he NBA playoffs have reached their final four. Oklahoma City, Golden State, Cleveland and Toronto are the only basketball teams still playing meaningful games this season. Somehow, the Thunder has the Warriors on the ropes as I write this, holding a 3-1 lead on the defending champions. Had I written this column a few days earlier, I certainly would have predicted a rematch of last year’s finals. But it will be hard for even a team as talented as Golden State to win three in a row. Especially against an Oklahoma City team that has looked very strong in the playoffs. So, I am going to call it right now. This is the year Cleveland finally gets their title. ESPN just released the very good 30 for 30 movie, “Believeland” about the city’s long drought of championships, so it only seems right that this is the year they win it all.
Got a lot of news for the athletes behaving badly files. We could start with Johnny Manziel, but why? I kind of feel like that story only ends when Manziel gets his head on straight. Otherwise, reports of him punching people in bars are going to become so commonplace that they are no longer news.
However, it has been a long time since we have had the chance to complain about baseball’s all-time home run leader. Yes, Barry Bonds (currently serving at the Miami Marlins’ hitting coach) returned to his grumpy ways this week when he snubbed Los Angeles Dodger Joc Pederson’s request for a photo before a recent Dodgers-Marlins’ game. Bonds was Pederson’s boyhood hero according to the young Los Angeles slugger so he wanted to get his picture with him and recently went up and made the request. Apparently Bonds wanted none of this and did not even bother to look at, or respond to, Pederson in any way, eventually forcing Joc to do a walk of shame away from Bonds. Obviously this is in no way surprising. Bonds has not commented on the incident, but Bonds was never what you would call an approachable guy when he was hitting steroid-fueled home runs for the Giants. Maybe even as a hitting coach he doesn’t want to interact with the opposing team. If that’s the case, I get it. In the old days competing athletes wanted nothing to do with each other and Bonds can be ‘old school’ when he feels like it. Still, to not acknowledge Pederson at all seems like a pretty bush league thing to do. Or maybe it was just Barry being Barry.
There seemed to be a plethora of bad behavior in the world of sports of late. Some of the most egregious occurred at Baylor University over the past few years and involved the school’s football team. I am not going to get into too much detail about what was going on at Baylor, but it was bad, on a university-wide scale. Briles is the first person to fall in a scandal that could claim a lot of jobs. As a lot of college coaches before him have done, Briles played a dangerous game in his attempts to build a successful football program where one had not ever existed before. He recruited and welcomed players with questionable character as long as they were good players. In the short term this worked. Over his tenure at Baylor, the Bears have been better than they ever were in the 100-plus years the school has had a football team. But, as is always the case, the lack of character in the program caught up with him and those same players who helped him win cost him his job. I would say this is something everyone can learn from, but that does not seem to be the case as this sort of thing has been happening for as long as I have been watching college sports and it surely will happen again. The lure of winning and championships and television money is simply too much for most coaches and universities to pass up. Even if it results in a nasty scandal somewhere down the road.