College football and the seven deadly sins

By Jan Hubbard

A great philosopher once said the only constant in the world is change, which suggests that philosophy is probably a good field to enter because it doesn’t take much to be considered great.

Change has been constant in college football, but, more accurately, it’s been brutal with so many of the big stories being more about items like greed, power, wrath, pride, lust and envy. College football administrators may not have purposely designed their sport in the image of the Seven Deadly Sins. But let’s just say the similarities are unmistakable.

So in honor of the concept of seven, as the college season begins in earnest soon, this weekend, here are seven of the most compelling stories and their consequences.

1. Joe Paterno went from a living legend to a broken man whose 46-year career of personal and professional achievement ended in scandal, termination and death. In a few quick months, Paterno’s inability or lack of common sense to recognize the severity of former assistant Jerry Sandusky’s sex crimes destroyed his reputation.

Consequences: The image of Penn State football went from spotless to smutty in a matter of months. Nine players transferred to other schools including a star running back, wide receiver, backup quarterback, kicker and two tight ends. There was no death penalty, but the Penn State will know what it feels like to be Indiana or Minnesota in Big Ten football.

2. After 118 meetings, the Texas-Texas A&M rivalry ended – at least for the foreseeable future – when the Aggies tired of the overpowering shadow of the University of Texas and moved to the Southeastern Conference.

Consequences: Because it did not like being bullied by UT, A&M picked up and moved to a conference that has won the last six national championships and in a division with four of those winners. Looks like a classic Aggie response to an insult.

3. Bobby Petrino celebrated the spoils of elevating Arkansas to a level of competing for a national title with a woman half his age, which did not go down well with his wife or his employer. Despite a 21-5 record the previous two years, Petrino’s life crashed in a motorcycle accident when he was with his paramour and his attempted coverup was quickly, well, exposed and he was fired.

Consequences: The yell “Woo, pig, sooey,” has taken on an entirely new meaning.

4. Twenty-four schools announced they were changing conferences, including TCU to the Big 12 this year and SMU to the Big East next year. North Texas also will move from the Sun Belt to Conference USA next year.

Consequence: The Frogs are one of 10 teams in the Big 12 and the Mustangs are one of several teams West of the Mississippi in the Big East. It does seem both schools and conferences are challenged in basics like counting and geography, but at least the football will be better.

5. The young LSU defensive back referred to as Honey Badger apparently had become a little too dependent on his own brand of honey and a potential Heisman Trophy run stopped before it started. Tyrann Mathieu was kicked off the team and subsequently it was announced he had enrolled in a clinic for drug treatment.

Consequences: We are to assume that like many men in their early 20s, the Honey Badger thought he was bullet proof. The clinic he entered suggests the bullets were more powerful than he thought.

6. After two years on the sideline, Mike Leach will take his offensive system talents to Washington State, which has had a 9-40 record its last four years.

Consequences: College football’s resident wacky pirate may be in the far Northwest, but his history suggests that when he starts firing those big offensive cannons, Pac-12 will get their fill of him fast.

7. College football lost great quarterbacks to the NFL with Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden and Kellen Moore all departed. USC’s Matt Barkley stayed and is tehe Heisman Trophy favorite, but Barkley said if he had left school, he would have been taken ahead of RGIII in the draft.

Consequences: It’s good to know that if for some reason Charles loses his voice, we have another Barkley to continue with outlandish statements.

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Kobe leading the We Want Esteem Team

LAS VEGAS –Team USA embarked on a quest for a second consecutive Olympic gold medal Thursday night with a 113-59 victory over a Dominican Republican team that in another era could have been confused with Cuba.

The game concluded a day of concern and comedy that actually began on Wednesday when Kobe Bryant said the 2012 Olympic team could beat the 1992 Dream Team, thereby leading some to suggest the current team will now be called the We-Want-Esteem-Team.

Bryant’s musings sent outlets scurrying for responses, which were predictable. Michael Jordan was dismissive. Charles Barkley said no more than three current members of the team could have made the Dream Team. Magic Johnson tweeted that he laughed.

And somewhere Oscar Robertson is seething, thinking to himself, “What about me, Jerry West and the 1960 team? We could have taken these guys.”

The debate has largely missed the point because anyone can see that the current team would easily beat any of the past Olympic teams.

Kobe, LeBron, Carmelo, KD, etc. vs. Michael, Magic, Larry and Charles? No contest.

Kobe is 33, LeBron James is 27, Carmelo Anthony is 28 and Kevin Durant is 23.

