Questions surround Arizona stars, national sports scene
Sometimes, I have all the answers. Today, I have only questions:
— If the Sun Devils reach six victories, they will qualify for one of 40 postseason games. The electrifying presence of N’Keal Harry will make them an attractive option for lower-tier contests desperate for media attention and ticket sales.
But would he play in the postseason? Or would he join the growing trend of star athletes who bail on meaningless bowl games to prepare for the NFL draft, preventing catastrophic injury?
Harry is a junior. He’s expected to be one of the first wide receivers off the board if he declares for the NFL draft. His career is full of highlight-reel performances, dating back to his dunk that shattered the backboard while playing basketball for Chandler High School.
Earlier in the week, Harry indicated he wouldn’t be comfortable checking out of ASU’s season before its conclusion.
“I just think about my teammates and how much work we put in,” Harry said. “I’ve sacrificed so much with these guys over the past couple years and I feel like it would be kind of disrespectful if I were to tap out, to give up on them.
“It’s really a team thing. I know they depend on me, I depend on them and we have each other’s back always.”
Let’s hope ASU is good enough down the stretch to test Harry’s commitment and financial sensibilities.
— If the Suns go back into the tank for a third consecutive season, will Devin Booker lose his mind and his faith in the future?
Booker is a rising NBA star. He’s polished on the exterior, and ruthless to the core. He’s been a great ambassador for Phoenix basketball and was ecstatic over the maximum contract he signed during the offseason.
But everything changes when absurd wealth becomes the new normal, when it’s easy for big-dollar players to feel underserved, even if they’re no longer underpaid.
The Suns are entering dangerous territory. Their owner keeps filling marquee jobs with inexperienced candidates, scoffing at stability and expensive leadership. In the process, they are suppressing their greatest asset.
Booker has a transcendent gift. The bigger the stage, the better he performs. He’s proven that against Kobe, in Mexico City, the night he dropped 70 in Boston and winning the NBA All-Star Game’s 3-point shooting contest. By failing to surround Booker with a competent supporting cast, the Suns are robbing him from the high-stakes basketball he craves and deserves.
We’ve already seen the ebullient Patrick Peterson request a trade after a 1-6 start under new head coach Steve Wilks. The Suns need to avoid the alienation of Booker at all costs, giving him stability, a real point guard and renewed faith in the future.
— Is Tom Brady the greatest quarterback of all-time? Or is he the second-best quarterback of his generation? Patriots head coach Bill Belichick fueled the debate earlier in the week, gushing over Packers star Aaron Rodgers, delivering the kind of heavy praise he’s never uttered about Brady.
There are four explanations: (A) It’s the product of ego, Belichick’s way of saying Brady is somewhat overrated, more a product of the Patriot Way and the greatest football coach who has ever roamed the planet; (B) his way of motivating Brady before a showdown against Rodgers and the Packers in Week 9; (C) a result of the pettiness and dysfunction that now marks their tired relationship; or (D) the result of never having to compete against Brady in a big game.
Me? I believe there are great quarterbacks who command your respect and viewership, who win with inferior talent, who specialize in doing more with less. Aaron Rodgers and John Elway are perfect examples, the two greatest quarterbacks in history. Brady and Joe Montana are known for being indomitable in the clutch, thriving under pressure. They were also blessed by genius leadership and indefensible schematics, asterisks they will carry forever.
— Will the NCAA ever grow a soul?
College sports are full of pageantry, unpredictability and deeply-vested fan bases. But too many revenue-producing programs in football and basketball cheat to succeed. Too many successful coaches wield power like sledgehammers. Too much malfeasance is ignored in the pursuit of enormous profit. The industry-wide sellout is nauseating, and the governing body of college athletics needs to get off the fence and show real courage and real vision.
Change the rules. Let players accept all the money they can find under the table. Quit calling them student-athletes. Stop pretending their classroom habits matter. Or make sure the high-minded mission statements that define America’s great universities also apply to their athletic programs.
Otherwise, you’re teaching truth and beauty while cheering corruption and hypocrisy. And everyone sees through that charade.
Reach Bickley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.