From the Stands

Playoff controversy: HS and college

The high school football playoffs are in the closing stage in Oklahoma, and the participants in the first four-team college playoff will be chosen next week—and controversy is a key element in both.

Official botch-up

The Oklahoma high school playoffs have had some exciting games, but a botch-up by officials in the Class 3A quarterfinal game between Douglass and Locust Grove has put a dark, apparently non-erasable, smudge on the playoffs.

Sadly, the situation should never have occurred. But it did. The five-man officiating crew misapplied a rule and, in so doing, deprived Douglass of a touchdown that likely would have resulted in a win for Douglass and a loss for Locust Grove.

Usually, controversy involving officials hinges on judgment calls, such as pass interference, holding, etc. These depend on the official’s judgment of whether a rule has been violated. Such controversy is not an error of the official’s not knowing the rules or applying them incorrectly. That was not the case in the Douglass vs. Locust Grove game.

On the play in question, a fourth-down play with just over a minute left in the game, Douglass scored a touchdown. An official threw a flag against Douglass for a sideline infraction during the play. By National Federation of State High School Association rules, which govern Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association, a non-player foul, as this was, is treated as a dead-ball foul and the five-yard penalty is assessed at the end of the play. Since the Douglass play resulted in a touchdown, by rule the play should have stood and Locust Grove been offered the option of taking the penalty on the extra-point try or on the kickoff.

Instead, after conferring, the game officials nullified the TD and marked off the penalty from the previous line of scrimmage. In addition, Douglass was assessed a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty for arguing the original penalty. Douglass replayed its fourth down and failed to convert.

The OSSAA has since apologized for the error and said that the officials are being reprimanded and not allowed to officiate any more playoff games this season. As appropriate and justified as this is, it does nothing to correct the injustice that resulted. Of course, questions abound. How could a crew deemed qualified to officiate a playoff game not know correct application of the rule? Did all five officials not know the rule? Did they disagree in their conference and decide to go with majority opinion?

Whatever the questions or answers, it appears that the result will stand. The OSSAA said that rules do not allow a protest of a game based on an officiating error. Although there is some public outcry for a replay of the end of the game, chances appear to be zero that this would happen.

Basically, it appears that those involved are learning one of life’s toughest lessons: life is not always fair, and the unfairness is not always your fault.

Unfortunately, Douglass players will be convinced for the rest of their lives that they were robbed, that they should have won the game; and Locust Grove players will always know that others think their victory was tainted.

Unfortunate, very unfortunate.

BCS backers were wrong

Remember the Bogus College System or whatever BCS stood for? Maybe it was Bi-Carbonate of Soda, which is what most of us often felt like we needed. Oh, I remember now, it was the Bowl Championship Series, which, of course, was a misnomer. It was a “championship” game between two teams selected in some sort of voting/polls/computer process perhaps understood by someone somewhere. In any event, it was not a series; neither team played a series of games to reach the championship.

Interestingly, some staunch supporters of that now-defunct system praised it as making the regular season more exciting and, in effect, a series of playoff games and predicted that the BCS replacement, the new playoff system, would diminish the importance and excitement of the regular season.

In a word—hogwash.

They were so wrong. Instead, this season has been more exciting, created more of a playoff atmosphere for the regular season, and increased the importance of late-season games. In addition, the level of controversy has heightened. Can anyone really believe that the new playoff system isn’t more exciting and fun?

Some fans may have ideas for improving the new system, but I doubt that many want to go back to the BCS. I would favor two changes: go to an eight-team playoff and have the selection committee meet only once to announce its standings.

An eight-team playoff, which lower NCAA divisions and NAIA members have had success with for years, is a possibly in the future. It’s just not going to happen immediately. However, I expect support for it to grow steadily.

Having the selection committee meet once and announce the playoff teams like the NCAA does for basketball’s March Madness has a next-to-zero chance of happening. Why not? Money. One key reason is the heavily involvement of ESPN. The network’s fingers reach far into this pie and too much revenue is there to be generated with the committee making weekly announcements of its current team rankings. The bowls also fear financial loss, and ESPN is a significant player in maintaining their financial success.

Am happy for the new four-team playoff and am awaiting with interest the announcement of the four teams.

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For What It’s Worth

Despite diagnosis, patient not dead

Recently, a 91-year-old woman in Poland awoke from the dead—presumed dead, that is.

A doctor was called to the woman’s house on the morning of Nov. 6 after relatives noticed she was not breathing. In a television interview a week later, the doctor said she had checked the woman for a pulse on a forearm and neck arteries, listened for a heartbeat and the sound of breathing, and had checked the pupils for reaction to light, but found none.

