Friday, March 31, 2017

UConn goes down

And so it ends. It had to eventually. Geno Auriemma's UConn Lady Huskies were defeated by Mississippi State in the semi-finals of the NCAA tournament.

Good-bye 111 game winning streak. Adios to the hopes of adding a fifth national title in a row.

Though it took overtime and MS won on a last second buzzer beater, they earned the right to move on and meet South Carolina for the national title fair and square.

This is a far cry from the last time these two teams met. Just last year UConn had torched MS to the tune of 98-38. A whopping 60 point beatdown.

True, in the interim UConn had graduated their three best players who, BTW, were taken first, second, and third in the WNBA draft. Also true is UConn didn't come into this season as the heavy favorite to win yet another title. But that's the way it goes. Every school loses good players every year as they go on with their lives elsewhere, and the new recruits and underclassmen attempt to take their places.

To Auriemma, his assistant coaches, and the players' credit, they nonetheless marched through the season undefeated up to this point. 36-0 was hardly a record to be sneezed at. By the time they got to the Final Four, they were heavy favorites again. But twas not to be. Down they finally went.

While all due credit should be given to Miss St. for playing tenaciously throughout and prevailing in the end, the thought here is Geno and his Bambinos probably think they pretty much stunk it up, at least by their standards.

Too many missed free-throws. Blown defensive assignments. Offensive rebounds given up for easy put backs to MS. Turnovers galore. Open shots missed. The fact they were able to even get this game to overtime was no small feat, given how poorly they played.

One can certainly speculate that if these same two teams were playing a seven game series, ala NBA style, the Lady Huskies would likely roar back to sweep the next four.

But it doesn't work that way. This was Mississippi State's night to shine, they did, and it's the only game that mattered.

And hey, no sad tears for Geno and his Bambinos. They hadn't been defeated in almost three years. Plus the last four national titles in a row remains quite impressive. It just wasn't meant to be this year.

No doubt, Geno and UConn will reload and be back next year with another formidable team. They're not going away any year soon, by any stretch of the imagination.

Idle thought: Besides the obvious pain of the loss, a game UConn players no doubt think they should have won, know what the hardest thing for them might be in the near future?

Facing the alumni of the teams that won the last four titles in a row. What can the current players do other than hang their heads in shame for coming up short?

Right or wrong, the typical standard of excellence doesn't seem to apply to the UConn Lady Huskies anymore. Anything short of perfection is deemed a miserable failure. Tough job, but they knew that going in.

Yet they'll get over it.


Also interesting how both the men's and women's teams from South Carolina remain alive in the tournament. The women have already moved on to the final. If the men can get past Gonzaga in the semis, no small task, well, who knows? Hey, if the mighty Lady Huskies can go down, who's to say the also mighty Tar Heels of North Carolina can't be toppled? That's if THEY get by upset-minded Oregon in the semis.

The plot continues to thicken.

We'll all know how it works out in the next few days.

The best part of it all?

As soon as the college hoop mania is over, sports junkies like yours truly can turn right around and tune into the Master's golf tournament, due to start next Thursday.

Oh yeah, keep bringing it on.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The utter folly of NBA co-MVPs

Strike another blow for Wimpy Nation USA, sometimes loosely referred to as the "politically correct" movement. It has become quite apparent that in modern times one is no longer allowed to criticize anyone else, lest they be labeled all sorts of nasty things themselves. Actually it's quite ironic, not to mention more than a little hypocritical how that has worked out. We must not under any circumstances possibly hurt the precious feelings and sensitivities of another, regardless of how big an incompetent nincompoop they may be in their field. Heaven forbid.

Oh no. It's praise only these days. Everybody has to get a trophy, a medal, an award of some manner, or, when all else fails, at least a promotion and a hefty raise. Amazingly enough, the rules of physics have changed. Much like no longer is there an equal and opposing force to any original one, there are no such things as losers any more. Only winners. Unless one happens to be a hetero male caucasian, then the same new rules no longer apply. That beleaguered species still very much remains fair game to get ripped every which way.

And now we have those that would advocate the NBA MVP should be co-awarded. Both Russell Westbrook of the Okla City Thunder and James Hardin of the Houston Rockets are deserving candidates. Remember the limp-wristed mantra. Thou shalt not -- horrors!! -- disappoint either of these fine gentlemen by denying them such an honor.

All of which is total hogwash, of course. Not only does it run directly contrary to decades of precedent in the wide world of sports, it flies in the face of logic and common sense themselves. The phrase "most valuable", by very definition, is a superlative. Somebody has to be voted the best, and there can be only one.

One needn't look further than our recent Presidential election. The choices were Hill, Don, and other. You didn't have the option of selecting two or more. You got one vote, for one person. Period. Pretty simple. Maybe you didn't like the options. Fair enough. You could abstain and not vote for anybody. But one of them was going to be a winner and the rest losers. Period.

On that note, millions wound up being outraged because their candidates eventually lost. Hey, tough. That's the way it goes. So why should it be any different in MVP voting?

Like high-stakes political races, the MVP voters have to decide which rich person will get an award. Along the campaign trails, hordes of pundits, pollsters, and partisans will jump into the fray with their two-cents worth trying to sway opinions, but in the end it all comes down to the voters.

Somebody has to win -- and somebody has to lose. Or at least should.

So spare me the ludicrous premise that both Westbrook and Hardin should be co-MVPs, because if either of them is, gasp, allowed to lose, they would be crushed. Poor things. I'm pretty sure such already uber-rich guys would get along just fine without another big trophy and pile of money that accompanied it.

Pick one, only one, tally up the votes, and live with it, dammit. What's the big deal?

Besides, in the opinion of yours truly, Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonion Spurs is a more deserving candidate than either of these guys.

He can actually play some serious defense as well.

Which is pretty much the position old-schoolers like myself sometimes find themselves in when we continue to mock the wimpy legions of politically correct nation.

And I believe that's where I came in......

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The sorry state of Detroit sports

To much misguided fanfare, Detroit will debut a sparkling new arena next season to host both the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Pistons. Given both had perfectly functional venues to play in before, which were completely paid for, cha-chinging the tax payers of the Detroit area for even more money everybody knows they don't have (see recent bankruptcy) to pay for Little Caesar's Arena would seem to be the height of billionaire (see owners) hubris.

And what will they have to offer? Two cellar-dwelling teams in their respective sports. The Pistons are a highly overpaid mess that have little if any hope of improving any year soon. The Red Wings had been living on borrowed time for quite a while, but finally bit the inevitable bullet and went into full-blown rebuild mode. Goodbye to most of their semi-decent players. Hello to future draft picks they hope and pray will work out. No matter how one slices or dices it, NBA and and NHL action for Detroit teams is going to be pretty ugly for the next few years. But dammit, they'll have luxury boxes galore and a super-fancy big screen for whoever wants to forego a house payment to go see a game featuring their bottom feeders. Good luck to the marketing people trying to sell THAT bill of goods.

The Detroit Tigers are projected by most knowledgeable baseball people to finish next season slightly over .500. They have a lot of "unknowns", which loosely translates into "if everything goes perfect", they just might be pretty good. But it never works out that way. Few would question the Cleveland Indians remain the class of the American League central division, by a long shot (see vastly superior talent), and the same gurus have the Tigers finishing anywhere from 10 to 15 games behind the Tribe -- and missing the playoffs. Again. Too many other better teams like the Yanks, Bosox, Rangers, Blue Jays, Astros, and maybe Mariners in the way to a post-season berth. Likely not going to happen for the Motown puddy-tats, despite their hopelessly inflated player payroll.

The Detroit Lions remain -- well -- the Detroit Lions. A recent President of the USA once coined the phrase -- "the audacity of hope". Whether or not he succeeded remains highly debated to this day. But nothing has been more audacious, or perhaps bodacious, than the other Detroit club of puddy-tats selling the same "rope-a-dope-hope" to the suckers for so many years, decades even. And still they open up their wallets and make their pilgrimage to the holy house of futility. Unbelievable.

It was laughable to read a Detroit area football writer saying the Lions had "upgraded" their offensive line by signing a couple free agents. What yon scribe neglected to mention was that the two "newbies" were replacing two other guys that wisely went elsewhere and, BTW, signed for more money. So if contract value is any indication of talent, the Lions actually took another step backwards. Only in Detroit could this be interpreted as a positive.

Finally, mercifully, they cut linebacker Deandre Levy. For years he had been touted as such a great player. But for those same years, he couldn't stay healthy. What's the sense of paying a guy big bucks if he can't even play? Other than that, and Levy's talent was questionable to begin with, the Lions likely don't have a linebacker on their entire roster that any other NFL team would be interested in.

They have one decent cornerback in Darius Slay, but other than that the secondary's pretty much a Keystone Kop outfit.

Running back? WHAT running back?

Tight ends that have Roberto Duran-ish hands of stone.

Since the departure of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, the "stomper" and a guy with "issues", they haven't had much of a defensive line presence.

Calvin "Megatron" Johnson had finally seen enough, like Barry Sanders a couple decades ago. They had enough money for several lifetimes, so what was the point in continuing to get beat up and risk serious injury on a team that had zero, repeat ZERO chance of ever getting to a Super Bowl, much less winning it? They walked, and justifiably so. Who can blame them? One's already in the Hall of Fame, and the other's a definite maybe in a few years.

Speaking of their receiver corps, well, um, good question. Golden Tate likes to celebrate and talk smack, but this is the same guy that left a Super Bowl winning team in the beautiful city of Seattle to come to the dregs of Detroit and play for the historically sad-sack Lions. Not smart. The Lions have signed a couple aging cast-off free agents from elsewhere, but certainly no game-changers. Journeymen at best.

No doubt the Lions will try to sign quarterback Matthew Stafford to a long-term extension. With apologies to Ty Cobb, the younger Georgia Peach can sure rack up the passing yards. Thing is, if a team can't run the football -- the Lions have been atrocious in recent years -- they have to pass. There's not a whole lot of other options. So Matthew continues to heave away and rack up some stats.

