Always Beware Sensationalism

I don't know how many of you have been following the NBA playoffs, but a couple nights ago LeBron James picked a bad game to have a bad game. With Cleveland's series with Boston tied at two games apiece, he played terribly in a lopsided defeat. This sent the basketball media into a frenzy, epitomized by this column by Adrian Wojnarowski on Yahoo! Sports.

He faded when it mattered. He doesn't deserve the title of "King James." He's the next Karl Malone. He's destroying professional basketball in Cleveland. And so on.

Of course, it ignores the equally terrible job of James' coach, whose rotations put the team in the worst possible position to win regardless. And the fact that no one knows just how injured his elbow is. And the fact that even other great players have had subpar performances in critical games too. And most of all, the fact that the series is not over and Cleveland can still win this series and, in theory, the championship too. I personally have been an Orlando Magic fan almost since birth, so I hope they keep sweeping their way through the playoffs. I still think it's a bit much what folks are doing to LeBron. Wait until the story is over to write the recap.

In college football, we see this sort of thing all the time. A perfect example is with Tim Tebow, who as of January 2009 was an unstoppable force of will destined for greatness at everything. We found out through the 2009 season that he wasn't quite the same without Percy Harvin, and in the SEC Championship Game we were all reminded that a quarterback without a defense can only do so much. He was a great player, but perhaps the "greatest ever" talk was premature.

This off season has been full of hyperbole too. The Big Ten is going to kill the Big East. Or it's going to kill the Big 12. Or it's going to initiate the superconference Armageddon. Or it's going to make such a big move that the SEC will become eclipsed on the field as the best conference.

Or, it could do absolutely nothing. No one knows what the Big Ten is doing. Maybe it's looking to go up to 16 teams. Maybe it's just posturing to lure Notre Dame (again) and will end up doing nothing when the Irish turn it down. We've gone over the scenarios here and followed things closely, but you'll not hear any apocalyptic predictions from us.

If we all are going to hear something of this kind this fall, it's probably what we already heard of some last year: that Trent Richardson is a better player than the guy who he's backing up, Mark Ingram. From a recruiting standpoint, I get where people are coming from. Richardson was a consensus five-star player, while Ingram was a four-star guy according to Rivals and a three-star guy according to Scout.

However, Ingram actually had a higher yards per rush rate last year despite having more and tougher carries than Richardson did. Of course Richardson should be better this year as a result of being a year stronger and more experienced, but Ingram should be better too by that logic. Ingram carried the offense through Greg McElroy's midseason slump as well, while his backup didn't have that kind of pressure on him. It may be that Richardson will end up being the better player, but there's not a lot of ground to stand on in that respect right now.

With so many voices covering college football now, it's easy to find sensationalistic claims out there. It's one of the ways that people attempt to differentiate themselves from the masses. Now, I'm not saying that they're all wrong because obviously, the sport wouldn't be what it is without surprises and drama. Just remember to take things with a grain of salt and hey, maybe wait until things are over to make firm judgments.

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