Monday, February 29, 2016

UConn, Warriors, and South Florida bull

Geno's bambinos at UConn continue to roll on. Now at 29-0, they just polished off another perfect regular season. The latest victim was #20 South Florida. Though USF led throughout the first half, they were blitzed in the third quarter and would wind up losing by 20 points. Twenty points is not exactly a close call.

Some amazing stats were brought to light. Besides winning the last three national championships (and who's going to beat them this year?), the Lady Huskies are an incredible 142-5 in recent times. To put that in perspective, the Golden State Warriors, defending world champs and on another tear this year, sit at 53-5. Much has been speculated as to whether this year's GS team can best the all-time single-season record of 72-10 posted by the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls. It's entirely possible.

But to match the girls from Storrs, the Warriors would have to win their next 89 games in a row. So let's see. They have 24 remaining in this regular season, would have to sweep 4 playoff series' for 16 more and another title, then start off the 2016-17 season 49-0. Could that actually happen? Sure, and Alfred E. Neuman of Mad magazine could win the US Presidency in November by write-in ballots. But it's not likely. And that's assuming UConn's current winning streak doesn't keep going. Again, who's going to beat these girls in their conference playoffs or the NCAA tourney that comes after? Barring any key injuries, they seem a lock to roll to another championship. They're -- just -- that -- good.

Yet the South Florida game offered up another bit of weird trivia. USF calls their teams the "Bulls". That seems an odd name for a lady basketball team. Certainly not complimentary on a couple different levels.

But consider the alternatives. If the men's teams are Bulls, what would be an appropriate name for their lady counterparts? The Bullettes? With all the gun violence going on -- that probably wouldn't go over so well in the PC world.

The Cows? Imagine an announcer screaming into his microphone, "It's incredible how fast these Cows get up and down the court!!". Somewhere, people would cringe.

As long as we're in the bovine family, how about the Heifers? A similar talking head scenario could happen. "Look at those Heifers pounding the boards!!!". Good luck with that. And also good luck recruiting blue-chip prep players to come to the university.

What could the coaches say to the high school phenom and her parents when they visit? Come to South Florida, work/study hard, and we'll turn you into a full-blown Heifer? That could be problematic.

Maybe being known as the Bulls isn't so bad after all.

But if they thought they were going to knock off UConn, they were full of exactly the same indeed.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Golden State and the record

The all time best single season record in the NBA was set by the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls at 72-10. It is most certainly in danger of being eclipsed this year by the Golden State Warriors. Now at 53-5, ahead of the Bulls' pace back then, this year's Warrior team has a very good shot at pulling it off. Or do they?

Despite how gaudy their record becomes, and all the long winning streaks, it seems every time one does the math, the Warriors still face a daunting task. Sure, 53-5 means they've won at better than a 10 to 1 ratio. Yet with 24 games remaining, they need to go 20-4 to best the record. In other words, win 5 out of every 6. The odds are getting better, but winning 5 out of 6 still requires some mighty good stuff. And that's assuming no major injuries befall them in the next few weeks. GS has been fortunate so far this year in that regard. But ya never know.

Thing is, the remaining schedule is tilted decidedly in their favor. Of the 24 games, they play 17 of them at home. And a few of the road games are against Girl-Scoutish teams. Like the Lakers and T-Wolves. It should also be noted that, so far, the Warriors are undefeated at home.

Yet that raises a few sub-plots. NO team in NBA history has ever gone a complete regular season without getting beat on their home court. (The 95-96 Bulls lost two, in the final two weeks of the season). Could the same happen to Golden State this year? Possibly.

But the San Antonio Spurs also remain perfect at home so far this season. Unlike GS, they've had to deal with a few injuries to star players in recent weeks, but still remain only 3.5 games behind the Warriors for the best record in the west.

It's theoretically possible that both the Spurs and Warriors could go undefeated on their home courts this year during the regular season. If a "never happened before" record gets broken, how cool would it be for two teams to do it in the same year?

The last few weeks of the regular season will feature some "must-see" games between these two teams. They've only met once so far, in Oakland, and the Warriors pounded the Spurs. They have three more go-rounds remaining -- two of them in San Antonio.

As mentioned above, the Warriors can only lose 4 more games this season if they want to outdo the 95-96 Bulls. Yep, they've got a very friendly home schedule, but those two games in Alamoville could be quite dicey. And who knows? Another huge upset along the way could always happen. Good grief, how the Warriors ever lost to the lowly Detroit Pistons earlier this year will always remain a head scratcher. As in -- say what? Were they piping in Flint water to the visitors' locker room?

Nevertheless, as the NBA regular season winds down, a lot of different possible scenarios remain in play. All-time team records could be broken. Or not. Individually, Steph Curry of the Warriors just broke his own all time record for most 3 pointers made in a single season. With 24 games left, what his final tally will be is unknown -- but it's a certainty the bar's going to get raised a whole lot higher -- perhaps never to be approached again. It would be hard to argue he isn't the best long-range shooter the NBA has even seen -- or ever will.

And somewhere, Mr. Potato Head (sometimes known as Commissioner Adam Silver) is enjoying every minute of it. The Spurs and Warriors still undefeated at home with 3 more match-ups between them remaining. All-time records are potentially in play. The Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors slugging it out for supremacy in the East. Nary a recent report of a player beating up his wife/girlfriend, testing positive for steroids, or doing something stupid with a gun. Life is good in Mr. Potato Head's world these days.

But back to the Golden State Warriors. Can they go 20-4 the rest of the way to reach the magical 73-9 mark?

Sure. These guys are most definitely the real deal. While the Spurs may exhibit the ultimate in team play under coach Pop, GS is a tsunami waiting to happen. When they get it going -- look out.    

What gives with Tiger Woods?

Eldrick Tont Woods has become the mystery man. Nobody knows exactly what's going on with Tiger.

A recent report stated he was having major problems with his back -- again. So bad, that he had great difficulty even sitting or riding in a car. Forget driving, the passenger seat had to be tilted at just the right angle to alleviate his agony. And it varied. Some days 30 degrees loft would work. Others, maybe it took 45 or even 60. So was this guy riding shotgun or a human sand wedge?

Not long ago a TV talking head made an interesting point. This could be a good thing for Tiger. On the surface, it would seem to be preposterous. How can a guy supposedly suffering so much benefit from it?

But let's also remember that, not long ago, Woods himself said he didn't want to go through any more back surgeries. Sounded reasonable enough. Who would? But that's the thing. If his back is THAT bad, it will force him under the knife again, and maybe this time the surgeons can get it right. Evidently the last couple go-rounds in the OR didn't work out so well. Did the former surgeons botch it, or was the damage just not long-term reparable? We don't know for sure and the doctors aren't talking. But if fixable by another more qualified team, after a proper rehab period, perhaps Tiger could regain his old form on the golf courses. It's a shot.

Fast forward only a couple weeks. See Tiger swinging a club, evidently good-to-go, in a golf simulation room. See Tiger whack the ball. See the ball whack the screen. See the video game projection play out. It must be nice to have a room like that to practice in.

That would seem to beg the obvious question. Is Tiger truly hurting or just laying low? While the other guys on tour have played various tournaments around the world, recently the California circuit and now in Florida, still no sign of Tiger.

It's no great secret that the top players in the world are doing everything they can to groom their games for the Masters Tournament that will happen a little over a month from now. That's the big showdown they're all preparing for. Sure, they try hard at different courses under different conditions to score well, and hopefully even win in the meantime, but they all have their sights set on Augusta National the first week of April. They will freely admit as much.

Some of the big guns from last year have flown beneath the radar so far. Jordan Spieth hasn't exactly been tearing it up. Neither has Jason Day. True, Bubba Watson won a tournament and Ricky Fowler is leading the current one. Yet Rory McElroy is floundering about and, in the tournaments he does enter, has been far from a lock to even make the cut. And the other usual suspects from Europe are lying low, honing their games abroad, in anticipation of the Masters. It's a huge deal, arguably the Super Bowl of golf. We get that.

But Eldrick remains a mystery. Has he been hurting all along, or was that just a scam to play on public sympathy? Unknown. Even if healthy, swinging a golf club in a simulator room is a far cry from walking 18 holes every day and hitting shots from sometimes awkward positions. Tiger is now 40 years old. Not exactly a geezer in the golf world, but hardly a young gun anymore either.

And that's another thing. What young Tiger did to the "old pros" a generation ago -- as in beat their brains out -- has recently been done to him by the "new guys" even when Woods was healthy.

It would be difficult to argue that Eldrick Tont Woods didn't have the greatest decade in the history of pro golf. It was incredible. He was winning just about everything, and it was a given that he would blow past Jack's record of winning 18 majors. But it didn't work out that way, did it? The whole adultery/divorce thing, combined with various physical ailments (real or "convenient"), slammed the brakes on his golfing career. He's no longer considered in the top 200 golfers, let alone #1. (And what kind of goofball finds a way to get a tooth knocked out by a cameraman while watching his girlfriend snow ski in the Alps?)

Nevertheless, there's one thing we can count on. Whatever Tiger's doing these days, and whatever his physical ailments may or may not be -- he'll find a way to tee it up at Augusta. And many in the gallery will root for him. Go Tiger go.

His chances of winning? Zilch. Nada. Given the current field of younger world-class players, it's highly unlikely he'll even make the cut. They'll eat him alive. But he'll be there.

Tiger groupies can claim that it isn't over yet. Even Nicklaus won a green jacket when he was 46 years old. True enough.

But Tiger ain't Jack any more -- in more ways than one. Actually, he never was.

There was that little thing called "class".

Some have it -- and some never will........

