so it had to come down with penalties that punish those making the game less safe.

But, at the same time it pushes for safety and quality, the NFL contradicts itself by proposing longer seasons, exposing players to more chances of getting hurt.  It also has been slow to assist those who built the league with post-career health care.  And now, it is opening players to danger with officials who don't have a firm understanding of the rules and are determining outcomes of games.

Despite the public outcry to end the referees lockout, the NFL has little incentive to do so.  Why? Because fans keep coming to the games and the money continues to flow in.  (Apparently, the final play Monday shifted as much as $250-million in bets in Vegas, WOW!)

Change needs to come from the bottom, because it clearly won't come from the top.  Players aren't going to hold out because of officials.  I don't blame them.  I wouldn't give up that kind of game check either.

The NFL has proven it doesn't have much regard for the quality of its product. It has us sucked in.  The NFL experience is not to benefit the fans, its to feed the pockets of those who run the show.

If change is to happen, it may be time to tune out until the league and Roger Goodell get the message that being too big to fail, fails.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

I Don't Want to Be Like Mike

In many ways, Michael Jordan is the face of athletic greatness.  Not just in basketball, but the iconic status that he created is duplicated by no one in modern sports.  The only other athlete that I can think of who is equally legendary is Babe Ruth.

Jordan not only transformed the way basketball is played, but he influenced pop culture like he was the fifth Beatle.

But, I don't want to be like Mike.

For everything he accomplished on the 94 feet of hardwood, including six titles, five MVPs, six finals MVPs, and Olympic gold medals, MJ's shortcomings off the court should be what ultimately define 'His Airness.'

Today, Sports Illustrated published an article outlining how Jordan has failed to reach out to his former high school coach who has fallen on hard times.  After suffering from a disease, Pop Herring took to abusing alcohol and ultimately ended up behind bars.  He is now on the complete opposite end of the fiscal and social spectrum from the man whose career he helped mold.  Yet, Jordan has refused to lend a hand.

Is it Jordan's responsibility to help everyone who is struggling in life? No.  But as author Thomas Lake points out, Herring could use even the most basic assistance from a man who has things only imaginable in your wildest dreams, dreams Herring had a part in helping come true.

It's well documented that Michael Jordan wasn't an ideal teammate.  He was ruthless, demanding, and self absorbed.  To be fair, these qualities are probably what made him arguably the greatest competitor of all-time.

But, Jordan has not been able to leave his on-court persona where it should stay, on the court.

His Airness is not a leader.  Jordan is a coward and a bully.

More than a decade after capturing his sixth NBA Title on one of the most iconic shots in history, Jordan still has been slow to turn his success into something of substance.

He gives millions of dollars to charities.  Financially, he has tremendous influence.  But, monetary impact perils in comparison to leading from the front and Jordan leads from nowhere.

Jordan has taken a Charmin soft stance on social issues throughout his life.  I understand that he also is businessman and taking social stances can often hurt sales, but whether he wants the status or not, MJ is a role model and has a responsibility to be an example.

Bill Gates and Magic Johnson are both on the front lines of addressing very serious, world-changing causes.  It hasn't lessened their success or made them less business-minded.

Showering money at causes isn't taking a stand.  His face is all over commercials for Nike, Gatorade, and Hanes (the collar really is awesome), yet won't put his face on issues that truly mean something.

In 2009, David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune quoted a response from Jordan after it was found that Nike, the company that makes his highly popular shoes, was manufacturing their products in sweatshops.

Jordan, the company's most famous spokesperson, responded to the issue with this... "I think that's Nike's decision to do what they can to make sure everything is correctly done.  I don't know the complete situation.  Why should I?  I'm trying to do my job."

Why should you? Because you are one of the biggest beneficiaries of the allegedly inhumane treatment of people.

You know who else failed to take a stand like man? Joe Paterno....

Plus, those shoes that were being made by underpaid and overworked people in Indonesia, are selling in America for $100, $200, and sometimes more on Ebay.  They are a hot commodity.  So hot, that kids, mostly in inner cities are killing, literally, to wear a pair.  Why? Because they want to be like Mike, but Mike has proven he doesn't care about anyone but Mike.

He has been absent from the front lines in speaking out against violence for his shoes and in general.  In the city that erected a statue to honor Jordan's playing career, he sits back and watches it turn into a war zone. Actually, worse.

In no way am I suggesting that Jordan is responsible for the killings, but he has a platform to inspire change.  Change that is more meaningful than any check His Airness can write.

MJ has the ability to influence multiple generations.  He is still idolized and his moves on the basketball court are mimicked by those in the NBA all the way down to pickup games on blacktops across the world.