“If I had had doubts, I would have called the ambulance, done an electrocardiogram,” the doctor said. “But I was sure the patient was dead.” The physician said she found “no basic life functions” and pronounced the woman dead. Two hours later, the woman was taken to the morgue.

Shortly before midnight, an undertaker who brought in another body noticed that there was movement in the bag in which the woman had been placed. When the bag was opened, the woman complained of being cold and asked for hot tea, the media report said. She was taken home. The doctor said she has been in “deep shock” since learning that the woman awoke in the morgue.

Reading the story made me wonder how many of us as Christians could have our spiritual life checked for a pulse and heartbeat and be pronounced spiritually dead.

The woman was deemed dead from sometime in the morning until discovered alive close to midnight. If we had a spiritual check-up and were declared dead, would we be found alive in just over half a day or might it be determined that we have been spiritually dead for an extended period of time?

In the woman’s case, her relatives noticed she was not breathing. In our case, perhaps we should be asking ourselves if our relatives, friends, and fellow Christians and church members have noticed if we are breathing spiritually.

The truth is we probably don’t have to depend on others to know if we are spiritually dead; that’s a diagnosis we can make ourselves. Let’s hope that we find the patient is just in need of some resuscitation and take appropriate action before, figuratively speaking, someone has to find us coming alive at the morgue.

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From the Stands

Game against Bears may be hard to bear

The OSU Cowboys take on the Baylor Bears Saturday; and, if the dire predictions are anything close to being accurate, the result will be tough to bear for the Cowpokes and their fans.

Even so, I’m not ready to throw in the towel, nor am I ready to go out on a limb and predict an upset. (Are two clichés in one sentence enough for you?) However, I am confident that long-time OSU fans can remember how heavily favored the Sooners were several years ago against Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl and, no doubt, they remember how that came out. So (cliché time again), hope springs eternal, and we can hope OSU springs an upset.

As a fan, I’m more concerned about some of the issues facing the Pokes than I am about being a 40-point underdog.

The quarterback situation, for instance, poses concern. I really would feel sorry for Mason Rudolph if he has to blow his redshirt year in the next-to-last game of the season. How unfair, how frustrating. Perhaps how unnecessary.

Granted, playing him seems to be the only viable alternative if Daxx Garman can’t start or is injured during the game. The Pokes have a walk-on with impressive high school stats, but using him might be perceived as giving up on the last two games, which are key games on the schedule. Baylor is highly ranked and still in the running for a spot in the national playoff and OU in the following game is one all OSU fans strongly desire to win. It would be likely most people would assume that playing the walk-on is an admission of defeat.

Right or wrong, it seems to me that this is a situation the coaches would have been aware of early in the season when starter J.W. Walsh was injured and a decision had to be made on the quarterback situation for the remainder of the year. They are in a box now, but that is more a result of decisions made early in the year than in anything that has happened recently to make the present dilemma a reality.

Knowing how unfair it would be to Rudolph, and perhaps to the team, why decide to go with Garman only and live with the weekly angst of hoping that Garman would not only perform well but go uninjured all season and thereby allow a redshirt year for Randolph, the apparent future at QB for the Pokes? Those odds are about as good as the odds of beating the house at a casino.

I’m confident there were reasons at the time to decide not to play Rudolph, reasons that may not be readily seen or understood by the ordinary fan in the stands. So, we are left to wonder.

I’m glad I’m not in Randolph’s shoes. As a competitor, I would have been chomping at the bit all season and then absolutely frustrated if I had to basically forfeit my redshirt year by playing in only two games at the end of the season.

Quarterback is not the only area of concern for fans. Another is the offensive line, where youth and inexperience are dominate. Injuries played a key role in what has developed. So did the loss of eligible players who chose to move on rather than play another year. Further compounding the problem was the resignation of Coach Wickline, who had produced quality line performance for several years.

Another concern is that from outward appearances, it seems that booster Boone Pickens, Athletic Director Mike Holder, and Coach Mike Gundy have some issues among themselves. Maybe the strained relationship among that trio could be resolved if the three of them were to set their egos aside, gather in a room with the door closed, and stay there until they hash out their significant and insignificant issues.

Let’s set those concerns aside for the moment and root for an upset win on the Brazos Saturday night in Texas. Winter is coming on, and it sure would be nice to send those Bears into hibernation early.

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For What It’s Worth

Live with no cell phone: fact or fiction?

