best counter

Your Ad Here
Just The Sports: 2006-04-02

Just The Sports

Saturday, April 08, 2006

More Proof

And just when you thought I was completely off my rocker for suggesting some dunks should be worth more than 3-pointers, here is corroboration that I may know a thing or two about sports. I've never heard of JJ Redick busting up his fingers after he made a 3-pointer.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Time To Face Reality

It is a well-known fact that the word fan is short for fanatic. What is not a well-known fact is that fan is also short for disillusioned moron. Fans of one particular team, die-hard fans especially, live in a vastly differently world than that of the objective observer. In a fan's warped sense of reality, every call that helps his/her team is a good one, every call that hurts his/her team is a bad one, the players should love the team as much as the fans do, and every game is one that the team should have won, regardless of the actual talent the team possesses.

The last aspect of the fan's warped sense of reality is what I want to deal with in this post. Living in New York City, I have been inundated with sports coverage of the New York professional teams and have had to listen to how the fans of the respective franchises react to victories and losses. What has amazed me is the sense of entitlement fans seem to have. They seem to think that simply by virtue of being New Yorkers, all the teams they root for should win every single game. Why they think that is beyond me since, outside of the New York Yankees, New York franchises have been notorious underachievers when it came to winning championships.

This got me to thinking about other fan bases who may be just as disillusioned about the true state of the team they root for and need to be introduced to a little thing I like to call reality. The list I came up with is: UCLA Bruins basketball fans, New York Jets fans, Philadelphia Eagles fans, and New York Knicks fans.

UCLA Bruins fans

Ask any Bruins men's basketball fan about UCLA basketball and watch his/her face light up as he/she tells you about the eleven national championships, more than any other college basketball program, and how John Wooden is the greatest college basketball coach to ever grace the sidelines. Then watch this fan become even more animated as he/she recounts the 88-game winning streak from 1971 to 1974 and how the likes of Bill Walton, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Reggie Miller once donned the Bruin blue.

But watch the same fan's face slowly fall when you ask them if UCLA is supposed to be such a dominant college basketball program, why is it that UCLA has only managed to win one championship in 31 years, the same as the likes of Arkansas, Maryland, and Florida.

There is no denying that winning ten national championships in twelve years is an impressive feat, especially since no other college basketball program has managed to do it. However, one must be careful not to overstate the difficulty of doing so.

When Wooden was winning his numerous titles, the world of college basketball was far different than it is now. Parity was non-existent as only a handful of teams had an actual chance to win a title. UCLA was like Tennessee in the infancy of women's college basketball where the Tennessee Volunteers had complete dominance over the sport.

Another thing to remember is the NCAA Tournament format at the time. For nine out of the ten championships UCLA won, the tournament field consisted of sixteen teams, meaning teams only had to win two games to get to the Final Four and another two to win the title game. It was not until 1975 that the tournament field increased to 32 teams, adding one to the number of a games the national champion had to win.

Compare that to the present day where the tournament field is now 65 teams and the talent margin between the lesser-known teams and the well-publicized teams is decreasing each year. This makes it exponentially more difficult to win a championship, let alone repeat what UCLA did during the 1960s and 1970s. In fact, the last team to repeat as national champions, Duke's '92 team, did it fourteen years ago. It's a different era of college basketball and the quicker UCLA fans learn that, the better.

UCLA still has a competitive basketball program, but it is no longer the dominant force it once was. In fact, it will never again be that dominant.

New York Jets fans

With the track record of the New York Jets, it is a wonder they have any fans at all. But the fact they do is a testament to the fact it is easier for a fan to root for the team closest to them. Despite the track record, Jets fans are still so disillusioned as to the team they are rooting for that they are surprised when the Jets lose.

Let's take a look at the history of the Jets in the NFL. There have been forty Super Bowl games played. The Jets have won a total of one, in 1969, and have not even appeared in any others. So the pinnacle of the Jets franchise occurred thirty-seven years, a game the majority of Jets fans probably do not even remember.

