One crazy tournament

We are down to the Sweet 16 in this year’s NCAA tournament. The first weekend was as unpredictable and tumultuous and chaotic as I’ve ever seen it, which is the primary allure of the tournament in the first place. The NCAA must be ecstatic with all the storylines. Consider the following:

  • For the first time ever, a 16-seed took down a 1-seed. In this case, it was UMBC blowing out the no. 1 overall seed, the Virginia Cavaliers, by 20 points.
  • With Florida State’s upset of Xavier last evening, two of the four top seeds did not survive the first weekend.
  • In a tournament with no upsets, the Sweet 16 would consist of teams all seeded 1-4. This year, 9 of the 16 are seeded 5 or lower. This includes two 11 seeds.
  • One of the 11’s is Syracuse, the very last team chosen for the original field of 68. They defeated Michigan State yesterday despite making just 15 field goals the entire game and being out-rebounded by 21.
  • Seventh-seeded Nevada knocked of second-seeded Cincinnati yesterday despite trailing by 22 points with 11 minutes to go. They closed the game on a 32-8 run.
  • Last year’s national champion, North Carolina, was blown out by Texas A&M in another 7-over-2 upset.
  • The south region semi-finals consist of the 5, 7, 9 and 11 seeds. That’s three teams with prime-numbered seeds. Has this ever happened before?

It’s the most wonderful time of the year

It’s the first full day of the NCAA basketball tournament. It’s 32 games in 2 days and 48 games in 4. By Sunday’s end, the 68-team field will pared down to the Sweet 16. It’s exciting and maddening and altogether unpredictable. That’s why I laugh when the know-it-all pundits get all analytical and make their erudite predictions, and even offer their “insight” to help us do our brackets. They don’t know any better than the rest of us who is going to win. There are going to be upsets — several of them, in fact. So the key to any successful bracket is correctly choosing the eventual national champion and identifying as many of those upsets as possible. A kid has as much chance of picking these as any paid pundit. It’s chaos and mayhem. So it’s just like the #fakenews media, except the tournament is actually fun to watch and, just like the #fakenews media, you cannot apply logic to your tournament picks.

Maybe Memphis will make the field next year with our new coach — Mr. Anfernee Hardaway.

Young money

My interest in the NFL remains at a nadir, but I am at least aware that three University of Memphis Tigers are at the NFL combine, and that the draft is next month. At least one of our former Tigers has already signed with Nike. I honestly wish them success.

There are very few athletes who can perform at that level, and the window of opportunity is agonizingly brief. The average NFL career lasts just 3.3 years. A man has just a tiny sliver of his life to earn that kind of money. The base salary for a rookie is $465,000, and it increases every year thereafter. So a young man who plays for 3.3 years and earns the league minimum will still earn close to $2 million total. Of course, after his agent and the federal and various state governments get their cut, that figure probably drops to under $1 million, but that’s still a lot of money to shower on a young man just out of college.

Assuming these former Tigers all get drafted and make an NFL roster, aside from wishing them success, I hope they manage their money well. I’m sure most professional athletes who earn in the millions have some sort of financial planner to help them make good decisions, but then there are also the Mike Tysons and Vince Youngs of the world, professional athletes who earned many millions of dollars, and then squandered it all like prodigal sons.

Perhaps you won’t play long enough to ensure you never have to work after your playing days are over — although I’m sure they all find something to do — but at least have the good sense to, say, pay cash for a house and maybe some land. Imagine being in your 20’s and never having to make a house payment for the rest of your life. Maybe even invest in some sort of business to ensure a steady stream of income — even a modest income is better than no income at all.

Whatever they choose to do is, of course, none of my business. I just hate to see young athletes throw money around like there’s an endless supply of it. Because at some point, that well of opportunity will dry up.

Three for Thursday

This is so typical of the left. They trot out a victim of a tragedy willing to spout left-wing talking points, then tell the rest of us that we can’t criticize the victim because he/she has been traumatized; and in this case, he’s just a high school student. I’m talking about the 17-year-old kid CNN is using to advocate for gun control (not going to use his name here). I know he witnessed something terrible that no one should have to witness, but when you turn political, you lose your supposed immunity from criticism. Actually, I’m criticizing the #fakenews media more than the kid. He’s just a kid, and I’m convinced he’s being fed his talking points by the media. You can tell me I can’t criticize if you want, but when you advocate that I should lose my Second Amendment rights because of a crime committed by someone else, I’m going to say something about it. Yesterday, I joined the NRA for the first time in my life for this very reason.

