Mythical Picks – CFP & NFL Combined – Weekend Of 1/1/17


This will be a joint entry of NCAA Mythical Picks (for the CFP games this weekend) and of NFL Mythical Picks for the games scheduled for Week 17 of this regular season.  Notwithstanding the fact that this will be a “joint entry” my calendar requires that this will be an abbreviated entry.  Let me set the stage for these selections with nominally relevant data.

NCAA Mythical Picks ended the season back at the start of December with a cumulative record of 109-93-0.  If I had wagered the same amount on each of the 202 picks here, I would have come away with a profit for the season.  If I had wagered on each of the 202 picks here, I should have been put in restraints and not allowed anywhere near the betting windows.


[Apropos of nothing, the favorites did not fare well in Ponderosa Games this year.  The final record for favorites covering in Ponderosa Games was 46-51-1.]


NFL Mythical Picks last week was about as inane as they could be.  I made 17 selections in the 16 NFL games and the week’s record was 8-8-1.  Meanwhile, the season record for NFL Mythical Picks now stands at 135-88-6.  While that record is comfortably in the “profitable zone”, it still would have been ridiculous for me to have considered for even a millisecond making those 229 wagers over the course of the season.

The Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol was 1-2-0 last week.  Nonetheless, the coin flipping has been “hot” this year with a cumulative record to date of 18-13-2.

The Best Picks from last week were:

  • Dolphins +4 against Bills.  Dolphins won outright.
  • Niners +4 against Rams.  Niners won outright.

The Worst Picks from last week were:

  • Titans – 4.5 against Jags.  Titans lost by 14 points.
  • Panthers +3 against Falcons.  Panthers lost by 17 points.

With all that data on hand, no one should take anything written here as sufficiently informative or insightful so as to use any information here as the basis for making a real wager on a real football game (NCAA or NFL) this weekend.  Anyone dumb enough to do that also thinks:


You can never become addicted to brake fluid because you can – obviously – stop anytime you want.


General Comments:


My only comment this week about NCAA football is short and simple; I should have included it in one of the earlier iterations of NCAA Mythical Picks.

  • The Arkansas State Red Wolves have a player on their roster named Dee Liner.
  • You guessed it; he plays defensive line…  How perfect is that?

Last week in the NFL was Underachievement Week.  Bad teams surprisingly won games; good or better-than-average teams lost games they should have won even though a loss would be devastating to their season.  One such underachievement got another coach fired with a game left to play.  Rex Ryan is out in Buffalo – and his brother Rob is out as defensive coordinator too.  So, let me start with that game from last week…

The Bills lost to the Dolphins 34-31 in OT.  That is not such an embarrassing loss that you would think that it would end a coaching tenure with one week left to play in a season where the Bills will be out of the playoffs for the 17th consecutive time.  What this says to me is that the Bills’ ownership had made up their mind to fire Ryan as soon as the season was over and this home loss was just a bit more than they needed to bear.

Basically, the Bills found ways to lose this game – and that has not been an unknown set of circumstances for the team over the past 2 seasons with Rex Ryan at the helm.  The Bills trailed 28-24 in this game and fought their way back to lead the game 31-28 with less than 2 minutes to go in the game.  Then the defense allowed the Dolphins to get into a position to kick a tying field goal with 6 seconds on the clock.  Then in OT, the defense allowed RB. Jay Ajayi to rumble for 57 yards to set up a chip shot field goal by the Dolphins to win the game.  The Bills missed 2 field goals in regulation time that would have won the game.  It was a sh*tshow of a game in front of the home fans and the Bills’ ownership decided that it had seen enough.

Cry no crocodile tears for Rex Ryan.  If my calculations are correct, the Bills owe him a tad over $16M over the next 3 years for him to stay home and not coach NFL football…

The Chargers lost a game last week; since the Chargers have only won 5 times this year, you might wonder why I put them in the conversation about teams that should not have lost last weekend.  The answer is simple:


The Chargers lost to the Browns 20-17.


That embarrassing loss ought to make it a bit easier for fans in San Diego to let go of their team as the Chargers opt to move to LA soon after the regular season ends this weekend.  Making this loss even more hard to swallow, the Chargers recorded a total of 9 sacks in the game – – and still found a way to lose.  That does not happen very often.

Chargers’ coach Mike McCoy was on a hot seat before this game.  Now I would suspect that he is sitting on a pool of lava…

The Titans lost to the Jags 38-17 eliminating the Titans from the playoffs.  Making matters worse, QB, Marcus Mariota, broke his fibula in the game and is expected to be out of action for about 4 months. That injury, however is NOT the reason the Titans took gas last week; they trailed 24-10 in the game when Mariota was injured.  Look, the Titans were 2-14 last year and they have already won 8 games this year.  That is a MAJOR improvement and it needs to be acknowledged and applauded.  Having said that, the Titans lost a hugely important game last week to a bad football team.

The Bucs lost to the Saints 31-24 in a game the Bucs had to have to stay “playoff relevant”.  The Saints led in time of possession and ran for 129 yards on a nominally maturing Bucs’ defense.  The only way to deal with this game is to label it as a game where the Bucs laid an egg.

In the context of these underachieving/shocking games, there were other surprises on the card for last week.  As noted above, the Brown and Jags won games outright last week.  Well, so did the Niners; they beat the Rams 22-21.  All three of those carrion-feeders won on the same weekend; my guess is that no one in Las Vegas had a parlay on the money line for Browns, Niners and Jags all to win last week.

The Niners had the worst run defense in the NFL going into last week’s game; the Rams have a very good running back; you might expect the Rams to pound the ball down the Niners’ collective throats.

Not so fast my friend … [/Lee Corso]

  • Todd Gurley gained 67 yards and averaged only 2.9 yards per carry.
  • Rams gained 99 yards rushing – which sounds good until you realize that the Niners have given up 200+ yards rushing in previous games this year.

The Rams have already fired their coach and have nominally begun their coaching search.  I suspect that this miserable showing will assure that interim coach John Fassel will get only a cursory call/interview once the season is over – – unless of course he and all the rest of the coaching staff is fired within 24 hours of the final whistle in the final Rams’ game this weekend.

The Texans beat the Bengals last week to secure the AFC South division title and a spot in the playoffs.  The score here was 12-10 and the offensive prowess on display by both teams was perfectly indicated by the score.  To say it was uninspired would be to say that Pavarotti could carry a tune.  The Bengals averaged a measly 6.5 yards per pass attempt in the game but even that meager accomplishment is distorted.  One short pass went to Brandon LaFell who turned it into an 86-yard TD catch-and-run.  Absent that one play, the Bengals averaged 3.95 yards per pass attempt.  Yowza!

I said this would be an abbreviated version of Mythical Picks due to Holiday festivities and social commitments.  Therefore, even though some of the other games from last weekend would normally have merited some comment, they will be anonymous here – with one exception.

The Raiders won last week beating the Colts 33-25 but they lost QB Derek Carr to a broken fibula.  Carr has had his surgery and instead of projecting a 4-month R&R schedule, some are holding out hope that he could be back in time for the Super Bowl just 5 weeks after the injury and the surgery.  I do not think the Raiders will make it that far without Derek Carr under center but if they do, I surely hope that any decision on his part or on the part of the Raiders’ braintrust to put him in that game does not do long-term detriment to Derek Carr’s career.  I think he has the potential to be a special player…


The NCAA CFP Semi-Final Games:


(Sat Afternoon) Washington vs. Alabama – 14 (54):  The Total Line opened at 58 for this game several weeks ago, but it has seemed to settle in at this number for more than a week now.  These teams have a common quality opponent in USC and the temptation is to look at those two games and to conclude that Washington is simply overmatched here.  However, from the games I saw this year, USC was a far better team late in the season when they beat Washington than they were in September when Alabama waxed them.  I do not think Washington will win this game; if I did, I would take the Huskies on the Money Line at +475.  However, I do think Washington is good enough to stay within 2 TDs of Alabama on the assumption that Jake Browning does not throw a bunch of INTs to give Bama short fields to work with.  I’ll take Washington plus the points.


(Sat Evening) Ohio St. – 3 vs. Clemson (59):  My observation about Clemson is very simple:

  • They play up to or down to the level of their competition.

Their opposition here plays at a high level and so I expect Clemson to do the same.  Ohio St coaches and players have certainly heard some of the commentary that they are only in this playoff due to their institutional reputation since they did not even win their division within their conference this year.  That should give them a small shot of adrenaline.  I agree this will be a close game but I think Clemson is the better team.  I’ll take Clemson here plus the points.



The NFL Games:



Houston at Tennessee – 3 (40):  This game would have been meaningful had the Titans not imploded last week.  In the current state of affairs, this game is as meaningless as a forest fire in the Gobi Desert.  Presumably, the Texans will use the game to get new QB, Tom Savage, some expanded familiarity with their playbook.  Perhaps the Titans will play to attain the team’s first winning season since 2011.  The game is not a big deal.  I do not want to imply that I think Tom Savage is a polished NFL QB because he is not but I do wish to imply that I do not want to pick a team with little reason to play hard with Matt Cassel as the QB.  I’ll take the Texans and lay the points.


Buffalo – 3.5 at Jets (42):  The spread here opened at 5 points and dropped immediately to this level and has stayed there all week.  In a week of meaningless games, this one is the worst of the lot in my opinion and so it gets the Final Dog-Breath Game of the Week designation for the 2016 season.  No matter the outcome here, this has been a season of misery for both teams.  The Jets have looked to me like quitters for the past several games; and if my conclusion is even half correct, I see no reason for them to get excited about this final game.  I like the Bills to win and cover here – even on the road.


Baltimore at Cincy – 2 (41.5):  Back in August/September, this looked like it might be a critical game in the AFC playoff picture.  In reality, it is as meaningless as dust.  The Ravens lost out on playoff contention on a late TD by Antonio Brown last week; Cincy lost out on playoff contention about month ago on boneheadedness on the field.  I will turn this game over to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol and the coin says to take the game to stay UNDER.


Giants at Washington – 7 (44):  The spread here opened the week at 5 points and has risen steadily to this level; in fact, you can find it at 8 points at one sportsbook this morning.  The Skins have something to play for; if they lose, they are out of the playoffs; if they win, they are in barring a tie in the Lions/Packers game.  The Giants are assured of a wild-card slot no matter what happens.  I like the Skins to win and cover here.


(Sun Nite) Green Bay – 3 at Detroit (49):  This is the Game of the Week not because these are the two best teams playing each other but because one of these teams is going to be the NFC North champion and the other will be at loose ends for the month of January.  NBC recognizes that this is the game of the week because they flexed it to the Sunday Nite time slot instead of putting the Cowboys in a national TV game yet again.  I like the Packers to win and cover here.


Jax at Indy – 4.5 (47):  The spread opened at 7 points and dropped to this level rather quickly.  I have no idea why anyone would be betting enough money on this game to move the line even a little bit.  This game is as meaningless as a political candidate’s promises.  Because I said I’d make a pick in all the games, I’ll take this game to go OVER.


