Hey, turns out there is actual NFL football on today. Who knew? The early game is on the NFL Network, and features the Eagles at the dysfunctional Redskins. Not long ago, the Eagles had the best record in the league, now they don’t even control their own playoff destiny. So they have to beat the Eagles today and Giants next week and hope for some help. RGIIIis back at QB for Washington, but it is hard to see the Eagles losing here. The later game is on CBS and has the Bolts at the Niners. San Diego still has some life left in them, the Niners not so much.
On Sunday, the Lions are at the Bears, and should have no issue there. Cutler has been benched in favor of Jimmy Clausen. It has gotten so bad that the Bears are talking bout offering a high draft pick along with Cutler to get another team interested enough to take Cutler. Ooof.
The Chiefs at Steelers should be a decent game, as should Colts at Cowboys and Broncos at Bengals. The supposedly marquee matchup is the Seahawks at Cardinals. The winner will almost certainly win the NFC West and may well have home field advantage for the playoffs. But I say “supposedly” because it is hard to imagine how the Cardinals are going to find enough offense to hang with the Squawks. Drew Stanton is still out and Ryan Lindley will be starting. Lindley is really a quality kid, but the Legion of Boom is probably going to light him up. Hope springs eternal here for some kind of miracle game from the Cards, but the odds of that are effectively zero.
The rest of the games just aren’t that interesting, especially considering how late in the season it is.
Without any question, the news of the day is the direct turnabout in relations between the United States and Cuba announced this morning. There is a rather long list of areas in which many people, including me, have profound disappointment with Barack Obama over. Lack of accountability for torture is but the latest and greatest in the news consciousness of the attuned public. But today is not such a day; today Barack Obama has risen to at least part of his once heralded promise. Today, Mr. Obama has my love and affection. Today is one of the type and kind of foreign policy, whether toward middle east or other global neighbors, moments promised in Cairo and rarely, if ever, fulfilled in tangible deeds instead of words. So, today, sincere thanks and appreciation to President Obama.
Here are the basics from the AP:
The United States and Cuba have agreed to re-establish diplomatic relations and open economic and travel ties, marking a historic shift in U.S. policy toward the communist island after a half-century of enmity dating back to the Cold War, American officials said Wednesday.
The announcement came amid a series of sudden confidence-building measures between the longtime foes, including the release of American prisoner Alan Gross, as well as a swap for a U.S. intelligence asset held in Cuba and the freeing of three Cubans jailed in the U.S.
President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro were to separately address their nations around noon Wednesday. The two leaders spoke by phone for more than 45 minutes Tuesday, the first substantive presidential-level discussion between the U.S. and Cuba since 1961.
Wednesday’s announcements followed more than a year of secret talks between U.S. and Cuban officials in Canada and the Vatican. U.S. officials said Pope Francis was personally engaged in the process and sent separate letters to Obama and Castro this summer urging them to restart relations.
This news alone would have constituted something earth shattering, but there is much more than just that. In fact, the AP laid out the merest of backgrounds with that opening. There is much, much, more. I have the official press release, and Continue reading
Late start on Trash this week as I was otherwise occupied and, well, with little college football, there was little action on Saturday. Navy beat Army for the 13th time in a row and Oregon’s Marcus Mariotta won the Heisman, as was expected.
But Sunday is another matter, as the NFL is really heating up. The Cardinals won a tough defensive slugfest in St. Louis against the Rams, but suffered yet another crushing injury as QB Drew Stanton suffered a sprained MCL and ACL. No one knows when, or even if, he can return. There is a big push to get Kurt Warner to come out of retirement to save the day. I, of course, am lobbying for the ‘Ole Geezer Gunslinger himself, Brett Favre. Good times.
I think the Steelers at Falcons may be a great game. Atlanta’s record sucks, but they are very much in the playoff hunt in the woeful NFC south. And they seem to be getting their groove back. The Steelers have been hot or cold lately, better stay hot or the Falcons will take them. The Pack is in Buffalo. If there is one team that won’t be freaked by cold and snow in the outdoors of Orchard Park, it is Green Bay. They are used to it. Patriots should take care of the Dolphins at Foxborough.
