Saturday, March 28, 2015

Elite 8 results

Louisville -- Michigan State.

First, Louisville needs to define how its name is pronounced. Is is Lew -uh-ville? Lew-ee-ville?  It's probably not Lew-us-ville, as in St. Louis or Joe Louis. Nevertheless, Lewster head coach Rick Pitino is perceived by many to be an oily little runt that will say and do anything that is good for -- Rick Pitino. Perhaps he missed his true calling. Politics.
On the other hand is Spartan head coach Tom Izzo. He's one of those crazy Yoopers that made good in East Lansing. Michigan State can't make free throws, but this is the time of year when nobody wants to play one of his teams. The Sparties have a way of being a very tough out once the tournament starts. They will be again. Though a much lower seed than the redbirds, MSU advances.

Kentucky -- Notre Dame

There's a reason why Kentucky has been #1 all year. They have the best two teams in the country. One is called team blue, and the other team white. Problem is, they all play for John Calipari.
This match-up features likely the biggest two love/hate scenarios possible. Regarding Notre Dame, one either loves them or hates them. Kentucky is similar. Either yer fer-em or agin-em, in a huge way. The bluegrassers pretty well stink when it comes to other sports, but have long been a basketball mecca. As yours truly has noted before, Notre Dame still hasn't figured out where their roots are. They call themselves the Fighting Irish, but the REAL Notre Dame is a cathedral in Paris, France.
It doesn't matter. All the Lucky Charms, four-leafed clovers, green beer, and leprechauns will do the South Benders no good. Didn't the Wildcats just beat a very good West Virginia team to the tune of 78-39? Look for a similar fate to befall the Irish/French, whatever they are laddies. This game's going to be a blowout.

Wisconsin --Arizona

A very interesting match-up. #1 and #2 seeds squaring off for a spot in the Final Four. Wisconsin has some serious horses, including arguably the best overall big man in the country, and is very well coached. But the other Wildcats are top to bottom more athletic. These two teams faced off just last year in a similar situation, and Arizona eked out a 1 point victory. Alas, there will be no joy in Cheeserland this year either. The Cats squeak out another one.

Duke -- Gonzaga

Another matchup of #1 and #2. Yours truly freely admits that he thought the Zags were overrated all year, but they continued to prove me wrong. They belong. Mark Few's Spokane gang is the real deal. They've got decent size up front, one of the best point guards in the country, can shoot with the best of them, and they play smart team basketball.
But that pretty much describes Coach K's Dukies as well. Nothing against the Durham Devils, because they've long been a class act, but yours truly also admits he'd like nothing better than to see Gonzaga finally make it to the Final Four. Better yet, win it all and cut down the nets. That would be a Cinderella story of Miracle on Ice or David slaying Godzilla in biblical times proportions.
Maybe not. The Bulldogs are hardly huge underdogs in this game. The early line has them at +2 1/2.
The Dukies have a long storied history of being in this position before, and underestimating the genius of Coach K is usually a very bad idea. Conversely, the Zags are in unchartered waters. It would stand to reason that Few's crew will be slew.
But any water-cooler wannabe wahoo can pick the favorites. It takes vision, true grit, and a perfect melding of rashness and senility to go against commonly held beliefs. Wut due thay no anyweigh?
Nip and tuck all game, but the Zags pull it out in the end.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The end of the world is coming

Not only the world, but the entire universe. So sayeth some highly educated folks that supposedly know about such things. In a mere few billion years, the Big Bang will reverse itself and become the Big Crunch. Everything's going to implode upon itself and form one all-consuming super-colossal galactic mass. Kind of like William Shatner's ego or a Kardashian butt. Ahem.

Well then. If everything's going to end anyway, perhaps one should stop paying their bills and taxes. On the other hand, if this whole thing turns out to be a false alarm, the late fees and penalties would be a KILLER after a few billion years.

Of course, we've heard the doomsday scenario before, many times in the world of sports.

