The UConn/Butler trainwreck proves it: we need to be done with one-and-done

Last night’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Game doesn’t get a recap. It gets a post-mortem. I won’t mince words – it was the worst championship game I can recall seeing in my lifetime. Hell, it was one of the worst college basketball games I’ve ever seen, period. That may be because when games get this bad you turn them off. You flip through the channels to see if there’s another game, and failing that, are any Three’s Company reruns on.

I did, in fact, turn the game off. At about the 12:00 mark in the second half UConn had built a seven-point lead that was clearly insurmountable, and life is too short to flush precious minutes on two teams making a mockery of a sport you love above all others.

And please, let’s not have any silliness about the intensity of the game and how hard the defenses were playing. Read More »

Posted in Basketball | 2 Comments

Decisions, MeloDramas and the C-word: the NBA and its WWE problem

The National Basketball Association has a World Wrestling Entertainment problem.

Actually, it has several problems, none of which look like they’re going to be easily solved. (And I’m not even talking about the officiating, although I have in the past and no doubt will again in the future). The collective bargaining agreement is up after this season, at which point The League is going to have to address declining revenues, player salaries, salary cap structures, the fact that the inmates are running the asylum and what to do about the fact that star players have no interest whatsoever in playing in the Outback (you know, Cleveland, Memphis, New Orleans, Toronto, Sacto, Charlotte, etc.) when their superstar friends are living most large in NYC, Boston, South Beach, Chicago and the part of LA associated with the Lakers. Read More »

Posted in Basketball | 1 Comment

NBA officiating: get me to a sports book

I’ve probably watched more NBA games this season than ever before, and those of you who have indulged my rantings in the past know I have … issues … with The League. Frankly, I wish they’d bring back Tim Donaghy so we can all stop pretending.


Anyway, I am now more convinced than ever that I see a predictable, systematic pattern (of a non-objective nature) in how certain games are officiated, and I bet I could prove it. Here’s how the study would work. Read More »

Posted in Basketball | 1 Comment

March Madness vs. the BCS: neither is perfect, but all controversies are not created equal

Well, the 68 participants in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament have been announced, and boy are people pissed. The selection committee is defending its choices, the most controversial of which seem to be the inclusion of Alabama-Birmingham and Virginia Commonwealth at the expense of teams like Colorado, Alabama, Virginia Tech. Given the way the Hokies lollygagged down the stretch I’m not sure I have much sympathy for their plight, but Buff and Tide fans can certainly make a case that they’ve been hosed. Read More »

Posted in Basketball | 4 Comments

Coach K: no NBA HoFers to his credit?

Johnny Dawkins, former DukieI’m watching the Bulls/Magic game and it got me thinking (because there are two former Blue Devils on the Chicago roster and one more playing for Orlando) about Mike Krzschefvzksky-era Duke players and the NBA. Duke has won a bunch during his tenure and they’ve put a number of players in the pros, but none have really ripped the lid off. Lots of okay players, talented guys who help(ed) their teams. But not so much in the big dog category.

I’m trying to figure out who the best former Dukies would be and am wondering if there’s a HoFer in the bunch. Read More »

Posted in Basketball | 2 Comments

In Denver, the MeloDrama is over; in New York, it’s just beginning…

After months and months of wrangling, speculation, posing, posturing, misdirection and strategery, wheeling and dealing, and fear and loathing, the Carmelo Anthony circus has finally departed the 5280 bound for the Big Apple. Praise Jebus, and may we never have to hear the term “MeloDrama” again.

So, who got the better of the deal? We’ll know for sure in two or three years, but that’s no reason not to pontificate a bit now. There are all kinds of opinions, as you’d imagine. Many people think New York gave up way too much, especially since they believe that the Knicks could have waited and signed him as a free agent this summer. There are problems with this view, though – mainly, waiting could have cost Anthony $40-50 million, depending on the new collective bargaining agreement. Read More »

Posted in Basketball | 2 Comments

Who’s really the greatest NFL franchise in history?

As the Super Bowl approaches, I’m hearing a lot of talk centering around the question of which franchise is the NFL’s greatest. In some cases it takes the form of “who is really America’s team?” Whatever the heck that gets you. Other times, as with countless spirited “debates” on sports talk radio’s arguing with idiots shows, the question is a more germane “who is the greatest franchise in NFL history?” Which is actually an interesting enough topic, and one that bubbles up from time to time. This year I think we’re hearing more of it because the Super Bowl features two of the primary candidates, Green Bay and Pittsburgh, and they’re playing in the home stadium of a popular third candidate, the Dallas Cowboys. Read More »

Posted in football | 19 Comments

UFC 126 Preview

SB Nation has the full fight card and tons of analysis, but I want to look at the top three fights, which probably have me more excited for a UFC card than any in the last year.

