Expanding Earlier Commentary…

Earlier this week, I expressed my wish that the NCAA would continue to lose out in the procedural actions with regard to the Northwestern University football players’ attempt to be qualified as employees of the university so that they might unionize. In the same rant, I expressed why I thought unionization was not a beneficial end to the current legal challenge. For the full discussion, please see this

I would like to expand my remarks from that discourse just a bit here…

    College athletes seek to be categorized as college employees here. Are they REALLY sure that they want to be treated the same way all other college employees are treated? Ignoring the fair market value of the educational opportunities they may or may not take seriously, athletes get quality meal plans and free travel around the country where they can “ply their trade”. Consider for a moment the college employees currently represented by unions and ask yourself if indeed the players would be all that better off…

    The fundamental problem here – which neither the NCAA nor its member institutions will acknowledge – is that college football and men’s college basketball are NOT university activities that blend into the mainstream of all the other college activities. College football and men’s college basketball are business enterprises and nothing more. By pretending that they are “college activities” they sidestep that little thing known as “paying taxes on the profits”. So long as the pursuit of a meaningful degree in a real major is a secondary or tertiary concern for some/many of the “student athletes”, the whole system under consideration is a sham.

Based on my previous remarks and the ones presented here, I think I am safe in assuming that I will not be invited to give the keynote address at the next convocation of NCAA officials at the administration level or the athletic director level. Too bad – for them…

Since I am in the mode of expanding previous remarks, let me add to my commentary regarding DeSean Jackson going to the Redskins. For his entire NFL career, Jackson has worn #10 with the Eagles. That number is “taken” on the Redskins by none other than RG3 – the guy who is entrusted with the responsibility to get Jackson the ball for big plays. When asked about how he felt about this, here is what he told Tarik El-Bashir who covers the Skins for CSN Washington:

“I definitely am familiar on the No. 10 [worn by] Robert Griffin . We’ve talked about it a little bit. But that isn’t a decision that’s been made yet so far . . . Maybe by the time the season starts we’ll know. Maybe RG III will wear No. 3 and I’ll try to get into 10. We’ll see how it goes, though. You never know.”

There are at least a hundred ways for that situation to “go south” and all of them begin with discussing the “situation” in public before all the parties have come to whatever is the resolution to the matter. This has the potential to blossom into the biggest and stupidest intra-squad squabble since T.O. bitched and moaned about how Tony Romo and Jason Witten conspired to keep the ball away from T.O in key third down situations. There is GREAT potential for entertainment value here…

Tiger Woods had surgery earlier this week and is out of The Masters. TV execs are not pleased to be sure but there is not much they can do to replace Woods as a compelling draw for the event this year. That is because they have focused on him to the exclusion of just about everyone else on the PGA Tour for the last decade or so. With him on the shelf, the field is a bunch of faces and a list of names and most folks cannot properly link most of them. To a certain extent, the TV execs are now inheriting the wind…

Here is the good news for Tiger Woods acolytes:

    At least he will not take an illegal drop in this year’s Masters giving the rules mavens agita as they figure out how to penalize him while still keeping him on TV for the weekend ratings.

Woods’ place on this year’s Ryder Cup team is up in the air based on his recuperation and how he performs once back on tour. Before any nationalistic Americans go into self-flagellation mode over this, consider this perspective from Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Making a case: Of the seven Ryder Cups Tiger Woods has competed in, the U.S. has lost six. Last time the U.S. won was in 2008, when Woods was out with a knee injury. Coincidence?”

And speaking of the Ryder Cup, here is a litmus test you can apply to your friends, neighbors, co-workers with regard to being Golf-Goofs:

    NBC and the Golf Channel (owned by NBC) will telecast the Ryder Club matches from Gleneagles, Scotland LIVE. Matches will begin at 2:30 AM EDT from 23 to 28 September.

Here is what it would take for to get up at 2:30 AM to watch this live:

    The Royal and Ancient gurus would have to decide randomly to release rabid badgers on the course and only the caddies – not any player or spectator – would be permitted to wear any clothing/gear that might protect them from badger bites.

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

“ ’The Walking Dead’ is a TV series based on:

    a) a post-apocalyptic world dominated by flesh-eating zombies

    b) this year’s L.A. Lakers”

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

Feast Or Famine?

The Washington Redskins’ acquisition of DeSean Jackson could turn out to be a “feast or famine” deal for the Skins. There is history regarding player movement between these two teams and not all of it has worked out well for the Skins. Consider:

    In 1964, the Eagles’ owner signed Joe Kuharich to be the coach and GM. Recall that I had Joe Kuharich on my list of the ten worst coaches in NFL history about a month ago. Well, he was not a great GM either because in his desire to purge the Eagles of players who were tied to the “old way of doing business”, he traded Sonny Jurgensen to the Skins for “Stormin’” Norman Snead. The Skins made out like bandits on that deal. Jurgensen is in the Hall of Fame; Snead is probably best known for his uncanny ability to find an open defender and to get him the ball.

    Not satisfied with getting the short end of the QB trade here, Kuharich also exchanged defensive backs with the Skins. He sent Jimmy Carr to Washington in exchange for Claude Crabb. Carr was not a great defensive back, but he was a solid player. All you need to know about Crabb is that he was taken in the 19th round of the NFL Draft the year he graduated from college. So, that is two “feasts” for the Redskins.

    After the 2001 season, Jeremiah Trotter and the Eagles could not agree on a contract and when the Eagles put the franchise tag on him negotiating positions hardened. The Eagles released him and the Skins signed him to a deal. He spent two “undistinguished” years in Washington before the Skins released him and he then went back to the Eagles for the veteran minimum contract. Not a good deal for the Skins…

    In 2010, the Skins sent two draft picks to Philly for Donovan McNabb. That “marriage” lasted 8 weeks until Mike Shanahan benched McNabb with about two minutes to play in a game against the Detroit Lions and sent in Rex Grossman. [For the record, Grossman fumbled on the first play from scrimmage and the Lions returned it for a TD.] After weeks of innuendo and leaks, the Skins designated McNabb as their #3 QB for the balance of the season and then they sent him to the Vikings to close out his career. So, that is two “famines” for the Redskins.

Meanwhile, out in the Bay Area, the Niners are preparing to move into their new stadium in Santa Clara. The local townsfolk passed an ordinance regarding proper decorum in the new stadium and its parking areas and the Niners issued a set of rules for its fans to follow based on the local ordinance. When I first read a report on this, my reaction was along the lines of “So, why is this even interesting? The team is telling its fans to obey the law; nothing to see here; move on.”

