Injustice and Time for a Change
Learning how to deal with adversity is one of the things that helps build character and it plays a huge role at times in the lives of football players, both in high school and in the National Football League as well.
Life is not fair; the high school senior who gets injured and is never going to get another chance to play football realizes that. Some things that are unfair can not be changed; but, as a certain coach in the NFL may soon discover, some things can be changed.
This was originally going to be a column about snow and how to deal with it (or not); but two things happened over last weekend that has me fuming over my keyboard. If you hate football then come back in two weeks; if you don’t, then read on.
One of the things I love doing is the high school football games on WFMD (AM-930). In the last three years I have been lucky enough to see many great games that I will always remember. As a parent of two sons who played for four years in Frederick County, I understand the commitment, the work, the energy and the emotion that players, coaches and even parents put into each season.
It is a huge investment that pays off handsomely in the futures of players, schools and the community. Yet sometimes the outcomes are determined by events off the field that are dramatically unfair.
Last weekend the Frederick Cadets could not find a way to win against a very talented Thomas Johnson Patriots’ team. The Cadets ended their season at home with a loss, their first on the field all season.
They had an early win against Tuscarora taken away due to having an ineligible player in that game. He was a transfer student who only played briefly in the 4th quarter. When Coach Vince Ahern discovered that he was ineligible, he immediately self reported it.
League officials determined that the Cadets had to forfeit that game. The rest of the season they won every single game until Saturday; that loss against TJ made their season record 8-2.
It is a great record and it was a great season. Right? You would think so, only it seems that wasn’t good enough to make the 3A playoffs. 8-2 and no playoffs? That’s a crime, a theft, a blot on the sport of high school football. It is unfair to the players, fans and the community.
I’ll rant for a moment and mention that other teams with lesser records are going to the playoffs, such as TJ (8-2), Urbana (7-3) (a team the Cadets beat), Middletown (6-4) (another team the Cadets beat), and last, but not least, Catoctin with a 5 and 5 record. All of those teams earned post season play; how can it be argued that the Cadets did not?
You will hear how it is all about who the other teams beat and points in the MPSSAA (Maryland Secondary Schools Athletic Association) playoff system. I say that if a team is 8-2 they deserve at least a wild card chance at earning a spot.
This is patently unfair and an outrage. My condolences go out to Coach Ahern and the Cadets for being badly mistreated by the system. Justice demands that this system be fixed to prevent this from ever happening again.
Yet that won’t help the Cadet varsity players. It is simply a shame that this team will never get another chance to put on their cleats and play.
Unrelated and a tragedy of far lesser proportions is the plight of the Baltimore Ravens. They are in a terrible state and their last two games have inflicted injury and trauma on anyone who was exposed to the sight of this team imploding on national television. They have been a huge embarrassment this season.
Despite the obvious talent on the team, they have achieved the status of a disaster. They lead the league in only one category, penalties. While some blame falls on a once great quarterback, no longer in his prime, the real fault lies squarely on the coach, Brian Billick.
Steve McNair is obviously over the hill and can no longer play the game. It happens. The damage inflicted season after season takes a cumulative toll on the human body and he has had more than his fair share of pain. He is so bandaged up and armored now that he looks like the Pillsbury Dough Boy.
It isn’t his fault. Yet the coach, who makes the determination on starting players and tactics, should have seen this coming last year and made adjustments. He hasn’t. It may be that he simply doesn’t know how.
The offense of the Ravens under Brian (“CompuCoach”) Billick has been just dreadful for years. His decision to have Steve McNair take a knee, with 50 seconds to go before the half, in last year’s playoff game against the Colts was the final straw for me.
I would have fired Coach Billick before he got back to the locker room. Any other coach would have used the time to try a hurry up offense to try to score, so they might get back in the game.
Not Coach Billick. He sticks with “his guy” even when it’s obvious that his “guy” should be warming a bench and not losing a football game. It is ego; it is a flaw; and it has hurt Baltimore before.
Now, fans boo long and loud whenever the opportunity arises, sadly that is a frequent event. Some claim the team is being booed. Not so! The fans are upset, not with Quarterback McNair, or the team, but with a coach that refuses to see reality. They are booing Brian Billick.
At this rate the sell outs in Baltimore will quickly be a fading memory. It brings back bitter memories of the last years of the Colts when they were not very good, but even then – on occasion – they were fun to watch.
Last Sunday’s game was like a visit to the dentist with no anesthetic. No one will continue paying for tickets to watch a team this bad. Yes, the Ravens still have a defense. But it is getting older and, with salary caps what they are, you probably won’t have Ray Lewis around much longer either. Defense alone can not win.
The offense is never really given a chance to play. The excitement comes in anticipating turnovers or betting with other fans on third and long situations. They bet on just how short of the first down that pass will be. It has been sadly predictable that no matter what the yardage needed was, the Ravens would find a way to come up one yard or more short. It could be a training film on how not to run an offense in the NFL.
It is time to save the franchise and say goodbye to Coach Billick. Thanks for the Super Bowl. I will try to forget all the years after that when we repeatedly fell short when we could have, and should have, won.
Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.