Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

30 Aug 2005

TMQ: The Lost Episode of NYPD Blue!

In this week's TMQ, Gregg Easterbrook wonders how soon until the 400-pound lineman becomes the norm (Bill Walsh has some ideas); gives us his annual thoughts on professional basketball (Boring); points us to a scientific study on the two-point conversion that basically says teams should go for one during the first three quarters, but then start going for two during the last quarter (Allegedly, this is the Belichickian strategy); and in between, the usual random observations we come to expect from TMQ during the preseason. (Thanks to reader RichC for reminding me that today is, uh, Tuesday ... the same day TMQ is posted.)

Posted by: P. Ryan Wilson on 30 Aug 2005

102 comments, Last at 01 Sep 2005, 6:01pm by GBS

Comments

1
by Andrew SV (not verified) :: Tue, 08/30/2005 - 8:29pm

Worst TMQ of the year. The NYPD thing is silly, even for him.

2
by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Tue, 08/30/2005 - 8:31pm

His argument about the problems with the NBA is ridiculous:

"Occasionally prodigies such as LeBron James are able to play in the NBA out of high school ... For every James, there is a Kwame Brown or a DeSagana Diop. Brown, the No. 1 NBA pick out of high school, so far is a bench-lurking who-dat ... [Diop's] game is stuck at the high-school level ... he rarely gets onto the court."

He effectively undermines his own point. If the bad players barely get on the court, how are they ruining the game? And nobody would suggest that the good players, like Amare Stoudamire and James have been hurting the game. High schoolers simply don't account for a high enough percentage of draftees to have the impact on the game he claims they have. Just like with regular draft picks, there are plenty of good ones and plenty of bad ones. For the most part, coaches won't start a bad guy who just came out of high school just for the sake of doing so. That's why guys like Jermaine O'Neal took years to develop.

3
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Tue, 08/30/2005 - 8:40pm

Worst TMQ of the year.
The year is young. Give him a chance to warm up before you give an award like that. ;-)

4
by Balaji (not verified) :: Tue, 08/30/2005 - 8:45pm

Worst TMQ of the year.

Hey, it's just the preseason. I'm sure he's holding back most of his playbook material for the games that matter.

5
by Dan Babbitt (not verified) :: Tue, 08/30/2005 - 9:10pm

Here is the URL for Harold Sackrowitz's study on the use of the two point conversion:

http://www.public.iastate.edu/~chance99/133.sackrowitz.pdf

6
by malene, dk (not verified) :: Tue, 08/30/2005 - 9:25pm

ok, stick to star trek and cheerleaders Gregg...

if you'd actually, you know, SEEN the NBA playoffs you'd probably know that the spurs won, not by 'eschewing the star system', but by having arguably the best PF ever. Yes, good rotation D helped both the pistons and spurs, but offensively Duncan & Ginobili played pretty much 2 on 2 in long stretches throughout the playoffs.
The closest thing to "team-first basketball", the Suns show, starred high-schooler Stoudemire, btw.

7
by Miles (not verified) :: Tue, 08/30/2005 - 9:40pm

TMQ Praised for Length, Dullness

Exactly. Why then does he go on for pages and pages about nothing related to football??

8
by Carl (not verified) :: Tue, 08/30/2005 - 9:47pm

"Today the average in college is perhaps 300 pounds, while the offensive line average in the NFL has bloomed to perhaps 320 pounds."

It's 312. Sixty years ago, the typical NFL O-lineman (and they played both ways) was 219.

"steroids are not a factor, as the NFL tests for them regularly."

Now, google "BALCO" and "Oakland Raiders." He is correct that steroids aren't really an issue for linemen. That gut isn't exactly muscle mass. The big problem is obesity and the health consequences that flow from that.

"Linemen keep trying to get bigger because football size is an arms race: The other guy is bulking up, forcing you to bulk up."

Yes, but doesn't an NFL franchise share in this? Rather than putting the onus on the player in this Wally Pipp sort of analogy, what do we make of standard NFL contracts for linemen? You know, the ones that REQUIRE THEM to keep a massive weight or risk violating the terms of the agreement, a roster cut and, voila, unemployment and loss of bonuses?

This was a key point in the Stringer tragedy -- that he was REQUIRED by the terms of his contract to maintain a weight that might have been unhealthy.

"His suspicion is that research will show a specific statistical correlation between excessive athletic bulk and reduction of life expectancy."

It already does. The NFLPA commissioned research to debunk the myth that NFL retirees "died sooner" than their peers in the general public. As it turns out, the 2001 report disclosed that they don't -- except for those former players who remain obese after leaving the game.

These players tend to be linemen, and a major complicating factor in their ability to lose weight after departing the NFL is the problem of degenerative joint, bone and back conditions brought on by playing a rough-and-tumble game. They can't exercise to lose weight.

Let me be very direct here. A 2003 peer-reviewed medical study found that 34 percent of NFL offensive linemen suffered from obstructive sleep apnea, a potentially deadly but often undiagnosed condition that stops breathing during slumber.

The NFL apnea rate is five times that of the public. Researchers blamed it on the league's numerous plump players with thick necks. In addition to nights spent gasping for breath, pros routinely report impotence, high blood pressure, fatigue, depression, memory loss, headaches and intellectual deterioration.

"The league's minority of team-oriented teams are clobbering its majority of undisciplined show-off clubs."

Yes, and in the team-oriented game of professional football, we have to watch Cleveland play the Niners in Week 11. Give me the Clippers any day!

"About a decade ago, the NBA made a disastrous decision to start drafting high-school players en masse. Quality of play promptly declined, then ratings declined as the night follows the day."

Actually, numerous draft surveys commissioned by the league have shown that selecting high school talent -- although not a large sampling pool -- has proven largely beneficial to the team. The research, however, indicates that it takes, on average, slightly more than three years to train an NBA-quality player from the high school ranks.

By this time, the three-year rookie exclusion is over. The next CBA could remedy this disparity.

As for the ratings decline, he might notice another predictor (the second retirement of Michael Jordan, a goodly portion of the league's star-based marketing effort) that coincided with the decline. Just a hunch.

"An amazing number of NBA clubs still don't seem to have figured this out."

Because the data strongly disprove your point.

"They've won the last three NBA championships, and done so by eschewing the star system to play team basketball."

But didn't the Spurs select their PG from France? And wouldn't he have been the equivalent of an American teenager, albeit one with some time spent in the European leagues? I mean, didn't he start out at the pro level just like other prep flops such as Kevin Garnett or some starting SG for the Lakers?

Maybe point guards aren't team players.

Kindly look away, gentle reader, at this apparent inconsistency. Eastie is waxing eloquently on hoops.

"NBA coaches have no leverage to force their charges to play team ball."

But if the contracts are guaranteed, and players are locked into long-term deals with the money upfront, why would they feel the need to pad their stats with one-on-one play? I mean, they're going to be paid the same whether they play team ball or some other kind of hoops.

Isn't Tim Duncan on a guaranteed contract, just as the entire Portland roster? Perhaps the problem is that GMs in basketball fail to select, train or retain the right players for their game strategies?

Good thing that would never happen in football! We're protected from teams like the Bengals, Cardinals and the current iteration of the Niners because under the DGR owners have every incentive to put out a better product than their peers! It's not like they're making the same money, right?

Ooops.

I'm going to make the same argument I make every year. The typical NBA player is a better athlete than the NFL pro. He might not be smarter, but he's more accomplished at his craft, typically, than the NFL guy.

Why? First, the NBA draws from a larger global pool of talent. An NBA locker room is a microcosm of the UN General Assembly. These are the best basketball players in the world, playing against the best competition in the world. Second, their careers last longer because of fewer injuries, and a revolution in medical science and conditioning means that these guys can play at an elite level for longer spans than previous generations.

That means very good players sticking around the league for a long time, competing directly with international stars and young tyros from high school.

One of the best examples of globalism can be found in an NBA arena, and the fans (consumers) are the direct beneficiaries.

Most ominous promise: "This Season's First Thong-Based Item"

"NBA quality of play has declined because high-school kids are unskilled in the fundamentals and lack the maturity gained in college."

Actually, that's not what the CBA says. Kids don't have to go to college before they pass Go and collect $200. They can enter the NBA's new developmental league, sort of a minor league system designed not so much to train the next stars of the NBA but to, get this, MAKE MONEY FOR THE NBA BY SPREADING ITS FOOTPRINT NATIONWIDE AT VERY LITTLE COST.

"This is puzzling since raising the age minimum is in the interest of the majority of players."

Yes, if by "best for the players" one believes that a college is better at training a future NBA player than a NBA team. So far, that's not been proven to be true.

If the majority of NBA players really wanted to preserve their jobs they would ban foreign players, but that would cut off their most lucrative safety valve.

You see, NBA vets no longer good enough to play here can always go to what's become the defacto but nearly peer minor league -- Europe. Or Japan.

And still make a fortune! People forget that even future HOFers such as Alex English left the NBA to make a lot of dough in Europe. See also a certain starting SG's father, who took his family to Italy. Which is why the kid never went to college but stars in the NBA as a bilingual shooter.

"Johnson will be lucky to get on the court for two minutes a night considering the Pistons, who play team ball and have no patience for show-offs, can't find minutes for Darko Milicic, selected second overall in 2003."