My next half-marathon is the annual Rock-and-Roll marathon in Nashville the last Saturday in April (now officially next month). This will be my fifth year in a row running that race. I always begin my training March 1, but owing to my work schedule and the trusty weather forecast, I began two days early this time, on Tuesday, with a 10K run. It was my longest run since the half-marathon in Memphis on December 2, and my first of six planned long runs (in addition to a bunch of 5K’s) during the next 8+ weeks. The training is difficult, and some parts of it aren’t much fun, but I won’t regret any of it come race day.

When the college basketball season opened and I got to watch the new-look Memphis Tigers in action, I thought, my gosh, we could finish with a losing record this season. We haven’t had a losing season since 1999-2000. We won a series of razor-thin games against low-RPI teams, all played at home, and I figured we’d get killed as soon as conference play began. This roster features exactly two players with previous Division I experience, including Jeremiah Martin, the AAC’s leading scorer, whose season ended two games ago when he broke his foot. As it turns out, we aren’t going to have a losing season. In fact, there is a good chance this will be our first 20-win season since 2013-2014. Memphis is 18-11, including 9-7 in the AAC, which is good enough for 5th place in the 12-team league. This is our 5th year in the AAC, and before this season, we had never won 4 straight conference games. We’ve done that twice this year. Last week, the Tigers won their first game against a ranked opponent in 4 years (Houston), which was the same game in which Martin broke his foot. He went out in the first half with the Tigers losing, and we came back and won that game without him. We finish the season at home with back-to-back games against the league’s two worst teams (USF & ECU), but you can’t take these games for granted, for sure. So even though the Tigers aren’t where I’d like them to be quite yet, the last few weeks have certainly provided some encouraging signs.

Weird thought for the day

The Olympics are truly behind the times. They still insist on two distinct genders. There are men’s competitions and women’s competitions. They make no room for the alternate genders. So what if you’re a man who identifies as a woman on the day of your competition? Isn’t is discriminatory to insist that a man compete with other men if he identifies as a woman (or something else)? What’s to stop a man from competing with women in, say, speed skating or ski jumping? He would most assuredly win the gold. What if three men identified as women and finished 1, 2 and 3? The women would be completely shut out of their own medal ceremony. Indeed, liberals and SJW’s will sooner or later have to think these things through and come up with a solution that ensures equality and makes sure no one’s feelings get hurt.

No moral victories, but these young Tigers are starting to get the hang of this

Yesterday, the Memphis Tigers lost to the Louisville Cardinals 81-72 at Madison Square Garden. Honestly, I had been bracing for a more lopsided loss. But these young Tigers played competitive basketball against a team with far superior talent. Granted, it’s a loss, but I’ve been encouraged by their last 3 efforts.

Memphis is 7-3 so far, but it’s a soft 7-3. They have no signature wins. Several of their wins came at home to low-RPI teams by razor-thin margins. I’m not upset with them, nor am I upset with second-year coach Tubby Smith. A lot of last year’s talent transferred out of the program, leaving a mass of vacancies. So this year’s team is an amalgam of two players from last year, freshmen and junior-college transfers. Of the 13 players on this year’s roster, eleven had never played Division I. So that left us with an inexperienced team and large learning curve, but also the potential for improvement. I’m starting to enjoy this team. They may not accomplish a great deal in the end, but you have to admire their determination.

I have to get to a game sometime after the new year. I owe it to them. Crowds at the FedEx Forum have been sparse. Granted, attendance should pick up once conference play commences and the quality of our opponents improves. Last year’s team played well until about the final month, then more or less quit (primarily the Lawsons, who left the program on sour terms). So that sort of left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. I don’t expect this year’s team to quit. I’m not expecting to qualify for the NCAA tournament or anything, but these young men have heard the talk and seen the empty seats, and perhaps they have something to prove.

