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Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Things To Be Thankful For

If you're NBA Commissioner David Stern, you're thankful that the Friday Night Fight in Detroit was not worse. And it could have been a lot worse.

And, of course, you're thankful for the rapid emergence of LeBron James. Kobe Bryant as Heir Jordan? Maybe, but #23 in Cleveland is everything that the NBA had hoped he would be. And more.

If you're a fan of Iowa Hawkeyes football, thank the Iowa administration for having the smarts to ink head football coach Kirk Ferentz to a contract extension through 2012. Things are looking mighty bright for Iowa football. Click on the link and read what TigerHawk, a non- sports-blogging website that waxes eloquent on sports when Iowans are involved.

If you're a fan of Iowa Hawkeyes basketball, thank Coach Steve Alford for (finally) molding a very promising squad together. The Hawkeyes beat Louisville and Texas on back-to-back days, and both were ranked in the Top 20 or so. TigerHawk is so involved either with the political landscape or expressing his glee about Kirk Ferentz that he (or his brother, Charlottesvillain) have yet to wave the black-and-gold flag about the Hawkeyes hoops team. So click here for the official site of the Iowa Hawkeyes to get with the program (literally).

If you're Penn hoops coach Fran Dunphy, you're thankful that your team rebounded from two awful pastings at the hands of Providence and Wisconsin when they delivered a mauling of their own against cross-town rival Drexel last night. The same way Ben Franklin once said that there's no such thing as a good war or a bad peace, there's probably, to coaches anyway, no such thing as a bad win or a good loss. And while Dunphy did say he saw some progress in the 33-point loss to the Badgers (it's really hard to imagine what), what he saw last night was encouraging -- a team that shot 11-14 from behind the arc and that clearly established soph forward Mark Zoller as a secondary option to senior swingman Tim Begley.

If you're a Princeton Tigers hoop fan, you're thankful that a Tiger frosh scored in double figures in one of the first three games in recent memory. Frosh F Noah Savage (who is from the Princeton area and went to the Hun School, which is only notable because a Savage went to Hun, which raises the question whether the Tigers are going to recruit players named Dervish, Vandal and Visigoth at any time in the near future) had 12 points in a 2 OT loss at Wyoming on Monday night. The loss was disappointing, but that Savage has made a key contribution so early is most encouraging (as is the notion that Penn has yet to develop a PG to really run its team, as jr PG Eric Osmundsen didn't show much in last night's lopsided victory over Drexel -- when the Quakers don't have a PG who can really run the show, they don't win the Ivy title).

If you're Temple hoops coach John Chaney, you're thankful for a big, physical team with a strong PG in Mardy Collins and an 18-point season-opening win over Georgetown last night. That's good news for the Owls, who have not received a ton of publicity this year but who might just return to the NCAA hoops tournament.

If you're a Phoenix Suns fan, you're grateful that ownership signed PG Steve Nash as a free agent and doubly grateful that he has blended so well with Shawn Marion and Amare Stoudemire. Yes, San Antonio and Minnesota are formidable, as is versatile Seattle and aging Sacramento, but Phoenix may be the most exciting team in the West.

If you're a Boston Red Sox fan, well, if you don't know what you're thankful for or if you're not thankful, then you need a serious clue. But you're thankful for the killer instinct that John Henry and Larry Lucchino brought to the team's front office, thankful for the Curt Schilling trade, and thankful for the grit that your team showed during the last half of the season and in the playoffs.

If you're a college football fan, you're thankful for a very intriguing season thus far, the BCS notwithstanding. You're grateful for the emergence of Utah and Boise State into the BCS picture, some wild games that Oklahoma played, upsets all over the place, from Michigan State's trouncing of Wisconsin to some exciting Oklahoma games to the very close and entertaining early-season contest between USC and Cal, to Navy's getting a bowl bid, to seeing Lou Holtz retire after a distinguished career (although his team certainly gave him something to remember with its literal slugfest against archrival Clemson in what now turned out to be the season finale because neither team will accept a bowl bid as self-flagellating punishment for the brawl that took place in their game), North Carolina's upset over Miami, Penn State's winning its last two regular-season games (and preserving some dignity for Coach Joe Paterno) and many, many other wonderful moments. Most likely, there are many more to come. And, of course, you're hopeful that the national championship, as much as possible, can be decided on the field and not on some Cray supercomputer.

If you're an ACC hoops fan, you are thankful that no one can argue, at least right now, that any conference is better than yours in basketball. And it's not even close. Depending on how the seedings go, you could have four ACC teams in the Elite 8 come the NCAA tournament, as that's how strong the ACC is this year. If you have any doubts about that statement, how about this one: Duke is not among the top 3 teams in the league this year.

