Circle of Madness

Note (Saturday 3/17): I actually wrote this post on Thursday (3/15) night.  Since then, my bracket, with a championship game of UVA over Wichita State, has been destroyed.  Therefore, some of what you will read below did quite ring true this year.  Enjoy my post nonetheless!

I am one of those annoying people who watches 99% of my college basketball in March yet is super-duper interested in basketball for that month.  Does that make me a fraud?  Yes.  Do I care?  No.  I love the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, and I know that many of you out there are frauds like me.  In light of this, allow me to share with you my “Circle of Madness”.  This explains my following of college basketball over a full year.  I shall start this circle with “One Shining Moment”.

April: While watching “One Shining Moment”, I think to myself, “I love college basketball!  Next year, I am going to watch a lot of college basketball all year long.”

July: On a random summer day, I think to myself, “I really love the NCAA Tournament.  I can’t wait until next year’s college-basketball season.”

Midnight Madness in October: As I revel in the only time of year with MLB, NFL, and NHL games; I am floored to hear that college-basketball teams have begun practicing.  “Seriously, who cares about college basketball at a time like this???”, I think.

Opening Night of College Basketball in November: A week or two after the World Series has ended, I think to myself, “OK, now I can put all my sports focus on football and the Devils.”  When I hear that the college-basketball season has begun, I think, “I’m not ready for this yet!  Can we push this off a few weeks?”

Next Week or Two: I begin to obsess over making fantasy-playoff runs in my fantasy leagues, how to win my Survivor pool, how the Giants are going to make the playoffs, and which Devils games I will attend.  At no point do I spend even a second thinking about college basketball.

Thanksgiving Eve: At a bar or restaurant, I catch a glimpse of either the Preseason NIT or Maui Invitational on TV.  I think to myself, “Oh yeah, it’s time for me to start watching college basketball this season.  Starting now, I am watching every single Gonzaga game!”

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Next 2-3 Weeks: I do not spend even a second thinking about college basketball.  My mind is simply filled with thoughts of “Fantasy, Giants, Christmas music, Devils, Survivor, Christmas music, Fantasy, Survivor, Mariah Carey needs to cover up her chest at Rockefeller Center, Devils, Survivor, Christmas music.”

Random Date in Mid-December: During a CBS football game, I see a preview of a college-basketball game, complete with the great CBS college-basketball music.  I start to get excited thinking about March Madness.  I think to myself, “I really need to start watching college basketball TODAY.  I can’t just jump onboard a week before the NCAA Tournament”…you know, even though that is what I have done for each of the past 11 seasons.

Next 2-3 Weeks: I do not spend even a second thinking about college basketball.

Random Night in January: I turn on a Rutgers game because Rutgers is either tied or losing by just a few points to a good team.  I am very excited for 2 to 3 minutes before switching to “The Mick” on DVR.  Sidebar: “The Mick” is absolutely hilarious, and I recommend it to all of you.  The only funnier show right now is “Last Man on Earth”, which (double sidebar) is coming back on Sunday!  Anyway, after turning off the Rutgers game, I think to myself, “I really need to start watching college basketball.  If I wait until March to start watching, I will know nothing about these players or teams, and I won’t enjoy the Tournament as much as I usually do!”…even though, for every year since 2007, I have waited until March and have managed to love the crap out of the NCAA Tournament.

Worst Sunday of the Year (aka The Sunday Between the AFC/NFC Championships and the Super Bowl): I wake up in the morning (but not feelin’ like P-Diddy) and think to myself, “How do I fill my NFL void?  I know, I am going to watch college basketball today!”  What do I actually do?  Go running, listen to Elton John music, clear out my DVR, go to the gym, and spend a few hours lying on my couch doing absolutely nothing.

Super Bowl Sunday: As I go to bed after the game, I think to myself, “The Super Bowl is over!  You know what that means – March Madness is right around the corner.  Time for me to start watching college basketball!”

Next 2-3 weeks: I watch one Bucknell (where my brother went to college) basketball game on TV.  By that, I mean that I put 10 minutes of the game on my TV while I am eating dinner, listening to a podcast, and reading a map…all at the same time.  That game aside, I watch no basketball whatsoever.

Two Weeks Before Selection Sunday: I realize that college-basketball conference tournaments are soon to begin.  “Now I will start watching college basketball so that I know what I am talking about when I do my brackets.”

One Week Before Selection Sunday: I go to’s “Championship Week” page and look at all of the conference-tournament brackets.  I also begin making daily visits to Joe Lunardi’s “Bracketology”.  At this point, I have watched zero basketball over the previous week.

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During the Last Week Before Selection Sunday: Hallelujah, I finally start watching some college basketball!  I do not watch for long periods of time, but I do check out at least one college-basketball game each day.  Additionally, I check the college-basketball scores daily to see who is advancing in their college-basketball tournaments.  This is a huge step for a guy who had not deliberately sought out general college-basketball scores at any previous point in the season.

During the Weekend of Selection Sunday: I read many articles about who should be in the Big Dance/who should not/who should be seeded where/etc.

During the Selection Show: I watch/listen in a state of pure euphoria.  “I love this time of year!!!!  March Madness, Thin Mints, and spring weather!  Plus, this year, I feel like I know the teams in the Tournament so much better than I have in any previous seasons.  I am going to dominate my pools this year.”, I think.