Back in the early 1900s, when the Boston Red Sox traded Babe Ruth to the Yankees, the curse of the Bambino was born. Indeed, it would take the Bosox almost a century before they won another World Series. But they did and, last time I looked Boston was still on the map and going strong. Besides, what's a century when one is considering billions of years?  No more than a blink of the cosmic eye. Kind of like the Spice Girls' fame in the world of music or your average celebrity marriage.

Many golf fans, and certainly the media, turned into collective Chicken Littles when Tiger Woods took a nosedive for various reasons. OMG, the sky is falling and surely the PGA tour will struggle without him. Balderdash. The tour was just fine before Eldrick arrived and it's going great guns since his game went in the dumpster and he disappeared. For that matter, yours truly would submit it's much more interesting to watch now than it was when Tiger was dominant. Though the TV folks valiantly tried to keep him relevant with replay after replay of his former heroics, even in tournaments he wasn't participating in, they eventually realized that people were getting sick and tired of this nonsense. Much better to spread the coverage around evenly amongst the players that are contenders in the tournament happening NOW. There's more talent out there than ever, so who wants to see replays of what some former great did last year -- or 5 years ago -- or longer? Granted, Woods likely had the greatest decade in the history of golf. Kudos to him, but it's over. So let's move on. Continuing to dwell on Eldrick Tont is kind of like reminiscing over drive-in movies or the "heady" days of turntables, reel-to-reel tape recorders and huge ampzilla speakers. Guess what? They're not coming back either.

Every year, in every major sports city, there will come a time when a team is experiencing a slump, and a columnist will always pose the same question ----  Is it time to panic?

Evidently, they think their readers might start building bomb shelters and stocking up on non-perishable goods if that particular team doesn't start winning a few more games. It's always been so ridiculous. At the end of the season, including the playoffs, only one team is going to be crowned a champion. Somewhere along the line, all the rest will be defeated and go home for another year, until the next season springs "hope eternal" and the hype starts all over again. That's kind of like the folks that stood in line to buy cabbage patch dolls, pet rocks, and chiapets. P.T. Barnum was on the right track, but grossly underestimated. There's not one born every minute, but millions of them already out there ripe for the taking.

But one never knows. It might take a few billion more years or the entire universe could collapse tomorrow. The former would be preferable. The Detroit Lions might even make it to a Super Bowl during that time. After all, what's a mere 50 years of futility and ineptitude when it comes to countless eons of time? With a few breaks, it could happen. Maybe. Someday. The latter would be a bummer. Kind of like divorce court or all 9000 TV channels showing the same program 24/7 -- and that program is some evangelical charlatan asking you to give him money. Definite bummer.

For now, let's keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best. Personally, I can't comprehend how long a few billion years is. That goes back WAY before the dinosaurs, or even Regis Philbin roamed the earth.

So there's only one thing to do. Keep on keeping on. If the whole cosmic crunch thing comes quickly and the planet Jupiter falls on my head tomorrow -- then I had a very bad day.

Until such a thing happens, yours truly will continue to carry on the tradition of his life-long hero. Alfred E. Neuman.

What Me Worry.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Making the Masters tournament even better

Though the Brits might bloody well choke on their tea at such a thought, given their ancient "Open", most would likely agree the Masters tournament held at Augusta National every April is the most prestigious golf tournament in the world. Name the pro player from whatever country, ask him what he'd like most like to achieve in golf -- and chances are a green jacket will be at the top of his list. Sure, being #1 and/or earning a bazillion dollars while travelling the world in luxury playing on the poshest of golf courses is a pretty sweet gig itself. But the green jacket has its own special place amongst the linksters.

Recently, Doug Ferguson of the AP penned an interesting article regarding the Masters. Evidently, the good-ole-boys at Augusta National have become concerned their field is getting too crowded. This is "because there is a maximum number of competitors for which we can give the experience that we want them to have and do it in a way that's manageble". OK, point noted, but -- I'll get back to that.

