What's in store (maybe) for LeBron, the reloaded Dodgers, and the NHL's beleaguered fans
Nothing is harder than trying to predict a championship so far in advance that you don't even know who's playing. Which means that nothing is dumber than publishing those advance picks for all to see. Luckily, almost nobody will remember any of these predictions when the time comes to see them all proven horribly wrong.
Also, by necessity, just to keep my sports pundit cred intact, each of these should be read with the implied disclaimer "Assuming everyone stays healthy." That said, every last prediction is a surefire, rock solid cinch to come true.
The Patriots and 49ers will make Super Bowl XLVII a rerun, kind of.
There's no question about the best game so far this NFL season. That would be two weeks ago. The 49ers and Patriots played a Sunday-night thriller in the Boston rain, with San Francisco withstanding a furious New England comeback to win 41-34. Everyone said it looked like a preview of Super Bowl XLVII. Everyone was right. Pick both teams to wind up at the big game in New Orleans. Also figure that game to look a lot like their first meeting. Colin Kaepernick will throw four touchdowns again, with a pair of them going to Michael Crabtree. Tom Brady will throw to anyone with hands, passing for more than 400 yards. In a strange coincidence, the final score will even be exactly the same, 41-34. This time, though, the Pats will be on top and named NFL champs. Again.
The NCAA will spend lots of time in court
Tyler's Branch's cover story for The Atlantic last year was a watershed, bringing a flood of calls for change to the lie of amateurism. In 2013, the NCAA will see those waters rise. Especially in California, where a lawsuit against the organization is moving along nicely. The suit has 15 named plaintiffs including former college basketball stars Ed O'Bannon and Bill Russell, alleging that their names, images, and likenesses were illegally used by the NCAA. Newly opened court documents showed that the NCAA knew video-game manufacturer Electronic Arts made products with characters matching "as closely as possible the real-life characteristics" of players. The players, of course, get no cash for it. Just as they get no money from all the replicas of their jerseys sold, or the trading cards with their pictures on it, let alone the ticket sales and TV revenue. That's because the NCAA makes all student-athletes sign forms relinquishing any rights to compensation for their name or likeness. In perpetuity. The lawsuit alleges doing so is a violation of anti-trust. If the courts agree, the NCAA's house of cards could come down. The much-discussed ascendency of the super-conference will finally be at hand. Meet the new boss?
The NBA Finals will also be a rerun, kind of
Games are happening now, but the NBA season starts in earnest after the mid-February All-Star break, when teams begin pushing for the playoffs. When a champion is finally crowned in June, expect another party in South Beach. The Thunder will come out of the Western Conference again. This year, even without James Harden, OKC are better on both sides of the ball. OKC's offense is scoring more per possession, at a rate of 114.1 per 100 possessions. That's good enough to lead the league. The Thunder's margin of victory is also league-leading at 9.5 points per game. Defense? Oklahoma City allowed 96.9 points a game last year, but just 96.3 so far in this campaign.
But it's LeBron's world. Durant and company will find that out, just like last year. Why wouldn't the Heat repeat? James is the world's best player. Last season he finally got his ring, plus a Finals MVP, which knocked the monkey whispering "You can't win the big one" off his back. Besides, Dwyane Wade is looking ageless again. Ray Allen usually wakes up around payoff time. There's no one in the East to stop them; not woeful-looking Boston, not even the Knicks with Amar'e Stoudemire back. The Thunder should put up a better fight. But it'll be two straight for the king.
Tennis has a transition