Two Things To Avoid …

Because I need to travel tomorrow despite the impending major snowstorm that is about to happen in the Northeast US, I am writing this over the weekend instead of on Monday morning.  There are two things that will be “hot topics” on Monday in the sports commentary cosmos and I prefer to have nothing to do with either one.  The first thing I would like to avoid is to be part of any discussion of which team “got snubbed” by the Selection Committee and were denied participation in the NCAA Basketball Tournament.  The reason I will not do that is simple:

  • No team is ever “snubbed”.

The reason why this annual “debate” happens in the first place is because sports fans – and sports commentators – have an unrealistic set of expectations for the Selection Committee.  This will sound harsh but I will say it anyway.

  • The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee is fundamentally unqualified to make the kinds of marginal decisions that sports fans expect them to make flawlessly.

The Selection Committee has ten members.  Nine of the ten are Athletic Directors at NCAA member schools; the tenth committee person is a Vice President AND the Athletic Director as his school.  Expecting that agglomeration of folks to make reasoned, unbiased and difficult judgments about basketball teams is simply unrealistic.  Let me count the ways…

First, Athletic Directors are not necessarily knowledgeable about basketball.  Athletic Directors are far more knowledgeable about fund-raising and managing their enterprise to a budget.  Sure, they will go and see their school play a dozen games or so and maybe take in another two dozen games in-person or on TV over the course of a season, but the bottom line is clear.  Athletic Directors in general are more about dollars and cents than they are about rebounds and assists.

Second, the fact that they are Athletic Directors for their schools means that they already have a full-time job.  If the expectations of sports fans were even to be approximated, these folks would need to spend full-time paying attention to and analytically watching college basketball games.  NEWS FLASH!!  They don’t.

Let me personalize this for a moment.  I really like college basketball and I watch a lot of college basketball games on TV.  I follow teams and conferences in general terms from around the country.  I have probably seen more games and more teams than anyone on that Committee.  Now hear this:

  • I would not be able to say with confidence which teams should be the last half-dozen to be placed in the tournament field and which teams are the next half-dozen meaning that they would not be placed in the tournament field.
  • If I cannot do that, the Selection Committee cannot either.

Add to the fact that the Committee members are not basketball people, they simply do not have the time – or probably the inclination – to focus sufficient attention on the non-glamor games involving the teams that we say are “on the bubble”.  For the dozen or so teams in that category, Committee members should have seen them play at least 5 games and preferably 8 or 9 in order to make judgements about an ordinal ranking of those teams.

Let me be clear; any jamoke who even pretends to follow college basketball can name with great confidence at least 25 teams that belong in the tournament field this year.  That same jamoke can also deduce with confidence that a team with a record of 4-22 for the season does not deserve consideration as an at-large entry.  Those are the easy decisions; the hard decision involves the “bubble teams” and to make those decisions means watching those bubble teams play games other than the ones over the past week or 10 days.

Moreover, there will be biases associated with the Selection Committee as there will necessarily be with any committee made up of human beings.  My point is that the Selection Committee did not “snub” anyone because I do not believe that they have the knowledge/insight to recognize that Bewildered State really does belong in the tournament over Disco Tech but the Committee then decided to put Disco in anyway.  That would be “snubbing Bewildered State” …

The other thing I do not want to participate in on Monday is to declare the winners and losers of the first weekend of NFL free-agency.  I suspect that most of the sports radio segments not devoted to “Committee snubs” on Monday will be focused on “NFL free-agency hyperbole”.  I know that some folks will aver that a signing in the past three days is the “worst free agent decision EVER”; and for those folks who are memory challenged, let me offer just a couple of bad signings that need to be milestones along that continuum:

  • In 2009, Skins signed Albert Haynesworth for 7 years at $100M with $41M guaranteed.
  • In 2016, Texans signed Brock Osweiler for 4 years and $72M with $37M guaranteed.
  • In 2012, Raiders signed Matt Flynn for 3 years and $26M with $10M guaranteed.

There were, however, four moves made in the past several days that deserve a brief comment – even at this early date:

  1. The Niners signed QBs Matt Barkley and Brian Hoyer.  Both Barkley and Hoyer were QBs with the Bears last year and – to be polite – the Bears were not exactly an offensive juggernaut.
  2. The Bears signed QB Mike Glennon for some big money – 3 years and $45M with $19M guaranteed.  The Bears also released Jay Cutler.  I have never been a big Jay Cutler fan going all the way back to his days at Vandy, but is Mike Glennon with $19M in guaranteed money a big step up from Jay Cutler?  I am not seeing that yet…
  3. The Pats signed CB Stephon Gilmore away from the Bills.  The Pats have been unable to come to terms with Malcom Butler and they have given him a tender offer.  Having Gilmore around means the Pats might find a way to trade Butler to someone willing to pay him what the Pats are unwilling to pay him.
  4. The Panthers signed OT Matt Kahlil for 5 years and $55.5M.  [Aside: Is his favorite poker game “Fives Wild”?]  I saw the Vikes play several times last year and I did not see Kahlil as a player worth more than $10M per year for even one year…

Finally, here is a comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“A 7-year-old in St. John’s, Newfoundland, had his bowling gold medal taken away when, just before the awards ceremony, officials ruled his black faded jeans violated the tournament’s black-pants rule.

“So who put Roger Goodell in charge of kids’ bowling, too?”

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

 

 

Disarray or Dysfunctionality?

