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The King of Unlistenable and Unlistened Radio met the Prince of Unwatchable and Unwatched Television and the result was a finger-nails-on-chalkboard, Bill O'Reilly hatefest of teacup proportions the other day on Air America Radio.
With apparently nothing better to do (like fact-check the "news" he puts on the air) Keith has spent a good part of his on-air time parsing the meaning of the word "division" and O'Reilly's supposed motivation for using this word, self-aggrandizement.
In the tortured mind of Olbermann - a rich, geeky, "spaz" from an elite prep school, Hackely, who grew up in the leafy suburbs of Westchester (NY), one of the wealthiest counties in the country, with the good fortune to have been born into family rich enough to pay for four years at one of the most expensive universities in the county, Cornell - this is not about whether O'Reilly played football at Marist (he did) or whether he was a punter/kicker (he was) or whether he was any good (he was). The "issue" for KO is whether O'Reilly sought to make playing for Marist seem "bigger" by using the word "division".
In other words, Keith is once again providing an example of why he was the kind of kid who would of had the crap kicked out of him if he showed his face in O'Reilly's Long Island neighborhood.
And that is more to the point.
This is not about the Marist football program but about class and envy. It is Keith "Ivy League/ to the manor born" Olbermann v. Bill "hardknocks/ college scholarship basketball player" O'Reilly. It is about Keith's inability to reconcile his entitlement upbringing with his failure as a cable news personality and O'Reilly's position as top dog in a highly-competitive industry. How it must gall Keith to see O'Reilly at the top of the cable ratings week-in and week-out and routinely perched atop the bestseller lists or to know that O'Reilly was a real journalist working or ABC News who covered actual news events like the Falkland War and the wars in Central America (yes, Keith you coward, O'Reilly reported from war zones not locker rooms).
Olbermann's entire argument hinges on the "subtlety" behind the "nuance" of O'Reilly's "deception". In the Franken interview, Olbermann carefully breaks down the CURRENT structure of college football: NCAA Division I, NCAA Division I-A, NCAA Division II, NCAA Division III and incorrectly breaks the NAIA down into two divisions (the NAIA abandon divisions several years ago). He then discusses the difference between a "club sport" and a "varsity" sport. Keith should know all about this because in his college days he "covered" both club sports and varsity sports at his college radio station whereas O'Reilly could not possibly understand the difference. He was too busy playing on a club team (Marist Football) and a varsity team (Marist Basketball).
If you can stand to listen to Franken and Olbermann long enough you will here Keith explain how the "divisions" in college football are all about status and TV rights. As anyone who has listened to an argument over who is the "real" college football National Champ knows full well, college football is not organized like most other sports. In 1970, the NCAA was a weak, umbrella group for various football organizations. The real power in college football was at the conference level - Big 10, Pac 10, SEC, ACC and so on. They were all regional organizations and were each responible for publishing rule books, putting together schedules, providing referees, setting the requirements, signing bowl contracts and TV contracts.
The Association's membership was divided into three legislative and competitive divisions in 1973 at the first special Convention ever held. Five years later, Division I members voted to create subdivisions I-A and I-AA in the sport of football.
Prior to 1973 the NCAA was just one aspect of organized college sports which included indepdent teams (Notre Dame, the military academies), football associations and regional conferences that organized college football programs around the United States. Besides the NCAA there was the National Association of Intercollegiate of Athletics (NAIA), the major conferences like the SEC, Pac 10 and Big 10, conferences compomised of what are now called "Historically Black Colleges and Universities" (HBCU). And another was the National Club Football Association (NCFA) which included, in 1970 and 1971, Marist college.
In 1973, the newly created NCAA Division II and Division III football began to incorporate a number of smaller college football programs including, over time, many colleges from the NAIA, the HBCUs and the NCFA.
By Olbermann's definition, the National Club Football Association was not a "division" and therefore O'Reilly's use of the word is incorrect. However, Olbermann's definition of "division" does not apply either because there were NO "divisions" by his standard in 1970-71 - there was a governing body for collegiate athletics, the NCAA, which had no real power over college football and a loose affiliation of regional football conferences and football associations including the NCFA.
