Thursday, October 29, 2009

Virginia Tech Faculty Outrage Misplaced; New Lows for the Redskins

Although there probably won’t be all that many people watching with The World Series going on (today’s soap opera questions: how does Pedro Martinez pitch while facing the Yankees in postseason for the first time since 2004; does A.J. Burnett implode if Joe Girardi makes him pitch to Jorge Posada?) there’s a college football game on TV tonight: North Carolina at Virginia Tech.

I bring this up not because it is a big game for anyone other than, well, North Carolina and Virginia Tech, but because of a story in this morning’s Washington Post about the fact that some faculty at Virginia Tech are very upset about a few evening classes being cancelled because the campus is basically overrun by football traffic.

Look, I can’t stand these midweek football games. College football is supposed to be played on Saturdays, really in the afternoon most of the time, although it is understandable why some places in the south prefer night games, especially early in the season.

But in the continuing sell-out by the alleged college presidents of college athletics to corporate America and TV, we now have college football games almost every night of the week. The ACC almost always has a Thursday night game and some of the smaller D-1 conferences line their teams up on Tuesday and Wednesday all the time. Once, Friday night was untouchable because the colleges gave way to high school football one night a week. Not anymore.

In fact, last Friday night ESPN had Rutgers-Army. There may be no place in the country where not playing on Saturday afternoon is a bigger crime than West Point. Anyone who has ever been to a game in Michie Stadium will know what I’m talking about. In 1999 in listing the 20 greatest sports venues of the 20th century, Sports Illustrated ranked Michie Stadium third—THIRD—behind only Yankee Stadium and Augusta National Golf Club.

Michie Stadium—and the entire military academy—are about as scenic as anyplace you can go on a fall afternoon. Even though Army’s been lousy the last 12 years (finally improving now with the right coach in place) there is nothing quite like a game at West Point. People arrive in the morning to tailgate, to go down to the plain to watch the cadet parade, then file into the pretty little stadium overlooking the reservoir, the mountains and the Hudson River.

On a Friday night though, it’s completely different. Traffic coming up from New York, where many fans come from, is an absolute nightmare. It is going to be cold for kickoff in late October and you can’t SEE any of the surrounding beauty. Playing on Friday always costs Army about 10,000 fans (at least) at the start of the game and, when the game’s not close and it’s raining, the stands are virtually empty during the second half.

The good news is that Army has signed a new TV contract with CBS College Sports that will mean all home games will kick off at noon on Saturday. The bad news is, Army is the exception—weeknight football across the country isn’t going away. Schools won’t turn down the money or the exposure they’re being offered in return for giving up Saturday football.

For most schools, a weeknight football game is a once a year on campus experience so there really is no reason not to try to enjoy it. Here though is a quote from today’s Post story from Jan Helge Bohn, a member of The Virginia Tech faculty: “I’m highly annoyed by the misplaced emphasis on athletics at the university. It infuriates me. The fact I have to move my car and go home and terminate work is outrageous in an academic community.”

If this was a once a week activity or even once a month the (self) esteemed professor might have a point. But we’re talking once a YEAR. Are athletics over-emphasized in many different ways at many, if not most, Division 1 schools? You bet. If this is so annoying and outrageous, get a job at a D-3 school. But please save the outrage for something important. Someone teaching at Virginia Tech should be especially conscious of the fact that being inconvenienced one day a year is hardly an issue of monumental importance. One wonders, when the entire school came together in the wake of the shootings to mourn and bond at the first football game that fall, if the professor was upset about THAT.

Speaking of annoying people, it has become pretty much impossible to not write or talk about the train wreck called The Washington Redskins. The club reached new lows on Monday night, not by dropping to 2-5 in a one-sided loss to the Philadelphia Eagles but with the neo-fascist tactics brought to bear (on Dan Snyder’s orders obviously) on fans who had the nerve to bring signs to the stadium.

Security people were ordered to not only confiscate all signs—clearly as an excuse to confiscate the negative ones—but also tossed people for wearing SHIRTS that said things like, “Sell the team,” or one that had a photo of Snyder and henchman Vinny Cerrato with a caption that said, “dumb and dumber.”

