A Modified NFL Overtime Rule …

Surely, you have read about or heard about the NFL decision to change the regular season overtime rule by reducing the time of the overtime period from 15 minutes to 10 minutes.  The “cover story” for all of this is that this is done in the interest of player safety.  While that may in fact be an outcome here, pardon me for my skepticism related to the idea that this was the concept that sprung from nowhere to mesmerize the NFL Competition Committee and now the NFL owners.

If, indeed, player safety is the paramount concern here, can I ask why there is overtime at all in the regular season?  Fans “hate tie games” – – or at least that is the standard narrative that sports leagues operate upon.  The fact is that the NFL existed until 1974 without the benefit of any overtime rule for the regular season; that means for more than half of the league’s existence, it was “OK” to have tie-games in the regular season.  Tie games are not apocalyptic; they may be unsatisfying to the fans but they do not threaten civilization as we know it.

If player safety is the driver here, there should be no overtime games at all until the playoffs where a singular winner is needed to ascertain who moves on to the next round.  If some other factor(s) are at work here, please identify them clearly and unambiguously.  If I asked you to guess what the NFL record is for a team playing tie games in a season, what would be your guess?  Here is the answer:

  • In 1932, the Chicago Bears played 6 NFL games that ended in a tie.  The team record for the year was 7-1-6.
  • The Bears began the 1932 season with tie games in the first 3 games of the season – and all of them were 0-0 tie games.
  • In the 4th game of the 1932 season, the Bears suffered their only loss.  The Green Bay Packers beat the Bears at Wrigley Field by a score of 2-0.
  • The Bears did not score a single point until their 5th game of the season and finished the year with a 7-1-6 record.

The NFL has had overtime in existence for 43 years now.  First it was sudden death; then, it was modified to give the loser of the coin toss an opportunity to possess the ball; now we have this change.  If the rules mavens cannot come up with something people perceive to be fair and effective at the same time, I have a radical idea:

  • Why not end the game after 60 minutes of play; and if the score is tied, record it as such and move on to the next game on the schedule?
  • That worked for the first 54 years of the NFL’s existence.

Since I started with an NFL topic today, allow my mind to wander in the space-time continuum of the NFL and television.  We know from recent personnel reductions that ESPN is in a cost cutting mode and that much of that is driven by the number-crunchers who oversee ESPN from corporate mahogany offices in Disney Corp.  So, let me accept as a fact that ESPN is not nearly the cash-cow that it was 10 years ago.

Earlier this week, I read a report that speculated that Turner Broadcasting – TBS – might be interested in getting a piece of the action for NFL television rights.  Let me be clear; I have no insight into that corporate thinking if indeed it is actually ongoing.  Let me channel Will Rogers here:

“All I know is just what I read in the papers, and that’s an alibi for my ignorance.”

Never being one to allow my own ignorance to stand in the way of an opinion, consider that MNF costs ESPN $1.5B per year in TV rights.  According to reports, ESPN signed on with the NFL for $15.2B for TV rights to MNF for 2001 to 2021.  Might the mavens at ESPN/Disney think that a way to ameliorate the financial burdens at ESPN in 2017 might be to sell off part of that “inventory” to TBS?  Here is what math tells me:

  • If ESPN fired 100 staffers to save their salary costs, the $1.5B that MNF costs would cover all of those salaries unless all 100 of the fired staffers made more than $15M per year.

By comparison, NBC pays a little less for SNF than ESPN pays for MNF and NBC gets the benefit of flex scheduling which is logistically impossible for MNF.  My take-away here is that the good folks at ESPN need to find a better contract negotiator to represent their interests when they seek to carry NFL games after 2021.

A former colleague and long-term reader of these rants sent along a link to an article on Deadspin.com about a communication between the Athletic Department at LSU and the “student-athletes” at LSU.  Earlier this month, the United States DoJ decided that it would not press charges against two police officers who had been involved in the killing of Alton Sterling.

Summarizing the communique from the Athletic Department, they asked the student-athletes not to wear LSU “gear” or uniforms if the “student-athletes” felt that they wanted to participate in protests over this decision.  Forget your opinion on the entire matter of Alton Sterling’s death for a moment.  This communication phrased as a request from the LSU Athletic Department is well-positioned.  It recognizes that some of the “student-athletes” will choose to participate in protests and the Athletic Department does not seek to stifle that in any way.  However, they do ask that the “student-athletes” help the Athletic Department in protecting the “brand” of LSU athletics” by not wearing uniforms or gear.  My summary:

  1. The “student-athletes” have full freedom of expression.
  2. The “student-athletes” are requested to ignore their freedom of attire.

Finally, here is a comment from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald:

“A squirrel ran on the field during a Twins-Indians game and eluded members of the grounds crew for four minutes. I’m sure this was more entertaining than any dumb between-innings hot dog race.

“A study reveals that rodents that run on the field at baseball games tend to have a higher IQ than fans who run on the field.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports ………

 

 

NFL Hump Day …

The staff cuts at ESPN have not been too severe; someone there has plenty of time oh his/her hands.  On one of the myriad ESPN studio shows yesterday, the talking head intoned that yesterday was “NFL Hump Day”.  Yesterday was the exact middle of the “barren stretch” between the Super Bowl in February and the start of the new NFL season in early September.  Inconveniently, “NFL Hump Day” fell on a Tuesday this year and not a Wednesday…

Nonetheless, the NFL is producing news on its “Hump Day” that is on a different vector heading from things like free agent signings and/or the promise of the NFL Draft.  This week marks the start of “practice” for the upcoming NFL season as teams hold the first of their OTAs – Organized Team Activities.  The teams organize these things in accordance with the terms of the current CBA but they are not mandatory for players who are under contract.  That fact alone creates news like this item:

  • Odell Beckham Jr. did not show up for the first day of the NY Giants’ OTA.  Oh, the horror …  The world of social media has more than sufficient reason to explode over this news.

These sorts of stories are nothing more than sensationalized filler.  If the NY Giants’ 2017 season is going to be doomed by the absence of Odell Beckham Jr. on the first day of non-mandatory OTAs, then the whole organization should just take the season off and forfeit their games.  At best, this is a non-story – – or “fake news” to use the argot of the day.