But they mean nothing in the whole scheme of things if the team is so woefully lacking every place else. This has been more than evident in recent years. The Lions have a glass ceiling they can't seem to break through. Maybe barely sneak into the playoffs as a wild card, only to get blown out in the first game. In the entire 50+ years since Super Bowls started, the Lions have won a grand total of one -- count it -- ONE playoff game. To their credit, and my good fortune (I happened to be in attendance at that game), they trounced the Dallas Cowboys to the tune of 38-6. Their finest moment. Never in my life, and I've sat front and center at many a rock concert, have I experienced a more deafening roar than on that day. It was truly incredible. Alas, the very next week, those same proud strutting Lions would travel to Washington DC and get trashed by the Redskins 41-10. A thirty one point beatdown. Back to earth they thudded, and haven't recovered since. That's been over a quarter century ago.

If Stafford has any brains, or at least aspires to ever winning a championship, he'll look elsewhere when his current contract expires, rather than signing on to a long-term deal with the Lions that would doom any such chances he has in the next few years while he can still be a productive player. Though he's made a lot of money, he will have given up a decade in his career, a long time by NFL standards, to utter futility while with the Lions. The choices are simple enough. Want to make an even huger pile of money and be the big fish in a polluted pond? Stay in Detroit. Want to have a shot at a ring? Gotta go somewhere else, even if it means a little less dough. Given the current landscape around the NFL, he certainly wouldn't lack for suitors. But if he gets a few years older and/or suffers a serious injury along the way -- ya never know -- that possibility will vanish into the ether as well.

Regardless, the Lions, despite the legions of kool-aiders they have addicted to their brand over the years (and more than a few "find a silver lining in the mushroom clouds of nuclear war" members of their local media conspiring to peddle the same snake oil), are not and will not soon be anywhere near Super Bowl contenders.

It... just.... ain't.... going.... to... happen. Their upside is mediocre.

To sum up, professional sports in Detroit isn't looking exactly rosy these days.

In fact, it pretty well sucks across the board.

And likely will remain that way for the next few years.

Which, if any, of these teams, can any objective person foresee actually being a contender any time soon?

Truly a sorry state of affairs indeed......

Monday, March 27, 2017

Las Vegas Raiders. Rights and wrongs

There's a few things right about the Oakland Raiders moving to Vegas, but far more wrong.

This is right, if you happen to be the NFL or another owner of a franchise. No doubt, the money will flow like Niagara Falls, as if an industry that reaps profits of over $10 billion a year actually needs more cash. They pretty much print their own money already. Not surprisingly, the billionaire owners voted by a 31-1 margin in favor. The super-rich can never get enough.

But it's wrong to the faithful Raider fans. Few would question that among fan bases, across all of sports, none have been more loyal and rabid than "Raider Nation". They certainly didn't do anything to deserve such a betrayal.

Yet there's also little doubt that the city of Oakland, like so many other once thriving metropolises across America, has fallen into a state of serious disrepair in recent years. They have far more crime, corruption, blight, and poverty going on than they do assets to offer.

Mark Davis, son and heir of the late Al, the "founder" of the Raiders, was sympathetic to their plight and tried to work out a deal for a badly needed new stadium. The old coliseum isn't in much better shape than its ancient namesake in Rome. The right thing to do.

But the "powers that be" in Oakland, mistakenly thinking they had "leverage", had the utter audacity to TRIPLE the Raiders's rent. It was a slap in the face to a new owner, no fool himself. Also somewhat reminiscent of the city of Pontiac, Mi. once home of the Silverdome, which had long housed the Detroit Lions, trying to jack up the Ford family for a bigger slice of the pie. They wouldn't DARE move the team, went their thinking. Wrong on both counts. The Fords built a brand new stadium in Detroit proper, moved the team, and the Silverdome sits in ruins, deteriorating further by the day. So too did young Davis call their bluff and look what just happened. Raiders gone in a couple years, as soon as Vegas can build a stadium.

That shouldn't be much of a problem for the glitzy folks. They've got billions of dollars flowing in monthly from the hordes of tourists that continue to pour into Sin City. To boot, Las Vegas itself is surrounded by desert. The team need not go far out of town to find a decent site to build such a new bauble, with little if any of the dreaded "eminent domain" being invoked to oust people that already live there.

At that, the Vegas folks have promised Davis Jr. a cool $750 million in public funds to help with the stadium. Stop right there. That is HORRIBLY wrong.

While the casino owners and operators may well be reaping the ridiculous monetary rewards of said tourist industry, the residents of Vegas themselves aren't exactly affluent. Why should $750 million come out of THEIR pockets, when it would be chump-change to the casino tycoons?

At that, though the greedy idiots in Oakland's local government obviously overplayed their hands, why shouldn't Davis, a billionaire himself, pay for his own new showcase? It's not like he couldn't afford it.

Though it's long been painfully obvious the federal government is dysfunctional to the point of not being able to get out of their own way, much less pass helpful legislation, here's an idea they might consider ---

Be it resolved, when it comes to building a new stadium or arena for a sports team, that will be privately owned, not one single tax dollar from an American citizen shall heretofore ever be appropriated in any way, shape, manner, of form, be it millages, thinly veiled tax hikes on services, or any other rip off of John/Jane Doe that may adversely affect the struggling budgets most of them still find themselves on. The eventual beneficiaries of such a creation will either pay for it out of their own pockets, or get their rich friends to help out.

And what could be wrong with that? An owner might be a little short of being able to put up the cash necessary? Well -- so what? They could go to a bank and get a loan or mortgage like everybody else does when they want to build a new house. Why should the public be held hostage and extorted for it? How in the hell did the concept of the ultra-rich making the struggling masses pay for their new palaces ever get started in the first place? But it continues to happen all the time.

That's as wrong as those $600 manually operated fastener impellers (hammers) and $800 pivoting sanitary insulating devices (toilet seats) those lovable folks at the Pentagon foist on the public. And you wonder why the country is wallowing in such a massive deficit? Somebody's getting mighty rich somewhere, and it's certainly not John Q. Taxpayer. Hello? Wrong, wrong, and more wrong.

Maybe another law ought to involve the "eminent domain" concept itself. This was once a practical, if painful idea when something that would benefit the public outweighed the needs of the few. If an interstate needed to be built, some folks were going to have their property confiscated to make room for it. But when that happened, they shouldn't have just been given "fair market value" for their houses, many of which had been lived in for generations, but TRIPLE value to ease the pain of being uprooted.

On that note, it has always been pure folly to suggest a stadium or arena benefited the needs of the public, so hundreds or thousands would have to see their homes bull-dozed. The only folks it benefited were the owners of the team and the new building itself. To add even MORE salt in the wound, they would tax those very same people they made homeless to build it in the first place. And then expect them to come back and patronize their product at the ridiculous prices they would charge. Can it possibly get any MORE wrong than that?

Welcome to the American way in the wide world of sports, such as it is.

It really is shameful, and always has been.

Thing is, the politicians and billionaires have done so many outrageous things to the public over the years (see the proverbial raping, looting and pillaging) that people have become numb to most anything else they can come up with. When you get hit in the head enough, it just stops hurting after a while. But it doesn't make it right.

Some say Raiders' fans will remain loyal to their team. Maybe some will. But if I was one of them, first thing I'd do is organize a movement to vote the idiots in local government out of office that tripled the beloved Raiders rent in their ignoramus power play that spectacularly backfired.

Then I'd totally ignore the team when it moved to Vegas. Billionaire owner wasn't willing to pony up? Neither will I. Not another penny will they get from me.

How that will play out remains to be seen. After all, it'll take a couple years to build the new digs in Glitzville. And it's truly too bad. After many years of being down and out, the Raiders appear to have finally turned the corner again and could be a Super Bowl contender some year soon.

Pity Raider Nation in Oakland likely won't be able to enjoy it.

And no matter how you slice it or dice it, that's just about as wrong as it gets.....

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sports bites

Holy cow, can that be right? The LA Clippers blew an 18 point lead with 5 minutes left in the game -- against the lowly Sacramento Kings? The very same Kings that traded away the only good player they had (Boogie Cousins) a while back?

Perhaps the likes of Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan should quit with the stupid insurance commercials and get back to concentrating on playing some serious hoops. And Steve Ballmer forked over a whopping two BILLION to former owner Donald Sterling -- for THIS mess? Methinks I know who got the better of that deal. Somewhere Mr. Sterling chuckles. And BTW, whatever happened to his main arm-candy squeeze V. Stiviano? Is she still out there lurking somewhere?

In ladies' college hoops, down goes Notre Dame. Little Miss Muffet McGraw likely pouts on her tuffet. Alas and blarney, there will be no Lucky Charms for the leprechaun folks this year either. Yet it is interesting that Stanford, which knocked them off, continues to advance to a possible game with mighty UConn. After all, the Cardinal were the last team to beat Geno's bambinos (which was almost an incredible three years ago) before they began the ridiculous winning streak they're currently on. Could it happen again? Maybe. The Lady Huskies have to lose eventually -- don't they?

See Kim Mulkey, head coach of Baylor, rant, rave, and stomp her feet on the sidelines. See her team finally lose its composure and go down to Mississippi St. in overtime. Out go the Waco girls. Well gee, couldn't it be expected a team will follow the example their head coach sets? If their leader is acting like a screaming whack-job on the sidelines, how can the players be expected to keep their composure on the court? Though it's long been relegated to the obsolete file, the age-old axiom of "monkey see, monkey do" still appears relevant at times.

