Archive for the ‘customer service’ Category

An Instance When Stat Heads Were a Little Too Much into Their Brilliance

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

There are infinitely more people who want to be involved in athletics than are talented enough to do so. One way to become part of the sports world is to create a niche, preferably one that has yet to be “invented.”

Back when the Celtics dominated (1950s-60s), it’s common knowledge that Red Auerbach was the head coach/mastermind of the franchise. Less known is that, during that era, teams couldn’t afford a staff of assistants, scouts, conditioning coaches and a large front office. In fact, Auerbach held many other roles, e.g. general manager, head of scouting, personnel director and travel agent.

Not too long after the Celtics’ dynasty, assistant coaches were introduced to the league. Trainers and doctors obviously were necessary. Then, in the early ’90s, Tim Grgurich left UNLV and became the first “player development” coach in the NBA. In today’s jargon, players are referred to as assets. It only makes sense for professional clubs to improve the productivity and value of their assets. Soon, every team had one. Today, it’s commonplace for franchises to employ a couple player development coaches, along with interns who shag balls and bang against players outside of actual team practice sessions (to keep everyone fresh and decrease injuries).
Everyone I’ve ever met who worked for an NBA team falls in love with their job. It’s exciting, gives employees a certain amount of fame (ego for some who forget where they came from/who they really are) and the perks are incredible – especially now that so many owners are billionaires (unlike when Auerbach patrolled the sidelines). For those in the travel party, per diem is (I think) $135/day (it was $127/day in 2015 but, with the new collective bargaining agreement, how could anybody expect to get by on such a meager amount)? In addition there is usually food in the locker room and on the plane. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that life? There is also the swag – the gear, shoes, supplements, most everything imaginable.
Many players employ personal trainers, chefs, nutritionists (don’t forget agents) – and why not? When the new CBA kicks in next year, the average player salary will be $9 million per year, with superstars making upwards of $35-$40 million – over multiple years. With that much money, so few spots (approximately 450 – 30 teams, 15 players per) and a zillion guys trying to steal your job, it’s vital to be at the top of your game.
So the question is, how does a non-player get involved in this sweet business? Something called analytics is the way to go. Come up with different ways to evaluate performance – for a team’s current players as well as those it’s considering adding to the roster via trades, free agency or the draft – and a person becomes not only valuable, but indispensable. P.S. It works for radio and TV also, as more and more stations are employing passionate “stat heads”, i.e. guys who have no physical skill – we used to call them wannabes – but have memorized minutiae so now they have actually found a place in the sports world.
Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane is the pioneer of the fields of analytics, making the low budget Bay Area team competitive, while turning heads of other franchises – and not only those playing baseball. His counterpart in the NBA is most likely Houston’s Daryl Morey (with a honorable mention going to Sam Hinkie). Where there used to be just “stats,” there are currently advanced stats which predict much more than the old ones guys like me are used to, e.g. eFG% is a better version of FG% (just don’t ask me why but, in a nutshell, advanced stats are a much greater indicator of overall player value). Keep in mind, though, they can’t measure heart which is why putting a team together will never be an exact science.
I tell people “I’m not from this century” (by the way – I mean BTW – it’s not something I’m proud of). However, anything that improves the effectiveness and enjoyment of the game, for players, coaches and fans, is most likely a good thing. All that said, sometimes these guys go a tad overboard. The latest absolutely useless statistic fed to the listening and viewing public occurred following Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, in which the San Antonio Spurs blew a 25-point lead to the Golden State Warriors (see my last blog – Kawhi Leonard’s injury most likely had something to do with the outcome).

The analytics’ folks gave us this gem to chew on: “The Spurs were 316-0 when leading by at least 25 points under Gregg Popovich before today (regular season & playoffs).”

Fascinating! I have just one question:

“What is every other coach’s record when leading by at least 25 points (regular season & playoffs)?”

The Cutbacks at ESPN Mirror Society

Saturday, April 29th, 2017

In 2015 ESPN laid off 300 employees, few of them household names. There was analysis of the situation but what was said didn’t resonate with too many people – other than those who closely followed such transactions. And, of course, the former employees who were forced to look elsewhere for a pay check. Sure, people felt sorry but, other than a few shows of sympathy, it was a pretty much a non-story.

