Judge Berman Has Spoken…

Today, Judge Berman overturned the NFL-imposed 4-game suspension for Tom Brady. I have not gone online to read any opinion pieces about that decision yet. The reason is that I am confident that the people who had opinions on the matter before Judge Berman’s decision will not have changed their minds before their fingers hit their keyboards.

For the record:

    For me, there has never been sufficient evidence that the balls in question were purposely deflated – let alone evidence that Tom Brady was involved in that activity even it actually happened. Judge Berman evidently thought that was important too because he reportedly kept asking the NFL attorneys what evidence they could present to show that Tom Brady had anything to do with tampering with game balls on January 18, 2015. And they could present no such evidence.

    For me, there were procedural inadequacies from start to finish in the case that should have rendered it moot. Most important in those inadequacies was the fact that The Wells Report – paid for by the NFL with the intent of showing wrongdoing in the matter and costing somewhere between $3M and $5M – could only come to the conclusion that Tom Brady might have been generally aware of something that it had to use pseudo-science to determine had happened. Ted Wells is an attorney and has to consider his reputation and the reputation of his firm even in light of the $3-5M he was getting in billable hours for this report. He could not/would not put his name on the line to say “this guy did that thing because here is the evidence.”

    With regard to the refusal to turn over the phone to the investigators, let me point out that if you are charged with something, you do not have to turn your phone over to the police just because they ask for it. They can get a warrant to confiscate if from you, but you are not required to just hand it over because they said “pretty please”. Somehow, the NFL seemed to think that they had a right to ask for Brady’s phone and that conferred some obligation on his part to give it to them. Obviously, Judge Berman disagreed.

I know that there will be some folks out there calling for Roger Goodell’s head on a stick. While I believe he was way out of line here, I am not going to be one of those people. Back in September of last year – more than 4 months before anyone ever heard of deflated footballs in the AFC Championship Game – I wrote this piece on this website. I believe then and continue to believe that the NFL and the NFLPA set up an untenable situation in their last CBA with regard to the way discipline would be meted out. Because all of this is in the CBA, that means that both parties are to blame; there has never been a CBA without at least two parties as signatories.

My argument is that a sports commissioner needs to do two things to be successful:

    1. Grow the league revenues/profits
    2. Maintain labor peace to keep the product on the field/growing.

Roger Goodell has been hugely successful at those two things; the NFL will bring in about $11B in revenue this year and projects to more than $12B by 2017. His “problem” is that he is also “The Disciplinarian” and that “other duty” puts him in a position to do things that make the league look stupid (does not grow revenue) and makes the union go berserk (does not maintain labor peace).

In my rant 4 months ago, I said the solution here would be for both parties to the CBA to admit they have an internal flaw here and for both sides to amend the CBA to create a Disciplinarian who is not part of the league or the union. Both parties should fund the Disciplinarian and whatever staff is needed; both parties should define what degree of cooperation all parties to the matter would owe to the Disciplinarian. If mature adults could put their egos in another room for 4 hours, this kind of agreement should be forthcoming. The problem here is that will not happen – and that means that there will be some “scandal” will come up in the future to which someone will attach the suffix “-gate” and it will turn into a glorious mess.

Why do I predict that? Because the NFL is going to appeal Judge Berman’s decision and that is nothing more than an ego-driven reflex. And because the NFLPA is already gloating about their winning streak in courts to overturn/reduce the discipline decisions of the Commissioner and that is nothing more than ego-driven posturing.

So, Tom Brady will be on the field for Game 1 next Thursday night – as he should be. Just as certainly, there will be some other brouhaha in the next year or so that will spin out of control – and likely it will be founded in the same CBA-driven morass as was Deflategate. However for the moment, we can take solace in the words of former President Gerald R. Ford spoken just after he was sworn in as President in the wake of Richard Nixon’s resignation:

“My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over.”

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

Pounding Down The Calories

With the baseball season on the wane, you have precious little time left to head out to the ballpark to stuff your face with these culinary monstrosities:

    In Cleveland, if you go to see the Indians play at Progressive Field, you can get yourself a Thomenator – named after former Indians’ slugger Jim Thome. This is a hot dog with sauerkraut – – topped with three pierogis. Basically, a pierogi is a dough ball filled with potatoes that is boiled in salt water like dumpling. Normally, two pierogis for a serving; in this thing you have three of those bad boys plus a dog with kraut.

    Ever so slightly east of Cleveland in Pittsburgh, the Pirates offer up a specialty at PNC Park. They serve the Cuban pretzel dog there which is a hot dog (no surprise) with slices of ham, pulled pork, Swiss cheese and pickles, wrapped in a pretzel bun. I guess that is “Cuban” because after eating one you are tempted to light up a large cigar…

    In Milwaukee – at Miller Park – the Brewers tempt their fans with a series of gut bombs:

      Inside the Park Nachos: This is ground beef with taco seasoning on a stick covered with doritos, nacho cheese and sour cream. It is basically nachos that you can eat while walking around. Oh, and of course it comes with a salsa dipping sauce.

      Pulled Pork Parfait: This is alternating layers of pulled pork – duh! – and mashed potatoes covered with chives and gravy. You eat this bad boy with a Spork.

      The Beast: This is a bratwurst that has been stuffed with a hot dog then wrapped in bacon and topped with sauerkraut and onions on a pretzel roll. I don’t know if you can get a side order of Crestor with this puppy.

