BCS Title Game Leaves Everyone Wanting More

I’m not lying when I say this, but I fell asleep during the national title game on Monday.

It was that boring.

The snoozefest was only the type of game that a defensive coordinator or a football-loving person from the 1940s could enjoy. This game was better played on a grainy reel with the picture played on the wall and a bleary-eyed coach breaking it down. Ugh.

Yay! You bored all of America! Here's your crystal ball.

National title games are supposed to be exciting. This game was the equivalent of a pitcher’s duel with a bunch of errors.

Whether Alabama and LSU were the best two teams in the nation or not, a title game needs drama. The drama was whether LSU would cross the 50 or not. Yawn.

Give Brent Musberger credit, though, at least he didn’t pull a Kevin Harlan and get caught on camera saying how bored he was.

SEC, if this is representative of your type of exciting big game, you can keep it. What a title game – in any sport – needs is excitement, gut-wrenching coaching decisions, a couple of big plays and a player who elevates above the rest.

Sadly, looking back, there had only been one BCS title game that has had all of those factors. And I was there for it.

January 4, 2006. Rose Bowl. Texas 41, USC 38.

Excitement? With 79 combined points, including 32 in the final quarter, and five lead changes, plus one of the greatest game-winning drives in college history, yeah I’d say there was some excitement.

This guy was worth watching in a BCS Title Game.

Coaches decisions? The only reason Vince Young was able to play Superman in the final moments is because Pete Carroll went for it on 4th-and-2 only to see LenDale White get stuffed. Go for it? Punt? Run a different play? What would you have done?

Big plays? Yes. With Reggie Bush, Matt Lienart and Dwayne Jarrett, USC had all kinds of big plays – even when Bush tried to lateral the ball to a teammate after gaining 35 yards. Then, of course, there was Vince Young who combined for 476 yards of offense. The game set a ridiculous number of offensive records.

Finally, was there a player who became a star? Of course. As I wrote for the Dallas Morning News that day, “Vince Young is a Manimal.” He was a man amongst boys. He single-handedly won that game. He converted a 3rd-and-12 early on that drive, had a 17-yard pass for a first down, then dove into the end zone after an eight-yard run to clinch the game. No doubt he was an animal.

The best part of Monday’s sleeper? That LSU was held scoreless. That was the only high drama. No one wants to watch a field goal fest. How boring was each team’s offense?

Why do we watch football? To be entertained. We want to see big plays and a scoreboard lit up.

Especially in a title game.

NCAA, BCS, Please Give Us Back New Year’s Day

Dear NCAA, BCS Directors, TV execs and President Obama:

Like many Americans, I love January 1 bowl games (and sometimes, like this year, January 2). Sure, I’ll tune in to parts of Dec. 22-Dec. 31 games, but nothing rings in the New Year like gobs of college football.

From the moment my eyes open, adjust to the impending hangover from celebrating the arbitrary stroke of midnight, I look forward to a relationship with my couch and my remote. I know I am not the only one who feels this way.

Yes, a lot of people are upset at the BCS. Parts of me are too, but this letter is not about the computer system or the select conferences entitled to big money. It’s about how you have ruined New Year’s Day. All of you.

New Year’s Day was a combination of Christmas morning and the first weekend of the men’s basketball tournament. It was football on all day, on numerous channels, and with compelling storylines. It was about pageantry, bands at halftime, players overcoming challenges, teams overcoming conference foes, standings and geography being thrown out, colors in the stands and the joy of deciding where to spend my channel-surfing energy.

From top: The drama of the Rose, Fiesta and Sugar Bowls should have all been seen on one afternoon.

Because of television revenue and the NCAA cowering to television’s power, bowl games have been split into a ridiculous amount of teams (72 total this year) and the bowl season – especially this week – has been inexplicably drawn out.

The idea of New Year’s Day is to relax and flip between nearly a dozen bowl games, each (hopefully) with high drama that makes you choose a side and root like a loyal alum.

BCS Directors, you guys are leaving us with unfulfilling match-ups (really? no Boise State?! no Houston?! despite both being top-10 teams?!) and then unfairly treating us to these games eons after New Year’s Day.

What about playing every bowl game worthy of mention (Rose, Sugar, Cotton, Fiesta, Orange, Gator, Capital One, etc.) on New Year’s Day, like you used to? Then, a day later – maybe even two – play the national championship game. Use the momentum of that flurry of bowl games to build up to the finale like a fireworks show. And, Mr. President, didn’t you say during your campaign you’d like to create a playoff? Well, under your watch that hasn’t happened and the bowl system has gotten worse. I guess, based on everything else that has happened in your term we shouldn’t be surprised.

Look, don’t have five or six bowl games, then space them out, one at a time, until we forget why the hell we were even interested in the first place. We want multiple games on at once. Let us decide what to watch. Or, heck, even make it like the first round of the hoops tourney – stagger game starts on separate channels so we can see everything happen at its own pace, so long as every game is played on one day.

