A Bad Omen For Marcus Mariota

Last night, ESPN reported that the Cleveland Browns had made an offer to the Tennessee Titans in order for the Browns to acquire the overall #2 pick in the draft tonight. There is nothing particularly notable in that; plenty of teams might be angling to get that pick. However, what ESPN reported was that if the Browns got the overall #2 pick, they were going to draft Marcus Mariota. When I heard that, I thought that Mariota must have gone into a blue funk hearing the news. Here’s why…

Consider that the Cleveland Browns as we know them today began in 1999. Since they had the overall #1 pick in the draft that year as an expansion franchise, the Browns have taken a bunch of QBs in the draft and none of them have turned out to be anything more than journeymen. In fact, a large number of the QBs that the Browns took cannot play dead in a John Wayne movie. I may have missed a selection; my “research” here was done hastily, but here is the list I compiled:

    1999 Tim Couch — First round — Overall #1
    2000 Spergon Wynn — Sixth round — Overall #183
    2004 Luke McCown — Fourth round — Overall #106
    2005 Charlie Frye — Third round — Overall #67
    2007 Brady Quinn — First round — Overall #22
    2010 Colt McCoy – – Third round – Overall #85
    2012 Brandon Weeden – – First Round – – Overall #22
    2014 Johnny Manziel – – First Round – – Overall #22

Since 1999, there have been 16 NFL Drafts. In those drafts, the Browns have taken a QB eight times; of those eight selections, four have been first round picks. If Marcus Mariota looks at that history and realizes that he might have his name entered onto that list, it ought to give him night sweats.

Three years ago at draft time, the Miami Dolphins traded up to the #3 slot in the draft to select DE/OLB Dion Jordan. Earlier this week, we learned that Jordan will be suspended for the entire 2015 season for running afoul of the substance abuse policy. I believe we can make it official now; Dion Jordan was not worth trading up for.

    In 2 seasons, Jordan has 3 sacks and 2 drug suspensions. That is an ominous start to an NFL career – if in fact it is not the sum total of his entire NFL career.

There seems to be about as much hype and hoopla surrounding the Mayweather/Pacquiao fight as there is for some pro ‘rassling extravaganza. About a week ago, Mayweather proclaimed that he is the greatest fighter in history specifically saying, “I am greater than Ali.” For some reason that I do not understand, George Foreman chimed in saying “I agree with Mayweather.” Of course, Ali simply said, “I’m the greatest.”

None of that amounts to a scintilla of squirrel stool but I would like to point out to all of those fighters a simple fact:

    Rocky Marciano retired as the undefeated heavyweight champion of the world beating all 49 men who stood in front of him.

Rocky is on the other side of the grass at the moment so he cannot offer his opinion on this matter directly…

The Nevada State Gaming Control Board released figures for March indicating that sportsbooks in Nevada handled $375.5M in wagers on basketball. That number is up from last year’s $343.5M and represents a 9.3% increase. If you assume that the handle for NBA games in March of each year is relatively constant, the difference would have to be wagering on March Madness. People who follow the gaming industry say that 70% of the wagering on basketball in Nevada goes to NCAA Tournament games; if they are correct, that would mean that almost $263M went through the windows in March on college basketball games. And please recall that the Final Four games did not happen until April…

This increase in wagering happens to coincide with record breaking TV ratings for the tournament games this year. Adam Silver seems to recognize that there is some causation here and so does Rob Manfred; Mark Emmert continues to do his Marcel Marceau imitation on this matter.

For the final game, the ratings say it was the most watched game since 1997 (Kentucky vs. Arizona). The total viewing audience was 28.26 million folks.

Saturday will see the Kentucky Derby happen. As usual there will be 20 horses in the field which is about 6 too many. More than about any other US race, the outcome of the Derby is often decided by which horse best avoids traffic congestion. Horses to watch include:

    Carpe Diem. Post position 2. Morning Line 8-1. He has 4 wins in 5 starts and has the best trainer/jockey combination in racing going for him.

    Dortmund. Post position 8. Morning Line 3-1. He has never lost and he ran a huge race in the Santa Anita Derby.

    International Star. Post position 12. Morning Line 20-1. If you like your horse to close ground late, he is one to consider.

    Frosted. Post Position 15. Morning Line 15-1. Ran a very good race in the Wood Memorial.

    American Pharaoh. Post 18. Morning Line 5-2. He has 4 straight wins but I am leery of a favorite from the 18 post in a field like this.

Finally, Dwight Perry had this note in the Seattle Times recently:

The 76,976 fans at WrestleMania XXXI in San Francisco broke the Levi’s Stadium record for WiFi usage — 4.5 terabytes of data.

“On the downside, local doctors report a sudden rash of cauliflower-thumb complaints.”

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

Josh Hamilton Back In Texas

The Los Angeles Angels basically gave Josh Hamilton back to the Rangers to get him out of town. The Angels will pay the vast majority of the salary remaining on Hamilton’s $125M contract and might get the infamous “player who already has a name but who will be identified later”. This transaction has engendered a huge reaction among commentators – some of which has been way over the top to the point where one columnist said something along the lines that when – not if – Hamilton ever killed himself in a drug-involved incident, the columnist hoped he would die alone and not take anyone else with him. Sorry, folks; that is way out of bounds…

I would observe, however, that this is probably a good time to be a columnist in Dallas or Fort Worth. There is plenty of room for multiple columnists to discuss the Hamilton situation with the Rangers from several vantage points. But the fun only starts there:

    The Greg Hardy suspension for 10 games provides the opportunity to comment on his presence with the Cowboys from a football perspective, from the perspective of the NFL’s evolving position on domestic violence and from the perspective of rehabilitation and atonement of an athlete. There is mileage to be had there.

