College Football Mid-Season Roundup

Time flies when you’re having fun.

No, not you Clay Helton. No, no, Willie Taggert. Not yet Scott Frost. Yes, keep looking sour Mark Dantonio. Hey! Someone check if Chip Kelly still has a pulse.

College football has already reached the halfway point. Some things are starting to come into focus, while others still remain murky.

It appears there are not a ton of really good football teams this year. The ACC is awful, the PAC 12 still doesn’t have a team to hang its hat on, the Big Ten has three quality teams(I think), the Big 12 is down to Oklahoma and everyone else, and the SEC runs West.

I definitely overvalued Texas and Michigan, and undervalued Wisconsin and Penn State. I’m still riding my pick to win it all, the LSU Tigers.

Let’s hit it around the nation with a Two Cent conference check in.

ACC

This is a very simple conference to analyze. Clemson. That’s it.

Clemson will probably be favored by 20 points in every game they play.

Someone will be required to win the Coastal division and play Clemson in the ACC championship game. It looked like Virginia may be decent, but then they lost to Miami(Fla), who had just lost to Virginia Tech, who had just got blown out by Duke, who just lost to Pitt, who lost to…you guessed it, Virginia. What a mess!

So, it could still be Virginia, and I wouldn’t count out Pitt. Pitt may be sllloooowwwwly turning a corner.

One thing is certain in my eyes. With this pitiful strength of schedule, if Clemson should somehow blow one of these cakewalk games they should be out of the playoff picture. Remember, the committee said previous years don’t factor in to their decision making(insert eye roll emoji here).

Keep touching Howard’s Rock.

SEC

The strength of the SEC is in the Western division.

Alabama and LSU are headed for a titanic confrontation in Tuscaloosa on November 9. The loser is by no means out of the playoff picture. Then there is still Auburn lurking in the West division, with matchups against both LSU and Alabama.  As a matter of fact, Auburn may be who decides the winner of this conference. They have already lost to Florida, and still have Georgia on the schedule in addition to the two West front runners. Apparently Gus Malzhan ticked somebody off at SEC scheduling headquarters.

The East may come down to the former Greatest Outdoor Cocktail Party that annually pits Florida and Georgia in Jacksonville. Georgia has looked lethargic all season, and flatlined in an overtime loss to South Carolina that led to this scene.

Photo courtesy 11alive.com.

After beating Georgia “between the hedges”, the Gamecocks ate some of the hedges.

Florida made me a believer in a loss at LSU. I’ve doubted them all year, but they stood toe to toe in Death Valley with the Tigers for three quarters.

The X factor in the East is Missouri, one of my surprise team predictions to start the season. They have an easy schedule, but must prove they can win on the road. Their only road trip ended in a season opening loss to Wyoming. They get Georgia on the road and Florida at home. Most people forget Missouri is even in the SEC, so they are looking to make the rest of the college football world aware.

I’m still sticking to Hold that Tiger.

Big 12 

This is a fairly easy conference to analyze. Oklahoma, with its win over Texas, is head and shoulders above the crowd.

Baylor is a nice story, with Matt Ruhle finding the magic potion in Waco. Iowa State is finding its sea legs after a sluggish start. Texas will get healthy and be better late. Those are the only teams that could potentially upset the Sooners.

Unfortunately for Oklahoma, they most likely will have to beat the Longhorns for a second time in the Big 12 title game. That won’t be easy if Texas heals up over the next month. I would never bet against Lincoln Riley, easily the best young coach in college football.

Boomer Sooner.

PAC 12

The PAC 12 has an identity crisis, some say. What they really have is an LA problem.

UCLA is one dramatic comeback on the Palouse from being 0-5 and headed toward a winless season. Chip Kelly, who honestly looks like he could care less, could be unemployed at season’s end.

Across town, Clay Helton will join Kelly on the unemployment line. Helton, king of the moral victory, has gone 15-16 with the USC Trojans since Sam Darnold left. Just like at UCLA, there will be a new AD at USC that will be charged with cleaning house.

