Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Wild World of Sports

With child molestation's at Penn State, All Pro NFL stars committing murder, selling drugs, raping naive or gullible women, gay athletes stepping forward to be identified openly, racism being allegedly exposed and college athletes potentially becoming employees of the scholarship institutions, the once "The Wide World of Sports" has become the "The Wild World of Sports".

When Jerry Sandusky was exposed as a child molester, we thought
we had reached one of the lowest points of sports scandals, especially at such a storied institution of higher learning, with its' football rich tradition and near five decade Hall of Fame Coach, Joe Paterno.  But before Jerry Sandusky could truly acclimate himself to his  new State Funded residence, we were shown the real side of the New England Patriots All-Pro Tight End, Aaron Hernadez who was indicted on Murder charges after evidence has linked him to an execution style murder of a once friend.  Hernadez has subsequently been indicted on on additional murder charges involving drive by shootings in 2012, along with recent Assault and Threat charges for incidents occurring in jail where he is being held without bail since 2013.

Missouri Defensive End, Michael Sam has come forward as the first openly gay player drafted
into the NFL. Drafted recently in the 7th round, as the 249th player picked overall, was projected to be a first to third round prospect prior to the press conference revelation by Sam just weeks after the end of the college season and prior to the annual prospect evaluation session, the NFL Draft Combine.  Sam's public confession has motivated Jason Collins to now be recognized as the NBA's first openly gay player, recently signing a one year deal to play for the Brooklyn Nets.  The domino affect then prevailed as UMass Point Guard, Derrick Gordon, went public with his alternate sexual preference, admittedly inspired by Jason Collins' return to the NBA outside the closet

Northwestern University is known to be one of the best academic institutions in America with a tremendous academic resume for its' "student athletes" as well, has been the target of the first case of "collective bargaining" by athletes.  In a recent regional ruling, the NLRB said that "student athletes" on the football team are basically employees and therefore should be given the right to petition for a players' union and initiate an official vote to determine the level of interest by the returning football players.  The case and ruling is currently under appeal, but the vote has taken place and the results are pending the outcome of the appeal by the NLRB at National Headquarters.  This ruling is expected to come back this summer.  Speculations have been both positive and negative of the impending result of the players vote tally, as the rules require the tally to remain dormant until the final ruling.  This action as broadened the debate on the "student athletes", their rights, potential compensation, benefits and scholarship terms & commitments.  Even a token "feed athletes all they can eat" proviso has been immediately implemented by the NCAA, as this matter remains in the regulatory process.  Either way, it has caused the executive committee of the NCAA to take proactive measures to address some of the restrictive rules that govern college sports and its athletes, along with potential benefits to athletes to combat the public scrutiny that has increased and intensified with the former events.

In Los Angeles, Clippers' owner Donald Sterling was recorded telling his personal assistant and alleged girlfriend, V. Stiviano, that he would appreciate it if she would not post pictures of her and her Black friends on social network sites.  This request appeared to be inclusive of a recent photo of her taken with Magic Johnson and Matt Kemp, both African Americans.  In an unprecedented rapid response to the recording released by TMZ, of a recording fully believed to be Donald Sterling in September 2013, some 7 months ago, the new NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has banned the owner for life and has requested the league's ownership vote to have him removed as owner.  A request made by Silver, the African American Community and the NBA Players Association that may be easier said than done. Many legal dynamics will continue to make this qualify as a "Wild World of Sports". Now the public is subjected to a series of insults and sound bites between Sterling and Magic regarding each other through national media circles.

All of this goes on as we watch greater travesties occur on the court and around the court.  Such as bad officiating, bad coaching, poor plays by super stars, inconsistent play by championship teams. Qualified coaches are being fired, sub standard coaches are being recruited, while recycled coaches are taking vacancies.  Former legends desiring to coach are being overlooked and guys we are barely know are getting 4-5 year million dollar deals to do something they to have never done, in a league of multi-millionaire players who need mentors and leaders with experience and guidance to be the best they can be.  But instead we get the "buddy-buddy plan" and "trial and error" hires for coaches in the best league in the world.

