This should tell you a lot about the weekend: football players running sprints in shorts, with no one chasing them, proved to be more interesting than NBA All-Star Weekend. Yet, I still was on TNT Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. Sometimes, we've got to tell the NFL "no."
This column, however, isn't such a moment.
Really, when did Combine become a made-for-TV event? Nothing speaks to the power of the NFL like the fact the Scouting Combine is televised, and people love to watch it. It's not that the Combine is irrelevant. It's that watching it is the equivalent of watching someone grade standardized tests. Just as a boss SAT score might get someone into school, it will be forgotten as soon as the first round of grades comes in. The same is the case for the Combine. A great 40 time made D'Angelo Hall a fortune, but how much did that matter when he was getting set on fire for three teams? Yet and still, even though we know players bone up for the Combine like rich kids take Kaplan courses, people will tune in just because it's the faintest whiff of football until April's draft. Which is a televised, three-day personnel meeting. The NFL is really, really good at this. So good that I've got two more items on an event I refuse to watch.
But there is one thing I'd love to see from the Combine on the NFL Network. As silly as I find making the Combine for TV, I would love nothing more than for the NFL to take up Jerry Jones' suggestion that player interviews be televised. I wouldn't want to watch them, but I would love to see if invasive questions, like whether Dez Bryant's mother was a prostitute, are really so essential if the world is there to see them. Two years ago, we all heard how important it was that teams be allowed to ask whatever they wanted, since there was so much money on the line and all (even though most draftees make far less than their coaches and general managers on their first contracts). Well, since it's that important, let's see these suits disregard basic notions of privacy and decency with everyone watching. And let's see guys who got into NCAA troubles do as they're told by their advisors and spell out everything they received in college, and from whom. I'll believe these interviews will be televised when someone tells me they're currently on TV.
The most interesting 40-yard dash times were from ... quarterbacks? Forty times for quarterbacks shouldn't matter much, and it's silly to simply juxtapose the times of Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck to decide which prospect is more attractive. However, Griffin's 4.41 and Luck's 4.67 say a lot about what mindblowing prospects top this year's class of signal callers. Luck's time was no surprise to anyone who actually watched him play, but seeing him run the same time that Cam Newton did last year should dispel the uninformed notion that he simply fits an old-school prototype of a quarterback. Luck is big, strong and athletic. Griffin? He's just as rare. He might be the fastest blue-chip quarterback prospect ever not named Michael Vick. But where Vick spent two seasons in college carrying Virginia Tech with the threat of his legs, Griffin won the Heisman Trophy at Baylor throwing the ball. The value of the No. 2 pick will go through the roof, and the Rams will surrender the chance to take a prospect who's more talented -- and will be less expensive -- than their own former No. 1 pick.
Hey hey, an entertaining All-Star Game. Maybe the All-Stars didn't want to catch the hell Pro Bowlers caught for their uninspired performances, but who saw four entertaining quarters and a bloodied, broken-faced Kobe Bryant coming? And somehow, in a game with no stakes whatsoever, LeBron James threw away the East's chance to win at the end. Afterwards, Craig Sager did one of his patented, awkwardly gangster interviews, asking James the tough questions after a hard-fought loss. That sounds insane, but that's really how it went: Bron threw a crazy pass down by two points with the All-Star game "on the line," and he sounded afterward like his dog died. I'm not sure exactly what all that means, but it made for fantastically confusing television.
Laughing at the dunk contest on Twitter > the dunk contest itself. Here's the problem with the dunk contest: Dunks get less impressive the more we see them, but they don't get any less difficult. My man Sharp disagrees with the idea that "everything's been done already" is a plausible excuse, but how much is truly left to see that would blow us away? We're in a brave new world where fans discount Paul George jumping over someone 7'2" because he put his hand on Roy Hibbert's shoulder. We're a tough crowd, to the point where it's hard to knock any star unwilling to compete. Maybe ESPN.com's J.A. Adande is right in saying the dunk contest should happen every two years. That would give fans time to miss the event, and recognize there may not be enough new dunks to sustain an annual competition. Remember what happened the last time the dunk contest took a year off? It came back with the greatest acrobatic show ever seen in basketball.
The NBA's next generation drafts off Linsanity. Limited minutes for Jeremy Lin may have been the best thing to happen to the Rising Stars Challenge. That meant more playing time for a lot of guys we forgot about while they toil on bad teams (I personally forgot Detroit's Brandon Knight was in the league). It's almost criminal Lin was overlooked by so many teams, but it's not much better that Linsanity has distracted us from the brilliance of Kyrie Irving's rookie season. Or that playing for the miserable Wizards hasn't made John Wall any less talented. Lots of people snoozed on Lin, but let's not forget how much promising young talent is around the NBA.
How much did the MLBPA love seeing Ryan Braun's suspension overturned? Functionally, the only thing that matters is that Ryan Braun has been vindicated by an arbitrator, and should be in the Brewers' lineup on Opening Day. But the real story here isn't Braun, or his implausible intimation that someone tampered with the sample of the star of the commissioner's team (seriously, who stood to gain from Braun's positive test?). What resounds was Friday's loud, booming reminder that the Major League Baseball Players Association is still as strong as ever. Performance enhancing drugs was one of the few issues where the union had little room for its trademark defiance. The players could not publicly object to much short of blood testing, not with the damage done while baseball didn't test its players for the juice. Through gritted teeth, the MLBPA had to tell its players to strip naked and let guys -- the sorts of guys who might leave bodily fluids in their houses for a couple of days -- watch them urinate, all while no one cared about how the process affected them. But now, with the bungling of Braun's case, the union could let one of its biggest stars make a mockery of the drug testing program while standing on the moral high ground. Braun's statement to the press was illuminating, fiery and precise, all the way down to how many Kinko's were near his house and open 24 hours. Even if he occasionally lied through his teeth -- remember, he never officially challenged the presence of synthetic testosterone in his urine -- that was little more than din drowned out by the roar from what is still the mightiest union on sports.
Here's an interesting factoid I learned after Syracuse squeaked past UConn. Syracuse has made the national championship game three times under Jim Boeheim, but do you know how many times he's been to the Elite Eight in his 35 seasons as head coach? Four. None since the Orange's 2003 national championship. And only once without an all-time great like Derrick Coleman or Carmelo Anthony. Sure, ‘Cuse may be a Fab Melo suspension from an undefeated season, but history doesn't make the Orange and their cowardly zone a great pick come March.
Josh Hamilton had it right the first time. After Josh Hamilton made it clear there won't be any "hometown discount" on his next contract, the Rangers slugger tempered his words to make it clear his loyalty was in Arlington so long as his contract was. But let's be clear -- Hamilton doesn't owe the Rangers a thing. It was really nice of them to do what they could to keep Hamilton sober, but that wasn't charity. Texas wouldn't make all those accommodations for every recovering addict. The Rangers were protecting their investment, and they decided the measures taken with Hamilton were worth it to keep his bat in the lineup. And if the Rangers don't employ Hamilton next year, someone else will be willing to do the same. There's no reason for Hamilton to let his past shame him into staying with the Rangers, not when there will be more teams willing to show much much they care (about making sure he shows up to work and rakes).
This child's from overseas, so it's OK to laugh at him. Hate to doom a kid, but a lifetime of offbeat clapping is in his future Imagine the damage this young man would do, grown up, in a student section, trying to follow the instructions on "Jump Around."