The following pair of events is abjectly coincidental:

  1. Yesterday, I wrote about the Skins’ FOD – Front Office Disarray.
  2. Then the Skins fired their GM on the first day of free-agent season.

With Scot McCloughan out of the GM job, that leaves Danny Boy Snyder and Bruce Allen in charge of things.  The track record for Danny Boy as a prime mover in the football personnel arena is well-established and it is not good.  Let me look at Bruce Allen for a moment today.

Here is how John Feinstein described Bruce Allen:

“He was born on third base and thought he tripled.  And he has been thrown out repeatedly trying to steal home.”

Here is how redskins.com describes Bruce Allen:

“Bruce Allen is the personification of an NFL winner.”

Here is how some Skins’ fans view Bruce Allen:

  • They have started a petition online at change.org to remove Bruce Allen from power.  As of this morning – about 16 hours after McCloughan’s firing – this signature has 4,856 signatories.  It will be delivered to the Skins where it will be promptly and summarily ignored as are most petitions at change.org.

I have no idea how all of this will play out but you have to agree that I was on the right path yesterday calling out the Skins for their FOD.

I am sure a Skins’ fanboy will point to this item as a sign of stability in the Skins’ Front Office.  Head coach, Jay Gruden, recently received a 2-year contract extension in the wake of two consecutive winning seasons.  Why is that good news – – or even news in the first place?  Well, Danny Boy has owned the team for almost 2 decades now and Jay Gruden is the first coach ever to get a contract extension.  On the assumption that he will not be fired in the middle of next season – his fifth in DC – he will then be the first coach to make it successfully to the end of the contract they signed up to.

That is what passes for “normalcy” regarding the Skins’ off-field operations…

While musing about dysfunctionality in the sports world, let me go to an unusual place for these rants – – the NHL.  Please recall that the NHL fought tooth and nail to put and then keep a team in Phoenix going to extreme measures to prevent a Canadian from buying the team and moving it to “South Ontario”.  That was not ancient history; that happened between 2009 and 2013.  I commented then and I will assert now that there was then and is now and will be into the foreseeable future a larger fanbase in “South Ontario” than in Phoenix.  Nonetheless, the league and Commissioner Gary Bettman remain adamant about a team in Phoenix.

However, there is a small speed-bump here…  Recently, Commissioner Bettman wrote a letter to the Arizona Legislature supporting a measure under consideration there that would set up a public-private partnership that would build a new arena for the Coyotes.  Here are two statements from that letter:

  1. “The Coyotes cannot and will not remain in Glendale.”

  2. “[Glendale] is not economically capable of supporting a successful NHL franchise.”

If your Hypocrisy Meter just sounded an alarm, that means it is in proper working order.  Let me be clear about something here:

  • There is only ONE REASON that the Coyotes are in Glendale in 2017 and that is because Gary Bettman and the NHL fought tooth-and-nail to keep it there and took that case to court.
  • In 2009, the previous owner tried to sell the club and when the league blocked that move he simply abandoned ownership and the NHL had to take over running the team.
  • When the league sold the team to the new owner, one stipulation was that the team would stay put.
  • Now the NHL is threatening to move the team if the taxpayers do not cough up money to build the team a new playpen.

You can read the recent report on all this stuff here.  My fervent wish is for the citizenry of the Phoenix area to tell Gary Bettman to take his team and move it somewhere – – like “Southern Ontario” for instance.

Finally, yesterday I also commented on the FOD of the Los Angeles Lakers.  Last evening, I ran across this comment from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald on the same topic:

“The Los Angeles Lakers fired Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak. One more firing and Jack Nicholson is in charge.”

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

 

 

Front Office Disarray

In a normal year, this is not the time for “Front Office Disarray” (FOD) in sports.  This is the time of year when baseball teams are in Spring Training and the biggest front office issue of the immediate term is how to goose up season ticket sales before Opening Day.  NBA teams are either fighting for playoff spots or playoff seeding or they are tanking.  NFL teams are set for free agency and getting set for the draft.  NHL teams are making their runs to the playoffs.

For some reason, this is not a normal year.  It is too far removed from New Year’s to blame it on a hangover; it does not make sense to link it to political wrangling all over the country because that happens all the time; it has lasted too long to be caused by a single phase of the moon; if you want to try to connect it with the melting of the polar ice caps, have at it.  The fact is that two franchises see their Front Offices in a great state of disarray.

Let me start with the one that is in my backyard – – the Washington Redskins.  They are no strangers to FOD; Danny Boy Snyder has owned the team for almost two decades now and it has only been in the last couple years that there has been a situation where FOD has been quiescent.  I am sure you have read or heard about the disappearing act that Scot McCloughan – merely the team’s GM – has pulled over the last several weeks.  He has been away from the media; he was not at the NFL Combine; there was even one report/speculation that his acknowledged alcohol problem had resurfaced.  I have no information on what is going on here but McCloughan’s absence and the smarmy spin-doctored info provided by team president, Bruce Allen, demonstrates that the Skins’ Front Office is not running smoothly.

Here is my hypothesis.  I have no evidence other than having watched how this franchise has functioned for the last two decades for this hypothesis.

  1. Scot McCloughan has been with the team for 2 years and in those 2 years the team has improved significantly making the playoffs in 2015 and missing out on the playoffs in Week 17 last year.  Many if not most observers have credited McCloughan with revamping the roster allowing the team to succeed.
  2. Over the past two decades, Danny Boy Snyder has cultivated an image that says he will “do anything to win”.  Indeed, he has spent money – often foolishly – and made splashy hirings and firings.  However, I believe that he wants something even more than he “wants to win”.  I believe that he wants to win AND he wants everyone to recognize that he – Danny Boy –  is the reason that the team is winning.

