That first hit in 12 years hurt. During a recent practice, Chad Bentz found himself lying on the ground, the victim of a hard hit from the team’s star linebacker. Bentz, a 30-year-old Castleton junior, felt a pain in his upper chest, like the time he broke his collarbone. ‘And I thought, ‘There’s my college football career, and it’s over in 30 seconds,” Bentz said Wednesday. That afternoon was Bentz’s first collegiate practice in full pads and in full-contract drills. A few minutes after the hit, a trainer looked at him, pressed on his collarbone and gave him the OK to return. Until this September, the last time Bentz played football was in high school, about 12 years ago. Bentz gave up playing football for the dream of becoming a major league pitcher. He achieved that dream for a while, but not for long enough.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text Now the Spartans’ fullback, this is one man’s odd story of making it to a different sort of show. This fall, Bentz enrolled in Castleton to pursue an education degree and become a physical education teacher. On the first day of class, the sun shone brightly, and Bentz’s attention wandered outside. During a two-hour break between classes, he walked over to where the football team practiced and went into head coach Rich Alercio’s office. The two men knew each other — Bentz had coached Alercio’s son in baseball. They chatted, and Bentz asked polite and interested questions about Alercio’s squad. Bentz remembers what came next as a halfhearted statement. ‘I’d really love to play for you, you know,’ Bentz said to Alercio. ‘So why don’t you?’ Alercio said. Bentz was surprised, and he asked Alercio if he meant it. Alercio said he was serious. Why not? Alercio told Bentz to just give it a shot. ‘I responded with, ‘Let me go check out over with the missus (sic) and talk it over with my wife,” Bentz said. Even before this year’s football season, Bentz was a familiar figure at Castleton. Starting in 2004, Bentz would go to work out with the Castleton baseball team when he came home for professional baseball’s offseason. Bentz played two seasons in the major leagues. In 2004, he played for the Montreal Expos, and the next year, he went to the Florida Marlins. In those two seasons, Bentz pitched 29-and-two-thirds innings and ended up with a 7.58 ERA. Bentz is a lefty who was born with a right hand that just never grew fully, leaving him without a developed right hand. He enjoyed pitching against live hitters at Castleton. He would work in the bullpen, too, and dispense tips to the Castleton players. That was the deal. Free use of the gym, if he helped groom Castleton baseball head coach Ted Shipley’s players. ‘He would just be one of the guys. He’d do everything that we’d do,’ Shipley said recently. Each year, Shipley asked about his plans for the next season. The plans changed some every time, and eventually Bentz stopped playing professional baseball altogether. ‘It’s the nature of the business. You have to produce, or they’ll find someone who will,’ Shipley said. But as Bentz’s baseball career faded, a new career began. After his impromptu recruitment visit with Alercio, Bentz failed to even wait until he got home to tell his wife that he wanted to embrace the impulses of his youth and play football again. On the car ride home from Castleton, he asked her permission to play over the phone. ‘What do you think about me playing football?’ he asked his wife. ‘Are you serious?’ she said. Bentz confessed his early doubts, but his desire as well. And he said she agreed to let him play on the spot. Just as well, Bentz said, in case something went wrong or he decided against playing, he could blame it on his wife wanting him at home. His wife took just a little cajoling. He found the task more difficult when he talked to a different family member. ‘My mom was the worst. No matter how old you get, moms are the same,’ he said. Working Bentz into the Spartans’ offense will take time, said Alercio. Bentz knows his job in a few plays now, and Alercio adds a new play per week to Bentz’s knowledge. Bentz needs to know his exact role on the field to play well in a game, Alercio said. ‘You don’t want to have a 6-foot-2-inch, 265-pound former professional athlete with indecision out there,’ Alercio said. The offensive scheme calls on Bentz to play in short-yardage, goal-line situations for when the Spartans’ need him to pick up a tough yard. So far Bentz focuses on lowering his head down and running through the hole. And if Bentz wanted to, he could play at Castleton until his eligibility runs out. Somehow he figures he will quit playing prior to that. He plans to graduate before then, anyway. Said Bentz: ‘I guess I have another three years left. That’s the rumor, anyway.’ No. 11 Wisconsin at No. 24 Michigan State Prediction: Wisconsin 30, Michigan State 14 Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio will return to the Spartans this week, but it will take a lot more for Michigan State to triumph over Wisconsin. Badgers running back John Clay will run all over the Spartans’ defense. No. 7 Florida at No. 1 Alabama Prediction: Alabama 24, Florida 20 In this week’s most intriguing matchup, Alabama will get another serious test from conference foe Florida this week, after just surviving an upset-minded Arkansas team the week before. Florida will take this down to the wire, but the Crimson Tide will prevail. No. 9 Stanford at No. 4 Oregon Prediction: Oregon 27, Stanford 17 A battle of early-season West Coast superpowers, Stanford will look to upset the Ducks. But watch for Oregon to eek this one out. No. 22 Penn State at No. 17 Iowa Prediction: Penn State 20, Iowa 17 Look for Joe Paterno’s team to come onto Iowa’s home turf and give the Hawkeyes a nasty surprise. No. 8 Oklahoma at No. 21 Texas Prediction: Oklahoma 32, Texas 20 For this year’s edition of the Red River Rivalry, Texas takes Oklahoma at home, but victory will prove elusive for the Longhorns. [email protected] Published on September 29, 2010 at 12:00 pm Facebook Twitter Google+ Comments
