By Bill Campbell
Surely last Sunday was one of the more dramatic days in sports that we’ve experienced in quite a while. How could we cram more significant happenings into any one 24-hour period?
The new president of Penn State called the statue of deceased football coach Joe Paterno a “source of division”. Early Sunday morning, workers erected a fence, draped the Paterno statue with blue tarp and fork-lifted it to a spot inside Beaver Stadium from where it will be transferred to a secure place. The decision to remove the statue will remain open for debate. University President Rodney Erickson said the statue, if left alone, would have become “a recurring wound for those who have been affected by child abuse.” We’re told that the Penn State Board of Trustees, which has had a controversial year to be sure, could not come to an agreement over what to do about the statue. It decided to leave the decision in Erickson’s hands. But the guy I wonder about more than anyone else is Bill O’Brien, the new football coach, the successor to Paterno. Can you imagine stepping into that position? I think I would seriously consider asking the National Football League if it could possibly find a place for him to which he could return somewhere. Anywhere. But O’Brien seems to be the sort of solid guy who will come to the evaluation that he walked into this mess with his eyes open. He’ll probably realize that he made his bed and go about the business of trying to lie in it and make it as comfortable as possible. I wish him luck.
The removal of the Paterno statue was hardly the end of the Penn State story. The NCAA sanctions announced on Monday morning were swift, significant and carry long-term ramifications for the school’s football program. The general reaction within the Penn State community basically has been one of anger and bewilderment. Personally, I found the NCAA actions justified, with one exception: the business of vacating all of the past victories accrued from 1998 through 2011. That seems to me to be piling it on a bit and a measure hardly connected with the distasteful Sandusky tragedy. It struck me as being an unnecessary shot at Joe Paterno. The result is that it places Grambling coach, Eddie Robinson, as the new leader with 408 total career wins and drops Paterno from 409 career wins to 298. Perhaps since Jerry Sandusky was on Paterno’s staff through most of that period, the move has has some limited significance. But it comes across as somewhat vindictive since the team won the games under Joe-Pa’s guidance, whether Sandusky was on the field or not.
I preferred the attitude and reaction of former Penn State All American linebacker, Lavar Arrington, who has been very outspoken since the scandal first surfaced last November. Arrington, at first, was one of Penn State’s strongest defenders but he seems to have given the matter additional thought. His recent comments represent a different view. He said, “A strong punishment was necessary. Otherwise I don’t think it would have been accepted by those looking on around the country. Now the school, the students and the State College community can face the dawn of a new day. Sure, it won’t be easy moving on from here but sometimes turning away from the past is the only way to see a bright future. If Penn State is ever to have a chance of restoring its reputation, it starts with one positive action at a time.” I couldn’t have said it better myself
Ernie Els won the British Open on Sunday with a remarkable performance from six shots behind. While Els was winning his second Open, the guy making the headlines was Adam Scott, who appeared to have the tournament won. He collapsed in spectacular fashion when he was four shots ahead with just four holes to play. It came after eight consecutive holes with nothing worse than par, only to be followed by four bogeys. Els, six shots off the pace, finished with a two under par 68 to win his second British Open title. The other one was ten years ago at Muirfield. Els now has four major titles, with a four-day total in this tournament of 7 under, 273. Said Els, “For some reason, it must have been my time. I feel for Adam Scott. He’s a great friend of mine. We both wanted to win very badly but that’s the nature of this game. That’s why we’re all out here. You win, you lose.” Other than the Scott collapse, this tournament like every major, seems to produce its exceptional moments.
A guy named Nicolas Colsaerts shot 65 on the final day of the British Open. He also shot 65 on the opening day. It’s the first time in British Open history that a guy shot 65 twice and failed to win the tournament. While I’m on the subject, it’s apparent that Tiger Woods just is not the same player he used to be. He’s failed to win two majors in the last month in two tournaments he once could have won easily. Tiger used to just play his game and he usually won. Now his old tricks don’t work and there seems to be no Plan B.
To top everything off, final preparations for the Olympic Games were taking place in London. If you think your days are busy at times, consider the London Philharmonic Orchestra which recorded the National Anthem for every competing nation. It took them fifty-two hours to do. These games are noteworthy, in past, because they will mark the first time that femals athletes will be competing in all 26 Olympic sports, including a woman from Malaysia who is the only Olympic athlete who’s pregnant. She’s a rifle shooter and she has no intention of dropping out even though she’ll be in her eighth month of pregnancy at the time of the competition. She says she was extremely lucky to get her Olympic spot and her baby is looking out for her. I sure hope so.
The Phillies averted a sweep at the hands of the San Francisco Giants on the same afternoon and won a game they just couldn’t afford to lose. Jimmy Rollins brought about the walk-off victory with a twelfth inning single. But Laynce Nix should not be overlooked in the Phillies’ quest to get back into the race. When he injured his calf last May it looked like a routine, fifteen-day injury. He tried to come back in June, probably too soon, and wound up missing 63 games. But he delivered an important base hit in Sunday’s game that moved the winning run to third base. Before his injury Nix was hitting over 300 and there were countless times the Phillies could have used his left-handed bat. He should get more chances as the Phils fight through the second half.
On this same dramatic day in sports, it was opening day at Lehigh. The Eagles began working out, preparing for Andy Reid’s fourteenth and, possibly, last season. A lot of people thought that owner, Jeffrey Lurie, might announce Reid’s departure following the last dismal 2011 season. Instead, Lurie decided to go at least one more season with Reid. He divorced his wife instead.
Mike Patterson will miss training camp and, perhaps, some additional time while he recovers from last January’s surgery. You might remember that about a year ago Patterson suffered a seizure on the Lehigh practice field. He has an arterior malformation on his brain and it’s possible that the defensive tackle’s career may be over. He did play last season and pretty well, but then underwent surgery at the season’s end. His return to action has again been delayed. Meanwhile, quarterback Michael Vick says he’s ready to go, to shoot for the stars. If the Eagles can provoke as much excitement in the regular season as they did in the off season, it could be a very exciting fall.
All we can do is stay tuned.