Then I read some of the rules and wondered if the ordinance writers or the team execs had ever been to an NFL game or to a tailgating event. Here is a sample:

    “No person shall throw, discharge, launch or spill any solid or liquid object including footballs, baseballs, Frisbees and other such items in a manner that disturbs public order or causes a threat to public safety.” This rule specifically applies to the parking areas where tailgating happens. No spilling? Seriously?

    “No person shall explode, set off, discharge or otherwise release or cause to be released any smoke bomb, fireworks, stink bomb or other substance which is physically harmful or otherwise irritating, offensive, repugnant or disgusting to the eyes or sense of smell.” This will definitely hurt the sales of chili-dogs in the stadium.

    “No person shall urinate or defecate except in a designated lavatory facility.” Is it necessary to state this? When you invite fans to come to your house to watch a game, do you put a sign up to this effect pertaining to your living room?

    “No drums, or other musical instruments.” Damn, I was planning to bring a baby grand piano to the game…

    “No person shall behave in so disruptive, unsafe, noisy, boisterous or profane manner as to disturb spectators or participants at any stadium event so that assigned personnel must address the person to cease or prevent a recurrence of the disruptive, unsafe, noisy, boisterous or profane behavior.” I ask again; have any of these folks ever been to an NFL game?

Those folks in Santa Clara are serious about this. The ordinance prescribes a $100 fine and up to 6 months in jail for a first offense and the fine can be up to $1000 for any subsequent offenses.

After the University of Dayton beat Stanford in the basketball tournament to advance to the Elite 8, there was a great headline in the Dayton Daily News:

“Tree down, three to go”

Some folks have been worried that baseball games might take up to 4 hours if replay rules are expanded. To allay those fears, here are two suggestions to keep the games moving along:

    Once a batter steps into the batter’s box, he must stay there except to run to first base after hitting the ball.

    Once a pitcher puts his foot on the rubber, it has to stay there except to make a pick-off move.

Finally, here is a comment from Brad Dickson of the Omaha-World Herald:

“Khloe Kardashian denies reports she’s dating L.A. Dodgers star Matt Kemp. I think that would be a wise first step for Major League Baseball to regain its popularity — have a player date a Kardashian.”

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

The DeSean Jackson Matter

Sports talk radio has been focused like a laser on “The DeSean Jackson Matter” for several days now. The fact that Jackson signed a multi-year deal with the Redskins last night will allow many of the hosts to recycle the segments they have been doing for the past several days simply by changing the objects of the verbs. Instead of talking about what Jackson might do in the future with regard to his playing venue, they can talk about what he might do in the future with regard to the Washington Redskins in specific. Here are 3 things that do I know about “The DeSean Jackson Matter”:

    1. Jackson is an elite WR. Players of his caliber do not hit the open market often.

      1a. If Jackson’s contract with the Eagles were closer to the league minimum than to $12M a year, would he have been cut?

      1b. If Jackson were a choirboy and made $12M per year, would he have been cut?

      1c. Suppose he was a “good guy” in the locker room and in the community and he flashed what might have been a “gang sign”, would he have been cut?

    2. I do not know why the Eagles released him and I refuse to concoct a narrative that would make it seem as if I do know. What I am confident in is the fact that the Eagles did not release him because he could not play football any longer.

    3. RG3 now has all the receiving weapons any top-shelf QB needs. The onus to produce just got heavier for him.

Another NFL-related story that is out and about is the report that Donald Trump was approached to be part of a group to buy the Buffalo Bills franchise now that Bills’ owner-founder, Ralph Wilson has passed on. Trump said that he would “look into it.” Interestingly, the original report here was based on a remark attributed to Trump himself. Using that model, I want everyone here to know that I too have been asked to be part of a group that will seek to purchase the Buffalo Bills franchise. I would be the face of the franchise should we be successful because my associates tend to prefer to stay in the shadows. I will be joined in this endeavor by:

    Harvey the Rabbit
    Mr. Snuffleupagus – and –
    Hobbes the Tiger.

We will continue in our efforts to recruit Mandrake the Magician to our consortium so that he can cast a mass-hypnotic spell on everyone in the organization and on the executor of the Wilson estate to allow us to get the franchise for 3 easy payments of only $49.95.

There is no doubt that Donald Trump would be a “colorful” owner should he ever buy a franchise in any major sport. In the NFL, he could join folks like Jerry Jones, Danny Boy Snyder, Stephen Ross, Jim Irsay and Woody Johnson in the ranks of owners who are “participative” – to put it mildly. Just like those other owners, no one should expect Donald Trump to sit offstage quietly and let others run the show by themselves. Interestingly, that kind of ownership behavior also exists in Mark Cuban and Cuban recently had some less-than-fully-laudatory comments to make about the NFL and its owners.

Boiled down, what Cuban said was that the NFL owners were “hoggy” in terms of trying to inflate their revenue streams and he pointed out the old Wall Street adage that pigs get fat while hogs get slaughtered. It made for interesting copy for a couple of days and then passed into oblivion. Thinking about the idea that Donald Trump might – yes, I know it is a long-shot but let me fantasize here for a moment – become an NFL owner, the drive to increase revenues would be accelerated. And perhaps that might lead to more comments from Cuban and as they say in the tabloids, “There is history between Cuban and Trump.” That would be fun…

Regarding Cuban’s suggestion that the NFL and its owners are being “hoggy” and that might lead someday to their slaughtering, here is something I feel deep in my gut:

    Notwithstanding the potential demise of the NFL, Mark Cuban would willingly give up any bodily appendage in order to become an NFL owner.

An NFL player had been in the news for behaviors that were less-than-laudatory. Recall several weeks ago when the security tape hit the airwaves of Ray Rice getting off an elevator at a casino in Atlantic City with is fiancée and the fiancée was either unconscious or was not going to get up by the count of ten. There were reports of a disagreement and the police got involved. After the police investigated, they took the matter to a grand jury where an indictment happened. That process took about 6 weeks. The day after the indictment showed up, Ray Rice and his fiancée got married. I do not recall any fairy tale romances following that path through the space-time continuum…

Bob Connolly writes a column for the Bronx Times Reporter and posts it online to his Dreams Blog. Recently he reminisced about a boxing match between Randy Newman and Chuck Wepner in 1974. Wepner was known as the “Bayonne Bleeder”; that should tell you something about all of his fights. The fight in 1974 was evidently a “Red Cross Special”. Here is the imagery Bob Connolly used to describe it:

“This was the type of night where the first three rows of fans would have been better off wearing raincoats as if they were going to attend a Gallagher concert.”