Again, give him three years and see where he is. As for Darko, wasn't he a teenager selected by the Pistons, an aforementioned team-oriented team that supposedly didn't take high school kids? And wasn't he a rookie in the European league who sat on the bench but showed so much "upside" that Detroit just had to have him?

Nothing to see here, folks. Keep moving.

"Johnson might have been an NBA lottery pick, become a starter, then a few seasons down the road inked a megabucks contract that set him up for life."

Let's get this straight. The kid can enlist in the Marines, fight in Iraq and vote for president, but he can't earn his living in the NBA?

Give me a break.

"For every James, there is a Kwame Brown or a DeSagana Diop."

But Brown is still a functioning NBA player. He's only notable because he didn't live up to his promise. But he still competes at the NBA level. Ditto, Diop (who has been hampered by injuries that have absolutely nothing to do with his age).

"As Maurice Clarett completes his self-destruction, I don't have to point out how this logic applies to football, too."

To which I whisper, "Gore. Gore. Gore."

"But the union should have the players' best interests in mind..."

And shouldn't a NFL franchise have the best interests of the offensive lineman in mind by not forcing him to stuff himself like a pate duck?

"When teenagers take slots on NBA rosters, whom do they replace? In almost every case, a young African American man."

Who then goes to Europe and makes $1 million per annum instead of $2 million per annum playing the same game against competitors who are nearly as good.

For a NFL lineman without a guaranteed contract who gets injured, where does he go? The CFL? NFL Europe?

"Football Licensing Item No. 2"

In the interests of objective journalism, Eastie now turns to pimping NFL-related merchandise and services.

Next week he'll defend NFL's right to exclude "Ron Mexico" from Atlanta-related jerseys.

"After all, for an NFL owner, headaches are a "preexisting condition."

See also, regular readers of TMQ.

9
by Carl (not verified) :: Tue, 08/30/2005 - 9:55pm

"(TMQ articles) have questioned the wisdom of the United States and European Union expending billions of tax dollars on complex "atom smashers." Such particle accelerators appear to stand almost no chance of discovering anything of value to the taxpayers who must fund them; they seem mainly a jobs program for physics postdocs."

For fun, gentle reader, insert FOOTBALL STADIUM where "particle accelerators" should go, and "players and owners" for "physics postdocs."

The EU and U.S. want to understand the foundation of time, the movement of matter, the fundamentals of forces unknown to the human mind.

The Colts just want a sweetheart stadium deal to keep the Irsays fat and happy.

10
by Carl (not verified) :: Tue, 08/30/2005 - 9:57pm

"How to find that one in 3,000?"

Ask the kid if he roots for the Cardinals or the Lions. If he says "yes" tell him he can't play.

Those teams ripped his heart out years ago.

11
by Carl (not verified) :: Tue, 08/30/2005 - 9:59pm

"Death rates for just about everything have declined for generations."

No. I'd say mortality is still batting 1.000, be the "everything" a rabbit, slug or tight end.

12
by Aaron (not verified) :: Tue, 08/30/2005 - 10:39pm

Sigh, actually I wasn't sure about posting this one because I knew we would get the complaints -- Every year Gregg does a TMQ with mostly non-football content right before he does his season predictions. If you don't like the non-football stuff, there's no reason to read this column, and there's no reason to post here about how much you don't like it. What do you gain from bitching about it?

13
by Ted (not verified) :: Tue, 08/30/2005 - 10:40pm

I like TMQ but his NBA stuff bugs me as he just repeats the same stuff everyone else says with no regard for factual evidence.
"NBA quality of play has declined because high-school kids are unskilled in the fundamentals and lack the maturity gained in college."
Did TMQ go to college? I don't think many star athletes are learning "maturity" there. Not fundamentals either. Check out the list of college seniors taken in the last five years sometime. It's pretty bad.
"Quality of play, and hence the NBA's viability as a business, would have been better served had the minimum age been raised to 20, but in negotiations you take what you can get, and the players' union was adamantly opposed to a 20-years minimum. This is puzzling since raising the age minimum is in the interest of the majority of players."
The quality of play argument is ridiculous as many of the best players in the league are high schoolers (KG, Kobe, T-Mac, Lebron, Stoudemire et al) and the bad ones generally ride the bench (DeSagana Diop, Kendrick Perkins etc). Only teams that really suck play high schoolers who aren't really ready and that's generally because they don't have anyone better. I also can not fathom how the proposed age limit is in the players best interests. A lot of these guys come from crummy neighbourhoods and they'd be much better off getting to the NBA ASAP and moving their families away from these areas. Read Ian O'Connor's book about Sebastian Telfair.
"If, on the other hand, Johnson had gone to college, he would have matured physically and mentally while improving his play, and also gotten, now what's that term I am looking for, oh yes, "an education.""
What kind of education are future NBA (or NFL) players getting in college? Ask Jim Harrick. The purpose of college is to prepare you for your chosen career. If you don't need to go to college for that why should you? Johnson may (or may not) be waived in a few years time but that will be because he's a marginal NBA prospect, not because he didn't go to college.
"After learning and maturing in college, Johnson might have been an NBA lottery pick, become a starter, then a few seasons down the road inked a megabucks contract that set him up for life."
Just like he "might have" proven himself to not be a good NBA prospect and not get drafted at all.
"Diop, a lottery pick out of high school, has a Shaquille O'Neal physique and might have become a great player if he'd gone to college; instead his career average is 1.6 points, because his game is stuck at the high-school level and thus he rarely gets onto the court."
Diop has been continually injured and generally sucked. If he'd gone to college he'd almost certainly have been exposed as an uber-stiff and been drafted much much later, if at all. That's better for the Cleveland Cavs (who drafted him) but not for Diop. He was just a classic case of a team reaching for a stiff center in the lottery and this is not restricted to high schoolers. See Rich King, Joel Pryzbilla, Scott Haskins etc. Stick to football Gregg.
Also there is a general perception that you have to wait three years to see if a high schooler is any good. Not true. All research has found that every high schooler who has become good has shown a strong indication of it in his rookie year. The one exception is Rashard Lewis (and to a much lesser extent Al Harrington)

14
by Carl (not verified) :: Tue, 08/30/2005 - 10:50pm

"Also there is a general perception that you have to wait three years to see if a high schooler is any good. Not true. All research has found that every high schooler who has become good has shown a strong indication of it in his rookie year."

Actually, the Pacers and several other clubs researched this and came up with the 3 and change stat. The irony, as you point out, is that very good teams that select high schoolers can afford to let them ride the bench while conditioning and schooling them (for many more hours than the NCAA would ever allow) in the game of basketball.

That the best teams end up selecting the most promising high school players isn't surprising. Small market teams like the Pacers have benefitted greatly from high school talent, even despite the Bender problem (he's been hit with injuries) and the inability to keep promising free agents past their rookie contracts (see Harrington).

In Europe, in a nearly peer sports league, there isn't a question about players going to school rather than turning pro. We won't even talk about elite worldwide soccer and their developmental leagues.

15
by Carl (not verified) :: Tue, 08/30/2005 - 10:57pm

By the way, it's great that baseball doesn't allow teenagers into its game, otherwise we would have to witness a calvacade of no-name, bench-sitting schlubs (like the entire list of Hall of Famers).

16
by Carl (not verified) :: Tue, 08/30/2005 - 11:06pm

"What do you gain from bitching about it?"

Spite, Aaron. Pure unmitigated spite.

17
by Ron Mexico (not verified) :: Tue, 08/30/2005 - 11:09pm

“What do you gain from bitching about it?�

Aaron I think Carl makes some damned good points about Easterbrook's football stuff. Especially about my jersey.

18
by Frank (not verified) :: Tue, 08/30/2005 - 11:20pm

If you don’t like the non-football stuff, there’s no reason to read this column

Or any other of his columns.

19
by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Tue, 08/30/2005 - 11:25pm

It looks like he's not the only one doing haiku predictions. ESPN.com seems to be doing it with college.

20
by Ted (not verified) :: Tue, 08/30/2005 - 11:34pm

Carl, my point wasn't that high schoolers are as good as they'll ever be in their first year. It was that if you look at per-minute statistics they show strong signs of being very good in the future. Even Jermaine O'Neal who is usually held up as the example of how it takes high schoolers years to develop. Kobe, JO, T-Mac etc all showed strong glimpses of future greatness in their rookie years. The one exception was Rashard Lewis who had a decent excuse. His rookie year was 1999, the lockout year. I think they actually become stars in year three (like Stoudemire this year) but the good ones are around average even in their rookie year.

21
by carl s (not verified) :: Tue, 08/30/2005 - 11:54pm

Man, lots of complaints on this one. I enjoyed it, even though I think hes a little wrong on the whole high school basketball thing.

22
by joel in providence (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 12:19am

i find TMQs proposed solution to the problem of rising lineman weights to be naive. he says the NFL's players will eventually limit their own weights (read: self-regulate) out of their own concerns for life expectancy. this is so typical of the theories that neo-liberal economists push in the economic and political spheres. self-regulation is non-regulation. players in a competitive race to top the scales won't limit their competitive advantage just because of "analytical, peer-reviewed data." why would it be so bad for the NFL to put in some type of weight cap?

gregg.... your ideology is showing!

23
by Tim (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 12:22am

Carl, at the risk of co-opting a thread about an article I haven't read into a forum for argument on the ethical issues in professional football, I want to disagree with one of the statements you made in your article (as we may as well call it):

“'But the union should have the players’ best interests in mind…'

And shouldn’t a NFL franchise have the best interests of the offensive lineman in mind by not forcing him to stuff himself like a pate duck?"

