1-Man’s Opinion on Sports-Tuesday “Virginia Beats Texas Tech-Beats a Ghost Too”

Posted by on April 9th, 2019  •  0 Comments  • 

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“Virginia-Comeback from a Burden”

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You cannot imagine what the burden must have been like.

The University of Virginia lived with it, not just the challenges of the NCAA tourney, not just the rigors of the so very tough Atlantic Coast Conference, not just the national expectation, and surely not the non-stop questions that followed this team everywhere.

Virginia beat Texas Tech to win the NCAA title on Monday night, grinding their way to an overtime win. They held off the spirited comebacks in both the first half and second half, to finally put the Red Raiders away in overtime.

But it was more than just a 45-minute marathon of tough guy basketball. It was more than withstanding the barrage of 3’s. It was more than the emotional mood swings of seeing a 9-point lead in the opening half, and a 10-point bulge in the second half disappear.

Virginia carried a year long legacy of the worst moment you could ever imagine in March Madness history, losing a year ago to Maryland-Baltimore County. You remember that, a number 1-seed losing to a number 16-seed in a lst round game in 2018.

Oh the disgrace. Oh the despair. Oh how could that happen. It happens the first weekend of each spring, some lower seed rises up and punches the better seeded team in the mouth.

But Virginia had to carry all that around in the pit of their stomach for a full calendar year.

From preseason workouts at University Hall, to the start of the non-conference schedule, thru the meat grinder that is the Atlantic Coast Conference schedule, on thru the ACC tourney, and then the last three weekends of this tournament.

The questions of how-why never ceased. The answers were standard. Bad day, bad outing, red hot opponent. We have moved on but have not forgotten.

Never wilted, never gave up, never made excuses, just owned it They lost and they would never forget. They would dedicate every minute of this season to rectify what happened.

And did they ever.

Tony Bennett’s defense. The explosiveness of DeAndre Hunter, the shooting of Ty Jerome, and the spit and shots made by Kevin Guy. It made it all possible on a Monday night in Minneapolis.

Texas Tech was trying to do something that had not been done in the Lone Star State since the 1960s, have a team from that state win the tourney. That was really a long time ago, back in the day, the Texas Western historical win, led by Don Haskins, and 5-black starters, something that had never been done before. Lots of basketball historians respect and do remember “Glory Road”.

They got close, but they couldn’t stop U-Va.

11-straight free throws in overtime. Hunter’s huge baskets at the end of regulation and the start of overtime set the stage for the sprint to the table to get the NCAA trophy.

The albatross of last year has been removed. Replaced by Orange & Blue confetti, championship hats with a “V” on it, V for victory, V for Virginia.

And the best yet, virtually all those starters will return next season.

What a comeback, not just against Texas Tech, but against UVa history.

No one could believe it would happen, but the University of Virginia did, and they got it done.

The believe now not just in Charlottesville, but in Richmond and Williamsburg, Lynchburg to Front Royal, Staunton to Lexington, probably everywhere but maybe Blacksburg, home of Virginia Tech.

And to quote Jim Nance and his CBS-TV crew, after all the last second heroics, “how good is this” as they headed to overtime.

Yes Virginia, there is a Christmas. The ghosts of Christmas pasts are gone. It came in April, an NCAA basketball title.
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1-Man’s Opinion on Sports–Monday “NCAA Title Game-Who’s Here-Why-What Happens?

Posted by on April 8th, 2019  •  0 Comments  • 

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“NCAA Title Game-Who’s Here?”

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No one could have ever imagined this.

Not when we started the season with all the attention on the ‘Blue Bloods’ of college basketball.

You know, Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky etc.

We tracked Zion Williams and his Duke Blue Devils all winter long. Wins, the shoe malfunction, the injury, the tearful loss at the end.

John Calipuri ran out of miracles with McDonald’s All Americans, Kentucky not being what Kentucky was the past four years or so.

North Carolina’s Roy Williams program wilted, maybe under the glare of this lifetime academic fraud probe that resulted in a lot of dirt, but no sanctions.

Kansas and Bill Self had injury issues, eligibility issues.

Louisville and Rick Pitino died a terrible death as a team and career stained by the Adidas slush fund scandal.

Michigan State didn’t get there, beaten at its own game, the one Tom Izzo teaches, defense-defense more defense.

