An Added Service – At No Extra Charge

It stands to reason that anyone who reads these rants more than once in very long while is some kind of a sports fan. It also makes sense to conclude that sports fans who read these rants have friends/relatives who are similarly sports fans. Now, with the Christmas/Chanukah season approaching and the tradition of gift exchange, I want to offer a sort of concierge service to the readers here. I have some reading recommendations for everyone and by extension these recommendations may resolve a gift buying quandary for some folks.

Usually, I provide recommended readings one at a time. Today, I want to offer you a smorgasbord of reading options. [Aside: This list can be a buying guide for you or it can give you some “hinting options” that you may drop to folks who will be getting a gift for you. This is functional multi-tasking.]

Personally, I enjoy a certain genre of sports books; I like to read about “the inner workings” of things that I enjoy – or enjoyed in times past. By “inner workings” I do not mean reading a newspaper feature called “Inside Baseball” or “From the Locker Room”. What I mean is a well-researched book about the inner workings of stuff like:

    How did Sports Illustrated come to exist and how did it become so damned good before it crashed and burned?

    Same question as it pertains to ESPN – except ESPN has not yet crashed and burned?

    How did the AFL come into existence and how did it grow become a merger partner with the NFL?

    Ditto the ABA…

As it happens, there are books that delve into those histories and give you those kinds of insights. I happened to go to my bookshelf to get a new book to read yesterday and noticed something on the shelf I have that is dedicated to:

    Books I have read that I want to keep because I might read them again.

What caught my eye was that I had a bunch of books of this “inner workings” genre and all of them were good enough to keep – and possibly to read again.

So, in alphabetical order here are six recommendations. I enjoyed all of them and would not want to try to put them in any kind of rank order. I have included a link whereby you can order the book if you so choose. These are not sponsored links in any way; these are simply offered for your convenience. [By the way, if one of these recommendations appeals to you and no one gets it for you, these links will allow you to order it for yourself.]

1. End Zones & Border Wars by Ed Willes. Gregg Drinnan, former Sports Editor for the Kamloops Daily News, alerted me to this book and I am glad that he did. This is the story of the Canadian Football League’s attempted expansion into the US in the mid-1990s. In order to tell that story, the author has to tell you a lot about the precarious finances of the CFL at the time and about the owners of the teams that had led the league in such financial jeopardy. To be sure, the NFL has – and has had – its share of zany/blockheaded owners. Nevertheless, the antics and shenanigans of some of the CFL owners would make most NFL owners from today and from yesteryear blush. Before reading this book, I knew something about Bruce McNall (former owner of the Toronto Argonauts) and Nick Miletti (former owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers) but I had never heard of Murray Pezim or “the Gliebermans”. Each one of those folks can easily carry the label “piece of work”. This book is an easy and fun read; you could finish it over a rainy weekend if you wanted to.

Ordering info for End Zones & Border Wars is here…

2. ESPN The Uncensored History by Michael Freeman. The Introduction to this book presents a lengthy memo from Keith Olbermann to ESPN’s “On Air Staff” informing everyone of some legal entanglements they might find themselves in based on some business decisions taken by others at ESPN. Immediately, you recognize that the author has done a ton of research and there will be lots of information in the following pages. This is the story of how the idea of creating a 24/7 cable sports TV network grew to become “The Worldwide Leader…” Some of my favorite on-air personalities came off having feet of clay; some of the folks I did not find particularly entertaining came off as heroes/heroines. The book was written in 2001 so some recent events at ESPN are not included here, but it does give an interesting look into the first couple of decades of ESPN. I doubt you can read this in a weekend, but it is still definitely worth the time it will take.

Ordering info for ESPN The Uncensored History is here…

3. Going Long by Jeff Miller. This is the history of the AFL – how it started, what it did to survive, how it grew and who made it all happen. The book is a compilation of interviews with players, owners, coaches and officials of the old AFL that Miller interweaves to tell a narrative. I cannot imagine how difficult it must have been to write the book in that way. Having said that, the book is as entertaining as it is informative. [Did you know that one of the original owners of the Oakland franchise wanted to call the team the Oakland Seňors?] The whole story is here from the players on the field to the machinations it took to sign those players to teams before the “other league” got them. Oh, and there is all the behind the scenes stuff about the merger of the two leagues and how league officials were traveling in disguise and using phony names to register at NYC hotels. Definitely worth reading…

Ordering info for Going Long is here…

4. Loose Balls by Terry Pluto. This is the history of the ABA from how they decided to use red, white and blue basketballs to the players’ accomplishments on and off the court to the chaotic way the teams were originally formed to how the world’s first slam dunk contest came to exist. Like Going Long, this is a verbal history where the author mixes and matches myriad interviews in order to tell an amazing narrative. The ABA had enough characters and chaos involved with its existence that it provided plenty of interesting events for the author to chronicle here. You may not recall that the ABA was where Larry Brown and Doug Moe began their pro basketball careers and where Pat Boone (Yes, THAT Pat Boone) was a franchise owner. If you like basketball, you will like this book.

Ordering info for Loose Balls is here…

5. The Franchise by Michael MacCambridge. This is the first book of this genre that I ever read. The book begins in 1954 when Time Inc decided that “sports” was sufficiently interesting to a sufficient number of people that “sports” merited a magazine of its own. That may sound simple, but the creation of Sports Illustrated was hardly simple. There have been great writing talents who plied their trade with that magazine and there were dedicated editors there too; those talents trumped all of the problems and obstacles that SI faced in its infancy. In this volume, you learn how people like Jim Murray, Dan Jenkins, George Plimpton, Frank DeFord and others came to the magazine and what they did to make it a great publication. I have read the book twice and will likely go back and read it again one of these days.

Ordering info for The Franchise is here…

6. The National Forgotten League by Dan Daly. This book is the history of the NFL from 1920 to 1970. Today, many folks like to relate NFL happenings to records “since the merger with the AFL”. This book goes back to the pre-merger events and digging up information from back then was no easy task because pro football was not nearly as important as it is now. Finding newspaper/magazine/Internet coverage of the NFL today is trivially easy. Coverage of the Rochester Jeffersons and/or the Minneapolis RedJackets was not nearly so ubiquitous. Not only are the stories here entertaining, some can make you shake your head. For example, one team in the 1920s did not have numbers on its uniforms; it used letters to identify players. [By the way, before you read Going Long (from above),I recommend that you read this book as a lead-in.]

Ordering info for The National Forgotten League is here…

I hope that I just solved at least 10% of your Holiday shopping problems and it is only mid-November. You can wait until you finish reading one or more of these books to thank me.

Enjoy.

Baseball Doings

There have been two managerial changes in MLB already. With regard to the Twins’ hiring of Paul Molitor as their new manager, I think it would have been more important for the Twins to hire him as their designated hitter. Whatever… The Cubs’ hiring of Joe Maddon is a bit more interesting.

Maddon has proven to be a guy who can develop young players and who can create a team environment that is conducive to winning. The Cubs purportedly have some great young prospects just about to ascend to MLB; and Lord knows, a “team environment conducive to winning” is a missing ingredient in Chicago. When Maddon took over the Rays, the team lost 101 games in his first year there; two years later, the Rays won 97 games. He has taken teams to the playoffs four times. All signs point to Maddon being just the guy for the job – – except for one nagging issue…

The Cubbies’ front office is run by Theo Epstein as President of Baseball Operations and Jed Hoyer as GM. Both Epstein and Hoyer are high priests in the Church of Sabermetrics and New Age Analytics. A fundamental creed of said church is that winning rarely if ever depends on the manager but losing can often be attributed to managers who do not adhere to the orthodoxy of the new church. A few acolytes in the new church have used the recent success of novice managers (Don Mattingly, Brad Ausmus) as evidence that “managerial experience” is also overrated – so long as the new guy adheres to analytics. Joe Maddon does not fit the creed here; he has lots of experience – albeit in a league with the DH – and he is not coming to the Cubs at a bargain basement price.

There is another baseball-related item on my clipboard for comment. As the wretched story of Alex Rodriguez continues to spiral downward, the latest bit of disgusting “news” is that the wife of his cousin, Yuri Sucart, claims that A-Rod once urinated on the floor of their house as a way to demonstrate his dominance over Sucart and his wife. Let me say from the outset that without DNA evidence, this is a he said/she said situation. Nonetheless, I have to agree with Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle with this overview comment:

“That’s such a nice story about Alex Rodriguez peeing on his cousin’s floor, to show his cuz who ranks higher on the family food chain. Just when you thought A-Rod couldn’t get any more charming.”

I have been on this planet for a tad over 7 decades; in that span of time, I have occasionally had emotional confrontations with other residents of this celestial orb; I suspect that many of you have had such interactions too. Having said that, I have never – not even one time – had the thought cross my mind to reach down into my nether regions and relieve myself on someone’s floor/rug as a means of making a point in the argument. Moreover, I do not know anyone else who has done that. If this ever happened, the only way I could label such behavior would be disgusting, puerile and vile.

Scott Ostler followed up his comment above with this one:

“There’s a lot of snitching going on regarding the various Rodriguez PED dealings, but in this case we know who the leak is.”

The Department of Homeland Security oversees US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). If you happen upon the ICE website, you will notice that these folks are after folks who do things like importing military equipment for resale here in the US, deporting various “bad guys” who are in the US illegally, tracking down people who prey on children and folks involved in human trafficking. I have to guess that ICE officers with experience and savvy are the ones who go after those kinds of sub-humans and that ICE needs to train new officers with regard to the techniques and tactics necessary to close out various illegal activities and that they use lesser investigations of that type as “training experiences”. I reach that conclusion because:

    During the World Series, ICE seized several thousand counterfeit shirts and baseball caps with the SF Giants logo that street vendors were offering for sale.

I understand that counterfeit memorabilia is not a good thing and that the perpetrators are indeed breaking the law. Nevertheless, in the hierarchy of evildoers in the world, people who prey on children and people involved in human trafficking are so infinitely more odious than memorabilia counterfeiters that I have trouble worrying about the counterfeiters a whole lot so long as there are dozens if not hundreds of those other kinds of animals on the loose.

Congratulations to ICE for enforcing the law here. Now, please get more of the REALLY bad guys off the street and into a dungeon somewhere. Thanks in advance…

Finally, let me close today with a lengthy quotation from Arizona Cardinals’ coach, Bruce Arians from an interview reported on SI.com. I know I am going to sound like the old guy sitting on the porch telling the neighborhood kids to get off my lawn; nonetheless, I find this saddening:

“Injuries happen to everybody. Free-agent losses happen to everybody. I preach and preach and preach, ‘The most valuable player on the team is not Larry Fitzgerald. It’s who’s gonna take his place after Larry Fitzgerald gets hurt.’ It happened to me. I was the next man up. I was the assistant coach, and 20 hours after Chuck (Pagano) goes down I am running the (Colts). You’re expected to raise your level of play, no matter what your job is. I always tell the Wally Pipp story, even though the players never know who he is, that he’s the guy Lou Gehrig replaced and Wally Pipp could never get his job back. The worst part? They don’t know who Lou Gehrig is.”

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

Bottom Of The Barrel

People spend most of their time focused on the best teams in a league trying to sort out which of the top teams is actually THE best team. It is a useful train of thought and it can generate plenty of debate. Here in Curmudgeon Central, I spend time focused on the worst teams in a league trying to figure out why they are so bad and what they might do to get better. It is not a particularly productive train of thought and it generates little if any debate since most other people do not care much about the really bad teams. I mention this here because I have been thinking about what I believe are the 4 worst teams in the NFL right now.

I am not going to “rank” this “Quartet of Futility” because it would serve no purpose. Rather I want to try to figure out how these teams might get out of the situation they are in right now.