Dallas at Philly – 3.5 (43):  The Cowboys are in the playoffs with the #1 seed in the NFC bracket; the Eagles are out.  The line favoring the Eagles by more than a field goal says that the oddsmakers – and the bettors to some extent – believe that the Cowboys will be resting some of their key players for at least part of this game.  I will make this a Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip game and the coin says to take the game to go OVER.


Chicago at Minnesota – 5 (41):  This is a game to ignore.  The Bears aren’t any good; the Vikes folded their cards for the season at least a month ago.  I prefer the talent level of the Vikes and I like the fact that this game is in Minnesota so I’ll take them to win and cover here.  However, do not infer from that comment that I will pay much attention to the game other than the score.


Carolina at Tampa – 5 (46):  The spread opened at 3.5 points and has expanded all week long; you can find it at 6 points at one sportsbook this morning.  Neither team can be in the playoffs making this game as meaningless as the face of a corpse [hat tip to Joseph Conrad].  Either or both of these teams could show up at kickoff merely to go through the motions.  Purely a venue call, I’ll take the Bucs and lay the points.


Cleveland at Pittsburgh – 7 (43):  This spread opened at 12.5 points and plummeted when the Steelers let it be known that Ben Roethlisberger would have the day off.  Say hello to a quarterback face-off between Landry Jones and Cody Kessler.  Whoo-Hoo!  The Total Line opened at 45.5 and also dropped with that same announcement.  The Steelers will be dealing with playoff opponents down the line and the Browns are not of that caliber.  However, the Browns are coming off their first win of the Hue Jackson Era in Cleveland and might just show up with a smidgen of enthusiasm.  Again, only because I said I would make a pick in every game, I’ll take the Browns plus the points.


New Orleans at Atlanta – 7 (56):  The Falcons are the AFC South champs and the Saints are out of the playoffs.  There is a small measure of meaning in this game because the Falcons might get a first round bye in the playoffs or not depending on what happens here and in SF this week.  Big deal…  The most interesting thing about this game is the Total Line; the oddsmaker obviously sees this as a final game offensive showdown between two potent offenses and two less than potent defenses.  For no good reason, whatsoever, I’ll take the Saints plus that generous helping of points.


New England – 10 at Miami (44.5):  I hate double-digit spreads in NFL games.  This spread opened at 6 points and expanded to this level quickly.  It is at 10.5 points at one sportsbook this morning.  The Pats have incentive in this game; a win assures them home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.  The dolphins are locked into a wild card slot no matter what.  I shall invoke the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol for this inscrutable game and the coin says to take the Pats and lay the points.  The coin has spoken…


Arizona – 6.5 at LA (41):  I gave serious consideration to this game as the Dog-Breath Game of the Week but ceded that dubious honor elsewhere.  The Cards have been huge disappointments this year; the Rams have been just plain bad for most of the year.  This game is so meaningless that it nudges up to the boundary between meaninglessness and absurdity.  Venue call; I’ll take the Rams plus the points.


KC – 5.5 at San Diego (44.5):  The game means nothing to the Chargers; they could have packed their bags and taken a Caribbean cruise about a month ago.  For the Chiefs, this game has meaning.  Depending on the outcome here and the outcomes in Denver and in Miami, the Chiefs could be either the #2 seed (meaning a BYE week) or the #5 seed or the #6 seed in the AFC playoff bracket.  Trust me; it is not worth the keystrokes to go thru all the possibilities.  I like the Chiefs’ roster better than the Chargers’ roster and I prefer their motivation here.  I’ll take the Chiefs and lay the points – even on the road.


Seattle – 10 at SF (43):  I hate double-digit spreads in NFL games.  I’m sorry, but the Niners are a bad team at home as well as on the road.  I can’t even make this a venue call.  I know that the Seahawks’ offense in road games has tended to go dormant this year but the Niners’ defense is flat out awful – despite their win last week over the Rams.  I’ll take the Seahawks and lay the points.


Oakland at Denver – 1 (40):  The reason this is not the Game of the Week is that the Lions/Packers game can be fateful for both teams; in this game, only the Raiders can benefit or lose based on the outcome.  Nevertheless, this game should be “contentious”.  The Broncos’ defense ought to have sued the Broncos’ offense for non-support and/or nonfeasance about a month ago.  The Raiders’ offense needs to turn to the Raiders’ defense and say – ever so politely but firmly – that the offense has carried the load for the first 15 games this year and now it is time for the Raiders’ defense to double-clutch their collective asses into gear.  Remember, the Raiders can still be the #1 seed in the AFC playoff bracket if they win here and the Pats lose in Miami.  The Raiders can also lose the AFC West championship with a loss here and a Chiefs’ win in San Diego.  I think the tangible benefits for the Raiders are the better motivators here.  I like the Raiders plus the point. 


Happy New Year to everyone.  Next week’s writing schedule remains up in the air but Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, there will be Mythical Picks late next week.

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


Bad Ads 2016


What follows here has become a predictable year-end event.  For those who have seen these sorts of things before, let me apologize while I take  a paragraph to let new readers know what lies ahead.

I watch a goodly amount of sports on TV.  That practice means that I get to – or have to – watch a lot of advertisements.  After all, those advertisements are the mechanism by which I get to watch all of my sports for next to nothing.  In and among the myriad ads, there are some that are genuinely stupid and/or insulting and/or confusing and/or disgusting.  I try to make a note of these sorts of ads and then put them together here as a way to end the current calendar year and to hope – against all hope – that the ads next year will not be so bad.  It never works out that way…

I have to admit that 2016 was a “different year” when it comes to finding “Bad Ads” related to sporting events.  I need to put everything that follows here into perspective:

  • In 2016, none of the ad campaigns featured on sporting events could come close to being as annoying/stupid as the “campaign ads” that polluted the public airwaves throughout the Presidential primaries and then in the general election campaign.  Those political ads were unctuous, slimy, misleading, weasel-worded assaults on the intelligence of the electorate.  The creators and promulgators of those ads – regardless of party affiliation – deserve severe punishment for the bullsh*t they inflicted on the populace.  Boiling in oil and/or drawing and quartering seem to be candidates for the appropriate punishments.

With that out of the way, let me go to my notes and see what sorts of things the ad mavens decided to inflict on viewers of sporting events.  A relatively recent trend in advertising seems to be ads for prescription drugs that one is supposed to ask their doctor about.  I don’t know about you, but I talk to my doctor about symptoms, aches and pains, changes in my well-being and the like.  None – as in not a single one – of those conversations has ever begun because I watched an ad on TV.  Anyway …

The year in advertising/promotion got off on a bad foot right away.  In January 2016 as the NFL playoffs were leading up to Super Bowl 50 which was to be telecast on CBS, that network ran promos touting Super Bowl 50 as:

“The most historic event in television history.”

Let me see here …  Super Bowl 50 as the most historic event in television history vis á vis:

  1. Lee Harvey Oswald shot to death on live TV by Jack Ruby
  2. Neil Armstrong sets foot on the moon
  3. The hostage taking and murders at the Munich Olympics
  4. President Nixon’s resignation speech
  5. The explosion of the Challenger spacecraft
  6. The tearing down of the Berlin Wall
  7. The end result of the Branch Davidian standoff in Waco, TX
  8. September 11,2001

Those 8 television moments are ones that come to mind because I remember seeing them and recalling where I was and what the circumstances were when I saw them.  I am certain that many folks can add to this list.  And the upshot of this list – with or without any additions from others – is very simple:


Super Bowl 50 is not even close to any of these events in terms of being ”the most historic event in television history.”


Annually, the Super Bowl is an event filled with new ads and marks the start of new ad campaigns.  Last year, Colgate used an ad spot to tell me how much water I consumed if I left the water running while I brushed my teeth.  According to the ad, I would waste more water doing that than some people have available to them for a week.  Given my background in science/engineering, my first reaction was to wonder how long it took the guy in the ad to brush his teeth and what was the flow rate of the faucet.  However, that quickly passed and I realized that this argument was one I had heard before:

  • As a kid, my parents used to tell me to eat all of my veggies because there were children starving in China.  Maybe in your family, the children were starving elsewhere; it doesn’t really matter.  The point is that the veggies – or the water in this case – are here and the starving children – or the water-deprived folks – are there.  There is a huge flaw in that argument…

[For the record … I do not let the water run while I brush my teeth.  I do this out of habit and not in any misguided empathy for people who happen to live in arid places like the Gobi Desert or Sudan.]

I encountered an Internet ad on Feb 4 2016.  It told me that I should buy a gift card from some pizza purveyor and then use it as a stocking stuffer.  The visual for the ad shows a gift card in a hand poised over a Christmas stocking hung on a mantel.  Given that this was February when it appeared on my computer screen, I figured there were only 2 possible explanations:

  1. Some “Internet ad placement specialist” somewhere hit a wrong keystroke and put a leftover ad from the previous Christmas season in queue for viewing about 6 weeks late.
  2. Some company has decided to get a jump on the marketing for Christmas and has decided to get the Christmas ad campaign going 10 months early.  If so, that would be a crime against humanity.

There is an ad for a drug that counteracts “repeated or chronic constipation” that is not alleviated by laxatives, a massive intake of prunes or the normal things one might resort to when one suffers from a “blockage down-south” so to speak.  At one point, the actor on the ad looks directly into the camera and says plaintively,

“My chronic constipation kept coming back …”

My first reaction on hearing that was “No sh*t!” but I realized that would be a cruel response to anyone with constipation.  So let me simply say that this moron reading lines in this commercial whose chronic constipation keeps coming back does not understand the meaning of the word – CHRONIC.

Dominos Pizza is a regular in these annual compilations.  Earlier this year, they had a promotion where you would get a free pizza after you placed 6 online orders of $10 or more.  They then proceeded to suggest six circumstances wherein you might order from Dominos in order to get that free pizza.  One of their suggestions was “a hot date”.  Seriously?  If you have “a hot date” and you order Dominos Pizza, my guess is that there will be no follow-up hot dates.

Another “repeat offender” that shows up here every year is Taco Bell.  This year they introduced their “Dollar Breakfast Menu” with 8-10 items that – slow down here – all cost one dollar.  Looking at all of these choices displayed on my TV screen, this is the thought that ran through my mind:

  • So, what do they charge you for the Kaopectate milkshake you are going to desperately need after chowing down on those bad boys for breakfast?

Applebees introduced the “Burger Quesadilla” to its menu.  Before you get too excited, this is merely a burger where the bun is replaced by a quesadilla; on the creativity scale this ranks about where Whack-A-Mole ranks.  Naturally, Applebees shows us smiling customers eating this new culinary delight.  One woman is so agog with this new concept that she says,

“Mind blown!”

My dear.  If the concept of substituting a quesadilla for a bread roll is mind blowing, I fear for your existence.  If your brain were converted to TNT, you might not be able to clear your sinuses.

