The Dodgers have made so many moves this week, I couldn’t even keep track. Thankfully, Grantland broke it all down for me today.
All I can say is “Wow”.
There’s too much to really have an opinion about. Obviously, they should be better defensively, and they don’t have the ridiculous payroll of last year’s team, but are they better than the team that won the division last year or worse? I’m not sure. I don’t know how much Jimmy Rollins has left in the tank for this year, I don’t know what happens with Brandon McCarthy, but I suspect pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium might be a blessing for him.
The big question is, what will they do next? It seems weird to say that, but even after all of these moves they might still have an extra outfielder, and fans would love to see some bullpen improvements.
I hope Andrew Friedman knows what he’s doing with these moves. Seems like he had a good run in Tampa so I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, but it’s definitely going to be a different team this season. We’ll see what kind of different results they get!
As much as this past weekend was a reminder of the ridiculousness of big time college football, with all of the commercial considerations that we suspect are a part of the bowl selections, and trying to determine a champion of a conference that doesn’t play a championship game versus those that do, there were also lots of reminders about why we watch the games.
Well, aside from the fact that we all LOVE a good argument.
In Indianapolis on Saturday night, we watched a kid named Cardale Jones, who had never started a college football game, not only lead Ohio State to a dominating victory over Wisconsin, but be named the Big Ten Championship game MVP. Seriously, a kid who was third on the depth chart in August steps up for the injured, and a great story in his own right, JT Barrett, and plays as well as virtually anyone has in this game previously. That’s beyond Hollywood, it’s the sort of thing we only see in sports.
That’s why we watch, and that’s why we put up with all the other crap, for the hope that you’ll see something you’ve never seen before, and wouldn’t anywhere else.
Let’s face it, they’ve got us hooked.
Photo by ..Russ..
And just like that, the 4 team playoff that was supposed to prevent college football from being a mess, is itself, a total mess. TCU and Baylor are 11-1, co-champions of the Big 12, and Ohio State is 12-1, champion of the Big Ten, and there’s one spot left.
Let me just say, no matter who the committee picks, it’s wrong. It was wrong to design a system that pitted 4 teams when you have 5 conference champions, the committee was wrong to ever rank TCU higher than Baylor after Baylor beat them and had the same record, it was wrong to “wait and see” with Ohio State’s injured QB situation, because now that the last week has happened, what do they do now? What did they not see from Ohio State that would keep them from the top 4? How did TCU remain ahead of Baylor when they lost to Baylor, and how do you flip flop them now? How do you reward the Big 12 for playing one less game? How do you choose a team that lost to Virginia Tech over teams that lost to Baylor and WVU for their one loss? Why does Oregon get ranked above all of them with what turned out to be a relatively easy Pac-12 North schedule? Is their 19 point home win over Michigan State more or less impressive than Ohio State’s 12 point win at Michigan State? Is TCU’s 30-7 home win against Minnesota more impressive than the Buckeyes win at Minnesota? Is the fact that OSU trounced Wisconsin with their 3rd string QB show that they are a better team than people give them credit for?
How do you possibly pick one? The committee did itself no favors by having TCU ranked third, and claiming that Baylor’s head to head victory wasn’t being considered yet. Is it being considered now? And if so, how much? How does that move Baylor 3 spots to get ahead of TCU based on what happened this week, or will the committee punt that decision and put OSU at #4?
If Ohio State winds up at 4 will it be because the committee truly things they are better than either of the Big 12 entrants, or will it be because of the TV ratings and tickets sales? And if it does, do we care?
Of course, the biggest question of all will be why not move to an 8 game playoff, which would leave us in the same situation. Who are the last two teams in? Michigan State and Mississippi State, mostly by virtue of not making it to a championship game to lose this week?
Besides, that is exactly what the NCAA wants us to do, demand more teams in the playoff, forcing them to make even more money on the games, and force supposed student athletes to put themselves at more risk without seeing any of it. Don’t fall for it.
For the record, my prediction is that Ohio State gets in, and the money absolutely has something to do with it. I say that while fully acknowledging that I am an Ohio State fan too. (If I had a vote, I’d have Baylor in that 4th spot, beating TCU means something and Ohio State does not have an equal victory, on top of that albatross of a loss.)
I also say that knowing that my system forces each conference to name a champion and all of those teams to play in the playoff, and no one else. How simple, how eloquent, how boring for the talking heads!
Robert Lipsyte had a few thoughts about ESPN as his 18 month tenure as the ombusdman came to an end. You should go read them because I think he sums up the problem nicely. Can ESPN continue to be a big money broadcast partner with various leagues and also endeavor to have journalistic standards when it comes to covering those leagues.
