sports: November 2004 Archives

Poll Sham-pionsip Series

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I know, I know, more sports? But it is basketball season now, you know.

One of the headlines this week is how the ACC has-wow!-seven teams ranked in the top 25. Umm, yeah. I may be an Iowa homer, but I'd like one of the "coaches" who voted to explain how Virginia, whose 2 victories came over traditional basketball powers Appalachian State and Richmond, deserves to be ranked ahead of Iowa, who beat top-15 teams Louisville and Texas (on a neutral court) and lost to a top-10 team (North Carolina) in the Maui Classic. For that matter, how is Wisconsin--also a 1-loss team whose loss was to unranked Pepperdine--ahead of the Hawks? Or Cincinnati?

The answer, of course, is that (a) the coaches have their assistants vote, assistants whose jobs require roughly 95% of their attention to be paid to their own team, (b) even those coaches who do fill out their own ballots pay roughly 95% of their attention to their own teams, (c) it's far easier to simply assume that ACC teams are "great" than to do a little research, particularly early in the season, and (d) early-season polls are worse than inaccurate, because most of the folk who vote aren't actually qualified to do so, period. For the first two months, the majority of voters are just guessing, based in part on mainstream buzz. How else to explain the five people who gave first-place votes to a Kansas team that struggled to beat Vermont on its home court. Puh-lease.

But that's not as bad as the football polls which, thanks to the BCS, has become a system that is so utterly gamed as to be invalid by now. Almost every analysis I've seen or heard has discussed the voting process in such detail as to make it impossible to vote honestly. And I can guarantee that people will vote for Pitt so that the BCS doesn't suffer the embarrassment of a 6-5 Syracuse squad (who lost 51-0 to Purdue, for goodness' sake) appearing in a BCS bowl. The only reason SU isn't the Big East champion? Instead of tie-breaking by head-to-head (which SU would get, having beaten Pitt), they go by rankings, and this means that even if they lose to South Florida, Pitt will get the Big East bid. And by this time next year, I'm guessing that the Big East will learn what it feels like to be on the wrong side of the electric fence that protects the major conferences from teams like Utah, Boise State, and Louisville.

Okay, I'm done with the sports for a bit. And back to the blogging.


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I was going to lay off the sports this week, mainly out of pure disgust over the NFL Apologevent that was the opening skit for Monday Night Football. Oh. My. God. Every damn time I've watched a game for the last two years, I've been treated to those godawful Coors Light "Twins" commercials, which refer to "twins" in exactly the same way that "Hooters" refers to the owl in their nudge, nudge, wink, wink logo. If it were up to me, I'd make Bruce Smith and John Elway wait an extra year to be admitted to the Hall of Fame for that reason alone. How those commercials differ substantially from a commercial for Desperate Housewives featuring Nicolette Sheridan wrapped in a towel, I do not know.

But anyway. While I was watching SU cruise to its victory in the Coaches v. Cancer tournament, the real show was happening in Detroit, where a Pacers-Pistons game was called on account of violence. Watch ESPNews over the next day or three, and it'll be impossible to miss. In fact, it was nearly impossible for me to stop watching for the better part of an hour. A brawl between Ron Artest and Ben Wallace broke out on the court, and then, as it was settling down, someone in the crowd threw his beverage at Artest, who promptly rushed into the crowd swinging and was followed by several teammates. Minutes later, after everything from popcorn to beer to a chair was thrown at the Pacers players, the game was called. Fans were rushing the court and confronting players, fists were flying, and hooliganism was the rule.

Shameful. On all accounts.

But what they didn't talk much about, except to dismiss it quickly, was the initial incident. Put it in its full context: The Pistons are playing at home, and losing by 15 points to a pretty fierce rival with a minute left. Their best player (B Wallace) goes in for a layup or dunk (I can't recall which)--their best player who just returned from injury, if I remember correctly--and he gets chucked from behind, flagrantly in my opinion, by Artest. Should he retaliate? Of course not. But that foul was late, cheap, from behind, flagrant, and completely unnecessary--the Pistons weren't going to erase a 15 point deficit in less than a minute. Wallace was out of control, as were the Pacers and the fans later on, but none of it would have happened without Artest instigating.

He's a great player--I rue the day the Bulls gave him up for a song--but he's by far the biggest head case in the NBA, and it should be clear by now that he's not going to stop that kind of crap if left to his own devices. I totally agree with Ray Ratto that we're in for lots of apologies, lots of hand-wringing, and no real changes, but if I could see one genuine penalty handed out, I'd like to see the NBA give Artest the month off he was asking for. His behavior didn't warrant the shameful display that followed, but it most certainly caused it.



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This page is a archive of entries in the sports category from November 2004.

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