In my hypothesis, Scot McCloughan got too much of the credit for the Skins’ turnaround over the past two seasons and is now being eased to the side such that his exit – stage right – will appear to be a normal progression of things.  Nevertheless, the Skins are now in free agent season without their GM and prepping for the NFL Draft without the guy who oversaw all the scouting and ranking during the last college football season.  Front Office Disarray …

Now take yourself about 3000 miles WSW of Washington to sunny Los Angeles and contemplate the state of the LA Lakers.  The team has consistently been one of the bluebloods of the NBA going all the way back to its time in Minneapolis with George Mikan, Slater Martin and Whitey Skoog.  In the past several years, the Lakers have been less than normally successful on the floor and far more dysfunctional than usual in the Front Office.  Any attempt to rewind all that has gone on in terms of the intrigues and squabbles in that Front Office would take up more Internet bytes than it is worth.  Suffice it to say that the calmest period in recent times had the Lakers’ coach – Phil Jackson – dating the owner’s daughter – Jeanie Buss – while Jeanie Buss and her brother Jim Buss were feuding.  Those were the good times in the Front Office…

When longtime Lakers’ owner Dr. Jerry Buss died, Jeannie Buss took over the team and her brother, Jim, was the guy in charge of basketball operations.  That did not work out even a little bit and after lots of public squabbling Jeanie fired Jim – and also team GM Mitch Kupchak who seemed to take sides with Jim in the family feud.  In his place, Jeanie hired Magic Johnson as the major domo of the Lakers in all things basketball who then hired Rob Pelinka to be the Lakers’ GM.  Let us take a look at the triumvirate in charge here:

  1. Jeanie Buss gets high marks when it comes to running the franchise as a business enterprise.  However, she is also associated with the decision to give Kobe Bryant a two-year extension on his contract worth more than $50M at the end of Bryant’s career when he was well beyond being worth even half that amount.
  2. Rob Pelinka’s résumé for a GM job in the NBA seems awfully thin to me.  He is a former college player; he is an attorney; he has represented several NBA players as an agent; most importantly, he was Kobe Bryant’s agent.  I do not believe he has ever held any position for any team in the NBA prior to his hiring as the Lakers’ GM.
  3. Magic Johnson is a Hall of Fame player and a highly successful entrepreneur.  This will be his first venture into running an NBA franchise.  In the past, great players have done very well in the area of running a franchise; Jerry West is Exhibit A; Larry Bird is Exhibit B; Danny Ainge was not nearly as great a player as Magic or West or Bird, but he too has been successful at directing a franchise.  At the same time, Michael Jordan was less than successful as the boss of the Wizards; Phil Jackson has hardly distinguished himself running the Knicks’ franchise; Elgin Baylor was hugely unsuccessful as the GM of the Clippers; and let’s not even discuss the post-basketball accomplishments of Isiah Thomas.

The bottom line here is that the Lakers are in the midst ofand on the bridge steering the ship through the storm are 3 rookies.  Adding to the maelstrom are legal actions taken by Jim Buss and one of his brothers against Jeanie and the Lakers that deal with issues too subtle for me to understand easily.  It is a mess and it is not likely to be cleaned up in a brief time.

Finally, here is a quiz question posed by Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

 “La La Land” is a movie about:

  • a) a musician and an aspiring actress who meet and fall in love.

  • b) Twins fans dreaming of winning this year’s World Series.

  • c) Johnny Manziel thinking he has an NFL future.

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

 

 

Schadenfreude…

Here in Curmudgeon Central, schadenfreude is a welcome situation whenever it presents itself.  It is not that I enjoy watching people suffer; rather, what I enjoy is watching some pompous fool – or fools – squirm in a situation of their own making.  You may recall that all during the NFL lead-up to the playoffs, I said that I was rooting for the Patriots to win the Super Bowl just because I wanted to watch Roger Goodell hand the Lombardi Trophy to Tom Brady and Robert Kraft.  That situation was like having schaden on the right and freude on the left.

There is another potential schadenfreude situation facing the NFL in the upcoming season.  When the people of San Diego overwhelmingly rejected a financing plan for a new NFL stadium there, the Chargers really did have to get out of town.  However, they did not have a place to go and the NFL somehow approved a move that will put Chargers’ home games in the StubHub Center which is a soccer stadium that now seats 30,000 fannies and might be expanded to 35,000.  Just to put some perspective on this, Central Michigan University plays its home games in the MAC in Kelly/Shorts Stadium – a facility that seats 30,225.

  • The Los Angeles Chargers will play their home games in a MAC stadium.

Now just suppose that the LA Chargers are the “Team of Destiny” in 2017 and become a ratings monster for the networks.  What will be “the optic” for the NFL to have its “hot team” on TV playing in the stadium equivalent of a sandbox?  Now let me go way out on a limb here and imagine that the Chargers win the AFC West next year; that would mean that they would host a playoff game in their stadium equivalent of a sandbox.  Won’t that be fun?

 

[Aside:  I have never been to StubHub Center nor have I driven by it to see it in person from the highway but I have looked at pictures of the facility on the Internet.   If what I think is the press box is actually the press box, I suspect that those with media credentials for an NFL playoff game there will be less than happy with the cheek-to-jowl ambience of the facility.]

