17 December 2010

UConn Women Not Rivaling UCLA's Streak

(From RealClearSports)

The UConn women’s basketball team isn’t going to top UCLA’s 88-game winning streak.

The Huskies can beat Ohio State on Sunday, Florida State on Tuesday and then win their next 100 games for all I care, but John Wooden’s Bruins will still own the longest winning streak in history.

The longest winning streak in men’s basketball history, that is.

UConn will have the longest winning streak in women’s basketball. And before you get your PC undergarment all twisted up in a knot, let’s just make one thing clear: There isn’t such a thing as a record for all of college basketball. It’s either a men’s record or a women’s, and never the twain shall meet.

Comparing men’s and women’s basketball isn’t like apples and oranges. It’s more like apples and meat loaf.

Would you say Brett Favre’s 297-game consecutive starts streak is an all-time record for all oblong balls sports, obliterating every record from rugby to Australian Rules Football? Of course not, that would be silly.

So why would you insist on merging records of two sports that use different sizes of balls, different timing rules and different measurements within the courts?

Besides that, men’s and women’s basketball have no common lineage or connection; it’s not as if the sports at some point intermingle with each other. Every NBA player at some point of his life played boys' high school basketball, and most of them played men’s college basketball. Exactly zero has ever played girls' basketball or women’s basketball. (And the reverse is true as well: no WNBA player has ever played men’s basketball.)

This is not to diminish what Geno Auriemma and his Huskies have done, far from it. In fact, they should be celebrated for their prolonged excellence. Achieving a winning streak of this length is hard to do in any sport. They deserve every bit of adulation and admiration that are bestowed upon them.

And let’s not marginalize their accomplishment by disparaging their competition. Yes, it’s true that there are very few elite teams in women’s basketball, since most schools field women’s teams out of compliance for Title IX more than anything else. But the Huskies can only beat what’s on their schedule. It’s not their fault if their opponents are not typically up to snuff and tend to get rolled.

UConn’s women already own the women’s college basketball streak when they won their 71st consecutive game last March, against Notre Dame. Now they’re adding onto that streak, which should easily reach triple digits.

The fact that the UCLA streak is even in conversation is a disservice to the UConn women. It only draws unfair comparisons between two squads that are not even on the same planet. Fine, if these two teams played each other 88 times, Bill Walton’s Bruins would beat Maya Moore’s Huskies 88 times by at least 30 points each. But that is totally senseless so why even go there?

Why can’t we see what UConn is doing for its own sake? The Huskies are going for their third straight NCAA championship, eighth in the program’s history. Geno will get a chance to finally tie his archrival Pat Summitt for most titles of all-time – in women’s basketball. Those are the records they're chasing after, nothing more and nothing less.

Please leave the four-letter word out of it.

29 September 2010

The Shocking Discovery of Media Bias

About a decade ago, while attending graduate school and serving as a teaching assistant, I was asked to deliver a lecture to about 400 students. I happily obliged until I saw the lecture notes:

"Conservative Bias in the News Media."


No kidding. And this was at one of the nation’s most prestigious public universities. Let’s just say it’s known by its four-letter name and proximity to Hollywood.

I called an audible, opting for my own notes and delivering a polemic on media bias in the auditorium Eddie Murphy made famous in "The Nutty Professor." I omitted the truly nutty parts from the original lecture notes that blamed the "conservative media bias" on "corporations with their agendas to control the American media companies."

Yes, we all know that GE created MSNBC to perpetuate this vast right-wing conspiracy.

But that lecture (my first and last, as I wasn’t invited for an encore) was a learning experience for me too. I’ve spent over 20 years working in the news media — as an editor, reporter, columnist and now a manager — but that moment crystallized for me why there is rampant liberal bias in newsrooms all across America. It was incubated and bred in those classrooms.

America’s universities, especially elite universities, are the last bastions of progressive liberalism. Shielded by the walls of the ivory tower, professors and lecturers live in a make-belief utopia that has no basis in reality. They impart their own leftist worldview on impressionable young idealists. This is true of nearly all social sciences disciplines, and journalism is no exception.

In past generations, journalists were born and raised on the street — as copy boys, on the cops beat and on the dimly lit high school football fields — and the news business was a trade, requiring not college degrees but enterprise and know-how. Over time, though, journalism has become a domain of the liberal arts, with young aspiring journalists increasingly disengaged from the everyday lives of the common folk and spoon-fed the progressive ideology straight from the classroom to the newsroom.

This is particularly true of the national news media, where pedigree — an education from an Ivy League institution or a brand-name journalism school — trumps all when it comes to hiring practices.

