COMMENT: Romo was and still could be a worthy gunslinger

Jay Asser 5/04/2017
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(Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

Tony Romo isn’t exactly riding off into the sunset, but history will smile more on the perpetually underrated quarterback than the narrative ever did.

The long-time face of the Dallas Cowboys franchise is stepping away from football and going into broadcasting, reports revealed on Tuesday.

Romo’s decision has less to do with his effectiveness at the age of 37 – which he’ll turn on April 21 – and everything to do, it seems, with health. His season this past year was all but ended by a fractured back in August, while a collarbone injury limited him to four games in 2015.

When Romo was ‘healthy’ enough to be under centre, it always felt as if he was dealing with something painful and gutting through it. He wasn’t as fragile as many remember him to be throughout his career, but towards the tail end it’s hard to argue there weren’t constant fears he couldn’t stay on the field.

So no one can blame Romo for calling it quits now. He won’t have to worry about avoiding a pass rush from monster defensive lineman in the TV booth – unless Michael Strahan inexplicably loses his mind – and can spend as much time as he wants with his family.

And yet, the door is very much ajar for Romo to make a return and for him to come out of retirement as soon as this season.

This isn’t a case of a player being forced out of the league for being over the hill. He was forced out by Dallas, yes, but there are plenty of teams that could use his services. Houston and Denver immediately come to mind. Hell, it seemed as if the Texans were positioning themselves to hand Romo the reins at the start of free agency.

Neither team were willing to trade any assets of value for him and his exorbitant cap hit of $24,700,000 in 2017, while the Cowboys didn’t want to waive him and be left with $19.6 million in dead cap money. So if Romo was already considering retirement, teams playing possum over him might have helped him reach his decision.

Now, with Dallas expected to release him after June 1 to soften the cap hit and have him count for $10.7m this season, teams won’t be constrained from pursuing Romo.

If he truly still has the itch to play, a change of heart in the summer makes the most sense. As a quarterback who’d likely be on a new team, training camp reps to get familiar with the offence and receivers would be beneficial. Considering that winning would be at the top of the list for getting back on the field, it’s only logical for Romo to give himself and his team the best chance for success by getting the offseason under his belt.

That said, a return in the middle of the season is also plausible. Maybe Romo wants to wait and see how the landscape shifts before committing. Whatever the case, the ball would be in his court for what he wants to do.
If this actually is the end of Romo the quarterback, it’s about time we give him his due.

We’ll never consider him in the same tier as Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers as of the best of his generation, but he was one tier below and much better than many believed him to be.

Let’s pick apart the perceived flaws in Romo’s career. Chief among them was his lack of clutch play, mostly stemming from his infamous botched hold on the potential game-winning field goal over Seattle in the 2007 playoffs. Yet Romo ranks 14th all-time with 25 fourth-quarter comebacks and 17th with 30 game-winning drives.

Was he brittle towards the end? Yes, but he also played at least 15 games in seven of his 11 seasons as a starter and as previously mentioned, played hurt quite often. You can’t question his toughness.

The only knock on him is his 2-4 record in the playoffs and not winning a ring. It’s a team sport, however, and even if you want to blame Romo for the Cowboys’ shortcomings when it mattered, he undoubtedly exceeded expectations as an undrafted player.

The Hall of Fame likely won’t come calling, but it shouldn’t need to for us, as a collective, to finally ditch the Romo stigma and appreciate him for the efficient quarterback he was or perhaps still is.

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UNC v Gonzaga: The 2017 NCAA basketball final preview

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North Carolina beat the Oregon Ducks in the NCAA semis on Saturday.

The 2017 NCAA championship game has all the earmarks of a classic heavyweight battle.

The North Carolina Tar Heels will face the Gonzaga Bulldogs for all the marbles on Monday night (5:20am Tuesday). Both teams are number one seeds and have enough star power to reach the mountain-top of college basketball.

The contrast lies in what both programs wish to achieve. The Tar Heels have a rich history of winning in the tournament with five titles and 20 appearances in the Final Four, while this will be Gonzaga’s first appearance in the final and they are looking to win their first national title.

Now you might be saying to yourself: why is the NCAA tournament so popular in the United States? Well, the simple answer is the parody.

March Madness has proven to be a month of wildly unexpected results, with underdogs beating favorites, stars showcasing their talents and faces you will eventually see in the NBA.

The tournament brackets have become a yearly ritual for anyone that is interested in college basketball, from the president of the United States to the postman, everyone has a chance to fill out their brackets to decide which teams reach the Final Four.

All the tournament games are sudden death, there are no drawn-out series like the NBA. If you win you advance to the next round if you lose you are out. This keeps the viewers and fans engaged with their teams and favorite players.

The NCAA fandom consists mostly of college students, known for their rowdy nature during and after games – the games become an event to students and parents of the players alike. The games are nationally televised which also gives players the incentive to perform at a high level.