The NBA playoffs have been full of highs and lows, big plays and botched plays, poor coaching, bad calls and intense moments.  But the playoffs have been consumed with matters off the court, rather than within the court.  Social media has turned sports from competition to a zeal for the dramatic scandal, rapes, murder, infidelity, racist comments, domestic disputes, free agency and college drafts.  We look for more sports star failures than the rookie and undrafted successes.  We take personal shortcomings of professionals and turn them into social infractions.  We challenge the media for complete details, then when we see too much, we blame them for exposing our children to things they don't need to see.

We support our athletes when it suits us to go against the establishment and then we crucify them when they reveal their imperfections consistent with those of a local peer or neighbor.  We want them to be heroes for our youth, but we fail to see them as mortal humans who are just as vulnerable as any other citizen, just with a higher average income.  Most of these athletic warriors have less education and maturity than the fans that can afford the tickets to attend their games.

If Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley and Dennis Rodman's gambling, along with Ray Lewis' murder trial, or Lawrence Taylor and Magic Johnson's excessive sex drive were a part of the sports world today, a few key names in that list could not be prominent in their respective professions.  What did Tiger Woods do that was more morally unacceptable than the pattern of behavior of our stars of the past.  Who appointed the public to establish our recent isolated and discriminatory zero tolerance of gay, racially divisive, sexually driven, domestically violent, and morally challenged athletic celebrities. These behaviors are frequent and common in the motion picture and entertainment industry that concurrently entertains and consumes our youth and its' parents, but we only make light of the sheer existence in social discussions and often comical chats.

Somehow, athletics has become our medium to attack social issues that are totally unaffected by the results of their penalties and consequences extended to these athletic personalities.  Our focus should be next door or our back yards, not in the fantasy lives of the limited fraternity of professional sports, with an approximate population of 18,000, with a gross income of over $30 billion annually.      

ABC once captured our nation's favorite past times as "The Wide World of Sports", with a slogan of "Spanning the Globe", never realizing that information technology would convert this extravagant entertainment outlet into "The Wild World of Sports", and more like "Scanning the Gutter" full of scandals, crimes, social revelations, PED's fueling worldwide social and domestic gossip.   Sport media personalities have become more in tuned to the social aspects of sports than the mechanics of the games, the tactical schemes, player performances and actions between the lines.  Why can't we just........Play Ball!!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

2013 NCAA Tourney By The Numbers

Bracket Projections                                                                                         Bracket Odds

Bracketology, March Madness, The Big Dance, Post Season, The Road To Atlanta, whatever you call it, one thing that is consistent every year during the month of March, surprises, disappointments, upsets, star performances and Cinderella stories will surface to entertain us.  This season has been labeled as crazy, unbelievable and up & down with five consecutive weeks going by with the #1 team in the country being upset, eventually totaling 6 #1 upsets for the entire regular season.  The result Gonzaga ends the season #1 going into the NCAA tournament.  The last time 6 #1's went down in the same season was the 08-09 season when North Carolina was the only #1 seed to reach the Final Four and actually won the Championship.

The Selection Committee is waiting for four conference games to conclude, to establish what will prove to be controversial seedings for the top two seed lines (#1 or #2).  While teams await their regional fate, fans are looking for brackets full of schools so that the Brackets games may begin.  Here are some NCAA thoughts by the numbers that just might help with the craziness that is now affectionately embraced as March Madness;

