Wrapping Up For The Week…

Earlier this week, I presented a list of sports “stories” that I had heard enough about and expected to get commentary about things I omitted from the list.  If you need or want to refresh your memory about my list, you can find it here.  Then, as I sat down to compile those suggested additions, I came up with a couple more examples of stories that can be put on the shelf as far as I am concerned.

  • Reader Tenacious P posted a comment saying that he had had enough of “NFL Power Rankings by position or by mother-in-law.”  I can accept that.
  • An e-mail response suggested that “MLB trade rumors and NHL season previews” had run their course.  I suspect that our Canadian friends to the north might disagree with that second suggestion.
  • An e-mail response expressed surprise that I did not include “All-Star Games” given my abhorrence of those spectacles.  It was indeed an omission on my part and this is the communication that got me thinking about two additions to my list that should have been there in the first place.

Since I am limiting this compilation to sports stories, I think it is required that I find a sports-themed way to present two new entries to the list of things I have heard enough about.  So, “Upon further review …”:

  1. The NFL Combine:  This “event” is even less interesting than the NFL Draft which made my original list.  Is it really necessary to stage a multi-day event with blanket media coverage to find out how fast a bunch of football players can run a 40-yard dash?  This event has given rise to the boiler plate stories during that week about which players are “rocketing up the draft boards” and other players who did not impress.  Ho-hum!
  2. Where Carmelo Anthony will play basketball next year:  After he gets traded, tell me the parameters of the deal and give me some analysis of how the Knicks and his new team will be better or worse as a result of the deal.  If he stays in NYC, wait until the day before the regular season starts and tell me then about the Knicks’ prospects for the 2017/18 season.  However, unless talks heat up between the Knicks and the Washington Generals, keep your “news” to yourself, please.

Yesterday, Tom Brady celebrated his 40th birthday.  That turn of the calendar prompted a smattering of stories about the possibility that his performance on the football field is about to crater.  Central to a lot of those “analyses” was the fact that the Pats did not trade Jimmy Garoppolo in the off-season leading inevitably to the conclusion that the Pats’ coaches see signs of decline and are preparing for a “changing of the guard” so to speak.  Slow down, Sparky; let’s try to inject a tad of rationality to the discussion here.

  • Tom Brady has been in the NFL since he was 23 years old.  Of course he is on the “back nine of his career”; if that were not the case, one would have to assume he will be playing until he is at least 57 years old and I am certain that even he would admit that playing to age 57 in the NFL is beyond reach.
  • Brady operates as a passing QB; he is not now – and has never been – a “scrambler”.  So, if his performance is about to “fall off a cliff”, have there been indications of that in recent seasons?  I would argue that his performances in the past two years have shown no measurable decline.
  • In 2015, Brady threw for 4770 yards in 16 games (298.1 yards per game).  He led the league in TD passes (36) and had the lowest percentage of his passes intercepted (1.1%).  He was 38 years old.
  • In 2016, Brady threw for 2554 yards in 12 games (296.2 yards per game).  The 4 games he missed were due to the Deflategate suspension.  He threw 28 TD passes in those 12 games which is more per game than he threw in 2015 and his percentage of passes intercepted again led the league (0.5%).  He was 39 years old.
  • Father Time has never missed a tackle.  Tom Brady will not play forever and it is very possible that when his time has come, his performance levels will drop like a rock.  But if someone can see that impending disaster coming based on recent data, I will need some convincing.

By the way, Tom Brady is certainly not the first person to be a starting QB in the NFL north of 40 years old.  It would take far too much time and energy to compile a complete list so let me go with a few names that come to mind who played QB in the NFL into their 40s:

  • George Blanda
  • Len Dawson
  • Brett Favre
  • Warren Moon
  • Vinny Testaverde
  • John Unitas

Finally, since I mentioned Tom Brady above, here is a comment from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times regarding one of Brady’s activities in the last off-season:

“Pats QB Tom Brady, making a visit to Japan, grappled with a sumo wrestler and then posed for a picture with a few of them, TMZ reported.

“The photo made Tom look, shall we say, a tad underinflated.”

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



Rest In Peace, Ara Parseghian…

Ara Parseghian died yesterday at the age of 94.  He played for legendary coach, Paul Brown, with the Cleveland Browns in the 40s; he was an assistant coach under Woody Hayes at Miami (Oh); he was the head coach at Notre Dame in the 60s and 70s leading the Irish to two national championships.  His winning percentage at Notre Dame was .836 and he is properly a member of the college football Hall of Fame.  By all accounts, he was an excellent coach and a good person.

Rest in peace, Ara Parseghian…

There is another coach in the news today – except I would be hard pressed to say that this man is either a great coach or a wonderful human being.  Dave Bliss was the basketball coach at Baylor about 15 years ago; let me just say that his tenure there ended very poorly.  Central to that story is the fact that one of the players was murdered by one of his teammates and Bliss tried to get the team and his assistant coaches to back up a concocted story that the victim was selling drugs and this murder was “drug related”.  You can read the Wikipedia account of this here; just scroll down to the section about “The Baylor Scandal”.  Just a heads up, that is about as polite a story about what happened as one could hope for.

In August 2003, I took issue with Coach Bliss’ actions as well as plenty of other folks who were involved directly or indirectly in the saga.  At the time I wrote that rant, the guilt of the teammate had not been established; that would not happen until 2005 when the teammate plead guilty to the murder.  Nevertheless, you can read my outrage at what went down at Baylor here.

