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February 26, 2014

The Sports Blog: NFL mock drafts, bad behavior and Boeheim

NEW CASTLE — •With the NFL Draft fast approaching, it’s now open season for everyone and their brother to take a shot at a mock draft. Besides the pointlessness of trying to predict the unpredictable, there’s way too many of these things to try to glean anything worthwhile. When everyone has an opinion, and none are the same, it becomes an even more useless endeavor than it already was.  

•Keeping in mind that even the Steelers don’t know who they are going to draft, it’d be nice to see them focus on rebuilding a dilapidated secondary. Troy Polamalu is a beloved figure, but more of a linebacker than a safety at this point. Cornerback Ike Taylor is most likely gone due to his huge cap figure and poor play this past year. Free safety Ryan Clark is a free agent and well past his prime. All that means is that corner and safety are the safest bet for the Steelers in the upcoming draft, although a big wide receiver would be nice, as free agent wideout Emanuel Sanders is most likely gone, too.

•It’s pretty safe to say that the NFL has issues when it comes to player conduct. Look no further than last week’s arrest of Ray Rice for simple assault on his fiancée, the ongoing Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito bullying saga in Miami and dozens of other incidents that seem to happen weekly. My question is: Why do we care so much? Don’t get me wrong, I have sincere sympathy for the victims in these crimes and feel that the offenders deserve whatever justice is appropriate. But beyond that, what more should I think? Athletes are not role models, they’re entertainers.  It’s my job as a father to teach my kids the difference between right and wrong, and the conduct of a bunch of spoiled millionaires should not have an effect on those lessons.

•Furthermore, and to a larger degree, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who was once a fan of the NFL, but no longer watches due to off-field player conduct. As long as the product is entertaining, people will watch, regardless of anything else.

•For anyone who was smarter than me and didn’t change the channel from the Syracuse-Duke game this past weekend, you were lucky enough to catch a dramatic ending that was further heightened by the actions of Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim. Boeheim was upset about a charging call against his guy on a pivotal last second shot and did his very best to let the referee, and everyone else in the world, know about it. You could argue that he had a point — it was a questionable call, even more so when watching in slow motion. But you could also argue he cost his team a chance at the game by receiving a double technical and handing Duke four easy points. The easy thing to say is that Boeheim was out of line with his on-court tirade and that’s probably true. But emotion is a huge part of coaching and playing, and sometimes it gets the best of you. Maybe the worst part of this for Boeheim will be asking his players to show restraint in the face of adversity as they move forward, which is something every good coach expects from his guys, and should be always be modeling.

•One last thing: the term “incognito” denotes that behind an action is someone who wants to remain anonymous. For that reason, the aforementioned Richie Incognito gets the award for most ill-fitting last name of all time.

(Questions or comments? Email Greg at: hustongregor@hotmail.com)

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