Wow, football hasn't even started and that was a full blown weekend of meaty sports goodness. Where do we begin?
As always, from the "Talks too much" studios, here we go...
Statue down, hammer to fall
NCAA chairman Mark Emmert announced heavy penalties against Penn State for the cover-up of the Jerry Sandusky nightmare. The Lions lost a slew of scholarships and bowl eligibility for the next few years. It was issued for a "conspiracy of silence" and the disinterest of the children as said by Edward J. Ray, who said the NCAA not only had the authority to punish Penn State but the duty to do so.
The penalties were harsh. Sure, there had been talk of the death penalty, and this was not death but it was in the team picture. Emmert said of the penalties: "What we can do is impose sanctions that reflect the magnitude of these acts and that Penn State will rebuild an athletic culture" in the right way.
Well, there will be a lot of rebuilding, that's for sure. Emmert delivered a truckload of penalties:
— The NCAA fined Penn State $60 million with the funds used to help child abuse charities and Emmert said it was roughly the gross revenue for one year of the Penn State football program;
— Penn State will face a four-year postseason ban;
— Penn State's football program will be cut from 25 scholarships to 15 for each of the next four years;
— Any entering or current Penn State football players can transfer without sitting out a season;
— Penn State will vacate all wins 1998-2011 and the records will reflect that, and yes that means as of 9:10 this morning Joe Paterno is no longer the winningest coach in major college football;
— There will be a five-year probation for Penn State in which they will have to work with an academic counselor;
— The NCAA reserves the right to impose sanctions on any individual involved at a later date;
Emmert said there was extensive discussion about the death penalty and after much debate that the sanctions needed to reflect a change in culture as much as just punishing.
You could argue that it was too much, punishing the innocent because of the sins of the few many moons ago. You'd be right technically, but you'd be wrong in that your argument is at worst defending and at best downplaying the sins of a child predator and his enablers. When have the sins of the fathers not been felt by the sons? And if ever there was a father of a program it was Joe Pa and Penn State.
You could also argue that it was not tough enough, that if the NCAA was ever going to use the death penalty this was the case. You'd be right, too, but that decision would nuked an entire town — seriously how many business would go belly-up without a fall of Saturdays in State College? — because Sandusky was the devil and the silent partners of Paterno, Spanier, Curley and Schultz cared too much about their legacies and their program. Yes, the sins of the masses can affect the many, but do those sins need to kill the majority?
This decision came in the wake of Sunday's morning's announcement that Penn State removed the statue honoring Joe Paterno outside of Beaver Stadium. (Yes, we know we were asked in last Friday's mailbag when were we ever going to stop talking about Joe Pa and Penn State. The answer has no moved to who know?)
Debate the meaning of the statue removal all you want, but remember two important facts. First, this is in the wake of the school-sponsored Freeh report that detailed the silence and gross inactivity by the upper levels of the Penn State administration in and out of the athletic department. Second, that report caused a complete flip within the Penn State leadership because it was was roughly six months ago that reports surfaced that Penn State had approached the Paterno family about naming the stadium after Joe Pa. (Or maybe the current administration is taking every possible step to disassociate itself from Paterno, which could be a matter of guilty conscience or an early response move in preparation for the river of legal paper work that is on the horizon?)
So where are we this morning, in the wake of the "unprecedented" punishments handed down quickly (too quickly?) and fimrly by Emmert?
We know Emmert's action was quick — as out ace columnist Mark Wiedmer pointed out here — but they were not without heavy counsel and consideration. By all reports, Emmert has been consumed by this case since learning of it last November. (That said, the complaint that the NCAA moved too quickly has to be an all-time first, no?)
We know Emmert deeply believes this is the right thing. He has stepped on a slew of toes and surely has put his job on the line with this move.
We know that Emmert is bound and determined to change the image and the role of the NCAA as the policing agent of college football. Does that mean Penn State was used as an example, well, in some ways absolutely. But that happens in all walks of life and in the wake of scandals and coverups of this magnitude.
We know that the future role of the NCAA and its rule book will much bigger scope than the current mumbo-jumbo that is in place. Gone are the days where there is hand-wringing about too many text messages during this month or secondary violations because this prospect's name was mentioned on the radio. There are bigger problems in college sports.
Chief among them is its image. And that image for far too long was eroded by the lack of action and consistency by the NCAA governing body. Emmert's action Monday certainly answered the former, and let's all pray we never have to apply this precedent ever again.
Open and closed
OK, that's as enjoyable a Sunday round of golf as we can remember at least since Tiger and Rocco showed out at Pebble in 2008. That was great.
And if you weren't pulling for Ernie Els, well, we're worried about your soul or you're related to Adam Scott.