Dave Bliss is in the news today because he just got a new job as the head basketball coach at Calvary Chapel Christian School in Las Vegas, NV.  In addition to those duties, Bliss will be the school’s Athletic Director and will be a teacher at the school.  Let me be clear; I understand completely that a fundamental precept of Christianity is redemption and it has to be clear from the name of this school that it signs onto Christianity and its teachings.  Nevertheless, I would find somewhere else to educate my children than a school that hired Dave Bliss to be a teacher, Athletic Director and head basketball coach.

If that statement leads you to conclude that I am a closed-minded bigot, so be it.  I prefer to think of myself in this dimension as a parent who is concerned about the values that my child learns in school and how those mesh with what I might be trying to teach him/her at home.

Here is a link to a column written in the Las Vegas Review-Journal by columnist Ron Kantowski.  He and I are of like minds on this hiring decision but his column makes the case more eloquently than I can.  I commend this column to your reading.

Since I am talking about things happening in the Las Vegas area, here is a sports wagering item I ran across last week.  According to the Nevada Gaming Commission, the sportsbooks in Nevada won a total of $14.9M on bets involving baseball games in June 2017.  This represents the highest win total for the month of June ever and the trend in the handle for baseball wagering is increasing year-over-year.  MLB stages 2,430 games in a regular season as compared to 256 for the NFL.  The handle for wagers on MLB games is still dwarfed by the handle for NFL games, but if the trend continues, the sportsbooks could have increased ways to separate players from their bankrolls.

And since I mentioned MLB, there is a report that the Toronto Blue Jays have already “alerted” their season ticket holders that prices will be going up in 2018.  This will be the 4th year in a row the Jays have increased ticket prices and the largest increase for 2018 will be 17%.

Looking at the MLB standings as of this morning, one might be tempted to ask why this is happening:

  • The Jays are in last place in the AL East with a 51-57 record
  • The Jays are 8 games out of first place
  • The Jays are 5 games behind in the race for the second wild-card slot.

The Jays have made it to the playoffs the last two years and in each of those seasons they lost in the ALCS; it would seem difficult to call the 2017 season to date anything less than “very disappointing”.  And during a “very disappointing” season, one wonders who thought it would be a good idea to tell season ticket holders they are going to have to pay more to see Jays’ baseball in 2018?

It is not as if the Jays are struggling at the gate to generate revenue.  As of this morning, the Jays have drawn more fans to their home games than any team in the AL; they average 40,124 people per home game.

Finally, since I mentioned sports wagering above, consider this comment from Brad Dickson in the Omaha-World Herald:

“The mayor of a town in France ate a rat after losing a bet on a soccer game.  OK, I think we’ve got another politician ready to take an anti-gambling stance.”

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



Another “Stadium Conundrum” In San Diego

Living about 3,000 miles from San Diego, I observed the waxing and waning of the prospects of a new football stadium there pretty much as an intellectual exercise.  Obviously, residents in the area could see the “intellectual aspects” of the question – – but they had other emotional and direct financial concerns that had to take center stage in their decisions.  What I did not realize then – and am only now beginning to be aware of – is that the San Diego St. football team and program may be casualties of friendly fire in the saga that would up sending the Chargers to LA.

The San Diego St. Aztecs have played their home games in Qualcomm Field for a while now; they have a lease to continue to play there through the end of the 2018 season.  What is the big deal, you ask?  Well, that is only two years in the future and there are movements afoot to raze Qualcomm Stadium around that time.  Compounding the problem is that there is no other top shelf football venue in San Diego to absorb the Aztecs’ games.  Holy dispossession, Batman…

As usual, money is at the heart of this issue.  With the Chargers out of the city and their presence in Qualcomm no longer an impediment, the tract of land on which the stadium and its parking lots sit has become one of the most valuable and sought-after bits of real estate in all of So. Cal.  One investment group estimated the value of this tract of land at $13M per acre.  Let’s do some math:

  • A football field is 120 yards long or 360 feet long.
  • A football field is 160 feet wide.
  • The area of a football field is 57,600 sq. ft. or 1.32 acres.
  • If that investment group is correct, the field itself at Qualcomm – forgetting all the other area involved in the stadium and the parking areas is worth $17.2M.

No offense to the San Diego St. football program but that stadium and its attendant spaces is worth a lot more money than Mountain West football is going to generate.  And that is the fundamental reason why San Diego St. football is not in a happy place at the moment.

There are plenty of “plans”/”options” floating around.  One has the school and an investment group “partnering” to build a dual use football/soccer stadium on the site.  When you talk about a soccer stadium in the US, you are talking about something that will seat 30,000 to 35,000 folks.  If San Diego St. aspires to move up in the pecking order of college football, a home stadium of that size is a deal-breaker.  Before you think that San Diego St. has no chance of “moving up”, remember it was only a couple of years ago that it applied to become part of the Big 12 when that conference was thinking about adding new blood.

Maybe the short-term answer is for the Aztecs to play home games at Petco Park – home of the Padres.  That would work until the Padres make it to the MLB playoffs and need to play games well into October.  The team could schedule around home stands if they end in September – – but not if they go all the way to Halloween.  Or is it too fantastical to think about the Padres seriously in relation to the World Series?

Since I am on the subject of college football – sort of – let me comment on some recent remarks made by Alabama coach, Nick Saban, regarding college scheduling.  All he wants to do is to change the landscape of football scheduling and the way bowl game participants are selected.  Other than that, it would be “situation normal” …

In an interview with ESPN folks, Saban said that schools in the Power 5 conferences should only play teams in the Power 5 conferences; that would eliminate many of the sacrificial lamb games where teams like Alabama pay a Division 1-AA team to come to Tuscaloosa for a glorified scrimmage.  On balance, that is a good idea.

