When the news broke that three more Penn State football players had been suspended last week, I immediately began asking the hard, no-nonsense questions. I inquired into the institutional control of the program, the existing recruiting practices and, of course, the long-term ramifications for overall stability.
But most of all, I just wanted to know how this all would affect my personal reputation.
That's right, I'm a Penn State alum, and I feel these questions are now fair game. Will people now think I'm a loose cannon? Can I now get away with the barbed wire tattoo and/or earring in a corporate setting? Should I splurge and buy the crotch rocket now or later? These are things worth asking.
See, ever since ESPN dropped its Outside the Lines bombshell back in July, the media have directed an exorbitant amount of attention toward Penn State players' off-field behavior. The statistics -- 46 players facing criminal charges since 2002 -- have only added to the media criticism. Even the staunchest fans have frequented message boards with questions of their own. Questions like "What the hell is going on?!"
It's all been quite fascinating, really, and primarily because nobody knows whom or what to blame for the eroding image of a program once billed for its honor, class and simplicity on the field of play. More specifically, nobody knows how they're supposed to react to the perception that their entire alma mater -- not just the football team -- has suddenly changed its personality. Each new allegation feels like the maiden trip through a Russell Brand comedy routine, or like watching Jessie Spano OD on caffeine pills. It's all very uncomfortable. And it's especially so when people start seeing alums as transitive extensions of the football team.
Fair or not, public opinions change based on the actions of a prominent few. And when your football team is one of your biggest marketing vehicles, negative press is always bad for business. Now on the heels of reclaiming its No. 1 party school status, Penn State may be in need of a small-scale rebranding effort. Perhaps a new slogan or mantra to restore trust in the college community is in order. Something -- anything! -- to take the attention off a few knuckleheads giving the rest of us a bad rap.
And while we're waiting for that rebirth to happen, well, I guess I'll just enjoy my new role as the edgiest guy in the room.
With all the bickering surrounding Jake Locker's excessive celebration penalty and Washington's disappointing 28-27 loss last Saturday, one point seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle: It was BYU's special teams, not a rebellious group of referees, who actually blocked a game-tying extra point and ended the contest.
Of course, it did not help that the ridiculous call backed Washington up 15 yards. But even so, BYU still blocked the kick! Isn't this the highlight at which the media should direct its attention? People act as if the officials had a conspiracy to prevent the Huskies from winning -- almost like they'd erected a clear, Plexiglas wall to stop a ball from traveling through the uprights to tie the game. To my knowledge, this did not occur. The call may have been rotten, but at least give BYU its due.
Just a week after its athletic director mistakenly directed sports reporters to a phone sex line instead of George O'Leary's press conference, students at Central Florida also opted for the telephone as their primary weapon of choice. This time, instead of giving out an incorrect phone number, an ambitious few were able to acquire the cell phone number of South Florida star quarterback Matt Grothe and subsequently assault him and his family with hundreds of threatening calls and text messages. Bold move. Reminds me of the time I compared Georgia football to the Ultimate Warrior. Ah, the days...
More to the point, can anyone describe the thought process involved with making a threatening phone call or text message to a person you've never met? I'd like to know. At what point does it become rational to risk possible criminal charges and issue a completely traceable threat? And what exactly do you say to differentiate yourself from the others? Do you go clever in your approach or take it stalker-scary with minute details from somebody's MySpace page?
Furthermore, doesn't an inordinate amount of threats have a counterproductive result and eventually make the target giggle instead of gag? I don't get it.
It was a strange decision by ABC Sports -- er, ESPN on ABC -- to move analyst Paul Maguire out of the booth last season and position him in odd places around stadiums during live football broadcasts. Presumably, the move was made to either (a) spruce up the coverage provided by its No. 2 announcing team or (b) frustrate Maguire until he eventually quit.
But what's interesting is that Maguire continues to hang on, and the network has continued its ongoing tomfoolery for no good reason. They've created a game of it, actually -- Maguire is apparently the new Waldo. Last Saturday, he commentated from the moving sideline camera that zooms up and down the field. In the past, he's chimed in from the production truck outside the stadium. Maybe one day they'll stick him underwater. Who knows?
What's the point of all this? How does this add to the quality of a broadcast? Maguire is a likeable fellow, but we don't need a guy yelling "Bam!" from a blimp to validate our college football experience. If the network heads are serious about this concept, then they should go all-out and attach Maguire to the skycam that hovers above the field. Otherwise, if this is some evil ploy, they should just get it over with and drop him into a snake pit.
OK, so I'm just going to ask it: What is going on with Jimmy Clausen's hair? Going for the Shawn Michaels look of the late '80s? Looking for an endorsement deal with Vidal Sasson? Shooting for a guest spot on Rock of Love 3? Someone take me down the slippery slope that started with porcupine spikes in front of the College Football Hall of Fame and is currently skidding toward old school Malibu from American Gladiators. Seriously.
Surely, with Notre Dame coming off a 3-9 season, the focus should be on its lackluster start against San Diego State. But instead, gosh, you can't help but focus on Clausen's ghastly look. For the record, it's 2008. The era of long, flowing locks of male hair went extinct around the time of California Games and Steven Seagal's last respectable action flick. Who's giving this kid fashion advice, Michael Irvin?
1. Better Ohio State title: "Ohio State Champions!" or "BCS RUNNER-UPS!"?
2. Better Lou Holtz description: "Superfluous" or "Spry"?
3. Smarter investment: Subprime mortgages or betting on Clemson to win it all?
4. More upsettable: Wisconsin (at Fresno St.) or Georgia (at South Carolina)?
5. More ridiculous 'jeans' look: Stonewashed or cuffed?
6. Better 'J' name: Jevan Snead (Ole Miss) or Jahvid Best (Cal)?
7. More probable Tebow career: Emperor of Milky Way Galaxy or NFL quarterback?
8. Worse decision: Beating upRic Flair or pretending to beJoba Chamberlain?
9. Likelier Saturday winner: Notre Dame or Michigan?
10. Bigger train-wreck: West Virginia's upset loss or Russell Brand's VMA performance?
From reader Rob in New York:
Did you see all the security around KFC and its original recipe? Couldn't you just see an Ocean's 14 around the theft of some corporate secret? The Colonel's recipe? The original Coca-Cola? George Clooney and Brad Pitt dressed in Kentucky Colonel outfits? What do you think?
Fantastic idea! But I'll do you one better. Why hasn't anybody written a script about breaking into NCAA headquarters and stealing the official BCS formula? It'd be a rare "sports drama" movie. A clandestine fraternity of angry coaches -- Mack Brown, Pete Carroll, the entire SEC coaching community, etc. -- coming together under one banner and staging the ultimate heist. Think of the potential! Like people wouldn't pay to see Tommy Tuberville in black tights swinging from a cable while trying to snag the official leather scroll...
Ty Hildenbrandt writes Quick Slants every Wednesday. Catch his podcast at SolidVerbal.com or e-mail him at email@example.com.