The QB Carousel Starts To Spin …

Even before the Super Bowl happens and weeks before NFL teams are allowed to make trades officially, two teams appear to have resolved their “QB situations”.  The Chiefs will send Alex Smith to the Skins in a trade.  That means the Chiefs will cast their lot with Patrick Mahomes in 2018 and presumably beyond and the Skins will part company with Kirk Cousins as their offensive leader.  What surprises me the most about this is the timing; it is not as if the Chiefs got such a bounty in return that they dared not let the moment pass them by; the cost of acquiring Alex Smith was a third-round pick plus DB, Kendall Fuller.

According to reports, Smith will sign a 4-year extension – his contract has 1 year left to go – and the extension is worth $92M with $71M guaranteed.  In today’s QB market, that is not a top-shelf price tag.  This exchange will make Cousins an unrestricted free agent meaning that he can sign on wherever he wants.  Here are potential landing spots – – in alphabetical order:

  • Bills:  The Bills keep giving indications that they want to move on from Tyrod Taylor.  Are they in play here…?
  • Browns:  They have a ton of cap room, so they could – theoretically – offer a huge monetary deal.  The team has a treasure trove of draft picks and an “offensive guy” as the head coach.  They were willing to march into the future behind AJ McCarron a couple of months ago; Cousins is better than that.  Here is the deal; these are the Browns…
  • Broncos:  That top-shelf defense is not getting any younger; the team has squandered a couple of years of its elite status.  Cousins can likely provide a much quicker “fix” to the QB position than a top draft pick.  I think the Broncos will be major players here.
  • Cardinals:  The retirement of Carson Palmer forces them to decide on their QB for the present and for the future.  The team has a “rookie coach” who is a “defensive guy”.  I don’t expect Cousins to end up here.
  • Jags:  Forget for a moment the stats and all that stuff and use the eyeball test.  The Jags went to the AFC title game with Blake Bortles at QB; Kirk Cousins would be a significant upgrade at the QB position for this team.
  • Jets:  Jets’ fans have made the pursuit of Cousins a team priority; will the Front Office there heed the wishes of the fans?  That is often not a good strategy; but, Lord knows, the Jets do need a QB desperately.
  • Vikes:  They have 3 QBs on the roster who have actually played in NFL games and all 3 of them have contracts that expire.  I think they will “stay home” and get their QB from within their system, but they might decide to pursue Cousins.

I want to throw out one wild-card team to consider here.  If I were running the Steelers, I would sit down very privately with Ben Roethlisberger and find out if he is committed to playing out the rest of his contract.  He is to make $34M over the next 2 seasons but he has floated the idea of retirement and then rescinded it several times over the past 18 months.  Obviously, if Roethlisberger is committed to finish his deal in Pittsburgh, the Steelers should pay no attention to Kirk Cousins; but if Roethlisberger wavers, there are facts the Steelers need to face:

  1. Kirk Cousins is a lot better than Landry Jones.
  2. The Steelers have plenty of offensive weapons that could be wasted without competency at the QB position.

Let me make an observation about the Jets as a potential landing spot for Cousins and the Jets’ fans hankering for him to come to NYC.  Ask yourself this question:

  • When was the last time the Jets had a “REALLY GOOD” quarterback?

I do not count Brett Favre for his one year with the Jets.  Favre is a Hall of Fame QB to be sure, but he was well on the downward arc of his career in 2008 with the Jets.  From 1998 to 2007, the Jets lived in the Vinny Testaverde/Chad Pennington Era; neither guy was terrible but neither guy was “Really Good” either.  Boomer Esiason spent 3 years with the Jets toward the end of his career; none of those seasons was special in any way.  Before Esiason, it was Ken O’Brien and Richard Todd and that takes us back to 1977.

The last “Really Good” QB for the NY Jets may in fact have been Joe Willie Namath.  To put that in perspective, he is 6 months older than I am; and when I was in high school, they were able to teach all of World History in 4 days…

Meanwhile, the KC Chiefs appear to have embarked on what should be an interesting/eventful offseason for them.  Last year, the Chiefs came out of the gate like gangbusters beating the Patriots in Foxboro by a score of 42-27.  They won their first 5 games; then hit the skids losing 6 of 7 games in mid-season.  After that, they turned it around and won out to win the AFC West.  Then they laid a gigantic egg at home in the playoffs turning a 21-3 halftime lead over the Titans into a loss.  Clearly, the Chiefs are not about to fire Andy Reid but now the team has a new offensive coordinator – the Bears hired Matt Nagy away to be their head coach – and a new starting QB.  And that may be only the beginning of change in KC:

  • The Chiefs’ defense last year was not very good – particularly against the run.  Moreover, that defensive unit is not young and inexperienced; it could go over the cliff without the infusion of some new blood.
  • The Chiefs also lost John Dorsey to the Browns as the Browns’ GM.  Dorsey was the guy credited with organizing and executing the Chiefs’ draft processes that led to the roster they have.

It should be an interesting offseason for the Chiefs and Chiefs’ fans.  However, it must be noted that along with “interesting” comes some angst and uncertainty.

Finally, since all of today’s rant deals with QBs and which teams may be looking for QBs, consider this comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times about one of the potential draftees at that position in this year’s draft:

“Wyoming QB, Josh Allen, told Cleveland’s WKRK FM Radio that ‘I want to be the guy that turns around the Cleveland Browns.’

“Might be time to start setting up a little blue tent on the draft-combine sideline.”

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



Errata …

It is my good fortune to have a cadre of readers here who are both smart and cordial.  When we disagree on something, we discuss it with one another in the Comments section here or via e-mail; when I make a mistake in one of the rants, someone usually points it out politely as an “error” and not “evidence of my monumental stupidity”.  Such is the case from yesterday’s rant.  I said there that it was the USFL that had introduced the 2-point conversion to professional football.  A long-term reader corrected me with this note:

“The 2-point conversion has been a part of American collegiate football since 1958;

“The AFL used the 2-point conversion during its entire existence (1960-1969);

“The NFL Europe also used the 2-point conversion for the entirety of its existence … (1991-2007); and,

“The NFL finally adopted the 2-point conversion in 1994.”

Thank you for the correction.  I was in error.

While I am in the mode of filling space here with readers’ information, here is another item.  Thanks to an e-mail from a devoted NBA fan and admirer of LeBron James, I was told to go to the box score for the Cavs/Pacers game on 26 January to observe the very rare phenomenon of a quadruple double.  The Cavaliers won the game 115-108; LeBron James played 39 minutes in the game and achieved this quadruple double:

  1. 26 points
  2. 10 rebounds
  3. 11 assists
  4. 11 turnovers

The news item from yesterday that did not make me smile a whole lot was the news that the Cleveland Indians will rid themselves of their “Chief Wahoo” mascot after the 2018 season.  Before anyone gets their knickers in a knot, my lack of enthusiasm upon hearing that news has nothing whatsoever with the issue of lack of respect for Native Americans regarding that mascot.  My issue here is determined by the fact that I live in suburban DC and that news will reignite the ongoing issue around here about the name of the Washington NFL franchise.  Reigniting that issue means that all of the same arguments that have been brought forward in the past 35 years or so regarding that naming issue will be repeated yet again – only louder this time.  Pardon me for not looking forward to that.

