LOS ANGELES -- There are three important national holidays on the official calendar of Hoops Nation™. First and foremost in importance, of course, is Selection Sunday in March -- the day that the entire college basketball year leads up to. A second is coming up in a couple weeks: that glorious Day of the Mid-Majors, the day when we take over (some of) the cable and broadband airwaves, BracketBusters Saturday.
The third one, the one that elicits the most ecstasy and joy in your humble narrator, is today -- the anticipation has been sphincter-clenchingly unbearable, and it's finally here. After a long winter of annual discontent, a bright and clear morning has dawned... on Football Independence Day.
American-style football is the most ridiculous mish-mash of a "sport" that sentient beings have ever slapped together: a bastardization of the grand old game of rugby union, but with pads and helmets and steroids. To paraphrase George Will, football brings together the two worst things about American society: violence and committee meetings. But in no other game will you find such a premium of "toughness" and "manliness," balanced against the fact that all your favorite franchise's scoring records are most likely held by a 175-pound dude who's on the field for less than two minutes per contest. Or such hypocrisy as when real violence
breaks out, it's an "embarrassment"
. At its very core, football is a game for confused, maladjusted, passive-aggressive sissies.
And in no other game will you find such a figure as the dashing, smart pretty-boy quarterback exalted to such ridiculous superman status -- I can remember a TV roundtable discussion about who the better athlete was, Lance Armstrong or Brett Favre. Armstrong pedalled a bicycle faster than anybody else for thousands of miles and over treacherous mountains, for an entire month -- seven times
-- but the football apologist asked glibly, "Yeah, but did he have 300-pound guys chasing him?" And those nameless, fat linemen... many of whom will die forgotten and unsung before 50, mostly due to obesity-related conditions.
Now it's all over, for six months anyway. As the needless analysis of every last detail of the Super Bowl (and the meaningless Pro Bowl) dies away, we can focus on a real sport: basketball. There are no greater athletes than basketball players (although marathoners are up there -- but that's a personal bias); nobody runs and jumps and gives as much sustained effort in a game context. Football, with its caste-like specialization and hours of standing around, translates well to television -- that's all the game has going for it.
So where was I on Super Bowl Sunday? Thanks for asking. I spent the day in a football-free bubble, in the only city that cares as little about pro football as I do: Los Angeles.
I awoke to the soft undulations of Redondo Beach waves as the sky went all pink and orange, the rising sun providing perfect back-light. I donned my trainers, took my place along the sand-swept marinas and plazas for an extended morning jog, as I ran alongside bronzed and flawless young women in tankinis and sleek bodysuits... each more astonishingly beautiful than the last. After a brief recovery period, I relaxed in a beachside cafe, tasting cold peaches and apples, sipping a strawberry concoction as jazz was piped in through Bose speakers.
A two hour-long drive along the Pacific Coast Highway followed -- I opened the sunroof on my rented Hyundai Sonata as I darted through the undulating hills and circle-curves of America's most scenic road. I paused for a brief nap on the sands of a perfectly secluded beach... and as a perfect sunset washed the sky in soft colors, I stopped by a Baja Fresh for a vegetable burrito bursting with tomatoes and jalapeno peppers, a hand-held treat literally exploding with bold and saucy flavors.
And not once -- not once
-- did I receive an update on the score of the Super Bowl. It wasn't until Monday morning -- from a spam e-mail message, of all places -- did I receive the news that the Chicago Bears had emerged victorious as NFL champions. It was a small scrap of sports information I quickly filed away under "meaningless."
Yes, It was a perfect day, but not nearly as perfect as this one: Football Independence Day.Conference Shootaround!
Closed on account of the holiday and its resultant three-day weekend.K-Dub's Krazy Fact of the Day!
Last Friday, we talked a little about the NBA Efficiency Model. It's not tempo-free by any stretch of the imagination, and there are certainly better ways to measure a player's output. But this stat looks at a player's performance very much like a fan does: good things are plusses, bad things are negatives. Sportswriters tend to look at the game this way too, and that's why I thought it might be interesting to measure the list of conference "efficiency" leaders against the Player Of the Year list at the end of the season.
Here's that formula again:((Points + Rebounds + Assists + Steals + Blocks) - ((Field Goals Att. - Field Goals Made) + (Free Throws Att. - Free Throws Made) + Turnovers))
And here are the current conference leaders in average efficiency (Eff/GP) of the mid-major conferences, along with something resembling quickie analysis:America East: Jamar Wilson
, Albany (17.7)He was the preseason POY; this sounds right.Atlantic Sun: Jonathan Rodriguez
, Campbell (19.8)Exciting young player, but his team doesn't win; Brad Nuckles of East Tennessee State is at No. 4, he seems to be the frontrunner for POY right now.Big Sky: Rodney Stuckey
, Eastern Washington (23.1)Yep.Big South: Reggie Williams
, Virginia Military Institute (27.7)Freaky stats do throw this thing, like everything else. Will likely go to Arizona Reid (21.4) of High Point, because they won't be able to pick a Winthrop guy.Big West: Scott Cutley
, Cal State Fullerton (19.1)Bobby Brown is the more recognizable name, but this 6-5 junior has a better all-around game. Colonial: Gary Neal
, Towson (21.0)Another great player, okay team; Loren Stokes of Hofstra is No. 3 at 18.2 and is the most likely POY at this point. Horizon League: Ryon Coville
A name you should probably know, and really impressed me last week. But this is A.J. Graves'
(No. 6, 14.2) POY award to lose.Ivy League: Mark Zoller
, Pennsylvania (22.2)A likely choice.Metro Atlantic: Jason Thompson
, Rider (23.1)A long, lean NBA prospect who'll blow up the league next year. Loyola (Md.)'s Gerald Brown (No. 4, 17.5) will likely win POY.Mid-American: Jermone Tillman
, Ohio (20.4)A huge offense season for Tillman, but this will likely go to one of the Akron boys.Mid-Continent: Caleb Green
, Oral Roberts (21.4)Mmm-hmm, likely hit.Mid-Eastern: Rome Sanders
, Florida A&M (17.4)The big reason why FAMU is hanging around in the race; most fans know Jahsha Bluntt's name a little better.Missouri Valley: Eric Coleman
, Northern Iowa (18.0)Race too close to call, but this is a name you don't hear too much in the conversation (for whatever reason). Northeast: Tony Lee
, Robert Morris (20.0)No-defense RMU has falled to the middle of the pack; not a likely POY.Ohio Valley: Amadi McKenzie
, Tennessee Tech (16.9)Explosive scorer and rebounder who isn't a member of the "Tech Twins," but has contributed more to a team that may bite current conference leader Austin Peay in the end.Patriot League: Keith Simmons
, Holy Cross (19.4)POY Shoo-in.Southern: Kyle Hines
, North Carolina-Greensboro (23.9)
UNCG could be full of surprises in early March; keep this name on file.Southland: Stefan Blaszczynski
, Nicholls State (18.4)Great player, long name, horrible team. Will get votes, but not a POY.SWAC: Trey Johnson
, Jackson State (17.1)Yup.Sun Belt: Bo McCalebb
, New Orleans (22.1)A standout stat-stuffer in an underwhelming and confusing league. Could win POY.West Coast: Josh Heyvelt
(18.3)Scary and explosive domination. I say he wins POY.Western Athletic: Nick Fazekas
, Nevada (27.6)Yuppity.
We'll check this stat's hit rate again when the POY decisions come down in March. Salud!