Until a couple days ago when 100 more ESPN employees got pink-slipped. This time, however, many in the unfortunate group were highly visible. Checking out social media, some were quite popular with the fans. There was outrage. How could ESPN let (fill in the blank) go? Shame on “the Worldwide Leader in Sports.”

Apparently ESPN brought this disaster on itself. According to those who profess to know, there were three causes for this tragedy. One, as coaches have warned their teams forever, is that the people in Bristol started to read their own press clippings. There is no doubt that the company grew exponentially – until it became a major player in the world of communications. But then it decided to become even more of a presence. One was a commitment for an eight-year, $15.2 billion deal with the NFL back in 2011. Then there was nine-year, $12 billion NBA contract and another $7.3 billion spent on college football. Throw in the major league baseball deal signed in 2012 for eight years totaling $5.6 billion and, well, that’s a whole lot of billions. Of course that doesn’t even include deals with college conferences, selected bowl games, U.S. Open tennis and MLS.

Since all of this is a major story, there were people who felt the need to be quoted. As in many pieces ESPN shares with the public, none these individuals wanted to speak on the record because of the sensitivities associated with the layoffs. “It’s been a total mismanagement of rights fees, starting with the NFL renewal,” said one of the former employees. “We overpaid significantly when it did not need to be that way, and it set the template to overpay for MLB and the NBA.” Still another chimed in, “You can’t keep spending on rights at high levels when the business model and fundamentals have changed.” Looks like the group that is so good at second guessing wished someone gave them another.

Obviously, an awful lot of income needed to be generated. Which brings us to the second reason for the massive layoffs. ESPN is losing millions of subscribers. As in 12 million in the past six years. Most are called cable cord-cutters, customers who no longer feel it’s necessary to pay monthly for networks they didn’t watch (including sports channels). That’s gotta hurt.

Finally, ESPN deviated from its mission of providing sports news to viewers when it began airing and printing stories with more of a political bent. It seems that viewers and readers wanted more real sports and less social commentary. No, said people, Michael Sam is not the second coming of Jackie Robinson, nor is Colin Kaepernick the next Rosa Parks. Although many of the pieces were insightful and well done, it just wasn’t what viewers wanted to see when they tuned in. Many felt the stories had too much of a liberal air to them. Traveling “down the middle” more probably would have been the safer road to travel.

All of that aside, what was most shocking to me were the comments from the people who remained at the station. Certainly it was no surprise they would make supportive and empathetic statements regarding their former colleagues – and friends. That’s as anyone would expect. But when there were negative or, even, sarcastic posts on social media sites toward those who got canned, these people were appalled that fellow human beings would publicly say and print hurtful comments about others who had just lost their jobs.

“How can people say such awful things about those whose lives have just been turned upside down?” said an ESPN survivor. Really? This remark. from an employee of a network that, prior to a season, publishes and reports such items as “Coaches on the Hot Seat” and lists of the “Most Overrated Players.”

Maybe what these folks are saying is:

“Doesn’t feel so good when you’re on the receiving end, does it?”

Many Will Disagree with this Blog But I Can’t Understand Why

Monday, April 24th, 2017

The NBA is at the height of its popularity. Yet, since so many people, especially young kids, are influenced by professional players, there’s one aspect of it that could help society – without taking away anything from the beauty of the game.

No More!” ought to be the mantra coming from the league office when it comes to trash talking after great plays. It’s used now after merely good plays. Trash talking is just that: trash. Sure, some guys use it to get into the heads of their opponents. Because of that psychological tactic, yapping on the court while the play is going on will always be part of the game. However, when embarrassing another competitor becomes a badge of honor – often more important than points scored, rebounds grabbed, assists delivered – it’s time to do away with it.

Some say the game has simply evolved. If that’s the case, will we ever see a time where it’s acceptable to run over to a guy who choked away a game – by missing a crucial shot or free throw or who turned the ball over or foolishly fouled at the end of a game, causing his team to lose? Note: I’m not talking about celebrating a great or clutch play (although some of those have gotten out of hand) but directing verbal blatant nastiness toward an opponent.

When I coached (1970-2005), I used to tell players who lacked confidence that every player whose career has lasted longer than 30 minutes has missed a shot or turned the ball over or fouled. Therefore, there’s no need for negative body language. Conversely, every player with a modicum of talent has made a shot or a hustle play. A few have even blocked a shot. So just as there’s no need for a player to drop his head after a mistake, there’s no reason to celebrate a positive play – with a gesture intended to demean an opponent.