(Ok, so it's not a statement, it's a rhetorical question.) I would submit that, no, the team does not have the responsibility of safeguarding the health of its players when that goal is in conflict with its primary (at least as I see it) goal of putting together a winning football team. Now I'm not sure that keeping lineman fat is a necessity for a successful team, and so I don't know that the goals are in conflict. Nevertheless, I think the onus for safeguarding players' health falls to the union. I don't think it's realistic or appropriate to expect the teams to change their rules to protect the players to the possible detriment of the team.

I'm also curious, given your very reasonable defense of the NBA's early draft policy, whether you think the same thing would work in the NFL, where there isn't a wealth of developmental leagues and where - as it seems to me anyway - psychological and intellectual characteristics are more important.

24
by Ruben (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 12:27am

First I want to thank all of the regular posters to FO; I've been reading this site silently for what seems like several years now, and am continually impressed with the use of emperical data to kill the hype. I remember watching all of Ron Mexico's first season as a starter, asking "if this guy is so great, why isn't he connecting on many passes...?" and "If Shockey's never open on 3rd down, why is he going to the Pro Bowl...?" My thumbnail assessments of "clutchness" of players on 3rd down, etc has manifested itself into VOA, DVOA, PAR, DPAR, etc. Thank yous by the millions to MDS, Aaron and the rest for bringing football by the numbers.

I've read TMQ since he was on Slate, and being a Star Trek-watching football nut outdoorsy-type, who hates overhyped pseudo (read: fabricated) "environmentalism," I've followed GE to TNR, ESPN and now NFL.com. That said, I think he should be given a bit of leeway: everyone who follows him knows he's the biggest advocate of the philosophy of staying in school, because your jump shots and 40 times can fade, but even a degree in sociology can get you somewhere. I knew most of what Carl cited was probably the case, but I took GE's terse tirade with a grain of salt; after all, he's swinging from the corner that slams the Universities equally for failing to graduate many (any!) college hoops players. Just a thought.

Thanks again to the FO staff and readers for making this site my nexus for football reference. Keep it up.

25
by Tim (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 12:33am

joel-

While I agree with your general point - that self-regulation is non-regulation - I disagree that a weight cap would be a good solution. Different men can carry different amounts of weight based on their basic build. A small NFL offensive lineman might be 6-1 and 250 lbs, and very athletic and deft. In fact, many middle linebackers have about those dimensions, and we all know how athletic they are. I'm 6-1, and I weigh about 170. If I weighed 250 lbs, I would be dangerously, unhealthily overweight. So, I would speculate, would most NFL cornerbacks. But linemen have overall larger frames, and naturally carry much more weight.

It's almost inevitable that if the NFL instituted a maximum weight that was a meaningful constraint on a significant number of linemen, there would be those players whose game is clearly hampered by the weight restriction. And that would mean that his earning power is affected, and could lead to legal action against the NFL. For that reason I don't see a way to implement a weight limit in the NFL. I could imagine stipulations in the next CBA forbidding minimum weight requirements in contracts, perhaps, or other similar mechanisms.

26
by Athelas (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 12:40am

Ruben (#24)-thoughtful post--I'm glad you finally spoke up!
joel in providence (#22)--interesting that you call him a neo-liberal--I would call him a Gilder-type neo-conservative.

27
by Ryan Mc (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 12:46am

re #5: Dan, thanks for linking the study. Having read it I have to ask:

How on earth did GE conclude that this study supports his belief that the 2-pointer should be saved for the fourth quarter!!!!???

From table 1, the article recommends going for two when scoring to trail by 5 or 2 points as early as the second quarter! (Same for scoring to lead by 5 or 12 points)
When scoring to trail by 13, 12, 9, 8, 5 or 2 points, the table recommends going for the 2-pointer as early as the third quarter (same for scoring to lead by 1 or 2)

That's a lot of cases prior to the fourth quarter where the study recommends trying the 2-pointer. Of course, we could still decide that the TMQ strategy of shunning the 2-pointer until the 4th is the best strategy, but to claim that this article backs up that strategy is complete rubbish.

28
by Jim A (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 12:49am

I e-mailed TMQ about the Sackrowitz paper several years ago in response to his Take One Until the Fourth mantra. In my experience, most of the advice TMQ has given under this law goes *against* the findings of Sackrowitz, which is why I sent it to him in the first place. It's convenient that he only mentions it now that someone claims it supports his views.

29
by Jim A (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 12:54am

Sports law professor Michael McCann has done studies on NBA players drafted out of high school and have found not only are they very successful, they are also no more likely to get in trouble with the law, contrary to the NBA's claims. See link, but with a disclaimer: he was part of Maurice Clarett's legal team.

30
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 1:15am

Carl, I believe Stringer had contract clause which outlined a maximum weight, not one which outlined a minimum weight. I think I read that there was some evidence that he was striving mightily to drop to that maximum weight at the time of his death.

As to basketball players and guaranteed contracts, players are not motivated by money alone, although money is the primary form of motivation. Once the money is guaranteed those other motivations, like the fact that many players find it much more enjoyable to throw up shots than to play defense, comes into play. To posit that guaranteed money doesn't affect human performance simply doesn't gibe with reality. Is nearly every sales organization in the world incorrect by using performance-based commissions as a means of modifying the behavior of their salespeople?

31
by masocc (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 1:54am

Re: #24
Wait a minute? A degree in sociology can get you somewhere? Could you PLEASE point me in the correct direction of 'somewhere'? Mine's languishing on the shelf.

32
by Vern (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 3:41am

Re: 8
What's best for any given team is very often not best for the league as a whole. The league over all was TMQ's point.

The "product" of any sports league, the actual thing the fans "buy" from the league by paying attention to it, is not directly the quality/entertainment of play, but really the tension, hope, and emotional thrill that the fan feels at the possible victory by their own team.

In the NBA the sense of importance to fans has dropped dramatically since the 80's and 90's. The drafting of high schoolers is a significant factor. While it has arguably lead to more competitive balance (more random distribution of talent since picks are more speculative) it has decreased the overall sense that the championship is important. After all, if high schoolers are good enough to even sit on the bench in the midst of the pros, then how good can the pro game really be?

The NBA has become more and more like the Olympics or the old Wide World of Sports. Impressive feats, but little sense of fan attachment. You may be impressed by a 18 year old Austrian phenom setting world record time on the Luge, but really do you care who wins?

33
by Israel (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 6:51am

Maximum weight would quickly become standard for most everyone. That's how regulation tends to work. It will be an upward force on anyone who wishes to self-regulate to something lower.

Sometimes this is called the law of unintended consequences. Sometimes its simple manipulation. Seems to me that most times the former morphs into the latter, which is no doubt what would happen here.

34
by Ruben (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 8:48am

#31: Many jobs, even the most mundane, provide significant increases in salary upon completion of a BA-regardless of the area of study.

I know of at least 3 examples off the top of my head wherein students from Michigan with degrees in Women's Studies, British Literature or Sociology were recruited for jobs they now love-and no, they are not in the "Quick Service Restaurant" industry, but rather in consulting, defense, and pharmeceuticals. Are these outliers? Perhaps, but more likely they are the product of active pursuit of a good first job.

I'm sure with all of the academic, housing and transportation accomodations made by the U (and boosters...I'm sorry, but it's just too convenient that all the Wolverine players have the same $400 NexTel phones...), money and time could be found to provide good post-collegiate job search counselors and resources. But it might be asking quite a bit for the Us to actually care about the players off-the-field...

35
by Goober King (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 9:34am

Wouldn't a BMI limit be more appropriate than a plain old weight limit?

36
by Trogdor (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 10:04am

The Cowboys now have an official pharmacy in CVS, replacing their old official pharmacy, Nate Newton.

I believe somewhere in one of Carl's insane rants he mentioned something that bothered me as well - the insistence that steroids are not a problem because the NFL tests. Sure, let's ignore Romo, and the Panthers, and undetectable roids and HGH. I think we should ammend like his to "steroids that we can actually test for are no longer a problem", leaving the gigantic loophole in place.

Which leads me to his contention that players will keep less weight if it can be conclusively shown to be unhealthy. First off, this was a subplot in a Playmakers episode (yes, I actually watched the show, it was always on the TV at the wing joint where we had our weekly guys' night out), where a huge lineman was told by the team doctor that his weight was causing diabetes or something, but the coaches said if he dropped below a certain weight he'd be benched or cut (I forget what he chose, I wasn't paying that much attention). Now, GE claims that if enough medical studies show 'really excessive weight is really bad', that players will drop from 350-ish to 300-ish or lower. I really doubt that.

Why? Well, look no further than roids. While the longterm effects aren't really well known, most assume they're not good, and best case they aren't all that bad. Yet how many players in how many sports are willing to inject themselves with something that may greatly shorten their lives - heck, that they have no idea what it will do to them! - in order to gain an edge? How would excessive weight be any different? Even if there weren't already studies (which there apparently are), we could reasonably guess that it's really bad for you, and best-case it can't help. And if it's the difference between being a marginal player or a great one, or being cut or making the team, how many players would sacrifice X number of years of life by keeping the weight?

I just don't see self-regulation working here. Not when so many have been willing to risk unknown future medical problems for short-term athletic gain.