Now look at the Dream Team. Michael and Charles are 49, Magic is 52 and Larry Bird is 55.

Case closed. Kobe is correct. The young guys could beat the ’92 team easily.

Presumably, however, Bryant was assuming that some sort of time machine could be found and both teams would meet in their prime. And, predictably, that led to one of those silly sports discussions that is presented so seriously but actually is quite stupid and has no definitive answer.

Dream Team would win? Fine.

Current team would win? OK with that, too.

We will never know.

So other than the sport of arguing, why even spend time on it? And if you are going to engage in such an argument, the 1996 team with Shaquille O’Neal, David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon, Barkley, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Scottie Pippen, Grant Hill, Gary Payton and Reggie Miller should be in the discussion.

The Dream Team cannot be matched as a cultural icon. Not only 11 members are in the Hall of Fame, but because of them, the popularity of basketball also exploded all over the world. Bryant knows that. Everybody does.

(To see the original column that appeared on Sheridanhoops.com, click here.)

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U.S. players not impressed with 23-and-under proposal

LAS VEGAS – Depending on who is asked, the idea is somewhere between harebrained and bizarre, which, come to think about it, isn’t saying a lot for the proposal.

The rule in question is the proposed age limit of 23 for players participating in the Olympics, which has been floated out there as a trial balloon by NBA commissioner David Stern but which has a real chance of being implemented prior to the Rio Games of 2016.

The current members of Team USA, from the top on down, don’t like it.

But Stern is the boss, and the boss has decided that the governing forces of soccer are far more on the ball than their basketball counterparts because they have an age limit of 23 in the Olympics and then open competition in the World Cup, which is a global phenomenon every four years.

So why not follow the lead of soccer and create a World Cup of Basketball?

Nitpickers would point out that making the Olympics worse in order to make the world championship better is a curious strategy. But, then again, the NBA could run a World Cup and benefit financially. and when sports is driven by greed rather than what is best for the sport or its fans, anything is possible.

Count Jerry Colangelo, managing director of the U.S. national team, as one opposed to the change.

Colangelo said he has had a discussion with Stern and told him to step carefully.

“Before any final decision is made, it’s important that all the people understand what the ramifications are – to the current group of players, to the future group of players – what really are the limitations as a result?” Colangelo said. “I think that discussion should be a long, thorough discussion before anyone goes off half cocked. That’s my opinion and I shared that with David.”

(To see the original column that appeared on Sheridanhoops.com, click here.)

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Kyrie Irving puts on dream show

After beginning training camp with a couple of five-minute scrimmages that were open to the media, U.S. Olympic coach Mike Krzyzewski has pulled the curtain shut.

The last four days have featured games divided into four 10-minute quarters between Team USA and the select team, which consists of younger NBA players. Media has not been allowed to watch.

Although statistics have not been made available, the message from those who are Coach K-approved is that there has been one player who has consistently excelled – 20-year old Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers, a member of the select team.

That’s not to say the Olympians have not had many moments. Any team with LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Deron Williams is going to put on a show. And then there is Blake Griffin, a.k.a. Human Highlight Film 2.0, who has put on a private dunking exhibition for those allowed in the gym.

But Irving, who had 11 points in a 14-11 select team victory on the first day of camp, has been consistently excellent, and although the next Olympics in Brazil is four years away, it may not be too early to predict that he has locked up a position on the team.

“Kyrie Irving is a player that literally you could move from one court to the other court,” Team USA managing director Jerry Colangelo said, referring to shooting drills that have the Olympic team and the select team on adjacent courts.

“He’s that far advanced in terms of his talent, it appears. He’s made a good showing here. He had a terrific rookie season in the NBA and certainly he will be one of the leading candidates going forward.”

(To see the original column that appeared on Sheridanhoops.com, click here.)

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Dream Team? Sorry, hadn’t been born yet

LAS VEGAS — As the years go by, reminders of advancing age increase, and no one who has reached adulthood is spared.

When asked about one of those events Monday, U.S. Olympic basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski – who is at the retirement age of 65 – said, “I try not to think about it.”

If the person who conceived the term “time flies” wanted to make different age groups feel older, he or she could point out:

1. How painful it has been for baby boomers to watch as rock stars hit 70. If they’re getting older, so are we.

2. That is has been 29 years since the final episode of M*A*S*H was televised. Even the younger are feeling older.

3. Magic Johnson announced he had HIV 21 years ago. Is that possible? Someone born about that time is now legal age? Depressing.