Conversely, you've never seen the above-mentioned Geno Auriemma go ballistic. If he's not already the greatest coach in women's college hoops history, there is little doubt he soon will be. The most upset the diminutive Italian Stallion ever becomes, at least publicly, is to have a quiet word with an official or one of his players. Perhaps a frown or disdainful look. But never a rant. Seems to be working. So what's with all the theatrics by the others? What, pray tell, is the point of all of it, other than to make themselves look like spoiled bratty kids having a temper tantrum?

On that note, one is also left to wonder why, tell me WHY, so many female coaches get so gussied up for a basketball game? You've seen them. Every hair perfectly in place, likely fresh from a beauty salon somewhere. Add in maybe 3-4 pounds of goop, sometimes as known as make-up. Six inch heels appear to be on their gotta-have agenda. Though we can't sense it on our flat screens, even with the ultimate in hi-def, it's a pretty good bet they've been dipped neck to toe in a barrel of foo-foo, sometimes known as fancy perfume. See Geno in a modest suit. Cologne, if any, unknown, but if he's wearing it, Essence of Ravioli No. 5 probably wouldn't be a bad guess.

But his hands aren't clean either. See his staff of female assistants. See them trussed up tighter than Egyptian mummies, with the same goop, hairdos, and heels. It's almost a minor miracle they can even walk with those ultra-tight form-fitting skirts. Of course, each step can only span maybe a couple inches, given those restraints, but dammit, they're looking good for TV -- right? And, OMG, who knows how much foo-foo they've hosed themselves down with?

Girls, girls. Get a grip. Yes, we know you want to be looking good when the eyes of the hoops nation are on you for your 15 seconds. But let's not get carried away here, OK? It's still a basketball game, and you're still some manner of coaches. This is not a fashion show with a runway, and the Playboy people likely won't be calling you anytime soon to set up a major photo shoot. In the cases of many of you, should your "wares" be splashed on a centerfold, Hef's mag might quickly follow the likes of Enron, Hillary, Hudsons, Oldsmobile, and Burger Chef into the not-so-good never-never land of crashing and burning. And just imagine the nightmares you might give adolescent boys who dared to sneak a peek. Horrors!!!

Uh oh. Those pesky Boston Celtics have caught up to the defending champ Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA's eastern conference. The beaners probably won't win it this year, but make no mistake. They bit the bullet, blew up the team, and got rid of all the albatross contracts for aging players. And they predictably stunk for a while. But along the way, general manager Danny Ainge was stock-piling draft picks and has used them wisely with more still to come. The Celtics will be back in a big way, shortly, and perhaps for quite a while.

Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder just racked up another triple-double. And his team still lost to the Houston Rockets. Yawn. RW may well be a worthy MVP candidate this year, but that team is going nowhere fast when the playoffs start. One trick ponies just won't get it done in the post-season.

And Charles Barkley appears to be on a mission to see how fat he can become. Have you checked out the girth on that rascal lately? Forget advertising a credit card. The Goodyear people ought to be calling him to put his likeness on one of their blimps -- if they can squeeze it in. Let's just say that between Sir Chuck and our current Prez, things are proceeding along at quite the "bigly" rate, if a bit scary on both counts.

Ah yes, as the man once said -- is America a great country or what?

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The sorry case of Colin Kaepernick

Once upon a time not long ago, Colin Kaepernick was quite the stud in the NFL. A big, strong, mobile quarterback for the San Fran 49ers that could throw with the best of them. And then he crashed.

CK not only lost his starting job, but the Niners themselves became absolutely terrible after the departure of head coach Jim Harbaugh.

Of course, he made big news for refusing to stand for the national anthem. Patriotic flag-wavers were outraged. How DARE he? Yet he had every right to do so. Hey, it's America, and no problem. Do what ya gotta do when it comes to protesting this or that, and more power to you. To each their own and God bless. Seemed fair enough.

Yet the "fall-out" from such a stance certainly wasn't helpful to his career aspirations. Currently, dear Colin finds himself without a job. Most knowledgeable football people think the sudden erosion of whatever skills he once had qualifies him to be a back-up QB on another team at best. Yes, even the Browns or Jets.

And some have raised an interesting point. Why would an owner, and/or general manager of an NFL franchise shell out big money to a guy that's projected to be a back-up, while running the risk of alienating a large portion of their fan base over the whole flag/anthem thing? Sure, there are those that will always attempt to play the race card, but they miss the obvious. This dude has become a bit radioactive and most billionaires (owners), clueless as they may be otherwise, don't exactly live on the wild and crazy side of life. Taking on Kaepernick would create a media storm, and not necessarily of a good public relations variety.

So for now, CK remains in limbo.

Never fear, he has struck again. According to Sports Illustrated, Kaepernick has joined a movement to provide over 60 tons (that's 1,200,000 pounds) of food to needy people in Somalia. That's a whole lot of vittles. On the surface, perhaps a noble gesture.

But it could certainly be argued he's shot himself in the foot, again. The United States has millions of homeless people. In northern climes, some freeze to death in the winter. Others try to find shelter wherever they can, be it doorways, alleys, or even dumpsters. Being arrested and going to jail is actually a good thing for some such folks. At least they'll get three meals a day and have a place to sleep. Further, nobody could seriously argue that "food kitchens" and other charitable facilities can keep up with the ever-growing demand of downtrodden Americans in desperate need. Starvation is alive and not so well in the good old USA.

Yet Kaepernick apparently wants to round up all this food and ship it over to Africa somewhere, while apparently ignoring his American countrymen -- and women -- that remain in desperate need themselves. Hungry is hungry, but wouldn't you think the "land of opportunity" that once provided Kaepernick the vehicle to make millions of dollars for playing a game should come first?

[Memo to Colin Kaepernick. That kneel-down thing is just starting to blow over, but you're still not exactly in high demand these days for other reasons. And this latest Somalia gambit isn't doing yourself any favors in the eyes of NFL fans, which are mostly a very patriotic sort. You might want to reconsider before you start shipping all that grub out of the country. Just a thought.]

Or could it be he's..... just..... that.... dumb?

Last time I looked it typically took a little bit of brains to function well as an NFL quarterback. Coaches and general managers seem big on that concept for some reason. Go figure.

And now we have Colin and his latest strategic ploy.


But just when one thinks it can't possibly get any dumber, along comes the South African soccer player who, after scoring two goals in a game, publicly gave thanks to both his wife --- and girlfriend.

Good luck with THAT buddy.......

Little Caesar's Arena

Some, but certainly far from all, fans in the Detroit area are thrilled that a sparkling new arena will open for business next season. Little Caesar's will have both the Detroit Red Wings and the Detroit Pistons as tenants. Let the good times roll. Or maybe not. Actually, definitely not.

First of all, there was no need for this ridiculously expensive boondoggle whatsoever. It cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build, much of which -- surprise!! -- will be foisted off on the taxpayers.

Second, both the Wings and the Pistons had perfectly good arenas beforehand. The NHLers had long lived in Joe Louis, though why they named a Detroit hockey arena after a boxer from Alabama that wound up punch drunk and broke would seem to always be a mystery. Only in Detroit.

At that, the Pistons left a world-class facility called the Palace in Auburn Hills to sign on as co-tenants deep in the heart of Motown. Their previous owner, one Bill Davidson, had built the Palace out of money from his own pocket, and located it in the suburbs so as not to displace many folks through the dreaded "eminent domain". No taxpayers dollars involved whatsoever.

Enter new owner Tom Gores. He invests somewhere between 10 and 15 million bucks in the Palace to spruce it up a tad. Never a bad idea. Then he turns right around and moves his team out of it to downtown Detroit, an area surrounded by crime and blight not far away on all sides? Where he has to pay rent to boot? Say what? How stupid is that?

And what do basketball and hockey fans in Detroit get in return? Well, let's put it this way ----

The Pistons and Wings better hire some truly brilliant marketing people, and very soon. Because the teams that will be going to Little Caesar's are terrible.

The Red Wings have been long overdue for a rebuild. They'd been living on borrowed time for years. Finally, they caved to the obvious. Sell or trade off most of whatever good players they had, try to stock up on draft picks, and hope for the best somewhere down the road. Translation? They're already bottom feeders in the eastern conference of the NHL, and their near future appears bleak, at best. This once and long proud franchise is going to get kicked around for a while. It will get worse before it gets better. But dark times loom. Hey, free agents have taken less money than the Wings offered to play elsewhere. What's that tell you?

The Pistons are in somewhat of a similar situation. True, they continue to lurk at the bottom end of the playoff picture in the eastern conference in the NBA, but it's more mirage than substance. The east is far inferior to the west. Even if they make the playoffs, they'll get blown out in the first round, and the only thing they will have accomplished is taking themselves out of the running for a lottery pick next year. They have way too many heavy-duty contracts committed to players that many other teams wouldn't even consider worthy of a roster spot. Throw in a head coach, one Stan Van Gundy, who is also the president, with not just one, but two general managers in between, and good luck sorting out that hierarchy of hilarity. Perhaps it's fitting they go to Detroit. Only in Detroit would this be considered business as usual. Calling Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine, Dr. Howard.

So a city just barely emerged from bankruptcy, with crime still running rampant, now has a brand new bauble, replete with luxury boxes, and state of the art features every which way.

No doubt, the ticket prices will be even steeper than they were before at the former arenas. Somebody has to pay for this -- remember? And it won't be the billionaires that just HAD to have this in the first place. Not a chance. That's not the American way.

Sure, they'll still feature the watered-down beer, food you normally wouldn't feed your worst neighbor's hated dog, and a never-ending variety of "gimme mo money" come-ons. And if you're an average citizen that wants to take the family to a game, it's probably going to set you back at least a house payment. But dammit, it's brand new so "come on down" and enjoy.

Nevermind they have nothing to feature but the dregs of two major sports leagues. Ignore that. And you won't be far from the homes of the Detroit Tigers and Lions. The Tigers haven't won a World Series since 1984. They're projected to miss the playoffs again this year, and what few quality players they have that can remain semi-healthy are getting up in years.

