Thursday, March 29, 2012

College basketball makes up for football’s letdown in Florida

A few months ago, I wrote on this blog about how awful the 2011 college football season treated the Sunshine State. The regular powers like Florida, Florida State and Miami barely had a heartbeat. Even up-and-comers like USF, UCF and FAU failed in their efforts to beautify the football landscape in the state.

But all is not lost in Florida when it comes to college athletics. The state’s college basketball teams have made some big headlines during the 2011-12 season that have turned the usual football fanatics into basketball enthusiasts.

For the first time since 1991, the Florida State Seminoles won the ACC Tournament, defeating both North Carolina and Duke in the process. The ‘Noles also notched their fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance in 2011-12, and the team actually finished a bit short of its expectations with a third-round loss to Cincinnati in the big dance.

USF made major strides this season and experienced an historic turnaround. Head coach Stan Heath was named Big East Coach of the Year as he turned the Bulls from a 10-win team in 2010-11 to a 22-win team this season. Heath’s club went 12-6 in Big East conference games and won two games in the NCAA Tournament. It was USF’s first trip to the big dance since 1992 and was the deepest run the school had ever made in the tournament. The Bulls came up just short in the third round against Ohio.

In Gainesville, the Gators had yet another successful run in the regular season under longtime coach Billy Donovan. The orange-and-blue of Florida made it to the Sweet Sixteen for the eighth time in school history and the fifth time since 2000. The Gators, who were seeking their third national championship under Donovan, suffered a heartbreaking loss at the hands of the surprising Louisville Cardinals.

Although the Miami Hurricanes failed to make the NCAA Tournament, the team did advance to the second round of the NIT and won 20 games overall. Even Florida Gulf Coast was one win away from a berth in the big dance. FGCU, which had a losing record but went on a run in the Atlantic Sun conference tournament, lost to Belmont in the championship game. North Florida, which also plays in the A-Sun, had a 10-8 conference mark and finished at 16-16.

Let’s not forget the ladies, either. Florida, Miami, USF, Florida Atlantic and Florida International all had winning seasons and made the postseason in either the Women’s NIT or the Women’s NCAA Tournament.

Even though the Orlando Magic and Miami Heat have been front and center with all kinds of hoopla – pun intended – surrounding those organizations recently, it is time to turn at least one eye to college basketball in the state of Florida. There will likely be more players from the Sunshine State on NBA rosters in the coming years based on the success of the current college teams. The same may not be able to be said about the state’s football players making NFL rosters as much, at least for now.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Why it's not good to win "free food for a year"

Many restaurants and food services do promotions that award contest winners “free food for a year.” What this phrase really means can vary greatly. It could mean that you get a free meal every day. It could mean getting free food every other day, or perhaps once a week or even once a month. What this “food” is can also vary from one place to another.

But why would you want to eat food from any restaurant with any regularity, even if there is no charge for it? Most restaurants have limited menus, meaning your choices will eventually overlap and you will be eating the same thing again at some point. In addition, most restaurants do not serve the healthiest foods in the world, meaning it will be hard for you to consume these items frequently if you are on a diet – or if you are a level-headed individual who realizes how important it is to eat high-fat, salt-filled food in moderation.

Because of these factors, you will likely end up giving away meals to family and friends. Yes, it is nice to give back to others once in a while, but you might even run out of options on whom to give the food to, which could involve taking a chance by giving it to a homeless person.

So, I have come to this conclusion: it is not a good thing to win free food for a year. As much as I love McDonald’s, Carrabba’s, Outback Steakhouse, or any other quality fast-food or sit-down restaurant, there are too many disadvantages to winning this kind of prize. If you win a contest like this, you are actually losing more than winning. The only thing you might gain is some extra weight.

Monday, March 5, 2012

"Bountygate" is outrageous

Last Friday, some disturbing news surfaced out of the NFL that the New Orleans Saints were involved in what the mainstream media has termed "Bountygate." According to an ongoing investigation, Saints defense coordinator Gregg Williams and fellow players have been paying the team's defensive players money for their performance on the field. However, the investigation revealed that players have received money - or "bounty" - for intentionally injuring opposing players. The words used to describe these vicious hits are "knockouts" and "cart-offs," which means the opposing player had to be carted off the field on a stretcher.

As a sports fan, I am absolutely disgusted by this news. I have heard a number of former NFL players say that this kind of thing has gone on for years but has always been kept private among players and coaches. I just find it hard to accept the fact that these athletes feel getting paid is a reason to hurt other players. How can any football fan feel good about wearing the jersey of a player involved in this outrageous scheme? How could a season ticket holder feel compelled to put hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars into an organization if they knew that the team was involved in these shenanigans? Granted, this news is so recent and hindsight is 20/20. But going forward, I have to believe that fans will change their tune about the NFL and how they view its players.

There has already been much debate about what kinds of penalties should be handed down by commissioner Roger Goodell. This may sound harsh, but I think any players who have directly been involved in severely injuring another player should be banned from playing the game. I also think Goodell should ban Gregg Williams from coaching, especially since he was warned about this in the past and kept allowing it to go on. I doubt the punishments will climb to this level of severity, but I believe they should.

Whether it's "Bountygate," steroids, or any other controversy in sports, I think it is an absolute shame how so much news about under-the-table dealings has broken in recent years. I hate to say it, but I think we are only a few more of these major bombshells away from the unraveling of American professional sports as we know them. It is quite disturbing as a sports aficionado. The most effective way to prevent this will have to be some major overhauls within each sport. I certainly hope it will not come to that someday.