If MJ were a real man, he would strongly voice his concern over violence for his shoes.  Commercials, billboards, public speaking engagements.  He does all that to push his products, so why can't he do it to make society better?

He is the most popular athlete on the planet despite not playing in about a decade.  He is that iconic.  People would listen to his message.  Changes could be made.  But still, MJ offers practically nothing.

Jordan has made become a brand.  Yet, to me, the brand represents being arrogant, selfish, and a bully.  MJ has proven his success is all about him and we are all supposed to marvel and praise his rise to the top.

There is no better example of this than his completely off-putting Hall-of-Fame induction speech.  Usually a time reserved to thank those who help you find success, Jordan cut down just about everyone along his journey and made it clear that his achievements were to be shared with no one.

Michael Jordan has proven time and time again that he is not concerned with a world outside his own.  No matter how much of a positive impact he could have, if it's not on MJ's time, there is no time for it.

Instead, he'd rather smoke cigars, play 36 holes of golf daily, and gamble like his next professional conquest is on the World Series of Poker Tour.

So while Jordan enjoys a life that may not have even been possible without the influence of a man like Pop Herring,  Herring and the communities where kids are getting killed over his shoes are trying desperately just to keep his together.

Money isn't the answer.  Being present is.

Jordan may be the greatest basketball player of all time.  At this point, that's hard to debate.  But, it's also hard to debate that when it comes to aspects in life that truly matter he is nothing more than a bench player, because that's where he always sits...away from the action.

I don't want to be like Mike.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Preseason Rankings: An Unnecessary Advantage

Getting ahead is hard.  It's even harder when you try to do it with one hand tied behind your back.

In America, 40-percent of those born in the lower fifth income bracket never rise above that level.  While at the same time, according to a report by NPR, between 1979 and 2007 the incomes of the top one percent of Americans rose 275-percent.

This article is a-political, but it's worth noting that those who start ahead often stay ahead.

The same is true in college football.

Today, the USA Today's preseason rankings were released.  My question is why?

What is the point of putting out a list of rankings now that are used to shape a season that extends from late summer to early winter?

Teams at the top have a clear advantage.  They have more room for error because they are given a boost from the beginning.  If a team in the top five loses a game early, they have a better chance to climb their way back into title contention than a team ranked in the 20s or not at all.

But, how do we know that team in the top five are more deserving to be there than others?  We don't.  We haven't even seen them take the field outside their time spent bucking heads against their teammates.

Instead, why not wait until week three, when all teams have played somewhat meaningful games, to make a judgement of who should be ranked where.

That way, when the bowl outlook starts to take shape, it's done so with everyone on a more equal playing field.

I am excited for the college playoff system in two years, but admit the BCS usually succeeds in placing the best two teams in the title game.  But, there are many instances when preseason rankings have costs teams a trip to a better and, more importantly, more lucrative bowl game.  That means the loss of hundreds-of-thousands, if not millions, of dollar for programs who earned the right to play on that stage.  And make no mistake about it, college football is a business with money at the forefront.

Yet, because they are looked at as lesser programs off the bat, are left on the outside looking in.

College football represents one of the best seasons in all of sports.  The atmosphere is often electric, the rivalries are historic (until realignment screwed that up), and the individual traditions are unlike any others.

But, one tradition that needs to be done away with is giving an advantage to teams based on previous year's results.

Let's focus on the present and give all teams a fair shake and let what is done on the field be the deciding factor.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Ultimate Heisman

This month marked a significant day in getting ready for the college football season, the release of the College Football '13 video game.  This is the first year in about 15 that I won't be purchasing the annual franchise.  The reason, well, I'm broke.  But, I'd also like to think I have enough going on in my "adult" life that I don't have time to devote to sitting on my couch for hours twiddling my thumbs.

But, the release day of the college football video game will always hold a special spot in my heart.  It was a central part of pretty much every summer of my youth.

While I won't be buying the game this year, I read one aspect is that you can import former Heisman winners to your favorite team's current roster.  I thought that was pretty cool and wanted to participate in someway.  So, I decided to breakdown the question "if I had to pick ONE Heisman winner over my lifetime (1984 - beyond) to have on my team who would it be?"

The rules are simple.  I can use any justification to disqualify anyone.  This includes personal vitriol, NFL career, and/or any other side note.  This is my list and bias is absolutely allowed.  Theoretically, this player would be on MY team and like Al Davis, who only picked players that ran a sub 4.3 40 regardless of criminal history, actual production, or ability to read a menu let alone a playbook, I too have a unique set of qualities for my ideal Heisman.