 

Since I mentioned MAC football above, let me use that to make an awkward transition here.  Much has been made of an advisor to the President of the US referring to The Bowling Green Massacre on TV.  It did not take long for her political opponents to jump all over that “alternative fact” and point out that a fictitious massacre could not be justification for a Presidential Executive Order.  All of the circumstances surrounding that situation are now in the rear-view mirror but here in Curmudgeon Central, research indicates that indeed there was a Bowling Green Massacre and it happened on 3 September 2016.  Here are the findings from some exhaustive research:

  • Ohio State beat Bowling Green 77-10 in football on that date.
  • Anyone care to claim that was anything but a massacre?

Here is an item from Brad Rock in the Deseret News from earlier this week:

“Former slugger Sammy Sosa used a recent blog to deny steroid use, compare his trials to Jesus, and claim he introduced Chicago to the world.

“’Do tell,’ said Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey, Stan Mikita, Walter Payton, Ernie Banks, Benny Goodman …

It is not unusual for people to claim that their remarks were taken out of context when someone points out that one of their statements is just a tad on the shady side.  So, let me put those remarks into context:

  1. If these remarks are to be evaluated for veracity, one can pretty quickly say that is analysis of what he did for Chicago is greatly exaggerated at best and a downright falsehood on most days of the week.  Moreover, Sosa’s comparison of the hardships in his life to Jesus Christ demonstrates a fundamental lack of self-awareness and social/cultural awareness.
  2. Now, it would be in THAT context that I would evaluate the claim that Sammy Sosa never used steroids…

Here is another bit of “perspective” that is worth consideration.  On last year’s Super Bowl winning team, the Patriots carried 8 wide receivers.  Here is what those 8 WRs made in 2016 as they went on to win the Super Bowl.  I am counting their base salaries, bonuses they got for things other than winning the Super Bowl and a pro rate share of any signing bonus they may have received.

  1. Danny Amendola  $2.9M
  2. Julian Edelman  $4.1M
  3. Michael Floyd $1.3M
  4. Chris Hogan  $5.5M
  5. Devin Lucien  $0.5M
  6. Malcom Mitchell  $0.6M
  7. Matthew Slater  $2.0M
  8. DeAndrew White  $0.2M

TOTAL WR COST:  $18.1M

Now for perspective, consider that the Steelers recently signed Antonio Brown to a contract that will pay him an average of $18.5M per season.  I am not saying that Antonio Brown is not worth that sort of expenditure; he may indeed be the best single WR in the NFL today – if Julio Jones is not.  However, it is interesting to note that the Pats spent frugally on their entire WR corps and all that did was get the team a Lombardi trophy and the second highest scoring offense in the league for 2016.

Finally, harkening back to my commentary on the Bowling Green Massacre above, here is an item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Sports Quiz:  The name of the German Shepherd that won best in show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is:

  • “a) Rumor

  • “b) Fake News

  • “c) Alternative Facts”

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

 

 

Following Another Legend …

Yesterday, I spent some time explaining why replacing a coaching legend/Hall of Famer was not a good career move for the successor.  I was gently reminded later in the day that I had missed an obvious situation of this type that is going to happen in less than a month.  Indeed, I had…

Vin Scully was not a coach or a manager, but he was a broadcasting legend.  His 65+ years at the microphone doing Dodgers’ games – from Brooklyn and LA – were magical for most of his tenure there.  He is in the Hall of Fame; he belongs in the Hall of Fame; his voice was an iconic presence in the MLB cosmos for at least 5 decades.  And … he retired last year.

Replacing Vin Scully on the radio calling LA Dodgers’ games this year is 29-year old Joe Davis.  Vin Scully worked solo for all those years – a style that has gone the way of the starting pitcher who throws 10-15 complete games in a season.  Davis will call the games with “help” in the booth from either Nomar Garciaparra or Orel Hershiser or both.  If you want to criticize Davis from Day One, you can point to the fact that Scully never needed help and this “whippersnapper” needs it from the start.  I think the more rational way to look at this is that having a sidekick in the booth is something that will minimize the direct comparisons between Davis and Scully.  The more diminution there is on that axis, the better it will be for Davis and the Dodgers’ radio network.

Scully took over for a legend in Brooklyn – – Red Barber.  Scully did so successfully and hung around for more than 6 decades.  Davis is 29 years old.  If he can avoid the initial complaints that “He’s not Vin Scully!” and settles in as a great broadcaster – we won’t know about that for at least several years – he may be with the Dodgers for the next 5 decades himself.

Bonne chance, Joe Davis…

While on the subject of baseball – at least peripherally – the KC Royals are using Spring Training to prepare for the regular season on the baseball front and on the culinary front.  At their Spring Training stadium in Surprise AZ, the Royals will offer this to fans in attendance:

  • A hot dog, wrapped in bacon then wrapped in a cheeseburger.
  • The “official name” the Triple Play Dog.  I think it should be named the Gut Bomb.

The stadium concession folks say that this concoction checks in at 850 calories.  If so, my calculations say that this is either a small beef patty or a minimal amount of cheese.  My back-of-the-envelope calculations say that the Triple Play Dog should check in between 1000 and 1100 calories.  And we will not discuss the grams of fat in there…

Here is the question that folks who order the Triple Play Dog must be wondering:

  • What do you get for dessert?
  • Answer:  How about an ice cream sandwich where the external “sweet things” are chocolate donuts instead of cookies?  How did the concession company miss that opportunity?

