It got lost in the shuffle recently, but it was a move that will have major ramifications to the kids of Jersey City for many years to come.
The Jersey City Board of Education voted recently to eliminate all freshman athletic teams in an attempt to save approximately $1 million in the district’s overall costs. In addition to slicing all freshman teams, the Board of Education totally wiped away golf and bowling as varsity sports, cut the number of assistant coaches for each athletic team and eliminated any further spending in terms of new uniforms and equipment.
What that all adds up to is an absolute screw job to the kids of Jersey City.
This move is an absolute disaster, both on and off the playing fields.
First, from a competitive standpoint, how in the world does a football program intend to get better without having a freshman team? How does a player develop and improve without having a chance to be nurtured and learn, playing and competing against kids their own age? Especially in a sport like football, having a good freshman program is essential if you want a varsity team to be successful.
Teams like Lincoln, Ferris, Dickinson and Snyder will be at a disadvantage from now on, facing teams that had the benefit of a nurturing freshman program. The Board of Education is essentially throwing these kids to the wolves and asking them to compete against schools and teams that have solid freshman programs.
Totally eliminating golf and bowling as cost-cutting moves is just an imbecilic gesture. Especially now that there is a legitimate, professional nine-hole golf course in Jersey City that could be used for development. I remember the Lincoln golf team getting the chance to play at the luxurious Liberty National Golf Course in the past, but I don’t think that was a regular opportunity. However, the nine-hole course right off Route 440 is an outstanding course and would have been a perfect locale for a Jersey City kid to learn to play the game.
And bowling? Are you kidding me? How costly is it to field a bowling program? The teams are not big to begin with, with nine, perhaps 10 kids to a team. The people at Hudson County Lanes in Bayonne are glad to accommodate the high school teams. It’s another move that made absolutely no sense.
Some critics of the cuts have stated that it might lead to a rise in the crime rate, that kids will have more free time on their hands and get into trouble instead of playing sports.
That remains to be seen.
But just from a common sense angle, we should want to encourage our youngsters to participate in sports. Playing high school sports is a healthy, extracurricular activity that encourages teamwork and unity and togetherness and camaraderie. We should do anything and everything in our power to want kids to play sports, not take the chances away from them simply because of budgetary reasons.
There should be a way to have the freshman sports continue. There should be a way to have the kids who play golf and who bowl to continue playing the sport they love. It should be a priority to keep athletics going, not eliminated simply to make line items on a spreadsheet balance out.
High school sports are essential to the development of our youth. Memories are made playing high school sports that last a lifetime. You cannot put a price tag on the importance of high school sports. It’s totally immeasurable, regardless of who wins and who loses. Just from the social angle alone, high school sports are vital.
There should have been a way for the Jersey City Board of Education to realize that high school sports should be a priority, not a line item elimination. When a budget is introduced, high school sports should be just as important as purchasing new textbooks or updating the information technology in the school’s computers. It should be just as essential.
There should never be a day where the powers-that-be determine that the way to have a budget more palatable would be to hack away at athletics.
I have an idea. Why not start hacking away at the ridiculously high salaries that the administrators all receive? Why not take a few thousand away from those already collecting better than six figures in their annual take?
That would be a better way of attacking a budget problem instead of punishing innocent teenagers.
But of course, that will never happen.
If no one hears or learns of these cuts, then the Board of Education will take the approach that no one is complaining about it, so it shouldn’t be that big of a deal.
Guess what? It is a big deal. These cuts will be felt by the results of the teams down the road, who simply cannot fairly compete against other schools, programs and teams that field competitive freshman teams.
But these cuts hurt the ones that should matter the most in the Jersey City Board of Education. These cuts hurt the kids, the ones we’re supposed to be educating. How do these elected officials actually justify these cuts? That they had no other choice? That they reluctantly had their hands to the fire and were faced with the dilemma of finding the cuts from some place?
It’s only two weeks into the new NFL season, but the Giants sure look like a complete disaster.
Thanks to new general manager Dave Gettleman and new head coach Pat Shurmur, the Giants entered this season with eternal optimism that Saquon Barkley was the savior at running back, that Eli Manning had found the Fountain of Youth, that the newly formed offensive line was going to be sensational and the defense would be revitalized and rejuvenated.