Do any of us really believe that the game or its participants would suffer if acting in such a manner toward opponents was eliminated? Would it be an impossible adjustment for the players? For many it might be uncomfortable but for the true competitor? Any player who thinks it would has lost the meaning of why sports were invented. I’ve heard in players in interviews say that their own kids criticize them for acting in such a boorish manner. Or the younger ones ask why they did it – and they claim a sense of remorse.

The major goal of trash talking is to belittle people, to show somebody up. When did it become a mandatory part of the game? It’s basically a false show of power. And a temporary one at that. Somebody is bound to return the “favor” once the opportunity presents itself. It’s almost as if losing a game is assuaged as long as a player taunted someone publicly from the winning squad.

From a spectator’s point of view, would having to watch a game without outward displays of trash talking really devalue the product? I’m sure there’s a segment of society who’d answer in the affirmative – which is a sad commentary unto itself. While that kind of talk has become ordinary today, it can – and should – be curtailed. What benefit does it give – really? It becomes the responsibility of every coach to demand civilized and respectful language. And that goes for parents and teachers as well.

There are over one million words in the English language. Using the minority of belittling ones all too often has no place in the game. Some will say that while, “back-in-the-day” players would simply run back on D or down the floor rather than pointing or yelling at opponents after a made or blocked shot, a lot of those guys were also smoking in the locker room at halftime or drinking to excess. Bad habits don’t need to be replaced by other bad habits. The game has changed. What isn’t necessary is the changes shouldn’t be of the scummy variety. Disallowing smoking and drinking during the game ought to be viewed as positive changes. Not so much for trash talking or showing up others.

It comes down to the adage:

“There is no progress without change – but not all change is progress.”

One Man’s View on Tanking

Saturday, April 15th, 2017

Words and terms enter the basketball jargon as the years move on – words such as “analytics,” “off the bounce” and “score the ball” (as if anything else can be scored). Another of today’s catch words is “tanking.”

Theories abound regarding how to build a championship franchise. One is by judiciously trading, another is through free agency and still another is building a team through the draft. The current power squad in the NBA is the Golden State Warriors whose core group is made up of draft picks. That bunch captured a Larry O’Brien trophy and, arguably, would have a couple if Draymond Green had only kept his hands (and feet) to himself. Sure, they have since added a valuable piece to their fold through free agency but their initial strategy was to draft wisely.

The draft order used to be done worst team first, second worst next, etc. Then the league to decided to use ping pong balls, the worst team getting the most balls and so on. The problem with that was, although the team with the worst record had the greatest chance of landing the first pick, overall the odds were stacked heavily against it since the majority of chances for them not to get it far exceeded their “ball” popping up. Throughout he years, the system has been doctored in an attempt to give the team with the worst record a more reasonable opportunity to get the number one overall draft pick. As of now, the team with the worst record can draft no lower than fourth regardless of how the balls bounce.

Independent of how great a chance the worst teams have of selecting 1, 2 or 3, it’s difficult to believe teams would intentionally lose. Here’s a laundry list of reasons why:

1) Athletes are competitive and to intentionally try to lose is tantamount to point shaving. But put all that aside. How about the simple fact that, if losing increases the team’s chances of getting a better player, are the players that stupid they don’t realize the guy the team selects might knock them out of a job? No one I’ve ever met in basketball is so magnanimous that he would choose to play poorly so his team could get better players – if it meant the better player(s) would be taking his job! Even if a guy is secure (whether due to his talent or contract), will he worsen his stats and lose bargaining power just so the team can add a (usually 19-year-old) talented player? Doubtful.

2) OK, forget the players intentionally tanking, how about the coach? In this day and age, coach’s jobs are tenuous. Lose, get the number 1 pick and you’d better win immediately. While there have been a number of extremely talented guys enter the league as a top 1, 2 or 3 pick, not since 2003 when the Cavs selected LeBron James first overall was there a true franchise changing player from a win-loss point of view. And, as far as making his team an immediate contender, San Antonio picking Tim Duncan number one would be the best earliest example – 20 years ago! Therefore, don’t expect a coach to intentionally dump games.

3) Let’s go to the front office, e.g. general manager or president. The way the NBA is currently run, even those positions, with the exception of the Chicago Bulls for some unknown reason, are replaced more quickly than ever in the history of the league.