The Lions are -- well -- what they've always been. Forget about the Super Bowl. They have one, flip up the middle finger on either hand -- ONE -- playoff victory since the Eisenhower administration, fittingly enough about the same time the ill-fated Edsel was making it's debut. Both offered to the public by the Ford family.

Yet the Honolulu blue and silver koolaiders keep coming back for more punishment, and paying more every year to boot. Did I mention only in Detroit?

At that, what's truly perplexing is the local media is totally on board with this whole new arena thing. That would seem to pose an interesting dilemma.....

Do they really remain gullible enough to be sold on this, LOL, concept? Or are they merely continuing to peddle the snake oil to the P.T. Barnum (there's one born every minute) sappy sports fans in and around Detroit?

If the former, they likely belong there as well.

If the latter, they missed their calling.

They should consider running for Congress.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Big 10 bows out

Actually, the name itself has long been a misnomer. The Big 10 hasn't been 10 for quite some time. They expanded to 12, and are now 14. Yet they persist in that pesky thing called tradition. A great conference from top to bottom? Probably fair enough. But not schools you want to go or send your kids to if one aspires to major in any field that requires simple addition, much less complex math. Not being able to tell the difference between 10, 12, and 14 is a bit troubling.

Nonetheless, they sent fully half (seven) of their teams to the men's NCAA hoops tourney. Very impressive. Not long ago, yours truly predicted there was a good chance that none would survive the first four days of play and make it through to the Sweet Sixteen. I was wrong. Of COURSE I was wrong. I'm ALWAYS wrong when it comes to such predictions. You don't want me rooting for your team.

But I was close. None of them made it to the Elite Eight. Down the rest of them went. Michigan had a great chance to knock off Oregon, but they choked it away in the waning seconds of the game. See ya Blue.

Purdue and the much-hyped Caleb Swanson got pummeled by Kansas. Try 32 points worth. Mr. Swanson got nuked like his namesake TV dinners.

Others had meekly bowed out earlier. No surprise there.

Finally only Wisconsin remained. Though they put up a valiant fight, the Badgers finally succumbed to the Florida Gators in overtime.

And now there are none. See ya, Big 10, 14, whatever. Not even a single representative in the Elite Eight, let alone the Final Four? For shame.

Yet some interesting match-ups definitely remain to be played. Perennial heavyweights Kentucky and North Carolina will duke it out next.

Small schools Gonzaga and Xavier square off. How can anybody root against either one of these guys? But one of them has to go tomorrow.

Mighty Kansas will take on the Oregon Ducks, in Kansas City. Doesn't seem fair. But the Ducks have surprised a lot of people along the way. Don't count them out just yet.

And Florida and South Carolina, of all teams, will lock horns for a berth in the Final Four. A #4 and #7 seed made it this far? Really?

This tournament has definitely featured its fair of surprises along the way.

In the Final Four, one half would appear to be much more formidable than the other. Oregon aside, and they're a #3 seed, not bad, one side includes UNC, Kentucky, and Kansas. Murderer's row. All but one has to fall before the championship game.

On the flip side are Gonzaga, Xavier, Florida, and South Carolina. Whoever emerges to the final game would certainly seem to have had a much less difficult road to get there.

But ya never know. Conventional wisdom, and the prognosticators at Sports Illustrated, who are, BTW, even worse than yours truly at their fearless, if foolish, futile, and follyish predictions, long ago picked the Tar Heels to win it all.

And they just might. From top to bottom, they're certainly a "complete" team, with a coach that has been there done that. Yet so are the Kentucky Wildcats, but one of them is going down in the next game.

Idle thought: Recently, KU coach John Calipari was referred to as the "best politician" in Kentucky. No doubt, he has a line of s**t a mile long, definitely a prerequisite. But dang, isn't that McConnell guy -- you know -- the top banana in the US Senate, from the bluegrass state as well? And a college basketball coach can't out-bull a heavyweight BSer like that? Wow. Scary. Maybe JC's in the wrong business. Or then again, who needs another one of those slick talking shyster types making the rules we oppressed masses have to live by? Even more scary.

But on with the show and let the best team win, or better yet, one of the little guys. How great would that be?

Meanwhile, I'm going back to watching Geno's Bambinos at UConn continue their march towards whatever marks they haven't already set. Truly an amazing program. It would be difficult to argue Auriemma and the Lady Huskies haven't become the greatest dynasty the sports world has ever known. But because they're girls, they don't get as much attention.

That's just wrong.

Where, pray tell, are all the legions of "politically correct" fanatics screaming in outrage when you really need them?

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Xavier/Gonzaga. Tough call

See tiny little Xavier from Cincinnati continue to march on in the NCAA tournament. Quite amazing for a #11 seed. See them dispatch #6 Maryland of the Big 10 in the opening round by 11 points. See the mighty Musketeers trash #3 Florida State by 25. Now they just got by #2 Arizona by a deuce. Welcome to the Elite Eight. Wait a second.... Cincinnati? Didn't they give us that Larry Springer guy's trailer trash show too? Ah well, no matter.

At any rate, they now get a date with #1 Gonzaga for a place in the Final Four. After an opening round game against a #16 patsy that doesn't even warrant mentioning, see the Zags struggle to get past a game, but mediocre Northwestern squad. And they barely nosed out #4 West Virginia to get to the Elite Eight themselves. Yet one has to give credit to the Zags, a tiny school from the great northwest as well. They've established quite a reputation as being pretty good at men's hoops over the years, though they've never quite gotten over the hump at crunch time with the big boys.

Throw either of these teams in with the likes of perennial powerhouses like Kansas and North Carolina, and they wouldn't appear to have a chance. Or would they?

Hey, Gonzaga only lost one game all year. And Xavier is obviously heating up at the perfect time, beating down one so-called "superior" opponent after another. Both are capable of great things if they play up to their capabilities.

But the question for now is -- who to root for in a Gonzaga/Xavier match-up that will happen on Saturday? A tough call indeed.

Yet when in doubt, always go with the underdog -- right? Gonzaga is a #1 seed. Xavier a meager #11. Who but the Zags wouldn't love to see an 11 seed crash their way into the Final Four?

Better yet, who wouldn't love to see them win it all? But that's getting ahead of ourselves.

One thing yours truly has learned, and certainly fessed up to in this forum a few times is -- if I pick them -- they're going down. It's just a jinx I inherited from my late father. He had the kiss of death himself when it came to such matters.

So I'm going to officially abstain on this one.

Though I will say, go little guys. At least one of you is going to the Final Four, so I can't possibly doom you both and that's a good thing. We'll worry about the likes of the Jawhawks and Tarheels next week. And BTW, no, I won't dare root for equally tiny Butler from Indy to upset those brutes from Chapel Hill, though I want to so bad. Shhh.

Congrats on your showings to date and on with the show.......

Michigan loses, but shouldn't have

It was the proverbial Cinderella story waiting to be told. Alas, the Michigan Wolverines have been eliminated from the NCAA tournament, and it's because they shot themselves in the foot when it mattered most. I'll get back to that.

First of all, few thought UM would ever get this far to begin with. Not long ago, they were a "bubble" team. Maybe they get invited to the dance -- and maybe not. But then they stormed through the Big 10 conference tournament to win it and crash the big gala. They had earned it fair and square, though somewhat improbably.

In the opener they faced a pretty good Okla St. squad, certainly no patsies. Michigan shot the lights out -- and barely escaped with a 1 point victory. An omen? Maybe.

Next up was #2 seed Louisville. That pesky Rick Pitino and his always dangerous Redbirds. Again, Michigan came through. Two more major hurdles overcome and on to the Sweet Sixteen. Things were looking up indeed. Could destiny be on their side?

In Kansas City, facing a #3 seeded Oregon Duck team, no slouches themselves, the Wolverines were actually a very slight favorite to win the game, according to the oddsmakers.

And they had the Ducks right where they wanted them. The Blue held a 3 point lead with a little over a minute to go. True, a lot of things can happen in the last seconds of games, what with time-outs, fouls and free-throws. But being up 3 was a pretty good situation.

A Duck stepped to the free-throw line for the first of a one-and one. He missed it. Stop right there.

At that point in time, the two Michigan defenders closest to the basket during a free-throw situation had one primary duty. In case of a miss, block out and do NOT under any circumstances allow an opponent to come down the lane and grab an offensive rebound.

Yet that's exactly what they did. See a yellow flash streak through the paint, untouched, grab the miss, and lay it back in for 2 points.

A few seconds later, Michigan would cough up another turnover which led to another easy Oregon basket. That three point advantage had quickly turned into a one point deficit. They had shot themselves in the foot at the most critical time. Twice.

And that's how the game eventually ended. Oregon won by a single point.

The story that will never get told is how Michigan would then likely go up against mighty #1 seed Kansas, in their own back yard of Kansas City, with a spot in the Final Four at stake. Could UM have won that game under those circumstances? Probably not, but who knows? Maybe they could have pulled it off. Or maybe they would have gotten blown out. Neither was beyond the realm of possibility. After all, UM wasn't supposed to get this far in the first place -- right? But they did.

So now the Wolverines head back home to Ann Arbor and lament what might have been. Sure, they had a successful season by most standards, even far exceeding most expectations.

Yet you just know when they watch the film of the latter stages of the Oregon game, particularly the two flubs that wound up costing them, it's going to sting. They knew they had it, and they also know they let it get away. Ouch. The two defenders that allowed the Duck to crash the boards unimpeded on the critical missed free-throw will likely lower their heads in shame. Double ouch. They know they messed up -- big time.

Nothing to be done about it now. Over is over, Oregon moves on, and Michigan doesn't.

But yours truly likely isn't the only one that bemoans the lost opportunity of getting to see the "upstart" and "rejuvenated" Michigan "Cinderellas" take on the Jayhawks with so much at stake.

