Morality, not athleticism wins out

In our society so often athletics trumps morals. We have had Tiger Woods, Brett Favre, and Kobe Bryant all do terrible immoral things and not suffer any punishment in their respective sports.

But along comes Brigham Young University. In the midst of perhaps their greatest season, a team many picked to be a dark horse for the national title, they kicked their second best player off the team.

Now, he was not removed from the team for breaking any law. Instead he broke the honor code of BYU by having premarital sex with his girlfriend. There are two ways to view this.

First, we can say that its very common among all college students to have premarital sex. It is not like anything illegal happened or that this athlete took advantage of her. Yes, that is very true. But, when you are a Mormon student at BYU you should know better, since you willingly and knowingly enter into this agreement.

Second, it can be argued that BYU should have just kept their mouths shut as they road Jimmer Fredette and Brandon Davies to the Elite Eight and possibly Final Four. But, BYU stuck to morals and believed that the principles of the university was more important then athletic achievement.

This makes me think of the whole Cam Newton situation at Auburn. Instead of choosing morality and the high road, Auburn road their star with questionable eligibility all the way to the national championship.

The University of Florida also dealt with these issues. Under the direction of Urban Meyer, the Gators had numerous players arrested and in trouble with the law. Yet, they still let them play and had these players lead them to two national titles.

The sad thing is, for every story like BYU taking the high road, whether you agree with it or not, there is a dozen stories where the school and team looks the other way because of the star players athletic abilities.

I am in no way trying to say whether Brigham Young is right or wrong in this situation, because it is not my place to judge. It is just refreshing to see a university taking a stand based on something rather then the talents of an individual.

 

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Its March, Let Madness Reign!

It’s that time of the year again: March. That means on thing in the heart of a sports fan. The madness of the NCAA tournament is about to begin. This three weeks of March is the best sporting event of the year. It is only trumped by the Olympics and World Cup, which happen every four years.

Buzzer beaters, upsets, and Cinderella stories are three of the greatest parts of watching sporting events. And in no other place do these things happen more readily then March Madness.

As a true lover of the event, I always diligently fill out my bracket as most of the world does. It a tricky process of trying to pick which games will be upsets and which high seeds will sweep through. Every year without fail I think I have made the perfect bracket, only to be crushed by a first weekend upset that I didn’t see coming.

The madness of March is broken down into four distinct stages. First there is the selection Sunday where the field of 68 will be chosen. This gives us our first insight into what the bracket will look like. Over the next four days the life of a college basketball fan is consumed with filling out the bracket and complaining about the field. Every year, there are a few teams that make the tournament that people don’t think should have, and there are always the few bubble teams that everyone thinks should have be allowed to go to “the big dance”.

The next stage is the opening weekend. This is my personal favorite for a few reasons. First, this is when all the key upsets happen. There is nothing better then seeing a high regarded top seed losing to an unheard of middle major school. Second, nothing beats watching basketball from 9 AM to PM two days in a row. It is true bliss for the viewer at home on the couch. And lastly, who can complain about having four games going on simultaneously all day. Whenever one game ends, the coverage immediately turns to the next game. Eager fans all across the nation watch in anticipation, hoping their bracket won’t be busted.

The third stage is the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight weekend. This is when the true winners are beginning to show their colors. This always is the make or break point for your bracket. After this weekend most often my bracket is already in the trash because all my picks lost. But if you make it to this point still looking good, you feel like a sports visionary who should be working at ESPN.

The last stage is the Final Four and Championship game, when all the 68 teams in the field are narrowed down to the champion for the year. This is the best way in all of sports to crown a winner, and something college football should use. Everyone agrees March Madness is the perfect tournament, I mean could you even imagine if it was replaced with a BCS similar formula? Chaos would commence.

In all this hoopla, avid fans choose a side between liking the Duke and North Carolina’s of the would to continue their dominance and win more championships, or to dream of a day where George Mason or Butler can sneak all the way to the top of the country. George Mason made an incredible Final Four run a few years back, and most recently Butler who made it all the way to the championship game and almost upset Duke at the horn in the process.

