The Gift That Keeps On Giving…

I have said it before and will reiterate it here. José Canseco is the gift that keeps on giving for these sorts of rants. Here is the latest “Canseco antic”:

    He is going to spend an entire week living as a woman as a show of support for Caitlyn Jenner. Canseco will be in full drag dress-mode for that whole week.

Seriously…

The fact that Canseco will also be involved in his own “reality show” come next Fall of course has nothing to do with this behavior. It is all about learning what Caitlyn Jenner “feels” and nothing at all about an episode for the Internet reality show Spend a Day with José. Yeah, right… That is the reason that Canseco just happened to tell TMZ that he was doing all of this to experience “life as a woman”. If you are buying that, you are probably also in contention to become the next President of the Flat Earth Society.

Here is a link to an article on this nonsense just in case you think I might be making all of this up. Trust me, I do not have nearly the creativity needed to do that…

Speaking of sports figures whose off-center behaviors provide plenty of material for these kinds of rants, let me direct your attention to Sheldon Richardson, nominally a DT for the NY Jets. I say “nominally” because Richardson is certainly going to serve a 4-game suspension for running afoul of the NFL substance abuse policy. Recall, that policy has nothing to do with PEDs or HgH; that is the policy that deals with “recreational substances”. In the aftermath of the announcement of that 4-game suspension that came after a minimum of 2 failed drug tests, here is what Sheldon Richardson did to get his head on straight:

    He got himself arrested for a variety of traffic “violations” including a high speed chase with officers at speeds in excess of 140 mph.

Here are two comments from sportswriters outside the NYC area regarding this matter:

“Suspended Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson got clocked doing 143 mph on a Missouri highway.

“Guess his coaches should have been more explicit when they told him to work on his speed rush.” (Dwight Perry, Seattle Times)

And…

“No more calls, we have a winner! Arrest of the year: Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson, already on NFL suspension for flunking a drug test, is arrested for allegedly driving 143 mph, resisting arrest, tailgating, driving without lights and running a red light. Cops say they find a fully-loaded semiautomatic handgun in the car, which reeks of weed. Awesome.” (Scott Ostler, SF Chronicle)

Here is what some of that Richardson had to say after the fact:

“After my suspension, that was just one bad night. I thought it would be fun to show my family members something. They never rode in a car like that before.”

The car Richardson refers to here is a 2014 Bentley Silver Spur. As a reference, the MSRP for a new one of these puppies is just a tad north of $200K so it is reasonable to assume that Richardson’s family members had never ridden – not rode – in a car like that. It is also probably safe to say that they had never ridden in a car on a public highway in excess of 140 mph and – oh – did I forget to mention that there was a 12-year old child in the car while it was going in excess of 140 mph.

By comparison, José Canseco and his week living as a woman begins to sound perfectly rational and mainstream…

Yesterday, I mentioned some of the myriad exchanges that happened around the MLB trade deadline that I think might have some kind of effect on this year’s pennant runs and/or the futures of the teams involved in the trades. Scott Ostler took a more global view of the trade deadline with this observation:

“Just once at the trading deadline I want to hear a manager say, ‘Do we need help? Did Custer need backup? We’ve got four guys who are like rotted teeth; they must be replaced immediately. Has anyone checked our GM for a pulse?”

You are never going to hear a manager say that out loud, but you have to know deep in your heart that some of them have to be thinking those kinds of thoughts – with a lot of added profanity and scatological imagery – as the trade deadline comes and goes.

It appears that ESPN is going to expand its coverage of the Little League World Series – and the games that lead up to that event – this year. According to reports, there will be 135 Little League games on TV this month and that is an abomination. Remember those football players at Northwestern who are suing the school and the NCAA claiming that they are exploited individuals who toil for the benefit of their school and their conference and the NCAA with nothing coming to them in return? Well, those guys ought to be made to spend a couple of weeks with the kids – and their parents – involved in the Little League World Series. Were I the judge in their case, I think I would order it just as a teaching moment. In terms of athletes who are exploited for the benefit of others and not the athletes themselves, here are some groupings:

    Top Tier: Little League players, women’s rhythmic gymnasts, T-ball players on T-ball traveling teams.

    Much Lower Tier: College athletes on scholarship who play “revenue sports”.

Since I cited Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle twice already today, I might as well go for the trifecta here:

“I don’t write the headlines, but if I did, the story that Tim Lincecum has degenerative hip problems that are keeping him sidelined would have been headlined: ‘Hip-hip no way.”

“For a more exact diagnosis of Lincecum’s problem, we bring in Dr. Bruce Bochy: ‘There’s some stuff going on there.’

“A second opinion from Buffalo Springfield: ‘Somethin’ happenin’ here, what it is ain’t exactly clear.’ “

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

RIP Frank Gifford

Frank Gifford passed away yesterday. He was an excellent player for the NY Giants in an era where football stars were of a much smaller magnitude than baseball stars. I think his off-field involvement with the game was even more important than his Hall of Fame playing career.

In 1970, the NFL was virtually a “Sunday only league”. Yes, it played a game on Thanksgiving Day and yes, it played a game or two on Saturdays in December after the college football season was over. But the vast majority of the games were on Sunday afternoons. Then the Monday Night Football “experiment” started and in the first season Keith Jackson did the play-by-play while Howard Cosell and Dandy Don Meredith were the color commentators. After that opening season, Frank Gifford took over the play-by-play duties and maintained that spot for the next 15 years whereupon he became a color commentator for another dozen years or so.