I'd like to address the scifi complaint of the week, if I could. It is true that in space, motion of a ship could be free, it could be oriented in any direction, etc. However, I have no problem with ships all being oriented the same way in casual encounters. It makes sense that a race or group (like the Federation or Jedi) would establish standardized coordinate systems, and actually would pick a side of the galaxy to be 'top'. We do this ourselves - check any solar system drawing, and 'up' is always earth's north pole. Since galaxies tend to be roughly disks, assigning one side to be 'top' makes navigation easier. And in such a system, traveling with the ship oriented 'up' as much as possible/practical would probably make the experience less disorienting. Also, in a universe like Trek, it would make sense for groups like the Romulans, Klingons, Federation, etc that interact regularly to adopt each others' systems when coming into contact.

37
by VarlosZ (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 10:05am

#2 (Jerry F.): If the bad players barely get on the court, how are they ruining the game?

By taking the roster spot of a more skilled veteran who has to go because he doesn't have any UPside.

#8 (Carl): Actually, numerous draft surveys commissioned by the league have shown that selecting high school talent – although not a large sampling pool – has proven largely beneficial to the team. The research, however, indicates that it takes, on average, slightly more than three years to train an NBA-quality player from the high school ranks.

It's beneficial to the team because many of the most skilled players now enter the draft striaght from H.S., but the quality of play for the league as a whole would be better if those players developed in college while more skilled veterans held on to their NBA jobs for a few more seasons.

#13 (Ted): Did TMQ go to college? I don’t think many star athletes are learning “maturity� there. Not fundamentals either. Check out the list of college seniors taken in the last five years sometime. It’s pretty bad.

Of course it's bad -- see above. The very best players now come out after high school or one year of college. If a player is entering the draft as a senior, it almost always means that he wasn't good enough to come out earlier.

Diop has been continually injured and generally sucked. If he’d gone to college he’d almost certainly have been exposed as an uber-stiff and been drafted much much later, if at all.

I know it's not the point TMQ was making, but: yes, exactly. Instead, the uber-stiff with upside was taking the spot of a veteran who may not be especially big, strong, or fast, but does know how to do things like box out, find the open man, and shoot a 20-foot jumper.

#15 (Carl): By the way, it’s great that baseball doesn’t allow teenagers into its game, otherwise we would have to witness a calvacade of no-name, bench-sitting schlubs (like the entire list of Hall of Famers).

But this is the crux of the problem. The NBA doesn't have a built-in player development system that's even remotely comparable to Minor League Baseball. Like the NFL, it uses the college game as it's minor leagues. Unlike the NFL, it allows the best prospects to opt-out of the minor league, which forces NBA teams to draft raw players if they want a shot at the best prospects, which forces us to watch minors-caliber players playing in the majors (or sucking up the roster spot of a majors-caliber veteran).

The NBA's player development system is broken.

38
by Charles (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 10:09am

Instead of a weight or BMI limit, how about having a rule that any NFL player must be able to run 3 miles in 23 minutes or less? This could be enforced by random Wednesday testing. It would be an excellent test of cardiovascular shape. Might have to have some exceptions for guys with leg injuries.

39
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 10:34am

Instead of a weight or BMI limit, how about having a rule that any NFL player must be able to run 3 miles in 23 minutes or less?
Because running 3 miles under six minutes per is only marginally related to the game players train to play? The NFLPA would have kittens, and they'd be right. NFL work is physically demanding enough without adding competitve distance running to it.

Heck, I bet some NFL players couldn't even run one six-minute mile. Not just the jug-butts on the lines, either.

40
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 10:43am

Double post to note my own bad math: 3 miles in 23 is under 8, not under six. Heck, even Drew Bledsoe might be able to make that.

Even so, it adds to the workload for no on-field benefit, so I'd expect the NFLPA to nix that.

41
by Ted (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 10:46am

VarlosZ, I have to disagree with you about Upside guys taking spots away from skilled veterans. A guy who can hit 20 foot jump shots and find the open man will play for a bloody long time, even if he is not a great physical specimen. Sam Perkins played until he was 39 despite a body that was hardly to die for. Vlade Divac is still kicking around at 36. Ditto Cliff Robinson (who's 38). Besides young guys aren't taking roster spots away from any veterans. The roster spot is open for a first round pick. If it isn't a high schooler getting drafted it's going to be a college guy or foreigner who would otherwise be getting that roster spot. I also just can't see the argument that young players are ruining the game. As Football Outsiders guest columnist Kevin Pelton once pointed out, two things that cause the average age across the NBA to increase, expansion and the lockout, are also generally thought to cause worse play on the court. Strange that.
As for your counterpoint to #8, really? How much beter could KG, Kobe, T-Mac and LeBron possibly be by going to college? And as I just stated, veterans, skilled or unskilled, wouldn't be getting their vacated roster spots, less talented rookies would.

42
by B (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 11:03am

TMQ likes to coorelate the decline of NBA popularity with the increased drafting of high school players about 10 years ago. But it should be noted that something else happend about 10 years ago to the NBA, some guy named Michael Jordan retired.

43
by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 11:17am

The purpose of college is to prepare you for your chosen career.

Traditionally the purpose of college, as opposed to a technical school, has been to give students a broad humanistic education in addition to giving them marketable skills. The former is as important as the latter.

Unfortunately, the decline in the number of good jobs that don't require a college education has led to pressure on universities to become job training mills. Languages? Literature? Art history? Increasingly, these are seen as superfluous, leading to a student body with a narrower outlook and education.

The purpose of college is to make your life richer, not to make you rich.

44
by B (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 11:31am

I thought it had something to do with learning how to shotgun a beer or do keg-stands. Maybe I should have gone to class more.

45
by C (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 11:35am

Re: #36

I think that most NFL players, if they are being honest with themselves, know that they are trading their future health for money, even if they are totally clean. The collisions they experience, the degenerative nerve and joint damage, etc. will stay with their body for life. We've all read stories about how this or that player from the 1960's can't lift his hands above his shoulder any more, or has trouble walking around, etc. We know that this happens, even to clean atheletes.

Steroids are just one more thing you do to your body for money, to support your family, your posse, your lavish lifestyle, your seven motorcars, whatever. Why should roids be any different than playing football in the first place? Just trading future health for money now, same thing.

I read a very good article, in I think it was SI ~7 years ago, that started out with something like "Every Sunday in the fall and winter, Lincoln Kennedy goes out and kills himself." It was making the point that the guys, or at least the most articulate ones like Lincoln Kennedy, *knew* they were doing bad things to their bodies, but did it anyway, in his case to support his family. In that kind of environment, what is a little steroids?

46
by HLF (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 11:37am

Minor quibble with #37 Trogdor -- most solar system (etc) maps show "north" or "up" as perpendictular to the solar plane, not directly above our north pole. Our north pole is tilted some 23 degrees, I think (leading to seasons); it's not the same as the plane through which we revolve around the sun (and if you're Frist maybe we don't revolve?).

I believe there is also a "galatic plane" (more or less the arms of the Milky Way) which would be a logical orientation for "up" and "down" when making galatic maps. Oh well....

I am in fact READY for some football. Oh, and Harrington still sucks on toast. (sigh).

47
by Nuk (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 11:43am

In TMQ's NYPD Blue script, he mentions the "Puzzle Palace." Anyone know what that means?

48
by Carl (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 11:46am

Tim,

I am not arguing that a franchise should self-regulate weight standards for players. I was simply suggesting that E's argument -- to put the onus on players or their union for regulation -- isn't feasible or fair.

In our current labor/business model, regulation of important work-related safety and health issues comes from two sources: (1) government regulation (state or federal); or (2) the courts, where litigants, especially in the south, enforce a defacto system of regulation meted out through punitive judgements.

While unions do provide safety and health committees in certain high-risk industries (coal mining and chemical production spring to mind), this system doesn't exactly exist in the NFL. The most say the union gets is a two-member minority on the competition committee, and it's the owners who vote on the proposals.

That's why so many of relatively minor safety reforms in the NFL haven't come from the CBA. They've come from private litigation by players or classes of players against equipment manufacturers, turf companies, stadium authorities, team doctors and franchise owners.

Want to know why the NFL has a concussion study group? Leigh Steinberg threatened a class action lawsuit on behalf of permanently damaged clients, including Troy Aikman.

Want to know why Astroturf has been eliminated from most arenas? Do a Lexis-Nexis on the names of plaintiffs injured in Detroit, Pittsburgh and the Meadowlands.

Want to know why Riddell and Shutt have given us the best helmets ever designed? See a list of jury awards for head and neck trauma.

Will mentioned Stringer, and it's important to remember that the meager "guidelines" the NFL not publishes for training camp rehydration stemmed from the tragedy. It's equally important to add that the lineman had both minimum AND maximum weight requirements in his contract.

Some critics have suggested that another internal regulatory model might work. The U.S. military has height and weight standards for its servicemen and women, along with mininum physical fitness norms.

For those particularly muscle-bound warriors, there are exemptions if they cross the weight line, which could equally apply to many NFL players when it comes to BMI.

The problem with this is that the military can make the argument for height and weight standards based on a number of arguments ancillary to the NFL, from physical fitness to a soldier's appearance in uniform.

That's not really an issue for the NFL linemen.

Why?

Despite the maladies I mentioned above that come from keeping an unhealthy weight, recent studies have shown that
those extra pounds otherwise won't hurt game performance. Most recently, researchers at Gettysburg College and the University of Massachusetts found that excessive body fat doesn't hamper sprinting, jumping and pushing -- exactly what the NFL's beefy beasts are asked to do every Sunday.

