International Cooperation…

Mexico, Canada and the US have “joined forces” so to speak to present a unified bid to FIFA which – –  if accepted – –  would assure that the 2026 World Cup Tournament would be held in North America.  Mexico and the US have hosted this tournament in the past; Canada has not.  This is described as an “historic event” because bids in the past have been limited to a single country.

By distributing the games among the countries, none of the three countries would need to construct new venues from scratch; there might be a need for some upgrades at some venues, but any costs associated with those activities would be trivial as compared to building new venues from the ground up.  The 2026 World Cup will be the first such event where the number of participating nations increases from 32 to 48; that indicates to me that an already HUGE international event will be even bigger at that time.

Do not hold your breath waiting for a decision here.  FIFA will announce its choice of venues for the 2026 tournament sometime in 2020.  Two things that will need to be addressed regarding this three-headed bid are:

  1. The host nation automatically gets an entry into the tournament no matter how well or how poorly its national team might perform in qualifying matches.  So … what do they do with three “host nations”?
  2. Will the FIFA folks look upon this as an opportunity to “plunder” three countries at one time as opposed to only one?

Recently in the Sporting Cosmos of the Earth, we have seen a lot of unlikely events and the breaking of some long-term streaks such as:

  1. The Cubs won the World Series for the first time in 108 years.
  2. Leicester City (founded in 1884) won the EPL for the first time in club history.
  3. Sergio Garcia won a major golf tournament for the first time.

These events raise the question as to whether we have entered a period where out-of-the-ordinary happenings are going to become commonplace or if this is just an accidental merger of these unusual events in time.  If indeed we have entered into some sort of space-time warp where strange happenings are the new normal, then here are some things to look for as confirmation of that new normal:

  1. The Detroit Lions make it to the Super Bowl.
  2. The LA Clippers win the NBA Championship.
  3. The Toronto Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup.
  4. Sam Marino wins an international soccer match.
  5. James Dolan wins NBA Exec of the Year.
  6. Rex Ryan actually delivers on one of his bombastic “promises”.
  7. The Oakland A’s average home attendance is north of 30,000.
  8. Tom Brady invites Roger Goodell over for dinner.

In another piece of recent news, Lonzo Ball’s father, LaVar, offered up this “analysis” of the NCAA basketball tournament for 2017.  The reason that UCLA did not win the championship – as he had predicted several months ago – is because they played three white guys who were slow afoot against Kentucky.  Seriously, he said that.  Here is his full commentary:

“Realistically you can’t win no championship with three white guys because the foot speed is too slow. I told Lonzo—’One of these games you might need to go for 30 or 40 points.’ It turned out that was the one game. Then once they get to the Elite Eight, they’re right there.”

Here is Greg Cote’s take on that commentary in the Miami Herald:

“Clown-dad father LaVar Ball now claims his son’s UCLA team lost in the NCAA Tournament because of the slowness of’”three white guys.’ Well, at least he didn’t name them!”

Forget the screeches of “racism” leveled at LaVar Ball for those remarks; that is not the issue here.  The real issue is that the best player on the court for the Bruins in the UCLA/Kentucky game was TJ Leaf (17 points and 7 rebounds) and it does not take a “Google genius” to find out that TJ Leaf is white.  If indeed “that was the game” where Lonzo Ball needed “to go for 30 or 40 points”, then he fell just a bit short.  His stats were 10 points, 8 assists and 3 rebounds.  Oh, and Ball was also the one who was torched by DeAaron Fox of Kentucky on many of Fox’s drives that led to Fox’s 39 points for the Wildcats.

Perhaps another of those things to look for as an indication that unusual happenstances are the new normal might be this:

  • LaVar Ball says something that has a basis in reality.

If you are going to take in an Astros’ game at Minute Made Park, here is something that might catch your dining fancy:

  • The Freddy Fender:  This starts with a chorizo sausage wrapped in a corn tortilla; that puppy is then deep-fried and served topped with cilantro-sour cream, cotija cheese, pico de gallo and tequila-braised onions.
  • My recommendation is order this with a side of Rolaids…

Finally, Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle had these reasons why President Trump chose not to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Nats’ home opener this year:

“MLB refused to move game to Mar-a-Lago.

“Former President Barack Obama is stealing catcher’s signs.

“Lying radar gun keeps flashing ‘36’ on his 100-mph heater.”

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



Behaving Like A Senator Today …

The NBA started its season around Halloween last year.  They have played 1230 games since then in order to eliminate just under half the teams from participating in the playoffs.  I have argued for years that most of the games before the end of January are virtually meaningless and that the season does not begin to present compelling games until late February/early March.  I wish to invoke a privilege that is sought by our esteemed US Senators all the time.

  • I wish to revise and extend my remarks on that subject.

As of 2017, I am incorrect in thinking that regular season NBA games from about the beginning of March until the end of the year are meaningful.  These games are no more important or meaningful than the ones in November between the Sacramento Kings and the Brooklyn Nets.  Why did I change my mind?

Well, it is really very simple.  The NBA players have convinced me that the games are unimportant because they have behaved in ways that prove to me that THEY believe they are unimportant.  In the last week or so, players “rested” when the schedule had them laying back to back games even though:

  1. The Cavs/Heat game had relevance to which team would get the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs – – AND – –
  2. The Cavs/Heat game had relevance to the Heat’s pursuit of the #8 seeding in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

That game should have mattered to both teams.  It did not.  And so, I now do not care about ANY NBA regular season games.  This is the league that has known for decades that some teams tank entire seasons to get high draft picks and had to introduce a lottery system to try to prevent teams actually racing to the bottom.  Now they have players so stressed out by scheduling that they need time outs that extend for about 48 hours.

These players are victims of nothing except Fat Wallet Syndrome.  They deserve the scorn of sports fans everywhere.  Maybe they are in receipt of some scorn already given that regular season NBA TV ratings are universally down this year as opposed to last year.

Commish Adam Silver diverted his attention from what he identified as one of his prime tasks – assuring that there is a woman as a head coach in the NBA sooner as opposed to later – to recognize that resting players is something the league as a whole needs to address in a way that makes it less of an affront to the fans who pay the freight.  Deciding on who plays and how long they play is a coaching decision but there are “integrity of the game” issues here.

  • When top teams rest all their good players at one time in a nominally meaningful game, they tell the fans that the game is not really meaningful because they do not give a spit.
  • When bottom-feeding teams play “the end of their bench” for long stretches in late season games seeking to lose and get more ping-pong balls in the hopper, that tells fans they value a high draft pick more than winning.  The Lakers tried – not very successfully – to use this strategy late in the season when all of a sudden Metta World Peace became a 20-minute per game presence on the court instead of a 5-minute per game presence.

Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald had an interesting perspective on this need to rest NBA players recently:

“The new NBA trend is resting your star players. I remember when this was called ‘defense.’ ”

There is another embarrassing situation going on in the NBA world this morning and – – no great surprise here – – it involves the NY Knicks and the team owner James Dolan. reports that the fan who got into a “verbal altercation” – probably better described as a shouting match – with Owner Dolan now claims that the team is making it difficult for him to renew his season tickets and that his ticket representative will not even take his calls.  James Dolan surely does not like anyone getting up in his face and calling him a “rhymes with glass bowl” and James Dolan is the owner of the team and the arena in which they play.  I doubt that this situation infringes on any of the fan’s inalienable rights even were he to claim that attending Knicks’ games in the Garden is essential to his Pursuit of Happiness.

Having said all that, this is yet another “bad optic” for the NY Knicks and Lord knows they have become the masters of bad optics over the past decade or so.  The Knicks are a bad team and this fan wants to renew his tickets – – translation: he wants to spend his money on that bad team – – and the team is behaving like a hard ass by making that difficult.  Here is a link to the report so you can see for yourself what is going on here.

