Thursday, August 6, 2009

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Flopping is Cheating

Hey sorry for no blog this week (busy busy busy), but i'll be back next week with something about baseball, i think...we'll see.
Anyway here's the funniest thing i read about sports last week.
Check it out for a laugh, and I'll talk with you guys soon

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Notre Dame of College Basketball

Unless you have been staying away from sport’s TV for the past week, you know that Billy Gillispie is out, and John Calipari is in as the Head Basketball Coach at Kentucky. Coach Cal made an interesting statement when referring to the lore of the Kentucky job. He actually called it the “Notre Dame of College Basketball”. The ironic thing is that Notre Dame Football and Kentucky Basketball are very similar. They both have ran off coaches, went for the biggest name they could find to replace that coach (and I’m not talking about Charlie Weis or John Calipari), and settled for someone else. Here are some other similarities between the 2 programs:
1. They are historically great programs.
2. They have not consistently played up to historical standards in a long time.
3. Their fans are unreasonable, unrealistic, and downright crazy for thinking they can win like they used to.
4. And they both want Florida’s Coach.

Remember that before Billy G, the Kentucky faithful were calling for Billy D, as in Billy Donovan, to be their next clipboard holder. He declined and said he wanted to be at Florida forever…Then, a month later he accepted the Orlando Magic job. Then went back on his commitment and returned to Florida. (it was almost as dramatic as an episode of VH1’s “I Love New York”, almost) Does anyone remember who Notre Dame’s real first pick for head coach was back in 2005? Does Urban Meyer ring a bell? He called Notre Dame his dream job. He had a special clause in his contract at Utah that said he could talk to Notre Dame if the job came open, no matter what. So why not go to the mighty Notre Dame? Simple, he and Billy D realized that Florida is a much easier place to win at. There are more talented players close by, it has become more prestigious school: an average 18 year old kid has no idea who Rockne, Rupp, or Rudy are, but they definitely know names like Tim Tebow and Joakim Noah (by the way; at best Tyler Hansbrough is a poor man’s Noah, and Noah is a poor man’s Anderson Varejao, which makes Hansbrough a homeless man’s Varejao). So Donovan and Meyer took all this information in and decided it made sense to stay at Florida because they realized it is the better situation, and the better job.

Now I’m not saying Tubby Smith or Ty Willingham was the answer (I actually think that Willingham is terrible, but in college football you need more than three years to make a program your own), but both faced impossible expectations. Also, if you consider that Tubby was in the tourney while Kentucky watched it this year, and the only year Weis was successful he was coaching the players Ty had recruited; I think its safe to say that they were not as terrible as the impatient fans of ND and KU thought. And now Kentucky thinks it is going to be a good idea to run off one of the best coaches in college basketball. I know Gillispie has struggled this year, but the cupboard wasn’t just bear…it was beaten, deserted and left for dead. If he was given enough time to get his guys he needs to run his system, there is not a doubt in my mind that he would have made Kentucky a winner. The year before he arrived, Texas A&M won as many Big 12 games as you and I did…or zero. Then in his first year he led them to an 8-8 record in the Big 12 and a birth in the NIT (for the first time since 1994). He then took Tamu to the big dance in both of the following years (for the first time since 1987). He took a team with absolutely no history of success in basketball and made them relevant.

Alright, now that we got through that; let me be clear on one thing, Calipari is a phenomenal recruiter. This helps offset for the facts that his teams always lack discipline and fundamentals (they were a couple of FT’s missed from a championship last year). Oh, also he is a miserable game day coach. These are two of Gillispie’s greatest strengths. Also, I don’t know how good of an idea it is to bring someone in who has used…less than admirable recruiting methods. Since Kentucky itself has not exactly been the model program as far as violations go. The university received a 1 year death penalty in the 50’s, and a 2 year ban from the postseason in 1989. If you’re not familiar with Calipari’s past, check this out for the cliff notes.

