Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Podcast Episode #3

Today's podcast features a full on assault from three New York fans tired of the misery that is the New York Knicks. Donnie, please rescue us.

Guests: Kushal Patel, Daniel Perlman





Topics:
1) New York Knick Legends (Eddy Curry, Jerome James, Jonathan Bender)
3) Walt Clyde Frazier
4) New York Yankees Announcing
5) The best and worst of ESPN/March Madness analysts
6) '00, '01 NBA drafts
7) Hating on the autistic kid who picked the first two rounds correctly
8) Spike Lee

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Michigan State vs. Tennessee Diary

I have no new ideas for a post, so I'm stealing a page out of the Bill Simmons book, and doing a running diary of the Michigan State vs. Tennessee game. Let's see how it goes.

19:23 - Bobby Maze hits at three. You have to love college basketball offense. Pass the ball around the perimeter. If there's no layup opportunity after a backdoor cut, someone has to pop a three with two hands in his face.

18:35 - Wayne Chism hits a three. Who knew he had picture perfect form?

17:32 - Another three for Chism. His draft stock could not be rising faster.

14:48 - 16-16. For all of you who bet the under at 135.5 (of course in a gentleman's bet), they're more than 1/5 the way there. We should have predicted this to happen since Michigan State and defense never go together.

13:42 - Summers with the jam. Also, three white people on the floor at once. Quite surprising.

11:13 - Bruce Pearl's son (whatever his name is) should not be on the floor. His defender is standing at least 15 feet away from him on every offensive possession. We all hated the coach's son in little league, but who knew dad would play favorites in college as well?

10:24 - The most underrated part of college basketball is the free throw huddle. What if the NBA did this? What would LeBron say? Probably something along the lines of, "why can't you guys suck less." Or maybe Dwight Howard would throw out a Stan Van Gundy imitation. Lot's of potential here.

9:17 - First replay of the J.P. Prince block on Evan Turner. The over/under for this replay is 2.5.

8:56 - Random stat of the day courtesy of CBS: Tom Izzo is 15-3 on the second set of games of the weekend. Also, no more white people left on the court.

7:21 - I was just randomly playing around with the Yahoo Scenario Generator, and discovered I can't win one of my brackets, even though West Virginia is my champion. Very depressing.

6:08 - J.P. Prince scores on an alley-oop. By far one of the coolest names in college basketball. On the replay, you can see his hands are above the box when he catches the ball. Crazy. Another guy whose draft stock should rise. Also, Brian Williams is wearing Under Armour. Hopefully he doesn't take his jersey off.

4:21 - Bruce Pearl's son is coming back in the game. Tennessee leads 34-33. By the time he goes out, they'll be losing by at least 4.

3:36 - TV timeout. Verne Lundquist's sign-off line: "Things are happening in St. Louis." By far the worst CBS announcing team.

1:30 - Michigan State's last possession: Point guard holds ball for 10 seconds, one pass, contested three. Do you think he made it? (Ignore the fact that they got the offensive rebound and scored.

1:16 - Bruce Pearl's son goes out, Tennessee up 2. Whoops.

1.3 - Bill Raftery claims Tennessee is great at inbound defense. Michigan State gets a layup on the ensuing inbound from under the basket. It's like he's intentionally trying to jinx the play. Also, reason #812 why they're a terrible broadcast team.

2nd Half

20:00 - Halftime score: 41-39, Tennessee. 56 Points until the over wins. Not a good sign.

18:35 - Just noticed that J.P. Prince wears the A.I. arm sleeve. Players should only wear the amount of gear as their talent dictates. But Prince's hops qualifies him. If Bruce Pearl's son wore a sweatband at his elbow, I'd be upset. Wayne Chism's headband, however is acceptable. Although I'm not a fan of the way its angled upward in an extremely awkward fashion.

17:10 - Brian Williams mauls Raymar Morgan on his way to the basket, then complains when he gets called for the foul. I don't understand these players. Complaining when you know you're wrong will only hurt you when you actually do have a case.

16:47 - Brian Williams gets fouled on a layup, but they say its clean. Karma. Don't complain.

15:11 - 50-50, with a free throw to come for Michigan State on an and-1 jump shot (by the way, anyone who fouls on a jumper is retarded). 100 total points now. C'mon, defense.

13:50 - Brian Williams air balls a free throw, then gets taken out of the game. These events probably aren't related, but still worth mentioning.