Since then the Jets have been wallowing in mediocrity and bad decision-making. When they are not wasting 1st round draft picks on the likes of Jeff Lageman (over Steve Atwater), Roger Vick (over Harris Barton), and Kyle Brady (over Warren Sapp), the Jets have found time to be essentially fired by their head coaches. In a league where head coaches rarely get to leave teams on their own terms, the Jets' last four head coaches have all quit on the franchise. One coach, Al Groh, left the Jets to coach the University of Virginia's football team. Another coach, Bill Belichick, quit on the New York Jets after being head coach for a day.

And to make matters worse and confirm that the New York Jets are a joke of a franchise, they do not even play in their own stadium. They pay rent to play in a venue called Giants Stadium, home of New York's other football franchise, the New York Giants.

If anything, Jets fans should expect to lose more games than they win. Throughout their history, their success on the football field has been minimal at best while their success in making bad executive decisions has been stellar.

In other words, Jets fans should stop their complaining and face the reality of rooting for a dead-end franchise.

Philadelphia Eagles Fans

Whereas the New York Jets have at least won one Super Bowl title, the Philadelphia Eagles have won none at all. They have appeared in two Super Bowls (1981 and 2005) only to lose both of them. Yet, the Eagles fans still boo. They boo their own players, they boo the opposing players, they boo the referees. The fans try to pass off their booing as a sign of being passionate about the game, but it is really an indicator of stupidity.

Booing implies that one expects more from the person he/she is booing. The Eagles have done very little throughout their history to warrant any fan to expect them to be a great team. A person can try to point to their current era and say the Eagles are a great team right now, but they would be wrong. True, they made it to four straight NFC Championship games from 2002-2005, but they only won one. Even the Buffalo Bills, who went on to lose in four consecutive Super Bowls, won all their AFC Championship games.

No matter how many games a team wins in the regular season or early rounds of the playoffs, a team is not a great one until it wins a championship. Then to continue to be great, the team must sustain its success over a long period of time. The Philadelphia Eagles sustained a fairly high level of play over a few years, but with no championships to show for it, all the wins are for naught.

Now the Philadelphia Eagles are on the cusp of entering a dark era. Their owner, Jeffrey Lurie, refuses to pay top-dollar for his players, so he is losing out on top free agents. They have no credible wide receivers nor do they have a durable running back. On top of that, the defense continues to rely on players who are getting older and are unable to perform at the level they did two or three years ago. Chances are Eagles fans have seen the last of the Eagles' quasi-success, at least for a while.

New York Knicks Fans

New York City has long been known as the Mecca of college basketball. It has one of the most famous courts in all of America in Rucker Park and can boast that some of the nation's best basketball players all hail from New York City. What the city cannot boast is a championship-caliber NBA team.

The last time the New York Knicks won an NBA title was in 1973, thirty-three years ago. They were involved in two other NBA finals, losing in game 7 to the Houston Rockets in 1994 and losing in 5 games to the San Antonio Spurs in 1999.

Despite the Knicks' many playoff appearances, they have not been able to get over the hump in recent memory. They were unable to take advantage of a Jordan-less NBA when Michael was off striking out for the Chicago White Sox. The fact is since the 1972-73 season, there have always been teams that were better than the New York Knicks.

Their recent failures make it even more surprising how fans are reacting to this season where the Knicks have only won twenty-one games out of the fifty-four they played. They really should not be shocked at all. The year before this one the Knicks went 33-49 and the year before that one, their record stood at 39-43. When a team does poorly three years in a row, it is no longer an anomaly. It is a reflection of the state of the franchise and all signs point to the fact the Knicks are regressing. Knicks fans would do well to remember that and stop thinking their team should win just because they pay money for tickets and cheer them when they do well.

