Tuesday, April 15, 2008

I sue you!

Legal grounds?

So according to reports, Howard Schultz -- the guy we can blame for the evil known as Starbucks -- is suing Clay Bennett. Schultz doesn't want money ... oh no, he wants his NBA team back.

Schultz sold the Seattle SuperSonics to Bennett and his group of Oklanhoma City-based investors, apparently under the assumption Bennett and his crew would do everything they could to keep the Sonics in Seattle.

Never mind the fact that Oklahoma City had been openly clamoring for an NBA franchise since the New Orleans Hornets spent the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons playing home games there. Schultz really believed Bennett would keep the Sonics in Seattle.

Now he's angry and indignant that Bennett wants to move the team? Now he sees fit to throw his lawyers into the fray, trying to get the team back? First of all, I'm not sure if that's legally possible, and secondly ... how could he not have seen this coming?

Oklahoma City wants an NBA team ... a guy from Oklahoma City plopped down millions upon millions of dollars to buy a team some thought might be on the way out of town.

Call me crazy, but that sounds like 2+2=4.

David Stern isn't much better, sitting back and twiddling his thumbs as the whole thing went down.

I'll grant Seattle hasn't been the most competitive team in recent years, but fans are still supporting the team. It's not like the Sonics are playing their home games in front of crowds in the hundreds, booing them off the court (right, Isiah Thomas?). And with Kevin Durant sure to take Rookie of the Year honors, the future is indeed bright, no matter where the Sonics wind up.

So why punish the fans? Because Bennett didn't get the $500 million new arena he wanted? The citizens of Seattle already funded new baseball and football stadiums -- they have more important things to spend tax dollars on than a new arena.

Schultz can sue and gripe all he wants, but he should've seen this coming from day one.

No choice

I'm normally not one to tell college basketball players to go pro -- consider me a proponent of using the college game to develop your skills and getting your degree -- but in the case of Michael Beasley and Derrick Rose, I'll make an exception.

Beasley, Kansas State's star freshman, and Rose, the freshman stud from national runner-up Memphis, will reportedly enter the NBA draft. In fact, were it not for the age rule the NBA set last year, Beasley and Rose might not have been in college to begin with.

Most experts expect Beasley and Rose to be among the top three picks in June's NBA Draft. Either could be the top pick, which might go to the Miami Heat. And when you're a virtual top-three pick, locked into that secure a financial future, I can't in good conscience agrue for staying in college.

Sure, seeing Beasley and Rose in another NCAA tournament would be nice -- I'd particularly like to see Rose get another shot at a national title. But if they're looking at all those millions and the perks that come with being a high lottery pick ... who am I to tell them not to go?

Gotta go where the money is.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Turning Pro?

Credit where credit’s due

I’m tired of everyone waxing poetic about how Tiger Woods lost the Masters. That’s about as annoying as saying Memphis gave Kansas the national championship – actually, more so considering the fickle nature of golf.

I’m well aware of how good Tiger’s been so far this year – seven wins in eight starts, including five in a row – just as I’m aware of how he first broached the concept of the Grand Slam, calling it “possible” on his website.

But I think what most of us fail to realize – which is ironic, considering how many of us likely play golf – is how the game doesn’t exactly lend itself to momentum. In baseball, a string of hits can lead to a nine- or 10-game hit streak. In basketball, rattling off a few wins in a row can really help a team feed off itself and perform better.

But in golf, momentum means nothing. Sure, Tiger was 7-for-8 before coming to Augusta. Apparently, the golfing gods didn’t care, seeing fit to take away his putter while simultaneously giving Trevor Immelman nearly every break possible.

That Tiger was still in contention on Sunday – he finished second at 5-under – speaks to his talent, which is enough to get him past most of his foibles. The putter is normally the first to go, and the way golf is, it can go at any time.

So enough about how Tiger lost the Masters. The law of averages simply caught up with him.

But Immelman, the first South African to wear the green jacket since Gary Player in 1978? This was his time. He struck the ball well, made putts, and a triple-bogey on 12 aside, he held firm on Sunday when everyone else around him yacked all over themselves.

And considering the adversity Immelman has faced over the past year – namely his health scares – I’m more inclined to congratulate him and pat him on the back than I am to point at Tiger and ask why he didn’t win.

Tiger Woods is still the best golfer today – perhaps the best ever. This year’s Masters doesn’t change that.

You realize it’s just a game, right?

Am I the only one who thinks this whole jersey thing at the new Yankee Stadium is much ado about nothing?

In case you haven’t heard by now, one of the construction workers buried a David Ortiz Red Sox jersey in the concrete below what will be the visitors’ dugout at the new Yankee Stadium that will open next season. The worker, a Red Sox fan, apparently thought burying the jersey would curse the Yanks’ new digs – much the way the Babe Ruth sale apparently cursed Boston over 90 years ago.

What amazes me is how seriously everyone took this. I won’t deny Yankees-Red Sox is baseball’s biggest rivalry – think Duke-North Carolina in pinstripes – but last I checked, baseball was just a game, and there were 28 other teams in America and Canada playing it.

Hank Steinbrenner said he hoped the worker’s peers “beat the [expletive] out of him.” The worker responded by telling Steinbrenner to bring it – and for Jorge Posada to tag along for the melee.

Listen … this curse thing is preposterous. Boston took 86 years to win a World Series because for 86 years, they just weren’t good enough. Same goes for the Chicago Cubs and the century that has passed since their last title.

