Archive for April, 2011

Word Limits Be Damned

The NFL Draft is one of my favorite events to watch every year, but with my team picking at 21 (after being in the top 5 for the previous 3 years) some of the excitement seemed to be gone. If thats the price for a 10 win season, I’ll take it. I thought the 1st round would be the perfect opportunity for a running diary, but this is my first shot at it, so bear with me here.

8.00: Turn on the tv and the first thing we see is cam newton on the phone, and possibly a little teary eyed? Carolina’s taking the kid for sure. The lineup is Chris Berman, Jon Gruden, and Mel Kiper. The only thing we’re missing here is mel kiper not being there. Get it?! No? Ok moving on.

8.03: Do you guys remember those tiny American flag pins that important political people wear? Cam newton is wearing an Under Armour version take of that pin on his jacket. Thats marketing folks.

8.04: Goodell being booed heavily as he comes out to which he responds, “I got you.” He has learned some urban slang as of late.

8.06: Newton is officially a Carolina panther. My roommates and their friends on the other side of the room have been screaming for no reason for the last 2 hours, distracting me heavily in the process. And now I have some insurance against the always possible lack of comedy tonight.

8.10: Gruden says Cam needs to make the adjustment in the NFL to new “loaded installations.” Not sure what this means but its awesome, and will be incorporating that phrase into daily word use.

8.12: Von miller is crying in the green room.

8.13: Broncos take Von Miller, who is now sobbing in the green room. As much as it pains me to say it, that alone has to make the Broncos extremely happy. Will be a star, and now we know he’ll probably work his butt off to make sure that happens. Very afraid. Hoping he struggles to adjust to new loaded installations.

8.15: Von miller is still crying.

8.17: Now watching a Bud Light commercial that displays a phone application which enables said phone to dispense illimitable amounts of bear. Bud light tells lies.

8.20: Bills take Marcell Dareus, who lifts his agent 20 feet in the air in celebration. Liking the efficiency of the draft so far, something the NFL has really gotten right in the past few years.

8.24: Bengals take AJ Green. So far, the draft has gone according to plan, but things start to get a little dicey with Arizona up next.

8.25: Gruden: “AJ Green could be in the circus the way he handles the football.” The circus now employs a football handling act.

8.31: Cards taking LSU’s Pat Peterson, maybe the best player in the draft. Fans now have another year of List_of_Arizona_Cardinals_starting_quarterbacks and trying to convince themselves that Richard Bartel can be the man to look forward to; should be fun.

8.32: Browns trade their pick (6th overall) to Atlanta. I officially have no idea whats going on.

8.35: Gruden: “One thing I want my receivers to do…catch the ball.” I also want my quarterbacks to throw the ball.

8.36: Falcons take Julio Jones. Can’t really say anything against the pick except what they gave up for it. They now have someone to put opposite Roddy White who can take the top off of a defense. Falcons give up 1st, 2nd and 4th round picks this year, and 1st and 4th round picks next year. Pretty steep price, but you can’t get a Julio Jones when you’re at the bottom of the first round. I think that 5 of the first 6 players taken in the draft were from the SEC. Doesn’t it seem like we see this every year?

8.39: Kiper says Julio Jones needs to work on his concentration in the NFL. Meanwhile Jones is showing the wrong side of his Falcons jersey to the cheering crowd. He turns around…and shows the wrong side of the jersey to the cameras. I am now in agreement with Kiper, and am immediately alarmed for the Falcons.

8.42: San Fran takes Aldon Smith from Missouri. Solid pass rusher to compliment Pat Willis. Blaine Gabbert comes up to him to give a token congratulations and Smith acts like hes not even there. Maybe it means nothing, maybe it means something? Trying to keep myself intrigued.

8.45: Titans take Jake Locker. First huge surprise of the draft, but personally, I like the guy. Really impressed me in Gruden’s quarterback camp (which is some of the best television you  can come around), which clearly meant a lot to management in Tennessee.

8.46: Gruden: “Locker is one of the few guys in the league who could play without a face mask.” Gruden is on a roll now.

8.48: Gruden passionately defends Locker saying he wins games, and is simply a product of a bad team. This is the most fired up I have ever seen him get outside of being on a football sideline (not joking). Im sold.

8.51. Mort comes on with Schefty and says Tebow announced he was coming back for his senior season at Florida to a stadium full of riotous people. Locker announced he was coming back for his senior season by walking into his coach’s office with his hunting dog. Im really sold.

