The boring NBA

We are in the middle of the NBA Finals. And I couldn’t care less. For the last three years, it’s been the same two teams. Before that, the Miami Heat played in 4 finals in a row. LeBron has played in the last 7. If you’re not a 1 or a 2 seed, you have nearly a 0% chance of winning an NBA championship. The last team seeded lower than #2 to win a title was the Dallas Mavericks in 2011. They were a 3 seed.

There are 16 teams in the NBA playoffs each year. The NBA playoffs are a sham, because 12 of those teams have virtually no chance of making the finals, much less winning a championship. By the time those 16 teams are whittled down to two, it’s almost assured that a #1 will be playing a #1, or a #1 will be playing a #2. And your seed is ultimately determined by which teams can collect the most superstars. The era is past when a franchise could build a championship team by stringing together years of successful drafts.

The Golden State Warriors are 14-0 this playoffs. They are in a league of their own. They were in a league of their own last year, until they blew a 3-1 lead in the finals to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Then they went out and added to their roster possibly the best player in the NBA who isn’t named LeBron. That would be Kevin Durant.

No, I’m not demanding the NBA “do something” to level the playing field. Players are welcome to sign with whomever they want and teams are welcome to sign whomever they can afford. I’m not saying the NBA is rigged, either (although the league does have its favorites). What I am saying is that the NBA, as it is presently constituted, has evolved to predictability; the league champion is either going to be the Golden State Warriors or whichever team LeBron happens to be playing for. The remainder of the league’s 28 teams are more or less going to be bystanders.

Contrast this with the NHL, where an 8 seed is currently playing in the championship round. Or baseball, where last year’s World Series champion Chicago Cubs won for the first time in 108 years, and the year before that the Kansas City Royals won for the first time in 30 years. That’s what makes those sports interesting. But the NBA? It’s just plain boring.

ESPN denial

ESPN has today announced they are laying off more than 100 on-air staffers. No, I’m not gloating about people losing their jobs. The only people I like to see unemployed are Democrat politicians and RINO’s. Still, I have to say that a lot of us saw this coming. ESPN has been headed down the rathole of progressive politics for years. They were top-notch when they just did sports. It’s when they began injecting politics into their programming (Bruce Jenner, Michael Sam, “hands up, don’t shoot”) that viewers began to lose interest.

There are, as you can imagine, a lot of media types in denial. The meme I’m seeing online thus far is that ESPN is losing subscribers only because people are cutting cable. A couple of media figures I’ve seen on Twitter today claim…

And then there are the idiots saying this is happening because ESPN is political. It is happening because people are unplugging cable.


Reading Twitter responses about ESPN layoffs, it occurs to me a lot of sports fans really don’t like anyone who stands up for civil rights.

So you see, it’s our fault. Either we’re cutting cable for economic reasons, or we’re racists — and who didn’t see that coming? — and it has nothing to do with ESPN. I have no doubt that some people are cutting cable. This is true. Some people are cutting cable and going to streaming services like Sling TV or Hulu, or some other alternative that’s less expensive. Perhaps some sports enthusiasts are cutting cable because they are tired of getting politics from ESPN.

Then there are people like me. We haven’t cut cable — yet. But I have stopped watching ESPN altogether, except in the rare case they happen to be showing a game I want to see, like the Grizzlies/Spurs game Saturday night, for example. Otherwise, I do not watch SportsCenter, or any other show on ESPN where there are talking heads. I do not watch because ESPN inserts politics into their shows. They don’t understand, and even in the wake of a mass defection of subscribers/viewers they won’t understand, that sports fans tune into sports stations for sports. If I want politics, I’ll find a political channel. I don’t want politics mixed in with sports. I need a break from it sometimes, and sports has always been that perfect getaway.

ESPN will not change their content. Even if customers tell them to their face to please stop mixing politics with sports and stop using sports to project a social justice platform, ESPN will not reform. ESPN is run by progressives, and they can’t help themselves. They are like the rest of the media. They don’t dabble in real-world consequences. Just as the Democrats and #fakenews media blamed Trump’s election on the Russians, so will ESPN and other sports media figures blame ESPN’s layoffs on something other than the real reason.

