Friday, March 16, 2018

NCAA. Madness indeed

It's a shame Purdue center Isaac Haas suffered a cracked elbow/arm and will be out for the remainder of the tournament. But did anybody really think the Boilermakers were a serious title contending threat anyway? Likely not. Though Haas is 7-2, they have another guy 7-3 they can plug in. And they're talking about having to play "small ball" when a 6-8 guy steps in for relief?

Idle thought. If you're an "average" dude, say, 5-10 to 6 feet, or an average dudette, say, 5-6 to 5-8, and a 6-8 guy (or especially gal) is next to you in a check-out line, or walks into the bar you're at -- you're going to notice them -- big time, no pun intended. 7 feet and above? They're apparently out there somewhere, so how come we never see them except on basketball courts?

While it's good that so many teams get into the NCAA tournament, see cha-ching and TV exposure, in reality the vast majority of them are nothing more than cannon fodder, with no chance -- ZERO -- of winning it.

The first round of games weed out most of the plankton. By the time the Sweet Sixteen is settled, only two games worth, a whopping 52 original teams will have bit the dust. True, a wannabe, like maybe an 11 or 13 seed might sneak through. But they'll get blasted by a vastly superior team the following week.

Idle thought II. The 13 seeds seem to be having their way with the 4 seeds so far. Go figure.

In recent times, the media hype machine has trumpeted the Final Four to the heavens. Like this is some sort of monumental achievement. Hey, it's not bad making the semi-finals, like in any other team sport, but the college hoop game has taken it to a level heretofore unheard of. I mean, good grief, three of them are going to lose anyway. And nobody will remember who they were just a few weeks or months later. It doesn't matter, other than the big pile of money their schools will get for getting that far, none of which (supposedly) will find its way into the pockets of the athletes that accomplished it. Nope, it'll disappear into the school "budget", in the black hole of those ever-pesky bureaucrats/administrators. They'll find a way to blow it on something, probably giving themselves a hefty raise. Hush, hush, quietly, of course.

It's not just the schools that get a big pot of dough. Consider the various sites around the country the tournament is played in. The arenas themselves, which would likely be otherwise vacant, all of a sudden get sell-out crowds at exorbitant ticket prices. Throw in the pig slop food they call concessions that's marked up 10-20 times what it's worth, add in parking cha-chings, stir well with serious TV bucks, and they're defecating in tall cotton themselves.

Yessirree, it's quite the spectacle alright. Great for sports junkies to merrily click away back and forth between so many games. Bars love it, and so do pizza take-out joints for those viewing at home. Beer stocks likely go up a point or three during the hoops tourney. Always lots of that going around.

But in the end, though it's theoretically possible a lower seed can get there, the Final Four will consist of really good teams. This is when the last wannabe, if still there, will surely bite the dust.

For sure, hoops fans (and I'm one) get geeked for this tournament.

But looked at objectively, it's far, FAR more hype than substance.

When the field is diluted to the point of 68 original teams, and really only a handful of them had any chance of winning the championship in the first place -- well -- it can fairly be said the powers that be have sold the public the proverbial "bill of goods".

Yet it's become that way across the entire spectrum of sports. The playoffs and their formats keep expanding, because there's money to be made by the slick folks.

Where will it end, and will it someday implode upon itself?

Beats me, but I (sucker that I am) will be watching too. And my local pub and pizza joint will probably get a few of my bucks as well.

Madness indeed.

It's the America way.


Thursday, March 15, 2018

Pac 12 hoops. Yikes!!!

Wow. Can that be right? The #13 seeded Buffalo Bulls just kicked the snot out of the #4 seeded Arizona Wildcats in Boise? 89-68 is no fluke. It's a beatdown. If anything, the score should have been even more lop-sided, until it tightened up a bit in the last couple minutes of "garbage time".

Thing is, Arizona was the only legitimate Pac 12 representative in the entire NCAA hoops tourney. Yes, UCLA (oh my, how far the once mighty have fallen) and Arizona St. were potential "play-in" teams, but got ousted before the madness officially started. The only reason for play-in games is so the schools can get a decent cha-ching, and maybe a little TV time. They have about as much chance of reaching the Final Four as this article does of winning a Pulitzer. Somebody's gotta do it, but it's still cannon fodder.

In recent times, private little Gonzaga, tucked away in Washington state, and in a much "lesser" conference, has seemed to be the class of college hoops on the west coast.

Who ever would have believed that not so many years ago?