If you're a baseball fan, you're thankful that money cannot buy championships. Put differently, you're thankful that the team that spends the most money cannot buy championships simply by spending the most money (although you're concerned that if your team isn't in the top 10 in spending, it might not have a chance to win the World Series). And, if you do not like the Yankees, you're thankful that they have a weak farm system with few prospects to trade, meaning that George Steinbrenner will create more of a pressure cooker and higher expectations after he signs very expensive free agents and then realizes that while he might have an "A" list lineup, he has a "B" list pitching staff. Offense sells tickets; defense and pitching win championships. Even in Joe DiMaggios' heyday, Lefty Gomez and Red Ruffing, who had rather high ERAs relative to their era, were able to get people out. Repeatedly.

If you're an NHL fan, be thankful that all that's gone so far is this season. And not you're home team or the league, period.

I, for one, am thankful for a variety of aspects of the sporting world, among them (in no particular order, and I'm sure I have forgotten a few):

1. The majesty of the World Series, the beautiful shots of Fenway Park, in particular, the long, parabolic fly balls that you watched rise into the nighttime sky, wondering whether they were far enough and fair enough to turn the tide in a very compelling drama, where you looked at every pitch as something that could change the direction of world history, the bloody sock of Curt Schilling, and the never-say-die bats of guys named Ramirez, Ortiz, Bellhorn, Damon, Nixon, Varitek and many others. I haven't found a more compelling drama in sports in a while (and, sorry, ESPN, but so far your made-for-TV stuff has been lacking.).

2. The back-and-forth with readers and fellow bloggers, especially those to whom I have linked and who link back from time to time. And to those who have linked to me and to whom I haven't linked back yet, please have patience with me, as I'm more toward the technical Luddite end of the continuum and have to get to my template to update it.

3. Hot-stove discussions, drafts, the personnel aspects of rosters, coaching changes, and that sort of thing. For example, how have the Philadelphia Eagles managed to stay stop the NFC East, even with three great coaches coaching their division rivals? Have Jeffrey Lurie and Joe Banner simply adopted a football version of "dollar-cost-averaging" or some form of portfolio management in keeping their roster evergreen with talent? It seems that way. How do people become college basketball coaches? Or why? Have you looked at Blue Ribbon and the alma maters of a plurality of assistant coaches? They certainly aren't household names, and they certainly didn't play big-time college basketball. For example, N.C. State Coach Herb Sendek didn't hoop at an ACC school. Far from it. He played his college hoops at the very academically inclined Carnegie Mellon, which is probably where you'd expect a guy named Herb to play his college hoops. And the assistants went to Division II or III schools, and they're all looking to get ahead. For those who make it to the top, well, there's no doubt that they've paid their dues.

4. The burgeoning rivalry between ESPN the Magazine and Sports Illustrated for the hot stories, which, I believe, will make SI younger and more hip and ESPN the Magazine less the sports magazine world's "Pimp Your Ride" edition that it probably had been prone to be. This competition will bring out the best in both, although I wish that ESPN would literally waste less paper and write in a print that the average middel-aged person with progressive glasses can read. I liked the SI article on the Vermont men's hoops program better (in this week's edition), but ESPN scooped SI, as its article came out first. This should be an interesting rivalry down the road.

5. I like watching my kids play sports and games and watch the pure joy of the effort. Yes, I live in one of these areas where kids can play travel sports as early as the age of 7 1/2, and while I think that's one of the craziest ideas I have ever heard (they shouldn't play "travel" until they're 11 in my opinion), the sports are very much fun. When we all remember that sports are supposed to be fun, we're all better off. They should remember that in Detroit, in Indianapolis, in South Carolina, and, for that matter, everywhere else.

I could go on and on, as it's a wonderful time of the year. It's time tomorrow to go outside while the food is cooking and toss around a football, even if it's a little chilly, rainy or muddy where you are. It's time to watch the Thanksgiving Day games, even if Dallas is bad and Detroit can't quite climb the mountain yet. And it's time to catch up with family with no distractions, eat a bunch of good food.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!


Blogger Sports Junky said...

I agree,

I love College Basketball. and recently I have bought stock in it. Not like real stock on Wall street, but a stock market that is strictly for sports.

You have seen it? Its pretty cool. You buy issues for your favorite teams and you make real money. Not like a fake stock simulator. I cash out Dividends each time the team wins. Also I can sell my team stock when the price goes up.

check it out if something like this interests you.
heres a link
you can log in and check it out for free..

They just released IPOS for College Basketball this week, so there are alot of good deals there.

Hope that helps

2:32 PM  

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