    It is too late this season to go and see the Fresno Grizzlies so you will have to hope they bring back “The Frankenslice” next year. This concoction is a slice of pepperoni pizza with a full sized hot dog baked into the rolled over crust. If the creator of this dish did not win a James Beard Award, I have no idea what the judges could have been thinking.

As I said, the baseball season is on the wane but for those of you who want to challenge your arteries over the winter, the Baltimore Ravens have heard your cries and have produced a football concoction they call The Tailgater Burger:

    For $18, you get a beef patty topped with cheese, applewood-smoked bacon, kielbasa, Maryland crab dip and 2 beer battered onion rings, on a pretzel roll. Oh, but there is more, that sandwich is topped with 2 Buffalo wings.

Looking over all of these culinary creations – and being mindful of the deep-fried varieties of things one can purchase at State Fairs all over the Mid-west – I think investing in the company that makes Rolaids is a good long term strategy…

Next season, the Charlotte Hornets will have a “three-man booth” for all of their locally televised games. I put “three-man booth” inside quotation marks because it is really a “three-person booth”; one of the color analysts will be Stephanie Ready and she will join Dell Curry as color commentators for the games. Ms. Ready was the volleyball coach at Coppin State and also an assistant coach for the men’s team there under Coach Fang Mitchell. She has been the sideline reporter for the Hornets’ TV programs for the past several years but has moved up the food chain for the coming year. Good fortune to her…

You have probably read about the quip/counter-quip situation that exists between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Ronda Rousey. This whole thing sounds almost as scripted as one of the fire-breathing feuds that are concocted in pro ‘rassling. Unless these two individuals decide to fight one another – which is something neither should want to allow to happen – then all of this semi-lucid banter is pointless. Do you really care to know any more about this “feud” – or about either of the combatants – than you do at this moment? I do not…

Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle is becoming the master of the rhetorical question. Here is one that seems rather obvious:

“If something is off the charts — like a player’s work ethic or a team’s performance — shouldn’t the charts be expanded?”

Well, of course it should…

Finally, since I mentioned Floyd Mayweather, Jr. above, let me close with this observation regarding Messr. Mayweather by Greg Cote of the Miami Herald:

“Floyd Mayweather Jr. announced his final fight before retiring would be Sept. 12, with no date set yet for his final fight after that one.”

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

Signs Of the Apocalypse…?

Not too long ago, I mentioned rumors that the NFL was “thinking about” moving Super Bowl Media Day to primetime. Well, that was more than just a rumor; that was inside info. Yesterday, the NFL made this announcement:

“We are excited to enhance an annual event and provide a unique experience for more fans in both the San Francisco Bay Area and nationwide, while continuing to provide access to the Super Bowl teams for media from around the world. By elevating the event to prime time, fans across the country can experience even more of the excitement of Super Bowl leading up to the game.”

I wish to make the following declarative statement in response to this announcement:


    I never watched Media Day when it was on when the sun was in the sky. I shall not watch Media Day with the moon in the sky. Anyone who spends money to sit in the stands and watch that nonsense should be committed.

Executives in companies often make monumental blunders. I would hope this is a blunder for the NFL similar in magnitude to the blunders that produced:

    The Edsel
    New Coke

While those two blunders have to be at or near the top of any such list, I suggest that there is an executive somewhere in the advertising department of Doctor’s Associates Inc. who has seriously blundered or has had a couple of decisions run into a storm of bad luck. Doctor’s Associates Inc. owns and operates Subway restaurants. Consider two of the spokespersons for that chain of restaurants:

    Jared Fogle – now plea bargaining charges of kiddie porn
    RG3 – well, the drama never stops with him

Since the company is “Doctor’s Associates” maybe they can come up with a cutesy ad campaign using a “reincarnated” Doctor Mengele. That would complete the trifecta for them…

Here is a comment from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot. I am in complete accord with his thinking here:

Quick hit: As we get closer to another NFL season, the same rules apply: I’m still not interested in your fantasy football team.

I am interested, however in the results of a study done by the consulting firm of Challenger, Gray and Christmas which estimate that the cost to US employers of Fantasy Football will be $16B this year. That figure comes from estimates of time spent during the work day by employees tending to their teams or communicating with others about their teams in place of doing productive work. While that sounds like a lot of money to me, the conclusion of the study is that employers ought not to “crack down” here because, in reality, this amounts only to the loss of about 1 hour per week per employee. John Challenger, the CEO of the firm doing this study, explained it this way:

“We need distractions during the day, whether it’s checking Facebook, scanning Twitter, buying something at Amazon.com, or managing one’s fantasy football team. It may seem counter-intuitive, but those short periods of being unproductive help workers be more productive in the long run. They also help boost morale, lower turnover and keep our creative juices flowing.”

I think this kind of situation creates a new cottage industry. Since I do not engage in Fantasy Football, that means that I do not devote one hour of my workweek to this sort of on-the-job-downtime. I ought to be able to monetize that by selling my unused “fantasy hour” to someone else who plays Fantasy Football and thinks he/she needs another hour during the week in order to make the playoffs this year. Let the bidding for my “downtime hour” begin…

By the way, if this idea ever catches hold, I might actually become interested in your fantasy football team.

Draft Kings – one of those websites that offers daily/weekly fantasy leagues – has just signed a partnership agreement with the Dallas Cowboys. The agreement will give the company a branded fantasy sports lounge inside AT&T stadium and “access to Cowboys’ fans as part of the team’s digital, TV and radio networks”. In part, that translates into Draft Kings being able to offer its customers things like tickets to Cowboys’ games and VIP events in that fantasy sports lounge.

