North Carolina’s mass exodus – step away from the ledge

March 30, 2012

It’s tough for me to generate any real amount of sympathy for my North Carolina-loving friends.

Yes, I have friends.

Anyway, it seems that some members of Tar Heel nation are, well, blue at the early departures of Kendall Marshall, Harrison Barnes and John Henson for the NBA.

Some are questioning Barnes’ heart, Henson’s toughness and Marshall’s character while others are railing against a system that’s bad for college basketball.

Or, if a truth serum were in play, bad for Carolina.

The truth is on the other side of the spectrum.

What could be better than to have FOUR Tar Heels drafted in the first round of the NBA Draft this summer? You can’t buy better exposure for your school and your program.

Kids want to play in the league. Period.

They tend to notice when schools send guys there.

OK, a title would have been nice, but still – if you recruit top-tier players, some of them are not going to hang around for four years.

Even at Carolina.

Let’s assume that James Michael McAdoo stays around for his sophomore season. With him and the fifth-rated recruiting class (which I think the exodus may make a little better), the Tar Heels will still be favored for a top-three finish in the ACC.

I realize that having Carolina blue blood pumping through your veins means that the standard is set a little higher. And I know that this season, one filled with expectations, left much to be desired.

But imagine a world like the one I live in as a Clemson fan – a world where you get one McDonald’s All-American a decade if you’re lucky.

In short, the sun will still rise in Chapel Hill the day after Midnight Madness this fall, when your new group of heroes wearing the most recognizable colors in college basketball will take the floor.

And the sky, and to some degree, the world will still be a nice shade of Carolina blue.

Some fathers and sons go to baseball games – we have lightsaber battles

March 23, 2012

Not too long ago, my son (Ethan Capps) mentioned that he found a blog post about himself while searching on Google.

I guess we should stop for a minute and note the apparent science behind the fact that – without any suggestion from me – he had the idea to Google himself. It’s a feat that surely belongs in a science journal.

Anyway, he requested more blogs about him. Apparently, reading about what his dad thinks about sports is, well, rather less than thrilling.

So this one is about the boy.

Sometimes, I feel like I’m missing out a little in terms of having the traditional, sports-heavy father/son relationship with him.

But what we do share is an almost-daily lightsaber duel.

He has an extensive collection of weaponry, including what I estimate to be about 10 official, light-up, honest-to-goodness Star Wars lightsabers.

I wield the red one, favored by Darth Vader, while he uses the blue one – which I believe was inspired by Obi Wan Kenobi.

So, we wander around the house, swinging feverishly at each other with plastic swords. He occasionally cuts off my arm or leg – then gives it back to me by pointing his finger and saying “robotic arm” or “robotic leg.”

We cite movie lines, making up a few things along the way. One interesting thing to note is the fact that, not only am I apparently some kind of Sith Lord, but I’m a “chinny-chin-chin Sith Lord,” which is a reference to my goatee (which is my chinny-chin-chin, so I’m told).

He wins these battles, usually somewhere near 8 p.m. (bath time) by various methods. Usually, he runs me through, giving me a version of the speech Obi Wan gave Anakin in Episode III as he stands over me.

But sometimes, he convinces me to reject the Dark Side of the Force and become a Jedi.

We’ve been calling them “Friendship Endings.”

Reminds me of Mortal Kombat.

So, while I’m not coaching third base at a Little League game, I am fighting for control of a galaxy far, far away…

Tim Tebow – Jets’ savior?

March 22, 2012

Image

My apologies for the sensational headline, but it’s a valid question.

The New York Jets sent a fourth and a sixth-round pick to the Broncos for the rights to the most polarizing man in sports today, one Tim Tebow.

My take? The trade for the Jets will either be the move that puts the Jets over the hump and into the Super Bowl or the move that ends Rex Ryan’s tenure as coach of the team.

Early lean? I like it. The Jets’ biggest offensive issue last year was punching the ball into the end zone inside the 10. Tebow will fix that right away. My guess is, with the help of new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano, the Jets will create a Tebow package for short yardage and goal line plays with a very wildcat-like look. NFL defenses to date have had trouble stopping Tebow in these sets, since he has the ideal skill set for these situations.