USC, after a close loss at Notre Dame, still has a shot to win the conference. They certainly have the talent, but must be consistently good rather than sporadically good. The coaching may not allow for that.

Utah and Arizona State both could step up in the PAC 12 South if USC stumbles. Herm Edwards deserves credit for making the Sun Devils successful. Utah May rue slipping up against the Trojans back in September.

In the PAC 12 North Oregon leads the way, and is the most complete team in the league. Justin Herbert is quietly one of the better quarterbacks in college football. Oregon is also the PAC 12’s only shot at the playoffs, and it is an extremely outside shot. To run the table, Oregon must win on the road at Washington, USC, and Arizona State. It won’t be easy.

Quack, quack, I guess.

Big Ten

This seems like a three horse race, but of all people, Minnesota, would like a seat at the trough.

The suddenly very shiny Golden Gophers have a great chance to be 8-0 when they host Penn State on November 9. P.J. Fleck has these Gophers rowing the boat, but rowing under the radar. I thought Minnesota had a real chance to win ten games this year, and they may just do that.

As for those Penn State Nittany Lions, they got their best win of the season on Saturday in Iowa City. I’m still not sure how good Penn State is, but looking at their schedule leads me to 11-1. These other Big Ten teams just aren’t that good( don’t tell the boat rowers in Minny). Iowa is among the teams that are average. A white out game awaits on homecoming in Happy Valley this week against Michigan.

Wisconsin is rolling. Jonathan Taylor is a Heisman candidate. The question for the Badgers will be if a good team shuts down the run game, can quarterback Jack Coan make big plays. They have a big one in two weeks at Ohio State. A trip to the playoffs will be part of that storyline. A trip to the Big Ten championship game may be on the line November 30 in Minnesota.

Does it look like the Ohio State Buckeyes miss Urban Meyer?

The biggest difference I see is they are stepping on the throat of lesser opponents, rather than allowing them to hang around as often happened under Meyer. The other big difference is at quarterback. Justin Fields is better than the previous Buckeye quarterbacks because he is an equal threat with his feet and arms.

This certainly seems to be the year Ohio State makes the playoffs. In addition to having an ultra talented team, the Buckeyes have a very favorable schedule. They get Wisconsin and Penn State at home, and finish at what certainly looks like a weak Michigan team. A possible rematch with Wisconsin could then await.

Hang On Sloopy.

Final Four?

As much as I pound the drum for an eight team playoff, by season’s end there may be only 4 deserving teams. So many teams seem average this year.

Right now the four playoff teams will come out of my latest Two Cent Top Ten:

  1. Ohio State
  2. LSU
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Alabama
  5. Wisconsin
  6. Clemson
  7. Penn State
  8. Oregon
  9. Florida
  10. Georgia

Honorable mentions go to Notre Dame, Minnesota, and Baylor.

Minnesota and Baylor will face reality eventually, and until Notre Dame commits to joining a conference then one loss will be enough to knock them out of the playoff picture.

Tim Clark is a columnist and editor for PennSports.LIVE, and a wonderful writer of words. He is a lifelong sports fanatic with an eclectic mix of favorite teams including USC Trojans football, Louisville Cardinals basketball, and the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins in pro sports.

Pirates in the playoffs; just not in Pittsburgh

🏴‍☠️Gerrit Cole threw his 115 pitch on Saturday night 100 mph. He struck out 15 batters in 7 2/3 innings. Cole will most likely win the American League Cy Young. Gerrit Cole is a stud. Gerrit Cole used to be a Pittsburgh Pirate. Cole is Pirates GM Neal Huntington’s best draft choice. He was good (more…)

Changing of the guard is hard

Replacing a legend is difficult. The Green Bay Packers went from Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers. The San Francisco 49ers went from Joe Montana to Steve Young. Those are two examples of an easy changing of the guard. Certainly it isn’t always that easy. Denver is still looking for John Elway’s replacement. Peyton Manning was (more…)

It’s Always Raining in Pittsburgh

This is the Pittsburgh Pirates in a nutshell.

