June 3, 2020

Lions around the dorm

Welcome to the first edition of “Around the Dorm.” The premise is simple: I pitch out four questions to sports experts and let them prove their worth as sports gurus, with me critiquing and grading their responses. I tally points, mildly mock those who have totally missed the point and award the winner a chance to speak out about anything he or she wants as a prize for victory. Now to introduce our four competitors: Lauren Kohout, sports editor for The Signal; Ray Lodato, staff writer for The Signal; Vegas Lancaster, a person who really likes seeing his name in print; and Pat Lavery, WTSR sports director. I am the referee for this game, eight-time Fantasy Football Champion Rob Viviano.

1) What sport at the College is the toughest to play mentally?

LK: Football is easily the toughest. With the biggest playbook to memorize and the biggest hype to live up to, it isn’t hard to see why it’s so easy to go back-and-forth between extremes. After finishing in second place in the conference three years in a row, the team nose-dived to a 3-7 record last year. This year, the team has a lot to prove, which can weigh down on someone’s shoulders, especially considering the best outing so far has been by a freshman, quarterback Chris James in the win over LaSalle University. Props to the Lions for beating the Explorers two years in a row. Now, how about a homecoming win?

RL: No doubt in my mind – football. It’s not even close, really. Nevermind memorizing an entire playbook full of material, on the gridiron there can be a million things buzzing through your head on every play: “Which route do I run? Who is my man in coverage?” Top that off with the fact that you get hammered nearly every play and you have to combat the mental fatigue that wears on you throughout the game; it’s an easy decision. Seriously, what’s the most mentally taxing thing a field hockey player has to worry about? Whether her skirt is ironed or not? Not even close – football.

VL: I know football players have to live up to the ideal of being the pinnacle of college sports. I’ve also heard that field hockey had some million-game winning streak to defend a while back. I’d still say that the toughest sport mentally is crew. It is financially tough, costing thousands of dollars a year. As a result, the crew team has to contribute their own money to the sport, and have fundraisers, as evidenced by the TCNJ Crew shot glass on my desk. Even that is reasonable compared to the mental toughness required to be on the team. Crew members wake up six days a week at 4 a.m., when most of us are just crawling into bed. It is all about dedication, endurance and iron will. Crew is hard. Harder even than the liquor in my shot glass.

PL: I would think that as far as sports go here at the College wrestling is mentally the toughest men’s sport, and for the women, it’s field hockey. The reason I say wrestling is that in every other sport the athletes are standing upright for most of the time, whereas with wrestling, the participants often find themselves in unfamiliar, uncomfortable and undesirable positions. I think the mind-set is that you have to prepare to get in those kinds of positions or you’ve already lost before you get on the mat. And as for field hockey, my sister is a high school field hockey player and she constantly complains about the varied, pesky and numerous rules enforced during play. I think that all of these rules probably make field hockey a very mentally intimidating sport.

RV: Despite his inability to remember the 107-game winning streak belonged to lacrosse, not field hockey, Vegas amazingly has won me over with crew. If an entire boat working in perfect unison for hours at a time is not mentally taxing, I don’t know what is – three points. Lauren and Ray had almost the same response, but Lauren reminded me that we used to be good at football, so two points for her, one for Ray. Pat has just let me down, listing field hockey as the most mentally taxing sport – zero.

2) Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of the football team and the difficulties and responsibilities of each position, which position on this year’s team would you least like to play right now?

LK: I would least like to play quarterback; especially now, when the quarterbacks are being shuffled in and out of the game. In three games the Lions have used four different quarterbacks, three of them in one game alone. This inconsistency of playing time makes it hard to get used to playing in game situations when the team depends on you. The quarterback always gets scrutinized the most for everything wrong that happens to the team. Defense is what wins games, but if the quarterback cannot be a playmaker and put up some points, then the team still won’t win. Coming off a 3-7 season, that is a lot of pressure on one quarterback, or four for that matter.