4) So it comes down to the owner – and, really, if ever an owner directly mandated his players or coaches to intentionally lose, in this day of the “anonymous source,” does anybody believe for a second that conversation wouldn’t be leaked? Would any owner risk his legacy by blatantly disrespecting the game?

So it basically comes down to the fans and sportswriters who are talking up tanking and, as of yet, fortunately:

“Neither of those groups have that kind of juice.”

 

 

My (Most Likely) Unpopular Take on the National Championship Game

Tuesday, April 4th, 2017

The season of NCAA hoops culminates with the NCAA championship tilt. This year’s entry was a pretty brutal game to watch. One team shot 36% from the floor, 15% from three and 58% from the free throw line. The winning team. The University of North Carolina won their sixth national championship (third under its Hall of Fame coach, Roy Williams), denying Gonzaga their first which would have been a historic victory – a national championship by a school from a non-power basketball conference. Not since Jerry Tarkanian’s UNLV Runnin’ Rebels managed the feat in 1990 has that occurred – and it may never. Gonzaga was not only a #1 seed (mostly due to their gaudy 37-1 record) but, for all intents and purposes, as strong a club as was in the tourney.

The biggest guy on the floor, the one the Zags relied on all season, had no points on post ups, even though he had several opportunities. The other two guys they count on also had subpar outings. It wasn’t much prettier for Carolina. The game’s most outstanding player shot 7-19 and their sharp shooter took a schneider from three, missing all of his nine attempts, some of them badly.

There were 44 fouls called, 22 on each team. Although both teams played incredibly hard, possibly the pressure of all that was riding on the outcome of the game made the participants perform in a manner uncharacteristic to what everyone had come to expect after watching both throughout their sensational seasons. Naturally, in a contest with so much on the line – even with the play less than stellar – there was criticism of the officiating crew. ESPN’s Jay Williams claimed, “That was one of the worst officiated national championship games I’ve seen in a long time.” Yeah, in about a year. When the game is poorly played, blame the referees.

Besides the announcers and commentators, others chimed in via the internet. Notably, the (arguably) best basketball player in the world posted what has come to be the refrain heard whenever there are an excessive amount of whistles in a game. “Man I can’t watch this anymore man! I would like to see the kids decide who wins the game! I mean Bruh!! Smh,” said none other than LeBron James. His former BFF posted this remark. “Let these kids play. Put the whistles away,” said Dwyane Wade. Just the advice regarding referees we need – two NBAers bitching about the officials. Check those two the next time they drive to the bucket and the refs don’t call a foul. In fact, check any NBA player when he takes it to the hole and there’s no fouled called. Or when a call goes against him. Make the NBA game one of “call your own fouls” and let’s see how pleasant that scenario would be.

When all was said and done, the players were the ones who decided the game. Check out the foul calls. If someone was truly impartial (OK, that group seldom exists in a game), the foul calls were legit. Many were of the foolish variety, but fouls nonetheless. Sure, some might be argued but, had they not been blown, people would be complaining the officials were losing control of the game.

There actually was a play – late – that will be discussed for years. During a scrum under the basket, a tie-up was called. The referees missed that the Tarheel player had his hand out of bounds while the ball was touching him prior to the whistle being blown. However, let it be known that none of the three man broadcast crew mentioned it – even after showing two replays! Also, with the less than stellar play by nearly every player on both squads, can we not allow one blown call by the trio of officials? The other judgment calls? Either way the guys in stripes would catch hell. And this commentary is coming from someone who is no big fan of referees (check precious blogs).

Could it just be the feeling of disappointment everyone (minus the UNC supporters) has is:

“Why couldn’t the season’s final game been better played?”

 

 

The Two Sides of Lavar Ball

Thursday, March 30th, 2017

One theory is that Lavar Ball is one of the most polarizing people on earth. That can’t be true because in order to be polarizing, there needs to be folks on both sides of the issue and it appears one side so heavily outweighs the other, that annoying is a better description that polarizing.

During the past 20 or so years of my life, I have taken pride in trying to see both sides of an argument or a person. Nobody can be all good (with the exceptions of Gandhi and Mother Teresa) and nobody can be all evil (Adolph Hitler and Charles Mason made/is still making a good run at proving that assumption invalid). Most people have both decency and discourtesy somewhere in their DNA. Lavar Ball, for all his LOUD brashness and inappropriateness, should be congratulated on several accounts.

