College Football Preview – 2018

The 2018 college football season starts a week from this Saturday.  In addition to the normal stories about Spring Practice and over-the-top ravings about prep signings, this off-season has seen big time schools changing coaches, big time schools putting their coaches on administrative leave and – of course – Larry Fedora going into orbit about the downfall of America coming because of his imagined war on football.  The latest coach to be put on administrative leave is DJ Durkin at Maryland.

I want to take the same position here that I took at the outset of the Urban Meyer Saga.

  • Durkin is innocent until proven guilty in a legal sense, but this is the court of public opinion and some folks are already calling for his head on a plate.
  • I prefer to wait and see what other facts come to light before dropping the hammer on Durkin.
  • Given what has been alleged to date, Durkin – and his strength coach – appear to be Neanderthals at best.  [Aside:  Before you jump on that train as it seems to be leaving the station, please remember these three words:  Duke … Lacrosse … Team.]
  • The real tragedy here is that a young man – a Maryland football player – is dead apparently due to heat stroke suffered at a practice.

Maryland football is not even a speed-bump in the Big-10; whatever happens or does not happen to DJ Durkin will have no “conference consequences” let alone “national fallout”.  And it was because my mind went on that vector heading as I read stories about Durkin and his alleged “toxic culture” that I realized it was time to look at the upcoming season and to try to point out what we might look for.

So, let me take a lap around the major conferences and give a thumbnail sketch of what is there:

  • Big 10:  Ohio State, Michigan, Penn St. and Michigan St. will all be good; they are all in the East Division.  In the West Division, it looks like an old doo-wop group, Wisconsin and the Wannabees.
  • ACC:  Looks to me like Clemson – – and then a pretty significant drop off to Miami and Florida St.  The Seminoles have a new coach, Willie Taggert, who will be under scrutiny in Tallahassee.
  • SEC:  Alabama, Georgia and Auburn will all be very good – – but watch out for Mississippi St.  As usual the SEC West is the killer division and the easier path to the SEC Championship Game is in the East.
  • PAC-12:  Washington looks to be the class of the field in the North; maybe Stanford gives the Huskies a run?  In the South it sure looks like USC to me.  Chip Kelly returning to college football at UCLA will be interesting for me to watch.  Did defensive coaches catch on to his offense during his hiatus?
  • Big 12:  Can Oklahoma repeat after Baker Mayfield’s departure?  Is Lincoln Riley an offensive genius – – or did Mayfield make him look better than he really is?
  • Indies:  Notre Dame will be the best of the lot here.

That is the kind of overview one should expect from a typical college football summary essay.  However, here in Curmudgeon Central, we look at the world from the other end of the telescope and so here are some comments about which teams should be the bottom feeders in the major conferences:

  • Big 10:  I’m pretty sure that Illinois and Rutgers will be doormats in the conference.  Circle October 6, 2018 on your calendar because Illinois visits Rutgers that day.  It will surely be a game to miss.
  • ACC:  Looks as if either Syracuse or Virginia will be at the bottom of the league looking up at everyone else.
  • SEC:  Tennessee has a new coach and it will behoove him to make sure the Vols do not finish last in the SEC East.  Vandy should be the one to finish at the bottom of the easier division in the conference.  Out west, Arkansas may struggle with the schedule it draws.
  • PAC-12:  Oregon State looks like “conference patsy” for 2018.
  • Big 12:  Who else but Kansas?
  • Indies:  Liberty and UMass have the potential to be awful.

[Aside:  I mentioned one of Rutgers’ scheduled games above.  Looking at their non-conference schedule, I found Texas State (should be awful this year), Buffalo (maybe not awful but certainly not good) and Kansas (all you can say here is OMG).  Rutgers gets those 3 teams plus Illinois in the first 6 games of the season.  They had best make hay then because here is how they end the season:

  • @ Wisconsin
  • Michigan
  • Penn State
  • @ Michigan State]

Long term readers here know that I try to identify the worst teams in the country at the end of the season and to seed them into an imaginary tournament to find the worst team of all.  The way to do that is to have them play one another and the loser in the early rounds has to keep playing.  I call that the SHOE Tournament where SHOE is an acronym for Steaming Heap Of Excrement.

Before the first kickoff, here are possible entries in the SHOE Tournament:

  • C-USA:  Rice, UTEP and Florida International can all contend in the race to the bottom.
  • Sun Belt:  Georgia St., Louisiana-Lafayette and the aforementioned Texas State are on the radar.
  • MAC:  Ball State, Central Michigan and Kent State look like possibilities.
  • MWC:  Hawaii and San Jose State???
  • AAC:  Tulane, Tulsa and UConn may make the field.
  • Indies:  Liberty and UMass may be bad enough to make it to this level of ignominy.

And before I wrap this up, let me do a very cursory look at college coaches who are on a hot seat this season – – and I do not include Urban Meyer or DJ Durkin in this commentary.  These are coaches that could be fired because of on-field performance not meeting expectations.  In alphabetical order so that no one will think I am ranking or prioritizing any of this:

  • Chris Ash (Rutgers):  This will be his 3rd year at Rutgers and his record to date is 6-18.  Given that schedule, he ought to win more than 3 games this year; if he does not…
  • David Beaty (Kansas):  In his tenure in Lawrence, KS his record is 3-33.  Enough said…
  • Larry Fedora (UNC):  In addition to his ridiculous war on football rant and the fact that 13 of his players are suspended for selling shoes they were given by Nike, the Tar Heels were 3-9 last year.  If they are 3-9 again this year, he will need to contact a moving company.
  • Jim Harbaugh (Michigan):  The Wolverines were 8-5 last year and that is not the sort of record that was expected when Harbaugh “came home” to Ann Arbor.  Even worse, in his 3 years at Michigan, his record against Ohio St. and Michigan St. is 1-5.  QB, Shea Patterson arrives from Ole Miss and Harbaugh is a “QB whisperer”.  Fans in Ann Arbor will be looking for results this year.
  • Tom Herman (Texas):  In his first year, Herman’s Longhorns finished at 6-6; he inherited a mess so that was a honeymoon year.  I’ll be surprised if the honeymoon carries over much into 2018 if the Longhorns are not competitive.  Last year they lost at home to Maryland (not a powerhouse by any means) giving up 51 points.
  • Ed Orgeron (LSU):  His problem is that fans in Baton Rouge expect national championships at least 2 years out of 5 and LSU is not nearly that good.  His record at LSU is 15-6 but the team has never even been mentioned even as a national championship afterthought.  Hey, those yahoos in Baton Rouge ran off Les Miles even though he did win them a national championship.
  • Jeremy Pruitt (Tennessee):  I know he is a first-year coach, but he got the job after the most bungled coaching search in history; now he has to prove that Tennessee did not get a booby-prize for all that bumbling.  The Vols better be competitive this year AND not finish dead last in the SEC East.
  • Lovie Smith (Illinois):  The good news for Coach Smith is that he has a 6-year contract, and this will be only his 3rd year on the job.  However, he enters 2018 with a 5-19 record and that does not put the boosters anywhere near football Nirvana.  The selling point when they hired him was his “NFL experience”.  Maybe they should have looked closer to see that his NFL record was a pretty bland 89-87 over 11 seasons.