Sticking with baseball topics for a moment more, lots of people have opined that MLB needs to do more to cultivate its next generation of fans.  The simplistic explanation for the basis of this assertion is that millennials do not have the attention span to enjoy baseball and its leisurely pace of play.  Hence, the movements to “speed up the game” by the powers that be.

I certainly do not object to measures that will prevent 9-inning games from becoming 4-hour marathons; I have suggested in previous rants some modifications to the rules that would speed up the game and I have another one a few paragraphs down today.  However, I think that there is something else that MLB can – and should – do to cultivate a younger fanbase.  I ran across this stat:

  • The last time that a World Series Game was played in daytime was in October 1987 – – thirty years ago this Fall.

In days of yore – the 50s, 60s and 70s –  the World Series was must-see TV.  People took off from work to do just that.  Kids rushed home from school to do that; I know I did.  Today, all the World Series Games are at night and for fans on the East Coast – – where there are LOTS of fans and LOTS of future/potential fans – – World Series Games rarely end before midnight or 1:00AM.  That is not a scheduling strategy to win over new and young fans to your game…  Perhaps the Commish and the union mavens for baseball might consider playing the opening game and the fourth game of the World Series in the daytime for the next several years to see if this skews the viewing audience a bit younger…

I said I had an idea for a rule change that might speed up some MLB games.  Specifically, games in September can drag on and on because managers then have 40 players at their disposal making pitching changes and pinch hitters/runners and the like much easier to do.  I understand that teams want to have their young minor-leaguers up for a taste of what the big leagues are like but maybe MLB can take a lesson from the NFL here.

  • Why not expand the rosters to 40 in September but only allow 27 or 28 players to be eligible to play in any one game?
  • Managers can declare some veterans ineligible for some games to give the youngsters a chance to play and to give the vets some time off.
  • Hey!  It’s a thought…

Finally, Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald noted the beginning of the college baseball season and reminded readers of the dumb rule change that will be experimental in the lower minor leagues this year:

“Big Ten baseball teams begin play next week in mid-February. Once again, ties will be broken by a two-man luge competition.”

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

 

 

College Basketball Coaches Today

The college basketball season has reached a point where just about every game matters.  Conference tournaments can be important to teams “on the bubble” for an invite to the NCAA tournament and teams comfortably in the tournament can have their seedings affected positively or negatively based on games in the conference tournaments.  I am not about to go and make predictions about the various conference tournaments around the country but the ramping up of college basketball at this time of the year got me to thinking about the sport in general over the weekend.

Coaching is an element of team success at almost every level of sport and – in my opinion – coaches/managers generally get too much credit for successes and too much blame for failures across the full landscape of team sports.  In college basketball, I think that coaches are more visible and more identified with success and failure than in other sports.  There are 6 college coaches working today whose record and whose reputation puts them at the top of their profession.  However, only one of them will probably around 10 years from now and in fact he may be the only one on the scene 5 years from now;

  1. Jim Boeheim:  He has been at Syracuse and associated with the basketball program since 1963 when he was on the team.  He has been the head coach there since 1976; he is 72 years old.  Although he has not made a formal announcement and signed his retirement papers, the reports are that he will step down at the end of this season and turn over the program to long-time assistant and coach-in-waiting, Mike Hopkins.
  2. John Calipari:  He is the youngster of this group at 58 years old.  I can see him still on the sidelines at Kentucky in 2027; he is under contract at UK through 2021.
  3. Tom Izzo:  This year’s Michigan State team is hardly one of Izzo’s best; nonetheless, he is as secure in his position as any coach on this list.  He is 62 years old and is signed with Michigan State through 2021
  4. Mike Krzyzewski:  Coach K is 70 years old and has had several recent surgeries.  He too is signed through 2021; when that contract expires, he will be 74 years old.
  5. Rick Pitino:  He is 64 years old and recently signed a contract extension that would keep him at Louisville through 2026.  Given the pending investigations by the NCAA regarding recruits there being supplied with hookers, I think that Pitino is not a mortal lock to see the final days of that contract.
  6. Roy Williams:  He is 67 years old and is signed through 2020.  Like Coach K, Williams has had some health issues.  Like Rick Pitino, there are NCAA investigations going on all around UNC and some of it focuses on the basketball program.

I am not suggesting that any of these 6 coaches are over the hill or out of touch.  In fact, I am convinced that all 6 are still very good at what they do.  But Father Time has paid a house call to a couple of these folks and could very well be ready to ring on some of the other doorbells.  Much will be made of the college basketball coaching carousel that will unfold over the next 6 weeks or so.  I think the much more interesting thing to ponder is this:

  • Who will replace these Hall of Fame legends when they turn in their whistles?

Let me just say that following a legend into a job is not a ticket to success and is not something that makes the replacement into a household name.  No Googling now:

  • Who replaced John Wooden at UCLA?
  • Who replaced Bear Bryant at Alabama?
  • Who replaced Vince Lombardi in Green Bay?
  • (Answers below)

One other college coach who is getting near the end of the line who has enjoyed lots of success but is a rung or two below the six guys above is Bob Huggins.  He is 63 years old and has had more than a couple of medical incidents in recent weeks including a time when his implanted defibrillator had to kick in during game.  Huggins’ teams have never won the NCAA tournament, but he has averaged 20+ wins per game over a coaching career that started in 1984.

