Here's the obligatory "random thoughts" post:
--UW-Milwaukee coach Bruce Pearl was really entertaining this morning, I thought. The guy's a great coach. I think his Panthers have a decent shot against Alabama on Thursday, simply because Pearl coaches a lot like his mentor, Dr. Tom Davis of Iowa (Pearl was an Iowa assistant for 6 years)--Davis' style is pressing D and lots of substitutions, to keep the team fresh at the end of the game. It works. Incidentally, if you heard the interview, you heard Shane Battier pick UW-Milwaukee as his upset special in the 1st round of the tourney. That happened last night when I was in the Grizzlies locker room--he reeled off all that info about UWM without any kind of notes or papers; the guy just knew it. He takes his brackets VERY seriously.
--As a side note, what do you suppose the entry fee is for the Grizzlies' NCAA pool?
--We also talked at length this morning about whether or not Darius Washington was showboating at the end of the Memphis/Louisville game. After making the first free throw, Darius turned to the Tiger bench, winked, and said, "It's over." Then, of course, he missed the next two free throws. Michael Wilbon of Pardon the Interruption was apparently ripping Darius yesterday for taunting, and I've heard several people locally say something similar. They are wrong. First of all, turning to your bench and winking does not qualify as taunting, showboating, or anything of that sort--it's a display of confidence by a kid who needs to have a ton of it. Would you want someone who isn't confident taking three potentially game-winning free throws? As far as Darius pounding his chest and flipping his jersey out after a big play--he's done that all year long. Where the hell have you been? His "showboating" has been done by thousands of players in dozens of different sports for years and years. He's an emotional player--take that away from him, and you take away a lot of his effectiveness. Get off his back.
--Classy move by Elliot Perry, Tony Madlock, John Wilfong, and Antonio Burks to write a letter to Darius in today's Commercial Appeal. Those guys understand more than anyone else what he's going through, and I hope Darius will take their comments to heart.
--Uh oh, Bud Selig. Bud's going to have to testify Thursday before the House Government Reform Committee, the group involved in the congressional steroid hearings. Trouble's a brewin' for Mr. Selig. I hope he'll have to explain why, in the face of rising power numbers, expanding chest and arm sizes, and whispers all around MLB, he chose to do nothing for a decade. I hope he'll talk about how, when he finally did put in a testing policy, it was so impotent as to be laughable. I hope he'll discuss how it took the leaking of Jason Giambi's grand jury testimony in the BALCO case to get him to expand the scope and punishments in MLB steroid testing. If you've watched Bud's public comments, he looks like an increasingly desperate man who is slowly losing his grip on his sport.
--Incidentally, while there may be some grandstanding involved in this Committee's decision to investigate this matter, and subpoena the names they have, Congress has every right to call for this investigation. Baseball receives a special antitrust exemption from the government that has helped limit teams moving from city to city as they have in other leagues. To show you the esteem in which baseball is held by not just Congress, but the courts, here's a quote from Judge Irving Ben Cooper, who ruled in the historic 1972 Curt Flood case involving baseball free agency:
Baseball's status in the life of the nation is so pervasive that it would not strain credulity to say the Court can take judicial notice that baseball is everybody's business. To put it mildly and with restraint, it would be unfortunate indeed if a fine sport and profession, which brings surcease from daily travail and an escape from the ordinary to most inhabitants of this land, were to suffer in the least because of undue concentration by any one or any group on commercial and profit considerations. The game is on higher ground; it behooves every one to keep it there.
Baseball is different than other sports. That's why Congress can and will get involved.
--As for the players that have been subpoenaed, three are trying to escape the subpoena. Jason Giambi's people say he can't testify because he's involved in the BALCO case, which is still ongoing. OK, I buy that. Rafael Palmeiro's people say he can't testify because "to require him to come to answer baseless charges is unfair". Eh, all right, I guess that's somewhat reasonable. Frank Thomas' people say the Big Hurt can't come because going to the hearings in Washington "could have adverse circulatory effects that could substantially impede Mr. Thomas' recovery [from ankle surgery]". Um, no. Worst excuse ever. Frank, at least give me something decent, like Raffy did--tell me you've got an ad to film, you've got to read to children at the Chicago Library, something, anything, just not this ankle surgery nonsense.
--Mark Prior's elbow is inflammed? Kerry Wood's got "shoulder tightness"? This season may already be over for the Cubs. It's March, fellas, and those are not good signs for your #1 and #3 pitchers (Carlos Zambrano's ahead of Wood). I guess Zambrano needs to get ready for a 250 inning season, then. His arm may fall off by August.
--The UMass coaching situation bears watching. Steve Lappas is out (because he was terrible), and a few names have emerged as his replacement, among them Bobby Gonzalez of Manhattan, as well as Tony Barbee and Derek Kellogg, two University of Memphis assistant coaches (another name of note is the coach at Northeastern Ron Everhart, whose team plays Memphis tomorrow night--I guess that's kind of coincidental). Even more intriguing is the fact that there are apparently two factions involved in choosing the new coach--Rick Pitino's faction (who want Gonzalez), and John Calipari's faction (Barbee/Kellogg). If Barbee or Kellogg leave, they would become the second Tiger assistant to leave for a head coaching position (the first being Steve Roccaforte, who left a couple of years back to coach at Lamar). Keep an eye on Amherst in the next week or so.
--If Memphis beats Northeastern (and they will) in the NIT tomorrow, and Temple beats Virginia Tech tonight (not as likely), then we'll get Calipari vs. his old pal John Chaney in the second round.