In case I do not write tomorrow, Happy Thanksgiving to everyone who reads these offerings on a semi-regular basis. I hope that you can spend time this weekend with those who are close and important to you and that you have a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday.
The NFL has become a part of Thanksgiving in the US. It started with a traditional game in Detroit; then they added a game in Dallas in the later afternoon; now they have a night game on NFL Network. It has been a while since the Detroit game was an “important game”; often the Dallas afternoon game is one that “means something”; clearly, NFLN wants the evening game to be important.
Remember back in the World Series when there was the suspended game and rain was forecast for at least another 24 hours in Philly and Commish Bud Selig said he was prepared to wait for good weather to finish that game. He said he would wait until Thanksgiving to finish Game 5 in decent weather. OK, Commish, we would like to take you up on that offer this year because the NFL games on Thanksgiving stink.
Detroit plays Tennessee in the early game. As you know the Lions are winless this year at 0-11; they play the Tennessee Titans who are 10-1 with that lone loss coming last weekend. Just what the Lions and the viewing public needed – a Titans’ team coming into Detroit looking to get a foul taste out of their mouths. Only seven teams have ever started an NFL season at 0-11 or worse in the era of 16-game seasons. Only the Lions have done that twice (last time was in 2001).
Last week, the Lions started off with a 17-0 lead on the Bucs and the Lions managed to hold Bucs’ RB, Cadillac Williams, to a total of 26 yards rushing. Nonetheless, the Lions lost the game 38-20; in the final three quarters of that game, the Bucs outscored the Lions 38-3.
Here is how bad the Lions are. This tradition of a Thanksgiving Day game goes back to 1934 in Detroit. This year, the game was not sold out on Monday and the NFL announced that the team would have an extension in the deadline to sell out the game before the league rules imposed a blackout on the home viewing area. I know that the Lions are bad and the economy in Detroit is even worse, but the lack of a sell-out for this game says something about the fans in the area reaching the end of their rope with the ineptitude of this team.
The Lions are 11-point underdogs at home in this contest. If you spend time watching the game, give thanks that you do not have a gambling problem as evidenced by the fact that you do not have a dime on the game.
The second game will match the Cowboys and the Seahawks. The fact that the Lions are winless and that the Chiefs have only one win provides cover for the Seahawks’ incompetence at 2-9. The last time the Seahawks started the season as badly as 2-9 was in 1992 and that iteration of the team finished the season at 2-14. Not a good omen for Seattle fans…
The Seahawks are 13-point underdogs on the road in this contest. Once again, you have the opportunity to give thanks that you do not have a gambling problem as evidenced by the fact that you do not have a dime on the game.
Then, the NFLN game of the week should be nicknamed the “Starbucks Bowl” because it is going to take a whole lot of double espresso shots to stay awake to watch the Eagles and the Cardinals play a game that really means nothing to either team. The Cardinals will win their division absent Divine retribution directed at the team; the Eagles’ season is over; let me be very clear here, O … V … E … R …
For reasons known only to the oddsmakers in Las Vegas, the Cardinals are 3-point underdogs on the road in this game. Perhaps the reasoning is that when the Cards have played in the Eastern Time zone this year, they have lost. Philadelphia is in the Eastern Time zone. Ergo… Other than that, there is no recent on-field evidence to suggest that the Eagles are a superior team to the Cardinals. For the third time in a single day, you may give thanks that you do not have a gambling problem as evidenced by the fact that you do not have a dime on the game.
And so, the overarching question posed by the NFL menu for this Thanksgiving Day boils down to this:
Who wouldn’t want to watch World Series caliber baseball instead of this sorry-assed lineup of games?
Speaking of baseball, the Detroit Tigers do not seem to have gotten the memo that the economy in that part of the world is less than robust. The Tigers announced this week that they would be raising some ticket prices for 2009. Over and above that, the Tigers will institute “premium pricing” for 21 of their games including Opening Day and the series involving the Cubbies, and Red Sox and for all Friday and Saturday night games from June through the end of August. Here is another memo the Tigers’ seem not have received: They finished last in the AL Central last year. If they tank again this year with those increased prices, there will be loads of empty seats in Comerica Park.
Notwithstanding the Tigers’ seeming lack of contact with reality, the LA Dodgers have taken their efforts to fleece their fans to another orbit. The Dodgers just announced that almost 700 seats in their new spring training park in Arizona will go for $90 a game. That’s right; $90 for a seat at a Spring Training game. The other tickets will go for $18 – 30.
It has been more than a few days since the Yankees offered CC Sabathia a reported 6-year deal for $140M. Please notice that he has not set any world land speed records to haul his ample derriere to NYC for the sole purpose of getting ink to dry on that document. Could it be that he might not want to be one of the acts in the Steinbrenner Circus? Combine that with the fact that the Yankees have reportedly also offered AJ Burnett and Derek Lowe deals in the 4-year $60M range and both of them have yawned.
Imagine if that kind of thinking actually caught on among baseball players and that the Yankees were unable to sign these starting pitchers this winter. Yammering Hank Steinbrenner might pop a blood vessel over that one since he clearly believes that it is his birthright as a Yankees’ owner to buy whatever players he chooses to buy for whatever season it appeals to him.
Here we are in mid-November and the NBA season is chugging along on its way to that part of its season where it attracts marginal interest from US sports fans – - February through April. If you want to know how irrelevant these November games are, consider a report from USA Today this week. It seems as if Michael Jordan – part owner and chief executive of the Charlotte Bobcats – is in Dubai and is scheduled to be there through early December. Even he cannot feign interest in the irrelevant early-season NBA games…
I also read a report that the Knicks offered Stephon Marbury to the Dallas Mavericks even-up for Jason Kidd. It did not happen but here is my interpretation of the proposed trade:
Neither team would be shoring up its defense via this transaction because neither of these guys can or will guard an Easter Island statue.
The Columbus Crew captured the MLS Cup last weekend beating the NY Red Bulls 3-1. The game was well-played and had a good fast pace to it; MLS is not yet near the pinnacle of soccer competition as it exists in Europe, but these two teams played a competitive and interesting game. The game was played in Los Angeles and all 27,000 seats were sold for the game; not every ticket holder showed up, but the stadium looked about 95% full to me. Prior to the game, Greg Cote had this comment in the Miami Herald:
“The Columbus Crew and the New York Red Bulls battle Sunday for the Major League Soccer title. Wouldn’t it be great if the Red Bulls lost because of a lack of energy?”
Finally, here is another bit of analysis from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald:
“The [Miami] Heat re-signed Dorell Wright, leaving fans to wonder if that was good news or not. Now the team is taking a look at free agent centers Jamaal Magloire and D.J. Mbenga, because all of the good centers are taken. Meantime, former Heat center Earl Barron signed a $2 million deal with Italy’s Fortitude Bologna, which evidently hadn’t heard he wasn’t any good.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…