High School and College Basketball Futility

One week from today is the 50th anniversary of “The Day The Music Died”. Prepare yourselves to recall the names Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, The Big Bopper (the decedents) and Don McLean (the chronicler). Remember the song That’ll Be The Day?

By now, you must have heard about the Texas girls’ high school basketball game about two weeks ago that ended with a score of 100-0. The headmaster of the winning school apologized for the score; the coach of the winning school took exception to the apology by the headmaster and said that his girls played the game the way it was supposed to be played. The coach of that team has since been fired by the school over his comments about the apology offered by the school administration. I have no interest in trying to assess whether or not the school took a correct course of action in firing its coach; that is a decision that the school can – and properly should – make on its own.

The losing school in this game, Dallas Academy, engages in educating children with “learning differences”. That is their terminology; I intend no snarkiness here. The school’s girls’ basketball team has not won a game in the last four years. None of the losses has come close to the 100-0 debacle of a couple of weeks ago, but they are reportedly winless for four years.

I am a strong proponent of athletics in schools; team sports in particular teach valuable life lessons to participants about achievement in group settings. Nonetheless, the folks who run Dallas Academy really do need to think about what might be the “learning experiences” that their students with “learning differences” might take from four seasons of winless endeavors. It would seem to me as if “futility” is not one of the things that Dallas Academy wants to instill in its students as an experience that necessarily comes with life.

Last week, New Jersey Institute of Technology broke a 51-game losing streak. The Mercy College Mavericks – in NYC – are looking for a way to win a game this year. As of this morning, the Mavericks are 0-17 on the season and some of their losses have been truly ugly. They have lost by 62 points and by 59 points and by 44 points this season. Their closest game was a 6-point loss a week ago. They have scored more than 60 points six times all season long and only once have they scored 70 in a game; on the other hand, they have given up more than 80 points nine times and more than 100 points 3 times. Mercy College appears poised to set a futility standard for the 2008/09 basketball season.

In case you missed this news, Mark McGwire’s brother, Jay McGwire, is seeking a publisher for a “tell-all book”. Reports are that Jay McGwire – a former bodybuilder – will refute José Canseco’s allegations that Canseco was injecting Mark McGwire with steroids as early as the late-1980s. According to reports, Jay McGwire says this is not correct because it was he, Jay, who introduced Mark McGwire to steroids in the early-1990s and that Mark McGwire was a steroid user in that time frame based on Jay McGwire’s opening that vista for him. The working title for this book is: The McGwire Family Secret: The Truth About Steroids, a Slugger and Ultimate Redemption.

Forget the pretentiousness of the title. Ask yourself this question:

    Would you be able to cut the atmosphere at the McGwire Family Reunion Picnic next summer with a knife? Or, would you need a fire axe?

It looks as if the Tribune Company has found a buyer for the Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Field. The price tag is reported to be $900M. It was less than two years ago when one of the financial mags estimated the value of the Cubs and Wrigley Field at $1.3 – 1.4B. So with all the delays and falderal, it seems as if the Tribune Company in its bankruptcy status found a way to get about $400M less for one of its assets than it could have had a year ago. You know when you lose out on a hundred million dollars here and another hundred million dollars there, pretty soon, that adds up to real money…

Frankly, I do not understand the financial merit of the deal as it exists now. I have asked several people to help me out with it but no one has explained it to me in terms simple enough for me to understand. Let us review the bidding:

    Cost of Cubs + Wrigley Field = $900M

    Renovations to Wrigley = $250M (estimate by current CEO of Cubbies)

    Total cost of acquisition = $1.15B

    Cubs’ Payroll = $140M

    Cost to operate team = $160M (estimate)

If the new owners want to realize a profit of 5% on their investment, that means they need to make a profit of $57.5M over and above the cost to operate the Cubs annually. That means revenues have to be $217.5M and I just do not see where they are coming from. Remember, the TV rights have already been sold to one of the local broadcasters for the next several years. Oh, and I have not considered any tax that the new owners might have to pay on their profits from running the team either.

