Crab cakes and football

Hold your criticism Big Ten fans. This week when Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany announced the addition of Rutgers and Maryland to the conference, there was an immediate backlash across the Twitter universe.

The general sentiment being that while conferences such as the SEC are adding championship caliber teams like Texas A&M to their conference roster, the Big Ten doesn’t seem to be adding much with their recent additions.

The fact is, most Big Ten fans were hoping for a Notre Dame-like team, if any, was to be added to the conference.

There is no question that the Big Ten Conference is feeling a pinch as the top tier teams are defecting for the SEC. Delany is doing everything he can to avoid falling into the same traps that the Big East Conference did.

That means strategically selecting teams to bolster the conference roster and not just grabbing defectors on the cheap, as the Big East has done.

Delany is very attuned to the conference building process. After having seen the Big East crumble, despite having numerous championship level basketball teams and great mid-level talent across the conference, it wasn’t enough.

To be a competitive college conference in the future, you must have strong football teams with at least two powerhouse teams, like Southern Cal and Oregon or Alabama and Louisiana State.

Undoubtedly, the Big Ten will always hang its collective hat on the University of Michigan, one of the most profitable athletic programs in the country.

Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan State also contribute a lot to the conference but more is needed if the conference wants to continue to compete for titles and media dollars.

Conference commissioner Delany is not going to admit that the major contributing factor to adding Rutgers is the East Coast media shares. Obviously, football and basketball championships aren’t exactly selling points for Rutgers.

College fans do not want to hear about media shares when it comes to conference expansion. In fact, it is probably the worst part of college sports, the inevitable eclipse of sport and business.

That said, I believe the Big Ten may have acquired the next gem of college sports, in Maryland.

Say what? Maryland? Yes. Maryland.

Maryland developed NCAA championship credibility in basketball under coach Gary Williams and as the Wedding Crashers movie-line goes, “Crab cakes and football. That’s what Maryland does.”

Over the next decade, I believe that we will be talking about Maryland football as a perennial power.

How? Think Oregon. Oregon since the mid 1990’s has become a true football powerhouse in addition to five Pac 8/10/12 Conference titles in basketball.

Ever since Oregon alumnus and Nike founder, Phil Knight, established Nike as the premier sports brand and began to funnel millions of dollars into Oregon athletics with the Knight Labs, Oregon has been a recruiters dream.

Between the state-of-the-art facilities and Nike’s brand identity, Oregon has been able to recruit blue chip talent that has translated into record success.

When I see Maryland, I see a budding Oregon. Maryland is the alma mater of Under Armour founder, Kevin Plank.

According to Forbes as of August 2012, Under Armour is a $10 billion corporation. They actually have gained on Nike in the North American market over the past four years.

Now, comparatively, Nike is a $50 billion corporation. However, Nike earns two-thirds of its revenue overseas, whereas Under Armour earns 95-percent of its revenue in the United States and Canada.

This might not matter to sports fans, but to those in the know, this is a huge deal. Market analysts at Market Watch, are predicting that if Under Armour can increase its global market-share by just 15-percent, you could be looking at an honest competition for Nike.

For the Big Ten, this means big games and big money. There is no secret that Nike and Oregon capitalize on the brand’s recognition when it comes to recruiting.

Under Armour is rapidly becoming the biggest equipment brand in college athletics and professional football. Under Armour has spent millions of dollars establishing athletic camps around North America, including hosting the premier high school football preseason camps.

Under Armour founder Kevin Plank currently sits on the Board of Trustees at the University of Maryland and has already committed millions of dollars to their business and athletic funds.

Between the improved facilities and brand identity, Under Armour is setting Maryland up for similar success to that of Oregon.

And, if things play out the way many market analysts predict, I think the future of the Big Ten Conference rests on Michigan and Maryland.

Dear America

Dear America,

I shall preface this piece by acknowledging that I hold no political affiliation. However, as a citizen of these United States, I do hold an opinion.

When I look at the current political sphere I cannot help but feel ashamed and concerned.

For the past few weeks since President Obama was re-elected, I have read countless stories from both the left and the right labeling President Obama everything from a savior to a socialist.

With the majority of the nation’s attention set on the political system and its cast of characters, it occurred to me that a greater problem exists.

