Saturday, November 17, 2018

Sports Discussions

A lot of my readers don’t much care for sports, even the slightly-off aspects I focus on, and I wanted you to be aware before you dove in and found yourself in the wrong pond. Nothing to see here, move along, unless you just want to observe my writing style for a few pointers.

College Vs Pro Football

Whenever there is a powerhouse college team and an especially woeful NFL team in the same year, there is always speculation maybe, just maybe the college team could beat the NFL team if everything broke right.  This is never so. As an example, I will note that the last time people were floating this idea was when Alabama had won back-to-back national titles, led by their brilliant quarterback AJ McCarron. That might end the discussion right there.  He has been in the NFL the few years since then and is not all that good.  Not terrible, maybe.

It used to be so.  The Chicago All-Star game was played every year from the 30s to the mid 70s, not against NFL bottom feeders, but against the previous year’s champion.  The collegians sometimes won, even once against a Vince Lombardi Green Bay Packers team. Of course, this was in an era when NFL players smoked in the locker room at halftime and had to take jobs selling cars in the offseason in order to make ends meet. More to the point, both college and pro players were smaller then. (As the source of the information is likely the teams, they were probably even smaller than that. My dad played football for Westford Academy in the 1940's.  He was 5'7" and weighed 140.  He was an interior lineman.)  Only about 5% of the league was over 260 lbs, even at the very end. They were just somewhat bigger guys who were really good athletes, not specialists who had been training and working out since high school in hopes of cashing in on a life-altering contract. The game was less complicated, most of the techniques now taught at the Pop Warner level were barely known even in the pros, then. They don't teach fundamentals anymore my Aunt Fannie. In such a situation another group of really athletic guys could hope to compete. Gerald Ford played in one in the 1930’s.

For those who remain unconvinced I offer the following.  First, more than half the players on the collegiate national champion will never even get drafted to play in the NFL.  In an actual game, those players would be going head to head with another guy who did.  There are a few college players every year, especially at running back, who come in and immediately take a starting job from a veteran player.  However, those few dozen players are distributed over all of college football, not all concentrated at Alabama or Clemson.  Those schools will have more than their fair share, that’s all.  Most other players need to improve for a couple of seasons to even become NFL starters – to get bigger and stronger, learn techniques, learn systems.

If Georgia narrowly defeats Alabama – they won’t, but just if – they will pass Michigan for the fourth spot even if the latter defeats Ohio State handily – which they might. Would Alabama drop to fifth or below, pushing Michigan back into the playoffs?
Update:  ESPN is asking the same question. Nice to know I'm not that crazy.


Malcolm Gladwell was having some fun on a sports podcast and suggested that if we had an imaginary regional/ethnic all-star league, the Nigerian team might win it over the African-American, white American, and European teams. Bill Simmons thought this was preposterous, but let him spin it out. It became clear that Gladwell was going to develop his roster by extending the definition of “Nigerian.” Hakeem Olajuwon, always good and briefly as good as any center to play, was an obvious pick.  I had not known that Andre Iguodala had a Nigerian father, but that seemed fair as well. Gladwell mentioned at this point that he is 23% Ibo and proud of it – this was not surprising and I will include it in another post. The Ibo are from Nigeria, he reminded us, and he himself is from Jamaica before growing up in Canada. That part of Africa, he assured us, was where most Caribbean slaves came from, and he thus laid claim to all the Caribbean basketball players, instantly getting Tim Duncan, Patrick Ewing, Klay and Mychal Thompson, and now Deandre Ayton.  Okay nice frontcourt, especially, but I consider that cheating. That part of Africa is Subsaharan West Africa, not just Nigeria, and virtually all the slaves came from there, not just the ones that went to the Caribbean. He tossed in some other names, but I was mentally waving him off at that point.  He did admit he didn’t have a point guard and tried to sneak in Steve Nash, who was born in Johannesburg, South Africa.  Which is not that part of Africa at all.  I know we all try to claim whatever greatness for our groups we can sneak in, in natural ethnic pride, but this seemed a bit much.

It was amusing that he kept needling Simmons that Bill would change the subject when pressed to choose a white team. He could only stutter that he didn’t think he’d be able to find a point guard without having to go back to Bob Cousy. “You’re not afraid of millennials, are you Bill? They can’t really hurt you.” It’s a good reminder, though as we will see in my related post, they may be able to hurt Gladwell if he keeps blundering in to the center of some racial genetic topics.  I’m sure he thinks he’s just playing around at the edge of those controversies.

BTW, John Stockton was a point guard, and I think Steve Nash could be fairly claimed.  Pete Maravich was officially a shooting guard, but he could handle. I’m mostly only familiar with Boston Celtics history, but even I came up with those quickly. There could be others.  You might not be able to field multiple competitive white teams in this league, but you could get one real good one anyway. What the African-American teams would bring was talent pool.  They could send a half-dozen teams, while everyone else could put up only one.

1 comment:

Sam L. said...

I have no interest in football, basketball, and baseball, but I like your writing.