He also wants teams selected for bowl games to be done based on some sort of “power ranking” and not based on team record.  This is the way March Madness selections and seedings are done and let’s just say that process is not without controversy.  It is not an exact science by any means.  The good part of that idea is that a football selection committee could create a larger number of interesting bowl games as compared to the current system where individual bowls have contracts with various conferences to supply teams just so long as the teams have won 6 games in the season.  The fact of the matter is that games between two teams at 7-5 – no matter the conferences – are only marginally interesting.

Saban’s idea to reduce the number or patsy games – against Division 1-AA opponents or against bottom feeders in the “strap-hanger conferences” of Division 1-A – would mean playing more games inside one’s conference and/or scheduling far more competitive out of conference games.  As a fan, I like where that idea can possibly lead.

Here is a potential downside.  There are 5 “strap-hanger conferences” I Division 1-A and schools in those conferences can use the big paydays that they get from playing the top-shelf teams even if it means getting humiliated on the scoreboard.  Nick Saban’s idea would consign those teams to a lower economic status – and economics plays a huge role in a successful football program at the collegiate level.  The same goes for those bowl games that I find tedious at best because they involve teams that just are not very good – no matter what their record says.  The fact is that the money from those bowl games is important to those programs and if things move to a “power rating selection process”, some of those schools will be on the outside looking in.  They just will…

Nick Saban is not out to feather his own nest here nor is he thinking along lines that will destroy college football.  I do not like all of his ideas but they deserve consideration simply because it is always possible to take a really good product and make it better.

Finally, sticking with today’s “theme” of college football, consider this comment from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald:

“My biggest takeaway from Big Ten media days: We need to get Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck to switch to decaf.

“How excited was Fleck at media days? Picture Richard Simmons with his finger in a light socket.”

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



Bud Selig Is In The Hall Of Fame

A little less than 5 years ago, I wrote that Bud Selig was an excellent Commissioner of Baseball.  That was a minority view at the time and it is certainly not widely held today.  Notwithstanding that sentiment, Bud Selig is in the Baseball Hall of Fame – as he ought to be.  Here is a link to what I wrote in 2012 about his tenure as Commissioner of Baseball listing his accomplishments, comparing him to the previous Commissioners of Baseball and comparing him to the commissioners in the other major US sports.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. announced his retirement from NASCAR racing earlier this year and recently signed on with NBC as a commentator.  Not surprisingly, NBC says it will use him to do color commentary and analysis for NASCAR events.  However, in the announcement regarding Earnhardt joining NBC, the network said it will also look to include him in “other parts of NBC’s programming outside of racing.”  Here is an off-the-wall prediction:

  • The final NASCAR event for this season will be Sunday Nov.19th at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
  • Earnhardt is widely known to be a rabid Washington Redskins’ fan and NBC will telecast the Giants at Washington game on Thursday night November 23 (Thanksgiving night).
  • I predict Earnhardt will have a speaking role in the pre-game walk-up to the game and will do a “drop-in” to the booth during the game to chitchat with Al Michaels and Cris Colinsworth.

A friend asked me recently if I thought that the movement of 3 NFL franchises in a year’s time might be detrimental to the league.  I said the league might come to regret putting two teams in Los Angeles at the same time but that the league could remedy that “problem” if and when it materialized by moving the Chargers again.  My friend then said that the owners must not have been foresighted when they voted to allow all of these movements.

That sent me to do a bit of research and here is what I believe is the situation with regard to the 29 NFL owners who are not moving their franchises and who voted to approve the movements of the Rams, Chargers and Raiders:

  • After the NFL front office takes its cut of the relocation fees charged to these teams, each of those 29 other owners will pocket somewhere between $53M and $55M.  All those 29 owners had to do was to raise their hands to vote “YES”.
  • I suspect that was all of the foresightedness that most of the owners needed to vote the way that they did…

In international soccer news, the US Men’s National Team (USMNT) won the CONCACAF Gold Cup beating Jamaica in the final game 2-1.  About a year ago, the USMNT was in the doldrums to say the least; they were struggling with early games in the World Cup qualifying rounds and the team played “dispiritedly”.  A change of coaches has seemingly changed whatever ailed the team back then.  In 13 games since Bruce Arena took over, the USMNT has not lost a game.

The CONCACAF Gold Cup is contested every other year and involves the national teams from North America, Central America and the Caribbean region.  In terms of using this tournament as a benchmark for FIFA worldwide competition, recognize that the South American teams do not participate.  That means that Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Colombia – all four ranked in FIFA’s Top Ten worldwide – were not involved.  Three other South American teams – Peru, Mexico and Uruguay – are ranked between #10 and #20 in the FIFA rankings.  And obviously, none of the European national teams – good or bad – participated.

This is not to diminish the victory by the USMNT in any way; it is simply meant to provide a bit of context with regard to the CONCACAF Gold Cup event itself.  Winning this tournament does not advance the USMNT to the World Cup tournament to be held in Russia in 2018; earning a slot in that tournament is the next hurdle for the USMNT.  Here is how the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying stands now:

  • There remain 6 teams in the running for 3 guaranteed entry slots in the World Cup Tournament.  A fourth slot is possible based on a play-in game against a team from the Asian Federation.
  • Each team has played 6 games and the USMNT is in 3rd place trailing Mexico and Costa Rica.  For the moment, they lead Panama by 1 point, Honduras by 3 points and Trinidad and Tobago by 5 points.
  • The USMNT has 4 games left in this round; the next one is against Costa Rica and the rest are against the teams trailing them in the table as of today.  In the matches leading up to now, the USMNT lost to Costa Rica, drew with Panama and beat Honduras and Trinidad and Tobago.

