A Tournament Prediction That I Hope Is Wrong

I promise not all of today’s rant will be about the NCAA tournament, but I do have to make one “prediction” that I hope does not come to pass. There have been more than a couple of incidents of “poor officiating” – to be as polite as I can be – in college basketball games this year and they have generated national media attention. Now in the tournament, you might find officials so focused on making the exactly correct and proper calls that they make calls just to be sure that their crew and their game isn’t on national TV as an example of “incompetent officiating”. Folks, I refereed basketball for 37 years – not at any level close to the NCAA tournament to be sure – and referees are humans who react to the situations they find themselves in. That may come as a surprise to that faction of the fanboy-nation that thinks referees are some alien life form. They are not and this very human overcompensation could happen and that would be a bad thing to have happen in the tournament.

Most of the national media is ridiculing the inaugural running of the CBI – the College Basketball Invitational Tournament. I have to agree that after the 65 teams are picked to go into the NCAA tournament and another 32 teams are invited to the National Invitational Tournament, the organizers for the new tournament are mining some pretty low-grade ore. I doubt that I’ll pay a whole lot of attention to this newcomer on the March sporting landscape, but I do have an answer to those people who simply cannot see why organizers would think to do something as foolish as starting a new tournament.

Take yourself back about 4 years when the “owners” of the NIT filed suit in Federal court against the NCAA for violations of the monopoly laws. The suit was on the docket to be heard when the two sides settled; the “owners” of the NIT got $57M from the NCAA to drop their claims and to hand over ownership of the NIT to the NCAA. Obviously, the plaintiffs here were more interested in the money than in achieving the level playing field that the anti-trust laws seek to assure…

So, maybe the CBI organizers have in mind a future strategy that includes another anti-trust suit against the NCAA for the way it shuts out everyone else from post-season basketball tournaments for colleges. It worked before; obviously, the NCAA thought that a rather sizeable payment was preferable to taking their chances in court; maybe it will work again…

In the NBA, people were ecstatic about the Houston Rockets and their 22 game winning streak that came to an end last night. On various ESPN shows, they had people “debating” if the Rockets winning streak was more or less “amazing” than Tiger Woods’ current winning streak of 5 consecutive tournaments. Can everyone cut down on the caffeine here for just a moment and put some perspective on these matters:

    1. Houston’s streak was still a full 10 games short of setting a new record for consecutive wins in the NBA. Put another way, they were just over 2/3 of their way to breaking the existing record. You might call this premature exuberance if you wish.

    2. Tiger Woods’ streak is not yet halfway to the mark set by Byron Nelson. Put in baseball terms, this is like someone having a 26 game hitting streak and then projecting the date on which that player would necessarily break Joe DiMaggio’s record for hits in consecutive games.

Both streaks are/were impressive; neither is/was at the point where everyone needs to gush all over them. Take a deep breath for a moment …

Juan Gonzales has an injury to muscle tissue and is sidelined. Perhaps this will save the St. Louis Cardinals from themselves? If this surprises anyone, he/she needs to get a high-speed connection to the Internet and to link to the “Clue Server” so that he/she can download a few…

Let me do a version of good cop/bad cop here and present baseball’s version of “good guy/bad guy”. Jamie Moyer is your good guy. When a close friend of the Moyer family died of cancer in her teenage years, Jamie Moyer and his wife created the Erin Foundation named after the late teenager. It created bereavement camps to help children cope with the loss of a parent or family member or close friend. Ten new camps in ten major league cities will open this year; the five-year goal is to have a bereavement camp in every major league city. Jamie Moyer and his wife Karen are to be commended for this work.

In these stressful economic times, it would take special circumstances to revel in the fact that someone is out of work and cannot find new employment. Until yesterday, I thought that Barry Bonds’ inability to get new work was due to his long-standing churlish reputation combined with the legal clouds hanging over his head. But now that Donald Fehr says that he wants to investigate to see if there is collusion to keep Barry Bonds out of baseball, I can revel in the fact that Barry Bonds is out of work and cannot find a new job.

Barry Bonds is not a likeable fellow according to every report you can read about him; Donald Fehr is even less likeable. A Barry Bonds/Donald Fehr ticket as independent candidates for the Presidency would probably lose big time to Ralph Nader even if Nader ran with Satan on his ticket. These two goofs are the bad guys that offset Jamie and Karen Moyer as the good guys.

The Detroit Lions have not had a winning season in this millennium. Last year it looked as if they might get over the “break-even line”, but they lost seven of their last eight games to maintain their record of ineptitude. They have been building and re-building for so long that fossils are starting to be discovered in the foundations of their edifice. So allow me to pose a rhetorical question here about the Lions’ franchise:

    How long does a franchise have to continue to try to re-build itself before it needs to admit that it just cannot build anything worth a damn?

I heard on Around the Horn that a billiards player in Germany flunked a blood doping test. That’s right, a billiards player… What’s next? Will they find that someone in the rock, paper, scissors tournament is “on the sauce”…?

Finally, Greg Cote had this item in the Miami Herald a while back regarding drug testing:

“Parting thought: It is suspected that many of those enraged 2,200-pound bulls used in professional bullfighting are on steroids. Tell ‘ya what. You collect the urine samples.”

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

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