The latest fiasco for the Pirates was an ugly one.

Felipe Vazquez, the Pirates all star closer was arrested last week on multiple counts of child sex crimes. Wow. That’s hard to even type.

For the record, there is no way to convince me anyone with the team, from players to management, could have known what Vazquez was doing. The only person to blame is Vazquez himself.

This incident just caps a year from hell in Pittsburgh. Looking at the major league roster, the minor league prospects, and the competition across the National League, and there is no sane person that can think next year, or the one after that, or the one after that, or…let’s just say the foreseeable future, will be any better.

Clint Hurdle will be fired or asked to step down, presumably along with most of his coaches. Jeff Bannister seems to be the favorite to take over. A new message is needed. Hurdle’s is falling on deaf ears. This will qualify as window dressing.

Neal Huntington should be fired, but I’m not sure that will happen. His latest error came at the trade deadline, when he held out for a King’s ransom for Vazquez. At the deadline I advocated for a full blown rebuild, which would have included trading Vazquez. Most reports suggested the Los Angeles Dodgers were prepared to give up two top prospects to acquire Vazquez. Huntington wasn’t budging unless the Dodgers included their top prospect Gavin Lux. The Dodgers, and most other GM’s, laughed at this asking price and spurned Huntington.

Sunday, Huntington defended not trading Vazquez. He said fans would have roasted him for trading Vazquez for what they would have received in return. Apparently we should believe Huntington and ignore literally every report saying what the Dodgers were willing to part with.

Again, nobody could have foreseen the Vazquez horror show. However, a year after parting with far too much to acquire Chris Archer, Huntington asks for too much to unload Vazquez. As a result, you have no Austin Meadows(.286, 32 HR, 88 RBI, 12 SB), no Tyler Glasnow(2.03 ERA, 5:1 K/BB, .199 BAA), and Vazquez has thrown his last 100 mph fastball. Oh, I forgot. You do have Chris Archer(5.19 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 25 HR given up).

These are just the latest examples of Neal Huntington’s incompetence. He needs to go. In 12 years on the job Huntington hasn’t made enough positive trades and has been beyond poor at drafting and developing home grown talent, a small market GM’s most important job. Huntington should go, but it would just be window dressing.

Frank Coonelly is a buffoon lawyer from Major League Baseball’s league office. The highlight of his tenure was a humiliating DUI. When he speaks, dumb things come out. Additionally, it’s apparent nobody listens to him. At the end of the team’s statement on Vazquez, Coonelly stated nobody in the organization would speak about the situation. Within the hour players throughout the clubhouse were talking to reporters…about the situation. Frank Coonelly is useless and needs to go. If he did, it would be window dressing.

The owner, Bob Nutting, entered this season knowing that the organization would be honoring the 40th anniversary of the 1979 World Series Championship team. He knew, too, that they would honor the retiring Steve Blass for his tremendous 60 years of service with the organization. One might think that the owner would see the value in adding some payroll to have the best chance at having a quality product on the field to sync with those honors.

Ha! Fat chance that was going to happen. Instead the owner cut payroll— his GM added Lonnie Chisenhall, who never saw a pitch in Pittsburgh— and is overseeing one of the most embarrassing seasons in Pittsburgh Pirates history.

2019 issues:

  • Sign Lonnie Chisenhall. He never plays a single game.
  • Go 4-25 after all star break.
  • Are 21-45 in all after all star break.
  • Brought Gregory Polanco back too soon, and he re-injures shoulder.
  • Set franchise record by giving up 47 runs in a three game series vs Cubs.
  • Run differential of -163 is fifth worst in all of baseball.
  • Multiple in house suspensions for fights in the clubhouse.
  • Bullpen coach suspended.
  • Brutal brawl with Cincinnati Reds.
  • Traded Cory Dickerson, a .300 hitter, essentially for nothing.
  • Watched Gerritt Cole maximize his potential…in Houston.
  • Watched Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows maximize their potential…in Tampa Bay.
  • Chris Archer reminds fans how terrible the Glasnow/Meadows trade was every time he pitches.
  • Four losing streaks of at least 7 games.
  • Attendance so low you can count the individual people.
  • Opposing teams filling your stadium, making it like a road game.
  • Your closer propositioned a 13 year old in the bullpen, eventually ending with disgusting details and an embarrassing arrest.