Broncos at Chargers is a critical game. Of course you have to pick the Donkos, and Las Vegas is. But the Chargers will be tough. The Vikings have been gelling of late and, were this game in Minnesota, I might be tempted to go with an upset over Detroit. In Detroit, however, have to ride with the Kittehs. Can the Niners get back on the winning track against the Squawks in Seattle? Nope. Cowboys at Eagles for SNF is arguably the game of the week. I rate it as a tossup, but think the eagles may wear out the Boys if Sanchez can play decent.
Now, I said Cowboys/Iggles was “arguably” the game of the week, and any other week it might be. But not this week. Oh no, this week THE game of the week is absolutely the Bengals at the Brownies. And the starting debut of one Mr. Football. Cleveland should have gone to Manziel last week. Brian Hoyer was just pitiful, and the Brown still only lost to the Colts by one point. There is no way Manziel would not have been better. But with the loss to the Colts, Cleveland is gasping, but still technically alive in the playoff hunt. America will be watching. And in a weird scheduling deal, a LOT of America will be watching because FOX, which normally runs NFC games, is broadcasting this strictly AFC matchup. Go Johnny Go, Johnny be good!
Christmas music by Dave Edmunds.
So, just a quick thought here, and with a little prompting by Jon Turley, obviously there is torture, and outright homicide thereon, spelled out and specified by the SSCI Torture Report. As I have said on Twitter, there are many things covered in the SSCI Torture Report and, yet, many things left out.
There are too many instances in the SSCI Torture Report to catalogue individually, but let’s be perfectly clear, the failure to prosecute the guilty in this cock up is NOT restricted to what is still far too euphemistically referred to as “torture”.
No, the criminality of US Government officials goes far beyond that. And, no, it is NOT “partisan” to point out that the underlying facts occurred under the Cheney/Bush regime (so stated in their relative order of power and significance on this particular issue).
As you read through the report, if you have any mood and mind for actual criminal law at all, please consider the following offenses:
These are but a few of the, normally, favorite things the DOJ leverages and kills defendants with in any remotely normal situation. I know my clients would love to have the self serving, toxically ignorant and duplicitous, work of John Yoo and Jay Bybee behind them. But, then, even if it were so, no judge, court, nor sentient human, would ever buy off on that bullshit.
So, here we are. As you read through the SSCI Torture Report, keep in mind that it is NOT just about “torture” and “homicide”. No, there is oh so much more there in the way of normally prosecuted, and leveraged, federal crimes. Recognize it and report it.
But, without any question, my best early takeaway key is that the United States Government, knew, they bloody well knew, at the highest levels, that what was going on in their citizens’ name, legally constituted torture, that it was strictly illegal. They knew even a “necessity” self defense claim was likely no protection at all. All of the dissembling, coverup, legally insane memos by John Yoo, Jay Bybee et. al, and all the whitewashing in the world cannot now supersede the fact that the United States Government, knowing fully the immorality, and domestic and international illegality, proceeded to install an intentional and affirmative regime of torture.
Here, from page 33 of the Report, is the language establishing the above:
…drafted a letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft asking the Department of Justice for “a formal declination of prosecution, in advance, for any employees of the United States, as well as any other personnel acting on behalf of the United States, who may employ methods in the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah that otherwise might subject those individuals to prosecution. The letter further indicated that “the interrogation team had concluded “that “the use of more aggressive methods is required to persuade Abu Zubaydah to provide the critical information we need to safeguard the lives of innumerable innocent men, women and children within the United States and abroad.” The letter added that these “aggressive methods” would otherwise be prohibited by the torture statute, “apart from potential reliance upon the doctrines of necessity or of self-defense.”
They knew. And our government tortured anyway. Because they were crapping in their pants and afraid instead of protecting and defending the ethos of our country and its Founders.
Okay, I tried to get folks interested in the criminal docket report yesterday, to sadly little avail. Oh well, so be it. Let us dive headfirst into trash then.
