I Have Not Changed My Mind…

Let me be sure to start with full disclosure here. I was not in favor of the idea of changing the college basketball shot clock from 35 seconds to 30 seconds. I was not upset with the “pace of the game” nor did I think that emulating women’s college basketball or the WNBA – both of which use a 30-second shot clock – was a positive role model for the men’s game. The rules mavens have made the change and after reflecting on that change, I still do not like the 30-second shot clock.

Using the NBA as a role model for the college game is also flawed. When I watch a game between two good NBA teams – such as in the playoffs – here is what “NBA offense” devolves to much of the time:

    1. Give the ball to the best player on a team and have everyone else get out of the way and/or prepare to hit the offensive boards.

    2. Give the ball to the point guard who penetrates and either gets a layup or he passes the ball out to someone standing at the three-point line for a jump shot.

Once in a while, they will add a pick-and-roll to the options above just to “keep the defense honest”. I do not find that nearly as interesting as the men’s college game is. I am not trying to be a harbinger of doom here with regard to the 30-second shot clock, but it is an inexorable fact that the shorter the shot clock the less time a team on offense has to run an offensive set to get a really good shot. I do not think that having the clock at 30 seconds “crosses the Rubicon” so to speak, but it is not a step in the right direction.

My point here is that men’s college basketball and NBA basketball are not the same game; in fact, they are merely cousins not even siblings. The talent level and the athleticism on the worst NBA team is superior to any college team. That is why NBA coaches can focus on simple offensive tactics; they need not employ a lot of trickery or motion for their players to create a good shot. That is also why men’s college basketball ought not to try to emulate the NBA and its shorter shot clock.

Here is another potential problem that a shorter shot clock may create. With less time to run set offenses, some coaches will look to “spread the floor” and have a player drive off that spread formation. To those who thought there were too many free throws in college basketball last year, they will really dislike what happens in games where one or both coaches employ that strategy. There will be loads of fouls called; the only “beneficiaries” may be the guys who are the ninth and tenth men on the squad who will get a few extra minutes on the floor instead of on the bench in some games.

I think there may be another fallout from the rule change that derives from the Law of Unintended Consequences. Let me give you two examples of the Law of Unintended Consequences here before looking at how the college basketball rule change may create some unintended consequences:

    Laws that prohibit public actions or behaviors that are in demand create black markets to serve the need for such actions/behaviors. The fact that you have a “local bookie” is due to the fact that many desirable forms of gambling are illegal and cannot be done in the open. The entire Prohibition Era in the US in the 1920s was an example of the creation of such black markets.

    Back in the 1970s, the US Congress enacted the Federal Election Campaign Act with the purpose of limiting the influence that wealthy contributors may have on federal elections. That law allowed for the creation of PACs – and ultimately Super PACs – which have magnified the amount of influence wealthy contributors might have on elections.

Back to college basketball now… One of the fun/interesting things about the NCAA Tournament is the chance to see a Cinderella team “make a run”. There is usually a Cinderella every year; few of them make it to the Final Four and only NC State and Villanova were Cinderellas that actually won it all. Notwithstanding this limitation, they are fun to watch and even to root for. Shortening the shot clock tends to stack the deck even more strongly against Cinderellas. Shorter shot clocks mean more possessions per game meaning that is a greater number of opportunities for the “better teams” to demonstrate their superiority.

I agree that men’s college basketball needs changes. However, changing the shot clock would not have been my preferred way to make the game better. I think the rules governing contact with players who do not have the ball need to be strengthened – and made points of emphasis for the officials. I think that change would do more to make the game of men’s college basketball better next year than will the shorter shot clock.

That is my story and I am sticking to it…

Greg Cote of the Miami Herald had a different idea for how to improve men’s college basketball and to increase scoring:

“They rejected my idea to encourage quick passes and lots of shots: Randomly exploding basketballs.”

A quick look at the standings in the American League shows some potential for an interesting September:

    The Twins were riding high at the All-Star break. However, in their last 30 games they are 10-20.

    The Angels are only 2.5 games out of first place in the AL West despite a record of 8-17 in their last 25 games. How did the Astros not find a way to open a 6 or 7 game lead here?

    The Rangers are third in the AL in scoring – and they are the third worst team in the AL in runs allowed. Fun and games in Arlington…

    The Blue Jays end the season with their last 7 games on the road. From their point of view, that is a sub-optimal schedule.

Finally, here is one more item from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald:

“National gymnastics championships end Sunday in Indiana, where Miami’s Danell Leyva hoped to perform a parallel bars maneuver so groundbreaking that, if successful, it would be named after him. I can relate. In sports writing, someone who mails in a slapdash column is said to have ‘nailed a Cote.’”

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

Jason Day Is “Off The List”

After Jason Day won the PGA Championship last week, he said that he could no longer be described as the best golfer never to win a major. One of the TV talking heads commented that no one wants to be on that list and Day was rightfully pleased to be “off the list”. I think the talking head is wrong. I think there are millions of weekend golfers who would give their eye teeth to be known as the best golfer in the world never to win a major.

