June 23, 2010 Is Why We Follow Sports

June 24, 2010

There are two main reasons to follow sports. The first is to pick your rooting interest, and with your fellow fans, go through all the emotional ups and downs, hoping for a moment that makes it all worth it. The second is to see things that have never been seen before, and may never be seen again.

On June 23, 2010, we got both.

First of course was Team USA’s last minute goal to advance to the knockout round of the World Cup. Admittedly, most of the fans glued to the TV are far from lifelong. However, in just these two weeks, the emotions have run the gamut, from the early goal against England, to Robert Green’s gaffe, to giving up two early goals to Slovenia, to coming back, to the stolen goal. In yesterday’s game, there was yet more drama, with Algeria’s early shot off the crossbar to another goal taken away by officiating, and finally Team USA’s inability to finish. With all that, it’s no surprise the pouring of emotion when Donovan scored.

The second moment (if one can call it that) was the Tennis Match That Wouldn’t End. John Isner only had vague recognition, and Nicolas Mahut had none, but that started to change the instant ESPN2 went back to Wimbledon and it was 25-25.  That was a little after noon. Over four hours later, they were still going. In a technical sense, it was a case of two bombing servers who are weak in return games. In reality, it was the personification of all those clichés coaches and commentators serve up: a show of heart, will, and never, ever giving up. In a fitting sense, just like the USA Soccer team. The match had to be called for darkness at 59-59, and today it finished with Isner winning the 5th 70-68, a score unfathomable had it not been witnessed.

In the end, these two moments, on a random Wednesday afternoon in June, featuring two sports that are not usually in the American consciousness, showed the other reason why sports can be so compelling.

You never know.


Goodell’s Pursuit of (More) Money Will Ruin Football

June 19, 2010

It has long been rumored that Roger Goodell would like to move the NFL to an 18 game regular season schedule at some point.  This would likely have to be negotiated in the new collective bargaining agreement that will be drawn up sometime soon.  It seems as if the movement to an 18 game schedule really picked up steam as Goodell has now gone on the record of saying that 4 preseason games are unnecessary.  If this does lead it a 2 game preseason and 18 game regular season it would be a horrible, short sighted idea.

Football is a gruesomely physical sport.  I’m pretty sure it would only take one Ray Lewis tackle for me to call it quits, yet these guys take this kind of physical torment play after play.  The unfortunate side effect of these great athletes violently throwing their body around is injuries. A quick look at the injury report from Week 17 games last year shows Wes Welker, Chad Henne, Charles Woodson, Anquan Boldin, and Chad Ochocinco all suffered various injuries.  Football just is a physical sport and the longer you play, the more likely you are to become injuried.

While players would still only be playing 20 games like they did before, they are now playing 2 more games where starters will play from beginning to end. That’s two more games of violent hits for an entire sixty minutes.  That, ultimately, means even more injuries.  Imagine the playoffs last year without Peyton Manning or Drew Brees.  It just wouldn’t be the same.  There’s no guarantee that star players will get hurt, but the likelihood increases with every extra game and will ultimately create an inferior product come the playoffs.

If Goodell wants to chase a few extra dollars for the league by adding two regular season games he can go for it.  Certainly it will increase revenue as teams will be able to charge more for regular season packages with the extra games.  However, if Goodell cares even the slightest bit about the quality of product his league puts on the field he will quickly squash the idea of an 18 game regular season.

How Should the Big Ten Divide It’s Divisions?

June 16, 2010

Now that Utah has moved to the Pac 10, giving the conference 12 teams and a title game, it appears the conference realignment is done for now. It was kind of a dud.  Just a week ago it looked like the Big XII would be no more and we’d see the Big 10, Pac 10, and SEC all be superconferences of 16 teams.  Then, somehow, the Big XII was able to muster up the cash to keep Texas and the remaining ten teams (Nebraska and Colorado had already left) stayed together. Ultimately only four teams moved. Colorado and Utah moved to the Pac 10. Nebraska went to the Big 10 and Boise Stated left for the Mountain West Conference.

It appears the Pac 10 will break off into a North/South division alignment once they officially reach 12 teams.  Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State, California, and Stanford will make up the North.  Newcomers Utah and Colorado would join USC, UCLA, Arizona, and Arizona State in the South.  There is some concern that the North schools would lose a bit of recruiting presence in Southern California with this alignment.  However, if the conference continues playing 9 conference games (5 within division, 4 out of division rotating yearly), the North schools should still be able to play one game a year in South California.

Still unknown is how the Big Ten plans on dividing up its 12 teams into two divisions.  There is no easy logical way to do so.  Michigan and Ohio State would still like to play every year and have their game be meaningful.  This would also be beneficial for the conference as it is its “Super Bowl” of sorts for the year.  To make this happen, Michigan and Ohio State would likely have to be in the same division.

