Posted on: November 14, 2011 6:43 am

Leaving Sandusky, Pennsylvania

CLAYSVILLE, Pa. -- This isn't for you. Feel free to read it, but I'm not writing for you. I'm writing for me, because I'm trying to get Jerry Sandusky out of my head, and maybe this will help.

Nothing else has helped. The Penn State-Nebraska game on Saturday didn't help. Putting State College in my rear-view mirror after that game didn't help. Checking into a hotel an hour down the road Saturday night and watching something other than college football didn't help. Reading? I read the twisted fiction of James Patterson. That didn't help.

Driving home didn't help. In fact, I'm not home yet. Tried to get there, but couldn't stop thinking about Sandusky, so I pulled off Interstate 70. I'm writing this on Sunday afternoon from a gas station parking lot in, let's see, Claysville. So let me go put that in the dateline real quick. All capital letters. OK, there it is. Dateline: CLAYSVILLE, Pa.

That didn't help.

What I need is the psychological equivalent of a sorbet, something to cleanse my mental palate from the gruel I've been feeding it. But that analogy doesn't feel appropriate. Nothing feels appropriate.

A sorbet? I don't need a sorbet. What I need is a lobotomy or a quick case of amnesia. I need to take out my brain -- like Ray Gricar, the district attorney who didn't prosecute Jerry Sandusky in 1998, did with the hard drive of his computer -- and damage it so badly that it won't be able to recall what it's seen and where it's been.

Because what I need is to forget everything I saw over the past week. As it is, I can't get Jerry Sandusky's grinning face out of my head. You've seen the picture, I'm sure, of him and Joe Paterno at a stadium in the late 1990s, the glare turning Paterno's prescription glasses into sunshades, Sandusky grinning into the distance like a hyena. What is he looking at that moment? What is Jerry Sandusky thinking? I don't want to know, but I can't stop wondering.

I want to forget the sight of Sandusky's house in State College, a peaceful, beautiful house at the end of a cul-de-sac, a home and a neighborhood unworthy of someone guilty of the crimes facing Sandusky. I don't even want to write the words for those crimes. Not again. You know what they are.

Me, I can't stop picturing one of the street signs near Sandusky's house, a sign that has the gall to read, "WATCH CHILDREN."

Watch children? Are you kidding me? That can't be the sign down the street from an accused child molester's house. In the last few days, somebody took out one of Sandusky's front windows with a cinder block. That's not the right way to act, but it would be right as rain for the city of State College to remove that sign -- WATCH CHILDREN -- from the neighborhood of Jerry Sandusky.

I feel nauseous.

I've been a wreck, and I know -- I know -- this isn't about me. I've tried to share some of my emotions from the past week on Twitter, and a few of your responses were along the lines of, "Get over yourself. This isn't about you."

Well no s---. I've been in State College, staring at Sandusky's house and reading the accounts of what he has been accused of doing and driving by The Second Mile, Sandusky's foundation for at-risk children that allegedly was his hunting ground for victims. And I've been in tears. The Penn State journalism students in Room 206 of the Carnegie Building saw that. I broke down twice in front of those kids on Friday. Maybe three times. The whole week was a blur, and Lord knows I wasn't the only sportswriter affected. Lots of us were walking around State College in a fog. This can't be real, said the look on lots of media faces.

Anyway, not about me. Got it. But it has taken a toll on me, just as it has taken a toll on anyone who was in town last week. The toll this has taken on the victims, if the charges are true? I can't imagine that toll, but I'll tell you this: As I've been driving on Interstate 70 today through southern Pennsylvania, trying to get home, I've seen several deer on the side of the road. I see those once-beautiful deer, lying there innocently and eternally damaged, and I think of the victims. Beautiful. Innocent. Eternally damaged.

Those have been my thoughts. My dreams? You don't want to know. They've been nightmares, and nothing I'm going to share with you. In a few days I'm supposed to share something else with you, topic to be determined. My next writing slot is Wednesday, when I'm supposed to file a column on something in the sports world. I don't think I can do it. I'm not ready to write on anything else, but I'm sick of writing about Jerry Sandusky.