Finally, let me close with a soccer note that came from Brad Rock’s column, Rock On, in the Deseret News:

“McDonald’s is reconsidering its sponsorship of next year’s World Cup, due to ethical questions regarding FIFA.

“Meanwhile, FIFA is considering ending the agreement based on the taste of McDonald’s fish sandwiches.”

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



Bouncing Around Today …

Yesterday was all about one subject – – CTE and football.  Today will be more like an anthology – – except not nearly as literate.  Let me begin with the release of results from a recent poll done by JD Power & Associates, a highly regarded polling and market consulting firm.  According to the summary of the data, it was the “national anthem protests” that caused the major portion of the drop in TV viewership for the NFL last year.  Let’s do some math here as we contemplate the interpretation – not the results – of this polling:

  1. JD Power polled 9200 people (a good sample size) who had attended at least one sporting event last year if they tuned in to see less NFL football last season and if so, why did they do so.  (These questions are layered and are addressed to a segment of the population likely to watch NFL games on TV.)
  2. Of the ones who said they watched less of the NFL on TV, the highest response as to why they did so was some version of “Colin Kaepernicks’s national anthem protest”.  That was the answer given by 26% of the fraction that said they watched less NFL football on TV.
  3. That sounds as if the protest had a major effect – – – until you also notice that according to the same JD Power survey, only 12% of this audience said it watched fewer NFL telecasts last year.  So, it was 26% of the 12% who watched less football who did so because of the protest.  That is about 3% and that is a far less dramatic result.
  4. Going slightly deeper into the numbers, 27% of the respondents said they watched more NFL football last year and 62% said they watched the same amount.  So, based on this survey, for every person who watched less NFL last year, there are more than 2 other people who watched more.

The people who believe deeply in Colin Kaepernick and the cause he espouses want very much to be able to say that they and he have “started a movement” and that it has been manifest in diminishing the popularity of the most popular sport in the US.  The problem is that wishing it were so does not make it so.  NFL ratings were down last year significantly up until the election of 2016; from that point forward NFL TV ratings were down only 1% year-over-year.

Two events earlier this week gave those folks who are outraged by Colin Kaepernick’s lack of an NFL job reason to howl at the moon.

  • First, the LA Chargers invited RG3 to come and work out for them but did not extend a similar offer to Kaepernick.  Most neutral observers would agree that Kaepernick is a better QB than RG3, but it was RG3 who “got the call”.  The Chargers did not sign RG3, but they “kicked the tires” …
  • Second, the Chargers then traded for a backup QB sending a conditional draft pick to Buffalo for Cardale Jones.  Let’s just say that Jones’ résumé as an NFL QB is a tad thin.  He has appeared in 1 game; and in that game, he was 6 for 11 for 96 yards with 0 TDs and 1 INT.  Colin Kaepernick led a team to the Super Bowl.

Since I mentioned the NFL and its telecasts above, let me now let you in on the way ESPN will structure its programming on Sunday mornings leading up to the NFL telecasts at 1:00PM ET.

  • At 7:00 AM, ESPN will air a 3-hour version of SportsCenter
  • At 10:00 AM, ESPN will air a 3-hour version of its Sunday NFL Countdown; that is an expansion over previous years.  Chris Berman will not be at the helm as he had been for decades and the other studio hosts will be different too.  Samantha Ponder – wife of NFLer Christian Ponder – will be in charge replacing Berman.  The core group of studio hosts will be Matt Hasselbeck, Randy Moss, Rex Ryan and Charles Woodsen.  The standard cast of NFL Insiders at ESPN will make regular appearances here too.
  • At 10:00 AM, SportsCenter will shift from ESPN to ESPN NEWS going until game time.  That means, in effect, there will be a 6-hour SportsCenter produced every Sunday morning.
  • At 10:00 AM, ESPN2 will air a 3-hour program on Fantasy Football.  I understand that I am one of a dwindling minority of people who ignores Fantasy Football completely; nonetheless, I am gobsmacked that there could possibly be 3 hours of relevant commentary on that subject for even one Sunday let alone for 17 of them.
  • At 10:00AM, ESPNU will rebroadcast College Football Final from the day before giving the highlights of college games played on Saturday.  That is a 1-hour program and it will be repeated back-to-back-to-back 3 times taking ESPNU up to 1:  PM.

Let me channel Hank Williams, Jr. here – who will be back on MNF this year after a 5-year hiatus:

  • “Are you ready for some football?”

I read a report citing data from NFL ticket resellers about the average price for a ticket on those sites for various teams.  Looking at the list, it is not surprising to note that the teams at the top are ones who are successful on the field.  The Pats’ tickets are the most expensive on average at $360 per seat.  Then come the Broncos, Falcons, Packers, Seahawks, Steelers … you get the idea.  However, in the “Top Ten” – in the #7 slot to be exact – I found the Chicago Bears.  Since the 2006 season when the Bears lost in the Super Bowl to the Colts, the Bears have been to the playoffs exactly one time.  In the intervening 10 years, the Bears’ cumulative record is 75-85.  Nevertheless, if you want to buy a ticket on the resale market for a Bears’ game at Soldier Field, be aware that the average price is $209 per fanny-receptacle.

Finally, Falcons’ resale ticket prices are through the roof but the team is going to provide low-cost concessions to fans this year.  That news led to this comment from Brad Rock in the Deseret News:

“The Atlanta Falcons are rewarding fans this year by offering soft drinks, bottled water, hot dogs and fries for $2 each, and cheeseburgers for $5.

“This is apparently to counter the taste of Super Bowl LI, which is known among Atlantans as ‘Barf in Your Mouth Day’.”