To be clear, this is my position about the Washington team name:

  • Danny Boy Snyder owns the team.  He can call it whatever he wants to call it.
  • I believe that there is no point in going out of my way to offend a group of people and so I will try to refrain from using the offending name as much as possible.
  • I have no right to tell Danny Boy what to call his team; he has no right to tell me what I choose to call them here.

Sadly, here are things that are going to happen in the DC area now that the Cleveland Indians have made the decision that they have:

  1. There will be at least one editorial in the Washington Post calling on Danny Boy to change the team name.  On that same day, I will be able to open the Sports Section of the Washington Post and find the word “Redskins” at least a dozen times.
  2. Name-change advocates and activists will demonstrate and there will be Letters to the Editor from them in great quantity.
  3. Fanboys of the team will also write Letters to the Editor and post on Facebook that the name-change advocates are symptomatic of the “wussification of America”.
  4. And on – and on – it will go…

I have tried to suggest here that moral outrage is unlikely to change Danny Boy’s mind on the team name but that economic pressure would.  Consider these economic data reported by Forbes in September 2017:

  • Skins’ Revenue (net of stadium debt payments) = $482M
  • Skins’ Revenue (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) = $145M

Danny Boy and his minority owners are taking home a net income of $145M per year with the “offensive nickname”; I have to imagine that they can easily be convinced that, “It ain’t broke; so why fix it?”  Now if it were to “appear to be broke” to Danny Boy and his minority owners – say by halving the earnings of the team over the next couple of seasons – that group MIGHT think that changing the name was a better idea.  This is not a moral argument or a sociological one; if this fight is to be engaged in the real world, the fight must be on economics’ turf.

That is not how MLB and the Cleveland Indians have characterized that decision.  According to reports, MLB Commish, Rob Manfred, pushed the decision.  Here is part of the MLB statement on this matter:

“Over the past year, [MLB} encouraged dialogue with the Indians organization about the club’s use of the Chief Wahoo logo. During our constructive conversations, [Indians owner] Paul Dolan made clear that there are fans who have a long-standing attachment to the logo and its place in the history of the team.

“Nonetheless, the club ultimately agreed with my position that the logo is no longer appropriate for on-field use in Major League Baseball, and I appreciate Mr. Dolan’s acknowledgement that removing it from the on-field uniform by the start of the 2019 season is the right course.”

That second part of Rob Manfred’s statement is going to light the fuse on the arguments here in the DC area.  And those arguments are about as useful as a set of Amish emojis.  Ooops, I just tripped in the minefield of stereotyping…

Finally, since I have tried to argue for pragmatism in place of moralism above, consider this comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times recently:

“The Florida Legislature is considering a ‘UCF national champions’ license plate in honor of Central Florida’s 13-0 football team.

“So, what’s next – a White House invite from President Bernie Sanders?”

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



An Untimely Injury …

DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins tore his Achilles tendon in a game last week; it will require surgery and his season is surely done.  History is not on Cousins’ side here; NBA players coming back from Achilles tendon surgery tend not to return to their pre-surgery levels of play.  I recall back in the Dark Ages that the Sixers had a power forward, Luscious Jackson.  He was about 6’ 8” tall and could jump as if he were on a pogo stick.  He tore his Achilles tendon and when he tried to come back the next season, he could barely dunk a basketball.

Therein lies the challenge for Cousins.  The Achilles tendon is integral to the process of jumping and – no shocker here – jumping is integral to basket all.  You can read the above and say to yourself that surgical procedures have advanced since the Dark Ages and so have rehab training methods and you would be absolutely correct.  Nevertheless, if you look at the play of Elton Brand before his Achilles tendon injury and after his rehab, you might not recognize the fact that it was the same person.

I really hope Cousins can make it back; he seemed this year to have put behind him his on-court melt-downs; moreover, he and Anthony Davis seemed to have worked out a way for the two of them to play together constructively at the same time.  When Cousins first arrived in New Orleans, he and Davis were on the court together, but it took them time to figure out how to add to one another’s game.  That seemed to be coming together for Cousins, Davis and the Pelicans this year; at the moment, they are 7th in the West standings with a record of 27-22.  The Pelicans have only made the playoffs once in the last six years; they have a 2-game cushion as of this morning to be in the playoffs this year; making it there without “Boogie” Cousins will be a challenge.

Adding insult to injury – so to speak – Cousins’ contract with the Pelicans is up at the end of this season.  He will be an unrestricted free agent at age 27 having made $18M this year.  Absent this injury, teams would surely be offering maximum contracts for his services; when free agency for the NBA is at its peak, Cousins will not be anywhere near the point where he can show what his future play might look like.

XFL 2.0 continues to have a simmering presence in sports news.  Given the fact that this will be owned and operated by Vince McMahon who made his money promoting pro ‘rassling, I guess it should not be a shock to see him finding ways to keep his new operation in the public eye.  McMahon answered questions at his formal announcement of XFL 2.0 and it led me to continue to think about what things XFL 2.0 might do to build a following.  Earlier this month, I have made some suggestions along that line here and again here.  So, let me now continue that discussion.

In his remarks at the unveiling of XFL 2.0, McMahon went out of his way to say that players in the new league would be high character folks and that anyone with a criminal record need not apply.  He seemed to say – although I did not hear him say it directly – that even an arrest for something like a DWI might be disqualifying.  I prefer to think of myself as a person who supports and upholds the principle of abiding by the law, but I wonder why the emphasis on that subject at this point in the league’s incubation.  In addition, I have to wonder where the “crime line” is drawn:

  • On the assumption that a DWI conviction would be disqualifying, how about a conviction – or a guilty plea – to reckless driving with no impairment?
  • How about a speeding ticket?
  • How about a parking ticket scofflaw with a hundred outstanding violations?

McMahon is right to a large extent to set standards of behavior for his new league and let me offer praise for his setting a positive standard.  However, I hope he does not have to walk that back too publicly or very quickly because that would cast a negative aura on the league as a whole.

The NFL’s competitors have been incubators of innovation; the NFL itself has tended to be a “buttoned-up entity” where there is a standard way to do things and almost everyone sorta knows what that is and behaves accordingly.  This comes off the top of my head with exactly no research but:

  • Teams in the AFL “invented” the 3-4 defense.
  • The AFL was the league that put player names on the backs of uniforms.
  • The USFL introduced the concept of a salary cap and a coach’s challenge.
  • The USFL adopted the 2-point conversion into pro football.

