3/19/07 – Tournament Tidbits – And Other Stuff

Let’s start today with some tournament observations from the first couple of rounds. I know that Butler is in the Sweet 16, but when I look at that team, I don’t see a lot of size or a lot of speed or any great shooters. But they sure do play good team defense and they are good at the foul line; there was a screen graphic that said they shoot 76% as a team. If you check their schedule this year, you’ll find that Butler has beaten Maryland, Notre Dame, Purdue, Indiana, Tennessee and Gonzaga; all of those teams made the NCAA Tournament. Butler may not look like much, but they are a good basketball team.

On the other hand, there are several other teams who look really mediocre when you watch them on TV and they are now over and done with because they actually are mediocre. Va Tech and Illinois played a game that was painful to watch; it was a root canal for the eyes. One of those teams had to move forward to play Southern Illinois and the Va Tech/So. Illinois game was ugly too. I’m not putting Southern Illinois down; they too play excellent team defense. But their style matched against Va Tech was about as entertaining as yet another recap of Anna Nicole Smith’s life.

Even uglier than either Va Tech game was the UCLA/Indiana contest. After 12 minutes of play, the score was 13-10; Indiana had shot 3-19 from the field and they were still only one possession behind on the scoreboard. Indeed the scoring pace picked up, but the game got no more artistic as time went by.

I have never been part of the chorus that chastises the Selection Committee for leaving mid-majors out of the tournament; I think it is an art and not a science to pick those final at-large teams and controversy has to be part of the equation. However, let me offer a hypothesis here. This year we had very few mid-majors put into the field and this year we have had very few real upsets in the first two rounds. Might it be that the last teams into the tournament from the “power conferences” (such as Stanford, Arkansas, Illinois and Georgia Tech this year) don’t show up for these early round games with the same degree of enthusiasm/reckless abandon that a mid-major team would? Just asking…

For the last several months, golf writers have been creating ways to pretend that Tiger Woods was on a winning streak and might challenge Byron Nelson’s record of eleven tournament wins in a row. When Tiger lost tournaments in China or in Europe – or in the Ryder Cup – the writers created the fiction that those losses didn’t count because it was not part of the PGA Tour and against PGA players. When he lost a PGA match play tournament recently, that didn’t count for some of them either because it wasn’t stroke play. Well, he lost last weekend in stroke play in a PGA Tour event. I can’t wait to see how that gets rationalized as not being a loss that should break the streak. I know, it was NBC’s fault. They failed to show Woods on their on-screen leader board. How can he possibly win a tournament when they don’t show his score? Yeah, that’s it…

Speaking of golf, should you want to build a new golf course in China, do not think that you are going to be able to turn any agricultural land into your grassy fairways and greens. Premier Wen Jiabao told the Chinese legislature that the government will protect land that can produce crops and he specifically singled out golf courses as a waste of such land.

This short item from Greg Cote’s column in yesterday’s Miami Herald summarizes very well the pathetic state of tennis as a “sport of consequence”:

“In Miami this week, there will be an 11 p.m. to 4 a.m. tennis tournament played in the dark, under ultraviolet light, by players wearing neon clothing, while loud dance music plays. But only because promoters couldn’t come up with an even sillier idea.”

According to an AP report over the weekend, one of the mushers in the Iditarod was disqualified for abusing his dogs. Get your mind out of the gutter – not that kind of abuse. He allegedly hit the dogs when they refused to get up and get moving at one point in the race. I’m certainly not advocating the concept of beating dogs, but I had no idea that would be against the rules in the Iditarod.

This year’s Iditarod winner, Lance Mackey, has now won back-to-back “long-distance North American sled dog races”. Just a month ago, he – and his dog team to be sure – won the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race over a 1000-mile course somewhere “up there”. There are enough qualifiers in that description of Mackey’s accomplishment that he might be starting a streak like Tiger Woods that will be difficult for people to let go of. Except that most people care even less about sled dog racing than I do about golf…

It wasn’t all that long ago, that London “won” the opportunity to host the Olympics in 2012; at the time, the cost factor was projected to be on the order of $4.5B. At the time, I said that overruns in these kinds of undertakings are guaranteed to happen for lots of reasons and that Londoners should be thrilled if the final total came in under $8 B. I was a piker. The latest projections according to an article on Bloomberg.com says that the Olympic Park project alone is $1.3B over budget and that the construction costs now project to $8.8B. And we are still 5 years away from the start of the Olympics. New York, Washington, San Francisco and Chicago have all tried to lure the Olympic Games in the recent past – and Chicago is still in the running for the 2016 games. Have those folks checked the costs associated with these things recently?

Here’s a public service announcement for everyone. Please do not forget to observe National Memory Day on Wednesday March 21…

Finally, I found this “communiqué” in my inbox this morning from a reader regarding the butt-stomping administered to Stanford by Louisville last week:

“The Cardinals beat the ‘s’ out of The Cardinal.”

Very clever. I wish I had thought of that.

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…

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