    Up to the point where it becomes impossible for the Cowboys to trade for Adrian Peterson, he can be the focus of the same kinds of perspective columns that Hardy provides. Only the names need be changed to protect the innocent… [/Dragnet].

In anticipation of Hamilton’s return to North Texas, Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News compiled stats that say history is not on Hamilton’s side when it comes to regaining the glory he had in his first stay in Texas. Fraley looked at 8 baseball stars who went back to where they had prior glory late in their careers and found that most did not come close to rekindling it. Fraley’s list was:

    Bert Blyleven’s return to the Twins
    Gary Carter’s return to the Expos
    Roger Clemens return to the Yankees
    Rickey Henderson’s return to Oakland
    Reggie Jackson’s return to Oakland
    Andy Pettite’s return to the Yankees
    Pete Rose’s return to the Reds
    Tom Seaver’s return to the Mets

Blyleven was a success with the Twins and Pettite pitched well for the Yankees in return engagements; for the other players – all of them great players – they performed very poorly going “back to where it all began.” Granted, Hamilton is younger than the players on that list; but on the other hand, he is bearing burden they did not.

Oh, since I mentioned the possibility of Adrian Peterson going to the Cowboys above, I ran across a little note that said Herschel Walker thinks that the Vikings ought to trade Peterson and that the Cowboys were the most logical place for the team to make a deal. Obviously, Walker is entitled to his opinion. However consider the history here:

    If there is anyone on the planet who ought not to be offering “trade advice” to the Vikings involving a running back and the Dallas Cowboys, it would have to be Herschel Walker.

Sometimes it is difficult to find the right adjective to describe a certain event. I am sitting here in Curmudgeon Central trying to come up with something that goes beyond “inconsequential” or “trivial” or “immaterial” or “exiguous”. I am looking for a word that will describe the NFL’s sanction of the NY Jets after the league decided that the Jets – in the person of owner, Woody Johnson – did in fact tamper with Darrelle Revis while Revis was under contract with the Patriots. The penalty for the Jets is:

    A fine of $100K.

Let me be clear; what Woody Johnson did was minimal. Nevertheless, the NFL investigated and found that Johnson’s minimal action indeed violated whatever the league has defined for itself to be “tampering”. Presumably, the NFL did not put that rule in place just for the Hell of it. Ergo, when a team – or a coach or an owner – violates the rule, there needs to be a penalty associated with it that will make someone else think twice before violating the rule in the future. That is why there are penalties in the first place.

The Jets committed – potentially – $70M to Revis over the next 5 seasons. Woody Johnson is part of the Johnson family who people know as Johnson & Johnson – the pharmaceutical firm. Estimates of the family fortune are in the range of $13B; I have no idea what Woody Johnson’s share of that $13B might be, but I am confident in making this statement:

    $100K is a trifling amount of money to him – as it would be to every other NFL owner.

I am not sufficiently facile with English to find the right descriptor here but the message the NFL sent is loud and clear. We have a tampering rule but if you violate it, nothing bad is going to happen to you.

Finally, Brad Rock of the Deseret News found something positive to say about Reds’ manager, Bryan Price, and his 5-minute profanity-laced tirade:

“Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price used the same vulgarity 77 times during a 5 ½-minute rant at the media.

“On the bright side, not once did he use the equally obnoxious phrase ‘moving forward.’ ”

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

Looking For A Hall-Of-Fame QB?

With the NFL Draft careening towards us with all of the speculation on who will take which of the top 2 QBs in the first round, there is something you need to go and read in its entirety. Dan Daly, formerly with the Washington Times, has done some extensive research on where QBs who ultimately wound up in the Hall of Fame went in the draft. Here is something that might scare the bejeebers out of the guys in Tampa and Tennessee and other teams with really high draft picks:

    More than 80% of the QBs who proved to be Hall of Fame quality were not the first QB taken in the draft in the year they were eligible.

I cannot do a synopsis here that does justice to Daly’s research and presentation and so I will urge you to follow this link and read this entry in its entirety at ProFootballDaly.com.

Since I mentioned the upcoming draft and the eligible QBs this year, you probably read or saw that Jameis Winston told Jim Harbaugh on the ESPN feature, Draft Academy, a new story about the infamous crab legs incident. Basically, Winston said that he did not shoplift the crab legs as one might conclude from watching the security videos in the store because the crab legs were given to him by a store employee as a “hook-up”. Translated into English, Winston got some free crab legs from the supermarket because he was the star QB on the defending national champion football team in town. It was no big deal; that is why he took no action to conceal the fact that he was walking out of the door with the crab legs bypassing the cash register.

This was treated as a revelation for about a day or so and then it seems to have faded into oblivion. Naturally, I look at this differently than most other commentators.

    1. Only about 2 weeks to go before the draft and Jameis Winston changes his story about what happened that night? And that is supposed to make me feel confident that his “off-the-field-issues” are nothing more than “growing up pains”? Here is what this “new story” demonstrates rather clearly:

      Either he is lying now or he was lying before regarding the crab legs incident.

    2. If the current story is the truth, where are the NCAA enforcement hounds? Jameis Winston just declared that he got free foodstuffs from a local supermarket and that it was no big deal that it happened. That is the seafood equivalent of a booster handing him money under the table. One would think that the NCAA would be swarming all over this matter; an athlete just admitted getting benefits that are not available to the student body at large.

      How long has this been going on?

      Are similar “bennies” available to other athletes?

