3/28/2017 0 Comments
by Chris Foss
On Saint Patrick’s Day in 1992, the Portland Trail Blazers, en route to their second NBA Finals in three seasons, matched up against the Minnesota Timberwolves, then a lowly cellar-dweller in just their third year of existence. On that night, Blazers reserve guard Danny Ainge felt nonetheless like he needed some luck of the Irish. Because the Blazers red-and-white home garb lacked any green, Ainge got Portland radio announcer Bill Schonely to give him a dollar bill to tuck into his sock. It must have helped that night, as the Blazers beat the Wolves 111-91 and Ainge scored 15 points, six above his season average. But the episode obscured a consistent theme for the Blazers that season and throughout one of the more curious eras any team has had in professional sports: when it came to the truly big games, they couldn’t even buy luck.
Most books about college and pro teams celebrate the behind-the-scenes stories of champions. Against the World is about a team that didn’t climb the mountain: the 1991-92 Portland Trail Blazers, the apotheosis of the franchise’s three-year run at the near-top of the NBA. Eggers and Jaynes were the team’s beat writers for The (Portland) Oregonian in those years, and their narrative is a crackling yarn that combines the in-game analysis and Monday morning quarterbacking you would expect from a book from this genre with unique insights into Blazers players and the coaching staff. The book has even more poignancy now that two starters from the team have passed away (center Kevin Duckworth and forward Jerome Kersey) and key reserve Cliff Robinson was recently hospitalized with a brain hemorrhage.
by Chris Foss
On the face of it, things couldn’t be better for today’s NBA. Scoring and the pace of games are high, labor and ownership are at peace, and LeBron James is approaching GOAT status even with nearly-comparable stars like Kevin Durant, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and Steph Curry at the top of their games. I argue, however, that the NBA’s shiny surface veneer masks several serious issues which, if left unchecked, could put the league in problematic territory.
History shows us that sports leagues, like nations, economies, and people in general, go through cycles of health and sickness. The NBA flew high for a couple of decades after adopting the shot clock in 1955, struggled with scandals for a few years in the 1970s, then reveled in the Magic/Bird/Jordan era of 1979-93, a Golden Age that was never supposed to end. When Michael Jordan retired for the first time in 1993, the NBA began a long era of turbulence that current owners, players, and league officials should take note of, lest another downturn be in store in the coming years.
Today we begin a new series evaluating the state of our favorite sports in 2017. How are they faring when compared to the past? Are the best days ahead for sports in America, or are some sports struggling to remain relevant? Each week, we'll tackle a new sport, presenting its current trajectory with the classic Tattered Pennant spin.
by Keith Aksel
The last game of the 2016 Football Bowl Subdivision season was an all-time classic. The Clemson Tigers overcame a ten point third quarter deficit to win their second national championship over the Alabama Crimson Tide, football’s immoveable object over the past eight years. The players involved in the game’s decisive moment represented the best of college football. The last-second go-ahead touchdown was scored by former walk-on receiver Hunter Renfro, on a pass thrown by Deshaun Watson, likely the most charismatic college quarterback so far in the playoff era. Everything was there: the rematch storyline, clutch individual performances, and a smidgen of little-guy triumph over the old guard. For these reasons, the Clemson victory was, in my evaluation, a win for the sport as a whole.
But to really analyze college football’s current state of affairs in this State of the Sport essay, we need to go beyond this single moment of Clemson victory, and look at the bigger picture of the past few years. Is college football on the way up, on the way down, or something else altogether?
3/7/2017 0 Comments
by Alex Langer
The most wonderful playoff season in all of sports is just around the corner. Today (March 7), many of the NCAA men’s basketball conference tournaments, including the Pac-12 Conference tournament, begin. After these tournaments crown a champion, the bracket is released. After Americans proceed to fill out their brackets in NCAA-sponsored gambling pools, March Madness begins.
In my first series for this site, in September 2015, I examined the various playoff formats of the major American sports, and argued that March Madness, while far more variable than other playoff formats, is far less mad than the hype would make it seem. To summarize: while No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament only win their bracket and make the Final Four 37% of the time, No. 1 and No. 2 seeds put together make up 66% of the representatives in the Final Four. Thus, if you are looking for a team to bet on to win it all, focus on the top eight teams seeded in the tournament.