by Julian Spivey
On Friday (March 16) we saw some major sports history and the biggest bracket buster in the history of the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament when 16 seeded University of Maryland Baltimore County knocked off overall top seed Virginia in the first round of the tourney becoming the first 16-seed to ever do so in the tournament. It was great seeing something that had never been done in sports before – which doesn’t happen often these days. However, there have been quite a few upsets already in this tournament and it got me thinking that March Madness is the only time of year in any sport where people seemingly turn on the underdog. Many people don’t want to see Cinderellas find their slipper in the tournament because it busts their bracket and don’t we all want to be the one to win bragging rights and potentially money? I think most of us can probably agree that the Retrievers of UMBC over Virginia was quite worth it though because honestly that busted everybody’s bracket.
Tiger Woods Masters Favorite
Tiger Woods has been looking more and more like the Tiger of old lately. He finished second at the Valspar Championship last week and is playing well this weekend in the Arnold Palmer Invitational. His recovery from back surgery last year has been both remarkable and highly surprising and that has Vegas thinking he’s the favorite to win the Masters next month. Woods is considered an 8-1 favorite to win the Masters, something he hasn’t done since 2005 when he captured his fourth green jacket. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Woods in contention because I know he knows Augusta like the back of his hand but come on guys it’s way too soon to consider Woods the favorite of any golf tournament, let alone potentially the biggest in the world. Jordan Spieth, the 2015 winner, has 9-1 odds to win (tied with Dustin Johnson for second) and I believe he should be the favorite.
Cavaliers Title Chances
I’ve gotten to where I don’t like to see many prediction percentages for sports, especially in-game, because it takes a lot of the excitement and interest away from sports. You want to feel like each team has a shot. Sometimes these predictions also just seem flat out laughable. Recently I saw that the Basketball Power Index has given the Cleveland Cavaliers, the team that has made the last three consecutive NBA Finals, a 0.01 percent chance at winning the NBA title. The BPI gives six other teams a higher chance at winning the championship (including the Philadelphia 76ers who have a worse record than the Cavs). I believe that counting out the Cavaliers, and honestly mostly LeBron James, is foolish and by the BPI saying they only have a miniscule chance at winning the title is doing that. I don’t believe the Cavaliers have a great shot at winning the championship – I’d be shocked if any team that isn’t either the Golden State Warriors or Houston Rockets wins it this year – but I do believe they should still be considered the favorite in the Eastern Conference despite being behind the Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers in the standings.
Joe Thomas Retires
Sports hall of fames are places for the best of the best to be honored and have always been individual honors, but when Cleveland Browns All-Pro offensive lineman Joe Thomas announced his retirement this week after 11 seasons in the NFL the thing that instantly popped into my head was: “should a player essentially be penalized for playing on an all-time bad team?” If I had a vote for the Pro Football Hall of Fame I’d likely have to eventually vote for Thomas as one of the greatest O-lineman to ever play the game, but many experts think he’s a first ballot lock. Keep in mind Terrell Owens, a top five all-time wide receiver, had to wait multiple years before he was voted in. I think it’s fair to at least consider the Browns all-time bad run of football when considering Thomas for the hall of fame. Thomas only had one winning season with the Browns, in his rookie year, and only won a measly 27 percent of the NFL games he played in. That has to be the worst winning percentage for any hall of fame type player ever and probably by a lot.
Jose Altuve's Contract Extension
If you’re a baseball fan, but don’t have a favorite player I suggest watching Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve very closely. The 2017 American League MVP is likely the most exciting player in today’s game and the Astros awarded his excellence with a five-year, $151 million contract extension on Friday (March 16). It’s nice to see one of the game’s top players finally get paid and it couldn’t have happened to a nicer and more hard-working player. ESPN’s Darren Rovell tweeted on Friday that Altuve, a Venezuelan native, attended an Astros tryout camp in Venezuela at 16, was told “don’t come back” because he was too short (he’s 5’6 if he can be trusted), came back anyway, was given a $15,000 deal, worked his way to the big leagues, almost instantly became a perennial all-star, led the Astros to winning their first ever World Series last year and won the MVP. He’s a great example for people to never give up on their dreams.
IndyCar Excitement to Simmer By Second Race
The beginning of the 2018 IndyCar Series season at St. Petersburg, Fla. last weekend (March 11) had many within the motorsports community talking and raving about the excitement of a potential “instant classic” that saw Canadian rookie Robert Wickens dominate and nearly win his debut until 2016 Indianapolis 500 champion Alexander Rossi got into and wrecked him on the final restart of the race. Sebastien Bourdais, who was lucky to survive a devastating wreck in Indy 500 practice last year, snuck by to win the opener. It had been a long time since I’ve seen this many people rave about the IndyCar Series, especially at a race other than the Indy 500, which is something the series could really use. But, will that excitement even be remembered by the time the series drops the green flag at its second race in Phoenix on April 7. There should never be a gap almost a month long in the schedule for any sport, especially between the first and second races of a season. IndyCar really needs to fix this seemingly annual scheduling issue.