Michael Jackson’s ONE the Ultimate in Talent, Teamwork

January 23rd, 2015

Quick turnaround. Just got in from Las Vegas and I’m leaving for Stanford (medical reasons) and Monterey (basketball reasons). This blog will return Tuesday, Jan. 27.

Last Monday I was honored to be invited to be part of a “think tank” for a new company (more on that in a later blog). The company graciously not only provided a suite for Jane and me but also gave us a couple of complimentary show tickets to Michael Jackson ONE - Cirque du Soleil. For those who are unaware, this show is a state-of-the-art visual and audio experience creating a theatrical evocation of Michael Jackson’s creative genius. Extravaganza is a word to describe this performance but most any superlative would do.

While pretty much every show in Las Vegas is magnificent, this spectacle sets new standards. There were over a hundred performers, thousands of moving parts and seemingly hundreds of thousands of things, for lack of a better term, all of which worked to perfection, providing viewers with one of the most memorable events of our lives. As with any show, some people have bigger parts to play than others, yet everyone is vital to the production. Should a “lighting person” miss a cue, the performance would suffer. Maybe not as much as if one of the dancers slipped up on a routine, but even if the audience didn’t catch the miscue, those involved would be aware.

That’s why it’s so awfully important that every member of the ensemble be on the same page, taking direction from whoever is in charge and performing their role to their ability. Which is why they were selected in the first place. No one makes it to that level unless they are at the top of their profession, independent of what role they play.

The precision and discipline displayed by the entire cast – including “unseen” theatrical personnel – made for a sensational performance, one that we, nor, I believe, anyone else in attendance will ever forget. It was truly every member doing exactly what they were supposed to do.

If Brandon Bostick would have followed that advice, the Green Bay Packers would be playing in the Super Bowl. He forgot that:

“Essential to teamwork is trust that everyone will do their job.”

Life’s Lessons Can Be Tough

January 18th, 2015

Possible opportunity for outside work (you gotta do something when you retire). Meetings in Las Vegas. This blog will return on Friday, Jan. 23.

As loyal readers of this blog space know, our younger son, Alex, is a junior basketball player at Cal State Monterey Bay. Heading into this season, the team was optimistic as several guys were returning. A major blow was dealt to the Otters when last season’s leading scorer, Ryan Nicks, broke his foot and was forced to redshirt.

The team still was left with, if not an abundance of talent, enough to compete in their conference. Outside the league, the team won four of six contests so there was nothing to dampen spirits. To date, though, the squad is 4-6 in the conference and last night’s loss really stung.

It was a back and forth game against Humboldt State, located so far north in California, it might as well have an Oregon address. Bottom line, the Otters had a five point lead late in the game, but lost, 75-74 at the buzzer (actually, 0.5 seconds) on a length of the court drive and shot. That game summed up what has been a disappointing season (so far). Of the six losses, four have been by 3, 3, 5 and last night’s crushing defeat.

While this is such a downer for the players, it’s just a series of life lessons that will, eventually, make them stronger people. Why? Because they have no choice. Sure, it’s difficult right now, but what is happening to them is what will happen, at some time, later in life. That’s a hard thing to tell young kids, who expect instant gratification, i.e. work hard for a couple practices and win in blow out fashion. Unfortunately, basketball – and life – seldom work that way.

It seems like everything is going against the guys. What they need to realize is what author Jared Brock said:

“Strength is gathered on the journey, not granted at the outset.”

When Father – and Son – Knew Best

January 15th, 2015

Long weekend of basketball with the Cal State Monterey Otters. This blog will return on Monday, Jan. 19.

With 600 youngsters each week for five weeks over the 11 years that George Raveling was the head basketball coach at Washington State University, there were bound to be a few Cougar Cage Campers become famous personalities. One summer we had a young kid – blond hair, buck teeth, pigeon-toed. He was the son of one of the Cougs’ assistant football coaches.