Forbes estimates that 56 million people play fantasy sports and that the fantasy football portion of the market here was worth about $70B in 2013. I mention those numbers to show that if the revenue stream is big enough the NFL and its teams are willing and eager to wade in that stream – even though the deals they set up are deals with companies that facilitate gambling on the NFL product. Please do not forget this the next time you hear Roger Goodell whine on about the “integrity of the game”.

The Gay Softball World Series will happen for the first time next year in Austin Texas. The organizers expect about 5000 folks to attend the event and Austin is happy to host them. I wonder:

    Must one be gay to participate in the Gay Softball World Series? That would not seem to be very inclusive if it were the case.

    If one has to be gay to participate, what is the test that confers eligibility on a player?

    If one need not be gay to participate, then what makes this the Gay softball World Series?

Finally, Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle had this to say about the break-up between the Harlem Globetrotters and the Washington Generals:

“Sad story: The Harlem Globetrotters are disbanding their stooge team, the Washington Generals. Those guys really aren’t qualified for any other occupation, except playing for the Sacramento Kings. With the breakup of the Washington Generals, Colin Powell and David Petraeus are free agents.”

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

A Stadium In Need Of Replacement…

I do not advocate spending taxpayer money on stadiums/arenas for sports teams or sporting events like the Olympics. Having said that, The Coliseum in Oakland makes a cogent case for the need for a new stadium there. That facility famously backed up raw sewage into the locker rooms more than once; last night part of the left field wall fell down after an outfielder bumped into it tracking down a base hit. The game was delayed while a grounds crew went onto the field and reassembled the left field wall.

Folks, this facility is not the home of some bottom-feeding minor league team; the game last night that was delayed while people reassembled the freaking wall was a game between the Oakland A’s and the LA Angels. As a point of reference, the Oakland Raiders will also play 8 games in this venue over the next 4 months. This facility is an embarrassment to Oakland – not an easy status to accomplish – and it needs either serious renovation or replacement. Or, the alternative would be for both of those teams to go somewhere else.

The Oakland Coliseum – currently called the O.co Coliseum – is not in significantly better condition than the Roman Coliseum.

While on the subject of baseball, it certainly appears that the Chicago Cubs are poised to shed their ”identity” as lovable losers over the next couple of years. The Cubs are playoff bound this year barring a catastrophic collapse and they are a team of young players who project to improve in the near future. The only quibble you might have with that last statement is that their starting rotation is not full of young pitchers. However, I would counter that Dan Harren at age 34 is the only “old-timer” in the group; the starters may not be “Young Turks”, but they are not “geezers” either.

A small part of the improvement for the Cubbies comes from a trade made by Cubs’ GM, Theo Epstein at the trade deadline last year. He sent starter Jeff Samardija to the A’s along with starter Jason Hammel to acquire Addison Russell and two other prospects. Hammel turned out to be a “rental” for the A’s because he went back to the Cubs as a free agent over the winter. Russell has been a fixture at second base for the Cubs at age 21 while the A’s gleaned three players who have been OK for them this year in exchange for Samardija over the winter. In all of that shuffling, Addison Russell looks to be most valuable asset.

Oh, and by the way, acquiring Joe Maddon over the winter to run the club on the field was another good move by Epstein. Maddon has shown in the past that he can get a young team to believe that they can win now and not necessarily have to wait for the future to arrive. He seems to be doing just that with the Cubs again this year.

Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot had this item in a recent column:

“DEBATABLE: I don’t know what to think about the calls – often from big-league players – for protective netting down the first- and third-base lines. Is MLB leaving its fans at too great a risk from laser-like foul balls, inviting serious injury or worse? Or are people overreacting to rare, but publicized incidents? Would extending the netting detract from the fan experience? Maybe. But some of the most coveted seats are behind the home plate screen. An alternative: Big-league clubs could make every game ‘Fan Batting Helmet Night.’”

This is another debate where there seems to be little likelihood of changing the minds of the partisans on either side of the argument. The problem with the “debate” here is that the incidents are indeed rare but at the same time some of the incidents are extremely severe. It is sort of like flying on an airplane. They do not crash very often – but when they do the results are horrible and the crash is covered 24/7 on CNN for at least a week to assure that the maximum number of people are exposed to the possibility of this rare but horrific circumstance.

I would like to suggest however an underlying problem in baseball parks that can only serve to make these rare occurrences slightly more commonplace. If you go to a ballpark these days – or if you look past the players on the field to watch some of the fans in the seats when you watch a game on TV – you will see a significant fraction of the fans sitting in those “vulnerable seats” who are not paying even the slightest bit of attention to the game. At any given time, there are hundreds of fans who are intently focused on their telephones or their tablets. Here is something that is not debatable:

    If a fan is not looking at the game when a foul ball or a broken bat heads in his/her direction, that fan is significantly less likely to be able to get out of the way of the flying object heading his/her way.

This is not intended to be a diatribe about how cellphones have ruined society. This is an observation that some people can be so focused on checking their e-mail and texting and posting photos on social media that they are virtually oblivious to things going on around them. Moreover, if they go into the state of oblivion at a baseball game, they increase their risk of injury from things headed into the stands. Netting down the first and third base lines will cut down the number of flying objects that make it to the stands but it will only serve to make the intersection of a line drive and the skull of a fan more rare; it will not make such an intersection less severe.