Though it may be Yankees-Red Sox, it’s still just baseball. Get a grip, people …

Just a game

… Because sometimes there are things more important than what goes on in the diamond.

Take Georgia Tech, which canceled Tuesday’s game against Georgia Southern. Yellow Jackets pitcher Michael Hutts was found dead in his apartment on Friday, which at first postponed Georgia Tech’s game against Miami.

The Yellow Jackets have lost their last three games and canceled Tuesday’s game to attend Hutts’ funeral.

Cause of death may not be known for several weeks, but one thing is known: Georgia Tech and Georgia Southern get it. There is an argument to be made for playing the games as scheduled, to push through and play for the sake of normalcy and to provide an escape.

But Yellow Jackets coach Danny Hall admitted his team was grief-stricken, and sometimes it’s more important to stop and grieve than it is to soldier forth.

Baseball will still be there when the Yellow Jackets return to the field. Michael Hutts will not. I’m just glad everyone involved realizes that.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

I'm Back!!

Rock Chalk Championship

Go ahead: argue all you want about how Memphis lost the National Championship Monday night in San Antonio.

You can point to the Tigers missing four of their last five free throws in regulation. You can insist coach John Calipari should’ve called a timeout at some point in the last 10 seconds. You could even put on your own coaching hat and argue Memphis should’ve fouled on the play that ultimately sent the game into overtime and solidified Mario Chalmers’ place in Kansas hoops lore.

But, being the positive guy I am, I’m going to take a different route – a novel one, perhaps: instead of blaming Memphis for losing, I want to give Kansas credit for winning.

Yes, Memphis made those crucial mistakes down the stretch. Up nine with just over two minutes to play … most teams would close the deal. But if Kansas doesn’t take advantage of those mistakes, the point’s moot.

Kansas held Memphis to 1-for-9 shooting down the stretch. And before Sherron Collins hit a big trey in the closing minutes of regulation, Kansas had been dreadful from behind the arc. Before that shot, the Jayhawks had gone 1-for-9 from distance.

Oh, yeah … there’s also Chalmers’ shot with 2.1 seconds to play that sent the game into overtime and allowed the Jayhawks to ride their momentum all the way to the national title. Just think: if Chalmers misses that shot, the Tigers hoist the trophy, have their One Shining Moment, and instead of holding Calipari’s feet to the fire over the mistakes, we’re talking about how Memphis was good enough to overcome its flaws.

Which, 38 out of 40 times this year, the Tigers were.

But Memphis didn’t lose this game; Kansas won it. Without the big treys from Collins and Chalmers, we’re touting Calipari as a coach and his players as the epitome of athletic greatness. Instead, Bill Self is about to cash in one way or another and we’re subjected to the sports media making constant 1980s video game references (something tells me Chalmers isn’t a plumber and doesn’t have a fondness for mushrooms).

Then again, shouldn’t the team hoisting the trophy get some sort of props for that?

Is Eight Enough?

For Pat Summit, I seriously doubt it.

Tennessee won its eighth national title Tuesday night with a 64-48 win over Stanford. Go ahead, read that again. I’ll understand if “eighth national title” is a little hard to believe.

After all, we’re talking John Wooden territory.

I’ve had the privilege of knowing Pat Summit and speaking with her on a few occasions following the Lady Vols’ annual romps of Old Dominion (sorry, Monarch fans, but it’s true). And as nice and pleasant as she is off the court, it’s Summit’s drive and work ethic and intensity on the court that makes so much of Tennessee’s success possible.

Then again, having Candace Parker helps.

The All-American, Player of the Year, two-time national champion – whatever superlative you choose, Parker is a talent unlike anything women’s basketball has seen in a long time, if ever. She plays all five positions, is an offensive threat as well as a pretty good defender.

And you try playing in the NCAA tournament with a bum shoulder.

Parker will change the way women’s basketball is played – with her speed, agility and power – and possibly even the way the sport is viewed. The Final Four aside, when does the mainstream sports media talk about women’s hoops? Mostly when a lady dunks – which Parker has done three times in the past two years (including twice in one NCAA tournament game last year).

Parker, along with four other seniors, won’t be in Knoxville next year, so there’s a little unknown heading into next season. But if I know Pat Summit the way I think I do, something tells me the Lady Vols will be just fine.

Your first-place … Baltimore Orioles?!

When Spring Training started, my expectations were pretty low. If Baltimore managed to survive the 2008 season without losing 100 games, I would’ve been happy. This is what happens when a team that lost 93 games the year before loses its ace (Erik Bedard), one of its historically productive offensive players (Miguel Tejada) and threatens almost daily to move another star (Brian Roberts).

In March, team president Andy MacPhail needed to refer to a roster to determine who his players were. That’s not the best of signs.

But lo and behold! A week into the season, and my Orioles are 6-1, having won six straight after dropping the opener against the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays. Let’s not get delusional here – Baltimore’s opening the year against some pretty weak competition in Tampa Bay and Texas, and in Seattle the Orioles faced a team with a hurt starter (Bedard, ironically enough) and a bullpen located in the infirmary.

Baltimore will come crashing back down to earth, and I stand by my desire to not lose 100 games this year (we may stink, but we’re not the Royals). That said, MacPhail seems to have a plan in place, and I like some of the young talent this team has – specifically Nick Markakis and Adam Jones – who Baltimore picked up in the Bedard trade. And if MacPhail thinks he can get some value for Roberts, then by all means, move him.

But word of caution to O’s fans: Things are going to get a lot worse before they get better. What else should you expect from a rotation that relies on Steve Traschel and Daniel Cabrera?