Monday Night Football showed that the NFL was more than a “Sunday only league” and that it could be a TV juggernaut. Frank Gifford was a significant part of that movement for the league for more than a quarter of a century.

Rest in peace, Frank Gifford.

While I was gone, the good people of Boston – and of Massachusetts as a whole – seemingly came to their senses and terminated their bid to hold the 2024 Olympics there. The mayor of Boston had been a supporter of bidding for the games but when he was faced with signing a “host city contract” that included clauses making Boston responsible for any cost overruns that “might occur”, he balked. Evidently, there was some pressure from various Olympic officials with regard to a deadline for signing and Mayor Marty Walsh would not be cowed by the USOC. The folks in Boston ought to hold a parade for Mayor Walsh.

Again, while I was gone, the baseball trade deadline came and went. Given the number of players changing teams – at the major league and minor league levels – the real winners in all of this would seem to be the moving and storage companies. However, some of the myriad trades seem to me to be more impactful than others and some teams seem to have made out well in the wheeling and dealing:

    Phillies traded Cole Hamels to Texas and got back 5 prospects in return. Texas needs starting pitching and the Phillies are not going to be a serious contender while Cole Hamels is still in his prime. Good trade on both sides…

    Phillies trade Jonathan Papelbon to Washington for a pitching prospect. The Nats’ bullpen has needed help all year and the last thing the Phillies need is a reliable closer in a season where they seek to lose fewer than 100 games.

    Phillies trade Ben Revere to Toronto for two minor league pitchers. Revere can hit for average and can steal a few bases; the Blue Jays can use him in left field and/or as a DH. Good trade on both ends of the deal…

    Tigers trade David Price to Toronto for three minor league pitchers – two of whom are deemed ready for the majors. If those two prospects work out for Detroit, this is a good trade both ways; if not, the Blue Jays come out ahead…

    Rockies trade Troy Tulowitsky and LaTroy Hawkins to Toronto for 3 prospects and Jose Reyes. The Blue Jays are obviously going for the playoffs this season with all these trades. Two question marks here:

      Can Tulowitsky stay healthy?

      Will Hawkins’ eligibility to collect Social security affect his pitching?

    Tigers trade Yeonis Cespedes to the Mets for two minor league pitchers. The Mets need offense and Cespedes can hit. He will be a free agent at the end of this year so this could turn out to be a “rent-a-player deal” for the Mets.

    A’s trade Tyler Clippard to the Mets for a minor league pitcher. Clippard was a very good set-up reliever in Washington up until this year and will help the Nats’ bullpen. More importantly, the Nats wanted him back in recognition of the value he could bring to their bullpen; but the Mets prevented that from happening.

    Reds traded Johnny Cueto to the Royals for 3 minor league left handed pitchers. Given the Royals’ pursuit of the playoffs this year – and perhaps a return to the World Series? – this trade seems to favor them.

    Brewers traded Aramis Ramirez and cash to the Pirates for a pitching prospect. The Pirates are playoff contenders this year and Ramirez’ bat should help them – if he does not give up more runs in the field than he produces at the plate.

There was one exchange that was simply puzzling to me:

    White Sox sent Conor Gillaspe to the Angels for “cash considerations”. Gillaspie has been having a bad season but last year he hit .282 and fielded well. The Angels need someone to play third base while David Freese gets healthy. It seems as if the White Sox – a team going nowhere – could have gotten something more than “cash considerations” here.

Finally, Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald made this observation about minor league baseball:

“Minor league baseball team the LeHigh Valley IronPigs dressed like camels on Hump Day. Here’s your first clue you’re not on the verge of making the majors: you race onto the field in a camel costume.”

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

I’m Back In The Saddle Again…

Gene Autry began all of his Sunday night TV shows by singing these verses:

I`m back in the saddle again
Out where a friend is a friend
Where the longhorn cattle feed
On the lowly gypsum weed
Back in the saddle again.

Ridin` the range once more
Totin` my old .44
Where you sleep out every night
And the only law is right
Back in the saddle again.

That is kind of the way I feel about now getting back into a writing schedule – but with an inability to update or access my old clipboard documents. But that is my problem to resolve…

Bob Connolly had this item in his Dreams Blog recently:

“The Miami Marlins serenaded the Washington Nationals on Wednesday with ‘noises of flatulence’ piped through the stadium loudspeakers while the Nats took batting practice.”

The olfactory imagery here is particularly apt for these two teams. Since the All-Star break, the Nats are about 10 games under .500 and the Marlins have been so bad that they have actually fallen behind the Phillies in the NL East standings. When I left for Eastern Europe, that was almost unthinkable…

The NFL is going to have increased scrutiny of the game balls and their inflation levels this season. Allow me to give that $11B per year entity a brief protocol that ought to obviate any future Deflategate situations while still giving QBs the ability to prep their own footballs:

    Each team will deliver a dozen footballs to the officials 3 hours before game time. Those balls will all be in a deflated condition. The balls will be marked in a way that each ball can be uniquely identified.

    The officials will have in their dressing room/prep room both a pump and a pressure gauge – a calibrated gauge at that.

    The officials will inflate all of the balls from both teams to a pressure within the limits of the rules. They will then record all of those measurements AND they will use sealing wax to cover the valve-stem entry point on the ball. Any ball with a damaged seal will not be eligible to be used for any play in the game.