The middleweight title fight between Anderson Silva and Vitor Belfort promises to be great. Belfort is likely the toughest challenger Silva, arguably the best pound for pound fighter in the world, has faced since he demolished former Pride middleweight champion Dan Henderson in the UFC/Pride unification bout. Like Silva, Belfort is fast, has knockout power, and can be very elusive in the cage. If Silva’s last title defense against the hard charging Chael Sonnen showed anything, it’s that Silva has a strong chin and can take a lot of punishment from someone who doesn’t really have one-punch knockout power. The best thing Belfort has going for him is he can turn off an opponent’s lights with either hand. The last time an elusive, dominant champion took on a fit, powerful, fast challenger was Lyoto Machida v Shogun Rua II, wherein Rua simply overpowered Machida on his way to a fast win. I expect Belfort to try something similar in the hopes of catching Silva with a barrage that he cannot survive.

With a fighter like Silva, who has gone undefeated in his entire UFC career, it’s always easy to think he is slipping and more vulnerable than ever. And to be sure, he was moments away from losing to Sonnen last time out. But mixed martial arts isn’t about what you do for most of the fight to bloody your opponent – it’s about doing what needs to be done to win. Grappling and submissions ensure that no opponent is ever out. Silva proved that in spades against Sonnen. Silva is the favorite to win (-240 to Belfort’s +190) and rightly so. I can see Belfort overwhelming Silva and catching his chin, but more likely I see Silva finding a way to win, either in a five round war, a timely head kick, or a slick submission.

It’s hard to think of two fighters that more consistently put on great shows than Forrest Griffin and Rich Franklin. Franklin’s last performance against Chuck Liddell was literally what makes this sport exciting. Franklin looked to be on the way out in the first round following a high kick from Liddell that broke his left arm when he caught Liddell’s chin with a vicious right and turn out the lights. And, well, Forrest Griffin is Forrest Griffin. These guys are going to come out and bang. Expect a really high strike count and lots of changes of momentum. Neither of these guys will quit if they get in a bad spot and both have one-punch knockout power. There will either be a stunning knockout or this will go the full fifteen minutes – it’s hard to see this end in a submission. Franklin is the favorite, despite being a bit under sized in the 205 lb weight class, especially compared to Griffin. Griffin is one of my favorite fighters, but all I’m hoping for is an exciting fight that shows both fighters are still among the top in the weight class.

Also fighting in the light heavyweight class are the winner of Season 8 of The Ultimate Fighter reality show, Ryan Bader, and Jon Jones. These are probably the two fastest rising young stars in any weight class, let alone at 205 pounds. Before I say anything about this particular matchup, I’m going to guess that when Bader/Jones II takes place, one of them will be the UFC’s light heavyweight belt holder. Bader’s standup isn’t as impressive as Jones’ but Bader finds ways to win, regardless of whether or not it’s pretty. Jones, on the other hand, has delivered some truly exciting knockouts and submissions of late. His only loss was to a disqualification in his fight against Matt Hamill for doing a 12-to-6 elbow strike to Hamill’s head. Jones was completely dominating Hamill; he broke Hamill’s shoulder with a trip takedown. When the referee stopped after the downward elbow strike to Hamill to see if Hamill could continue the fight Hamill said no. Unfortunately, Hamill is deaf and did not understand that he was being asked about how he felt from the elbow, not any other injury suffered in the round. That’s not to excuse the stoppage – Jones clearly used illegal elbow strikes and Hamill really was in no shape to continue. The point being, while Jones is 11-1 on paper, his only loss was not due to being out-performed.

While I expect Bader/Jones to be a great fight, Jones is heavily favored (-350) over Bader (+250). I’d really love to see Bader give Jones a hard time, though. It’s been two years since we’ve seen Jones go to a decision and, at some point, he’s going to face an opponent who can take him there. While I would not put money on Bader to win, I can see him challenging Jones as much as anyone since Stephan Bonner.

It’s often the case that the most anticipated fight cards don’t live up to expectations. Hopefully these three fights do, because if they do, they will likely be worth far more than the price of admission.

Posted in Mixed Martial Arts | 3 Comments

SportSunday: Cutler’s critics are way out of line, but it’s probably his own damned fault

Let’s establish something here and now: I detest Jay Cutler. He’s an entitled, punk-ass little sulk whose attitude makes everyone around him worse. The way he handled his exit from Denver was remarkable in one key respect: he managed to make Josh McDaniel look mature and competent by comparison. As wrong as Coach McSkippy was about everything else during his less-than-two-year tenure with the Broncos, he was right about Cutler. If only he hadn’t thought Tim #tebowtears was the answer.

So the forthcoming defense of Jay Cutler isn’t about liking him. As Crash Davis said in Bull Durham, “show us that million-dollar arm, ’cause I got a good idea about that five-cent head of yours.” Read More »

Posted in football | 7 Comments

What are we going to watch if there’s no NFL in 2011-12? A possible Plan B…

The second-biggest topic of discussion in American pro football circles these days (right after the Super Bowl) is what’s in store for next season. More specifically, will there be a next season?

In case you haven’t been paying attention, the owners are set to lock out the players and the two sides don’t seem terribly close to a new collective bargaining agreement. The commish is frustrated. The union has declared “war.” And the fans … well, I think most fans are sitting around thinking to themselves that the league can’t possibly be that dumb, can they? (It should be noted that the looming debacle is mainly the fault of the owners, who aren’t satisfied merely having most of the money. So we’ll have no talk about “the union and the owners.”)

If we don’t have a 2011-12 season, what are sports fans going to do? Watch bowling? Read More »

Posted in football, soccer | 32 Comments