Correcting An Omission

Last week, I cited statistics on stolen bases given up by the Cardinals since the arrival of Yadier Molina as their catcher but I had lost the source of those stats. I had gone looking for the source in various St. Louis sports sites (seemed logical at the time) but a note from a reader in Houston correctly informed me that the source was Bob Smizik who used to write for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and who now posts a blog on that paper’s website. Thank you to my informant and a top of my hat to Bob Smizik for those stats.

Let me agree with Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot on this issue:

“Swan song: At 40 and coming back from back issues, Steve Nash said next season with the Lakers will be his last. Nash, who was active for only 15 games last season, is expected to contribute primarily as a mentor to younger backcourt players. Obviously, he’s hanging around for the money, but I still remember the nights in the mid-aughts when he was putting on a show with Phoenix and never made me regret staying up too late to watch.”

Steve Nash was always fun to watch because he played hard all the time and did not interrupt the game with any “look-at-me” antics.

Now let me agree with Bob Molinaro once again on this next issue:

“Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. At one point, somebody yelled: ‘Hey! There’s a player juicing!’ and all three looked the other way.”

Managers in particular had to choose not to realize that some of their players in the late 80s and 90s were using PEDs. When I think of “shot up teams”, the Braves do not leap to mind but they probably had some users in the clubhouse. However, the Yankees, the A’s and the Cardinals – the teams managed by Torre and LaRussa and the teams that won all of those games that got these gentlemen elected to the Hall of Fame – were serious and serial offenders when it came to steroids. I can accept Torre’s entry into the Hall of Fame because he was a borderline candidate as a player and I can accept Cox’s entry too. However, I have said since the day the votes were counted that putting Tony LaRussa in the Hall of Fame is a travesty. His plaque should have the likeness of Sgt. Schultz on it.

This morning on a headline reads:

    “What does Tiger Woods’ most recent injury mean for golf?”

I do not think it is important for you to go and read the article that follows that headline; there is not a ton of insight there. However, Woods’ injury is merely a foreshadowing of a day sometime in the future when Tiger Woods will no longer be capable of playing competitive golf on the PGA Tour. What that means is that the PGA needs to consider very carefully how it is going to promote/market itself when that day arrives. Today, if Woods plays on a weekend, ratings are good; if he does not play, ratings crater. My interpretation of that situation is that the PGA and the golf writers have focused so much attention on Tiger Woods – to the exclusion of many other players on the tour – that the public just does not care about lots of other players on the tour. Woods’ injuries/surgeries this year ought to be an alarm bell for the PGA to come up with a new promotional strategy. Somehow, I am not sanguine they have focused on that point.

The Superintendent of the Air Force Academy had called for an investigation into the Academy’s athletic programs based on an extensive report in the Colorado Springs Gazette. That very lengthy report is based on documents obtained from the Academy via the Freedom of Information Act. The paper cites problems associated with “academic issues”, drug use, sexual abuse and “honor code violations” associated with cadet-athletes. There is one section that says the authorities were considering a “sting” to uncover problems but called it off because they feared they could not properly protect the undercover folks who would be doing the stinging. If true, that is a damning situation all around the Academy.

The report is long but it is good investigative reporting. You can read it here:

Last week, I said that the NFL had been too lenient with regard to the suspension issued to Ray Rice. My sentiment obviously coincided with Scott Ostler’s thinking on the subject based on these comments from the SF Chronicle over the weekend:

“Stripping away all the technicalities, legalese, comparisons and bullcorn: Ray Rice cold-cocked a woman in an elevator.

“Maybe the NFL and the players’ union should get together and agree that punching a woman unconscious is at least as wrong as smoking a doobie.”

Can I get an “Amen!” here…?

I think we have reached a tipping point with regard to sporting figures coming out. Jason Collins was the first active male pro athlete to announce that he is gay; Michael Sam was the first player to enter the NFL Draft openly gay. Now we have another “first”…

    Violet Palmer – the NBA’s first female official – came out as a lesbian announcing that she will marry her long-term partner.

Good for her and for her partner. Now … can we acknowledge that any future announcements of this type get shunted directly to the agate section of the sports page? The only thing I would even begin to care about with regard to Violet Palmer’s announcement is this:

    With that burden off her shoulders, will she get better as an official – because she really needs to get better?

Finally, here is a rhetorical question from Scott Ostler in the SF Chronicle regarding the Niner’s new stadium that opens this year:

“Big question about Levi’s Stadium: Will it shrink after a rain?”

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

Bidding For The 2024 Summer Olympics…

According to various reports, there are 4 cities that want the US Olympic Committee’s backing in an attempt to host the summer Olympics in 2024. Other reports say there are 6 cities “in the mix”. One of the cities on both lists is Washington DC – a city with which I have more than a passing familiarity. There are two major reasons why DC would be a horrendous choice:

    1. The current infrastructure is so insufficient to handle the logistics of an Olympics that I cannot come up with a figure of speech sufficiently bad to convey the message to you properly.