Good faith However, I commend him for three things. For looking towards hiring West Indians such as coach Phil Simmons to assist in the development of West Indies cricket, for professionalising regional cricket, and for getting West Indies first-class cricket to be played on a return basis. A week or so ago, however, when I read his interview in Mumbai and read what he had to say about the reasons for his attitude towards the players, I was touched. I was moved. Cameron, whatever we thought of him, was, indeed, a West Indian. He wanted the West Indies to win, he wanted the players to play well and, like every West Indian, he wanted the players to play for the West Indies and to win for the West Indies. He wanted them, however, to be reasonable, to realise that the West Indies is a poor place and cannot afford to pay them what they probably deserve, or what some other countries pay their players. He wants them to understand that they are West Indians and he wants them to understand that while it is hard for them to do, they should be West Indians and give a little to other West Indians to help in their development. He probably remembered how they benefited as youngsters coming up in the region from those who went before and probably argued that they should give back a little. He also wants them to make as much as they can make by allowing them to go and play in the many T20 leagues around the world, by giving them the required “no objection certificates” and whatever they want in order to play. In other words, he would like the players to cooperate with the board, particularly in the interest of West Indies cricket. In other words, although money is important, he would like the West Indies players to respect West Indies cricket, to play whatever cricket they want to play, but only when the West Indies are not in action. All he wanted was that the players be a little bit less selfish. Regional cricket “As a matter fact, for the first time my board said to me, ‘President, you are not authorised to do anything to this agreement because you paid the guys money for the last year and a half when you had the opportunity to change the agreement. You have demonstrated good faith. You have worked with WIPA (West Indies Players’ Association) to get the MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) done. For the last how many years, every time we are trying to move the process forward so that we can create a professional set-up, we get held to ransom. We are just tired as an organisation’. “Wes Hall had strikes against him. Sir Julian Hunte had a couple of issues. It started under Pat Rousseau. It happened to Teddy Griffith. “Everybody went and gave them what they wanted. Did our system get any better? It got worse. We moved from number one in the world in 1995 to eight and nine in Tests and ODIs.” I am not a fan of Cameron for many reasons, including his treatment of the players, his treatment of Caribbean journalists especially one like Tony Cozier, his attitude overall, his use of the little money in West Indies cricket and, last but not least, the part he played in the takeover of the International Cricket Council (ICC) by India, England and Australia. One day before the semi-final of the World Twenty20 in India recently, before the West Indies dazzled the world by clipping India and England with three deliveries and two deliveries to spare, respectively, to win the championship in style, West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) president Dave Cameron opened up and explained his philosophy, the reason why he is, or was, probably public enemy number one in the West Indies. Sitting in a Mumbai hotel, he said, apparently quite meekly: “I just want us to get better. I am tired of losing.” And then, as arrogantly as ever, he said: “My role is to run the business and your role is to play cricket.” The “your” he was referring to was the players – and he was correct. Cameron, not knowing that his team would have won the match the following day, or the final showdown a few days later, but hoping against hope that they would, was engaged in a long interview at the time and he tried to explain his unpopularity around the West Indies and the reason why he behaves the way he does, especially when it comes to his treatment of the West Indies players. “We have had strikes or potential strikes for the last 14 years. And we have gone and met the players and given in. And we are ranked eight or nine. I am not sure going and meeting them would have solved it. Problem continued The players, however, right or wrong, and from way back when, quarrelled with the board over money, from George Headley and Alfred Valentine and even in those times when the board had no money, or very little money. The problem continued with the coming of Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket, it continued when West Indies became champions of the world, and it got worse under presidents Peter Short and Rousseau. Short went to London to sort out Brian Lara’s problem when Lara moved out of the team’s hotel; and Rousseau went to London when the team flew from a series against Pakistan to Johannesburg and then to London to sort out the dispute over money. The West Indies were big, the players were big and it appeared that every problem the board had with the players ended with the players rolling up their sleeves and ready for a fight. On many of those occasions, the board had dialogue with representatives of the players before they left the West Indies, but it was as if the players were saying to the board, “You can’t do without us; pay us, or else.” And the board always paid up, more or less. Cameron is right. Every time there was a tour in recent years, the players threatened or went on strike for one thing or the other. No one, except the senior players, ever knew if a tour was really on. That had to stop, or rather, have to stop. West Indies cricket is big. It means a lot to the people. The board, the players’ association and the players must get together in the interest of West Indies cricket and the people. Cameron’s attitude to solve the problem is not the recommended style, but there are some who believe that there comes a time when you should, or must fight fire with fire if you hope to survive. On top of it all, the players’ way doing of business can only be successful if they win all the time. When they win, as they did in India, they can flex their muscles, or cock a hoop at the board, as they did in India. Well said, Cameron. Your role, as president of the board, and as you said, is definitely to run West Indies cricket and the players’ role, as players, is definitely to play cricket to the best of their ability. If you both do that, definitely to the best of your abilities, West Indies will shortly be on top, or they will be very close to the top.