By Jim • 

A potpourri of football topics for the New Year

Hal Bellows, who loves football, whether it’s high school or college, is a big University of Michigan fan.

And, to show his loyalty to the blue- and yellow-clad Wolverines, he attended the team’s homecoming game against conference rival Illinois on Oct. 13 where Michigan blew out the Illini, 45-0.

Not only did Bellows have the opportunity to watch his team in action, but he also was able to join 1989 Rose Bowl MVP LeRoy Hoard in a tailgater. Hoard, Bellows said, earned the honors in a Rose Bowl match-up with Southern California. He was also impressed with the Wolverines’ stadium, which seats around 112,000. In the Illinois game, the attendance figure was 111,923, Bellows said.

But even with the large crowd on hand, walking down State Street to the stadium, he said, “There were traffic cops everywhere” to keep the crowd moving. During his stay in the Ann Arbor area, Bellows also had time to tour the college campus and was impressed with the architectural variety. And, the streets around the stadium, he noted, were named after former coaches, which was also impressive.

How long has Hal Bellows followed the Wolverines? Oh, just since November 22, 1965 when Michigan beat Woody Hayes’ Ohio State club. That’s when Bo Schembechler, one of the Wolverines’ most famous coaches, was at the helm of Michigan. Bellows noted Schembechler played for Hayes at Miami University and later was an assistant under Hayes at Ohio State before becoming a Big 10 competitor at Michigan.

And, he noted, Hayes didn’t like to lose, even to a former player and assistant coach he’d mentored.

Bellows tuned in to ESPN to watch his Wolverines play No. 11 South Carolina in the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Florida, which Michigan lost. I’m sure, he’ll wore his blue and yellow Michigan gear while cheering for his team to win its ninth game.

After all, he’s been a big fan of the Wolverines for almost half a century.


Bounty hunters exonerated by former NFL Commissioner

When NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended several coaches and players for the bounty system implemented by the New Orleans Saints, most football fans thought the suspensions fit the crime: assault on the football field for bonus pay. But, former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue overturned the players’ pending suspensions after months had gone by, blaming coaches for their lead role in the situation.

Tagliabue also said the suspension of four Saints’ players were “selective, ad hoc or inconsistent,” that Goodell punished some players unfairly by overlooking others involved in the “hard-hits for pay” scheme and that the punishments weren’t consistent. I’m among the sports fans who believe Tagliabue was wrong, dead wrong, for making a mickey-mouse decision. In his mind, the discipline should have been postponed, perhaps to allow for more education to end the bounty system. Tagliabue also said the players “may not have had much choice but to ‘go along’ to comply with coaching demands or directions that they may question or resent.”

In announcing his decision, Tagliabue hammered suspended head coach Sean Payton and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams although their suspensions were not connected with the appeal he was considering.

Several players on opposing NFL teams were injured in the bounty scheme, which was aimed in part at knocking the opponent’s best players (quarterbacks were near the top of the list) out of the game or at least keeping them off the field for a few plays. And, in my mind, all of the guilty parties should have been suspended for an entire season. The coaches behind the scheme? A ban from the NFL sidelines for life. Pro football is tough enough with all the high-speed hits; a bounty system is an add-on that doesn’t belong in any level of football, and it approaches what I would call “criminal activity.”

As the decision was made to overturn Goodell’s suspensions of players, I felt sorry for the man. There’s no place for a bounty system in football, just as he indicated, and the four players are now being given a second chance while some of the guys they sent to the sidelines with injuries are wondering what happened to the idea of justice and fair play.

Apparently, there isn’t any in the NFL.


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