The other thing that comes out of hiding as teams head into the start of their OTAs is the early pronouncements about “Teams That Have An Eye On The Super Bowl In February 2018”.  These sorts of articles pick up on stories about teams that made splashy free agent signing and/or teams that good immediate grades for their talent haul in the recent NFL Draft.  All looks positive for the teams mentioned in these articles – – for the moment.

Here in Curmudgeon Central, the standard practice is to look at the sports world through the other end of the telescope.  So, I want to take this horribly too early point in history to project the teams that just may be the WORST team in the NFL – the one that will be on-the-clock with the #1 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft as of 1 January 2018.  I believe there are 5 teams among the 32 teams in the NFL who might wind up in that position.  Let me list them here alphabetically since it is still far too early to make a pronouncement:

  1. Chicago Bears:  I seriously believe the Bears will be a bad team again in 2018 no matter who they play at QB and that Coach John Fox will be fired in early 2018 if he actually makes it to the end of the 2017 season.  The Bears’ have no offense and the Bears’ defense is not nearly good enough to be sufficiently dominant as to carry the team to a break-even record.  Looking at the Bears’ schedule, they begin the season with games against the Falcons, Bucs, Steelers and Packers – – all four teams should have realistic hopes of making the playoffs.  If the Bears start out 0-4, which is a very real possibility, this team could easily hang up the jockstraps for the season and mail it in for the rest of 2017.
  2. Cleveland Browns:  Some folks have been just short of orgasmic in their praise of the Browns’ draft haul and the “Moneyball-style” mindset of the Browns’ front office.  I will be much more confident in pronouncing the Browns’ Front Office as “geniuses” after a few years.  However, even if I think they were great in their drafting this year and added 4 quality players to the roster, that leaves the Browns in the “talent-deficient” category of the NFL because the rest of the roster has – at most – 3 quality players.
  3. LA Rams:  Football is a team game and it is axiomatic that QBs get too much of the credit for successful teams and too much blame for bad teams.  Notwithstanding what I just said, the Rams’ problem has been for the last several years that they have not had a quality QB.  Truth be told, they have not had a QB who is better than a journeyman.  They spent an overall #1 pick on Jared Goff but did not put him on the field until late in the 2016 season and when Goff was out there he looked “less than awesome”.  Now we hear that the Rams at their OTAs are trying to work with Goff on his “leadership skills”.  The Rams are not going to be a good team, but if Goff flunks his QB tests and his leadership tests, the Rams could be awful.
  4. NY Jets:  Is there a player on their roster who can even pretend to be a functional NFL QB?  If so, the Jets can dodge the ignominy of the overall #1 pick in the 2018 draft.  If there is such a player on the roster, he has been keeping a VERY low profile to date.  The Jets are loaded with defensive linemen who can be difference-makers; that is not enough to make the team a difference-maker in 2018.  I suspect the Jets will be awful and that coach Todd Bowles will take the fall for a team whose roster would not be competitive under any head coach that could not cast hypnotic spells on the entire opposing squad every Sunday.  This is an early call but look at the NFL schedule for Week 5 and you will see that the Jets play the Browns.  That may be the Toilet Bowl game for the NFL season and it may have a significant role in determining the draft order in the Top 5 for the 2018 NFL Draft.
  5. SF 49ers:  Once again, the draftniks have proclaimed that the Niners – – under the firm hand at the tiller of GM, John Lynch – – aced the draft.  Even if they did – and that diagnosis would be at least 24 months too soon – the Niners’ roster is talent deficient.  The top two QBs on their depth chart as of this morning are two of the castoffs from the 2016 Chicago Bears – a team that won a total of 3 games.

Finally, since I mentioned the role that projections of the 2017 NFL draft may or may not have on the fortunes of some NFL teams, let me present some comments about “the draft” in two other sports from sports commentators around the country:

“Ping and pong: The NBA draft lottery couldn’t have gone much better for the L.A. Lakers if the drawing were rigged. Did I say rigged?”  [Bob Molinaro – Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot]

And …

“The MLB draft is less than four weeks away. I’m working on my mock draft. Right now I’m stuck on the 22nd pick in round 113.”   [Brad Dickson – Omaha World-Herald]

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

 

 

NFL Stadium News …

Once upon a time, there was a TV Channel called The Weather Channel.  What it did was to present current weather conditions and weather forecasts for the entire USA on a 24/7 basis.  People loved it because it provided them with something they needed even if no one ever sat down to watch it for an hour at a time.  The Weather Channel got so popular that one of the mega-networks bought it out for umpty-billion dollars and proceeded to change what it put on the air.  Now they have studio shows and multi-hour feature shows such as Extreme Weather and When Weather Changed History.  You get the idea.

By the way, in case you wonder how these sort of feature shows about the weather might be interesting for more than about 5 minutes at a stretch, the answer is that they are not.  Infomercials about a new colon cleansing concoction are more interesting.

I mention all of this because if you believe reports, The Weather Channel can do a segment on one of its When Weather Changed History shows about how the weather changed the NFL’s scheduling plans.  According to reports, the highly unusual amount of rain in Southern California has delayed construction of the new mega-stadium in LA that will house the Rams and the Chargers to the point where the stadium readiness has been pushed back from 2019 to 2020.

The reality here is that the Rams will need to stay in the LA Coliseum for an extra season.  It is hardly an ideal stadium but it is large enough that if – I said IF – the Rams became playoff contenders soon, the Coliseum could handle the sorts of crowds that the team might draw.  Such may not be the case for the LA Chargers who are going to play in an expanded soccer venue called StubHub Center in Carson CA.  In its expanded state, this venue will have 30,000 seats and some have said it could add another 5,000 if push came to shove.

The Chargers are going to have to charge extreme prices for their tickets to generate “NFL-levels” of stadium revenues.  This is not only important to the Chargers’ owners, it is also important to all the NFL owners who are scheduled to play the Chargers in LA because the visiting team gets one-third of the stadium revenues for the day of their visit.