In fact, I'm sick of writing this. I'm done. Time to get back on the road to wherever I'm going. Time to get away from where I've been.

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: November 10, 2011 2:37 pm

Tom Bradley gets his dream job. For now.

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- This is the job Tom Bradley always wanted, but he didn't want it like this. And he won't keep it like this, either. This job he has, head football coach at Penn State? It's a temporary tag, and it's never going to become permanent.

Add Bradley to the pile of collateral damage in the Jerry Sandusky scandal that has cost an untold number of alleged victims their emotional well-being, and has cost four of the most powerful men on campus -- coach Joe Paterno, president Graham Spanier, athletics director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schwartz -- their job.

And it will cost Tom Bradley his job, too. Maybe he comes back next season as an assistant coach, maybe not. That will be up to the next head coach, whoever it is -- but it won't be Tom Bradley. He's the interim coach, but that's all he is. That's all he ever will be. Tom Bradley hit his career peak on Thursday, even as he plumbed the depths of personal lows.

"'I take this job with very mixed emotions," Bradley said Thursday morning at Beaver Stadium, where he will lead the Nittany Lions into their home finale Saturday against Nebraska. Bradley also will coach Penn State in its final two regular-season games of the season, at Ohio State and Wisconsin, and in whatever bowl game Penn State appears, assuming the school chooses to appear in one.

After that, though, Tom Bradley is out. He doesn't seem to know that, and he definitely didn't say that on Thursday. Asked if he had been given any indication by school officials that he was a candidate for the position on a permanent basis, Bradley said that topic hadn't come up. And I believe him.

I also believe it will never come up, because Penn State is in housecleaning mode -- and you don't fire the head housekeeper to promote the chimneysweep. Paterno is gone. The president is gone. The AD. A vice president. And soon that wave will sweep the remnants of Paterno's coaching staff out the door as well.

It's doubtful the next coach, whoever he is, would retain a single member of this current staff -- but if one man is retained, it would be Tom Bradley. He is that highly regarded in all circles, whether by coaches or fans or even the media. Full disclosure: The media loves Tom Bradley, and after spending 25 minutes at his initial press conference on Thursday, I see why. He pulls no punches, tells no lies. If he can't answer a question, he tells you he can't answer it. If he can, he does.

Asked if he'd slept in four days, Bradley blurted out, "Do I look that bad?"

Asked a general question about a coach's responsibility to protect children from the kind of atrocities that Sandusky was allegedly allowed to continue from 2002 to 2011, Bradley didn't back down.

"We all have a responsibility to take care of our children," he said. "All of us."

That answer seemed to undercut Joe Paterno, yet Bradley made it clear Thursday he holds only one man in higher regard.

"Coach Paterno has meant more to me than anybody but my father," Bradley said. At that he became emotional, so he stopped talking. Next question.

Another question came about Paterno, and another, and another, and Bradley answered them like so:

"He will go down in history as one of the greatest men, and coaches," Bradley said.

"He has had a dynamic impact on so many, so many -- I'll say it again -- so many people and players' lives," Bradley said.

Bradley loves Joe Paterno. He also loves Penn State, playing here as a defensive back from 1975-78 and coaching here ever since. Once upon a time, Jerry Sandusky was the most respected assistant on staff -- scary, huh? -- but when Sandusky retired in 1999 to pursue his other interests, Bradley replaced him as defensive coordinator and as the man most likely to replace Paterno, assuming the replacement would come from within.

And assuming Paterno would ever retire.

Well, Paterno's gone. He didn't retire -- he was fired late Wednesday night. And Tom Bradley has replaced him, but not for long. Just for three games, maybe four, and then Bradley will leave the only school he has ever worked.

It's not one of the bigger tragedies of this story. It's not, in comparison, a tragedy at all.

But it's a sad turn of events nonetheless.

