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As Long As We Win – Aly Raisman on USA Gymnastics Culture

Last night, I had the opportunity to attend an event on the LSU campus featuring Olympic champion, and sexual abuse survivor, Aly Raisman. I hadn’t gone in to the evening expecting to write a blog post on my sports blog about it, but something she said made me take a long hard look at sports culture.

Not only that, but she also shared that people outside of the gymnastics world had asked her, and her teammates, why they were complaining, since they did win gold medals after all.

I think there’s something seriously wrong with sports fans if that’s our attitudes. I know I often roll my eyes at the fans who take to twitter to lambast professional athletes who dare complain about anything, after all they get paid millions of dollars to play a game, and we would all do anything to be in their shoes. Be that as it may, these are still human beings that we are talking about, and in the case of USA gymnasts, USA swimmers, UK and Argentine youth footballers, we are talking about children.

I do not think it’s appropriate to ignore sexual abuse, or mock mental health problems, or to dismiss real world problems because they are happening to people who happen to be the best athletes in the world. Yes, they’ve been lucky to have such physical talent, but it hardly makes it OK for them to be mistreated. The fact that the USA gymnastics team has been so successful does not mean that we can ignore the many, many people who harmed these girls by not taking accusations against Larry Nasser seriously. Aly had some very strong words for the administrators at Michigan State, the USOC and USA Gymnastics who did not investigate what was going on 20 years ago when the first rumors came out about Dr. Nasser. I can’t blame her. She’s 23 years old. If someone back then had done the right thing by these girls instead of ignoring it during the pursuit of Olympic glory, maybe she doesn’t have a sexual abuse survivor story to tell. I have no doubt, based on her brutal honesty about how much telling this story costs her, that she would love to not be in the spotlight over this. We should be amazed at her willingness to do it anyway, but we also shouldn’t forget that she shouldn’t have to. The adults in these organizations failed her, and every other gymnast who was abused in the ensuing years by Nasser.

And we failed them too, by thinking that anything that happens in the pursuit of a gold medal is “worth it” if they win in the end. That’s not a moral compass, that’s inviting athletes to be taken advantage of.

We need to be better than that as parents, as fans, and as human beings.

Playoff Chaos Again, But Will Ohio State Lose Out?

Field View from Press BoxAfter yesterdays losses by 3 of the top 4 teams in the College Football Playoff rankings, things are pretty much a mess. As it stands right now, we have unbeaten Alabama, and everyone else.

Which, is kind of what we thought we had, but with 3 other Big 5 conference teams also undefeated, the playoff picture seemed pretty simple. Now, it’s really not.

Given Ohio State’s 5th place ranking before yesterday, I’ve seen a lot of Buckeye fans celebrating, but I wouldn’t be so sure. Yes, this week OSU should get into the top 4, but can they stay there?

First, obviously, they have to beat Michigan State and Michigan.

Then, things get interesting. Unless Penn State somehow loses to either Rutgers or Michigan State, they will win the Eastern Division. They will go on to play in the Big ten Championship game, while Ohio State sits around waiting to see what happens.

Here’s the challenge. There has not yet been a team in the final four that did not win it’s conference, and for Ohio State to become the first, they need to be clearly better than two of the conference champs, and every other one-loss team.

That could be a problem.

  • Let’s assume one spot goes to Alabama.
  • Let’s also assume a one-loss Clemson wins the ACC and gets a spot.
  • Out West, if Washington wins the PAC12 with one loss? I think they’re golden.
  • In the Big 12, any of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State (2 losees each), or West Virginia (1 loss) could win it.
  • In the Big 10, Penn State may wind up playing 2 loss Wisconsin for the title.
  • Louisville could also be sitting out there with one loss.

Are you so sure the committee will still see Ohio State as one of the top four?

If Penn State wins the conference, I think they get in over OSU, they won the conference and beat them head to head. In that case, I think 11-2 beats 11-1. Wisconsin would be a tougher call, does the committee value winning the conference, or OSU’s OT win over Wisconsin? Either way, I’m not feeling super confident that OSU gets in over the winner of their own conference.

That means OSU has to be clearly better than the PAC12 and Big12 winners, and hope the committee values their SOS more than Louisville, who may only have a close loss to another playoff team on it’s resume, just like Ohio State would if PSU wins the conference and gets into the playoff.

If you’re a Buckeye fan, here’s what you’re rooting for:

  • A Louisville loss to Houston, or a Clemson loss in the ACC championship.
  • Washington State or USC to win the PAC12. Preferably as a 3 loss team!
  • Oklahoma to win the Big!2 – That early, dominate, win in Norman would be hard for the committee to ignore.

See how much simpler the path to the playoff was before Michigan lost? We can’t ever count on them… ๐Ÿ˜‰

Do you think OSU gets in? How do you think this will play out over the next three weeks?

