SCREAMIN’ FROM THE CHEAP SEATS
By Leo Haggerty

Being that I cover the National Football League along with College Football, and when it overlaps with the National Hockey League plus the National Basketball Association as well as NCAA Basketball, I have to cut back somewhere during that hectic period of the sports calendar.  That meant having to put my SCREAMIN’ FROM THE CHEAP SEATS column on hiatus.

Well, the NFL and the NCAA have completed their football seasons so I have a little more time to devote to my column.  So, without further delay, it’s time to dust off the crystal ball and get back to, as some people like to say, my acerbic commentary on any al;l things related to sports.

DOES ANYONE HAVE A CLUE

EXPANDING COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF

Trust me when I tell you this.  The CFP format of four teams will not change for at least 10 more years and here’s the reasons why.

First, it’s strictly a matter of money on two fronts.  If the playoffs expanded to eight or more teams, one or two regular season games as well as conference championship encounters, which would have no relevance with eight-plus teams in the postseason, would have to be eliminated.  Now, that puts a financial burden on university football programs that need seven or eight home games to cover their expenses and, for a lot of institutions of higher learning, the cost incurred from the non-revenue sports as well.

Also, you have to consider the amount of money that the bowl games bring into the coffers of the conferences.  This isn’t chump change and the conferences don’t want to see that revenue stream dry up.

The second is there is absolutely no reason to expand until the rest of Division I football programs catch up to Alabama and Clemson.  Let’s be real honest here.  The last four National Champions have been the Crimson Tide twice and the Tigers twice.  Also, the runner-up in three of those four years have been those two programs.  So why extend the inevitable.

We have an old saying in the coaching profession.  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Well, the CFP four-team format is alive and well much to the chagrin of many media members.  Just not this one.

Leave it alone.  It works.

WHAT’S HOT

NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE

The NHL has two really big issues that are drawing eyeballs to every media platform imaginable.  One is a league-wide situation and the other is an individual organization.

The latter is the amazing run of success of the Tampa Bay Lightning.  The Bolts, who are on track to amass around 120 points with 19 games remaining, are already at the century mark for points.  Don’t be surprised if the Lightning surpass that number.

The former is the competition for all of the division championships.  With the exception of Tampa Bay with an 17-point lead over Boston in the Atlantic, the largest lead of any of the three division leaders is three points.  In fact, in the Central, the distance between last-place Chicago and the final playoff spot is a measly four points.

Expect for these races to go down to the last game of the season.  That always makes for some interesting and entertaining viewing by fans like myself.

WHAT’S NOT

NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION

On the opposite end of the spectrum, it pains me to say this but the NBA is almost to the stage where the Association is unwatchable.  I base that hypothesis on the following facts.

First, right now in professional basketball, there isn’t parity but mediocrity.  If you doubt my reasoning on that subject just take a minute and peruse the standings in the Eastern Conference.

If the eight-team conference playoffs started today, the final two seeds in the East would have losing records.  In fact, the #6 seed would only have a 500 record.

So, if you do the math, there are 10 of the 15 teams in the Eastern Conference that do not having a winning record.  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what’s wrong with that scenario.

Second, and I know I’m a basketball purest but, you can count on no more than both hand of the number of players that work hard at both ends of the floor for an entire game.   In the NBA today, not only can’t they spell defense but way too many won’t even make an effort.

It used to be a common joke among coaches when you would ask if a player will defend, the answer would be they can’t even spell defense.  Good defense today in the NBA has become winning 135 to 132.

Finally, the three-point shot is being entirely overemphasized.  If you disagree with that statement, just look at the Houston contest with Brooklyn in January.  The Rockets, in a 145-142 overtime loss to the Nets, put up 70 three-pointers.  No, your eyes are not deceiving you.  That’s seven-zero and Houston only made a third of them.

Generally, when the playoffs roll around, this could change and it usually does.  Most teams that make it to the post-season realize that the “run-and-shoot” mentality of the regular season needs to morth to a “get a good shot every possession” mantra.  That, in itself, forces teams to play better defense.

Hopefully, this will happen so the NBA playoffs become watchable for me and millions of other fans.  There are some players, but more so teams, that are worth spending my time in front of the TV when they play hard for 48 minutes.

LOOKING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL

NCAA TRANSFER RULE

This one is still a little bit hazy but it’s starting to become clearer by the day.  The Crystal Ball believes the NCAA is going to completely revamp their transfer rule and here’s why.

There has been a tremendous outcry, from the media as well as student-athletes, concerning the way coaches can just pick up and change jobs at any time but players must sit out one full year before they are eligible to compete at their new institution of higher learning.  This has become especially apparent when a coach has left a trail of violations that has caused an athletic program to be put on probation with only the current athletes left to suffer the consequences.

Also, with the advent of one-year renewable scholarships, coaches can determine whether to not continue a player on an athletic aid package.  Now, a Division I player without the financial resources of that scholarship, does not have the luxury of moving to a different school and being able to play immediately unless they go to a below Division I program.

It’s time for the NCAA to allow free movement among its student-athletes.  If a player wants to transfer, they should be eligible to play when the next season in that sport begins.  That’s just the right thing to do before someone looks for legal recourse, correct?

The Illuminating Orb does not give an exact date for this to occur but it will be in the very near future.  Look for it to happen once a lawyer for a player/players wants to take it to court.  With that, your honor, the Crystal Ball rests.