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.

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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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