Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Big Match: Studio Timeline (Part 1)

For many years The Big Match served up football highlights on a weekly basis for ITV viewers in London and the south east of England. Starting in 1968, it was presented by Brian Moore - ITV's main football commentator right through to the early 1990's - ably assisted at first by Jimmy Hill and latterly by Jim Rosenthal.

Though ITV's coverage (and Moore himself) have rightly received much acclaim down the years, we thought it was time the studio sets were put under the microscope - because nothing says nostalgia more than a room painted in various shades of brown. Here's Part 1 and we pick up the action at the start of the 1968/69 season...

August 1969

1970's school staff room
Colour scheme:
A pleasing combo of blue and dark brown, divided by the warm yellow of an oak panel band.
Brian's desk:
Non-existent from what we can tell, but there was at least the pleasing sight of a 'Big Match' logo on the wall behind Moore using the standard ITV Sport font of the time. If you think it looks 'futuristic', remember that this was the year of the Moon landing and even a programme about football was fair game for its usage.
Guest area:
Two seats, one either side of an occasional table for glasses of water, etc. Backdrop was a funky looking wall featuring a repeating raised pattern of 'The Big Match.' Occasionally a sofa was brought out for pre-recorded inserts, plonked in front of a wall showing a nicely drawn montage of football players in action. Nice.
A large vertical panel to one side of Moore's desk displaying a similarly large still photo with a connection to the highlights package that followed. The camera would zoom in over Moore's shoulder and the image would cross-fade into Arsenal v Chelsea or some such.

August 1969 onwards: space-age fonts, groovy backdrops and big pictures. 

January 1970

Tomorrow's World meets Match of the Day.
Colour scheme:
Pale cyan throughout with a dash of polished steel for flashness. Also a very nice raised abstract pattern throughout much of the studio surroundings.
Brian's desk:
A neat little cyan-coloured unit with clear plastic frontage trimmed with metallic strips... or grey-coloured plastic, we're not sure which. Behind the desk, a massive metallic Glam Rock-style logo which is bold, if not brassy.
Guest area:
Two modest seats, one either side of a simple occasional table on which was placed two glasses of water and, often, an empty whisky decanter.
None, other than that enormous unavoidable Glam Rock signage.

January 1970 onwards: Glam rock, textured walls and empty decanters.

January 1971

Mint choc chip.
Colour scheme:
Green wall panels alternating with textured brown and a little bit of cafe latte thrown in for good measure. Still using a chrome-effect logo, but less 'in your face' than the last one.
Brian's desk:
Surely the most grandiose desk Brian Moore's ever sat behind. The shape of a giant letter C, it had an oak-effect top surround with green plastic ITV Sport logos stuck on at regular intervals to face the camera. The base had that textured brown finish with a metallic 'Big Match' logo on the front. But that's not all: this desk sat in front of a revolving rear screen that rolled back to reveal a chroma-key window showing the next match coming up. Witness thus...

The big reveal (l-r): Watch as the chroma-key window
is revealed from the right.
Guest area:
Two simple but relatively modern chairs, a circular wooden table, glasses, ashtray, etc.
Look no further than that moving rear screen. If proof were needed that The Big Match now had a bigger production budget, this was it.

January 1971 onwards: Brian's giant desk of doom, simple
chairs and lots of brown.

August 1972

Doctor's waiting room.
Colour scheme:
A slightly drab two- or even three-tone green ensemble. Chrome pillars divided up the background at different points with a chrome horizontal band dividing the upper and lower parts of the green wallpaper (if wallpaper it be). Printed silhouettes of players in action occasionally appeared behind Jimmy Hill or anyone else in the guest area (see below).
Brian's desk:
Solid, minimalist, rounded corners and coloured using exactly the same palette as its surroundings. Behind Brian's desk were two panels, one displaying the retained metal 'Big Match' lettering, the other showing the ITV Sport logo. Clever camerawork allowed only one to be shown over Moore's shoulder if required.
Guest area:
A comfortable seat or two in purple with a simple but modern occasional table between them.
None whatsoever.

August 1972 onwards: Yet more chrome, wall-to-wall green and
shiny pillars.

August 1973

Colour scheme:
Mainly brown due to the cork-effect wall covering used extensively. Elsewhere, a red, white and navy blue combo was used for the ITV/Big Match insignia seen in front of and behind...
Brian's desk:
Smaller than the 1972 vintage, but smarter and more workmanlike. The programme title was displayed proudly in red with navy blue trim in front of the desk and for variation was also displayed on a sign behind Moore on the wall. Pointless, yet somehow rather pleasing too.

August 1973 onwards: Cork, Clough and big bold signage.

Guest area:
A second similarly-branded desk was provided for guests to sit behind, although the two seats were often filled by Brian Clough and Malcolm Allison (hastily drafted in to fill the gap created when Jimmy Hill hot-footed it to the BBC).

August 1974

Coffee and cream.
Colour scheme:
A varied range of brown tones and white, broken up with occasional stripes and lines. A warmer golden brown was often seen on some of the wall panels, but essentially this was an unadulterated brown love-in.
Brian's desk:
A substantial affair with white Greek-style pillars in each corner and a solid slab of wood on top. Behind the desk on the wall above Moore's head was a sign saying TheBigMatchTheBigMatch', reminiscent of the type used the previous season. So good they named it twice, you might say.

August 1974 onwards: Stripes, a multitude of brown and
repetitive wording.
Guest area:
Last season's guest desk had been taken away (probably now sitting in Nigel Clough's garage). Instead, we now had the altogether more informal arrangement of two brown leather swivel chairs for guests to sit on (as amply shown by Rodney Marsh and Terry Venables on the Christmas 1974 show).
A reveal! Yes, if you thought The Generation Game had the copyright on sliding doors, think again. Over Brian's shoulder, a screen painted with a generic football action scene would open up to reveal a chroma-key portal looking out onto Loftus Road or some other footballing mecca in the capital (see below).

 Can you tell what it is yet? (l-r): The screens pull back to
reveal a shot of the Tottenham badge at White Hart Lane.

Coming up in Part 2:
Peter Taylor distracts you from a Norwich-inspired background, Elton John's in a see of yellow and Brian Moore gets the blues...

Friday, April 27, 2012

Bernard Pierce to Ravens!

