Media Commentary And Baseball Commentary

I mentioned the ending of Mike and Mike on ESPN Radio; so, I decided to take that as an opportunity to check out its new competition on FS1.  First Things First is a morning sports talk program with the standard format; it features the trio of Jenna Wolfe, Chris Carter and Nick Wright.  With an admittedly much too small sample size, I would say that the show is good but not nearly as good as Mike and Mike was.  Yes, I know that Mike and Mike was on the air for almost 20 years and these guys have been at it for less than 3 months.  So, in the spirit of acknowledging that the program needs to and will improve over time, here are a few critical remarks:

  • Jenna Wolfe does not participate to anything near one-third of the time.  When she does interject a comment or make an extended remark with her opinion, it seems to be cogent and clear.  I think she needs to be a more active/vocal part of the program.
  • Chris Carter was always good as a guest on Mike and Mike before he changed employers.  He continues to be informative and entertaining and – candidly – he is carrying this program at this time.  My only “gripe” about Carter is that he does not allow his guests the latitude to express themselves the way he was able to on Mike and Mike.  He needs to hone his skills as an interviewer and to share the microphone more with his interviewees.
  • Nick Wright does not do it for me.  From what I have seen – and it is a small sample indeed – he comes across as a hot-take-know-it-all who will respond to a critical remark by saying what he just said – – only louder.  He needs to evolve.

Since I am on the subject of sports programming/broadcasting, let me say a few things about the NFL pre-game and post-game coverage on the various networks:

  • ESPN:  The pre-game coverage is cringe-worthy.  There is so much “cutesy crap” it has become unwatchable.  Regarding the post-game coverage, how badly do you wish for the return of Chris Berman and Tom Jackson to do the review of games around the league on Sunday night?  Just the two of them with extended highlights beyond the scoring plays…
  • CBS:  I like Nate Burleson a lot – particularly the way he and Phil Simms interact.  I am getting tired of Bill Cowher because he has about three different analytical commentaries to make about every game played.  I tired of Boomer Esiason several years ago.
  • FOX:  When Terry Bradshaw is on his meds and under control, this is the best pre-game and post-game show on the air.
  • NBC:  They have a mother lode with Dan Patrick, Tony Dungy, Rodney Harrison and Mike Florio.  Too bad they don’t give them a lot more air time at the expense of some of the “features nonsense”.  [Aside:  Al Michaels and Cris Colinsworth are The Best!]

As December approaches, sports fans can anticipate the start of action in the Hot Stove League as baseball owners convene in December to do whatever baseball owners do in December.  Often, that is the catalyst for trades and free agent negotiations and things of that nature.  In the spirit of anticipation of MLB news percolating to the top of the pile in the coming weeks, here are a few thoughts about seven MLB teams and what they might want to focus on in this offseason:

  • Astros:  They must find a way to avoid whatever happened to the Cubs last winter after winning the World Series.  The players will spend about 3 months in a world where everyone tells them they are the greatest thing since the macarena and that they are sure to be a baseball dynasty.  Somehow, someone in the clubhouse has to dissuade them from those notions.
  • Indians:  I thought they would win it all last year – but they did not.  However, they did win 102 games meaning there is plenty of talent to work with.  Jay Bruce and Carlos Santana are free agents and could be “pricey” to sign.  Interesting…
  • Orioles:  The O’s must find a way to get started on negotiations for a long-term deal with Manny Machado.  He will be a free agent after 2018 and he is an outstanding young player the team cannot afford to lose.
  • Yankees:  They were much better last year than I anticipated.  Yankee fans are certain that the team will make another strong run in 2018 and will then open the checkbook to sign Bryce Harper AND Manny Machado in 2018.  Somewhere in the cosmos, George Steinbrenner is smiling…
  • Cubs:  These guys need to focus on baseball this winter and forget the euphoria they experienced last winter.  The team played as if in a stupor until sometime in June.  They have a great core of young talent; they could use some more pitching…
  • Marlins:  Are the Marlins really going to trade Giancarlo Stanton?
  • Rockies:  Nolan Arenado is the foundation for the team – and that is surely a good place to start.  In addition, last year Charlie Blackmon led the NL in plate appearances, batting average, hits, total bases and runs scored.  Can he do that again?

Finally, Scott Ostler has this comment in the SF Chronicle about the Oakland A’s and their continuing quest to get a new ballpark to play in:

“The A’s are talking about a new ballpark where most fans arrive by public transit and on foot. Should be a home run with Oakland’s Amish community.”

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



Monday Football Wrap-Up

The College Football Playoff picture went out of focus over the weekend as #1 Alabama and #2 Miami both lost.  There will be plenty of meat for the college football punditry to chew on for the next week or so.  However, I would prefer to take the end of the college football regular season to refer to a feature of Mythical Picks that I have forsaken this year.  I would like to offer up here the seeding for my mythical 8-team SHOE Tournament.  [SHOE = Steaming Heap Of Excrement] The idea is simple; to find the worst team in the country, pick the worst 8 teams, seed them and have them play each other; the loser must play on until there is an ultimate loser – – THE SHOE Team.

Here is the field for 2017 with a brief rational for why the team is in the field:

  1. UTEP:  Their record is 0-12; they are the only winless team in Division 1-A.  ‘Nuff said…
  2. UNC-Charlotte:  Their record is 1-11; they were shut-out twice this year and they lost to Division 1-AA, NC A&T.
  3. Rice:  Their record is 1-11; their only win was over UTEP; they lost 5 games by 30 points or more.
  4. Ball St:  Their record is 2-10; they lost their last 9 in a row all of them by double-digits; one of the two wins was over Division 1- AA, Tennessee Tech.
  5. Kansas:  Their record is 1-11; the win was over Division 1-AA, SE Missouri St.; they lost 5 games by 38 points or more.
  6. Oregon St.:  Their record is 1-11; the win was over Division 1-AA, Portland St.; they lost 5 games by 31 points or more.
  7. Kent St.: Their record is 2-10; one win was over Division 1-AA Howard; they lost 7 games by 3 TDs or more.
  8. Illinois:  Their record is 2-10; the wins were over Ball St. and W. Kentucky and then they lost 10 in a row – 5 of them by 3 TDs or more.

A team that does not deserve to be in the SHOE Tournament is Tennessee – but no one in or around Knoxville should delude themselves into believing that the Vols are nearly average.  Tennessee is hunting for a new coach and reportedly had a deal to hire Greg Schiano until that fell apart late last weekend.  The issue has nothing to do with Schiano’s coaching credentials; the deal fell through because Greg Schiano was an assistant coach at Penn St. during the Jerry Sandusky years there and social media allegations surfaced saying that he covered up for Jerry Sandusky then.

Here is the problem:

  • These are allegations and nothing more.  Jerry Sandusky was indicted, tried and convicted of child molestation and is in jail where he belongs for those crimes.
  • If – I said IF – Greg Schiano covered up any of that heinous behavior, then Greg Schiano should be indicted, tried and jailed if convicted as an accessory.  Absent any of those activities, people who make those sorts of assertions on social media should be accountable for their statements.