CBSSports.com reported yesterday that the NFL has not yet sent out to the team equipment managers the new pressure gauges they are supposed to use this year. This is a $10B per year organization that has been enmeshed in an air-pressure controversy for a bit more than 6 months now and they have not gotten their act together sufficiently to get new and standard pressure gauges into the hands of the folks responsible for inflating the footballs to between 12.5 and 13.5 psi.

With a few training camp brawls this year, some NFL folks are now saying there needs to be an end to this fighting. Unless the league and the union agree that participation in such brawls is a behavior that gets every player who throws a punch gets removed from training camp for the rest of camp time and gets a one-game suspension, the fights will continue. It has to cost the participants something if you want them to stop with this behavior. Rookies tossed from training camp will likely lose their shot at making the team; vets tossed from training camp may have a better shot at sticking with the team but will lose a game check. That is the kind of rule that would minimize the number of brawls, but there is about no chance at all that the league and the union will agree to do anything like that.

Here is another news tidbit emanating from an NFL training camp – adding to the mountain of evidence that there are surely slow news days in those venues. This comes from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald:

“As the Dolphins and Dolfans prepare for Tuesday’s annual Kickoff Luncheon in downtown Miami, running back LaMichael James informs the media he’d like that we call him “LaMike” from now on. Tell you what. First prove that we won’t be calling you “ex-Dolphin” instead, OK?”

Here is another NFL training camp comment from Brad Rock in the Deseret News:

Green Bay wide receiver Jordy Nelson told ESPN the Magazine he worked 12-hour days in the off-season on the family farm because he identifies “more as a farmer” than as a football player.

He makes $10 million a year. Who does he think he is, Kevin Costner?

Creed will be the seventh opus in the Rocky Balboa movie series; it is scheduled for release late this year. In this episode, Apollo Creed’s son wants to take up boxing and gets Rocky Balboa to train him for his fights. I have no idea if the film will be any good – or even marginally interesting – but there is one hopeful sign. At least Rocky is not still fighting for heavyweight championships; Stallone is getting a bit up in years to pull off that kind of casting. Moreover, Rocky fight scenes would stretch credibility due to the bulging of the Depends under the boxing trunks…

The Boston Red Sox shook things up in their front office. They hired Dave Dombrowski to be team president and director of baseball operations and the current GM, Ben Cherrington, decided to leave the Sox after a transition period. Dombrowski has been a “baseball guy” for the last 35 years; when he was only 31 years old, he became the GM of the Montreal Expos. He has been in decision-making positions with the Expos, the Tigers and the Marlins. During his stint with the Marlins, the team won the World Series.

The Red Sox have been disappointing this year. After a high-profile offseason, the team on the field has not come close to meeting expectations. As of this morning, the Sox are 13.5 games out of first place in the AL East and only the Oakland A’s have a worse record in the AL.

    [Aside: Looking up the A’s record for comparison, I notice that the A’s are 52-69 and yet, they have outscored their opponents this year by 4 runs. That is not commonplace by any means. Only the D-Backs this year have a record under .500 and a positive run differential – and the D-Backs are only slightly under .500 at 58-60.]

Dombrowski was the exec in Florida who dismantled the Marlins team after it won the World Series because then-owner, Wayne Huizenga, demanded cost reductions and that meant moving high priced players to other rosters. I mention that because the Red Sox indeed have some high-priced players on their roster and a few of them are signed to long-term deals. Dombrowski has a reputation for making big trades – he acquired Miguel Cabrera and Max Scherzer in Detroit and he traded away Randy Johnson when he was in Montreal. Might the Red Sox be involved in some big trades this winter?

Finally, here are two items from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“U.S. World Cup star Alex Morgan, playing for the Portland Thorns, tweeted that her team’s hotel in Kansas City was riddled with mold and bedbugs.

“Witnesses say they’d never seen a soccer team so happy to get a clean sheet.”

And …

The University of Illinois has been declared the country’s top party school in The Princeton Review’s annual rankings.

But don’t call it getting drunk. Students prefer the term “getting anesthetized before the Ohio State game.”

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

No College Football Union Now

The National Labor Relations board (NLRB) ruled unanimously yesterday that Northwestern football players could not unionize. That is the headline and seemingly the bottom line. However, reports on this event are confusing because supposedly the NLRB did not rule on the question of whether the football players were employees of the university. The NLRB said:

“We address this case in the absence of explicit congressional direction regarding whether the Board should exercise jurisdiction. We conclude that asserting jurisdiction in this case would not serve to promote stability in labor relations.”

Now that sounds to me as if the NLRB thinks this is none of their business; yet, somehow their decision in something that is none of their business is binding on the parties here. Whatever… I have never thought that the players’ claim that they are employees of Northwestern made a lot of sense so the ruling here does not offend me but the basis of the ruling is strange.

Yesterday, Robert Griffin III told a Washington TV station,

“I feel like I’m the best quarterback in the league and I have to go out and show that.”

