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Archive for the ‘College’ Category

Let’s Be Done With One and Done

In College, NBA on April 4, 2013 at 6:23 am

By Kevin Wolfman

Hit to Left Field’s own Jonathan Danielson put it well last week: the quality of play in this year’s NCAA tournament has kind of stunk. Marquette just scored 39 points in the Elite Eight, a shot-clock era low. Florida, a 3rd-seeded major conference team, got blown out by Michigan, a 4th-seeded major-conference team that many predicted would get dropped by VCU (not a major-conference team by any means) on opening weekend. The Final Four includes two four seeds and a nine seed. UCLA, perhaps the most famous program in college basketball history, got bent over by Minnesota. Minnesota!

To be fair, with a face like that, how could those Bruins resist?

To be fair, with a face like that, how could those Bruins resist?

What’s going on here? The simple answer is “parity,” which by itself sounds fine—commendable, even. But the reason for parity is disturbing, and gets to the root of college basketball’s problem: Parity isn’t at an all-time high because the so-called mid- and low-major programs have gotten markedly better—it’s because many of the traditional powers have gotten visibly worse. The top-3 of the national rankings was a Roulette wheel this year because no team truly deserved to be there the whole time.

You can blame the NCAA and the NBA for the Mister Magoo routines performed by so many “name” programs throughout the season and in the tournament. More specifically, you can blame the “one-and-done” rule.

Basketball, perhaps more than any other major American sport, highlights the abilities of individual players. A single star playing out of his mind can drag an entire team to victory. You don’t see this in, say, football, where a single star playing out of his mind gets concussed in the first quarter because his O-line makes sloths look quick on their feet.

That said, basketball is still a team sport. While individuals can do great things in single games, over the course of a season it takes a skilled, cohesive team to truly achieve on-court greatness. And there is little cohesion to speak at major-conference programs right now. Rosters are not teams; they are groups of talented individuals who don’t know each other very well. The most glaring example is Kentucky, where Coach Calipari’s experiment in bringing AAU ball to college beat the odds last year and ran headfirst into the brick wall of reality this time around. UCLA is another one, with the age-faking Shabazz Muhammad and his nuttier-than-a-box-of-almonds dad lying and scheming their way onto NBA draft boards everywhere.

When the nation’s best incoming freshmen have little intention of becoming sophomores or juniors, the major programs that recruit them have no time to develop team chemistry. Starting fives becoming a rotating cast of one-and-dones “doing time” in their non-paying collegiate prison, while the benches stay filled with the patient, team-oriented players dedicated to the program who lack the raw talent to jump to the next level at the first opportunity. The result is a glaring collection of chemistry-related flaws in many major-conference teams, flaws which the smaller programs—who do stay four years, grow with their teammates, and learn to execute their on-court roles precisely and without ulterior motives—exploit happily in March.

Pictured: An honest-to-goodness team.

Pictured: An honest-to-goodness team.

There are at least two possible solutions to this mess. The first is what Jonathan Danielson proposed last week—make college players stay on campus for three years before entering the NBA, just like the NFL does. This would certainly solve the major programs’ crippling attrition problem. On the other hand, many observers (including myself) are uncomfortable with the idea of keeping future professionals in school for years when they have no desire to be there and aren’t making any concerted use of the valuable (and expensive) academic offerings available to them. They’re just taking up spaces on class rosters that could be used by “real” students who are honestly enrolled in school to get a degree.

The second option is more attractive—just let the high school studs jump straight to the pros if they want to (again). Will this result in a lot of guys entering the draft prematurely and festering on NBA benches for several years before dropping out of the league altogether? Sure. But that’s their decision. They are adults, so let them make adult decisions. Leave college for the ones who actually want to, you know, go to college.

If an eighteen-year-old graduates high school and goes to work on a construction crew, or joins the military, or starts a landscaping business, nobody has a problem with it. But if that same eighteen-year-old is great at tossing a rubber ball into a hoop instead of drilling metal screws into wood or shooting M-16 ammunition at terrorists, and wants to make a living doing that, suddenly lots of people cry foul. This makes zero logical sense. If the young man thinks he has the skill and maturity to “make it” in pro basketball, and a pro basketball team agrees enough to hire him, what’s the issue?

For the NCAA, it’s obviously money. If the best high school talent in the country doesn’t play NCAA basketball, the NCAA’s product loses some of its luster. For the NBA, it’s expedience. Why take the time to develop 18-year-old talent when the college ranks are there to serve as a willing de facto minor league system? The education of young minds, naturally, comes into play for neither party.

The next Jordan

The next Jordan

And for ordinary folks who oppose the prep-to-pros jump, much of it likely boils down to simple jealousy—lots of people don’t like seeing young (and yes, often immature) young men get millions of dollars and a career without earning it the “old-fashioned way.” This smacks of elitism and condescension, and strangely enough, it’s rarely heard when talking about the latest crop of teenagers skipping college to play professional baseball. Why is that? Might it possibly have something to do with the fact that the young basketball players are (generally) poorer, blacker, and “tattoo-y-er” than the baseball players?

It’s time to throw “one-and-done” and all its related forms out the window. The NBA had it right the first time–the time of Teenage Lebron James, Teenage Kevin Garnett, and Teenage Lenny Cooke. Let the players play, and let the chips fall where they may. If someone’s old enough to die for their country on a battlefield, they’re old enough to entertain it on ESPN–or fail trying.

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Now That’s How You Coach!!!

In College on April 3, 2013 at 5:56 pm

By Mimmo Alfano

Kids today are so soft.

After compiling a magnificent 44-51 record (16-38 in the Big East) Rutgers Head Basketball Coach Mike Rice has been tragically fired for being a stickler at practice.  He’s yet another Coach to get the boot for adopting the Bob Knight style of coaching –  “A little systematic abuse never hurt anybody.”  Honestly though, shouldn’t we be castigating the real culprits?  The players.

