Wednesday, March 30, 2011

U-Conn's 90-Game Asterisk

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

Before the Notre Dame ladies basketball team defeated the Tennessee Lady Volunteers 73-59 Monday Night to reach the Final Four, I was actually interested in the Women's NCAA Tournament.

There was hope that Tennessee and the University of Connecticut Lady Huskies would meet for the first time since January 6, 2007. But the Irish picked the wrong time in My Eyes to improve to 1-20 against Tennessee and now I can just continue to watch the Men's Tournament and the start of the Major League Baseball season.

I have seen a lot of stupid things in sports but for Tennessee and Connecticut to have not played in four years ranks at the top of the insanity.

How insane is this? Extremely insane!

After Tennessee defeated Connecticut 70-64 on the road in Hartford on Jan 6, 2007, Huskies Coach Geno Auriemma said the rivalry has lost some of it's edge because of the increasing parity in the women's game. Maybe losing three straight games to Tennessee forced Auriemma to put his foot in his mouth!

Please! Every sport has its rivalries. Tell me what it would be like if Michigan didn't play Ohio State in Football, North Carolina didn't face Duke in Basketball, Montreal didn't face Boston in Hockey, the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics never met. I couldn't see a season without watching the Green Bay Packers facing the Chicago Bears and the New York Yankees not facing the Boston Red Sox on the diamond.

Rivalries are based on tradition, hatred and the spirit of fan bases both nationally and locally gearing up for bragging rights. In college, a team that's having a bad season could deem the year tolerable with a triumph over a hated rival.

Instead, we have a case with Tennessee and Connecticut that there are two "Feuding Fools" that know they should play each other to promote their sport, that should just work out a deal to resume the rivalry. Instead, we had to hold our breath and hope they would meet in the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Now we have to either wait until next year in the NCAA Tournament, or hope these two come to their senses.

I actually hold Auriemma more responsible for this than Pat Summitt, but she should be the bigger person and dribble the ball back to sanity.

For years, the Kentucky Wildcats never faced the Louisville Cardinals until the Men's NCAA Basketball Tournament fixed this. When Louisville won, Kentucky got smart and began embracing the rivalry.

When I heard that the University of Delaware wouldn't schedule Delaware State in Football, I just nodded my head that even the smallest state in the country was deprived of it's biggest event. The NCAA Playoffs fixed that and now their playing each other.

But for the Women's fan base to not see Auriemma match wits with Summitt is ridiculous. Auriemma's record is 769-123 and he's won seven NCAA titles. Meanwhile, Summitt is 1070-198 with eight NCAA Championships.

On Dec 30, 2010, the Stanford Cardinal ended U-Conn's 90-game record winning streak with a 71-59 victory at Maples Pavilion. Stanford extended it's home winning streak to 52-games.

I have a couple of problems with U-Conn's streak.

First, I wouldn't even dare to compare it with UCLA's remarkable streak of 88-games which ironically ended against Notre Dame. Auriemma doesn't even deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as John Wooden.

Second, U-Conn never played Tennessee during the streak, therefore, I've decided to put an ASTERISK by this record since the Huskies didn't play the best competition to reach 90.

If you want respect, then you have to play the best. I won't even acknowledge another U-Conn National Championship because they didn't face Tennessee this season. Until U-Conn does face Tennessee, this will be the last time that I even give them any type of publicity.

Lady's Basketball needs to see these two teams play to continue it's growth and until it does, in the Sports World, it will be nothing more than an after thought and foot note.

Women's Basketball doesn't need it's version of the Hatfield's and McCoy's. The Model Programs need to be on display and if they meet, there will be National Television Coverage and Sellout Crowds.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at http://www.scottsports33.com/.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Michigan Verus Tennessee

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

These two schools rarely face each other in the major revenue producing sports football and basketball, but when they do, it's been a one-sided outcome.

On Friday March 20, they met on the hardwood, and history was made for all of the wrong reasons.

The Michigan Wolverines whipped the Tennessee Volunteers 75-45 in the first round of the NCAA Basketball Tournament.

Three days later, Tennessee Coach Bruce Pearl was fired after six seasons leaving Knoxville with a 145-61 record and six consecutive NCAA Tournament Appearances. But it wasn't the record that saw him get terminated, it was his dishonesty with the NCAA and recruiting problems which sees him looking for another employer. He had guided this program to great success and was popular at Rocky Top, but in the end, his successor is going to have to live with the upcoming NCAA sanctions and the rebuilding that comes with these mistakes.

