Things I Think I Thought: My Observations From the World of Sports

Don’t worry, I’m not going to be changing the title or even subtly shift the direction of this blog, but I do think there comes a point at which my ability to find new angles on Cubs topics grows thin. That said, I thought I’d borrow from the title of a Peter King column to do a little quick-hitting rundown of the sports stories that have held my limited attention lately.

Chris Borland retires from football

Imagine being just 24 years old, playing linebacker for one of the most storied franchises in the NFL, and being primed to make far more than the $1.037 million you collected in your rookie year. Now imagine walking away from all of that due to health concerns, despite the fact that you were suffering no ill effects at the time.

That’s what former Wisconsin standout Chris Borland chose to do yesterday, saying “I thought about what I could accomplish in football, but for me personally, when you read about Mike Webster and Dave Duerson and Ray Easterling [all players who died early deaths and whose autopsies revealed brain disease], you read all these stories and to be the type of player I want to be in football, I think I’d have to take on some risks that as a person I don’t want to take on.”

In an era in which players loathe a franchise tag that guarantees only one year of salary, seeing a man turn down what was sure to be a great deal of wealth in the coming years is extraordinary. But is this an aberration or the first in a series of dominoes that will begin to erode the core of America’s Game?

I applaud Borland for having the courage to make this choice, as it takes quite a lot of intestinal fortitude to give up that financial security. I’m sure that this will give many more players and parents pause when it comes to continuing along the football path, but I hope that it increases awareness for those who choose to keep playing.

The “Heads Up Football” movement has gained a lot of momentum over the past couple years and this is sure to give it even more of a boost. While my son is only 6 and has yet to play a brand of football with more than flags, I’m still not sure exactly where I stand on the issue of allowing or encouraging him in the sport.

I guess that’s why I’m working on making him a switch hitter.

Pete Rose asks for reinstatement

When it comes to hitting, no one did more of it than Peter Edward Rose. Trouble is, Charlie Hustle just couldn’t hold his predilections at bay and that led to his lifetime exile from baseball nearly 26 years ago. He’s gone back and forth on his story since accepting the ban, but has never truly been contrite.

But now the hit king has formally asked new commissioner Rob Manfred to lift his ban, a request that Manfred has said he’ll consider “on its merits.” I just don’t see Rose getting back in the game, nor do I think he should be allowed in. After all, he voluntarily accepted the punishment in exchange for MLB not releasing the findings from the investigation into allegations of Rose’s gambling.

I’d be lying though if I said I didn’t want MLB to find a way to recognize Rose’s on-field accomplishments. Perhaps a King Solomon solution would work: offer to induct Rose into the HOF posthumously and publish the full findings from the Dowd report. If Rose turns that down, he doesn’t deserve what he’s asking for.

Nuggets tanking

The Cubs have been chastised for the intentional suppression of talent over the past few years, but that’s nothing compared to the blatant disregard for competitiveness on display in the NBA in any given season. And the crazy thing is that draft picks are assured in baseball; basketball still has a lottery system.

The Denver Nuggets are quite a puzzling case indeed though. They were playing poorly in the ultra-competitive Western Conference, so they fired head coach Brian Shaw, after which they went on a 6-2 run. Then they sat three of their best players and admitted that the decision to do so was precipitated by neither the interim coach nor the players.

If you wanted to tank, why not just stick with the coach who had lost the locker room and was not a fit leader for the team? Seems to me that’s a much more veiled form of throwing a season away than a front office mandate to sit players.

Search firms to hire coaches

It’s a trend that has become more and more popular, and one that both UIC and DePaul are now employing: hiring search firms to find new coaches. Athletic Directors are little more than fundraisers at this point, relying on faceless entities to guide their personnel decisions.

I have determined that I need to either join or start one of these firms in order to charge a hefty fee to nudge a given institution in the direction of a coach. I get paid and have zero accountability for the results of the decision I helped to make. What a gig!

NCAA tourney

I love baseball, but the opening few days of the NCAA tournament are the best of my year. I love the wall-to-wall basketball, the Cinderfellas, the drama, the passion. I also love the brackets, even when I’ve got no money on the line. If you like, you can get in my free Yahoo group by clicking hereIf you should need it, the password is “bracket.”

I could go on, particularly when it comes to my distaste for what the sportswriters at the Sun-Times are doing (I have at least a sneaking suspicion that Rick Morrissey’s Bryant piece yesterday was partially based on mine, but that’s totally circumstantial and likely a product of my own hubris), but I should leave well enough alone.

Now back to the Cubs.

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