The O Zone

I feel bad for the kids from Memphis. Think about it. For the rest of their lives they will have to live with the fact that they had the title in their hands and let it slip away. Yes Kansas took advantage of the opportunities that were presented to them but, you simply cannot lose that kind of lead — they were up 60-51 lead with 2:12 left — that late in the game, let alone the national championship game.

Some are saying too much is being made about the missed free throws, not that they were not important but that there were other factors at play that led to the epic collapse.

Even the Tigers’ brilliant freshman Derrick Rose said as much following the game, “It wasn’t really the free throws. If we’d done things before the free throws, we would’ve been in good shape.”

Ok, I’ll give him that, if his Tigers had done what they needed to BEFORE the free throws, things would have been different.

But the fact remains and is blatantly obvious, the one Achilles heel this team had all year was its free throw shooting. Obviously it did not affect their wins and losses too much as last night was just their second loss all year against an NCAA-record 38 wins.

Memphis makes their free throws, just ONE MORE, and today we are reveling in the great story of the school from a mid-major conference winning it all.

To me, this is akin to the 2007-08 Patriots. Yes they went undefeated in the regular season, a remarkable accomplishment. Yes they set ridiculously heretofore-unthinkable offensive records.

But 10 years from now, all anyone will remember is how they didn’t win their last game. No one remembers who loses Super Bowls. Quick, who lost the last 5 Super Bowls? See what I mean?

Look, no one ever said sports, its fans and the way history will remember a given player, coach or team, is necessarily fair or just.

Like Bruce Horsnby says, “that’s just the way it is.”

Do you think the email from Ravens’ player rep Matt Stover will actually carry any weight and Gene Upshaw, he titular head of the NFL Players Association, will finally be removed from his throne?

In case you missed all this, it was revealed this past Monday that Stover e-mailed a plan to fellow player representatives to have a new union boss in place by March 2009. In his e-mail, a copy of which was been obtained by ESPN, Stover revealed a conference call among player reps on Friday in which he said, “I was on that conference call and I am not the only rep who listened and felt that it is time for a change.”

For his part Upshaw, whose contract expires in 2010, is in no hurry to leave his perch, not with a looming labor confrontation with NFL owners. “I would never leave until this deal is done.”

Tuesday, Upshaw said, “Obviously, there’s a group that feels we need to have a change now.”
He then went on to get personal regarding the Ravens placekicker:

“Matt Stover has no clue. Whoever is pulling his chain is doing a disservice to the union. I could understand the idea that they need to get rid of me if I wasn’t doing a good job but, shoot, the owners are mad because they think I’ve done too good of a job.”

Of course this is not the first time Upshaw referred to an adversary by name. A while back Hall of Fame offensive lineman Joe DeLamiellure had the gumption to openly criticize Upshaw for his apparent ambivalence toward retired NFL Players, particularly those who need the union’s help the most.

Upshaw replied with this charming reply:

“A guy like DeLamielleure says the things he said about me, you think I’m going to invite him to dinner? No. I’m going to break his goddamn neck.”

The NFL, and in particular commissioner Roger Goodell — he of the strict personal conduct codes he holds every coach and player up to — certainly loves this; anything that discredits Upshaw just further allows Goodell to run rampant over the same players he holds to such high ethical standards.

Meanwhile, DeLamielleure took the threat very seriously.

“My wife was petrified. We grew up in Detroit. You know what unions are. You hear about it. She goes, `Hey, this guy is a head of a union, a powerful union, and (when) he makes a threat like that, you’d better take it serious.’ I’m not afraid of Upshaw, but he has the means to do what he said.”

Lord knows I do not agree with Bryant Gumbel very often nor do I plan to make this a regular thing but last June Gumbel said on the HBO show Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel “The players’ union boss has become the league’s biggest embarrassment.”

And he (Gumbel) could not have been more accurate in his description of Upshaw.

You have to wonder when will the active players wise up and take back their union before they become ex-players and it’s too late.

Perhaps with Stover’s email, the winds of change are beginning to blow… finally.

Til next time.

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