On Friday, July 8th, Major League Baseball players and fans will descend on Kansas City, Missouri, for All-Star Weekend. But what Bob Kendrick wants fans to remember are the Negro League baseball players like Buck O’Neil, who helped the Kansas City Monarchs rule the Negro Leagues for nearly five decades from the 1920s through the 1950s. The Kansas City Monarchs produced the great Satchel Paige and Jackie Robinson, before Robinson broke the color barrier in the Major Leagues. This history and more can be seen at the Negro Baseball League Museum (NLBM) in Kansas City, where Kendrick is president and the torch bearer for the institution.The legends of the NLBM and harbingers for many of the CC Sabathias and Matt Kemps (both supporters of the museum) of today. With NLBM’s vision to expand the organization and renovate the Paseo YMCA, where the Negro Baseball League was conceptualized, into the Buck O’Neil Education and Research Center, Kendrick is happy about the timeliness of the All-Star event being held in Kansas City, and sees it as an opportunity to ensure legends such as Josh Gibson, Oscar Charleston, and Cool Papa Bell are not obnubilated.BlackEnterprise.com spoke to Kendrick about the museum’s plans.What are you doing in preparation for this year’s All-Star weekend?Kendrick: We have a new featured exhibit titled “They Were All Stars,” which chronicles Negro League players that transitioned to the majors and subsequently became All Stars. This exhibit is free and open to the community, thanks to MLB and the Kansas City Royals’ partnership, helping everyone feel a part of the festivities even if they can’t afford to attend the game.Why is it important for people to support the NLBM?Kendrick: The reason it’s important is that these players should not only be celebrated for what they did in the face of adversity to play baseball, but also what they did for the advancement of American society. It’s a travesty that people can go through their education without knowing the story of the Negro leagues, but this museum was founded so that this history would not die with the last players.And how can they support?People can support through our licensing program, admissions, gift shop, membership, corporate partnership program, and our traveling exhibit. We anticipate reaping residual benefits from this special weekend.Source: Black Enterprise
Month: September 2019
The Los Angeles Lakers plan to unveil a state featuring Hall of Fame center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at some point this coming season, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday.A firm date for the honor has yet to be finalized.Abdul-Jabbar remains the NBA’s all-time leading scorer with 38,387 points. He won five of his NBA titles and three of his six league MVP trophies while with the Lakers. His prolific scoring and mastery of his famed skyhook have led many to call him the best center of all time.The Lakers have previously said they planned to unveil a statue of Abdul-Jabbar at some point, but only after first honoring Magic Johnson, Chick Hearn and Jerry West on Star Plaza at Staples Center.Abdul-Jabbar took the delay as a slight and criticized the team last year, saying its failure to do so sooner was a show of disrespect. He also bemoaned the fact the team did not award him any playoff shares and singled out his reduced role and pay as a special assistant coach for Andrew Bynum from 2005 to 2009. Abdul-Jabbar also mentioned how he often had to sit on the back of the plane during team trips.The Lakers have defended their timing, explaining that there is no set criteria for determining the order of statue inductions and that the other statutes associated with the team also have extensive resumes behind them.AEG, which owns Staple Center, plays a larger role in determining who is honored with a statue at the downtown venue and when it is done.The team attributed Abdul-Jabbar’s reduced pay to Bynum’s belief that he didn’t need as much personal instruction.Lakers head coaches, they also noted, have the authority to hire their own assistants, while the players are allowed to allocate their playoff shares as they see fit.In an interview with the Times last year, Lakers executive vice president Jeanie Buss indicated that honoring Abdul-Jabbar with a statue would be a “natural fit.”
