Monday, February 16, 2009

Monday Musings in the World of Sports

Watching Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal share the All-Star Game MVP award reminded us how dominant the duo really was despite their dysfunctional relationship in Los Angeles.

Who knows how many championships they could have won had egos not ruined their run?

Even after receiving the award, Bryant had to remind everyone that he and O’Neal are far from being best friends.

“We are not going to go back to the room and watch 'Steel Magnolias' or something like that, you know what I'm saying, crying, all that stuff,” he said. “We had a good time. That's all.”

Yes, we get it, Kobe. You’re still insecure about being in O’Neal’s big shadow.

The All-Star Game is often a punch line used to point out the absence of defense in the professional game, but it’s difficult to overlook how special it is to see so many stars playing on the same court.

From LeBron James and Chris Paul to Yao Ming and Amare Stoudemire, the talent on the floor is unbelievable.

Now, if only these stars treated the contest as more than a relaxed pickup game, we could truly get excited about watching.

To create more intensity in the game, should the NBA take a page from Major League Baseball and award home-court advantage in the NBA Finals to the winning conference? Yeah, I didn’t think so either.

General manager Andy MacPhail and manager Dave Trembley can continue to explain how Orioles catching prospect Matt Wieters is not ready for the big leagues and needs more seasoning in Triple-A Norfolk, but no one is buying it.
Wieters’ staggering minor league numbers in 2008 proved to everyone that he’s ready to take the next step.

This move is all about the money, and it’s difficult to fault the Orioles for doing it. No matter how well Wieters performs in 2009, it will not turn the Orioles into a serious contender. However, having Wieters in 2015 would be extremely beneficial if the Orioles are seriously contending, something they plan to be doing long before then.

Wieters is represented by Scott Boras, so he will clearly be looking for the biggest contract he can get when he hits free agency. By sacrificing Wieters’ production for a few weeks in 2009, they could be saving an inordinate amount of money by keeping Wieters in 2015 when he figures to be in the prime of his career.

Could Wieters benefit from working with some of the organization’s young pitchers at Norfolk? Sure, but the young pitchers will be getting way more out of it than Wieters will. This one’s all about the money, and it’s the right move.

Matt Kenseth won his first Daytona 500 in a rain-shortened 152 laps. Taking nothing away from his special moment, I cannot help but shrug my shoulders.

While the weather is out of anyone’s control, it seems anticlimactic to award your sport’s equivalent of the Super Bowl or World Series to the winner after completing only three quarters of the race.

Can you imagine the Pittsburgh Steelers being awarded the title at the end of the third quarter? Can you envision the Philadelphia Phillies winning the World Series after the sixth inning of Game 5? Oh wait, it almost happened, but baseball made sure the Fall Classic had its proper ending.

To avoid this problem in the future, NASCAR should consider finishing the race the next day or schedule the race a week earlier, leaving an open weekend in the schedule to account for inclement weather. It may not be ideal, but it is better than having a race end when no one is even aware of it.

Bills running back Marshawn Lynch is just the latest example of a professional athlete completely out of touch with reality after being arrested and charged for possession of a concealed firearm over the weekend.

Where was Lynch when Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress was shooting himself in the leg at a Manhattan nightclub last November? How many of their colleagues have to get busted to understand they are not immune to the laws we, as a society, must all obey?

Again, any athlete needing to carry a loaded firearm should hire security, or better yet, reevaluate the decision to go to these places where they feel the need to have such protection. Just using some common sense would keep more of these players out of trouble.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has received occasional criticism for the severe discipline levied on troubled players, but the message needs to be sent, especially if the legal system is unwilling to crack down on these millionaires.

The debate will continue on Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams’ recruiting efforts and practices, but there’s no questioning his coaching ability.

In Maryland’s impressive 83-73 home victory over Virginia Tech on Saturday, Williams pushed all the right buttons and managed a rotation that had four Terps scoring in double figures.

Williams is a victim of his own success, losing several assistant coaches over the years and being unable to replace their recruiting ties. Having always relied on his assistants to sign recruits, Williams simply lacks the troops to help him.

While the landscape of recruiting has changed with the emergence of AAU teams as an overwhelming factor, Williams has been unable, and possibly unwilling, to adapt.

Until this issue is addressed, Williams will continue to get everything he can out of his players on the court, but Maryland will continue to struggle in the talent-heavy ACC.

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