Where it could (and might) go horribly wrong for Ryan is if Mark Sanchez struggles and fans start chanting for Tebow to play full-time. While I think the jury’s still out on Tebow’s ability to be a successful starting quarterback in the league on a consistent basis, New York fans are not known for their patience in such matters.

Either way, it’s sure to be interesting.

Quick hitters – Thursday, March 15

March 15, 2012

This is either going to be the best bracket I’ve ever done – or the worst.

Upset specials

Belmont over Georgetown – I made the mistake of watching the Hoyas play a couple of times. It’s been hard to take them seriously ever since. And this Belmont team is deep and talented.

Ohio over Michigan – At first glance, this looks crazy. But take a team that defends the three very well and takes care of the ball (Ohio) and match them up with a perimeter-happy team that relies on defense to create easy scoring opportunities (Michigan) and it sudden makes more sense.

Xavier over Duke – A bold pick, to be sure. But I love Xavier’s guard play – and aside from that UNC comeback – I don’t trust this Duke team in a high-pressure spot.

Murray State over Marquette – I like Murray State in what should be a fun, down-to-the-wire game.

Belmont in the Elite Eight – I don’t trust Kansas in a game with any team that pushes the pace and stretches the floor. The Jayhawks are great, until you get into that bench.

And the winner is…

Missouri. I love the Tigers’ experience, toughness, free-throw shooting and swagger. They’ll be a tough out, and I like the path they have to the Final Four.

Of course, if you base any of your picks on this drivel, you’re crazy…

Quick hitters – Wednesday, March 14

March 14, 2012

I’m going to start writing here more.

Honest.

Anyway, let’s get busy:

Peyton Manning is going to Denver. Makes too much sense for him not too. Dallas Clark will wind up there as well.

The Magic should trade Dwight Howard before Thursday’s deadline. There’s no way he’s signing an extension.

If the first two games of the NCAA Tournament are any indication, we’re in for a heck of a ride. Iona blew a 25-point lead against BYU and Mississippi Valley State coughed up a 16-point cushion in the last five minutes against BYU. I’m 0-2 in those games, which thankfully don’t count on my brackets.

Speaking of that, I wonder if the fact that – out of 32 first-round games – I was only sure about 13 of them means that I over-analyze these games? I watch about 100 games a year, so I tend to see the possibilities in a lot of teams. Perhaps if I just picked the toughest mascots I would have a better winning percentage in these bracket challenges.

In case you’re wondering, I have won money in three tournament pools in my 20-plus years of playing. The first was in high school, even though I had Michigan beating Carolina in the title game. I had the entire Final Four right and something like 14 of the Sweet 16. The next was in college, where I actually cut a deal with the guy running second to split the pot no matter who won the title game. That was a good move, since UCLA beat Arkansas. Technically, I finished second. But the money spent the same. The last was a few years back, when Kansas lost to Carmelo Anthony and Syracuse in the title game. Took second that year too.

As a Redskin fan, I’m hopeful that the megadeal for the second overall pick works out. As a journalist, I’m skeptical that it will.

Peyton vs. Eli and the proximity effect

January 30, 2012

The first couple of times I heard these questions, I didn’t think much of them:

“Is Eli Manning now better than his brother? Or will he be if he wins his second Super Bowl title?”

But I’ve heard some variation of this theme tent staked into the ground by the army of talking heads at the four-letter for the last week or so, and I just can’t stand it anymore.

This is sheer lunacy.

On no planet, especially this one, is Eli Manning a better quarterback than his older brother, Peyton.

I don’t care if Eli’s Giants win the Super Bowl on Sunday – giving Eli ring No. 2. It still won’t make any difference.

How quickly we as sports fans forget that which we can’t see.

Peyton Manning hasn’t thrown a meaningful pass since the 2010 playoffs, and people start forgetting what a transcendent talent he is.

Here are Peyton’s career stats, courtesy of Pro Football Reference:

And here are Eli’s stats:

Pick a stat and have a look. Touchdowns? Peyton. Completion percentage? Peyton.

On and on, kids. On and on.

Now, I’ve heard the ring debate before.

Player X is better than Player Y because he has more rings…

Stop it. Just stop it.

Trent Dilfer has a ring and Dan Marino doesn’t. Is there really any debate about which player was better? Football is a team game, and contrary to popular opinion, quarterbacks rarely win or lose games all by themselves.

I love Eli Manning, and I think he’s really raised his game in recent years.

