The 2014 Sporties Awards

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 2014 Sporties our annual celebration of the best of Sport and the Sports world.  Let’s dive right in shall we:

Game of the Year – Last year of course featured the absolutely bonkers Auburn / Alabama game in addition to the Brady vs. Manning Bowl in which Brady staged an incredible comeback.  This year the contenders are much fewer and farther in between.  There were a couple of crazy baseball games and a couple of crazy football games.  However, the most exciting game I watched?  No question it was the bonkers World Cup match between the US vs. Portugal game which came down to the absolute wire and featured some of the top players in the world playing out of their minds.

Shocking World Cup Moment of the Year – Brazil gets tuned up by eventual champs Germany.  It was relentless, wave after wave of unstoppable strikers and you began to feel worse and worse for Brazil fans.  Simply awful.

Championship Dominations – One theme of the year was definitely beat downs in the finals: the LA Kings, San Antonio Spurs and Seattle Seahawks all cruised to victory over, in some cases, more ballyhooed opponents.  I will also not neglect to mention the Canadian hockey team and their punishing win over the US in the Olympic Finale.

Series of the Year – The best series of the year took place in hockey, and featured the LA Kings vs. Chicago Blackhawks in a war that served as the real Stanley Cup final.

Breakout of the Year – The biggest winners of the World Cup was the Men in Blazers who are single handedly bringing soccer to the masses of America through their insanely brilliant show.  During the biggest sports event in the world, the two men locked themselves in a small room nicknamed “Bob Ley’s panic room” where they proceeded to break down football and culture simultaneously.  When they got home it was a quick shift to NBC Sports where they continued to have the highest rated podcast and a shockingly well rated TV series.  They are stone brilliant and they are now both a must watch, and must listen.

Pod of the Year – After the praise I just gave the Men in Blazers, you would rightfully assume they have won the Pod Award…but this is actually a battle that stretched beyond the sports world!  Three of my must listen pods: the aforementioned Blazers, Hollywood Prospectus and SerialHollywood Prospectus is highly entertaining and funny, and includes the occasional deep dive into the movies of David Fincher or the music of Taylor Swift.  It is fun and light and takes pop culture analysis to a whole new level.  Serial tells the story of a 15 year old murder allegedly committed by a young man named Adnan Syed.  The podcast is hypnotic and brilliantly conceived as we wander through the murky depths of a story where we may not want to hear the outcome.  A truly powerful experience; and a very addictive one as I powered through four pods believing I was only on the first one.  Wait?  Isn’t that only three pods when I actually mentioned four?  Yes, because it is high time someone gave praise to the true return of the Starters.   Last year I was almost out on them, as their 44 minute shows were simply not enough time to properly appreciate them.  Given that their time as “The Basketball Jones” was astounding and creative, it felt a little bit as if they were being contained in a small box that stripped away all their talent.  This year I was on the edge of being out completely when I heard they were cutting down to 22 minute shows.  I was done: I tried, but all their zany antics had been stripped away simply because there was not time.  In some ways it was good because it focused their great and insightful basketball minds.  However…it was putting them in a box.  I was done.

And then I heard the news.  On Fridays, the Starters would be unleashing “the Drop” a return to their old, off the walls ways.  Welcome back boys.  Before the first pod I waited with trepidation and had not looked forward to a pod like that for some time.  When I listened, all my fears vanished.  The boys were back.  In the following weeks, they have truly returned to their off the walls roots where their crazy energy and unstoppable hilarity continues.  What a glorious return.  Another year and you might be the pod of the year: right now it is the Blazers for their consistency.

Sports Books of the Year – I read some great sports books this year, many about football (American and otherwise).  The best: League of Denial by Mark Fairinua and Steve Farinua  / Showtime by Jeff Pearlman / Michael Jordan by Roland Lazenby / The Football Business by David Conn and Against Football by Steve Almond.  Another must read is the William Hill Sports Book winner: Night Games by Anna Krien which takes the microcosm of the misdeeds of the Australian Rules Football league and expands it through the sporting world.  An interesting take on the lengths teams will go to in order to protect their players and the depths players will sink to in order to fit in.  An important achievement and must read book.