I want to mention three other coaches here who are not in danger of being fired but who face huge expectations from the schools that just hired them

  1. Jimbo Fisher (Texas A&M):  He signed a 10-year contract worth $75M.  I suspect that the alums and boosters around College Station, TX have lofty hopes for the team – and I doubt they think they should have to wait until the 10th year of the deal to see those lofty hopes realized.
  2. Dan Mullen (Florida):  They hired him away from Mississippi St. with the idea that he can give the Gators a semblance of an offense – something that has been absent from Gainesville recently.  Oh, and the folks at Florida cannot be too happy to see the ascension of Georgia within the SEC East at Florida’s expense…
  3. Willie Taggart (Florida State):  He took Jimbo Fisher’s job.  Read the FSU fan boards and you will see that just about everyone in Tallahassee is looking for an instant resurgence from the Seminoles this year after a highly unusual 7-6 season last year.

Enough with the overview, what about Week 1.  There is a full slate of games that week but here is a six-pack of games that ought to be interesting to watch and ought to give you a glimpse of things to come:

  • Oregon St. at Ohio St.:  This will be a blowout no matter who coaches Ohio St. on that day.  You or I could run the show and win the game by double-digit points.  However, if Urban Meyer is not on the sidelines that day and there is not yet any certainty around if/when he might return, this game could be an interesting indicator.
  • Florida Atlantic at Oklahoma:  Lane Kiffin and Lincoln Riley are young coaches who have been anointed as offensive gurus.  Take the OVER?
  • Cincy at UCLA:  I said above that I am interested to see how Chip Kelly’s offense works this year.  Here is its first test…
  • Texas at Maryland:  This is a revenge game for the Longhorns after losing 51-41 at home to the Terps last year.
  • Michigan at Notre Dame:  This is a renewal of a very old rivalry – and I am glad to see it back on the schedule.  Here is the thing that will happen when the final whistle sounds.  One coach will be exalted as someone who belongs in the pantheon of great coaches of all time; the other will be a candidate for being hanged in effigy.
  • Washington vs. Auburn (in Atlanta):  Washington is the powerhouse of the PAC-12 and Auburn is a top-shelf team in the SEC.  This should be a GREAT game and the best game on the card for opening week.

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

 

Baseball Season With One Quarter Left To Go

We are approaching that time on the sports calendar when just about anything related to college or pro football dominates the newsfeed; and, to be sure, we have news in that quadrant of the sports cosmos today.  [I plan to spend plenty of time tomorrow on college football stuff.]  Nevertheless, this is still baseball season and we are getting to the point where the pennant races and playoff races are solidifying.  So, let’s take a look …

  1. The American League is not particularly exciting for the moment.  It would not be surprising to see 2 AL teams win 100 or more games this year and it would not be surprising to see 3 other AL teams lose 100 or more games this year.  The AL is widely dispersed when it comes to the “haves” and “have nots” this year.
  2. I am ready to call the Red Sox and the Indians as division champions.  With a tad less certainty, I will call the Astros the AL West champions.
  3. The Yankees may win 100 games this year and be a wild-card team; the only real mystery left in the AL is who will be the AL West champ and which team will be the runner-up there to meet the Yankees in a 1-game playoff.
  4. The National League is far more interesting.  No team is in a position where they are comfortably atop their division such that they can coast for a week or so.
  5. There are 8 teams within 5 games of one another in the three divisions.  It looks as if those races will go down to the final week – at least – and maybe the final day of the season.  If forced to pick now, I will take the Dodgers, Cubs and Braves to win their divisions with the D-Backs and Brewers as the wild-cards.

The 2018 Yankees suffer from being in the same division as the unbelievably successful Red Sox.  As of this weekend, the Yankees merely projected to win 99 games which in most seasons means a division crown.  Nonetheless, the Yankees find themselves almost 10 games out of the division race but comfortably in a wild-card seat.  The hope for a significant race in the AL East that might come down to the “final days” when the Yankees and Red Sox face each other in a 3-game series is this:

  • The Yankees have a pillow-soft schedule between now and the middle of September.  They could go on an epic tear…
  • The next 20 games for the Yankees are against teams with either a losing record for the season or a team that is 2 games over .500 for the season.  It is not unreasonable to expect the Yankees to go 14-6 against that competition.
  • Then the Yankees have 6 games against the Mariners and the A’s.  Those teams are solid and strong this year; let’s give the Yankees a split there.
  • After that 6-game competitive stretch, the Yankees then play 6 more “soft schedule games” before a 3-game set with the Red Sox.  Then it is 7 more games against the Orioles and Rays before the final 3-game set with the Red Sox.  For these 10 games, assign the Yankees 6 wins.
  •             By my calculation, the Yankees could enter that final series with the Red Sox with 97 wins (conservatively).  So, it is possible the Yankees might win 100 games in 2018 and finish “up the track” in their division.  That does not happen very often…

Jayson Werth is not down with what he calls the “super nerds” in baseball.  To say that he thinks “Advanced Analytics” have gone too far in the game would be a monumental understatement.  If you Google “Jayson Werth baseball nerds”, you will find dozens of links that will lay out his position on this subject – – and other links that will take exception with his position.

In the extreme, I think Werth is correct.  Obviously, some managers overuse and overthink the data that is available to them during a game.  More malignantly, some managers might ignore reality and just look at “numbers” in key situations.  If there is an at-bat with runners on and the game on the line, I don’t really care what the numbers say; if Derek Jeter is the guy scheduled to come to the plate, it does not matter what guy you have on the bench with a better WAR or with a better average against the pitcher on the mound.  In that circumstance, you let Jeter hit and go with the result.

Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle seems to have the same respect for advanced analytics that I have.  I think they have value for a manager, but I do not think they should be taken as gospel truths.  Here are some comments from Scott Ostler on that subject:

“Here’s a serious idea for a cool new baseball stat, because Lord knows we need more:  The size of the miss.  When a batter swings and misses, by how many inches did he miss?”

