Tuesday, June 15, 2010


NEWS— Nebraska joins the Big 10, Colorado jumps to the PAC 10, other conference changes are predicted.

VIEWS—The tectonic plates of college sports are shifting again, promising a thoroughgoing change in the landscape. With Nebraska’s addition, the erstwhile Big 10 now has 12 teams, and could add more. Ditto for the PAC 10, which besides Colorado might expand further in the days ahead. The SEC also could grow, while the Big 12, the former domicile of the Huskers and Buffs, seems destined for the dust bin of history.

What’s up? Jim Delaney, the Big 10 commish, got off a good one when he said his league’s marriage with Nebraska was all about their shared “culture and values.” That’s like a guy saying he hooked up with Miss Universe because they both enjoy Bach. The addition increases the Big 10’s size to 12 schools, the threshold at which the NCAA permits a conference to split into divisions and stage a post-season football championship game. That’ll give member schools another big pay day at the gate plus whatever comes from the sale of TV rights to the event. Ditto again for the PAC-10.

Also—but not incidentally—expansion increases the range of the Big 10’s very own, round-the-clock TV sports network, which it launched in 2008. It’s been a bonanza for the conference’s members, adding a reported $20 million a year to the athletic-department coffers of each. That hasn’t escaped the notice of the other college major leagues—and, maybe, Texas all by itself--who are looking to also get into the TV business directly. That’s entertainment!

Will the jock-meisters cut in their English Department colleagues? Not likely. Big-time college sports always have been about sports, not college, and the trend only goes in one direction.

And a thought: At this writing the Big 10 has 12 members and the Big 12 has 10. Shouldn’t they switch names?

NEWS—Ben “Who, me?” Roethlisberger, quarterback and playboy, promises to change his ways.

VIEWS-- Big Ben’s so-called social life has twice earned headlines in the past couple of years, once resulting in a civil suit for sexual assault by a woman who worked in a Lake Tahoe hotel where he’d stayed, and more lately in a criminal rape investigation based on the complaint of a college student after her encounter with the footballer in a small-town Georgia bar. No indictment was brought in Georgia, and both women ultimately withdrew their charges, but we’re free to draw our own conclusions about why.

Anyway, Ben last week gave a brief press conference at the training center of his employer, the Pittsburgh Steelers, and while admitting to nothing said the fusses caused him to ponder his ways. He declared: “I’ve put a lot of thought into my life, the decisions I’ve made in the past. I’m evaluating what I need to do and be smarter when it comes to certain things.”

That’s cant at its best, or worst. A bad decision is what I made last week by fishing on the Wisconsin-Michigan border, freezing my butt and other parts in the rainy, 50-degree weather that can happen Way Up North in early June. Decisions that lead to rape charges are of an entirely different order. Ben’s moral compass—if he ever had one-- is broken. Nothing short of a year or so in the wilderness, complete with sack cloth, fasting and self-flagellation, seems apt to smarten him up.

NEWS—Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup!

VIEWS-- Normally I root for any team with the name “Chicago” on its jerseys, but I’ve long made an exception for the Blackhawks. That wasn’t always the case; I used to be a fan, and in the late 1960s and early ‘70s had a piece of a season ticket for their games. But that introduced me to Arthur Wirtz, the team’s greedy owner, and his yearly price increases on everything in or around its Chicago Stadium home made me spit out the tix.

When Wirtz let Bobby Hull, Chicago’s greatest-ever hockey star, jump to a new league rather than pay him a salary that quickly proved to be a pittance ($100,000 a year), I swore off the team for good. Later, when the National Hockey League turned its game into a punch line by winking at on-ice brawling, I said good riddance to the entire sport. As a columnist, I wrote about the NHL only to mock it and remark about how it had fallen while its seasonal rival, the NBA, flourished.

Wirtz died in 1983 and was succeeded by his son Bill, who was both greedy and dumb. Nicknamed “The Commodore” for his yachting interests, Bill let the team run down while finding new ways to alienate its fans. By the time he exited in 2007, the franchise was pretty much moribund.

Then Bill’s son Rocky took over. Maybe he’s really someone else’s son because he turned things around promptly, and this year’s Stanley Cup run resulted. I paid little attention to it until the playoffs, but once back in I became hooked and was quite pleased at the Hawks’ triumph. Still, when I hear that they now will win lots of Cups because their stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are only 22 and 21 years old, respectively, I recall that Hull was 22 and his brilliant co-star Stan Mikita was 20 when the team last won the trophy in 1961, and they never got to hoist it again.

NEWS—World Cup gets underway.

VIEWS—It’s mostly been fine so far, with tight (albeit low-scoring) games and excellent TV coverage on ESPN and ABC. But what’s with those plastic horns the South Africans continuously blow? The games sound like they’re taking place in a hornets’ nest. Enough, already.

And I hope you noticed that son Michael correctly predicted the U.S.- England tie. That’s my boy!


Mike Levy said...

Just wanted to congratulate you and the Hawks on their Stanley Cup victory over my Flyers. They were truly the better team strategically and physically, though the Flyers tried. The Hawks deserved winning the Cup. Their style of play was great.

The World Cup is great! I'm enjoying the games so far. Very pleased to see the US draw against England. I guess that's a win win for me, but certainly a big ego builder (and rightfully so) for the US.

Watched Ivory Coast v. Portugal today. Portugal was disappointing. Rinaldo...dive baby, dive, as expected. A real drama queen who wears wing mirrors on his shoulders to make sure his hair isn't out of place (OK, I know I've got hair envy). I expected more from the Portuguese.

Seems like there are a lot of draws, but that will soon change. Lots of parrying at the moment. Testing team strengths. No decisive conclusions to be drawn at this time.

The world still looks to Brazil, who without taking a shot at goal remain a perennial contender for the Cup.

Mike Klein said...

My Group D=Death prediction is looking prescient, with Serbia besting Germany... I think Australia's much weaker than in 2006, but Ghana will have something to say.

Am delighted I was wrong about the Slovenia-US result, but the upshot is the same--an all-or-nothing match against Algeria that will be of biblical--or perhaps Koranic--proportions.