      How come none of the coaches know about this?

      What did everyone tell the Florida State ‘investigators” about this matter back when it first surfaced?

Bob Molinaro took this matter in a totally different direction in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot recently:

“Good eats: I’m not sure what position to take on the latest twist in the Jameis Winston crab legs saga, except to surmise that it’s created more free advertising for crab legs.”

With all of the focus on the Mayweather/Pacquaio fight next weekend, one might surmise that boxing might be making a comeback. I think not. The moribund state of the sport was on display last weekend when the heavyweight champion of the world, Wladimir Klitschko, defended his title against an undefeated challenger named Bryant Jennings in Madison Square Garden. There was a time when such a happening would have been the single focal point for the sports world; I will suggest here that less than 5% of the people you might encounter on the street this week are even aware that the fight happened let alone who participated, where it happened and what was the outcome.

People today may not realize that at one time the three top assignments for sportswriters working at newspapers were – in alphabetical order:

    Baseball
    Boxing
    Horseracing

Some truly great writers covered boxing including Ring Lardner, AJ Liebling (my personal favorite), Stan Hochman, Bert Sugar, Dave Anderson, William Gildea and Jimmy Breslin. Not intending to disparage current boxing coverage, the great writers of today gravitate to different beats and to different issues than the world of boxing. And that is why you can have a heavyweight championship fight in Madison Square Garden in an environment where the vast majority of sports fans just do not care. Sad…

According to Forbes, total attendance at MLB games in 2014 was 73.7M fans. Barring some kind of catastrophe, total attendance in 2015 will be very close to this number. According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council – yes, there is such a thing; Google is your friend – fans this year will consume 23M hot dogs and sausages at ballparks this year. Given the way MLB parks have added dining options to include pizza and burgers and sushi and nachos, I am surprised to see that teams can expect to sell a hot dog/sausage to about one in three fans.

Finally, Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times had a comment regarding the current WBC heavyweight champion of the world:

“Deontay Wilder, who won the WBC heavyweight boxing title by unanimous decision, is a former waiter at IHOP.

“No wonder the judges didn’t waffle.”

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

Looking For A Sinecure?

I remember studying vocabulary lists in preparation for the SATs many years ago and running across the word, sinecure. A sinecure is a job that provides earnings but requires little or no work or effort. I recall thinking in my youth that a sinecure would be a great career because it would put food on the table and still allow time to do fun things like go to see baseball games several times a week. I had a great career – but not because it was a sinecure. In fact, I now think I would have been bored to tears with a sinecure.

Nonetheless, if one were to go looking today for a position of that ilk, might I suggest that one seek to be on a baseball Blue Ribbon Committee or alternatively, to be assigned to do an investigation on behalf of the NFL. There may be some work involved there, but the “pace” of the job is extraordinarily leisurely.

    MLB set up a Blue Ribbon Committee to figure out how to get the Oakland A’s a new stadium while not having the SF Giants get their knickers in a knot. I do not have the exact date for the committee’s formation, but I will say it was about 5 years ago and there have still been no recommendations – let alone actions. This is not an easy problem to resolve; I will stipulate that. However, in 5 years one might think that there could be some kind of movement toward a resolution.

    MLB also set up a special investigation to determine if the Chicago Cubs tampered with Joe Maddon while he was still under contract with the Tampa Bay Rays. My recollection of this investigative endeavor is that it began before Thanksgiving of last year meaning it has been ongoing for at least 5 months now. Resolving territorial issues between teams while simultaneously considering the locale for a new stadium is a thorny issue; determining “tampering” vs. “non-tampering” vs. “not enough evidence to make either determination” is not nearly so thorny.

    Everyone must recall “Deflategate” because it was the biggest story of the NFL playoffs running up to the Super Bowl. You may or may not recall that the NFL assigned Ted Wells to do an investigation to determine why the footballs used in the Colts/Pats playoff game had an internal pressure that was outside the limits prescribed by the rules. The important distinction that has to be made is this one:

      Were the balls “underinflated” or were they “deflated”? Underinflated can happen simply because of human error; deflated involves a conscious and determined act.

    Well, that investigation is still ongoing 3 months later and Colts’ owner Jim Irsay says he is not surprised at the time this has taken and that he fully expects the investigation to go on for several more weeks.

In my retirement, I could always use a gig that will shore up my IRA but I would really like to still have the time to watch games and write these rants. Therefore, I will announce here that I am available at an amazingly low rate of pay to participate on any Blue Ribbon Committee or investigation of alleged wrongdoing in one of the pro sports leagues so long as the pace of my committee/investigation parallels the ones described here. At the rate they are going, someone will find out what happened to Judge Crater before all the work is done here.

Brittney Griner, the star center for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, was arrested over the weekend in Arizona. According to reports Griner and another WNBA player, Glory Johnson of the Tulsa Shock were arrested based on an incident involving assault and disorderly conduct. As I skimmed the lead paragraph of the article, my first thought was that this was indeed unladylike and that I should make a comment about how Miss Manners might be extremely miffed at such behavior. However, I also noticed in the midst of a paragraph that Glory Johnson was identified as Brittney Griner’s fiancée. Well, that changes things a bit…

If these two ladies can manage to put this incident behind them and resume their relationship and ultimately marry one another, it will have to be the first time that a married couple will be playing in the same professional team sports league in the US. Now, allow me to offer up these words of wisdom to this young couple with the intention that they may indeed let this incident be a mere speed bump on the road of life. Here is what comedienne, Rita Rudner had to say about marriage:

“I love being married. It’s so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life.”