It got so bad that Dan Steinberg, who writes the very smart DC Sports Bog in The Post, was accosted by a security guard because he was looking through the garbage to see some of the signs that had been confiscated. The team put out a statement saying the new policy was put in because signs could block people's view (as opposed to those whose views are already blocked sitting in obstructed-view seats) and because those on sticks could be dangerous. Yeah, right, really dangerous. Oh one other thing: the TEAM handed out signs to people at several gates with the name of one of its corporate sponsors on it. Apparently THOSE did not block views and were not dangerous. Jeesh. Do these people EVER get caught in a truth?

Along with that came a radio appearance by the Redskins CFO—whose name I can’t remember and isn’t worth the time for me to look it up—in which he attacked The Post, accusing it of, “yellow journalism,” for the stories which revealed the team selling tickets to brokers last year (and bypassing those on the season ticket waiting list) and suing people who could no longer afford to pay for their incredibly over-priced club seats.

Yellow journalism? The stories were written by a Pulitzer Prize business reporter who did a LOT of digging to come up with facts. At one point CFO-guy said, “we don’t sue our fans.” Then later he said they had “only,” sued 125 fans in five years, which is considerably different than not suing your fans. He kept saying “125 fans out of 24,000 club seat and suite holders.” Let’s not even get into the question of whether 24,000 is a legitimate number given the waves of empty seats every week in the club section. That’s not the relevant number. The relevant number is how many people defaulted on their contracts among the 24,000. My guess is the number is about 125.

He also claimed the Redskins had dropped their lawsuit against, “Miss Hill or Miss Hall,” not even remembering her name. Miss Hill is the 72-year-old grandmother who became the centerpiece of The Post’s series. “Once we had the information we dropped the suit,” CFO guy said.

Where, exactly, did you get the information by the way? Oh wait, it was from that yellow journalism in The Post.

Honestly, I feel bad for these people who are forced—because they work for him—to defend Dan Snyder. It’s a little bit like it had to be working in The White House in 1974.

One last note: My Islanders beat the Rangers last night! Hallelujah. That’s two wins and the season isn’t yet a month old. Does anyone out there know where Bob Bourne is these days? Maybe the nicest athlete I’ve ever met in my life. I’d really like to do a hockey book someday, I already have a title: 'Season on the Rink.'


John said...

Writing a hockey book will cleanse your soul. Dealing with hockey players will make you forget all about the soul-less tennis players.

Dave M in MD said...

The confiscation of placards and signs was another heavy-handed tactic by the master of schlock, Danny S.

I suggest the offended loyalists consider a silent vigil outside Danny's gated mansion. Makes it personally uncomfortable.

Rockville said...

Carolina hosted its first Thursday night football game in Chapel Hill last week and they made all the employees leave campus at 3 pm. Except instead of getting some free time off, the employees had to make up the time. So now they have to rearrange their schedules for two days, not just one. This for a football program that hasn't been decent since Mack Brown left and has yet to produce an NFL starting quarterback in its entire history. It seems like all Carolina football has done in the last 20 years is add on to the football stadium but perhaps they're building an employee section so at least they can stick around and watch the game.

Anonymous said...

Let me get this straight: Dan Snyder is suing those who can't afford to keep up ticket/license fees and - at the same time - oversees the expulsion of customers who paid god-knows-what for their tickets for the "offense" of expressing themselves? Wow! I live in Cincy and thought Mike Brown was bad.

PS: FWIW, I sign my username at the bottom because I can never get the site to recognize my password and I have always hated the concept of signing something: Annonomous

Christopher said...

Given the money generated by Division 1 football is it time to just treat it like a business and not student-athletics? Pay the players a salary and fringe benefits just like the other employees. If you want them to be students then allow them a full tuition and fees for however long it takes to get their degree after their eligibility is up.

Your take on the whining professor is correct. After all it is just once a year. He or she was probably just angry that VT was emulating the Oklahoma formula and "building a university their football team could be proud of".

Glen said...

I have a different take on the prof - I think it's good he spoke up. I'm willing to bet his outrage is a 'last straw' situation, and he just had gotten to the point where he couldn't shut up about it. Why should he keep quiet or worse yet, move to a D3 school rather than speak up and let the administration know that he's upset?

Also, I bet that it has a lot more to do with students skipping classes to go party prior to the Thursday night game than moving his car - I'd like to see how attendance looks on game day for those schools.