The Baseball Playoffs…

I got an e-mail from a former colleague who has retired to live in Pismo Beach and write books. He is also an avid LA Dodgers’ fan who wanted me to make World Series predictions as soon as the baseball playoff picture had been resolved. Well, the games begin today and even though it is not a fundamental part of my nature to please other people, I will honor that request:

    American League: I have to root for the Royals; the last time they were in the playoffs was before Fawn Hall had her 15 minutes of fame. [Google is your friend.] I do not think the Royals – or the A’s – will emerge from the play-in game to make it to the World Series but I would love to see the Royals advance. I think the Angels’ pitching is suspect; I think the Tigers’ defense is beyond suspect. I like the Orioles to win the AL pennant because they are above average in just about every aspect of the game.

    National League: The Washington Nationals are the best team in baseball from top to bottom and from side to side. Once they demoted Soriano from the closer’s job, they removed their only real liability. Having said that, I worry about any team getting through a 7-game series against a team that can start Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke twice each. The Nationals are the better team, but I suspect the Dodgers will win the NL pennant.

    Notice that I have avoided picking a “cute World Series” such as a Bay Area Series (Giants/A’s) or a Tinseltown World Series (Dodgers/Angels) or an Interstate 70 World Series (Cardinals/Royals). The idea of these “cute World Series” names has been done to death.

Sticking with baseball for a moment, the Twins fired manager, Ron Gardenhire yesterday. The Twins have been awful for a couple of years but that awfulness is far more a product of the roster assembled by the team front office under the budget constraints of the team owners than it is a product of the manager and the coaching staff. As they say, you cannot fire the players – not without having to go out and spend a lot of money on free agents to replace some of them – and so the manager takes the blame.

Yesterday, I think I made it clear that I had had more than enough of the Derek Jeter Farewell Tour Around America. Well, I suspect I was not the only one. Consider these two items:

“Speaking of Jeter, I’m not saying his final home game in New York was a baseball lovefest of Biblical proportions, but did you see where the Three Wise Men — Bob Costas, George Will and Peter Gammons — showed up bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh?” [Mike Bianchi, Orlando Sentinel]


“Now that the Derek Jeter Farewell Tour is just about a wrap, how’s that Welcome Back, A-Rod campaign for 2015 coming along?” [Dwight Perry, Seattle Times]

The Ryder Cup has come and gone. In case this remains a mystery to any sports fan, golf is not a team sport and just because you dress all of the players in the same outfits – preferably ones that they would not be caught dead wearing at any other moment in their lives – does not turn golf into a team sport. Once again, I seem not to be alone in my marginal interest in the Ryder Cup; here is what Greg Cote had to say about it in the Miami Herald:

“Golf’s Ryder Cup matches between the United States and Europe end Sunday in Scotland. It’s one of sports’ most riveting competitions, according to announcers for the broadcasting network.”

Whilst on the subject of golf, consider these two items found in Dwight Perry’s column, Sideline Chatter in the Seattle Times:

“Golfer Tiger Woods, who parted ways with adviser Sean Foley last month, says he might serve as his own swing coach for a while.

“Tiger to give swinging a try with no adult supervision — what could possibly go wrong?”


“GM is coming out with a self-driving Cadillac.

“ ‘So where were you when I needed you five years ago?’ moaned Tiger Woods.”

I did a double take when I first read a report that the new manager of Leeds United in the Championship League in England would be Darko Milanic. I thought that the draft bust taken by the Detroit Pistons had given up basketball to take up soccer coaching. At that point, I realized that I had no idea where Darko Milicic’s career had taken him now and so I went to Google to find out. Strangely enough, Darko Milicic is indeed giving up basketball for a new career vector in sports. He will not be a soccer coach; he plans to become a kickboxer. Seriously, that report comes from ESPN and not The Onion

Finally, here is Greg Cote’s commentary on the US Open Tennis Tournament from the Miami Herald:

“Marin Cilic beat Kei Nishikori for the men’s U.S. Open crown. But, really, other than it being a star-less, lopsided match won by a guy coming off a doping ban, it was a great men’s final!”

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

News Flash; Stop The Presses…

It is not often that I get to break news in one of these rants; that is not their intent. However, here in Curmudgeon Central, I have breaking news. Derek Jeter had decided to retire and he played his last game in MLB over the weekend. Who saw that coming?