First up is the Pac-12 Championship game between the Oregon Quackers and the Cats from Arizona, played in the Big Blue Jeans in Not Frisco (yes, I am trying to piss off those NoCal locals who HATE the term Frisco). Halfway through the third quarter and the Quack Attack is just rolling Rich Rod and the Sad Cats. Ouch. All I can say is, yo, enjoy it Cats, unlike ASU, this is as close to the Rose Bowl as you are gonna get. I rooted for you for one night, and look what happened! Bygones baybee!
That was last night, today brings us conference championship games like Ohio State and Wisconsin, Kansas State and Baylor, Alabama and Missouri, and Florida State versus Georgia Tech. I’ll take, respectively, Wisconsin, Baylor, Crimson Tide and Tech in a wild upset. In some NCAA criminal docket new, Jameis Winston is one of the most reprehensible pieces of human trash I have seen in years. He refused to testify in his disciplinary hearing, but cravenly filed an unnecessarily graphic and lewd belligerent letter and then released it to the press. Then, not satisfied with what he has already done, Winston is mentally raping his victim once again. Winston and his lawyers now are threatening to intentionally try to separate the victim from her lawyers by suing the lawyers for defamation. This won’t work, but will eat up time and money for the victim trying to fend it off. It is one of the most assholish things I have seen from an attorney in some time; Winston is one nasty piece of work. Unbelievable.
In the pros, There are a morgue full of games that may put the losers in coffins. This is similar to a guillotine day. The Steelers play the Bengals twice in the last four weeks, starting in Cinci this weekend. They probably need to win both if they want to win the division. Unfortunately, I don’t think they get it done. The Browns, like the Steelers, have a 7-5 record and can’t lose many more games and still hope to make the playoffs. Don’t think they get it done at home against the Colts either. Colts are not flashy, but Luck has them on a roll. The Ravens and Fish play in Miami. Both of them are also 7-5, and the winner will be looking good and the loser not so much. That game is really a tossup, but I like the Fish at home.
The Chefs come to the desert to meet the suddenly reeling Cardinals. The Cards are very tough at home, and they desperately need a win after two losses in a row because they finish the schedule out agh the Rams, home for Seattle and away at Niners. There is an air of doom and gloom right now in Phoenix, with the fear that the Cards may no win another game and will not even make the playoffs despite the 9-1 start. There is good reason for that fear.
The best game of the week is Seattle at Philly. The Squawks have their groove back and the Iggles are now sitting, at 9-3, with the best record in the league (shared with Green Bay, AZ, NE and Denver). It is the age old battle of lockdown defense versus high flying offense. Mark Sanchez has been pretty good since replacing Nick Foles, but hasn’t faced anything like Seattle’s defense. I’ll take the Squawks for a key road win. The Pats have spent all week in San diego getting ready for their game with the Bolts. The Chargers close with Denver Niners and Chefs, with the last two on the road, so they could really use a win against Bill Bel, Brady and the boys. No idea why I have this crazy notion, but I think the Bolts will pull this one out.
The Pack are in Atlanta for Monday Night Football, and Denver is home against the Bill. Both should be fine, but that will about end Buffalo’s slim playoff hopes. Music this week from the Killers who are….simply killer.
The popular meme has been that Ray Rice got some kind of miraculous plea deal to diversion (pre-trial intervention, or “PTI”, in New Jersey parlance) and that NOBODY in his situation ever gets the deal he did.
Is that true? No. Not at all. Kevin Drum wrote a few days ago at Mother Jones on this subject:
First, although Ray Rice’s assault of Janay Palmer was horrible, any sense of justice—no matter the crime—has to take into account both context and the relative severity of the offense. And Ray Rice is not, by miles, the worst kind of domestic offender. He did not use a weapon. He is not a serial abuser. He did not terrorize his fiancée (now wife). He did not threaten her if she reported what happened. He has no past record of violence of any kind. He has no past police record. He is, by all accounts, a genuinely caring person who works tirelessly on behalf of his community. He’s a guy who made one momentary mistake in a fit of anger, and he’s demonstrated honest remorse about what he did.