Els was so money down the stretch, and to think that dude was not invited to the Masters this previous April and now he's the champion golfer of the year is staggering. What a great run and what a great finish for a guy that has been nothing but class from Day 1. (Side note: In our day job we get to see some of these guys behind the scenes and sometimes you see things away from the course or behind close doors that are way more revealing than any answer in a news conference or image shaped by handlers. We don't believe all of that should be shared in an open forum, but we can without hesitation say that Ernie Els is a class act and good dude.)
The final round of this British Open was filled with drama from the start. The weather started to fight back and the wind started to blow. It was not much wind but it was enough and way more than the first three days — and image the agony and carnage on the course if this had been a typical British Open (Side note on the ultimate juxtaposition: Our round got rained out here in town on Saturday morning and the British Open was playing in Chamber of Commerce conditions).
Nerves got Brandt Snedeker. A pot bunker claimed Tiger Woods, who made triple on No. 6 after failing to solve a greenside bunker, one of the 205 sand traps on the course. Graeme McDowell, playing in the final group in his second consecutive major, was unable to make up ground and when he was forced to press, he faded.
That left Adam Scott, who played beautifully for 68 holes and had a four shot lead with four to play. He made four bogeys coming in and Els birdied 18 for the one shot win. It was great golf and great drama. And it was over by 1 p.m. or so.
And as much as we felt for Adam Scott, we took some twisted sense of pleasure in that Stevie Williams didn't win. Granted that may not be all that noble a feeling, but so be it. That said, who believe this will be a wound that is a long time healing for Scott.
Here are the results to contest (and it was even closer than it appears since both OTWatcher and Weena dropped Jason Dufner; OTWatcher won in a scorecard playoff in which first submitted entry wins):
17 — OTWatcher — Els (1), McDowell (5), Scott (2), Kuchar (9)
17 — Weena — Els (1), Z. Johnson (9), A. Scott (2), Donald (5)
19 — wannabe — Tiger (3), Scott (2), McDowell (5), Z. Johnson (9)
20 — Spy — Zach Johnson (9), Luke Donald (5), Ernie Els (1), Graeme McDowell (5)
22 — scole023 — Woods (3), Els (1), Z. Johnson (9), Kuchar (9)
That's some world-class picking right there.
It was a tough weekend in Washington for your Atlanta Braves.
Like so much of the dichotomic weekend, it could have been better and it could have been worse.
The Braves rallied from a 9-0 deficit to take Game 1 Friday night 11-10 in extra innings. It was a wild game and figured to be one of "those" games that served as a springboard to big things and possibly the catalyst for the NL East-leading Washington Nationals.
That thought was strengthened Saturday when the Braves took the first game of a day-night doubleheader behind six strong innings form Ben Sheets and a pinch-hit homer by Chipper Jones.
The Nationals rallied Saturday night and punished Jair Jurrjens on Sunday to salvage a series tie for Washington that felt like a win.
As the Braves leave the Capitol still 3.5 games behind the Nationals, what did these four games tell us:
— The Nationals do not have the look of a team that is going away quietly, especially since Jayson Werth is rehabbing and will be back in action within a week to 10 days. That said, the back-end of the Nats bullpen is woeful.
— Ryan Zimmerman is killing it right now. Dude is hitting .392 with 11 homers and 28 RBIs since June 24.
— Despite the unforeseen success of Sheets, the Braves are going to need another starting pitcher to make a real run at this thing. The Braves are 27th among 30 big league teams with 41 quality starts in their 95 games.
— At what point do the Braves start quietly talking Chipper into coming back next year. Dude is hitting .317 for crying out loud. The reverse of that question is at what point do the Braves start asking Dan Uggla for some of that $62 million contract back. Dude is hitting .217. ANswer of course is now — for both.
This and that
— Miami is in more football trouble with the NCAA. Side note: With all that's happening right now: Paterno, the wake of Els' feel-good win at the British Open, the Olympics on the horizon, etc., if you had some sort of sports scandal to drop, now would be the ideal time, right?
— Sweet buckets, Barry Larkin and Ron Santo were inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame and it barely registered. Larkin is a sound choice — dude was the best shortstop in the National League for an extended period. Santo however was not. Santo probably deserves to be in the humanity Hall of Fame — he raised more than $65 million to fight diabetes, the disease that cost him his legs — but not in the baseball Hall.
— Along those same lines, Bradley Wiggins wins the Tour de France to become the first Brit to win the Masters of cycling, and the guy is like story 28 of the weekend. So it goes, we supposed. Hey, Bradley, as Casey Kasem might say, "Keep your feet on the grooves and keep reaching for the bars."
— We were wondering why NASCAR wasn't racing this weekend, and maybe it was because there simply was too much other stuff going on.
We have three for you today — you can answer one or you can answer them all.
First, do you agree with Emmert and the NCAA's iron hammer of penalties?
Second, what was your favorite event of this weekend?
Third, what Olympic hopes to you have, because remember the Olympics start Friday?
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...