Final BE draft standings:
(2012 schools only)
Cincinnati 4
*Temple 3
UConn 1
Rutgers 1
Syracuse 1
Pitt 0
Louisville 0
*Pierce (Ravens), Rodriguez (Bears) and Whitehead (Lions) help Owls tie single-season record for most players drafted (1987). Derek Dennis (Carolina), Pat Boyle (Lions), Morkeith Brown (Bucs), Stephen Johnson (Saints), Rod Streater (Oakland), Kevin Kroboth (Eagles), Adrian Robinson (Steelers) and Wayne Tribue (Broncos) sign FA contracts.
As far as I'm concerned, the Ravens got the steal of the draft in the third round when they selected Bernard Pierce.
Baltimore made a trade to move up seven spots to get Pierce.
Pierce was the Pennsylvania state champion in the 100-meter dash as a high school kid four years ago and he runs even faster with the football in his hands.
He's got great vision, a sick burst to the outside, terrific moves in the open field and has the ability to punish tacklers and fall forward for an extra five yards at the end of every play. He's a  much better receiver than people give him credit for (remember, he had Chester Stewart throwing him the ball for much of his three years at Temple). Largely because of Pierce, the Owls ran an offense that eschewed the pass for a power running game.
Ravens play Eagles in game two.
If Pierce starts, I'm not betting on the Eagles that day.

'All The Way' (England Football Team), 1988

Officially the second worst England Football Team song ever*, this was released as a rallying call for Euro '88.

When the First Round of said tournament was over, England's record in Group B read 'Played 3, Lost 3.'  Whoever had the bright idea of calling it 'All the Way' must have had a very oblique sense of humour indeed...

(* The song peaked at number 64 in the UK charts, just two places better than 'We've Got The Whole World At Our Feet', released for Mexico '86.)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Wait nearly over for several Owls

Sports Illustrated's rankings of the Temple players.

Bonecrusher (left) and Wayne
From the moment several seniors walked off the field for the final time after Temple's win in the New Mexico Bowl, the waiting began.
Waiting. Working out. Waiting some more, working out some more.
Many of the seniors were hopeful of a pro career.
"I need only one team to love me," was the way wide receiver Rod Streater put it.
A lot of the Owls could have said the same thing. The draft begins for everyone on Thursday night (7:30 p.m.), but our Owls will probably go on Friday and Saturday.
I think the team that gets Streater is getting a steal, probably as a free agent.
Look at it this way: Streater was a state high jump champion in New Jersey, runs fairly well, has good hands, goes over the middle fearlessly and can win any fade pass jump ball with a DB.
If he was as fast as, say, Travis Shelton, was (4.29, 40), he'd probably be a first-round pick. He doesn't have burning speed, but he can get separation.
I don't see a whole lot of difference in ability between the Eagles' Riley Cooper and Streater.
If Riley Cooper can play in the league, so can Streats.
Temple had its pro day on March 16 and head coach Steve Addazio said "I wouldn't be surprised if three-quarters of them make a (NFL) camp."
Sports Illustrated rated the Owls (above graphic). I don't think SI saw very many Temple games, let's put it that way.
If you don't have the NFL network, go to for live streaming.

If I had to take a guess, Bernard Pierce will go near the end of the third round and Evan Rodriguez will go in the fifth. Derek "Bonecrusher" Dennis will go  in the sixth and Adrian Robinson has a chance to go in the seventh round.
Robinson will finally be playing the position (OLB) I told his dad Al Golden should have had him from the jump. Temple, though, had a need for a pass rusher and Robinson fit the bill. He was too valuable for the new staff to move out but he's got a motor like nobody's business and that should serve him well in any pro camp. Rodriguez had an excellent combine and played well in all-star games. I think in a system like New England runs (but not necessarily New England), Erod's ability to catch the ball and break tackles after the catch make him a particularly effective player.
I think Wayne Tribue, Kevin Kroboth, Tahir Whitehead, Streater, Kee-Ayre Griffin and even Joey Jones have a chance to land free-agent contracts. Bonecrusher and Wayne have been inseparable for four years and wouldn't it be great for them to end up in the same camp?
They might have to wait a little longer than Pierce or Rodriguez, but their wait is nearly over.
In the league where they pay for play, most of them will get paid at least for a little while.
How well they play after that will determine their long-term futures.

Daz was right about Bernard Pierce

  Addazio's advice comes from the heart and a lifetime in football.

In the book section at the Roslyn Genuardi's they have a whole row of magazines dedicated to the NFL draft. I picked up the thickest one and quickly paged through to the list of top running backs.
In this particular one, Bernard Pierce wasn't listed in the top 15.
They had such luminaries as San Diego State's Ronnie Hillman and Virginia Tech's David Wilson listed ahead of him. I know Bernard Pierce is better than those guys. You know Bernard Pierce is better than those guys, but that's Bernard Pierce's problem and why he won't be selected on the first night of the NFL draft Thursday night.
Nobody else does.
The lesson in this is for future Temple players to listen to Addazio and not some agent whispering dollar signs in his ear
At least not the people who should matter, NFL executives.
I put the magazine down and realized that Steve Addazio was right all along.
Bernard Pierce should have stayed at Temple another year.
Had he done so, everybody would have known about him.
Heck, with another Bernard Pierce year like the one he had in 2011, he would have probably been one of the top one or two running backs coming out of the NFL draft in 2012, coming out of a BCS conference and perhaps leading Temple to a marquee bowl win.
The lesson in this is for future Temple players to listen to Addazio and not some agent whispering dollar signs in his ear.
Sweet nothings, as far as Addazio is concerned.
"I've been at this a long time," Addazio said. "I counseled one of of the Pounceys at Florida to go pro, the other guy I didn't feel it was right. It turned out good for both guys. I don't have an agenda. I deal in the facts.
"My belief is that if you are not a first-round pick, you should stay, get your degree and improve as a player."
Addazio turned out to be right about the Pounceys and he will turn out to be right about Pierce.
Hopefully, Pierce stays healthy because nothing is guaranteed when he gets drafted in the third round or lower later on this week. I ran into Bernard on Cherry and White Day and asked him if leaving Temple was a hard decision.
"Not really, because we have a new offensive line," Bernard said.
I asked him about the rumors that the Eagles would pick him because LeSean McCoy is not yet signed.
"I heard that, too," Bernard said. "That would be great, too. I would welcome the opportunity to come in and compete."
I shook Bernard's hand and wished him well, but I knew things could have been better for him had he stayed one more year at Temple.
"We won't miss a beat on our offensive line," Addazio said.
If Addazio is right again, and I believe he will be, Bernard cost himself a couple of rounds and some guaranteed money with his decision.
Now nothing is guaranteed but, if I was a betting man, Bernard Pierce will be a great pro. It would have been a better life story, though, had he not passed on the opportunity to do it as a No. 1 pick coming off a spectacular senior year.
Ronnie Hillman and David Wilson?
You can have them.

 Tomorrow: The other Temple guys in the NFL draft

Monday, April 23, 2012

A final word on the MAC: Thanks

Terry Bowden has a tough selling job ahead at Akron.

