How I learned to stop worrying and love the Johansen trade


Seth. Jones. (From Bleacher Report)

Very Smart hockey people will tell you: you don’t trade a No. 1 center. Now, every team by definition has a first-line center, but a bona fide No. 1, All-Star-caliber center? In any given season – or era – maybe half the teams in the league can make that claim in earnest.

The Columbus Blue Jackets spent more than a decade searching for a No. 1 center. Ex-general manager Scott Howson thought he had finally found one* when he selected Ryan Johansen with the No. 4 overall pick in 2010, but he never had the chance to see him fulfill that potential in Columbus. The heinous rules for Canadian major junior players that dictate when and what level they can go pro – a CHL graft sold as a player development best practice – combined with oh-so tactful nurturing of Scott Arniel stymied and even threatened to derail Johansen’s development.

But then, during the lockout-shortened 2013 season, the Columbus brass started to see glimpses of what Ryan Johansen could be, shining in individual matchups against the likes of Joe Thornton. He broke out the following season, netting 33 goals along with 30 assists and by the 2014-15 campaign, he was often the most dominant player on the ice skating for either team. He rightly earned an All-Star nod and racked up a career-high 71 points – the fourth highest single-season total in franchise history and most for a centerman. At 23 years old, with great size, an elite skill set and signed to a reasonable bridge contract, the Blue Jackets looked to have a bona fide No. 1 center locked in for the next decade.

On Wednesday, they dealt him away to hated (former?) rival Nashville in a player-for-player swap for a 21-year-old defenseman who, though he has performed steadily throughout his young NHL career, has failed to meet the expectations thrust upon him.

Many Blue Jackets fans are aghast. Coming into the 2015-16 campaign, this team was touted universally as a playoff lock, and slated by many as a dark horse to win the Metropolitan Division and make a sustained postseason run. Loaded with talent up front that was trending the right way — players like Johansen, Boone Jenner, Brandon Saad and Alex Wennberg poised to take another stride in their development, mixed with guys like Cam Atkinson, Brandon Dubinsky and Nick Foligno in their prime — along with a stud between the pipes and, most importantly, a clean bill of health, this would not be a year of the “same old” Jackets.

Then the season started. Unfortunately, no one informed the players. Blue Jackets fans don’t need a recap of the club’s abysmal start to the campaign, but perhaps they need some perspective. Today, at the exact halfway point of the season, Columbus is dead-last in the NHL with a 15-23-3 record (33 points). If you cut out the month of October (where they finished 2-10-0) they’re a .500 team. They could be treading water in the standings as a .500 team halfway through the season, and if they caught fire and went on a 10-2-0 run (‘cause those happen a lot) they’d be in good playoff position. But the real-life Blue Jackets would need to go on a 10-2-0 run just to get back to .500, and then rattle off another big run to play themselves into postseason contention.

To put it another way, the Pittsburgh Penguins finished in the eighth spot in the East last year with a 43-27-12 record (98 points). Do the math. The Union Blue would have to go 30-5-6 to close out the season just to be in contention. Possible? Sure, whatever helps you sleep at night.

This is all roundabout way of saying that the 2015-16 season is effectively over for Columbus. Yes, it’s still important in a player development sense, but from a competitive perspective — and this is an organization and fanbase that expected a playoff contender — the final 41 games are moot.

So what went wrong with President of Hockey Operations John Davidson and general manager Jarmo Kekalainen’s best laid bricks plans? A coach who was in over his head and lost the room? A fatal roster flaw? Horrible luck? Adam Foote?

Let me say that I’m impressed with the way the Kekalainen constructed this roster and built up the system. I’ve supported most of the personnel decisions he’s made — loved the Saad acquisition — and for the most part, I’m of the same mind philosophically when it comes to building a winner. I honestly think if the team had not completely imploded over the final three minutes of the season opener, there’s no way they drop 10-of-12 in October.

You can have all the pieces assembled, but so much of the game really is decided between the ears and once the sh*t ball gets rolling down hill, it can, and usually does, engulf everyone before reaching the bottom. That’s not to say that Jarmo and co. should get a mulligan as they did for last season. He gambled on this team’s defensive corps and that’s a no-no. The stakes are too high once you get inside your blue line. You need a sure thing.

