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Moose memories and “Welcome Home” for wise deserter of Birdland

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Moose memories and “Welcome Home” for wise deserter of Birdland

Posted on 23 August 2012 by Nestor Aparicio

As Mike Mussina makes his triumphant return to Baltimore this weekend for the Orioles Hall of Fame activities it’s certainly a thought-provoking time to be a long-time observer and fan of the franchise.

Sure, the Orioles are once again relevant — playing meaningful and exciting games every night — which harkens to the days of 1996 & 1997 when “Moose” was an integral part of the magic of being an Orioles fan every fifth day during the zenith of Camden Yards’ passion and Inner Harbor energy.

Mussina has been gone from Baltimore – except for three visits a year in New York Yankees pinstripes – for 12 years now. So long ago that time has seemingly dimmed the glory of his deeds and his departure serves as a truly seminal moment in the awfulness of the Orioles franchise under the stewardship of Peter Angelos since 1993.

In the 1970’s it was routine for the Orioles to lose players to owners, markets and franchises that had more wealth, population and revenue. Many members of the franchise “Hall of Fame” and “Oriole Way” stalwarts left like Mayflowers in the middle of the night for greener pastures including Don Baylor, Bobby Grich, Reggie Jackson, Wayne Garland and Doug DeCinces and later Eddie Murray, Mike Boddicker, Mike Flanagan, B.J. Surhoff and Mike Bordick were all dealt away to save cash and get younger players.

But in the 1980’s and 1990’s, replete with a fan base from six states that pumped unprecedented money into the franchise and reached into the state’s funds to build Camden Yards and turn Baltimore into a spigot for Major League Baseball profitability, the Orioles never lost a player they wanted to keep.

Not until they lost the best player and pitcher of his generation of Baltimore baseball when Mike Mussina wore the “turncoat” label and bolted for the New York Yankees.

After the 2000 season, tired of three years of losing and Angelos’ low-balling and obvious meddling and mismanagement, Mussina simply took the advice of his agent Arn Tellem and played out his option and walked. On Dec. 7, 2001 after years of eschewing the notion of playing in big, bad New York he signed a six-year, $88.5 million deal to play for the Evil Empire.

I’ll share my many personal memories and my friendship with Mussina later in this blog but I can remember the surreal nature of watching that press conference from The Bronx from Chicago’s Sporting News Radio studios with my jaw open. It was the definitive signal that quality Major League Baseball players simply didn’t want to be in Baltimore anymore and it had little to do with crab cakes or the American League East.

Mussina was thought to be “irreplaceable” at the time and 11 years later time has borne out that diagnosis.

Mussina left the Baltimore Orioles because the owner stunk. He knew it and everyone in baseball knew it.

So, Mussina will finally return and don Orioles colors this weekend for the final time and he’ll find a few fresh statues on the veranda, a team in the midst of its first pennant run in 15 years and a seemingly soulless shell of a former love affair for baseball in Baltimore.

There’ll be plenty of empty seats and shoulder shrugs at his mostly sweet and sour induction into the Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame this weekend. Certainly a worthy candidate if there ever were one, Mussina’s time as a starter for the Birds is only eclipsed by the deeds of Jim Palmer, who as I’ve said many times is the greatest (and most underappreciated) Oriole of all time by any measurement.

Palmer let loose with a haughty pronouncement on a MASN broadcast earlier this week in promoting this weekend’s festivities. “The Moose is going to Cooperstown – at least I hope. He’s got 270 wins,” said Palmer, who went on to proclaim that in the steroid era to win all of those games and Gold Gloves and remain a “clean figure” in the needle witch hunt of the Mitchell Report should get him a Hall of Fame ballot punched in 2014.

For “real” Orioles fans, he’ll always be known as the Benedict Arnold of the modern generation for leaving the

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Your Monday Reality Check: Can’t believe I’m saying this. Thank you Debbie Yow.

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Your Monday Reality Check: Can’t believe I’m saying this. Thank you Debbie Yow.

Posted on 23 July 2012 by Glenn Clark

By the time you’re reading this, you may already know the details.

There are significant rumors swirling regarding what type of penalties Penn State University will be handed down Monday by the NCAA, but they seem to be consistent. It appears as though PSU football will lose bowl eligibility for multiple seasons, suffer multiple scholarship reductions and be fined tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars. There could be more handed down by NCAA President Mark Emmert, there could be more handed down by the Big Ten Conference.

The penalties coming just after a statue of former Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno was removed from outside Beaver Stadium in State College. The penalties have been explained as being less than “the death penalty” famously handed down to Southern Methodist University over 20 years ago by the NCAA. The penalties however are thought to be potentially as bad as possible while football is still allowed to be played.