First up are the Tampa Bay Bucs. With a record of 1-7, the Bucs sit at the bottom of the woeful NFC South. Their lone win came at Pittsburgh in stunning comeback fashion. They also have lost to some other not-so-good teams such as the Falcons, Rams and Panthers. They have surrendered 56 points to the Falcons and 48 points to the Ravens and I think that is important because their new head coach, Lovie Smith, is purportedly a “defensive guru”. What this “defensive guru” did almost as soon as he got the keys to his office door was to sign journeyman QB Josh McCown and announce that McCown was the Bucs’ starting QB. The “defensive guru” immediately inserted himself into one of the most critical decisions on the offensive side of the ball. Neither McCown nor Mike Glennon – the backup QB who had been displaced by McCown – has covered himself in glory this season.

    McCown started 3 games and averaged a measly 140 yards per game passing.

    Glennon started 5 games and has been sacked more than 3 times per game.

At age 35, McCown is not the “QB of the Future” in Tampa; Glennon may or may not be but the Bucs will not know that if they put McCown back as the starter. Obviously, the team has other things to fix too; no QB is responsible for giving up 56 points in a game and it is the OL that has to improve to minimize the number of times a QB is sacked/hurried/hit. I have never thought of Lovie Smith as a top shelf coach – even when he guided the Bears to the Super Bowl – so I am not sure he is the guy to find a way out of this morass.

Next up, we can stay in Florida and think about the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jags record is 1-8 and they are the only team in the league that has given up 100 more points than it has scored this year. Like the Bucs, the Jags have a young QB. Blake Bortles got the starting job in Week 3 after Chad Henne did nothing interesting in Weeks 1 & 2. Bortles has struggled as you would expect of a rookie on a not-very-good team, but the real problem in Jax seems to be the defense. The opening game of the year was an omen.

    The Jags led the Eagles 17-0 at halftime; the Eagles had more turnovers in the first half than a bakery.

    In the second half, the Jags defense allowed 34 points; the Eagles stopped turning the ball over; the final score was 34-17.

Week 2 was no better for the Jags. Playing the Skins, RG3 dislocated his ankle putting Kirk Cousins into the game. Cousins’ first play was a 35-yard TD pass to a receiver so open that I thought of the old Lil Abner character, Lonesome Polecat. The Jags defense rolled over, played dead and lost that game 41-10. The Jaguars need a talent transfusion on the OL, at WR and most assuredly on defense. If you can name three starters for the Jags on defense, it means one of three things:

    1. You live in the TV footprint of the team and have to see them on TV more often than you want to.

    2. You got stuck with the Jags’ defense in your fantasy league.

    3. You have way too much time on your hands.

The third team in this “Circle of Stink” is the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders are 0-8. In my pre-season analysis, I said the team would win 5 games and be improved over last year. That is simply not going to happen and the main reason it is not going to happen is that the Raiders’ OL is miserable. With the exception of Stefen Wisniewski, I do not think any starter on the Raiders OL would start anywhere else in the league. Consider these rankings:

    Raiders are 32nd in the NFL – dead last – in rushing attempts, rushing yards and rushing TDs.

    Raiders are 4th in the NFL in passing attempts (because they are behind so much and cannot run the ball) but only 22nd in yards passing and 29th in yards per passing attempt.

    Raiders have scored 12 TDs in 8 games.

If the Raiders do not fix the OL, it will make no difference who plays QB or who coaches the team. Yes, the Raiders need upgrades at other positions (WR and CB come quickly to mind); this is going to be a multi-year rebuilding process. If anyone in the Oakland hierarchy thinks that this team can be fixed in one year, they probably are counting on Al Davis returning to the team with his football acumen of the 1970s reinstated. In short, not gonna happen…

Last on the list are the NY J-E-T-S, Jets Jets Jets who have a 1-8 record as of today. Because they are in NYC, the Jets get more scrutiny and national attention than the other three teams on my list so even casual NFL fans probably know about the QB fiasco there and the poor play of the secondary. However, let me offer two points to try to show how ineffective the Jets’ defense is:

    In 9 games, the Jets’ defense has created 3 turnovers; the last one was on October 5 – more than a month ago. Only 1 of those turnovers was an interception.

    The defense has allowed 24 TD passes in 9 games.

The problem for the Jets is simple. They have talent on the DL and at LB; other than that, they are deficient and like the Raiders, the fix is not going to be quick. However, the impatience of NY fans and the NY media will likely put pressure on the Jets to make some quick-fix moves. I do not think that will help…

A group of Jets’ fans has raised money to buy a billboard ad near MetLife Stadium that will say “Fire John Idzik”. A pilot flew a small plane over the Jets’ practice field towing a sign that said the same thing. These folks have issued public statements to the effect that they represent the body of Jets’ fans who are disgusted and whose voices will now be heard. A coach – I cannot remember which one – once said that if you start listening to the fans in the stands you are likely going to join them as fans in the stands. GM John Idzik might want to take heed here…

Finally, here are two snarky comments about the NY Jets. As I said, they are in NYC so they get more attention than the other three teams on my list:

“The Jets are starting Michael Vick because of Geno Smith’s interceptions. Looking to Vick as a solution to your turnover problem is like hiring an obese chain smoker as your personal trainer.” [Greg Cote, Miami Herald]

And…

“Here is a new and important announcement from the CDC. You will not become a Jets’ fan through casual contact with a Jets’ fan.” [David Letterman]

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

Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend Of 11/9/14

First, a look back at last week’s Mythical Picks:

    I liked Saints -3 over Panthers. Saints won by 18. Yes!

    I liked Dolphins -1.5 over Chargers. Dolphins won 37-0. Yes!

    I liked Jags +11 against Bengals. Bengals won by only 10. Yes!

    I liked Bucs/Browns OVER 43.5. Total score was 39. No!

    I liked Skins/Vikes OVER 43.5. Total was 55. Yes.

    I liked the Skins “pick ‘em” over Vikes. Skins lost. No!

    I liked Eagles -2 over Texans. Eagles won by 10. Yes!

    I liked Jets +9.5 against Chiefs. Chiefs won by 14. No!

    I liked Jets/Chiefs OVER 41.5. Total was 34. Double No!

    I liked Cards +4 against Cowboys. Cards won outright. Yes!

    I liked Rams/Niners OVER 43.5. Total was only 23. No!

    I liked Broncos/Pats OVER 54.5. Total was 64. Yes!

    I liked Pats +3 against Broncos. Pats won straight up. Double Yes!

    I liked Seahawks -15 over Raiders. Seahawks won by 6. No!

    I liked Steelers “pick ‘em” over Ravens. Steelers won. Yes!

    I liked Colts -3 over Giants. Colts won by 20. Yes!

I know this will shock regular readers here but last week was mythically profitable with a 10-6-0 record. The last week in that category was the weekend of 21 September; I was “0-for-October” in terms of getting over .500 let alone over the “profitability hurdle”. The season record remains dismal at 59-82-2.

There were no Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Games last week so the coin’s cumulative record remains at 7-13-0.

Lest anyone get carried away by the euphoria of last week’s profitability, I have to offer the standard reminder. No one should use anything here as the basis for making a real wager on an actual NFL game this weekend should said wager involve real money. Anyone stupid enough to do so is also stupid enough to trip over a cordless phone.

General Comments:

Last weekend I was in Las Vegas with friends and the wagering experience there makes an important point about wagering in general on sporting events. The lines move a lot. Sometimes the line movement makes the difference between winning and losing – or “pushing”. Obviously, I have to use mid-week lines (sometimes early week lines) to compile these picks if they are going to be up on the website by mid-day Thursday. By Sunday, the lines often change. Examples:

    I picked against the Jax +11 line against the Bengals last week and had a mythical win there. At game time, the line was Jax +10; that was a “push”.

    I picked against the Eagles -2 line against the Texans last week. In the time we were in the sportsbook, that line was as high as 2.5 and as low as 1 point. The Eagles covered in all cases, but the changes on the board were frequent.

    I picked against the Jets +9.5 against the Chiefs. When we arrived, the line was 9; by game time, it was down to 8; for a fleeting moment, it was 7.5.

Something to remember if one is actually wagering actual money on real games is that lines differ from time to time and also from place to place; they are not stagnant or fixed and line movements can make a difference between a win, a loss and a push.

With Nick Foles out for a month or so with a broken collarbone, I now regret saying last week that the Eagles needed to block JJ Watt and Jadeveon Clowney “so that they do not break Nick Foles like a match stick”. I may not be the warmest/fuzziest person on the planet but I try to reserve my wishes for pain and injury on despicable folks such as child abusers. Nick Foles does not fall into any of my categories of “despicable folks”…

The Cowboys and Jags will play in London this weekend. I would like to ask the scheduling and marketing mavens in the NFL this question:

    Are you worried even a little bit that the fans in London/Great Britain might quickly get tired of seeing the Jaguars play so many games over there?

If those fans follow the NFL even a little bit between the live games over there, they have to realize that the Jaguars are bottom-feeders in the NFL and that the Jags ownership uses the games over there as a revenue enhancer for his team since he cannot sell out his stadium in Jax. According to a report on sportsbusinessnews.com, London games are a windfall for the Jags. You can read the whole report here, but some basic numbers are as follows:

    Wembley Stadium seats 84,000 and draws crowds near capacity. Average ticket price there is $124.

    EverBank Field (in Jax) seats 67,164 with the tarps on the upper deck seats that cannot be sold. Average ticket price there is $85.

    Doing simple math, total revenue from ticket sales in London is $10.4M; ticket revenue in Jax is 5.71M. And that assumes that they sell out the stadium in Jax, which is not axiomatic…

Last week, the Cardinals dominated the Cowboys. Brandon Weeden was hardly “sharp” in the game but he was not awful either. The Cards are now 7-1 and they lead the NFC West comfortably. Bill Parcells used to say that you are what your record says you are; by that yardstick, the Cards are the best team in the NFC. The Cowboys’ defense had been highly successful prior to last week; they surely did not dominate the Cards in that game. Might it be that the Cowboys’ defense has been playing over its head for the first half of the season? If so – and if Tony Romo has to miss significant time down the stretch – the Cowboys that were 6-1 might not be very similar to the Cowboys we will see in December.

The Seahawks are chasing the Cards in the NFC West but they looked bland as they held on to beat the woebegone Raiders by 6 points last week. Russell Wilson did not distinguish himself in the game going 17-35 for 179 yards. Meanwhile, the Raiders’ OL hardly covered themselves in glory considering that the leading rusher for the Raiders was Darren McFadden who gained the grand total of 20 yards on 13 carries. Here are two questions to ponder:

    Is the Seahawks’ mediocre record this year due to injuries or to Super Bowl Hangover Syndrome?

    Or both…?

Speaking of lackluster play, the Niners looked as if they were sleepwalking through the game against the Rams. It may now be time to call out some of the football pundits for some explanations:

    Remember how lots of analysts were telling us that Colin Kaepernick was redefining the way the quarterback position was to be played in the NFL? I do. Now I want to know exactly what they meant by all of that?

FYI, last week Kaepernick was sacked 8 times and fumbled 3 times. That kind of performance does not “redefine the way to play QB” in any positive sense.

The Saints beat the stumbling Panthers and looked good doing it. Drew Brees is playing better and I think the Saints win the NFC South in a walk at the end of the season – unless of course Brees is abducted by aliens and taken to the Xygork Nebula for poking and probing… I have no idea what happened to the Panthers’ defense that was so good last year. I have difficulty believing that the absence of Greg Hardy is the full explanation for the huge decline in that unit this season.

