Saturday, December 22, 2012

Guest Post: Fix The NBA's Youth Problem

Guest post today from my brother, Sean Kiley:


I’m not a big college basketball fan. I watch during the conference tournaments and the NCAA tournament, and that’s about it. (Northwestern Pennsylvania is not exactly a Division-I hotbed.) I was struggling to figure out why I didn’t enjoy a sport that I love the professional version of, and I figured part of it out: college basketball games on TV all look the same. Seriously. They all play the same up and down the court offense with little variation. Defense is marginal at best.

I'm not helped by the fact that I don’t have the slightest idea who the players are, since anyone who is any good is gone to the NBA after a season. There’s no time to get to know the players like we could when I was a kid, and Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon stayed at Houston, or Jordan and Worthy at UNC, or Laettner at Duke. It just doesn’t happen anymore. It’s to the point now where a player sticks around until his senior year, and you think to yourself “What’s his limitation? If he was any good, he’d have come out after his freshman or sophomore season.”

Very few of the players who come out early are instant stars in the NBA (there are a few, to be sure) but most would benefit from staying in college until they were a little bit more seasoned. There aren’t many who could succeed more at the age of 19 than they do at 18. There’s really not that much of a physical difference. They get to the NBA and have to get used to the more physical nature of the game. Basketball people call it “seasoning.” I just think that the kids would be better suited going to school for a few more years then sitting on the end of the bench for Sacramento watching them get blown out by Oklahoma City.

I have a solution!

The NBA needs to do what Major League Baseball does: You can declare for the draft right out of high school, and if you get drafted, you go pro, if they pay enough. If not, and you turn down the money and the pros, and decide to go to college, you have to stay in college for at least three years. (I’m not sure if there are redshirts in D-I. If so, then the redshirt year counts. I would think that it wouldn’t matter because anyone who was going to come out after their junior year would be good enough that the coach wouldn’t redshirt them. I digress.) Following your junior year, if you decided to come out, your original drafting team forfeits their rights to you. This rule would also mean that if a player leaves college after a year or two and goes, say, to Europe or China, they would have to wait until they would have been a junior to return to the US to play in the NBA.

This of course, would have to pass the muster of the NBA owners and David Stern, who would probably hate it because it wasn’t his idea, and he’s the most sinister commissioner in sports. (Goodell is the most power-mad, Selig the most senile, Bettman the most incompetent, and Stern the most sinister.) If the NBA and NCAA could get together and do that, I would definitely watch college basketball in February when the football season ends, instead of wishing there was hockey or waiting until baseball starts.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I-G-G-L-E-S

So the Eagles finally won one a couple of weeks back.

This is nice, in that people can stop tittering over the fact that until this past weekend, the Phillies had won more recently than the Boids had. It's been a terribly shocking year for Eagles fans, who expected that this year - THIS YEAR - was going to be the return to playoff glory. I mean, sure, last year was mainly a horror show of blown leads and late game three-and-outs, but there were plenty of reasons for it: new coordinators, injuries, the lockout preventing the Iggles from getting needed training camp time to learn new systems, you name it. This year, with a full training camp and coordinators settled into their roles, was going to be different. Michael Vick was going to be a beast. Andy Reid was going to learn clock management. DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy were going to run wild. The defense was going to, well, defend.
In truth, not so much. The successful Andy Reid teams of the Donovan McNabb era relied on two things: a monster of a middle linebacker and an O-line good enough to buy time for the short passing game. The Eagles haven't had a kaiju in the middle since Jeremiah Trotter, and the combination of an injury-depleted line and a quarterback who was never great at reading coverages in the first place meant that this year was doomed from the beginning. The nailbiter wins in the early going might have been fun, but despite a few exciting skill players, this was never going to be a good team.
Maybe Nick Foles is the future. Maybe he's just another A.J. Feeley. Who knows. What we can say we know at this point, though, is that the Andy Reid era's definitively over. It's been a fun ride, with a lot of success, but everything hits its expiration date. Even at his best, Andy had his weaknesses - clock management, curious play calling that got stars injured during blowouts, more clock management - and they leached the reservoir of fan goodwill that might have sustained his regime through a rebuilding phase. So at this point, it's a question of looking for bright spots in the wreckage of the season and trying to determine if they're optical illusions.
And next year will be better. Maybe.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Saw The Hobbit...