Posted on: November 8, 2011 7:27 pm
Edited on: November 8, 2011 7:41 pm

Joe Paterno, hero

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- More than 1,000 Penn State students gave Joe Paterno the hero treatment on Tuesday night, gathering outside his house to wave supportive signs and chant his name -- and roaring in glee when he stepped outside to thank them.

"You've been great, just great," Paterno said softly, comments that couldn't have been heard by more than 25 people.

Paterno said something else that surely wasn't heard by most of the crowd, which is a shame:

"The victims," Paterno said. "Say prayers for them."

That message didn't get to the outer edges, to people who weren't there to hear deep thoughts. They were there to touch or just glimpse the winningest coach in Division I history -- who is also one of the handful of Penn State officials who didn't call the police in 2002 after learning that an eyewitness on his coaching staff had accused former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky of sexually assaulting a young boy in a shower on campus.

One Penn State fan outside Paterno's house waved a sign that read, "Two of my favorite J's: Jesus and Joe Paterno."

This scandal has turned campus into Bizarro World, a place where up is down and wrong is right and Joe Paterno is serenaded by students who were roughly the same age, in 2002, as Sandusky's alleged shower victim.

Meanwhile, off campus, people are horrified. It seems to be the dominant opinion elsewhere that Paterno, like the handful of other Penn State officials with knowledge of the alleged assault -- the grad assistant who saw it, the athletics director who was told about it -- concerned themselves only with the minimum legal standards in 2002. The moral minimum would have been to call the police. Nobody did.

I had that very argument Tuesday night with a Penn State student, who apparently recognized me as I stood on Paterno's lawn and asked me, accusingly, "Don't you hate Paterno?"

Me: I don't hate him. But I think he should be fired.

Her: Why?

Me: Because there are eight [alleged] victims that we know about, and who knows how many more, and Paterno had the chance to stop it in 2002 and he didn't.

Her: Oh my god! He did what he was supposed to do! He told his boss!

Me: That was the bare minimum, and if you think that's great, I don't know what to tell you.

Her: I don't think it's great, I just think ... put it this way: Would you have called the police? Really? Would you?

Me: Of course. It's not even a question.

And there our conversation ended. We'd both heard enough, and we'd heard nothing. She wasn't listening to me, and I wasn't listening to her. But I was still listening to the crowd, which was chanting even as it was dispersed from Paterno's yard by police:

"We want Joe!"

Clap, clap, clap-clap-clap.

"We want Joe!"

After that chant died down, another started. It was a chant that showed the priorities of the 1,000 students who gathered outside the house of one of the few men on the planet who had the ability to stop an alleged pedophile in 2002 ... but didn't do it. Paterno told his boss, yes, but he didn't tell the police, even after it was clear that nobody else was going to tell the police. An alleged pedophile roamed State College, Pa., for another nine years. But that wasn't on the minds of the 1,000 people on Paterno's lawn Tuesday night.

This was:

"Beat Nebraska!"

Clap, clap, clap-clap-clap.

"Beat Nebraska!"

Posted on: November 8, 2011 3:13 pm

Who is Scott Paterno? A guy who won't shut up

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- The more Scott Paterno talks, the worse it looks for his father. And here he goes, talking some more.

"Nobody has asked Joe to step down," Scott said outside his father's house on Tuesday, where about 75 reporters were waiting for the chance to speak with the coach as he left for practice. "No more comment, guys."

Scott Paterno has become a major player in this story, if only because he's the mouth that won't stop flapping. Before this Jerry Sandusky scandal, which will bring down Joe Paterno one way or another, I didn't know about Scott Paterno. Didn't know he was a lawyer. Didn't know he had a goatee. Didn't know he existed.

Now, you can't miss him. He's everywhere, and if you can't find him in person, find him on-line.

"Follow me on Twitter," Scott Paterno told the media Tuesday outside his father's house.

