Sonny Fulks
Sonny Fulks
Managing Editor

Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University and pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeye baseball team from 1971 through 1974.  He furthered his baseball experience as a minor league league umpire for seven years, working in the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA).  He has written for numerous websites and outdoor publications, and for the past ten years has served as a regular columnist and photo editor for Gettysburg Magazine, published by the University of Nebraska Press.  Widely knowledgeable on that period of American History, Fulks is a frequent speaker on the Civil War at local roundtables throughout the Midwest. He and wife Mindy have two grown children and live in Covington, Ohio.


Some well-chosen words on issues of the day and your comments written to Press Pros.  So many who wrote:  So little space to address them.  I’ll pick two!

I’d like to share about a thousand words with you this week in the form of a different kind of “Reader Speaks” column that we regularly post.

The fact is, we received a lot of mail since the last one, emails and comments complimentary to Chick Ludwig’s coverage of the Bengals and their needs leading up to the recent draft.  To use his favorite by-word, the Chickster is a “stud” when it comes to all things Bengals…a veritable walking everything as it pertains to what you either want to know or need to know about the NFL.

But one comment did get under my skin…one pertaining to why “PPM obviously thinks it’s OK to make a big deal out of the draft, but it’s not OK to have a similar interest in high school football recruitingI’ve read your comments before,”  said one.  “Apparently it’s convenient for you to take a swipe when and if it suits your style of writing about what you know, which isn’t much.”

Now the truth of the matter is…I’m pretty thick-skinned.  I come from a long line of thick-skins, if you will.

But the greater truth is…the NFL draft for the way its presented is just about the same vaudeville act as we make out of college recruiting, and for the sake of what?  The same tank-top-wearing, Miller-Lite drinking “expert” who’s contribution to either is blogging on a laptop and tailgaiting in the Bill Davis parking lot…because he doesn’t have game tickets?

I write today for those legions sick and tired of hearing Mel Kiper and Todd McShay guess…that’s right, guess…as to who will actually be a good pro football player come Sundays in September.  All those can’t-miss prospects that suddenly can’t catch and can’t hit when it came to crunch time in the “N”o “F”un “L”eague.  Because when you find out you really can’t play on Sundays, it’s no fun!

I give them credit, the Kipers and the McShays.  They do their due diligence.  I know they watch truckloads of tape and scour the sidelines of practice fields looking for an insight by which they can justify their existence…and all that time on camera.

But when it comes to lining up for the first time at 1 pm on Sundays…when it comes to taking on James Harrision head-to-head for the first time…they don’t know any more about Trent Richardson than Trent Richardson does.  And I say this as it pertains to athletes at any level.  The “experts” don’t have a crystal ball for an athlete’s soul.

Four years of college (if they play that long) doesn’t tell you everything.  So imagine my cynicism over someone predicting that Johnny Wagontongue is a “five star” college recruit simply because he’s played three years of high school football and lifts more weight than anyone else. 

Then you can imagine how disgusting it is to read all the trash posted on the internet about what Johnny can and can’t do relative to the other high school linebackers in his class.  Remember, A.J. Hawk was the “least” of the linebacker class at Ohio State in 2002, a “three-star” compared to the likes of fellow freshmen Mike Kudla and Bobby Carpenter.  Today, Kudla’s selling insurance, Carpenter is playing in the NF (I think)…but Hawk is a “star” in the NFL with the Green Bay Packers and wears a Super Bowl ring.

But as a freshman recruit he was too slow, probably didn’t lift enough, and had a history of injury at Centerville High School.  I have no idea what Mel Kiper thought of him then.  I just know it doesn’t matter now.

The Latest On Competitive Balance…?

The second vote on the OHSAA’s competitive balance initiative comes up this month, a revised edition of the one that was voted down last May by less than 50 votes. 

I admit, there haven’t been any emails to PPM about this because it’s been pretty much under the radar since the big splash last year about determining who plays who for what, based on socio-economic differences and past records of success.

I also admit, that I didn’t understand it very well then, nor did a lot of people who either voted for or against it, or at least I suspect.  They just voted, based on their personal ambitions. 

Hey, if you can’t win with the way things are, then change ’em to where you can win, right?  After all, a watered-down trophy is better than no trophy at all.

And where the OHSAA has acted to better separate the Division I schools, I have no issue.  For sure, Troy cannot compete against the likes of Mentor and Moeller in football, and likely the other sports, as well.  Better to reshuffle the deck in this case…schools like Troy to become a Division II, some smaller Division IIs to become Division IIIs, and so on.  As it stands now, there will be 7 divisions and 7 title games.  That’s too much like Texas for me.  I’d rather have stayed at six and called it “higher quality”.

But when you seek to base competitive balance on how many free lunches one school gets over another, and how many times you’ve won your region in the past, that smacks at politics to me, and schools losing freedoms to be as good as they can be, regardless of size, as it pertains to their tradition of competing and winning. 

If other schools with 200 boys can’t beat you the way you are (or the way they are), then it’s your fault for being unbeatable, I guess.  In horse racing they call it handicapping.  Frankly, it sounds like the same thing in football, too.

By the way, I do not blame the OHSAA.  I blame our culture, and the administrators of individual districts throughout the state whose focus is on winning a watered-down title…just to call themselves winners.  Because hey, in this day everyone deserves a trophy.  And we’ll call that…competitive balance.

In my day we called it…get better!