The MLB All-Star Game will be in Cincy this summer and Commissioner Rob Manfred announced that Pete Rose will be part of the ceremonies surrounding the game. The Reds’ president/CEO, Bob Castellini, will work with the Commish to figure out just how Rose will be involved in the event. Allow me to suggest to Messrs. Manfred and Castellini one of the first things they need to do as they set out to determine how Pete Rose might be part of the All-star Game:

    Do not give Jim Gray a press credential. Do not let him get near Pete Rose with a camera and a microphone.

    Just don’t…

Finally, Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald had this observation over the weekend:

“This week, Pete Rose returned to baseball and Tim Tebow returned to football. You just know Brett Favre is sitting by the phone.”

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

Daily Fantasy Sports Wagering

Adam Kilgore wrote a lengthy article in the Washington Post recently describing the daily sports fantasy websites. This is a long-form piece but if you are interested in this subject, the article is well researched and well written. You can find it here.

The focus of the article is that the two main players in this arena – FanDuel and DraftKings – are exploiting a loophole in the Federal law that bars Internet gambling. The fact that there are loopholes in laws is not surprising or interesting to me; the fact that there are people smart enough to find and exploit said loopholes is not surprising or particularly interesting to me; the fact that the Feds who thought it was so important to pass a law to ban something for the public good cannot move quickly to close such obvious loopholes is not surprising or interesting to me. Here are some of the points made in this article that I find very interesting:

    More than 3 million people play fantasy sports using these two web-based companies on a daily basis.

    An estimated 41 million people play fantasy sports in venues other than these two daily fantasy sites.

    Consider this paragraph from the article:

    “On a typical NFL Sunday, FanDuel’s most popular game awards a $500,000 first prize to the winner of a massive pool with a $25 entry fee. Rather than simply hosting leagues for users, daily fantasy sports serve as an exchange. Players enter contests and win prizes for the best entries, and the Web site keeps a cut.”

    Now, can you explain to me how this event is not equivalent to playing online poker or why playing fantasy sports on this different from betting on NFL sporting events?

    MLB bought a financial stake in DraftKings two years ago. The NBA has a “partnership” with FanDuel. Since the two sites serve as an exchange in the sense that they take a small cut from every entry fee (call it a wager to be more accurate), that means that two of the major sports enterprises in the US are deriving revenue from wagering on their games along with other games.

    MLB specifically lobbied in favor of the insert in the bill that created this loophole. The NBA, NFL, NHL and the NCAA all lobbied to pass the bill that created this loophole. In essence, all of these organizations supported a law that specifically makes a form of gambling on sporting events legal.

    FanDuel has a “partnership” with the Orlando Magic in addition to its “partnership” with the NBA.

Even though I have exactly zero interest in fantasy sports – the season long variety or the daily variety – I find the topic interesting because of the mental gymnastics one has to go through when dealing with this topic. For example, they say fantasy sports betting is different from poker betting because in fantasy sports everyone starts with the same set of resources but in poker each player is dealt a different hand. Sounds good until you realize that is merely true if you set the level of your perspective. In poker, everyone sits down at the table with a stake (their wager) and the same deck of cards that will be used for the entire duration of the poker event. Once you resolve that dichotomy, you will know exactly how many angels dance on the head of a pin.

Another distinction is that fantasy betting is not sports betting because it does not depend on the outcome of any specific game. Again, that is literally correct but if you draft a team for a day in football and every player on your fantasy team is involved in a game where that player’s team wins 50-0, you stand a whole lot better chance of winning than losing.

My takeaway is that the pro sports leagues are already involved in gambling and some of that gambling is on games that their league puts on. Their players may indeed be playing fantasy sports and if that is not an apparent conflict of interest – a step below actual game fixing to be sure – then I guess I do not understand what a conflict of interest might be. To date, the NCAA is not part of this unholy cabal – but once the revenue streams are publicly known as they will be since these companies are seeking expansion funding, I am sure the NCAA will want to “dip its beak” so to speak. That will provide some fascinating mental gymnastics…

I mentioned recently that the latter-day Rosie Ruiz had been disqualified from the St Louis marathon. Greg Cote of the Miami Herald took that fact and juxtaposed it with some other information to come up with this:

“The St. Louis Marathon disqualified women’s winner Kendall Schler after determining she crossed the finish line but never ran the race. There also are now suspicions about the man who claims to have won, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams.”

Finally, here is one more observation from Greg Cote that is worth your attention. The NBA and the NBPA have agreed on the protocols and procedures by which they will test players for human growth hormone and testing is slated to begin over the summer. That annou8ncment produced this remark:

“There is something funny to me about the NBA, whose typical employee is freakishly tall, testing for human growth hormone. It’s like the International Sumo Federation testing for body fat.”

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

Hither, Thither & Yon

Sometimes you have to just shake your head in amazement and wonder if indeed the fall of civilization as we know it is imminent. Recent events in the sporting world might bring such puzzlement to the front of one’s awareness. Consider:

    The NFL schedule was announced to the sheep – er, the public – last night. NFL Network had a 3-hour special on it. Ever since the last day of last season, anyone who understood the NFL scheduling algorithm knew which teams would play which other teams next year. What we got yesterday was when and where each game would be played. If such a revelation is worth 3 hours of your life, you might want to consider assisted suicide; there is not a lot of hope for you.

    Rosie Ruiz is alive and well and racing in St. Louis – or at least a latter-day cheat who pulled the same kind of stunt as Rosie Ruiz. A runner in the GO! St. Louis marathon finished third last year and won the race this year. Not so unusual except that this runner did not run the full 26.2 miles either last year or this year.

