Monday, April 21, 2014

Are Some NBA Games Fixed?

Are some NBA games fixed?

According to several veteran bookies tuned into the underworld, a few games definitely are. One estimated that about a dozen games a season are rigged.

The issue arose as a result of Saturday's Clippers-Warriors playoff game, which Golden State, an eight-point, road underdog, surprisingly won, 109-105. Clearly the Warriors got a big boost from the refs, who handcuffed Clippers' star Blake Griffin early with questionable fouls--the kind rarely called on a superstar in a critical game. Griffin played only 19 minutes and was walking on eggshells during most of them, before fouling out with 48.3 seconds left. During that final minute, when he could have made a difference, he was on the bench. Through most of the game, without Griffin to worry about, the Warriors could focus more on the Clippers shooters, rendering them ineffective.

The refs, in the name of  keeping the game from turning into a brawl, were constantly calling "invisible" fouls. To make it look like they were treating both teams equally, they hampered the Warriors' best defensive player Andre Iguoadala with fouls, eventually fouling him out. But the loss of Griffin hurt the Clippers much, much more that losing Iguoadala bothered the Warriors. If Griffin plays most of the game, the Clippers almost certainly win.

Was it a case of rigging or just horrible officiating?  In the opinion of several bookies, the game could easily have been rigged, though none knew for sure. One, though, disagreed, arguing that fixed games are handled much more smoothly, with the refs playing a less obvious role.

What usually happens in fixed NBA games, said one bookie, is subtle point-shaving, with the refs making calls that keep a big favorite from covering the spread. Point shaving, he added, generally happens in games nobody cares about, between one good team and a bad team. Fixing, he said, is tougher in a big national TV game with so many people watching.

NBA officials are constantly fretting about rigging, a stance many claim is hypocritical, considering some observers swear three major playoff games were fixed by the league: the first is game 7 of the 2000 Lakers-Trail Blazers Western Conference Finals; the second is game 6 of the 2002  Lakers-Kings Western Conference Finals; the third is the game 5 of the 2006 Miami-Dallas Finals. The NBA, naturally, claims innocence in all three cases.

Can point-shaving--instances involving the underworld--be stopped? It's doubtful. One bookie argued the problem is the crooked refs are way ahead of the investigators, much like, he added, juiced-up athletes are one step ahead of investigators, with the latest juice-masking drugs.

All the bookies consulted, though, said there will be no more questionable games in this season's playoffs. The Warriors-Clippers game, they said, heightened awareness of rigging. It's tougher to pull it off cleanly when everyone is watching out for it.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Fire Sandy Barbour, Cal Athletic Director

Wanna know how bad things are in the Cal athletic program? Look at it this way. The program is the Titanic and the captain is incompetent athletic director Sandy Barbour.

There's only one way out of this mess and it's this--fire Sandy Barbour, fire Sandy Barbour, fire Sandy Barbour. Just in case it didn't sink in, let me say it again: fire Sandy Barbour!

She's totally lacking vision and creativity. She's so out of touch she can't see the obvious. She's famous for her budget bungles and her mismanagement of Memorial Stadium renovation.  She makes bad decision after bad decision. Her most notorious, bone-headed move is, early last year, replacing burned-out head football coach Jeff Tedford with a second-rate, offense-first coach, Sonny Dykes, who won just one game and made Cal the laughing-stock of college football.

So we're stuck with a football coach who's guaranteed to keep the Bears in the Pac12 basement for years to come. Since men's basketball coach Mike Montgomery just retired and Barbour is hunting for a replacement, it looks like downtrodden Cal fans are about to get another lemon. Since she's been scouring the depths of the college coaching world, most likely Barbour is about to inflict another nobody on us.

Look at the candidates list: UC Irvine's Russell Turner, a titan of the Big West conference,  Notre Dame's Mike Brey, who's coming off a 15-17 season, Bryce Drew, who led Valparasio to a 18-16 season, Murray State's Steve Prohm. Is anybody else clamoring for these coaches? Are other schools waiting in line to sign any of them? Has any knowledgeable college hoops fan heard of any these guys?  Hell no. Because they're bottom-rung coaches.