12:16 - Camera cuts to Magic Johnson in the stands clapping as Michigan State takes a 56-51 lead. None of the people surrounding him were even recognizing his existence. I will just assume then that they're body guards or just completely clueless about basketball.

12:09 - CBS stat. Michigan State goes on a 8-1 run with J.P. Prince out of the game. Now he's back in. But guess who took him out in the first place? That's right. Bruce Pearl's son. Now they're both in. Logic tells me that the lead for Michigan State (5 points) should stay the same until one comes out of the game again.

10:40 - Tennessee is playing with renewed energy after going down by 8. Down 6, one and one free throws to come for Bobby Maze. Hits the first, hits the second. Too bad Kentucky never learned this skill.

9:50 - Bruce Pearl's son completely butchers a 2 on 1 fast break, giving a bounce pass directly to the defender. If Tennessee loses this game, you can probably guess who I'm blaming it on.

9:02 - Timeout, Michigan State, who leads by 4. I wonder if Bruce Pearl will scream at his son? Instead CBS cuts to commercial. Timeout over, Pearl and Prince come out. I'd also like to point out that the score change by one point since my comment at 12:09. Kudos to me.

7:00 - Close-up of Wayne Chism's face. I usually have a problem with players with baby faces (Jermaine O'Neal, Glen Davis), but I'm a huge Chism fan. I have no idea why. Although I still wish he'd fix that headband.

6:12 - Michigan State 61, Tennessee, 60. Too much time left. looks like the over will definitely win.

4:40 - Draymond Green spins, hits the fade away off the bank, gets the and-1. Why is it that every time he makes a move towards the basket he ends up on the floor? He's by far the heaviest guy on the floor.

4:24 - Brian Williams throws up air ball #2 on a free throw. How do you play college basketball and not even hit the rim? And the worst part is that in 50 years, a new batch of air-ballers will will still be around. Also, I think we've found player #2 to blame for a possible Tennessee loss.

3:00 - White guy on the floor for Michigan State. Bad move.

1:56 - Michigan State 69, Tennessee 68. Timeout. Bruce Pearl in the huddle: "Guys, don't blow it. I don't need the media realizing that I do terribly in the NCAA tournament." Tom Izzo in the huddle: "Guys, I have no idea how we're not losing this game, but you're doing wonders for my reputation."

1:35 - Brian Williams gets a jump ball. I have to say having an actual jump ball as the NBA does is pretty stupid. I way prefer the possession arrow. Although the jump ball does provide more excitement.

1:08 - Bobby Maze throws a layup over the basket on an offensive rebound. Not only is this a totally anti-clutch play, but I didn't realize that something like that could even happen.

28.9 - Michigan State with a terrible possession, yet manages to get the offensive rebound on a three. Tennesse fouls. Free throw time. Korie Lucious: time to step up. But he misses. Tennesse down one. Bruce Pearl does not call timeout. Scotty Hobson is fouled on a jumper with 11.2 left.

11.2 - Two thoughts. First off, why are they fouling? I realize it wasn't intentional, but that's the last thing you do here. Secondly, Tennessee shot way too early. Michigan State has too much time to respond. A little repeat of the Sweet Sixteen? Hobson hits the first free throw. Tie score at 69-69. Timeout. On a side note, I'm getting really tired of the Southwest Airlines "bags fly free" commercials.

11.2 - Second free throw is no good. Jeez.

1.8 - Raymar Morgan is fouled and hits the first free throw for the lead, 70-69. Once again, the difference is free throws (cough Brian Williams cough).

1.6 - Raymar Morgan intentionally misses the free throw. I like where Izzo's head is at, but hopefully that does not come back to bite MSU. If he makes it, Tennessee calls timeout and gets it at half court. But with the miss they get it under their own basket. We have the situation set up perfectly. Christian Laetner round 2? Damn, Verne made that comment too.

0.0 - J.P. Prince with the saddest attempt at a half court shot I've ever seen. Michigan State back in the final four for the second straight year. Final score: Michigan State 70, Tennessee 69. The over wins, but only 3 points.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Some Other Hard Knocks Choices

LaDanian Tomlinson embracing his backup role, Mark Sanchez's progression, Rex Ryan's deflation, a receiver who can't catch and getting an inside look at Darrelle Revis are all great reasons to watch the upcoming season of Hard Knocks. But what other teams would have been interesting to profile? Here are my top 3, not including the Jets.

