After a whirlwind week for the Ravens and a shaky spring training so far for the Orioles, I think it’s time we look around at the rest of the sports world on this glorious Friday (glorious of course for no reason other than that it’s Friday).  With Matt Wieters making the cover of Sports Illustrated I had to take an extra peek back at the O’s, but there is way too much going on not to talk Tiger, conference tournaments, and some parting shots from Derek Anderson.  Let’s line up for the kick…

Something Doesn’t Feel Right

Anytime you hire the guy who has represented Bud Selig, the BCS, President Bush, and Mark McGwire to give you public relations advice, you have a lot of explaining to do.  Tiger Woods has done just that in having PR consultant Ari Fleischer counsel him in how best to return to golf after his hiatus due to a swarm of extramarital affairs and a short yet eventful drive on Thanksgiving night.  Moreover, after considering his options he is reportedly ready to come back to golf for the Master’s on April 8th.  Now, when Tiger gave his public apology I found it rather sincere and revealing from such a private person, but this is starting to rub me the wrong way.  Does he expect us to believe that he can take care of his family and repair his life and not miss a single major tournament?  And even if so, does he really need Ari Fleischer to tell him when is a good time to come back to golf?  I mean, if he was letting his heart and mind guide him to a better place emotionally and psychologically before he got back on the course, it doesn’t sound to me that he would need Fleischer or his PR army in the first place.  I know that Augusta is the safest place for him to come back without being heckled, but how he is getting there has to raise some eyebrows.

College Basketball’s (Very) Guilty Pleasure

Conference tournaments are like trying to turn a 600 page book into a 90 minute movie and taking artistic liberties with the ending.  They boil down a 4½  month basketball season into a 4 day tournament in which any team regardless of their season-long performance can not only get a bid to the tournament but can actually hang a banner claiming to be conference champions.  While many teams use it to strengthen their resume or improve their seed, in the smaller conferences the outcome of a single game can destroy a team’s dream of making the tournament, a dream they may have worked on all season.  If a team leads the Big Sky conference, the America East Conference, or the Big West conference all season and has a fluky second half against a marginally worse team, their entire season is washed down the drain.  What is the point in having such a long and laborious college basketball season, with all the ups and downs the come with it, if a team’s season-long work is boiled down to a single tournament?  Granted, if a team does well enough during the season it doesn’t need to do well in the tournament to get a bid to the Big Dance- but the achievements of a 4 month season should trump the outcome of a single tournament.  The all-or-nothing mentality of the conference tournaments is what gives them their excitement and ratings, but let’s not confuse that with what’s good for the sport.

Burning the Bridge over the Cuyahoga

Derek Anderson made no illusions about how he felt in being released from the Cleveland Browns.  Referring to when Cleveland fans cheered as he lay injured on the turf, Anderson called the fans “ruthless” and “don’t deserve a winner.”  Well, he certainly did his part not to give them one.  After a Pro Bowl 2007 in which led the Browns to a 10-6 record (though he faltered a bit towards the end of the season), Anderson has struggled to stay the starter, finishing this season with 3 touchdowns to 10 interceptions and completed 44 percent of his passes in 8 games.  However, I have to give him credit for speaking his mind and being honest.  Any fan base that cheers an injury to a player on their own team cannot be proud of themselves, and should be called out.  As a fan you pay for your ticket, but handing money to the team doesn’t absolve you from heartless behavior- if it did, I’ll be sure to give you 5 bucks before I spit in your face, just so we’re even.  I saw Derek Anderson at the Raven’s training camp after he was drafted, and came away unimpressed with his arm but hoping for his sake he could go somewhere with his career.  I still do- maybe in a better environment he could rediscover what made him a Pro Bowler- it’s not like Brady Quinn did much better when he got the ball.

Bonus: The Media Loves an Underdog

As if Matt Wieters couldn’t get enough attention, the preseason hype for the Orioles took a leap forward with the phenom catcher gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated.  This of course had to go with an article about the 23 year old’s potential greatness and the general optimism on Baltimore’s team this season.  Most offseasons there isn’t a single mention of the Orioles, save for a brief “Spring Training Snapshot” of some kind from Sports Illustrated or Yahoo! Sports, but this year is different.  Every national media outlet has had some piece about the pitching staff and the nucleus of young talent that Baltimore is assembling in Camden Yards, and normally the attention would get me excited and eager for the season to begin.  But unfortunately, every article has the same theme- if only they weren’t in the AL East they might have a chance.  Depending on the author some are more fatalistic than others, but they all vary somewhere between “the level of competition could delay the contention of the Orioles for a year” and “too bad they will never be able to get anywhere in that division.”

And don’t get started on the jinx.  If Baltimore goes 70-92 next season it won’t be because of SI, and it won’t necessarily be because of the Yankees or Red Sox either.  It will be because the young pitching doesn’t progress, the bullpen can’t hold onto a lead (is there a single truly proven player in the bullpen?), and Reimold, Wieters (prospects who still need to improve), Atkins, and Tejada (veterans who need to keep/find their swing) don’t perform the way O’s fans are hoping.

Oh, and if I read “the once proud Orioles” one more time I am going to sue for psychological damage.