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

"The Shot Doctor": NBA May Be Better Off With A Short Season

"The Shot Doctor": NBA May Be Better Off With A Short Season: Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver and San Antonio Owner Respond at News Conference Thursday The NBA may just be facing a real windfall ...

"The Shot Doctor": Defining Sports Moments Should Give New Perspectiv...

"The Shot Doctor": Defining Sports Moments Should Give New Perspectiv...: As the Penn State scandal continues to unfold, and the football era of a legend comes to a less than honorable end. The weekend of sports w...

Defining Sports Moments Should Give New Perspective

As the Penn State scandal continues to unfold, and the football era of a legend comes to a less than honorable end.  The weekend of sports would also bring us closer to earth, while destroying dreams, contradicting experts, making the odds makers look human and placing life back where it belongs, rooted in the reality that no one is perfect, no group is perfect, no guarantee exists for success and hard work can overcome potential, predictions, analysis and criticism.  Athletes, Coaches, Celebrities, often know as heroes and icons, are just people with high profile gigs, that are high profile because of what we say about them, how we react to them and the money this fame will command.  In the end these adults, students, pros and heroes are still human beings.  

While Joe Paterno was seen as the one college ball coach that travelled through his career with no character flaws or professional deficiencies, a fact that has been measured by his demeanor and the lack of NCAA reported infractions during the 46-year Head Coaching tenure, in the shadows was a secret so disgusting that it corrupted people, leaders, authorities and yes a community.  But what the assumption never envisioned was the most negligent and irresponsible follow up to one of the most egregious sex crimes in the world, the sodomy and rape of a child by an adult.  The lack of responsible follow-up, for at least nine years, will forever taint the college football coaching career that spanned over four decades.  The lack of follow-up leaves the suspicion of "Cover Up", the absence of outrage, reveals insufficient concern for the victims and their families, and some obvious social flaws.  The immediate proactive initiatives to acquire legal counsel to prudently prepare for the inevitable legal challenges that will subsequently be initiated by the victims in this affair, shows the forward thinking is in the capacity of the Paterno camp, so where was it in 2002?

Elsewhere in the world of sports, Washington Nationals' catcher Wilson Ramos was kidnapped at gun point in front of his home, in front of his family and no one really cared.  Fortunately, the event which took place in Venezuela, was successfully resolved with the capture of his abductors with Ramos unharmed after being in captivity of nearly a week.  The rescue effort by the Venezuelan authorities was extremely thorough and efficient, but it did result in a brief gun battle.  I wonder how many people even knew.

With all eyes and experts on Andrew Luck, nobody outside the state of Oregon wanted to believe that #7 Oregon could defeat an Andrew Luck led Stanford team.  I guess it would have been a Cardinal Sin to think a LaMichael James Duck could pluck a bright red Cardinal led by Luck.  The 53-30 good old fashion "woodshed," "feathers flying" whopping of the previously unbeaten #4 Stanford all but takes Stanford out of the BCS Championship picture and the continued success of James as the nations leading rusher, may have just move near or ahead of Luck in the Heisman Race.  James went for 146 yards on 20 carriers and 3 TD's, while Luck, even though sharp at times, threw 2 interceptions and 27/41 but could not keep the Oregon offense off the field enough.  Luck did throw three touchdowns in a losing effort.

#13 South Carolina was projected by most to lose against Florida, but the Gamecocks continued to struggle to score points and move the ball with any consistency, but the character of this team has remained intact as the defense dominated program only allowed 12 points, six of which were only aided by a third and long roughing the passer and a pass interference.  The 17-12 Gamecocks, only needed a #20 Auburn victory over the #15 Georgia Bulldogs later in the day or a near impossible upset of Georgia, the rebuilding Kentucky Wildcats, to claim the Eastern Division of The SEC for the second consecutive year.  The 45-7 stomping of Auburn by the Bulldogs makes that an improbability, but who knows.  Who would have believed that the Gamecocks would have been unbeaten in two consecutive seasons against Tennessee, Georgia and Florida.

The NCAA finally decided that Ohio State was in violation as an institution and sanctioned them with a "failure to monitor" ruling that will undoubtedly include additional sanctions for the bewildered program.  In light of the events in Pennsylvania, this seems to be of little significance.

While Friday night history was made when the #1 North Carolina Tar Heels played Michigan State on board the USS Carl Vinson, in honor of our U. S. Armed Forces and Veterans' Day.  The game was attended by President Barack Obama and First Lady, and introduced a new congressional veterans' assistance program that will assist our veterans more aggressively, promptly and effectively.  While the game, inspired by patriot visions of Roy Williams and Tom Izzo, was eventually a 67-55 Tar Heel victory.  The contest, attended by James Worthy and Magic Johnson as Honorary Captains of their respective schools, was competitive and entertained the many active and retired military personnel in attendance on board the aircraft carrier that buried the body of Osama Bin Laden at sea in May of this year.  The game was attended by approximately 8000 on the flight deck of an impressively constructed court, with the players playing in camouflaged designed uniforms.  The inaugural game played on the USS Carl Vinson was called the Carrier Classic and was a very memorable event, that UNC Power Forward John Henson said, "It was so much more than a game this time", recounting the venue and meeting the President.  While Michigan State Coach Izzo called it "a hell of a memory-maker for all of us."

While the top five employers WalMart, IBM, UPS, McDonald's and Target,  in America provide jobs to over 3.5 Million citizens, 450 highly compensated NBA players have decided that they are the NBA and as such they are controlling the fate of their own livelihood and the employment of several thousand employees who work outside the lines of the court.  While the players want to believe that they are partners with the owners and thus they should be paid the lion's share of the income produced by the respective franchises.  The players fail to understand business in the sense of reality.  A business owner has other bills outside of payroll to its top performers., there are large operating expenses, debts and loans that require repayment, along with the extremely expensive process of marketing and advertising, just to cover a few.  In any partnership, the partner shares in those fixed and variable cost.  In this case, the NBA Players operating like most young children in a household, they only "want their cake and then to eat it too," familiar?   With the current average NBA player's salary at $5.15M per year, we are watching 450 selfishly greedy players, decide the fate of 16,000 to 20,000 administrative, arena, vendor and indirect personnel, as stubborn but profit conscious owners battle to stay lucratively profitable, which is their right as the original risk investors in the purchase and acquisition of the franchises.  Likewise, if a franchise fails they suffer the loss, players walk away with no obligations.  Currently, the stalemate says there will be no season unless the next week can get these parties closer together.  Apparently, reality has not set in yet for this rich and talented group.  Maybe unemployment is just what the doctor may need to order for the taste of reality to visit the NBA Players Association.

