NFL LOCKOUT: Some people think that a lockout will benefit college football but I don’t believe for a minute that fans who aren’t already watching the college game will shift over.
The reason: Fantasy Football.
This was invented in the early ‘60s by Andy Mousalimas, for which I’ll never forgive him. Andy and friends, including Oakland Tribune sports editor George Ross and Scotty Stirling, who had covered the Raiders for the Tribune and then worked as general manager of the team, put together GOPPL (Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin League). They held drafts at Andy’s Kings X bar/restaurant.
Typically, New Yorkers have tried to claim that they started this, but the New York leagues started years later.
Now, Fantasy Football leagues are everywhere. Newspapers and magazines include sections on picking teams. It’s been a huge factor in the increased popularity of the sport, because it gives fans a feeling of a handson attachment to the game.
Can you imagine Fantasy Football with the college game? With the NFL, you’re talking 32 teams whose rosters stay fairly constant, with only a few changes with rookies and free agents. College football is much less organized, with more than 100 teams at the highest level. There’s no way anybody who has the semblance of a life could keep up with all this.
So, no, I don’t expect the college game to benefit from an NFL work stoppage. In fact, I don’t see anybody benefiting from this – and a lot of people who can get hurt. We don’t think much about people who supply food at the games, police the parking lots, act as ushers at the games, but many of these people won’t have work if there are no games. The owners have deep pockets and the players are well paid, but these workers will suffer greatly.
But, do I think that owners and players even think about them? No.
COLLEGE HOOPS: St. Mary’s and Cal were both passed over by the NCAA selection committee, but they had a distinctly different reaction to that.
The snub was devastating to the Gaels,, and I can’t blame them. Though they’d tailed off badly in the second half of the season, they still seemed to have done enough to warrant inclusion. The RPI rating (which considers strength of schedule) put them at 47, and there are 68 teams in the tournament. The selection committee has been justifiably blamed for allowing many questionable teams into the tournament, but they passed over the Gaels.
I suspect this had much to do with the Gaels’ 71-70 loss to Kent State at McKeon Pavilion on Tuesday night, in the opening round of the NIT. When you’ve been expecting an NCAA berth and then find yourselves in the much less prestigious NIT, it’s difficult to regroup.
For the Bears, though, it’s an achievement to be in the NIT, and they’ll host Mississippi tonight at Haas Pavilion in the opening round. The Bears have overachieved this year, having been picked for seventh place in a preseason media poll after losing most of the team that won the conference title the year before, and then suffering further player losses. They were down to a six-man rotation by the end of the season, with freshman Richard Solomon the only bench player who was making a significant contribution.
The NCAA tournament was always a longshot for the Bears. Before the Pac-10 tournament, TV analyst and former coach Dan Belluomini, who is very accurate with his observations, thought it would take at least two Pac-10 tournament wins for the Bears to make the NCAA tournament. They didn’t get even one, losing to the USC Trojans in the first round. (Which brings up one of my pet peeves: Why does the league tournament always have to be held in Los Angeles? There are two arenas in the Bay Area which could be used, the Oracle Arena in Oakland and the H/P Pavilion in San Jose, which would be neutral sites because they’re not used by local college teams. And, the Bay Area is central to the conference, which would make it an easier travel destination. But, I don’t understand any of the conference decisions these days, so it’s no surprise that I don’t agree with this one.)
At any rate, the Bears are happy to be in the NIT. As coach Mike Montgomery observed, because of the lame brain decisions made by the NCAA selection committee, there are more good teams than usual in the NIT tournament, so it will probably get more attention than in the past. I expect the Bears to play well tonight but, win or lose, I congratulate them on an excellent season.
IT’S THE SAME OLD STORY with the Warriors, who are well out of playoff range and have no hopes of getting back there without significant roster changes. The David Lee trade in the offseason was a good one, but they need much more help. They need a stronger defensive/rebounding effort in the middle because Andris Biedrins has been unable to recover psychologically from his physical problems and rookie Ekpe Udoh,. though he’s a good shot-blocker, seems more suited to the strong forward position than center.
And, as former coach Don Nelson noted earlier this year, they can’t win with a guard combination of Stephen Curry-Monta Ellis. They’ll have to trade one, and it should be Ellis. Curry has more upside but Ellis has more trade value now.
Incidentally, I saw Nelson among the huge crowd attending the Bob Albo memorial service on Sunday and asked him if he was enjoying retirement. “Very much,” he said, and I believe him. Nelson stayed on last year so he could get the all-time wins record for an NBA coach but he was exhausted by the effort, even missing a couple of road trips because of illness. He looked much more relaxed on Sunday than I’ve seen him in years.I was glad to see it. His Warriors coaching career ended on a down note, but he brought a lot of excitement before that.
A’S INJURIES: A’s fans could be forgiven for thinking, “Oh, no, here we go again,” when Rich Harden was sidelined by an arm problem and declared out of the battle for fifth starter and reliever Andrew Bailey had an elbow problem and flew to Alabama to be checked out by Dr. James Andrew, who operated on him last September.