Not all innovation is good.  I have often described certain changes as the Great Leap Sideways or even the Great Leap Backwards as was the case when the XFL decided to jettison the coin toss at the beginning of a game in favor of a “mad scramble” for a loose football on the field.  I do hope that XFL 2.0 comes up with positive changes – – like the Sky Cam that came from the old XFL – – and that the NFL keeps an open mind toward adopting positive changes.

McMahon said there would be no cheerleaders in XFL 2.0.  Congratulations to him for that.  Let me be clear; I am not saying that because of the changes society is undergoing as a result of #MeToo.  I do not say this because I am newly aware of the malevolence associated with objectifying women; to be sure, I enjoy seeing attractive young women on my TV screen.  My reason for applauding the lack of cheerleaders is far less noble; it is based in pragmatism:

  • Cheerleaders at pro football games serve exactly NO purpose.  They do not now, and they never have led the spectators in cheers.  Get them outta here!

Another point made during the announcement of XFL 2.0 was that McMahon wanted to package the game such that it could fit into a 2-hour TV time window.  That will be challenging but he did offer the idea that there might not be a halftime break in XFL 2.0 games.  That is an idea worth considering.  I am pretty sure that football halftime breaks were not mandated in the footnotes to the Ten Commandments on the backs of the tablets that Moses brought down from Mount Sinai.

It will be interesting to see how XFL 2.0 approaches the question of taking players who are not 3-years removed from their high school graduation.  Currently, the NFL does not make them eligible for the draft or for signing as free agents.  That feature of the current CBA “consigns” those players to college football.  That helps college football; that helps many of the players too because it gives them time to build up their bodies to the point that they will be able to compete against adult men at the NFL level.  It also means that under current circumstances, those players do not earn anything for playing football for their first three years out of high school.  XFL 2.0 might provide an economic alternative for some players and that economic competition with collegiate programs – not the NFL – might restructure college football as we know it.

I think it is too easy to look back on the failure of the XFL and to view Vince McMahon as a huckster because of his link to pro ‘rassling, but that is simplistic.  There is the potential for XFL 2.0 to succeed and for XFL 2.0 to make mark on the sporting landscape of the US.  It might also crash and burn like the Hindenburg.  I am going to try to be open-minded and analytical about the evolution of XFL 2.0.

Finally, here is a comment from Brad Dickson of the Omaha-World-Herald about the potential of a college football player:

“Nebraska got a commitment from junior college wide receiver Mike Williams. With hard work, he has a chance to become one of the top 25 all-time football wide receivers named ‘Mike Williams’.”

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



Speculation And Soothsaying


This Friday is different from other Fridays during football season.  Normally, Friday is a day to make projections about the weekend’s upcoming games.  This weekend, there is only a single game and I would give it more stature than it is worth if I called it inconsequential.  I speak, of course, about the Pro Bowl.  Here are the 2 things you need to know about the game:

  1. Do not waste your time and watch it.
  2. For the love of everything that is good and holy, do not bet on it.

Having disposed with the Pro Bowl, I want to spend time today talking about NFL QBs.  Every year, this is a topic of interest because of the importance of the position to NFL teams; this year, it seems as if there is the potential for a lot of turnover in that cadre.  For starters, everyone says – and I agree to a large extent – that there are plenty of college QBs in the draft that have serious NFL potential.  There may be a half-dozen QBs taken in the first couple of rounds.

However, that only begins the story.  The NFL situation has plenty of QBs eligible for free agency with other QBs edging toward retirement and with one QB having already announced his retirement.  All this is to say that there should be lots of movement regarding QBs in this off-season and that allows for speculation/projection before the fact.  So, let me take advantage of that opportunity here.

In normal years, teams that made the playoffs would not be front and center in this sort of speculation, but this year is different.

  • The Chiefs made the playoffs.  Their starting QB (Alex Smith) is under contract for next year, but the Chiefs traded up to get Patrick Mahomes last year and they started him in a game this year to get a look at him.  Alex Smith is thought to be “available” in a trade.
  • The Bills made the playoffs.  Their starting QB (Tyrod Taylor) is under contract for next year, but the Bills’ coaching staff has signaled pretty clearly that they are not totally convinced Taylor is “the guy”.  Tyrod Taylor is thought to be “available” in a trade.
  • The Jags made the playoffs.  The team has an option on its starting QB (Blake Bortles) for next year.  Will they exercise that option?  According to reports, the Jags would have to pay Bortles $19M for one year if they exercise it.
  • The Saints made the playoffs.  Their starting QB (Drew Brees) is a free agent.  Brees is a 38-year old QB who is “Hall of Fame quality”.  Will the Saints resign Drew Brees?
  • The Vikes made the playoffs.  They have 3 QBs on the roster for the moment who have been their starters in the last couple of years, but all three contracts are about to expire.  What do the Vikes do with Sam Bradford, Teddy Bridgewater and/or Case Keenum?

Obviously, there are plenty of teams that did not make the playoffs that perceive a need to upgrade their QB proficiency (Browns, Jets, Broncos) and a team whose starting QB retired (Cardinals) and a few teams with “QB questions” (Skins, Giants, Bengals. Dolphins, Niners).  There are lot of ways to “slice and dice” this situation so let me choose to identify the NFL QBs who may be moving or eligible to move and think about where they might wind up when the music stops.  I’ll do this in alphabetical order lest anyone read more into this than is intended.