Here's what I came up with.

I have 28 candidates.  I can toss 16 out the window right away.  Along with a quick explanation of why,  this is the first group that barely gets consideration.

1987 - Tim Brown - Right off the bat, I channel my inner Al Davis.  Brown is a WR at Notre Dame, therefore he has average speed, is not flashy, and not the guy who caught the halfback pass to get Rudy in the game.  Not a good resume.  This is not UPS, Brown can't do it for me.


1989 - Andre Ware - Drafted by MY Detroit Lions and was total garbage.  He does score a few points with being a decent analyst, but still, not producing for the team who gets my blood, sweat, and tears during my fall and winter Sundays.  Ware is out.

1990 - Ty Detmer - Had a great season at BYU, but he's a Detmer.  That's like picking an Osmond as your favorite entertainer.  I need my Heisman with a little more edge than the Donny and Marie of college football.  Get out of here Ty.

1991 - Desmond Howard - I went to Michigan State.  No way in hell am I letting Desmond get this honor.  Plus, he is the weak link on College Gameday (although was quite poignant on his assessment of the recent PSU scandal, kudos).  Also, he is a receiver.  I need my ultimate Heisman to have a little more control of the ball.  That doesn't bode well.  Go pose somewhere else.  (With that said, striking the Heisman pose in the biggest game of the year is a pretty brash move, I can't knock that.)

1992 - Gino Torretta - A disgrace to the "U."  Choked in a title game and did so while wearing the same jersey worn by the the 7th Floor Crew and Ray Lewis.  That's absolutely inexcusable.

1994 - Rashaan Salaam - To call his NFL career a bust would be insulting to the word BUST.  He couldn't make the Detroit Lions roster in 2002...the running backs that year that did make the team were Aveion Cason, Rafael Cooper, Richard Huntley, James Stewart, Stephen Trejo, Lamont Warren.  Point made.  Although, his name does remind me of one of my favorite lunch meats, that positive should not go unnoticed.

1996 - Danny Wuerffel - Rex Grossman went on to have a better career than WOEful.  Ouch.

1999 - Ron Dayne - No way can I let an offensive lineman be my ultimate Heisman winner.  Wait what? That fat man was a running back?  Huh. Only in Wisconsin.  Still no dice for the Round Mound of Ground.

2000 - Chris Weinke - I have an age limit....and dignity.  Absolutely not.

2001 - Eric Crouch - Made the most of what he had in college.  Didn't have much in the pros.  Pretty much the definition of any option QB to ever play at Nebraska.  But, he does look like Doug from 'The Hangover,'  so at least he's got that going for him.  Even though Doug is in about 5-percent of those movies, so then again, maybe not.

2002 - Carson Palmer - This felt like more of a lifetime achievement award for a guy who pretty much stunk compared to expectations in his first three years at USC.  Norm Chow should have gotten a piece of the award.  Oh, and Palmer beat out Brad Banks who finished 2nd.  That's right, a QB from IOWA came in 2nd (This argument will come back to bite me, see 1985).  Not a heavy year for competition.

2003 - Jason White - The man wasn't even drafted in the NFL.  But you know what other quarterbacks were picked that year, Dan Orlovsky, David Greene, and Andrew Walter.  Truly elite talent...and by elite I mean at holding clip boards.

2006 - Troy Smith - A runaway Heisman winner who had a pretty remarkable career.  But, Smith ended his stint with the Buckeyes getting absolutely HAMMERED by Florida in the title game.  I need a champion as my Heisman.  Plus, no visible tattoos?!  C'mon Troy, you went to Ohio State, I need to know that you took full advantage of your opportunities.  Although, he gets a lot of credit for beating those rodents in Ann Arbor in the "Game of the Century."

2008 - Sam Bradford - Eh.  Passing era QB who lit up the stat sheet.  But another guy who is a casualty of a loss to Florida in the National Championship game.  As Mike Singletary famously said "I need winners."

2009 - Mark Ingram - Most recognizable player on a team that's defense was probably more deserving of a Heisman than anything.  Plus, he loses points for picking 'Bama over my alma mater Michigan State.  Bias in full effect.  No ballot for you.

2011 - Robert Griffin III - Too soon to give him icon status.  Plus, Baylor didn't even make a BCS game.  I need more than that out of my ultimate Heisman.  Also, I can't pick a guy who is still rocking the same haircut as Doug E. Doug in Cool Runnings. Nice socks though.