KFC spent much of the year trotting out a bunch of D-List celebrities pretending to be Colonel Sanders.  Then they concocted silly and irrelevant circumstances for each of these reincarnated colonels to make a fool of himself.  The only way this ad campaign might become even marginally interesting would be for KFC to try to pass off Kermit the Frog as “the real Colonel Sanders”.

There is an annoying ad for Subway where a couple marks important dates in their life by which Subway sandwich is on sale on that day of the week.  For example, they named their daughter Terry because she was born on the day that the chicken teriyaki sandwich was discounted.  These mouthbreathers are annoying on top of being stupid.


Memo to Subway:  Annoying and stupid is not the exacta you should seek for the “characters” in your ads.


JP Morgan Chase has a retirement planning service ad that shows a couple with a pig on a leash walking around town.  The theme of the ad is that you should be able to live your life the way you want to live your life and if that means having a pet pig on a leash, well, mazel tov!  At the end of the ad, the couple – still with the pig on its leash – go into a bank to speak to a banker.  Look, I will be happy to take this ad off the Bad Ads list and retract my statement that this is abjectly stupid as soon as I see a real banker dealing with real customers who have a real pig on a leash in an actual bank.

Car manufacturers seem to revel in producing and showing dumb ads.  Let me begin with the one for the Audi Q-7.  According the disembodied voice in the ad, the car demonstrates that “a higher form of intelligence has arrived.”  Immediately I begin to wonder what this sedan got on the SATs but those thoughts went away quickly because what I see on the screen is the car clipping along at a high rate of speed on a foggy road.  Perhaps what the meant to say is that the car is a higher form of intelligence as compared to a boulder.

Audi decided to double down on this theme and by the time Spring arrived, they were not only asserting that this car was highly intelligent, they were declaring that intelligence is the new rock and roll.  It is jarring when an ad touting intelligence says something so trivially inane.  If I told you that I think intelligence is the new kielbasa, would that be any dumber than what Audi was trying to tell me?

Matthew McConaughey was back again this year doing creepy ads for Lincolns.  The creepiest – and the dumbest – one involves him dressed in suit walking to the edge of a swimming pool and doing a backwards belly-flop into the water fully dressed.  Question:

  • How and/or why is that supposed to motivate anyone to think about buying a Lincoln?

Equally low on the intellectual scale you will find the “Chevy Focus Group Ads”.  This series of ads features “real people not actors” with the group led by a facilitator with a mellifluous voice who says nothing important.  Actually, that is a good thing because the evident IQ level of the focus group participants suggests that Chevy spent a lot of time searching for people who live under the left side of the bell curve.

In the category of abjectly annoying ads for automobiles, all I have to do is to put two things in juxtaposition:

  1. Toyota Corolla
  2. You Don’t Own Me.

Right about now, I suspect you have just finished shaking off a sensation similar to the one most folks feel when they hear fingernails scraping on a blackboard…

There is a local car dealer here in the DC area who brags that he only sells “certified pre-owned cars”.  Really?  You take the time to certify for me that the car has had a previous owner?  Why is that important?  What this guy sells are “Used Cars”; you can probably deduce that from the fact that most of them are models from 2 or 3 years ago.

There is a radio ad for one of the online universities that says they provide each student with access to a “success coach”.  Maybe this university should teach a course in “redundancy”.  Have you ever heard of a coach whose mission was to teach you how to fail?

Coors had a mercifully short ad campaign where they touted their beer as “tough but fair”.  I tried to understand what those adjectives meant with respect to beer.  Here is the best I could come up with:

  • Coors is tough to drink because it is a fair-to-middling beer.

I am sure that the good folks at Coors and their ad agency has something else in mind…

Even dumber than the Coors ad campaign was one for Shock Top Beer.  Some guy in a bar is lured into a staring contest with a Shock Top Beer tap.  Not surprisingly, the beer tap wins the contest.  Message for the consumer?

  • You have to be as dumb as toast to drink Shock Top Beer.

Southwest Airlines now touts their Transfarency.  This can mean “low fares with no added fees” and it can mean that you can use your reward miles “any way you want it/anytime you need it”.  Here is the problem.  The ads have fine print on the bottom of the images on the screen – really small fine print.  If you look quickly you can see that “Rules and Regulations apply” which means that these ads are not as “transfarent” as they would like you to believe.

e-Trade had an ad where they used a “Benedict Arnold character” as someone to hawk their online trading product because – after all – Benedict Arnold knows all about being a traitor – er trader.  Maybe this would be clever to a third-grade class; maybe not.  One thing is for sure, Benedict Arnold is not a warm and fuzzy figure of American history and culture.  People who think using a stylized Benedict Arnold as a spokesperson for their product might someday take the next step and try using a stylized Pontius Pilate.  That would be a breakthrough in lunacy…

I will close this year’s compendium of bad ads with one that is local to the DC area.  One of our local stations “guarantees their weather forecast will be accurate to within 3 degrees.”  This is multi-level stupid.  Let me count the ways:

What does “guarantee” mean here?  What would I as a viewer receive as a recompense if the forecast was off by 4 degrees?  The answer is simple; I would get nothing.

Now that I know this station offers meaningless guarantees, my trust in its product is on shaky ground.  So, why should I tune in to see its next big investigative report that it will be touting someday if I don’t trust what the station says?

Back to the weather … When I hear a forecast and it says tomorrow’s high temperature will be 96 degrees, I realize that tomorrow is going to be uncomfortably hot.  Do I care if it is only 92 degrees or if it is 100 degrees – thereby falling outside the “guaranteed range”?  Not really; I will still be uncomfortable.  Here is what I want from a weather forecast where accuracy is important – and none of it has to do with a temperature range:

  1. Rain or no rain
  2. Snow/sleet/wintry mix or no snow/sleet/wintry mix.
  3. If “Snow”, then how much?  There is a huge difference between 2 inches and 16 inches.

In closing, let me offer all of you a chance to purchase a product that I guarantee will be effective and will make your life easier and more pleasant.  For three easy payments of $29.95 I will send you a giant spray can of Unicorn Repellant.  Never again will you need to clean up those annoying unicorn droppings from your yard; never again will you have the paint scraped from your house due to unicorn horns; never again will you be awakened in the middle of the night with unicorn cries as they play leap-frog in your back yard.  If you ever see a unicorn in your yard after using my repellant spray, just send us back the unused portion and we’ll refund your money.  One dose of my unicorn spray will last for weeks.  If you hurry and order now, I’ll double the offer and send you two giant spray cans of Unicorn Repellant; just pay additional shipping and handling.  But wait; there’s more …

Actually, there isn’t any more.  Those are all the ads from last year that I found annoying or stupid or ineffective.  As is always the case, I wish that the folks in creative at the ad agencies and the folks who deal with those people from the product side would make a New Year’s resolution to make ads more entertaining and less silly for 2017.  As is always the case, I doubt that’s gonna happen – – meaning I will be back doing this sort of thing again next December.

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



A Reader’s Question Answered …

About a week ago, I mentioned that Leicester City had won the English Premier League last year but was down in the table near the “relegation zone” at the halfway mark of this year’s season.  A reader wondered in a comment to that rant if a Premier League Champion had ever been relegated the next year.  I said that was something I would need time to check and would not get that sort of time until after the Holidays.  I was wrong.  At a Holiday Gathering last week, I met a man who was born and raised in England who has been in the US for more than 25 years and is now a US citizen; his upbringing has led him to be a devoted follower of English Football and not American Football.  So, I asked him the question about a champion being relegated the next year…

The answer to the very specific question is no; that has never happened in the Premier League which has only been in existence since 1992.  However, he said that before 1992, the top level of English Football was the First Division and there was a First Division champion that was relegated after the next season.  The team suffering that fate was Manchester City; my informant recalled that the year was in the “mid-1930s”; I have subsequently confirmed that Manchester City was the First Division champion for the 1936/37 season and then finished in the “bottom 3” and was sent down after the 1937/38 season.

So, now we know …

I took the occasion of this conversation with my newfound soccer maven to ask the obverse question.  I said that I suspected it was not nearly so rare for a team relegated in one year to finish atop the league below and be promoted after the following season.  He said that happens regularly “to the point where I pay it no mind”.

So, now we know the obverse too …

Back in the time when the Cubs and the Indians were playing in the World Series, lots of folks adopted the mantra that the fans of both teams were loyal and long-suffering fans due to the long time between championships for either team.  As I read those sorts of reports and heard that line of commentary, I formed an image in my mind that equated the fans in Chicago and the fans in Cleveland in terms of their ardor for their teams and their levels of frustration.

There are data, however, that suggest that is not the case.

  • In 2016, the Cubs drew 39,906 fans per game.  That is 96.7% of capacity.
  • In 2016, the Indians drew 19,650 fans per game.  That is 55.8% of capacity.

Moreover, the percent of capacity figure for the Indians is “inflated somewhat” by the fact that the field has been lowering seating capacity each year since 2008 when there were about 8300 more seats in the stadium than there are today.  In terms of average attendance per game for 2016, the Indians were 28th in MLB and this was a year when the team was in contention from the start of the season all the way to the 7th game of the World Series.  Only two teams in MLB had a lower average attendance:

  1. Oakland A’s drew about 900 fewer fans per game than the Indians.  The A’s were never in contention and the A’s play in a stadium about as appealing as a dumpster.
  2. Tampa Bay Rays drew about 3800 fewer fans per game than the Indians.  The Rays were never serious contenders in 2016 and the Rays almost always have the worst attendance in MLB.

If in any way “fan passion” and “fan loyalty” are reflected in ticket buying and game attendance, it would seem to me that the fans in Cleveland have gotten a lot of credit that they may not deserve…

I don’t know about you, but my cable TV provider gives me access to at least 100 – if not 200 – channels that I never watch and am never tempted to watch.  Generally, I do not stand up and cheer when I hear about the birth of a new channel or its delivery by my cable provider.  Then there is the case where I hear about a new channel that just makes me shake my head in wonderment…

The IOC, the USOC and NBC Universal have formed some sort of holy alliance to bring to life the “Olympic Channel; Home of Team USA”.  This entity will come to exist in 2017 and will provide “year-round Olympic-sport programming” from all over the world with the emphasis being on US athletes and teams.  This is an adjunct to something called the “Olympic Channel” which evidently exists out there in TV land – or perhaps in a galaxy far away.

Most of the folks I know do not follow many – if any – Olympic sports for the first three years after the closing ceremonies of an Olympic Games.  If you asked a random person on the street today about luge competitions or Greco-Roman wrestling or synchronized diving, my guess is that you would observe a lot of blank stares.  My guess is that with the launch of “Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA” that situation will change not at all.