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Major League Baseball's new dumb rule(s)

On the surface it sounded like a good idea. Runners going into second base to break up a double-play have to at least slide where they can touch the bag. No more of those guys going way out of the baseline to wipe out a shortstop or second baseman trying to complete a play. Many injuries have resulted, some quite serious, as a result of this practice over the years.

True, it's always been "a part of the game". Every kid, even in little league, is taught to break up the double play if he can. As those kids get older, bigger, faster, and stronger, the collisions around second base get more violent. Also true is that second sackers and shortstops have long accepted this as, again, just part of the game. It goes with the territory, as they say.

[Years ago, yours truly played in a slo-pitch softball league. As a shortstop, I got clocked and spiked lots of times. No hard feelings, but when I was attempting to turn the double play, if a guy's head got in the way of my throw to first, shame on him. He should have went down (slid). Even in that low-class environment, guys took the game seriously.]

In today's politically correct world of sports, few would doubt that player safety tops the list. And that's probably a good thing, within limits. But the powers that be can only mandate so much "safety" before they start destroying the essence of the games themselves. Football, by it's very nature, was meant to be violent. You can't have guys crashing into each other at high speeds on every play and not expect injuries to happen. Same with hockey. Boxing has always been one pugilist trying to knock out the other. And lord knows, mixed martial arts in an eight sided cage, the UFC if you will, is the blood thirstiest sport since the gladiators of ancient Rome. Guys, and gals, are going to get hurt.

But hey, if this is what they want to do for possible fame and fortune while an adoring rabid fan base ponies up big bucks to see the spectacles -- then who is anybody to say it's wrong?

Thing is, MLB's new anti-take-out rule quietly came with another at the same time. And they would seem to be mutually exclusive. Either one might be good, but both together just won't work. If equally enforced, they would actually make matters far worse.

The second rule change mandates that any second baseman or shortstop will no longer be able to do the "phantom" touch the bag play. We've seen it thousands of times. A 2nd baseman/SS catches the ball for a force out, but not at the same time his foot is on the bag. Technically, that is not an out. Never has been. But they've been given leeway -- more and more so over the years -- to be in the "vicinity" of the bag while trying to avoid the on-coming baserunner who's trying to take them out.

In short, one new rule says the baserunner has to slide directly at the bag. The other new rule says the fielder must be ON the bag.

So combine the two and what do you have? In effect, it's a mandate for even MORE wipe-outs. This is progress?

It was comical to see John Kruk saying he loves this rule. Anything for player safety. Yet one must remember the good Mr. Kruk was a pudgy first baseman that could hit some. He didn't know anything about collisions at second base. While on base himself, his first to second time could be measured with a sundial. Sure, he went to post-career talking head school -- what ex-jock doesn't these days? -- but Kruk was never exactly known as a deep thinker. An argument could be made that whatever little brains he had in the first place leaked out his ears when Randy Johnson threw a 100 MPH heater close behind his head several years ago. He was never the same afterwards. Nor was the underwear he was wearing at the time. Some stains just won't come out.

It just seems like every time MLB tries to tinker with its game, they screw it up even worse. It was just fine as is for well over 100 years and the public loved it. Now they want to make even more new stupid rules, which directly conflict with each other. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Here's a novel idea. Just let the dudes play ball like they always have. You haven't heard the players and fans ever complaining about it. Well OK, maybe 8 bucks for a leathery hot dog or 10 for a watered down beer isn't exactly the optimum scenario -- but such rip-offs have nothing to do with the game itself.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Great American Race no more

The Daytona 500 is a huge deal in the world of automobile racing. Yet it's always been curious why NASCAR opens the season with their own Super Bowl instead of saving it for the end. Go figure.

The race itself has certainly evolved over the years. It started out being run on the beaches of Daytona. Over time it has progressed into being held at the mega race track we know today.

In the early days, there pretty much weren't any rules. Whoever could build the fastest car that would last for 500 miles -- assuming a decent driver to pilot it -- would likely win. Actually, that's not quite true. The ruling authorities stipulated that because it was a "stock" car race, every component on the cars had to be available to the general public as well. Theoretically, if Joe hot rod freak had enough bucks he could piece together a similar machine, with a little help from his local high-performance auto parts shop.

When Richard Petty ruled the roost, big blocks and monster horsepower were the key to his success. He had far superior equipment than most of his competitors. The King just out-muscled them.

It was also true that the Daytona 500 was indeed the Great American Race, at least regarding cars that resembled -- well -- regular cars. The Indy 500 was a much bigger deal but those were custom made racing machines from top to bottom. Also a lot faster and far more dangerous to a driver's health if a wreck should happen. And lots of them did.

But it should be noted that, back in the day, the Daytona 500 was about as American as it could get. Several US car companies poured resources and engineering into their race programs. There was Pontiac, Chevy, Ford, Buick, Oldsmobile, and Chrysler/Dodge. The virtual gamut of American automobile manufacturing.

Since then a lot has changed. Oldsmobile no longer even exists. Buick is trying to change its image from grandpa cars into trendy vehicles and long ago folded up their racing division. Not too long ago Pontiac dropped out of NASCAR. And recently Dodge called it quits too.

In the meantime Toyota had jumped into the fray. Enter Joe Gibbs. You remember Joe. A good Christian man that stood for God, apple pie and, by thunder, the United States of America. Once upon a time he was the head coach of the Washington Redskins, even leading them to a Super Bowl victory. It just didn't get any more American than that.

But somewhere along the line old Joe sold out the red, white, and blue. He started a NASCAR team, but jumped ship from any American auto manufacturers and signed on with Toyota. You know -- those lovable folks from Japan that have flooded the USA with their products --tariff free -- and were in a large part responsible for GM and Chrysler sliding into temporary bankruptcy. Yeah, those guys, whose government still slaps steep tariffs on any American imports. The very same folks that, after America had suffered enormous casualties along the way, had finally defeated them in WWII -- over 70 years ago. And yet the USA has incredibly continued to provide Japan with basically a free army to defend them ever since. They are our friends, quoth the politicians, even though they've done their best to rape, loot, and pillage the American economy ever since.

And now we have finally come full circle. In this year's Daytona 500, a Toyota not only won the race for the first time, but the top three finishers were also Toyotas. Nary a Chevy or Ford in sight.

No doubt, Joe Gibbs and his drivers are ecstatic. It's all about winning -- right?

Well, here's my take. Joe Gibbs may have once been a pillar of American values, but he whored himself when he sold out to a Japanese company. Given his resources and knowledge, Gibbs likely could have had the same success with an American manufacturer.

While he and his Toyota drivers celebrate their success, I, as a true American, find it not only disgraceful, but decidedly unpatriotic, even border-line treasonous, that they have managed to bastardize the once Great American Race.

Somewhere in a town -- appropriately named Toyota -- in Japan, car executives rejoice.

But to paraphrase Ernest Thayer's "Casey At The Bat", there will be no joy in red, white, and blue land.

The Great American Race has finally struck out.


Monday, February 22, 2016

The Detroit Pistons. Weird

There's nothing wrong with going to see your local NBA team play a game. If you can afford it. Like all other pro sports, everything from parking, to ticket prices, to concessions have gone through the roof. Why this is would seem to be a good question. The insane salaries players make these days are a part of it but, by the same token, teams are awash in TV money as well. But that's an argument for another day.

In short, the Detroit Pistons have been fairly lousy since their last glory years over a decade ago. Combine bad draft picks, whiffing in the free-agency market, totally botching the salary cap, and poor coaching -- and that will pretty much always wind up with a losing team. Or at the very least, not a chance in hell of being championship contenders. So it has been for many years. Throw in the fact, or at least perception, that the Detroit area isn't exactly considered a prime destination for star players to want to go to, and their struggles should come as no great surprise.

Currently, the Pistons find themselves just a shade under .500 in the weak by comparison Eastern Conference of the NBA. In the East, there's really only two good teams. Cleveland and Toronto. The West has its patsies like the LA Lakers, Minnesota, and Phoenix, but they've got a bunch of brutes as well. All of which are far superior to the Pistons.

Nevertheless, the Pistons remain on the cusp of making it into the postseason. They might sneak in as a 7th or 8th seed. In which case they'd likely get blasted out of the playoffs in the first round by the above-mentioned Cavs or Raptors. To think they have title aspirations is pure folly. Even the club itself has admitted their goal is to merely MAKE the playoffs. Maybe they will -- and maybe they won't.

So again, there's nothing wrong in ponying up the price for admission, as long as one realizes it's for entertainment purposes only. In any particular game the Pistons might win -- or lose -- but it's about enjoying the moment. Where people go off their emotional rails is when they start thinking there's a chance, just a chance, the Pistons are better than their record suggests. They are decidedly not. In that respect they resemble the Detroit Lions. They might make the playoffs, but no way are they going to shock the world with a deep run. They just aren't good enough. Period. And all the cheering and koolaid swigging among the hard cores isn't going to change it.

Yet every once in a while the Pistons do something that boggles the imagination. Everybody is aware of the Golden State Warriors. Reigning world champs and off to the best start this year in NBA history. A whopping 50-5 record.speaks for itself.

But back on Jan 16, somehow the lowly Pistons managed to defeat the high-flying Warriors. And the game wasn't even close. It was a blow-out. How the hell did that happen? Was GS looking ahead to their next game in Cleveland two days later-- where they would run the Cavs out of their own building? Maybe. Still -- how can the same team get thumped by the dregs of Detroit and then turn right around and destroy the beast of the East? Weird.

Just recently, the Pistons got pounded in New Orleans, including giving up 59 points and 20 rebounds to a 22 year old kid named Anthony Davis. This was only the third time in NBA history a player had put up numbers like that in a game. The other two were named Wilt and Shaq.

