Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Jeremy: Age Minimums

Okay, let's get a few things out in the open here: First, I'm eating hashbrowns right now. This is not significant, but they are delicious. Okay, now let's get something else strait: Jeffrey is a great college basketball mind. Heck, he's just a great sports mind. He's the smartest guy I know when it comes to sports and it's not even close. I am, of course, not counting myself. But even if I were, my previous statement would still be true. Why he chooses to share a sports blog with the likes of yours truly is beyond me.
Lastly, he is right. It has been far too long since I've dropped some sporting opinions on our non-paying public.
Jeff mentioned something in passing that has been bugging me for the past week or so, and that is the issue of the NBA enforcing a minimum age requirement something like the NFL has where a player must be out of high school for 3 years.
Obviously the NBA has been inundated with high school players in recent years. It is the opinion of several people, including myself, that the influx of high school players into the NBA has diluted the talent of the pro game and has hurt the college game as well. I do, however, believe that the NBA is affected far more negatively by this. As Jeffrey so eloquently stated, "the Madness will roll on whether the best players stay in college or not," but the NBA is far more diluted.
So onto the issue of imposing a minimum age. On the "for" side of the coin, some people might say that you cannot become an accountant, a doctor or an executive without a college education, so why should a young kid be allowed to enter a professional arena without similar credentials. We all know this is a ludicrous argument. We aren't talking about people curing diseases or even doing your taxes here. We are talking about grown men playing a game, and let's be honest, they don't need an education to play it.
On the con side of the argument, I've heard sports talk folk say that the NBA should not impose an age minimum because they do not have the right to tell these kids that they cannot use their talent to make a living right out of high school. This is specifically what I would like to talk about.
This issue of high school kids going strait into the pros gets a little bit out of hand because the only thing that is ever talked about is the players, and while the players are obviously the most major part of this debate, what seems to be forgotten by many people is that this is also about professional sports, and professional sports is a business. Plain and simple.
You see, the reason that the NFL has a minimum age requirement, and why the NBA is considering one, isn't because they don't think the high school kids don't have a right to use their talent to make a living. And it's not even because they don't think high school kids are physically or mentally prepared to be in the pros.
Let's go back to why the accountant has to have an education to perform their job argument. It's possible that there is someone out there who is ridiculously talented in the area of accounting because they have worked hard to learn it on their own. They might even be more talented than your average CPA, but they do not have an education in accounting. An accounting firm is not going to hire this individual no matter how talented they are, and it's not because this person doesn't have a right to use his talent to earn a living, it's because the accounting firm, as a business, has a right to protect its interest, and part of protecting its interest as a professional firm is hiring individuals with college educations.
Professional sports (maybe unfortunately) is a business, and as a business the NFL and the NBA have a right to protect the product that the put before the public to buy. If they believe that their sport, their product, is more competitive and more healthy by requiring athletes to be a certain age before they enter the professional arena, they have the right to do so.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Jeff: What a weekend

First of all, has anyone seen Jer? It's not like him to not write for weeks on end. That's usually my role here. Maybe he was just so overwhelmed by the college hoops he's been unable to put into words. I was in much the same shape this morning, but 3 cups of coffee later I think I'm ready. Well quite a weekend it was. Nothing better than college basketball at tourney time. As one of the few NBA fans left in the world, the disparity between quality and excitement of college ball compared to the pros has never been more apparent. To anyone that even tried to watch any of the NBA games Sunday after sitting through 3 overtime college games, it's pretty obvious that D1 hoops is doing just fine without it's superstars and the best 5-10 players of each class. Do I hope the NBA enforces a 20 yr old age limit? Absolutely. It would be better for both college and the pros, but the Madness will roll on whether the best players stay in college or not.

Louisville 93, West Virginia 85 (OT)
Probably my favorite game of the four. Even though West Virginia was up most of the game, I just kept waiting for Louisville to come back, and every 3 pointer the Mountaineers hit was more amazing than the last. I feel bad for WV because they shot so well and played out of their minds, and yet they still lost. It also shows just how good Louisville is, and how good a coach Rick Pitino is. And for those that say "well he was terrible in the NBA", I agree, he was. But that's because he actually tried to coach!! In the NBA, as a coach you're a babysitter. Your only real job is to manage egos. That's it. Phil Jackson has won the most titles of any coach because he was good, at least for awhile, at managing egos. But when things fell apart in LA he was as helpless as you or I would have been trying to run that team. This is why you will not see Phil with the Knicks or LA, unless the Lakers can get another big free agent. Phil hasn't really coached since his early days with the Bulls, and he's not about to start now. Oh, and his famed triangle offense? Actually the mastermind of his asst coach, Tex Winters, who not coincedentally was with him in both Chicago and LA.

The point to my Phil-bashing is that there's nothing wrong with basketball coaches who succeed in college but not in the NBA. Good coaching and leadership is lost on NBA players. Money talks in the NBA. All the care about are posses and their upcoming hip-hop cd. Wait, why am I an NBA fan again?

