Friday, September 12, 2008

A Nation of Laws, not Men

Turn on any sports show this week and all the chatter will be about young the Univeristy of Washington Quarterback tossing the ball in jubilation after scoring a last second touchdown. With two seconds to go, Jake Locker crossed the goal line and brought the score to 27, 28. A simple extra point ties it and sends this game into overtime.

Let the record reflect: Young Locker was not taunting the opposition. He was not showing off. He did not throw or kick the ball into the stands. He simply threw it down over his back shoulder in a show of unadulterated joy.

By all accounts this boy is the poster child for "Student Athlete." His reputation is that he's modest, kind, studious and a leader of men. Not your typical flashy show off which stains so much of sports, today.

Apparently, the refs didn't read his resume. He was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct.

After the penalty, the ensuing extra point attempt was blocked. BYU won.

The loss is being pinned on the officials for their interpretation of a rule, instituted this year, to curb unsportsmanlike displays of exuberance.

In all the media, the mantra is the same: The officials over reacted-the NCAA instituted another stupid, unenforceable rule. "Let the kids have fun", is the chant over the airways.

These words from ESPN writer Jim Caple are typical of the Media's attitude:

"Doesn't a 15-yard penalty seem a trifle excessive? You're telling me that celebration demands the most onerous penalty you can give a team? That reacting to a successful play with pure joy is as bad as maliciously hitting a player out of bounds or clipping him below the knees or doing anything that might result in a severe injury? Please.

It was one of the absolute worst calls I've ever seen in football.

Mr. Caple, of course, misses the point. This young man is a college student. By all accounts an exemplary kid--one we would all like to have representing our families, town, or state.

His transgression was minor compared to other transgressions by players both on and off the field. (Rapes, muggings, theft, and shootings are almost common place among college football players, these days).

Yet, its consequences were huge. It could (eventually) cost Coach Willingham his job, and the University millions of dollars in TV revenues if they get ranked lower than they might have, had they won (unranked UCLA beat 18th ranked Tennessee and found themselves in the top 25). BYU was ranked 15th. Where would a win have put the Huskies?

So, the refs and the NCAA rules committee become the fall boys for this "over-reaction" to a minor transgression.

Of course, there's a group of Athletes who played in St. Helena from 1960 to 1965 who might have another opinion. If they do, it's because they played for a Coach, George Davis, who was emphatic that referees were like ordinary people--they want to be noticed. Ergo: We not were to give them a reason to drop a flag on us.

Coach Davis was emphatic. We were in the midst of a record setting win streak. He knew that, being human, what ref wouldn't' want to be able to tell the story about how he reffed the game where St. Helena lost? "That's just human nature," Coach Davis would tell us.

So our orders were clear. No one was to say, "Hey Ref." It was always to be "Mr. Referee, Sir." If you were being held by an opposing player, you were not to complain. You were to say, "Mr. Referee, Sir, could you please watch number 85. He's holding me."

I know. I once told a ref that I didn't' catch a ball he called complete. (He got mad, and told me to let him make the calls). Coach Davis refused a 15 yard penalty in our favor, because the ref had made a mistake. We were not like other teams.

Jake Locker is a college student. Universities are supposed to teach character above anything else. Good or bad, the rule is there.

In his famous address at the Lyceum, in Springfield, Abe Lincoln spoke of, "the increasing disregard for law which pervades the country: the growing disposition to substitute the wild and furious passions, in lieu of the sober judgment of Courts;"
He exorted his listeners, "never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others."

Though there were, indeed bad laws, (which should be repealed as soon as possible, until then, he said "let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the character of his own, and his children's liberty. Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap--let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges… in short, let it become the political religion of the nation"

All coaches ought to tell that to their kids. "Hey, the rule has changed this year, if you score, leave the ball on the ground--no celebrating of any kind anywhere."

An don't tell me it can't be done. For the first hundred years of football, until the me generation erupted in the 60's, no one ever, ever celebrated a Touchdown. It was considered bush league.

As a parent, my heart goes out to the young man. But as a footballer who learned at the knee of the Master, there's only one reason to play--otherwise, it's just a game of football.






Jeffrey Earl Warren
James Warren & Son
1414 Main St.
St. Helena, Ca.
94574
707-963-2748

Monday, September 08, 2008

COUGARS EXPOSED

"Cougar". My kids tell me a cougar is an aged chick who goes into a bar to pick up young boys in their 20's. Alas, when we were that age, Cougars didn't exist--or if they did, they failed to come out at night at Cal. My guess is had they prowled the Rat Skellar after a rugby game, they might have had an opportunity to bag some desperate, if inexperienced, prey. And like all Cougars, they never would have liked us for our minds.