But just because Peyton’s NFL appearances are limited to his array of ads on TV, let’s not forget that he’s in the discussion of being the best ever.

So, one would think he has best in the family locked up.

 

My take on Tim Tebow

January 10, 2012

Above is a picture of the most analyzed man on the face of the earth.

Denver quarterback Tim Tebow has two things going for him which contribute to the enormous amount of media scrutiny he’s getting.

He’s an NFL quarterback, and he’s a Christian.

Just being a quarterback is enough to get you married to a model (Tom Brady) or splashed on magazine covers like one (Mark Sanchez).

But, when that quarterback is a Christian – and not in a quiet, only if you really ask him about it sort of way – we end up with a guy under the biggest sports microscope I’ve ever seen.

The beautiful thing about America is freedom of choice, or more simply put, the ability to believe whatever you choose.

So, you’re allowed to believe that he’s the luckiest man alive.

You can think that the fact he threw for 316 yards against the Steelers in last weekend’s playoff win is a coincidence if you want.

You can call it blind luck that three defensive starters for Pittsburgh either didn’t start (Ryan Clark) or got hurt early on (Casey Hampton and Brett Keisel).

You can point to Ben Roethlisberger’s injured ankle and say it was a – pardon the pun – lucky break for the Broncos.

You can go back to the way Denver backed into the playoffs or the unlikely wins over Miami and Chicago that made it possible and chalk it up to good fortune.

You can look at the funky throwing motion, the bounced passes and the game tape from the Buffalo debacle a few weeks back and decide that he’s never going to make it long term in the National Football League.

That’s a choice.

Or, you can believe what Tebow himself believes.

Which is that God has a plan for everyone.

You can think that good things happen to good people.

You can smile as sings spiritual songs on the sidelines and be proud of the fact that he’s not out womanizing, taunting or otherwise making a menace to society out of himself.

You can view him as a breath of fresh air for a league sometimes lacking in feel good stories.

That is also a choice.

Me? I feel the same way about this story as I would if I were covering him.

I like it because it’s interesting.

I used to sit in press boxes in the third quarter of a blowout just praying for something good to happen.

“I need two more paragraphs,” I’d say to anyone within earshot.

Of course, as a Christian, I personally tend to lean a bit towards the second theory.

But there’s one thing I know for sure.

If my son liked sports at all, there would be a Tim Tebow poster on his wall.

Because if there’s someone out there worth emulating, it’s that guy.

 

Clemson’s freshly squeezed effort in the Orange Bowl

January 5, 2012

Have you ever passed by an awful wreck on the highway, one with cars mangled, metal twisted and the flashing lights of emergency workers drawing attention from a mile away?

You have to look at it, right?

That was me in the third quarter of last night’s 70-33 beatdown of Clemson by West Virginia in the Orange Bowl.

No one would have blamed me for turning off the TV and going to bed. I even picked up the remote once or twice and aimed it at the screen.

I couldn’t do it, though.

I just couldn’t turn away.

It was so horrific and awful as a Tiger fan that I had to sit there and soak in the shame of it all.

Being a big picture guy, I’d still like to classify this season as a success. The team won 10 games and a league title, after all.

But 70 points?

That’s not a score, that’s a statement.

I’m not a fire the coach guy, but we need a lamb on the altar for that game last night.

Paging (defensive coordinator) Kevin Steele…

I would like to take a moment and thank my coworkers and Facebook friends for taking it easy on me this morning. One can handle only so much abuse.

I did read a good joke on Twitter:

“The last time a team from the South got beaten that badly, slavery ended.”

Yeah, but at least the Confederacy put up a fight.

So, I went to sleep last night a bitter, enraged Clemson fan.

I woke up very much the same way.

But I tip my cap to West Virginia for a top-notch performance. And no, I don’t care that they were running up the score.

It’s their job to score.

It’s our job to stop them.

That’s defense, or at least, it should be.

News on James Harrison, Chris Paul and Tim Tebow

December 14, 2011

OK, let’s dive right in:

James Harrison is a muppet

No, really. The NFL slapped him with a one-game suspension for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Cleveland’s Colt McCoy.

He says he won’t change the way he plays.

I say keep adding games to the suspensions until he does.

Free Chris Paul

The NBA is running the Hornets exactly as one would expect – with both eyes on the bottom line.