  • Blake Bortles:  His guaranteed $19M salary for 2018 will kick in unless the Jags cut/release him before mid-March.  He played much better this year than he has in any of his previous 3 seasons, but he was still mediocre.  He did not have a top-shelf set of receivers to throw to; so, how much of his “mediocrity” should be attributed to that fact?  I think the Jags will “kick the can down the road” and stick with Bortles for 2018 – – UNLESS – – they can make a trade to get an established QB in a trade such as Alex Smith or Kirk Cousins.  Personally, I would move on from Bortles were I in charge of the Jags…
  • Sam Bradford:  I think he winds up as a backup QB somewhere simply because Sam Bradford has not been able to avoid the injury bug.  He has been in the NFL for 7 seasons and has been in all 16 games in only 2 of those seasons.
  • Drew Brees:  He says he wants to stay in New Orleans; the Saints have to find a way to keep him there, don’t they?
  • Teddy Bridgewater:  The Vikes’ coaches and medical staff have to decide on the status of his knee.  He suffered an injury that was thought to be career-ending and he has not seen the field since 2015 other than a cameo appearance earlier this year.  Assuming his knee is “fixed”, I think the Vikes sign him and he competes for the starting position in Minnesota.
  • Kirk Cousins:  The soap opera continues; if you have not followed the twists and turns in this plot, let me just say that the odds are against him signing a long-term deal with the Skins meaning the Skins have three choices.  They can use the Franchise Tag on him again guaranteeing him $34M in 2018 or they can hang the Transition Tag on him guaranteeing him $28M in 2018.  With either of those options, he will be an unrestricted free agent after the 2018 season.  Or, the Skins can let him achieve free agency this year and look for a new starting QB.  I think Kirk Cousins will stay in Washington for 2018.  However, if the Skins are smart – and they have given little evidence in the past 20 years that they are close to smart – they will avail themselves of the collegiate QB bounty and draft Cousins’ replacement this year.
  • Jimmy Garoppolo:  If the Niners let him leave town for any reason, look for the local villagers there to take up torches and pitchforks and storm the team headquarters…
  • Case Keenum:  I would suspect that the Vikes would love to have him and Bridgewater competing for the starting job.  However, Keenum is going to be in demand elsewhere after the way he played in 2017 and some other teams may be able to give him a lot more assurance of a starting job (Browns, Jets, Cardinals).
  • Eli Manning:  His contract runs through the 2019 season and it surely seems as if he wants to stay in NYC and finish his career there.  The blockheaded move to sit him down for a game to give Geno “Bleeping” Smith a look has to enter into the thinking here.  The fact is that Manning is 37 years old and is approaching the twilight of his career.  I doubt the Giants would “move him” but the team does need to address the “future franchise QB issue” sometime soon.
  • AJ McCarron:  The Bengals tried to trade him to the Browns earlier this year.  Might that exchange be resurrected?  The Browns must be looking for a QB, but they have a lot of other options out there…
  • Josh McCown:  He had an excellent season with the Jets.  He is an unrestricted free agent and he is 38 years old.  I have no idea where he will be next year.
  • Alex Smith:  He is signed through 2018 but I think the Chiefs are going to try to trade him and give the starting job to Patrick Mahomes.  The Chiefs are not going to send him to the Broncos; they will not be interested in helping one of their division rivals solve a roster problem.  Maybe they trade Smith to the Browns to act as a placeholder/mentor for a top QB that the Browns take in the draft this year.  Maybe they trade him to the Jets.  Maybe they trade him to the Bills.  I suspect Alex Smith will not be in KC next year.
  • Ryan Tannehill:  He is signed through 2020 but he is coming off an injury that kept him out of action for all of 2017.  Moreover, his career record as a starter is only 37-40.  Might the Dolphins be interested in trading him and “going in another direction”?
  • Tyrod Taylor:  If he is on the Bills’ roster after mid-March, the team owes him $6M as a roster bonus.  His salary for 2018 would be an additional $10M if he stays with the Bills.  I don’t think that is going to happen; I think the Bills will be looking to sign one of the free-agent QBs out there.  As a wild thought, might the Skins let Kirk Cousins walk and sign Tyrod Taylor?

Even if you do not find this sort of speculation and soothsaying particularly interesting, let me assure you that it is far more interesting than the Pro Bowl.

Finally, Brad Dickson had this comment in the Omaha World-Herald regarding the surprising resignation of ESPN president, John Skipper recently:

“The head of ESPN suddenly resigned. I’m trying to confirm that he quit to spend more time with LaVar Ball.”

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



Dealing With A Monster

Many times, in the course of these rants, I have linked everyone to “Recommended Readings”.  Today, I want you to follow this link and read a column written by Charles Pierce at  This is more than a “Recommended Reading” but obviously I will stop short of calling it a “Required Reading”.  In this column, Professor Pierce eviscerates anyone and everyone who has been associated even tangentially with the sexual abuse of US gymnastic athletes by Dr. Larry Nassar and parallel offenses against athletes at Michigan St. University.  It is a lengthy piece, but it is worth your time; in particular, read his quotation of the remarks to the court by US gymnastics medalist Aly Raisman during the sentencing hearing.  Her statement ought to make the hair stand up on the back of your neck.

I part company with Professor Pierce on only one aspect of his diatribe.  He wants everyone in a position of authority/responsibility in the area of athletes and student safety/security at USA Gymnastics, and the USOC and Michigan State to lose their jobs.  I have no problem with that AFTER it is shown that the individual losing the job actually did something to aid or abet or cover up or excuse what Dr. Nassar did.  For those folks, I have no tolerance or pity.  For anyone who was truly innocent/ignorant bystanders (and not ever-so-conveniently “ignorant by choice”) I do not think he/she should be swept out with the rest of the trash.

After you have read the column from, please follow this link and read what Sally Jenkins wrote in today’s Washington Post.  The culpability for the heinous things that happened to these young gymnasts goes beyond a single enabler or two; it needs to be ferreted out and expunged from existence.  The USOC execs have promised an “independent investigation”; that is not good enough; this situation is so revolting that it triggers my threshold for the appointment of a special prosecutor.  In addition to seeing the truly guilty folks here lose their jobs, I think some “time in the tank” might be most appropriate at the conclusion of the work done by a special prosecutor.

Given that Dr. Nassar has been sentenced to anywhere between 60 and 175 years in prison, it is a good bet that this man in his mid-50’s will die in prison.  Given that he subjected tens of young women athletes to sexual manipulation and abuse using his position as a position of power/authority over them, I would not be personally offended if he spent his prison time as the sex slave of other inmates.  I do know that would violate the 8th Amendment barring “cruel and unusual punishments”.  Legally, the situation I outlined above would indeed be “cruel and unusual”; given the circumstances, I would see it more along the lines of tit-for-tat retribution.

The newest class of inductees into the MLB Hall of Fame was announced yesterday.  Just before Christmas, I said that if I had a vote – which I do not and never will – I would have voted for 5 candidates:

  1. Vlad Guerrero
  2. Trevor Hoffman
  3. “Chipper”: Jones
  4. Edgar Martinez
  5. Jim Thome

The Hall will welcome Guerrero, Hoffman, Jones and Thome in July 2018.  Edgar Martinez did not make the cut but of the 23 other players on the ballot, Edgar Martinez got the greatest number of votes.  So, I ought to be strutting around the cyberworld here and patting myself on the back for prescience – – but I am not because the Hall of Fame voting in all the major sports is not an uplifting event.

Let me focus on baseball here because that is the most recent selection process at hand.  The Hall of Fame was set up to be a place of enjoyment; I have enjoyed going to Cooperstown since the first time I was there in the early 1970s.  I do not stand in awe or reverence in front of the plaques commemorating the great players of the game; I do not feel overwhelmed by nostalgia when I look at the shoes worn by Joe Flabeetz when he stole his 500th base; that sort of reaction misses the point as far as I am concerned.