What happens when you stand up for your own people

The Memphis Grizzlies were blown out of game 1 of the opening round of the NBA playoffs vs. the San Antonio Spurs. And the Spurs fought off a late surge by Memphis in game 2 to ultimately win by 14. It looked like a repeat of last year’s sweep by the Spurs over an injury-riddled Grizzlies team. Like last year, the Grizzlies are the 7th seed in the West and the Spurs are 2nd. Memphis was never expected to win, but we were manhandled those first two games in San Antonio.

And then this happened…

Starting at about the 1:24 mark, Memphis coach David Fizdale unloaded on the officiating crew for their one-sided effort. (The Spurs attempted 32 free throws to the Grizzlies’ 15, even though Memphis took far more shots in the paint.)

He was ultimately fined $30K — the players say they are picking up the tab — but in just over 60 seconds, David Fizdale lit a fire under the city of Memphis. The Grizzlies won the next two games at home, including a thriller Saturday night that wasn’t decided until Marc Gasol’s runner with 0.7 seconds left in overtime.

I’m not going to claim victim status because that’s just not me, but I can say that the Grizzlies are perpetual underdogs and routinely disrespected by the NBA and sports media (with the exception of Charles Barkley). Say what you will about Memphis, but we do rally around our people when they are disrespected. I know it’s just sports, but sports is perhaps the only thing that unites the people of Memphis, so let’s hear it for Memphis sports.

So now the series heads back to San Antonio for game 5 tonight, then game 6 in Memphis on Thursday. I know we’re still longshots to win the series, but it’s best 2-out-of-3 now, and if the Grizzlies can somehow win 1 game in San Antonio…

Lefty sports reporter laments politics in sports

But it’s not for the same reason the rest of us lament politics in sports. I guess it’s all in how you define “politics.” A baseball reporter for NBC, Craig Calcaterra, was offended by the display of an oversized American flag at an Atlanta Braves game on Sunday and tweeted, “Will you keep politics out of sports, please. We like sports to be politics-free.”

I wonder how Mr. Calcaterra feels about athletes kneeling during the National Anthem, or when a group of St. Louis Rams injected the false “Hands up, don’t shoot” meme into their on-field antics? I guess it’s okay when left-wing politics invades sports, but not patriotism.

Honestly, I’ve never viewed the American flag and other displays of American patriotism as politics. It used to be that love of country transcended politics. It’s something we all shared regardless of political affiliation. But during the last couple of decades, an anti-American fervor has taken over the American left so that patriotism, to them, is political. This is simply who they are now.

The 2017 Final Four

I got none of them correct on my bracket. A perfect goose egg. According to ESPN, out of 18,797,085 brackets, only 657 guessed them all correctly.

Gonzaga in the Final Four for the first time ever. Coach Mark Few has been so close so many times with so many good teams, and he finally won a regional final.

Oregon is in the Final Four for the first time since 1939. That was the first year of the NCAA tournament. (I doubt they called it the “Final Four” back then.)

South Carolina is in the Final Four for the first time in school history. Before this year, South Carolina hadn’t won a single tournament game since 1973.

North Carolina is really the only one of the Final Four who is old hat. UNC is in for the 20th time. (The other 3 schools have four Final Fours combined.)

So this year we have a 1, 1, 3 and a 7 seed.

For the second straight year and 6th time in the last 8 tournaments, a team from outside the Power 5 is in the Final Four.

In its preseason poll, Sports Illustrated had them ranked this way:

Oregon #4
UNC #6
Gonzaga #9
South Carolina #77

Many of the “experts” told us to watch out for Duke after they won the ACC tournament. Duke didn’t even make the Sweet 16. They were bounced by South Carolina, who also beat Marquette, Baylor and Florida.

Gonzaga defeated South Dakota St., Northwestern, West Virginia and Xavier.