Every time he touched the ball, he shot it. We used to kid around with him, calling him “Shotgun.” We’d say, “Hey, Shotgun, you going let the other guys play or you going to shoot it every time?” He would just look over and smile.

I remember being in the coaches’ locker room one day and mentioning to his dad, “Hey, Jack, your son shoots the ball every time he gets it.

Jack turned to me, laughed and said, “I told him that the only way to score is to shoot.” Not a terrible philosophy – when the youngster is . . . John Elway.

As a post script to this story, years later when John started playing hoops in high school, George would often see Jack and tell him, “Jack, your son could really be a good basketball player. He ought to consider it – we’ll offer him a scholarship.” Then, George made a statement for the ages.

“I don’t know what you guys are going to do with that football shit, but if you decide on basketball, let me know.”

George won at WSU and left for Iowa. He won there, went to USC and the Trojans became winners. I might be somewhat prejudiced since I was his graduate assistant with the Cougars and associate head coach for him at SC but since he’s been inducted into both the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame and the College Basketball Hall of Fame, there’s not much doubt he excelled at his craft.

Wonder whatever happened to that Elway kid?

Different Coaches Have Different Styles

January 14th, 2015

Not only do all coaches want to win, they all believe they’re going to win. Maybe not every game, but I’ve never met nor worked for a coach who didn’t truly think his team wouldn’t be a winner. (Is that a quadruple negative? You know what I mean).

In the recent College Football Playoff, each of the four coaches were fairly well scrutinized in terms of their leadership methods and organizational abilities. This past season, all four schools bore the bulls eye on their backs. Florida State was the defending national champions and were undefeated; Alabama has long been the best team in (allegedly) the best conference; Oregon, mainly because of their affiliation with Nike and all the swag and uniform designs were a team others want to beat (in addition to the fact they’ve been a power in the Pac-12), and Ohio State, unquestionably the long-time flag bearer for the Big 10, as well as one of those schools, along with Alabama, synonymous with the college football tradition.

At Florida State Jimbo Fisher not only had to deal with off the field distractions but nearly all of them were about to their best player – the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. And so many of them were incredibly juvenile. Fisher stood tall throughout, never backed down and, whether he enjoyed it or not, seemed to embrace the role of villain. And finished the season as the only undefeated team.

Nick Saban has long been known for (micro-?) managing the Crimson Tide program, thoroughly overseeing each and every aspect of it – from, naturally, practice and game plans, to what their athletes eat and how much sleep they get. With three national championships and a statue, no one questions him.

Mark Helfrich is new to all this, completing only his second season as the Ducks head coach. While he could have tried to simply emulate what his highly successful boss and mentor, Chip Kelly, had accomplished at UO, Helfrich realized he needed to be his own man. No fool he, however, six of his fellow assistants under Kelly remained on staff, making for a much smoother transition for the Ducks.

Urban Meyer won two national titles at Florida – and nearly killed himself doing it. After a year at ESPN (it seems as though an awful lot of coaches, both fired and retired, wind up at the world-wide leader and nearly all of them flourish). That has to say something about the relative difficulty of the jobs. Maybe the studio gig isn’t as lucrative, but a simple means of “staying in the game” while still pulling down a pretty penny. Meyer returned to coaching, signed a contract with his family – more or less promising he would get to know them – and still managed to win it all. Somewhere (naturally in a TV studio), Tony Dungy is nodding his head and smiling.

How is it, then, that each year so many coaches get fired? One reason is the leaders who pull the plug aren’t well-versed in the world of sports. At least that’s the track record of the current version of athletics directors who, as opposed to having toiled in the field of coaching, cut their teeth in the business world (in which everybody can win – of course everybody can lose, too, but then the blame is placed elsewhere, .g. the market or the economy). Another possibility is that the coaches themselves don’t find the job as simple as they originally believed it was.

Case in point: long ago I worked for a head coach (one of the 11 I called boss) who, quite simply, was no more prepared than a goat to perform the duties of the position. A story from my book, Life’s A Joke, will enlighten the reader. Our team was returning from a brief Xmas break and the head man and I were shuttling back and forth between the campus and the airport, picking up the guys as they’d arrive.