BaDaBing! BaDaBoom!!!

Dean Blandino – head honcho for NFL officials don’t you know – said recently that officials have to strive for consistency.

    Memo to Dean Blandino: You got that half-right. They need to strive to be consistently correct. If they are consistently wrong, that is not a good thing…

Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle wrote recently that the National Anthem renditions at various sporting events need an upgrade. I could not agree more. Some of the “local talent” they trot out to sing the anthem is enough to make your hair hurt and while it may be “cute” there are precious few sixth grade glee clubs that can sing the song even marginally well. One more note from experience:

    Jazz saxophonists have their place in the musical cosmos but standing at home plate and blaring the anthem in to a microphone prior to a baseball game is not their place.

Tonciu, Romania is a town that thought it needed a soccer pitch for the local youth to play on and to develop their skills on. So, the City Fathers decided to spend about $20K to create such a facility. However, here in Curmudgeon Central, we know well that no good deed goes unpunished and now those City Fathers are being held up to scorn and ridicule for the implantation of their “nice idea”. Here is a link to a story – with a photo – in the Irish Mirror to explain from whence the scorn and ridicule emanate…

Time for a Quick Quiz. We have not had one of these for a while now:

    Which is the worse idea:

      1. Getting onto an elevator with Ray Rice – or –

      2. Putting Lance Armstrong in charge of a drug testing protocol.

    100 words or less…

Finally, Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald and I think alike on this issue:

“There is YouTube video of a drunk golfer in Wolstanton, England, who got his head stuck in a trash can. If this guy is granted an exemption for next year’s Masters, I’ll watch.”

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

Not Just Bad – Outstandingly Bad

As the unofficial second-half of the baseball season got underway, I noticed in the standings that the Phillies had been outscored this year by 155 runs in 93 games. That means they lost by an average of 1.67 runs per game and that seemed like an awful lot to me. So I tried to do a bit of statistical searching and here is what I came up with:

    In 1899, the Cleveland Spiders were an ultimately awful team – but there was a method to their stinkitude. One owner had two ball clubs at the time and he put all the good players on one team and left the Spiders with bupkes. That team holds the record for being outscored in a full season; their negative run differential was a whopping minus-723. Their record for the year was 20-134.

      [Aside: The Spiders had exactly one 2-game winning streak all season long.]

    Ignoring that team because of its unusual ownership situation, the worst run differentials for a season have been:

      The 1932 Boston Red Sox (minus-349) posted a season record of 43-111. This team lost by an average of 2.27 runs per game.

      The 2003 Detroit Tigers (minus-337) posted a season record of 43-119. This team lost by an average of 2.08 runs per game.

      The 1962 Mets (minus-331) posted a season record of 42-120. This team lost by an average of 2.04 runs per game.

It might seem as if the 2015 Phillies are not even near approaching these levels of non-competitiveness until you think that the Phillies are trying to trade off their best starting pitcher (Cole Hamels) and their best relief pitcher (Jonathon Papelbon). If they pull off those trades with 60 games or so left on the schedule, who knows how many times they could lose games by a score of 9-1…

Just to give you an idea of how bad the Phillies are this year, the second worst negative run differential as of yesterday belonged to the Chicago White Sox who had been outscored by only 74 runs in 89 games (0.83 runs per game). The Phillies’ average margin of defeat is twice as big as the next worst team in MLB!

Given how badly the Phillies have played this year, it is not shocking to see that the Phillies have dropped more than any other MLB team in average attendance as compared to last year. They still average 24,423 fans per game but that attendance represents a drop of 6,014 from last year. There are 5 teams below the Phillies in average attendance this year but 4 of those 5 teams are perpetually at the bottom of the MLB attendance rankings. The Phillies need to find a way to “goose attendance” and I have an idea for them to consider:

    The Phillies will need to hire a new manager next year. It will not matter whom they hire; the team is going to be bad again next year. So, maybe the idea would be to hire a manager who would – by his presence – generate interest in the team. Remember, one can generate interest in a positive or a negative way; and with that in mind, perhaps they should consider hiring …

      Ozzie Guillen.

Ozzie will not make the Phillies into contenders but he will get people in Philly talking about and paying attention to the Phillies. Let me be clear; I am not suggesting this would be a long-term move for the team. My Over/Under for how long Ozzie Guillen would last in Philly is 15 months.

Greg Cote had this comment in the Miami Herald over the weekend:

“Dan Patrick, Bill Simmons, Keith Olbermann and now Colin Cowherd. Will the last star to leave ESPN please turn out the light?”

I might add Jason Whitlock to that list even though he is still technically with ESPN but he is not in charge of the about-to-launch website The Undefeated. Greg Cote is onto something here; all of these folks are hugely talented and opinionated people. And ESPN had all of them and managed to find a way to lose all of them. I have no idea how the suits on mahogany row at Disney Corp see all of this, but no one who is paying even the least bit of attention can fail to see that this is both a “talent drain” and a “brain drain”.

I read recently that Russell Wilson said that God spoke to him just after the interception at the goal line in the Super Bowl and it is because of that communication that he has dealt with that disappointment as calmly as he has. Look, I am in no way going to make light of or discount any sort of communication that took place between any athlete and his Deity. Nevertheless, I do have to make this observation:

    Seattle Seahawks’ fans probably wish that God had spoken to the Seahawks’ coaching staff about a minute before that occurrence so that they might have chosen to call a less stupid play at the goal line…

Finally, one more timely observation from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald:

“Milestone: It has been 15 days since an NFL player blew off any fingers playing with fireworks.”

