Blasphemy, I Say …!

All change is not progress.  I am sure there is someone in the hierarchy of the University of Pennsylvania who considers himself/herself a “change agent”; I think he/she is a blasphemer.  To explain my position, I need to give you some history.

On the campus of the University of Pennsylvania, the basketball arena is The Palestra.  It was built in the 1920s; it is an iconic venue for college basketball.  According to Wikipedia:

“…the Palestra has hosted more games, more visiting teams, and more NCAA tournaments than any other facility in college basketball.”

  • In 1939, the NCAA staged its first men’s basketball tournament featuring 8 teams.  The first game ever played in that tournament took place in The Palestra.
  • I attended and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in the early 1960s; in those days all of the Big 5 schools (Penn, Temple, LaSalle, Villanova and St. Joseph) played their home games in The Palestra.  To squeeze in that many games, there would be double-headers on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays every week – – with an occasional double-header on Wednesday night too.  In my four years at Penn, I missed a grand total of 4 college basketball games.
  • For the entirety of the 1964-65 season, I kept the stats for the Philadelphia Inquirer college basketball beat reporter who had to write and file – via telex – a series of stories as the paper wrapped up sequential editions for the following morning.
  • I have a personal connection to and with The Palestra.

A couple weeks ago, the University of Pennsylvania announced that they sold the naming rights to the basketball court inside The Palestra to an Australian investment firm.  Seriously, they did that…  As far as I am concerned, that is akin to the Vatican announcing that they have sold the naming rights to one of the side chapels in St. Peter’s Basilica to Pabst Blue Ribbon.

In Leviticus, the penalty for blasphemy is set at public stoning.  I do not wish that end on the genius who came up with the idea to sell these naming rights or on the greedy money-grubber who approved this deal.  I do wish however that all involved here suffer the fate called out by Johnny Carson as Carnac the Magnificent:

“May the fleas of a thousand camels infect your armpits.”

And by the way, any future alumni contributions emanating from my exchequer will be eliminated…

Whilst I am in such a splenetic mood this morning, let me turn my attention to a standard narrative about NFL coaches.  All during the time leading up to the adoption of the Rooney Rule, the generally accepted wisdom was that the NFL coaching profession was an old boys club for white coaches and an exclusionary one for black coaches.  One of the standard arguments offered to “prove” that assertion was that when a white guy failed as a coach somewhere, he would soon get another job anyhow, but when a black guy failed as a coach, he was lucky to get a job as a ticket seller.  (I exaggerate here for effect…)  Well, all the voices who offered up that trope can rejoice today because that situation has been put to bed once and for all.

This morning, I read that Hue Jackson was just hired on as a “consultant” by the Cincy Bengals.  Hue Jackson has had two shots at being a head coach:

  1. In 2011, he was the head coach of the Raiders for one season finishing 3rd in the AFC West with an 8-8 record.
  2. From 2016 through half of the 2018 season, he was the head coach of the Browns accumulating a record of 3-36-1.

Hue Jackson is African-American; notwithstanding that genetic signature, he got a new job in about two weeks after he was fired by the Browns for having as bad a record as one might imagine.  The NFL coaching carousel is now recycling failed black coaches as well as failed white coaches.

Speaking about coaches who are experiencing “less than successful results” at the NFL level, it behooves me to point to Jon Gruden in Oakland.  The Raiders are 1-8 this morning and they have been outscored by about 14 points per game.  That means, on average, the Raiders have virtually no chance to win a game in the final 5-8 minutes.  Three of the eight losses have been by 21 points or more; those games were over by the time the fourth quarter started for all practical purposes.  In that circumstance, one might wonder why there is not a hint of ownership dissatisfaction with Jon Gruden in Oakland.  I think the reason for that is purely financial.

  • The Raiders signed Jon Gruden to a 10-year contract worth $100M less than a year ago.  I have not read the actual contract, but I do recall that Gruden said that the entire amount was not guaranteed.  OK, so let’s say for simplicity that his agent got him a 10-year deal with an annual salary of $10M with only $50M of it guaranteed.  Even in that scenario, the Raiders would owe Gruden a lot of money to stay home and not coach the team if they were to pull the plug at the end of the 2018 season.
  • Add to that situation, the fact that the Raiders are already paying Jack Del Rio not to coach the Raiders.  If reports about Del Rio’s contract are correct, he will be collecting from the Raiders this year and in 2019 and in 2020.
  • If the Raiders were to “move on” from Jon Gruden this year or next year, that would mean that they would be paying three people to be the head coach of their team at one time.  More than a few folks have speculated that Mark Davis’ bank account(s) will not support such a luxury.

Hence, my suggestion that Gruden’s security in Oakland is based on finances.

Finally, this observation by Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times seems to be an appropriate way to end today’s rant:

“A man using a blowtorch to kill spiders burned down his mother’s house in Fresno, Calif.

“He reportedly got the idea watching Jon Gruden tinker with the Raiders’ roster.”

I’ll go and adjust my medication level now…

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



6 thoughts on “Blasphemy, I Say …!”

  1. I don’t think Hue Jackson was to blame for Cleveland’s lousy record anymore than the kicker was to blame for Tampa Bay’s poor performance this season. However, somebody has to take the blame!

    1. David:

      Hue Jackson was not responsible for the debacle that was the Browns this year or last year. The folks who assembled those rosters are far more to blame than the coach(es) but those folks rarely take the same level of heat. Maybe a great coach – – say a Paul Brown or a Vince Lombardi or a Don Shula – – could have led those rosters to 3 or 4 wins a year instead of a tow-and-a-half year record of 3-36-1, but even those great coaches would not have come close to breaking even with those rosters.

    1. Gil:

      Interesting you would bring that up. One of the nights when I was there – – with a press pass no less – – keeping stats for the Inquirer reporter, there was a phoned-in bomb scare. They evacuated the building but I refused to leave. I wanted to be there if/when they found the bomb – or better yet if they found the guy who had dared to do something so dastardly.

      The game was televised locally. When news hit the radio stations about the bomb scare, several friends – – including the woman who would become my long-suffering wife – – turned on the TV. They said they saw me stalking the court area with the security folks. It was sort of like a “captain goes down with the ship” scene for them.

  2. I agree about the Palestra, some things are just wrong.

    On the Raiders, it’s also not like they have been playing the cream of the crop either. Much of the current record can be traced to the personnel decisions to purge the roster for draft picks, and anyone that can lose 34-3 to the Niners team that couldn’t beat the NY Giants with extra rest last night is tanking it.

    Mark Davis needs a new hobby as well as a new barber.

    1. Rugger9:

      If Mark Davis does not get a new barber, at least he ought to get a rebate on whatever he paid for those haircuts. 🙂

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