Oregon collected wins over Iona, Rhode Island, Michigan and Kansas.

North Carolina beat Texas Southern, Arkansas, Butler and Kentucky.

Me? I’d love to see Gonzaga win it all.

It’s my turn to politicize football

The sports media and NFL have been incrementally politicizing football for several years, and last night’s Super Bowl LI was the worst example of it. There was the sports media’s criticism of Tom Brady’s support/friendship with President Trump, as well as that of head coach Bill Belichick and owner Robert Kraft, which has been turned into both a political and racial issue. There were the subtle digs at President Trump during the suite of trumped-up high-dollar Super Bowl commercials. And there was a Super Bowl halftime show that turned out not to be so politicized, but oh how liberals wanted it to be a statement against Trump.

At any rate, I couldn’t help but draw a few parallels between election night on November 8 and Super Bowl LI as it unfolded.

  1. A majority of the sport media migrated over to the Atlanta Falcons’ for purely political reasons. Tom Brady’s high-profile support/friendship with Donald Trump was publicized in a highly negative way — something that is never done with players who support liberal causes and/or candidates. So there was clear media favoritism owing to its anti-Trump bias.
  2. At one point in the contest, Atlanta was given a 97% chance of winning, a figure that is close to the probability that Hillary Clinton would win the presidency…or so we were told by the media. Atlanta’s collapse was every bit as dramatic as HRC’s.
  3. American patriots won on November 8. The New England Patriots won Super Bowl LI.
  4. The election was historic because a man who had never run for public office overcame all sorts of odds to beat an establishment candidate. Super Bowl LI was historic because the Patriots overcame, by far, the largest deficit ever by a Super Bowl winner (25 points), it was the first Super Bowl to ever go to overtime, and Tom Brady became the first quarterback in NFL history to win 5 Super Bowls.

Now that I’ve had the pleasure of watching Tom Brady stick it to the sports media and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in the worst sort of way, I can now resume my #boycottNFL.

Talkin’ baseball

The thought has just occurred to me that spring training begins this month. Of course, opening day for Major League Baseball is still two months away, but I find myself mildly excited at the prospect of baseball season in 2017. For at least the last two seasons, the thought of baseball has hardly caused a ripple. I just couldn’t get excited about it. I don’t know if it’s the void created by #boycottNFL, or the fact the baseball hasn’t become politicized the way the NFL (and, to a lesser extent, the NBA) has, but baseball has taken on some of the allure it once held for me years ago. I don’t know how the season is going to go for the Phillies. Last season they showed some improvement after having the worst record in baseball in 2015. They have the potential this year to be a .500 team, which would represent another improvement. I’m not making that prediction. I’m just saying they do have that potential. At any rate, I find myself ready to watch some baseball again.

Temporarily ending my NFL boycott

I have boycotted the NFL since the preseason, when Colin Kaepernick and a flood of players began sitting for the national anthem. My interest in the NFL had already been in decline for a few years given the overt politicaization of the NFL by the league itself and by the sports media. The national anthem controversy finally pushed me over the edge.

But I am temporarily ending my boycott of the NFL for the Super Bowl so that I can pull for Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Normally, I would be for the Atlanta Falcons because they have never won a Super Bowl and the Patriots have won four. Plus, I’ve never been a Patriots fan.

Tom Brady is being excoriated by the sports media for his support of Donald Trump. And he never even campaigned for President Trump — not in the same fashion that LeBron James campaigned for Hillary Clinton, for example. He was simply found with a “Make America Great Again” hat in his locker and now the sports media believe it is their duty to hold him accountable for his politics, when Tom Brady isn’t even politicking.

You never see the sports media react this way toward players who openly support liberal causes and/or liberal candidates. But the sports media are just like the rest of the media, and their bias is completely over the top regarding Brady and his MAGA hat. It’s none of their business what a player’s politics happen to be, liberal or conservative, and the fact that they are reacting so vehemently toward Tom Brady is illustrative of the ruinous effect the sports media have on actual sports.

