Timing Is Everything…

They say timing is everything. That certainly applies to stand-up comedy; it surely applies to investing; timing may not be everything in the world of politics, but it is surely a critical ingredient in political success. Warren Spahn once described the role of timing in baseball:

“Hitting is timing. Pitching is upsetting timing.”

I mention this because the timing might not be worse with regard to an IOC event next month. According to a report in the NY Post, on 8 May a group of IOC officials will hold a video conference with 5 cities who have expressed interest in hosting the 2022 Winter Games. The information from that video conference will be an important element in a decision by the IOC Executive Board in July 2014 regarding how many of the 5 cities will be on the list of “finalists” as Games host. They might leave all 5 on the list; they might cut the list to 2.

For one of the 5 cities, the timing just is not right. The city of Lviv had expressed interest in hosting the games and is on the “List of 5”. For those of you who did not major in geography, Lviv is a city of about 750,000 folks that has been around for about 1100 years. The “problem” at the moment is that it is in Ukraine. As of this morning, Ukraine cities rank right up there with places like Damascus, Abuja and wherever the latest outbreak of Ebola virus happens to be in terms of desirable locales.

Nevertheless, I fully expect that the IOC will keep Lviv on the “active list” simply because it would be politically incorrect for them to appear to make a judgment on the political situation that exists there. However, in terms of places you might think would be ready to do the political work and the fundraising necessary to host a set of Olympic Games, Lviv would not be a solid choice in July 2014.

I said there are 5 cities on the current list. Here are the other 4 – in alphabetical order:

    Almaty, Kazakhstan
    Beijing, China
    Krakow, Poland
    Oslo, Norway

Having been to both Beijing and Oslo, I am confident that either city could host the games in a perfectly competent manner. I have never been to Krakow and do not recall any discussions with friends who had been there, so I will reserve judgment on that one. My long-suffering wife spent most of her professional career in the field of international relations. She took one trip to Kazakhstan (and Almaty) and spent a bit over a week there. Understand that my long-suffering wife has been to 71 countries in her life and has something warm and constructive to say about most of them. Almaty and Kazakhstan are places about which she had little to say that I would describe as “warm” or “fond”.

Think about it for a moment. When you read or scan the “Travel Section” in a Sunday newspaper, do you see a ton of tour companies pushing trips to Almaty and/or Kazakhstan? It should not take deductive skills comparable to Sherlock Holmes to conclude that his is not one of the garden spots on Planet Earth.

In any event, the folks in charge of representing Lviv and its intention to be an Olympic host city have a delicate line to walk in the next few months. They will have to demonstrate their enthusiasm and their optimism – and their ability to put their hands on significant amounts of capital – so that the IOC does not ignore them. At the same time, they cannot go overboard and look like Pollyannas. After all, when describing the current situation in Ukraine, one of the few positive things one might say is:

    Well, there have been no cases of Ebola virus there – yet.

Speaking of the IOC and the Olympics, there are reports that Michael Phelps might be “unretiring” from competitive swimming. According to an AP report, he will enter a meet in Mesa, Arizona later in April and might use the results of that meet as motivation to begin training for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. The “plan” is for Phelps to swim in the 100-meter freestyle and 100-meter butterfly preliminaries on one morning and – assuming he qualifies – then decide which finals event(s) to try in the evening. On the next day, the “plan” calls for him to try the 50-meter freestyle and butterfly qualifiers “just for fun” – to use his trainer’s words.

Michael Phelps has won more Olympic medals than any other athlete in the history of the Games. Of his 22 medals, 18 of them are gold medals; in 2008, he won 8 gold medals in the Beijing Games. If he does compete in the Rio Games in 2016, he will be 31 years old when they happen. His coach said that a “less-than-dominant” return to swimming would not damage Phelps’ legacy. I guess that sort of depends on how much “less-than-dominant” it might be. If he has to resort to a doggie-paddle to make it to the side of the pool in the final lap of one of the prelim events …

FIFA will stage the World Cup Tournament in Rio starting in June. There have been more than a few issues surrounding issues such as construction of stadium venues and protests that resources spent on stadiums could better be spent on social programs. However, as the time for the Tournament nears, there is an unusual twist in the reports about the World Cup. According to a report in the NY Post, the United States:

“…is currently the No. 2 country in terms of demand for tickets — behind only the host country Brazil …”

In 2010 for the World cup in South Africa, Americans were not in the Top Ten in terms number of attendees. For 2014, it seems as if Americans will outnumber visitors from Great Britain, Germany and Spain by significant margins. Raise your hand if you had that back in 2012…

Face value for tickets to the 3 US games (against Ghana, Portugal and Germany) is $205. According to the head of the major ticket reseller for the Tournament, American fans are paying up to $2800 for those tickets. Maybe that is all hype, but even if they are paying only half of the quoted figure, that is a surprising happenstance.

Part of the “American interest” in the Tournament seems to be coming from the Mexican-American community where fans are intently looking for tickets to the match between Mexico and Brazil. Be that as it may, this level of interest is a good omen for folks in the US who hope to grow the game we call soccer.

Finally, here is a nostalgic note from Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald:

“Remember the old days when NCAA tournament coverage didn’t consist mostly of locker room dance-offs and shots of the coaches’ wives in the stands?”

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

Seven Inning Baseball?

