A Short-Lived National Pastime

From April to October, baseball is the “national pastime”; for the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, NFL football is the “national pastime”; today – – for one solitary 24-hour period – – the “national pastime” is hyperventilating over which college basketball team was “snubbed” by the Selection Committee and which other teams that did get into the tournament were improperly seeded.  If the rhetorical gas that will be spewed today on those subjects were greenhouse gases, Greta Thunberg would be rendered catatonic. 

Let me set these arguments aside by saying:

  • No team was snubbed.  There are a bunch of slightly better than mediocre teams out there and deciding which ones are closer to “mediocre” than to “slightly above average” is an impossible task.  The Committee did its job and now it is time to play the games.
  • If I tell you that St. John’s belongs in the Tournament more than UVa belongs, it really doesn’t matter if you agree with me or not.  The fact is that UVa is in, and St. John’s is out.  Hi ho!
  • Think for a moment about how difficult it is to pick the 5 best teams in the country ranked in order.  There can be spirited debate about such an ordering.  Now try to get any sort of consensus about ranking the 5 teams from #41 to #45 in order.  Good luck getting a consensus there and that is the task the Selection Committee faces each year.

I said that this hyperventilating will only last for one day and the reason for that is another wave of debate is about to break over us.  As of tomorrow, everyone will have made peace with the brackets as they exist, and full attention will then be given to “bracket busting games”.  A friend – – by the way, an alum of James Madison University – – has already informed me that James Madison (a 12th seed) is going to beat Wisconsin (a 5th seed).  It is easy to recognize the bias there, but he also included in his note to me this morning that:

“… Alabama is going to lose to Charleston because when Alabama goes cold from the field, they can’t beat a pickup squad.”

[For the record, Charleston is seeded 13th and Alabama is seeded 4th in the West Bracket.]

It’s time to take a deep breath and get ready for lots of “couch time” with remote in hand.  Let the Tournament begin …

While waiting for the first jump ball tomorrow night, let me return to NFL player movements and look at three separate QB shufflings.

  1. The Eagles traded to acquire Kenny Pickett for a 3rd round pick and two 7th round picks next year.  That cost is almost nothing for a player who has been a starter for most of the last two seasons.  However, I am surprised by the Eagles move here.  The Eagles’ offense is built around Jalen Hurts who is a mobile QB that presents a threat to run on just about any down; Kenny Pickett is not that kind of QB.  So, a switch at QB for the Eagles is not going to be just a different voice in the huddle; it will be an offense with a totally different focus.
  2. The Steelers then went and acquired Justin Fields from the Bears for a 6th round pick next year.  That cost is even less than what the Eagles gave the Steelers for Pickett; it is hard to imagine that being a disaster for the Steelers.  [Aside:  Fields is far more mobile than Pickett; so, I wonder why the Eagles made the trade they did.  I am not an NFL GM, but that decision is a bit confusing to me.]
  3. The Commanders traded away Sam Howell to the Seahawks for what amounts to a 3rd round and 4th round pick swap.  A week or so ago, the Commanders signed Marcus Mariota and it looked as if he and Howell would “compete” to see who would be the starter in 2024.  Now, it seems to me that the Commanders are going to pick a “franchise QB hopeful” with the overall #2 pick in April’s Draft.

Just to refresh your memory, here is why QB drafting is a crapshoot and not a science …  Consider the 2021 NFL Draft and the QBs of note taken then:

  • Trevor Lawrence:  First overall pick; looks like the real deal.
  • Zach Wilson:  Second overall pick; has been less than fully successful so far.
  • Trey Lance:  Third overall pick; rarely sees the field and has already been traded.
  • Justin Fields:  Eleventh overall pick; just traded away for a bag of beans.
  • Mac Jones:  Fifteenth overall pick; was traded a week ago for next to nothing.

In case you think I am cherry-picking bad results, look at the 2022 NFL Draft and the QBs of note taken there:

  • Kenny Pickett:  Twentieth overall pick; just traded away for nothing.
  • Desmond Ridder: Seventy-fourth overall pick; can’t play.
  • Malik Willis:  Eighty-sixth overall pick: started 3 games, appeared in 11 games; zero TDs.
  • Matt Corral:  Ninety-fourth overall pick; has yet to see the field in an NFL game.
  • Bailey Zappe: One hundred and thirty-fourth overall pick; can’t play.
  • Sam Howell: One hundred and forth fourth overall pick; just traded away for a can of corn.
  • Brock Purdy:  Two hundred and sixty-second overall pick; seems to be doing well.

Finally, I began today talking about public opinion as it regards the work of the NCAA Selection Committee; so, let me close with Bertrand Russell’s view of public opinion:

“One should respect public opinion insofar as is necessary to avoid starvation and keep out of prison, but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny.”

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



5 thoughts on “A Short-Lived National Pastime”

  1. While the games are always sprinkled with true basketball gems, in these early rounds fans are primarily watching for (or wishing for) that surprise upset where Charleston catches Bama on a cold shooting night or UVA has one of their normal nights and loses to Colorado State. Tony Bennett teams always seem to be poor shooters, but they win by making their opponents also be poor shooters for that night. These games will tell us something about the SEC (should they really have 8 teams in the fold) and the ACC (have they become a conference where their #3 team is an underdog in a play-in game).

  2. I wonder if the NCAA selection committee sent a message to Rick Pitino that they remember what he did at Louisville and it will take a while to forgive him.

    1. Doug:

      I might buy into that thinking had it not been for the stench that surrounded the St. John’s team for about a month in the middle of the season that just ended…

  3. The Eagles actually obtained Pickett for less of a haul than noted. Although the Eagles are giving up an end of the third round compensatory pick as part of the package, they are receiving a mid-4th round pick from Pittsburgh, making the Pickett Charge of lesser value

    1. Gary:

      The Eagles'”investment” in Kenny Pickett is indeed very small. I do wonder how he will fit with an offense designed around a QB who is so different from him.

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