Between Selection Sunday and Thursday’s Start of the First Round: I fill out my brackets and read/listen to countless analysts speak about the tournament.  By Thursday, I have heard that every single team in the Dance is somehow a sleeper, a favorite, an underdog, prime to pull off an upset, unlikely to  pull off and upset, underseeded, and overseeded…and has both a very easy path and a very difficult path to the Final Four.  I find myself in many conversations with other people who have also watched roughly 0 hours of college basketball this season.  In these conversations, we lament the fact that Oklahoma has no business being in the Tournament while Oklahoma State stays home.  In years’ past, we have scolded the selection committee for leaving Drexel or St. Mary’s out of the tournament.  We agree that the Selection Committee shows no respect for mid-majors and that Drexel and St. Mary’s are clearly better than two of the at-large teams who have been selected for the Tournament.  We are qualified to make these statements because we watched St. Mary’s upset Villanova in 2010, and we saw Drexel pull off that upset in 1996.

This all makes perfect sense coming from a guy (me) who usually picks Michigan State to outperform its seed (except this year because of karmic reasons) because it did that in 2009 and 2010 and picks Cincinnati to perform worse than its seed just like it always did under Bob Huggins in the 1990s.  Like I said, I know my college basketball.  It was not luck that caused me to pick Loyola-Chicago to go to this year’s Sweet 16.  No, no, no.  It was hours of Loyola game film that someone else watched….and then this watcher wrote an article that said Loyola is really good.  Then, I read that article. Like I said, I know my stuff.

Thursday to Sunday of First Weekend of NCAA Tournament: It’s the most wonderful time of the year!!!!  48 games of college basketball!  I love it, and I hate having to miss even a single game.  I hated missing Bryce Drew’s buzzer beater for Valparaiso against Ole Miss in 1998.  (I was in school in 10th grade at the time.)  I hated missing Loyola-Chicago’s buzzer beater today!  After all, a loyal college-basketball watcher like myself should not have to miss any NCAA Tournament games!

Quick tangent: There are four people who annoy me greatly this weekend:

  • The person who starts out 4-for-4 on Thursday and brags to everyone about it. Congrats, you successfully picked a 3 over a 14, a 6 over an 11, a 2 over a 15, and a 1 over a 16.  Seriously, if you have a standard bracket-scoring system (32 max points per round), the first round can only eliminate you.  Those with 2012 Duke, 2014 Duke, or 2016 Michigan State national-championship brackets know what I mean.  If you went 4-for-4 so far, nobody cares.


  • The studio talking head (one of the 7845 employed by CBS/TBS/TNT/TruTV/Nickelodeon/Bravo) who responds to a “12 over 5” upset by saying, “Everyone in America is tearing up their brackets right now.” Um, yeah.  I suppose if you are in a “You win this pool only if you pick a perfect bracket” pool, you are tearing up your bracket.  Otherwise, you can probably withstand that one upset even if you did not pick it.


  • The play-by-play announcer who shouts, “IS THERE AN UPSET BREWING HERE IN (FILL IN THE LOCATION HERE)????”, as a 16-seed heads to a timeout with 12 minutes left in the first half holding a 20-15 lead. How many times do we have to see a #1 seed go on a huge run to end the first half or start the second half before we realize the silliness of this announcer’s quote?  Often, a #16 seed can hang with a #1 seed for a little while, but eventually the #1 seed figures out how to neutralize the #16’s strength or takes advantage of its major depth advantage.


  •  The announcer/analyst who calls an “11 over 6”, “10 over 7”, “9 over 8” an upset.  Stop it.  In the first round, “12 over 5” is the smallest seed disparity that counts as an upset.


Monday to Wednesday of the Following Week: I spend several hours playing with the “Scenario Generator” on my bracket pool’s site to see how many different paths there are to my victory.

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Thursday to Sunday of Weekend #2: I love it!!!!  We get the quantity of 48 games in Weekend #1.  Now, we get the quality of 12 huge games between dominant teams – with a few Cinderellas sprinkled into the mix.


Monday to Friday of Next Week: I can’t wait for the Final Four.  I think, “It all comes down to this.  All the hours of college basketball I have watched this season culminate right here. This is my reward. What an incredible ride it has been.”


Saturday to Monday of Final Four Weekend: I intently watch all three remaining games.  It is bittersweet though, as I know that, after Monday, I have to wait until mid-November to get to watch college basketball again.

Monday Night: While watching “One Shining Moment”, I think to myself, “I love college basketball!  Next year, I am going to watch a lot of college basketball all year long.”

….and there you have it – my Circle of Madness!

Three Reasons Why it’s Time the NCAA Pays These Kids

I wrote a research paper on this topic for class last year, but I’m gonna try and keep this blog as short as possible because no one wants to voluntarily read a research paper. I got a B+ on the paper by the way, but it got bumped down to a B because the department head told my professor it was “barely even good enough for a B.” Clearly she wasn’t a basketball fan. Anyway, I’m sure you’ve heard the argument a million times before: Should college athletes get paid? In my mind, the clear answer is yes- at least for NCAA basketball players. I’m not arguing for the payment of Division 2 croquet players (is that a thing? Someone fact check that for me.) Here are three reasons why NCAA basketball players aren’t currently being fairly compensated.

