The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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February 12, 2014

Pick 3: Our thoughts on topics impacting the games we love

BECKLEY — Pick 3 is a new regular feature of The Register-Herald sports page in which two of our writers pick three topics on a local and national level and debate them. If you have topics you want to see debated in the future, e-mail your ideas to

Cam Huffman

1) How does the loss of A.J. Burnett impact the chances of the Pirates returning to the playoffs?

When Burnett signed with the Phillies on Wednesday, it was like a cannonball to the Pirates’ ship.

What Burnett did on the field doesn’t exactly show up in the numbers. He was 10-11 with a 3.30 ERA, but in reality he was much better than that. He pitched 191 innings and, aside from a couple of weeks in June, he didn’t miss much time. Just about every fifth or sixth day, the Pirates knew they were going to get six or seven innings out of Burnett and be in a position to win.

Just as important, Burnett was a mentor to the young Pittsburgh pitching staff and a leader in the locker room.

The Pirates will face an uphill climb trying to match last year’s success anyway, but with Burnett out of the picture, that hill just became Mount Washington.

2) What’s the most enjoyable sport to watch in the Winter Olympics?

I’ll admit, I’m not a huge fan of the Winter Olympics. I definitely respect what the athletes do, and it’s fun to watch a bobsled team slide around the ice faster than a truck coming down Sandstone Mountain in February without brakes. But pulling myself away from the Winter Olympics doesn’t take nearly as much self control as leaving a World Series game or a plate of crab legs behind.

That being said, I do find some enjoyment in watching speed skating.

My problem with most Olympic sports is that I just don’t understand them. I’m impressed by the choreography and the athleticism of the figure skaters, but I’m clueless about the details for which the judges are watching. Snowboarding is fun to watch for a few minutes, but if the competitors don’t fall flat on their faces, I have trouble telling the difference between a gold medal winner and a sixth place finisher.

But speed skating is simple. It’s nothing more than a race among athletes flying around the ice in bright colors and funny looking helmets. I can pick out the winner — it’s the guy or gal in the front at the end — and I don’t have to question whether the judges are ruling fairly or acting on some agenda.

3) Should the basketball state tournament format be changed? If so, how?

Unlike many of the coaches, fans and colleagues with whom I have discussed this topic, I don’t have a major problem with the system the way it is. Most of those who have issues with it complain that the best eight teams don’t usually get to Charleston.

They’re right. But I don’t think it matters.

I see the entire process — sectionals, regionals, etc. — as the state tournament, not just the four days of action at the Charleston Civic Center. The goal of the tournament is to determine a true champion, and it does that. If a team is not the best team in its region, how can it be the best team in the state?

The best eight don’t always make the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament, either. That’s not the ultimate goal.

But there’s always room for a couple of tweaks.

The biggest problem I see with the current system is that it’s just too difficult to understand. You can lose your sectional championship and still make it to Charleston? There’s not a true region champion?

The average fan just doesn’t get it.

The easy solution is to do away with the sectionals. Just seed the teams in the region and play it off. The two teams left for the regional finals go to Charleston and play each other there in the first round. The four region champions are then re-seeded, and the tournament continues until a champion is crowned.

In many cases, the same two teams are going to make it out of a region and get to Charleston. But this way a region championship really means something — just as it does in the NCAA Tournament — and a losing team does not get to play on. Fans will understand it better, and regional rivalries will create some great games on the first day in Charleston, rather than the blowouts that are sometimes found in the first round.

This could also help with the regular season. In order to seed teams in a regional, those teams need to play each other. The WVSSAC needs to require that every team in a region play at least once during the regular season. Then records, head-to-head matchups, etc. could be used to determine seeding — instead of the current system where coaches vote for their buddies and against their enemies — and scheduling suddenly becomes much easier.

As long as every team has a fair shot at a title and a true champion is determined at the end, I’m fine with any system. Let’s just find something that at least makes sense.

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