So tonight we tip off with two off the radar schools, Virginia-Texas Tech.

You know Virginia, Ralph Sampson, Thomas Jefferson and all. You know Texas Tech, where Bobby Knight finished up his screaming-stained career.

This will be a very different game tonight. They will scrap, they will beat on each other, they will foul each other, they will wear each other out.

Another way of saying this…they play defense to the hilt, every trip, every possession is like life and death. Every basket becomes a gift after they force you to use all your energy, either getting that shot, and stopping that shot.

It’s just relentless. No french pastry tonight. No showboating. No speed-skill. Just grit-grime-determination, and defense.

There’s nothing sexy about the Cavaliers nor the Red Raiders. It’s clamp down, in your face, body banging, body draining defense. No room to run plays. No room to breathe, it’s so physical.

You’d think someone could figure out what Chris Beard and Texas Tech do on defense, but you just cannot sustain that type of pressure on your guards all night long. Struggle to survive because they are so relentless.

You’d think Virginia would be exhausted from their roller coaster ride of a win over Auburn in the Saturday night grind-it-out affair. Not so, that’s who they are, and you better be ready to deal with 40-minutes of it. It’s a different type of 40-minutes of hell Nolan Richardson-Arkansas used to sell.

Not to say there won’t be some great matchups. The two potential NBA draft picks, Jarrett Culver-DeAndre Hunter, will put on a show on Monday night.

But there is just too much ‘ice water’ in the veins of Kyle Guy and Tyler Jerome of Virginia. Regardless of how you defend them, they get open, get their shots. Drive to the hoop in traffic, step back threes, and explosive jumps out of the corner for stab-you-in the heart baskets.

It mighty wind up 45-42 and who could ever think that possible in this day of sky jumping athletes playing above the rim.

This is not your typical NCAA championship game. Not so much style, but a lot of basketball substance. The blue-bloods of basketball are all at home watching with black eyes, the defense was so red-blooded tough.

Virginia to win over Texas Tech.

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1-Man’s Opinion on Sports–Friday “March Madness—April Ending—Who Wins-Why?”

Posted by on April 5th, 2019  •  0 Comments  • 

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“March Madness-April Ending”

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This will be a very different weekend from what we have seen in years gone by.

This NCAA Final 4-War will be all about coaches, game plans, defense, veteran players and grit.

We won’t be talking about ‘1-and-Done’…shoe companies…or slush-fund-academic scandals.

In a most unlikely month of March, we didn’t have that many Cindarellas. We hardly has any upsets.

We did have 3-of the #1-seeds in the 4-regions sent home.

No Duke. No Coach K. No Zion Williamson. No how many of his kids are filing for the draft. They can watch at home with John Calipuri, Roy Williams, Bill Self and a host of others.

Come Saturday, this will be about Xs and Os…matchups…defenses…3-point shooters and old school basketball.

Virginia plays Auburn in what will be a test of style. UVA just grinds you down. Every opponent possession is like life and death, so hard to score against the Cavaliers. Texas Tech wants to dictate tempo, push the ball, shoot lots of threes.

Bruce Pearl and Tony Bennett are at opposite ends of the personality spectrum. Pearl, flamboyant, in his Orange Ties, with guards Bryce Brown and Jared Harper, and a team that hit 318-shots behind the arc. But they force alot of turnovers too, which is why they run so much.

Tony Bennett demands you play tough at one of the floor, and you play disciplined once you have the ball, yet he’s got shooters in Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome and DJ Harper. You can’t win if you can’t score and the Cavs hold people to 41% shooting in the tourney. And Bennett has had 6-days to prepare for this.

Auburn is no fluke. You don’t get here if you don’t beat Kansas-North Carolina and then Kentucky. They earned this.

Michigan State-Texas Tech is a test of wills. Both teams will beat you up with an in your face defense. These two teams will bang bodies in an endurance test. Somebody might not score 50-in this semifinal game.

Tom Izzo is on a mission, to win his 2nd NCAA title, though he has been part of Final 4-weekends forever coming out of East Lansing.

Chris Beard is now a known commodity for how rugged his defenders are inside and out are with the Red Raiders.

The Spartans can be dynamic with freshman Aaron Harper and his big game ability and with a pretty good inside contingent of Xavier Tillman and Nick Ward.