The John Calaparis and Coach Ks obviously won't want to come to Berkeley, which doesn't have super facilities or a recent history of NCAA success or a fat budget for coaches. But Cal should be able to get a better coach than the guys on the above list. Think about it. Why should small-conference VCU have a better coach, Shaka Smart, than a major Pac12 school like Cal? But if Barbour tried to recruit Smart, he'd laugh in her face.

The average Cal men's team is talent-starved. You can't win without very good players. But the typical Bear team has just one or two top-notch players. Cal will never be a basketball power unless the AD hires a coach who can attract lots of talent, like some players on the top 100 list of high school stars. The Bears rarely get any of these gems. They have one now in Jabari Bird, but he's surrounded by a bunch of ordinary players. A quality coach could bring in some studs to support Bird.

Over the years, the Bay Area has produced some outstanding high school players. But they almost never go to Cal. A coach with superior recruiting skills would steer some of this talent to Berkeley. Hiring such a coach, however, won't be easy with Barbour in charge.

Who would want to work under her?. According to several sources, she has a horrible reputation in college sports circles. Apparently the buzz out there is that the administration doesn't trust her. So why would a first-rate coach, with other options, step into a rocky program with a bumbling leader? A respected, high-profile athletic director might lure a top-tier coach to Berkeley. Most likely though, Cal will get some second or third tier guy who will guarantee a stream of two-star players who will guarantee a string of subpar seasons.

Loyal, long-suffering Cal fans deserve a high-quality program. That means getting a better leader, which, of course, means one thing--fire Sandy Barbour. Once more for emphasis:


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Why the Eagles Really Released DeSean Jackson

DeSean Jackson, the speedy, game-breaking wide receiver, a gangster?


The Philadelphia Eagles gave no official reason for dumping their best player after six years, after his finest season--82 catches, 1332 yards, 9 TDs. Unofficially though, the team was reportedly upset with Jackson's alleged gang affiliations, claiming that he's linked to the notorious, LA-based gang, the Crips, that he flashes gang signs and hangs with gang members. The Eagles, supposedly, feared his thuggish allegiances might have ugly consequences. Recalling how Patriots' tight end Aaron Hernandez, in jail for murder, sullied the image of New England, Philadelphia reportedly wanted to get rid of Jackson before he committed some felony or was linked to some criminal activity that would drag the Eagles' name into the gutter.

 Forget all that. The gang affiliation excuse is just a cover. Here's why the Eagles really released him.

On the one hand, the team was looking to save money by dumping Jackson, who makes $10.5 million a year and has three years left on a fat but non-guaranteed contract. But that's just a small part of it. The main reason for the Eagles' move is head coach Chip Kelly's ego. According to two sources close to the team, Kelly, a bigger control freak than most head coaches, simply tired of Jackson chipping away at his authority and scoffing at his rigid, unorthodox fitness program. Sources report that Kelly and Jackson were in constant conflict. It didn't help that Jackson hated and wouldn't listen to receivers coach Bob Bicknell. Kelly felt he and his coaches were constantly disrespected by Jackson. Some coaches will put up with that kind of hostile attitude from their star players. But not Kelly.

Jackson and his head coaches always butt heads. When he was a Cal last decade he gave coach Jeff Tedford fits. Reportedly Jackson was the leader of a pack that created havoc in that locker room. His first coach with the Eagles, Andy Reid, now heads the Kansas City Chiefs, a team that could really use Jackson. But the Chiefs don't want him, partly because they don't have the money but mainly because Reid has had his fill of the Jackson distraction.

Unquestionably, Jackson is a handful for any coach. Smug and defiant, he's strongly anti-authoritarian, the kind of player who's late for meetings and doesn't listen to coaches. Like Randy Moss, Jackson, on the field, doesn't always go all out. But like Moss in his prime, Jackson, who has blazing speed, scares the hell out of defenses and is a constant threat to score, either as a wide receiver or as a punt/ kick returner. More negatives. He doesn't have a great work ethic and is a distraction in the locker room, often setting a bad example for younger players. Off the field he hangs out at night clubs and, yes, pals around with hoodlums. Jackson grew up in Compton, a tough Los Angeles suburb, and chooses not to distance himself from the dark side of the hood.

OK, so Jackson is a bad actor. But he's not a gang member. Just because he still has Compton buddies, that doesn't make him a gang-banger. If Eagles' head coach Kelly has problems with Jackson's behavior he should say so, and not hint that he's releasing him because he has gang ties.