As I returned from driving one of our guys to campus, I saw the head coach as he was heading out to the airport. We were having our first practice following the break in a few hours and, with all the hustle and bustle, hadn’t yet had a staff meeting. I asked him if he’d made up a practice plan yet. He said he thought it would be good to warm up first and then, spend the remainder of the time on our defense. As he left, he mentioned he had put together something and a copy of it was on his desk. He said I could run one off for myself and our other assistant.

I walked into our offices, went over to his desk and there on top was the practice plan he’d written. On the sheet it said:

“Warm up. Defense.”

In case you’re wondering, we had a losing season.

 

Who’s the Game Actually For?

January 13th, 2015

The talk of football fans everywhere for the past couple days, with the exception of the College Football Playoff championship game, was “the call” made in the Green Bay Packers-Dallas Cowboys NFL playoff contest. Actually it was the reversal of the call.

The play in question was a pass from Cowboys’ QB Tony Romo to wide receiver Dez Bryant. There was no question that Bryant caught the ball. Nor was there any doubt that the ‘Boys’ receiver tucked the ball away and took a couple steps toward the end zone. What occurred next is the crux of the issue that’s being discussed, nearly ad nauseam, since the final decision was rendered – and explained – by referees and former referees.

What Bryant did, as he was getting tackled, was extend his arm and hand that had the ball in it, in an attempt to cross the plane of the goal line, a maneuver that is in vogue among today’s ball carriers. Replays illustrate the receiver had complete control of the ball as he was stretching the arm. When his hand hit the ground, the ball popped up, he rolled over into the end zone and, caught the ball before it hit the ground (again – but read later). A game official signaled a completed pass, receiver down by contact inside the one-yard line.

The final ruling was explained by referee Gene Steratore. “Although the receiver is possessing the football, he must maintain possession of that football throughout the entire process of the catch,” Steratore said after the game, via the Dallas Morning News. “In our judgment he maintained possession but continued to fall and never had another act common to the game.” Confused? Read on. “We deemed that by our judgment to be the full process of the catch, and at the time he lands and the ball hits the ground, it comes loose as it hits the ground, which would make that incomplete; although he re-possesses it, it does contact the ground when he reaches so the repossession is irrelevant because it was ruled an incomplete pass when we had the ball hit the ground.”

Those in favor of this explanation. i.e. football officials, like to cite the rules as being clear and consistent. Consistent, maybe but clear as glass? Sure. Opaque glass. The “Calvin Johnson Rule” was brought up by Packers’ QB Aaron Rodgers, evoking memories of any terrific grab also ruled incomplete by officials by a nonsensical obscurity. Rodgers was thinking, “We have a chance – remember that idiotic rule against Megatron?” Throw in the infamous “tuck rule” and the theme is, maybe some of the rules makers ought to try playing the game to have an appreciation of the skill it takes to play it the way professionals do.

Steve Torre of Mad Dog Sports radio made an observation I hadn’t heard before, but after watching the video once again, as well as some still photos, I have to agree completely with him. Torre’s claim is that Bryant’s hand was underneath the ball so it never really touched the ground. That would make it a complete pass and a fumble – which the receiver caught before it ever hit the turf. Torre went on to say the shame of it all is that, in essence, this is what fans live for, a playoff game, a sensational catch that ought to be remembered and talked about for years to come – except for a stupid rule.

The officials didn’t steal the game from Dallas. There was still in the neighborhood of four minutes to go and, even though Rodgers wasn’t completely healthy, he had plenty of time to lead his team to a tying (had the Cowboys been successful on a two-point conversion they undoubtedly would have attempted) field goal or possibly a game-winning touchdown.