The No. 45 is also connected with another Michigan versus Tennessee match-up that occurred on January 1, 2002. This time, the Volunteers hammered the Wolverines 45-17 in the Capital One Florida Citrus Bowl. At that time, this was the worst loss in Michigan bowl history prior to this season. There would be no coaching casualties after this game.

But when you look at these two schools, there are some interesting comparisons.

On January 1, 2011, the Mississippi State Bulldogs whipped the Wolverines 52-14 in the Gator Bowl and this became Michigan's worst bowl loss ever. A few days later, Michigan Coach Rich Rodriguez was fired after compiling a 15-22 record in three seasons and also had NCAA problems due to excessive practice time.

Like Tennessee basketball, the Michigan Football Program is in transition under a new coach.

Since both schools have outstanding football traditions, here are some other numbers worth comparing.

Michigan is the All-Time Winningest College Program with 884 wins. The Wolverines have 11 National Championships, a record 112 winning seasons and the biggest stadium in the country. Michigan Stadium will pack 113,000 fans in the Big House.

Meanwhile, Tennessee has 789 wins to go along with six National Titles. The largest crowd to ever watch a game at Neyland Stadium is 109,061.

These are definitely two first class universities, now the only question remains, will the next time they face each other lead to a more competitive contest? We'll find out, but as far as their proud sports histories are concerned, they're certainly worth comparing and this season in football, they'll have younger coaches on the sidelines trying to create their own legacies.

Derek Dooley was 6-7 in his first season while Brady Hoke will try to bring the Wolverines back to respectability in his inaugural year.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at http://www.scottsports33.com/.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Speed, Speed, Speed

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

How do you define the word speed?

1) Watching an Indy Car going 200 miles per-hour around an oval in a matter of seconds?

2) Staying with Auto Racing, how about a bulky stock car reaching speeds of 180-220 miles-per-hour?

3) I can just imagine what it would be like to swing at a 100 miles-per-hour fastball.

4) I wouldn't want to be a quarterback in football knowing that you have a few seconds to throw the football before you get tackled or sacked for a loss.

5) How about those passes from a guard to a forward or center that lead to a slam dunk or easy basket.

6) In hockey, the pace of the game means you better keep your head up at all times or you could be checked into the boards, or one pass could lead to a breakaway goal.

7) A track and field star having an excellent performance in any race.

8) Watching a horse race.

9) Attending the dog races.

10) Going to a rifle range and trying to hit the target.

In the past week, speed took on a new meaning.

I found my Significant Other Gladys a new two-year old 14-pound White Maltese---Cairn Terrier named Sparky.

For those that know my Detroit ties, I'd like to say that I named it after the Tigers late Manager Sparky Anderson. Anderson had white and silver hair but was a gem of a person. He won a lot of ball games, three World Series titles and is in Baseball's Hall of Fame.

But this Sparky has an identity of his own.

The reason I got Gladys the dog is that my 10-year-old Cat Maverick is a subdued animal who is independent. He'll give affection on his own terms in the form of kisses and his famous head butts. I love his head butts and Gladys is proud to receive them. When she gets a head butt, she is overwhelmed with emotion and her smile could be seen to Iceland.

Since Gladys spends a lot of time at home and I'm working a lot, the need for a second animal was necessary.

What I've seen over the past eight days with Sparky is unreal.

When we picked Sparky up at a vet in Coral Springs, the fascination began immediately. Here is a small dog picking a fight with a larger dog. But with all due respect, he was a stray animal who had to fend for himself, therefore, the animal had to develop a feisty mentality.

It didn't take long to learn how fast Sparky was.

That very night, as we were heading out to Walmart at 1 AM, Gladys put the dog in our bedroom and as she had to get something, Sparky darted out the patio door so fast, we found ourselves chasing this animal down. I had to run to get my keys and she was looking for him. Then I was looking for both.

I finally found the dog, got out of the car and as I was attempting to grab him, he darted again. I realized that a man over 200 pounds is no match for an animal this size.

Weight Watchers, here I come!

Gladys finally reached into her bag of tricks and went to the refrigerator and grabbed a piece of salami and lured the dog to her and finally snapped on the leash. Then we put him in the dog carrier and he was done for the night.

After spending over $200 to make sure Sparky was healthy, I told her that she was in for the biggest challenge of her life trying to mellow and train this animal. She isn't lacking time during the day with her latest pet project.

