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Off-the-field messes put damper on football

2011 season won’t be remembered for accomplishments on the gridiron

November 9, 2011
B.J. LISKO - Salem News Sports Editor , Salem News

In a college football season defined more for what has happened off the field than on it, the Penn State saga is just another setback in a miserable year on the gridiron.

I love college football. More than any other sport. I love the fact that in about an hour here there will be a game on, and that on any given weeknight some MAC or Sun Belt school is playing in a half empty stadium competing their butts off trying to impress anyone watching. (Toledo, anyone?)

Tuesday and Wednesday night college football is the best. It gives us fanatics something to watch every day of the week. We never tire of it, and honestly even by the time bowl season comes around we're still not even the slightest bit sick of the sport we love. Every bowl counts. We don't care if there's more than 30 of them. If we had our say there would be a whole added week or weeks of bowl and/or postseason college football games.

But this year has been different.

It's been awfully hard to get excited about anything. There really haven't been any great story lines to follow. We're not really even seeing that much in terms of exciting football. In what was to be the "Game of the Century" last Saturday, LSU beat Alabama in a 9-6 yawn-fest. The season seems tailor-made to have an SEC title game, Boise State in another meaningless BCS contest which proves nothing, and everything else as filler.

Maybe the lack of excitement can be attributed to every time people start talking about college football, it's not about the rivalries or the teams or the action, it's about tattoos, unethical coaches, suspensions, cheating, bowl bans, compliance officers, and now child molestation.

The sport I love I can barely even stomach.

I want to argue about Boise. I want to argue about Ohio State and the SEC and to discuss the merits of the lower-tier Division I schools on these Tuesday and Wednesday nights and why your next NFL superstar is going to come from those games more likely than the ones played at 8 p.m. on Saturdays.

But nope. I've gotta see swine. And that's what we as fans are stuck with talking about.

Jerry Sandusky is the biggest swine of them all. A perverted, sick, deviant scumbag who deserves to be locked up for the rest of his sick, twisted and miserable life for what he did as an assistant coach at Penn State.

It kind of makes talking about Jim Tressel and not reporting NCAA violations a very moot point.

It's as if we're not watching football. No one has been watching all year. It's all been off-the-field debates about how badly people are breaking the rules or not handling situations in the correct manner.

The last few days we got to argue about whether or not Joe Paterno should be able to keep his job.

The answer to that should have seemed very obvious and the Penn State Board of Trustees finally made the right decision.

We're either to believe Paterno is senile and isn't as sharp as people have made him out to be in his old age, or we're to believe he just turned his head, or we're to believe he's a deviant himself who protected a monster.

I doubt Paterno is a monster. I seriously just think he's been out of the loop for the last decade. That he loves the game isn't an issue, but Paterno staying as coach has kept the Nittany Lions from ever truly moving up the ladder. As a high school kid, how are you supposed to commit to a head coach who is more than 80 years old and might not live to see you play your senior year?

I'm certainly betting Paterno now wishes he would've left when they called for him to a few years back.

Ultimately Paterno will be looked upon as a legendary coach. They will talk in the coming days about his legacy being tarnished. Same as they did with Tressel. But whether you think it's right or wrong, time will forgive them both.

In the meantime, whatever else needs to happen as far as the future of Penn State goes needs to happen and we need to get back to football.

The same goes for Ohio State. I find it absolutely ridiculous the decision on their punishment will come months and months after they reported to the NCAA in August. When that decision comes down it will just be another off-the-field distraction that will get more play in newspaper pages and on television shows than the actual games themselves.

I never thought I'd say it, but this season needs to end, and fast. Chalk this one up as a loss and let's move on to next year. Because the longer this year drags out, the uglier it's getting to be.

Wake me up when it's February. I don't want to watch anymore.

E-mail B.J. Lisko at



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