Recently, a comic strip I rarely read caught my eye. It showed a baby stroller parked, part on the sidewalk and part on the grass. Next to the stroller an obviously distraught woman was kneeling, her face in agony, and her mouth wide open as if screaming. In her emotional outburst were the words, “My poor baby.”

But she was not stressing over the unattended baby in the stroller. Instead, her anguish was directed at her cell phone, which lay broken on the sidewalk, apparently the result of having been dropped.

Perhaps that was humorous to some, but to many of us it was a sad, though accurate, reflection of the role or place of the cell phone in today’s society. The cell phone has become so much a part of everyday life that it may be difficult for some to believe that we are not born with a phone in our hand or at least with our fingers cupped so that a cell phone can quickly be placed in our hand.

Did people actually live in a time there were no cell phones? Yes, they did. They really did, as improbable as that may sound.

So, how did people communicate if they lived in different towns or states? They wrote letters. By letters, do I mean those alphabet things on the cell phone keyboard? No. No, I don’t. I mean taking a pen or pencil in hand, sitting down at a table or desk, and writing words on a piece of paper. Those words were called sentences and in them you provided information to the person to whom you were writing. And, believe it or not, most people wrote in complete sentences and spelled out words rather than abbreviating them or modifying the spelling to have shorter words.

But how did you manage to communicate with someone in another room? This will surprise some, but one of us walked into the other person’s room and we talked—you know, spoke words out loud while looking at one another. It was amazing how that worked. We could even sit at the dinner table and converse with each other rather than looking down at our lap to read or exchange text messages.

Oh, and we also did not endanger the lives of others, as well as our own, by texting while driving, or talking on the phone while driving.

Guess what. There was something else we didn’t do. We didn’t stand in line at the grocery store carrying on private conversations while speaking loud enough to be heard 10 or 15 feet away. We especially did not do so using foul language that branded us as rude and inconsiderate and which was offensive to many having to hear our personal conversation though not choosing to do so.

We also didn’t have to worry about the embarrassment or rudeness of having our cell phone start ringing in the middle of class at school, or during a church service, or at a funeral, or while in a meeting, or at a concert, or just as we were preparing to ask our sweetheart to marry us.

The last instance might not be a problem today since the person may be texting the proposal rather than speaking it. Actually, I’ve observed people texting in class, at church, at a funeral, and in a meeting. They probably have their phones on vibrate, so a ringing cell phone is not a problem.

Perhaps by now you may be thinking it would have been better had my cell phone rung before that comic strip caught my eye. Actually, it might have, assuming the phone had been turned on. However, the odds are better than even that it was off, since I often forget to turn it back on after having turned it off. Just this morning I noticed it was off and realized it had been off since before church yesterday morning.

Guess I just eye a phone differently than does Apple.

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For What It’s Worth

Snake oil?

Except perhaps among herpetologists, snakes for the most part have been associated with deception since—well, since a talking serpent tempted Eve into disobedience back in the Garden of Eden a long time ago.

No doubt, you have heard the expression “sneaky as a snake.” Back in the “Old West” days, men hawking bottles of cure-all medications became known as “snake oil salesmen,” and even today you might occasionally hear a dietary supplement or drug salesperson referred to as selling snake oil.

Now, not quite on the eve of a special program set to air Sunday, Dec. 7, on Discovery channel, I am wondering if I detect the scent of snake oil.

Don’t slither away and stop reading just yet. This is not a venomous reaction on my part. It’s just a story I’m having a little trouble coiling myself around. Two days ago, as I was snaking my way through the Internet to see if there were any stories I could sink my fangs in, I encountered one about a program entitled Eaten Alive to be aired on Discovery Channel.

That caught my attention; and, in somewhat of a hypnotic stare at the computer screen with my head weaving ever so slowly back and forth, I read the story. The story, which I am confident is based on information provided the Discovery Channel public relations personnel, says Eaten Alive is based on naturalist and wildlife filmmaker Paul Rosolie being eaten alive by a giant anaconda snake.

Wow! No wonder snakes have a bad rep. Eating a man alive, especially a naturalist and a wildlife lover. Seems to me that might be a good way to end up with indigestion.

So, how is this going to happen? In its teaser promos about the program, Discovery Channel says Rosolie plans to be devoured by an anaconda while in a custom-built snake-proof suit. Readers are told Rosolie covers himself in pig’s blood to make himself appetizing to the snake. The snake-proof suit has a cord attached to it so that Rosolie can be pulled from the snake’s belly with no risk of being trapped inside. That seems a better method of leaving the snake’s belly than the method of expulsion experienced by Jonah when the big fish vomited him out.

