Sports Nut

The Sports Pages: Seeing Red

A weekly look at the sports commentariat.

Most college football fans think it’s unfair for Nebraska to head to the Rose Bowl after getting bludgeoned by Colorado. But the Omaha World-Herald’s Tom Shatel assures that “there have been equal, or greater, twists of fate in the annals of college football.” In 1982, a catch out of bounds by Penn State helped Joe Paterno win his first national title. In 1993, Florida State lost to Notre Dame but won the national championship even though both teams had only one loss. And last year, Miami got left out of the national championship game even though it had beaten Florida State.

Most important, there was 1990, when Colorado won a share of the national championship despite needing a fifth down at the goal line to beat Missouri. (And yes, in the interest of fairness, Shatel notes that Nebraska needed an illegally kicked pass to beat Missouri in 1997 on its way to the national title.)

The Kansas City Star’s Blair Kerkhoff says only one of the Bowl Championship Series’ four seasons has been without controversy. “It’s become something like a graduating class’ parting gift to a school,” he writes. “The BCS Class of 2001 will be proud to donate the ‘Colorado rule,’ which will reward bonus points for winning a conference championship. Add that to the ‘Miami rule,’ the quality-win component generously offered by the Class of 2000, and the ‘Kansas State rule’ from the Class of 1998 that now protects fourth-place BCS finishers. If the BCS lasts 114 more years, it can add a provision for every Division I-A member.”(Last year, Slate offered two solutions to the BCS mess. Charles Sisk said the much-maligned computer rankings aren’t the problem: “It’s the humans who run the show—the NCAA administrators, the TV network executives, the coaches, and the sportswriters—who make the BCS an unsatisfying season-ender.” Chris Suellentrop wanted an eight-team playoff that would leave out both Nebraska and Florida. Only conference champions would be invited.)

Is Randy Moss an Uncle Tom? The Kansas City Star’s Jason Whitlock says he is. First the Minnesota Vikings wide receiver proclaimed that “I play when I want to play.” Then he followed that up by saying, “I think if fans start talking to me, then I’ll lose sight of being Randy Moss the football player and go to Randy Moss the street person and then to getting in somebody’s (expletive), so I don’t really listen to that.” Whitlock lashes out: “In two quotes, Moss, who recently signed a $75 million contract with an $18 million signing bonus, covered just about every negative stereotype used against the advancement of black men. He portrayed himself as lazy, disloyal, ungrateful, prone toward violence and undignified.”

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Dan Barreiro says Dennis Green is the mad scientist, and Moss is “the creation that now controls him.” Moreover, Green’s kid-glove treatment of Moss has cost him “some of his most loyal lieutenants in the Vikings locker room. For good. We’re talking about veteran players who once swore their allegiance to Green, and readily fell on grenades for him. They remember him as the stern and demanding taskmaster who demanded precise attention to discipline and detail. What they see now is a delusional doctor who one moment runs his laboratory all too loose, and the next confronts everyone but the Frankenstein monster who has taken over the castle.” The Star-Tribune’s Pat Reusse says the chances of Green getting fired have gone “from preposterous to 50-50.”

Dodger dog: Baseball’s free-agent signing period just started, but L.A.’s sports pundits have already declared a loser: the Dodgers and their rookie general manager, Dan Evans. First, Evans waited two days to return a phone call from the agent of his best pitcher, Chan Ho Park. Then the Mets had to wait two weeks for a return call after inquiring about mercurial slugger Gary Sheffield. And Evans’ subsequent attempts at reassurance—”I’m up to date with all the clubs, all the agents”—weren’t exactly reassuring. The Los Angeles Times’ Bill Plaschke writes, “His biggest personnel challenge is not in his bullpen or center field, but in his mirror. He needs to dispel the overwhelming notion that he is overwhelmed.”

The Great Chicago Fire? On Nov. 29, Bulls coach Tim Floyd toldChicago Tribune columnist Michael Holly, “I’ve thought about leaving, to be honest with you. … I never thought it would be like this for so long.” With that, the fire started. The next week Floyd told his players that, indeed, he would ask the Bulls to fire him. Then, after a back and forth with general manager Jerry Krause, he backed down. What gives? The Tribune’s Sam Smith says the shooting war started because Krause and Floyd had a heretofore secret feud: Krause wanted Floyd to play his young draft picks. Floyd feared that playing the kids, and losing 50 games in the process, would ultimately cost him his job.

Hey, Bruce, you haven’t won a Super Bowl either: NFL pundits are baffled by the Washington Redskins’ turnaround. The Boston Globe’s Will McDonough thinks he has the answer: After Marty Schottenheimer cut Jeff George, he warned Bruce Smith that he would be next unless Smith stopped undermining the coach with the players and the media. “Smith was used to doing things his way in Buffalo, because that’s the way Marv Levycoached him,” McDonough writes. “However, Schottenheimer doesn’t run his team the same way as Levy, and he told Smith, in front of the team, either to get with his program or take a hike. Smith decided to get with the program and has been playing well.”