As a Caucasian, I need to step gently when discussing the shortcomings of my black brethren but, it’s my firm belief – and I imagine others of all races will agree – that the biggest problem in the black community that they have in their power to correct is the absentee father. They can’t solve poverty, crime, lack of opportunities or certainly, racial profiling without assistance from other groups, most notably whites. But the high rate of fathers not being in their children’s lives is well within their capability to correct.

And on that subject, Lavar Ball should be applauded. As opposed to being absent, he has been a dominating presence in the lives of his three boys. In a world in which there seems to be a story on domestic violence (within all races) on a daily basis, his and his wife’s marriage seems to be one of mutual love and respect. In addition, he has provided a beautiful home and life for his family, as well as being a powerful factor in all their lives. Some may say a little too powerful but the fact remains his is as tight knit a group as any family.

Not only has Ball been a strong influence in his kids’ upbringing, he has truly had quite an impact in making them the talented young men they are. Beginning with his “choice” of spouse – many times he’s (jokingly, we think) referred to his selecting his wife because of her genes – to the fact that he didn’t want to cease control of their basketball fortunes to someone else. Independent of one’s beliefs regarding summer basketball – and there are altogether too many horror stories – he decided the best person to train and coach his boys was him. He didn’t complain about the coach(es); rather he formed his own team. Many parents complain, few take the drastic, costly and time consuming task of putting together a squad. Some might criticize his charging other youngsters to be a part of his team but, judging from his three, he has produced a trio of good players (one of which might be the overall #1 pick in the upcoming NBA draft).

Now, he’s never going to be compared to Ozzie Nelson but that was never his goal. Unquestionably brash, with an ego as big as all the outdoors, people say he is putting too much pressure on his sons yet that remains to be seen. Judging from the eldest son, Lonzo, he doesn’t seem to be adversely affected at all. His less than stellar play in UCLA’s loss to Kentucky was more due to injury or just a bad game than to someone wilting under the pressure of a brazen dad.

Of course, Lavar Ball is by no means a saint. His pomposity has been chronicled ad infinitum – which he appears to relish. He is either living vicariously through his children or is a master marketer. He has been called obnoxious (with good cause) but, in his defense, he says that people who’ve known him realize he hasn’t changed his manner; it’s just that he now has a podium. He maintains he has always been true to himself – which ought to be considered an admirable trait.

No one can contest his making some of the most asinine statements (no need to list them here as they’ve received as much coverage as any topic in March Madness). In the end, he needs to live with all his braggadocio. Whether his act actually sells merchandise (other than him, I have yet to see anyone wearing his apparel) or his brand takes off, is yet to be determined. The negative pub he’s brought upon himself is well-deserved. One example is when Stephen A. Smith asked him why a company needed to give him a billion dollars up front, that every player who has a brand performed to a level to deserve it first, so why not show a reason someone should fork over that kind of cash, his reply was to shout over Smith, yelling, “Up front, that’s right – up front!”  He never answered the question and the only reason he stopped was because the show’s host moved on.

Rating individuals’ qualities from 0-10, 10 high, most people are 3’s and 4’s (bad qualities) or 7’s and 8’s (good ones). Lavar Ball’s qualities are 0’s and 10’s. In all:

“Lavar Ball is outspoken – by no one.”

 

Takeaways from the NCAA Tourney’s First Weekend

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

If nothing else, year after year, the NCAA Tournament always gives us talking points, things that befuddle, dazzle and perplex us. The water cooler talks is like no other time (except for this past presidential election).

1) Although it’s said every year – by seemingly everybody – there still has never been a 16 seed beat a 1 seed.

2) Just because somebody plays for one of those “brain” schools, doesn’t mean he can’t make a bonehead play. If you didn’t feel empathetic towards the Vanderbilt kid who foul a player from Northwestern – on purpose – with his team up a point and the game clock under 20 seconds, you don’t need a cardiologist because you have no heart. Naturally, the camera had to zoom in on him to capture his feelings during what was, arguably, the worst moment of his life. The nation got to see mouth one of the great two word comments of all time. If you read his lips, he said, “I’m trippin’.”

3) Another incredible scene was from Northwestern’s next contest when, somehow, a coach saw an infraction committed that the three referees didn’t catch. Think about it. When was the last time a press conference began with an admission of guilt by the NCAA officials association? While that non-call might not have determined the game’s outcome, the coach’s reaction to it, for all intents and purposes, did.

