What’s Your Favorite League Overall?

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By the TSB Staff

October brings the busiest time of the year for sports, and the multitude of choices might cause overload for the fan. It’s a plethora of choices on parallel with the amount of art displayed in the churches and museums of Florence, Italy. When I visited the “flowering city on the Arno River,” I was amazed by how much marble and canvas had been aesthetically crafted across the city, the multitude of options made it hard to choose what I wanted to see it first and fit it all in the time I was allotted. That’s what it currently feels like as a sports fan in autumn, especially so on the weekends. So how do you prioritize which game you want to watch? I unleashed my editorial staff to make their case for each one. –PMB

H. JOSE BOSCH:

College football is, without a doubt, the best sport in America because college football appeals to that small part of all of us that never wants to truly grow up. College football takes us back to the times when the beer was cheaper, the breasts were perkier and the days never ended; they all just blended together in one hedonistic mess.

College football has bands and student sections and cheerleaders and almost all of them are under the age of 25, which makes for a lot more fun for everyone else who is over 25. They look better, cheer better and have a lot more fun. At the best stadiums they create a toxic environment that is America’s closest answer to the mass hysteria you see in South American soccer stadiums. While bags of urine aren’t thrown on the field, bottles of urine certainly roll their way down stadium steps from time to time. And that is almost as awesome.

College football reminds us of our own football glory days. Those times in college when we tried to convince our friends that we totally could score a touchdown from five yards out if we were given four downs. Why? Because college football still seems so accessible to the former athlete. We went to class with these guys, ate at the same student union and went to the same parties. So many of them seemed so normal that you almost felt you could be a part of that group.

Who watches an NFL game and thinks they can compete at that level? But, for some reason, even though almost all Division I football players could easily kick our ass, we somehow believe we could hang with them if only some coach from the past had believed in us.
College football also has true upsets and underdogs. It still absolutely sucks for the favorite when they lose a game for two main reasons: without a playoff a loss can mean your national championships hopes could vanish and they don’t have the solace of a big paycheck to come home to. Oh, not to mention they have to walk around campus for a week while everyone else around the critiques why they sucked so much.

If those kinds of raised stakes aren’t enough to pump you up than you seriously have no soul.

College football is the best sport in the country. Period.

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PAUL SCHMIDT:

There’s lots of reasons to love college basketball. There’s the obvious arguments, like the college game is pure, without the obvious faults of the pro game. They always play defense in college basketball, and the wide variety of talent bases and schemes always make for intriguing game play.

There’s two things in my mind that always set college basketball apart from every other sport.  First would be the student bodies and fan bases. Quite simply, college basketball fans are the most rabid and informed of all fans. The arenas are, in general, conducive to making things as loud as possible (I say in general because if you’ve ever been to Allstate Arena, where DePaul plays, well…). Every fan base has its own crazed section: You’ve got the Cameron Crazies, the Izzone, The Paint Crew, The Orange Krush…just to name a small few.  Some stadiums you just don’t sit down.  At Florida, in one half of the stadium you wear blue, the other half orange.  In short, the crowds, the stadiums, the atmosphere and yes, the cheerleaders, all make college basketball what it is in person and at home on TV.

The second…quite obviously…is the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.  There is nothing quite like it in any other sport. The NCAA has even tried to re-create the same atmosphere with its other sports by holding selection show specials, and amping up the one-and-done atmosphere (most notably with the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament and the NCAA Baseball and Softball College World Series’), and have only gotten into the same zip code with atmosphere and dedication of its fans once (surprisingly, the NCAA men’s hockey tournament).

Is there any greater day than Selection Sunday, with the culmination of all of the major conference tournaments, and then finding out if and where your team is going in the Big Dance?  Is there any event that really lets you feel like the little guy has a chance to win?   The NCAA Tournament is just the perfect combination of sport, marketing and opportunity.  Maybe it was all by accident — but it certainly was a happy accident.

Let’s say in the next NCAA Tournament, that a 16 seed beats a 1 seed for the very first time. That, right there has not only become the biggest sports story of the year, but one of the biggest news stories as well.  The David-vs.-Goliath story, the anything-can-happen story. The perseverance wins over all story, saying that if you work hard, and put your mind to it, that you can overcome any obstacles and achieve anything.

How many other sports do you know that can accomplish that in just one game?

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PETER CHRISTIAN

My favorite league? Come on. There’s no doubt it’s the NHL. Sure it’s run by some second rate moron who wouldn’t get in to Death Valley Community College if he applied today, and the league’s ratings suffer because the TV contracts they have are about as lucrative as an eyeball on your kneecap. However, from a pure entertainment standpoint it is the clear winner in my mind. I love all sports but hockey is the sport that clicked first for me. I’m happy watching any part of any game of hockey at any level, so it’s only natural that the league that showcases the world’s best talent is my favorite. But that’s not the only reason.

The NHL has a little bit of everything. Flashy players? Check. Gritty, hard hitting action? Check. Jump out of your seat, Holy-Shit-did-that-just-happen moments? You bet.

