By Julie Buehler
I was at the grocery store the other day, marveling at the giant selection of gluten-free pizza in the freezer aisle. Seems like last year none of that existed, anyway, while gawking a fellow came up to me, announced he read this fine column “religiously” and fired away with questions that apparently had been fermenting for some time in his noggin.
And that totally makes sense. March has been maddening with the NCAA tourney. MLB is here. Finally….and for the foreseeable eternity.
The NBA is careening into the postseason.
And some massive news in the NCAA that we’ve been reporting on steadily has broken wide open.
That being the case, I thought I’d answer the most asked questions by readers on Facebook, Twitter and at the grocery store (which is a fun spot to run into readers. Yes, I added 2 gluten-free pizzas to my cart).
“Will you marry me?” –Tom on Twitter
Nope. Gotta meet my dad first.
“Who’s your favorite in the tourney?” –Joe on Facebook
Defense. The team that’s playing the best defense is going to be the most dominant team in the tourney. Florida and Arizona were my picks to play for the title because of their defensive prowess, but Wisconsin beat Arizona at their own game and ended up in Bo Ryan’s first Final Four ever. Meanwhile they take a on fast, energetic Kentucky team for the chance to win a title. The only way the Badgers beat the 8-seed Wildcats, who are favored by 2 points, is if they keep up the defensive pressure they showed Arizona. Defense hadn’t been the Badgers calling card this season, but they turned it on through the tournament and find themselves in a position to win a championship.
Oh and how’s this for some fascinating history: the Final Four is being played in the same stadium where the Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl XLV as the first 6-seed in NFC history. Aaron Rodgers, that Super Bowl’s MVP, was in the locker room for the Badgers after their regional final victory. So Wisconsin has a chance to win it’s first national since 1941 in the same house that Rodgers supplanted NFL legend Brett Favre. That’s poetry.
And while you have to love UCONN’s story of redemption from NCAA sanctions, you also have to watch how Florida’s defense is suffocating its opponents. The Gators have won each game in the tournament by double digits. 5 of the past 6 teams to do that have won the title.
“Is Trouty worth $144M?” –Patrick on Twitter
In a word: Yes. In 2 words: HELL YEAH!!! Mike Trout is the best player in baseball and he’s only 22. The Angels signed him to a 6-year extension at an average of $24 million dollars a year. I don’t have an issue with the money; he might be the only player in the game I think can actually be worth that kind of money. My issue is with the length of the contract. The reason a team signs a young stud up for an extension 2 years earlier than arbitration is to save money in the overall deal to keep him. Well, Trout was 2 years from arbitration and the Angels only get him for 4 years after that. So they’re paying him 24 times what they’d need to for 2 years in order to lock him up for only 4 more years and let him head into his prime a potential free agent. Had they offered him an 8-10 year deal, perhaps for more money, I would have been more comfortable with that. This just seems like the Angels are forking over big money to groom a player who’s likely to head to free agency in his prime.
“Jules, are you enjoying fantasy baseball?” –Ryan on Twitter
Well, we all know the baseball season is a long one. Really, really ridiculously long. So I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my early fantasy baseball experience, but it’s like getting to Disneyland really early while there’s no lines, you know what’s coming, you just try to enjoy the ride while you can.
“How do you see the NCAA reforming? Seems like the fat cats will always get fatter.” –Jordan on Facebook
When I began reporting on NCAA reform and pounding the drum for change 4 years ago, a lot of my listeners questioned the possibility of reform as the NCAA seemed to have all the power and the college athletes nothing more than replaceable pawns. It seemed they system was too big and the machine too strong. But as with any process of change, the more educated people are on the facts, consequences and realities, the more change becomes possible. As we began to understand how college athletes are exploited and the student aspect of their experience a sliver of their collegiate responsibilities, change became more possible. As the lawsuits began to pile up and the media began to do their homework, reading the laws and by-laws and finally telling the story of the brazen hypocrisy of the NCAA’s stringent control and shocking corruption, change became more possible. And as the courts finally realized the charade of “amateurism” is just that, a charade to placate a kid’s dream to be a star while pocketing the billions for the suits.
So these colliding circumstances: the increased scrutiny, the improved consumer knowledge and most importantly, current college players standing up for their own rights has allowed for an environment that reform is not only possible, but inevitable.
The latest ruling from the National Labor Relations Board deciding that Northwestern University football players are employees and can therefore unionize is a game changer. And a speedy one.
Once college players have a voice, a union to represent their interests, the pendulum will shift and necessarily so, to offer them more rights, opportunity and perhaps the same freedom and free market that you and I enjoy while making our way in this world.
It’s not likely to devolve into the same free agency that professional sports allows, but I do think in the next year, we’ll see the billions dispersed to facilities and coaches and administrators to find their way to player trust funds.
This latest court ruling rips the heart out of the NCAA’s power base and that’s why it’s such a difference-maker.
With that, I’ll let you go about your day, knowing that the world of sports, ever exciting and changing and evolving and expanding and being dutifully reported right here in CV Weekly. If you have questions, feel free to tweet at me, @Julie_Buehler or post them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/julie.buehler.
Julie Buehler hosts the Coachella Valley’s most popular sports talk radio show, “Buehler’s Day Off” every day from 3-6 on 1010 KXPS, the valley’s all sports station. She’s an avid gym rat, slightly sarcastic and more likely to recite Steve Young’s career passing stats than American Idol winners. Tune in M-F 3-6 pst at www.team1010.com or watch the show on Ustream.