Friday, February 6, 2009

Free Kicks

Well, I was going to have a whole Free Kicks about what to watch and not to watch this February as we await March Madness or any other championship season, but then the news broke of Maryland’s decision to designate a Coach-in-Waiting for Ralph Friegen, and I tore it up and pieced together a new one. As you will see, I am not happy with the situation in College Park. Let’s line up for the kick…

Another Coach-in-Waiting?
My God, it has happened again. At Maryland, no less! Offensive coordinator James Franklin has been designated as the eventual successor to Head Football Coach Ralph Friegen, and no one is more baffled than I am. Look, I am no huge fan of the mediocrity of Maryland football and the perennial underachievement of the last few years, but I can understand allowing Friegen to keep his job. However, the designation of a successor not only guarantees that Friegen will have the head job for a long while, but also puts in place a successor in Franklin who, while innovative, as not done enough with his offensive pieces to be considered a mastermind of anything. I will repeat myself once again the point I have made several times before on this blog: a coach-in-waiting does far more harm than good. If Franklin’s offenses struggle over the next few years, what happens to his job security? If Friegen’s team struggles over the next few years, is he fired and replaced with his own designated successor? That seems ineffective if the goal is to change things up. The only person this is good for is Ralph Friegen, as it assures him that he will likely be able to keep his job for years to come and leave on his own terms.

It makes a bit more sense to have a coach in waiting when you are a championship-winning coach with a long history of success and a hopeful future to look forward to, as in Texas or Florida State. It even makes sense when an aging coach close to retirement and beloved by his fans wants to designate a pupil of his as head coach, as at Purdue or in the NFL with Mike Holmgren and Jim Mora Jr. But it doesn’t make sense at Maryland, and it will very likely come back to bite them.

Avoid the Pro Bowl
I love the idea of all star games. You get the most talented players and put them on the same team, in theory leading to watching the best football. However, as any loyal fan can tell you, the best football doesn’t always come when the most talented teams play- it is when players are fighting because their season (or bragging rights) is on the line. The Pro Bowl is simply disheartening to watch, particularly if you are a Ravens fan. Sure, the coaching staff will be there, but it won’t be Ravens football- no blitzing, no hard hits, no tough football of any kind. I don’t blame the players, they have had a long grueling season and the last thing they want is to suffer another injury. I will let them bask in their glory and perhaps take a peek at some amusing skills challenges (they are so lighthearted that it makes it a lot of fun to watch), but aside from that I will take my Law & Order reruns over half-played football.

Getting out of the Kiddie Pool
Okay, as a recent Michigan grad who (technically) went to school with Michael Phelps and a Towson native who grew up in the same town, I have heard my share of stories about Phelps and aside from the ones on NBC Olympic coverage, they haven’t been particularly positive. I will reserve judgment on him as a person as I don’t personally know him, but this current story is being blown way out of proportion. He is not a kid who is known for his smart decisions or abstaining from alcohol, so I am not surprised that he would take a hit from a bong some time or another. Nowadays, everyone has a camera phone and invariably someone will see every misstep this kid makes. Up until now Phelps has gotten the kid gloves treatment from the media and now he has to answer for some things he has done. However, this is a tiny story and it is hypocritical of the media to suddenly chastise him after coddling him for the last 5 years.

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