49
by B (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 11:52am

As Ender would say, the enemy's gate is down.

50
by Carl (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 11:56am

"It’s beneficial to the team because many of the most skilled players now enter the draft striaght from H.S., but the quality of play for the league as a whole would be better if those players developed in college while more."

This assumes two things: (1) That colleges are somehow better at training and conditioning players for the pro game than NBA clubs themselves. The NBA franchises have spoken on this with their wallets and their draft choices. They believe they can deliver a superior product if they select the right players.

The current CBA decision didn't come about because teams like the Lakers, Minnesota, Orlando or Indiana were complaining about high school kids joining their team too unpolished to contribute.

It came from franchises that hadn't really delved into the scholastic labor pool except at the last second, with poor scouting or an infrastructure to develop athletes.

They wanted to cut away the advantage certain teams -- Pacers, Lakers, San Antonio, etc. -- had developed.

The league office favored the either/or rule (either college or the developmental league) for financial reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with draft strategies or data supporting them. The league HQ wants the new revenue streams from the low-cost developmental league. If they were being honest with fans, they would simply say that they don't think players should go to college at all to "mature." They want them "maturing" in Boise or Paducah!

The truth is that teenagers already join European leagues without the benefit of post-secondary education. They learn their craft in much the way they would on the Pacers or Lakers -- sitting on the bench for games, but working extensively with special coaches and trainers for far more time than they would get in college.

Why? Because the NCAA, as a regulating body, sets limits on the amount of practice, travel and games a player can use to learn his craft.

More to the point, some college coaches aren't particularly good at developing NBA talent. To which I would defend them by saying, "It's not their job. Their job is to win games and graduate players."

51
by Trogdor (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 12:00pm

Re:C (45)

Most definitely, I remember that article as well (back when SI wasn't tabloid, apparently). I was thinking of going into that, but figured I was already babbling enough.

Re: HLF (46)

Of course, I was just using shorthand, not trying to be overly precise. I don't get the Frist reference though. Anyway, it's that kind of speaking that allows us to say things like 'Uranus is on its side', which still makes me giggle. If we didn't intuitively pick 'up' and 'down' in space, that would have no meaning. And of course if galactic travel is concerned, the galactic plane would be preferable. I guess go with whatever the biggest area of interest is.

Oh, and GO BUCKEYES!

52
by Carl (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 12:00pm

"The very best players now come out after high school or one year of college."

Let me disabuse everyone of one salient fact: The best basketball talent no longer comes out of "high school."

They come out of ad hoc all-star teams that play against equally highly regarded peers in largely unregulated after-school leagues.

The proliferation of AAU-type squads is one phenomenon, but so are the many lead up games to more heralded events such as the McDonald's or Nike games.

Their "coaches" in some of these arrangements blend the role of academic tutor, agent, publicity manager and coach.

Yeah, we'd hate to expose kids to that when they could be making millions in the NBA.

53
by Carl (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 12:03pm

"The NBA doesn’t have a built-in player development system that’s even remotely comparable to Minor League Baseball. Like the NFL, it uses the college game as it’s minor leagues."

See aforementioned comments, in re the latest CBA. The NBA has created a developmental league and wants to greatly expand it to more resemble the European hoops or soccer model.

The college game is no longer its "minor leagues" anymore than Europe, Japan, teams' practice squads or the NBA's own developmental squads are "minor leagues."

54
by Carl (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 12:09pm

"Many jobs, even the most mundane, provide significant increases in salary upon completion of a BA-regardless of the area of study."

The most cardinal study by BLS on post-college wage gains found that nearly a third of all four-year degree recipients made LESS than the median of their peers who did NOT go to university.

This also misses the point about the NBA draft. A player has a choice: He can make a lot of money at once that largely sets him for life. Or he can risk injury or diminishing talent development or desire by going to school.

If I'm KG, I'm picking the Timberwolves.

If I'm a sub on the Tulsa AAU team, have a decent SAT and need another four years to develop, I'm going to Arizona.

If I'm barely scraping through classes now, a better-than-average player on my AAU team with limited job prospects, then I might consider the NBA developmental league.

The point is that this composite 18-year-old had three choices, until now. The NBA now tells KG he can't decide for himself where to ply his craft. He must go into the developmental league OR college for a year.

Get hurt? Draw a crappy coach? Tough luck!

55
by Carl (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 12:28pm

"I’m also curious, given your very reasonable defense of the NBA’s early draft policy, whether you think the same thing would work in the NFL, where there isn’t a wealth of developmental leagues and where - as it seems to me anyway - psychological and intellectual characteristics are more important."

I think it could work in the NFL, at certain positions, especially tailback.

E totes out Maurice Clarrett as an example of why players should NOT be drafted until they have completed their college careers.

So, to do a favor for him, I'll do the same thing. MC was at the height of his college career in the BCS title game. But the 19-year-old was learning his craft at OSU, and there were enough anecdotes about the intellecutal, academic and legal environment there to make a reasonable man wonder if (1) MC was being paid to play; and, (2) his coursework was rigged for him to pass, no matter his effort in the classroom.

I'm not quite sure what more "maturing" in his craft MC could have done to have been a better player. Academically, he wasn't going anywhere at OSU, and his chances of playing while the NCAA turned up their scrutiny of the program was diminishing with every report card.

He then sat on the shelf for two years rather than playing in the NFL. That, to me, did more to hurt his ability to compete at the professional level than anything else.

At the same time, had he continued to get 300+ carries/receptions at the college level, he might very well have injured himself or began collecting the litany of degenerative conditions that haunt NFL players, later limiting the lengths of their careers.

To which I now add the tragic story of Frank Gore.

Coming out of Florida's talent-rich high school program, Gore opted to attend U of Miami.

In competition there, he ripped out the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in 2001, which forced him to rehab as a redshirt in 2002. The following year he came back and proved he could still run, rushing for more than 100 yards in each of his first three games of the 2003 season. Ahh, but then he lost the ACL in his right knee on Week Five.

He returned in 2004 and had a good season, but no scout believes he has the same blazing breakaway speed he had as a freshman. Now drafted into the NFL, he likely will face a short career as an inside-the-line, blowback rusher, sent in to pound linemen the closer a team gets to the endzone.

The ACL injuries have taken away his ability to break big runs; to bounce around linemen seeking larger gains; to block blitzers heading for the QB; to peel off his cuts to avoid hits; to effectively run around leg tackles.

Tendinitis in his right knee continues to bedevil him, so even his practicing and conditioning suffer.

In sum, he went from being the next Terrell Davis to being, well, a better version of Terrell after five years in the league.

Why couldn't Gore have taken his 9.2 YPC average to the NFL after his freshman year at Miami? Better yet, he was considered the top runningback in the nation coming out of HS. Why not go directly to the NFL and sit on the bench for three years, developing on the practice squad before throwing him into the maelstrom of Sunday games?

I believe certain positions likely would require longer conditioning, training and practice to perfect their games before entering the NFL -- QB, many linemen, most WRs.

But some players can AND SHOULD enter the NFL before the college game destroys either their talent or their health.

56
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 1:00pm

Carl, Stringer may have had a minimum weight requirement in his contract, but I think you were bit misleading even it were true. Stringer's battle was in attempting to get down to the maximum weight, not trying to meet a minimum weight. I got curious, after I posted last night, and did a little googling. There is some evidence that Stringer lost in the area of 30 pounds in a short period of time just prior to his death.

As to what changes could be made to have players maintain a more healthy size, ya' got me. One thing that might do it, although the union would fight it to the last, would be to bring back some form of limited substitution, at least for lineman. I think most 325 pounders would have a very difficult time going both ways, and the premium on size would diminish somewhat. Persoanlly, as a fan, I think there are some aspects of limited substitution football which would result in a superior entertainment product.

57
by Carl (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 1:39pm

Will, you miss my point. It's not that Stringer was attempting to rapidly lose weight that was such a public health concern. It's that he already was required, at a minimum, to exert himself at a weight that was unhealthy to begin with.

When he entered camp he already had a heightened risk for a large number of health problems, profound dehydration being but one of them.

Rather than misleading, I'm putting the microscope exactly where it belongs -- not on Stringer's push to lose a few pounds, but on the fact that he was required, by his contract, to compete at a weight medical authorities believe is automatically unhealthy for those who carry it.

58
by Ben (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 1:56pm

Two quick points. First, I thought TMQs solution for overweight linemen was a bit, well... unTMQish, if you follow. What will bring the weights down is more coaches noticing that the teams with the best offensive lines (especially for the running game) rarely have the LARGEST offensive lines... the fat boys can block, but they aren't all that helpful for the running game.

On the high school issue, the problem isn't how good players are or aren't coming into the pros... it's that they were the star on their high school team, and so when they come to the pros they haven't learned team basketball. In the elder years, that may not have been as big of an issue, when players like Magic and MJ were signed to long-term contracts. But in the days of me-first basketball and huge free agent contracts, a player has little motivation to learn the team system. Instead, his goal is to pad his stats for larger contracts. It's true that the Spurs won because of their great PF, but don't forget that Tim Duncan is also a disciplined team player... a bit of a rarity.