A more effective solution would be to jam the signals of all cell phones and tablets inside the stadium so that people cannot bury their faces into a small screen to chat with their friends who did not care enough about this game to join that fan in attendance. The chances of that happening are about as likely as professional synchronized swimming becoming America’s #1 sport.

Finally, here is an observation by Scott Ostler in the SF Chronicle:

“I’m having withdrawal with the Little League World Series coming to an end. When does ESPN televise the T-Ball World Series?”

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

Mostly NFL STuff Today

The first round of cuts by NFL teams to get the rosters down from 90 to 75 players mainly involves people like Joe Flabeetz – of whom you never heard and for whom the major role in training camp for the outset was to be cannon fodder. However, there were two recognizable names in the first round of cuts this year:

    Cards cut punter, Dave Zastudil.
    Bills cut RB, Fred Jackson.

The Bills’ cut was really surprising since Rex Ryan believes in an offense built on “ground and pound”. It takes runners to do the pounding and while Jackson may not be Jim Brown reincarnate, he seemed to have something remaining in the tank.

Scott Ostler posed a couple of interesting questions in the SF Chronicle last weekend:

“Do you buy the apology lite of USC football coach Steve Sarkisian, who was drunk and profane at a public rally and blamed it on mixing a smidge of alcohol with meds? Didn’t specify the meds. Could a player get away with the same excuse?”

The blunt answer to the question about a player offering a similar explanation/excuse is that the player would be swimming upstream in the court of public opinion from the moment his voice trailed off at the end of said explanation. That is neither right nor wrong; it just the way it is. Having said that, I believe that Professor Ostler did not comment on another aspect of Coach Sarkisian’s explanation that jumped out at me. Sarkisian said that there was liquor in the coaches’ locker room and that after this incident where he had had a pop or two and it led to embarrassment, the answer was to remove the booze from the coaches’ room. Here is my question:

    What was the alcohol doing in the coaches’ locker room in the first place? I understand the idea of celebrating big wins – with the emphasis on the word “big” – but this is not a celebration the coaches could legally share with about half of the players on the team. So, why was it there in the first place? They could not wait an hour after showering, dressing and dismissing the team to go and have a couple of shots together somewhere else?

Similarly, over the last weekend, Greg Cote of the Miami Herald seems to have put the exclamation point on the whole Cris Carter controversy at last year’s NFL Rookie Seminar:

“Cris Carter apologized for telling players at an NFL Rookie Symposium they should have a ‘fall guy’ handy to help them avoid trouble. An alternate piece of advice he might have considered: Stay out of trouble so you don’t need a ‘fall guy.’”

There is wisdom in Greg Cote’s remark here; would that more of the NFL players would be able to take that wisdom and assimilate into their daily lives…

I know that I am more cynical/skeptical than the vast majority of people walking the streets these days. Nevertheless, I wonder if the following played even a small part of Roger Goodell’s thinking as the Deflategate saga lurched forward to the point that we find it today:

    If Tom Brady has to miss the first four games of the 2015 season, he will be eligible to return to action on October 18 when the Patriots play – wait for it – the Indy Colts. Recall, it was the Colts who “blew the whistle” here and started the whole Deflategate kerfuffle.

    How big would the hype be for that game if it were Brady’s first of the year? The hype would be bigger than for any other regular season game and it might rival the Conference Championship games. Now, we know that the NFL loves to dominate the sports news firmament on a 24/1/365 basis and so I wonder if that is part of the calculus here…

Interestingly, when the Falcons were found to have pumped artificial noise into their home field, team president and GM Rich McKay was suspended and was booted from his seat on the NFL Competition Committee but reinstalled there as his suspension was lifted by the Commish. With that reinstatement, McKay basically will not miss any games – ignoring the fact that having the GM present in or absent from the stadium on game day does not amount to a pinch of coon s[p]it. Similar to the Brady situation, there was no evidence that McKay was part of the effort to pipe in the amplified noise. Dissimilar to Brady – should the Commish get his way – McKay never had to miss a real NFL game.

Former NFL RB, Lawrence Phillips, is doing time in California for a felony assault conviction. We need not go into Phillips’ troubled past here; if you really want to get all the gory details, Google is your friend. Recently, Phillips’ cellmate, Damian Soward, turned up dead in the prison and after investigating, it now seems that Phillips will prosecuted as the instigator of the death. According to reports, Soward was found in his deceased state in the cell that Soward and Phillips shared; if true, that means Phillips needs to retain Perry Mason to defend him lest his current 7-year sentence become something far lengthier.

Lest anyone draw an erroneous conclusion here, I am not decrying the death of Damian Soward here. Soward was in prison for first degree murder and was serving an 82 years-to-life sentence. I suspect the world did not lose a great human benefactor or a great philanthropist; that does not mean that he deserved to die.

Veering off the sports scene for just a moment here, in another prosecutorial decision, it seems that Caitlyn Jenner could face charges in a vehicular incident where others lost their lives. I have no knowledge of or real interest in that matter but there is an interesting aspect:

    How would you feel if you were selected to be on the jury for any trial that might descend from that incident knowing that your presence in the jury box designated you specifically as one of Caitlyn Jenner’s peers?

    During voir dire, I suspect that a comment along those lines could get you excused from empanelment.

Finally, here is Greg Cote of the Miami Herald again with an overview of Deflategate:

“Parting thought: Lawyers for the NFL and Tom Brady are due back Monday for the latest round of arguments. If this “Deflategate” morass were any more ridiculous, they’d move it from federal court to Vaudeville.”