I began today saying that I am now convinced that none of the NBA regular season matters anymore.  Well, here is something else that falls into the bucket of “does not matter yet it has become a big deal”:

  • NFL Network had a “special program” to announce the upcoming schedule for the NFL Exhibition Season.

Let me be clear; the NBA regular season is more important than the NFL Exhibition Season for the basic reason that the NBA regular season games count for something and the NFL Exhibition games are meaningless with a capital “M”.  The NFL stages 65 of these Meaningless events – or 64 in seasons where the Hall of Fame Game field is unplayable and the league cancels it because the NFLPA won’t allow its members to take the field – and none of those events means a damned thing.  Notwithstanding that reality, the schedule announcement becomes a “Special” on NFLN.  My only reaction to this is:

  • Give me a [bleep]ing break!

Finally, here is one more comment from Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald:

“Klay Thompson was asked to sign a fan’s toaster. It speaks volumes when an American in public doesn’t have any paper on him but he’s lugging around his toaster.”

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



NFL Pre-Draft Analysis 2017

Just a quick introduction here for new readers who do not recognize what this annual occurrence is.

  • It is NOT a mock draft;
  • It is NOT an expert opinion;
  • It is NOT the result of contacts throughout the country in the world of college/NFL football.

This is nothing more than a compilation of some notes I took while watching college football games on TV last year.

Because I like college football, I watch lots of games.  Over the years, I have formed the habit of keeping a notepad next to me as I am watching and when I see a player who I think might “graduate” to the NFL, I make some notes.  At this time of year, I dig those note up and try to decipher my handwriting – which is not always easy and may result in some transcription errors – to put together my sense of some names that should be called during the NFL Draft sessions.

My “methodology” here has several humongous flaws that need to be stated clearly and unambiguously:

  1. Since I am doing this by making notes on games I watched on TV, that limits the players I see to ones on the larger schools and better teams.  Let me be clear here; if I have the choice of watching a game between two SEC teams or a game between two Sun Belt teams, I will watch the SEC game 99 times out of 100.
  2. I live on the East Coast.  I am more likely to see a game that starts at noon Eastern Time between two Big 10 teams than I am to see a game that starts at 10:30 PM Eastern Time between two PAC-12 teams or two Mountain West teams.  I really do not have an “East Coast bias”; what I have is an “East Coast biological clock”.
  3. For some teams, I will only see them play once; I do not pretend to have seen every play for any team in the country last year.  That means there may be an excellent pro prospect on one of those teams that I did not notice.  Maybe that is because I am a doofus; maybe the player had a sub-standard game; maybe he was injured for that game.  Whatever…
  4. I am not connected with nor privy to any sort of extended network of people who scout football.  The only opinions in here that are not my own will be clearly marked as such.  Some long-term readers of these rants know that I do this every Spring and when they think they saw someone at a small school or at a school that might not be on my “go to list”, they will send me an e-mail and I will excerpt it here.

Now that the purpose and the limitations of what is to follow are out in the open, let me begin with my notes on Quarterbacks.

Various commentators have said that this year’s crop of QBs entering the Draft is not a good one.  I guess I have to agree with them because as I went through my notes filtering the players into position categories, I discovered that I only had made notes on 2 QBs:

  1. Chad Kelly (Ole Miss):  My notes say he is “big enough” because he can throw the football “accurately” and “with touch when needed”.  I said he might be a late first round pick based on what I saw.  That is unlikely to be the case now because he tore up his ACL in a game after the one I saw and he was subsequently “dis-invited” to the NFL Combine due to an off-field issue regarding a bar fight.  If I were a GM and the medical folks told me that it looks as his knee is going to be OK and the background investigators told me that the bar fight was unlikely to be repeated, I would surely look closely at Kelly in the 3rd round.
  2. Deshaun Watson (Clemson):  My notes say he is “big and mobile” and that he is “poised when pressure is on”.  [For the record, that note was made during the late stages of the CFP Championship Game against Alabama.]  I also said – from a previous game – that he is “not consistently accurate” with his throws and “does not always lead receivers well”.  I said he was probably a “2nd or 3rd round pick”.  If you believe the mock drafts, he will be gone sometime early in the 1st round.  Whatever…

Just for the record, there are a bunch of other QBs who are getting a following as the Draft approaches.  I saw lots of them and made no notes about them last year.  I saw Josh Dobbs; I saw Brad Kaaya; I saw Deshone Kizer; I saw Pat Mahomes.  I have no notes on any of them.  I am not sure I saw Mitch Trubisky at all because I have no notes on any other UNC players here.

Just as the draft experts are “down” on this year’s QB entries in the draft, those same experts say that there is quality and depth in the Running Backs coming out.  My notes would tend to agree what that overall assessment:

  1. Leonard Fournette (LSU):  It does not take a lot of genius to watch him play and realize he is a big, fast, strong running back who can “run over people and run around people too”.  I also noted that he is a “powerful and effective pass blocker” who “picks up blitzes well”.  I said he is “definitely a 1st round pick”.
  2. Dalvin Cook (Fla St.):  My notes say that his “acceleration through the hole is outstanding” and that he is “elusive once in the secondary”.  I also had him as “1st round pick”.
  3. Christian McCaffrey (Stanford):  His “speed” and “cutting ability” make him a prospect as a 3rd down back or a slot receiver.  I also noted that he is a “good pass receiver”.  I did note that he does not appear to be the sort of back would turn out to be a “featured RB in the pros”.   I had him as a “late 1st round pick or a 2nd round pick.”
  4. Joe Mixon (Oklahoma):  “Excellent runner and good pass catcher” along with “breakaway speed” indicate that Mixon has a future in the NFL.  I said he was “late 1st round pick or a 2nd round pick” – – but that did not take into account his off-field/character issue which could make him drop a round or so.
  5. Samaje Perine (Oklahoma):  He is a “power runner” and “runs over defenders not around them”.  He is “not a breakaway threat” but he will “get tough yards inside”.  Screen graphic had him as 6’ tall and 235 lbs.  That is a reasonable size for a power runner in the NFL.  I said “3rd to 5th round pick?”
  6. Alvin Kamara (Tennessee):  My notes say, “he is a slasher but not big enough to play all the time” but he “might be a great 3rd down back because he is a really good receiver”.  I had him as a “late round pick”.
  7. Jamaal Williams (BYU):  He looked very good in the BYU bowl game and gained about 200 yards.  I said “always makes another yard or two after contact”.  “Tough runner” and “good enough speed” were two other comments.  I said “late round pick”.
  8. D’Onta Foreman (Texas):  He is a big back with “surprising speed” but “not elusive”.  My notes say “third day pick”.
  9. Devine Redding (Indiana):  My notes say he is “built like a bowling ball” so he is “hard to hit”.  He is “not big enough or fast enough to be a feature back” but he is a guy who just “keeps on plugging”.  “Might make a team if he can play special teams?”  I said “7th round pick or UFA”.

Let me move on here to Tight Ends.  I only have notes on three players at this position.

  1. OJ Howard (Alabama):  I was impressed with his “really good speed for a man as big as he is” and his “good hands”.  He is a tight end who “can get deep”.  He “blocks well enough” in the run game but his “value is as a receiver”.  I said “1st round or 2nd round pick.
  2. Jordan Leggett (Clemson):  He is “big and fast with good hands”.  He also “takes plays off/does not block much”.  Assuming teams are convinced that he will give full effort all the time, I had him as a “3rd day pick”.  If they think he is going to be a malingerer, he will need to find another way to make a living.
  3. Jeremy Sprinkle (Arkansas):  He is “big, strong and excellent blocker for run game”.  “Catches well but not a lot of speed” makes him more of a possession receiver than a deep threat.  My notes say “third day pick”.

