Friday, March 27, 2009

Sportsology on Corruption

The Yahoo! Sports article about Jim Calhoun’s cheating scandal is getting a lot of publicity. I came across a Jason Whitlock article which talked about the true lack of interest on the NCAA’s part when it comes to cleaning up recruiting.

When I started reading the comments, with people accusing Yahoo! of yellow journalism and saying these kids aren’t getting ripped off because they’re getting a free education, etc., it reminded me of this Joe Posnanski (fast becoming my favorite sportswriter) blog post. In it, he talks about the role of sports journalist. Is it to entertain, enlighten or do a little bit of both?

Personally, I looked at sports journalism as something in between the two fields, but only because they cover entertainers for a living. I love to read the investigative pieces, especially about the increasingly shady recruiting practices, but apparently people don’t care.

Or maybe people’s perspectives are backwards. For starters, its really unfair and naïve to view the degree that the big-time college athlete receives as being on par with the degree you and I may receive, especially in modern terms. Most of these kids aren’t smart enough to get into these schools (and like Nate Miles, a lot of them probably wouldn’t even graduate from high school without their athletic prowess), but we expect them to succeed in the classroom anyway? On top of a demanding athletic schedule, which is the equivalent of a full time job?

Plus, when you look at the value of a college degree, versus the amount of dollars generated, it’s not an even trade off. Look at it like this:

Say you work at a huge company with hundreds of thousands of employees that makes billions of dollars a year. At this company, everyone in upper management might be millionaires, but people actually creating the product barely make 30K (kind of like most companies today anyway). Keep in mind that on your current work experience will only bring you success in a few, focused industries.

At this point, you might say “I’m getting screwed.” But you stay at the company anyway, because after three or four years you might be able to move on to another company making even more money than your current supervisors.

But out of your hundred thousand dollar company, only a few hundred will ever get that million dollar gig, and most of those who get the job will be fired after a year or two. This is the college athlete’s situation in a nutshell.

I guess this is like the rest of us, minus the promise of being a millionaire. Far from slaves, when these kids throw away their education at middle or high school levels, for all intensive purposes at least, these “student athletes” are banking on million dollar careers to supplement their lack of earning ability doing anything outside of sports. Most of these kids are in this predicament only because of the promise of millions.

On top of that, they’re spurned on by people who are only in their lives to make money off their ability to shoot a jumpshot. This is where things get different for the student athlete than you and I. When you’re punching the clock at your 50k/year gig, you probably don’t have dozens of people around fighting over the few hundred bucks you have left over each check after paying bills and student loans.

Another way to look at the corruption in college hoops is to look at the corruption in the nation. Do you really think Jim Calhoun didn’t know his assistants were in communication with the kid Miles, his family and that agent/advisor? If so, you’re pretty naïve.

When it comes to a recruit of that caliber, Calhoun was probably peppering his coaches with questions about Miles every day. The likelihood of his coaches being able to report on what they were doing with Miles, without mentioning the things that are infractions, is once again highly unlikely. I can go on and on about the scumbag Calhoun, but that’s not the point.

The point is when money is involved; you can’t expect someone to do the right thing or the care about the human condition. In all industries, especially in 2009 America, cash is king. It even happens with the kids who pay for their own education. Universities don’t care about their education, they want the money. That’s why they let these money-making kids enter their school even though they don’t stack up academically. Sometimes, these kids even have criminal records, making them dangerous for other students to be around.

The coaches, agents, runners and “advisors” are no different from the people who ruined Wall St. and AIG. Everyone else be damned, they want to be paid. We not only need to reform Wall St. and college sports, I think it’s time for nationwide reform. We can’t be stupid anymore and expect people to do the right thing when there’s millions of dollars on the line. Either that or we can just say screw it, ditch the idea of a republic or democracy and become a nation of “everyman for himself.”

Going back to my point about journalism, with the amount of money and people involved, it's hard (for me at least) to look at sports as just entertainment. It's a business that is not very similar to the games we grew to love as kids. This is why I'm passionate as ever about investigative sports journalism and why it's heartbreaking for me to read people's indifferent comments.

Or maybe it's time for me to change the way I look at things.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Two Links 3/25

You know how ESPN was trying to make a big deal about T.O. missing some voluntary minicamps? Turns out he's in DC receiving an award for raising awareness about Alzheimer's disease.

Good job ESPN. With all the Matt Jones/Donte Stallworth/Pac Man Jones types running around, you continue to try to paint T.O. as the bad guy of the NFL, despite the fact that he's a model citizen off the field.

Sure he's paranoid and he wants the ball too much, but I'd rather have a guy making $10 mil per that wants the ball every time than a guy making $2 M and could care less about getting on the field.

The other link I wanted to share is about college hoops sleezeball Jim Calhoun and his staff at UConn committing major recruiting violations in pursuit of a kid so troubled that he was booted off campus before the season started. What a jerk.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

March Madness Preview

Ok, so I've been gone for over a month. Explanation? I don't really have one, other than the fact that I was seriously considering starting a podcast. But, as a few of my friends have pointed out, I have a gift for writing and people like to see what I think about sports. Therefore, for the third year in a row, here are my March Madness picks.