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

NFL Exhibition Games…

A couple of weeks ago, I suggested that there was far too much media coverage of NFL Training Camps simply because there is not enough actual news emanating from those camps. Ergo, we get way too many formulaic reports and wishful thinking reporting. Well, this week’s pronouncements from a variety of training camps proves my point. This week, we heard players lament the number of serious/season-ending injuries incurred in “meaningless games”. Think about that for a moment; has there ever been a pre-season where that was not the case?

There is no news value in reports that say there are too many injuries in the exhibition season. Of course there are; this is NFL football and NFL football incurs player injuries. Of course, players do not want to be injured under any circumstances; but if it is fated to happen, they want it to happen in a game that matters.

I need to interrupt my narrative here for a moment to point out one report this week on the subject that was indeed new and different. Detroit Lions’ safety, Glover Quin said this regarding the non-contact injury sustained by Jordy Nelson of the Packers that will keep Nelson out for the entire season:

“I feel like injuries are going to happen, same way Jordy got hurt. I hate that Jordy got hurt, but in my belief and the way that I believe, it was God had meant for Jordy to get hurt. If he wouldn’t have got hurt today, if he wouldn’t have played in that game, if he wouldn’t have practiced anymore and the next time he walked on the field would have been Opening Day, I feel like he would have got hurt Opening Day.”

That is why I used the phrase “fated to happen” a couple of paragraphs above. I have no interest in a theological or religious discussion at this point, but it does seem to me that Quin’s statement of belief has a lot of predestination contained in it. Now, if that is the case, it would make no sense to go out every Sunday and hustle and play hard and all that stuff because the end result of that particular game and the whole season is beyond control. Like I said, I do not want this to get theological…

I do agree with folks who suggest that the exhibition season be cut to two games. Training camps can remain as lengthy as they are but the real NFL players who will actually play on Sundays only play one full game in the exhibition season so the argument that they need the practice is silly. Here is what I would do with some of the “extra time” generated by cutting out two exhibition games:

    Give each team 2 Bye Weeks during the real season. That will extend the regular season by an extra weekend meaning another weekend of televised games to generate revenue,

    To keep the Super Bowl where it has become a fixture on the first Sunday of February, get rid of the useless “dark weekend” between the Conference Championship Games and the Super Bowl.

That idea embraces “player safety” by giving players’ bodies more time to heal during the season and it enhances revenue from TV partners offsetting the loss of revenue from ticket sales for two meaningless exhibition games.

You want to know who will be the most vocal opponents of that idea? The millions of NFL fanboys who drool over any kind of NFL activity including seven-on-seven drills where players only have helmets on will screech because they want to see “action”. By worshiping at the altar of the NFL for 364 days a year – the off day is the day after the Super Bowl when many of those fanboys are sleeping one off – they encourage the league to keep force feeding itself to the media and the fans. What those fanboys actually tell the league is to give them games anytime and anywhere and if the league does that then the fanboys will herd up like sheep and fill the leagues coffers with money. Therein lies the obstacle to serious discussion here and a change in the exhibition season.

Safeway has to pay Michael Jordan $8.9M as a result of a lawsuit filed by Jordan against a Chicago supermarket chain – Dominick’s – that Safeway bought for $1.2B in 1998. It seems that back in 2009, Dominick’s put an ad in a commemorative issue of Sports Illustrated that used Jordan’s picture without his permission and without compensation. Contained in the ad was a coupon that readers could cut out to get a $2 discount on steak at Dominick’s. There are lots of strange twists in this story:

    1. Safeway bought Dominick’s and has subsequently closed all of the stores. That was not a good expenditure of $1.2B.

    2. According to information brought out at trial, the ad placed in the magazine was not particularly effective. Testimony revealed that only 2 people cut out the coupon and got the $2 discount on steak at Dominick’s.

    3. The trial was in Chicago. The case was tried before a jury. Michael Jordan was the plaintiff. Safeway’s lawyers said that Jordan might be entitled to about $125K; Jordan’s lawyers said his image was worth $10M. Safeway thought that a Chicago jury was going to lowball Michael Jordan…?

Before anyone points out that Jordan does not need the money from this case – which he surely does not – he has stated that he will donate the entire $8.9M to charity.

Finally, here is all you need to know about a happening in the sports world courtesy of Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald:

“On its trip to Italy, Creighton’s basketball team visited the Vatican and met Carrot Top on a flight to Milan. If the point of the trip was an eclectic experience, mission accomplished.”

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

Here Come Da Judge…

The Third Circuit Court ruled against the State of New Jersey saying that its latest gambit to permit sports betting at racetracks and casinos in New Jersey was illegal. I do not pretend to understand the maneuverings here so I will not try to explain what happened. Legal analysts seem to say that the idea of sports betting in New Jersey is dead for now and that there will need to be a movement in the US Congress to repeal or at least modify PASPA – the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992. In my assessment, the US Congress is only a 9-5 shot to figure out that Tuesday comes after Monday this week; the idea that they will recognize that PASPA was a bad idea in 1992 and that it does not “protect” either professional or amateur sports is laughable.

The pro sports leagues oppose expansion of legalized betting with the NFL leading the charge there. The NBA is more open to such expansion so long as it is done at the Federal level and not with a patchwork of different regulations from state to state. The hypocrisy of the NFL on this issue is so blatant and their arguments are so outdated that it makes my teeth itch every time they speak to the issue. The NFL owes its popularity to gambling and the many forms of wagering that fit perfectly into the sport of football. The person who invented point spread betting – it was back in the 1940s I believe – ought to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a major contributor to the game.