Before leaving the Tight Ends, I have to include here a message from a reader of these rants who lives in a suburb of Akron, OH.  He tends to be upset with me when I do not take MAC football as seriously as he does but our exchanges tend to be sarcastically tolerant.

“You never see Division II football so you never see Ashland University.  [Absolutely correct.]

“So, you never heard of Adam Shaheen the [Ashland] Eagles tight end.  [Once again, absolutely correct.]

“Put his name in your draft column next year and you will look smarter than you are.  [OK, I did that.  Looking smarter than I am is not all that difficult.]

I went and looked up Adam Shaheen’s stats; he caught 57 passes and 16 TDs last year.  More interesting from a draft potential standpoint is that he is 6’6” tall and weighs 275 lbs.  It is a big step from Division II football to the NFL, but this is a big man.  I will listen for his name…

Now on to the Wide Receivers…  Before I go through my notes, I have to admit that I am rooting for Cooper Kupp (E. Washington) to go in the early rounds.  After Dwight Perry (Seattle Times) urged me to follow his exploits in Division 1-A last year, I saw that he put up some prodigious stats against defenders who will never see the field in an NFL uniform.  I have no idea if he can play on Sundays, but I am rooting for him…

  1. Corey Davis (W. Michigan):  I saw him play twice last year – in the MAC Championship Game and against Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl.  He was the best WR on the field in both games.  My notes say “great hands” and “really fast out of his cuts”.  Wisconsin game showed “he can play against top college defenders”.  I said “1st round pick”.  For the record, he caught 97 passes for 1500 yards in 2016.
  2. Mike Williams (Clemson):  He has “excellent hands” and “makes plays on poorly thrown balls”.  I said he “helps pad stats for [Deshaun] Watson.”  I said “1st round”.
  3. Dede Westbrook (Oklahoma):  He is a “little guy who is always getting behind the defender”.  He has “good hands and good speed”.  I said “2nd round maybe 3rd”.
  4. Chris Goodwin (Penn St.):  My notes say “big enough and probably fast enough” and “has good hands”.  He also “blocks downfield”.  I had him “going in 4th or 5th round”.
  5. Josh Reynolds (Texas A&M):  I said he is “tall and skinny” but “has glue on his hands/catches everything”.  Looking at the stats, he is only 185 lbs and in the NFL if you are going to be that small as a WR, you need to be really tough and/or really fast.  In my notes I said “maybe 4th round/probably lower.”
  6. Gabe Marks (Washington St.): “Not very big but quick with good hands” is my comment.  “Worth a shot in the late rounds”

Before leaving the Wide Receivers, I am aware that John Ross (Washington) has gotten a lot of attention after breaking the NFL Combine record for time in the 40-yard dash.  I saw Washington play last year and I have no notes on Ross.  Maybe I was up getting a snack when he made some dazzling plays…?

Next up are the Offensive Linemen.  I used to try to differentiate them by position but over the past several years I have seen that NFL teams move these “big uglies” [ /Keith Jackson ] around from place to place on the line.  So, I’ll just combine them here:

  1. Cam Robinson (Alabama):  He is “big and strong and a good run blocker”.  He is “not agile in pass blocking but makes up for it with strength”.  I said, “Good enough to start for Alabama = 2nd round or better”.
  2. Ryan Ramczyk (Wisconsin):  My notes say he is “big and strong and plays hard all the time”.  “Pass blocking is good and run blocking is better”.  I had him as a “1st or 2nd round pick”.
  3. Erik Magnuson (Michigan):    I said, “excellent run blocking” and “good enough pass blocking”.  “Got outside to lead running plays to his side”.  I said, “probably goes around 3rd round”.
  4. Pat Elfein (Ohio St.):  He is a “bulldozer as a run blocker” and “adequate in pass blocking – missed a blitz badly”.  I noted, “3rd round”.
  5. Isaac Asiata (Utah):  My notes say “really good interior run blocker and good enough as a pass blocker”.  I said he would go “3rd round or 4th round?”
  6. David Sharpe (Florida):  He is a “huge man” who is “dominant run blocking”.  “Needs work in pass blocking against speed rushers/not very quick” is the reason he will not go early.  I said, “late round pick”.
  7. Taylor Moton (W. Michigan):  I was much more focused on watching Corey Davis when I tuned into a W. Michigan game but I also made this note about Moton – –  “he is a good run blocker and a better pass blocker”.  I said, “could be a bargain in 5th or 6th round”.
  8. Damien Mama (USC):  I noted that he was “very big and very effective at power blocking” but that “he isn’t very mobile”.  My assessment was that he “can start at USC so that means some team will probably take him late in the draft”.
  9. Jermaine Eluemunor (Texas A&M): “Big strong run blocker but not so good in pass protection”.  “Should get a tryout”; “final round pick”?
  10. Josh Boutte (LSU):  My notes say “just a huge man who is not fast but awfully strong”.  His “lack of speed/quickness will drop him in the draft”.  I said he is “worth a pick in the final round just because of his size.”

Before leaving the offensive side of the ball, let me share part of another e-mail dealing with an offensive lineman.

“IUP [Indiana University of Pennsylvania] guard, Ethan Cooper, is athletic and quick even though he is 320 lbs …  He dominates D-II [Division II] opponents and if he does well at the [NFL] Combine, he could be drafted.”

And now, I shall proceed to the defensive side of the ball and focus on Defensive Backs first.  As with offensive lineman, I have given up on trying to figure out if NFL teams will take a DB and play him at cornerback or at safety; so, all I am doing here is to give you an idea of what I saw in terms of secondary players.

  1. Jamal Adams (LSU):  He is “big and athletic” and he “plays both run and pass very well”.  I did not see him do anything that he did not do well.  I said “1st round pick”.
  2. Marshawn Lattimore (Ohio St.):  He “covers really well” and “kept up with every fly pattern run by Michigan”.  I think he will “go in the 1st round”.
  3. Malik Hooker (Ohio State):  My notes say “big” “quick” and “very athletic”.  My assessment was simple, “Has to go in 1st round”.
  4. Marlon Humprhey (Alabama):  My notes were totally positive.  “Fast and athletic” … “great in coverage” … “sure tackler” … you get the idea.  Naturally, I thought he was a “1st round pick”.
  5. Jabril Peppers (Michigan):  He “is everywhere on the field” doing “everything except punting”.  His versatility should mean “he is gone somewhere in the 1st or 2nd round”.
  6. Adoree Jackson (USC):  My notes say “very fast and good in coverage” and “only question is size – big enough for NFL?”  Overall, I thought 3rd round”.
  7. Kai Nacua (BYU):  He is a “big hitter as a safety who covers well enough to be a corner(?)”.  He was “also out there on special teams”.  I said, “3rd or 4th round”.
  8. Sojourn Shelton (Wisconsin):  He played well against Cory Davis in the Cotton Bowl and my comment was “is he big enough to be a DB in the NFL?”  The trend in the NFL now is for tall/rangy cornerbacks and Shelton is neither.  Thus, I said “probably late rounds”.
  9. Corn Elder (Miami):  In addition to a great name, he is “great against the run” with “good speed”.  However, he is “not quick to react to cuts made by receivers” so “he is a project” for an NFL coaching staff.  My guess was “4th or 5th round”.
  10. Nate Gerry (Nebraska):  My notes say he is a “big hitter” and “quick to fill on run plays”.  I also noted he “might not be fast enough to play CB in the NFL”.  So, maybe he is a safety?  My assessment was “late round pick”.
  11. Justin Evans (Texas A&M):  He is “strong against the run” but “not so good against the pass”.  The NFL is a passing league so my guess was “late rounds”.

Now let us look at the Linebackers.  I will mix together guys who played inside linebacker and outside linebacker and even some defensive ends whose real chance to make an NFL roster would be as an outside linebacker/edge rusher.

