The Open Man in The Morning: NBA Season is Almost Here (Which is Way Too Early)!


Good morning, and welcome to The Open Man in The Morning. Enjoy a selection of news from around the world of sports and entertainment to accompany your bagels and coffee.

September Isn’t Basketball Season

The cliche “too much of a good thing” exists for a reason. Everything has a saturation point: The NFL reached it in recent years with the advent of Thursday Night Football, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is approaching that point, and the NBA is tip-toeing ever-closer to being overexposed.

To wit, Monday marked an unofficial beginning to the 2018-19 NBA season with media days across the league. Up next is the preseason, which tips off … Thursday? As in, still September?

Trade rumors, social media beef, banter about who’s shacking up with who all becomes secondary to the action on the court — well, unless you consider yourself part of #NBATwitter, in which, you only really care about the auxiliary shenanigans.

For those invested in basketball, however … actually, to be honest, it’s not that exciting. Not for me, at least.

I love the NBA and have been a fan for as long as I can remember, and thus, I can recall a time when the NBA tipped off in November. That time wasn’t all that long ago!

The NBA also used to begin its postseason in May, before TV ad revenue gave birth to 40 Games in 40 Nights. Now, we have a postseason that begins in mid-April and ends just before July 4. With the regular season now commencing in mid-October, and preseason in September, there are just two calendars without NBA-sanctioned basketball.

The regular season tips off earlier now to give players more recovery time in the regular season, which is great, but the same could be accomplished with a modified regular season and postseason format. It will never happen, I realize; there’s too much money to be made, which is the one, universal theme in all instances of oversaturation.

Will The Nick Bosa Injury Impact Ohio State?

Stop me if you’ve read this one before: Urban Meyer may have used evasive language to paint a not wholly accurate picture of a situation. Such seems to be the case with defensive end Nick Bosa, the first-round NFL draft talent and arguably best pass rusher in college football.

November means Bosa would miss, at minimum four games. The Buckeyes’ bye week falls in October, sparing Ohio State his absence for at least one contest, should The Athletic’s reported timeline prove correct. One of those four is pretty significant, however.

Going either by Meyer’s “few more weeks” — and a few might actually refer to four, who knows — or by The Athletic’s more clearly defined date, Bosa is out this Saturday against Penn State. That’s a big one, as that’s one less potential problem for Nittany Lions quarterback Trace McSorley. McSorley’s been electric with eight passing touchdowns and another six on the ground.

If Penn State’s to beat Ohio State, the Lions need everything McSorley can muster, because the PSU defense frankly hasn’t looked good enough to carry a win. And if it comes down to a shootout, the Buckeyes still boast the advantage on paper.

McSorley’s 14 combined touchdowns are impressive. Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins’ 16 passing touchdowns are staggering. With weapons all around him, Haskins looks like an early front-runner for the Heisman. Remarkably, he would be the first Urban-coached Heisman finalist since the last of Tim Tebow’s three nominations in 2009.

Nick Bosa was playing at a level worthy of discussion in the Heisman conversation; at least, as much as a defensive player can generate in the unimaginative world of Heisman balloting. He’s a considerable loss for Ohio State to be sure, but the schedule’s favorable enough and the Buckeyes are so loaded, it may not be an issue.

Full NJPW Fighting Spirit Unleashed Card Announced

New Japan Pro-Wrestling announced the complete lineup for Sunday’s Fighting Spirit Unleashed in Long Beach — which I will be attending! — and it just might be better than the last show at Walter Pyramid in March.

That lineup featured an underrated IWGP United States Championship bout between Jay White and Hangman Page, but was ultimately a one-match card. Now, that one match pitting the Young Bucks against the Golden Lovers absolutely delivered with a 5-star classic. But Strong Style Evolved ultimately matched the gravity of the July 2017 G1 Climax in U.S. pair of shows.

With that in mind, I had my reservations about Fighting Spirit Unleashed. Only three matches were announced prior to Monday:

  • Cody vs. Juice Robinson for the IWGP United States Championship
  • Guerrillas of Destiny vs. The Young Bucks for the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
  • Will Ospreay vs. Marty Scurll in a semifinal for the vacant IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship

The Young Bucks always go all-out, and I anticipate them bringing out the best in G.O.D. Will Ospreay and Marty Scurll are longtime rivals with a series of great matches to their credit, including a 5-star bout last April at Sakura Genesis.

But the match added Monday that has me giddy is the special main event: Golden Lovers vs. Kazuchika Okada and Tomohiro Ishii.

The best in-ring rivalry of recent years comes to the States with Omega and Okada on opposite sides. But for as excellent as Omega-Okada’s been since January 2017, Ishii-Omega have damn-near matched that rivalry’s intensity with a series of outstanding bouts spanning from March 2017 to earlier this month at Destruction in Hiroshima. Arguably the best bout in their various showdowns capped the 2017 G1 Special show at the Long Beach Convention Center.

Eye Spy Some Bad Programming Decisions

CBS will air the Week 5 massacre between Georgia and Tennessee in the coveted 3:30 p.m. ET timeslot, passing on a few other, more intriguing SEC contests.

The beauty of college football lies in the prevalence of the unexpected. Upsets occur every Saturday, and sometimes outstanding games emerge from the most unlikely of places. A seemingly lackluster slate just last weekend produced Texas Tech’s surprisingly dominant showing against Oklahoma State, Army taking Oklahoma to overtime, and Old Dominion smashing Virginia Tech in the fourth quarter.

Without all that said, Tennessee will get pummeled by Georgia. I rarely feel as confident in an outcome ahead of time as I am this one. The lopsided nature of this contest, which has a Superbook line of Georgia -31.5, makes this more suited for SEC Network than for broadcast television.

What’s more, I think Army could take Tennessee right now if the two played.

Elsewhere in the SEC, a surprise undefeated Kentucky takes on South Carolina in what smacks of Let-Down Game for the Wildcats. That one is rife with intrigue. The most fascinating game on the docket, however, pits Florida and its coach, Dan Mullen, against his former team, Mississippi State.

Mullen’s the best coach in Mississippi State history by virtually every metric, and he left a well-stocked cupboard for successor Joe Moorhead. The clash of what Mullen built vs. what’s he’s trying to build back in Gainesville is a ready-made storyline. What’s more, the Gators and Bulldogs should play a far more competitive game than the thrashing Kirby Smart has in store for Jeremy Pruitt, the man who replaced Smart as Alabama’s defensive coordinator.

I am not, by nature, conspiratorial. I do believe based on empirical evidence, however, that TV executives have deemed only College Football Playoff-contending teams matter. Good games and interesting stories be damned, only the five-to-eight teams considered to be in the hunt for the final four deserve the plum exposure.

Kentucky’s technically in that mix now, but until the Wildcats maintain their surprise status into, say, Halloween, they’ll have to defer that CBS timeslot to the Alabama-or-Georgia Slaughtering of the Week.

I can’t necessarily say I’m surprised the Eye network is committed to going to the same well over and over again, though. We are talking about a network that rebooted Magnum P.I.