Team of the Year – The Kansas City Royals because no other team did what they did, with the expectations that team had coming into the season.  Even in defeat they are worthy.  Runners up: San Antonio Spurs, Team Canada and Seattle Seahawks.

Off Field Moment of the Year – LeBron James returns to Cleveland…as read by Frank Caliendo playing Morgan Freeman.  Runner Up: Wait, is that Vladimir Putin and Sepp Blatter?  What could they possibly be discussing?  Is it possible for all the evil in the modern world ensconced in one luxury box?  Another runner up: remember when Bob Costas got pink eye in Russia?

Sportie Man of the Year – No one and I mean no one, gives Sidney Crosby enough credit.  He deserves to be the Sportie Man of the Year because he guided one of the most dominating hockey teams through a grueling slate to the finals.  It did not look good and certain points but the best players truly shine when it matters most and the way Crosby dominated at both ends of the ice in the final was astounding to watch.  He deserves more recognition for the way he dominates his sport in an especially competitive time: remember when Ovechkin or Crosby was a serious question?  Now it is likely Crosby or Toews.  Crosby though is our Sportie Man of the Year.

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Ray Rice and the Enabling of Athletes

By now most people have seen the video of Ray Rice sucker punching his wife and then dragging her unconscious body out of an elevator.  It is horrible, and terrible to think that someone could do something like that to someone they love.  The NFL had previously suspended Rice for 2 games, which led to a change in domestic abuse policies within the league, and in the wake of the new video suspended Rice indefinitely.  Seeing no other choice the Ravens cut Rice, a move which seemed to stagger coaches and teammates who spoke with nothing but high praise for a man we had just seen throw a haymaker at a defenseless woman. 

Where does this come from?  How have we come this far? 

Part of the blame has to fall with the College systems which continually enable athletes and has repeatedly covered up their transgressions behind the power of their institutions and armies of lawyers.  Take the case of Jeramy Stevens (whose wife, Hope Solo is in some hot water too) a man who committed such reprehensible acts while a Washington Husky and then Seattle Seahawk that is astounding he is not in prison (and all the more ironic his wife may be soon).  In fact his entire 2000/2001 team was the subject of an excellent book Scoreboard, Baby which is a frightening look at the power of universities to cover up horrible crimes.  Another excellent book is Jeff Benedict’s recent The System which takes an intricate look at all facets of the college game and contextualizes the corruption within brilliantly.  The bottom line: accusers come forward and the colleges do whatever it takes to get them to go away.  Money corrupts absolutely and the way these universities protect their players (who are often pro prospects) is deplorable. 

Another example: Jameis Winston – a Heisman winner whose alleged rape was covered up, made to disappear and has now reappeared due to increasing evidence.  Are all of these allegations true or anywhere close to true?  No chance, famous people always have to worry about future cash grabs, but when there is a big difference between the exception and the rule.  More often than not it seems these athletes and their behavior is covered up to keep the dollars flowing into University coffers – often at the expense of poor students who have no chance against armies of lawyers and huge offers of money to keep silent (The “Kobe Bryant” approach).  It should be noted the US Military has a similar problem of abuse and cover up. 

Where does it stop?  The NFL is the richest and most powerful of all sports leagues, and is facing a myriad of problems from concussion lawsuits through growing substance abuse problems.  There is no single straw which will break their back, the NFL is simply too powerful and popular, but a cumulative effort may force the resignation of commissioner Roger Goodell (whose leadership has been pretty bad). 