And …

“Also, why can’t we get a stat on which umpires are the most/least accurate at calling balls and strikes?  So fans can boo intelligently.”

Hey, I grew up going to baseball games in Philly (both the Phillies and the A’s) and the concept of “boo intelligently” is not something that immediately resonates with the core fans there.  But now that I am an educated and rational adult, I can get my arms around Professor Ostler’s concept.

Finally, here is another baseball commentary from Scott Ostler in the SF Chronicle on a totally different aspect of the game:

“The A’s are selling beer for $4.  So a family of five Oakland fans can drink for what one person pays at the Giants’ ballpark.  Caveat: the Giants’ $19.25 brewski is “craft” beer.  Meaning it was not brewed in the training-room whirlpool bath.

“Four bucks for a beer?  I’ll go even on days when there’s no game.”

Me too…

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

 

 

All Around The Mulberry Bush Today …

In a column last week in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot, Bob Molinaro offered up some career advice for enterprising young techies who want to get their foot in the door in the sports world”

“Sign of the times: In the wake of three big-leaguers expressing regrets for homophobic and racists tweets written as teenagers, it’s past time pro franchises – and perhaps colleges – hired somebody to do nothing but comb through every player’s social media and delete old, embarrassing messages. Wait and see: Tweet hunters will be the newest sports growth industry.”

I think Professor Molinaro is on to something here.  There are two trends in the US these days that contribute to the potential growth in this field:

  1. Gotcha America:  In this milieu, one searches for and gets credit for finding a previously unseen flaw in a public figure and springing it on him/her in a very public setting
  2. Aggrieved America:  In this milieu, everyone reserves for himself/herself a God-given right to be offended by anything even marginally untoward done by a public figure in his/her past or present. Moreover, inhabitants of Aggrieved America also declare their right to let everyone else know how mightily offended they are.

When someone finds an “offensive” Tweet or Facebook posting from long ago for a public figure, that becomes the confluence of Gotcha America and Aggrieved America and that leads to a maelstrom of misery for the offender.  It matters not how long ago the transgression was or if the transgression has been repeated as a continuing pattern.  In the maelstrom of misery, the only thing that is certain is that the offender must be vilified and shamed in the current moment for happenings in the past.  Sadly, this makes me believe that Molinaro’s idea for a new career field has legs.

Switching gears …  The NBA announced its Christmas Day games this week.  There will be 5 of them.  Anyone who has ever thought about the NBA for more than a millisecond knew what one of the games would be; so, the announcement of the 5-game menu had only 4 games that might have surprised anyone.

  1. The Warriors versus the LeBrons – errr the Lakers:  Everyone saw that one coming.  By the way, given the rest of the Lakers’ roster for 2018/19, calling them the LA LeBrons makes plenty of sense.  It is about the only reason to pay attention to the team.
  2. The Knicks versus the Bucks:  The NBA puts the Knicks on every year on Christmas Day.  I guess it is about getting fans in the NY market interested in tuning in because the Knicks are absolutely irrelevant.  Kristaps Porzingas will not be ready to play in December so who outside of NYC cares to see the rest of that roster?  OK, Giannis Antetokounmpo is always fun to watch – – but there could be opponents a lot more interesting.
  3. The Jazz versus the Blazers:  This should be an interesting game; both teams made the playoffs last year and the Jazz made it to the second round.  Like Antetokounmpo, Donovan Mitchell is always fun to watch.
  4. The Thunder versus the Rockets:  This game should be interesting and important; these are two of the best teams in the Western Conference.  Sadly, I think the storyline here will be Melo versus his old thunder teammates.  If you tune in, just ignore that meaningless storyline.  Melo was a non-entity in OKC last year and is not going to be a pivotal player in Houston this year; he has reached his sell-by date.
  5. The Sixers versus the Celtics:  This should be a good game and an important game.  This year, these two teams can re-kindle an NBA rivalry from “way back when”.  It just might be that these are the two teams playing for the Eastern Conference championship next June now that LeBron has taken his talents to the Western Conference.

Data are in for the second month of legal sports wagering in Delaware.  Here is the bottom line:

  • From 25 June through 29 July, wagers totaled approximately $8.2M and bettors collected $7.7M.
  • Net profit for the sportsbooks and the State of Delaware was $461,226.
  • Profit is split 50/50 between the State and the casinos.

The Arizona Cardinals seem to be taking their lead from baseball teams this year.  Often, I chronicle here some of the culinary catastrophes offered up at ballyards; this year the Cardinals have one for their football patrons.  Before revealing the “recipe” for this bad boy, the overview goes like this.  It is a hamburger-based dish that has 11 ingredients, weighs 7 pounds and costs $75.  Put on a bib and grab the Rolaids; here are the makings for The Gridiron Burger:

  • 5 hamburger patties each weighing 1/3 of a pound
  • 5 beef hotdogs – pay no attention to what parts of the cow are in there
  • 5 brats – sausages not children
  • 20 slices of American cheese – don’t want none of that foreign stuff
  • 8 slices of bacon – seems light on the bacon, no?
  • 8 chicken tenders – why not?
  • 12 oz fries – just to be sure we have enough fat and carbs here
  • Lettuce, tomatoes, pickles – – and – –
  • “Tank Sauce” – whatever that might or might not be
  • All of this is stacked in the middle of a 10-inch hamburger bun

This baby probably has the caloric content ingested by a family in Darfur in a week. But the Cardinals think the Gridiron Burger should present a challenge to their fans.  Anyone who can eat this entire thing in 60 minutes – by himself or herself – will get a free Arizona Cardinals jersey and will get his/her picture displayed on the stadium big screen.  Joey Chestnut,

  • Come on down …!

Finally, since I started this rant with a comment by Bob Molinaro, let me close with another of his observations:

“Up North: Sure, Johnny Manziel threw four interceptions in his debut with the Montreal Alouettes, but that did give him an opportunity to make two tackles.”

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

 

 

One Small Step For The NCAA …

When news broke yesterday that the NCAA would make changes in their rules about basketball players and how they made decisions regarding the NBA draft, I thought that the NCAA had been in communication with John Wooden from wherever John Wooden’s spirit may be in the cosmos.  One of Wooden’s favorite aphorisms was:

“It’s the little details that are vital.  Little things make big things happen.”

Starting now, the NCAA will allow “elite players” to sign with agents prior to the NBA Draft and will allow those players to return to school with their eligibility intact in the event that they are not selected in the NBA Draft.  Moreover, it appears that agents will be allowed to pay expenses for travel to the Draft for the players and their families.

