About a week ago, I read a report that the NFL and the Canadian Football League (CFL) had joined together to create an “officiating development program” that would seek to improve the quality of current officiating and to “raise up” the next generation of game officials. Some of the things mentioned as key parts of this joint effort were:
NFL officials will work some games in the CFL in June and early July prior to their reporting to NFL Officials Camp in July. The idea here is that this will increase “time on the field” for those officials and sharpen their “football senses” as they head off to officials’ camp.
[Aside: Who knew about “Officials Camp”? Clearly, there have to be such things to go over things like new rules and rule changes and the mechanics of officiating; but have there ever been reports originating from any activities there? If so, I missed them.]
CFL officials will go to NFL minicamps and training camps and some will officiate in NFL exhibition games.
I certainly have no objection to either the CFL or the NFL undertaking any sort of constructive activity that intends to improve the in-game officiating. Surely, neither of the programs outlined above will hurt in-game officiating so it is hard to object to any of that. However, if part of the program is “developmental” in the sense of generating aa pipeline of new officials, I fail to see how anything described here would do anything to meet that objective.
The Washington Wizards hired Scott Brooks to be their coach last week; they game Brooks a 5-year deal worth $35M. Naturally, lots of the local sports yakkers on the radio jumped to the self-satisfying conclusion that this move was done as a prelude to signing Kevin Durant as a free agent this summer since Brooks had been his coach in OKC. Time will tell if that angle has even a smidgen of relevance. Nonetheless, this hire is potentially a good one for the Wizards.
Scott Brooks is a coach who teaches solid defense and demands that from his players. The Wizards need to play defense; a major reason why they are sitting at home watching the NBA Playoffs on TV is that their defense was somewhere between non-existent and pretty-awful in far too many games this year. Sure, the Wizards will become a better team if they happen to lure Kevin Durant to the DC area. They may also become a better team if they get their rears in gear and play some defense next season.
The LA Lakers fired Byron Scott. Frankly, I think that is a bit silly given that Scott had a roster that was destined to lose games and then had to administer the Kobe Bryant Farewell Tour for all of last year. However, in LA, the team needs to do something lest it lose spotlight time to the Clippers. Lots of suggestions have been made with regard to who the Lakers’ next coach ought to be. Naturally, Luke Walton’s name came out of the gate early. He is a logical candidate for the job as an ex-Laker player, a SoCal native and a guy who did awfully well as the stand-in coach of the Warriors last season.
It is exactly for those logical reasons that Walton will likely not get the job. In LA, things need “sizzle” more than they need “substance”. Walton is high on “substance” but not much on the “sizzle scale”. If you doubt the importance of sizzle over substance in LA, consider this:
If substance counted for more than sizzle, there never would have been a second movie made where one could use the phrase, “starring Steven Segal”.
So, who might be a “sizzle candidate” – someone whose name would generate interest even if someone else actually got the job at the end of the day.
Jay Wright: He is as hot a name as there is in college basketball for people not named Krzyzewski, or Calipari.
Nancy Lieberman: She played the game; she is in the Hall of Fame; she has head coaching experience. And she has something no NBA head coach has ever had – – ovaries.
One more NBA note … The league is expanding its TV footprint to include sub-Saharan Africa. In a deal struck with Econet Media, the NBA will have at least 500 games televised live to sub-Saharan Africa starting next year. Games will be telecast in English, French and Portuguese based on the prominent language spoken in different regions of Africa. Econet is a major player in television and digital media in that part of the world. Obviously, the NBA is taking this expansion initiative seriously.
In the past week two NFL players received 4-game suspensions. Tom Brady had his suspension reinstated by a 3-judge panel in the US Court of Appeals; Demarcus Lawrence got 4 games for failing a drug test. The Brady suspension – linked inexorably to Deflategate – got much more attention along the lines of “what does this do to the team”. Personally, I think his suspension is less meaningful to the Pats than Lawrence’s suspension is to the Cowboys.
The Pats open at Arizona and then play 3 home games against the Dolphins, Texans and Bills. Recall that the Pats went 11-5 with Matt Cassel at QB when Brady went down in the first half of the first game of the season; that was without time to prepare for Brady’s absence. My guess is that the Pats come out of that stretch with a 3-1 record or better.
The Cowboys hope to make a big run this year with a healthy Tony Romo at QB. However, over on defense, the Cowboys have a problem with pass rushing and Lawrence had 8 sacks last year. Not only will he be gone for the first 4 games, so will Randy Gregory – who also flunked a drug test – and so will Greg Hardy unless Jerry Jones panics and signs him again to a 1-year incentive laden deal.
The Cowboys open at home against the Giants, at the Skins, home against the Bears and then at the Niners. That is not a murderer’s row schedule, but it does have two division games against teams that could be very competitive if the Cowboys cannot pressure Eli Manning or Kirk Cousins. It is never good to lose a game in the NFL, but should the Cowboys lose two division games to open the season, it might get ugly in Dallas.
Oh, by the way, imagine if you will that Demarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory decide to room together for that 4-week suspension. I believe neither one of them is married so just consider it a possibility. If that happens, I would definitely be going long on marijuana futures…
Finally, Brad Dickson had this comment in the Omaha World-Herald regarding another athlete who had difficulty with a drug test:
“A rugby player in Italy tested positive for 11 banned substances. This makes him eligible for the Tour de France.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………