A couple of random thoughts about sports before bedtime:
— The Tampa Bay Bucs of the NFL are usually off my radar screen, but an item online about them caught my attention today. They released a number of high-profile veterans, all but one of whom, the article noted, was older than the team’s new head coach, 32-year-old Raheem Morris.
But the notable thing for me was that one of the old-timers released was a player whose games I covered when he was a high school football star, linebacker Derrick Brooks. He was an incredible athlete at Pensacola (Fla.) High School and, as the high school sports writer for the local paper, I named him the 1990 Pensacola News-Journal Player of the Year in football. I’m sure the plaque is displayed prominently in his house along with his Super Bowl memorabilia.
He went on to a fine college career at Florida State, followed by 14 NFL seasons, all with the Bucs. Brooks, who will be 36 in April, went to the Pro Bowl 11 times and was one of the stars of their victory over Oakland in the 2002 Super Bowl. Several accounts I read today called him possibly the best player in Tampa Bay history.
And apparently he also grew up into an exemplary human being. The NFL named him its Man of the Year in 2000 for his work with disadvantaged youth. The Bucs said the move was more about going with younger players than about salary cap room, which they had plenty of already. I hope his career isn’t over. That would just make me feel even older.
— A sign of the times: Tickets to the upcoming Atlantic Coast Conference men’s basketball tournament will be available for sale to the public for the first time in 43 years. Historically, ACC tournament tickets have been as scarce as tickets to the Masters golf tournament. And like that event, the valued tournament tickets are passed down in wills from generation to generation and contested in divorces, usually in the possession of well-heeled donors to the athletic programs of conference schools.
A friend of mine who wanted to go one year joined the booster club of another ACC school when Clemson wouldn’t guarantee him the right to purchase tickets to the tournament for the size of the donation he wanted to make. He ended up not going as his proposed entry fee wasn’t enough for the other school either, as it turned out.
But the 12 ACC schools this year are reporting that they haven’t sold their entire allocations of tickets, citing the economy as one reason. Another is this year’s venue, the cavernous Georgia Dome in Atlanta, which can seat 36,000 for basketball. So if you’ve got $363 to spare, you can get a seat for the entire tournament in the upper deck. It’s tempting….
— Maybe another sign of the times: I had the Texas Tech at Texas game on for a while tonight. At halftime, Texas athletic program retired the number of former UT star Kevin Durant. Remember Durant’s Longhorns career, which started in the fall of 2006 and ended when Texas was eliminated from the NCAA tournament in March 2007?
Granted, that year was a fantastic one — averages of 25.8 points and 11.1 rebounds a game and a consensus selection as college basketball’s player of the year. But then he was, as they say these days, a “one and done,” entering the NBA draft where he was the No. 2 overall pick by the Seattle Supersonics (now the Oklahoma City Thunder).
So does one year, no matter how great, qualify as a college career? And should that player be eligible to have his jersey retired? Maybe if he comes back and finishes getting a degree, too, I’m thinking….