    2. If anyone thinks the Brazilians are a bit nonchalant about getting down to work to get things done for the 2016 Games, let me assure you that the folks who run DC and the surrounding jurisdictions taught the Brazilians everything the Brazilians know about procrastination. Let me give you a short example of now “things get done” in the DC area:

      In the mid-90s, studies and plans for an extension of the Metro to Dulles Airport began to happen.

      Construction began in 2008.

      Last week, the first HALF of the extension opened; it is just over 11 miles long. It took almost 6 years to build an 11-mile train line all above ground.

      The second half is scheduled to be finished in 2018; if it opens then, it will be the first time Metro has met a scheduled milestone.

Here is how things tend to “work” in the DC area. Imagine that the plan calls for you to run a four-minute mile. Now the execution phase of that plan would go along and no one would foresee that having you run the final quarter mile in 9 seconds makes the execution phase impossible. Sad but true… Also, please ignore the fact that the District of Columbia has far more urgent things on which to spend its money – not the least of which would be its public school system. DC would be a terrible choice…

The other cities supposedly interested are:

    Boston: They have a lot of venues already in place. I am not sure where they would find convenient real estate for an Olympic Village but I am sure the planners will come up with something there. Traffic congestion would be a significant issue for me.

    Dallas: Again, they have facilities already in place – including Cowboys’ Stadium to host the opening and closing ceremonies. Moreover, there surely are “moneyed interests” in the area to make this happen. Summer weather in Dallas can be “very interesting”…

    Los Angeles: They have just about everything they might need on hand since they hosted the games in 1984. Traffic congestion would be a significant challenge.

    San Diego: According to a report I read, San Diego would “partner” with Tijuana, Mexico if it puts forth a bid. Has anyone seen recent photos of the traffic jam at the border crossing there?

    San Francisco: Given the stadiums for baseball, football (collegiate and pro) and the arenas for basketball and hockey that are in the area, this could be a viable venue.

The USOC hopes to make its selection for the US bid by the end of 2014 and the presentation to the IOC will happen in September 2015. International “competition” for the games will come from Doha, Qatar; Paris, France; Rome, Italy; St. Petersburg, Russia; and Istanbul, Turkey.

Meanwhile, the NY Times reported that an IOC official who had his eye on the Brazilian preparations for the 2016 Games called them “the worst I have ever experienced.” If anyone recalls the nonsense associated with the Athens’ preparations, the Brazilians have hurdled over a very high bar indeed. One issue with the host city of Rio de Janeiro is that many of their waterways are polluted water; the reason for that is pretty basic; according to the government in Rio, only 35% of the wastewater/sewage in the city is treated meaning 65% of the sewage generated by 6.35 million people in the city proper and by about 12 million people in the “greater Rio area”. Why is this a problem?

    In the summer games, there are sports such as canoeing, rowing, sailing and the triathlon, which put athletes in or right next to “natural bodies of water”. Now that you have that list, go back and read those stats about sewage treatment in Rio…

I ran across this stat somewhere but I have lost the citation to where I found it. I will present it here and tip my hat to whomever it was that put it out there for me to find. It has to do with the value of a defensive catcher in baseball. Consider:

    Yadier Molina came to the Cardinals full-time in 2005. Since that year, here are the teams in baseball that have allowed the fewest stolen bases.

      Cards 480
      Reds 720 (50% more than the Cards)
      Twins 775 (61% more than the Cards)
      D-Backs 780 (62% more than the Cards)

Finally, I do know where this stat came from. It came from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Flashback: Clayton Kershaw is today’s most dominating pitcher, but Sandy Koufax set the standard for Dodger left-handers. From 1961 through ’66, Koufax was 129-47, and while pitching every four days, completed 54 of 84 starts in 1965 and ’66.”

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

Tone Deafness Strikes The NFL

There must be an epidemic of tone-deafness running amok in the NFL. The league took a lot of heat from fans and just general folks with regard to the perceived leniency in Ray Rice’s meager suspension for assaulting his fiancée. That was bad; then the NFL allowed/sent one of its vice-presidents to Mike and Mike on ESPN Radio to explain. What that gentleman did was to tell everyone that they did not understand and that the NFL had come down hard on Ray Rice and that there is no way that anyone could think the NFL was soft on domestic violence issues.

That message flew like a cement feather. Rice’s suspension is half of the suspension handed out to players who fail a PED test. That gives you a measure of the NFL’s stern stance in that case.

