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Less-Than-Deep Thoughts On A Tuuuesday Aaaaafternoooon …

March 27, 2012

And Then There Were Four … By the time last weekend’s Elite Eight games in the NCAA® Division I Men’s Basketball Championship arrived, there really was no underdog left to root for; if you want to call No. 7 seed Florida, returning to their second-consecutive Elite Eight and coached by Billy Donovan who had won back-to-back NCAA Championships at Florida a mere five years ago, an “underdog”, that’s your business, but you’d be really stretching the concept.  As such, no real surprises emerged from the weekend, and despite the fact only one No. 1 seed made it – odds-on favorite Kentucky will face their in-state blood rival, No. 1-most profitable-college-basketball-program Louisville, while key personnel losses to the No. 1 seeds in their respective brackets (more on Syracuse and North Carolina in a sec) helped pave the way for No. 2 seeds Ohio State and Kansas to meet in New Orleans – as expected the Final Four feels decidedly chalky.

I admit that in this very space earlier in the month I had predicted at least two of three from Kentucky, North Carolina, and Syracuse would get to Bourbon Street, and would be “completely shocked” if one of them did not win the NCAA® Championship. To be fair, ‘Carolina (Kendall Marshall’s broken scaphoid) and ‘Cuse (Fab Melo’s broken eligibility) both lost players vital to their prospects since that call, and in most ways played admirably in getting to the Elite Eight despite their absences. Regardless, I’ll stand by that proclamation, as Kentucky not cutting down the nets next Monday evening would still shock me. On a selfish note, despite the fact my bracket is currently in ashes in the trash can, I will salvage a bit of ego by mentioning that this Final Four has two of my “National Championship Contenders” (Kentucky and Kansas) and two of my “Final Four/Title Game Darkhorses” (Louisville and Ohio State) as well as two more of each in the Elite Eight.  That and $4.50 will get me a Tall Mocha Iced Latte at my nearest coffeehouse, but still.

 

If A Tiger Growls In The Woods, And No One Hears It … After the basketball games Sunday I switched channels and saw on the news crawler that Tiger Woods had won The Bay Hill Invitational, and my reaction was, to quote the kids today, “Meh.” It didn’t really register to me as that big a deal.  Now, I know that in reality it is a very big deal, not only for Tiger, but for the PGA and for golf in general, between the timing of it two weeks before the Masters and it being the first non-silly season PGA win for Tiger in this “comeback” phase of his career. Let’s face it, pro golf was infinitely more interesting with Tiger winning majors as often as Donald Trump fires underlings. Yet, my initial reaction speaks to how far Tiger’s star has fallen, and if other golf fans of various interest levels reacted the same way I did, that poses a real problem for the future of professional golf as viable entertainment and marketing engine for things besides golf balls and clubs.  The purists and the fanatics will always follow the sport, but what happens to the casual fans with disposable income if Tiger doesn’t regain his dominance? As he’s now proven he can win again, we should be closer to an answer by the time we also know whether the Mayans were right, wrong or misinterpreted.

 

Miami v. Oklahoma City Twice In 10 Days Is Not An NBA Finals Preview, Is It? … No.  At least I don’t think it is.  This 66-game concentrated crucible of a season favors the young and talented, and there’s no doubt the Heat and Thunder have both in abundance, but if we learned anything from the 1999 strike-shortened 50-game NBA season, it’s that seasons like this also favor the unexpected and the strange.  That’s why I can see age-defying San Antonio, starting-to-click LA Lakers, Defending Champ Dallas or even lurking underdogs like Memphis or two-games-out-of-the-playoffs/four-games-out-of-fourth-place Phoenix coming out of the Wild Wild West instead of Oklahoma City, whose guard play I still question in crunch time.  The Eastern side of the NBA Finals equation is less murky, as I do think Miami or Chicago gets through despite the best efforts of Orlando, Boston, Philadelphia, Indiana and Atlanta or themselves to muddy the waters.

 

“The Voice” Maybe Shoulda Coulda Stuck With 32 Contestants Instead of This Season’s 48 … Watching Season 2 of this singing talent competition with an expanded field it became evident that too many of those initially selected by Moves Like Jagger, Cee-Lo Pajamas, Tina Ags and “The Blaker” didn’t have the chops to advance to the second phase of the contest, much less win the whole shebang.  Too many of the “battle rounds” weren’t really “battles” despite the earnest hemming and hawing of this show’s “Gang of Four” judge/coaches over each decision, and Monday’s episode only produced one truly gripping performance, with Justin Hopkins and Anthony Vincent from Team Cee-Lo belting out a heartfelt rendition of Journey’s “Faithfully” (which, of course, they saved for last).  I still have high hopes for several of those who advanced to the live shows starting next week, but the captivation potential of the show would have been better served with less diluted a product in the earlier phases of the competition, as after the same battle round phase last season, I had a much better feel for the field as a whole as well as more belief in the collective abilities of those chosen.  It’s still DVR-worthy television, which is about as high as any praise I can give a TV show now.

 

No Olympic Soccer For The US Men’s National Team Makes BobbyTrue Sad … And a tad angry. Qualification for London 2012 was once taken for granted by the US Soccer “cognoscenti” (and seemingly even the players themselves judging by their performances), and now the very idea that the Under-23 squad couldn’t achieve the necessary results in Group play against Canada (0-2 loss) and El Salvador (3-3 tie) on home soil is not only galling to me, but really undercuts the idea that the United States has advanced as a soccer nation. Clearly this is a major step backwards. Losing Juan Agudelo to injury should not have been the factor it evidently was either.  Just when Jürgen Klinsmann had collected a signature win at the helm of the USMNT with their 1-0 catenaccio-ing of the original catenaccio-istas Italy, it now appears that the comprehensive overhauling of the Senior Men’s team needs to be extended to the entire US national program structure in order to reacquire their upwardly mobile trajectory.

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From → Basketball, Soccer, Sports

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