I’m back to Sudden Impact for a while. Laser Focus was getting on my nerves.
On this 11th anniversary of the 9/11 massacre, either of my two titles for this potpourri column seems to be irreverent and inappropriate. However, I won’t be sweetcarolined here — Neil Diamond didn’t write his song about child molestation and I didn’t write Sudden Impact and Laser Focus to connote terrorism.
I hope we all can take time to think about what happened on that horrible day in 2001, in which a few hours made a sudden impact on all of our lives that will be a part of us forever, for better or worse. Remember those who perished, and those who continue to perish in Afghanistan. And remember that to maintain our freedom requires a great commitment to ideas that were codified long before all of us were born, but time-tested as they are, we are loath to ignore them.
This issue of Sudden Impact begins with the title story. Lay off Sam Ficken, Already! Okay, so the kid missed four field goals on Saturday. And an extra point, yeah, I know. So what? He had the courage to go out there and try, and he has the continued courage to stay with it when the chips are down and the dorks are on his case. His teammates are behind him. Take a lesson from them.
From Nitknee via BWI: “The last time we had a kicking performance similar to today, it was by Robbie Gould. It just so happens that Gould is now one of the best in [the] NFL. Ficken has been pushed into this position due to Fera’s transfer. Otherwise, he would be redshirting this year. I still believe he will be an adequate-to-good kicker in the future.”‘
I was fine with that paragraph until the “adequate-to-good” adjectivalization burst my bubble. The fact is that none of us who watch the game on TV or in the stadium have the slightest idea how Ficken will turn out. The vast majority of us have not seen him kick in practice. Accordingly, neither can I agree with Nitknee’s fair-to-middlin’ assessment, nor can I make one of my own. The coaches have some kind of idea, though, and if he didn’t have the potential to be good, he wouldn’t be on the field kicking for us.
“Hypocrisy runs deep in college athletics, but after all that has happened this off-season, one would think that the student athletes at Penn State deserve much, much more from their ‘fans.'” —Chad Markulics, Penn State football blogger
What’s that you say? He’s our only kicker? Not really, but close. One thing we all can say with impunity is that the responsibility for winning or losing a game being invested in a 19 year-old leg has got to be an almost unbearably heavy burden for the first few times out. Most of us will never know that kind of pressure. No matter whether surrounded by friendly or hostile fans, all eyes, tens of thousands of them, are on a kid who must concentrate on his mechanics while the butterflies beat a fluttering drumbeat in his stomach. A millisecond here or there, and he’s wide of the mark. Then the boos or the jeers start, and he has to stew in his own juices until the next time he’s called out there — alone— to repeat the performance. How easy it could be to screw up, to feel snake bit. Coaching, practice, and most of all, game experience is the only way to beat that.
Some guys never get over a day like Ficken had. I recall the sad case of Nick Anderson, a guard with the NBA Orlando Magic, who back in 1995 missed four straight free throws in the NBA Finals against Houston. If he had made any one of those four, the Magic would have won the game, which was Game One. As it turned out, they got swept by the Rockets. Anderson, who had been very good from the line and sometimes magical from the floor, lost it after that episode. The team sent him to sports psychologists, and god knows what else, but he was never the same. So, you never know. If a guy who had been a pro basketball player for several years can screw up and get so shook that he can’t do the job anymore, then what about a 19 year-old kid?
“It’s okay to be disappointed — that’s inevitable. Don’t be discouraged — that’s a choice. Keep believing.” —Michael Robinson via Twitter
We don’t know how Ficken will turn out, but he deserves our support, unlike the jerks on Twitter who gave him a load of crap after the game. These Twitter jaggoffs have never been in Sam’s shoes, and they probably lack the brains to pass a course at Penn State, let alone do so while being committed to football concomitantly. They exist, though, and it’s ugly. Take a look at this crap.
Worse than disgusting, isn’t it? Give the kid a chance!
Will you be hanging around State College on Wednesday, October 3? This Turkey would like to be a fly on the wall at the State Theater, where they’ll be having a confab entitled, “The Future of the NCAA and Its Membership” on October 3 at 7 p.m. The announcement begins with, “The rapidly evolving governance of college sports will be examined…” I believe that should read, “The rapidly disintegrating governance of college sports will be examined…” In any case, thanks to Joe for digging this one up. You can find the announcement on Penn State’s site.
Maybe we’re becoming frustrated with a team that wasn’t destined for greatness, and we should set our sights a little lower so we won’t be too disappointed. It is certainly true that recruiting wasn’t going all that well even before Showergate unfolded, and then we had Mass Exodus, Phase I (with Phase II forthcoming, after the season). Bill O’Brien, as all of us should know, has on helluva tough job working with a dearth of talent and trying to make do with far fewer scholarships for the next four years. It will be fun to watch him do what he can do with what he has been given. To paraphrase the Liza Minelli song, “If he can make it here, he’ll make it anywhere!” The ever insightful Frank Bodani of the York Daily Record discusses this in “Penn State’s 0-2 record can help the rebuilding project.” Thanks again to Mr. 12-0 Joe for the pointer.
I hit both my personal goal ($1,250) and my team goal ($2,000) for Saturday’s 2012 Greater Orlando Heart Walk. Of course, that shouldn’t mean that you are off the hook! Just click here or on the thermometer widget at the top of the column to the right to donate. Every bit helps, and the American Heart Association is a very worthwhile cause! Big thanks to those of you who have helped me meet my goals for 2012. You guys rock!
Hey, I got through almost a whole column without even mentioning Vicky Triponey. Oops!
My eyes are giving out on me. It’s late and I haven’t even checked Twitter yet. However, if I do, I’ll be up half the night.