Image

Bob Knight “coaches up” Neil Reed at a 1997 Indiana Practice. “All we are sayin is give choking your players a chance” — John Lennon. Photo courtesy of indystar.com

Nowadays coaches have little to no leeway in physically dominating their charges.  What kind of programs are we running when we can no longer bean players in the back of the heads with basketballs; hurl homophobic slurs at them; or give them a good old fashioned kicking or punching.

Kids should know that in order to be successful you’re gonna need a Chris Brown in your life to control you psychologically, and to remind you who’s boss every know and then with a solid thrashing.  How else are we going to control these giant athletes other than showing them that people much smaller and weaker than them get to berate them and make them feel small when they play a sport.  The NCAA needs to get their act together and ban cameras from practices so that coaches will feel safe to properly run practices free from the fears of investigations, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, or angry parents.

Image

Mike Rice reminds his players that he will give them brain damage if they don’t box out. Photo courtesy of usatoday.com

Unlike other more cowardly coaches, such as Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy, who protect, defend, and stand up for their players, Mike Rice has shown that having little to no respect for a young adult is the way to build a successful program and to help them grow into healthy people; he’s clearly a fantastic coach and his record at Rutgers speaks for itself.

To his credit, Mike Rice has apologized for his actions, and as we all know that’s all that is required to be forgiven in the modern day of sports and thankfully, he’ll likely coach again.  Until then, teams full of coddled, spoiled, unafraid and unabused players will continue to play for coaches who have to get the best out of them without being able to give them a good ol’ fashioned whoopin’.

Kevin Ware Is One Lucky Dude

In College on April 2, 2013 at 6:47 am

By Jeff Gibson

I’m not sure why I’m so interested in the gruesome leg injury sophomore guard Kevin Ware suffered in the Louisville vs. Duke game this weekend.

Louisville guard Kevin Ware after suffering a broken tibia. Photo courtesy us magazine.com.

All I know is that I’m not the only one: Articles mentioning Ware among similarly gruesome injuries in sports history are popping up all over the internet. It was more popular on Twitter than people making fun of Lindsay Lohan demanding prescription pills in her latest rehab stint.

Some fans want to see Ware’s leg snap in half from every angle. Others were happy with the quick, long distance replays CBS chose to give its viewing public. Others turned away, not wanting that image stuck in their memory.

The Louisville bench reaction. Courtesy fansided.com

I’m not going to discuss what makes fans watch these gruesome injuries. Every fan has her own reasons. What I’m more concerned about is why we are supposed to feel bad for Ware, or other athletes who’ve gone through similar highlight reel injuries.

Why do we gossip in such high numbers for the gruesome, but ultimately less significant, injuries than the slowly accumulating ones that lead to brain damage and diseases like dementia, Alzheimers, etc? Injuries that not only affect the athletes living with the repercussions of their sport later in life, but also the other people it affects: the spouses they beat, the children they abuse, all swept under the rug by the media because who Tweets about retired athletes with diseases? Especially when you could post the top ten most gruesome sports injuries of all time. I bet I know which would get more hits.

It’s that same argument I’ve heard over and over again. Just with different sports. The argument that fans only watch NASCAR to see the crashes. Or hockey to witness the fights. Baseball for the brawls. Why do you think MMA is so popular? Are you not entertained?

But I haven’t heard this argument with basketball. It’s supposed to be the safest major American sport. Minus the ACL tears, or the eyeballs popping out, getting scratched or rolling an ankle are about the worst thing that could happen to a player. You don’t have players trying to hurt each other, like in football, even baseball. And that’s what leads me to an opinion I haven’t come across yet.

Kevin Ware did this to himself. No one pushed him. No one landed on his ankle, forcing it to break. No one tackled him low.

Ware jumped to block a shot. Was never touched on the play. He landed awkwardly on his own accord. So, once again, why am I supposed to feel bad for Ware?

Louisville players’ reaction. Photo courtesy msnbc.com.

Yeah. I’ve never had my leg snap in half. But I’ve also never had an athlete’s health care.

Yeah. Ware’s dreams of playing and winning a National Championship have been crushed.

But he’s living a dream of playing college hoops anyway. Something many fans would break their leg in half just to have the same opportunity.

Yeah. That sucks for Louisville.

But look at what Ware’s injury did to jump-start the determined emotions of a collegiate team playing for all the marbles?

Yeah. He may never play again.

But he’s got a free ride through a collegiate education.

Hopefully, Ware realizes now how quickly his physical talents can disappear. That life’s not all about basketball. That he should prepare his mind to contribute to this world, and use this injury as a catalyst. Not many players are that lucky.

And that’s what I’m struggling to type out, but it’s the truth: Kevin Ware is one lucky dude.

After beating Duke, Louisville holds up Ware’s #5 jersey. Photo courtesy nesn.com.

He might not think that right now, but somewhere down the road, I hope he stumbles upon this idea. Maybe he realized it while his entire team came to tears for him on the sideline. I have faith he’s on the right track: telling his team to beat Duke with a bone sticking out of his leg. That made headlines. It inspired his veteran coach. And his dedication to his team resonated emotionally with every fan who read about it.

More importantly, it showed he has a brain. And hopefully he realizes he’s lucky to have that. Because if you lose that, then no one is going to give a damn about you.

Blame our society. The media. The devil. Obama. Blame whoever you want. But it’s the truth. Seeing legs snap in half. Arteries severed. Knees bent backwards. Broken jaws and noses. These all get more attention than blows to the head.

Kevin Ware on crutches the day after. Photo courtesy cbsnews.com.

