With college football opening this week, one of the more interesting matchups involves Ohio at Penn State. Call it the "Moving On" game.
The Nittany Lions never will be able to completely move on past Jerry Sandusky, the late coach Joe Paterno, and the other highly questionable characters who played major roles in this human tragedy.
But life goes on, and so does football. As the lawsuits are being filed and settled, as statements are sorted out about who knew what, the actual football players will bear the responsibility of taking the next step forward. After all, the entire sordid affair began inside a football program. It will be the football program that helps write a new chapter.
Ohio is coming off a 10-4 record in 2011, and it has a lot coming back. Coach Frank Solich has built the Bobcats into an annual MAC contender. They're no joke. There won't be any happy feet walking into Happy Valley.
For Penn State, this is the first game of the Bill O'Brien era. He not only has to get a big-time football team to play its first game at home, but he knows the world will be watching to see how the Nittany Lions respond in the post-Paterno era.
If they put up a fierce fight, and even win, a sliver of sunshine will make its way through the gloom. If they come out flat and appear disoriented, it will only add to the depression.
It's just one football game. But from a symbolic standpoint, it's weightier than that.
These guys have ruined cycling
One of the stories that arose from the Lance Armstrong punishment involves the reality that the seven Tour de France titles stripped from him because of doping might remain vacant because the competitors behind him were probably dopers, too.
Thanks for completely ruining a beautiful sport with your insatiable lust for fame and money. Those lovely tours through the French countryside, up and down mountains, against stunning backdrops, to cheering crowds, can be equated with images of junkies in burned-out tenements, and all because you had no regard for the sport you professed to love.
I don't know anyone who can look at cycling and see honesty, integrity or fair play. I bet the yellow jerseys are knockoffs somebody bought on the black market.
The Los Angeles Times estimated that more than 60 percent of the top Tour de France finishers during Armstrong's run of seven triumphs have been implicated in doping scandals during their careers. They include Floyd Landis, Ivan Basso, Jan Ullrich, Alexandre Vinokourov and Michael Rasmussen.
I think the only hope for cycling to regain its integrity is if the sport completely bottoms out, sponsors desert it, television networks stop paying for rights fees, and prize money disappears. That's the only way I can see riders participating for the love of competition alone. As long as there is big money to be had, participants will cheat.
Can Mattingly get through to Beckett?
The key to the megadeal involving the Dodgers and Red Sox is one man who wasn't involved in the transaction at all:
A lot has been made about the Dodgers' taking on $260 million in additional salary. And yes, that's a prodigious chunk of change.
But most of it -- $127 million – is owed to Adrian Gonzalez through the 2018 season. And there seems to be almost unanimous agreement that he's worth it, that he's a perennial MVP candidate, a superb first baseman and a good human. There's no real risk.
Carl Crawford, coming off Tommy John surgery, is a massive question mark. He's due $102.5 million over the next five seasons. He might never return to form, and the Dodgers might end up paying for nothing. But you have to look at it this way: They wanted Gonzalez badly, and they had to take Crawford if they wanted to get Gonzalez. Sometimes you have to roll the dice.
From a baseball standpoint – the Dodgers reportedly are negotiating a new TV deal that might rake in $4 billion, so really, it's all worth it financially -- the real X-factor is Josh Beckett. He is owed only $31.5 million for the next two seasons. If he returns to form, he'll be a huge addition to the Dodgers' rotation. Beckett is the key to making this deal worth it on the field for the Dodgers – and Mattingly might be the key to Beckett.
Beckett is surly and moody. Terry Francona couldn't get through to Beckett near the end of the manager's stay in Boston, and like the rest of the Red Sox, Beckett didn't exactly click with Bobby Valentine. But Mattingly is loved and respected in the Dodgers' clubhouse. Mattingly as the biggest feature in a change of scenery for Beckett might just be what the pitcher needs to become an ace again.
It might not be fair to put the onus for this trade on Mattingly. Yet he's the one individual who can make it all work, and he can make the additional $260 million in payroll seem like money well spent.
Don't tar everyone who had good season
There was a recent hubbub over one pundit's public speculation about Derek Jeter's excellent 2012 season at the age of 38. Naturally, with a .323 batting average, he must be juicing.
Part of me understands the rationale. Use of PEDs in baseball is believed to be widespread – Victor Conte, the noted juice vendor, estimates it at 50 percent -- the drug-testing policy is inadequate, and therefore even revered figures in the game might be tempted to partake. Baseball isn't nearly as preposterously damaged as cycling, but it definitely bears a serious taint. Cycling is ruined. Baseball plugs along.
Yet there is another part of me that's clinging by my fingernails to some old-fashioned concepts that I associate with baseball: character, integrity, hope.
If Jeter is using, then there is no more hope. That's why I choose not to believe it. I'm not naïve. I know it's possible. But I'd just rather embrace the notion that there are at least a handful of guys in professional sports – like Jeter – who wouldn't sully the national pastime by putting personal greed and ambition ahead of the game they say they love.
And to me, it makes no sense to speculate about every player having an outstanding season. I'd rather not make that leap in logic. If you do that, then the cheaters win, then they've succeeded in lowering the game to their level. I don't want that to happen.
My name isn't Pollyanna. Just once in a big while, I like to think like her.
A game of pepper
Michael Ventre is a regular contributor to NBCSports.com; follow him at http://twitter.com/MichaelVentre44.
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