Pete Barrows

Sports Journalist — Pete.Barrows12@gmail.com

Archive for February 2015

PB & J: The Louies

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GVL / Emily Frye Football vs. Wayne State w/ Louie
Pete Barrows & Jay Bushen
Lanthorn

If you’re reading this article, all the money in our wallets says you’re life’s going pretty well. Looky there! There is no money in our wallets, but congrats anyways! That’s not to say we weren’t occasionally reminded throughout 2014 that the world as we know it can be a tumultuous a place to live.

There was police abuse, abused police, homophobes, claustrophobes, youth unemployment, baby-boomers unequipped to retire, a widening gap between the haves and have-nots that neither Evil Knievel or Rod Kimball would dare to shoot and worse, Al Gore has yet to coral Man-Bear-Pig or global warming like he promised he would. Then there are the classics; racism, poverty, discrimination, civil and political unrest, food and water shortages and a general surplus of greed and depravity that gets funneled through the news daily.

Most troubling of all: this year’s Oscars were the least watched since 2008! Was it that Doogie Howser can’t dance or snap a selfie nearly as well as Ellen DeGeneres? Was it that the Joan Rivers faithful boycotted the red carpet? Did people finally stop caring about what Hollywood types think about other Hollywood types? It’s anyone guess, but ours here at the Lanthorn was that something was missing.

Setting an Oscar up on the mantel may be prestigious for some, but taking home a Louie – our freshly coined knockoff constructed from papier-mâchéd Lanthorns – that really means something. Or nothing.

Probably nothing, but that’s never stopped us before.

Our categories for the 2014 athletic year include best costume design, best male and female athlete in a supporting role, best male and female athlete, best director, best picture (best moment) and best feature (best story, season etc.).

No posh, no designer clothes, no special effects – just the best the 2014 athletic season at Grand Valley State University that was had to offer. Let the nominations begin.

***

PB: I made the near fatal mistake of presuming the Oscars began at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, Jay. If everyone else did the same and watched as Ozzy’s daughter and Lamar Odom’s ex mercilessly critiqued runway fashion, then it’s no wonder ratings were down 16 percent.

JB: My fellow communications capstone classmates thoroughly debated this year’s extravaganza, although I must admit I wasn’t able to keep pace. Believe it or not, this 24-year-old hippie doesn’t even have basic channels hooked up at his place of residence. What’s worse is I’m not entirely sure what the difference between an Oscar and a Grammy is. I heard Chris “Birdman” Andersen from the Miami Heat won something, though (unless they were referring to the rapper?).

I know a thing or two about GVSU Athletics, however, so roll out the red carpet because I’m in the mood for some banter.

PB: Cable is overrated. Streaming and Birdmen? Not so much. If ever Chris Andersen and Bryan Williams should decide to put on a freestyle exhibition together, you better believe someway, somehow, I’ll watch it live, even it means sitting through verses from Weezy, Michael Keaton, Caroll Spinney and a flock of ornithologists.

How’s your eye for fashion, Jay?

JB: Pretty sure I’ve worn the same jeans to every class this semester, and I only own one coat (the other was stolen from me on New Year’s Eve, I think). Needless to say I’m not too observant when it comes to fashion or which celebrity wore what better – but I know a star athlete at the NCAA Division II level when I see one. That’s all the rage these days, right?

PB: I’m sure those high-brow dressers with more than one pair of jeans would be more qualified to weigh in on the matter than you or I, but I have observed over the years that GVSU often comes correct with what it wears. Political concerns with Adidas aside, I’m especially partial to those powder blue football throwbacks. That’s my pick for best costume.

JB: Might not be the “Oregon” of DII, but GVSU threads some solid alternates. Last spring, the baseball and softball teams rolled out camouflage unis, which warrant consideration, but this one isn’t close. The football team hammered Wayne State on Homecoming, holding the Warriors to 132 total yards of offense. I think we all know why. Powder power.

PB: We talk about the stars – of which there are many at GVSU – often throughout the year in our stories, Jay, but when there’s such an embarrassment of riches to choose from, inevitably some deserving candidates go unnoticed. Their stories remain untold.

There are cats like Jack Sauber, Brad Horling and Matt Judon — undervalued defensive cornerstones on the Laker football team, special teams and burrito experts Marco Iaderosa and Chris Picano, Kristen Hixson’s pole-vault talented understudy Jenn Schornak and a flock of other gifted track and field/cross country athletes that make the program go. The list goes on and on.