In an effort to make chicken soup out of chickens*it, the Chargers’ President of Business Operations, A.G. Spanos, told ESPN.com:

“Construction is our family business, so we understand the challenges that come with a project of this magnitude.  At StubHub Center, we are creating an unparalleled environment for watching NFL football, and considering that no other venue in the league brings you closer to the action, we think Chargers fans will enjoy our three years in Carson.”

Chargers’ fans may indeed be closer to the action than fans anywhere else in the NFL.  One thing is for sure however, there will be fewer fans in attendance for Chargers’ home games from now until 2020 than there will be for any other NFL teams.

The NFL owners will be meeting soon and this issue will certainly be a topic of conversation at the meeting – as will the construction of the new stadium for the Raiders in Las Vegas.  There will be another issue for discussion among the owners about the Raiders’ stadium.  In the past week or so, the Raiders and the Las Vegas Stadium Authority reached an agreement as to the terms of the Raider’s lease for the new facility once it is built.  According to a report at ESPN.com, the lease contains this language to prohibit:

“…any Gaming or Gambling, the maintaining or operating of a Gaming Establishment and/or sports wagering or any wagering on racing or other non-sports events.”

However, in that same report, ESPN says that the Nevada Gaming Commission – the body that regulates gaming/gambling for the State of Nevada – believes that clause in the lease agreement does not prohibit fans in the stadium from using their cell phones and gambling apps on those phones to place wagers – even in-game wagers on the Raiders’ game being played in front of them – with any of the sportsbooks in Nevada who routinely offer such mobile wagering opportunities.

This may sound like a huge hurdle for the NFL to get over.  For decades, gambling has been demonized by the NFL as a plague that can only destroy the league.  In 2020, not only will they put a team in the “Den of Iniquity”, they may be allowing fans to wager on the game they are attending.  Somewhere in the cosmos, George Halas just shuddered…  However, this is not a big deal at all for the NFL if it would only come to grips with reality.

The NFL has been playing games in London for years now and continues to expand their presence there.  This year, there will be four “London Games” and here is reality for the stadiums the NFL uses in London:

  • They all have betting kiosks in the stadium operated by the licensed bookmakers in England.  For NFL gamedays, the league requests that the operators shut down those betting windows and the bookmakers agree.
  • However, bookmakers in the UK have been using mobile betting apps for several years now – pre-dating any such activity by the sportsbooks in Nevada.  So, the reality is that the NFL has already played games under those wagering conditions without suffering any damage to their games.  Moreover, the NFL has been expanding the number of times per season that they play games under those conditions.
  • Reality:  There will be four NFL games this year where in-game wagering using mobile gambling apps is going to happen.  In 2020, there will be eight games played in Las Vegas where in-game wagering may happen if the owners ratify the lease agreement in front of them now.  It is not nearly as big a deal as one might make it out to be.

Finally, the America’s Cup Qualifiers are about to begin and then the Finals are less than a month off in the future.  [Quick Quiz:  Where are these events being held this year?  No peeking.]  Greg Cote had these items in the Miami Herald over the past couple of weeks regarding the America’s Cup:

“Sailing’s 35th America’s Cup begins in one month. It’s a wind-wind situation. Sorry.”

And …

“America’s Cup sets sail in five days: Biggest event in sailing, the month-long America’s Cup, begins this coming Friday in Bermuda. Weird choice for host, no? Ever heard of the Bermuda Triangle? Stay out of it, fellas!”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

 

 

The Tom Brady Concussion Caper …

It is always incorrect to assert that some entity in the sports world had an infinite capacity for something.  In fact, the word “infinite” is almost always a dead give-away for hyperbole.  We saw an example last week how a simple comment can set off a firestorm in the sports cosmos which has a huge capacity for such happenings.  Notwithstanding the sports world’s tendency to overreact to things, last week’s firestorm should never have happened if only folks had taken a longer view.  Here is the deal…

Giselle Bundchen – super-model and wife of Tom Brady who needs no introduction in a rant focused on sports – announced/asserted last week that Brady had suffered “concussions” in the previous season.  Within a millisecond of the escape of those words from her mouth, the extensive network of “Patriot haters” were in full throat demanding to know how this information had escaped the NFL and its “concussion protocol” and its “expert observers”.  Brady’s agent issued a statement saying that his client had never suffered such an injury in the 2016 season.  This is the type of story that has legs; it has all the elements necessary to become an Internet trope for something like “the fix is in” for the next decade or so.

Sports radio and the ESPN commentary programs were on this story like pancakes are on a griddle.  If you hate the Pats, then Giselle had just let the cat out of the bag and it showed that the entire organization is as evil as Nazi Germany and its “Final Solution”.  If you are a Pats’ fan, this showed the level of concern that this devoted mother has to her family as she worried about the current and future health of her beloved spouse.  In either case, what else could it be …?

I am not privy to what happens in the Brady/Bundchen household – nor do I have any burning desire to be.  Therefore, I have no idea if Tom Brady was concussed or not during the 2016 season – and if he does not care, then neither do I.

Having said that, here is a concocted domestic scene that I would wonder about if I were to worry about the future mental health of Tom Brady”

  • It is a Tuesday night in the midst of the 2016 NFL season.  Tom Brady returns to his home in Brookline having done a day’s worth of film study on last week’s game and the defensive prowess of the upcoming opponent.  He is at home, dinner is finished; the kids are in bed.  Here are Tom Brady’s words to his wife …
  • “Not tonight Giselle.  I have a headache.”

Each and every NFL fan of the male persuasion would wish that he could have the opportunity to say those words to Giselle Bundchen confident in his own mind that no headache would cause him to utter those words.  Too bad …  Maybe Tom Brady said that – or maybe he never did.  It is not for us to know for the simple reason that it is none of “our” damned business.

Oh, by the way, to those who say that all of this “proves” that the entirety of the “NFL concussion protocol” is nothing more than a PR stunt; this sort of “proves” just the opposite.  The NFL concussion protocol is there as a potential legal defense against lawsuits from current players akin to the ones pending from former players.  This is not about PR; this is all about CYA…

Sticking with the NFL for a moment, the Bucs signed Ryan Fitzpatrick to a 1-year deal for $3M to be the backup QB to Jameis Winston.  Let me be clear here; Fitzpatrick had an abysmal year in 2016 with the Jets throwing 17 INTs and only 12 TDs.  Nonetheless, this was a good signing decision by the Bucs.