59
by ElAngelo (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 2:06pm

Really, the biggest harm that's done by having high schoolers (and freshmen, for that matter) jump right to the NBA is the lack of familiarity that the general public has with all these players that didn't become household names during college. Prior to everyone declaring hardship early, the NCAA's and the college basketball season in general served as free publicity for almost all of these players from major conferences, and it was great PR for the NBA. Now? The fact that most of the guys drafted early in the NBA have had little or no prior exposure makes the fan less familiar with them and their game, and in turn, hurts marketing.

60
by Carl (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 2:13pm

"it’s that they were the star on their high school team, and so when they come to the pros they haven’t learned team basketball."

Actually, as I noted above, this isn't the case. It goes without saying that players opting to enter the NBA draft are the stars of their high school team.

More importantly, however, they are stars of the team they really care about -- the semi-pro touring all-star squad representing their state, region or, at the truly elite games, one side of the country.

They are the "stars" of these groups, playing dozens of games every year against near-peers from around the world.

I mentioned Frank Gore because he was the top player on Florida's Super 77 roster. That's the equivalent of a Lebron James in the NBA, the best of the best.

As for an inability to play on a team, I would suggest that teen stars such as T Parker, K Bryant, K Garnett, S Telfair and L James not only can play "team ball," but exemplify that on the court.

I'm not so sure about many players arriving from college, the guys who truly became go-to stars and suffered from a lack of playing and conditioning compared to their peers in the NBA or Europe who don't have NCAA mandated competition rules.

Is Martell Webster really something less of a "team player" than Marvin Williams, the second pick and a guy who didn't even start for his college squad?

Is Fran Vazquez, a veteran of the Spanish and Euro pro-leagues, somehow less mature than Channing Frye, who actually regressed during his senior year?

What of Yaroslav Korolev, who joined the Russian pro league when he was 16? He didn't even finish high school before ending up on CSKA Moscow?

Mark my words: The next step for very talented Lebron James-type players won't be to attend some fake "prep academy" or try to enter the NBA developmental league or go to college.

These kids will start drifting to Europe at 17, compensated very well for their time and effort, before eventually having their contracts sold to NBA clubs.

This would happen in the NFL, too, if professional football were truly a global sport. Where is a kid going to go now if he can't get into the NFL draft? Toronto? Yellow Knife?

61
by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 2:14pm

The most cardinal study by BLS on post-college wage gains found that nearly a third of all four-year degree recipients made LESS than the median of their peers who did NOT go to university.

That means 2/3 had salaries higher than the median of non-college graduates. That sounds like a pretty big difference to me.

62
by Carl (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 2:23pm

It can be a big difference -- depending on how far above the median one finds oneself.

I gave that information to disprove a belief many people have, that going to college guarantees a higher income.

That's likely true for the kid who majors in finance then goes on to get his MBA.

It might not be so true for the folklore major with an internship at Save the Forests after graduation.

A plumber or electrician working out of the hall likely will make more money over the courses of their careers than the PE major who blew out his knee against Arkansas.

Just something to think about.

63
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 2:30pm

I gave that information to disprove a belief many people have, that going to college guarantees a higher income.

Nothing guarantees a higher income. There are no guarantees in life, other than death and taxes.

A plumber or electrician working out of the hall likely will make more money over the courses of their careers than the PE major who blew out his knee against Arkansas.

1) Risk vs. reward. The plumber has a low risk, low reward. A professional football player has a high risk, high reward.

2) Money isn't everything. There are plenty of other jobs I could do right now. I could've made $50K a year without graduating college in the tech industry. I would also be spending $10K a year on counseling. College gives options, not guarantees.

64
by Carl (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 2:45pm

A large signing bonus does the same thing.

65
by Carl (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 2:46pm

"There are no guarantees in life, other than death and taxes."

Tell that to TMQ! He believes death rates are declining. I assume mortality is still batting 1.000.

66
by bobstar (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 2:55pm

With over a quarter of the posts, isn't it time we gave Carl his own thread?

67
by Carl (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 2:59pm

Bob, I do this to drive up hits to the site. The more over the top, the better.

Besides, I'm waiting on people to call me back. Tick tock. Tick tock.

More to the point, finding fault with Easterbrook is something of a mitzvah. I just wish he didn't make it so easy.

68
by B (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 3:14pm

He said death rate for things, not people, which is totally not true, TVs don't last nearly as long as they used to.

69
by Ron Mexico (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 5:14pm

"Canton, Ohio -- birthplace of football"

Hmmmm.

According to the Massillon Chamber of Commerce, that Ohio town is the "birthplace" of American football. There is no scholarly literature to back that up, but it makes a good slogan.

According to PFRA, Walter Camp invented American football in 1876 in New Haven, Ct. From 1880-1883, he set about perfecting the game, continue to fine tune it until his death in 1925.

The Canadian Football Hall of Fame, however, contends that the Great White North invented the game in the mid-19th century, the product of British troops with too much time on their hands.

Worse yet, it was an invention of Quebec! A French game!

McGill University brought the game to the U.S. during an 1874 match. So say the Canadians.

Bruce K. Stewart in "American History" suggested that football emerged from intramural games in New England in the 1840s.

The organized game itself, he writes, is the brainchild of New Yorker Gerritt Smith Miller. He formed the Oneida Football Club in 1861 in Boston -- before Princeton, Rutgers, Yale or Harvard ever took to the pitch.

The American Indian Dance Company tours, telling children that an American tribe invented the game as a dance for women.

Other sources place the game's genesis at Rutgers as "ballown" in 1820 and Harvard in 1827.

Which is to say, there are many, many credible sources that put the Eden of American football nowhere near Canton.

Where did he get that idea?

70
by Ron Mexico (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 5:19pm

As for football season predictions in haiku format, Gregg might have been the first.

But "The Horseshoe," a Colts fanzine, has been publishing game predictions, news tidbits and general pigskin philosophy since 1999 in haiku.

Issue 25 introduced their favorite Dr. Evil clone, the Patriots.

"Pusilanimous,
pygmies. Poor pudding-faced punks.
Pesky Patriots."

71
by Carl (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 5:23pm

Thanks, Ron. We have now gone where every thread dares to go. Manning vs. Brady.

72
by Astro Boy (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 5:30pm

Why couldn’t a weight cap work in basically the same fashion as the salary cap? In other words, rather than have the same standard for every single player, you could have a maximum combined weight for all the players on the roster. If, for example, the weight cap for a 53-man roster was 13,250 lbs, the average weight of a given player would be 250. Of course not everyone would weigh that, and you could balance a 180-lb corner with a 320-lb tackle. Sure, there would still be some players at unhealthy weights, but at the very least this system would slow down the trend for weights to get higher and higher with each season.

73
by Pittsburgh Pete (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 6:09pm

"Both voluntarily give the city an annual 'payment in lieu of taxes.' It's just a payment -- thank goodness it's not a tax!"

This is not unusual for American municipalities. Exempted from paying taxes because of their nonprofit status, many institutions from colleges to charities nevertheless remit fees requested but not coerced by cities. The argument is that the city provides services to these facilties, including police, fire and paramedic services, so they can kick back a bit.

Pittsburgh's large number of nonprofits has been listed as one of the reason's for the city's bankruptcy. For years, many hospitals and other large charities and schools have voluntarily given money without being forced to do so.

It's not a tax.

74
by VarlosZ (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 6:14pm

#41 (Ted): VarlosZ, I have to disagree with you about Upside guys taking spots away from skilled veterans. A guy who can hit 20 foot jump shots and find the open man will play for a bloody long time, even if he is not a great physical specimen. Sam Perkins played until he was 39 despite a body that was hardly to die for. Vlade Divac is still kicking around at 36. Ditto Cliff Robinson (who’s 38).

But I'm not talking about the very best 38 year olds or the very best 18 year olds. I'm talking about the much larger group of merely good players. I'm talking about marginal starters/quality backups, who can still play meaningful minutes and contribute more than a pretty good 18 year old prospect, but who have to surrender their playing time (or their jobs) so the prospect can gain some experience.

And as I just stated, veterans, skilled or unskilled, wouldn’t be getting their vacated roster spots, less talented rookies would.

Ok, that's a fair way to look at it, except for one thing: it's clearly more talented rookies who would be getting their spots. That's because filling their spots on the draft are the would-be H.S. entrants from two years ago, only with more experience. For example, in 2004, the Clippers wouldn't have been able to select Shaun Livingston, but Amare Stoudemire would just then be entering the league, instead. Purely for the sake of argument, assume that the two are equally talented -- Amare after two years of college would be significantly better than Livingston coming out H.S.

How much beter could KG, Kobe, T-Mac and LeBron possibly be by going to college?
. . .
#50 (Carl): “It’s beneficial to the team because many of the most skilled players now enter the draft striaght from H.S., but the quality of play for the league as a whole would be better if those players developed in college while more.�

This assumes two things: (1) That colleges are somehow better at training and conditioning players for the pro game than NBA clubs themselves.

No, that's not my argument at all. I think it may be the case that college is better for developing players, but I admit I have no evidence for that.

My point is that, while they develop, more experienced players (be they college Juniors or declining veterans) are, on balance, more able to contribute to the team. If they're developing in college, then there's room for players on the roster who are presently better. If they're developing in the pros, then there's less room for better players. Hence, overall quality of play would be better if prospects had to develop elsewhere for a year or two.

#53 (Carl): “The NBA doesn’t have a built-in player development system that’s even remotely comparable to Minor League Baseball. Like the NFL, it uses the college game as it’s minor leagues.�

See aforementioned comments, in re the latest CBA. The NBA has created a developmental league and wants to greatly expand it to more resemble the European hoops or soccer model.