I’ve thought a lot about the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State over the last year. I’ve written a good bit about Sandusky, Paterno and others in recent weeks. I’ve spoken even more during the course of my radio show. I guess I would describe myself as “fascinated” with the story. I will work under the assumption that I’m not the only one.

Some will debate the merits of the penalty handed down by the NCAA. I’ll probably work with the thought that there isn’t a penalty that I’d consider too strong. I’m not sure how much more really needs to be said about that, truthfully.

I’ll admit that the one statement I can’t help but continuously repeat over and over again is “Thank God I’m not at all associated with Penn State.” Thank God I don’t have to think about this. Thank God I don’t have to feel any culpability and guilt towards the fact that I worshipped a coach and a program that was willing to risk the wellbeing of children in order to protect their own reverence. Thank God I never helped build a community where sport was more important than human life.

But a particular Facebook post I came across this weekend caught me off guard and made me think a bit. HFS morning show host Maynard Edwards mockingly posted about the Baltimore Ravens’ re-signing of RB Ray Rice earlier this week, jesting about his overall lack of concern about the sport of football. He followed up a question about why he didn’t like football with a particularly interesting answer…

Our national obsession with that particular sport I believe has gotten a tad bit out of hand. I realize it didn’t happen in the NFL, but when we(‘ve) got people more willing to go along with the (rape) of children in order to preserve a stupid game, we might need to do a national (gut) check on that.

For the sake of full disclosure, Maynard Edwards is one of the first people that helped me get into the radio industry. He’s also the last person I would have thought I would have ever quoted in a sports column.

It’s an interesting thought process. Perhaps the culture created by rapid Penn State fans that believed “football above all” was more about the culture of the game itself. Perhaps all football fans at all levels (NFL, college, high school) need to ask themselves if their obsession with the game would interfere with their ability to do the right thing and take a stand against a criminal.

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Reports: Paterno statue to be removed this weekend

Posted on 20 July 2012 by WNST Staff

NFL Network’s Kim Jones and CBS’ Bonnie Bernstein each Tweeted Friday news regarding the future of the Joe Paterno statue outside Beaver Stadium.

Jones, a Penn State alum, said via Twitter “Am told that Penn State plans to take down the Paterno statue this weekend.” Bernstein said “Source: Penn State Board of Trustees voted on a conference call last night to take down Joe Paterno statue. Will happen this wknd.”

PSU officials however have not confirmed such reports when asked by various outlets. One actual denial of the report came from Daily Collegian (the student newspaper at Penn State) reporter Laura Nichols, who quoted Board member Ryan McCombie as saying “We did no such thing.”

The Paterno statue has been the subject of much debate since last week’s release of the Louis Freeh report on the Jerry Sandusky scandal in State College. Earlier in the a plane flew over Happy Valley with the message “take the statue down or we will.” A handful of Penn State students had camped out near the statue this week to protect it.

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Your Monday Reality Check: Cult of Paterno still dangerously strong

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Your Monday Reality Check: Cult of Paterno still dangerously strong

Posted on 16 July 2012 by Glenn Clark

Have you ever read the short story “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson?

The story is quite famous. At Perry Hall High School I probably had to read it at least twice. Perhaps even if you haven’t read it you’d be familiar with one of the many pop culture references to the story.

Let me try to jog your memory a bit with an even shorter version of the short story. Every year, members of a village gather together for an event known as “the lottery.” One member of every household in the village grabs a slip of paper hoping to avoid grabbing the marked slip. After it is determined who picked the marked slip, every member of the person’s household re-selects slips. They then determine which household member has selected the marked slip and promptly stone that person to death.

Yep.

In the lottery captured by the short story, the marked slip was initially selected by Bill Hutchinson. His wife Tessie Hutchinson was the unfortunate “winner” of the lottery, bemoaning how the process was “unfair” before her end.

As gruesome as the story sounds, there’s such a level of brilliance to it. Particularly brilliant is how Jackson never really explains how the lottery came about or why the village continues to participate in the exercise. It is understood that some members of the village have discussed disbanding the lottery but the tradition continues nonetheless.

During the entire Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal that has engulfed Penn State University, I’ve thought about the short story over and over again. I thought about it the night PSU students rioted after the firing of head coach Joe Paterno. I thought about in the weeks and months after Paterno’s death. I’ve thought about it a ton during the days since the release of the Freeh Report.

I’ve thought about it because it has remained clear that the cult-like following of Paterno and Penn State football has somehow continued and the culture that enabled such heinous crimes to continue still very clearly exists.