WSU ought to think about a name change. For the Bears did to WSU, what the bar fly Cougars want those 20 something's to do to them. And as with Cougars everywhere, it wasn't pretty. Certain games need to be played with the lights out.

This abomination was done in plain day light. Not a good idea.

Someone asked if they are that bad, or we are that good? My guess is that it is more the former than the latter--at this stage--though hopefully, as the season goes on, this question will be obvious to all concerned. To reverse it, like all Cougars, parts of us are terrific. It's still too early to tell whether the whole package is the real deal--or will stand up to the light of day.

Jahvid Best is now being touted as a Heisman Trophy Candidate. When you take a ball on the first play and go 80 yards and then a bit later knock off an 86 yard td, there is some reason to believe that you might be in that elite category. (14 carries, 200 yards). Coaches and we old guys have always held out hopes that the chosen one will find his way to our campus. But let's not anoint anyone too soon--though Jahvid is worthy of our finest thoughts.

When you love a school situated in a community where the Mayor of the Town thinks the chosen one is named Ayr, Dumpster Muffin, or Burlap it's hard to "keep the faith." No one in Knoxville, Miami, or South Bend has to split loyalties like we do.

Now we have some areas that need improvement. Riley is a gamer and is the proper starter. But he was 6 for 14. Some of his misses, especially on the deep routes taught all armchair qb's why Tedford was not in a hurry to run away from Longshore. The right kid is starting, but no one should sell Longshore short. He has an incredibly accurate arm.

To whom he throws it, is worth arguing about.

"They kicked my butt on every aspect of the game. They came out and they hit me and hit me and hit me. Every play of the game, they hit me. I got shut out in the sack department, but like I said, they hit me in the mouth every single play."

Actually, that was a quote from the game two years ago in Pullman. But was it applicable to Saturday? We did look physical. A huge imporvement from last year.

I couldn't get local quotes, as due to the fact that I am taking the train on Tuesday back to D.C. for the Cal Maryland Game, that "working thing" kept me from going to the WSU game this weekend. (Both my wife and I made the same mistake. Neither of us married rich, so someone has to pay for those three tuitions).

So I didn't make the trip and like most of you I saw the game on TV. Not exactly right. Unlike most of you, I saw the game on my neighbor's TV, because here in St. Helena our antenna doesn't get all these funny stations. My neighbor has cable. Better than that, he has a winery. So if one has to suffer, watching a game on someone else's TV, it's not a bad idea to do it at a famous winemaker's house. One doesn't have to watch the game alone. There is always a glass nearby with something "red" (sorry Bears) to keep you company.

The game speaks for itself. There is nothing a couch potato can add. Interestingly, the kicking had a slight drop off, but the boys up front did their work and made lots of big plays. On the other hand, the game was mistake filled-especially in the kicking game.

Still, we almost hit for the cycle. No, we didn't get a safety, but we scored almost every other way possible, via defense, a blocked field goal, a field goal, through the air, on the ground. It's true we didn't score via the fumble-rooskie, or the hidden ball trick, but to mix metaphors, most of the bases were covered.

Four Picks (and Sid Q'uan Thompson dropped one-despite getting two)-by the D means a lot. The D line shut them down again. We got some sacks, It looked like we had a few hits worthy of the highlight reel.

No one criticizes one of the biggest wins in Cal History.

Well, Tomorrow I head down to within a nine iron of the Key Club in Emmeryville to catch a train headed for Chicago and then D.C. It's 69 hours of bliss until I get back there (theoretically) in time for the Cal Maryland Game. (As one friend said, you'll get there on Friday-you just don't know which one).

It's a bucket list thing. I've never taken a train across the U.S. I've always wanted to cross the U.S. on the ground. (That's code for being able to have a bloody Mary on Wednesday's with breakfast, and not hearing a word of complaint).

The books? Johnny Coleman gave me the best, NOTHING LIKE IT IN THE WORLD, Steve Ambrose's book about the men who built the railroad. And of course, since it is an Odyssey, why not read about the ultimate one, Odysseus' Odyssey as told by Homer. The only difference between Odysseus and me, if Circe and those others Sirens care to tempt me, unlike Odysseus, (with those Cougars in mind) chances are I will not tie myself to the mast in order to avoid all temptations.

I've always wanted to be hustled by a novogenarian.

Jahvid Best is being talked about in Heisman circles-not neat (though he deserves it). We remember what happened last year when one of our athletes was touted in the Heisman race.

Me thinks with Jahvid it will be different.

The O line is coming into its own. The D line with those 4 backers may be making a name for themselves.

It's way too early. There are lots of questions. But like all foolish Bear fans, despite any rational reason why, I'm boarding that train for the Rose Bowl Express. All Aboard!!!!!!!!!!!!

Go Bears,
Jeffrey Earl Warren '70
www.jeffwarren.com