(Prelogue: This will be Buffalo sports blasphemy to many, but I know little to nothing about Rick Martin, other than he was the greatest scorer on the greatest line the Sabres ever had. I'd love to do some sort of proper memoriam to him, except that I wasn't alive when he played and I don't know what to say. So I'll leave that to the pros. And by pros, I mean, the Buffalo News. Please don't hate me.)
As I've stated in the past, I watch sports to escape the nonsense of everyday life. I think all sports fans would agree that there's something wonderfully pure about a game's final score. In all cases, when all is said and done, the score is the score is the score. You can debate what went wrong or what should've been done, but the outcome is beyond dispute. This team won. That team lost. Over.
Any other category of life can come with an overwhelming amount of gray area. Whether it be politics, family life or your job, rarely are things ever cut and dry like they are at the end of a game. But that certainly would be nice ('I'm sorry, Boss, but the scoreboard clearly states that I deserve a raise').
But the closest we ever get to pure, sports heaven is during the month of March with the NCAA tournament.
It is the greatest tournament in sports for all of the obvious reasons and then some. Because of everything from the format to the players' amateur status, it is sports in it's purest form. There's never any talk of contracts or trades or union disputes or any of the other garbage that infiltrates every other sport on the planet. Sure, these days you have to debate the ethics & value of "one-and-done players", but that's pretty tame by modern day standards. College football could probably share this illustrious status, if anyone cared to stop the money-making juggernaut that is the BCS, but they don't and they won't. Of course, the tournament is making it's own money-grab this year with the expansion to 68 teams, but hey, nothing is perfect. Still, this is as close as it gets.
Even before you get to the tournament itself, March provides us with the thrill of the conference tournament. When they announced expanding the field, I was a bit concerned that many of these tournaments would lose some of their luster, particularly for the larger conferences where presumably many teams would be less likely to get snubbed even if they didn't have a great showing (sorry, Virginia Tech). But certainly for the smaller conferences, none of the thrill was gone this past weekend. And even the 'big-time' conferences showed they could still produce great drama like Isaiah Thomas provided us with...
Here we go again.
Yeah, that's right. Jinxes be damned. We will make the playoffs. I said it. And I'm not scared to, either!
The two most encouraging stats are Tyler Ennis stretching his point streak to three games and Jhonas Enroth getting his 5th win on the season. Everyone and their mother in Western New York knows that Patrick Lalime doesn't belong anywhere near the Sabres' net and it's encouraging to know Miller can get a few nights off down the stretch without the Sabres necessarily conceding a loss. Then again, with Miller allowing four goals, including a couple softies, against the Leafs, perhaps that's not such a big deal.
But I don't want to be a downer about this. I do believe, as the title suggests, that eventually we will make the playoffs and eventually get our hearts broken, but let's be honest. We fans needed to see this. If Pegula's introduction to the team had included a slide to 9th or 10th place, it would've made it all the more difficult to get very excited about the future of the team. But even with Stafford sidelined, the Sabres were able to put 6 goals on the board which is an extremely encouraging sign from a team whose offense is usually anemic at best.
Your average fan knows this team probably doesn't have the talent to make much of a push in the playoffs, but success is always a good thing.
Is it August yet? No? Well then why do I have to talk about football? Oh right, all the b.s. I mentioned before.
Yes, the union has been dissolved, the talks have ended and ALL IS LOST! Well, not lost, just postponed.
Let's be serious, if you really think there won't be a 2011-12 season in the NFL, you're incredibly gullible. Right now, the NFL generates $9 billion in revenue. Nine... BILLION. That's 9,000,000,000. The chances that Roger Goodell and the owners of the league are going to walk away from that kind of money are about as likely as Charlie walking away from all his porn stars and drugs.
Ultimately, I come down on the players' side on every issue I've heard discussed. The only area where I feel for the owners is the rookie pay scale. The idea that Sam Bradford became one of the top paid quarterbacks in the league before he ever took his first snap is ridiculous. Sure, the lifespan of your average player's career is a few years at best and so they should get what they can while they can. I understand that completely. But I also understand that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were forced to sign last year's third overall pick, Gerald McCoy, to a contract worth $63 million with $35 million guaranteed. Maybe McCoy will turn into the next Warren Sapp, but if his rookie season is any indicator (28 tackles & 3 sacks in 13 games), the Bucs might not get what you'd consider a big return on their investment.
Still, the owners make money hand over fist off on the backs of these athletes, so fight on NFLPA.
What's that? The NFLPA doesn't exist anymore? Well... shit... good luck, players.