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



Something New Every Day

There are certain things that have happened in the sports world that you assume you will never see again such as:

  1. An NBA player scoring 100 points in a game
  2. Secretariat’s dominance of the Belmont Stakes
  3. A team trailing in the Super Bowl by 25 points in the 3rd quarter rallying to win the game in OT.

I also thought that I would never again see one of José Canseco’s ignominious moments in the outfield – – the one where a ball hit him in the head and bounced over the fence for a home run.  Scratch that off the list as of this morning…  Here is a link to an item on CBSSports.com this morning with a short video clip of a minor league outfielder named Zach Borenstein taking a shot off his noggin and seeing the ball go over the fence for a home run.  Unlike Canseco who was close to the wall on the warning track, Borenstein is a good distance from fence.  It is worth a quick glance.

Also at CBSSports.com this morning is a note by Pete Prisco naming Kirk Cousins as the NFL’s most overrated player.  The gist of the argument here is that Cousins is a “top 10-15 quarterback” in the NFL but that he is being paid more than anyone else in the league this year.  My problem with labeling Cousins that way is that it confuses “overrated” with “overpaid”.  Pete Prisco is correct; Kirk Cousins is not the best QB in the NFL; he is better than the majority of other starting QBs, but he is not at the top of the list nor is he real close to the top of the list.  However, his salary is not based on some hyper-inflated view of his abilities by the Skins’ management; in fact, it is just the opposite.

Kirk Cousins will make about $25M this year because the  Skins undervalued him 2 years ago but still put the franchise tag on him.  That meant he had to be paid at the average salary of the top 5 QBs in the NFL and when the Skins’ still tried to low-ball him this year, the second franchise tag demanded a 20% raise from the previous year’s already inflated figure.  The Skins did not overrate him; they underrated him and are now paying the price for their misappraisal.

After observing the promotional tour for the Mayweather/McGregor fight and reading about some of the subsequent actions/ events, I now understand why Ringling Bros Barnum and Bailey Circus had to close.  When the circus came to town, it meant binging a couple hundred people plus animals along with various mechanical devices just to put on a show.  The Mayweather/McGregor Circus put on their show with 4 clowns – add Bob Arum and Dana White to the two participants and you have the full cast of characters.  There is no way the economics can possibly work out for Ringling Bros. here…

In case you are interested in the wagering aspects for the upcoming fight, here is how the early betting has been going in Las Vegas;

  • When the fight was announced, Mayweather was an overwhelming favorite at “minus-2500” and McGregor was the underdog at “+1100”
  • At the Westgate Superbook so far, the money and the action is heavily in favor of McGregor.  At one point the Super book said that 93% of the tickets outstanding were for McGregor and 75% of the money was on McGregor.
  • After “several low-five figure bets” went down on McGregor last week, the odds fell to their lowest point since wagering opened.  Mayweather was then “minus-550” and McGregor was “+425”.
  • At the South Point Sportsbook a prop bet offered 6-1 odds on McGregor winning by a KO.  According to a spokesperson for the casino, one bettor took that proposition and put $35,000 down on it.

The Jaguars’ DE/OLB, Dante Fowler, made the news last week in a non-football manner.  Fowler was the 3rd overall pick in the 2015 draft by the Jags; he missed his entire rookie year with a knee injury; he appeared in all 16 games in 2016 recording 4 sacks and 23 tackles.  Those are not eye-popping numbers, but they are respectable.  Last week, Fowler was arrested after an “incident with another driver”.  Here are some of the reported “highlights”:

  • The other driver made some comment about Fowler’s driving.  Assuming that actually happened, I believe we can infer from the following that the comment was not any form of praise.
  • Fowler then got out of his car, exchanged words with the other driver, hit the other driver, knocked the other driver’s glasses to the ground and then stepped on the glasses and broke them.
  • According to the police report, this was the point where Dante Fowler channeled celebrity chef, Emeril Lagasse, and took it up a notch.  The police report says that Fowler then “took the victim’s grocery bag, with recently purchased liquor, and threw it in a lake.”

If you are going to go caveman on someone else, I guess it makes sense to go “full Alley Oop” on him.  The “groceries into the lake” seems like a good way to put a punctuation mark on the emotional outburst here.  Nonetheless, I suspect that people who are counselors for others with “anger-management issues” might see this opera with a degree of concern.  Perhaps, Roger Goodell might too…

Finally, here is a comment from Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald regarding the upcoming college football season:

“The new Oklahoma head coach is Lincoln Riley, 33. You know what you call a 33-year-old at Nebraska? ‘Redshirt freshman offensive lineman’.”

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



The Clippers In LA …

Billionaires do not call me seeking my advice; not surprisingly, even my kids do not call me asking for my advice.  I’ve grown accustomed to this station in life.  Nonetheless, every once in a while, I rise above my lowly stature as an advisor and presume to tell a billionaire what he should do to spend his money.  Today is such a day.

I read a report that LA Clippers’ owner, Steve Ballmer, is “chagrined” that his team is still the “also-ran” in Los Angeles when it comes to basketball interest.  Yes, the Clippers have had a significantly better record than the Lakers in the time that Ballmer has owned the team; yes, he can properly claim to be the guy at the helm of the franchise that has found a way not to embarrass the team or the city quarterly; yes, he is a visible, enthusiastic and generally attractive owner as opposed to his predecessor.  Notwithstanding the veracity of all those things, NBA basketball in LA identifies as the Lakers – not the Clippers – and it would take at least a decade of Lakers’ bumbling ineptitude even to begin to put the Clippers into the alpha role there.

