August 06, 2008

Rumblings and Grumblings

Since there's a lot going on in the sports world lately, let's run through a list of things of my mind. With apologies in advance to Jayson Stark, here we go.

- Has anyone at ESPN ever considered the possibility that the Packers genuinely think that Aaron Rodgers is better than Brett Favre?? Why does no one bring up that possibility?? Everyone talks about grudges and all this other stuff, but no one mentions football. Every analyst I've heard starts their discussion on Brett Favre by assuming that the Packers have a better chance to win with Favre at the helm than with Aaron Rodgers.

Do we know that to be true?? Isn't this the same Brett Favre who completely stunk for about 3-4 years prior to last year?? Isn't it entirely possible that the Packers think last year was a fluke and don't want to trot him out there again with their Super Bowl-caliber team?? Favre was AWFUL in the NFC Championship game, and it's not like he's getting any younger. In 2006, he had the lowest completion percentage of his career and threw 18 picks. In 2005, Favre threw 29 picks. 29!!

People are acting like the Packers are trying to trade Brett Favre in his prime or something. The guy is 38 years old and looked like he was mentally done after that NFC Championship game.

Look, I don't discount the fact that the Packers were tired of Favre's retirement/unretirement act and wanted to move on from all that, but I also wouldn't be surprised if they just think Rodgers has a better chance to lead this team back to the playoffs. They've watched Rodgers in practice for the last few years, and maybe they think he's ready to be the man.

Anyway, sorry to bring up Favre right out of the chute because I am as tired of hearing about it as anyone, but I felt like no one has addressed the possibility that the Packers made this move from a competitive standpoint.

- This article about Lebron James possibly leaving for Europe to play for $50 million a year really doesn't reflect all that well on LBJ if you ask me. If he actually left the NBA to play in some garbage Euro league just so he could market himself better and promote his image as a "global icon," then he officially would cease to be a relevant figure in American sport. He would be the David Beckham of basketball. In other words, a complete sham.

Europe?? Seriously, Lebron?? You're actually listening to Russian league offers just to promote your "brand"?? Are you a basketball player or a billboard?? I hope to god that he is not actually considering the idea of playing in Europe.

I get that Lebron wants to make money (everyone does), but I am surprised that he would value the dollars over things like....ummm...perhaps winning an NBA Championship?? An MVP award?? Becoming an all-time great?? If Lebron wants to truly be a "global icon," he could start by winning an NBA championship. He can make plenty of money in the NBA.

As far as Lebron's future with the Cavs, could the Cavs possibly have done less this offseason?? They've literally done nothing other than resigning Daniel Gibson. Ouch. Danny Ferry, ladies and gentlemen. I don't know what that guy has to do to lose his job. If Lebron wasn't on that team, they'd be one of the 2-3 worst teams in the NBA.

- Put me down as someone who likes the NFL's new policy on stadium conduct. Maybe I sound like a prude, but the fan behavior in NFL stadiums has really taken a bad turn in the last 5-10 years. I went to just about every Bengal home game in the 90s (yes, it was depressing), and it was generally pretty family friendly and a nice Sunday afternoon type of crowd. In many ways, it was similar to what you would see at most college stadiums today (families, professional people, very little fighting or trash talk other than maybe for a Steelers game). There was usually some light tailgating around the stadium, but it was fairly low key and mostly friendly. Even if you went down to the game with some buddies, you were really going for the game itself. Maybe you have a couple beers, but nothing too crazy on a Sunday.

Fast forward to my recent trips to Bengal games, and it is like a whole different experience. Constant fights breaking out, all kinds of trash talking and obscene language, people who are passed out at the games and getting hauled off to a drunk tank, and even crazy drunken women getting into it. NFL games have turned into a white trash family reunion. I've only seen it in Cincinnati, but it's been happening at stadiums around the country. The NFL has morphed into a very "adult" league when you see it live almost to the point where it would be really uncomfortable to bring your family to a game. NFL fans have gotten out of hand, and I think it was hurting the live experience at NFL games.

Again, we're talking about a Sunday afternoon. A Sunday! Nothing wrong with going out and partying it up on a Friday or a Saturday, but is it really necessary to get completely bombed out of your mind at 10 am on a Sunday, get into a fight with some opposing fan you don't even know, and get arrested?? Do these people have jobs?? How do they function on Monday morning at work when they are being hauled off to a drunk tank on Sunday evening??

I like Goodell's new policy, and I think it was needed. Goodell is a very bold commish, but he really seems to have a good feel for changes that are needed. I like what he did with the draft to cut down on pick times (although I'd rather go back to a noon start), and I like the player conduct rules. He must have been getting reports from around the league about bad fan behavior, and decided it was time to take a corrective action. I think it's a great move.