Baseball is a game that has endured for more than 125 years and it is a game that has embraced it history as part of its attractiveness for fans.  The Hall of Fame is a place where a fan of baseball – and not merely the fan of a single team – can surround himself/herself with the high notes of the history of baseball.  Instead of feeling awe or reverence or nostalgia, I feel immersed in the game.  And the annual selection process produces news reports full of bile that are hard to forget/ignore when one is trying to feel immersed in the history of the game.

As soon as the voting is revealed and the new class of inductees are revealed, far too many folks get their spleen in an uproar and go into what a former colleague of mine called BMWCG Mode.  That is an acronym for Bitching, Moaning, Whining, Complaining and Griping Mode.  People who did not vote for an author’s favorite player on the ballot are irredeemably ignorant about baseball and/or have some sort of vendetta they are carrying out against the player who did not make it this time.  By the same token, people who voted for someone who may not have made it – – but came dangerously close to making it – – can be subject to the wrath of those who believe the player should never be in the hall of Fame without purchasing a ticket.  There is no dialog and there is not discourse; there is only invective.

I really cannot pinpoint when that sort of environment polluted the day when Hall of Fame voting results were announced but I think it goes back to the 1990s.  If that is the case, then I am sad to observe that these polarized stances regarding baseball players and the insulting of anyone who might hold a view different from yours have transcended baseball.  It now infects our social and political dialog in a similar fashion.  If you and I disagree on some social or political issue, it is not de rigueur for us to engage in an adult-style conversation about why we hold those different views.  Today’s norm is for each of us to declare that the other guy is a moron at best and danger to society and the stability of Western Civilization at worst.  Such denunciations do not solve social/political problems any more than the baseball equivalent harangues change the roster of Hall of Fame inductees this year.

I am not alone in thinking this way about our current state of uncivil discourse.  Here is a comment from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot recently:

“Blackout: If ever there were a sign of the times, it’s the decision by LifeTime Fitness to ban cable news from the TVs in its 128 gyms. The ‘negative and politically charged content’ goes against the company’s ‘healthy way of life’ philosophy. Agreed. Of all the ways of raising your blood pressure at the gym, dropping a dumbbell on your foot is better for you than listening to toxic political palaver.

Finally, let me get out of here today on a much lighter note.  Here is a comment from Rock On, the column by Brad Rock, in the Deseret News:

“It’s been a year since the story of an Australian bank accidentally depositing $1.3 million in the account of a struggling student.

“The student reportedly spent all the money on cars, strippers and cocaine.

“So we now know it’s actually possible to become an NFL player overnight.”

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


Replacing Jon Gruden On MNF

I have made no secret of the fact that I am happy to be rid of Jon Gruden as the MNF color analyst.  I have nothing against Gruden personally; I hope he is successful as the coach of the Raiders; I just really disliked his way of broadcasting football games.  I guess it is because I am so glad that someone else will be doing that job next year that I have been tracking the stories about who might be his replacement much more closely that I would be following analogous stories.  The latest candidate for the job – – according to reports and Tweets and rumors and the like – – is Peyton Manning.  Unless, of course, you choose to believe those other reports/Tweets/rumors that he is uninterested in going into the broadcast booth because he wants to go into an NFL ownership position.

You would have to be a real newbie around here to think I am going to spring some inside info on you here and that I have somehow connected with Peyton Manning personally on this topic.  There are three key words regarding that situation:

  • Did – – Not – – Happen!

Rather than fuel the rumor mill, I prefer to try to take a more analytical look at the MNF job and the potential candidates.  Let me start with Peyton Manning since he is the “Flavor of the Week” in the blogosphere.  My guess is that I would be more than happy with him as the second voice on the mic for MNF; he is intelligent, articulate, humorous and Lord knows, he understands pro football.  I would like to pose this utter rhetorical question regarding his “candidacy” for that job:

  • Would he be happy/comfortable analyzing a game on TV in which his brother, Eli, was playing?

I can imagine that being an uncomfortable situation and it was one Jon Gruden faced when MNF had games with the Skins as one of the teams.  The difference is that when Jon Gruden took the MNF job, his brother was still involved in the Arena League; he did not face the virtual certainty that he would have to do a game with his brother on the sideline.  For Peyton Manning, it is a virtual certainty that he will face that situation somewhere down the road.  Is that a big deal for him?  I don’t read minds…

ESPN says that Matt Hasselbeck will do the color for the Pro Bowl game this week and lots of folks have interpreted this as an audition for Hasselbeck.  I am sure that it is to the extent that if Hasselbeck throws up all over his shoes on the broadcast, the network will look elsewhere for the permanent MNF analyst.  Let me be clear; Matt Hasselbeck does very well in ESPN’s studio shows on the NFL; he has done good work on NFL Live.  However, there is a little voice in the back of my head that keeps saying that ESPN might want a bit more “star power”/”splash” in the broadcast booth.  No inside info here, but the feeling is persistent.

So, who might be in line for interviews by the ESPN moguls (in alphabetical order)?

  1. Randy Moss:  Lots of people have named him as a key contender for this job.  He is already on the ESPN payroll and should “know his way around” the organization, but he would not be my choice for the same reason the next candidate would not be my choice…
  2. Rex Ryan:  Like Randy Moss, he is also already part of ESPN.  Also, like Randy Moss his TV style/persona is a ton of bombast.  The MNF booth does not need an infusion of bombast.
  3. Kurt Warner:  I have heard him do the color on a couple of MNF games on the radio and I liked what I heard.
  4. Steve Young:  He would be my first choice for the job – – but according to reports, he has said that he does not want the job.  Too bad…

Let me lay out the criteria I would hope the ESPN moguls would use to find the next MNF color analyst.  Let’s say that the ideal candidate is Joe Flabeetz.

  • Joe Flabeetz has to know NFL football from being a player and/or a coach at the NFL level.  We have gone through “outsider analysts” and I would want to avoid another Dennis Miller or Tony Kornheiser or Howard Cosell unless ESPN is going to go with a 3-person booth.
  • Joe Flabeetz has to have a discernable personality; we do not need a robot behind a microphone.
  • Joe Flabeetz has to be articulate in the English language.  He can use that fluency to create his own phrases or jargon as John Madden did.  He cannot, however, be a person who cannot communicate outside the world of jargon or “inside jokes”.
  • Joe Flabeetz has to be willing and able to offer critical commentary when necessary.  What drove me nuts about Jon Gruden was that every coach “does an excellent job” and every player is “outstanding”.  That is simply not the case and I don’t want to hear that nonsense anymore.

Let me pull out a FANTASY SCENARIO out of a hat.  The sequence of events goes like this:

  1. The Pats win the Super Bowl 10 days from now.
  2. Bill Belichick steps to the podium to say that his team was a great group of men and that he was proud to be part of their accomplishment.  He ends by saying that he is retiring from NFL coaching – – AND – –
  3. He is taking the job as the color analyst for MNF.

