Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Journey Not the Destination

Savor the journey, not the destination. But what if you never reach the destination?
That is the question plaguing me as Syracuse embarks on a legacy-defining NCAA tournament.
By almost all accounts this is the best regular season in Syracuse history. 30 wins before the conference tournament (that tied a record, even when you include postseason games), a .968 winning percentage, the longest run at #1, it's been a remarkable year.
And they way they've done it has been even more spectacular. First there have been the on the court challenges. The team lacks a singular star, a go-to player. But that has been part of the joy, watching a different player emerge every night. It wasn't just Kris Joseph and Scoop Jardine. Some days it was Dion Waiters or Brandon Triche and even CJ Fair emerged as a go-to scorer. And on those rare occasions when Fab Melo was dominating a game on defense (Seton Hall) it was thrilling to watch how far he had come in only one year.

Early in the season Syracuse was blowing everyone out, which is a lot of fun if you are a fan, no worries at all, just enjoy the show. Then they got into a rhythm where they would start slow, and go on huge runs (NC State, South Florida, Marquette) and then coast to victory. Other times the coasting didn't quite go as well, and SU ended up in some nail-biters (Georgetown, Louisville, UConn). But maybe those were the most impressive, when they were able to get a defensive stop they absolutely needed, or nail a big 3 to answer an opponents run despite shooting only 1 of 15 from downtown to that point (just an example).
Maybe in 30 years I'll only remember that, the wins, the teamwork, the camaraderie and I'll forget all the other stuff.
Maybe I'll forget that this season began under the cloud of a potentially horrific child molestation scandal that cost longtime assistant Bernie Fine his job. Maybe I'll remember that the only loss came when Fab Melo was not playing, but I won't dwell on the fact that he missed 3 games for academic issues. And maybe this new scandal emerging now (players failing drug tests and not being disciplined according to University guideline) won't amount to anything. Maybe it will be huge and rock the program to its core.
Surely none of that will matter when I look back in 30 years at the greatest regular season in school history if it leads to a national title, but...

What if the Orange don't win the national title? They happen to be having the greatest regular season in school history at the same time when Kentucky is equally as good if not better (their one loss came by one point on a last second shot). What if SU plays 5 great games and matches up against a more talent Kentucky team in the final game (again) and loses (again)? What if SU plays North Carolina in the Final Four and for the first time in school history loses a national semifinal (we're 3 and oh, dontcha know)?
Would those be disappointments, but acceptable ones?
What if SU faces a spunky Wichita State team in the Sweet 16 and gets shocked by the Shockers? It would be the third straight year getting knocked out by major upset. And what if God forbid (pooh pooh pooh) Syracuse became the first one seed to lose to a 16 seed in the first round?
Would that ruin all the great things this team has accomplished?
I don't know the answers to these questions I've posed and I hope I never need to find out.


There's a saying in poker, and it applies to all areas of life, it's called being "results-oriented."
It means that you judge decisions solely (or heavily) based upon how they work out. This is a very foolish thing to do in poker and in life as well. Results are based on so many other things that happen after your decision, you can only evaluate your decision based on the information you have at the time.
Right now the Redskins know that they have been starved for years for a franchise quarterback. Peyton Manning is 36, of questionable health and very expensive. Ryan Tannehill of Texas A&M (who the Redskins likley could have gotten if they kept the 6th pick) is far from a sure thing.
Robert Griffin III is fast, strong-armed, fearless and tons of fun to watch.

no price is too high if RG3 really is the QB of the future

The Redskins did what they needed to do to get him.
Now let's get back to being results-oriented. Did the Redskins give up too much for him? Maybe. But NFL teams have a chart where points are assigned to each pick in the draft and if you want to acquire one pick, you have to come up with a combination of picks of greater value. The Redskins also faced a climate where several other teams, including Cleveland were likely to be aggressive in going after that number 2 pick.
Unlike poker, where you get thousands of trials for each decisions to smooth out variance, the NFL stands for Not For Long when you are the coach or GM of a losing team. And unlike poker where once you put your chips in you can't affect the cards, in the NFL you can do things after the decision is made to make the decision look better.
The Redskins can coach RG3, they can acquire good lineman and good receivers to assist him. They can create a game plan to help him develop. If they do those things right, this trade will look great 10 years down the road, no matter how many picks they forfeited.
But if he turns out to be a bust, then this is a bad trade, no matter how many picks the critics thought they should have given up.
But sitting here today, I think it is a great trade. It is a bold aggressive move to remake the franchise into a contender for years to come. And I defy anyone, right now, to tell me the Redskins chances for future success are better with 4 nebulous draft picks over the next 3 years, than they are with one Robert Griffin III.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Song of the Week

