Who said criminals are bad in society? Allen Pinkett, Notre Dame's color commentator for radio broadcasts believes they fit in well on a college football team based on his definition of one.
Pinkett's comments bring up a broad discussion of his idea of a "criminal." It can be one that evaluates the economic, educational and racial background of a college athlete. There is no doubt that the discussion is a sensitive one that many are hesitant to discuss. For Pinkett, his choice of words could have been better. The word is defined as someone who is guilty of a criminal act. To say that a student athlete with an edge and attitude is thrown into that category is crossing the line.
When it comes to Notre Dame, they have had a few off the field incidents involving past and current student athletes over the last two years. Michael Floyd's two DUI's, Tommy Rees suspended for the first game in Ireland for resiting arrest and the recent suspensions of Cierre Wood and Justin Utupo for the first two games for violating team rules enables Pinkett's comments.
While Floyd and Rees' incidents involve what you would call "criminal acts," for Pinkett to say that criminals should be encouraged to play is not just bad for Notre Dame, but for every other program in college athletics.
For over 30 years, Notre Dame is a program that has not budged on its standards for admitting student athletes. While others have lowered their standards, Notre Dame refuses to lower them. Universities like Miami (FL) began to recruit within the inner city neighborhoods of Miami back in the early 1980's. These players had swagger and an attitude, but you wouldn't go calling them criminals because of that and their background. They were talented and won national titles. Under Lou Holtz, Notre Dame was able to bring in two players under Proposition 48. Since Holtz, the school currently does not allow it.
Is it wrong for Notre Dame to develop an attitude to intimidate opponents? No. Because everyone does it. Playing with an edge and attitude can work if you back it up with your play. The Irish have lacked that Notre Dame intimidation and attitude that they used to have decades ago that opponents saw when they came out of the tunnel at Notre Dame Stadium.
If Pinkett believes that Rees and Floyd's arrests are going to make the team better, then every Notre Dame fan should fear for the worst. His definition of a criminal leaves much for debate and promotes a negative view of college recruiting and the behavior and conduct of student athletes.
Growing up is hard to do. The older we get, the more negatives we encounter. For people my age, watching Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa swing for the fences, trying to break Roger Maris' home run record had us counting the long balls. Lance Armstrong overcomes testicular cancer and wins seven Tour De France races, and we were amazed by the great turnaround recently of Melky Cabrera, watching him lead the National League batting title in August and take home the MLB All Star MVP in July.
As the days pass, we realize that our heroes and role models are not who we thought they were. We learned that many of the home run hitters from the 1980's through the early 2000's were taking steroids. Cabrera tests positive for PED's and is suspended 50 games. Now, the one person we thought was a pure athlete, Lance Armstrong, has ended his fight with the United States Anti-Doping Agency, and has been banned from competition and his seven Tour De France wins are erased like the late Joe Paterno's wins were after the NCAA sanctions. I guess you can add Paterno to the list of role models gone wrong.
Charles Barkley once said "I'm not a role model." While many can't take everything the former NBA great says seriously, he's right on this one.
Athletes and other sports figures are viewed as superior human beings. Some are feel good stories like Armstrong. Many can relate to his story. Overcoming cancer, and then winning the biggest cycling race in the world seven times. Most people who beat cancer will never accomplish that feat, but it gives them hope. All of us bought the yellow "Livestrong" wristbands, and saw him as a role model.
When news began to circulate that Armstrong might have been doping during those races. We didn't want to believe it. We called Floyd Landis a liar when he spoke out against Armstrong. With Armstrong ending his vigorous battle with the USADA, it leaves everyone feeling like they have been mislead.
At the end of the day, we realize that athletes are just like us. They make mistakes. The only thing that separates them from us is their lives are on display for the public. For every baseball fan who loved watching Pete Rose hit the ball and bulldoze into catchers at home plate, watched him get banned from Major League Baseball for gambling. For Penn State football fans who couldn't believe that Jerry Sandusky would bring harm to children, and even worse, their beloved head coach turned a blind eye to what Sandusky was doing.
For all of us who didn't want to believe that Lance Armstrong, an athlete that everyone could relate to, was doping, we are left to ponder again our obsession with athletes and making them our role models.
So as you look at your yellow wristband, you think of what is truly important in life and who your role models should be. Don't go looking for them in professional athletes. Looking elsewhere for one closer to home is a better idea. To finish Barkley's comment, "just because I bounce a basketball doesn't mean I should raise your kids." I guess the same can be said when Lance Armstrong rides his bicycle or Cabrera hits a ball.
In the early morning hours at Turner Field on July 27, 2011, the Atlanta Braves and Pittsburgh Pirates are in the bottom of the 19th inning. A game that both teams, who at this point were in the pennant race need. Pedro Alvarez throws to Micheal McKenry at the plate to easily tag out Julio Lugo. Home plate umpire Jerry Meals made a call that derailed the Pirates 2011 season. A safe call that shocked those watching and the baseball world on every sports show and news program. A devastating blow to a team that almost 19 years earlier saw Sid Bream cross the plate on a close play at home in the National League Championship Series, to send the Braves to the World Series and begin a dynasty in Atlanta, and was the starting point of the Pirates descent into mediocrity. The Pirates never recovered and marked their 19th straight year of losing baseball.
One year and 25 days later, the Pirates are in another long game at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. As the 19th inning approaches, the memory of Jerry Meals reappears. For Pedro Alvarez, the man who made the throw to home on the blown call by Meals, homered to right center field, giving the Pirates a 4-3 lead. It would only be a greater moment if McKenry was the one who hit the home run. With a little insurance from Andrew McCutchen, the Pirates won 6-3 and Wandy Rodriquez got the win, even though he was supposed to start in San Diego tomorrow.