National rivalries also drive the fanatic following of the programs, the most famous rivalry in the NCAA is between Duke University and the North Carolina Tar Heels. Both programs combined to win 9 NCAA titles and have sent 137 players to the NBA.

Most famous of them is Michael Jordan, widely considered the greatest basketball player in NBA history. Jordan won a NCAA title with the Tar Heels in 1982, when he a hit the game-winning jumper to beat the Georgetown Hoyas.

Not only does college basketball cultivate great talent within their programs, fans come out in record numbers to watch these games. The NCAA title game is the event fans want to witness live, nearly 80,000 fans attended the 2014 title game at the AT&T center in Dallas.

On a more serious note, universities and colleges have been criticized over the years for not paying college players. The amount of revenue the programs make is massive, nearing a billion dollars in some cases from TV rights and investments.

The Universities brass offer the rebuttal that the players are given scholarships and that monetary compensation would corrupt the programs. However, the only reason these institutes of higher learning are able to create revenue is off the likeness and product that the players produce on the court.

This could change in the future, but it is highly unlikely. These programs are the conduit to success for most of these players, they offer the platform and have all the leverage.

All in all, the NCAA is part of sports culture in the United States; the fans, players, and coaches all come together to represent the team on the front of the jersey with one goal in mind, contending and winning a national title.

Let us know if you will watch the NCAA basketball title game on Monday night using #360fans on Twitter or on Instagram or getting in touch via Facebook.

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STATESIDE: LaVar Ball, the embarrassing dad who won’t go away

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Big brand, big mouth: LaVar Ball is living the NBA dream, on the back of his sons.

The race to become the most risible person in sport has a clear leader. LaVar Ball, a man with an ego the size of his permanently open mouth, has been polluting the airwaves here ad nauseum.

There was a glimmer of hope that after son Lonzo’s UCLA team crashed out of March Madness on Friday night, this shameless selfpublicist may disappear back into the faux celebrity hole from which he crawled.

Yet within moments of that defeat, Lonzo declared his intention to enter the NBA draft.

The teenage college star will be one of the top picks and has a chance of making it – as do younger brothers LiAngelo and LaMelo – yet if LaVar is to be believed, all three will better than Michael Jordan and worthy of $1 billion footwear deals.

Oh yes, this deluded man who, lest we forget, used to play American football for the London Monarchs, seriously thinks that his little clan (NBA appearances – 0, $100,000 BMW’s – two) should pen agreements that will usurp the $500m Nike handed LeBron James.

The Balls have talent. But a reality check is needed. “You got LeBron — it’s going to be hard for his kids because they are going to look at them like, ‘You got to be just like your dad,’” Ball said.

“And after a while, that pressure starts sitting on you like, ‘Why do I got to be just like him? What can’t I just be me?’ And then they are going to be like, ‘Aw, you’re soft. You’re not that good.’ Because the expectation is very, very high.”

There has since been some backtracking yet needless to say, James was furious. Poke holes at him? Fine. But his kids? That’s another ball game entirely.

“He can talk all about his brand, talk about his sons, talk about basketball, talk about me,” James said. “But keep my family out of this.”

LaVar is a pushy parent gone nuclear. A constantly grinning parody living unfulfilled dreams through his children. He is often trailed by a camera crew in the hope his life and son’s pursuit of greatness could be turned into a reality horror show.

Of course, he loves his kids. But this kind of needless pressure could destroy careers before they’ve started. Just ask Stephan Gilling what it’s like to have him around.

The coach of Chino Hills, the team in California which LiAngelo and LaMelo play for, has detailed the embarrassing contretemps which ensued during a game late last year after Ball Snr kept shouting down the coach’s instructions from the stands.

“He comes to me and says, ‘What are you doing? What are you doing?’ I said, ‘What do you mean? I’m trying to win the game,’” Gilling told USA Today.

“He turns around and walks to our locker room. I said, ‘LaVar, don’t go into the locker room.’ He continues walking. I said, ‘LaVar, why are you trying to embarrass me?’ And he just kept walking and goes into the locker room. He’s in there sitting down with the team.” It didn’t stop there. He got all the players out of their rooms and let them know it was his system which did the trick. “He was saying ‘I run Chino Hills! I run UCLA, about to run the NBA!’” added Gilling.

The problem with parents like LaVar however, is that their brains and mouths don’t operate in tandem.

Furthermore, the mindless bleating – “I would kill Jordan 1-on-1” and “Lonzo is better than Steph Curry” are two gems – is so transparent, it’s cringeworthy.

Whenever anyone has the misfortune to see him on TV, he is wearing a ‘Big Baller Brand’ t-shirt – that’s the same Big Baller Brand company he’s set up in the hope it will fill his bank account for years to come.

Modern society and the penchant for giving those who shout loudest the grandest platforms – Donald Trump, I’m talking to you – shoulders some blame.

But you can’t help but feel sympathy for his boys who have to smile every time dad makes an utter fool of himself. Unfortunately for them, they don’t have an off-switch on their TV.

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