Find an owner for the New Orleans Hornets or contract them.

Anything to get Paul and the daily trade stories out of the lead story on SportsCenter.

Tim Tebow

If my son liked sports, I’d buy him a Tim Tebow jersey.

Or 10.

He’s a great kid who, no matter how ugly, keeps winning games.

I don’t care about his future. I’m just enjoying the ride.

Sepp Blatter can save the world

November 17, 2011

It must be nice to be Sepp Blatter.

Why? Well, you get to run FIFA, soccer’s world-wide governing body, for one.

And apparently, you can say whatever stupid, moronic thing that comes to mind with little consequence.

The latest gaffe is on racism.

To set the stage, I’ll tell you that racist chants at black players is far more common in Europe than anyone likes, and lately, there have been instances of white (John Terry)  and South American (Luis Suarez) players being accused of using racist insults to black players on the pitch.

But if you ask Sepp Blatter, there’s no problem.

“‘I would deny it. There is no racism, there is maybe one of the players towards another, he has a word or a gesture which is not the correct one, but also the one who is affected by that.

“He should say that this is a game. We are in a game, and at the end of the game, we shake hands, and this can happen, because we have worked so hard against racism and discrimination.

“I think the whole world is aware of the efforts we are making against racism and discrimination. And, on the field of play sometimes you say something that is not very correct, but then at the end of the game, the game is over and you have the next game where you can behave better.”

So, in short, racism does not exist in soccer because Sepp Blatter says it doesn’t.

Naturally, he gets blasted for these comments.

His response?

This photo:

This picture was posted at the top of an article on FIFA.com with some clarification on his earlier comments.

I’m guessing a PR guy pulled him aside and said, “Mr. Blatter, you sound like a fool. Let me write you something.”

Anyway, he backed off it and posted the picture which, to me, says, “see, I like black people.”

Blatter is world famous for his quotes. The Guardian put together a list recently. Among them:

2004, on how to boost interest in the women’s game: “Let the women play in more feminine clothes like they do in volleyball. Female players are pretty, if you excuse me for saying so, and they already have some different rules to men – such as playing with a lighter ball. That decision was taken to create a more female aesthetic, so why not do it in fashion?”

2008, on slavery: Asked about Cristiano Ronaldo’s desire to leave Manchester United for Real Madrid. “I think in football there’s too much modern slavery in transferring players or buying players here and there, and putting them somewhere.” Uefa’s communications director, William Gaillard, clarified: “It would be useful to remind people that slaves in all of the slavery systems never earned a wage.”

2010, on the controversy surrounding Terry bedding a teammate’s girlfriend: Asked about whether John Terry should be stripped of the England captaincy over allegations of an affair with a former team-mate’s former girlfriend. “Listen, this is a special approach in the Anglo-Saxon countries. If this had happened in, let’s say, Latin countries then I think he would have been applauded.”

2010, on gay soccer fans and the 2022 World Cup, set for Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal: Blatter brushed the question off, and advised gay fans to “refrain from any sexual activities” during the tournament.

He later clarified: “It was not my intention and never will be my intention to go into any discrimination. This is exactly what we are against. If somebody feels that they have been hurt, then I regret it and present apologies.”

Two years earlier Blatter had urged gay footballers to come out and not be put off by football’s “macho” atmosphere. “There are gay footballers, but they don’t declare it because it will not be accepted in these macho organisations. But look at women’s football – homosexuality is more popular there!”

2010, on corruption (and my personal favorite): “There are no rotten eggs. There is no systematic corruption in Fifa. That is nonsense. We are financially clean and clear.”

My friend and colleague Greg Phillips have taken to channeling Blatter when faced with newsroom problems. “I don’t have five stories to write today” or “our website is working just fine.”

In fact, Greg came up with a list of problem areas we could get Blatter to solve with just a few sage comments:

1. Penn State
2. Herman Cain
3. The global economy
4. Climate change skeptics
5. Amphibians
6. Michael Jackson’s physician
7. The Lumbee Tribal Council
8. The Catholic Church
9. Rick Perry
10 . Barack Obama
Greg also thinks the only way to get rid of Blatter is to put him on a rocket to Mars. But even then, he’d set up an intergalactic footballing organization and hold pressers via satellite.
It’s good to be king, I guess.