      Memo to Marathon Cheaters Everywhere: If you want “marathon cred” you can get it by finishing third and fourth in races. They will scrutinize winners a whole lot more than third or fourth place finishers. Don’t get greedy and – while you are at it – don’t be a cheating a$$hole.

    Jay Feely felt it necessary to declare publicly in front of people who recorded his public statement that Tim Tebow is the worst QB he ever saw. I may be kind here for a moment and point out that Jay Feely never had to watch Jay Feely play QB and that might limit the scope of his knowledge… My problem with the reporting on this story is simple. After his pronouncement, why did no one ask him this simple question:

      Who asked you and who gives a fig what you think?

Given all the hoopla regarding the potential move of the Chargers and the Raiders to a new stadium in Carson CA, I have a friend who lives in So. Cal. and he sent me an e-mail with his views on the subject. Here are the salient points:

“I’ve never been to the stadium in Oakland but I’ve read about sewage plugs there enough times to get why the Raiders want out … I’ve been to Qualcomm as recently as 2012 to see the Chargers and it is not a bright and upbeat place. However, both those teams must really want out of where they are if they are seriously considering a move to Carson which is a dump.

“PS Ironically, the last time I was at Qualcomm Stadium it was to see the Chargers and Raiders.”

I do not know that I have ever been to Carson CA; in a former stage of my professional career, I did spend a lot of time in So. Cal., but Carson rings no bells in my memory. Therefore, I cannot really confirm or contradict my friend’s assessment of the town. I can understand why any team might want to leave Oakland and the sewage-challenged environment of the stadium there; while I have no first-hand experience at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, there are too many folks who say it has seen its better days and needs to have a wrecking ball come for a visit to wax poetically about its glories. However, what if my friend is correct and the Carson truly is “a dump”? Moving from Oakland to “a dump” is what The Peter Principle defines as a “lateral arabesque”; moving from San Diego to “a dump” is a giant step backward.

Speaking obliquely of the Raiders, they signed Michael Crabtree to a 1-year deal worth anywhere between $3-5M depending on incentives attained. If anyone asked Richard Sherman what he thought of the contract, I did not see it. Moving “across the bay” so to speak, seems to indicate a couple of things:

    1. Crabtree did not think that he would be a featured option in the Niners’ offense under Jim Tomsula.

    2. Crabtree thinks Derek Carr is at least as good – if not better – than Colin Kaepernick when it comes to getting the ball to WRs down the field.

    3. The Raiders do not have to play the Seahawks twice next year and that is a plus to Crabtree.

Here is my bottom-line on that Bay Area kerfuffle:

    I doubt that either team will make the playoffs. Therefore, this “transaction” is about as important as the breakfast menu on the Titanic for “tomorrow morning”…

Finally, if you want to be shocked an amazed by the abject asininity of an athlete in the midst of completion, please consider these words from Brad Rock of the Deseret News:

“Middleweight fighter Marvin Jones’ fight in Florida was delayed momentarily when his cell phone fell out of his trunks.

“He was later kayoed by Ramon Luis Nicholas — proving beyond doubt Jones doesn’t carry a smart phone.”

Seriously, the guy was carrying his cell phone in the midst of a boxing match. Many is the time that a pro ‘rassler has won a match by using a “foreign object” to his advantage but two things need consideration here:

    1. This is boxing and not pro ‘rassling.

    2. How might he have “taken a call” or “texted a friend” or “posted a selfie to a social media site” while wearing boxing – damned – gloves?

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

Adam Silver = The Anti-David Stern

I wonder if Adam Silver is intentionally working to make himself the obverse of his predecessor, David Stern, or if they are just wired differently. David Stern seemed always in dire need to demonstrate that he was the smartest person not only in the room but in the entire zip code. Silver is clearly smarter than the average bear (H/T to Hanna- Barbera), but he seems to be able to blend his intellect with the reality of common sense. David Stern could not allow himself to demonstrate common sense because if he did, that might detract from the hugeness of his intellect.

Recently, Adam Silver went on the Boomer and Carton show on WFAN in NY. I am anything but a fan of Boomer and Carton; I doubt that I have ever been able to stay tuned to their program for more than 20 minutes in a stretch. Nonetheless, Boomer and Carton spoke with the NBA Commish on the topic of gambling on NBA games – and other pro sporting events and elicited these remarks:

    After speaking about international soccer and European basketball where gambling is widely available and practiced, Silver said:

    “Because they have all that data, they’re able to monitor [game fixing activities] … And if there’s any irregular activity whatsoever, it’s like tracking insider trading on the New York Stock Exchange. If there’s a blip, if there’s unusual activity, they know to investigate. So first the issue for us is if all this betting is going to go on anyway, we should be able to monitor it. And then, No. 2, if all this betting activity is going to go on anyway, make it legal.”

    Later, the Commish said:

    “It’s good for business, I don’t want to hide from that. Putting aside whether or not we’re actually actively involved in any of the betting, it creates more engagement. We all know as fans if you have, even like a gentleman’s bet or a $5 bet with your friend on a game, all of a sudden you’re a lot more interested.”

What Silver did not say is that the NBA is indeed in a financial arrangement with one of those fantasy sports sites that offers “one-day games” and so the NBA is already directly involved with – and benefiting from – gambling activities involving NBA players and NBA games.