Maybe it’s because there’s nothing to see after a concussion. Fans need evidence that they’re getting what they paid for. And concussions are so boring. There’s no blood spurting out. No bones poking through the skin. No teammates crying, huddled around the concussed. No one is praying.

But they should. The brain doesn’t heel like a surgically-repaired tibia. That’s science. And I wonder how long it’s going to take to get sports fans realize this.

Gruesome isn’t a leg bone poking out of your skin.

Gruesome is losing your ability to perceive reality.

Let’s change how we react to these two entirely different types of injuries. Let’s follow CBS’s lead and not invest too much air time on the broken bones.

We also can’t put these highlight reel injuries into perspective without getting stories about the affects of head trauma later in life. Where’s the Junior Seau story sweeping the media? Let’s stop brushing the afflicted under the rug and give the real gruesome injuries the attention they deserve.

Is It Competitive, Or Is It Just Bad?

In College on March 27, 2013 at 8:03 pm

By Jonathan Danielson

It was said going into the 2013 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament that this year might be the most unpredictable tournament in recent history. After only a few rounds, I think it’s safe to say that the general opinion was not only correct with their modest predictions, but that this year might actually be the craziest tournament ever.

Eliminated early were teams that were supposed to be the closest things to sure bets; Georgetown, Kansas State, Gonzaga, even Belmont.

"The entire country is going to hate us for busting their bracket..."

Question: How much does the entire country hate Georgetown for busting their bracket? Answer: A lot.

Advancing were schools almost no one ever heard of: Lasalle and Florida Gulf Coast University.

How obscure is Florida Gulf Coast University? Here’s the opening paragraph to their Wikipedia article: Florida Gulf Coast University, also known as FGCU, is a coeducational public research university located just south of the Southwest Florida International Airport in the South Fort Myers region of unincorporated Lee County,Florida, United States.

Apparently, the only people who look up FGCU are people driving to FGCU, and they’ve driven past it so many times they need to pull over and Google which side of the airport it’s on.

"Why were we going here again?"

“Why were we going here again?”

If you’ve been able to slack off at work long enough to watch a game or two, you would have quickly realized that the reason this year’s tournament is so crazy, so unpredictable, is obvious. Simply put, college basketball just isn’t that good. In fact, it sort of sucks.

Take the Cal/Syracuse game on Saturday for an example: Cal was down by eight in the final seconds but were making a valiant, albeit unlikely comeback. The Bears were able to score, play solid defense as Syracuse tried to inbound, then got possession back underneath their own hoop. What happened next should have been a relatively easy play ; the inbounding Cal player only had to throw the ball to his teammate out by the three-point line. Instead, the ball was thrown way over said teammate’s head, and went right out of bounds.

Syracuse for the win!

Take the Kansas/North Carolina game for another example. In the first four minutes, Kansas was 1-of-5 shooting, and North Carolina was 1-of-9, and during that run, each team consecutively missed two completely wide open layups. These are layups, the basic fundamental play were you’re so close, you just bounce the ball off the backboard or drop it through the hoop.

Oh, and Kansas was the top ranked team in that division. North Carolina number nine.

"And I thought watching the Bobcats was bad..."

“I should’ve just stayed and watched the Bobcats.”

Yeah, these are only tiny insights of an entire game, an entire tournament, but still, such are the metaphors for college basketball.

Maybe that’s a bit harsh. There have been some great moments of course, and exciting plays. Take Ohio State’s three pointer to win over Iowa State with .5 seconds left. Take any game FGCU has played in. Or Wichita State.  The only problem is, just because those games were close/exciting/competitive, doesn’t mean the actual game  was any good. While this may be some of the most exciting and unpredictable tournament play in recent history, it’s also some of the worst actually played.

And that’ because One-and-Done is killing college hoops.

"Man, I'm happy this tournament is over. My old knees couldn't take much more."

“Man, I’m glad this thing’s over. My old knees couldn’t take much more.”

In case you’re unfamiliar with the One-and-Done, it’s when a college player plays one year at the collegiate level and then bolts to the NBA once the season’s over. It’s a byproduct of the NBA rule that states a player must be at least 19-years-old, and one year removed from high school, before they can declare for the draft.

The rule was meant to protect the integrity of the NBA, and encourage players to look at college before a professional basketball career. Instead, it’s made a joke out of college hoops. It’s robbed college basketball of its best and brightest stars.

"I would tell them to stay in college as long as they can. Oh, and to grow a mustach."

“I would tell them to stay in college as long as they can. As loooooooooooooong as they can. Oh, and to grow a mustache.”

You might argue that One-and-Done has finally leveled the playing field. That it’s opened up large, historically dominant programs to their shortcomings. That the little guy can finally compete.

And I would say, sure, you’re right, but also think about this: There was a reason those programs have been as historically good as they have. There was a reason the best of the best went to those schools. It’s because those schools played to win championships.

If you ask any coach, that’s technically still the case, but for the player it’s now because that program has the best chance of getting that player into the big leagues after a quick vacation for a year at “Animal House.” And while the big programs continually have roll out new talent, and have to compete each year with a new batch of 18-year-olds, smaller programs like the FGCU can allow their players to mature a few years, and take on the youngsters. Does that mean the players from the smaller schools are better than the big-name teenagers on the premier rosters? No, it just means they’re older.

And if you don’t think that argument doesn’t carry any weight, go ask OJ Mayo and Yi Jianlian what it was like finally playing against the big boys after playing babies their entire lives. Don’t worry, Shabazz Muhammed will find out soon enough.

"Alright, I'm old!"

“I get it, I’m old!”

One-and-Done has got to go. Personally, I favor an NFL-like system that requires players to spend at least three years playing at the collegiate level. It gives them more time to mature themselves, and mature their game before hitting the big time. It will make the NBA better, and for the Month of March, it will give the Big Dance a much better product on the court.

