Not so Smart

Nothing excuses what Marcus Smart did on Saturday night at Texas Tech.  No word that was said.  No amount of frustration.

Nothing.

No Excuses.

However, sports fans are out of control.  Period.

In 2004 we had that Malice in the Palace.  A fight had just ended between players when a fan threw a drink at then Ron Artest, now Metta World Peace, and Artest reacted by going into the stands.  One of the most frightening scenes in NBA history ensued.  Charges were brought up on both players and fans.  The fan who threw the drink had his season tickets revoked but was given a refund.  The players received no such refund on their paychecks for their missed games.

In 2012 Missouri fans made signs and allegedly shirts that said No Mom Tom in an attempt to get to Kansas player Thomas Robinson.  Robinson had lost his mother to a sudden heart attack in 2011.  No apology was issued by the school nothing was done.  This was apparently appropriate fan behavior.

Then, during the 2012 NCAA tournament the Southern Miss band can be heard chanting, during a free throw by Angel Rodriguez, “Where’s your green card.”   Rodriquez is from Puerto Rico.  The school immediately issued an apology but the question remains how does a group of college students believe this is acceptable behavior.

In 2013, Iowa State fans threw cups and other items at the KU players as they left the court after an overtime victory.  Tweets emerged threatening Kansas point guard Elijah Johnson and calling him racial slurs.  Once again the school issued an apology for the fans.  After this same game, a fan rushed the court trying to confront Kansas coach Bill Self.  Security intervened and restrained the angered fan.

Again, how do we get to this point over a game?

Then last night it all finally came to a head.  When Marcus Smart reacted to something that was said behind him.  He makes the poor decision to respond to the fan and ultimately push him.   The media has jumped all over Smart and the lynch mob is ready.  However, too many questions remain.

What did Texas Tech’s number one fan Orr say?  Clearly he said something that got Smart’s attention.  It’s obvious from the replay.  Smart was being helped up and reacts to something behind him.  Since nothing was thrown we can assume something was said.  I have read reports from Oklahoma State media that Marcus Smart came to the bench claiming a racial slur was used.  If you read Smart’s lips, as his teammates escort him away from the crowd, you can see “You called me…”

I struggle to understand how it has become acceptable to personally attack athletes.  How did we get to this anything goes mentality with fans?  How did we go from calling someone a flopper to calling the same kid a racial slur? How does a middle-aged man get a pass for his actions while a 19 year old kid’s reputation and character gets questioned?

Something is wrong in the wide world of sports and it’s time the NCAA and professional organizations start cracking down on what is acceptable behavior.  If they don’t we will see more of the same outlandish, unacceptable fan behavior and unfortunately more players will find themselves in the same shoes as Marcus Smart.  Because it’s human nature to protect yourself when no one else will.

Conspiracy Theory

In one moment things changed forever.  In an instant the world was divided.  Lines were drawn and troops were readied for battle and all of it was because of an announcement made on Saturday night.  The moment Johnny Manziel’s name was read from the stage, in New York City, announcing him as the newest Heisman winner and first freshman to ever win the award the world went crazy.  Well at least the sports world.

Claims of SEC bias were heard in Kansas.  Wildcat fans thought Klein had this one in the bag.  He was a senior quarterback with one loss and up against a freshman and a pure defensive player.  History was on their side.  Never had this prestigious award gone to a freshman or a purely defensive player.  They would finally have their Heisman winner to help heal the pain of their Baylor Beatdown.  Instead they received salt for their wounds.  The sting was not just that it was a freshman but a freshman on a team that defected from their league, Big XII, a season ago and put the future of KSU, KU, ISU and Baylor at risk.

This was K-State’s year their quarterback, Klein, lead them to a #1 BCS ranking and Optimusklein was going to bring them a national title and a Heisman in the same year.  But Klein didn’t come close to winning either.  His horrible performance at Baylor revealed his weaknesses and a 28 point beatdown by an unranked opponent crushed the National Title dreams and Heisman dreams for anyone not sporting purple and white.