Going into the season, the thinking was that strength up front and in net would be able to make up for defensive shortcomings — at least for the most part. But, that was based on tall assumptions. This defense would be good enough to get them to the playoffs, or at least within contention by the trade deadline, just so long as David Savard’s breakout season (at age 24) was a new norm and Dallas castoff Kevin Connauton could extrapolate his new-found offensive potency over an 82-game season. They’d be alright if Fedor Tyutin could continue to effectively stave off father time and play top-4 minutes and, of course, if Ryan Murray, who had missed 86 games over his first two seasons [along with what should have been his rookie season in 2013] due to a variety of shoulder, knee and ankle injuries, — all of which are of serious concern for a young player — could step right back in the lineup and be a top-pair blue liner at 22 years old… Suffice it to say, these Goldilocks conditions were not met.

OK, so they needed to improve the defense, but you don’t trade away your No. 1 center to do that. Yes you do. You do to land Seth Jones.

Jones possesses the same tools that Blue Jackets fans and brass salivate over Murray for. The difference is that he’s 6-foot-4, right-handed, more of a physical presence and has a better body of work at the NHL level. He’s a year younger, has been learning the nuances of the NHL game from All-World defender Shea Weber and All-Star Roman Josi. He doesn’t have the injury history (AND HE’S A GODDAMN AMERICAN HERO!!!). He was the most impressive prospect — outside of Youngstown Phantoms players, of course — that I ever saw during my time working in the USHL. And, that was when he was captaining the U.S. National Team Program under-18 team, paired with future No. 9 overall pick Jacob Trouba, before he was even draft eligible.

He’s averaged more than 19 minutes a game since he came in the league, playing on a defensive corps with that included Shea freakin’ Weber. He posted 6-19-25 and 8-19-27 respectively over his first two seasons, which are respectable offensive numbers for blue liner to put up before he’s legally allowed to drink. The numbers are down a bit this year, but that’s more to do with an uncharacteristically low shooting percentage (1.5 percent compared to a 6-percent career average) that will correct itself. Oh, he’s also taking more shots and on pace to well eclipse his career-high from last year, so when the pucks do start going in….

Remember the season is over for the Blue Jackets. Every personnel decision from this point out is made with 2016-17 campaign in mind. Even with Johansen gone, this organization’s still very deep up front — both at the NHL level and in the system. No one player is going to replace Ryan Johansen’s production, but collectively, this group can more than make due. Remember, Jenner was supposed to be this franchise’s No. 2 center of the future not so long ago, but was bumped to wing because there was too much depth down the middle.

Barring an absolute fire sale, the Blue Jackets will still have the depth up front to compete with any team next season. (And if they continue to lose and get lucky at the draft lottery, the franchise suddenly has a No. 1 center again in Auston Matthews, but I digress.) With the addition of Jones, they have a defense that’s capable  as well.

Can you name the last team to hoist the Cup that didn’t have at least one perennial All-Star patrolling the blue line? Seth Jones isn’t there yet, but he’s closer than most fans, and Very Smart hockey people realize.

On Alzheimer’s…

Fuck Alzheimer’s.

It’s a terrible, miserable, evil disease. It’s ruthless. Alzheimer’s, more than anything else on this Earth — despicable acts of terror, senseless killings — makes me question God’s existence.

I’ve lost loved ones suddenly. I’ve watched cancer break them down over months and years. Sometimes I had the chance to say my goodbyes, but even when I couldn’t, there was some inherent comfort in the memories we shared, and the knowledge — or hope — that they realized the impact they had on shaping the person I am today.

It was painful to watch as breast cancer ravaged my Grandma Annie, but even in her last days, spent bedridden and hardly able to speak, she could listen as read from a letter I wrote her, remember our car rides listening to Led Zeppelin and know that I loved her. I thought about writing a letter for my Grandma Suzy, Gigi, until the last time I saw her. It still may have been therapeutic for me, but its meaning would have been lost on her.

She died this afternoon, but Alzheimer’s all but took her from us months ago. I feel an ashamed, stomach-churning sense of relief.

Having two parents who worked full-time meant Gigi was my and my sister Caroline’s deputy mom. She picked us up from grade school regularly and took us out to see movies. When I was in second grade and my mom broke her back, the shuttling duties went from regularly to daily. When my mom and dad both thought the other was picking me up after soccer practice, it was Gigi’s car turning into the parking lot at St. Agatha’s that I glimpsed from the top of jungle gym.