Diversity policies are strictly enforced except when it comes to diversity of thought. It was revealed that the newsroom of Slate voted 55-1 for Barack Obama over John McCain in the 2008 presidential election, shocking only because it wasn’t 56-0.

This bias comes through not just in column writing. Yes, we expect the likes of Frank Rich, Eugene Robinson and Robert Scheer to be mouthpieces for progressive views, and at least they’re honest about that. What’s troubling is that the bias now is very much evident in even your mundane everyday reporting, from just about every mainstream media news organization, such as the New York Times, Washington Post and even the Associated Press. There isn’t a straight lead about anything anymore.

The mainstream media still don’t get why the average reader or viewer is tuning them out. In fact, their reaction to the declining circulation numbers and ratings reveals a contempt for those who really should be their customers.

Recently I had a conversation with someone who’s been in the news business for more than three decades. He expressed his frustration and bewilderment at the success of the Fox News Channel. First, he denigrates Fox’s "fair and balanced" mantra, then he belittles its viewership.

"But Jack (not his real name)," I protest. "There is a good reason why Fox’s ratings far outstrip its competition."

"So does Wal-Mart," he snorts. "What does that tell you?"

"What about Wal-Mart?" I shoot back. "They have lots of loyal customers, just like Fox News, so what’s wrong with that?"

"Well, that’s exactly it," comes the smirking reply. "Fox News’ viewers are mostly those people."

Those people. Can you hear the disdain?

Those who live in flyover country instead of the Hamptons. Those who went to State U. instead of Harvard and Cornell. Those who learned Spanish from their co-workers instead of their nannies and housekeepers. Those people.

The mainstream media are losing those people as their companies circle the drain. Yet they wonder why.

(Written for a Tea Party Event)

22 September 2010

Tom Friedman Is Right About China (and U.S.)

(From RealClearWorld)

It's not everyday that I agree with what Tom Friedman says about China. Typically, he goes there, gets starry eyed, and starts extolling all the virtues of the Chinese Communist Party.

His column today wasn't quite that. And he was 100 percent correct on why China gets things done whereas the U.S. no longer does.

This was right on the money:

Studying China’s ability to invest for the future doesn’t make me feel we have the wrong system. It makes me feel that we are abusing our right system. There is absolutely no reason our democracy should not be able to generate the kind of focus, legitimacy, unity and stick-to-it-iveness to do big things — democratically — that China does autocratically. We’ve done it before. But we’re not doing it now because too many of our poll-driven, toxically partisan, cable-TV-addicted, money-corrupted political class are more interested in what keeps them in power than what would again make America powerful, more interested in defeating each other than saving the country.

Once upon a time the U.S. did build Interstate freeways that traversed the entire continent. Dams that regulated water flow and generated power. Skyscrapers that were the envy of the world. And all that was done in a free society and under democratic governance.

(Just the other day a friend and I joked about the L.A.-to-San Francisco bullet train, something that's been "in the works" for more than 20 years and yet not a single rail has been laid. We concluded that our grandchildren will still be talking about it 50 years from now.)

Nothing gets built anymore in the U.S. - other than sports stadiums. Too much red tape. Too many lawyers. Special interest groups. Unions. By the time an environmental impact study was done, a new one has to be commissioned. In the meantime, China just finished adding another thousand miles of high-speed railway.

Another valid point Friedman made about China is its leadership. The top of the CCP leadership chain is frighteningly competent. To rise to the pinnacle in China these days, you can't do it with catchy slogans or being the son of a former president.

Hu Jintao is an engineer by trade. Wen Jiabao a geologist. The fifth-generation CCP leaders have even more diverse backgrounds after a generation dominated by engineers. Many have PhDs and a great number of them are now foreign-educated.

But Friedman does miss a point (perhaps on purpose). With a near-homogeneous population (91 percent Han Chinese), China doesn't have diversity issues; and its benevolence toward minorities is purely lip service.

In the Chinese view, somewhat tinged with racism, the U.S. and the west are being dragged down by their minority populations and racial strife. But the reality is that it's not the blacks and Latinos that are impeding progress in the U.S., as the Chinese are wont to believe (a same attitude held by the Japanese, especially when it was booming in the '80s), it's the diversity-driven politics that are long on sensitivity but short on competitiveness.

That's part of the recipe for the hamburger that may ultimately do the U.S. in.

23 August 2010

Better Than AP and Coaches Polls? You Bet!

(From RealClearSports)

The AP Poll has been around forever, well, OK, since 1936. The USA Today/Coaches Poll is now attached to the BCS's crystal ball. But in all honesty, neither poll can measure up to the BlogPoll in terms of fairness and expertise.

