In the Around the Dorm Championship, the “Ref,” Caroline Russomanno, challenges Sports Editor Brandon Gould, Senior Editor Bobby Olivier and Sports Assistant Alex Wolfe to answer questions about which side of the NFL labor talks they are on, whether or not the Penguins can win the Stanley Cup and, after all the drama, if LeBron James made the right “Decision” this summer.
1. Some NFL players, like Cleveland Browns defensive lineman Brian Schaefering, are making alternate career plans in case the lockout sticks. Which side are you on in the lockout — players or owners?
BG: I back the players 110 percent. The owners have enough money to keep the limo drivers, the maids, the gardeners and the pool boys happy for life. However, some of these players may not even make it out of the summer with their heads above water. Sure, the Peyton Mannings and Tom Bradys of the league will be just fine until football starts again, but the Brian Schaeferings and all the other players who make the league minimum need that paycheck to stay afloat. Football is becoming America’s game because we feel like we can relate to some of these players, and for the owners to take away from that because they want to be super rich instead of just rich is just plain ridiculous.
BO: Although it is beyond any doubt that professional athletes get paid infinitely too much money, it is difficult not to side with the players. They are being asked to agree to a share of league revenue reduced by $1 billion in players’ salaries — an 18 percent cut in pay. They are also being asked to play two extra games … for 18 percent less pay. Owners have already signed television deals that would still pay them a nearly equal amount of money if the lockout sticks. In other words, the owners are doing just fine. The players are the ones not getting paid, because they are fighting to be guaranteed what they were promised before this upcoming season. All that players want is an even split of revenue share; 50-50. They were content with the system before, but it is the owners’ greed that has caused all of this drama. Go players!
AW: The NFL lockout has had me torn to agree with a side. The owners want to eliminate things like ridiculous rookie salaries (couldn’t agree more), add extra regular-season games (couldn’t agree less), and to cut back the overall stake that player salaries have in the overall budget (understandable). The players want the franchise tag removed so they’re not forced to stay in situations they don’t want to be in (wholeheartedly agree), and not to have their contracts scaled back (also completely understandable). Overall, I think I agree most with the players, mostly because almost all of their proposals make sense. The league has claimed to be concerned for players’ safety, but adding two more high-intensity games to the NFL schedule would not help the players’ health. I don’t think the players’ demands are that crazy, whereas some of the owners’ proposed changes are not overly realistic or fair to the players.
CR: Brandon gets the 3 because he addressed the mention of Brian Schaefering and all of the other little guys who will be hurt most by the lockout. Alex gets 2 for pointing out that both sides have good points, but that the players’ demands are far more reasonable than the owners’. Bobby gets 1 for pointing out that the players only want an even slice of the pie.
2. With Evgeni Malkin out for the season and Sidney Crosby out indefinitely with a concussion, can the Pittsburgh Penguins find a way to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals?
BG: I don’t think the Penguins have a shot without Malkin and Crosby. They played decently down the stretch without their two superstars, but in the postseason you need a guy to go to, and they just don’t have that guy. Two years ago, when the Penguins won the Stanley Cup, Malkin and Crobsy each scored over 100 points in the regular season followed by 30-plus-point performances in the postseason. Filling in for one of them would have been tough enough, but both? No way. If they’re lucky enough to get past the Tampa Bay Lightning, they’ll be stopped dead in their tracks by Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals.
BO: After trying to make myself believe that the Pens can make their way back to the finals without Crosby and Malkin, I just don’t see it happening. Right now it appears that they would play the winner of the Flyers-Sabres series (knotted at two games each), and if they play the Flyers, their defense is going to collapse. The Flyers led the East in scoring and the Penguins were in the bottom five in goals against. The Flyers also led the season series 4-2. Let’s say they luck out and get the Sabres. They take on the No. 4 scorers in the East who ranked in the top three in power-play percentage, and Buffalo will have the all-important hungry underdog advantage. Maybe next year when they are healthy.
AW: The Penguins have proven so far this postseason that they are able to handle themselves without Malkin and Crosby. They’re playing some really stout defense, and Marc-Andre Fleury is arguably the best postseason goalie in the East. However, as much as good goalie play has proven to be a major factor in who gets to the Stanley Cup Finals, I don’t think the Pens will make it. I think they will take out the Lightning, but beyond that they’re most likely going to have to face the Capitals or Flyers in the next round after the reseeding, and I don’t think they can beat either of those teams. The problem with the Pens is that they don’t have much goal-scoring prowess. They rely almost exclusively on defense and timely scoring.
CR: Bobby gets the 3 for the most well-supported answer. Brandon gets 2 for pointing out that every team needs a player (or two) who step it up in the playoffs. Alex gets 1 for bringing up the Pens’ goalie.
3. Though the playoffs aren’t over, and the results could change your answer drastically, assess LeBron James’ season so far — was “The Decision” worth it?
BG: The Heat has had its share of problems and tears this season, but I think James made the right choice. He was spectacular as usual, averaging 27.3 points, seven assists and 7.5 rebounds per game, while he watched his old team struggle all season long. The Cleveland Cavaliers finished with the second-worst record in the league as the Heat ended the season with the third-best record overall — I wonder what made the difference there. Now, the Heat weren’t the powerhouse, 73-game winning team that some thought they would be, but for a bunch of guys who were in their first year playing together, they’re a pretty good squad. I didn’t like the way James made his decision — let’s face it, he was a complete asshole — but I do believe, in the end, that he is exactly where he should be.
BO: It’s hard to determine, since the primary reason for “The Decision” was to win a championship, but so far, I would say that it has been worth it. You must remember that “The Decision” was not only LeBron James moving to Miami, but Chris Bosh following him. They have given Dwyane Wade enough support to land the No. 2 seed in the playoffs, and they are having little problem with the 76ers right now, so they should be moving forward toward the team’s ultimate goal. During the season, the two combined for 45.4 points per game — nearly 45 percent of the offense. The Heat finished second in the East in scoring and the additions of LeBron and Bosh have brought veterans Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Mike Bibby to the team in search of rings as well. The Heat are on the right track.So far, so good.
AW: I am a Knicks fan that was scorned by LeBron’s decision to play for the Heat, and still to this day I don’t think that he went about it the right way. He went on national TV and made it seem like he actually was making a decision, even though it has become clear in the time after “The Decision” that he and Wade and Bosh had planned to team up since at least the 2008 Olympics. However, as much as I really despise what those three did (especially LeBron), deep down I can’t find any reason to call their season anything but a success to this point. They went through growing pains, dealt with criticism and took a bunch of old guys around them and made them into the No. 2 seed in the East. And from a LeBron standpoint, he carried the team multiple times when Wade and Bosh were injured. So, I will never respect LeBron as a person, and I will never consider “The Decision” a success in any way, but LeBron and the Heat have justified their actions, and if LeBron gets his ring, nobody will be questioning his decision.
CR: Alex, couldn’t have said it better myself. You get 3 points. Brandon, I liked the mention of the Cavs’ record — 2 points. Bobby, he did bring veterans in search of rings — 1 point.
Brandon wins the AtD Championship, 7 – 6 – 5.