As Sam Sees It

Looking back on 2001, there are some things in sports that were positive changes and should be kept. There were a few that cry out for change.

One change after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that should be maintained was the playing or singing of “God Bless America” during the seventh inning of Major League Baseball games. That was a practice, which was well received by baseball fans and helped enhance the sport’s image as “America’s Game” and as a nation-healer. Baseball could do much worse than take the extra four to five minutes required to continue this patriotic practice.

The area most needing change is the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) formula that gave us the Miami-Nebraska mismatch in the BCS Championship Game. Tinkering with the formula will not be enough, however. What is needed is some sort of play-off system. Just a match between the winners of a number one vs. number four game and a number two vs. number three game would have been enough this year. Purely by accident, the BCS matched one (Miami) and four (Nebraska) and two (Oregon) and three (Colorado). While both Nebraska and Colorado fell below those ratings after their losses, most would agree that they belonged in the play-offs. Tennessee and Florida past them in the latest polls, but both had two losses already and would not have merited championship consideration in a four-team format. Of course, the possibility of an eight, 16 or even 32-team tournament exists. The important thing is not how extensive to make the tournament, but to establish one at all. Four should be the absolute minimum number of teams involved and the guess here is that 16 is a logical maximum.

The Phoenix Suns have fallen on hard times and are struggling to stay above .500. Many of us were less than thrilled by the trade of Jason Kidd for Stephon Marbury. Kidd is making the New Jersey Nets’ front office look like trading geniuses and has last year’s Eastern Conference doormats at or near the top of the standings. It probably isn’t that simple.

The Western Conference of the NBA is far superior to the East now. There is not a team in the East that would be likely to win a series from the Los Angeles Lakers, the Sacramento Kings, the San Antonio Spurs or the Minnesota Timberwolves. All of those Western Conference teams and the Dallas Mavericks have better records than any team in the Eastern Conference. At press time, the Nets were just behind the Mavericks in league record, leading their division (Atlantic) and conference (Eastern).

The Suns will not stay down. Jerry Colangelo is an owner who is not content with being just one of the pack. He will make changes if results don’t soon start to be seen. That really was the message one should get from the Kidd-Marbury trade. If he doesn’t start seeing fruits of that deal, another will be in the works. It may already be.

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