One of the greatest things about a democratic society is the right to a fair trial and the NCAA and major sports leagues have rarely given their members anything resembling “fair justice”.  Laughably even when fair trails are given, the punishments are often ludicrously light in order to keep athletes on the field even as the evidence against them is overwhelming (take Greg Hardy a classic case of he said / she said for which he missed virtually no time).  The worst case of all (aside from Kobe): Ray Lewis whom we seem content to pretend did not murder someone in cold blood.  He likely did (or knows who did) and now, more than 14 years later there has been no arrests in the crime and a case that should have become OJ for a new generation has quietly vanished.  Ray Lewis (allegedly) killed a guy, had his blood on him and was in the Superbowl a year later.  Horrible. 

Should we even be surprised by the Ray Rice situation, or should we just shrug and accept it as a “part of the game”.  The enabling needs to stop at the collegiate level in order to break the cycle that has filtered through to the pros, the athletes simply do not know better because they have always been “allowed” to get away with things normal people would be sentenced to life in prison for. 

Athletes must take responsibility for their actions and we must all speak out.  The time for change at all levels is now and we must demand reform, not simply continue to accept the status quo. 

Epic Fail

When Matt Barkley declared on December 23, 2011 that he was coming back to win a National Championship with the USC Trojans I sent the following message to at least seven people:

Christmas just came early!  Barkley stays at USC!  National Champs 2013.

And for nearly seven months that was exactly where USC was: National Champs to be, with presumptive Heisman Winner Matt Barkley strutting about like the team was ready to accept the trophies at any point.

No one said anything about the horrendus lack of depth the team had – particularly on the lines on either side of the ball.  Last season there was little doubt that USC was the 2nd or perhaps even best team in the Pac-12.  Due to sanctions placed upon the team because of things that happened years ago, the team was unable to compete for the national championship or participate in any Bowls.  Now, those sanctions have come back again – the lack of scholarships has finally caught up with USC.

The offensive line was so bad they could not have blocked Miley Cyrus.

Now, USC has to go through the rest of the year and win everything to get into the Rose Bowl.

Matt Barkley meanwhile, joins the long list of quarterbacks who came back for their senior season and failed…epically.  In fact: has it ever worked out for anyone?  Going all the way back, this is a semi-complete list:

Peyton Manning – lost to Florida, did not win the National Title and lost the Heisman to the only defensive player to ever win the Award (Charles Woodson).

Sam Bradford – Injured his shoulder immediately, but was still the number one pick.

Matt Leinart – Beaten and humiliated on national television by Vince “no longer in the league” Young.  Teammate Reggie Bush had to give back his Heisman for seemingly no reason.

Andrew Luck – The greatest QB prospect in years should have won the Heisman and the National Championship but came away with neither.  RGIII got the Heisman and Nick Saban stole another title.

Long story short: if you are going to be a top pick in the NFL do not bother coming back for your senior season.  Now, how can I pin this latest USC failure on Vince Young?

The 2012 / 2013 Cover Corner College Football Preview

This year’s 2012 / 2013 College Football Preview comes down to three, simple letters:

USC

The Big Questions break down as follow:

Can USC overcome whatever SEC Challenger comes out to face them?  LSU and Alabama will be great again (as every year) but this might be the first in which they are vulnerable.  Two teams in the PAC – 12 could easily win the National Championship (Oregon being the other one).  This season there are virtually two conferences with everyone else on the outside looking in.

Can Wisconsin overcome the fact that they are simply not as good as USC, LSU, Alabama or Oregon?  Probably not.  Wisconsin cannot really play great defense and any SEC Team can destroy their offense with a suffocating D (see all the previous overrated examples like O-State multiple times).  The other teams in the Big 10?! (who knows what the bloody conference is called) that could “make noise” are Michigan St and Michigan.  However, the Wolverines will play Alabama this week and will be blown away.  Long story short, the Badgers will not win the National Title.

Can anyone beat Matt Barkley in the Heisman race?  It always seems as if the presumptive champ never ends up being the winner: Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, Matt Leinart….etc.  How will this play out, something tells me Barkley will be alright and will finish up being very competitive and in the race until the last week.

National Champs: Three little letters…USC.