  1. Reuben Foster (Alabama):  Here is my opening comment, “If the ball carrier is there, Foster is there.”  He is a “big hitter” and “fast and athletic”.  My assessment was “has to be a 1st rounder”.
  2. TJ Watt (Wisconsin):  Somebody is likely to draft him simply for genetic reasons; yes, he and JJ Watt have DNA similarities.  My notes say that TJ Watt is a “sure tackler” and a “good edge rusher on blitzes”.  Overall I thought he would be “gone by round 2”.
  3. Derek Barnett ( Tennessee):  He is “strong against the run” and an “excellent pass rusher from the outside”.  I had him as a “2nd or 3rd round pick”.
  4. Solomon Thomas (Stanford):  Maybe he is a DE; maybe he is an OLB; definitely, he is “big, strong, fast”.  He “plays run very well” so he is “not a liability when doing something other than rushing the passer”.  I thought he was a “3rd round pick”.
  5. Taco Charlton (Michigan):  He is a “pass rusher first and foremost”; his defense against the run is “adequate”.  I said “3rd round pick”.
  6. Takarist McKinley (UCLA):  He is a “pass rusher off the edge – nothing more” but he has “exceptional speed around the OTs”.  I also noted that he “chased down two plays to the opposite side of the field for short gains”.  However, “run defense is not very good/gets pushed around”.  My assessment was “3rd day pick”.
  7. Rich Brown (Mississippi St.):  He is big and strong and a “run-stuffer”.  I also wondered “can he cover NFL TEs?”  My guess was 5th or 6th round”.
  8. Jordan Evans (Oklahoma):  He has “good speed for pass coverage” and “plays the run adequately”.  His pass rush seemed “half-hearted”.  The Big 12 does not yield a lot of defensive players so my guess was “late round pick”.
  9. Ben Boulware (Clemson):  My notes say “strong against the run and not real good against the pass”.  That probably makes him a “late round pick” at best.

Before leaving these linebackers/defensive ends/hybrid players, I have another e-mail to share with you.  This comes from a long-time friend who is a Villanova alum:

“While you are busy slurping Cooper Kupp in FCS football [what I always call Division 1-AA football], there is a real pro prospect from that level here in Philadelphia at Villanova.  Tanoh Kpassagnon could be a defensive end or an outside linebacker for an NFL team.  [Aside:  I would not even try to pronounce that name or give it a phonetic spelling here.]

“He dominates opponents in the run game and rushes the passer to (sic).  And he plays on most of the Nova special teams too.”

OK, so now you know about another small school player that I never saw even one time.  Make of those comments what you will and keep an ear out for his name in the draft.

In terms of Defensive Linemen, here are my notes.  There are not a lot of them but I do like the ones I have on this list.

  1. Myles Garrett (Texas A&M):  He is an “excellent pass rusher” and “he plays the run very well too”.  He “plays hard on every play”.  My assessment is 1st round pick guaranteed”.
  2. Jonathan Allen (Alabama):  He is a “monster against the run” and he “generates serious pass rush right up the gut of the offense”.  A screen graphic said he was 285 lbs; my comment is “he plays bigger and stronger than that” and “he plays faster than 285 too”.  My comment was “he has to go in the 1st round”.
  3. Dalvin Tomlinson (Alabama):  He is a “run-stuffer but not a pass rusher inside”.  He would probably be better appreciated if he were not playing next to Jonathan Allen all the time.  I said, “3rd round pick”.
  4. Malik McDowell (Michigan St.):  He is a “big strong run defender” who can “generate some pass pressure inside”.  I said he was a “2nd round pick maybe 1st”.
  5. Ryan Glasgow (Michigan):  He is a “300 lb. nose tackle who stops the run”.  He has a “low center of gravity so he can add weight upstairs to become immoveable”.   I said “gone by 3rd round”.
  6. Jarron Jones (Notre Dame): He “spends a lot of time in the offensive backfield” and he “can put pressure on the QB outside”.  He is “big and quick but not fast”.  I said he was a “3rd/4th round pick”.

I only had one note on a Punter:

  • Toby Baker (Arkansas):  My notes say he is a “big kid” who “has lots of hang time on punts”.

I had a note on only one Kicker:

  • Andy Phillips (Utah): “Kickers are little guys; this guy is short and stocky – unusual.”  He “provided the margin of victory over BYU” last year.

Finally, here is a comment from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald regarding the speed shown by WR John Ross at the NFL Combine:

“Ex-Washington receiver John Ross set an NFL combine record by running a 4.22 40. For perspective that’s how long it takes the Cleveland Browns to be mathematically eliminated most seasons.”

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



Labor And Management Strike A Deal

Progress usually comes as a result of a sequence of small steps in a positive direction.  Sometimes, in order to get a person or an entity to cooperate in taking those small steps, a bludgeon needs to be used.  Such has been the case in recent times with women athletes in the US.

Recall about a month ago that the US Women’s Hockey team said it would boycott the World Championship Tournament that was going to be held in Michigan unless the governing bodies and the US overseers of that sport came up with better compensation for the players and support for growing the sport itself.  There was a lot of posturing that led up to that declaration but once it became clear that these women were going to stay home, a deal was struck.  Amazingly, money that was unavailable and/or non-existent became part of the deal that got the women’s team back on the ice.

Simultaneously, the US Women’s National Soccer Team had an analogous standoff with the folks who run women’s soccer here in the US.  Despite the world-class performances of the women’s team over the last couple of decades, they too did not have what they believed was the proper level of support and compensation.  That dispute dragged on for far too long and even involved the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission for the last year because the women alleged wage discrimination in their situation.  That matter was settled last week when the team members and the US Soccer Federation agreed to a new CBA.

A key element of the deal intends to “provide stability and growth potential for the National Women’s Soccer League.”  That is a big deal because a key element of the continued excellence of the US Women’s National Team is the ability of its players to make a living here in the US playing their sport and growing their sport.  If this CBA moves things in that direction, it is a win for both sides.

I think there is a lesson to be learned here that can apply to other conflicts in the sports world.  These issues balanced on financial matters – and at the core, most conflicts in the sports world involve the same basic issue.  Once the two sides put aside things like “a boycott” or a “Federal complaint to the EEOC”, the parties could sit down more comfortably and figure out a way to divide the available resources in a way that both sides could live with.  The key is to make sure that money is the paramount issue under discussion; if it gets lumped in with things like “discrimination” or “entitlement” or stuff like that, the negotiations become more difficult.

I mention this because there is an ongoing contretemps between the NHL and the IOC over the availability of NHL players for the 2018 Winter Games.  If there is to be a “meeting of the minds” here, the two sides need to stop finger-pointing and name-calling and start to look at the finances so they can strike an economic deal that each can live with.


[Aside:  I purposely put “meeting of the minds” in quotation marks above given the two entities I am talking about.  The NHL canceled an entire season to make a point that was unclear then and is probably unrecalled by most folks today.  The IOC’s behaviors over the years simply makes it impossible to consider them as acting in a rational or cooperative environment.]


Shifting gears … the Seattle Seahawks signed free agent running back, Eddie Lacy, to a 1-year deal.  According to a report on ESPN, there is a “weight incentive clause” in the contract that could be worth up to $385K for Lacy.  According to Pete Carroll, his preference would be for Lacy to play games weighing somewhere “in the 240 range”.  Looking back at the draft projections for Lacy coming out of college at Alabama, the scouting reports said he weighed 235 lbs.  Using only the eyeball test, I think it has been quite a while since Lacy saw that weight; if you told me that he played at 270 at times over the past 2 years, I would not argue with you for very long.

According to a report from Adam Schefter, Lacy’s contract could be worth as much as $5.5M but only $2.8M of that is guaranteed.  The rest of the contract value must be earned as incentives related to Lacy’s weight, his production as a running back and how often he is dressed and active for a game.