By the way, most teams, according to several sources, have young players who pal around with gang members. These players are just more quiet about it than Jackson. According to these sources, a few players on NFC teams are actual gang members. They grew up in gangs and secretly maintain gang ties. It's all part of the seamy NFL underground. Jackson, though, sources confirm, really isn't part of that underground.

Rumors of his gang affiliations haven't scared away other teams. Jackson is in talks with the Washington Redskins. If that doesn't work out, the Raiders and the Browns are waiting in line. In addition, insiders claim the San Francisco 49ers are interested.

Clearly, this fall Jackson will once again be be terrorizing NFL defenses.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Veteran Bookie's Ten Tips To Winning Bracket Picks

      Don't know where to start in picking winners in those NCAA Tournament brackets? Let veteran bookie Carlo AA guide you.

1. "The biggest mistake you can make this season is picking Florida, which is a No. 1 seed, to win it all. They're not that good. They breezed through the SEC but the SEC stinks. There's only one other good team in the SEC and that's Kentucky. Going undefeated in that conference means nothing.
     "There's another reason not to pick Florida. They finished the season No.1 in the polls. Only a few teams that finished the season ranked No.1 have ever won a national championship. When it comes to winning the national championship, finishing the season ranked No.1 is the kiss of death."
2. "Another big mistake is picking Wichita State to win it all. This is a very good team but if they were in a better conference, they'd have four or five losses. They might make the Final Four but that's it.  To win it all you have to play tough teams on the road game after game. State is good enough to go far but not all the way. Also, they're undefeated this season. To win it all, they'd have to finish the entire season undefeated. That's just not going to happen."

3. "In picking the Final Four, never pick all four No.1 seeds. Only a few times have all No.1 seeds made the Final Four. But include at least one No.1 seed in your Final Four. Only a few times has there been a Final Four with no No.1 seed. That happened a few years ago, in 2011, and it was weird. It screwed up a lot of brackets.

5. "Something else that never happens. All 2-seeds almost ever make it to the Sweet 16. So when you pick your Sweet 16,  include just two or three 2-seeds."

4. "People love to pick upsets. They like to brag about their upset wins. They're really tough to pick. It's a crap-shoot. The best bets for upsets are a 13-seed over a 4-seed, an 11-seed over a 6-seed or a 12-seed over a 5-seed. In fact, that 12-seed over a 5-seed happens so often, you might pick two of them. The worst bet for an upset is a 16-seed over a 1-seed. That never happens.

5. "Don't include low seeds in your Final Four. That's reaching and betting with your heart. Don't pick any seeds in your Final Four lower than a 9-seed--and picking a seed that low is pushing it.

6. "If you're picking by conference, don't go with a team from the Pac 12 or the Big Ten to win it all. It's been about a dozen years since a team from one of those conferences won a national championship."

7. "When you pick the national champ, pick a No. 1 seed. The national champ is usually a No.1 seed. Once in a while it's a 2-seed or a 3-seed, but never lower than a 3-seed.

8. "Do some research. Find out which teams, among the best teams, have the best point guards. Those are the teams that will make the Final Four and win the championship. Without a very good point guard, you're not going to win it all.

9. "When you're dong research, find out which teams were playing badly at the end of the season. Syracuse, for instance, was playing badly at the end of the season. Don't pick them to go very far."

10. "Don't use poll rankings to pick winners. Poll rankings are misguided. They're made by people who don't see all the games. A lot of these people are supposedly experts but some of them don't know what the hell they're talking about.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Lakers' Jeanie and JIm Buss. It's War

Jim and Jeanie Buss, who run the Los Angeles Lakers, are at war. They may try to appear cordial and pretend all is well,  but it's not. Jeanie, who heads the team's business operations, and Jim, who makes the basketball decisions, are waging a bitter conflict.

The center of that conflict? Jeanie's boyfriend, ex-Laker head coach Phil Jackson.

Jackson's proposed move to the New York Knicks, as head of  basketball operations, has made the bad relationship between the Buss siblings take a turn for the worse. Sources close to several people inside the Laker organization report that the siblings are really at each others throats now that Jackson is on the verge of signing with another NBA team.

The Busses barely talk, report the sources, and when they do there's nothing but venom and nastiness. Apparently Jeanie thinks her brother is a stubborn jerk who's running the team into the ground with one bad decision after another, beginning with the hire of head coach Mike D'Antoni, who's been a disaster.

