Commentary

Wild weekend leaves plenty to ponder

Updated: March 23, 2009, 3:01 PM ET
By Gene Wojciechowski | ESPN.com

Stream of unconsciousness …

[+] EnlargeTeam USA
Kevork Djansezian/Getty ImagesThe view from the Team USA dugout was somber after a semifinal loss.
The World Baseball Classic isn't my particular brand of vodka, not because I don't appreciate what MLB commish Bud Selig is trying to do here -- tap into the international market, tap into the whole U-S-A thing -- but because the timing of the games (March) simply doesn't work.

Baseball nationalism aside, the WBC is a tough sell in this country because the USA roster is watered down by injuries or apathy (look at the list of players who turned down invitations), because it competes against the NCAA tournament, and because it sometimes has the feel of glorified spring exhibition games.

Baseball fans are smart. They know they're seeing these players not at their best, but at their earliest. But Selig, talking recently to reporters in Los Angeles, said there's no chance of the WBC's moving to July. And he verbally body-slammed any general manager who thinks the risks of injury to players are greater than the rewards of the WBC.

"This is a time in life where I know how important your individual club is," Selig said. "This is a time to put the best interests of the game ahead of your own provincial self-interest."

Stark: My plan

ESPN.com's Jayson Stark put together a plan that will make the World Baseball Classic feel like baseball's version of Super Sunday. Story
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Sorry, Bud, but the provincial self-interests are also in the best interests of MLB fans. One serious WBC-related injury to the likes of David Wright, Derek Jeter, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Miguel Cabrera, David Ortiz, etc., could impact a team's season and hopes for a postseason. And if, say, Albert Pujols plays in a WBC, gets hurt and misses significant time, are you going to reimburse the St. Louis Cardinals' season-ticket holders who spent thousands of dollars to watch the All-Star first baseman play for the hometown team?

Sometimes the provincial self-interests actually serve the greater good. The WBC is a wonderful idea in theory, but is as practical as a left-handed hammer.

… Sorry, Denver Broncos fans, but the new movie, "I Love You, Man," is not based on the real-life relationship between Josh McDaniels and Jay Cutler.

Orlando Mendez-Valdez
Tom Hauck/Icon SMIOrlando Mendez-Valdez and Western Kentucky were denied by Gonzaga in the second round.
… Reason 1,104,682 why the NCAA tournament is better than the NBA: Western Kentucky senior guard Orlando Mendez-Valdez. Nothing against Gonzaga, which beat the 12th-seeded Hilltoppers on a last-second bank-in after a full-court drive, but I'm going to miss the hyphenated lug.

… If it's YouTube-able, you'll want to see Marquette coach Buzz Williams' epic sideline meltdown against the refs in the final minute of his team's second-round loss to Missouri. Dennis Hopper's "Shooter" kept it together in "Hoosiers" better than Williams did at game's end. And Williams' drive-by postgame handshake with Mizzou's Mike Anderson won't be a career highlight.

… The New York Yankees are charging as much as $2,625 for a front-row, single-game ticket at the new Stadium, which might even be too pricey for those AIG bonus babies.

For that kind of money you can buy an 81-game, lower box-seat season-ticket package ($2,608) from the team that actually won the AL East and reached the World Series last season: the Tampa Bay Rays (and they'll finish with a better record than the Yankees this season, too). Or a full season-ticket package ($1,316) and season parking ($1,235) from the world champion Philadelphia Phillies.

Or you can buy a 50-inch plasma HD TV ($2,299) to watch the Yankees knuckleheads who spent $2,625 for a one-game ticket -- and still have $326 to donate to a United Nations-sponsored charity such as, "Nothing But Nets," which funds anti-malarial bed nets in Africa.

… If Tiger Woods Twittered: "I just hit a 400-yard drive -- with Charlie Axel's pacifier. On one knee. My surgically repaired one." … "I sure wish people would talk more about how Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy are passing me by. Because as you know, I have a problem getting focused for the majors." … "Charlie Axel just hit a 300-yard drive -- with his drool bib."

… Just asking, but does Oklahoma's Blake Griffin have a, "Hi, I'm Blake -- Feel Free To Hit Me In The Face With A Tire Iron" sign on the back of his jersey? The guy gets treated like he's on the wrong end of a Jet Li wushu fight scene.

OU still has to figure out how to get past Syracuse, but if it does it's Griffin versus North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough. Now that might be worth $2,625.

… Fun week to be a Jordan. MJ's Charlotte Bobcats (he's the, cough, cough, managing member of basketball operations) are within viewing distance of the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. His oldest son, Jeff, played in Illinois' opening-round loss to Western Kentucky in the NCAA tournament. His youngest son, Jeff, led all scorers in Whitney Young's win in the Illinois 4A state championship game.

… By the way, this was the same state championship tournament in which 3A semifinalist North Lawndale was assessed a technical foul at game's start because of a uniform violation (black stripes on the sides of its jerseys were too wide at the top -- oh, my!). Champaign Centennial made one of the free throws and won by -- you guessed it -- a point. A rule's a rule, but, what, someone from the Illinois High School Association couldn't have suggested that the players put a strip of white trainer's tape over the wide part?

Centennial won the state championship the next night. North Lawndale won the consolation game after getting T'd up again for the stripe thing. (More from Page 2's Uniwatch).

… Why you should never fall in love with stats: Wake Forest entered the tournament with the best winning percentage against the field of 65 (10-2, .833). The No. 4-seeded Deacons couldn't get out of the first round.

… My least favorite commercials during the tournament are the ones in which Howie Long makes fun of other people's trucks and SUVs. First of all, what kind of creep hangs out in parking lots? And I'd love to see what would happen if Howie started ragging on some union longshoremen.

Norman
Norman
Brodeur
Brodeur
… In the same week Martin Brodeur set the NHL all-time record for wins by a goalie, a state appeals court ruled that the New Jersey Devils' star has to pay his ex-wife $500,000 a year until 2020. That's nothing. Greg Norman wrote a $100 million check to his ex.

… The Chicago Tribune reports that Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford scored 38 out of 50 on the pre-NFL draft Wonderlic aptitude test, 10 points higher than USC quarterback Mark Sanchez and 11 better than Kansas State QB Josh Freeman. That's great. But just once I'd like to see how NFL general managers would do if they took the test.

… The Los Angeles Dodgers have their heart, but not their head in the right place when it comes to the so-called "Ramirez Provision." The team wants all future deals to include a blank line where a player can designate an amount to be given to charity. Manny Ramirez gave $1 million to the team's Dodgers Dream Foundation when he recently signed his $45 million contract.

The players association has filed a grievance, and with good reason. Even though the Dodgers say the contribution is voluntary, the provision puts a player in a weird spot. It's obvious that owner Frank McCourt wants, perhaps even expects a player to contribute to the foundation. Why else include the provision?

But a player's decision to donate his money to another charity, or to none at all, should be his business, not the Dodgers'.

… Do you hear that screaming? That's DeJuan Blair's bicep sweatbands. And not that I'd ever tell this to Blair's face, but those thin sweatbands look like they belong on "Dancing With The Stars."

… Our apologies to the men's selection committee. You were right about Arizona. But you're still wrong about stiffing St. Mary's.

Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn3.com. Hear Gene's Podcasts and ESPN Radio appearances by clicking here.

Gene Wojciechowski | email

Columnist / College Football reporter