Front Office Disarray

In a normal year, this is not the time for “Front Office Disarray” (FOD) in sports.  This is the time of year when baseball teams are in Spring Training and the biggest front office issue of the immediate term is how to goose up season ticket sales before Opening Day.  NBA teams are either fighting for playoff spots or playoff seeding or they are tanking.  NFL teams are set for free agency and getting set for the draft.  NHL teams are making their runs to the playoffs.

For some reason, this is not a normal year.  It is too far removed from New Year’s to blame it on a hangover; it does not make sense to link it to political wrangling all over the country because that happens all the time; it has lasted too long to be caused by a single phase of the moon; if you want to try to connect it with the melting of the polar ice caps, have at it.  The fact is that two franchises see their Front Offices in a great state of disarray.

Let me start with the one that is in my backyard – – the Washington Redskins.  They are no strangers to FOD; Danny Boy Snyder has owned the team for almost two decades now and it has only been in the last couple years that there has been a situation where FOD has been quiescent.  I am sure you have read or heard about the disappearing act that Scot McCloughan – merely the team’s GM – has pulled over the last several weeks.  He has been away from the media; he was not at the NFL Combine; there was even one report/speculation that his acknowledged alcohol problem had resurfaced.  I have no information on what is going on here but McCloughan’s absence and the smarmy spin-doctored info provided by team president, Bruce Allen, demonstrates that the Skins’ Front Office is not running smoothly.

Here is my hypothesis.  I have no evidence other than having watched how this franchise has functioned for the last two decades for this hypothesis.

  1. Scot McCloughan has been with the team for 2 years and in those 2 years the team has improved significantly making the playoffs in 2015 and missing out on the playoffs in Week 17 last year.  Many if not most observers have credited McCloughan with revamping the roster allowing the team to succeed.
  2. Over the past two decades, Danny Boy Snyder has cultivated an image that says he will “do anything to win”.  Indeed, he has spent money – often foolishly – and made splashy hirings and firings.  However, I believe that he wants something even more than he “wants to win”.  I believe that he wants to win AND he wants everyone to recognize that he – Danny Boy –  is the reason that the team is winning.

In my hypothesis, Scot McCloughan got too much of the credit for the Skins’ turnaround over the past two seasons and is now being eased to the side such that his exit – stage right – will appear to be a normal progression of things.  Nevertheless, the Skins are now in free agent season without their GM and prepping for the NFL Draft without the guy who oversaw all the scouting and ranking during the last college football season.  Front Office Disarray …

Now take yourself about 3000 miles WSW of Washington to sunny Los Angeles and contemplate the state of the LA Lakers.  The team has consistently been one of the bluebloods of the NBA going all the way back to its time in Minneapolis with George Mikan, Slater Martin and Whitey Skoog.  In the past several years, the Lakers have been less than normally successful on the floor and far more dysfunctional than usual in the Front Office.  Any attempt to rewind all that has gone on in terms of the intrigues and squabbles in that Front Office would take up more Internet bytes than it is worth.  Suffice it to say that the calmest period in recent times had the Lakers’ coach – Phil Jackson – dating the owner’s daughter – Jeanie Buss – while Jeanie Buss and her brother Jim Buss were feuding.  Those were the good times in the Front Office…

When longtime Lakers’ owner Dr. Jerry Buss died, Jeannie Buss took over the team and her brother, Jim, was the guy in charge of basketball operations.  That did not work out even a little bit and after lots of public squabbling Jeanie fired Jim – and also team GM Mitch Kupchak who seemed to take sides with Jim in the family feud.  In his place, Jeanie hired Magic Johnson as the major domo of the Lakers in all things basketball who then hired Rob Pelinka to be the Lakers’ GM.  Let us take a look at the triumvirate in charge here:

  1. Jeanie Buss gets high marks when it comes to running the franchise as a business enterprise.  However, she is also associated with the decision to give Kobe Bryant a two-year extension on his contract worth more than $50M at the end of Bryant’s career when he was well beyond being worth even half that amount.
  2. Rob Pelinka’s résumé for a GM job in the NBA seems awfully thin to me.  He is a former college player; he is an attorney; he has represented several NBA players as an agent; most importantly, he was Kobe Bryant’s agent.  I do not believe he has ever held any position for any team in the NBA prior to his hiring as the Lakers’ GM.
  3. Magic Johnson is a Hall of Fame player and a highly successful entrepreneur.  This will be his first venture into running an NBA franchise.  In the past, great players have done very well in the area of running a franchise; Jerry West is Exhibit A; Larry Bird is Exhibit B; Danny Ainge was not nearly as great a player as Magic or West or Bird, but he too has been successful at directing a franchise.  At the same time, Michael Jordan was less than successful as the boss of the Wizards; Phil Jackson has hardly distinguished himself running the Knicks’ franchise; Elgin Baylor was hugely unsuccessful as the GM of the Clippers; and let’s not even discuss the post-basketball accomplishments of Isiah Thomas.

The bottom line here is that the Lakers are in the midst ofand on the bridge steering the ship through the storm are 3 rookies.  Adding to the maelstrom are legal actions taken by Jim Buss and one of his brothers against Jeanie and the Lakers that deal with issues too subtle for me to understand easily.  It is a mess and it is not likely to be cleaned up in a brief time.

Finally, here is a quiz question posed by Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

 “La La Land” is a movie about:

  • a) a musician and an aspiring actress who meet and fall in love.

  • b) Twins fans dreaming of winning this year’s World Series.

  • c) Johnny Manziel thinking he has an NFL future.

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




Here in Curmudgeon Central, schadenfreude is a welcome situation whenever it presents itself.  It is not that I enjoy watching people suffer; rather, what I enjoy is watching some pompous fool – or fools – squirm in a situation of their own making.  You may recall that all during the NFL lead-up to the playoffs, I said that I was rooting for the Patriots to win the Super Bowl just because I wanted to watch Roger Goodell hand the Lombardi Trophy to Tom Brady and Robert Kraft.  That situation was like having schaden on the right and freude on the left.