In the NFC South, the Bucs are serious contenders; they should be looking at ways to be part of the playoffs in Jan 2018.  This signing says to me that they are looking at that end-point as a measure of success for the 2017 season.  I doubt they believe that Ryan Fitzpatrick will take them to the playoffs if he has to start a dozen games in 2017; but if Jameis Winston suffers an injury and has to miss 2 or 3 games, Ryan Fitzpatrick is a credible stand-in.  Just so you know who are the QBs on the Bucs’ roster as of this morning behind Winston and Fitzpatrick:

  • Ryan Griffen –   4th year from Tulane
  • Sefo Liufau – rookie from Colorado

I think the Bucs took out a reasonably priced insurance policy here at 1-year and $3M…

The Grey Cup is the equivalent of the Super Bowl for the Canadian Football League.  This year, the game will be played in Ottawa – Canada’s capital – where the Ottawa Redblacks are the home team.  The Redblacks play in a stadium called TD Place Stadium; it normally seats 24,000 but for the Grey Cup seating will expand to 35,000.  According to reports, only about 5,000 tickets remain on the market.  The game will be played on 26 November – – the Sunday after Thanksgiving in the US.

Back in the days when the Olympic Games had just been resuscitated, one of the events in the Summer Games was a tug-of-war.  In terms of compelling television, this ranks at or near the level of competitive poker on TV; I am not repelled by it nor am I attracted to it in any meaningful way.

The IOC keeps looking for new events allowing the host nation to insert something into the games in each of the 4-year spans and by recognizing international oversight bodies for events/sports that can be on the fringes of fans’ interests.  Let me say this to the IOC on the off chance that someone at IOC HQs might run across this screed:

  1. If you can tolerate rhythmic gymnastics as a sport as pixies prance around on a mat waving ribbons in their wake, why can you not go back to the Olympic roots and include tug-of-war in the Summer Games?
  2. The IOC could actually save money here and thus increase its profits.  It takes a bunch of judges to do a rhythmic gymnastics competition – whether or not their decisions are scripted.  For tug-of-war, a video replay would likely be sufficient.

Finally, speaking of the Summer Games, here is an item from Brad Rock in the Deseret News:

“Los Angeles wants to host the 2024 Olympics, and if that fails, it expects to go for 2028.

“Sources say the four-year window will allow just enough time for officials to get home, repack, and drive back to LAX in time to make the next bid.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

 

 

More ESPN Stuff …

Sports radio has long been the home of the contrived “debate”.  ESPN raised the stakes in that game with First Take and then some other “confrontation shows” that are not nearly as blatantly staged as First Take.  Then FS1 got in the act when it hired Skip Bayless away from ESPN and paired him with Shannon Sharpe on Undisputed.  Here is why I think all of that programming is successful:

  • In the current era of social media and Twitter, it is beyond fashionable to take offense at a remark or an image and then to enter the social media world and start a s[p]itstorm.  In today’s world, that behavior is expected.

So, I was not really surprised when news broke that ESPN was going to “allow” a woman to do the play-by-play for the double-header game on MNF in the opening week of the NFL season.  The outpouring of “outrage” was out of this world.  ESPN said that Beth Mowins would do play-by-play and Rex Ryan would do color on this double-header game.  You might have thought that ESPN had announced that Charles Manson and Josef Mengele would be doing the game.

Some of the twits on Twitter swore that they would hit the mute button to show that they thought that was a horrendous idea.

  • Memo to Mute Button Hitters:  ESPN does not care about that; they care that you are watching the game because that is how they get ratings and the ratings determine their ad revenues.  Not only are you intolerant; you are ignorant; that is not a desirable exacta.

Let me try to approach this “issue” calmly.  I have never heard Beth Mowins do play-by-play for a football game so I have no idea if she is good at it or bad at it.  The way I think I shall discriminate between the two possibilities is to listen to her work and make my own judgment.  As to one of the hot-button areas of criticism directed at Ms. Mowins – – i.e. she never played the game – – let me say that she has played exactly the same number of NFL and Division 1-A college football games as Joe Buck, Al Michaels and Bob Costas.  Those three gentlemen have managed to do a bang-up job at play-by-play without benefit of strapping on a helmet on Sundays.

In the past, ESPN assigned Pam Ward to do play-by-play for Big 10 games on the network and Pam Ward was very good at that assignment.  If Beth Mowins does as well as Pam Ward did, this will be a huge success for ESPN.

What is more interesting to me in this announcement is that Mowins will be paired with Rex Ryan who is also a “rookie” in the role of a color analyst.  Given the nature of Ryan’s press conferences and interviews over the past 5-6 years, one should expect him to take to this role pretty easily.  However, for that one game, ESPN will give “live air” to a telecast tandem with no direct experience.  It should be interesting…

Speaking of ESPN, the network has also announced the schedule for the dozen or so college football bowl games that ESPN owns and operates.  Indeed, these games – – generally ones that few people really care about – – are owned and operated by ESPN.  The games provide the network with hours of “original content” which can also be replayed multiple times in the December timeframe.  Let me give you a flavor of what I mean by games that few people really care about and ones that I will assuredly miss:

  1. Gildan New Mexico Bowl – 12/16/17:  A Mountain West team will play a Conf USA team in this game.  Sigh …
  2. Raycom Media Camellia Bowl – 12/16 17:  A MAC team will play a Sun Belt team in this confrontation.  Bleah …
  3. Boca Raton Bowl – 12/19/17:  The MAC, Conf USA and the American Athletic Conference all have ties to this bowl game.  If they played some sort of three-way game – a football ménage a trois so to speak – I would probably tune in just for the novelty.
  4. St Petersburg Bowl – 12/21/17:  The American Athletic Conference will supply one team and Conf USA will supply the other.  So what?
  5. Bahamas Bowl – 12/21/17:  Someone from the MAC will take on someone else from Conf USA in this meaningless contest.  Yawn…
  6. Hawaii Bowl – 12/24/17:  It will be Mountain West versus American Athletic Conference in this titanic struggle.