Naturally, the NCAA opposes gambling on any collegiate sporting event; the NCAA opposes lots of fundamentally good ideas. The hypocrisy of the NCAA with regard to gambling is also palpable:

    1. March Madness is the NCAA’s biggest revenue generator. To think that there is no gambling on tournament games or bracket pools is monumentally foolhardy. To pretend there is no linkage between such gambling and the popularity of March Madness is monumentally ignorant.

    2. College sports have had more game-fixing scandals than pro sports. While one could attribute that to “gamblers”, the more important attribution should be to the exposure of the scandals. Since PASPA went into effect, how many issues have been uncovered by the NCAA “investigators” and how many have been flagged by legal sportsbooks? The answer is that the NCAA has uncovered none of them – as in not a single one.

There are two clear winners from the decision of the Court:

    1. Las Vegas sport: Their existence is “grandfathered” by PASPA and this decision mitigates significant competition to those sportsbooks.

    2. Daily Fantasy Sports websites: Somehow, those enterprises fall outside the definition of sports gambling and the two major sites now get to maintain their virtual monopoly status in that “industry”.

Since I am on the subject of sports gambling, there is a guy in New York who wants to blend horseracing bets with the lottery. Brad Cummings has patented some software called EquiLottery and what it will do is randomly generate tickets for customers on actual horse races. Each ticket would cost $2 and each ticket would be a straight trifecta wager on the race – meaning the numbers on the ticket have to match the numbers of the first three horses in that specific race to win. Cummings thinks that this will be more appealing to the betting public. He may be right but EquiLottery would be or exactly no interest to me. For a more thorough look at this idea, here is a link.

Switching gears, CBS just announced its announcing teams for the 2015 NFL season. Naturally, Jim Nantz and Phil Simms are the #1 team and will do the Thursday Night games plus the CBS featured game on Sunday. They have been the “bell cows” for CBS on the air for at least a decade now. What I liked when I saw the listing is that Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts will be the #2 team for CBS this year. I have been a fan of Ian Eagle – doing football and basketball – for about 20 years now. It is good to see him moving “up the food chain” at CBS. And by the way, Dan Fouts is also very good as a game analyst.

I saw a report a couple of days ago that said that Seahawks’ offensive coordinator, Darrell Bevell said that he remains convinced that the play he called at the 1-yardline in the Super Bowl that led to the interception and the loss of the game was the right call. He said that he would not change anything and would make the same call again.

I guess he has to say something along those lines unless he is going to go fully to the other end of the line here and say that he made one of the worst football decisions ever. [Aside: I remember seeing someone at the time say that the decision to throw the ball at the point in the game was as bad a decision as the one Napoleon made when he invaded Russia. That metaphor is a bit over the top, but…] The point is that we now know the outcome of that call; and with that knowledge, we can recognize that from the Seahawks’ perspective there are few outcomes that would have been worse. Because that is the case, it might be a tad more reasonable for Bevell to say that he made a mistake but that he made the call that he did based on sound football reasoning. That is lot better than saying I would do it again knowing that the end of the play results in the team losing the Super Bowl.

Finally, let me close today with two comments on the same topic from two columnists:

“Flying disk sports, including Ultimate Frisbee, have been granted full recognition by the International Olympic Committee.

“’We got next!’ said lawn darts.” [Dwight Perry, Seattle Times]

And…

“And finally: The International Olympic Committee has recognized ultimate frisbee as a sport. I believe this was pushed by the ‘It’s no dumber than synchronized swimming’ committee.” [Brad Dickson, Omaha World-Herald]

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

Random Musings…

Let me give you and update of an unusual stat that I mentioned recently. As of this morning, the Oakland A’s have the worst record in the AL at 55-72. Notwithstanding that record, the A’s have outscored their opponents this year by 16 runs. To give you an idea how strange that is, let me give you the run differential totals for teams with comparable records to the A’s:

    Tigers– – 59-66 minus 53
    Mariners– – 58-68 minus 97
    Red Sox– – 57-69 minus 44
    A’s – – 55-72 plus 16
    Braves – – 54-72 minus 106
    Marlins – – 51-75 minus 55
    Phillies– – 50-76 minus 155

You get the idea…

Since the A’s are the poster children for using statistics to their advantage, what did the A’s do to address this statistical oddity? They fired their third-base coach. That is correct; Mike Gallego is out looking for work. If it is clear to you how the third base coach might be responsible for that monumental underachievement by the A’s, I would like to hear the explanation.

It is not often that a pro sports league and the union representing the players in that league team up to do something right in the middle of an extant CBA. However, MLB and the MLBPA got it right recently announcing that they have come to an agreement on a domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse policy. Here is the essence of the story from a report at CBSsports.com:

“For the first time since collective bargaining began, the commissioner of Major League Baseball will be empowered to discipline individual players for acts of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse. Along with the announcement of the establishment of a joint committee that will be tasked with evaluating and (if necessary) supervising the treatment of a player, commissioner Rob Manfred will be given power to punish the player as he sees fit. No maximums, no minimums. And that’s regardless if the player is convicted or enters a guilty plea in a legal case.

“Intervention, treatment and confidentiality provisions also are written into the agreement, which was announced jointly by the commissioner’s office and the players union.”

