Small School Football Prospect Prepares for NFL Draft Opportunity

I wrote this article for my school newspaper about our star running back prospect, Octavias McKoy, who you may remember as the guy who broke LaDainian Tomlinson’s single game NCAA rushing record. With less than three weeks before the draft, I think it would be an interesting read for draft nuts to see how small school prospects prepare for the possibility of standing out.

When Western Connecticut State running back Octavias McKoy put himself among college football’s elite after breaking the NCAA single game rushing record, he set off a domino effect that would lead to good publicity for his school, his team, and possibly the opportunity to achieve what so few can dream of, a career as a professional football player in the prestigious NFL. With the NFL Draft coming next month, there is a possibility that McKoy may hear his name called that weekend. According to McKoy, the interest in him actually started before the record day. “The Indianapolis Colts scout came in the summer time, they were the first team to show interest.”
After the record day, in which he ran for 455 yards against Worcester State, the interest grew exponentially. According to him, “Up until this point [we] probably spoke to 12-15 teams and that interest has grown since then”. McKoy also appeared on television, for networks like ESPN, YES, local news outlets, even high profile sports websites like Bleacher Report and SportsEdge covered his game. This is impressive, since very little attention is given to football at the Division III level, the lowest level of NCAA athletics, and very few Division III stars go on to star, let alone have careers in the NFL.
However, a big game and a big season for McKoy wasn’t enough. In order to prove that he could be a pro football player, he had to sell himself to teams further. This meant participating in workouts where he would show off what he could do to more NFL scouts. McKoy attended Yale University’s Pro Day, a showcase for top college football players from the New England area.
McKoy, however prides himself on his performance at a regional scouting event in Atlanta. As he rattled off his measurables, there seemed to be a gleam in his eye. “I ran my fastest 40 [yard dash] at my regional combine out in at Atlanta. That was a 4.6 [second] electric. I jumped a 10’ broad [jump], I had a 37.5” vertical leap. Some of my numbers got better, some didn’t improve, but as far as field drills, I didn’t drop one pass and I nailed every field drill.” His 40 yard dash would have placed him 20th among running backs, his broad jump would have placed him 17th, and his vertical leap would have placed him 7th had he participated in the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, according to CBSSports.com.
It was also through that event that more teams communicated with him. “On a one on one level, it was actually very cool because when I was in Atlanta I talked to the Dallas Cowboys, I talked to the [New Orleans] Saints and I talked to the [Atlanta] Falcons so they’re showing some more interest.” he recounted.
McKoy admits that preparation for the Draft is difficult at times. “Day-to-day, you can’t do a lot of things. You gotta kind of be in the shadows, keep a low profile, can’t really go out, but it’s only for a period of time.” However, he’s not concerned about teams judging his character or his football IQ. “My stock has definitely risen because I’m a high character guy… I’m a true student of the game. I’m not just a player, coaches will want a student of the game so I study the game”. He also said that in preparing for the draft, he has a great support system. “My family, my coaches, my agents back me, my friends… as far as your family and your team of people, they pretty much keep you in line, keep you focused.”

McKoy’s humility could play a factor into his future with a team, as he already knows what to expect should he be on a team’s roster. When asked about what he thinks about his future role should he be drafted or signed, he acknowledged the fact that he’d have to start small. “As a rookie going into the league, you got to play special teams, especially if you come from a small school… Basically you got to go and play wherever the coach asks you to play, you go out there and give it your best, and hopefully, you’re good enough to earn a job… I feel like whatever team I go to, I feel like I’ll be a part of it and I’ll contribute. I’m just patiently waiting, and we’ll see.” However, he knows that even with the lower expectations, he’ll still try and make sure he works hard. “I’ll be myself, go out there, work hard, stay dedicated to my craft, try to be my best, and we’ll see what the future holds”, he said.
McKoy gives all credit to Western, going so far as to say that the school changed his life. Reflecting on it as if he had already left, he gushed, “The opportunities I got at Western changed my life so I could never really truly thank them enough. I think about it all the time.” He showed an incredible amount of maturity in realizing that he has become one of the faces of Western, not just their athletics, but also the school as a whole. “I look forward to just staying positive and becoming a role model for my school, my community and try to be at my very best… I want to see our school succeed, I want to see our sports succeed, definitely football succeed, and anything that could come from me breaking records or me getting notoriety for getting our school benefit, I’m all for it.”
If McKoy is given the chance to play in the NFL, not only will he give Western athletics the notoriety he knows will come of him playing, he will also help further blur the stigma that comes with the disconnect between playing at a lower level college program, possibly paving the way for more outstanding Division III football players to make their mark in the NFL.

 

Daniel Murphy, Fatherhood, and the Abhorrence of Radio Hosts

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New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy became a first time father the day before the 2014 regular season began, and like most responsible husbands and fathers, decided to be by his wife’s side when the baby was delivered. He then stayed by his wife and child’s side an extra two days on paternity leave, missing both Opening Day and the second game of the Mets-Nationals series. Before coming back into the lineup in an 8-2 loss against the Nationals, Murphy’s actions were criticized by sports radio hosts Boomer Esiason and Mike Francesa.

Esiason made a controversial comment about how Murphy should have asked his wife to undergo an emergency C-Section so that he wouldn’t miss any time during the regular season. The quote is as follows:

“Quite frankly, I would have said C-section before the season starts. I need to be at Opening Day. I’m sorry. This is what makes our money. This is how we’re going to live our life. This is going to give my child every opportunity to be a success in life. I’ll be able to afford any college I want to send my kid to because I’m a baseball player.”

Esiason wasn’t the only WFAN radio host to echo the job before family sentiment. Mike Francesa also made negative comments about Murphy’s situation:

“One day I understand. And in the old days they didn’t do that. But one day, go see the baby be born and come back. You’re a Major League Baseball player. You can hire a nurse to take care of the baby if your wife needs help,”

To address the abhorrence that is Esiason and Francesa’s comments, let’s begin by addressing the C-Section comments that Esiason made. I’ll start off by saying that as someone who was delivered by emergency C-section, I am absolutely appalled by what Esiason is saying. It’s almost as if he’s saying that a c-section is more convenient, and less of a burden. And while I’m trying to wrap my head around Esiason’s talk of the long term, may I point out that the baby was literally born three days ago. Yes, the baby will be set in the long term because of what Murphy does for a living, we get that, but really, sometimes you do have to focus on the now, and the now is that Murphy became a father and actually acted like a father, staying by his wife’s side. And while his wife did have the C-section and Murphy ended up taking only three days, he could have taken more. Still, you have to applaud Murphy for his priorities. Look at Mariners catcher John Buck. Last year, he was granted paternity leave so that he could be by his wife’s side while their baby was born. Did you hear Esiason say that Buck’s wife should have made it easy and he should have immediately gone back? It’s also a good time to point out that Esiason, a former athlete himself, was still active when his son Gunnar was born.