The second two incentive criteria may be affected by the fact that Lacy is still rehabbing a foot/ankle injury he suffered early last season with the Packers.  If that injury comes around, he should be a useful running back for the Seahawks; if it lingers, he may have to settle for seeing limited action.  In any event, making the weight targets should be something he can control completely on his own.

The Milwaukee Brewers have an interesting – if not completely healthy – culinary offering for the upcoming season.  I would suggest arriving at the ballpark a bit before game time because this is not something you want to try to eat in your seat as you watch the game.  It has an apt name; they call it:

  • The Beast:  It starts with a grilled bratwurst sliced in half lengthwise.  That baby gets stuffed with a footlong hot dog and then gets wrapped in bacon for a flash-frying.  The whole thing is put on a pretzel roll and served with onions, sauerkraut and mustard.  Oh, and you get a bag of chips on the side too.

Finally, Brad Dickson has these two observations about the recently concluded NCAA basketball tournaments in the Omaha World-Herald:

“During an official review at the women’s NCAA tournament, Washington and Oklahoma held a dance-off. This isn’t to be confused with that NFL booth review when a couple players had time to complete a half-marathon.”

And …

“Arena security reportedly had to visit the seat of Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall’s wife three times during the loss to Kentucky. If a game had been decided by a technical foul on the coach’s wife, it would be my favorite ‘One Shining Moment’ ever.”

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



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………



The Free Agent QB Market – 2017

Yesterday, we learned the fate of Tony Romo.  He is now an announcer and not a quarterback.  As is often the case, the answer to one question creates new questions that need new answers.  The answer to “Where will Tony Romo play football in 2017?” turned out to be “Nowhere,” and that generates quarterback questions for NFL teams.

By my count, there are 7 NFL teams that have serious problems at the quarterback position but it would be a mistake to lump all 7 into a single category.  I think there are 3 teams that could be playoff caliber teams if they were able to upgrade the quarter back position and I think there are 4 teams that just need a decent quarterback to reach the level of “respectable”.

Tony Romo would have been a consideration for at least 2 of the 3 teams in the “might be a playoff team with a better QB” and now that he is off the market, it might cause other dominoes to fall involving teams in both categories.  Let me go through my list of teams starting with the 3 teams that need upgraded QB play to be playoff contenders:

  1. Denver Broncos:  They are in a tough division; the Raiders are very good; the Chiefs’ roster is loaded.  The Broncos have a good defense – not as good as it was when they won the Super Bowl but still a good defense.  At QB, they have no one on the roster who – at this time – causes defensive coordinators to stay awake at night.  If the Broncos want to make the playoffs – and not “waste” a good defensive unit – they had to have an eye out for Tony Romo to hit the free agent market.  Now that he will not do so, the Broncos should become players in the QB free agency market.  Trevor Siemian was OK when he played last year and Paxton Lynch may have great “upside”, but there is plenty of room for an upgrade here in the 2017 season.
  2. Houston Texans:  The Texans’ situation is the same as the Broncos only more so.  The Texans’ defense is excellent; they led the NFL in yardage allowed last year; and they will get JJ Watt back in action next year.  They play in a mediocre division so they got to the playoffs last year even with sub-standard play from the QB position.  On the Texans’ roster this morning at QB are Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden.  I have to think the Texans coveted Tony Romo and will now have to turn their covetous eyes elsewhere.
  3. Jacksonville Jaguars:  Yes, I know the Jags only won 3 games last year.  The issue in Jax is simple.  They have added talent to the roster via free agency and via the draft over the last several years; but last year, Blake Bortles was just plain bad.  If that is what he is going to be as a QB down the line, then the Jags need to do something to change their situation.  I do not know what Jags’ head coach Doug Marrone and/or Jags’ QB coach Scott Milanovich think of Blake Bortles.  Here is what I am confident about:
  • If they do not find a way to improve the QB play in Jax relatively soon, their tenure in Jax will not be a long one…

Certainly, the Broncos and the Texans will be scanning the free agent market to see if any of the QBs there make sense as acquisitions in terms of economics and in terms of fit with the offensive philosophy of the teams.  Maybe the Jags also enter that marketplace but if they want to sell a veteran free agent on coming to Jax, they had best put together a solid economic offer because as noted above, the Jags won exactly 3 games in 2016.  As these teams begin to move, the other 4 teams in need of QB help can begin to shop around.

  1. Chicago Bears:  The fans in Chicago are probably happy to see that Jay Cutler is gone along with Matt Barkley and Brian Hoyer.  The Bears spent a lot of money to sign Mike Glennon and a little bit of money to add Mark Sanchez to the roster.  Glennon gets $18.5M guaranteed and a total of $45M if he plays out his 3-year deal.  But, what if he is not “the answer”?  Surely, John Fox and QB coach, Dave Ragone, know that Mark Sanchez is not “the answer”.  So, do the Bears go shopping in the free agency market yet again or do they go to the draft for a “development project”?
  2. Cleveland Browns:  Well, they acquired Brock Osweiler as part of a salary dump and roster cleansing by the Texans.  The Browns have 3 QBs on the roster as of this morning, Brock Osweiler, Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan.  As has been the case since the Browns re-entered the league in 1999, they are in desperate need of an upgrade at the QB position.  However, trying to shop in the free agent marketplace presents the Browns with a dilemma.  The team is not any good now and is not likely to be good in the next few years.  The Browns are a long-term development project as a team.  Many of the free agent QBs are at stages of their career where they may not be of any value to the Browns by the time the team elevates to the status of “not awful”.  If I assume that will take a minimum of 3 years, then which of the available QBs would I want to commit myself to for something longer than 3 years?  My answer is:  None of them.
  3. NY Jets:  The Jets already dipped a toe in the QB free-agent market signing Josh McCown to a 1-year contract.  Call this what it is; this is kicking the can down the road.  The Jets may or may not have a serviceable QB for 2017; time will tell.  The Jets are in the midst of a roster reboot that – like the Browns – will take several years; they will not have Josh McCown as their QB in 3 years when McCown will be 40 years old.  Neither young QB on the Jets’ roster has shown he can play and the Jets may be in the position of drafting a QB yet one more time.  When last season turned to a disaster and the Jets never allowed Christian Hackenberg to see the field just for the sake of experience, that tells me that Hackenberg cannot play dead in a “Spaghetti Western”.  The Jets have to guess correctly about the QB position eventually; even the blind squirrel sometimes finds a nut.
  4. SF 49ers:  Somehow, the new folks in charge of football in SF decided that the Bears miserable showing in 2016 was not the result of poor QB play.  The Niners have already signed Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley who made up the majority of the Bears’ QB cadre last year and produced a season record of 3-13 and scoring only 17.4 points per game.  Once again, this is probably nothing more than a temporizing move since both contracts are 2-years in duration.

To have a market, one needs buyers and sellers.  If you doubt that statement, ask any stock broker.  If these are the teams who represent the buyers, let us now take a look at some of the sellers – the remaining free agent QBs themselves.  Like the teams on the “buyer side”, I think the QBs fall into 2 categories – free agents who might go somewhere knowing that their job is backup QB and free agents who might go somewhere with the idea that they will be the starting QB.  Let me start with eleven potential backup QBs and a brief comment on each:

  1. Austin Davis:  He is 27 years old.  He has been in the NFL since 2012.  He started 10 games and his team record in those games is 3-7.
  2. David Fales:  He is 26 years old.  Last year was his rookie season in Chicago and he is already a free agent.  Ka-beesh?
  3. Blaine Gabbert:  He is 27 years old.  In 6 seasons, he has started 40 games and the team record in those games is 9-31.  Shudder …
  4. Bruce Gradkowski:  He is 34 years old.  His last start was in 2010; his last pass attempt in the NFL was in 2012.  His arm should be well-rested…
  5. Shaun Hill:  He is 37 years old.  In 11 seasons, he has started 35 games and the team record in those games is 17-18.
  6. Thad Lewis:  He is 29 years old.  His last NFL action came in 2013 when he started 5 games for the Bills.  Not a lot of mileage on those tires …
  7. Matt McGloin:  He is 27 years old.  He has been in the league 4 years and the team record in his starting assignments is 1-6.  Hi-ho …
  8. Dan Orlovsky:  He is 33 years old and I was not aware he was still in the NFL.
  9. Ryan Nassib:  He is 27 years old.  The Giants released him and then signed Geno Smith as their backup.  ‘Nuff said…
  10. Christian Ponder:  He is 29 years old.  He has been in the NFL for 6 years but he has not seen the field since 2014.  He has had time to ponder his future …
  11. TJ Yates:  He is 29 years old.  He has been in the NFL since 2011.  In that time, he has started 7 games and his team record in those games is 4-3.