3. Baltimore Ravens - There are two reasons for choosing the Ravens: Ray Lewis and Michael Oher. A close-up view of Lewis in practice does not get any better. The trash-talking would be priceless. Maybe it's not as high quality as Chad Ochocinco's "Kiss Da Baby," but there's no doubt its aggressive and over the top. Even better will be the one-on-one interviews with the camera. Every time he speaks during an interview now, the following things occur to me.

1. I am mortally afraid.
2. I remember that he got away with double murder. Why do I and the rest of football fans continually forget this until they're reminded by his frightening demeanor?
3. He's remarkably well-spoken. I wonder if he practices what he preaches. Something tells me that his pre-game pep talks are not as articulate.

The other intriguing aspect would have to be Michael Oher. The Blind Side was a touching story and a pretty solid movie. But I would like to see it continue in the NFL. What happens if Ray Lewis accidentally knocks over Joe Flacco in practice? Does Oher go Wingate on Lewis and block him all the way out of the end zone and over field-enclosing fence? Or does he go "protective instincts" and simply clothesline him? A lot of possibilities here.

2. Indianapolis Colts - Only one thing intrigues me here, but I believe Hard Knocks can provide the answer to a long-standing NFL question.

Who really coaches the Colts? Are you not curious to know what goes on during coaching meetings with Jim Caldwell? As everyone already knows, Jim Caldwell blinks approximately once every 2 minutes. He smiles exactly 6 times a month. He does nothing during games to help the Colts. Would you really be surprised if he was just the puppet for the offensive coordinator or some other coach? Also, what are the odds that Peyton Manning sits in on every meeting with the coaching staff? I'm going with 6-1. What about defensive meetings? 10-1. On a side note, their defense should really enlist Manning's help. Considering how well he's able to pick apart defenses, it seems logical that he would know how to run them as well. Unfortunately for us, the player-coach system died out 40 years ago. (And as far as I know, it was never applied to football.)

1. Oakland Raiders - JaMarcus Russel, Tom Cable punching assistants, Al Davis looking and acting like a 167-year-old shriveled corpse and the underachieving Bruce Campbell (once Davis inevitably drafts him as another top 10 blunder, giving Davis a league leading 138 first round draft busts. Second place is probably around 3).

First, let's imagine the tension among the coaching staff. One wrong word equals a Tom Cable fist to the face. I can already see each coach's eyes darting to Cable before advising the players in any way. Meanwhile, the supposedly improving JaMarcus Russell air mails at least 10 passes, giving him a training camp completion percentage of 48.7%. That would be an improvement, except for the fact that it happens while throwing the route tree against zero defense. Therefore, the Raiders are still lead by the imposing Bruce Gradkowski.

Then the camera profiles Bruce Campbell, who gets continually torched by Richard Seymour, or has temporary success due to Seymour's lack of effort in an attempt to get cut. The one positive of Bruce: at least we are not subjected to Andre Smith with his shirt off. On the negative side, he makes all males watching feel bad about themselves.

Last, but not least, would be any face time with Al Davis. While his overall appearance makes me uncomfortable, his words boost my overall morale. If he can run an NFL team, so can I.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Rules of Fan Heckling: NBA Style

First a quick shout out to the NFL owners for somewhat fixing NFL overtime rules. Why this change was not applied to the regular season is beyond me, but at least it's a start. Frankly, they should just adopt these rules.

Anyway...

The CEO of the New Jersey Nets, Brett Yormark, recently got in a shouting match with a Nets fan who was wearing a paper bag on his head. Obviously, Yormark was upset that Nets' fans are not supporting the team, but can we blame them? The team's record is a miserable 7-63. So where do we draw the line for fan heckling at an NBA game (of the home team and of the opponent)? Here are a few guidelines and changes to the heckling system:

Home Team

With ticket prices so high, there's very little incentive to even show up at an NBA arena. For the $8 dollars it costs to buy a beer at the game, anyone can buy a six pack and watch the game on his 50" HD television at home. So if fans are willing to fork over the money, they should be free to cheer and/or jeer as they please. Fans have every right to wear paper bags, boo and walk out early. Think of it this way: in the world outside of sports, customers can return most products if they're not satisfied with their purchase. Since professional sports don't abide by any such return policy, fans have every right to demand a product worth witnessing live. If players and management want a vibrant crowd during games, they first have to supply the talent.