Now, let’s look at Francesa’s comments. Probably the most offensive thing that he said in that quote was the “Hire a nurse”. Knowing that Francesa is the father of three children, let’s imagine that he did take paternity leave when his children were born. Would you have a bunch of listeners clamoring and saying that he should “hire a nurse” so that he could get back to his job immediately? Francesa is often viewed as poison for the other New York Sports teams. Listeners would recall back in 2011 when he tried to interview Darrelle Revis after he picked off a pass and ran it 100 yards for a touchdown, he continually badgered Revis about possible pass interference until Revis hung up on him. Francesa is also a Yankee fan who loves to bash the Mets on a continuing basis. However, WFAN somehow puts up with him. It’s a miracle he’s lasted this long as a Yankee guy on a Mets station.

Moving on from the character analysis, it’s clear that both analysts are so far removed from first time fatherhood that they feel that athletes aren’t human and shouldn’t have the right to spend time with their children. The thing about baseball though is that there are 162 games to play, and missing two just because of childbirth shouldn’t be considered as bad. It’s the beginning of the season; Mets fans would probably agree that given the choice between seeing one of 162 games and being at their wife’s side when their first child was born, they’d probably pick the child 99 times out of 100. You can see a game anytime between April and September, but the birth of your first child, you’ll only have a chance to witness in person once. If you can’t handle that responsibility, then perhaps you are unfit to be a father.

Nonetheless, I applaud Murphy for what he did, and I’m glad the Mets were completely behind him. On the emotional side, Murphy acted like a good father, and went the extra mile by staying by his wife’s side, On the professional side, it’s not like he left a gaping hole at second base. Eric Young is more than capable as a defensive replacement, plus his speed makes him a dangerous leadoff hitter.

I’m not going to call for Francesa and Esiason’s heads, but I feel that they need to understand the sensitivity of the situation before they make comments like that. There’s a fine line between professionalism and stupidity, and both of them clearly danced across that line.

You Don’t Have to Like Michael Vick, But Don’t Let His Past Cloud Your Team Allegiance.

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When it’s come to writing about touchy and/or controversial points in my editorial style posts, I come in with an open mind, and generally play devil’s advocate. You saw it when I defended John Rocker’s steroid comments, defended Geno Smith and EJ Manuel, when I voiced my support for the Redskin name, when I ran a big risk by voicing my opinion on gay athletes like Jason Collins and Michael Sam, and most recently, my defense of Jets general manager John Idzik’s offseason strategy. Now, I step into yet another touchy subject: Michael Vick.

We all know the story, gifted athletic quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, had a couple minor incidents early in his career, then in 2007, it was discovered that Vick had financed a dogfighting operation out of a Virginia property he owned, as well as personally killing dogs. Long story short, he was arrested, incarcerated for 18 months, let go, found himself back in the NFL, resurrected his career, and on March 21st, signed a contract with the Jets.

The feeling that I get among Jets fans is that it’s a mix of support and outright disgust. Some people like the idea of Vick stepping in as either a mentor to Geno Smith, or an insurance policy should he get hurt or have another meltdown. Then of course there are those who feel that the signing of Vick prevents them from being Jets fans, period. There have been plenty of comments on Facebook, Twitter, any social media site or comment board has a good amount of fans saying that they will “boycott the team unless the Jets cut that ——–” and that “I love dogs, I loved the Jets”. Pretty much, the idea here is that Vick is a bad idea because of something he did in his past which was off-the-field.

As a pet owner, although it’s cats, not dogs, that I like, when I heard what Vick had done in 2007, I was appalled, disgusted, and disturbed. Animals do not deserve to be treated that way, and for people to finance an operation and also personally kill animals for sport is vile. I was glad that he was going to prison. So what if he had game changing speed or a good throwing arm? The man let his off field actions speak louder than his on field actions, and unfortunately those off field actions involved killing animals.

When Vick was released from prison in 2009, I was slightly apprehensive. 18 months for killing multiple animals was a slap on the wrist, but apparently it changed him. A man who was once viewed as a moneymaker, a marketing boon was now a pariah, broke and abandoned.

When Vick signed with Philadelphia, I had no opinion. Yes, he had found a team that was perfectly willing to let the past be the past and see what he still had in the tank. Granted, it was Philadelphia, the same city known for booing Santa Claus, throwing batteries, booing and cheering injured players, having the most unruly fans (I can attest to that, having nearly gotten crushed by a throng of rabid Phillies fans who wanted Jim Thome’s autograph), and essentially being the cesspool of North American sports, but still, if he could make it back in Philadelphia, then he could make it anywhere. What ended up happening showed that Vick still had his athletic traits in him. He brought Philadelphia to the playoffs in 2010, and completely torched the Washington Redskins along the way on Sunday Night Football, just in case people forgot, and served as an effective replacement for Donovan McNabb and failed franchise savior Kevin Kolb.

Off the field, Vick rehabilitated his image, becoming an advocate against animal cruelty, returning to his former status, essentially the protests that Vick was an animal killer were pretty much silent, save for one game in Oakland, and a few bad-taste jokes, as well as the infamous “Hide your Beagle, Vick’s an Eagle” from opposing fans.

Vick also matured on the field. When he got hurt in 2013, and Nick Foles took his stead, he showed his support for the move. Now, to be displaced by a young quarterback is obviously not fun, but for Vick, who had been viewed somewhat as a character concern, the fact that he took it in stride really showed growth.

I find it particularly odd now that Vick has signed with a new team, that people are bringing back the past, and that people are so upset. Then again, signing with a team in the largest media market is obviously going to have its share of polarizing opinion. Detractors and so-called fans are now ripping the team to shreds, dropping their allegiance because they still can’t cope with what he did a long time ago. Is it that hard to move on? Has he permanently earned the epithet Dog-killer despite the fact that he’s paid his debt to society?

Let me give you my feelings on the situation. I forgave him a long time ago. However, I’m not going to forget what he did. Some people have told me that there are two things that are unforgivable: killing children and killing animals. And rightfully so. However, as a Catholic, one of the biggest things you learn is to forgive, to hate the sin, not the sinner. You forgive people because what is the hatred going to accomplish? Is calling for Vick’s head going to bring back every dog he killed? Is it going to get the Jets to void his contract and put him behind bars on a life sentence? Obviously not.

Furthermore, to drop your allegiance with your football team because of the actions of one player is outright foolishness. Is associating with Vick going to make Eric Decker, Geno Smith, Mo Wilkerson or Rex Ryan an advocate for dogfighting? How about Woody Johnson, John Idzik, or even Roger Goodell, for that matter?