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

Looking Ahead To College Football

Due to an impending hiatus from writing/”researching”, I realized that I was getting behind the eight ball with regard to the upcoming college football season. So I started earlier this week to gather some basic information that might be useful in a variety of ways once that season gets underway. The place I always start is with the schedules – and for college football finding the schedules for a number of teams in a variety of conferences is a whole lot more of a pain in the butt than finding the schedules for – say – the NFL.

However, once I had some of the schedules in front of me and had a chance to look at how they differed from one another, I see that there are still schools that are committed to padding their records by scheduling mouthbreathers as their out-of-conference games. Let me give you eleven examples; I am sure that if I spent a lot more time looking at more of the 128 Division 1-A schools I could find more:

    Auburn: Home games against Louisville, Jacksonville State, San Jose St. and Idaho. Auburn does not have a single road game in their out of conference schedule.

    Baylor: Road game at SMU and home games against Lamar and Rice. This is a team that aspires to be in the College Football Playoff this year.

    Florida State: Home games against Texas State, USF and Tennessee-Chattanooga and a neutral site game against Florida.

    Kansas State: Home games against South Dakota and La Tech and a road game at UT-San Antonio.

    Kentucky: Home games against La-Lafayette, Eastern Kentucky and UNC-Charlotte and a road game at Louisville.

    LSU: Home games against McNeese State, Eastern Michigan and Western Kentucky and a road game at Syracuse.

    North Carolina State: Home games against Troy and Eastern Kentucky and road games at Old Dominiion and South Alabama.

    Mississippi: Home games against Tennessee-Martin, Fresno State and New Mexico State and a road game at Memphis.

    Rutgers: Home games against Norfolk State, Washington State and Kansas and a road game at Army.

    Ohio State: Road game at Va Tech and home games against Hawaii, Northern Illinois and Western Michigan. The best you can say here is that Va Tech would be a 2 TD favorite over the Alaska Asthmatic College team…

    Penn State: Road game at Temple and home games against Buffalo, San Diego State and Army.

I am sure someone will notice that I did not put Alabama on that list teams with embarrassing out of conference schedules; and indeed, I was going to do that until I noticed the totality of the Alabama schedule which made me sympathetic to their scheduling of a couple of patsies (Middle Tennessee, La-Monroe and Charleston Southern). Alabama opens against Wisconsin on a neutral field; this year it plays all of the teams in the SEC West and from the SEC East they draw Georgia (on the road) and Tennessee. Besides, Alabama is going to win a minimum of 10 games this year unless they schedule NFL teams.

BYU is an independent and so all of its games are “out-of-conference” because they do not have a conference. The Athletic Director at BYU has lined up a serious set of challenges for the team this year:

    Just in the month of September, BYU plays road games at Nebraska, UCLA and Michigan with a visit from Boise State mixed into that lineup.

    The rest of the schedule is not as daunting but they do have games against Cincy and Missouri thrown in there.

Changing the subject here, I have often tried to advocate the position that public money ought not to be sued in great quantity to build stadiums/arenas for pro sports teams. I have long believed that few if any of these stadiums ever generate sufficient NEW tax revenue for a city/state to cover the costs of building a new playpen for wealthy owners. At the very least, a new stadium or arena project should be a cost-sharing endeavor with the majority of the costs coming from the team and/or the league.

Since my powers of persuasion are obviously limited in that dimension, let me ask you to watch this commentary from John Oliver on the subject of using public money for such endeavors. In addition to being humorous, his argumentation here is eloquent. When cities borrow hundreds of millions of dollars in order to build a stadium for a team, that lowers that city’s ability to borrow money for schools and public safety and public transit. In science class we learned about the Law of Conservation of Matter; well in government terms the Law of Conservation of Matter means that you cannot borrow the same dollars twice nor can you spend already borrowed money on two things at once.

I recommend you take a few moments to watch John Oliver here…

Finally, Brad Dickson addressed the continued expansion of the number of college football bowl games in the Omaha World-Herald:

“The NCAA approved several new college football bowl games. We’re running out of decent host cities. Take one of the new games: the Bozeman Pecan Bowl. Then there’s the Dubuque Doughnut Hole Bowl. We need more college football bowl games like television needs more television dance competition shows.”

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

The DeAndre Jordan Kerfuffle

Now that the dust has seemingly settled with regard to which team in the NBA will get to pay DeAndre Jordan for his services next year, I would like to address much of the hubbub that surrounded that entire matter. Let me establish a couple of foundation pieces here:

    DeAndre Jordan had a verbal agreement to join the Mavericks next year. Verbal agreements are not worth the paper they are printed on.

    DeAndre Jordan broke no laws and broke no NBA rules in doing what he did by reneging on that verbal agreement with the Mavericks and resigning with the Clippers. In fact, the NBA rules and the CBA negotiated with the NBPA enable exactly this kind of behavior by all NBA free agents every year.

What DeAndre Jordan did do was to demonstrate that he not particularly trustworthy and that his word is not worth much. The deal he got from the Clippers reportedly gives him an opt-out year when he will be 29 years old. So, if you were another GM/owner, would you be putting much stock in whatever he said he was going to do in the midst of that time when only verbal deals can be negotiated but there is a waiting period until they can be put to paper? I have said this before in a different context but it applies here too:

    Integrity is like virginity; you only get to lose it once.