Let me be clear; I do not think Greg Schiano would have been a great hire for Tennessee.  He was at Rutgers for 10 years and posted a 68-67 record there – – but that was before Rutgers joined the Big 10; the opposition in those years was at least 3 steps below anything that Tennessee might face in SEC competition.  Other than that, his head coaching résumé consists of 2 years with the Tampa Bay Bucs where he had a record of 11-21.  Greg Schiano is not the reincarnation of Bill Walsh.  Nonetheless, if he lost the opportunity for that job simply because of allegations of wrongdoing, then that is wrong too.

In NFL action, the Bills surprised the Chiefs, who seem to have forgotten how to play offense since their BYE Week.  The Bills had yielded more than 100 points in their past two games and held the Chiefs to 10 points on Sunday.  The Chiefs are in a free-fall; I said about 2 weeks ago that the AFC West race was over and done with and that the Chiefs would win in the end.  I am not nearly so sure about that now even though they still lead the division by a game over the Raiders and the Chargers.

Another surprising result was the Cards’ last second win over the Jags dropping the Jags into a tie atop the AFC South with the Titans.  Blaine Gabbert led the winning drive that resulted in a 57-yard field goal by Phil Dawson – the longest of his very long NFL career.  Not all that surprisingly, Jags’ QB, Blake Bortles threw an interception with about 3 minutes to play that set up “the drive” by Gabbert and the field goal by Dawson.

Other than those two outright upsets, the surprises of the weekend came from underdogs who gave favorites some agita despite losing.

  • The Jets lost to the Panthers by 8 points but were leading the game in the 4th quarter and had the ball until a scoop-and-score turned everything around.
  • The Colts led the Titans 16-13 at the start of the 4th quarter before surrendering a TD to lose the game.  For the season, the Colts have been outscored in the 4th quarter by a cumulative score of 116-28.  Yowza!
  • The Seahawks only led the Niners 7-3 at the half before pulling away in the second half.
  • The Steelers needed a last second field goal of 53 yards to beat the Packers 31-28.

The most impressive performance of the weekend was the Eagles dominance of the Bears.  In the first half, the Bears managed zero first downs and were penalized for more yards than the offense generated; for the game, the Bears’ total offense was an anemic 140 yards. The final score was 31-3 and that pretty well represented the way things unfolded on the field.

I said last week that the Rams/Saints game was the best game of the weekend and it proved to be the case.  The Rams won the game, but the real story is that the Rams are for real.  Jared Goff threw for 554 yards and 2 TDs; Cooper Kupp and Sammy Watkins combined to catch 20 balls for 198 yards; Todd Gurley added 130 yards from scrimmage; the Rams’ defense held the Saints’ offense in check for most of the day.  Do not sleep on the LA Rams…

The Bucs’ defense continues to be butt-ugly.  The Falcons produced 516 yards of offense against the Bucs yesterday and the Falcons converted 11 of 14 third down attempts.  That is simply bad defense; I don’t think you can call it anything else.

There was a Jimmy Garoppolo sighting on the field yesterday in SF.  He entered the game after an injury to CJ Beathard and his first pass as a Niner was a completion for a first down on 4th and 6.  On the next play – the last one of the game – he threw a 10-yard TD pass that was meaningless in this game but surely will whet the appetite of Niners’ fans.

The brawl between players for the Broncos and Raiders should not be tolerated by the league.  NFL games are TV programming; that is where the money comes from and no one tunes into an NFL game for that sort of bulls[p]it.  I would not object for even a moment if Roger Goodell looks at all the film and suspends a half-dozen or so players from each team for a couple of games.

The Pats’ defense was the subject of outright ridicule earlier this year; yesterday against the Dolphins, the Pats sacked Matt Moore 7 times.  Funny how things can change quickly in the NFL…

Last year, Jason Garret was the Coach of the year for the Cowboys.  Now there are fans calling for his head and rumors galore that he is on the hot seat.  Now did he get so dumb so fast?  Funny how things can change quickly in the NFL …

Finally, consider this cogent observation by Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Idle thought: It’s easy to take Bill Belichick’s Patriots for granted, but think of this: Unlike other franchises, New England doesn’t suffer from Super Bowl hangovers. Each season, no matter what happened before, the Patriots return hungry and focused. Belichick is just smarter than everybody else.”

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



Correcting An Error From Yesterday…

I must begin this morning with a correction.  Yesterday whilst in the process of commenting on the NFL games on tap for the weekend, I wrote this:

Browns at Bengals – 8:  The Bengals are a bad 4-6 team; the fact that they are 8-point favorites here speaks volumes about the Browns.  This is undoubtedly the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.

The correction that needs to be made is the use of the word “undoubtedly”.  For anyone who was able to stay awake long enough to watch the Skins/Giants game last night, you realize this morning that you watched a brutally ugly football game that may indeed be the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  The Browns and Bengals have a high hurdle to overcome if they are going to provide a less entertaining game than the Skins and Giants did.

I am not alone in my assessment of how bad that game was.  The Washington Post is the hometown paper of the winning team from last night.  Let me give you a sampling of the comments in the gamer written about that contest last night:

“It was about as ugly as it gets, but the Washington Redskins escaped with a victory over the New York Giants in their first Thanksgiving home game Thursday night … It was a scoreless and dreadful first quarter that was anything but watchable.  There were more punts, five, than first downs, four.  Both teams combined to go 1 for 7 on third down.”

Since the Giants were half of the miserable game last night, I am reminded that there were reports a few weeks ago that “ownership” for the Giants supposedly passed the word to the “football folks” to start looking carefully at the quarterbacks who would be available in the 2018 NFL Draft.  Eli Manning will be 37 years old a couple of days after the Giants play their final regular season game this year; despite the Giants’ horrible record this year, it would be far from correct to pin the blame on Manning; the Giants misery has two fundamental sources:

  1. Injuries
  2. Lack of depth on the roster

The problem here is that Item #1 from above plays directly into Item #2 from above.  The injuries to Odell Beckham, Jr. and Brandon Marshall would have left a hole at WR on any team.  However, the subs the Giants have put out there are jaw-droppingly bland.  The same goes for depth along the offensive line.  The reason the Giants cannot score is simple:

  • The OL cannot provide a productive running game.
  • The OL cannot protect Eli Manning on pass plays.
  • Eli Manning is not now – and never was – a “mobile QB”.
  • Eli Manning does not have many open receivers to throw the ball to.

Why look for a QB in the 2018 draft?  Let me refresh your memory about the Giants’ depth chart at QB.  Behind Eli Manning are:

  • Geno Smith
  • Davis Webb

The prosecution rests, Your Honor…

ESPN Radio’s Mike and Mike faded to black recently.  The show had an almost 2 decade run in the “morning drive time slot” here on the East Coast; there are not a lot of programs that have achieved that sort of longevity.  The show was obviously highly scripted and at least some of the recurring themes were nothing more than shtick, but Mike and Mike was generally entertaining and informative at the same time.  That is a rich exacta for a program to hit.

