July 31, 2013

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In Case You Missed It

By: Joe Williams

We all know about the Aaron Hernandez situation, Dwight Howard taking his talents to Houston and Ryan Braun getting suspended, but that’s not all the crazy stuff that happened in July. In case you actually have a life, here are a few stories that you may have missed.

Longtime New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur actually got to draft his son Anthony Brodeur for the Devils during the NHL draft.

During last week’s RBC Canadian Open, Hunter Mahan withdrew from the tournament to attend the birth of his first child. Mahan was leading the tournament and didn’t pull out until just before he was supposed to begin his third round, leaving his playing partner John Merrick playing in the final group by himself.

Not only did the Cincinnati Reds play a game in San Francisco as the home team, but during one of the  four-game series between the teams, the Giants grounds crew had a bit of trouble lining up the batter’s box. You shouldn’t have much trouble finding a photo of the screw up online.

When former Florida State offensive lineman Menelik Watson received his championship ring for the team’s win over Georgia Tech in the ACC title game, he was the only Seminoles player that got a ring that reads “2012 SEC Champions.” The rest of the team got rings with the correct conference inscribed on them.

The NCAA claimed that Twitter CEO Dick Costolo committed an NCAA violation when he tweeted “Welcome to the family” to a Class of 2015 wide receiver who recently committed to the University of Michigan.

“Call Me Maybe” singer Carly Rae Jepsen fired one of the worst first pitches I have ever seen. Video of that won’t be hard to find either.

A linebacker at the University of Florida was arrested for sticking his head in a police car and barking at a police dog.

One Cleveland Indians fan pulled off an incredible feat, catching four foul balls in the same game…the odds of which are about one in one trillion.

Another fan in Cleveland wasn’t so lucky. When Scott Entsminger passed away earlier this month, this ended up in his obituary…”A lifelong Cleveland Browns fan and season ticket holder, he also wrote a song each year and sent it to the Cleveland Browns as well as offering other advice on how to run the team. He respectfully requests six Cleveland Browns pall bearers so the Browns can let him down one last time.”

A battle royal erupted between two former Thai Olympic teammates during a doubles badminton match. They started trash-talking before the match even started and things continued to escalate until they fought from one end of the arena to the other. Both players received a black card.

And in the wildest story of the month former NBA player Baron Davis (the guy with the huge beard before James Harden) said that he was abducted by aliens while on a drive from Las Vegas to Los Angeles during a podcast interview. I’m not even going to go there on this one.

I can’t wait to see what happens in August as the NFL season approaches, and the baseball playoff races heat up.

September 12, 2011

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Q&A with Bill Hancock, Executive Director of the Bowl Championship Series

By: Anson Whaley

Since college football season is here, arguments about the BCS will begin before you know it. With that in mind, I went straight to the guy at the top – BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock. Bill provided his thoughts on the system, why a tournament isn’t best for college football, and conference expansion.

 

Fathead: Obviously, as the season goes on and anticipation grows about who might play in the BCS, things are pretty busy for you. But are you able to get away from it all in the offseason? What type of things do you work on during college football’s ‘off’ months?

 Bill Hancock/BCS: I love my job, but yes, I’m pretty good at getting away.  My interests are my three grandchildren, history, the outdoors, classical music and exercise.  I was lucky to have indulged in all of those during the brief “off” season.  I hiked in Colorado, went to little league games and concerts, read a great book about post-World War II Europe and ran or rode my bike every day.

 

You’ve spent a large part of your life affiliated with the media as a journalism student in college and working as an SID, media relations director, and a newspaper editor for many years.  Being out in the front defending the BCS is part of your job as the Executive Director, so is it safe to say that experience helped prepare you for your current role?

 Journalism is a great teacher.  I learned to listen, to work hard, to write and to understand others’ perspectives.  I was lucky to have grown up in the newspaper business. 

 

Lots of folks think of the BCS as a faceless system, but the fact is that you’re actually extremely visible. Even while making valid points, do you get frustrated about the amount of anger of non-BCS supporters when it comes to defending the system?

 The First Amendment is alive and well.  Thank goodness.  But I must admit that, when I took this job, I did not anticipate the nasty personal attacks.  Some of our critics are bringing slash-and-burn Washington politics to college sports, and I think that may backfire.  I don’t think sports fans appreciate those antics.

 

Many fans probably don’t realize that you were previously the Director for the NCAA’s Final Four. I find it interesting that you were the head of a tournament format championship and now, the BCS. Having seen the wild success of the NCAA tournament up close, why do you feel that the same system (or a shorter modified version of it) would not work in college football?

 Every sport is different, and it’s inappropriate to expect them to be clones of each other.  Basketball is a tournament sport; teams often play three games in a week.  The physical nature of football precludes that.  One coach told me that a football playoff would not be decided on the field, but in the training room instead.  I believe that. 

 

Just as much as you’re involved with the business-side of college football, you’re a fan. What are your thoughts on conference realignment and expansion? In addition, would you rather see the current number of conferences remain the same or fewer, larger mega conferences as have been discussed?