Candidly, there are slim pickings on that list above.  That is not to say that the remaining list of 4 QBs represent the motherlode of quarterbacking excellence but there is something to think about with these four free agents:

  1. Jay Cutler:  He is 33 years old.  I have never been a huge fan of Cutler all the way back to his days at Vandy but when he gets protection and is in rhythm, he can throw a football as well as anyone.  People complain about his “body language” and his “surly demeanor” and his “lack of leadership”.  If I were a coach, I might worry about that stuff too unless my alternative was to take my chances with a Tom Savage (in Houston) or either young QB (in Denver).  Even if Jay Cutler is truly as big a pain in the ass as he is often portrayed to be, he can still throw the ball better than any of those guys.  I also think that Cutler would be a good fit for the offensive philosophy in Houston where the Texans have tried to use QBs in the pocket and not in “free-lance mode”.  Now that Tony Romo is off the market, I think this is where the Texans ought to look.
  2. Ryan Fitzpatrick:  He is 34 years old.  He had a career year in 2015 starting all 16 games and leading the Jets to a 10-6 record; his performance in 2014 was pretty good too.  However, he has been in the NFL since 2005 and those are the only two seasons where he has been “better than a journeyman”.  Surely, he wants to have a shot at a starting job but at his age, it might be difficult to convince a “building team” to take him on and his résumé might be insufficient to tempt the really good teams who merely need a QB upgrade.  If he has a landing spot, I think it would be Jax in the event that the new coaching staff there has a severe case of agita brought on by watching Blake Bortles botch a bunch of possessions in 2016.  [Aside:  Bortles has been in the NFL 3 years; his record in Jax is 11-34 as a starter; he has thrown 51 INTs in those 3 seasons.  It is not as if the Jags are looking to replace Joe Montana here…]
  3. Robert Griffin III:  He is 27 years old.  I put him on this list as opposed to the list above because I believe that he only wants to be a starting QB and will likely make that clear in any interviews/negotiations.  I do not think he is any prize as a starting QB even though he did have that one magical season in Washington in his rookie season.  If indeed he “plays hardball” and signs with a team with the understanding that he will be the starter unless he completely screws the pooch in training camp, my guess is that he will not make it out of training camp.
  4. Colin Kaepernick:  He is 29 years old.  On one hand, Colin Kaepernick took the Niners to the Super Bowl and made a game of it.  He also led the Niners to the playoffs in another season his record in playoff games is 4-2.  That sort of “positive stuff” is not to be found on any other stat sheets here.  Then comes the negative stuff…  Last year – playing for a team short on talent around the roster – Kaepernick started 11 games; the Niners’ record in those games was 1-10.  At the end of the season, the new football regime in SF decided to jettison Kaepernick – along with Blaine Gabbert – in order to make room to sign Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley.  As my mother used to say, “You are known by the company you keep.”  A coach/GM who takes on Colin Kaepernick has to be convinced that he has been in a career slump for the last couple of seasons and that the “real Colin Kaepernick” is one we saw when Jim Harbaugh was the Niners’ coach.  I am not sure where Kaepernick is a “great fit”, but when I look at the QBs on this list and then look at the QBs who are on rosters in the NFL as backups, I have to say that he has the skills to be somewhere.

And that last entry on the list brings me to the topic of “collusion” and/or “blackballing” because those terms have been tossed around by some folks who think Colin Kaepernick should have been signed by now.  It seems to me that these two things are related but they are not the same thing.  Blackballing is a way of “counting votes” in a secret ballot system whereby a single negative vote (a black ball) or a significant minority of negative votes can deny entry in to club or organization.  In the extreme, if there are 100 members voting on 1 new member and there are 99 affirmative votes and 1 negative vote (the black ball), membership is denied.

Blackballing does not necessarily involve collusion because no collusion is necessary.  If I belong to a club set up exclusively for right-handed people, then it is pretty obvious that someone in that club would vote against Steve Carlton or Phil Mickelson should that name come up for entry in the club.  If I were a member of that club passionately devoted to “the right-handed cause”, I would blackball either of those two individuals despite any other qualifications they may have.  I would open myself to criticism as a bigot and a royal doofus, but in the situation I just created, that is how I would behave.

Now, if my hypothetical club is a private club, I suspect that there is no legal reason that our bylaws and election procedures would be improper.  Stupid, yes; illegal, no.  I am not an NFL owner nor am I a GM, but I am confident that there is no such process among the owners with regard to who can and who cannot be a quarterback on any of the 32 NFL teams.  It is lazy thinking to apply this label improperly and then stand back in some sort of righteous posture having proclaimed the source of Colin Kaepernick’s unemployed status.

At the same time, collusion has a legal meaning and a colloquial meaning.  In a colloquial sense, consider that I and two neighbors own properties such that a developer needs an easement from one of us to allow him to develop some land near us; and also assume that we would prefer for that land to remain undeveloped.  If we meet at my house one evening and we all “pinky-swear” that none of us will give that easement to the developer without the agreement of the other two of us, we have colloquially colluded to prevent the developer from doing what he wants to do.  However, we are not depriving him of any of his rights and so our “pinky-swearing collusion” is not likely to be overturned by a court.

The rub in the Colin Kaepernick situation is that one of his rights would be affected by collusion among the NFL owners/GMs.  The operative CBA provides Kaepernick with the contractual right to free agency status; the owners have agreed to this; if the owners – or the GMs as the agents of the owners – then collude to prevent Kaepernick from being a free agent in the same way all those other QBs are free agents, then a court might look very unkindly on that behavior.

Recall in the mid 1980s, that the MLB owners colluded among themselves not to bid to sign any free agents who were not from their own teams.  That drove salaries down and that was an injury suffered by the players.  Courts awarded players something like $300M in judgments and penalties in those cases.  However, here is a key point:

  • The MLB owners shared information among themselves about what salaries they were offering to various free agents so that other teams might know what the player had in front of him during negotiations.  Even worse, they kept records of those interactions and those records were discovered.

About 20 years after those collusion findings, Barry Bonds sued MLB alleging collusion when he was a free agent – in his mid-40s – and got no offers from anyone.  In his case, he lost because there was either no documentary evidence of a concerted effort by the teams or if there was some such evidence, it was insufficient.  Just because a player is treated differently than other players of a similar stature, that does not prove collusion.  So, even if Colin Kaepernick enjoyed on-field stature similar to Barry Bonds – he most assuredly does not – , his lack of contract offers does not mean the owners have colluded to keep him out of the NFL.  Take a look at my list of 11 free agent QBs above and realize that some of them are not going to be signed this year – or maybe in any future years.  No collusion involved there; 32 teams would have decided independently to sign someone else.  If Kaepernick charges collusion, the burden of proof is on him and not on the teams.