East Region

Teams that could go deep

Pittsburgh – I love their starting five, especially Sam Young and Dejuan Blair. Foul trouble or injuries could be a problem for this team, but if they avoid either then they should be Final Four lock.
Duke – I love the way this Duke team played down the stretch. They seem to really enjoy playing with each other, they are a solid defensive team and Gerald Henderson is a superstar.
Nova – You know Jay Wright’s teams are going to have good guard play. The difference with this team is they have good post play as well.
Teams that could fall earlyXavier – They played crappy down the stretch and aren’t really as talented as last year’s team or even the team before that.
Florida State – I can see them running out of gas after they went pretty deep in the ACC tourney.
UCLA – They aren’t as good as they normally are. Basically a live-and-die jump shooting team with one good shooter.
Mid-Major Report
VCU – They are a very popular pick to upset UCLA, which makes me a little nervous. They aren’t as deep as the VCU team from a few years ago, but Eric Maynor is even better.
Portland State – I don’t know why, but I like them.
American – They’re getting a raw deal playing Villanova in what is essentially the Wildcats home court.

Midwest Region

Teams that could go deep

Louisville – I like this team a lot. They can run, they play good defense, and they can shoot. Their only weakness is a true post presence, at least on offense, as Samardo Samuels hasn’t been as good as advertised. However, there aren’t many teams that can exploit them in the post, and none of them are in this bracket.
Wake Forest – They always play well against good teams. However, they seem to overlook some of the smaller guys which makes them susceptible for an upset. If they can avoid dropping to a low seed early, they could challenge Louisville.
West Virginia – They were probably the second or third best team in the Big East down the stretch. Look for them to make another run this year.
USC – They are the classic team that seemed to finally get it together down the stretch. Adjusted for pace, they are a top 20 defensive team and have won 5 in a row. Good down low with Taj Gibson and good on the perimeter with Daniel Hackett.
Teams that could fall early
Michigan St. – I always pick them to lose early, for whatever reason.
Kansas – I think they’ve already maxed out.
Mid-Major Report
Siena – They are a popular pick to upset Ohio State, except they are playing in Dayton. They waxed a very good Niagara team in the MAAC championship.
North Dakota State – Great offensive team + great story x underrated = recipe for an upset.
Cleveland State – They should give Wake some trouble, but I don’t seem them beating the Deacs.

South Region

Teams that could go deep

North Carolina – Same old story for the Heels; a lot of offense, just enough d. The most talented team in the country would be the favorite if it wasn’t for injuries.
Gonzaga – This team is Mark Few’s most talented team so far at Gonzaga. However, they draw UNC in the Sweet 16, which might be the only thing in their way from a Final Four berth.
Arizona St. – I don’t know why, but I really, really like this team. Harden and Pendergraph are one of the best combo’s in college hoops.
Oklahoma – No depth, but their Top 7 can play with anybody in the nation. Plus Blake Griffin could start on any NBA team right now, no kidding.
Teams that could fall early
Syracuse – I’m never a Syracuse fan, and I can see them running out of gas after last week.
Illinois – They aren’t very good to begin with, and their best player is hurt.
Mid-Major Report
Butler – They are starting to get a Gonzaga-type rep, where we expect them to be good every year.
Western Kentucky – Pick them to beat Illinois.
Akron – Don’t know much about these guys.
Stephen F. Austin – Believe it or not, they’re a Top 20 defensive team. Expect them to come away with a victory.

West Region

Teams that could go deep

UConn – They could go deep, but don’t expect them to go all the way without Dyson.
Washington – One of the best teams in the country you’ve probably never seen. Also one of the fastest paced Pac-10 teams and a team with the size and depth to knock of Uconn before they get to Memphis.
Missouri – 40 Minutes of Hell is alive and well with this team.
Memphis – I never like Memphis, but after last year I can’t sleep on them anymore.
Teams that could fall early
Purdue – Too hurt this year.
Mid-Major Report
BYU – Solid every year out of the underrated MVC.
Northern Iowa – Solid team out of the underrated again ‘Valley.
Utah St – One of those experienced mid-major teams that racks up a lot of wins in-conference and is usually good for a win or two in the dance.

Final Four
Louisville vs. Missouri
Pitt vs. UNC

Louisville vs. UNC

Louisville – Louisville is the best team in the nation now, and they don’t have any injuries or glaring weaknesses. That separates them from the rest of the pack this year.

Top 10 Teams to Win it All
Louisville – Best team in the nation for the last 1/3 of the season.
UNC – Best team in the nation for the first 1/3 of the season.
Pitt – Best team in the nation for the middle 1/3 of the season.
Memphis – It’s hard to knock Calipari’s program, at least for on the court reasons.
Missouri – Reminds me a lot of the Arkansas team that won it all, minus the Corliss Williamson presence.
Wake Forest – If Teague and Aminu come back, they’ll win it all next year.
Washington – Quietly one of Lorenzo Romar’s most talented teams this decade.
Duke – This Duke team is a lot different from the ones that flopped in recent years.
Villanova – Love the guard play, but I don’t see anybody out of that Top 8 really making a run.
Oklahoma – Anything is possible when you have the best player in the country.