Jets fans should know that there is at least one positive result of Vick’s signing; Mark Sanchez getting cut, saving the team an additional $8 million in cap room, which $5 million was used for Vick’s one-year deal. Plus, Geno Smith is essentially a younger, more malleable version of Vick. Having a mentor whose prime is essentially your ceiling is going to be a huge benefit for Smith.

Back to the fans though. You don’t necessarily have to forgive Vick for what he did, Obviously what he did was outright despicable. Heck, you don’t even have to like Vick for his football skills now. He’s not what he was back in 2004, or 2010. But still, think rationally, not emotionally. Emotion driven decisions rarely succeed and make people look bad, but thinking with a clear mind does increase the success of your decisions. What happens if Vick does end up helping Geno, or in the worst case, comes out in relief and brings the Jets to the playoffs? What now? If you’ve decided to boycott the team and/or drop you allegiance because of your moralism, what do you do? Do you admit that you were wrong? Do you miss out just because of the past actions of one man?

While it personally disgusts me that fans can’t let the past be the past and are letting emotion get the best of them, I realize that my words serve little purpose other than to highlight what’s going on. I’m not going to call anyone out for their opinion. They have a right to it. However, I will call people out on their stupidity. And if you’re going to make that rash of an emotionally charged decision, then I personally think you are stupid. You don’t have to forget what Vick did, but you can at least support your team.

 

The Rationale Behind John Idzik’s “Wait and See” approach

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Any Jets fan or reporter who expected second year general manager John Idzik to pounce in free agency has been left sorely disappointed, irritated, or at the very worst, calling for his head. It’s been a little over a week since the real offseason began and so far the only notable moves that the Jets have made have been losing valuable right tackle Austin Howard to the Oakland Raiders, replacing him with Super Bowl starter Breno Giacomini, signing former Peyton Manning target Eric Decker to a team friendly contract over five years, and cutting embattled wide receiver Santonio Holmes and cornerback Antonio Cromartie.

Idzik has left the team with a Cromartie sized hole at cornerback, a need for another target for second year quarterback Geno Smith, and enough questions to make a game out of figuring what the team’s offseason strategy is.

In an offseason rife with talent at any position other than quarterback, Idzik has repeatedly lost out on cornerback options in free agency. First to go was arguably the best cornerback on the market Alterraun Verner, who left Tennessee for Tampa Bay, followed by Vontae Davis, who returned to Indianapolis, then Darrelle Revis, who ended up being the Golden Goose of Free Agency, who was cut by Tampa Bay then signed by the Jets’ most bitter rival, the New England Patriots. On Sunday, after negotiations with former Broncos cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the sixth year cornerback ended up signing with the New York Giants. Details came out that Idzik wanted Cromartie to prove himself after having a decent year in Denver after two miserable ones in Philadelphia. Meanwhile, the Giants ended up giving Cromartie exactly what he wanted, a 5 year deal worth a little less than $8 million a year. In terms of a contract, that’s top flight cornerback money, and DoRoCro is certainly not a top level corner.

Going back to Idzik though. his actions, or rather, inaction, has led to several theories: that he’s a stubborn negotiator who refuses to find a middle ground, (ostensibly true, given his handling of the Howard situation), that he’s more concerned with building the team through the draft, (also true, given that he’s already attended Texas Tech and Louisville’s pro days to scout tight end Jace Amaro and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater rather than meeting personally with former top target Emmanuel Sanders) or that he’s deliberately sabotaging Rex Ryan so that he can blow up the team and remake it the way he wants it (although there’s no credence to that theory, the way that he handled Ryan’s coaching staff indicates that he’s still smarting over having to deal with someone whom he didn’t hire).

What disgruntled fans, columnists like Manish Mehta and Rich Cimini, and agents fail to realize is that there’s more to the offseason than free agency. There’s no such thing as an open-book general manager; if there was, then all his targets would be gone. Idzik is fiscally conservative. In a salary cap driven league, that may not be a bad thing. He’s not going to throw money at just anyone because that player can temporarily fill a need. While admittedly upset at losing Revis to New England, I get why he didn’t sign him. Revis may be a top flight cornerback, but really, is a corner worth $12 million a year? In addition, Revis established his status as a greedy money grubbing mercenary when he held out of camp in 2010, and cemented it when he signed a 1 year deal for $12 million with the Patriots.

Idzik knows that prices for players do drive up when rookie contracts expire. Look at Colin Kaepernick. He’s only been playing for three years and already he wants $18 million a year. This is for a quarterback who, while he did make the Super Bowl in his first year as a starter, is in no way elite quite yet.

Another realization is that Idzik’s strategy has paid off. The Seattle Seahawks won the Superbowl with a roster built almost entirely out of players acquired in the draft. Richard Sherman was an Idzik pick. Russell Wilson was an Idzik pick. Golden Tate was an Idzik pick.

What Idzik does need to realize is that he’s not in Seattle anymore. Seattle is more calm and reserved when it comes to dealing with football outside the season. New York, on the other hand, is a hyper frenzied media market. Every move is watched, every player is overanalyzed. Fans don’t know the meaning of patience. Rex Ryan and Woody Johnson, both imported products of the New York way, aren’t patient. However, is it necessarily a bad thing to wait? Is waiting until the draft a crime?

Idzik prove many doubters wrong with his first draft. He found Revis’ replacement in Dee Milliner, reaped the immediate benefits of the deal as well by getting future Defensive Rookie of the Year Sheldon Richardson, a pick, mind you, that Jets fans booed (although Jets fans will boo practically any pick), and patiently waited and picked up a viable, if slightly shaky option at quarterback in Geno Smith at #39. In addition, Idzik completely revamped the running game by trading for Saints running back Chris Ivory. Prior to the deal, many fans wanted Idzik to pick up a running back, like Alabama’s Eddie Lacy or UNC’s Gio Bernard.

Although Idzik’s strategy may wear thin the patience of fans who were expecting the team to actually do something in free agency, perhaps he’s biding his time and hoping that his magnum opus is in this year’s draft.

The Jets do have up to 12 picks this year after the purge of 2013. Up to 5 of those picks are protected thanks to the compensatory rules. There’s actually a good chance that one of those picks ends up being the prized end of the third round selection. In addition, the Jets have two fourth round picks, and history has shown that the fourth round has been one of the Jets’ best rounds, see Jerricho Cotchery, Kerry Rhodes, Leon Washington, Brad Smith, and Bilal Powell for reference.

Idzik may be using one or two of the picks that he has to strike a deal for a cornerback. While he won’t be getting a Sherman, he may be going after someone who’s dependable, like a Brandon Flowers or a Byron Maxwell. It’s not like he’s going to pull a St. Louis and stash all his picks.

Idzik also knows a late round talent when he sees one. Seattle’s defensive backfield was constructed practically out of late round picks, save for Earl Thomas. Maybe he’s scouting late round cornerbacks who fit the Ryan system.