Recently, I offered my rankings of starting NFL QBs and Griffin was in the fourth out of five tiers in my analysis. It is not a bad thing for him to think he is the best and that it is incumbent on him to demonstrate that; however, it does seem a tad delusional.

Ever since about June 1, I have been suggesting that A-Rod is the Comeback Player of the Year. I still think that is the case but would like to suggest three other players who merit consideration for that award:

    AJ Burnett: Last year he was 8-18 (leading the NL in losses) with a 4.59 ERA. This year he is 8-5 with an ERA of 3.06 (the lowest ERA of his 17-year career).

    Matt Harvey: He did not play last year recovering from Tommy John surgery. This year he is 11-7 with an ERA of 2.57.

    Jason Kipnis: Last year he hit .240 with 6 HRs and 41 RBIs. This year, he is hitting .274 with 6 HRs and 39 RBIs – and there are still 6 weeks of baseball left this year.

Recently, Scott Ostler posed this rhetorical question in the SF Chronicle. This could be the subject of a term paper in Philosophy 101…

“If Pete Rose were a Buddhist, would he be banned for more than one lifetime?”

The impending departure of Sepp Blatter from FIFA is not without drama. Blatter and Michel Platini (president of UEFA) are taking potshots at each other and FIFA announced that it has started an internal investigation into “corruption”. Given the fact that this is FIFA, that investigation could go on forever absent some boundary conditions on the “corruption” that might be considered. Greg Cote succinctly put this in focus in the Miami Herald:

“FIFA said it has opened an internal investigation into corruption. That’s like the Mafia investigating organized crime.”

That comment leads me to offer a Quick Quiz:

    Which is the more meaningless entity:

      A. The FIFA Ethics Committee – or –

      B. Pre-season college football polls.

    500 words or less…

Bob Molinaro had this comment in his column in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot recently:

“Enablers: Jimbo Fisher had no choice but to accept responsibility for recent events involving Florida State football players striking women – one caught on video, the other being investigated. But it’s not Fisher’s fault. He’s just a cog in the machine. Put the blame on university presidents and other officials for turning a blind eye to what’s involved in the care and feeding of those athletes who don’t belong on campus. The real scandal is these guardians of higher education are never embarrassed enough by a dubious process to do much more than offer lip service to their schools’ true missions.”

All I can say to that is “Preach on, Brother! Can I get an Amen here?” For me the key phrase in that statement is “athletes who don’t belong on campus”. I know my position can be assailed as elitist and exclusionary; nonetheless, I remain convinced that there are loads of people in college who do not belong there and the percentage of such people who happen also to play a “revenue sport” probably approaches 50%.

There is an interesting situation in San Francisco with regard to the Niners’ training camp. They seem to have gotten control of Mr. Peabody’s Wayback Machine and dialed it back to 2001. Consider:

A Bush (Reggie) came to town

A Gore (Frank) left town.

Similar to what happened in Washington DC back in 2001 when a Gore left town and a bush arrived…

Finally, here is one more comment from Scott Ostler regarding Pete Rose:

“I’m 100 percent in favor of letting Pete Rose into the Hall of Fame, but under my proviso that he has to get past Ray Fosse guarding the door.”

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

Counting Down To The Rio Olympics – 12 Months…

We are at 12 months and counting down to the goat rodeo that will be the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. As is always the case when the IOC puts the games in a place where lots of construction and infrastructure needs to be built in a country not accustomed to doing things on a grand scale – see Greece in 2004 as a prime example – it is going to be a race to the finish. I have written before, and it has been confirmed recently, that the promise to clean up the water in the venues for watersports will not be honored. In fact, the Brazilians and the IOC are not going to test that water for viruses – only for bacteria – even though the AP took samples for testing and found the virus levels 1.7 million times higher than levels that “would cause alarm on southern California beaches”. I do not want to make California out to be a perfect model for the world, but a factor of 1.7 million is not something to ignore.

Remember the tradition after the rowing events are over is that the winning coxswain gets thrown into the drink. Given the virus content there and the thousands of gallons of raw sewage that pour into the bay every minute, that is probably not such a great idea this time around.

Back in 2010 when Brazil won the IOC blessing to hold these games, the Brazilian economy was humming along. Today, that is hardly the case. Inflation in Brazil is running amok; unemployment is high, the economy is in tatters (one report said that Brazil contracted almost 400,000 jobs in the last 12 months) and there is a huge corruption probe ongoing with regard to the government owned/controlled oil company there. When Brazil hosted the World Cup in 2014, there were street protests that came perilously close to riot status because the government was spending lavishly on glitzy soccer stadiums and not on basics that people need such as food and transportation. Now the economy is even worse than in 2014, so prepare for more protests and demonstrations.