8.55: Dallas takes an offensive tackle from USC. I just burnt my tongue. Disappointingly conventional pick from Jerry Jones.

8.56: Gruden says Tyron Smith (Dallas’ pick) “needs more thump.” Gruden might be the drafts biggest winner. I will also be putting this phrase to daily usage.

8.59: Under Armour advertises a shirt that can measure heart rate, speed, and among other things g-force of beginning take off. Pretty cool stuff. I would like a shirt to tell me how much calories and fat I gain whenever I eat.

9.00: Jags trade up to take the Redskins’ pick. Someone next to me lets out a 90 decibel scream. I’m not sure what he was hoping would happen, but I feel like this is the existence of the common Redskins fan under Dan Snyder.

9.02: Fan still screaming. Washington did irreparable damage to its relationship with Donovan McNabb, they could really use a franchise quarterback.

9.02: Jaguars take Blaine Gabbert. No qualms with the pick. If anyone cared about the city of Jacksonville, the fact that David Garrard still has 4 years and almost $40 million left on his contract would raise a few eyebrows. Maybe they’re hoping Gabbert can use all that time to develop, in which case this worked out brilliantly for them.

9.03: Gabbert tops both my flow and cabbage power rankings. The one thing Jacksonville can be sure of is that they are getting a bro.

9.05: Kiper asks Gruden if he thinks Gabbert can play in the NFL. Disappointed its taken an hour for Kiper to say something stupid.

9.06: Von miller is still crying

9.09: Texans take JJ Watt, a defensive end out of Wisconsin. Again, no qualms with the pick, Im pretty indifferent. The Texans had an historically bad pass defense last year and they immediately improve their pass rush. Fine.

9.09: Gruden: “This guy is a self made man. Your in for an all day sucker when you face off against this man. I think he used to sell pizzas to you Mel.” All day suckers are the worst.

9.14: Mort says Minnesota was poised to take Jake Locker had he fallen to them. I don’t feel the need to explain my logic here because I’m too lazy, but I bet they trade down now and take a chance on Andy Dalton.

9.16: Da’Quan Bowers and Nick Fairley have really slipped so far. Otherwise, pretty reasonably tame draft.

9.17: Right on cue, the Vikings select Christian Ponder. I promise you I typed the tame part before this happened. Gruden and Kiper have no idea what is going on. Minnesota fans are lighting themselves on fire.

9.18: Apparently a current Villanova student used to date Christian Ponder. This is a win for everybody.

9.21: Detriot happens upon Nick Fairley. Maybe not a huge need pick, but the best player on the board without a doubt. If I’m a Lions fan, I am extremely excited. If Fairley pans out, the Lions will possess the most fearsome d-tackle tandom of the decade, mark it down.Looks like the team finally has something going here. Now we just need to keep Stafford healthy.

9.22: Chris Berman says Lions lost 16 games just a few years ago then screams AND NOW THEYRE ON MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL. Gruden still carrying the show.

9.29: Rams take Robert Quinn. Not really much knowledge of team needs but he appears to be crying. Huge fan of the cry factor for players. Not a guarantor of sure stardom, but you know youre gonna get a serious worker, which is a 100% big deal in the NFL.

9.30: Bro party in the adjacent room (I live in a quad), and one of the guys is listening to Love In This Club by Usher, wearing a bandana, shirtless, and pantless. Gotta love the draft.

9.35: Miami takes Mike Pouncey. Not quite as good as his older brother, but still has a few pro bowls in his future. Very solid draft pick. Chiefs are almost on the clock, getting a bit jumpy here.

9.38: For the 40,000th time, Kiper makes an unnecessarily big deal about a team that may or may not need a quarterback passing on a quarterback.

9.40: Now blaring in the party across the room is Rolling in the Deep by Adele. Things are getting interesting. I think?

9.43: Redskins (with the Jaguars’ old pick) take Ryan Kerrigan of Purdue origins. The place literally goes silent, maybe everyone is surprised that Dan Snyder does something comprehensible?

9.44: Mel Kiper compares Kerrigan (defensive end) to Chris Long (a very highly picked defensive end) and Jarret Johnson (a little known defensive tackle for the Ravens). All 3 are also white. Kiper clearly did a lot of research on that one.

9.49: New England (with the pick they got from the Seymour trade a couple years ago) takes Nate Solder. Good pick for the Patriots, offensive line was a slight issue for the team. Surprised Mel didn’t get angrier that they passed on Andy Dalton.

