Athletes: A sporting life

Listen to this article

UCLA HOOPS:  Okay, so maybe Kobe Bryant as their next head coach is not the answer to what ails UCLA’s men’s basketball program as I have suggested.  Still, can anyone say the program is in better shape today with Steve Alford running it the last three years? What does it take to get fired from that gig? No NCAA tournament bid? Check. A losing record? Check. Three losses in one season to cross town rival USC? Check. If UCLA does not find a new coach for next season, they will be lucky to secure a CIF Southern Section High School bid.

Brock is Smart: Now that the Denver Broncos are without a decent quarterback, or a crummy Peyton Manning, since Brock Osweiler turned down a three year 45 million dollar offer to lead the defending champions, it should be noted just how smart Osweiler is. First, he secured a four year deal with the Houston Texans for $72 million plus he was smart enough to realize there was only one direction the Broncos could go after winning Super Bowl 50. There is no way Denver’s defense will be as dominant next year as they were this year which will only add more pressure on whoever their quarterback is to play lights out. Denver will drop off next year and become a mortal team that should be happy to win ten games and make the playoffs. Who wants to be the quarterback who is blamed for all this? Meanwhile, Houston is a team that has been stuck in mediocrity despite having a Denver-like defense. Osweiler knows he can be a hero if he quarterbacks the team to a deep playoff run, something many experts think is possible.

Say It Ain’t So Maria: So Maria Sharapova fails a drug test. The first thing many people thought was how is this possible when she is built more like a model tha weight lifter? Not all athletes who use banned substances, whether deliberately or by accident (why is it always an accident when the athlete explains it?), are seeking to get stronger. It is believed that at least a quarter of all Olympic athletes are diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma and are allowed to use an inhaler. It is possible for a fit athlete like Sharapova to have a family history of a medical problem and be prescribed something for it. However, there is no excuse for ignorance of what is and is not a banned substance. All any athlete has to do is see any of a number of doctors who WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) recommends and they will see to it that no errors are made. But when an athlete claims ignorance as her ranking tails off you have to question whether or not she cheated. And when that athlete comes from a nation known for it’s poor testing practices, it’s normal to question the athlete. Maybe Maria was ignorant but there will always be a cloud that hangs over her career now that she has been busted.

Free Agency: This is the time of year NFL fantasy football fans (AKA people who need to get a life) love because they get to watch where free agents sign. In most cases, the player is doing nothing more than chasing a paycheck. Football is a sport where players thrive under a system that fits their skill set. Notice how a player like DeMarco Murray goes from being mentioned as a Hall of Famer to a goat in one season simply by chasing the highest paycheck he could find? I don’t blame these guys for doing this since an NFL career is short and bound to leave one crippled. However, there is a reason the greats of the game are associated with one team and that has to do with the system and consistency of coaching they receive. Just ask Alex Smith. H’s a decent quarterback now that he plays in a system that fits his talent well. However, with San Francisco, he had a different offensive coordinator every year along with multiple head coaches. No one can thrive in that environment.

Spring Classics: No, not baseball. I am talking about bicycle racing in Europe. Watching 200 cyclists navigate their way over roads paved with cobble stones, dirt, or smooth pavement that take them over mountains so steep you can practically reach out in front of you and touch the road, then descend at speeds of over 60 miles an hour while trying not to hit the throngs of spectators who line the roads while balancing on a carbon-framed bike that weighs all of 15 pounds is exciting to witness. And when when a rider like Fabian Cancellara wins his third Strade Bianche race just a season after he broke his back on two different occasions, it makes you realize athletic greatness comes in many forms.

Los Angeles Dodgers pitchers at Spring Training, led by Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw (Claudia Gestro)
Los Angeles Dodgers pitchers at Spring Training, led by Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw (Claudia Gestro)

Golden Greatness: The Golden State Warriors are more than the Steph Curry show. Yes, they lost recently to the L.A. Lakers, but what are the odds of any team beating them four times in a best of seven games series when they have the talent and work ethic they possess? I’d say about the same odds as the Lakers beating them once. It could happen, but don’t count on it.

Baseball a Sport? When a sport has a season as long as Major League Baseball has and with as many games, I wonder if it is a sport or just an activity? I especially wonder this when just about every team will enter the season with at least one pitcher who is hoping to find his form as the season unfolds despite half the roster being pitchers. In other words, a team is willing to sacrifice every fifth game for  a season while they wait to see if a pitcher rounds into shape. Can you see an NBA team sacrificing 16 games while they hope a starter rounds into shape? Do you think an NFL team would sacrifice two games and hope a starter rounds into shape? Only baseball teams are willing to sacrifice 32 games a year hoping to find a player to pitch every fifth day. Am I the only one who would rather see teams play 150 games and go with a four man rotation and play one less game a week? Then again, most teams can’t find a decent fourth starting pitcher let alone a fifth one.

Top photo: Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors (Claudia Gestro)