    [Aside: How can the Greek economy be in such bad shape today? After all, it was only 11 years ago that they hosted the Summer Olympics and reaped all the economic benefits from those Games. You would think they would be in the land of milk and honey still…]

The Games will happen and NBC will be there to telecast them back to the US. And last week, NBC announced that Ryan Seacrest will be the host for the “late night coverage” of the 2016 Games. This is the guy who brings us American Idol and Rockin’ New Year’s Eve. I think anyone interested in the actual sports and competitions associated with these games can read the tea leaves here and look elsewhere for coverage and results. An NBC exec said:

“The late night atmosphere will be electric and we’re thrilled to have Ryan Seacrest in the middle of it all capturing Rio’s unique flavor, talking to Olympic athletes, and telling the stories of the day.”

I will lay odds that he will not talk about the sewage problems in the watersports venue and/or the eviction of people from slum housing in Rio to make way for many of the venues needed for other sports. Neither of those “stories of the day” would be sufficiently “feelgood”…

Let me change the subject partially and speak for a moment about media coverage of the NFL. In addition to the obvious – that the coverage is unending – there are two things that need to be considered at the moment:

    1. The NFL is reported to be “thinking about” moving Super Bowl Media Day to primetime. Media Day is the nonsensical event where reporters from all over the world – most of whom would not know a football from butt hole – ask inane questions and/or dress up in outrageous costumes. It ought to be an abomination in the sight of the Lord. And now they want to put it on TV in primetime to add another revenue stream. Which of the Ten Plagues visited upon Egypt in the Bible should the NFL incur for this awful idea?

      I am torn between swarms of flies, death of their firstborn and festering boils.

    2. Media coverage on all platforms from TV to newspapers to Twitter of the NFL training camps/exhibition games is overblown by at least a factor of 10. Just as with Spring Training in baseball, many of the reports are formulaic and contain little substance. Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald commented on this issue recently:

    “At Indianapolis Colts training camp, T.Y. Hilton showed up with a backpack that looks like a cheeseburger. This is when you know there’s not a lot to write about during training camp.”

There are two NBA reports that merit commentary.

    There will be 5 – that is FIVE – NBA games on television on Christmas Day. Forget any religious significance or any traditional family gatherings on that day; treat it as any ordinary day on the calendar and ask yourself this:

      Do I care sufficiently about 10 NBA teams such that I might find a 5-game TV schedule even marginally enticing? You may stop chortling about now… Oh well, at least it will be a change from the bazillionth re-running of Miracle on 34th Street come December.

    Josh Smith of the LA Clippers has earned $90M during his 11-year NBA career. Last week, he signed a contract with the team at the “veteran minimum” and said that he has a family and things would be a little harder for him this coming year. Forget about the career earnings, as a player with more than 10-years in the league his “veteran minimum salary” will be $1,499,187. Somehow, I do not think he and/or his family will need to be standing in soup kitchen lines in the next 12 months or staying home and eating canned cat food twice a week.

      [Aside: I wonder if Josh Smith ever heard of Latrell Spreewell whose family would not have been able to survive on an absurdly low contract offer presented to Spreewell. As I recall, the offer was something like $7M per year over 3 years.]

Greg Cote had this comment in the Miami Herald recently and it probably will not endear him to Adam Silver:

“Increasingly popular in America, the English Premier League kicked off this weekend. Don’t expect many surprises, though. The league is top-heavy with only four or five teams considered to be realistic championship contenders. We have a phrase in the U.S. for that kind of predictability and lack of parity: ‘the NBA.’”

Finally, here is an item from Dwight Perry’s column, Sideline Chatter, in the Seattle Times:

“Comedian Argus Hamilton, on the FBI probe into the Astros’ online player database getting hacked: ‘When the Cardinals sent scouts to China, everyone thought they were looking for players, not attending a seminar.’”

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

The Good, The Bad And The Ugly – NFL Style

Before I disappeared for three weeks in Eastern Europe, I said that putting a single NFL team in London was not a great idea and that expansion of the NFL to accommodate international expansion was probably a worse idea. My reason was that there is not enough quality quarterback talent to go around as it is.

A reader sent an e-mail suggesting that I do an analysis of the mediocre quarterbacks in the NFL and I agreed that was a good idea but that I did not have time to do it while preparing to go on vacation. Now that I am back, I have run out of excuses…

In order to do this, I have to separate the starting QBs into categories and so I have put them into five categories sort of in the shape of a bell curve. The categories are:

    The Top 4 – or – The Elite

    The Next 7 – or – The Really Good QBs

    The Great Unwashed 10 In The Middle – or – The Good

    The Lower 7 – or – The Bad

    The Bottom 4 – or – The Ugly.

As I was doing the allocations here, I immediately recognized that there will be arguments about where I put certain QBs. However, I don’t think there will be any cases where someone will think I was off by two categories. So here is the distribution in alphabetical order in each category:

The Elite: Brady, Luck, P. Manning, Rodgers. Some might want to suggest that Peyton Manning is on the downside of his career at this point and/or that Andrew Luck has not won anything yet. Fine… I still think all four of these QBs belong in this category

The Really Good QBs: Brees, E.Manning, Rivers, Roethlisberger, Romo, Ryan, Stafford. Some might object to putting Ryan or E. Manning in this category at the expense of Flacco or Palmer. Fine… My objective here is to get to bottom two categories to check out the mediocrity levels there.