They Generate a LOT of Revenue

For them not to see a dime of the huge amount of revenue they bring in is a crime. How much revenue? Well, CBS pays about $1.1 billion for the TV rights to the NCAA Tournament alone. That’s just the TV deal for postseason play. This doesn’t even include other revenue streams, such as ticket sales, merchandise, or teams’ regular season TV deals. Big-time programs can bring in upwards of $5 million of profit (not revenue, profit) on their own each year. Louisville brought in a league-high $24 million of profit in 2015. Now, I’m not saying college players should earn millions per year. Maybe they could each earn a standard salary in the $20-$50,000 range, or the NCAA could set a $5 million or so salary cap as Mr. Walker suggested. At the very least, compensate these players for their time. They spend countless hours practicing, in the weight room, and watching film. At Rutgers, minimum wage just got raised to $11 for on-campus jobs (some kids are trying to get it raised to $15 but I don’t think they understand why that would be a horrible idea, but that’s another topic.) Why doesn’t Corey Sanders receive anything when he puts four hours in at the gym, but I’m compensated at $11 an hour to supervise students playing intramural basketball at the campus gym? I know what some of you are thinking. “They aren’t paid in cash, they get compensated with an education.” That brings me to my next point.

The “Educations” Many of These Players Receive Are Bogus

Of all NCAA basketball players, only 1.1% will go on to play professionally. So for every Marvin Bagley, there are 99 kids who will have to figure something else out after college. Luckily for them, they’ll graduate with a college degree, right? Well, some of them. The NCAA reported that the average graduation rate for NCAA men’s basketball teams was 78% in 2017. Not bad, right? There’s two problems with that. First, many of these schools don’t care how players pass their classes, they just want to make sure they stay eligible. Take North Carolina, for example. Perennial basketball powerhouse, last year’s NCAA Champion, and my favorite college team. From 1989-2012, they enrolled athletes in “paper classes,” which “had no instruction, never met, and only required a final paper, which often included significant amounts of unoriginal or plagiarized material.” Basically they had their athletes taking fake classes to boost their GPAs and keep them game eligible. Clearly they value these players’ educations. Let’s say that a school really does care about an athlete’s education, and makes him attend classes and complete assignments on his own. Are they gonna let their top basketball recruit major in engineering or business? No, they’re gonna have him take some BS major (not gonna name one so I don’t offend anyone) so that his focus is on basketball, not school. In a 2007 survey of NCAA athletes, 11% stated that their sport prevented them from pursuing the major they wanted to, 69% said it prevented them from taking classes they desired, and 53% said they were not able to spend as much time on academics as they would like. This survey included athletes of all sports from Divisions 1 through 3, so these numbers likely would’ve been even higher within a sport as demanding as Division 1 basketball. So my question is this: how is it fair that players are being “compensated” with an education when these schools clearly make basketball their top priority?

There’s one more reason the current compensation system is broken. This one is the most mind-boggling to me, as it doesn’t even require any kind of investment from the NCAA or its schools.

Get Rid of “Amateurism” Laws

In case you didn’t know, every NCAA athlete has to be an “amateur,” or not a professional. That makes sense to me. If Markelle Fultz stinks in his first year in the NBA, he shouldn’t be able to come back and play at Washington. But the NCAA’s definition of an “amateur” extends far beyond whether or not you’ve played professionally before. Here are some violations of amateur status as the NCAA lists on their website.

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So what are a few examples of what athletes can’t do in order to maintain eligible with the NCAA? They can’t sell their own autograph or memorabilia, get paid to make public appearances, or sign any endorsement deals. How are you going to tell a player they can’t make money off of being themselves? And don’t tell me they can “wait until they get to the NBA,” because like I said before, only 1% of these players are making it there. What if a starter at Nebraska with no real NBA potential gets offered $1,000 to appear in a local car dealership commercial? Or a restaurant offers him money to appear there and greet some fans? You’re telling me he shouldn’t be NCAA eligible anymore because he chooses to do these things? Some of these players grow up poor, and basketball is their only hope. Why not let them make some money while continuing their education and college careers? Joel Berry can’t sell his jersey that he plays in, but I’m sure the UNC bookstore is selling jerseys with #2 on the back for $40 a pop. Does it have his name on the back? No, but everyone buying one knows damn well that it’s a Joel Berry jersey. For him not to see any of that money is blasphemous.


So here are the problems with compensation of college basketball players. Here’s my simple solution in three steps.

  1. Revise the rules of amateurism to allow players to profit off of themselves. If a guy wants to sell his autograph or make a paid appearance, let him. As long as he’s not playing professionally somewhere, let him do whatever he wants.
  2. Have schools pay players a small yearly amount to compensate for their time. Whether it’s paying every player a yearly stipend of a few thousand dollars or a salary cap that allows top recruits to earn more, the players should see at least some of these billions of revenue.
  3. Tailor curriculum to the individual needs of every athlete. Marvin Bagley is declaring for the draft this year. Why pretend he isn’t? Have him take classes in financial literacy, and other aspects of life he’ll need to know for when he goes pro. But a guy who probably isn’t going to the NBA? Get him a more valuable major. Schools should sit down with these kids before their freshman year and figure out a path that makes sense for them. Should a player who had a 2.3 GPA in high school come to Michigan to play basketball and major in electrical engineering? Probably not, but there’s gotta be a way to have him graduate with a useful degree while he simultaneously keeps his grades high enough to play.


A Player Deserves a Point for a Screen

I am writing this post to answer a question once and for all.  The question is, “If I write a post, and nobody reads it; did I still write the post?”  I figure, what better way is there to accomplish this than by posting that the NHL should award points to players for screens.  What topic is sexier than that?

