NCAA Final Four: Kentucky vs. UConn reminds us how bad American sports are at deciding champions

US sports leagues reward inferior teams and routinely deny their best teams the championship.

Richard Allen Smith and I have argued from time to time about the merits of the BCS vs. the NCAA basketball tournament. Rich defends the BCS, while I point out its unfairness and corruption. He argues that the BCS does (did) a good job at getting the two best teams on the field for the final game, and that the single-elimination format of the Dance routinely allows inferior teams to win.

Whatever you may think about the BCS, it has to be said that Rich is right about March Madness. Tonight we’re going to see a “national championship” game featuring a team whose regular season performance merited them a seed in the 28-31 range playing a team whose record earned them an 8 seed – which is to say, they were somewhere in the early- to mid-30s. Continue reading

Penn State's sports culture is the rule, not the exception

by Brian Moritz

News of the punishment came down first thing on Monday morning, July 23.

More than eight months after scandal first broke at Penn State, about a month after former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted on 45 counts of child molestation, two weeks after the Freeh Report blasted Penn State leadership and former coach Joe Paterno for covering up the allegations, and one day after the statue of Paterno was removed from Beaver Stadium, the NCAA handed down its sanctions against the program.

The punishments are harsh, severe, and justified. The $60 million eats up more than half of the profits Penn State’s athletic department earns annually. The postseason ban means the team is basically playing four years of exhibition games. The scholarship restrictions mean that it will be 2020 before Penn State fields a football team with four full scholarship classes. Vacating 111 wins is a final punishment for the late Paterno, who had been the sport’s all-time winningest coach. Continue reading

Penn State deserves the "death penalty" – they forgot their mission

<by Rafael Noboa y Rivera

Should Penn State’s football program receive the “death penalty”? The NCAA – far more swiftly than most expected – is set to hand down its decision at 9 AM Eastern, so by the time you read this, we will already know what the sentence will be.

I say sentence, because thanks to the Freeh Report, the university has already been found guilty, if only in the court of public morality.

Many of my friends — some with very close ties to Happy Valley, whether as alumni, fans or residents — have vehemently disagreed with me through the course of the scandal. Continue reading

Heroes, villains, victims and pawns: looking back at the Joe Paterno legacy

Joe Paterno is dead. Lots has been written and more will be added to the pile in the coming days and weeks. So let me add my two cents while the thoughts are fresh in my mind.

Had the last few months not happened we’d now be anointing JoePa for sainthood. As you’ve been told so many times before, and are now hearing all over again, he was all that was good and true in collegiate athletics, a man who did things the right way, etc. The thing is, that’s a woefully simplistic commentary on Paterno and how he did business. Also, the last few months did happen. So we now find ourselves needing to address Paterno’s legacy in two parts. Let’s do the ugly bit first. Continue reading

Some final thoughts on this year's BCS debacle and a possible solution to all our problems

In case you missed it, the University of Alabama defeated LSU last night, winning the BCS national championship best-of-two series by a 1-1 margin. Congrats to the Tide.

Yep, the BS BCS fails again. Which it always does. But not everyone hates it. I mean, all the corrupt people who profit from it love the system. But there are regular fans who defend it, as well. I have a friend, for instance – let’s call him Bob – who staunchly believes that a tournament to determine the D1 national football champion wouldn’t be any better than the BCS. I think he’s nuts, but he’s a very smart guy. He points to the flaws in playoff systems (for instance, for those who hated last night’s rematch, he notes that the most recent NY Giant Super Bowl win was a rematch and that the Patriots had won the first meeting). And we can sit Old Chicago with fine microbrew and argue for hours, I’m sure.  Continue reading

Nota Bene #121: Birds of an Ancient Feather

“Television is an invention whereby you can be entertained in your living room by people you wouldn’t have in your house.” Who said it? The answer is at the end of this post. Now on to the links! Continue reading

All is not well in Ann Arbor

The circus of failure that’s three years old now continues in Ann Arbor. It’s painful to watch the disintegration of a once proud football program, but that’s what this is. I’m not the most avid football fan anymore, but i was raised to be one. Specifically, a Michigan football fan. And i’ve always considered myself a lucky Michigan football fan. Thanks to my grandmother’s mid-life BFA at the UofM, my family had season seats when i was little. Imagine being a five year old at Michigan Stadium sitting in the row behind the band…and the trombone section no less. I was there for the video below. I remember chaos as the band tried to turn their hats and play “The Victors” while 100,000 people went absolutely crazy.