Dan Goodale Looks On
As 39 FG Sails Way Right
Boise State's run for another demand to be included in the BCS discussions ended with another missed field goal late in a game to ruin an undefeated season for the #5 Broncos.  TCU upset the Broncos on the Blue Field to destroy another near perfect season and eliminate the Boise State credibility discussions for BCS Championship contention.  Last year, Boise State found their season blemished by Nevada, when their kicker missed a game winning 26-yard field goal with 2 seconds remaining in regulation, then went on to miss a 29-yard field goal in OT to tie and continue the extra period game.  This year's miss was a 39-yard field goal, missed by a freshman, last year it was a senior kicker, who went on to receive death threats.  Wonder when the misdirected fan base will blame this loss, along with other life's problems generated from this loss, on this young student-athlete.

In the meantime Manny Pacquiao, fighting an apparent 7-1 underdog, Juan Marquez, a rival and previous two-time loser to Pacquiao, was taken to a controversial decision amongst boos, cans and bottles as many in attendance believe Marquez had done enough to warrant either a split, draw or outright decision over the reigning champion.  The majority decision was two cards to Pacquiao and the third card was a draw (116-112, 115-113 & 114-114).  These guys have fought to a draw, split decision and now the majority decision in seven years.  Marquez contends this is the second time he was robbed in a decision with Manny.  The Associated Press scored the fight 114-114.  The ringside punch charts would supper a close but slight edge to Manny over Juan in both punches landed and power punches connecting.  Marquez believe his punches were harder.  Pacquiao who goes to 54-3-2 will earn approximately $22M for the fight while his challenger, Marquez will earn about $5M as his record now stands at 52-6-1, with the three decisions to Pacquiao.

So as the world of sports turns don't be surprised when the University of South Carolina basketball team makes a run at the SEC East, having been projected to finish dead last in the entire conference.  This young but talented team is both deep and larger than previous year's squads under 4th year coach Darin Horn.  

 By the way, #9 Clemson was a 16.5 point favorite over the Demon Deacons of Wake Forest, Clemson needed 17 unanswered points late in the game, that included a game winning field goal as time would expire, for a 31-38 victory.  An earlier 32-yard FG miss by Wake Forest may have been the biggest aid to the victory for the Tigers.  The win clinches the Atlantic Division Title for Clemson for the second time in three years.

This week has been an eye opening experience for those with minds open enough to see how distorted the view really is from the outside looking in.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Upset Bug Finally Reaches The Top Ten

The Top 10 teams in college football had been riding a fairy tale through week 8 of college football, winning games against it's opponents over the most recent five weeks by margins exceeding 30 points per contest per team.  The BCS picture was looking extremely unclear with a potential log jam of top teams with no losses all claiming a shot at the BCS National Championship Game.  But along comes #16  Michigan State just off its win against rival Michigan and unranked Texas Tech, hardly considered the candidate to upset the #3 ranked Sooners of Oklahoma, while the Spartans were at least considered a dangerous opponent for Wisconsin, playing through a dream season with the fortunate acquisition of veteran QB, Russell Wilson, a fifth year graduate transfer from NC State.

WR Keith Nichol
Scores Winning TD 
For Michigan State, there was nothing easy about this victory, after trailing by 14 points early after an impressive drive by the Badgers on its first possession and then another quick strike after a Spartan turnover.  Wisconsin appeared ready to continue their blowout ways cruising to lopsided a lopsided victory.  But after a MSU punt pinned the Badgers inside the Wisconsin 5 yard line, Jerel Worthy the MSU dynamic defensive lineman stuffed the first play at the one yard line, the Wisconsin QB made a mental mistake.  After rolling left and coming back to the right, Wilson launched a pass into the right flat while avoiding pressure, but no receiver was in the area and he had not gotten outside the tackle lane, so the result a penalty in the end zone for "international grounding", an automated "safety" and 2 points for the Spartans.  From that point, the host team would outscore the visitors 29-3, including a two point conversion.  Leading 31-17 late in the game, MSU would have to watch Wilson lead the Badgers to two late touchdown drives to tie the game with a little more than a minute to play in the game.  But then came the drama, the thrill, the excitement and the disappointment.  After driving down the field and getting just over midfield, MSU QB Kirk Cousins (22/31 290 yds, 3 TDs, 0 Int) launched a "Hail Mary" with 4 seconds remaining, and after richocetting off two MSU receivers and one UW defender, wide receiver Keith Nichol hauled in the gift at the goal line and leaned in for an attempt at the winning touch down.  On the field two officials clearly missed the play, as they both marked the ball outside the point of the actual catch of Nichol, and never considered or saw his lean into the end zone before being desperately pulled back by Badger defenders.  After a very prompt and accurate official review, the ruling on the field was overturned and MSU won 37-31.  On many other days, the 14/21 223 yds, 2 TD/2 Int, performance would have been enough for the Wilson led Badgers to take a close game home, not to mention a 22 yard rushing touchdown by the Wisconsin QB.  But the Spartans were poised and apparently unintimidated by the their conference leader Saturday.

In the southwestern region of the country, Oklahoma was trying to stay in the hunt for the coveted National Championship, andy its Landry Jones Heisman campaign, but the Red Raiders of Texas Tech had another surprise in mind for yet another seemingly indispensable Top Ten team, but the Red Raiders would run out to an early 24-7 halftime lead and would then defend off the late run by conference leading Oklahoma, and hold on for a 41-38 shootout that had as much drama as the MSU-UW matchup, without the "Hail Mary."  Red Raider QB Seth Doedge threw for 33/52 for 441 yards and 4 TD's and no picks, as the visiting team produced only the third loss for the Sooners on Owen Field in the 78 games coached there by Oklahoma Head Coach Bob Stoops, who had won 39 straight at home until Saturday.  Heisman Candidate Landry Jones was 30/55 for 412, 3 TD's and 1 Int.  Like the MSU upset, Tommy Turbeville's squad had to watch an All-American quarterback score the last two touchdowns late in the fourth quarter with less than 7 minutes to play, erasing a 41-24 Tech lead at the 7:38 mark.  But it was too little too late, as Oklahoma's final score at the 1:10 mark would end the hopes of the Sooners to remain unbeaten this season.  The star of the game however was Tech WR Alex Torres, with 4 catches 94 yards and 3 touchdowns.  For now,  this has to be considered "two out", with six remaining for the BCS Sweepstakes, as there are only six true contenders remaining unbeaten for now, with a lot of football to play.  Example, for two quarters Tennessee was tied with Alabama 6-6, before a second half explosion led to a 37-6 blowout.  The log jam of unbeatens could easily be no unbeatens by the end of November, with the remaining inter-state rivalries and  inter conference ranked match ups. 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

NBA May Be Better Off With A Short Season

Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver
and San Antonio Owner Respond at
News Conference Thursday 
The NBA may just be facing a real windfall this season and the Lockout may generate an increased interest in a professional season that by many accounts is considered too long and unimpressive until after the All-Star break.  The collective bargaining agreement negotiations are not making immediate advances and the season is potentially in jeopardy, but the players feel the owners are being unreasonably greedy and the owners are demanding that the 57% to 43% basketball related income distribution be amended to 50-50 to allow a chance for all franchises to work towards year-end profits.