The Red Raiders go as Jarrett Culver and Cassius Winter go, and they will go get it done inside. Somebody will pound it into the paint, and bet someone gets punched in the paint.

Tech won 3-blowout games, then choked away Gonzaga’s offense in a stunning display of mean street basketball in the tourney..

The Spartans have reeled off a (14-1) spurt including sending Duke home early.

Who wins. I pick Virginia’s style to take out Auburn’s sizzle. I think Izzo’s lifetime of experience is huge against the upstart Beard.

Come Monday night, Thomas Jefferson would be proud. Picking UVA to win over Michigan State in a street fight.

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1-Man’s Opinion on Sports–Thursday “Padres Star–Talented or Tainted?”

Posted by on April 4th, 2019  •  0 Comments  • 

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“Opinions-Here & There on Manny-Ball”

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Thoughts about some of the storylines I am looking at.

MANNY MACHADO….’Reputation precedes you”. Big uproar nationwide about what happened in the Tuesday night incident with Arizona C-John Paul Ryan.

The home plate umpire called him out for interfering with the catcher on a short pop foul ball that drifted down the first base line.

It appears Machado-Murphy may have clicked feet coming out of the batters box. Both were spinning, looking up at the ball. The foot contact seemed incidental to me, but because Machado was out of the batters box, his momentum caused that, there seemed to be the slightest contact.

Murphy didn’t stumble, in fact he took 5-steps down the line tracking the fly ball as both he and Machado looked into the sky.

What happened next was the bigger issue.

Mach ado threw his bat down the first base line and he started to jog to the base. He threw it parallel to the path Murphy was running, and if the wind had blown the ball a bit further, the catcher would have stepped on the bat.

All types of questions now swirl I want you to consider.

The foot contact seemed accidental?.

The bat toss to me seemed intentional didn’t it?

Explain to me why Machado just stood there looking up at the pop up, which started in fair ground, why was he not running it out?

Did the umpire make a mistake prejudging Machado for interference, because the whole world knows his 2-intentional incidents on the base paths in last year’s World Series?

Is Machado wrong for uttering a statement in the clubhouse, ‘it’s just baseball’…the same cop out excuse he used last year after the ugly playoff incidents?

Is he aware he might not be given the ‘benefit of the doubt’ going forward in any type of incidents?

Is he putting himself at risk by this type of style of play, remembering that legendary P-Pedro Martinez had a reputation for dirty play for throwing at hitters regardless of the situation?

Words like cheap stunt…bush league…dirty player…resurfaced almost immediately.

Machado. Great talent-no doubt…tainted personality-maybe?

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You’re a baseball fan, you tell me what you think. Email me thru my website.

1-Man’s Opinion on Sports–Wednesday “Death of a Football League-AAF-RIP”

Posted by on April 3rd, 2019  •  0 Comments  • 

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“Death of a Football League”

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The idea, the concept, was exceptional.

The execution of the debut of the league was flawed and then fatal.

And so the AAF-Alliance of American Football, has folded its operation, never getting to the finish line of its first ever season.

The AAF winds up in the cemetary alongside the XFL, the USFL, NFL Europe, the World Football League, all who launched as spring leagues, but just never gained long term traction.

The death, or suspension of the AAF, wasn’t the fault of Roger Goodell or the NFL, though they didn’t seem interested in taking steps to possibly configure how they could help.

Impulsive owner Tom Dundon, who stepped into fund the spring league, just two weeks into its debut, walked away after multiples of meetings with the NFL Union as to how to get an agreement for player acquisitions for the 2020 season. First came the Memo that the players were to leave all facilities at 5pm on Tuesday. Front office employees were told they would leave Wednesday at 5pm.

Estimates are the AAF lost 70M in 4-months of operation. The 3-week joint training camps in San Antonio, and the 8-weeks of football just completed.

All this happened because the original lead investor, Reggie Fowler, who once bid on the Minnesota Vikings ownership, put in only 28M of the 175M he promised and was gone by weekend one of the schedule. Paychecks for the 2nd week were late, and then football people found there were problems with health insurance coverage. Exit Fowler, enter Dundon.

It happened so quickly. San Antonio players were pulled off the field in mid practice. Orlando’s players were sent home before meetings. Memphis players were in a team meeting. The San Diego Fleet we’re headed into a team meeting, instead were told turn in your playbook.

