Saturday, September 27, 2014
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
But don’t worry. I’m not about to inundate you with thousands of words bemoaning the inherent bias arising from the relationship between ESPN and the SEC. Suffice it to say, citizens of states where SEC programs reside will tell you that, of course ESPN wants to be aligned with the SEC because there is no better semi-professional football in America. And citizens of the remaining states would tell you that, sure the SEC may have some of the best teams in America, but everybody else fights a constant uphill battle for notoriety because of the constant hype and exposure the SEC enjoys as a result of its unholy alliance with the World-Wide Leader. There is certainly some truth to both arguments, and as with all great arguments, the full truth likely resides somewhere in the middle. But again, this is not the argument I’m here to explore. Instead, I figured I would use my first few paragraphs back in this space to take a few pot shots at my two of least favorite institutions in college football and move on.
Truth is, I’ve always been a huge college football fan (both literally and figuratively), but over the past few years, with the advent of the spread offense, other pass happy systems, and soaring scores (even in the vaunted SEC where their defenses supposedly play “big boy football” TM: every gas back former athlete working for ESPN college football), I’ve grown slightly disenchanted with college football. Bear in mind, I’m not a guy that longs for the good old days that weren’t always good (TM: Billy Joel), and I’ve always loathed the three yards and a cloud of dust (TM: some really old guy that couldn’t run a 6.3 40) offense that used to define the Big 10, SEC, and even the old Big 8 and Southwest Conference. I like offense, and I revere Mike Leach. I mean, how do you not revere a reformed lawyer that believes in pirates and makes cameos on “Friday Night Lights?” Speaking of which, watch this and I defy you to not love Mike Leach: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cBxe3cprocQ
In short, I’ve always loved offense. I loved the Ralph Friedgen/Joe Hamilton days at Tech. Heck, I used to love staying up late, watching old Pac-10 games, and making some pizza money on the overs in those games. Or, at least that’s what I would’ve done if gambling was legal, of course. Now, however, something is different. Great offenses used to stand out because they were the exception, not the rule. Now, unless you are playing Alabama or Stanford, if you can’t put up 31 points, you are simply doing something wrong on offense. You either don’t have sufficient talent, or you are running the wrong system, or both (See Tech, Georgia). The result is that every time I tune into a
game, I suddenly feel like I’m back in T-8 at the Sigma Chi House, or in Fite’s apartment on 115th and Amsterdam, slugging out 63-56 playstation game, the winner of which hinges on: 1) who can manage to sack the quarterback once and force a pick; or 2) who can manipulate the clock to ensure they have one more possession than the other guy; or 3) both.
I’ve long been one of the few NBA fans in my group of friends, and the criticism I’ve always heard about the Association is “why would I watch an entire game when I can tune in for the last 2 minutes and see everything I need to see?” While I’ve always contended that this was a silly argument because, on any given night in the NBA, you can see no less than a dozen spectacular or ridiculous plays (both being equally entertaining) throughout the course of a game, I now find myself making the same argument about college football. Unless you have two completely uneven teams (See FSU or Clemson vs. any ACC team not named FSU or Clemson), you really only need to tune in for the last two minutes to see the important stuff. Case in point: Auburn vs. Georgia this past Saturday, or pretty much any other SEC game featured on CBS this year.
Granted, if you watch those games in their entirety, you do have the pleasure of hearing Verne Lundquist screw up no less than a dozen names and penalty calls, but even that enjoyment fades when you are 3.5 hours into the game and just entering the fourth quarter. (Side note: I have always loved Verne. His “Yes Siiiiiir” call of The Golden Bear’s birdie at 17 of the ’86 Masters creeps its way into one of my conversations no less than once a week – “we won that motion? Yes Siiiiiiiirrrr,” but all good things come to an end, and the time has come for Verne to only sit in the tower at 16 at Augusta and guide us through all the near miss 8 foot birdie putts on that glorious Sunday in April. No shame in that, Verne. You had a Hall of Fame run.).