Billy Hunter and Player Reps Explain
Their Position to Press Thursday
As a result of the stalemate the season has already lost preseason games, and two weeks of the regular season games equating to over $250 million in lost revenues.  The Los Angles Lakers have a total player payroll of $91,311,749 as the highest payroll in the league.  The Denver Nuggets have a $28,883,142 payroll.  The Defending NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks have a current $63,184,541 payroll and lost over $50 million during their championship season.  So what does this all mean?  The NBA is bleeding money, paying unreasonable salaries to extremely talented players, who unfortunately have lost perspective of the current economic climate in the United States.  The consumers, also known as fans, are struggling to pay for healthcare, utilities, mortgages, rents and healthcare.  Therefore product sales, ticket purchases and other basketball related discretionary spending is down.  Owners are losing money against the investment into the franchise, players, supports services and amenities for the team and cannot see any change in the economic trend as we face another recession before experience an economic upswing.

Kobe Bryant Touring Italy
If the season is to be salvaged, it will be by the compromise of the players an owners with a mutual commitment to establish a business relationship that will generate profit for owners, continued wealth to the players and at an expense that at a minimum does not increase the cost to the consumer.  As the players tweet their apologies to the fans, with a reminder that they are locked out wanting to just play basketball, they are attempting to challenge the common sense of an American people that have had to change their respective lifestyles to just live comfortable, while many have no method of even making a living with unemployment at an all time high.  The players by returning 7% to the owners to make a multi billion dollar industry available to its many supporters would only see an average reduction in earnings at about $250,000 per player.  The highest potential reduction would be about $1.7M for a player like Kobe Bryant, making $25,244,000 per year to $68,000 for the lowest paid player who would make a league minimum of $972,000.  Does this appear unfair to Owners who have invested an average of $300M just to acquire a franchise, along with the average support expenses of over $90M to non-player support cost just to operate and support the daily and seasonal requirements of the athletic entity.  A player on the other hand, once his guaranteed contract is completed, can opt out of their commitment to play for a franchise and leave for more attractive fan bases in other ares in the country, at no cost to the player.

In the 1998-1999 season, the protracted negotiations led to a shortened season of 50 games, opposed to the normal; 82-game season.  All games were competitive and each game seemed to mean something to the players because they had a reduced period to close win-loss gaps between teams in the race for the playoffs and the often elusive NBA Title.  Maybe the NBA can take a real review and assessment of its' position squeezed in between College Football, Basketball and the NFL.  The result of their cohabitation in the winter and spring season, is a late arriving national audience after the final results of the BCS Championship, the Super Bowl and March Madness.  The NBA is not America's pastime entertainment, the polls say that America does not care if you lose a few games, half a season or the entire season.  The NBA is not the demand often referred to in "Supply and Demand," the NBA has become an expensive luxury that is not on the top of the list of the American budget.  Unlike football, pro basketball is not a "must see" by families, young and old.  Professional basketball has a distinct and specific audience census that is not near as diverse and broad as the Gridiron Heroes at both the college and professional ranks.

Let's face it who really cares if the NBA season is cancelled other than the 30 cities in America where the revenue losses will create additional unemployment and loss community revenues.  By the time anyone recognizes the loss of the season, baseball will have capitalized as being America's pastime again as March Madness closes and College Baseball wets the athletic appetite.  So maybe a shorter season is in order, that starts in February and takes traction in March and continues through June to find its place in the entertainment needs of the American public, the players conveniently recognize now that they need an ally in a war they cannot win against a powerful employer, turned adversary.  Who knows the WNBA may even find its way in the hearts of an American public that can appreciate athletic stars that have not forgotten why they even have a market.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

BCS Picture No More Clear with Blowouts and No Upsets In College Football

The BCS Championship picture did not get any clearer after a weekend of solid domination of most ranked teams against their non-ranked or lower ranked opponents.  With blowouts like #1 LSU over # 17 Florida 41-11, #2 Alabama over Vanderbilt 34-0, #3 Oklahoma over #11 Texas 55-17, #5 Boise State over Fresno State 57-7, #6 Oklahoma State over Kansas 70-28, #7 Stanford over Colorado 48-7, #8 Clemson over Boston College 36-14 and #9 Oregon 43-15 over California, you get the picture, no new news and everyone claiming to be a legitimate contender for this year's BCS Championship.  LSU and Oklahoma however made the biggest statements dismantling highly ranked and well regarded football programs in Florida and Texas respectively.  Even #18 South Carolina, with a quarterback change, recorded the largest margin of victory against an SEC opponent since joining the conference 54-3 over the Kentucky Wildcats.

#4 Wisconsin was resting up with an open week, while all the other contenders were having fun and protecting undefeated records with the exception of Oregon, which lost its' opening game against LSU.  #10 Arkansas (5-1 1-1 SEC) is the only other team with a loss in the Top 10, which managed to enjoy a lopsided win, 38-14, against #15 Auburn, which had just returned to the Top 25 this week with a "nail bitter" road victory against previously ranked #10 South Carolina.

The batch of one-sided victories leaves little to be determined about the "Pretender versus Contender" debates being conducted on sports talk radio, sports bars and work places around America.  So the anticipation, debates, scenarios, speculation and "what ifs" will continue to flood the discussions about this year's season and the championship race.  Likewise, the debates over Heisman hopefuls will continue as all top 12 candidates provided Heisman style performances, with the exception of the Badgers' Russell Wilson, who could only watch during this bye weekend.