 Yes, I’m a huge fan.  I love college sports.  It’s important for people to remember the history: schools have been changing conferences forever.  For example, people were very frustrated in 1927 when Oklahoma, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Missouri and Nebraska abandoned the Missouri Valley to create the Big Six Conference.  That was nearly 85 years ago!  Still, I was intrigued by Grant Teaff’s comment; he said he had a hard time seeing how the current speculated realignment will be good for college football.  History will give us the best perspective. 

 

If there is conference realignment, how do you think that would affect the BCS?

 The BCS has strong support from the college presidents, athletic directors, coaches and commissioners.  I don’t envision realignment changing that.

 

Regardless of the varying opinions about the BCS, most people realize that the current system is better than the previous one, which didn’t always showcase a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup. Still, there have been worthy teams from non-BCS conferences on the outside looking in from time to time. While the BCS has found ways to integrate them into the bowl lineup, we haven’t yet seen one play for a championship. Do you think that can/will ever happen?

 First of all, every conference is a BCS conference.  I work for all 11 commissioners, and they all manage the BCS together.  You’re right; the BCS has provided significantly more revenue, and more access to the top-tier bowl games by the non-AQ conferences than ever before.   Those conferences definitely are on the inside!  I do think a team from a non-AQ conference will play in the championship game someday.  It nearly happened last year. 

 

I imagine that you answer this question nearly every day in some form or another, but in a nutshell, why does the BCS work?

 The BCS works because it allows the top two teams to meet in a bowl game while (1) preserving the best regular season in sports—you know, we have three months of madness and (2) preserving the bowl tradition and the bowl experience for the student-athletes.

May 16, 2011

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Why The Lakers and Celtics are Heading in Different Directions

By: Anson Whaley

With the early second-round exits suffered by the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celticsthis past week, much has been made about the shrinking window of opportunity for more championships for each team. The Lakers and Celtics have combined to win the last three NBA Championships and in two of those seasons, have faced off against each other for the title. So why is everyone down on their chances to win more hardware?

Age.

Boston and Los Angeles have two of the oldest rosters in the NBA. Even the 1996-97 Houston Rockets team of aging vets such as Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler, Charles Barkley, Kevin Willis, Sedale Threatt, and Eddie Johnson (all of whom had played at least 11 years at the time) think these guys might be over the hill. So are these two franchises, the most storied ones in league history, effectively done winning championships with the same group of players? Well, one of them is.

Last week, I heard plenty of analysts draw parallels to these two teams. But the fact is that they’re both in entirely different situations.

The Celtics are, for all intents and purposes, finished. The team’s triumvirate of stars, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce are all getting up in age. While all three were durable this season, they are also past their prime – and by several seasons. The Celtics have a few nice pieces in guard Rajon Rondo and forward Jeff Green, but (and with all due respect to Rondo who is a very good young point guard) those are supplementary players. Shaquille O’Neal’s absence in the series against the Miami Heatproved that age is catching up to him and without the recently-traded Kendrick Perkins, Boston was extremely light in the frontcourt, needing to rely on Jermaine O’Neal and Nenad Krstic.

Boston simply doesn’t have enough to compete for future rings with this group of players. If they’re to get back to the top, the Celtics will need to reshape their current roster. The greatest need will be to add another skilled rebounder in the middle to complement or even replace Shaq. In the words of Yoda: several mediocre rebounders do not a frontcourt make. Adding a quality guard would also be a good idea as the Celtics are very thin after Rondo and Allen. Boston’s greatest problem lies in the fact that due to their age, the team cannot expect to make it through a full season healthy.

The Lakers, on the other hand, still have enough in the tank for a few more runs. Despite the embarrassing sweep to Dallas, there’s plenty left on this team. Kobe Bryant is still the best closer in the game and one of the NBA’s top players. After Bryant, you’ve got Pau Gasol. I know, I get it – he disappeared against the Mavericks. Fact is that he was dealing with some off-court issues and probably just needed a break from the game. The only problem for the Lakers was that he took it during the most important time in the season.

And here’s the thing about Gasol – even though he vanished faster than Houdini in the Mavericks series, he has a good track record of succeeding in the playoffs. His numbers in the postseason over the past two years actually exceeded those of his regular season stats. Because of that, I don’t expect Pau to shrink again next season and Los Angeles will be a better team for it.

In case the Bryant/Gasol duo isn’t enough, the Lakers also can throw Andrew Bynum, one of the best (and here’s the key) young centers in the game and Lamar Odom, who seems like he’s been in the league forever, but is only 31.

Los Angeles’ key pieces are simply younger than those of Boston’s. Four of the five Celtics starters are at least 33 years old while the only Laker starter that old is Derek Fisher. And while Fisher has been an integral part of the Lakers winning five championships, he’s not relied on nearly as much as any of the Celtics starters. The Lakers would be a better team if they could add a younger point guard in their starting rotation, but they could get by with Fisher for the next season or two if need be.

Not only is Los Angeles younger where it counts, but they’re also better than Boston – which is why a couple more title runs with the same team might not be out of the picture.