Meanwhile, Lebron and the Cavs were out in Okla City putting a colossal beat-down on a semi-elite Thunder team.

Both teams then had to fly. Detroit from New Orleans to Cleveland, and the Cavs from Okla City back home.

Detroit had lost 5 games in a row and was reeling. Cleveland had won five games in a row and was soaring. Cleveland was playing at home. It should have been a no-brainer. The vastly better team would run roughshod over inferior opponents.

Yet incredibly the Pistons beat the Cavs by 8 points. Not a blow-out, but a decent margin of victory.

How in the HELL did THAT happen?

The Detroit Pistons may or may not be a lot of things, but there's no disputing one fact.

Those guys do something very weird every once in a while. Of course when a team has a head coach that is also the president -- with two general managers in between -- arguably the goofiest front office chain of command in the history of professional sports (somewhat reminiscent of Bud and Lou's classic "who's on first?" routine), occasional weird results probably shouldn't come as much of a surprise either.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Toeing the line

Lines can be fairly important in many walks of life. Cross a crime scene line and one might quickly find themselves handcuffed in the back of a patrol car. Crossing a picket line can be hazardous to one's health or vehicle. Any aspiring Romeo needs a good line or two when trying to impress a member of the fairer sex. For that matter, prisons and graveyards have many residents that either DID too many lines or sold them to others.

How many times have you been required to sign on a dotted line, or stand/get in line? Probably a lot over the years.

The world of sports has a lot of lines as well. Some are taken quite seriously, others not so much.

In the serious category consider tennis. Lines matter. Upon replay, we have often seen the "eye in the sky" zero in to determine whether a struck ball barely touched a line -- or not. In pro football, much the same holds true. Many times "further review" will show us (and the refs) if a receiver got both feet down in bounds after a catch. If one of his tootsies merely touched the sideline by a hundredth of an inch -- the pass is incomplete. Cameras on both sides always monitor the goal lines to see if the "plane" was broken for a touchdown. Sometimes it's a very close call. Baseball has their foul lines -- which like foul poles -- have always been a misnomer. Any batted ball striking either is not foul, but fair.

Yet other lines don't seem to matter much. They're there, but often ignored. Both pro and college basketball offer up a multitude of evidence. Teams will line up on both sides of the "lane" when a free-throw shooter is attempting a shot. They're not supposed to cross the line into the "paint" until the shot is actually released and in the air. But they routinely do-- and the refs let it go.

Much more egregious are the coaches. If you look closely, you will see small lines perpendicular to the side line stripes that limit how far coaches are supposedly allowed to pace up the court. They are typically about a foot behind the three-point line -- there's that word again, at the "top of the key". Those lines are there for two reasons. They give the officials a "neutral zone" at mid-court to confer if necessary, and it just wouldn't do to allow either coach to walk in front of the opponents' bench.

Not only are these "coach" limits routinely ignored, so are the actual sidelines themselves. A case in point would be Indiana Hoosier head coach Tom Crean in a recently concluded game against Purdue. Crean has long been known for maniacally double timing it back and forth in front of his own bench. And that's OK. Many college basketball coaches are raving lunatics during the course of games.

But when he totally ignores the "coaches box", he should be warned by the closest official. "There's the line. Don't cross it again. If you do it will result in a technical foul". One would think college coaches getting paid millions of dollars are smart enough to comprehend the concept of lines that aren't supposed to be crossed. But they always push, push, push, to see what they can get away with. It's not right.

In Crean's case, it got to be ridiculous. Besides roaming far beyond the coaches box, he routinely stood 2-3 feet "inbounds" while play was going on. On a couple occasions a ref had to dodge him while hustling up-court to continue monitoring the action. Yet no call was made. Not even a warning. So what's the point of having lines if they're just going to be ignored anyway with no consequences?

Yours truly is certainly no big fan of more rules and regs. Lord knows, we've long had them coming out of our ears on many different fronts. Try figuring out health care or the IRS tax code. Nobody knows what the hell is going on, except there's a rule against everything if somebody wants to dig deep enough into the fine print.

Yet there's an easy way to fix this problem on the basketball courts. Before the start of every game have the refs tell both coaches to stay in their designated areas. Any infraction, even by an inch, will result in an immediate technical foul. The other team gets two free-throws and possession of the ball. A second violation will result in another technical and ejection from the game.

If enforced a few times, this nonsense would stop in a heartbeat. And there's never been any good reason for it to have been allowed in the first place.

Lines are lines. If they're going to be crucial in some sports, then they should be equally important across the board. Don't cross means don't cross. Bang the coaches and the sometimes equally guilty bench players will get the message as well. Stay off the damn court. Hey, if a baseball fan hops on the field for a second to retrieve a foul ball souvenir, and right back into his seat -- he'll likely get ejected from the stadium -- right? So if fans have to abide by such strict rules, so should coaches and players.

Seems simple enough. And why is it that when a basketball team calls a time-out (of which they have WAY too many), the whole squad has to come on the court to huddle up? Couldn't they do that on the sidelines?

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The case for and against Kahlil Felder

Kahlil Felder is a wonderfully gifted basketball player at my own alma mater. Oakland University in Rochester, Mi. A quiet buzz has begun as to whether Felder will ever make it to the NBA.

Argument for ---

Felder is leading the entire collegiate country in assists per game and is in the top 5 scorers. If he were to somehow get to #1 in points per game as well -- Kahlil would be the first college player ever to pull off such a two-fer. He's a superb ball handler and semi-deadly from the free-throw line. After not being recruited by "power" schools while still a prep, Kahlil has a definite chip on his shoulder to prove them wrong. A tireless worker and student of the game, Felder has shown he can play well against the "big boys" when given the chance. Despite coming from the rough streets of Detroit, Kahlil Felder appears to have come out the other side squeaky clean in his personal life. In this day and age, pro scouts are highly attuned to any "personal" issues that might come back and bite their team in the butt later. They not only want great players, but upstanding citizens in the community as well. On the surface, Felder would seem to offer both.

Argument against---

First and foremost, Kahlil Felder stands a meager 5 foot 9. True, it's technically illegal to discriminate against a person based on their physical characteristics and/or limitations, but pro sports has long rightfully been exempt. I mean, c'mon. You won't see an NFL team drafting a 150 pound dude to play nose tackle, no matter how mean and tough he is. And even if he was otherwise defensively brilliant behind the plate, a one-armed catcher in Major League Baseball would be problematic when opposing runners tried to steal bases. That likely wouldn't work out so well. Sure, there have been other "little guys" that had success in the NBA in years past. But they are definitely a dying breed. Even "smallish" point guards these days are usually at least 6 foot 2 or 3 while possessing the same ball handling/shooting/quickness skills that Kahlil Felder has. If he were to get a shot on an NBA team, Felder would be going up against guys that can do everything he can do, but are much taller. A definite disadvantage.
Felder has demonstrated that he's an outstanding player in the Horizon League. But the Horizon League is to college basketball what AA ball is to the majors or the Webcom tour is to the PGA. Huge success at a lower level is no guarantee an athlete won't crash and burn if given the chance to play against the big boys on a regular basis. Sometimes it happens, but usually not. The odds are highly against it.
Felder's now a junior and could declare for the NBA draft after his present season at Oakland U is over. Of he could stay on for his senior year, get his degree, and hope his stock rises even further.
Either way, last time I looked, the NBA consisted of 30 teams and two rounds of drafts each year. That means only 60 guys will be chosen. Throw in the international players from various countries and the number for American collegians likely drops to around 40. Also true is "undrafted free agents" theoretically have a shot at making an NBA roster, but it's slim. This happens far more often in pro football or baseball, merely because the team rosters are so much larger than an NBA team, with a wide variety of skill sets in play. In football, if a guy is a reliable "long-snapper" on field goal attempts and points after touchdown -- that all he needs to to. Same with punters. Kick it high and long. No other skills necessary. But NBA basketball requires multiple skills on a very limited roster.
Whether or not Kahlil Felder can ever make that very large jump remains to be seen. But first things first. For sure Felder is a great talent at the level he's playing at, but it also remains to be seen whether any NBA team will even give him a chance.
Five foot nine is what it is. If he's already a junior in college, there's likely no growth spurt in his future. And it's not exactly a desirable physical trait to have when aspiring to play in the land of the giants.
Here's wishing Kahlil Felder the best -- and go Grizz -- but count me skeptical regarding his NBA hopes.

The state of Detroit sports

In a few words -- it's not very good. Chances are slim that Motown will be having a championship parade in the next year. Consider the teams:

Detroit Red Wings

Much has been made that the Wings have qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs 24 years in a row. And they'll likely do it again this year. But making the NHL playoffs is a watered-down stat. Half the teams in the league make it every year. In other words, a team has to be pretty bad not to. They have a young wunderkind goalie but -- oops -- he's got shelled in the last few games. Also a home grown rookie that has far exceeded expectations. The heart of their roster remains in flux, due to injuries, who's playing well (or not), and the Wings have a couple aging superstars that are very much on the back side of their career bell curve. Yet of all professional sports, the Stanley Cup playoffs remain the biggest crap shoot. Barring a complete collapse, not likely, the Wings will get in again. Their chances to win? They've got a shot. Not a good one -- but a shot.