If it isn’t the most embarrassing, it has to be in the top two. The drug trials of the mid ‘80’s was an ugly time as well. It isn’t just about the losses, but how they got to this point. And I don’t even have time to document the massive failures of the minor league system.

Does Mitch Keller look like a top prospect to anyone else? Maybe they should trade him to Houston or Tampa now to speed up his development.

The manager is shot. The GM is incompetent. The team president is an idiot. They all need to go, but those moves would only act as window dressing. It would give fans some hope, and it would maybe even bring tangible improvement. However, if Bob Nutting is still the owner don’t expect the overall tenor of the ballclub to change.

I’m sure Nutting wants to win, but not if it effects his bottom line. Bottom line Bob cares about one thing above all else. Profit.

Fans have proven as recently as 2013-2015 that they will show up if you put a winning product on the field. Nutting doesn’t care. He makes enough revenue elsewhere that attendance is inconsequential to him.

Bad optics, you say? So what. This is simple. Priorities 1-4 are all to make a profit. Coming in a distant fifth is winning. I’ve said a million times that most sports team owners want to win first, and they are willing to forego a little profit if it gives their team a better chance. Not with Bottom Line Bob.

Currently the team is on a nine game losing streak, where they have given up double digit runs five times and have been out scored 87-26. They were just swept by the Brewers. This is the scene in Milwaukee, a market smaller than Pittsburgh.

That is a packed house for a team surging to the playoffs. They have 20 sellouts this year alone. Since owner Mark Attanasio took over in 2005, the Brewers have seven winning records, three divisional playoff appearances, two NLCS appearances, two division titles, two MVP awards. Attendance has been outstanding. Limited resources haven’t stopped Attanasio from doing his all to win. Winning is his priority, and Milwaukee fans reward him by filling the stadium nearly every night.

Alas, Pittsburgh is stuck with Nutting. A guy who has never seen the big picture of owning a sports franchise.

Sure, change is coming. How much is anyone’s guess. It won’t matter anyway. Bob Nutting will still be the owner. The fan apathy and general malaise will continue.

That darn cloud just keeps pouring rain all over Pirates fans’ heads, and Bob Nutting won’t even buy them an umbrella.

Tim Clark is a columnist and editor for PennSports.LIVE, and a wonderful writer of words. He is a lifelong sports fanatic with an eclectic mix of favorite teams including USC Trojans football, Louisville Cardinals basketball, and the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins in pro sports.

Rivalries are an important thread in the fabric of college football

College football oozes tradition. From fight songs to dotting the I in Ohio. From the Red River Shootout to the Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. From Traveler galloping around the Coliseum to white outs in Happy Valley.

Part of that tradition is playing rivalry games.

Pitt and Penn State played for the hundredth time on Saturday. Let’s hope at some point they play game number 101.

Anyone that watched Saturday’s game could see this rivalry still means something. Had Pitt an actual head coach, the Panthers probably win the game(more on that later). That has been the gripe coming out of State College. Pitt isn’t holding up their end of the bargain. They haven’t been close to PennState’s level in ages.

To me it doesn’t matter how good or bad either team is. Most teams fluctuate performance levels throughout the years. It’s true Pitt has been mediocre for a long time, but Penn State has gone through some lean times, too. So what? This isn’t just a rivalry, but an in state rivalry.

There is great history to this rivalry, and there could be more to come if the two teams continue to play one another. There has always been a healthy respect from the players, as well as a deep desire to earn bragging rights. Yearly, it’s the one game you hate to lose the most. Oh, and the fan bases hate each other, and by God that is a huge part of rivalries.

Rivalries such as this Keystone conflict became endangered when super conferences started forming. I hated them then, and I still hate them now. Different teams went in different directions. For the all mighty dollar, gone were some great rivalries.