This is a positive step for baseball. If you want to read the entire report and see the scope of the new agreement, here is a link.

Recently, Brad Dickson had this comment in the Omaha World-Herald:

“A team at the softball Little League World Series supposedly threw a game. If this is true, what hope is there of the Tour de France being clean?

The team in question tanked the game because the tournament structure was such that by losing the team could eliminate a more competent opponent from the next phase of the tournament. That is pretty cheesy behavior by the adults in charge to be sure and plenty of scorn was heaped upon those folks. However, all of that score and opprobrium for these coaches begs a question:

    NBA teams tank entire seasons – and in the case of the 76ers tank sequential seasons – and there is no scorn or shame. The players try to win but the front office – the adults in charge – make it such that they cannot win.

    In the Little League softball tournament, the team was punished for this behavior. The NBA does not punish its teams for such behaviors.

    So, the next time you hear about an NBA team tanking a season, remember the Little League softball example. There needs to be more shame allotted to the tanking team(s) and the league needs to find ways to make sure it is not advantageous for teams to behave that way.

A recent report said that the Lakers are considering signing Metta World Peace to a 1-year contract. One of the driving forces behind that consideration is that Peace might be a good mentor for the development of rookie Julius Randle. Peace has been out of the NBA since the 2013/14 season when he was waived by the Knicks. Last season, he played in Italy and in China. During his time in China, there were reports that he contemplated changing his name again to The Pandas Friend.

The Lakers are going nowhere next year even with the return of Kobe Bryant and the addition of Randle (their first round pick from 2014) and the addition of D’Angelo Russell as this year’s first round pick. Adding Metta World Peace or not adding him is not going to change the destination for the Lakers next year which is another trip to the Draft Lottery. Frankly, I would probably ignore this report as just a wild rumor that someone put in a story just to take up web-space except for the fact that the report came from Adrian Wojnarowski at Yahoo Sports and his NBA reporting is usually much more factual than fictional.

Finally, here is an item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Dominique Perron, president of the French Bullfighting Association, got his leg broken when a bull leapt out of the ring and attacked him last Sunday, EuroWeeklyNews.com reported.

“Suggested new nickname: President Gore.”

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

Some Disgusting Matters Today…

If you have not followed the reports regarding Sam Ukwuachu and the Baylor football team, you may want to do some Google grazing. In summary, Ukwuachu was a LB at Boise State who had an excellent freshman year but was then tossed from the team. He transferred to Baylor; but before he ever played there, he was convicted of sexually assaulting a Baylor freshman and was sentenced to 180 days in the hoosegow. Baylor coach Art Briles has thrown up on his shoes in the wake of this. First he claimed that since Ukwuachu was not on the team, this was not a problem for the football program. Then, he claimed ignorance of any prior behavior by Ukwuachu that would preclude him from being part of the Baylor campus.

At that point, the former Boise State coach, Chris Petersen said that he had called Briles to let him know why an excellent football player had been tossed from the Boise State team. The reason was a domestic assault situation that had occurred in Boise where Ukwuachu allegedly choked his former girlfriend and punched her repeatedly in the head. Perhaps Petersen is just covering his ass in this mess, but the better way for him to cover his ass would seem to have been to keep quiet about this.

Not only does Coach Briles have some ‘splainin to do [/Ricky Ricardo] but the entire Baylor administration needs a whack upside its head. The school did an “internal investigation” of this matter that was so shoddy and so useless that it was declared inadmissible as evidence at Ukwuachu’s trial. Ironically, the Baylor President is Ken Starr who one might think should know what it means to do an investigation…

That internal investigation was so shoddy that Baylor will now conduct another internal investigation to determine how and why the first one was done in such a perfunctory manner. Honestly, I could not possibly make that up; that is what they are going to do. I can hear the announcement at Waco Airport now:

    Paging Inspector Clouseau. Inspector Clouseau, please meet the Baylor University chauffeur service at baggage claim carousel number 4. Inspector Clouseau…

If you do not want to read all the sordid details of the trial and that kind of thing, that is your choice. However, there is a piece that you really ought to read. Charles P. Pierce has a feature on Grantland.com regarding this matter that I strongly recommend that you read in its entirety. One reason to read Pierce’s column is that he ties the Ukwuachu mess with the next issue up for comment today.

That next issue is Cris Carter’s comments to the NFC Rookie symposium last year. The NFL requires all rookie players to attend a rookie seminar to inform them about league rules, financial responsibility, social responsibility and the like. Cris Carter has been a fixture at those seminars for a while; Carter was sufficiently involved with drugs and alcohol during his time with the Eagles that Buddy Ryan just cut him from the team instead of trying to rehab Carter one more time. Carter has said that Ryan saved Carter’s life with that action because it forced Carter to get sober. That is a great story of redemption and it is a message that can have meaning for NFL rookies.

Last year, it seems that Carter took his story to a darker dimension. He told the audience that in every player entourage there needs to be a “fall guy”. He is the guy who – when bad stuff happens – takes the fall and goes to jail for whatever happened and is taken care of. That is not exactly the kind of social responsibility that the NFL wants to promote. Carter is an ESPN employee and the World Wide Leader wasted no time in saying that those remarks were absolutely antagonistic to ESPN’s values and policies. Presumably the story will end there. However, I have two fundamental questions to pose to the suits at the NFL who set up these rookie seminars.