A East/West alignment would be difficult because it would put the three of the four most prestigious programs in the conference in the same division (Penn State, Ohio State, and Michigan).  However, if the top four programs are to be split up (Nebraska being the 4th), it would mean an annual game between Penn State and Nebraska, the conference’s westernmost and easternmost schools. Ultimately, an annual Penn State-Nebraska game may have to occur because there seems to be no other way to divide the conference.  Here would be my proposal:

Division 1 – Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State, Purdue, Indiana, Illinois

Division 2 – Penn State, Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Northwestern

The problem currently is that the 1st division is considerably weaker than the second one . Outside of Ohio State, none of those teams is any good.  However, Michigan should improve and Michigan State and Purdue have had their successes.  In the second division, Penn State, Nebraska, Iowa, and Wisconsin would all be regular contenders to take the division and Minnesota and Northwestern have become decent bowl-eligible teams recently.  It would be loaded.  The advantage is that it would instantly give Nebraska three natural rivals.  Penn State fans are still angry at Nebraska’s 1994 “title” (and Penn State still needs a true Big 10 rival as well.)  Nebraska used to have an annual game with Iowa and could start that once again, and Wisconsin is already hoping to begin an annual end of year rivalry game with Nebraska (apparently Brett Bielema is sick of beating Minnesota every year).  The biggest advantage of this set up is that outside of the Illinois-Northwestern rivalry, almost rivalry is kept intact.  In a conference built upon tradition, this is important.

Realignment Madness

June 12, 2010

We knew we’d start seeing movement this week on the conference realignment front and it happened.  Colorado moved west to the Pac 10, Nebraska left for the Big 10, and Boise State finally moved to the Mountain West Conference.  As it stands now, the rest of the Big XII has to find their new homes and this is where things become interesting.

Most assume that Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State will join the Pac 10 this upcoming week.  That will give the Pac 10 fifteen teams in total.  It is assumed that the Pac 10 would like to get to a nice round number of sixteen teams.  Texas A&M could be that sixteenth team, or they could break with their Texas brethren and join the SEC as they have been rumored to do so.

New rumors are saying that the SEC may be interested in much more than just Texas A&M though.  ESPN is saying that the SEC would ideally also add Texas and Oklahoma.  ESPN also says that at this time that Oklahoma has not committed to the Pac 10.  The SEC would still settle for A&M though, as they feel that addition alone would be able to give the conference a presence in the various Texas markets.  It also appears at this time that the SEC will not raid the ACC for any of their schools and may settle with a thirteen team conference.

While the Pac 10 and SEC (and if this goes on, the Big 10 may get involved too) battle over the Big XII’s elite football programs, the Mountain West Conference may quietly be making themselves a legitimate major conference.  The MWC already added Boise State this week, making them a football conference right on par with the Big East and ACC.  The MWC is now interested in adding Kansas, Kansas State, and Missouri.  All three schools have good basketball programs currently and Kansas is obviously one of the best basketball programs in the history of the sport.  When it comes to football, Kansas and Kansas State have both been to BCS bowl games and Missouri has had recent success as well.  Adding Missouri also adds the Kansas City and Saint Louis markets to the MWC.  It appears that TCU is strongly opposed to adding Baylor to the MWC.  If these three schools do join the MWC and they look for a 14th school, will they go after Iowa State or would TCU give in and allow for Baylor to join?

So where do we stand?  It appears the Pac 10 is still most likely to add Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma State this week leaving them with 15 teams and possibly in search of another.  Texas A&M could break off and join the SEC leaving them also with an odd 13 teams and possibly needing another team.  The Mountain West is hoping to upgrade its status in both football and basketball by adding the “unwanted” Big 12 schools.  Meanwhile, the Big 10 is still lurking and may begin destroying the Big East in hopes of adding Notre Dame.  In other words, the fun has begun but its nowhere near done.

Sources: SEC covets Texas, Oklahoma [ESPN]

Report: Mountain West eyes KU, Mizzou [ESPN]

Big XII Pushes Re-Alignment Up

June 6, 2010

We’ve known for some time that the current landscape of college sports would be changing at some point.  The Big Ten started it by agreeing to look at expansion.  The Pac 10 then made it obvious that were interested in expansion and the SEC has made it known that they will look at expansion once the Big Ten and Pac 10 make their moves.  The Big 10 though had been hoping to make this a slower, more drawn out process.  However, that may have changed.

This past week the Pac 10’s plans to add 6 teams from the Big XII (Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Colorado) to become the Pac 16 were leaked.  It appears those six schools are seriously considering that offer as they have put an ultimatum on Nebraska to commit to the Big XII by Friday (Missouri may have received the ultimatum as well.)  Nebraska (and Missouri) are, of course, being courted by the Big Ten for their expansion.  The problem is though that Big Ten still has not formally giving out an invitation to anyone.  So, Nebraska is now stuck in a unenviable position.  Do they commit to a conference that may not exist much longer or do they depend on the Big Ten to come invite them and risk potentially being left out to dry?

