Friday: How big has football become in this country?
So big it dominates the sports news in early May, when the NBA is having its playoffs, baseball is up and it’s time for the Kentucky Derby.
College football is huge. The NFL is gigantic. And everything else sports-related just bends a knee. Even in May.
The Pac-12 wrapped up spring practices Thursday by holding a conference call with its coaches and there was an 800-pound gorilla in every room. The Southeastern Conference’s decision last week to stay with an eight-game conference schedule – there had been a gentleman’s agreement among the five major conferences to move toward a nine-game league schedule – was the main topic of discussion.
The main thrust of the complaints: The playing field won’t be level. When it comes time to pick the four teams that will play in the playoffs, the new committee might as well be comparing apples with barges. Underlying all of the coaches’ comments was a sense the SEC was thumbing its nose at the rest of college football.
So what else is new?
The story line right now is simple: The SEC is the best conference in college football – true at the top but not throughout the league – so everyone else has to adjust. Until the other conferences start knocking off SEC teams regularly, that narrative won’t change. Deal with it.
And the NFL? Someone in the league coughs and it is national news. The extravaganza that is the draft – a bunch of guys you’ve never heard of being picked by teams you don’t care about – is just around the corner. Think these days are packed with NFL news? Wait until the week leading up to and following the draft.
Monday: Jack Ramsay, the former coach of the NBA champion Portland Trail Blazers and one of the better basketball analysts ever, died (Monday) at age 89.
As a lot of basketball fans in the 1970s, I was introduced to Ramsay via the Trail Blazers’ championship season of 1977. Led by Bill Walton, Maurice Lucas and Lionel Hollins, the Blazers were one of the five best NBA teams, right up there with the best Bulls teams, the top Celtics squads, the Lakers of 1973 and anyone else you want to name.
The Blazers defended, sure, no team with Walton in the middle wouldn’t. They ran, sure, as Walton and Lucas were beasts on the boards and Hollins was as quick as any guard. But the best part of that Blazers team was how it played half-court offense. Ramsay’s offense. So fun to watch. Cut, screen, fake a screen, backdoor, pick, pop, move. Everything a motion offense is supposed to be. So fun to watch.
Walton was the key, of course. A great low-post scorer, he was even better as a passer. A point-center if you will. So fun to watch.
Wednesday: One of the stranger aspects of high school sports in this area is the spring weather.
The weather around here rarely cooperates. It is often hit or miss whether the field or course or courts will be dry enough for competition to take place. Heck, high school baseball and softball coaches around these parts are better skilled at getting a wet field ready to play than are the professionals in Oakland.
Sure, track and soccer runs on no matter the weather but really, is it enjoyable to be a high school athlete in those sports when you have to deal with the kind of weather we get in March and April?
Heck, it’s a gender equity issue. The girls soccer season, held in the fall, always seems to be blessed with warm sunny days. The boys? Snow, hail, rain, mud and wind.
Maybe somebody should sue the entity in charge of the weather, citing a Title IX violation.
The real irony of the whole deal is, just as the seasons are winding down, the calendar turns over to May. And 70-degree days hit. Perfect outdoor sports weather. Of course, after bundling up for two months, Inland Northwest high school athletes aren’t used to the heat. By the second set or fourth inning or the second half, many have lost so much hydration they’re moving in slow motion, sort of like a grizzly just out of hibernation.