In other words, his case is far from being a failure of the criminal justice system. Press reports to the contrary, when Rice was admitted to a diversionary program instead of being tossed in jail, he wasn’t getting special treatment. He was, in fact, almost a poster child for the kind of person these programs were designed for. The only special treatment he got was having a good lawyer who could press his cause competently, and that’s treatment that every upper-income person in this country gets. The American criminal justice system is plainly light years from perfect (see Brown, Michael, and many other incidents in Ferguson and beyond), but it actually worked tolerably well in this case.
Mr. Drum is absolutely correct, Ray Rice was quite appropriate for the diversion program he was ultimately offered and accepted into by Atlantic County Superior Court.
In fact, that is exactly the deal I would hope, and expect, to get for any similarly situated client in Rice’s position. It is also notable the matter was originally charged as a misdemeanor assault in a municipal court, which is how this would normally be charged as there was no serious physical injury. Rice would have gotten diversion there too and, indeed, that was the deal his lawyer, Michael Diamondstein, had negotiated with the municipal prosecutors before the county attorney snatched jurisdiction away and obtained a felony indictment. Despite the brutality depicted by the video, this is precisely the type of conduct that underlies most every domestic violence physical assault (seriously, what do people think it looks like in real life?) and it is almost always charged as a simple misdemeanor assault.
Janay Palmer Rice clearly did not receive a “serious physical injury” level of injury under the applicable New Jersey definition in NJ Rev Stat § 2C:11-1(b) and a small period of grogginess/unconsciousness is not considered, by itself, as meeting the threshold. Now, to be fair, New Jersey has two levels of injury that can lead to a felony charge, the aforementioned “serious physical injury”, and the lower “significant physical injury”, pursuant to NJ Rev Stat § 2C:11-1(d) that Rice was charged under, and which is a far less serious charge, even though still nominally a felony under New Jersey classification.
The injury to Janay Palmer (Rice) did fall within the lower “significant physical injury” threshold under New Jersey’s criminal statutes because of the momentary apparent lapse of consciousness. So, under the New Jersey statute, while the felony, as opposed to simple misdemeanor, charge may have not been the norm for such a fact set, it was certainly minimally factually supportable. That said, most all similar cases would still be charged as simple assault, as indeed, as stated above, Rice initially was. The New Jersey assault statute, with its different iterations of offenses, and offense levels, is here.
With that description of the nature and structure of assault in New Jersey out of the way, there is something else that must be addressed: I am absolutely convinced that the Continue reading
Welp, here we are for another Thanksgiving at the Wheelhouse. And thankful you all are hear with us. This will be a pretty abbreviated trash because there are only three games on the docket for today. First up, as always, is the traditional game from Detroit. This year the Kitties host Da Bears. We are at halftime as I write. I actually thought the Bears might have a chance at the upset, but Stafford just threw a late TD to Megatron and the Lions are up 24-14, and the Bears just don’t seem like they are clicking on either side of the ball, but especially on defense. Expect more of the same in the second half.
Next up is the Eagles at Jerryworld and the Cowboys. This has the makings of an excellent game. Both teams come in at 8-3 and seem to have withstood midseason uncertainty. My inclination is to take the ‘Boys here. But Philly can wear out defenses, and Dallas is good, but not deep. If Sanchez doesn’t make a bunch of mistakes, I think the Eagles can pull it off. The night game is another division slugfest, this time in the NFC west. Squawks at Niners. Both teams are 7-4 going in, but the loser is in some trouble for the post season. Seattle dominated Arizona in Seattle last week, but they are a different team on the road, and this game is in the Big Bluejeans Stadium. No idea who wins this, strikes me as a tossup.
We will have a special guest trasher on Saturday for the weekend’s festivities, but there are a couple of interesting college games tonight and tomorrow. Tonight is TCU at Texas. Probably will be a TCU blowout, but I would love to see the Longwhorens pull the upset. Tomorrow the action is in the Pac-12. Stanford is at UCLA. Always a tough game, and the Tree could really monkey wrench things with an upset. I don’t think so, I’ll take the Bruins.