What the officials did steal from the fans was – an unbelievable moment. “A brilliant catch by Dez Bryant” was how play-by-play man Joe Buck described it – with no indecision about Bryant “never having another act common to the game.”  Of the millions of people who saw that catch, nearly every one of them – except for a select few (football officials) – felt it was an absolutely mind blowing play. That it wasn’t was due to a technicality, one that most everyone is now conceding made the overturn correct. This was an exceptional accomplishment that took our breath away – witnessing a remarkable athlete make (love Bryant or hate him, there’s no denying his ability), really, watch we watch sports for – only to have it stripped away because of a group of people (the Rules Committee) who get together and look at minutiae to decide how to make a relatively simple, and great game, complicated. So complicated that what is beauty to the viewer has to be explained in gobbledegook by a relatively small group who pride themselves on understanding what ought to be a lot simpler.

When that many people feel in the manner they initially did after Dez Bryant’s catch, a major question must be asked:

“Is the game for the referees or the players (and fans)?”

Should Cardale Jones Go Pro If Ohio State Wins It All?

January 9th, 2015

Weekend hoops in Monterey. This blog will return on Tuesday, Jan. 13.

There was actually an article on this exact question on the site The Front Office News, but there was no byline and I couldn’t find a name anywhere – possibly because whoever wrote it didn’t want his (it had to be a man, women sportswriters are too intelligent) name getting out. His initial analysis is that “(Jones) has prototypical size standing at 6’5 250lbs, he has a cannon for an arm, and he is more mobile than what he is given credit for.”

Later on in this post, the writer states, “Talent has never been an issue with Jones. Attitude and immaturity has been, but in his case all he needed was an opportunity and he is flourishing as the starting QB.” Using this hypothesis, the conclusion would be that Jones should not only be drafted but, in order for the team to get the maximum value out of its pick, Jones should immediately be named the franchise’s starting QB. His thinking is that, while NFL QB might be the most difficult position, in all of sports, to master, Jones has proven – in what would be three starts (albeit three big ones) – that due to his immense talent (a cannon for an arm and having more mobility than what he is given credit for), opportunity is the main ingredient for him to achieve stardom.

The “attitude and immaturity” issues needn’t worry a franchise, especially its head coach who would be the first casualty in case this theory might, for some reason, be flawed. How did he get a bad attitude rap anyway? Begin with his now infamous October, 2012 tweet, “Why should we have to go to class if we came here to play FOOTBALL, we ain’t come to play SCHOOL, classes are POINTLESS.” Following that dumb remark, Urban Meyer called Jones a “changed man” and one who is “making progress in the classroom.” Which means, what, that he found the classroom? That a guy like that would be kept around and remain in good graces just shows how coaches can be blinded by talent. I’m certainly not naive to this type of action (I mean, I did work for Tark). An example of his immaturity could be the time Jones visited a kid in the hospital and they played an NCAA Football video game. The last picture posted of the visit showed Jones beating him 91-25 (although the kid was smiling).

Anyway, how much do a good attitude and maturity have to do with being an NFL quarterback? If Ryan Leaf and Johnny Manziel come to mind, dismiss those negative thoughts.

The author’s true premise was disclosed in the line, “It would honestly suck to be a backup to a team that you led to a championship.” So, following this writer’s logic, Jones – a young kid who had displayed a horrible work ethic as well as massive signs of immaturity – should take all of his skills and baggage to a professional team because he would have to compete for the starting spot and might not be good enough to win it.

This writer, and any and every other person who as much mentions the idea of Cardale Jones making himself eligible for the NFL draft, ought to be escorted into a roomful of NFL QBs – starters, back ups, practice squad guys – doesn’t matter – and look them in the eye and present those men with that thought. Throw OCs into that group as well. Then, they must submit the name of their sports editor, producer or boss and have as many of the QBs or OCs who would like, call and ask exactly how someone with such a limited understanding of what being an NFL QB is all about, could be employed to write about football. That is, that a football writer would go so far as to put in print that an NFL team should draft – and pay – a quarterback who had an entire career (in terms of meaningful competition) of being the winning QB in a Big 10 championship, a Sugar Bowl and a National Championship game, yet doesn’t feel confident enough or understand the need to compete the following season to earn the starting QB job.