Conference schedules increased in both number of games and difficulty. Then on top of all of that, the playoffs were born. Thus we entered into the era of cupcake scheduling. The want of playing an extra home game, even against a piece of roadkill, became a priority.

For example, future Penn State schedules include Villanova and Delaware, not to mention San Jose State, UMass and Ball State. Really? No room for Pitt?

Pitt has Richmond, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island on its future schedules. Expect approximately 53 people in the stands for those barn burners.

Many in state teams from different conferences still play one another. Iowa still plays Iowa State. Clemson still plays South Carolina. Georgia still plays Georgia Tech. Florida still plays Florida State. Louisville still plays Kentucky. Penn State should still play Pitt.

Millennials are all about the here and now and seeing things analytically. They have no desire for history and tradition. They have attention spans that are shorter than the time it took to type this sentence. They could care less if games like these are continued.

Fortunately I belong to an older generation. One that has a healthy respect for history and tradition. I miss my Thanksgiving night being spent watching Texas battle Texas A&M. Then on Black Friday you had Nebraska tangle with Oklahoma. Those games, too, fell victim to the new conference alignments.

I cant imagine anyone thinking it is better for Nebraska to play Northern Illinois, Texas playing Rice, Texas A&M playing Lamar, Penn State playing Idaho. It just isn’t good for college football.

I love good intersectional games, and rivalry games are even better. There literally isn’t a downside to playing these games. The playoff committee needs to encourage these games, not cause teams to fear them.

People writing that it is okay to end these rivalry games come across as totally tone deaf. You can move the sport forward without getting rid of the great things from the past. The Penn State/Pitt rivalry has been one sided in recent years, but it beats the heck out of scheduling Villanova and New Hampshire.

Traditions and rivalries are part of the fabric of college football. To hell with forgetting the past. To hell with extra home games. To hell with cupcake city.

Carving pumpkins, eating turkey and stuffing at Thanksgiving, hanging stockings at Christmas, coloring Easter eggs, rivalry games. These things should always happen.

Just like I wanted my MTV back in the ‘80’s, I still want my rivalry games in college football.

Tim Clark is a columnist and editor for PennSports.LIVE, and a wonderful writer of words. He is a lifelong sports fanatic with an eclectic mix of favorite teams including USC Trojans football, Louisville Cardinals basketball, and the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins in pro sports.

The Patriot Way gets Crazy

Antonio Brown is a wackadoodle.

Turns out I was dead wrong when I said Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was letting the players have too much rope. Actually, Tomlin couldn’t allow Brown any rope for fear of what he may do with it. Tomlin was dealing with a mental patient at an insane asylum.

Now that #CrazyAB is out of town, the Steelers are so much better off. I can’t possibly type that enough times. In the end maybe Mike Tomlin deserved a medal for getting Pro Bowl production from a guy that is a rogue, selfish, undermining punk.

While in Oakland, and boy isn’t this a great send off to Vegas, Brown had about 72 meltdowns. He was a hot mess. And this time he took Raiders GM Mike Mayock, coach Jon Gruden, and every Raiders teammate on the rollercoaster with him.

Since arriving in Oakland, Brown avoided the team because of frostbite(let that one sink in), Helmetgate, Helmetgate II, and finally being fined and having meltdown number —hold on let me look back to the last paragraph— 73.

This most recent situation went to a whole new level of crazy. Mike Mayock, a man who I’m pretty sure now has at least one regret in life, rightfully fined Brown for holding out in training camp. This is standard practice.

In the meantime, Brown takes to social media to rip the team. Well, I think that’s what he did because I speak English and I’m not sure what language Brown speaks.

At that point the Raiders announced Brown would be suspended. Okay, that should end it, right?

Nah. We all know a good soap opera can carry out a storyline like this for months on end.

Brown then shows up at practice, and well, didn’t practice but instead went at Mayock. Punches may have been thrown, Vontaze Burfict may have been a peacemaker(of course he was). Jon Gruden may have literally exploded.

Okay, so that should’ve been it, right?

Hahaha…you know it’s not.