However, the NFL is not the only tone-deaf party in the Ray Rice affair. There were reports that when he stepped onto the practice field at the Ravens’ training camp, the Ravens’ fans gave him a lengthy standing ovation. Let me try to list a few reasons why athletes get standing ovations:

    Just achieved a statistical milestone
    Scored the winning TD in last year’s Super Bowl Game
    Overcame a personal tragedy (such as loss of a child)
    Overcame a horrible injury or disease

As you might imagine, I would need a very lengthy list to get to the entry that says:

    Beat up his fiancée and skated with a mere 2-game suspension.

I have no idea what was going through the minds of the Ravens’ fans at training camp but I would like to hear how they might explain their behavior to an 11-year old child – of either gender – who witnessed it.

Moreover, tone-deafness is not only resident in the Ravens’ camp. It seems to have spread to the Browns’ camp. According to reports, someone asked Johnny Manziel about the criticism he got from Browns’ owner Jimmy Hazlem about his partying in the off-season. Manziel’s response mentioned that he indeed needs to mature a bit which is a good tack to take in that situation. However, then he seemed to go off the rails just a bit when he said that what he was doing in the off-season was legal and that he has a right to go partying when it is the off-season.

    Memo to Johnny Manziel: No one is questioning your “rights” in the matter. What some folks do question is your maturity, your self-control and your “work ethic – whatever that is with regard to football. You whiffed on a good opportunity to score some points with those folks.

Manziel is in the midst of a QB competition in the Browns’ camp with Brian Hoyer. Obviously as a first-round pick and as “Johnny Football”, it has to be his objective to win that competition and start for the Browns. Remember, he is trying to beat out Brian Hoyer for the job and not John Unitas. Hoyer has been in the NFL since 2009 but has only started 4 games in that span. Granted, he was holding a clipboard for Tom Brady for three seasons but he never saw the field on a Sunday in New England.

Theoretically, the Browns have 4 QBs who are in the competition; Connor Shaw and Tyler Thigpen are also on the roster. Shaw is a Steve Spurrier product and not all of Steve Spurrier’s QBs go on to greatness in the NFL. Thigpen is either the nicest guy in the world or the best practice player in the NFL. He has been in the league since 2007; the Browns will be his 6th team and when he starts an NFL game, it is usually not good news for his team. He has started 12 games; his teams have lost 11 of those 12 games.

Another potentially interesting QB “battle” is in the Vikings’ camp. Theirs is a real 3-way dance between Teddy Bridgewater, Matt Cassel and Christian Ponder. Bridgewater is in an “algebraic situation” here. Both Cassel and Ponder have shown they are not the answer as the Vikes’ QB; they are negatives. What Bridgewater needs to show is that he is neither Cassel nor Ponder. In that situation, he would be a negative of a negative – and in algebra, you learn that is a positive. It will be interesting to see how that turns out.

The QB completion that has the potential to generate the most fireworks, though, is the one in the Jets’ training camp. Geno Smith was “raw” last year; he threw 12 TDs and 21 INTs. Rex Ryan loves to sugarcoat situations like that but there is not enough sugar in the Western Hemisphere to make Smith’s 2013 season palatable. Pushing him for the starting job will be Michael Vick who can still show flashes of brilliance in his game and who remains injury prone and who continues to be “accuracy-challenged” throwing the football.

In a parallel universe, the Jets have a competition going on for their 3rd string QB too. Tajh Boyd came in the draft this year; he is big and athletic and to say he is “accuracy-challenged” would be generous indeed. The other party to the competition there is Chris Simms. I think the bottom line on Simms is that if his surname were Flabeetz he would have been out of the league for a while now.

Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot had an interesting observation recently regarding NFL officials:

“Hurry up: Because of the popularity of high-tempo offenses in the NFL – the Chip Kelly Effect – game officials are undergoing more rigorous physical training so they can spot the ball faster. I’d rather they spent the offseason figuring out what is and isn’t pass interference.”

I cannot possibly disagree with that statement…

Finally, Greg Cote of the Miami Herald had this comment about a new NFL “initiative” recently. I would have a hard time disagreeing with it too:

“The NFL plans to place cameras in locker rooms and air video to fans in stadiums. It will be a good idea until the moment a horrified crowd is accidentally shown a 365-pound guard with no pants.”

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

A Sesame Street Day

To give you a time perspective here, my two sons are 40 and 38 years old as of this morning. When they were “single digits” in ages, we would often watch Sesame Street together. That viewing experience is the inspiration for today’s rant. As in many of the old-time Sesame Street episodes, today’s rant is brought to you by the letter “T”.

First up this week with news related to the letter “T”, are the Colorado Rockies. Their best player – without a lot of debate – is Troy Tulowitzki. The Rockies figured that it might be a good idea to give something to their loyal fans that would link those fans to Tulowitzki. After all, the Rockies are down almost 1000 fans per game this year as compared to last year; creating a buzz amongst the fans might not be a bad idea.