Finally, Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald put baseball’s Spring Training into perspective:

“Oakland A’s pitcher Drew Pomeranz missed the first spring training session due to an ingrown leg hair. OK, now can we dispense with talk that players take spring training as seriously as the regular season?”

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

College Athletes = College Employees?

A recent ruling by a subset of the National Labor Relations Board held that college athletes should be considered employees of the university. The athletes – football players at Northwestern to be specific – demonstrated that they put in significant time and effort in the name of the university and that their time/effort generated significant benefit for the university. There is no way to doubt those assertions/demonstrations. Many folks jumped on this decision to declare that the evil dragon of the NCAA had been slain. As Lee Corso would say,

“Not so fast, my friend!”

Purely from a procedural standpoint and even if one were to assume that the athletes would prevail entirely at every step of the process, this opera has many more acts to go. The endpoint that many writers see is unionization for college athletes which will get the athletes some pay and some benefits for their time and effort.

I doubt that I would have to work very hard to convince any regular reader here that I am not on the side of the NCAA in just about any circumstance. That situation obtains here; I think that the NCAA and its member institutions exploit college athletes to benefit the institutions and the coaches and the folks who run the conferences and the bowl committee hominids. That situation is not fair nor just; I am not so sure, however, that an endpoint which winds up with unionization of football players is any much better.

Please keep in mind as you read on that I do NOT want the NCAA to prevail here such that it is allowed to maintain the status quo. Advocating change in the system and agreeing with the idea that college athletes are employees of the university are not congruent concepts.

In the first place, let me dispel the oft-portrayed image of the college athlete as the latter-day incarnation of serfdom. Putting a neutral face on the deal athletes make with universities it goes like this:

    The athlete busts his ass – and other parts of his body in football – putting in many hours per week at his athletic endeavors knowing that those endeavors will enrich the institution. Those athletes are not lured into this arrangement unknowingly; the economic benefits to the university are not covert in any way.

    In return, the university offers to the athlete the opportunity to graduate from that school with a degree – and more importantly to do so without walking across the stage at graduation with the student-loan equivalent of a mortgage strapped to his back.

    As a bonus for the athletes since they generate revenues for the school that other scholarship recipients do not (think philosophy majors for a moment here), the university will provide them with upgraded dorm rooms and better meal options than other students.

    Only because eligibility is an athletic concept that does not apply to other scholarship students, the university will also provide athletes with tutors/counselors/whatevers at no cost.

Here is the sticking point.

    The NCAA and the universities persist in maintaining the myth that college football players and men’s basketball players are students in the common meaning of the word. In a word, many are NOT students in any meaning of the word. Far too many of these athletes are nothing more than mercenaries.

    Why is that a problem? Because it turns the NCAA and the schools into hypocrites – or lying weasels – when they try to come up with window-dressing to turn a kid who cannot read at the eighth grade level into a “student-athlete”. He is not; deal with it!

Far too many football and men’s basketball players take courses that will not earn them a meaningful degree – even if they persist in those studies for five years. Some major in “general studies”; some major in “interdisciplinary studies”; in reality, far too many of them are majoring in “staying eligible”. And who defines “eligible”? Why the NCAA and the universities who allow these athletes to pursue studies that are not much more than a GED certificate even if completed. Those institutions knowingly keep athletes in school and “making progress toward a degree” so they can continue to play football or basketball and generate revenue for the NCAA and the schools without a twinge of conscience about the fact that any degree that many athletes might rarely achieve will be of zero value in life.

The athletes are in fact exploited – unless they would be required to “make progress toward a degree” in a real college curriculum that is the same one a scholarship student who could not play football would pursue. However, that would “hurt the product” and so the NCAA and the schools have found myriad ways to circumvent that situation. Therefore, the exploitation continues and the NCAA has found ways to put a spin on the situation that makes it seem as if the NCAA and the schools are beneficent in this matter. Hogwash!

My problem is that unionization has far too many problems associated with it to be the remedy to this situation. Let me start with one really basic question:

    Where will the funds come from to pay the union’s costs in terms of representing the athletes? There are real costs associated with the administration of a union which has fiduciary duties to its members. Those costs will not be covered by “3 easy payments of $29.95.”

    If the image of the exploited athlete is that he cannot afford to go out with his friends and get a hamburger or catch a flight home to see his sick mother, how is he going to cough up the equivalent of “union dues” or a “buy-in” to union representation?

Then, there is the problem of those athletes at Northwestern that have put this ball in motion claiming they are university employees. I do not want to go all H&R Block on you but let me quote a couple of passages from IRS Publication 17 for 2013. On p. 46, that publication discusses “Employee Compensation”. Consider:

    “If you are an employee, you should receive Form W-2 from your employer showing the pay you received for your services. Include your pay on Line 7 of Form 1040 … even if you do not receive a Form W-2.” (Emphasis added)

    “If you performed services other than as an independent contractor and your employer did not withhold social security and Medicare taxes from your pay, you must file Form 8919 … with your Form 1040. These wages must be included on Line7 of Form 1040.” (Emphasis added)

    “Bonuses or awards you receive for outstanding work are included in your income… These include prizes such as vacation trips… If the prize or award you receive is goods or services, you must include the fair market value of the goods or services in your income.” (Emphasis added)

    “Pay you receive from your employer while you are sick or injured is part of your salary or wages. You must include in your income sick pay benefits received from any of the following payers:

      “An association of employers or employees

      “An insurance company, if your employer paid for the plan.” (Emphasis added)

I strongly doubt that the Northwestern athletes who assert that they are employees will be filing form 1040 this year including:

    $240K (approx.) for tuition room and board at Northwestern
    15% (approx..) of total income to cover social security/Medicare taxes
    Fair Market Value of any bowl game trips

Why would they not file their taxes that way? It is not because they are scofflaws; it is because they do not consider themselves employees – by the definition that requires them to pay taxes on earnings. Oh, by the way, I do not think they should pay tax on any of this stuff either because I do not think they are employees of the university.