What football fan would want to miss his first telecast?  What fan would not want to hear his response to the first dumb question posed by the play-by-play guy?  What fan would not want to hear his follow up question to a coach or player who did not answer his original question?  It is not going to happen – – but I think it would be fun if it did.

Finally, since I ended on a purely fantastic note, consider this sort of fancy from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“The London Daily Mail says a jet-powered mobility scooter was successfully tested, boasting a top speed of 70 miles-per-hour.

“So if NASCAR was ever thinking about starting a senior circuit.”

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



A Real-Life Version Of “Fantasy Football”

A few weeks ago, after Alabama had beaten Georgia in the CFP Championship Game, some of the folks in and around Orlando, FL sought to convince folks that UCF as the only undefeated Division 1-A team in the country was the “real national champion”.  They created awards for themselves that they handed out to UCF and the school participated in the charade by paying the team coaches the bonuses they would have received had UCF actually been in the CFP and won the Championship Game.

  • [Aside:  The next time UCF raises its tuition or student fees, parents should rise up and demand to know how the school found money to pay bonuses to coaches for something the coaches did not achieve but still has to raise tuition and/or fees.]

This was a nice idea that seemed harmless at the start, but it caught on in the Twitterverse and the blogosphere and some people took it seriously.  That took the train off the rails.  Forget about who beat whom this year in terms of scheduling and think about the situation this way.

  • UCF plays the majority of its games in the American Athletic Conference (AAC).
  • Alabama and Georgia play the majority of their games in the SEC.

Rather than look at stats and rankings and all that stuff, let me turn to the NFL to see which conference is the stronger conference.  The NFL has no dog in the fight when it comes to naming a college football national champion.  The coaches and the “personnel folks” in the NFL simply and straightforwardly seek to put the best players they can on the field in their uniforms.   What does that tell us?

Now that we know the two teams in the Super Bowl making the counting process feasible, I looked at the rosters of the two teams – the active roster plus the injured reserve members.  (Each team has 11 players on injured reserve so the total “population” here is 128 players.)  Here are some numbers:

  • 25 players on the Pats and Eagles went to SEC schools.
  • 8 players on the Pats and Eagles went to AAC schools.

The folks who put together the two Super Bowl rosters this year found “NFL-caliber talent” in 3 times as many players from the SEC as they did from the AAC.  I know; these are only 2 of the 32 NFL teams so it might be premature to draw any conclusions here.  Moreover, I am not about to take about 3 hours out of my life to make a spreadsheet representing this kind of breakdown for every NFL team.  However, the data from the Eagles and the Pats indicates in a different way the talent gap between the “Power Five” conferences (SEC, Big10, PAC-12, ACC, Big-12) and the “Group of Five” conferences (AAC, MAC, Sun Belt, C-USA, Mountain West).  For the Eagles and Pats look at the breakdown this way:

  • 97 players from Power Five conferences.
  • 20 players from Group of Five conferences
  • 10 players from schools not in Division 1-A
  • 1 player from an Independent school.

Please do not get hung up in the exact numbers here; the point that I think is important is that an “independent evaluator of football talent” has concluded that there are more exceptional players on teams in the Power Five schools than there are in the Group of Five schools.  If you were to sit and watch a bunch of games involving those conferences, you would also probably come to that conclusion; there is good reason to be shocked and amazed when a team like Appalachian St. beats a team like Michigan; it does not happen often.

Nothing from the above should be taken to mean that it would have been impossible for UCF to beat Alabama had the schools met on the field.  What I think it means is that the folks who got to hyperventilation stages about UCF as clearly the best team in the nation in 2017 need to gather themselves and prepare to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere prior to landing back on the planet’s surface.

Jacksonville, FL is only about 150 miles from Orlando, FL.  I can only hope that the fantasy contagion that hit Orlando regarding UCF does not spread to Jax causing people to declare that the Jags are the rightful participants in the Super Bowl vice the Patriots.

I have written before about the importance of perspective regarding the prevailing narrative that the NFL has peaked in popularity and that it has begun to decline.  I think that the NFL is not the juggernaut that it was 5-10 years ago and that the league has some very serious social issues to juggle.  I also know that TV ratings are down – – although the numbers of people watching on streaming platforms is not counted and it is, therefore, impossible to know if the numbers of eyeballs watching NFL games has changed all that much.

Here is something I think is interesting to watch with regard to this question:

  • The Thursday Night Football package is up for bids now.  What is the interest level in securing those rights?

The latest reports say that 5 networks (Turner, ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC) expressed initial interest but Turner and ABC have decided not to submit bid proposals for these rights.  [Aside:  I doubt Turner had a ghost of a chance in the first place; the NFL wants its product on network TV and not on cable TV where possible.]  The three networks that televise most of the NFL games all remain interested in Thursday Night Football – – and remember, those are the games that most people do not like nearly as much as the weekend games.  It will be interesting to see how much those networks are willing to pay for Thursday Night Football and how long a deal they are willing to sign up for.

Finally, here is a comment from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald:

“Twitter has begun allowing users 280 characters. I’m not sure if this represents progress but Husker fans can now trash players in complete sentences after games.”

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



Patriots/Eagles Super Bowl Is Set

The NFL season began on Thursday September 7, 2017 with the Chiefs and Pats playing in Foxboro.  The season has one game left; the Super Bowl will be a replay of Super Bowl XXXIX with the Patriots taking on the Eagles.  [Aside:  Given the frequency of the Patriots’ participation in the Super Bowl over the last 15 years, perhaps we should think of renaming it the BBIT – the Brady-Belichick Invitational Tournament.]

The Jaguars played very well and had the game in a secure place for the first 3 quarters of the game; the Jags led 20-10 at the start of the 4th quarter.  My sister-in-law is not a huge football fan, but she is a huge Patriots hater; she texted me to say she thought the Jags had the game in the bag.  All I did was to remind her that the Pats trailed 28-3 in the Super Bowl last year and came back to win.  What I said was simple:

This game is not over yet.

Indeed, it was not.  The Patriots rallied to score 2 TDs in the 4th quarter to come back and win 24-20 by dominating play in the fourth quarter.  This was a game where Tom Brady led the Patriots to a win; this was not a game where Jags’ QB, Blake Bortles invented a way to lose the game.  Bortles’ stat line for the game was more than acceptable:

  • 23 for 36 for 293 yards and 1 TD

That is 12.8 yards per completion and 8.1 yards per attempt.  Any NFL QB would be happy to see that stat line on their ledger for a season.  No; the Pats won because Tom Brady led a game-winning drive at the end of the game that you just felt was coming as soon as the Pats got possession of the ball.