However, one rule is necessary: No heckling specifically directed at a player or coach. Real fans know that booing will not improve their team's play. Though heckling might help to convince management to strengthen the team, it is only destructive when directed towards specific players and coaches. It's not as if the Nets enjoy going 7-63. Let them know of your displeasure, but do not personally attack them. Obviously, they should be able to handle it considering the amount of money they make. But the only positive effect heckling has is on management. So leave the players alone.

Away Team

Two rules:

1)Don't throw stuff on the court (see Ron Artest for details).
2) Otherwise, no holds barred.

In fact, heckling specific people is encouraged. Unfortunately, we do not see this anymore since courtside seats are filled by rich people who do not care enough about their team. Everyone knows that the most enjoyable experience at a game is sitting with the fans who shout, fight and drink too much. But not only are they fun to be around, they're the ones most likely to start chants, and more importantly, heckle. So instead of relegating these people to the worst seats in the house where they can't be heard, let's move them to the front (Work with me here. The change I'm about to propose is completely unrealistic, but imagining an ideal world is way more entertaining.) In order to adequately effect this change, teams must interview all season ticket buyers in the first three rows to make sure they are worthy of these premium heckling seats. Every year forward a follow-up interview takes place, along with specific team personnel who make sure these season ticket holders heckle enough during games. Don't you miss the days of Spike Lee standing up and screaming at Reggie Miller? I know I do. And if you're a real NBA fan, you do too.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Scripted Last 5 Minutes

This year's string of March Madness upsets has only reinforced the one constant throughout college basketball: the way in which the last 5 minutes of every game is played.

As soon as the game gets tight and the end of regulation approaches, players act as if they're playing Russian Roulette; too scared to pull the trigger, or overconfident and trigger happy. Seldom do we see a team play with the looseness of the first 35 minutes.

Obviously the last five minutes take on a different personality from the rest of the game. Especially during March Madness, the pressure is on. Yet every possession chooses one of two paths:

1) Everyone on Team A is too afraid to play their game and yields to the best ball handler/guard scorer. As a result, Team A uselessly passes the ball around, waiting until there is far too little time left on the shot clock to guarantee a quality a shot. Consequently, the best guard has the ball in his hands with under 10 seconds on the shot clock. He takes a contested long jump shot or makes an out of control drive that results in a miss or kick for a contested three. The resulting scramble for the offensive rebound either leads to a foul, put back, or kick out for a three (more than likely rushed). The number of points scored in this time is a quarter of the pace of scoring during the rest of the game. With 70% of shots coming from behind the arc, the game becomes a battle of who can miss the least.

2) The same shot clock mismanagement occurs, except either the best guard or someone who thinks he's the best guard takes the first available shot, which is both contested and way too early in the shot clock. The same offensive rebounding mayhem ensues.

But even though this type of basketball is a seemingly unfortunate staple of college, I love it. This is what makes March Madness true madness. It's not because the basketball is of high quality. It's because of its poor quality. For anyone who watched Cornell beat Temple, it was not because Cornell was particularly better. It was simply because they fired contested three after contested three, hitting an extremely large percentage. Take a look at Northern Iowa's last second victory over UNLV. Ali Farokhmanesh's three pointer was from at least 4 feet behind the line. Was this the best possible shot the team could generate? Of course not. Granted they were trying to burn clock so UNLV could not respond, but there was still time on the shot clock. A pump fake followed by a jump shot from 5-7 feet closer was well within the realm of possibility. But that shot would have been nowhere near as impressive.

It's also interesting how the game slows at the end, since better teams should not be playing as slowly. For the better team, more possessions will only allow them more opportunity to prevail. With less possessions, those mostly lucky yet killer threes by the underdog become even more important. But I'm glad the game is played as it is. It has produced some of the most exciting basketball ever over the past day and a half.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

My Awesome Bracket

Just a chance for everyone in the world to see how badly my bracket turns out. Do I have too many upsets? Probably. But it's not fun to do it any other way. Anyway, here it is.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Podcast Episode #2

For whatever reason, Firefox has trouble loading the podcast, so use Safari instead. You can also download this podcast to itunes by clicking here, then "download file."