4) Non-power conference schools can still hang in there with the big boys and “going chalk” in your brackets gets you a lot of right answers but won’t win you the office pool.

5) The person who is least affected by the outrageous, bombastic comments of Lavar Ball is … Lonzo Ball. Note: For those Fresno readers, if you can find any of the memorabilia from my three-year tenure as the coach at Buchanan High School, check the logo I invented – three interlocking B’s – very similar to the Ball’s. No copyright infringement as I never did did anything to legally make it ours.

6) The only reason there was controversy over the foul committed at the end of the Seton Hall-Arkansas game was due to semantics. The college game used to have an “intentional” foul call which resulted in two shots and the ball. The game’s rules committee did away with the intentional foul and went with the NBA’s “flagrant one” and “flagrant two” type of fouls. The former is called when a player commits a foul while not making a play on the ball. The latter goes a step further. It’s called when the is intent to injure. What muddled the discussion is the Razorback fouled on the play tripped, making the foul appear worse than it was. Independent of whether or not the kid tripped, the call made was the right one. In past seasons it would have been called an intentional foul – which no one was in disagreement.

7) Because it’s nearly impossible to do, when a school has the perfect basketball coach, the athletics director will do most anything to lock him up. Apparently, that’s not the case at Oklahoma State. Good luck to the Cowboys trying to replace Brad Underwood. Whether or not the people at OSU are upset, you can bet Big 12 coaches breathed a collective sigh of relief.

8) Second guessing the selection committee is one of the easiest things to do at this time of year but there can be little doubt that Wichita State, Xavier and Middle Tennessee definitely got Rodney Dangerfield-ed.

9) I was an assistant coach at nine schools, all Division I, over a 30-year period. I’ve been a college fan for over 50 years. It still amazes me that people are so thrilled to see a team lose – like Duke this year. To hate a team that stands for what’s good in sports – sure they have their warts, especially this year, but don’t we all – defies all logic. Are people’s lives that sad that they derive so much enjoyment when a team comes up short? Root like hell for your team but if someone else’s misfortune causes you that much joy, it’s time to reexamine your own life.

“While filling out brackets is frustrating as all get-out, March Madness never disappoints.”

A (Not So) Comedy of Errors in Gonzaga-Northwestern Game

Sunday, March 19th, 2017

After watching the first ten or so minutes of the Gonzaga-Northwestern NCAA round of 32 game, no one would ever have thought there would be a controversial call that might have decided the outcome. The Wildcats couldn’t score and, after the Zags jumped out big early, they, too, had trouble finding the bottom of the hoop. The end of the first half saw Northwestern creep a little closer.

Then, as the Cinderella kids (there was a time when the WCC team playing against a Big 10 squad would have been the underdog) kept on keepin’ on, the lead closed to five. Normally, the argument after a blocked shot is about whether the block was clean or if the shooter was fouled. This is the well-documented first ever appearance for the Wildcats if there was to be controversy, you almost knew it was going to be a play that’s seldom seen – like the defender cleanly blocking the shot but putting his hand and arm through the rim to do so. What was so odd was that Chris Collins, the ultra-passionate Northwestern coach, clearly saw the play, while the none of the three guys paid to do so, did.

One thing coaches tell players is – don’t compound your mistake. Make one mistake at a time. So, if a referee misses a call, don’t make a second one by slapping a complaining coach (or player) with a technical. In this case, however, that “rule” really didn’t apply. The official did not know he kicked the call. So when Collins vehemently argued, charging at the official (only to alert him of what he missed), gesturing with his arms what had occurred, the ref had no choice but to T him up. Collins was several feet onto the court and his actions did merit the technical foul. The lack of two points, plus the free throws awarded to Gonzaga and their subsequent bucket more or less ended the fray.

Collins’ post game explanation, which he made after hearing the NCAA’s explanation that 1) the call should have been goaltending, awarding his club two points and cutting the Zag’s lead to three but 2) that the technical foul was warranted because of his actions, was that he was human and emotional, plus “We’re coming back from 20 down.” On that, everyone would be in complete agreement. However, while it is true that emotions run high during NCAA competitions, another item coaches preach to players is to not let your emotions get the better of you – to, instead, keep your emotions in check and show poise. 