Let me pose another question for proponents of unionization. Most unions in the US represent workers who can move from one employer to another relatively easily. (The MLBPA, NFLPA and NBPA members trade off their ability to transfer employers on a whim in exchange for multi-million short-term contracts.) Indeed, The United Steelworkers – the union that has been associated with these athletes’ appeal to the National Labor Relations Board – represents workers who can move from one company to another with minimal difficulty. Is that the model for collegiate athletics that is desirable?

Of course, there is an elephant in the room too. There is this little thing called Title IX, which requires universities to treat female athletes substantially equivalently to male athletes. Let me be clear; Title IX is a good thing; I do not want to see Title IX repealed. Nonetheless, here is a harsh dose of reality:

    The only real moneymakers in college athletics are football and men’s basketball. Even college baseball operates “in the red” at most schools.

    As soon as I say that every women’s collegiate athletic program runs in the red, I am sure someone will point out that the women’s softball team at Disco Tech and/or the volleyball team at Euphoric State have shown a profit every year since “The Flood.” Those isolated examples only prove the point; women’s athletics will not contribute anything to the revenue streams

    So, if colleges have to “pay” their employees who all happen to be males, how long until there is a Title IX lawsuit? Moreover, if those women get paid on the basis of the negotiations carried out by the unions representing the male athletes, does that not make them “freeloaders” to some extent?

So, what might be a solution to all of this? Consider the following as a broad outline:

    The NCAA and its member institutions need to ignore those who argue that the quality of the product must be maintained. If athletic scholarships only went to students ready, willing and able to do college level work in real subjects, the “amateur student-athlete model” might actually work. The athletes get a free education and they are capable of transforming that opportunity into a real college degree in a real major.

    The member institutions cover medical costs associated with any injuries incurred in the pursuit of the athletic endeavors of the student-athletes.

    The NBA and the NBPA need to adopt the “MLB Model” for entry into the professional ranks. If a kid out of high school really thinks he is ready for the NBA, he should be able to declare his intent to enter the NBA draft and thereby close out all of his collegiate eligibility. However, if he accepts a scholarship at a college – even if he never sets foot on the actual campus while classes are in session – he will not be eligible for the NBA draft until three years have passed since his graduation from high school.

    The high schools that field top-shelf teams based on AAU All-Stars will have to provide actually educated students or they will devolve to being the training ground for NBA hopefuls.

      [Aside: I always get a kick out of Education Secretary Arne Duncan using this time of year to beat the drums about student-athletes. He was the overseer of the Chicago Public School System before taking his act to Washington and we all know how the Chicago Public School System turns out a huge majority of academically outstanding “student-athletes”.]

Will any of the elements of my solution take place? Surely, they will not in the short term because they represent massive vector changes for the NCAA and its member institutions and for many high schools and high school systems. Huge vector changes only come about when there is a crisis immediately ahead on the current vector. Think about the course of the Titanic here… Thus, that is the reason I hope the Northwestern students continue to prevail in their pursuits to organize athletes – even though I think that end-result is a bad one. By continuing to prevail in their quest, the athletes may convince the NCAA and the member institutions that there is a potential catastrophe ahead and open the door to a major course correction.

I can only hope that is the outcome.

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

Baseball Opening Day…

People who live in the northeastern part of the US – say from North Carolina through Pennsylvania and up to New England – will relate to this comment better than some others.

    Enough with this winter. It is time for Spring!

Yesterday, it snowed in the DC area. The planet Earth thinks it is Spring since we have passed the vernal equinox; the stupid rodent weather prognosticator in Punxutawney thinks it is Spring since it has been more than 6 weeks since his emergence from his burrow. So, maybe the third harbinger of Spring is what we need to get rid of snow/slush and move forward to warm weather. What is the “third harbinger”? It is Opening Day for baseball season – ignoring of course the lunacy of starting the season in Australia about 10 days ago.

And so, in order to usher in the baseball season, let me pepper these remarks with observations about baseball from folks easily recognizable to fans of baseball. Such as:

“When you start the game, they don’t say ‘Work ball!’ They say ‘Play ball!’ “ — Willie Stargell

Let me begin with my overview of those teams that helped themselves over the winter:

    The Orioles helped themselves with signings of Nelson Cruz and Ubaldo Jimenez. When Manny Machado returns to action, the O’s will be a better team than they were last year.

    The Angels acquired some pitching over the winter – and that was something they needed desperately.

    The Yankees improved – if Michael Pineda is ready to give them a full season in their starting rotation even if he cannot possibly live up to the stats he generated during Spring Training.

    The Rangers added offense in the persons of Prince Fielder and Shin Soo Choo. Do they have pitching? That is not nearly so clear…

    The Mets’ additions of Bartolo Colon and Curtis Granderson make them a better team than they were at the end of the 2013 season.

    The Nationals’ addition of Doug Fister is a huge plus.

    The Cards’ signing Jhonny Peralta and Peter Bourjos should be a plus since those guys appear to be guys who play baseball the “Cardinals’ way”.

Here is an observation about an important baseball coincidence:

“Bob Gibson is the luckiest pitcher I ever saw. He always pitches when the other team doesn’t score any runs.” — Tim McCarver

Here are teams that did not do so well over the winter hot stove league:

    The Tigers’ trade of Doug Fister for a “bag of hammers” – one of which they subsequently traded away – is not a good omen.

    The Reds lost Shin Soo Choo and Bronson Arroyo over the winder and that is not a plus.

    The Phillies were an old and tired team last year and they added plenty more age in Marlon Byrd and AJ Burnett over the winter. The Phils will likely do promotional events with AARP sometime this season.

For some people, baseball games are milestones in their lifetimes. Consider:

“All I remember about my wedding day in 1967 is that the Cubs lost a doubleheader.” — George F. Will

Before the season starts, let me put three managers on the hot seat – and mention another one who will be on a hot seat if his team does not excel this year:

    John Gibbons (Toronto): The Jays were supposed to be REALLY good last year but they finished last in the AL East and never really threatened to do much more than that. Absent significant improvement this season, Gibbons will likely take the fall for that lack of success.

    Robin Ventura (White Sox): This team just plain stunk last year. Ventura’s great playing career will not shield him from the axe if the White Sox are not improved this year.

    Ron Washington (Rangers): His contract is up at the end of the 2014 season. Given their additions during the offseason, I suspect that Washington will be gone if the Rangers fail to make the post-season.

    Don Mattingly (Dodgers): Yes, the team stormed from behind to make the playoffs last year. Yes, Mattingly just got a new contract during the offseason. Nonetheless, if – I said IF – the Dodgers stumble from April to June 15, I would not be surprised to see Mattingly out of a job.

