Leland Stein III

Archive for November, 2011|Monthly archive page

Penn State sex abuse: Wrong on so many levels

In sports column on November 16, 2011 at 8:52 pm

By Leland Stein III

I wrote in a 2009 Michigan chronicle article that the “worlds of sports and politics are invariably intertwined in a multifaceted, complex and convoluted mixed.”

I acknowledge that on one hand, sport is entertainment, and an escape from the doldrums that permeate peoples’ everyday existence; yet on the other hand, sports entertainment presents itself as a much too serious endeavor for too many. Politics, sports and privilege unquestionably are a vehicle that generates laws and govern our everyday movements through humanity.

My interjections were brought to the international forefront recently as the Penn State sex scandal was thrust into all our consciousness and sensibilities.

All of America’s phobias have been propelled onto the national stage. White privilege, hero worship, money generation, school pride, homosexuality, friendships, and cover ups.

As the facts present themselves . . . it is all wrong on so many levels!!!!

One of America’s great sports centers and universities has been brought to its knees after allegations that former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was arrested on 40 counts relating to sexual abuse of eight young boys over a 15-year period, including alleged incidents that occurred at Penn State.

A grand jury investigation reported that then-graduate assistant Mike McQueary told Paterno in 2002 that he had seen Sandusky abusing a 10-year-old boy in Penn State football’s shower facilities. According to the report, Paterno notified Athletic Director Tim Curley the next day about the incident.

I was sent the Grand Jury reports and the details of the case are morbid. Paterno in his so-called defense said McQueary informed him that “he had witnessed an incident in the shower,” but he at no time “related to me the very specific actions contained in the Grand Jury report.”

Okay Papa Joe, legally you are off the hook having done your minimum due diligence; however, the world was not buying it, as evident by you having more wins than any FBS coach, but got canned along with school President Graham Spanier, because sane minded people concluded that no one in the Penn State family did enough to stop, report or investigate the molestation of boys as young as 10 by former defensive coordinator Sandusky.

Now that some of the facts of the case reveal that Sandusky favored young, lean and athletic black boys . . . does that take this sordid case to another level? Could it be that poor underprivileged young black boys have no privileges or rights, when faced with the ruling gentry?

Being a father of two young men, a coach’s son and former athlete, I cannot understand how police, coaches and administrators blindly closed their collective eyes to one of the most disturbing tragedies in American sports lore.

I guess Paterno and his holier than thou privilege did not, could not throw his good friend under the bus. I guess Penn State as a university just could not, did not want the stain of the molestation actions put upon its academia. I guess that police and investigators could not, did not want to bring down the lordly Paterno, who had fashioned a record winning career.

Paterno has 24 bowl victories, 46 seasons as the head coach of Penn State, and a record 409 career victories at Penn State, but Paterno professed to see no evil or hear no evil.

Stepping into the closed coaching fraternity, but breaking ranks is former Oklahoma University and Dallas Cowboys coach Barry Switzer. He said members of the Penn State coaching staff had to be aware of former defensive coordinator Sandusky’s alleged behavior.

“Having been in this profession a long time and knowing how close coaching staffs are,” Switzer exclaimed, “I knew that this was a secret that was kept secret. Everyone on that staff had to have known. You think that a 13-year assistant … hasn’t told someone else? His wife? His father? People knew. The community knew.”

I say there are so many more people culpable than just Paterno. Privilege and hero worship has been brought to its knees. All of it is so wrong on so many levels!!

Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com or Twitter @LelandSteinIII

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Frazier vs. Ali: America’s greatest boxing trilogy

In sports column on November 16, 2011 at 8:46 pm

By Leland Stein III

If one was to peruse the dictionary for the noun pugilist, Smokin’ Joe Frazier’s picture probably, and should be, firmly affixed next to that definition.

There have been bigger (George Foreman), stronger (Jack Johnson), faster (Rocky Marciano), smoother (Muhammad Ali) and prettier (Ali) heavyweight pugilist, but the adjective “warrior” is all one needs to say about the type of fighter Frazier was.

Born in Beaufort, S.C., Frazier recently transitioned after a brief battle with liver cancer at the age of 67. In his death we have all been reminded of the total man he was, and, ironically after living in the giant shadow of Ali, he finally had the world boxing stage to himself.

Frazier, like Ali (1960), won a boxing gold medal representing the United States. Frazier corralled his medal in the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo becoming the only American fighter to win gold in those Games.

After turning pro in 1965, Frazier quickly became known for his punching power and stamina, stopping his first 11 opponents. Within three years he was fighting world-class opposition and, in 1970, beat Jimmy Ellis to win the heavyweight title that he would hold for more than two years.

“Joe Frazier should be remembered as one of the greatest fighters of all time and a real man,” promoter Bob Arum told reporters. “He’s a guy that stood up for himself. He didn’t compromise and always gave 100 percent in the ring. There was never a fight in the ring where Joe didn’t give 100 percent.”

I agree with Arum completely, but I did not always feel that way. I admit I was a victim of the Ali mystic. I just wanted Ali to win every fight he fought, and, unfortunately for Frazier, but historic for boxing, the two came along in the same era.

Possessing the gift of gab and having the gall and audacity to challenge the status quo, while changing and revolutionizing his given name of Cassius Clay, especially during the turbulent 60’s and 70’s, made Ali bigger than sports.

Frazier, ever the pugilist, labored on the only way he knew how – straight ahead with dogged determination. No matter that he became cast as an anti-hero, an establishment symbol at a time when many Americans, including Ali, were in protest over the Vietnam War.