The Good: Bradford, Carr, Cutler, Dalton, Flacco, Foles, Newton, Tannehill, Palmer, Wilson. I can sense the unrest boiling up in the readership already. I just put Russell Wilson and Joe Flacco (Super Bowl winners both)in the same category with Jay Cutler and Andy Dalton; yes, I did. More interestingly to me is that I put Nick Foles and Sam Bradford in the same category and they were traded one for another in the offseason.

The Bad: Bridgewater, Cassel, Griffin III, Kaepernick, Mariotta, Smith, Winston. I had to put Winston and Mariotta somewhere and since most rookies struggle a bit I figured to put them here. The Bucs and the Titans have to hope that they will not be in this category should anyone think to do this again next season. However, with regard to the others in the category:

    Bridgewater showed improvement late last year but let us not mistake his performance with the stuff of legends.

    Cassel has been in the NFL for 10 seasons and has had 2 good years (2008 and 2010). This year he battling EJ Manuel and Tyrod Taylor for the starting QB job; any QB in the NFL who is a “certified journeyman” would be the hands-down starter over either of those other guys.

    RG3 had a great rookie year and has stunk in spades ever since. Because of that rookie year, I put him one notch above the abysmal QBs for this year – but one more season like the last two and he will go to the back of the class.

    Kaepernick regressed last year along with the rest of the Niners’ team. Maybe he belongs one category higher here but I do not know who to “demote” from the list above to accommodate him there.

    Smith is a game manager and not much more.

The Ugly: Bortles, Hoyer/Mallett, McCown, Smith/Fitzpatrick. The Texans are trying to decide between Hoyer and Mallett as their starter; for me, this is a coin flip that does not turn out well for the fans in Houston. The Jets will have to go with Ryan Fitzpatrick until Geno Smith’s jaw heals but the fact of the matter is that neither one is very good.

    Bortles has all the physical tools but here are last season’s results. His QB Rating (flawed as that yardstick is) was 69.5. To give you an idea who else is at that rating level, let me point you to Kordell Stewart. Ka-beesh?

    McCown will start his 13th season in the NFL in September; he has averaged fewer than 4 starts per season in his career. Last year in 11 starts, his team was 1-10.

The 11 QBs in the bottom two categories here are not great QBs who suffer only by comparison to the elite ones at the top of the scale. They are a pretty mediocre lot and it makes my point that if the NFL expanded to 36 teams (the next logical number for the league) there would have to be even more mediocrity starting under center in the future. Is that what you really want to see? I don’t.

Finally, to lighten the mood here a bit, here is an observation on the MLB All-Star Game from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald:

“Pete Rose was in the Fox broadcast booth for the All-Star Game. He was very informative. I had no idea that the underdog covers the spread 32 percent of the time in All-Star Games.”

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

Off-Field Football Injuries…

I believe it was Vince Lombardi who said:

Football is not a contact sport. Dancing is a contact sport. Football is a collision sport.

In the course of participating in football as a collision sport, players incur injuries in a variety of ways. Jets’ QB, Geno Smith, just incurred an injury off the field when his jaw collided with the fist of IK Enemkpali who, up until that moment of collision, was a linebacker for the Jets. The first reports said it was a “sucker punch” provoked by Smith’s delay in reimbursing Enemkpali $600 that Smith said he would give to the linebacker. The background here is not important; what is important is:

    Enemkpali was cut by the Jets and just signed with the Bills who, coincidentally, are now coached by Rex Ryan who coached the Bills last year and who play the Jets twice each year.

    Smith is out 6-10 weeks with a broken jaw. That makes Ryan Fitzpatrick the starter on the depth chart for now and, frankly, that is not such a huge step down from Geno Smith. However, if Fitzpatrick goes down, things could unravel quickly for the Jets this year.

According to a report in the NY Daily News this morning, a “Jets’ source” said that Smith deserved what he got not because of his late payment of the $600 but because he was in Enemkpali’s face pointing at him and perhaps even poking him. If that is the case – and I have no way to know if it is –, then Geno Smith is dumber than toast. None of that would raise the level of Enemkpali’s behavior beyond the level of moronic. Even at the Pop Warner level, players know that they should not purposely take out their own starting QB.

The weirdness of this situation calls to mind three other football players who incurred injuries outside the field of play in strange ways:

    Just recently, Jason Pierre-Paul blew off a finger or three playing with fireworks.

    Outside a nightclub at about 2:00 AM, Plaxico Burress felt the need to brandish a handgun – an improperly registered one at that – leading to Burress shooting himself in the leg.

    In the Jags’ locker room the coach had placed a large tree stump and an axe and told players that the motto for the team for that season was to “Keep choppin’ wood.” Punter, Chris Hanson, took all of this very seriously and picked up the axe to chop a bit of the wood. The axe ricocheted off the stump and sliced into Hanson’s leg seriously enough to require surgery and to keep Hanson out for the season.