There is another potential schadenfreude situation facing the NFL in the upcoming season.  When the people of San Diego overwhelmingly rejected a financing plan for a new NFL stadium there, the Chargers really did have to get out of town.  However, they did not have a place to go and the NFL somehow approved a move that will put Chargers’ home games in the StubHub Center which is a soccer stadium that now seats 30,000 fannies and might be expanded to 35,000.  Just to put some perspective on this, Central Michigan University plays its home games in the MAC in Kelly/Shorts Stadium – a facility that seats 30,225.

  • The Los Angeles Chargers will play their home games in a MAC stadium.

Now just suppose that the LA Chargers are the “Team of Destiny” in 2017 and become a ratings monster for the networks.  What will be “the optic” for the NFL to have its “hot team” on TV playing in the stadium equivalent of a sandbox?  Now let me go way out on a limb here and imagine that the Chargers win the AFC West next year; that would mean that they would host a playoff game in their stadium equivalent of a sandbox.  Won’t that be fun?


[Aside:  I have never been to StubHub Center nor have I driven by it to see it in person from the highway but I have looked at pictures of the facility on the Internet.   If what I think is the press box is actually the press box, I suspect that those with media credentials for an NFL playoff game there will be less than happy with the cheek-to-jowl ambience of the facility.]


Since I mentioned MAC football above, let me use that to make an awkward transition here.  Much has been made of an advisor to the President of the US referring to The Bowling Green Massacre on TV.  It did not take long for her political opponents to jump all over that “alternative fact” and point out that a fictitious massacre could not be justification for a Presidential Executive Order.  All of the circumstances surrounding that situation are now in the rear-view mirror but here in Curmudgeon Central, research indicates that indeed there was a Bowling Green Massacre and it happened on 3 September 2016.  Here are the findings from some exhaustive research:

  • Ohio State beat Bowling Green 77-10 in football on that date.
  • Anyone care to claim that was anything but a massacre?

Here is an item from Brad Rock in the Deseret News from earlier this week:

“Former slugger Sammy Sosa used a recent blog to deny steroid use, compare his trials to Jesus, and claim he introduced Chicago to the world.

“’Do tell,’ said Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey, Stan Mikita, Walter Payton, Ernie Banks, Benny Goodman …

It is not unusual for people to claim that their remarks were taken out of context when someone points out that one of their statements is just a tad on the shady side.  So, let me put those remarks into context:

  1. If these remarks are to be evaluated for veracity, one can pretty quickly say that is analysis of what he did for Chicago is greatly exaggerated at best and a downright falsehood on most days of the week.  Moreover, Sosa’s comparison of the hardships in his life to Jesus Christ demonstrates a fundamental lack of self-awareness and social/cultural awareness.
  2. Now, it would be in THAT context that I would evaluate the claim that Sammy Sosa never used steroids…

Here is another bit of “perspective” that is worth consideration.  On last year’s Super Bowl winning team, the Patriots carried 8 wide receivers.  Here is what those 8 WRs made in 2016 as they went on to win the Super Bowl.  I am counting their base salaries, bonuses they got for things other than winning the Super Bowl and a pro rate share of any signing bonus they may have received.

  1. Danny Amendola  $2.9M
  2. Julian Edelman  $4.1M
  3. Michael Floyd $1.3M
  4. Chris Hogan  $5.5M
  5. Devin Lucien  $0.5M
  6. Malcom Mitchell  $0.6M
  7. Matthew Slater  $2.0M
  8. DeAndrew White  $0.2M


Now for perspective, consider that the Steelers recently signed Antonio Brown to a contract that will pay him an average of $18.5M per season.  I am not saying that Antonio Brown is not worth that sort of expenditure; he may indeed be the best single WR in the NFL today – if Julio Jones is not.  However, it is interesting to note that the Pats spent frugally on their entire WR corps and all that did was get the team a Lombardi trophy and the second highest scoring offense in the league for 2016.

Finally, harkening back to my commentary on the Bowling Green Massacre above, here is an item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Sports Quiz:  The name of the German Shepherd that won best in show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is:

  • “a) Rumor

  • “b) Fake News

  • “c) Alternative Facts”

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



Following Another Legend …

Yesterday, I spent some time explaining why replacing a coaching legend/Hall of Famer was not a good career move for the successor.  I was gently reminded later in the day that I had missed an obvious situation of this type that is going to happen in less than a month.  Indeed, I had…

Vin Scully was not a coach or a manager, but he was a broadcasting legend.  His 65+ years at the microphone doing Dodgers’ games – from Brooklyn and LA – were magical for most of his tenure there.  He is in the Hall of Fame; he belongs in the Hall of Fame; his voice was an iconic presence in the MLB cosmos for at least 5 decades.  And … he retired last year.

Replacing Vin Scully on the radio calling LA Dodgers’ games this year is 29-year old Joe Davis.  Vin Scully worked solo for all those years – a style that has gone the way of the starting pitcher who throws 10-15 complete games in a season.  Davis will call the games with “help” in the booth from either Nomar Garciaparra or Orel Hershiser or both.  If you want to criticize Davis from Day One, you can point to the fact that Scully never needed help and this “whippersnapper” needs it from the start.  I think the more rational way to look at this is that having a sidekick in the booth is something that will minimize the direct comparisons between Davis and Scully.  The more diminution there is on that axis, the better it will be for Davis and the Dodgers’ radio network.

Scully took over for a legend in Brooklyn – – Red Barber.  Scully did so successfully and hung around for more than 6 decades.  Davis is 29 years old.  If he can avoid the initial complaints that “He’s not Vin Scully!” and settles in as a great broadcaster – we won’t know about that for at least several years – he may be with the Dodgers for the next 5 decades himself.

