Monday, May 21, 2012

Can The Heat Make It Without Bosh?

The Match-up
     Game 5 of the Pacers-Heat series is tomorrow, and the series is tied 2-2. Conventional wisdom says that the winner of Game 5 in a 2-2 series will win it 9 out of 10 times, so that makes this a pivotal game in the grand scheme of things. The Heat overwhelmed the Pacers in game 1. The Pacer's size dominated the Heat in game 2, and their scoring ability crippled the Heat in game 3. LeBron and D-Wade carried the Heat to victory in Game 4. Last year in the playoffs, the Heat won each of their first 3 series' in 5 games. That will not happen this year, but what will?

The Good
     In short, anything is possible. Two scenarios could play out the rest of the series: LeBron plays like the MVP and Wade plays like he did in the old days, or LeChoke's decision comes back to haunt him again, this video is played across the world to Mock the Heat, and Dwyane Wade continues shooting [see: Missing] jump shots. If LeBron and Wade both play well for 4 quarters, the Heat's potential is limitless. Think about it: A finals MVP and a league MVP playing together in the primes of their careers? Its scary to think of how they play at their best. Unfortunately, the on-court chemistry between them isn't anything special to watch for the most part. They have highlights like this, or that, or even this, but their lack of consistency will be the death of them.

The Bad
     On the other hand, if LeChoke shows up, and the team continues to look out of sync, BIG changes will be in store for them. So many questions: Will the 'big three' be split up? Will Spoelstra be fired? Is the experiment a failure? Can this group of guys ever win a championship? Although they have experienced success to a certain extent, this team was built with championship aspirations, and if they continue to lose those goals will never be achieved. 

The Verdict
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are both top 5 players in the NBA today. Without Chris Bosh, they have no other all-star level contributors on the team. However, true greatness is shown during adversity. The Miami Heat have to prove that they are truly a great team by winning despite the injuries.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Human Error: The Driving Force of Interest in Sports

     If it wasn't hard to make it in professional sports, every two-bit athlete would get their 15 minutes of fame. Although it is tougher in some sports than it is in others, consistency is hard to achieve in the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, PGA, and every other sports league out there. Personally, I believe that it is the most important factor in achieving greatness. However, human error effects our consistency, and creates parity within each respective league. The most insignificant changes,  can have a "butterfly effect" on players, coaches, and teams, and it shows most clearly when the competition is at its peak.

Parity within the Leagues
     In many of the professional leagues around the world, the hardest thing for players and teams to do is be consistent. This is most common in MLB, NHL, and PGA. Player and team statistics can vary greatly from game to game, tournament to tournament, and season to season. The Boston Red Sox are consistently one of the biggest spenders in the MLBs. Last year, they had a 9 game lead in the playoff race, but failed to make the playoffs after going 7-20 in their last 27 games. In the NHL, the Bruins are a great example. After winning the Stanley Cup Finals in 2011, they were unable to defeat the Washington Capitals in the first round of this year's playoffs. Rory McIlroy is ranked the #1 golfer in the world, but he failed to make the cut at the player's championship this past weekend. The margin of error for these players and teams is so small that they can miss out on championships and cause players to miss out on individual accolades.

 Injuries to top performers
     In basketball and football, there are less problems with consistency for the best in the game, but more with injuries. Dwight Howard, Derrick Rose, Peyton Manning, and Adrian Peterson are just a few of the All-Pro athletes that suffered major injuries and had to miss time during their respective seasons. Their teams took hits because of it, and they all face tough roads to recovery. With players taking shots at other players, anything can happen on the injury front. Players need protection, but to be honest, the unpredictable nature of the competition helps add to the excitement. If Gronkowski were healthy in the Superbowl, the Giants wouldn't have stood a chance against the Patriots offense. If the Red Sox weren't eating fried chicken and drinking beer in the dugout, they could have been good enough to win the World Series. If Tiger Wood's wife wouldn't have attacked him with a golf club, he may have broken Jack Nicholas' record by now. However, those events did happen, and had a major impact on the world of sports today.

