Sunday, January 03, 2010

Sunday sports section 

[] Player gifts by bowl game. During this "bowl game weekend" the teams split millions of dollars and their coaches are paid millions, while the players who generate all this money have their amateur status jealously guarded by the NCAA and so can't be paid anything. But, happily, they can receive approved "gifts".

When Auburn played Northwestern at yesterday's Outback Bowl the payout to each team was a $3.3 million guaranteed minimum. The players received a Best Buy gift card, hat, and Outback Steakhouse gift card.

[] Words fail, college football edition. Mike Leach, football coach at Texas Tech acclaimed for his high-scoring passing offense and getting his team to ten bowl games in ten years, didn't get to coach #10 yesterday after getting himself fired the day before. It seems that after one of his players was diagnosed with a concussion and advised not to practice, Leach ordered him to stand (not sit) alone in a cold dark shed during practices, contrary to the advice of the team doctor and trainer.

The player was Adam James, son of prominent former player and current ESPN sports commentator Craig James. Daddy made his complaints known, the president of the university ordered Leach to apologize, Leach refused, the boot ensued. All this happened after, during his previous contract negotiations, Leach went over the head of the Athletic Director directly to the university's regents in a failed attempt to get himself named "Athletic Director for Football" -- cheezing off both the AD and regents, and assuring he would have no friends in high places should any future problems arise. Lawsuit will now follow.

Leach had a $12.7 million five-year contract. I'd hope that if I was a coach smart enough to have a $12.7 million contract I'd realize that locking a player in a cold dark room isn't "coaching", and that as an employee I had a boss. ("Boss, you want me to apologize for something? And I'll get paid $12 million? OK! Standing on my head? OK!") But there seems to be some sort of condition that infects college sports coaches that drives them to indulge themselves. Yet it doesn't affect pros. I'm trying to imagine an NFL coach ordering an injured player to go stand in a cold dark, closet as punishment -- and then when the team's owner tells him to apologize (somehow not being fired already) telling the owner, "No, I'm the boss here". The imagination boggles.

But then, a little while back Michael Lewis wrote a homage to Leach in a New York Times Magazine cover story* lauding him as the model of the innovative, enlightened college coach of the future. So maybe we all should have seen this coming.

(* Reviewed at the time on this blog as being parody quality, if unintentionally so.)

[] Applied physics in pro football. See the energy of two tacklers transferred to each other through the body of the tacklee (who scoots 62 yards for a TD).

[] Tankin' it. It used to be that throwing games was disreputable. Now it's official team policy in the NFL, as teams rest players for the playoffs. Last week the Colts' management offered no apology for pulling the team's best players while holding the lead to then lose to the Jets -- giving the Jets the inside track over the competition for a playoff spot.

In today's NFL games, via the Vegas betting line....

* The 5-10 Bills are 8-point favorites over the now 14-1 Colts. (Sagarin says the Colts if playing to win should be 9-pt favorites -- that's a 17-point swing.)

* The 7-8 Panthers are 3-point favorites over the 13-2 Saints. (The Saints should be 5-point favorites, an 8-point swing.)

* The 8-7 Texans are 8-point favorites over the 10-5 Pats. (The Pats should be 5-point favorites, a 13-point swing.)

And, of course, the 8-7 Jets (with one win already via an opponent tanking it) are 10-point favorites over the 10-5 Bengals.

Place your wagers cautiously. One of these underdog coaches could bet his house on his own team and then play to win.

[] Is it just luck? Do baseball pitchers pitch worse in their bad games than their good games? Maybe not.

[] Words fail even worse, NBA edition. Washington Wizards (formerly Bullets) player Gilbert Arenas reportedly could lose a $100 million contract as the result of bringing guns (plural) into the locker room in a city where possession of them is as illegal as it is here in NYC -- and then deciding to threaten teammate Javaris Crittenton with one, rather than pay off on a bet ... only to have Crittenton draw his own gun in return!

This is post-Plaxico, no less. When members of a local NBA team were asked for comment, "Nets say 3 out of 4 players pack heat".

I can remember a Knicks NBA championship team whose top players were a Rhodes scholar and future U.S. Senator (Bill Bradley), a guy who'd already been a pro player-coach and who would later be a pro team president and pro league comissioner (Dave DeBusschere), a future NBA coach and GM (Willis Reed), a future Hall of Fame coach (Phil Jackson), a fellow who entertained visitors to the locker room by memorizing pages out of the phone book (Jerry Lucas), and a guy doing a PhD (Dick Barnett). With the dummy on the team being being Walt Frazier.

The city game just seems to draw a different kind of player these days. As the money goes up, up, up, the IQ goes ...