Thoughts on Sports
When I was in high school, I got yelled at a lot for being "obnoxious" during high school hockey games. At one point, a Brunswick parent tried to get in a fight with me because I was ripping on his son for about thirty-five straight minutes. He said things like, if you're so tough why don't you get down there and play. I politely told him that if he'd look at the scoreboard he'd see I wasn't needed. Still, after complaints about our "goon squad" behavior, the headmaster would make speeches about the difference between rooting for your team rather than rooting against the other team. But, this makes no sense. I would, in fact, argue the exact opposite. It may not qualify as classy, but rooting against the other team is probably the only way to help your own team. And, I'm not being facitious. Because rooting against the other team, letting their goalie know that he's a sieve and "it was all his fault," is a way to get in the other team's head. And, any time the opponents spend thinking about you and not about the game is a serious advantage for your team. I can't imagine a scenario where saying "YEA MIKE! GO FOR IT!" has ever inspired Mike to do anything. But, if during a basketball game, you let Jeremy know he's getting a serious case of Swampass, there's a good chance Jeremy's going to get self-conscious and this may allow for a couple mental miscues. If they want to ban my favorite "Ref beats his wife" cheer after a particularly bad call, go head, I can see how no one benefits from that. (Except the ref's beaten wife, did you see that horrible foul call?) If they want to stop "Get off your knees ref, you're blowing the game," fine. I disagree but, again, perhaps that doesn't have a place in high school sports. But, to stop booing, which is an easy way to let refs know they screwed up, coaches know they shouldn't have pulled their star player and BOTH teams know when they've been caught with a cheapshot is yet another example of the ridiculous pampering trend unnecessary in American sports.
-Speaking of which, Tom Verducci just had a great article (http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2007/writers/tom_verducci/03/20/matsuzaka0326/index.html?eref=nbcsports) on Daisuke Matsuzaka, finally taking the most important angle of his arrival in the United States: his throwing regiman. For years, the one concept I haven't been able to understand about American sports is why, when athletes are consistently becoming better in every sport, why are pitchers becoming more and more vulnerable to arm injuries? Why is throwing a baseball over and over the only athletic activity that humans are getting consistently worse at? I always thought the reason might be that pitchers these days are in such better, stronger shape, they are so much more finely-tuned that it takes a lot less for something to snap. But, after reading Bobby Valentine's comments and seeing that Daisuke's arm is in perfect shape, more likely, it's that Americans pamper their pitchers. And, since they aren't trained from a young age to throw, throw, throw, when they reach the majors, many young pitchers (see Prior and Wood) break down from overusage early on. And, with the ever-increasing media ready to jump down managers throats for overextending pitchers pitch counts and with Tony LaRussa's modern bullpen, pitchers only have to go seven innings in the majors. So, with that in mind, I have an inkling that youth baseball, forever emulating the pros, isn't ready to "abuse" kid's arms and our pitchers aren't being trained correctly. For, as noted in this article, it is a simple concept. Like any thing involving muscle memory, throwing over and over helps builds muscle memory and strength. Hopefully, Daisuke can not only be an effective major league pitcher (only because he's the ace of my fantasy team, not for any of this other fluff I'm writing), he can perhaps change the downward trend in the American pitcher's endurance.
-Watched the Florida-Oregon game last night and the first half of UNC-G'town. Then, like an idiot, I decided with it being midnight, I'd better leave the bar, go to sleep and get ready for Monday morning. Only, when I got home, I realized I wouldn't be able to sleep until I knew what happened and proceeded to refresh my box score until G'Town had come back and won in overtime. Last year I wrote about the return of the center in Roy Hibbert and how silky smooth Jeff Green was. As for Hibbert, he looks more and more like an NBA player. Sure, he lumbers up the court a little but he seems to score with an array of easy post moves and as he learns to foul less, I can see him entering the league and quickly replacing Chris Kaman at the top of the 2nd tier of NBA centers. I think Hibbert will play Oden to a draw although part of me wonders if Oden turns it up a notch. Final Four, playing a legit center for the first time, I could see him having that huge statement game.
But, the real G'Town story has to be Green. Watching highlights of the second half and seeing Green's incredible ability to assert himself within the flow of the offense (a rare ability for a college player, to both take over and keep everyone involved), and comparing that to any of the Florida players I think Green will be a better NBA player than all of them. That's not a slight of Joakim Noah who I think will be a very solid pro, but rather an endorsement of Green.
-One story that isn't getting enough attention is Kobe Bryant's 50 point run. Ha. Just kidding. But, seriously, the big story in the NBA right now has to be the bottom of the Western Conference and no one seems to be talking about it. First off, there is a serious possibility we get a Suns-Lakers first round rematch which was probably the best series last year. I'm sure Raja-Kobe II would be called much tighter by the NBA but the Lakers are a team the Suns don't match up so well with and I'm sure they'd rather face the emulating run n' gun Nuggets.
As for the eight seed, I thought the only big advantage the Mavericks would get being the #1 seed was an easy first round matchup. With the Suns/Spurs being destined to play the very dangerous Kobes (Lakers)/Streetballers (Nuggets), the Mavs looked like they had a four game sweep coming against the Warriors. But, now, with the Clippers rounding into form and looking like the likely #8 seed, the Mavs no longer have an easy street 1st round. I think the Mavs will put away the Clippers in five or six but let's remember the Clippers were one game from the Conference Finals last year and still have loads of talent. As for the Nuggets/Lakers, which team would you rather play? Jack McCallum needs to run one of those choose sides things. I think, at the end of the day, I'd rather face the Lakers because they just don't have as much talent as the tattooed Nuggets. But, with Kobe on fire, and the Lakers record against the upper echelon of the West, I think both teams could push their first round foes to seven.
-Tiger Woods won again. Yawn. But, he goes and watches Roger Federer play and this is national news. I love how nonchalant Tiger is when he gives this quote in the wrapup SI article, "The difference between myself and Jordan and myself and Roger is that Roger and I play individual sports. So there's common ground there that I didn't have with Jordan. It's still phenomenal to watch. It's neat and intriguing for me to talk to him and see what he thinks on certain situations, and we pick each other's brain a little bit. People don't realize how hard you have to work off the court and off the course to achieve the levels that we've been able to achieve. It's a lot harder than people think." The difference between myself and Jordan. I mean, I guess it's true, Tiger has reached the level where he can just launch into a quote about the difference between him and Michael Jordan but I still don't feel it's right. He's Michael Jordan! For the next fifteen years, don't all quotes have to start, "It's just an honor to be mentioned in the same breath...?"
-When watching a college basketball game at Duke, whether you love or hate the Dukies, you have to admire the energy in the arena and you know it would be a better experience being there than watching on TV. I went to a Czech Republic-Germany Eurocup qualifier Saturday night which the Germans, unfortunately, won 2-1. But, what an awesome experience. I know it's cliche at this point, but the soccer crowd (even at the small Praha Sparta Toyota Arena) creates a roar unlike anything I've experienced in non-college stadiums in the U.S. I remember going to an NBA Finals game at Madison Square Garden and it was nuts, and it was loud and we booed Bill Walton which was fun but it just didn't compare to the soccer atmosphere. The stadium was just so electric, you felt like the energy on the field was being controlled by the fans rather than the rational other way around.