From the "Talk Too Much studios," let's go.
I can't tell you how excited I am about the future of Tennessee basketball. I believe Cuonzo Martin has done an unbelievable job this season. To even be in the discussion of going to a 7thstraight NCAA tournament is a success. My question for you this week is a hypothetical and one that I can't wait to get your answer on. Let's say Bruce Pearl doesn't get fired and stays on as head coach at UT. Considering the many moving parts (ex. What recruits does Pearl sign; does Tobias Harris stay; does Pearl sign Stokes, etc.) the present nucleus of the team is pretty much what Pearl would've had to work with. Does Pearl fall short, meet, or exceed what Martin has done this year?
Regular readers of the 5-at-10 know we believe Cuonzo "The Conz" Martin has done a whale of a job in his first season in Knoxville. If "The Conz" and the rest of the "Happy Days" crew in orange can find a way into the NCAA tournament - granted that's a tall order this late in the year, but not impossible - then "The Conz" deserves to be coach of the year. In the SEC and in the country. Period and there will be no discussion.
As for your question, there are several interesting layers to it, and believe it or not some of the the leadership mistakes Pearl made have benefited The Conz.
But before we get to that, if Pearl had stayed, we believe Tobias Harris could have been talked into staying for one more season. The backcourt would have added Chris Jones (if he had qualified) and Kevin Ware. So for comparison sake, with Pearl's possible/projected starters on the left and The Conz's starter on the right:
PG Chris Jones - Trae Golden
SG Jordan McRae - Jordan McRae
SF Cam Tatum - Cam Tatum
PF Tobias Harris - Jarnell Stokes
C Jeronne Maymon - Jeronne Maymon
We'll say the lineups are a push - we like the current version of Golden better than the potential of Jones, and while we like Stokes and love his potential, Harris would be one of the top players in the league. It's doubtful Pearl would have landed Stokes. The Conz made up a lot of ground on Stokes and if Pearl had stayed it would have been doubtful he would have had an open scholarship for Stokes to join mid-year.
Pearl was stressed and desperate in his final season in Knoxville, and that led him to be quite demanding on his players, especially reserves and role players. He needed Scottie Hopson and the rest of the starters to deliver and be consistent so he had more touch with them, but a year ago it looked like any of the bench players were yanked for making the smallest of mistakes. That stunted the growth of Golden for sure and possibly Kenny Hall, McRae and even Tatum.
Now The Conz has been devoted to his players and unified a broken locker room (and the fact that he did it in less than six months is the biggest miracle of all). Players get pulled for not playing hard (as they should), but no one is looking over their shoulder at the scorer's table after missing a shot or making a turnover. Ergo, this bunch is playing aggressively and is not afraid to make a mistake. That culture change is arguably Martin's biggest success.
If Pearl had stayed - and he had convinced Harris to return, and that's a big if - this year's Vols would be better. They would have been a top-three pick in the SEC and would be around that.
That said, the future of the program would be cloudy. If Harris had come back it was only going to be for one more year, and in truth whether it was lying about a bar-b-que or whatever other NCAA violations or off the court distractions Pearl flirted with, he was facing a dwindling shot clock in Knoxville. He was excellent on the floor and energized the sleeping giant that is UT basketball - and for that every Johnny Vols Fan owes a tip of their UT hat to Pearl - but Pearl burning out in Knoxville was a matter of when not if.
And the timing worked out to the point that the Vols were able to land The Conz. Now the counter-question for C-Vol and the rest of Johnny Vols Fans everywhere: Are you ready to thank Mike Hamilton for finding The Conz?
Discuss, and as always great question.
From El Jefe
I love the NBA Playoffs. Possibly as much as the 5 at 10 loves the NFL Draft. That said, how on earth does it take so long? It ends up being the best of 537 games or something ridiculous. The Celtics really missed Perkins (against the Knicks) but the move was better long term ... right? If not, that would mean Danny Ainge is just as fallible as the rest of us and I am not prepared to deal with that idea.
I think the Celtics can play with anyone but for the love Robert Parrish's gym shorts can someone play center?
Not that you were soliciting but here is my idea for a contest: Pick a team in any sport; any league; college or Pro and explain why you are their biggest fan? You would be looking for most absurd way to prove your loyalty. Winner take all! Prize could be a Cathy Bates T-shirt that says " I'm your #1 fan."
My weekly question: What is wrong with all of us as fans that our expectations are so ridiculous? I mean since I am not playing, coaching, owning, managing or otherwise actually helping the team what gives me the right? Discuss.
As always great to hear from you - it'd been too long.
But to no one's surprise, you bring the thunder with a powerhouse e-mails. Like Chuck Norris roundhouse kick powerful. Like Whitney Houston's national anthem at the Super Bowl powerful. Like the Old Spice commercial guy powerful. Like, well you get the idea.
The Celtics are aging and they are flawed. You're right Perkins leaves a huge void, but at least they got something for him as opposed to letting him walk in free agency. (And the contract he was asking for was much too big.) As for Ainge, yes, we believe he knows what he's doing. (And this Rondo-trade talk is a way to maximize assets, rebuild quietly and make a push to get Duke point guard Austin Rivers, son of Doc.) As for The Chief's gym shorts, no thanks. As for the contest, we can see that being a summer-time masterpiece.