Buster Olney of ESPN had a report last week that one of his executive sources in MLB thinks that baseball games should be shortened to 7 innings. This exec cited the lack of pitching and the injuries to pitchers as a significant problem for MLB that would be alleviated to some degree by shorter games. He also thinks that the pace of play in baseball is too slow to hold the attention of young people today and shortened games would be a plus on that axis too. [Aside: His analysis of the attention span for lots of young folks today is on target; some do not have the attention span of a kitten.] Here is the introduction to Buster Olney’s report…

I am not sure that shortening the game is the answer here. While the problems cited here are real ones, I think that shortening the games themselves will fundamentally offend a large portion of the fanbase but will not attract an equal number of new fans. I think that many folks who dislike baseball have two problems with the game:

    1. The pace of the game is too slow to hold their interest

    2. There are too many pitches where “nothing happens”.

I do not have any great ideas with regard to a solution to Problem Number 2 above; I do think there are ways to pick up the pace of a typical baseball game. Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot described the “pace-of-the-game problem” for baseball recently:

“There’s nothing more compelling in sports than watching a hitter step out of the batter’s box after every pitch. Or as intriguing as a hitter holding up play to look at the third base coach, even though nobody’s on base and the guy at the plate hasn’t bunted since Pony League.

“When I walk out of the room during an English Premier League soccer game, I never fail to miss a goal or at least a great shot. When I walk out on a baseball game for a few moments, I usually miss three or four foul balls interspersed with shots of a batter adjusting himself – and not just his batting gloves.”

There is some exaggeration here – but you get the idea. Baseball is a game without a clock. If the objective is to “pick up the pace” a bit, perhaps a clock is necessary to make pitchers throw the ball to home plate with greater frequency. However, might that engender more arm injuries? I think that pace of play can be increased by keeping batters in the batter’s box unless they leave the box to run out a ball they just hit. The other alteration MLB can make would be to get the umpires to call the strike zone that is written in the rulebook. A bigger strike zone will result in fewer pitches where the batter simply stands there and looks at the pitch never having the slightest intention to swing at it.

One other question for that baseball exec:

    If games were shortened to 7 innings, will ticket prices be reduced proportionately? I didn’t think so…

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times had this note in a recent column:

“The Houston market drew a 0.0 Nielsen rating for Monday’s Astros-Angels game.

“Among the competition in that time slot: the rain-delayed Duck Commander 500 stock-car race, which drew a 1.7.”

Houston has a population of more than 2 million folks; it is the fourth largest city in the US (behind NYC, LA and Chicago). Granted, the Astros have been awful for the last couple of years and it is early in the season, but a Nielsen rating of 0.0? That is not a good omen for MLB…

The NY Knicks just signed Lamar Odom to a 2-year deal. Odom has a history with Phil Jackson and successful LA Laker teams but that was a while ago and Odom’s career has taken a significant downturn since his “Laker days”. Unless Phil Jackson has gone completely round the bend, there has to be a way in which Odom and his contract will be useful in terms of cap management and/or the execution of a trade because Odom is simply not even a small part of the rejuvenation of the Knicks franchise. Lamar Odom is not the magnet that will hold Carmelo Anthony in NYC while simultaneously attracting a top shelf free agent such as LeBron James.

While I certainly do not have more NBA Championship rings than I have fingers – as does Phil Jackson, let me offer him some brief advice. The future glory of the NY Knicks does not include significant contributions from:

    Andrew Bargnani
    Raymond Felton
    J.R. Smith – with our without his brother on the roster.

If Jackson can exchange any of them for a ball peen hammer, he should make the deal immediately.

Alice Roosevelt Longworth was the daughter of Theodore Roosevelt. One great quotation that has been attributed to her is:

“If you can’t say something good about someone, sit right here by me.”

I would like to update that type of thinking to 2014 and say:

    If you have nothing cogent to say on any subject related to sports, get yourself booked on ESPN’s First Take.

Finally, here is another item from Dwight Perry’s column in the Seattle Times regarding the “partnership” between MLB and Match.com:

“Q: What does Match.com get out of its partnership with Major League Baseball?

“A: Lots of singles hitters.”

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

There is $100K Out There With Your Name On It

Just in the event that you are – like me – someone who could use a cold $100K deposit in your bank account, the NFL’s St. Louis Rams have a challenge for you. To get that $100K, all you have to do is to predict the Rams; 2014 schedule exactly – before it is released sometime next week. You have to predict the opponent and the date of the game exactly to win the prize.

Now just in case you think that you are going to enter “every possibility” and guarantee yourself a piece of the prize, I believe that there are about 1 quadrillion possible ways to arrange the Rams’ 16 opponents for next season. And then, on top of that, you have to pick the week that they have their Bye Week plus you have to pick if the games will be on Thursday, Sunday or Monday. Oh, by the way, there is only one-entry allowed per individual and that makes it a whole lot more difficult. Nevertheless, it is definitely worth a guess – but do not start to plan just how you are going to spend that hundred-grand…

Here is a link to the contest entry

The Buffalo Bills have contest going on that has the same challenge but with a far less valuable prize for success. If you predict the Bills’ 2014 schedule exactly, you can win free Bills’ season tickets for life. The good news is that you can sell off some if not all of those tix for life; the bad news is that those are tix for Bills’ games and are not going to draw top-shelf prices for the foreseeable future. The Bills also have a wrinkle in their contest; someone is going to win…

    If no one predicts the Bills’ 2014 schedule perfectly in the next week or so, someone will still win the prize because they will give season tix to the 2014 games to the person who picks the most games correctly.

Here is the link to the Bills’ contest site.

The NFL schedule will be released sometime around 22 April and clearly all entries will need to be in before that event. Since the entry fee is zero, why not take a shot at this?