I’ve mostly thought about it because I believe at least some if not many of the Cult of Paterno members have to be otherwise right-thinking individuals. I don’t know why those villagers kept going back to participate in the lottery year after year in Jackson’s story. I don’t know why a group of college-educated people choose to ignore (or at least excuse) fact and simply say they’ll support their former head coach anyway.

Maybe I shouldn’t say I don’t know why. I probably do. The fact is that the Cult of Paterno just doesn’t want to believe truth because they’ve already consumed the Kool-Aid. There is no going back. They’re not just members of the cult, they’ve become the foundation after the coach’s death.

(I want to take this time to point out what most other analysts have also done. This is not a conversation about everyone everywhere that has been connected to Penn State. This is a conversation about a particular group of people. Some Penn State students, alumni and fans have been able to stand up and accept the truth about their heroes and the football program they worship. I’ve had the good fortune of speaking to many of them in the past week. They deserve a great deal of credit. They are not part of the Cult of Paterno.)

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Penn State: The old boys club that ruined young boys lives

Posted on 12 July 2012 by Adam McCallister

“In order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at Penn State University – Messrs. Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley – repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse from the authorities, the Board of Trustees, Penn State community, and the public at large.” – Louis Freeh

Joe lied.  Joe lied and continued to live that lie for 14 years.  During that time Jerry Sandusky was allowed full access of Penn State University, its facilities, alumni, donors, fans and children.  Now after reading the complete Freeh investigative report not only was Jerry allowed all of these amenities, when his “problem” was revealed, he was encouraged to be a Positive Action for Youth.

Joe was not alone.  Former University President Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley and former University Vice President Gary Schultz all took part in this lie.  For those that were hoping for a silver lining to the disgusting story that has engulfed Penn State for the last eight months today gave no solace.

Since the press conference and the release of the report Thursday morning many different words have been used to try to describe and in some parts defend the actions of Paterno, Spanier, Schultz and Curley.  Misstep, mistake, slipped have been used by zealous Penn State fans coping with the fall of their idol to a former player interviewed on a large cable sports network to the CEO of a multi-billion dollar company who now realizes he misspoke at Paterno’s memorial service.

Truth is none of these words describes what happened.  This was a conscious effort to lie and fabricate a false reality to preserve “Happy Valley”.  This was a lie used to preserve a coach’s legacy, a university and a football program.  This was a lie that ruined the lives of young boys. 

Young vulnerable boys that idolized Penn State football looking for something to believe in, they are the only victims in this story.  These lies enabled Jerry Sandusky and fed his grotesque appetite.  Innocent children who needed help and the leadership at Penn State ignored them.  The only help that they received was lip service behind closed doors that he was not to bring his “guests” into the Penn State facilities. 

“There is an over-emphasis on ‘The Penn State Way’ as an approach to decision-making, a resistance to seeking outside perspectives, and an excessive focus on athletics that can, if not recognized, negatively impact the university’s reputation as a progressive institution.” – Louis Freeh

For 61 years the Penn State Way was defined by Paterno’s “Grand Experiment”.  Honesty, integrity, loyalty, character this was the embodiment and Penn State brand.  In the wake of the report we now know it was more of do as I say not as I do.  The area around State College, PA feels remote and protected from the outside world.  Couple that with the apotheosis stature that Joe Paterno had reached and the blind trust fans and alumni afforded the University provided a breeding ground for corruption.  With great power comes great responsibility and in the darkest moment real character is revealed.  In both instances Penn State failed.

The four men who led this cover up of a monster for 14 years abused that power.  They spit on the character of the gospel they preached. 

“Bad publicity affects a panorama of different events including the brand of Penn State, including the university, including the reputation of coaches, including the ability to do fundraising. It’s got huge implications.” – Louis Freeh

In the report after Curley spoke with Joe and changed his mind on not reporting the 2001 incident Spanier responded, “The only downside for us if the message isn’t “heard” and acted upon than we become vulnerable for not having reported it.  But that can be addressed down the road.  The approach you outline is humane and a reasonable way to proceed.”

Well, here we are “down the road” addressing it.  And because Paterno, Spanier, Curley and Schultz did not report it Sandusky now sits in jail after being found guilty on 45 of 48 counts of sexually assaulting young boy’s.  None of the testimony sounded humane or reasonable.

In the end the old boys club at Penn State lied and Sandusky was allowed to continue to prey and rape young boys because to report it might tarnish Penn State’s reputation, its football program and fundraising.  Never once did anyone think to report it might save the life of another helpless victim.  That truly would have been the reasonable and humane way to proceed.

 

 

 

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