Television sets in a sports department are little more than background noise, but around 8 p.m. every evening someone invariably gets up and starts to flip the sports channels.
Such was the case on a fall weeknight night about 15 years ago at The Philadelphia Inquirer, long before Temple became involved with the MAC.
One of my colleagues stopped on a MAC football game and I said:
"That's it's. MAC football. Gotta love it."
Even famed pitchman Andrew Sullivan doesn't envy
the selling job Terry Bowden has ahead of him at Akron.

Fortunately, I had a fellow MAC football football fan in the room and we pursuaded the house to have MAC football on over every other option.
Soon, the rest of the newsroom was hooked on MAC football and not much convincing was required after that.
I was a MAC football fan long before I worked at the Inky, long before Temple was in the conference and remained a MAC fan throughout Temple's tenure and probably will follow the conference's games more closely than any other not named the Big East going forward.
I'll take the MAC over the SEC, Big 10 or PAC-12.
Not saying the MAC is better than any of those conferences, I just think their games are more entertaining to watch.
I just came to the conclusion the MAC was a bad fit for Temple.
Temple fans never warmed up to the new "rivalries"  like Buffalo and pined for old ones like Rutgers.
Temple is, institutionally and geographically at least, more like Rutgers or UConn than it is like Central or Eastern Michigan.
Nothing illustrates the struggle Temple would have faced had it continued in the MAC more than the enormous task that faces former Auburn coach Terry Bowden as the new Akron coach.
Good luck to him. He's got a brand new $61 million stadium that Al Golden envied and they can't come close to filling it. Unlike Temple, Bowden can't promise a recruit playing time in a BCS conference or a CHANCE to win a national championship.
Temple finally has a seat at the adult dinner table, while the MAC presses its adorable noses outside the window looking into the ornate room.
Without the MAC, though, Temple never gets that seat.
So my final word on the MAC is thanks.
I'll still be watching on nights when the BE isn't on TV.
As always.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Jimmy Hill’s Football Yearbook, 1976

Once again, we're delighted to bring you another guest post from Rob Langham of the awesome The Two Unfortunates. Here, Rob gives his take on Jimmy Hill’s Football Yearbook from 1976...

I admit it. I quite like Jimmy Hill.

Generally regarded as an indescribable buffoon, his reputation reached a nadir after his verbal jousts with Martin O’Neill on the BBC sofa in France 98. But, given the Ulsterman’s skill for careerism and his own reputation management, isn’t the enthusiastic puppy dog profile of the less calculating man the more likeable one?

For all the gaffs, Hill’s later appearances on Sky’s Sunday Supplement were the only tolerable thing about the show. His utterances may well have been preposterous but one always sensed he had the wider interest of the game at heart – far more so than Brian Woolnough and his venal cohorts.

This is evidenced by his pioneering role at the PFA and the work he carried out in scrapping the minimum wage and his key involvement in the best years of both Coventry City and Match of the Day. Hill cares.

It was the 70s... Brown was where it was at!
Which brings me to a publication I literally dug out my Dad’s attic – Jimmy Hill’s Football Yearbook, published by Purnell in 1976 and while officially retailing for the grand old price of £1.35, was actually purchased for 45p at Woolworth’s on Maidenhead High Street (the price sticker remains intact).

Although clearly intended for a younger audience, the book very much reflects Hill’s personality, containing as it does discussion of many of his own preoccupations – and seemingly written by the man himself without the benefit of ghost writing (the style is occasionally over eager and stilted).

A section headed Pounds and Pence is revealing and analyses the businesses players enter into in order to secure their financial wellbeing after their careers are over. Hill enthusiastically eulogises these forerunners,  of The Apprentice for instance: ‘Trevor Brooking, the West Ham schemer is an especially bright lad... and he’s used a stack of ‘O’ Levels to build up a plastic-bindings business in East London’ – although his description of Peter Storey as being ‘involved in the beer business’ is unfortunate given the ex-Arsenal man’s subsequent prosecution for running a brothel, importing pornographic videos and financing a scam to counterfeit gold coins.

Footballer doesn't open pub shocker!
Elsewhere, The Buying and Selling Game is remarkably prescient – a cautionary tale of clubs overspending while banking on competing in European competition which could have been lifted from one of this week’s newspapers – Hill bemoans that over a period of six years, 26 First Division clubs (how pleasingly those two words go together?) paid £15 million for 85 players valued at £100,000 or more apiece – although Hill is far too nice to put the boot in and name any specific failures (one suspects he’d be arguing the case for Andy Carroll today).

The slightly nutty ideas get an airing – Hill’s solution to the, at that time still unresolved problem of the professional foul is to institute a ‘second class penalty’ – a free shot from the edge of the 18-yard box for which specialist sharpshooters such as Peter Lorimer could be honed. Actually, maybe that isn’t that barmy...?

Kit - Class!
Colour pictures are dotted about including a mid-section featuring Tony Currie in a stylish Sheffield United away kit and the Home Championships are also featured. Players-wise, an analysis of Supermacs Malcolm MacDonald and Ted MacDougall stresses their ability to find the net despite meagre talents (check out the former’s five goal bunfight against Cyprus on youtube to see what Hill means), while Asa Hartford’s triumph over adversity after being diagnosed with a hole in his heart and being turned down with Leeds is an encouraging story in the light of the Fabrice Muamba incident. The news that Alex Stepney took a pay cut to move to Millwall from Tooting & Mitcham before eventually making his way to Old Trafford is also quite a nugget.

So it’s a less inconsequential run through that it might at first seem – especially for a teenager – and if there are occasional throwbacks – ‘when some European countries play teams from South America, problems can arise’ – Hill’s enthusiasm and occasional naïve faith in the game’s greatness shine through.

Getting a kick out of game-by-game predictions

Cap Poklemba kicks game-winning FG at West Virginia in 2001.
Listen to sports talk radio in Philadelphia and you'd think the NFL Eagles played a 365-game schedule.
Even with the Flyers involved in an exciting playoff series with the Penguins and the Phillies' offense more impotent than a North Korean rocket, I would say at least 33 percent of the airwaves were devoted to a game-by-game breakdown of the recently released Eagles' 2012 schedule.
Each caller would call out a game and give a "win" and a "loss" and come up with a figure.
I got out of that business a long time ago because there are too many variables involved.
When it comes to this season and Temple football, I'd like to think that the high end is 11-0 and the low end 8-3 but I simply don't know.
Five games nobody thought the Eagles would win with a backup QB, but they did.