Both hosts brought “knowledge” to the microphone; Mike Golic was a defensive lineman at Notre Dame and then in the NFL who preached “athlete’s perspective; Mike Greenberg was a long-time sports journalist who brought the fan’s perspective and a more intellectual basis for commentary to the microphone.  They treated one another as professionals and as colleagues; when they tossed barbs at one another, it was clearly done in good humor and without rancor.

Because Mike and Mike was an ESPN production, the guys had access to lots of “guests” for the purpose of interviews.  Those interviews were an important part of the show and part of the reason I tuned in regularly.  The interview guest was not “cross-examined” and was never interrupted.  The guest was there to add to whatever topic was up for discussion and both hosts asked a question and then shut up while the “expert in the room” tried to provide an answer.  I don’t know how sports radio works in your city, but that is not how guests are handled on the sports radio programs here in the DC area.

The program came to its end because ESPN decided to put Mike Greenberg in charge of a new “morning program” starting in the Spring of 2018.  I have not read anything about what this new program will be like other than reports that Greenberg’s cohorts on the new program will be Michelle Beadle and Jalen Rose.  Since we are still talking about ESPN as the source of the program, I would assume that the same stable of “expert guests” will be available, but I have no idea what sort of vector heading the new program will take.

Mike Golic’s new assignment on ESPN Radio is well known.  Next Monday, he will be back on the air in the same time slot with Trey Wingo as his new “partner in crime”.  I will of course give the new program a try; what I hope is that Golic and Wingo – or whatever ESPN decides to call the new show – does not try to be Mike and Mike with a different voice over the air.

In addition, thanks to Mike Greenberg and to Mike Golic for lots of good morning entertainment over the past 20 years or so…

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

“UPS will deliver an estimated 750 million packages between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

“So it’s a good thing the Phoenix Suns are mailing it in early this year.”

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



Football Friday – – On Thursday

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

There is a ton of football on tap for this long holiday weekend so let me start with some of the rivalry games in college football:

  • Ole Miss goes to Starkville to play Mississippi St. in the Egg Bowl; Ole Miss is a 15-point underdog in the game.  This is always a big event in the State of Mississippi but this year there may be just a bit more intensity than normal.  A Mississippi State fan/blogger/reporter is the one who uncovered evidence of some recruiting “irregularities” at Ole Miss that led to the firing of the coach just before the season started.
  • Alabama is a 4-point favorite at Auburn in the Iron Bowl.  The winner is the SEC West champion and goes to face Georgia in the SEC Championship Game; recall that Auburn demolished Georgia just 2 weeks ago.  In that game, the Auburn defensive front 7 throttled Georgia’s run game and forced them to try to throw the ball to win; that did not come close to working out for Georgia.  I don’t know if Auburn can do that to the Alabama running game, but if it can…
  • Georgia is an 11.5-point favorite on the road at Georgia Tech.  Georgia is the better team here, but Auburn showed the world how to beat Georgia.  I doubt that Tech can do what has to be done here.
  • Florida St. is a 5-point favorite at Florida.  This year has been hugely disappointing for both of these teams; each one brings a 4-6 record to the kickoff.  Between them, these teams have a total of 8 wins; often in the past, both teams would come to this game with 8 or more wins apiece…
  • Vandy goes across the state for its annual game with Tennessee.  Neither team is any good but there is a bright spot in this game.  One of these teams will win its first SEC game of the year this weekend.  Hi-ho!
  • Clemson is a 14.5-point favorite over in-state rival South Carolina.  Clemson is the better team and Clemson has to win to maintain its position in the CFP rankings.  Nonetheless, South Carolina is tough at home; that line looks fat to me.
  • VA Tech is a 7-point favorite at UVa.  Neither team plays reliably from week to week; so, I have no idea how this game will unfold this year.
  • USF visits UCF and UCF is an 11-point favorite.  UCF wants to maintain its undefeated status here; USF has lost once.  The winner here will be the AAC East Champion and will likely be the “non-Power 5 team” to get an invitation to a New Year’s Day bowl game.
  • Wisconsin is a 17-point favorite at Minnesota in the game that decides which team takes possession of Paul Bunyan’s Axe.  Wisconsin is on the periphery of the CFP, but they cannot look ahead to the Big 10 Championship Game against Ohio St. here.  Minnesota needs a win to be bowl-eligible.
  • Ohio St. travels north to play Michigan in Ann Arbor.  Ohio St. has wrapped up the Big 10 East title, but this rivalry is such that there is no danger of the Buckeyes jaking it here.  Another reason to tune in to this game would be to try to capture Jim Harbaugh venting steam via any of a half-dozen bodily orifices on the sidelines.
  • Oregon hosts Oregon St. in the Civil War; Oregon is a 21-point favorite here.  That line is more a reflection of how badly Oregon St. has played this year than anything else because Oregon is only mediocre.
  • Washington St. is a 10-point underdog at Washington in the Apple Cup game.  If State wins, they are the PAC-12 North champion; if Washington wins, Stanford is the PAC-12 North champion.  [I think I have that right…]  Even if the stakes were lower, this would be an intense game.
  • Arizona is a 2-point favorite on the road against Arizona St.  The interesting thing about this game is that the Total Line is 75.5.  Don’t blink; you may miss a scoring play…

In NFL action, all of the regular season BYE Weeks have passed; all 32 teams will play between today and Monday night.

  • Vikes – 2.5 at Lions:  The Vikes have a 2-game lead over the Lions in the NFC North but the Lions schedule from here on out is pillow soft.  If the Lions can cut the lead to one game here they would hold the tie-breaker over the Vikes and things could get interesting.
  • Chargers – 1.5 at Cowboys:  Because the Chiefs and the Raiders continue to throw up on their shoes, the Chargers probably feel as if they have a playoff shot coming out of the AFC West.  They need this game.  Meanwhile, the Cowboys trail the Eagles by 4 games in the NFC East and they are not leading in the wild card race.  They too need this game.
  • Giants at Skins – 7:  The Giants are mathematically eliminated from winning the NFC East; the Skins have a mathematical hope there, but it might require Divine Intervention to make that happen.  The only reason to stay up to watch this game is that it is a rivalry game.
  • Browns at Bengals – 8:  The Bengals are a bad 4-6 team; the fact that they are 8-point favorites here speaks volumes about the Browns.  This is undoubtedly the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.
  • Bears at Eagles – 13.5:  The Eagles are playing as well as anyone in the league right now and the Bears are a 3-7 team playing like you would expect a 3-7 team to play.  Nonetheless, that is an awfully big spread…
  • Dolphins at Pats – 16.5:  The Pats are playing as well as anyone in the league right now and the Dolphins are a 4-6 team playing not nearly as well as you might expect a 4-6 team to play.  Nonetheless, that is an even bigger spread …
  • Bills at Chiefs – 10:  The Bills have lost 3 in a row and the last 2 were blowouts.  The Chiefs have lost 2 in a row and have looked awful in both losses.
  • Bucs at Falcons – 9.5:  The Falcons almost coughed up a game in the final couple of minutes on Monday night against the Seahawks, but their win kept them solidly in the NFC wild card race.  The Bucs have been playing better with Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB in place of Jameis Winston.  I have to say that I never anticipated writing that sentence…
  • Panthers – 5 at Jets:  The Jets were a nice feelgood story in September when they won a couple of games to the surprise of lots of fans.  However, the bloom is off that rose now…
  • Titans – 3 at Colts:  I know; the Titans are only a game behind the Jags in the AFC South race.  I know; this is a division game.  Here is something else I know; I really do not care about this game at all.
  • Seahawks – 6.5 at Niners:  If the playoffs started this week, the Seahawks would be out.  They dare not stumble here…
  • Saints at Rams – 2.5:  By far the best game of the weekend…
  • Jags – 5.5 at Cards:  The Total Line here is only 37.5 points; I think the oddsmaker hit the nail on the head there.
  • Broncos at Raiders – 5:  It is Paxton Lynch’s turn in the driver’s seat for the Broncos this week.  The Raiders blew a chance to narrow the gap between them and the Chiefs last week and really need a win here.
  • Packers at Steelers – 14:  Given the way the Steelers’ defense has been playing lately, I don’t see the Packers doing a lot of business here.  That is a big spread indeed – – but if forced to make a pick, I would lay the points.
  • Texans at Ravens – 7:  Once again the Total Line is set very low – at 38 points.  I do not see either team scoring very often here.