Again, times are good for college football, but others are growing tired of the new-found Arena League state of college football. (Seriously, it’s not just me. I talked to 10 people before writing this article, and at least two of them didn’t tell me I was crazy.) But the time to change is before the masses grow wise to your problems. The time to change is before the fall. Why do you think Tiger Woods has changed his swing three times throughout his career, and why do you think Tiger changed his personal behavior before his life came crashing down around him? Okay, maybe that last one isn’t the best example, but you get my point. College football should consider change before the Playstation-Arena League evolution is complete and forever alters the game into a one-sided, offensive affair. Fear not, however, I’m not proposing a complete overhaul of the game. Instead, I’m proposing just three minor changes that would serve the game well and bring things back to reality without compromising any of the things that really make college football great: the pageantry, the tradition, the rivalries, the ability for middle-aged coaches, administrators, broadcasters, and television execs to make themselves wealthy beyond their wildest dreams on the backs of a free labor force that has no rights or ability to control any aspect of their own lives while beholden to the corrupt and patently unfair cartel that is the NCAA, college presidents, and conference execs. What? You sensed my sarcasm in that last one? Good. But we’ll leave that topic for another day because, trust me, I need a lot more space to tell you how I really feel about the state of college athletics as a whole. Then again, I may have just done it in one sentence. Regardless, let’s move on. Here are three minor rule changes that would have a positive impact on college football and give defenses a fighting chance:
Saturday, April 13, 2013
Sunday, December 04, 2011
It’s the first Sunday of December, so, of course, we have BCS outrage that people will incoherently scream about for the next 48 hours on talk radio. Every college football beat writer and television personality will chime in with their opinion in that same time. And, every idiot with a blog (myself included) will feel compelled to offer their thoughts. Then, amazingly, a month will pass with no outrage. People will go Christmas shopping, spend the Holidays with their families, bemoan the fact that New Year’s Eve is the most overrated night of the year, and finally, people will happily watch the New Year’s Day Bowl games while they eat collard greens and black-eyed peas. And only then, in the week leading up to the Rematch, will the outrage surface again. So, before the outrage subsides, let me take this opportunity to share mine.
Okay, that’s not really what I am doing here. For better or worse, at some point over the past several years, I have become a guy that appreciates sports for their entertainment and humor and very little more. The closest I have come to feeling outrage over anything sports related in these past several years was the NBA Lockout and that is only because I recognized that my winter and spring would be robbed of both my nightly entertainment and humor with no NBA, and more importantly, no Kenny, Chuck, Ernie, C-Webb, and Shaq. Now that I have that back, I’m cool. I like not feeling outraged about sports. Rightly or wrongly, it makes me feel mature and as if I somehow have my priorities in order. That said, I do have a few points about this year’s BCS Title Game I feel compelled to share:
First, anybody that argues that the Rematch is the “right” decision because Alabama and LSU are clearly the two best teams in the country (Yes, I’m talking to everyone at ESPN, including you Herbie) is offering an indefensible position. Why it is it indefensible? Because, by definition, you cannot know whether one team is better than another team unless you see them play one another. And, even then, it’s not an exact science. For example, I watched LSU v. Alabama I, and I know that Alabama easily could have won that game, but on that given night, the breaks didn’t go their way. So, even though LSU scored more points after overtime, I honestly don’t if they are better than Alabama. And, if I don’t know if LSU is better than Alabama, how in the world could I possibly know if Alabama or LSU is better than Oklahoma State, Stanford, or Boise State? I certainly can have an opinion, but opinions are subjective. Consequently, when you go on national television and try to pass off a subjective opinion as an objective fact, you look like you either are not smart enough to know the difference, or you look like you are trying to justify the result because your network paid gazillions of dollars for the broadcast rights to the BCS. Either way, you look silly. I knew Mark May was silly, but I really thought Herbie was better than that. Color me disappointed, Herbie.