Memphis Tigers’ 2017 home football schedule by the numbers

Number of season tickets purchased: 1
Total dollars spent on season ticket: 110
Section/row/seat: 127/14/25
Home games scheduled: 7
Home games attended: 7
Home games won: 7
Home games lost: 0
Total minutes played: 420
Number of times left early: 0
Number of games played in rain: 3
Number of games played in sweltering heat: 2
Number of games played on a muggy evening: 1
Number of lightning delays: 1
Number of games played in perfect weather: 1
Number of mornings I got up at 5 a.m. for an 11 a.m. kickoff: 3
Number of nights I spent at my mother’s in Jackson after a late game: 3
Number of top 25 teams played: 2
Number of top 25 teams defeated: 2
Number of times that had ever happened before: 0
Number of times I wish I hadn’t gone: 0
Number of times I visited Gibson’s Donuts before or after a game: 6
Number of times I saw DeAngelo Williams at Gibson’s Donuts after a game: 1
Number of times I enjoyed an omelet & hash browns at the Stone Soup Cafe prior to a game: 2
Number of seasons the Memphis Tigers have played at the Liberty Bowl: 53
Number of times the Memphis Tigers have gone undefeated at the Liberty Bowl (including 2017): 1
Value of attending every minute of the Memphis Tigers home football schedule in 2017: priceless

NFL word replacement

The NFL thinks it finally has a handle on the abuse of its continued ratings decline, and, predictably, it has nothing to do with the actual reason for its ratings decline. The NFL believes that too much football is the reason for the ratings decline. Seriously.

To put an end to the sliding ratings, the executives are proposing that fewer games may be the ticket to stop that over-saturation, with one idea being to cut Thursday Night Football by a whopping ten games. The idea to trim Thursday Night Football from 18 games a season to only eight was first reported by Sports Business Journal and was part of a plan to reverse the ratings crash …

Those two moves would return 14 games to Sunday afternoons, strengthen the core product and potentially keep fans from suffering from football fatigue by Sunday and Monday night.

I’m going to help the NFL out here and replace the words “game(s)” and “football” with “National Anthem protest(s)” for a more accurate read:

To put an end to the sliding ratings, the executives are proposing that fewer National Anthem protests may be the ticket to stop that over-saturation, with one idea being to cut Thursday Night Football by a whopping ten National Anthem protests. The idea to trim Thursday Night Football from 18 National Anthem protests a season to only eight was first reported by Sports Business Journal and was part of a plan to reverse the ratings crash …

Those two moves would return 14 National Anthem protests to Sunday afternoons, strengthen the core product and potentially keep fans from suffering from National Anthem protest fatigue by Sunday and Monday night.


The anti-motivational message of taking a knee

Perhaps the saddest part of the ongoing National Anthem protests taking place primarily in the NFL is that professional athletes who engage in this behavior are willingly embracing victimhood and wasting their opportunity to be motivators. Here you have highly-paid athletes who have worked incredibly hard to become the best at what they do, and instead of passing along their work ethic to others to emulate, they are using the stage to promote victimhood and helplessness. Theirs is the most anti-motivational message you can deliver. Athletes in high school and even in grade school are emulating the take-a-knee athletes they see in pro sports, really not knowing what they are protesting. They just see their “role models” doing it, so it must be cool. What a terrible thing to do to your own brand. But that’s liberalism in a nutshell: anti-motivation.

Dear NFL: It’s not me. It’s you.

Last year, I started boycotting the NFL after some of its players began taking a knee during the National Anthem. So I’m not suddenly announcing I’m boycotting the NFL. It is ongoing, and unless the NFL changes its politics by entirely removing politics from its product, it will continue ad infinintum.

Here’s the thing. The NFL needs me, or at least tens of millions like me, but I don’t need the NFL. The NFL was always a source of entertainment in my life, and nothing more. Entertainment comes in many forms, and each source of entertainment is expendable and easily replaceable. I watched the NFL for many seasons, but only for one reason. It was entertaining. NFL players, like all professional athletes at that level, are the best at what they do, and are a pleasure to watch. But that’s the only reason I ever let the NFL into my life. I was willing to pay to watch them play in person, and willing to invest hours of my time each week watching them on television. When the NFL stopped adding anything of value to my life, I told it, “You’re fired!”