Enjoy your football festivities as well as your festivities with family and friends over this Thanksgiving Day weekend.

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



Practice – We’re Talking About Practice

Over the last year or so, one of the staples for sports commentary has been the declining TV ratings for NFL games.  Some folks have called the drop “precipitous” or worse; that is a bit overblown because even though they are indeed down, NFL games remain the highest rated programming for NBC, CBS, FOX and ESPN.  It just might be a tad too early to say we are watching an extinction event.

There have been lots of root causes for the declining popularity of NFL games offered by commentators in the past year, such as:

  1. The 2016 Presidential Campaigns/Debates:  These may have had a small effect because NFL ratings did rise a bit after the November elections.
  2. CTE/Brain injuries:  Moms do not want their kids to play football and so they encourage them not to watch it either.
  3. Colin Kaepernick and the “Anthem Protests”:  While I have indeed said that I would have preferred a different vehicle for those protests, I have not come close to tuning out NFL games because of it.
  4. Colin Kaepernick and the “Blackballing Issue”:  Frankly, this one seems to me to be an answer in search of a question.  But that’s just me…
  5. Sociopathic players:  There are indeed a lot of NFL players who are drug abusers and sexual abusers and perpetrators of domestic violence; so, maybe…
  6. Roger Goodell’s dealing with sociopathic players:  Let’s just call his performance here “spotty” and leave it at that.  OK?
  7. Sensory saturation:  In many markets, fans can see 2 teams on Thursday night, 8 teams on Sunday and 2 more teams on Monday night.  That is almost 40% of the teams each and every week.

I think the first six of those thematic hypotheses are stretched thin in terms of causing the league’s fall in popularity.  I think there is much more meat on the bone for the seventh one on that list – – but I would like to add a bit more sinew to the structure.

Because of the “sensory saturation” mentioned above, I think fans have become – over the years – more sophisticated about the game of football.  With so many viewing opportunities, lots of folks see lots of games not involving the hometown heroes so they can watch more dispassionately and learn more about the games.  And as fans become a bit more “knowledgeable”, I think some of them achieve this status:

  • “Hold Your Nose Watching”

There are too many games on TV under any circumstances; but in addition, there are too many games on TV where one or both teams is playing what knowledgeable fans have come to recognize as bad/incompetent football.  If you were to tune into Comedy Central and saw a standup comic performing who was not funny, you would change the channel or hit the off-button.  If you were to tune into a show like American Idol and heard a singer who sounded like a cat being given a bath, you would change the channel or hit the off-button.  So, if you tune into and NFL game and see the Browns or the Niners or the Giants or the …

If my hypothesis here has validity for you, I want now to suggest two causes for this spread of bad play around the league:

  1. Lack of Practice:  Football is a game that is learned by repetitive acts; a player is shown “proper technique” and then proceeds to master that technique through practice.  The problem is that practice has been limited at the high school and college level for a variety of reasons; players arrive at the pro level with less practice time in their hip pockets.  Then, the current CBA kicks in and NFL teams have limited off-season practice sessions and limited numbers of times when practices can be “physical”.  The reason many games appear to be less competent than they used to be is – – the players have not been practicing as often and are tutored to a lesser degree.
  2. The NFL Salary Cap:  The Law of Conservation of Mass applies directly to money.  You cannot spend the same dollar twice.  When teams pay their best players tens of millions of dollars per year – as they should – that means they need to have more than a few players making the league minimum to assure the total stays below the cap.  Those “league minimum players” are not only less competent than the star players, they are the ones with the least practice time in their lifetime.

Some try to say there are in insufficient number of quality QBs these days.  [Aside: many of those people make this argument in conjunction with the Colin Kaepernick and the “Blackballing Issue”.]  I suggest that the problem here is more wide ranging.  Indeed, there are an insufficient number of quality QBs in the NFL today; there are also an insufficient number of offensive linemen and defensive backs.  One common denominator among those three positions is that all of them demand skills learned through lots of practice.

Switching gears …  I saw a headline for an article at that said:

“What is Tiger’s biggest hurdle in latest comeback?”

In the article under that banner, about a half-dozen golf writers/commentators offered their opinions and analysis.  My answer had thought to ask me would have been short and to the point:

  • Biggest hurdle?  Making the cut in a PGA Tour event.

Finally, let me leave you with these words from Brad Rock of the Deseret News:

“Grill guru George Foreman (68) has dared actor Steven Seagal (65) to meet him in the ring.

“After which the pair plans to star in a movie titled ‘Jurassic Park: Mueslix’.”

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



The Hatfields And The McCoys

When it comes to the blood-feud that seems to have erupted between Jerry Jones and Roger Goodell, I am living in the great state of confusion.   I understand that Jones may be mightily angry about the 6-game suspension for Ezekiel Elliott but Jones and Elliott and the NFLPA all fought that issue out in court and it appears to be over.  Moreover, I cannot imagine that Jones would be that upset about having a player suspended since a season rarely goes by without at least one member of the Dallas Cowboys sitting out a stretch.

For a while I thought that Jones had designs on letting Goodell’s contract lapse and then maneuvering himself into the commissioner’s slot.  It happened in MLB when Bud Selig did that; it happened in the old NFL when Bert Bell transitioned from owner of the Eagles to NFL Commissioner.  That was an “interesting theory” but I have to discard it now because naming a new commissioner requires a super-majority vote of the 32 owners and for the last several months, Jones has been pissing off his fellow owners on a pretty regular basis.

