NCAA: Pay for Play?

Once again, the controversy of paying college athletes is on the front page. The problem, or so it seems, is that there is no middle ground. One side is adamantly against it, the other side thinks it should happen immediately. I’m here to throw my two cents into the ring.

My initial concern is the parity among schools regarding these payments. Idaho can’t compete financially with Duke, Liberty can’t hang with Kentucky, Niagara can’t match North Carolina. I could go on, but you get it. So if these payments are ever approved, who polices this? Surely not the ones currently in charge of these things. It’s a mess in its current state. Also, do these payments merely cover enough expenses so the student athlete can go to dinner and a movie occasionally? Do they get more? Are they essentially professional athletes upon receiving a certain amount? There are a whole lot of questions to be answered. It’s not an easy task, there are no easy solutions.

The one thing I think should be mandated is requisite courses on finances. I’d also like to see a bulk of this money to be given to them upon leaving school, be it graduating or heading to the next level. Again, this would also require them to complete the aforementioned finance class. But right now, the whole thing is a disaster that’s about to come crashing down on some top programs.

I’m not sure this is going to help anyone. The athlete loses playing time, the fans are robbed of game quality, the game itself will be affected. The NCAA would then proceed to vacate wins and/or titles. This is one of the dumbest practices I’ve seen. We all know Louisville was the best team a few years back. Just like we knew the USC football team was the best and Reggie Bush rightfully earned the Heisman that season. Stop vacating titles in some feeble ‘it’s my ball and I’m going home’ attempt at doing the right thing. Just stop. It makes no sense.

We’ll see this play out, probably longer than we want to see it play out. But the system needs to change. It needs to change soon. This could result in players going from high school to Europe to the NBA. College athletics will suffer down the road if the powers that be don’t figure this out.

Kirk Cousins: What’s Next?

Kirk Cousins is likely the most sought after free agent this year. Seven teams are currently courting him; NYJ, Denver, Minnesota, Jacksonville, Cleveland, Arizona, and Buffalo. Now, I’m the last guy to have any inside scoop, so this blog is purely speculation on my part. And I’ll leave the dollar amounts to those that prefer to walk that path. We’ve all seen them. Cousins has made about $40M the last 2 seasons, I doubt he’s chasing money at this point.

Let’s remove the Browns from the conversation right now. No one really wants to play for that organization. And I personally feel that Minnesota would be wise to sign Keenum and go that route. I loved him in college and have said since the day he came into the league that he could be a starter in the NFL. People laughed……until this past season. Jacksonville is in the same boat. Bortles looks to have found his groove and I think he can lead that team going forward.

Arizona could be enticing, but how long does Fitz keep playing? Cousins could very well wait to see what else some of these teams do to surround him with weapons. Larry can’t play forever, I get that, but maybe get a solid #2 for now. Buffalo has some good skill position players right now. But signing Cousins would force an overhaul of the current playbook. Taylor is good, but he plays a different style than Cousins. Denver has too many questions on offense. If I’m Kirk, I’m crossing them off the list. I’m sure he wants to win now.

I didn’t think I’d say this ever in my lifetime, but if I’m Cousins, I sign with the Jets. They surprised everyone last season by winning at all, much less 5 games. They have cap space too. Add a top WR (Robinson?) to a solid running game, then plug in Kirk Cousins. If that happens, they’re in the playoffs. You heard it here first.

Free agent signings will be fun to watch. I’m looking forward to seeing how teams try to improve, or see if they decide to grow through the draft. Either way, Cousins will turn out a winner. And the team that gets him will be markedly better. Now, how many days until kickoff?

Racism in Sports

How is this even an issue in 2018? But here we are. The Chicago Blackhawks banned 4 fans from their games for racist taunts directed at the Capitals’ Devante Smith-Pelly as he sat in the penalty box. Now before anyone starts on the “typical (team name) fans” rant, all teams have this faction of fans that the rest of us don’t want anything to do with. Those people are disgusting and have no place in society, much less sports.

So how do we stop it? Teams and organizations banning these people is a start. But is it enough? Think about the life this type of person lives. They apparently wake up angry at the world and stay that way all day. Do they really want sports to be all white? My gosh, how horrible would baseball be without Aaron, Mays, Robinson? Football without Payton, Brown, Sanders, and Dickerson? No thank you. Take Wilt, Jordan, the Big O, and Kareem out of basketball and no one watches. And the NHL is surely better with Subban, Smith-Pelly, and Byfuglien in it. We simply can’t tolerate this as decent fans, as decent people.

The Blackhawks did the right thing. We, as fans, need to make sure it is known that we won’t tolerate this type of hatred at our beloved sporting events. We need to remove it from our lives. Period. Devante Smith-Pelly seems like a class act. I’m sure he’ll move on from this without any problems. Those 4 fools embarrassed the city of Chicago. They embarrassed the NHL. But we can all move on from this and make an effort to be better collectively.

We’ve all heard the saying “Be the change you want to see in the world”. We need to live by that, we need to practice it every single day. We should embrace diversity, stand for unity. Not just in sports, not just in regards to race. But in every aspect of our lives.

Well, more hockey is on tonight. It’s time to fire up Center Ice and #DropThePuck.

Sid

Sid the Kid. You know him, and you either love him or hate him. Last night he scored his 400th goal. The hockey world knew he was special the first time he skated onto the ice. He holds several records, most of these beginning with “the youngest player to …..”. There was no doubt that he was going to reach star status in the NHL.