And so, I have a piece of advice for Clippers’ owner, Steve Ballmer:

  • Forget the idea that you will build yourself a new arena in LA and that edifice will project you and your team into the top-dog position in the minds of LA basketball fans.  What you need to do is simpler – and yet more radical…
  • You need to build yourself a state-of-the-art/knock-your-socks-off new arena in Seattle and move your Clippers there and re-name them the Seattle Supersonics.

First, Seattle is where you were while you made your billions of dollars that allowed you to buy into the NBA ownership society in the first place.  Second, the folks in Seattle will love you to death if you give them back the NBA team they believe they are entitled to have.  Third, as you have rightly noticed, most of the fans in LA will not care that you have left town – assuming that they notice that you are no longer in town.  Fourth, you can afford to build the edifice and own it (Forbes says you are worth something north of $30B.) and reap whatever rewards come from that ownership.  Fifth, if the city turns down your deal to build the venue and provide the city with something other than an expansion franchise, you – and the NBA in general – can tell the fans and the city fathers there to go pound sand; they will get a team on the Twelfth of Never.

Please do not conclude from the preceding paragraphs that anything like this is going to happen at any time in the future.  As I indicated, my advice on these sorts of things is about as useful as a “STOP sign” in the Grand Theft Auto game.

Speaking of NBA teams and ownership thereof, reports say that the Houston Rockets are for sale.  Forbes says the team is worth $1.65B; reports say that the asking price is $2B.  There have been reports that Dikembe Mutombo has been trying to put together an investment group with sufficient resources to make a bid for the team.  If I were to say that this undertaking is a tall order for Mutombo, you would be perfectly justified to groan loudly and tell me to go to my room without supper…

Seattle Seahawks’ CB, Richard Sherman is no stranger to “the headlines”.  One of his more recent utterances that got him there was a statement that NFL players must be ready to go on strike if they want to avail themselves of contracts like the ones being handed out to NBA players these days.  In a way, he is absolutely correct and in another way, he is barking up the wrong tree.

  • As I pointed out in a previous rant, the pool of money that an NFL team has to hand out to players is approximately double that of the money an NBA team has to hand out.
  • NFL teams have to pay 61 players; NBA teams have to pay 15.  Therefore, players in the NFL have less money per player to be allocated.  This is simple math, folks…
  • HOW-EVAH, if the NFL players want the luxury of guaranteed contracts – even if those will necessarily be shorter in duration than current contracts due to the specter of injury in the NFL – they are going to have to negotiate that into the next CBA and that will not come easily if at all.

There is a segment of football fandom that just does not like Richard Sherman probably because he does not comport himself the way other NFL star players tend to do.  That perception/assessment is accurate and those fans are perfectly within the purview of their fandom to think that way.  Notwithstanding any of that, Richard Sherman is completely correct on this issue.  He is not – yet – urging a strike; he is not demanding a strike.  What he has done is to put the NFLPA and the NFL on notice that if/when this issue becomes a sticking point in future negotiations, he is on record now with the idea that this is a worthy goal to seek in a CBA even if it means a players’ strike/lockout/work stoppage.

Obviously, I have no interest in seeing “replacement players” in NFL games any more than I want to see the return of the ”replacement refs” to NFL games.  However, Richard Sherman has laid out fairly clearly here the parameters for one issue in future CBA negotiations and he has done it sensibly and articulately.  There is exactly no reason to be angry with him for doing that.

Finally, here is an observation from Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald regarding Big 10 Media Day leading into the college football season:

“Iowa players attending Big Ten media days include Josey Jewell. This is believed to be the highest honor ever for a human named ‘Josey’.”

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



The Juice Is Loose – – Almost

OJ Simpson was granted parole yesterday; this was front page news in the Washington Post today.  I am confident that there is no other person incarcerated by the State of Nevada whose parole would make it to the front page of the Washington Post.  In fact, the only other people currently in jail that might achieve that status that come to my mind are:

  1. Ted Kaczynski (the Unabomber)
  2. “The Underwear Bomber” (cannot recall the name)
  3. Bernie Madoff
  4. Charles Manson
  5. Terry Nichols

Reverting to the sports world…  When I was in high school, one of my classmates of the female persuasion was an athlete and a big sports fan.  We would catch up at periodic reunions and she has been a reader of these rants almost since the day they hit the Internet.  Having lived for a time in NYC, she is a Knicks’ fan.  I will pause here so that you may offer your condolences now.

Right after the Knicks fired Phil Jackson, she sent me an e-mail saying that she would love to get the job as Knicks’ president so that she could put the team on the right path.  I responded by asking her if I could be one of the team’s collegiate scouts if she got the job.  Making me a college basketball scout would allow me to realize what Mark Twain identified as the path to a truly happy life.  He said it involved 2 simple steps:

  • First, find what it is that you truly love to do.
  • Second, find some damn fool who will pay you to do it.

Alas, my classmate did not get the job and my hopes to lead a truly happy life will have to continue to be what I derive from these rants.  This all goes to show that Groucho Marx was correct when he noted:

“Man does not control his own fate.  The women in his life do that for him.”

Scott Perry got the job as the Knicks GM having most recently served as the VP for Basketball Operations for the Sacramento Kings.  If Scott Perry is the intersection of the Kings’ organization and the Knicks’ organization, perhaps we should refer to him as “Dysfunction Junction”.  The Knicks must be very enamored with Perry’s abilities because they gave the Kings a second-round pick and “cash considerations” to hire Scott Perry.  Until the announcement of this hiring, I was not aware that it was Perry who “masterminded” the Kings’ draft and their free agent signings this year; now that I know that I have to say that he deserves kudos.