Detroit Pistons

Currently about a .500 team in the rather weak Eastern Conference, the Pistons could sneak into the playoffs as a lower seed. Many things about them are head scratchers. How can it be that the head coach is also the President with two general managers in between? A logical question would seem to be.......  who, exactly, reports to who? Their owner recently poured millions of bucks into upgrading their already world-class arena in the burbs, but now he's thinking about moving the team back downtown? Does that make any sense? This is the same guy that lives in a mansion in Beverly Hills, California, but has pledged to try and raise $10 million to help the citizens of Flint with their water crisis. Well gee. How magnanimous. The dude's worth about $3 BILLION. Do the math. Ten million to him is like me or you giving a homeless person on the street a few bucks to help them along. And his contribution would be tax deductible. But no, he wants to coax others into ponying up via some sort of fundraiser in his name. He gets the credit while others ultimately pay for it. It's shameful. Nevertheless, the Pistons aren't a very good basketball team in the whole scheme of the NBA. They have exactly one really good player on their roster. Their chances to win a title this year? Zero. And make that another nada any year soon.

Detroit Tigers

As always at this time of year, the Tigers have shuffled a few pieces and hope springs eternal. Oh my, they acquired a couple starting pitchers, bolstered their sorry bullpen, and even added a good hitter to the middle of their batting order. Thing is, the Tigers (and their ever-faithful media) always seem to assume every player on their roster will perform at peak efficiency. Not long ago, the Tigers had the "best starting rotation in baseball", and a regular "murderer's row" batting lineup. They didn't win anything. Now they're assuming the new guys will come in, be at their best all season long, and the old guys that slumped last year will return to peak form. That sounds great -- in a perfect Motown world -- but it usually doesn't work out that way. Forget the post-season, last year the Tigers found themselves finishing in the cellar of their own division. And last time I looked the reigning World Series champion Kansas City Royals (and other good teams in the American League) hadn't exactly folded up shop and gone away. The Tigers' chances of winning their first World Series since 1984? If everything goes according to their usual Pollyanna plan -- maybe one in ten. The Tigers made a few moves. So did every other team. We shall see how all that turns out in October.

Detroit Lions

Nobody can blame longtime owner William Clay Ford for the Lions decades-long ineptitude any more. The not-so-slick Willie passed on to the land of Edsels and Pintos in the sky a couple years ago. But yikes!!  That leaves the Lions in the hands of his 90 year old widow Martha and her glorious band of daughters. To their credit, they finally purged the front office. The president and general manager were fired. This was long overdue. The former was little more than a company man bean counter, and the latter had horribly botched drafts/other player personnel decisions/coaching hires in recent years. In short, the team was running on their usual koolaid factor. Their local media would continue to hype them and the ever-gullible fans would keep showing up hoping every year would be the one. But it never happened. Not even close. Just recently, they brought in a guy to oversee the team who learned under the New England Patriots system. Smart move. Love them or hate them, few could question the success of the Pats in recent times. This guy's making all kinds of staff moves, but seems to have overlooked the obvious. The current Lions' head coach has a proven track record of being mediocre at best when first put in charge, but eventually being a loser. So why is he still there? Because he sucks up to Martha and she "loves" him? Hey, such cronyism and misguided loyalty in the face of incompetence is likely a large part of why the Lions have been so bad for so long. If they ever want to truly compete at the highest level of the NFL, this head coach has to go too. He may continue to charm the local media and spout politically correct platitudes -- but he will never EVER lead them to the promised land. Nothing against the dude -- it's just not in his DNA to accomplish such a thing. At that, the Lions are quite predictable. After a bad year they'll get an easy schedule, maybe make it to a wild-card playoff game. They'll lose. But because they made the playoffs, the next year's schedule will get tougher. They'll finish under .500 -- like last season. This year they get another easy schedule. Maybe another wild-card berth, but nowhere close to being Super Bowl contenders. And the beat goes on. Other teams have gone from top to bottom to the top again over the years. A sine wave, if you will. The Lions seem to remain eternal flat-liners. Their chances of hoisting the Vince Lombardi trophy next February? One word. Please. If one needs further evidence of the Ford curse continuing, they only need note that Martha and her brood brought in the family accountant to be president of an NFL team. And said accountant freely admitted he knew nothing about professional football. Wow!!. Could this ever happen any place except Detroit?

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Kobe and his sappies

It's become nauseating watching the scenario play out this year. Kobe Bean Bryant is on his farewell tour. To which I would respond -- so what? Like a few others over the years, these season-long suck-up adoration fests are enough to gag a maggot.

Sure, I get it. Many athletes had long and distinguished careers. Perhaps they should be honored for their contributions to the world of sports. But hey, isn't that what Halls of Fame are for?

NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon had a farewell tour last year. Michael Jordan and Brett Favre retired and unretired a few times. Derek Jeter was feted in every stadium during his last go-round.

This never used to happen in days of yore. When it was time to retire, athletes just faded off into wherever life would take them afterwards. Over is over and time to move on. No muss, no fuss, and certainly none of them expected a circus atmosphere of fans that rooted against them for their whole careers suddenly adopting them as heroes.

But nowadays things have changed dramatically. Enter Kobe Bryant and the talking heads that can't wait to faun all over him, especially regarding the recently concluded NBA All-Star game. They appear outraged that Russel Westbrook of the Okla City Thunder walked off with the MVP award for the game. Westbrook should have deferred to Kobe and done whatever possible to assure Bryant received yet another MVP award.

This is total nonsense, of course. Since when did Kobe Bryant transform from a basketball player into some sort of Messiah that all should bow down to and worship? After all, in recent years, he's stunk it up for a team that's stinking it up even worse while making a mind-boggling $24 million a year. He was unfaithful to his wife, shamelessly self-promoted himself, and a ball hog while on the court. Kobe scored a lot of points over his career, but when a guy is jacking up shot after awkward shot during the course of games -- a few of them are likely to rattle in. During all Bryant's years on the Lakers -- it was always about him. Come one, come all to see the Kobe show. Watch the magnificent self-titled Black Mamba perform his spectacular feats.

And somewhere along the line the media bought in to the hero-worship. When that happens, the gullible masses are sure to follow. True, Kobe Bryant was a very good player, won championships, and many individual awards along the way. And lasting almost two decades at the highest level of any professional sport is an achievement not to be taken lightly. Especially in modern times, few have shown such longevity.

But there comes a time when enough is enough. Countless thousands of people retire every year from all walks of life. And a lot of them contributed far more to the greater good of mankind -- for far less money -- than Kobe Bean Bryant. He played basketball. Period. This does not make him a hero any more than good teachers, plumbers, electricians, mechanics, etc., and your local newspaper carrier that gets up at 3 in the morning to make sure the paper is in the box before you wake. All have jobs to do, and some do them better than others.

Contrary to what the sappy Kobe-loving talking heads would have us believe -- Bryant was not entitled to the All-Star Game MVP award just because this was his last rodeo. For that matter, the game itself has become a joke. It's morphed into a no defense, alley-oop, 3-point shooting dunk-a-thon, where team play long since ceased to matter. It's all about showing off offensively, while the other guys let you do it.

So why should Kobe Bryant be considered "special" and treated with "kid gloves"? Because he's old for an NBA player with a glorious past behind him? Hey, have you seen how the younger Novac Djokovic treats legendary tennis player Roger Federer on the courts lately? Game on and no mercy. The difference? Federer is still a world class player, while Bryant has been terrible for the last few years. No other NBA team would have had the slightest interest in his services. All he would have brought is a salary-cap busting number and a media circus.

Yet the Kobe farewell adulation tour marches on. I can't wait until the regular season is over. Obviously the Lakers won't be making the playoffs, because they're terrible. And finally -- FINALLY -- Kobe Bean will hopefully go away.

I mean, what's next in the media world of hero worship and season-long send-offs? Will Tiger Woods be able to play from the lady's tees at the Masters Tournament in April? Has he "earned" the right to do that for his past performances over the years? Will any putt shorter than 5 feet be conceded to him as a "gimme"? Likely not. Eldrick's not even in the top 200 in the world anymore. And the other young guns will likely beat his brains out at Augusta National and every other stop on the PGA tour this year he has the temerity to enter. But that's about the same as saying Kobe Bryant somehow, some way, should have been the All-Star game MVP. Here's an idea. How about just going out and, you know, earning it the old fashioned way? Like play better than everybody else. It's really not that difficult of a concept.

The good thing is -- Eldrick Tont Woods will likely never torture the golfing public with a farewell tour of his own. No way would he quit. He can bumble along for another ten years and then join the Senior Tour. When that happens, the geriatric hype machine will crank up again. In that respect, unlike most other sports, pro golf resembles most US Senators and Supreme Court Justices. Once in, there's no getting rid of them. Like the Energizer Bunny, they keep going, and going, and going. Right up until the Almighty steps in and decides to retire them permanently.

I believe a highly relevant example happened just recently. The Honorable Justice Antonin Scalia didn't get a farewell tour to strut his stuff. And in the whole scheme of things, like or hate his judicial philosophies and opinions, he was far more important than any basketball player. And for the umpteen thousands of ball and stick guys, despite how good they may be, to make 100-200 times more money per year than the 9 people that sit on SCOTUS -- charged with making tough decisions that often impact the entire country --  is a shining example of how bass-ackwards America's priorities have become.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Peyton Manning and the absurd law suit

Fresh off a Super Bowl victory, Peyton Manning (and a few others) are being sued. This action comes from several ladies that were associated with the Univ. of Tenn football program (one way or the other) way back in 1996.

First of all, such a suit likely has no legal standing. After 20 years, any relevant statutes of limitations have long since run and expired.

Second, the lead plaintiff that is re-filing the suit, settled out of court with Manning and company in 1997 for whatever allegedly happened the year before. Case closed. Now they want another bite at the financial apple -- 19 years later. It's preposterous.