QB Cam Newton and his Carolina Panthers teammates will be headed to Florida early next week to miss the Democratic National ConventionThe Carolina Panthers are hitting the road early next so as to avoid the chaos of the Democratic Convention coming to town.Final preparations are already underway at Bank of America Stadium, where President Obama will deliver his speech on Sept. 6 formally accepting his party nomination for re-election.Things figure to be more than a little chaotic, with generators being moved into place, wires strung everywhere and heavy volumes of security roaming every part of the facility.All this would be going on while the Panthers are trying to prepare for their season opener at Tampa Bay on Sept. 9.The obvious potential logistical nightmare is the reason the team has opted to head to Florida early, departing Tuesday to spend the next three days practicing at the IMG Academy in Bradenton before heading to Tampa for the game.“When we were talking about this in February, I don’t think we knew what it would be like if we stayed here,” general manager Marty Hurney told the Charlotte Observer. “From the football side, some of the things you worry the most about are the unknowns.“We felt like going [to Florida], we could go to someplace we know and we’d know the set-up, whereas we wouldn’t know what it would be like here.”Hurney, coach Ron Rivera, equipment manager Jackie Miles, trainer Ryan Vermillion and head of football operations Brandon Beane mapped out a plan to make the trip as similar to any other road game during the season.The IMG Academy offers plenty of practice space, as well as a spacious weight room to use. The Panthers will be based in a nearby hotel with ample meeting space to accommodate the various position meetings that normally take place for a home game.Team owner Jerry Richardson donated the use of Bank of America Stadium at no charge to the Democratic Convention and has said he would have done likewise for the Republican Party.Players sounded initially excited about the break from routine.
Perhaps no team has been harder hit by injuries than the Minnesota Timberwolves, who finally got some encouraging news with point guard Ricky Rubio’s and all-star big man Kevin Love’s return to practice.It’s still going to be a while before Rubio, who tore the ACL in his left knee last season, can join them in games. But just seeing him a little closer to a return is one of the first health positives this injury-plagued team has seen this season.Rubio has started to do some light 5-on-none work in practice for the Timberwolves, his first on-court work in the long, grueling rehabilitation process.Meanwhile, Love, who has yet to play this season because of a broken right hand, also joined in the instructional portions of practice on Sunday — a welcomed sight for a team that has played the last three games with just nine players.”Just having them five-on-(none) gives you a sense that when you get them back we’ll be pretty good,” coach Rick Adelman said after practice. ”We can’t wait for them. We have to go out there and play. But it gives us a sense.”Love is expected back at the start of December, while Rubio is hopeful to return to game action sometime in the middle of next month.Rubio was injured in a game against the Lakers on March 9. Losing him coincided with several other injuries to turn a promising season south in a hurry, and the bad luck has followed the Wolves into this season. Love broke his hand less than two weeks before opening night. Chase Budinger is out three to four months after having surgery on his left knee and Nikola Pekovic (sprained left ankle), J.J. Barea (sprained left foot) and Brandon Roy (sore right knee) have all suffered injuries.Roy will undergo arthoscopic surgery on his knee, which is an ominous sign for a player who retired two years ago because of knee injuries.
Now that Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry have been traded to Brooklyn Nets, one has to wonder if LeBron James and Miami Heat will be in trouble next year.All three of the players, who left the Boston Celtics, all have championship rings already, which may be a problem for the 4-time league MVP and the rest of the Eastern Conference next year.