Specifically, he has criticized the committee of owners who were tasked with negotiating Goodell’s contract renewal and the member ship of that Compensation Committee contains a lot of “NFL blue blood”:

  • Arthur Blank
  • Clark Hunt
  • Robert Kraft
  • John Mara
  • Bob McNair
  • Art Rooney

ESPN’s Outside the Lines has a report in ESPN the Magazine that goes over the events leading up to this blood feud and some of the events that have gone on in the midst of that blood feud.  It is a long piece, but I commend it to your reading.  In that report, the authors, Dale Van Atta and Seth Wickersham, quote Jones in a phone conversation with Goodell at the point when Goodell informed Jones of the suspension decision for Ezekiel Elliott.  Here is that quote:

“I’m gonna come after you with everything I have,” Jones said. Then he mentioned Deflategate. “If you think Bob Kraft came after you hard, Bob Kraft is a p—y compared to what I’m going to do.”

I recall hearing a song with the lyrics “…haters gonna hate”.  Maybe this is a case of a billionaire owner just being a billionaire owner who just does not allow anyone to tell him something he does not want to hear.  I am not a mind reader or trained in any of the mental health disciplines, but I cannot get over the fact that I sense that there is an “antecedent event or events” that set the stage for all of this.  I wonder if we will ever know what it was…

Greg Cote had this observation about the feud in the Miami Herald over the weekend:

“The Jerry Jones-Roger Goodell feud is getting nasty. On the bright side, it’s a diversion from counting players who took a knee during the anthem.”

There is an owners’ meeting scheduled for December 13th in Dallas – Jones’ home turf no less – and since the contract has been in negotiation for about 5 or 6 months, one might imagine that the Compensation Committee might present the details to the assembled owners there.  Based on a report today, Jones asked Arthur Blank – Chairman of the Compensation Committee – if the new contract for the commissioner would go before the owners for a vote.  Blank reportedly said it would not because there has been a unanimous vote of the owners designating the Compensation Committee as the entity to negotiate this new contract and – importantly it would seem – has delegated to the committee the responsibility to get a deal done in the name of the NFL.

This is not over.  Somewhere in the cosmos, Al Davis has a smirk on his face…

There are about 90 days until the Winter Olympic Games begin in PyeongChang, South Korea.  The Olympic torch has already left Greece and will make its way to Korea via the moon – or something nearly as relevant.  The games will be telecast here in the US by NBC and its family of networks and platforms and whatevers.  Today I read that they plan to live stream 1,800 hours of stuff from those Winter Games.  Those presentations are in addition to all the programming that NBC will be delivering over the airwaves and cable providers in prime time and on weekends.

Before anyone asks, let me make two things clear:

  1. I have no idea what the content of 1,800 hours of live stream coverage will be.  I suspect that much of the time will be even less riveting and less meaningful than the televising of the NFL Combine.
  2. I will not be watching much of the action in those games because I will be traveling during the festivities.

Scott Ostler had this report and comment in the SF Chronicle a while back:

“Sales are sluggish for tickets to the Winter Olympics in South Korea in February. Factors include high prices, a sagging world economy, and a reluctance to buy front-row seats for a nuclear holocaust.”

Finally, consider this comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Browns fan Chris McNeil has secured a Cleveland parade permit for Jan. 6 just in case the team completes a ‘perfect’ 0-16 season.

“Now comes the tough part: Convincing Roger Goodell to show up and hand out the participation trophies.”

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



Football Happenings …

Not a lot of important stuff in the world of college football happened last weekend other than UCLA firing head coach Jim Mora meaning that there will be more than a couple of “name programs” out there looking for new leadership.  So, I won’t dwell on college football today because there were lots of strange doings in the NFL.  I want to start with the utter collapse of the Skins against the Saints.

  • With less than six minutes to play, the Skins led the Saints 31-16 and they had the Saints pinned deep in their own territory.  The Skins’ defense had been pressuring Drew Brees all day long and there were few if any receivers running wide open all day long.
  • And then it happened…  There was no pressure on Brees; receivers ran routes that confounded defenders and the Saints marched the field to score making it 31-23.
  • The Skins went 3-and-out and punted the ball away – only to watch the Saints parade down the field with no timeouts eating up large chunks of real estate on every play.  The touchdown came, and the 2-point conversion came, and the game was tied.
  • The Skins got to the edge of field goal range only to get an intentional grounding penalty that sent the game to overtime.
  • The Saints kicked off and held.  The Saints got the ball and ran off tackle twice for about 60 yards and kicked the game winning field goal.

This loss belongs squarely on the shoulders of the defense and/or the defensive play caller in the final 5 minutes of the game.  It should never have gone to OT; that game was in the bag until the Skins’ defense decided to cough up the game.  Consider these defensive stats

Last Friday, I said that I did not understand why the Bills’ braintrust had decided to bench Tyrod Taylor in favor of Nathan Peterman.  The Bills have made some strange personnel decisions during the last off-season and near the trade deadline this year but this one was really out of left field.  Peterman proceeded to throw 5 INTs – – in the first half before he was benched.  I only saw the highlights here, but I have no idea what he might have shown in practice that would have convinced the coaching staff that he was ready to see the field on a Sunday.  He would have had to have shown a lot more “savvy” just to reach the level of “bewildered”.  The Bills lost to the Chargers 54-24

It is important to learn new things every day.  Here is what I learned from yesterday:

  • I learned why there were 7 college QBs taken ahead of Peterman in the NFL Draft last Spring.

Speaking of less-than-competent quarterbacking, the Green Bay Packers are up against it.  Brett Hundley was simply overmatched playing the Ravens’ defense and that defensive unit pitched its 3rd shutout for the season.  Hundley threw 3 INTs and lost a fumble in this debacle.

And speaking of good defensive units, the Vikings took on the NFL’s most prolific scoring offense last week and beat the Rams 24-7.  Case Keenum led the Vikes to 451 yards of total offense while the Rams were limited to 254 yards.  The Vikes are going to the playoffs – either as the NFC North champ or as a wild-card.

The Lions stayed 2 games behind the Vikes in the NFC North beating the Bears despite giving up 222 yards of rushing to the Bears. On Thanksgiving Day, the Vikes visit the Lions for the traditional “early game”.  Usually, the “early game” has little if any meaning regarding playoff races; this year the “early game” is a critical matchup; the Lions must win if they think they can win the NFC North.

Recall last Friday that I said the Browns needed for Blake Bortles to throw the game away if they were going to have a chance to get their first win of the season.  It almost happened – until the Browns remembered that they are the one-and-only laughingstock of a team in the league and proceeded to prove it.  Here is how it went:

  • The Jags led only 13-7, the Browns got the ball with about a minute-and-a-half left at their own 20 yardline.  The Browns’ defense had done its job; it had held the Jags to 3.7 yards per play and less than 200 yards of total offense.
  • So, how did the Browns’ offense respond?  DeShone Kizer fumbled the ball; and in a mad scramble for the fumble that looked like NFL Films was doing an homage to the Keystone Kops, the Jags recovered it in the end zone to win the game 19-7.
  • Just for the record, that lost fumble was Kizer’s 4th turnover of the game…
  • I did not watch this game, but I read one report that said the Browns total offense in the first quarter was all of 4 yards.  Yowza!