Here is an example of baseball pragmatism:

“A man once told me to walk with the Lord. I’d rather walk with the bases loaded.” — Ken Singleton

I mentioned the Dodgers and Don Mattingly just above. I also read a report that said the Dodgers have sold 35,000 season tickets for this year and that the team has sold more than 3 million tickets for all its home games before Opening Day. I wonder if this level of euphoria will get the rabid Dodgers’ fans to show up and watch more than 6.5 innings per game this year.

Henry Aaron had an interesting observation about baseball vis á vis golf:

“It took me 17 years to get 3,000 hits in baseball, and I did it in one afternoon on the golf course.”

Here are my projected standings for the 2014 season:

In the AL East:

    Tampa
    Boston
    NY Yankees
    Baltimore
    Toronto – sorry John Gibbons.

In the AL Central:

    Detroit
    Cleveland
    Kansas City
    Chicago White Sox
    Minnesota

In the AL West:

    Texas – they will win lots of high scoring games
    LA Angels
    Seattle – there is a tad of sentiment included in this pick
    Oakland
    Houston – they lost 111 games last year and may lose 105 this year.

In the NL East:

    Washington
    Atlanta
    Miami – going out on a limb here
    Philadelphia – assuming the Grim Reaper does not visit that aging team
    NY Mets

In the NL Central:

    St. Louis
    Pittsburgh – assuming they find a starter to replace Burnett
    Milwaukee
    Cincinnati
    Chicago Cubs – still waiting for Starlin Castro to become a star.

In the NL West:

    Los Angeles Dodgers
    SF Giants
    Arizona
    San Diego
    Colorado

Finally, let me close here with two observations regarding baseball – one from an admirer and one from a detractor of the game:

“If a woman has to choose between catching a fly ball and saving an infant’s life, she will choose to save the infant’s life without even considering if there is a man on base.” — Dave Barry

And…

“The baseball mania has run its course. It has no future as a professional endeavor.” — Editorial in the Cincinnati Gazette in 1879

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

Miguel Cabrera Hits The Jackpot

Overshadowing any news coming out of March Madness results yesterday is the announcement that the Detroit Tigers will pay Miguel Cabrera $292M over the next ten years. The way it works out, Cabrera gets an 8-year extension (at $248M) on top of the two years that he has left on his current contract. Moreover, there is a vesting option in the contract that might extend the deal two more years beyond the basic 10 years and those additional years will harvest $30M each for Cabrera. That would bring Cabrera’s total compensation for this contract extension to $352M.

Let me put that figure into perspective for you. According to United Nations data for 2012 (latest figures I could find), there are 7 member states of the UN whose GDP is less than $352M and there are 3 additional “dependent territories” with GDPs less than $352M.

Over the last 4 years, there is little doubt that Cabrera has been a great player. From 2010 – 2013, he has accomplished the following:

    Led the AL in batting average three times
    Led the AL in OBP three times
    Led the AL in slugging two times
    Posted OBP of .999 or greater four times.
    Won the MVP award two times

I know that Spring Training does not amount to a sliver of squirrel snot; but in case you are wondering, this year his springtime batting average is .353 and his OPS is 1.072 over a span of 19 games.

Now for the cautionary tale. In just over 2 weeks, Miguel Cabrera will be 31 years old. A 10-year contract will have him making something in the vicinity of $30M when he is 41 years old and the vesting option would put him on the payroll at $30M for the time when he is 42 and 43 years old. If Cabrera can keep his batting numbers anywhere near the ones he has shown in the past 4 years all the way through this contract extension, he would challenge Babe Ruth as the best baseball player ever. I am not saying he cannot do that. I am saying that the odds are that he will not.

According to a report on CBSSports.com, should Mike D’Antoni get the axe by the LA Lakers, he would be under consideration for the head-coaching job at Marshall. Let us suppose for a minute that such a change of jobs and change of venue would befall Mike D’Antoni.

    He would go from an NBA team to a “low mid-major” college program in C-USA.

    He would go from negotiating with agents for Kobe Bryant to negotiating with the parents of kids who made the second-string All-County basketball team.

    He would go from Los Angeles to Huntington, WV.

Only one comparable coaching slide comes to mind – and the one I am thinking of took place over a 5-year span. Consider the career arc of Ray Jauch:

    In 1982, he was the coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the CFL and had taken the team to the playoffs in 4 of his 5 seasons there.

    In 1983-84, he was the coach of the hapless – and that is being very polite – Washington Federals in the USFL.

    After a year off, he spent the 1986 and 87 seasons coaching Washington and Lee High school football in Arlington, Virginia.

Sic transit gloria mundi…

Recently, Va Tech hired Buzz Williams to coach its basketball team to more than a little bit of fanfare. Williams has been successful at Marquette and many consider him to be one of the bright lights of the upcoming generation of college coaches. Dan Daly – formerly of the Washington Times – had this comment on Facebook:

“Let’s hope Buzz isn’t lightyears away from turning around the ‪‎Virginia Tech‬‬ basketball program.”

Scott Ostler had this observation recently in the SF Chronicle:

“You want to root for Jason Collins, but if he doesn’t want this to be NBA goodbye, he’d better stop playing like a paperweight. In five March games, going into Saturday, Collins logged 52 minutes, four rebounds, two points, two assists.”

Just to update those numbers for you…

    Collins has appeared in 13 games playing a total of 97 minutes this year.

    He has scored 7 points and collected 7 rebounds in those minutes.

    97 minutes is almost exactly 2 full NBA games. Do the math…

Finally, Greg Cote had this item in a weekend column in the Miami Herald a couple weeks ago:

“Longtime Dolphins media-relations maven Harvey Greene now mans a newly created position as vice president of ‘historical affairs.’ Great. Now the club’s obsession with 1972-73 is officially a full-time job.”

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

More From NFL’s Spring Meeting…

More news emerged from the NFL owners’ Spring Meetings. The first announcement was that the league would use the exhibition games this summer to try out the idea of kicking PATs from the 20-yardline. I think that is a good idea in the sense that it gives a marginal purpose to meaningless exhibition games. I hardly think this decision is climactic; but it does no damage. Hi-ho!

The Commish announced that there is a “tremendous amount of interest” in expanding the playoffs. He went so far as to say it might even happen for the 2014 season. He added that scenario was unlikely and that one of the next steps would be talks with the NFLPA who should ultimately agree to the idea because it increases league revenue that in turn raises the salary cap and the salary floor. Despite that clear and present benefit for the players, you can be sure that the NFLPA will not agree to whatever the original proposal might be.