Keith has great fun in riduculing the NCFA as not "real" because the school did not provide funding for equipment, coaches or scholarships.
The truth is that most colleges even TODAY do not offer scholarships or significant financial support for football including within the NCAA divisions and it was quite common for college players to provide their own equipment and coaches when O'Reilly played for Marist.
Keith has made much of the NCFA not being a "national" football association so as to mock O'Reilly's "national punting title" and ironically used the unfortunate analogy of saying that comparing NCFA football to college football was like saying broadcasting on a CB radio was equivalent to broadcasting on Air America Radio [note: I say unfortunate here because "real" broadcast networks like ABC and Westwood One (O'Reilly's radio network) consider Air America Radio more akin to CB Radio than anything done by the big boys).
The truth is that during its existence, the NCFA compromised roughly 125 colleges from all over the country. As the NCAA began to assert more control over college football, many of the NCFA members were incorporated into the various NCAA divisions including Marist College. The NCFA stat sheet that Keith references on Bill O'Reilly's web site lists about 25 of the 125 schools who participated in the NCFA almost of which are currently Divisin I-A, I-AA, II or III schools today: St. John's University (NY Metro), Dusquence University (PA), Siena College (upsate NY), Loyola (LA). St. Francis (PA), New Haven (NY Metro), Westchester Community College (NY Metro), Detroit University (MI), New York Tech. (Upsate NY), St. Louis University (MO), Marist College (upstate NY), Nicholls State (LA), Seton Hall (NY Metro), Manhattan (NY Metro), Virginia Commonwealth (VA), Niagara (Upstate NY), Loran (?), Providence (RI), Kings College (PA), Pat St (?), LSU-New Orleans (LA), Canisius (Upstate NY), Utica (Utica, NY). A Google search showed more schools from all over the country including four from California.
On his blog, Keith wrote: "The "national" part was not to be taken too literally. In O'Reilly's senior year, 1970, a disproportionate number of the schools were in the New York metropolitan area."
This is totally false. I don't have access to the complete history of the NCFA but on the NCFA stat sheet on O'Reilly's web site there are just five schools from the New York Metropolitan area (including New Haven in Connecticut and Seton Hall in New Jersey). The rest of the schools were spread around in upstate New York, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Michigan, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Louisiana. I have also documented (below) at least four schools in Califoria and six other schools from west of the Mississippi. This says nothing about the other 100+ schools that played in the NCFA.
This may not be "national" enough for Olbermann but it a lot less regional than conferences like the SEC and Big Ten.
KO mocks a note from the Marist football media guide that O'Reilly's team played in the NCFA "national championship game" yet Keith undermines one his main points beacuse it shows that Marist described the NCFA as a national organization long before the Super Bowl. And Keith knew that when he began mocking O'Reilly's statement that the NCFA was a national organization. Nice "journalism" Keith!
KO also mocks the NCFA for playing it's "national championship game" in Mount Veron at a stadium I know well. My high school, Iona Prep, played there every Thanksgiving in the the annual "Turkey Bowl" against New Rochelle High School (currently one of the top-rated high school teams in New York State) which was always televised on the old WPIX/Channel 11 in New York. The stadium was not "ramshackle" but a perfectly good stadium that was heavily used for local high school and college football - and still is today.
One other note on stadiums. If Keith wants to knock the NCFA for playing in Memorial Stadium in 1971 then what does he make of Duquesne playing Mattatuck in the National Club Football Championship game at Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Stadium, long-time home of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and a bona fide NFL stadium.
Given the truth about O'Reilly, Marist and the NCFA, the rest of the interview is nonsensical drivel coming from a washed up comedy writer stuck on a third-rate radio show trying to pass himself off as a political analyst and a washed up sports anchor on a third-rate cable news channel trying to pass himself off as a journalist.
Given Keith's known issues with doing real reporting and research, it is no surprise that Keith did not bother to check the web before mocking the idea of the NCFA having a "national punting title". A quick Google search shows that the NFCA included colleges from all over the country, maintained detailed statistics, recorded and disseminated national rankings and selected an annual "all-america" team.