Who should the Louie for best male and female athlete in a supporting role go to?

JB: Athletes who play hurt like point guard Darren Kapustka or just about anyone on the 2014 football roster are worthy candidates, as are some of those names you brought up.

Judon is an absolute freak at defensive end – but I’m going same team, different player: senior nickel Deonte’ Hurst. Anyone who watched GVSU consistently this year knows why. Led the team in tackles for the second year in a row and made plays game in and game out. On the women’s side, I’m saying junior forward Katie Bounds, a reserve. I’m not sure the women’s soccer team wins the national championship without her.

PB: GVSU women’s soccer doesn’t win the title two years ago without Bounds. They also don’t win either title without Marti Corby or Jenny Shaba. Softball player Lauren Gevaart was a great story, returning to the mound after a long hiatus, but Hixson was ridiculously, ridiculously good. Olympic trials good. She’s my pick for female athlete of the year.

JB: This is the toughest Louie of them all. I’d honestly have a hard time narrowing the list of nominees to 10.

Volleyball player Kaitlyn Wolters is one of them. So are cross country runners Kendra Foley and Jess Janecke, who finished first and second in the nation, respectively. But what about all the marquee names on the soccer team? Can’t count them out. Not to mention what might be the most dynamic duo in DII golf, Kelly Hartigan and Gabrielle Shipley. Feature twirler Moriah Muscaro absolutely gets a nomination, as well. But with all that being said – it’s Hixson. She’s a legend.

The men’s conversation is a little easier. We talked about him last week, but two-sport star Jamie Potts deserves a look. So does senior running back Chris Robinson, who broke the GVSU single-game record with 261 rushing yards in a win at Findlay (dude only talked about his offensive line after the game, too, for what it’s worth). Or there’s GVSU’s all-time leader in home runs, Giancarlo Brugnoni. I’m a bit biased, however, because I covered those teams.

This one’s on you, Pistol Pete.

PB: I grabbed Chris Robinson for some quotes the week before he broke the single-game record and reminisced back on his prolific high school career at Ovid-Elsie. He’s top 10 in the state in most meaningful career and season rushing records, but his most notable commentary on the matter was that he still wanted to get back home at some point to treat his O-line to a steak dinner.

He’s a class act that’s put together a solid a career here and would be a great pick – same goes for Brugnoni, pitcher Aaron Jensen and guard Ryan Sabin – but it was Potts that helped Muskegon Oakridge beat Robinson and Ovid-Elsie in the 2009 Division 5 state title game, and it’s Potts that should win this award.

A high school quarterback and a tremendous all-American kid both in plaudit and demeanor, Potts passed up bigger offers at bigger schools to play two sports at GVSU, and he’s excelled at both baseball and football. He won a gold glove from corner outfielder as he led the GLIAC in batting average (.412) and has been GVSU’s most explosive, prolific and consistent receiving threat the past two years. It doesn’t hurt that he has legitimate prospects of hanging around in the minors.

JB: Can’t argue with that, but the debate for best director is a two-coach race in my mind – track and field and cross country coach Jerry Baltes and first-year women’s soccer coach Jeff Hosler. Both guided GVSU to national championships on the same day last December in Louisville, Ky. Admittedly flawed logic here, but, since we agreed to put Baltes on GVSU’s Mount Rushmore last week, let’s go with Hosler.

For me, the best moment and best feature awards should be given to nominees who also celebrated the aforementioned championships. The best moment is, hands down, GVSU’s 1-2-3 finish at the women’s cross country championship. Foley, Janecke and Allyson Winchester blew a lot of minds when they trotted over the mud-covered “green carpet” and across the finish line that day – mine included.

The best feature goes to goalkeeper Andrea Strauss. From club goalie to varsity goalie, she carried GVSU to a national title. And, like I mentioned last week, her shootout shutout in the Final Four was something to behold. Three straight saves on one of college soccer’s biggest stages?

I know I’d have to see it to believe it, but I did, and I certainly believe it.

PB: I think that snowbirding south in the midst of Michigan winter is the bees knees. You’re reminded what green grass looks like, the windows on the minivan rented from GVSU go down and there are Waffle Houses and Chic-fil-As on every corner south of the Mason Dixon line. It’s even better when you get to watch the team you’re covering put on a show while you’re abroad. I wish I’d have been there in Kentucky, but you have my vote on all the above. Even on Hosler, who came right in without flinching when handed Dave DiIanni’s gargantuan cleats.