In the spirit of trying to be constructive, let me cobble together some of each of the above ideas and present an idea that might benefit everyone. My suggestion has 4 parts:

    1. Open training camps a week earlier than they open now.

    2. Cut the exhibition season from 4 games to 2 games.

    3. Begin the season one week earlier than it begins now in order to accommodate a 17-game regular season schedule.

    4. With expanded playoffs, there will be 7 teams per conference. The only team in each conference with a bye-week will be the one with the best record.

Here is how everyone benefits from that system:

    Fewer exhibition games ought to be attractive to players. Owners will balk at first because that means they have only one home exhibition game to shove down the throats of their season ticket buyers. But they should be able to see past that. Fans need not see or pay for as many meaningless exhibitions.

    Earlier opening of training camp and fewer exhibition games gives teams more time to practice. With free agency and player movement, that becomes a benefit for players and for fans.

    The 17th regular season game will add revenue for the league, which will lead to increased salary caps for each team. Players benefit from that. Fans get an extra weekend of real football. Fans should like that. TV Networks get more programming that gets good ratings. Execs should like that. Moreover, by starting the season a week earlier, the added regular season game does not affect the standing schedule for playoffs or Super Bowls.

    The expanded playoffs should not use a “play-in game” format. The reason here is if the league does that, it will retain two teams getting a bye as the field is cut from 6 teams to 4 teams. However, if there is a “play-in round”, two teams would have two weeks off and I do not think that is a good idea nor is it fair.

    By the way, my proposed playoff schedule would require 6 games on the first weekend of the playoffs. Since the winners will have to advance and play the teams coming off a bye week, it would not be fair to have any of those games on Monday night. Nor would it be fair to make teams finish the regular season on Sunday and then have to start the playoffs on Thursday. The schedule would be 3 games on Saturday and 3 games on Sunday.

Having an odd number of games in a season does introduce a scheduling issue. Half the teams will need to play 9 home games and half would need to play 9 road games. Obviously, the schedule masters would have to assure that the teams alternated from season to season. Moreover, this gives the NFL flexibility to schedule a few more games each year at neutral sites or even foreign cities to develop interest in the NFL product there. Instead of 3 games in London as the NFL will do this year, the expanded schedule could allow for a half-dozen games per year in cities such as London, Mexico City, Los Angeles, Montreal and perhaps cities in the Far East.

Moving along… According to reports, Ed Hochuli’s son, Shawn, will be an NFL official starting this year. According to the reports, the only hurdles needs to cross are a physical exam and a background check. What is the OVER/UNDER on the number of weeks before one of the networks does a pre-game feature of father and son doing bicep curls? I am guessing FOX in Week 4…

NCAA Tournament action resumes this evening. Here is a recent Tweet from Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Judging by early NCAA action — TV commercials, I mean — Charles Barkley is No. 1 seed in the Most Likely to Wear Out His Welcome bracket.”

I must take issue with Professor Molinaro here. Surely, Ricky Gervais in those Audi commercials has to be more annoying than Barkley. In addition, would someone please take the old guy in the Buffalo Wild Wings ads who adds nothing to the human condition by announcing that “the game is on,” and put him out of his misery.

I read a report that ESPN hired Ozzie Guillen to be part of their studio team for Baseball Tonight. Let me be clear; I like Ozzie Guillen as a manager. However, the tech guy whose responsibility it would be to “hit the 7-second dump button” needs to avoid the decaf when Ozzie’s microphone is live. Ozzie being Ozzie on live TV has the potential to get crosswise with the FCC.

Finally, here is another item from Bob Molinaro – this time with regard to starting the baseball season in Australia this year:

“Tidbit: The first time a big-league baseball team appeared Down Under was in 1888 when the touring White Sox played on the same cricket grounds used by the Dodgers and D-backs. Apparently, the American game never took off there.”

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

Worse Than “Getting Scooped”…

I have never pretended to be a journalist of any kind. I do have friends who are and have been in that business for a long time so I know from being around them that “getting scooped” is not fun. But there is something even worse than “getting scooped” and it happened to me last night.

Yesterday afternoon, a report hit CBSSports.com about Danny Boy Snyder establishing a foundation to assist Native Americans – the Original Americans Foundation – and he sent a letter out to Skins’ fans and season ticket holders explaining his actions. Within minutes, I had 5 notes on my clipboard demonstrating what a bit of nonsense this all is. Here are my notes:

    Desperate attempt to quiet criticism of team name.
    Funds to start foundation – drop in the bucket
    Danny Boy made billions in the “communication” industry?
    Letter to fans worse than smarmy – need to wash out eyes after reading
    Who thought “OAF” was a good acronym for this foundation?

That was going to be the basis of the first 50-70% of this morning’s rant. Then I tuned into Keith Olbermann’s program on ESPN2 last night. He led with the same story – so, I “got scooped”. Here is what is worse. His takedown of Danny Boy Snyder and the letter to his fanbase and the whole ambience surrounding OAF is so much better than anything I might have come up with. If you missed Olbermann last night, please take 5 minutes and 25 seconds to watch the opening segment of that program. I wish I could have made his points nearly as well.

The NFL owners – including “The Washington Oaf” – are at their Spring Meeting in Orlando, FL this week. A member of their ranks is missing. Ralph Wilson, owner of the Buffalo Bills since the team began back in the old AFL, died yesterday. He was 95 years old. Back in 1960, Ralph Wilson coughed up $25K to get his AFL franchise; he has been the sole owner of the team since then. In the early 60s, he provided a loan of about $500K to the Oakland Raiders franchise to keep that team afloat. That may not seem like a big deal today, but recall that the old AFL had already seen one of its original franchises, the NY Titans, go belly-up.

Ralph Wilson was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last year. He said it was the biggest honor of his life. Fortunately, the folks who man the turnstiles at the Hall of Fame got him in there so he could experience the biggest honor of his life.

Rest in peace, Ralph Wilson.

I suspect that Jim Irsay, owner and majordomo of the Colts, is not at the Spring Meeting in Orlando this week. I also suspect that Roger Goodell will be meeting very privately with owners – not team executives – who are in Orlando this week on the subject of Jim Irsay. That situation could become extremely delicate for the Commish.