The Funny Stuff
     In essence, human error is an intricate part of professional sports. The "holy roller", "wide right", and many other plays. In the '99 US open, all Jean Van De Velde had to do was double bogey the 18th hole to win: he triple bogeyed and later lost the tournament in a playoff. In the '06 Winter Olympics, Lindsey Jacobellis had ALMOST sealed the gold medal in the snowboarding finals, but a distasteful taunt led to a fall and a silver medal. In the '72 Summer Olympics, Rey Robinson and Eddie Hart were co-favorites to win the 100 meter dash: both runners missed the race due to a mix-up with the starting time for the race. Chris Webber called a timeout when his team had none left in a one possession game with less than 20 seconds to go in the '93 NCAA Tournament: his team lost. Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield. Floyd Mayweather vs Victor Ortiz. Vikings with 12 men on the field in the '10 NFC Championship. The Play. Steve Bartman interferes with a ball that would have gotten his team a critical out. Fred Brown passes the ball to James Worthy in the '82 NCAA Title.Tony Romo drops the hold in the '07 NFC Wildcard game. Bill Buckner lets the ball roll through his legs.These major gaffes go down in history as some of the biggest moments in sports history, and help build our love for the game.

Monday, May 7, 2012

What is the NFL's Formula?

     While watching the NFL Draft this past weekend, I took note of one of the New England Patriots' late round picks. Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Unniversity of Nebraska was picked in the 7th round, pick 224.As a senior, he was 1st team all Big 12 and voted Defensive Back of the year. At the combine, he measured in at 5'10, 204, and ran a 4.55 in the 40 yard dash, along with posting a 37 inch vertical leap. Based on the numbers, I cannot find a reason why this athlete was not selected in one of the 1st 2 rounds of the draft. So, what is the NFL's formula for selecting players?

     Dennard's case is not an anomaly, as many of the best college players did not hear their names called this past weekend. In Dennard's case, he supposedly fell in the draft due to character concerns, but didn't Janoris Jenkins get drafted in the second round? There is no true rhyme or reason to the way players are selected by the NFL. The only way that I can explain it is media hype. Media hype won RGIII the Heisman Trophy and drove him up draft boards. It also hurts people like Case Keenum and Kellen Moore. In an article by Yahoo! Sports, I read that Brok Osweiler, 6'7 242 2nd round pick by the Denver Broncos, threw for 5082 yards in his career at Arizona State, while Keenum, 6'0 208 undrafted, had two individual seasons at Houston where he threw for more than 5082 yards. However, it does not stop there. Players are being overlooked at every position. WR/KR Eric Page was a first team All-American in 2010-11, he went undrafted. Levy Adcock is a 6-6 322 pound left tackle that was 2-time All Big 12, nobody called his phone this weekend. Derrick Shelby is a 6-3 271 defensive end that was 1st team all Pac 12, he is now an undrafted free agent. JK Schaffer is a 6-1 232 outside linebacker that was 1st team all Big East, but he wasn't even invited to the NFL combine.

     The productive players I could name are countless, but the ones that get drafted are picked based on their potential. College is seen by many outsiders as a feeder system to the NFL, but in all actuality, they are two very different entities. Many of the players that are successful in college will not be successful in the NFL, and some players that were not as productive in college (See: Tom Brady) will do better in the NFL. All men are wired differently. Some can't handle the college lifestyle, with studying and school work, others can't handle the grueling "13 month season" in the NFL. Some people are beneficiaries of college schemes, others work well in pro-style offenses. Some players take advantage of weak competition, others play their best against the most elite athletes in the world.

     Predicting what someone will do when they take their game to the next level is a hard thing to do. Because of this, their are combines, pro days, and interviews. Teams are looking at game tape, injury reports, police reports, medical records, and intelligence tests to find out which players would be good fits for their team, and they still are wrong nearly half the time. Sometimes the scouts make mistakes: Tom Brady was drafted in the 6th round, pick 199, after Chad Pennington, Giovanni Carmazzi, Chris Redman, Tee Martin, Marc Bulger, and Spergon Wynn. Tim Couch, David Carr, and Jamarcus Russell were all drafted number 1 overall, and none of them threw more touchdowns than interceptions during their NFL careers.

Bottom Line: An NFL Scouts' judgment may not seem to have any sort of viable logic to it, but that is only because they are forever adapting to the changing nature of the league.