Money Can't Buy Love In MLB

MLB Standings                                             Live MLB Scoreboard

The long 162 game MLB season offered exciting finishes for some and extremely disappointing conclusions for others, but regardless of the result, the collection of 30 baseball franchises paid $2,789,752,055 in salaries to approximately 1000 to 1200 players on the active and inactive rosters.  The average salary of a player in the majors is $3,323.296.53.  Although misleading due to the gigantic annual salaries of players like; NYY Alex Rodriguez  $27.5M, PHIL Ryan Howard $25M, PHIL Cliff Lee $24M, MIL Joe Mauer $23M, along with NYY CC Sabathia $23M, NYM Johan Sanata $22.9M, NYY Mark Teixera $22.5M,  BOS Adrian Gonzalez $22M, MIL Ryan Braun $21M, BOS Carl Crawford $20.3M and PHIL Roy Halladay $20M, these average salaries are still the basis for an investment into talent that will ultimately generate performance on the field that will result into playoff teams, division championships, pennant races and World Series Championships.  What we are seeing more and more that money does not but you love or a championship.

While the Yankees clinched the division title with a 97-65 record over Tampa Bay (91-71).  The Yankees paid $202,689,028 for 6 more wins than the "Wild Card" Devil Rays, who paid $41,053,571 in salaries.  The Rays went as far in the playoffs as the highest salaried team in professional baseball while sporting the second lowest salary in MLB.  The Philadelphia Phillies appeared to make the best of their $172,976,379 salary overhead with a regular season record of 102-60, 13 games ahead of the Atlanta Braves, who invested $87,002,692 in players for 2011.  The Phillies wasted the second highest payroll bowing out in five games in the first round of the playoffs, losing to St. Louis whose $138,543,166 payroll ranks fourth in the league.

The Boston Red Sox in a three way fight with NY and Tampa Bay, recorded 90 wins and 72 losses, with approximately 25% of those losses coming in the month of September, leaving the Red Sox home during the playoff season, and forcing a quality manager out, that will prove more damaging in the immediate future.  The Sox invested $161,762,475 for basically negative results and obvious disappointment.  The Los Angeles Angels ($138,543,166  4th  86-76), Chicago White Sox ($127,789,000  5th  79-83), Chicago Cubs ($125,047,329  6th  71-91),  New York Mets ($118,847,309  7th  77-85), San Francisco Giants ($118,198,333  8th  86-76) and Minnesota Twins ($112,737,000  9th  63-99) did not make the playoffs, leaving the fans and management scratching their heads and planning additional moves over the season that will undoubtedly involve more money to buy talent or potential for an unknown competitive result.  These six top 10 payrolls in MLB recorded 462 wins and 510 losses for the season.

The playoffs commenced with salary ranking match-ups of #29 Tampa Bay vs #13 Texas, #1 New York vs #10 Detroit, #2 Philadelphia vs #11 St Louis and #17 Milwaukee vs #25 Arizona.  Now the pennant race will commence without the top nine payrolls in the league, with #10 Detroit against #13 Texas for the American league Championship and #11 St. Louis matched with #17 Milwaukee for the National League title.  The regular season record for the six lowest payrolls in the playoffs was 562-410.  Only three top ten salaried franchises made the playoffs, 1, 2 and 10.  Only #10 Detroit moves on to the pennant race.

The 2011 season becomes just another modern day season proving that MLB and other professional franchises in professional sports are missing the mark in the salary investment of players and team chemistry and investing against salary based collective bargaining revenue share, and marquee named athletes that are not making several teams better from the free agent market.  The result is high payrolls, frustrated fans, managers, front offices and several losing seasons, in more ways than one.  Like our mothers always said, "money can't buy you love" and obviously it's not buying wins either.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Strange Events Define Week 5 of College Football

Blocked kicks, missed extra points, controversial fumbles, questionable fumbles, poor play calling, bad clock management, fumble recoveries, TD returns, game changing interceptions and long runs were all a part of a wild and wacky Week 5 in college football on the first day of October.  All a part of the NCAA football experience. 

LSU, ranked #1, made little mystery out of its one-sided victory over young and limited Kentucky.  Although they did not cover the projected spread, they accomplished redemption of the last upset crafted by Kentucky when LSU was last ranked #1.  But the 35-7 victory sent a message that LSU is not planning on coming back to the field.  Any efforts to dethrone the Tigers will be based on a school's "A" game.

#3 Alabama touting an undefeated 4-0 record and possibly the best defense in the country to go with a top ten offense, would go to the dangerous "Swamp" for a road test at one of the toughest opponent venues in the country.  Alabama would simply manhandle and grind their way to solid control of the game against a promising #12 Florida Gators, led by the offensive specialist, Head Coach Wil Muschamp.  But a Nick Saban coached team would be far  superior with Trent Richardson, Marquis Maze and Eddie Lacy ripping through the Gator Swamp to record a 38-10 win for the National Championship contending Crimson Tide, who has to play LSU before the season ends.

#2 Oklahoma rolled over Ball State, 62-6 in no surprising fashion and is still a mystery as a contender or pretender.  Landry Jones threw for 425 yards and 5 touchdowns, but coach Mike Stoops squad is expected to have a couple of real test in the near future.  For now the Sooners have to be considered a contender.

#4 Boise State, much like LSU, saw revenge for their opponent for a previous upset last year, when Nevada was ranked #17 and the Broncos were ranked #2, to have their National Championship hopes dashed sending them to a consolation BCS Bowl, but no championship discussions.  Unranked today Nevada, was picked apart surgically, with 169 rushing and 160 passing, by the Kellen Moore led Broncos,  30-10  in this stay alive contest, for the "stepchild" of the NCAA, on their run for the BCS Championship.

Andrew Luck and the Stanford Cardinals has little trouble with UCLA 45-19, Luck threw for 227 yards and three touchdowns and was extremely efficient going 23-27 through the air.  The #6 Stanford (4-0) appears to be on a collision course with Oregon for the PAC 12 championship, but has to have the slight edge with Luck under center, the leading Heisman candidate and the heir apparent to the No. 1 NFL Draft slot.

Russell Wilson has been the find of an era for #7 Wisconsin (4-0).  The two-sport athlete has become the piece that may just get a very consistent football program to the championship level in just one season.  The NC State transfer and graduate student QB has led a very impressive offense to go along with a very solid and physical Badger defense.  It proved to be too much for the "Big Red" machine of Lincoln, Nebraska as the Badgers, under the field leadership of Russell, dominated the Cornhuskers 41-17.  The battle of the Big Ten powers proved to be more of a massacre than a fair fight.

#18 Arkansas gave #14 Texas A&M a "welcome to the league" come-from-behind stunner 42-38, after the Aggies led 35-17 at the half, only to be out scored in the second half 25-3 by the aggressive play of the Hogs and Tyler Wilson, who threw for over 500 yards, most in the second half.   With A&M set to join the SEC next year, which should move Arkansas from the Western Division of the conference to the East, to accommodate today's victim, the Hogs were not hospitable in the treatment of their future member.