Third, somehow this has been twisted into bringing up Title IX. You remember that. It's a federal statute that mandates any university receiving federal funds must treat their male and female athletic programs equally. This in itself has always been a scam perpetuated by the government. Consider --

The feds levy taxes on all public schools and it goes into the same national bureaucratic "pot". So if the colleges want to get some of their money back -- it's considered "federal funding". Put another way -- the Big Brother fix has long been in. A heads I win -- tails you lose proposition. Technically, a few bucks from North Dakota schools are supporting those in Florida, Colorado is paying Maine, Vermont's helping out California, and -- well -- you get the picture. It's a giant cluster**** with paper pushers in DC deciding who gets the money and how much. And woe be it to any that might run afoul of the never-ending regulations they keep piling on.

Title IX itself was never gender-neutral in the first place. And wasn't that supposed to be the whole point? It allowed female reporters to go into the locker rooms of male athletes, oftentimes in various states of undress, even nude (the jocks - not the reporters), to interview them and get their stories.

That's great, but it never worked the other way. We never saw male reporters being allowed into female locker rooms after they had disrobed. That remains taboo to this day. It is, and has long been a double standard. If true equality is the goal -- then make it equal -- dammit.

Further, the current allegation against Manning is he placed his genitals on the face of a female trainer way back in 1996.

That would seem to beg a few pertinent questions. Just exactly what position had said female trainer already assumed for this scenario to be even possible? What was a lady doing examining Peyton's nether region in the first place? Ever hear of a male trainer getting up close and personal to check out a similar situation with the likes of Chris Evert or Annika Sorenstam? Of course not.

Truth is, yours truly has never been a Peyton Manning fan, and think he's absolutely shameless when it comes to his vast array of infantile commercial endorsements for products he may or may not partake of, for even more money he obviously doesn't need. Either he's really obtuse down deep -- or thinks the viewing public is.

Nevertheless, trying to sue him now for something that may or may not have happened 20 years ago, and was settled a year later regardless, smacks of nothing short of a desperate money grab.

It would appear some members of the fairer sex have no shame either. Imagine that.

Friday, February 12, 2016

The NBA All Star farce

The only good thing about this year's All Star festivities and game is that it will be over soon. It turned into a popularity contest/clown show many years ago. Consider ---

The "Rising Stars" game. This pits young USA players against those from other parts of the world. Hey, who cares? This is supposed to be about the best of the best, not who might be in a few years. About two minutes of watching that action is enough to cause a viewer's colon to go into spasms and trigger the gag reflex. Put another way, it's time to make a mad dash to the porcelain receptacle.

True, it is good that the NBA opened up to foreign players. Some of them have turned out to be spectacular over the years. And like one the greatest minds of our time once solemnly proclaimed -- "more and more of our imports are coming from foreign countries".  George W. Bush. Old Dubya was known to turn quite the phrases back in his day. Who can forget some other classics -- like -- "Families are where our nation finds hope -- where wings take dream".
"Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be here somewhere".
"I am the master of low expectations".
"They want the government controlling Social Security like it's some kind of federal program".
"Wow. Brazil is big".
And of course the immortal, "The best way to relieve families from time to time is to let them keep some of their own money".

This man was obviously a GENIUS, but back to the All Star goings-on.

The 3-point shooting contest is palatable because it features -- well -- shooters. Dammit W, get out of my head.

The slam dunk competition has long been over hyped. Given a running head start, most every player in the NBA can dunk. Jamming a basketball through the rim is akin to a pro golfer ramming home a 6-inch putt, or a major league slugger bombing batting practice pitches into the bleachers. Gullible fans can ooh and ahh, but there's nothing special about it. Sure, hoopsters have come up with variations like behind the back, through the legs, over the shoulder and off the backboard -- even a Superman cape once -- but in the end it's still just a dunk.

What is truly astounding is how one Kobe Bean Bryant led the Western Conference All-Star voting. This guy hasn't been any good for several years. In terms of production, Bryant isn't even in the Top 30, maybe 40-50 players in the West. Yeah, I get it. KBB is on his "farewell tour" and this is a show of appreciation for what he has accomplished over the years. But it's misguided. The All-Star game is supposed to feature the best players in the East facing off against the best in the West. Kobe Bean is nowhere close to qualifying on his merits this year. In fact, he's pretty well stunk it up while milking the Lakers out of another $24 million. Look at it another way. Would any other team touch such a ludicrous contract and life-long ball hog player way past his prime? I think not. But he gets the most votes? Preposterous.

Then again, "One has a stronger hand when there's more people playing your same cards".

Quick quiz. Was that the All-Star voters kow-towing to Kobe Bean one last time -- or more W words of wisdom from the past?

One finally, mercifully had to go away. In a perfect world there would have been term limits on the other as well.......

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The changing name game

It's interesting when you think about how some nicknames in the world of sports have come, gone, and are still here. Some seemed innocent enough at the time, but just would't work so well these days.

George Herman Ruth became known as the Babe. Still is. Nothing politically incorrect about that, but nowadays it's unlikely a male athlete stud would be too fond of being called a Babe.

Heavyweight boxing champ Joe Louis was the Brown Bomber. That definitely wouldn't work in modern times. Brown became colored/negro/black, and finally African American (along with a certain "n" word that nobody is allowed to speak anymore -- except Afr Amer rappers -- go figure).

And it's likely a safe bet that any nickname that includes the word "bomber" wouldn't go over so well today given what has happened around the world in the last few years.

In days of yore, many pro athletes were dubbed various things. Joe DiMaggio was the Yankee Clipper. Ted Williams the Splendid Splinter. Say Stan the Man and every baseball fan knows who you're talking about. Same with the Mick or Hammering Hank. All innocent enough.

Harmon Killibrew was known as the Killer. That would definitely be politically incorrect these days. With the gun debate raging, chances are Pete Maravich wouldn't have been called Pistol if he had been born a few decades later.

In no particular order, consider the following.....

Cassius Clay changed his name to Mohammed Ali and proclaimed himself to be the greatest. How do you think that would fly these days? At that, wasn't he the same pugilist that got clocked by Joe Frazier, Ken Norton, Leon Spinks -- LEON SPINKS!!! -- and utterly demolished by Larry Holmes? THAT guy was the greatest? Please.

Ray Leonard was Sugar. As was Ray Robinson long before him. Leonard copied the name. Thomas Hearns was the Hit Man. Too much sugar is bad for you. Even one Hit Man is much worse. Marvin Hagler was simply Marvelous. He dispatched the Hit Man in short order but got too cocky with Sugar and wound up losing a fight he should have easily won. And Sugar wasn't sweet enough -- or dumb enough -- to give the Marvelous one a rematch. That probably would have been ugly.

In hoops, Allen Iverson proclaimed himself The Answer. Thing is, it seemed like he never quite understood the question to begin with.

Lebron James has been anointed The King. King of what? Cleveland and endorsements?

Kobe Bryant has named himself the Black Mamba. Black mambas are highly venomous snakes, and they don't even exist in the USA. Yet to be fair, there are certainly times when Kobe Bean's flickering tongue and play on the court could be considered reptilian.

Eldrick Woods has long been known as Tiger. Indeed he was, both on the PGA tour and with ladies other than his wife until life turned him into a puddy-tat in recent years -- at least on the Tour.

Earvin Johnson became Magic. Besides his basketball skills, like Tiger he was a regular Houdini with the fairer sex -- but hooked up with the wrong one (while he was married as well) and became HIV positive. Oops. That one blind pass seemed to have gone horribly awry. Tweet. Flagrant personal foul.

Jack Nicklaus was the Golden Bear. Arnold Palmer had his Army, and Phil Mickelson became known as Lefty. All easily understood.for obvious reasons.

Gordie Howe was long known as Mr. Hockey -- a well earned moniker. He set many NHL records. And then Wayne -- The Great One -- Gretzky came along to shatter them all. Nobody thought it would ever happen -- but it did.

Robert Parish of the 80-ish Boston Celtics was The Chief. His front court teammates were merely known as McHale and Bird -- their real names. The latter two would go on to great success in coaching/management elsewhere in the NBA. Not so much for Parish. Likely not qualified to do anything else, he has mercifully been kept on as a "consultant" by Celtics management. It's a paycheck, but The Chief more resembles a papoose these days.

John McEnroe of tennis was known as The Brat. Are we still allowed to call loud-mouthed petulant children brats?

Mike Tyson was Iron Mike. Until he ran into Robin, Ruth, and Evander. The trifecta of doom. Not even counting that pesky little prison sentence for rape, he got cold-cocked by a guy named Buster. And what was the deal with the ear-biting thing anyway with Holyfield? Should we be happy this was a boxing match and not mixed martial arts where the combatants were grappling on the canvas? In his desperation, might Tyson have bitten off something else in his opponent's nether region? Perish the thought.

Today, such names as the Pittsburgh Steelers' famed Steel Curtain would probably still work. The Killer Bees of the Miami Dolphins -- likely not. The Splash Brothers of the Golden State Warriors is good. Given recent airliner disasters, anything remotely referring to Crash and Burn is a bad idea. Also notice we don't hear the words "choke", "dumb", or "overpaid" anymore. Everybody's a hero -- somehow.

Motorcycle daredevil Robert Knievel would never be called Evel these days. The media would assume he was from some sort of Satanic cult, call in their "experts" to testify, and the gullible public would likely believe it.

Reggie Jackson was supposedly Mister October. He was also Mister Whiff. In the history of the major leagues, nobody ever struck out more than Jackson. That's a lot of history and Casey at the bat swings. Over his long career, the good Mr. Jackson racked up more strike-outs than hits, was a defensive liability, and hit .262. So other than self-promotion and bombing a few long home runs, somebody please tell me how and why this guy wound up in the Hall of Fame. It's shameful.

And alas. I lost a bet to my editor on the Super Bowl. He had Denver and I had Carolina even up. A lunch tab was at stake, plus an extra $20 tip to the waitress. Methinks he's going to enjoy his bacon and cheese omelet a bit more than usual while I fork over an extra Jackson as we leave.