I also do not hold DeAndre Jordan in high regard based on the fact that he was not big enough to call Mark Cuban and tell him straight up that he was not going to honor their verbal agreement. True, he had no obligation to do so; but it would have been the honorable thing to do. And for the record here, I have long thought that Mark Cuban is not a whole lot more than a self-promoting pompous ass who would do just about anything to be in front of a TV camera or a live radio mic. Notwithstanding that sentiment, Jordan owed Cuban the courtesy of learning about this directly from the source.

In addition, the media covering this mess of a situation went hyperbolic when relating DeAndre Jordan’s value and his defensive prowess. He is indeed a good defender and rebounder but let us keep this in the realm of reality:

    DeAndre Jordan is not now and will not be “The Next Bill Russell”.

One final thing about the coverage that bothered me was an implicit double standard. Jordan was not lauded for his weaseling out of his agreement but he was portrayed as a young man who reflected on a decision and decided it was not in his best interest. Therefore, he was in the right – even if he may have handled it improperly. Now think how the reverse situation would have been portrayed:

    Three days after the verbal agreement, Mark Cuban looks back at what he just agreed to and says to himself:

    “Are you nuts? You are going to give this guy umpty-million dollars and he cannot shoot from outside dunking range. I am going to call a press conference to let everyone know that I changed my mind and he can go sign with anyone else he wants because I do not want him on my team.”

Somehow, if Cuban – or any owner – reneged on a verbal deal before the signing period opened, I doubt they would be treated nearly as kindly by the folks covering the story…

Greg Cote had this view of this situation in the Miami Herald:

“Clippers star De Andre Jordan agreed to terms with Dallas, changed his mind and resigned with Los Angeles. Tell me, is there anything in sports better than the sight of an angry helpless Mark Cuban?”

Now that we know that Jason Pierre-Paul blew off a finger in that fireworks accident a couple of weeks ago, I want to offer him a piece of career advice for the time when his NFL playing days are over:

    Do not entertain the idea of becoming a “bomb disposal tech”. In that field, losing a finger is considered a “good day at the office”…

Keith Olbermann’s latest incarnation at ESPN lasted about 2 years. As I have recounted here before, I watched his show a couple of times a week and found it entertaining and informative – even on those occasions where I totally disagreed with the stances he took in his commentaries. I would like to think that ESPN will find some way to replace his program with a new “high-brow” show and not simply another re-run of SportsCenter or – perish the thought – First Take.

Bob Molinaro summed up my sentiments here in a recent comment in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Out the door: If you are a fan of Keith Olbermann’s TV humor and homilies, too bad. Yet again, he and ESPN are parting ways. ESPN says it’s a business decision, while skeptics believe Olbermann’s critical harangues of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell had something to do with the breakdown in contract negotiations. Business of a different nature, as it were, given the cozy relationship between ESPN and the NFL. At any rate, Olbermann’s departure lowers ESPN’s on-air IQ.”

Finally, here is a comment from Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald earlier this month:

“Earlier this week a leap or extra second was added to the world clock. Mel Kiper Jr. used the extra second to release his first three mock drafts for the 2016 season.”

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

Why The Wonderlic Test Is Important…

Today is Bastille Day. Sadly, I have no news to report here that resembles the storming of the prison fortress in Paris on this date in 1789. So, in lieu of trying to force-fit some sort of sports story/event into the narrative of the French Revolution, I will just fais marcher with the normal happenings here.

Before I took my brief hiatus, the NFL announced a couple of 4-game suspensions for players who had violated the substance abuse policy. Sheldon Richardson and Rolando McLain will each sit out 4 games. However, it is important to note that neither of these gentlemen failed a drug test involving PEDs; they will sit out for flunking a drug test for “recreational drugs”. So, I think it is important to understand what they had to do in order to “earn” this 4-game suspension. The following is my understanding based on my reading of the current CBA that is available to the public:

    Players are tested once a year for “recreational drugs” – such as marijuana. These are not PEDs; they are specifically spelled out in the CBA; the tests take place during the team OTAs in the spring. The players know this; the agents know this; the coaches know this. There are no “gotcha moments” here.

    The first time there is a positive test the player is placed in the NFL “drug watch program” which means there will be more frequent tests and some counseling. If the player goes along with the counseling program – or appears to be going along with it – it takes two additional positive tests before he can be suspended.

    If the player is uncooperative or refuses to participate in the counseling activities, a second positive test – not a third positive – can get him a 4-game suspension.

These two players – and all the ones that have gone before them who have been caught up in the substance abuse policy – have failed at least two and possibly three drug tests. However, they only came up on the NFL radar because they failed a drug test when they knew in advance when it would happen. If you wonder why the NFL administers the Wonderlic Test to potential draftees, this might be one of the reasons. Failing the first drug test that puts you on the league’s “watch list” is nothing more than an IQ Test.