The good news for Nebraska though is that their does seem to be some mutual interest between the Big Ten and Nebraska.  Reportedly, Nebraska AD Tom Osborne and Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel met recently to talk about expansion.  While this is still informal talks, its obvious that Tressel was talking on behalf of the Big Ten to Osborne.  For the Big Ten, adding Nebraska does add another strong traditional football program, although it does not add a great television network for the Big Ten Network.  Assuming Missouri comes over as well, the Big Ten would probably have to add Rutgers and Syracuse (plus another school – Iowa State?) to attempt to gain the New York market for the Big Ten Network.

Regardless, it appears the new landscape for major collegiate sports is about to become set.  With the Big XII’s ultimatum we’ll see Nebraska have to decide its future.  After that, we’ll see whether the other six Big XII schools are ready to move over to the Pac 10 or not.  From there, the remaining 4 Big XII schools will have to find new homes and the ACC and Big East will hope to keep their schools from joining a potentially expanding SEC.  One thing we know for sure, college football and basketball will look vastly different soon than it does today.

Nebraska emails: Osborne, Tressel met [ESPN]

Nebraska, possibly Missouri reportedly told to make decisions soon [CBS Sports]

Everyone Wants Texas

June 4, 2010

Yesterday, the Pac 10’s plans to become a super-conference were leaked.  The Pac 10 reportedly hopes to add six teams from the Big XII including Texas, Oklahoma, and Colorado.  Obviously, this would be a major shakeup and would kill off the Big XII.  However, it seems Texas may have more than one suitor.

An e-mail found by The Columbus Dispatch shows the Ohio State president Gordon Gee has talked to Texas president Bill Powers about joining the Big Ten.  The Big Ten’s plans to expand have been known for some time.  Right now, the Big Ten is money-making machine due to its huge schools’s alumni base and its own successful television network.  Each Big Ten school makes about $10 million more in revenue than Texas does per year.  With Texas being the most profitable college football team in the nation (even over Notre Dame), it seems like Texas would be a natural fit for the Big Ten.

Texas, beyond being a cash cow itself, brings a ton to the Big Ten.  It would add millions of new subscribers to the Big Ten network.  Houston, the Dallas-Forth Worth area, and San Antonio are among the largest markets in the nation.  The addition of Texas alone also allows for the expansion of a Big Ten title game.  There are rumors that the Big Ten wants to expand to 16 teams, which would certainly bring Nebraska and Missouri who were already rumored to be coming to the Big Ten.  One has to wonder if Notre Dame may even consider joining a conference that includes Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, and Texas?

The Pac 10 on the other hand just does not offer as much to Texas as it stands.  The Big Ten is the most successful conference when it comes to revenue.  While the new proposed 16 team Pac 10 (16?) would certainly bring in higher revenues, it seems a bit unlikely that it would be greater than the Big Ten’s revenues.

Ultimately, Texas is going to have many options to choose from.  The Big XII is clearly unstable and is going to be raided for the expansion of some conference(s), so staying put is not much of an option.  The Pac 10 and Big Ten are clearly already positioning themselves for you.  The SEC will certainly offer a spot in their conference eventually as well.  I think when it comes down to it, Texas will choose between the SEC and Big Ten and go with the lower travel costs of the SEC (plus, you know, the automatic birth to the BCS “title” game every single year.)

E-mail hints at Texas in Big Ten addition talks [Yahoo!]

Armando Galarraga Throws The First 28 Out Perfect Game Ever

June 2, 2010

Armando Galarraga was one out away from the 21st perfect game in MLB history (and 2nd in four days, 3rd in a month!).  That is, until Jim Joyce took it away.  Jason Donald weakly hit a ball that Miguel Cabrera had to go after. Galarraga went and covered first like he was supposed to and he had Donald out by a good step.  It really wasn’t even that close of a call.  However, Jim Joyce found a way to blow it and called Donald safe.  Even Donald’s immediate reaction was one of disbelief as if he felt guilty about being safe.  Galarraga got the next batter out to throw the first 28 out perfect game.  Here are some looks of the play at first from  @Jose3030.

Obviously, and rightfully so, this will spark up a new discussion over instant replay.  History was robbed tonight and to let such an atrocious human error take it away is unfair to Armando Galarraga and every other player in a Tigers uniform tonight (especially after that sick catch Austin Jackson made to lead off the inning.)  Yes, instant replay may slow the game down a bit, but how do you not let it in as part of the game after that blown call?  The ball is in your court, Bud Selig. Don’t ever allow this to happen again. Ever.