- Moving on to the Olympics, it is very cool to see that former "Lost Boy of Sudan" Lopez Lomong is going to be carrying the US flag at the Opening Ceremonies. If you haven't heard his story and subscribe to HBO, I would recommend the Real Sports segment that was done on him. It is great stuff, and he is an easy person to root for.

- As far as the Olympic hoops are concerned, (taking off my American flag lapel pin for a minute), here is the team I'd love to see in the 2008 Summer Olympics.

PG - Ty Lawson
SG - Wayne Ellington
SF - Jerel McNeal
PF - Tyler Hansborough
C - Hasheem Thabeet

Bench - Sam Young, Sherron Collins, Darren Collison, Scottie Reynolds,
Gerald Henderson, Luke Harangody, Earl Clark, AJ Abrams, Tyler Smith

Give me the amateurs, and I would happily cheer them on to a bronze medal. Never been a fan of the "pros in the Olympics" thing. They talk the talk about being excited, but it has always felt contrived to me. The college guys would be legitimately fired up and play their hearts out for the name on the front of the jersey. And if you wanted to add some spice to it, then include the draft eligible guys and insert Rose, Beasley, Mayo, etc in there.

Until then, my support for US basketball is pretty tepid at best, and I'm not going to lie that I will probably hop on the bandwagon of some random Euro or South American team. I think the US team is focused this year and likely to dominate with their renewed commitment to Olympic basketball under Coach K, but it still feels like an excuse to market NBA players in a corporate setting if you ask me. And the same thing applies for me when it comes to that half-baked golf match they put on every other September (if I have to root for someone, I'm pulling for Lee Westwood to carry "us" to another title at Valhalla).

- Just go ahead and put some no-name down on the Wannamaker Trophy right now for this week's PGA Champion. This tournament has a Rich Beem/Shaun Micheel type winner written all over it. Either that or a Euro who plays this course like it's Carnoustie. It sounds like "The Monster" at Oakland Hills is going to be impossible with the 238 yard par 3 17th hole and 498 yard par 4 18th hole to finish things up. Considering that the last major championship winner at Oakland Hills was Steve Jones at the 1996 US Open, I don't have my hopes up for a great champion coming out of this tournament. Anthony Kim fans, there's always next year.

- Finally, let's end with a great article from Monday's Indianpolis Star about the rise of high school football in the state of Indiana. Very interesting stuff about how popular high school football has become in this hoops crazy state in the post-Peyton Manning era. I hope it's true because it would be good for ND, IU, and Purdue football (I suppose we need Purdue to be good so that our schedules look better in future years).

What do you think Indiana natives?? Is the Hoosier State becoming a football state?? It would seem hard to believe.


k said...

Can't really argue with the PGA prediction. I'm on record for picking Furyk a few weeks back but no one would be surprised to see D.J. Trahan walk off with the Wannemaker. You can count on Nantz waxing poetic about Steve Jones miracle '96 victory. The 2008 PGA on CBS!

Mike said...

Good points regarding the NFL. I have Bills season tickets and I can attest to the fact that the crowd has become very rough in recent years. Last year's Bills-Patriots game was one of the angriest, trashiest crowds I've ever seen. As with the player conduct policy, Goodell has identified a definite problem and taken corrective action.

I would also like to see a less taunting in the NFL, particularly on routine plays. It seems like players taunt or pose on almost every play in the NFL. If you watch a game from the 90s or before, it is refreshing to see guys make a tackle and walk back to the huddle.

I thought the NFL might start pricing certain people out of the games, but based upon the crowds, there are plenty of people who don't mind spending (presumably) a huge chunk of their disposable income on tickets.

Matt said...

Doug - can't believe you're abandoning the stars and stripes. I've watched some of the 'Redeem Team's' exhibition games and this year's team really is different. The guys have great chemistry, and with the new USA Basketball program, they made a three year commitment to the National Team. It's not like in years past where they just got a fantasy team together a month before the Olympics, rolled some basketballs out and expected to win.

I know that maybe I'm being naive, but I really believe these guys are motivated by the Gold Medal. They were thoroughly embarrassed in Athens, and with all of the talk about Euro basketball recently, I think they want to prove that US Basketball is still the best. Plus, everyone on the team except for maybe Carmelo is extremely likeable. Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Wade (who has looked incredible), Mike Redd...the list goes on. And it's great to see the Mamba in the mentor role and not screaming and yelling at his incompetent teammates. The over/under on number of celebratory hugs involving Kobe has got to be at about 100.