Sadly Joey Harrington's Heisman was never awarded

With 16 out, that leaves a dozen left.  Of the remaining winners, there is a group of eight that is intriguing, but something is still missing to really entice me.

1984 - Doug Flutie - The Hail Mary is incredible.  His limited size is commendable.  But, I can't put the weight of my Heisman legend on the shoulders of a man who spent the prime of his pro career north of the border.

1986 - Vinny Testaverde - Vinny help put Miami on the map.  He was prolific and a winner.  He helped the 'U' cement their 'Swag'...a Swag that looked like this...

So for that, Vinny gets a ton of kudos.  But, he also pulled a Gino and threw five INT's in a game that would have secured the National Title for the 'Canes.  Plop.  Adios.

1993 - Charlie Ward - Ward is one of my favorite players on this list.  I loved Florida State at the time and love that they snuck around Notre Dame to play in the National Title game that year, despite a head-to-head loss to the Irish.

But, as much as I loved Chuck on the gridiron, I appreciated him more on the basketball court.  He created one of the legendary backcourts (not debatable) with him and future Pistons legend Bob Sura carrying the 'Noles to the Final Four.  But, in the NBA, he let P.J Brown Brock Lesner him in a brawl in the playoffs. That can't be overlooked.  P.J Brown?!  And, there are rumors that he may be anti-Semitic.  Certainly can't have that.  Sorry Charlie.

1995 - Eddie George - A physical runner in an era where great running backs could carry the load by themselves.  But, fumble-itis costs him and the Buckeyes a shot at the playing for the National Title.  And then post-career, Eddie got sloppy with his extra marital affairs.  I've seen how that worked out for Tiger Woods.  O-H-I-OHHH hell no you don't make the top of the list.

1998 - Ricky Williams -  Watching Ricky Williams break the NCAA Rushing record the day after Thanksgiving is, to this day, one of my favorite moments in college football.  He was far and away the most potent runner of his era.  That's probably why Mike Ditka mortgaged the Saints future to draft him.  Statistically he was a freak.  He holds the record of most 200 yard rushing games with the legend Marcus Allen and the offensive lineman Ron Dayne.  As a college runner, only a man later on this list who ran through Stillwater, OK was better, in my opinion.

But, I can't give my ultimate Heisman elite status if when he pees it's cloudier than the sky in Seattle.  I am glad to see Ricky appears to have turned his life around.  But, there was a long time when I wasn't convinced he knew he was living on planet earth.  And to be honest, he probably didn't either.  The guy is different.  Nothing wrong with that.  But, I can't put the title of ultimate Heisman in the hands of a man who often flies higher off the field than on it.

2004 - Matt Leinert - Honestly, there is a lot to like about Leinart's college career. He had a Bromance with one of the underrated boy band lead singers, Nick Lachey while at the same time pulling some serious lady talent.  Plus, he won a pair of National Titles and was never really targeted for getting extra benefits like his teammate Reggie Bush.  College was the good life for Matty.

But, like the rest of us who leave the confines of campus, the adult world hit him like a ton of bricks and blitzes.  Leinert is a garbage pro.  I imagine with the mental anguish of simply playing awful, coupled with his known love of partying, it's just a matter of time before I read that Leinart is dating and/or working for Heide Flice while auditioning for the next season of Celebrity Rehab.

Too much off field baggage.   Fight On Matt, but do so away from my team.

2005 - Reggie Bush - Vacated.  So I won't take the time to make my case for him, but will leave you with a view at one of his crowning career achievements.

You're welcome.  Heisman.

2007 - Tim Tebow -  As impressive as his college career was, including two National Titles, Tebow won the Heisman in a relatively off-year for the Gators.  He is cultural icon and I personally have no issue with him. But, I can't stand his groupies.  And he doesn't have the fun groupies like the ones that pop champagne with Rozay, Wayne, and Drake.  He has Skip Bayless.  I support Groupie Love if done appropriately.  Skip Bayless is not appropriate.

Tebow may be one of the greatest players ever in college football, but to no fault of his own, I can't put him on the next level because there isn't enough Advil or alcohol in the world for me to stomach hearing Bayless talk about him any more than he already does.  (Yes, I am assuming Bayless will read this and will use it as a top topic on First Take).

Final Four time.  Tom Izzo helped me get here.  It's what he does.  I broke the first 24 down chronologically.   These four will be ranked in descending order (No. 4 - No. 1).  The winner gets the honor of being crowned as my ultimate Heisman.  That probably isn't worth much.  The gift bag includes some skittles, a case of 312 beer, and the first season of "Saved By the Bell" on DVD.  Come to think of it, that's a pretty good Saturday night.  So away we go...