As Ferguson pointed out, the other 3 majors have 156 players. Yet the Masters folks think even "100 pushes that limit quite significantly". In other words, they don't want to have their elite tournament watered down by the field getting too large. In and of itself, this makes perfect sense. The very definition of the Masters is about the best of the best -- the winners -- getting together one time a year on the same beautiful historic course for a 72 hole showdown. To the best will go a pile of money, a place in history, and the above-mentioned green jacket. Along with a few other goodies like life time exemptions from qualifying for any other tournament -- ever -- despite how bad their games may have become over the years. Did anybody suggest Tiger Woods? Not me. But he, like many others, are in if they choose to play.

And that's where the people in charge of the Masters have become their own worst enemies over the years. The "watering down" effect is purely their own fault.

Besides the actual winners of past tournaments, the Masters has given a free pass to any player in the Top 50 in the world rankings. Sure, these two entities overlap in a large way, but not entirely. There are those that have a lot of "close but no cigars" on their resumes, but have accumulated enough decent finishes to be ranked.

Granted, Augusta National isn't the only ones to have fallen into the "point system" trap. It's entirely possible a NASCAR driver could go the entire season and not win a single race, but be crowned champion if they consistently finished in the top 5. It's crazy if one thinks about it. A champion that never actually won anything?

If the good folks at Augusta are serious about keeping their tournament exclusive, here are a few suggestions.....

As Ferguson also noted, they finally did away with the Top 30 money earners getting an invite. Good grief, theoretically if some sheik in an oil rich land hosted a tournament and offered a total purse of a billion dollars, any player that made the cut would likely be in the Top 30 on the money list, if they didn't make another cut all year anywhere else. This was always a dumb rule.

But Masters chairman Billy Payne and his minions could trim a lot more fat from their prestigious tournament if they wished.

Credit to them for reducing the top finishers at the previous Masters from 16 to 12, and the U.S. Open from the top 6 to the top 4 as qualifiers.

Yet they continue to miss their own original objective. It's supposed to be about MASTERS, not guys that finished in the top 12 or even top 4 of other major tournaments. The bottom line is simple. If a player doesn't have a win on his resume, then he doesn't get invited. Period. That would cull the wannabe herd considerably.

While we're at it, why not institute a 10 year sunset window on such wins? If a player hasn't won anything in a decade, they drop off the list. Tell me some guy can be competitive at Augusta National amongst elite players when he hasn't won anything in 10 years -- and I'll tell you I don't believe it.

The question at Augusta National shouldn't be about the maximum number of players they can squeeze in and still maintain their high standards of decorum. Rather it should be about filling out the field, whatever the number is, with former winners only.

As a closing argument, yours truly would humbly offer the following into evidence ----

Take a look around at the PGA, European, and other pro tours over the last several years. Young studs are popping up everywhere winning this or that, and it's likely to continue in the future. Yes, anybody can get hot for 4 days and win a tournament, and may never win another. But dammit, they won one, so they get a Masters invite.

And here's another idea. If a one-win player doesn't make the cut at the Masters, then he drops off the list until he wins another tournament somewhere.

What would the Masters field then look like in the future? 50-60 guys that have won a tournament in the last 10 years? That's enough.

If they want it to be a true tournament of champions, then wean out the also-rans and make it so.

All the rest amounts to nothing more than spoiled rich people whining about their diluted product which they were and are responsible for in the first place.

Who's kidding who?

Another bad habit that needs to go

Over the years, we've witnessed a few not-so-good habits in various sports. Some are (almost) gone through rule changes and, yes, even common decency.

It used to be that, while at bat, major league baseball players had this thing about scratching their nether regions repeatedly. Why that was is anybody's guess, but it was definitely not cool. Hey, kids were watching their heroes and still will copy everything they do. Nobody wanted to see a 5 year old stepping up to the plate in tee ball only to grab his crotch before taking his swing. Thankfully, for whatever reason, the pros don't act like they've got itching powder in their cups or a bad case of the crabs anymore. This is a good thing.