When I got sick from drinking too much eggnog Christmas Eve — no, not that kind of sick, I was 6, maybe 7 years old — it was Gigi who checked in on me throughout my self-imposed quarantine at our family’s traditional Christmas Day brunch, which she hosted every year until she was forced to move into an assisted-living community.

Caroline and I learned to swim in the pool at her condo and when we had to get out of the water for the rest period, she was there with towels and Capri Suns. She always had Capri Suns in her refrigerator — it was the only place I ever saw them once I got into high school. Then there was her blue-and-white bowl of M&Ms that Caroline and I would not-so-covertly try to raid every visit. Our mom was much more stealthy.

Gigi always wanted to live by the water, even if just a pool. She talked fondly about the old family lake house in Waverly, Ohio. Some time in the mid-to-late-90s she moved into her dream home: a second-floor condo built on a hillside, with a deck where she could sit and peer over the tree tops at an old quarry that had been filled in to make a lake. We would walk down to the beach and she’d watch Caroline and I swim from the dock and act amazed when we brought back exotic clams we’d discovered sifting through the sand under water.

She was supposed to live the rest of her life in her dream home. Alzheimer’s took that away from her, too.

Gigi loved puzzles — crossword and jigsaw. Caroline and I were always eager to help, though I don’t know that we ever provided much of it, each time we stopped by. The jigsaw puzzles were enormous — thousands of pieces. Sometimes the picture on the box wasn’t even the actual puzzle design. We’d visit one week and she’d have edges all in place. The next visit it would have filled in a little. By the third our fourth she was finished. She’d let it sit for a few days so everyone could see it and then on to the next.

In her last years, the puzzle pieces began reducing in number and growing bigger in size. This Christmas my uncle gave her a children’s puzzle — maybe 25 pieces. I don’t know if she ever poured the pieces out of the box, let alone put it together. I’d like to think she did.

I could hardly bring myself to visit Gigi over the past year. I didn’t want to see what Alzheimer’s had done to her. I didn’t want to see her struggle to recognize me, or worse, not even. I didn’t want to see her frustration in only knowing that the man greeting was part of her life, but not who or why he was.

This woman, who gave up smoking and drinking to make sure she would be there for her grandchildren — and she was — couldn’t remember our names. She had six children of her own and raised her niece and nephew when her sister died as well, but the disease had little pity for any of them either. My family joked when she would introduce my aunts and uncles, her children, to nurses as “Tim” or “Not Tim” and “Mary” or “Not Mary.”

What else could we do but try to make light of it?

The last time I saw her was Christmas day. My family and I should have been driving to her condo for brunch. We should have been calling her from the front gate so she could buzz us in. We should have found her in her kitchen cooking her famous egg strata.

But instead we drove to First Community Village and needed a key card to get into the dementia wing. They call it “Roxbury Cottages.” We found her in her wheel chair, alone in the kitchen-area.

“It’s Bart, Grandma.”

I hugged her and as I pulled away, she smiled, revealing the top row of her teeth was gone, and put her hands on my face. She was searching, searching for a memory — any memory — to put that name she had just heard to the face she was touching. I don’t think she found it. But she knew the memories were in there somewhere, or at least they had been there, so she should be happy.

We wheeled her to her room, helped her onto the couch and gave her presents — a bracelet, bird suet and a feeder for it. My sister helped her put the bracelet on. I volunteered to go out the the car and get the pole to hang the the bird feeder from. I couldn’t stay in that room.

I drove the pole into the ground outside her window then knocked on it and waved into the room. Gigi was startled. She looked out at me confused. I hung the feeder and peered back inside to look for a reaction. Nothing. I went back inside and sat down to talk with her (read: smile and nod). She held my hand the whole time, squeezing occasionally. She was still searching. Later she started crying because something triggered the memory of her parents’ death decades ago. We tried to cheer her up.

“It’s Christmas! This is a happy day!”

I’m not sure she knew why she should be happy on Christmas, but she did her best to be. Either way, we knew it was time to go. I told her I loved her and gave her a hug and a kiss. She kissed me on the head maybe a dozen times. I want to think she found a memory. I know she wanted to more than anything. As we drove away, I took comfort in thinking when the weather warmed up, she’d be able to sit and watch the birds outside her window.

I spoke with my mom on the phone a few weeks ago and found out Gigi had been moved to the second floor of “Roxbury Cottages.” My mom had to bring the bird feeder back to our house. The birds would have been fighting for that suet on a day like today.

Fuck Alzheimer’s.