Right quick before we wrap up shooting, allow me to backtrack with an amendment, Jay – I’m stealing your unnoticed epiphany. Bounds was great last year and was the Lakers fourth leading scorer. She figures to be a big part of the team next year as a senior, too. But honestly, who supports more GVSU athletes than Moriah? She’s out at the coldest football games wearing nothing but a leotard tights and a smile. She’s out at every basketball game even if the bleachers are sparse. She’s made an indelible impact on GVSU and the surrounding community with her twirling (little girls lover her), and she’s one of the best in the world at what she does.

She was made to win this award.

JB: Barrows and Bushen? More like Birdmen.

***

2014 Louie Honorees:

Best Male Athlete: Jamie Potts
Best Female Athlete: Kristen Hixson 
Best Director: Jeff Hosler
Best Male Athlete in a Supporting Role: Deonte’ Hurst
Best Female Athlete in a Supporting Role: Moriah Muscaro
Best Costume: GVSU football powder blue alternates 
Best Feature: Andrea Strauss
Best Picture: GVSU’s 1-2-3 finish at the women’s cross country championship

sports@lanthorn.com

To read the original post “The Louies”, click here at the Lanthorn online.

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Written by peterdbarrows

February 26, 2015 at 8:32 pm

Mount Rushmore of GVSU sports

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Email correspondents narrow list of Laker legends to four

Pete Barrows & Jay Bushen
Lanthorn

PB: Happy Presidents Day, Jay! I say so because it’s one of my favorite federal holidays – a helluva lot better than Columbus Day, at least – but it seems to me that when it comes to holidays, it’s as criminally underrated as James Polk. But how do you celebrate it? Spin “Dead Presidents” on repeat and bob your head? Wear a powdered-wig to class? Debate which presidents should comprise Mt. Rushmore?

JB: You know I’m living in the Presidents Day paradise on this end, brought to me courtesy of the Red, White and Blue and Toby Keith. But what could this pair of longtime Lanthorn Sports writers possibly know about Grand Valley State Athletics?

PB: I don’t know much about anything, but I am talented at shoveling snow. Just today, I stacked up a pile that was a dead ringer for Louie the Laker – you know if you cock your head and squint. Presidents, Lakers, heads in the wall – it’s too bad there’s not a way to tie it all together.

JB: A sculpture of Louie? Your talents transcend the literary form. But I suppose we should transition from snow, Stars and Stripes to the stars and snubs of GVSU’s Mount Rushmore. Contextually, we can take this in a number of directions. Which era shall we cover? Since 2000? 2010? This academic year? Last month? Last week?

PB: If we’re keeping it to last week, I want consideration. I went down to rec, messed around and got a double-triple. That’s three expertly set picks and three bricked shots when I got the ball back on the roll.

GVSU’s athletic lineage isn’t long standing, but it is rich. Picking just four heads is tricky business, and I have to imagine the Borglum boys ran into a similar dilemma when carving Rushmore. What we need is a Washington – our figurehead quarterback – and as far as I’m concerned, there are only two to pick from: Curt Anes and Cullen Finnerty.

JB: I’m not necessarily a ring guy, but Finnerty – a guy who means so much to the program – won three of them on his way to becoming college football’s winningest quarterback with an astounding 51-4 mark under Brian Kelly and Chuck Martin from 2003-06. A winner. Tough decision, but I’ll take Finnerty.

I think our next nomination is a no-brainer and, yes, it’s another gridiron great. Tabbed as GVSU’s most decorated athlete, this Laker legend was not only a football star, but also a four-time All-American wrestler. And a golfer. And a baseball player. And a track and field athlete. That man, of course, is Jamie Hosford (class of 1977).

PB: Anes was GVSU’s Danny Wuerffel. He took home the Harlon Hill – the Division II Heisman – in 2002, and became the first Laker QB to get fitted with a ring that same year by finishing what he started. But if Anes is Wuerffel, that must make Finnerty GVSU’s Tim Tebow, and if I’ve learned anything from the Godfather, besides when to ask for a favor from the don, it’s that the original isn’t always the best. I’m partial to Part II, myself, and no Gator in their right mind is taking Wuerffel over Timmy T. And they must know something since they aren’t living through Michigan winters.