March 17, 2019 Values range from 0 to 10, although they can exceed 10 in extreme cases.FiveThirtyEight’s Elo ratingsIf you’ve been a FiveThirtyEight reader for really any length of time, you probably know that we’re big fans of Elo ratings. We’ve introduced versions for the NBA and the NFL, among other sports. Using game data from ESPN, Sports-Reference.com and other sources, we’ve also calculated Elo ratings for men’s college basketball teams dating back to the 1950s and for women’s teams since 2001. Our Elo ratings are one of the six computer rating systems used in the pre-tournament rating for each men’s team and one of four systems for each women’s team.Our methodology for calculating these Elo ratings is very similar to the one we use for the NBA. Elo is a measure of a team’s strength that is based on game-by-game results. The information that Elo relies on to adjust a team’s rating after every game is relatively simple — including the final score and the location of the game. (As we noted earlier, college basketball teams perform significantly worse when they travel a long distance to play a game.)It also takes into account whether the game was played in the NCAA Tournament. We’ve found that historically, there are actually fewer upsets in the tournament than you’d expect from the difference in teams’ Elo ratings, perhaps because the games are played under better and fairer conditions in the tournament than in the regular season. Our Elo ratings account for this and weight tournament games slightly higher than regular-season ones.Because Elo is a running assessment of a team’s talent, at the beginning of each season, a team gets to keep its rating from the end of the previous one, except that we also revert it to the mean. The wrinkle here, compared with our NFL Elo ratings, is that we revert college basketball team ratings to the mean of the conference.While we make no guarantee that you’ll win your pool if you use our system, we think it’s done a pretty good job over the years. Hopefully, you’ll have fun using it to make your picks, and it will add to your enjoyment of both NCAA tournaments.Editor’s note: This article is adapted from previous articles about how our March Madness predictions work. Our men’s model is principally based on a composite of six computer power ratings:Ken Pomeroy’s ratingsJeff Sagarin’s “predictor” ratingsSonny Moore’s ratingsJoel Sokol’s LRMC ratingsESPN’s Basketball Power IndexFiveThirtyEight’s Elo ratings (described below)Each of these ratings has a strong track record in picking tournament games. We shouldn’t make too much of the differences among them: They are all based on the same basic information — wins and losses, strength of schedule, margin of victory — computed in slightly different ways. We use six systems instead of one, however, because each system has different features and bugs, and blending them helps to smooth out any rough edges. (Those rough edges matter because even small differences can compound over the course of a single-elimination tournament that requires six or seven games to win.)To produce a pre-tournament rating for each team, we combine those computer ratings with a couple of human rankings:The NCAA selection committee’s 68-team “S-curve”Preseason rankings from The Associated Press and the coachesThese rankings have some predictive power — if used in moderation. They make up one-fourth of the rating for each team; the computer systems are three-fourths.It’s not a typo, by the way, to say that we look at preseason rankings. The reason is that a 30- to 35-game regular season isn’t all that large a sample. Preseason rankings provide some estimate of each team’s underlying player and coaching talent. It’s a subjective estimate, but it nevertheless adds some value, based on our research. If a team wasn’t ranked in either the AP or coaches’ polls, we estimate its strength using the previous season’s final Sagarin rating, reverted to the mean.To arrive at our FiveThirtyEight power ratings, which are a measure of teams’ current strength on a neutral court and are displayed on our March Madness predictions interactive graphic, we make two adjustments to our pre-tournament ratings.The first is for injuries and player suspensions. We review injury reports and deduct points from teams that have key players out of the lineup. This process might sound arbitrary, but it isn’t: The adjustment is based on Sports-Reference.com’s win shares, which estimate the contribution of each player to his team’s record while also adjusting for a team’s strength of schedule. So our program won’t assume a player was a monster just because he was scoring 20 points a game against the likes of Abilene Christian and Austin Peay. The injury adjustment also works in reverse: We review every team to see which are healthier going into the tournament than they were during the regular season.The second adjustment takes place only once the tournament is underway. The FiveThirtyEight model gives a bonus to teams’ ratings as they win games, based on the score of each game and the quality of the opponent. A No. 12 seed that waltzes through its play-in game and then crushes a No. 5 seed may be much more dangerous than it initially appeared; our model accounts for this. On the flip side, a highly rated team that wins but looks wobbly against a lower seed often struggles in the next round, we’ve found.When we forecast individual games, we apply a third and final adjustment to our ratings, for travel distance. Are you not at your best when you fly in from LAX to take an 8 a.m. meeting in Boston? The same is true of college basketball players. In extreme cases (a team playing very near its campus or traveling across the country to play a game), the effect of travel can be tantamount to playing a home or road game, despite being on an ostensibly neutral court. This final adjustment gives us a team’s travel-adjusted power rating, which is then used to calculate its chance of winning that game.Women’s team ratings Model tweak The DetailsWe’ve been issuing probabilistic March Madness forecasts in some form since 2011, when