Soccer NIT is the most American idea of them all

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AP

Soccer NIT is the most American idea of them all

Either Peru or New Zealand will be the 32nd country to qualify for the 2018 World Cup (and depending on how late you read this today, one already will). This matters to you almost not at all because you are way too hot for the Soccer NIT.
 
Yes, there is a move afoot by some U.S, entrepreneurs to organize an ad hoc tournament of big-name countries that didn’t qualify for the World Cup (your Americans, you Italians, your Dutch, your Chileans, your Ivorians, et. al.), and it almost surely the most American idea of them all.
 
Greed-based, and stupid.
 
The teams that failed to qualify failed on the merits, as is always the case. The despair and tears and anger in the countries of the expelled were real, and will serve as the fuel for the next quadrennial chase for a berth in Qatar (or anywhere else on earth, if someone powerful comes to his or her senses).
 
But Americans have decided that if they can’t play with the big kids, they’ll set up their own game, as though there aren’t enough soccer competitions already, as though the idea of World Cup For Losers is something people have been craving, as though this wasn’t what it actually is.
 
Someone trying to force-feed us soccer we don’t care about because the soccer we do care about doesn’t include us. It’s the epitome of sore-loser-dom in search of a quick payday, a tantrum with ticket prices, and a trophy that reminds the winner that being name the 33rd-best team in the world is more insult than praise – just like the NIT’s search for the 69th best college basketball team in the country, the CBI’s search for the 85th best, and the CIT’s search for the 111th best.
 
Frankly, nobody should make a profit off the US Men’s National Team’s collapse. It should be a time for everyone to sit in the corner and reflect on all the advantages it barfed up in failing to qualify this time, not inflate some nonsense competition with other countries who should be bathing in equivalent bitterness.
 
After all, the United States of all places knows more about the value of an NIT than anywhere else, and that value is the answer to this question:
 
Without looking it up, name the last five NIT winners.
 
You can’t, and if you can, you should still be ashamed. I rest my case.

Trump made UCLA trio's apology more of a duty and less of a choice

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AP

Trump made UCLA trio's apology more of a duty and less of a choice

Donald Trump’s first big victory of his presidency – squeezing public gratitude out of UCLA’s Sunglass Three – will be trumpeted across the land as a triumph for every old person ever who glared at a child demanding gratitude for some kindness.

That Cody Riley and LiAngelo Ball both thanked Trump for whatever diplomatic schmoozing he applied to Chinese premier Xi Jinping to get the three shoplifting Bruins freed is, frankly, a polite thing to do, something done in civilized society when someone does you a solid.

But the fact that Trump had to goad them into it with one of his off-the-meds tweets doesn’t allow the young men a chance to express themselves openly and sincerely. They might very well have thanked the President without his stern prompting, in which case good on them for noting the kindness of another.

But his obnoxious thank-you prompt made the whole exercise more of a duty and less of a choice – which actually might be part of their punishment, which so far includes the scorn of millions and indefinite suspensions from the basketball team.

If that was Trump’s aim, to toss some nationally commented shame onto their shoulders for their behavior, then he is far more clever than he has revealed to date. My guess is not.

Instead, he wanted everyone to know what he did, and wanted to wring out a payment from them for his effort – a payment, again, that they night have offered freely.

The point is, to give thanks is what regular folks do. To receive them is part of the social contract upon which we have all agreed. To demand them ahead of time is just gauche.

But that’s . . . oh, hell this one’s too easy. Make up your own tag line. It might very well be better than the one I had.

Once be-all, end-all, Big Game now just friends-and-alumni-only party

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USATSI

Once be-all, end-all, Big Game now just friends-and-alumni-only party

The 97th Big Game is upon us, and that means you scratching your head and asking, “What? Already?”

Cal and Stanford meet for the 120th time, and as is their custom, only one of the two teams is good. Indeed, Stanford has owned this game for most of the last three and a half decades (they are 10-22-1 since 1984, and has won the last seven game in succession by an average score of 40-18).

Indeed, since 1975, the two teams have had winning records at the same time only five times, a yin-and-yang relationship that has no real logic to it.

But in a changing world and an increasingly professional-sports-driven region, the thing that truly reduced the Big Game from a big event to a friends-and-alumni-only party was the decision to move the game around to accommodate other scheduling issues. It used to be safe the week before Thanksgiving, only rarely straying from its comfortable pocket between November 17 and 23.

Once it had to adjust to demands like the Notre Dame game and the Pacific-12 Conference television demands, the Big Game became just part of the schedule rather than the be-all and end-all of the season. And while true believers like Stanford head coach David Shaw, who has proven after Stanford down to his last molecule by not entertaining NFL jobs, still find it an essential highlight of each season, the more casual fan has moved on to other pastimes.

This is partly due to the transient nature of the modern graduate, but also due to college football’s recent playoff-or-bust mentality, of which the only sniff the Bay Area is likely to have is next year’s championship game at Levi’s Stadium, The Stadium That Creature Comforts Forgot.

But enough about why the Big Game isn’t actually “big.” The truth is, it’s big enough for what it needs to be, and maybe that is its true historical value. The last time Cal and Stanford finished 1-2 in the conference was 1937, so maybe this game, in which Stanford is 7-3 and Cal is 5-5, is about what it is supposed to be.

Something fun for the folks already in the tent.