If, say, Brandon McManus goes down in the first game, I could see 3-8 as well. Field position would be terrible and the Owls would not have a reliable field goal kicker.
This isn't like the NFL where you can get a good Canadian or Arena League kicker off the waiver wire. Toledo's Todd French comes to mind.
This is Temple where the only backups are ex-high school kickers or guys from the lunch room in the Student Activities Center.
Typically, there is a huge drop in talent between the first- and second-team kickers at Temple. The only time I can remember two good kickers on the Owls was when Cap Poklemba and Jared Davis were on the roster. Davis was the "Chester Stewart" of Temple kickers. Great in practice, terrible in games. Poklemba was the Adam DiMichele. OK in practice, great in games. Poklemba was an All-Big East kicker. As good as Poklemba was, McManus is better. Knock on wood, he will be the BE first-team punter and placekicker.
Wayne Hardin had success recruiting guys off Walt Bahr's soccer team at Temple like Don Bitterlich and Nick Mike-Mayer. But that was when Temple soccer was good.

What I don't buy is this specious argument that if Temple can't win the MAC, the Owls won't be able to compete in the Big East.
I completely reject that argument. Last year, Temple, Northern Illinois, Toledo and Ohio would have done very well in the Big East.
The MAC was an underrated conference. The Big East was overrated.
This won't be as difficult a transition as many think.

Nothing proved the "game-by-game" predictions more ridiculous than the Eagles' 2006 season. Back then, even going in with a healthy (and, at that time, rather productive) Donovan McNabb, most observers picked the Eagles to lose four out of a tough five-game stretch to end the season.
Then McNabb got hurt.
What happened?
Backup Jeff Garcia led the Eagles to five straight wins over good teams and the Eagles won the NFC East.
Go figure.
Or don't figure.

Evening Standard London 5-a-Sides, 1983

You don't see much indoor football on TV these days, and when you do, it's usually the Masters series in which one-time great players shake off their walking frames and career-threatening injuries to entertain a provincial crowd of a few hundred people.

Once upon a time, however, people in the Thames TV area could look forward to the annual treat of the Evening Standard London 5-a-Side tournament at Wembley Arena. Here, the other end of the football spectrum fell under the spotlight, namely those players trying to break into the first team at any number of clubs around the capital.

Here's a chance to see some of the action from the 1983 tournament featuring eventual winners Millwall. Keep your eye open for a future England team physio in goal for Arsenal, a legendary England striker in the making for The Lions and the scorer of the opening goal for The Gunners who, little did we know it, had a glittering future in club management ahead of him...

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

']['errorism ']['raining at the Linc

Most TU fans took it in good humor.
The gates to Lincoln Financial Field opened at 10 a.m. on Cherry and White Day.
I walked up to the entrance at 10:15 and finally got in at 10:45.
I've been going to Temple football games at the facility since it opened in 2003 and I don't remember everybody being "wanded" before, but everybody was.
There was only a little grumbling and most fans took it in good humor.
"If we're getting this kind of security for a Temple spring game, then the terrorists have won," was one comment.
Even the security people realized how ridiculous it looked and one of them said to me they were using Cherry and White for training purposes.
I didn't know if he was kidding or what, but he sounded serious.
No suspicious packages were found.
The only thing I carried in was a roster.
The only thing I carried out was a super T-Shirt, thanks to Temple promotions.
The front says "Return to the Big East" and the back lists the Temple football schedule.
When I go to LA Fitness tonight (where there are about 1,000 people in a space designed for 200), I will be wearing it. Whether or not you go to LA Fitness or are just walking through the streets of Center City, try to wear the shirt as much as possible. Just pick a place where there's a whole lot of population density.
If all of the Temple fans did the same, that's the best word-of-mouth advertising the university can have.

Some other final thoughts on C and W:
  • Visited with three members of the Bill Cosby-era Temple squad and they all agreed with what Dave "Fizzy" Weinraub said: "Bill was the third-funniest guy on the team." To that I said, "If Bill was the third-funniest guy on the team he had to be the smartest third-funniest guy on the team." I don't think the first two guys made $368 million for being funnier.
  • Talked extensively to Bill Bradshaw after the game and I had to agree when he asked everyone in our group if the day TU re-joined the BE was the best in the history of Temple sports. That would probably be topped by an appearance in this season's Orange Bowl, though, if the Owls are fortunate enough to get there. They will get that opportunity, though, if they win the Big East.
  • Brian Burns' uncle was sitting in front of me when I mentioned to him I have a new set of fans I dislike more than Villanova's. "I can't stand Rutgers' fans," I said. "I better not show up for that game, I guess," he said. "Why?" "I played at Rutgers." Whoops. Turns out he is a great guy. "I was always for you guys coming back into the Big East," he said. Well, I like ONE Rutgers' fan now.
  • Phillies Nation was out in impressive tailgating force afterward. Not the brightest bulbs in Lot K, though. Each Porta Potty line was about 60-people deep. The Temple fans just walked into the Linc where there were no lines. One of the values of a Temple education, I guess.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Cherry 17, White 10

Stats told some of the story.

Some scattershot observations from a long day in South Philadelphia:

Not a big stat guy, but I had to rush home and look at the stats for Saturday's Cherry and White game because I could have sworn one guy on the White team carried the ball 30 times for minus 25 yards.
I was wrong.
It was 17 times for 27 yards.
The Cherry offensive line opened holes for Matty Brown and Jalen Fitzpatrick, but the White team runners had a hard time finding open holes. That could be due to playing behind a second-team offensive line, but I saw holes close due to lack of foot speed by a running back.
Suffice it to say that a high-end speed of 4.64 for the 40 is not fast enough for a top-level FCS tailback, let alone a top-level FBS or BCS lead rusher.
I tried to warn head coach Steve Addazio that Chester Stewart can't play at this level and he, like Al Golden,  learned that the hard way. Both coaches saw enough by midseason in each of the last two years and were forced to pull the plug. Hopefully, the backup running back positions will be plugged in by the summer when the Calvary arrives.
Wes Welker, err, Ryan Alderman catches everything in sight.

That problem will be solved by the arrival of elusive runners like Khalif Herbin, Brandon Peoples and Jamie Gilmore in July. There is plenty of opportunity for one of those guys to rocket up the depth chart. I'd like to see Fitzpatrick and Herbin fight it out in the slot and Peoples and Gilmore get a decent shot to back up Brown, but all of that should be ironed out in the summer practices. Both Peoples and Gilmore have the kind of explosiveness and open-field vision you are born with and can't be taught. Peoples was a dynamic player in a great high school league. Gilmore was a dynamic player in a great high school state. Herbin scored 36 touchdowns last year for Montclair (N.J.), despite sitting out second halves of four games that were over by halftime.
From the looks of the running backs not named Brown or Fitzpatrick, the new guys are going to be needed  right away.
Still, the good outweighed the bad in Cherry's 17-10 win.