Seriously, last year we had Mariano Rivera take a yearlong “victory lap” around MLB and this year we had Derek Jeter do the same. Unless someone reconnects Ted Williams’ head with a torso over the winter, I really do not want another year of ceremonial goodbyes. Enough already…

Two comments regarding Ray Rice, the NFL, domestic violence and the like and then I want to move on:

    1. Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot seems to agree with me that at least some of the anger directed at Roger Goodell is misplaced:

    “Maybe you noticed that some NFL players expressed more anger at Goodell over fallout from the Rice case than they have over what Rice did to his wife. Feel free to be disgusted.”

    2. I have heard all that I need to hear from ex-jocks on TV regarding the issue of domestic violence. I realize that the Presidential Campaign for 2016 is just about to begin and that means that athletes and celebrities will feel compelled to tell me what their political views are. My earpans will be under assault for the next two years. Can I get just a brief respite now?

It is never news to report that someone in the US Congress is grandstanding but one such Congressional event falls into the category of “grandstanding that will actually work”. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) will introduce legislation that would revoke the NFL’s tax-exempt status specifically because the league continues to have a team with a nickname that is racist. I do not care which side of that argument you wish to take; that is not the point here

I have said for years – actually for more than two decades – that the only way the team would change its name or that the NFL would force them to change its name would be to apply economic pressure to the team and/or the league. Senator Cantwell’s bill would begin to do just that. Her legislation is based on whatever moral position she and others may have with regard to the team name “Redskins” but her legislation would take their morality and move it into operational mode.

While I agree completely that the South Park satire of the NFL is brilliant, the NFL and the Redskins can shrug it off and wait for the next satirical commentary from Jon Stewart and/or Keith Olbermann and then they can ignore those also. But removing the tax exemption? What might be next? Legislation to outlaw the Redskins’ trademark? How about mandating an anti-trust investigation into the NFL itself?

Economics is the battlefield the NFL does not want to have to defend. Senator Cantwell’s legislation would not resolve this problem even if it passed tomorrow – and it will not pass tomorrow because Congress is in recess until after the mid-term elections and will then reconvene in a lame-duck session where no one will want to do anything resembling “controversy”. In the new session of the Congress, this bill will languish in whatever committee it goes to until and unless other members push for it to go to the floor for debate. I think the odds of this bill ever seeing the light of day are long – but it focuses on the only meaningful aspect of this controversy that has a chance to result in change.

In the backdrop for all of that, Danny Boy Snyder announced that he has begun to explore options for a new stadium in Washington – or maybe in Maryland or perhaps in Virginia. Obviously, he hopes to start a bidding war among the jurisdictions so that he does not have to pay for the stadium out of his pocket. If you live in area, you would recognize immediately that the local pols would fall for that gambit faster than a prom dress hits the floor around midnight. In order to separate the idea of a “new stadium” from the “nickname controversy”, Danny Boy might attempt to form what I will call the AUC – the Abjectly Unholy Confederation. The AUC would have two major players:

    1. Danny Boy Snyder whose dual objectives are to keep his team name and also to get a brand new playpen for his team at minimal or no cost to him.

    2. The well-meaning – but addle headed – folks in this area who want Washington DC to be the US city nominated by the US Olympic Committee to host the 2024 Summer Olympic Games. Yes; those folks exist and they have already begun their “communications operations” to convince the people and the pols in this area that they have a good idea as opposed to the dumbest idea since the screen door on a submarine.

In case you have not put two and two together properly, the common ground between Danny Boy and the “Olympics” is that the stadium used for the Opening and closing Ceremonies could also be Danny Boy’s new playpen. As this all moves forward, I suggest that someone in the Washington Post will come to the realization that this is the vector for the AUC sometime in the next 12 months. They will then trumpet their new insight and use it to bolster whatever side of the argument they happen to be on at the time. Trust me; this will happen…

    [Aside: Danny Boy and the Olympics would have been a great name for a “doo-wop” group back in the early 60s…]

Finally, let me close today with some more words of wisdom from Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Weather or not: The excuses some NFL people have used to explain why it took so long to suspend players for domestic violence incidents generally fall under the heading of ‘the climate has changed.’ I never realized there were so many meteorologists running NFL teams. But no one who respects the difference between right and wrong waits to see which way the wind is blowing before doing the decent thing.”

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

Learning From Experience…?