Bonne chance, Joe Davis…

While on the subject of baseball – at least peripherally – the KC Royals are using Spring Training to prepare for the regular season on the baseball front and on the culinary front.  At their Spring Training stadium in Surprise AZ, the Royals will offer this to fans in attendance:

  • A hot dog, wrapped in bacon then wrapped in a cheeseburger.
  • The “official name” the Triple Play Dog.  I think it should be named the Gut Bomb.

The stadium concession folks say that this concoction checks in at 850 calories.  If so, my calculations say that this is either a small beef patty or a minimal amount of cheese.  My back-of-the-envelope calculations say that the Triple Play Dog should check in between 1000 and 1100 calories.  And we will not discuss the grams of fat in there…

Here is the question that folks who order the Triple Play Dog must be wondering:

  • What do you get for dessert?
  • Answer:  How about an ice cream sandwich where the external “sweet things” are chocolate donuts instead of cookies?  How did the concession company miss that opportunity?

Sticking with baseball topics for a moment more, lots of people have opined that MLB needs to do more to cultivate its next generation of fans.  The simplistic explanation for the basis of this assertion is that millennials do not have the attention span to enjoy baseball and its leisurely pace of play.  Hence, the movements to “speed up the game” by the powers that be.

I certainly do not object to measures that will prevent 9-inning games from becoming 4-hour marathons; I have suggested in previous rants some modifications to the rules that would speed up the game and I have another one a few paragraphs down today.  However, I think that there is something else that MLB can – and should – do to cultivate a younger fanbase.  I ran across this stat:

  • The last time that a World Series Game was played in daytime was in October 1987 – – thirty years ago this Fall.

In days of yore – the 50s, 60s and 70s –  the World Series was must-see TV.  People took off from work to do just that.  Kids rushed home from school to do that; I know I did.  Today, all the World Series Games are at night and for fans on the East Coast – – where there are LOTS of fans and LOTS of future/potential fans – – World Series Games rarely end before midnight or 1:00AM.  That is not a scheduling strategy to win over new and young fans to your game…  Perhaps the Commish and the union mavens for baseball might consider playing the opening game and the fourth game of the World Series in the daytime for the next several years to see if this skews the viewing audience a bit younger…

I said I had an idea for a rule change that might speed up some MLB games.  Specifically, games in September can drag on and on because managers then have 40 players at their disposal making pitching changes and pinch hitters/runners and the like much easier to do.  I understand that teams want to have their young minor-leaguers up for a taste of what the big leagues are like but maybe MLB can take a lesson from the NFL here.

  • Why not expand the rosters to 40 in September but only allow 27 or 28 players to be eligible to play in any one game?
  • Managers can declare some veterans ineligible for some games to give the youngsters a chance to play and to give the vets some time off.
  • Hey!  It’s a thought…

Finally, Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald noted the beginning of the college baseball season and reminded readers of the dumb rule change that will be experimental in the lower minor leagues this year:

“Big Ten baseball teams begin play next week in mid-February. Once again, ties will be broken by a two-man luge competition.”

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



College Basketball Coaches Today

The college basketball season has reached a point where just about every game matters.  Conference tournaments can be important to teams “on the bubble” for an invite to the NCAA tournament and teams comfortably in the tournament can have their seedings affected positively or negatively based on games in the conference tournaments.  I am not about to go and make predictions about the various conference tournaments around the country but the ramping up of college basketball at this time of the year got me to thinking about the sport in general over the weekend.

Coaching is an element of team success at almost every level of sport and – in my opinion – coaches/managers generally get too much credit for successes and too much blame for failures across the full landscape of team sports.  In college basketball, I think that coaches are more visible and more identified with success and failure than in other sports.  There are 6 college coaches working today whose record and whose reputation puts them at the top of their profession.  However, only one of them will probably around 10 years from now and in fact he may be the only one on the scene 5 years from now;

  1. Jim Boeheim:  He has been at Syracuse and associated with the basketball program since 1963 when he was on the team.  He has been the head coach there since 1976; he is 72 years old.  Although he has not made a formal announcement and signed his retirement papers, the reports are that he will step down at the end of this season and turn over the program to long-time assistant and coach-in-waiting, Mike Hopkins.
  2. John Calipari:  He is the youngster of this group at 58 years old.  I can see him still on the sidelines at Kentucky in 2027; he is under contract at UK through 2021.
  3. Tom Izzo:  This year’s Michigan State team is hardly one of Izzo’s best; nonetheless, he is as secure in his position as any coach on this list.  He is 62 years old and is signed with Michigan State through 2021
  4. Mike Krzyzewski:  Coach K is 70 years old and has had several recent surgeries.  He too is signed through 2021; when that contract expires, he will be 74 years old.
  5. Rick Pitino:  He is 64 years old and recently signed a contract extension that would keep him at Louisville through 2026.  Given the pending investigations by the NCAA regarding recruits there being supplied with hookers, I think that Pitino is not a mortal lock to see the final days of that contract.
  6. Roy Williams:  He is 67 years old and is signed through 2020.  Like Coach K, Williams has had some health issues.  Like Rick Pitino, there are NCAA investigations going on all around UNC and some of it focuses on the basketball program.

I am not suggesting that any of these 6 coaches are over the hill or out of touch.  In fact, I am convinced that all 6 are still very good at what they do.  But Father Time has paid a house call to a couple of these folks and could very well be ready to ring on some of the other doorbells.  Much will be made of the college basketball coaching carousel that will unfold over the next 6 weeks or so.  I think the much more interesting thing to ponder is this:

  • Who will replace these Hall of Fame legends when they turn in their whistles?

Let me just say that following a legend into a job is not a ticket to success and is not something that makes the replacement into a household name.  No Googling now:

  • Who replaced John Wooden at UCLA?
  • Who replaced Bear Bryant at Alabama?
  • Who replaced Vince Lombardi in Green Bay?
  • (Answers below)

One other college coach who is getting near the end of the line who has enjoyed lots of success but is a rung or two below the six guys above is Bob Huggins.  He is 63 years old and has had more than a couple of medical incidents in recent weeks including a time when his implanted defibrillator had to kick in during game.  Huggins’ teams have never won the NCAA tournament, but he has averaged 20+ wins per game over a coaching career that started in 1984.