Just because a position was once great does not automatically mean it is a great opportunity. Perfect example: Dallas Cowboys quarterback. Yes Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman played the position, but so did Quincy Carter. I like Tony Romo, but I think he still has a lot to prove before we start adding him to the list of greats. So currently, our two impatient and formerly great programs are left with coaches that were not their ideal choices. (If you blinked, you missed where Donovan announced he would not consider going to Kentucky at all this time around. You think they might have contacted him, hmm…) If not for the absurd 10 year extension given to Weis during the middle of his first year (he was 5-2 at the time), he would already be out at ND. So will the fighting Irish follow in the footsteps of the Wildcats, and fire one of the best X’s and O’s coaches to hire someone who can “handle the pressure” better? All things considered, Calipari was correct in what he said. But all wrong with the spirit that he said it with. My prediction: in 3 years we’ll probably be talking about some guy considering leaving a great situation for the “lore” of at least one of these two jobs. One problem, these are two of the worst jobs to have in sports right now.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Cousy, Magic, The Big O, and Really?!? PART TWO

You might have heard that Curt Schilling retired this week, and of course the first question being asked is, “Will Curt Schilling be elected into the Hall of Fame?” If you just look at his regular season stats, then you would be inclined to answer no. He IS a part of the 3000 strikeout club, but only has 216 wins. 216 would be one of the lowest win totals by a HOF pitcher in Curt’s era. (Just to compare, Dazzy Vance had 216 complete games! He pitched primarily for the Brooklyn Robins in the ‘20s and 30’s, very different era indeed.) But if you had the chance to watch Schilling pitch in the playoffs; you would quickly realize he is indeed worthy of the Hall. Schilling went 11-2 with a miniscule 2.23 ERA in his postseason career; this included an unbelievable run in 2001 when he went 4-0, yielding only 6 runs in 6 starts (including 3 complete games), all while striking out 56 batters in only 48 innings. Oh and there is this little story you might have heard about…

Basically when Schilling went up against the best, in the pressure cooker that is the playoffs, he dominated. The playoffs separate and reveal the good from the great, and Schilling was incredible. Steve Nash is the anti Curt Schilling.

This is not to say that Nash is not a Hall of Famer, but over the years the playoffs have revealed that Nash is not as good as his two MVPs indicate. But the MVP is a regular season award, so I must show that Nash’s regular season accomplishments did not merit him winning two MVPs.

Reason number 1: A CFLN forgot it was ok to play some offense in the NBA.
Nash burst onto the scene in Phoenix coming off of back to back years where two defensively oriented teams had won the NBA Finals. The Spurs (13th in ppg in 03) and the Pistons (26th in ppg in 04). Only 6 teams averaged over 100ppg those two years combined. 13 teams are averaging better than 100 this year. So in 05, the talking heads saw a team starting to score a lot of points, freaked out, and stupidly assumed it was because Steve Nash was redefining the point guard position.
Which point guard would you want on your team?
Player A: 15.5pts 11.5ast 3.3reb 1stl
Player B: 22.2pts 10.9ast 5.4reb 2.8stl
Player A was Nash in 05, his first MVP season. Player B is Chris Paul, this year. I know for some of you it’s hard to believe that there could possibly be an MVP candidate outside of Lebron or Kobe. In that 2005 year, Nash played with Joe Johnson, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Shawn Marion. All three are All-Stars. Paul’s only fellow All-Star, David West.

Reason number 2: D’Antoni’s system
Yes everyone plays in a system, but no one talked about how this allowed Nash to accumulate an inordinate amount of assists. Of course his stats were good, but even bad players improve their stats in a system like D’Antoni’s. For example, the Knicks are currently 4th in the NBA in ppg. They were 20th last year. Nate Robinson, David Lee, and Wilson Chandler are all averaging around 6 more ppg than they did last year.