Here is a college football note that had me shaking my head. In its latest way to try to dip into the wallets of its fans, the University of Texas has come up with two new fan items for sale. For $40, you can purchase men’s and/or women’s fragrances designed for Texas fans. Here is part of the description of the product intended for women fans:

“A spirited new fragrance created to pay tribute to the University of Texas women opens with a sparkling top note of Bergamot, and Ruby Redcurrant. The heart of the fragrance is an addictive floral blend of Orange Blossom, Mimosa and Jasmine. Aromatic Patchouli, Creamy Vanilla and Musks round out the background ensuring a long lasting fragrant appeal.”

A couple of questions for everyone here:

    Do you really know what Patchouli is?

    Moreover, might you know the difference between “Aromatic Patchouli” and “Stinky Patchouli”?

    C’mon, I thought Patchouli was a girl I dated in high school…

Seriously, if you wanted to create a perfume/cologne that captured the essence of the Texas Longhorns, you would have to include cow-farts as one of the essential elements. Absent that evocation as part of the mix, this is nothing but a money-grab by the UT folks…

I said before The Masters that the TV execs and the PGA’s PR folks had to be scrambling to figure out what to do with the iconic major tournament of the golf tour from which Tiger Woods would be absent. The PGA and the networks have pounded Tiger Woods down everyone’s throat on EVERY tournament where he is present despite his being in contention or not. Even if he missed a tournament, the networks found ways to insert his name or his spirit into the telecast. In The Masters this year, he was gone and everyone knew he was not going to put in even a cameo appearance. Oh, by the way, he will miss at least one more of the “majors” this year. So, now what does the PGA do to get ratings and what to the TV networks do to get casual fans interested in anyone other than someone named “Tiger Woods”?

Let me say that whatever they did along those lines was ineffective. Please do not cloud the issue with any arguments about how exciting the tournament was or how lovely the grounds looked or any of the other feelgood stories that CBS tried to germinate. Here are some stark numbers that say none of the efforts amounted to a droplet of dingo dung:

    Ratings on ESPN for the telecast of the first round of The Masters were down 30% from last year.

    The rating for the final round – all those beautiful shots of the azaleas and all that stuff – on CBS was 7.8. That may sound good; but according to sports business guru, Darren Rovell, that is the lowest rating for a final round of The Masters since 2004.

Here is a stat I ran across and it is worth tracking for now:

    In his first 52 at-bats for 2014, Freddie Freeman of the Braves had 4 home runs and 4 strikeouts. A ratio of 1-to-1 for home runs-to-strikeouts is unusual. Fifty-two at bats is hardly a season, but it might be interesting to see if this unusual happenstance continues deep into the season.

Just as a yardstick:

    Henry Aaron never did this for an entire season.
    Barry Bonds had one season (2004) with 45 HRs and only 41 SOs.
    Frank Robinson never did this for an entire season.
    Willie Mays never did this for an entire season.
    Stan Musial did it once over an entire season (1948).
    Joe DiMaggio often had more HRs than SOs
    Ted Williams in 1941 hit 37 HRs and struck out 27 times
    Lou Gehrig did this twice over a full season in his career.
    Jimmie Foxx never did this for an entire season.
    Babe Ruth never did this for an entire season.

I present that list not because it is an exhaustive statistical check – or because I am confident that Freddie Freeman will hit a home run as frequently as he strikes out this season. Rather, I present it to show that some GREAT hitters have had difficulty achieving this batting efficiency level in the past.

Finally, Brad Dickson of the Omaha World Herald Mentioned this minor-league baseball event from last week:

“On Friday, the Syracuse Chiefs, a AAA baseball team, is hosting ‘Deport Justin Bieber Night.’ It’s just nice to see one minor league team stop with the dumb promotions and delve into important social commentary.”

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

Get Those Tax Returns In…

To recognize today as the day on which US Income Tax Returns are filed, let me offer an observation from a former British Member of Parliament, Jerold Rochwald, with regard to taxes:

“Nuclear physics is much easier than tax law. It’s rational and always works the same way.”

Niners’ linebacker – and sackmaster – Aldon Smith was arrested once again earlier this week. According to reports – and evidently there is some video of the incident – Smith declared at LAX that he had a bomb. He did not, but that statement constitutes a terroristic threat and is therefore something for which one can be taken into custody. Moreover, there are reports that Smith was “unruly” during part of the incident.

If you are an air traveler, you have certainly had a frustrating moment or two getting through security; nevertheless, the operative word here is “frustrating” and one of the measures of adulthood/maturity is the ability to deal with frustration without lashing out at other people or things around you. It is the uncooperative aspect of this story that needs attention even before this matter goes to a court to decide guilt or innocence. The reason I say that is the backstory for Aldon Smith.

    More than a year ago, there was an incident at Smith’s home that involved gunshots. No one was injured but in the process of investigating, the police say that they found unregistered assault weapons at Smith’s home. He faces charges for that incident.

    Smith has been arrested for DUI twice in the last year or so and missed some games last year while he was in a rehab program.

    Now, we have the “bomb threat” incident…

Aldon Smith is 24 years old. I guess it is possible – albeit unlikely – that he actually did not know that one may only own/possess assault weapons in a prescribed manner one part of which is to register them. I believe that it is beyond the realm of possibility that a 24-year old man does not realize that driving under the influence is improper behavior. I also fail to believe that a 24-year old man who likely has flown on commercial airlines more than once in his life does not know that you do not pretend to have a bomb in your possession as you are in the gate area waiting for a plane. My point is that – guilt or innocence aside in this latest event – Aldon Smith is a troubled person.

The Niners’ owner, Jed York, said this:

“A lot of people are working with him, but you don’t want to set up anything that’s uncomfortable and anything that’s beyond what the CBA rules are. You can only do so much. Somebody has to work for himself if they’re going to get through these issues.”