Their picture and name should be displayed on every team’s Jumbotron, so they can be held accountable for posing what has to be the most asinine question since that jackass asked Marshall Faulk, “Marshall, if you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?”

For his part, Cardale Jones has stated that he is returning to Ohio State for next season. Based on the writer’s suppositions, a  better question for him to have asked would be:

“Why not have Jones fake an injury and have the Buckeyes’ training staff apply for a medical redshirt?”

 

 

 

 

Least Shocking Headline Ever

January 8th, 2015

Full disclosure: Of all the sports that exist, I probably know the least about UFC. And that includes cricket, curling and bocce ball. In fact, I had to look up the difference between UFC and MMA.Turns out the sport is like a martial arts decathlon held in an octagon.

In no way am I against MMA – as long as I don’t have to be a participant (which sounds very un-macho to admit until I realize 99% of the population is right there with me in that belief). While I decline an invitation to enter the fray, I actually hold in awe anyone who understands that competitors will have pain inflicted upon them and suffer injuries, many of the serious variety – and chooses to participate anyway. It just ain’t my cuppa joe, as the saying goes.

Since I watch SportsCenter, however, I do get to see highlights and interviews with the fighters. There’s no doubting the sport’s popularity. It was on SportsCenter that I was “introduced” to Jon Jones. Having heard his interviews, observed his behavior and read of his lifestyle, it was sad, but by no means shocking, when I read the news:

“Jon Jones tests positive for cocaine, enters rehab.”

 

The Biggest Key to Success in Football and Basketball

January 7th, 2015

My contention has always been that there has never been a football or basketball coach who has a losing philosophy. By that I mean there’s no football coach who thinks it’s unnecessary to block for a good running back, just stay out of his way and let him avoid tacklers. Similarly, no basketball coach feels a successful strategy would be to allow all opponents’ shots to be uncontested because the lack of pressure would freak out shooters and, consequently, make them miss.

That’s not to say that all coaches’ systems have an equal opportunity to produce victories. Various principles, as well as effective methods of delivering them, work better than others. A thorough knowledge of the game, plus a powerful ability to motivate, is usually what separates good coaches from lesser ones. Players need to see those two qualities in their coach. In return, the coach desperately needs to obtain a couple of essentials from the players. One is maximum effort. The other, in this day and age, becoming more and more difficult for the coach to gain is buy in, i.e. complete belief in the system.

Occasionally, I will blog on the same subject more than once. Advanced age tends to mess with a person’s memory. So will the type of drugs that come with the multiple surgeries I’ve experienced and what doctors have prescribed for me to deal with the resultant pain. That said, I’m pretty sure I’ve posted on the importance of buy in since I began blogging in 2007 (covering a couple thousand blogs). The determining factor in my writing on this subject at this time, however, is due to an article in the Dec. 29, 2014-Jan. 5, 2015 issue of Sports Illustrated on the 1974 Pittsburgh Steelers.

For younger readers who might not be football historians, in the mid-to-late 70s the Steelers were an NFL dynasty, winning four Super Bowls in six years. I happened to live in the ‘Burgh for a year, right in the middle of those championships. Pittsburgh was the center of the sports universe with Pitt having won a national championship in between the second and third Super Bowl victories by the Steelers and the Pirates claiming two World Series championships in the 70s.

To be in that great city at that time was quite fortuitous for me. It was also a time in my life in which I was devouring leadership and motivational books, whether by reading or listening to them. I learned quite a bit about those categories simply by reading the Pittsburgh Press and Post-Gazette. While the SI article brought back wonderful memories, it was a quote by Rocky Bleier that illustrated why they won and is, far and away, the #1 reason I believe most teams do:

“There’s a time – whether it’s as a team or as an individual – where you decide whether you’re buying into what Chuck (Noll) is preaching. You either say O.K., I believe in where he’s taking us, or you start to lose faith in his leadership. We bought in.”

And they won the Super Bowl.

Could Phil Jackson Really Be THAT Loyal to His Former Team?