 

2012 – A Look Ahead

Happy New Year, and allow me welcome you to 2012!

What am I looking forward to in 2012?

A Miami Thrice Title! – No more LeBrondowns or meltdowns in the face of overwhelming pressure; this should be Miami’s year.  LeBron looks focused and dedicated to destroying the NBA, one team at a time.

Choosing an EPL Team – I have casually followed the EPL (and Man U) for years but the brilliant Men in Blazers Pod and my Tottenham buddy, Whisper Winnett are making me push myself to declare allegience to a team.  Any suggestions?  Chelsea?  Man U?  Man City?  Arsenal?  Liverpool?

Reading More Sports Books – A few titles I am looking forward to in the New Year are(*note that almost none of these books are actually being published in 2012): The Dream Team by Jack McCallum; A Season on the Brink by John Feinstein; Veeck as in Wreck by Bill Veeck; Ball Four by Jim Bouton; Unfinished Business by Jack McCallum, The Game of Our Lives by Peter Gzowski and Fever Pitch by Nick Hornsby. 

USC Being Bowl Eligable – Let me be the first to present your 2012 National Champs, the USC Trojans.  Led of course by Heisman Trophy Winner (and #1 pick) Matt Barkley.

An Awesome Super Bowl – This year’s ultimate contest has all the earmarks of a classic, regardless of who gets there.

The Continued Emergence of Greatness – Some of the best players ever in the history of their respective sports are in the twilight, prime or beginning of their careers.  The NBA has a particularly large talent pool (and boom) and the NFL is watching some All-Time Greats go out (Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady).  The NHL hopes and waits that Sidney Crosby can return. 

Another year beckons, and in sports – as always – it threatens amazing things.

An Open Letter to the NCAA

Dear NCAA,

I am writing to inform you that you have, once and for all, lost it completely.

Your toothless punishment of Ohio State speaks to a horrible bias and wicked double standard.  Given the horrific / sadistic punishments you laid upon USC I expected O-State to recieve a similar ban.  Yet despite crippling USC for half a decade, you blantently refused to do the same to Ohio State.  Was their bribe of better quality?  How can you possible attempt to maintain the facade of dignity when acting as if you have none?  Thank you for the consistency (additionally, thanks for completely overlooking way worse incidents at Auburn and Miami!). 

After Ohio State’s transgressions, the NCAA had a chance to send a message to players who were still at the University! and yet refused to do so.  All the while, of course, punishing USC players who were in junior high when Reggie Bush was recieving minor benefits.  Have you no shame, NCAA? 

There is one way for you to prove yourselves and rise back to the semi-respectability: punish Penn State.  Punish Penn State like you have never punished a team before.  My suggestions for what you should levy against the Nittany Lions: a ten year bowl ban; a loss of 30% of their scholarships and a complete adminstration change in the football program from the bottom up.  What Penn State allowed to happen in their football program is unforgivable.  This is not someone accepting money from an agent: this is lives being shattered and destroyed.  They must be punished, and in this case, I agree with punishing the entire institution.  Prove yourselves this time NCAA or lose this fan forever.

Happy Holidays,

A Very Very Angry, USC (With “Heisman Winner” Matt Barkley) fan.

The 2011 Sporties!

Welcome to the first annual Sportie Awards!

The Sporties cover the entire world of sports in a variety of catagories.  Get ready to be amazed…

Ready?  Okay, here we go, without further ado, your 2011 Sportie Winners:

Game of the Year – World Series Game 6

Given that some are calling this the best baseball game of the past 50 years, it definitely gets this year’s Sportie.  The twists and turns in this game had your stomach in knots and it was impossible to move for the duration.  Probably the most entertaining baseball game I have ever seen. 

Best Sports Moment – Aaron Rodgers putting on the belt after winning the Superbowl.

Not only did Rodgers completely erase all doubt and blow away the last Favre lovers (given that he is better) he did it with a team of vets and youngsters who played harder than anyone else.  Every now and again the right guy takes one. 

