Happy Valentine’s Day – Let’s Spend it Talking About and Watching Sports by kentsterling

Valentine’s Day was created by sadists who want men miserable.  I think Nancy Meyers, the director of “It’s Complicated” and a dozens other insipid and sappy movies women force men to go see, had something to do with it.  Thank God it falls on during the week between the Super Bowl and pitchers and catchers reporting.  It is on the day of the Daytona 500 this year, which sucks for NASCAR fans, but as I hate parades – my schedule is unaffected.

There is the final round of the former Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach, which is one of the few golf events that continues to have its head on straight.  This is golf, after all, and supposed to be fun.  The Crosby involves pros and amateurs, even on Sunday.  Pebble Beach is the second best known course on the planet, and watching people laugh while enjoying the experience of playing is excellent.  Too often, golf on TV is dominated by humorless metronomes who take themselves and the game way too seriously.

Thankfully, yesterday is over for IU hoops fans.  The Hoosiers got walloped yesterday, lending credence to the increasingly loud rumors that Tom Crean has worn out his team both physically and emotionally.  There is an evil bit of corporate mythology that says the people who work the hardest and the longest always win.  It’s not true.  If you wake up, fall asleep, and spend every moment in between thinking about how to win, you will have great short-term success, but if you try to force those you manage to think likewise (especially if they are 19-year-old college students), you are screwed.

The human body is an odd instrument that has good days and bad.  If you wear it down, it does not always bounce back stronger.  The mind does the same thing, especially when there is not a goal within reach.  Mediocre coaches give in to the gravity of meeting failure with torturous work.  Sometimes the kids need a mental and physical breather.  Crean seems to have answered the challenges this season has presented by smothering work.

Bob Knight and Denny Crum were exceptionally successful coaches for decades, and always seemed to get the most out of their teams in February and March.  They both scaled back practice times as the bodies and minds of their kids wore down.  I hope Crean hasn’t pushed the kids so hard that they can’t rebound a little before the Big Ten Tournament because that’s all they have left.  That and the game at West Lafayette.

Purdue seems to have come out the other side of their malaise.  After losing three in a row, they seemed to find their legs again.  Yesterday’s win against Iowa was a clinic in how to put away a mediocre opponent at home.  The Boilers are rolling, and my prediction that they would win the Big Ten regular season looks reasonably safe.  Ohio State is really good because of Evan Turner – maybe the best player in college basketball – and should give the Boilers a good run this Wednesday in Columbus (the Boilers match-up well against OSU despite their loss to the Buckeyes last month), but the conference is likely to boil down to the matchup at West Lafayette against Michigan State two weeks from today.

Pitchers and catchers for the Cubs report to Mesa in three days, but the report in Chicago is that there are already 40 Cubs in camp trying to coax a little more productivity out of the aging bodies.  The Cubs are starting to look like the group Randy Hundley assembles each year for the fantasy camps he invented a quarter-century ago, but it can be a long summer without caring about the Cubs, so I’m swearing off speaking negatively about them and pompous Cubs GM Jim Hendry.  Okay, I’ll start again.  Nothing negative beginning…now!

This paragraph will interest few, but I enjoyed the Loyola Ramblers win last night against UIC in the Gentile Center of the increasingly beautiful Rogers Park Campus of Loyola University.  The Ramblers won by 17, and executed pretty well.  They ran their offense, got some hard-earned buckets, and stopped this Kreps kid for UIC with some tenacious defense.  My son got to play 12 minutes during periods when the game still hung in the balance.  It was great to see him play enough to relax a little bit and look like the player he is.  Ryan can get a little ramped up if he thinks he’s in for two possessions, but when he plays at the speed of the game, he functions really well.  He knocked down a three and played some good defense.  Parents always believe their kid can play.  Last night, it was fun to have Ryan prove us right. 

The Ramblers could be a pain in the ass during the Horizon League Tournament.  They aren’t worn down, unlike the Hoosiers, and have a group that played Butler very tough for three halves this season. 

Now that Butler has sewn up home court advantage for the Horizon League tournament, how much fun will March be in Indianapolis?  That tournament, the Women’s and Men’s Big Ten Tourneys, and then the Final Four.  If the weather cooperates, it should be magical, and the dirty looks we get today from our wives or girlfriends for watching Daytona, the Winter Olympics, or the Old Clambake will be long since forgotten.

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