And last, but certainly not least, is THE BIG GAME. For the Territorial Cup. Arizona State at the hated Arizona. Calling this a rivalry is wholly insufficient. The schools, and teams, loath each other with a passion. And this is the first time in many, many years that both teams enter the game so highly ranked and with big bowl aspirations in play. I highly urge you to tune into this, the game rarely disappoints. Much as I hate to say it, the game is in Tucson this year, and for that reason I give the edge to Rich Rod and the Cats. The Devils rebounded from their soul crushing road loss at Oregon State to get back on track, mostly in the second half, against Washington State last weekend. Can they keep it up and pull off a win in the Old Pueblo? We shall see!
Have a great Thanksgiving, enjoy your friends, family and food. See you in comments!
First, at the insanely reckless, and inexplicably late hour of 8:00 pm, St. Louis prosecutor Bob McCulloch held one of the most surreal and disingenuous press conferences I have ever seen by a prosecutor in my life. Correction, not one of the most, but THE MOST. Here is the video and an uncorrected transcript from CSPAN.
The content is simply stunning. Prosecutor McCulloch basically gives a closing summation from the perspective of Darren Wilson’s personal defense attorney. Which makes sense, as that has been the clear and unmistakable posture of McCulloch from the outset of this charade. He glowingly recounts cherry picked aspects of Wilson’s testimony to support the officer’s narrative, and then attacks the numerous civilian, and mostly black, witnesses that support the Brown side of things as all being either mistaken, liars or not even there. Just amazing.
But, as I alluded to, it was not just the content, but the timing of McCulloch’s press conference as well. It was a consummately reckless and hideous thing to do to wait until well into the night and darkness to incite the tinderbox of emotion and protest. Here is Jeff Toobin at CNN:
Here’s the thing about that time of night: it’s dark. Anyone — anyone! — should have known that the decision in the Brown case would have been controversial. A decision not to indict, which was always possible, even likely, would have been sure to attract protests, even violence. Crowd control is always more difficult in the dark.
The grand jury’s deliberations concluded around lunchtime on Monday. It would have been simple to make the announcement while it was still daytime. Still, McCulloch said that he would not announce the grand jury’s decision until 8 p.m. CT.
The predictable reaction ensued. Protests began, some of them violent. Police responded with tear gas. Fires burned. Cars were destroyed. Gunshots were heard. The full scale of the damage was difficult to assess last night.
The ultimate verdict on the grand jury’s decision is up to history at this point. But the verdict on McCulloch opting to announce the decision at night is clear — and devastating.
That is spot on. Insane is a word that I have been using a lot in respect to this case, but it certainly applies to McCulloch’s dog and pony show timing.
Next is the actual grand jury materials and content, and what they mean to the injustice that has occurred in this matter. That one is going to take a lot longer to suss through and put together. I have read a few bits and pieces, notably much of Darren wilson’s grand jury testimony, but there are thousands of pages of material, and it will take me days to get through it properly. More will come, but for now, I want to give a couple of links to the full set of materials put together by others.
Here is the New York Times version. I think it is the best formatted and easiest to navigate so far.
They are all fine links from which to navigate and I link all three because they went to great trouble to do a public service in a short amount of time. They are owed thanks. The one substantive comment I will make for now is the way the standing prosecutors, Kathi Alizadeh and Sheila Whirley, spoon fed the witnesses, and especially Darren Wilson, and otherwise slanted everything imaginable, to support the exoneration of Wilson is just disgusting. I have read countless grand jury transcripts over the years, and I have NEVER seen anything that remotely resembles this kind of biased, for the defendant, dog and pony show. Again, it is simply insane and unheard of.
Okay, this entire grand jury was a farce, a charade, and a lie. It was a cravenly engineered whitewash by Bob McCulloch from start to the criminally reckless end with Ferguson in flames last night. And do not, like so many on social media seem to be doing, think the DOJ is going to bail the situation out by indicting Darren Wilson on federal charges. Even DOJ veterans say it is unlikely. I say there is not a chance in hell of an indictment against Wilson personally.