9.51: Gruden has gone cold. Solder and Tom Brady are both white, pretty comparable by Kiper’s estimates.

9.56: Chargers take Corey Liuget. Pretty indifferent here, their trying to beef up their front 7. Gruden: “This guy is 300 pounds and that’s where he likes to play.” Not sure what that means but Gruden is back.

10.03: The Giants take Prince Amukamara. Looks like a good value pick, and also near the top of this year’s name power rankings. But Gruden’s areas for concern are “sloppy technician” and “needs to acclimate to NFL rules.” Those are red flags if I’ve ever seen them.

10.05: I just stubbed my toe and that’s where I like to play.

10.11: Bucs select Adrian Clayborn. Team on the rise, love Josh Freeman, love Raheem Morris, indifferent about the pick. Chiefs on the clock, I have no idea whats coming. Ive been hearing maybe Gabe Carimi the last few days. Hoping Scott Pioli sticks to the plan…whatever that means.

10.12: Mel compares Clayborn to Troy Polamalu: “Polamalu will hit you, this kid will hit you.” Mel is clearly slipping a bit now. Not only do they play completely different positions, but their skin isn’t the same color.

10.14: Someone just tried to trade me a PBR for a Coors Light. I refused. Sorry Tom Raper.

10.16: Chiefs trade their pick (21st overall) to Cleveland for the 27th overall and Cleveland’s 3rd rounder. Don’t mind this one at all. Pioli clearly knows what he wants, and thinks he can get some extra value in return as well. Cant argue against stockpiling picks.

10.21: Special guest pick-announcer Peyton Hillis thanks his lord and savior Jesus Christ for the opportunity. I’m all for thanking the guy upstairs after a big win etc., but attributing the ability to announce a draft choice to God? C’mon man. Browns take Phil Taylor and that’s where they like to play.

10.26: Colts take Anthony Castonzo. Keeping good maintenance of the O-line is a must. Feel like the Colts make smart picks just about every year.

10.33: They bring out the troops for a great round of applause and it delays the Eagles’ selection for about 3 minutes. I bet even this pissed them off. They take Danny Watkins. As it turns out, he is 26 years old. 40% of his career (and that’s generous) was over before it even began. Age wont have any effect on the quality of his performance but it does have an effect on the longevity of his career (a pretty large deal). I’d rather have a player with a solid 10 year career than a player with a solid 6 year career.

10.38: Danny Watkins was a firefighter before playing college football. He is near the top for most interesting man in the world power rankings (behind the most interesting man in the world of course).

10.39: Gruden out of nowhere: “This is as good as I’ve felt in a long time.”

10.42: Saints select Cameron Jordan. Yawn. Nice value pick though.

10.48: Interesting note from Berman. Had the Seahawks lost their final game of the regular season, thus losing the division and missing out on the playoffs as a result, they would have picked 7th in this draft. Ruh roh. Then Seattle ends up picking James Carpenter. I feel like Ive heard of a good deal of prospects and I’ve never heard of this guy. Ruh roh. Pretty big reach, but always keep in mind that Seattle loves loaded installations (still working on when its ok to use that).

10.57: Gruden on Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith: “We’ve been talking about this LOCKout thing for awhile now, but this kid is a LOCKdown corner.” Seamless.

11.00: The clock has run out on Baltimore and they don’t do anything (found out later it was because Chicago botched the trade). Haven’t seen a team pass on a pick in a very long time. So now the Chiefs are on the clock. Worried this pick is now jinxed for us. The pick is immediately announced as “in.” Pioli wants his guy I guess. Baltimore then announces that its pick is also “in.” What is going on.

11.04: Chiefs pick Jon Baldwin from Pittsburgh. We needed a WR, and he is a very sizeable guy, but I’m worried its just another Dwayne Bowe to line up on the other side of the field. At the same time, it’s a big position of need and hes a fantastic athlete, so no big complaints here. They have a surplus of picks in the coming rounds to try and address the O-line and front seven.

11.07: Ravens pick cornerback Jimmy Smith.  Huge position of need. He is more talented then where he was drafted, and the only possible problem was a character issue, and you know Jon Harbaugh and Ray Lewis will fix that problem pretty quickly. Very good pick.

11.14: Saints trade up with the Patriots to take Alabama’s Mark Ingram. The Patriots will get the Saints number one pick next year, and the saints 2nd round pick this year. Like this for both teams. Saints clearly needed some RB help, and the Patriots do what they do best, stockpiling massive amount of draft picks. They had (via the Seymour trade with Oakland) a 1st rounder this year, three 2nd’s this year, 2 3rd’s and 2 1st’s next year. Great organization.