Sports Books of the Year

Net Worth by David Cruise and Allison Griffiths – Imagine a world where the entire system of Government is corrupt and run by a brutal dictator.  This is not about the USSR but rather the illustrious history of the NHL detailed brilliantly in Net Worth.  The best thing the authors do is provide indelible portraits of former (and future) greats / horrible people such as Ted Lindsay, Gordie Howe, Eddie Shore and Eric Lindros.  Their takes are unique, insightful and at times, utterly devestating.  Easily one of the most infuriating sports books ever written. 

Loose Balls by Terry Pluto – The 2nd funniest basketball book ever written (behind Bill Simmons epic tome) is an oral history of the wild ABA years featuring so many hilarious anecdotes that it becomes impossible to put down.  The characters are  outrageously larger than life and rendered brilliantly human.  My favorite story: Marvin “Bad News” Barnes on a morning plane that took off at 8AM and landed at 7:59AM – “I ain’t flying on no time machine.  I ain’t taking no plane that goes back in time.”

Diving into Darkness by Phillip Finch / Blind Descent by James Tabor – What sort of person can reach the pinnacle of sport diving?  What sort of person could push themselves to not only dive as deep as possible but into a cave?  Finch takes on the likes of two men who make an epic cave dive…and the one who must fight to survive.  So vivid are his descriptions that the reader is transported along into the abyss.  Tabor tackles an even more harrowing quest to discover the deepest place on Earth.  He follows the Bird / Magic of the caving world through their harsh journeys fraught with danger.  Both books are claustrophobic reading experiences that challenge as well as entertain. 

Most Devestating Moment – Game 7 Stanley Cup Finals

Not only did we have to suffer defeat, but we also had to deal with all of Surrey rioting and looting Vancouver stores.  Thanks once again for improving our Post-Olympic Image Surrey. 

Pod of the Year – Men in Blazers

I had essentially planned on giving this to Bill Simmons BS Report forever, but the Men in Blazers stole my heart.  Easy to do with an informative and hilarious look into the world of futbal.  How can one not burst out laughing when each week they are treating us “Great Friends of the Pod” to exchanges like the following:

Michael Davies: “If you could have dinner with Gregori Rasputin or John Terry who would it be?”

Roger Bennett: “You’re asking me to choose between a man who is a serial rapist, cult leader, who once raped a nun…and Gregori Rasputin?” 

Michael Davies: “Just so we are clear, Rasputin was actually the nun raper.”

Roger Bennett: “I would take Rasputin since he is dead – the conversation would be better.”

Sportie Man of the Year – Lebron James

Everyone just stopped reading, but hear me out: who else garnered more ink or attention this year than LBJ?  Be it for his epic collapse or his epic play, he was the man.  Period.  We could not get enough of him when he was dominating and we could not get enough when he was disappearing.  Ultimately the choice is clear. 

A Two-Point Beginning and End

In case you already forgot, this is how it all began:

Last weekend Boise State’s incredible run ended with a missed 39 yard field goal – unfortunately for the second straight year – and it has sure been a roller coaster of a ride.  All along, one thing has been clear: they wanted a shot at the National Title.  Year after year they turned away anyone who challenged them: Oklahoma, Oregon, Virginia Tech.  Eventually teams stopped coming down since they knew they would be turned aside in ridiculous fashion.  Boise won games big and they won games ugly and they won close games too.  For their entire run in the top 10 they never backed down from a challenge and the biggest reason they never got to number one was their strength of schedule.  Pollsters tend to forget that by the time they were going 11-0 no top ten team wanted to take the chance in playing them.  Hard to have a tough schedule when teams like Michigan and Texas are running the other way. 