If and when the developmental league comes into its own, I'll modify my position accordingly. Right now, it's a small, fledgling outfit.

#55 (Carl): In sum, he went from being the next Terrell Davis to being, well, a better version of Terrell after five years in the league.

Why couldn’t Gore have taken his 9.2 YPC average to the NFL after his freshman year at Miami? Better yet, he was considered the top runningback in the nation coming out of HS. Why not go directly to the NFL and sit on the bench for three years, developing on the practice squad before throwing him into the maelstrom of Sunday games?

He wouldn't be any less likely to get injured in the NFL. A agree that it's better for young star athletes to be able to join the league as soon as possible, but that has nothing to do with it being better for the league or the fans.

75
by Detroit Rock City (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 6:20pm

GE talks about the Pistons and Spurs being the most "team-oriented" franchises and credits them with success in the playoffs based on that trait.

Youngsters fresh into the professional leagues, he said, suffer from not developing as "mature," skilled athletes and don't know how to play as a team.

But had he looked at their rosters, he would have noticed something.

One out of every five players on the Pistons never played in college.

On the Spurs, it was one out of three. Fully a third of the team went from the preps to the pros.

Am I to believe that Manu Ginobili doesn't understand the "team concept" because he didn't do a year or two at North Carolina? He captained the Gold Medal team at the Olympics!

Rasho Nesterovic might be a lurching stiff, but maturity and a few years at Duke wouldn't have changed that.

Tony Parker is the model of the team-oriented player. Like Ginobili, he captains the French Olympic team.

The player with 12 years of NBA experience is Nick Van Exel, a former Bearcat in college.

I might not be the football expert Easterbrook is, but is he saying that twerps like Van Exel are somehow more "mature" and better "skilled" because he learned the game under Bob "Pour Me a Tall One" Huggins?

Give me Ginobbli and Parker any day.

76
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 6:25pm

Carl, Stringer wasn't at that weight because the NFL required it. He was at that weight because he wanted to be, as evidenced by the fact that he far exceeded the weight the NFL required him to minimally maintain.

Even if your point is granted, Carl, so what? Dale Earnhardt was required contractually to drive around a race track at a dangerous speed. The Flying Wallendas were contractually required to walk on a thin wire way above the ground. Sometimes they fell off.

We aren't talking about coal miners in the thirties without prospects of feeding themselves absent playing football. They decide that taking large health risks for the prospects of a large amount of money, relative to the median wage-earner in this society, is worth it.

77
by Carl (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 6:33pm

"My point is that, while they develop, more experienced players (be they college Juniors or declining veterans) are, on balance, more able to contribute to the team."

Marginal players are just that. Of the 13 players on a team, only a few franchises will play more than eight during a game. That leaves five players who mostly eat pine when they're not practicing.

Add to that the injury exemption teams get, and about a third of the team never really enters games.

This is unlike football, where specialization of teams, a spartan roster and the high injury toll mean everybody eventually puts on pads.

Several NBA teams have, wisely, found ways to develop high school talent without affecting the quality of their overall play. The Pacers are usually trotted out as the best example, but Portland has shown themselves to be good assessors and developers of talent, if not prudent at managing them.

Quite frankly, I thought someone would at least turn to the very bad teams in the league and start pointing to their players. The Hornets are just awful.

But the best, most promising athletes on the team never played college ball -- JR Smith and Arvydas Macijauskas.

The Knicks chose Maciej Lampe because NY always takes out of position forwards. We can't determine how good he will be until he plays.

Ditto, the Jazz. Their rising talents are Mehmet Okur, who started in the Turk leagues as a teen, and Andrei Kirilenko.

The college grads -- Greg Ostertag and Jarron Collins -- aren't going to set the Western Conference on fire.

The best player on the horrible, horrible Atlanta Hawks? Al Harrington. Pacers' product.

Although one doesn't have a lot of data points, one could start to make the argument that the more prep stars you have bumping out marginal flotsam, the better your team will be!

Just ask San Antonio or Indianapolis.

78
by King Kaufman (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 6:36pm

The veteran NBA player who can really play but loses his job to a high school bust who sits on the bench is the sports version of the welfare queen. He just doesn't exist.

VarlosZ, who are these NBA vets knocked out of the league by high schoolers? Where are they? Can you give us a name?

Most NBA teams use a rotation of 7-9 guys, meaning 3-5 sit pretty much all the time when games are in doubt, even regular-season (or, as I call them, "preseason") games. What difference does it make if those three guys who never play are vets or high schoolers?

Remember that kid who played for the Suns last year and had a really popular blog on the team Web site? His name escapes me and I'm too lazy to look it up, but he was a college kid, and he NEVER played. That was his charm. He'd made peace with his status as a really tall cheerleader. And the Suns were one of the best teams in the league (led, as noted above, by a high schooler). If he had a roster spot, who's looking for a job who has any game at all?

Just give us one name.

79
by Carl (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 6:40pm

Will,

I don't dispute your point. Again, I'm only suggesting that Easterbrook's simple, reductionist claim that the union or the players bear the onus of correcting a serious health issue in the NFL.

I'm simply saying that within the very legal fabric of the league, franchises have mandated that players compete at a certain size, regardless of the present or future health consequences.

Both parties are competent adults, so the agreement is what it is. No doubt. I'm only saying that it's not the players, alone, who have created this problem. The owners and the league office bear some responsibility here.

When similar health problems of a interstate nature appear, the problem is often solved by Congress (see steroids) or federal class-action litigation.

I don't imagine Washington is going to enter the fat farm, so that leaves, eventually, the spectre of lawsuits. Don't be surprised if you see one, someday, naming various franchises and league officials.

We've already seen similar lawsuits in workers' compensation cases.

80
by Nancy (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 6:51pm

Carl, you brought up the Knicks. Go team!

Just to let you know, there's only one player on the home team this season who didn't play in the NCAAs.

Jackie Butler. Get this, he's a forward/center. The perfect side dish to the menu of guard/forwards.

Stellar college stars now making us the worst team in the Atlantic Division include Anfernee Hardaway, Jerome James and Mo Taylor.

Our best player is Jamal Crawford. That one year at Michigan must have really matured him!

It's going to be a long season.

81
by King Kaufman (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 6:53pm

I'm surprised no one's pointed out this massive flaw in TMQ's logic about how high schoolers have caused ratings decline for NBA games.

1. "The pro basketball television audience keeps shrinking because most NBA contests are crummy games -- five guys take turns going one-on-one, more concerned about their endorsement contracts than their team's W-L."

2. "The San Antonio Spurs and Detroit Pistons [have] won the last three NBA championships, and done so by eschewing the star system to play team basketball."

3. "When the Spurs and Pistons, the league's two most team-oriented teams, met for this year's title, network mavens groaned that neither fielded flashy glamour players. The reason they were meeting for the title is that neither fielded flashy glamour players!"

And?

4. THE RATINGS SUCKED!

Therefore, even without the point made above that Jordan's retirement was a reason for the NBA's TV ratings decline, and even without the further point that the NBA's TV ratings have declined because all TV ratings have declined -- there are more choices, so nothing gets the ratings of 10 years ago -- it's clear that TMQ's first assertion is wrong.

The Spurs and Pistons provided exactly the kind of non-crummy, non-one-on-one, team-oriented basketball the lack of which had supposedly caused the TV ratings to fall. If the ratings were good for the Finals, TMQ would have had a point. Instead, the TV ratings were almost never worse. Maybe something else was behind that ratings drop, ya think?

82
by Carl (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 6:55pm

King, you're preaching to choir. I don't mind the testifying, but Aaron is going to come in and crack a ruler on us.

83
by B (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 6:55pm

It must be the shorts.

84
by Silas (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 7:01pm

What about the Bulls?

Tyson Chandler and Eddie Curry are now starting their fourth year and they've becoming pretty good players. Andres Nocioni is going to be the starting small forward by the end of the year.

His Argentine olympic captain plays for the NBA champions.

The three never played college ball. They became pros before they were 18.

Luol Deng and Chris Duhon, both from team-oriented Duke, aren't nearly so good. They're role players.

85
by B (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 7:05pm

Oh, that player on the Suns with the really popular blog was Paul Shirley. He's since been cut, but the Sports guy has an update from him on his blog.
http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/blog/index?name=simmons (scroll about halfway down). Speaking of the Sports Guy, I thought he established the real problem with the NBA was Pat Riley's time with the Knicks when he came up with the radical defensive strategy of mugging the opposing team's best play for 48 minutes (NBA equivalent of the neutral zone trap).

86
by Carl (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 7:07pm

Of the 24 players at last year's NBA All Star game, 11 never played college ball. They entered the pros before their 19th birthdays.

Yeah, the fan has been ill-served by the practice.

87
by Rasta Man (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 7:14pm

Am I the only one who has noticed a certain amount of racism in Easterbrook's assumptions?

The NFL is 85 percent African-American, and so they can't be trusted to become professional athletes before they're 19. They need some college to "mature" and gain "life skills."

The NBA is 70 percent African-American. They, too, can't be trusted to become professional athletes before they're 19. They need some college to "mature" and gain "life skills."

But Easterbrook says nothing about MLB, which is predominately white or latino. Nor does he mention hockey, which have professional junior leagues that begin well before a kid is 19. The NHL is nearly all caucasian.

