Friday, December 25, 2009

Sudden Depth: Overtime Needs An Overhaul

The NFL overtime system is often criticized since both teams are not guaranteed to possess the football. The powers that be would tell you that the NFL is for tough guys, so you’d better take control of your own destiny and finish the thing in regulation or you may not get the ball.

It’s not an equitable system like college football in which each team gets a possession. Right? Wrong.

The college football overtime isn’t football. Starting 1st and 10 on your opponents’ 25-Yard line is a video game. All stats count in scoring situations which often lead to score totals that approach a college hoop game. It puts records in jeopardy, and the final score is often no indicator of the way the game went.

Worse than that, football staples like clock, field position and special teams have virtually no meaning. If you’re the punter (unless you’re also the holder) - you might as well hit the showers. If you’re a return guy – take the rest of the day off. By eliminating the specialists, you turn a game of chess into a game of checkers. It’s a hockey shootout on field turf.

So the college system doesn’t work either. But both teams need to have a possession, right?

Not necessarily.

Here’s the plan for both college and pros: One overtime period (15 minutes or 12 or 10). First team to 6 points wins, or whoever has the most when the clock runs out.

If Team A wins the toss, and they come down and score a touchdown, they win. Team B won’t be killed by a field goal, but they’ll have to answer. If they allow a TD, they don’t deserve the ball. Most importantly, the Touchdown is the walk-off Home Run. It’s the exclamation point. Not the question mark.

And there’s a world of strategy involved. It’s 4th Down, if you punt – will you ever get the ball back? If you make the Field Goal, do you squib it or kick deep? There are coffin corners and 2-minute offenses, safeties, and ties, yes the dreaded tie (obviously in Bowl games or Playoff games, you play multiple OTs if unsettled).

If two teams play 60 minutes to a deadlock, don’t take the coaches off the hook. They need to work overtime too.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Starkville Hit and Run

It had been eight years since I had been back to Humphrey Coliseum, aka “The Hump,” one of the most significant stops (for me, anyway) on the college sports landscape.

Starkville, Mississippi is one of those towns that is generally ridiculed by barnstorming TV personnel, who refer to it as “Stark Vegas.” But like most other “happening” college towns like West Lafayette IN, Manhattan KS, or Pullman WA, the desolate journey to the middle of nowhere is the problem. The towns themselves are alright. Lunch at the Cotton District Grill was very strong.

Starkville has sentimental value for me, since 10 years ago I met my wife while she was a grad student in MSU’s fine Broadcast Meteorology department, and she was living in this quaint, stand-alone house known as "the temple." An appropriate moniker considering the number of times she would shout "Oh my God!" on my visits there.

That’s where the roller-coaster ride began. Omaha. Kalamazoo. Savannah. Two kids. Our first house. And a future that is still unwritten. You’d think life would age me.

But fortunately video tape wizard and TV archivist “Hash” was on site with me this week (hadn't seen him in years either). And it just so happens he had pictures of me, taken at age 20 and 30.

Now I was blown away that my 40 looks so much like my 30. Must be all that clean living. That and I guess nobody will ever know if my hair turned gray. Even Hash is Gray (in more ways than one) and he's younger than I am. But he also extrapolated my looks to age 50, and it's not a pretty picture.

Dr. Evil, you complete me.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

What We're Not Talking About...Tiger's Game

It was 4 months ago when we saw something we hadn't seen before.

It would be wrong to say that Tiger Woods collapsed in the final round of the 2009 PGA Championship at Hazeltine. But he seemed stuck in neutral while zero-time Major winner Y.E. Yang out-wanted it against the world’s most transcendent sports hero.

Tiger still had a great year. He won the Fedex Cup and half a dozen tournaments, but no majors. Which of course is his stated goal: To catch and overtake Jack Nicklaus.

And losing the duel with Yang was the greatest indicator that something was wrong. Because golf, more than any other sport is a mental game. It’s about standing alone over a ball and shutting out the world, focusing on one single thing. That’s usually when Tiger wins titles, before the point of contact.

It’s got to be hard to shut out the world when there’s disquiet in your soul. And that may not affect you on the driving range or even at the turn, but it does on the back nine of a Major championship.