If this channel is going to be on the air 168 hours a week every week for all the time between the times of marginal interest in most Olympic sports, one of two things has to happen:

  1. There will be a whole lot of repeat programming for various competitions…
  2. There will be created a whole lot of features getting “up close and personal” with athletes and coaches in obscure sports all of which will contain stories of the trials, struggles and challenges facing those athletes and coaches.  Then those feature stories will be repeated over and over and over too…

Finally, instead of trying to end this rant on a light note as I usually try to do, I need to end this one on a downer.  I have learned that Dwight Perry’s column, Sideline Chatter, will be canceled by the Seattle Times as of January 1, 2017.  Evidently, the impetus behind this decision is cost-cutting at the paper.  Since I often use items from Sideline Chatter here, I will miss the column because it was a fertile ground for material.  On a more general level, I will miss it because it is a genre that is not commonly found in sports sections around the country these days; there used to be a bunch of so-called “notes columns” but many have fallen by the wayside.

I want to say thank you and good fortune to Dwight Perry for all his columns – his last one will be the 3,704th Sideline Chatter.  I believe that Dwight Perry will continue to be the night editor who puts the sports section together for the Seattle Times.  If anyone here wants to say thank you to Dwight Perry, his e-mail address can be found at the bottom of each Sideline Chatter column.

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



Admin Note – Writing Plans – The Next 10-12 Days

Here is what I hope I will be able to do over the next 10-12 days:

  • I want to do a rant on Monday 26 December.
  • I want to do the annual “Bad Ads” compendium sometime next week.
  • I want to do an abbreviated version of Mythical Picks on Friday or Saturday next week

Note I did not say was certain that I would be able to do those things; those are my basic objectives.  If things break right in terms of family/social commitments, I might be able to sneak in some other writings.  If not, I plan to be back on the air in “regular mode” on 5 January 2017.

Stay well, everyone…


Two Things Today…

I am going to take the opportunity of an uncertain writing schedule for the next week or ten days to clean two items off my clipboard that have been gathering dust.  Normally springtime is the region of the calendar for such tidying up but these things will not survive until then.  So, here goes…

The NCAA has sent a “notice of allegations” to Rutgers University indicating that the NCAA believes the Rutgers football program committed 7 violations of the NCAA rules in the last five years.  One allegation is that an assistant coach committed an academic violation pointedly aimed at keeping a player eligible and that another coach had some improper recruiting contacts and that there may have been some hanky-panky going on between recruits and “football hostesses”.  It is all rather run-of-the-mill stuff and the allegations all focus on events under the previous head coach and coaching staff.  You can read the report about all this here.

I can imagine that many of you are wondering why this is even marginally interesting.  Think about it for a moment.  Rutgers football was – allegedly – skirting the rules in recruiting and in maintaining eligibility for players who went onto the football field this year and soiled themselves on a fairly regular basis.  Those guys could not even cheat effectively.  Last season, Rutgers was 2-10 and for the season, this was the composite score:


Opponents  450  Rutgers  178


Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald had this comment related to Rutgers football recently:

“At halftime of the Big Ten championship game, two students competed to see who could throw the most footballs through a giant Dr. Pepper can. This is also how Rutgers made it into the conference.”

The latest brouhaha regarding the NBA came about a week ago, when the Cavaliers went to play the Grizzlies in Memphis for the only time this season.  People in the area bought tickets to see the Cavs and specifically to see LeBron James; after all, fans of the Grizzlies do not get to see a player of that ability on a routine basis.  The problem is that the Cavs decided to give some players a day off on the occasion of that game in Memphis.  The Cavs did not even bring LeBron James or Kyrie Irving or Kevin Love to Memphis.  Fans who paid “premium game prices” for tix did not even get to see those guys sitting in street clothes in the bench area.  The fans sort of felt like they had been “baited and switched”.  Truth be told, they were…

However, the anger seemed to be directed at LeBron James for this fan unhappiness.  LeBron is 31 years old and since the Cavs’ objective for this year is to defend their NBA Championship, it is reasonable that he will get some time off during the season.  His real work does not even begin until late April 2017.  He is not the perpetrator of the “bait and switch” since he did not suggest to the Grizzlies that they put the premium price tag on the tix for that game nor does he have any obligation to the folks who own or run the Grizzlies.

More than a few commentators have said that the NBA “needs to do something about this”.  I heard exactly no suggested “somethings to be done” that were enforceable or even particularly practical.  Personally, I think the problem is rooted – as is generally the case – in money.  The NBA plays an 82-game regular season schedule and most players need time off during the season for some “mini-R&R time”.  If the regular season were shorter, most of those players would not need the time off and there would be less complaining about scheduling that involved back-to-back games.  However, this is the point where money enters the arena.  If the NBA were to cut the regular season to – let me pick a number and say 58 games, home-and-home with every other team in the league – there are 2 certainties:

  1. Revenue would go down.
  2. The owners would not do that willingly and the players would not like the reduced salary cap.

So, there you have it.  This is a “problem” that is not going to go away.  So, the next time it happens, can we please not revisit the same discussions we had this time?  This is a financial/economic issue and it will not be resolved based on a new rule from the NBA Front Office with or without the concurrence of the NBPA.

Since the Cavs also left Kevin Love at home for that game in Memphis, let me include this comment about Kevin Love from Brad Rock in the Deseret News:

“Being nephew of the Beach Boys’ Mike Love has its advantages, but it doesn’t necessarily extend to musical skills.

“Cleveland forward Kevin Love says he went through a teen phase when he hounded his parents into buying him a guitar for Christmas.

“’It’s safe to say that didn’t last long … maybe two weeks,’ Love told

“So sad when you realize all you’re ever going to be is a 6-foot-10 multimillionaire ballplayer.”

Finally, another definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

“Accountant:  One of a mysterious race of mole people who resurface once a quarter and charge you to use Quicken.”

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




Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend of 12/25/16


Last week was not a particularly interesting week of mythical picking.  I made a selection in all 16 NFL games and the record for the week was 8-7-1.  That is certainly better than a losing record for the week – – but not by much.  As of this morning the record for the season for NFL Mythical Picks is a healthy 127-80-5.

Last week, there were 2 games consigned to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol and the coin continued its winning ways going 2-0-0 for the week.  For the season the coin is in a happy place standing at 17-11-2.

The Best Picks from last week were:

  • Lions/Giants UNDER 41.  Total score was only 23.
  • Colts +4 against Vikes.  Colts won straight up by 4 TDs.
  • Panthers +6.5 against Skins.  Panthers won straight up.

The Worst Picks from last week were:

  • Jets +2.5 against Dolphins.  Jets lost by 21 points.
  • Cards – 2.5 against Saints.  Cards lost straight up.
  • Raiders/Chargers OVER 49.  Total score was only 35.

Let me take a moment here for the weekly admonition not to take anything here as the basis for making a real wager on a real NFL game involving real money this week – or any week.  Here is how dumb you would need to be to do something like that:


You probably think that the Indians were in North America before the Europeans arrived because the Indians had reservations.


General Comments:


According to, the Carolina Panthers with their 6-8 record can still make the playoffs in the NFC if a bunch of teams cooperate.  Here is all that needs to happen:

  1. Panthers win out naturally AND
  2. Bucs lose out AND
  3. Packers lose out AND
  4. Saints beat the Bucs and then lose to the Falcons AND
  5. Skins win one of their final two games AND tie the other one.

I am not even going to try to verify the calculations made by here; that would be far more effort than it is worth.  Someone on the staff there has an abundance of spare time.  Oh, and another reason not to verify it is that it is not happening…

The Packers beat the Bears last week 30-27.  The Packers had a comfortable 27-10 lead in the game and looked to be coasting to a win until a Bears’ rally forged a 27-27 tie and forced Aaron Rodgers to need some of his final minute magic to get the winning field goal.  On a bitterly cold Chicago day with the wind blowing (reported wind-chill was minus-15 degrees), Rodgers ignored a calf injury to one leg and a hamstring injury to the other leg and hit Jordy Nelson on a 60-yard bomb.  That set up Mason Crosby to hit the game-winner as the clock hit zero.  Wide-receiver-turned -running-back, Ty Montgomery ran for 162 yards in the game and 2 TDs and the Packers ran for a total of 227 yards in the game.

Meanwhile, the Colts simply dominated the Vikes 34-6.  Does anyone recall when the Vikes were 5-0 and looked as if they would just mosey their way into the playoffs without Adrian Peterson on the strength of their defense?  I suspect the Vikes’ coaches do not.  Last week, the Vikes got Peterson back from his injury rehab and faced the very porous Colts’ defense; it looked like a scripted win for the Vikes – until they teed the ball up for the opening kickoff.  Here is the drive chart for the Vikes’ offense in the first half:

  • 3-and-out
  • 3-and-out
  • 4-and-out
  • Fumble lost
  • INT
  • Fumble lost

Not surprisingly, the Vikes total offensive output for the first half was a miserable 69 yards and zero points.  Meanwhile the Colts took a 27-0 lead to the locker room at halftime and put the game on cruise control for the second half.

Staying with events last week that had impact in the NFC North, the Lions also lost to the Giants by a score of 17-6.  The story of this game was very simple; the Giants’ defense dominated the game again.  The Lions only managed 56 yards rushing for the game and the Giants forced 2 turnovers in the red zone.

The Lions are 9-5 and continue to lead the NFC North.  However, that race just got much more interesting because the Packers are now 8-6 and the Lions and Packers play each other in the final game of the season on New Year’s Day.  If the Packers win and both teams have the same record, the Packers would own the tiebreaker because a win on New Year’s Day would give them a season-sweep of the Lions.

The Colts win over the Vikes kept their playoff hopes alive albeit not in the best of health.  Elsewhere in the AFC South, the Texans beat the Jags 21-20.  The Jags had the game in the bag – – and then the Jags proceeded to barf in the bag.  The Jags led 13-0 despite generating a total of 150 yards on offense for the day thanks to two consecutive INTs thrown by starting QB, Brock Osweiler.  Then backup-QB, Tom Savage, led a comeback.  The Texans trailed by 9 at the start of the 4th quarter.  The Texans got a field goal and then a game-winning TD on a drive that featured 2 pass interference penalties against the Jags’ defense; neither call was arguable.  In the final two minutes, the Jags had the ball with a chance to win the game but Blake Bortles threw an INT to avoid the victory.  On the day, here is Bortles’ stat line:

  • 12 for 28 for 92 yards with 0 TDs and 1 INT (the one that ended the game)

This loss was the motivating force for the Jags’ to fire Gus Bradley as the head coach.  His record in almost 4 years in Jax was a miserable 14-48; there is absolutely no reason for the Jags even to consider that he might be their coach for 2017.  But I do have to ask these questions:

  1. What will this firing after the 15th week of the season accomplish?
  2. What happened in the Texans game that was any worse than what happened in the weeks before?

Gus Bradley did not throw the INT that ended the game; he is not responsible for the Jags turning the ball over on downs after a 4th and 1 play in the 4th quarter.  Looking from a more distant perspective, he is not the guy who signed a bunch of defensive free agents last year leading the Jags to put a defense on the field that ranks 28th in the league in points allowed.  I just do not understand what harm might have befallen this feeble franchise had he been on the sidelines for the next two meaningless games.