ESPN likes to call this pre-Christmas lineup of bowl games part of “Bowl Week”.  When they do, I immediately think of a porcelain bowl…

I mentioned recently that Mark Cuban admitted that the Dallas Mavericks tanked games this year to improve their draft position.  There is a bit of history in the NFL that demonstrates what happens when a team there had the opportunity to tank but did not.

  • In 1968, the Philadelphia Eagles were awful.  Going into the Thanksgiving Day game in Detroit, their record stood at 0 – 11.  They were on track to have the #1 overall pick in the draft and there was this guy named OJ Simpson who was eligible for the draft that year.
  • Not only did the Eagles win the Thanksgiving Day game 12-0, they returned home the next week and beat the New Orleans Saints before losing the final game of the year to the Vikings.  Final record was 2-12.
  • Meanwhile, in the old AFL, the Buffalo Bills staggered home with a record of 1-12-1 in 1968 so the Bills got the overall #1 pick.
  • The Bills took OJ who was pretty good.  You can probably win a bar bet or two with the knowledge of who the Eagles took with the second pick.  That would be Leroy Keyes who was a RB from Purdue who could not make it as a RB so the Eagles played him at safety.  As you might suspect the Eagles were not very good in the years following that missed draft opportunity.

Finally, Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel was wondering how the quarterback-deficient Cleveland Browns could draft something other than a QB with their plethora of early draft picks:

“This is like the homeless man who wins the lottery and buys everything but a new home.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

 

 

Deep In the Heart Of Texas …

I am sure that Freddy “Boom Boom” Cannon was covering some other singer when he recorded the song Deep In the Heart Of Texas.  However, that is the version that I recall as a teenager and so I will cite it here as a theme for today’s rant.  I will spend a lot of time talking about things going on in Texas.

Let me start with Mark Cuban.  For purposes of full disclosure, I am not a huge Mark Cuban fan in terms of his over-the-top actions as a team owner or as a publicity hound.  I do not think that I qualify as a “hater” for the simple reason that I do not care enough about what Mark Cuban says or does enough to hate him for it; in my gestalt, he is a buffoon – – albeit a very rich buffoon.

Mark Cuban was a “guest” on Dan Patrick’s radio program – – remember he is a publicity hound who is on record as saying there is no such thing as bad publicity – – and he told Dan Patrick and all of Patrick’s audience that once the Dallas Mavericks were no longer viable playoff contenders this year, the team tanked games.  The team set out to play the games in such a way as to maximize the possibility that they would lose instead of win those games.  Let me be clear:

  1. The Mavs did not tell players to give the games away or to play to less than their full effort.
  2. The Mavs did play certain players in various situations that were disadvantageous to the team if the objective had been to – you know – actually win those games.

Mark Cuban did not dance around this or try to obfuscate it with codewords and clichés’; he made it clear that is what the Dallas Mavericks did; and by offering the details that he did, it is clear that he knew about it and – at the very minimum – had no problem with that “strategy”.

Let me say this as clearly as I can so that the possibility for misunderstanding or misinterpretation is minimal:

  • Until and unless Adam Silver and the folks nominally in charge of the NBA come down on Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks like the rain in a typhoon, I do not EVER want to hear any self-righteous breast-beatings from the league about “the integrity of the game(s)”.
  • One of the teams – obviously with the knowledge and the assent of the owner – spent a portion of the 2016/17 NBA season trying to lose games to get more ping-pong balls in the lottery hopper.

I have no idea what Mark Cuban’s net worth might be and I do not care enough to look up the Forbes estimate.  Here is what I do care about; there is no fine that the league might even hope to enforce on him that would matter even a smidgen.  The penalty here must be something much more than that – like no first round draft picks for the next two or three years.

The NBA regular season is comprised of 1230 games.  We have evidence now that the top teams do not care about these games even to the point where they will cede playoff seeding in order to “rest” players because “the science” says they will play better rested than unrested.  We have known for more than 3 decades that teams will tank to get better draft picks; that is the whole reason behind the stupid draft lottery.  Now we know that teams other than the Sixers and their “process” are routinely tanking games.  So, Mr. Commissioner here is my direct question to you:

  • If teams in your league – good ones and bad ones – do not give a damn about the outcomes of regular season games, why the Hell should I?
  • Perhaps there are 25 games in the regular season I should continue to pay attention to because of matchups and/or storylines.  Mr. Commish, that is only 2% of your regular season inventory!

The other “Texas” story is yet another lawsuit brought against Baylor University alleging that there are videos of gang-rapes perpetrated by Baylor football players and some assertions that these were “organized events” meant to increase bonding among the players.  [For the record; I feel slimy just having typed the words in that last sentence.]

Just so there is no misunderstanding:

  1. Any and all men who participated in any activities that are even close to the description above should spend a LONG time in the Crossbars Hilton.  By LONG time, I am thinking in terms of 25 years or more such that they have NO opportunity to make a dime as a professional football player.
  2. If there is sufficient evidence to show that any coach knew about these activities and either “endorsed them” or “acted to conceal them”, then that coach should spend even longer in jail than the rapists.
  3. If there is sufficient evidence to show that any school administrator was knowledgeable and acted to cover any of this up, he should be boiled in oil.  [Sorry for going Medieval here…]

Now if you have been following these rants for the past several years or so, you should expect me to go off and dump a load of “equine fertilizer” on the NCAA.  Let me surprise you; I think the NCAA is in the right place on this one for the moment.

When the Penn State scandal broke, the NCAA got waaay out over its skis and jumped into a criminal matter – not an NCAA matter – well before the criminal matter had reached any resolution.  In this situation – as horrid as it would be if all the allegations are proven to be true -, I am not sure there have been any NCAA rules violations.  One of these days, the NCAA will punish Ole Miss for handing out cash to players who went to Ole Miss to play football; one of these days, the NCAA will find the backbone to punish UNC for its academic fraud over a 10-15-year period.  However, the heinous acts perpetrated (allegedly) by the Baylor football players did not violate any NCAA rules and so it is completely appropriate for the pooh-bahs in Indianapolis to keep their mouths shut and to ignore all of this until the justice system has had its turn in the barrel.