If Irsay – once he and the district attorney in Carmel, Indiana resolve the multiple felony counts against Irsay resulting from a DUI stop and the discovery of controlled substances in his vehicle – gets nothing more than a finger-wagging lecture from the NFL, the NFLPA is likely to scream “double standard”. They would be correct of course; a player who found himself in the same situation would surely get more than a tongue-lashing. Goodell has to navigate some tricky waters here,

The Colts did not help Irsay’s cause in the court of public opinion just after the arrest when they issued the standard “expression of concern.” Here is part of that prepared statement:

“Yesterday, Jim Irsay took the first step toward regaining good health. He voluntarily checked into a highly respected health care facility and is committed to undergoing the treatment and care necessary to help him meet his challenges head-on.”

Folks, he was arrested for DUI and reportedly failed a variety of “roadside field sobriety tests”. Remember that as you read the prepared statement and the words, “head-on”.

    Memo to Author of Colts’ statement: Next time try thesaurus.com

Rhetorical question:

    Is the author of the Colts’ statement the same person who thought “OAF” was a great acronym for Danny Boy Snyder’s foundation? That might explain a few things…

One might ask if anything of monumental importance has emerged from the Spring Meeting. The short answer to that is the same as the expansive answer to that question:

    No!

Here are two rule changes that have been announced:

    On replays, the game officials may be in contact with the NFL Officiating department. That means there may be other voices in the referee’s headset. This is not a bad change; it is not a big deal either.

    There is a new rule that expands the definition of a roll-back block and penalizes players for using that technique. If that helps to minimize leg injuries as the proponents claim, then it is a good thing.

The other change announced is not a rule change per se but it represents a change in a “grandfather clause”. In the league’s move to curb/restrict end zone celebrations, the NFL adopted a rule penalizing any use of the ball as a prop for end zone celebrations. Several actions were “grandfathered” at that time because they had some ”longstanding tradition” associated with them to include the Lambeau Leap, spiking the football and dunking the football over the goalposts. Dunking the football over the goal posts has been “un-grandfathered”; it will be penalized with a fine starting this year. The explanation is that twice last season the impact of the player on the goal post caused the posts to deviate from vertical and required stoppage of the game to adjust the goalposts.

Since I never thought of the “goalpost dunk” as an essential element to my enjoyment of a game, I really do not care if it “grandfathered” or “un-grandfathered”. Let us hope that this does not become a cause célèbre.

Finally, here is some blunt talk from Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle with regard to Richie Incognito seeking work with the Raiders:

“The Raiders must be flattered. Richie Incognito says he’d love to play for them because he knows the coaches and because ‘the Raiders have that aura.’ Talk about desperate sucking up. The Raiders are a lackluster football organization with an interesting past and questionable future. Aura? Ghostbusters couldn’t locate the Raiders’ aura.”

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

Friend Of The Court

Fear not. I am not going to spend any time today on the subject of the NCAA Tournament. The teams get a rest and time to get ready for the next round; you and I need the same rest. Besides, there are legal issues to consider today…

The first issue is not in the courts – yet. However, if/when it arrives there, the matter will provide me with a dilemma. Let me explain.

    When someone like John Wayne Gacy goes to trial, it is easy for me to “root for” one side in the matter.
    When someone sues the NCAA for anything other than a frivolous matter, it easy for me to “root for” one side in the matter.

    However when North American Veeblefetzer sues the Grace L. Ferguson Airline and Storm Door Company (h/t to Mad Magazine), I really do not care who wins the matter.

However, in this potential case, my dilemma is that I would like both sides to lose and that does not seem possible. According to reports in the New York Daily News, Alex Rodriguez has not paid approximately $3M for legal and investigative services in his abortive arbitration fight to get his baseball suspension overturned. According to the NYDN sources, invoices have been sent but payments have not been forthcoming.

Obviously, I have no idea if there is a problem here beyond A-Rod needing time to have the liquidity to write checks totaling of $3M. However, if he is indeed stiffing his lawyers, private investigators and “crisis management consultants”, that could wind up in a court for settlement. In that case, I would want A-Rod to lose – except that would enrich the weasels that advised him to continue on with his charade. Ok, then I want the lawyers/PIs/crisis managers to lose – except that would enrich A-Rod. See my problem here?

I won’t bore you with the details of this, but about 30 years ago, I received a waiver from the clerk of court to file an amicus curiae brief in a matter where I “had standing’ in the case before the court. After I received the waiver, I put in a call to a cousin who is an attorney and asked two fundamental questions:

    What is the format for an amicus curiae brief?

    Can you point me to an exemplar of a real one?

As you might expect, nothing came of all this other than I did prepare a brief but did not get it to the court before it handed down a summary judgment in the matter. I tell you all this because I wish I would “have standing” should the A-Rod Payment for Services Matter ever go to court. If so, I would prepare another amicus curiae brief in the name of thoughtful and considerate baseball fans and citizens of the US. Here is the core message:

    The participants in the matter before the court are all loathsome creatures. Lady Justice who symbolizes this court may be blindfolded, but she still has her sense of smell. These folks bring such a stench of “Social BO” to the court that her stomach has to turn. The court can further American society a great deal should it find a way to punish and humiliate everyone involved here.

    May it please the court; allow me to channel Captain Jean-Luc Picard, “Make it so.”

One of the writers for the New York Daily News had this sentence in a piece there regarding interactions and motivations for folks in this “non-payment issue”.

“And [A-Rod] reportedly hopes to reconcile with MLB after spending much of 2013 waging war against baseball officials, because he hopes to work as a broadcaster or even become an owner once his career is over.”

Think about the possibility that MLB owners would vote to admit A-Rod to their “club”. I think that is about as likely as:

    Charlie Sheen becoming the US Surgeon General
    Steven Seagal winning an Oscar for Best Actor
    Pee Wee Herman playing nose tackle in the NFL
    Rhett Butler giving a damn
    The Beatles staging a reunion tour

The second legal issue for today is actually before a court. It involves the halftime show for the Super Bowl game in 2012. As always, I missed as much of the halftime extravaganza as I could; therefore, I did not see the event that caused this matter to go to court. Evidently, a rapper whose nom de guerre is M.I.A. delivered a double “offensive finger salute” during her “collaboration” with Madonna in that performance and the NFL has indeed “taken offense”.

The NFL has sued M.I.A. for $1.5M alleging that she “breached her performance contract and tarnished the reputation of the NFL”. If that is all there were in the matter, you could just write it off as a nuisance suit that would eventually be settled once M.I.A.’s career was reduced to the point where she was taking gigs at Bat Mitzvahs. However, the NFL decided to raise the stakes here and has now asked for an additional $15.1M as “restitution” in this matter.