There was turmoil on the other sideline in that game also.  Texans’ coach Bill O’Brien must have channeled Popeye the Sailor in the first half after Brock Osweiler threw two INTs on consecutive possessions.  The thought bubble over his head probably read:

“I’ve had all I can stands; I can’t stands no more!”

Then he chowed down on the spinach; sent Osweiler and his $72M contract to the pine and put Tom Savage into the game.  In addition to guiding the comeback, Savage put up a much more impressive stat line for the game than did Osweiler.  Here, you make the call:

  • Osweiler:  6 for 11 for 48 yards with 0 TDs and 2 INTs
  • Savage:  23 for 36 for 260 yards with 0 TDs and 0 INTs

In the other AFC South game that mattered last week, the Titans beat the Chiefs 19-17.  The Chiefs led 14-0 in the first half and led 17-7 at the start of the 4th quarter when Andy Reid decided it was time to put the game on ice.  [Actually, the game had been on ice since the kickoff with a temperature of 1 degree and a wind chill of minus-19 degrees at Arrowhead Stadium.]  Reid’s conservatism did not pay dividends here as the Titans scored a field goal, then a TD with a blown 2-point conversion and then another field goal as time expired to win the game.  The game had playoff implications for both teams.  For the Titans, it gave them an 8-6 record putting them in a tie for the moment with the Texans atop the AFC South – with the Colts lurking at 7-7.  The Titans will host the Texans on New Year’s Day in what should be a winner-take-all game.

The Chiefs entered last week on top of the AFC West based on the previous week’s win over the Raiders.  Now they are a game behind the Raiders – but comfortably situated in the wild card race.  They laid an egg last week and now trail the Raiders by one game with two games left.  The “good news” for the Chiefs is that they own the tiebreaker with the Raiders should both teams finish with the same record.  The schedule for both the Chiefs and the Raiders is about the same in terms of difficulty:

  • Raiders host Indy and then go to Denver
  • Chiefs host Denver and then go to San Diego

Meanwhile, last week the Raiders pulled a victory out of their ears last week beating the Chargers 19-16.  The win assured the Raiders as a participant in the AFC playoffs leaving open only where they might be seeded.  The last time the Raiders made the playoffs was in 2002 and they made it all the way to the Super Bowl in that year.  What I think is important here regarding the Raiders is that their defense seemed to come to life two weeks ago; and then last week, they held the Chargers’ offense to 16 points and 265 yards on offense.

The Chargers are the “anti-Lions” for 2016.

  • The Lions have come from behind in the 4th quarter in 8 of their 9 wins this year.
  • The Chargers have led in the 4th quarter 6 times and then lost the game – as they did last week.

The Broncos lost to the Pats at home last week 16-3.  The defense did its job holding the Pats to 16 points (Other than a shutout loss earlier this season with an injured 3rd string QB at the helm, that is a TD less than the Pats have scored in any game.).  However, the Broncos’ offense was a no-show – – or perhaps what we saw was the start of the blossoming of the Pats’ “Playoff Defense” for 2016.  Here is a stat to give you an idea what I mean here:

  • For the first 5 Broncos’ possessions of the second half, the Pats’ defense held the Broncos to a total of 9 yards.

On the other side of the ball, this is the third consecutive game where the Broncos’ defense has held the opponent to 16 points or less; and yet, the team record in those three games is 1-2.  There were reports of some locker-room discord between the offense and the defense after last week’s game; that may not be camaraderie at the highest level, but it may not be all that unjustified…

Trevor Siemian threw for 94 more yards than Tom Brady did and still the Pats won the game comfortably because the Pats ran the ball against the Broncos’ defense (135 yards) and the Pats throttled the Broncos run game (59 yards).  The loss puts the Broncos record at 8-6 meaning they no longer dominate the second wild card slot in the AFC playoffs.  In fact, they find themselves with the most difficult schedule among the teams in the AFC that aspire to that slot.

As I said earlier, the Panthers are alive in the NFC playoff race but are not going to make it.  If the Broncos also miss the playoffs this year, it will be the first time since the 2002 Super Bowl (Bucs over Raiders) where both teams missed the playoffs in the next year.

The Pats’ win guaranteed that the Pats are the AFC East champions for the 8th year in a row and it also assured that the Pats will have a BYE in the first week of the playoffs for the 7th consecutive year.  Moreover, the Pats have now assured that they have won 12 or more games in each season since 2010.  Somebody must be doing something right in Foxboro…

Elsewhere in the AFC East, the Dolphins held a meager 13-10 lead at halftime over the Jets and then ran away in the second half to win the game 34-13.  The Jets had more offense in the game but it did not matter; a blocked punt that resulted in a Dolphins’ TD early in the 3rd quarter opened the flood gates and the Jets had no way to stop the flow.  The Dolphins started Matt Moore at QB for the injured Ryan Tannehill; all he did was to throw 4 TD passes (first time in his career he ever did that in a single game) and 1 INT.  The last time Matt Moore started a game was in January 2012; it was against the Jets; the Dolphins won that game too.

The Dolphins’ defense simply pummeled Bryce Petty who eventually had to leave the game with an injury leaving Ryan Fitzpatrick to come into the game to administer “last rites” to the Jets’ effort for the day.  I use the term “last rites” purposely here.  Once again, it sure looked to me as if the Jets as a team – and their OL in particular – were just going through the motions in the second half of this game.  If other folks see what I saw and interpret it in the same way, then maybe there is a coaching problem with the Jets.  When a team gets beat because the opponent is a better team, one should accept that as “inevitable”.  When a team comes out and gets behind and “tosses in the towel”, that is whole different situation.

The Bills beat the Browns 33-13 in a humongously meaningless game – save for the fact that it might have been the Browns’ first win of the year.  The problem was that the outcome was never really in doubt save for a fleeting moment or so in the first half when the Browns managed to tie the score at 3-3.  LeSean McCoy led the way for the Bills gaining 153 yards rushing in the game to go along with 2 TDs.  RG3 came close to getting 200 yards passing despite being sacked 5 times in the game; but the game was completely uninteresting from about the 4-minute mark of the first quarter when the Bills took a 10-3 lead.

The Steelers beat the Bengals 24-20 last week to stay in charge of the AFC North race.  The Bengals had a comfy lead in this game and the Steelers could not get into the end zone for the first half of the game.  In fact, they only got 1 TD all day long – and missed a 2-point conversion on that occasion.  Not to worry though; the Bengals resorted to self-immolation in the style that the Bengals have perfected over the past couple of years.  On the drive that led to the only TD of the day for the Steelers, the Bengals committed penalties on 4 consecutive plays each of which resulted in a first down:

  1. Jumped offside to give the Steelers a first down (5 yards)
  2. Defensive holding (5 yards)
  3. Defensive holding – same defender (5 yards)
  4. Unnecessary roughness (15 yards)

Ten years ago, if I told you a team had that sort of defensive sequence, you would have guessed it was the Raiders.  Today, it could only be the Bengals…

The Bengals’ offense was AWOL in the second half.  After scoring 20 points in the first half, the Bengals total offense in the second half was 38 yards.  Please note that on that penalty-laden Steelers’ drive for a TD, the Bengals amassed 30 yards in penalties.  Just to be clear, that is not a winning strategy…

This game was telecast into the DC area last week and I want to say that the Bengals’ fans stayed away in droves.  As the teams were setting up for the 2nd half kickoff, the TV shots had half of the stands in view for an extended period of time.  My estimate is that 75% of the seats were empty in those camera shots…

The Ravens kept the pressure on the Steelers beating the Eagles 27-26 last week.  This game was also telecast into the DC area and I was very surprised to see the Eagles’ offense do business against a very good Ravens’ defense.  In fact, the Ravens entered the game with the #1 run defense in the NFL allowing only 76 yards per game.  Last week the Eagles ran the ball for 169 yards averaging 4.5 yards per carry.  This week, the Ravens (8-6) take on the Steelers (9-5) on Christmas Day.  If the Ravens win here, they will lead the AFC North based on tiebreakers.

In other NFC East action, the Cowboys maintained their lead in the division getting back on the winning track over the Bucs 26-20.  This win belongs to the Cowboys’ defense after holding the Bucs to 276 yards on offense and generating 4 turnovers in the game.  In the 4th quarter, the Bucs had 5 possessions and those possessions produced a total of 14 yards of offense.  I want to present to you Dak Prescott’s stat line and then ask a question:

  • 32 for 36 for 279 yards with 0 TDs and 0 INTs and 1 TD rushing

Question:  What do the folks who were clamoring for Tony Romo to start this game after the Cowboys’ loss two weeks ago, have to say now?

On Monday night, the Panthers beat the Skins 26-15.  To call the Skins’ performance a bed-wetting would not be nearly strong enough.  They soiled their bedding through every orifice of the human anatomy.  The Skins managed 29 yards rushing on 13 carries and that included an 11-yard run by Kirk Cousins that was not designed as a running play and they were a miserable 2 for 12 on 3rd down conversions.  Making this even worse, the Panthers had their star middle linebacker on the sidelines in street clothes for the game.  On defense the Skins had three problems:

  1. They could not stop the run.
  2. They did not cover receivers well.
  3. They did not tackle well.

Other than that, the defense was just fine…

The Skins are now 7-6-1; they are still in the playoff race but they need teams ahead of them to lose a game while the Skins win out.

The Falcons beat the Niners 41-13.  The game was as uninteresting as the score indicates.  Here is all you have to know about this game.  The Falcons ran the ball for 248 yards on their way to amassing 550 yards of total offense on a patently inept Niners’ defense.

The Saints beat the Cards 48-41 last week.  Both coaches must have decided to give the defensive starters the day off because the Saints had 488 yards on offense and the Cards had 425 yards on offense. The Saints were 9 for 14 on 3rd down conversions.   Both teams ran for more than 100 yards in the game; Drew Brees threw 4 TD passes and Carson Palmer threw 2.  I hope the fans had an entertaining time watching this game because it had exactly no meaning unto itself.

The first game of last week was the Seahawks clobbering of the Rams 24-3.  The Seahawks won the NFC West with this victory and the game showed pretty clearly that the Rams’ poor showing in the past few weeks had less to do with Jeff Fisher as the head coach than it had to do with the talent on the field.  The Rams were sleepwalking through most of the game; it sure looked to me as if the Rams’ players figured the optimal outcome would be not to get injured and to be early in line to cash their paycheck for the game.  The Rams’ total offense for the game was 183 yards which is not good; however, going into the 4th quarter trailing 17-3, the Rams’ total offense to that point was 90 yards.  That is way less than “not good”; 30 yards per quarter is abysmal.

There is an example from this game of why you should look at stats a bit more carefully than just the total numbers sometimes.  Todd Gurley was clearly the focus of the Seahawks’ defense last week; they were out to stop him cold.  He carried the ball 14 times for 38 yards; and if you look at those numbers, you would say that the Seahawks’ defense achieved their objective (2.7 yards per carry).  But they did an even better job than that.  Gurley had 1 run of 22 yards in the game.  That means the Seahawks’ defense held him to 16 yards on his other 13 carries.  Todd Gurley is a very good RB; stifling him to that extent is most praiseworthy for the Seahawks’ defense.