The thing I find interesting about Huggins is his radical departure from his coaching brethren when it comes to sartorial splendor on the sidelines.  Most coaches wear suits and ties on the sidelines; Huggins wears a pullover with the school logo on it; no one seems to notice or care to comment.  This is the polar opposite of the reaction to Bill Belichick’s “unusual” sideline wardrobe choices – hoodies with cut off sleeves have not become a fashion statement even in Boston.  However, folks always comment on “the hoodie” and even refer to Belichick as “Darth Hoodie” at times.

I promised answers above:

  • Gene Bartow succeeded John Wooden at UCLA.  He lasted 2 years and his record of 52-9 in those 2 years was not satisfactory.
  • Ray Perkins replaced Bear Bryant at Alabama.  He lasted 3 years and his overall record of 32-15-1 in those 3 years was not satisfactory.
  • Phil Bengston succeeded Vince Lombardi in Green Bay.  He lasted 3 seasons and his record of 20-21-1 was considered scandalous in Green Bay.

Finally, here is Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times showing his skills as a spin doctor:

“Pelicans center DeMarcus Cousins has been ejected 11 times in his NBA career.

“Or as DeMarcus apologists prefer to spin it: Cousins 11 times removed.”

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



The Combine – – And More…

The NFL Combine proceeds apace.  The league has turned the Combine into an annual reality TV show and it has generated a cult-like following of “Combine junkies” who track the players’ results in the various physical tests.  I suspect that it would not take me long to convince readers here that I am not one of the “Combine junkies”.  However, I have a generic observation about those ‘junkies”.

The physical tests at the Combine seek to measure fundamental athletic skills that – presumably – are vital to success as an NFL player.  If you buy that premise, then all of them have a degree of relevance.  However, the “junkies” seem to put tenfold importance on a single test – – the time in the 40-yard dash.  Speed is important in football; there is no argument there.  You can see the importance of speed every time a defensive back intercepts a pass and there is an offensive lineman trying to run him down.  That rarely happens…

Having said that, it seems that the “junkies” find significance in the fact that one player ran 4.35 in the 40-yard dash while another ran 4.41.  Personally, I find such a difference meaningless; this is not an Olympic sprint where the difference would be definitive.  There is some debate about how fast Jerry Rice ran the 40-yard dash when he was coming out of college.  Some say it was 4.71 seconds; Bill Walsh said it was 4.59.  “Junkies” today would call that slow and drop Jerry Rice’s draft stock to the lower rounds based on his lack of speed.  Question:

  • How many times do you recall Jerry Rice being caught from behind by all of those other players who timed out so much faster than he did?

I am sure it happened a few times.  I am certain that Jerry Rice also found a way to get open and behind those faster players enough to amass 22895 yards receiving and 197 TDs.

This year the timing of the Combine has coincided with the time when teams make their decisions on things like franchise tags and releasing veteran players.  Three of the veterans who are now free agents are interesting to me.

First, Adrian Peterson and the Vikings have parted company primarily because his contract with the Vikings would have called for him to make $18M next year.  Peterson is an excellent RB – even if his recent injury history and the pounding he has taken over his career leaves him at something like 80% of what he used to be.  However, $18M is way over what his contribution to a team in 2017 is likely to be given that he has been healthy enough to play in 20 games over the past 3 seasons.  There is a saying around the NFL:

  • The most important “ability” is avail-“ability”.

Perhaps Adrian Peterson will provide some symmetry for the universe with his free agency.  Consider:

  • Brett Favre played most of his Hall of Fame career for the Packers and ended up with the Vikes.
  • Perhaps Adrian Peterson, who has played most of his Hall of Fame career with the Vikes, will sign on with the Packers and finish his career there?  The Packers could use a running back…

The Niners released Colin Kaepernick.  Like Peterson, his contract called for him to make far too much money in 2017 than one could rationalize.  Unlike Peterson, Kaepernick does not have a Hall of Fame résumé in his back pocket.  The thing that makes Kaepernick’s free agency interesting is that he announced right away that he would no longer be kneeling during the National Anthem.  He said that he believed that his protest had achieved its goal(s) and he would stand for the anthem in the future.

Recall when Kaepernick began his protest that I said I supported his right to protest and had sympathy with the issue he was protesting – – police violence.  I also said that I would have preferred that he chose a different means to make that protest but that it was his issue and therefore his choice for the “protest vehicle”.  I maintain that position.

HOW-EVAH [/Stephen A. Smith] my inner cynicism is awakened here.  The juxtaposed timing of Kaepernick’s free agency and his calling off his protest and his declaration of success for the protest seems awfully convenient.  I do not read minds but if I were a GM thinking about signing him to a contract this year, I would want to sit down with Kaepernick alone – – no agents or handlers in the room – – and talk about all of this in depth.

The Jets released Darrelle Revis who still had 3 years to go on a 5-year $70M contract.  Jets’ coach Todd Bowles emphasized that the Jets’ decision was an economic one and that makes plenty of sense to folks who watched Jets’ games last year.  Darrelle Revis was arguably the best CB in the NFL a few years ago; he was far from that last year; the remaining 3 years on his contract would have paid him as if he were still one of the best CBs in the NFL.

Over and above Revis’ deteriorated performance last year, recall that he was arrested and charged with a variety of things as a result of a fight outside a club in the Pittsburgh area recently.  That matter is not nearly resolved and while I believe Todd Bowles when he says that the arrest played no part in the decision to release Revis, it is an issue that any team seeking to sign him up should consider.

The Niners and the Jets are teams in need of significant makeovers.  The situation with the Niners is obvious; they won only 2 games last year; they fired just about everyone in the Front Office and on the coaching staff; they do not have a QB on their roster.  The Jets’ situation is a tad less obvious; remember the Jets missed the playoffs on the last game of the year in 2015; then things unraveled last year.