The thing I find interesting about Huggins is his radical departure from his coaching brethren when it comes to sartorial splendor on the sidelines.  Most coaches wear suits and ties on the sidelines; Huggins wears a pullover with the school logo on it; no one seems to notice or care to comment.  This is the polar opposite of the reaction to Bill Belichick’s “unusual” sideline wardrobe choices – hoodies with cut off sleeves have not become a fashion statement even in Boston.  However, folks always comment on “the hoodie” and even refer to Belichick as “Darth Hoodie” at times.

I promised answers above:

  • Gene Bartow succeeded John Wooden at UCLA.  He lasted 2 years and his record of 52-9 in those 2 years was not satisfactory.
  • Ray Perkins replaced Bear Bryant at Alabama.  He lasted 3 years and his overall record of 32-15-1 in those 3 years was not satisfactory.
  • Phil Bengston succeeded Vince Lombardi in Green Bay.  He lasted 3 seasons and his record of 20-21-1 was considered scandalous in Green Bay.

Finally, here is Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times showing his skills as a spin doctor:

“Pelicans center DeMarcus Cousins has been ejected 11 times in his NBA career.

“Or as DeMarcus apologists prefer to spin it: Cousins 11 times removed.”

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

 

 

The Combine – – And More…

The NFL Combine proceeds apace.  The league has turned the Combine into an annual reality TV show and it has generated a cult-like following of “Combine junkies” who track the players’ results in the various physical tests.  I suspect that it would not take me long to convince readers here that I am not one of the “Combine junkies”.  However, I have a generic observation about those ‘junkies”.

The physical tests at the Combine seek to measure fundamental athletic skills that – presumably – are vital to success as an NFL player.  If you buy that premise, then all of them have a degree of relevance.  However, the “junkies” seem to put tenfold importance on a single test – – the time in the 40-yard dash.  Speed is important in football; there is no argument there.  You can see the importance of speed every time a defensive back intercepts a pass and there is an offensive lineman trying to run him down.  That rarely happens…

Having said that, it seems that the “junkies” find significance in the fact that one player ran 4.35 in the 40-yard dash while another ran 4.41.  Personally, I find such a difference meaningless; this is not an Olympic sprint where the difference would be definitive.  There is some debate about how fast Jerry Rice ran the 40-yard dash when he was coming out of college.  Some say it was 4.71 seconds; Bill Walsh said it was 4.59.  “Junkies” today would call that slow and drop Jerry Rice’s draft stock to the lower rounds based on his lack of speed.  Question:

  • How many times do you recall Jerry Rice being caught from behind by all of those other players who timed out so much faster than he did?

I am sure it happened a few times.  I am certain that Jerry Rice also found a way to get open and behind those faster players enough to amass 22895 yards receiving and 197 TDs.

This year the timing of the Combine has coincided with the time when teams make their decisions on things like franchise tags and releasing veteran players.  Three of the veterans who are now free agents are interesting to me.

First, Adrian Peterson and the Vikings have parted company primarily because his contract with the Vikings would have called for him to make $18M next year.  Peterson is an excellent RB – even if his recent injury history and the pounding he has taken over his career leaves him at something like 80% of what he used to be.  However, $18M is way over what his contribution to a team in 2017 is likely to be given that he has been healthy enough to play in 20 games over the past 3 seasons.  There is a saying around the NFL:

  • The most important “ability” is avail-“ability”.

Perhaps Adrian Peterson will provide some symmetry for the universe with his free agency.  Consider:

  • Brett Favre played most of his Hall of Fame career for the Packers and ended up with the Vikes.
  • Perhaps Adrian Peterson, who has played most of his Hall of Fame career with the Vikes, will sign on with the Packers and finish his career there?  The Packers could use a running back…

The Niners released Colin Kaepernick.  Like Peterson, his contract called for him to make far too much money in 2017 than one could rationalize.  Unlike Peterson, Kaepernick does not have a Hall of Fame résumé in his back pocket.  The thing that makes Kaepernick’s free agency interesting is that he announced right away that he would no longer be kneeling during the National Anthem.  He said that he believed that his protest had achieved its goal(s) and he would stand for the anthem in the future.

Recall when Kaepernick began his protest that I said I supported his right to protest and had sympathy with the issue he was protesting – – police violence.  I also said that I would have preferred that he chose a different means to make that protest but that it was his issue and therefore his choice for the “protest vehicle”.  I maintain that position.

HOW-EVAH [/Stephen A. Smith] my inner cynicism is awakened here.  The juxtaposed timing of Kaepernick’s free agency and his calling off his protest and his declaration of success for the protest seems awfully convenient.  I do not read minds but if I were a GM thinking about signing him to a contract this year, I would want to sit down with Kaepernick alone – – no agents or handlers in the room – – and talk about all of this in depth.

The Jets released Darrelle Revis who still had 3 years to go on a 5-year $70M contract.  Jets’ coach Todd Bowles emphasized that the Jets’ decision was an economic one and that makes plenty of sense to folks who watched Jets’ games last year.  Darrelle Revis was arguably the best CB in the NFL a few years ago; he was far from that last year; the remaining 3 years on his contract would have paid him as if he were still one of the best CBs in the NFL.

Over and above Revis’ deteriorated performance last year, recall that he was arrested and charged with a variety of things as a result of a fight outside a club in the Pittsburgh area recently.  That matter is not nearly resolved and while I believe Todd Bowles when he says that the arrest played no part in the decision to release Revis, it is an issue that any team seeking to sign him up should consider.