Even though this is not the reform that I would have favored regarding college basketball, I have to give the NCAA credit for taking seriously the recommendations of the Blue-Ribbon Panel – chaired by Condoleezza Rice – and making changes to a system that was outdated and ineffective.  Even though I remain unconvinced that the FBI probe of college basketball is an appropriate use of Federal tax revenues, I do recognize that the combination of the NBA’s insistence on a player being a full year out of high school plus the NCAA’s antiquated ideas about amateur student-athletes has torn the fabric of college basketball apart.  The changes announced yesterday do not fix the problems once and for all, but they are a small step in the right direction and the NCAA needs a pat on the back today.

As Coach Wooden said, the “little details are vital.”  Here is a little detail that needs to be spelled out clearly:

  • This change in eligibility status applies to “elite players”.  So … how does one select the “elite players” from the “rest of the herd”?

I will be shocked if this selection process is not assigned to a committee of sorts and committees bring together a bunch of people all of whom have agendas.

  1. Will agents be allowed to be on that committee?  I hope not.
  2. Will college coaches/ADs be allowed to be on that committee?  I hope not.
  3. Will anyone associated with AAU basketball be allowed on that committee?  I hope not.
  4. Will anyone associated with Nike, Adidas, UnderArmour, etc. be allowed in that committee?  I hope not.

So, who will be on that committee who brings knowledge and credibility to the table but not a glaring conflict of interest?  Identifying such a group will be a challenge but I have a nominee for the Chairman of the Elite Player Identification Committee:

  • I nominate the former College Basketball Fan-in-Chief … President Barack Obama.
  • The NCAA can fill in the rest of the seats at the table.

The folks who run the WNBA took a few days to arrive at the decision to call the game between the Las Vegas Asses and the Washington Mystics – – the one where the Asses pulled a no-show – – a forfeited game.  Had they done otherwise, they would have opened Pandora’s Box with regard to other teams deciding to pull similar stunts in the name of “health and safety” and they would have diminished the already tarnished image of the WNBA.  Here is a statement from Lisa Borders, the president of the WNBA:

“We worked extensively with both the Aces and Mystics to come up with a workable solution.  In the end, given the limited number of days remaining in the season and arena availability, we decided to delay the start of the game until 8 p.m.  to give the Aces as much time as possible between their arrival in Washington, D.C., and tipoff.

”While not ideal, it was the best available solution to accommodate both our fans and the scheduling challenges. Since the Aces chose not to play, the result is a forfeit.”

The Asses and their coach, Bill Laimbeer, disagree with the decision to forfeit the game; here is what Laimbeer had to say:

“We are disappointed with the league’s decision, but our focus is now on winning as many games as we can in our drive for our first playoff appearance.”

I recognize that Laimbeer has no choice to say what he did there, but I hope he recognizes in his gut that the league had no other choice in the matter.

Speaking obliquely about pro leagues and their schedules, the NBA announced that it will play 2 games in Mexico City next season.  The Orlando Magic will be in both games that will take place in mid-December at the Mexico City Arena.

  • Dec 13:  Magic vs. Chicago Bulls
  • Dec 15:  Magic vs. Utah Jazz

Absent an Act of God like an earthquake, I am confident that the teams will show up and play those games despite any travel rigors they may encounter.

Finally, here is a comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald regarding Orlando:

“NFL announced the 2019 Pro Bowl would be returning to Orlando, and nobody cared.”

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

 

 

Keep On Keeping On…

Everyone knows the adage:

“Tis a lesson you should heed:

Try, try, try again.

If at first you don’t succeed,

Try, try, try again.

Isaac Galloway clearly took that message to heart as a youngster.  Galloway played minor league baseball from 2008 to 2018 before he made his major league debut with the Miami Marlins a little over a week ago.  In the minors, Galloway played for 5 teams from the Greensboro Grasshoppers to the New Orleans Baby Cakes.  He was in 947 games and came to bat 3401 times.  His minor league batting average was .251.  Nonetheless, he got a call up to the Marlins this year and has gone 2 for 7 in his major league career.  About now, I suspect that the adage going through Isaac Galloway’s mind is:

“Good things come to him who waits…”

Over the past week or so, I have commented on Urban Meyer and Larry Fedora as two college football coaches who are in the news for the wrong reasons these days.  However, there is another college coach who deserves a bit of scrutiny.  Dan Mullen is the new guy at Florida; he did well at Mississippi St. and Florida called when it needed a coach.  Mullen proclaimed that he had a “no guns policy” for the team which sounds like a good idea to me.  Unfortunately, Mullen had to explain last week that his “no guns policy” was not quite what it sounded like.  When a Florida player was found at a traffic stop to have a loaded AR-15 in the back seat of the vehicle, here is how Mullen explained his “no guns policy”:

“What we do … is really to educate them on weapons, on having guns. Why would you have it? What’s the purpose of having it?”

Mullen emphasized that owning guns is perfectly legal in the US and that the player was not arrested because the weapon was not concealed, and it did not violate the open-carry laws in Florida.  He then added this to his explanation of the policy:

“It’s a no-weapons policy in certain situations of how to be educated to not have (issues).  No weapons, that’s easy to remember. If I write out all the different (scenarios) — no weapons in these situations or have a weapon for a hunting situation, if I’m doing this, I store it at this location, I keep it here, I have gun safety rules and knowledge — that’s not a quick catch to them to register in their mind. Does that make sense?”

Well coach, it does make sense – – unless you previously told the world that it was a “no guns policy”.  If it were actually a “no guns policy”, then there would be no need at all for any of the stuff that you say you are trying to do with your players.  Based on your clarification here, I would conclude that your “no guns policy” is in fact a “gun education policy” and those are two VERY different things.

As the first round of NFL Exhibition Games get underway this week, former Cowboys’ WR, Dez Bryant remains unsigned.  Some folks say that Father Time has eroded his skills to a point where he is not worth the baggage that he would bring to a locker room.  After all, he referred to one of his former Cowboys’ teammates as a “snake” recently implying that the “snake” was part of a cabal to convince Jerry Jones to cut Bryant from the team.  Let’s just agree that the accusation has not been conclusively proven to date.

