Sunday, August 19, 2012

Thoughts on Summer Events: Olympics, Baseball, Football

Hi everyone:  I've been tweeting quite a bit, so if you open a twitter account, you can get various thoughts from me during the day.  I have found Twitter to be an interesting way to get thoughts and news.  I try to limit myself to following not more than 300 people or news organizations, and, so far, so good.  It takes some work to limit thoughts to 140 characters, but I'm managing.  After all, there are more than 140 characters out there in the world of sports, from amusing people like John Kruk to vain people like Usain Bolt, to impossible people like Sean Payton, to bold people like Melky Cabrera to hypocritical people like Mark Emmert to blunt and good-for-sports people like Jay Bilas (whose tweets are among the best out there, even though I am a Carolina fan and he played for Duke).

I have a bunch of thoughts on various topics, so I'll take them in order that they come to my mind.

1.  Why didn't the IOC honor the Israelis who were butchered at the '72 Olympic Games with a moment of silence?   

I could offer up many answers, so here's a multiple choice quiz:

a) because the IOC remains corrupt and gutless, even if Juan Antonio Samaranch is long gone;
b) because the IOC is afraid of world demography, and fearful that all Arab countries would boycott if such a moment of silence were given, and there are many more Arabs in the world than Israelis, so life is demographics after all;
c) because the IOC is hypocritical, getting on the same Arab countries' backs to pressure them to permit women to compete, even if somehow 11 murdered athletes don't really register on their radar screen;
d) because the IOC wants as many nations as possible to come to the games, even if it permits some of those same nations to offer lame excuses for their athletes to withdraw lest they are asked to compete against Israelis;
e) the IOC and/or a majority of its members are anti-Semites; or
f) the issue of murdered Olympic athletes who weren't properly memorialized just isn't a big deal.

And a shout out, while I'm at it, to NBC's Bob Costas, who recognized the injustice and provided his own moment of silence.

2.  Will USA Basketball Make an "Out of the Box" call and let Doug Collins coach the 2016 Olympic basketball team?

Yes, Gregg Popovich and Doc Rivers are next in line, and, yes, both are outstanding coaches.  You will get no argument from me if either is selected.  Both would excel.  But there is something dramatic and romantic in permitting Collins to man the conn of USA Basketball and get redemption, of sorts, from the all-time screwing the '72 Olympic team got in the final against the former Soviet Union.  That was one of the worst things I ever witnessed, and, as a young boy, gave me an inkling as to how people can cheat and how politics can permeate games (we used to joke in gym when someone slipped and fell "And the East German judge gave it a 5.2, and all other judges gave it a 6").  I know, history experts, the refs were from other countries, but they failed miserably.

Pick Doug Collins, let him fire the team up, and we'll all have a great story featuring a wonderful guy.  Poetic justice would be if they could kick the crap out of Mother Russia, especially if strongman/bully/gangster Vladimir Putin is still in office.  Which leads me to the next question?

3.  Given what's going on in Russia, will David Blatt elect to remain as coach of its national team or find another squad to coach?  

I love Dave Blatt, knew him back in the day, and he's an awesome coach.  Look, most governments aren't so pretty if you get too close, but will he remain with Russia or find a different challenge.  In Twitter parlance, #manyothercountriesareavailableandmoreworthy.

4.  Given the world's problems, which nation has its priorities straight -- 310 million plus U.S., which led the medal count, or 1.2 billion India, which won 6 medals, none of them gold, and doesn't seem to care.

I'm not saying that I am going to move to India, but with the exception of men's field hockey, I don't think that India cares about Olympic sports.  That's not to say that they care about all of their people, either, as India has major issues with its caste system, poverty and corruption.  So, you don't see an exodus of Americans moving to Mumbai or Calcutta.  That said, with about 16% of the world's population, India just doesn't give a rat's rear end about the Olympics.

And, while many of us like the spectacle and respect the job that NBC did given that we all can get current results on-line right when they happen, the games are different from what they once were.  In our youth, the competitors from the U.S. and the democracies were amateurs.  The Soviet bloc athletes were full-time athletes, using army service as an almost unveiled veneer to cover their professionalism, and the East Germans doped it up big-time in order to create a master Communist race.  Sure, there was more tension because there was an evil empire, but the days of Gerd Bonk, the Belgian librarian who was a heavyweight weightlifter and whose story was one of many that legendary broadcaster Jim McKay told so well, are for the ages.  And that's a shame.