But until then, enjoy the rest of the tournament. It might not be the best basketball to watch, but at least it’s making for great soon-to-be-televisised-underdog-movies.

BRACKETOLOGY!

In College on March 21, 2013 at 6:42 am

By HTLF Staff

Like the rest of the nation trying to get out of work at their day job, we at Hittoleftfield thought it would be fun to fill out our own NCAA Tournament Brackets, and then share and compare and explain our choices. Oh, and thanks to this bracket website that we pulled our brackets from.

Here goes.

Jonathan’s Picks:

There are two things in life I suck at doing, and filling out NCAA Tournament Brackets is one of them.

Screen shot 2013-03-20 at 5.52.13 PM (2)

The other? Thinking about filling out NCAA Tournament Brackets.

Let’s be serious, it’s tough enough trying to predict the outcome of one game at a give time, but predicting 64 games is damn near impossible. Especially if you only pretend to have a passing interest in college basketball, because it seems like you should, since you run a fledgling to mildly successful lower tier sports blog, know what I saying?

(Not pointing any fingers here!)

Either way, I chose Louisville to go all the way, because everyone chose Louisville to go all the way. I picked them beating Miami, because the Canes are the most sure thing at a long shot. If I’m correct about them, picking them will make me look really smart, and there is nothing more I like than to look really smart (I mean, who picked Baltimore over San Francisco in the Super Bowl before the NFL season started? And who then changed that pick before the start of the playoffs?).

Everything else is really inconsequential. I picked Belmont to upset Arizona because Arizona is probably the best worst team (or worst best team, although that phrasing is a bit too generous) in the whole tournament. I picked UCLA to go down, because of the big injury their facing, and I picked Iona to upset Ohio St.

Why did I pick Iona to upset Ohio State? Because I told you already, I suck at these things.

Jeff W’s Picks:

What I know about college basketball is almost entirely conceptual, theoretical, and general. I know that falling down occurs with such regularity that everyday fans don’t seem to mind. I know that defense equals ZONE and offense equals HOT POTATO. And I know that it’s a common joke to say that March Madness involves many of the world’s future insurance salesmen. All of this is to say that I watch very few games from year to year at the college level, most of which take place during March Madness, that weird stretch of time where national productivity decreases dramatically and millions of people sign up for free ESPN brackets and inevitably lose to some homeless guy in Florida who made his picks based on how many people used the corner ATM last Saturday.

So I figured that instead of losing to that homeless man, I’d play a different game, one at which I’m likely to win. Instead of seeing how many games I can get right, I’m going to see how many games I can get wrong!

Screen shot 2013-03-20 at 7.55.33 PM (2)

Now, the real key to “winning” this challenge is to dominate the first round because, obviously, if you whiff every game in the first round, you’ve whiffed the tournament, game, set, and match. But since it’s so easy to pick a low seed to advance in every round, the best scores in this March Madness format are necessarily going to be incredibly low on the win count. I’m thinking that an above average score would be to only allow your bracket to yield, say, less than ten winners. There are 66 games (including the play-ins) so getting about 90% of them wrong (considering you can just pick all the play-in teams to make the Final Four and probably destroy 60% of your bracket) seems a good benchmark.

Hopefully I do as poorly as possible!

Chris’s Picks:

I’m not a college sports guy. Just don’t have the gene. I went to Pitt and I never came close to going to a conference game. Why? Well, they sell out in seven seconds and I just… meh… it’s just not in my bones.

Screen shot 2013-03-20 at 8.39.26 PM (2)

But my affinity and devotion to the Big East remains. Especially in its final year as a competitive conference (hell, a conference at all), they need to go out with a bang. That shows in my bracket which I’m calling “Trying really hard to call the upsets”. It’s kind of pointless but fun all the same.

I have Duke and Syracuse playing for it all in the championship. For that to happen, a LOT of upsets have to go down in the South and East brackets. Yeah. I’m willing San Diego St., Butler, and New Mexico to make it happen.

It’s fun to pick the upsets. I’ve picked 18. That’s pretty ridiculous but if goes down, I will be laughing. That’s how I roll: death or joy.

And finally, the one person here you should probably listen to:

Jeff G’s Picks:

All season I’ve watched top dogs get knocked off, so I’m anticipating a wild tournament

Screen shot 2013-03-20 at 8.49.58 PM (2)

Let’s start with the West. Gonzaga has beaten one ranked opponent all season. Can you can tell I’m not buying the hype? My brother’s been waiting all season for a big man to come along and take out Kelly Kapowski Olynyk, but Pitsburgh’s center Talib Zanna is not gonna be that big man. The game to watch will be Wisconsin vs. Gonzaga. Badgers forward/center Jared Berggren has the versatility to posterize Olynyk, in what’s going to be the long-hair’s first true test against another legitimate big man all season. In the end, Ohio State is too hot right now for me to get in their way. The Buckeyes get past Wisconsin for a final four appearance.

An early matchup in the East I’m studying is a rematch between Marquette and Butler in the Sweet Sixteen. I’m giving Marquette the payback victory, settling the score from an early season one-point loss. I see Indiana having a really tough time getting past Syracuse and then Miami, even a Marquette team if the Golden Eagles play to their capabilities. I just don’t see Miami sustaining a five game winning streak, nor more magic from Syracuse. Indiana sneaks past them all, albeit an overtime victory, or two.

The South. I’ve waited for Georgetown to get a break in the seeding department for years and here it is. Kansas, Michigan, Florida aren’t contenders in this division. Georgetown will have to actually perform in the tournament though, something they haven’t proven to be capable of under head coach John Thompson III. They’ll finally get a taste of the Final Four, but that’s the most I’m willing to gamble on them. As it is, I could see Minnesota topping them in the Elite 8, once they get past Florida for an upset not many are calling. Obama overlooked the Golden Gophers, so I like my odds.