The problems we all face together are more of a result of our own undoing than they are of past administrations. After all, as Americans, we must recognize that we are not the product of a failed government, but rather, our failed government is a product of us.

We support these politicians. We trust in these politicians. And, we promote their continued failure each and every time we re-elect these politicians. Now, this is not to say all politicians are failures, which would be grossly inaccurate. But, like in anything else, party or team related, I judge success by the final product and the final product has to this point been unsatisfactory.

What the average citizen doesn’t understand is that whether you are a democrat or a republican, in order to succeed in effective government, you must work together and thus, succeed together.

There is no individual victory. Our presidents, past and present, may have had great ideologies, great knowledge and great wisdom. But, all of that would have gone for not if they had not possessed great leadership.

Imagine for a moment the political process when the runner up in a presidential election became vice president.

In our current political environment, that would be an abject disaster and that is how I know that the problems lie within our nation, not our government.

In broad terms, our nation lacks the raw fortitude to see the job done, to work without prejudice and a self-serving agenda, the way our founding fathers, our grandfathers and our fathers did.

Before I sat down to write this piece, I thumbed through some of my old history books. I clicked through online news archives. I even asked a Korean War vet, Anthony Vince, whom I met on the train this week.

“Back then, they put you over there, and you fought for your life and the guys you were with. It’s as simple as that,” Vince said.

“You weren’t worried about what they were thinking at home; you were worried about when your next meal was coming and freezing your ass off.”

What Mr. Vince was getting at was the feeling of desperation. And, not just desperation, but how you handled it when you were faced with it.

Today, there seems to be this feeling of entitlement and not the sort of entitlement that the Bill of Rights ensures. Rather, a self-serving, Uncle Sam said so, form of entitlement.

Everybody seems to think that because we are America, that we no longer have to get our hands bloody. Well, that just isn’t so. You make your own future, if you want to have the same opportunities as others; you have to fight for it. You have to earn it.

Consult a history book and you will see that in the face of tyranny our founding fathers fought and died for the very freedom that we have today. They had the toughness and the grit to see the job done.

During the civil war, those enslaved African Americans had the fortitude and the conviction to free themselves from their owners. It did not come easy and it surely wasn’t an overnight victory. They fought and died for their freedom and they forever changed humanity because of their strength.

Read newspaper clippings from the real great depression. You’ll see stories of men working 80 hours per week, for no wages, just to give their families a chance. They had no guarantees, no entitlement.

These men did not just wait for President Roosevelt to bail them out. While it is certain that government action was forthcoming and necessary for the longevity of the nation, what mattered to these people was their immediate survival and that of their families.

Strangers worked together. They lived in hand-built huts in fields outside of nearby cities, sometimes four families to a hut.

The point is, they relied on their inner-strength and earned their every minute of life.

During Title 9, women fought because they were not being given equal treatment. Not because they thought it was a trendy cause. They didn’t just create a Facebook page about voting, they had to endure exceptional hardship before finally breaking through the barriers.

Look then at the men who fought and died in the Vietnam conflict. These men had to fight in a war that was universally recognized as unjust. Yet, they were there, fighting beside their fellow man. Fighting for their lives, for the lives of the strangers fighting just beside them.

Now, I come back to present time and I look at the headlines and all I see is whining and words with no action.

I see a society so wrapped up in being politically correct and passive aggressive that I don’t think the typical citizen even comprehends what they individually stand for any longer.

It seems as though Americans today are fixated on discovering reasons to become offended, rather than changing what it is that they find so offensive.

Recent generations of Americans simply hunt for excuses not to get dirty. I suppose it is just far easier to antagonize and find reasons to quit than it is to forge your own path.

Americans, if you want to see changes to your situation, to your country, you must fight and earn them like those who came before you did.

You cannot focus your time celebrating your party’s victory. Because, hey, it wasn’t a victory, it was an elected position, an elected duty to serve the betterment of these United States.

Likewise, those of you ranting against our president, complaining of taxation and flaunting irrational pontifications of Marxism and other ridiculous inaccuracies, you too are missing the message.

It isn’t them versus us; it’s us versus us.

The sooner we as a nation overcome our selfish sense of entitlement and recognize that we are responsible for our own actions, the sooner we as a nation can rebuild our once glorious America.

