Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The 10 most inspiring — and annoying — Indiana sports stories from Monday

From Manning to hoops.

Posted By on Tue, Mar 8, 2016 at 10:23 AM

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Yesterday was one of those days. It seemed every story – every single thing I talked about on my radio show affected me emotionally.

My emotional spectrum runs from inspired to annoyed, and all that happened pushed one of those two buttons.

March is like that in Indiana. With high school and college basketball becoming a "chips to the middle of the table" festival, the NBA season getting very short, and NFL free agency starting, the compelling stories are endless.

We normally confine ourselves to an examination of one issue each day, but there was just too much that happened yesterday to restrict this list.

Here are yesterday’s top 10 inspiring/annoying stories:

10. Inspiring – A.J. Hammons named Big Ten’s top defender.
Hammons has always been a great guy whose love of basketball has been questioned all the way back to his days as a sophomore at Carmel High School. Well, at some point the switch flipped and Hammons became the defensive force Matt Painter envisioned when he recruited the seven-footer. College is supposed to be a time of development and maturity, and Hammons is a great example of the evolution that can occur for kids who dedicate themselves to daily improvement.

9. Annoying – The relentless idiocy of New England Patriots fans. I believe Peyton Manning is the best quarterback in the history of the NFL. This annoys Patriots fans, including the person with the twitter handle @JasonFQuick who tweeted in response to my Manning vs. Brady comparison on my radio show, “If there is a bigger moron on the radio in Indianapolis than @KentSterling, I would be shocked. And we have a few of them in Indy.” Nothing annoying about being called a moron. It’s happened to me many times before, and by better and brighter than this guy, but over the last 11 years, Manning has dominated Brady in every way. The argument that Manning is better than Montana is much tougher to make. Brady, at best, is third. Patriots fans don’t like to listen to logic.

8. Inspiring – Tom Crean was named Big 10 Coach of the Year by both media and coaches. For 15 years, Crean has been a peacock, a strutter. He has worked incredibly hard to build a career, but maintained a level of insecurity that was more than a tad off-putting. This year, he seems to have accepted the fact that he deserves the job he has. All the outward manifestations of insecurity are gone, and what is left is a teacher who focuses on the development of his players. Crean’s apparent evolution (I say apparent because my perspective was gained from 68 miles up the road) is one of the best stories of 2016.

7. Annoying – Valpo, IPFW and Ball State lost yesterday.
The state of Indiana had a chance to place up to eight teams in the NCAA Tournament, but because of the spate of conference tourney losses yesterday, that number will likely be four. Evansville had a great chance to win the MVC Tourney Sunday but lost on a buzzer beater by Northern Iowa. Valpo’s loss last night was in OT. Oh, what might have been for the Hoosiers state.

6. Inspiring – Peyton Manning’s ode to football. I admire people who love their jobs. Sometimes it’s not easy to do the same thing with enthusiasm over a long period of time, but Manning’s love letter to the NFL reminded all of us how important it is to feel a sense of wonderment every time we clock in. It also reaffirmed for fans why Manning was so much fun to watch for so long.

5. Annoying – Dwayne Allen getting $29.4 million after those first four years. Hey, I love Allen. He’s a great guy with a sense of humor and big heart. His story is one of the best in the NFL. But wow, a $7.35 million average for the next four years is a lot of cash for a guy who has missed 21 games since being drafted in 2012 and caught only 16 balls in 2015. For a team with some salary cap issues, the Colts spent lavishly yesterday on Allen. Good for Allen. Take what the man will give you, but the Colts might have been a little more prudent with their dwindling resources.

4. Inspiring – The Pacers upset of the NBA’s second best team. Not only did the Pacers beat the San Antonio Spurs last night, they led virtually the entire game. The Spurs came into the game 53-9, winners of their last eight, just three games behind the Golden State Warriors. They left with a loss because the Pacers played solid defense and were efficient on the offensive end. The Pacers have shown a proclivity for competing very well against the NBA’s best with wins against Toronto, LA Clippers, OKC Thunder, Boston, and now San Antonio.

3. Annoying – The Pacers for not being able to hammer the mediocre teams in the NBA – the Charlotte Hornets in particular. Thank God the Pacers are finished with the Hornets after losing all three of their games against a team that would be on the outside of the playoff picture looking in if not for their friends in blue and gold.

2. Inspiring – Fred Glass as the coach whisperer. It’s always a pleasure to talk to IU athletic director Fred Glass on my radio show. He is honest but modest about his management, so when I asked what role he plays in the improvement of his coaches, I wasn’t surprised when he deflected a little bit. But the obvious improvement in behavior and results of his two high profile coaches needs to be celebrated. Many managers simply hire and fire. Glass hires and leads his coaches toward becoming the best version of themselves. Tom Crean’s leap forward this year has been borderline miraculous.

1. Annoying – USA Today’s Lindsay Davis explanation of her question to Peyton Manning about Tennessee mess. Questioning Manning about the 20 year-old allegation of placing his junk on the head of a female athletic trainer was questionable at best and idiotic at worst, but the explanation was garbage. On Twitter, Davis alibied the question, “Manning deserved a chance to respond to what everyone has been saying about him for the last month. I had to ask.” If you are going to ask an uncomfortable question, okay, but to paint it as a service to Manning is ludicrous in the extreme.

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Kent Sterling

Kent Sterling

Kent Sterling hosts a sportstalk show on CBS Sports 1430 weekdays from 3p-6p and covers all Indiana sports at kentsterling.com.

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