The once proud Pac 10, now 12, I think, should be hanging their heads in shame.

The best they had to offer just got blasted by Buffalo?


Oh my.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Joe Thomas. Not now man

Ya gotta feel for Joe Thomas. The big lug has spent the last 11 years of his life slaving away for the woeful Cleveland Browns. It probably feels more like 25 or 30. To his credit the behemoth starting left offensive tackle has always kept his nose clean, and incredibly played over 10,000 straight snaps in the NFL, thought to be the record.

And now he's apparently decided to retire. To which yours truly says -- not now, man. For the first time in eons the future of the Browns might actually be a bit rosy. They've brought in veteran running back Carlos Hyde, a workhorse himself, and are projected to take running back Saquon Barkley out of Penn State with the first overall draft pick. That would be quite the one-two punch regarding a running game, given the offensive line isn't too shabby, and they aren't.

On top of that, the Browns also hold the #4 overall pick. With a handful of "quality" quarterbacks coming out of the college ranks this year, the Browns will have their pick of at least three of them

To boot, they have over $100 million in cap space, far more than any other team, so they're likely to juice their roster even further.

It certainly appears as if they've finally -- FINALLY -- put a general manager in place that knows what he's doing. (Though why head coach Hue Jackson, given his super-pitiful record, still has a job is a mystery indeed).

But it might just be that Old Joe ain't done yet. Sure, he's said he wants to play, his head is still in it, and he hasn't complained one bit about the Browns and their losing ways. But alas, his 33 year old body just isn't up to it any more. Could be. Only he knows for sure how he feels.

Yet an intriguing possibility is out there. It just so happens that starting left tackle Nate Solder of the New England Patriots has left them to grab more dough for the NY Giants. He was the main guy protecting Tom Brady's blind side on passing downs. A very important position.

So let's just say Joe Thomas kinda-sorta retires and finds himself in the position of not being tied to any team, even the Browns.

And then Bill Bellichick of the Pats calls him up to inquire if he'd be interested in going to Foxborough to take Solder's place.

What do you think the chances are that Thomas's body would all of a sudden start feeling a few years younger and he'd jump at the chance?

Sure, at best the Browns are still a couple years away from being any sort of Super Bowl contender, and even that's a stretch. So assuming Thomas has enough dough in the bank to live comfortably forever after, maybe it wouldn't make much sense to go back there again.

But Tom Brady, now 40, and surely approaching the end of his career, might just have another year or three left in him. And you just know the Pats will be contenders, because they always are. It's astounding how many good players have came and went for the Patriots, but Bellichick and his crew keep finding ways to plug new guys in and remain excellent. There's no reason to think that's going to change, as long as said mad genius and the amazing #12 are there.

By all accounts, Joe Thomas is a good guy. Has been throughout his long career in the NFL, and even at Wisconsin before that. A model citizen and a pro's pro, that has been immune to injury. You can't ask any more of a guy.

So wouldn't it be nice if he could somehow find a way to saddle up with the Patriots and experience excellence, if only for a short time, before he rides off into the sunset?

Here's hoping.....

Monday, March 12, 2018

Patrick Reed and the latest

See Patrick Reed come charging up the leader board in the latest PGA event to tie for the lead.

See Patrick Reed choke like a chihuahua on a chicken bone on the final hole and fall back out of it.

And it couldn't have happened to a "nicer" guy.

See previous posts, 2015, February, stage right, namely "Patrick Reed and the P-whip" factor.

Three years later, it's still in full force.

Laughable sports bytes

Seen/heard on a recent sports talk show. "Is it time to start paying attention to and rooting for Tiger Woods again?"

Well dang. If the talking heads, scribes, and the announcers on the PGA tour events paid any MORE attention to him, they might as well cancel the charade of a tournament and just call it what it is.

The Tiger Woods show.

At least 80% of the air time is devoted to Eldrick already. See Tiger hit every single shot. See Tiger walking up fairways or standing on greens pondering his next play while the action of so many others on the course is ignored. And, of course, see Tiger mumble his occasional f-bomb and almost, but not quite, throw a club in frustration. Some things just aren't going to change.

And BTW, isn't this the same guy that, at last look, was ranked somewhere around #388 in the world, hasn't won a major in a decade, or anything else in the last 4-5 years? THAT guy? The serial wife-cheater?

Lo and behold, Sir Eldrick Tont finished tied for second at the Valspar tournament. Well gee. Sound the trumpets and bring on the eighty virgins for his everlasting enjoyment.

