On Oct. 8 in only his third NHL game, Tomas Hertl, the 19-year-old rookie forward for San Jose, broke hockey. He destroyed the game he loves by scoring his fourth goal of the night against the poor, defenseless Rangers, an otherwise forgettable goal if it hadn’t ruined everything. It wasn’t so much that Hertl scored when the Sharks were leading 7-2 — although that was a mistake we can only hope he’ll never make again — but that he scored by pushing the puck back between his own legs, along with his stick, before he lifted it high into the net. There is no room in hockey for such a bloodless display of creativity and skill.
“I’m upset,” said Capitals coach Adam Oates, who selflessly took it upon himself to be mad on New York’s behalf. “Don’t disrespect the league.”
Oates knows that many other sports are more popular than hockey because they do a better job of making sure their participants abide by unwritten standards of behavior, otherwise referred to as “Codes.” These are not to be confused with the formal laws of each sport, known as “Rules,” except in basketball, which calls them “Suggestions.”
Perhaps no sport better demonstrates the importance of rigorous code enforcement than our beloved national pastime, supervised this season by Officer Brian McCann of the Atlanta Baseball PD. (McCann famously stood between Carlos Gomez and home plate after the Brewers star chirped during his home run trot; McCann also stood between us and anarchy that night.) Any perceived violation — daring to watch a ball you’ve hit really far, running the bases too slow or too fast, being Yasiel Puig — is met with swift justice, normally delivered by losing pitchers who won’t come up to bat again.
Most other sports have seen the benefit of such self-enforced conformity and followed suit. Although not as intricate as baseball’s spectacularly successful code — what other sport could have turned a blue-haired free spirit like Barry Zito into a married Christian? — the NBA’s system of peer review has achieved what was once thought impossible: Basketball players now actually compete to see who can dress like the biggest dork. Even lawless football has developed its unique brand of morality, saving its players from crippling brain injury by forbidding dangerous touchdown celebrations and lime-green shoes.
–Chris Jones, ESPN The Magazine
In Wednesday editions, the Contra Costa Times editorial board recommended that Cal athletic director Sandy Barbour “start looking for another job” if the football program’s atrocious graduation rates and academic scores don’t show marked improvement.
I’ll piggyback off that editorial with some thoughts on Barbour’s job performance . . .
In the past year, I have reported extensively on two big issues involving Cal athletics: The declining academic performance and the fragile state of Memorial Stadium financing.
While discussing the state of Cal athletics, I often get the same reaction from industry sources — people with a deep understanding of, and passion for, college sports. And that reaction is this:
My answer: It’s complicated.
The issues are complicated, which makes a fair, reasoned assessment of Barbour’s performance as athletic director somewhat difficult.
Is she wholly, partly or not-at-all to blame for the budget mess?
For the exorbitant cost of the facility upgrades and the flawed financing model behind the projects?
What about the humiliating graduation rates and Academic Progress Rate scores?
Barbour, who was hired in 2004, has detractors on campus and within the Cal athletic constituency at large, and I can’t help but think that adversely affects her ability to make positive change and significant progress.
–Jon Wilner, San Jose Mercury News
DeMarcus Cousins might be the exception to the old adage that “leaders are born, not made.”
As he enters his fourth NBA season, the enigmatic 23-year-old center of the Sacramento Kings is ready to take the reins and lead his team into a new era, leaving behind a past littered with frustration, losing and uncertainty.
“Honestly, I feel like I’ve wasted time,” Cousins told News10 during a lengthy sit-down interview just before the first game of the 2013-14 NBA season. “I mean, I hate the fact that it took everything that we went through to get to this, but I guess you can say, it makes it that much better.”
Since his first NBA season, the Kings haven’t won more than 28 games in a season. Overall, the franchise has suffered seven straight losing seasons.
The losing, which Cousins takes about as hard as any player in the league, coupled with the years of uncertainty about the franchise possibly relocating, took a toll on him and his team.
The Kings, previously owned by the Maloof family, agreed to a deal with a Seattle based ownership group last season. That group planned on moving the Kings away from Sacramento to the Emerald City.
But long before that, rumors of the team relocating to Anaheim, Virgina Beach and even Las Vegas, plagued the troubled franchise.
“It was tough to deal with it before because we really didn’t know where we were going,” Cousins said. “It was just another day at work. We didn’t know what was ahead.”
Cousins agreed with one player’s assessment of last season, who said it felt like the Kings weren’t really in the NBA.
“That is so true, we felt like an AAU team,” Cousins said. AAU stands for Amateur Athletic Union, which is one of the largest, non-profit, volunteer sports organizations in the United States.
–Sean Cunningham, News10 Sacramento