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The Ramble: March Madness, NFL Free Agency, and “Down With Fidel”

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Where to start, where to start? We aren’t even into the real March Madness yet, but madness ensues, or is ensuing…which is it?

“Down With Fidel.” At the World Baseball Classic, during a game in Puerto Rico between Cuba and the Netherlands, someone in the stands held up a handwritten sign with the words “Down With Fidel” printed on them. Oh those wacky Dutch! It’s ironic that a political international incident occurs during a game that features Holland, a country that is known for its liberal positions on issues like drugs, prostitution and euthanasia. Well we don’t know that the person holding the sign was from the Netherlands. Smart money says a displaced and disgruntled person of Cuban heritage held up the sign. Anyway, the reaction of a Cuban official at the game was classic, old-school totalitarianism.

A lackey of the Cuban dictator in attendance charged the person holding the sign and had to be restrained by the police and taken to a local police station. The Puerto Rican police said that they lectured this Castro-ite on the ways of free speech, and that this kind of sign waving was not a crime. Furthermore the Puerto Rican police have said that they will not be enforcing a rule that prohibits signs that are political in nature. It’s nice to see that these Cuban thugs have been told to sit down and shut up. In Havana this protester would have been arrested, beaten with rubber hoses, chained to a wall, and starved. In Puerto Rico the police protect him. This is a great example of the great divide that exists between the freedom that we enjoy and the atmosphere of subjugation that Castro and his henchmen have inflicted upon the Cubans. “Down With Fidel,” indeed.

March Madness Versus The Bowl Championship Series. Anybody who doesn’t believe that college football needs a real playoff system needs to pay attention to what occurs during the NCAA hoops tourney. The system in basketball does everything right that the BCS system does wrong. In hoops, every game during the conference tournaments and in the NCAA tournament means something. In the BCS system only the last two games are important. I don’t care how interesting some of the bowl game match ups are, aside from giving us something to watch and for helping the schools involved with their recruiting, none of these bowl games mean a thing.

The NBA. If you really want to cry about the state of what pro basketball has become, channel surf between an NBA game and a college game. Sunday afternoon there was a Miami Heat-Cleveland Cavaliers game with about 16 people in the stands. LeBron James scored 47 points, but who cares and what does it all mean? The NBA is putrid.

Barry Bonds. People keep talking about Barry Bonds in the same breath as Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. I think that’s ridiculous, as McGwire and Sosa aren’t even in the same league as Bonds. Barry Bonds is the greatest steroids-taking hitter in the history of baseball. End of story.

Ohio State. The Buckeyes continued their long line of success in breaking NCAA rules. This time in basketball. They did a whole bunch of things wrong that resulted in all kinds of penalties, not the least of which involves them having to take down their Final Four banner from 1999. Just like that, they had their place in the Final Four of 1999 wiped from the history books. Sunday the Buckeyes lost to Iowa in the finals of the Big Ten tournament. But Ohio State was at a huge disadvantage as their players had to contend with a situation that they were quiet unfamiliar with; they had to go to class once this month. Do you know what the average Ohio State athlete gets on their SATs? Drool.

NFL Free Agency. Sunday March 12 was a red-letter day for NFL free agents, as big brawny pro football types signed contracts for some mad “Benjamins,” yo. Leading the way are two skill position players, Edgerrin James and Antwaan Randle El. Both moves are kind of risky for different reasons. James signed a big, four-year deal with the Arizona Cardinals, but if I were a fan out there in the desert I’d be nervous. The first reason for angst is that Kurt Warner is the Cards’ quarterback, and I would be nervous no matter what other moves the team made as long as he’s running the offense. The second reason is that James – while a young man of 28 when next season starts – is kind of an old running back. Risky. But at least James has shown that he can be the centerpiece of a successful offense.

Randle El is another story. He caught 35 passes last year and the Redskins signed him to a $31 million contract. He’s never been THE guy, despite the fact that he’s a very versatile and exciting performer. Add to the mix that the Redskins don’t have a good track record with their free agent signings, and you have all the makings of a major bust on the Beltway.

More World Baseball Classic. As I write this I’m watching the Puerto Rico-Dominican Republic game. If I didn’t know better I would think that I fell asleep for 7 months and woke up during a World Series game. The 20,000 people at this game should be the example for all baseball audiences regardless of size with regards to enthusiasm and all that fan stuff. Watching this game I see why this tournament is a great idea. I’m thinking that maybe too many of us are jaded with all things sports, and take too much for granted. Maybe more of us – myself included – need to be more enthusiastic about events like this.

That’s enough for now…We’ll meet again, very soon.

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About Sal Marinello

  • Matthew T. Sussman

    I think every country is taking it seriously except us. But I think those on Team USA know what’s at stake.