The Games:


Of the 16 games this week, only 4 of them involve teams that have no real Playoff pressure on them.  You can drop that number to 3 games if you allow that the Pats have pressure on them to beat the Jets to maintain home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.  Picking the worst game of the week is not hard on this menu; picking the Game of the Week was much more difficult.


(Thurs Nite) Giants – 2.5 at Philly (42):  The Giants have not clinched a playoff spot in the NFC despite their 10-4 record; the Eagles have lost 5 games in a row but their home record is still 4-2 for the season.  Given that peek into the standings, one might think the spread here should be bigger but Eagles/Giants games tend to be close games and this one shapes up to be a defensive game.  I like this game to stay UNDER.


(Sat Afternoon) Washington – 3 at Chicago (46.5):  The Skins must win to remain “playoff relevant” and the Bears have been out of playoff contention since the start of October.  This season the bears lost 3 games then won a game; after that, they lost 3 games then won a game; after that, they lost 3 games then won a game.  In this cycle, they have lost 2 games so the trend says they are due to lose this one.  What the Skins must realize is that their defense is not nearly good enough to carry the team for 60 minutes.  That means the offense has to be in gear and playing efficiently from the start of the game – something the team has not done consistently of late.  I think the coaches will have the team ready to play from the start; I like the Skins to win and cover on the road.  Having made that selection, I went looking for a trend that would make it look as if I had been shrewd; I found two such trends:

  • Skins are 8-2 ATS in their last 10 road games.
  • Road team is 6-2 ATS in the last 8 games between these 2 teams.


(Sat Afternoon) Miami at Buffalo – 4 (41):  The Dolphins have the 6th seed in the AFC playoffs as of this morning but they cannot afford a loss; the Bills trail 7 other AFC teams who aspire to that 6th playoff slot.  Translation:  The Bills ain’t gonna make it. is calling for rain with temps in the 30s and 18 mph winds; I do not need a degree in meteorology or climatology to recognize that is not Miami weather.  The Dolphins are the better team and they need this game; yet, the Bills are favored at home without blizzard conditions in the forecast.  I do not understand this line.  I’ll take the Dolphins plus the points.


(Sat Afternoon) Tampa at New Orleans – 3 (52.5):  The Bucs need this game to stay “playoff relevant” and perhaps even to catch the Falcons in the NFC South if the Falcons were to lose in Seattle this week.  The Saints can make vacation plans for January.  The problem for the improving Bucs’ defense is that Drew Brees came to life last week after two straight bed-wetting performances; when Drew Brees is hot, the Saints can score points by the bushel and keep up with opponents despite the Saints’ defense which allows 28 points per game ranking 30th in the NFL ahead of only the sorry-assed Niners and Browns.  I will turn this game over to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol and the coin says to take the Bucs plus the points.


(Sat Afternoon) Atlanta – 3 at Carolina (52):  The spread opened the week at 1 point and has climbed slowly all week long.  The Panthers appeared to come to life on Monday night beating the Skins on the road; in particular, the Panthers ran the ball well and controlled the clock and the game.  The Falcons’ defense is not the team strength so if the Panthers can maintain that sort of offensive play, they can control the clock here and keep the very potent Falcons’ offense on the bench.  It worked for the Panthers on Monday; can they do it again on a short week?  I think they can; I’ll take the Panthers plus the points.  Here is a pair of opposing trends for this game:

  • Falcons are 7-1 to go OVER in their last 8 games on a Saturday.
  • Panthers are 7-3 to go UNDER in their last 10 Games in December.
  • This game is on a Saturday in December …


(Sat Afternoon) Minnesota at Green Bay – 7 (43):  The Packers are the 6th seed in the NFC playoff picture as of this morning.  If they win out, they will win the NFC North; if they lose a game, they will be in a huge jumble to make the playoffs.  A win for the Vikes here would put them ahead of the Packers in the NFC North standings based on a tiebreaker.  The Packers are playing well and their defense is improving over the past several weeks.  The Vikes’ offense has been downright awful for a while now.  In their last 9 games, the Vikes have scored more than 20 points exactly twice – and one of those times was against the Jags so maybe that doesn’t even count.  I’ll go with the hot team here – even though there will not be frigid weather conditions on Saturday – and take the Packers to win and cover at home.


(Sat Afternoon) Jets at New England – 16.5 (44):  I hate double-digit spreads in NFL games.  This spread opened the week at 14 points and is ascending to nosebleed levels.  I found the spread at 17 points at two Internet sportsbooks this morning.  The Pats’ motivation here is to maintain home-field advantage in the playoffs; as of this morning, the Pats have a 1-game lead over the Raiders for that position but in the case of a tie between the Pats and the Raiders, the nod will go to the Raiders.  The Jets’ motivation here is that this game brings them one game closer to the end of this miserable season which started with some lofty expectations. predicts a 100% chance of rain with temperatures in the 30s and 11 mph winds.  The Jets’ offense does not need adverse weather conditions to hold it down.  I’ll take this game to stay UNDER.


(Sat Afternoon) Tennessee – 4.5 at Jax (44):  The Titans are in the playoff picture; they are tied with the Texans in the AFC South and could win the division; their 8-6 record puts them in a position to get a wildcard slot if the Dolphins take gas in the last two games.  The Titans are relevant and that has not been something one could say in late December for several years not.  The Jags on the other hand are just miserable.  Consider that the Jags rank 7th in the NFL in total defense (sounds good) but they also rank 28th in the NFL in points allowed per game (not so good).  On offense, the Jags are far more balanced; they are 28th in the NFL in total offense and 27th in the NFL in points per game.  Tennessee is the better team and they should have plenty of motivation here.  The Hollywood ending for the Jags would be for their new coach to give them a “Knute Rockne speech” that kicks their performance into high gear and they win this game.  The problem is that this game is being played in Jax and not Hollywood.  I like the Titans to win and cover on the road.


(Sat Afternoon) San Diego – 5.5 at Cleveland (43.5):  Here is a game where neither team has anything to play for other than pride.  The Browns need a win – any sort of a win; the Chargers do not want to be “that team” – the one that loses to the team that sure-as-heck looks like an 0-16 team.  In case you are wondering why this is not the Dog-Breath Game of the Week, be patient…  Since I do not care about the outcome here one way or the other, I will turn this over to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol and the coin says to take the game to go OVER.  For the record, the coin is bucking a couple of meaningless trends:

  • Chargers are 12-3-1 to go UNDER in their last 16 games in December.
  • Browns are 13-3 to go UNDER in their last 16 games in Week 16.
  • So, there…


(Sat Afternoon) Indy at Oakland – 3 (52.5):  Both of these teams win on offense.  Both defenses are mediocre at best but both have been improving over the last several weeks.  Neither has improved to the degree that I would call them “good” but they are improved.  Nevertheless, I see a shootout happening here.  I’ll take the game to go OVER.


(Sat Afternoon) SF at LA – 4 (40):  Your patience has been rewarded.  This is clearly and unequivocally The Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  This is the first year of the Rams’ return to LA and this is the game on the docket for Christmas Eve.  That is the NFL’s “War on Christmas”.  These teams stink and nothing that happens this weekend is going to change that.  The Niners won the first meeting between these two teams in the opening weekend of the NFL season; since then the Niners have lost 13 straight games.  The Rams “recovered” from that shellacking to the point that they won 4 games but they also managed to get their coach fired based on their sparking play.  The “new coach” showed how valuable his insights are last week putting all of 3 points on the scoreboard against the Seahawks.  Do not watch this game – unless you tune in momentarily to see if the stands in LA are more than 40% full.  Do not wager on this game under any circumstances.  Only because I said I would make a pick in every game, I’ll take the Niners plus the points.  I am really going against the trends with this pick:

  • Niners are 1-8 ATS in their last 9 games against the NFC.
  • Niners are 2-8 ATS in their last 10 games on grass.
  • Niners are 2-7 ATS in their last 9 games on the road.
  • Here they are on the road, playing on grass against an NFC opponent…


(Sat Afternoon) Arizona at Seattle – 7.5 (43):  As of this morning, the Seahawks are the #2 seed in the NFC playoffs meaning they get a home game and a BYE week.  Holding onto that position should be sufficient motivation for the team.  The “home game” would seem to be important to the Seahawks; they are 7-0 at home (the only NFL team undefeated at home) and they are only 2-4-1 on the road. The Cards began the season with Super Bowl aspirations but now see the final two games from the perspective that they are going to finish below .500.  I do not like that half-point hook on top of the TD spread, but I do not like the Cards even more.  I’ll take the Seahawks at home and lay the points.


(Sat Nite) Cincy at Houston – 1 (41.5):  This line opened the week at 3 points and it has dropped to this level at most of the sportsbooks this morning.  There is one sportsbook that has this as a “pick ‘em” game.  The money is obviously going the Bengals’ way but I have no idea why.  The Bengals have nothing to play for and this is a team that needs no incentive to “lose focus”.  The Texans need the win to stay on top of the AFC South and will know the outcome of the Titans/Jags game well before kickoff (likely a Titans’ win).  I really do not like either team here but I will go with the home team and the team that has a reason to play hard for 60 minutes.  I’ll take the Texans and lay the point.


(Sun Afternoon) Baltimore at Pittsburgh – 5 (44.5):  This is the Game of the Week.  As Keith Jackson was wont to say:

This game comes down to the big uglies in the trenches.

The stakes are simple.  The Ravens are a game behind the Steelers but a Ravens’ win would put them in first place in the AFC North on tiebreakers.  The Steelers are at home and are on a 5-game win streak.  Since their loss to the Ravens in early November where they scored only 14 points, the Steelers have gone 5-1 and have scored 24 points or more in each game.  Having LeVeon Bell in game condition for all those games surely contributed to the improved offensive output.  Weather should not be a factor here but I do think that both defenses will be primed to stifle the opposing offenses.  I like this game to stay UNDER.


(Sun Nite) Denver at KC – 3 (37):  The Chiefs lost a game last week that they should not have lost (see above).  The Broncos lost a game last week that accentuated their offensive weaknesses.  The Chiefs have the first AFC wildcard slot in the playoffs as of this morning.  The Broncos are not in the playoffs as of this morning and find themselves in a pack of teams hoping that the dolphins implode so one of the pack can sneak into that 6th seed position.  A loss for the Broncos would be far more severe than a loss for the Chiefs.  The Broncos’ offensive woes begin with the fact that they do not run the ball well (27th in the NFL in yards per game).  That puts the offensive burden on the passing game and while Trevor Siemian is not a stiff, he is not a top-shelf QB that can go out and throw for 375 yards in any given game.  The ray of hope for the Broncos in this game is that the Chiefs’ run defense is not all that good; it ranks 28th in the league in terms of yards per game allowed.  If Denver can run the ball effectively, they can win this game; if not, I think they are doomed.  I am turning the game over to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol and the coin says to take the Chiefs and lay the points.