FiveThirtyEight was just a couple of people writing for The New York Times. Initially, we focused on the men’s NCAA Tournament, publishing a table that gave each team’s probability of advancing deep (or not-so-deep) into the tournament. Over the years, we expanded to forecasting the women’s tournament as well. And since 2016, our forecasts have updated live, as games are played. Below are the details on each step that we take — including calculating power ratings for teams, win probabilities for each game and the chance that each remaining team will make it to any given stage of the bracket.Men’s team ratings ReferencesBrian Burke’s Excitement Index / DonBest injury report / ESPN’s BPI / Sports-Reference.comJeff Sagarin’s ratings / Joel Sokol’s LRMC ratings / Ken Massey’s ratings / Ken Pomeroy’s ratings / Sonny Moore’s ratings (men, women) Version History1.4 Added women’s Elo model and started adjusting excitement index for upsets.March 17, 20191.3 Added live win probabilities and men’s Elo model.March 13, 20161.2 Added women’s forecast.March 17, 20151.1 Started accounting for strength of schedule when making injury adjustments; started using reverted Sagarin ratings as preseason ratings.March 15, 20151.0 Forecast launched for the 2014 tournament.March 17, 2014 We calculate power ratings for the women’s tournament in much the same way as we do for the men’s. However, because of the relative lack of data for women’s college basketball — a persistent problem when it comes to women’s sports — the process has a few differences:Four of the six power ratings that we use for the men’s tournament aren’t available for women. But fortunately, two of them are: Sokol’s LRMC ratings and Moore’s ratings. We also use a third public system, the Massey Ratings, as well as a version of FiveThirtyEight’s Elo ratings that we’ve built for NCAA women’s basketball. The NCAA doesn’t publish 68-team S-curve data for the women. So we use the teams’ seeds instead, with the exception of the four No. 1 seeds, which the selection committee does list in order.For the women’s tournament, there isn’t much in the way of injury reports or advanced individual statistics, so we don’t include injury adjustments.Turning power ratings into a forecastOnce we have power ratings for every team, we need to turn them into a forecast — that is, the chance of every team reaching any round of the tournament.Most of our sports forecasts rely on Monte Carlo simulations, but March Madness is different; because the structure of the tournament is a single-elimination bracket, we’re able to directly calculate the chance of teams advancing to a given round.We calculate the chance of any team beating another with the following Elo-derived formula, which is based on the difference between the two teams’ travel-adjusted power ratings:1.01.0+10−travel_adjusted_power_rating_diff∗30.464/4001.01.0+10−travel_adjusted_power_rating_diff∗30.464/400Because a team needs to win only a single game to advance, this formula gives us the chance of a team reaching the next round in the bracket. The probability of a team reaching a future round in the bracket is based on a system of conditional probabilities. In other words, the chance of a team reaching a given round is the chance it reaches the previous round, multiplied by its chance of beating any possible opponent in the previous round, weighted by its likelihood of meeting each of those opponents.Live win probabilitiesWhile games are being played, our interactive graphic displays a box for each one that shows updating win probabilities for both teams, as well as the score and the time remaining. These probabilities are derived using logistic regression analysis, which lets us plug the current state of a game into a model to produce the probability that either team will win the game. Specifically, we used play-by-play data from the past five seasons of Division I NCAA basketball to fit a model that incorporates:Time remaining in the gameScore differencePregame win probabilitiesWhich team has possession, with a special adjustment if the team is shooting free throwsThe model doesn’t account for everything, however. If a key player has fouled out of a game, for example, the model doesn’t know, and his or her team’s win probability is probably a bit lower than what we have listed. There are also a few places where the model experiences momentary uncertainty: In the handful of seconds between the moment when a player is fouled and the free throws that follow, for example, we use the team’s average free-throw percentage to adjust its win probability. Still, these probabilities ought to do a reasonably good job of showing which games are competitive and which are essentially over.Also displayed in the box for each game is our “excitement index” (check out the lower-right corner) — that number also updates throughout a game and can give you a sense of when it’ll be most fun to tune in. Loosely based on Brian Burke’s NFL work, the index is a measure of how much each team’s chances of winning have changed over the course of the game.The calculation behind this feature is the average change in win probability per basket scored, weighted by the amount of time remaining in the game. This means that a basket made late in the game has more influence on a game’s excitement index than a basket made near the start of the game. We give additional weight to changes in win probability in overtime. We also add a bonus for games that spend a large proportion of their time with an upset on the horizon, weighted by how big the upset would be. Model CreatorJay Boice A computational journalist for FiveThirtyEight. | @jayboiceNate Silver Editor in chief. | @NateSilver538 March 17, 2019 Model tweak Related Articles2019 March Madness predictions2018 March Madness predictions2017 March Madness predictions2016 March Madness predictions2015 March Madness predictions2014 men’s NCAA tournament predictions
James Harden’s one weird trick: drawing contact on 3-point shots. In the video above, see just how much better Harden is than his competition at attracting whistles from beyond the arc.
