Friday, December 30, 2011

Sports Report

Among the campaign promises President Obama has failed to fulfill, the one that is most painful to me is any absence of effort to fix college football's Broken Championship S---bag. Seriously, there are more important gaps, but he really should make the BCS illegal by Executive Order, or put out a contract for it to be demolished by a drone or something.

This year's messed up championship game will feature a game that was already played and wasn't very interesting. I don't doubt that Alabama and LSU are the two best teams--basically, the regular season proved that, while there may be more productive offenses, they were the only two with defenses capable of shutting down top offenses.

The results show just how much the SEC now dominates national college football. They could make the whole controversy a lot simpler by just crowning the SEC champion--even simpler, the SEC West champion. No need for conference championship or any of the BCS nonsense.

Actually, I don't really care about the BCS muck-ups, and it's really no worse than the inconclusive Bowl arrangements that preceded it (except they didn't have the slimy sponsorships in their names back then). What I resent is the negative effect on basketball's organization that the unseemly scramble to participate in the automatic-berth BCS football conferences has had. As an ex-hoopster, President Obama needs to stand up and be counted--not to create some new integrity around big-time college football, which corrupts everything that it touches, but to preserve other intercollegiate sports from its stench.

So far, we've had a couple weeks of Nothing Bowls between Whoever and Whatever and sponsored by Who Cares? College football underlined its ineptness by completely punting all its traditional January 1 games to January 2 so as not to offend the networks or Big Daddy NFL. That being said, there are two BCS games that should be entertaining to watch: the Rose Bowl between Oregon and Wisconsin, and the Fiesta Bowl between Oklahoma State and Stanford. I'm pretty resistant to the appeal, but not totally immune.

NBA: Nothing's Been Anticipated
If they hadn't built a new, hard-won 10-year collective bargaining agreement around 82-game regular seasons and their associated economics, I think all would've found the 66-game scramble this year to be a superior product. It's going to be intense--the way it should be--and none of the teams will be able to do much slacking. I like the way the abrupt start to the season has not allowed too much hype to precede the real action, as opposed to, say, the Republican nomination process.

While I was very critical of the owners and their bargaining stance during the lockout, which was basically necessitated by their own incompetence in negotiating and signing talent and their inability to share revenues, I was not as critical of league Commissioner David Stern. Since then, Stern inserted himself controversially in blocking a trade of All-Star point guard Chris Paul to the Lakers, taking advantage of the league's ownership of Paul's 2011 team, the New Orleans Hornets, to prevent a new superteam forming to oppose the player-created monster of last year, the Miami Meltdowns.

Speaking of meltdowns, one of the most interesting storylines will be the Oklahoma City Thunder, which have emerged in their short history since moving from Seattle through the development of the best scorer in the league, Kevin Durant. The Thunder surprised most everyone last year by reaching the Western Conference finals, but then their chemistry deteriorated, and it's unclear whether they will get it back together again. Miami, on the other hand, looks to have learned its lessons, and with a second year of experience playing together, the Big 3 of LeBron, LeWade, and LeBosh are the league favorites once again; this time it appears to be justified.

One team that seems unlikely to stop them this year is the defending champions, the Dallas Mavericks, who lost the key mid-year addition of last year's team, Tyson Chandler, and picked up some unneeded veterans. Similarly appearing unready are perennial contenders San Antonio Spurs and the Lakers themselves.

The team most likely to stop Miami would be the Eastern Conference runner-ups, the Chicago Bulls, which return their nucleus,featuring MVP Derrick Rose, and have added some good additional pieces.

Finally, there are several other teams ascendant, something that warms Stern's heart: the Pacers, the Knicks, the Hawks, the Warriors, the rebuilt Nuggets, and, most importantly, the Clippers, who ended up with Paul in a trade Stern deemed acceptable for league dynamics. None would appear to be championship contenders, but their development makes for better economics and better early-round playoff matchups.

NFL: Networks' Friends Livestrong!
This postseason will mark an important test: whether the dominance of top quarterbacks is absolute or just a feature of the regular season. The Green Bay Packers, with Aaron Rodgers, and the New England Patriots, with Tom Brady, emerge with the best records in each conference, despite having two of the worst defenses (as measured by yards allowed to opposing offenses). The question is whether this formula will allow them to win in the playoffs and reach the Super Bowl, or whether the classic norm, that defenses win chmpionships, will still apply this season.

The Packers and Patriots do have a predecessor, Peyton Manning's Indianapolis Colts, which were able to outscore opponents and reached two Super Bowls, winning one. And, to be fair, one reason the Packers and Pats allowed so many yards on defense is because their offenses were so efficient in producing quick scores that the defense had to be out there a high percentage of plays. Still, the Saints, whose quarterback Drew Brees was almost as supremely effective as Rodgers, were able to produce better defensive results.

There are a couple of teams in each playoff bracket who would appear to have the required capabilities (an adequate starting quarterback, a good running game to control the ball, and a good defense) to defeat the conferences' number one seeds: San Francisco and New Orleans in the NFC, and Pittsburgh and Baltimore in the AFC. But all teams making the playoffs have a shot (see the Cardinals' success this year in baseball), so it's worth mentioning the improbable qualification of the Giants and Broncos, and the unusual postseason presence of the Texans, Lions, Falcons, and Bengals. Postseason experience does matter, though, so I would not like the chances (vs. the odds) of any of these teams except the Giants (who've won the Super Bowl with Eli Manning).

1 comment:

Chin Shih Tang said...

Jan. 2--The Steelers lost their starting running back in their last game, their quarterback is banged up, and they were unlucky to end up with a #5 seed, which means they will have to win three road games to get to the Super Bowl. So, I have to reconsider, and will move them from contender to the unlikely category, despite their history of postseason success.