Friday, June 20, 2003

Tuesday Morning Quarterback

He's Gregg Easterbrook, serious policy wonk and serious pro football fan. His column over on ESPN is must reading during the football season and is an oasis when he writes it during the dog days of spring and early summer.

This week touches on two really interesting subjects

those NBA players who go out of their way to cultivate a negative appearance get treated negatively by the officials. Since the thug look came in a decade or so ago, who's been winning NBA titles? Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, Shaq, Hakeem Olajuwan, David Robinson, Michael Jordan ... all clean-cut, normal-armed, winning-smile guys you'd want your daughter to marry. Who's been frustrated in the finals? Kenyon Martin, Allen Iverson and the rest of the scowling, Illustrated-Man me-bad crew.

I think he goes too far in implying that the championship is determined by officials's reaction to a players appearance. Three other factors could also be at work. 1. Players who cultivate a thuggish appearance also play like thugs. 2. The flamboyantly thuggish players are narcissistic and hence poor team players. In the finals great team play can beat great individual stars (see Portland vs 76ers in 1977 or Boston versus the Lakers during the Wilt/West era). 3. The flashy thugs, whatever their natural gifts, are less coachable and never develop into truly great players like a Duncan or O'Neil.

Have i ever mentioned how much i hated Bill Walton in 1977?

He also states

One of the reasons many coaches prefer college to the pros is that, at the big-time schools at least, it's hard to fail. The built-in recruiting advantage at the big-time schools all but assures a winning season for most major football or men's basketball programs, while the East Carolinas sprinkled into the schedule assure every season will contain at least a few huge-margin victories. Basically, an orangutan could coach a football-factory or basketball-factory university to a .500 season, explaining why so many big-school collegiate coaches are entrenched for long periods. You've got to be a special kind of screw-up to lose a big-school coaching job.

On this he gets it completely wrong. You don't get to keep you job at Ohio State or Alabama by consistently going 6-5 with the occasional 7-4 season. Ohio State fans expect you to beat Michigan and always challenge for the Big 10 title. Fail for a couple of years and you are toast (ask Earle Bruce and John Cooper). The same holds true at most of the big-time football schools. The bar is set much higher than .500.

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