Walter Family donation for multipurpose facility divides Ohio University Campus

Ohio University (and St. Charles Preparatory School -- Go Cards!) alumnus Robert D. Walter (From The Compass)

On Dec. 17, 2010 Ohio University announced that alumni Robert D. and Margaret Walter had made a $10 million dollar donation for renovations on the Convocation Center and the creation of a multipurpose facility.

Twenty-four hours later and nearly 1,000 miles away, Ohio football coach Frank Solich broke the news to his ecstatic team during a pregame speech before its 48-21 loss to Troy in the R+L Carrier New Orleans Bowl.

At his National Signing Day press conference on Feb. 2, 2011 the coach emphasized the role that donation – the idea of an indoor practice facility – had in recruiting that year’s class.

“I think Bob Walter and his donation towards an indoor facility was something we were able to use and assure players that that gift was presented,” Solich said. “That was, I’m sure, somewhat big in players’ minds.”

He talked about how important it was for college athletes – not just his, but all – to be able to train year-round, to have a place to practice in the face of the notoriously fickle Ohio weather. This multipurpose facility would give them the chance to “separate themselves” from other athletes.

Then his tone and his message changed.

“This is going to give not only the football team the ability to use it year-round,” Solich said. “It’s also going to serve a huge purpose for this university in terms of students and recreation and the community.”

Not just intercollegiate athletes, Solich said. Students and faculty, intramurals activities, even Athens community soccer teams could benefit from the Walter donation.

In the face of an estimated $19.7 million university budget gap for the next year, as a representative of an embattled athletic department with it’s own budget woes, Solich nimbly sidestepped the proverbial ‘gotcha’ moment.

As university officials are quick to point out, the multipurpose facility – currently little more than an idea with some substantial financial backing – is intended be used for a broad array of purposes, and serve even broader base across campus.

“Certainly it will be used for intercollegiate athletics, but it will also be used by the Marching 110. It will be used by the ROTC. It will be used by the physical therapy program, by the sports management program,” said Rebecca Watts, chief of staff and special assistant to OU President Roderick McDavis. “The sky’s the limit.”

But still others believe that the multipurpose facility should hardly be a priority for a university exploring employee furloughs and freefalling in academic prestige.

“We’re about ready to drop out of the main line schools academically because of budget cuts and other reasons,” OU professor of economics Richard Vedder said, “For us to be going full steam ahead on this is the height of irresponsibility.

“It’s a frill. It’s one that a lot of (Mid-American Conference) schools have. It’s one that a lot of schools have. But it’s still another example of the athletics arms race in action.”

Ohio University professor David Ridpath’s time at Marshall shaped his outlook on NCAA athletics

OU professor and former Marshall compliance officer David Ridpath (From ESPN)

When the Center for College Affordability and Productivity released a study in January suggesting that Ohio University students neither realized the financial drain nor appreciated the contribution of varsity athletics, it further ignited a debate around campus and throughout the nation.

Many considered the findings a swipe at the university’s athletic department – already under fire for continuing to overspend on its budget to the tune of nearly $1.2 million annually for the last five years.

Some pegged the study’s authors, Matthew Denhart and OU professors Richard Vedder and David Ridpath as disgruntled academics, unaware true impact of intercollegiate athletics.

At least in Ridpath’s case, they couldn’t be further from the truth.

The assistant professor of sports administration spent over a decade working in college athletic departments. He has coached conference champions and worked with future Hall of Famers.

He has also experienced the dark side intercollegiate athletics, and knows better than most just how tainted the institution can become.

“I really kind of saw the true face of college athletics,” Ridpath said. “It was a big eye-opener, which has kind of led me on the path I’m on now. I want to save college athletics from itself.”

A ‘convenient scapegoat’

It was Friday July 2, 1999 when Ridpath, then the assistant athletic director of compliance and student services at Marshall University, got the call.

Michelle Duncan, an academic advisor, informed him that a professor and volunteer football strength coach, Bruce McAllister, had approached her asking what grades a number of football players in his class would need in order to be eligible.

“The first time (McAllister) stopped me in the hallway and asked me in passing and I thought he was joking,” Duncan said. “It wasn’t until he asked me the second time that I realized he was serious and that’s when I contacted Dave Ridpath.”

Duncan also informed Ridpath that earlier that spring, McAllister had provided football players in one of his classes with a copy of a test ahead of time.