0 - No 16 Seed has every won a game in the NCAA tournament
1 - One 16 Seed forced an overtime game in NCAA tournament history (Murray St. vs Mich. St. 90')
2 - Two 14 Seeds have reached the Sweet 16 (Cleveland St. 86' and UT Chattanooga 97')
3 - Three 11 Seeds have reached the Final Four (LSU 86', Geo. Mason 06' and VCO 11')
4 - Four #1 Seeds have made the Final Four only once in 2008 (KU, UNC, UCLA & Memphis)
5 - Five 13 Seeds have reached the Sweet 16 (Rich 88', Valpo 98', OK 99' Bradley 06' & OH 12')
6 - Six 15 Seeds have won opening rd. games  against #2 seeds (Richmond over Syracuse 91', Santa Clara over AZ 93', Coppin St over SC 97', Hampton over Iowa St 01', Norfolk St over Mo 12' and Lehigh over Duke 12')
7 - Seven 10 Seeds have reached the Elite 8 (LSU 87', TX 90', Temple 91', Prov. 97', Gonz. 99',
Kent St. 02' and Davidson 08')
8 - Eight Schools have entered the NCAA's Ranked #1 in one of the polls and won it all (KY 49,51,78 12', IND 53', 76', Duke 92', 01', UCLA 64', 67', 69', 71', 72', 73', 75', 95', SF 55', 56' UNC 57', 82' NCSU 74' and ARK 94')
9 - Nine Notable NCAA upsets,  Norfolk St 21.5 underdog vs MO, Santa Clara 19.5 underdog vs AZ
Coppin St, 18.5 underdog vs SC, Hampton 17.5 underdog vs Iowa St, and in Championship Games UConn 9.5 underdog vs Duke, Villanova 9 underdog vs Geotwn., KU 8 underdog vs OK, NCSU 7.5 underdog to Houston and 6.5 TX Western 6.5 underdog to KY
10 - Ten National Titles won by the great John Wooden, 7 of which were consecutive.
11 - Eleven Active Coaches with National Championships (Mike - 4, Billy -2, Roy -2, Jim, Larry, John, Steve, Tom, Rick, Bill and Tubby)
12 - The Twelve Seed has reached the Elite Eight once ( Missouri 02')
13 - 2013 NCAA Tournament field will commenced with the #1 Seeds with at least a combined 18 losses, unofficially the most in tournament history.

In the opening parings, the 100% wining percentage (112-0) could be challenged in 2013 if the craziness prevails.  See how the other seeds normally fare;

#2 106- 6 (94.64%)  #3 96-16 (85.71%)  #4 88-24 (78.57%  #5 74-38 (66.07%) #6 74-38 (66.07%)
#7 67-45 (59.82%)  #8 54-58 (48.21%)  (1 vs 16, 2 vs 15, 3 vs 14, 4 vs 13, 5 vs 12, 6 vs 11, 7 vs 10
8 vs 9)

The 2013 tournament should prove to be a wonderfully competitive event, even with the controversial seedings, teams left out and the 31 Automatic Qualifiers compared to the 37 At-Large selections, this year is going to unveil that "One Shinning Moment" for several players over the next three weeks.

There were three previous years where no #1 Seed made it to the Final Four.  First 1980 (#2 Louisville won with #5 Iowa, #6 Purdue and UCLA in the field), next 2006 (#3 Florida won, with #2 UCLA, #4 LSU and #11 George Mason rounding the Four) and recently 2011 when #3 U Conn won with #4 Kentucky, #8 Butler (runner-up) and #11 VCU making up that Cinderella season.

When this years brackets are completed you might just consider picking with your heart or some recent trends, because records and traditions will probably leave holes and disappointment in your predictions.

Join A Bracket Challenge

Friday, November 23, 2012

Ray Tanner Right Man For The Job

When Eric Hyman left South Carolina to take his athletic administrative skills to Texas A&M, he departed with a word of advice or caution to South Carolina officials, as whispers loomed of Ray Tanner succeeding Hyman as the chief athletic administrator.  In the words of Hyman, Tanner was a good coach but it took more than the "black and white" decisions on the field to running a multi-million dollars athletic program.

Hyman was right, just like the USC Board of Trustees, nothing about Tanner is "black and white" and the basic skills of being a successful Athletic Director are definitely in the character, integrity, focus, organization, vision, tenacity and presence of Ray Tanner.  After 16 years at USC Tanner has built a tradition of winning, community service and civic responsibility.  He personally led the charge for facility upgrades for the baseball program that resulted in immediate returns with three consecutive College World Series Championship appearances, winning two of the first three years of the stadium's existence.  He developed a championship staff that is prepared to succeed him as he takes his marquee status on the road to fund raising, staff development, NCAA compliance's and enhanced public relations.  Tanner is no stranger to surrounding himself with superior talent and that is what he will continue to do as he moves to a new chapter in his life and the future of South Carolina Athletics.  Long time Assistant Athletic Director Charles Waddell was immediately elevated to Chief Deputy Athletic Director, as an obvious recognition of the importance of retaining one of the strongest minds in Sport Management Administration.  If that doesn't sound familiar, think of the name Chad Holbrook, one of the great minds in college baseball who chose to remain Tanners chief assistant in the construction of the recent championship program.  Holbrook has always been a major prospect for a Division I head coach post but has chosen to support a great leader while awaiting his opportunity to transition patiently.  Great leaders will first recognize and follow great leaders before separating from the association.  Waddell's elevation is just an early sign of the foundation that will be established for the Tanner era and commencement of a new stage in his successful legacy.