The Colts bounced back from their disastrous performance against the Steelers to manhandle the Giants last week. That makes 3 losses in a row for the Giants; here is a measure of the dominance by the Colts in the game:

    The last time the Giants allowed 40 or more points and 440 yards of offense in a home game was in 1948 – and that game was played in the Polo Grounds.

The Steelers win over the Ravens last weekend was an organized ass-kicking and the loss leaves the Ravens in last place in the AFC North despite a winning record. I certainly never saw that coming. The Ravens’ OL was not very good in that game; that unit will have to play a lot better if the Ravens are going to make the playoffs.

That was the second game in a row where the Steelers looked impressive (They beat the Colts two weeks ago.) During the halftime of the Ravens’ game, the Steelers retired Mean Joe Greene’s number 75. Question:

    What took them so long? He retired 33 years ago. He has been in the Pro Football Hall of Fame for 27 years. He was the anchor of the “Steel Curtain”.

The Chargers went to Miami in what most folks thought would be a close game; the spread was 1.5 points. The Dolphins proceeded to beat them like egg whites by a score of 37-0. A couple of points here:

    I know the Chargers have “inconsistency” in their team DNA; they have demonstrated that for years. Nonetheless, a shutout? Philip Rivers threw 3 INTs. The leading rusher gained 23 yards.

    Recall that the Dolphins dominated the Pats back in Week 1. Are the Dolphins a serious playoff team?

The Eagles beat the Texans by 10 points last week but the defense played better than the score shows. Two of the Texans TDs came off turnovers by the offense – a Pick Six and a scoring drive of 7 yards. The Eagles will feel the loss of DeMeco Ryans at LB over the rest of the season; he is out with a reported tear of the Achilles tendon.

The Chiefs used a solid running game – against a good Jets’ rushing defense – to dominate the game against the Jets. The Chiefs converted 8 of 13 first down situations. Oh, by the way, the Chiefs’ defense is pretty good too…

The Browns are in contention for a playoff spot – yes, they are – and they will get Josh Gibson back in December once his 12-game suspension is finished. Of course, that assumes that Gibson does not do something abysmally stupid between now and December 1. If Gibson is in playing shape, he is the best WR on the roster and will be available for the Browns’ final 4 games, which are:

    Vs. Colts
    Vs. Bengals
    At Panthers
    At Ravens

The Pats spanked the Broncos. Forget the Manning-versus-Brady angle to the game; what was evident was that the Broncos had no one on defense who could cover Rob Gronkowski. He caught 9 passes for 105 yards in the game and more than a couple of them were simple pitch-and-catch plays where he was wide open. Despite the 22-point margin of victory, I had the inkling that I was seeing a prequel for the AFC Championship Game last week…

The Skins lost to the Vikes by a field goal last week. The story of that game has not all that much to do with the return of RG3 and whether or not that was a good decision by Jay Gruden. What happened to the Skins is what has happened to them myriad times in the past. In the fourth quarter when the team is in a position to win or tie a game, the defense lays down like dogs; that is what the Skins’ defense did last week. In the fourth quarter, they allowed rookie QB, Terry Bridgewater, to engineer two long TD drives (76 yards and 73 yards). In those drives, Bridgewater was 9 of 13 passing for 102 yards. When the Skins needed an impermeable defense, they put out a sponge.

The Games:

Here are the teams getting the week off:

    Texans: Reports say they will go to Ryan Mallet as the QB next week.
    Colts: They deserve a break after the game they played against the Giants.
    Vikes: On a 2-game winning streak…
    Pats: Like the Colts, they earned themselves a week off.
    Chargers: Should spend two weeks asking themselves, “WTF?”
    Skins: Racing the Giants to the bottom of the NFC East.

(Thurs Nite) Cleveland at Cincy – 6 (45): The Battle for Ohio is on national TV – if you get NFL Network in your cable/satellite package. The Browns are 5-3; the Bengals are 5-2-1. Sandwiched between them in the AFC North standings are the Steelers at 6-3 while the Ravens are chasing everyone in the division at 5-4. This game – as all the division games in the AFC North – is important. The Browns record partly reflects the fact that they have not had a murderous schedule – particularly in the last month. Four of their last five games were against the Titans, Jags, Raiders and Bucs. At the same time, the Bengals – leading the division at the moment – have only outscored their opposition by 7 points over 8 games; the Bengals can be a tad schizophrenic. I think the Bengals will establish their run game here against the Browns and that will set up Andy Dalton/AJ Green. I like the Bengals to win and cover at home.

Dallas vs. Jax (no lines) (London Game): Obviously, the “Tony Romo Situation” is what has kept this game off the boards. Frankly, I would not allow Romo even to dress for the game. If the Cowboys cannot handle a team like the Jags using their backup QB, then they are doomed should Romo get hurt in this game or any game down the line. So, why not sit him out here and give him this week – and next week because it is the Cowboys’ Bye Week – to get as well as he can? One thing I will be looking at in the stats for this game is how the jags run the ball. If Denard Robinson and Toby Gearhart run effectively on the Dallas defense, then maybe that unit has been overrated for the early part of the season.

Miami at Detroit – 3 (43.5): Back in August, I would never have circled this game as a potential “Game of the Week”. However, it just may be… Both teams have shown that they can win on defense:

    Lions are 1st in the NFL in total defense.
    Lions are 1st in the NFC in rushing defense.
    Dolphins are 1st in the AFC in total defense.

Both teams will bring credible offenses to the field. In particular, the Lions have to be excited to see Calvin Johnson back on the “active list”. These teams do not play each other very often; since 2001, they have only met 3 times. This is a Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game and the coin says to take the game to go OVER.

KC – 1.5 at Buffalo (42): Two teams with 5-3 records meet in this game; the Chiefs have won 3 in a row; the Bills have won 2 in a row. The Chiefs are 11 yards per game better on defense and 11 yards per game better on offense. That means the teams are evenly matched statistically. In Week 1, the Chiefs gave up 243 yards passing; since then, no team has been able to get that many yards in a game. In terms of scoring differential over 8 games, the Bills are +13 and the Chiefs are +62. I think the Chiefs are the better team so I’ll take them to win and cover – even on the road.

SF at New Orleans – 5 (49): The spread opened the week at 3.5 points and jumped to this level almost immediately. Back in August, I would have circled this game as the “Game of the Week” figuring it to be a heavyweight championship match. Not so. The Niners are 4-4 and have a minus-10 point differential. The Saints are 4-4 and have a minus-29 point differential. This game means a lot more to the Niners than it does to the Saints in the long run. The Niners are already 3 full games behind the division leading Cards – with the Seahawks above them in the standings. A loss here puts them in a precarious position in the NFC wildcard race. The Saints have not played well this year to be sure, but the rest of that division has not even played marginally well this year. The Saints ought to see a clear path to the playoffs simply by winning 8 or 9 games and winning the division. This game is in the dome in N’awlins; I do not think the Niners are going to be able to score enough to keep up with the Saints. I like the Saints to win and cover at home and I like the game to go OVER.

Tennessee at Baltimore – 9.5 (44): The Ravens need this game to stay relevant in the AFC North race and the AFC wildcard race. No such pressure exists in the Titans’ locker room; at 2-6 for the season, the Titans may not be mathematically eliminated from the AFC South race; but in fact, they are not going to win it. Baltimore is at home where they are much better than they are on the road. I think the Ravens are a significantly better team so I’ll take them and lay the points.

Pittsburgh – 5 at Jets (45.5): The Steelers have been on a tear for the last three weeks scoring 124 points in those 3 games. Yes, the Steelers’ defense has allowed opposition points in those games that the old time Steel Curtain might not give up in half a season, but all three games were solid wins. The Jets continue to be a dumpster fire particularly at QB and in the defensive backfield. I think Ben Roethlisberger will have a field day here; I wonder if he can throw 6 TDs for the third week in a row against the mannequins in the Jets’ secondary. I like the Steelers to win and cover.

Atlanta – 2.5 at Tampa (46): I do not know if the odor of this game should be labeled as “Foul” or “Festering” or “Fetid”. In any event, both teams deserve the letter “F” when it comes to their seasons so far. Consider:

    Falcons are 16th in total defense in the NFC.
    Bucs are 15th in total defense in the NFC.

    Moreover, the Bucs complete the futility exacta being 16th in total offense in the NFC

Atlanta has not won a road game since Custer was a Corporal; the Bucs are 0-4 at home. If you have the option to watch any other NFL game this weekend and you choose to watch this one, I think that would be a definitive basis for a diagnosis of masochism. This is a Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game – simply because I choose not to waste any more synaptic firings on this dumb game – and the coin says to take the Bucs plus the points. Okay…

Denver – 11 at Oakland (49): I do not like laying double-digit spreads in the NFL. Nonetheless, I think this is a monumental mismatch where the much better team is motivated to pound the bejeepers out of the lesser team. Coming off their thrashing in Foxboro, I think the Broncos will be romping and stomping here. I’ll take the Broncos to win and cover – even in the Black Hole.

St. Louis at Arizona – 7.5 (43.5): These teams are far apart in the standings but statistically they are not all that far apart:

    Rams are 14th in total offense in the NFC
    Cards are 12th in total offense in the NFC

    Rams are 7th in total defense in the NFC
    Cards are 8th in total defense in the NFC.

The Cardinals have been a model of consistency from week-to-week this year but the Rams seem to be on an upward trajectory now. That half-point hook on the spread is appealing. I think the game will be low scoring so I’ll take the game to stay UNDER and I’ll take the Rams plus the points.

Giants at Seattle –10 (44.5): The Seahawks did not look very good playing the Raiders last week. The Giants looked gawd-awful playing the Colts last week. However, what caused the Giants’ defense to cough up 40 points last week was the passing game directed by Andrew Luck. I am a big Russell Wilson fan, but he is not the aerial threat that Luck is and – more importantly – the Seahawks’ pass catching corps is not as good as the Colts’ pass catching corps. I do not think the Giants are going to win this game in Seattle, but that line does look more than a tad chubby. I’ll take the Giants plus the points.

(Sun Nite) Chicago at Green Bay – 7 (53): I might have thought back in August that this intense rivalry game might be the “Game of the Week”. Not so. The Packers are a good team; the Bears have invented ways to lose games and have devolved their locker room into a soap opera. They might even benefit from signing Terrell Owens as a mediator/counselor… My selections here are based on the assumption that Aaron Rodgers’ injured hamstring healed over the Bye Week and will not be a factor in the game. On that assumption, I’ll take the Packers to win and cover. I also like the game to go OVER.

(Mon Nite) Carolina at Philly – 6 (48): The Eagles have to play without Nick Foles and DeMeco Ryans here. Mark Sanchez seems a capable fill in for Foles. However, if he goes down and the Eagles have to insert Matt Barkley into the game… Ryans is a different story; he is the rock in the middle of an Eagles’ defense that is good but hardly great. Replacing him will be difficult. Meanwhile the Panthers are underachieving about as badly as any team in the NFL. Remember, this team won 12 games last year. Their defense is significantly worse and check out the offensive production by the Panthers recently:

    17 points against Packers in Green Bay
    9 points against Seahawks in Carolina
    10 points against Saints in Carolina.

Put simply, 17 points is not going to win the game here. I like the Eagles to win and cover.

Finally, Dwight Perry had this item in the Seattle Times recently relating the NFL to Halloween:

“Our neighborhood’s trick-or-treat champion this year was the kid in the J.J. Watt uniform.

“He came home with five sacks.”

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

Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend of 11/8/14

First, we need to do an accounting of last week’s Mythical Picks:

    I liked Kansas/Baylor OVER 61.5. Total score was 74. Yea!

    I liked Louisville +4.5 against Fla St. Louisville lost by 11. Boo!

    I liked Notre Dame -14 over Navy. Notre Dame won by 10. Boo!