So, the Rockies decided to give away a T-shirt that looked like a Rockies’ uniform and with Tulowitzki’s name and number on the back of the shirt. This makes ultimate sense; he is the Rockies’ best player; he is a four-time All-Star; he has won a Gold Glove award; he has won a Silver Slugger award. There is no doubt that Troy Tulowitzki deserves whatever accolades and celebration that the Rockies choose to give him.

Here is the problem:

    The Rockies did not do anything close to “sufficient quality control” when they began to give away shirts with the name “Tulowizki” on the back.

    What’s missing? Of course, it is the letter “t” in the middle of his name…

The Rockies obviously need to make amends with their fans over this egregious error. What the team has done is to offer to exchange the “misspelled jersey” for one with the name spelled correctly at a variety of venues. In addition, if fans turn in the jersey with the name spelled wrong for one with the name spelled right, that fan can also get a free ticket to a future game – this year or next year – at no charge.

Notwithstanding the complimentary ticket offer, I wonder how Rockies’ fans might feel should the team decide to trade “Tulo” between now and the nominal baseball trade deadline of 1 August. On one hand, the team would have bid “Sayonara” to its best player. On the other hand, he was not going to lead the Rockies to anywhere interesting this season and that is how he became “expendable” in the first place.

The next item starting with the letter “T” is Mark Trumbo of the Arizona Diamondbacks. In his first years with the Angels in Anaheim, he never hit much for average; but he did provide power and RBIs in his first three MLB seasons. In fact, he averaged 94 RBIs per year in his first three full seasons there. He was second in Rookie of the Year voting and was an All-Star in Anaheim but the presence of Albert Pujols and Mike Trout made him expendable so he now finds himself in Arizona and adjusting to the National League. Yes, he had an injury that kept him out of games earlier this year, but at the moment, he is hitting .193 with 7 HRs and 22 RBIs and his OPS is down about 120 points. It has not been an auspicious year for Mark Trumbo…

Next up, you might ask the question:

    Who – or what – is “tough on domestic violence”?

The answer would have to be:

    Not Roger Goodell or the NFL.

The Commish and the league took a stand on domestic violence with a 2-game suspension for Ray Rice after his well-publicized domestic violence incident – the last part of which was caught on video tape. There was an opportunity for the NFL to take a stand on an important issue and the NFL took a pass instead. In a league where the commissioner hands out fines and suspensions for violent and vicious hits, that same league and that same commissioner chose to give a slap on the wrists to a player who was involved in a violent and vicious hit that was completely avoidable. Sir Winston Churchill urged on the British citizenry in the dark early days of WW II with these words:

“Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’ ”

Well, this was not the NFL’s finest hour… The league had – handed to it on a silver platter – an opportunity to take a stand on domestic violence and it chose to look the other way. Personally, I find the 2-game suspension much too lenient here particularly when compared to the standard 4-game suspension that follows a second failed test for recreational drug use. I do not want anyone to think that I am endorsing recreational drug use; but when compared to domestic violence, it is a secondary “offense”.

The final issue/story of the moment brought to you by the letter “T” is the threat by folks like Chris Paul and Doc Rivers that they might sit out the next NBA season as a boycott if Donald T. Sterling continues to own the LA Clippers. Would they really do that? If reports are correct, Rivers makes $7M per year to coach the Clippers and has two more years left on his deal. If he reneged on his contract, he would leave $14M on the table. Paul’s contract calls for him to make just over $20M next season and $44M over the next two years plus he has a player option to stay with the Clips in 2017/18 for a tidy $24.3M. He might walk away from more than $85M with his boycott – but that is what reports say he is poised to do next year.

I have had nothing good to say about Donald Sterling here; I surely do not condone his behaviors or share his views on race. Nevertheless, I have to wonder if Chris Paul and/or Doc Rivers – not to mention other players for the Clippers and other players in the NBA – would forfeit the kind of money guaranteed in their contracts over a social issue. If they carry through with their threat, they will take a stronger stand on the issue than did the MFL with regard to domestic violence.

Finally, consider this comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald with regard to a sports entity and domestic violence and compare it to the NFL position as of today:

“UFC parted ways with Fort Lauderdale fighter Thiago Silva after his arrest on a battery charge. Yeah, because the last thing UFC needs is to be associated with violence!”

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

Admin Note

My writing schedule for the next week will be sporadic. My grandson – and his parents too of course – are visiting us from Ireland so the time for writing and research will be other than normal for me.

Please check back here during the week when it is convenient you; I really cannot predict the schedule.

