From The Cheap Seats

It was a busy sports week, so let's catch upů

Monday night the Tennessee Vols took the first BCS Championship game, as I predicted in this column. They won it easier than I thought because Marcus Outzen was just unable to deal with the UT defense. Their victory in the season after the legendary Peyton Manning left reminded me of when the University of Cincinnati won the NCAA basketball championship the season after Oscar Robertson left. Like Manning, Oscar got them close to the promised land, but the team that was built around them did better the next season. It demonstrates that no matter how great a player is, he needs help, and sometimes the helpers combine well on their own.

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Tuesday was the Hall of Fame announcements. One of the many great things about baseball is that people care and can argue about the HOF selections; this is the only sport where that happens. For the record, my ballot would've included Brett, Ryan, Yount, Fisk, Carter, Perez, Sutter, and Pete Rose. The first three got in and their selection seemed obvious. Much was made about those who didn't vote for Ryan (this is an annual event by TV sportscasters, who don't get to vote and feel free to show how cool they are), but to me, the missing votes for Brett are more remarkable. Ryan never won a Cy Young Award, and lost 292 games, leaving him only +32 for his career, one of the worst records in the Hall -- these arguments are weak, but they're possible. What could possibly cause a no vote on George Brett?

I felt Carlton Fisk deserved election for having hit more homers than any other catcher in history, as well as catching more games than anyone in history. He was also a fine defensive catcher and handler of pitchers, even if he did slow games to a crawl. Gary Carter was the NL counterpart of Fisk -- a first rate offensive catcher, he hit 324 homers, drove in 100 runs 4 times, leading the league in 1984, and was the cleanup hitter on the 1986 World Champion Mets. He was a superior defensive catcher to Fisk and as an 11 time all-star, seems an obvious hall of famer to me. Tony Perez is one of the more controversial players on the ballot. There are those who think he's an obvious choice (18th all-time in RBI, surrounded by hall of famers, a seven-time all-star), and those who think he's a terrible choice (mediocre OBA, decent slugging pct., never led the league in anything). The pro argument says he batted cleanup for the Big Red Machine, an impressive thing indeed, the con argument says that he got all those RBI only because he was surrounded by real hall of famers. My feeling is that when a man is so high up in a key stat like RBI (and extra base hits as well), surrounded by hall of famers, then you should look to see whether he helped teams win. And he most certainly did -- played in five World Series, and the Big Red Machine never won after he left them. He drove in 100 runs seven times, scored 100 twice, and based on everything we've heard, was a true leader in the clubhouse. I think it's close, but I'd vote for him. What is most interesting is that 41 writers who voted for him last year, didn't vote for him this year. I am always fascinated when that happens. To me, once you've decided someone is a hall of famer, that's it.

Bruce Sutter was a brilliant relief pitcher, the last closer who didn't just pitch one inning to get the save. In 1984, he saved 45 games and pitched 122 innings, with an ERA of 1.54. He didn't need a setup man, he was his own setup man. He had a nasty splitter, led the league in saves 5 times in 6 years and put together ERA of 2.70, 1.34, 2.22, and 2.64 in Wrigley Field.

Pete Rose, well, you don't need me to tell you about him here.

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On Thursday, the NBA lockout ended. Crowds took to the street in celebration, sailors kissed strange women, old men wept, and young men vowed to remember where they were that moment. Oh yeah, that was World War II. This was the top story on Sportscenter. Some people cared, others had already realized what a small part the NBA plays in our lives. It's not baseball, with its day-to-day action throughout the Spring and Summer, with box scores to read over your morning coffee. It's not football, a passion for communities throughout the South and Midwest at the High School and College level, the NFL dominates the sports world, even the World Series makes way for Monday Night Football. No, the NBA is entertainment, especially the regular season, and sports fans found alternatives. Whether they comeback again is hard to say, entertainment is something folks like, if the highlights are good on Sportscenter, the urge may strike people.

On the other hand, the announced intention to set aside 500 tickets a game at $10 apiece so that families can go to the games was pathetic. The thought that a $10 ticket in the nosebleed seats makes the sport family-friendly is indicative of a complete disconnect with the lives of real people.

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Friday, John Thompson resigned as coach of the Georgetown Hoyas. His great coaching helped make the Big East a powerhouse, and the brawling, in your face defensive style of his teams damn near destroyed it. This is a curious time for this decision, and no doubt the real reasons for the move will come out soon.

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Last week I went 2-1-1 against the spread and should have been at least 3-1, but the refs took one away from the Packers. This week of games has traditionally produced some of the worst football. Remember, from this point out, teams rarely win without covering the spread.

Atlanta 27, San Francisco 23: This time, the fumble gets called and there's no last minute catch. No game is more likely to produce an upset than this one, as the Niners have a class edge on the favored Falcons, as well as great history against them. They also outgained them both times they played this season. I think Chandler and Anderson are healthier and fresher than Young and Hearst. The short week doesn't help SF recover from the bruising battle against the Packers, and that was a big emotional win for them. Atlanta played a weak schedule, but was great at beating the teams they were supposed to. I think they'll manage it again.

Denver 38, Miami 14: Miami is banged up, inferior, and on the road. This game, the number one seed against the Wild Card winner is traditionally a rout or an out and out upset. I can't seethe Dolphins being competitive here unless the Broncos have nothing left and I don't think that's the case. Elway gets revenge.

Jets 28, Jacksonville 7: The cold weather and the artificial turf will make life difficult for Mark Brunell, but not as difficult as the Jets will. My best bet of the weekend.

Minnesota 42, Arizona 24: Seems obvious, doesn't it? But Viking history tells us that they tend to run against the obvious playoff result. I just can't imagine a team that's been so impressive, on both sides of the field, to have any trouble with this game.

I know, I picked all four home favorites to win and cover, a highly unlikely result. But I didn't really want to have to guess which one won't cover. My guess is they go 3-1.

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