There are layers of significance in that statement. The superficial layer is that the Niners are working to help a troubled young man who happens to be in their employ and who happens to be a very productive employee. The next layer is that the existing CBA sets down rules for what the Niners and the league may and may not do in this matter and that is a shame because without knowing the rules, I am confident that they cannot possibly exist in a form that is constructive for every ongoing and upcoming situation. The final layer is – for me – the most important one:

“Somebody has to work for himself if they’re going to get through these issues.”

If Aldon Smith is eventually to become a mature adult and a constructive member of society, then Aldon Smith is going to have to do some work on his behaviors. It is on him. If anyone tries to ameliorate this by spreading any of the blame or by concocting extenuating circumstances that lead to these behaviors, he/she is really enabling Aldon Smith to do something akin to these things once again.

Let me begin that process of straight talk about all of this right here. Aldon Smith did not “make a bad decision” in LAX earlier this week; he did not “make a bad decision” to drive under the influence more than once. He behaved in one of two ways:

    1. He demonstrated that he is too immature to have a driver’s license or to fly commercial airlines on his own despite the chronological age shown on that driver’s license. That immaturity coupled with a history of enabling because he is a great athlete does not allow him to think that consequences are attached to his actions.

    2. He is an anti-social person at his core.

As Jed York said, either or both of those conditions can change – but neither will change unless Aldon Smith does a lot of the work necessary to bring about the change.

A variety of NFL teams are about to embark on their first Spring OTAs. The NFL labels these things as “Organized Team Activities”. Actually, if you apply the truth in labeling standards, they would be called “Outrageously Tedious Activities”. News reports from these events will be massively bipolar.

    On one hand, everyone was in great shape and everyone looked good and impressed the coaches with their:

      a. recovery from injury
      b. quickness
      c. improved strength
      d. positive outlook.

    At the other end of the spectrum there may be a season ending or career ending injury during the event, which will be reported as something ever-so-slightly less awful than an outbreak of the Bubonic Plague.

Read OTA reports in that light and it will make your life simpler…

Finally, Greg Cote had this NFL-related comment in the Miami Herald recently:

“The May 8 NFL Draft is less than a month away. Only time for ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay to sneak in about 45 more mock drafts.”

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

Who Is This Person?

We had a guest for the weekend for whom watching The Masters creates a similar sense of euphoria as watching March Madness instills in me. For that reason I watched and heard more “golf television programming” in the last 3 days than I have watched/heard in the last year. Twice – once on Friday and once on Sunday – I heard one of the TV whisperers describe an errant shot as an “unforced error”. I do not know who made that statement or if it may have been two different people on the two days, but here is what I think about an “unforced error” in golf:

    I want to shake the hand of the person who forces an error in golf.

I put that statement right up there in terms of sheer inanity with the one that goes:

    His approach shot found the water – as if the ball had a guidance system contained in its core.

Last week, the Dallas Mavericks lost a game to the Golden State Warriors and there was a controversial goal tending by the Warriors that went uncalled. The Mavs public address announcer, Sean Heath, tweeted that Danny Crawford blew the call and that the Mavs would await the NBA’s apology. That is edgy; as one of the staff of the Mavs, that is nudging up to the line of acceptable criticism for a call – or in this case a non-call – by a referee. [For the record, having seen the replay a half-dozen times, Danny Crawford did indeed botch the call; it was goal tending.] However, Heath did not stop there. He went on in a series of Tweets and culminated with this one:

“@nba : The ONLY professional league in the US with the reputation that the games are rigged. Know why? Because of games like tonight. #shame”

That went over the line; the league could have ignored criticism of a referee by name – especially after the league reviewed the call and sent an apology to the Mavs for an incorrect call. Nevertheless, to associate a call by a referee with rigged games – after the Tim Donaghy Affair – has to be a no-no for an employee of a team. The NBA originally thought of suspending Heath for 2 games but changed that to a $25,000 fine for the Mavs.

Last Friday, there was a pay-per-view event produced by LFC – which stands for Lingerie Fighting Championships. Here is that organization’s description of its product:

“Lingerie Fighting Championships is MMA like you’ve never seen it before! Some of the sexiest women in the world fight MMA dressed only in lingerie.”

Recognizing that none of us was likely to tune into this event, I want to do a public service and let you know that the event was promoted as “Lace versus Leather”.

Steve Masiello guided the Manhattan College basketball team to the NCAA by winning the MAAC Tournament and posting a 25-8 record for the season. He became a “hot coaching property” on the basis of that performance and got an offer from USF to take over that program in Tampa. After announcing the hiring, a newspaper found that Masiello had not in fact graduated from Kentucky as he had claimed on his résumé. Rather embarrassingly, that fact did not arise in the background check done by the school. In any event, USF voided the contract.

Masiello eventually went back to Manhattan and will coach there again next year. And this saga raises a couple of questions:

    While indeed a falsification of an item on a résumé is an indication of a potential character-flaw, why would one need a college degree to coach college basketball? Why would Masiello lie about that? Why would USF care if he were a graduate or not?

    Why is Masiello’s faux-degree less important to Manhattan than it is to USF?

    If college degrees are so important, why do colleges not demand that their players get their degrees?

Here is my solution to the specific problem here:

    Manhattan College should award Masiello an honorary degree in “Revenue Generating Kinematics”. Now, their coach has a degree…

If you think that situation might be the strangest situation involving a coach over the last month, think again. Jim Tressel is in the news again. Just as a reset, Tressel is the coach who knowingly covered up information regarding the ineligibility of some players so that he could play those players and then lied about it to the NCAA. He is out of coaching at the moment with an NCAA show-cause order that will not expire until 2017 – meaning any school that wants to hire him as a coach has to show cause why they should not be sanctioned by the NCAA for hiring him. However, he is associated with the University of Akron where he is the Executive Vice-President for Student Success.