Was this just more of the same for the A’s, who have had a distressing number of injuries in recent years? Probably not. Harden’s problems were predictable, giving his history with the A’s and Cubs. He’s a very talented pitcher who can’t stay healthy. Former A’s pitching coach Curt Young once told me the problem is his motion. “But that’s also what makes him so effective, so it doesn’t make sense to change him,” Young said.
Bailey’s problem turned out to be just a forearm muscle strain, not ligament damage. He may still miss the start of the season but he won’t be out long.
The A’s made two significant changes in the offseason. The first was to overhaul their medial staff. The second was to bring in both pitchers and position players who will add depth. Both plans seem to be working, but keep your fingers crossed.
TO: In discussing Terrell Owens at the BASHOF dinner last week, Ira Miller and I both forgot that Owens played in the 49ers win over the New York Giants in the first playoff game after the 2002 season. I don’t know how we forgot that since it was the last postseason win for the 49ers after their last winning season. Then, John York showed his infinite wisdom by firing Steve Mariucci. Thanks for everything, John.
That doesn’t change my opinion of Owens. More important, it won’t change Ira’s, and he’s on the committee which chooses inductees for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. TO has now played for four teams, and the first three – the 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys – were happy to see him leave. He’s consistently quarreled with his coaches and his quarterbacks The idea that football is a team game hasn’t penetrated his brain as he’s sought more and more ways to draw attention to himself. That is not a Hall of Fame player, no matter how impressive his career stats may be.
BASESBALL PROSPECTUS: I quoted the editor of BP in my Friday Examiner column and noted that it is absolutely the best book for those wanting to analyze their teams and individual players. Predictions on the upcoming season are made for every player. I don’t pretend to understand all the mathematical formulas that are used, but the analyses are very accurate.
This type of analysis was first made public by Bill James, who published books yearly for some time. I was fascinated by them because they challenged many of my ways of thinking about baseball and thus, made me think again, instead of just redoing the same things year after year.
Not many sportswriters are willing to do that. The norm is better represented by the Chronicle’s Bruce Jenkins, who simply disdains any changes that have been made in baseball since at least 1950. Typically, he made a dig in Saturday’s column about analysts using computers to come up with their choices. I wonder if he wants to go back to the manual typewriters that we all had to use when I broke into the business.
There are some local writers who approach their jobs with an open mind – Monte Poole, Lowell Cohn and Tim Kawakami, to mention just three – but the majority of writers remain fans, which is what keeps them locked in the past. That’s especially sad in Bruce’s case because he’s a delightful writer and intelligent man, but he’s limited his intelligence by refusing to accept change.
MONEYBALL: The filming of the Michael Lewis book will no doubt bring back the misunderstandings about the phrase. “Moneyball” refers to an economic plan, getting the most value for your buck (college pitchers at the time), not about a style of play.
The A’s style originated with Sandy Alderson, who noticed the direct correlation of team on-base percentage (not always batting average) to runs scored – and also the difficulty of stringing together several base hits in game at the Oakland Coliseum because the vast foul areas allow pitchers to get outs on balls that would be out of play at other parks – especially AT&T.
Sandy believed in the three-run homer, often preceded by a walk or two. So did Earl Weaver with Baltimore in the ‘60s. So did Branch Rickey with the St. Louis Cardinals in the ‘30s. Clearly, Billy Beane did not invent this style. Nor is he totally wedded to that style, as was proved last season when the A’s were running all the time and Bob Geren didn’t get fired or even reprimanded. But it was a lot more enjoyable when the A’s were hitting three-run homers and winning.
TV: As Comcast has been doing recently, there’s almost a full schedule of both A’s and Giants telecasts this year. We’ve come a long way from the time when sports owners and commissioners feared that frequent game telecasts would hurt the gate, though the NFL persists in its foolish policy of blacking out home games that aren’t sold out. If owners and players don’t start negotiating seriously, all the games may be blacked out.
The plain fact is that, if fans can afford tickets and don’t have mobility problems, they’d prefer to be at the games because there’s more excitement. I no longer have this feeling because I’m not a fan, but I can understand that when I compare it to my passion for music. My wife and I watched three musical concerts on TV last week the David Foster concert, “Hitman Returns,”, Harry Connick Jr.’s appearance with his group in New York and Billy Joel’s concert at Shea Stadium. We enjoyed them all but it didn’t approach the excitement we’ve felt when we’ve been at live concerts, especially Yoshi’s club in Oakland’s Jack London Square where we’ve seen, among others, Diane Krall, Nancy Wilson and Oscar Peterson in what I believe was his last concert. He was deep into Alzheimer’s and played one song twice, with the same introduction, but his fingers were as nimble as ever. Marvelous.
RADIO: I’ll be a guest on Ken Dito’s “Press Box” at 9:40 a.m. Thursday on XTRA Sports, 860 AM.
LINE OF THE WEEK: Reader Andrew Fedeli, a dedicated Raiders fan, thinks his team will benefit from the NFL lockout. “Other teams won’t be able to put in their systems but we won’t change systems.” Indeed. The Raiders have used the same offensive and defensive systems since 1963, when Al Davis arrived.
What do YOU think? Let me know!
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