Now that it’s agreed we’ve found our George Washington, it looks like we’re on to Teddy. Bo Jackson types like Kayla Addison and Jamie Potts could be considered for the part on a contemporary list, but there’s really no one better than Hosford – GVSU’s Jim Thorpe – to play that role on our wall. The original isn’t always best, but sometimes it is.

That’s two locked in, and at consensus no less. Who’d a thunk we could manage?

JB: Rolling. Now it’s just you, me, two Rushmore faces and about three readers remaining. At least we haven’t missed the mark yet.

Hard to overlook multi-sport athletes. You mentioned a pair of solid choices. Potts has first-team All-American plaudits in football and baseball. Also made a position switch, as you know, from QB to TE – and then TE to WR last fall. Versatile. In 2014, dude hits a GLIAC-best .412 and leads the conference in hits before hauling in 54 receptions, including 10 touchdowns. It’s tough enough to be an All-American, but in two sports? Impressive. No rings, though, at least not yet.

Is contemporary bias blinding us, brother?

PB: I was there when softball-slugger Katie Martin smoked out the shot heard around GVSU and with one swing, simultaneously surpassed Kim Biskup’s career records for most hits (259), runs (164) and home runs (47). I witnessed Dani Crandall gut out games on the hardwood after patiently waiting for her turn shine behind the dynamic dual-sport duo of Briauna and Brittany Taylor, the reigning women’s soccer NCAA Division II Player of the Year Marti Corby become a star in front of my eyes as she helped to guide GVSU to a national title in Georgia in 2013, pole vaulter extraordinaire Kristen Hixson piece together one of the most prolific careers Division II track and field has ever seen and current Minnesota Vikings receiver Charles Johnson make 23 different NFL scouts gape at their stop watches during his pro day.

If tasked to sculpt a Laker Rushmore with only faces of athletes I’ve covered, I’m sure I could, but there would be difficult decisions to make. That long, winding list above was just a few of the names I could mention, and that’s just weighing accomplishments in a six-year span. It’s an embarrassment of record-breaking, going-pro, doing-generally-impressive-stuff riches.

I think there is room on the wall for one relatively contemporary name, however – the question is whose? Head track and field and cross country coach Jerry Baltes’ office is overstuffed with hardware, current Iowa women’s soccer coach Dave DiIanni was accomplished as any coach in Division II and Doc Woods was not only a stellar softball skipper, but also an amiable man that helped build GVSU into an athletic training powerhouse. Kelly and Martin, as you mentioned, have both found success as head coaches at major Division I programs and could be easily argued for, too.

JB: I’ve seen my share of greats, as well: I covered the baseball team when Giancarlo Brugnoni broke the school’s home-run record. I watched Kaitlyn Wolters rise from “junior transfer from GRCC” to GLIAC Volleyball Player of the Year as she led GVSU to a ridiculous Final Four run. I was a few yards away when Kendra Foley crossed the finish line, securing a 1-2-3 finish for GVSU at the national cross country race. Two nights before, I watched “from club-to-varsity” goalkeeper Andrea Strauss put together one of the most clutch performances I’ve ever seen across all sports: a Final Four shootout shutout – which included the best save I’ve ever seen – that propelled GVSU to its third title in four years.

DiIanni was a legend. We both know that. BK and Martin are almost too obvious. Deanne Scanlon has a national title.

My vote goes to Baltes. You know he’s good when you try but absolutely can’t keep track of how many coach of the year awards he’s up to. Seriously. Pretty sure they just started naming one after him. Add in the national titles and his argument makes itself. Says the right things in every interview since ever, too.

PB: The first non-freelance story I ever did with the Lanthorn was with Jerry, and I really didn’t know what to expect. This particular cover revolved around this study regarding women’s participation in sports put together by GVSU psych professor Robert Deaner, and I was slightly concerned that it wasn’t going to play well. I set up an appointment with Jerry anyway, but even though I came prepared to the teeth, I was nervous.

Nick Polk was the only one in the office when I showed up and he had me sit down on this little couch squeezed into the back. We made small talk and then, five minutes later, Jerry walks in. He didn’t acknowledge me once for the next five minutes as he verified cut times and confirmed practice schedules in complete and utter focus. He was all business, but when he turned to speak, he put me at ease. You could tell he didn’t really want to be wasting any more time than he had to on something that wasn’t helping to get his teams better, but his answers were introspective and thoughtful. The exchange took less time than the wait, but it was a quality interview.