Look, I get it. The Jets defied expectations last year. They finished 8-8 while perched precariously near the salary cap without an established franchise star or a legitimate receiving corps. They’re off the hook for $27 million. The obvious thing to do is to pounce in the Free Agent market. But here’s the thing. Idzik isn’t an obvious person. He’s biding his time and obviously planning to strike when he feels comfortable. Idzik’s a draft man, just like Mike Tannenbaum was a free agent man before him.

Idzik knows what he’s doing, that he’s got plenty of time. Jerry Reese, the GM of the Giants knows that his time is coming, which is why he’s been making moves like offering 5 years to a cornerback who really isn’t worth the money. Reggie McKenzie of Oakland is also making desperation moves because he knows another 4-12 season will likely mean that he’ll be out of a job. Bill Belichick is making moves because he wants to capitalize on whatever time he has left with Tom Brady, especially after seeing him at his worst last year. And John Elway knows that Peyton Manning is one bone crushing sack away from calling it a career.

There’s a saying in football which could be rephrased for most professional sports (the NBA excluded) that says that you don’t win a championship by winning free agency. Who won free agency last year? And what happened to them that season?

Fans often act spoiled and entitled. We saw it in Sunday’s episode of Family Guy, although in that case, it wasn’t Peter and his buddies crying about the Patriots not making moves in free agency, rather it was the team’s inability to win because of divine intervention. (Frankly, the thought that the Patriots could actually suck with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick still playing is actually intriguing.) In fact, Peter put it on the mark with this quote.

These are good drunk people who work hard to get absolutely nowhere in life. There are 3 million fisherman and only 7 fish left in the sea. But they live to watch football. Many of them on Zenith or Sylvania televisions.

Okay, there’s an obvious exaggeration there and the context is different, but that’s the point. Fans feel that they know what their team needs, and it’s not just the generality of a position, they feel that they know which players their team needs and how much money they should spend, and when things don’t go their way, they whine and call for people’s heads. In truth, what does a blue collar worker know about the inner workings of a football team? What does a news writer know about cap room and how to use it other than how much there is? What does an unemployed deadbeat, a product liability attorney, or a student at a college living on their parents’ dole know about how football, the business works?  They think they know football, but what they know is the on field product, like knowing what a Lamborghini looks like. They don’t know what parts go into a car unless they specialize in that field, or dabble in it as a hobby. If a fan wants to get into the business of football, they need to learn about the business of football. That’s why colleges offer sports management courses nowadays. If fans ran a team, they’d run it to the ground. They’d have no concept of what cap is, and how to manage it. They’d know next to nil about player values.  In truth, unless they did the actual research into what it takes to run a team, they’d play it like they would their fantasy team. A fantasy team and an actual NFL team are two entirely different things. In fantasy, unless you invested a ton of money in it, you can make moves without consequence, and in all likelihood, your team is full of stars. In pro football, you can’t afford it unless you manage your money wisely. So again, unless you actually know about how football, the business is run, it’s advisable that you stop yelling for your GM’s head.

So yes, while Idzik may be annoying a lot of people with his supposed glacial pace in free agency, we can’t pass judgement on him until the offseason ends. There’s months to go before the first preseason game, and free agency obviously isn’t over yet. So don’t panic and don’t yell for his head. Good things come to those who wait.

Welcome to the Hell that is March Madness

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I hate March.

I hate the beginning of allergy season. I hate, as a Catholic, not having meat on Friday for Lent, (although if it’s replaced by fish, I can slightly tolerate it). I hate waiting for baseball to start and having to endure the grueling bleh that is the 3/4 mark of hockey and basketball season, the overdoing of St. Patrick’s Day, where everything is either ridiculously green, puking out alcohol, or both, every Shakespeare nut quoting that famous line in Julius Caesar, “Beware the Ides of March”, the realization that football has been over for a month (don’t even start with me on arena football), and I especially hate March Madness.

Yes, I said it, I really despise the hullabaloo that surrounds the NCAA Basketball Tournament, otherwise known as March Madness. The time where practically everyone who’s breathing fills out a bracket in the slim hope that they win their office, church or even school pool. Where productivity grinds to a halt because every schlub with a brain has their eyes glued to a television screen or a computer monitor, praying that somehow the team they picked to win wins despite the increasingly obvious possibility that it won’t happen. I hate hearing the word Cinderella mentioned in conversation to the point where I refuse to even watch the Disney movie in March, or any movie associated with the tale. I hate how people suddenly become experts about teams they barely knew about when the season started in the first place. When ESPN and every other major sports network continually puts up college basketball highlights despite the fact that I want to watch a Spring Training game once in a while. And probably my biggest pet peeve of them all, brackets, brackets everywhere, for every inane aspect of life. Last year I remember seeing a meat bracket. All it did was make me irritable and hungry at the same time. A few years back I think there was a tv show bracket. Again, stupid and pointless. You get the point, I hate March Madness. 

Besides my vitriolic rant against everything sacred to a March Madness enthusiast, I wanted to put down the five things I hate the most about the tournament and provide reason why I hate them, instead of doing something like this:

So without further delay, here are the five biggest reasons why I hate March Madness:

5. Productivity Declines

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I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not exactly the best worker, or the hardest, unless it’s something that I’m good at or know well. Regardless, one thing that constantly irks me is the stories about the decline in workplace or classroom productivity because of the tournament. Let me provide an example: In my junior year of high school, we were allowed to watch ESPN on tv in the cafeteria, provided we had a free period, or lunch. We were allowed to watch the games on TV only if they didn’t interfere with our class time. Take a wild guess what happens next. Because of what happened, we ended up losing the television and that was that. All because of a few idiots who couldn’t wait to watch a game of basketball. Of course, that wasn’t the only place where it happened. The library was often a hotbed of March Madness viewing. Streaming had gotten a foothold, so people could watch the game on the computers. For someone who had to do a report on, say, an interpretation of Nathaniel Hawthorne, if you didn’t get a computer early, you were S.O.L. Thankfully, we did have someone who was monitoring the computers, and if they were caught, they were kicked out. Unfortunately, for every one person kicked out, another two would take his place. It was ridiculous, down to the point where they stopped caring and let little viewing parties go on, so long as people were quiet. This was before I had a personal computer which I could get my work done, so I ended up having to do a lot of work at home. You also hear the stories about teachers who end up dropping the lesson plan so that they can watch the tournament with their class. Yeah, that’s nice. Great to know that the salary money that parents payed is going towards a glorified 3 week long viewing party.