Football is a collision sport indeed. Nevertheless, players find ways to injure themselves rather seriously outside the game too…

One final note relevant to the Jets and their QB situation came when Jared Lorenzen – you remember him as The Pillsbury Throwboy and/or The Hefty Lefty – tweeted that he was available for the Jets and that he already looked good in green. That is the color of his uniform in an Indoor Football League where he is playing QB at something like 320 bills.

I realize that trying to apply logic to the sequence of events related to the NFL’s desire to put a team or teams in the LA market is a futile exercise and that the only thing that matters is “league revenue”. Having said that, there are strange doings in that arena:

    There was evidently a law in St. Louis and/or Missouri that required a referendum before the city and or state could shell out taxpayer money to upgrade the Rams’ stadium. That requirement meant the city/state could not meet the NFL deadline for proposing what they would do to keep the Rams in St. Louis. So the folks in charge went to court to get the law that was on the books declared too vague to enforce so that they could pledge taxpayer money without a referendum.

    If that is not strange enough, they did that even though the Rams’ owner does not want to stay in St. Louis and would prefer to spend lots of his own money to build a stadium in Inglewood, CA.

    The city fathers in San Diego – after fiddling around with the Chargers on stadium matters for about 10 years – came up with a plan to spend about $400M taxpayer dollars on a new stadium for the Chargers in a location that the Chargers have deemed unacceptable for at least the last 5 years.

    The only sane behavior by city officials comes out of Oakland where the city has not even tried to finance a new stadium for the Raiders for the very simple reason that Oakland does not have that kind of money to throw around. So, the Raiders are faced with this situation:

      A. They stay in Oakland and play in an outdated and dilapidated stadium where the drains back up once in a while putting raw sewage on the locker room floors.

      B. The NFL grants them permission to move to Carson, CA as joint tenants with the Chargers.

      C. The NFL grants them permission to move somewhere else where a new stadium might materialize – think San Antonio or Las Vegas.

Paramount in all of these maneuverings is a strong desire on the part of the NFL that it not be the target of any serious lawsuits by cities that lose teams and/or cities that believe they should have gotten a team if the selection process had been “fair”. The saga continues…

Finally, here is a note from Greg Cote of the Miami Herald from about a month ago related to another lawsuit brought against the NFL.

“A federal court ruling said NFL cheerleaders deserve to earn at least the minimum wage. Thank goodness these women will finally be paid commensurate with the valuable public service they provide.”

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

The Gift That Keeps On Giving…

I have said it before and will reiterate it here. José Canseco is the gift that keeps on giving for these sorts of rants. Here is the latest “Canseco antic”:

    He is going to spend an entire week living as a woman as a show of support for Caitlyn Jenner. Canseco will be in full drag dress-mode for that whole week.

Seriously…

The fact that Canseco will also be involved in his own “reality show” come next Fall of course has nothing to do with this behavior. It is all about learning what Caitlyn Jenner “feels” and nothing at all about an episode for the Internet reality show Spend a Day with José. Yeah, right… That is the reason that Canseco just happened to tell TMZ that he was doing all of this to experience “life as a woman”. If you are buying that, you are probably also in contention to become the next President of the Flat Earth Society.

Here is a link to an article on this nonsense just in case you think I might be making all of this up. Trust me, I do not have nearly the creativity needed to do that…

Speaking of sports figures whose off-center behaviors provide plenty of material for these kinds of rants, let me direct your attention to Sheldon Richardson, nominally a DT for the NY Jets. I say “nominally” because Richardson is certainly going to serve a 4-game suspension for running afoul of the NFL substance abuse policy. Recall, that policy has nothing to do with PEDs or HgH; that is the policy that deals with “recreational substances”. In the aftermath of the announcement of that 4-game suspension that came after a minimum of 2 failed drug tests, here is what Sheldon Richardson did to get his head on straight:

    He got himself arrested for a variety of traffic “violations” including a high speed chase with officers at speeds in excess of 140 mph.

Here are two comments from sportswriters outside the NYC area regarding this matter:

“Suspended Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson got clocked doing 143 mph on a Missouri highway.

“Guess his coaches should have been more explicit when they told him to work on his speed rush.” (Dwight Perry, Seattle Times)

And…

“No more calls, we have a winner! Arrest of the year: Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson, already on NFL suspension for flunking a drug test, is arrested for allegedly driving 143 mph, resisting arrest, tailgating, driving without lights and running a red light. Cops say they find a fully-loaded semiautomatic handgun in the car, which reeks of weed. Awesome.” (Scott Ostler, SF Chronicle)

Here is what some of that Richardson had to say after the fact:

“After my suspension, that was just one bad night. I thought it would be fun to show my family members something. They never rode in a car like that before.”

