Friday, November 30, 2012

Stern Swings and Misses

When it was announced tonight that the NBA would be fining the Spurs for sending four of the starters home to rest I was a little ticked.  Keep in mind, I don't really even follow the NBA.  I like to claim myself as an Oklahoma City Thunder fan, but I wouldn't say I watch them on a consistent basis.  Gregg Popovich has proven he is a winner.  If there is one franchise all NBA teams should follow it is the San Antonio Spurs.  Six road game in nine nights can be taxing to the youngest of teams let alone a team aging as much as the Spurs.  Stern has done a great job to promote the NBA as an entertainment sport and its interest has become global.  However, he really missed the boat on this one.  He also missed a golden opportunity for great public relations.

"I have concluded that the Spurs did a disservice to the league and our fans"-David Stern

Whaaa?!  I realize the purpose of the NBA is entertainment.  I realize fans expect to see the stars when they buy a ticket.  However, it is Popovich's job to win championships.  Not games, championships.  He did what he felt was in his teams best interests to win the championship.  Stern should look to other sports first before rushing to such judgement.

Think about baseball.  When you buy a ticket in advance you have no clue who the starting pitcher will be that day, if the starters will be given an off day or if Kirby Puckett will get hit in the eye with a baseball the night before (this happened to us).  You are paying for the experience.  People that bought the tickets are going.  I've been to one NBA game.  The game is secondary.  The circus that takes place throughout the couple of hours is primary.

Think about football.  Every season there is the debate on whether teams that have clinched playoff berths should rest their starters or play them.  You don't see Goodell pissing and moaning do you?  Fans might be pissed they can't see their favorite players but in the end they want their team to win it all, or at least they should.

Think about hockey.  Well, I guess their fans would just be happy to attend games at this point.

At the end of the day, people think Stern was trying to make a PR move.  With the brawl from a few nights ago, he wanted to shift the attention to something else they say.  Maybe, and he was somewhat successful.  However I believe David Stern missed a golden opportunity to raise his approval rating.  After all this is all about him right?  Well, at least that's the way it seem right now.

Here are a couple ways he could have spun this into a positive.

What about offering everyone in attendance a voucher for a free ticket to any regular season the rest of the year?  Fans wouldn't be able to complain with getting two tickets for the price of one.  Some would claim their voucher and others wouldn't but its the thought that counts right?

NBA is big partners with KIA right?  What about having all of the fans in attendance submit their ticket stubs into a drawing for a free car?  Is 250,000 dollars going to affect the Spurs?  Better yet, can the NBA or KIA afford to give away a free car? 

Finally, and I'm sure there are many more possibilities, but what about convincing the players sitting out to contribute their game check to Hurricane Sandy relief?  Having a chance to influence the biggest media market there is?  Priceless.

The part that really stinks about all of this gets lost in the shuffle.  That would be the actual game.  Without their superstars the Spurs went into Miami and just about took down the defending champions.  In the NFL this would have focused on the result of the game.  This could be due in part to the large amount of gambling and fantasy football that occurs, although these two usually go hand in hand.  The Spurs lost by five points.  If this were an NBA Finals game the discussions would have centered on how great of a game it was.  This is the point where you might say "But it isn't the Finals" and through the eyes of Popovich, that is the point.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Black Friday Could Be Golden For ISU

I remember getting up the day after Thanksgiving waiting for my family to get done shopping.  There was always football on television.  Much like football on New Year's Day, there is just something about playing on Black Friday.  With a limited number of games and a national television audience on ABC ISU has a chance to get some major exposure and continue the momentum.  Needless to say I am pumped about attending my first Black Friday football game.  Here is why it could be a big step for ISU.

First, a chance at seven regular season wins and four conference wins for the first time in a long time would be a significant step under Paul Rhoads.  Finishing in the middle of the pack and being 4-5 in the conference would show progress.  Is it where they want to be? No, but Rhoads has said he wants to peak and plateau never taking a step back.  A win over a team ranked in the Top 10 at one point would be icing on the cake.

