Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: NBA playoffs much too long

This week's Q&A-Mac is brought to you by the NBA playoffs: Arguably the greatest 26-week period in sports.

Q: Oh, come on. They're not THAT long. Are you saying you're not digging a seven-game series between Indiana and Chicago?

A: I think they were correct in changing them all to best-of-sevens a few years back. A short series made it too easy for a team that didn't belong in the playoffs in the first place to oust a high seed by stringing together three good performances.

Q: So how would you shorten it?

A: Slice the field in half. Give me the top four teams from the East and the best four from the West. It'll never happen, of course, but that would give the postseason immediate urgency that it doesn't have now, and it would inject a ton of energy into the regular season. Doubt the Sixers, Grizzlies and Hornets would be missed badly.

Q: This week, the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel gave official approval to change taunting to a live-ball foul, meaning players who engage in unsportsmanlike conduct on the way to the end zone can have their touchdowns nullified. Good change?

A: Good change. Call me old school, but I'd like to see them expand it to cover taunting after the player crosses the goal line, too. Might make players actually think twice before embarrassing their schools with me-first histrionics.

Q: But they're college kids. Can't we just let them celebrate?

A: Celebrate, sure. Maybe do it by finding some teammates. You know, the guys who helped you reach paydirt in the first place.

Q: What's the biggest surprise of the major-league baseball season thus far?

A: A lot of good stories developing. The Rangers getting off to a great start without Cliff Lee (and now Josh Hamilton, too). The Royals and Indians surging to the top of the AL Central standings. But the biggest surprise is Lance Berkman. He's only 35, but he sure seemed older than that last year when he slumped to a .248 average in Houston and New York -- the worst he's ever been in a full season. But after two more homers Friday, he was slugging .735 and leading the NL with 14 runs. The Cardinals might have gotten themselves a steal.

Q: Any good notes on the Salem Red Sox?

A: Just one: Pitcher Pete Ruiz, who was scheduled to start Saturday's game at Frederick, hails from "Rough and Ready, Calif.," an unincorporated town of about 1,500 residents. It's named after former President Zachary Taylor, aka "Old Rough and Ready."

Q: Now that's a cool thing to write on a return-address label. What are some of the worst town/city names in the U.S.?

A: Glad you asked. I would not want to be a real estate agent in Boogertown, N.C.; Boring, Ore.; Fleatown, Ohio; or Dead Horse, Alaska. All are actual places. There are some even funnier ones out there that, unfortunately, aren't appropriate for a family newspaper. You can find them at

Q: Who wins today's Aaron's 499 Sprint Cup race at Talladega?

A: Got a pretty good feeling about this one considering it's my 499. I'll take defending champion Kevin Harvick. He's having a great season so far, although I'm a little concerned that his engine blew up at Daytona. All eyes will be on Dale Earnhardt Jr., who's trying to break a 100-race winless streak at a place he's triumphed five times.

Q: What was the best comment on the blog this week?

A: That would be from Other John, reacting to a picture I'd posted of a menacing-looking Portland Timbers soccer fan holding an axe. Wrote O.J.: "I bought my wife an axe similar to that just before our anniversary in January. Seriously. She actually had been wanting one. She's awesome."

Q: So chivalry isn't dead, huh?

A: That's exactly what I said. Ken raised a good point, though, when he replied, "Chivalry may not be dead, but if I gave MY wife that axe, I would be."

Q: Would you be dead, too?

A: Let's just say I'd be on the couch ... until the NBA playoffs ended.

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