    I liked Duke +3.5 against Pitt. Duke won outright in OT. Yea!

    I liked Wisconsin -11 over Rutgers. Easy pickings… Yea!

    I liked UNC/Miami OVER 70. Total was 67. Boo!

    I liked Air Force -2.5 over Army. Air Force won by 17. Yea!

    I liked Auburn +2.5 against Ole Miss. Auburn won straight up. Yea!

    I liked Kentucky +6.5 against Mizzou. Kentucky lost by 10. Boo!

    I liked Mississippi St. -10 over Arkansas. State won by only 7. Boo!

    I liked Georgia -13 over Florida. Georgia LOST by 18. Boo!

    I liked Stanford/Oregon OVER 54.5. Total was 61. Yea!

    I liked Ok St./K-St. OVER 51.5. Total was 62. Yea!

    I liked Ga Tech -3.5 over Virginia. Tech won by 25. Yea!

    I liked Cal/Oregon St. OVER 66. Total was 76. Yea!

    I liked Utah +6 against Arizona St. State won by only 3. Yea!

    I liked TCU/W. Va OVER 73.5. Total was 61. Boo!

That was a mythically profitable week with a record of 10-7-0. More importantly, that brings the season record closer to a level of mythical profitability at 76-71-0. It also means there have been 3 consecutive “profitable weeks” since the disastrous 3-11 week about a month ago.

Notwithstanding the current stretch of good fortune selecting college football wagers, no one should use any information here as the basis for a real wager on a real football game this weekend in the event that the real wager involves real money. Anyone dumb enough to do that ought to be glad that one need not pay for stupidity lest that person go bankrupt.

General Comments:

The Linfield College Wildcats saw their undefeated season come to a halt last Saturday when the Willamette College Bearcats came to McMinnville and won the game 31-28. That puts the Linfield record at 6-1 for the season and at 4-1 in the Northwest Conference. For now, Linfield is in second place in the Northwest Conference behind Pacific University (Oregon) which sports a 5-0 record. Those teams would appear to be on a collision course for the final game of the season when Pacific visits Linfield on 15 November. That game could be for the conference championship. However, before we get ahead of ourselves, here is what happens this weekend:

    Pacific is at Willamette
    Linfield is at Puget Sound

Go Wildcats!

Last week, I suggested a prop bet on the Idaho/Arkansas St. game matching the total yards of offense in the game against the number of cars in the stadium parking lot. Net offense was 891 yards. The announced attendance was 11, 082 at the Kibbie Dome. Since this is on the campus of the University of Idaho and one might expect that a large portion of the crowd was students who walked to the game, the proposed prop bet is not clearly settled one way or the other. I cannot find a reference to how many folks paid to park in the stadium parking lot for the game. Let me call it a “PUSH”.

As the football season goes past the halfway mark and gets ready for the stretch run, take a look at the ACC to notice that Duke is 7-1 and leads the Coastal Division. If Duke wins out, they will play in the ACC Championship Game almost assuredly against Florida State. Imagine for a moment that Duke pulls a huge upset and wins that game; the Blue Devils would be 12-1 and would have just beaten the heretofore-undefeated defending champion Seminoles. In that situation, it would not be nearly a surprise to see Duke invited to be in the College Football Playoff. However, anyone who says that he/she saw that coming back in August 2014 will need to provide evidence to the same…

Since I mentioned a future Florida State game above, consider this bizarre scenario:

    Florida wins the SEC East with its 3 conference losses. (It is possible.)
    Then Florida loses to Florida State in the last game of the season. (Likely)
    Then Florida upsets the SEC West champion. (It could happen.)

In that case, the SEC Champion would be a team with 4 losses in the regular season. In that highly unlikely circumstance, how would you like to be the Selection Committee spokesthing who has to try to explain why the SEC Champion is not going to be a participant in the College Football Playoff this year – but maybe a team that is not the SEC Champion will participate? This is hardly a likely scenario but let me remind you that low probability events happen every day…

I want to see Oregon play Baylor in a Bowl Game. Frankly, I do not care if it is one of the bowl games in the playoff brackets or if it is in the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl. Moreover, I want both teams to choose to wear the gaudiest and most reflective uniforms they have in their repertoire and then I want to have a way to measure how many television sets around the country blew out the color scanning during that game.

Pitt lost to Duke last week when they missed a field goal at the end of the game leading to overtime. The Pitt kicker who missed the field goal is Chris Blewitt.

    1. His name is a complete sentence.
    2. His name describes his action in the game.

Find me another person and game this year where those two things obtain…

I had a direct rooting interest in the Wisconsin/Rutgers game last weekend. Wisconsin won 37-0 and based on what I saw the game was not nearly that close. I suspect that Wisconsin is not the best team in the Big10 but I am certain that they are playing on a totally different quantum level than is Rutgers.

Folks ranked E. Carolina #23 in the country going into last week with their 6-1 record and those 70 points they scored on UNC earlier this year. Then E. Carolina gagged on an avocado pit last week and lost to Temple by 10 points. I know; Temple needs only one more win to be bowl eligible. Nevertheless, when you pretend to be the 23rd best team in the US of A you do not lose to Temple.

Oklahoma beat Iowa St. 59-14. Iowa St. has not won a conference game this year but until last week, the worst conference defeat was by 21 points to Baylor. This game was an organized ass kicking…

Va Tech lost at home last week to Boston College. Tech has lost 5 games this year and 4 of them have been home losses. Very unusual…

Washington trailed Colorado 20-17 at halftime; it looked as if there might be a huge upset in the making. Not to worry, Colorado reverted to form and scored only 3 points in the second half losing the game 38-23.

Florida beat Georgia 38-20; it was not a fluke win; the Gators dominated the game. Where has that kind of offense been for the Gators until now?

TCU rallied to beat W. Virginia 31-30 in Morgantown. WVU led 27-14 halfway through the 3rd quarter but TCU rallied to win the game. For the final quarter-and-a half, the TCU defense allowed only one first down and a field goal to keep the game within reach.

Baylor beat Kansas 60-14. It was not that close. Recall last week I said that Baylor would score 50+ points in the game and that is why I wanted the game to go OVER 61.5. Baylor did and the game did…

USC beat Washington St. 44-17. One of these years, Mike Leach is going to take a moment or two during the offseason and put some energy into recruiting at least a couple of defensive players.

Notre Dame beat Navy 49-39 but Navy led the Irish 31-28 at the end of the 3rd quarter.

K-State breezed to a win over Oklahoma State last week 48-14. The outcome was not really in doubt at halftime.

Since this is “Election Week”, I went looking for a college football player named “Senator” or “Representative” or “Congressman”. I did not find one but I did come across this:

    Gimel President, So, DL, Auburn.

The Ponderosa Spread Games:

Last week, there were 6 Ponderosa Spread Games. The favorites covered in 3 of those games.

Baylor, Georgia Southern and Ohio State covered.

Memphis, Nebraska and Texas A&M did not cover.

Last week’s 3-3-0 record brings the cumulative total for favorites covering in Ponderosa Spread Games to 32-28-1.

This week, there are no Ponderosa Spread Games on the card. That is the second time this year that has happened (last time was the weekend of 18 October). I never recall this happening twice in a season since I started checking these kinds of games about 20 years ago. The largest spread as of this morning is only 21 points in the Auburn/Texas A&M game and in the Clemson/Wake Forest game (see below).

The Shoe Teams:

We are far enough into the season where I feel comfortable making my first list of 12 pretty bad football teams that ought to be considered for the fantastical SHOE Tournament at the end of the season. To remind new readers, this tournament would match the 8 “worst teams” in a playoff where the loser has to continue to play until there is one ultimate loser – the SHOE Team where “SHOE” stands for Steaming Heap Of Excrement.

Here are a dozen teams that merit consideration of today for that tournament. I list them here alphabetically to avoid any semblance of a ranking at this point in the season:

    Army: Record is 2-6; lost to Yale
    E. Michigan: Record is 2-7; losing by an average of 24 points per game
    Georgia St.: Record is 1-8; losing by 19 points per game
    Idaho: Record is 1-7; losing by 11 points per game
    Kansas: Record is 2-6; losing by 16 points per game
    Kent St.: Record is 1-7; losing by 15 points per game
    Miami (Oh): Record is 2-8; one of those wins was over UMass by 1 point
    New Mexico St.: Record is 2-7; they lost to Troy
    SMU: Record is 0-7; losing by 41 points per game
    Troy: Record is 1-8; lost to Abilene Christian
    Tulane: Record is 2-6; lost to Tulsa
    Tulsa: Record is 1-7; losing by 16 points per game

On Saturday, we have two games that could vie for the label Stinkeroo Game of the Week. This week SMU takes on Tulsa and Georgia State plays Troy. There are no ties in college football; somebody has to win those games. Here are the lines; anyone who wagers on these games needs professional help immediately.

Georgia St. at Troy – 7 (65): I flip coins to make some of the NFL Mythical Picks. A coin would be worthless here; I would need at least a crystal ball to make a prediction.

SMU at Tulsa – 12.5 (55.5): If SMU were to get blown out by this miserable Tulsa team, how would you like to be the SMU coach who has to come up with something “inspirational” to say to that team for the balance of the year?

    By the way, SMU had a bye week last week and there were no reports of any catastrophe befalling the players, the coaches or the facilities. For a team like SMU, they need to take these small victories wherever they find them.

Games of Interest:

There are some very good – and potentially very important – games on the card for this weekend; lots of ranked teams are playing one another this week. With or without any wagering interest, this will be a good weekend to be in front of a Hi-Def TV with an adult beverage and some tasty snacks…

(Thurs Nite) Clemson – 21 at Wake Forest (42.5): Wake Forest just does not score because its offense is tepid when it is hitting on all cylinders. [Aside: Wake Forest just might wind up getting SHOE Tournament consideration down the line; they came close this week.] Clemson is hardly a great team but they are significantly better than Wake Forest. I’ll take Clemson to win and cover on the road.

Georgia – 10 at Kentucky (57): Georgia cannot afford another conference loss; in fact, they need Missouri to lose another SEC game in order for the Dawgs to make it to the SEC Championship Game. Kentucky has lost three conference games in a row to LSU, Mississippi State and Missouri. I think this will be a high scoring affair so I’ll take the game to go OVER.

Michigan – 1 at Northwestern (40.5): Northwestern has lost 3 games in a row including a 48-7 drubbing last week at Iowa. Michigan hung in there and won last week over Indiana. Neither of these teams is a threat to any of the good teams in the Big 10 but it sure smells to me as if Northwestern is beyond is “sell by date”. I like Michigan to win and cover.

Ga Tech – 3.5 at NC State (60): State is not a good team despite a record that stands at 5-4. They have beaten bad teams and lost to good teams. Tech is a good team – not a great team but a good one. I like Tech to win and cover on the road.

Wisconsin – 17 at Purdue (55.5): The Badgers curb-stomped Rutgers last week by running the ball down Rutgers’ throats all day long. Wisconsin runs for 334 yards per game on average and that is 3rd best in the country. They make up for that by ranking 121st in the country in passing yards per game (a measly 143.6). If Purdue can hold the running game in check – not shut it down just keep it from turning into a steamroller – they can keep the game inside that number. I’ll take Purdue at home plus the points.

Duke – 3 at Syracuse (51): Duke leads their division of the ACC; Syracuse is a mediocre team. The real question is whether this rarified air is going to catch up to the Duke team. Dukies are used to this in basketball – but not in football. I think this game will involve more scoring that the Total Line suggests so I’ll take the game to go OVER.

Iowa St. – 3.5 at Kansas (55): These are the bottom-feeders of the Big 12 playing one another. [Yes, I know Texas Tech is no great shakes; nonetheless…] Do not bet on this game; just watch the results to see which one will sink to the bottom of the Big 12.