He’s an intense guy that coaches intensely every practice and every meet, but he also is a smart guy that seems to have a fatherly rapport with his athletes. And despite all his successes, he’s not too big for the job. Not even to do an interview with a rookie reporter. That’s what makes him great, and I have no problem giving him the nod.

JB: Three down, one to go, and it looks like we’re running out of time. We’ve covered about 11 percent of the candidates we had originally planned on, but we’ve got to beat the buzzer and make a fourth decision. One assist shy of the triple-double; I’ll pass this one off.

PB: And then there was one. There’s a lot of different ways we could finish, but it seems to me there are still a few elements essential to GVSU’s athletic prowess not represented on our list.

Arend D. Lubbers – one of the youngest and longest tenured university presidents in the history of universities – is a shoe-in as a head on GVSU’s all-around Mt. Rushmore, and could be included on this one, too. Without him, there’s no football at GVSU and Lubbers Stadium – consistently an attendance leader among Division II venues – is a major landmark here in Allendale, Mich.

Tim Selgo is also deserving of a bust, and you’d have trouble finding many athletic directors on any level of sport more accomplished than he. If you don’t believe me, stroll past his office next time you find yourself in the rec. You’ll see more GLIAC Presidents’ Trophies – an award given annually to the best all-around athletic program in the conference – in cases than you will see students on the walk. GVSU has won 16 straight, all under Selgo’s watch.

With those nominations in mind, we’d be crazy not to include Joan Boand. Plenty of male athletes and teams have found enormous success at GVSU, but the mainstay of this program – even more than football – is its continued excellence in women’s athletics. Of GVSU’s 18 varsity national championships, all but four have been won by women’s teams. That all starts with Joan.

Not only did she pioneer women’s athletics at a burgeoning GVSU, she held coaching positions in basketball, volleyball, softball and track & field from 1968 to 1994. During that span, she accrued more than 700 total wins,10 GLIAC championships, two GLIAC coach of the year awards and continues now, as she has for the past 30 years, to serve as an advocate for women’s sports in committees across the country.

JB: Barrows and Bushen? More like the Borglum boys.

pbarrows@lanthorn.com

To read the original post “Mount Rushmore of GVSU Sports”, click here at the Lanthorn online.

 

Written by peterdbarrows

February 20, 2015 at 2:28 am

Dear Louie

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Pete Barrows
Columnist

I haven’t been ice skating in years – not at Rosa Parks Circle, Walker Ice Arena, over the godforsaken Mystic Woods’ pond or on the shoveled off shrimp farm nestled between 48th and the tree that belongs in a Robert Frost poem just off Pierce en route to campus. Naturally, I’m out of practice, but I stay sharp by navigating my drive each afternoon to collect the mail.

It’s an integral part of my hermit lifestyle that I don’t take lightly, except on the 30 days a month that I am not delivered my subscription to ESPN The Magazine. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a bundle of bills and penny-savers as much as the next guy, but there’s a limit on how much kindling/paper airplane/poorly-constructed pirate hat scrap one man really needs. Besides, as an esteemed and tenured writer, I get the Lanthorn for free.

What can I say? It’s just another one of the perks of being the less-funny, less-talented, less-funded mutant meld of Joel Stein, Mitch Albom, Bill Simmons and Amanda McKittrick Ros for a school rag. Take today. Not only did I receive my W2 form, which made me swoon in a wave of giddy anticipation to file my taxes, I only fell twice on the way back up the drive – a new personal best – and played off the second slip by hoisting myself off the ground while brandishing an imaginary penny to the neighbor kids out building icemen that watched front row as I went ass over teakkettle. “It was heads up”, I shout over.

It really must be my lucky day, too! As I inadvertently attempted my own ill-advised version of the Iron Lotus with the W2, the normal supply of what I like to call ‘craft paper’, a new Allendale phone book thin enough to slide under a door and a blank postcard marked Fort Hancock, Texas in hand, out slipped a letter.

***

DEAR PETE:

I enrolled at Grand Valley State University in the fall, and I must admit, it hasn’t been quite what I expected. I enjoy the classes alright, as far as classes go, and have learned to love the teriyaki chicken on focaccia roll sandwiches I order at the Connection, but there’s something missing.

