Sunday, September 24th, 2017

Sports Advice Column


Ever read Dear Abby? Ann Landers? Too bad they don’t do these for sports. Then again, if you ever wrote to an advice columnist about a sports problem, odds are sports aren’t your biggest real problem.

But this is a tricky time of year and not only do some fans need direction, but they may be afraid to admit it. There are also athletes and leagues themselves who may need help. That’s why The Times is offering its first sports advice column—unsolicited, but from keen eyes that have both observed the sports world day-to-day and can see the future for your planning purposes.

Problem No. 1. Golf.
You watch The Masters? Odds are the ratings say you didn’t, and since last Sunday broke 70 degrees, if you did watch the final round, you’re certifiable. But, you saw history. You saw the once anointed “next Tiger” finally get his major title only 20 decades after Tiger became Tiger at that same tournament. Yet, Sergio Garcia had to fight the yips one last time before winning his three-hole playoff over Justin Rose.
Funny thing is, in today’s era of social media, the idea that Sergio (yes, being dubbed a “next” comes with the one-name honor like a trust-fund baby) was about to a) finally break through to win a major or b) choke away another, shows golf’s sad state; social media made his hilly triumph it’s No. 1 trending topic, yet drew as many eyes Sunday as a snow shovel.

Golf still needs Tiger Woods, and he ain’t coming back. Phil Mickelson is no longer a draw, Dustin Johnson wasn’t a draw even before the world’s No. 1 player dropped from the tournament after falling down the stairs, and the other slew of “nexts” (Rory, Spieth, Fowler, etc.) couldn’t pull Tiger’s clubs from Rae’s Creek at 12. Though, Spieth did manage to repeat dropping another ball into the water there.
Solution: Clone Tiger. Generation Next is loaded with entitled, tease-worthy, unproven millennials. Sound familiar?

Problem No. 2. The NBA Playoffs.
If you can even call them playoffs. We all know who will represent the Eastern Conference in the Finals. Don’t let the Cavs or Celtics fool you; LeBron’s crew will clean-up. The West will feature either the Spurs or the Warriors. And no, James Harden and the Rockets will not be playing for that honor despite his and Mike D’Antoni’s resurrection.
Solution: Take the rest of the month off until the conference finals. Follow-up on a season of lost ratings and send commissioner Adam Silver a message:
The regular season has to mean something at some point. Your move, Skip.

Problem No. 3. The Sabres.
Hockey is much like baseball now, where head coaches are like managers who answer to the talent they have, assembled by the GM. There a few exceptions, but the reality is that the NHL is a players’ league and if the players aren’t buying into a system, there are plenty of guys who can stand behind the bench and assemble lines. Clearly, Dan Byslma isn’t the guy for this club, even with a Stanley Cup ring in Pittsburgh.
To this Sabres team, apparently Bylsma’s title means as much as Rob Johnson’s brass he received for carrying a clipboard as a backup QB with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Solution: Make the 2017-18 captain the head coach. Seriously. Let’s find out once and for all if the guy who supposedly commands the respect of the locker room knows the pulse of the team and can build a winning system based on the feel and style of the team.

If he fails, guess head coaches truly do have their place instead of just serving as a bullet shield for the general manager. If the team succeeds, maybe you have something.
Sidenote: this is very Moneyball-ish. Please note that Billy Beane’s Oakland A’s have only made it to ONE ALCS in all the genius’ years as GM. Don’t kid yourself—analytics has its place and is very important in the structure and decisions of a team. But the manager is the guy making the key in-game decisions from an objective view. But, in hockey, teams recycle coaches like Pearl Jam does drummers.

Problem No. 4. Baseball
fantasy teams.
Solution: unless a player is finished or shelved for prolonged periods early, don’t do anything rash until Memorial Day.

Problem No. 5.Watching the
Buffalo Bills draft.
This is a tough one because every fan builds hope on a first-rounder that typically flames out, or gets injured.
Solution: Expect the worst. Especially if it is a QB. That way you won’t be disappointed.

Fans put too much stock into the draft as it is. People read mock drafts, but simply through the first round at most, so clearly all the hope is unfairly shouldered on one selection as it is.

Unless it’s a quarterback, it’s not going to make the greatest difference. It may not be the King or Queen on the chess board, but the Knight or the Rook instead. Or, simply a Pawn. But don’t get too excited, especially if the Bills DO take a QB in the first round. In fact, don’t think anything; this is a weak QB class where even the so-called pros can’t get a read on the guy who beat ‘Bama (DeSean Watson) and one head coach (Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly) is telling media his guy (DeShone Kizer) should keep fighting for the Irish.

Second round? That’s another story. And QBs are the only thing fans pay attention to after the first round, anyway.

Problem No. 6. While we’re on the subject, draft grades. You’ll hear them from ESPN to your neighbor’s kid’s blog.

Solution for those grading: Go to Tinder and find a date. And if you’re married or attached, perhaps check your relationship status on Facebook.

The only thing one needs to know is if their teams’ biggest needs are met and how much value they’ve acquired in a combination of picks and players, and that’s either a pass or fail. Letter grades are years down the road, and given history vs. projections, even the Kipers and McShays—among the best in their cottage industry—get stumped.
Forget the overused Brady-Montana arguments. Just look at the Bills and judge that against your own past draft excitement or expectations and the playoff appearances they’ve since earned.

And you believe in draft grades? Talk about an epic fail.

Speaking of problems, better not start a fight with any members of the 2016 world champion Cubs. Those rings are the size of brass knuckles. Certainly worth the 108-year wait. Of course, while that leaves baseball with only Cleveland’s Curse of Rocky Colavito remaining, it’s a reminder to Bills and Browns fans of their problem. The Browns have a former baseball GM leading them in their effort to break its drought. The Bills? For now, they’re simply standing pat.

Here’s a solution: perhaps the Pegulas should hire Theo Epstein to run the Bills AND the Sabres and give their current president the intentional pass.

While luring baseball’s greatest ghost buster to the NFL is a longshot and almost absurd, the intentional walk is now as easy as holding up four fingers.

And waving goodbye.