What’s even worse is when it happens in the office. Now I don’t work in an office, but I’m sure everyone has heard the stories about workers bringing up streams on their computers, watching the games and then if they sense danger, hastily putting up an email inbox as if they’re trying to avoid watching porn. In fact, when CBS offered their stream last year, they INCLUDED a button that said something along the lines of, “Click in case of boss”.  Priorities people, priorities. It got so bad that some offices set up firewalls to try and curb viewing time. At the worst, there is the risk of being fired. Whether it’s for making an illegal pool, streaming the game on your work computer, taunting another worker whose alma mater may have lost, it’s dumb, Imagine coming home and telling your spouse that you lost your job because you were watching college basketball instead of working. Yeah, that’s going to carry over well. What especially annoys me is seeing our president on ESPN filling out his bracket. Whee, so now we know what he thinks. Except here’s the problem. Do you have to make it such a lavish ceremony? Do we really need to see your face on television for the zillionth time filling out your picks? Uh, Isn’t there a little situation going on involving the Ukraine, Crimea, and Russia that needs your attention more than a silly little bracket, or in your case, a really big bracket? Yeah, priorities, Mr. President, priorities. Nice to know that you got Michigan-Wofford and Arizona-Cal Poly right when there’s a plane that’s gone missing and all signs are pointing to it being hijacked. Yeah, I really feel safe now. So that pretty much summarizes productivity decline.

4. It Consumes Everything and Everyone

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In the time period that the NCAA tournament is on, probably a good 80% of chatter that I hear involves the words, “basketball”, “tournament” “seed”, or something along the lines. I also here people who I swear are not basketball fans talking as if they are team insiders for their designated pick, girls who I swear couldn’t care less about sports suddenly shouting “Go (insert college name here)” and obviously, pointing to the picture above, the yearly ritual of dressing a statue in a jersey. It’s ridiculous. It’s chintzy, it’s worse than a meme. Tournament fever is arguably one of the worst non-illness epidemics that hits every year. I’m surprised no one has died from it, although last year, when Ohio State advanced to the next round, I was mobbed by my overzealous Ohio State fan friend, who nearly broke my glasses and caused me headaches for weeks. If I could compare the whole March Madness phenomena, it probably goes hand in hand with the Hunger Games. However, you aren’t legally obligated to watch it, at least not yet.

3. Hearing the word, “Cinderella” 

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God help me, if I ever use the word Cinderella to describe a college basketball team outside this article, you have my permission to take me out back and shoot me. The origin of the term is debatable, as there were two big examples that ended up winning the whole thing. There was Texas Western in 1966, who destroyed the reestablished racial lines and shocked the world by beating Kentucky while starting an all-black lineup, and then there’s the more well known North Carolina State team that beat heavily favored Houston. I believe the term first came to college basketball in the NC-State Houston game. NC State was a 6 seed, Houston was a 1. Obviously the shock was that the Wolfpack had beaten a team that had the soon-to-be top pick in the NBA Draft, as well as Clyde Drexler.

Since then, the term has been overused. Look, I don’t necessarily hate the word, but the way that it’s been used. A Cinderella team is a team that’s made it to the final despite the odds against them, like NC State, like Butler, VCU, George Mason, the 1985 Villanova team. Nowadays, when people talk about Cinderellas, they refer to lower seeds that beat higher seeds in one game. I’ll give some credit to Florida Gulf Coast University last year, being the first ever #15 seed to make it to the Sweet Sixteen, but good God, Lehigh and Norfolk State in 2012 were not Cinderellas. They beat a 2 seed, which is the second least likely scenario to happen, but then promptly got beaten the next round. If that were a Cinderella metaphor, that would be the pumpkin carriage hitting a pothole en route to the ball, turning everything back to the way it was. Cinderella in rags, horses are mice, you get the picture here. The better term would be “Giant Killer”. This term is especially popular in English football during the FA cup, as there are plenty of lower pyramid teams who manage to stun a higher pyramid team until they inevitably get beaten by someone in the Football Championship or the EPL in the proper rounds. That is, unless you’re Millwall.

Further misuse of the term is derived from broadcasters’ lack of research. When the supposed Cinderella team loses, they often say the team is “turning back into a pumpkin”. Really. I had no idea that Cinderella was a vegetable to begin with. As I recall, the carriage WAS the pumpkin, not Cinderella. Really, read a book or even watch the movie if you have to, just get your facts right. It’s like Katy Perry singing “Dark Horse” with the music video set in Egypt and right out of nowhere, she says “Make me your Aphrodite.” That’s Greek mythology, sweetheart. The Ancient Egyptian goddess of love is Hathor. Again, read a book, don’t make yourself out to be an idiot.

2. The overcoverage

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Maybe I’m overreacting a bit here, but when March Madness comes, ESPN and the other major networks find some excuse to put on college basketball highlights. I’m not kidding. Sportsnet does it, CNN and Fox News have done it, it’s hard not to find a channel without going through at least three seconds of college basketball highlights in March. What does bother me though is that ESPN acts as if they are broadcasting the tournament, by showing highlights of every game, and analyzing each game, each team, each player, each meme or Youtube worthy moment to death. When that happens, all other sports are pushed aside. We’re talking baseball, which is usually in the middle of Spring Training, NFL free agency, maybe a few marquee NBA games. It’s incredible. For a network that prides itself on being the Worldwide Leader in Sports, there is a major coverage bias. Might as well change it the the Basketball and everything else network. It’s ridiculous. 

1. Brackets, Brackets everywhere.

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Of course, what March Madness hate-o-rama would be complete without blasting brackets? Some people do them on paper, others online, heck, some do both. Some do one, some do maybe 30. And what for? If you get the best bracket in your pool, what do you get aside from a small money pot and the ultimate realization that you probably have no life? Great, you filled out your bracket. Enjoy the Tournament. Great, you got the Final Four all right, your parents must be so proud of you. Great. You got all but maybe 10 games right. You want a cookie? It’s inane, it’s time consuming, it’s just a major bore. I mean really, what are you getting out of it. Your expertise or dumb luck isn’t going to get you a job on ESPN or CBS College Sports now, so why bother? And while we’re on the subject, let’s talk brackets in general during the time of March Madness. It’s not just confined to basketball. Some businesses or people or both make brackets for the most inane things. Meat, TV, Simpsons Characters, girls, men, life, the only thing they could make for a bracket that trumps everything in inaneness is the air molecules you breathe. Brackets are ridiculous and inane and a complete waste of time, and it’s only the fact that we’ve been doing them for so long that makes it more culturally acceptable.

And that concludes my hatred of March Madness. Don’t worry, baseball will be coming back soon.

Why the Marlins and Major League Baseball are wrong to fine Boston

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Spring Training is essentially a lot of nothing: players getting in shape by actually playing baseball against minor leaguers, prospects being highlighted as the potential future without much consequence, the usual golf, fishing, maybe some joking around.

However, no one apparently sent the memo to the Miami Marlins, who after a game against the Boston Red Sox, filed a grievance alleging that the Sox, a champion organization cheated both Miami and its fans by fielding a lineup of minor leaguers, save for Jackie Bradley. The Marlins had hoped for the actual championship team, and had thus inflated ticket prices.