And how could Tiger not be in a crisis of conscience while he was deceiving his family in such a distasteful fashion?

Sure plenty of men (and women) in the world have engaged in this kind of behavior and they can go about their lives with nobody knowing the difference. They just don’t have to sink a 12-foot putt in front of a billion people to stay alive on the 71st hole of a Major.

Nothing in sports compares. Maybe, if a guy stands on the foul line with nobody around him and no time left in a playoff elimination game. But even if he fails, there are teammates and a coach to pick him up. A golfer is truly alone with his thoughts.

Tiger has been the master of focus and mental toughness for so long. As a child, his father used to rattle keys next to his ear while he putted. But now he must fight the distractions in his own head which will be infinitely louder.

He’ll need to resolve that before he gets back on track to win Majors. And we will truly see how mentally tough Tiger is.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

CG in CF? A No-Brainer

And this coming from the president of the unofficial Melky Cabrera fan club. So the Yankees have addressed a need, upgrading their weakest (offensive) position, without giving up any key players from the major League roster. Yes, they did trade highly-touted AAA CF Austin Jackson, but his greatest upside might be the known quantity they just acquired...Curtis Granderson.

Granderson is a better-than-average center fielder and a force in the lineup. This past year his average dipped to .249 but he still manged 30 HR and 20 SB.

I lived in Michigan in 2007, and got to watch CG on a day-in, day-out basis. He had one of the best offensive years I can recall. As a leadoff man, he hit .302 with 122 Runs scored and was 26-for-27 stealing. That alone would have been enough, but throw in 38 doubles, 23 triples, and 23 HR.

Granderson was a legitimate MVP threat until the pitching blew up, and the Tigers gave up 1st place in their division with a 31-38 finish.

Now that he's in the Bronx, how do the dominoes fall? Some questions will need to be answered, starting with the big one:

Is Jorge Posada a Catcher or a DH?

If he's still a Catcher, then you simply move Melky Cabrera to LF. Then you make the call which World Series hero you cut ties to, Johnny Damon or Hideki Matsui. They're both leaders, they're both clutch, they can both still contribute at the plate, and they're both awful outfielders.

If Posada's a DH, then you'll need to cut ties to both Damon and Matsui. And you either hope that Jose Molina and Francisco Cervelli can do the job without being a complete hole in the lineup, or you'll need to get another backstop. Either way, the offensive upgrade you get from Granderson is negated in this scenario.

I personally think Posada is now a DH, so the Yanks may have just begun to re-tool.

Next question - who bats leadoff? Granderson is a career leadoff hitter. But the Captain, Derek Jeter, probably feels pretty comfortable in that spot.

This is why baseball still has year-round appeal more than any other sport.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Send the Heisman to Daniel McCoy, c/o Austin, Texas

Was there ever really any doubt? You don't want to say he was robbed last year since Oklahoma's Sam Bradford had an earth-shaking season as well. But D. "Colt" McCoy certainly got the short end of the stick.

Now after some merely adequate performances in the first half of the '09 season, he is definitely revving it up around hardware time. The 304 pass yards, 175 rush yards and 5 total TD against A&M was Vince-esque...only better.

Now he's just one win and an Ndamukong Suh from a a date with an engraver.

This season has had some intriguing darkhorses, but they're fighting for NYC plane tickets now.

Alabama's Mark Ingram was pacing the field, but looks like he needs some new tires on the last lap.

Clemson's C.J. Spiller was spectacular enough, but he'd need a Reggie Bush type of win-loss record to go with his Reggie Bush type of season.

Stanford's Toby Gerhart is a legit contender with 26 TD runs, but his games are on too late serving too regional an audience to impress enough voters nationwide.

But McCoy is in position to complete the trifecta: Tebow, Bradford, McCoy. They each get one. Everyone's happy, socialism at its highest level (as is the BCS itself but that's another post). I do have a friend who is a resident of Texas' capital city and calls it "The People's Republic of Austin."

My pick:

How about a little love for the Longhorns' other #12?

Texas CB Earl Thomas and his 8 INTs for the Thorpe Award!

He's just a sophomore. Has one school ever has a Heisman and Thorpe award winner in the same season with the same number???