So the curse of Jerry Meals is gone, right? Well, if you believe in curses, it could be reversed. Apart from those who believe in forms of voodoo, the extra, extra inning win could have a positive impact on a squad that has had a bumpy August. The Pirates had a poor showing during their 11 game homestand, going 4-7, almost getting swept by the Padres and Dodgers in the process.
A series in St. Louis against a Cardinal team that has been creeping closer to the Pirates in the wild card race, the Pirates needed their dependable arm from the first half of the year, James McDonald, to pull out of his funk in an important game, in which he did. A Saturday loss that saw so many squandered opportunities with runners in scoring position could have deflated them.
Sunday's extra inning affair saw an opportunity for disaster. The poor base running, bad bunting, basically anything Tabata did and Cruz blowing the lead in the 17th brought out the pessimistic fans of the last two decades. Alvarez, who has been underachieving as of late, went into "Daydro" mode and showed us the Pedro we all love during different periods of the season.
In the last two weeks, the "doom and gloom" reappeared after a bad series of games at home, where the Pirates had been stellar. The memory of Jerry Meals' blown call in 2011's marathon in Atlanta can be eased by the victory today in the "Missouri Marathon." Perhaps it was destiny that the Pirates didn't win in 17 innings. Maybe it's the "what goes around, comes around" way of thinking. If any of these scenarios make you feel better about the rest of the pennant race, that's great. Even if you think the Pirates have been cursed over the last 20 years, it's been easier than being a Red Sox fan from 1918 to 2004 or a Cubs fan over the last century don't you think?
We've entered an era where the basic home and road jerseys don't cut it anymore for most major college football programs. Nebraska and Wisconsin unveiled their third jerseys a few weeks ago, and Virginia Tech has some interesting uniforms to kick off the season. For Notre Dame and Adidas, the Irish had a new uniform for their matchup against Michigan last season. For 2012, the Irish continue their "Shamrock Series" makeover with another new look for their matchup at Soldier Field against Miami (FL) on October 6th.
As a Notre Dame fan, I have my thoughts on the 2012 uniforms like anyone else. Here's what I think of them.
Let's start with the most precious part of the Notre Dame uniform, and that would be the helmet. I am someone who believes the helmet should stay plain and painted in that 18-carat gold. Adidas did three things I don't like. First off is the double colors. A general rule for me is that all helmets should have one base color. The darker navy blue with the fighting Irish logo is different. Then again, I'm not too big on it. The shamrock on their helmets last season was enough for me. This doesn't scream "Notre Dame." Other schools like Maryland and Oregon can pull this off, but the Irish can't. Not a fan of the "bedazzled" gold on the helmet either. HELMET GRADE: C-
Now, let's move on to the rest. The navy blue is darker, which is OK. Then again, navy blue, darker or lighter, can be hard to recognize. The number font is not a problem. Notre Dame has had uniforms in the past with almost the same style font. The gold is about the same, although it looks brighter in the Adidas photos. Good move on keeping the gold pants with the addition of a navy blue stripes on the side with the fighting Irish logo. It could've been worse, the jersey could be green. UNIFORM GRADE: B
To wrap this up, I'll give you some final thoughts on the jerseys. They aren't terrible, but they might make some Notre Dame fans value the green jerseys a little more than they have in the past. We have to deal with the fact that the longer the Irish do this "Shamrock Series," it is an opportunity for Adidas to create a new look for the Irish in one of their 12 regular season games. The leprechaun logo, which is rarely used compared to the "ND" insignia, makes more than one appearance in the new uniforms, especially invading the oddly painted helmet.
If Adidas left the helmet alone this time around, my views on the whole uniform would be different. But I have to go with the Penn State mindset when it comes to uniforms. Keep it simple. Regardless, Adidas will see many buying these, especially if they only stay for one year.
But nothing beats the regular home jersey (pictured below).
82 wins? How about the postseason? A division title? If anyone told you back in the spring that the Pittsburgh Pirates would be in the hunt for a playoff spot as the final third of the season began, you would dismiss that person for being crazy, despite their overwhelming optimism.
The celebration planned for a winning regular season has been downgraded to a standing ovation. The Pirates are in a pennant race, and anyone knows that any Pittsburgh sports fan will demand a postseason birth when they realize their club is in the hunt.
It's August 7th. The Pirates are 20 wins away from reaching a milestone 20 years in the making. Any pessimist who may have had any doubt, waiting for this team to collapse like it did last year has to be coming around now. Specifically, those being the ones anticipating another losing season to cap off two decades of mediocrity. Doesn't mean the pessimists who say the Pirates won't make the playoffs won't start coming out of the woodwork. But that's just a part of any sport, right?
Moving onto the pennant talk, the Pirates are 3.5 games out of first place, and are holding onto that second wild card spot in the National League. The Pirates are a league best 34-16 at home and were 16-8 in the month of July. The schedule provides a higher level of difficulty as they enter the final act of the 2012 season. In August, the Pirates have 17 home dates on their schedule.
So the next question being, how many wins can this team have once October rolls around? 90? 100? Would you meet me in the middle at 95? The original 82 is a disappointment in anyone's book. The schedule has many dates against divisional foes. The dates against the Reds and Cardinals are the most important. The Pirates final second to last series is against the Reds at PNC Park. They say the three games are already sold out. The Cardinals are a team that made an improbable run to a World Series title last season. They could sneak up on the Pirates in the wild card race. The games against Houston, Chicago and Milwaukee are gimmes for the Pirates, especially the Astros.
Sit back and enjoy the ride Pirate fans, it may be a little bumpy at times, but it will be an exciting race to a division title or wild card birth. .500 means little to nothing now. A playoff birth means everything.