Maybe that's why he's called The Boss. Sort of like Bruce Springsteen in the local newspaper business.

I can think of something else. Like The #@%$!!. But that likely wouldn't go over too well. And all in all, he's a pretty nice guy. Maybe not wrapped too tight -- after all -- it was his idea to recruit me as a blogger -- but a bet's a bet and I lost. In the end, who's the dummy indeed? That's probably why he makes the big bucks and I'm stuck writing stupid posts like this one.

Monday, February 8, 2016

UConn lady hoops. Incredible

It's not often a full-sized college arena sells out for a ladies' basketball game, but it happened yesterday. Standing room only in Columbia, where #2 ranked South Carolina hosted #1 UConn.

For those that are fans of girls' college roundball -- count me among them -- this was the showdown game. If anybody was going to knock off mighty UConn, it would be South Carolina in their own building.

Idle thought: The UConners are referred to as the Lady Huskies. Beats Husky Ladies, but still doesn't sound quite right. Yet male teams from South Carolina are dubbed Gamecocks. So what do they call their female athletes? Lady Cocks? That would be awkward. Game Hens? Do they have a Cornish tradition and go well with rice? Beats me, but their hoops team is pretty good. #2 in the country speaks for itself. As did their 22-0 record entering this game.

Alas, they would be trashed in their own building by the UConn juggernaut. At times the lead was over 25 points, a whopping margin in such a sport. Thing is, UConn didn't play particularly well -- at least by their standards. But after the usual garbage time towards the end of the game, when the outcome had already long been decided, the Huskies would defeat the whatever Cocks by 12 points -- a comfortable margin.

That begs the question.... Who, pray tell, has the remotest chance of beating UConn this year? Already 23-0, their final six games of the regular season are against what could be considered "patsy" teams. Barring major injuries, it's entirely likely they'll enter the tournament 29-0.

UConn plays in a weak conference you say? Indeed they do, the American Athletic Conf. But it's not their fault. They wanted to hook on with a stronger conference but could find no takers. The powers that be in other conferences can spin it any which way they want as to why they declined, but the LAST thing they wanted to see was little UConn obliterating their Enormous State universities on their own hardcourts, much less having to go to the house of blowouts in Storrs.  Who's kidding who?

But consider who the Lady Huskies were able to schedule this year, and the results ---
#7 Ohio State. They demolished the Buckerettes by 44 points.
#3 Notre Dame. 10 points.
#6 Maryland. 10 again.
#11 Florida State. 24.
#22 South Florida. 16.
And now they just waltzed into #2 South Carolina to win by 12 in front of a packed house -- and really didn't play all that well while doing so. Uncharacteristic turnovers, missed lay-ups/free throws, bad passes and all around sloppy play by UConn standards. Yet they still rolled to an easy victory.

In a post-game interview, head coach Geno Auriemma made quite the astute observation. Having just knocked off the #2 team on the road, the mini-Italian Stallion said -- "This win bodes well for us. Come tournament time, we'll never have to face another team this good in their own building".

Truer words were never spoken.

Who is out there that is even semi-capable of knocking off UConn in the tournament indeed?

Lady Husky forward/center Breanna Stewart is on the cusp of accomplishing something that has never been done before in the history of college athletics, be it male or female, in any sport. And it looks like she might well pull it off.

More on that in a future post. When the NCAA tourney gets down to the Final Four (and who would doubt UConn will be one of the teams?) would be a good time.

But for now, the lady hoopsters in Storrs remain on an incredible run with no end in sight. Some love them, others hate them, and far more are just envious of what they have built and continue to accomplish. They play college hoops under Auriemma's guidance much like the San Antonio Spurs under Coach Pop. Both systems stress the ultimate in team play, whether on offense or defense.

The difference is -- the NBA has a salary cap, a draft, and free agency. Add those all up and it heavily tilts against a team remaining dominant for very long.

Yet in college hoops, particularly at UConn, winning breeds even more winning. Many 5-star blue-chip high school players would kill to get a scholarship at UConn to play for Geno. So as seniors graduate, incoming hot-shot freshmen take their place. And the beat goes on.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Carolina meltdown

Let me see if I have this right. The Carolina Panthers went 15-1 during the regular season and beat two very good teams (Seattle and Arizona) in the playoffs. Yet one is left to wonder -- how could a team that played so stupidly in the Super Bowl have ever accomplished those feats in the first place?

In no particular order, consider the following bonehead gaffes the Panthers were guilty of in Santa Clara......

It became quickly obvious that Denver's defensive front was going to put immediate and strong pressure on Cam Newton. On any given play, they had eight men in the "box". Yet Carolina never adapted using more blockers to stave off the onslaught. Either that, or quick slants over the middle and screen passes will keep a blitzing defense honest. Did you see Carolina attempt a single screen pass? Dumb.

Newton himself missed several wide-open receivers, and when he did hit them in the "hands", they couldn't hold on. That's somewhere between dumb, incompetent, and choke city.

Newton also fumbled the ball three times. One resulted in a touchdown for Denver on the same play. Another led to a Broncos' TD a couple plays later. That's 14 points Cam handed the other guys because he was too thick-headed to realize the situations he was in. Doh.

Their running back, long prone to fumbles, chipped in another one on a routine tackle. What is any running back's first responsibility? Protect the ball. Maybe they gain yardage and maybe they don't, but under no circumstances fumble the damn ball. He did. Anybody home upstairs?

On a Carolina punt, their coverage team went brain dead (though they had the Bronco returner surrounded), and let him race 50 yards down the field. Earth to Panther coverage team -- if you don't see a fair-catch signal (there wasn't one), it's usually a good idea to tackle the speedy guy for the other guys that is catching the ball. Hello???

And oh my, all the other boneheaded plays. False starts, delays of game, unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, offsides, holding, etc. Were these the Carolina Panthers that romped through the regular season and early rounds of the playoffs -- or did they change into the Detroit Lions when they landed in the Bay area?

Their field goal kicker clanked an attempt off a goalpost from very makeable range. The coaching staff (and Cam) were clueless when it came to clock management, much less altering their strategy when Plan A was blowing up in their faces.

It's not like Denver was a superior team going in. The bookies had them as a 5.5 point underdog. True, the Broncos' defense lived up their billing as the #1 unit in the league, but also true is Peyton Manning was underwhelming. He didn't do anything special. Just the usual wounded duck passes and got sacked a few times himself. Their total team effort over the course of the game could be considered quite average.

But add it all up and what did you have? One team spent the last two weeks developing a game plan that might take the other by surprise. They were smart, and capitalized on the blunders of their opponents.

The other team remained in flat-out dumb mode throughout. Panthers somehow morphed into deer in the headlights on the biggest stage, and didn't have a clue what to do next. Consider them road-kill. Carolina couldn't get out of it's own way.

As they say, sometimes there just ain't no fixing stupid. Any team that played that dumb had no business winning a game. And so they got rightfully trounced. It will be a long flight back to Charlotte.

Maybe next year. What's ironic is Cam Newton might well get the regular season MVP award. That voting already took place and the results have been kept secret. But for his performance in the Super Bowl, he should be awarded a dunce cap and made to sit in a corner somewhere.

[On an unrelated note, here's a shout out to my bro CC. One of the most terrific people yours truly has ever had the pleasure of associating with. Hope everything works out down in Florida with your son. Also a die-hard NY Jets fan, but I won't go there. LOL]

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Super Bowl bookie math

Bet you never really did the math when it comes to certain betting "lines" on sporting contests. Even though it only involves 10th grade algebra, most people don't want to bother.

That would be combining the point spread with the over/under and solving for the final predicted score of the game -- courtesy of those lovable bookies. Trust me, the "wise guys" know a lot about math.

At last look the Carolina Panthers were favored to win Super Bowl 50 by 5.5 points over the Denver Broncos. And the over/under number (total points scored by both teams) remained steady at 44.5.

Let's say Carolina's predicted point total is X. Denver's point total is Y. According to the above .....
X = Y + 5.5  and
X + Y = 44.5.

Combine the two equations and solve for X -- and one will come up with the number 25.
Therefore, if Y = X - 5.5, simple subtraction dictates Y must be 19.5.
Add them up and you get 44.5.

So what the bookies are saying is the final score will be Carolina 25 -- Denver 19.5.

Of course this score is impossible, because there's no such thing as a half point in football. And if the numbers you drew on your local office/bar betting grid were 5 and 9, your chances of winning were slim to none anyway. Those are the kind of numbers yours truly usually gets stuck with. Or maybe 2 and 2. That comes in about as often as 666 in the daily lottery. In other words -- it ain't gonna happen.

Curiously, the geniuses (and I use that term loosely) at Sports Illustrated predicted Carolina would prevail 22-19. That would seem to be an odd score. They must think a couple 2-point touchdown conversions will happen along with a safety here or there. How else could two teams arrive at a final score of 22-19? Has such a final result ever even happened before in the NFL? I'm too lazy to look that up, but let's just say the SI folks don't exactly have a sterling track record when it comes to picking winners. 22-19? Really? Couldn't they round it up to 23-20 or down to 21- 17?

Mercifully, they have replaced their former prognosticator Supreme, one Peter King, with another "expert". Thing is, PK couldn't pick his nose with a power auger over the years, but it was absolutely amazing how many scribes (hacks) came to think of him as some sort of guru to reference in their articles.

On a semi-related note, some think Peyton Manning might weep after this Super Bowl. They could well be right. If he and the Broncos win, Manning could shed tears of joy while riding off into the sunset on top as his boss John Elway once did for the Broncos almost two decades ago. If he loses, he'll always have to wonder how his even dopier younger brother Eli, who played on far less talented teams, managed to win one more Super Bowl than he did. It would be understandable if the Omaha man choked up a bit while pondering such a thing.

