Focus In with Kendziora: March

April 11

All articles are written by YJDP Student Sports Writers and edited by mentors from The Washington Post prior to publishing.

It was a month filled with madness of all variations. Between the NCAA tournament, the dawn of the new baseball season, the brief frenzy that was NFL free agency, and several notable NBA storylines, there’s a lot to be deciphered from the month of March, and that’s before we get to the most significant development in the history of NCAA amateurism policies. Perhaps it would be best to just get started.

1. Business takes precedent in the NFL

This should have been ingrained in everyone’s minds after the divorce between Peyton Manning and the Colts two years ago. Many (myself included) saw it as a move made by a team unwilling to make a big commitment to an aging quarterback coming off four neck surgeries, especially with Andrew Luck waiting in the wings as the top pick in the upcoming draft. Even from that vantage point, it was a debatable but understandable move. However, when dollars and cents are added to the equation, Indianapolis made the only sensible decision. With Luck’s contract lowered after changes in the rookie contract scale by the most recent collective bargaining agreement, and Manning signing with Denver on a five-year deal worth nearly $100 million, the Colts had more cap room to spend on other quality players that contributed to two straight playoff berths. It is now that the best bargain in a salary-cap league is a quarterback on a rookie contract, as evidenced by the 2013 Seahawks. A few million here or there is often the difference between prominence at one position and prominence at three positions. It’s why the Saints are tainting relations with Jimmy Graham in the name of $5 million (the difference between franchise tags for wide receivers and tight ends). It’s why the Cowboys cut DeMarcus Ware while still on good terms with him. It’s why Darrelle Revis is now on his third team in three seasons, and it’s why all but six people think the Joe Flacco signing was a bad move. In the other major sports, teams can afford to keep re-signing fan favorites until they retire. Unfortunately, the NFL just doesn’t work that way.

2. Maybe it’s not the best idea to play important baseball games overseas

I understand and like that MLB is trying to expand its purview across the world. They’ve had mid-March mini-series like these before in Japan, and each time there have been mixed reviews. Players whose role had already been established on their teams often enjoyed the sightseeing and travel, while those whose fate was undetermined detested the whole shebang. Mike Mussina famously complained about the Yankees’ excursion to Japan in 2004, and he is not alone in saying that the long travel and drastic time change is not beneficial to a professional athlete’s physical ability. Many speculate that Clayton Kershaw’s recent injury was caused in part by the shortened spring training and the physical inconveniences of long plane rides (even on a charter plane, he’s still 6’7”). While all of this is debatable, it is much more concrete that the two games in Australia put the Diamondbacks at a competitive disadvantage. Arizona was designated as the home team for both games against the Dodgers, even though it was a site neither team had visited and the majority of the fans in attendance sided with Los Angeles. This gives Arizona only 79 games in Chase Field this year, and a total of 83 in either another team’s home stadium or on a cricket ground across the globe. If the D-Backs are still in the playoff hunt come the stretch run in September, expect to hear many complaints about this.

3. With a big name comes big responsibility

Let’s face it: there’s usually not much NBA to talk about in March. It gets overshadowed by college basketball, save for a few big games, streaks or storylines here and there. Well, this March featured the game (Heat-Pacers), the streaks (Spurs on the good side, 76ers on the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad side), and the story (Phil Jackson signing on as president of the Knicks). This ended up being the first NBA personnel move that became national news since Michael Jordan was given a portion of power over the basketball operations of the Wizards. MJ, who was still playing at the time and tried to design the team around his strengths and weaknesses, had very limited success when given such control. So why does everyone assume Jackson won’t share the same fate? He’s 68 years old, wants to run the Knicks from Los Angeles, and is tied so closely to another franchise in the league that it is tough to gauge how much he really cares about the Knicks’ success.The best comparison to Jackson is Pat Riley, who holds the same position in Miami, helped recruit LeBron and Bosh, and serves as a father figure for the organization. Many believe that Jackson can lure the likes of Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving or even LeBron James into joining the Knicks. One thing working in Phil’s favor is that the Knicks are in such disarray that even a return to mediocrity would be a success. While he could definitely be a very successful executive, I’m not calling it a done deal just yet.

4. Never write off talent

When the season began and Kentucky was trotting out the best recruiting class since the Fab Five, they were a consensus Final Four pick, and many (again, my delusional self included) thought they would roll through everyone en route to a championship. However, as the season progressed, their freshman stars played like freshmen, and they were consistently outmatched by more experienced squads like Florida. Come tournament time, they had been all but written off from a title by virtually everyone (save for the guy who got a premature celebratory tattoo earlier this month). No one should have been surprised when they lived up to their potential and knocked off three of last year’s Final Four teams and winning their region as an 8 seed. Then, thanks to the continued clutch shooting of Aaron Harrison, the Wildcats emerged victorious again against Wisconsin to reach the title game, where they fell just short to Connecticut. John Calipari has pulled off some incredible feats over the years, but this one has to be placed near the top. He convinced us that a team with this much talent somehow wasn’t good enough, and then made us all look foolish. Somewhere, Warren Buffett is smirking.

5. Amateurism is slowly coming to an end

Yes, they’re technically students. No, they are not treated like other students. No, they are not held to the same standards as other students. And no, they were not brought on campus for the same reason as the other students. That’s why I praise Kain Colter and the Northwestern football players, as well as Ramogi Huma and the other big names on their side, for fighting to end a corrupt system. Everyone agrees that this case will not end anytime soon, and will likely go to the Supreme Court. Be ready to read and hear about this for a long time, because a new can of worms has been opened and will never close again.

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