The Broncos’ defense had been missing in action for the past several games, but they made a significant reappearance yesterday.  The Broncos’ defense held the Bengals’ offense to 12 first downs and only 190 yards total offense.  Unfortunately, the Broncos lost the game anyway by a score of 20-17.  The turning point had the Broncos ready to score a TD when Brock Osweiler threw the ball to a Bengals’ defender who returned it about 100 yards to the Bronco’s 1-yardline.  When the Bengals scored on that 1-yard drive, that was a 14-point swing in a game decided by a field goal.

Somehow, the Chiefs held the Giants to 9 points in regulation time but still managed to lose the game in OT.  That makes 4 games in a row where the Chiefs have been on the short end of the stick, but they still lead the AFC West by 2 full games.

The Raiders did not take advantage of the Chief’s loss against the Pats in Mexico City.  It was plain and clear from the first possession that the Pats’ offense was going to have its way with the Raiders’ defense.  Let me give you just a few numbers here:

  • Tom Brady was 30-37 for 331 yards.
  • Pats averaged 7.2 yards per offensive play.
  • Pats’ TD drives were 73 yards, 80 yards and 85 yards.

The Eagles/Cowboys game was a night and day event.  In the first half, the Cowboys led 9-7 and Carson Wentz looked very much the part of a young QB who had gone to a Division 1-AA school and who was still learning what pro football was all about.  I have no idea what the Eagles’ coaches said at halftime but by the end of the 3rd quarter, the game had changed 180 degrees to the point where it looked as if the Eagles’ offense was playing against a group of guys who had never played defense together before that game.  The Eagles ran the ball for 215 yards and their shortest TD drive was 75 yards.

Do not make the mistake of looking at the final score here (Eagles 37 Cowboys 9) and attribute that to Ezekiel Elliott’s absence.  Yes, the Cowboys missed Elliott, but it is not as if they did not have a running game.  Alfred Morris – who once ran for 1500 yards in a season – gained 95 yards on 17 carries.  The Cowboys were undone by an uncharacteristic performance from Dak Prescott last night; he threw 3 INTs and lost a fumble that turned into a “scoop-and-score” for the Eagles.

Finally, a news item/prediction from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Think this guy just might have an ink-cartridge endorsement in his future?

“Introducing Stanford placekicker Jet Toner.”

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



Football Friday …

The calendar says it is Friday. That means this needs to be a Football Friday and as custom prevails here, I shall begin with college football.

  • In terms of the biggest game of the weekend in terms of the CFP selection folks, the most important game of the week has to be Wisconsin/Michigan.  I have been critical of the schedule Wisconsin has played to date this year, but I am a bit put off by Michigan folks who have been ridiculing that schedule this week.  Michigan is on a three-game win streak where all of the wins have been impressive – – until you realize that the opponent have been Rutgers, Minnesota and Maryland.  Those three opponents in succession qualify as Cupcake City…
  • Navy/Notre Dame looked to be a lot more interesting before Notre Dame got itself ass-kicked by Miami last weekend.  Now, the question is how badly will the Irish come out as a reaction to the game against Miami.  Will the Irish come out breathing fire after their national exposure de-pantsing by Miami or will they come out as cuddly bunnies waiting to be run over?  We should see early on…  If I were forced to make a pick on this game in order to save the life of my long-suffering wife I would play the Over.
  • Auburn/La-Monroe is a classic example of a “trap game”.  The only problem is that Auburn set the trap for itself.  Auburn is a 37.5-point favorite in this game and that is probably about right – – except for the fact that Auburn plays Alabama next week and Auburn destroyed Georgia just last week.
  • Speaking of trap games, undefeated UCF travels to Philly to play Temple this weekend.  Temple does not have the résumé that UCF has but the fact is that UCF will be looking ahead to their next opponent – – USF is coming to Orlando to play UCF.  The folks at UCF believe that they should be part of the CFP discussion, but the upcoming UCF/USF game has conference championship written all over it.
  • The UCLA/USC game is a huge rivalry contest; if one claims to be a “football fan” this game has to be interesting to you even if both top-shelf quarterbacks were taking the game off.
  • Cal/Stanford is a rivalry game equal to or bigger than the UCLA/USC game.  Folks here in the East might not recognize the import of this matchup but it is a HUGE deal.  Cal has lost the last 8 games in this rivalry, but this year’s Cal team is a lot more competitive than the ones over the past 2-3 years.  The spread here is 17.5 points; my suggestion is to watch this game and not put any money down on any of the proposed outcomes.

Three games on the card for this weekend have significant importance regarding the final CFP.  They do not look like nail-biters, but it is important for the favorites here to show well:

  • Virginia at Miami:  I fully expect Miami to win this game and continue its march to an ACC Championship game in early December.
  • Oklahoma at Kansas:  The Sooners are favored by 35 points.  Given the prolific Oklahoma offense and the porous Kansas defense, that may not be nearly enough for a Kansas cover.
  • Kentucky at Georgia:  After laying an egg last week against Auburn, Georgia can take out its frustrations on a much lesser opponent here.

Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald had this comment about last week’s Minnesota/Nebraska game:

“There was a pretty good crowd at Minnesota — considering this is the beginning of ice fishing season.”

The four nfl teams on a BYE Week this week will not be sorely missed:

  1. Colts:  Currently last in the mediocre-at-best AFC South.
  2. Niners:  Riding a 1-game win streak throughout this BYE Week.  Hi-ho!
  3. Panthers:  Riding a 3-game winning streak and playing very well recently.
  4. Jets:  After some irrational exuberance over their strong start, the Jets have settled into last place in the AFC East.

The Steelers laid waste to the Titans last night.  The game was not particularly interesting in terms of worrying about who would be the winner, but it was a game that gave me some indications of how the NFL season might shake out.

  • The Titans had been riding a 4-game win streak and looked as if they might be the best of a sorry lot in the AFC South.  After last night, I am not so sure about that any more.  Looking back over that 4-game win streak, the opponents were the Colts, Browns Ravens and Bengals – – and the last 3 of those wins were by a total of 10 points.  I cannot imagine two teams from the AFC South making the playoffs so the better of the Titans and the Jags will be there while the other stays home.  It just might be the Jags.  On New Year’s Eve in the final regular season weekend, the Titans and the Jags will square off in Tennessee…
  • At the same time, the Steelers seem to be putting the pieces together and maybe they should begin to aspire to home field advantage throughout the playoffs.  Given how much better they play at Heinz Field as compared to anywhere else, that might be a very worthy pursuit on their part.

The way the Steelers played last night convinces me that the AFC North divisional race is over, and the Steelers are the Division Champions.  Come to think of it, this weekend could very well see a couple other division races become foregone conclusions.