OSU senior goalkeeper Chris Froschauer (32) prepares to kick the ball during a game against Cleveland State on Oct. 21 at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. OSU won 1-0. Credit: Christopher Slack / Lantern PhotographerChris Froschauer came into the first Ohio State men’s soccer spring practice prepared to command the defense with his boisterous voice. He kept his composure when his team started the season 1-4-2. His eight straight wins that followed the rough first half of the season proved that his chemistry with the backline is now on point.By the above accounts, one could conclude that Froschauer is a seasoned Buckeye — a veteran that climbed the OSU roster to become a starter his senior year. However, the senior goalie has only been a Buckeye for 16 games.After starting nearly 60 games for the Dayton Flyers men’s soccer team, where he compiled more than 200 saves, Froschauer decided to take a leap of faith about 80 miles east.“I figured if I wanted to take a chance somewhere else and do something, why not do it now,” Froschauer said. “I get to play college soccer one time, so I went for it.”The former three-year starting goalie for the Flyers hit a ceiling in Dayton. A greater challenge with higher rewards awaited him in Columbus, and the Buckeyes had recently lost perhaps the most heralded goalie in program history to graduation: Alex Ivanov.“He’s very loud,” junior forward Christian Soldat said of Froschauer. “He was one of those guys that right away (made) himself known.”The stars were aligned, but Froschauer had a small window for meshing with his new teammates on and off the field.“I think that he felt confident in his ability to come in and help us out, and we were confident in him as well,” senior midfielder Zach Mason said. “I think it was just something where it was a perfect fit.”Froschauer actually became acquainted with Mason the summer following his freshman year of college. Both him and redshirt junior midfielder Alex Ranalli were teammates of Froschauer’s on the Columbus Crew U-20 team.OSU was still foreign territory for him, but his beaming personality made the transition phase pass right by and his initiation into the tightly knit team swift.“If we were a family, I would say he’s our goofy brother; the one that keeps everyone loose, everyone laughing,” Mason said.The loose characterization was important during the Buckeyes’ four-game skid earlier this season. Following a fourth straight loss, a 2-1 defeat to Northwestern, the team became fed up.“After the Northwestern game we all kind of sat down together and decided that we didn’t want to do this anymore,” Froschauer said. “We wanted to turn our season around, which is what we’ve done.”And Froschauer was pivotal in that turnaround. A program-best eight-game winning streak was aided by the senior’s six clean sheets.Even when the team was struggling, Froschauer was still keeping calm. That trait has helped him save 54 goals while only allowing 15 this season. His communication skills have also led to victories fueled by teamwork, as evidenced by his conference-best seven shutouts.The backline was shaky at the beginning of the season, but Froschauer quickly got vocally accustomed to his teammates. His actions were instantly infectious.“He’s very vocal in the games and in practice, and he’s just a goofy kid,” Soldat said. “He’s always a happy guy, he’s always loud and he wants to be in the conversation.”The continually growing relationship between Froschauer and the defense is peaking at just the right time. The Big Ten tournament is set to commence in two weekends, and the Buckeyes will be fighting back for the No. 1 seed after losing the spot to Rutgers in their previous game.“We’ve definitely come to understand each other better; what my tendencies are, what their tendencies are,” Froschauer said.The four-year starter has been the perfect source for the team to gather momentum. Opponents are taking fewer shots on goal thanks to a firmer defense, and Froschauer is putting the offense in position to give the Buckeyes a victory in almost every outing.When questioned about his goalie’s greatest quality, Mason snapped back quickly: “His confidence.” It also happens to be spreading team-wide.“It really is contagious in the team,” Mason said. “I think if you have a confident goalkeeper that helps the defense be confident, midfields and all the way up to the forwards.”Froschauer is definitely making the most out of his bold decision to finish off his collegiate soccer career at OSU. His teammates have been channeling his positive attitude and will to win, and it is resulting in a climb up the standings.“He’s the voice from the back,” Mason said.Froschauer’s poise instills faith in his teammates. He has only known them for eight months.