Ignorance Abounds

Sports radio is truly in a sorry state. Rather than being bothered with fact checking or research, sports radio hosts instead equate good insight with shouting the loudest, coming up with the most hyperboles, and hanging up on callers who disagree with their views. And if that wasn't already bad enough, there are instances where sports radio hosts put aside talking about sports for a few minutes to tackle real-life social issues. Of course, the hosts who do this are usually as uninformed about the real-life social issues they do not get paid to talk about as they are about the sports issues they do get paid to talk about. All of which brings me to Stephen A. Smith and Brandon Tierney.

Stephen A. Smith and Brandon Tierney, co-hosts of the Stephen A. Smith show, are two of the more infuriating hosts when it comes to trying to sound like they have read more than two books in their lifetimes. When they are not waxing idiotic about the hot sports topic of the day, they find them to put their ignorance on display by tackling racial issues. Today, though, they outdid themselves by pretending they know anything about the death penalty.

During the conversation on the topic, the question came up whether or not they supported the death penalty. Of course they both did. Then Brandon Tierney, in an effort to explain why he supports the death penalty, said, "For those of you who don't support the death penalty, just look at your taxes next time you get them. It costs $30,000 more a year to keep an inmate on Death Row..."

That is where I stopped listening and started searching for a gun with which to blow my brains out. Unfortunately, there was none. Never mind that there's probably not an item on your W-2 form that lists death row. How could Brandon think that was an argument to support the death penalty? That's one of the strongest arguments opponents of the death penalty use. More importantly, why wasn't there someone to correct him and tell him that no, he shouldn't use arguments he doesn't understand to explain beliefs he has never fully developed.

Or better yet, the producers who oversee these sports radio shows should use their "bleep" buttons to "bleep" out every asinine statement that comes out of the hosts' mouths. At least then their ignorance wouldn't be allowed to run free over the air waves.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


Finally, someone who gets paid to say it has said what I've been saying for months now. Thank you Frank Deford. Thank you.

And to steal an idea from my friend Matt, instead of having players' academic majors listed during the game, the networks should just put their favorite food or color. Or maybe they should stop the charade altogether and admit most players are majoring in the professional leagues of their respective sports.

Missing the Point

Yoni Cohen is one of many poor, misguided fools who, after the team he picked to win the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament fails to do so, questions whether or not the tournament is really the best way to pick the best college basketball team in the nation. Instead of having the knee-jerk reaction to bash the tournament's format and results, Cohen should have re-addressed what it means to be the "best" team in the nation. Is it the team who wins the most in-conference regular-season games or is it the team who is able to beat very good non-conference teams under the pressure of a single-elimination tournament? Too bad he didn't ask that question before he wrote this article.

Florida, George Mason, LSU, and UCLA aren't the nation's four "best" teams by any reasonable measure.

Except for the fact that Florida has the third most efficient offense in the nation, LSU has the fourth most efficient defense in the nation, and UCLA has the third most efficient defense in the nation.

But you are right about George Mason. And one out of four isn't that bad.

Florida didn't win the Eastern Division in the Southeastern Conference.

Villanova won neither the Big East regular season championship nor the Big East conference tournament championship.

George Mason lost twice to Hofstra after Valentine's Day.

Memphis lost to UAB in March.

LSU is, at best, the 64th best shooting team in America.

It's a good thing that there is more to the game of basketball than shooting then. Like defense, for example, where LSU is the 4th best in the country.

The Bruins fell at Southern California in February.

UConn lost to Syracuse in the the quarterfinals of the Big East conference tournament championship. In UConn's defense, Syracuse did go on to win the conference tournament, only to lose in the first round of the NCAA tournament championship.

By any reasonable measure, the four teams headed to Indianapolis are deeply flawed and undeserving of the national championship.

There you go with that reasonable measure again. Did you do no research before you wrote this article? You would be hard pressed to find any team in the country that does not have flaws. Every team has flaws, but it still takes an opponent to expose those deep flaws.