Here is a thumbnail sketch for the Jets:

  1. Releasing Revis saved the team $6M in cap space.
  2. They also released nick Mangold who has been the glue of their OL for about 10 years.
  3. They released Ryan Fitzpatrick and none of the 3 QBs left on the roster has shown the ability to be a solid NFL QB.
  4. says this morning that the Jets will release WR, Brandon Marshall today.

It appears to me that the Jets are committed to a “youth movement” starting in 2017.  If they have some other strategy in mind, it is surely not self-evident.  This team has lots of holes to plug in this off-season and at some point, they are going to have to find a QB.  Ryan Fitzpatrick was dismal last year; that is why they released him.  However, their current “QB-status” is probably best described as “QB-purgatory”.  Good luck to Jets’ GM, Mike Maccagnan, and coach, Todd Bowles, on the rebuild. I hope they are given more than a single season to accomplish it.

Finally, Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times found this comment from Scott Ostler in the SF Chronicle.  Somehow, I missed that column by Scott Ostler so thanks to Dwight Perry for alerting me:

Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle, after new 49ers GM John Lynch said he’ll be in the market for fast, physical players with character: “There was concern that Lynch would say, “We’ll be looking for slow, weak guys with no respect for the law.”

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



The NCAA Does It Again…

I have written more than three thousand of these Daily Rants; and until today, I have never included a quotation from Bill O’Reilly.

“I consider myself a law-abiding person.  But I’m exhausted.  I don’t know where to put the bottles, newspapers, cans and other stuff for garbage pickup outside my house.  The rules are so thick you need someone from M.I.T. to explain them.”

I think that I have mastered the rules of trash and recycling here in my community without having to resort to hiring an M.I.T. consultant but there are indeed situations where rules are so complex – and sometime so petty and meaningless – that one would need to be wary of breaking one or some of the rules at any moment.  The NCAA rulebook leaps to mind here.

According to a report at

“The NCAA has suspended five University of Richmond baseball players because they took part in Fantasy football.”

Seriously, if Groucho Marx were with us, a duck would fly down and give the NCAA $50.  This is stupid even by NCAA standards and that is saying a lot.  Moreover, it is stupid even though I AGREE COMPLETELY with the NCAA’s premise here that Fantasy football is gambling.  I also agree that it would be an assault on “the integrity of the games” if players were to wager on games in which they participate.  However, these baseball players were doing something that is legal and had nothing to do with collegiate baseball – – let alone University of Richmond collegiate baseball.

I know; it’s in the rule book and they broke the rules.  Nevertheless, if the NCAA is indeed an organization run by intelligent and rational adults – and many of their actions cast doubt on that premise – there should be a way for one of those intelligent and rational adults to call a time-out so that everyone can take a deep breath and recognize this simple fact:


The University of Richmond baseball team – and the program itself – gained no on-field advantage from the fact that five team members took part in Fantasy football.


The important issue here is contained in the phrase “gained no on-field advantage” because that is the only reason that there is an NCAA rule book in the first place.

Honestly, I have come to believe that the operating mode at the NCAA comes down to three simple steps:

  1. Ready
  2. Fire
  3. Aim.

The only way to conclude my comments on the latest NCAA priggishness is to recall an old headline on an article in The Onion[Aside:  If by some chance someone at NCAA HQS in Indy reads this piece, it is not a good thing to have your actions fit into a headline from The Onion.]

“NCAA investigating God for giving gifts to athletes”

Let me switch gears here and talk about the latest incident in the ongoing soap opera concerning where the Oakland Raiders will play football in the future.  There is a group in Oakland – Fortress Investment Group – which is fronted by NFL Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott that seeks to build a new stadium in Oakland and keep the Raiders there.  This group has been securing capital for the project and working with the city fathers in Oakland much more quietly than have the folks in Las Vegas.  What just happened is that Fortress has now submitted – for the first time – a formal plan to the NFL for a stadium in Oakland where the Raiders could play.  This plan has the support of the Oakland City Council and the Alameda County Board of Supervisors.

On the Raiders’ side of the table, Mark Davis has filed his request with the NFL to move his franchise to Las Vegas and the owners are scheduled to vote on that request sometime later this month.  Pardon my cynicism here, but the addition of another player in the game here tells me that the NFL owners will find a way to kick the can down the road sometime later this month to create time to put the squeeze on the Las Vegas people and the Fortress people to sweeten whatever deal they are proposing at this particular moment.

The current plan calls for Fortress to construct a new stadium that will cost $1.3B on the site of the Oakland Coliseum where the Raiders currently play.  The NFL dismissed this idea previously, but the formal submission of a plan to the league indicates to some that Fortress has addressed the concerns that NFL had with the general outline it saw previously.  This story is not over; the fat lady has not sung; in fact, I suspect the fat lady is still in her dressing room putting on her make-up.

Finally, Mike Florio of had this comment that will make you realize why the Oakland Raiders need a new place to play their home games:

“For $20, you can tour the stadium where the Raiders play. For $50, you don’t have to go on the tour.”

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



Bad Boys …

This morning, I am reminded of the lyrics to a Bob Marley song:

“Tell me; whatcha gonna do? When they come for you?

“Bad boys; bad boys …”

Indy Colts’ defensive tackle, David Parry, was arrested in Arizona.  So, what’s the big deal here?  Athletes get arrested all the time…  The circumstances here are unusual even when viewed through the prism of strange behaviors exhibited by athletes who run afoul of the law.  Here are the allegations:

  1. Parry and two other folks were picked up by a man driving a “street-legal golf-cart” as a taxi.  [Before anyone asks, I do not know if this is some sort of “Arizona version of Uber”; all I know is that is how this story begins.]
  2. At the end of ride, Parry allegedly assaulted the driver by striking him in the head and stole the golf cart.
  3. Police found the cart crashed into an obstacle and found Parry on the sidewalk reportedly in a state of inebriation.
  4. Police charged him with robbery, auto theft, DUI and criminal damage.