The Ohio State football team sold only 7,500 tickets of the 12,750 it was allotted for the Gator Bowl on Jan. 2, in Jacksonville, Fla., but the Buckeyes weren’t the only Big Ten team that failed to sell its bowl-game ticket allotment. The Big Ten conference sent 10 football teams to the postseason in 2011-12 — more than any Football Bowl Subdivision conference in the country. However, the on-field achievements of the respective teams during the regular season weren’t necessarily backed by each schools’ supporters as only Purdue, Northwestern and Wisconsin sold out their ticket allotments for their respective bowls. Even OSU’s rival to the north was unable to sell out their ticket allotment to a Bowl Championship Series bowl. The Lantern contacted all 10 Big Ten athletic departments whose football teams participated in bowl games to compile ticket sale information, which each school provided. The Boilermakers sold 5,425 tickets after being given 5,000 for their appearance, and eventual victory, in the Little Caesars Bowl on Dec. 27., in Detroit, Mich. The Wildcats sold all 12,000 of the tickets it had to sell for its Dec. 31 appearance in the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Houston, Texas, and Wisconsin sold each of 24,848 tickets it was allotted for the Rose Bowl on Jan. 2., in Pasadena, Calif. Rich Scarcella, a sports writer for the Reading Eagle in Reading, Pa., and the longest-tenured Penn State football beat writer in the country, said he was surprised to hear about Northwestern’s turnout. “Wisconsin selling out — I think most teams going to the Rose Bowl are going to sell out. Purdue (fans) had a short drive to Detroit and they didn’t really have to sell that many tickets,” Scarcella said. “Northwestern’s the one that I can’t put my head around. I’m not sure what to make of that.” The Wildcats lost to Texas A&M, 33-22, at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas. Michigan claimed a 23-20 win against Virginia Tech on Jan. 3 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, La., but sold only 15,000 of the 17,500 tickets it had to offer its supporters for the Bowl Championship Series triumph. OSU football historian Jack Park told The Lantern that he was surprised the Wolverines did not exhaust their tickets for the game. “That’s very interesting,” Park said. “I would never have guessed that Michigan would not have sold their allotment.” Park said the lengthening of the college football bowl season could be to blame for the recent decline in ticket sales. “One thing that I think contributes to that a little bit … it used to be that games like (the Sugar Bowl) were always played on New Year’s Day. And the only exception would be … if New Year’s came on a Sunday and the game would be played on the Monday after, which was a holiday,” Park said. “So, people could go to those games. Students could go to those games and get back to campus for class.” The other seven Big Ten teams that competed in postseason play, including OSU, ran a deficit, combining to leave 28,350 tickets unsold. The Iowa Hawkeyes used “about 7,000” of the 11,000 tickets it was allotted for the Insight Bowl, which it played against Oklahoma in Tempe, Ariz., Iowa athletic ticket manager Pam Finke told The Lantern in an email. Illinois reported only 2,600 of the 8,000 tickets it was allocated for the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl on Dec. 31 in San Francisco, Calif., were sold. Penn State sold 4,200 tickets for the TicketCity Bowl against Houston in Dallas, Texas, leaving 1,800 unsold. Bud Meredith, director of ticket operations at PSU, pointed to the economic conditions as a possible explanation for poor ticket sales across the conference. “I would link all of it to the economy,” Meredith said. “Even our traveling tour groups were down this year.” Michigan State and Nebraska both played on the Monday holiday after New Year’s, but that didn’t help them sell their full allotment of tickets. The Spartans, which lost the Big Ten Football Championship Game to Wisconsin, 