AB apparently proceeded to give a tear filled apology to the team and had a phone conversation with his head coach.

At this point Jon Gruden stepped all over his GM by declaring that AB would now play for sure in week one. This probably left Mike Mayock wondering if his NFL Network chair was still available.

Well, right or wrong, at least the soap opera had ended for now.

Oh, no. That isn’t how this works.

Brown then decided to get out a giant ladle and stir the pot some more.

AB posted to Instagram the phone conversation he had with Gruden, violating a confidentiality trust between player and coach while possibly violating wiretapping laws. Better yet he had someone fix it up to look like a music video.

Amazingly Gruden laughed it off.

So Brown is going to play week one then?

Uh, not so fast.

Brown then posts this on Instagram:

Essentially Mike Mayock had drawn a firm line in the sand by fining Brown plus taking away all of his guaranteed money. Jon Gruden wanted AB on the field regardless of whatever he had done or said. Clearly, AB wanted out.

I’ve written this three times now in columns, but will do it again for emphasis. You can’t rationalize with crazy.

Here are the facts.

  • AB works as hard as anyone ever has to get ready to play football.
  • AB is a hall of Fame worthy talent.
  • AB is not intelligent. He speaks mostly unintelligible.
  • AB is the most selfish player in the NFL.
  • AB has few, if any, true friends to tell him his behavior is unacceptable.

Throw in this possibility.

Is it possible AB got to Oakland, looked around, and realized he wanted nothing to do with this team?

Again, “crazy” is impossible to figure out.

The bottom line is Antonio Brown has always been a horrible teammate who only cares about himself. Sometimes the team gains some benefit from that. Fans enjoyed these antics:

 

Teams have won with selfish jerks on the roster. More often than not, though, they undermine everything a team is trying to accomplish.

Mike Tomlin did what he could to get that top production from Antonio Brown until he couldn’t anymore. Ben Roethlisberger did what he could to soothe Brown’s ego, until he couldn’t anymore. One of the draft picks obtained from Oakland in the trade for Brown helped net Devin Bush. It seems the Steelers made as much lemonade out of this crazy, egotistical lemon as they could.

Antonio Brown is an unintelligent, egotistical punk. He is also a hard working, athletically gifted football player. Because of the latter, he has made a boatload of money. Unintelligent. Ego. Diva. Rich. Hmm, what could go wrong?

I would say he should take his money and go live on a deserted island, but divas need a runway where all eyes are on them. So that’s out.

He will probably sign with New England(he did), get the Belichick brain washing(he will), and catch the winning touchdown pass in the AFC Championship game…at Heinz Field(he won’t because he will run his route too deep causing Brady INT).

That would be so AB of him.

***I started working on this column Saturday morning, thinking I had plenty of time until this thing was resolved. Boy was I wrong.

The aftermath of this fiasco is as follows:

  • Josh Gordon is no longer the worst human being on the Patriots roster.
  • Brown had $30 million guaranteed waiting for him in Oakland, and now he only has $9 million in New England. The only person that thinks that is fine is former teammate and fellow mathematical wizard Le’Veon Bell.
  • If there are football Gods, they will have the Patriots implode. After the circus created by this imbecilic lunatic, the last thing he deserves is success.
  • The New England Patriots are the Kings of Shady, and signing Brown is just the latest example.

Was this a plot? Did the Patriots orchestrate everything? Was AB’s plan to get to New England by any means possible? Who knows at this point?

Hopefully AB will post on Instagram his chat with coach Belichick on “The Patriot Way”. Now that would be entertaining.

Here’s hoping the only happy ending in New England happens at the “spa” AB and his owner and fellow massage enthusiast Robert Kraft frequent.

Tim Clark is a columnist and editor for PennSports.LIVE, and a wonderful writer of words. He is a lifelong sports fanatic with an eclectic mix of favorite teams including USC Trojans football, Louisville Cardinals basketball, and the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins in pro sports.