  • In the draft, the Kings got De’Aaron Fox, Justin Jackson, Harry Giles and Frank Mason.  Giles is the biggest question mark here because he comes off an injury last year but the other 3 picks look rock solid.
  • In free agency, the Kings signed George Hill and Zach Randolph – two solid NBA players who should provide leadership and stability for the rest of the young roster.

I am not ready to pretend that the Kings are a threat to the Warriors in the NBA West just yet, but the franchise has needed rebooting for a while now and this off-season seems to be a reasonable start along that path.  Like the Kings, the Knicks have been in need of a roster reboot for a while now.  Starting with the 2001-02 NBA season, the Knicks have been over .500 exactly twice and one of those times finished the season with a 42-40 record.  In terms of on-the-court issues, Scott Perry and coach Jeff Hornacek have to deal with:

  1. What to do with Carmelo Anthony once and for all.  Now, he says he would waive his no-trade clause for specific teams; can the Knicks make a reasonable deal for him?  Whatever their decision, they need to make it and take that soap opera off the air.
  2. How to repair relations with Kristaps Porzingis.  He is a talented player and he was clearly not happy with the “prior management”.
  3. Do they have an NBA level point guard on the roster?  They did not have one last year; they drafted Frank Ntilikina who played in Europe for Strasbourg in the French League last year.  Scouts say he was the best pick of the foreign players in the draft; the calendar says he will turn 19 years old next week.

If you are a Knicks’ fan like my classmate, you can look at the glass as half full and under a running faucet.  No one would blame you if you looked at the glass here as half empty and under a faucet dispensing water from the Flint Michigan water system.  There is a discordant note in the background here.  Prior to hiring Scott Perry, the Knicks were in negotiations with David Griffin for the GM job.  Like Perry, Griffin had experience in a dysfunctional organization whilst he was GM for the Cavaliers.  However, Griffin did manage to deal with the egos on the court and the mercurial owner sufficiently to deliver a championship and appearances in the NBA Finals.

Griffin removed himself from consideration for the job and it was reported that a sticking point was that he would not have hiring/firing authority.  I can’t point to specifics, but given the way the Knicks have been run for the last 15 years, there are likely some folks in the organization that would be better off in the unemployment line.  Unless, of course, all the dysfunction belongs to owner, James Dolan, in which case any GM from Planet Earth is doomed from the start.  The final chapter has not been written yet…

Finally, here is an observation from Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle regarding an off-season move in the NBA:

“With Chris Paul and James Harden sharing a backcourt, every Rockets game will be a flopping clinic. There will be times when one of them takes a shot and both of them fall down.”

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



Windfall Profits

If you ever visit Las Vegas and venture into one of the casinos on The Strip, all you have to do is to look around at the facilities/accoutrements there to realize that “The House” does not lose over the long run.  That is not a complaint or a protest of any kind; it is an acknowledgement of reality.  Earlier this week, I ran across a report in the Las Vegas Journal-Review detailing how some winners in some casinos have voluntarily forfeited their winnings to “The House” giving the casinos a windfall profit at the expense of its customers.  Here is the deal:

  • The Chicago Cubs have a large national following and for years – 108 of them to be precise – the Cubs’ fans rooted for a World Series.  In the casino era in Las Vegas, those fans would bet on the cubs to win the World Series every year and the house would bank the bets.
  • Last year, there were lots of bets on the Cubs as usual – – except the team actually did win the World Series.  Some fans with winning tickets did not cash them; instead they kept them as souvenirs.
  • Sportsbook bets typically have a 6-month lifetime once the winner has been determined.  World Series bets had to be settled a couple of months ago so now the accountants in Las Vegas recognize how much the sportsbooks have “saved” in terms of payouts.

The details are in this report and the amounts naturally vary from company to company but here is the bottom line:

  • More than 1,000 winning tickets on the cubs to win the world Series remain uncashed at casinos serviced by CG Technologies.
  • At the Golden Nugget sportsbook, two $600 bets on the Cubs at 5-1 odds were not cashed.

“The House” wins in the long run; Cubs’ fans gave them a helping hand last year…

Yesterday, I mentioned that I am not one of Billy Beane’s acolytes and made some critical remarks about the Oakland A’s as a team.  Two readers told me via e-mail that I was being too hard on Beane and the A’s and that there were worse GMs and worse teams in MLB.  That may be the case over the past year or two, but there are significant distinctions in my mind.

First, Billy Beane has been the GM in Oakland for about 20 years.  I cannot think of another MLB GM who – when criticized for not being half the genius he has been made out to be is supported by the argument, “Well there are worse ones,” AND that GM has been around for 2 decades.  Moreover, fans in Oakland seemingly have recognized that the team is dismal and are finding other things to do with their time and money.  Consider:

  • The A’s attendance reflects three factors and the A’s attendance is dismal.  Let me review some numbers here.  Since 2007, the A’s total attendance has gone over 2 million exactly one time and in that year, they exceeded 2 million fans by the grand total of 3,628 folks.  In that 10-year stretch, the A’s attendance has been 12th or worse in the AL 8 out of 10 years.  So far this year, the A’s are on pace to draw a little over 1.5 million fans.
  • Yes, the Oakland Coliseum is a miserable venue; it adds to any repulsion fans may have regarding the team.  However, there is another team-related factor that hurts attendance.  There is no continuity there.
  • If the A’s trade away Sonny Gray – as is widely speculated – in the next few days as the trade deadline approaches, the longest tenured players on the roster will have been there since the 2015 season.  There is no “face of the franchise” because no one stays around long enough to establish nearly the identity needed to assume that role.  The troika of bad stadium, bad team and revolving-door roster explains why the A’s have to scramble and scratch to try to be competitive.
  • The GM has some control over two of those three negative factors.  He gets a pass only on the noxiousness of the stadium.