I did not read anything about the other two passengers who began this ride with Parry and the golf-cart driver so I have no idea what role either or both may have played in this crazy opera.  You must admit that this one is a wee bit different from your standard athletes acting badly story.

In another aspect of athletes and anti-social behaviors, the NFL is grandstanding at the moment.  There have been myriad examples of NFL players getting on the wrong side of the law with regard to assaults and fights and domestic violence.  The NFL has been less than tough on most of those players and is surely not in any good standing with folks who empathize with the victims of those anti- social actions.  So, now in March 2017, the NFL is playing to the crowd and trying to portray itself as the guy in the white hat.  Here is how:

  • They are not going to allow Chad Kelly or Joe Mixon to participate in the NFL Combine that began yesterday.
  • Kelly was involved in a bar fight about a year ago and was arrested.  He was convicted of “non-criminal disorderly conduct” – whatever that is in New York State.
  • Mixon punched a woman in the face and it was caught on tape about 2 years ago.  In a plea deal, Mixon was found guilty of misdemeanor assault.

Neither Kelly nor Mixon behaved in an acceptable manner by any rational standard.  Nonetheless, what the NFL is doing here is so hypocritical that it makes me wonder if the league is going to DEFCON2 on the Hypocrisy Scale these days.  Here’s the deal:

  • Kelly and Mixon cannot Participate in the NFL Combine.
  • Kelly and Mixon can hold their own “pro-days” where scouts and GMs can see them work out and perhaps interview them.
  • Kelly and Mixon can be invited by any “interested teams” to fly to the teams’ facilities for a day or so of working out and interviewing.
  • Kelly and Mixon can be drafted and can play in the NFL.

So, what is the grand and symbolic value of the moralistic stand that the NFL is undertaking as of today?  It is meaningless; and it is yet another example of the arrogance of the NFL and its players.

It is a big deal these days to talk about “privilege” as it is conferred to various classes and categories of people.  The NFL and the NFLPA represent and enjoy what should be called “athlete’s privilege”.  The individual athletes do not pay the same price for their anti-social behaviors that normal folks would pay while the NFL and the NFLPA consistently express shock and horror at what athletes do – while finding exactly no ways to make sanctions against perpetrators sufficiently onerous that the behaviors happen less frequently.

I am sure that there are some PR trolls in the NFL and/or the NFLPA who will proclaim the banishment of Kelly and Mixon from the NFL Combine as some sort of strong stand by the organizations against domestic violence and/or bar fights.  When you hear those sorts of statements, the first word that should come to mind is:




Having spent time dealing with a stolen golf-cart and some sort of faux-righteousness regarding player behaviors, let me now engage in some conspiracy theory.  You all know that I do not subscribe to conspiracy theories but I think this one could be made into a special by NFL Films were it true – – and it is not.  Anyhow, let me set the stage:

  1. Tom Brady’s game worn jersey from Super Bowl 51 is still missing.  The Houston police, the Texas Rangers, the super-sleuths from NFL Security and – for all I know – the security folks for the Trilateral Commission have not found it nor have they identified a suspect.
  2. I read a report that said the value of that jersey is $500K to a collector.  Let me assume that number is somewhere close to accurate even though I have no expertise in that area and would not ever think of paying that kind of money for a garment that has to reek with body odor by now.
  3. So, the person or persons who pilfered the game-worn jersey would be charged with First Degree Felony Theft in Texas and if convicted, that person could face sentence of 5 to 99 years in jail.  [First Degree Felony Theft involves stealing something worth $200K or more.]

Now comes the conspiratorial stuff…  Just suppose that the jersey is – and has been all along – in the possession of Thomas Edward Patrick (“Tom”) Brady Jr.  Obviously, he cannot be charged with theft because you cannot steal something that belongs to you.  But Tom Brady wants to create the situation where everyone believes that the jersey is stolen so that – – wait for it:

  • He and Robert Kraft can arrange to plant the jersey in Roger Goodell’s basement while the Commish is off attending an NFL game at a stadium somewhere other than Foxboro next year.
  • The sub-text here is: “I’ll see you a 4-game suspension and raise you First Degree Felony Theft…

Do not misquote me here; I am not saying this is what happened to the jersey or how it will be discovered.  I am saying that it would make for a GREAT story…

Finally, here is a comment from Brad Dickson in the Omaha-World-Herald that I can completely agree with:

“A high school basketball player in New York was benched after missing the team bus because he helped save an ice fisherman. It’s stories like these that make me glad that high school coaches don’t run the world.”

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



RIP Gary Cartwright

Gary Cartwright passed away over the weekend at the age of 82.  He was one of the top-shelf sportswriters of the 20th Century who perfected his craft in North Texas in the 1950s, 60s and 70s.  In my mind, he was in the quartet of great Texas sportswriters of the time that included Dan Jenkins, Bud Shrake and Blackie Sherrod.  Gary Cartwright started at the Fort Worth Press but eventually, worked for just about every paper in that area of the world.  He retired from Texas Monthly several years ago; and like his former colleague, Dan Jenkins, he is the author of several books in addition to his “journalistic” offerings.  My favorite of his books is The Hundred Yard War; you can pretty much guess the focus of that book.

RIP, Gary Cartwright.

Last week, a friend asked if I was going to write about the Daytona 500.  I said that I would if something unusual happened.  Nothing unusual happened:

  • Lots of cars drove really fast and made lots of left turns.
  • There were a couple of multi-car crashes.  Fortunately, everyone survived those crashes.
  • The race was won on the final lap in a mad dash to the finish line.

The first two of those “happenings” may be commonplace on the Interstate near where you live and work; the third “happening” is the case for just about every NASCAR race.  So, nothing unusual happened there…

Until I read this report, I was not aware that there were any folks studying the status and the future of Pimlico Racetrack in Baltimore.  For at least the last 20 years – and probably for the last 30 years – I have said unequivocally that Pimlico is an uninviting venue for any sort of sporting event let alone as the venue for a Triple Crown event.  At one point, I said it had the ambience of an upholstered toilet.