And I'm not making that up. Joe Paterno's son really did use this moment to ask the media -- under the guise of gathering information -- to "follow me on Twitter." He sounded like some punk begging for attention.

Which he is, come to think of it. But I'm glad someone is willing to seek attention, after the school pulled the plug on Joe Paterno's weekly press conference Tuesday when it finally dawned on someone in the administration that this scandal is sort of a big deal. So the press conference was canceled. More than 200 reporters went sent away from Beaver Stadium, and they were sent away unhappy.

"He had in fact wanted to answer questions at the press conference," Scott Paterno told reporters outside his father's house on Tuesday. "I have nothing more to say."

He has said enough, believe me. Scott Paterno is the one who suggested -- on Twitter, follow him! -- that his father would give an off-campus press conference after the campus event was canceled. That sent almost 100 people to Paterno's house Tuesday, including 20 or so students who were there just ... because.

Eventually Joe Paterno popped out, walked to his car and said a few lines, most notably these: "I know you guys have a lot of questions. I'm trying to answer them today."

When? Where? He didn't say. He climbed into his car, after nearly tripping over someone's foot, and sped away.

Scott Paterno stayed to handle the publicity, because that's what he does. He handles publicity. He doesn't handle it adroitly, but that's not my problem. Almost everything Scott Paterno has said in the last few days has shown a severe disconnect between the Paterno side and the Penn State side. They are not on the same page here, but we only know that because of Scott Paterno. He has said his father would meet the media at his regular press conference, but the school shut down the press conference. He has said his father would meet the media off-campus, then didn't make it happen. Probably because the school caught wind of it and urged for something resembling silence.

The school is very clearly trying to find a way to separate itself from Joe Paterno, but Scott says that's not the case.

"Status quo. Joe will coach Saturday," he told reporters outside his father's house Tuesday. "I have no other comment."

Scott Paterno is the son who helped Joe craft that ill-conceived statement over the weekend, where Joe Paterno claimed to have been "fooled" by Jerry Sandusky, even though Joe Paterno himself is the one who reported Sandusky's alleged molestation of a boy in 2002 to Penn State athletics director Tim Curley.

That statement also played the family card -- "Sue and I have devoted our lives to helping young people ..." -- and in general made a mess of Paterno's involvement in the case. Well done? Not close, but that's Scott Paterno. He doesn't know what he's doing.

"Guys, I have to go. I have nothing more to say," he told reporters outside his father's house Tuesday, after his father had left for practice. Scott Paterno said that as he walked toward the front door.

And then Scott Paterno did the weirdest thing. He stopped walking toward the house, turned and faced the reporters.

"No comment," he said, but he didn't leave. He didn't move. And he talked for about three more minutes. The attention is a flame. Scott Paterno is the moth.

And his father's career is being burned to a crisp.

Posted on: November 6, 2011 11:57 pm

Steelers went soft, and lost

Mike Tomlin was scared to kick a 46-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter, and his team lost because of it. Up 20-16, he punted instead of going for the long field goal.

The punt put the Ravens at the 8. It worked, in the micro-sense. But the Ravens drove for a touchdown that won the game 24-20 -- not forced overtime at 24-all.

That was the call of the game. Mistake, in hindsight.
Category: NFL
Tags: Ravens, Steelers
Posted on: November 5, 2011 3:30 pm
Edited on: November 5, 2011 4:21 pm

Props for Joe Frazier, all-time great

Sad day. Goosebumps just writing this. But Joe Frazier is dying, sooner than later, and when he's gone boxing will have lost one of its toughest, its most talented, and its most underappreciated champions of all time.

Yes, I believe every word of that last sentence.

Joe Frazier, who is living his final days under hospice care because of liver cancer, is one of the best heavyweights of all time. He's the victim of timing, fighting during the heyday of the heavyweight division and retiring with a modest-looking (for an all-time great) record of 32-4-1. His only losses, though, came to Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, two losses each. He also beat Ali once, in addition to victories over high-quality heavyweights like Jimmy Ellis (twice), Jerry Quarry (twice), Bob Foster, Joe Bugner, Oscar Bonavena (twice), Buster Mathis and George Chuvalo.