RL: Offensively, this is a tough one. No matter what position you play you’re going to have trouble. I’d have to say running back, though. Despite the fact that the passing game has produced a paltry 50.5 yards per game and has been responsible for all of five first downs, the running backs are getting hammered. How does 1.8 rushing yards per attempt sound? I’m sure nothing pleases the defense more when you can’t control the clock and give them a breather – I mean, who doesn’t like pissing off defensive linemen? The best rushing statistic to tell the sad state of affairs? 222 rushing yards gained, yet 102 yards lost. That’s the sound of opposing defenses readying the hot tub, because they’re in for a treat playing against this running game.

VL: Even with my limited knowledge of the football team, I know that my answer is this: Ryan Ross. In our first two games this season, Ross has turned two kickoff returns into touchdowns (one of them for a whopping 95 yards!). Over two games, Ross’ combined kickoff and punt returns and offensive drives have earned the Lions more yardage than all of the rest of the offense combined. So which position would I least like to play? I’d least like to be Ross; because if I, the clumsy 155-pound philosophy major, were to replace the Lions’ team captain, Lions’ football would have a serious problem.

PL: Even though it’s a common perception that the kickers usually get the Rodney Dangerfield treatment, the real thankless positions are on the offensive line. Think about looking through your franchise’s stats in a Madden video game. Quarterbacks have TD passes, defensive linemen have sacks, defensive backs have interceptions; all of these, very flashy statistics. Offensive linemen? The only two positive stats you’ll see are games started and pancakes. What the heck is a pancake? I ate five pancakes for breakfast this morning; don’t give me that crap.

RV: Quarterback takes the blame for everything, when he is, arguably, the most team-dependent player. We blame him for everything that goes wrong in the passing game – three points for Lauren. Pat gets two points for reminding us being on the offensive line is the only thing more humbling than letting me assign points to your responses – two points. Running backs are in dire straits at the College, I just feel that it’s worse to be a semi-ignored position, or known for failure like any QB mistake – one point. Vegas proved he can read last week’s Signal – zero.

3) The Flying Pineapples’ Ultimate Frisbee team has suffered torn ACLs, massive amounts of stitches and various trips to the ER in the past year. Does this qualify it as the most intense sport at the College?

LK: Just because players get hurt often doesn’t make the sport intense. Torn ACLs do not come from intense play; they come from not having strong enough muscles around your ACL, tendons and ligaments. I am not aware of what the stitches were needed for, nor the emergency room visits; however, I do know that it doesn’t qualify them as the most intense sport. But it may be the most random sport for its unexpected happenings on the field. The most intense sport has to be ice hockey. If it is possible to have your hand sliced open by a steel blade just because you were trying to lift yourself up off the ice after getting checked into the boards by a 6-foot-5, 250-pound defenseman, it automatically qualifies it as the most intense sport … although tennis does put up a good fight – that tennis elbow is a killer.

RL: Ultimate Frisbee – most intense sport? When you get crushed coming across the middle by a rogue safety because your quarterback left you hanging out to dry, we can talk. Look, every sport has injuries – it’s the nature of the beast. I’m sure if you played croquet long enough you’d screw something up too. But football (and for that matter, many other sports) has brutality and violence ingrained into the essence of play. Every snap is a war in the trenches. Calling Ultimate Frisbee the most intense sport is like saying Sunday beer league softball is “hardcore” because you break a sweat. Cut me a break.

VL: I would gladly call our Ultimate Frisbee team the most intense sport at the College, but not because of their litany of injuries. Consider the names of some of the greatest college sports teams in the country: the Cornhuskers, Fighting Irish, Tar Heels, etc. These are not the bland animal names that you would find in a pee-wee baseball league. They’re unique enough to be nationally recognizable, thus giving them the potential for greatness. Sometimes an obscure adjective is all that’s needed to transform something generic into something renowned, like the Nittany Lions. The Flying Pineapples have dumped the status quo and taken a unique name, one that implies greatness. That, my friends, is intense.

PL: Probably, yes. And you know what, for all of their medical troubles, they probably enjoy winning more than any other team, at least non-varsity team, here at the College.

RV: Lauren is right; I jokingly overlooked most sports to ask this question, but hockey is amazingly intense – three points. Ray, violence isn’t ingrained in their play? You obviously haven’t played with them – two points. Pat, one point for conciseness. Vegas, no comment, just zero.

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