These are professional games.  And, no, the current hoops team couldn't have beat the '92 dream team, which would have been up 25 on Spain after 3 instead of giving us too much to worry about.  Also, do you really care that the U.S. men's team can beat Nigeria by the GDP of North Africa in a seeding round, or that the U.S. women won by 36 in the gold-medal game?

5.  What happened to boxing?

About 1/3 of a century ago, we focused on men's basketball, track and field, swimming, gymnastics and boxing and little else.

Boxing is gone.

6.  Is major college football a big joke on all of us, or what?  

NCAA President Mark Emmert and investigator Louis Freeh condemned Penn State's "football-first culture."  I've frequently been critical of the "beer and circus" (thanks, Murray Sperber) culture at many major universities, and have offered that I don't want my kids to go to any school where a coach makes more than the university president.  That said, for many, it's the best option and the most affordable one, but I think that we owe our kids more.  To be frank, most BCS schools have "football first" cultures.  Just read this week's Sports Illustrated, which has an article about how all BCS programs are tying to emulate what Nick Saban has accomplished at Alabama.  Just follow the money and look at the priorities -- you have more football coaches, trainers, tutors and the like for the football team than you probably have for the rest of the student body, combined, and at some of these schools you have 120 young men in a football program and 40,000 students in every other.  Sorry, but football-first cultures exist everywhere.

7.  There will be 5-10-15 scandals that will emerge at BCS schools where coaches pressured administrators and professors to cover things up to help enable the football program.  What will Mark Emmert do then?  

Probably good not to be the first one to suffer the NCAA's wrath, because all subsequently discovered transgressors will have figured out a way to defend themselves.  Jay Bilas is very eloquent on this topic, and I'd encourage him to write lengthy pieces on the subject.  The NCAA put itself in a box here, and I think that the BCS schools ultimately might withdraw in order to create a bigger paper-tiger regulator who will respond as follows when the big-money schools say "Jump!"  "How high, out which window and how would you like me to splatter?"

Watch the stories, watch the headlines -- what a mess.

8.  ESPN's Elite 11 quarterback program coverage was good, but why did those who run Elite 11 trot out Pete Carroll as the featured speaker?  

Sure, he has a full head of hair and sounds good, but was he just a bystander while at USC?  Perhaps he was, perhaps he wasn't, but to trot out a coach whose program vacated a lot of victories because of Reggie Bush doesn't seem to send the right message.  And, besides, his QBs haven't exactly torn it up in the NFL, either.  Speaking of which. . .

9.  SI's article on USC quarterback Matt Barkley is good, but he provokes an eerie parallel to thus-far NFL flop Matt Leinert, another USC alum.

In his final season, Leinert took only one course in the fall semester.  Barkley is taking only one course now.  So why is he in college, exactly?  And that's not evidence of a football-first culture.  Really?  The NFL hasn't been kind to USC quarterbacks.  See, Carson Palmer, Matt Leinert and Mark Sanchez.

10.  The Astros fired manager Brad Mills, who has managed a team playing .320 baseball.  

Why  Joe Torre, Joe McCarthy, Earl Weaver, Whitey Herzog, Tony LaRussa -- none of those guys could have done any better.  They should look into their front office, their talent evaluators and their talent.  As Herzog once said, "If you have great talent and a horse bleep manager and bad talent and a Hall of Fame manager, I'll bet on the horse bleep manager every time."  So why did they fire Brad Mills, exactly?  And before the end of the season, too?

11.  How cool is it that Uganda is at the Little League World Series?

Very.  My guess is that the concept of helicopter parents and overwhelming travel parents is lost near Lake Victoria.  Among others, Jimmy Rollins' Foundation helped fund baseball in Uganda.  And a shout out to the parents of the Indiana team, who raised a lot -- in money and clothing -- for the Ugandan kids.  That's what the games should be all about.

12.  Will the Melky Cabrera scandal stain baseball further?

Doug Glanville has written a lot about this.  I think that MLB has lost a ton of credibility.  He was the 2nd leading hitter in the NL at the time he was suspended and was the MVP of the All-Star game (which the NL won and now the NL team gets home-field advantage).  What this means is that the testing program permits cheaters, because a) not everyone gets tested during the regular season and b) the rules allow for a multiple of "normal" testosterone levels in a player before they hit various thresholds of scrutiny.  What this seems to suggest is that a) people having career years might be getting some help from bottles and needles and b) players are still cheating and will continue to do so until everyone is tested routinely.  Sure, the MLBPA is the most successful union in the history of the entire world labor movement, but the owners have to fight harder before the game goes the way of boxing.

Look for most flunked tests and more vents and disgust.

Thanks for listening.