#4 - Charles Woodson -  All who know me know I bleed Green and White.  I am a diehard Michigan State fan (that's what happens when you drop that much tuition on a school).  But, there was a time in my younger, uneducated youth when I used to...dare I say it...cheer for the other school in Ann Arbor.  We all do dumb things when we are young.  I have since wised up.

But, before I made the one of my best life decisions, I had a semi-man crush on Charles Woodson.  I played cornerback in pee wee football and idolized #2.  I did the shoulder shimmy, wore the headband around my neck, and even had a shrine of him on my bedroom wall.  So, I can't deny there is a lot of respect for Chuck.

But, really, can a cornerback/kick returner be THE Heisman.  No.  He wouldn't get have the ball enough and in the age of pass happy offenses, defenses are more susceptible at getting burned.  But, C-Woodson does post an impressive resume.

#3 - Bo Jackson - Bo Knows.  Bo Knows how to be a beast.  The multi-sport phenom statistically doesn't even top some of the players behind him on this list, but think about this... In a year when he won the Heisman, he also batted .401 for Auburn's baseball team and launched 17 Home Runs and drove in 43 RBI.  He also qualified for the U.S Nationals in the 100 meter dash.

Bo averaged nearly 6.5 yards per carry in his final year with the Tigers and ran for 17 Touchdowns.  That's strong.

The real reason I put Bo so high on the list is the man was insanely marketable. And in this era of college sports being more about money than, you know that other thing - education - I want a player that can bring in TV cameras and alumni wallets.

"Bo Knows" was a genius campaign and his skill set in Tecmo Bowl is probably the most dominant sports video game character ever created.   If you picked the Raiders with Bo in Tecmo Bowl, you might as well put on a blind fold, tie one hand behind your back, and sit upside down, because that is the only way your opponent would even have a chance.

That's the type of talent I want out of my ultimate Heisman, but on the field, he still doesn't quite live up to the greatness of these next two.  Starting with...

#2 - Barry Sanders - Not having him at Number One hurts because every Sunday in the fall and winter I still wear this man's #20 Detroit Lions jersey.  Sanders could do things with his legs only Michael Jackson (the 'Off The Wall' years) could do.  And, college was no exception.

Barry was as electrifying of a running back as there has ever been.  The elders will point to O.J Simpson, but I deduct points for murder, seems logical.

Despite being Thurman "Fumble Hands" Thomas' backup early in his career at Oklahoma State, Sanders was able to emerge as his own star.  In his senior year, the man ran for 2,850 yards.  That's not a typo.  He was 150 yards from a 3,000 yard rushing season.  To put that in context, in the NFL, which is now primarily a passing league, of the top 40 quarterbacks in passing yards in 2012, 20 of them through for less than Sanders ran for in 1988.  THAT's HALF!.

During his Heisman campaign, Sanders averaged 7.6 yards per carry and scored 42 of his 44 touchdowns on the ground.  He probably single-handedly keep sod laying companies in business in the Stillwater area with the amount of grass he tore up.

The ONLY reason, Barry doesn't get the nod as the top man on my list is because during that season, the Cowboys lost two of their three games to ranked opponents, including against big time rivals Nebraska and Oklahoma.  Therefore, my favorite football player of all time has to settle for second best behind....

#1 Cam Newton - I know, I know.  I can hear the arguments against this pick already.  Cam probably broke a few rules to get to Auburn and the memory of his season is so recent it may be hard to gauge the true historical perspective of what he did, but I'll try.

Newton played one year at Auburn.  He came in, immediately stepped up, led a group of all new teammates, and got them to buy in.  The man is a natural leader.  And his leadership and dominance never faltered despite a year immersed in off-field controversy.

His mental toughness and desire to get better as a player is almost unparalleled.

In the 2010 season, Newton became just the third player in NCAA FBS history with 20-rushing and 20-passing touchdowns in a single season.  He threw for more than 2,000 yards and ran for more than 1,000. That's never been done in the history-rich SEC.

Newton rallied his team from 24-points down to beat arch-rival Alabama.  He tossed a career-best six touchdowns in the SEC title game.  And to top it all off, he torched Oregon for more than 300-total yards and two-touchdowns in the National Championship, which his team won.

He put together an individual season that is almost unheard of, from what he had to weather away from the gridiron to the epic performances he displayed when on it.

It wasn't long ago and most of us remember it, but, even a century from now, it wouldn't surprise me if historians still look back at Cam Newton's 2010 Heisman season as one of the greatest ever in college football history.