Onstage with Carter when he made those remarks – there is videotape of this so there is not a whole lot of conjecture here – was Warren Sapp who agreed with Carter on the idea of a “fall guy”. In previous rookie seminars, Michael Irvin has been a speaker/motivator/example.

    Questions:

      1. Can’t you find better role models to stand in front of your mandatory Rookie Seminars?

      2. If these are the mentors/role models you offer up to your young players, how can you then be shocked to find that some of them behave anti-socially?

It would not even take Inspector Clouseau more than a few moments to raise a few red flags in the background checks of these folks who are the ones to provide guidance here.

Since I have been focused on disgusting topics this morning, this next item seems to fit nicely into the milieu of the day. The Las Vegas 51s – the AAA affiliate of the Mets – had raw sewage back up in the dugouts at Cashman Field recently. Recalling that a similar problem happened at O.com Stadium in Oakland last year, one might ponder the impact should those two similar events have a common cause. And that impact would be maximally disgusting given that Las Vegas is 400 miles away from Oakland and a sewage clog big enough to have that widespread an effect is close to the nadir of human supposition. Then again, it might explain some of the “water problems” in the California Central Valley…

Finally, here is a comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald:

“Spanish champion Imanol Lopez retired from Miami Jai-Alai surprising analysts who had forgotten that jai-alai still existed.”

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

Enough About “Participation Trophies”…

Last week, too much was made of some remarks by Steelers’ LB, James Harrison regarding “participation trophies”. The reason I say too much was made of his opposition to such things is that just about everything that can be said on the matter has already been said.

    Proponents like participation trophies because they reward effort and commitment. They supposedly make all the recipients feel good about themselves.

    Opponents dislike participation trophies because they do not celebrate accomplishment.

The folks on either side of this “debate” have taken sides and no amount of repetition of any of these points is going to change anyone’s mind. Last week’s contretemps on this issue harkened back to the old Miller Lite commercials where people would shout at each other:

Tastes great!
Less filling!!

Next time the subject comes up, remember those ads…

Actually, I think the most cogent comment on the subject came from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald last weekend:

“Parting thought: There’s a big, renewed debate over whether all kids in youth sports, not just top finishers, should get “participation” trophies. ‘That’s a big fat YES!’ said the American Association of Trophy Manufacturers.”

Last November, the Oakland A’s traded third-baseman Josh Donaldson to the Blue Jays for third-baseman Brett Lawrie, RHP Kendall Graveman, LHP Shawn Nolin and SS Franklin Barreto. I wonder what advanced Moneyball analytics convinced Billy Beane that was a good idea. Here are some numbers as of yesterday:

    Donaldson: .301/.369/.954 Leading the AL with 100 RBIs and 93 runs scored. Also 34 HRs. By the way, he is only 29 years old.

    Lawrie: .266/.318/.713 11 HRs 46 RBIs 43 runs scored. He is 25 years old.

    Graveman: 6-9 with a 4.27 ERA. WHIP 1.46 pitching for the A’s

    Nolin: Did not pitch for the A’s yet this year. In 2 MLB appearances over the last 2 seasons, he had an ERA of 27.00.

    Barreto: At Stockton (Class A) .297,/.352/.821. 12 HRs in 88 games and 45 RBI 47 runs scored.

Looking at those numbers – and conceding that I am not an advanced analytics guru – Nolin and Barreto will have to be productive MLB players somewhere down the road to make this anything other than a major loss for the A’s.

Back in April, the Washington Nationals looked like the best team in MLB for this year. As Michael Wilbon has pointed out on PTI several times this season, the media anointed the Nats as a reincarnation of the ’27 Yankees. It was a tad premature… The Nats are 5 games behind the Mets in the NL East as of this morning but that is the good news. If the Nats do not win the division, their only route to the playoffs would be as a wild card and they are 9.5 games behind the Cubbies for the second wild card slot at the moment.

Naturally, manager Matt Williams is taking heat for this underachievement and for myriad in-game tactical moves he has made. Interestingly, Williams was Manager of the Year just last season. It is amazing how he got so stupid so quickly…

As the NFL season approaches, the good folks who brew Bud Light are ready to roll out “team specific cans” of their swill for 28 of the 32 NFL teams. [Aside: The Bears, Packers, Vikings and Cowboys do not get “team specific cans” because they have sponsorship deals with Miller/Coors.] Each team-specific can carries the team logo and a custom tagline specific to each team that somehow relates to the Bud Light slogan “Up for Whatever”.

I’ll pause here for a moment while you catch your breath and get back to reading this rant after fist-pumping your way around the room. There…

Here is the way Alex Lembrecht, VP at Bud Light, described this marketing program:

“Ultimately, fans love football and the NFL, but what they really invest in emotionally each week is their individual team. Throughout the 2015-16 season, Bud Light and its team partners will be unrelenting in delivering incredible, one-of-a-kind experiences to fans in their local team stadiums and markets.”

A can of Bud Light is going to deliver an “incredible, one-of-a-kind experience”? Really? Just in case you do not appreciate the gravitas of this undertaking by the folks at Bud Light, you can check out this link to see some of these team specific cans and from that you might be able to concoct in your mind what sort of “one-of-a-kind experiences” they might introduce into your life.

Finally, here is an item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times regarding FIFA and Sepp Blatter:

“FIFA presidential candidate Chung Mong-joon of South Korea, to the London Telegraph, on Sepp Blatter trying to distance himself from soccer’s mega scandal: ‘Blatter is like a cannibal eating his parents and then crying he’s an orphan.’”

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