Guest: Sam Stein



Topics:
1) Criteria used to fill out brackets
2) Cornell
3) The social hierarchy of college basketball teams
4) Choosing a place to play college basketball
5) MLB playoff system changes
6) MLB division realignment
7) Why steroids were good for baseball

Music: It Was a Good Day - Ice Cube

I apologize for the quality of Sam's voice. He was talking over the phone, and unfortunately I am not in a professional studio. But the quality of his words are high nonetheless, so take a listen and let us know what you think.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Time to Celebrate

March Madness displays the best example of pure, unadulterated joy in athletics: winning an NCAA championship. Whether it's the conference tournament or the big dance itself, the fans' and players' excitement is self-evident. Unfortunately, professional sporting events do not provide the same exciting buzz as that of collegiate games. So how can professional sports celebrations improve? Besides soccer, which is already impeccable celebration-wise, I have some suggestions:

Golf - The major problem here is the lack of people involved in the celebration. Outside of awkward high fives, fist pumps and raised hands between caddies and golfers, golf celebrations are mainly generated by the fans. Truth be told, it's difficult for 40-year-old men to celebrate like giddy 20-year-olds. I just can't see Phil Mickelson chest-bumping his caddie LeBron James/Anderson Varejao style. Despite age, the real revelry problem lies in the sport's signature celebration: the Tiger Woods fist pump. When that is the pinnacle of emotional expression, you know that the sport is "celebrationally" inept. So why not add some fans rushing the golf course? (obviously only after a tournament-winning putt). So what if a couple old guys break a hip in the process? They'd love it. Plus, it'd give younger people a reason to attend golf tournaments.

Tennis - Like golf, the one man solo celebration is pretty lame. I like the formulaic tennis celebration: dropping to the knees and hands covering the face (tears optional) before shaking hands, but some more celebratory variation is a must. Instead, what if tennis players did a victory lap or even ran into the corner, soccer style, and broke out into a pre-prepared dance? Not only would that further demoralize the opponent, but it would give birth to a great argument: What's the greatest tennis Major celebration ever?

Baseball - Whether it's a walk-off home run or a World Series ring, the circle of men jumping in unison is a long cherished baseball tradition (along with the dog pile). While it's better than tennis in that more people are involved (shared joy is always a plus), it is in no way spontaneous. I would not be surprised if there were a conductor in the middle of the pile secretly organizing the whole thing. Though fans can't rush the field since stadiums are too big/high, why can't players rush the stands? There are plenty of players to spread around the love. In all honesty, the baseball season is very long... players ought to pay back their devoted fans for their unwavering dedication.

Football - The new unsportsmanlike conduct penalties restricting football celebrations are terrible. I want to see the offensive line engage in a coordinated dance. I enjoy props. I miss that golden era of extraordinary jubilation that included T.O.'s signing of the football and Joe Horn's cell phone. So the solution here is simple. No holds barred. Team coordinated celebrations are encouraged. But, I have one key rule: a time limit. Nothing can kill the buzz of a TD like a celebration that goes on for too long or takes too long to set up. If the fans are bored, it's time to head to the sidelines.

Hockey - There aren't many gripes to be had here. Celebrations in hockey are definitely unique. In no other sport can running and jumping into boards occur in a celebratory manner. I also cannot complain about the glove bumps with every player on the bench--it's a nice touch. My one annoyance: why do players immediately swarm the goal scorer? Give the man some room. Let him freestyle for a bit before the pile-up.

Basketball - Basketball has everything: the victory lap (Allan Houston vs. Miami), unique celebrations after game winning shots, fans rushing the court, pure emotion (Kevin Garnett's incoherent yet somehow understandable interview after winning the finals) and the team mob. We even get an extended locker room cam with poppin' champagne after the championship game. I only have two tiny suggestions: take the bubbly to the court and add the Gatorade shower. I know that Canadian Women's Hockey got in trouble for drinking on the ice, but who wouldn't like to see LeBron James or Dwight Howard aiming champagne corks at the losing team as Brian Scalabrine dumps gatorade on Doc Rivers? I know I would.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Lure of Athleticism and Potential

The irrefutable dictionary.com defines athleticism as "active and strong; good at athletics or sports." However, general managers, regardless of the sport, have began to use an alternate definition: "having a sturdy build or well-proportioned body structure." Unfortunately for many franchises, this has lead to the ultra-dangerous, "he's raw, but he has potential." So where do we draw the line between potential, as a function of athleticism, and on-field evidence and production?