Nor does he mention what Carl points out about the European leagues. Mostly white kids starting apprenticeships at early ages. Nor does he talk about international soccer. Or world class rugby.

Or professional tennis. Do you think Andre Agassi or Serena and Venus played NCAA tennis before heading to the U.S. Open?

Why does he reserve for such scrutiny the sports dominated by African-Americans?

I know people are going to attack me for this, but I think I know the reason.

88
by B (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 7:38pm

I think there is some inherit racism or classism in GE's assumptions regarding age limits. Don't forget the two other sports that never come up with regards to readiness, Golf and Tennis. Maybe because those are sports inheritly linked with privlage and upper-class. Or maybe it's cause they're not team sports.

89
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 7:41pm

Well, carl, nobody can predict with 100% accuracy what a jury will do, but the average juror may have a hard time awarding damages to a guy who willingly decides to risk his health for the prospects of making a few million. I suspect the NFL attorneys would be pretty diligent in the jury selection process, and since the odds favor them, they would be tough to defeat.

90
by Aaron (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 7:47pm

Well, this is TMQ's one big "very little football" column so what am I gonna do, stop you from talking about the stuff actually in the column? No ruler cracking.

My only thought on this is that guys who come out of high school and are not at a LeBron/McGrady level might be better served if the NBA could outright those scrub high school players to the NBDL and they could play 30 minutes a night learning what it is like to play the pro game. But if they don't feel like going to college who am I to tell them they have to go to college?

91
by gc (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 7:52pm

Rasta,

I don't know that I really see any racism in GE's comments. I think the major relevant difference between the NBA/NFL and MLB/NHL/Europe is the lack of a minor or junior league in the NFL or NBA. MLB teams drafts players with the intention that very few will make it to the majors before their 21st birthday and pretty much none before their 19th.

In essence, the minor leagues are their chance to "mature" and gain "life-skills". The argument is that high school grads aren't mature enough to be able to handle the expectations of being a major contributer to the franchise and the spotlight that goes with that.

As to Carl's point that 11 of the 24 all-stars never played college ball, I don't think that's really the point. Only the most talented get drafted out of high school. Those players all likley would've been all-stars in the NBA whether they went to college or not. The question is whether the NBA is better served by them enterring right out of college or by them going to school first.

All that said, I actually disagree that letting high school kids into the league is a problem. The nature of the NBA leads to prima-donnas. I don't really think whether the players went to college or not is a major factor.

92
by HLF (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 8:06pm

Some people see "racism" everywhere they look. Is that because there is "racism" everywhere they look (in 2005), or has it perhaps something to do with their vision?

What do you think those truly discriminated against because of their skin color in 1960 would think about the racism suffered by those addressed in this sports column? Could we maybe all agree to save those concepts (racism and by implication, discrimination) for occasions where we have no choice but to see this behavior?

Hopeless Lions Fan

PS My cousin (from New Orleans, and a huge Saints fan, so we have futility in common) compares Washington's liquor laws to the Holocast. While I see his point at the absurdity and unjustness of our liquor laws here, not every injustice is the Holocast, and not every form of discrimination is "racially" based.

93
by Pasta Man (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 8:08pm

It's not like he's had problems stereotyping people before.

94
by Rocco (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 8:53pm

#84:

You forgot about Kirk Heinrich and Ben Gordon, who spent 4 and 3 years respectively in college. Heinrich went to 2 Final Fours, Gordon went to 1 and won a title. Both were key figures on their teams- Heinrich the starting PG, and Gordon took most of UConn's big shots. I don't think it's a coincidence that the Bulls improved the last 2 years when they drafted those two players to add to Curry and Chandler. I'm sure that was an oversight on your part.

Personally, I think HS players are better served going to college rather than sitting on the bench if they're not going to play regular minutes, barring a few exceptions. Elite HS players that a) can't really improve much against college guys and b) are going to get reasonable minutes should go to college.

And I think you're selling Deng way short.

95
by King Kaufman (not verified) :: Wed, 08/31/2005 - 9:29pm

Personally, I think HS players are better served going to college rather than sitting on the bench if they’re not going to play regular minutes, barring a few exceptions.

But personally, the players themselves who have done it tend to disagree with you. Jermaine O'Neal, for example, festered on Portland's bench for four years, and he says he got a way better basketball education than he would have gotten at college, and he's almost certainly right.

While "sitting on the bench" those four years, O'Neal played 2,435 minutes. In his four years in college, Kirk Hinrich played 4,188 minutes. Clearly Hinrich played more -- 1,700 minutes more, an NBA season of sixth- or seventh-man type duty's worth. But O'Neal was practicing every day against NBA players, with NBA coaches, and he was doing it from September to June, not November to late March. O'Neal played more basketball, with and against better players, and with more and better coaching, than he would have done in college.

96
by R.J. (not verified) :: Thu, 09/01/2005 - 12:49am

King,
Your point in post 95 is obviously right, but the question isn't what is better for any individual player -- it is what's better for the league as a whole. The NBA was more popular when the best players coming into the league each year were very well-known by the general public from a couple or more years of playing in high-profile NCAA games. Magic, Bird, Ewing, Worthy, Olajuwon and Jordan were, for lack of a better word, "celebrities" before they ever put on an NBA uniform. Hard-core basketball fans will watch no matter what but to get big ratings, the casual fan needs to be brought in. The credibility of players who had achieved that status in NCAA games helped the credibility of the NBA. (LeBron is perhaps the exception that proves the rule, but almost none of the high school players drafted was known outside of hard-core hoops circles -- and that I believe has hurt the popularity of the league.) The age requirement is all just marketing, but it's a smart move from that standpoint. There will probably be a few HS players who go to Europe, but most kids in this country would just as soon go to college for a year or two as do that, even if the money is a little better in Europe than it is in Ann Arbor or Tucson.

97
by sean (not verified) :: Thu, 09/01/2005 - 5:10am

What I really don't understand in all of the arguments in favor of an NBA age restriction is that there is somehow a huge difference between a player turning pro right out of high school and a player spending one single year in college before turning pro. Luol Deng left Duke a month after he turned 19. Does he really have more in common with Hinrich and Gordon than he does with Chandler and Curry? (I do think the above commenter was selling Deng short - he's much better than just a role player.)

What TMQ intentionally leaves out of his argument is that NBA earning potential is directly linked to service time. A player doesn't get free agency rights after he reaches a certain age; he gets them after he's been in the league for three years, though he isn't unrestricted until after his fifth season. Making a player wait until he's 27 to have the right to choose for whom he plays might be in the best interest of NBA owners, but I would question whether it's better for the game as a whole. Certainly it's not better for the player himself.

98
by Silas (not verified) :: Thu, 09/01/2005 - 11:36am

"I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Bulls improved the last 2 years when they drafted those two players to add to Curry and Chandler. I’m sure that was an oversight on your part."

Not an oversight at all. They have been good players. But the core of the team is underneath. Curry, Chandler and Nocioni. I would argue that the improvement of the Bulls began as the two high schoolers really started developing in their third year.

Nocioni has been a pro since he was 17, and he seems almost off-the-shelf great.

I like Gordon. But he comes off the bench. Three of the starting five never went to college. Their rise is why the Bulls made the playoffs, with some help from a decent point guard and Gordon hitting key shots.

99
by Carl (not verified) :: Thu, 09/01/2005 - 11:47am

"The NBA was more popular when the best players coming into the league each year were very well-known by the general public from a couple or more years of playing in high-profile NCAA games."

Yes, but it wasn't more profitable. And the entire machinery of marketing at the NBA has changed since the days of Bird and Magic.

Here's the problem: In the 1970s, the college game still was the best laboratory for turning out accomplished players who could make the transition to the professional game.

That's no longer true. NBA execs at successful franchises have found it's actually better to obtain the services of (1) high schoolers, and train them themselves for future duty under a fairly long indentured servitude and (2) foreign professional leagues, especially in Europe, which take players far younger than we do here!

If I might agree with Rasta Man on a salient point -- Gregg Easterbrook is not making the same arguments for young hockey, tennis or soccer players. He makes no mention that these sports have been "ruined" or that their teams or individual stars have failed to win championships because they were too young.

Why? Because he would be laughed out of Wimbledon or Lord Stanley's Cup.

What I find odd is that he will make an argument (patently wrong, based on the actual roster, by the way) about the Detroit Pistons, but fail to notice that an even more dominant club in town (Redwings) relies almost wholly on men who never went to college.

One could continue to make the same argument about white athletes dominating NACAR, or Formula 1, or thoroughbred horse racing or baseball, but what's the point?

Eventually one comes to conclude that Easterbrook really doesn't know much about the game of basketball, maybe slightly more about professional football and almost nothing about the business models for the rest of the world's sports.

But he sure can spin a mean haiku.

100
by Doug (not verified) :: Thu, 09/01/2005 - 2:09pm

Since Peyton Manning went to college for 4 yrs, and Tom Brady went directly to the pros from HS, I think we can clearly conclude that TMQ is wrong, since Brady is obviously far superior to Manning.

101
by B (not verified) :: Thu, 09/01/2005 - 3:29pm

And I thought the Pope article would win this week's award for most awkward connection to the PeyTom Branning Debate.

102
by GBS (not verified) :: Thu, 09/01/2005 - 6:01pm

I assumed he meant Michigan pays their players but Tennessee doesn't.