But as the week progressed, the dog got out again and Gladys went back to work to get him. But this time she had help from the rest of the community.

Sparky has now made a name for himself inside the Waterways, Harbor Point, Subdivision.

On Friday, her sister Goldie and nephew Nathaniel came for a visit and spent the night. The dog was running in the house but saw the door open slightly.

Once again, the dog was off to the races. Gladys, her nephew and the rest of the community nabbed Sparky again. This time, however, Sparky, was punished for the rest of the night.

Gladys quickly went to the pet store and bought him an identification collar. We'll have a chip placed in Sparky real soon. Now Gladys has a full time job! Protect her baby Sparky from himself!

If she ever pulls this off, it will be interesting to see if Maverick and Sparky can get along. Stay tuned for that update.

I actually renamed Gladys Thunder--and Sparky--Lightning. This tandem will be interesting to watch. I have a feeling there will be a lot of laughs.

When I think of Sparky, I don't know how long this dog will be around. I really hope the ending of this doesn't lead to him getting hit by a car or simply running away.

But for some reason, I'm not going to bet against My Puerto Rican Pistol Significant Other.

She's done a marvelous job raising three children into quality adults. She has the Eye Of The Tiger to pull the trick again.

How she pulls it off, is anyone's guess. Will salami, bologna, a newspaper, her hand or a cage to get the job done? I'll find out, but my Blackberry will be burning up with text messages as to how she conquers this latest challenge.

But I'd be curious to see how fast Sparky could run the 40-yard dash as well as the length of a football field. I hope one day, I could use my stop watch and find that out.

For now, I'm just glad that we found a young dog and gave him a nice loving home. I just hope that he's smart enough to realize it and listens to his mother!

In the meantime, Sparky is a welcomed addition to my family which is now at four and this Sparky does give me a good reason to recollect my memories of Sparky Anderson. A legend and a hopeful legend.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at http://www.scottsports33.com/.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

NFL Lockout, Who Cares?

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

It seems like all I hear, see and watch these days in sports are labor conflicts.

The NFL's eight day lockout is the latest squabble between millionaires versus billionaires and to be frank with you, I'm Sick And Tired of hearing about it!

As far as I'm concerned, the owners can lock out the players until the day that I die!

With the economy in shambles, we have a bunch of greedy individuals that are disputing on how to divide a boat load of cash for a sport that's enjoying a Super Bowl that drew a record 111 million viewers!

What angers me the most about this conflict is the owners and players should still be at the bargaining table until they lose their voices.

Instead, the players think they can take their so called injustices to the court and manipulate a judge to force the owners to cave in!

The only thing I can say to the players is "Good Luck."

These owners didn't become wealthy individuals because they were stupid!

The players can use all the angles they want, but in the end, when the players do go back to work, it's the owners that will still sign their paychecks.

At the moment, the players can be as disruptive as they want. If they want to discourage top NFL Prospects from attending the upcoming Draft, that will only make them look like bigger clowns. After all, these are the players that they'll be taking money from when the new Rookie Wage Scale is inserted when this labor mess eventually resolves itself.

But if the players are smart, they won't influence the rookies to not attend the NFL Draft. These youngsters that get invited deserve a chance to be welcomed to the league by Commissioner Roger Goodell just as they were at the beginning of their careers.

Also, the fans deserve to see one more piece of Football Business before the next game being played is "Chess in the Courtroom."

Unfortunately, as things stand right now, there is no Sense Of Urgency to make a deal.

The paychecks don't start coming in until September. When the players fall behind on their bills, then there will be the pressure from their significant others, children, bill collectors, etc... and as I've seen so many times in these disputes, the deal that was on the table was better than the new agreement.

As far as the major issues are concerned, I'm not going to be getting into any major details. Instead, I'll comb over them briefly.

First, I have no  problem with the NFL playing an 18-game schedule. Stadiums are half full during the pre-season, major injuries still occur and teams usually rest their regulars the final two games. It's inevitable that teams will expand their rosters by 10 players and more jobs will be created. I have a feeling that the salaries will increase slightly to accommodate the extra two games.

But more importantly, the NFL will have the ability to play a couple games in Europe, Mexico, Japan, Canada, Spain, Germany and perhaps Australia. The global effect of the product will go beyond just additional sellouts but also in merchandising. Teams that travel overseas will likely get the following week off to recover from jet lag.