In the Midwest I’m most worried about Duke. Which team is going to come out and play? This is the biggest mystery of the tournament for me. But the road looks easy for the Blue Devils early. Also, I’m high on either Oregon or OK State coming out and beating St Louis. I’m going to give the edge to OK State’s 3-pt barrage led by junior guard Markel Brown. But none of this is going to matter when Louisville stands atop the pile. Their road is easier than the other contenders and they’re outstanding on both sides of the ball — what they’ll need to get by Ohio St. and eventually Indiana. I’ve been waiting for Head Coach Rick Pitino to prove his press isn’t a gimmick. This year he’ll be cutting down the nets because of it.

Don’t Ask, Don’t…You Know What, Just Don’t Ask.

In College, NFL on March 5, 2013 at 10:19 am

By Jonathan Danielson

During the Super Bowl, San Francisco 49er Chris Culliver told shock jock Artie Lang that gay players were not allowed in the locker room. “We don’t got no gay people on the team,” Culliver eloquently told Lang. “They gotta get up out of here if they do.”

"The only thing worse than my comments was my coverage in the Super Bowl."

“The only thing worse than my point-of-view was my coverage in the Super Bowl.”

In an age when Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has been repealed, and the Obama Administration is asking the Supreme Court to overturn Prop 8, California’s anti-gay marriage measure, it’s easy to understand how Culliver’s comments did not go over well. The backlash was actually so bad, you would think NFL executives would quickly take notice to it, and to the changing winds of the times. That they would quickly realize the days of freely expressing anti-gay and bigoted views, as well as implementing policies shaped by that mindset, would no longer be tolerated or go unnoticed.

Instead, during last week’s NFL Combine, prospect Nick Kasa told ESPN Radio in Denver that teams were inquiring about his, and other potential players sexual orientation. The University of Colorado senior said that, during the extensive interviewing process, teams asked questions like “Are you married?” as well as “Do you have a girlfriend?” and “Do you like girls?” To make matters worse, the executives also supposedly asked all of this with a straight face.

"Are you, or have you ever been associated with the Homosexual Party?"

“Are you, or have you ever been associated with the Homosexual Party?”

Only a day before Kasa broke news of the inquisition interview process, did Mike Florio of NBC Sports tell Dan Patrick on his radio show that teams were clamoring at the bit to ask Notre Dame star, Manti Te’o, about his sexuality following the now infamous Lennay Kekua scandal/hoax/hilariousness. Apparently team owners, presidents, and general managers think it’s not bad enough to be duped online by a dude pretending to be a girl who doesn’t exist, but that Te’o had to be a homosexual as well. And apparently, nothing is worse than that.

This type of thinking at the upper levels and locker rooms of professional sports, regardless the sport, needs to stop, and needs stop now. If this were the interviewing process for any other company or corporation, this business would be sued, and sued quickly for breaking the law. If this was how employees treated other coworkers at the workplace, the offending employee would rightfully be fired. Just because the NFL is a giant, multi-billion dollar operation, doesn’t mean they get to get away with acting however unprofessional and backwoodsy they want. This is the wrong side of history, and it’s not like professional sports hasn’t been on the wrong side of history before.

When was that again? I’m sure there was some time or another when team owners were against breaking the status quo, and it took a defining moment and person to stand up for what was right. To stand up for the rights of others in their position. When was that again? If only I could remember…

42-movie

I’m sure it will come to me.

When it’s all said and done, Gay Rights is a Civil Rights issue. This is about letting people love whomever they love, and be attracted to whomever they’re attracted to. It’s about not having that issue be an issue, or be any bearing on whether that person can perform the duties essential of their job, whether that job is at a desk in an office, or throwing a football in front of millions of people. If that person, regardless of their race, religion, or sexuality, can do that job better than anyone else, nothing else should matter. Now it’s time for the NFL to get with the times and hire based on that, and only that.

Arizona State Just Barfed Cheap Anime Onto A Fiberglass Costume

In College on March 4, 2013 at 11:46 am

By Jonathan Danielson

For a few decades now, Arizona State University has been referred to as a “sleeping giant.” It’s one of the biggest universities in the nation, and it’s located in one of the larger media markets in the country. The area is well documented for its beautiful weather (although not during months classified as “summer”) and the same can be said about the student body of the ASU’s Tempe campus. Critics argue there’s really no reason why 18-year-olds aren’t lining up to commit to play in maroon and gold while still in junior high. There’s no reason, they argue, why the school’s sports programs aren’t competing for national titles, season-in and season-out.

Instead, the last school championship was Women's Softball in 2011. Before that, it was Men's and Women's Track & Field in 2008.

The last championship was Softball in 2011. Before that, it was Men’s and Women’s Track & Field in 2008.

But despite everything the school has going for it, ASU usually finds itself in Ms. Congeniality Bowls, NIT appearances, or slapped with sanctions, rather than playing for championships and titles. It’s as if the Sun Devils have never seemed to be able to finally wake up from its giant’s slumber.

To change all of that, in 2011 the school tried to “Oregonianify” themselves, and rebranded their struggling athletic department. Gone was Sparky the Sun Devil from the school’s marketing campaign, and in his place was a scary looking, flaming cocktail fork. Uniforms went from only maroon, gold and white, to maroon, gold, white and black, which makes perfect sense for teams who play outside, in the sun, in 115 degree weather.

While the University of Arizona had "Desert Swarm," ASU now has "Heat Stroke."

While the University of Arizona had “Desert Swarm,” ASU now has “Heat Stroke.”