Stay well, everyone…

If You Are In The Area Tonite…

If you are in the Little Rock, Arkansas area tonite, you might want to think about taking in the Arkansas Travelers’ game there. The team has often hosted Clunker Car Night promotions whereby a fan or three win a car in “less than mint condition”. However, tonite, the Travelers are setting sail for that concept in a whole new direction. Tonite is “Clunker Boat Night”. The team makes only one guarantee about the boats that will be given away here; they will float. Beyond that, it is winner beware – or something like that.

Now if you are planning to be in the Akron, Ohio area next Monday, you might want to make time on your busy calendar to check out the Akron Rubber Ducks game that night. Last year the team was the Akron Aeros and they held a promotion where by a bunch of people sat in a car and the last person to leave the vehicle won the car. However, if you are now the Rubber Ducks, the car becomes incongruent with the team name and so…

    The team will hold “Hot Tub Rubber Duck Survivor Night”. Here is the deal; people climb into a hot tub in the stadium filled with rubber ducks and the last one to leave the tub wins the tub.

    Here is a strategy. Go to Taco Bell about 5:00 PM and chow down on a half dozen of their “treats”. My guess is the others in the tub will exit quickly and willingly.

The prize here might not be so bad except – what are you going to do with the 200 or so rubber ducks that were in the tub with you…?

Moving up a bit on the baseball ladder, consider a new culinary offering from the Texas Rangers. You can now buy something called “The Tanaco” and the name derives from the phrase “not your ordinary taco”. Here is the deal:

    The taco is 2-feet long. Half of it is chicken; the other half is ground beef. It comes with “everything on it”.

    I am trying to imagine a strategy for eating that bad boy without making a mess that would take three days to clean up after…

Sticking with baseball doings for the moment, the Chicago Cubs introduced a new mascot – Clark the Cub – earlier this year. Now the team is suing several people it alleges have dressed up as Clark the Cub and have been “engaging in bad behavior” in the neighborhood of Wrigley Field to include participating in a bar fight that wound up on social media. The Cub s say the imposters – the fake Clarks – are engaging in trademark infringement and their behavior damages the reputation of the Cubs’ team. I can understand the trademark infringement bit; damaging the reputation of the Chicago Cubs is an awfully high bar to the defendants to cross.

The Cubs seek inter alia:

    Surrender of the fake costume so it can be destroyed
    Payment for damages to the team for demeaning its reputation
    Legal fees.

The idea behind Clark was that it would make the team – and Wrigley Field – more “family friendly”. If “Clark” is getting into bar fights, that would seem to negate the purpose of Clark in the first place…

There is a story out there that the Phillies “have considered” cutting Ryan Howard after this season. They signed Howard to a long-term $125M contract in 2011 and they owe him about $60M between now and the end of 2016. To say Howard’s performance has not lived up to that level of recompense would be the understatement of the decade. I have two issues with this story:

    1. The Phillies do not have a sure-fire/cannot-miss prospect in the minors who can only play first base. Howard is not very good and is horribly overpaid, but without someone better to replace him, why get rid of him?

    2. If you “have considered” this, then make a decision. If you are going to cut him in October, cut him now. The cost to the Phillies is the same. If it is a smart move then, it is a smart move now. If you are going to keep him, shut up about your previous “considerations”.

The NFL Draft has been a fixture in NYC. Now, the league has decided to take the show on the road and is considering LA or Chicago as the venue for 2015. Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot assessed this “story” perfectly:

“TV event: Moving the NFL draft out of New York City in 2015 for either Los Angeles or Chicago is an insignificant change that some want to make into story, but it impacts no one who inhales the draft from their homes.”

At the risk of attaching more significance to this move than it deserves, I wonder why and/or how the NFL arrived at LA and Chicago as the alternative sites. There are plenty of cities that have NFL franchises that could host the event – including plenty of “small market cities” and there is no reason why “large market cities” such as Dallas, Houston, SF or Philly could not do so. Therefore:

    Why pick LA as a finalist when there is no team there?

    Why is Chicago the only city with an existing team “on the list”?

Before anyone invests any rational thinking or generates any agita over those two questions, refer back to Professor Molinaro’s very cogent analysis of the big picture here.

Finally, let me close today with some more words of wisdom from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Bottom line: Whenever an athlete receives a bazillion-dollar contract, media and fans feel compelled to exhaust themselves in a debate over whether the jock is worth his fortune. And in every instance, from the deal Colin Kaepernick just signed with the 49ers back to the larval stages of pro sports, the answer has always been the same: An athlete is worth whatever the team’s owner is willing to pay.”