Discovery Channel assures us this is not a hoax. (Would anyone have thought such a thing?) As is customary today in media circles, I must insert a full disclosure here in case there might be a question of bias involved. Disclosure: I am not a regular viewer of Discovery Channel. Years ago, I watched it with some frequency, but I shed that skin and crawled away from it. That said, I have to ask: Is there a bit of a snake oil smell in the air here?

Mr. Rosolie is still quite alive and well, so I am assuming that either the anaconda’s peristaltic action failed to pull Rosolie fully into its belly or the cord worked successfully and the naturalist was pulled out, leaving behind only the smell of pig’s blood. Whatever happened, Discovery says the snake did not die.

As much as it makes my tongue dart in and out of my mouth in a flickering motion, I can’t seem to eat my suspicions alive. I realize that the word anaconda strikes fear in the hearts of many because they envision some giant snake, which this one will have to be to devour Mr. Rosolie alive. However, in the miniscule amount of research I did, I discovered (pardon the pun) most anacondas are not giant snakes and do not find humans to be enticing food. That wouldn’t matter in this program since it is the snake being deceived this time and he/she thinks he/she is consuming a pig.

Something else I learned was that anacondas don’t partake of live meals. Instead, especially the big ones, they squeeze their prey to death and then swallow them. Since both the snake and his human entrée in this program are still alive, I am somewhat perplexed.

Nor am I the only one with reservations about the snake stunt. Though she doesn’t mention the aroma of snake oil, CNN’s Jeanne Moos did a piece yesterday about Eaten Alive in which she holds up a rubber snake, pulls on it, and suggests the Discovery program may be a “bit of a stretch.”

Eaten Alive may be fascinating entertainment, though I have no immediate plans to find out. And I can assure you that my wife won’t be watching. It might bring back memories of her frightening snake experience.

It happened eons ago when I was a graduate student at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Ill. We were living in married student housing at the time, and our children frequently played in the yard area with other kids. One day while our son, then kindergarten or first-grade age, was playing with some other boys, one of whom found a dead snake in the parking lot. Harvey was the youngest of the group and thus susceptible to being influenced. The boys hung the snake, about four feet long and 1-1/2 inches in diameter, over a stick and encouraged Harvey to go show it to his mom. Super idea.

His mom was in our second-floor apartment busily typing a thesis or dissertation. Typing these and term papers was a way she earned money to help us feed three kids and pay the bills. Working at the table, her back was to the door.

Harvey entered with the snake on a stick and held it out about two feet from his mom. She was not aware he had entered the room until she heard, “Hey, Mom, look what I have.” She turned to look, emitted a scream, and came flying out of the chair.

That won’t make a Discovery Channel show, but if we had a video of it, I would watch that.

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For What It’s Worth

Wedding a highflying affair

Dottie Coven and Keith Stewart’s wedding Sunday was such a highflying affair that if you had been there and wanted to leave, you couldn’t—unless you had a parachute.

Weddings occur in a variety of locations. The justice of the peace office. In a church auditorium or chapel. Outdoors, perhaps in a meadow or gazebo. But their wedding took place at a much higher level than any of these locations. It occurred in an airplane. A Southwest Airlines jet. Thousands of feet in the air between Nashville and Dallas.

As the CNN news story suggested, love was in the air for this couple’s exchange of vows, and love was on the ground when they came back down to earth at Love Field in Dallas. It was truly a highflying affair.

Two things were sure at this wedding. No one walked in late, nor did anyone walk out early. Oh, and no guests got high on spiked punch; they were already high, as in several thousand feet high.

I don’t suppose there were any tin cans tied onto the end of the fuselage of the plane so that onlookers or air traffic controllers would be aware that a wedding party was landing. That might have been a bit of a distraction for the pilot.

Reading the story brought back memories or flashbacks—or whatever you call them—of my own wedding, though at my age it’s hard to convince some folks I can remember anything that happened that long ago. Actually, 57 years doesn’t seem that long ago to me. Despite having not been married in an airplane, the years since have flown by.

Probably the only one up in the air about our wedding was my mother-in-law, who had some reservations about her 18-year-old daughter being too young to marry—especially to a wet-behind-the-ears 18-year-old guy just two years removed from riding his bicycle to come court her daughter. Clearly, he was not someone with a backlog of frequent flyer miles.

It was an easy access and egress wedding, though we had no walk-ins or early departures. No flight attendants (back then they would have been stewardesses), but, of course, my wife did have attendants. They were not in uniforms like stewardesses used to wear, but they were uniformly dressed since they had matching dresses. Plus, they were almost uniformly family, since my three sisters were attendants and Carol’s sister was the bridesmaid.