Had Keith done his homework he might have founded this article from the Niagara University web site which notes "for financial reasons, many universities operated club football programs in this era (60's and 70's). The [Niagara] team played club football squads from Canisius, St. Bonaventure, Siena, Marist, Scranton, Utica, Detroit, Catholic, Manhattan and others.
Or he might have founded this article from the Loyola-Marymount of California web site which reads "Playing a schedule against mostly local, small-college opponents, Loyola accumulated a 25-27 record from 1967-1973 playing at the club level. In 1969, the team rolled to a 5-1 record and were voted the best club team in the nation by the National Club Football Association.
Or this one from the Western New England College web site which notes how a WNEC player was named to the 1980 National Club Football Association (NCFA) All-America Team.
Or this one from the Duquesne University web site which recounts how "Duquesne's glory years at the Division I level ended with the onset of World War II, as DU was one of the first schools to cancel football to help with the war effort. The war sidelined a Duquesne program that was among the nation's elite. From 1933-45, Duquesne (71-22-2, .762) had the sixth-highest winning percentage in the nation behind Alabama, Tennessee, Duke, Fordham and Notre Dame. After playing football for four years following World War II, Duquesne did not return the gridiron until 1969 after a group of students formed a team at the club level. DU struggled to a 2-4-0 mark in '69 before Dan McCann took over and quickly made the Dukes a force to be reckoned with. McCann's 1972 Dukes finished the season 7-1-0 and ranked No. 3 nationally by the National Club Football Association. The next season, Duquesne improved by defeating Mattatuck CC in the National Club Football Championship game at Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Stadium. The title game victory capped a 10-0-0 season for DU. McCann added three more top 10 national finishes before the Dukes elevated to the Division III level prior to the 1979 season.
Or this one from the St. Francis college web site which notes how one of their players was a "two-time National Club Football Association (NCFA) All-American during his playing career with the Red Flash from 1971-74 while playing three positions (RB/DB/P). He rushed for 3,824 yards in his career and paced the NCFA in rushing in 1974, averaging 143.6 yards-per-game. He led the nation in punting as a senior, averaging 41.8 yards-per-kick.
I especially like this article from Loyola Marymount because it utterly destroys Olbemann's absurd carping about O'Reilly.
If your still reading Keith, try and pay attention:
In 1967 Loyola, driven by the support of its student body, brought football back to the Westchester campus and put together a team that competed in the National Club Football Association (NCFA). Loyola was one of four schools from California (Saint Mary's College, the University of San Francisco and the University of San Diego) to play in the NCFA. The entire association comprised of at least 125 teams nation wide and was held in the same regard as the three main levels of the NCAA and the NAIA. Within two years of coming back and joining the NCFA, the 1969 Loyola football team climbed the ladder of success and was named national champs. Thirty-four years later, LMU will recognize the team that finished 8-1 on the season and ranked No. 1. The 1969 football team will be inducted into the LMU Hall of Fame on Saturday, March 29.
Notice how none of the teams on O'Reilly NCFA stat sheet are from west of the mississippi but the Loyola Marymount site describes four teams from California and that the Loyola Marymount team played 9 games? Hmmm. Do you think that the teams in California were playing other teams outside of California but maybe west of the Mississippi? Is it just possible that the NCFA with 125 teams spread all across the country had divisions like West and East? Is it possible that the reporter for the New York Times reported the exact context of O'Reilly's game in error? That maybe O'Reilly had it right in spirit and in nomenclature?
Well, what to make of this, that "The entire [National Club Football] association comprised of at least 125 teams nation wide and was held in the same regard as the three main levels of the NCAA and the NAIA"? Are these other schools all in on the big "boost-O'Reilly" consipracy too?
On his blog, KO claims that "writing in the official Super Bowl Program that you won the 'punting title' in your 'division' would be like me writing in one of those baseball program articles that I led the nation's high school baseball players in on-base percentage in 1973....I came to bat once, and got hit in the ass with a pitch."
Actually, it would not.
Unlike Keith, whose athletic process extended to pointing his rather ample buttocks into an oncoming pitch to spare himself the humiliation of having to swing and miss at a high school fastball O'Reilly averaged an outstanding 41.4 yards per kick. In other words, O'Reilly actually hit the football with his foot and moved the ball down field with oomph - and some regularity.