(Mon Nite) Detroit at Dallas – 7.5 (44):  The Total Line opened the week at 41 points and has been climbing all week.  I think the folks who got down on the OVER early this week had it right; I see both teams capable of getting 24 points or more on the board.  I like the way the Lions manage to stay close in almost every game; last week’s loss by 11 points is their only loss by more than a TD; in fact, 4 of their 5 losses have been by a total of 18 points.  I will make two picks in this game.  I like the Lions plus the points – particularly with that half-point hook.  In addition, I like this game to go OVER.


Finally, here is a definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

“Wikipedia:  An online adventure in higher learning where the entry for the Second World War is likely to be several paragraphs shorter than the one on “The Brady Bunch”.”

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



The LVQB Award for 2016


My distaste for Mock Drafts months in advance of the NFL Draft and/or anything that even resembles “Bracketology” more than two weeks before Selection Sunday should be clear to anyone who reads these things.  There is another form of this same sort of silliness that infects the NFL:

Weekly projections starting in October as to who is the MVP.

Since the award is based solely on the regular season, we have reached the point in the season where such projections can begin to be meaningful so articles of that type from here on out are acceptable.  All the earlier ones are wasted bits of memory somewhere out there on the Internet.

Another thing that ought not to surprise readers here is that the world is viewed differently here in Curmudgeon Central.  I will look at the MVP Award and probably agree that the recipient is deserving and move on.  I doubt that the selection – whoever it is – will give me agita.  However, recognizing that the MVP is a quarterback about 75% of the time, I often think of it as the MVQB award.  And that leads me to look at the world differently and wonder who – in 2016 – might be the LVQB or the Least Valuable Quarterback.

I eliminate from consideration all of the 3rd string QBs who never see the field; obviously, they have no particular value to a team but that does not make for an interesting discussion.  That criterion eliminates Tony Romo from consideration here even though he is taking down a large chunk of salary cap room for the Cowboys while contributing nothing so far this year.  In my mind, the LVQB is someone who is out there on the field on a regular basis but performs in such a way as to make his teammates and his coaches wish he were somewhere else.

The nominees are – in alphabetical order of the teams they play for:


Cleveland Browns – RG3 and Cody Kessler and Josh McCown as a tandem:  Note that I have not included Charlie Whitehurst or Kevin Hogan to this list because neither of them lasted long enough to throw 30 passes in the season.  The stats for Browns’ QBs do not really tell the tale for two reasons.  First, the team is always behind and has to throw the ball to try – ineffectively – to catch up; and second, the offensive line is so porous that the team has had to start 5 different players at QB this year because of injuries.  I will combine stats here except for the QB ratings which I will report separately:

  • RG3 QB rating is 58.5; Cody Kessler is 92.6; Josh McCown is 72.3.
  • They have thrown 12 TDs and 10 INTs
  • They have a completion percentage of 58.5%
  • They average 6.7 yards per attempt.


Houston Texans – Brock Osweiler:  If the Texans’ Front Office does not have a deep sense of Buyer’s Remorse about now, they are comatose.  They signed Osweiler to a 4-year deal worth $72M with $37M guaranteed 10 months ago.  Now he is on the bench having put up these sorts of stats for 2016:

  • He has a QB rating of 71.4.
  • He has thrown 14 TDs and 16 INTs.
  • His completion percentage is under 59.6%.
  • He averages 5.8 Yards per attempt.


Jacksonville Jaguars – Blake Bortles:  I have to admit that I thought the Jaguars were going to be a division winner this year and much of that thought was based on the progress Bortles had made last year as a maturing QB.  Let me be polite here and say that train jumped the tracks in 2016:

  • He has a QB rating of 75.8
  • He has thrown 21 TDs and 16 INTs.
  • His completion percentage is 57.8%
  • He averages 6.0 yards per attempt.
  • Oh, he and his teammates have gotten his coach fired already this year.


Los Angeles Rams – Case Keenum and Jared Goff as a tandem:  The Rams gave up a lot of assets to move to the top of last year’s draft to take Goff so Keenum was a “placeholder” from the outset of the season.  Goff has played only a couple of games but has certainly not set the world on fire while in there.  I will report combined stats here other than the two QB ratings which I will report separately:

  • Keenum’s QB rating is 76.4.  Goff’s QB rating is 65.7
  • They have thrown 13 TDs and 17 INTs
  • They have a completion percentage of 58.7%
  • They average 6.4 yards per attempt.
  • Oh, they and their teammates have gotten the coach fired already this year.


New York Jets – Ryan Fitzpatrick:  I presume the Jets’ braintrust recognized that 2015 was an aberrant performance by Fitzpatrick and that is why they did not sign him until the 11th our and 59th minute.  He had an excellent year last year and in order to regress to the mean, he is now having an awful year.  He was benched for Geno Smith earlier this year which is inglorious to be sure and then he was benched in favor of Bryce Petty which seems to have been a desperation move by the team.  Here are Fitzpatrick’s stats for 2016:

  • He has a QB rating of 69.1.
  • He has thrown 10 TDs and 15 INTs
  • His completion percentage is 56.8%
  • He averages 6.7 yards per attempt.


San Francisco 49ers – Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick as a tandem:  When Chip Kelly has to decide which QB to put on the field, it is like he is deciding whether he would rather be hung or shot. In case you forgot, Kaepernick signed a 6-year contract with the Niners for a total of $116M with $61M of it guaranteed back when it appeared that he might become a real NFL QB.  I will combine their stats here except for the QB ratings which I will report separately.

  • Kaepernick’s QB rating is 86.6.  Gabbert’s QB rating is 68.4
  • They have thrown 18 TDs and 9 INTs
  • Their completion percentage is 56.0%
  • They average 6.2 yards per attempt.


Before announcing my selection here – The Committee’s vote was unanimous because it consisted of only one member, me – let me assure folks who may be frustrated with the QB play of their favorite team that I did consider Carson Palmer, Tyrod Taylor, Sam Bradford, Trevor Siemian and the troika of QBs in Chicago for the list of nominees.  I can understand how fans of the teams they play for may not be fully satisfied with their performances in 2016, but I put them a clear step above the nominees here.

I understand that “value” in the title of this anti-award ought to imply that the cost to the team receiving these underwhelming performances is part of the calculus.  For that reason, I will take the Browns’ tandem and Blake Bortles off the list of nominees first.  Next, I will take Ryan Fitzpatrick off the list because his is a short-term deal and the Jets really had no choice when you consider the other three QBs on their roster this summer.

That leaves a short list of three.  All of them are worthy.  The Curmudgeon Central Committee decision is:


The LA Rams tandem of Case Keenum and Jared Goff.


The Rams gave up two first round picks, two second round picks and two third round picks essentially for the right to take Jared Goff first in the 2016 NFL Draft.  These two QBs do not represent a large monetary investment or a salary cap problem for the Rams, but the loss of those picks over last year and this year’s draft are going to have a negative impact on the team for a while down the road.  Any prospective new coach needs to assess the talent needs of the team as a whole in light of two “lost draft picks in 2017” along with the potential of either of these QBs to turn into a serious NFL QB before taking the Rams’ job no matter what the salary offer might be.

I realize that the mere consideration of a Least Valuable QB Award at this time of year is out of step with the festive spirit of the season.  I do not intend this to be a buzzkill and so let me close with the definition of “buzzkill” from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

“Buzzkill:  Someone who brings up the subject of world hunger during a lap dance.”

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



The Intersection Of Sports And Money

The college football bowl games seem determined to command attention far beyond what the games are worth.  In case you were busy alphabetizing your spice cabinet yesterday, there was a real nail-biter in the Miami Beach Bowl game when Tulsa beat Central Michigan 55-10.  But the “bowl game story of the moment” has nothing to do with what will happen on the field; rather it has to do with who will not be on the field.

Last week, Leonard Fournette (RB-LSU) said he would not play for LSU in its bowl game – whichever one they are in.  Yesterday Christian McCaffrey (RB-Stanford) made the same decision with regard to playing for Stanford in its upcoming bowl game.  Both players said they were going to focus on training and preparation for the NFL Draft.  And the commentators were off and running – – so to speak.

Not only do I support Fournette and McCaffrey and their decision here; I wonder why any player who is a likely first round pick in next April’s NFL Draft would risk injury in a stupid bowl game.  In the case of these two players, their decision is doubly smart.  Running backs in the NFL have a short shelf-life and many scouts/GMs try to assess how much “tread is left on the tires” of a potential draftee.  Injury history plays a huge role also in drafting decisions.  So, what is the value returned to the player for taking the field in a meaningless game about a month after the real games are over?

The bowl games are nothing more than a money-grab by bowl organizing committees and schools and TV networks.  Do not tell me about the grand traditions and the history and all that argle-bargle; they are a money-grab with a longstanding marketing campaign.  What Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey have done is to look to an event that was founded purely on economics and made a personal decision that is founded in pure economics.  They will stay home and watch other people play the game.

They are not trying to convince others to skip the contests – although their choices might be a model others could choose to follow.  Their actions are neither seditious nor are they abandoning the institution that will soon be their alma mater.  Enough already …

While I am sort of on the topic of the intersection of football and economics, I read a report about a week ago that said FOX has sold off more than 90% of its advertising slots for the Super Bowl in February.  On the surface, that sounds great but the pace of the sales is lagging compared to last year when all the ad slots were sold out by Thanksgiving.  People who follow the world of marketing and advertising far more closely and analytically than I do opine that the drop in TV ratings for the NFL early in this season is the cause for the lagging sales.  If all that the ad buyers are looking at are ratings numbers, they are likely to continue to be disappointed since this week’s games will fall on Saturday night (Christmas Eve) and Sunday evening (Christmas day).

According to various reports I have read, FOX is charging $5M for a 30-second ad slot in the “premium times” within the game structure.  Per one report, FOX is willing to negotiate that price downward if the ad buyer also purchases some ad time within other FOX TV properties.  In any event, it will be expensive for advertisers to get their message out during Super Bowl LI on 5 February 2017.  Expense or no expense, at least one advertiser figures that the Super Bowl is an ideal vehicle for its product:

  • Avocadoes from Mexico has been a Super Bowl advertiser in the past and has evidently bought time once again this year.
  • According to folks who follow purchasing trends, Super Bowl Sunday is the day of the year when Americans consume more avocadoes than on any other single day as guacamole seems to be a staple culinary option for Super Bowl parties.  Whether one calls it a culinary trend or a social trend, Americans seem to have transformed the day of the Super Bowl game from a time to watch the big game into a day to stuff calories down one’s gullet.

I know it is not going to happen, but what I would love to see for one of the Super Bowl ads from Anheuser Busch is the return of the three Budweiser frogs and Louie the Lizard.  I always thought those were clever advertisements and they have been “gone” for at least 15 years now.  Maybe it is time for a nostalgia trip?