11.17: Suzy Kolber reads a letter to Ingram that his dad (former NFL player, currently in jail) wanted read upon his being drafted. Really special moment, maybe the highlight of the night.

11.19: The Patriots seem to stockpile picks going into/during every draft, only to trade them away a few hours later for even more picks in the next draft. And this process has been on repeat for maybe 6 years in a row. Is it possible they are assembling the greatest godfather package of all-time to swoop in and select Andrew Luck with the top overall pick during next year’s draft? The draft has gotten boring and I’ve clearly let myself go. Then again, wouldn’t put it past Bill Belichick. And they have to do something with all of these picks at some point. Right? If it happens I will literally crap my pants on purpose. That would be one of the greatest draft day stories of all time. I should just stop talking. But seriously. Luck (already a certifiable stud) learning the craft under Tom Brady for 2-3 years? The Patriots would be set until 2025. This has gotten out of control.

11.20: Chicago gets Gabe Carimi up next. Like this guy, and he will start from day one. Good protection for Cutler. Wouldn’t want him to get anymore booboos on his knee.

11.30: Jets take Muhammad Wilkerson, a DT. Steelers take Cameron Heyward, a DE. Packers take Derek Sherrod. I’ve lost all interest.

Observations: 1. Gruden is a rising star, and possibly poised to become the Gus Johnson of pro football commentating?

2. This draft was pretty boring I think because about 20 linemen were selected. Gotta see more position players for the usual excitement.

3. Da’Quan Bowers and Andy Dalton will probably dominate the discussion for tomorrow. Trent Dilfer has said Dalton reminds him of Aaron Rodgers. Sign me up.

4. How crappy must Panthers fans be feeling right now? They were sandwiched in between the Sam Bradford draft (last year) and the Andrew Luck draft (next year) and have to settle for Cam Newton? This isn’t to say Newton won’t do well, but you don’t need me to tell you that he is the prototype boom or bust draft pick. Bradford had one of the highest pre-draft grades for a QB since Peyton Manning (not to mention he exceeded already sky high expectations with his rookie campaign). And Luck? It is pretty much the general consensus that he will be even better than Bradford. And even if the Panthers are lucky enough to get the number one overall pick again next year (I have never seen a team do it two years in a row), you know they can’t take Luck, because they will already have invested so much in Newton. This pick will define the franchise. Not for the next 5, 10, or 15 years. This pick will define the franchise. Period. Good thing they didn’t use it on a guy who has a 50% chance of NFL success (I’m probably being generous here).

The action should be just as interesting later tonight, so be sure to tune in. Apologies for the 3 week wait and especially to Andrew Edmonds on the word count, will be sure to work on that for the next column.

Amateur Hour and Tight Pants

Well it sure has been a little while. Lots of stuff currently going on in the sports world. One of the more boring, anticlimactic Final Fours in recent memory has concluded. Missouri hired Frank Haith to be its new basketball coach (classic). And now, Master’s Weekend is upon us. So if you’ve got nothing better to do, or even if you do have something better to do, don’t hesitate to find the usual spot on your favorite couch and watch the best golfers in the world go at it. If nothing else, the voice of Jim Nantz has an unparalleled power at inducing awesome naps.

Last order of business, just wanted to say thanks to any viewers who used search engines to get to this column. With the power of being an admin, I can keep track of the different search terms that have led viewers here, with two of the more prevalent being “prostitution” and “call girls from grandview missouri.” Really good stuff. And now that we are talking about prostitution, let’s segue into the meat and potatoes of today’s post.

Something is terribly wrong with the NCAA. The amount of problems that exist with this organization is far too many for one column. Especially since I’m working hard to cut down my word count from now on (lookin’ at you Andy). On the other hand, I have the luxury of saying that there are a bunch of problems with this institution, point those flaws out, and not have to provide any legitimate solutions. Let’s do this.

Before we even get to some of the other stuff, we need to establish that the NCAA is a non-profit organization. Let that sink in. It signed a deal with CBS and Turner Sports for television rights to the NCAA Men’s Tournament worth in excess of $10 Billion. The former president of the organization made almost $2 Million a year. And wouldn’t it be reasonable to suspect that the current president, Mark Emmert, probably received a pay raise upon being hired? Now let that sink in. That’s a pretty nice salary for the head of a non-profit organization. Sounds like they have a pretty nice operation going on.