Never mind that most of the top players in the world weren't even there. No Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Rickey or Bubba. No Jason Day or Phil, who's probably still celebrating his win in the Mexican World Championship last week.

While yours truly strives to remain objective and fair-minded, he is getting so-so-so sick of Tiger this and Tiger that shoved down his throat at every turn. I woke up in the middle of the night, flipped on ESPN, and what did I see? Tiger highlights, though he didn't win anything.

This hero-worshiping stuff is out of control, I tell ya. Here's a thought. How about if da bum exactly WINS something for a change before the ignorant masses swoon at his very presence? Is that asking too much?

I can't help but chuckle when I hear or read of "experts" critiquing how the NCAA has seeded the various teams. Somebody always gets "jobbed", and somebody else always has an "easy" road.

Hey. It doesn't make any difference. Never did. If a team/school wants to be champions, they have to win six games against any and all competition. Period. All the rest is just whining and homerism. A few short weeks from now, nobody will care about what the original match-ups and seedings were. Good grief, a year from now, nobody will care who won THIS year's title. Who's kidding who?

For that matter, why has the "Final Four" become such a pillar of excellence? This, along with the "Frozen Four" of hockey (to a much lesser extent) in which making it to the semi-finals is considered having reached a pinnacle of some sort. Nonsense.

Here's the deal. Including the pitiful "play-in" games, which amounts to no more than cannon fodder for vastly superior teams to obliterate anyway, 34 of the original field will be eliminated after the first round of games. Another 16 will bite the dust a couple days later. These were all pretenders to begin with, just there so their school can send off their teams, and bands/cheerleaders to be slaughtered so said schools get a big cha-ching for having qualified.

Of the original 68 teams, at least 55 of them have no chance -- ZERO -- of competing for the title.

Many want to expand the college football playoff to eight teams, which would have included Central Florida this past go-round -- the only undefeated team -- that never got a shot. Count me among them. How does anybody know how they might have fared against eventual national champ Alabama, until and unless the Knights of UCF get a chance to prove or disprove it? One way to find out. And it would only involve one extra week of games in December. What else are college football players doing during that time? Studying for finals? Puh-leeze. Most of those guys couldn't pass a 7th grade equivalency exam given 10 tries.

But by the same token, the hoop tournament has become WAY too much about the money to the point it's been watered down to the point of being ridiculous.

Can't help but laugh at the late night hype over Scott Van Pelt. You know, the same guy that used to have a TV/radio simulcast in the afternoons. The latest schtick is "where in the world ISN'T Scott Van Pelt"?  And then they'll show one pitiful person after another trying to imitate him, or maybe even just getting caught on camera happening to look somewhat similar.

Where ISN'T dear SVP?

Well, I'm pretty sure we won't see his mug showing up on hair care commercials for shampoo and the like. Or starring in a Rambo type action movie. Or gracing the fold out of Playgirl magazine any time soon. Or actually competing in, instead of talking about, any sort of athletic contest. This dude and his late-night cohort Stanford Steve give off more glare with their chrome domes than your average ten o'clock AM glare through the windshield driving due east on a sunny day. Blinding.

Something is definitely wrong when one wakes up in the middle of the night, flips on ESPN to catch the latest sport updates, then has to scramble for their shades to watch a show.

But clicking to another channel brings us even MORE Eldrick?

It's just about enough to drive somebody to watch Congress in session, or sign on to be a presidential tweet-o-maniac follower.

And that's not one bit funny.

Scary, actually.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

March. NCAA madness indeed

See Michigan State get walloped in the Big 10 (actually 14, but they're a little slow catching up with the times) tournament by their arch-rival Michigan. For the second time this season.

See the Spartans drop from #2 nationally to a mere #3 seed in the tournament. Ouch. Though always hyped to the heavens, Izzo's Whizzos in East Lansing caught a break in their first two (likely) games, hello Sweet Sixteen, but are ripe to get knocked out (again) of the tournament by the Dukies when they get there. IF they get there.

And let's not forget those pesky investigations by both the feds and the NCAA are ongoing into the alleged hanky-panky some of the MSU players committed in the past. Depending how that turns out, Tom Izzo can deflect all he wants for now, but it just might be his head will be on the chopping block when the season is over. The former Prez and athletic director of MSU are already gone in shame for their lack of oversight. Just because a head coach of a sports teams made far more money than both of his superiors combined (and how stupid is that?), doesn't mean he's immune if and when the doo-doo hits the fan. We shall see.