Early last season, the Lakers figured in NBA championship discussions. Now they're prominent in lottery discussions. This is a bad team and Jim has had a hand in dragging it down.

Clearly the Lakers desperately need help. No question Jackson could be the answer. Jeanie has been pushing for him to be hired by the Lakers in some front-office capacity so that the team could take advantage of his considerable expertise. But Jim, who'd have to approve, opposes such a move. He claims it's a business decision but it's no secret that he doesn't like Jackson. In fact he never has. When Jackson, during two terms as Laker head coach, was piling up championships, Jim still didn't like him.

Jeanie is mad at her brother for keeping Jackson out of the Lakers' front office. She has never forgiven Jim for bypassing Jackson in November, 2012 in favor of D'Antoni for the head-coaching job. Legions of  Laker die-hards agree with her. They see Jackson, with more championship rings than fingers, as the savior who could lead the team out of this dark period. Some one has to make smart decisions in the next few years. The die-hards don't think Jim is capable. Apparently, neither does Jeanie.

The sources report that Jeanie isn't happy with Jackson's proposed move, which would create an incredibly awkward situation for her. Imagine, she's a Laker exec and her boyfriend runs another NBA team. Would she, a Laker, go to New York, sit among Knicks' fans and support that team? If Jackson does take that job, it's not clear how she's going to handle that situation.

Jeanie, though, doesn't blame Jackson. She knows he'd prefer working with her on the Lakers--but the team isn't offering him anything. With the Knicks, the team he once played for, offering him complete control, it may be an offer that he can't refuse.

Some observers think Jackson talking to the Knicks is just a ploy to push the Lakers into making him an offer. That, however, is doubtful. This Knicks' situation is for real.

Will Jackson take the Knick job sometime in the next few days? Probably. According to reports, he and the Knicks are putting the finishing touches on a deal.

If he takes that job, Jeanie's life suddenly becomes miserable. In that case, look for the war between the Busses to escalate.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The NFL's Nutty Proposed N-Word Penalty

Picture this during some NFL game next season

A defensive end is trash-talking to an enemy lineman after a play. "I took your Momma and your sister home last night and had a threesome with those crazy bitches." Or after being tackled by a corner back, a wide receiver chides him, "You hit like a faggot." Or one black player celebrates with a black colleague after making a critical sack just outside their own goal line. "Great work, nigger, great work!"

A ref hears all these dialogues. As nasty and vicious as they are, he's indifferent to the first two, but tosses a penalty flag at the black player for using the n-word during that friendly celebration, negating the sack and putting their team in a deeper hole.

What the hell!

Sounds insane but it could happen. The NFL competition committee, under pressure by a black organization, the Fritz Pollard Alliance, is considering a rule that will be presented for confirmation at the owners' meeting next month. There would be a fifteen-yard penalty against a player using the n-word on the field for the first time in a game. For the second offense, the player would be ejected. Apparently there's an excellent chance this rule will be adopted.

The league, which is extremely public-relations conscious, is reacting to a report investigating last season's Miami Dolphins' bullying scandal, which made the NFL look bad. What happened is that a white player. Richie Incognito, harassed a black player, Jonathan Martin--often using the n-word--to a point where Martin quit the team. In that report was a sense that the use of the n-word was out of control in the league and officials were doing nothing about it. This proposed rule is basically a PR move, with the NFL showing it can at least police one aspect of the bullying situation.

There's only one word to describe this proposed rule--idiotic.

The league is overstepping its bounds. On the one hand, the n-word is ugly, tied to centuries of abuse and degradation of black people. But, to some blacks and some black-friendly whites, it's a brotherhood greeting, meaning buddy or pal. To them, it's not ugly but instead, it's cool and cozy, a sign of camaraderie. There are two camps on the use of the n-word. The reaction is generational. To many young people, blacks in particular, it doesn't carry the negative clout it has for older people more in tune with the black revolution of the last century. The use of the n-word isn't just black and white. There are shades. The league's competition committee is ignoring that.

The NFL is ignoring something else--that, during a game, violence, ridiculously jacked-up emotions and obscene trash-talking reign. At that time, the players descend to a dark place, where the rules are different. The n-word is part of that dark place.When players are in there, you've got to cut them some slack. Penalties can change a game. Something you say during a game, when emotions are rocketed to abnormal levels, shouldn't carry that kind of weight.