I bring this up because this situation seems like the Colin Kaepernick situation to me.  Both players are out of work and it is not out of the question for me to recognize that both players would bring those “dreaded distractions” to any locker room they inhabit – – albeit the “Bryant distractions” would be very different from the “Kaepernick distractions”.  Notwithstanding that parallelism, I have not yet heard anyone say that Bryant is being “blackballed” from the NFL.  Maybe it’s just me, but I find that interesting…

Bob Molinaro asked an interesting question in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot recently:

“Musical chairs: You think some of the Nationals’ failures this season – beyond injuries – might be the residue of having had five managers in eight years?”

I think there is another dimension to the problems the Nats face this year – and in recent years.  The revolving door of managers does not help the situation, but I believe the root of the problem is deeper than that.  I think that the Washington Nationals team – a team that is extremely gifted with physical talent – has been coddled for far too long.  The team’s highly talented players do not always “give full effort” [I am being polite here.] and the team as a whole does not excel in fundamental baseball.

  • [Aside:  To be sure, there are exceptions.  Max Scherzer never dogs it.  When he takes the ball, he gives everything he has every time.  He is not the norm for this team.]

A problem that has faced previous Nats’ managers is that they have allowed that sort of lackadaisical play to go unchecked and unpunished to the point that it happens more than weekly now for the team.  There has been no accountability and it sure looks to me as if the young – and very talented – players have come to believe that it is OK for them to hustle on those occasions when the spirit moves them to do so – – but sometimes the spirit stays in the clubhouse.

When I read Molinaro’s question, I sent him an e-mail telling him that I think what the Nats really need is an ass-kicker for a manager.  I told him that Billy Martin would be perfect – – except that Billy Martin is dead and therefore not available for interviews.  If I were the owner of the Nats, I would tell the GM to interview Ozzie Guillen for the job and after the interview to come and tell me why Ozzie would not be a good choice.  In case, that last sentence is not clear, I have a suspicion that part of the “coddling environment” for the team originates in the GM’s office.

Finally, here is a comment from Scott Ostler in the SF Chronicle:

“Former NFL running back Ricky Williams, who once took a break from smoking weed to swear to me that he was done smoking weed, is selling his own line of weed products, ‘Real Wellness by Ricky Williams.’  I hope it’s better than the line of baloney he used to sell.”

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

 

 

Monumental Ineptitude

Yesterday, in reading Peter King’s column Football Morning in America, I ran across this statement:

“Cleveland had 11 first-round picks in the eight drafts between 2009 and 2016. None are left on the team.”

He mentioned this in the context of the recent trade that sent WR Corey Coleman from the Browns to the Bills for a 7th round draft pick in 2020.  Coleman was indeed taken in the first round by the Browns; they used the pick they got from the Eagles when they let the Eagles move up to #2 in the draft to take Carson Wentz.  Just so there is no misunderstanding, getting a 7th round pick two years from now for a player is roughly equivalent to getting a used kicking tee and an Egg McMuffin.

I know not to doubt Peter King when he makes a declaration of that sort, but I did have to go and see who the Browns’ first round picks were from 2009 to 2016.  I wondered if the guys were just players who did not work out for the Browns or if they washed out of the league.  So …

  1. 2009:  Alex Mack played 7 years with the Browns; now with the Falcons.  He has been to the Pro Bowl 5 times
  2. 2010:  Joe Haden played 7 years with the Browns; now with the Steelers.  He has been to the Pro Bowl twice.
  3. 2011:  Phil Taylor played 4 years with the Browns until they released him.  He is out of the NFL.
  4. 2012:  Brandon Weeden played 2 years with the Browns until they released him.  He is out of the NFL.
  5. 2012:  Trent Richardson played 1 year with the Browns until they traded him to the Colts.  He is out of the NFL
  6. 2013:  Barkevious Mingo played 3 years with the Browns until they traded him.  He is in the Seahawks’ camp this summer.
  7. 2014:  Johnny Manziel played 2 years with the Browns.  He is now in the CFL
  8. 2014:  Justin Gilbert played 2 years with the Browns until they traded him.  He is now serving a 1-year suspension for violation of the NFL substance abuse policy.
  9. 2015:  Cam Erving played 2 years with the Browns until they traded him.  He is now with the Chiefs.
  10. 2015:  Danny Shelton played 3 years with the Browns until they traded him.  He is now with the Pats.
  11. 2016:  Corey Coleman played 2 years with the Browns until they traded him to the Bills a few days ago.

That is a monument to poor scouting that would be difficult to replicate in the modern era of football.  In fact, that span of ineptitude poses an interesting topic for debate/discussion:

Which draft was worse in terms of first round selections?

  1. The 2014 draft that produced Manziel and Gilbert – – or – –
  2. The 2012 draft that produced Weeden and Richardson.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is not an easy choice; they were both miserable.

Recall back at the ACC Media Day, UNC coach Larry Fedora ranted about how there was a war on football and that if football failed America would go down with it.  Let’s just say that I was not the only commentator to ridicule him for that level of hyperbole.  Well, Larry Fedora’s UNC team is back in the news and not in a good way.

UNC changed its shoe company this year and part of the deal was that Nike gave athletes specially designed Air Jordans; these were not going to be sold in stores or online.  Well, a bunch of the players turned around and sold those shoes and that is an NCAA violation.  So, UNC has suspended 13 players for anywhere between 1 and 4 games this season and the starting QB is one of the players on suspension.

UNC was 3-9 last year.  If the Tar Heels go 3-9 again this year and have to suffer through the ignominy of this sort of blockheadedness on the part of their “student-athletes”, Larry Fedora will no need to worry about any war on football; he will need to look for a job

  • And isn’t it special that “The Heels” are in hot water for improperly selling shoes…?

Another college coach has announced that he will retire at the end of the 2018 season.  Jimmye Laycock has been the head football coach at William and Mary for 38 years; that makes him the Division I coach who has been in his job for the longest time.  William and Mary has won the Division I-AA championship twice in his tenure and his record going into this season is 245-189-2.  Laycock is also an alum of William and Mary.  My guess is that if he ran for mayor of Williamsburg, he would be a formidable candidate.

Bonne chance, Jimmye Laycock.

The Dallas Cowboys welcomed Randy Gregory to camp after he had been suspended by the NFL for a year due to substance abuse violations.  This is merely the latest in a series of suspensions for the same reason.  A couple of weeks ago, Jerry Jones said without any modifiers that if one of the Cowboys did not stand on the sidelines for the national anthem, that player would not play for the Cowboys.  So, a serial drug abuser is OK but …

Finally, Brad Rock had this observation in the Deseret News recently about the PAC-12 Media Day:

“Heisman candidate Bryce Love skipped the Pac-12’s media day, saying he was too involved in studies to attend.