Second, given the fact that OSU was one double OT loss at Iowa State away from the Title Game, I truly hope every human voter gave thoughtful consideration to the circumstances of that loss. Specifically, OSU took the field that Friday night in Ames approximately 24 hours after the school’s head women’s basketball coach and an assistant coach were tragically lost in a plane crash. Is this the reason they lost that game? I have no idea whatsoever. I do know, however, that we are talking about 18-22 year old young men that may or may not have ever had to deal with the fact that someone that they were accustomed to seeing all the time, or someone that their friends or girlfriends were very close with, would never pass by them in the dining hall or athletic offices again. Again, I have no idea what impact this tragedy had on those young men that night. I do know three things for certain, though: 1) that game day in Ames, whether it was the team breakfast, down time in the hotel, a possible walk through, and even dressing for the game in the locker room was, at least to some degree, not a normal day for those young men; 2) Coach Gundy and OSU will never, and I mean NEVER, bring this up in any argument on their behalf because they know that in the grand scheme of what is important in life, it would be wholly inappropriate and self-serving to do so; and 3) Because Coach Gundy and OSU could never even hint at the impact that tragedy had on them that night in Ames, it was the responsibility of the human voters to do so for them. If a voter took this into account and still felt it was appropriate to vote Alabama #2, that is fine and they should have had no hesitation about casting that vote. If a voter failed to take this into account, they failed to properly discharge their obligations
Next, tonight, Nick Saban actually made the best argument I have heard in favor of the Rematch, but he and his interviewer, Reece Davis (someone whose work and objectivity, despite being a ‘Bama grad, I admire very much ) failed to seize upon it. Specifically, Coach Saban said that Alabama and LSU played to a tie after 60 minutes, and LSU happened to get the better end of things in overtime. For those, like me, that loathe the randomness of the college overtime system, this is a fine argument: “Look, nobody disputes that LSU should be in this game, and after 60 minutes of football, we proved we are at least their equal, so let us finish the game.” That is how Saban should have phrased it. Of course, he rushed through the point and continued to make a bunch of statements that might not be true. I mean, I’ve been told by many LSU and Dolphins fans that is what he does, so I will take their word for it
Finally, I really hope LSU wins the Title Game. I feel this way not only because my close friend and LSU diehard, Ben, may walk around in a catatonic state for a month if they don’t, but also because I will feel terribly for the LSU players and coaches if they don’t. When you break this down to its core elements what you are left with is an LSU team that has not lost a game, has two more wins, one less loss, and one more conference title than Alabama, and beat Alabama on its home field. Now, if that same LSU team, after over a month break, has its first off night of the season and loses to Alabama in the Title Game, they will be forced to watch the team they already beat (on their home field – did I mention that?), with one less win and one less conference title, walk out of LSU’s de-facto home city with the Crystal Football LSU has focused its every waking minute on since the end of last season. How does that make any sense to anybody?
Furthermore, if Alabama wins, everything LSU has accomplished to this point in the regular season, which is historic on several levels, will amount to nothing. And, as someone who has railed against a college playoff system for fear it would cheapen the regular season, I will have to re-evaluate my position. And, nothing outrages me more than having to re-evaluate my position. So, for my sake, I really hope LSU wins. I have no desire to once again feel outrage toward anything sports related.
Friday, June 17, 2011
With two wars raging (maybe three, depending on how the media decides to characterize Libya any given day), devastating floods ongoing, intolerable heat waves engulfing the deep south, and a seven term congressman resigning in disgrace after making Brett Favre look smart for only texting instead of tweeting, the two most frequent questions I’ve been asked over the past week are: 1) Do you think Kim Kardashian really hooked up with that guy on the Patriots?; and 2) What do you think happened to Lebron? I’m not sure if this says more about me, the people I spend most of my time talking to, or our society as a whole. Regardless, I have no idea as to the answer to either question, but in both cases, I certainly have an opinion. Coincidently, I would argue that both opinions are based on empirical evidence. For the sake of brevity and so as not to state the obvious, let’s skip over the Kim question and move right to Lebron.
Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever talked about a person or topic more in a week than I have talked about Lebron this week. The theories I’ve heard tossed around have ranged from ones involving Rashard Lewis pulling a Donte West (all alleged) to Lebron never recovering from the tongue lashing D. Wade gave him in Game 3. I even heard one guy say that it looked like LBJ was shaving points. Okay, that guy was me, but I was totally kidding. Everybody knows that nobody has shaved points in a high profile basketball game since UNLV in the ’91 Final Four. What? That didn’t happen? I’m still demanding an investigation.
