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Attendance at Pro Days won’t be perfect indicators

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on March 7, 2011 – 4:26 pm

A few warmup tosses to start the week:

THE CAMPUS WORKOUTS: Otherwise known as The Pro Day.

Tuesday is a big day with two of the top quarterbacks on display at their respective schools. Why they did it this way, who knows, but Cam Newton is working at Auburn, Ryan Mallett is going to be at Arkansas, and the other thing we know for sure is the Bengals won’t say who they’re sending where.

They figure to be at both workouts and the temptation is to leap like Newton in the long jump when it’s revealed which workout head coach Marvin Lewis, offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, and quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese attend.

That’s the temptation, but not reality.

Both workouts are going to be on tape and the Bengals are going to have other chances to go back to that campus to interview the player after the Pro Day. Plus, they’re allowed to bring in 30 prospects to Paul Brown Stadium before the draft so it’s not like this is a last chance.

And both schools have other prospects on which to gaze. Auburn has defensive tackle Nick Fairley and offensive tackle Lee Ziemba while Arkansas has tight end D.J. Williams and guard Demarcus Love.

So while Pro Day attendance might be an indicator, it also may not.

BOOK REPORT: Wanted to file a book report with you after some weekend reading claimed two well-written and researched sports stories: The Perfect Mile by Neil Bascomb and The Rise of a Dynasty by Bill Reynolds.

Almost a nice escape from the current crisis facing the NFL. Bascomb weaves the stories of the three men who chased the first sub-four-minute mile from 1952-54 and Reynolds chronicles the Boston Celtics’ first NBA title in 1957.

Almost.

Both books capture how sports were caught in transition in the ’50s as the purity of competition began to collide with the meteors of media, marketing and moguls. We are in a galaxy far, far away, but we didn’t take light years to get here.

Both events happened just a few years before I was born, but it got me thinking. Maybe the good old days weren’t always good.

You started following sports when you were a kid because it wasn’t like business and politics and all the other real-world stuff. But, maybe it was closer than you thought.

Consider the NFL is paralyzed by the $9 billion question and it’s been less than 60 years since the day after Great Britain’s Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile he showed up at the hospital to continue his medical studies. It’s been 54 springs since the day after the Celts won their first banner in Game 7 against the St. Louis Hawks when their prized rookie center, Bill Russell, jumped in his car to begin driving to Des Moines, Iowa, to join some of his teammates in a barnstorming tour.

There were no city hall parades back in ’57, when the winning team split $18,000. In ’54, there was no cable news to swallow Bannister whole.

It is a nice romantic thought.

Bannister sandwiched in his training for history between writing and researching his thesis and diagnostic stints in the hospital wards on the way to becoming a neurologist. Landy chased butterflies instead of endorsements. The Celtics dressed in a dingy locker room that was old in the ’50s. A player knew he had made the team when he was given his own hook to hang up his clothes.

But maybe the tension of sports and the real world have always been there. Because the future was coming.

Fast.

Like the 6-11 Russell metaphorically sprinting the length of the floor with 40 seconds left in regulation to block a layup by Hawks guard Jack Coleman despite Coleman having a half-court lead. The play, absolutely unheard of in 1957 when big men only lumbered under the basket, saved the day for the Celtics and made possible their double OT win while providing a glimpse of the modern NBA.

The 21st century turned out to be right around the corner.

Newspaper stories the day of Game 7 in Boston quoted anonymous players grumbling about getting very little of the biggest gate in NBA history.  The players wondered where the rest of it was going and weren’t too happy the owners were saying the league needed it after years of playing a poor stepchild to the college game.

You could feel it coming. Even in track-and-field, supposedly the vanguard of athletic purity.

University of Kansas legend Wes Santee, who along with Australia’s John Landy had been beaten to the punch by Bannister, saw his career ruined by AAU claims he accepted too much expense money from meet promoters.

He would have been called The Ocho SubCuatro today, but even then Santee was charismatic, confident, quotable, hugely talented, and played to the crowd. Yet the AAU barred him from running “The Perfect Mile” in Vancouver at the 1954 Empire Games, when Bannister’s finishing kick beat Landy in a classic both finished under four minutes.

Santee, who never broke four minutes, would wonder for the rest of his life why the promoters offered such “riches,” knowing the AAU had $15 daily limit for food, lodging and travel. The Perfect Mile was really The Imperfect Mile without him.

Maybe politics and business always had the inside track on sports.

Celtics guard Bob Cousy, until Russell arrived in ’57, was the game’s best and most well-known player. But three years before that, Cousy began to organize NBA Players Association when there were no health benefits, no pension plan, no minimum salary, and the average salary was $8,000. Reynolds documents how Cousy broke down later in life when wishing he had used his position with the NBPA to ease the racism leveled against Russell and other blacks.

Still, the owners didn’t recognize the NBPA until 1964, after players had threatened to walk out of the all-star game a good seven years after the Celts won that first banner.

Yeah, the good old days maybe.

But the real world was just doing anything to get in. Even then.

We just didn’t know it.

We were kids.

ONE-RING CIRCUS: The most famous hit on Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco came courtesy of an AFC North safety when the Browns’ Brian Russell sent The Ocho to la-la land when he went over the middle in a 2006 game.

Now another AFC North safety is pledging to take him out in a more conventional way.

According to ProFootballTalk.com, the Ravens’ Tom Zbikowski went on the Dan Patrick radio show  Monday to say that he’d knock out Ochocinco in the ring in 45 seconds.

Ochocinco tweeted back, “you wana go nite nite, you want to box me, for 1 your feet are to slow and you’ve got no hand speed to even be competitive.”

So, naturally, according to PFT, Zbikowski issued a challenge on his Facebook page in which he challenged The Ocho to a four-rounder  for charity at Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium: “You wear Orange and Black and I will wear Purple and black.  If we do it in May, that should give you enough time to get ready.”

Still waiting on The Ocho.


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