Another had to do with the tobacco chewers. Sure, grown men should be able to partake if they wish -- within limits. In any major league stadium that features natural grass, no problem. They can spit away. Once the ground crew turns on the sprinklers or hoses to water the lawn, it all gets absorbed. But this should NOT be allowed on artificial turf. Somebody's got to clean those nasty stains up. And would you really want to see that same 5 year old with a cheek or gumful of Skoal? Dad might be proud of his boy, but methinks he'd have some serious 'splainin to do if Mom found out.

In football, they're trying their best to do away with helmet-to-helmet contact. Given the recent revelations regarding concussions and the serious, sometimes tragic, events in later life they can lead to -- the powers that be had to do something. So they've instituted penalties and fines. Actually, there was always a better way. Cut the top off the helmets. If some guy wants to lower his head and deliver a hit to an opponent's face mask or side of his helmet -- have at it. Guess who's going to come out on the short end of THAT collision? It could be argued that the only purpose the top of the helmet ever served was as a battering ram. Bare those scalps to the open air and all the cheap shots will STOP.

Soccer is slowing coming to grips with their obvious "flopping" problem. You know, when guys hit the turf feigning agony or even unconsciousness, even if replays clearly show they were never touched by an opponent. The futbol folks might give such a faker a yellow card as a warning, maybe even the dreaded red card that removes him from the game. But such a charlatan will likely live to flop again in a future game. This is easily fixable. Forget the wimpy yellow/red cards. Put one of those invisible fence dog collar zappers in the same place major leaguers used to scratch so much. When a faker is exposed as such -- have a league official activate it by remote control and give him a 30 second burst. At least then the writhing in agony would be for real and justice would have been served. It would only take one example, and all this nonsense would stop as well. Another problem solved.

The latest bad habit that needs to go involves hoops. We see this all the time from preps to pros, and it's wrong. This is when a guy/gal is at the free throw line. After attempting a charity toss, make it or miss it, they always have to slap a little skin with their other four teammates. It's stupid.

First of all, any half way decent player is SUPPOSED to make the majority of their free throws. It's like a golfer holing a two foot putt, or a hockey goalie stopping a shot that came from 30 feet away. This is business as usual and hardly cause for celebration.

And you won't see the golfer or goalie doing high fives with their caddie or teammates if they miss that putt or whiff on a shot they should have blocked.

Yet in basketball, even missing a free throw has evidently come to mean it's mandatory the four other players on the court congratulate the failed shooter. How dumb is that? Sure, words of encouragement would be appropriate. "Hey, Maurice/Moriah, stay cool and hit the next one. We got your back".

And well they should. Teammates looking out for each other is what it's all about to be successful.

But all this nonsense about gathering at the free throw line to congratulate somebody whether they made or missed a shot really needs to go.

I mean, what's next? People going wild after a 6 foot 8 guy with a running head start dunks the ball? Hmm. Maybe a bad example, because it happens all the time, and announcers and teammates alike will react like they've just witnessed a miracle. But it's no more a spectacular feat than a place kicker converting an extra point. It's a rarity when it ISN'T successful.

This celebration stuff over the mundane is getting out of control.

Monday, March 23, 2015

More idle sports rants

In NCAA men's hoops, #3 seed Oklahoma made it to the Sweet Sixteen, and that's good news for Sooners' fans. The bad news is their team exhibited the post-game locker room mentality one might expect from a group of chimpanzees after too many hits from a crack pipe. These guys were OUT there with their babbling and gyrations. Truth is, they've won two games in the tournament, both against inferior competition. The first was against #14 seed Albany, followed up by #11 Dayton. Hardly murderer's row, so far. Next they get #7 Michigan State, who just knocked off #2 Virginia. Tom Izzo's Sparties always seem to have a way of rising to the occasion come tournament time. Never underestimate Yooper Tom and his greenies when the Big Dance starts. The Sooners might well become Laters when faced with a stern test next week. We'll see. But even if the Tokie Okies survive to move on, here's hoping they spare us another locker room spectacle like the last one.

