Sports Refuge

By Lloyd Graff

The war in Ukraine is a genocide. The economy is a perplexing complex of boom and missteps. Politics has degenerated into angry posturing and eliciting cheers from your fans rather than changing the minds of voters who are capable of listening to challenging ideas. 

Today I will write about SPORTS.

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The NBA playoffs are in mid-flight, and I am loving it. 

The game has evolved. The caliber of play is much better than I have ever seen. Defense is active, incredibly athletic, and mobile. It has to be better, because the 3-point shot has revolutionized the game since Daryl Morey as General Manager of the Houston Rockets used statistics to deduce that a good three-point shooting team would win more often than even a disciplined screen and drive team. Players 7ft tall are shooting and making 3-point shots. Guards like Steph Curry win the MVP award and get endorsements for cryptocurrency exchanges. The NBA has become a world game that now challenges soccer, with immense popularity even in China.

NBA teams draft players come from around the world. Giannis Antetokounmpo, AKA the Greek Freak, is reigning MVP and should win the award again. He is 27 and so phenomenal his team, the Milwaukee Bucks, put his brother on the squad just to cheer. He is not good enough to play much, but nobody cares. 

With the 24-second clock dictating the speed of play, fast breaks are cherished, but when the pace slows up enough to set up plays, the old days of big guys with hook shots playing the pivot are now over. Wilt Chamberlain would have had to alter his playing style. Today’s game is pic, roll, drive, and pass to the corner for the 3-ball. New stars like Nicola Jokić, Ja Morant, Luka Dončić, and Devin Booker invigorate the game year after year. Streaming networks are currently featuring various series based on Kevin Durant, Jerry Buss, and Magic Johnson. LeBron James has become a billionaire with NBA and Nike money. The NBA is the world game, the NFL is the American white guys game, and Major League Baseball is still looking for the next Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays.

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Kenny Pickett’s hands

The NFL just held its annual draft. Despite the enormous emphasis on the passing game, only one quarterback was picked in the first round. Kenny Pickett of the University of Pittsburgh was chosen by the Steelers as the likely replacement for Ben Roethlisberger who has been playing since the Vietnam War. Pittsburgh ownership has always been unorthodox in how they run the team. They keep head coaches for 20 years. Mike Tomlin was the first black head coach and is still there. Now they have drafted a quarterback with the smallest hands in the game. Will he prove the cynics wrong?

Ending the NFL discussion, the North Dakota State Bisons likely will soon have produced two starting NFL quarterbacks, Carson Wentz and Trey Lance. Wentz plays for the Washington Commanders (not Redskins) and Lantz for San Francisco. What are the odds of that?

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Last, a little about baseball. 

Major League Baseball continues to slip in popularity, but as an old white guy, I still love the game. They keep tinkering with the sport, but the players and managers cannot seem to make it better by jiggering with it. Computer analysis of millions of pitches and thousands of games have shown that shifting infielders can deprive hitters the chance to get on base. This approach has crippled most left-handed hitters who pull the ball. It is almost impossible for them to hit a ground ball through the shift into right field for a hit. 

Add to this today’s pitchers’ improved ability to throw sinking fast balls to the bottom of the strike zone or just below it, and the catchers’ talent for “framing pitches,” making them appear to be strikes. This has reduced batting averages by 50 points. 

One of the beauties of baseball is that the players adjust over time. We are starting to see left-handed hitters learn to hit to an empty left field side, but power hitters who get paid for pulling home runs are still struggling.

Baseball could eliminate shifting. It is being tried in the Minors, but the game is very slow to change. 

I keep watching. The Cubs could be contenders in 2024 or 2025.

I miss you, Ernie Banks.

Question: Who will replace Tom Brady and Aaron Rogers as the great quarterbacks of this decade?

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4 thoughts on “Sports Refuge

  1. Mark Rollinson

    Hi Lloyd
    I think you meant to ask:
    Who will replace Tom Brady as the greatest quarterback of all time!?
    Just joking (kind of) 😉
    I greatly appreciate your blog Lloyd, it’s always read worthy

    Sincerely,

    Mark Rollinson, Bozrah, CT

     
  2. Daniel

    I’m sure there will be agreement that these guys are the leading characters:
    Patrick Mahomes
    Josh Allen
    Joe Burrow

    There are certainly others, but that’s my top 3.

    -Daniel E., Livonia, MI.

     
  3. Joe L

    NBA backed by & bows to Chicom & Nike with slave labor used TODAY along with corrupt BL(ies)M and fanatics have their head in the sand. No thanks. Deshaun Watson will shine in rebirth and have a happy ending in C town.

     
  4. James McHenry

    How about that F1 season, too? A resurgent Ferrari doing battle with the Red Bulls, Haas (yes, owned by the CNC guys,) being the surprise of the season with by far improved performance, the former Champs at Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton seemingly having lost their way as well. It’ll be interesting to see how the Miami circuit lives up to the hype this weekend.

    And, of course, it’s May, so the grand old tradition at an Indiana rectangle will be happening. The 500 is always a special race, and I’m quietly rooting for Jimmy Johnson this year. The guy has seen a lot of improvement since going from NASCAR to Indycar, so who knows, could happen.

     

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