Also, what about other slurs aimed at other groups, like Latins, Jews, Asians and gays? Why is the n-word on the verge of being banned during games and not kike or faggot or any other slurs? Isn't that, in itself, a form of bias, showing favoritism toward blacks and against other groups?

What about the flagrant hypocrisy of outlawing the n-word while the league allows one of its elite franchises, the Washington Redskins, to get away with having its name include a racial slur against Native Americans?. While Washington is allowed to use Redskins, the NFL should not be able to enact a rule banning another racial slur.

Bottom line. The n-word, to many, is vile, but you can't legislate away its use in this specialized arena. If the NFL is dumb enough to adopt this rule, it won't make a bit of difference. Players will ignore it. The n-word will continue to be popular among young players, who grew up using it positively, and bigots, who thrive on it..

Give the NFL credit, though. Its heart is in the right place. But its head, in this case, is firmly up its you-know-what.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Why Openly Gay Michael Sam Will Go Undrafted

Michael Sam, the Missouri defensive end who recently came out of the closet, is projected to be pro football's first openly gay player. Supposedly he's going to be picked somewhere between the third and fifth rounds in the upcoming NFL draft.

It's politically correct to be supportive of gays and optimistic about this historic situation, but let's be real. Most likely Sam is not going to be drafted at all. The problem? He's just not good enough. He's simply not worth all the trouble he'll cause.

What's wrong is that he's not in a class with top ten picks like Jadeveon Clowney or Teddy Bridgewater or Johnny Manziel. If these guys suddenly came out of the closet, they are so talented that their draft status would be hurt very little--if at all.. The way South Carolina's Clowney rushes the passer, do you think some pro team would give a damn if he were gay? How about Texas A&M QB Manziel? He has the potential to turn a franchise around, to lead it to the promised land. Do you think teams would ignore him if he turned out to be gay?

Pro football is a business. Signing super-talented players, even if they come with baggage, is good business. But investing in modestly talented players loaded with back-breaking baggage is bad business. It simply makes no sense to sign Sam, who'll probably be just a backup player. However he has a huge downside--attracting distracting media hordes and creating locker room turmoil.

My sources checked Sam out closely, just like NFL teams will do, concluding he's far from a great talent. Two SEC position coaches, who had to prepare to play Missouri, offered valuable opinions but only talked to my sources off the record. Seems that nobody wants to be quoted talking negatively about Sam.

First of all, Sam's gaudy SEC co-Defensive Player of the Year title, based largely on his 11.5-sack total, is misleading. Look closely and you'll see he piled up sacks against bad teams, like Arkansas State and Florida, and didn't fare so well against good teams. He was strongest against the early, weaker part of the schedule and not so dominant against the tough conference teams later in the season. He doesn't have the dazzling speed (just a decent 4.7 forty) or the array of moves a premier pass-rusher needs. Nor, report the coaches, does he play the run particularly well. The consensus is that Sam, who's 6-1 1/2, 260 pounds, isn't quite skilled enough to play defensive end in the NFL or quick or savvy enough to be a dependable linebacker. Nor does he have the kind of athleticism coaches prefer in special teams players. Sam isn't even the best pro prospect on the Missouri defense. That honor belongs to the other starting end, Kony Ealy, who'll be picked early in the first round.

There's really no compelling reason to draft Sam. He lacks the speed and talent to become a great player. A hard worker, he might, with the right coaching, turn into an admirable second-stringer. According to the two SEC coaches, Sam isn't a potential NFL starter.
The league is full of players on Sam's level. But they won't disrupt the locker room and the media doesn't care about them. Given a choice of signing one of these guys or Sam, with all his baggage, teams will take the easy way out.

You can't really blame them. It's just business.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Compare Michael Sam To Jackie Robinson? Rubbish!

When I read it or hear it, it makes my blood boil--and I've read and heard it at least a twenty times. I'm talking about media people comparing Jackie Robinson to Michael Sam, the Missouri defensive end who's about to become the first openly gay player in America's favorite sport, pro football.

It's an inane comparison.