In closing, a few words by my friend Scott Greenfield from his excellent criminal defense blog Simple Justice:
Americans may be a smart, educated people, but we are lazy and ignorant. It’s too much effort for our delicate sensibilities to gain a deeper understanding of how our nation functions. This is why the Ferguson Lie happened. This is why the Ferguson Lie works.
That the grand jury did not indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson was a foregone conclusion. To those of us who don’t have to look up a study or read a law review article to understand how indictments happen in the real world, the outcome was clear when St. Louis County District Attorney Bob McCulloch announced that he would present all the evidence to the grand jury. Wachtler’s “ham sandwich” has grown trite in this discussion.
The Ferguson Lie is an appeal to our sense of fairness and transparency. We were played. McCulloch’s lengthy spiel before announcing “no true bill” was to spread the lie. To the ear of the media, McCulloch’s pitch was appealing; the grand jury heard all the evidence. The grand jury transcript will be disclosed to provide complete transparency. Witnesses lied to the media, but the grand jury heard the truth. The grand jury saw the hard evidence. Nine whites and three blacks, so no one would think that the grand jury was denied the voice of people of color, sat on the grand jury, which met for 25 sessions and more than 70 hours of testimony.
The grand jury did the dirty work that America needed done. The grand jury has spoken.
This is the lie.
Go read all of Scott’s piece, it is superb and exactly how I feel too.
For now though, I have to get off to court. There will be much more, but I am not sure when given the time to cull through the materials and the holidays. Until then, happy hunting in the treasure trove of documents, and post your findings and discussion in comments.
Whoo boy, there is a bit of snow that shuffled in to Buffalo recently. So, with the Kittehs over in Foxborough taking on the steamrolling Pats, Buffalo will be the “home team” in Detroit for their game against the Jets. And tickets will be free, which is a cool thing for fans in Motown. The Jets just stink and Buffalo ought be a little jacked up, so I’m taking the Wagon Circlers. But what about the Kittehs? The Bill Bel and Brady brigade are just flat out rolling and just signed a new/old battering ram, er running back, LeGarrette Blount to solidify their running game. The Lions might be slipping back into the penalty prone ways. Hard not to take the Pats here.
Other than Pats and Lions, the other truly big game is the Cards up at the Seasquawks. The Squawks are favored pretty heavily. The national press, especially all the chatterers on ESPN, seem fixated on the Cards being in trouble because Carson Palmer is done for the year and backup Drew Stanton is in charge at QB. But I don’t think that is the worry, Stanton is competent, and the Cards were not exactly flashy even with Palmer. I think the problem is the running game, or actually lack thereof. The Cards get a little bit out of Andre Ellington, but really just don’t have much of a ground game. I think against a still tough Seattle defense, in that noisy stadium, that will doom the Cards. The Dolphins at Broncos and Ravens at Saints will also have big implications for all four teams and their playoff chances.
It is really a weak schedule in the college ranks this week. Arguably the two best games are in the Pac-12. First up is Rich Rod and the Arizona Wildcats in Utah to face the Utes.As I said earlier in the year when ASU played Utah, the Utes are good, and especially so at home in Rice Stadium. Lot of people picking Utah, but I think the Cats will pull out a narrow win. The other Pac-12 tilt of note is the yearly grudge match between USC and UCLA. The Bruins are favored at “home” in the Rose Bowl, but home field doesn’t mean much with these two. Both Brett Hundley and Cody Kessler are having great seasons at QB. I think it is a tossup, maybe slight edge to the Trojans. The SEC seems to all be playing Eastern Podunk State this week, so who cares about them? Special shoutout for Scribe on the Lehigh and Lafayette game being played in Yankee Stadium. I rate it a tossup, because who knows what can happen when these two get together! Seriously though, this is the 150th meeting in this ancient rivalry, and the NYT has a great story about the history.