As I grew and learned in the sporting community, I revised my attitude of Frazier. I did not have to dislike one to like the other. After getting into the national boxing circuit as a writer I had the pleasure to encounter Smokin’ Joe one-on-one in a number of situations, and, I found him engaging and enlightening.

At too many world boxing championship fights to recall, it was my joy to converse with Frazier and listen to a true pugilist.

One of the contradictions that are ever present in the media is the giant hatred Frazier had for Ali. Sure it had some merit. Anytime two “Warriors” like Frazier and Ali had to try with all their heart to knock the other out, it was hard to maintain a friendship.

The fact of the matter is the two giants of boxing engaged each other three times. The first was the Fight of the Century at Madison Square Garden in 1971 where Frazier won a unanimous decision – giving Ali his first loss.

Ali would narrowly win their next two fights – the third the brutal and legendary “Thrilla in Manila” – and receive the adoration of a public that came to appreciate the courage he showed by standing on his principles.

Ali now mostly silenced by Parkinson’s disease, making him even more of a sympathetic figure, while Frazier silently struggled with his own financial and health issues, and all the while harboring a feeling Ali wronged him.

Frazier’s professed a dislike of Ali, who taunted him ruthlessly and callously. I was at the ESPY Awards in Los Angeles where they appeared arm-in-arm. Later Frazier told me: “I don’t have the burning hate anymore. With the little time we have left, I’d like to live it clean and live it fine.”

Conversely Ali told me in an interview, that all he did before the Frazier fights was learned from wrestling and meant only to galvanize interest in the fights, especially since he was the one white America hated. He also noted that Frazier’s refusal to call him Ali fueled their discord. No matter, Frazier vs. Ali produced the greatest trilogy in boxing history.

“I will always remember Joe with respect and admiration,” Ali said in a statement. “In the end we both fought for the same things: Life, family, country and respect. Our paths to get there may have been different, but the journey took us to the same place.”

Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com or Twitter @LelandSteinIII

Martin Mayhew’s the linchpin behind Lions rise

In sports column, Uncategorized on November 11, 2011 at 8:48 pm

Lions GM making all the right moves

By Leland Stein III
 
COMMENTARY
 
ALLEN PARK, Mich. – Get ready this Monday night as our Detroit Lions will be playing their first meaningful nationally televised contest in too many years to recount. In comes the Monsters of the Midway (Chicago Bears) to try and do what Tampa Bay, Kansas City, Minnesota and Dallas could not – beat the Motor City Cats.
 
How did the inept Lions get to the point where they are in the national conversation about NFL dream teams? How do we understand what is happening? Is it real?
 
No matter the cause or situation, the 4-0 Lions are set to put their effort on national display this Monday and it should answer a lot of questions about where these Lions really stand in the NFL hierarchy.
 
No matter the Lions outcome versus the Bears, they are moving in the right direction. This 2011 team is for real and the linchpin behind their elevation is General Manager Martin Mayhew. Sure head coach Jim Schwartz is the organizer of the Lions’ on the field dreams, but Mayhew is the architect of the overall team’s collective.
 
Selected by the Buffalo Bills in the tenth round (262nd overall) of the 1988 NFL Draft the cornerback out of Florida State University played in eight NFL seasons from 1989-1996 and started in Super Bowl XXVI for the Washington Redskins.
 
What makes Mayhew different than ex-Lions President and General Manager Matt Millen is his very real scholarship concerning NFL talent and his organization skills.
 
Also, after retiring from the NFL, Mayhew attended Georgetown University Law School. He graduated in 2000 with a J.D. degree. Millen brought Mayhew into the Lions organization as the Senior Vice President, but when Millen in 2008 was released, he became the first African-American General Manager of the Lions.
 
Mayhew’s skin color has long since been a no-brainer as he has made all the right moves that are moving the Lions’ franchise into respectability in the NFL wars. Mayhew’s drafting, his acquisitions and free agents have all elevated the future direction of the Lions.
When Detroit Lions Owner and Chairman William Clay Ford announced the promotion of Tom Lewand to Team President and Mayhew to General Manager, I said way to go.mNot only was I confident in the future direction that Mayhew was going to lead the Lions, so was all in the Lions administration.
 
“Martin is a great friend,” Lewand exclaimed. “He has been exemplary for this organization since the day he walked into the door. I consider it a pleasure to work with him. I always knew he would be a great GM. I’m not surprised that this thing is moving in a positive direction. This is what I expected three years ago when we started this process.”
 
Said Lions Senior Vice President of Communications Bill Keenist: “You will not find person with more character and integrity than Martin. Everything he has done is not surprising. He’s a great judge of talent and he knows how to put a team together.”
 
Said Lions coach Jim Schwartz: “The big thing is we do not stand alone, because he is very good at getting a collective voice. It’s not about just getting good players, but Martin has set an environment where the scouts, coaches and administration all have a voice in the final decisions.
 
“From the beginning after he interviewed me in the selection process I knew there was something special between us. I had great confidence that we could all be on the same page and get pieces in here that would help move this franchise forward.”
 
So far the 5-2 Lions have put the Matt Millen era in the rear view mirror and Mayhew is pushing all the right buttons. 
 
“I feel great about the process,” Mayhew exclaimed. “I can’t say enough about the great job that our coaches and our scouts have done in this process. As I’ve said before, we believe the best thing to do is to take the best player available (in the draft), because we feel through free agency we can fill holes with a better quality players.”
 
Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com or Twitter @LelandSteinIII