Friday, October 3, 2008

Free Kicks

The baseball playoffs are upon us, and I had forgotten how exciting these games can be. A friend of mine who is notoriously quiet and self controlled fell to his knees in anguish and agony as Jim Edmonds' would-be home run was caught at the warning track late in Game 1 of the Cubs-Dodgers series (he's from Chicago, can you tell?). I just want the Red Sox gone, if the Angels pull that off I don't care if the O's get Teixiera or not. Windsor and Falco are still recuperating, so I hope you won't mind a few non-Michigan throughts to wrap up your week. Right now I think Falco is so sick he couldn't even line up for the kick...

Consolation Prizes

Bronco Mendenhall, coach of the BYU Cougar football team, has fired the first shot across the bow at the BCS this season, claiming that even if BYU goes undefeated they might not make a BCS bowl game. However, his problem should not be with the BCS, but with the pollsters who refuse to give any non-major conference team a chance to take home that hideous crystal football at the end of the season. Mendenhall is mistaken in my opinion- they will let BYU in a BCS game, just not the BCS championship game. BCS bowl games are the perfect outlet to maintain the status quo- they can claim to give the mid-major conference a legitimate shot without ever giving them a chance to win it all. How can a mid-major complain about being in a BCS bowl game? They can’t, which is exactly the point. Throwing a bone to the occasional mid-major keeps these conferences quiet, taking the teeth out of the argument that they aren’t given a shot to compete. Sure, BYU won the national title in 1984, but that was through the polls. With the competitive nature of college football nowadays, there is no way BYU, Utah, Boise State or any school like them goes to the big game. Not yet. Any system in which a team can go undefeated while taking on a decent non-conference schedule and have no chance at the National Championship is flawed- somehow, someway it is. Playoff? I don’t know. But it is October 3rd, and the annual skirmish is already on.

The Curse of the “Not Good Enough”

I am tired of curses. Billy Goats, Bambinos, Jeffrey Maier (in 20 years you know we will be hearing it), and anything else sportswriters come up with. Teams lose because of poor management and bad decisions, not because of a single bad play. The Cubs have put together a solid team by making astute free agent signings (I don’t care what people say, Alfonso Soriano is worth it) and trading to get the players they need (Rich Harden has worked out great so far). A curse didn’t make the Orioles sign Albert Belle, and it didn’t make the Red Sox throw Buckner out on the field with his bum legs. A curse didn’t make the Cubs let Greg Maddox go off to free agency over a paltry $4 million in 1992(and win the next 3 Cy Youngs with the Braves). The fact of the matter is that these teams that have experienced long droughts of success have done so because they failed in the greater scheme of general management. The righteous sense of moral superiority that pervaded among Red Sox fans before they won the World Series was based on their pride of what was essentially a baseball team that choked and wasn’t good enough. It has since been replaced by a righteous sense of moral superiority for having stunk once upon a time. Curses and hexes and any other voodoo is an easy scapegoat (no pun intended) for a losing product on the field, but at the end of the day no billy-goats are stopping Carlos Zambrano from finding the strike zone.

How Good is Navy?

Even better than you think. This was supposed to be the easiest transition year in college football, with new head coach Ken Niumatalolo taking over right where Paul Johnson left off, minus a few key skill position players in Reggie Campbell and Adam Ballard. The defense was still shaky, leaving Navy fans hoping that perhaps a change in scheme could allow Navy to hold onto a lead and keep the pressure on the opposition. With their win over Wake Forest, Navy’s defense took a giant leap forward. Wake’s offense has never been known to put up huge numbers, but has always confused opponents enough to score when it absolutely had to. I was at the Maryland-Wake Forest game a couple years ago when Maryland failed to seal up a bowl berth as it allowed misdirection to exhaust their lumbering defense as they were gashed for 300+ yards on the ground. Navy stepped up last week and the defense managed just enough to keep Wake in check as they rallied in the second half.

Sure, Navy stands at only 3-2, but there are definite signs of improvement. With Duke at 3-1 Navy’s loss doesn’t look as bad anymore, and neither does Navy’s 12 point loss to currently undefeated Ball State. If Air Force’s ground game can be limited in the same way Wake’s was last week, Navy could have a much easier time shutting down the passing game that has only mustered 57.1 yards per game. Coach Niumatalolo had a rough start, but better times are on the way for the Midshipmen.

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