Kent State-Penn State pregame stretch...
September 17, 2010 - Ray Eckenrode
Questions of leadership
This year's Penn State football team would make a fantastic case study for as aspiring MBA candidate whose specialty is leadership.
First, you've got the fascinating dynamic surrounding the twilight of Joe Paterno's career and the question of whether Joe's absolute authority is waning. (There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest it is.) If JoePa is less in charge, how was that authority assumed by the remaining coaches? Was it something that was discussed or did it happen organically? Was it contentious?
Then, you've got the situation surrounding the most important leadership position on the football field: quarterback. Can a freshman who’s been on campus less than two months LEAD a college football team? If he can, why can’t many seniors? What qualities make a quarterback a great leader? And if he can’t, can you win without a leader in that position?
Finally, what happens to a team when its best players aren’t its leaders, as is the case this year with PSU where Stefan Wisneiwski and Evan Royster are considered to be the seniors with the most NFL upside. Does it matter? Or do matters of ego and effort come into play?
We don’t truly know the answers to any of the questions above (that’s why we’re looking for an MBA candidate to study them), but we do know this: It can’t be a good thing that one football team is facing all three of those issues at once.
Rockin’ Royster, tweet tweet
Jason Whitlock, the smartest man in sports journalism, went on a mini-rant this week about the media now starting to treat Twitter feeds as “news.” We see his point, Twitter is a casual (rather than formal) form of social (rather than professional) communication (Whitlock calls it a “bastard form of communication”) and its 140-character limitations makes it virtually anyone to say anything there in context.
You could do a Twitter case study on Penn State running back Evan Royster. We’ve linked to Royster’s public Twitter feed several times in the past few weeks from this blog and our express purpose was to say to readers and Penn State fans “this information might be of interest to you, read it and make your own judgment about it.” We think there’s a real issue going any further.
Royster’s Twitter feed portrays a smart, well-spoken young man who is concerned about a lot of things in his daily life that don’t involve football. (On the flight to Alabama last week, he tweeted about a teammate using an air sickness bag; on the flight back after a crushing defeat, he pined for Star Trek-like teleportation.) In fact, just about the only time he tweets about football is to announce that some part of his football routine is over. Taken alone, Royster’s tweets would seem to portray a distracted, almost bored, young man who doesn’t have much passion for the game he’s playing. But there’s the rub for the media: Those tweets are a glance into someone’s personal life but not the sum total of it. Royster might well think about football all day. He might be striving every day to become a better player. He might agonize over losses. Perhaps, he just doesn’t tweet about it. So using those tweets alone as the basis for a story or column just doesn’t seem fair. It’s the media’s responsibility, not the Twitter user’s, to present their stories in the proper context. (Note: We’re not contending anyone has used Royster’s tweets improperly. We just think it makes a good real-world example to illustrate Whitlock’s point.)
Red alert! Red alert! Trap game, trap game. A team with a potential leadership void (see above) coming off a tail whipping (see last Saturday night) might tend to look past a 21-point underdog (see your bookie) at home (see some empty seats today). Throw in a stout run defense for Kent State and a freshman quarterback for Penn State and all the ingredients are there for a shocker. We’re not predicting the upset, but we’ll take the points … Penn State 31-17.
Season prediction record: 2-0
Season vs. the spread: 1-0