Even a brilliant football leader like Bill Polian, could not work magic with his former employers, the NFL, to find a bridge to guarantee a better quality of players for next year, though Polian seemed shocked that Dundon made the decision ‘unilaterally’ without input from other board members, which included Polian..

The idea of a spring league to develop players carries great merit. We saw enormous quality growth in the style of play from from week 1-thru-week 8, in lots of the games.

But the glaring reality is this, there are over 2800 players under NFL contracts for the 2020 season…the established rosters and all those signed to futures contracts, who will be in OTA camps as soon as the draft is over.

That means when you saw San Diego Fleet QB-Mike Bercovici making plays, he was probably player #2801 on the planet, unsigned, and available to play here. Whether he, or injured starter Philip Nelson ever wind up in an NFL camp is debatable.

Some dedicated players are out in the street, not even getting the full 70,000-they were promised in year one of what was supposed to a 3-year deal to come play in the AAF.

But it’s more than Mike Martz, the Fleet head coach, or ex Chargers exec Billy DeVanney in Atlanta, or Steve Spurrier in Orlando out of jobs.

The accident report says 8-head coaches…75-assistant coaches, spree 20-key execs…50-trainers and equipment people….and over 175-team employees who worked in the front offices. And that doesn’t count the some 30-people that worked around the league front office.

A lot of people invested a lot with hopes this could be something special.

Why are funeral services being planned for the 8-franchises and the league?

Sources told me Charlie Ebersole, the founder, and Polian wanted to launch this year to try and beat the XFL start planned for the 2020 season. But in doing so, they were overwhelmed by the cost factor.

Stadium leases ran high in lots of cities. Player’s health insurance was overwhelming. Travel via charter was a tidal wave of expense. The joint training camp bills ran very high for the 400 or so players in camp.

Was there a solution that could have been reached? The NFL was not going to give players to the league to experiment with.

The Union had huge issues about pay structure, and health benefits. Pension benefits and service time towards free agency. Who would pay for long term rehab for injured players. And the risk of injury, always a part of the game. Complex things you don’t resolve in one or two meetings, because if you give something, your union wants something back.

The concept made great sense. Take a young 3rd string quarterback, give him good coaching under the likes of Dennis Erickson, Rick Neuhisel, Martz, Spurrier….put him in a football regimen for 10-weeks and watch him grow;

Tell me young QB’s named Josh Dobbs, Mason Rudolph, CJ Beathard, Sean Mannion, Bryce Petty and even Cardale Jones-Geno Smith, wouldn’t have benefited.

But the Union held firm they were going to make AAF-approval a ‘bargaining chip’ and if they were going to let young developmental kids go play in the spring, the quiet time leading up to the draft, they had to have something from the NFL owners, and it never happened.

Dundon comes away a bad guy for putting money into it, and then turning the light out. I thought his decision to do this now, was wrong. Finish the season, continue to talk to both sides in the spring into the summer, and see long term if you find a common ground.

Of course, it’s not my money, and going another 4-weeks, regular season and the two playoff weekends, would have cost another 30M or so, on top of the 70M already down the drain.

An NFL exec told me he expected the league to lose 100M-not very far off that figure. Another exec said there would be a rush of interest in week one, and then interest would drop off. It did. Here came the Cactus League-Grapefruit Circuit, March Madness, and the NFL combine.

The mistakes leadership made were significant, aside from the cost factor. The teams hardly marketed themselves in the community, as witnessed by the San Diego Fleet doing very little to establish buzz.

Attendance was dismal in half the cities, when you saw crowds of 5, 8, 11,000 on most weekends.

The NFL, burned badly by the long run-cost fatal NFL Europe, with losses of 800M over the years, did not see itself fit to take on enormous cost of a new spring league. Whatever investors that might have been, were chased away by empty seats, no name players, and the reality the AAF-was-MIA on sports fans radar in most cities.

Don’t expect the XFL to be any different if and when it launches.

The San Diego Fleet joins teams like the Scottish Claymores…Memphis Southmen…the Hawaiians…New Jersey Generals…and Memphis Maniax, all who drowned in red-ink in other spring leagues.

The AAF had a good idea, they just couldn’t execute it, and a busy American sports fan didn’t seem interested in seeing a Mike Bercovici type player in the spring time.

And that’s too bad, because the coaches and players worked so hard to put on a good show.

RIP-AAF.

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