Tressel applied for the vacant position of President of the University of Akron recently and then last week announced that he would consider applying for the vacant position of President of Youngstown State University. Given his history, I have to think that this is a test of the university trustees to see if they are paying attention to the fundamental purpose of university trustees.

Finally, Brad Dickson put a punctuation mark in the men’s basketball tournament in the Omaha World-Herald recently:

“According to a Labor Department report, the U.S. economy added 192,000 jobs in March. Of course, most of those were just people joining the work force so they’re eligible for the company NCAA tournament bracket.”

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

Legal Issues Today…

Back in July 2012, I wrote that the NCAA should not issue the ‘Death Penalty” to Penn State just as the “Sandusky Matter” was exploding in the headlines and people were demanding the removal of Joe Paterno’s statue on the Penn State campus.

My thesis was that the NCAA was an organization with an overarching purpose and that purpose was to create and maintain a situation where certain universities did not enjoy a constant competitive advantage on the field/court over its rival universities. I said then that the NCAA should not insert itself in a criminal matter.

Well, to no one’s surprise, the NCAA mavens did not heed my advice and came down with a heavy hammer on Penn State football and on the university itself. Now, it appears that some judges in Pennsylvania actually agree with some of my reasoning.

The NCAA “fined” Penn State $60M as part of the punishment. Remember, this whole thing involves the molestation of multiple young boys so do not even think about using some kind of multiplier to come up with that $60M figure or you will likely start to feel slimy enough to go and take a shower. A Pennsylvania legislator sued the NCAA over that fine stating that payment of the fine violated the Pennsylvania State Constitution. There is a lot of legal wrangling going on there and I will not pretend to understand all of it, but here are some things that the court said earlier this week:

“ … given the many discrepancies between the consent decree and the NCAA constitution and bylaws, there exists genuine factual disputes.” [Judge Anne Covey writing for the majority opinion.]

Judge Covey also questioned whether

“… the NCAA acted in accordance with its constitution and bylaws.”

That would seem to be bad enough but elsewhere in the court opinion there is this line:

“The Consent Decree [between Penn State and the NCAA] expressly recognizes the NCAA’s questionable involvement in and its dubious authority pertaining to a criminal action against a non-university official [Sandusky] which involved children who were non-university student-athletes.”

As I tried to argue almost 2 years ago, the NCAA had no role in sanctioning Penn State football because the accused was not part of the football program; and even if he were, his hideous actions did not confer any on-field competitive advantage to Penn State. The civil and criminal court systems would resolve the questions of blame and restitution since that is what the civil and criminal court systems are there for.

A couple of years ago, the NCAA rushed to jam a consent decree down the throat of the newly arrived Penn State administration. The way this case is going in court, you might suspect that the NCAA would move quickly to find a way to settle this matter before a court jams a final decision into a different orifice of the NCAA. Oh, by the way, it is not as if the NCAA does not have other legal matters on its hands that are heading in the wrong direction for them; they might want to get this “distraction” out of their mahogany office suite.

They paid no heed 2 years ago so I have little reason to think they will take heed now. C’est la vie.

Since I started talking here about legal matters and colleges, let me turn my attention to SUNY Cortland which is between Binghamton and Syracuse NY. The Jets hold their training camp there and that fact has led to the creation of an online petition to the school President to ban the new Jets’ QB, Michael Vick from the campus. The basis of that action is that Vick’s former involvement in dogfighting activities – for which he served 19 months in prison – is so heinous that the petition signers and the school should have nothing to do with him. Here is a salient portion of that petition:

“If we welcome Vick onto our campus, we are complicit in his crimes. We are sending the message that, for money and publicity, we will turn a blind eye to the horrors of dogfighting. I don’t want to be that person, and I don’t want SUNY Cortland to abandon its principles so easily.”

Allow me to stop here to catch my breath. What Michael Vick did with and to those dogs was monstrous and illegal. He has had his day in court and he has served his time in prison as ordered by that court; by all reports, he has complied with the directives of the court with regard to his behaviors and activities after his release from prison. Now, unless I missed something important in my civics classes in high school, Michael Vick is a free man now. He will always carry the label of “convicted felon” on his back, but he is a convicted felon who has paid the debt to society as determined by the court system. In that circumstance, it seems inappropriate to seek to ban him – let alone actually ban him – from a college campus where he will not interfere with any academic pursuits. Professors may continue to lecture while the Jets are in training camp; students may still go to the library to do work; chemistry majors may still go to their laboratories. But some people want to ban him from the campus…?

    Suppose Lawrence Taylor wanted to come to the SUNY Cortland campus to hear a concert played by the school orchestra. He too carries the label “convicted felon”. Should he too be banned from the campus and the concert?

    Suppose Pete Rose wanted to take in the current exhibition at Dowd Gallery on the SUNY Cortland campus. He is a “convicted felon”. Should there be guards at the door to bar his entrance?

I do not like what Michael Vick did and do not condone it in any way. Nonetheless, he is a free man now and barring him from a campus is inappropriate at its very best. George Wallace tried to do that to black students at the University of Alabama a little over 50 years ago and he was wrong when he did that. There is enough similarity here for me to conclude that this petition – even with more than 3000 signatories – is also wrong.