West Virginia – 3 at Texas (51.5): West Virginia had TCU on the ropes last week and gagged the game away. That was in Morgantown and WVU is not nearly as good a road team as they are a home team. Texas is not anything to write home about, but they do not need any further home embarrassments. Purely a venue call, I’ll take Texas plus the points.

UCLA – 5 at Washington (54.5): With 2 conference losses, UCLA still has a very outside shot at winning the PAC-12 South; with 3 conference losses, Washington’s chances in the PAC-12 North are minuscule. These teams are offensively challenged so I think it will be a low-scoring game. Therefore, I’ll take Washington plus the points.

Texas A&M at Auburn – 21 (67.5): The Total Line opened the week at 64.5 and jumped to this level very quickly. Auburn needs to keep winning; the Aggies are really not a match for the Tigers. I think Auburn will get ahead and keep the good times rolling to be sure the Playoff Selection Committee does not get any “bad vibes” about the team. I’ll take Auburn to win and cover at home.

Alabama – 6.5 at LSU (45.5): Playing LSU in Baton Rouge is not an easy assignment. Asking a team to cover against LSU in Baton Rouge is even more difficult. Ask Ole Miss if either of those previous statements is outrageous. The motivation factor here is that Alabama is not part of the playoff bracket as of this week and they surely want to be part of it come December. I think that is enough motivation. I like Alabama to win and cover on the road.

Baylor at Oklahoma – 6 (73): Baylor still has a legit shot to win the Big 12; Oklahoma is not eliminated by any means but it would take some fortuitous events to get the Sooners to the league championship. I think Baylor is going to win this game so I’ll take Baylor plus the points.

Ohio State at Michigan State – 3.5 (57.5): The Total Line for this game opened the week at 63.5; it dropped almost immediately to 60 and has drifted downward all week long to this level. This is an important game; it is an elimination game for the loser with regard to even an outside shot at the playoff bracket. Both teams had last week off to prep for this game. I like Michigan State at home to win and cover.

Notre Dame at Arizona St. – 2.5 (60): The Total Line here opened at 54.5; I have a feeling it will go higher by kickoff. Let me be brief; I think this will be more of a defensive game than an offensive game. I like the game to stay UNDER and I like Notre Dame plus the points.

Oregon – 8 at Utah (60): Here is another game that I think will be more defensive than offensive. Therefore, I’ll take the game to stay UNDER and I’ll take Utah plus the points.

Kansas State at TCU – 6.5 (58): This is a critical game in the Big 12; K-state is the only team without a conference loss; TCU has 1 conference loss. If K-State wins, they still have to play at West Virginia and at Baylor with a home game against Kansas in the middle there. That is not an easy schedule by any means so a loss here could be disastrous for them. Meanwhile TCU hopes to hang a loss on K-State and then win out against lesser foes – at Kansas, at Texas and home against Iowa State. I’ll take the game to go OVER and I’ll take K-state plus the points.

Finally, here is cogent news analysis from Greg Cote of the Miami Herald:

“University of Louisville recently began drug-testing its cheerleaders. The suspicion is PEDs: Perky-enhancing drugs.”

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

Horror Movies…

The promo for Jaws 2 before it was released was something like:

    Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…

The sequels to myriad Dracula movies begin with a scene in which someone finds the body with a wooden stake in its heart and, blockheadedly, removes the stake. The monster comes to life and terrorizes the neighborhood for the next two hours until someone puts the stake back in its heart. Nevertheless, the body is still there for the next dumbass to find and then to remove the stake and…

It would seem as if life imitates “art” these days when you consider the news in the sports cosmos. The Alex Rodriguez saga appeared to be coming to a merciful end as his yearlong suspension ended and he prepared to report to Yankees’ training camp in February to collect the $61M (minimum) that the team owes him over the duration of his contract. Whatever “issues” might exist in the future would likely revolve around his diminished skills as a baseball player and his role on the team. Bob Molinaro, in his final column for the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot had this to say about the “Return of A-Rod”:

“Futurewatch: The Giants may be MLB champions, but the return of Alex Rodriguez will make Yankees camp the first destination for the national media next spring. Who doesn’t love a circus?”

Would that it were so.

The NY Daily News published a report stating that A-Rod paid his cousin, Yuri Sucart, $900K in hush money. Sucart is the cousin that A-Rod said injected him with some unknown substance from Biogenesis and that is how A-Rod came to fail his PED drug test. The current report says that Sucart threatened to expose A-Rod’s PED use and that A-Rod paid him a total of $900K to keep quiet. While that kind of stuff seems straight out of a Perry Mason episode, it does not strain credibility all that much.

Bringing this up to date, Sucart is under Federal indictment on charges that relate to the entire Biogenesis mess. The plot twist in the NY Daily News report is this:

“Prosecutor Patrick Sullivan said in the court papers that Rodriguez ‘has a prominent role in the government’s proof of Count 1 and Count 2 conspiracies to distribute testosterone and human growth hormone,’ which suggests the disgraced Yankee slugger may be a witness against Sucart.”

Oh, but the plot twists evidently are not over. A subsequent report in the NY Daily News says A-Rod agreed to be a cooperating witness back in January 2014 getting what is known as a “Queen for a Day Deal”. [Aside: If you are under the age of 60, you probably do not know about the TV show called Queen for a Day and the schmaltz it inflicted on the viewing audience. Trust me; it is not a show you would want to resurrect.] That deal gives him immunity so long as his testimony is truthful; if he is not truthful, the deal is off and his immunity vaporizes.

Forget all the legal wranglings here for a moment and try to contain your gag reflex as you contemplate just how big of a lying weasel A-Rod is. If the subsequent report is correct, that would mean that A-Rod had agreed to be a Federal cooperating witness proximal to the time that his arbitration hearing regarding his suspension was decided. He was affirming his innocence to the arbitrator up to the point where he took the “Queen for a Day Deal” from the Feds. If this guy tells me it is raining, I will put my hand out a window to see if it gets wet.

In another story tangentially related to baseball, all had been quiet on the José Canseco front for a while. Then there was a story at washingtonpost.com that Canseco had shot off one of his middle fingers while cleaning one of his guns. Police say that no criminal activity happened here; it was purely an accident. Proving that great minds run in similar channels, here are two comments from last weekend regarding this accident:

“Pistol packing: There’s a reason people were surprised Jose Canseco shot himself in the hand while cleaning his gun. He’s better known for shooting himself in the foot.” [Bob Molinaro Hampton Roads Virginian Pilot]

And…

“Jose Canseco is recovering after shooting himself in the hand. He has previously spent most of his post-playing career metaphorically shooting himself in the foot.” [Greg Cote Miami Herald]

I think there is far more pathos in this story than is evidenced by the remarks above. Consider the diminished capabilities of José Canseco in the aftermath of shooting off the middle finger of his left hand:

    He may be limited in the number of future celebrity boxing matches he might schedule.

    His next attempt at a baseball comeback will require him to adjust his hitting and his fielding practices.

    He will never be able to flip a double bird to hecklers.

José Canseco has provided sports journalists with an inordinate amount of material for commentary over the years. Now, in his moment of pain and suffering, I think it is only proper that he receive only warm wishes for a speedy recovery so that he may resume his role as a primary court jester in the sports world.

Finally, here is insightful analysis from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times:

“How do the Philadelphia 76ers mark the end of Daylight Saving Time?

“They set their clock back one hour, and then some other team comes and cleans it.”

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

Back From Las Vegas…

Get out and vote! Today is Election Day. Too many people spend a lot of time wailing about real – and sometimes imagined – infringements on their rights. Today people have the responsibility to go to the polls and vote as a way to protect their real rights.

I am back from the Autumnal Pilgrimage to Las Vegas in one piece and without the need to make a supplemental withdrawal from my IRA. Life is good… Having spent a lot of time watching a lot of football last weekend, let me offer a couple of perspectives…

In the Westgate sportsbook, there were two games on two adjacent screens on Sunday and I had a financial interest in the outcome of both games. Therefore, I watched both games carefully and quite literally in juxtaposition. Those games were the Eagles/Texans and the Chiefs/Jets games. Late in both games, I realized that Mark Sanchez was at QB for the Eagles and Michael Vick was at QB for the Jets and that was interesting because of what happened in the last offseason:

    The Eagles released Vick as their backup QB and the Jets signed him.
    The Jets released Sanchez as their backup QB and the Eagles signed him.

    This was not officially a trade but it was the moral equivalent of a trade. Both teams made personnel moves to shore up their QB situations.

I have been consistently critical of Mark Sanchez as an NFL QB since the Jets traded up to draft him about 5 years ago. I thought it was a bad gamble on their part and I thought that the way the Jets tried to “develop” him was feckless. I am still not sold on him as a starting QB – let alone a “franchise QB – but let me say this unequivocally:

    Whoever it was within the Jets’ organization that thought Michael Vick is a better QB in 2014 than Mark Sanchez ought to be fired on the spot.

    I am not talking about past achievements here; I am not talking about seasons beyond this one; I am not considering injury potential for either QB. The “Eyeball Test” says that the Jets took a step down on the ladder in terms of their QB position with that decision during the offseason – and it is not remotely a close call.

I say that even though the cadre of pass-catchers on the Eagles is significantly better than the cadre of pass-catchers on the Jets. Michael Vick may have a good game or two left in his body; that is about it. Mark Sanchez is steady not spectacular but he seems to have found “rhythm” and “comfort” in the Eagles’ offensive system such that he will not stink out the joint very often.

I said to one of my fellow pilgrims that RG3 did not look nearly as good as either Colt McCoy or Kirk Cousins in his first game back from injury. He does not live in the DC area and so he does not get to see Skins’ games regularly; therefore, he was surprised to hear me say that since Cousins has had such bad press recently and McCoy has not had what one would call a “barn-burner” of a career to date. Nonetheless, as we saw the Vikes/Skins game unfold, he agreed that RG3 did not seem to be making his moves in a natural way. Moreover, he held the ball long enough to get himself sacked 5 times in the game.

Now this morning, I saw a headline on CBSsports.com that said:

    Jay Gruden says “jury is still out” on RG3

Since RG3 is anything but an indicted felon, I realized immediately that Gruden was not talking about a jury in a courtroom. Here is the essential quote from Gruden on this situation:

“The jury is still out on that position. We feel good about Robert’s progress so far and we’ve just got to continue to build and see how he does from week to week. Hopefully we can see that here at the end of the season. That’s what we have to see and what we have to find out.”

Let me translate that for you:

    Robert Griffin III is an amazing natural athlete. He is not yet an accomplished NFL QB. History suggests if he runs too much he will not survive the punishment he will take; therefore, he needs to learn to be a pocket passer to survive. The problem is that he has never been a pocket passer. More importantly, he has never had a structured/methodical playbook that he had to execute. What “we have to find out” is if he can use his amazing natural athletic gifts within an offensive system that will allow him to survive the physical rigors of an NFL QB and will allow the team to win football games.

    The jury is still out…

Here are two observations from the Giants/Colts game last night:

    1. The Giants new offense might work a whole lot better if it had a running attack that opponents had to worry about. In addition to Eli Manning having to adjust to new patterns and calls – and even adjusting to which foot he has in front as he takes the snap according to Jon Gruden on ESPN last night – a major deficiency in the Giants’ offense is the lack of a running game.

    2. Andrew Luck is just amazing. He had an off night in terms of accuracy for much of the first half. Nonetheless, he still threw for 300+ yards in the game and that was the 7th straight time he did that.

Finally, Jimmy Kimmel had this to say about former Olympic decathlon gold medalist, Bruce Jenner and his plastic surgeries:

““When I was growing up his face was on a box of Wheaties. Now his face isn’t even on his face anymore.”

