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September 8, 2010 2:47 AM

Column Awards of the Week (9/1-9/7)

Column Awards pic.jpgBy updating RealClearSports I read hundreds of articles every week but sometimes there are particularly passages that need highlighting. And to make these passages more palatable I'm doing them in award form! The awards are completely random and will change weekly (though some may become reoccurring).

All this week the hot topics have been the beginning of college football and the NFL. Most of the college football articles are very similar to preseason NFL articles. Most of the games are between the elite and cupcake teams (Texas/Rice, Alabama/San Jose State, Miami/Florida A&M etc.) and the columns mention how these games mean very little but then expound ad nauseum how the single game is a sign of things to come (adding towards the end - "or not.").

On the NFL side it's prediction time. Can Romo lead the Cowboys to a Super Bowl at JerryWorld? Can Rex Ryan and the Jets live up to the unbelievable hype bestowed upon them this preseason? Having read these same stories over and over again let me just say - I'm ready for some football.

Best Satanic Reference

Bruce Arthur of the National Post couldn't resist this little bit of satanic humor about Kovulchuk's contract with the Devils: ... the new Kovalchuk deal is barely more spirit-of-the-cap compliant than the last one. Instead of getting 97% of the money in the contract's prime years, Kovalchuk would get 90%; instead of a cap hit of US$6-million, this one would be US$6.666,666,667-million. Which if nothing else shows the Devils, unable or unwilling to ever employ Miroslav Satan, have a sense of humour.

Not bad. But how could he not include a Puddy reference? 'Gotta support the team.'

Least Surprising Column

Jason Whitlock talking about race?? Shocking!: It's 1910 at the Plain Dealer. Diversity of perspective means one columnist rubs Holmgren's feet while another smooches his rear and the last man in provides a gentle-but-firm shoulder massage. Is it really too much to ask that one Cleveland columnist have enough rapport with Jim Brown to try and put his remarks in context? Jim's been associated with the city since the 1950s.

He makes a good point. The Plain Dealer ran multiple columns all siding with Holmgren and the Browns. One has to wonder though if Whitlock's points on race lose a bit of their impact because he talks about race so often.

Best Anecdote

Clark Judge of CBS Sports brings us this little story from Chiefs camp: Congratulations to Kansas City Chiefs' assistant head coach Maurice Carthon, who came up with the idea of having players sit -- full uniform and all -- for a post-practice pass-catching drill in the most unusual of places. Would you believe ... a Porta Potty? Carthon would put players inside an unused unit, shut the door, then have someone open it as a pass was thrown inside -- with the idea ... I think ... to improve a pass catcher's concentration.

Rex Ryan must be steaming that he didn't think of this one first.

Bill Simmons' Pop Culture Reference Rundown

Simmons ranks QBs by comparing them to his favorite war movies. Clearly there's going to be a lot of pop culture references. The movies he used were Apocalypse Now, Casualties of War, First Blood, Full Metal Jacket, Platoon, Rambo: First Blood Part II, The Thin Red Line, Saving Private Ryan, We Were Soldiers, The Hurt Locker, Missing in Action, Courage Under Fire, and Three Kings. On top of all those references, he also worked these movie references: Hamburger Hill, The Deer Hunter, Coming Home, We Were Soldiers, Missing in Action, Silent Rage. And on top of that he mentioned Punk'd, Bachelor Pad, Tosh.0, The Hills, Bad Girls Club, Lost, and NCIS: Los Angeles.

 If you're wondering how he managed to fit in any sports-related content with so many pop culture references - you obviously haven't read a Simmons column. It was over 5,000 words long.

Brilliant Idea

The article is from Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated but the idea is from Steve Hirdt of the Elias Sports Bureau (Verducci gives him credit in the article). The idea is for MLB to expand from one wildcard to two: the two non-division winners with the best records -- play a Wild Card Elimination Game. The loser goes home. The winner advances to the Division Series to play the team with the best record.

This makes so much sense. It keeps a lot more teams in the playoff hunt (keeping more fans interested) and it gives a big competitive advantage to the top team in the league. The top team would get to play the wild card winner who would've just used their top starter in the one game playoff. Since the wild card began in 1995, about a third of wild card teams have made it to the World Series. That number is way too high. The wild card winners should be at a bigger disadvantage or else it devalues the (ridiculously long) regular season.

Unable to Move On

Manny Ramirez's last season in Boston was in 2008 yet Steve Buckley of the Boston Herald couldn't help but fire at Manny as he returned to Boston with the White Sox: For now, the Clown Prince of Baseball returns to Fenway Park. Only it's not funny anymore: Manny is old and he is slow, and for some reason he doesn't hit for power the way he once did.
But he can quit as well as ever. He still has that going for him.

All Manny did in Boston was bat over .300 and win the 2004 World Series MVP (among many other things). His exit was less than graceful but it's time to move on and be thankful for what you had in Ramirez. And while he might not be hitting for power, through seven games with the White Sox, he's batting just under .400.

Most Illogical Column

Kalani Simpson of Fox Sports argues that NFL holdouts would be wise not to sit out a season. His main point is that a career in the NFL is too short to lose an entire year (potentially two with the possibility of a lockout). But that's exactly why these players are holding out. Their careers are so short that they need to cash in when they can. The players that are holding out are grossly underpaid and playing a season at well-below market value is a huge risk. What if they get injured? NFL contracts aren't guaranteed. They need to maximize their worth while they can and often the best way to do that is through a holdout. Simpson actually lists more examples of holdouts that worked than those that didn't. One that he mentions didn't work was Sean Gilbert. He somehow thinks that because Gilbert isn't a household name that his holdout was a failure. Gilbert sat out a season with the Redskins and then was able to sign a huge contract with the Panthers. Sounds like a success to me.

Lack of Historical Context

 Tim Cowlishaw of the Dallas Morning News is against expanding the NFL regular season to 18 games: ... it will spoil the symmetry and balance of the 16-game season, dismissing the significance of the league's record book and creating less, not more, drama as the regular season winds to conclusion.

It will dismiss the significance of the record book like when they expanded from 12 to 14 games in 1961? Or when they expanded to 16 games in 1978? Or how about how they've changed the rules over the years that has shifted the balance of power from the running game to the passing game? This isn't baseball. The record books in the NFL aren't sacred. Jim Brown ranks 9th all-time in rushing yards yet he is widely considered the best running back to ever play the game.

Exposing the Problems With Perception

Tommy Craggs wrote on about what's wrong with how athletes are viewed: We have as much genuine insight into Kevin Durant's head and Phil Mickelson's bedroom as we do into LeBron James' soul and Tiger Woods' underpants. To call Durant humble--over and over and over again--is to look at a passing cloud and swear you see the Vienna Boys' Choir.

... Of course, that's what really matters in an age that judges athletes foremost on the quality of their salesmanship. LeBron packaged himself poorly. Durant has sold himself well, or at least has given of himself so little that the very idea of his reticence could be fashioned into a cudgel against the Very Bad Thing of the day--ego run amok. More than anything, Durant offers the moralists a clean bank shot at LeBron and his cohort. He will remain useful in this role for a time, and then one day he'll go and do some Very Bad Thing and shatter all our precious illusions. We'll have no choice but to pick out a new unicorn, a new cardboard idol to worship, and all the while we'll wonder how we got the last one so wrong. Did we ever know Kevin Durant at all?

It's an article that's definitely worth reading for anyone that gets annoyed at reading writer's wax poetic about the latest athlete being put on a pedestal. Can't we just enjoy athletes for their athleticism and not their moral choices?

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