That Buick car commercial never ceases to amaze me. They're offering over $8400 off in their version of a Sweet Sixteen special. Quick, buy one now, while the offer lasts. Just one question---- if they can give you over 8 grand off and still make a profit -- just how ridiculous was the mark-up in the first place? Hello?

Not sure what to make of the Oregon State ladies basketball team. They're really good, but have an identity problem. Other female teams around the country face the same dilemma when likened to their male counterparts. For example, Tennessee has their Volunteers and Connecticut has their Huskies. Logically, the fairer sex versions call themselves the Lady Volunteers and Lady Huskies.

But Oregon State's name for all it's teams, both male and female, is the same. The Beavers. Sure, that name can be taken different ways. It could conjure up memories of Jerry Mathers, Wally, June, Ward, and Eddie Haskell from the classic sitcom of yore. More likely it's intended to honor the furry critters with the paddle tails that can gnaw trees down and build dams that create ponds. There's lots of them in Oregon.

Yet put yourself in the place of a lady hoopster that plays for Oregon State. They were all stars in high school or they wouldn't be there. They not only made it to a major university on scholarship but played for a team that found itself worthy of a #3 seed in the NCAA tourney. So should such young ladies stand up and scream to the world that they're proud to be Beavers? Call me old fashioned, but somehow that doesn't sound quite right either.

Alas, the Beaves were knocked out by those pesky Gonzaga Bulldogs. And just what, pray tell, should a lady bulldog be referred to as? Cowdog? Do they go in heat every six months, grab onto your pantlegs, and won't let go? I dunno. Beats Horned Frogs or the dreaded Crimson Tide, I guess, and whoever heard of a lady's Trojan? But you'd think there would be a better way of doing this.....

What he should have said Dept.

This is another commercial showing Shaq, Dr. J, and a couple other NBA associated folks gathered around watching a game on TV which was evidently meant to advertise a major telecommunications network. Shaq goes into a Soonerish dancing routine in front of the screen. The dude with the nasally voice has a one word comment. "Impressive".

A much better comment might have been -- "Get yo big spaz butt out the way. Can't you see we're trying to watch the game, fool?"

There's probably a reason such companies don't reach out to the likes of yours truly to endorse them. Go figure, but what fun it would be.......

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Ron Hunter. The Pink Panther of Georgia State

By all appearances Ron Hunter is a fine, (and was an ) upstanding man. But the soon to be 54 year old head coach of the Georgia State men's basketball team, and the university itself, have become somewhat yuk-worthy lately.

It all started last Sunday during the Sun Belt Conference championship game. A trip to the Big Dance was on the line when Georgia State squared off against Georgia Southern. Hunter's Panthers would win that game by the narrowest of margins in the final seconds.

While jumping up and down in celebration, Hunter managed to blow out his left achilles tendon. Ouch. Down he went -- as in face down. Eventually, Hunter was helped into the locker room.

The next time we saw him was in an NCAA tournament game against Baylor, two days ago. He had on a foot cast and was sitting courtside on what looked a lot like your typical bar stool on rollers. Yep, he could do 360s and slowly propel himself (with his good leg) a couple feet left or right, but he wasn't exactly mobile.

Improbably, his #14 Panthers upset the #3 Baylor Bears, again on a last-second shot, this time by his own son. Evidently forgetting his physical predicament, in his perhaps hapless exuberance, Hunter attempted to leap to his feet in celebration once more. Out slid the stool and down he went again, hard on his right shoulder. Thud, and ouch #2. Carry him off one more time.

But on to the next round where the #6 seed Xavier Musketeers awaited. The cast was now up to his knee.

It should be noted that, somewhere along the line, Hunter was provided with a scooter of sorts to get around. No, not a Moped, Vespa, or anything like that. More like a Flintstone MOOL (Manually Operated One Legger -- pronounced the same as "mule"). Or put another way, one of those gadgets we've long seen pre-schoolers merrily step, push and coast on for generations. To their credit, this particular device had a custom built knee support for Hunter's gimpy left leg.

