A Few Thoughts 01/31/17

Bob Levey/Getty Images

Bob Levey/Getty Images

Sometimes it’s best if old-timers just keep quiet about the Good Old Days, rather than make themselves look and sound foolish (Yeah, I know. who am I to talk?).
Number one, in some ways these are in fact the Good Old Days and in some ways they aren’t. We can get around to that some other time.
What has my attention today is a big splashy front page story in the sports section of USA Today. The headline: CAMPBELL’S HARD KNOCKS
The sub-head “Game took its toll, but he raps NFL as too soft.”
According to Earl Campbell, today’s players make too many excuses. Says Earl, “‘I can’t play because I’ve got a hangnail on my toe. I can’t play because I didn’t get a pedicure this week. I didn’t play because my head hurt.’”
What’s a word that’s beyond “preposterous?“ How about “inane?”
Earl Campbell was a great, honored player, a member of both the College and Professional Halls of Fame. He was the archetypical battering ram running back, a man who never saw a tackle he couldn’t break as he ran in the direction we nowadays call “downhill.” No one dared question his toughness. He was all football. And he has paid the price. At age 61 he has the body of a 2000-year old man. Football is the reason, and if you ask him there is no doubt he’d do it all over again. Fine.
But he owes all of today’s players an apology. Today’s players are no less tough than the ones in Earl Campbell’s day. No one is begging out due to a hangnail. No one misses a game due to a missed appointment for a pedicure. But, oh yes, some arena prevented from playing because their head hurts,even though many of them try to play, regardless. Thank God, the sport of football has learned a few things about head trauma.
Quite frankly, I am very disappointed in USA Today for even running this story. I cannot believe that the sports editor, not to mention the writer, a gentleman named Josh Peter, didn’t look at those quotes and say, “This is B.S.; we can’t sanction this.” Just because Earl Campbell speaks doesn’t mean we have to listen to him if he is speaking absolute ragtime.
Years ago football players performed through injuries you and I could not possibly fathom. And they still perform through injuries you and I could not possibly fathom. That has never changed. Never. What has changed is medical science. What has changed is the awareness that a “ding” is actually a “concussion,” and should be treated as such. But today’s football players are every it as tough as the old-timers.
Sorry, Earl. You are full of you-know-what.

Had a very enjoyable weekend in Philadelphia with my friend Dick “Hoops” Weiss as we went to see Philadelphia University take on Dominican Saturday and Villanova play host to Virginia Sunday. Philadelphia U’s 75-65 triumph in that Division II clash was victory number 1046 in the astonishing career of coach Herb Magee, who is now in his 50th — yes, I said 50 — year as head coach at his alma mater, which was known as Philadelphia Textile when he was pouring in jumper after jumper in the 60s. It was about time I got around to seeing one of Herb Magee’s teams take the floor. The man is a Philly treasure. Yup, he is a 2011 inductee to the Basketball Hall of Fame, in case you’re wondering.
The Villanova-Virginia game at Wells Fargo Arena attracted a crowd of 20,907, making it the largest gathering ever to witness a college basketball game in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Nova shook off an incredibly cold start (4-22 at the half) to come from behind and get the win on a flying trip-in of a Josh Hart excursion to the hoop by Donte DiVicenzo with less than a second to play. It was DiVicenzo’s only shot attempt of the day, and I love that stuff.
The atmosphere was electrifying and the affair was great for college basketball. After the game I was equally impressed by the comments of both Virginia’s Tony Bennett and Villanova’s Jay Wright. If any young coach wants to know how he or she should conduct himself or herself at a post-gane press conference, they would have been well-advised to take notes at these sessions.

Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Well, Gonzaga is at the top of the mountain now, and the Bulldogs will now very likely try to remain there as they enter the NCAA tournament as a one seed, perhaps even the number one number one. That will place tremendous pressure on Mark Few and his kids, but that comes with the territory. I hope they can enjoy the ride, as far as it goes.

Bob Ryan

Award-winning writer for the Boston Globe and contributor to ESPN Sports Reporters.

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