  • Cherry quarterback Chris Coyer was on target with his passes all day. Had he not worn the orange "no tackle" jersey, there's no doubt in my mind that he would have scored on one of his patented 80-yard touchdown runs.
  • Wide receiver Ryan Alderman, who New York Giants' assistant coach Matt Rhule called "Temple's Wes Welker" is a human vacuum cleaner out there. He caught a 45-yard touchdown pass from Coyer. Toss anything near him and he's going to come down with the ball. That's comforting to know on third-and-eight.
  • White quarterback Juice Granger was also impressive, although I would have liked to see him throw the DEEP ball better. (He throws a nice short and intermediate range pass.)
  • Brandon McManus was outstanding again, both in punting and placekicking. He had only one bad punt all day and his 53-yarder would have been good from 60. He's an NFL talent.
  • As advertised, some players have really stepped up.
  • Middle linebacker Nate D. Smith was making plays all over the field, but that's something he's done all of his life as an Owl. (He was an Owl in high school as well.)
  • Hershey Walton, a 6-2, 290-pound converted offensive lineman, was solid in the middle as a nose guard.
  • Brian Burns, wearing No. 48, made a statement with an interception, several nice breakups and a big-time open field hit. He could be in the hunt for the starting free safety position.

The concerns coming out of the game were the same ones coming into it.
The Owls need to develop depth along the offensive line (they have good depth on defense) and find a kicker to replace McManus, who unfortunately won't be playing Temple football, err, forever. My nightmare scenario is that he gets roughed and injured on a punt and misses significant Big East time. Didn't happen last year, so keep those fingers crossed again.
The offensive line was a bright spot. I think the starters are going to be at least as good there, if not better, than last year's.
So does Daz.
"We have five (starters) on the offensive line and we're not going to skip a beat there," said Addazio. "We've got to get that up to six, seven, eight guys and we'll be working on that."
If anyone can whip this offensive line into shape, it is Addazio.
Running back is a different story, though. You can't be taught that.
Either you have it or you don't.
Brown and Fitzpatrick have it and we'll leave it at that.
For now, we have to.

Super Top Trumps: European Club Football

Good ideas never die, it seems - they just wait for nostalgia to catch up with them. That would appear to be the case with Top Trumps, the vintage card game that was once a staple for children in school playgrounds everywhere during the late-1970’s. By the time the 1990’s had arrived, Top Trumps was largely a forgotten phenomenon, but Waddingtons relaunched it with a new range of ‘Super Top Trumps’ aimed at distracting kids from their Nintendo Gameboys and Sega Game Gears.

It was 1992 and Waddingtons, the Leeds-based manufacturer of board games such as Monopoly, Cluedo and Sorry! released a second set of card decks to appeal to an even wider range of children. Presuming ‘Racing Trucks’ and ‘Dinosaurs’ weren’t to your liking, ‘European Club Football’ probably stood a fair chance of being an imminent purchase, but unlike previous decks of football Top Trumps, this one featured teams as their subject rather than players.

And what could possibly be wrong with that, you might ask? At first glance, nothing – in fact there were now eight categories on each card to choose from rather than the five previously as seen back in the late-70's. As we discussed previously, the old 'player' sets had categories such as 'League Appearances' and 'International Goals' as the criteria by which you'd win a hand in each game. Here, the categories were mostly club competitions. These included 'League Champions', 'Domestic Cups (FA)', European Champions' and so on, but here's where it became a victim of its own ingenuity.

Some categories, such as 'League Champions' had a wide range of values from Rangers' 42 down to Chelsea's 1. This made winning a hand nice and clear cut, but had you plumped for 'European Super Cup' or 'UEFA Cup', the team on your card would have a number no higher than 2 or 3. This would have meant a lot of tied rounds which certainly allowed the kitty to build up nicely, but only until the inevitable switch back to 'League Champions' again or the novelty category of 'Year of Formation'.

Anyway, perhaps this was only a side issue for the real joy of this Top Trumps set was seeing which teams were included as part of the game. Naturally enough, English teams were the best represented in the 30-card pack - 11 to be precise - and of those, some were rather dubious selections. Newcastle United were still in the second tier back in 1992 and had only won a single European trophy (the 1969 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup), but there they were, proudly represented by the still slim image of Micky Quinn.

Panathinaikos and Marseille seem to have been included purely on account of their domestic success having not won any European trophies between them while Borussia Mönchengladbach were relying solely on their two UEFA Cup wins, the last of which had happened in 1979.

Still, for every Panathinaikos there was a Real Madrid or a Juventus, and it was great to see their pictures on each of the cards. Mind you, some of the pictures were a little... well... odd. Some were the wrong shape and didn't fill the space provided (Bayern Munich, Feyenoord, AC Milan, etc) while one or two had quirky compositions (Man City's photo taken 50 feet away from the action, Tottenham's featuring three players of which two had their backs turned to camera).

All very nice, but two question remain unanswered: why 'Super' Top Trumps and why the index numbers in the top-left corner of each card? Simple: there was a second way to play the game. In essence, all the cards were dealt out to all players and everyone had to complete all their sets (i.e. they had to collect 1A, 1B, 1C, 1D and 1E, and so on). Each player would ask another player "Have you got 3C?" and if they did, they'd collect the card and get another turn. If not, they didn't. The first one to complete all their sets was the winner.

So there it is - Waddington's attempt to breathe new life into an old classic. It wasn't perfect, but it had plenty of interest for football-loving kids everywhere... until they wanted to play on their Gameboy again, at least.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Steve Principle

Daz with hair as an assistant coach and after getting an ACC scalp as a head coach.

If Temple wins the Big East this year, a lot of people will be surprised.
Not me.
In fact, I will coin a new phrase for it.
The Steve Principle.
The Steve Principle is The Peter Principle in reverse.
The Peter Principle states that "in a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence", meaning that employees tend to be promoted until they reach a position in which they cannot work competently. It was formulated by Dr. Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull in their 1969 book The Peter Principle.
When it comes to BE critics, Temple and Steve Addazio could have the  last laugh