“Ute fans are already telling him, ‘Don’t forget the Oct. 6 Stanford-Utah game will be during midterms’!”

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

 

 

The Las Vegas Asses

In case you did not know, there is a WNBA team in Las Vegas – the Las Vegas Aces.  As far as I am concerned, from this point forward, they should be called the Las Vegas Asses.  The team pulled a no-show for a scheduled game against the Washington Mystics over the weekend because of travel problems.  You can understand a team not showing up to play a scheduled game in a situation where they cannot get to the venue; that was not the case here; the Las Vegas Asses were in DC.

The team took about 24 hours to get to Washington meaning they were in airports and on aircraft for a very long time, but they arrived in DC about 5 hours before the scheduled tip-off.  Instead of trying to make the best of things – and look to see if they could find a voodoo doll that would cast spells on the offending airline – they had a team meeting and called their union and decided to pull a no-show because of “health and safety reasons”.

To say that was a bush league stunt would be a compliment.  The WNBA is a minor league at best; it strives for attention and recognition – but not this kind of recognition.  Let me be clear; when I say the WNBA is a minor league I mean just that.  Minor league baseball teams play to equal or larger crowds; minor league hockey games draw crowds equivalent to what the WNBA draws.  Every time I read or hear one of the WNBA players talk about professionalism and how dedicated they are and how they should be seen as professional athletes, my answer will be:

  • The Las Vegas Asses

Minor league baseball teams travel by bus from place to place.  Look at any minor league team schedule and you will see bus trips that cannot be comfortable for the team – – but they show up, grit their teeth and play the scheduled games.  And do not even begin to compare a delayed flight with the travel rigors encountered by minor league hockey players in Canada in the Western Hockey League or the Ontario Hockey League.

Having just mentioned Canadian sports, let me make an awkward transition here to the Canadian Football League where Johnny Manziel made a disastrous debut for the Montreal Alouettes last Friday night.  He threw 4 INTs in the first half – the first one coming on his first pass attempt – and the Alouettes lost the game by 41 points.  Ironically, the opponent was the team that just traded Manziel to the Alouettes earlier that week.  To be fair, Manziel had all of 4 practice sessions with his new team before hitting the field Friday night and that was his first live action football in more than a year.  Nonetheless, Johnny Football looked more like Johnny Faulty – – or even Johnny Fatal.

The only positive spin I can put on this would be that at the current exchange rate, 4 Canadian INTs only equals 3 American INTs.  That is the best I can do.  Sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel turns out to be a gorilla with a flashlight.

The Urban Meyer Saga continues to evolve – but it is not getting any prettier.  Brad Rock covered Utah football for the Deseret News back when Urban Meyer was the coach there – before his time at Florida where he won a national championship.  He wrote a column for that paper last week about Meyer’s time at Utah and included comments from players who were on Meyer’s teams there.  This is the sort of historical perspective that I have not seen in any of the “national reporting” on the current mess.  Here is a link to Brad Rock’s column; I think it is well-written and deserves to be read in its entirety.

Over the weekend, lots of commentators on the Urban Meyer Saga expressed surprise that Meyer changed his story thereby “proving” that he lied to the media and the public at the Big-10 media fest to kick off the football season.  Calm down everyone; let me lay this out in simple declarative sentences for you:

  • Football coaches lie.  They lie all the time.  They lie to recruits.  They lie to parents of recruits.  They lie to the press.  They lie about academic progress.  They lie about injuries.  They lie about player suspensions.  They lie about opponents’ strength.
  • Lying is a critical skill for football coaches.  Truthful football coaches will not succeed.  Lying can become a way of life.

So … when Urban Meyer was asked a question at Big-10 media day about domestic abuse allegations against one of his coaches, he did what comes naturally to a successful football coach.  He lied.  That is not an admirable thing, but it is a totally understandable thing.  That is what football coaches do all the time.

In the media frenzy to pile on Urban Meyer, there seems to me to be an under-reported aspect to the story.

  • The abuse victim says that Urban Meyer’s wife, Shelley, knew of the abuse incidents.  Assume that is absolutely true for a moment here
  • The reporting focus has been that if she knew, then Urban Meyer must have known also.  More than likely correct.  HOW-EVAH [/Stephen A. Smith]
  • Shelley Meyer is a Registered Nurse and she is an Instructor of Clinical Practice at Ohio State.
  • Two pillars of nursing ethics are non-malfeasance (doing no harm to the patient) and beneficence (doing the right thing for the patient).
  • It would seem to me that Shelley Meyer had a professional obligation to report and act on her knowledge of abuse here AND that as an employee of THE Ohio State University, she had a responsibility to make all of this known.

Again, I want to be clear.  Neither Urban Meyer nor Shelley Meyer abused the victim here; neither is the source of her pain and suffering.  Nevertheless, given their positions and given their employer, they each had an obligation to alert others to the situation with the intention to prevent any further abusive situations.  Based on the reporting to date, it would appear that neither one of them discharged that responsibility in an efficient or effective manner.

Finally, here are two observations from sportswriters about the Urban Meyer Saga from over the weekend:

“Death Valley, Calif., recorded the hottest month on record, with an average of 108 degrees in July.

“Though Urban Meyer’s seat at Ohio State is already threatening to break it.”  [Dwight Perry, Seattle Times]

And …

“The only way Urban Meyer should be allowed to coach again is if he fires his wife.”  [Scott Ostler, SF Chronicle]

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

 

 

Chinese Basketball Association – The Other CBA

With all the hoopla that surrounded the NBA free agent signing frenzy this summer, a couple of happenings slipped through the cracks.  In times past, players who could not make the NBA or who were in the twilight of their basketball careers would find their way to Europe to play in one of the many national leagues there.  Recently, the Chinese option has opened for players.  Stephon Marbury has been playing in China for more than 5 years now as a member of the Beijing Ducks.  [Mmmm…  Tasty!]  Marbury is now 41 years old.

Over the summer, Chinese Basketball Association teams have made offers to other NBA veteran players to entice them to cross the Pacific Ocean instead of the Atlantic Ocean to extend their careers.

  • Dwayne Wade reportedly has a 3-year $25M offer from the Zhejiang Golden Bulls.  There are also reports that Wade has signed a “lifetime contract” with Li-Ning – a Chinese clothing and shoe manufacturer.  As of this morning the offer from the Golden Bulls is still unsigned and on the table.  Wade is 36 years old; last year he only played in 21 games in the NBA.  I would be very surprised to see an NBA team offer him anything close to a 3-year deal worth $25M.
  • Last week, Lamar Odom (age 38) announced that he will resume his basketball career in China next year.  He did not reveal the team and there were no reports of the contract terms involved but Odom did say that Stephon Marbury was his “inspiration” to go to China to play again.  He also announced that he will be moving to Shenzen, China – the area that links mainland China and Hong Kong.  By coincidence, Shenzen also has a team in the China Basketball Association, so maybe we do know the team he will play for.  Odom has been out of the NBA since 2013 and has had serious addiction problems since then.