It wasn’t great, but at least they were trying. Now, two years after the rebranding began, the school has upped the ante and redesigned the most beloved part of ASU; the mascot, Sparky the Sun Devil.

Throughout its history, ASU has had its share of mascots before Sparky finally became the face of the university. Since the school’s founding in 1885, when ASU was just Tempe Normal School, until it was Arizona State Teachers College at Tempe, the school was known as the Owls, the Normals (whatever that was), and the Bulldogs, before “Sun Devils” was finally voted in by the student body in 1946. Then Sparky came around two years later, when alumnus and former Disney illustrator Bert Anthony drew up the little guy, supposedly in the image of his former boss, Walt Disney himself.

Now you see it?

See it?

But apparently, original Sparky is old, outdated, and not part of the school’s new, Oregon-like direction. So, for the last two years, since the first redesign was introduced, the university has been secretly working with Walt Disney Co. on a new, and supposedly improved vision of Sparky. Out is 65 years of tradition, and in his place is this anime-inspired Pokemon with Mickey Mouse eyes, and Aquaman boots.

"Tetsuo!"

“Tetsuo!”

It looks more like Disney Co’s final sweet revenge for the original logo than anything else. To be clear, the original Sparky is not completely gone. From my understanding, Sparky is the logo of the university, and “New” Sparky is just a character. A character who is the base for the new and horrible mascot design. A character who will appear on merchandise geared toward children, in order to try to gain future student allegiance at an early age.

Which doesn't make any sense, because they already seem to be doing a fine job with the youth movement.

Which doesn’t make any sense, because ASU already seems to be doing fine with the youth movement.

If ASU President Michael Crowe or Athletic Director Steve Patterson ever tells anybody they focus grouped this new design, they have to be lying. From online polls, to a Change.Org petition to bring back the original mascot, nobody seems to approve of any aspect of this new direction. And let’s be blunt, this is one of the worst cartoon characters, let alone Division I Collegiate Athletic mascots I have ever seen. Even Scottsdale Community’s  Fighting Artichoke is better. As a Sun Devil alumni, I am naturally predisposed to hate everything associated with the UofA, but this new Sparky almost (almost) makes me wish I would have wasted my undergraduate drinking years in Tucson, rather than be associated with this Yu-Gi-Oh! as the new label of my education.

While the new physical mascot costume is bad, it is not nearly as horrible as offering an alternative character to become the new brand of the university. It’s unnecessary, it cheapens the school, its history, and its fans. ASU already rebranded themselves once. Now its time to focus on the product on the field or court than poorly executed cartoons. Otherwise, this “New” Sparky (like “New” Coke, in that it’s just as bad) won’t just be the worst joke in Tempe.

Timeout: What Is Going On with Collegiate Uniforms?

In College on March 1, 2013 at 3:51 pm

By Chris Carosi

Even though analysis and opinions about trades and such mularkey are a big part of my egghead sports fantasia, I also have an absolute obsession with sports uniforms. They are so very important for a team’s image, either in a marketable kind of sense and also in a subliminal intimidation sense. Sites like these, which satisfy dual cravings for endless hockey jerseys and endless things to click on give a great insight on the history of sports clothing.

The colors red and black when put together yield speed and strength in my opinion. The Chicago Bulls or say the Atlanta Falcons just have that factor to me. Even “non-masculine” themes have picked up speed due to an established tradition: say, the Minnesota Vikings use of purple. Color schemes can and do have meaning. Whether it’s the official colors of the city itself like the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New York Mets or colors reflecting the culture of the city like the Boston Celtics, uniforms are just as important as the team itself. Design too is a big deal and in a lot of ways can spell out a new look or attitude. Take for example the Denver Broncos who happen to be 0-4 in Super Bowls wearing the old orange jerseys and 2-0 with their new design, debuted in 1997.

So, that being said of professional sport, I recently I came upon this and… what the deuce do you call this?!

[image]

Agh! My eyes threw up into my brain!

This is real. All too real. There’s been a trend in collegiate sports in recent times for sportswear companies like Nike, Reebok, and  Adidas (pictured above) to experiment with uniform design. The onslaught is most noticeable in college football, where teams like the University of Oregon Ducks have (literally) a different uniform design for each and every game and spectacularly unfair mirrored helmets with duck wings on them. It can work if it makes sense. Take Rutgers’ cool “scuffed” chrome helmets: makes sense if your team is called the Scarlet Knights. That is inspired design.

Reflecting the sun’s rays into your opponent’s eye is what Oregon football is all about, not national championships.

Innovation is good. And while Oregon simply takes advantage of Phil Knight’s ridiculously gracious alumni donations (and seemingly vacant rules regarding uniform standards), other teams have blown the doors off the whole argument with designs and things that make your eye stomach lurch.

The pro game is a different beast. The NFL is infamous for crazy-strict uniform protocol, levying fines in the five-figure range for low socks.  The Golden State Warriors recent short sleeve jerseys that look like 60’s warm-ups but are not might be a starting trend. Might. Let’s take a look at 3 trends of the fabulous in college sport.

Matte-Finished Helmets

Word. It has an old school gridiron-ness to it that everybody likes. It is becoming really rampant in NCAA football. Everybody is doing it. And isn’t that weird that the trend is either no reflective surfaces OR completely mirrored surfaces? I’ll take matte finish because it’s not cheating.

Multiple Helmet and Uniform Combinations

Okay. Have to draw a line here. This is when it becomes a distraction. Above are the University of Marlyand’s uni combos, which far exceed the amount necessary. There’s an all-white Stormtrooper look? For really hot days or when you really want to show dirt? And a yellow-on-yellow with a black helmet? Dude on the far right looks like a banana popcicle with an olive on top.