The Red Sox responded with a personal tweet from owner John Henry which read as follows:

Major League Baseball responded by fining the Red Sox a small amount, but that small amount was way too much for an “offense” like not fielding a lineup of regulars during a spring training game. In fact, the logic behind the fine was that the Red Sox needed to put “at least four major leaguers, or players with a good shot at a major league roster spot” in the lineup.

This is stupidity to the nth degree; a team should have every right to field whomever they want in their lineup and shouldn’t have to acquiesce just because another team expects them to. In fact, what would have happened had the Red Sox done it, then gradually substituted the starters out? Would they have called the game?

A year ago, the San Antonio Spurs were fined for opting not to let their starters play in a game against the Miami Heat. Coahc Gregg Popovich defended the action as a means to let his star players, all except for one are above the age of 30, get a well deserved rest. Then-commissioner David Stern fined the team because according to him, the benching was not “In the best interests of basketball”.

Professional sports are a corporation by and large, but star players do deserve rest and should not be forced to play because of marketability. Granted, Popovich should have mentioned that he needed to rest his starters to avoid injury, but still, players are human beings as well.

The Marlins and Major League Baseball should be ashamed too. For one, Miami exploited fans by driving up prices for that one particular game. For another, Major League Baseball sided with the same team that has been viewed as having the worst management, is the prime example of a team entirely dependent on fire sales which gut the team of talent in return for players who may or may not pan out, who swindled the Miami taxpayers into building a stadium with public funds with the promise that a championship team would play there, only to sell off the championship pieces a year later, in short, it’s downright despicable and it shows the darker side of business in baseball.

Generation K won’t repeat itself for Mets

By Steven Inman

Photo By Newsday

Photo By Newsday

Most naysayers believe the Mets are making a mistake by trying to build their franchise back up with young pitching. They refer to Generation K, a trio of young pitchers who never made it in New York. Jason IsringhausenBill Pulsipher and Paul Wilson all came up through the Mets system as top prospects with blazing fastballs. Although it sounds very similar to the trio of Matt HarveyZack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard it doesn’t appear that history is due to repeat itself.

Isringhausen was the only pitcher of the trio to make it in the big leagues, and he did it for the most part as a closer in Oakland and St. Louis. Harvey and Wheeler have already had more success in their young careers than the trio from the 90’s did with the Mets.

The difference that I see between the three pitchers of 2014 and Generation K is Harvey, Wheeler and Syndergaard all seem to throw much more free and easy than most young pitchers. Harvey and Syndergaard seem to throw 97mph without putting much stress on their arms. Wheeler when his mechanics are right, has the easiest delivery of the three.

Also in the past 20 years due to video, scouting has gotten much more accurate. A much higher percent of top prospects are making it to the big leagues and establishing themselves as the cream of the crop in Major League Baseball. When Generation K came out, for the most part scouts really didn’t have the technology to look at a kid’s delivery and say “he’s not going to hold up for 200 innings” Now we do and those kids are quickly switched to the bullpen for the most part.

Also 20 years ago guys were throwing 130-135 pitches in the minor leagues regularly. In 2014 pretty much every pitching prospect is on some kind of pitch limit per game, and innings limit for a season.

Teams have learned from the Generation K’s of the world and have put some work in to protect their young pitchers to give themselves a better chance of holding up long-term.

Two of the three pitchers from Generation K blowing out their arms within the span of a year is just unlikely and not likely to happen again this time. Harvey undergoing Tommy John surgery is a pretty simple process and he should come back just as good as before as long as he doesn’t rush his rehab.

Wheeler and Harvey already look like the real deal and Mets coaches in spring training can’t stop raving about Noah Syndergaard. Mets fans, fear not Sandy Alderson is building this team the right way and the Mets have a very bright future.

What becomes of NCAA Perfect Game Pitchers?

University of Miami senior Javi Salas became only the 23rd pitcher to throw a perfect game in college baseball history. Salas went the full nine innings in a 17-0 drubbing of Villanova. The game had a human interest element as his brother Jorge Salas was in the broadcast booth and had the honor of calling his brother’s perfecto.

Salas joins a rare company of Division One pitchers who have thrown a perfect game in college; only 22 others have done so, the exact same amount of perfect games thrown in Major League baseball. Salas’ perfect game was the first one since UVA’s Will Roberts tossed one against George Washington almost two years prior. Part of the difficulty in throwing a perfect game in college (prior to Roberts’ perfect game, the last one was thrown in 2003 by Ohio State alum Greg Prenger. against Oakland (Michigan)), may be attributed to the increased offense that came with the introduction of supercharged metal bats. While the metal bat was introduced in 1974 to NCAA baseball, the estimation was 1988 when the supercharged metal bat era began. Incidentally it was the year prior that two perfect games, thrown by Memphis’ Mark Bowlan and Miami’s Kevin Sheary were thrown. Post Bowlan, a total of 8 perfect games were thrown, with the closest time between games being 381 days.

The focus however of this article is what happens to the pitchers who throw these perfect games. Did any go on to become all-stars? Major Leaguers? Drafted?

Here is the list of Division One Collegians that have thrown a perfect game as well as the year they did it. Note that all pictures are of players in college uniforms:

* indicates a 7 inning perfect game, ** indicates a 5 inning perfect game

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2014: Javi Salas (University of Miami)

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2011: Will Roberts (University of Virginia)

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2003: Greg Prenger (Ohio State University)*

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2002: Eric Brandon (Auburn University)

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2000: Chad Blackwell (University of Iowa) *

1997: John Stewart (Western Michigan University) *

1996: Chris McConnell (St. Francis University)

1991: Jason Johnson (Auburn University) *

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1987: Mark Bowlan (University of Memphis)

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1987: Kevin Sheary (University of Miami)

1980: Cliff Faust (University of Nebraska) *

1980: Joe Housey (University of New Orleans) *

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1973: Joe McIntosh (Washington State University) *

1972: Jim Jacobsen (Oklahoma State University) **

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Photo Courtesy of William Balfoort. I kid you not.

1971: Bill Balfoort (SUNY Buffalo) *

1971: Larry Angell (Washington State University) *

1968: Rick Austin (Washington State University) *

1967: Bruce Baudier (Louisiana State University) *

1967: Larry Gonsalves (Fresno State University)

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1965: Bob Schauenberg (University of Iowa)

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1965: George Dugan (Murray State University)

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1963: Don Woeltjen (University of Georgia)

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1959: Dick Reitz (University of Maryland)

If you had no idea who any of these pitchers were, don’t be disappointed. Out of the 23, only one went on to pitch in the Majors: Washington State’s Rick Austin. And if you think Austin had a long and prosperous career as a major leaguer, think again. Austin spent parts of four seasons pitching for the Cleveland Indians and the Milwaukee Brewers. His best season was his rookie season in 1971 when he went 2-5 with a 4.79 ERA, three saves and 53 strikeouts.