Sincerely,

Your Editor

Tip of the week

Golf is a difficult enough game without adding mental pressure to the mix. As former Head Professional of the Village Links of Glen Ellyn, Ed Posh, told me, “I don’t know what a trap is. I looked it up and nowhere in the USGA rules guide is there any mention of such-a-thing. I’ve heard of bunkers, but traps are in a maze.”

When you convince yourself that your wayward shot is buried in a trap, there is no way you will get out and save the par. You have to stop thinking of obstacles on the course as worse than they are. Remember, you are just in the bunker, as if you were in the rough. If you think of it strategically, you can play it strategically.

According to Village Links Assistant Head Golf Professional, Michael Campbell, “you have to focus on the simple things. With a bunker shot, I focus on maintaing my club-head speed as I drive the [club] face through the ball.”

Photo by Scott Kitun

Famous obituaries, Ernie Pyle

Ernie Pyle, in Normandy March 18, 1944. Photo courtesy of the Ernie Pyle Museum.

From the roadways of America to the battlefronts of Normandy and the Pacific Islands, Ernie Pyle articulated the human experience with an unparalleled sense of sympathy.

Famed daily news columnist and popular war correspondent, Ernie Pyle, known for his intimate depiction of soldiers on the frontline was killed Tuesday on Shima Island, west of Okinawa.

Lt. Col. Joseph B. Coolidge said, “I was so impressed with Pyle’s coolness, calmness and his deep interest in enlisted men. They have lost their best friend.”

Born Earnest Taylor Pyle to parents William and Maria Pyle on a farm near Dana, Indiana August 3, 1900.

Pyle attended Indiana University, was a member of the fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon and was the editor of the student newspaper. A semester shy of graduating from the university, Pyle took a job at a paper near LaPort, Indiana.

However, just three months later, Pyle moved to Washington D.C. and took a job as a reporter with a new tabloid called, The Washington Daily News, which he eventually became the managing editor of.

While in Washington, Pyle met his wife whom he married in 1925, Geraldine “Jerry” Siebolds. After taking some time away from the Daily News to travel the American roadways with his wife in 1926, Pyle returned to the Daily News and became the first Aviation columnist in America.

Amelia Earhart once said, “Any aviator who doesn’t know Pyle is a nobody.”

When noted syndicated columnist, Heywood Broun was on vacation, Pyle had the opportunity to write eleven columns that would earn the attention of Scripps-Howard editor-in-chief G.B. Parker.

Parker said Pyle’s writing had “a Mark Twain quality that knocked my eye out”. In 1935, Pyle began writing a national column for the Scripps-Howard Alliance Group.

For seven years Pyle traveled the countryside in his car writing columns as a rove journalist.

In 1942, following America’s entry into the war, Pyle became a war correspondent and applied his folksy style of writing to provide a unique perspective of the common solider.

Pyle’s supporters were not exclusive to the common man either, as President Truman and Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt were dedicated followers of his writings.

Mrs. Roosevelt promoted Pyle in her column by saying, “I have read everything he (Pyle) has sent from overseas.”

It was his ability to capture the true experience of war in columns such as, “The Death of Captain Waskow” that earned him a Pulitzer Prize in 1944.

Pyle was not satisfied with being just a war correspondent; he used his writing to champion better pay and conditions for the soldiers. In 1944, Pyle wrote a column urging that soldiers in combat should receive “fight pay” similar to the airmen who were receiving “flight pay” for when they actually saw action. As a result of his work, Congress passed “The Ernie Pyle Bill”, which provided $10 per month extra pay for combat infantrymen.

In late 1944, Pyle decided to cover the military activity in the Pacific Islands. This was a difficult time for him as a correspondent because, according to Pyle, his heart was with the infantrymen in Europe.

Pyle was traveling about one mile forward of his command post with three other men, including Lt. Col. Coolidge, commanding officer of the 305th Infantry Regiment, when enemy fire opened up on their vehicle.

According to Lt. Col. Coolidge’s account, the men escaped by jumping into a ditch where during a pause in the fire, Pyle raised his head above the ditch and was killed instantly by Japanese machine-gun.

Ernie Pyle will be laid to rest on the Island of Shima.

Earnest “Ernie” Pyle is survived by his father, William C. Pyle of Dana, IN; His Wife Geraldine “Jerry” Pyle of Albuquerque, NM; his aunt Mary Bales of Dana, IN.