People – and institutions – learn things in different ways. The norm for most institutions is that they learn by experience and not from some kind of group-cognition that reveals some kind of understanding of smart things to do as opposed to dumb things to do. One of the adversaries to “learning by experience” is stubbornness; some folks – and some institutions – seem impervious to taking advice or considering protest. Often, such folks/institutions rightfully become public piñatas for their actions flavored with their stubbornness.

If these rants followed a path of political commentary, that introductory paragraph might fill up a week’s worth of verbiage for folks to read. Fortunately for everyone here, I try to concentrate on sports. Today, I would like to suggest that two sports institutions that I have bashed more than once in the past may have shed a tad of stubbornness and may have learned from experience. That does not make them perfect – they have a LONG way to go just to become something more than a waste of space – but it is a start.

The first organization that may have figured out that obstinance is not next to Godliness is – hold your breath – FIFA. According to a Reuters story earlier this week, the 2022 World Cup Tournament will not happen in Qatar. The report quotes a FIFA Executive Committee member, Theo Zwanzeiger, focusing on something other than the social/political/diplomatic/economic aspects of the FIFA decision to put the games there:

“Medics say that they cannot accept responsibility with a World Cup taking place under these conditions…”

It would be a lot easier for the FIFA foofs to be stubborn about their previous decision – and avoid all gas they will take from Qatar and whatever allies Qatar can gather in a debate to change the decision made in 2010 – when the arguments did not focus on player safety and fan safety. More from Theo Zwanzeiger:

“They may be able to cool the stadiums but a World Cup does not take place only there.

“Fans from around the world will be coming and traveling in this heat and the first life-threatening case will trigger an investigation by a state prosecutor.

“That is not something that FIFA Exco members want to answer for.”

Other FIFA officials quickly pointed out that Zwanzeiger was not expressing an official FIFA position and that he was merely expressing his opinion. Nonetheless, it appears as if concerns for athlete safety have caught the attention of at least some FIFA officials and that is a significant change.

Learning from experience…?

The second organization that seems to have learned from experience and had decided to change its current behavior is – hold your breath again – the NCAA. Mark Emmert said that the NCAA will stay away from involvement concerned with domestic violence or investigations of domestic violence on college campuses. He told the AP that domestic violence is a school issue and not an NCAA issue and that colleges should handle these matters – even if they involve student-athletes.

Mark Emmert is absolutely on the right side of that issue – and that is not a sentence I am wont to type. Not only does the NCAA have no organizational interest in such matters, the NCAA has no expertise or insight to add to anything the colleges might choose to do or not to do. If he can hold to that position, he got it right. However, he is more than likely to take a whole lot of gas for that position. Let me frame the argument for you:

    In the sordid Jerry Sandusky situation, Mark Emmert and the NCAA dove in headfirst to punish Penn State to the point where it tried to get $60M from the school to use as it saw fit at other member schools. [A court said that was not going to happen, but that was the NCAA intention.]

    So if that is the NCAA established precedent for handling outrageous criminal behavior that has nothing to do with on-field athletics, why the change?

      A. Does the NCAA think that victims of domestic violence – the vast majority of whom are women – do not matter enough to warrant draconian sanctions?

      B. Does “date-rape” on campuses not sink to the same level of sleaze as “shower-rape”?

Sadly, the best answer for why the change will probably not get much play in headlines because it is too straightforward. The reason is that the NCAA had no business sticking its nose into the Jerry Sandusky matter in the first place and that the NCAA has learned something from that experience. Date-rape and domestic violence on campus is a matter for criminal investigation and the criminal justice system. The NCAA has nothing whatsoever to do with that and it needs to avoid becoming involved with it.

The issue of domestic violence as it relates to athletes – particularly football players in recent weeks – has come into focus recently with the names Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and Jameis Winston as part of the headlines. Obviously, the half-game suspension for Winston that turned into a full-game suspension for Winston had to be part of Mark Emmert’s thinking and commentary on this matter. He did have one comment that seems to indicate that the NCAA realizes that this is a “school-matter” as opposed to an “NCAA-matter”:

“Most universities understand [student behavior and student punishment] is a reflection on the university. Universities have a lot more at stake in holding students accountable for their behavior. I wouldn’t say it’s done right all the time, but it is done right most of the time.”

Learning from experience…?