The Steve Principle will be named in honor of Temple head football coach Steve Addazio, who was vilified by Florida fans for his perceived incompetence as an offensive coordinator (something I never really understood) but who rose to a solid level of competence as head football coach.
Some people are born leaders and, after a year of closely observing Addazio, I believe he has passed that muster. Some, like current Miami defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio, are born followers.
Temple had the incredibly bad luck of hiring one of those types in Ron Dickerson, who was called the "greatest assistant head coach in America" by none other than Joe Paterno.
That was the problem with Dickerson. Great assistants don't always make great head coaches. Addazio has a CEO's knack for organization and both hiring and delegating authority to terrific top-level management (see Chuck Heater).
Contrast Temple's current coaching situation with the rest of the Big East teams.
Rutgers was forced to hire an offensive line coach who never won a football game as a head coach anywhere when its top two targets turned down the job. Kyle Flood may turn out to be an Addazio (I seriously doubt it), but there is a chance he could turn out to be a Dickerson or a Terry Shea, too.
Pitt's head coaching situation has been a carousel, with another guy, Paul Chryst, who never won a game as a head coach before. Chryst is the Panthers' fifth head coach since November, 2010 (Dave Wannstedt, Mike Heywood, Todd Graham and Keith Patterson came before him). If you don't think the Panthers are going to take an on-the-field hit because of that in 2012, you are underestimating the importance of stability in big-time college football.
Louisville coach Charlie Strong is 14-12 over the last two years.
UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni lost two of his last three games against some pretty bad Temple teams. He is 62, but he looks 92.
Syracuse coach Doug Marrone was 5-7 last year and brought only 65 players to his team's Saturday scrimmage at Sahlen Stadium in Rochester, N.Y., some 90 minutes from the Carrier Dome. The 'Cuse program is in bad shape. Temple will bring 105 players to Saturday's Cherry and White scrimmage (11 a.m., Lincoln Financial Field).
Cincinnati has a fine head coach in Butch Jones, but his two top assistants, defensive coordinator John Jancek and offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian, can't hold a candle to Heater or Ryan Day in terms of experience and accomplishments.
Temple will need a little luck in the form of avoiding key injuries to win the Big East this season, but Addazio has a knowledge of how to win on the BCS level and a solid blueprint in place for executing that plan in addition to an impeccable character that makes mothers and fathers want to send their sons to play for him. (For the opposite of that principle, see Bobby Petrino.)
"Coach Addazio is the realist coach who ever lived," wide receiver Rod Streater said, an interesting use of the word realist while paying Daz the highest compliment. (Remember, Streater also played for Al Golden.)
That didn't stop Streater from throwing the bucket of Gatorade on Addazio after the 37-15 win over Wyoming in the New Mexico Bowl last year.
"I had to get him, though," Streater said.
Streater got him and now Temple's got him for what will hopefully be a long and successful haul.
That has to be bad news for the rest of the Big East.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Practice, we're talkin' practice

The Nate Smith from Wood (left) and the Nate Smith who starts at linebacker.

A great philosopher (OK, it was Allen Iverson), once said: "Practice, we're talkin' practice. Not an actual game, practice."
It was funny and clever and heartfelt and, in many respects, true.
Jamie Gilmore: RB help is on the way.
I've always felt that practice made perfect and it was necessary but, after attending the last 30 or so Cherry and White games, I've come away with the feeling that I've just watched another practice.
Every once in a while, I think I learned something coming out of the Cherry and White game only to find out by the time REAL GAMES, started, it didn't mean a hill of beans.
Take the case of running back Myron Myles. He gained 157 yards and scored three touchdowns and, by the fall, he was gone. A generation earlier, a running back named Ventres Stevenson looked great in a C and W game, not as great against teams in different-colored jerseys.
I left one C and W day thinking Myles would help Temple and subsequent circumstances dictated otherwise. I had the same feeling about Stevenson.
I will be taking copious notes on Saturday, but my grain of salt will be nearby (on my soft pretzel).
In reality, what we learned about the 2012 Owls we will already know by kickoff.
  • Chris Coyer gives Temple a huge upgrade in quarterback over last year's two early starters (Mike Gerardi in the opener against Villanova, the second game at Akron and Chester Stewart after that). Coyer has looked sharper and more confident than ever. There is no truth to the rumor that the Athlon College Football Magazine preview states: "Temple will be strengthened by the graduation of quarterback Chester Stewart." Coyer has two tall and talented wide receivers to throw to in Deon Miller (6-6) and Malcolm Eugene (6-5) and a potentially explosive slot receiver type in Jalen Fitzpatrick, who currently is getting snaps at backup RB. Incoming freshman Khalif Herbin also has a chance to start in the slot.
  • Owls should not lose much at first-team running back as they return their No. 1 all-purpose back, Matty Brown, who replaces the No. 2 all-purpose yards producer, Bernard Pierce. It is not hyperbole to write that Wyatt Benson is a great fullback because he's proven it. Maybe he'll be rewarded with a few carries this year as well.
  • Owls are deep and talented on defense, returning nine guys who have started for them in the last two years. More impressively,  there is a potential upgrade in talent at two positions, where Kevin Kroboth at free safety will be replaced by either Vaughn Carraway (a former five-star WR recruit) or incoming true freshman, Archbishop Wood blue-chipper Nate Smith, a West Virginia decommit. Speaking of Nate Smith, another Nate Smith (Nate D. Smith) provides three-time first-team all-state talent at linebacker to replace Stephen Johnson, a former walk-on  from Methacton.  Johnson and Kroboth were warriors who played with their heads and hearts, but I can see more "talent" plays being made by the two Nate Smiths that will result in a net plus for Chuck Heater's defense. If the Smiths bring the same heads and hearts that Kroboth and Johnson have, Temple will be better off at both positions. My guess is that one of the Nate Smiths will inherit a distinctive nickname to distinguish him from the other Nate Smith. Maybe Superman.
  • The offensive line is looking good as 2009 starter Sean Boyle has taken over at center and 2011 starter Martin Wallace protecting Coyer's blindside at tackle. Head coach Steve Addazio was looking to find three players to separate themselves from a large group of that seems to have happened (see holding the line post below).
Are there areas of concern?
Depth along the offensive line is one and backups at quarterback and running back need to be brought up to BCS speed.
Temple will be royally screwed if it loses its only big-time kicker, Brandon McManus. (Crossing my fingers all last year kept McManus healthy and I plan to do the same this season.)
"He's a dominant player," Addazio said of McManus. "Dominant. Kicker. Punter. [His value] is critical."
Remember, though, Temple has a Big 10 No. 2 quarterback, Kevin Newsome, coming in to back up Coyer so that concern was addressed in February. Newsome was Darryl Clark's sub in the 2009 season at Penn State. If former JUCO All-American QB Juice Granger can wrest the No. 2 spot from Newsome in the fall, that makes Temple an even stronger team.
Also Temple has the No. 7 all-purpose running back recruit in the country, Jamie Gilmore of North Marion (Fla.) coming in by July and a certain No. 34-ranked recruit came in an made a significant impact as a true freshman in 2009.
His name was Bernard Pierce.
Still is.
Pierce never even played in a Cherry and White game before he ripped off 268 yards and two touchdowns in a 28-24 win at a Navy team which finished 10-2 that year.
So, right now, we're talkin' about practice.
Not a game, practice.
Still, it will be the only Temple football we will see until the last night of August so it should be fun nonetheless.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Cherry and White Day primer

The best ticket money can't buy .....

Great weather for C and W, but
Channel 6 needs to ditch the soccer
ball for a Temple T.

Kickoff to Saturday's Cherry and White game is 11 a.m., at Lincoln Financial field.

BOX OFFICE: (For free tickets) opens at 9 a.m.