Keith then notes "there are a few facts about these statistics that would make the sports-savvy cringe. The runner-up, a punter from New Haven named Potter, averaged only 40.7 yards per kick. But he punted 36 times to O'Reilly's 23" and adds "the 'National Club Football Association' stat sheet offers no minimum number of punts required to be eligible for the championship average for O'Reilly's senior year". KO goes on to claim that a sports statistician looking at these numbers would say that Mr. Potter of New Haven (36 punts, 40.7 average) and Mr. Primerano of St. John's (40 punts, 38.1 average), got jobbed.
Actually, they wouldn't.
For a man who professes to know something about sports, it is hard to overstate the level of duplicity in this passage from Bloggerman. Given that the NCFA teams played 9 regular season games, O'Reilly punted 2.6 times per game. Now surely Keith has heard of the National Football League and knows that they keep all sorts of statistics. They play 16 regular season games so help to Keith along I have presented the official stats from the NFL web site with my own calculation of punts per game based on 16 games.
Rank/Player/Team/# Punts/Gross Avg./Punts/Game
1 Shane Lechler OAK 73 46.7 4.6
2 Hunter Smith IND 54 45.2 3.4
3 Tom Tupa WAS 103 44.1 6.4
4 Todd Sauerbrun CAR 76 44.1 4.8
5 Mitch Berger NO 85 43.6 5.3
6 Sean Landeta STL 40 43.3 2.5
7 Brian Moorman BUF 77 43.2 4.8
8 Scott Player ARI 98 43.2 6.1
9 Mike Scifres SD 69 43.1 4.3
10 Chris Gardocki PIT 67 43.0 4.2
11 Brad Maynard CHI 108 42.9 6.8
12 Chris Hanson JAC 84 42.8 5.3
13 Craig Hentrich TEN 73 42.7 4.6
14 Mat McBriar DAL 75 42.4 4.7
15 Josh Bidwell TB 82 42.3 5.1
16 Kyle Larson CIN 83 42.2 5.2
17 Dirk Johnson PHI 72 42.1 4.5
18 Josh Miller NE 56 42.0 3.5
19 Matt Turk MIA 98 41.7 6.1
20 Andy Lee SF 96 41.6 6.0
21 Micah Knorr DEN 54 41.5 3.4
22 Jeff Feagles NYG 74 41.5 4.6
23 Chad Stanley HOU 73 41.2 4.6
24 Nick Harris DET 92 40.9 5.8
25 Chris Mohr ATL 76 40.6 4.8
26 Dave Zastudil BAL 73 40.4 4.6
27 Bryan Barker GB 66 40.1 4.1
28 Derrick Frost CLE 85 40.0 5.3
29 Darren Bennett MIN 57 39.3 3.6
30 Steve Cheek KC 42 39.1 2.6
I am not saying that the level of competion in college in 1970 is anywhere remotely close to the NFL today but you will note how the statisticians in the NFL have included two NFL players on the list of punting leaders who have 2.5 and 2.6 punts per game. Their yards per kick average is included on the list which is used to determine the Punting Title for the National Footballl League.
You will also notice that O'Reilly's 41.4 yards per game stands up pretty well against NFL punters. If O'Reilly had put up the same numbers in the NFL he would have been the 23rd ranked punter in the NFL. If you took out his one muffed punt, the basis for his Super Bowl program column, O'Reilly's average would have been 43.4 yards per game and made O'Reilly the 6th best punter in the NFL, ahead of Sean Landeta, who by the way, is one of the NFL punters who averaged less punts per game in 2004 than O'Reilly did in 1970.
The rest of the Franken-Olbermann is hardly worth listening to but I have to say I was amazed to hear Olbermann mock Gerald Ford by making a reference to Ford playing back in the days of leather helmets and that explaining his Presidency, in some lame attempt to link Ford's famous pratfalls to getting hit too many times with a soft helmet. Except that Ford was an All-American Football Player at the University of Michigan, ergo one of the best atheletes in the country, and Olbermann is the guy who, according to Wikipedia, damaged his "depth perception in 1980 by rushing to catch a subway car at New York's Shea Stadium and slamming his head into the top of the door frame."
Talk about a spaz.