How sweet would another Final Four berth have been for a program that has suffered through hard times and finally fought its way back to respectability? And then, who knows again? If they could beat the likes of 1,2, and 3 seeds along the way, could an outright championship have -- gasp -- been within their capability? Sure. Why not? Stranger things have happened.

It's going to be a long flight for the Maize and Blue, and an even longer day in the film room when they get there. That is a recording they most definitely don't want to watch, break down, and analyze.

They already know EXACTLY how they blew it.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Cam Newton scam

Alas, poor Cam. He has a torn rotator cuff that requires surgery to properly fix. He'll go under the knife shortly. But there's something that nobody seems to want to mention about this story as it has played out.

The injury itself happened way back in Week 14 of last season. That would put it smack dab in the middle of December. A full three months ago.

With their MRIs and other diagnostic techniques, no doubt the medical people knew what was going on within a day or two of the original injury. So did Cam, and his team, the Carolina Panthers.

At the time, the Panthers were hopelessly out of the playoff race, and after an MVPish season the year before, Cam had tanked something awful in the 2016 campaign. Basically, he and they stunk.

Yet for whatever reason, they left him out there to play the remaining games of the season, though it couldn't possibly make any difference, and he stunk it up even worse. Earning his millions by playing through an injury that made him even more ineffective? An interesting premise, but isn't this why teams have back-up quarterbacks?

Never fear, it is said dear Cam will be --praise the Lord -- healed by the time training camp starts this summer. Good to go. Glory hallelujah and pass the offering plate.

However, as mentioned above, there's one major glitch in this whole scenario. The wily Mr. Newton won't be available for those pesky OTAs (Organized Team Activities) in the spring, which will be coming around shortly. Imagine that.

Most veteran players hate OTAs. It's just a bunch of drills and grunt work they feel is totally unnecessary. A good thing for rookies and breathless beat reporters desperate for a story line, but definitely a drag for those that have been there, done that.

It would be like having military folks that have seen live combat having to go back to boot camp every year for a refresher course. Left, right, left, right, atten hut, at ease. How well do you think that would go over with GI Joes and Janes that know what it feels like to come under enemy fire? Probably not very well.

And let's face it. A torn rotator cuff isn't something that's ever going to completely heal itself on its own. Sure, the human body will do the best it can, but it will never be right again anymore than a shredded ACL can self-fix. You can live with it, if you don't mind walking around with a limp for the rest of your life.

But Cam put off the surgery he knew to be necessary for three whole months. The only explanation would seem to be obvious. He gets to skip the dreaded OTAs and be healthy just about the time camp starts leading into the pre-season and regular schedule.

Had he gone under the knife immediately after the original diagnosis back in December, he likely would have been mostly healed by now, and had no excuse to remain AWOL from the OTAs.

A pretty slick gambit, if thinly veiled. And nobody wants to mention it. Of course, Cam Newton is an African-American starting quarterback in the National Football League. Dare to criticize him at one's own peril, lest the politically correct legions besiege one with their outcries. Good luck with that.

But on the surface, this appears to be no more than a properly timed scam to get out of the same work most of his teammates will be forced to suffer through.

And it just doesn't look or smell right to a totally objective football fan.....

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Resting Lebron James. Fair or foul?

Much has been made of late concerning certain NBA teams "resting" their stars for a game here and there. At the forefront, of course, are poster children Lebron James and Co. of the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers.

James is on record as saying it sucks, but sometimes certain guys need rest due to the long grueling season. Seems fair enough. Notice he's never come out and said this is typically a coach's choice, not necessarily the players'. That would be throwing his own head coach Tyronne (Shoelaces) Lue under the bus, as it were. So credit to LJ for avoiding that little possible snafu.

And James is correct when he asserts a head coach's job is to find a way to lead his team to a championship, far more than it is to win a single game. Contenders get to say such things. Bottom feeders don't enjoy the same luxury, for obvious reasons, not the least of which is a bunch of multi-millionaires running around playing an inferior version of roundball while getting beat like a drum game in and game out. But that's an argument for another day.

Yet resting players, particularly stars like Lebron, doesn't sit well with many. One of those is Mr. Kosher Peanuthead, aka NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. Dear Adam feels the pain of the average fan, as only a multi-millionaire such as himself can. Right. It's not right, he whimpers from on high. There could be "harsh" penalties if this practice doesn't immediately cease and desist. This is definitely a shot across the bow of the collective owners. Either get your boys to straighten up and earn those massive contracts, or I might whack your pee-pees, as in pocket books.

Conversely, Lebron James thinks there's little the NBA brass can actually do about it. An interesting stand-off.

It is further interesting to note that Silver serves in his position at the whim of the owners in the first place. Though he was former Commish David Stern's hand-picked boy to succeed him, if he riles up too many owners they can just as easily fire him, Trump style, as they did hire him in the first place. Like the CEO of a major company, the board of directors can off him given due cause and motivation. Let's not forget who works for who here in the NBA hierarchy.

However, if the Commish and the Board of Governors (see owners) get together and decide something, there's little coaches and players can do about it. Sure, the union can raise a stink and say any such actions have to be "collectively bargained", but good luck with that, at least in the short run. The people ultimately holding all the purse strings can pretty much do whatever they want until and unless the courts decide to forbid it. And that could take years to wend its way through the complicated and slow working imbroglio of the legal justice system.

But resting star players is a dilemma indeed. Certainly not fair for some. Example in point --

Lebron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love of the Cavaliers were all sat down for a recent game against the LA Clippers out west. Given the nature of the NBA schedule, there were no doubt many Clip fans who saved up their bucks to buy tickets for the only time the Cavaliers would appear at Staples Center to play against their team. Those seats are anything but cheap. The average John/Jane Doe might only be able to afford to go to one game all year. This was the one. They wanted to see the Big Three and the champs when they came to town.

And when they finally arrived on the premises -- guess what? All the star players they'd been waiting to see -- won't be participating -- even though they're otherwise completely physically healthy. Damn right they have cause to be pissed.

But again, it's quite likely in the long-term interest of both the team and the players to give them a breather once in a while. So what to do that is fair for all?

Enter Byron Scott, former LA Lakers star, and not-so-good head coach later on.

BS, maybe or maybe not appropriate enough initials (let's not forget our last President's were, sniff, BO, but nobody ever thought to mention that) seemed to have the perfect answer.

He rightfully pointed out that fans in other cities might only get one shot to see the "stars from afar" and they should absolutely not be denied the chance when it comes around. Further, out of the 82 game regular season, half of those games are played at "home". Further yet, no team is ever "on the road" for more than maybe two weeks at a time.

So be it resolved that if teams want to rest their star players, make them do it at home games. The fans there have 40 other chances to see them throughout the year, as opposed to only once in many other cities. Play shall be mandatory on all road games unless compelling evidence of physical injury is presented by the medical people. And good luck if they ever get caught "fudging" that. If so, send them off to Judge Judy or a segment on "The View" for "cruel and unusual punishment", the Eighth Amendment and Geneva Convention be damned regarding the use of torture and otherwise inhumane treatment.

That ought to satisfy the players, the union, the owners, and even Mr. Peanuthead.

Heckuvan idea, Byron, and I was only kidding about the initials.

Maybe. Like Isiah Thomas was IT as a player, so too did he crash and burn like the Hindenburg when he got in WAY over his head as a member of management. IT translated to Insanely Terrible. Same with that Jordan guy. MJ? It could just as easily stood for Mostly Junk. Have you seen that Charlotte team since he took over the reins? Not a pretty sight. Monumental Jokes. And we won't even talk about him trying to hit a curve ball in his ill-advised adventure into professional baseball thinking he was all THAT, when he was obviously not. A Majorly Juvenile crusade.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Brady's jersey and the FBI

All of America can now officially breathe a collective sigh of relief. Tom Brady's missing Super Bowl jersey has finally been found. Whew! That was a close one. Maybe not quite as pressing a matter as, say, incoming nukes, but nevertheless of the highest importance to the well-being of the United States. Right.

Evidently, in their infinite wisdom and due diligence, the FBI tracked it down, along with another missing Brady jersey from a couple years back. Well, praise the Lord and all hail J. Edgar Hoover. The Fibbies are on the job.

Early reports say a "credentialed international reporter" was the evil culprit and said stolen goods were located somewhere in Mexico. What to do with this nefarious purveyor of evil? Hmm. Off with his head? Or failing that, maybe have him drawn and quartered -- off with everything else. At the very least a few years of waterboarding at Gitmo would seem to be in order. No wait, there's an even worse punishment for such a dastardly rascal. Make him Trump's press secretary and watch the torture begin. That'll teach him to mess with #12. Bwahahahaha.

At any rate, something is fishy about this story. First, the FBI has no jurisdiction or authority in Mexico unless specifically invited there by the Mexican authorities to pursue a matter. That would seem unlikely given that little "wall" snafu a certain President has been financially trying to ram down their throats of late -- to no avail. Throw in the threatened tariffs on all their goods heading north and the Mexican folks in power likely aren't overly fond of the Yanquis these days.

These people are going to invite the Fibbies into their own country to go rooting around over something as inconsequential as a stupid football jersey or two?  Yours truly finds that hard to believe.

That makes about as much sense as America inviting Mexico's Federales into the states to locate and arrest a Latino gang leader in a major city. Don't hold your breath waiting for that to ever happen. That turf thing can go both ways, or neither.

Second, it is said this jersey was valued upwards of $500,000. Well then. What manner of fool would be willing to cough up a half million for a football jersey most of the world has already forgotten about? It's not like it's a timeless treasure like the Mona Lisa, or the last dress Hillary wore before having her pant-suit epiphany.

Nevertheless, the ever-reliable Fibbies were evidently up to the formidable task. Order has been restored in the universe and Brady likely smiles. Prosecutors somewhere lick their chops. As they are likely to say or intend -- let me at this international terrorist and I'll jam him up tighter than Chris Christie's belt. Or at least feed him to a Senate committee to be slowly driven stark, raving mad, before they're done with the usual barrage of inane questioning. And THEN we'll talk about long-term punishment. How's 10 years as the sex slave of Judge Judy grab you? Did I mention bwahahahaha? This evil thing can get out of control at times.