While Hyman can take great pride in leaving a program in tremendous fiscal and athletic condition, Tanner will lose no ground in leading the South Carolina Athletics Department to continued successes.  Tanner's eleemosynary foundation and his commitment to civic support will attract even more private fiscal support, while his recent coaching successes will garner a cohesive relationship with the coaching staffs.  His love for South Carolina and loyalty for the institution will only insure the long term commitment to the school's interest, goals, focus and vision.  Where else in America will you find an Athletic Director with an autograph and picture line during an the renowned ESPN GameDay Production on its' campus.  Did I say, a long line?

The South Carolina Trustees have to be tickled pink, realizing that this successful maneuver was one of the biggest and easiest decisions they have made in decades.  If there was any doubt please don't waste it on this decision, there was no way to go wrong, the timing and conditions were laid out like a road map.  Thank Hyman for a strong fiscal management and facilities development initiative, and thank Tanner for accepting the responsibility to resume the building of an athletics program to national prominence and recognition.  Something Tanner has done for the last 16 years for South Carolina in his professional craft.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Frank Martin Era Begins with Closing Drama

                                                                                                                                                 Game Stats

The Frank Martin era at South Carolina begins with a close call and win over Kentucky Wesleyan 68-67.  The victory was accomplished by a late 3 second layup by Junior Shooting Guard Brenton Williams, who finished the night with a game high 22 points in 38 minutes.  The game was a sloppy poor shooting contest for the host Gamecocks, who shot their way into an early first half 11-point deficit, but were able to grind to a late surge to post a 37-31 halftime lead.  In the second half the visitors came out shooting and secured a second half lead that led to 10 lead changes and an eventual "nail biter" for the favored hometown team.  The  good news for the evening, the Gamecocks won a basketball game wherein they were outplayed in every significant basketball statistical category but final score.  Wesleyan out shot the Cocks 48%-38% from the field, 77%-71% from the free throw line, 22%-20% from beyond the arch, while out rebounding the Gamecocks 35-31, bench scoring 10-1, points in the paint 16-14 and fast break points 6-4 went to the underdog visiting team.  It appears if not for the excessive foul call differences 28-17, favoring South Carolina, leading to 27-38 shooting at the line versus the 13-17 for Wesleyan, Coach Martin may have found the normal opening season "dress rehearsal" a little too dramatic.  When you consider the debut of such a promising and anticipating transition of leadership, along with the most heralded basketball coaching change in modern day school history. Fan expectation can be a well over emphasized characteristic of a program, as it is often nurtured with a tremendous lack of knowledge of the ingredients to building an athletic program at major institutions.  So it is easily understood, when you hear disappointing comments, negative projections and down right defeatist attitudes.  But with the performance of half a team on opening night under new leadership, in a new system with just under 3 weeks of practice, no one should be anything but happy for a win and no injuries.

Exhibition games are analogical to Broadway dress rehearsals.  The reason you provide the low cost to free exhibits of your high cost talent is to assure that the product has every opportunity to work out the kinks, mistakes, misreads, sound checks, miss assignments, missed lines, missed rotations, missed cues, you get my point.      

Coach Martin orchestrated runs, generated stops, maintained team composure and manufactured a win out of losing transitions, possessions, reactions and individual performances.  USC's new basketball coach played only seven players off a 15 player roster, which includes a starting point guard currently starting at wide receiver for the BCS 8th ranked football team,  and obviously made playing decisions based on injuries to at least four contributing players.  With one "Dress Rehearsal" remaining I believe the critics should wait for the real opening act before placing reviews on the performance of the Gamecocks' Men's Basketball Program.  Other reason to wait on the finished product could also be found in the the coach's 117-54 record in five seasons as a Div I coach and 50-32 in conference play.  The 23.4 wins per season average, along with a 10 win conference average, should have all Gamecock nation patient and waiting for the season's official "Opening Act", but much better yet, the eventual results upon "Curtain Call", as the season draws to an end.  Just sit back and enjoy the ride this season with Coach Martin and his basketball staff.                                     Download Basketball Schedule

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Great Players Should Make Great Plays