#10 South Carolina (4-1) can't get past Auburn (4-1) again and the hopes of a perfect and special season eludes the Gamecocks again.  Now the Spurrier coached team, must find a way to get a QB on the field to get the ball in the playmakers hands.  The future success will be based on trying to recover and win the SEC.  This offense as of today cannot get it done.  Roster says yes, but play calling and execution say no.  The Gamecocks lose a close one 16-13 at home and remain winless against Auburn 0-7, three of those losses in Columbia, SC.  

The South Carolina arch rival, made their statement to be looked upon as the elite of the ACC, with a commanding win against the hosting Hokies of Va. Tech 23-3.  The game was a solid defensive dominance, with avery efficient offensive game plan and productive offensive series.  #13 Clemson (5-0) just outplayed the pride of Virginia football and took control of the ACC with their third consecutive win against a ranked opponent, and higher ranked in each case.  The road proves to be no problem for the team from Death Valley.

Robert Griffin III has been putting up unbelievable numbers for #15 Baylor 3-0 going for four straight against 3-0 Kansas State.  Griffin came into this game with more TD passes, 13, than incompletions, at 12 for the highest efficiency rating of all college programs.  Griffin took his 85% accuracy to K-State and completed 23-31 for 346 yards and five TD's, but one mistake a late interception, his first of the season, gave K-State (4-0) the field position to get close enough to kick the game winning FG, for a 36-35 upset of Baylor (3-1) and dampen the great season start for the Bears.  Griffin, a Heisman candidate, has 18 TD's and 21 incompletions and 1 interception.  But worst of all, the great performance ended in a loss to an unbeaten K-State 4-0 (3-0, 1-0).

Marcus Lattimore's second average statistical performance will have him losing ground on Stanford's Luck and the emerging Russell Wison, while Oregon's LaMichael James continues as the nations leading rusher ahead of Lattimore.  Richardson of Alabama, Baylor's Robert Griffin III and Denard Robinson of Michigan continue to put up Heisman numbers.   For More on The Heisman Watch

Who will emerge as the two BCS Championship teams, LSU-Oklahoma, Alabama-Wisconsin, Oklahoma-Boise State, Alabama-Oklahoma, Boise State-Alabama, Clemson-Alabama, Clemson-Wisconsin, Stanford-Boise State or a new combination of contenders after the second half of the dust of the season settles.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

South Carolina and Clemson Start Down Memory Lane

With South Carolina and Clemson football programs both 4-0 to start the season, one can only think of the dream season for each of these programs and the situations that parallel those memorable seasons.  In 1981 Clemson coming of a 6-5 season in 1980, went undefeated and won the National Championship beating Nebraska in the Orange Bowl to collect the No. 1 spot in the land.  In 1984 South Carolina recorded its best record in the history of the program, and arguably one game away from playing for a National Championship, but an upset by Navy late in the season denied the Gamecocks of the No. 1 ranking that awaited that evening if a victory would have been secured.  South Carolina went on to squeak by Clemson to end the season and then lose a heart breaker late in the Gator Bowl to finish 10-2.

What makes the two seasons for each significantly notable is that Clemson was coached by Danny Ford a 33 year old third year head coach.  The National Championship made him the youngest head coach to win a national title.  The Clemson Tigers were not ranked entering the season and were in no way in the championship discussions or consideration.  The team started its' season beating Wofford 45-10, Tulane 13-5, #4 Georgia 13-3 and Kentucky 21-3.  Three years later the 1984 Gamecocks were being coached by a highly regarded Joe Morrison, but still had not yet achieved any significant accomplishments as a football program other than providing the stage for George Rogers to win the Heisman in 1980.  That year South Carolina defeated The Citadel 31-24, Duke 21-0, Georgia 17-0 and Kansas State 49-17.  The Gamecocks would go on to string wins against Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, East Carolina, North Carolina State and Florida State before the streak would end at 9-0 at Annapolis, with the Gamecocks ranked #2 behind Nebraska who would lose their first game of the season earlier that day.  In 1981, Clemson was less regarded and would follow their 4-0 start with consecutive wins against Virgina, Duke, NC State, Wake Forest, #9 UNC, Maryland, South Carolina and #4 Nebraska to claim the National Crown.  Clemson would rise to the #14 slot in the polls and move to #9, #6, #4, #3, #2 and eventually #1 going into the Orange Bowl, on January 1, 1982, against the #4 Cornhuskers. This year, as was the case in 1981, Clemson was being coached by an apparent young inexperienced head coach in his third season and regarded as a team being rebuilt coming of an average season.  Does this sound like anything familiar with the 2011 Tiger unit exactly 30 years later, under the leadership of Dabo Swinney?  In his third full season at 41 is still considered young, he has taken Clemson from disregarded to victories over Troy, Wofford, #21 Auburn and #11 FSU and a #15 Coach's Poll and #13 AP ranking after week four.  

The arch rival Gamecocks on the other hand started the season nationally ranked with high expectations, following a strong regular season last year, that included the first ever trip to the SEC conference championship game.  The addition of the #1 high school player, Jadeveon Clowney, to head a top 10 recruiting class, to go along with the national freshman of the year, Marcus Lattimore, making South Carolina a team to be watched and projected to compete for the SEC championship again in 2011, ranked #15 to start the season.  The 1984 team was coming off a 5-6 season, and considered a team in progress of being built.  However, this team would climb into the national rankings at #20 and with the wins over Pittsburgh and Notre Dame, would then slip into the top 10 in week seven.  South Carolina had established an identity for its' defense, then known as the "Fire Ants" for their swarming philosophy and creation of turnovers.  This year's team is much the same even with the absence of the "Fire Ant" characteristics.  This team has been able to win games against moderate to competitive teams with big plays by the defense and special teams, and a strong running performance again by Lattimore, finding ways to win while question marks continue, weekly, about the inconsistency of the offense.  

Clemson 2011, in mirroring Clemson 1981, began the season with question marks, but while the names on the back of the jerseys do not display Jordan, Davis, Kinard and Tuttle, they now read Boyd, Watkins, Allen and Ellington.  While both teams have unanswered questions, Clemson 2011 is improving each week, and impressing even the earlier doubting analyst, and finding victories against mid major and nationally ranked BCS powers.  Exploiting the talent and speed of their youth blended with solid physicality from their veteran players, and now in the national picture.  South Carolina 2011 is going into the stronger part of their schedule, which is where the 1984 team established its national credibility with wins over highly regarded Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, and eventually powerhouse, FSU in week nine when they finally rose to #2.  In South Carolina's case, the stat line does not list Hold, Dendy, Hillary and Hagood, but more nationally recognized Garcia, Lattimore, Clowney and Ingram, but the events have the same buzz affect, the hope of a championship.

