Schu Strings: Punishment will aid community

Arizona Coach John Mackovic made his decision on player indiscretions that occurred over the summer. Yet by avoiding the traditional penalties he might have helped to improve the image of the program.

Wildcat football players Bobby Wade, Andre Torrey and Javier Martinez were not suspended for separate incidents in which they got entangled in bar fights. Instead, they endured the weather and participated in construction of the Habitat for Humanity Freedom House, an endeavor slated for September 11 in Tucson.

"When I reviewed the cases of a couple of our young men during the summer and the implications to them and to our team, I took a couple of things into consideration," Mackovic said. "First of all, I don't believe after talking with them that they were out looking for trouble. In both cases, someone else was involved and they became involved because someone else was involved. We have good, young people on our team. I tried to look at what I feel is the right thing to do. I have not talked to any attorneys, but basically, I am in a position where I have to be both judge and jury, so to speak. I talked with these three guys and I have thought about it a great deal, and I am hopeful that through this we can get a learning experience, and that we can get something positive out of this and something meaningful.

"I am not going to suspend any of the three players for any games. They will be penalized and disciplined on some other issues, and I have volunteered them to help build a home for the 'Habitat for Humanity' on Sept. 11. They will pull a shift on that particular day. One, I think it's an opportunity for them to be in the community and show that we do in fact have good, young people on our team. Secondly, it reinforces our commitment to our community. Third, it reinforces to our team that if we put a side forward that is not as complimentary as we would like, we have to work hard to earn that back within the community."

Mackovic is right on all counts. There will certainly be those who view the disciplinary measures as a slap on the wrist, most notably the other parties involved in said incidents, but they weren't going to be real thrilled with the image of Arizona football anyway. Instead, the decision to involve the players in a community effort. Habitat for Humanity builds homes for the underprivileged-- does a great deal more than sitting out a half, or 60 minutes of a football game.

There's a strong likelihood Martinez, Torrey and Wade won't be particularly fond of the experience. But who knows, they might actually like it. And if that's the case then perhaps more community assistance opportunities will become available, not just for them but for other members of the Wildcat athletic family via word of mouth.

The UA (and certainly other universities) has done a nice job over the years involving student-athletes in school-related events geared toward sending a positive message to Tucson's youth.

Wildcat athletes spend a fair amount of time in local public schools. But by branching out into other venues, it conceivably opens even more community related possibilities in the future. Granted, maybe this will be a one-time thing. Just three football players doing their time in the heat and humidity. But that's a lot better than most worst-case scenarios.

I know that for many the anniversary of the terrorist attacks will be reflected upon on a consistent basis, so I'll leave your personal reflection to you. As for American sports efforts over the course of the week, however, I think I'll take this opportunity to revert to a classic piece of Italian cinema for motivation. First the good: Pete Sampras is one gutsy SOB. There was a time where I actually woke up for Breakfast at Wimbledon (which is really a riot for anyone who knows me today, and knows that now I don't wake up until the crack of noon) so that I could watch the likes of Jimmy Connors, Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe. When on, Wimbledon and the US Open were parts of my viewing habits. But as time passed, so did my interest in tennis. I'm a believer that from a spectator standpoint, no sport has been more negatively affected by technology than tennis. Bigger, stronger racquets led to greater power on the serve, and thus, far less emphasis on good rallies. For Johnny Schu, serve-volley, serve-volley, serve-service winner, serve-volley got pretty darn dull.

And in truth, the Sampras-Andre Agassi match at the US Open wasn't much different in that regard. However, what it did have was a great champion in Pete Sampras, the man who many say is the greatest to ever play the game, battling age and fighting his own fading endurance in an effort to land one more Grand Slam. Sampras was awesome early, and simply dominated Agassi, but once his return effort hit the cord and gave Agassi a 7-5 decision in the third set, it looked like Pete could be in real trouble.

In the fourth set, he labored on every service game. He went from rolling in the first two sets, to struggling with long, drawn-out deuce games, but somehow, every time he had to have it, Sampras found a huge serve. Ultimately, he caught his second wind and held on long enough for Agassi to make the mistake, pulling out a four-set gem en route to his record 14th Grand Slam.

If this were theater, Sampras would walk away now. But he's almost certainly going to give Wimbledon one more run. Still, his US Open effort was one for the ages.

The bad: The American Dream Basketball team is abysmal, and I've been laughing heartily since its unceremonious ousting at the World Championships. Head coach George Karl, attempting to deflect the embarrassment, actually called it a celebration of basketball, meaning the rest of the world has finally caught up to the Americans.

Um George, get a clue. By and large, the Americans still have the better athletes. It's still an American sport. But somewhere along the line, the Americans forgot about fundamentals, and worse, they forgot about giving a damn. None of the best want to play anymore. It's just too much a burden, or some such thing.

Exactly what professional basketball needs. Another perception of self-indulgent athletes in it not for the love of the game, or for the love of country, or some semblance of pride or competition, but for themselves and the financial bottom line. Why should I spend my time watching athletes play a game for which they are not passionate? Pathetic, and I mock thee.

The ugly: Um, pick your NFL moment. Actually, this was a cool weekend for professional football. Sadly, I'm not sure it can get much better. So many nutty close games. But there were some laughable ugly moments. Like the whole Cleveland Browns/Kansas City Chiefs fiasco. Pure gold.

But I think I'll focus instead of the ugliness of the quarterback position.

How about starting with Jake Plummer? Nobody is more overrated in terms of getting credit for fourth quarter comebacks than Jake the Snake. Why? This one's easy. Because the Cardinals are always behind, and as a result, some TV bonehead has to pull out a stat about how Plummer has rallied the Cardinals to fourth-quarter victories on 16 occasions. Never mind he's been behind 69 times. It's just some desperate attempt to keep viewers around.

Perhaps that incredible Plummer can somehow bring the Cardinals back from the abyss of darkness yet again. Yet again? He's been successful less than one out of every four games. Yeah, those are Montana and Elway numbers. Hell, you couldn't even get an eight-figure contract in baseball with a percentage like that.

Then there's Quincy Carter. How bad is Quincy Carter? And how is Quincy Carter the best quarterback the Cowboys have? Quincy Carter wouldn't be the best quarterback at Georgia right now, and I don't even know who calls the signals at Georgia. Not that I'm complaining, mind you. After all, it is Dallas. It is Jerry Jones. So I guess America's team can keep ol' Quincy as long as it likes.

But my favorite pass of the week had to go to Tom Tupa. Yeah, former Cardinal signal-caller Tom Tupa. Tom Tupa of punting fame. Tom Tupa of Tampa Bay. Tom Tupa of, "Oops, that guy's going to block my punt so let me not sidestep and kick a wobbler but instead struggle to avoid the sack in the end zone and throw it instead to the New Orleans defensive end for the winning touchdown in overtime" Tom Tupa. Oh, what sweet form. How many fourth-quarter comebacks has he mustered?

[John Schuster is a copy editor and columnist for Cat Tracks and at times he can pass as Agassi to drunk people. His columns appear on Tuesdays.]

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