Well, it seems that some Baltimore pols and some other folks are now concerned that Pimlico’s less-than-elegant presence may jeopardize the track as the host of the Preakness Stakes.  Frankly, I wonder what took them so long to come to this epiphany status.  Let me say this as simply as I can:

  • Absent political pressures to keep the track from falling down around itself because it was the “Home of the Preakness”, Pimlico should have been razed sometime around 1996 or 1998.
  • There are beautiful racetracks where the venue itself is a reason to take in a day of racing.  Saratoga, DelMar, Keenland and Woodbine come to mind in this category.  Then there are racetracks that are – on their best days – dumps.  Yonkers, Suffolk Downs and Fresno come to mind in this category.
  • Pimlico is below the category of “dumps”.  It is more than uninviting; it is repulsive.  The study cited in this linked report says it will take more than $200M to make Pimlico into something attractive.  That sounds about right to me because that is what it would probably cost to raze the track and everything attached to the track to the ground and to start over from scratch.

Yet again, José Canseco has provided me with material for a Daily Rant.  Recall for a moment that Canseco mused via social media about a month ago that he would be “willing’ to serve as the Chairman of the Federal Reserve so that he could implement his ideas/policies which would produce economic growth in the 15-25% range year over year over year.  Do not try to beat me over the head with that sort of projection; I did not say it; he did.

Canseco is back now announcing to the world – or at least that part of the inhabited world with access to Twitter – that humankind faces a real and imminent threat to humankind’s existence.  Nope; Canseco is not envisioning an asteroidal encounter of “dinosaur proportions”; Canseco’s apocalyptic view focuses on ROBOTS.

The Rise of the Machines seemingly is more to Canseco than the title of a cheesy movie.  Here are some of Canseco’s warnings – via Twitter of course – for the benefit of humankind:

“For 60 years, Robots have been systematically destroying us in clandestine economy based war started when eniac was turned on.”

And …

“Robots control every industry our food supply our transportation systems our health care and education systems EVERYTHING.”

And …

“Robots are stealing our jobs bringing economic ruin to us human by human starving us to death one by one.”

And …

“All that will be left are uber technical humans trained to service robots.”

[Aside:  I assume “uber technical humans” does not refer to engineers who take Uber to and from work.]

If you share the inevitable horror portrayed by José Canseco, have at it.  Personally, I have seen too many sure-fire doomsday actors/perpetrators come and go to get my gastric juices flowing on this one…

Finally, here is an observation by Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot that rings awfully true with me:

“Bottom line: Orioles backup catcher Caleb Joseph reported to spring training with a new contract worth $700,000. But this was after an arbitrator rejected his request for $1 million. Can’t imagine why Joseph didn’t get what he asked for. He set a record last season for most plate appearances – 141 – without an RBI and hit .174. Joseph does, however, lead the league in one category: gall.”

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



Baseball Games Are Happening…

Spring Training games have begun; there is more to see in Florida and in Arizona than a bunch of guys working out.  The games do not mean much of anything, but they do represent a step toward the start of meaningful baseball and they do mean something about guys who are trying to secure a roster spot on a major league club.  In any event, since baseball is about to become a staple of the sports world, I want to start with a couple of baseball notes today.

Let me start with the new intentional walk rule for this year.  When the manager in the dugout signals the umpire, the batter to be intentionally walked will be motioned to move to first base.  This is being characterized as a way to increase pace of play.  So, let me do some math for you.

  • ESPN said that in 2015 there were 932 intentional walks in 2430 games.  That is 1 intentional walk every 2.6 games.
  • Let me estimate that an intentional walk takes 40 seconds – 10 seconds for each pitch that is “just a bit outside”.  [/Bob Uecker]
  • That means the time saved will be 40 seconds every 2.6 games or an expected time savings of 15.4 seconds per game.

I believe the proper reaction to that increase in pace of play is “Whoop-di-damned-do!”

There was a story recently that the owner of the Miami Marlins, Jeffrey Loria, had a “handshake deal” to sell the club for $1.6B and the buyer was going to be Ivanka Trump’s brother-in-law, Joshua Kushner.  The transaction hit a snag because there are also rumors that Loria could be in line to be nominated as US Ambassador to France and that appointment juxtaposed with the potential buyer might not look so good.  Loria is not one of the most beloved sports owners in the country, but I must agree that this deal would smell like 3-day old fish if he were then nominated to an Ambassadorship.  However, when the story was still fresh, there were callers to sports radio who felt it necessary to opine that this was a sign of the apocalypse for the US because – of course – Jeffrey Loria was not qualified to be an Ambassador and his only qualification for the job was that he was a rich man and a political donor.

All of that may be true – or not; I know nothing about Loria’s knowledge skills and abilities outside the world of baseball.  However, I do know that his nomination and his confirmation would not be apocalyptic for the country because there have been myriad ambassadorships handed out by presidents in the past to rich friends/supporters of theirs.

As MLB teams begin to play their Spring Training games, I think there are 3 interesting questions that should draw fans’ attention as the real season begins and begins to develop:

  1. How will the Red Sox replace David Ortiz?  I do not mean only how will they replace him in the lineup; I think they will need to replace him as a team leader and a positive clubhouse guy.
  2. What will the Cubs do with Kyle Schwarber?  His best position is “batter” but the Cubs only play a few games with a DH.  As a catcher, his coming off a serious knee surgery makes him questionable and as an outfielder he was nothing better than average defensively before the injury.  So, do the Cubbies keep him or extract a ransom from an AL team where he can be a DH potentially as impactful as David Ortiz?
  3. Two of the better NL teams need to focus on their right field position.  The Nationals’ Bryce Harper (a former NL MVP) had a bad season in 2016; the Pirates’ Andrew McCutcheon (a former NL MVP) also had a bad season in 2016.  McCutcheon is moving to right field this year and that is where Harper plays too.  So, which of these two players will better approximate their MVP status  in 2017?