Next year Boise may be starting over – their longtime QB / frequent Heisman candidate / winningest QB in Div 1 History Kellan Moore is leaving the school.  If nothing else, Boise’s winning ways have finally attracted legitimate recruits to the program and they should be deep and competetive for years to come.  It hurt to watch them lose to TCU though, very very much.  No team in recent memory has been as entertaining as consistently entertaining as Boise and their 2007 Fiesta Bowl Game is the most exciting game I have ever watched.  I remember happening to turn on the game and being unable to leave the couch for an hour.  My roommates joined me and we spent the entire 4th quarter / overtime screaming in disbelief.  You cannot make up how that game went nor could you make up all their subsequent success.  All they ever wanted was a shot at the best, and when they got it, you had to believe they would make the most of it.  The Statue of Liberty two point conversion may be the gutiest player in college football history and deservedly so.  In the annals of football history the NCAA denying Boise State the opportunity to play in the National Championship should go down as outright larceny.   

Thus it is only fitting that their reign seemingly ends on a two point conversion.  Boise will not get their shot this year or next, but they definitely deserved one.

When 3 Overtimes are just not enough….

Last night I watched one of the most thrilling College Football games in recent memory.  USC brought it and definitely played hard enough to win; Stanford refused to die and will use this game to tout Andrew Luck’s outrageous hype to even further heights.  Simple fact from last night: Matt Barkley fought Luck to a draw.  A couple of Barkley’s throws are still coming along, particularly the deep throws…however, his TD at the end of the game showed remarkable touch.  Luck is more accurate and his throw off the trick play was absolutely perfect – additionally he is a better athlete than Barkley as his running skills displayed throughout the slugfest.  The interception he threw late in the fourth quarter nearly ended his Heisman Campaign but he managed to salvage it thanks to a fumble by the best player on the field all night (Reggie MacNeil) in the third OT. 

A couple of surreal moments turned this game: firstly, as soon as USC’s corner was injured in OT I turned to my girlfriend (who bless her heart watched with me) and said: “This freshman is about to get roasted.”  Ten seconds later…he did and it was a touchdown for Stanford.  Next series: USC fumble into the endzone – ballgame Stanford. 

Secondly, USC showed tremendous heart in this game despite a small roster with no depth and numerous setbacks against a really good Stanford juggernaut.  Barkley was more than willing to put the team on his back but it was the defense’s nearly inhuman effort that almost won them the game.  Also…had their young reciever gone down right after he caught the ball on the last regulation play, they may have had a shot at a field goal.  Inexperience and youth may have cost them a shot at winning the game. 

Finally, given the ridiculous sanctions USC has faced (horrendus in light of the penalties that have been levied against other programs) the team has never played harder.  Their SoCal local allows them to pull in fantastic athletes and the team looks very, very good.  Should Barkley stick around for one more year they should have a legit shot at contending for the National Title next season (due to a downturn for Stanford / Oregon).  Barkley has not recieved nearly enough credit for sticking around USC when he could have transferred for a shot at the title or Heisman.  Were he eligable to win he would be in the thick of the race for doing what he has with a laughable amount of scholarship athletes.  All the penalties have cost USC is their depth, overall the talent remains staggeringly high. 

Last night had a Bowl-Game atmosphere for USC and they played like it.  The NCAA cost USC yesterday’s game more than anything else and robbed fans / players of three years of legit competition.  Yet the team still works hard and nearly killed themselves to win last night with half a roster.  I cannot wait until next year.

Good, Luck?

Andrew Luck may have just made the best worst decision of his life.  Luck, the consensus number one pick in the upcoming NFL draft, is going to return to Stanford and finish his degree. 

Finish his degree?  How can he leave 60 million dollars in guaranteed money on the table? 

Yes, he is leaving a lot of money on the table and time will tell if the new NFL collective bargaining agreement ends up costing him most of that money when he declares in 2012 (An NBA style salary cap is in play – something like the 3 year 9million rookie contract).  Luck’s decision seems to have been quietly accepted by most draft pundits but, obviously, has completely reshaped the draft landscape.  Suddenly the second (Gabbert?) and third (Mallet / Newton / Locker) best QB’s in the draft become #1 and #2.  Everything shifts and the Luck”y” Draw gets pushed back a year. 

