Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone, here's my Top 5 for March 17, 2011 from Len Berman at ThatsSports.com.
1. Quick Hits
* We're down to 64 teams in the NCAA tournament. Last night, Texas-San Antonio beat Alabama State 70-61 and Virginia Commonwealth beat USC 59-46.
* The tournament begins for real today with 16 games. 16 more tomorrow.
* Atlanta Braves minor league manager Luis Salazar, who was hit in the face by a line drive while sitting in the dugout, has lost an eye.
* 1944 National League MVP, Cards shortstop Marty Marion, is dead at the age of 93.
* The NFL competition committee will recommend moving up the kickoff from the 30 to the 35 yard line. A touchback would be brought out to the 25, instead of the 20. It would be an effort to reduce injuries.
* Classy move by the Giants. Their fans won't have to pay their season ticket bills until the lockout ends. The NFL should make that a league-wide policy.
* President Obama picks Kansas to win the NCAA tournament. He was correct in 2009 with North Carolina, incorrect last year also with Kansas.
2. It's War
The NFL players get some of the sympathy vote because it's the owners who took action and locked them out. The players want to play. But they'll throw away all their good will if they screw around with the NFL draft. There's talk that they'll urge the big name draftees to avoid the NFL draft ceremony and perhaps attend an alternate event. Bad plan. These kids have waited for their moment in the sun and now their future work partners are going to strip it away? Not the definition of teamwork.
3. Part of the Game
As long as I've been a sportscaster, the debate over "violence in hockey" has raged. It's been ratcheted up lately because of the concussion issue in all sports, and the big hit by Zdeno Chara of Boston on Montreal's Max Pacioretty. Air Canada threatened to pull league sponsorship if the game isn't toned down. Check out this CNN story which I was a part of.
NHL general managers did not outlaw head hits this week, and if Air Canada doesn't follow through on its threat, then it'll be business as usual. And we'll still be debating this 40 years from now.
4. Stirring it Up
Subscriber David S. knew he was stirring things up yesterday when he wrote that there's little interest in the NCAA women's tournament, that all the coverage is due to political correctness.
*From Cliff B. "How many people would care about the men's NCAA tourney if there was no wagering?"
*Susan S. "Being a Husky fan, I love to watch the women's NCAA tournament. It is refreshing to see women achieve great things, without tattoos."
*Alicia S. "The women play harder and with more intensity. They don't tend to hog the ball or show off. They know how to pass the ball better and get better shots."
*From a different David S. "At least the participants are true student athletes. Players stay for 4 years and rivalries develop."
*Dwight P. "They should just have a 4-team tournament, invite UConn, Tennessee, Stanford and that year's upstart team, and eliminate the predictable parade getting there."
*And I'll leave the final word to David S. who started all this. "I believe strongly that the relatively frequent mention of the women's tournament in broadcast and print media is attributable to political correctness. Arena league football probably garners about the same TV ratings as the women's NCCA tourney, and I NEVER hear Arena league scores mentioned anywhere."
5. Popularity Contests
What a shock. A Siena college poll named Derek Jeter as New York's greatest athlete. They obviously polled people with the memories of an ant. The Babe is #1, and always will be. And in a USA Today poll, fans were asked to pick the greatest player in Syracuse University basketball history. I fully expected Carmelo Anthony to get the nod -- after all, he led them to their only championship. But surprise, surprise. Dave Bing leads in the balloting. That one too is a slam dunk. He put Syracuse basketball on the map in the 60's. There would be no Carmelo or Pearl Washington or Derrick Coleman without Bing. I was indeed fortunate to have broadcast his games when I was a student sportscaster at Syracuse. To borrow an old quote, "there weren't enough o's in smoooooth."
Happy Birthday: The greatest American women's soccer player of all time, Mia Hamm. 39.
Bonus Birthday: Actor Rob Lowe. 47.
Today in Sports: All hail the Cooz. In a tearful farewell, the great Bob Cousy (a former broadcast partner of mine) plays his last regular season home game with the Boston Celtics. 1963.
Bonus Event: St. Patrick died in Ireland. 461.
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