Those of you who know me in real life know that I am not a huge fan of movies; in general, I would much rather spend a couple of hours reading a book than going to see a movie.  Nevertheless, I am a fan of Al Pacino as an actor; I would not make it a point to go and see a movie simply because he is in the movie, but I do enjoy his acting when I happen to see him on screen.  Recently, I read that Al Pacino will play the part of Joe Paterno in a movie about Penn State and Penn State football.  My immediate reaction was:

  • Does the world really need this?

The Jerry Sandusky matter was outrageous, scandalous and barbaric.  There was ton of blame to be handed out to myriad folks regarding that whole business – – and in fact, the justice system seems to be trudging along in handing out that blame and the punishments that go with it.  It surely appears as if the university has moved on to a new place with regard to what happened and I wonder if there is a real value in re-hashing that mess.

[Aside:  I make a distinction here between a “documentary” and a film that “examines” the situation through the eyes of a screenwriter or team of screenwriters.  What happened was a fact – a horrible fact.  Is there really a benefit to be derived from a sort of historical fiction here?]

            Finally, here is a comment from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot that rings true to me:

“Sarcasm ahead: I don’t know how anybody could have enjoyed watching Babe Ruth without knowing the launch angle and exit velocity of his home runs.”

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



Must-See TV? Not For Me …

ESPN bills itself as the “Worldwide Leader in Sports”.  Ignoring the ESPN channels in foreign countries about which I know nothing, I believe the ESPN “family of networks” has 5 different channels that are on the air 168 hours per week.  That demands a lot of “inventory” and/or reruns to prevent dead air or a test pattern for periods of time.  Execs at ESPN must be vigilant in their search for programming to fill up all those hours; later this week, they will get a smidgen of help from the US jurisprudence system.  You read that right…

Tomorrow, in Nevada, OJ Simpson will be up for parole and he will go before the parole board to see if he can get out of prison there.  That event will be televised on ESPN – and other networks too – as it happens; the schedule calls for it to begin at 1:00 PM EDT.  Then, ESPN will air a special 90-minute version of Outside the Lines anchored by Jeremy Schapp.

You may be sure that I will have something else to do at 1:00 PM EDT tomorrow; I have been meaning to find time to arrange the paper clips in my desk drawer…  However, you may be enticed to tune in to see the results of this hearing because – – wait for it – – you can bet on the outcome of the hearing at offshore Internet sportsbooks.  As of this morning, here are the odds at one of those sites:

  • Granted parole in 2017:  Miinus-475
  • Not Granted parole in 2017:  +325

The proposition will not necessarily be determined tomorrow because even if the parole board thinks it is OK to release OJ, the earliest he would hit the streets is in October.  To fulfill the proposition “Granted parole in 2017” means that OJ must get a favorable decision tomorrow AND that the process leading up to his release comes to fruition before December 31, 2017.

  • Memo to Anyone Making This Wager:  Get yourself into a 12-step program … quickly.

Last week, there was a headline at SI.com that has to be nominated as the most self-evident headline of the year.

“MLB Rumors:  Multiple teams interested in Marlins’ Stanton”

That would be Giancarlo Stanton.  He is 27 years old; this is his 8th year in MLB where he has a career OPS of .901; he is a 4-time All-Star.  Looking at those stats, even someone who does not follow MLB closely would have to ask himself/herself the following questions after reading that headline:

  1. Why would the Marlins want to trade him?
  2. How many of the other 29 teams in MLB have 3 outfielders better than Stanton?
  3. Is there another “MLB Rumor” out there to the effect that Babe Ruth was a pretty good ballplayer?

Here is what would be really surprising to see as a headline at SI.com or anywhere else:

“Marlins cannot find any MLB team with interest in acquiring Giancarlo Stanton”

While on the subject of baseball, anyone who has been reading these rants for a while knows that I am not a believer in Billy Beane as some sort of baseball savant who knows more than everyone else combined about how to construct a roster.  I will point to the A’s record over the last decade if need be.  Recently, we had another Billy Beane “outside the box move” when he traded two relievers to the ultra-needy Washington Nationals for “prospects” or “assets”.  If you believe in the assessment of baseball prospects, what the A’s got back was more than a bag of hair – – but not much more.

Seemingly, the A’s are always in “selling mode” when it comes to the trade deadline and this year is no exception.  The A’s are 20 games out of first place in the AL West and have the next-to-worst record in the AL.  So much for all the “prospects” and “assets” that have been acquired over the last decade…

Sonny Gray has been with the A’s for 4.5 seasons now and he is the longest-tenured player on the team; if you believe the rumors, he is on the trading block; there are teams that need him and are interested in him; the A’s want to get “prospects” or “assets” back in return.  Let me assume that the A’s find a way to make such a deal.

That would mean that the longest tenured player on the A’s roster – if I have calculated correctly – would be either INF Marcus Demien or C Josh Phegley.  They both came to the A’s from the White Sox in 2014 as “prospects” in exchange for Jeff Samardzija.  I have no intention of figuring out which of the two showed up in a game for the A’s first; that is the reason for the uncertainty here.  What that means is that all the prospects/assets that had been acquired from all the trade deadline fire sales over the past decade did not produce the core of a solid – let alone contending – MLB team.

Billy Beane has been the GM in Oakland since 1998; he has been the architect of the A’s for a long time now.  From the start of the 2007 season to this morning the team record is 838-875.  It will take you a while to convince me that record over the last 10 years is laudatory.

Finally, here is a college baseball item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Iowa’s baseball team under coach Rick Heller has won 141 games the past four seasons — the best four-year run in program history.

“Or as the hot stretch is now known around Iowa City, Heller high water.”

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