Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Monday, July 14, 2014

Monday Grab Bag: The return of the worst week in sports

Welcome, once again, to the worst week in sports.  The Major League Baseball All-Star game, annually, announces itself as deserving of an entire week of focus, and then proceeds to bore the nation to tears through a glorified round of batting practice and a main event no more important than a random spring training game.  Even for me, a devout follower of the religion of baseball, this week is impossibly difficult to get through.

The question that I've been hearing more and more over the past few years is "how do we fix it?"  You can't, stop trying.  The reasons behind the existence of this non-event were: 1) to create a new source of revenue for the league during the Depression, which eventually evolved into 2) provide a showcase for out-of-town stars that fans rarely got to see.  80 years later, baseball no longer needs the revenue, and fans can see out-of-town stars whenever they want, thanks to nationalized television packages.  There's no longer a point. Just name a team, hand out some bonus checks, and keep the season moving.

But, that's too logical and forward thinking for baseball, so expect them continue to wring the stone in search of water.  Meanwhile, more and more fans of the game will stop watching, and the sport's infrastructure will become more and more irrelevant. *sigh*  Baseball, as always, is timeless to a fault.


Today in the bag, I'm talking the conclusion of the World Cup, NBA free agency, and fundraising at CU.

Click below for the bag...

Germany claims top honors at the 2014 World Cup - 

One of the better World Cups of my lifetime came to a close Sunday afternoon, as Germany outlasted Argentina in extra time to earn their fourth dance with FIFA's ultimate prize.

Both teams had their opportunities early - Argentina moreso than Germany - but the world's most sought-after hardware would only be claimed after an extra 30 minutes of action, as neither team could score in regulation. Finally, Germany's Mario Götze slotted home a cross from winger André Schürrle in the 113th minute.  The late goal was essentially unanswerable, and ze Germans celebrated their 1-0 victory and ascension to the heights of soccer glory.
A stunning end to an overall fantastic World Cup.
It was a deserved win.  Germany was easily the best side in the tournament once the knockout stages began. While I would've reveled in triumphs from a few other teams (Colombia, especially), die Mannschaft earned the trophy, so you'll hear no complaints from me.

But, taking a step back from the Sunday celebration in Rio, I'm left with a hollow feeling at the close of the World Cup.  To me, this tournament was a strong starter, but a poor finisher.  The group stage was probably the best ever, and the first round of knockout play was just as good.  The problem quickly developed, however, that, as the tournament progressed, the survivors were less and less likely to take risks, and the goal count, which had been promising, plummeted quickly.  Now, please, don't lump me in with the ignorant who see absolutely no value in a 0-0 draw - Mexico/Brazil was one of my top three games from the 20th Cup, after all. Still, the later stages of this tournament would've done themselves such a favor to have produced some actual scoring.  Outside of games involving the imploding Brazilians, the final three rounds of play produced a total of three goals in five games.  Good games, but hardly the stuff of highlight reels.

Regardless, this was a fantastic tournament, one that restates that soccer stands alone atop the pinnacle of international sport - nothing else even comes close.  But, for those of you now jonesing for more soccer, don't think you have to wait a full four years to get your footy fix.  MLS is currently in action, European club play starts up again in another month, and we're only two years away from Copa America, which, for the first time ever, is taking place here in the good ole USA.  Stay with this sport, as, I promise, it always lives up to the hype.

On LeBron, Mello, and NBA free agency - 

Speaking of summer sporting culture that actually lives up to the hype, NBA Free Agency came in like a lion this year, dominating the back pages of newspapers from coast to coast as basketball's best decided where they'd play in 2014-15.  Even for yours truly, who abhors the cult of personality culture that ESPN has created around the NBA, I found the past few weeks of FA gossip undeniably entertaining.

This big news was, of course, LeBron James 'coming home' to the franchise he once spurned in the pursuit of a ring.  In one of those instances where a friend's fanaticism comes to embody an entire fanbase, I immediately thought of the great @TZiskBuff when the news hit the wire.  I've never met a man more dedicated to Cleveland sports generally, and the Cavaliers specifically, and I couldn't be happier that he gets to watch the world's best play for his beloved Cavs once again.  Beyond that, I'm also happy that this closes the book on one of the more contentious periods of sporting culture.  LeBron seemed to stand as a referendum for basketball fans in recent years - you could either see past 'the Decision,' or you couldn't - and the whole experience clouded our appreciation of some truly special basketball.  With 'the King' back on his throne, we can all get back to business as usual.
Oh, really, I hadn't heard...
Don't feel too bad for the Heat, however.  They're keeping both Dwyane Wade (probably) and Chris Bosh (definitely) in house, and adding Luol Deng.  Certainly not as good as they've been the bast few years, but that's still a dangerous team, and one capable of defending the East crown.

Following closely on Lebron's heels, Carmelo Anthony decided to take the money and stay with the Knicks. Was there ever a doubt?  Anthony has never been the sort to supplicate himself for the pursuit of a championship (unlike LeBron), and the lure of max money and a friendly media market all to himself was never going to be passed up.  To that end, I never once thought My Bulls ever really had a chance at signing the NBA superstar, which saved me quite a lot of pain and effort over the past few weeks. At least we got Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic; not too shabby of a backup plan, if you ask me.
Melo stays in New York, and the basketball world shrugs.
Even with all these mega-deals, there's still work to be done.  There's the Kevin Love mess still to sort out, with the winner of his services, presumably, becoming the Eastern Conference front-runner.  In addition, the Houston Rockets, who lost out on Bosh, are seemingly desperate for an addition right now, even after landing Trevor Ariza.  Add to that the normal swath of second- and third-tier free agents signing over the next few weeks, and the NBA remains the league with the most interesting offseason in America.

Fundraising update - 

Fresh off of the annual Fred Casotti Classic golf tournament, CU AD Rick George sat down with the assembled media and passed along some fantastic news - CU Athletics is finally going to hit their fundraising goal for the ongoing 'Sustainable Excellence Initiative' (aka, the Folsom expansion project).

It seems that a private donor is on board, and will soon submit a gift that will push the initiative over the $47+ million mark that the Board of Regents stipulated when the project was approved (albeit, with a target of this past May...).  While that total is only about one-third of the cost of the project, and CU will still need to take on debt to finance the rest of the construction, it's still a note worth celebrating.  This is a sign of healing. Never before has the CU Athletic Department raised as much money as they have for the SEI, and that achievement speaks to the overall success the Rick George has enjoyed since stepping onto campus last year.
Rick George, looking magisterial.  From: the Post
As if that news in and of itself wasn't enough, George also passed along that the projected Athletics budget for the coming year is balanced, and that a few lucky breaks could mean that Colorado finishes in the black for the first time in years.  I may not be the biggest fan of George's convenient overlooking of the basketball program in his publicly announced plans, but I can't argue with the results he has brought to the table.  CU is raising more money, and spending it more effectively, than it has in the past.  So far so good at Dal Ward.

Happy Monday!

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