Second, involves the bowl possibilities that come with that seventh win.  Many think a win over West Virginia means the Holiday Bowl.  I would have to believe that would be the best bowl in ISU history and it may even involve our uniform sister's USC.  The Holiday Bowl even with it being lowered in the pecking order still holds a very respectable name within college football. 

Third involves the little brothers in Iowa City.  When Nebraska moved to the B1G and agreed to play Iowa on Black Friday many Iowa fans took it upon themselves to call it a rivalry and put this game on the level of the old Texas-Texas A&M on Thanksgiving night.  After getting beat like a drum last year and looking worse this year will the B1G really want to keep Iowa as Nebraska's opponent?  Iowa State is always looking for more fans statewide.  Having Iowa drubbed right before a victory in the 2:30 time slot would surely help.

With playing West Virginia comes the opportunity for points on the board.  West Virginia will score.  If ISU keeps up with them in an entertaining game it will keep the momentum within the fan base going strong.  It would also mean Sam Richardson, most likely, having another repeat performance of last weekend and providing hope at the QB position for years to come.

Finally, and maybe most importantly it would send the second straight group of seniors out with a win.  This group of seniors in particular have spent four years under Rhoads making three bowl games in the process.  Many were committed to a different coach and kept their commitment to ISU.  In my opinion they couldn't have made a better choice.  When you see these athletes play its clear there is a mutual respect between the coaching staff and the players.  One of my favorite Cyclones of all time will be on the field for the last time even though he won't be suited up.  Jake Knott is exactly what Rhoads wants you to picture when you think Iowa State football.  I'm sure he would give anything to play tomorrow, but a win by his team would help dull the pain. 

So tomorrow when the entire the nation is done shopping, the ladies are sleeping and the guys are eating leftovers in front of the television hopefully we will see Iowa State taking that next step forward.  Its my hope this game becomes a tradition, with more to play for in the future.  Its my hope after Friday we have a few more Cyclones whether it be fans or recruits.  For a fan base that's used to feeling like leftovers, its time we experience our team feast on a golden opportunity.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Last Three

I saw an interesting statistic today for the Rhoads era.  They have been 5-4 after 9 games in each of his first four seasons.  Most would look at this as a sign that they aren't improving.  I tend to disagree.  The truth of the matter is that each of the last two seasons ISU has competed with a 9 game conference schedule.  This means one less game against most likely a MAC opponent.  Also, the Cyclones are most likely facing the most difficult schedule Rhoads has faced yet to date.  Many predicted 3 wins, 3!  In each of the previous three seasons the Cyclones have struggled with "the last three" going 1-2, 0-3 and 1-2.  This year seems to be different.

Without the loss of Knott ISU could really be looking to make some noise in these last three games.  They will play the card that has been dealt like any college football team needs to do.  If you look at the progress that has been made you need to look no further than competing against the big boys.  The opponents ISU has lost to have a combined record of 26-8 with all but one of those losses to each other.  The Cyclone keep beating who they are supposed to beat along with staying in ball games they aren't supposed to be in.  Just a year ago ISU was a 27.5 point underdog AT HOME to the #2 team in the nation.  This year at home they were just a 6.5 point underdog to the #5 team in the nation.  In one case they won the game in a huge upset and in another they nearly pulled off the feat.  Many will look at the 5-4 record as marginal.  If you look at the losses this is a quality football team.

This time ISU is going to be a favorite in one, if not two of the "last three" and a 9.5 point underdog in the other.  ISU SHOULD win at least one ballgame going forward.  The sign of improvement is to win more than one.  They need that fourth conference win.  Rhoads has said as much in interviews.  They need to get to over .500 in the conference.  The big prize with a 7th win could be a trip to San Diego or even back to Tempe and a date with a very impressive opponent.

This is a sound football team that has performed well on defense and has struggled on offense in losses.  The defense ISU will face aren't exactly lighting the world on fire.  I think ISU goes to Austin and competes well in a loss.  I think they return to Lawerence and take care of business and beat a struggling West Virginia team on national television on Black Friday.  I will be at all three which if things go well will be an absolute blast.  Either way I look forward to watching ISU take a step forward when it comes to "the last three".