So "fast-forward" to now, Steve Spurrier and Dabo Swinney have orchestrated current #9 and #13 rankings respectively and now control their individual team's destiny.  By continuing to improve team efficiencies and performances each week until the final regular season game where, if both can maintain their winning ways, the storied rivalry could just decide which team has a chance to play for a BCS National Title.  In each of the historical seasons, the top football game in the state of South Carolina was won by the team with the best record.  In 1981 Clemson won 29-13 and in 1984 South Carolina won 22-21, with each game decided on the opposing team's field.  Either way, the Gamecocks and the Tigers have made the state of South Carolina relevant in the BCS National Picture.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Week Three of College Football Reveals….

Week three placed a scare in #1 Oklahoma, #3 LSU and #10 South Carolina.  While at another level of the Top 25 #21 Auburn was having their 17 game winning streak stunted by Clemson, Notre Dame was getting their first win of the season at the expense of #15 Michigan State, Illinois was slipping by #22 Arizona State  and Jacory Harris was dismantling #17 Ohio State in a game that would pit two schools with extremely severe NCAA infraction ramifications facing each school, as they try to rebuild both reputations and their national prominence.  All other ranked teams were handling business as usual, unless you want to call the Washington-Nebraska shootout a scare for the #11 Corn Huskers 51-38.

Then there is the brilliant stepchild of NCAA football, #4 Boise State, flexing its' muscle on Toledo 40-15, #12 Oregon released its' frustration on Missouri State 56-7, #23 Texas redeemed is previous upset by the Bruins to secure a basically one-sided game 49-20.  It was #20 South Florida making the loudest noise, with a 70-17 over the undermanned Rattlers of FAMU, but #2 Alabama was making the largest statement of the day, displaying a potent offense with the most impressive and stingy defensive unit in land.  It would appear right now that the road to a National Championship would take an early route through Tuscaloosa.

But there are a few Heisman hopefuls that will have a say-so in the final mapping of the road to a National Title.  Kellen Moore, the accurate QB for the Boise State Mustangs, threw for 5 TD's on 32-42 passes and 455 yards.  LaMichael James ran for 204 yards on 12 carries, with a long run of 90 yards for one of his three touchdowns on the day.  Not to be outdone, Marcus Lattimore would finish his day with 246 yards on 37 carries and also score three touchdowns to become the first RB to reach that total playing for a Steve Spurrier coached ball club.  Andrew Luck kept his supporters comfortable with his Heisman status with a 20-31, 325 yard day and two scores, as he barely broke a sweat in the lopsided victory over Arizona.  Landry Jones, who is an outsider in this class of stars, has been mentioned slightly in the award discussions, but did himself no favors with an effective but average performance, 18-27 199 yards and two TD's to go with two interceptions.  While Denard Robinson and his Wolverines were resting this weekend, Trent Richardson was busy keeping his name in the hat with a three touchdown day, with scoring runs of 58 and 71 while amassing 167 yards on just 11 carries for the day.  James has the most 200 yard games (4) over the last five years for any BCS running back.

So after three weeks, it appears that Alabama will be a force in the SEC, and the giant in that conference, slowly growing into its Nick Saban stature again.  Boise State should cruise through the Mountain West, but better yet finish undefeated to hang at one of the Top four spots in the polls and later the BCS rankings for an outside shot at the illusive BCS National Championship game.  Oklahoma is vulnerable for an upset and will have to rely on more consistent QB play and efficiency to go wire to wire to a Championship season.  Oregon may be able to reestablish its' place among the championship discussions by running the table, which will include Luck and company.  LSU will face the same challenge it faces every year, beat their Western Division foe, Alabama, just to get to the SEC Championship Game, which normally means the winner is one half of the BCS Championship Game.

Well there are many scenarios to consider early in the season, but with 25% completed, the Cinderella Story, Boise State versus South Carolina, the Moore led Broncos against the Lattimore dependent Gamecocks could give college football a story for the ages and possibly one of the biggest moments in sports for both institutions in the same year.  But we're just going into the second quarter of the season with a full three quarters of a season to play, but this is starting to look like something special if the two can find a way to will their respective teams to blemish free seasons.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The 2011 College Football Season Is Underway

With week one of the college football season nearing conclusion following tonight's Miami-Maryland matchup, fans and media have final been able to talk about the quality of teams, Heisman Candidates, conference and national championship predictions and new stars to be tracked.  This a welcomed focus from the NCAA violations, pay of play debates, fired coaches and death penalty discussions.  In the end #5 Boise State has established itself again this year as a National Contender, LSU proved that it can win with the depth and athletes on roster, #1 Oklahoma is for real, #2 Alabama is ready to reign again, #14 TCU, #3 Oregon, #16 Notre Dame and #19 Georgia are probably waiting for next year, and #12 South Carolina has the opportunity to make the preseason computer predictions come true.

College football is probably the most exciting sporting event in America.  When you lose you fall to a place that redefines your season.  When you win it determines who you are and when you continue to win your hopes are magnified to establish the collegiate atmosphere that makes college athletics the best entertainment in America.  Many of us don't like the BCS, but the NCAA has continued to allow us to be excited about game day in our cities, game of the week on Thursdays, and national powers meeting on neutral fields to give us the preview of National Championship matches and the aspirations of finding the National Title in the unexpected cities.

With Boise State's win over Georgia and LSU's win over Oregon, the focus has to be on Boise State as they have again proven that they are the best of the Mountain West and possibly one of the best in America.    The Broncos don't appear to have another real test until week 10 when they host TCU, an early upset victim on day one of the opening season "five days of football."  While #4 LSU will make claim to their status with the dominance of Oregon, they will have a proving ground in the SEC that will force their championship caliber play ever week in their conference.  South Carolina saved the dream season with a series of unbelievable scoring opportunities in the third quarter early to secure an eventual victory that saved the Dream Season, generated by great recruiting in the last three years and the legend of coaching, Steve Spurrier, having one last run at the National Championship.  But first things first, the SEC East, then to Atlanta for the SEC Championship, a road paved with rocky obstacles in the SEC, starting in Athens with a desperate Georgia program.

This could be the year that Boise State plays South Carolina in the BCS National Championship game with South Carolina winning.  If that is the case will computers then rule the world, because only a computer could have credibly created that scenario, but the schedules actually present the series of games and match ups that allow this to be the most dramatic college football season in the history of the game.  Just think did baseball set the stage and is there credence in the concept that, "winning begets winning?  South Carolina is a top institution that has established itself as a power in athletics and a power in International and Research Curriculm.  Could this be the year that the school gets credit for doing it all right.  That's how big this season could be for the University of South Carolina.