In the past, other college players have been huge beneficiaries of this situation – most notably Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez.  The number one pick in that draft was Sam Bradford who chose to return for his senior season at Oklahoma.  Sanchez was thought to have needed another year at USC (and coach Pete Carroll made several “he’s not ready” claims) but benefitted immensely from a weaker QB class and went to the Jets at #4. 

So, Luck is not exactly  in a unique situation.  NFL draft prospects have returned for their senior seasons before and yet, “luck” is never on their side.  Returning for another year has almost always hurt their draft stock.  Another year of NCAA ball gives scouts all kinds of time to pick apart the game of any player – and pretty much make up weaknesses in order to show how well they are doing their jobs.  This kind of added pressure and scrutiny has hugely damaged future prospects. 

Take the case of Heisman winning, former USC star and National Champion Matt Leinart.  Had he come out as a junior – on the heels of his Heisman and National Championship – he would have gone number one overall.  San Francisco, desperate for a quality quarterback, would have been his destination.  For Leinart this seemed like a complete victory.  Not only did he get to ride off into the sunset having accomplished as much as he ever could at USC – but he would get to stay in California!   No brainer right? 

Not exactly.  Leinart of course returned to USC, lost a heartbreaking national championship game to Vince Young, lost his second Heisman to Reggie Bush “vacant” and dropped to #11 in the draft.  Why did he drop so much?  Suddenly, scouts could not clamour fast enough to find faults with his game – prototype qb, no mobility, weaker arm. 

His vacant spot in the draft went to Utah’s Alex Smith (who rode a wave of momentum following his Fiesta Bowl Victory) and San Fran has been searching for a quality quarterback ever since (even going with fellow one year wonder Troy Smith at times this season). 

Leinart is not the only player who has hurt his draft stock by returning to school – Jake Locker would have been the number two player last year, now he is not even in the top twenty of most mock drafts.  Sam Bradford came back and hurt his shoulder, jeopardizing his entire career but was lucky enough to still be the first overall pick a year later (for more guaranteed money than the previous year’s player Matthew Stafford) in possibly the only example of this situation working out well. 

Why will it be so hard for Luck to hold onto the number one ranking in the 2012 draft?

1) Flaws are accentuated – Suddenly all the positives disappear from the repetoire of any staying-for-the-senior-year QB.  Throws that were definitely in their wheelhouse as a junior are suddenly picked apart and become a negative.  Matt Leinart was always thought to throw a really nice deep ball – until he became a senior and suddenly his arm was nowhere near as strong as the year before…allegedly. 

2) The Out-of-Nowhere-Contender – This player is someone who performs exceptionally well for one year and seemingly has all the tools to succeed at the top level.  Most often they do not play in a pro-style offense and have little accuracy – Akili Smith / Cam Newton / Vince Young / Jamarcus Russell are prime examples.  These players have great bowl games and declare at the perfect time.  Often they are able to completely steal the thunder from the consensus pick or players who are alot better than them.  After they fail spectacularly everyone pretends they never saw this coming and were completely blindsided by such downsides as: lack of prep / complete inability to read defenses /  inability to throw with any accuracy / laziness / too much money conundrum.   

3) The Next Generation #1 – This may be where Luck faces the most competition in 2012: Matt Barkley.  Since he has led USC from the time he was a freshman, Barkley has shown time and again that he has all the tools to be an NFL star.  Like Luck, Barkley plays in a pro-style offense, can make every throw and is a very intelligent football player who understands the game.  The race for the top pick in 2012 is officially on! 

Luck will probably be the top pick in 2012 simply because he is a great pro prospect and at Stanford he will continue to develop his skills by playing against top level competition.  Hopefully things work out for him and he escapes injury and holds on to his place as the top player. 

But I’m not counting Barkley out just yet. 

A more important question remains though? 

Why in world would Luck want to continue to be the big man on the Stanford campus? 

Oh – right…