But no sympathy for such wimpy crying. After all, isn't Peyton Manning the same guy that made $20 million while playing only half a season this year, threw 8 TD passes compared to 17 interceptions, and raked in another $12 million in endorsements along the way? If you've seen some of his shameless commercials, they were enough to make the average viewer cry as well. Either that, or be grabbing for the remote and hitting the "mute" button, and/or clicking over to something else. Bring on the Ethiopian cooking channel, tell me why I should buy a few high-priced dolls in their frilly clothes, or even bombard me with partisan political-speak. Anything but Peyton shedding alligator tears.

Spare me. The seemingly never-ending rubish yee-haw commercials spots have been bad enough. If he wants to cry after this game -- fine. Just go away and do it in private -- OK?

Friday, February 5, 2016

The utter hypocrisy of Kareem

Lew Alcindor was once thought of as a semi-bright guy. Ridiculously tall, a string bean, and not much in the looks department. But dammit, he could play some hoops. Hey, when you're almost a foot taller than most of your opponents, especially as a kid, chances are basketball is a pretty good sport to participate in.

But just recently, the Lew turned Kareem Abdul Jabbar exhibited the height of hypocrisy in a shot he took at Dallas Maverick Dirk Novitzski.

KAJ said while DN's shot was hard to block, he remained basically a "one-trick -pony". Evidently, that was in reference to Novitzski's long range shooting skills.

Really, Lew, excuse, Kareem? Let's take a look at your history.

While at UCLA under legendary coach John Wooden, you were surrounded by mega- talent elsewhere on the court the whole time you were there.

After getting drafted by the lowly Milwaukee Bucks, you soon forced a trade so you could go back to LA-LA- land. Once there, you were again surrounded by hoop studs.

It's no great surprise the teams you played on, both in college and the pros, won some championships. While you were certainly "gifted", the talent surrounding you was also incredible. If instead of UCLA, you'd toiled away your college years at, say, Wisconsin, there wouldn't have been any NCAA championships. One guy can't get it done. The late Pistol Pete Maravich at LSU and Larry Bird at Indiana State possessed far more overall basketball skills, but they didn't have the supporting cast you did. Plus, they weren't 7 foot 2 either. So you got championships and they didn't.

Same with the NBA. If you hadn't landed on the Lakers and instead spent year after year playing for, say, Atlanta, chances are you wouldn't have all those rings. Like John Fogerty of Credence Clearwater Revival once sang, you were a "fortunate son" indeed.

But now you have the utter audacity to call out Dirk Novitzski as a one-trick-pony? Let's look a little deeper again.

Back in the day, the only thing you had going for you was the "sky hook". Nobody could block that either. You weren't a particularly good defender, an average free throw shooter, and one is still left to wonder just who was dragging who up and down the court when it came to you and Bill Laimbeer. Let's just say neither of you were exactly known as being gazelles. Slow and slower, but I always thought Laimbeer would beat your plodding butt by a full second in the 40 yard dash.

Get you over 10-12 feet away from the basket, and you were basically useless. You weren't a particularly good passer/assist guy, couldn't ball handle/drive, and nobody -- repeat -- NOBODY feared you shooting from outside. They WANTED you to. Brick city.

Ninety percent of the points you racked up over your career came on two things. Sky hooks and dunks. You didn't even have to jump for the latter.

And YOU, of all people, are calling Dirk Novitzski a one-trick-pony? This guy can shoot the lights out from long range. He's deadly at the free throw line. He can even put the ball on the floor and drive to the hoop on occasion. Dirk will "move his feet" on defense, understands the concept of switching coverages, and will run all over the floor. All you did was plop your tall butt in the "paint", wait for a lob-in pass, fake left, pivot right, and throw up another sky hook on offense. Defensively, you weren't capable of venturing more than 10 feet from the basket, or an opposing player would easily blow by you to the rim.

The hypocrisy screams. Perhaps the good Mr. Alcindor/Jabbar should go back into his meditation mode on a mountaintop somewhere. Lord knows, there are those that consider him quite the guru when he deigns to speak to the masses.

But in this particular instance, he's just made himself out to be a common day fool. Dirk is getting well deserved attention and Kareem doesn't like it.

Make that a jealous fool......

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The 1985 Chicago Bears

Recently the 4-letter network went back 30 years and pieced together a very interesting program regarding the Chicago Bears. Their 1985 version was formidable, particularly on defense. As we know, they clobbered the New England Patriots 46-10 in Super bowl XX.

As was noted by some former players, times were much different then in the NFL. Brutal hits that would incur a fine and/or suspension in today's kinder gentler version of pro football were commonplace back in those days. No call. Business as usual. Whether the "evolution" of the NFL was/is a good or bad thing is certainly open to debate.

But back in the day, Buddy Ryan's "46" defense not only confused opposing offenses, but struck fear in them. The "46" designation actually arose from the uniform number of starting safety Doug Plank. While it had many variations involving defensive linemen and linebackers' assignments on any given play, who would do what when the ball was snapped was mostly dictated by the unheralded Plank, depending on what he saw of the offensive formation -- and instinct.

And those Bears were loaded with defensive talent. Richard Dent, William (Fridge) Perry, Dan Hampton, Otis Wilson, Mike Singletary, Ron Rivera (current head coach of the Super Bowl bound Carolina Panthers), Wilber Marshall, the late Dave Duerson, Gary Fencik, Steve McMichael. etc. Virtually a very talented brute at every position.

Though others have laid claim to their own "special" defenses over the years (see Dallas' "doomsday", Pittsburgh's "steel curtain", and Miami's "no-name"), nobody ever did it quite like the 1985 Bears. Those other defenses were very effective indeed, but the 1985 Bears just flat-out beat people up.

[A bit of irony. Though the Bears were an original NFL franchise, the 1986 Super was, and remains their only championship.They really haven't come close since.]

Yet during the documentary, it was interesting to note how some players complain to this day that super-star running back Walter Payton didn't get to "shine" in that particular Super Bowl. It was "Sweetness's" crowning moment, they claimed, but #34 didn't get a lot of action. Mike Ditka himself, the head coach of that team, apologized for not being aware of it at the time. As we also know, Walter Payton would later develop a liver problem that led to his death in 1999 at the young age of 46. He had long since retired from football.

But some of his former black teammates complained that Payton got short-changed in Super Bowl XX. After all, against THOSE Patriots, they could have played them 10 times and smoked them every single game. Probably so. Walter should have got more "touches" in that Super Bowl, because we were going to beat them anyway, they asserted.

Maybe. Maybe not. And Ditka wimped out by offering up an apology three decades after the fact. Look at it this way ---

The head coach's (and his staff) main job was/is to put together a game plan that results in a victory against any particular opponent. If it better served the need of the TEAM to use Payton as a decoy, then so be it. Replays of that Super Bowl clearly show that on any given play, New England had at least 2 defenders, and sometimes 3-4 solely dedicated to zeroing in on Payton. They were NOT going to allow Walter to run wild.

Yet by doing so, New England left themselves thin on defense elsewhere. This allowed Bear quarterback Jim McMahon to throw deep strikes to wide receivers, notably speed demon Willie Gault.

The results spoke for themselves. Who can objectively question the game planning that led to a 46-10 Super Bowl romp?

Other players without apparently race-based agendas were more philosophical. Walter was a great player, they said. One of the best of all time. But it wasn't about padding his stats. It was about winning the game. The greater good of the team always has to come first.

And they were absolutely right. It's a sorry state of affairs when the once old-schoolish Mike Ditka caves to retroactive political correctness -- thirty years after he and his staff concocted a perfect game plan -- on both sides of the ball -- to accomplish one of the most lop-sided Super Bowl victories ever.

So Walter didn't get his yards. Who cares? The game plan worked, in a big way. He got his "ring", didn't he? Did anything else really matter?

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Why Calvin Johnson should retire

Once upon a time, Calvin Johnson was referred to as the "Megatron". He was tall, fast, and made incredible catches, racking up yardage and touchdowns galore for the Detroit Lions. But that was then.

Nowadays, the Megatron name seems to have gone away. It's just Calvin Johnson. Sure, he's still a better than average receiver, but no longer considered elite among NFL gurus.

Calvin Johnson will turn 31 shortly after the 2016 football season gets underway. Not geezer-ish, but hardly a spring chicken either. And oh my, he's taken more than his fair share of beatings over the years playing for the woeful Lions.

Reports say CJ is contemplating retirement. He should, for a few reasons.

First, he's already made more than enough money (over $100 million) to tide him over forever after. And by most all accounts, Johnson is an upstanding righteous man with few if any vices. It's not like he'd go out and blow so much money on a posse, girls, gambling, or be dumb enough to let some shyster con him out of it with a "can't miss" investment. Let's just say CJ is fairly well financially set for life.

Second, there's the health issue. In recent years, Johnson has been so banged up he can barely practice between games. This has been mostly due to various leg problems. To his credit, Calvin always seems to find a way to strap it on and play in the actual games, but continuing to do so comes with its risks as well.

While his contract with the Lions runs through the 2019 season, it is highly doubtful Johnson could survive another 4 years in the NFL, particularly on that team. And even if he did, what price might be pay in later life? Would he be hobbled by arthritis or similar maladies by the time he's 40? Nobody knows. Nobody but Calvin himself knows how bad he's already hurting. And hey, let get's real. The opposing defenses don't give a rat's behind. They'll continue to pound him every chance they get. On that note, nobody knows how many concussions Johnson may have already suffered over his career, but it's likely several, considering how many helmet to helmet shots he's taken. If he sticks around, as the years tick by and the hits continue to take their inevitable toll, the former Megatron could well not only become physically disabled for life, but mentally too.