Finally, here is Greg Cote of the Miami Herald on the PGA’s FedEx Cup:

“The PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup playoffs were won by somebody named ‘Billy Horschel,’ a strong indicator that whatever the FedEx Cup playoffs are, they stink.”

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

Misplaced Anger

I have said that the NFL was tone deaf in the way it dealt with the Ray Rice discipline matter from the time the announcement of the 2-game suspension hit the streets. I have said that the prosecutor(s) in Atlantic City, NJ should be ashamed of themselves for their leniency in that case. I said that the folks in NFL Security were either incompetent or complicit in a cover-up in this whole matter. I have chided Ravens’ fans who gave Ray Rice a standing ovation when he hit the field at training camp. I pointed out the apparent – if not real – conflict of interest in naming Robert Mueller to head the investigation into what the Hell happened here. I have a whole list of folks with whom I am angry here but I have to go waaay down on that list before I come to Roger Goodell.

He has been ham-handed, tone-deaf, out to sea and befuddled throughout this mess. However, he has also become the guy whose face is on the dartboard for everyone to take shots at. And I do not think that is either fair or appropriate. Too much anger is misplaced.

Before you accuse me of being a shill for Roger Goodell, please consider:

    Roger Goodell did not hit Janay Parker Rice in that elevator. For all of the activists out there who are carrying signs demanding that Goodell lose his job, why are you mad at him? He got the initial punishment wrong; he admitted that he got it wrong; he then upped the ante. What would you have had him do? His mistake was the original 2-game suspension decision and it has been corrected to a degree. If you want him fired for that, no one would be safe in a management position anywhere in the US; managers and leaders make mistakes all the time. The key element is whether or not they correct their errors and find ways not to repeat them.

    Roger Goodell did not give Ray Rice a pass on criminal charges putting him into a “court-supervised counseling” program. The original charges offered up by the grand jury could have gotten him 3-5 years in jail plus a fine of $10K. Pleading that down to “counseling” seems to me to shrug at the seriousness of what happened in that elevator on that evening. If you believe that violence against women is too commonplace in US society – which I do – and if you have any belief that punishment has any effect at all – which I do -, then you should be mad at the prosecutors in Atlantic City a lot more than Roger Goodell.

I do not say any of the above with the intention of exonerating Roger Goodell; he handled this matter about as poorly as possible but I do not think his fumbling the ball here comes close to a “firing offense”. Based on what I know now – and presumably there will be more info coming from the “Mueller Investigation” – I have an opinion on who ought to lose his/her job:

    Everyone in NFL Security who was involved in the league’s investigation of this matter leading up to the decision to issue that original 2-game suspension should be in “employment jeopardy”.

    Far too little information that was “out there to be had” never found its way to NFL Security. Boiled down to a single word, that performance was “Incompetent”.

    Alternatively, more information than has been acknowledged did come into the hands of NFL Security but it never made its way to decision makers. Boiled down to two words, that performance was a “cover up”.

    Where I come from, both “incompetence” and “covering up” are causes for termination.

    The “middle management structure” within the NFL that oversees NFL Security and its performance and its role in keeping senior leadership apprised of the facts of matters of this kind also should be in “employment jeopardy”.

    If the problem was “incompetence”, it is unlikely that said incompetence came forth in full bloom for the first time in this matter. Yes, people make mistakes but if you are a professional in the security/investigation game, these mistakes were way below the level of “junior varsity”. How was that kind of performance allowed to continue to exist? Middle managers should be made to “splain that.” [/Ricky Ricardo]

    If the problem was a cover-up, middle managers could have played a variety of roles:

      Middle managers actually buried germane information and kept it from senior decision makers.

      NFL Security folks did the covering up and the middle managers did not ask enough questions to prevent those folks from being successful in the cover up.

        Again, the choices here seem to be “incompetence” or “covering up” and I think I said above what I think of those situations.

    One other actor in this affair is the NFLPA which is now filing an appeal on behalf of Ray Rice based on technicalities in the process here. They are going to argue in favor of a man who unquestionably cold-cocked his fiancée in an elevator to the point where she was unconscious as a result of a single blow. They are going to use “procedural niceties” to seek his reinstatement as an NFL player. Boiled down to a single word, that action is “disgusting”.

    I would ask DeMaruice Smith the following question. Suppose someone in the NFLPA office who answers to you unequivocally did what Ray Rice did in that elevator – or what Adrian Peterson allegedly did to his 4-year-old son – and that person made your organization look like a bunch of troglodytes. Then, if you terminated his employment with the NFLPA for any of variety of reasons, how would you react to someone outside your organization appealing his termination based on ‘procedures”?

