by Alex Langer
The College Football Playoff is beginning its senior year. Year four of the College Football Playoff begins the last week of August. In honor of the start of four months of great football, hilariously bad football, dull football, overreaction, under-reaction, and far too many declarations that “X team’s season is over!” or “this team is the clear title favorite now,” I’d like to share my thoughts on the upcoming season. If you do not have time to read, here are the highlights: your team isn’t as good as you think it is going to be, no one thinks your star player deserves Heisman consideration, and Alabama will be one of the four teams in the CFP. Now that we have that out of the way, what is actually going to happen this season?
College football is vast. It is, along with college basketball, the biggest spectator sport in the United States. There are 130 teams that play for the chance to be selected in a bowl game every year, and over six hundred other college football teams in the nation. It is likely that, if you ask ten people on the street, one of them will root for a school and team you have never heard of. This game is perhaps the biggest soap opera in the world. In the offseason alone, one of the longest-tenured coaches in America, Bob Stoops, retired from Oklahoma, while the head coach of Ol’ Miss resigned after it came out that he saw escorts often while on recruiting trips. Well over half the teams in football are “on the rise” and ready to “take the leap,” while the other half are already openly speculating about firing their head coach. It is a money-guzzling marketing and hype machine masquerading as varsity athletics, and I, for one, cannot get enough of it.
by Chris Foss
Why do I go to games? The answer is usually to watch my team play, and to talk with friends or my wife, either about (or not about) the game. A lot of people don’t share my agenda, though, and that number seems to be increasing. So, what is the experience like for the serious fan? It depends on the context. In 2017, I’ve been to three different sporting events so far, each of which gave me a different perspective: an NBA playoff game, a single-A baseball game, and a women’s major league soccer match. At these events, on the surface, it might have seemed as though most people were there for the same reasons I was. But what was really going on was a lot more complex, and, I think, speaks to the multiplicity of appeals for fans’ attention that goes on in most American sports stadiums.
At the outset of Game 3 of the Portland Trail Blazers’ first-round matchup against Golden State, I felt at one with the herd. We were intensely and emotionally involved in the game because of the emotional return of Jusuf Nurkic to the starting lineup after having missed time with a fractured leg. The Blazers raced off to an early lead, and the upper deck of the Moda Center was focused on the star center’s every move. One fan even waved the flag of Nurkic’s native Bosnia to rally the team. But as the Warriors gained momentum, the crowd got nervous, and then, oddly, disinterested in the fourth quarter, even as my buddy and I clung to hope. I wondered, perhaps, if it was because the alcohol sales stopped after the third quarter. Or maybe fans sensed the inevitable in a postseason in which Golden State would ultimately go an all-time best 16-1 en route to the NBA championship. It surprised me that the attention span of the fans could not be sustained for the entire game, even a playoff game, even among the rowdy die-hards in the 300-level.
by Keith Aksel
It’s that time of year; while other sports sites lay out their standard slate of Heisman and national championship predictions, we at The Tattered Pennant present our annual College Football Un-Preview. Here we’ll present five specific things to watch on the gridiron this season, all in the hope that you’ll come out of 2017 with more of a big-picture perspective on the game. Assumptions will be challenged. Annoying trends will be pointed out. Let’s get it on!
1-Will conference championship week ever be interesting?
For too many years, conference championship week goes according to plan. The PAC-12 title game has really never had an upset in its short history. The SEC title game outcome hasn’t surprised anyone since the 2005 season when Georgia upset Les Miles’ first LSU squad. The ACC Championship Game has also gone according to plan almost every year. The Big Ten usually provides an entertaining title game, but why can’t the season really blow up that week like many of us secretly wish? How about across-the-board upsets for once, just to make the playoff committee sweat? Instead, like clockwork, a week that in theory should provide the best games of the season between highly regarded and battle-tested teams, becomes a formality. When will the promise of a chaotic championship week become reality? Perhaps realignment within leagues can produce something like chaos one day, but that doesn’t seem likely for a while.
by Alex Langer
On August 4, after about a month of speculation that began with “huh, that’s a funny and also never-going-to-happen thing” and ended with jaws dropping around the globe, Brazilian National Team and (former) Barcelona forward and all-around superstar Neymar Jr. was transferred to Paris Saint-Germain for $263 million. That money, paid by PSG to Barcelona, isn’t only the highest fee ever paid for a player, it almost triples the previous record, set last year by Manchester United when they purchased midfielder Paul Pogba for $116 million. It is an unfathomable amount of money to pay for a single player, even one who is one of the top five goal-scorers in Europe. Barcelona did not want to sell Neymar. Every contract in La Liga has a “release clause;” a sum of money another team can pay to instantly buy a player. For superstars, that number is typically absurdly high. In this case, the release clause was $263 million. PSG paid it anyways. They paid it, and Neymar Jr. left a Barcelona team that, as recently as two years ago, was talked of as one of the greatest sides of all time. He left Barcelona for a less-followed team in a second-tier league, and he did it for his own reasons.
PSG, despite winning France’s Ligue 1 nearly every year, has made an annual tradition of leaving Champions League play in the early knockout stages, and last year suffered the greatest comeback of all time, at the hands of Neymar and Barcelona, losing 6-1 after being up 4-0 after the first leg. Its owners are, basically, the Qatari government, and as such they have as much money as King Midas, the Lannisters, or God himself. Books will probably be written about this strategy. How much better than other players can Neymar be? PSG has obvious holes and older players in its starting eleven. Neymar’s fee could have bought several top-flight defenders and midfielders, and one very good attacking player.
by Chris Foss
In the early 2000s, a flood of unprepared high school talent into the NBA prompted league owners and executives to rethink the rules about who should be allowed into the league, and at what point of their development. When the league and players’ union renegotiated the collective bargaining agreement in 2005, they instituted a new rule banning players younger than 19 years of age. Since then, many players coming out of high school have either played abroad until they became draft-eligible, or (more commonly) boosted their draft stock by playing for a year in college before entering the draft, sparking the “one-and-done” era. This compromise has never satisfied anyone: not young players, not the NCAA, nor even many higher-ups in the NBA.
A recent article on Sporting News criticized the suggestion by some NCAA men’s basketball coaches—most notably Duke’s Mike Kryzewski—that the NBA adopt what it called a “baseball rule”. This would allow NBA players to be drafted out of high school, but force them into the Gatorade League (G League, formerly the Developmental League or D League). Players who chose college over the G League would be barred from leaving college for three years. The column went into a litany of reasons why this would be a bad move—most notably that it seemed a self-interested power grab on behalf of college coaches—but also defended one-and-done, contending among other things that the rule kept NBA coaches out of high school gyms, and that the NBA should not be in the business of mentoring young players. There are many reasons, however, why both the baseball rule and one-and-done are flawed.