Well, after much consideration and amateur psycho babble, I’ve finally settled on the theory that evolved out of one of the many LBJ psycho analysis sessions my buddy Joe and I conducted over the past week. Basically, there seem to be two types of uber successful people in sports (and, probably in all walks of life): 1) The people that constantly view themselves as the underdogs, either perceived or real; and 2) That rare group of people that are so incredibly talented and physically gifted that success not only comes easy to them, it’s an inevitability.
Those in the first group sometimes morph into the second group (see Jordan, Michael). But, even when they morph into the second group, they never lose their group 1 roots and continue to work as if the deck is stacked against them. They refuse to accept the fact that they can put things on cruise control. They invent ways to pit themselves in the underdog role by inventing slights that didn’t actually happen or taking small slights and turning them into much bigger deals than they actually are. For an example, just think back to MJ’s maniacal evisceration of Karl Malone in the ’97 Finals after Malone received his sympathy MVP award. Should MJ have been so pissed that he was denied his fifth MVP award? Probably not, but he has group 1 DNA , so he had no choice. He found an obstacle in his way (i.e. Karl Malone), and he chose to do everything in his power to destroy it. That’s what the group 1 guys do. If you challenge their greatness, you are going to face the consequences.
In contrast, Lebron is squarely a group 2 guy. Since he was in 10th grade, the question was never if he would be a great basketball player, it was whether he would be the greatest basketball player of all time. Since we first came to know LBJ, we’ve been constantly awed by his athleticism and the ease in which he can dominate a game based solely on his physical gifts. He’s never been the underdog and we’ve never questioned his greatness. We’ve never doubted that LBJ would win rings, we’ve just wondered if he could get to MJ’s mythical level of six rings. Now, however, twice in two years (in last year’s Boston series and this year’s Finals), we’ve seen two inexplicable disappearing acts that have made us question everything we’ve ever believed about his apparent greatness. Last year, we could explain away the Game 5 in Boston with crappy teammates, impending free agency, the weight of his hometown on his shoulders, and, well, that alleged Delonte thing. This year? Nobody seems to have any clue what happened.
As for me, the only conclusion I’ve ultimately come to is that LBJ potentially fell victim to the same fate that the group 2 guys too often seem to encounter. Specifically, when everything has always come with relative ease and your greatness is naturally assumed, sometimes it is easier to put on the breaks and not take the big shots than it is to dig deeper and take the responsibility of winning and losing on your shoulders. The reason? If you fail but don’t put yourself completely on the line, it can be easier to swallow than if you give everything you have, take the big shots and big risks and come up short. You can always tell yourself, “if I had really given it all I had, we would have won”, and nobody can prove you wrong. Put simply, you don’t have to face the reality that, no matter how gifted you are, on occasion, your best might not be good enough.
By all appearances, LBJ is content to be great when the circumstances don’t require him to potentially expose himself to failure. The crazy thing is that it’s a matter of self perception rather than popular perception. Sure, we are all left wondering, “what if Lebron had just been average”? (My favorite writer/talk radio host/sports personality, Dan LeBatard, has asked this question no less than 30 times this week). I suppose Lebron takes some consolation from this lingering question, but what he doesn’t seem to understand is that fans, the media, and his peers would hold him in higher regard if he had been willing to put it on the line against the Mavs, and he had come up short. As strange as it sounds, there is a certain nobility in giving it everything you have and coming up short.
I mean, if you ask me if I have more respect for John Stark’s 2-18 Game 7 in the ’94 Finals or LBJ’s disappearing act in this year’s Finals, it’s not even close. Even as his shots continued to miss the mark, Starks did not succumb to the despair or the fear. For better or worse (I guess worse, if you are a Knicks fan), he never wavered from his commitment to take the responsibility of winning and losing on his shoulders. Consequently, while we all remember the 2-18, basketball junkies, almost to a man, still remember Starks as a warrior that had onions that would make Bill Rafferty proud. Even in a loss, Starks strangely cemented a legacy. As Hemingway famously said, “a man is not made for defeat.” Starks lost, but he was not defeated. LBJ, unfortunately, cannot say the same.