  • After a bit of early-season overreaction to a couple of losses, the Patriots are firmly in control of the AFC East – – as has become the custom over the last decade or so.  In addition to those two home losses in September, the Bills and the Dolphins began the season pretending to be good enough to mount a challenge to the Pats’ hegemony.  AS we approach Thanksgiving, I believe all of that was a mirage at best.
  • The Chiefs are firmly in control of the AFC West.  They lead the Raiders by 2 games in the loss column and the Chiefs have a VERY favorable schedule from here to the playoffs – – at Giants, vs. Bills, at Jets, vs. Raiders, vs. Chargers, vs. Dolphins, at Broncos.  Perhaps the Chiefs will not be favored in the final game of the year because it is on the road and perhaps they will have their berth in the playoffs nailed down before kickoff.
  • The Eagles control the NFC East and if they beat the Cowboys this weekend I believe you can consider that race to be over.

By my reckoning, half of the division races are over now.  In the other four, there are two-team races.

  1. Jags/Titans in the AFC South (see above)
  2. Rams/Seahawks in the NFC West.  Based on “pedigree” and experience, you would have to favor the Seahawks to outlast the upstart Rams at this point in the season.  The teams meet one more time in Seattle on December 17th.
  3. Vikes/Lions in the NFC North.  The Vikes have a 2-game lead at the moment but the Lions schedule from here to New Year’s Eve is soft once the Lions and Vikes play each other on Thanksgiving Day.  Other than the Vikes, the Lions have to contend with the Bears. Ravens, Bucs, Bears again and the Bengals.
  4. Panthers/Saints:  Probably the most interesting race because both teams are playing very well now.  These two teams meet on December 3rd in what will be a pivotal game for both sides.

Regarding games this weekend:

  • Lions/Bears:  This game means a lot more to the Lions than it does to the Bears, but the Lions have to avoid looking ahead to the visit by the Vikings on Thanksgiving Day.  The Lions are favored by 3 points; they ought to cover that.
  • Chiefs/Giants:  Andy Reid “always wins” after a BYE Week and the Giants are in disarray.  The spread is 10 points here – and even 10.5 points in a couple of places – and that is a big number…
  • Bucs Dolphins:  This is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  Both teams fit the description, “all hat and no cattle” …
  • Ravens/Packers:  Not a riveting game by any stretch of the imagination, but if the Ravens still aspire to sneak into the AFC playoffs as a wild-card, they pretty much need to beat teams hampered by quarterback injuries.
  • Rams/Vikes:  This game means a lot to both teams in terms of their divisional races (see above).  It will be interesting to see if a very good Vikes’ defense can stymie a very good Rams’ offense.  The game is in Minnesota and the Vikes are 2.5-point favorites.  The Total Line is 45.5 and I like the OVER in that game.
  • Cards/Texans:  This was the runner-up in the Dog-Breath Game of the Week competition.  Tom Savage versus Drew Stanton …  I think I’ll be changing the channel.
  • Jags/Browns:  The Browns have to hope that Blake Bortles throws the game away – – as he has been known to do in the past.  Otherwise …  The Total Line for this game is 37; I think that reflects the perceived offensive ineptness by both teams and not the defensive prowess of both teams.
  • Skins/Saints:  Both teams need this game.  The Saints need it because they are in a close race with the Panthers in the NFC South.  The Skins need it because they might see their playoff chances disappear with a loss here.  The game is in New Orleans and the oddsmakers have the Saints as 7.5-point favorites.
  • Bills/Chargers:  The Bills have seemingly tossed it in; I am no Tyrod Taylor acolyte, but sitting Taylor in favor of Nathan Peterman…  Really?  On the other side, Philip Rivers is listed as “Probable” for the Chargers after going through concussion protocol all week.  If Rivers cannot play, add this game to the Dog-Breath Game of the Week category.
  • Bengals/Broncos:  Here are two teams on a downslope.  Whatever happened to the Broncos’ defense?  That unit has given up 121 points in its last 3 games.
  • Pats/Raiders (Mexico City):  The only reason to play this game in this venue is that there will probably be 20,000 more fans in the stadium than there would be if the game were played in Oakland.  I doubt that the Raiders’ defense is going to put the kibosh on the Pats’ offense here.  The oddsmaker thinks this will be a high scoring affair setting the Total Line at 55.5.
  • Eagles/Cowboys (Sunday Nite):  If Tyron Smith is still out, Dak Prescott will need eyes in the back of his head as a protective measure.  The Eagles are coming off a BYE Week and can all but wrap up the NFC East race with a win here.  The Eagles opened as a 3-point favorite but that spread has opened to 4.5 points as of this morning.
  • Falcons/Seahawks (Monday Nite):  Richard Sherman is out for the season; Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor are both hurting.  This could be an interesting game and it is very important to both teams.  The Seahawks are favored by a field goal at home.

Finally, Bob Molinaro had this observation in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot this morning:

“Wunderkind: By turning around the Rams (a surprising 7-2) so quickly, Sean McVay has made life harder for head-coaching hires who hope to get two or three years to make an impact. McVay’s rookie success will result in more owners exhibiting less patience.”

He’s right, you know…

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



College Basketball – The Appetizer Course

The college basketball season is upon us – or at least the appetizer course is here.  I love college basketball; in terms of what I like to watch, college basketball is at the top of the list.  There is a small asterisk on that last pronouncement, however.  In the early part of the season – the appetizer course if you will – too many of the big-time programs schedule glorified scrimmages and call then college basketball games.  The Chief Logistics Officer for our annual Las Vegas trips calls these glorified scrimmages, “bully games”.

I am going to use Georgetown as an example here; believe me, there are similar circumstances out there for dozens of other programs that are among the “big boys” of college basketball:

  • The first six games this year are against Maryland Eastern Shore, Richmond, Maine, Coppin State, Howard and North Carolina A&T.  If you are a Georgetown alum, you might be interested in watching parts of those games; otherwise…
  • On December 16, Georgetown will finally pick on someone its own size when it hosts Syracuse.
  • Then come two more “tune up” games against North Texas and Arkansas A&M before Big East Conference play commences on 27 December.
  • Oh, by the way, of the 8 “little guys” on the schedule, all of them come to DC to play Georgetown except for Richmond.

It is important to recognize that every one of those potential “bully games” got on the schedule because Georgetown wanted them to be on the schedule.  None are conference games; none are historical rivals spanning 100 years of “tradition”.  This is résumé padding and nothing else.  And, this sort of scheduling malfeasance detracts significantly from college basketball.  I can understand a “bully game” or two in the early going so that coaches can continue their coaching agendas in the context of an actual game against folks who are not teammates.  That is, in fact, the only justification for things like the NFL Exhibition Games.

The good thing about the early portion of the college basketball season is that television networks arrange to pair good teams one against the other to fill programming slots.  There are several of these sorts of things sprinkled onto the calendar to spark interest and one of those events happened this week.  Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and Michigan State came together to play one another in a double-header; that is a pairing that would be worth seeing in mid-late March.  I understand that you cannot have that sort of TV fare every week, but think of the chasm that lies between a Kansas/Kentucky matchup and a Georgetown/North Carolina A&T “showdown”.