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

The Tony Dungy Brouhaha…

Surely, you have heard/read by now about Tony Dungy’s remarks regarding the drafting of Michael Sam and the furor it seems to have caused. In short, Dungy said that Sam should have the opportunity to play in the NFL but that he (Dungy) would not have drafted him because he did not want the distractions that would come with Sam. In a “clarifying statement”, Dungy said he was referring to the distractions that would come from media focus on Sam as the first openly gay player in the NFL. And the Internet damned near exploded…

Allow me to venture into this minefield gently:

    Michael Sam deserves the opportunity to demonstrate to the Rams (the team that drafted him) that he is capable of playing for the Rams.

    The fact that Sam is gay will be an issue for some of his teammates and some of his coaches. That same fact will be irrelevant for other teammates and coaches.

    The media will extend the life of this issue beyond its normal period of importance – let alone interest.

    Tony Dungy is a man of faith – and his faith leads him to believe that gay marriage is wrong. The fact that he holds that view is no problem at all; in fact, even if he were to mount a political effort to make gay marriage illegal, that would be no problem. The only problem would come from any action he might take to discriminate against a person on the basis of gay marriage.

` The media always complains when athletes or coaches refuse to say anything that might be considered “edgy”; they decry the role of PR advisors and communications directors. In most cases, I agree with the media here. However, if the media is going to hop all over someone who answered a question directly – and presumably candidly – then why would any other athlete/coach ever do so in the future. The media is being a tad hypocritical here.

Look, Tony Dungy said he would not have drafted Michael Sam. Consider:

    As of the end of the 6th round of the NFL Draft, all 32 NFL teams agreed with his assessment.

    At the end of the draft, 31 of the teams still agreed with his assessment.

The time has come to turn the page in this saga. No longer is it important if a team should or will draft Michael Sam; he is in the Rams’ training camp trying to make the Rams’ team. It is no longer important to ask people outside the Rams’ organization what they did or might have done or might not have done during the NFL Draft in May; none of that amounts to a trace of turtle turds. There is only one question to ask now:

    Can Michael Sam play football at the NFL level?

    If so, the Rams got a steal in the 7th round; if not they wasted a low round draft pick.

    Neither of those outcomes upsets the world order…

The Denver Broncos’ owner, Pat Bowlen, has relinquished his role in the organization because he has Alzheimer’s Syndrome. He is 70 years old and Joe Ellis will take over as President and CEO for the team. Just about everyone – players, coaches, reporters – praise Bowlen as a great owner and as a good person. He has owned the team since 1984 and the team only had 5 losing seasons during that time. Of course, having John Elway play QB for 14 of those 30 years helped to provide the team with a winning record.

Bonne chance, Pat Bowlen…

The former owner of the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens, Art Modell, does not enjoy the same level of positive reaction among Cleveland fans. Ignoring the reasons why he took the Browns out of Cleveland – reasons that would have led me to do the same thing were I in his position at the time – many Clevelanders have not been able to get past the fact that their team left town and nothing short of time travel is going to undo that fact. Today there was a report that a Cleveland Browns’ fan went to the Druid Ridge Cemetery where Modell is buried and filmed himself urinating next to Modell’s grave – and then posted that video on YouTube.

That is not the action of a “fan”; that is not the action of a rational person; this is someone who has a very unhealthy need to draw attention to himself. Yes, I know that I am practicing psychology without a license here – and doing it at a distance to boot since I have no idea who the perpetrator is –; nevertheless, this is not a person that I would want to be in a position to make decisions that were germane to my well-being.

NFL training camps are about to open. has an article where it lists the “key questions” for each team as it enters training camp. Here is the link to the list for the AFC teams; there are a few chuckles in the list. Here are two to whet your appetite:

    Tennessee Titans: Can anyone name a player on the Titans?

    Cleveland Browns: What if Johnny Manziel gets so drunk one night he hooks up with a guy, thereby becoming a potential locker room distraction?

      The dreaded “distraction” rears its ugly head…

Finally, here is Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times anticipating this year’s Pro Football Hall of Fame ceremony:

“Ex-Giants defensive end Michael Strahan wants the trademark space between his front teeth evident on his Pro Football Hall of Fame bust.

“In other words, some unwitting sculptor is suddenly hard at work perfecting his one-gap technique.”

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

Recommended Reading

I do not follow hockey nearly as much as I follow other sports and I have never pretended to be knowledgeable about the sport. When I got my copy of Sudden Death, The Incredible Saga of the 1986 Swift Current Broncos, I was not sure what to expect. If I know only a little bit about the NHL, then I surely know next to nothing about junior hockey in Canada.

Since Gregg Drinnan is one of the authors, I thumbed through the pages and my eye happened to fall on the name , Graham James; that rang a bell in the recesses of my memory. After skimming a paragraph or two, I remembered that he was the junior hockey coach who plead guilty to sexually molesting junior hockey players while he was their coach. I thought the book would be about that sort of thing; it was not.