...was firmly convinced that the Eagles were going to fumble Gandalf, Thorin and Bilbo, too.

DickeyBird

So the deed is done. The cash-strapped Mets, unwilling or unable to pay a below-market extension for their Cy Young Award-winning ace, shipped him off to Toronto for a haul of prospects and one overpriced, lumpen catcher. (I had John Buck on my roto team last year. I'm still bitter. Can you tell?)
But more than that, they made sure, before they shipped him out of town, to try to make him look like an ass. Suddenly, media sources reported, R.A. Dickey wasn't liked in the clubhouse. He was too interested in the media. He broke clubhouse code by mentioning a teammate did something dumb in his book. He - gasp - answered questions about his contract situation honestly when asked about it by the media at a team event. He was too interested in his sudden celebrity.
Oddly enough, none of these issues when he was picking up a broke-ass train wreck of a team and putting it on his back. Or when he was being celebrated for the brutal honesty in his autobiography about issues of abuse. Or when he was climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro for charity, cheerfully tweeting all the while. Or when he was giving interviews before his contract situation became A Thing. Or....
You get the idea. For whatever reason the Mets refused to meet Dickey's (in context) reasonable contract demands, and then tried to make him look like the bad guy so their fans wouldn't riot when they shipped him out of down. Because, really, devaluing your trade chip always works, and so does suddenly slagging the guy you've spent years building up.
Look, none of us actually know R.A. Dickey. Maybe we got caught up in the fun of a guy who named his bats after the magic swords in The Hobbit, and didn't realize he called his three outfielders Bifur, Bofur and Bombur. Maybe he did enjoy the fabulous book tour scene (note: Book tours, not actually fabulous) more than the Mets felt was proper. Maybe all he should have said at the Mets' holiday party when cornered by the reporters the team had invited was "Look! Santa!", and then run.
But for three years, Dickey has been unfailingly polite, gracious, humble and engaging. That these stories would come out juuuust when he and the Mets were at a contract impasse is more than just suspicious. It makes the Mets look like schmucks.
If you weren't going to pay the man, that's one thing, and that's fine. But to try to sully his name in what can only be described as spin more hamhanded than the right side of the Mets' infield defense, that's crossing a line. It's going to make players less interested in coming to play for the Mets when there are comparable dollars available elsewhere. It's going to make fans suspicious of anything coming out of the front office because, hey, wait, they said this guy was great and then they said he was a jerk. And it's going to make the rest of us even less likely to give the Mets the benefit of the doubt because, well, screw those guys.
And in the meantime, R.A. Dickey can pack his Cy Young award and head to Toronto, with a team behind him that's interested in winning and not largely composed of emergency AAA callups. I'm guessing that whatever names the Mets call him on the way out of town are going to get drowned out by cheers.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

In Other News, General Franco Is Still Dead

One of the evening radio hosts on ESPN said something the other night that may in fact be the funniest thing I've heard in ages. (I can't tell you which host, as they all sound alike to me. The lone exception is Colin Cowherd, whose instantly identifiable adenoidal self-righteousness can best be described as sounding like Stan Ridgway's bratty, annoying younger brother. But I digress).
And what he said, in the middle of a discussion of Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni refusing to pull center Dwight Howard from obvious hacking situations, was a howl of disbelief, that D'Antoni would theoretically put Howard's ego/state of mind/need to be on the court to actually score ahead of the team! Never mind that having a functional All-Star center is about the best thing for the team imaginable. "When," the host huffed, "did one player become more important than the team?"
Right about then is when I nearly swerved into oncoming traffic because I was laughing too hard to drive. Because the answer to that shocked, horrified question is: always. When did the needs of the superstar outweigh the mythological notion of team? Ask Michael Jordan. Or coach-killers like Kobe...and Magic. Ask Barry Bonds about the throne in the locker room, or Roger Clemens about picking his start date and not having to go on road trips. Ask Brett Favre about, well, anything. Or Babe Ruth about "too many hot dogs" or Mickey Mantle about the press covering up his horndogging or, well, you get the idea. It's always been that way, and for a radio jock to ask us to believe he is shocked - SHOCKED - at gambling going on in this establishment is like asking us to be shocked that the crew from Finding Bigfoot did not, in fact, find Bigfoot in any given episode.
Outrage grabs ears. Fake outrage needs to at least have the semblance of believability to it, or it just sounds ludicrous. Guess which this is.
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