Looking overseas at English football – what we call soccer – the Premier League is about at the halfway point in the season.  At the top of the table – what we call the standings – are the usual suspects; Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester United are the top six teams.  You may recall last year that Leicester City “shocked the world” and won the league championship as predicted by just about no one.  So, where are the defending champions this year?

Here are the “Bottom Six” teams at about the hallway mark of the season.  Remember, the three bottom teams at the end of the season are relegated to the Championship which sounds prestigious but it is actually the second division of English football.

  • Leicester City  17 points
  • Burnley FC      17 points
  • Crystal Palace 15 points
  • Sunderland      14 points
  • Swansea City  12 points
  • Hull City          12 points

Relegation involves more than a loss of prestige in English football.  There are 20 teams in the Premier League and the television revenue generated by that league drops almost 100 million pounds into the coffers of each of the 20 teams.  By contrast, teams in the Championship get money from TV contracts in the neighborhood of 3 million pounds.  Avoiding relegation is a big deal in English football…

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

“No kidding. Jazz 7-footer Jeff Withey and former Playmate of the Year Kennedy Summers announced their engagement.

“No truth to the rumor they plan to honeymoon at Staples Center.”

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



A Sad State Of Affairs …

There are two items in the sports landscape today that I find a bit disquieting.  Sports ought to be about entertainment, competition, achievement and things like that.  There are plenty of outlets in life for drudgery, frustration, and failure in life; sports need not take on that sort of aura.  And then I read about what has come to be known as “Wakey-leaks”.  Here is the Cliff’s Notes version:

  • A former Wake Forest QB and assistant coach was let go when a new coaching staff was assembled.  The ousted assistant coach became part of the school’s radio broadcast team.
  • He had extensive access to the team, the coaches, the practices and – evidently – the game planning.
  • He then took game plans and material of that sort and provided it occasionally to assistant coaches on Wake Forest’s upcoming opponents.

This degree of treachery does not rank with that of Judas Iscariot, Benedict Arnold or the Rosenbergs because “leaking a game plan” just is not a big deal compared to the betrayals of those other folks.  However, in sports, that is pretty far down on the scale of “acceptable behavior”.  We can take some solace in the fact that the leaker is going to find it very difficult to get a job in or around football down the line; he had better have paid attention in class while an undergrad at Wake Forest.  But there is another side to this coin…

As many as three assistant coaches on opposing teams allegedly got these pilfered/leaked game plans over the past couple of years and none of them blew the whistle.  I understand the importance of winning in sports.  Bill Parcels famously said you are what your record says you are and if your record is something like 3-9, that means you are a loser and you are likely to be out of a job.  Nevertheless, what will put an end to “Wakey-leaks” is the fact that it came to light and it could have come to light a year ago or maybe two years ago had just one opposing assistant coach stood up on his hind legs and said something akin to:

Sorry; this is wrong; I will not be a party to anything like this.

The “Wakey-leaks” leaker is someone you should never trust again; I think that pretty much goes without saying.  For me, the folks who were the recipients of the leaker’s largesse and who also kept silent about it are hugely untrustworthy now and down the line.

There is a second “situation” in the sports world – sadly it too relates to college football – that I find disheartening.  The University of Minnesota football team threatened to boycott all football activities – meaning they would not play in whatever bowl game they were supposed to play in – because the school authorities suspended 10 players on the team over an incident of sexual assault.  It seems that there is exactly no doubt that sexual activities happened here because one of the geniuses took a video of the activities on his phone.  Once again, here is the Cliff’s Notes version:

  • A woman – allegedly inebriated – was assaulted by multiple men on the football team.  She said the first activity was consensual but the ones that followed were not.
  • Police investigated and found insufficient evidence to press charges where the evidentiary standard is “beyond a reasonable doubt”.
  • The school conducted its own investigation as mandated by Title IX and found a “preponderance of evidence” showed culpability for ten players and it suspended them from school activities and recommended expulsion for some of the ten.
  • The remaining teammates allege that there was no due process in the school’s investigation and decided that a boycott of football activities was the way to stand with their teammates.

There are loads of elements to this story that can engender debate and confrontation.  In this case, the fact of the assault seems not to be in question so this is not something equivalent to the Duke lacrosse case or the fraternity rape at the University of Virginia that did not happen.  However, the names of the players who the school found to be culpable are out there – it is pretty easy to see who is not on the team anymore – while the identity of the victim remains protected.  If even one of those ten players is – in reality – innocent of wrongdoing, that situation is genuinely unfair.  If the players wish to protest that element of this story, that is their right.  I would not support them in their cause, but I could understand their displeasure.

Not knowing the full details of the school’s investigation, I do not know to what degree there was or was not “due process”.  I cannot pretend to be a legal scholar but it seems to me that the Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the US Constitution describe what “due process” is and they also specify that “due process” in all its forms apply to “criminal prosecutions” and/or “capital or otherwise infamous crime”.  What that says to me is that whatever the University of Minnesota does in its investigation is not constrained to accommodate “due process”.  Moreover, the explicitly different standard for judgement in a so-called Title IX investigation stands those procedures apart from the judicial handling of criminal cases.  Did the university’s investigation run rough-shod over what might pass for “due process’ in a Title IX investigation?  That is impossible to know since the school shields itself from public scrutiny here based on federal privacy laws.

There is plenty of meat for discussion and debate – and possibly reform – here.  Alas, it seems as if none will happen.  After a meeting with school administrators, the team called off the boycott without the suspended players being reinstated after getting assurances from school administrators that the ten players would get a fair hearing next month.  That is pretty thin gruel after the original statements of “solidarity with teammates” and appeals to a foundation piece of US jurisprudence – even if due process may not apply here.  My willingness to side with the players here was significantly diminished when I read reports along this line.

However, here is where I got off the train completely.  In this morning’s Washington Post, in a short article summarizing the current state of play in this matter, here is the concluding paragraph:

“Many of the players who initially backed the boycott Thursday had not read the university’s 82-page report detailing the woman’s specific allegations.”

It seems to me that one needs to know at least some of the particulars prior to any sort of claim that due process was violated or not afforded by the university in its investigation.  Without reading that report, I am left to imagine what level of analysis and critical thinking went into the original fervor that led to the announcement of a boycott – prior to folding one’s cards and moving on to play in the bowl game without the ten suspended teammates.

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


One-And-Done Lives On…

The NBA owners and players have seemingly followed the lead of MLB’s owners and players and found a way to avoid a work stoppage.  Like baseball, the NBA is hitting high notes in the chorus of revenue streams; everyone – players and owners – are awash in cash.  And, sanity prevailed in whatever negotiations took place because there is a deal ready to be ratified that will allow those revenue streams to continue to flow inward.

There is one item that I wish were in the new CBA that is not there.  I would have liked to see the NBA and the NBPA negotiate a way to put an end to “one-and-done” in college basketball.  The NFL and MLB have agreements in their CBAs that avoid the one-and-done scenarios in those sports and those provisions have been around for a long time.  I would have preferred for the NBA’s new CBA to have taken care of that problem.

My preferred model for eliminating “one-and-done” is the MLB model.  A player may declare for the MLB draft and even be drafted right out of high school but if he does not sign with the team that took him and opts to go to college, he is precluded from going into professional baseball associated with MLB for 3 years.  This gives the player the right to make his own decision as to what he wants to do with himself; he does not have to go thru college baseball or independent leagues but if he chooses to go to college he commits to being there for 3 years.  Some folks have argued that in basketball, any imposed collegiate tenure should be limited to 2 years.  I would prefer 3 years but would happily settle for 2 years because that would be better than “one-and-done” for college basketball and for the NBA.

Yes, some players under that scheme would choose to go overseas and play pro basketball in Europe instead of going to college and playing there.  Good for them!  If they have targeted pro basketball as their “life’s work” and they think that playing in Europe is better for them than two or three years in college, mazel tov.  We are talking here about young men who are legally defined as adults at age 18; they would not have all the options available to them and they would get to make their own choices about what to do once they are out of high school.  They would know the rules; they could make their own decisions.  That seems to me to be pretty much along the path some like to call “The American Way”.

The new NBA/NBPA agreement – assuming it is ratified by all parties – will be in force for the next 5 years so it appears as if “one-and-done” will be with us for at least that far into the future.  Too bad.  I shall see this as a “missed opportunity” to make an improvement that would cost no one any money…

It appears that there were underinflated footballs used in the recent Giants/Steelers game.  The story goes that the Giants tested some balls and found them to be in the 11.5 psi range when the rules say they cannot be lower than 12.5 psi.  The NFL said it will not do any investigating here and then went into what I call “process talk mode”.  It is easy to recognize this mode; this is what happens as soon as anyone brings up a subject that management does not want to discuss because it is “uncomfortable” at least and “downright illegal/immoral” at worst.

The league justification here is that there will be no investigation because the chain of custody of the footballs from the time the officials measured the pressures before the game until the time the balls were used in the game was unbroken.  If that explanation is sufficient for you, let me simply say that you will never be the “Chief of Security” for any organization that I operate.

I believe – and since I do not read minds and since I do not have access to covert surveillance of the NFL executive suites – that the NFL does not want to investigate this matter for a simple and direct reason.

  • If in fact the chain of custody of the balls was intact and if the officials measured and recorded the original pressures correctly and accurately, then the reason the balls on the field were too low in pressure is almost assuredly due to the Ideal Gas Law.

Those of us who majored in chemistry know a lot about the Ideal Gas Law and Roger Goodell is someone who fervently wishes never to have to make any decisions where there might be even a tangential relationship with the Ideal Gas Law.  If the league did this and found that the balls in the Giants/Steelers game were “underinflated” due to the fact of cold weather, that would reopen the whole Deflategate matter.  Roger Goodell would probably rather eat a diet of caterpillars and hagfish slime for the rest of his life than to reopen the whole Deflategate matter.

If a neutral observer wished to test the Ideal Gas Law as it applies to the NFL, there is a game this weekend that could provide a natural laboratory.  The Packers/Bears game in Chicago has a weather forecast that says it will be near zero during game time.  If someone pressurized an NFL football to 13.0 psi (the mid-range of the allowable pressure for a ball in a game) at indoor room temperature an hour before the game and then took that ball out into the stands until the middle of the 3rd quarter for example and then measured the pressure again, I would be willing to wager a tidy sum that the internal pressure will be less than the “legal limit” of 12.5 psi.  Here is another wager I would be willing to make;

No one involved with the NFL Front Office would do such a test or sanction such a test or put any credence in such test results if confronted with them.

As Deflategate becomes history, I think it is important that we remember a couple of things about it:

  1. It taught a lot of people about the Ideal Gas Law who never took a science course in their life.
  2. I also suggested that there might be something identified in the future as the Ideal Ass Law and that Roger Goodell might be the example that set in motion the research to expound such a law.

Finally, an old friend and reader of these rants just gave me a book titled The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm.  I plan to use some of the material from that magnum opus on occasion and today I present the dictionary’s definition of:

AARP: American Association of Retired Persons.  An organization that sends out welcome letters to people over fifty to remind them that they will soon be dead.”

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