The other recent Adam Silver event that demonstrated that he is cut from different cloth than his predecessor was his press conference after the annual NBA board of Governors’ Meeting last week. He simply presented the outcome of the meeting in simple terms and admitted that there were some issues for which there is no obvious workable solution at the moment. I have trouble imagining David Stern verbalizing in that way. Here are two conundrums that Adam Silver and the NBA mavens have not yet figured a way out of:

    1. Tanking: The lottery was instituted to prevent tanking because 30+ years ago it was being done in spades to acquire the guaranteed #1 pick in the Draft. The problem now is that teams are about to be flush with cash and with oodles of salary cap headroom meaning that free agency will be a goat rodeo over the next year or two. Here is what Commish Silver had to say:

    “So what the basketball people pointed out – and they’re right – is that of course the draft lottery and the draft are just one component of team building. There’s also free agency and then there are trades, and that it’s very difficult then to look at that one aspect in the abstract. So my sense where we were coming out is that there’s still a sense that we need to make a change, but until we see what the team behavior is going to be with all this new cap room, we should hold it and wait and then look holistically at the whole system. This one again on the draft lottery, we agreed to continue looking at it, but it seems highly unlikely at this point that we’re going to make a change for next season.”

    Let me translate that for you:

      We haven’t the faintest idea how to attack this problem now and the cap room changes only make it more complicated. So, we are kicking the can down the road…

    2. Playoff entrants and seeding: Look at the Eastern teams in the playoffs vis-à-vis the teams who just missed the playoffs in the West. If you do not see the fundamental issue here by looking at those records, you are clearly a fan of the Brooklyn Nets. However, there is no agreement on how to fix this and here is how the Commish explained it:

    “When we presented all the data to the teams, what becomes clear is that there is no obvious solution because we play, for example, an unbalanced schedule in terms of you play your division members more than you do other divisions; you play in your conference more than you do the other conference. And I’ve said in the past, one of the competing issues is do we reduce the number of back-to-backs, reducing the amount travel for our teams. Of course, if we have a fully balanced schedule, that will increase the amount of travel.”

    Let me translate that for you:

      Teams in the East like the idea of playing other lesser competition in the East Conference more than teams in the West and have figured out that travel times to the West Coast are much longer than they are in the I-95 corridor and are using that as an argument to leave things as they are. Oh, and since changes to alignment or playoff eligibility require an affirmative vote of 2/3 of the teams, the chances of getting a bunch of Eastern teams to sign up for such change are zero. So we are punting…

Twins’ pitcher Ervin Santana is one of several MLB players on lengthy suspension for failing a PED drug test. Santana tested positive for Stanozolol which is the same thing that cost Ben Johnson his Olympic Gold Medals all the way back in 1988. Folks, this is hardly one of those so-called “designer steroids”… The interesting part of this story is that when Santana addressed his suspension, he said that he could not pinpoint how this stuff found its way into his bloodstream.

    Memo to Ervin Santana: When discussing the origins of how you wound up being suspended from MLB for failing a steroid test, you might not want to use the word, “pinpoint”. Just saying…

Finally, a cogent observation from Scott Ostler in the SF Chronicle:

“Tough break for the San Jose Earthquakes with one-named midfielder, Innocent, being suspended one game for throwing an elbow.

“It’s also a whiff for Bay Area headline writers, who missed: ‘Innocent Guilty.’ “

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

Pete Rose On TV?

FOX Sports has hired Pete Rose as a studio analyst. Some folks see this as a harbinger of Rose’s ultimate reinstatement to MLB’s good graces. I think it is far too soon to jump to that conclusion. Regular readers here know that I favor Rose’s reinstatement and his induction into the Hall of Fame, but I am not going to celebrate just yet. Yes, this job puts Rose into a very public and very direct involvement with MLB; no, this does not guarantee his reinstatement.

    Memo to Pete Rose: Try never to start one of your analyses with the phrase, “I bet you…”

Yesterday, the Las Vegas 51’s played the Fresno Grizzlies and the day was set aside to honor Jerry Tarkanian in his passing. Dwight Perry anticipated this celebration with this comment in the Seattle Times:

“The minor-league Las Vegas 51s and Fresno Grizzlies will wear Jerry Tarkanian-themed jerseys April 19 to honor the late hoops-coaching great, then sell them for charity.

“What, no game-chewed towels?”

Johnny Manziel emerged from rehab after about 10 weeks. Many athletes who have gone to rehab for drugs and/or alcohol addiction come out after 4 weeks so the duration of his stay stands out for me.

    Does the added time indicate that he had a problem 2.5 times greater than other athletes?

    Does the added time indicate that he is 2.5 times more committed to resolving his problem than other athletes?

Obviously, the reason(s) for his more lengthy stay in a counseling environment are private matters and any reporting you may see regarding those reasons is most likely to be pure speculation. Manziel’s statement after leaving rehab touched on all the right points; and if he is committed to living up to what he said in that statement, he will be a better person for doing so.

Manziel’s rookie season experience with the Browns was inauspicious to say the least. Obviously, whatever issues he had to deal with in 10 weeks of counseling/therapy had to play a part in his on-field shortcomings. With those behind him – presumably – he may have the opportunity to re-start his NFL career. However, it may not be in Cleveland because there are persistent reports that the Browns may be looking to draft another QB this year and the team has already signed Josh McCown to compete for the starting job even if they do not take another QB in the draft.

Speaking of QBs who are in need of a career re-start, there are reports that the Eagles will sign Tim Tebow later today. Let us just say that the Eagles’ QB position is “crowded”:

    Sam Bradford arrived in a trade for Nick Foles
    Mark Sanchez re-signed during the off-season.
    Matt Barkley is still on the roster – – but should rent not buy.
    Tim Tebow is about to join the parade.
    Rumors persist that the Eagles want to trade up to draft Marcus Mariota.