Realignment weakened leagues and exposed players.  Those once thought to be contenders, Geno Smith & Landry Jones, are shown to be pretenders and the same was true Saturday night.  Honestly when stats are examined one wonders how Klein even got invited.  Every time I thought about Klein winning the Heisman two things came to mind 1) If he wins it will be by default.  (The committee not wanting a Freshman or Defense player to win) and 2) the words from a Knights Tale “you have been weighed…you have been measured and you have been found wanting.”

Manziel totaled 4,600 yards, 43 TDs (24 passing) and 8 INTs…Klein totaled 3,380 yards 37TDs (15 passing) and 7 INT.  The numbers don’t lie.

Te’o would have made a worthy recipient but unfortunately there is really no way, as of right now, to quantify defensive stats.  He had a great season, a Heisman worthy season but so did Manziel and Johnny plays the right position to elevate him to the top of the Heisman race and win the most coveted trophy in all of sports.  As much as it hurts to see a Big XII defect win the Heisman this soon to leaving Johnny Football earned every bit of the honor and proved himself to be a class act on Saturday night.

So put the conspiracy theories away and congratulate this young man on his great achievement and who knows maybe him winning this year has opened the door for a KSU or ND freshman to win next year or a few years down the road.

It’s a hard knock life

It’s tough being a Kansan during summer and fall.  No real hope for the Royals to make the playoffs, though they always seem to tease their fans at the start of the season with the promise of something magical.  Some of us still remember the 80′s and long for the days of Brett & Saberhagen.  However, that’s been around 30 years ago and we’ve been around the block enough to know that was then and this is now.  About midseason talk around town turns to the upcoming football season and hope springs to life yet again.

This year conversations ranged from having a healthy Chiefs team to a possible turn around in Lawrence, KS with the new additions to the Kansas Jayhawks and then there were those Wildcats at Kansas State.  Was last year a fluke in Manhattan or could they be legitimate contenders? Hopes were rising and expectations were at a all time high.  Then the season started.

It didn’t take long to learn it was going to be a long season for Chiefs fans and wasn’t long before they were booing Matt Cassel at Arrowhead.  The college scene was different as KSU and KU  both started the season with wins.  The hope of Kansas fans grew and maybe just maybe this year the Jayhawks would be competitive.  Fans packed Memorial Stadium to watch their beloved Hawks battle Rice in the second game of the season.  Leading in the 4th quarter fans frantically cheered, hung on to hope and their hearts were about to burst in their chest…and then one poor decision turned jubilation into jeers.  Crist was not KU’s savior!!!  How could he throw a pass up for grabs and put the game in jeopardy?  So many questions with no answers.  This wouldn’t be the last time the Hawks would surrender a fourth quarter lead.

As the season went on it became clear that Crist was not much of a quarterback and the Hawks’ would once again be lucky to win a league game.  Talk turned to basketball season and the count down to late night began the feeling around Lawrence was probably best depicted by the school newspaper.  

 

Meanwhile in the little apple the scene was the same but the outcome was different.  A talented Wildcat team is undefeated but about to face it’s toughest competition yet.  Are they for real or just posers?  Only time will tell but until basketball season begins (it’s only two days away) those covered in purple are the only hope remaining in Kansas.

It’s hard to be a sports fan in Kansas.

Two wrongs…make it right?

Joe Paterno’s statue has been removed from the Penn State campus and for all practical purposes the NCAA has slapped them with a modern day death penalty.   The last 14 seasons of Penn State football essentially don’t exist and JoPa is no longer the winningest coach in history after the NCAA has forced somewhere around 100 victories to be taken off the books.

Regardless of how you feel about Penn State football, the NCAA or Joe Paterno himself this punishment is a little over the top.

The university has every right to remove the images of those involved in this heartbreaking scandal and the NCAA and BIG has every right to issue fines or take away financial benefits from the university.  It was a university problem not a student athlete problem.  The NCAA should have done what the BIG did and instead of punishing the current players and staff should have allowed them to be bowl eligible but not allowed the university to receive any money from it’s appearance in said bowl.

The fine, $60 million, handed down to Penn State is also a punishment suitable to the crime the university committed of covering up Sandusky’s abuse.  However, why should the current staff and student athletes be punished for the actions of an ex-football coach, a deceased football coach and some corrupt administrators?