However, congrats are in order for the beloved FBI, whether this was a technically legal operation or not. Only results matter -- right?

Pity they never could find those Alcatraz escapees back in the day. Or D.B. Cooper. And they've spent the last 40+ years still looking for Jimmie Hoffa, being led around hither and yon on a "where's Waldo" wild goose chase. And if they ever DO find him, then what? Dig up a skeleton only to rebury it somewhere else? They continue to spend millions of taxpayers dollars on such an incredibly futile premise, if ever even successful, to begin with?

But in the end, credit where credit is due. Congrats to the gallant G-men with the fancy titles and badges. It appears they solved this one. And hey, given all the other balls he continues to juggle, with a dubious success rate at best -- High Lord and Emperor Supreme -- sometimes known as the Commissioner -- Roger Goodell will take any good news he can get these days.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The evil power of predictions

Readers of this column, sometimes known as tripe, will know that not long ago yours truly made some fearless predictions regarding the current March Madness NCAA hoops tourney.

No way was Michigan State going to get invited. They hadn't earned it by a long shot. But into the dance they went. I was wrong.

More recently, I surmised that it was entirely possible the Big 10 wouldn't see a single team last through the first two rounds of play to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. Oops, busted again.

Well, OF COURSE I was wrong. I'm ALWAYS wrong when it comes to making such predictions.

This is a dubious trait I inherited from my late father. If he picked them, they were in big trouble. It became quite evident a long time ago when "Friday Night at the Fights" would come on TV. It was sponsored by a razor blade company, Schick or Gillette, I forget which.

See, dad was a big-time boxing fan and had done some amateur pugilism himself in his younger days.

Friday night at my house was almost a holy thing. Thou shalt not, repeat NOT talk while the fights are on. Dad would always have his favorite that he just KNEW was going to easily prevail over the sap that was dumb enough to get in the ring with him in the first place.

And then it would happen. BAM. Down he goes. Dad's pick was out. Though Dad's jinx had become fairly predictable over the months and years, this was no time for any "I told you sos", or even the slightest smirk. Such infidel behavior could swiftly be met with severe punishment. Being banished to my room was the least of my worries. It was something about being made to bend over a certain chair in the basement with a belt coming into play that had long been etched in my youthful memory banks. No thanks. Been there, done that, and that stuff seriously smarts. Be stoic when the fights are on, no matter what.

It should also be noted this was long before the days of any remote controls. No need. I WAS the remote control. Put it on Channel 7, boy. Get me a beer, boy. Turn it up, boy. Let the dog out, boy. I did more marching and had more "yes sirs" coming out of me than a boot camper in the Marine Corps.

Ah yes, fond memories indeed and, to this day, many decades later, somewhere in my subconscious being the memory of that belt has no doubt kept me from doing some things I knew to be wrong, even if I could have likely gotten away with them.

Thanks Dad, I needed that. And sorry about your palookas getting clobbered so many times.

Back to Big 10 hoops.

Yeah, MSU might have got past a not-so-good Miami team, but the jig was up against Kansas. They got rightfully smoked by 20.

Northwestern, the brains school, was making their first NCAA hoops appearance ever. To the purple gang's credit they held off a pesky Vanderbilt team in the first round. Their reward? A date with #1 seed Gonzaga -- out west. At that, they gave the Zags all they could handle, but it was just too much fire power to overcome and the Wildcats went down.

Minnesota and Maryland both made an early exit, but they were pretty much of the cannon fodder variety to begin with. Nobody expected them to go far.

So of seven Big 10 teams, four are already gone.

But wait, I said none would make it to the Sweet Sixteen, right?

Wrong. Can you hear me, Dad?

Purdue, the regular season conference champ in an otherwise mediocre conference, bowed out of the conference tourney early, and looked like they were very vulnerable to do the same when the NCAA's started. Maybe not too surprisingly they dispatched a lowly Vermont team and then got past a pretty decent Iowa St. squad. Sweet Sixteen it is. Their reward? A date with the same Kansas that trashed MSU -- in Kansas City. Good luck with that. But you never know. All but one of the original field has to fall eventually, and the Boilermakers could conceivably pull off the upset.

Which brings me to the two surprise Big 10 teams and what they have accomplished.

First, Michigan. Less than a month ago, the Wolverines were considered a "bubble" team. Maybe they'll get in -- and maybe they won't. But then they got hot, winning the conference tourney. That wasn't supposed to happen. In the opening round, the Blue shot the lights out, and barely escaped Okla St. by one point. A bad omen, because up next was #2 Louisville and that pesky Rick Pitino with his devious ways and championship pedigree.

Yours truly was absolutely convinced this was the end of the road for the Wolverines. No way are they getting past the Redbirds.

But they did. Check off another one in the "wrong" column.

Most surprising of all was Wisconsin upsetting overall #1 seed and defending champ Villanova. Get outta here. The Badgers knocked THOSE guys off? Are you kidding me?

What's up with these Big 10 teams? Don't they know their place? How dare they throw a wrench into the infinite wisdom that is always behind these writings. Harrumph!!

Maybe I should go out to the cemetery again sometime soon and have another talk with my father.

"Dad, I'm beginning to feel the pain you once experienced. Seems like I can't ever get my picks right either. No, I don't drink E and B, Pfeiffers, or Drewry's. In fact, I don't even think they're around anymore. And these days everybody has remotes that can work miracles, rather than the one I used to be for you. Believe it or not, belts are out of the question these days. Something called political correctness would rather put the parent in jail than let him tan the hide of a rogue youngster that absolutely deserved it -- and would make him a better person later on. But it pretty much is what it is and I keep trying to roll with the punches, as you once taught me in those boxing lessons. I know it took her 20 years to finally get there, but now you have Mom next to you, and probably have a lot of serious catching up to do. Just between us guys, I'm not sure if being in close quarters with her for all eternity is necessarily a good thing. A wonderful woman, but she did have her not-so-good ways at times. Nothing you don't know. Wish you could come back and impart a little more wisdom on your eldest son, but you probably wouldn't like what you'd see of the world these days. It's ugly down here, with a great big dose of stupid thrown in. But hey, I'm carrying on the best I can. I'd ask your advice on future roundball picks, but we both know how THAT would turn out. I can laugh about that now, but I did think about that belt for just a second. Some things just never seem to go away. And for sure, I'll catch up with you later, one way or the other".

So what does all the above nonsense add up to?

Two things.

Always and forever after respect thy father, and....

You don't won't me picking your team to win, because they'll surely go down.

Dad wouldn't have had it any other way.

PS. Uh-oh. What's that? The Dukies just got smoked by South Carolina? Dang, I didn't even get around to picking Coach K's crew to easily dispatch those low-life Gamecocks. But I was surely thinking it.

Wow. Even my thoughts can be a jinx. This is worse than I thought....

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Michael Rosenberg's incredible whine

Dear Mr. Rosenberg knows a thing or two about Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, long the home of the Detroit Red Wings. Mikey worked at the Detroit Free Press for many years before joining the staff of Sports Illustrated as a "senior writer". That term sounds odd in itself, given Rosenberg isn't age eligible for AARP, much less Social Security, and since when does a guy jump into a new scribe job only to be conferred the title of "senior writer"?

Nevertheless, Mikey recently penned a feature article for SI in which he pointed out all the shortcomings of the Joe, and why it's past time the Red Wings deserve a sparkling new arena. Most of it is laughable, but given it was written by one that evidently feels a sense of great entitlement, perhaps understandable. In no particular order, consider the following---

Joe Louis Arena smells too much like beer. Well gee, Mikey, this is Motown, not the upper East Side of Manhattan. People in Detroit are pretty much blue collar folks, and have always liked their beer -- a lot. You won't see them indulging in too many of those limp-wristed pansy drinks with the sissy little umbrellas sticking out of them. And besides, the Joe is for hockey, not a French fashion show, with $500 an ounce perfume available on tap. You know, the game where the players crash into each other at high speeds, routinely take stitches, and lose their front teeth? Yeah, that game. So yes, a beer smell is more than appropriate. It's called "atmosphere".

Rosenberg laments there is but one loading dock in the entire building. Well then. How many did they need? Supplies come in, trash goes out. One is sufficient.

Oh wait, the Red Wings' equipment manager doesn't have a big enough headquarters. He has different rooms on different stories of the building to keep all the team necessities. Again, if the dude knows where everything is, seems happy with the situation, and gets it to the players when they want or need it -- what difference does it make?

Rosenberg wondered why anybody would build a riverfront arena with no windows. Only a pompous sort that hasn't had to pay much attention to reality would pose such a naive query. But here's the obvious answer ---

People came to the Joe and paid exorbitant prices to see a -- need he be reminded -- hockey game. What do they need windows for? And what would they see outside if they were even present? Most games are played at night, so they could gaze out at the Detroit river, which they wouldn't be able to see in the darkness, and notice the bright lights of Windsor on the other side. The river has a lot of fish in it, and probably more than a few human skeletons lying on the bottom, to go along with boat traffic tooting their horns occasionally. And while they're sightseeing at all those non-visible things, the roar they hear behind them likely means the Red Wings scored. Oops, they missed it. If you want windows, talk to Bill Gates. Microsoft's got layers upon layers of them. But in the meantime, what good are they at a hockey arena other than to lead one astray from the real action?

But the most ridiculous part of Rosenberg's whine-a-thon came when he talked about the press box at the Joe. Too crowded, he whimpered.

