Sports And Kabuki

Kabuki is a Japanese art form that involves ritualized dance moves as a means to tell a story. It is very precise and calculated; it has a long history. Here in the US, there are events related to the sports world that emulate kabuki in the sense that the events are very precise and calculated; the history is not nearly as long, but there is a history to all of it.

Naturally, I am referring to the ritualistic events that must occur over a long period of time when a pro sports franchise thinks about relocation – either thinks about it for real or thinks about it to extort more “goodies” from its current location. That kabuki dance is ongoing now involving the NFL and several of its franchises and the City of Los Angeles. Two days ago, an important element of the dance took place involving a meeting between the mayor of Los Angeles, the owner of the Chargers and the owner of the Raiders. Even if those three men only discussed their mutual admiration for medieval Norse needlepoint, the meeting was required by the precision and calculating nature of the franchise relocation kabuki.

That meeting got me to thinking and it dawned on me that the City of Oakland is the pro sports franchise punching bag of the moment.

    The NFL Raiders are looking to move to LA – jointly with the Chargers and hence Tuesday’s meeting – so long as owner Mark Davis can come up with his portion of the costs to build that stadium complex in Carson. Some say he does not have the liquidity to do that and so he may have to ponder a move for the Raiders to San Antonio without a new facility in Oakland.

    The NBA Warriors already have a new arena in the works in San Francisco. Yes, San Francisco is part of the Bay Area as is Oakland, but in terms of neighborliness, most denizens of Oakland consider SF a neighbor about the same way astronomers consider Mars a neighbor of the Earth.

    The MLB A’s have been trying to leave Oakland for at least the last 5 years but the venue they covet is part of what the Giants claim as their territory and MLB has had a “Blue Ribbon Committee” studying this matter for most of those last 5 years to no avail.

Oakland is not a city with lots of surplus cash rolling around in its checking accounts. Several years ago, the state took over the school system in the main because the school system was financially strapped. The city itself has had years of “budget shortfalls” and at least for a while had to cut back the police department to the point that USA Today reported in 2013 that the California Highway Patrol was assisting in policing the city.

It is a given that the stadium for the Raiders and the A’s is antiquated and sub-standard; any time you have raw sewage backing up through the drains and onto locker room floors, you are being most diplomatic using the label “sub-standard”. The city’s problem is that a new stadium for either the A’s or the Raiders – and neither one would prefer to share the venue with the other – will cost hundreds of millions of dollars that the city does not have and may only be able to borrow at extremely high interest rates if they could borrow that much money at all. Oakland’s finances seem to be such that they would be called “an adversity” at the moment; paying for a new stadium or two might change that descriptor to “ruination”.

There was another report earlier this week that made me recall the old TV show, Lost in Space. A robot was programmed to guard a young boy named Will Robinson; whenever there was any threat, the robot would intone:

“Danger, Will Robinson!

That phrase immediately entered my mind when I read an report that Brett Favre told them that he thought he could play in the NFL once again. Favre said he could still throw 50 yards where it used to be 80 yards but that it did not matter being able to heave the ball more than 50 yards. He did say that he was not thinking of coming out of retirement but still… I would like to have a picture of him saying that with both hands in plain sight to know that he did not have his fingers crossed. Sports fans have been relieved of the necessity of following the yes/no oscillations of Favre and his play/retire decisions for several years now. Frankly, it has been an enjoyable several years.

    Memo to Sports Media Folks: Please do not ask Brett Favre any leading questions that might get him thinking of coming back – or worse yet thinking about all the publicity he could get by letting all of you know that he is thinking about coming back.

    Go and read the Uncle Remus story about Br’er Rabbit and the Tar Baby…

Last weekend, the small town of Swaton, England hosted the World Egg Throwing Championships. Swaton is in Lincolnshire in the British Midlands. I have to admit that I did not know that there were such championships until I read this Reuters report but evidently there is a World Egg Throwing Federation that sanctions the event and that Federation claims that egg throwing is at least a sport with a 700-year history.

The “main event” is a team event. A thrower and a catcher stand 10 meters apart; the thrower tosses an egg and the catcher catches it. If the egg breaks, they lose and go off to clean up the mess. If the egg survives, they step back and continue playing catch with the egg until it eventually breaks. Clearly, the team that achieves the greatest separation prior to breaking their egg is the winner.

Finally, speaking of obscure sports, here is an item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“And the latest drug scandal in sports involves … Russian racewalkers?