As for the Final Four teams to be undeserving of the national championship, what criteria could you possibly be using? If by undeserving, you mean that these teams were the only four out a field of 64 teams (play-in game loser doesn't count) who were able to win four consecutive games spread across two weekends, then yes they are undeserving.

Maybe we should just give the national championship to UConn or Duke or whoever you picked to win the tournament.

The NCAA tournament's purpose is to crown a national champion, to identify Division I's best and most deserving club.

And that is what it does. Year in and year out.

But not a single one of the regular season's most successful teams — Connecticut, Duke, Memphis, and Villanova — will participate in March's main event. Not one of the clubs whose body of work suggests they are the country's best team navigated the rocky road to the Final Four.

They were the country's best regular-season teams. It's the postseason now, meaning every team has the same record of 0-0 before the tournament starts. If these four teams were really the country's best teams, then all four would have made it to the Final Four. None of them did so stop arguing they were the country's best teams.

All four won at least six consecutive games during the regular season. Duke won 17 straight to start the season. Memphis won 15 straight in January and February. Connecticut and Villanova won 10 and 11 consecutive games respectively to start the season — and again in conference play.

First off, Florida also won 17 straight to start the season. Secondly, we need to debunk this line of thinking once and for all. Whatever a team's success in conference play, in terms of wins and losses, it has no bearing on how well the team will do in the NCAA tournament. The truth is coaches recruit players who will fit in with the way the conference plays basketball. Therefore, when a team has success during the conference season, it simply means that the coaches did a good job of recruiting players who match up best with the other players in the conference. That is why every conference has a different style of playing.

Knowing that makes it easy to see how the NCAA tournament actually does determine who the best team in the nation is. Gone is the familiarity of playing against the same players and coaches coaching against the same coaches twice a season. Instead, the team who wins the NCAA tournament is forced out of their comfort zone and must not only play, but beat teams who play a style that they probably do not see during their regular season.

But because the NCAA tournament is set up for single-elimination and because none was able to win six consecutive games in March, none will compete in the Final Four.

Actually, a team only has to win four consecutive games to compete in the Final Four.

But twice is still twice too many, and an arbitrary champion is hardly better than no champion at all.

Do you even know what arbitrary means? Arbitrary would be if the names of the 65 tournament teams were placed in a hat, which was then shaken up, and then someone picked a name out of the hat and that team was then called the national champion.

Having to win six games in a row is anything but arbitrary.

Scientists believe that for a given experiment's results to be termed valid, that experiment must be possible to replicate.

Then the NCAA tournament champion is as valid as can be since it must replicate (win) six experiments (games) to win the championship.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Men's Basketball National Championship Recap

Florida vs. UCLA

Just like the national semifinal games before it, the championship game turned out to be a non-competitive blowout with Florida beating UCLA 73-57. While the final margin of victory came as a surprise to most of the viewers and prognosticators, another surprise was the way in which Florida won the game.

UCLA was the team who was supposed to play the suffocating defense, both on the perimeter and in the low post. It was the team who was supposed to harass Florida into shooting a low percentage from the field and into committing a lot of turnovers. Yet, it was the Florida team that did all those things. Florida took UCLA out of its offensive rhythm by changing up their defenses every couple minutes, one minute in a man defense and the next playing a zone. Even when UCLA was able to get the ball out in transition, there was Corey Brewer from Florida to swipe the ball from behind or Joakim Noah to block yet another shot or the rim to get in the way of an easy lay-up or a Florida player to take a charge. UCLA simply had no answers for the Florida defense.

The most telling statistic from the game to prove how effective Florida's defensive pressure was is that in the first half only three of the nine UCLA players who played even scored. Just like Florida took away George Mason's best offensive weapons in the previous game, it was able to stop two of UCLA's best players, Arron Afflalo and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. Afflalo and Mbah a Moute, who combined to score 26 of the 59 points UCLA scored against LSU, did not even manage so much as a free throw until 11 minutes, 28 seconds and 10 minutes, 10 seconds remaining in the game, respectively. Afflalo went on to tally 10 points while Mbah a Moute added 6.