“[Ridpath was] probably shocked more than anything. As you can imagine a compliance officer probably hears about all kinds of details and events,” Duncan said. “But when he heard about this one, it immediately raised a red flag.”

This was the first Ridpath had ever gotten word of the issues, but he knew he had a serious problem on his hands.

Despite changing NCAA regulations, Solich lands top recruiting class

Ohio recruiting coordinator Brian Haines, left, and head coach Frank Solich at the Feb. 2 Singing Day press conference. (Courtesy of The Post -- Staff Photographer Alex Goodlett)

At his press conference on National Signing Day, Ohio football coach Frank Solich proudly announced that this year’s recruiting class could be the best he has had in his seven-year stint in Athens. His first point of emphasis for the 24-man class wasn’t the speed, skill or size of the athletes, though.

“We’ve got a lot of excellent players,” Solich said, “a lot of guys with really high character.”

As more and more NCAA rules violations are being brought to light at high-profile athletic programs, Solich and his staff are trying to ensure their team’s compliance by bringing in players with skill and character. But, even the process of recruiting itself is riddled with rules and regulations. The school’s compliance staff must meticulously monitor and any and all forms of contact with a prospective student-athlete.

The NCAA has a stringent calendar that all Division I football programs must adhere to when recruiting prospects. There are limits set on personal contact, visits to a prospect’s “educational institution” and chances to evaluate prospects during competition.

Even if a coach is approached by a prospect’s parent at the mall, he can do no more than exchange pleasantries, lest the program forfeit one of its 42 face to face contact opportunities – and that’s only if it’s during the “contact period.’

Any contact outside of that seemingly arbitrary two-month window from late November through late January — specific dates vary from year to year determined by a formula in the NCAA Bylaws – and a program could likely find itself slapped with a sanction.

“It’s tough. You’ve got to stay on top of it,” Ohio tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator Brian Haines said. “You’ve got to know what you’re doing and what’s right.”

But, Haines said there was a simple solution to effectively navigate the NCAA’s constantly changing rules and regulations, and ensure all his actions are on the level.

“Put our compliance department in your favorites in your phone,” he said. “We’re always communicating back-and-fourth and they do a good job of helping us out.

Haines shouldered much of the responsibility in determining whether a recruit’s athletic abilities merited a scholarship from Ohio University.

Tricia Turley, associate athletic director for Compliance and Student Services, on the other hand, made sure the recruits and the recruiters were held up to NCAA standards.

“We handle what paperwork needs to be completed by the prospect and when,” Turley said in an email correspondence. “We also provide academic assessments based on the NCAA Qualifier standards for the coaches and help facilitate the admissions process.

“We also answer various questions about communication with the prospects.”

USC expects athletes to self-report meetings with agents

USC student and former NFLPA-certified agent Teague Egan (right) lounging in the 1st Round Sports golf cart. (From The Los Angeles Times)

The University of Southern California is taking steps to make sure its student-athletes avoid contact with agents or, you know, at least give the school a heads up if there is contact.

On Tuesday the USC Office of Athletic Compliance emailed a four-page memo to the school’s 35,000 students and 5,000 faculty members outlining what could be considered impermissible contact between student-athletes and agents — an ‘innovative’ policy that vice president of athletic compliance Dave Roberts said is the first of its kind.

And to think, all this was prompted because USC running back Dillon Baxter accepted a free ride in a golf cart from a fellow student/former NFLPA-certified agent Teague Egan.

‘Cause the whole Reggie Bush fiascoOJ Mayo scandal, and Joe McKnight investigation weren’t enough.

From The Daily Trojan:

Under the policy, students, staff and other third parties are required to notify USC’s compliance office of their involvement with a sports agency before any interaction with student-athletes.

“We’re publishing this to the student body, so they can be aware,” Roberts said. “Of course, somebody could choose to ignore it, but we have to at least be proactive by putting the policy in place.”

Specifically, the new regulations stipulate that all such parties provide written notification to the school’s compliance office within 24 hours of their involvement with a sports agency or similar marketing agency.

Those found to be in violation of the policy would then be subject to remedial action and/or discipline, according to the release.

Essentially, all this “Athletes and Agents” policy does is attempt to deflect blame away from the Trojans if and when more violations surface. “Hey man, we told them not to talk to agents and they said they’d totally tell us if they do. What more can we do?” C’mon, the school replaced football coach Pete Carroll, who jumped ship when heavy-duty sanctions were handed out, with Lane Kiffin.