42-39, and posted an 11-3 overall record in 2011-12, sold only 6,500 of 11,500 tickets they were allotted for the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla. The Cornhuskers sold only 8,100 of 12,500 tickets for the Capital One Bowl in Orlanda, Fla. “Those two teams especially, that surprised me,” Scarcella said of the Spartans’ and Cornhuskers’ unsold tickets. “Nebraska hasn’t played a bowl game in Florida in a number of years and Michigan State had such a good season that you would think that (their fans) would travel.” Scarcella said the strength of the Big Ten has no relationship to the seats left vacant at bowl games. He pointed to the poor economy and the number of bowl games as the reason for disinterest. “I don’t know if you can paint a brush over every number,” Scarcella said. “I think some of those numbers were probably expected. A lot of the numbers are down for most bowl games, not just in the Big Ten. The market is oversaturated, the economy is not great and unless people have a compelling reason to travel to a game between Christmas and New Year’s, they aren’t going to.” Park agreed. “There’s so many teams in the bowl games now,” he said. “And how many times do we see interim coaches coaching the games because the top coach has either been fired or has left for another job? Things have changed quite a bit. The Big Ten did not immediately respond to The Lantern‘s request for comment regarding member universities’ unsold bowl tickets.
Big Ten football fans, rejoice! Conference play has arrived and you are on the road to avoiding more national scrutiny about the quality of the league. You know the criticism of which I speak. It’s been a seemingly never-ending cascade of disparagement regarding Big Ten football, how much it has fallen off, etc. Everyone must agree the Big Ten endured a forgettable non-conference portion of the 2012 season, which included: – Then-No. 8-ranked Michigan’s 41-14 loss to then-No. 2-ranked Alabama on Sept. 1 – Penn State’s 24-14 loss to Ohio on Sept. 1 – All three losses to Notre Dame by Purdue, Michigan and Michigan State – Iowa’s 32-31 loss to Central Michigan – Too many other really bad games See, the problem with these non-conference matchups is they provide context. When Alabama trounces Michigan by 27 points, America, and particularly Southeastern Conference fans and media, can begin to quantify the gulf in talent between the SEC’s best and the Big Ten’s perceived best. When Mid-American Conference teams barge into Big Ten country and smack Iowa and Penn State around, that provides even more quantifiable evidence of the Big Ten’s perceived inferiority. Now, those loses and the kind of context they provide is nice for others’ banter and formulating others’ opinions about the quality (or lack of quality) of the Big Ten. It’s really just a bother for the fans and media of Big Ten, though. It’s bothersome, like a gnat or a cramp in your leg after a nice jog. Mercifully, the non-conference schedule is over. Big Ten teams can now beat the crap out of each other and the comparisons will still come at the conference from every direction, but those comparisons will lack the inter-conference context. Heck, Ohio State football could run the table or Wisconsin or Nebraska could end the regular season with one loss. And we’ll know it’s all hollow, but no one else will. You’ve heard the old saying that it’s safer to travel in groups. Well, the Big Ten will proceed in 2012 as a single, self-contained unit in conference play. No outside interferences like Alabama, no context-seeking MAC schools. It’s just us – the Legends and Leaders divisions. Now, it’s all about the dusty, old trophies, the ever-so-fragile reputations of the programs and all the new coaches at Big Ten schools and the, er, improvements they’ve made. Boy, is it ever nice to be back into Big Ten play, and just in time too. Another week of losses perceived to be embarrassing by those wacky pundits and they might write this conference off altogether. Safe and sound in conference play. Whew.