Yet one would think that a university such as Georgia State could have done a lot better for the ailing Hunter. They can afford to charter planes to send their basketball team all over the country on various road trips, but can't scrape enough dough together to get their head coach a motorized wheel chair? Something is very wrong with this picture.

But there was Hunter on his stool again, having MOOLed his way in. Had a loose ball come in his direction with players scrambling after it, he was helpless to get out of the way. That could easily have resulted in another smackdown, thud and ouch. Perhaps it's just as well Xavier nipped the tournament run of Georgia State in the bud. If the Panthers had played and won a couple more games, and Hunter kept attempting to celebrate, he might have been in a full body cast by the time he arrived at the Final Four showdown.

On a related note, Panthers would seem to be an appropriate name for this team. But considering the foibles of their head coach, maybe Pink Panthers would be even better -- as in the Peter Sellers' variety in the movies. Throw in a team mascot named Cato that ambushes the coach every time he manages to make it out on the court, and there you go.

Just a thought.......

Friday, March 20, 2015

The classiest and stupidest things of the month

The Class Award goes to the University of Idaho. Pretty much under the radar on the national scene, U of I had awarded a football scholarship to a high school running back from Washington (state). But then Jace Malek experienced pain in his hip. The diagnosis turned out to be a rare form of bone cancer.

Thankfully, by the grace of God and some mighty fine medical personnel and treatments, it appears Malek has beat the dreaded Big C. But his football career is over.

A lot of schools would have quietly thrown Malek on the scrap heap. What good is he to us if he can't play ball, would be their line of thinking.

But not Idaho. They honored his full ride scholarship anyway.

Sure, in the whole scheme of things, this was just one more incoming jock at one more college. There's thousands of them every year, and one more scholarship is a drop in the bucket. Hardly a huge financial burden for any university to bear. We may or may not ever hear of Jace Malek ever again.

But taken alone, this was a class act of the highest order. Bravo, UI, and may the force be with you Jace, wherever life takes you. Live long and prosper indeed.

Of course, for every commendable act, one of Newton's laws states there must be an equal and opposing force of stupidity.

This has to do with a TV commercial that has aired recently during various sportscasts. Pretty sure a car company is behind it, though I don't recall which.

At any rate, it depicts a yuppyish looking young lady backing her soccer mom vehicle out of her driveway. Nothing unusual about that. But then the stupid factor kicks in. Evidently oblivious to the possibility of any traffic on the road, she doesn't even bother to look. Put it in reverse and hit the gas, while still staring straight ahead.

Ah, but the feature of this vehicle that was being advertised was the rear sensor that detects the presence of any such obstacles. Sort of a modern day "Danger, Will Robinson" type of device. Sure enough, a beep sounded and Ms. Airhead finally turned around to see what was behind her. It was an on-coming school bus, of all things.

But what if the device developed a glitch someday and didn't work properly? Even the latest and most sophisticated electronic gear is subject to an occasional failure. It happens. The more complicated it gets, the better the chances something can go wrong. She could back into the path of a school bus, semi, cop car, fire truck, run over a pedestrian, you name it. And this nit wit would never know it until after the crash. Wouldn't it be a lot simpler to, you know, take a peek over her shoulder when backing up like drivers have done since "reverse" was first invented? Seems easy enough. But this one merrily and blindly went backwards until the beep sounded. THEN she looked.

Drunk drivers and texters are bad enough. But people that are this stupid have no business driving a vehicle -- period -- ever. And whatever car company aired that commercial should be ashamed of themselves for advocating such moronic behavior while behind the wheel.

I considered saying people like this should be sterilized so they can't spawn future generations of idiots, but I might get in trouble for that, so I won't. And in this case, it was too late anyway. The ditz had two of her own kids in the back seat. They had the same clueless look in their eyes. The light's on, but nobody's home.

So yours truly hereby dedicates the Stupid Award of the Month to whoever was behind that commercial. We've been dumbed-down in a lot of ways in recent years, but this is downright insulting to whatever little intelligence we still have left.