Well, let's see. Since leaving the Freep, which busted their union a while back, Rosenberg got a hefty raise by going to SI. And the perks are off the charts. Mikey gets to fly first class all over the country, and sometimes world, in his pursuit of stories. He also stays in first-class hotels, has his dinner and entertainment/bar tabs, any rent-a-cars, and taxi fares taken care of by his publication. Plus, like other media, he gets in free to the arena, some of the best viewing seating in the house, and any food/drinks he wants while "on the job" comped as well. This is a pretty sweet gig.

But not good enough for Mikey. Heaven forbid he should actually have to -- horrors!! -- come in physical contact (rub elbows) with other scribes, particularly those low-life locals like he used to be. Too crowded? Please. The man obviously forgot where he came from. It happens sometimes when people experience just enough success where they start getting cocky -- and feeling entitled to royal treatment. This does not normally play well amid the down-trodden masses (see Detroit fans), foolhardy and gullible as they may be.

In another part of his article, Rosenberg mentioned the concourses at Joe Louis were too narrow. That raises an interesting question. How would he know, having gained free admittance through the press gate and whisked up to the press box by an elevator?

Also a whine about not enough rest rooms. OMG, the men's even had troughs for urinals. Well, so what? Men at sporting events typically couldn't care less about taking a whiz alongside their fellow drunken fans. The main thing is getting to go at all when you have to. The availability is a lot faster with those troughs than it would be with individual facilities. Plus, it's cost effective. One trough costs a heck of a lot less than 20 urinals. Uses a lot less water too. All those thousands of flushes aren't necessary.

And while we're on that subject, maybe the women should have the same experience. If they want to go to a DEE-TROIT hockey game, they should woman up and squat over troughs themselves. A little humility and team spirit couldn't hurt.

Outrageous, you say? Nonsense. Seeing as how the Wings would appear to be little better than NHL cellar dwellers in the near future, they could use a little livening up in their new arena. What better way to do it than have a roof panel open up and occasionally drop an octopus (which the Joe was famous for) -- splash -- into that same women's communal urinal while they're congregated together in their unholy communion? Surprise!!! That would most DEFINITELY get the fairer sex into the game, as it were. Plus, it would certainly speed up the process for those still waiting in line.

Even the wimpy Michael Rosenberg might appreciate such a forward-thinking feat of engineering.

And if he keeps writing such limp-wristed articles, perhaps that would be the very rest room where he should squat to tend to his business anyway.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Michigan State. A bad illusion

First of all, Michigan State had no business making it into the NCAA hoops tournament field at all, much less being assigned a super generous #9 seed. Given how they played during the regular season, including their conference record, and their dismal showing in the Big 10 conference tourney, at best they should have been among the "play-in" teams, or more properly relegated to the second class NIT tourney.

Sure, head coach Tom Izzo can yuk it up after they handily beat Miami,Fla. But it was an illusion. State played horribly. Any half way decent team would have blown them out. Indeed, the Canes jumped off to an early double digit lead.

But then something astounding happened. As bad as MSU was, the U got worse. Much worse. It appeared their team went into a collective brain freeze. Assuming they have talented players, one could surmise the Canes somehow reverted to the mass intelligence quotient of your average brick. Either that, or their coaching staff is totally clueless.

Yours truly has seen a lot of college hoops in his day, and some are definitely better than others. But what the Miami group put out there after the first 10 minutes or so of play has got to be the most inept roundball exhibition of recent memory. They were just -- that -- bad. Pitiful. How in the world did this team win over 20 games this season?

This was not due to the Spartans suddenly playing really well. At best, they were mediocre, totally indicative of their record to date this year. Yet miraculously, they not only survived this game but won it by a wide margin. As mentioned above, this was a mirage. MSU still isn't any good. It's just that Miami was shameful. It was embarrassing to watch such a proud university stumble and bumble their ways around the court in such a hapless fashion. As Charles Barkley might say -- Turrible. Just turrible.

Next up for the Spartans are the Kansas Jayhawks, the #1 seed in their NCAA bracket. Like Dorothy famously said in the Wizard of Oz, we're not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

Nope, but somebody might want to tell Tom Izzo and his Spartans that THIS Kansas isn't like being in the doofus land of the Canes anymore either. Unlike the Wizard, these guys are the real deal.

And unless the Spartans somehow find a way to play out of their minds, not likely, the game on Sunday could get very ugly indeed.

MSU got away with an illusion once. Don't look for it to happen again.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Big 10 basketball. Overrated?

But first things first. As we know, in it's infinite wisdom (and another not-so-subtle money-grab), the NCAA recently adopted a format of four "play-in" games. Typically, these are lower level "bubble" teams being given a shot at making the Big Dance.

They are collectively called the "First Four". Has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? But it's wrong. They should more properly be dubbed the "Fodder Four". Because all of them will shortly be served up like a bleeding cow being forced into a massive school of hungry piranhas in the Amazon. Yes, the schools get a payday, but the poor athletes will take an unmerciful beating at the hands of a far, by light years, superior team. This is great if one is an administrative bean counter. Maybe not so great if one has to be humiliated on national television in such a way.

For all its pomp and arrogance, the so-called mighty Big 10 (actually 14 now, go figure) appears to be little more than fodderish itself in this year's tournament. Consider:

#8 seed Northwestern, in its first appearance ever, barely squeaked by #9 Vanderbilt, 68-66. Well OK, an #8-9 game is supposed to be close. The Wildcats' reward? A date with # 1 seed Gonzaga on Sunday. Say bye-bye to the "brains" school of the Big 10.

#5 Minnesota got dumped 81-72 by #12 Middle Tennessee. The Gophers can go back in their golden holes now for another year.

#4 seed Purdue, the regular season conference champ, had to scramble at the end to avoid being upset by #13 Vermont. The Boilermakers don't look like they have the "right stuff" to survive very long either.

#6 seed Maryland was unceremoniously kicked to the curb by #11 Xavier. 76-65. Down go the Twerps, excuse, Terps.

After struggling throughout, #8 Wisconsin finally pulled away from #9 Virginia Tech. Again, given the seeds, it was supposed to be hard fought. But like Northwestern mentioned above, the Badgers' reward? How about a dance with overall #1 seed and defending champ Villanova in a couple days? As they say, good luck with that.

Michigan State, which had absolutely no business making the field in the first place, was nevertheless incredibly given a #9 seed. They should have been among the Fodder Four at best. But they get a shot at #8 Miami (Fla). There's a chance the Spartans could play out of their minds and pull that out. If they do, a #1 seed named Kansas will be waiting, pretty much playing in their own backyard. Between the U and UK, Izzo's Fizzos have about as much chance of playing next weekend as Hillary does of winning a recount.

The only Big 10 team that appears semi-interesting is Michigan. Not long ago a "bubble" team themselves, they earned their way into the tournament by winning the Big 10 conference tourney. They can be really good -- or -- really bad. When they're on their game and all the 3-point bombs are going in, they can beat anybody. But if they revert to the way they've often played away from home over the season, a team of those lovely young girls in green uniforms selling boxes of mint and peanut butter cookies this time of year could likely slay the maize and blue dragons on the hardwood. Given their up and down nature, and factoring in the improbable conference tourney win, a #7 seed seemed about right. First up for them is #10 Okla St. Those guys aren't bad. Thing is for the Wolverines, if they get by the Cowboys, #2 seed Louisville will be waiting on them. Big boy time, and likely all she wrote as well.

So it's entirely possible, perhaps even probable, that of all the teams the Big 10 managed to get into the NCAA tournament, um, seven if my math is correct (fully half of them), not a single one of them will make it even as far as the Sweet Sixteen.

And if that happens, for all the pomp they profess year-round at what a great conference they are -- somebody somewhere is going to be eating some serious crow.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The NBA dynamic

An interesting question heard posed earlier today -- is Russell Westbrook of the OKC Thunder actually better off now that Kevin Durant is gone? There would seem to be two obvious answers.

If Westbrook wanted to pad his own gaudy statistics, he's got to be in hog heaven right about now. The dude's averaging a "triple double"per game. If he keeps it up for the rest of the season, he'll become only the second player in the history of the NBA to accomplish such a feat -- Oscar Robertson of decades ago being the only other.

But if he has any aspirations of ever winning a championship, they first started to disappear when the Thunder let James Hardin (an MVP candidate himself) get away to the Houston Rockets in free agency a couple years ago. When KD jumped ship and headed west to the GS Warriors, any faint hopes of winning a title officially went poof. Ain't gonna happen. So Westbrook wound up a really good player on an otherwise slightly better than average team. And BTW, the man seems to be in desperate need of a fashion counselor. Some of the outfits he's been seen sporting these days are more reminiscent of what the Gabor sisters wore back in Oscar's day, rather than a current NBA superstar. Furs, leopard skin, and polka-dots? Really? What's next -- paisley and bell-bottoms? C'mon, dude. Man up.

Don't look now, but the San Antonio Spurs have closed the gap with the above-mentioned Warriors for superiority in the Western Conference. By the end of the regular season, it's entirely possible, perhaps probable, Coach Pop's crew will hold home court advantage throughout the playoffs.

This is what happens when a team like the Warriors made the decision to go "all-in" by getting Durant, only to see him go down with an injured knee. Let's not forget the Warriors had to get rid of several very good role players to find salary cap room to accommodate the max contract Durant would get. It seemed odd they would have done such a thing in the first place, given they were the best team in the league before. True, they lost in the Finals last year to Cleveland, but they had put up the best regular season record ever, cruised through the playoffs, and were ahead 3-1 when their applecart got upset by Draymond Green finally getting suspended for, shall we say, improper physical contact on the floor with an opponent. Green had it coming, but it completely turned the whole momentum of the series around. Otherwise, why fix it when it ain't broke? And it just might cost them big-time this year before all is said and done.

Also don't look now, but the Boston Celtics are a force that will soon have to be reckoned with. They're only a couple games behind Lebron and the Cavs for superiority in the East. That could flip-flop too. Though the Beaners pretty much have flown under the radar, these guys are good and, more importantly, will continue to get better in years to come.