January 6th, 2015

For the past week or so, I’ve been talking to coaching friends of mine. Some of them, like me, were in the business for decades but are now retired; others are still active coaches. The topic is the New York Knicks. When I was a young kid living in New Jersey, the Knicks were my favorite team. My interest in them waned once I started working in the college game, mainly because 1) my job depended on how well the team I was with played and 2) without exaggeration, I didn’t have time to do anything but work (and, maybe, a little social life).

The Knicks are a very proud organization even though they have won only two championships – and those were over 40 years ago (1970, 73). Their games are held in Madison Square Garden, widely known as “The World’s Most Famous Arena.” What few people are aware of, outside of those who’ve actually been there, is that games are played on the sixth floor.

A quick side story: The year I was a grad assistant at the University of Oregon (1975-76) we played in the NIT. We had no players from either New York or New Jersey. On our way from the bus to the Garden for practice the day before the game, I told our guys that the actual playing surface was on the sixth floor. They all thought I was putting them on until we got into the elevator, which resembled a cattle car, and they looked at the buttons. There it was: #6 – MSG. It was comical seeing their faces as reality hit them – and they mouthed the words, “Madison Square Garden.”

If you’re just remotely a fan of the NBA, you know how bad New York is this season. One of the NBA coaches I spoke to told me that, while the 76ers (whose front office intentionally set up the team to be awful – in hopes they would get the #1 pick in the 2015 draft) are the worst team in the league, “at least they play hard. The Knicks don’t even try.

Although New York has Carmelo Anthony, certainly one of the three most prolific scorers in the NBA (with LeBron and KD as the others – Kobe left out because of age and injuries), they have little else, no desire to play defense and are looking forward to what free agency brings (they freed up more cap space with the three team trade they were part of last night). There was hope, however, entering the season as the winningest NBA coach ever, Phil Jackson, accepted “Mama’s call” to revive the franchise he once played for (along with Walt “Clyde” Frazier, Jackson was on the 1968 NBA All-Rookie team). He was also a member of each of NY’s championship teams. Not only did Jackson become a coach but he won a record 11 championships. Although the franchise couldn’t persuade him to coach this year’s squad (his health, combined with the NBA’s grueling travel schedule, is what forced him out of coaching), Jackson did agree to join the Knicks as president of the organization.

Why, you might be asking yourself, would someone in poor health and nothing to prove have any interest whatsoever in attaching himself to a team that most knew was going to be a huge loser – even if it was his former beloved team? Well, in addition to counting on his devotion to his NBA alma mater, the Knicks offered him a five-year contract for $12 million. Per year. Ya, sixty million dollars.

Many of my coaching friends question my sanity when I say I think Jackson, at least on some level, has to regret his decision. While he wasn’t going to coach, he did have the final say on who would but his first choice, Steve Kerr, a player on his Bulls’ championship teams (in fact, someone who had been on five championship clubs), turned him down to, instead, coach the Golden State Warriors (exactly how many prayers do you think Kerr says on a nightly basis that the Warriors wanted him, too)? My buddies keep reminding me that $60 million is an awful lot of money, as if because I don’t have it, I don’t realize how much it is. My point is why would someone at Phil Jackson’s age (69) subject himself to such misery on a night after night basis? One of my friends simply said, “Because he doesn’t give a (damn).” But he’s gotta care some, doesn’t he? After all, he is the guy in charge.

I keep asking all of them one question – and I have yet to hear a satisfying answer (other than set up a foundation of some sort) – hinges on the fact that he was raking in more money than he could spend, through previous salaries, endorsements, book(s) sales and speaking engagements, before he signed on as prez of the Knicks. In other words, why subject himself to misery? My question is:

“What is it that $60 million is doing for him – that he couldn’t have done without it?”

Ohio State Will Be Facing a Major Dilemma for 2015 Season

January 2nd, 2015

Weekend hoops with the Cal State Monterey Bay Otters. This blog will return on Tuesday, Jan. 6.