The BlogPoll? What the heck is that, you ask.

It's conceived by Brian Cook, the uber-blogger proprietor of MGoBlog (a Michigan blog, if you must). It has, over the past few years, become part of the conversation in the college football landscape. The BlogPoll is voted on by some of the most respected and knowledgeable bloggers who cover the sport. After being part of CBS Sports the past few years, the BlogPoll is moving over to SB Nation this year.

The BlogPoll voters care more about their votes and bring more expertise to the ballot than your average AP and coaches poll voters, and here's why: Most AP voters - college football writers and broadcasters - usually spend their Saturdays covering one game while dozens others pass them by. The coaches, meanwhile, couldn't care less about any other game going on out there other than the ones they're coaching themselves.

I should know. For the better part of the 1990s, I covered Cal and the Pac-10. I spent every game day Saturday stuck in the pressbox either in Berkeley or some other Pac-10 outpost. If I was lucky, maybe I'd catch a glimpse of another game or two on the pressbox TV. The coaches saw even less. I've been asked by coaches at press conference about what happened at this-and-that games so they could scribble something down before handing it off to a gofer to fax in their votes.

But these days, I spend Saturdays in front of my 55-inch HDTV with my MacBook handy for streaming videos. I miss nothing. My wife and kid know this is my religion (I used to belong to the Church of the NFL, but have since converted) and my devotion is not to be messed with. Not to mention as the self-anointed BCS Guru, it's my business to know what's going on.

So when Brian offered me a vote in the BlogPoll last year, I happily accepted. And this year, I'll share my weekly ballots with RealClearSports readers here at RCS Sidelines:
* For this season, I have developed a dynamic rankings system, which in many ways removes idiosyncratic human biases. But the secret sauce for the system will remain under wraps for the time being, as I work out any potential kinks.

* As per the spirit and guidelines of the BlogPoll, the voters reserve the right to radically change the ballots from week to week. Especially from the preseason, when we have not seen a pass thrown or a tackle blown. Don't get all suspicious when you see wild swings in my ballots from week to week. It's supposed to happen.

* USC, on a two-year NCAA bowl ban, is banished from the coaches poll but not the Associated Press poll. Since the BlogPoll does not sanction any team, the Trojans will be eligible to be on our ballots. They can even finish No. 1 at the end of the season, just as they can still claim the AP title, as Oklahoma did in 1974 while on NCAA probation.

* My system does take the BCS into consideration. With the exception of USC, my preseason ballot does convey a degree of probability in terms of a team reaching the BCS title game. So the top of the ballot tells you that I project Ohio State and Texas to meet in the BCS national championship game.

* Eleven other teams were also considered but didn't quite make it onto the ballot. In order: Navy, Oregon State, Miami (Fla.), LSU, Florida State, Connecticut, Auburn, Clemson, Ole Miss, Arizona and Washington.

14 July 2010

Top 10 Most Significant Sports Owners

By Samuel Chi
Special to Page 2

George Steinbrenner

George Steinbrenner's reign as the New York Yankees' owner came to an end with his death Tuesday. He's being eulogized as one of the most successful -- and controversial -- owners in all of sports.

While the Boss was obsessed with winning, he was also a bombastic showman until his final years. In Steinbrenner's honor, Page 2 presents our list of the most significant owners in sports history, all of whom won on the field and made more news off it:

10. Al Davis: Commitment to excellence. Lawsuits. Leisure suits. The last of Al's three Super Bowl victories came in January 1984, and his fashion sense and playbook seem to be frozen at about the same time.


12 July 2010

Spain's Top 10 Moments in Sports History

By Samuel Chi
Special to Page 2

Spain Celebrates

Why did Spain's players stubbornly refuse to sing their national anthem before taking the pitch against the Netherlands in the World Cup final?

Because the famous Marcha Real, perhaps the oldest national anthem in the world, has no words. The joke is that, had there been lyrics to the melody, gunfights might break out over the singer's preferred regional language.

But Sunday's overtime victory has made Spain whole; it's now one nation under the FIFA World Cup Trophy. The Catalans, Basques and Castilians are united by the greatest sporting triumph of their nation.


23 June 2010

USA-Algeria Live Blog

(From RealClearSports)

RealClearSports staff and selected experts will provide live commentary during the USA-Algeria and England-Slovenia World Cup matches Wednesday. Please join us as we will be breaking down the matchups, the second-round scenarios and maybe even geopolitics. The live blog will begin at 9:30 a.m. ET, and all commenters are welcome.