David Jones is a sports writer for pennlive.com and the Harrisburg [Pa.] Patriot-Ledger. He turns out much copy on Penn State football and basketball, and also the Big Ten and the college games in general.
I actually wasn’t aware of David’s tremendous work until late on Tuesday night, but I now can say that, for me, Mr. Jones stands among the most-respected college sports observers in the nation.
Witty and insightful … an elite combination.
This revelation came when a Tweet appeared in my file that carried Jones’ traditional column in which he rated the effort of the 14 coaches at the Big Ten football preview that took place Monday and Tuesday in Chicago.
Jones listed the coaches from bottom-to-top, starting with 14-Lovie Smith, Illinois; 13-Chris Ash, Rutgers; and 12-Paul Chryst, Wisconsin.
About those three, my long-distance impression of Lovie has been his engagement with coaching the Illini rivals me with home repairs, and I couldn’t have come up with Chris Ash in 20 guesses as a Rutgers football coach, and all the boring Chryst can do as a football coach is take his’n and beat your’n, or take your’n and beat his’n.
And then comes No. 11 on Jones’ list: P.J. Fleck.
For full appreciation of Jones’ analysis, I must include some local knowledge used by that distinguished sports writer from Pennsylvania: The York Fair is held annually in September and is the oldest fair in America, dating to 1765 in York, Pa.
This was Jones’ assessment of the new Gophers football coach:
11. P.J. FLECK (Minnesota).
“I’m pretty sure I bought 25 super-absorbent towels from this guy. He was wearing a head mic at the York Fair and he targeted me walking by and wouldn't leave me alone. So, I just eventually bought his product so he'd stop talking. Who knew he'd become the Minnesota head football coach?
“Look, I love enthusiasm. It's enthusiastic duplicity I can't stand. You know it as 'BS.' And this guy deals in it. He's a slicker version of (former Illinois coach) Tim Beckman, who can also coach a little, so there's no telling how far he can go in this biz.
“My favorite part of Fleck's spiel as the opening act on Tuesday morning (yes, the audience was accosted with this at 8 a.m. CDT) wasn't his pretending to tell one of his four kids not to hit his sister through the TV screen (cute) or his honoring of Jim Tressel as his role model (perfect) or the detailing of legal acquisition of his 'Row The Boat' mantra from his prior stop at Western Michigan (it was an honor to bring it to Minnesota) or his explanation of why he's having ESPNU do a reality show on the season (it was their idea).
“No, my favorite part was his description of how delighted his old offensive line coach from WMU was when he learned he'd been demoted to tight ends coach -- because he'd hired Ed Warinner who was just cut loose by Urban Meyer at Ohio State. See, the holdover guy's 'eyes lit up' when he learned that he could learn from the incoming vet. That's just the sort of selflessness he has on his staff.
“That, my friends, is not a BS dispenser. That is a BS artist.’’
This was an accurate assessment by David Jones, even if it was a bit too generous toward Fleck. I mean, our guy was mentioning that he was the Gophers’ third head coach in three years, and any English-speaking humanoid would have referred to this as a need for stability.
Fleck came up with “cultural sustainability.’’ He’s a cartoon character. No wonder the rational Oregon boosters said, “Keep him away from here,’’ when Fleck tried to barge into the picture for that job last December.
They like the Ducks out there, but apparently not Daffy Duck.