The Houston Astros have entered their "Nothing to See Here, Folks!" era
Cheating is terrible, but what pisses people off even more than cheating is when there are no consequences, or when the consequences don't match the crime. Following the Houston Astros scandal, in which the front office, management, and several (all?) players colluded to blatantly cheat their way to one World Series title and one pennant in the last three years, Major League Baseball proved fundamentally incapable of punishing them. The manager and GM took a year-long suspension, but the players came out unscathed and, most egregiously, the Astros get to keep their ill-gotten World Series title. It's the kind of thing that alienates fans who, now that their belief in a clean game has been thoroughly demolished, at least want to believe in the possibility of justice. But commissioner Rob Manfred stole that from them too.
So what happens with all that anger and frustration from the rabble? They take it out on the team!
At the Astros' spring training opener, as ESPN reported, the impossible damage control in the face of fan rage has already begun:
In a Series rematch, the Nats got hearty cheers, while everyone in an Astros jersey -- including the mascot, Orbit -- was booed. Houston did not use any players implicated in Major League Baseball's investigation.
Two men in Nationals gear sitting behind the Astros' dugout briefly held up crudely drawn signs just before first pitch. One read: "You see my hate?" in large block letters. Another said: "Houston *'s" to read "Houston asterisks," suggesting the Astros' 2017 World Series title should be permanently blemished because of the cheating.
They booed the mascot! Look at one of the signs they confiscated:
Now, this was technically an Astros home game down in Florida (they share a facility with their opponent, the Nationals), and they started a lineup that didn't include a single player implicated in the scandal. Even so, fans heckled them until the game was canceled by rain, specifically yelling at Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa when they poked their heads out from the dugout. Imagine what's going to happen when the season starts and they have to start playing on the road. It's going to be hell, there's no way to mitigate it with lame attempts at damage control, and they deserve every bit of it. In the absence of accountability from on high, the fans will mete out their own kind of justice.
The Weird Question of the Week: Why are West Coast College Basketball Teams Bad?
I have been saying for a while that even in this wild year of college hoops, Gonzaga and San Diego are paper tigers, bound to disappoint in the tournament. Watching them lose on Saturday—to BYU and UNLV, respectively—was no surprise. Gonzaga always runs up an incredible record, and there's always one Mountain West team like SDSU that looks very good heading into March (until Saturday's loss, the Aztecs were the last undefeated team in Division 1). And when it's time for tournament games? They're all terrible!
Here's a wild stat: The last team from the mountain time zone to win the NCAA D-1 tournament was Arizona in 1997. The last true west coast team was UCLA in 1995. That's 25 years since a west coast team won the title! That's actually mind-boggling. In that same time frame, there's been exactly one title team that has won from the central time zone, and that's Kansas in 2008. Since 2000, there has only been one finalist from the west coast (UCLA, 2006), and of the 80 Final Four teams since 2000, only five have come from the west coast (UCLA three times, Gonzaga once, Oregon once).
You get the point—west coast college basketball, relatively, stinks. Part of that is conference weakness (it's a staple of my MoneyBrackets system that you should never pick a Mountain West team to win, and the Pac-12 is by far the worst of the major conferences), but even that explanation won't suffice. Clearly, there are a ton of great basketball players coming out of the west coast, and California in particular. Teams like Gonzaga have even opened up recruiting pipelines to Australia. So why can't any of these teams win in March? Why are all the western conferences bad? It might be the sports mystery of our time.
The Underrated Hilarious Play of Forever: Bouncing the Ball Off Another Dude's Back
Speaking of UNLV, there will never be a time when I don't enjoy the hell out of this move:
It's even better when it happens under the basket and the inbounder scores, but it's terrific in any circumstance. It's the behind-the-back pass for strategy nerds.
The "Rushing the Court is Always Good" Moment of the Week: The Stormin' Mormons
And speaking of BYU, you gotta love the court rush after Gonzaga:
Anyone who hates court-rushing is a narc, and that's all you should ever say if someone tries to argue otherwise.
The Greatest Golf Moment of the Year: This Old Lady
Folks, I don't care what happened in Mexico on Sunday, or what will happen at any of the majors, or the Ryder Cup. Nothing will top this 84-year-old woman sinking a massive putt on a basketball court:
The fact that the Ole Miss fans didn't rush the court after that proves they're a bunch of narcs.
The "Don't Watch This Punch Up Close" Punch of the Week: Tyson Fury
Compared to boxing, MMA produces far more brutal knock-outs, but once in a while there's a punch in boxing that's so brutal, so visceral, that it almost makes you nauseous. That happened with Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder Saturday night, and the camera angle made this one particularly nasty. Listen for the sickening thud:
Brutal. Give me a very old lady sinking a long putt any day of the week.