I do not think that Kaepernick is being blackballed or colluded against due to his National Anthem protests any more than I believe that Thad Lewis is being blackballed or colluded against because he is African-American.  I think both of them are free agents at the moment and circumstances other than skin color or social protest form the basis of their continued free agency.  I would come to the same conclusion with regard to Adrian Peterson who remains unsigned as of this morning.  Yes, he had those domestic violence issues he had to deal with a couple of years ago.  I believe, however, his injury history over the past couple of years and the “high mileage” on his running back’s body coupled with reports that he wants $9M per year have more to do with his continued unemployment than collusion or blackballing over his legal issues.

I suspect that there will be only minor activity in the QB free agency marketplace.  With the draft only a few weeks away, I think teams will be spending much more energy on their “draft boards” than on free agent quarterbacks – most of whom will still be in that status after the draft is over and teams can see what they were able to get in the draft both at the QB position and at other positions on the field.  I suspect the next period of activity for free agent QBs will be in early May.

Finally, here is a comment from Greg Cote of the Miami Herald about the virtue of NFL owners:

“NFL owners voted 31-1 to OK Oakland Raiders’ move to Las Vegas, with Dolphins’ Stephen Ross the lone dissenter. Ross has since been so heroically lauded in the media you’d think he’d rescued three nuns from a burning car.”

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



The Ratings Are In …

There is one more thing that needs to be said about March Madness 2017.  It certainly looks as if it was enjoyed by a lot of folks.  On average, the ratings on CBS and the associated TBS networks for the whole TV package were up 13% over 2016.  The final game between UNC and Gonzaga had ratings up 21%.  Based on early Nielsen ratings 24% of the TV sets in use during the game were tuned into the game.  The number of video streams sent out by the NCAA for the final game was up also.  Here is why I think that is important…

Ratings for the NBA so far this season are down.  Every time I run across a report of weekly ratings for NBA telecasts, the picture is not pretty and I believe that an important element of the NBA’s falling ratings is reflected in the March Madness increased ratings.  Tune in to see an NBA game that you have been anticipating because it is between two good teams and you just might see all the best players for one team in street clothes.  Since you do not have hundreds of dollars invested in arena tickets for that event, you just might turn the game off; moreover, you may not be so “anticipatory” about the next game between two good teams because you also read about other games where players “needed a rest”.

[Aside:  Back-to-back road games are the things that cause NBA players to “need rest”.  In the ACC tournament held in NYC, every team was on the road and to win the tournament, a team had to win 4 games in 4 nights.  No one needed a rest…]

In the college tournament games, you are going to see the best players even if they are injured and should take a rest.  In addition, those players are totally invested in the games in terms of focus and emotion.  After an NBA team loses a playoff series, you do not see tears; after a March Madness tournament loss, you see them frequently.  Even sitting in your living room, you can sense how important the game is to the college players vis a vis the pros.

NBA ratings will increase once the playoffs begin and as the playoffs proceed.  However, the huge money paid to the NBA for its TV deal is not going to be sustained if the only good ratings come in May and June but the airwaves are occupied from November to June.

Changing subjects … I am pleased to announce that our long national nightmare is over [ /Gerald R. Ford ].  We now know the answer to the question that has been smoldering for the last 8-10 weeks:

  • Whither Tony Romo?

Yesterday we learned that he will no longer be playing football on Sundays; he will be in the television booth doing color analysis for CBS on Sundays.  Romo will be paired with Jim Nantz as the #1 announcing team for CBS displacing Phil Simms from that chair; there was no explanation as to what Simms’ role with CBS – if any – will be starting this Fall.

[Aside:  There is a symmetry here.  Dak Prescott showed up as a rookie in Dallas and took Romo’s job causing Romo to retire and show up at CBS as a rookie where he took Phil Simms’ job.  Wheels within wheels…]

Tony Romo is in a challenging situation here.  The color analysts on the lead announcing teams at FOX and NBC are:

  1. Troy Aikman
  2. Cris Collinsworth.

Notwithstanding the fact that there are fans around the country who will swear that both Aikman and Collinsworth hate their favorite team, both of those men are excellent at what they do and they have been doing it for a long time.  Troy Aikman did not step into the lead analyst role straight out of the NFL; he did some “apprentice assignments” first.  Cris Collinsworth spent more than 5 years in various broadcasting roles before his ascension to the top slot.  Tony Romo is going to do this “cold” and the comparisons are inevitable.

Please note; I said Tony Romo is in a “challenging situation”.  I did not say he was doomed to failure or anything of the sort.  I am merely putting down a marker here to remind myself not to draw conclusions about his future after a game or two – – unless of course he comes out of the gate as the reincarnation of John Madden.  We shall see…

The MLB season is under way.  Baseball more than any other US sport celebrates its history as well as its present.  However, that is not to say that there cannot be changes in baseball even when it comes to an iconic venue that is part of the National Register of Historic Places – – Fenway Park.  The Red Sox played their first game in Fenway Park in April 1912. They did not broadcast that game for a simple reason; there were no radio stations in existence at the time; this is a place where one bathes in “baseball history”.

Notwithstanding all the above, Fenway Park has leaped from its beginnings in the early 20th century directly to the 21st century with this new addition:

  • A Virtual Reality Batting Cage:  According to the folks who run the stadium (Fenway Sports Group) this new feature will give fans a chance to ““feel what it’s like to take swings against Major League players at Fenway Park.”
  • Nothing says “2017” like “virtual reality” …

The folks at Fenway also made two gustatory additions for this year:

  1. The Tully Tavern:  This is a new full-service bar area named for and featuring Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey.  This happens to be a whiskey to my liking so I would definitely check this out were I to get to a game in Fenway Park.
  2. Lobster Poutine:  One of the vendors will offer this concoction that I doubt I could resist.  I like lobster in just about any way other than as a topping for chocolate ice cream.  Poutine is a Canadian specialty made of French Fries, cheese curds and a light brown gravy; there is a restaurant in our area that makes this dish by frying the potatoes in duck fat; the word “spectacular” comes immediately to mind.  I have no idea how these folks might combine “lobster” and “poutine”, but I would surely give it a try if I saw it.

Finally, here is an item from Brad Rock in the Deseret News; I am in full agreement with his conclusion here:

“The Salt Lake Bees have announced their promotional schedule for 2017.

“Among the special nights are Golf Night, Frank Layden Night, ‘70s Night, Yoga Night, Star Wars Night and Singles Night.

“Considering the Bees had the second-worst record in the Pacific Coast League last year, maybe they should work on Win the Game Night.”

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



Congratulations To UNC …

Congratulations to the University of North Carolina as the men’s basketball national champions for 2017.  Before the tournament started I was sort of hoping for a final game that would be a rematch of UNC and Villanova from last year; that didn’t happen.  My bracket pick had a final game between UNC and Kansas; that did not happen either.  Gonzaga earned their place in the final game.

Having said all of the above, I told my game-watching companions as soon as the game was over that I thought it was not a particularly well-played game by either team; and moreover, I did not think that the game was well officiated. I said then – and I still believe – that the only saving grace for last night’s game from a viewer’s standpoint is that the game was close throughout.  Knowing that I have seen every final game on TV since 1954, one of my viewing companions asked if I meant this was the worst final game I had ever seen.  I said then I would have to sleep on that question because it would take time to dredge up memories.

As of this morning, I will say that the closeness of last night’s game assures that it cannot be the worst final game I ever saw because close games where the winner is in doubt down to the final minutes are universally better than blowouts.  I do not recall the year, but I do remember when Duke beat Michigan in the final game in a blowout; that was when Michigan had the Fab Five.  That game was no fun to watch.  I also recall when UNLV beat Duke by about 30 points in a final game.  That game was not fun to watch.  I remember one of John Wooden’s teams at UCLA (with Bill Walton at center) demolishing Memphis State.  That game was not fun to watch.