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

Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend Of 11/2/14

First, a look back at last week’s Mythical Picks:

    I liked Chargers +9 against Broncos. Broncos won by 14. No!

    I liked Lions -3.5 over Falcons. Lions won by only 1. No!

    I liked Vikes +2.5 against Bucs. Vikes won by 6. Yes!

    I liked Pats -6 over Bears. Pats won by 28. Yes!

    I liked Rams/Chiefs UNDER 45. Total score was 41. Yes!

    I liked Rams +7 against Chiefs. Chiefs won by 27. No!

    I liked Seahawks -5 over Panthers. Seahawks won by 4. No!

    I liked Seahawks/Panthers OVER 44.5. Total was 22. Double No!

    I liked Jets -2.5 over Bills. Bills won by 20. No!

    I liked Jags +6 against Dolphins. Dolphins won by 14. No!

    I liked Ravens over Bengals “pick ‘em”. Bengals won the game. No!

    I liked Eagles/Cards OVER 48. Total was 44. No!

    I liked Steelers +3 against Colts. Steelers won by 17. Yes!

    I liked Raiders/Browns OVER 43. Total was 36. No!

    I liked Packers/Saints OVER 55.5. Total was 67. Yes!

    I liked Cowboys -9.5 over Skins. Skins won by 3. No!

Last week was another disastrously bad week of mythical picking. The tally for the week was 5-11-0 dragging the season record down to 49-75-2. The idea that these picks will be “mythically profitable” at the end of the season is clearly a pipe dream; the quest to get back to the .500 level looks like an expedition to scale Mount Everest. Nevertheless, proving that I am immune to embarrassment, I shall soldier on…

Even the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Games are going south. A coin flip ought to be right half the time. Last week the Coin Flip Games were 0-2-0 taking the record for those games down to 7-13-0. If this trend continues, I may have to call them Coin Flop Games…

In any event, nothing in the past performance from last week – or since the beginning of this season – should tempt anyone to use information herein as the basis for a real wager involving real money on an actual NFL game this weekend or any other weekend. Nonetheless, to be sure, I want to say this to anyone who might consider such a stupid act:

    You are so dumb that blondes tell jokes about you!

General Comments:

Given how badly the Bears played in New England last week, I am not sure that they would have been able to go poo in the woods on that day. The Pats won the game 51-23 and everyone wanted to point to Tom Brady’s stat line for the day:

    30/35 for 354 yards and 5 TDs with 0 INTs

Five TDs and five incomplete passes for the day… A noble performance. I think there is another stat line from the game that is more interesting and perhaps more revealing:

    7 targets, 7 receptions for 61 yards and 1 TD.

That was the stat line for TE, Tim Wright. If you recall, he is the guy the Pats got from the Bucs (plus a 4th round draft pick) in the Logan Mankins trade back in late August. As I recall, the majority opinion at the time was that Bill Belichick must have taken leave of his senses. Well, if the Pats’ O-line can protect Brady sufficiently to allow him to play as he did last week and if Wright continues to catch everything thrown at him, the Pats will come out well ahead on that deal.

The other little vignette from the game that bears mentioning is the sack dance done by Bears’ DE, Lamarr Houston. Demonstrating that he has not had sufficient ballet training, he leaped into the air, landed on his feet, promptly tore his ACL, and is out for the year. [Aside: Perhaps he was merely channeling his inner Stephen Tulloch…?] The reason this injury is noteworthy is that the sack dance happened when the Bears trailed by 4 TDs in the 4th quarter when the Pats had already pulled Tom Brady from the game. This was one of the most meaningless sacks in the history of NFL sacks and worthy of exactly no celebration at all. I wonder if Lamarr Houston can spell ASSHAT

The Bills trounced the Jets 43-23 last week. Geno Smith did not make it out of the first quarter of the game; he went to the bench as a “coach’s decision”. Rex Ryan had no choice; Smith was 2/8 for 5 yards with 3 INTs at the time he grabbed some pine for the rest of the day – and for the beginning of the Jets’ game this week. That is not the salient point here.

Consider what the Jets’ offense accomplished with Michael Vick running the show. Vick’s stat line was:

    18/36 for 153 yards and 0 TDs with 1 INT.

I have been skeptical about Geno Smith’s ability to become a quality NFL QB ever since the Draft that brought him to the Jets. I am even more skeptical about that proposition today than I was then. Nevertheless, the bigger problem here is that the entire Jets’ offense is below mediocre. That kind of performance by Michael Vick is indicative of an offense that just does not work. Yes, the Jets can run the football; but the Woody Hayes era of 3 yards and a cloud of dust is over.

Oh, by the way, Percy Harvin was targeted 11 times in the game and he caught 3 balls for a total of 22 yards.

The Jets’ offensive problems has only a little to do with the “offensive scheme” and a whole lot more to do with the fact that the team lacks sufficient talent to execute any meaningful offensive scheme. The blame for that resides in the lap of the Jets’ GM who has assembled this team and who has a bunch of cap money left unspent this year. Moreover, the GM was instrumental in the selection of Geno Smith as the new “franchise QB” once the Jets realized that their previous “franchise QB” (Mark Sanchez) failed to live up to expectations.

The Chiefs beat the Rams handily last week. Here is an interesting stat for the Chiefs:

    They have not allowed a rushing TD yet this year.

    They are the only team in the league that can say that.

The Dolphins beat the Jags by 14 points last week. In that game, Blake Bortles threw 2 Pick Sixes. Do the math, folks… Oh, by the way, he lost a fumble too. Bortles has raw talent and is on a learning curve but he is hardly an average QB yet. For the season, he has thrown 13 INTs and 4 of those have been returned for TDs.

The Steelers beat the Colts 51-34; that game was one week after the Colts’ defense shut out the Bengals. No, that does not make any sense to me either. Ben Roethlisberger threw for 522 yards and 6 TDs in the game. Part of the reason he could do so was that he was rarely pressured – let alone sacked or even hit.

The Saints beat the Packers handily last week. That win keeps the Saints in the NFC South race but there were two other things that came from the game that are more interesting to me:

    1. Neither team punted in the game.

    2. Aaron Rodgers “tweaked a hammy” in the game and was “less than fully mobile” for much of the game. Rodgers’ condition going forward is most important to the Packers.

The Texans beat the Titans by 2 TDs and Arian Foster ran for 151 yards. Foster is back in form; that is his fourth consecutive game with 100+ yards rushing.

In the Eagles/Cards game, the two teams combined to throw 104 passes in the game. Those passes produced a total of 740 yards of combined passing offense. What is more interesting to me is that in this game there were ZERO sacks.

The Saints beat the Panthers on a late TD pass by Russell Wilson. That outcome led to:

    1. The Panthers held onto the NFC South lead by the slimmest of margins

    2. The Seahawks stayed only 2 games behind the Cards in the NFC West race.

The Lions trailed the Falcons 21-0 at the half and won the game 22-21 on a last second field goal. I do not want to be abstruse about this next point, so let me be blunt:

    When you lead by 3 TDs at the half, you damned well ought to win that game.

The Bengals beat the Ravens by 3 points last week. The Bengals lead the AFC North for now but interestingly, all four teams in that division are over .500.

The Browns beat the Raiders last week; that is their 4th win for the season and it matches the number of wins the Browns had all of last year. The Browns hardly dominated the game; the Raiders’ defense held the Browns to 39 yards rushing and only allowed the Browns to convert 2 of 12 third down situations. Three turnovers by the Raiders were instrumental in continuing their winless ways. By the way, the last time the Raiders won a game was last November 17 when they beat the Texans. Check the calendar; they are coming up on a full year of losses pretty quickly.

The Bucs lost again last week in OT to the Vikings. The Bucs’ offense was anemic; they gained 159 yards passing (28 attempts) and 66 yards rushing (23 attempts); they converted 1 of 12 third down situations. Looking at those numbers more closely, the Bucs’ offense was worse than merely anemic…

The Games:

Here are the teams on their Bye Week:

    Falcons will try to figure out how to hold a 3 TD halftime lead in case they have one against the Bucs next week.

    Bills will be rooting for the Pats and Dolphins to lose this week as they prep for the Chiefs to come calling next week.

    Bears will try to get either their offense or their defense to play decently by the time they take the field in Green Bay next week.

    Lions will get some R&R, bask in the knowledge that they lead their division at the halfway mark and prep for a visit by the Dolphins next week.

    Packers will hope that the week off will give Aaron Rodgers’ leg time to heal so that he is ready for a game with the Bears next week.

    Titans will try not to focus on the fact that they are only one game ahead of Jax in the standings as they prep for a trip to play the Ravens next week.

(Thurs Nite) New Orleans – 3 at Carolina (49): The Panthers lead the division with a 3-4-1 record; the Saints are ever-so-slightly behind the Panthers at 3-4-0. The winner of this game will be the division leader and the other two teams in the NFC South (Falcons and Bucs) can be considered irrelevant. It is too early in the season to call the game “critical” for either team, but it an important game. The Saints defense played well against the Packers last week. There are two possibilities here:

    1. The defense has begun to “get it” and is coming together now
    2. The defense took advantage of a hobbled Aaron Rodgers

I think it is a bit more of #2 than #1 here. Meanwhile, the Panthers’ defense played the way it was projected to play all year long against the Seahawks last week but the Panthers’ offense was pathetic generating all of 266 yards in the game. The Saints lead the NFC in total offense while the Panthers are 13th in the conference in total offense. The difference between the two teams is a meaningful 113 yards per game. Even discounting the Saints’ road woes, I think their offensive advantage is worth a field goal. I’ll take the Saints to win and cover.

San Diego at Miami – 1.5 (44.5): Statistically, these teams are pretty evenly matched.

    Chargers are 8th in total offense in the AFC
    Dolphins are 7th in total offense in the AFC.
    The difference is 1.7 yards per game

    Chargers are 6th in total defense in the AFC
    Dolphins are 4th in total defense in the AFC.
    The difference is 7.3 yards per game.

Make this purely a venue call. I’ll take Miami at home and lay the points.

Jax at Cincy – 11 (43.5): This is a sandwich game for the Bengals. They beat a division rival (Ravens) last week and have another division rival (Browns) on tap for next week. Here in the middle are the visiting Jags who have begun to play decent defense but who cannot seem to generate any consistency on offense. Believe it or not, the Bengals’ defense ranks dead last in the AFC; you could win a bar bet or two on that proposition this week. Last week, the Jags shot themselves in the foot multiple times and lost a game they could have won. Are they on the brink of a turnaround – or are they going to revert to “customary Jaguars ineptitude”? I do not have an answer there but I do notice a double-digit spread on the game. I’ll take the Jags plus the points.

Tampa at Cleveland – 6.5 (43.5): The Bucs are 1-6 for the year and here is a glimpse into the foundation of that incompetence:

    Bucs are 16th in the NFC in total offense.
    Bucs are 16th in the NFC in total defense.

That is a recipe for STINK. The Browns do not win prettily; that is for sure. Nonetheless, the Browns are 4-3 on the year; a win here followed by a win next week over the Bengals could actually put the Browns in contention for a playoff slot. I believe that is what former Fed Chairman, Alan Greenspan, would call irrational exuberance. I think the poor defense of the Bucs combined with the poor defense of the Browns (15th in the AFC) will allow for some scoring to happen. I like the game to go OVER.

Washington at Minnesota “pick ‘em” (43.5): The word this morning is that RG3 will start at QB for the Skins. That announcement moved the line exactly one point; the Vikes opened as a 1-point favorite. Both teams bring losing records to this contest but the Skins’ offense is simply better than the Vikes’ offense. I like the Skins to win this game and I like the game to go OVER.