4. The Macarena craze began 17 years ago. Seems like it played a million times only yesterday.

5. The first episode of The Sopranos appeared on HBO 13 years ago. Meadow and A.J. are 31 and 27, respectively. Even kids are feeling older.

Yes, time flies. Time disappears. As Pete Townshend once wrote, “We tried not to age but time had its rage.”

During this summer of 2012, however, as we commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Dream Team, I think I found the ultimate fact to make all of us – younger and older alike – feeling nothing less than ancient.

On August 8, 1992 in Barcelona, Spain, the Dream Team defeated Croatia, 117-85, to win the Olympic gold medal.

About seven months later – 215 days to be precise – Anthony Davis Jr. was born in Chicago.

Yes, that’s correct. When the Dream Team won the gold medal, the No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft – a finalist for the 2012 Olympic Team – was an embryo.

“How crazy is that?” Kobe Bryant said Monday. “Does he even know who [Michael] Jordan is? Does he think [Jordan’s] a silhouette or something?”

Davis set the record straight.

“I read a little bit about them,” he said. “I watched a couple of specials, but I don’t know much. I wasn’t even born [when they played].”

(This column first appeared on Sheridanhoops.com. Click here to view the full column).

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Team USA will play to its strengths

LAS VEGAS — In their continual quest to keep up with American talent, the serious basketball countries in the world have relied on fundamentals, intelligence and, well, Yankee stupidity.

The U.S. has always had better basketball players and more of them than any other country. Sometimes, however, talent doesn’t translate to gold. International teams have proven that experienced teams playing with skilled unselfish players can cause problems for the U.S.

The 2012 U.S. Olympic team is aware of history – losses in the 1972, 1988 and 2004 Olympics that they’ve seen film of and/or participated in.

The players will go to London with a bit of an attitude and a determination to prove they are not only the best in the world, but also that the U.S. plays superior basketball.

And they will not make the mistake made by past unsuccessful teams, most notably those in 1972 and 1988. They will not rely on the set offenses and deliberate styles employed by the respective head coaches of those two teams, Hank Iba and John Thompson.

The 1972 loss was no doubt tainted by the controversy at the end of the gold medal game that gave the Soviets two additional chances to win the game. But the fact is the Soviet Union was in position to win, and the game probably should not have been that close.

The differences in talent were less in 1988 because international teams had players in their mid to late 20s and even in their early 30s playing against U.S. collegians. The approach of a halfcourt offense and pressure defense simply did not work against an experienced, veteran Soviet team. That victory was not tarnished.

“Style of play is important,” Team USA managing director Jerry Colangelo said. “That ’72 team did not take advantage of the athleticism it had. The ’88 team didn’t have enough shooters.”

If there is one possible deficiency in the makeup of the current team, it was the presence of only one true center – 7-1 Tyson Chandler of the New York Knicks.

(The original column can be viewed here on Sheridanhoops.com

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Team USA on Olympic mission

LAS VEGAS — Although the collective talent of the newest group representing American basketball can probably be compared to the great Olympic team of 1992, there is one area where the current group cannot compete. That was evident Saturday when no one said, “I don’t know anything about Tunisia, but Tunisia is in trouble.”

Yes, for the fourth straight Olympics, there will be no Charles Barkley on Team USA, so colorful headlines and international incidents will likely be at a minimum.

But there will be something fascinating about Team USA in 2012 because the world will get to see exactly how deep American talent is.

Twelve players made the team that was announced on NBA TV (as opposed to NBC, where the Dream Team was announced in 1991). It is a versatile roster that includes 10 players who can play more than one position. Only center Tyson Chandler and point guard Chris Paul are true one-position players.

The team has great scorers in Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James.

It has great defenders in Kobe Bryant, Andre Iguodala and Chandler.

It has explosive players in Russell Westbrook, Blake Griffin and James Harden.

It has classic point guards in Deron Williams and Paul. And it has a great combination rebounder/3-point shooter in Kevin Love.

What it doesn’t have, however, is Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh, LaMarcus Aldridge or Derrick Rose – five of the top players in the NBA. Each is recovering from injury and is not available. So the question is: Can the U.S. replace five of its best players and still have enough talent to defeat the rest of the world?

The players say yes, and in Thgreat tradition of Michael Jordan – who never let an insult, real or imagined, pass – the players are creating incentive for themselves.

(The remainder of the original column can be viewed here at Sheridanhoops.com

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