5-at-10: College sports game changer, Braves pain, sports myths and NFL rules

5-at-10: College sports game changer, Braves pain, sports myths and NFL rules

March 26th, 2014 by Jay Greeson in Sports - Columns

Gang, remember the Friday mailbag and try to be kind to people today.

From the "Talks too much" studios, the thing about thinking is that it takes too much thought.

Northwestern players

The future of college sports could change in the next day or two. Forever.

The Chicago regional director of the National Labor Relations Board will decide if the Northwestern football players are employees or students. When the players made their pitch, director Peter Sung Ohr said he would make a ruling within a 30-day window. That window closes Thursday.

What's at stake here? How about everything.

According to ESPN legal ace Lester Munson (who is an attorney and has taught labor law classes at Northwestern of all places and works for the WWL of sports, so dude seems like a for real expert on this matter), there appears to be three options before Ohr:

• Rule the players are employees, which would force Northwestern and the NCAA to appeal. This would open the door for the players in college sports to vote to unionize if they so desired. It also would be a giant step toward athletes being paid sooner rather than later, and we all know the fall out for a majority of college sports if athletes start getting paid.

• Rule the players are student-athletes, which would likely cause the players to appeal. There is a growing concern that the argument that many of us have forever used - these kids are already getting paid because they are getting an education worth six figures - could be logical grounds for appeal.

• Rule the players are temporary employees, which would be a small victory for the school and the NCAA because it would void the unionizing effort. But if this is the decision, it still changes tags the players as employees.

The union appeal - coupled with the litigation cases against the NCAA and the interest of Congress - means that college sports are almost assuredly going to undergo an overhaul.

The future is unknown, but the prices are about to go up, and for a lot of schools, paying players could be a death blow.

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Sports cliche buster

Pardon us for a little bit of a rant. We have had a problem with the terms 'possession receiver' for some time now.

First, the No. 1 goal of every receiver should be to possess the ball, right? This should apply to every one running any route on any level.

Football tile

Photo by WRCB-TV Channel 3 /Times Free Press.

In it's most frequent use, 'possession receiver' is tagged to white guys. Not unlike the term 'athletic quarterback' the possession receiver tag is mainly used as a not-so-subtle attempt to designate race among the players.

It's borderline insulting to each side, in that it just assumes white guys can't be fast and black receivers do not catch the ball as well.

It's also factually wrong in the NFL.

According to a study by Pro Football Focus, want to catch who has the best hands in the NFL? Yep, Larry Fitzgerald, who dropped one of 83 catchable passes (1.2 percent) last year and has dropped a total of 19 passes in the last five seasons. DeAndre Hopkins, the rookie from Clemson who is known for his speed should also be recognized since he dropped only one of 53 catchable balls, which ranked second on the list. And yes, both Larry and DeAndre are black.

Further debunking the 'possession' label, among the bottom 15 on the list are Kris Durham (10 drops in 48 catchable passes) and Wes Welker (10 drops in 83 catchable passes).

Now back to your regular-scheduled 5-at-10.

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Braves hurting

The Braves added starting pitcher Aaron Harang. Here's hoping he does not Harang a bunch of curveballs. Thank you, thank you. We'll be here all week. And next week too.

Seriously, the rotation of Santana-Teheran-Wood-Harang-Minor is not as bad as it could be considering the river of arm ailments that have come down the line for this bunch.

Aaron Harang

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

Consider this:

• Today is the one-year anniversary of reliever Jonny Venters' elbow injury that cost him all of last season. Venters is on track to return in June.

• Two weeks ago the Braves lost starting pitchers Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy - likely the No. 1 and No. 3 starters - to elbow tears that required season-ending Tommy John surgery.

• Tuesday, reliever and former Rhea County star Cory Gearrin left an exhibition game in the middle of an at-bat with elbow pain. Add in the Tommy John surgery that former Braves and current A's reliever Eric O'Flaherty had last year, and that could be five major elbow injuries overall. It also puts four guys that would have made the roster sitting in street clothes and watching the game on TV like the rest of us.

Not sure if there is a trend for elbow pain - it's not like all these guys are all spilt-finger-pitch guys - but this is too many in one clubhouse to be dismissed as purely coincidence, right? Five guys that would be on the 12-man staff is 41.6 percent of your major league arms.

Like Twain said, stats are easily spun, but 41.6 percent seems like a lofty number for similar ailments to befall one group of pitchers. If a guy hits 41 percent of his 3s, he's a better shooter than Mark Price, Dale Ellis, Ray Allen and Allan Houston. If a guy bats .416, he's either one of the best hitters ever or a really bad slow-pitch softball player.

So to lose that many arms in a year is staggering.

Someone make sure Alex Wood, who has already had a Tommy John surgery, and Julio Teheran are very careful in whatever they are doing.

Maybe we should put the Braves pitchers in a bubble?

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This and that

- Heat-Pacers tonight. Color us excited. There are about seven-to-10 games a season that the elite NBA teams truly care about. This is one of them for each club. Good times.

In this Jan. 31, 2009, file photo Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson gestures during a news conference in Tampa, Fla.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

- RIP Ralph Wilson, the owner of the Buffalo Bills who died Tuesday. Wilson bought the Bills in 1959 for $25,000. They are worth $900 million today, and that may be low. Wilson was praised as being a great guy that valued his players and employees. That's good enough for us, regardless how much money he made. He was 95 and gave as much as he got. Life well-lived.

- RIP Will McKamey, the former Grace Christian of Knoxville star and Navy running back who died Tuesday after three days in the hospital after collapsing on the practice field over the weekend. He was 19. Tragic. Life ended much too soon.

- Georgia coach Mark Richt offered a very clear and covered coach-speak answer about the four players, including starting safety Trey Matthews, who were involved in the stealing ring. Talking to a host of reporters after Tuesday's drills, Richt was quoted as saying plainly "I wouldn't put anything out of the realm of possibilities right now." Could be a game. Could be a career. The realm is big. Big is the realm.

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Today's question

Are you in the "Last Shot" contest in which you pick two NCAA hoops players who you believe will score the most points between Thursday and Sunday night?

We have a few - Billy-in-Brainerd is for sure in - but were expecting more. You could win stuff.

We'll also offer several short answer possibilities:

Is there a bigger dynasty in sports right now than the UConn Huskies women's basketball bunch? Wow.

How would you describe the NFL's rule changes? Amid the high times of today and with the swirling questions of safety and saturation being legitimate points of order, the NFL's three newest rule changes are making the N-word a 15-yard penalty, creating a control center for instant replay and banning players from dunking the ball over the goal posts. Discuss.