The problem is that the main sources of revenue and entertainment (in fact…the only source of revenue and entertainment), THE PLAYERS, are getting only a fraction of that profit. No matter what you think amateurism should mean, doesn’t the current compensation for players seem so inadequate that it borders upon the immoral? As Jason Whitlock (who is a heavyset man to say the very least) pointed out, the NCAA’s current compensation package for its football and men’s basketball players is like the organization giving him size 32 jeans as pay for his writing. Do the jeans have some value? Sure. Can he do anything with those specific jeans? If you know anything about pant sizes, the answer is a resounding no.

What players are currently provided with is an athletic scholarship to essentially attend their school of choice. Well…that’s a start. But before that scholarship is valid, those players are required to sign a contract (a long one…one that your average 18 year old kid probably isn’t going to take much time to read). That contract says players cannot sign with an agent or professional sports organization, be paid to play in any athletic contest, or have their likeness or image used in any way for their profit. Now things start to get a little fishy.

So the NCAA can release a video game (they release football and basketball games most every year that are very popular) and use everything except the player’s actual name and reap in all of the profit? Absolutely. Take a look at NCAA March Madness 2010. Almost every player in the sport is accounted for. Their specific skill sets are reasonably accurate, and even the players in the game look like the actual players they are representing. And those players can’t earn any profits whatsoever from this? You got it. Where do those profits go? The NCAA of course. That is what we in the business like to call a raw deal.  

But still…a full scholarship, with room and board, tuition, books, pretty much the whole thing, is all on the school’s own dime. And the players even get expensive team apparel. So we’re still doing OK. But back to the scholarship. I never said it covers the whole thing. If given a full athletic scholarship, expenses for a parking permit, student ID card, course fees (which I have experienced a good amount of in less than one year at an institution), library fines, and several others…it’s all coming out of your own pocket. But still, we’re doing pretty well. I mean the scholarship does cover most of the costs right?

Correct, it is a binding agreement to cover most of the costs for attending that school, for one year. Read that again. These scholarships have to be renewed every year. The athlete has zero insurance against an injury or bad luck. If you are a player that gets limited time on the court or field, and someone else better comes along, you are expendable.

In most other circumstances, that would be OK as harsh as it sounds. That philosophy applied in the workplace is what we like to call capitalism, survival of the fittest. Poor performance = poor compensation. And that would be fine in college too, but it has to be a two way street. Right now, the players are assets to be used and exploited for the benefit of the school, and yet the players are not allowed to use their own god given talents (or even their own image or likeness!) to benefit themselves, except for being given a scholarship that doesn’t cover all of the costs of attending school. The school is allowed to use the image and likeness of a player for its benefit, but the player cannot use his image and likeness for his own benefit? This isn’t capitalism, this is indentured servitude.

For the lucky few that are able to take their talents to a professional level, whether in America or overseas, most of this talk doesn’t really apply to them. But for the vast majority of other athletes, they are being suckered into a horrendously one-sided agreement. I’m sure the NCAA would say that even if the above arguments were proven true, they would still be moot points.

They would say that for players who lack the talent to be professional athletes, they are still given the opportunity to take advantage of an education that is essentially free. But let’s be real. Do you think the majority of players who bust their butts in the weight room, film room, court, or field all day are going to then use the rest of their free time to study? No! They don’t have the energy! Continuing this “real talk,” what do you think they were given that scholarship for in the first place? It wasn’t to get a 4.0 GPA and get a great entry level job on Wall Street, no matter what the institution says. Their job is to go win games, to produce, or else they are expendable. It’s a zero-sum game for far too many of the athletes.

If your hard work on the court doesn’t end up leading to a professional career, there is hardly anything resembling a real-world education to use as a plan B. If you focus too much on education and your performance on the court slips? Better watch out or that scholarship might get revoked.

I’m not sure what the perfect solution is. Some have suggested that the NCAA slowly implement an Olympic type of model. Players are not paid to represent their country, but they can benefit from the use of their image and likeness in endorsements and advertising. A player going unpaid to represent his institution, but still being able to use his own face to make a profit? That sure sounds better. Others have suggested that a sum of money (I have no idea how the amount would be determined) be held in a trust fund that can’t be touched until a certain age and certain educational, employment requirements are met. That seems a bit fairer.

In the end though, there can never be an infallible solution. But one thing, at least, is a certainty. The NCAA’s current system of compensation for amateur athletes is like trying to reward a hardworking 450 pound man with size 32 jeans. It’s not working.