Finally, here is a comment from Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald regarding non-monetary football wagers:

“A male Alabama fan who lost an Iron Bowl bet had to get an Auburn belly ring. Why couldn’t the mayors of Seattle and Denver make a Super Bowl bet like this?”

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

Venting Spleen Today…

On the eve of The Masters – which begins today – there was a column on CBSSports.com titled, “72 things I love about the Masters”. Now, it should not shock any frequent reader here that I could not possibly come up with 72 things that I love about The Masters under threat of waterboarding, but there is indeed one thing about the tournament that I like a whole lot.

    They do not allow cell phones or cameras.

Imagine that… A major sporting event without a bunch of egotistical asshats taking selfies and posting them instead of watching what is going on. Kudos to the folks at Augusta National for stemming the tide of lunacy that seems to be sweeping the country.

Now, their next goal should be to remove – surgically – the tongue of any idiot who shouts, “Get in the hole!”

During the weekend of the Final Four, Mark Emmert, as is customary, met with the press. What was different this year is that his organization, the NCAA, is under much more scrutiny than it has been in the past and that it is besieged by legal entanglements on many fronts. Moreover, there is the recent outburst of student-athlete rebellion in the form of “unionization” at Northwestern. Remember, I am on record saying that unionization is not the right answer here.

Here is what Mark Emmert had to say on the matter:

“To be perfectly frank, the notion of using a union employee model to address the challenges that do exist in intercollegiate athletics is something that strikes most people as a grossly inappropriate solution to the problems. It would blow up everything about the collegiate model of athletics.”

Before anyone thinks that Mark Emmert and I think alike on this issue, let me assure you that we have such a fundamental difference that neither of us could consider the other party an ally in this matter. It is with regard to Dr. Emmert’s second sentence quoted above where we would part company. I think the current “collegiate model of athletics” is such a perversion that I would like to see it blown up, started over and set on a significantly different vector heading. The current model for collegiate athletics falls on an ethical spectrum somewhere between “shady” and “unscrupulous” and is in the neighborhood of “fraudulent”. Other than that…

Moreover, consider the venue he chose to make the remarks cited above. He was at the culmination of an NCAA sanctioned event that brought in a bazillion dollars – give or take 5% – and the stench of greed and gluttony (two of the Seven Deadly Sins by the way) was everywhere in the air. Anyone marginally predisposed to think of Dr. Emmert as a bloviating gasbag probably had his/her opinion hardened.

If greed and gluttony were not ruling the decision-making processes at the NCAA, can you explain to me why the suits in Indianapolis would think that playing a basketball game in a cavernous football stadium is a good idea? Please do not try to tell me that the NCAA tries to be magnanimous putting games in such large venues because that affords the possibility of seats to a greater number of alums and fans. Most of the seats are farcical if the purpose of using those seats is to watch the game on the court. There were people in the nosebleed seats who could not tell if the last collision on the court was a “blocking/charging call” or if it was two cheerleaders behaving less than properly in public. The games are in those venues to haul in more money. Time to cue Lily Tomlin from her days on Laugh In:

“And that’s the truuuuth!”

If you get a chance to watch replays of NCAA Championship Games from 30 years ago, check out ones like Villanova/Georgetown or Michigan State/Indiana State or even the Duke/Kentucky regional game – the famous Christian Laettner buzzer-beater. Even on television, you can sense a completely different energy surrounding the game because they happened in basketball arenas with fans on top of the action. Watch those games for yourself and see if you agree. Then realize that there is no way on this planet – or anywhere else in the known universe – that the NCAA using the “collegiate model of athletics” would ever go back and do something positive for fans and players if it meant decreased revenue.

In Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, Shylock’s character as the moneylender is hardly one designed to generate empathy among the folks in the audience. In 2014, the NCAA is very much like Shylock. Avarice guides its actions.

There are rumors flying about that John Calipari might be leaving Kentucky to go west and coach the LA Lakers next year. Sports radio hosts have done multiple segments on “should he or shouldn’t he” followed by other segments on “will he or won’t he” followed by segments examining “pros and cons”. Despite the length of the discussions or the emotional content contained therein, they do not amount to much more than a fraction of a fox fart. Only a few people in the Lakers’ organization know what the intent of that organization is with regard to a coach for next season; only Calipari, his agent and his family know his predisposition to consider an offer from the Lakers and what it might take to overcome an initial negative predisposition on his part. Until I hear simple declarative sentences from any of those sources, I prefer to ignore the entire matter.

Finally, Greg Cote has this item in the Miami Herald last weekend:

“NFL.com had a bracket vote for the all-time greatest quarterback and its final four were Tom Brady, Joe Montana, Johnny Unitas and (ready?) … Donovan McNabb! Who were the voters? McNabb’s immediate family?”

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

Pass The Rolaids, Please…

I am neither a sociologist nor a historian so my ideas with regard to the origins of cuisine at athletic endeavors are just speculation. Having said that, I do believe that there is a significant difference in the culinary offerings at baseball venues as compared to the other major sports in the US. I think the differences reside in several dimensions:

    Football has a much more entrenched “tailgating tradition” than does baseball; lots of fans enter a football stadium with full bellies.

    Many football games take place outdoors in “less than ideal weather”. Eating with gloves on your hands and with a parka hood over your head is just not all that appealing.

    The majority of baseball games happen proximal to dinnertime. Although that was not the case at the origins of baseball, it is a fact today.

    Basketball and hockey tend to offer “snacking food” rather than “meal food” at their venues.

I mention this because the advent of baseball season means that there will be new menu additions at various parks – and it appears that a new tradition in baseball is to offer at least one thing on the ballpark menu that is outrageous. This year maintains and extends that new tradition.