Reason number 3: Nash plays ZERO defense
The most important player on the defensive end in basketball is the point guard. Team defense is more dependent on him than it is anyone else, even the center. Think about it, if a perimeter player is beat off the dribble, then another defender must come and help; leaving an open person to pass the ball to. The center may be able to help, but point guard penetration often leads to easy baskets. You would be hard-pressed to find a point guard in the NBA that does not have a great offensive game against Nash. He gets beat off the dribble, people shoot over him, and bigger guards post him up all day. Let’s look at the Suns rankings in opponents ppg since Nash arrived.
2005-30th, 2006-28th, 2007-23rd, 2008-25th, 2009-27th
Remember that there are only 30 teams in the NBA, so Nash was so “valuable” to his team in 05 and 06 that they were in the bottom 3 worst defensive teams in basketball. Oh and don’t blame this all on D’Antoni either. The second to last team in defense in 2004…none other then the Nash led Mavs. But for those of you who say seeing is believing…

So basically Nash is great player that I would never want on my team. Well, maybe if I was an owner and trying to sell tickets.

What about this year’s MVP? Let’s go back and ask the questions.
1. Who is the best player in the league?
Kobe. All these people are trying to make an argument that Lebron is better, but when the stats are close I think you have to ask, “Would you rather have Kobe or the chosen one take the last shot for your team?” From the field or from the line the obvious answer is still Kobe, in fact if it’s free throws were talking about, then I would want a whole host of people besides the chosen one taking those last two shots. I do think it is interesting however, that the CFLN is positioning the CO (chosen one) as better than Kobe. Anyone that watches the game (and watches them play against each other) can easily see that Kobe still reigns supreme.

2. Who is most valuable to their team?
Oh they are bowing down to the CO on this question. “The Cavs would be lost without their saviour!” Pretty sure that kind of talk should be reserved for church, but hey, he is supposed to bring balance to the force, right? Oh wait, that’s Star Wars…oh well. Ladies and Gentlemen your 2009 NBA MVP: (barring Kobe scoring 81 points or something crazy) Lebron James.

But what if the right question were asked? The question that should always be asked first. Who is having the best season? If this was the CFLN’s focus, then I believe the MVP race would not be between KB24 and LBJ, but rather a battle of CP3 vs. D Wade. Both are having statistically comparable seasons to the frontrunners, but Paul and Wade have far less to work with. Unfortunately for them...they are not the Chosen One, and they do not play in LA.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Cousy, Magic, The Big O, and Really?!?

Steve Nash is the worst choice for a NBA MVP ever and would not have won the award without the aid of ESPN (which will be referred to as the Certain Four Letter Network or CFLN, because they don’t need any more publicity). So, do I have your attention? Good. Before we go into why Nash is maybe the most over-rated player in the NBA, let’s talk about what the MVP award has become. When I was growing up, the MVP was reserved for the player having the best season in their given sport. Now, it is whichever player the CFLN deems is most deserving of the MVP. Have you noticed how they often ask two very different questions when deciding who will win the MVP award? Basically they pick which player they like and say something like this…

The MVP award should go to:

1. The best player in the league.
This line of reasoning is usually supported more by stats than opinion and usually goes to the best player on one of the best teams in the league. Biggest problem: if this reason was used consistently, then Kobe should have won several more MVPs. His name is always the first one mentioned when asked who the best player in the league is. The Chosen One is being mentioned more and more, but I will get to that later.

2. The “most valuable player” to his team. (This is how Nash won both of his awards)
Now when you hear someone say this, it means they are going to tell you their opinion. They will often support this opinion by saying something like: “If you took player A off their team, then their team would be one of the worst teams in the league.” Biggest problem: Player A…IS on that team! And if they were not, most likely another great player would be there instead. Most of the time, a great player is acquired through a very high draft pick or free agency. So let’s say the Cavs had picked Carmelo Anthony instead of the Chosen One. Would they really be one of the worst teams in the league? Not likely.