I still get homesick for home-cooked meals, I miss not having access to my own set of wheels and I’m lonely. I’ve met people here and there, have explored what I can, when weather permits, and enjoy the idea of freedom to do what I want. The problem is that I have no idea what to do with that freedom, and whenever I swap stories with my friends at MSU, UofM, and ULA (Go Peacocks!), I feel like I’m missing out.

I don’t think I can last like this much longer, but I promised mom that I would stick out for at least a year. Help a sister out?

ABBY’S GREAT-GRANDDAUGHTER, TWICE REMOVED

DEAR SPAWN OF ABBY:

College, like any other experience in life, is what you make of it and take it from someone who has traveled the scenic route through school, it goes by fast. Too fast. Please don’t let it slip, and don’t feel alone or out of place. You’re not alone, not even close, and as GVSU grows, it’s important to open yourself up to what’s available to you.

Campus Life Night/Transitions are great places to start, but it can be overwhelming to ingest that much at Fresh-style buffets. Spread out your meals (and budget your debit dollars) instead as you take it all in. Life at a Division II school can be different than life at a major Division I university, but different doesn’t have to mean worse.

Join a club, a study group, try-out for a team, check out Greek Life, knock on your neighbors door – it’s not too late — and put yourself in positions to experience uncomfortable growth. Stay ready to take on those opportunities when they present themselves so you don’t have to get ready. And even if none of that sticks, do me a favor. Ditch that UofM, MSU, whoever-else-your-parents-might-have-an-affiliation-with sweatshirt for a night, and gear up to take in a game at GVSU. It doesn’t matter if you can’t tell the difference between a quarterback and a point guard, just do it. Take your pick – you can’t go wrong.

Head to the Brian Kelly Family Sports Center to watch Jerry Baltes orchestrate the Greatest Show on Synthetic Polyurethane, and secretly bet candy bars on races with your friends. Wash down Janel Burgess’ best Pat Summit impression with Ric Wesly’s interpretation of Tom Izzo. Stream the Whale Radio broadcasts of baseball, softball and women’s lacrosse as you study on the deck in the spring breeze. Wear a fancy hat to a crew regatta, watch the Quidditch team practice on the band turf, go run a pickup game with academic adviser Tom Fellows at the Rec , take pride every time you watch NFL receiver Charles Johnson haul in a pass from Teddy Bridgewater next season and once you’re hooked, do everyone a favor and come apply to take my job at the Lanthorn.

Tailgate whenever you like – the tickets are always free to students – and cheer like you’re a part of the finest Division II athletic programs in college sports because you are. What GVSU lacks in scope when measured against bigger schools, it makes up for with soul and as a Laker, you’re not only permitted, but encouraged to take on ownership in the product on the field/court/track without being tabbed a ‘Walmart fan’. Games usually aren’t crowded, players are generally accessible and there’s plenty of room aboard the bandwagon.

Where as you’ll rarely see GVSU on ESPN, you’ll also rarely see GVSU on ESPN! It’s a well-kept secret you’re privy to share with colleagues years later while standing around the water cooler, and it’s one of many ways for you to get involved at school to enhance your stay – a stay, which I hope at the sake of your everyday mail becoming old and boring like mine, is considerable.

Louie loves ya, be cool and stay in school, Go Lakers and all that jazz. Say hello to your grandma (twice removed) for me.

PETE

Written by peterdbarrows

February 12, 2015 at 2:12 am

Sign Off

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When did signing day become a circus?

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Pete Barrows
Columnist

I imagine sometimes what the likes of Bronco Nagurski, Bo Schembechler and all the old-school types — you know the guys around for football when the cure for a concussion was to take a few laps and a salt tablet — must think of today’s game.

They’d say we’ve gotten soft as they puff away on stogies – and they may be right.

They’d laugh hysterically at the idea that athletes be allowed to flood their every thought into the world and that fans would line up on Twitter to read what they have to say.

And every Feb. 4 (or there abouts), they’d ride in on horses exclaiming “WHAT IN THE WIDE, WIDE WORLD OF SPORTS IS GOING ON HERE?” when they caught a glimpse of the spectacle known today as national signing day: a day where it has been deemed socially acceptable for grown men to publicly live and die with which hat a 17-year old theatrically selects from a folding table set up in a high school gym as members of the media fan the flame.