The Texas Rangers present fans with the opportunity to buy “bacon on a stick”. This is a strip of bacon three-quarters of an inch thick that is served up on a skewer so you can walk around while eating it. It comes dipped in maple syrup for a “salty-sweet taste experience”. This concoction will set you back $7.00. However, the Rangers are not satisfied with this new culinary option…

Since the Rangers acquired Shin-Soo Choo in the offseason, the team welcomes him to Texas and offers fans the chance to purchase a sandwich called “The Choomongous” The sandwich costs $26.00 so you kind of have to think it is a bit over the top.

    The Choomongous is 24-inches long and features 14 ounces of beef with an “Asian-inspired sauce” topped with cole slaw and Sriracha. I am thinking six Rolaids is what you might choose to have for dessert.

Meanwhile, the Arizona Diamondbacks will welcome fans to their concession stands by offering up a $25 corndog. You read that right. This bad boy is 18-inches long and the dog is stuffed with bacon, cheese and jalapeno peppers. Oh, by the way, you get fries with that mongo corndog in case you want to try to set a record for triglycerides in your bloodstream. Personally, I think that sounds disgusting because I am not an aficionado of corndogs so I wondered if they would actually get any folks to cough up $25 for these things. Well, according to reports, the team sold out of their prepared inventory of 400 monstrous corn dogs in their first two home games. Now you can see why I do not serve as a culinary consultant for McDonald’s…

Meanwhile, up north, the Minnesota Twins will sell you a “Bigger Better Burger Bloody Mary”. Supposedly, the use of pepper-infused vodka adds spice as well as alcohol to the drink but if you read the name of the drink carefully, you noticed the word “Burger” in the middle. It is in the area of garnishes where this offering demonstrates originality. Available garnishes include pickled asparagus, cheese cubes, olives, pepperoncini, pickles – and cheeseburger sliders. Even though these drinks/meals will cost $18, they might be big sellers in Minnesota this year. After all, the Twins will probably be awful and fans may need to pound down a couple of these per game just to put up with it all.

Here in DC, the Nationals continue to offer the Strassburger. It is an 8-pound hamburger – not a typo there – with all the usual accoutrements plus a “basket of fries” and a pitcher of soda. Can they possibly sell more than two of these per day? Make that two per home stand…

In the minor leagues, the Lake County Captains – I have actually been there to see a game on one of my “baseball odysseys” – offers The Moby Dick. This is fried fish, French fries, tomatoes and cheese on a 15-inch sesame seed bun. Do not order two of them unless you are with a group of more than 8 people.

The Michigan Whitecaps – they are in the same league as the Lake County Captains – will sell patrons a foot long hot dog that weighs 8 ounces but is then smothered in steak, cheese, hot peppers and fried onions. The only thing missing here is mayo. [I got indigestion just typing that suggestion…]

I have not done a survey of all the football, basketball and hockey venues in North America, but I do not think you will find any offerings like these anywhere other than at a baseball game. Perhaps MLB should “partner with” the American Association of Thoracic Surgeons? Just a thought…

I have two suggestions that will make daytime viewing of sports more enjoyable:

    1. No ads for drugs that treat erectile dysfunction or low testosterone may be aired prior to 10:00 PM local time. If the FCC can put time limits on programs that might be offensive or unwanted in some households, why not put the same limits on suggestive ads? Oh, while we are at it, put adult incontinence products on the same time schedule…

    2. Retroactive to last month, cancel all of the concocted “sports debate” programs such as First Take. Worldwide, the human condition will improve…

Finally, Dwight Perry had this item in the Sideline Chatter in the Seattle Times. It needs no added commentary:

“From Canadian bobsledder Tim Randall: ‘4 yrs ago I was drunk on a couch & said I wanna go to the Olympics. 4 yrs later I’m drunk on a couch at the Olympics.’ “

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

UConn Wins It All

Unless you are a Kentucky alum or you had a large wager on the Wildcats to win last night’s game, you had to enjoy the championship game last night. The first half saw UConn dominate early and Kentucky make a run to close the gap to 4 points at halftime. In the second half, the teams just played even all the way to the end. The game was close; UConn won the game, Kentucky did not lose the game; enjoyment all the way around – unless you have a compelling reason to focus your fandom on Kentucky.

There is another basketball-related story out there today that is not nearly as positive. Dante Cunningham is a forward for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Last Friday, he was arrested for a domestic “situation”. According to a report on CBSSports.com, police say that he tried to strangle a woman in his home. Allegedly, the two parties had an argument; the woman locked herself in the bedroom; Cunningham kicked down the door and choked the woman. He then left the house. He posted bail to be released from jail pending a court appearance and was ordered to stay away from the woman involved in the situation. [One report said that Cunningham and the woman had been living together for a while but other reports did not include that detail.] And that seems to be where the situation went from bad to worse.

On Sunday, according to the St. Paul Pioneer-Press, police responded to a call at Cunningham’s house around 3:00 AM and the local director of public safety said that he had sent messages to the woman involved here that were direct threats and which “rose to a terroristic level.” Obviously, I have no idea what he might have included in those text messages; but anytime someone uses the phrase “terroristic level”, you have to imagine that the message was a bit outré. The Timberwolves issued a statement saying that this was a “fluid situation” and that the team would respond once the legal processes had run their course. This “fluid situation” has the potential to be very nasty.

In addition, the timing for all of this is awkward. Cunningham is a role player not a star player and he is going to be a free agent at the end of this season. I have never acted as an agent for a pro athlete, but I have to believe that Cunningham’s agent does not view any of the events of last weekend in very positive light.