Finally, since I have been talking about “Texas” stuff today, here is a comment from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald about something that happened at Spring Practice for the University of Texas football team:

“Pro wrestler The Undertaker gave a motivational speech to the Texas Longhorns football team. Now Texas has a new plan. One player is going to distract the referees while the other hits an opponent from behind.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

 

 

Colin Kaepernick To Seattle …?

I heard two guys on sports radio yesterday “debating” the issue of which NFL team should sign Colin Kaepernick.  One side of the argument went along the lines that he should work to get to a team that has no top-shelf starting QB and work to achieve that status with that team.  The other side of the argument was that he should sign – knowingly as the backup QB – with the Seattle Seahawks.  The proponent of the “Colin-to-Seattle” thinking said that all of this made sense for the Seahawks as well as for Kaepernick because the Seahawks have no experienced backup to Russell Wilson.

I could not think of who the backup to Wilson is as I was driving along yesterday so when I got home and here is what I found on the Seahawks’ roster/depth chart:

  • On the Seahawks depth chart, the backup QB is Trevone Boykin.
  • On the roster, the other QB listed is Jake Heaps.

Many people think the Seahawks are serious playoff contenders in the NFC West but I do have to admit that they do not have much experience behind Russell Wilson in the event he suffers an injury.  Boykin’s career shows him playing in 5 games; he is 13 for 18 passing with 1 TD and 1 INT.  If Jake Heaps has played at all in the NFL, I cannot find a record of that.  So. Maybe the “Colin-to-Seattle” suggestion makes sense.

            [Aside:  In checking for Trevone Boykin’s stats, I also discovered that he was arrested in March 2017 for a possible violation of his parole which came as a result of a run-in with the law in June 2016.  The Seahawks may be thinner than they look at QB.]

Notwithstanding the logic of that suggestion, I suspect that Colin Kaepernick would rather be able to earn the starting QB slot on a team and that is not going to happen in Seattle without an injury to Russell Wilson.  There are indeed “QB-deficient” teams in the NFL where he could possibly work his way to the top of the heap through training camp such as:

  • Chicago Bears
  • Cleveland Browns
  • Houston Texans
  • Jacksonville Jaguars
  • LA Rams
  • Minnesota Vikings
  • NY Jets

[Aside:  I did not include the SF 49ers on this list even though they have “QB-deficiencies” because I suspect that the Niners do not want Kaepernick and Kaepernick does not want the Niners.]

If I were Colin Kaepernick – or his agent – I would be trying to strike a deal with one of those teams instead of the Seahawks.  Then again, I am not Colin Kaepernick nor am I his agent…

A report at ESPN.com last week said that Adidas is getting out of the business of selling golf equipment.  Adidas makes Taylor Made equipment in addition to Adams Golf and Ashworth; Adidas is selling all of that to a private equity firm for $425M.  That sounds like a lot of money but according to the report, that is a reflection of a serious decline in the market for golf equipment.  According to the report, Adidas sold $1.7B worth of “golf stuff” in 2012; last year, sales were down to $500M.  That is a 70% decline in a 5 year stretch.

Apparently, the problem is not limited to Adidas.  Nike has also gotten out of the golf business.  I think the decline in the sales of golf equipment has something to do with the decline in interest in the Pro Tour.  After a decade or so when the folks who cover golf and the folks who promote golf did nothing beyond pushing Tiger Woods as the “face-of-the-game”, they are now struggling to make a connection with a wide audience now that Tiger Woods is a mere after-thought on the Pro Tour.  I do not think that Woods’ receding into the background is the sole cause of the market softness here; in fact, it is probably only an ancillary factor.  However, as the business of golf sought to climb out from under the weight of the 2008 economic financial collapse, the lack of a figure to regenerate interest in what is an expensive hobby was a problem for the industry.

Adidas has been in the golf equipment business since 1997.  For the 3 brands that sold to the private equity firm, Adidas paid a total of $1.54B to acquire them and now they only brought back $425M.

Just in case you are in the Tampa Bay area, let me fill you in on a dietary hazard at the Tampa Bay Rays stadium.  If you are there, you need to be wary of ordering the 4-pound burger that is on sale.  It is really a simple deal.  This is 4 pounds of ground meat on a “bun”; you add the condiments of your choice; it comes with 1 pound of fries.  If you eat the entire thing by yourself in 30 minutes or less here is what you get:

  1. Two tickets to another Rays’ game of your choosing
  2. A T-shirt
  3. And most likely a case of heartburn that would make it into the Guinness Book of Records.

Finally, here is an item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Ten tons of Kraft and Velveeta cheese were destroyed when the brakes of the semi hauling it caught fire near West Allis, Wis.

“So, in addition to Title Town USA, Cheeseheads can now lay claim to the Fondue Capital of the World.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

 

 

Tie Games In Baseball? Oh, The Horror …

A recent 18-inning baseball game between the Yankees and Cubs has generated angst in the baseball world.  Some folks have suggested that if games are tied after 12 innings, the game should go into the record books as a tie and the teams should just get on with their seasons.  As you can imagine the baseball historians and the purists want no part of such change.  If this were the Middle Ages, the purists would be having the “tie-game advocates” charged with heresy thereby subjecting them to drawing and quartering.

I am not offended by this new suggestion nor am I offended in any way by the potential for an 18-inning baseball game.  Having said that, there have been some arguments put forth regarding this proposed change that leave me cold:

  1. If baseball needs to increase pace of play, then it should also do everything possible to avoid games that will take 5 hours to complete.  This is nonsense; pace of play and duration of games are two different things.   Anyone who uses this argument in a serious fashion is a dumbass.
  2. Eighteen inning games put an unnecessary stress on bullpens and pitching staffs; moreover, the final portions of the game feature players playing out of position making the outcome subject to “unnatural conditions”.  I will not even grace the “unnatural conditions” argument with commentary; the “unnecessary stress on pitching staffs” argument is a tad annoying.  In times where players in various sports are using improved nutrition and improved training/conditioning techniques, pitchers in baseball are turning into fragile snowflakes.  Teams used to carry 9 pitchers and 16 position players; today they carry as many as 13 pitchers and only 12 position players.