Many of us do not think it can, which is why we need more independent media coverage of sports and the issues surrounding sports. Can we honestly expect ESPN, with all the money they have tied into college athletics, to give us detailed looks into the corruption that seems to run rampant within the NCAA and it’s institutions? Can we expect Chris Fowler and the Gameday crew to take away from “getting people amped up to watch college football” to talk about the dangers of concussions among college athletes? That’s not going to happen, but it needs to happen somewhere.
In completely unrelated news this weekend, two stories seem to symbolize problems that the NCAA is going to have to deal with in some way, and I believe both of these things will cause college football to look nothing like it does today in the very near future.
Where there’s smoke there is fire, and there is smoke aplenty around this story. UAB’s athletics run at a deficit, as do most college athletic departments. Football is the biggest strain on the finances of college athletic departments, and it’s only going to get worse. UAB is in a unique situation because it is run by the Board of Trustees of the Alabama system, in Tuscaloosa, and there have been widely reported disputes about the relationship that board has with UAB, but it is hardly alone in losing money.
In fact, as you can see in that last link, there are schools losing a lot more than UAB is.
How can that be sustainable? As the Power 5 conferences move to buying insurance policies for athletes, to guaranteeing 4 year scholarships, to providing more and more benefits to student athletes, how can schools that lose money now even stay competitive? They can’t. It’ll start with the non-Power 5 conference teams, but eventually it’ll trickle down to some of the smaller schools within those conferences. They simply won’t be competitive.
In the short time that I’ve lived in Oregon, I’ve watched this disparity first hand. Oregon State is, in all measurements, a larger, better, school than Oregon is. Corvallis is a slightly smaller city than Eugene, but other than that the two schools are pretty similar in the student make up. Yet one is running it’s athletic department at a significant deficit and the other is rolling in corporate money, with top of the line facilities, marketing, and national exposure. You can see the results on the field. Oregon State will never have the money to field a competitive football team, comparable to Oregon, Ohio State, Alabama, LSU, Florida and Florida State, etc. There’s a reason those schools are at the top of the rankings year in and year out, they have more resources than anyone else. Eventually, they’ll be playing a different game than everyone else too, and what will that look like?
2. The second, sadder and more serious news was Ohio State walk-on Kosta Karageorge being found dead of an apparent suicide.
While there is no conclusive proof that his concussion history led directly to the frame of mind that resulted in his death, there have been plenty of other cases that this seems eerily similar to. Most of those have involved retired NFL players, like Junior Seau, Dave Duerson, or even some of the more recent stories detailing the difficulties faced by former players like Darryl Talley. In this case, we’re talking about a young man, 22 years old, a senior in college, who’s life is over.
Concussions are an ongoing problem for football at all levels. From deaths of high school players to the sever cases of CTE diagnosed in former NFL players, I think it’s becoming clear that whatever precautions have been put in place to prevent these problems, are not enough.
But in the NCAA, again, you have schools putting their own students at risk in order to use athletics to raise the profile of the university. With everything we already know about concussions, and all we don’t know, how can this be sustainable?
Add the two together, and then combine it with issues of academic fraud, official corruption, influence over police investigations, domestic violence, etc. Why does the NCAA, and it’s members, think this system isn’t broken beyond repair?
Because, in the end, the people running NCAA football get theirs. The system is rigged to make sure of that. The question is, how long before everything crumbles around them?
Unfortunately for Oregon State fans, this years version of the Civil War rivalry game against the Oregon Ducks turned out to be more of a massacre than a real battle. The Ducks were just too much for a struggling Beaver team, who ended the season 5-7. Still, my wife was kind enough to get me a ticket for my early Christmas present, and that provided me the opportunity to experience the rivalry first-hand, starting with the tailgating.
And catching the band during the Beaver Walk
And then, once in the stadium, sitting just three rows back from the Ducks bench. A great place to watch pregame warmups, and get an inside view of the happenings on the sideline.
Unfortunately, when the team you’re rooting for gets down by 30, being on the opposing sideline is not exactly fun. These teams don’t like each other much, the fans don’t like each other much, and the frustration level of Beaver fans was pretty high as the game wore on. Better luck next year Beavs!
You can see all the pics I posted over on Flickr.
We’re seeing more and more of these kinds of stories.
Right now, it seems like a lot of it is about being able to post to social media, or get selfies on the pitch, but in international soccer, where there is a history of some really bad things happening, I can’t help but wonder when one of these pranks is going to turn ugly.
It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt, and if that happens, spectators are going to pay a price as leagues try and protect players. So let’s just stay off the pitch, ok?