The only blowout final game that was fun for me to watch was my first one in 1954.  LaSalle beat Bradley by about 20 points but I loved the game because I was given dispensation from my parents to stay up and watch it even though it was long past my bedtime.  That game was “special” to me for that reason; it was sort of like having an extra New Year’s Eve in the year when I could stay up until close to midnight…

Switching gears …  One might think that the news value of items connected to the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas might calm down now that the NFL has approved the transfer of the franchise from Oakland.  Well, that might be wishful thinking.

The Raiders signed a lease in Oakland before the start of last season that gave the team access to the stadium in Oakland for last year and it contained two one-year options for the Raiders to extend that lease.  So, the Raiders have a place to play in 2017 and in 2018.  HOW-EVAH [ /Stephen A. Smith ] the new digs in Las Vegas may not be ready until after the 2019 season.  Aye, there’s the rub …  [ /Hamlet ]

The Executive-Director of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority told that it is unlikely they will be “welcomed back” in 2019.  I understand; in the immediate aftermath of the NFL vote that cost Oakland its team, there will be frayed nerves and hard feelings.  I also understand that this sort of statement can be the opening element of a potential future negotiation where the Coliseum Authority will want to extort a princely sum to extend that lease yet one more year.  Nonetheless, this is a storyline that is going to continue to be part of the news until and unless the new stadium in Las Vegas is ready for NFL games starting in September 2019.  Here is a link to the report:

Scott McKibben is the executive-director of the Coliseum Authority and he told USA Today that it would be financially beneficial to the Authority to have the Raiders play anywhere else in 2019.  McKibben said:

“It’s actually financially to our benefit if they didn’t exercise the options and play here even in the two years they’ve got [2017/18].”

Obviously, I have not seen the details of the lease that exists at the moment nor would I have access to the accounting for the Coliseum Authority.  However, that statement might lead one to assume that Messr. McKibben and his colleagues are doofuses.  Consider:

  1. They negotiated this lease with the Raiders about a year ago when the idea in the air was that the Raiders and Chargers would jointly move to LA and build their own stadium there.  The lease in question is not one that has been in existence for a long time such that the Coliseum Authority could not do an accurate projection of what it might cost to stage Raiders’ games in their facility in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
  2. If the Coliseum Authority knew the costs relatively accurately and still signed a lease that guaranteed that they would get less “rent” from the Raiders than their costs, then the Coliseum Authority is not exactly on speed dial from the folks at MENSA.
  3. Not being a resident of California or the Bay Area, I do not know the details of the Coliseum Authority, but its name suggests that it is an entity that acts on behalf of the local government and is somehow beholden to the local government.  If that is even vaguely correct, then Raiders’ fans have yet one more entity to draw their ire.  Not only will the team pick up and leave but they are going to be playing out their days in Oakland while putting a deficit number on the board for the local government to cover. Does that suck or what?

Frankly, I wonder how the fans in Oakland will support the Raiders after 2017.  I presume that most of the season ticket sales/renewals have been done by now so the finances for 2017 are relatively settled in.  But how about 2018?  The Coliseum Authority might be cool to the Raiders coming back in 2019; perhaps the fans will be cool to their coming back in 2018?

Finally, Dwight Perry had this item in the Seattle Times over the weekend putting a punctuation mark on the telecasts of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament:

“WBNS-TV viewers in Columbus, Ohio, missed the deciding moments of Sunday’s North Carolina-Kentucky regional title game — Malik Monk’s tying three and Luke Maye’s final-second winner — because its weather staff cut in to deliver news of a tornado warning for Franklin and Madison counties.

“Heidi was unavailable for comment.”

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



Sports Stew Today …

The UConn women lost in the semi-finals of the women’s tournament last Friday.  Mississippi St. played tenacious defense and won the game with a shot at the buzzer in overtime.  The win snapped UConn’s 111-game winning streak.  This was no fluke; Mississippi St. deserved to win this game.

According to this report in Saturday’s Las Vegas Review-Journal, a bettor placed a $7000 wager on the UConn women to win the game on the money line.  Had they won, he would have collected $7100 – a $100 profit.  Instead, he is out the full $7K.  Meanwhile at the same casino, another bettor put $200 on Mississippi St. on the money line.  He collected $4200 – – a profit of $4K.

Someone sent an anonymous letter to the President of Coastal Carolina University alleging that members of the cheerleading squad

  1. Participated in prostitution,
  2. Purchased alcohol for underage members of the squad
  3. Paid others to do their homework.

The second and third entries on that list are not unheard of on college campuses; the first one however must have gotten the president’s attention because he suspended the cheerleading squad and they will not participate in competition scheduled for later this week.  The police have interviewed team members but as of this morning no charges have been filed.

This is either an extreme over-reaction on the part of the school or there is unreported information from the ongoing investigation into this matter.

If – – I said IF – – there is any substance to the allegation of prostitution by the cheerleaders, it gives new meaning to:

“Two bits; four bits, six bits a dollar …”

Gonzaga beat South Carolina by 4 points on Saturday with the game going pretty much to form.  When the Zags were able to run and/or to get open shots they scored; when they had to run pattern offense against South Carolina’s defense, they struggled.  Here is my conclusion based on that game and the rest of the tournament performances by South Carolina:

  • Frank Martin is a damned good basketball coach.

My pregame assessment of the UNC/Oregon game was off-base.  I thought that if Joel Berry did not have a top-shelf game, UNC would lose the game.   Berry had – for him – a less than mediocre outing but UNC still managed to win because Kennedy Meeks played at a level that I have not seen from him in the past several years – – let alone games.

I want to offer one more observation here that will probably draw some ire.  Dillon Brooks was named the PAC-12 Player of the Year.  He is a good player to be sure but I wonder if his tournament play lived up to the level of that accolade.

The line for tonight’s championship game is:

  • UNC – 2 (152.5):  I think this game will be a track meet so I would take the game to go OVER.

A report says that Georgetown has agreed in principle with Patrick Ewing to become their new head basketball coach.  This hiring decision keeps the coaching position “in the Georgetown family” and it puts some extra pressure on Ewing to succeed with the program.  He was the anchor of the Georgetown team that was a fixture in the Final Four in the early 1980s before going on to his NBA career and his “return” to the Georgetown bench will necessarily draw comparisons.  Ewing has had plenty of assistant coaching experience in the NBA since his playing days ended but this will be his first time in the head coaching position.

Bonne chance, Patrick Ewing.

I read a report saying that Americans will bet $36B on baseball in the upcoming 2017 season and that the expected handle in Nevada casinos for baseball will be $2.1B.  the rest of the money will be wagered “illegally” through bookies and internet sites.  These estimates need to be taken with a grain of salt because they come from the AGA [American Gaming Association] which is a trade group representing casinos and gambling interests.  This group seeks to make sports betting legal and regulated in any jurisdiction that may want to have a sportsbook operate in the open.  While I agree with the goals of the AGA, I find the estimate of $36B bet on baseball hard to understand.

Finally, Steve Rosenbloom of the Chicago Tribune is obviously unhappy with the Bears’ quarterback situation.  Consider this series of comments from his column, The Rosenblog:

“Patriots owner Robert Kraft said Tom Brady told him he wants to play another six or seven seasons.  That’s 24 starting quarterbacks in Bears years.”

And …

“After swooping down on Tampa Bay backup Mike Glennon with what looks like a slick bit of bidding against themselves, the Bears completed their apparent forfeiture of the position by signing Cowboys castoff Mark Sanchez, and congratulations to the Bears:

“They’ve managed to make their quarterback signings feel worse than their actual quarterback play.”

And …

“My look at the Bears’ projected quarterback depth chart:

  1.    Mike Glennon

  2.    Whoever They Draft

  3.     Mark Sanchez

  4.     Your Name Here

  5.     David Fales

  6.     Some Guy Eating Cheetos On His Couch

  7.     Connor Shaw

  8.     That Guy Over There

  9.     Yeah, You.”

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