This thought enters my head a few times per NHL season, and last night was one of those instances.  Recent Devils acquisition Patrick Maroon had a perfect screen on a Travis Zajac goal, but he did not receive a point for his efforts.  To me, that is silly.  The screen was the #1 reason for the goal.  Sure, Zajac had to make a good shot, which he did.  However, Canadiens goalie Charlie Lindgren likely makes the save if he sees the puck.  In fact, when an NHL player takes an unscreened first shot (as opposed to a rebound), an NHL goalie saves it nearly every time.

In hockey, a forward often finds himself parked in front of the opposing net while his teammates pass the puck around the zone.  As soon as one of his teammates prepares to shoot, this forward has three offensive responsibilities: screen the goalie, try to deflect the puck, and look for the rebound.  If the player successfully deflects the puck into the net or puts a rebound into the net, the player earns a point (a goal).  However, if the player successfully screens the goalie to allow for a goal, this player is unrewarded statistically?  This seems quite incongruent to me.

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Therefore, I feel that the official scorer should have the right to award a point for a screen.  In this case, the person who would – under current rules – earn the secondary assist would not earn a point.  I am OK with that though.  Sure, the second-to-last pass setting up a goal is important to the goal, but it is not as important as the screen.  The screen more directly contributes to the goal than the secondary pass.  Therefore, the screener deserves the point.

Hopefully, I have now answered my question, “If I write a post, and nobody reads it; did I still write the post?”

Top 10 Players in Baseball Right Now Countdown: Second Basemen

As the countdown to the MLB season draws closer, I take a look at the ten best second basemen in the league right now. If you missed my catcher or first baseman countdowns, you can find them here. Let’s dive in.

10. Ian Kinsler, Angels

At 35, Kinsler’s best years are likely behind him. However, that’s not to say he isn’t still a solid player. With the Tigers last year, Kinsler hit .236 with 22 HR and 52 RBI. This is a guy who hit .288 with 28 HR and 83 RBI just two years ago in 2016. After being traded to the Angels this offseason, let’s see if Kinsler can inject some life into a lineup that also features Mike Trout, Justin Upton, and Albert Pujols.

9. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox

I hate this rat-faced fuck. One of my most hated Red Sox ever. It sickens me that he once won an MVP award and Derek Jeter never did. Now that my Yankee fan bias is out of the way, Pedroia has been one of the top second basemen in the game for years. While he is for sure not an MVP-caliber player anymore, he is a consistent hitter and an overall scrappy guy who does what it takes to help his team win. However, Pedroia has had his share of health issues lately. He played in only 105 games last year, and he had a cartilage restoration procedure performed in the offseason that’s expected to keep him sidelined until the end of May. Hoping for a speedy recovery for one of my favorites!

8. Javier Baez, Cubs

Sometimes overlooked in Chicago because of guys like Bryant and Rizzo, Baez is one of the best young second basemen in the game. Hitting .273 with 23 HR and 75 RBI a year ago, the 2016 NLCS MVP looks to build on the successful start to his career.

7. DJ LaMahieu, Rockies

Part of a Rockies lineup that can absolutely mash, LaMahieu has hit above .300 in each of the past three seasons. While he does not overwhelm you with power, he can certainly swing the bat. He’s a two-time All-Star, the 2016 NL batting champion, and a two-time Gold Glover.

6. Starlin Castro, Marlins

This poor soul. The unfortunate victim of the Yankees acquiring Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins, Castro is now one of the only legitimate baseball players left on what the Marlins are still attempting to call a team. After watching him start for the Yankees past two years, it’s clear this guy can flat-out hit. A four-time All-Star, Castro hit .300 with 16 HR and 63 RBI in 112 games last year, missing some time due to injury. He’s sure to be unhappy in Miami, and with the current situation there, I’d be surprised if he’s a Marlin for too long.

5. Robinson Cano, Mariners

The one that got away. As much as it bothered me that Cano left the Yanks for Seattle (or that they gave his money to Jacoby fucking Ellsbury), you can’t deny he has one of the sweetest swings in baseball. I mean, look.

Just gorgeous. Cano’s resume speaks for itself. 8-time All-Star, 5-time Silver Slugger, 2-time Gold Glover, 2017 All-Star Game MVP. While Cano may be nearing the end of his prime, he’s still among the game’s elite second basemen.

4. Brian Dozier, Twins

When Dozier led off the Wild Card game with a home run, my heart dropped. This guy is a hitter, and he can hit for power. With 34 homers last year and a whopping 42 the year before, it’s rare to see this kind of power from a second baseman. He’ll be one of the headliners of an intriguing free agent class following this season.

3. Jonathan Schoop, Orioles

The Yanks play the Orioles 18 times a year, and I still didn’t realize Schoop was THIS good. He hit .293 with 32 HR and 105 RBI last year. At just 26, he looks to be one of the game’s best for a long time.

2. Daniel Murphy, Nationals

After carrying the Mets to the World Series in 2015, Murphy has continued to mash with the Nationals these past two seasons. At .322, 23 HR and 93 RBI, Murphy helps to form a dangerous duo along with Bryce Harper. Like Harper, Murphy is also a free agent after this season, so 2018 will be a crucial one for the Nats.