What Robinson did was monumental. What Sam is about to do is admirable and courageous, but in comparison to what Robinson did, not in the same ballpark. Mentioning Sam and Robinson in the same breath belittles Robinson's accomplishment. It also means whoever is making the comparison doesn't grasp the scope of what Robinson did.

In 1947, Robinson became the first black player in major-league baseball.  But he didn't just desegregate baseball, then America's favorite sport and the bastion of white manhood. Robinson helped pave the way for America's black revolution of the 1950s and 1960s. What he did ranks with the greatest social achievements in America in the 20th century. Any one who compares Sam to Robinson needs to re-examine what Robinson did.

Look at America in 1947. When Dodger general manager Branch Rickey elevated Robinson from the minors to the major league Brooklyn Dodgers, there was, the most of the US, two countries--white America and black America. In much of the US, particularly in the South, blacks were treated like second-class citizens. Depending on the section of the country,  schools, hotels, restaurants, bathrooms, even drinking fountains were for whites only. Interracial marriage was outlawed in nearly every state. In parts of the South, whites could still get away with lynching a black man.

So what Robinson did, in 1947 America, was much more than desegregate major-league baseball. He symbolized blacks banging on the door of white America demanding their rights. The weight of black America was on his shoulders. If he failed, it wasn't just a personal setback. The black revolution would have also taken a step backward.

Many whites sided with Robinson but many, rightly realizing their way of life was under attack, hated him. He was cursed, spat upon and was the target of death threats and every imaginable manner of racial hatred. He put his life on the line. Lesser men would have quit, but he didn't. He had some good times, but he also went through hell his first few years in the National League.

This is not what Sam's life is going to be like when he's signed by some NFL team. Most fans and players will be in his corner. That's because much of the work, breaking down anti-gay barriers in this country, has already been done. In the last two decades much of America has become gay-friendly. However, homophobia and a juvenile frat-boy mentality still reign in the NFL world. Some players won't be comfortable around Sam in the locker room, in the shower and on the playing field. He'll be the target of slurs, venomous trash-talk and assorted negativity and unpleasantness.

But will Sam have to contend with the hatred and dangers that Robinson faced his first few years in the majors? No way. Is the weight of gay America on Sam's shoulders? Not really. Compared to what Robinson went through in the late 1940s, Sam's life in the NFL will be a stroll in the park.

So when you hear people compare Sam's journey to Robinson's--and you'll hear that a lot in the next few months--just chalk it up to ignorance.

Sadly, such a comparison does a disservice to Robinson's legacy and devalues his great achievement.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Cal Fans Sing "Signing Day Blues"

Man, are Cal football fans screwed.

We already knew it, but check out the crappy results of Wednesday's Signing Day, when high school players pick their college teams. That just rubs it in. The two websites that rate recruiting classes, and, rank Cal in the mid 40s. For a team coming off an abysmal 1-11 season, that's not where you want to be.

There are no real jewels on Cal's list of 21 recruits. There's not likely another Aaron Rodgers or Brandon Mebane or DeSean Jackson. There may be some potential but don't expect it to be developed by this coaching staff.

The problem, of course, is the head coach, Sonny Dykes. The best recruits don't want to be anywhere near him or his staff. Dykes did replace two defensive position coaches and did demote defensive coordinator Andy Buh, who presided over the worst defense in school history, surrendering 45.9 points and 529 yards of total offense per game. Unfortunately, though, Buh is still on the staff, as a position coach. Why is he still a Cal coach? What other quality school would tolerate him?. Maybe he could find work at Southeast Dakota State Methodist Teacher's College. But he shouldn't be at Cal.

But then, neither should Dykes.

With him in charge, top players avoid Cal like the plague. Sources report that the word is out in recruiting circles--stay away from Dykes if you want an illustrious college career. So how does the team get better without attracting high-caliber players? With this recruiting class, Cal will stay in the lower depths of the Pac12, down there with Colorado, Utah and Washington State.

In the last decade, when former coach Jeff Tedford was at his peak, Signing Day used to be a glorious day for Cal. The Bears' class was always in the top 25, sometimes in or around the top 10. Cal was rarely in the running for the five-star studs, from high schools east of the west coast. Those guys were mostly gobbled up by the SEC. But the Bears at least had a chance at some of the west-coast gems. Not any more. If a high-school hot-shot has a chance to go to UCLA or USC or Oregon or Stanford, and Cal comes knocking at his door, what do you think he's going to do? Likely slam the door in the Cal recruiter's face.

