A few observations about recent sporting news...
Super Bowl: Seattle 43, Denver 8
There were several takeaways from the game, the chief of which is that the AFC wasn't any good this year. Throughout the regular season, Denver's Peyton Manning would throw 3-yard passes and the receiver would run five to ten yards more after the catch. Against Seattle, the receivers were often stopped for no gain.
It speaks to how truly limited Manning is, physically, that he relies on the short passing game so much. He was always immobile,always less effective against strong pass rushes. Now, after natural decline due to age, plus four neck surgeries, his good (never great) arm probably can't even be called average anymore. That's why Seattle never had to deep throws; he has no arm to make plays like that. His record-breaking regular season was due to his mind, not his body. But when his offensive line faced superior bodies, how could Manning overcome that?
Yes, he played poorly. But most of the credit for that must go to Seattle's defense.
Ray Guy selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame
The only "legendary," punter of the modern era will finally be recognized. His skill allegedly could turn games around in the more defensive-minded 1970's-80's era in which he played, in which field position was even more important that today.
I'm in no position to doubt it. If any punter deserves it, he does.
Yet I can't help but wonder if the greatness, prominence, and mythology of the Raider teams he played for, plus his catchy name, were a help to his selection. Were there other punters toiling for bad teams in those or later years who were just as good? I don't know. And I don't know if Hall of Fame voters know, either.
If I had a book publishing company, I'd hire Dick LaBeau, Steeler Defensive Coordinator, to write a book about the best players he's ever seen. He's been in the league for over 50 years, as both a Hall of Fame player and as a coach. I wonder how similar his choices would be compared to the choices of sportswriters, who do the actual electing.
David Stern retires after 30 years as NBA Commissioner
Many say he's the greatest commissioner in league sports history. In terms of marketing and promoting his sport and his league across the globe, that just might be. But Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, and Nike had something to do with that as well.
When Stern took over, the Association had 23 teams.Now it has 30, which is four to six too many. This was exemplified when the league had to take over operations for the New Orleans franchise a few years ago. David Stern even vetoed a trade that its GM made, something he couldn't have done to any other team.
Rumors that the games are fixed were heightened when one NBA referee was indicted for doing just that. In later years, Stern seemed increasingly arrogant and petulant.
But it's also true that he avoided the troubles facing the NHL and Major League Baseball. Compared to them, the NBA's been a sturdy ship. The question is whether that will continue under new leadership. The NFL's grown steadily more popular during Stern's tenure even as its commissionership changed hands twice. Will that be true for the NBA?
How to make All-Star Games Competitive
It's All-Star season, with the NBA's being played this month, and the NFL's Pro Bowl having been played the last Sunday in January. (The NHL doesn't have one this year due to the Olympics).
The concept may be out-of-date. So many games in all the sports are televised these days, that there's no particular interest in seeing all-stars play each other and risk injury in an ultimately meaningless contest. It might be better for everyone if the NBA and NHL took extended breaks of 3-4 days in February to give all the players a rest, and for the MLB to do the same in July.
But if we are to have them, there should be incentives on the players to make them competitive. My idea is simple: Each player selected to an all-star game receives a cash reward to be given to a charity of his choice. If his conference's team wins the all-star game, the reward doubles. That should inspire each all-star to play the game, and play the game hard.
After all, who doesn't want to be viewed as a hero?