Taking the Next Step

In life…or in sports…one has to take the “next step” to advance in our job, hobbies, relationships and, of course, sports.
…On the biggest state in the sports world currently is the World Cup. While many, if not, most Americans play soccer some time in their life (both boys & girls). Yet, the national interest, very high emotions, and complete involvement of soccer in the USA is probably not on par with many other countries around the world. To give you the idea, the cumulative viewership of all matches of the 2006 World Cup was estimated to be 26.29 billion people with an estimated 715.1 million people watching the final match, a ninth of the entire population of the planet watching the final match!
…But…maybe this World Cup will modify those interests as the American Team has qualified for the World Cup-Final 32 teams. Hoping to take the “next step” and advance out of their pod is the goal. There are 8 pods of 4 teams each, hence 32 teams. A round-robin takes place between the 4 teams with a win worth 3 pts. By 2026, there will be 48 teams in the World Cup.
…The World Cup Group B table has England, Iran, USA & the 4th spot is still undetermined. The USA, England & Iran have already qualified but the teams of Wales, Scotland & Ukraine still need some matches to sort it out. To some soccer observers, it seems like the USNMT MUST advance to really take a step forward in the soccer world.
…a step forward for the Cardinals will be for their OF 3-some to simply repeat their performances of 2021. Everyone has a ceiling, should we expect them to become a HR leader? Silver Slugger? If O’Neill, Bader, Carlson play like last year…or close to it, the Cards will have a strong team again. A real pro will repeat…closely…their numbers year after year. That’s what we need.
….to take a step forward in the standings, the Cards have to “solve” the roster/pitching issues. Flaherty’s injury adds intrigue to the formation of the staff. Some pitchers can’t be sent to the minors due to the fact that they are out of “options”. That means that if they don’t stay on the MLB roster, they basically become a free agent. Drew VerHagen, Aaron Brooks & Nick Wittgren, who all have left strong impressions this spring, are all in that same boat. These hurlers aren’t HOF pitchers but someone has to fill the last couple spots for the Red Birds. The Cards have repeatedly demonstrated reticence to bring up young, promising hurlers a bit earlier than expected & chew up a year of their “time”. There are 6 years of control and the major league teams guard those years tightly.
….In order to take a step forward in the SEC Football conference, Mizzou needs to upgrade in a big way their non-conference schedule. In 2022, the Tigers have NO road non-conference games. Yes.. the MU administration is concerned about home games for money reasons but look at these opponents for next year. La Tech was 3-9 last year, Abilene Christian 5-6 (with 2 wins over the same team), New Mexico State was 2-10 and the “big name” is K- State who went 8-5 but 4-5 in Big-12 conference play. That means that they have 4 cupcakes on their non-conference schedule. Will ANY of these teams really prepare MU for the play in the SEC? Nah…but it’ll get them in a mid-December bowl again against a .500ish opponent with 4 easy wins.
….I know that these days are gone but.. Dan Devine played tough non-league opponents to prepare for the tough Big 8 competition (at that time). Looking at what experts call the best 3 MU football teams ever—1965-8-2-1 (#6 final AP ranking) record with Kentucky, Minnesota, UCLA as non-Big 8 foes. In the Orange Bowl, Mizzou lost to Alabama. In 1969(again, Final AP ranking of #6), Mizzou went 9-2 with non-conference foes-Air Force, Illinois, Michigan! A loss to Penn State in the Orange Bowl ended their season. By 2007, long after Devine was gone, schedules looked different. MU was 12-2 with final ranking of #4. They played Illinois (at the Ed Jones Dome), Mississippi, W. Michigan, Illinois State. A big Cotton Bowl win over Arkansas catapulted Mizzou to #4 in the AP final poll.
… 1 or 2 cupcakes (of the 4 non-conference games) would be acceptable. A complete platter full of them makes one gag and difficult to take the next step forward in the SEC. Could we ever play a Big-10, Pac 12, ACC, Big 12 team again in a season? If a team loses those early games but wins the conference games later on..you’ll move up in the polls. Further, the MU administration seems to be hinting frequently about income. Play 2 of the 4 non-league games against “real” teams and you’ll boost that attendance. If you can’t beat them, you won’t beat the good SEC teams either.
…Here’s an idea…..to take a step forward in upgrading the football schedule….Since all the SEC teams have a difficult time finding opponents, why not have a “drawing” day for the SEC. A drawing for opponents from the other division for a non-conference game. Half of the East & Half the West will have home games in a given year. That would fill up 1 non-conference date with an appealing opponent. Switch home teams the following year with a new drawing.
….How does a collegiate Mens basketball coach take a step forward? It seems when I watch the elite teams that their coaches aren’t up screaming, pointing, “working the refs” constantly. Yet, when I watch the “wanna-be” teams, their coaches are all over the floor (& on the floor) continually yelling, pointing, screaming @ players & officials. John Wooden, who sat quietly on the bench, said “I never yelled at my players much. That would have been artificial stimulation, which doesn’t last very long. I think it’s like love and passion. Passion won’t last as long as love. When you are dependent on passion, you need more and more of it to make it work. It’s the same with yelling.” Boy….some of the current local college & HS coaches need a Wooden read!
…Well….its time for me now to take a step backward..not forward.. and call it a day. 😊 If you’ve missed any of the blogs, you can find them on http://www.bobryansportsblog.com. Your thoughts are highly encouraged to be posted on my Facebook page (Bob Ryan). If you prefer, send them directly to me & I’ll post them for you using your initials, or name, whichever you prefer. Thanks for the time & read! We hit 900+ readers last week due to YOU…Thanks!