    People like Roger Goodell and DeMaruice Smith – and politicians too – never deal with those kinds of questions. They hide behind the arm-waving statement that hypothetical questions are somehow inappropriate. Well, in this case, absent the kind of answers needed from the NFLPA, I can only draw conclusions based on actions:

    Procedural matters are far more important than violence against women. Those procedures need more vigorous protection than do victims.

    I am part of a book club; we had a meeting earlier this week. At that meeting, I had the opportunity to tell one of my book club colleagues – who also reads these rants once in a while – that I would be happy to resolve this matter for the NFL in the following way.

    I would be happy to put these rants on hiatus for however long in order to undertake to lead the investigation into what happened for the NFL. I have no conflict of interest in the matter nor do I have any apparent conflict of interest.
    I would do the investigation for no fee; the only charges would be to cover documented out-of-pocket costs.

    The only “wrinkle” I would add to the mix here is this:

      No one other than me and whomever I might solicit to join me in doing the investigation would see a single word of the final report until it was ready for release.

      Moreover, the release of the final report would happen electronically to the NFL, the NFLPA and 50 press outlets simultaneously. There would be no redactions and it would not be copyrighted.

    So, when it comes to pass that there is criticism of the Mueller Investigation – for valid or for invalid reasons – I am on record here providing them a way out of the mess. The caveat is that I spent 37 years of my life as a basketball referee and what I learned from that avocation was to “blow the whistle and call what I see.” This whole mess needs a lot more of that and a lot less misplaced anger.

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

    Turmoil In The Sports World

    Recent events endanger my status as “the sports curmudgeon”; I can foresee lots of perfectly normal folks adopting that attitude if things keep breaking as they have. How can one be merely a fan – or even just an open-minded observer – of the sports world given the bizarre events of the last week or so? Consider…

    The NFL made such a mess of their disciplinary action in the Ray Rice case that normally logical and rational voices in the national media have called for Roger Goodell to step down. Keith Olbermann – never to be part of any middle-of-the-road thinking – said that Goodell should be fired because Goodell had forfeited his privilege of resigning. Five months ago – before Ray and Janay Rice stepped into that elevator in Atlantic City – few if any folks thought that Roger Goodell was a liability to the league.

    In an attempt to find a somewhat protected harbor in the maelstrom, the NFL announced that an independent investigator would find the underlying cause of all this and that the investigator would be the former FBI Director, Robert Mueller. For those who may have forgotten, Mueller’s stepping into the middle of the NFL mess should be child’s play for him. This man took over the job as FBI Director seven days before the attack on the World Trade towers in NYC orchestrated by Osama bin Laden. He served under President Bush and under President Obama indicating to me that he had to have been very competent in his position to merit the trust of two men who probably agree on very little. Now, if that were the end of the story, it would seem as if the ship of the NFL had made it to port and the storm had cleared. Except…

    For those who have worked in government positions, the following concept is almost mundane. One must avoid any “conflict of interest” and, simultaneously, one must also avoid any “appearance of a conflict of interest” even in circumstances where an actual conflict does not exist. Why is that an issue here?

      Robert Muller is a partner in a law firm. That firm represented the NFL in its recent negotiations with Direct TV – provider of the NFL Season Ticket. That contract brought a nice chunk of change to the NFL and also provided the law firm with substantial fees. Conflict of interest? Probably not. Appearance of a conflict of interest…

      That same law firm represents one of the team executives for the Baltimore Ravens. Anyone who follows the NFL for more than an hour a month ought to recognize the connection between the Ravens and the NFL and Ray Rice. Conflict of interest? Probably not. Appearance of a conflict of interest…

    I am more than willing to ignore the cries of “conflict of interest” that are out there until some of the “criers” produce evidence comparable to the evidence we saw in the infamous elevator incident indicating a real conflict of interest. I have three reservations about the investigation before it begins that have nothing to do with conflict of interest or with the competence of the folks who do the investigation. These three concerns are endemic to these kinds of independent investigations; that does not mean the investigations cannot uncover truth; it means the investigations have to be subject to critical reading and critical thinking. The final report here is not likely to be accurately summed up in a simple sound bite.

