Spring break is over and there’s a guest judge for this week’s installment of AtD. Correspondent Drew Conn, last semester’s champion, will be quizzing Sports Assistant Brandon Gould, Editor-in-Chief Bobby Olivier and Sports Editor Garrett Rasko-Martinis on who the early favorite is to win the men’s NCAA Tournament, if the NHL should make rules protecting players from blows to the head and if Torii Hunter’s comments were out of line or just poorly stated.
1. It’s that time of the year again - March Madness is officially upon us! The clear-cut favorite for the women’s tournament is the University of Connecticut, but the men’s tournament is not as predictable. That being said, which college do you think has the best chance to win the men’s tourney? Why?
BG: March is truly going to be mad this year with powerhouses like the University of North Carolina and the University of Connecticut having down years. There seems to be no clear cut favorite and even the top seeds have questions surrounding them. Kansas Unversity is very good, but they have lost twice after being ranked No. 1. The University of Kentucky has loads of talent, but their best players, John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins, are freshman. Then there is Syracuse University who has played well all season, but dropped two games to the University of Louisville and just got knocked out of the Big East tournament by Georgetown University. The Wildcats may have the most talent of those three teams, but I’m going to have to pick the Jayhawks to take it all because of the experience of Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich, since both have done this dance before.
BO: It seems like everyday, the best answer for this question changes, but I’m going to put my money, and my bracket on Kansas University winning its second NCAA tournament in three years. The Jayhawks have been the most consistently dominant team this season, rattling off 30 wins with an impressive 15-1 Big 12 conference record, and they have done it with fundamentally sound, well-rounded basketball. Four of the team’s five starters have averaged 10 or more points, and with the combination of Sherron Collins up top and Cole Aldrich down low averaging a double-double is tough to stop. Bill Self’s group will likely grab the No. 1 overall seed and make the trip to Indianapolis when it is all said and done.
GRM: The safe bet is clearly to put your money down on Kansas University to win the tournament. The Jayhawks have been the most consistent team at the No. 1 spot all season, and with the injury to Syracuse’s Arinze Onuaku slowing him down and their late season woes, Kansas is the easy choice. Kentucky is a team that certainly has the talent to go all the way into the tournament, but the lack of age and experience makes me hold back from picking them to win it all. Villanova University and Ohio State University are two other teams that have the talent to put together a great tournament run, but in the end the favorite has to be Kansas.
DC: You all basically said the same thing, but I’m going to give 3 points to Bobby for mentioning Kansas’ record and having stronger analysis of the impact of Collins and Aldrich. Two points go to Garrett for mentioning the injury to Onuaku and acknowledging that lower-ranked teams like Villanova and OSU have a shot to win it all. Brandon needs a little more analysis, so he gets the 1.
2. Last weekend in the NHL, Boston Bruins star Marc Savard suffered a serious concussion that will likely end his season after Matt Cooke of the Pittsburgh Penguins blindsided him with a hit to his head. Because of this hit, the NHL is considering changing the rules regarding hits to the head. Over the past six years, the NHL has made major rule changes that have transformed the sport. Do you think that implementing another rule change will help the sport or do you think it will tarnish its tradition? Why?
BG: Matt Cooke’s hit on Marc Savard was not something you would want to wish upon anyone, but it’s hockey. Cooke went in for a hit on Savard’s shoulder and unfortunately he misfired and caught Savard’s head. The hit was vicious and I do believe that Cooke deserves to get suspended, but I don’t think a rule should be changed. One of hockey’s best selling points is big hits and if you take that away you take away part of the game. The NFL has inserted a lot of rules to help quarterbacks and wide receivers avoid getting railed by defensive players and these new rules have completely changed the game. I’m afraid that if the NHL starts doing the same thing it is going to make players afraid to hit people and I don’t think that will help the league.