Second, as I mentioned, the Rookie Wage Scale is long overdue! To me, how unproven NFL players make more money than established veterans goes beyond my imagination. If a team makes a bad pick in the higher rounds, not only is he a bust on the field but also a bad business decision for the books. When I think of former San Diego Chargers quarterback Ryan Leaf and Detroit Lions wide receiver Charles Rogers, I get sick to my stomach.

By the same token, when a guy like Tom Brady wins three Super Bowls for the New England Patriots, those are the stories we want to hear about.

When a team wants to trade down in the draft because they don't want to get trapped paying too much  money for a top 10 player, but they can't, this prevents them from making the trade which could also allow them to add late round picks that become sleepers and future stars.

Third, there is no question that the time is now to address the needs of retired players. When a player sustains injuries that limits their ability to make a living due to physical or mental problems, are not properly given adequate medical insurance, there are problems. There have been numerous stories that players in their 30's, 40's and 50's have died prematurely. 

The most recent being former Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson (50), who committed suicide on February 17, 2011, and asked that his brain be used for research at the Boston University School of Medicine which is conducting research into chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) due to playing pro football.

I can think of many other examples in the past but this one stands out the most. We don't need any more of these stories.

But in this game of billionaires versus millionaires, I still would like to know who benefits from all of the bad publicity and mud slinging that goes on? Nobody!

Right now, team employees will be without jobs, players won't be able to seek treatment from team doctors, and it will be tougher to prepare for next season.

Yet, as the players seek litigation over collective bargaining, they better realize the following trends that other sports leagues have set in past years and what lies ahead in the future.

In 1994, the Baseball Strike lasted from August 12, 1994-April 2, 1995 and it wiped out the World Series. Major League Baseball had the public relations nightmare of a lifetime. For years, the World Series was always played during wars and other nationwide conflicts, yet it took a labor dispute amongst rich men to eliminate it, thus alienating a fan base which has never totally forgiven the game.

It destroyed baseball in Montreal as the Expos eventually moved and became the Washington Nationals. The Montreal Expos were 74-40, six games ahead of the Atlanta Braves and were on a pace to win 105 games. They were my favorite to win the World Series.

When play resumed, it took Cal Ripken Jr's Ironman streak where he passed Lou Gehrig along with a season long home run chase by Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire who broke Roger Maris 61 to get fans interested again. Commissioner Bud Selig would continue to add extra playoff series and interleague play to add to the healing and growth processes.

The 2004-05 NHL Lockout cancelled the 88th season. This was the first time in a major sports professional league in North America that a league didn't play as a result of a labor dispute. The lockout lasted 310 days, from September 16, 2004-July 22, 2005. The NHL still hasn't recovered as the league pays for its airtime to have NBC broadcast The Game Of The Week. How many cable subscribers can get Versus?

It seems that the NBA could be headed down the same road as the NFL and follow the lead of the NHL. Commissioner David Stern wants a hard salary cap and has gone on record that he'll take a hard stance to get it. Baseball's labor agreement ends in December but for some reason, I have a feeling this one will get worked without much resistance.

But back to the NFL.

Fans won't be without football too long.

There is the UFL which does play in the fall but more importantly, NCAA Football returns. For some reason, the NCAA Football Gods will be smart enough to schedule games on Sundays to fill some of the void left by the NFL.

The New USFL is tentatively set to play in the Spring of 2012 and that league could experience much quicker growth is the NFL doesn't settle it's conflict soon.

So the bottom line is, it's best for these sides to get back to work and start negotiating. I haven't seen anything positive develop from these most recent work stoppages and nothing good will come out of this. It's time for cooler heads and common sense to take over.

The players have to realize, that everyone in the real world is struggling to make a living so there will be very little sympathy thrown their way.

I'm Sick And Tired of all this nonsense and at some point it has to stop!

The government doesn't have time to get involved in this dispute. It has to run this country at perhaps the most difficult time in our history.

Both sides need to get back to the bargaining table and don't leave until a deal is done!

Right now, the only people that wouldn't mind if there isn't football on Sundays are the women that want to spend time with their men. Otherwise, it needs to get resolved and if there is no football in the spring, baseball is waiting for this as a golden opportunity to steal fans and get them to watch the postseason and see if the San Francisco Giants can defend its World Series title.

But again, I'm Sick And Tired of hearing, listening and watching the latest episode of "As The Greedy Get More Greedy" and I'll wake up when this debacle is over. Or I'll just get sun burned at my pool or at the beach.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at http://www.scottsports33.com/. Gladys Echevarria contributed to this story.

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