Expectations are high in Alabama, LSU, Boise State, Oklahoma, #6 Florida State, #8 Texas A&M, #9 Oklahoma State, #10 Nebraska, #7 Stanford and #11 Wisconsin, but there is something about this "Cinderella Story" brewing in South Carolina, co-starring Boise State.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Pay for Play, No Way In The NCAA

Modern college athletics has become a major focus of egos, finance, investigations, corruption, cover-ups, infractions, penalties, suspensions, dismissals and scandals.  At the root of all of this, money, luxuries of life, cars, jewelry, and even tattoos and drugs.  The problem is said to be the NCAA and its member schools who are making tons of money on the backs and skills of the many student-athletes of its member institutions. Along with the coaches who are making millions of dollars and have no true commitment to the student-athlete.  The student-athlete is left to attend class, practice, work-outs and games with no opportunity for them to work and sustain any sense of fiscal or financial comfort while attending school and playing the sport of choice under scholarship.  A great surface argument and rationale for the recent consensus attitude, "if you place it in front of me, or make it available I'm going to get mine, nobody else is looking out for me".  So the stage is set for over zealous and selfishly driven boosters,  agent's or runners, to place these valuable luxuries of life, through cash and goods, into the hands of less than naive student-athletes who then have been tainted and become rule violators, ineligible players, and often an embarrassment to their family, community, institution and self.  Instead of the disclosure of such violations and atrocities, along with the sanctions that follow, becoming a deterrent, we find that the cycle of events is increasing and becoming more prevalent.  That's right, it is becoming the rule, rather than the exception.  

So, how do we fix a system that appears to have penalties in place for such infractions that hinder the violators from easily advancing their careers in many cases, and places sanctions that incur financial consequences, while placing burdens on many from advancing the momentum of program success.  We first have to look at the perception of college athletics.  No longer is a great value placed in the opportunity for a free education, once we devalued the asset of an education, we established the altered view of the role of the student-athlete, the institution and amateurism.  We have forgotten what a college is meant to be in the life of young adults and the improvement of our society.  We overlook the thousands of enrolled students who support the institutions with their tuitions for their education.  Many who have to work their way through school just to pay for tuition, books, food and lodging, all of which is paid for the student-athlete on scholarship.  We tend to overlook the academic responsibility to attend college and the reason we go to college to improve our opportunity in life for the future.  Athletics provides the same forum for those athletes who have an opportunity to move on to a profession that will pay them millions to perform in their sport of choice.  And to qualify, all they have to do is attend class, practices, workouts and perform to the best of their ability.  The reward, they move on to the job of a lifetime, their dream, the unbelievable, professional athletics.  The college or university becomes their nurturing showcase, without it they are just another athlete with dreams and desires, but nowhere to exploit the skills or display their talent.  With such a gift, an opportunity, why is it necessary to make this group of special humans any more human than the general scholarship student who has to maintain a much higher grade point average than the average student-athlete to retain their scholarship?  The ROTC scholarship student has to make class, make military drills and maintain a higher grade point average, along with being obligated to a three-year stint in our Armed Forces upon graduation.   Most will say, they chose that route, and the controverting response is that the student-athlete chose that route as well, with many more concessions than any other scholarship or non-scholarship students in all NCAA member institutions.

Now let's find the flaw in the NCAA, where student-athlete scholarships are for only one year, renewed annually based solely on the discretionary ruling of a head coach.  A student-athlete is vetted and recruited to an institution based on his or her athletic performances in high school, which the coaching staff is hoping will translate into a quality and even star-like performance at the college level.  If that does not happen then a student-athlete could lose that scholarship because the speculated potential of the respective student-athlete was not reached to the expectation or need of the coaching staff.  This is unacceptable as it contributes to the devaluation of the student-athlete philosophy.  If a student-athlete accepts a scholarship and enrolls in an institution and meets all the requirements in the classroom, works out at their maximum capacity, and contributes to the best of their ability they should be allowed to complete their education under scholarship regardless if they fail to meet the speculated performance level aspired by the coaching staff.  This of course being that all moral and ethical standards of both the institution and society are maintained.  That institutional obligation should be a part of the complete commitment of the NCAA member schools, as they should be viewed as equitable students and athletes.  This consequence to the coaching staff, institution and school, is a mere fiduciary responsibility to the results of vetting, recruiting and signing of a student-athlete to scholarship, that should be viewed as a contract.  A contract that is mutually sustained by the services of the student-athlete and the consideration extended of a free undergraduate education, that they have up to five years to complete.  If this is not changed, then a student-athlete should be allowed to change institutions without the inconvenience or penalty of having to sit upon changing institutions at the Division I level.  While the ambiguity of many of the NCAA rules need to be changed or amended, the next major flaw is the penalties for rules infractions having entirely too much to do with the program and the student-athlete and not enough to do with the coaches and athletic directors.  This needs to be overhauled promptly, as we have created a detour from the true destiny of our educational and amateur athletic system.

The resolve or compromise can be found in more commitment to the student-athlete scholarship, stiffer penalties for coaches of programs that break the rules, giving our student-athletes the tainted personal growth and development, bankrupted of integrity and nurturing a cheating mentality, and a delusional view of life as a responsible adult.  While the outside influences of boosters, fans, groupies and yes agents, will loom as the most uncontrollable feature in the college athletic environment, it can be countered with a regulated method of allowing student-athletes, after their freshman year, to sell personally provided sports gear and achievement memorabilia for an amount to be regulated and capped by the NCAA.  The proposed sale of sports gear would be limited to the amount of gear in any one season, not to exceed an amount determined by the NCAA and reported to the member school compliance department for proper documentation of the transaction.  All students would be given the simple method of reporting such sale, requiring the purchaser to sign a simple form of acknowledgement.  If a student-ahtlete would sell an item outside of the parameters set forth, then such athlete would be deemed permanently ineligible to continue playing at a NCAA member school.  If a coach knowingly allows a student-athlete to breach such a privilege provided by abusing the cap, or failing to report, then they would be likewise prohibited from coaching for a period equal to the term of a full scholarship, which currently would be five years, with the "5 to play 4" allowance to student-athletes.  This would allow athletes to offset the much argued inability to work and generate spending money for general social luxuries supposedly available to other students, while not increasing the budget of schools with lesser internal means to expand spending on student-athletes.  The obvious funding of this potential stipend would then be based on funding from third party sources and documented for regulatory control.  Likewise, the question of value of the respective athletes in  regards to payment systems being arbitrarily proposed, would be mitigated as student-athletes would be able to either promote their value on the playing fields and courts or market their qualities within the community through speaking engagements, youth programs, autograph signing and outreach programs that would foster other respect by the public that would allow their respective logo items and memorabilia to be sold up to the maximum allowed by solid community service and character-based issues.  Example of an interior lineman spending time at reading programs and visiting hospitals, versus the well publicized quarterback or running back that is known solely by his often announced achievements on the field.