Hockey combines athleticism, hustle and hard work with a specific skill set that really defines the personality of its players. Hockey players on principle are guys that are extremely loyal and aren’t afraid to take or throw a punch to prove a point all while showcasing their very specific talent of being able to skate on a pair of blades that are less than a quarter inch wide while using a curved stick to handle a rubber disc on ice. Think about that for a minute. I don’t mean to take anything away from athletes of other sports, but when you really think about all that hockey players DO before they even add in the components of the game (checking, poke checks, goalies, offsides and penalties) it is quite the amazing feat.

Currently the NHL is at a tough spot because they have too many teams (from a financial standpoint) but are exactly where they need to be from a talent level. So if you focus on what’s on the ice only, you’ll be happily entertained, you’ll constantly be on the edge of your seat and you’ll get to see a good mix of scoring, hitting, fighting, strategy and world class skating.

That’s why I love the NHL.

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TOM LEA

You know that time of year when the weather changes and people start to complain about aching joints and muscle pain. Well, considering that time of year is now, at least in the Midwest, some of you probably don’t need to be reminded.

Anyway, when that time of year rolls around for me, I don’t get muscle or joint aches, I simply get the shakes. And it’s entirely because I am so pumped for the NBA season. I mean, once October rolls around and NBA preseason action starts, I am salivating like one of Pavlov’s dogs at the thought of the start to the regular season. So, as I sit here and write this, a mere 9 days away from tip-off to the Cavs-Celtics game, I am doing so drenched in sweat while fighting with my hands so they stop shaking long enough to allow me to type.

Now, one may ask where I get this borderline psychotic love for a professional association that so many can’t stand. I simply respond, on TNT.

I mean, where else can you get quality play-by-play announcers and the best studio show for each and every telecast? You got guys like Barkley, Marv Albert, Kenny the Jet, the Czar and Craig Sager. If you didn’t know any better and just looked at a picture of those guys, you would think they are the stars of some VH1 celebreality show. Only they aren’t fighting for anyone’s eternal love, they are just fighting to get enough love for one night. And in Albert’s case, doing so while avoiding harassment charges.

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In all seriousness though, you have some of the most athletic human specimens in the world playing a sport that showcases their skill better than any other. When you see how high some of these guys can jump, how quick they can handle the rock and how well they act like they give a shit each and every game- it makes for high quality drama.

And when the playoffs come around, I mean, I seriously go into a 50 day love affair with my TV. I seriously don’t have a social life and any thing I do have revolves around watching the games that night. I’m beyond obsessed. So much so, that I probably need to see a therapist.

In fact, I just bought the NBA league pass for my computer, so I will have every NBA game at the very same fingertips I am writing this piece with. The thought of that is scary enough. But hell, it’s almost Halloween and I’m in that kind of mood. This is the first time I have ever done this and I am having a hard time typing right now because my hands are shaking with sheer excitement.  This season on The Sports Bank I plan on doing a weekly write-up where I will discuss the best games I saw during the week, the funniest thing I saw during the week, developments, surprises, trends, etc. I will also have a counter where I put up the games I watched and the total number I have.

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My Day with Devin Harris (part 1)

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by: David Kay

In an era in which professional athletes are too often egotistical and appropriately labeled as “divas” or “pre-madonnas,” it is refreshing to come across a player like Devin Harris.  Despite his newfound stardom in the NBA, the Wauwatosa East product and former Badger has stayed humble and not forgotten his roots.

I recently had the opportunity to follow the New Jersey Net All-Star point guard behind the scenes at one of his free basketball camps for his “34 Ways to Assist Foundation” which teaches under-privileged kids in the Milwaukee and Madison areas not only fundamentals of the game, but also life lessons.

“We didn’t have much,” Harris told me of his childhood in an exclusive sit-down interview.  “We were kind of a lower-middle class family. My parents did a great job of making me understand that remember where I came from and always try to help people in need.”

nets-harris1And that is exactly what Harris is doing through his charity which benefits youth in Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and other similar groups.

What I found most interesting about following Harris during a camp in Stoughton, Wisconsin, was his involvement in the drills and interaction with the kids.  “I’m here every day,” Harris told me.  “Some guys just show up to the camp for an hour and speak to the kids.  I like to get involved, play a little bit.  It’s easy to write a check sometimes and leave it at that, but I have a kick out of it.”

You could certainly tell he was getting a kick out of it; stepping in during 3-on-3 games, rebounding, passing, and dribbling drills, even challenging kids to a game of knock-out (or lightning as some people call it.)  He was constantly smiling, laughing, and joking around with the camp goers who intently followed his every word.

During a Q&A session with the kids, he was asked what his favorite kind of pancakes are, what is favorite song is, and who is better LeBron or Kobe.  (For the record, his answer was Kobe.)  He handed out autographed basketballs to selected kids who had reached certain achievements in the classroom, and gave away a signed pair of his new Adidas kicks.

“Kids especially, they want to be us, they see us in powerful positions so even if we don’t want to be role models, we’re still looked upon in that light.  Obviously to come back and do the things that I’m doing, means more to the kids than anybody.”

devin-layup1And in a time when the media is often looked at as the greater evil by pro athletes, Harris was very friendly with me (maybe because he knew I would be reporting on his interactions throughout the day.)  But there definitely was a genuineness to him that further proves he is one of the good guys who has not let his fame and fortune get to his head.

In Wednesday’s part two of my day with Devin, Harris talks about his new role as the focal point of the Nets offense, the Vince Carter trade, and the much-anticipated 2010 off-season in which New Jersey figures to be major players.