PARKING: Free in Lot K to all who arrive before 11 a.m. Vehicles arriving after kickoff will be charged $15 to park due to the 4:05 Phillies game with the Mets.
There is no overnight parking.

TICKETS: Prior to the game, tickets are available (also for free) at the Liacouras Center Box Office, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. until Friday.

GATES: Open at 10 a.m.

NOTABLE: The first 1,000 through the gates will receive a FREE Temple in the Big East T-Shirt.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Heading For Glory - Official Film of the 1974 FIFA World Cup

If you like your classic football served up with a large side order of metaphor and floral narration, you can do far worse than watch the Official Film of the 1970 World Cup – Heading For Glory.  It’s a bit like watching a Royal Shakespeare Company production of Match of the Day.

Some official World Cup films provide a basic depiction of the key games, players and teams and underpins it with a sympathetically composed soundtrack. This one does all that and describes every scene as though it were a recitation towards a thespian scholarship.

Delivering the narration with fruity sincerity is Joss Ackland, an actor of considerable repute who, around the same time, was busily lending his vocal talents to a wide range of TV advertisements. Here, he becomes a star of the film in his own right, delivering each line with lightness and positivity. Married up with the footage and the music (to say nothing of the era), it’s difficult to find fault with anything put before us.

Heading For Glory has a fairly linear flow that doesn’t confuse the viewer by jumping backwards and forwards in time like the 1986 film did. That said, it does allow itself the one conceit of beginning at the end, so to speak. The film starts with referee Jack Taylor blowing his whistle to bring the 1974 World Cup Final to a close, after which we get a rip-roaring combination of brassy ragtime music and various images of a jubilant West Germany team celebrating their victory.

But it's not all triumphalism as the camera soon lingers in slow motion on the Dutch players looking sad and forlorn in defeat. The mood is maintained with the help of some appropriately melancholic music along with Joss Ackland who’s on hand to provide an urbane word or two:

“Johan Cruyff, natural heir to Pele, lonely as a mountain wind. Holland’s captain, an original Dutch master. He has tilted at windmills... and lost.”

Cruyff: Tilting at windmills
It’s not exactly Proust, but it is a foretaste of some ambitious wordsmithery to come.

As the game ends and the last remaining journalists tap away at their typewriters in the press box “like woodpeckers pecking away at the truth” (told you), we’re treated to the sight of hundreds of West German fans in celebratory mood the same night, swigging beer from their steins and splashing around in fountains as oompah bands play for all they’re worth.

The Dutch team, meanwhile, are heading home “on their big white bird” (cf. aeroplane). The camera catches sight of the star striker and his better half on-board awaiting take-off. “Cruyff and his wife” confirms Ackland. “He flicks a speck from his eye… or is it a tear?” No, Ackland, just a speck. This isn’t An Affair To Remember, you know…

This deliberate tug at the heartstrings is, if nothing else, a useful segue into the main part of the film – the football action itself. We’re transported back to start of the competition and a swift selection of highlights featuring the teams of most interest. First some highlights featuring the Netherlands, then West Germany, then Italy who we see conceding a goal against Haiti. “Is this voodoo at work as [the Haitians] dance to happiness, happiness, all the way to happiness?” remarks Ackland. No more so than the work of scriptwriter Geoffrey Green desperately trying to elevate the narration, we suspect.

West Germany v Poland:
Forecast - wet.
Into the Second Round, we see West Germany’s progress to the Final as they overcome Yugoslavia, Sweden and Poland. The highlights from the Polish match are remarkable on two counts. First we get to see arguably the most waterlogged World Cup match ever played (and the efforts of the ground staff to make the game playable), then the most staggering sight of a minute’s silence being observed during gameplay. Austrian referee Erich Linemayr halted the match mid-flow and called for a short period of reflection following the recent death of Juan Perón, President of Argentina.

"Even the left wing is silent for the right." Bet you can't guess who said that.

The final sequence from the Second Round shows the brutal and bruising encounter between Brazil and the Netherlands, and here the multiple camera angles and cameo close ups really come into their own. What started out as a game between two skilful sides eventually became a battle to see who could gain the most from kicking, pushing and diving. The camerawork in the film highlights this beautifully and is memorable as a result.

German police trial the world's
biggest ever mobile phone
And so the Final where the loop is closed and we return to where we left off at the start of the movie. A lovely sequence plays out where we see dawn breaking in Munich an the many workers in and around the stadium going about their duties. Men sweep the streets, women wipe clean the seats inside the Olympiastadion, and sunlight catches the intricate structure of the stadium roof. "A mosquito net where soon the gnats of fate will sting" comments Joss Ackland. ('Gnats of fate'?)

Jack Taylor, the English referee for the Final, is seen tucking into a pre-match meal with his assistants, Sir Stanley Rous is observed dealing with a few telegrams prior to his last engagement as FIFA President and the German police are seen scouring inside and outside the stadium for explosive devices. The world, it seems, had become a more vulnerable place and security was now a top priority at events such as this.

The Dutch celebrate scoring from
the penalty spot
When the match gets underway, there's excitement from the word go as the Dutch take a 1-0 lead through a penalty. The camera focuses on the wives of some of the Dutch players in the crowd, wracked with nerves and unable to look as the penalty is taken. A fine example of the drama happening off the pitch as well as on it.

The camera often lingers on the star players during the game, particularly glamour boy and superstar Cruyff during his frequent attempts to shake off the man marking of Berti Vogts. Another subject is Franz Beckenbauer, predictably described in flamboyant fashion by Joss Ackland:

"The Director General is Franz Beckenbauer, number five, captain and sweeper. He's the fingerpost pointing the way. Unhurried as a man strolling down the boulevard for an aperitif."

Good though John Motson is, you somehow can't imagine him uttering that sort of stuff.

Before long, the West Germans earn an equaliser through the second penalty of the Final, an event that signals the Dutch team's loosening grip on the match. This is picked up beautifully by the multiple camera angles used in the film, showing all the action and emotion from pitch side, behind the goal, above the pitch and in stark close-up on many players.

Gerd Muller: frozen in time
There's even an attempt at emulating the techniques used on TV when Gerd Muller has a goal ruled out for offside. Ackland introduces a slow-motion replay to show 'Der Bomber' was onside with the words: "Was he really offside? Watch it again in deep-freeze."  Obviously the terminology was more embryonic than the technology back then...

Ultimately, as the record books show, West Germany went on to get a winning goal through Paul Breitner to compound the misery of Rinus Michels' side. Despite their attempts to salvage something from the game (and yet more melancholy music on the soundtrack), the Netherlands lost 2-1 to the hosts, and with the victory celebrations having appeared at the start, it only leaves Joss Ackland to close the film in his own inimitable way:

"An orange sun dies bravely from the day. Germany and history have won. It's all over."