True sports fans relish this time of the year. Now its time to sit back and watch all the mayhem begin as we pray our bracket hold up against our friends, yet not caring when a team nobody has heard of upsets a big time program with a half court heave!

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Where Have All The Fans Gone?

Last semester, as our men’s soccer team went through their greatest season ever, the stands were packed for every match. But, somehow between Christmas break and today, all those fans disappeared. Now, I understand that it’s more fun to see a winning team, but we as fans have to play our role for the teams on the court/field to do theirs. Think about it. Would you like to play a whole game in front of an empty stadium? Of course not, so we as fans need to come out and show support for our friends, classmates, and fellow vanguard students as they compete.

Being the son of a professor, department chair, dean, and avid sports fan, I have been attending Vanguard sporting events since I was eight. But I have never seen so few people attending the games, sans men’s soccer season. A few seasons ago, when the men’s and women’s basketball teams made national tournament runs, the Pit was packed. You would have to get there early to find a seat or you would be stuck on the floor or standing around the top railing. But my question is where did those days go?

Even a season ago, as the men’s basketball team limped to a disappointing 5-21 record, the crowds still came to watch the teams play. The impact of a crowd, cheering, and heckling can be a bigger effect than one may imagine.

If you recall, when the Seattle Seahawks upset the defending Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints, Marshawn Lynch scored an electrifying touchdown run. In the process of running through over ten missed tackles, Lynch scored one of the greatest scoring runs in playoff history. But more impressively, Quest Field where the team plays was such a ruckus that the stadium literally shook. The seismic monitoring center near the stadium record “earthquake” like tremors during the touchdown run.

In now way am I suggesting the fans shake down the Pit, but we can become a 6th man for our teams. They need our help more then ever, for all sports on campus. Being friends with many athletes at Vanguard, they all routinely ask for everyone to come to their games and support them. Many close games, they say, are decided by the crowds affect on the game.

The way the school rallied around the men’s soccer seat was a sight to behold. Fans painted, cheering and supporting the Lions, but it is now gone. Lets bring that back, and more for the remainder of the sports. The basketball teams want the support of the school as both teams are battling through rough seasons. Every game helps, every little bit helps, every fan helps.

Fans, lets do our part. Lets yell, scream, cheer, for our teams and help us as much as we can. We would want them to attend our games if we were the athletes, so lets pay it forward.

The Cameron Crazies from Duke, and the fans from Texas A&M are some of the most wild fanatics in their respective sports, so lets begin a new one here at Vanguard. Gold Pride.

 

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Bowl System Ruining On Field Product

As big of a fan as college football as I am, I have complaints about the current bowl system. Now I’m not here to argue that we should have a playoff system, because everyone but the school presidents agrees on that. Instead I am hear to discuss how many bowls have become pointless.

The simple fact is there are just too many bowls. As good as the folks over at GoDaddy.com are, simply no one outside of the school participating want to watch Middle Tennessee St. vs. Miami (OH). With the 35 current bowls, and it seems like a new one is added every year, it takes away the thrill and elite nature of making it to a bowl game. When the only stipulation to making a bowl game is being over .500 something is wrong. The American public simply doesn’t want to watch this garbage.

Now, some argue that the TV ratings are high enough to keep these bowls going. This can simply be argued that not much other TV programming is on over the holidays. Normal TV sitcoms and drama go to re-runs so disappointing bowl games are all that’s left. But as long as the bowl system, the TV networks, and the schools keep making money on the below par competition, the large number of bowl games will stay.

My biggest argument against the BCS is the national championship game itself. Waiting over 30 days from the final game they competed in is just too long. Now if there was a playoff system, then this amount of time would make sense. But the long layoff is just too much. The NFL only uses two weeks before the Super Bowl and that’s a much bigger game.

The first week of the year, kicking off with the Rose Bowl shouldn’t change. But the other bowls should be played in that successive order, finishing with the championship game within five to seven days. Now, of course, this will never happen because ESPN and the BCS want a long time to build up the “hype” for this game, even though it doesn’t need it. The national championship game can promote itself. It’s a battle of the two best college teams that season, that’s all that needs to be said.