      Concern #1: The investigators do not have subpoena power. They cannot demand evidence and have it delivered under the auspices of a court order. The NFL says they will have access to “everything”. In fact, they will have access to what NFL employees give them and to what they have enough insight to ask for.

      Concern #2: None of the folks to whom the investigators speak will be under oath.

      Concern #3: None of the folks to whom the investigators speak will undergo a cross-examination. If anyone on the “interview list” has an axe to grind, that person might slant his/her interviews to hone that axe edge. Without hearing responses of a thoughtful and prepared cross-examination, the possibility exists for less than full evidence in the hands of the investigators.

      Lest you think Concern #3 is a trivial matter, consider the role of cross-examination in a trial. Hell, without cross-examination, Perry Mason would never have won a case…

    My concerns are out there for folks to examine. When the final investigative report is out, I will read it in the original form – to the extent that it is released to the public – and draw my conclusions there. I would suggest everyone else do the same.

    In a related matter, there have been several members of the US Congress who had expressed their concerns about the NFL’s behavior in this matter and have called upon the NFL for transparency in this investigation and in future matters of discipline. When the US Congress calls for “transparency” in anything, that represents the ultimate level of chutzpah in the known universe. Please note that when the US Congress passed the Freedom of Information Act back in the 1970s, it specifically exempted the Congress from each and every provision of that act.

    The Congress wants transparency from the NFL? Pot, meet the kettle…

    NFL owners have expressed their support for Roger Goodell, as I would have expected. However, Danny Boy Snyder announced that he and the Redskins’ organization “strongly endorse” Roger Goodell as the NFL Commish. I can only imagine this thought-bubble over Goodell’s head when he read about that:

    “At least Jeffrey Dahmer is not around to ‘strongly endorse’ me…”

    On top of that mess, the NFL had to deal with Adrian Peterson’s indictment in a case that involves alleged child abuse in the way he disciplined his son. Pictures allegedly of Peterson’s son bearing disturbing bruises/welts appeared on the Internet. Obviously, this matter is not yet resolved; but for the moment, I cannot see how it might end in a positive place for Adrian Peterson, the Minnesota Vikings and/or the NFL.

    The NBA has its own discombobulation going. After the owner of the Atlanta Hawks complained that too many Black fans and too much hip-hop “atmosphere” kept White fans away from Hawks’ games. After admitting he said that, he said that he would sell the team. Despite the eccentricity of that comment, this has been my reaction to this matter since the story broke:

      1. This guy is really a junior varsity version of Donald Sterling when it comes to saying improper stuff.

      2. He seems a bit too eager to sell the team if that statement is what pushed him over the top.

    After that matter had percolated/festered for a week or so, we learned that Hawks’ GM, Danny Ferry, made some equally eccentric remarks about Luol Deng in a conference call that was recorded. More than a few folks label those remarks as “racist”. Absent context, they do indeed sound racist – but in fact the full context is absent at this moment. Here is something that does not fit well in this picture:

      Danny Ferry played in the NBA for more than a decade with and against rosters that were predominantly Black. For that entire career, no one noticed that he was a “racist”?

      Danny Ferry has held front office/management positions with at least two teams in the NBA for more than a decade. In all of that time, no one noticed that he was a “racist”?

    In light of all of the above, is there any “good news” out there? Believe it or not, the good news comes from the NCAA and good news from the NCAA is about as rare as the following statement:

      I am going to play hooky from school so I can watch a WNBA game.

    The NCAA quietly in the midst of all these adrenaline producing stories lifted the bowl ban on Penn State and gave the school back its football scholarships a couple of years early. In making that move at this time, the NCAA avoided lots of questioning about the basis for its original sanctions. I argued at the time and continue to believe that the horrific events of child molestation that happened at Penn State had nothing whatsoever to do with NCAA rules and that the NCAA had no reason to do anything other than deplore what happened. However, that is water over the bridge and the football program of today is not suffering based on the actions of someone not associated with the program for about 15 years.

    In addition, the NCAA also rid itself of an ongoing legal action; given their recent batterings in legal system, that was probably a smart move. Recall that the NCAA “fined” Penn State $60M and that the NCAA was going to target that money to child abuse prevention programs. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania sued the NCAA over that fine and won a preliminary round in the matter. As an add-on to lifting Penn State’s bowl ban, the NCAA also told the Commonwealth that it would give the $60M back to Pennsylvania for them to oversee.

