SEC Update, Spoilsports Edition
Upon further review, the Arkansas State Senate found a problem or two in its law allowing the carry of firearms in public places and has offered an amendment to exclude the University of Arkansas football stadium.
I hope they remember to draft the amendment so it includes the basketball arena.
You Can Throw Out the Record Book When These Two Teams Meet, But I'd Keep That Kevlar Vest Handy
The Arkansas state legislature has passed a law permitting the carrying of concealed firearms in a variety of public places -- including the football stadium of the University of Arkansas Razorbacks. Beginning in 2018, loyal fans may pack heat in the stands as well as bourbon.
One has to think Arkansas coach Bert Bielema is of two minds about this bill. On the one hand, it seems likely his team will get more than its fair share of marginal calls from the officials. On the other, a 7-5 season could have worse consequences for the coach than just talk show calls and a trip to an off-brand December bowl game.
As for visiting teams, well, you know the cadre of enormous state troopers that surround every SEC coach at home and on the road? Those guys are really going to have their pay.
Gosh, I Can't Wait! Tell Me More!!
Minding my own business watching the NCAA tournament a few minutes ago when the phone rings.
I have caller ID so I wait a ring to see what it is.
"Call from Final Reservation."
Thank you, no. Perhaps you should speak to your marketing department.
A Tradition of Failure Like No Other
The National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I Men's Basketball Tournament Selection Committee checked into a New York hotel last Wednesday and spent the rest of the weekend in seclusion watching television and having meetings. Presumably they were all binge-watching "The Americans" much of the time because their college basketball viewing options didn't seem to impress them very much.
The committee began work with a list that had North Carolina, Villanova, Kansas and Gonzaga as the four top seeds and ended it with the same list. Conference tournaments, we don't need no stinking conference tournaments! And a good thing for North Carolina and Kansas that the committee didn't, as both schools didn't even make the finals of the ACC and Big 12 tourneys.
In the former, Duke beat North Carolina in the semis. They beat Louisville and Notre Dame, too. Duke got a two seed. Committee chairman Mark Hollis told CBS the group had Duke listed as a four seed on Wednesday. He made the promotion to a second seed sound like an unprecedented papal dispensation, a reward too good for the likes of college kids, even if they'd beaten the Spurs, Warriors and Cavs in succession. Worse yet, he left millions of otherwise good Americans finding themselves taking Duke's side in an argument.
I'm sure those remarks went over real well at CBS and ESPN, each of which pay serious money to broadcast those conference tournaments to fans who're now told that a group of certified basketball experts considers them essentially meaningless. A lot of those fans will take that opinion to heart as they fill out their brackets. This will be a mistake. Of course, it'll be a mistake if they ignore the committee's opinion, too.
Having criticized, I must now express some sympathy with the committee's choices. The rules of the game require that four teams must be seeded first in their regions. In the 2016-2017 season, there were basically two teams with one seed credentials, Villanova and Kansas, and about 10 perfectly reasonable number twos, very strong teams with wholly reasonable expectations of playing for a national championship that at some point or another didn't play very well at all.
This places the handicapper (and that's what the committee does after all) in a serious quandary. How does one play chalk when there's too much of it? Look at the two seeds. Duke, Louisville, Kentucky and Arizona. Nobody would faint dead away if that's the Final Four. Look at the threes. Florida State, Baylor, UCLA and Oregon. That would be a startling Final Four, sure enough. But any one of them (well, not Baylor and Oregon) could be there and we'd all nod our heads as if we'd thought it all along.
As far as "upsets" go, SMU and Wichita St., seeded sixth and 10th respectively in their regions, could beat any one of the teams seeded ahead of them. The handicapper will note the importance of the word "one" in a contest where it takes six victories to win the grand prize.
So what the hell, in for a penny, in for ridicule from friends and family.
Sweet Sixteen: Villanova, Florida, SMU, Duke, Gonzaga, Notre Dame, Florida State, Arizona, Kansas, Iowa St., Creighton, Louisville, North Carolina, Butler, UCLA, Kentucky
Elite Eight: Villanova, Duke, Notre Dame, Arizona, Kansas, Louisville, Butler, Kentucky
Final Four: Duke, Arizona, Kansas, Kentucky
Championship: Kansas over Arizona.
Gridiron of Mirrors
Adam Schefter of ESPN reported this morning that "league sources" have told him the Patriots have no plans to trade backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Were I Garoppolo, I wouldn't sign any long-term leases around here just yet.
Schefter is as well-connected an NFL beat guy as there is, and this is not the sort of story he'd get wrong. Those league sources are real and in a position to know something. We may safely assume, however, none of them is Bill Belichick, the person in the very best position to know. Therefore, the powers of deduction allow us to assume that those sources are from the most desperately quarterback challenged franchises in the league, like the Browns, 49ers, Texans, etc. and that they are reporting what was said to them by the Pats when they made discreet inquiries as to Garoppolo's availability.
No words on such a subject spring forth from Foxboro unless spoken or at a minimum approved by Belichick himself. There's a good chance he meant every one of those words. Tom Brady functioned at peak efficiency in 2016, but Belichick doubtless remembers that so did Peyton Manning in 2013, and by the end of 2014, Manning could muster no more than five or six good throws a game. Belichick probably has even more vivid memories of Brady getting the crap knocked out of him in the first half of Super Bowl LI. Brady is a physical marvel of flexibility, but no human body sustains repeated blows by huge men with impunity. So if the coach has decided Garoppolo is an insurance policy he wants for 2017, it's hardly an irrational decision
(Incidentally, it would also be doing Garoppolo a favor. He could play out his rookie contract and become a free agent with his reputation, based on five quarters of play and Belichick's good opinion, intact. He couldn't louse it up by failing to do well with a team for whom it is impossible to do well, such as Cleveland. If I were a quarterback, I sure wouldn't want to go a team that lost four previous starters due to injury the previous season.)
But it wouldn't be an irrational decision if Belichick was just blowing smoke about his plans either. In general, persons seeking to sell an asset tend to talk up the value of the asset. Belichick could not do more to drive up Garoppolo's value than to declare it is so high he couldn't consider swapping him away. It might discourage some suitors, but it's bound to encourage one or more of them to return with better, probably ridiculous offers. After all, if Bill like the guy so much, he must be worth a lot right?
The market will offer further encouragement. Current free agent quarterbacks include Tony Romo, a proven success who's a cinch to be injured by Columbus Day, and a bunch of just good enough to lose chaps like Jay Cutler, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Case Keenum. Every time Deshaun Watson's agent sees that list, he grins. Same probably goes for everyone in the Pats front office from the coach on down.
Did you know that as of now the 49ers have a rookie coach, rookie GM and no quarterbacks whatsoever on their roster? Belichick does. Does he know the Texans' commitment to Brock Osweiler has put old colleague Bill O'Brien in an equivocal employment situation? Oh, yeah.
In short, Belichick has every incentive to say he won't trade Garoppolo if he really doesn't want to, and even more incentive to say it if he's willing to persuaded to do so. He is in the catbird seat, a seat that will become more and more comfortable as the draft approaches.
Pretty good deal if you're defending Super Bowl champion and your big offseason move might be to wait for the Cleveland Browns to screw up.