Of course, then there's Michigan. Hail to the Victors. Hail to the conquering heroes. Hail, hail to Michigan..... a school that continues to name its teams after an animal (wolverine) whose only existence in the entire state is in zoos.

[Idle thought. Could this be from whence the term "cager" arose when it comes to basketball players?]

[Idle thought II. The Spartans of Michigan State have nothing to crow about either. Their namesakes were crushed THOUSANDS of years ago by the Romans. Or was that the Greeks? Who cares? They lost, big time, never to be heard of again, until MSU came up with the not so bright idea of naming its teams after a colossal loser.]

So how is it that Gonzaga wound up a #4 seed when their 30-4 record is better than any of the #2s or #3s, and second only to Virginia, even among the #1s? Weren't these same Zags in the Finals not long ago, losing by a just a whisker on a last second shot for the title? What does it take to get a little long overdue respect?

You know the world has gone plum loco when....

Who was that guy on ESPN in the pork-pie hat?

This is the same hat circus barkers used to wear. "Step right up, ladies and gentlemen, and buy your tickets so see the 800 pound bearded lady. And the three-eyed man hanging by his prehensile tail."

It's even reminiscent of Oliver Hardy in slapstick of old. "This is ANOTHER fine mess you've got me into Stanley".

But wait, that guy was none other than -- drum roll please -- Lebron James.

And you just know thousands of his adoring fans are going to run right out and buy hats just like it.

Only in America.


Friday, March 9, 2018

Cleveland Browns. A force?

Many would scoff at the very notion, of course. After all, the Browns have been the laughingstock of the NFL since seemingly forever.

Just last year they went 0-16, to finally give the Detroit Lions company for the all-time worst season record. To boot, they're 1-31 over the last two years. As Charles Barkley would say -- turrible, just turrible.

Yet there may indeed be the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. No, they likely won't give the Pittsburgh Steelers much competition in the AFC Central Division, much less get anywhere sniffing a Super Bowl any time soon. But at long last, there is hope. Maybe.

With draft picks galore, the Browns just traded a couple of them to get wide receiver Jarvis Landry from the Miami Dolphins. He's had over 400 catches in the last four years and is only 25. He'll join forces with Josh Gordon (if he can stay out of trouble -- no given), and former first round picks Corey Coleman and David Njoku, a pretty good tight end.

Penn State running back Saquon Barkley is generally considered the best overall player available in this year's draft, and the Browns hold the #1 pick. If, as expected, they snatch Barkley, they've got an instant feature running back to boot.

Ah, but they don't have a quarterback, you say? True enough. But the Browns also hold the 4th overall pick this year.

In no particular order, five college QBs are expected to go early in the draft. None seem to be particularly better than the other four, a stand-out if you will. They are....

Josh Rosen. UCLA

Sam Darnold  USC

Baker Mayfield  Oklahoma

Lamar Jackson  Louisville

Josh Allen  Wyoming

Wait a second. Wyoming doesn't play against stiff competition, so how did Allen get in here?

Not so fast.

Just last year many said the same thing about Carson Wentz coming out of North Dakota State. As a rookie for the Philadelphia Eagles, he was tearing it up, an MVP candidate, until he got hurt. So the really good ones don't necessarily have to come from a "power" conference.

If the Browns don't trade away either of these high picks, regardless of the teams drafting at the #2 and #3 spots, they'll still have at least three good quarterback prospects to choose from.

While not great, their defense and offensive line are decent, especially if starting left tackle (protecting the QB's "blind" side) Joe Thomas decides not to retire.

On top of all that, the Browns have over $100 million in cap space, far more than any other team. That's enough to pluck a handful of pretty good free agents off the market to bolster them elsewhere.

Taken as a whole, the future would appear to be quite rosy for the long suffering Browns and their fans.

This is in spite of head coach Hue Jackson still being there. The same guy that presided over the disasters of the last two seasons. Why in the world is he still there?

There was even talk about firing his staff but keeping him on. Which is ridiculous, of course. Wasn't Jackson the guy that hired that staff in the first place? Hello?

Yet one need only remember one thing.

It's the Browns. Like their hapless 0-16 partners in the kingdom of all-time losing -- the Lions -- Murphy's Law will likely come into play.

If there's a way to screw it up -- they'll find it.

Or something like that.

Close enough.