Tebow has not played in an NFL game since 2012 when he was a “change of pace” player at QB for the Jets. His career stat line is unimpressive – the most glaring stat being that he only completed 48% of his passes at a time when starting QBs are expected to complete 60-70% of the throws. Nonetheless, Tebow is a good athlete and a smart guy; if Chip Kelly thinks his abilities fit with the Eagles’ offense and if Tebow’s QB mechanics have been improved by coaching and practice, this is not a signing that will present grave danger(s) to the Eagles’ franchise.

The Pittsburgh Steelers will have some roster alterations to make this summer. Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor have been fixtures in the Steelers’ secondary for about a decade or so. Both of them have retired in the past couple of weeks and that should present a challenge to the Steelers’ defensive coaches.

Aaron Hernandez will not be playing in the NFL again either – for completely different reasons. You had to know that it would not take long for the late night comedians to comment on that jury verdict. Here is what Conan O’Brien had to say:

“Former New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez has been convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. His lawyer plans to appeal. He’s trying to get the sentence reduced down to two seasons with the New York Jets.”

MLB set a new record for attendance at Spring Training games this year. [Aside: I am happy to have provided MLB some assistance in achieving this milestone.] Total attendance for 481 Spring Training games was 4,034,708 (almost 8400 per game). The previous record for Spring Training attendance was in 2013 at 3.8M fans so the increase this year is 5% higher than the previous record. Granted it is far too early to spot any trend here, but the early results for MLB attendance at regular season games is up an average of 1,226 fans per game after 184 regular season games as compared to last year.

Finally, here are two perspectives on college basketball’s “one-and-done” situation for this year:

“Perspective: Maybe like you, I only recently discovered that 21-year-old Masters champ Jordan Spieth was one-and-done at Texas. Led the Longhorns to the NCAA title and then split, same as Mike Krzyzewski’s three best players just did for Duke. Funny, isn’t it, how media and public hand-wringing are reserved only for basketball one-and-doners.” [Bob Molinaro, Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot]

And…

“CNN.com reports the University of Phoenix has lost about half its students.

“Enrollment has dropped from 460,000 to 213,000 — making it second only to Kentucky in number of people leaving early for the NBA Draft.” [Brad Rock, Deseret News]

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

Home Again…

I am back from my visit to Dublin to see family there and back to a land where the sporting landscape extends beyond futbol and rugby. In case you have forgotten a significant portion of your World History class from high school, the English and the Irish peoples have had their “differences” in the past. Every once in a while, those “differences” led to confrontations that were far beyond verbal exchanges. Well, you might have a hard time recalling those times if you merely surveyed the folks in Dublin pubs watching sports these days. THE focus is on the English Premier League – the UAEFA Champions League games are relegated to the small screens over on the side walls of the pubs and usually have about 2 people watching them.

In the part of Dublin where we spent most of our time, it would seem that Liverpool and Manchester United have the largest following – although there were some folks sporting Chelsea gear walking about too. Last weekend, Manchester United beat Manchester City opening a door for Liverpool to gain ground on Man City in “the table” – or the standings as we might call it. When Liverpool won its game last weekend that put Liverpool in 5th place in the table only 4 points behind Man City in fourth place. Why might that be a vital issue that would cause Liverpool fans to approach a state of euphoria?

    The top four teams at the end of this season get to play in the European Champions League next year; the fifth place team is not invited.

With 6 games left to play this year, there is only a 12-point span between second place in the table (currently Arsenal) and seventh place in the table (currently Tottenham). It looks like there will be plenty of reasons for the Dubliners who follow the Premier League to get themselves to pubs to watch games between now and end of May.

Catching up on other stuff – in no particular order other than the order in which they come to mind:

    1. I am a bit surprised at the Aaron Hernandez verdict. I am not surprised because I think Hernandez is innocent; I am surprised that his legal team could not get at least a hung jury. While Hernandez’ actions do not enhance the image of the NFL in any way, there is some solace here for the league and for the union that his punishment will be handled by a party other than one constrained by the details of the current CBA.

    2. Some folks have cited Hernandez as proof that the Patriots’ touting of “The Patriot Way” for building a team that win on the field and builds character in its players as poppycock. Actually, I believe the Hernandez case demonstrates the value of “The Patriot Way”. When the team learned of the arrest and the charges and some of the evidence early on, the Patriots did not take the passive route and say that Hernandez was “one of them” until the legal process played itself out; rather, the Patriots released him and disassociated themselves from him.

    3. A former NFL player whose anti-social credentials are well-known made the news again last week. Lawrence Phillips is suspected of killing his cellmate in a California prison. Phillips is serving about 30 years in prison; among his prior malevolent behaviors, he was convicted of choking his girlfriend on at least two different occasions and then he drove his car into a group of kids in the aftermath of a pickup football game. Make no mistake, Lawrence Phillips is not a great humanitarian. In this case, the deceased cellmate is a person serving a sentence of “82 years to life” for first degree murder. It is not easy to pick a side here to root for…

    4. Three freshman players from Duke’s championship team have declared themselves eligible for the NBA Draft later this year. I have already said that I believe Jahlil Okafor should stay in college at least one more year to learn to play much better defense and to rebound in traffic. I love Justise Winslow’s game and I think it meshes with the NBA game better than any of the other duke players. Put simply, I really do not know what to think about Tyus Jones. His speed and his quickness are “NBA-ready”; his passing is very good but his shooting is sporadic and I seriously doubt that he can now defend against a real NBA point guard. All will go in the draft in the first 15-20 picks. I believe that only Winslow will have a serious impact next year on the team that takes him.