As many agree, the scouting combine is problem number one. Many depend too strongly on the measurables to determine a prospect's value. At this year's NFL Combine, Ndamukong Suh out-benched Gerald McCoy 32 to 23, despite similar 40 yard dash times. In the minds of many scouts, this cemented Suh's status as the best defensive tackle in the draft. While it may seem that bench press pretty accurately determines strength, it cannot account for will and toughness. There is no way to measure a player's ability to endure a constant beating on every snap. There's no test to quantify a player's instincts, footwork (for their position in their sport), or overall intelligence about the game. These non-measurable abilities only become transparent thorough game film. So why is Suh actually better than McCoy? In terms of pure athletic ability, they are equal. Their 40 times are the same. Suh had 82 tackles, 12 sacks and a pick in 2009. In 2008, Suh had 76 tackles, 7 sacks and 2 interceptions. McCoy, on the other hand, had a combined 58 tackles, 2 sacks, and one interception in the last two seasons at Texas. Suh's numbers, hands and footwork are better. We do not need a scouting combine to make this determination.

Darrius Heyward-Bey had the fastest 40 yard dash time of all receivers in last year's NFL draft. This prompted Oakland to draft him ahead of Michael Crabtree, the best receiver of his class. And what happened when the games were played? The better receiver on tape, Crabtree, had 48 catches for 625 yards and two touchdowns, while Heyward-Bey had 9 catches for 124 yards and a touchdown in twice as many games. Two Scouting Combine's ago, Vernon Gholston exemplified the perfect physical specimen. His combination of strength, size and speed were matched by very few. But what has happened since he was drafted 6th overall by the Jets? Nothing. A bench player. But any scout that watched him on game film saw the he rarely implemented his physical tools on the field. In most games, he was a non-factor and simply disappeared.

Greg Oden was drafted ahead of Kevin Durant because he was an athletic big man with great defensive ability. But it was believed that his elite physical tools could be developed to produce a polished offensive game. In college, he only averaged 15.7 points per game against vastly inferior competition (height and strength is way more of an advantage in college). So did Oden develop? No. He's doing exactly what he did in college. Piling up boards, blocks, and injuries. Meanwhile, Kevin Durant, who dominated college basketball and was the NCAA Men's Basketball Player of the Year, could not even lift 185 pounds once on the bench press. Now he's an MVP candidate. Similar to Oden, Memphis picked Hasheem Thabeet 2nd overall last season. While he may be 7 feet 3 inches tall, he's about as physical as Kevin Durant. He was consistently bullied by other Big East big men, including the now emerging 6'6 DeJuan Blair. Plus his offensive game was 4 times less developed than Oden's. And what happened? He was briefly relegated to the NBA D-League. Meanwhile, Tyreke Evans, James Harden, Stephen Curry and DeJuan Blair, all standout college players, are having great rookie campaigns.

Obviously there are exceptions. Players can develop. In the end, athletic ability cannot be taught, while most skills can be. But the flaw in this thinking resides in its ignoring of hard evidence. Just because a player's game may not represent the skillful or physical expression of talent that we desire, their effectiveness is not negated. As the biggest cliche of all time, great players come in all shapes and sizes. There is no ideal height, weight, etc. No player has ever played like Kevin Durant; a tall, lanky, shooter who has the quickness of a guard. Maybe he's pretty weak, but running people over in the lane like LeBron James is not his game. Michael Crabtree does not have breakaway speed, but he has glue for hands. Is this not the #1 requirement for wide receivers?

Anyone who has every played pick-up basketball knows that teams are picked on ability, not on potential. Just because one guy looks like he could be good does not mean he gets picked. If the fat, out of shape, 40-year-old guy is actually extremely fast, physical and intelligent, he gets picked first. General managers, however, consistently fall into the trap of picking the guy who looks good. But the first definition of an athlete is "good at athletics or sports." What ever happened to drafting the guys who have already proven themselves in college?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Bracketology Gripes

I want to start off by encouraging any and all readers to join the Yahoo Sports March Madness bracket, league ID "8624," and password "eckstein." Now to the post:

Recently on ESPN, Doug Gottlieb claimed that Connecticut had a chance to qualify for the NCAA tournament if they reached the finals of the Big East tournament. I'll just go ahead and say it: this is absurd. Assuming they do play in the Big East finals, their Big East Conference record will stand at 11-11. It's 7-11 right now. Their overall record is 17-14, and they're 12th in the Big East. The fact that they even have a chance at the tournament speaks to the problems with the selection committee.