[Aside:  Back in the 70s, Nolan Ryan once struck out 19 batters in a game where he pitched all 13 innings and he threw 235 pitches.  He then took his normal rest and his normal spot in the rotation.  In 2017, you have a better chance of seeing a unicorn frolicking with a yeti than seeing any pitcher do that.]

Here is another thing I find confusing in this discussion.

  • If it is OK to have a game go into the record books as a tie after 12 innings, why not just record it as a tie after 9 innings?

I know that there are fans who viscerally oppose the idea of a tie game in any sport.  I am not one of those fans, but I understand their desire to see a winner and a loser in any contest.  What frosts my cupcakes is when a sport chooses to determine a winner and a loser by changing the game in the final showdown.  I do not like – even a little bit – the way these entities break ties:

  1. The NHL:  I have no problem with an overtime period or the way things are handled in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  I think the idea of the shoot-out via alternating penalty shots is an abomination.
  2. FIFA World Cup: I have no problem with tie games in soccer.  I detest the idea of determining a winner via penalty kicks.

I can tolerate the NFL’s tie-breaking system even though I would change it if I could.  I would prefer that they allow for ties during the regular season and play a full extra quarter (or a second full extra quarter) in playoff games to determine the winner.  But that’s just me.  At least the NFL is still playing actual football in its overtime periods.

The tie-breaker in tennis is a hybrid here.  They play the tie-breakers using the same rules of play for tennis but they change the scoring system.

Baseball, basketball and golf are the purest sports here.  They play extra time/extra innings/extra holes using exactly the same rules until there is a winner at the end of the extra time/extra innings/extra holes.  Frankly, I do not see any compelling reason to modify the way these sports handle things.

According to this report from Deadspin.com, the Boston Red Sox banned for life a fan who made a racist remark about a Kenyan woman who had just finished singing the National Anthem.  This remark was overheard by another fan who reported this to an usher who removed the utterer of the racial slur from Fenway Park.  The next day, the Red Sox announced that he was banned for life.

This is not a First Amendment issue; the Boston Red Sox imposed this ban not the Congress and the Executive Branch of the US Government.  There is, however, something to think about here.

  • Assuming for a moment that it is critically important for the Red Sox to enforce this ban, can they do so?  Assume that Joe Flabeetz is the guy banned for life and he lives next door to Sam Glotz.  Now suppose Glotz buys a ticket to a Red Sox game and then resells it to Joe Flabeetz who goes to Fenway Park to see the game.  Is every ticket taker at every gate going to be on the lookout for Joe Flabeetz and how are they going to do that?

Finally, Dwight Perry had this item in the Seattle Times pertaining to another recent event in Fenway Park:

“Last Sunday’s Cubs-Red Sox game included what appeared to be a failed marriage proposal on the Fenway Park videoboard.

“But the foiled groom-to-be, undeterred, is already hatching plans to line up Colin Kaepernick to take a knee for him.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports ………

 

 

Is This Part Of The Trilateral Commission?

There must be a secret society in the US these days with a name so long that even its acronym is a mouthful; the SOPSLTBPOAAAE:

  • The Society Of People Spring-Loaded To Be Pissed Off About Anything And Everything.

[Aside:  I believe at least 75% of the folks in the US Congress are officers in this secret society – – but that is another rant.]

These folks can find affront in just about any human act or utterance; and when they find affront in something harmless and pin their affront to a meaningful issue, what they do is to diminish the import of the meaningful issue.  These are sports rants and not sociological rants so I’ll just state categorically that sexism exists in US society and that sexism is not something that needs to be preserved in US society.  Having said that, the St. Louis Cardinals were accused of sexism in a Tweet they sent out regarding a promotion for a game later this week.  Here is the deal:

  • On May 17, the Cardinals were going to give away replicas of the 1967 World Series ring given to that Cards’ championship team.

Such a giveaway would not make me drop everything and change whatever plans I may have had for that day to rush to the ballpark to get my hands on one of those treasures, but it is not something that it out-or-line for a baseball promotion.  Now here is the Tweet that SOPSSLTBPOAAE found to be sexist:

“You love baseball, she loves jewelry.  On May 17, it’s a win-win.”

That Tweet was characterized as “awash in some impressively casual sexism.”  You can read here why that is a sexist remark…

Now, if one wanted to focus attention on something that has a far greater foundation of sexism, one might prefer to focus on a recent report that the Oakland Raiders reached a settlement in a lawsuit brought against it by members of The Raiderettes who charged that they were not paid a minimum wage for their efforts as team cheerleaders.  If the Tweet above was “awash in impressively casual sexism”, then the existence of scantily-clad female cheerleaders is “impressively actual sexism” and paying those women less than the legal minimum wage to do what they do is a manifestation of the economic principle of paying women less than they are worth when they do a job.

The Raiderettes were the first NFL cheerleading team to assert that they were not paid a minimum wage; subsequent to their lawsuit, other NFL teams have been defendants in similar legal actions.  In the settlement announced last week, the Raiders will pay $1.25M to about 100 women who were Raiderettes between 2010 and 2014.  You can read about more of the settlement details here.  This lawsuit and its ultimate resolution is a small step in the direction of minimizing/eliminating sexism as it relates to women in the workplace but before anyone attaches too much significance, please consider:

  1. The Raiders fought this suit for about 3 years through several levels of California state courts.  If they were not represented by “My Cousin Vinnie”, they probably paid a significant fraction of the ultimate settlement amount in legal fees.  $1.25M is a lot of money if you are talking about the balance in my IRA; it is not a lot of money when you are talking about an NFL franchise.  Did this resolution have to be deferred 3 years and require the intervention of various courts to get to this end-point?  Perhaps the decision to fight this action tooth-and-nail is an example of something “awash in impressively actual sexism”.
  2. The underlying basis of sexism here – the display of scantily-clad females on the sidelines during a football game – remains intact.  Given the silence from the SOPSLTBPOAAAE about that, I can only assume they do not know about it.

