The Year in Raw Thoughts

December 31, 2012

2012 was a busy year in sports.  A lot happened but a few things stand out in particular for me.  Looking back it is easy for me to pick out the ten moments that meant the most to me.  The ones that when I look back in a few years will define sports in 2012 to me.

This is an entirely subjective and personal list.  It is not an attempt to start an argument or convince anyone that some events were more important/memorable than others.  (The tool bags at Bleacher Report have that covered.)  This is simply what I remember best from the past year in sports.

 

In no particular order:

Tebowmania- Lost amidst the fiery wreckage that is the Jets season is the fact that Tebow is responsible for one of the most exciting moments of 2012.  His first round playoff victory over the Steelers capped off an incredible run in which the Bronco’s won close game after close game.  This season’s soap opera with the Jets has been an unmitigated disaster but I choose to remember the good times and not the bad.  And they were pretty damn good.

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The Ricky Rubio Show- Rubio has struggled with injuries and inconsistency in 2012 but when he is at his best he is the most exciting player in the league and I’m not sure that its close.  Plus, I predicted his breakout last year.  Boom.

Check out Slick Rick (that’s gonna be a thing) making Dirk look foolish.

 

The Shot– The highlight of an otherwise pedestrian season for Duke Basketball

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Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson- The winners of The Masters and the US Open respectively, also happen to be two of my favorite golfers.  I like Webb because he is from Raleigh and went to my high school, and I like Bubba because he plays golf like I play Tiger Woods.  Essentially he hits the ball as hard as possible regardless of circumstance.  Watching these young, up and coming American golfers finally put it together on the big stage was an incredible experience.

 

 

Drogba Doing Work- Didier Drogba has consistently been one of my favorite soccer players, (in large part because of his dominance in FIFA) but his performance in the Champions League final was one for the ages.  He almost single-handedly dragged Chelsea to the finals and then hit the winning penalty with his last ever kick for the club.  Total power move.

 

The Javon Belcher Tragedy– This is kind of a downer, but there is no way I will be able to think of sports in 2012 without remembering the Belcher tragedy.  It has been the exclamation mark on a Chiefs season that ranks as one of the truly depressing seasons in modern sports history.  There is one important lesson that I choose to take away from this situation; namely that bad coaches and players can still be good people.

If a coach or player is struggling it is very easy to condemn them as incompetent and unqualified in all aspects of life rather than just football.  Everyone is guilty of this but I have been particularly harsh on Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel and QB Brady Quinn.  They both suck at their jobs, but the way they handled the aftermath of Belcher’s death was extremely admirable.  Crennel in particular deserves our respect for getting the team ready to play 24 hours after he saw Belcher take his own life in the team parking lot.

 

The Fall of Lance Armstrong- This is another really sad story.  It seems pretty clear at this point that Lance definitively cheated and deserved the punishment handed down to him.  This not only makes me look like a fucking idiot for defending him, but also drains every last drop of enjoyment and inspiration that I gained from watching Lance in the first place.  I realize that the anti-doping agencies thought they were punishing Armstrong by bringing these allegations to light.  Unfortunately, the only ones who were hurt by this whole thing were the fans.  Lance is gonna be just fine.

 

RG3SUS- Robert Griffin III sprained his knee for our sins.  On the 14th day he returned to the field and led us to the playoffs.  Hail to the Redskins.

(If you can’t tell I have shamelessly jumped onto the ‘skins bandwagon.)

 

Adrian Peterson- What Adrian Peterson has accomplished this year has been superhuman.  People throw that term around a lot for athletic achievements but in this case I mean literally above what a human should be able to achieve.  Peterson’s ACL injury happened 1 year ago yesterday.  The recovery is typically 18 months but some elite athletes can return in a year, albeit with limited movement.  Peterson has been a dominant force since the beginning of the season, making a full recovery from ACL surgery in half the usual time and somehow being even better than before he got hurt.  His bid to break Eric Dickerson’s all time rushing record fell 8.5 yards short last night but that should not take away from the season Peterson has had.

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Usain Bolt Runs it Back- Usain Bolt’s performance in the Olympics was the most impressive thing I saw all year.  Running, and sprinting in particular, is the purest form of competition.  Literally everyone in the world has an opportunity to compete.  There are no financial barriers.  As impressive as Phelps, Gabby Douglas, and the rest of the Olympic champions were you just can’t compare their sports to running.  The indoor pools and gymnastic arenas that their disciplines require are not available to most of the world.  Everyone has 100 meters of flat ground.

There had never been a repeat champion in the 100 meter dash for a reason.  It is the very definition of a young man’s game.  Unlike other endeavors older athletes cannot rely on skill or savvy to compensate for loss of athleticism.  Usain Bolt somehow managed to be the best, most explosive athlete on the planet for four years running.  Despite having much more money, and thus less motivation than nearly all of his competitors Bolt was still able to triumph.