For the Florida Gators, they could do no wrong on offense as well as defense. Every Florida low-post player was able to get easy shots in the paint. Taurean Green was a master at the point guard position dishing out 8 assists while only committing one turnover. And Lee Humphrey continued his hot Final Four 3-point shooting after he had struggled in the two games previous to the Final Four. Basically, every player who stepped on the court for Florida contributed. UCLA cannot make that same claim.

One aspect of the game which does not show up directly in the box store is the ease with which Florida was able to break UCLA's full-court press, which Howland implemented after the deficit became double digits in the second half. Whether it was the guards or the big men bringing the ball up the court against it, the result was the same. Florida got dunk after dunk after lay-up after open jumper as UCLA refused to get out of the press. Whether or not UCLA should have gotten out of the press earlier could be up for debate. What is not up for debate is that the better team won. And convincingly.

Sticking Up For Women's Sports

Mondays mean only one thing, which is Peter King will rise above the ranks of all other mediocre sports writers and demonstrate that his idiocy is greater than his colleagues. This time, though, it is not a factual error or a contradictory statement Peter is guilty of. Instead, he has shown himself to be a chauvinist.

Not for one second do I think he is the only chauvinist in sports, but in keeping with my agenda against him, he is the one I will attack on this particular occasion. I will admit that I, like most sports fans, consider sports involving men to be more exciting, but I would never make such a ludicrous statement as this...

I found it incredulous that the semifinals of the women's Final Four, the opening game of the baseball season, featuring the world champion White Sox, was on ESPN Sunday night, shuttling the baseball game to ESPN2.

Incredulous, huh? Let's example the two games for a moment, taking into account the significance of both. On the one hand, you have the national semifinals of the women's college basketball, the second most important game of the season, where the teams are vying for a spot in the national championship game and a chance to say that for the 2005-06 season, that they were the best women's college basketball team in the nation. In other words, these four teams are on the cusp of validating their entire seasons: all the hours of practicing, fighting through injuries, actually having to go to class because they have to graduate, and also putting it out of their minds that most people consider their sport insignificant.

Then you have opening day of the baseball season, one game out of 162. This is a game that means absolutely nothing and which will probably have no bearing on the rest of the season, unless a star player suffers a catastrophic injury. No one will even remember the outcome of the game by the time the All-Star Break rolls around and Peter King wants to put it on ESPN over games that will be remembered for the rest of lifetimes. No championship will be lost or won based on the opening day of the baseball season. The same cannot be said for the women's Final Four games.

What that means is that a huge number of TV households, including mine, had the choice of watching the Maryland-North Carolina women in high-def or the debut of baseball for the year in non-high-def -- because most cable subscribers don't get ESPN2 in high-def.

Cry me a fucking river. A huge number of TV households, including mine, don't have high-definition televisions at all. And please don't act like a TV without high-defintion is like watching a game in black and white.

I can see ESPN ditching a September baseball game for a September NFL game, but for a women's basketball game?

This wasn't a September baseball game. It was an April baseball game. Seriously, proofread your articles before you submit them to your editors.

And this April baseball game he thinks is so important constitutes .6% of baseball's regular season.

Having had two daughters play sports, I love women's sports and I watched a good chunk of the Duke-UConn regional final last week, but to demote the first game of the baseball season below a women's game? I can't believe that makes ratings sense or common sense.

I have to tip my cap to Peter for actually thinking playing the "I can't be racist because I have a black friend" card would actually help making his argument more credible. It takes a man well-versed in stupidity to think that.

What does he expect the fact he has two daughters who plays sports to prove? That he can't be a chauvinistic pig because he has watched a women's game or two? Come on.