1. Jose Altuve, Astros

Just the clear-cut best. The 2017 AL MVP hit a league-leading .346 with 24 HR and 81 RBI last year, leading the Astros to a World Series title. 5-time All-Star, 3 batting titles, 4 Silver Sluggers at just 27. Altuve is one of the best players in baseball, and if he keeps his current pace, will go down as one of the best second basemen of all-time.

Let – But Do Not Force – Colleges to Pay Athletes

“Marginal revenue product”.   This three-word term essentially means “How much value does a worker’s work provide for society?”  This question provides half of the logic behind how much a worker should be paid.  The other half of the logic comes from the answer to “How many available workers can provide the same value as this worker?”  In short, a person’s salary comes down to supply and demand.

Doctors and lawyers earn a great deal of money because a) they provide very valuable services to society, and b) very few people in society are skilled and trained at these professions.  Similarly, in the United States, professional athletes are generally paid extremely well.  Oftentimes, I hear people say, “Why should players make so much money to get to play a game for a living?”  Well, the answer is “Because of us”.  We Americans as a whole pay a lot of money to watch professional sports, and this money is revenue for sports teams, leagues, and networks.  Additionally, very few people are skilled enough at a sport to play it at the major-league level.  In fact, there are many more people who have the skill to be a successful doctor and lawyer than there are those who can play professional sports.  Since professional athletes bring large sums of revenue and are in quite low supply, they are paid large sums of money.  Some people might not like this, but it makes perfect economic sense.

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What a perfect segue now into this week’s hot-button sports topic, “Should college athletes be paid?”  To me, the general answer is quite simple, even if the details are quite complex.  I believe that colleges should be allowed, but not forced, to pay their athletes.  College sports are a business, and, as with any business, workers should be paid based on their supply and marginal revenue product.  It is ridiculous to think that major college-football teams can fill 100,000-seat stadiums, sell huge scores of jerseys, allow players’ numbers to be used in video games….yet are not allowed to pay their players out of the resulting profit.  At the same time, it is ridiculous to think that athletes on a Missouri Valley Conference men’s swimming team, who earn next to nothing in terms of revenue (and thus have zero marginal revenue product), should be paid above whatever scholarships they might be receiving.

I will now explain my framework for change.  I feel that, in Division-I athletics, each sport should have a salary cap.  I do not know what that number is, but it should be directly proportional (which does not mean “directly equal”….The revenue will still outpace the salary cap) to the amount of revenue that the average Division-I team in that sport earns.  In other words, the more revenue a sport earns on average, the higher the salary cap.  People privy to more financial information than I can decide on a logical value for the cap.

Regardless, for argument’s sake, let us say that the men’s college-basketball salary cap is $5 million.  The big boys of college basketball – Kentucky, Duke, Michigan State, Kansas, UNC, etc. – would likely use the full $5 million.  Perhaps one of these programs would pay each of its top three recruits $1 million per year and use the remaining $2 million to disseminate among its other players.  That would seem logical to me, but the schools can decide this.  Maybe no teams would spend the full value of the cap.  It is up to the colleges to decide how much to spend.  The “$5 million” number seems reasonable to me, in that a) it would mean that colleges would continue to pay players much less than in the NBA, which is an important distinction (more on that later); b) it would give players “enough of the pie” they are producing; and c) it would greatly reduce the likelihood that coaches would violate recruiting rules.

In terms of “c”, my change would allow the NCAA to have a better handle on recruiting violations.  First off, by allowing coaches to provide legal compensation to players, these coaches would have less motivation to provide illegal compensation.   This idea is similar to speed limits.  People not named “Sheldon Richardson” are more likely to obey the speed limit on an 80-mph highway than a 55-mph highway.  Secondly, with this cap, the NCAA could stop worrying about “trivial” transgressions.  With a $5-million cap, the NCAA would not need to obsess over whether or not a coach took a player’s family to dinner and gave the family some college shirts.  That value of the dinner and shirts would be negligible in the grand scheme of a $5-million cap.  Instead, the NCAA could focus solely on major violations.  For example, if John Calipari were to dole out the $5 million but then provide Range Rovers for a few of the kids, the NCAA would blow the whistle on it.  However, if Coach Cal were to take the kids out to Outback Steakhouse during a few recruiting visits, who cares?

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Now, I realize that some of you might be thinking, “This policy change would hurt the mid-majors, who cannot dole out the full $5 million.”  Would it really though?  Honestly, I think that, on the court, things would play out remarkably similarly to how they do now.  Right now, great high-school players often have to decide, “Do I go to Duke, where I might be a fringe starter?  Or do I go to Wichita State, where I would be the star of the team?”  This same scenario would continue to unfold.  If Duke is already paying a large amount of its cap to 4 or 5 players, Wichita State might be able to offer this prospective player more money than Duke anyway.   Regardless, my plan would probably mean that Duke, UNC, Kansas, Kentucky, and Michigan State would be top-notch teams every year.  Oh wait, exactly like they have been for almost my entire life!  Therefore, mid-majors would be in the same competitive position in which they usually find themselves.