These two players – and others before them and future players to be identified later – miss out on 25% of a season and 25% of their salary for a year because they got caught (or will get caught sometime later) with “stuff” in their bloodstream even though they knew when and where their blood test would happen. Let me be clear; no one from the Nobel Committee is banging on my door to tell me that I am in the running for one of their prizes. Nonetheless, I know for sure that I could avoid a positive test in this sort of a regimen even if I were a regular user of one of the substances on the “substance abuse list”. It really is not all that difficult…

The NFL announced a 10-year partnership agreement with Tottenham Hotspurs last week. The NFL will play two of its London Games at the new Tottenham stadium between 2018 and 2027. The new stadium will have features that the NFL may use to “motivate” current stadium managers to adopt:

    There will be a retractable roof. While this is very important in a place like London where it rains a lot, be assured that the league can point to various “mud games” in many of its existing stadiums and it can appeal to the comfort of the fans paying exorbitant prices for tickets as ways to hint – ever so subtly – that a retractable roof would be a great addition to existing facilities.

    There will be a retractable grass field with an artificial turf field below it. The grass field will be used by the Spurs for their EPL games and any other futball matches that may need to be scheduled there. When the NFL is coming to town, they can move the grass field away and expose the artificial turf underneath so that the NFL game can be played in top notch conditions without tearing up the pitch for the Spurs in their next home game.

Look, if the NFL wants to play 2 games a year in London, I have no problem with that so long as the teams in the league have no problem with that. However, consider these comments from the Mayor of London; the not-even-veiled implications bother me a lot:

“We are already working very closely with the NFL including on plans to get more Londoners involved in the sport … Touchdowns at Tottenham can only add to our reputation at a global sporting powerhouse and help us take another step towards our goal of having a permanent NFL franchise here in London.”

I just got off the train. Having one franchise in London would be a logistical nightmare for the team based there and for teams in its division. That is a bad idea whose time ought never to come. If the NFL is hell-bent to expand to Europe, it needs to have more than one team there. And that statement alone ought to give fans a problem.

    How many teams in the current NFL have rosters that are made up of marginal players? If that is too broad a question for you, then let me be more specific:

      How many of the current 32 teams have marginal QBs?

    If the NFL expands in order to accommodate “foreign market expansion”, that is going to dilute talent all around the league; there is no way to pretend that it will not. It is painful to watch some of the bottom feeders in the league already and expansion to accommodate teams in Europe – and or any other markets – will simply create more teams that make your teeth itch when you watch them.

I wish the NFL and the Tottenham Hotspurs nothing but good fortune and financial windfalls in their 10-year deal. However, I hope that the Mayor of London and the global expansion forces within the NFL – (Hint: Roger Goodell) – find ways to prevent all of this from becoming permanent.

Finally, a word from Scott Ostler in the SF Chronicle:

“I worry about Draymond Green. He says he got to where he is because of his determination to ‘overcome the doubters.’ Now that he has the big contract and universal respect, there are no doubters. Can Draymond overcome the handicap of not having any doubters? I doubt it.”

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

Round One In A Legal Battle…

Yesterday, a Federal Judge ruled against the Washington Redskins and kept in force a decision by the Patent and Trademarks Office saying that the team name is derogatory and therefore cannot be sanctioned under the Lanham Act. One point the Redskins made in their lawsuit was that the Lanham Act was in opposition to the First Amendment since it was a government action that abridged free expression. Obviously, the judge did not buy into that.

Now, it seems to me that the entire concept of a trademark for any business or any entity is an infringement on free expression. The Redskins have used the trademark granted to them by the government to prevent anyone else from using the team name/logo on anything that might benefit that other user without benefiting the Redskins. So, I think that if the Lanham Act is “unconstitutional”, then so are all trademarks. Somehow, I do not think Danny Boy Snyder would like to buy into that proposition.

I have maintained for about 3 decades now that people who wanted the team name changed needed to stop with the “campaign of moral outrage and indignity” and change the venue to “economics”. That is what this struggle does. Should the Skins ultimately lose, it could cost them a lot of revenue and that is very important because the team owner – the one who swore that he would NEVER change the name – owns this team for two reasons:

    Reason 1: It is an ego trip for him to be one of only 32 people on the planet who owns an NFL team.

    Reason 2: The team makes money hand-over-fist.

If somehow the opponents of the name can undermine “Reason 2”, they stand a much greater chance that Danny Boy will change his mind. Oh, and a boycott – which would achieve the same end – is simply not a feasible option. So, this lawsuit is not a frivolous one.

Obviously, this is not over and the Skins will appeal this decision at least one time and the opening of the trademark is held in abeyance until the legal process is finished. Even if the team loses in the end, the Skins can still retain the name if they wish but the Federal trademark protection is what is in dispute here. For the moment, the team name opponents are in the lead…

Recently, Bob Molinaro had this item in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot regarding the reports that Phil Mickelson had ties to someone who was investigated for money laundering associated with illegal gambling:

“Bottom line: For the good of the sport, if not the reputation of Phil Mickelson, shouldn’t the PGA require some sort of statement from Mickelson about the relationship he and his nearly $3 million in gambling money have with the money launderer under federal investigation? Though Mickelson isn’t being investigated, it’s hard to believe any other major sport would allow something this fishy to foul the air with no comment from the player or officials. At any rate, I wonder how the story would be handled by media if Tiger Woods were involved.”

To respond to the last part of that comment, if this were Tiger Woods, the story would be everywhere and would likely cause CNN to treat it as if it were a missing airliner. However, at least one member of the press tried to get Phil Mickelson to comment on the story. Mickelson is in Scotland to play in the Scottish Open and someone brought up the subject. Here is Mickelson’s response:

“People are going to say things good; they are going to say things bad; they are going to say things true; they are going to say things not true. The fact is, I’m comfortable enough with who I am as a person that I don’t feel like I need to comment on every little report that comes out.”