One of the greatest national title games of the BCS era – Texas and Vince Young vs. USC and Reggie Bush – was played on January 4. Not January 9 like it will be when Alabama and LSU square off this year.

By the time we realize there is a bowl game still being played on January 6, we have forgotten and focused on the NHL or college hoops or the NBA or the NFL playoffs. We have stopped caring. New Year’s Day is to college football what alcohol is to removing a coed’s inhibitions.

Please return it to that.

Random Pro of the Week: Darius Miles

Since the Clippers have become sexy again (thank you, Chris Paul), I remember the first time in my life when people actually began mentioning them as a potential playoff team.

It’s like the scene in Major League when everyone around town is talking about the Indians during a successful run and saying “These guys might not be so f—ing bad.”

Three rookies and two first-year players – Quentin Richardson, Keyon Dooling, Darius Miles, Corey Maggette and Lamar Odom – on the 2000-01 team followed up the next year by the addition of Elton Brand to go along with guys like Eric Piatkowski and Michael Olowakandi made the Clippers somewhat intriguing.

Turns out, the Asian groundkeepers from Major League were right. “They’re still shitty” as they said.

A lot of that falls on the Clippers as an organization. But, some of it should fall on Darius Miles.

After being compared to Kevin Garnett for making the leap straight from high school to the NBA – and being picked No. 3 overall – Miles seemed like he would be part of a Clippers core for plenty of years and playoff runs.

Turns out, he never really had a jump shot – or developed one – and at 6-foot-9 he should have been a better rebounder. Yet, because he weighed about 150 pounds (truthfully 210, but he looked as slender as a meth head) he couldn’t bang down low and because he couldn’t pass or shoot, he couldn’t sit on the perimeter.

Somewhat alike, but not really at all.

In his eight NBA seasons he averaged just 10.1 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. It’s not Adam Morrison (another No. 3 overall pick) statistics, but it isn’t Carmelo Anthony either. In two of Miles’ seasons he averaged – repeat, averaged! – a negative win share. That means that the team would have been better off not having him play a single minute.

What Miles did get known for was his head-pounding that he did on the court with Quentin Richardson where the two would turn their fists upside down and hit the top of their heads.

 

 

The move, known as “antennas up” in reference to people should pull up their antennas and pay attention to what we’re doing. The move carried on with each doing so when they were no longer teammates.

It did become hip enough that the move was featured in a Nike commercial, directed by Spike Lee where the best part is Miles’ block at the 0:09 mark that looks like a fourth grader is shooting the ball.

 

Being in L.A., Miles and Richardson also parlayed their shared fame into a small part in Van Wilder but that seemed to be the only highlight of Miles’ career.

He was arrested recently for carrying a loaded gun – repeat, a loaded gun! – in an airport and trying to get it through security. That followed up his arrest for pot (but, really, it’s the NBA so we shouldn’t be surprised and he was playing with the Jail Blazers at the time) and driving on a suspended license. I guess when you roll in a car pictured to the left, you might attract some attention.

It’s just that the attention Miles drew was rarely for what he did on the court. Except for the “antennas up” salute.

Roberto Alomar and Yorvit Torrealba: The Spit Hits the Fan

Referees, umpires and officials are all human, we must remember, in the sense that they are prone to mistakes, too. Yet, we demand much more perfection from them than in most any other position in sports.

If a quarterback throws an interception it could be the receiver’s fault, a good defensive secondary, a leaky offensive line, a pass rush that force a bad throw, or a miscommunication. All those options – and more – can cause a crucial mistake.

A bad call from an umpire is examined and reviewed and hardly ever is human error mentioned in the analysis. It’s labeled as a “bad call” in the booth and fans are subjected to that opinion and then hold it as fact.

That athletes then react in crazy, emotional ways with plenty of histrionics does not aid in fans understanding that umps, too, can be prone to a misjudgement here and there.

MLB backup Yorvit Torrealba took things to an extreme when he open-handed slapped an umpire in a Venezuelan game, causing a 66-game ban which closes out this winter season and all of next year’s. Take a look:

 

Good.

There is no place for that in any sport. Yes, soccer players complain more than any other professional athlete, but rarely are they the ones chasing a ref off the field. It’s usually the hooligan fans. Officials in any sport are never rewarded by any coach, player or fan.

We’re not here to defend officials – they’re the ones who agreed to the job knowing full well what could be anticipated.

But Torrealba’s indecency is never what they signed up for.

Nor is Roberto Alomar’s infamous spitting incident in 2001, when he spat on umpire John Hirschbeck in argument of a call.

Thankfully, what we’ve learned between then and now is to be tougher on those athletes that cross the line.

You know what Alomar’s penance was for spitting on another man – an act so heinous it is possibly the most degrading form of treatment between humans? Five games. Yup. Not even a week’s worth of baseball.