From digital highlight reels that appear to have been produced by Orson Welles, to online scouting reports chalked full of super hero sounding buzzwords like gunslinger and ball hawk that rate young jocks (not the rapper) on a one to five star scale the same way a group of prepubescent boys gathered around a cafeteria table would girls, recruitment begins early and continues until a prospect has either been dropped from the process like a bad habit or picks a school to “continue his or her education.”

This year, Iman Marshall committed to USC via music video by borrowing Mac Miller’s Best Day Ever, SoSo Jamabo climbed out of a Key and Peele bit by declaring a love for Asian girls he shares with Childish Gambino and Cordell Broadus — Son of Snoop — pushed pops to pitch out a long-ago squashed Pac and Biggie East/West beef with his USC drawers by joining up with Diddy’s spawn, Justin Combs, at UCLA.

The most marquee athletes are fawned over, gawked at and crowned as they travel to schools across the country to sample local flavors and enjoy campus tours from the cheerleading team. The perks are many, but the display and the commitment transcends well beyond the gridiron. For many, life in a fish bowl extends well beyond signing a letter of intent. Fan message boards ignite with impossible proclamations and top prospects are typically either vilified or placed upon a pedestal to be knocked down at a later date.

At Grand Valley State – a Division II program by choice – the recruits stream in every year with less national fanfare, but players are still signed and choices are still made. Take the Laker football class of 2015.

Coming off a fourth-place finish in the GLIAC after finishing 6-5 last season, GVSU actively worked to bolster a run game that ranked seventh in the conference and graduates leading-rusher Chris Robinson (889 yards and nine touchdowns) by courting Bryce Young and Jacques Pougnet.

Young – a quarterback/running back/linebacker from Tennessee that moved back to Ann Arbor last season – rushed for 1,195 yards and 15 touchdowns during his only season at Pioneer. Jacques – younger brother of current GVSU safety Garrett Pougnet – rushed for nearly 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns his senior season at Flint Powers Catholic to earn Flint Journal Dream Team and AP Division 5-6 first-team honors.

Both were offered standing scholarships to play football at GVSU, and both would likely develop into contributors behind the Lakers’ consistently vaunted offensive line. Only one signed off.

As Young faxed over his paperwork to join on with the winningest program in Division II Wednesday morning, Jacques Pougnet – a real-life blend of Lance Harbor and Derek Zoolander – respectfully practiced Magnum in the mirror.

An employee of the Ford Model agency since the age of 15, Pougnet has shot campaigns for clothes and fragrances across the country, has appeared as extra in a country music videos and an episode of Empire, has participated in multiple fashion shows, has had his likeness splashed across websites and American Eagle stores and has done so without every missing a practice. He has a photoshoot with Nike scheduled for Thursday in Chicago, and plans to move to New York this summer to further his career.

Both Young and Pougnet had a choice to make, and both made them as they veered onto different forks in the road.

Just as the New England Patriots chose to draft Tom Brady in the sixth round, the Seattle Seahawks chose to draft Russell Wilson in the third round and Pete Carroll decided to pass the game away from the one in a 28-24 Seahawk loss to the Patriots on Super Bowl Sunday with destinies and legacies hanging in the balance.

Just as college football aficionados, talking heads and playoff starved fans choose to devour the pageantry. Signing Day is more style and show and (bull) spit than substance, but as recruits — and not just the kids from L.A. — can choose to parade themselves across ESPN with an air of entitlement, it’s worth remembering that it’s all of those that watch and buy in that allow for it.

Just as you reading this column chose to pick up a copy of the Lanthorn on your way to class, and a head count of 25,094 students as of this fall chose to enroll at GVSU. Not all of us are offered football scholarships of modeling gigs, but we all chose to be Lakers.

From determining a major, to filling in the Scranton bubbles on that pop quiz you didn’t study for, to picking between Ramen or Poptarts for lunch as we unwittingly consider if we each have a destiny, or if we’re all just floating around accidental-like on a breeze, we choose.

Despite what any coach might have you believe, there are no promises or guarantees in football or in life, not even on signing day – only choices. Choices that help define us as we define ourselves. And for better of worse, there are always alternatives. There are always trade-offs, and the choices we make alter our paths through the world, as well as how we view it.

As any coach worth his whistle would say upon a recruit’s final visit: choose wisely.

pbarrows@lanthorn.com

To read the original post “Sign Off’”, click here at the Lanthorn online.

Written by peterdbarrows

February 5, 2015 at 1:08 pm