Sports. Sports. Sports. Oh how it brings joy and how it brings deep deep sorrow. It is the latter that it uppermost in my mind this Sunday as last night (or the early hours as it was here) Penn State once more found an agonising way to lose a game against a top tier opponent that in reality they should have won. The last four defeats have been by a combined eight points and in all four, the team led in the fourth quarter. It is quite simply heartbreaking.
Yet sometimes perspective is needed. I know sports and perspective are often alien concepts. Sports goes much better with an emotional response than a calm and reasoned one.
This is why I was so disheartened at some of the Penn State faithful that are calling for the head of Coach James Franklin right now. I know it is a very small minority of those who claim to support the program who want a change at the top but if we’ve learned one thing in this social media era, it is that those who are in the minority can yell enough that they’l be noticed and gain at least some traction.
Penn State football should be pretty much dead and buried. The sanctions handed down following the Jerry Sandusky scandal were meant to crush the program for a decade or more. Six years later and they are very much nationally relevant once more. Even with another gutting defeat, the playoffs aren’t completely out of reach and multiple pundits think that even with the loss, Penn State may still stay in the top ten when the AP Poll comes out later today.
The reason for this can be laid firmly at the feet of the very man some people want to run out of town. Coach Franklin has helped turn around the narrative at State College. This is a team that is clearly improving year in, year out. The coaching in general seems pretty good (although if someone can teach how to actually tackle that would be a nice bonus and how many times can wide open receivers drop passes?) I digress. In general the coaches seem to be getting players to play at a level beyond what the recruiting services believed they would. This isn’t the be all and end all but it is a good indication.
Speaking about recruiting, who five years ago could say hand on heart that top players, with their pick of pretty much any college in the country would even consider Penn State, let alone some of them end up signing? Year in, year out the evaluation of high school talent has continued to impress. Getting some of those young men to commit to play for him is a massive part of his job, one he clearly excels at. If anyone has issues with his recruiting prowess then I firmly believe they will not listen to rhyme or reason.
Some may question a play call here and there, that is part of being a fan. For example from my sofa I wanted to kick three instead of going for the 4th down yesterday. I know it would’ve been a 42 odd yard kick with a rookie kicker but I liked the percentages. In general I’m an aggressive sofa coach but I didn’t like that call. When it became a throw that was blocked and not a Trace keeper/scramble of some sort then I liked it even less. I didn’t like the attempt to force feed Tommy Stevens early in the game. As for the 4th and 5 play call that ended it, despite all I’ve seen and read since, how you take the ball out of number nine’s hands, I have no idea.
That however is part of sports. We all have our opinions and sometimes I sit on the sofa, disagree with a coaches decision and it works out because you know what, I’m not always right and nor is James Franklin. No-one is right 100% of the time. This is true for all the other angry people on social media or commenting on BlackShoeDiaries etc…
I saw someone using the hashtag in the title saying that he never wanted Coach Franklin because he had only gone 7-6, 9-4 and 9-4 at Vanderbilt. He won nine games in back-to-back years at Vandy, doesn’t this idiot understand just how impressive a feat this is? He also says he’s never run an elite program before so he doesn’t deserve the Penn State job, well he might not have noticed that Penn State hasn’t been an elite program for an awfully long time and the journey towards it is being led by Coach Franklin. Winning ten regular season games in 2016 and 2017 was fantastic. The talent gap is closing on the top programs in the nation and soon those close defeats will turn into victories.
Losing hurts and this is the one team that I still deeply care for. I enjoy a Pompey win but a loss doesn’t crush me. Same with Hampshire, same with the Jaguars, Yankees et al but I won’t sit here and throw my toys out of the pram just because my team didn’t win a game. That is a very Millennial thing to do and as much as I loathe that term, sometimes I do look at younger people (well people my age and younger in all honesty) and wonder just where did they get this sense of entitlement from?
No program is entitled to dominate sports. Any sport. Those fans that believe a change in Head Coach will mean we suddenly win the big games or don’t squander fourth quarter leads seem to think one change fixes all. In general the whole PSU football program is moving forwards. Coach Franklin is a fantastic leader and doesn’t want his players just to play school. He prioritises education and lets be honest here, for some coaches that isn’t important but we expect more.
Success with Honor (or Honour as I’d spell it, what it is with American’s and their dislike of the letter u?) is something worth fighting for. I’d prefer to lose an extra game here and there if it was because players got a better education, became better citizens and had better opportunities in life. Winning a darn football game isn’t everything.
Anyway I’ve waffled on for long enough and I’ve only had two hours sleep. The long and short of it is Coach Franklin has made it possible to be proud to support the Penn State Football program once again. Clearly the team are going in the right direction. The young talent coming through is exciting and depth is being built. Recruiting is far better than it has been in decades and fantastic young men are coming to play and get at education at Penn State.
Those that want to #FireJamesFranklin need to get in the sea and get some expletive perspective. Is he perfect? No, but who is? Will he makes mistakes? Sure, but who doesn’t? All anyone can do in life is learn and continue to move forward. That is a great life lesson for us all and changing everything because you aren’t happy with one thing is not smart. Look at those who voted Trump or voted for Brexit just to change the status quo, how many of them are truly happy with what is going down on either side of the pond right now?
Seeing people, Penn State fans, genuinely wanting Franklin gone makes me angry but more than that, it makes me sad that people expect perfection from others.
On that note, going away from CJF, The coach is a man as are his staff but the kids are just that. Kids. Bemoaning a play here and there is fair enough but seeing people – fans – tweet at young men trying their best and dishing out the abuse. Well that alone is a sad indictment of modern day society. That might be even worse than people calling for Franklin’s head. Just because a player misses a tackle or drops a pass, who decided it was fair game to tweet them saying how bad they were? These are student-athletes. They aren’t getting paid. I wonder how many of those who send such tweets at these teenagers and young men would like being criticised by people they don’t know for their work/sporting performance by anonymous people on the internet?
You treat people how you would like to get treated yourself. If you wouldn’t like 100s of people ridiculing you on social media for mucking up that big presentation or for failing a school exam or for missing an open goal in a kick-about with your friends, then why would you deem it fair to do it to others?
Yes losing sucks. It really sucks but it is a darn sight better than not playing at all, not being relevant in big games or even worse, being Rutgers…
With that I have one final thing to say.
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