Five sports questions for the end of August

Tabor?s football team was picked at the bottom of the conference in preseason coaches and media polls on Friday, but does it matter?

In 2007, the coaches and media both picked Friends to win the conference, and Friends did place first in the final standings. But the coaches foretold the final position of only two other teams?McPherson and Saint Mary. In 2005, both correctly picked Tabor first.

Compare those to 2006, when both picked Friends to win the conference. Friends finished second to Bethel?a team the coaches had seventh and the media had eighth.

That was not the first time a KCAC team had risen to the top of the conference after a low selection. Tabor was picked fifth by the coaches and seventh by the media in 2004?and finished 9-1 in conference play.

So based only on the fact that a high selection in the polls does not portend a strong finish any more than a low pick precludes the possibility of a high finish, the pre-season polls appear meaningless.

But I?m not convinced that the point of pre-season polls is to project the final standings. Isn?t the point of the polls partly to publicize the conference and partly to measure the expectations of those who pay the most attention to KCAC football?

That being the case, there?s no escaping the fact that, for those who follow Tabor football, expectations for on-field success have dropped markedly during the last four pre-seasons.

Fortunately, pre-season expectations have nothing to do with on-field performance, right?

* * *

While I was digging through the dusty old bones of the Free Press archives to locate the last four years of pre-season polls, I stumbled across an argument between a columnist and his supremely cynical agent, I.M. Slick, about how much the Olympics were affected by the Cold War.

I wasn?t interested in politics or sports for most of the Cold War?I was born a year after the Miracle on Ice. But isn?t it a little bit strange to see video of the President jumping out of his court-side seat in Beijing to give a fist pump in response to a slam dunk while Russia wages war in Eastern Europe?

* * *

Two thoughts on the USA basketball team: one, between his shot-blocking and the way he has keyed the transition offense, LeBron James is the team?s key player. As noted as the other players are, and as remarkable their abilities and athleticism are, James stood out like a man among boys on Sunday, and it?s my opinion that the Redeem Team can?t win without him.

Two, if Sunday?s game against China was the high water mark for the Redeem Team?s half court offense, won?t they have lots of trouble beating the likes of Spain, Greece and Argentina?

And just to finish that thought about LeBron, during the first half Sunday he showed me something I?d never seen before. Going up with two hands to intercept a shot that most guys would have been content to swat into the 13th row, and having picked the shot out of the air, James whirled around and sent a two-handed outlet pass 60 feet through a keyhole to D-Wade for a breakaway dunk.

I asked my dad if he?d seen transition offense like that, and he said he remembered Bill Russell doing it one-handed.

* * *

Final thought: My friend Dan?the guy who started at Orlando cleaning up after Shamu at SeaWorld the same year I started with the Free Press?is well on his way to becoming an expert in patent law. If he ever gets bored with that, maybe he?ll take a shot at becoming a brain surgeon, or maybe he?ll apply for a job with the CIA or NASA or something.

Meanwhile, I?m entering my third fall with the newspaper, and that?s pretty exciting. To me, anyway.

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