3 Stanley Cups, 2-time Conn Smythe winner, 2-time Art Ross winner, 2-time Maurice Richard winner, 3-time Ted Lindsay winner, 2-time Hart Memorial winner, 2-time Mark Messier Leadership winner. And here’s the kicker……..he’s 30 years old. To many, it seems like he’s been in the league that long. There’s so much more to come.

About once a generation, we get to see a player like this in their respective sport. He’s LeBron, he’s Jordan, he’s Brady, he’s Griffey. He’s someone who you watch play whether you have a vested interest in the game or not. He’s that guy. Scoring looks easy when Sid has the puck. You wonder why other players struggle with such an ‘easy’ task. In a sport where the top scorers barely average a point per game, you feel like you succeeded if you shut him down for a game.

I don’t know how long he’ll play, I just know I want to keep watching him. His numbers by the end of his career will be among the best in the history of the game. And that’s with a few seasons marred by injury. The Penguins will probably be headed to the playoffs again this season. Do yourself a favor, tune in. Even if you’re not a big hockey fan, tune in. I’m telling you, he’s special. We don’t know when the next one will come along, although Connor McDavid may have something to say about that. Enjoy the last leg of the regular season, get ready for the playoffs, and #DropThePuck.

UK and the Bubble

It’s happened before, but it’s extremely rare. Could the University of Kentucky be headed to the NIT this season? They’re struggling, we all see that. Can Coach Cal fix this in the next couple weeks and make a late run? Before I go further, I asked a couple diehard UK friends of mine for their input on this. So thanks to Gary (@skerble80) and Corey (@BrokenSterling0) for their feedback.

The problem, at least by general consensus, is that this team lacks cohesion. There doesn’t seem to be the team chemistry that teams over the last several years have possessed. Coach Cal brings up the youth excuse/reason. Well John, you’ve done this, by design, year after year. Usually UK is playing as a team at this point in the season in spectacular fashion. But when you watch them play this year, you see a glaring lack of discipline, inconsistent scoring, and almost no presence in the paint. This is not UK basketball, at least by the standards we are used to. In my pal Gary’s words, “This team is worse than the 2013 NIT team.” Ouch, not good. That team, as you may remember, got beat by Robert Morris in the 1st round of the NIT.

The NCAA tournament is better when teams like Kentucky, Duke, UNC, Kansas, Nova, etc are in it. The fan base is huge, as is the faction that just wants to see them lose. The companies spending millions on advertising want them there too. But suffice it to say, UK is headed to the wrong side of the bubble. They have 6 games left. By my estimate, they have to win 4 of these. Auburn, ranked #8, is on deck. The Wildcats need to step up right now. The tournament will be great, as usual, with or without them. But we all want our team to take down Goliath, given the chance.

MLB Pace of Play

First off, am I the only one who doesn’t think this is a problem? Baseball is timeless, baseball is pure. MLB needs to stop making changes that disrupt the sanctity of the game. There is no clock in baseball, and that’s beautiful. Baseball can be watched in a leisurely setting, dogs on the grill, beer in hand, radio play-by-play in the background. What a glorious sport!

The average game last season was 3:05, highest in history. A few things contributed to this, mainly challenges and reviews. I personally feel that reviews should be used only for safe/out calls and fair/foul situations. But MLB is hinting at pitch clocks and limiting mound visits. I think adding a pitch clock is ridiculous. I hope this never passes. I’m not siding with limited mound visits either. There’s a reason they happen. Unlike the baseball we grew up with, there are a lot more stats available to players now. Teams want to make sure the right moves/pitches are being made. Some teams have crossed the line, I get that. But where do you draw the line? I’d be on board with a slight policing of this, but not necessarily a limit.

It just seems to me that Rob Manfred is trying to make changes to attract the younger crowd, purity be damned. Leave the game alone. Please. The younger crowd will move on regardless, whether it’s baseball, fidget spinners, or Tide pods. My biggest fear is that the game will change to the point of being unrecognizable from the game I grew up with. In the meantime, I’ll be checking schedules and deciding which games to go to this season. I may even catch a few minor league games when I travel.

Play Ball!

DH in the NL? No Thanks.

There has been talk of implementing the DH rule in the National League. I’m not a fan of this. I don’t even like it in the AL. For me, a purist, I feel that baseball is a game where you field 9 players. That’s it, just 9. I like the strategy it creates in a close game with the pitcher on deck. I’d rather see a perfectly executed sacrifice bunt than some 6’2, 250 lb one dimensional guy either hit the ball 450 feet or strikeout. It’s what makes baseball great.

The DH rule was implemented in 1973. Ron Blomberg, of the New York Yankees, was the first one on 4/6/73. He drew a walk against Luis Tiant. Since interleague play began in 1997, the National League has used them when visiting American League teams. Glenallen Hill was the first NL DH when his Giants visited Texas. Whether it’s interleague play or the World Series, the home team has a decided advantage when one league uses it and the other doesn’t. I say get rid of it entirely.

There have been players who have either made careers out of the DH rule, or at least extended them. Edgar Martinez and David Ortiz come to mind immediately. Both were outstanding hitters; HOF caliber hitters. But do they belong, having rarely played the field? I think they do because, like the rule or not, it was part of the game. And these guys were at the top.

I hope this never passes. I don’t want it in the National League. At the same time, I want both leagues to be the same. I don’t think a happy medium is possible, at least for my thoughts on this.

However, I have exactly zero say in the matter. I’ll always keep watching baseball. It would be hard for them to turn me away completely. What do you guys think? Do you like the DH?