Let us now switch gears from men’s basketball.  Given that this sport and football are the biggest revenue generators in college, these sports would have the highest salary caps.  That said, the same salary-cap premise would also apply to other sports.  Women’s basketball does not generate as much revenue as men’s basketball and thus would have a smaller cap.  At the same time, UConn would likely spend more money on its players than most other programs would, as UConn typically generates relatively high revenue.  Meanwhile, in baseball and softball, perhaps some of the big-time programs like Arizona or Texas would pay their players, but most would not.  The revenue simply is not there.  The same thing goes for plenty of men’s and women’s college-basketball teams, who would choose not to pay players.  For example, I am a proud Colgate alum, but very few people attend Colgate’s basketball games.  I would expect that Colgate would choose not to pay any of its players.  The same thing would go for a good chunk of colleges that really only garner attention when they become #14-16 seeds in the NCAA Tournament.

For those of you who worry that my system of “Pay if you want” would be “unfair” to the bulk of college athletes who do not receive paychecks, this is simply untrue.  A college education costs a few hundred-thousand dollars.  If an athletic scholarship defrays even part of that cost, then the athlete is being paid implicitly.  Furthermore, if a non-scholarship athlete is accepted into a better college than would have accepted him/her without the athletic implication, that athlete is paid as well.  He/she is paid in the form of higher future earnings due to having gone to a more prestigious college than he/she otherwise could have attended.

Thus, all college athletes are paid one way or another, explicitly or implicitly.  My plan merely alters the payment structure so that the players who earn large sums of revenue for a college are paid for this.  It is basic business.  The more money you make for a company, the more you get paid.  College athletics should be no different.

Let me now tie up three loose ends with my proposal.

  • I propose that recruits be forced to commit to 3-year guaranteed contracts, with player options for the fourth year. The “one and done” thing is a joke.  Most of us sports fans hate it; we want to see some continuity from year to year with our sports teams.  Of course, in order to achieve this goal, we need to tie up the second loose end.


  • The NBA and NFL age minima should be 17. Long ago, I believe that Bill Simmons suggested that the NBA imposed the age minimum to keep teams from signing high-school busts (Sebastian Telfair, Dajuan Wagner, etc.) and thus embarrassing the GMs.  He is probably correct, and he is also correct that the GMs’ logic is silly.  Anyone who has read Moneyball knows that it is riskier drafting a high-school player than a guy out of college.  One does not know how a high-schooler will mature physically and mentally.  One does not know how a high-schooler will perform when making a two-level jump (high school to college to pros).  Therefore, may the buyer beware.  GMs should be allowed to draft 17/18-year-olds.  GMs know the risk/reward tradeoff, and they should plan accordingly.  If a GM things he has the next Lebron, Kobe, or Garnett; he should draft the high-schooler.  If he is uncertain, maybe he should take the safe route and grab a college guy with a lower ceiling but a higher floor.  That is for GMs to decide, but the minimum should be 17.  Meanwhile, high-schoolers would know that they could either enter the draft out of high school, or else they would be mandated to complete three years of college before entering the draft.  This is similar to baseball and would be good for the college game and pro game.


  • This is unrelated to the first two loose ends, but I need to say it. I do not believe that the current college system is the result of racism, as several prominent people have lately suggested.  One of my favorite quotes is Hanlon’s razor, “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”  Maybe this is because I am optimist who believes that people are generally good….but often not that smart.  Anyway, in the case of college athletics, I think that Hanlon’s razor applies.  Why is the college-sports system what it is now?  The best answer is probably, “Because that’s how they’ve always done it.”


In the 1950s and 1960s, when college athletics were much less racially diverse than they are now, players were not paid either.  In fact, over the past 50-70 years; as college sports have become more diverse, all of the following have happened: 1) College educations have become more valuable, in that there are fewer employers who will hire those without college educations; 2) The number of scholarships has increased; and 3) The amount and values of illegal contributions to players has presumably increased greatly.   Therefore, one could argue that players are better compensated now than they were during an era in which college athletics were much less diverse.

Yes, it is fair to speculate that the current college-athletic structure is more unfair to African American athletes more than to others, and that is definitely a matter worth fixing (as I feel my proposal would).  However, I would attribute this situation to the NCAA’s stupidity, not to racist motives.  Again, “never attribute to malice what can adequately be attributed to stupidity.”

Image result for never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity

Anyway, now that I have tied up my loose ends, I will wrap things up.  Let us allow, but not force colleges to pay players, and let us make the NBA and NFL age minima 17.

Is This the Worst Proposed MLB Rule Change Ever?

In an era where 98% of sports TV is unwatchable, I actually really enjoy Colin Cowherd. I agree with most of his takes, and he does a pretty good job of mixing up his topics of discussion and having opinions that differ from what you’d hear 9000 times a day on SportsCenter. But every once in awhile, he says something that I just can’t get on board with. During the NBA Playoffs last year, he claimed it didn’t matter that everyone and their mother knew the Finals would be Warriors vs. Cavs again because “you go into movies knowing how it’s going to end.” First off, I try not to hear how a movie ends until I go, when applicable. And yes, while you obviously go into some movies knowing how it’ll end (spoiler alert: the Titanic sinks at the end), you watch the movie to see how it all plays out to cause that ending. Forgive me for not exactly finding the Warriors going 12-0 in the West and the Cavs go 12-1 in the East particularly entertaining. Long story short, when Cowherd has a bad take, it’s usually a REALLY bad one. Then I came across this video the other day.