That statement was probably not crafted by his image consultant/PR guru. That statement is an amalgam of:

    1. A non-denial denial – and –

    2. Buzz off!

However, as Professor Molinaro properly observes there has still been no acknowledgement by the folks who run the game that this report ever appeared anywhere. I would have expected at least the standard ploy of:

    “We are looking into this matter but cannot comment on it because there is an ongoing investigation and we have to say this because we do not have the faintest idea what is going on and our fervent wish is that it would dry up and blow away.”

Sometimes, I just like to look over the MLB standings to see if anything jumps out of the numbers. When I looked yesterday, I saw that the Oakland A’s are in last place in the AL West and that the A’s had the worst record in the AL. Of course with the Moneyball geniuses in charge there, I would never have thought that possible. But it is even worse than that…

The A’s have outscored their opponents by 50 runs this year. According to advanced stats, that should put them well over .500. In fact, the Royals have outscored their opponents by 56 runs this year and the Royals are 12.5 games better than the A’s this season. How does this happen?

    It cannot be “clubhouse chemistry” because Moneyball does not admit such a thing exists.

    It cannot be “market inefficiency” because Moneyball identifies such inefficiency and exploits it.

As of yesterday, the A’s were 7-21 in games decided by 1 run. That might explain the record and the unusual run differential total but to look at that 7-21 record, one would likely conclude that the A’s were “gagging”. But that is not allowed because there is no sabermetric stat for it – yet.

Finally, here is some insightful analysis from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald:

“ESPN ‘Body’ issue: It’s out in the magazine and online, ESPN’s annual gratuitous platform allowing naturally narcissistic athletes to be even more narcissistic by showing us that their wonderful athleticism is a tribute to their even more wonderful bodies.”

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

Back And Forth And Back Again…

Today marks my 49th wedding anniversary. Today also the day of the year when my long-suffering wife looks in the mirror and asks the person looking back at her:

    What the Hell were you thinking?

Yes, we are already contemplating how to celebrate our 50th anniversary next year…

There seems to be a fluttering in the baseball world this week – it does not even rise to the level of a kerfuffle in my mind – about Bryce Harper’s decision not to participate in the Home Run Derby this year. For reasons that escape me, Harper is taking heat for his decision. To everyone who is voicing even the slightest disagreement with Harper on this issue, I would like to say:

    Just shut up!

In the first place, the Home Run Derby is an invitational event. Every player on every team does not have the ability to just show up and participate. Now, by definition, an invitation is something that can be either accepted or declined. An invitation is not a commitment or an obligation; the element of individual choice exists in every invitation. And, Bryce Harper has chosen to decline that invitation. There is really no reason to get your blood pressure up by even a single millimeter of mercury.

I heard one caller on a local sports radio show – remember I live in the DC area where Harper plays all the time – who said that Harper’s absence would “diminish the importance of the Home Run Derby”.

    Memo to Hyper-Fan: I am not sure it is possible to diminish the importance of an event that is as meaningless and trivial as the Home Run Derby. Please adjust your medication levels…

In another bit of news related to the MLB All-Star Game, the rosters were announced this week and people immediately began saying that A-Rod was “snubbed”. Look, if he had made the team, that would mean that someone else would be off the squad and that could just as well indicate that the other guy was “snubbed”. Can we please put an end to the nonsense of “snubbing” when it comes to All-Star Games or slots in the NCAA Tournament? If the selection process allows for “judgment” and “discretion” there are always going to be decisions that some folks will disagree with. Leave it at that.

Since the calendar says that we are in the month of July, it is time for the Tour de France – one of the least compelling sporting events put on television ranking right down there with bass fishing and synchronized snoring. Here is an overview comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald that addresses an issue not commonly contemplated regarding the race:

“Tour de France gets underway: Still going despite all of its various doping scandals, the latest Tour de Fraud France has begun. It must be so difficult for those cyclists to peddle up mountains while simultaneously providing urine samples.”

The qualifying rounds for soccer in the 2016 Olympics are underway. In the early stages of international qualifying, there are often outrageous mismatches because every country with an Olympic Committee can enter a team in a qualifying round. Often you see startling scores when a soccer powerhouse – say Germany – has a qualifying match against a cupcake – say San Marino. This week, there was an even more startling result.

The reason it is so startling is that the winner of the game was Vanuatu – a national team that should never be confused with a “soccer powerhouse”. In this qualifying match, Vanuatu beat Micronesia by a score of 46-0. That is not a typo; the score was 24-0 at the half. One player on the Vanuatu side scored 16 goals in the game.

Micronesia is just beginning to assemble a national team and to say they are having growing pains would be a monumental understatement. Prior to the debacle against Vanuatu, Micronesia had lost games to Tahiti (30-0) and to Fiji (38-0). I will go out on a limb and guess that Micronesia will not be in the Olympics next year. I wonder if Vanuatu, Fiji or Tahiti will make the grade…

The important data/stats from the Women’s World Cup tournament – the ones that involve money, TV ratings and fan interest – are in and they show that the sport is more than merely healthy. Consider:

    Total attendance: 1,353,506 (largest for a FIFA event other than a World Cup)

    Matches with 50,000+ in attendance: 7

    TV Ratings: CTV and FOX had highest ratings for a soccer match ever.