The reigning champions of the Chinese Basketball Association are the Liaoning Flying Leopards.  Liaoning is the Chinese province that borders North Korea; I have never been there; and if they have flying leopards there, I do not think I would want to visit.

I have been tracking the MLB teams that project to lose 100 games or more for the 2018 season since the end of April.  The Baltimore Orioles have the worst record in MLB this morning; they are 1.5 games worse than the KC Royals; their record is 33-76.  The O’s were big-time sellers at the MLB trade deadline getting prospects for just about anyone on the team that any other MLB team sniffed around.  The exception was Adam Jones – and All-Star caliber outfielder – who is still with the O’s.  The reason he is still there is a tad unusual.

According to reports, the O’s had a deal in place to send Jones to the Phillies.  That would have sent Jones from a bottom-feeder to a team at the top of the NL East with playoff aspirations.  The deal fell through when Jones exercised his right under the MLB CBA to veto the trade because he is a “10-5 guy”.  According to the CBA, any player who has been in MLB for 10 years and has been with his current team for the last 5 years has the right to veto any trade at any time.  Jones played the 10-5 card.

Reporters asked him why he turned down the opportunity to play for a contender and Jones’ answer was direct – and a bit testy.  He said he did it because previous MLB players went on strike to win him those 10-5 rights and he decided that he wanted to use them.  Had he stopped there – and had the reporters not continued to question him on the issue – that decision would be lost in memory already.  However, he went on to say that it was no one’s business why he made the decision and that unless others were ready to take up the burden of paying all of his bills, then they needed to “shut the Hell up”.  Let me dance on that tightrope for a moment:

  • Jones is absolutely correct; this is his decision and he has exactly no obligation to explain it or justify it to anyone.
  • At the same time, he is intelligent enough to realize that his decision here is not the one that many other players would have made and that “unusual-ness” is going to be the subject of inquiry by reporters.  Therefore, he might have had a more tolerant or measured response at the ready.  I don’t think he intended to tell the world to go away; I think he reacted to reporters’ questions in a way that is not commonplace for him.
  • Adam Jones is a free agent at the end of the season.  It would be ironic if at that time he chose to sign with the Phillies, no?

One other thing about the Orioles and their record …  Thirty years ago, in 1988, the Orioles started the season by losing their first 21 games in a row.  The previous record for consecutive losses to start the season was shared by the Tigers (1920) and the Senators (1904) with 13 losses.  The Orioles did not “eclipse” that mark; they obliterated it.  The 1988 Orioles went on to post a final record of 54-107 [There must have been a rain-out that they decided not to make up.] and they finished a mere 34.5 games behind the AL East leader when the AL East had 7 teams.  This year’s Baltimore Orioles are on pace to win only 50 games and lose 112.  Ouch!

While on the subject of MLB, Bob Molinaro had this comment in his column last week in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Milestone: From the where-has-the-time-gone file, I was surprised to hear last week that Washington Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg was turning 30. Seems like just the other day the big righty was a gangly kid appearing on his first disabled list.”

I remember Strasburg’s first game.  He struck out 14 batters and the Washington baseball poets went gaga.  They were ready to commission the plaque for Cooperstown that day.  I suggested then that it might be a good idea to pump the brakes just a tad.  After all, those 14 strikeouts in his first game still left him exactly 5,700 strikeouts behind Nolan Ryan.

Finally, Dwight Perry had this comment about another MLB pitcher in the Seattle Times:

“Ex-MLB pitcher Kevin Brown caught two men stealing from his mailbox in Macon Ga., and kept them at gunpoint until police arrived.

“Elias Sports Bureau statisticians alertly credited him with a hold.”

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

 

 

Urban Meyer In The Crosshairs

Ohio State has put Urban Meyer on paid administrative leave while it investigates a report that Meyer was aware of a domestic violence incident in 2015 perpetrated by one of his assistant coaches.  I am not going to rehash the events and the allegations here; you would be hard-pressed to go to any national sports website this morning and avoid reading those details.  Here is a link to one of many such summaries of the background here.

What we have here is another situation where several conflicting narratives apply at the same time:

  • Urban Meyer is innocent of any criminal action until he is found guilty of that action in a courtroom.
  • In the court of public opinion, however, things are not looking good for Urban Meyer as of this morning.
  • Nowhere in any of the reporting have I found a hint that Urban Meyer committed any acts of domestic violence.  Nonetheless, it is clear that such acts did occur and that leads to an inquiry that harkens back to the Senate Watergate hearings in the early 70s.
  • What did Urban Meyer know and when did he know it?  PLUS, if and when he knew what he knew, what did he do about it?

Ohio State University is in a delicate situation today.  These allegations come on the heels of allegations of sexual abuse within the wrestling program in the past and some of that muck and mire has spilled over to current Congressman James Jordan (R-Ohio) who was an assistant coach at Ohio State while some of that stuff was ongoing.  Let me be blunt here:

  • That was wrestling; this is football.

Wrestling may be important at Ohio State, but the reality is that wrestling is not football.  And Urban Meyer has 3 national championships to his credit; and national championships are a big deal to Ohio State alums, boosters and students.  No matter what Ohio State does to and with Urban Meyer, the university is going to piss off a large and vocal chorus of people.

Complicating the situation for the Ohio State pooh-bahs is a precedent at Ohio State in their football program.

  • In 2011, a bunch of Ohio State players received “improper benefits” in the form of discounted tattoos from a local tattoo artist.  Ohio State suspended Coach Jim Tressel for 2 games and then upped that ante to 5 games after an investigation and fined Tressel $250K.  Then, Coach Tressel “decided to resign” as the head football coach at Ohio State.

On one hand, it is easy to look at those two situations and say that “domestic violence” is a whole lot more serious than “discounted or free tattoos”.  So, on that axis, the “firing” of Jim Tressel makes the retention of Urban Meyer nigh onto impossible.