Continue reading

Nota Bene #109: You Can't Tuna Fish

“It’s absolutely stunning to me, the contempt in which the network holds the audience. The idea that these people have standards is laughable.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #95: STFU

Gonna try something different Continue reading

Nota Bene #94: Bear Vs. Ninja

“Overture, curtain, lights Continue reading

The NBA: where will "fixed" happen this year?

We watch sports for a variety of reasons. To revel in the thrill of head-to-head competition. To marvel at the athleticism. To root for the home team, in which we have somehow invested a piece of our own identities. To mark our place in the timeless ritual. To learn, even.

With the NBA, there’s one more reason: to see which narrative the league has decided is the most compelling.

Now, I’m not generally a conspiracy theorist. I don’t think the world is biased against me personally and I don’t believe that the refs are out to get my team. In most cases, my attempts to explain bad officiating, whatever the sport, need go no further than “basic incompetence.” Continue reading

2007 Heisman: What do they mean by "best player," anyway?

First, congratulations, Tim Tebow. You had a great year.

Now, a little context. The Heisman Trophy is allegedly awarded each year to the nation’s “most outstanding college football player.”

  • The Heisman has been awarded 73 times.
  • 27 of the recipients have been quarterbacks.
  • 41 times the winner was a running back.
  • On four occasions the winner was an end/receiver.
  • Only once has the winner been a primarily defensive player – Charles Woodson of Michigan in 1997. And it’s unlikely he’s have won if it weren’t for the fact that he was an impact kick returner who also played some on the offensive side of the ball.
  • To put this point a little differently, no player has ever won the award unless he played an offensive skill position.
  • 36 winners – almost half – hail from just 13 rich programs: Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Miami, Michigan, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Texas, Southern Cal and Wisconsin.

Continue reading

BCS: bungling, corrupt and stupid

Sun rises in east. Dog bites man. Mike Tyson gets arrested. Bowl Championship Series fucked again.

Any other stunning, never-saw-that-coming headlines I need to include here?

Once again the BS BCS, the NCAA’s laughable insult to the very concepts of competition and moral decency, has failed, and this time they’ve simply outdone themselves.

They finally managed to get LSU, a more than worthy contender, into the “championship” game, but the flagrant back-room conspiracy required to do so was ridiculous. Let’s examine some of the nuances of this year’s college football travesty. Continue reading

Skip Prosser, RIP

Wake Forest University’s head basketball coach, Skip Prosser, died the other day of an apparent heart attack. He was only 56.

Tributes are pouring in. The university community obviously grieves the tragic loss. The coaching fraternity is heartbroken. Dick Vitale, whose entire life seems to be college hoops, was stunned. And so on.

As those around me know, I wasn’t a big fan of Prosser as a coach, but really, none of that matters right now. Ultimately, it never mattered, because as a Wake alum it has always mattered more to me that we do things the right way. Continue reading

Blogging a sports event: What’s ‘live’ and what isn’t?

An NCAA official ejected a sports reporter Sunday from the press box at a college baseball tournament game for providing “live” blog updates on his paper’s Web site.

The NCAA booted Louisville (Ky.) Courier-Journal sports reporter Brian Bennett during the Louisville-Oklahoma State “Super Regional” game. The beef, it seems is over the word “live.” Sayeth the wire services:

Rights to the Super Regional games were owned by ESPN, and memos were circulated in the Louisville press box that said blogs were a “live representation” of the game and thus not permitted.

The evolution of sports reporting to include blogs written as an athletic contest unfolds has collided with the NCAA’s desire to protect its contractual commitments with broadcasters such as ESPN. The NCAA owns the television rights to all 88 of its championships. It sells these rights through bidding. CBS and ESPN are the primary broadcast television rights holders for NCAA championship events. This commercialization of college sports began in earnest decades ago — and blogging constitutes a complication of and perhaps a threat to that culture of college sports as a profit center.
Continue reading