The Niners and the Jets are teams in need of significant makeovers.  The situation with the Niners is obvious; they won only 2 games last year; they fired just about everyone in the Front Office and on the coaching staff; they do not have a QB on their roster.  The Jets’ situation is a tad less obvious; remember the Jets missed the playoffs on the last game of the year in 2015; then things unraveled last year.

Here is a thumbnail sketch for the Jets:

  1. Releasing Revis saved the team $6M in cap space.
  2. They also released nick Mangold who has been the glue of their OL for about 10 years.
  3. They released Ryan Fitzpatrick and none of the 3 QBs left on the roster has shown the ability to be a solid NFL QB.
  4. ESPN.com says this morning that the Jets will release WR, Brandon Marshall today.

It appears to me that the Jets are committed to a “youth movement” starting in 2017.  If they have some other strategy in mind, it is surely not self-evident.  This team has lots of holes to plug in this off-season and at some point, they are going to have to find a QB.  Ryan Fitzpatrick was dismal last year; that is why they released him.  However, their current “QB-status” is probably best described as “QB-purgatory”.  Good luck to Jets’ GM, Mike Maccagnan, and coach, Todd Bowles, on the rebuild. I hope they are given more than a single season to accomplish it.

Finally, Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times found this comment from Scott Ostler in the SF Chronicle.  Somehow, I missed that column by Scott Ostler so thanks to Dwight Perry for alerting me:

Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle, after new 49ers GM John Lynch said he’ll be in the market for fast, physical players with character: “There was concern that Lynch would say, “We’ll be looking for slow, weak guys with no respect for the law.”

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

 

 

The NCAA Does It Again…

I have written more than three thousand of these Daily Rants; and until today, I have never included a quotation from Bill O’Reilly.

“I consider myself a law-abiding person.  But I’m exhausted.  I don’t know where to put the bottles, newspapers, cans and other stuff for garbage pickup outside my house.  The rules are so thick you need someone from M.I.T. to explain them.”

I think that I have mastered the rules of trash and recycling here in my community without having to resort to hiring an M.I.T. consultant but there are indeed situations where rules are so complex – and sometime so petty and meaningless – that one would need to be wary of breaking one or some of the rules at any moment.  The NCAA rulebook leaps to mind here.

According to a report at CBSSports.com:

“The NCAA has suspended five University of Richmond baseball players because they took part in Fantasy football.”

Seriously, if Groucho Marx were with us, a duck would fly down and give the NCAA $50.  This is stupid even by NCAA standards and that is saying a lot.  Moreover, it is stupid even though I AGREE COMPLETELY with the NCAA’s premise here that Fantasy football is gambling.  I also agree that it would be an assault on “the integrity of the games” if players were to wager on games in which they participate.  However, these baseball players were doing something that is legal and had nothing to do with collegiate baseball – – let alone University of Richmond collegiate baseball.

I know; it’s in the rule book and they broke the rules.  Nevertheless, if the NCAA is indeed an organization run by intelligent and rational adults – and many of their actions cast doubt on that premise – there should be a way for one of those intelligent and rational adults to call a time-out so that everyone can take a deep breath and recognize this simple fact:

 

The University of Richmond baseball team – and the program itself – gained no on-field advantage from the fact that five team members took part in Fantasy football.

 

The important issue here is contained in the phrase “gained no on-field advantage” because that is the only reason that there is an NCAA rule book in the first place.

Honestly, I have come to believe that the operating mode at the NCAA comes down to three simple steps:

  1. Ready
  2. Fire
  3. Aim.

The only way to conclude my comments on the latest NCAA priggishness is to recall an old headline on an article in The Onion[Aside:  If by some chance someone at NCAA HQS in Indy reads this piece, it is not a good thing to have your actions fit into a headline from The Onion.]

“NCAA investigating God for giving gifts to athletes”

Let me switch gears here and talk about the latest incident in the ongoing soap opera concerning where the Oakland Raiders will play football in the future.  There is a group in Oakland – Fortress Investment Group – which is fronted by NFL Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott that seeks to build a new stadium in Oakland and keep the Raiders there.  This group has been securing capital for the project and working with the city fathers in Oakland much more quietly than have the folks in Las Vegas.  What just happened is that Fortress has now submitted – for the first time – a formal plan to the NFL for a stadium in Oakland where the Raiders could play.  This plan has the support of the Oakland City Council and the Alameda County Board of Supervisors.

On the Raiders’ side of the table, Mark Davis has filed his request with the NFL to move his franchise to Las Vegas and the owners are scheduled to vote on that request sometime later this month.  Pardon my cynicism here, but the addition of another player in the game here tells me that the NFL owners will find a way to kick the can down the road sometime later this month to create time to put the squeeze on the Las Vegas people and the Fortress people to sweeten whatever deal they are proposing at this particular moment.

The current plan calls for Fortress to construct a new stadium that will cost $1.3B on the site of the Oakland Coliseum where the Raiders currently play.  The NFL dismissed this idea previously, but the formal submission of a plan to the league indicates to some that Fortress has addressed the concerns that NFL had with the general outline it saw previously.  This story is not over; the fat lady has not sung; in fact, I suspect the fat lady is still in her dressing room putting on her make-up.

Finally, Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.NBCSports.com had this comment that will make you realize why the Oakland Raiders need a new place to play their home games:

“For $20, you can tour the stadium where the Raiders play. For $50, you don’t have to go on the tour.”