The car Richardson refers to here is a 2014 Bentley Silver Spur. As a reference, the MSRP for a new one of these puppies is just a tad north of $200K so it is reasonable to assume that Richardson’s family members had never ridden – not rode – in a car like that. It is also probably safe to say that they had never ridden in a car on a public highway in excess of 140 mph and – oh – did I forget to mention that there was a 12-year old child in the car while it was going in excess of 140 mph.

By comparison, José Canseco and his week living as a woman begins to sound perfectly rational and mainstream…

Yesterday, I mentioned some of the myriad exchanges that happened around the MLB trade deadline that I think might have some kind of effect on this year’s pennant runs and/or the futures of the teams involved in the trades. Scott Ostler took a more global view of the trade deadline with this observation:

“Just once at the trading deadline I want to hear a manager say, ‘Do we need help? Did Custer need backup? We’ve got four guys who are like rotted teeth; they must be replaced immediately. Has anyone checked our GM for a pulse?”

You are never going to hear a manager say that out loud, but you have to know deep in your heart that some of them have to be thinking those kinds of thoughts – with a lot of added profanity and scatological imagery – as the trade deadline comes and goes.

It appears that ESPN is going to expand its coverage of the Little League World Series – and the games that lead up to that event – this year. According to reports, there will be 135 Little League games on TV this month and that is an abomination. Remember those football players at Northwestern who are suing the school and the NCAA claiming that they are exploited individuals who toil for the benefit of their school and their conference and the NCAA with nothing coming to them in return? Well, those guys ought to be made to spend a couple of weeks with the kids – and their parents – involved in the Little League World Series. Were I the judge in their case, I think I would order it just as a teaching moment. In terms of athletes who are exploited for the benefit of others and not the athletes themselves, here are some groupings:

    Top Tier: Little League players, women’s rhythmic gymnasts, T-ball players on T-ball traveling teams.

    Much Lower Tier: College athletes on scholarship who play “revenue sports”.

Since I cited Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle twice already today, I might as well go for the trifecta here:

“I don’t write the headlines, but if I did, the story that Tim Lincecum has degenerative hip problems that are keeping him sidelined would have been headlined: ‘Hip-hip no way.”

“For a more exact diagnosis of Lincecum’s problem, we bring in Dr. Bruce Bochy: ‘There’s some stuff going on there.’

“A second opinion from Buffalo Springfield: ‘Somethin’ happenin’ here, what it is ain’t exactly clear.’ “

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

RIP Frank Gifford

Frank Gifford passed away yesterday. He was an excellent player for the NY Giants in an era where football stars were of a much smaller magnitude than baseball stars. I think his off-field involvement with the game was even more important than his Hall of Fame playing career.

In 1970, the NFL was virtually a “Sunday only league”. Yes, it played a game on Thanksgiving Day and yes, it played a game or two on Saturdays in December after the college football season was over. But the vast majority of the games were on Sunday afternoons. Then the Monday Night Football “experiment” started and in the first season Keith Jackson did the play-by-play while Howard Cosell and Dandy Don Meredith were the color commentators. After that opening season, Frank Gifford took over the play-by-play duties and maintained that spot for the next 15 years whereupon he became a color commentator for another dozen years or so.

Monday Night Football showed that the NFL was more than a “Sunday only league” and that it could be a TV juggernaut. Frank Gifford was a significant part of that movement for the league for more than a quarter of a century.

Rest in peace, Frank Gifford.

While I was gone, the good people of Boston – and of Massachusetts as a whole – seemingly came to their senses and terminated their bid to hold the 2024 Olympics there. The mayor of Boston had been a supporter of bidding for the games but when he was faced with signing a “host city contract” that included clauses making Boston responsible for any cost overruns that “might occur”, he balked. Evidently, there was some pressure from various Olympic officials with regard to a deadline for signing and Mayor Marty Walsh would not be cowed by the USOC. The folks in Boston ought to hold a parade for Mayor Walsh.

Again, while I was gone, the baseball trade deadline came and went. Given the number of players changing teams – at the major league and minor league levels – the real winners in all of this would seem to be the moving and storage companies. However, some of the myriad trades seem to me to be more impactful than others and some teams seem to have made out well in the wheeling and dealing:

    Phillies traded Cole Hamels to Texas and got back 5 prospects in return. Texas needs starting pitching and the Phillies are not going to be a serious contender while Cole Hamels is still in his prime. Good trade on both sides…

    Phillies trade Jonathan Papelbon to Washington for a pitching prospect. The Nats’ bullpen has needed help all year and the last thing the Phillies need is a reliable closer in a season where they seek to lose fewer than 100 games.

    Phillies trade Ben Revere to Toronto for two minor league pitchers. Revere can hit for average and can steal a few bases; the Blue Jays can use him in left field and/or as a DH. Good trade on both ends of the deal…

    Tigers trade David Price to Toronto for three minor league pitchers – two of whom are deemed ready for the majors. If those two prospects work out for Detroit, this is a good trade both ways; if not, the Blue Jays come out ahead…

    Rockies trade Troy Tulowitsky and LaTroy Hawkins to Toronto for 3 prospects and Jose Reyes. The Blue Jays are obviously going for the playoffs this season with all these trades. Two question marks here:

      Can Tulowitsky stay healthy?