This distresses me because it’s an illusion of identity. It might be exciting for casual fans or for Under Armor, who no doubt sells more jerseys this way (isn’t that why alternate uniforms were invented in the first place?). Actually, this makes perfect sense. Sportswear companies can’t sell player-specific jerseys, so they opt for this in a seedy attempt to make more money and to make me upset. I vote for a strict home and away with perhaps an alternate. It’s important to signal to the universe and yourself that your team has conviction. Every team with any kind of tradition of excellence has a traditional look.

Multiple Team Designs Otherwise Known As Fascism

Above are the new Nike “Hyper Elite Platinum” jerseys, made to create a black hole of sameness that sucks all the possibly interesting things that could make a school’s basketball program singular into a far region outside of space of time. Designed at the “intersection of performance and sustainability” with a name featuring at least three too many adjectives, these one-tone monstrosities seek to take away anything that could be cool about wearing a team color and absorbing it all with indifferent gray. What’s worse is the shortened name-mark like “Cuse” or “Zona” on the player’s chests defeats the purpose of nicknames by putting it directly on official team uniforms. That’s a no-no.

The Zubaz shorts shown above are the other side of the same coin. While the uniforms all have a common design, the idea is to accentuate the colors of the team. This has respectable ambition but just… I mean look at it again!

See? It doesn’t improve. Once your eye actually goes up, you realize that the Notre Dame player is donning the “key lime pie” color they’ve apparently had since Pope John Paul II.

These trends are the sign of sportswear companies pushing their power further and further. They seek to define a school’s image, or at least (working with the sports program) to keep recruits interested in their “brand” which (subjectively) gets more enrollment for the school. On paper this is shrewd but it is obviously distracting from the game. The players will play no matter what they wear, and I’m sure more than half of them could care less what they wear as long as they have the opportunity to compete. But still. Most people don’t play the game.

It’s as if sportswear companies are just going for it, trying whatever creeps out of their brain, coming up with reasons to create designs based solely on “performance and sustainability” rather than say, “colors that go together” or “non-ironic attempts at solid design”. This trend develops no doubt with the advent of HD-quality television, which show in crystal clear definition every last contour and detail of elaborate design.

What frightens me is even classic teams with a literally cinematic look like Notre Dame football aren’t safe from this. The two-tone helmet design this year was so gross it hurt my teeth.

There’s no big elaborate conclusion to this. If there’s a way to make money, universities will do it because they are evil. I mean, isn’t 75% of the college experience pretending you have a personality? That mentality has trickled back up to the top. In cutting down on arts education, we have created a monster.

Lance Armstrong Won’t Be In Baseball’s Hall-of-Fame Because He Had A Fake Girlfriend

In College, Cycling, MLB, NFL on January 31, 2013 at 10:03 am

By Jonathan Danielson

In the sports world lately, if it’s not Lance Armstrong making an ass of himself on Oprah (and an even bigger ass out of all of us who ever believed him), it’s Manti Te’o displaying an equal amount of assness (or just unbelievable dumbassness) on Katie Couric, or Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens not being elected to the Hall-of-Fame, or Alex Rodriguez and Gio Gonzalez suddenly being outed as the new Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens of South Beach.

More or less how everyone outside of Baltimore or the Bay Area feel about sports right now.

More or less how every sports fan outside Baltimore or the Bay Area feels right now.

I mean, come on. How much more can the average sports fan take? With every big blockbuster trade that excites or infuriates a fan, or hilarious showing of total unsportsmanlike behavior (like Marshall Henderson during the Ole Miss/Auburn game), or sincere moments like Charles Barkley trying to do the weather during his hometown’s news broadcast, there’s a leaked document or online article how this player lied, cheated, or lied about cheating.

Don’t get me wrong, I love stories and news about sports beyond their respective fields or courts (that’s why I do this), but when every story lately is just another story about liars and cheats, it wears on you. It makes it tough to want to willingly open up a new word document and decide which allegation or controversy  to tackle today. And then, even if I wrote about every allegation or controversy, I’d realize I’d only be writing the same article over and over again, only with different names and dates and locations. Writing about sports now seems like only writing about non-sports (since every controversy completely overshadows the game), and no longer feels like it’s journalism but just an elaborate Mad-Lib worksheet.

Shoot! (exclamation), he said roid-ragingly (adverb), as he jumped into his Mercedes (object), and fled (verb) the media (noun) with his fake-model (adjective) girlfriend to self-relfect (activity) on his poor choices (adjective and verb).

At least the Super Bowl this year offers a dose of healthy and positive beyond-the-field drama, what with the Harbaugh brothers coaching against one another, and Ray Lewis’s impending retirement after the game. Oh wait, Lewis’s retirement is now tainted by allegations he used Deer Spray  (yes, that’s what the banned substance is called) and a 49er was recently arrested for assaulting his boyfriend during an argument over underwear. Oh wait, it’s a former 49er, and he’s not even on the team anymore, but he’s still getting brought up on media day. When does it end?

Next you know we’ll hear about how Jackie Harbaugh, the mother of the Jim and John, used illegal fertility drugs and that’s why she was able to give birth to her two sons.

CHEATERS!

CHEATERS!

Right now I’m at a crossroads on how to feel about all of this. First and foremost, spectator sports is an entertainment. We go and watch these athletes because, as fans, they entertain us. At the same time though, these athletes are more than just entertainers. When they put on a jersey with their team’s name and location on it, they are the representatives of that fan base’s state or city. In some cases, a country. By that logic, when these athletes fail, they don’t just fail themselves, but they fail the communities they represent. Remember when you were a kid and you went on a field trip and your teacher told you that if you misbehaved you would get in even more trouble than if you had just misbehaved while at school? That’s because you were representing not just yourselves on those field trips, but your teacher who took you there, and the school you came from, and your parents who raised you. Yeah, that’s a bit heavy, but that was the logic behind it, and for the most part, it rings true.