This was not long after Steve Howe had been reinstated an unfathomable eight times for constant drug use, and it was around the boom of The Steroid Era when baseball turned a blind eye to exploding muscles, statistics and hat sizes.

Maybe because of Alomar’s loogie and the resulting laughable suspension that was widely criticized, other leagues might have figured it out.

If we want humans to continue to be involved and perform at a high level, we must protect them.

Otherwise, we’d have to sit through entire games managed by robots and instant replay, slowing every possible exciting moment of sport to a standstill.

Christmas Memories: 1990 Donruss Complete Set

Before the price of a pack of baseball cards blew through the roof and outpriced any kid with a buck, me, like any other young kid from my generation, spent a fair amount of time and money on baseball cards.

One year, every time I went to the store, I purchased a pack of 1990 Donruss cards, the awful-looking red cards with cursive writing of player’s names on the top. They might have been some of the ugliest cards in the history of the cardboard manufacturing business.

Yet, as a kid, you don’t really think about that stuff. You are only looking for either a) your favorite player; b) players on your favorite team; or c) the most expensive card in the pack so that you can tell your friends you have, for example, the 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card.

All summer long I spent the 50 cents (yes, I remember it was two for a buck at Target!) on the packs of those Donruss. I think mainly I kept buying that brand because I bought a few packs the first time and figured if I buy more, I can get the whole set.

Needless to say, I ended up with a lot of red repeats and never made it to getting the entire set.

That is, until Christmas.

My mom’s boyfriend at the time brought over gifts and he brought one long, rectangular box that had my name on it. I saw it and said, excitedly, “A set of baseball cards!”

“Is that what you think?” he said.

“Yes! I know it by the shape of the box.”

“Oh,” he replied, “I’m sorry, Matt, that’s not what it is.”

Turns out he was a damn, dirty liar because it was a set of the 1990 Donruss cards and when I opened it I got extremely excited. I had my own set of baseball cards! (As any kid who bought cards on the reg will tell you, having a complete set gave you all kinds of bragging rights on the playground.)

As a kid on Christmas, getting a set of baseball cards seems cool, but after about 10 minutes of looking at them, the fun is gone and you wish you had gotten a toy or a video game or you just move on to the platter of Christmas cookies.

Think anyone these days gets excited to get a Bud Selig card?

Most deflating was when I took the box of cards upstairs and put them in my closet next to all my other cards and I saw dozens of scattered red 1990 Donruss cards sitting there. A whole summer’s work was taken care of for less than $10. Now I had far too many of those eyesores.

I never sold the complete set to a card dealer (have you seen any around lately? No? That’s what we thought. Card dealers preceded the newspaper business in overfunding and underselling) and I think I gave them away to a friend of mine in college who was still card-crazy by the time women and alcohol changed my interests. That, and the fact that I was 21 and didn’t really care about collecting cards anymore.

Turns out, the set of cards is only $11 now. So, what an investment that turned out to be!

Random Pro of the Week: Muggsy Bogues

Growing up, if there was one basketball player that wasn’t a Laker that I admired, it was Spud Webb. If there were two, it was Spud Webb and Muggsy Bogues.

As someone who wasn’t cut from his freshman team in high school because all I did was hustle despite the fact that I hadn’t really developed any basketball skills, guys like Webb and Bogues were inspirational.

Here was a guy who was no taller than my mother – Bogues is the smallest player in NBA history at just 5-foot-3 – yet was drafted 12th overall. The fact that he was part of the popular Charlotte Hornets (think Starter jackets and NBA Jam) with Larry “Grand Ma Ma” Johnson meant that people liked him even more.

Muggsy Bogues, the NBA's shortest player, and Manute Bol, the NBA's tallest player, were teammates in Washington.

Bogues, though, played for 14 years in the Association. Think about that in terms of a child: From birth through freshman year of high school, Bogues was playing in the NBA.

Sure, he’s only remembered for his height but he scored almost 7,000 points and had nearly that many assists. If there was ever a person who could inspire just by being on TV, it was Muggsy Bogues. He didn’t need any Tony Robbins speeches, or “The More You Know” videos. Just seeing him on the court, weaving in between the 6-foot-9 players was amazing.

Plus, he even blocked a shot by Patrick Ewing once.

And, he had one of the best names in sports. Although Muggsy is not his real name, no one knows him as Tyrone Bogues. Like Magic, Muggsy is just his name. Not Earvin. Not Tyrone.

While most weekend warriors try to envision themselves as Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant – think of the hilarious Along Came Polly scene where Philip Seymour Hoffman yells “White Chocolate!” – I think that Muggsy Bogues inspired more people to take up hoops than any other professional player.

“Hey!” you’d say while looking at the TV, “If that midget can play in the NBA, then I definitely can play a little ball.”

Muggsy Bogues, plain and simple, showed people that adage – if you put your mind to something, you can succeed.

Plus, he made the hilarious crossover to Curb Your Enthusiasm  when we realized that Muggsy wasn’t small in every area.