Don't get me wrong. I love March Madness. By far the best event in sports, it's a gambler's dream. It's the one college sport where George Mason and Wichita State can become relatively well known among the sports community. But it needs some changes.

Why do we love March Madness anyway? Because it's one and done, nothing is guaranteed, and most importantly, there are upsets. However, under the current system, each conference is only guaranteed one NCAA Tournament bid, which goes to each winner of each conference tournament (besides the Ivy League, which doesn't have a conference tournament, so the bid goes to the regular season winner). Also, 34 teams have a chance for at-large bids. Outside of the power six conferences, (Big Ten, ACC, SEC, Big 12, Pac 10, Big East) most conferences receive one bid (minus exceptions like the A-10 and now the WCC). I propose a change.

Instead of only giving an automatic bid to the conference tournament winner, give one to the regular season winner as well 1) head-to-head matchup 2) Non-conference winning percentage 3) I don't know.

For teams that are not in a major conference, the regular season essentially means nothing. For teams like these, it is only possible to make the tournament if they have an unbelievable regular season or a miraculous run in the conference tournament. If everyone's goal is a National Championship, doesn't the current system deemphasize the importance of the regular season? As long as teams make their conference tournaments, they're in striking range.

So let's pretend that my system exists, and let's say that half of the regular season champs also win the conference tournaments (a pretty realistic outlook, I think). This would decrease the at-large bids by 15, thus cutting out under-achieving big six conference teams that only made the tournament because of a few quality wins, despite a disappointing season. Isn't it ridiculous when, in some years, 8 teams from one conference make it? I understand that the tournament should have the best teams, but with the current system, mid-majors just don't have a chance to prove themselves. If a team wants to play in a tough conference, it should not be rewarded for mediocrity. That is not to say that an 8-loss Big East team is worse than a 7-loss Southern Conference team. But doesn't a 7-loss team deserve a chance?

Monday, March 1, 2010

How to Recognize True Fanhood (Part 2)

Did you notice how an inordinate number of supposed hockey fans appeared out of nowhere to support the USA men's hockey team yesterday? I may not be a hockey expert, but I know my fair share. But these pretenders ruin sports. Here are 20 more ways to identify the real fan. If you missed part one, here it is.

1. There's only one real "Sunshine."

2. You're still awaiting season 2 of The Bronx is Burning (along with Playmakers).

3. You cannot wait to become a member of the Stephen A. Smith Heckling Society of Gentlemen.

4. You know that anyone who does not know the channel for ESPN does not deserve to watch television.

5. Baseball season starts when pitchers and catchers report.

6. You spend a solid 30 minutes attempting to come up with a clever fantasy team name.

7. You're genuinely upset about Tony Kornheiser's comments only because of the effect they had on PTI.

8. You love Charles Barkley and will defend him to the death.

9. You get upset when Women's Basketball appears on ESPN.

10. You constantly check StubHub, hoping the seats behind the home team's bench will finally dip into the $20-$60 range.

11. You cannot discuss sports with anyone of lesser knowledge because of the extreme frustration that you know will ensue.

12. You wonder what Mel Kiper Jr. does from May to December.

13. You're amused by the random ESPN Deportes updates on Sportscenter.

14. When you heard that Zinedine Zidane said he'd "rather die than apologize" to Marco Materazzi for the World Cup final headbutt, you applauded the decision and wondered where anger has gone in American sports.

15. You're aware that:
a) The Wizards intend to keep Gilbert Arenas.
b) It's only because his contract is guaranteed.
c) The fact that a and b are true is one of the most frustrating parts of the NBA.

16. February (or thereabouts) marks the official end of reasons to get up on Sunday.

17. a) You're aware of the new time changes regarding the NFL Draft.
b) Regardless of where you live, you know it will not affect you.

18. You know your favorite basketball team's exact salary cap after this season ends (not taking into account the annual salary cap adjustment).

19. There is only one explanation for Skip Bayless still being employed by ESPN: to make the average fan feel smarter.

20. Your interest in golf dissolved along with Tiger's marriage.

If you have any more, add to the list in the comments.