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March 16, 2011 5:00 PM

Column Awards of the Week (3/9-3/15)

By 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.

Column Awards for slide.jpgWe are about to enter my favorite time of the year. The first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament are the most exciting time to be a sports fan. And no, I didn't make a mistake by calling the Thursday-Sunday games the first two rounds of the tournament. I refuse to call these play-in games the first round of the tournament. What kind of system has a first round where 8 teams play and 60 have byes. Will coaches now trumpet that not only did they make the tournament but they got a first round bye!

It's a time when all production in offices come to a grinding halt as employees take extended lunch breaks, use their sick days, or watch online and pull up that increasingly ridiculous spreadsheet. But the one thing I dislike about this time of year is analysts' predictions.

Actually, just like mock drafts I can't get enough of them but they anger me to no end. To hear some of the rationale for picks is infuriating. They're filled with stupid buzz words that make it clear these "experts" don't know what they're talking about. But I don't even blame them for that. It's not as if they have time to pour over hours and hours of game film of Saint Peter's.

This is where I turn into a stat-head. I'm not a big baseball fan and I still get impressed with home run and RBI totals and get confused by WAR and OPS+, but when it comes to the tournament the stats are the best way to win your pool.

Want to win your pool? Here's some essential reading that will help (you can send me 10-percent of your winnings later):

Ken Pomeroy's probabilities

Texas is best bet based on contrarian approach

Listen to Harvard kids

Vegas Odds - Not all higher seeds are favored

On to the awards!


Naive Notion
Darren Everson of the Wall Street Journal believes that OSU's Tressel getting caught lying to the NCAA is a sign that it is more difficult than ever to get away with things on the college level: The obvious conclusion to draw is that college football's moral center has been replaced with a delicious filling of creamy marzipan. (Good luck finding someone who would argue the other side). But the events of recent days also point to another, more complex truth: College football is becoming an impossible place to keep secrets.

This seems to ignore the most obvious conclusion - this stuff is happening even more than ever. It's probably a little tougher to keep secrets with the rise of social media but who believes this type of stuff doesn't happen all the time? The Tressel situation is more likely the rare case where someone gets caught.

Also in that article is a great quote from former Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer: "Jim Tressel's situation, that's jaywalking to me. These things don't surprise me. This stuff has gone on forever." Yeah like when you were coaching at Oklahoma? I love that it's jaywalking TO HIM. Probably because he did a hell of a lot worse.

Political Point That Makes No Sense
Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel wrote an article about athletes' fascination with guns (a new topic!) after Patriots' Brandon Meriweather was accused of shooting a couple people: Several years ago, former Magic coach Doc Rivers, now the coach of the Boston Celtics, said he couldn't understand why so many pro athletes choose to carry guns.

"I don't know why some athletes have this fascination with guns," Rivers said then. "I've never had one. My dad was a cop, and he always told me the best way to get killed is to have a gun in the house."

I don't necessarily agree with Rivers on that point. If you think you need a gun in your house for protection, so be it. What I don't understand is why athletes feel the need to carry guns out in public. Rivers made the point then and it still holds true now: When was the last time you heard of an athlete doing something positive with a gun?

When was the last time you saw a headline that said: "NFL player pulls out 9mm Glock and thwarts bank robbery."


And when was the last time you saw a headline that said: "NFL player thwarts home invasion with 9mm Glock." If you're for gun rights than you probably shouldn't draw the distinction between in the home and out. If these athletes feel like they need protection at home why would that change outside?

 

An Apology to Rationality?

One of the biggest problems most everyone had with the brackets was Florida receiving a 2-seed. Israel Gutierrez of the Miami Herald believes that seeding did the Gators no favors: What does a two seed really mean when a potential second-round opponent, Michigan State, quite literally owns you in NCAA Tournament play?

What does it matter that the Gators are being celebrated while the Wildcats are currently whining (isn't that one of John Calipari's strengths, anyway)?

The seeding for the Gators doesn't mean much of anything when you consider the committee didn't really do them any favors.

It's as if he needs to rationalize why the 2-seed is bad so others don't get as angry about it. But there are so many reasons why Florida got an unbelievably lucky draw. First off, being a 2-seed is a big benefit as this Wall Street Journal piece will tell you. Next, the Gators are in the weakest bracket by far with each of the first four seeds being the worst in their group. Then you throw in the fact that the first two rounds are played in Tampa and this almost begins to look like a conspiracy (although, I believe it's just the stupidity of the selection committee).

Stupidest Idea of the Week
Jim Souhan of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune believes in expanding the NCAA Tournament. Like, REALLY expanding it: Conference tournaments are a joke. They pit teams that know they already have qualified for the NCAA tournament against teams desperate to get in. In smaller conferences, they sometimes reward teams that get hot in the tournament over teams that displayed excellence all season, allowing the winner to grab the automatic -- and often only -- NCAA bid from that conference.

Scrap the week devoted to conference tournaments, and you could expand the NCAA tournament without expanding the season.

There are 346 Division I schools. It wouldn't be hard to trim that field, via play-in games or selection, to 256. Instead of disjointed and sometimes meaningless or unfair conference tournaments followed by play-in games, the NCAA tournament would simply expand by two rounds.

Who doesn't love the Conference tournaments? They are all like mini-NCAA Tournaments where those teams that will become 14-16-seeds get to celebrate their invitation to the Big Dance. It wouldn't be very exciting if every team made it in. It would also make the regular season completely meaningless. I mean, why not just have 3 NCAA Tournaments over the course of the year and not have conferences at all?? In fact, since the best part of the tournament is buzzer beaters, why don't we shorten games to 5 seconds? Brilliant!

Best Breakdown of Tressel's "Apology"

Tim Keown of ESPN does a nice job of ripping on Tressel: And this is what Tressel said: "I sincerely apologize for what we've been through."

Is that an apology? Is this taking responsibility? Does it even make sense? Doesn't that sound a lot like, "Sorry we got caught"? At its best, it's an evolved form of the if-I-offended-anyone apology. It was such a non nonapology that the reporter felt compelled to ask Tressel afterward if that statement served as his apology.

And this is what Tressel said: "I've tried to apologize all along."

Let's examine that statement for a moment. I've tried to apologize all along. I envision poor Jim spending hours on the phone, calling local and national reporters only to have them hang up before he can get the words out. I envision him standing on street corners in Columbus, screaming out his apology only to find nobody will listen. I envision him trying his hardest to apologize only to give up and move on to the booster dinner, where finally someone would allow his hollow rhetorical distortion to stand as mandated public repentance.

If Tressel tried to stand on a street corner in Columbus and scream his apology, he'd probably quickly be kidnapped by Buckeye fans and forced into silence.


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