Archive for April, 2010

Good Job by College Football

April 16, 2010

by John Furgele

The NCAA announced that college football playes can no longer wear eye patches with messages on them and I say, it’s about time.  From Reggie Bush’s area code to Tim Tebow’s religious overtones, it was getting out of hand.  Why can’t the players just be players?  And, don’t get me started about these players being exploited.  They don’t have to play if they don’t want to.

What we learned from the Masters is pretty simple.  The Augusta course suits Phil Mickelsen’s game very well and Tiger Woods, despite his attempted image makeover is still Tiger Woods.  He will continue his boorish behavior because that’s who he is.  He is arrogant, smug and self-centered, qualities that made him the world’s best golfer.  You can’t expect a leopard to change his spots.  And, being treated for sex addiction is just laughable. 

As for Mickelsen, he no longer has to worry about his legacy.  The man has won four majors playing alongside arguably, in Woods, the best player in history.  To me, if Mickelsen could bag a British or United States open, he would cement an already fabulous career.  His PGA Championship win is a major, but for some reason, the U.S. and British titles have more cache. 

The NFL needs to come down hard on Ben Rothliesberger and Roger Goodell knows it.  Goodell better not hide behind the “no charges were filed,” line because he knows that won’t fly.  And, if he lets Rothlieberger off the hook, the race card will come into play and I would have a hard time arguing with Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton on this one.  At the very least, he should be suspended for four games.  This is the third time Rothliesberger has been involved in alleged sexual assaults.  Does he have a problem?  Perhaps, but the NFL needs to act decisively here.  The league does not rely on big names to be successful, there is no Michael Jordan of the NFL.  Rothliesberger is guilty of bad judgement if nothing else.  Plaxico Burress shot himself and ended up in jail, is that worse than what Rothlieberger is accused of doing?

The media will do its best to ignore the best playoffs in all of sports, but you can’t argue how great the NHL playoffs.  Just one game in and the favored Penguins, Devils, Capitals and Sharks are already down one game, all losing on home ice.  All eight opening games were decided by one goal.  Compare that to the NBA where the home team will win by 20 points, then goes on the road and loses by the same 20 points.  But, I understand that the NHL will never be accepted in places like Mississippi and Louisiana and New Mexico, so you have to accept that.  But, if you want to watch intense, fast moving action, the NHL is where it’s at.  And, unlike the NBA, where you know that the champion will be one of three to four teams, there is no clear cut favorite int he NHL playoffs.  And, the Stanley Cup remains the coolest trophy in all of sports. 

Lastly, only two weeks before the Kentucky Derby.  Do you have your favorite yet?

Still Climbing the Mountain

April 6, 2010

by John Furgele

Utah had a chance in 1998, Memphis did in 2008, and in 2010 Butler carried the mantle for the small conference, the mid-major, the non-BCS conference.  Three chances, three misses. 

Duke beat Butler in a stirring, gripping NCAA title game for the ages.  Love them or hate them, Duke has tough gritty basketball players.  Sure, Coach K gets the cream of the crop, a full access to McDonald’s All-Americans, but the man can coach and certainly commands respect of all baskeball players, uist ask Kobe or LeBron. 

But, like Utah and in some regards Memphis, the non-BCS conference hasn’t broken through to win a title in college basketball.  You may consider UNLV’s 1990 title coming from the Big West as the breakthrough, but we all know that Vegas was playing a different hand of cards than a Butler. 

Utah led Kentucky in the second half, which would have given the Mountain West—close to BCS, but not quite— that breakthrough win and we all know how close Memphis was two years ago, even though had they won, the words vacated would be listed under champion. 

Butler was the true mid-major, the true small conference and their agonizing loss should certainly give the small conference schools some hope, but coming close and winning are two very different things.  And, it makes you wonder if this is as close as the little guy will come. 

I have to think that someday we will see a Butler, a Gonzaga, a Northern Iowa or a BYU or New Mexico cut down the nets as an NCAA champion, but sometimes it is the old so close, yet so far scenario.  It’s like the job candidate, who onterviews well, impresses all, but always finishes second.  An excellent candidate, but in the end, still jobless. 

There are other examples.  Indiana State, led by Larry Bird, carried a 33-0 record into the 1979 title tilt against Big Ten power Michigan State, but that was before the creation of the superconferences. Back then, there was no Big East, rather, the ECAC and corsortiums of independents.  In many ways, Butler reminded me of that Indiana State team.  Same state, same type of players, and the gaudy record against decent, but not great teams.  Both etema beat quality opponents in the semifinals.  ISU rallied to beat a very talented DePaul team coached by the legendary Ray Meyer and Butler got past the great Tom Izzo and Michigan State. 

In the end, they both ended up as the runner-up, something that should be feted, not downcasted.  But, in the end, it was agonizing and makes you wondering and hoping for the little guy to break through. 

Once again, this is not an anti-Duke piece.  Had Butler played Kansas, the same thoughts would have been there.  You root fot the undergod, you root for the little guy, hoping that they can do it, but expecting it not to happen.  That’s why the 1980 United States Olympic hockey team will always be the gold standard, because they were the true underdog. 

The NCAA has had remarkable upsets by unheralded teams.  The 1983 NC State team would not have made the NCAA Tournament had they not won the ACC Tournament, and Villanova’s 66-64 win over Georgetown in 1985, the first year of the 64 team tournament is considered by many the greatest upset in championship history.  But, both NC State and Villanova played in major conferences and in Viilanova’s case was quite familiar with their opponent. 

One of these days…..the complete story will be written, perhaps by a Butler, a Xavier or a team from the Missouri Valley, but until then……the big boys rule the day.