If the Cubs sold out every game at home – they should come close to doing that – they would draw 3.25M fans. As someone pointed out to me, if the average ticket cost $50, that would bring $162M through the turnstiles. While that is a nice chunk of change, it does not tell me where the other $55M or so is going to come from. Oh, by the way, for the majority of games next year, the average price of a seat is not $50; so Cubs’ fans should be ready for a significant rise in ticket prices in the 2009/10 season.

Finally, here is a comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald about a small market baseball team and its expenditures:

“The penny-pinching Marlins have been active in free agency as well, signing [note to self: look up name of that journeyman middle reliever] and securing future rights to a bucket of sunflower seeds.”

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

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  • Peter  On January 27, 2009 at 11:20 am

    Conference officials threatened to suspend a high school football coach in Connecticut a couple years ago after his team beat a hopelessly outclassed opponent 56 to 0. Both teams were from tough inner-city schools. It didn’t matter that the coach had yanked his starters well before the end of the first half. Nor did it matter that for most of the second half, he had his (third-string, by then) players use only running plays. No, according to the persnickety conference officials, he should have ordered his players to refrain from tackling the opponent’s ball carriers. Fortunately cooler heads prevailed and the coach avoided suspension.

  • JJC  On January 27, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    I don’t think the tension is going to be cut with simple hand tools. I think a Sawzall would be the minimum requirement. Here is the basic problem about the book – Jay McGwire is a liar. Nobody, and I mean absolutely nobody, airs dirty laundry which doesn’t impact them in the slightest in order to improve relationships. It’s bridge burning at its finest. If he is going to lie about the purpose of the book I can only imagine what lies he would include in the book. I say that knowing that it is very likely that McGwire used steriods.

    Beer is $6.25 at Wrigley, or so I read somewhere.

  • Rich  On January 27, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    If I was Mark McGwire I would tell my brother Jay that he is now off the invitation list for my Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
    If Mercy College loses by fifty or more it should be referred to as a Mercy killing. Sorry…..

  • Rob  On January 27, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    In a NCAA Div. I men’s basketball game, if a team beat another team by 100 points, that coach would probably be promoted to University President. Particularly if the game was something along the lines of Maryland vs. Duke or Duke vs. North Carolina.

  • The Sports Curmudgeon  On January 27, 2009 at 10:31 pm


    Obviously, I did not see the 100-0 basketball game in question so I really don’t know the extent to which the winning coach “ran up the score”. His firing came not because of the score itself, it is because he spoke out against the apology issued by the headmaster of the winning school.

    I have to agree, he needed to keep his mouth shut at that point…


    I will not be reading Jay McGwire’s book if/when he finds a publisher.

    I understand that beer sales bring in revenue at Wrigley but not all of that goes to the team; they do have to share some of it with the concession vending company.


    And if Mercy College suffers enough “Mercy Killings”, should they not have Dr. Kevorkian as their mascot?


    After what Duke did to Maryland last week …

  • Ed  On January 28, 2009 at 2:44 am

    I guess now we’ll be hearing “American Pie” a lot the next week – and not just when the DJ has to use the rest room…

  • Peter  On January 28, 2009 at 9:24 am

    I thought there was something fishy about that 100-0 basketball score. A shutout in football is not surprising, same for baseball, but in basketball? You’d think that even a hopelessly outclassed team would be able to sink a few field goals. It turns out that the winning team was not only trying to run up its own score, but also was playing highly aggressive defense even after it was clear that the opponent had no chance whatsoever. To me, that goes beyond a mere desire to win, and becomes a matter of humiliating the opponent.

  • The Sports Curmudgeon  On January 28, 2009 at 12:37 pm


    And “Peggy Sue” and “La Bamba” and “Chantilly Lace” too…


    I read one report where the coach of the losing team said that his team only got to attempt seven or eight shots in the game because of the defense played against them. [I have no way of knowing if that is a fact or a self-serving comment.] If true, that means the coach of the winning team is not much of a sportsman.

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