This weekend four major sports stories dominated: Butler beat Michigan State to reach the NCAA Men’s finals, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees opened the MLB season, Tiger began taking practice swings at Augusta in preparation for the Masters, and Donovan McNabb was traded to the Washington Redskins. That is actually quite a bit to handle, but this begs the question, how do these stories rank?
Top Story: The Mid Major Makes the Finals
Sure a superstar that defines a sport went back to work, arguably the biggest sports rivalry in the U.S. kicked off the baseball season, and a Pro Bowl caliber quarterback was traded to a division rival, but this is a story that goes back to the Old Testament, David vs. Goliath.
I just deleted a three paragraph rant about how this is about conferences far more than about the teams. The fact is that Butler was ranked in the Top 25 throughout the 2009-10 college basketball season. They hardly came out of nowhere in terms of team play, but they came out of nowhere in terms of conferences. This is as much the Horizon League vs. the ACC or the Mid Majors vs. the Power Conferences as it is about Butler and Duke.
That is why this is the top news story and Final Four tickets will sell for Monday’s game. Saturday’s win over an ailing, respected college basketball program set up the ultimate challenge to the perception that the power conferences should get at least six or seven schools in the tournament each year or that the field should be expanded to 96 to get more power conference teams into the March Madness. This is like Neo taking on the Mr. Smith, it challenges everything we know to be true because it is not a lower seed from a major conference advancing like in 1983 and 1985, but a lower seed from a conference many have not even heard of taking on the hierarchy of college basketball.
Just Below the Sidebar: Donovan McNabb moves from Philly to D.C.
Quarterbacks, ahem, Pro Bowl caliber quarterbacks, rarely ever move in the NFL. They may see their career wane like Kurt Warner, and find the elixir of youth resuscitating their career on another team. But quarterbacks do not move before they well exceed their shelf life in the NFL, especially to a different team in their own division.
The Philadelphia Eagles are embarking on a new course laced with land mines as Kevin Kolb begins his time as the number one quarterback now. The problem is that Michael Vick is right behind him on the depth chart and his unbridled athleticism will look to attractive to waste the moment Kolb hits a rough patch.
Meanwhile the Washington Redskins have a quarterback they know can complete a long bomb and a halfback screen. He has the touch, arm strength, and experience to engineer a two minute drill to perfection. In short, with new coach Mike Shanahan and new quarterback McNabb the Redskins have become a terrifying wild card in an already competitive division. Sure the offensive line, wide receivers, and tight end are worse in Washington, but this opportunity for revenge or a career revival has to terrify the Cowboys, Giants, and Eagles.
The move not only affects the NFC East, it also changes the draft. Suddenly there is one less terrible team in the hunt for a quarterback. This changes just about every draft prospects value outside of the two top rated defensive tackles. Now, every mock draft is null and void and every team has to scramble to decide that they will do in the first few rounds.
Page Two: Boston Red Sox beat the New York Yankees
Baseball kicked the season off right with its most universally appealing regular season series. This is bigger than Tiger watch because this game actually counted. The Red Sox came back from 7-6 down in the seventh inning to immediately put the Yankees season in doubt. Is this a ridiculous overstatement? Of course, but reality has no place in a rivalry.
The Red Sox were supposed to be offensively challenged but beat up on C.C. Sabathia and Job Chamberlain. Conversely, the pitching and defensive oriented Red Sox allowed seven earned runs. These numbers from a single game mean little over the course of 162 games, but with just one games played in all of MLB they speak volumes to the possibilities that lie ahead.
On the Back Page by the Classifieds: Tiger’s Swinging His Golf Club in Augusta
Sorry, practice shots mean little compared to one America’s favorite tournaments, a league-changing trade, and the beginning of the baseball season. If he wins the Masters, then that becomes a major story.