    FIFA website devoted to Women’s World Cup had 20 million unique visits.

    FIFA You Tube had more hits than same channel did for Brazil’s World Cup.

Women’s soccer did better on TV and online than men’s soccer did last year during the World Cup in Brazil. The important “business question” would seem to be whether that kind of interest can be sustained in the years when there is no international competition like the World Cup or the Olympics. I am not talking here only about in the US; countries like France and Japan and Australia and China also set TV viewing records for the games in Canada so it will be interesting to see how that surge of interest carries over into the sport of women’s soccer during “normal times”.

There were more than 20 million folks tuned into the USA/Japan final game last weekend. There is a professional women’s soccer league here in the US – the National Women’s Soccer League – and the players people watched last weekend play regularly in that league. The question now is how the league and the TV networks move to leverage the interest shown in the World Cup games – and particularly the final game – into something that can sustainably grow in the US sporting landscape. The league has a TV deal with FOX to televise a few games for the rest of this season and to televise the playoffs later this year. The next few months are very important for the future economic status of women’s soccer here in the US.

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

“Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are no longer an item.
“So No. 1 on the list of Golf’s Famous Couples is once again Fred.”

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

Fallout From July 4th…

Jason Pierre-Paul injured his hand – the extent of the injury is unknown at the moment – in a July 4th accident involving fireworks. He has a franchise tag offer from the Giants on the table worth a guaranteed $14.2M this year but has yet to sign it saying that what he wants is a long-term deal. In actuality, what he really wants is a “long-term deal with more than $14.2M of that deal guaranteed”. But let’s not quibble…

Talking heads on sports radio and ESPN pondered the situation and wondered if the Giants might pull their franchise tag offer – but that would make JP-P a free agent. Some wondered if the hand injury would inhibit his ability to sign the proffered contract prior to the deadline for such a signature. CBSSports.com reports that the Giants’ offer of a $60M long-term deal has been taken off the table for the moment. Jason Whitlock and Michael Wilbon on PTI wondered aloud what kind of poor judgment it would take for an unsigned football star to take a chance playing with fireworks when the contract is still unsigned. All of that is well and good, but let us put this in perspective:

    What Jason Pierre-Paul did was careless, reckless and thoughtless.

    He has an “injury” but not the loss of a limb or a hand.

    Compare his degree of stupidity with the guy described in this link. By comparison, Jason Pierre-Paul looks like a Nobel Laureate.

A former colleague chastised me in an e-mail yesterday afternoon for failure to heap sufficient praise on the US Women’s National Team for winning the World Cup tournament. She said that I would have been “rhapsodic” (her word) had it been the men’s team that won the World Cup. She is right on both counts:

    1. The men’s team winning the World Cup would be such an unexpected outcome that I and many other sports chroniclers around the world would be scanning the thesaurus for words to describe what had happened. The US women on the other hand were short odds to win it all before the tournament even began.

    2. The US women’s Team dominated the Japanese with their offensive attack and dominated other opponents with a smothering defense that did not allow a goal for about 540 consecutive minutes of World Cup play. They did not win the World Cup on penalty kicks; they won it by dominating their opponents.

Ergo, in order to try to close the “rhapsodic gap” suggested by my former colleague, allow me to try to give the US Women’s Team an honorific name. Perhaps we should refer to them as:

    The Girls of Summer.

While I am in the arena of rhetoric and rhapsody, allow me to pose a rhetorical question for NY Knick fans. The Knicks thus far have come up rather dry in the NBA free agency dance and that made me think about the Knicks of the past. So…

    Who was the worse Knicks big-man signing in free agency?

    Eddy Curry or Jerome James?

Last week, David Blatt (titular coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers) was visiting Israel and spoke to a group of businessmen. He obviously got caught up in the moment and guaranteed his audience there that the Cavaliers would win the NBA Championship next year and he likened LeBron James to Moses leading the team to the Promised Land. Look, I am no Biblical scholar and am not about to try to pass myself off as one, but my recollection is that this metaphor is contradictory.

    If LeBron is Moses, then the Cavaliers are doomed to 40 years of wandering in the desert and are not going to get to the Promised Land so long as Moses – er, LeBron – is around.

I think there is a much more fundamental question on the table here:

    Even if it comes to pass that the Cavaliers win the NBA title next year, will David Blatt be the coach of the team when that happens?

Reports last night said that the FIFA Ethics Committee (an oxymorn to be sure) had banned Harold Mayne-Nicholls – the former major domo for Chilean soccer – from any soccer involvement for 7 years. Mayne-Nicholls was the guy who was supposed to “inspect” the bids for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments that were awarded to Russia and to Qatar. FIFA gave no specific reasons for the ban but we do know that Mayne-Nicholls led FIFA delegations to all of the countries who were bidding for the 2018 tournament and the 2022 tournament. His “technical report” on all of the bids supposedly questioned the sanity of putting the games in Qatar due to the climate problems in the summertime and the logistical problems of holding all of the events in a single city.

From that limited information, perhaps he was banned from any national or international involvement with soccer for 7 years because he was too candid?

Finally, here is an item from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald:

“Denver Bronco Von Miller reveals he’s been fined for breaking wind at team meetings. He tried to claim Tom Brady let the air out of him.”

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