On the other hand, the “tattoo incident” could have led the NCAA to impose severe sanctions to the Ohio State football program.  In the current matter, the NCAA will likely stand on the sidelines and cluck about how all of us are socially responsible for out actions and pabulum of that ilk.  [Aside:  I presume that the NCAA learned from the Penn State incident that its purview is athletics and not criminal behavior(s).  If they did not learn from their embarrassment there, the NCAA might punch this tar baby too.  We shall see…]

Because I do not yet know what Urban Meyer knew and when he knew it and what he did about it when/if he knew what he knew, I will postpone saying what I think Ohio State ought to do here.  I suspect, however, that this is the end of the Urban Meyer regime in Columbus.  In the current environment of #meetoo and the light being shone on domestic violence by people in football and the parallelism here to the mess at Baylor under Art Briles, I do not see how Ohio State can keep him on the payroll.

Some commentators have already jumped to the conclusion that Urban Meyer’s career as a coach is over.  I am not ready to do that just yet and I will cite the case of Dave Bliss as a reason not to make such a leap of logic.  Here is what I wrote about Dave Bliss and his outrageous behavior(s) back in 2003; please take a minute to skim through it.

Now that you are back here, Dave Bliss was hired subsequently as a college basketball coach and then again twice as a high school basketball coach at two Christian high schools.  And that is why I am reluctant at this point to say that Urban Meyer will not be a football coach ever again.

Enough about that…  Yesterday I wrote about the naming rights for the Bonita Springs HS football stadium and I mentioned that a reader here lived in Bonita Springs.  Here is what he added to the story regarding why a healthcare provider might be willing to pay to name a football stadium.

“Big-time competition between Lee Health and Naples-based NCH (healthcare system) these days.  The two systems are opening free-standing ER’s less than a mile apart in Bonita Springs and NCH is opposing the state’s recent approval of a new 82-bed acute care hospital that Lee proposes to build in South Lee County.  Lee obviously wants to stay front and center in residents’ minds.

“The new Bonita Springs High School is probably about 4 miles from our house.  Lee’s freestanding ER and proposed new hospital are about 3 miles from our house, so all these developments are very close to home.”

Finally, here is a comment by Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times regarding a college football coach preparing for the upcoming season:

“Hawaii football coach Nick Rolovich brought a Britney Spears impersonator to Mountain West media day.

“And if the Rainbow Warriors repeat last year’s 3-9 performance, we assume, they’ll bring her back to sing ‘Oops I Did It Again’.”

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

 

 

An Apocalyptic Sign…

There are no circumstances imaginable wherein I would claim to be any sort of Biblical authority.  Having said that, I ran across a report yesterday that led me to check out a story in the Naples Daily News – that is Naples, Florida and not Naples, Italy – because it seemed to me to be a potential sign of the apocalypse.  The report seemed to be too outrageous to be true but the article in the Naples Daily News confirmed it.

There is a town on the west coast of Florida called Bonita Springs.  In fact, one of the readers of these rants lives in Bonita Springs.  They are building a new high school in Bonita Springs and of course the school will have a football team and a stadium in which to play its games.  Nothing seems even a bit off-center so far, right?  Here is the kicker:

  • Bonita Springs High School just sold the naming rights for its high school football stadium for $292K.  The deal runs for 5 years.

That is outrageous all by itself, but there is another layer here.  What sponsor would want to “invest” $292K to put its name on a high school football field for 5 years?  You would think that it would be a sponsor that was involved in the lives of high school students such as:

  • A clothing manufacturer
  • A local merchant
  • A maker of acne medication.

Not even close.  The sponsor here is Lee Health – the largest healthcare system in southwest Florida.  There are other high schools in that area that have sold off stadium naming rights – albeit for far less money – to local sponsors.  One of the other sponsors is a local heating and air conditioning company; another is a local law firm.  To that mix, we now add a healthcare system.

Here is a link to the article in the Naples Daily News in case you find this sufficiently off-center that you want to see the original piece to convince yourself it is not satire.

There is another “partnership” I want to talk about today.  MGM Resorts and the NBA have announced that MGM is the “Exclusive Official Gaming Partner” of the NBA.  Based on the announcement, I think this is what that means:

  • MGM pays the NBA for its official data which will then be used to determine winners and losers of various bets such as player proposition bets.
  • The NBA will get betting data from MGM as a way for the NBA to monitor “unusual” or “disturbing” trends in betting action on its games.

After years of fighting legalization of sports wagering, the NBA moved very quickly to monetize for themselves the fact that sports wagering is going to be legal is a whole lot of places in the future.  Where one stands on any issue depends on where one is sitting at the moment…

Last weekend, I got an e-mail from a former colleague and long-term reader of these rants saying he was surprised I had not commented on ESPN and its TV offering(s) since my return from the Balkans.  He pointed out that Keith Olbermann is back with ESPN and making various on-camera appearances and I have not commented on that state of affairs.  Also, he was surprised that I had not commented on a new ESPN program called High Noon – guess what time it might be on the air – hosted by Bomani Jones and Pablo S. Torre.  So, here is my response:

  • Since I have been back, I have not caught Keith Olbermann on any ESPN programs and I was not aware that he was “back in the fold in Bristol”.  If my count is correct, this is the fifth time Olbermann and ESPN have been “an item”; the last four times they were “an item” the breakup was ”less than amicable”.
  • Everyone here knows that I really like Keith Olbermann’s commentary and style regarding sports.  I really hope he can keep it together with the sits on mahogany row this time around.
  • I had never even heard of the program High Noon until last weekend.  Typically, I am not watching TV at midday unless it is to watch football on Saturdays and Sundays in the Fall.  So, I tuned in to ESPN2 see what this was all about.
  • This program works!  Bomani Jones and Pablo S. Torre are both intelligent and analytical about the issues they discuss; there is little hysteria; there are no hot-takes.  Most importantly, there appears to be a connection between the two of them that makes their interactions more realistic and more engaging.  If these two guys are not good friends off the air, they are awfully good actors.

Granted, I have only seen two episodes of this program, but I came away with a crazy thought in the back of my mind:

  • Maybe the powers that be at ESPN are prepping these two guys to “take over” the Pardon the Interruption franchise whenever Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon turn off their microphones.  Both pairings involve intelligent and rational people who exude a personal friendship/relationship that goes beyond what is on the screen at the moment.
  • Since I enjoy PTI a lot, that last comment should not be seen as any suggestion that the program be kicked to the curb.  I would hope that PTI would continue for years to come.  But if the suits at ESPN are thinking about “succession planning” for PTI, I think they ought to be watching High Noon closely.

Finally, a word from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times:

“Authorities in Manitoba have dropped marijuana charges against Saskatchewan Roughriders receiver Duron Carter.

“Apparently the instant-replay booth ruled he didn’t have possession.”

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