So when Lance Armstrong cheats for seven years and lies about it, he didn’t just fail himself, or the people whose lives he tried to destroy when they spoke up with the truth, he failed the country he was given the responsibility of representing. When Alex Rodriguez comes up on a list of players who took PED’s in Miami, he fails every Yankees fan who spent the money to get a jersey with the number 13 on the back (although, if you’re a Yankees fan and buying a jersey of a player in the modern era, I have no idea why you would get one that didn’t have number 2 on it). When Manti Te’o’s inspirational story turns out to be a fraud, he didn’t just get tricked (if his claims that he wasn’t in on it are true), but we all did. We all got duped, and if Te’o was in on the fraud, it’s even worse, because then the guy we believed in was the one who willingly betrayed us.

And this isn’t just isolated to a single fan either. When an athlete lies and cheats, he also damages or destroys the sense of community his or her team fosters in its surrounding areas through the people who rally around the team on a nightly basis. It destroys that sense of pride that gets shared from friend and neighbor.

It’s obviously irresponsible journalism to not cover these current and disappointing issues, but is it also too much to expect our athletes to just follow the rules, or at least not lie about it when they don’t? If so, maybe I should just give up this altogether. If I can’t trust the people who are paid to represent us in a game, why even bother with that game altogether? Maybe I should no longer care about sports and their outcomes, because in the end, the people who represent our communities through those sports will always let us down on any given timeline, no matter its length. Maybe I shouldn’t try to be a part of that community which our teams create? Maybe there is no community, and I should just stop caring altogether? Maybe that is the only way to no longer become disappointed or dissatisfied with the people who are paid to represent us?

Maybe man really should be an island?

Maybe man really should be an island?

Sigh. Probably not. When do pitchers and catchers show up for HGH testing Spring Training again?

We’re Back!

In College, MLB, MMA, NBA, NFL, NHL on January 7, 2013 at 10:34 am

By Jonathan Danielson

I know we’re a week late on this, but Happy New Year everyone, to one and all.

Right click here, and play the video in the background while you read this article.

Right-click here, and play the video in the background while you read the article.

And while I know it’s been a few weeks since we’ve posted anything (except Carosi valiantly coming through with an NFL Playoff article last week), I’m excited to announce that Hittoleftfield is back from our well-deserved holiday hiatus, and will start 2013 with new articles, new insights, and maybe a new writer (or two) in the very foreseeable future.

So what did we miss while we were away?

Nothing really. Angels owner Arte Moreno woke up one day and decided to randomly give Josh Hamilton $125 million dollars. “Black Monday” saw seven coaches and a bunch of GM’s get canned. Because I was on vacation, I couldn’t do my final NFL Power Rankings (1. Denver, 2. Seattle, 3. Who Cares?) update my current playoff picks (I chose every team that won yesterday), or my give a new and shiny Super Bowl prediction.

(Side Note: I started the season with a Baltimore/San Francisco, but am now totally on board with a Seattle/Denver. Think about it; in order for that old AFC West showdown to happen, Seattle would have to beat #1-seed Atlanta, which is totally doable since #1-seeds rarely make it to the Super Bowl, and, in their last three playoff appearance, the Falcons have lost to Arizona (2008), Green Bay (2010), and New York (2011). What do those three teams have in common? They all went on to become the eventual NFC Champion. Seattle would then go against either their current divisional rival, the San Francisco 49ers, or in the more desirable matchup, Green Bay, the victim of the Monday Night Fiasco,and we all know how that went down. 

On the flip side, Denver would have to beat the current team from Baltimore with the old quarterback of the old team from Baltimore, then, since Houston won’t beat the Patriots, will have to go against the Golden Boy himself, Tom Brady, in a classic Brady-Manning Bowl for the ages. If Houston does beat the Pats, which they won’t, Manning would then have to against the team he kept in the gutter for more than a decade. You couldn’t write a better story, and what helps this Seattle/Denver Super Bowl dream become even more realistic is that both teams are the hottest tickets in the NFL right now. Fingers crossed!)

We missed some other stuff too. Los Angeles became a Clippers town, the NHL labor dispute finally and mercifully ended, baseball writers everyone have publicly freaked out over how they’re filling-out their Hall of Fame ballots, Justin Upton is still on the trading block, Junior do Santos took a beating like the Terminator, and kept coming back for more, Chip Kelly is not leaving Oregon, Django Unchained was flipping awesome, and while that has nothing to do with anything about sports, I’m sure I would have found one way to include it in at least one article or another, and Rex Ryan revealed his horrible tattoo.

Which is worse? Rex got his wife tattooed, or that weird looking lady? That was a "Mark Sanchez is Rex Ryan's wife" joke. Oh, never mind.

Which is worse? Rex got his wife tattooed, or that weird looking lady? That was a “Mark Sanchez is really Rex Ryan’s wife” joke. Get it? Get it? Oh, never mind.

But let’s not dwell in the past, and what we’ve missed, and look forward, onward, into the future. Hittoleftfield is expanding, we are trying to bring you more and more content everyday, and for those of you who have read us from the start, or those of you who are reading your first article ever right, we thank you for your support, and your continued support into 2013.

Thanks for reading, and it’s nice to see you again. No matter how long a vacation, sometimes it’s good to finally come home.

Oh, and lastly, tonight Notre Dame plays Alabama in the BCS Championship game tonight. Like everyone else living in a state that wasn’t once part of the Confederacy, I’m rooting for Notre Dame, but I know Alabama will most likely win, because I know no one pays better than the SEC.

So Roll Tide, I guess.

Either way, thanks again, and stay tuned.

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