A Rivers runs all the way to Miami

Labor Day is always the unofficial end of summer. With that comes the start of another NFL season. This year’s destination is Miami, FL, for the 54th edition of the Super Bowl. That game is on February 2. Today is September 2. How will the next five months play out? It’s time for my Two (more…)

Fanatics Unite

Sports. Fanatics. Like peanut butter and jelly.

Are you a fanatic? Do you know someone who is?

Im here this week to give you a fanatics guide. Sort of a playbook, if you will.

How it Begins

Fanatics are a special breed of sports obsessed fandom that goes above and beyond for their favorite teams. I know.

My name is Tim Clark, and I’m a sports fanatic. I’ve been a fanatic for 44 years, 8 months, 27 days, and counting.

I was watching my first USC Trojans football game on November 30, 1974. A stirring comeback versus arch rival Notre Dame. I was eight so I only vaguely understood the nuances of the actual game. However, I was hooked by the marching band, the white horse galloping around the LA Coliseum track, Anthony Davis’s touchdown knee dance, and the Song Girls…God bless the Song Girls.

My friend Scott shared he, too, was watching this game with his grandmother. His gram did her part to put the kibosh on Notre Dame that day. Scott would also become a fanatic. Maybe his gram showed him the way.

Some may not be sure if they qualify for this not terribly exclusive club. Let’s look for the signs.

Clothes

The first sign you may be a fanatic is your attire.

First, you must wear clothes that easily displays to others your allegiance to your favorite team. Nike, Under Armour, Adidas, whatever…brand doesn’t matter. Head to toe coverage is what matters.

Hats are a must. It’s sports not church so strap one on. Good hair, bad hair, it doesn’t matter. A fanatic doesn’t need an excuse to don a hat. My only rule is no flat bill caps for guys over 40. You’re a fanatic, not a twenty-something hipster.

Jerseys are great for big games, but shirts are your staple for all other occasions. You will need a bunch. Wearing the same shirt repeatedly lacks creativity, not to mention cleanliness. Short sleeve, long sleeve, sweatshirts…a fanatic is prepared for any temperature.

The same goes for below the waist. Shorts for warmer weather, wind pants or sweatpants for cooler weather.

Sneakers? Why not. I have sneakers for all of my favorite teams. They are bright, bold, and leave no doubt which teams they represent. Before you lace up your team sneakers, slip on a pair of team socks. Multiple pairs of team socks are a good idea because… feet…smelly…hey you are a fanatic, not a pig!

The biggest key to the fanatics clothes are that people in your hometown immediately recognize you based on what you are wearing. Often times these sightings are accompanied by eye rolls and snickers. Let it go. Those people don’t get it. Fellow fanatics will applaud the pride and passion you display for your team.

So if you open your closet and have trouble finding “normal” clothes, you may be on your way to claiming fanatic status.

Oh and give yourself a bonus point if you own team underwear. After a 5-7 season last year by my beloved USC Trojans, I decided I needed to do more.

✔️.

I would have modeled them, but I just don’t need the lady fanatics blowing up my phone all night.

Big Game Watching

Where do you watch the big game?

Call it a man cave if you must, but the room must leave no doubt to guests which teams you support.

There are two rules for this room:

  1. There is no such thing as too much.
  2. Tacky is okay, and in fact encouraged.

As an example, my sports room has framed pictures, posters, pennants, pillows, lamps, curtains, Terrible Towels, team balls, team tiki statues, bobble heads, and for good measure a team colored lava lamp. Clearly tacky is not even a consideration for a fanatic.

Aside from your sports room, there are many other places to earn your fanatics card.

Again, I’ll use myself as an example.

Fore!

When I hit the links I start with a team golf bag, towel, umbrella, and ball markers. In addition I use team personalized golf balls. This way when that rare shot(wink, wink) goes in the woods, pond, or someone else’s fairway people can easily identify who hit the errant shot.

Give yourself another bonus point if you like to scatter golf balls in order to spread your fanaticism.

✔️✔️.

Not only do I spread my fanaticism, but I give a shameless plug for our website and my column.

