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Friday, September 3, 2010
By Ron Cherubini
Staff Feature Writer

Prognosticators mock "The Man"

Pirates' cup runneth over with bulletin board fodder

By Ron Cherubini
All rights reserved.

As the one and only Richard Morgan Fliehr once said, “To be the The Man, you gotta beat The Man!” The Nature Boy said it quite often and his words underscore a fundamental ingredient that any would-be challenger to a champion better have in its arsenal: due respect. This holds true whether in the squared circle or on the gridiron.

While swagger, talent and experience are necessary ingredients to beat the man, the few that find themselves in that position only get there when they carry with them that measure of respect for the guy who knows what it takes to defend something all others want.

Apparently, a lot of sports journalists have never beaten The Man. It must be true, at least if the wave of 2010 Conference USA previews are to be taken with any measure of seriousness.

Back to that in minute.

I hope our beloved Pirates players are taking the time to read the growing volume of bulletin board material that must be a few inches deep over there in the Murphy Center. If the preview magazines, sports television previews, and league message boards are to be believed, East Carolina won’t even factor into the race for the East division this season.

I think I hear Aretha warming up.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T … or lackthereof for the two-time defending C-USA champions is absolutely stunning.

Take the opener Sunday against Tulsa, our conference brethren from the West. Consider this: Tulsa is largely considered the third best team in the west behind Houston and Southern Methodist. The Golden Hurricane is going on the road to play against the back-to-back conference champions, who are 22-8 at home in the past five years — 12-2 during the past two seasons — in the league’s most daunting game-day stadium, which will yet again be sold out.

The Pirates have beaten Tulsa the last two times out. Last season, largely the same offense personnel that will take the field on Sunday hung 44 points on the Golden Hurricane at their place. Despite that, Tulsa is more than a touchdown favorite and at one point was a double-digit road favorite.

Maybe instead of putting players’ names on the back of the jerseys this season, we should just put “Dangerfield.”

But Tulsa skipper Todd Graham gets it. During his game-week presser, he reminded a room full of those sports journalists time and time and time again that the Pirates are the two-time conference champions. That means something to those who have really competed physically for something.

Graham and his players will be ready because they are treating this game like what it is: a visit to the champion’s house. It is the biggest game in which Tulsa has played since the 2008 C-USA Championship, period.

Back to those so-called sports journalists, which in my mind includes anyone who is paid to talk about college football on television, write a blog for an established sports media outlet, or contribute to a preview magazine. If you are saying to yourself, “Hey, Ron produces a preview magazine and writes for Bonesville… doesn’t that make him one of them?” Well, all I can say to you is… you’re just going to have to figure that one out for yourself.

There was a time when it was expected that before a pen went to paper or before the microphone or cameras were turned on that extensive research would be conducted on the topics to be covered. Today, at least when it comes to C-USA, research is apparently not a prerequisite. The result is that bolus of bulletin board for the Pirates to consume and digest into the biggest chip ever donned by an East Carolina team.

Let’s take a little sampling here:

CBS College Sports Network gave a 30-minute preview of C-USA and allotted the two-time champion Pirates three minutes of air time. (Quick tangent: 30 minutes to preview 10 teams in 2 divisions… are you kidding? The three service academies got 30 minutes).

Former Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer — a guy who once lobbied fairly hard for the ECU job — claims Central Florida will win the East because it has a great coach in George O’Leary and the best defense in the league. Apparently, greatness at UCF equals a 34-41 coaching record... and the stellar label applied to the Knights' defense is the spin term for a unit that the Pirates' vanilla offense hung 403 yards on a year ago.

East Carolina's three-minute segment came down to Fulmer’s other big contribution on the show. He stated that Skip Holtz left just in time because the cupboard is bare for Coach Ruffin McNeill. How would Fulmer know? I don’t think he even took the time to read a Cliffs Notes version of ECU's team’s composition.

If you think CBS College Sports Network — C-USA's partner — could care less about the league given that pathetic preview, you need to take a gander at the gem put together for the conference. The presentation was horrible. It reminded me of that yahoo UNC-Chapel Hill superfan who used to give YouTube previews and post-game reports on the Tar Heels from his basement. The offering was terrible enough to watch, but the content was simply the same as what was on CBS College Sports Network, albeit delivered from a stumbling teleprompter reading.

Wow. Thanks a lot ESPN. I want the old ESPN that didn’t have the BCS television contract.

It gets no better in the magazines, whether it be the previews produced by the big outlets like ESPN, Sports Illustrated, The Sporting News, or the preseason rags produced by Athlon, Lindy’s and the rest. I often wonder if there is a single guy, about six sheets to the wind, who writes a single uninformed preview — replete with misspellings, mentions of players who are no longer on the roster, and analysis based on a depth chart released in the spring — which is then run in every magazine and on every website.

Regardless of which “source” of information you read, they are all saying the same things about C-USA: Houston wins the West with a challenge from SMU while Central Florida and Southern Miss fight it out in the East. Houston wins it all and ECU whimpers off to rebuild.

Bulletinboard version:


That smarts more than a backhand slap to the cheek. How does that feel Pirates?

Sure hope the Pirates have Bobby Boucher-sized cans of whoopass in their lockers because someone — starting with Tulsa — needs to pay for the disrespect the media has given the defending champs.

Regardless of the unknowns this year’s ECU team faces, I’m with Ric Flair. Until someone comes in here and beats The Man, there is only one Man in Conference USA: The Pirates.

E-mail Ron Cherubini

Ron Cherubini Archives

09/03/2010 03:16 AM


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