Sprints // 04.06.09

Who needs Bobby Knight? Even without going for the General, Georgia got its explosive basketball coach.

Behind the fashion eyewear and the nice suits, there also is a molten core that can erupt in any number of ways. Fox is the coach known to get down and bang the floor with his palms to exhort his team, or to break the occasional white dry-erase board to get its attention. In 2007, the Western Athletic Conference reprimanded Fox for a profane postgame confrontation with an official at the conference tournament.

Ah, if only he could coach against Eddie Fogler. The arena might actually suffer structural damage.

About those Rebels ... Some good reasons to hold back on putting Ole Miss in the Top 10 ahead of next season, but also one really dumb reason. You know the one I'm talking about. They "won't be sneaking up on anybody this year." I'm considering trademarking the phrase so I can deny everyone the permission to use it and thus purge it from the sports lexicon.

I cannot convey in words the absolute contempt I hold for this argument. It is, to me, the height of idiocy, the idea that in the SEC one would pay less attention to any team because they "aren't that good." And if anyone wasn't ready for Ole Miss after they defeated Florida and narrowly lost to Alabama, they don't belong in the SEC.

Is it really that hard to admit that sometimes a team is as good as its record says it is, and we were just wrong?

The Third Rail. If it's Social Security in politics, the sports equivalent is race. But Jeremy Fowler of the Orlando Sentinel grasps that rail with both hands, questioning whether a team can win a championship if it relies on white players to do so.

But the odds of a team cutting down the Final Four nets aren't good if that team is stocked with many white guys, Orlando Sentinel research shows. College basketball at its highest levels is dominated by black players even if the subject makes some people uncomfortable. ...

Since the 2000 tournament, 34 of 40 Final Four teams played consistently with no more than one white starter during that particular year. The 2003 Syracuse team, with white starters Gerry McNamara and Craig Forth, was the only one to win a championship.

Give Fowler credit for looking into it, and give his bosses credit for having the guts to run the story. But you have to wonder how much perception and culture has to do with this. Are white guys more likely to gravitate toward baseball or football in high school because of the perception that "white men can't jump" and because the three-sport athlete is a thing of the past? Is the same true of black guys, who see baseball dominated by whites and Latinos and instead go for football or basketball? Could that mean that the next great white point guard is playing shortstop -- a position that requires a great deal of athleticism -- or the next great black clean-up hitter is playing center?

In other words, do the more athletic players of all races head toward the sports that they believe give them the best chance for success at the professional level? If you're a white high school athlete, why risk injury playing basketball if you believe your best chance to make millions six or seven years down the road is with the Rays or the Red Sox or the Cubs or the Angels? And if you're a black high school athlete, why go out on the diamond if you think you're going to be playing for the Suns or the 76ers or the Wizards or the Lakers? This even avoids the questions about why baseball's popularity has plunged in the inner city in the last decade or two.

We need to discuss things like this, and not be afraid of them. I'm just not sure that all the talk in the world will ever tell us why things are the way they are. Whenever you discuss race, everything old is new again.

Sanity. Ketlic Gator does a far better job than I of demolishing the arguments for a government-imposed playoff -- and he's a playoff proponent!

To all government officials I'd like to remind them that their job is to protect the public from actual threats to life, property and welfare and NOT to protect us from the omnipresent danger of the management of major sporting events.

Can't add much to that. The whole thing is even better -- so read!

It's all about the team, you worthless cog. There's something that's always bothered me in the NFL, and it's that everyone whines about the selfishness of the players without realizing that the owners have all the power. This is not baseball, where a strong union has all but equalized the terms between the players and the teams, and we have the classic billionaires vs. millionaires argument. Teams have far greater freedom to cut players without paying them, stick them with the franchise tag, etc. And so forgive me if I don't respond favorably to Pat Bowlen striking up the violin music and singing his tale of woe about Jay Cutler.

Understand this: it remains about the team. Our franchise has gone to the Super Bowl six times, with three different coaches and with many different players. It has never been about one player, and it never will be. Coach McDaniels shares this vision, and everyone in the organization-players, coaches and staff-must understand and accept this unconditionally. If anyone does not, that person will not be a part of this franchise.

Again, let's remember that Jay Cutler did not pick this fight. McDaniels decided shortly after arriving that he wanted to get rid of Cutler and bring in "his guy," Matt Cassel. When that blew up in his face and word leaked out, Cutler was understandably hurt. Having been stabbed in the back once, Cutler wanted assurances that it wouldn't happen again -- and McDaniels was unwilling to give him those assurances.

So it's about the team -- obviously. It's not about the player, who ends up being nothing more than a cog in Bowlen's empire, to be moved about at will. It's about the team -- which sent a clear message to Cutler that he was at best their second favorite quarterback in the NFL (and that at worst they didn't want him at all) and then expected him to return to duty like nothing had happened.

I wouldn't. And I don't think the critics of Cutler would, either. Keep that in mind before you start slinging arrows in his direction.

Bloggish notes. A new, sporadic feature -- cocknfire OT -- has its first installment over in FanPosts. As the feature's title suggests, it's when I want to wander off the SEC sports reservation and into other areas, with only partisan politics and religion being off limits. This one is still sports, in this case my predictions for Major League Baseball.

And Around the Bases is moving to Monday evenings/Tuesday mornings on a permanent basis. This will give more time for actual research and analysis, instead of the quickly sketched four bullet points I've been using. I might toy around a bit more with the format over the next couple of weeks with the hope of its becoming semifixed at least in time for the stretch run. But here's an early, bold prediction: Georgia won't be No. 1 in the polls.

Wind Sprints. What, no Quincy Carter? ... How many kittens died to make this happen? ... Don't look for Tennessee to play a lot out of the shotgun this year if this holds true ...

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