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The Strike Zone, Spaghetti Incident Edition

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It’s the Spaghetti Incident version of the Strike Zone: Asking if the Pasta I consumed before every game I started in the big leagues can be considered a “Performance Enhancer?” I often bought it near my local GNC…and more than once I had it for dinner while staying in south Florida. Is that bad?

I can hear the national media already: Isn’t it just like Nebraska to schedule another non-conference cupcake? Really, the only CU people that should be happy about playing Nebraska in 2018 and 2019, and again in 2023 and 2024 work in the ticket office. Otherwise, not so much. The record between the two teams the last 20 times they played: 15-4-1 in favor of the guys in red.

All four of the games appear to be scheduled for the second week of the season. The first game between the old rivals is set for September 8, 2018 in Lincoln. I’m pretty sure these games are set for the Saturdays following the “Rocky Mountain Showdown” game against CSU in Denver. Hmmm.

Strike One: I’ve railed against the practice of “oversigning” in college football for a couple of years now, and just for the record, the SEC was at it again this year. Texas A&M and Georgia each signed 32 new players, while Florida inked 30 and Ole Miss 28. There’s supposed to be a limit of 25 per school per season. HA! The top six schools in the SEC (according to the ESPN recruiting rankings) signed a combined 25 players more than they were supposed to be allowed to sign. In other words, and entire extra recruiting class. And people still wonder why the SEC dominates the game.

But there could be a new monkey wrench thrown into the world of recruiting world that could really level the playing field, and make schools like Notre Dame and Stanford into the real powerhouses while seriously upgrading the quality of Junior College ball.

The NCAA is implementing new admission standards for incoming college athletes across the board starting in 2016. The minimum Grade Point Average for admission, now at 2.0, will rise to 2.3 and the core requirements – the number of class hours that need to be completed in math, science, English, etc – will double. In other words, instead of a prospect needing to have completed two hours of math, he’ll now need four hours, and so on.

These might seem like simple things, easy for a prospect to adhere to. But it’s not. It will have a dramatic impact on high school players who may be great on the field, but do not excel, for whatever reason, in the classroom. And there are a lot of those.

You could argue that this is the way it should be – that a young person should have to have better grades to qualify for college. Or you could argue that this is discriminatory and will hurt a whole lot of young people who come from difficult backgrounds who may now never get the chance to see if they could cut it in college.

“There will be a whole lot of young men who are college caliber players who will be hanging drywall after high school,” said one local administrator.

Two things are going to happen: First, the caliber of football and basketball played at the junior college level is bound to improve as talented players who can’t qualify for a four year school turn to the Juco ranks. There they could compete for a year or two and try to get eligible to move to a four year school. Second, schools like Stanford, Notre Dame, and yes, even Colorado should benefit because they already have more stringent admission requirements and won’t have to adjust nearly as much as schools that have less difficult admission requirements (like Kansas State, for example.)

Could this be the thing that finally brings the football powers in the SEC (who currently have less difficult admission requirements than most other Universities) back to the pack?

Strike Two: Spring Training is upon us. The time of year when every team is a contender. Going into this season, there is a ring of truth to that sentiment. (Well, not every team. Scratch the Astros, for instance.)

Toronto has a legitimate shot at winning the American League East while Oakland, Baltimore, Tampa and several others will also be right in the thick of things all season.

What about the Colorado Rockies? Will they be terrible again, or is there reason for hope?

We can always hope. But looking at it realistically? Most of the talk, including from here, has been about the pitching, and that remains THE key to a decent season. But another thing to keep an eye on is how the Rockies hitters react to the coaching of Dante Bichette.

I have no doubt that Walt Weiss will be very good as a manager. Then again, Jim Tracy was certainly not the Rockies problem last season, so Weiss can’t be expected to be the solution, either. But Dante’s ability to get a little bit more out of the Rockies offense will be worth watching.

I’ve spent time with Dante and watched him work with young hitters, and he really is an excellent teacher. I think the Rockies players will like and listen to him and he will in turn approve their approach at the plate. Dante was always big on “situational” hitting, something he learned from being around Robin Yount and Paul Molitor when we were all teammates in Milwaukee. It’s not always about hitting the ball out of the ballpark. Sometimes it’s doing the little things like hitting behind runners, getting a guy in from third with less than two outs, things like that. Those can make the difference between winning and losing a handful of games each season.

Let’s hope that a handful of games will matter in the standings for the Rox this season…

Strike Three: Amongst all the talk about the cloudy future of football due to head injuries and the like, one topic never seems to get brought up: What about the football helmets themselves? No one talks about how the equipment could be – NEEDS to be – made A LOT better and play a significant role in reducing head injuries. They can make vests that can stop a bullet at close range, but they can’t make a football helmet that can protect the head and brain from man-to-man collisions?

It was revealed recently that the family of Junior Seau was not only suing the NFL, but also helmet manufacturer Riddell. This is the same Riddell that appears to be doing more than just providing lip service to the idea of improving helmets. But is it just spin from a manufacturer trying to look better in the court of public opinion before settling its part of the lawsuit? There’s an independent study by a very reputable source that provides hope that the helmet of the future could indeed be part of the solution when it comes to head injuries.

That’s it for now. Time for some low-cal Fettuccini Alfredo. Yum.

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