I read a report about the Philadelphia Eagles signing an undrafted free agent and immediately thought about the fact that Chris Berman was no longer doing NFL studio commentary for ESPN.  Given Berman’s penchant for giving silly nicknames to players I will take the liberty of channeling him here:

  • Today the Eagles signed free agent CB from UCLA, Randall Goforth – – and Multiply.  [ / Chris Berman ]

Sometimes, you read a couple of sentences and it gives you all you really need to know about a subject.  You know there is more to the story, but you also know that you really do not need to delve any deeper.  Greg Cote found an example of such a situation in the Miami Herald over the weekend:

“The owners of video porn site X-Art.com are suing former Heat star Chris Bosh over the rental of his California waterfront mansion. The plaintiffs claim the luxury abode contained, among other problems, rat poop. No, seriously.”

Finally, here is a question posed by Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“With tennis star Maria Sharapova back from her 15-month drug ban, the question is this: Will she return to superstar form, or will she be just another grunt?”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports ………

 

 

ESPN Needs Changes Other Than Its Staffing …

I know that I have written about the layoffs at ESPN in recent weeks but I want to return to that topic once more today.  Clearly, ESPN – and its corporate overlords at Disney – want and need to cut some costs; I doubt that anyone would ascribe anything else as the prime motivation for these cuts.  However, I think that there has been some “lazy thinking” in much of the reporting here.  The standard narrative is that the cost cutting is the result of/the reaction to decreased revenues caused by people “cutting the cord”.

Even though I have not “cut the cord”, I understand that many other folks have; therefore, I acknowledge that “cord cutting” has been a major factor in these decisions.  But I do not think it begins and ends there.  I believe there is another factor at work here and that it overlays the “cord cutting issues” and the need for ESPN to get a better hold on costs:

  • The spending practices at ESPN over the past decade or two have not been “judicious” or “restrained” in any sense of those words.

ESPN as the self-proclaimed Worldwide Leader in Sports has paid out some outrageous rights fees and has had a period of “spending like a drunken sailor”.  Look, I understand that ESPN has myriad networks and that each of them needs to flesh out 168 hours per week with video programming.  ESPN must have a large inventory of “content” because dead air or test patterns will not cut it in an era where subscribers pay for the privilege of watching ESPN programming.  Let me give you a couple of examples:

  1. ESPN pays more for MNF than NBC pays for Sunday Night Football.  Both networks get the same number of regular season games but NBC gets to do some flex scheduling late in the season to avoid having to put on a dismally uninteresting game in December.  ESPN cannot do that on MNF.  From a purely economic perspective, ESPN did not get a good deal here…
  2. In order to have fresh content around the Holidays, ESPN now owns and operates about a dozen college football bowl games.  Most of them are the games that you and I and most other people do not care about in the least.  For example, one of those games is the Las Vegas Bowl which is played in a stadium that seats less than 40,000 folks and is NEVER sold out.
  3. ESPN paid rights fees to telecast things like the X-Games and things of that nature.  If one of those events ever cracks a rating of 1.0, it will be “salad days” at ESPN HQs.
  4. ESPN spent a tidy sum creating a studio in LA to house some of the SportsCenter telecasts.  After overdesigning it and spending lots of money on it, they figured they needed to put other programming there and went around “bigfooting” programs to move them to the new digs in LA.  This was one of – and not the only – issue that led to ESPN and Keith Olbermann parting ways about 2 years ago.  He said he was not going to move his operation from NYC to LA; ESPN told him to take a hike.  ESPN saved money in that move too.  However, ask yourself how much programming that you watch on ESPN comes from LA or would significantly benefit from originating in LA as opposed to NYC or Bristol CT.  My assessment is that there is precious little programming in that category and that the big money spent on the LA facilities may have been another example of extravagance.

Juxtaposed with all of this “austerity” came the announcement that ESPN had just reached a long-term extension deal with Tim Tebow to continue with them as a college football analyst and that his commitment to the network would in no way conflict with his pursuit of a professional baseball career.  Look, I enjoy listening to Tim Tebow when he talks about college football; I find him entertaining and informative.  At the same time, can we please take the statement of this TV commitment being independent of his baseball pursuits as public relations pabulum or downright mendacity.

  • If Tim Tebow miraculously made it to MLB this Fall on a team that made the playoffs and he was on the roster for the team in the World Series, that means his baseball “career” would interfere with his college football analysis role for about the first 8 or 9 weeks of the college football season.  Them’s the facts, folks…

I think that everyone here knows that I do not play fantasy sports and I do not particularly like fantasy sports.  Nevertheless, fantasy sports are a reality in 2017; and this week, FanDuel and the WNBA announced, “a new partnership that will make FanDuel the official one-day partner of the WNBA.”  [Aside: I will restrain myself from drawing a parallel between a “one-day partner” and a “one-night stand” because it is just too easy.]

Can I have a show of hands please?  How many people are in a women’s pro basketball fantasy league as of today?  How many of you will now get involved with women’s pro basketball fantasy teams now that you know FanDuel and the WNBA are partners in this endeavor?  I thought so…

What I love about the announcement of these sorts of “partnerships” is that the press releases always contain statements from each of the partner entities that go over the top.  Such is the case here and let me start with the statement from WNBA President, Lisa Borders:

“We are constantly looking to innovate by finding new opportunities to engage with our passionate fans and introduce the WNBA to wider audiences.  This partnership with FanDuel and our new one-day fantasy game will be a fresh, unique way for fans to further connect with their favorite WNBA players and teams throughout our season.”

And from the FanDuel side of the table, we hear from Nigel Eccles the CEO of FanDuel:

“The NBA has been a fantastic partner as we continue to build out our consumer offerings to appeal to all sports fans.  We first launched NBA contests in 2009, debuted NBA InPlay late last year, and are now extending our basketball offerings to include WNBA, giving our users even more opportunities to play fantasy contests.”

Now that we have fantasy sports out of the way, and we have heard from both “partners who are all aglow in their new relationship”, it is time to wind things up for the week.  So, here is a definition of the word, aglow, from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Aglow:  The condition of being flush with radiant emotion, such as one in the bloom of love.  Or, it might just be gas.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………