Philly – 2 at Houston (48.5): There is no history between these two teams; they have only met three times. The Eagles are in the midst of a stretch of games that do not involve division foes; after the Cards last week and the Texans this week, their next 3 games are:

    Panthers at home
    At the Packers
    Titans at home

The key here is the ability of the Eagles’ defense to keep Arian Foster from running wild. Oh, it might also be a good idea for them to block JJ Watt and Jadeveon Clowney on passing downs so that they do not break Nick Foles like a match stick. I’ll take the Eagles and lay the points on the road.

Jets at KC – 9.5 (41.5): As noted above, the Jets’ offense is a mess – to be polite about it. Nonetheless, this is the kind of game that Andy Reid’s teams tend to struggle with. I like the Jets plus the points here and I like the game to go OVER.

Arizona at Dallas – 4 (48): I can find this line at only one Internet sportsbook; all the others have the game off the board as of today because of the uncertainty of Tony Romo’s ability to play this weekend. Just a hunch, I’ll take the Cards plus the points.

St. Louis at SF – 10 (43.5): The Niners need a win to stay within striking distance of the Cards in the NFC West. The Rams are not going to be in playoff contention but the Rams will play hard in every game. The Niners had last week off after the Broncos waxed them by 25 points two weeks ago. I do not want to lay that double-digit spread so I’ll take the game to go OVER.

Denver – 3 at New England (54.5): Clearly, this is the Game of the Week. These are two very good teams and no one can complain about the quarterbacking in this contest. I see this as a points-a-palooza game. I like the game to go OVER. I recognize the advantage the Pats get when they play at home. I also like the Pats plus the points.

Oakland at Seattle – 15 (43): After contemplating the Broncos/Pats game, looking at the woebegone Raiders and the underachieving Seahawks is about as appealing as a fart in an oxygen tent. The Raiders are last in the AFC in offense; if the Seahawks defense decides to play to the level it showed last year, the Raiders might not get to double digits; remember, the Seahawks held the Packers to 16 points and the Broncos to 20 points this year. That defensive effort seems to be the key to the game because the seemingly moribund Seahawks’ offense ought to wake up quickly here once it encounters the mild resistance of the Raiders’ defense. I hate double-digit spreads; I really do. However, the match-ups plus the venue plus the fact that the Seahawks need a win here to stay relevant in the NFC West and/or the NFC wildcard races points to a lopsided score. With no enthusiasm at all, I’ll take the Seahawks and lay the points.

(Sun Nite) Baltimore at Pittsburgh “pick ‘em” (48): Were it not for the Broncos/Pats game, this would be the Game of the Week. The Steelers have a slight offensive advantage; the Ravens have a slight defensive advantage. It would not be any surprise at all if this game were decided by a field goal with 5 seconds left on the game clock; that seems to be the script for AFC North games almost as if a pro ‘rassling script writer were calling the shots. Both teams are 5-3 and chasing the Bengals in the division. Purely a venue call, I’ll take the Steelers to win the game.

(Mon Nite) Indy -3 at Giants (51): The Colts rank first in the entire NFL in total offense and in passing offense; they average 452.3 yards per game. The Colts have a 120 yards per game advantage on offense. On defense, the Colts also hold an advantage of 32 yards per game – and that includes the monstrous game the Colts allowed last week against the Steelers. The Colts’ disadvantage here is the venue; it is not Indy and it is outdoors. I still think the Colts are the better team here so I’ll take them and lay the points even on the road.

Oh, in case you didn’t notice, there are no Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Games this week. Whatever…

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

Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend Of 11/1/14

First a review of last week’s selections:

    I liked Oregon -17 over Cal. Oregon won by 18. Yea!

    I liked S.Carolina/Auburn UNDER 66. Total score was 77. Boo!

    I liked Miss. St/Kentucky UNDER 59.5. Total was 76. Boo!

    I liked Ga Tech/Pitt UNDER 55.5. Total was 84. Boo!

    I liked Wisconsin -10.5 over Maryland. Wisconsin won by 45. Yea!

    I liked Nebraska -19 over Rutgers. Nebraska won by 18. Boo!

    I liked Alabama/Tennessee UNDER 47. Total was 54. Boo!

    I liked Mich/Mich St. UNDER 48.5. Total was 46. Yea!

    I liked LSU +3.5 against Ole Miss. LSU won outright. Yea!

    I liked Utah +1 against USC. Utah won outright. Yea!

    I liked K-State -9.5 over Texas. K-State won by 23. Yea!

    I liked Ohio St/Penn St OVER 52. Total was 55. Yea!

    I liked Arizona St -3 over Washington. State won by 14. Yea!

    I liked Ariz St/Wash UNDER 62.5. Total was 34. Double Yea!

That makes it two weeks in a row for mythically profitable NCAA picks. Last week’s record was 9-5-0 bringing the season record to 66-64-0. Since I will be heading to Las Vegas this weekend for the Annual Autumnal Pilgrimage with friends, I surely hope to continue on this recent vector heading.

Notwithstanding two mythically profitable weeks in a row and a cumulative record that has crept above the .500 level, no one should use any information here as the basis for picking a side in a real wager involving real money and an actual college football game this weekend. Here is what I would have to say to anyone stupid enough to do that:

    You probably watched Beavis and Butthead to learn your vocabulary after you flunked out of Sesame Street.

General Comments:

The Linfield College Wildcats ran their season record to 6-0 last week with a dominating win over Lewis and Clark by a score of 59-7. Let me just say that the outcome of this game was not in doubt for long. At the end of the first quarter, the score was 42-0 and Linfield only had one defensive score in that total. This week, Linfield hosts Willamette; the Bearcats bring a 4-2 record to the game having lost last week to Pacific Lutheran 56-14. Go Wildcats!

The reason I follow Linfield football is their amazing streak of winning seasons that began in 1956. Since the first game of 1956 – if I have added correctly – Linfield’s record in football is 454-116-11. Ignoring the tie games, Linfield has won 79.6% of its games between September 1956 and today. For perspective, here are comparable streaks in “major” college football:

    Longest current streak of winning seasons is 37 held by Florida State.
    Longest streaks of winning seasons is 42 held jointly by:

      Harvard from 1881 – 1923
      Notre Dame from 1889 – 1932

At the other end of the “football glory spectrum”, Columbia has the longest losing streak in football working at the moment. The Lions record this year is 0-6; last year the Lions were 0-10; in 2012 they were 3-7 and won their next to last game against Cornell. This year, the Lions have scored in double digits only once; they got 28 points against Monmouth; unfortunately, they gave up 61 points in that game. The current losing streak stands at 17 games and counting.

Notwithstanding the length of Columbia’s current losing streak, they are nowhere near the NCAA record losing streak. That record is 44 consecutive losses and it is held by – wait for it – Columbia back in the mid-1980s.

Last week, Mississippi State beat Kentucky by 2 TDs – but the game was closer than the score might indicate. State QB, Dak Prescott, had another excellent game accounting for 304 yards of offense. I was watching that game with a friend who said that Prescott is a poor man’s Cam Newton. Interesting perspective…

Alabama beat Tennessee by 2 TDs. Tennessee ran 14 more plays than Alabama in the game but Alabama’s total offense was 86 yards more than Tennessee’s. This game was not as close as the score might indicate.

Missouri beat Vandy 24-14 last week. Missouri is 6-2 on the season but they are the worst 6-2 team I have seen by a lot. Vandy is not a good football team by any measurement and Mizzou failed to gain 400 yards in the game. Vandy started a freshman QB in his first start at the college level making him the 4th starting QB for the Commodores this season. This season cannot end soon enough for Vandy.

Auburn and South Carolina played an even game; Auburn won by a TD. Auburn gained 551 yards in the game; S. Carolina gained 531.

Michigan State handled Michgan 35-11. It could have been much worse; Michigan’s offense was held to 178 yards in the game.

Ohio State needed double overtime to beat Penn State 31-24. This was clearly a defensive game. Ohio State offense totaled 293 yards; Penn State offense totaled only 240 yards.

Wisconsin pummeled Maryland 52-7. I watched the first couple of possessions in the game and tuned away because the outcome was not mysterious to me. I happened to graze back through that channel later on and the score was 45-0 at the time. Maryland did not belong on the same field with Wisconsin.

Minnesota must have suffered “Bowl Eligibility Hangover” last week. After winning their 6th game of the year two weeks ago, they biffed on this game against a mediocre-at-the-very-best Illinois team last week losing 28-24.

Kansas State shut out Texas last week running the Wildcats’ record to 6-1 for the season. K-State is the only Big 12 team without a loss in conference – but their upcoming schedule is not exactly a stroll in the park. In their 5 remaining games, they have to go on the road 3 times to play:

    TCU (Nov 8)
    W. Virginia (Nov 20)
    Baylor (Dec 6)

Last week, TCU beat Texas Tech 82-27. TCU has a loss on its record this year to Baylor a couple of weeks ago by a score of 61-58. [No, that is not a basketball score…] I suspect that TCU was interested in getting some “style points” out of the game last week to impress the selection committee for the college football playoff; who knows, it might work. Problem is that Texas Tech is a horrible defensive team. There are 128 teams playing Division 1-A college football this year; Texas Tech ranks 126th in points allowed. The Red Raiders give up an average of 42.5 points per game. Yowza!!

Pitt literally gave away their game against Georgia Tech last week. The Panthers lost 5 fumbles on their first 5 possessions (running only 13 plays in that span). [Aside: That is a Division 1-A record for most fumbles lost in a quarter.] The score was 28-0 at the end of the first quarter; from that point forward, the teams played to a 28-28 tie. From the Pitt perspective, that is about all you can say that is positive about the game.

In the ACC, it surely looks as if Florida State will win the Atlantic Division and play in the conference championship game. In the Coastal Division, however, the best way to describe the situation there is “messy”. Duke leads the Coastal Division with 1 loss in the conference. However, there are five teams in the Coastal Division with only 2 losses in the conference. Handicapping the ACC Coastal Division this year would take a Ouija Board…

On the Illinois football team, there is a junior WR named Geronimo Allison. I assume he knew when he chose to play for the Illini that Geronimo was an Apache who lived about a thousand miles from Urbana-Champaign Illinois…

The Ponderosa Spread Games:

Last week we had 4 Ponderosa Spread Games. The favorites covered in 2 of those 4 games.

Arkansas and Memphis covered.

Marshall and Missouri did not cover.

The 2-2-0 record last week brings the season record for favorites covering in Ponderosa Spread Games to 29-25-1.

This week we have 6 Ponderosa Spread Games:

(Thurs Nite) Troy at Ga. Southern – 26 (63): Troy is 1-7 this season and has given up 306 points in those 8 games.

(Fri Nite) Tulsa at Memphis – 24 (61.5): There just has to be something better to do on a Friday night in Memphis than to go to this game. No?

Purdue at Nebraska – 24 (62): There probably is not anything more interesting to do on a Saturday afternoon in Lincoln than to pay attention to this game.

Kansas at Baylor – 36 (61.5): I normally do not make Mythical Picks in Ponderosa Spread Games, but Baylor just might score 62 points in the game all by itself. I like this game to go OVER.

La-Monroe at Texas A&M – 32.5 (58.5): The Aggies had last week off after playing Mississippi St, Ole Miss and Alabama (all losses) in three straight weeks. Watch out La-Monroe…

Illinois at Ohio State – 28.5 (65): Ohio State needs “style points” in a win here to try to distract the Selection Committee from focusing on their loss at home to a mediocre Va Tech team and a double OT win over Penn State. Watch out Illinois…

The SHOE Tournament:

I am not yet ready to announce seedings for my mythical SHOE Tournament at the end of the year. Maybe next week…? However, I would like to offer up something for you to think about…

Lots of fans like to argue which conference is the best/toughest conference in the country. Well, consider here the possibilities for the worst conference in the country. There has to be one, don’t you know…

    The MAC: There are 6 teams in this conference that are either “really bad” or “sub-standard”. Ball State, Buffalo, E. Michigan, Kent St., Miami (Oh), UMass.