Tom Brady doesn’t owe the sports media or anyone else an explanation for his support of Donald Trump. It’s his business, and that they want to make it theirs has put me firmly in Tom Brady’s corner for Super Bowl LI.

My first Saturday at Rocky Top

Three days ago that list of things I’ve never done in my life grew a little shorter as I followed through on a years-long promise to a good friend of mine and attended a Tennessee game at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville.

It was a cool day with plenty of sunshine. A cold front had passed through hours earlier and cleared out the sky. The visibility was so good you could clearly see the Smoky Mountains from our vantage point near the top of the stadium.

My friend parks about a mile-and-a-half from the stadium. Even that far away, you have to pay to park. That’s how many cars cram into downtown Knoxville on game day.

Neyland Stadium really is that big. It seats over 100,000 fans, and I would estimate at least 80% of the seats were occupied during the game, maybe even more. It’s big. It’s loud. It’s orange. Everything is orange. My gosh, everything is orange.

I can understand the allure of game day if you’re a Tennessee fan. Their football tickets are not cheap. Parking spaces are at a premium. You have to drive there and fight traffic. And then you have to walk and climb a labyrinth of ramps and steps. The higher you go, the steeper they are. But the place is noisy, and when the Vols are winning, the excitement meter gets dialed up really high.

Me? I’m a Memphis Tiger. Our games are at the Liberty Bowl, which seats just under 60,000. Our crowds the last couple of years have typically run 35-40,000. I’m happy with that. These are good times for us. We’ve experienced a sort of football renaissance lately after years of banishment in football purgatory. Unlike my friend, I get to park on the street for free in a residential area. My walk is maybe half-a-mile to the stadium. My football tickets cost only a fraction of what he has to pay. So I do enjoy a few advantages. Playing in front of 100,000 fans isn’t one of them. Neither is playing in the SEC. (However, the AAC has evolved into a pretty good football conference. Can I get an “Amen!” somewhere? Hello? Hello?)

I write all that to say that I walked into Neyland Stadium without a vested interest in the outcome. I simply wanted to enjoy a good football game. And it was a good football game…if you like points. And who doesn’t like points? How about 100 of them? Yes, Tennessee beat Missouri 63-37. Ironically, the score remained within one possession the first three quarters and part of the fourth before the Vols started pulling away. We all suspected they would. Missouri wore down and Tennessee took full advantage in the final period. The hometown folks were delighted. They played Rocky Top over and over (and over and over and over and over and over). It really was a remarkable experience if you’re a fan of college football. (And screw the NFL, by the way.)

Neyland Stadium is an old stadium, which is good, because I like old stadiums. The Liberty Bowl is 51 years old, and Neyland is even older. Granted, it’s been modified several times. It wasn’t always the behemoth it currently is. Also, this was my first time in Knoxville. I’ve heretofore always driven through Knoxville en route to some other place, but Knoxville had never been my destination, so I had seen very little of the city before Saturday. Since Tennessee was originally settled from east to west, Knoxville is in the old part of the state. And I was fortunate to see some bonafide relics. There’s an historical marker I posted Saturday evening commemorating the home of one of our actual Founders. There are several noteworthy buildings and churches still situated in this part of the city and on campus. I wish I could have seen more.

Baseball & Americana

Although my interest in baseball has waned somewhat in recent years in favor of basketball and college football, I have watched the World Series this year with great interest. Someone is about to win a championship that hasn’t won in my lifetime. The Cleveland Indians could wrap it up this evening. They haven’t won the World Series since 1948. Or the Cubs could win tonight and set themselves up for a championship opportunity tomorrow. They haven’t won the World Series since 1908.

I have enjoyed watching October (now November) baseball for another reason, though: no politics. There’s not a single baseball player protesting the National Anthem. And during the 7th inning stretch you get either “Take Me out to the Ballgame” or “God Bless America.” It’s like a grand patriotic celebration where we can all be Americans together and altogether escape from politics for a few wonderful hours.

And I still don’t miss the NFL. I never realized how irrelevant it is until I banished it from my life.