RIP Don Rickles

Don Rickles passed away yesterday at the age of 90.  I remember Johnny Carson once calling him The Merchant of Venom; others called him The Master of Malice.  There is a good chance that when he first encountered St. Peter at the Pearly Gates, Rickles said he was as dumb as a hockey puck.

Rest in peace, Don Rickles…

A state legislator in Nevada wants to try to convince the NCAA to put the Sweet 16 games and the Final Four games for the women’s basketball tournament in Las Vegas.  As you may imagine, the NCAA dismissed the idea out of hand because – gasp! – there are casinos in Las Vegas where gambling on college basketball games takes place.  This well-intentioned legislator must not realize that the NCAA can hide its head in the sand better than any ostrich ever born.

  • The NCAA can avoid seeing the obvious when it would prefer that the obvious not exist.  Case in point: the continued “investigation” of the academic fraud at UNC.  The NCAA really does not want to drop the hammer on a school that is a major revenue generator in football AND basketball so it ignores the obvious evidence of serious infractions and just kicks the can down the road hoping that it will all go away.

What is the NCAA preferring not to see when someone suggests putting the women’s basketball tournament in Las Vegas?  Let me start with a bit of background.

  • One criticism of the women’s tournament has always been that the early round games are scheduled almost as home games for the top seeded teams.  The disparity in the women’s brackets assures that the top seeds are going to advance but making those game home games turns them into nothing but glorified scrimmages.  Fans show up to support the highly-seeded teams and to watch them blow out their early competition.
  • However, once the games are played at neutral sites as the women’s tournament proceeds, the attendance disappears.  This year, Notre Dame and Stanford played each other in Lexington, KY and the winner would go to the Final Four.  There were 2,527 souls in attendance for that game.
  • Two other regional finals could not draw flies either.  For the Baylor/Mississippi St. game in OKC, the attendance was 3,128.  For the S. Carolina/Fla St. game in Stockton, 3,134 people showed up.
  • Only UConn – playing Oregon in Bridgeport, CT as almost a home game for the Huskies – could draw a decent crowd.  That game had 8,978 fannies in the seats.

That data would seem to imply that fans are not willing to travel to see women’s college basketball when the destinations are Lexington, Oklahoma City or Stockton.  Fans of UConn will travel from various parts of Connecticut and New England to see the Lady Huskies play locally, but then the taint of “home-court advantage” for the favorites comes into play.

Now, if I were trying to analyze this sort of problem, I would want to see if I could goose up attendance just a bit.  I would ask myself these sorts of questions:

  1. Is the low attendance due to a fundamental lack of interest in women’s college basketball?  If so, any scheduling other than home games for one of the sides is doomed to failure.
  2. Or … Is it possible that the low attendance here is a combination of “less interest in women’s college basketball than men’s college basketball” plus “a minimal desire of folks to travel great distances to arrive in Lexington, OKC or Stockton?

If I consider the second of those questions to be interesting, one test would be to put all those regional final games in a much more attractive venue.  Meaning no disrespect to Bridgeport, Lexington, OKC and Stockton, Las Vegas probably gets more tourist interest in an average week than any of those cities gets in a year.  Just maybe there would be more interest in folks following their teams in tournament games if those tournament games were put in a more interesting setting.

Is the NCAA going to listen to this idea with an open mind?  Don’t hold your breath…

With the MLB season in full swing, I feel the need to advise you of new food offerings at various major league – and minor league – parks.  I shall do this in small doses lest the act of reading about these offerings causes you gastric upset.  Let me start at Citizens Bank Park in Philly:

  • The Triple Triple:  This is described as a 9×9 cheeseburger because it has 9 burger patties and 9 slices of cheese on a bun.  You add the condiments of your choice – or your daring.  This is a simple menu option – and one designed to get your cholesterol levels headed toward the 4-figure range.

Finally, with The Masters underway, here are two comments from Brad Rock of the Deseret News regarding that “tradition unlike any other…”:

“ reports the amount of time TV devotes to the Masters has increased from 2½ to 18 hours since 1956.

“Experts credit the increased airtime to Jim Nantz’s descriptions of the azaleas in bloom.”

And …

“ also says a green jacket for the Masters’ winner costs only $250, but Horton Smith’s blazer from 1934 sold for $682,000 at auction.

“This is also the difference between online pricing and what a car actually costs at the dealership.”

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



4 thoughts on “RIP Don Rickles”

  1. Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but the increase in Masters Golf on TV tracked almost perfectly with the rise of Arnold Palmer. I know that growing up in Georgia and attending the tournament many times has biased my thinking, but being a “member” of Arnie’s Army was not just a TV phenomenon. You could feel the attraction in person and I think those crowds helped make the Masters an attraction on TV.

    Also, you may not remember, but for years the Masters was on CBS without commercials.

    1. Doug:

      Arnold Palmer took golf from a niche TV product into the mainstream. That included The Masters and many other tournaments.

      The years without commercials for The Masters coincided with the threats by women protestors to organize boycotts against sponsors. The members of Augusta National – – who are more than merely “well heeled” – – agreed with the tournament committee that to protect those sponsors they would put the tournament on the air without commericals and would “take care of CBS” while doing so.

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