My mother, who tended to be a nervous type at times, may have been a bit up in the air about the occasion, but not my dad. He was in the pilot’s seat, so to speak, since he was the minister officiating the ceremony.

The wedding did not take place in a plane; rather, it was a plain wedding in a church on a Friday night. Carol and I didn’t even file a flight plan; we just headed down the runway of life and, I suppose, have been on auto pilot ever since.

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From the Stands

Two certainties

Two things are certain for the OSU Cowboys this week: 1-They will be decided underdogs in their game at Kansas State, and 2-Because of the areas in need of shoring up, they are bound to show some improvement, win or lose.

I haven’t seen a point spread yet for Saturday’s game; but, with the Cowboys on a two-game losing streak, no longer in the Top 25 rankings, and playing on the road against the Wildcats, who are crouched atop the Big 12 standings and ranked No. 11 nationally in the AP poll, it seems reasonable to assume that the point spread will heavily favor the ’Cats.

Regardless of their record, the Wildcats under Coach Bill Snyder are always a tough opponent, especially so in Manhattan. This year, KSU is 6-1 with the lone defeat being a close 7-point loss to No. 4 Auburn. The six victories include a win over OU in Norman and a 23-0 shutout last week against Texas, the first shutout ever for a Charlie Strong-coached team. The Wildcats are also a national leader for fewest penalties per game, meaning opponents can expect little to no help from KSU errors in a game.

Clearly, the task for the Cowboys is a formidable one.

Not making the job any easier is that the Cowboys are riding a bit of a slump right now. As the youngest team among the major college conferences, the Cowboys are competing with considerable inexperience in the lineup and it shows. In addition, key injuries and a lack of depth at many positions have added to the challenge.

How did the Cowboys get to be so young? A key part of the answer may be the loss of so many players from the recruiting classes of 2010 and 2011, classes that now are the seniors and fourth-year juniors. Of the 54 signees from those two recruiting classes, only 19 remain. The losses have departed for various reasons or have not turned out to be as talented as expected. So far, 42 of the 48 signees in the 2012 and 2013 classes have been retained, a strong indication that this year is a one-time glitch, not a trend.

Particularly significant among the injuries have been the loss for multiple games of a starting safety and cornerback on defense and on offense the starting quarterback, two running backs, and a veteran lineman. Many of those called on as replacements have been freshmen.

One notable area for improvement is the offensive production. Fans accustomed to high point production have been disappointed in the Cowboys’ inability to generate touchdowns as, I’m quite confident, have been the coaches and players themselves. It’s hard for fans not to be a bit antsy when the norm in recent years has been 20 points or more—quite often double that—per game, but in the last two-plus games (10 quarters) only one touchdown has been scored on offense.

One area definitely in need of improvement Saturday if the Cowboys are to corral a win against the Wildcats is third down-play, both on offense and defense. For the season, the Cowboys have converted only 36 percent of their third-down opportunities. To some extent, that may be the result of too many third-and-long situations, that is third down and four or more yards needed. Those situations most often result from short gains on first down. Against West Virginia last week, the Cowboys managed to convert only twice in 15 attempts. On defense, the Cowboys have limited opponents to 37 percent conversion on third down, a solid effort. However, against West Virginia, OSU stopped the Mountaineers only nine times in 18 opportunities. Unfortunately, several of WSU’s successful conversions were third-and-long situations, including one of 19 yards and it was achieved on a run, not a pass play.

Special pressure for improvement is on quarterback Daxx Garman, who posted great numbers as a high school quarterback through his junior year. He had to sit out his senior year on an eligibility question, signed at Arizona but didn’t play, then transferred to OSU and didn’t play for a couple of years until handed the starting job six games ago when veteran J.W. Walsh was injured and is apparently out for the season. Though not a freshman, he is inexperienced and perhaps somewhat rusty from the layoff.

In an offensive that has clicked well with short and medium-length passes tossed by a quarterback who has released the ball quickly or run with it, Garman is finding it to be an adjustment because his strength seems to be with throwing long passes rather than the short or medium variety, and he is more a pocket passer than a run threat. Plus, he has the pressure of needing to succeed because essentially he has no backup in case of injury or a bad performance day since Coach Gundy is trying to redshirt freshman Mason Rudolph, who is envisioned as the future QB for the Cowboys. Using Rudolph now would toss aside his redshirt year.

So, the Cowboys have a challenge to face Saturday night; and, since they are facing the Wildcats, an old, time-worn cliché about the difficulty of facing this challenge might be appropriate: It will be like herding cats.

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