The long layoff actually has begun to hurt the product on the field. The last five years or so, there have been a large number of blowouts during the game itself, as the teams look out of sync. Take in account this seasons game when Oregon played Auburn. Two of the highest scoring offenses, excluding Oklahoma, were supposed to play a high scoring shootout into the 40’s. Instead, the first quarter ended scoreless, as it was obvious that the offenses had lost rhythm, something common with long layoffs.

On one hand, the BCS national championship game ended well, with a very memorable finish. On the other, it started so poorly. The most simple way to fix this is to play the game a week or so earlier. This gives plenty of time for the team to travel and prepare, give the networks time to hype the game, and still put out the best competition possible. Until a playoff system is born, this is all college football fans ask.

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Urban Meyer Retires, For now…

By now, we have all heard of Urban Meyer’s retirement. In his reasons for retiring, he cites the needs of more family time and that being a division one football coach is too demanding. As “believable” as this sounds I personally don’t believe any of it.

Lets look back to last year. He retired after last season because of “health reasons” before changing that to “indefinite leave of absence”. Now, there is no way his health changed at all in that 24-hour period. That leads us to believe that something else was at play. I think officials at Florida asked him to reconsider after how much success he had and how much money he had made the University of Florida.

But in the 2010 season, things did not go to plan. They lost 3 straight games for the first time ever under Urban Meyer. His teams weren’t as talented and lost to bad teams. It was obvious all season that he wasn’t into it anymore and wasn’t putting in as much attention to detail as he did with his national championship teams.

To say his retirement is anything but expected would be ignorant. He didn’t look like he wanted to coach all season. He looked like he was forced back in to coach when he didn’t want to.

Or, was it the boosters harassing him over the Cam Newton debacle. Out of high school, Meyer had recruited Newton to be his next Tim Tebow. But when Tebow returned for his senior season and Newton had off the field issues, he and Florida parted ways. Only to have to face him two seasons later. This time Newton wasn’t the freshman making mistakes. He was the Heisman frontrunner and was making the defenses of the SEC look stupid and juvenile in their attempts to stop him.

But if one thing we do know is true, in the future we will see Urban Meyer back on the sideline, with a headset on. Once a coach, always a coach.

He will take some family time; spend time watching his three daughters grow up and coach again in the future. In the mean time, I expect him to be snatched up by some major network to become an analyst. He looks to be on the Bill Cowher, Jon Gruden, and Tony Dungy track. He doesn’t have to coach to make money. He has enough to take time and pick his perfect opportunity, just like those other professional coaches.

Upon his retirement, he is one of the top coaches in all of collegiate football, and he will get another chance to coach at the drop of a hat. Whenever and wherever he decides.

 

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Its all about the money, not about the game

Entitlement of athletes is running rampant in our society. From youth all the way to the professional leagues, athletes now have expectations of how they will be treated. From my experiences coaching high school football, many of the teenagers want to be “coddled” and “pampered”, given playing time not earning it. However, it doesn’t get better as they grow up, it only gets worse.

As many people are aware, college athletics is littered with problems. Reggie Bush took money from an agent while at USC and eventually had to give back his Heisman. Star receiver for the Georgia Bulldogs, A.J. Green sold his own game jersey and was forced to sit out games. Memphis Tigers star Derrick Rose didn’t even have to take his own SAT’s to become eligible to play. Yet, the NCAA doesn’t do anything in a quick fashion.

Just like when Cam Newton is accused of “selling himself” to colleges after his brief stint playing Junior College football. The NCAA and Auburn both knew of the allegations but nothing came out about it until he was the Heisman front-runner. Then all of a sudden, it was a big deal.

I’m not here to argue whether Cam Newton was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to go to Auburn and not Mississippi State. That’s not the issue. The issue is how the culture of sports is no longer about winning and losing for the athletes. Now, it’s the “What can you do for me?” basis. The players are looking for more then just playing time and a college scholarship.

I can’t blame the star athletes for feeling this way either. Auburn University is making millions of dollars off of Cam Newton’s athletic ability, selling merchandise and game tickets, plus new booster support. I can easily see why Newton would want more compensation for his domination of college football.