Oh by the way, one can look at the Minnesota Timberwolves as proof that John Lennon and The Beatles did not always get it right. Back in the 60s, Lennon wrote All You Need Is Love and in that song, we are told about twenty times that:

Love is all you need.

Well the Timberwolves have Love (Kevin Love to be exact) and they still need something and/or someone else. The team record for the season is 38-38 and it cannot make the playoffs in the Western Conference this year. They need more…

About a week ago, Maurice Jones-Drew signed a 3-year contract with the Oakland Raiders; many folks thought there was a warm and fuzzy angle to that story because Jones-Drew was born in Oakland and the signing was a sort of “homecoming”. I hope that kind of warmth actually obtains for him because looking at the move from afar, here is what I see:

    Maurice Jones-Drew spent 8 seasons in Jax playing on mediocre-at-best teams. The Raiders as of this moment look to be a team that will need to get significantly better in order to be mediocre next year.

    From that perspective, the story is not nearly as warm and fuzzy…

The Atlanta Falcons have a new stadium in their future; they expect to begin play there in 2017. The team has begun a “waitlist” for fans who might want seats in the new stadium. The ticket process will be:

    Active season ticketholders will be “relocated” in the new stadium and will have first priority in terms of selecting seats there.

    Then people on the “waitlist” will get to make their choices for seats.

    Then things are open to the general public.

That seems like an orderly process except for one unusual aspect. To get on the “waitlist”, one has to put down a $100 refundable deposit. I guess that requirement is there to separate the wheat from the chaff but it does not make a lot of sense. If you think that this is a way for the team to raise money for stadium construction, the numbers do not work out well. Last year, the Falcons averaged just over 70,000 fans per game, which was 98.6% of the old stadium capacity. The new stadium design is for 65,000 fans and it is expandable to 75,000. Remember, current season ticket holders do not have to put up $100 to have priority standing; that applies only to “outsiders”.

So, imagine that the Falcons sold 50,000 season tickets last year and the other 20,000 fans at each game were buyers of individual game tix. If that estimate is close, then the greatest number of “waitlist” folks would be 25,000. At a refundable price of $100, that would raise $2.5M. That may sound like a lot of money – and I would surely like that to be the balance in my IRA – but the total cost of the stadium is projected at $1.2B. This potential source of funding is not even a drop in a bucket.

I must admit that I do not understand why the Falcons are doing this. It surely is not a stunningly brilliant move from a PR standpoint asking fans to pony up money to get on a “waitlist” proximal to the time when they did groundbreaking for the stadium. To see what the stadium will eventually look like, check this out

Finally, here is a note from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times pertaining to an aspect of stadium construction in Barcelona:

“FC Barcelona plans to build a mausoleum beneath its stadium, with room for the cremated remains of up to 30,000 departed fans willing to shell out $4,000-$8,000.

“Hey, what better place for soccer diehards to spend their stoppage time?”

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

Briefly today…

Just a bunch of discombobulated notes today as I await the Final Game for the men’s basketball tournament tonight…

I read a report last week that Seahawks’ QB, Russell Wilson, said that he saw no reason why some day people might consider that he was the best QB ever to play the position. He said he was nowhere near that status now, but that if he kept working and improving … Some people thought he exhibited a large amount of false modesty with that statement and took exception. I had a different reaction:

    Why did anyone think to ask him the question that led him to make that remark? He has been in the league for 2 years; he has been wildly successful and in doing so has far exceeded even the highest expectations anyone had for him going into the NFL Draft two years ago. Nevertheless, why ask him to make an on-the-record statement about “best to ever play the game” at this point in his career/life?

    If there is such a thing as “journalistic malpractice”, this might be it…

With the advent of the 2014 baseball season, players, managers, umpires and fans will need to learn to deal with replay as part of the game. Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle published a “primer” for folks as they start to experience the Replay Era. You can and should read it here. I think it would be great if the teams would follow this one suggestion in his “primer”:

“Guaranteed: Whenever a review is in progress, the stadium DJ will play the ‘Final Jeopardy’ tune.”

Here are two new stats for the baseball metrics gurus to follow:

    1. Calculate the MLB average for the percentage of plays that are reversed after a manager asks for a replay review. Then calculate each manager’s success rate in reviews requested.

      My guess is that about 10% of the requested replay reviews will lead to a change in the ruling on the field.

    2. This one will be harder to calculate but it would be interesting to know how many calls on the field would have been reversed had a manager requested a review? The reason this one is interesting is because I suspect there will be as many potential reversals out there as there are actual reversals in games.

Last weekend, Bob Molinaro had two observations in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot with regard to student-athletes and their participation in March Madness:

“Getting real: When “student-athlete” is thrown around at the Final Four, it’s impolite to ask how many class days the players have missed the last month.”

And…

“Bye-bye: As he skipped out the door for the NBA draft, Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins, apparently with a straight face, said, ‘I wish I had more time; college goes by so fast.’ It sure does when you wrap things up after one semester.”

Allow me to point out to Professor Molinaro that every time you see one of the teams arrive at the game venue on a team bus, all of the players get off the bus with earphones. Obviously, they are listening to recorded lectures in their microbiology classes so they can be prepared for the mid-term exam they will take on Wednesday afternoon…

Finally, Brad Rock had this item in the Deseret News recently. It is an interesting point to ponder…

“Sports Business Journal says the NFL is partnering with an app developer to allow fans to order stadium services such as upgraded seats and a ‘fly-by’ lane to avoid waiting.

“Also in the works: pregame field access, mascot availability, and in-seat visits from cheerleaders.

Is it just [me], or does the NFL seem to be creeping closer than it should to the XFL?”

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