Third, the chances of him ever sniffing a Super Bowl while playing for the Lions are slim to none. Even now -- though they won't admit it -- Detroit is in a rebuild mode (aren't they always?), and few would doubt several other NFC teams are vastly superior, while still others are on the rise. Calvin Johnson may have given all he had, but he was never destined to be a champion while playing for the Honolulu blue and silver. That just wasn't in the cards.

If Calvin Johnson indeed decided to retire, he would be a border-line Hall of Fame candidate. As the Megatron, he had a few huge years. But that was the result of the Lions not having a decent complimentary running game, and continuing to throw in CJ's general direction when they needed a big play. The other teams knew what was coming. Johnson made his catches/yards/TDs, but also paid a severe price. He's also been prone to dropping a lot of passes along the way. And fumbles. And he's never won anything -- not even a single playoff game. The H of F voters would have a lot to consider when studying his entire body of work to determine if they deemed him worthy of induction. The Detroit faithful might think it a slam dunk, but more objective folks could well think otherwise several years down the road when it comes time to weigh in on such a matter.

Fourth, as mentioned above, nobody even calls Johnson the Megatron any more. As age, injuries, and year after year of playing for the Lions has taken its toll, his stats have begun to slide. He will never be as productive as he once was. To think otherwise is folly. And if he continues, it will only get worse, on all fronts.

He made a lot of money, had a semi-long career in the NFL, and brought some joy to long-suffering Detroit Lions' fans along the way with some of his spectacular moments.

But for his own sake, Calvin (nee Megatron) Johnson needs to get out while he's still somewhat physically healthy and has his wits about him. Both could change for the worse -- much worse -- if he continues to play for the Lions.

An alternative:  Calvin tells the Lions he's willing to forfeit the roughly $100 million still left on his contract through the 2019 season. That would give the team a lot of cap room to sign talent elsewhere, which they're desperately in need of. They'd likely go for it. But Calvin wants to be a free agent to play one more year for another team with a legitimate shot at winning the Super Bowl. If the Lions released him from his contract, he would indeed be a free agent. If he was willing accept a little bit less money in a last quest for a championship, a couple teams would likely be interested in his services. Consider the New England Patriots. They have little speedy guys, but are in need of a big wide receiver. Methinks CJ would love the idea of playing in Bill Bellichick's system with Tom Brady spreading the ball around. How about Carolina? Already Super Bowl bound, how good would those guys be next year with Calvin added to the mix and Cam Newton pulling the trigger?

Here's hoping Calvin Johnson puts a lot of thought into what he wants to do next. Lord knows, he's paid his dues in Detroit and, other than a pile of money, has little to show for it. He should either retire outright, or give it one more shot with a team of his choice to hopefully be in the same room as the Lombardi trophy next February.

Monday, February 1, 2016

A laughable follow-up

In a recent issue of a sports magazine, the author briefly profiled who he thought were media personalities (see talking heads) that are likely to reach even greater heights of gab-fame in the near future.

Curiously, the author only initialed his work. R.D., to be exact. Could it have been Robert DeNiro or Richard Dreyfuss jumping into the sports fray with a guest article? Nobody knows for sure, except maybe the editor of the publication and the author him/herself. Ex-Chicago Bear Richard Dent? Maybe. Rodney Dangerfield? Unlikely. He's gone on to the heaven of no respect.

Nonetheless, a paragraph was devoted to one Cari Champion. If one Googles CC, they will see she was born in 1975. But on the same page, her age is listed as being 35. This is some very strange math, but I suppose it's a woman thing. After all, my own mother still claimed to be 39 when I was 42.

But RD said the good Ms. Champion had finally broken free, ala Andy Dufresne of the Shawshank Redemption. CC had shed the shackles of the "unctuous, soul-sucking" moderator of ESPN's First Take.

Granted, listening to the likes of Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless droning on with their usual pompous drivel show after show might be enough to turn the Pope into a suicide bomber, but RD asserts Cari will find her Zihuatanejo paradise much like Andy did after so many years of wrongful suffering. She has been given a regular gig as an "anchor" on the 4-letter network. We'll see how that turns out.

What was truly laughable was RD's very next paragraph. Devoted to the above-mentioned Skip Bayless, it was noted the very same "unctuous" show continues to enjoy terrific ratings and Skippie could very well use that as leverage if he jumps to a different network when his contract is up in a few months.

In that respect, RD came across as a chucklehead, or perhaps a future in politics awaits him. First the show is oily and soul-sucking, but in the very next sentence he gives it kudos for drawing so many viewers and could serve as a launching pad for it's moderator and commentators to move on to greater things? Like a typical politico, the scribe is trying to play it both ways. Add a little here, take away a little there, try to please everybody, and in the end what do you have? An article that amounted to nothing.

Even Rodney had more self-respect than that.....

Minnesota Twins and the dawn of wimpiness

It's started. And all because some idiot fan wasn't paying attention. A splintered bat flew into the crowd and the fan that had paid big bucks for close-up seats got injured.

So now the Minnesota Twins have decided to put up nets roughly 6-8 feet high down their "sidelines" to ensure such a "tragedy" never happens again. Other Major League teams will likely follow. But where does it end? You just know this is the tip of the proverbial wimpy iceberg. Once these nets have been accepted, another safety feature will come along, then another, and another yet. Pandora's politically correct sports box has been cracked open.

It's somewhere between laughable and nauseous to hear the talking heads spouting off on what a good thing this is for baseball. "The umpires want it. The players want it. And most of all, the fans want it", they claim.

All of which is total bull droppings, of course. The umpires couldn't care less. They've got a hard enough job to do making calls, arguing with millionaires, and standing on their feet for a typical 3 hour game. Do you really think these guys care about balls or bats flying into the stands?

Same with the players. And what's the difference between one of them drilling a 100 MPH line drive into the seats or a bat going maybe 30 MPH? One gets there a whole lot faster. Ah, but a splintered bat can cause serious injury, you say? True enough, but so can a high speed spherical object like a baseball bashing somebody in the head. When players whack vicious foul line drives into the stands, they might take a quick glance -- or maybe not -- as to whether somebody got hurt. Two seconds later, they're ready to play ball again like it never happened. That's somebody else's problem. It happens all the time, and is an accepted part of the game. The fans know this when they come to the stadium. If they want to sit up close to the action, which increases their chances of snagging a souvenir, they pay bigger bucks. And with that comes the presumed responsibility of paying attention.

True, some safety nets have made sense over the years. Behind home plate, it seems reasonable to protect the fans from the scores of fouled-off pitches that will come their way during the course of any given game. And it was probably a good idea to likewise put up nets behind NHL goals. Even if one is paying attention, a little frozen black puck coming at one at warp speed might be difficult to discern and avoid.

Fans sitting behind home plate have long become accustomed to watching the game through a net. They have long known that will be the case when they buy their tickets. And they forfeit any chance of getting a souvenir ball to take home. Goes with the territory. Hockey fans, at least some of them, have become accustomed to watching the game through a screen as well.

But that doesn't necessarily make it right. If John/Jane Doe wants to pony up the big bucks to sit close to the action, knowing full well a risk/reward factor is in play -- then who are the "authorities" to tell them they will be denied such an experience?

Make no mistake. Once the 6-8 foot nets start going up in baseball parks behind the dugouts, in time they will get taller and extend further down the sidelines. Eventually, they will likely engulf the entire stadium. Every fan in attendance will be watching the game through a net. Doubt that? Granted, a splintered bat will never fly into the outfield stands, but some oblivious nitwit will get conked on the head by a home run ball, rushed off to hospital, and sue the team for their negligence in protecting him. You know, the usual. Pain, suffering, loss of potential income, depression, nightmares, mood swings, flashbacks -- the run-of-the-mill litigated horror story. Plus a few million bucks, of course.

And the nets will go up there too. No more souvenirs in the cheap seats -- all because some nitwit wasn't paying attention. Or was too drunk and tried to catch the ball in his mouth instead of hands. Throw in another million for the concession people serving him too much alcohol, which left him in a drooling idiot state of mind. It's THEIR fault. Could happen.

The fans don't need more nets around the stadium. They need more common sense and awareness, which could be facilitated by another new rule.

Ban all cell/smart phones from stadiums. Nobody had them years ago and we never heard any wimpy concerns about fan injuries. They were there to watch the game -- not text/sext, tweet, or check out other social networking sites every 10 seconds. Look around the stadiums today. Most fans are paying far more attention to their phones than they are the game itself.

If you want to go to the ballpark, leave the phone behind, and watch the damn game. Isn't that supposedly what you went there for in the first place? HELLO? And while you're there, at least try to pay attention, especially if you're in the up-close seats. Things might be coming at you. It's not only part of the experience, but also why you skipped a house/car payment so your average "family of four" could sit "ringside" for such a spectacle. When they get back in the family car, let the networking begin. But not at the ballpark. There's absolutely no reason for this, and is likely the cause of the occasional freak injury that happens.

Bottom line. Leave the grand old game alone. The true fans know how to act. They neither want nor need their sight lines and accessibility to souvenirs impaired because some people with more dollars than sense didn't have the brains to pay attention to what was going on right in front of them.

Idle closing rant: Why is it the NFL has nets behind their goalposts? A kicked football floating into the stands hardly poses a risk for injury -- save for the hard cores that might fight over it. Why not let the end zone fans, which are usually the most rabid, catch any and all such balls to take home as souvenirs?

The NFL is a $10 billion dollar a year mega-sports industry. Tell me they can't afford a few hundred footballs at maybe $100 apiece, and I'll tell you something is very wrong with this picture.