The Swift Current Broncos’ team bus went off the road and killed four of the young players right after Christmas in 1986. These players, between the ages of 16 and 20, had to deal with their own injuries, the deaths of 4 teammates and friends and a manipulative sexual predator as their coach. Somehow, they made the playoffs that year and won the Canadian junior hockey championship three years later.

There are three authors. Bob Wilke was a player on that Broncos’ team. Leesa Culp was one of the first people on the scene of the accident who tried to give CPR to some of the injured players and watched at least one of them die in front of her. Gregg Drinnan was the former sports editor of the Kamloops Daily News.

This is not the typical sports book story of how the team rose from adversity to attain glory. This is the story of a singular event that was part of a much larger tragic situation for a group of young men that affected them for the rest of their lives. I am glad I read it; I suggest that you might want to read it too.

Here is a link as to where you can get it…

The Dismal Science

I am not an economist; I took an economics course at the dawn of the Iron Age and recall only a few basic concepts. I am capable of doing arithmetic, however; and that ability made me stop and call “Bulls[p]it” on a report by Bloomberg News asserting that LeBron James return to Cleveland would boost the local economy by $500M. You can read Bloomberg’s math here. I want to do some math of my own…

In order to “boost” a local economy, one needs to count the money circulating in that economy that was not there in the first place and that would be there no matter what. So consider that the Cavs played to an average of 17,300 fans last year – fans who spent their money on the “LeBron-less Cavaliers” and who would presumably continue to do so again. The seating capacity for Quicken Loans Arena is 20,562 for basketball and so let me begin with the assumption that the Cavs will fill the house completely for every home game next year.

    The added fannies in seats will be 3,262 and they will be there for 41 regular season games – and just for fun let me add 9 playoff games to make it an even 50 games. That means attendance will increase by 163,100 folks.

      If you want to stop here, consider that those 163,100 folks will need to spend $3065 apiece to get to the $500M mark.

    Average ticket price could be $60 – adding in the playoff games – meaning increased ticket revenue would be $9.79M. Let us call that $10M to keep this in round numbers.

    Those added attendees will need food and beverages – either at the arena or at local watering holes. Let us assume that per person they spend an additional $80 on food and drink. (Remember, some of these folks will be kids who eat pizza and drink Coke.) That puts another $13M into the local economy.

    Let me throw in another $2M for spending on transportation and the total is now $25M in increased revenues for the Cavs.

According to the 2010 Census, the Cleveland-Elyria Metropolitan Area had a population of 2,077,240; that looks close enough to 2.1 million folks for me. Lots of people there will buy Cavs’ gear in the euphoria of King James’ return. Even if every man, woman and child were to spend $100 on such gear, that would only amount to $210M.

Therefore, we have accounted for the money spent for tickets, transportation, food and beverages and logo gear and giving a high estimate in all categories brings us to $235M in new revenue. As I said, I am not an economist but I have to wonder where the other $265M comes from.

Moreover, I have not even considered here – because I have no idea how to calculate it – the fact that some of the “new money” spent on the Cavs in Cleveland next year is money that would have gone into the local economy in any event. The money someone spent to buy a LeBron James jersey would likely have stayed in the Cleveland metro area and have been spent on something else there – groceries, gas, the opera, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the movies etc. So even the “new money” I calculated above is a highly inflated estimate.

Enough economics… Now I know why they call it “The Dismal Science”.

A couple of months ago, Tom Verducci had this piece at on the topic of reducing arm injuries for young pitchers. In addition to a call to stop having kids pitch all year round, he said that there is scientific evidence that lowering the pitching mound would reduce the stress on young arms and ligaments. Evidently there is biomechanical data to show that the greater the slope of the mound the greater the forces that are applied to the human arm in a pitching motion. As pointed out in the article, when a pitcher is coming back from an arm injury, they begin rehab throwing on flat ground because it is less strenuous on the arm.

In 1969, MLB lowered the mound from 15 inches to 10 inches. Since baseball is more tied to history than any other sport, that fact means that alteration to the height of the mound has historical precedence. If MLB takes the lead here, then other levels of baseball – including leagues with 13-year olds as pitchers – will follow that lead and lower their mound also. Is this a guaranteed solution to the rash of arm injuries to young pitchers? Of course not, but if MLB can lower the mound now, it can also decide to raise it at some future time to correct whatever problem the lowering might cause.

Here is a secondary benefit for baseball with regard to lowering the mound. It will give hitters an advantage and that might result in fewer strikeouts and a quickened pace for the game. Check the stats at the end of Verducci’s piece above for what batting averages in the seventh through ninth innings of games this year. Giving those hitters even a small advantage would not be such a bad idea.

This is an idea MLB ought to consider. What it should not do is to form a Blue Ribbon Committee to study it. MLB’s Blue Ribbon Committees on average take five years to come to the conclusion that – at the end of the day – there will probably be night.