I’m not necessarily a baseball purist that will scream and shout at any potential rule change, but this one is just really bad. First off, if anyone should be for this rule, it should be me as a Yankee fan. Would I rather see Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton bat again in the 9th with the bases loaded rather than Ronald Torreyes? Obviously I would. But that’s the beauty of baseball, you don’t know how the game itself is going to pay off. Every move is strategic. Do you use your best reliever to get out of a jam in the 6th inning, or save him for the 9th? At what depth do you play your infielders when it’s first and third with one out and you’re ahead by one? Every little decision can make a major impact, and this proposed rule change would just make a manager’s job too easy. Imagine if the Astros had 7-8-9 in the order coming up in the 9th, and A.J. Hinch could just say “hey, Correa, go grab a bat.” Where’s the strategy in that? What happens if Terry Francona already used Andrew Miller to get Correa out two innings prior to that? Is he allowed to come back into the game too?

I’ll listen to anything  that can help make baseball even more entertaining, not because the sport needs help, but why not make improvements? I’m all for pitch clocks and limits to mound visits because while cutting 5-10 minutes off of a game may not make a real impact/attract any new fans, they just make the game itself run more smoothly. But this idea? Scrap it immediately. It’s the Jessica Mendoza of ideas. (If you watched even just one Sunday Night Baseball broadcast last year, you know how awful she is at her job). So thanks for trying Colin, but let’s never talk about this idea ever again.

What If the Kerrigan/Harding Incident Happened Today?

Two of the two most memorable off-the-field sports moments of my sports fandom occurred in 1994.  One of these two happenings was the OJ Simpson drama.  The other thing was the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan incident.  Many people credit the 16 months of OJ Simpson coverage with the starts of two modern phenomena: the proliferation of 24-hour news channels and our societal obsession with celebrities (which has evolved into reality shows, social-media coverage, etc.).  Of course, that “societal obsession with celebrities” has infiltrated those 24-hour news channels, not to mention ESPN, MTV, E!, Bravo, and well just about everything.

That said, the Winter-1994 Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan incident happened before the OJ stuff; nevertheless our country – in a pre-reality-TV/news-channels-galore/social-media world –did manage to obsess over the figure skaters.  Naturally, it was a more primitive obsession than today, as we consumed our daily Tonya/Nancy fix via the major networks’ news shows, Sportscenter, David Letterman, Jay Leno, and newspapers – to name a few resources.  All the while, because the Tonya/Nancy stuff did happen before the current social-media and news climates, I have wondered what the coverage would have been like had the incident happened today.  After all, one American Olympic figure skater was indirectly involved with the clubbing of another American Olympic figure skater!  Even 24 years later, this thought remains completely insane!  Anyway, in 1994, Shawn Stant (hired by Tonya Harding’s “bodyguard” Shawn Eckhardt, acting kinda on behalf Harding’s ex-husband Jeff Gillooly, who was acting kinda on behalf of Harding) clubbed Nancy Kerrigan below her knees after a January-6 practice.  The Olympic women’s long figure-skating program, in which Kerrigan won silver and Harding finished eighth (following a shoelace issue), ultimately took place on February 25.  What madness would have ensued if this had taken place in 2018 instead of 1994? One can only imagine.  Therefore, without further ado, here is the fictional timeline from my imagination.

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January 6: The clubbing happens.  1267 TV channels, including the Food Network and Animal Planet, set up shop outside the Detroit ice rink, site of the clubbing, and provide at least 3 full days of around-the-clock coverage.

January 7: The Internet breaks.  Just to be clear, the Tonya/Nancy thing does not actually break the Internet.  Instead, so many people post on social media that “This story is gonna break the Internet” that the Internet actually breaks from that.

January 7: A record number of memes and vines are created to Kerrigan’s “Whyyyy???”  Plus, after a five-year hiatus, the “Harlem Shake” returns with people mimicking Harding and Kerrigan in the second part of each video.

January 8: This “Harlem Shake” rebirth ends abruptly.

January 8: Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, and Seth Meyers each tell a joke about the Harding/Kerrigan incident, marking the first time since June 2015 that one of them has told a joke that does not contain the name “Donald Trump”.

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January 9: Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe proudly shout in unison, “There is no place for crowbars in figure skating!”  It is their first time ever agreeing on something, but their Bennigan’s waitress reminds them, “Gentlemen, ‘Undisputed’ was cancelled months ago.  Stop coming in here and pretending that you are filming a TV show.”

January 10: ESPN announces that ESPN, ESPN2, and the Ocho will provide “round the clock Kerrigan/Harding coverage until the Olympics”.  ESPN lobbies successfully to have Congress instate its own version of British Parliament’s Quartering Act of 1765 to allow Pedro Gomez to move into the Harding residence, Stephen A. Smith to move into the Kerrigan residence, and Barry Melrose to move into the Eckhardt residence.  This allows the reporters to cover their subjects 24 hours per day.  ESPN’s amount of hockey coverage is unaffected.

January 11: In her first public comments since the “incident”, Tonya Harding – sitting next to her new PR representative Mark McGwire – says, “I’m not here to talk about the past.”

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January 11: FOXNews hosts a roundtable discussion, “Has #takeaknee gone too far?  First Kaepernick, now Kerrigan.”

January 12: Kerrigan says that, although she continues to suffer extreme leg pain, she is fine to skate in the Olympics.  Sports analysts spend a combined 154,360 hours agreeing with each other that Kerrigan’s competing in the Olympics will be a greater feat than Willis Reed in 1970 and the Michael Jordan Flu Game and will be just slightly less impressive than Christ walking on water.