The NCAA has made some ridiculous concessions to their own rules in trying to accommodate any Penn State player that wants to transfer, mainly the idea of allowing other teams to go over the NCAA scholarship limit if they take a former Penn State football player.  However, I can see many problems with this amendment.  How many players can one college take 1…5…9?  This benefits larger programs and hurts other student athletes that signed commitments with an understanding of where they would play, but the NCAA only cared about it’s image, much like the Penn State officials who covered up the inexcusable actions of Jerry Sandusky.

The NCAA has yet again failed in its decision making.  It seems like the decision was made in haste, due to public & media pressure, without much consideration of the impact these decisions will have on collegiate football.  No punishment will ever make the Penn State scandal disappear and it seems like everyone is trying to make this situation right.  Unfortunately, nothing can make this right and we all know two wrongs can’t make it right.

Thunderstruck

With 2:08 remaining in the game and Oklahoma City down 7 and being out played by the Lakers I decided it was time to call it a night.  I needed to get up at 6:30am to head to work and the Thunder seemed to be playing without a lot of heart.

This game was over.

So when OKC called a timeout following Bynum’s bucket, that put the Lakers up 7, I turned off the television and headed off to brush my teeth and prepare for bed.   It didn’t take long before I decided to flip on the television in my bedroom and roughly 30 seconds of game time had passed and the Thunder were now within 3.  The officials were reviewing a play to see if a tipped pass had hit Kobe Bryant before hitting the sideline.

What just happened?!?!

How did the Lakers give up 5 points in 30 seconds?!?!?

The unimaginable had just occurred.   The Black Mamba (Kobe Bryant) turned into Lebron James and for all practical purposes choked.  Kobe had made a bad pass that led to a Durant dunk and now he found himself staring at another turnover.  Things were about to get worse.

Oklahoma City was awarded the ball.

The Thunder were down three with 1:39 remaining…so much for sleeping!!!

In the final minute of the game Kobe (Lechoke) was blocked, jacked up and missed a desperate three, got fouled with 5 seconds remaining after dribbling out a majority of the clock and didn’t even touch the ball after that.    In fact, Kobe can be seen yanking out his jersey and yelling at World Peace while there is time still on the clock.  If Kobe would have turned and fouled it would have saved his team a second or so and who knows if that would have changed the outcome of the game.  Maybe Durant would have made the second free throw maybe he still would have missed but the Lakers would have had more time regardless.  There’s a big difference between 1.3 seconds and .3 seconds.  However, Kobe (9-25, 0-6 from three) chose to give up and throw a tantrum because Metta World Peace threw the ball in to a wide open Blake (1-4 from three at the time) in the corner who missed the shot.

Everybody, including the Thunder, knew that it was going to be the Kobe show in the final minutes of last night’s game.  OKC put Durant of Kobe and it succeeded because Bryant tried to be a one man show but that’s not what the Lakers needed.  Kobe and the Lakers needed to play as a team and trust each other, but Kobe tried to force shots, drives and passes and his teammates seemed to be fine watching the show.   In the last two minutes of the game Kobe never gave up the ball and then acted childish when someone else took a wide open shot.

UNBELIEVABLE!!!  I get that Kobe’s a superstar but come on man!!!!

What I’ve noticed the last two games is the Thunder seem to like each other…the Lakers (or at least Kobe) do not.   Kobe doesn’t have to like his teammates but he must learn to trust them if they are going to survive and advance…otherwise the Thunder will continue to lock down on Kobe at the end of games and the Lakers will continue to find themselves Thuderstruck.

 

Mizzou’s Mistake

The University of Missouri believed it was leaving the Big XII for the “greener” pastures of the SEC.  Those greener pastures were the SEC’s television contracts and league stability which meant Mizzou was going to add a lot more green to their bank accounts.  However, much like Colorado and Nebraska before them, Missouri officials jumped the gun.  They wanted it their way and they wanted it now.  The other Big XII members refused to be bullied by a team that provided nothing to the league besides a 100 year old rivalry with the University of Kansas.

There was talk of the league losing the Kansas City and St. Louis markets but schools like Kansas and Kansas State assured the other members that they wouldn’t lose the KC market as they had a larger fan base there and St. Louis is home to quite a few alums too.