Let’s face it, they are already laughing at me because of my bag, towel, umbrella, shirt, hat…oh, did I mention my putter grip, so a little more chuckling at my expense is just fine. Fanatics don’t embarrass easily.

On the road…back at home

The car is a great place to accessorize. Seat covers, bumper stickers, window decals, license plates are absolutely fine. Furthermore, when going to the store, dropping off your kids at school, or really wherever you are going, consider it perfectly acceptable to blare your school’s fight song. Music to your ears, annoying to others. Perfect.

Back at home you can do fanatics work inside and out.

Around the outside of the house consider lawn ornaments, team flags, backyard games such as corn hole, and certainly patio chairs fanatical ideas.

Inside the house, drinking cups, salt and pepper shakers, pot holders, coasters, and blankets are great items to display your team spirit. And remember, this isn’t even your sports room. A real fanatic doesn’t limit themselves to one room of the house.

Don’t worry. I’m sure your wife will understand. She knew what she was getting when she married you, right? Of course, I am single so what do I know?

By the way, give yourself a bonus point if you plant flowers based on team colors.

✔️✔️✔️.

Game Day

This is where we separate the men from the boys.

Relax ladies. It’s just a figure of speech. You, too, can be a fanatic. Fanatics don’t discriminate. Everyone is welcome.

My friend Ang can curse a blue and white streak with the best of them during Penn State games. She is closing in on fanatic status. Scaring the bejeebers out of her husband when she does it is a big step in the right direction.

There are very few things that should keep you from watching or attending a game. Family emergency, obviously. Kids school events, yes. Birth of a child, sure. Although if you are a good planner this one can be avoided. Simply check the schedule 9 months down the road and uh…behave accordingly.

My friend Eric was put on fanatic probation a while back. He missed the start of an important Steelers game in order to do a “favor” for a friend, totally disregarding his fanatic friends who now could not properly text during the game because they didn’t want him to know the results. Unacceptable.

Eric has since regained fanatic status due to his solid rants on Phillies manager Gabe Kapler, and the fact that he has abused Scott and I for being Pittsburgh Pirates fans.

Speaking of Scott, he had an interesting game day experience this past week. Before his kids went back to school, he took them to a baseball game.

Baltimore vs Kansas City.

True fanatics don’t do that to their kids. Hell, human beings don’t do that to their kids.

Scott is the most fanatical fanatic I know, so I’m going to let this one slide and assume maybe he went to the bottom desk drawer at work for the whiskey one too many times that day.

Once the game begins a fanatic will really stand out. They twist, they shout, they spasm all about, and often times, when screaming maniacally at their TV, spit will fly out of their mouth like Bill Cowher, circa mid 1990’s.

And, boy, do they ever yell at the coach. You see, fanatics think they are far superior coaches than the actual coach of the team.

This is where texting becomes important. Your fellow fanatics will commiserate with you over the game. They will complain with you about the officiating, the coaching, the players having bad games.

You CAN Make a Difference

Fanatics sit in the same place during winning streaks, they rely on rally caps, they wear lucky charms, and they will even change clothes if a game is not going as planned. It’s exactly why having only one jersey in your closet is very risky.

Fanatics have mystical powers, or so they think. It may just be that fanatics are too far gone to accept any reasonable debate over such matters.

Just like Stranger Things, They’re Among Us

My three friends mentioned above: lawyer, business owner, chemical engineer. Me, well my side gig for the last 30 years is teaching. Just in case this sports columnist thing doesn’t work out. I’m willing to bet none of our co-workers suspect we turn in to crazed lunatics when our favorite teams play a game.

As football season rushes upon us, this is the time true fanatics start their training. Scott was worked up over something in a preseason game last week. And you thought those games were just for player preparation.

In another week or so, the spit will start spraying, blood pressure will start rising, and remote controls will start flying.

It’s football season, baby.

Fanatics unite!

Tim Clark is a columnist and editor for PennSports.LIVE, and a wonderful writer of words. He is a lifelong sports fanatic with an eclectic mix of favorite teams including USC Trojans football, Louisville Cardinals basketball, and the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins in pro sports.

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