The NFL has “cleared” Adrian Peterson to play in the league once again; according to reports, Roger Goodell sent Peterson a letter informing him of his reinstatement to the league with two conditions attached. Peterson reached a plea deal in his trial in Texas involving child abuse that reduced the charges from a felony to a misdemeanor. In return for that reduction in charges, the court said that Peterson had to fulfill certain obligations; Goodell informed Peterson that his reinstatement to the league was contingent on Peterson continuing to follow those court-ordered directives. In addition, Goodell notified Peterson of the new NFL policies on personal conduct making it clear – at least to me – that if Peterson violates any of those policies he will be back on the “not welcome here list”.

Peterson’s agent has said that Peterson does not want to play for the Vikings anymore and wants to be traded. That is nice; but frankly, I have heard that song sung too many times before to bother myself with it for more than a nanosecond. Recall that Bears’ linebacker, Lance Briggs once held out and swore he would never again play in a Bears’ uniform – and then proceeded to play there for about the next 5 or 6 years. When the agent states – as he surely will at some time – that this is “not about the money”, here is what he means:

    It is not about the money – until of course playing in Minnesota is the only place where there is any money for playing football. If it comes down to “money here” or “no money somewhere else”, we will choose “money here”.

Finally, Greg Cote explained this piece of sports history in the Miami Herald recently:

“By the way, ever wonder how the tradition of cutting down the nets began in basketball? Turns out it was started by the American Association of People Who Sell Basketball Nets.”

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

Strange Doings Here…

Over the winter, the Chicago Cubs’ organization set upon a renovation/update for Wrigley Field. Lord knows; it was long overdue. Let me just say that it would seem as if the folks in the Cubs’ organization who are in charge of overseeing all of this work are about as adept at that task as the Cubs’ teams have been on the field for the last century or so. It was evident from back around New Year’s Day that the new “Jumbotron” – or whatever they will call it in Chicago – would not be in place quickly enough to assure that the bleachers could be rebuilt around it. Indeed, that work continues. However, that is the good news…

On Opening Day, the Cubbies drew a capacity crowd for a game against the Cardinals; no surprise there. What was a surprise for the fans was that there were not enough rest rooms to accommodate that many folks in the stadium. Reports had it that fans had to wait in excess of 30 minutes in line to use the bathrooms that were functional. Reports also had it that patrons were urinating in empty beer cups and leaving the cups “around and about”.

Look, one of the reasons that the Cubs felt it was finally time to do this renovation/update is that Wrigley Field has always been short on the number of “relief facilities” available. To go with a renovation plan that would allow the stadium to open with even fewer “seats available” than were there before the renovation is purely stupid. How will the Cubbies resolve this problem?

    They will put porta-potties out in the left field concourse.

    They will have real toilets installed and functioning by “late May” according to Crane Kenney, the Cubs’ President of Baseball Operations.

Just in case you do not realize, “late May” is approximately 25% of the way through the season; the Cubs will not have sufficient bathroom facilities for its fans for that period of time. In fact, by the time 31 May rolls around – that is “late May” indeed – the Cubs will have played 28 home games out of 81 for the season. In case the batteries in your calculator are dead, that represents 35% of the Cubs’ home games for the season. Here is a link to a report on this mess and a copy of the letter sent by the Cubs to their season ticket holders.

A headline on CBSSports.com yesterday caught my eye because it indicated that Dave Bliss was going to be coaching college basketball once again. Frankly, I could not believe that was really going to happen, but according to the report under the headline, Southwestern Christian University (an NAIA school) has hired him. If you do not recall Dave Bliss and his “fall from grace”, let me do a short reset:

    At Baylor, he had several players there who were having their expenses paid for but were not on scholarship.

    One of those players – one that Bliss had explicitly brought with him to Baylor from a previous coaching stop – was murdered. Much later a teammate was convicted of that murder.

    Bliss organized and orchestrated an intentional cover-up of the scholarship improprieties and scripted interviews to be given to police and investigators. Even less classy than that, he promulgated a completely fallacious story that the murder victim was involved with drugs and that his murder was a “drug crime”.

That all happened in 2003. Just to show that I have not just now manufactured these feelings of outrage, I found what I wrote about this subject in a Topical Rant way back then. I have posted it here in case you would like to see more about this sordid mess.

Yes, I do believe in redemption and I do believe that some people do turn the vector heading of their life around significantly. Yes, I believe that may indeed be the case here. And yes, I am skeptical and will need to see evidence of the change in vector heading. What he did – and what some of his assistant coaches did under his tutelage – back then was simply despicable.

The NFL is in the process of devising a rule change that will affect the PAT and the intent is to have that new rule in place for the 2015 season. There is a meeting scheduled in late May where the Competition Committee will make its recommendation to the owners.

    [Aside: I am confident that the NFL owners will meet in a venue in late May that has sufficient toilet facilities in place so that they need not use porta-potties. Just saying…]

Dan Daly posted a history of the NFL’s dealings with the PAT issue on his blog, ProfootballDaly.com. It turns out that at least one former Commissioner of the NFL hated the PAT and tried to have it removed from the game for more than a decade. Moreover, Professor Daly presents an argument as to why the league should not want to make the PAT significantly more difficult to convert. I think this a piece you should read in its entirety.

Finally, here is a suggestion from Scott Ostler in the SF Chronicle:

“The Sacramento Kings signed Sim Bhullar to a 10-day contract, and the 7-foot-5, 360-pound center is the first NBA player of Indian descent. So can we call him Mahatma Grande?”

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