Lane freakin’ Kiffin — that bastion of coaching integrity. USC didn’t exactly clean up the program with that hire.

Student-athletes are forced to sit down with school compliance officials multiple times a year and learn in excruciating detail about virtually anything and everything that could jeopardize their amateur status and violate NCAA regulations. The ones who accept money and gifts from boosters or meet with agents before deciding to go pro know what they’re doing — and that it’s wrong.

(We’ll save the debate about whether student-athletes should be paid for another time.)

Sure, Athletic Departments have some incentive to self-report violations to the NCAA when it’s obvious the NCAA is going to find out down the road anyway. But why in the world would a student-athlete report talking with an agent?

What sort of professional contract is an agent going to be able to net for a student-athletes who can’t play his sport because he spoke with an agent? If they’re going to get busted, they’ll get busted but don’t expect student-athletes to voluntarily fork over cash and get themselves suspended.

What USC’s policy boils down to is “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the athletic department. But hey, that kept all the gays out of the military right?

Bart Logan: Sports Masochist

Ask any good Cleveland sports fan about their most memorable professional sports moment. If they’re under the age of 46, you can probably prepare yourself for their answer by watching something upbeat, you know, like Schindler’s List.

They’re going to tell you about The Drive, The Fumble, Red Right 88, The Move, Game Seven, The 2007 ALCS and of course the most recent addition to the Cleveland curse hierarchy — The Decision.

Cheering for Cleveland sports a lot like the 4-H livestock auction at the county fair.

A kid raises an animal — let’s say a lamb — from the time it was an infant. The kid cares for it and cherishes it much like a pet, but doesn’t really getting much in return. It’s a labor of love.

Then when that proud moment arrives and the kid can show off his lamb to the rest of the public there’s a sick cruel twist — they’re bidding on it to eat it. At least with the 4-H auction they don’t slaughter the lamb right in front of the kid.

With the globalization of the sport everyone else calls “football” I naturally had to adopt a team. I chose Newcastle United because A) my dad got one of their jerseys (“kits” as the Brits say) when he was across the pond and brought it home for me B) they were a proud English club with a devoted fan base and rich history and C) they weren’t one of the “Big Four” that won by simply outspending the other clubs.

Coincidentally, Newcastle also had not won a single trophy since 1969 — not a domestic trophy since 1955.

In other words, I chose the Cleveland sports equivalent of the Barclay’s Premier League. Today was The Decision on the Tyneside.

With just seven hours remaining in the January transfer window, one of two opportunities during the year that teams can bid on players to add to their roster, Newcastle accepted a $56 million bid for from Liverpool for local star Andy Carroll.

Carroll, a 22-year-old striker, is among the leading scorers in the Premier League. He came up through the Newcastle system and had expressed on numerous occasions that he wanted to remain at his hometown club for life.

Then apparently, he decided he liked the ridiculous wages Liverpool were offering and owner Mike Ashley (a complete knit wit that is not fit to run a club) ‘reluctantly’ accepted the bid (tin foil hat on).

The Magpies just lost their leading scorer — a player to build the club around, an England International — and were left with no time, or negotiating power, to bring in anything resembling a feasible replacement.

You see it, right?

God just doesn’t want me to be happy, I figured. He doesn’t ever want me to be able to cheer for a winner. He takes pleasure in building up my hopes only to tear me down again. And again.

Then I realized the difference — I didn’t really choose to love Cleveland sports. My family was from the area and had always loved Cleveland sports, and therefore I adopted that love. But even my old man had the brains to adopt big club (Chelsea) when he jumped on the European Football bandwagon. But not me.

No I chose Newcastle — a club rich in history, but of late the butt-end of every Premier League joke. One that was relegated two years ago, but returned to top flight this season and boasted one of the most exciting young players in the game.

No they weren’t going to break into the top four just yet, but they were making stride. Europe couldn’t be that far down the road. Maybe they could make a cheeky run at the Carling or FA Cups next season? With Andy Carroll, a No. 9 ready to take his place among the Newcastle legends, there was finally room to be optimistic.

I should’ve known better. But, it wouldn’t change anything. I wouldn’t know what to do — wouldn’t know how to gloat — if I could cheer for a winner (Ed Note: I am an Ohio State fan. They have been relatively successful of late but I’m talking professional sports).

Luckily I don’t have to worry about that problem. I set myself up to be knocked right back down. I am Bart Logan: Sports Masochist.