Antoine “Fats” Domino died yesterday at the age of 89. He was one of my favorite musical performers when I was a kid. Some brief thoughts:
- Arriving at the Pearly Gates, St. Peter says: I Hear You Knockin’
- My reaction to news of his death: Ain’t That A Shame
- Where to bury him: On Blueberry Hill
Rest in peace, “Fats” Domino …
People complain about “pace of play” in baseball. Sometimes, MLB games drag on for seeming eternity; so, I get the complaints and often agree with them. Not last night… Game 2 of the World Series was more than 4 hours long and none of it was bothersome.
For a short time, it appeared as if this would be labeled the “Groundhog Day Game”. Game 1 provided a 3-1 score where the winning margin was a two-run homer by the second guy in the Dodgers’ batting order in the bottom of the sixth inning. That happened again in Game 2; and given the effectiveness of the Dodgers’ bullpen, it appeared as if the only way it would not come to pass would be if the Dodgers added to their score. Instead, the Astros rallied to tie the game in the ninth inning; the Astros took a 2-run lead in the 10th; the Dodgers tied the game in the bottom of the 10th; the Astros took another 2-run lead in the 11th inning; and the Dodgers could only muster a single run in the bottom of the 11th. Final score was 7-6; the Series is tied at 1 game apiece; the teams get a day off to travel to Houston and watching Game 2 was four-plus hours well spent.
I have said that many managers tend to over-manage in the playoffs and I really think that Dave Roberts did that last night. Dodgers’ starter, Rich Hill, threw four solid innings striking out 7 batters and allowing only 1 run; I cannot find his pitch count in the box score, but I recall glancing at the screen graphic in the fourth inning and it was in the mid-50s; for some reason, Roberts pulled him and went to the bullpen to start the fifth inning. I cannot find any report that Hill was injured or that he needed treatment of any sort; so, I chalk that up to over-managing.
Now that he has retired from network play-by-play activities, Brent Mussberger hosts a radio program from Las Vegas that focuses on sports betting/gambling. He is an outspoken supporter of changing the Federal law that prohibits sports betting in all but a handful of states and delegating the authority to decide on legalization to the various states. Obviously, he and I agree on that issue almost completely. I read a report of an interview with Mussberger that had an interesting tidbit in it. According to him, the sportsbooks in Las Vegas took in a larger handle on college football games than they did on the NFL games last weekend.
As I read that, my first reaction was to shrug my shoulders. After all, on a typical weekend, there are about 60 college games on the card calling for action and there are never more than 16 NFL games; last weekend, there were only 14 NFL games. However, again according to Mussberger, this is the first weekend that has happened.
That ought to make one stop and think; wagering on football games has been a major industry in Las Vegas since the “invention” of the point spread. Wikipedia says that a math teacher named Charles McNeil was the person who “invented” the point spread in the 1940s. I was not sentient then; so, I cannot confirm or deny that assertion. My point is that football wagering is not something that started as recently as the 15 minutes of fame bestowed on Linda Tripp. [Google is your friend …]
This datum is surely not conclusive of any hypothesis but it makes me wonder about the NFL. The Grand Canyon was formed by erosion, pebble-by-pebble; grain of sand-by-grain of sand over eons. Erosion is almost impossible to observe in real time; it can only be seen by comparison over long periods of time. And I wonder if this datum is one slightly visible moment of erosion of the NFL’s dominance. Consider:
- NFL live attendance is down in most cities. Even “good” teams/”successful” teams play games in front of empty seats. That was rarely the case 10 years ago. I can offer up a half-dozen reasons why this is the case in 2017 and I will acknowledge that this datum is inconclusive about almost anything.
- NFL TV ratings are stagnant at best and down in most comparisons. For the immediate term, this is a bigger problem for the five networks that carry NFL games. Four of those networks – FOX, CBS, NBC and ESPN – have contracts that pay the NFL a fixed sum to air the games. If ratings drop, they do not get the same fees from advertisers and their bottom lines suffer. However, over the long term, declining ratings can lead to declining TV rights’ fees and that would be a big deal for the NFL.
- People threaten boycotts related to the NFL. Some want to boycott the games because they are put off by the “anthem protests”; others want to boycott games because of the league’s “insufficient” sensitivity to domestic violence issues; others want to boycott games because … [fill in the blanks here]. Boycotts rarely work but if people successfully boycott even one sponsor of NFL games and drive sales figures down significantly – and keep them down for a while – that would be a game-changer.
Now add to all those individually insignificant happenings a “downturn” in the gambling handle for NFL games. That datum might indicate two things and neither is very good for the NFL:
- It could mean that people are losing interest in the NFL overall. The league would never admit it, but a significant portion of the league’s growth and popularity is due to the fact that people bet on the games – – thanks to Charles McNeil and his point spreads.
- It could mean an acceleration in the deterioration of TV ratings because for many people who live on the West Coast, the major reason to tune in to see a game between the Dolphins and the Jags is because they have “a little something riding on the game”.
I am NOT suggesting that the NFL is in trouble or that it is doomed. I am saying that the NFL is going through a rough patch in 2017 with regard to growing the league toward its stated objective of $25B in revenue in 2025.
Finally, here is a comment from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald:
“I watched some of the North American Wife Carrying Championships. That way when curling comes to Omaha next month it won’t seem quite so silly.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………