It’s not to say that none of the following didn’t go on to play baseball, in fact all but 6 were drafted to play. However, only one is currently playing professionally, Roberts, who’s in the Indians’ system and finished the previous season in Double-A. Roberts in all likelihood will be pitching for the Indians Triple-A team after spring training, and with his 24th birthday not until August, He does have a chance to pitch for the big league club at the rate he’s going, but in no way is Roberts an elite prospect, and in all likelihood, he’ll be a solid long reliever/spot starter.

Going back to the most recent perfect game pitcher, Salas, it’s likely he will be drafted, but not in a high round. Perhaps he’ll labor through the minor leagues, but unless he absolutely dominates, I see no reason that he makes a major league roster. College seniors come with an accelerated clock, meaning their window of opportunity closes a lot faster than a college junior. Unless the collegian is a reliever or a really bona fide early round draft pick, like Mark Appel, there is almost no reason to put stock in them.

So to answer the question, what becomes of NCAA perfect game pitchers, it’s quite simple: almost nothing. Sure, they get a weekly award from their conference, are enshrined in their school’s athletic hall of fame, maybe if they’re lucky, also the College Baseball Hall of Fame, and they most likely get drafted, but unless they’re really good, that college no-hitter is probably going to be the high point in their athletic career.

Who Is This Year’s Highly Anticipated Prep Shortstop?

 

For the past four years, there has been one common occurrence in the MLB draft: That occurrence is the Highly Anticipated Prep Shortstop (or HAPS, for short). The common characteristics is that the shortstop in question is (obviously) a high schooler, has the potential to make the majors in three years instead of the traditional four or five years, is a top prospect usually by the end of his first year or the middle of his second, and garners a lot of praise from opposing scouts.

The past four years of HAPS are as follows:

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2013: JP Crawford, Phillies

While it’s still too early to be determined, Crawford had been highly visible throughout his high school career, and when he was drafted, it was to a team that was looking to replace a legendary shortstop with a newer model. Crawford’s first minor league season saw him completely own the Gulf Coast League and skip entirely over short ball in favor of the more advanced Low A. Crawford also ended the season as the #4 prospect in Philly’s system, behind only Roman Quinn, a fellow prep shortstop drafted in the 2nd round of the 2011 draft, as well as 3B Maikel Franco and P Jesse Biddle, who have made the 2014 top 100 list on MLB.com. Even though Crawford effectively was a HAPS by default, as last year’s middle infield class was very weak, Crawford has at least proven that he is still a very solid lock to follow the progression that fellow HAPS have gone through.

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2012: Carlos Correa, Astros, and Addison Russell, Athletics.

Thanks to what could have been regarded as one of the best prep shortstop draft classes in baseball history, 2012 had not one, but two HAPS propects. Carlos Correa, who was the first overall pick, drew some attention at the end of his debut year, but in his second year, he justified why he was a first overall pick. After having a monster season for the Quad Cities River Bandits, Correa was rewarded by being voted in to the 2013 Futures game World Roster, as well as being named the Astros’ top prospect by the end of the season. At the start of the 2014 season Correa was named the top prospect in the Astros’ system again, ahead of such players as Mark Appel, Jonathan Singleton, and Lance McCullers, and was also named the #8 prospect in all of baseball.

Russell, who I’ve consistently noted was the catalyst for the death of Moneyball drafting in Oakland, has done nothing but impress in his first two years. Named the best prospect in Oakland’s system immediately after the 2012 season, Russell again went on a tear at Single-A Stockton, and was also selected for the Futures game as a member of Team USA. Russell ended the season in AAA Sacramento, completely jumping over AA, and although he obviously had issues handling the rapid increase in competition level, the prevailing theory is that Russell could be in the majors by the end of the 2014 season.

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2011: Francisco Lindor, Indians

The Indians have repeatedly stated that they do not intend to rush Lindor to the major leagues, to which I call bull. Lindor has been nothing short of amazing ever since he stepped on the field. At the end of the 2012 season, his first full season in minor league ball, Lindor had established himself as a #1 shortstop prospect, the #1 Indians prospect, and the #13 prospect in baseball. This included an invite to the Futures game in Kansas City, where he played for the World Team. Lindor followed up his great 2012 with an even better 2013 where he went through two levels of ball, topping out in Double-A, and once again being invited to the Futures Game in New York. He once again ended the season as the top shortstop prospect, the top Indians prospect, but increased his overall prospect ranking to #5. At the beginning of this season, Lindor has already established himself as a top ten prospect yet again, however, he dropped his shortstop ranking to #4, perfectly reasonable given his competition was Xander Bogaerts, Correa, and Javier Baez, who has started to put himself in the HAPS conversation, especially after showing a dominant power swing in Spring Training. The reason why Baez isn’t in it right now is that while he’s advanced at the same rate as Lindor, he hasn’t had Lindor’s wow factor. Still, if Baez can be as consistently impressive as Lindor has been, he could put himself in the HAPS conversation.

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2010: Manny Machado, Orioles

The man who started it all, Machado blazed through the minors, made his major league debut a mere two years after being drafted, and made his first All-star team in 2013. While Machado’s best season ended on a sour note after he broke his leg, he has definitely entered his name into the elite infielder category. I know that Machado technically is a third baseman now, but in truth I’m grading him as a shortstop because of his A-Rod like conversion to third. And to continue, Machado was a shortstop when he was drafted, and only played a few games at third base in the minors, in Double-A Bowie, which incidentally was his last minor league stop before he made his debut. Will Machado ever move back to shortstop? Maybe, maybe not, but regardless, Machado is still one of the best young players right now.

The 2014 draft isn’t until June, but that doesn’t mean there’s no room for early speculation. In what is considered yet another meh prep middle infield class, there are only two definitive first round prep shortstop talents, one of which has equal value as a pitcher. The two shortstops in question are Clovis High School’s Jacob Gatewood, and Olympia High School’s Nick Gordon.

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Gatewood, like Crawford before him, has had eyes on him since last year. A well rounded guy with an emphasis on power who draws comparisons to Troy Tulowitzki and Starlin Castro, Gatewood, barring a bad senior season has the projectability to be a top ten pick, and could raise his stock to top five, maybe even top three if he continues to play at the level he has. In my initial mock, I had him going to Colorado as a potential replacement for Troy Tulowitzski, whom I feel will leave Colorado before 2020. In the thin air of Colorado, Gatewood would thrive despite the humidor baseballs, and he would have the potential to be a Machado-like talent.