January 12: Mike Francesa makes a guest appearance on WFAN and says, “The idea that you can hire a goon – and that’s what he is, folks, a goon – to break the legs, literally break the legs, of your competitor is the most awful thing I have heard in my sports caree-ah.  I mean, that’s just all there is to it.  Seriously, the guy tried to break her legs.  We are talking about breaking legs…”  Francesa repeats the “Breaking legs” comment somewhere between 200 and 300 times before angrily hanging up on a caller who suggests separating Judge and Stanton in the Yankees’ batting order.

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January 13: Taylor Swift rewrites the lyrics for “Bad Blood” in honor of Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding.

January 16: The Mets invite Kerrigan clubber Shawn Stant to Spring Training.  Sandy Alderson applauds his line-drive rate and says that a little time with Tim Tebow should make Stant a better man.  Alderson expects both players to be in the Mets’ starting outfield by July.

January 20: Lavar Ball declares that his three sons could skate blindfolded and still take gold, silver, and bronze in the Olympic men’s and women’s figure-skating competitions.

January 21: Hillary Clinton repeatedly recites “When they go low, Nancy goes high” into her mirror.  Clinton rehearses this line for days as she prepares for a Kerrigan-themed TV interview that nobody but her is planning.

January 22: Giants fans say that they agree with clubbing Nancy Kerrigan but that the way Stant went about clubbing her was wrong.

January 24: Kylie Jenner has a baby and actually gives her a normal name, “Nancy”.  For some reason, people care a whole lot about this.

January 27: Lebron James holds a press conference to condemn the clubbing of athletes.  Haters say, “Stay out of politics, Lebron.  You’ve never been clubbed in the leg.  How can YOU know anything about this issue?”

January 28: At the Grammys, all guests wear silver to take a stand against the clubbing of Olympic athletes.

January 28: At the Grammys, Kerrigan sits next to Taylor Swift, and they dance awkwardly together during all of the performances.  At the end of the night, Kerrigan announces that she has created an all-Taylor Swift playlist for her Olympic long program.

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January 29: Tonya Harding announces that she will skate in the Olympics to an all-Kanye playlist.

January 30: MSNBC hosts a Roundtable Discussion: “The Clubbing of Olympic Athletes: This Never Would Have Happened if Obama Were Still President”

January 31: Jeff Gillooly, realizing his chances of rekindling his marriage with Tonya is over, agrees to become the new Bachelor.  ABC immediately starts filming to air the premiere two weeks later, just in time to compete with the Olympics.  Also, ABC knows that this year’s current bachelor is a major tool and that Nick Viall was much better.

February 4: Super Bowl prop bet: If you parlay “Al Michaels will make a gambling reference” with “Al Michaels will make a Harding/Kerrigan reference as Collinsworth chuckles awkwardly”, you win big.

February 6: Miraculously, President Trump has waited a full month before tweeting about the Kerrigan incident.  Finally, on this date, he tweets, “Nancy’s an 8.  Tonya’s a 4. Tonya’s guilty!  LOCK her up!!!!”

February 7: Huffington Post finds pro-Trump tweets from Tonya Harding from 2016 and 2017 and presents these tweets to the public.

February 8: President Trump tweets, “Kerrigan’s a CRYbaby!  Tonya’s innocent!  Innocent until proven guilty!  Check out the crowds in the food court to watch her skate.  Huuuuge.  Huge crowds!!!! Oregon loves Tonya! Oregon loves Donald Trump!   Donald Trump loves food courts!!!!!”

February 8: One day before the Opening Ceremonies, Nancy Kerrigan is seen with renowned hitting coach Kevin Long.  All networks spend 24 hours wondering if she will swing the American flag at Harding’s legs as they enter the Opening Ceremonies.

February 23: After a strong short program by Russia’s Oksana Baiul, both President Trump and Hillary Clinton accuse the other (on Twitter) of colluding with Baiul to arrange Kerrigan’s clubbing.

February 25: Harding has a shoelace malfunction during her long program.  Making matters worse; as she cries to the judges, Pierre McGuire shows up from behind the glass to ask her, “How are you feeling out there, Tonya?”

February 25: Al Gore tweets that Harding would have done better in the Olympics if global warming hadn’t made for poor ice conditions.

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February 25: After the figure-skating program ends, President Trump tweets, “HUGE ratings for the Olympics tonight.  Much bigger than the Olympic ratings under Obama!!!!   Beautiful job by all the ladies!!!”

February 25: CNN Roundtable Discussion: “Most Sexist Tweet Ever???  Trump Calls Figure Skaters ‘Beautiful’”

February 26: Following her 8th-place finish at the Olympics, Harding joins the cast of “Real World” and starts a lifetime career in the reality-TV circuit.  Years later, Jeff Gillooly and she temporarily reunite for 10 seasons of “Marriage Boot Camp: Celebrity Edition”, in which they are 100 times more famous than anyone else on the show.

February 28: Nancy Kerrigan signs on to be the next Bachelorette, to be on “Dancing with the Stars”, and to be a judge on “The Voice”.

March 1: Tonya Harding is sentenced to never being allowed to compete in US figure-skating contests again.  Bernie Sanders defends her, saying that it is another case of the economic system being rigged against the lower class.  President Trump tweets, “I told you Tonya was guilty!  Great job by our United States legal system!!!!”

Yup, I am pretty sure that this is how things would have turned out for Tonya and Nancy in the modern day.