My takeaway from the Duke/Michigan St. game is that both teams are very good and I will be checking both of them out several times over the course of the season.  Duke won the game and played most of the game without Marvin Bagley III because he was poked in the eye early in the first half.  Kansas beat Kentucky in another interesting and exciting game.  Kentucky did not shoot well form the outside (3 for 13 on 3-point attempts); their offense was to go inside, shoot the ball and then hit the offensive boards hard.

Completing my “appetizer course” analogy, games like Duke/Michigan St. and Kansas/Kentucky are the slices of pâtè di foie gras on my plate while games like Georgetown/Arkansas A&M are the lettuce leaves under the pâté de foie gras.

Switching gears …  GQ Magazine has named Colin Kaepernick as its Man of the Year.  For reference, this award has only been around for about 20 years and some previous recipients have been”

  • Mel Gibson
  • Michael Jordan
  • David Duchovny (I could not tell you a single thing this man has done in his life.)
  • Tom Cruise
  • Chris Rock
  • George Clooney – – you get the idea…

Looking back over previous recipients, there is an interesting pairing.  Michael Sam was a GQ Person of the Year recipient just a few years ago.  Michael Sam was the first openly gay player taken in an NFL Draft and to be on the roster of an NFL team – actually, he was on the rosters of two teams before retiring from football.  Like Sam, Colin Kaepernick is not actively involved with football at the moment.  Also, like Sam, Kaepernick was the first player to choose to use the national anthem as the vehicle for a social protest and that action got him crosswise with some fans and some coaches/GMs/owners etc.

What Michael Sam did a couple of years ago was important to him and perhaps it was important to younger gay athletes.  Not intending to diminish that action or its import in any way, the fact is that the number of young gay athletes who might be in a position to turn pro in a major revenue sport is not numbered in the millions.  What Colin Kaepernick seeks to call attention to is social injustice that befalls millions of citizens simply because of their race and/or ethnicity and/or religious beliefs.  The “phobia” or the “ism” Kaepernick is trying to improve affects the lives of far more people and it has resonance with many foundation pieces of US society.

I have said from the time when Kaepernick first “took a knee” that I agreed with the objectives of his protest but that I did not appreciate the way he chose to make his protest.  His quest continues, and he has attracted the efforts and the representation of several active NFL players seeking goals common with his.  He has not achieved all of the goals he has set for himself – sadly, they may never all be met – but he has to be applauded/recognized for his role in making progress toward those goals.  This award is one such recognition.

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

“The University of Louisville was implicated in the latest college basketball scandal. In a related story, Grant is buried in Grant’s Tomb.”

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



Here And There Today …

The Miami Dolphins like to live in the past and remind everyone of their perfect season.  I wonder how the organization will recognize the latest franchise first-and-only:

  • When the Dolphins got their doors blown off by the Panthers this Monday night, they became the first and only NFL team to lose three consecutive “prime time games” in three consecutive weeks.  A week and a half ago, they lost on Thursday night to the Ravens; a week ago on Sunday night, they lost to the Raiders; and now the Panthers.
  • Celebrate it…

The three UCLA basketball players who were arrested and who had been detained in China for shoplifting have been released and are home.  Now come the reactions to a teachable moment:

  1. We will never know what Lavar Ball says to LiAngelo Ball about any of this and what LiAngelo may have done to the “Ball Brand”.  Too bad; that would give us more than a little insight into the “Ball Brand”.
  2. UCLA as an institution of higher learning had better use this “teachable moment” to do some teaching.  UCLA has its “brand” stamped all over an international incident involving shoplifting that required the involvement of the President of the United States and the US Department of State to make things right.  If these three players are reinstated to the basketball team immediately with nothing more than a severe talking-to, then UCLA as a school is nothing but an adjunct to its Athletic Department.
  3. Even if UCLA allows these three players to play immediately, I would hope that Steve Alford learned some lessons about right versus wrong in his time with bob Knight at Indiana.  If the school says they are eligible tomorrow and I am the UCLA coach, none of them see a practice session or a uniform until at least New Year’s Day.

Greg Cote had this comment on the UCLA/Chinese shoplifting incident in the Miami Herald:

“Lonzo Ball’s younger brother was among UCLA players arrested for shoplifting in China. Does the Bruins defense get statistical credit for those steals? “

After a slew of Seahawks’ players sustained injuries in last Thursday’s game, Richard Sherman – one of the injured players – renewed his statements about the absurdity of playing Thursday night games on short rest.  His teammate Doug Baldwin went rhetorically even further and said that Thursday night games “should be illegal”.  Baldwin is an intelligent and rational man; I am certain he used that phraseology as hyperbole and I do not believe that he was calling on legislatures at any level of government to pass laws to make it a crime to play NFL games on Thursday nights.

Let me analyze this situation from the pragmatist point of view:

  • A couple of years ago, CBS and NBC bid to get a shared contract with the NFL to simulcast Thursday Night Football along with the NFL Network.  That contract put a reported $900M in the revenue stream for the NFL.
  • The current CBA is complicated, but it seems to me that the salary cap is based on about 47% of total revenue and 50% of TV revenue that accrues to the league.  If I am correct in that interpretation, then canceling Thursday Night Football will remove $900M from the revenue stream which means that about $450M will be removed from the salary cap calculations.
  • So, the real question boils down to something rather simple.  If the players had to vote on a single issue – by secret ballot – to cancel Thursday Night Football and knowingly forego that extra salary cap room, would they as a body choose to do so?  I do not know the answer here and I suspect that the NFLPA does not know either and that the NFLPA would prefer not to know…

I have said this before and will bore you to death by saying it again.  This “Thursday Night Football conundrum” is really not that hard to resolve.  In fact, my proposed solution here will kill two birds with one stone:

  1. Almost everyone agrees that there are too many damned Exhibition Games.  So as part of the solution to the “Thursday Night Problem”, cancel the 4th Exhibition Game.
  2. Then, start the season a week earlier than now and make the season 18 weeks long instead of 17 weeks long.  Do NOT add a 17th regular season game.  Instead, use the added week of the season to build a schedule where each team gets two BYE Weeks.
  3. Now, here is the scheduling mandate.  Whenever a team is scheduled to play on a Thursday night, that team will get one of its BYE Weeks on the weekend before that game.
  4. Voila!  Do this and the NFL can rid itself of a meaningless Exhibition Game and it can keep the revenue from Thursday Night Football and the players in Thursday Night games can have extra time to heal before playing and …

You want to know what is sad about this simple solution that gets most people what they want at little to no cost?  If the NFL were to propose it, the NFLPA would immediately oppose it; if the NFLPA were to propose it, the NFL would immediately oppose it.  Both sides would rather bitch and moan at each other than sit down and find a path to solving the problem.

Finally, Dwight Perry had this comment in the Seattle Times regarding a “wardrobe malfunction” unrelated to Super Bowl halftime shows:

“PGA golfer Jason Dufner’s pants split in the seat when he bent over during the PGA Tour’s season-ending Tour Championship.

“Or as golfers prefer to call it, a bad slice.”

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