My problem is with the allegations themselves. The mere fact that someone is hinting at Cam Newton asking for money, means coversations involving money exchanged occurred. The scariest part is that this happens more often then we even hear about. No more are sports about the love of the game. It’s a business now.

Yet, the athletes still think they are entitled to do whatever they want. Tiger Woods did it. Brett Favre is guilty. And most recently, and dare I say it most shockingly so is Tony Parker.

Woods’ transgressions were the most extreme and dare I say it most ridiculous. Brett Favre’s were more shocking, since he seemed the most like a family man. Finally, Tony Parker’s were the most stupid. No one will ever understand why Parker would risk losing a celebrity wife like Eva Longoria to have text conversations with Brent Barry’s wife.

The proof of entitlement is in the evidence. Woods and Parker had stunning wives, yet still went astray. They felt like they could do whatever they want since they were athletes.

But, while they should be blamed for their actions so too should society. For many years, everyone from fans, coaches, schools, and organizations have put up with questionable actions from athletes just because they are amazing physical specimens. Pittsburg Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Lakers’ star Kobe Bryant are accused of taking advantage of young women but a year months/ years later nobody even cares or remembers because they have won championships for their respective teams.

This trend doesn’t seem to be changing for the better, in fact only getting worse. Its happened for decades and will continue to get worse, especially with how athletes are being brought up.

When I was in high school, a player on my team had his mom pad his stats to make himself seem better. Everyone knew it was going on yet nothing was done about it. Those inflated stats got him a scholarship to a division 1 school only to be cut.

This did no good for the player or the rest of the team in the long run, but for every bust like him, there is a Lebron James who will make millions of dollars one day. The athletes expect it from a young age and live their lives with the expectation of one thing. Entitlement.

 

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Love it or hate it, it’s here to stay

People always have different views on which sport or teams are better. The same is true for fantasy sports. You either love it or hate it.  Personally I love them. No matter how frustrating or disappointing it can be, each year millions of America’s sign up for fantasy teams again. Now, most of the time girls think its men wasting their time, a valid argument, but it has more to it than that. It is the love of the sport that truly drives the fantasy sports machine.

Now I am not a die hard fantasy freak who spends hours scouting and reading magazines to try to win. Nor am I the person who is addicted and has five fantasy teams like our previous sports editor. In my opinion that is just ridiculous.

One of the best aspects of fantasy sports is coming up with creative team names. Whether you want to stay classy with “Skittles Taste Dwayne Bowe” or “Corn on the Kolb” or for the more ironic “Bosh.0” and “Count Durantula.” Now to most people, this doesn’t mean anything, but to fantasy sport followers its always a competition to have the funniest or most ironic name.

I like to stick to fantasy leagues only with my groups of friends. I have tried the “random” public league rout before, but most of the fun comes from competing against friends and loved ones.

But like any other guy, winning a fantasy league is a great accomplishment with a little bit of luck thrown in. You can draft the best team or worst team, but its more about how you make trades and organize your players which is important. This is where the excitement of fantasy sports comes in.

However, there is just something about getting a group of friends together and battling each other through meaningless matchups where we “control” the professional athletes on television. There is nothing better then being able to rub in a victory against your friend, and nothing worse then him throwing the same thing back in your face.

Fantasy teams make players much more popular these days then before the craze started. Few people would know of someone like Matt Shaub or Dwayne Bowe if it weren’t for fantasy leagues. For those of you who don’t know Shaub is a fantasy god playing quarterback for the Houston Texans while Bowe is very underrated wideout for the Kansas City Chiefs.

The simple competition among friends has made these players and more much more popular. Everyone knows the famous players like Chad Ocho Cinco or Drew Brees, but how many people knew who Arian Foster was before he ran for 200 yards in week one of the season, or where former Detroit Lions quarterback Jon Kitna was before Tony Romo broke his collarbone.

For whatever sport fits your fancy, there is a fantasy league out there. From serious keeper leagues, to auction leagues, or “just for fun” leagues, there is a place for you in fantasy sports. Anywhere from golf and NASCAR, to the “Big Four” of MLB, NBA, NFL, and NHL fantasy sports are here to stay. So, let’s stop bashing fantasy and join on board.

 

 

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