We are only three days away from the semi-finals of the NCAA tournament and I want to give you an idea of just how fascinated the radio and TV folks
are with George Mason University and its presence in the Final Four. The 'other game' on Saturday night contains story lines that have the potential
for tear jerking productions of huge proportion; yet it is merely the 'other game'. LSU is close enough to being in New Orleans that there have to be
50 as yet untapped story angles here. The team is playing for the downtrodden city; they are bringing the poor folks there together to root for
something larger than their strife; the tears of joy to be shed by the folks in the ravaged city will be a symbol for the city in ruins from the
floods - and etc and etc and etc. Meanwhile, UCLA will be in the same game, and it is Indiana where a guy with a few ties to UCLA basketball - you may
have heard of John Wooden, no? - was born and raised and played his basketball and began his coaching career. Wooden will be 95 this year so on an
actuarial basis, there won't be dozens more of these kinds of opportunities for nostalgic retrospectives. Nevertheless, George Mason dominates the
college basketball scene. That's how big the George Mason story is.
Speaking of the flood-ravaged city of New Orleans, the Sugar Bowl plans to return there next year. Nokia had sponsored that bowl game for a long time
but that relationship ended. Earlier this week, the Sugar Bowl got a new sponsor ' Allstate Insurance. Now there is a good juxtaposition - the city
under water and a major insurance company.
Back to the NCAA tournament, do you realize that UCLA is the only team in the Final Four that was ranked by the AP in its preseason rankings? (I
apologize to the AP here because I just used one of their polls as part of a news item and they really don't like to 'make news' with their poll.
Sorry 'bout that.) The Bruins were ranked 19th in the preseason poll and the other three teams were 'up the track' to use racetrack parlance. Maybe
that speaks to parity in college basketball; maybe that speaks to the level of improvement shown by players over the last year; maybe it demonstrates
that the poll voters are merely guessing about who the top teams are in the first place. You make the call.
Before the college season started, you could have had 400-1 odds at the Las Vegas Hilton on George Mason to win it all. At the start of the
tournament, you could have had them at 250-1; before the Sweet 16 games were played, you could have had them at 100-1; currently, they are on the
board at 11-2. No, I didn't bet on them at any point along that downward trajectory of the odds.
Opening day for the major league baseball season is only four days away and that is one of the rites of spring in America. Here in the DC area, we
have the Cherry Blossom Festival; the migratory birds are beginning to wend their ways north; the Iditarod is over; the days are getting longer and
daylight savings time is upon us. And just as predictably, we are soon to hear from Ralph Nader - either via a press release or in an op-ed piece -
about the underlying corporate greed that fuels the engine that pushes politicians to spend taxpayers' money on new stadiums and arenas. Give it a
rest, Ralph. Everyone knows that politicians use taxpayer money to fund projects that they perceive will get them re-elected; they don't really care
if the money is 'well spent' or if it is 'corporate welfare'; they only care about re-election. And since it is a rare thing indeed for an incumbent
to be voted out of office on the basis of building a new stadium for the local team, that's going to continue to be the politicians’ preferred
course of action.
The NFL draft is about a month away and the cork in the bottle to keep us from being drenched in mock draft reports and further dissection of workouts
from the combine is the short shelf-life of Final Four/Opening Day stories. Starting next week, you can expect to rehash the Vince Young/Reggie
Bush/Matt Leinart pecking order. I don't know about you, but I am fed up to my earbrows with yammering about Vince Young's 'release point'; If I have
to hear much more of it, I'll reach my release point and that one involves projectile vomit. There has already been more than sufficient 'analysis'
of the draft to suit me and the fact of the matter is that Mel Kiper Jr. hasn't even thrown his mouth into second gear yet.
I'm not sure what would be the most painful:
Reading yet another 'mock draft' with full explanations for all the picks for all the teams in the first round.
Reading yet another statistical analysis of middle infielders as they relate to fantasy baseball drafts.
A colonoscopy with a cattle prod.
Tough call here...
When they held the press conference to announce Keyshawn Johnson's new contract with the Carolina Panthers, Keyshawn addressed the subject of his
reputation as being 'difficult' to get along with. He said, 'I challenge anybody in this room to find one person in any locker room or anybody who
has been associated with me to say I've been a problem.' Amazingly, none of the reporters in the room had Jon Gruden on speed dial...
Now that most of the frenzy related to the NFL/NFLPA collective bargaining agreement has quieted down, perhaps we can look at the situation from a
more detached vantage point. The players will be getting about $650M more dollars over the next couple of years with this new deal than they would
have gotten if the old deal had simply been allowed to run its course. That is the bottom line from business people and economists who have torn the
agreements apart and looked at all the terms. I have no quarrel with that outcome whatsoever. Here's where I have a problem. I haven't read or
heard in a lot of places the recognition that the NFL owners are not going to be the ones who will pay the majority of that additional $650M. In
fact, they may not pay any of that difference. The fans - and the politicians who lavish taxpayer/fan money on teams - will pay at least 90% of that
difference. And it would not be shocking to see that the added revenue from taxpayers and politicians amounts to more than $650M. The owners are
very rich people and most of them got that way by knowing how to pass along - with interest of course - any cost increases that they may have to bear
in the course of their business. They didn't forget how to do that when they bought their franchises.
Finally, here's a comment from Mike Downey in the Chicago Tribune:
'NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue is about to retire. Tagliabue's one failure was in not being able to bring professional football to Arizona.'
But don't get me wrong, I love sports... ... ...