“ ‘It’s a bad sign if you can’t distinguish between a sport and a group of people rushing to the bathroom,’ said CBS’s James Corden. ‘Doping for racewalking is like robbing a bank that you know has only $2 in it.’ “

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

More Golf Stuff Today

I wrote about golf yesterday and I want to start with two golf items today. I suspect that has never happened before in the history of these rants. There were reports a few days ago that Phil Mickelson had something like $3M of his money linked to a Federal money laundering investigation involving someone who transferred sums of money approximating that amount among bank accounts to fund illegal gambling activities. Mickelson is not a suspect in the investigation nor is he charged but the report of that much money nominally belonging to him and “illegal gambling” makes you sit up and take notice.

Recall a couple of years ago that Mickelson was investigated – and ultimately cleared – in an investigation involving insider trading. I do not remember the details, but “insider trading” like “illegal gambling” conjures up a set of images that is not nearly congruent with the public image that Mickelson works to portray. Perhaps, Messr. Mickelson should consider the advice contained in an old aphorism:

    You are known by the company you keep.

If I mention the name Beau Brinkley, you will probably furrow your brow and try to figure out if this is Beau Bridges’ real name or if he is the son of David Brinkley – unless of course you are a Tennessee Titans’ fan. In that case, you would know immediately that Beau Brinkley is the long-snapper for the Titans. This week, Brinkley was playing in a golf tournament in Nashville and one of the sponsors was the Jack Daniels bourbon folks. Brinkley sank a hole-in-one on a par 3 hole and won a sponsor’s prize – a full barrel of Jack Daniels bourbon. He even gets to go to the distillery and sample from barrels to pick the one he wants. I know it is a real long-shot but if the titans win the Super Bowl there will be some kind of team celebration at Brinkley’s place…

The US Women’s National Team advanced to the finals in the World Cup tournament last night beating #1 ranked Germany 2-0. The US will play the winner of the Japan/England game next Sunday in Vancouver for the championship. This is the fifth consecutive shutout for the US women and what makes this shutout all the more impressive is that the Germans had scored 20 goals in the tournament coming into the game. I will not pretend to be an expert in soccer strategy and tactics, but the defense line and the mid-field players on the US team were all over the German attackers from start to finish.

A few days ago, Yahoo! Sports reported that John Calipari had been in several discussions with the Sacramento Kings and this led to the speculation that the Kings might offer Calipari the jobs of coach and GM there. Yesterday, there were reports from several outlets saying that Calipari would stay at Kentucky and that his “discussions” with the Kings’ owner related to former Kentucky players who were now with the Kings like Boogie Cousins and Willie Cauley-Stein.

Normally, I would take that kind of deflection/denial to be a half-truth in the sense that the former players were the justification for the initiation of the discussion but then, things evolved. In this case, I tend to believe Calipari for a simple reason:

    John Calipari is a very intelligent man and I think he realizes that whoever is the coach/GM of the Sacramento Kings is doomed at the outset. At least for now, the job(s) in Sacramento are about as attractive as a tire fire.

Calipari’s contract at Kentucky reportedly will pay him $7.05M this year – with incentives on top of that. Of course, an NBA team can offer him more than that if they want to, but it is not as if Calipari is working for chump-change in Lexington. If he were to make the move to the NBA, I would have to think that he would be looking to go to a team that is at the very least poised to be a contender for a Conference Championship. The Sacramento Kings are nowhere near that baseline level of competence. Moreover, the Kings’ owner has a ton of money but also has a seemingly irrepressible urge to meddle in the basketball operation of the franchise. I am sure that fans and alums put pressure on Calipari at Kentucky, but I would be shocked if the AD or the University Chancellor would dare to interfere with the running of the team itself.

I would not be surprised if John Calipari decided to take an NBA job one of these days before he hangs up his whistle. Moreover, he will get offers to do that because he is a good coach – and because he has plenty of his former players in the league. However, I do not think he will be going to one of the “outposts” of the NBA or to a franchise with a meddlesome owner.

In another NBA-related report, the Knicks are supposedly the leaders in the race to sigh Aaron Afflalo and they are offering a 3-year deal worth $38M. Afflalo is a good defender who shoots at a decent percentage aided somewhat by the fact that he only averages 7 or 8 shots per game over his career. Clearly, the Knicks can use any player who is even average on defense; and Lord knows, they do not need anyone else on the floor who wants/needs to take lots of shots. Having said that, I suspect that Knicks’ fans will not create a flash mob that stops traffic for 3 blocks around Madison Square Garden when/if the Knicks finalize this deal. Nor should they…

Finally, an item from Dwight Perry’s column, Sideline Chatter, in the Seattle Times:

“NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt Jr. finally popped the question to longtime girlfriend Amy Reimann.

“In keeping with the theme, they’ll be exchanging his and hers piston rings.”

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