Really, that is about it for excitement. There are only the two top shelf games in the NFL, but they should be good ones. The announcement of a no-bill, the opposite of an indictment for you non-criminal lawyers, is likely to be announced from the St. Louis County prosecutor’s office on Sunday, or so it seems to be shaping up to my eye. Officer Darren Wilson will skate for the homicide of Michael Brown, and all because prosecutor Bob McCulloch designed and ran a ridiculously out of the ordinary and craven grand jury designed to insure there was no indictment. Wilson figuratively chased a boy through the park and put a bullet in his heart. So today’s music is an absolutely kick ass version of Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker) by the Stones from 1972. Rock on.
Update from emptywheel. Scribe actually wrote a great piece on the Lehigh/Lafayette game so I’m making an executive decision to share it with you all.
This is the weekend someone in the marketing department decided would be called “Rivalry Weekend”. And, so it is. Even though BMAz says it’s a lame weekend for college football, he’s wrong again. Many of the greatest rivalries in the college game get played today. But there is one rivalry which stands apart from the others. Today, Lafayette College and Lehigh University will play football against each other for the 150th time. That is more than any other pair of teams have played each other, anywhere, ever. This year The Game will take place at a neutral site. Yankee Stadium.
These are two smallish Eastern colleges with campuses about a dozen miles apart in two of the small, now post-industrial, cities of Pennsylvania. The schools are justly proud of their academics and the distinction of their graduates. You can look them up, but they routinely wind up near the top of the “highly competitive” categories.
Lehigh is a full-blown university awarding all sorts of degrees through the doctorate, but it came up as a school of engineering and the hard sciences. It was founded in the 19th century by the man in charge of the Lehigh Valley Railroad and located literally up the hill – Bethlehem’s South Mountain – from the main works and offices of the Bethlehem Steel Company. For generations there were many young men who, upon graduation, would go down the hill and into the offices of The Steel, to retire from there 40 or so years later. For the longest time, Lehigh’s teams were “the Engineers”. But, in recent years either they had an attack of the marketing department or a crisis of confidence and they wound up renaming themselves the “Mountain Hawks”.
Lafayette is an all-undergraduate college sited on College Hill, a bluff overlooking the city of Easton and the confluence of the Lehigh and Delaware rivers. Its professors actually teach students in classes. It was founded in the first part of the 19th century. Its graduates have been more catholic in their fields of accomplishment, though business and Wall Street are strongly represented. Since time out of mind, its teams have been called the “Leopards”. In the days before the No Fun League, college football was the game and Lafayette was a national powerhouse as well as innovators. They were consensus national champions in 1896, 1921 and 1926. That’s right. Three-time national champions. In those old days, responding to the team from the University of Pennsylvania stealing their signals, Lafayette’s team invented the huddle. And, after tiring of getting banged around, one of Lafayette’s players invented the old leather football helmet. And in the late 40s when Texas’ Jim Crow would have stopped their star running back, a former Tuskegee Airman, from playing, Lafayette told the Sun Bowl to keep their bowl bid.
The rivalry between these two colleges is and always has been intense even as they’ve gone from I-A to I-AA in football, I-A in other sports. If you haven’t experienced it from the inside it’s quite hard to describe. It extends from football through all other sports and into the work and social worlds. That whole “Roll Tide -War Eagle” bit has nothing on this. For many years, the intensity of the rivalry required The Game to be played twice – home and home – every year. Thus, today is the 150th time The Game has been played even though they only started playing in 1884. The energy behind the rivalry played out in stunts – can you build an egg launcher that can be smuggled into the game and will reach to the other side of the stadium? – violence – both were all-male schools until about 1970 and all that energy went into … something – vandalism – once, some Lehigh students put their welding skills to work and removed the balls from a larger-than-life bronze of General Lafayette. (After that and some very professionally done repairs, all outdoor statuary was boxed over for most of November. Students often repainted the boxes to look like outhouses.)
Two schools where football players play more for the love of the game than anything else. Both schools are antipathetic toward athletic scholarships and there are no academic shortcuts. Hardly any of the players ever gets a look from the No Fun League, so today is the end of football for most of the seniors. Each school has long traditions, alumni who deeply love them and many reasons to be proud. Today is one more. For me, Yankee Stadium is too far to travel, but I might be going to a sports bar where The Game will be on CBS Sports Network.
Raise a glass. This is what college football should be.