"Remedy" - Tarralyn Ramsey
Another song I have searched for years to find on youtube and it finally popped up. Tarralyn Ramsey is a wonderful gospel singer but this song doesn't seem to have any references to God in it. Though I am often confused if the singer is singing about Jesus, or a cute boy down the street.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Mutiny on the SS Bounty

The New Orleans Saints have been accused by the NFL of having a bounty system in place. They had a pool of $50,000 and payoffs were made for inflicting game-ending injuries on targeted players, including Brett Favre and Kurt Warner. "Knockouts," in which a player was knocked out of the game, were worth $1,500 and "cart-offs," in which players had to be helped off the field, were worth $1,000. Payments doubled or tripled for the playoffs.
Gregg Williams has admitted to running the ring and he may have been doing it in previous jobs with the Redskins and Bills as well.
Here’s why this is a big deal:
Player safety is an important issue for the NFL. The league can’t say it is serious about protecting its players if it allows teams to maintain a program offering incentives to seriously injure opposing players. And the players look very hypocritical here. They want lifetime unlimited health care, but they also want to be able to go out and there and kill and maim each other. And complain about any changes designed to make the game safer. The league admittedly is serving two masters trying to profit from the violence inherent in the game while also trying to make changes to protect the players.
Here’s why this is not such a big deal:
I doubt it had any appreciable impact on the way the players played the game. They will always play the game aggressively; they will always hit the quarterback and hit him hard. But it would be foolish to risk a 15-yard penalty and a huge fine to blatantly try to injure someone in order to pick up a $1500 bounty. The goal is just to create an aggressive attitude, to demonstrate how important it is to be physical. I don’t think anyone really did want to serious injure another player.
But it does set a dangerous precedent. Say Brett Favre or Kurt Warner suffered a serious career-ending and life-alerting injury. And then it came out that a player was paid to deliver such a blow. Wouldn’t the team and the league be on the hook for a huge amount of money?
And the worst part of all of this is that the Saints were warned. Tom Benson told GM Mickey Loomis to stop this practice and presumably the news was spread throughout the organization, and then ignored.
I expect a season-long ban for Williams, 8 games for Sean Payton and a million dollar fine plus the loss of a 1st round draft pick for the organization.
The question that keeps popping up is whether Bounty-gate is worse than Spy-gate. I can’t pick one. Spy-gate is worse for the integrity of the league because competition was affected. But on a moral level it’s a lot worse to purposely try to injure someone than it is to cheat at a game.

I Don't Want Scoop to Leave Either

A young fan crying because he doesn't want his favorite player Scoop Jardine to graduate

The young fan encapsulates one half of the Syracuse fan base. The half that loves our scrappy point guard and chants his name (they're not booing they're saying Scoop) after a big play.

But there is another group, that thinks Scoop is poop. And not the good kind. Jardine has become one of the most controversial players in Syracuse history.

I think a lot of the hatred for Scoop arose during a tough stretch last season. After an 18-0 start the team lost 4 in a row. Because Scoop played poorly, particularly at the end of those games, he was accused of point-shaving. The Scoop haters believed this and have hated him ever since.

The more fair-minded among us have noticed that Scoop has been on the only 2 Syracuse teams in the last 30 years to get a 1-seed in the tournament. Sherman Douglas, Pearl Washington and certainly not Gerry McNamara were the never point guards on a top-seeded Syracuse team. Scoop Jardine was, twice.

Jardine makes some bad plays, all college players do. But the fact is, in the past three seasons, he has never an assist-to-turnover ratio below 2. Scoop takes some bad shots, they all do. But this season his FG% is up to 48%, and not coincidentally he is taking 2 fewer 3-point attempts per game.

Jardine is a good not great player. He makes bad passes, he takes bad shots, he shoots poorly from the line (49% this year, down from 83% as a freshman) and he doesn't play aggressive defense.

But he has been a major player, the point guard, on the best three-year stretch in school history. He has helped restore SU to national prominence. And he makes little kids cry.

Monday, March 05, 2012

That's Why They Say Please Remove Your Caps

Brian McKnight and his two sons were about to sing the National Anthem at a NASCAR race this weekend when one of his sons got a friendly reminder from someone in the crowd.

Almost as noteworthy as someone screaming "take that shit off your head" was the fact that one of these kids goes by the name Broken Robot BJ.