So, these days, Cal fans are singing "Signing Day Blues," a sorrowful tune about a day that merely emphasizes what a mess the program has become. Defense is the real problem. Dykes clearly doesn't care about it. He says all the right things about the importance of defense in his system but that's pure bull. He's strictly an offense junkie who's captivated by that idiotic notion that you can win by outscoring your opponent in those messy 48-47 shootouts, where defense is non-existent.

So, for Cal fans, Signing Day just rubs our noses in the fact that we don't have the material to climb out of the hole we're in. The Bears may win a few games, but improving over a one-win season isn't that tough. It'll look like progress and that will keep Dykes around longer, for years of two or three or four-win seasons. Not much to look forward to.

The only hope, Cal fans, is that somehow school officials will get rid of the real culprit, AD Sandy Barbour. Then a savvy AD might come in and sack Dykes and restore hope. Otherwise, year after year, Cal fans will be singing mournful chorus after mournful chorus of the dreaded "Signing Day Blues."

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Defending Richard Sherman

Since Sunday's 23-17 win over the San Francisco 49ers, which vaulted Seattle into the Super Bowl, Seahawks' cornerback Richard Sherman has been unmercifully condemned for an over-the-top, post-game TV interview.

Actually he should be commended. He's not a villain, but more like a pioneer. He took a bold detour into virgin territory. What did he do? He said what was on his mind, consequences be damned.

The way people are hating on him you'd think he was a combination of Darth Vader, Attila the Hun and Al Capone, with a touch of Hitler and Lucifer thrown in. All he did, following his sensational, game-saving tip of a pass intended for 49er receiver Michael Crabtree, was vigorously trash Crabtree and do some animated chest-thumping during a brief chat with Erin Andrews minutes after the play. Amped-up and sky-high he demeaned Crabtree as "sorry" and boisterously proclaimed himself the best corner on the planet--which he is. He looked ferocious while Andrews looked terrified.

Everyone expected the usual humble, gentlemanly chatter with Sherman praising the  49ers and Crabtree, stressing that it was a team victory and down-playing his super play. People wanted the same old "aw shucks," "gee whiz," politically correct, cliched line. But Sherman shocked the world by manically storming in the opposite direction, ranting and venting, saying exactly what was on his mind, something you never hear in post-game interviews.

In these interviews you never really believe what the player, coach or manager is saying. If they lost, they're truly pissed off. They're angry at whoever beat them. They may have been robbed by the refs and really want to curse about how they were ripped off. They may feel the opponent is inferior or hate some of the opposing players. But we never get to hear any of  real, post-game venom. We always get the cleaned-up, filtered, sanitized version.

But not this time.

Sherman treated us to something we had never seen, particularly after a game of that magnitude. He said screw being politically correct and screw taking the high road. It was ugly, too ugly for most people. What made it unsettling for many was that Sherman, an angry, dread-locked black man said this to a young, genteel white woman. The racial undertones were jarring

Back in the old days, some may say, Muhammad Ali routinely did what Sherman did on Sunday. Actually Ali didn't. His rants were similar but there was a comic feel to them. You sensed he was pulling your leg. There was nothing really scary about Ali's chatter. Sherman, though, was scary. He went to Stanford but in that post-game blast he wasn't the standard Stanford man. Sherman is from Compton. In that post-game interview he tapped into his Compton roots, turning into the angry black man.

You may hear that what you saw in that interview wasn't the real Sherman, that he's really a nice, gentle guy who's a real team player. That's not what I hear. According to my sources, Sherman is a real jerk, with anger issues. Many of his teammates, report the sources, don't like him. He's apparently a real egomaniac who sincerely believes he's the best and doesn't mind letting the world know it. Also, report the sources, he's a real trash-talker who gets under people's skin, who relishes making people mad.

Sherman got a kick out of dissing Crabtree because he doesn't like the 49er wide receiver. They have a history of hating each other. When it came time to talk about Crabtree on national TV, Sherman did none of the usual sugar-coating. He spoke his mind. It may have been ugly but it was honest. Give him credit for that.

The next day, Sherman apologized. But he apologized for taking attention away from the team. He didn't, however, apologize for the rant. Give him another plus for that..