There are times when a pithy comment from a sports columnist tells you all you really need to know about an occurrence in the sports world.  Here are some recent examples:

“Dolphins signed six ex-players including Dan Marino to ceremonial one-day contracts. Team denied it was a publicity stunt.”  [Greg Cote. Miami Herald]

And …

“Ex-Lions cornerback Stanley Wilson II was arrested in the buff on suspicion of burglary in Woodburn, Ore. — his third naked run-in with police in eight months.

“On the bright side, prosecutors say, picking him out of a lineup shouldn’t be a problem.”  [Dwight Perry, Seattle Times]

And …

“Idle thought: Comparing the defense-free NBA All-Star point-orgy to a pickup game is an insult to playground basketball players everywhere.”  [Bob Molinaro, Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot]

And …

“At the NBA All-Star Game, the West defeated the East 192-182. I mistook the headline for an article on declining American credit scores.  [Brad Dickson, Omaha World-Herald]

Finally, since most of today’s rant had to do with baseball matters, let me close with this overarching baseball observation from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World Herald:

“Alex Rodriguez said there is a “zero percent” chance he plays baseball again. Speaking of zero percent chances, the Minnesota Twins have reported to spring training.”

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



A Debbie Downer Kind Of Day …

Just a glance at the topics I am going to cover today convinces me that I am not in my happy place today.  I recognize that late February is one of the “dry spells” in the sporting calendar and that space must be filled.  Nevertheless, there are some stories that need to be left to die.  Here is one of them:

  • Charles Oakley vs. James Dolan

We know about the recent dust up at Madison Square Garden and Oakley’s banishment for life from the venue – which lasted about 100 hours.  That is enough of the story; unless one of the parties hires a hitman or goes postal on the other party, just shovel some dirt on this story and move on.  But no…

Yesterday, I read on that Charles Oakley planned to go and see the Knicks play the Cavaliers in Cleveland last night.  Do you mean to tell me that this story now can go national and every time Charles Oakley decides to take in an NBA game anywhere, that will become news?  I cannot wait to see the lead for the next layer of this story as it seeps into the underground water supply:

  • “On his way to Madison Square Garden to see the Knicks play the Milwaukee Bucks, Charles Oakley stopped off at Katz Delicatessen and had a hot pastrami sandwich with a side of cole slaw…”


Memo to ESPN/Sports Illustrated/Others:  Put this story mercifully to rest.


Another story that has been over-covered is the head-shaking-inducing trade that sent Boogie Cousins to the Pelicans for Buddy Hield and a couple of Joe Flabeetzes.  Yes, it was a one-sided deal; yes, it puts the Kings in the same category of competence as the Cleveland Browns; yes, the pairing of Cousins and Anthony Davis in New Orleans might make the team good enough that the fans there start to meaningfully care about the Pelicans.  [Aside:  The fact that the Pelicans got blown out last night in the first game with Cousins and Davis together does not alter the fact that the Kings did something terminally stupid here.]

The problem here is the succumbing to temptation by newly minted commentators to book themselves on a flight of fancy and opine that this might be the worst trade in the history of the NBA.  Slow down, Sparky; just because something happened before 2003 does not mean that it happened in the Paleolithic Era.  Allow me to suggest two NBA trades that happened a while ago but involved players that even millennial fans have heard about:

  1. In 1956, the Boston Celtics sent Ed McCauley and Cliff Hagan to the St. Louis Hawks in exchange for the #2 overall pick in the NBA Draft.  With that pick, the Celtics took Bill Russell.  McCauley and Hagan were both very good players; Russell is a “Mount Rushmore Player”.  [Aside:  The Celtics got Russell with the #2 pick in the draft; the first pick in 1956 was Sihugo Green by the Rochester Royals – – and that team today is the Sacramento Kings.]
  2. In the middle of the 1964/65 NBA season, the SF Warriors sent Wilt Chamberlain to the Philly 76ers in exchange for Connie Dierking, Paul Neumann and Lee Shaffer plus some cash.  Dierking was a journeyman who lasted a year in SF and then was traded to – – you guessed it – the Cincinnati Royals who are now the Sacramento Kings.  Neumann played 2.5 years in SF and then retired presumably to the notice of his nuclear family.  Shaffer refused to go to SF in the first place and just retired from the NBA.  Like Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain is a “Mount Rushmore Player”.

In fact, I would suggest that trading Boogie Cousins is not even the worst trade in the history of the Kings’ franchise.  In its second incarnation, the Kings were the Cincinnati Royals and they had a guy named Oscar Robertson on the team.  He was more than just “pretty good” and the Royals traded him away to the Milwaukee Bucks in 1971 for Flynn Robinson and Charlie Paulk.  Google is  your friend here …

Boogie Cousins is a very good player but he is not Bill Russell nor is he Wilt Chamberlain nor is he Oscar Robertson.  Please do not get carried away with this…

The third aggravating story of the day involves MLB.  Per this report regarding a new feature coming to MLB parks this year, the apocalypse is nigh.  Here is the second paragraph of the story:

“Fans who appear on the scoreboard video screen or during a television broadcast will, for the first time, be able to get the video and share it socially.”

Using facial recognition algorithms, fans will be able to download an app and take a photo of themselves and the algorithm will match their face with one shown on the stadium video board and that will put the video on the fan’s phone allowing for sharing.  MLB has someone with the title Executive Vice-President for Business for MLB Advanced Media.  That is a tongue-tying acronym but the person holding that job was not tongue tied telling

“We think going to a baseball game is one of the best experiences fans can have; so, sharing a memorable and enjoyable experience is very important to us.”

Sigh …

I wish I had a more pleasant offering for you today as we head into a weekend.  Perhaps this item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times will be an uplifting way to close today:

“Paging Kent Dorfman

“A truck lost its trailer on an Indiana highway, spilling 38,000 pounds of marbles.

“Nevertheless, Faber College officials say, the homecoming parade will go off as scheduled.”

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