Danny Ainge, the General Manager, was allowed by ownership to make the decision to pretty much blow up the franchise a few years ago and start over. He got rid of all the aging players with fat albatross contracts holding the team back. Instead, he traded them away for future draft picks. Lots of them. Sure, the Celtics crashed and burned in the short run. That was to be expected and somebody as smart as Ainge certainly knew it. Then he brought in a young innovative head coach, one Brad Stevens, and started the re-build. It has most definitely paid off. The Celtics still have cap space to burn and lots of draft picks in the next few years. As teams like the Cavaliers get older, yes, Lebron's going to slow down too before long, the Celtics are positioned to be serious title contenders in the years to come. True, whoever comes out of the West will be a formidable opponent indeed, but don't sleep on the Celtics for long, because these guys are surely coming.

Somewhere, the ghost of Red Auerbach is getting ready to light up another victory cigar. And even if he is an Indiana guy, you just know part of Larry Bird still bleeds Celtic green. There's just something about that Beantown thing that never goes away.

Personally, I love visiting Boston. If they could just learn how to talk right and drive automobiles like civilized people, it would be a lot better. But all in all, not too shabby.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Ezekiel Elliott and the bullet

Former Ohio State star running back and last year's rookie sensation for the Dallas Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott likely isn't smart enough to realize how close that bullet came to hitting him in the head.

It's almost like he tried to commit suicide -- but missed.

Already, and still under investigation by the NFL and your usual law enforcement types for an alleged assault on a woman, EE appeared to go brain dead again.

He had the utter audacity, or colossal stupidity to pull down a woman's top, thereby exposing her breast(s), while attending a parade. And everybody eventually saw the video, which quickly went viral.

In the short interim since it happened, some have come forward saying Elliott is immature, perhaps even juvenile in his actions, and shouldn't be held fully accountable. Such apologists miss the obvious.

Elliott is 21 years old. Long since old enough to vote, serve in the armed forces to possibly kill or be killed, now of legal drinking age, and is considered an adult by any legal standard. If he runs too far afoul of the law, it's not like the authorities are going to gently whisk him off to a juvenile facility somewhere, and counsel him into hopefully becoming a better person as he grows up.

Nope, if he does the crime now, he has to do the time. Prison, slam, clank, outta here, and good luck with what happens inside such places.

To his incredibly good fortune, the lady who was the victim of his lewd behavior has said she didn't take it personally, so wouldn't pursue it legally. All in good fun, as it were.

That's her call to make and more power to her.

However, I dare say had she been like most other women, this would have resulted in a far different scenario. They would not, repeat NOT have found this incident the slightest bit amusing. The cops would have been called, a criminal complaint lodged, a report filed, and the wheels of justice would have been set in motion. Mr. Elliott would have been arrested, fingerprinted, photographed, booked, temporarily jailed, and otherwise righteously jammed up on a sexual assault charge.

If it ever went to trial, any prosecutor would have a slam-dunk case against him. Here's the video, Your Honor, or members of the jury. Watch it and render your verdict. I rest my case. How could the defense possibly counter? Temporary insanity? Character witnesses? Pshaw. Good luck with that. It was what it was and, as they say, the tape doesn't lie.

But that's not going to happen because the not-so-good Mr. Elliott stumbled into yet another rose garden when he should have been in a brier patch.

One is left to wonder if the Cowboys, and in particular owner Jerry Jones, will sit him down and explain how things usually work in the real world. Perhaps....

"You can't do this sort of stuff, son, and you should pray and give thanks long and hard that you dodged this particular bullet. Because it was out there, of your own making. If I hear just one more peep from anybody, anywhere about you being anything less than a model citizen, you're gone. I'll void your contract in a heartbeat under the morals clause, and cut you loose. And good luck catching on somewhere else with the media dogging you every step of the way. Do we understand each other here?"

Though a terrific on-field talent, it remains to be seen whether Ezekiel Elliott will ever actually evolve into a truly "grown up" person mentally. He's at a crossroads right now, but probably still doesn't comprehend it.

He's playing for the Cowboys, of course. A big-time hero for "America's team" in their multi-billion dollar palace. A stud of the first order who was given NFL MVP consideration last year. Surely, unimaginable fame and fortune await him in the future -- right?

Maybe. But so does being bounced out of the league by the Commissioner, financial ruin, and a long-term jail cell if he pulls the same stunt with the wrong woman any time in the future. There are many that frown on that sort of thing, and a whole lot of more than eager prosecutors that would like nothing better than to nail EE's hide to the wall for such behavior.

Here's hoping he has brains enough to appreciate the huge break he just caught, heeds the wake-up call and sees the light. It's staring him right in his so far ignorant Buckeye face.

We shall see......

Scott Van Pelt and other silliness

Well OK then. I woke up having to go on an emergency bathroom run (something about that spicy Chinese food does it every time), and upon returning to bed, couldn't get back to sleep. Click on the flat screen, ESPN of course.. What did I see? Somebody asking "Where in the world ISN'T Scott Van Pelt?"

The answer appears pretty simple. He's NOT on the air in prime time, perhaps for good reason. While other peanut-heads the world over continue to send in their pix likening themselves to SVP for their own 15 seconds of "see what a moron I am" silliness , it just doesn't seem to resonate much.

No, dear Scott, having left his afternoon gig with Ryen Russillo, only to be replaced with Mr. Chuckles, aka Danny Kanell, is now only to be seen in the wee hours when the drunks are finally staggering home from bars after getting booted out at closing time. In their typical stupors, they probably don't know, or care, who or what they're watching anyway. Scott Van Pelt, the latest Kardashian rumor, ancient re-runs of Wally and the Beave, what does it matter? Urp.

Hope he's making some serious dough with his latest career move, and maybe there's some sober people out there actually tuning him in every night, but danged if it makes any sense to me.

You've seen it happen, but maybe didn't notice the subtlety of it. That's when a talking head conducting a remote interview with a sports figure says -- "Before I let you go, let me ask you this...". Said talking head has just gotten a cue from his producer to wrap up this particular time segment for whatever reason.

Just ONCE, I'd love to see an interviewee respond -- "Before you let ME go? How about before I decide to terminate this little session of inane questions I was kind enough to grant you in the first place? Hey, you and your people approached me about this, not the other way around. So stop with your silly little subliminal suggestions that you're in charge here. You're not. I am."

Would that be great, or what?

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Bracketology insanity

Well OK. In their never-ending quest for "inclusiveness", the NCAA expanded the potential field a while back. Of course, adding a few games also comes with extra cha-chings for somebody. Never forget the almighty buck aspect.

So instead of just naming the 64 team field, lining them up in seeds and brackets, we now have four "play-in" games. One could logically expect the eight teams involved, having to play an extra game just to get into the dance proper, to be of the lowest permissible variety.

They would be half right. The winners of two of the games will enter the tourney as #16 seeds, have a "first" round date against a #1, and likely be blasted into oblivion for their trouble. Fair enough.

But the other two games are teams vying for #11 seeds. Stop right there. How can it be that these four teams start off at the lowest echelon, but with a victory zoom past five other teams (#12 through #16) in their respective "zones" to a more favorable position? Who are the collective geniuses that came up with this brilliant piece of strategy?

Alas, yours truly stands corrected. In my last post, see UM/MSU stage right, it was with confidence I asserted Michigan State would not make the field. They certainly didn't deserve it. With a mediocre conference record of 10-8, and getting blown out early in the conference tournament, they didn't appear worthy. Add to that that of their 19 overall wins, at least a third of them came against "garbage" teams, see non-conference patsies. The Spartans had a reputation of being pretty good for quite a long time, but they've obviously taken a huge step backwards. Translation? They're not very good this year. But still they got invited to the tournament as a #9 seed, no less. So I was statistically and morally right, but factually wrong as it turned out.

Nevertheless, perhaps a bit of justice looms not far down the road. If MSU can find a way to beat #8 seed Miami (Fla), a possibility, their next game will be against #1 Kansas. And that will be the end of the road they never deserved to travel in the first place. Beat the Jayhawks out in their own neck of the woods? Not a chance. They'll get ground up like Soylent Green.

On the other hand, the Michigan Wolverines suddenly appear capable of great things. True, they played a few patsies themselves, and seemed to choke on the road against even mediocre opponents. But they were tough at home. Yet most had them as a "bubble" team at best, and few thought them capable of much against good competition, especially away from home.

Then something strange happened. The team was on an airplane getting ready to head to Washington, DC. for the Big 10 tournament, and they had a near disaster. Though details are sketchy, the take-off was problematic, had to be aborted, and the plane crashed into an airport barrier. Luckily, no one was hurt. But on eventual arrival in DC, they seemed to be totally focused. Through the Big 10 field they sailed, including knocking off regular season champ Purdue, and Wisconsin in the final to win the tourney outright. For that matter, they not only defeated the Badgers, but pummeled them by a 15 point margin. A beatdown NOBODY saw coming. This wasn't supposed to happen. So of course they barged into the NCAA, and rightfully so.

What did they get as their reward? A #7 seed. They'll face off against #10 Okla St. in their opener.

But here's the thing about Michigan. While many likely don't expect them to go far, if they can keep playing like they did in the conference tourney, the Wolverines are capable of beating anybody. They could conceivably be Final Four-ish.

If they get past the Cowboys, their big test will quickly come against #2 seeded Louisville. It's winnable, if they play like they can. Or they could get blown out themselves if they revert back to their old ways away from home.

Right now, the Wolverines are a team that not many would look forward to facing. A "wildcard", that can be really good -- or really bad on any given night.

It will be interesting to see how it plays out indeed.

So like all the other crazed college hoopster fans out there, by all means -- bring it on and let's see what happens.

PS. Personally, I've long been a closet Gonzaga fan, and can't get enough of Geno's bambinos at UConn, but that's just me. Pretty sure one of them has a good shot at winning a championship this year.