Unfortunately, that call is not reviewable. I’m unsure why not since so many others are and, in this case, it’s such an obvious violation. If, as the NCAA claims, the major purpose of reviewing calls is to get them right so that a bad call doesn’t influence the outcome of a contest, could a change be in store? It was so sad to see as compelling a story as Northwestern’s maiden voyage into the NCAA tourney end in such disarray.

As happened to Jud Heathcote and Michigan State in 1986 (see my 11/28/16 blog), Collins’ most likely response would be:

“Is your apology – and that call – retroactive?”

A Blast from the Past

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

After watching the selection shows, I had the identical feeling I’ve had in past years – especially after Jay Bilas, deftly displaying his background as a lawyer, criticized the seedings of several teams. Not that he was wrong (certainly Wichita State should have received a better seed – and that mis-seeding a team causes problems for the rest of the schools in that bracket). It’s just that anybody can pick and choose the committee’s “errors.” Read on and dream of what would happen if my proposal of overhauling the committee was adopted. This was posted a year – and a day – ago.

Selection Sunday is the most exciting day of the college basketball season – certainly for those teams that have won their conference’s automatic bid – but also for those “power” schools that know they’re in but want to see where/whom they’re playing, the bubble teams and, of course, the fans. For the selection committee, their charge is both impossible and thankless. First, they spend an interminable amount of time trying to consider every team, factoring in such things as strength of schedule, wins against the top 50, road record, injuries to key players.

My pet peeve: Something that’s always baffled me is the mention of power conference teams and how many “top 50 wins” they have (even though most of them are at home ) while teams from lower leagues are penalized, e.g. Monmouth, for having losses to teams with RPIs of 200 & up (games which are usually played on the road). Basically, the committee’s message is if a “low- or mid-major” has some great upsets (always either on the road or, at best, a neutral site), they still must never lose a conference game (like Syracuse did at RPI 200+ St. John’s)? Power conference teams have the opportunity to win top 50 games during their league schedule; teams from lesser conferences have the opportunity to get “bad losses.” The better a team is, the more “up” its opponent is, its fans are – and when the game’s played in a band box, which many of those smaller schools call home – upsets occur – because it’s their Game of the Year. 

Back to the “overhaul” everybody, especially committee members, would love to see. What about – just one year – the committee was made up solely of the media, i.e. the NCAA Basketball Selection Committee would be a group including, but not limited to, Dick Vitale, Jay Bilas, Doug Gottlieb, Seth Davis, Joe Lunardi – and selected sportswriters and talk show hosts? Not only have them choose the tournament field but seed it as well – including the play-in games. Also, they must take into account conference and geography concerns (or go with Bilas’ idea of just seeding the tournament from 1-68).

Then, put them front and center on television (allow them to choose a chairperson if they wish) to answer questions from the committee people – and their peers who were left off the committee. Put their feet to the fire and analyze why some teams got in, while others were left out – and why the seeds were chosen they way they were. Have them explain to the viewing public that there was no “looking ahead” to future match ups of a coach and his former school or two teams that would make for a controversial contest.

What would be a reason for such a change? Simple:

“Empathy”

The United States Has Become a Culture of Hate

Saturday, March 11th, 2017

Independent of how you feel about the past presidential election, there can be no debate that our country is now more divided than ever. Half (give or take) of the nation’s people are now gloating – yet they continue to hate former President Obama and most, if not all, of the programs he passed or was in favor of. The other half are shocked and embarrassed, upset beyond belief – and are protesting and complaining about President Trump and … everything he says, does or does not do. The latter group, who consider themselves logical, reasonable human beings has been driven to hate as well.

The stories have been told and the lines have been drawn. Nearly everybody has decided which side they’re on – although some more passionate than others. As the saying goes, “it is what it is.” Anyone who knows me will tell you I have always highly opinionated. Maturity – and some will say, sensibility – has come to me later in life than to most. Since I retired in 2012 I’ve become Switzerland. I try to take an evenhanded approach to all issues.

Rather than try to attempt to bring parties together, pick a side or incite one group against another, I’ve chosen to sit back and observe. The main reason is I’m not sure who’s right and who’s wrong. Plus, I realize how limited an effect I’d have. To me, there’s good and bad in everybody and every organization. I read something a few days ago, written by Steve Keating (someone I do not know), which describes what’s happening in this country:

“Sorry folks but no one but you can make you hate. No one but you can get you to stop hating. Until everyone, EVERYONE, accepts responsibility for their own emotions the hate will not only continue, it will grow. Hating a hater is still hate.”