The NFL ceased being worthwhile when it began injecting politics into its product. The ONLY thing I ever wanted from the NFL was football. When some of its players began using their positions to engage in the politics of grievance, I turned them off. For some reason, because millions of fans pay to watch them play, many NFL athletes falsely assume that fans care what they think about certain issues. Perhaps some likeminded fans do care, but I sure don’t. If I want political wisdom, I’ll turn on Rush Limbaugh. When they decided to open their mouths about things unrelated to football, NFL players revealed themselves to be full of foolishness, hateful toward America, and no different than your average #fakenews reporter. And the NFL surely isn’t entitled to my money or my time.

The irony here is that those who are protesting racial injustice and oppression are flourishing under an American system which has afforded persons of color the opportunity to become millionaires playing a game. Most of the fans who visit exorbitant stadiums to pay exorbitant ticket prices, consume exorbitant concessions, and buy exorbitant jerseys make less per year than the average NFL player makes per game. And we’re supposed to feel sorry for their plight. Of course, you’ll never see an NFL player, or any progressive, for that matter, protesting the scourge of black-on-black crime. The focus is solely on those rare cases when a black person is killed by a police officer. The hypocrisy is over the top.

If you want to take a knee against your country, then fine. Take a knee. But don’t whine when President Trump properly calls you an SOB. Trump is not an island. He’s speaking for millions of us who don’t really appreciate it when millionaire athletes overtly display their hatred toward a flag that service members have died to defend. Don’t whine when fans stop showing up. Don’t whine when we trade you in for a different sort of diversion that doesn’t involve the politics of grievance. (Leftists always seem flummoxed when they get pushback, as though they can exercise their freedom of speech, but you and I better not.) Believe me, the NFL is incredibly easy to replace, and the opinions of its employees aren’t any more valuable than mine.

This is what the NFL has aligned itself against. The man in this casket means more to me than the entire league of millionaire football players.

I love the United States far more than I ever cared for the NFL. Donald J. Trump is my president; Roger Goodell is just a clownish commissioner overseeing the demise of a once-great organization. I have a great deal more respect for members of the U.S. armed forces than NFL players. I pay homage to the American flag, and not some NFL team logo. I want to defeat Islamic militants and communists far more than the football opponent of the week. I worship a God in heaven, and not professional athletes. You get the point. When one puts the NFL in its proper frame, he realizes how small and inconsequential the NFL truly is.

Unfortunately, the NBA is not far behind the NFL in its politicization. The NBA has given itself over to progressivism and political correctness, and was already hanging by a thread in my life when David Fizdale, coach of my former favorite team, the Memphis Grizzlies, called me, a Trump supporter, “sick or just plain stupid” after Trump’s post-Charlottsville comments. Open trash can, toss in the NBA, close trash can. Not long after President Trump properly referred America-hating NFL players as SOB’s, President Trump disinvited Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors from the White House for showing disdain toward the idea of visiting the White House. And so NBA players quickly circled the wagon, just as NFL players and owners had done. One of them was LeBron James, aka “King James,” who called our esteemed president a bum. (These professional athletes can be rather child-like.) King James, arguably Ohio’s most famous citizen, campaigned for Hillary Clinton last year. Donald Trump won Ohio in a landslide, which demonstrates just how irrelevant professional athletes are when they stray from the field of play.

And this past weekend we saw our first baseball player take a knee during the National Anthem. And you know what? I have no trouble whatsoever dumping baseball, too, if MLB players start openly disrespecting the flag.

Ted Williams was an American hero and also one of the greatest baseball players of all-time.

In a different era, baseball players left the game en masse to join the armed forces and fight for America. This occurred primarily during World War II. Perhaps the best known of these athletes was an outfielder for the Boston Red Sox named Ted Williams. The Splendid Splinter was quite possibly the greatest natural hitter to ever play the game. He hit .406 in 1941. No one has batted .400 since. Today, it is a feat that is regarded as a virtual impossibility. Williams played all or parts of 19 seasons from 1939 to 1960. He missed the entire 1943-1945 seasons, during what would have been the prime of his playing career, to help defend the United States. He also missed large chunks of the 1952-1953 seasons while fighting in the Korean War. Despite this, he still compiled some of the most impressive batting statistics ever achieved, and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1966, his first year of eligibility.

In 2017, America-hating seems to be the new favorite pastime of professional athletes. Good riddance to the lot of you. God bless America. Make America great again.