Now I am not a conspiracy theorist. I don’t actually think the CFLN has meetings to determine who will win the award, but I do think they influence the award to a great degree. And I don’t like how they pick which question to ask depending on who they want to support. I don’t mind if they use these as secondary questions to help them ask the main question of: “Who is having the best season?” Since this question does not always match Steven A. Smith’s agenda…I’m going to take you in reverse order, starting with last year and going back to Nash’s first MVP season, to answer three things: what question was asked in order to give out the award; who would have won if the other question was asked instead; and finally who should have won the award.

2008 Kobe Bryant

The question that prevailed this year was number 1. Kobe was indeed the best player in the league, but what if the 2nd line of reasoning were used? Your MVP would have been…Chris Paul! The other members of his starting five: Tyson Chandler, Mo Pete, Peja, and David West (who should not have been an all star this year). Let’s go ahead and set the over under on wins last year without CP3 at 31. Anyone taking the over? Who should have won? Kevin Garnett. KG was phenomenal all last year. He transformed the Celtics from an awful team to the unquestioned best team in the league. You had to actually watch the games (which I’m convinced no one on CFLN does) to quantify his presence on defensive end (anyone else notice how much they struggled this last month without him on defense). In short Kobe was great, but KG was better.

2007 Dirk Nowitzki

Dirk is the most deserving MVP of these four I will go over. He had a great year (in the regular season), his team was great because of him (in the regular season), and he was rewarded for it by getting beat down by Golden State (in the playoffs). If question 1 were asked Kobe would have won his first MVP this year. There is no valid argument that he was not the best player in the league. If question 2 were asked; how about Tracy McGrady? Yao missed 34 games that year, and T Mac led the Rockets to the playoffs and home court advantage in the first round. Keep in mind that the MVP is a regular season award; otherwise, T Mac would be disqualified from it every year. They got it right this time. Dirk definitely had the best season.

2006 Steve Nash

Kobe is the answer for number 1 (again) as he was the best player in the league, toiling on a sub par Lakers team. He is also the answer for number 2 in 2006, because that Lakers team was awful outside of him, and still made the playoffs (Smush Parker, Luke Walton, Devean George and Kwame Brown were all regular starters), although people argued otherwise because they thought that no other point guard could possibly be plugged into D’Antoni’s system and do as well as Nash. (Chris Duhon is averaging almost twice as many assists as he did last year, hmm…) I believe 2006 was the year Kobe should have won the MVP; as it was his best season, all things considered.

2005 Steve Nash

Kobe and Shaq were both the answer to number 1 (if they had stayed together they would have no less than 7 rings right now). And if number 2 were used properly, then Shaq would be the answer. Here is the basic timeline of events: Miami stinks, Shaq shows up, Miami is a top team in the league. Simply, Shaq should have won the MVP this year.

But wait! I’ve not told you why Nash should NOT have won either one of his MVPs…come back Friday for that and more! (Including my prediction for who the CFLN is positioning to win it this year)

Oh, and if you disagree with any of this, leave a comment and I’ll tell you why you’re wrong.
Just kidding...but seriously, you're wrong

Thursday, March 19, 2009

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

Today begins the best 2-3 weeks in sports. I mean think about it, why do we watch sports? Most of the time we watch just hoping to see a good or close game. That will happen exactly every single hour over this first weekend of madness. Other times we want to be sure and watch a great team play so we can compare them to other great teams of the past. How good was that Florida team that went back to back a couple of years ago compared to any team this year? Some people will watch the same great team play and hope it loses to a greatly inferior opponent. Who doesn’t love to hate Duke? Or, if you are lucky enough, your team has finally made it to the big game and you watch while living and dying with every basket, rebound, and of course every blown call (I have found, however that this is often the least enjoyable reason to watch sports, as it causes extreme amounts of stress and ensuing depression with defeat). Perhaps the most rewarding reason to watch sports is the feelings of comradery and community built with other fans. What other sporting event can bring you closer with people at work, help you reconnect with old friends, and enable you to meet someone in another city, state, or country. This is all accomplished by the power of the bracket; practically everybody has one, even people who don’t follow sports all year will fill out a bracket.