Finally, with college football teams getting ready to begin practicing for the upcoming season, here is how Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald described the level of interest in a part of the country where college football is king:

“Husker Fan Day will be held on Aug 1. For those unfamiliar with Nebraska Football Fan Day, it’s when Nebraskans skip work to line up for blocks, waiting for the autograph of the sixth-team offensive tackle on a rubber corncob.”

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

RIP Red Klotz

Red Klotz died about a week ago. Most folks know him as the player-coach of the Washington Generals or the New Jersey Reds or the Boston Shamrocks. Those were the teams that toured with the Harlem Globetrotters and lost virtually every game they played. Klotz was actually a good player; he played for the Philadelphia SPHAs – the South Philadelphia Hebrew Association team – and they beat the Globetrotters in a game or two back in the 40s. Klotz was also a guard on the Baltimore Bullets team that won the Basketball Association of America championship in 1948.

Klotz’ last win as a player or coach came in 1971 when he hit a shot with 10 seconds to play to give the Generals a one-point lead; Meadowlark Lemon’s shot at the other end missed and the Generals prevailed. Red Klotz died at 93.

Bob Molinaro had this to say about Klotz in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot over the weekend:

“Red Klotz, the two-handed set-shot artist who played for and owned the Washington Generals, died a few days ago at 93. Klotz’s teams lost more than 14,000 games to the Harlem Globetrotters. ‘Beating the Globetrotters,’ he once said, ‘is like shooting Santa Claus.’ “

Rest in peace, Red Klotz…

There are two reports floating out there regarding the NBA that deserve attention. The first one says that Commissioner Adam Silver is in favor of adding a “mid-season tournament” to the NBA calendar. The tournament would happen in February. I concede that this would make money for the league; and therefore, by definition, the league will consider it carefully. Having said that, this idea is worse than awful.

Let me mention only two reasons why this is a really bad idea:

    1. A Tournament Champion can only dilute the recognition given to the NBA Champion crowned in June. If that were not the case, then the February tournament would have to grow in prestige to the point that it overshadowed the NBA Finals winner in June. If that happened, it would render all of the games in March, April, May and June as JV games.

      Memo for Adam Silver: Look to college basketball for your model here. They have a way to determine a champion AND they have conference tournaments. The conference tournaments make money but are otherwise meaningless, useless and non-productive. Why do you want to add your own version of “conference tournaments” to your league?

    2. The NBA already has too many games. Unless the proposed tournament replaces a bunch of meaningless regular season games – thereby reducing its revenue-raising profile a bit – any rational observer would drop that idea like a bad habit.

The other report out there says that the NBA Competition Committee has a proposal to consider which would reform the NBA Draft Lottery. As much as the NBA has to deny the existence of teams tanking significant portions of seasons, every single NBA fan and observer sees that it happens. The reason for the tanking is the draft lottery because basketball is a sport where a single franchise player can mean the difference between middling success and championship contention. And, there is always a “Great Savior” out there to lust after…

Good luck to the NBA and to the Competition Committee on this one. I can think of draft mechanisms that would render tanking meaningless; the problem is that they could also reward the team that just won the championship with the #1 overall pick. This is a thorny problem with no easy/obvious solution.

Last weekend the Charleston River Dogs of the Sally League held a great promotion. On the day when Bill Veeck would have turned 100, the River Dogs – partially owned by Veeck’s son – paid tribute to Disco Demolition Night. That was a promotion Bill Veeck put on that did not turn out the way it was supposed to. Here is the short version:

    In an attempt to destroy disco music, fans were urged to bring disco records to the park where the White Sox would play the Tigers. These were put in a container on the field and between games of a doubleheader, (They actually used to have such things in MLB.) the container on the field was detonated.

    Fans – obviously well lubricated – rushed the field after the explosion. The field was damaged by the fans and by the detonation so the White Sox had to forfeit the second game of the doubleheader.

Last weekend, Charleston fans had Disco Demolition 2, You Better Belieb It. Any fan who brought a piece of Justin Bieber or Miley Cyrus memorabilia got into the game for $1; those memorabilia were destroyed on the field after the game. Moreover, fans got a “Bobble-Leg” to honor Bill Veeck who had a wooden leg as a result of a war injury in WW II. It is not just a Bobblehead; there have been tons of them; this one has a bobblehead and a bobbling wooden leg too.

Somewhere in the cosmos, Bill Veeck nodded approvingly…

Finally, here is Dwight Perry’s analysis of a recent happening in New Orleans from the Seattle Times:

“Kriste Lewis, 40, became only the second 40-something to make an NFL cheerleading squad when she landed a spot on the New Orleans Saintsations.

“Or as they now call her in cheer circles, Georgette Blanda.”

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