This One's for Bud
The NCAA released its tournament brackets on Sunday. Who got shafted? Gonzaga finished the season with a 29-3 record, won its conference tournament going away, hadn't lost a game since Nov. 24—and yet earned only a sixth seed. The Spokane Spokesman-Review's John Blanchette says the NCAA's selection committee punished the Zags for their low RPI ranking, which measures strength of schedule. "With no means to force big schools to play the smaller ones anywhere but on the bigs' home courts—if at all—the strength-of-schedule factor in the RPI is the biggest hoop joke of our time, next to Season on the Brink." Plus, the committee ignored the fact that when the Zags finished their non-conference schedule, they were ranked eighth in the RPI.
Butler (25-5) did everything except win its conference tournament, but the Bulldogs failed to make the dance altogether. Placing so much emphasis on conference tournaments "renders the regular season such as Butler's utterly meaningless," the Indianapolis Star's Bob Kravitz writes. "And while major-conference teams can only benefit from those tournaments, the midmajor powers can only hurt themselves and their attention-starved league."
The New York Post's Lenn Robbins predicts that for the first time in tournament history, none of the four No. 1 seeds will reach the Final Four.
Sammy Sosa wants you to like him: Last week, Sammy Sosa told reporters that Barry Bonds had urged him to break Bonds' single-season home run record. Bonds told reporters he said no such thing. Sosa, enraged, vowed "payback." The San Jose Mercury News' Skip Bayless describes Sammy's M.O.: "As he and [Mark] McGwire chased Roger Maris' record, Sosa began telling reporters how close he and McGwire had grown. McGwire, said Sosa, was going to visit him in the Dominican Republic for a little beach-and-golf R&R. This was news to McGwire, who privately told St. Louis reporters that the only times he chatted with Sosa were when Sosa was on first base. No phone calls, no dinners, no vacation plans." When Sosa pulled the same stunt with Bonds, Barry recoiled. "The last thing he wants is to generate more media attention by playing the made-for-Disney role of Sammy's best new buddy."
This one's for Bud: To snub commissioner/pariah Bud Selig, major-leaguers are talking about boycotting this year's All-Star Game, the New York Times' Murray Chass reports. The Milwaukee Brewers, the team Selig used to own, will host the game. The commish responds: "I don't get that anywhere. I was with some players over the weekend. They couldn't have been nicer." A player tells Chass: "There are a lot of players who would like to stick it to Bud."
Black and white in black and white: Nolan Richardson's tirade against the mostly white sports press wasn't completely without merit, the Los Angeles Times' J.A. Adande argues. With more diversity in the newsroom, "maybe the next outspoken African American coach wouldn't have the 'controversial' tag hung on him so quickly, or perhaps he would be described as something more than a good recruiter. … I've read some tired columns that sarcastically lament poor Nolan Richardson and his $3-million buyout. These writers will never even have a chance of considering Richardson's perspective. They'll never write in a newsroom in which they're the minority."
The real March madness: The Miami Herald's Greg Cote calls last week's Iditarod Sled Dog Race "sanctioned torture." One hundred and seventeen dogs have died during the race since officials started counting. "Dogs have died of hypothermia, strangulation in towlines, heart failure and pneumonia, and been killed when gouged by sleds and attacked by a moose. Iditarod hero and former champ Rick Swanson lost a dog in '96 after running his team through waist-deep ice water. You can imagine the Iditarod folks don't like sharing such info. It's like getting the cigarette industry to chat up lung cancer."
No headline necessary: Finally, Viagra hired Texas Rangers first baseman Rafael Palmeiro as its new pitchman. Palmeiro's agent told Sports Illustrated, apparently without irony: "I want to be clear that Rafeal does not suffer from this problem. But he knows the size of the problem."
Read a good sports column lately? Post a link in the "Fray." The best entries will be mentioned in future columns.
Bryan Curtis, Slate's "Middlebrow" columnist, writes for Grantland, Texas Monthly, and Newsweek. Follow him on Twitter.