THE SPORTS DOCTOR- No laughing matter: Groh chuckles while UVA burns

Miserly Groh held his blitzes... until North Carolina.

I don't want to be the one to shoo the bluebird of happiness off anyone's shoulder, but what's that old saying? Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

The Sword of Damocles that has been brushing the forehead of several coaches lifted a smidgen this past weekend, but only one coach understands the sword is still hanging. While Jim Zorn realizes the Associated Press was right in calling the Redskins' win "ugly" and "sluggish," there are other coaches who seem– how can I put this?– a touch deluded. 

As reported in the October 5 Richmond Times-Dispatch, when interviewed about last Saturday's win, Al Groh chuckled. Chuckled. With a quarter of the season behind him and only one win under his belt, Groh was all gaiety and mirth this week, happily yucking it up with reporters. 

"‘I guess you could call it Octoberfest,' he said [Sunday] night with a chuckle.'" Ho ho ho. Did he also lay his finger aside of his nose?  

If Nero fiddled while Rome burned, what's wrong with Al Groh giggling and guffawing his way through another season, as miserable or mediocre as it may be? We all have our way of coping with trouble: some ignore it, some worry, some mope, some laugh– and some grasp at straws.

After humiliation (William and Mary), struggle (TCU), and frustration (Southern Miss), Groh has the right to wring every drop of happiness out of the win over UNC, doesn't he? 

Yes and no. Virginia's defense was vastly improved, keeping the Tar Heels from both the red zone and the end zone. They were so improved it was difficult to reconcile the defense that held North Carolina to a single field goal with the defense that allowed 93 points in the previous three games. 

Perhaps in his secondary role as defensive coordinator, Groh doesn't realize it's unnecessary to hoard blitzes for three weeks and then unleash them all in one game. Relax, Silas Marner– there are enough blitzes to last throughout the entire season– go ahead and use them, they aren't finite in number. 

So much for the yes. The no comes in on offense. As futile as Virginia's defense was against UNC, the offense was able to scrape together only two more points than in the game against #16 (at the time) TCU, and not even half the number they scored against Southern Miss. 

One would think that scoring a mere 16 points against a team that looked totally at sea wouldn't be worth a chortle, but in Groh's world, a win is cause for hilarity, no matter how sloppy.

To be fair, there's more than one deluded coach in the NCAA. Was anyone really surprised to hear Charlie Weis complain that unranked Notre Dame isn't getting any love in the polls?

"If you look at some of the other teams that are playing and look at how their games have gone, tell me where the difference is," Weis said Sunday, October 4. 

"We've had one loss by four points on the road with 11 seconds to go in the game... if you compare apples to apples, I think we deserve to be there right with everybody else."

Talk about delusion. Groh may fiddle while UVA burns, but Weis doesn't even know there's a fire. He may share a 4-1 record with #7 USC, #5 Virginia Tech, and #9 Ohio State, but considering the Irish haven't yet played a ranked team and still managed to lose one game and win another in overtime, one can conclude that Weis' protestations are the ravings of a madman. That or Weis knows even less about football than everyone thought.

What astounds me is that two men with a combined 27 years NFL experience could be so flummoxed by the sport that has long paid their bills. Compared to Groh and Weis, Jim Zorn is a mere babe, and as inept as he may be as a coach, he'd still rather tell the truth than celebrate an ugly win or complain about being underappreciated.

"I'm just going to keep pushing," Zorn said of Washington's less-than-gorgeous win over Tampa Bay October 5. "I'm not going to be happy with that, and we're going to keep pushing."


Juanita Giles lives in Keysville where she makes videos and updates her Sports Doctor site.