      Will Hawkins’ eligibility to collect Social security affect his pitching?

    Tigers trade Yeonis Cespedes to the Mets for two minor league pitchers. The Mets need offense and Cespedes can hit. He will be a free agent at the end of this year so this could turn out to be a “rent-a-player deal” for the Mets.

    A’s trade Tyler Clippard to the Mets for a minor league pitcher. Clippard was a very good set-up reliever in Washington up until this year and will help the Nats’ bullpen. More importantly, the Nats wanted him back in recognition of the value he could bring to their bullpen; but the Mets prevented that from happening.

    Reds traded Johnny Cueto to the Royals for 3 minor league left handed pitchers. Given the Royals’ pursuit of the playoffs this year – and perhaps a return to the World Series? – this trade seems to favor them.

    Brewers traded Aramis Ramirez and cash to the Pirates for a pitching prospect. The Pirates are playoff contenders this year and Ramirez’ bat should help them – if he does not give up more runs in the field than he produces at the plate.

There was one exchange that was simply puzzling to me:

    White Sox sent Conor Gillaspe to the Angels for “cash considerations”. Gillaspie has been having a bad season but last year he hit .282 and fielded well. The Angels need someone to play third base while David Freese gets healthy. It seems as if the White Sox – a team going nowhere – could have gotten something more than “cash considerations” here.

Finally, Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald made this observation about minor league baseball:

“Minor league baseball team the LeHigh Valley IronPigs dressed like camels on Hump Day. Here’s your first clue you’re not on the verge of making the majors: you race onto the field in a camel costume.”

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

I’m Back In The Saddle Again…

Gene Autry began all of his Sunday night TV shows by singing these verses:

I`m back in the saddle again
Out where a friend is a friend
Where the longhorn cattle feed
On the lowly gypsum weed
Back in the saddle again.

Ridin` the range once more
Totin` my old .44
Where you sleep out every night
And the only law is right
Back in the saddle again.

That is kind of the way I feel about now getting back into a writing schedule – but with an inability to update or access my old clipboard documents. But that is my problem to resolve…

Bob Connolly had this item in his Dreams Blog recently:

“The Miami Marlins serenaded the Washington Nationals on Wednesday with ‘noises of flatulence’ piped through the stadium loudspeakers while the Nats took batting practice.”

The olfactory imagery here is particularly apt for these two teams. Since the All-Star break, the Nats are about 10 games under .500 and the Marlins have been so bad that they have actually fallen behind the Phillies in the NL East standings. When I left for Eastern Europe, that was almost unthinkable…

The NFL is going to have increased scrutiny of the game balls and their inflation levels this season. Allow me to give that $11B per year entity a brief protocol that ought to obviate any future Deflategate situations while still giving QBs the ability to prep their own footballs:

    Each team will deliver a dozen footballs to the officials 3 hours before game time. Those balls will all be in a deflated condition. The balls will be marked in a way that each ball can be uniquely identified.

    The officials will have in their dressing room/prep room both a pump and a pressure gauge – a calibrated gauge at that.

    The officials will inflate all of the balls from both teams to a pressure within the limits of the rules. They will then record all of those measurements AND they will use sealing wax to cover the valve-stem entry point on the ball. Any ball with a damaged seal will not be eligible to be used for any play in the game.

BaDaBing! BaDaBoom!!!

Dean Blandino – head honcho for NFL officials don’t you know – said recently that officials have to strive for consistency.

    Memo to Dean Blandino: You got that half-right. They need to strive to be consistently correct. If they are consistently wrong, that is not a good thing…

Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle wrote recently that the National Anthem renditions at various sporting events need an upgrade. I could not agree more. Some of the “local talent” they trot out to sing the anthem is enough to make your hair hurt and while it may be “cute” there are precious few sixth grade glee clubs that can sing the song even marginally well. One more note from experience:

    Jazz saxophonists have their place in the musical cosmos but standing at home plate and blaring the anthem in to a microphone prior to a baseball game is not their place.

Tonciu, Romania is a town that thought it needed a soccer pitch for the local youth to play on and to develop their skills on. So, the City Fathers decided to spend about $20K to create such a facility. However, here in Curmudgeon Central, we know well that no good deed goes unpunished and now those City Fathers are being held up to scorn and ridicule for the implantation of their “nice idea”. Here is a link to a story – with a photo – in the Irish Mirror to explain from whence the scorn and ridicule emanate…

Time for a Quick Quiz. We have not had one of these for a while now:

    Which is the worse idea:

      1. Getting onto an elevator with Ray Rice – or –

      2. Putting Lance Armstrong in charge of a drug testing protocol.

    100 words or less…

Finally, Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald and I think alike on this issue:

“There is YouTube video of a drunk golfer in Wolstanton, England, who got his head stuck in a trash can. If this guy is granted an exemption for next year’s Masters, I’ll watch.”

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