Well, two weeks in and Big Blue is a big mess.
Let’s start with the offensive line, because it’s probably the most glaring problem right now. Gettleman and Shurmur were convinced that Ereck Flowers would need nothing more than a shift from left tackle to right tackle, that the former first round draft pick just needed a change of scenery to jump start his career.
Well, on the first play from scrimmage this year, Flowers was called for an idiotic tripping penalty. On the third snap, he was flagged for holding. He’s been beaten at least 15 times in two games trying to make a simple block and he’s whiffed badly, like Gary Sanchez wailing at an outslde slider.
It’s safe to say now that Flowers is a complete bust. The Giants would never say that they wasted a first round draft pick three years ago on a guy who can’t play. But I’ll say it for them. Ereck Flowers cannot play the game of football. He’s slow, clumsy, has worse feet than Herman Munster, can’t block Betty White and worst of all, he will not admit to the fact that he’s been absolutely lousy since he mistakenly put on a Giants uniform four years ago. It would be easier to just cut bait, release him and admit he was a mistake, but the Giants won’t do that because they don’t have a viable backup on the roster.
Poor Eli Manning will have to continue to take the brunt of the Giants’ mistake of drafting Flowers.
But Flowers is not alone with his horrific play thus far. You have to wonder what In the world the Giants were thinking when they gave Nate Solder a four-year, $62 million contract ($35 million guaranteed), making Solder the highest paid offensive lineman in the NFL. Well, after two weeks, that contract is downright offensive, because Solder has been dreadful. He’s missed block after block. I can’t even begin to think what he’s graded out the first two weeks, but it can’t be pretty.
The Giants drafted Will Hernandez in the second round to play left guard next to Solder, giving the Giants what appeared to be a dynamic left side of the line. But the rookie has been brutal as well, forcing Eli to run for his life every time he drops back to pass.
The Giants have electrifying offensive players like Odell Beckham, Jr., Sterling Shepherd and Evan Engram, but if Eli doesn’t have more time to drop back and allow these receivers some time to get down field to run their routes, their talents are wasted. Beckham was thrown to a total of five times against Dallas. He has to touch the ball a lot more than that. Eli used the safety valve so many times that Barkley set a new team record for receptions in a game. The rookie had 14 catches. For 90 yards. That gives new meaning to the “Dump down” pass.
Here’s my slap at Shurmur. Yes, he’s only coached two games, but he made a glaring mistake in the Dallas game that I think changed the face and complexion of the entire game.
Dallas scored the first touchdown early and led 7-0. The Giants then got the ball and were moving the ball methodically up the field. They get to just outside of midfield where the drive stalls, giving the team fourth down and inches. And when I say inches, it wasn’t like a foot’s worth of inches. We’re talking two, maybe four inches tops.
Instead of rolling the dice early, Shurmur elects to punt the ball. It was a pooch punt by Riley Dixon (who looks like a keeper in the early going) that gets caught for a fair catch at the 25-yard line, a 27-yard punt that didn’t exactly pin the Cowboys back on their heels.
Shurmur had to go for it there. He did later in the game on two QB sneaks by Eli that worked. But he should have done it right there. It would have shown that he was in control, willing to take a chance and shown that the Giants meant business. If it didn’t work, then the Cowboys got the ball at midfield and the Giants would have to suck it up a little and play a little harder.
But it was a chance for Shurmur to show he was in charge. And he muffed it. The Giants had to go for it there. It changed the entire game.
I could go on and on like Stephen Bishop (bad 70’s music reference there) about the Giants, but I’ll say this:
They now have to win this Sunday against the Houston Texans. On the road, against J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney and the Honey Badger and Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins. That’s a very good football team the Giants are facing. Very good. Winning on the road in the NFL is never easy and beating a very good team that is also 0-2 in their building is a pretty tall task.
So we will see, but I think it doesn’t look good for the Giants this week.
I’m also going to say that it doesn’t look good for the Jets as well. In fact, I think the Cleveland Browns’ awful losing streak comes to an end Thursday night against the Jets. Just a feeling I have.