BO: I’m going to be the jerk who answers this question with another question. What is more important – the minor details of the sport, or the physical well-being of the men who play it? I support any rule that assists in keeping players safe, especially in hockey where serious injuries are always one errant puck or skating slip-up away. The shot that Mark Savard took to the head will likely affect the rest of his career and possibly his life after sport. Let’s face it, the tradition that hockey once held near and dear is long gone. The NHL gets terrible ratings, and after the lockout a few years back and the rule changes implemented to get people to watch, it’s a different game then it was many years ago. Whether it helps the sport or not, I fully support stricter penalties for blows to the head, and someone would have to be a sick, self-centered, obsessive fan not to.
GRM: If a rule is implemented that prevents scary moments like the injury to Savard, as a human being I fully endorse it. To be fair I am not a big hockey fan so I’m much less likely to be threatened by a rule that could “tarnish the reputation” of the NHL. But even if there was a similar rule being implement in a sport I follow closely I would still side with the health of athletes. I don’t care what it does to the ratings of the NHL or how it offends the hockey purists, nothing is worth risking the health and future livelihood of a human being. Hockey can still be a physical and fast-paced sport, but this rule would deter players from hitting fellow players in the head and would hopefully prevent incidents like this from happening again.
DC: Brandon gets the 3 on this one for making a good comparison to the rule changes in the NFL. Two points goes to Garrett for acknowledging that hockey can still be fast-paced and physical even without blows to the head. Bobby gets 1 for terming die-hard fans opposed to the rule change as “sick” and “self-centered.”
3. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim outfielder Torii Hunter created a media firestorm last week when he made comments about African-American youth choosing to play other sports instead of baseball and for referring to Latino players as black “impostors.” What are your thoughts on Hunter’s controversial comments and the current movement of African-American youth away from baseball?
BG: Call Hunter’s comments controversial and let the media firestorm continue, but Hunter’s words are true. The amount of African-American stars in baseball is not very high compared to the NBA and the NFL. A large amount of African-American children are growing up in cities where there is not a lot of room to play games. So, finding space to play a game of baseball is not always easy. Another factor is that in order to play you need nine guys on each side and you need to have some sort of way to call balls and strikes. Factor in the way baseball is constructed, the whole minor league system, and it starts to lose its appeal. Kids these days can see that the quickest and easiest way to the money is by scoring touchdowns and hitting three-pointers. Chicks may dig the long ball, but today’s generation would take LeBron James over Albert Pujols any day.
BO: Although the way that Torii Hunter expressed his feelings about dark-skinned Latino players was not exactly politically correct, this is not something that should be blown out of proportion. Obviously, Hunter saying that a Latino player can be signed “for a bag of chips,” can be considered offensive if taken out of context, which everything is in this era. But upon reading the whole conversation, he was just trying to express that he is frustrated with the lack of African-American players in the MLB today. Hunter has always been a positive role model for African-American players young and old, and these few off-color comments should not tarnish his reputation, it was simply a less-than-desirable way to make his point.
GRM: Hunter made a valid point in a terrible way. Nothing he said about African-American youths choosing basketball and football over baseball or about the African-American community being vastly underrepresented in the MLB was wrong. Unfortunately when he called Latino players “black imposters” his points were overshadowed by the fact that he wasn’t politically correct. Yes Hunter needs to be more careful when he makes statements such as this, but people should be looking more careful at what he said then at how he said it. He was absolutely right when he said teams would much rather go for cheaper talent from Latin American countries than pay for African-American players here in the United States. African-American youth know this, and they see players like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant earning fame and fortune playing basketball and as a result opt to play other sports besides baseball. Hunter was completely right in what he said, he just unfortunately said it in an awful way.
DC: All of you had very strong answers for this one, so determining a winner was very difficult. I like your argument Brandon, but you can play baseball with less than 18 players just like you can play basketball with less than 10 and football with less than 22. For those reasons, I give you 1 point on this one. Bobby – I liked that you acknowledged Hunter as a role model, but your answer needed some more analysis so I’m tossing you the 2 on this. Therefore, the winner of this question AND this week’s AtD is Garrett because he made very strong points regarding the price of U.S. talent vs. that of Latin America and the youthful success of basketball players like LeBron and Kobe.
Garrett wins 7 - 6 - 5