There were 5 minutes left to play; the Pats trailed by 3; they took possession at the Jags’ 30 yardline.  The winning TD pass came with 2:48 to play and it looked as of Brady had not yet broken a sweat.  Meanwhile, the Pats’ defense turned down the screws on the Jags in the final quarter too.  Here are the last four possessions for the Jags in the game:

  1. Punt
  2. Punt
  3. Punt
  4. Turn the ball over on downs.

The Pats/Jags game was not a huge surprise because we have come to expect solid if not spectacular play from the Jags and a never-say-die attitude from the Pats.  And that is what we got.

The Eagles/Vikes game on the other hand was indeed a huge surprise.  I did not think either team would score 20 points and that the game would be decided by a field goal – made or missed – on the final possession of the game.  Not even close.  The Vikes suffered a letdown from its miracle win last week over the Saints and only flashed any kind of intensity or emotion in the game.  The Vikes scored first looking efficient and effective in doing so; they led 7-0 after only 5 minutes had gone by in the game and got the ball back midway through the first quarter.  Then came the momentum changing play of the game:

  • Case Keenum had his arm hit by Chris Long and Eagles’ DB, Patrick Robinson intercepted it near the 50 yardline and took it back for a TD.
  • That did more than tie the game.  That play changed the body language for the teams on the field.
  • From that point on, the Eagles’ offense was in sync and the Eagles’ defense was flying to the ball wherever it was on the field.

Nick Foles more than acquitted himself here.  His stat line was:

  • 26 for 33 for 352 yards and 3 TDs
  • Oh, by the way, in the second half he was 11 for 11 passing…
  • Oh, by the way, he was 9 for 10 throwing on 3rd down.

I said on Friday that the matchup between Vikes’ DE, Everson Griffen and Eagles LT, Halapoulivaati Vaitai would be important.  Well, Vaitai did more than hold his own; Griffen got only a couple of pressures on Foles and was not a huge factor in the passing game.  Filling in for an All-Pro player – one who may be in the Hall of Fame one day – is not an easy task but Vaitai did just that in admirable fashion last night.

The opening line for the Super Bowl has the Pats as a 5.5-point favorite with some of the sportsbooks moving the line up to 6-points based on early money.  Frankly, I am a bit surprised by that line; I would have guessed that it would have opened at 7-points and potentially gone up from there.  Whatever…  The Total Line for the Super Bowl is at 48 points as an opening point; that looks like a reasonable place for that line to be; I would not expect a lot of movement from there – unless one or both starting QBs comes down with the Ebola virus and has to be quarantined on the weekend of the game.

The Vikes will not be the first team to play in the Super Bowl in their home stadium this year.  And maybe – just maybe – that is a good thing for Vikes’ fans.  Look, it is not as if the loyal season ticket holders will all get to buy Super Bowl tickets to use or to sell on the secondary market.  At least 75% of the seats are going to go to “NFL partners” and various members of the “connected class’.  US Bank Stadium seats about 67,000 fans; I would be surprised if the Vikes’ season ticket holders would have 10,000 seats allocated to the whole lot of them.

Those numbers would mean that the resale market price for Super Bowl tickets would be outrageous and people might spend money that they ought not to spend on a football game just because it is a home game for their home team.  I honestly believe there are some people who have just been protected from themselves.

We are about to embark on about two weeks of football silliness.  The next week will be filled with reports about things that are peripheral at most to the Super Bowl game.  Then we will have the Pro Bowl next weekend which is must-miss-TV.  Then we will get Super Bowl Media Day where some “journalist” will ask one of the players what his favorite crochet yarn is.  I hope to avoid contributing to that nonsense and, so I will leave you with this…

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times had this item recently about the Puppy Bowl.  If you do not know about the Puppy Bowl, Google is your friend…

“Boomer, a 14-week-old Chihuahua/Pomeranian mix, has been getting rave reviews in workouts for Puppy Bowl XIV on Feb. 4.

“In other words, the pup looks really good on paper.”

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



Conference Championship Weekend

OK, we have arrived at the weekend to decide the conference champions in the NFL.  Just because I enjoy embarrassing myself, here is what I predicted back in early September for the 4 teams left in the playoffs:

  • Jaguars:  6-10  last in the AFC South
  • Patriots:  13-3  first in the AFC East;  #1 seed in the AFC for the playoffs
  • Vikings:  9-7  2nd in the NFC North; not in the playoffs in the NFC
  • Eagles:  9-7  3rd in the NFC East; not in the playoffs in the NFC

So much for prognostication …

At 3:00 PM EST on Sunday, the Patriots host the Jaguars and the Patriots are 7.5-point favorites at home.  The Total Line for the game is 47 points.  The spread opened the week at 9 points and held steady there until news that Tom Brady “jammed his throwing hand” in practice and had to leave practice in mid-week.  That dropped the line quickly to 8 points and now to 7.5 points.  My assumption here is that unless Brady’s injury requires an amputation of his hand up to the middle of his “throwing forearm”, he will be on the field on Sunday.  Regarding trends against the spread and things of that nature, consider:

  • Pats have been favored in every game this year.  They are 12-5 against the spread.
  • The Jags are 10-8 against the spread and they are 4-2 against the spread as an underdog.
  • Tom Brady’s record against the Jags for his career is 7-0 straight up.

If you want to analyze this game from the standpoint of “experience”, please stop right here and declare that the Patriots are a mortal lock.

  • Bill Belichick has coached 37 NFL playoff games and won 27 of them.
  • Doug Marrone has coached 2 playoff games (this year) and won both of them.
  • Tom Brady has 5 Super Bowl rings.
  • Blake Bortles has played in 2 playoff games

There is no comparison between these teams if you base it on “who has been there before.”  So let me try to look a bit deeper into the game.  Notwithstanding the NFL’s 25-year focus on limiting defensive football to increase scoring and fan interest, this “final four” field is defensively dominant.  The Jags, Vikes and Eagles ranked first, second and third respectively in fewest points allowed per opponent’s possession in the regular season.  The Pats’ defense that was slammed from pillar to post back in September ranked a very respectable 6th in the league in that stat.  Defensive football has lots of stats associated with it and many of them are important indicators of defensive prowess; but the single most important thing a defensive unit can do is to minimize the number of points that the opponent scores in a game.  Any and all of the other stats one can create take a back seat here.  And these 4 teams are really good at preventing the “other guys” from scoring lots of points.

The Jags have arrived at this place in the season on the strength of their defense – and the strength of their pass defense in particular.  They rush the passer well and they have two excellent cover corners in Jalen Ramsey and AJ Bouye.  That Jags’ strength matches up well with the Pats’ offensive strength which is the passing game orchestrated by Tom Brady.  The big question/mismatch for the Jags is Rob Gronkowski.  The Jags’ best cover guy is one of the bigger guys they have in the secondary and that is Jalen Ramsey.  If the Jags choose to put Ramsey on Gronk, that could reduce Gronk’s big-play effectiveness, but it would mean playing Ramsey out of position and playing someone else in Ramsey’s normal position.  I will be interested to see how the Jags line up against the Pats in passing situations.