Tony Romo's Botch Snap
Herman Edwards Recovers Joe
Pisarcik's Fumble
History has given us heroes and goats in the sports world.  But when it comes to playoffs and Super Bowls it's the Kickers that have been the great disappointments in the history of the game.  There is of course the 2006 Tony Romo's botched handling of a snap and there's the 2003 bad snap on a game winning field goal for the Giants against the 49'ers in a Wild Card game by Trey Junkin.  Of course there's Scott Norwood in the Super Bowl that allows us to forget about a great quarterback, Jim Kelly.  Joe Pisarcik's fumble off the snap leading to a game winning defensive touchdown by, then Defensive Back, Herman Ewards of the Philadelphia Eagles.  But there is a bundle of "way right and way left" calls that define the ending of a season by many teams in history.  But where is the criticism of Lee Evans, for not securing a struck in the gut, rather than the casual turn and celebrate move the skill players are so well choreographed to perform at the end of a scoring play.  A chance for a potential player to make a great play and be recognized as a great player. 

Billy Cundiff Misses 32 Yard FG
Wide Left.
Billy Cundiff will have to suffer the feeling of being responsible for not sending the Ravens into OT for a chance to proceed to the much eluded Super Bowl.  But after the Baltimore defense kept an explosive New England Patriots offensive from scoring more than 23 points, Evans was the recipient of a spiral in the front corner of the end zone hitting his gut between two defenders and allows a desperate swipe by the beaten corner to dislodge the ball before he gets his second foot down thus forcing the field goal try versus a 27-23 lead with just over a minute to play.  The result a 23-20 loss for the Ravens and a trip to the Super Bowl derailed.

Don't blame the kicker for a rushed field goal from a distance that was not a chip shot.  Win and lose as a team.  How about a few missed blocks, tackles, assignments and reads throughout the 60 minutes of regulation.  Don't get caught in the "they get paid to make field goals," because big time players get paid to make big time plays.  If this is not true, then check the average salary of a kicker and the average salary of Wide Receivers, Running Backs, D Backs, Linebackers, Defensive Ends, even Linemen and of course Quarterbacks!  Don't let the guy who is the lowest paid, less frequently played be left to burden the responsibility for the Ravens loss to the Patriots.

There is plenty of blame to throw around to Great Players who were expected to make Great Plays. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

The SEC is the BCS

One would think that the SEC may actually be the BCS if you look at the current rankings and the last five years of BCS Championships, as the SEC has won the last 5 BCS Championships, with an apparent monopoly this year, as LSU, Alabama and Arkansas are 1, 2 and 3 respectively.  But the ownership goes deeper to the perception of the strength of the SEC and the origin of the BCS.

At a closer look, the BCS System was engineered in 1998 by Roy Kramer, the former Commissioner of the SEC.  After the original development of the Bowl Coalition, was converted to the Bowl Alliance which  had basically rotated the NCAA Title game between the Fiesta, Sugar and Orange Bowls.  This basically eliminated the PAC-10, Big Ten Champions along with other programs not associated with the Bowl Alliance.  Likewise, the prestigious Rose Bowl was also left out of the championship rotation.  Essentially, the Rose Bowl was forced to release the Big Ten and Pac 10 from their long contracted affiliation.  Until the change in 2006 the Rose Bowl was included in the championship rotation, at which time the BCS Championship.

The SEC is considered to have the strongest football programs compared to all other conferences around the country, a fact that current is difficult to dispute based on the results of the last five years and the current rankings that have additionally #12 South Carolina, #13 Georgia and #24 Auburn in addition to the top three.  You can't talk BCS without the SEC having a team in the consideration or the conference being the measuring stick for competitive strength.

Now for the other 108 Division 1 FBS member schools vying for a college championship, is this a fair system when the algorithms of the computer formulas have yet to been clarified to the average fan or sports professional.  The system must be reviewed as there could be a scenario where a team that does not win its conference championship plays for the National Title while all other conference champions are left out looking in at a National Championship appearance and a chance to prove their ability to compete on the highest stage.  This one team would have a single loss, just like many others with higher conference results.  This one inequity alone raises the biggest flag, but many other subjective issues also support the criticism of the current selective system.  For now, we'll play the games and see what happens, but one day this will have to change.  And for now the SEC will enjoy its ownership of the BCS Championship Series.

Sunday, November 13, 2011