Missouri provided nothing in terms of postseason money that couldn’t easily be replaced.  The team had never made a final four nor a BCS bowl game.  So Mizzou’s demands didn’t carry the same weight as Texas or Oklahoma and that was already a sore spot for Mizzou.  Missouri had been against the Big XII since its inception and never wanted to merge the Big 8 with Southwest conference teams Texas, Texas Tech, Baylor and Texas A&M.  Missouri wasn’t heard in the 1990′s nor  in 2011 and they were tired of not getting what they wanted.  They felt bullied.  Mizzou believed they were better than the treatment they were receiving in the Big XII and a new home in an “elite” conference would prove that.  So when the SEC came looking for an acceptable addition that wouldn’t challenge their top tier teams Missouri was ready to dance.   The freshman had been invited to Senior Prom.

This was their shot at the big time and the payout would be worth it and revenge (watching the league collapse) would be sweet.

That was then…

This is now.

The Big XII finished the 2012 football season as Sagarin’s #1 conference and finished as Sagarin’s #2 conference in basketball behind the BIG.  By all calculations the Big XII is an elite conference and honestly always has been.

According to Dennis Dodd the Big XII is on the verge of signing a $2.6 billion contract with Fox and ESPN.  This will most likely extend the grant of rights to 13 years (something Missouri wanted) and equates to $20 million per school per year.  If the contract goes through stability has arrived in the Big XII and the league would be on par with the BIG, SEC and Pac-12.  If the contract went through today each member school would receive $20 million a year.  Last year the SEC schools received $18.3 million per school and that included bowl games and NCAA tournament payouts!!

Sometimes patience and loyalty pays off and it would have served Mizzou well to remember the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence.  The problem was Missouri was convinced it was sleeping with the enemy and though it tried to demonstrate confidence was scared if the Big XII collapsed it wouldn’t have a power conference home.  Now the remaining 10 members of the Big XII will be making a lot more green than those that chose to head South for the winter.

A larger payout could be in store as it is rumored that Louisville, Clemson and Florida State are all looking to join the Big XII.

Last Man Standing

The injury bug has reared its ugly head during the first round of the NBA playoffs and the team that wins this year may not be the best team but have the last man standing.

Many players, coaches and trainers have blamed the grueling schedule that was implemented this year due to the lock out.  The recovery time for athletes was diminished and that increased the risk of injury.  This should favor younger guys as their bodies are able to recuperate quicker, however this doesn’t seem to be the case and maybe that’s psychological.  The older players know it’s a marathon not a sprint and have taken more time to recover from “minor” injuries while the young guns rush back to the court.  Whatever the reason the playoffs are suffering because injuries have removed some of the league’s best.

Da Bulls and the city of Chicago have been the hardest hit with injuries and their effects.  The city of Chicago believed this was the year.  Derrick Rose was suppose to show he could do in Chicago what  #23 did.  He could lead this team to not only the championship but build a dynasty.  This is a city that during the glory days won 6 championships in 10 years but since the end of Jordan & Co. have not seen a title game.  It will be difficult for the Bulls to beat the Sixers without Rose and almost impossible to win it all…but then Joakim Noah went down with an ankle injury.

The Knicks are in a similar situation to the Bulls.  Melo was suppose to bring the Knicks back to the days of Patrick Ewing but in Un-Ewinglike fashion Melo has yet to show up in the playoffs.  In fact, Melo has been the epitome of futility during the playoffs though out his career and it probably didn’t help that this year’s co-star Amare Stoudemire had an outburst that cost him a broken hand.  Plus, the supporting cast of Jeremy Lin (injured during the season) and Iman Shumpert’s (Playoff ACL tear) have been written out of the script.  Maybe next year NY…maybe next year.

The Magic lost Dwight Howard before the playoffs even started.

So far the other playoff teams have avoided major season ending injuries and teams like the Sixers, Clippers, Nuggets, Grizzlies and Thunder should feel confident in the youth of their stars but the Celtics, Spurs and Lakers are in the danger zone.  The Pacers and Heat fall into some sort of middle ground where there should be some normal injury concern but their stars should be fine.

All in all this year’s NBA champion will be the team that can avoid injuries and continue to everything else that got them to this point.