Just to do the math for you here, if the NFL got all of this, they would get $16.6M which sets the price at $8.3M per flipping of the bird. Lest that seem excessive to you, remember that there were probably 50 million people who watched that performance which means that on a per person basis the price for flipping the bird is a measly 17 cents. How did the NFL come up with that “restitution” number? Well, they timed M.I.A.’s act and figured what advertisers would have paid for that much airtime and …

Here is the message I would convey should I be permitted to deliver an amicus curiae brief in this matter:

    The participants in the matter before the court are not necessarily loathsome creatures but they all have to get over themselves. Performers who flip the bird are not expressing themselves artistically; they are desperately seeking attention; attention whores are not interesting. The NFL’s reputation was not tarnished by that action in any meaningful way.

    Set the penalty in this matter at ten grand and then have the sides flip a coin – not the bird – to go double or nothing and the money goes to the charity of choice for the “winner” of the flip.

It should now be clear – crystal clear – to everyone that I never spent a day of my life in law school…

Finally, Brad Dickson had this positive economic analysis in the Omaha World-Herald recently:

“The Oakland A’s are advertising for employees to spend next season running around the field in mascot heads. Finally, the Obama jobs plan begins to pay dividends.”

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

Re-Entering The World…

Well, I made it through the basketball orgy of last weekend without suffering butt-blisters from all of the time in my rocking chair in front of the TV set. Basketball fans get a couple of days to exhale, survey the sad state of their bracket picks, consume foodstuffs that have a modicum of nutritional value and reconnect with family and friends. To that end, I plan to join my long-suffering wife at the movies late this afternoon to see Mr. Peabody and Sherman after which we will go out to dinner and then return home to watch the Cosmos episode that we recorded last evening. Who knows, by tomorrow noon she may even remember who I am…

Meanwhile, here are some contemporaneous notes from my notepad during the games from Friday through Sunday. Last year, New Mexico lost in the tournament to Harvard in the first round; this year they lost to Stanford in the first round. Maybe next year, they should schedule Yale and Princeton as out-of-conference games to prep for the 2015 tournament?

After Nebraska lost to Baylor – running their record to 0-7 in tournament games – a friend who is addicted to trivia e-mailed me the following:

    “With North Dakota State’s win over Oklahoma, it was the first time a team from North Dakota had ever won a March Madness game. That leaves only 4 states where a team in the state has never won a game. Name them.”

I got three of the states pretty quickly. Alaska was not a tough one. Neither was Delaware because during the telecast of the Michigan State/Delaware game, they said that Delaware had never won a tournament game and since the only other school in Delaware that I know of is Delaware State, I figured that was a good guess – and it was. The third one also came easy because I decided to take a mental tour of the US map state by state and started in the northeast. The first state on my list was Maine – and there are not a lot of Division 1 basketball programs of note in Maine so that was the third correct answer.

Then I was trapped by Nebraska and its 0-7 record. I did not think of any other basketball schools in Nebraska and guessed that was the fourth state. Yes, I should have remembered that Creighton is in Omaha but I did not. So, now that you know three of the four states that fit this criterion – Alaska, Delaware and Maine – what is the fourth one on the list? The answer is below…

Recognizing that the Selection Committee does not have a scientific basis for assigning teams to seeding positions, was UMass really good enough to be a 6-seed?

Look at a close-up of Jarnell Stokes (Tennessee) in their next game. He looks like Carmelo Anthony’s younger brother.

The foul by VCU – leading by 4 points with seconds to go – on a three point shot leading to a 4-point play to send the game to OT, has to be the most boneheaded play of the season.

Kentucky opened its game shooting technical fouls because a K-State player dunked the ball in warm-ups. That is the correct call; do not fault the officials. That is also one of the dumber rules in the book.

    Speaking of dumb rules… In the final two minutes, the officials go to the scorer table to check the timing on just about every clock stoppage adjusting for tenths of seconds. However, for the first 38 minutes of the game, they do no checking and rely on the competence of the clock operator to get it right. However, in the final two minutes, they realize that the clock operator is almost never right to tenths of a second.

    Ergo, while they take an eternity to “get it right” in the final two minutes to a tenth of a second, the cumulative error from the first 38 minutes could easily be 20-30 seconds. What’s the point…?

There is a fundamental difference in the way various teams run. Florida, North Carolina and Kansas run a lot and they are under control while they do it. Cincinnati, VCU and Memphis run out of control.

Florida/Pitt was a very good game. Do not be fooled by the 61-45 score; there was great defense in the game and it was not a blowout until late in the game. If you have it recorded and missed it, take a look.

St. Louis University was the season champion of the A-10 and Jordair Jett was the Player of the Year in the A-10. Not very impressive. If Jett hopes to play pro basketball, I hope he majored in a couple of foreign languages.

Syracuse/Dayton – probably the best game from start to finish. With 3 minutes to play, the biggest lead was 5 or 6 points with plenty of tie scores. It came down to one last shot.

Oregon/Wisconsin – probably the most entertaining game. Oregon scored 55 points in 23 minutes against a Bo Ryan team. Moreover, Oregon lost… Wow!

The hype before the season started was that NBA teams would be tanking in order to be able to draft either Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins with the top two picks in the draft. Neither one played well in the tournament this year.

    Memo to Tanking NBA Teams:

    1. Andrew Wiggins is 25 pounds of muscle and a killer-instinct short of being ready for the NBA next year.

    2. Jabari Parker is big enough for NBA play but needs added strength. If you draft him to rejuvenate your franchise, you had better have him as one part of a five-year plan to do so. He will not be a star next year.

    3. The most “NBA-ready” freshman I saw in the tournament was Julius Randle from Kentucky – and he too will need a year or so to become a major contributor.

I mentioned dumb rules above but here is a note that I took about a rule that was put in the book for a specific purpose:

    Have they repealed the 3-second violation? Some guys are homesteading in the lane and I did not see a single 3-second violation called.

I promised you the answer to the fourth state without a school in the state ever winning a tournament game. The answer is South Dakota.

Finally, I did not pick this as my final game but a Florida/Wichita State game would have been interesting. Someone could have run one of those contests where people vote by texting their choice to see which coach – Gregg Marshall (Wichita State) or Billy Donovan (Florida) – is the unacknowledged love-child of Eddie Munster.

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