We’re #1

My alma mater, the University of Oklahoma, is rated #1 in all four of the major preseason polls for NCAA football.  I’m realizing that I’d better brag now, before the games actually start, since, if history is a guide, the Sooners’ pre-eminence is likely to fade once they actually start to play some games.  Still, I am proud.   The four polls also agree in ranking Alabama #2.  After that, opinions differ.

Check out the polls:  2011 NCAA College Football Polls and Rankings for Week 1 – ESPN.  Where do you think the prognosticators get it right and where do they get it wrong?  And before the games actually begin is the right time for predictions:  Who do you think will end the season as th #1 team?

Prosecuting Roger Clemens

The great pitcher Roger Clemens testified before a Congressional hearing that he had not used steroids.  But then came evidence that he had.   So he was brought to trial for perjury.   The prosecution used hearsay evidence that the judge told them not to use, resulting in a mistrial.   So do you think Clemons should be retried?

Notice that steroid use was not illegal, nor was it then a violation of the rules of baseball.   I don’t see why steroid use back then should keep a Mark McGwire, a Sammy Sosa, or a Barry Bonds out of the record books, even with an asterisk.  It wasn’t cheating, since it didn’t violate any rules.  Now it does, so it’s a different story.  As my cousin Mark observed, there have been different eras in baseball–such as the dead ball era and the juiced ball era–so we just need to realize there was a steroid era.  Perhaps we should ban all of the vitamins players take these days.  Other sports such as cycling are outlawing “doping,” including practices such as injecting one’s own blood, so as to increase stamina by increasing the number of red blood cells.  And yet our whole Olympic team trains in Mark’s home of Colorado Springs at an altitude that increases red blood cells.  Yet one is OK, because labeled “natural,” and the other is banned because labeled artificial, even though the effect is the same.

Clemens was hauled before a court for lying to Congress, not for using steroids.  He was speaking out against steroids, probably also trying to protect his reputation so he could get into the Hall of Fame.  Once again, it isn’t the action but the lying, or, better yet, the hypocrisy, that gets people into trouble.

Is it worth the expense and the time of our court system to once again try to convict a baseball player?

Oklahoma City Thunder

Oklahoma finally has a professional sports team–the Oklahoma Sooner don’t count–and, within just a few years, it’s in the championship hunt!  The Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Memphis Grizzlies, 105-90, to win the seventh game playoff, putting them up against the Dallas Mavericks for the Western Division championship in the NBA.  The winner will play the Eastern champion, either the formerly always dominant Chicago Bulls or the superstar team of today the Miami Heat.   Wouldn’t it be something if the Thunder could beat either of those teams?  At any rate, the performance of the Thunder this year, with its great player Kevin Durant, is great for Oklahoma City and for all of my fellow Okies, including those of us in the post-Dust Bowl diaspora.

via Thunder top Grizzlies 105-90 to reach West finals – dailytribune.com.

Final Four?

Well, none of you predicted the Final Four.  I suspect no one in the country predicted the Final Four!  It seems like in every NCAA tournament some little college comes out of nowhere and does really well.  But this year two such underdogs made the Final Four!  The basketball superpowers, including my alma mater Kansas Jayhawks, were all shot down.  So the national champion will be either Virginia Commonwealth, Butler, Connecticut, or Kentucky.  The two big state schools will play each other, and the two little schools will play each other.  So one of the latter will be in the final two.

Predictions?  Are you pulling for the underdogs?  Is anyone for the overdogs, on principle?  I think I will be for Virginia Commonwealth, now that they beat Kansas and now that I live in the Commonwealth of Virginia.  (Not a state, mind you, but a commonwealth.)

2011 Bracket – NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament History – The Washington Post.

NCAA Basketball Championship

We haven’t talked about basketball!  My alma mater, the University of Kansas, is in it to win it.  My current home state of Virginia has two teams in the Sweet Sixteen, not only in the same state but in the same city  (Virginia Commonwealth and Richmond University, both in Richmond).  My former home of Milwaukee is in it with Marquette.

So what are your predictions for the Final Four?

For the final two?

For the championship?

My prediction for the finale:  Ohio State vs. Kansas.  Ohio State will win.  (I say that because my teams never win the big game.  Also my predictions are always wrong.  So maybe if I predict Ohio State, my team will win it after all.)

 

NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship Bracket – NCAA.com.

NFL labor dispute

One effect of Wisconsin governor Scott Walker’s successful effort to limit collective bargaining by the state employee’s union is that labor unions are once again in the national spotlight.  Unions consider this to be a good thing, after years of neglect, since much of the public seems to be taking their side.  And now a labor issue of even greater concern to the general public has emerged:  The National Football League is headed for a work stoppage.  After negotiations over a new contract fell apart, the players decertified their union, a tactic that allowed for court action, and the players essentially locked out the players.  Next year’s season is in jeopardy.  See  NFL talks collapse, shutdown of pro football expected – The Washington Post.

Unions for sweatshops, casualties of the industrial revolution paid subsistence wages, and other cases of the exploited proletariat are one thing.  It’s harder to be sympathetic to white collar unions and–what do we call them?–spandex collar unions, especially professional sports laborers who make untold millions and are in a dispute about how to share in additional billions.

Still, some may argue that the principles are the same?  Going from a 16-game season to an 18-game season would surely mean a greater chance for career-ending injuries.  Can’t millionaire athletes be exploited too?  Or is there a difference of kind as well as magnitude here?

And what would be the real effects of a work stoppage?  When the garbage collectors’ union goes on strike, the trash does not get picked up.  But who is hurt if professional athletes don’t go to work, other than themselves and the owners?  I have heard it said that “this only hurts the fans,” but I would contend that fans are not hurt at all, not really.  Missing a few hours of entertainment on Sunday afternoon will not hurt anyone.  Fans can always read a book, play video games, spend time with the family, or take a nap.

What do you think about all of this?


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