 

I firmly believe that Usain Bolt will be the enduring legacy of sports in 2012.  He is a transformational athlete that not only dominates his chosen sport but does so easily.  There will be other buzzer beaters, other great young QB’s and point guards.  Sadly there will also be more sports scandals and tragedies.  There will never be another performance like Bolt’s on the track in London.  In 20 years I may not remember anything else on this list.  But I will damn sure remember Usain Bolt.

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PS.

This is roughly the 1-year anniversary of Raw Thoughts so I wanted to take the time to thank everyone for reading.  A special shout out to anyone reading who doesn’t know me personally.  Not sure how you found the blog but I hope you keep coming back.

Happy New Years,

-Weaver

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Down with the NCAA

December 21, 2012

The NCAA has long been an absurd institution.  It is a totalitarian regime that holds absolute power over the lives of thousands of student athletes.  The NCAA acts as judge, jury, and executioner in all aspects of college sports.  It behaves with complete latitude and no fear of oversight or accountability.  Everything from the eligibility of individual players to long-term financial and competitive sanctions against entire universities falls under NCAA jurisdiction.  The NCAA has been given too large a mandate with far too little supervision and it has responded with what can charitably be described as tragic inconsistency.  I prefer to call it gross hypocrisy.  Either way something needs to change.

There are literally thousands of examples of misguided or unfair rulings by the NCAA in the past 20 years, but their behavior recently has sent me over the edge.  UNC is in the midst of a decade long academic scandal where by the university’s own admission athletes have received unfair advantages in the classroom.  This seems to be a cut and dry case that based on precedent requires sanctions and probably the forfeiture of a few wins.  Instead the NCAA has announced as recently as yesterday that UNC appears to have broken no rules.

By failing to act on the UNC cheating scandal the NCAA has abdicated its responsibility to protect the integrity of college athletics.  By ignoring the institutionalized cheating the NCAA has made a mockery of the “student-athlete” label that we still attach to college players.  This is bad enough, but in fairness to the NCAA this label has been a joke for years.  There is a very legitimate argument to be made that this sort of academic advantage is given to athletes at nearly every school and the NCAA is merely accepting that college athlete is no longer synonymous with student-athlete.  I have a problem with this logic, but it is at least somewhat reasonable.

The problem is that while the NCAA is turning a blind eye to academic fraud they are cracking down harder than ever on any sort of illegal benefits given to players.  Just this season alone, UCLA Freshman Shabazz Mohammad, two Indiana freshmen and Texas point guard Myck Kabongo have been suspended for part or all of the season because they took improper benefits.  These benefits usually take the form of meals or plane tickets provided and in many cases are comically small amounts of money.  The Indiana case is particularly absurd as the two players, Hanner Mosquera-Perea and Peter Jurkin, were the recipients of goods from a legitimate non-profit organization.  They were suspended because the administrator of the non-profit gave 185 dollars to the Indiana Athletic Department in 1986 and is thus considered a “booster” and forbidden to give anything to recruits.

The NCAA throws the book at players when they have the audacity to try and gain any sort of financial advantage from their athletic abilities but gives coaches and athletic directors a slap on the wrist, or in the case of UNC, a free pass when they break the rules.  This double standard exposes the true hypocrisy of the NCAA.  Every decision made by the NCAA has two goals; maximize profit for the schools and ensure that the players who bring in the money receive no share of it.  The old argument that college athletes are paid in the form of a free education become more ludicrous with each move by the NCAA.  Every change in the college sports landscape from expanding the NCAA tournament to conference realignment has increased revenues and decreased the importance of academics.  If athletes at a prestigious institution like UNC are the beneficiaries of academic fraud to retain eligibility we can only imagine what goes on other places.

The ideal solution to this problem is for the NCAA to dramatically alter its course and begin to emphasize the student portion of the term student-athlete.  This process starts with emphatically cracking down on academic violations, but it goes further than that.  If the NCAA is serious about legitimizing itself as an academic organization than there need to be serious sanctions for poor graduation rates.  Schools like UConn, with an incredible 11% graduation rate, need to be banned from postseason play until they return to acceptable levels.

Unfortunately we do not live in an ideal world.  The NCAA will continue chasing profits at the expense of academics.  We have essentially gone too far down this road to turn back.  What the NCAA can do is have the balls to call a spade a spade. They need to admit that they are running a professional sports league and begin treating their players accordingly.  This includes paying them, but also giving them some sort of voice in the decision making process.  In professional sports athletes have unions that protect them from abuses of power.  College athletes have no such protections and they are repeatedly boned by the NCAA.  It is time to end NCAA hegemony and give the players a financial stake, and more importantly a voice in college sports.