As for you main question, there's nothing wrong with us as fans wanting the best and having extremely high expectations. And before we go any further, let's be clear - this is a discussion about Occupy Fandom. This is about the 99 percent of us who range from casual fan to season ticket holder to someone that named their kid Peyton White Smith and calls him 'Tee.' This is not the 1 percent of the Updykes or real-life soccer terrorists.
But having lofty expectations and wanting to win is a by-product of several things. Let's discuss:
1) A high percentage of sports fans are either former athletes/highlight competitive people or married to them. So, the people that are highly competitive want to win and can teeter on emotional extremes by the outcome of sporting events, that's why our wives are invested in the outcome. We're not proud of this, mind you, but we are aware of it and that's the first step.
2) We don't have a direct hand in the success/failure of our team, but we want to feel like we do. If we wear our lucky argyle AU visor, if we line-up in a three-point stance next to the TV, if sit in the same spot if we just root a little harder, we can help in some cosmic or karmic sense. And while the escape from reality and the joy that being a fan can be, feeling a sense of belonging is just as important.
3) There is no real difference to being a fan today as there was a generation ago as far as the fan-team relationship. There has always been a connection that straddles the razor's edge between support and stalking that in some ways satisfies and in some was identifies the fan. No, the difference today is that fans hate losing more than they enjoy winning. no one wants to show up at work or school or church and hear their buddy crow about this win or that title.
Here's more proof that we hate losing more than we enjoy winning:
- Which is stronger after your team wins a close game, the enjoyment of the moment or the relief of not blowing it.
- Everyone thinks America loves an underdog. And in moves and the Olympics and sports we're not invested in that may be true, but in the sports that matter, we're not rooting for the underdog as much as we're rooting against the heavyweight. And why is that? Because the power teams have more fans - hey everyone loves a winner, right, so those bandwagons fill up quickly - and we don't want to hear about it.
As for the simple answer to your question - your passion gives you the right. Your love gives you the right. Not unlike you worry about or celebrate with or offer help to a friend in need, your teams are a part of you and caring for them is normal.
If loving a sports team is wrong, then 5-at-10 doesn't want to be right. And if we have to live in a world where fans' expectations are not too high, well, the communist terrorists have won.
And that's all we have to say about that.
Love your column, but you do talk too much.
My question is pretty easy. When you follow sports you become fans of certain players and that's cool. Take Peyton Manning. Everyone loves Peyton, and now there is talk that he may retire at 36 and that makes some folks sad. It makes me feel old because I can remember being exicted when he committed to UT and now he's retiring.
What in sports makes you feel old?
Another great question. Gang, the mailbag crew is bringing it today, and since we're running low on time - and possible bandwidth at this point - let's move quickly.
Here is our top three sports-related things that make the 5-at-10 feel old:
3) Wannabe's is on the list. Watching players whom we followed in recruiting, loved in college and respected through Hall of Fame careers retire makes us feel old.
2) Seeing sons of star athletes of our generation become known makes us feel old. Ken Griffey Jr.'s son is college football player at Arizona. MJ's son is about to finish his college career. And that's not even counting Prince Fielder or Dale Jr. or Austin Rivers.
1) When covering a high school game and interviewing a high school kid, and having them call the 5-at-10 "Sir" and realizing it's appropriate. Ouch-standing.
From Laughing Boy
The Titans could use Hines Ward's toughness. You think he'd put up with Chris Johnson dancing, or the linemen (reportedly) taking off plays due to his diva attitude?
This was in the comments Thursday and it's such a great suggestion we need to discuss this.
Hines Ward would be a great fit for the Titans and an offense that needs an extra jolt of direction. And that's not meant as a shot to Mike Munchak, who did a much better job than the 5-at-10 thought he would (hey, we've apologized for this more than once already).
But look at the pieces on that offense. Matt Hasselbeck had a better than expected season and is tutoring Jake Locker, last year's first-round pick. Munchak, an NFL Hall of Fame lineman, is crafting the O-Line into one of the league's best. If you add Ward to help influence Chris Johnson - and more importantly Kenny Britt - this suddenly becomes a better unit even if Ward catches 12 passes all season. And you're so right, there's no way Ward puts up with CJ's diva-ness or does not have at least 14 man-to-man chats with Britt about what it takes to be successful.
We're on board with this Laughing Boy. Great call.
I can't believe I won the NASCAR contest. Thanks so much for the tickets and my son is super excited.
I haven't been reading the 5-at-10 all that long but it's pretty funny.
You wrote this week about what players of today would be the worst to see them in different uniforms. And your right, seeing Chipper in any other uniform but the Braves would be awful. Was anyone more out of place than Michael Jordan in that Washington uniform?
Wow, excellent question. Running short on time and let's do a top five in 10 words or less - that's right the soon-to-be patented 5-in-10 by the 5-at-10.
And we'll offer up this caveat: There are going to be some that toss out Johnny U in a Chargers uniform or Joe Namath as a Ram, and that makes sense. In truth Babe Ruth finishing his career with the Braves and Hank Aaron wrapping it up with the Brewers deserve mention in the all-time list, too. But those were a touch before our time, so here's our top five:
5) Glavine the Met - The Union forced and Tommy G will forever regret it
4) Hakeem Olajuwon the Toronto Raptor - Forgettable 61 games capped an all-time career
3) Montana the Chief - Young forced it, doesn't mean we have to like it
2) Jordan the Wizard - Let's just move on
1) Emmitt Smith the Cardinal - This was painful to watch on every level