Rules are not made to be broken, they are made to stop people from taking advantage of others.  Rules are made to set a level playing field, and equitable opportunity for fairness in competition.  Rules will be broken, but when you want to stop an increase of rule breaking, establish an environment wherein it is less necessary to break that rule and more detrimental to consider the infraction.  Pay for play, no way NCAA.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Decision, The Promise, The Collapse

Last year LeBron James made a decision to leave Cleveland after establishing himself as the new "Superstar" on the block.  But after 7 seasons with the Cavaliers, he failed to win a championship after a few somewhat gallant efforts.  It was the obvious belief of Lebron that owner Dan Gilbert was not committed to the acquisition of  players to help him accomplish his goal to win an NBA title.  Therefore, in a much publicized vetting process, Lebron chose to accept an offer to play with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in "South Beach" in a highly drama filled production on television, making the Miami Heat fan base believe they had an instant dynasty with this combination of heralded free agents.   This decision also left the state of Cleveland in a state of shock, disappointment, hurt, anger and dismay.

Then there was the promise to the southern Florida fans that there would be one, two, three, four , five, six and yes, even seven championships on the horizon for the Pat Riley managed franchise.  A franchise that has been to the promise land and experienced the reward of faithful support to a previous superstar roster headed by Wade and Shaquille O'Neal in 2006.  This promise would be questioned early in the season by a series of losing streaks and a failure to see the synergy of what was deemed to be the best collection of three skilled basketball athletes since Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett came together to form the original "Big Three" and accomplish the goal that had eluded these fine athletes throughout their careers.  But all of a sudden, in the second half of the season this team began to find their roles.  The Heat defense became a work of art.  Their late game playmaking was a consistent success, and they were in the title hunt again and all seemed worth the early frustration, an investment into building a team and a championship franchise with the formula controversially discussed throughout the season by media, knowledgeable fans, novice and comedians, debated as justifiable or overrated as an equation for success.  The promise seemed viable, when the Heat toyed with the 76er's, out battled the league MVP Derrick Rose and his record leading Chicago Bulls, only to easily dispose of the favored but gimpy Boston Celtics.  The new "Big Three" had overcome the franchise that was a frustration for them all in so many different ways, to evolve as the Eastern Division Champions.

Forget stats today and lets' fast forward to the championship series with the Dallas Mavericks, a team that scores a lot of points, and supposedly plays little defense with the characteristic of outscoring opponents, not stopping anyone.  A franchise that has never won a title, and was the victim of the 2006 Miami NBA Championship, when they, the Mav's opened with a 2-0 lead, only to lose four straight in experience and display the worse modern day collapse in a championship series in modern day.  This included a double digit lead in game three, before the wheels came off the championship vehicle, designed and created between 2000-2006, by the flamboyant billionaire, Mark Cuban.  When Miami opened with a strong second half victory in game one this year, the rout was projected, and the Dallas dream was advertised as another potential nightmare.  Then came game two, and the apparent second demise became the Dallas dream, as Dirk Nowitzki led a struggling Mavericks squad to a miraculous come from behind victory in literally stealing game two.  With the series tied 1-1, the stage was set for Dallas to control their destiny at home with three consecutive games at home, in the 2-3-2 finals format, but Bosh, Wade and James would crash the party and flirt with stealing the series while in Dallas, with an aggressive defensive scheme that made the Mav's work hard to find open shooters, that once found, appeared too anxious and tired to throw a basketball in the ocean, not to mention a seemingly small basketball hoop.  Now the stage was set to anticipate that the series could possibly not even return to "South Beach," with the Heat being crowned in Dallas.  Jason Terry, a former sixth man award recipient, who is possibly the most productive sixth man offensively, was not convinced, as he stated that Lebron could not keep up the intense defense for seven games that has appeared a challenge for Terry in producing the necessary perimeter support to offset the intense Heat defense pressure after three games.  Lebron disregarded the audacity of Terry to challenge his stamina and capacity to continue the defensive shutdown and fourth quarter productivity.  This not only was a challenge, this was a statement that Dallas was in this series for the long haul and that anyone writing this team off was sadly mistaken.  In game 4, Terry looked like a prophet, as the fourth quarter displayed an anemic Miami offense, that after holding the Mavericks to under 40% shooting, could not stop the final quarter shooting of Dirk and Terry, as the Heat only developed 14 points, with Lebron nowhere to be found in the final quarter scoring.  The 21-14 fourth quarter tied the series at 2-2 and the series was now a competitive matchup of scoring shooters against tremendous superstar athletes. Who would win, who has the best coaching, who has the best finishers, who has the most heart, who can handle the pressure and who will win?

The final game in Dallas produced the largest margin of victory for either team, as the Mavericks won by 9 points and crossed into their comfort zone of 100 points, winning 112-103.  Returning home Coach Eric Spoelstra stated that they were just where they wanted to be, with home court advantage, something they strived for in closing out the regular season and the chance to close the championship series out at home.  While it was another good sound bite, the Heat were in trouble and they knew it.  All the buzz words, cliches, and words of confidence were no match for a Dallas team that was not intimidated by the contemporary "Big Three" and had found the range from long distance, mental toughness, aggressive defensive pressure of their own and a goal to vindicate their 2006 collapse and leave the Heat feeling the taste of favored disappointment as they shot their way to the 2011 NBA Championship with class, teamwork, perseverance, mid game adjustments and great rotation production from their bench that took the Heat from "The Decision" by Lebron, inclusive of Bosh and Wade, to "The Promise" by Wade, James and Bosh, led by James and "The Collapse" also led by James, as the "King" only scored 18 points in the fourth quarter in 6 games.  By the way, Nowitzki scored 62 over the same period.  Dallas Coach Rick Carlisle out coached Spoelstra, Dirk outplayed Lebron,  Terry outplayed Mario Chalmers, Tyson Chandler outplayed Udonis Haslem and Jason Kidd and J.J. Barea combined to outplay Wade.  Let's face it, the Dallas fans outcheered the Miami fans, even in South Beach.