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

 

 

Bad Boys …

This morning, I am reminded of the lyrics to a Bob Marley song:

“Tell me; whatcha gonna do? When they come for you?

“Bad boys; bad boys …”

Indy Colts’ defensive tackle, David Parry, was arrested in Arizona.  So, what’s the big deal here?  Athletes get arrested all the time…  The circumstances here are unusual even when viewed through the prism of strange behaviors exhibited by athletes who run afoul of the law.  Here are the allegations:

  1. Parry and two other folks were picked up by a man driving a “street-legal golf-cart” as a taxi.  [Before anyone asks, I do not know if this is some sort of “Arizona version of Uber”; all I know is that is how this story begins.]
  2. At the end of ride, Parry allegedly assaulted the driver by striking him in the head and stole the golf cart.
  3. Police found the cart crashed into an obstacle and found Parry on the sidewalk reportedly in a state of inebriation.
  4. Police charged him with robbery, auto theft, DUI and criminal damage.

I did not read anything about the other two passengers who began this ride with Parry and the golf-cart driver so I have no idea what role either or both may have played in this crazy opera.  You must admit that this one is a wee bit different from your standard athletes acting badly story.

In another aspect of athletes and anti-social behaviors, the NFL is grandstanding at the moment.  There have been myriad examples of NFL players getting on the wrong side of the law with regard to assaults and fights and domestic violence.  The NFL has been less than tough on most of those players and is surely not in any good standing with folks who empathize with the victims of those anti- social actions.  So, now in March 2017, the NFL is playing to the crowd and trying to portray itself as the guy in the white hat.  Here is how:

  • They are not going to allow Chad Kelly or Joe Mixon to participate in the NFL Combine that began yesterday.
  • Kelly was involved in a bar fight about a year ago and was arrested.  He was convicted of “non-criminal disorderly conduct” – whatever that is in New York State.
  • Mixon punched a woman in the face and it was caught on tape about 2 years ago.  In a plea deal, Mixon was found guilty of misdemeanor assault.

Neither Kelly nor Mixon behaved in an acceptable manner by any rational standard.  Nonetheless, what the NFL is doing here is so hypocritical that it makes me wonder if the league is going to DEFCON2 on the Hypocrisy Scale these days.  Here’s the deal:

  • Kelly and Mixon cannot Participate in the NFL Combine.
  • Kelly and Mixon can hold their own “pro-days” where scouts and GMs can see them work out and perhaps interview them.
  • Kelly and Mixon can be invited by any “interested teams” to fly to the teams’ facilities for a day or so of working out and interviewing.
  • Kelly and Mixon can be drafted and can play in the NFL.

So, what is the grand and symbolic value of the moralistic stand that the NFL is undertaking as of today?  It is meaningless; and it is yet another example of the arrogance of the NFL and its players.

It is a big deal these days to talk about “privilege” as it is conferred to various classes and categories of people.  The NFL and the NFLPA represent and enjoy what should be called “athlete’s privilege”.  The individual athletes do not pay the same price for their anti-social behaviors that normal folks would pay while the NFL and the NFLPA consistently express shock and horror at what athletes do – while finding exactly no ways to make sanctions against perpetrators sufficiently onerous that the behaviors happen less frequently.

I am sure that there are some PR trolls in the NFL and/or the NFLPA who will proclaim the banishment of Kelly and Mixon from the NFL Combine as some sort of strong stand by the organizations against domestic violence and/or bar fights.  When you hear those sorts of statements, the first word that should come to mind is:

 

Balderdash!

 

Having spent time dealing with a stolen golf-cart and some sort of faux-righteousness regarding player behaviors, let me now engage in some conspiracy theory.  You all know that I do not subscribe to conspiracy theories but I think this one could be made into a special by NFL Films were it true – – and it is not.  Anyhow, let me set the stage:

  1. Tom Brady’s game worn jersey from Super Bowl 51 is still missing.  The Houston police, the Texas Rangers, the super-sleuths from NFL Security and – for all I know – the security folks for the Trilateral Commission have not found it nor have they identified a suspect.
  2. I read a report that said the value of that jersey is $500K to a collector.  Let me assume that number is somewhere close to accurate even though I have no expertise in that area and would not ever think of paying that kind of money for a garment that has to reek with body odor by now.
  3. So, the person or persons who pilfered the game-worn jersey would be charged with First Degree Felony Theft in Texas and if convicted, that person could face sentence of 5 to 99 years in jail.  [First Degree Felony Theft involves stealing something worth $200K or more.]

Now comes the conspiratorial stuff…  Just suppose that the jersey is – and has been all along – in the possession of Thomas Edward Patrick (“Tom”) Brady Jr.  Obviously, he cannot be charged with theft because you cannot steal something that belongs to you.  But Tom Brady wants to create the situation where everyone believes that the jersey is stolen so that – – wait for it:

  • He and Robert Kraft can arrange to plant the jersey in Roger Goodell’s basement while the Commish is off attending an NFL game at a stadium somewhere other than Foxboro next year.
  • The sub-text here is: “I’ll see you a 4-game suspension and raise you First Degree Felony Theft…

Do not misquote me here; I am not saying this is what happened to the jersey or how it will be discovered.  I am saying that it would make for a GREAT story…

Finally, here is a comment from Brad Dickson in the Omaha-World-Herald that I can completely agree with:

“A high school basketball player in New York was benched after missing the team bus because he helped save an ice fisherman. It’s stories like these that make me glad that high school coaches don’t run the world.”

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