Illinois 90, Arizona 89 (OT)
Before the tourney started, Cris Collins is on record as saying how overrated Illinois was, how a team that relied so heavily on the 3 had no shot in the tourney. And you know what? He's still right. In some respects, I thought he was oversimplifying the Illini by saying all they do is shoot 3's. But he's right, that's all they do! I guess when you've got 3 great guards somebody's always going to have a hot hand, but that kind of thinking should catch up with them eventually, right? Well it did Saturday. Arizona had them dead to rights. Up 15 with 4 minutes left. All Zona had to do was hang onto the ball and hit free throws. Yes, Illinois cranked up the D, and yes the refs put the whistles away, and yes the pro-Illini crowd was insane. But Arizona still choked. Even with no calls late you don't lose that lead. And then with a chance to win in OT, the Arizona kid completely freezes and ends up firing one of the worst shots I've ever seen. Salim Stoudamire doesn't even touch the ball. And Illinois escapes. So here they are in the Final 4, and I'm still not ready to say this team is as good as advertised. Is the Big 10 better than we thought? Yes. Are the Illini? We'll see.

North Carolina 88, Cheeseheads 82
The Heels' talent level is downright scary. From May to McCants to Felton to the Williams boys (not Roy), anybody they put out on the floor looked superior to the Cheeseheads. And yet there was Scony, continuing to plug away, hanging around right down to the final seconds. This is not the first time in his career Roy Williams has had the nations' most talented team, and it very well could go down as yet another time Williams can't get it done when it matters. Credit Wisconsin for keeping up with the UNC in a game that was completely unlike anything they'd played in all year. 82 points? It would usually take a week for La Cheese to score that much in a game. But a team that had looked so horrid against NC State, was flying around 2 days later against the Heels. Still, NC was the better team for just long enough. Sean May was scary good. I think he's the difference maker in St Louis. He's far and away the best low-post scorer left, and I've already talked about Carolina's other weapons. This is Carolina's weekend to lose, and if history has shown us anything, because of Roy Williams they probably will. But I hope not.

Michigan St 94, Kentucky 88 (2OT)
Quite a capper to the weekend. Kentucky hits the miracle buzzer-beater, but the Spartans battle back. No real big heroes in this game (if Shannon Brown's dunk attempt in the 2nd half goes down, that's one of the most spectacular plays in tourney history), just a good old-fashioned slug fest. Where was this talent all year long from the Spartans though? Like Wisconsin, the Spartans played an entertaining, uptempo style of basketball. And played it well. WHY DON"T WE SEE THIS ALL YEAR?!?!? I'm one of the many people that thought the Big 10 was overrated, and that these plodding, ugly teams would get knocked out in a hurry. The Gophers (this is what happens when you litter your non-conference schedule with the School for the Blind and the MN Catholic School for Girls. Is there a policy at the U that says their football and basketball teams HAVE to play cupcake schedules? Glen Mason just announced the U has added Florida Atlantic to this fall's schedule. What, was Roseville Elementary busy that weekend?) and Iowa looked very overrated, but the other 3 played very well. Is there a league-wide mandate to play "3 yards and a cloud of dust" basketball just because the football teams do? Are coaches' concerned that playing entertaining basketball might actually bring back more support and national appreciation for the league? Just wondering.

I'm predicting a Louisville/UNC final next Monday night, with UNC winning. But keep in mind, this is coming from a guy who's finished near the bottom in every bracket pool I entered.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Jeff: We're baaaaaaaaaack...

Well a post from Jer or I was long overdue. Apologies to our mom's (does anyone else read this site?). My excuse for the lack of postings is I've been busy building a bomb shelter. First, the Red Sox win the World Series, then the Elkton Elks, a class B team here in South Dakota who hadn't been to the state tourney in 85 years, won the state title this past weekend. AND the Vikings are making prudent off-season moves (except for the Randy Moss trade which we've already covered and I refuse to revisit. He's gone and we should move on--despite the fact we shouldn't have traded him if this was all we were going to get for him). The Vikings are spending money on defense for the first time since I can remember. Freddy Smoot was a great move, getting a 25-year-old Pro Bowl caliber corner for no more than they paid Antoine Winfield, who's only two years older. Then our friends in Cheeseland drop Darren Sharper into our laps, and we end up with the all-pro leader in the secondary we've been sorely lacking since Joey Browner retired. And Sharper's just 29. Big Pat Williams will be a great run-stuffer, and more importantly he'll take pressure and attention off of All-Pro Kevin Williams (no relation). Youngsters like Udeze and whoever we have at the other end will also benefit from the larger Williams.

Then I see over the weekend we traded a 7th round pick to the Jets for linebacker Sam Cowart, who was going to lose his job to young stud Jonathan Vilma. This is no knock on Cowart, as Vilma is touted as one of the best young linebackers in football. Cowart, although not quite in the Pro Bowl form he was a few years ago, can still make plays. But his biggest plus is that he can be a mentor and good influence on our young guys like EJ Henderson, Dontarrious Thomas and Napoleon Harris. And after all of these moves we still have 2 1st round draft picks and gobs of cap room.

Secretly I'm down-right giddy about all of this, but it still seems too good to be true. I'm waiting for the Red McCombs press conference where he withdraws the sale to Reggie Fowler (which the NFL may do for him) and announces he's moving the team to LA or Vegas or Mexico City. I've been a fan of the VIkings since 1987, and this is the best defense we've had coming into the season since that time. And oh by the way, even without Randy Moss, we still have one of the top QB's in football, 3 starting-caliber running backs, a good o-line and a developing group of receivers. Every year since '87 we've been told as fans this team has a chance to play in the Super Bowl. As cynical as I've become of this team over the years, this might finally be the year when that chance becomes a reality. And if the Vikings could win a Super Bowl in the same span that the Red Sox win the World Series, well, I'm not saying the world's coming to an end, but does anyone know what kind of metal keeps out nuclear radiation? Just wondering.