Eat your heart out, Kenneth Wolstenholme.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Holding the line

If the chain is only as strong as the weakest link, the most encouraging news coming out of Temple football spring practice is that the chain is pretty strong.
Going into the spring camp, it did not take a genius to figure out the No. 1 priority was finding some offensive linemen who could step up and play at a BCS level this fall.

I didn't think it would be an insurmountable problem because the Owls had last year's starter at tackle, Martin Wallace, returning and two starters from 2010 returning in tight end Alex Jackson and Sean Boyle, both fully recovered from injuries.
More importantly, head coach Steve Addazio, an offensive lineman guru if there ever was one, did not think it would be a problem.
Now we can see why as the most encouraging news is how the other three players have stepped up.
Jeff Whittingham, 6-foot-4, 275-pound redshirt sophomore Jaimen Newman, a former defensive tackle and end, has been running with the first team at guard.  Redshirt freshman Zach Hooks has played first-team snaps at left tackle.
Those guys seem to have the inside track on the other starting positions.
There's still plenty of competition and one of the above could conceivably be displaced. Other names in the mix conceivably include but are not limited to Adam Metz, Scott Roorda and Darryl Pringle.

Since you know a little about Jackson, Wallace and Boyle, here is a look at Newman, Whittingham and Hooks:
NEWMAN _  6-foot-4, 275-pound sophomore. Played in six games during the 2011 season and redshirted in 2010. Mostly a defensive player, he had 40 tackles and 14 sacks as a senior while playing at Matoaca High School in Virginia. As a junior, he had 32 tackles and six sacks. Also started on the basketball team for two seasons.

WHITTINGHAM _  Also a 6-foot-4, 275-pound junior who also played mostly defense at Temple but was a two-way all-star playing for Atlantic City (N.J.) High School, where he was a team captain and three-year starter. Played against Temple teammate Evan Regas in the 2007 New Jersey State playoffs. Was 2010 Scout Team Player of the Year for Temple.

HOOKS _  6-6, 305 true sophomore. Played both offensive and defensive tackle for head coach Mike Zmijanic at powerhouse Aliquippa in the WPIAL. Was first-team all-state as an offensive tackle in 2010. Was first-team all-conference three years in a row.

Wallace will be on quarterback Chris Coyer's blindside, playing right tackle (Coyer is a lefty). Boyle will be at the all-important position of center, calling out the signals.
If they can open a sliver of a crack for a slippery, elusive, runner like Matty Brown, he should be able to make explosive plays downfield with Coyer and receivers like Jackson, Deon Miller, Malcolm Eugene and Ryan Alderman.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Big East and Temple by the numbers

Temple's $10 million addition to its $7 million practice facility nears finish line.

It's a great week to be a Temple Owl.
Not only did Temple Board of Trustees member Lewis Katz (and two others) get a bargain-basement price on the two Philadelphia newspapers, the Temple football team has been practicing pretty much injury-free in front of a palatial $10 million addition to an already relatively new $7 million football facility.

That facility should be done by the start of summer practice.
A few weeks later, a thorough beatdown of Villanova should be done as well.
The Philly papers went for $500 million in 2006 and Katz purchased the same property (same printing presses and massive River Road property in Conshohocken but less a few employees, your humble correspondent included) for $55 million Monday.
Not a bad time to do some numbers crunching with regard to Temple's football prospects in the Big East this fall.
News flash: While the Big East is a significant step up for Temple, the Owls are not joining the SEC.
According to the two best indicators of team strength in college football, Temple is coming into the league pretty near the top end of the remaining members.
Sagarin (USA Today) had Temple finishing the 2011 season ranked No. 30 in the country, with only Cincinnati (No. 28) ahead of it and the Owls finishing ahead of Rutgers (37), South Florida (47), Louisville (64), Pitt (68), UConn (73) and Syracuse (83).
Realtime had Temple ranked No. 37, behind only Cincinnati (24) and Rutgers (30). Louisville was 53, Pitt 64, 'Cuse (83, again) and UConn 89.
I think Temple will be significantly better this year. The Owls have nine guys returning who have started games on defense in the past. That, and the superb coaching of defensive coordinator Chuck Heater, will keep them in every game. Explosive plays downfield by players like quarterback Chris Coyer, RB Matty Brown, WR Deon Miller and TE Alex Jackson should put enough points on the scoreboard. It's going to be hard to replace defensive end Adrian Robinson and linebacker Stephen Johnson, but a good program does those kind of things routinely.
Temple has proven to be a good program over the last three years by the only numbers that matter (won/loss ratio) and there is nothing in the numbers going forward that suggest a change any time soon.
While the competition will be a little better than the MAC, the hard numbers by unbiased sources like Sagarin and Realtime suggest it is nothing the Owls can't handle.

Whatever Happened To... Long Laces?


This photograph is possibly one of the most famous football images of all time. The smallest of details seem burned into the subconscious - the Seiko advert in the background, the sloping roof of the executive boxes, the expressions of both participants, one sheer effort, the other a mix of panic and futility.

There is one small detail however, that most won’t even realise is there, but one which only people of a certain age would even understand. Look at both Maradona’s and Shilton’s boots. They’re both wearing Puma... Kings I believe. This is clear due to the large Puma logo down the side of the boot.

But wait. There’s something amiss with that logo, for it appears to have a large black line right through the middle. Now, those of us of that certain age can immediately say what it is. In fact, you can probably still smell the mud falling away as you recall achingly removing the boots from your feet after a hard fought 1-0. Or feel the crispness under your fingers as you came to put on those boots for the next match, the laces still caked in turf from last time, for as we all know that black line cleaving in twain the Puma logo, is a lace... a football boot lace.

In the days of personalised, lighter than air, Himalayan Camel leather boots with self-triggering air bags (probably), the concept of laces longer than the Great Wall of China wrapped several times under the sole of the boot is completely anathema. Boots these days only seem content when the laces are kept hidden, concealed beneath aerodynamic, bullet proof Kevlar panels (maybe). Try wrapping a lace round a boot these days and it’ll just about make it to the other side!

The most important question I feel is not so much, why don’t they still do this, but why on earth did they ever?  Why make laces so damn long you had to wrap them round the boot? I’m sure there was a logical reason for it – maybe old style boots just weren’t secure enough? Maybe it was a FIFA edict brought in after the infamous* 1974 Boot Loss Incident, where Chile took its entire team off the pitch against France after 2 of their players’ boots came off and the French players hid them and refused to give them back. The simple fact is, I don’t know why as when I started wearing boots they fitted perfectly and could easily have stayed on with normal length laces.

Yet another thing the modern game has deemed unnecessary, but frankly one whose absence, I think, has barely been noticed.

*made up