Some things are unacceptable at any level of competition.
I’ve heard about the brawl that broke out between several players with the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers. As I was driving back from the UNI-Dome Thursday night (as this game was taking place), I did not witness the fight on live TV.
I did see clips of Browns defensive end Myles Garrett tearing off Steelers’ quarterback Mason Rudolph’s helmet and then hitting him on the head. A melee broke out before order was restored and three players were ejected.
While indeed we do know that Garrett expressed remorse for his actions, he still needs to pay the price. As I write this, it was still being determined whether he would be facing charges or punishment by the NFL, but in the very least he needs to be suspended for the rest of the season without pay.
One has to wonder if Rudolph suffered any sort of concussion. The sport is already dangerous enough and the risk of any sort of concussion is bad enough without having to be beaten atop the head by someone who is trying to prove he’s the biggest and baddest player out on the field.
Speaking of which, yes, I’ve yet to hear someone beller out, “Because I’m bad! I’m the baddest dude out there and they now won’t ever forget it!” Maybe Muhummad Ali did that once or twice, but never in football. But it wouldn’t be that surprising to hear that someday from some crazed defensive lineman, under grilling from a good reporter or attorney, when asked why he did the deed.
Point being: I realize that emotions get the best of us in sports sometimes. It’s up to the players to control themselves. They almost universally do a good job of this in high school and college, although fights and melees by athletes are not unheard of.
I hope I can say with confidence the situation involving Myles Garrett is an exception, and that he truly is remorseful for what he did and that whatever sanctions he’ll receive will be a rarity.
* * *
While we’re still on the subject of football, in my impressions about which of our area football teams have the best shots to make the UNI-Dome next season ... I let one team slip past my radar.
Riverside has several key offensive weapons returning for 2020, including all-Iowa Class 1A District 9 offensive co-MVP Austin Kremkowski. He’s just a sophomore, and yet the lanky 6’3”, 160-pound budding superstar had more than 2,000 total yards offense, including 1,476 passing and 11 touchdowns.
The top rusher – Mason Bivens, with 671 yards – will be leaving, but Kremkowski had more than 500 yards using his own two feet, and two of his top three pass receivers, Brogan Allensworth (580) and Rhett Bentley (239) are also back.
The key will be how well the offensive and defensive lines develop, but certainly they’ll be better than the 2-7 team they were this year. And make no mistake: They were a much better team than 2-7. If they can cut down on turnovers and have a few key breaks go their way, this team could easily be in contention for a district title in the very least in 2020.
* * *
As far as this year’s final matchups, looking forward to making the final trip to the UNI-Dome for the year to watch Audubon. They’ve been a fun team to watch the past three weeks, and they should seriously challenge Don Bosco for the eight-man title.
Of course, many teams have said that before and the Dons have proven they’ve been the undisputed kings of the eight-player gridiron, as evidenced by this being their sixth state championship game in eight seasons.
Some people have cited Don Bosco’s recent successes on the gridiron as proof that two classes for eight-man football in Iowa are needed. I disagree.
First, no run of dominance and success lasts forever. I suppose that will be the same for teams like West Des Moines Dowling and West Des Moines Valley someday ... someday teams like the Dons, Maroons and Tigers will be struggling to win while someone else is successful.
But more importantly, it’s as I’ve written in a few previous editorials. Including one that comes to mind when the subject was brought up two years ago.
In my editorial in the Marengo Pioneer-Republican and Williamsburg Journal Tribune that was published that fall, I wrote the following: “Simply put, successful programs have good coaches. The poor programs simply need to improve.
“Changes in classification, or even splitting up the eight-man class – this was rumored (in 2017) but, as it turned out, didn’t come to pass this time around – won’t help a thing if athletes, already in short supply at some of the smallest schools having their own football programs, don’t go out or don’t want to go out because of whatever reason.”
I went on that for some, tough choices would lie ahead. Would they be forced to co-op with other area schools, sending their remaining athletes to nearby schools, or discontinue football altogether?
Having a co-op program was a reality for one of the teams nearby to the News-Telegraph’s coverage area this past fall. Stanton and Essex had a shared team when Essex didn’t have enough athletes for their own football team. While the combined Vikings team won only a few games, they I’m sure saw several synergies in sharing a program.
Many programs from eight-man all the way to Class 4A have at one time struggled. Even Don Bosco did in the very beginning of their program’s history, but they decided to emphasize hard work and sacrifice, get good, stable coaching, build a system of strong culture and pride, motivate players to success and get good resources.
Poor programs don’t have the things good ones do, and good players don’t want to play for them. Can you blame them?
And it’s nothing that can be changed by simply changing the fundamental structure of the football classification system. (Besides, someone pointed out if you were to split eight-man into two classes based solely on enrollment, Don Bosco would likely be in the smaller tier of schools ... then they’d really feast!)
I realize I’m near rambling now, but the long and short of it is – the problem with a Des Moines North or Des Moines Hoover-type mismatch against either Dowling or Valley (or most of the other suburban schools) is to simply put them in a Class 4A district where they won’t face them at all.
As far as struggling eight-man teams go, do what Stanton and Essex did: merge teams or co-op with a nearby school for two years.
* * *
Finally, as this may be my last column some of you read before you leave for your Thanksgiving celebration – this year, the holiday falls on the latest possible date (Nov. 28) – I wish you and your family a safe and happy day.
It sounds like we’re going to get some sort of weather in the day or two before the big day. What exactly is not yet known, but as my mother tells me often: “Watch the weather” and plan accordingly.
I just hope the weather holds out so that I can make it safely back to eastern Iowa.
Happy Thanksgiving, all!