I do not expect Leonard Fournette to dominate the game; I assume that he is the weapon the Pats will take away from the Jags in the game.  However, I would watch out for TJ Yeldon as the other RB for the Jags.  He is a very different runner and pass catcher from Fournette and he may see a lot of action on Sunday.

I think the Patriots are the better team and that their playoff experience will assure total focus on the task at hand on Sunday.  I think the Pats will win the game, but that line looks fat to me.  My preference is to take the Jags plus the 7.5 points and to take the game to stay UNDER 47 points.

The Eagles and the Vikings are similar teams that have arrived here with the same sort of story.  Few prognosticators had either team winning their division this year; both teams have succeeded because of an outstanding defense; both teams are here missing their starting QB. The Vikes are 3.5-point favorites on the road in this game and the Total Line is at 39 points.  Here are some trends to consider in the game:

  • The Vikes are 11-6 against the spread and they are 8-5 when they are the favorite.
  • The Eagles are 11-6 against the spread and they are 4-2 as an underdog.
  • Case Keenum has played in 1 playoff game in his career (last week).
  • Nick Foles has played in 2 playoff games in his career.

I mention those QB stats because I believe this game will be decided by which of these two relatively inexperienced QBs reacts better to the defensive pressure they will be under.  Neither Keenum nor Foles is going to have an easy time of it; one of them will be more poised/less error-prone and that QB will be the one on the winning team.  Having said that, I believe that the head-to-head matchup that will determine the relative fate of these two QBs is this one:

  • Vikes’ DE, Everson Griffen versus Eagles’ LT, Halapoulivaati Vaitai.

Should both QBs be stressed out and the respective offensive coordinators turn to the running game, the Eagles have an advantage.  The Vikes’ tandem of Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon is a good one, but the Eagles can put 4 different running backs in the game and each brings a different dimension to the game.  The advantage there would be for the home team.

I like this as a venue pick.  The Eagles only lost one game at home this year and that was in Week 17 when they had already locked in their top-seed status and rested several starters.  I concur with the oddsmaker that this will be a low-scoring affair and I prefer to take points in those situations.  So, I’ll take the Eagles plus the 3.5 points here.

Finally, here is a comment regarding an NFL QB who is not in the playoffs this year by Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times:

“Packers QB Aaron Rodgers and race-car driver Danica Patrick were reportedly spotted out on a date at a Green Bay restaurant.

“Either that or they were just discussing the finer points of two-minute drives.”

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



A Wandering Mind …

We have reached that time of the year when news “leaks” out about the Super Bowl ads and what sorts of strategies advertisers will be using this year.  Frankly, all of the pre-game analysis of advertisements gives them an importance far beyond reality and, so I pay little attention to them.  However, this year, there is a wrinkle in the fabric of US culture that ought to make the advertisers and their creative counterparts in the agencies take note.

The adage has been that “Sex sells,” and indeed it has worked that way for at least a century.  However, it has been almost 4 months since the “Harvey Weinstein Story” broke and the #MeToo movement began gathering momentum.  That has been sufficient time for the ad agencies to adjust their pitches for this year because here are a couple of things I think we should not be seeing in Super Bowl ads in February 2018:

  1. If there is an ad with a scantily clad woman in it, the clothing had better be a bathing suit, the setting had better be a beach and the product had better be sunscreen.
  2. There should not be any ads of frat boys or construction workers ogling women – period.

Too bad we cannot return to the days of “Bud Bowl” and “Louie the Lizard” …

The LA Chargers played their games in a tiny venue this year while they await the finish of the extravagant stadium Stan Kroenke is building for the Rams and the Chargers.  It was obvious that the Chargers would play to the smallest home crowds in the league this year, but I wondered just how small the crowds turned out to be.

  • The Chargers drew 202,687 fans for their home games.  Average = 25,335.
  • The Bengals drew 426,207 fans for their home games.  Average = 53,275
  • The Raiders drew 462,201 fans for their home games.  Average = 57,775

OK, the Chargers drew less than half the number of people than did the next two lowest drawing NFL teams.  That average attendance is meager for many of the big-time college programs.  So, I wondered how the Chargers average attendance stacked up with some “mid-major college football programs”.  The answer is that some small-time school outdrew the Chargers:

  • Chargers drew an average of 25,335
  • Appalachian St. drew an average of 25,787
  • UAB drew an average of 26,375.
  • Air Force, Boise St., Colo. St., Fresno St. and San Diego St. outdrew the Chargers.
  • The Birmingham Bowl – two days before Christmas – drew 28,623.

The NFL announced recently that there will be only 3 “London Games” in 2018 – down from 4 of those games in 2017.  League officials quickly and pointedly said that this was not representative of cooling toward the London market; rather, the idea for this year is to have the three games take place on 3 successive weeks (Weeks 6-8) to see how that plays in the sporting world of the UK.  The Seahawks, Eagles and Titans will make their “European debuts” next year leaving only 3 NFL teams that have never been made to cross the pond.

One of the games will take place in the new stadium built in London for the Tottenham Hotspurs of the English Premier League.  This new stadium will have a feature that I have read about but would need to see it to understand it.  Per

“The new Tottenham stadium will feature the world’s first dividing, retractable soccer pitch — with an artificial surface underneath that will be used for NFL games and concerts — and a dedicated NFL entrance. There will also be NFL-sized dressing rooms and dedicated NFL medical and media facilities, and the stadium has been designed to ensure the sight lines are as good for NFL as for soccer.”

I do not understand how the “dividing, retractable soccer pitch” is going to work or why there is a need for a “dedicated NFL entrance”.  The current plans call for the Raiders and Seahawks to play in the new stadium in Week 6 next year.  It will be worth getting up early to see that game just to get an idea how the new stadium works.

In the coach-shuffling season that happens every January/February, fans are happy to see coaches and assistant coaches leave town based on their team failing to “reach its potential”.  At the same time, the fans are happy to welcome the “new guy in town” who will surely “turn things around”.  Well, consider this comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald about a recent move by the Dolphins:

“Problem solved! Fins hire new offensive coordinator: The disappointing 6-10 Dolphins and coach Adam Gase demoted offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen after averaging only 17.6 points per game to rank 28th in the NFL. They replaced him with Dowell Loggains, whom the Bears just dismissed after Chicago averaged 16.5 points, ranking 29th. Well alrighty then!”

Finally, here is a word from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald:

“LeBron James turned 33 and has been in the league for 14 years. This is typically the point in his career when an NBA player witnesses his first traveling call.”

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