Well whatever your reason for watching sports, over the next few weeks you will get the chance to see and experience all of these things in tremendous excess. Which is why these weeks are the BEST weeks in sports, and for my money nothing else is close. Disagree? Let’s look at the NFL, we’ve actually had some underdogs make it all the way to the super bowl, and last year win it thanks to Mr. David Tyree. But how often is your team in the super bowl? Or even the playoffs? And imagine if the Ravens had beaten the Steelers, would there really have been that much interest in it outside of Baltimore and Arizona? Heck for the average fan who has no rooting interest you’re really hoping for close game and an excuse to root for team. I live in Houston and I’m a Cowboys fan, and this year my excuse for cheering for the Cardinals was to keep Pittsburgh away from being the first team to win a 6th title. But what if I’m a Texans fan? My team is several years away from even winning a playoff game (sorry Texans fans I just don’t think Matt Schaub is the answer: side note Schaub and a 2nd round pick for Cutler? They should do that in a heartbeat) much less get to a Super bowl. College Football comes closer to at least providing the same drama of every game mattering in the regular season, but I think you could find 1 or 2 Texas fans willing to argue the validity of that statement. The subjective ratings are everything in CFB. But in march madness you can be ranked number 1, have everyone in the country including the President and a certain four letter network bowing down to you, (I’m looking at you North Carolina) and all of a sudden you lose to Oklahoma in the elite eight and you’re out. (Fingers crossed, holding a rabbit’s foot, and four leaf clover, Boomer Sooner!)

Moving on to our nation’s pastime, Major league baseball. Quick who played in the World Series two years ago? Thinking time…..Ok, How many people got the Colorado Rockies? If yes good job! They were a nice Cinderella story as were the rays this year, but too many times baseball games are not close, it’s the only major sport where you can consistently predict who will win with as much as a third of the way to go. Yes there are times when great comebacks or dramatic finishes might happen, but they are far from guaranteed. I don’t know if you saw the tournament championship game last year, but it was kind of dramatic, well if you like buzzer beater threes to force overtime, but back to baseball. How often is your team in it? Good luck staying alive long enough to see your team win the World Series. If you were a Red Sox fan born in 1920 I hope you lived to at least 84, otherwise the most comforting news you heard at the end of the season was, “there’s always next year.” I could talk about the cubs here, but that would just be mean, right?

Now let’s address the NBA’s case for best time in sports. Before I start I must confess to something: I LOVE the NBA! Seriously, I will watch the Grizzlies play the Wizards. And if the Rockets are in the playoffs I’m probably not missing a second of it, but I must admit that March provides much more excitement then the NBA playoffs could ever hope to have. Most years there are two three teams in each league that have a legit shot at making the finals. (Anyone want to take any team besides the Lakers, Spurs, Celtics or Cavs to make the finals?) This makes it hard for your team to have a shot at the title and as a casual fan it’s harder to root for either team when you really don’t like either one. It also makes it a little less interesting even though a certain four letter network would beg to differ; as they shove said team or player down your throat, hoping to induce your admission that the player truly is the chosen one.

I know that all of things I have said either don’t happen or won’t happen in other sports very well could happen this year. Heck, a huge reason we watch sports is that anything is possible: USA over Russia in the 1980 Olympic Games, George Mason in the final four, Cubs winning the world series...well most things are possible. But consistently they don’t happen, save for these few awesome weeks in March. Where, as I am typing these words, number 3Villanova is tied at 55 in the second half with 14American University. American was the champ of the Patriot league this year. You might remember another Patriot League Champ from a couple of years back: George Mason. Let the Madness Begin!