In this week’s edition of Around the Dorm, “Ref” David Weinberg asks our panel of three experts — Matt Ajaj, EJ Paras and Marc Trotochaud — three questions: Do you believe the Warriors should embrace their “super villain” role? Which team has the best chance to win the Super Bowl? Where will Yoenis Céspedes and Aroldis Chapman end up this offseason?
1. Dwayne Wade said one of his regrets with the Miami Heat was accepting their role as the villain during the first year with the “Big Three.” Should the Warriors accept this role?
Matt: Thanks to mainstream sports media (I’m looking at you, ESPN), the Golden State Warriors have become the villains of the NBA because people are so sick of hearing about them. Steph Curry this, Steph Curry that — it’s like that song you have stuck in your head that you used to like but eventually start to get sick of. The Warriors have been forced to accept this “super villain” role, because to deny it would be a rejection of reality — after the addition of Kevin Durant to form their super squad, they got an even bigger target on their backs. They are the team to beat. Every opposing squad walks into the arena with extreme determination, burning with the desire to take down the top dog. However, in accepting their role as the villains, the Warriors solidify their confidence, which, as any professional athlete will tell you, is one of the essential qualities one should have and build upon. By telling themselves they are the best, the Warriors will play like they are best. Their self-assurance is their victory insurance.
EJ: Dwyane Wade is one of the NBA’s biggest “nice guys,” so naturally he would scoff at the idea of being a villain. If you remember Kevin Durant’s Foot Locker campaign back when he was with the Thunder, you’ll know that “KD is not nice.” If you ask me, I think having a villain not only spices up the league — it’s absolutely necessary to create a compelling storyline for the journey of the NBA season. Back when you had the Spurs dominating in the mid-2000s, the NBA was going through a ratings crisis, with some of the NBA Finals games between the Spurs and the Nets not even selling out. We can credit LeBron “King James” James’s four-year reign in Miami as the catalyst of the rejuvenation of the NBA as must-see TV. With the Warriors signing Kevin Durant after coming off the best regular season of all-time and one win shy of a title, it’s no surprise that they’re seen as villains and that they’re relishing it. Let the people heckle — bring the Larry O’Brien Trophy back to the Bay Area and that should shut some of the haters up.
Marc: I think that it would be a bad decision for the Warriors to frame themselves as super-villains. The choice of becoming a “super villain” is introspective for the team, and it has to reflect the organization and roster as a whole. It could work and many teams have undergone similar identity changes in the past — the Pistons beat Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson by becoming the “Bad Boys” — but that was because everyone in the organization from top to bottom bought in. I just can’t see the Warriors sacrificing their fun-loving, care-free flashy basketball to become “villains” and I hope that their “super villain party” was intentionally as corny and ironic as the picture made it looked.
Matt gets 2 points for commenting on ESPN fatigue. EJ gets 3 points for saying its a storyline to drive up ratings. Marc gets 2 points for the introspection.
2. Which NFL team has the best chance to win the Super Bowl?
Matt: This is an odd NFL season to say the least. We’ve seen the Panthers, Packers and Cardinals — all supposed Super Bowl contenders — struggle immensely. The NFC East and AFC West have really turned the corner, each boasting three teams with more than .500 records. However, the former has been faced with extremely an easy schedule and the latter is flawed by inexperience (Oakland) or poor offenses (Kansas City and Denver). I’m gonna stick with the two teams I picked for the Super Bowl in the preseason: the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks. The perennial powerhouse Pats still have Brady and Belichick, so a Super Bowl appearance is not just a prospect but an expectation. Seattle is riding a three-game win streak, has a healthy Russell Wilson and boasts plenty of playoff experience. We’re gonna see Super Bowl XLIX Part two. Looks like I’ll be spending Super Bowl Weekend scouring through my timeline for that omniscient tweet.
EJ: It’s the Year of Brady. I don’t think there’s any other way it can go. Sure, the Cowboys are the hottest team in the NFL right now, but Brady will prove to people again this year why he is the greatest quarterback of our generation and of all time. If there’s any time for the Pats to take home one more chip with the Brady-Belichick tandem, it’s now. What kind of player can still be in the MVP conversation after being suspended the first four weeks of the NFL season? I don’t know many, personally, but Tom Brady fits the billing. The Patriots have so many weapons to beat their opponents, and I simply can’t see any other team winning the Super Bowl this year. Their victory would literally be poetry in motion, and seeing Goodell give the Patriots another Vince Lombardi Trophy would quell the legacy of Deflategate.
Marc: I waited until after Sunday’s games because I was really torn about who I thought I would pick. To be honest, watching the games gave me some clarity. Two of my top-tier teams — the Patriots and Seahawks — had an unconvincing win and a shocking loss, and the Cowboys journey has been too good to be true, making me weary of their long-term potential. That’s why I am rolling with the Raiders — their offensive line is nasty, they have the best receivers in football, their defense is young and energetic and Derrick Carr is looking like an MVP candidate. Maybe it’s recency bias because I just watched Cam Newton get strip sacked for a loss just like in the Super Bowl, but don’t be too surprised if you see legendary stud owner Mark Davis wearing a fanny pack and holding up the Lombardi Trophy in February.
Matt gets 3 points for faltering Super Bowl contenders. EJ gets 2 points for Brady. Marc gets 2 points for picking a dark horse — the Raiders.
3. Where do you think the top two free agents in baseball — Yoenis Céspedes and Aroldis Chapman land this offseason?
Matt: If I was Céspedes, I would go to the team that can offer me the most money over a long period of time. Since he has entered the league, it seems like “Yo” is on a new team or negotiating a new contract after every season. At this point, he wants stability and certainty with his new contract and a new team. As the top free agent of this year’s class he is going to get pretty much whatever his heart desires. My guess is that the LA Dodgers, who have question marks in the corner outfield positions and have a payroll that would make Scrooge McDuck sweat, will ultimately make an offer that “Yo” can’t throw out. As for Chapman, no team needs bullpen help like San Francisco. In their heartwrenching 2016 season, the Giants had four relievers in the top 29 players on the blown saves leader list, combining for 23 blown saves. They need Chapman like a glove needs a hand. For San Francisco, the time has come to decide whether they want to save money or use money to get saves — expect them to choose the latter.
EJ: I’m going to go out on a limb and say, even amidst all of this speculation, that the Mets will find a way to bring Céspedes back as their top hitter. The pressure is on the Mets to re-sign Céspedes, and I think that they’ll do it. It’ll cost them a pretty penny, but I’m sure they’ll find a way to make it happen. As far as Chapman, I think it’ll be a mini-homecoming for him with the Yankees bringing him the big bucks. Coming off of a World Series win with the Cubs after being traded by the Yankees back in July, I think the Yankees would lure him back since “you don’t know what you got till it’s gone,” as the old adage says.
Marc: Baseball’s beautiful lack of cap leads me to believe that these two players are just going to follow the money. I will be boring and say that Chapman returning to play in pinstripes is the most likely outcome from him. It would be surprising that a club would offer more money than the Yankees, but if someone coughs up the cash maybe he will walk away. As far as Céspedes goes I think he too may end up in New York, but with the NL chasing Mets. The Mets have seen what Céspedes can do and know that he can play a big role for their team. Although there is still a lot of uncertainty it looks like the Big Apple seems like the best destination for both of these guys.
Matt gets 3 points for the Dodgers payroll and the Giants bullpen. EJ and Marc get 1 point each for a lack of insightful analysis.