Link – Why are the playoff semifinals on New Year’s Eve again?

I had wondered about this myself, and just assumed it had something to do with TV or avoiding Friday night, or something silly like that, but I never imagined it was actually being controlled by the other bowl games. How ridiculous is that?

As a West Coast resident myself, the games wouldn’t necessarily interfere with any plans I might have to ring in the New Year, but the Oklahoma – Clemson game will start at 1PM on a work day. Fabulous! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Why are the playoff semifinals on New Year’s Eve again?

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More College Football Ridiculous Conclusions After Week 2

cropped-IMG_0290.jpgBecause nothing says sports fan like making judgements based on two games:

  • Ohio State’s offense was horrible against Hawaii, and they still won 38-0.
  • Do not let BYU hang around late in a game. Just don’t.
  • Auburn could just as realistically be 0-2 as they are 2-0.
  • Les Miles on the road might have a big lead, but it’s coming down to the last play and we all know it. Tune in late.
  • Notre Dame’s schedule + lost starting QB and RB is a lot to overcome, even for Touchdown Jesus.
  • Will Tennessee ever turn the corner?
  • Vernon Adams had a lot of hype when he transferred to Oregon, but he’s not Marcus Mariota.
  • Michigan State gets deserved credit for beating Oregon, but Oregon is not the same team they were last season.
  • Here in Corvallis, it’s going to be a very long year. Who would have thought there would be a PAC-12 team that can’t throw the ball?
  • Is Michigan back? They beat the worst team in the PAC-12 at home, let’s not get cocky Wolverine fans.
  • Syracuse beat Wake after I predicted without Terrell Hunt they’d go winless in the ACC. This is why I do not make predictions.
  • Bret Bielema deserves every bit of social media mocking he got this weekend. Take care of your own business before you start yapping Bret, why have you not learned this yet?

What caught your eye this week?

It Might Be Bias But It’s Also a Problem with Preseason Polls

Southeastern Conference photo

By now, most of you have probably seen the Rolling Stone article in which they claim to show the bias of ESPN toward the SEC.

I’m not here to agree or disagree with the premise. There is definitely some cheer-leading going on with certain ESPN talking heads, but I don’t know that there’s an institutional bias. I think you can absolutely make the case that ESPN being an investor in the SEC network is a conflict of interest, but if there’s one thing we know about ESPN, apparent conflict of interests have never stopped them before. (They are the broadcast partners of many of the leagues they claim to “cover” from a news perspective after all!)

The one thing that the article really pointed out to me is the way that preseason polls create a real problem when it comes to ranking the teams properly.

Case in point, South Carolina was ranked #9, on the basis, I guess, of being a decent SEC team last year. When they got beat by Texas A&M in the first week of the season, the Aggies were credited with a victory over a top 10 team and rode that, and a few ridiculous non-conference wins, all the way into the top 10 themselves. As A&M lost to Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Alabama in consecutive weeks, they were all, as the article pointed out, credited with beating a “juggernaut” in A&M. But here’s the thing, A&M’s reputation this season was based on beating a South Carolina team that, in fact, stinks. They stand 4-5 after losing to Tennessee this week. (The Vols FIRST conference win by the way)

So in reality, A&M really isn’t a good college football team, nor is South Carolina. The Gamecocks, in turn, beat Georgia, who’s other loss was the embarrassment against Florida on Saturday, another team that isn’t really any good.

Now as it stands, right now, there are some teams from the SEC who are probably overated. I don’t think it is a huge problem for the final four playoff teams as of right now, but moving forward, these 4 teams are going to change, and there’s a good chance that there will be those who argue for a two-loss SEC team, because, “SEC”, when they might not be all that good, due to the teams they’ve beaten being ranked too highly at the start of the season.

As of now, Mississippi State and Florida State are undefeated, and I think if they stay that way, they deserve to be in the playoff. Going undefeated is an accomplishment in any of the Power 5 conferences. I also don’t have much of a problem with Alabama and Auburn because of a couple of impressive non-conference wins. (Bama over WVU, Auburn over K-State) But, TCU, Oregon, Baylor, Kansas State and Michigan State are right behind them. I don’t think, if everything remains the same, either one can afford a loss.

For the record, just to show that I’m not biased, the Preseason Polls also had these rankings that were ridiculous and as these teams started losing, the teams beating them were given too much credit:

#5 Ohio State (ranking was pre-injury to Braxton Miller, clearly not the reality of that team early in the season)

#7 UCLA

#9 South Carolina

#11 Stanford

#15 USC

#23 North Carolina

#24 (Coaches Poll) Texas

Let’s ditch the preseason poll, and let the teams actually show us something before we start ranking them and giving teams extra credit for quality wins that aren’t.

Photo by Diamondduste