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Giger Counters: With so many distractions, this season has become theater of the absurd for PSU

Photo by Penn State Athletics: James Franklin talks with Maryland coach Mike Locksley before the game.

What the heck is even going on here? How in the world did we get to the point where a college football season could turn into such a bizarre reality show?

Penn State has had 43 false positive tests. FORTY-THREE!!!

A bewildered James Franklin said this Wednesday night: “We can’t seem to get a whole lot of feedback and support to get answers to it. For about a month we’ve been trying to figure out why we’re having so many.”

The false positives have taken players and coaches in and out of practice for the past month.

That’s a distraction, no doubt about it.

It’s gotten so absurd that the coaching staff has had to — get this — resort to carrying computers out onto the practice field so that the assistant coaches who aren’t there because of a false positive test can still keep an eye on what’s going on through video.

That’s not a joke. That’s not some silly made up story. Cornerbacks coach Terry Smith had to miss two days of practice this week, while defensive coordinator Brent Pry missed one.

There are actually computers on the field so those sick but not really sick coaches can watch practice.

Franklin talks about that and some other distractions in the video below.

Some players’ families have been able to come to games this season, but that’s changing now that the virus is surging again.

Over the next month, with Thanksgiving coming up, the players won’t be able to gather together for a celebratory dinner. It’s not allowed.

Yes, they all can gather on a football field to play, but they can’t gather around a turkey to celebrate all of the things we should be thankful for.

To so many, you’re thankful that there is football. Period. You don’t really care all that much about all the ridiculous things these players and coaches are having to go through personally in order to give you your favorite sport.

For their efforts, Penn State is getting ripped by many people for being 0-4. That includes fans and media — and yes, I’m guilty of it — because we often can be such a thoughtless society when it comes to big-time sports that nothing else matters except the results.

“We’ve done a pretty good job of keeping everybody safe and healthy, and that’s my No. 1 priority,” Franklin said. “But we’ve also got to do that and play good football. We’ve got do both. I think we’ve done a pretty good job of one, and we’ve got to do a much better job of the other.”

I got ticked off at a Twitter poster the other day. He wrote some very mean-spirited and heartless nonsense about Franklin’s family being in Florida, and I let him have it with my response.

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Criticizing coaches and players for football stuff is one thing. Attacking their families is way, way out of line.

That should be the case all the time, but especially now.

Penn State and college athletes everywhere are sacrificing so, so much just in order to bring us football, and soon it will be basketball. They’re having to live in isolation, can’t be around family or friends and have to walk a very tight line just so they can stay healthy enough to play.

And for what?

We all know the answer to that.


To keep the big-time athletic programs afloat. Athletic programs that, in so many cases, don’t show anywhere enough gratitude toward the players who keep the sport alive, yet will pay coaches insane amounts of money.

Life in general has become one big distraction for college athletes, and it should not be any surprise that a lot of them just aren’t capable of escaping all the nonsense the way we want them to and play football at their highest level.

I asked offensive line coach Phil Trautwein earlier today if it’s even possible to coach football the right way while dealing with all this nonsense. You can go out and shoot hoops in your yard or take batting practice with some friends if your sport is basketball or baseball, but football is the ultimate team game and requires a tremendous amount of time commitment and attention to details.

Trautwein gave a decent response, which is included in the video above.

But I’ll tell ya, I can’t see how these coaches and players could possibly be capable of putting everything that’s going on in their lives aside and truly be able to focus on football.

Having to go to practice and see some of their assistant coaches watching on computers only reinforces the notion that this entire season really is little more than one big distraction.

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Cory Giger is a 15-year veteran of the Penn State beat and a journalist with 28 years of experience. He has won more than 100 state and national journalism awards during his career, plus he's a voter for the Heisman Trophy in football and Wooden Award in basketball.

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