Not to throw a wet blanket on the Buckeyes upset win over the team that the experts felt was the best in college football, but next year Ohio State will have three big-time college quarterbacks on its roster. Each one of them have been starters on the college gridiron’s big stage. All were successful starters, one seeming to top the other when he got his chance. Do they fully understand that this year was an aberration – that, usually, one guy gets to take all the snaps. So, what should they do?

Let’s start with QB #1: Here’s the description from the Ohio State Buckeyes Official Athletic Site Braxton Miller enters his senior season as a true contender and possibly even a leading contender for all of the major national awards, be it most outstanding performer, most valuable player and/or outstanding quarterback … he already has won more Big Ten Conference Awards – seven – than any player in Big Ten history . . .

That seems like an awful long time ago. The Buckeyes will go into next season either as the defending national championship or as the season’s runner up. He’s a senior, with one more year of eligibility. As cruel as it sounds, in sports lingo, he’s yesterday’s news. If he is honest with himself (and others are honest with him), Columbus might not be the best address for him. To start him next year means, independent of how the season turns out, the following year would find a different QB at the helm. With the way coaches feel about seamless transition, this would mean that there would be another quarterback leading the Bucks in 2016. Miller has spoken about transferring (Florida State and Duke have been mentioned as possible destinations), yet as late as a couple days ago, coach Urban Meyer has said he expects Braxton to return to OSU.

For the good of all concerned, he probably should transfer. Some school would be getting a polished, healthy (if all reports are true) QB and Ohio State would only have to have one disappointed signal caller on its hands.

QB #2 (these guys are listed in order of appearance this past season, not any other factor) J.T. Barrett’s play through the first six games of the season has been nothing short of outstanding, as he has earned conference or national “player of the week” accolades after five of his six starts and he has climbed near the top of the NCAA statistics in several key categories, including passing efficiency (3rd at 182.1), points responsible for per game (1st at 24.0), overall points responsible for (3rd with 144) and he is 10th in total offense (333.0 yards per game), quoting from the Ohio State Buckeyes Official Athletic Site.

According to several sources, Barrett was having a Heisman-like season when he was injured. He and QB #3 (Cardale Jones) were battling for reps behind Miller. After #1’s season-ending injury, the coaches felt Barrett was the guy with whom they most trusted to handle what anyone who understands athletics calls the most important position of any sport. Whether it was because of ability, intelligence (as in decision-making, on and off he field), knowledge of the playbook, maturity or a combination of any or all of those factors, Barrett was the guy they selected. Then, he went down.

There’s an interesting article on Cardale Jones in last week’s SI. It discusses all his shortcomings, starting with being dealt a miserable hand from the beginning of his life – the kind that doesn’t tend to lead to a successful outcome. Jones wasn’t a model student or citizen but had some people who wanted to help him (whose kindness and caring he didn’t reciprocate early on). Summarizing it, his actions wouldn’t exactly qualify him as the poster boy for college football. Basically, Ohio State was in the position of being forced to go with whomever they had left. To say he came through would be like saying Madison Baumgarner came through for the Giants this year – although it’s a little too early to make that comparison.

One thing that this season illustrates loud and clear is that, beyond the quarterback position Ohio State has some other really good players. A team doesn’t get to the national championship game without them. Cameras at OSU’s games show Barrett and Jones as “boys,” i.e. close, supportive friends. It’s not facetious to say that’s made easier when one of them is wheeling around on a scooter with one foot in a boot. It will be something else to see come spring practice – in spite of how the Buckeyes do against Oregon.

It’s true that competition brings out the best in people pursuing the same goal. Every football coach wants two really talented quarterbacks, even though only a handful play more than one. It can be extremely cruel for the kid who doesn’t start. Although this season proved injuries can happen, history tells us that’s just not the way it is. The guy who has plans beyond helping good old State U to a championship is crushed. It’s not so easy to say, “Hey, that’s life” when you’re discussing your life.

The best advice might be:

“Things usually turn out best for people who make the best out of the way things turn out.”