Frazier had the size of a cruiserweight but the heart of a lion. Remember how dominating Mike Tyson was, earlier in his career? That was Frazier. Same size, same relentlessness, same ferocity.

Frazier is 67 years old, and with his next birthday Jan. 12, it doesn't look good that he'll make it to 68. May his final days be as enjoyable as possible.

Update, 4:24 p.m.: Here's a 6-minute highlight video of Frazier. Riveting.

Category: Boxing
Tags: Joe Frazier
Posted on: November 3, 2011 1:17 pm

Little Bear Bryant, up to his old tricks

He's doing it again, Little Bear Bryant, the son of The Man. He's standing in the way of, if not outright blocking, the progress of the football program at UAB.

Five years ago I wrote this when Little Bear did that, helping the Alabama System Board of Trustees block UAB from hiring its first choice, and then its second choice, for football coach.

Now, Bryant and his BOT -- Little Bear serves as president pro tempore, a Latin term for "over my dead body" -- have stopped UAB from building an on-campus football stadium. Actually, the Little Bear-run BOT (LBRBOT) has done something more galling than that.

The LBRBOT has stopped UAB from even discussing the concept.

When you're stopping a school from even talking about improving its football program, in a day and age when Division I football generates millions upon millions of dollars, you've done something very strange. And people in Alabama can't make sense of the decision by the LBRBOT.

Well, I can.

I invite you, again, to read my story from 2006. Change a few nouns -- "coach" becomes "stadium" -- and you've pretty much got it.

It's like that Tebow thread that went nuts this week:


Category: NCAAF
Tags: UAB
Posted on: October 20, 2011 10:59 am
Edited on: October 20, 2011 11:03 am

Aaron Boone or Johnny Knoxville? Let's ask Aaron!

ST. LOUIS -- Aaron Boone is a great guy. There are some guys on TV -- guys who smile and crack jokes and call each other cute little nicknames, like the real ballplayers do -- who aren't great guys. Some of them are a little bit phony, is my point.

Aaron Boone is no phony.

There's not a lot of journalistic merit to what I'm writing here, so don't bother looking for it unless you have a periscope or a stethoscope or maybe even a proctologist's scope. And I suppose I could be wrong about Aaron Boone, but I doubt it. Before going to ESPN he used to work here at, giving us analysis on camera, and while he and I never crossed paths, my colleagues universally considered him a great guy.

Anyway, because I can, I wanted to share my smallish meeting with Boone from Game 1 of the World Series.

He's in a secondary press box Wednesday night at Busch Stadium, watching the game with a few other TV types, when I decide that he's a dead ringer for Johnny Knoxville. I click on this picture of Knoxville, and this picture of Boone, and call Boone over to my computer. He comes over, unsure who the hell I am, and I point to the images and say, "Which one of these guys is you?"

Boone smiles, because as I said, he's a good guy. I've just introduced myself to him in the most ridiculous way possible, and he's smiling. He says he's heard the Knoxville comparison -- "a million times," he says -- and then tells me a story from a family trip to Disney, where another tourist kept staring at him.

Boone tells me, "It was obvious he recognized me, and I'm thinking, 'All right, maybe he thinks it's me.'"

The guy walks up to Boone and says, "You're him, aren't you?"

Boone says, conspiratorially, "Yes."

The guy says, "I thought so. You're hilarious, Johnny."

Boone says, "I'm not Johnny."

The guy says, knowingly, "OK, Johnny, that's cool," and walks off.

As Boone told me last night, "He thought I was Johnny Knoxville but didn't want anyone to know it."

So Aaron Boone is Johnny Knoxville, even when he tells people he isn't.

Worth the blogg post? Maybe not. But when a guy is as likeable in person as he appears to be on TV, well, that's news. So there you go. A newsy blogg post, just for you.

Category: MLB
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