Gordon has a baseball pedigree thanks to his father and brother, Tom and Dee. He has project ability as both a pitcher and a shortstop, but scouts have said that Gordon will stick to shortstop. While not as dominant at Gatewood, Gordon is still a top 20 prospect who could actually outperform his brother. I had Gordon going to San Diego. In theory, if Everth Cabrera can’t get back to his pre-Biogenesis self, it’s a possibility that the Padres will try and look for a replacement in the coming years. Gordon would benefit from the expansive park in San Diego, as he thrives on being a slap hitter with speed, much like Cabrera was.

Between Gatewood and Gordon, my belief  is that the former makes the best case for the HAPS of 2014. He certainly has made a name for himself starting last year, and he has a legitimate shot to become one of the best shortstops in the post-Jeter and Rollins shortstop era. His power is not to be ignored, and if he signs early and tears it up in rookie or short ball, he could find himself in the top 100, maybe even top 25 very early in his career.

The Difference between Jason Collins and Michael Sam

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Gay athletes came to the forefront of the sports world this past week when basketball player Jason Collins signed a ten day contract with the Brooklyn Nets and played in his first game since he publicly came out. In another sport, University of Missouri linebacker Michael Sam, who also publicly came out, participated in the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. While both were greeted by a warm reception by the media and the fans, both had different endings to their storyline. Collins had a good game despite scoring no points against the Lakers, while Sam had a disastrous NFL Combine which in all likelihood affected his draft stock.

This comes down to the question, how do we tell if a gay athlete is ready to handle the spotlight?

Personally I’m okay with a gay athlete playing a team sport. It’s not exactly a new thing, before the NBA and NFL had their gay athletes, the WNBA was the place for a gay athlete to play. Stars like Brittney Griner, Cheryl Swoopes, and countless others were well publicised gay athletes, and no one cared. But now, we enter the question of how a gay athlete in the Big Four is accepted, and how he handles the additional media scrutiny.

The NBA and the NFL are two completely different leagues. If they were on a political spectrum, the NBA would be more liberal, while the NFL would be conservative. The NBA is more receptive to change, while the NFL is more hesitant. Jason Collins was accepted immediately by the league, new commissioner Adam Silver, and the fans. And here’s the best part. Collins decided once he came out, he’d stop piggybacking on it. It took him months to find a job after coming out, but when asked, he didn’t complain about being discriminated.In addition, he also played it off as normal on his return. His teammates also didn’t make a big show of it either, indicating that while the occasion was memorable, it wasn’t supposed to be treated like the President coming to town. For that I applaud Collins. In my mind, I think being a gay athlete is fine, so long as you don’t use it to get along. If you want to play a sport, play a sport, but don’t use something like your sexual orientation to advance your cause. Also, timing is everything. Had Collins done this at a more inopportune time, it would have put more pressure on teams to sign him, more controversy on him, and all in all, it would have been an ugly mess. Collins choosing now to come out was probably the best thing for him, the NBA, and everybody associated with basketball.

This brings me to Michael Sam.

Before I begin, let me preface this by saying that I mean no malice when I analyze Sam. I am in no way homophobic, in fact I have friends who are gay who would probably agree with what I’m saying. I am just pointing out the difference between him and Collins. I am saying this because I don’t want to hear any vitriolic comments from people on Reddit or Facebook or Twitter or any other sports site saying that I’m a a homophobic nutjob, that I’m an unprintable word, that I should be banned from writing. etc. If you’re going to be offended, that’s fine, but don’t blackball me for presenting an analysis and having an opinion.

When Michael Sam came out, I knew that he had chosen the wrong time to do so. By coming out before the combine and the workouts, before the Draft even, he was going to be subject to a firestorm of media coverage. I knew that maybe Sam would be able to handle the media, after all, Missouri had come off an excellent year, Sam had been named SEC defensive player of the year, and looked like a decent mid round pick, he probably had some media exposure before, not a lot. Still, the choice to come out before being auditioned to the NFL put unnessecary attention and overwhelming pressure on him.

When Sam came to Indianapolis to audition, he was projected as a mid round pick. When he left, after an unimpressive combine, his draft stock had taken a tumble. He maybe was an early to mid day 3 now, at the worst, an undrafted free agent. But yet, the media still was on him.

I’m not trying to imply that Sam tried to improve his visibility in order for him to assure himself a job in the NFL, but again, I would point out that coming out before the combine, before the pro day, it was an incredibly risky move that while it looked like a good idea, is starting to blow up in his face.

Remember the big media story last year involving Manti Te’o? About the dead girlfriend hoax? This was at about the same media scrutiny level. What happened after the story came out? Te’o went to the combine, proceeded to fail to impress, and what was once viewed as a first round lock fell to the second round. A guy who was viewed as a potential defensive rookie of the year lock was practically invisible in his first year in San Diego. He was distracted. The fake dead girlfriend story dogged him the entire year, and Te’o had every opportunity to not let it be a distraction, but ultimately, he failed in that regard and made himself out to be a fool.

The NFL is not a fan of distraction. Te’o was a distraction last year, and despite what the NFL wants you to think, Sam is this year. Players that do come with off the field baggage that distracts from football are not in the NFL for long, look at Tim Tebow and Aaron Hernandez if you need reference. If Sam wants a career in the NFL, if he wants to be more than a media target, he’s going to have to deflect the questions on homosexuality. In all likelihood, any interview that Sam has will include questions that pertain to his homosexuality. What he needs to do is brush them off, or if it’s unavoidable, give a generic answer. It will save him the scrutiny, and it will send a message to the media that he doesn’t want this to be as much of a distraction as it has become.

Now, earlier, I posed the point that Sam had picked the worst time to come out, but I never said when I felt Sam would have best chosen his moment. For those who do want to know when the best time would have been, I would have said that he should have waited until his first season in the league. Sam could have spent the season notifying his coaching staff that he was gay, followed by his teammates, then when the season ended, he could have come out publicly. While still a distraction, the resulting media coverage wouldn’t have been so disruptive as it is now. Sam would have been applauded either way, he still would answer questions, but it would have been better for him and for everyone else involved right now if he had waited a little longer.

Instead, there’s almost an added pressure on teams to pick him. While the team that picks him will be given the unfortunate task of dealing with the issue, the other teams will be blasted for not taking a chance on him. And in truth, that’s unfair. Teams may have reasonable excuses to not draft him, “He’s not a scheme fit”, “We felt that there were better prospects at that position”, “We don’t want the media attention”, etc. To provide an example: If a team like the Jets drafted him, it would be a media circus all over again. Jets GM John Idzik wanted the team to get away from the circus label, not to mention the team is already strong enough in regards to its linebacker corps, so despite an endorsement for Sam from coach Rex Ryan, taking him would serve only as a distraction. If Sam is to be drafted, it’s because he’s a football player, not a gay football player.

In conclusion, the way that Jason Collins and Michael Sam have dealt with coming out has been handled differently. While the media has certainly heaped its praise on the situation and the leagues have welcomed them, it is truly up to them to handle their coming out the appropriate way.

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