    The Sun Belt Conference: There are 5 teams here that are “pretty miserable”. Appalachian St., Georgia St., Idaho, New Mexico St., Troy.

    The All American Conference: There are 4 teams here that are just plain “bad”. SMU, Tulane, Tulsa and UConn. [Aside: Mark this on your calendar. UConn hosts SMU on 6 December. That would be a good day to schedule for rearranging your sock drawer.]

It is hard to tell which of those conferences is the worst, but you may be sure that plenty of SHOE Tournament candidates will come from these three entities.

Games of Interest:

(Thurs Nite) Florida State – 4.5 at Louisville (50.5): Louisville has a very good defense; they rank 4th in the country in points allowed; they only give up an average of 14.6 points per game. They use that defense to set up the offense to score because Louisville’s offense is below average ranking 72nd in the country in passing and 90th in the country in rushing. The spread opened the week at 7 points and has dropped steadily to this level. Florida State has not played a defense like this one so far this year. I’ll take Louisville plus the points.

Notre Dame – 14 vs. Navy (55.5) (Landover, MD): I recognize that Navy gets up for its annual game against Notre Dame – they have played each other every year since 1927. However, Notre Dame is the better team and Notre Dame needs to impress the selection committee to improve its ranking related to the playoffs. I like Notre Dame to win and cover.

Duke at Pitt – 3.5 (51): Duke cannot expect the same degree of largesse that Pitt showed to Ga Tech last week in terms of fumbles lost. However, Duke is in a position to win the ACC Coastal Division should it win out and that ought to be sufficient motivation here. This should be a low scoring game and so, I’ll take Duke plus the points.

Wisconsin – 11 at Rutgers (no line): Wisconsin demolished Maryland last week; Rutgers and Maryland are comparable. Rutgers has been dominated by Ohio State and by Nebraska in Big 10 play; Wisconsin is of the same caliber as those two teams. I like Wisconsin to win and cover here.

UNC at Miami – 15 (70): I have no faith in the UNC defense at all; I have only marginal faith in the Miami defense. I like this game to go OVER.

Georgia State at Appalachian State – 10.5 (69.5): Two really bad teams here…

Air Force – 2.5 at Army (55.5): Count on every player hustling on every play in this game. You can also count on a lot of rushing offense and little if any passing offense here. Since Air Force beat Navy 4 weeks ago, the Fly Boys can claim the Commander in Chief Trophy with a win here. I’ll take Air Force to win and cover on the road.

Auburn at Ole Miss – 2.5 (50): This is an “Elimination Game”; the loser here would need a miraculous turn of events to make it into the four-team bracket for the College Football Playoff. Both teams play solid defense. I think Auburn’s offense is the better of the two. I’ll take Auburn with the points – but not with a lot of conviction.

Kentucky at Missouri – 6.5 (47.5): That frighteningly low Total Line is not a result of two awesome defensive units poised to take over this game. Rather it is recognition that Missouri has a good defense and a “miserable” offense that has sometimes been as bad as “putrid”. Kentucky needs a win to be bowl-eligible; that should be sufficient motivation. I’ll take Kentucky plus the points.

Arkansas at Mississippi St. – 10 (64): Mississippi St. took care of business last week and showed up in the #1 slot for the first College Football Playoff seeding this week. The Arkansas offense plays to the strength of the Miss St. defense; the Bulldogs are not fast and athletic on defense but they are big and tough inside where Arkansas prefers to attack. I cannot see Arksansas beating Mississippi St. in Starkville given State’s motivation to play and keep its top seeding in the playoffs. I’ll take Mississippi State to win and cover.

Florida vs. Georgia – 13 (51) (Jacksonville): Here is Florida’s problem in a nutshell:

    The Gators’ offense stinks; they do not score.

Here is Florida’s good point:

    The Gators’ defense is good.

The problem is that Georgia is a much more complete team. I like Georgia to win and cover in the game known as The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.

USC – 6.5 at Washington St. (64.5): USC is inconsistent; Washington St. is inconsistent. There are better games on the card this weekend to watch and to wager on.

Stanford at Oregon – 7.5 (54.5): Oregon is slotted 5th in the rankings to find the top 4 teams for the playoffs this year. They can take heart that two of the teams above them this week have to play one another later this year meaning they need to take care of their business here. Stanford does not enjoy the same lofty ranking, but if they win the game, they would be in a position to win the Pac-12 North Division and play in the PAC-12 Championship Game. There is plenty at stake here. Purely a hunch, I like the game to go OVER.

Oklahoma St. at Kansas St – 14.5 (51.5): Oklahoma St. can play well or play poorly. The one thing you can pretty much count on K-state to do is to play smart and not beat itself. I like K-State to win this game but I do not like that half-point hook on the spread. I’ll take the game to go OVER.

Indiana at Michigan – 7 (53): Two inconsistent teams here means you should not bet on the game. However, it might be interesting to check out because if Michigan gets blown out at home by Indiana, Brady Hoke might need to hire a food taster…

UVa at Ga. Tech – 3.5 (55): The loser here is pretty much behind the 8-ball in terms of winning the ACC Coastal Division; the loss will be the third for the loser here. A former colleague – and a UVa alum – says that the Cavaliers are going to shut down the Ga. Tech triple option here. I think he is looking at the world through “Orange and Navy Blue” glasses. I like Tech to win and cover at home.

Arkansas St. – 14 at Idaho (66): Two bad teams here… Here is a prop bet to think about:

    Which will be greater?

      Total yards of offense by both teams
      Number of cars in the parking lot at the stadium

Cal at Oregon St. – 3 (66): Oregon St. does not have a dominant defense; Cal should be able to score here. Cal’s defense is more of a rumor than a reality; Oregon St. should be able to score here. I like the game to go OVER.

Utah at Arizona St. – 6 (58): I think Utah has a legit shot to win this game outright so I’ll take Utah plus the points here.

TCU – 5.5 at W. Va (73.5): TCU is 7th this week in the playoff rankings; they have an outside chance to sneak into the top 4 if teams above them “screw the pooch”. However, West Virginia is a tough out in Morgantown. Just a hunch, but I like this game to go OVER.

Utah St. – 3 at Hawaii (41): The only reason this game is interesting is because of the Total Line. A college game with a Total Line this low is equivalent to an NFL game with a Total Line of 30 or 31. Utah St. will start its 4th different QB in this game; Hawaii just does not score; they have been held under 20 points 5 times this year. Do not bet on the game – but it would be fun to watch in the second half if the half time score was 3-3.

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

Tidying up…

Today, I will clean up a couple of items on my clipboard and then get to work on the two flavors of Mythical Picks for tomorrow. I will be off the air on Friday and at least Monday of next week. This weekend is my annual pilgrimage to Las Vegas with friends. Barring unusual flight situations, I should have another rant ready to go on Tuesday 4 November…

Last week, I suggested that Frank White belonged in the Baseball Hall of Fame as much as Bill Mazeroski given their career stats. One comment on that rant said that Willie Randolph’s career stats were similar to Maz and he too deserved consideration but never made it. An e-mail from my sports stat guru in Houston suggested two more middle infield candidates with stats comparable to Maz:

    Alan Trammel
    Lou Whittaker

Let me point everyone to this site. Here you can find the statistics for just about every player who ever set foot on a baseball field from Henry Aaron to Dutch Zwilling. Go there and compare Maz and Frank White and Alan Trammel and Lou Whittaker and Willie Randolph for yourselves. While on the site, notice that it also gives you a way to find out about teams, managers, minor league performances and a whole bunch of other stats.

Earlier this week, the owner of the Tampa Bay Rays denied reports that he had been chatting with folks in Montreal about the possibility of moving the Rays there. There was a time when Montreal supported the Expos and then there was the period of time when the crowds in Montreal rattled around in Olympic Stadium like a BB in a boxcar. My inclination is to believe that this is all posturing by the Rays’ owner to get some leverage in dealing with the local pols in Tampa/St. Pete with regard to either a new stadium or significant changes to the current stadium. The reason is pretty obvious from the numbers:

    Seating capacity in Tampa = 40,473
    Average attendance in Tampa 2013 = 18,646 (46% full)
    Average attendance in Tampa 2014 = 17,858 (44.1 % full)

The Rays were not very good in 2014 but they have been a good team – they went to the World Series once – more often than not for the last 5-7 years and they do not get support commensurate with that kind of on-field performance. For the record, the Rays were next to last in attendance in 2014 drawing 1.44 million fans; only 6 teams in MLB failed to draw 2 million last year. In a perverse way, those attendance figures are an “improvement” over 2013 where the Rays were last in MLB in total attendance at 1.5 million fans.

I have heard that Tropicana Field is not an attractive stadium and that it is poorly located. I have never been inside but I have driven past the stadium on my way to a Yankees’ spring training game and on my way to Raymond James Stadium. Tropicana Field is not located in any setting that one might call a “metropolitan area” but it does have good road access and parking areas. I mention that because my gut tells me that the Rays would like a new facility or a significantly upgraded one and might just be flirting with a city like Montreal to “get some attention” from the city fathers in the area. Stay tuned…

The NFL’s two biggest markets – NYC and Chicago – have a tad of ongoing agita with regard to the teams that play there.

The Jets are 1-7 and that win came on opening day over the Raiders. If this were college football, I might suggest that the Jets are a bad Division 1-A team that happened to beat a Division 1-AA team back in September. You get the idea… The Jets’ GM, John Idzik, held a news conference earlier this week; here is what the NY Post had to say about it:

“Somehow Jets general manager John Idzik spoke for 38 minutes Monday and created more questions.

The biggest one: Is this the right guy to lead the Jets?

Meanwhile, here is what Mike Lupica of the NY Daily News thinks about the Jets:

“The organization looks like a butt fumble now. That is where the Jets are, looking like some kind of software program that has crashed. This is rock bottom for the owner, Woody Johnson; the only thing keeping the Jets from being called the worst team in pro football is the win they got against the worst team, the Oakland Raiders, two months ago.”

The Bears’ record is a lot better than the Jets’ record but the mood in Chicago is hardly one of quiet contemplation of the joy and peace in the valley. Steve Rosenbloom’s Rosenblog on the Chicago Tribune website had this headline regarding last week’s game:

    If this disaster doesn’t cost people their jobs, then fold the team

He followed that joyful sentiment with this comment:

“The Bears were outclassed, outplayed and outcoached. They had no business being on that field. They offered the most compelling argument favoring a mercy rule.”

The other paper in Chicago – the Sun-Times – was no more generous in its assessment of the State of the Bears. Here is a sampling of Rick Morrissey’s perspective:

“For all of you who want someone fired for this mess, understand that the McCaskeys aren’t really an ownership group. They’re an ice age. They don’t move, and they don’t fire anybody, especially themselves.”

And…

“[Head coach, Marc] Trestman is supposed to be the Quarterback Whisperer. He’s more like the Quarterback Dog Whistle That No One Can Hear.”

And…

[Re GM Phil Emery] “A 3-5 record should have him on high alert for his job, but when no one in the organization knows enough football to realize the general manager is over his head, why should he be concerned.”

Somehow, I do not think there will be choruses of Kumbaya sung at Jets or Bears games any time soon…

Finally, as usual, Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times gets to the bottom line of the matter directly:

“According to Lifespan.com, lack of exercise, improper diet, poor sleeping habits and stress are among the leading causes of depression.

“Somehow not making the list: being a Cubs fan.”

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