    Hey, at least something seems to be going right out there in the sports world…

    Finally, perhaps these words attributed to Vince Lombardi have a particular value and meaning for the folks mentioned above:

    “It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get back up.”

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

    The Disciplinarian

    More than a few folks have written – and sports talk radio is all over this idea – that Roger Goodell has to be fired in the wake of the goat rodeo involving Ray Rice and his fiancée/wife. I do not think that is necessary or justified and I believe that those who are calling for his dismissal are missing the point about what a Commissioner for a major sport is supposed to do. The problem is history.

    The first sports Comish in the US was Kennesaw Mountain Landis; he got the job to be the capo di tutti capi in MLB after the Black Sox scandal in 1919. He was supposed to rule with an iron fist and make sure everyone in the game toed the line. Most people think he did that; I happen to think that Landis was a lot more bluster than tough guy but I am probably in the minority there. People have come to think that Job Duty #1 for a sports commissioner is to be a disciplinarian. Not so…

    The job of the commissioner is to grow the league and the measures of league growth are things like revenue, attendance, public awareness, TV ratings etc. All of those are intertwined but when you take them as a package and add to them the responsibility to deal constructively with the players’ union, you have the modern set of responsibilities for a league commissioner. Unfortunately, they also seem to carry the burden of history with them and they are also expected to be “The Disciplinarian”. That role does not mesh well with “grow the league” and “deal constructively with the union”.

    Flip this issue on its head for a moment as a gedanken experiment. Imagine that Roger Goodell was not “The Disciplinarian” and we gave that job to DeMaurice Smith with the same level of authority and acceptance bestowed on Roger Goodell. Regardless of Smith’s good will and positive intentions, his main job – to represent the players on labor issues – would be in conflict with this new role as “The Disciplinarian”. My point is that neither Goodell nor Smith has a position that allows them to blend in any meaningful way their “main job” with the job of disciplinarian.

    I think the best solution to the angst and anger that exists at the moment over the Ray Rice matter is to look for ways to evolve the system to a point where “The Disciplinarian” is a job separate and distinct from the NFL front office and from the NFLPA. Like the US, these folks need a “third branch of governance”.

    There will be a bazillion details in the creation of the position of “The Disciplinarian” and each of them will represent a hurdle to be crossed. I will not even begin to try to flesh out all those details here except for the sine qua non in this idea:

      “The Disciplinarian” and whatever staff he/she needs will cost money. Everyone in every position is beholden to whoever pays his/her salary. Therefore, the costs for “The Disciplinarian” and his/her staff need to be borne by the NFL and the NFLPA in equal measure.

    If there were indeed a person who was “The Disciplinarian”, no one would be thinking that Roger Goodell should be fired about now because he is doing his main job (grow the league) quite well.

    According to a report in the Chicago Tribune, Johnny Manziel – through his company, JMan2 Enterprises LLC – has applied for trademark rights to a bunch of names including:

      Johnny Football
      Johnny Cleveland

    Why stop there?

      The first time he leads a team to a last second win on a TD pass, he could call himself “Johnny on the Spot”.

      When he gets in the news for partying hard in Vegas he could call himself “Johnny Be Bad”.

      If he wins a game on a quarterback sneak, he could be “John Doe”.

      If he finishes second in the MVP voting, he could claim to be “John Adams”.

      If he ended all his press conferences by saying, “I have to go to the john,” he could try to trademark that phrase too.

    The name on Manziel’s list – not my frivolous list – that I find most interesting is “JMan”. I really wonder if in the sporting cosmos of the Cleveland area Johnny Manziel’s name would be associated with “JMan”. After all, there is this other guy playing in Cleveland who might also be their JMan – LeBron James…

      [Aside: I wonder if Don Imus ever tried to trademark the name “I-Man”?]

    Manziel’s publicity grabs speak to the possibility of an ego run amok. That is not exactly a newsworthy item in the world of sports as evidenced by this terse – yet accurate – summation by Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot of another sporting situation involving ego:

    “Idle thought: Tiger Woods fired his swing coach because the golfer couldn’t fire himself.”

    Finally, in the wake of the furor over the video tape of Ray Rice in that elevator, here is an item from Greg Cote of the Miami Herald on the blessing of a missing video tape:

    “ESPN apologized for airing a report that discussed the locker room showering habits of openly gay NFL player Michael Sam. On the bright side, the report did not include video.”

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