The Pro Football Hall Of Fame…

I ran across a report enumerating the 100+ Finalists on the list this year for election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and that list caused me to stop and think about the election processes there. Be assured, I am not part of the Committee that will cut that list down the 18 players on whom the Committee will actually vote nor will I be part of the final winnowing process. If I were part of that process, I would probably understand why one of the players on the list this year for the first time was a long-snapper.

I watch a lot of football; I think I understand a bit about the game. I have to say, however, that it never occurred to me until last week to think of long-snappers in terms of a hierarchy or in terms of them being sufficiently outstanding at their craft to be worth Hall of Fame deliberations. This year, Ethan Albright will be part of those deliberations. For those of you who do not recognize the name, Albright played from 1995 through 2010 and holds the record for most consecutive games played by any long-snapper at 224 games.

The outline for the Selection Process – and the identities of the 46 members of the Selection Committee – are here on the Pro Football Hall of Fame website. I find one part of that document particularly interesting:

“Any fan may nominate any qualified person who has been connected with pro football in any capacity simply by writing to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The only restriction is that a player and coach must have last played or coached at least five seasons before he can be considered. For example, a candidate for the 2015 class must have concluded his career not later than the 2009 season.”

I was not aware that I could nominate anyone for the Pro Football Hall of Fame – or that Freddy Fanboy could either. My guess is that you did not know that until now; armed with this knowledge, you may choose to exercise your newly-found empowerment in future years…

A few of the first-timers on the list of 100+ folks under consideration this year include – in addition to Ethan Albright – Brett Favre, Terrell Owens and Darren Sharper. I will find it interesting to see the fate of these players in the voting this year and in future years because their fates will speak directly to the issue of “on-field performance” versus “whole person factors” when it comes to enshrinement in Canton.

    Brett Favre: No one can doubt that his performance on the field mandates his inclusion in the Hall of Fame. His late-career “Hamlet portrayals” regarding his retirement might not have sat well with some of the members on the committee and it takes an 80% positive vote of the Committee Members present and voting to get in.

    Terrell Owens: Again, no argument regarding his stats… However, he was not always a great teammate nor was he always cooperative with the “ink-stained wretches” who covered the NFL and/or the teams he was on.

    Darren Sharper: His 14-year career included 6 All-Pro selections and a place on the All-Decade Team for 2000-2009. However, he has also plead guilty to being a serial rapist in several different states.

Next February, the Super Bowl game will take place in Levi’s Stadium – the new playpen for the SF 49ers – in Santa Clara, CA. Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle had this advice for folks living in the Bay Area:

“Get ready for the Goodell, the bad and the ugly.”

With regard to “the ugly” here, I have not seen any reports yet regarding the artiste who will provide the halftime entertainment for that spectacle. Since I find all of the halftime acts irrelevant at best and lame all of the time, here is a suggestion for a spectacle I would watch:

    February 2016 will see the Presidential primary races in full gear in both parties. Invite all of the candidates who dare to speak to the 100 million folks watching for 5 minutes – with the proviso that the mouthbreathers on the field who get access to the field by a lottery process – will all be carrying rotten fruits and veggies.

    It is one thing to talk tough about what you will do as President; it would be another to agree to that kind of potential confrontation.

The Niners’ fans who attend games in Levi’s Stadium seem hell-bent to replace Raiders’ fans and Eagles’ fans as the hands-down leaders in the clubhouse when it comes to boorish antisocial behavior. There have been a series of beat-down incidents at Niners games in the past year or so where the recipient of the beating merely committed the sin of wearing a jersey of a team other than the Niners. It has gotten to the point where the Santa Clara City Council is considering stopping the sale of alcohol at halftime of Niners’ games.

I understand that drunken fans in large numbers morph quickly into a mob and mobs do things that individuals – sober or inebriated – would think twice about doing. Nonetheless, stopping beer sales at halftime is a relatively impotent response to the problem. I have never been to a Niners game – in any of their current or previous venues – so what I am about to say here applies to their fans only as an extension of what I have seen elsewhere:

    After 3 to 6 hours of tailgating prior to a game – often with beer companies having tents in the area where one can purchase extra beer if one’s own supplies run out – at least 30% of the people who enter the stadium prior to kickoff would not be able to operate a motor vehicle legally. Moreover, what a large fraction of those folks who are already “half-lit or worse” do the minute they clear the ticket scanning site is to get in line to buy more beer – and not just one.

The teams – and the owners of the concession rights – make a lot of money selling beer at NFL games. Cutting fans off at halftime will diminish the flow of a revenue stream but it is not likely to assure sobriety at the end of a game. To make a real difference here, teams and venues would need to add a breathalyzer test to the metal detectors as screening devices to determine who can and who cannot enter the stadium in the first place.

Finally, here is a comment from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times that is appropriate in terms of the upcoming Pro Football Hall of Fame selections:

“One thing to be thankful for: Selfie sticks hadn’t yet been invented when Terrell Owens and Deion Sanders were choreographing their end-zone celebrations.”

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

QBs And The Law Of Supply And Demand…

There is still time for another NFL set of weekend games in the month of September; it is not even BYE Week time yet. Nevertheless, we can already see how thin the supply of NFL caliber QBs is. Consider the following situations:

    Dallas Cowboys: They will have to do without Tony Romo for about 8 weeks. The only other QB on their roster as of Tuesday morning was Brandon Weeden. They will get to go shopping on the Free Agent Quarterback Market.

    Chicago Bears: Jay Cutler has a hamstring injury that will keep him out a “couple of weeks”. The QBs on the roster now are Jimmy Claussen and David Fales – a 6th round pick from San Jose St. who is on the practice squad.

    Philly Eagles: Sam Bradford has looked horrible and horribly confused in two starts this year. Behind him is Mark Sanchez who will consider the label of journeyman as his next career achievement.

    NY Giants: Eli Manning has played poorly – physically and mentally – at the end of the first two games this year. Behind him is Ryan Nassib – meaning that Eli’s job is perfectly safe.

    New Orleans Saints: Drew Brees says he has a sore shoulder. Luke McCown might get his wish from the Verizon ads and get to show how good he can be – or not. Behind those two is Garrett Grayson whose claim to fame is that he is Colorado State’s all-time leading passer – ahead of Kelly Stouffer.

Not only are those situations dire, but consider what might happen to teams with really good QBs should the injury bug strike:

    Denver would put Brock Osweiler under center.

    New England would go with Jimmy Garappolo.

    Indy would turn to Matt Hasselbeck.

    Green Bay would hand the reins to Scott Tolzien or Brett Hundley.

    Atlanta would start Sean Renfree – a 7th round pick from Duke.

    Arizona would relive last year’s nightmare with Drew Stanton and/or Matt Barkley.

The QB Free Agent Market has commodities such as:

    Jason Campbell

    Rex Grossman – he was actually in the Falcons’ camp this year.

    Matt Flynn

    Kyle Orton

    Christian Ponder

    John Skelton – – and of course – –

    Tim Tebow.

In case you get upset the next time you read about a contract for a “better-than-average NFL QB” and think that the team must be out of its mind, think about the Law of Supply and Demand from when you took Econ 101. The demand is fixed at 32 starters and 32 – 48 backups. The current supply is far less than that plus the colleges are not turning out “NFL-ready” QBs at more than about 1 per year – sometimes 2 – maybe.

I mentioned Brock Osweiler above and I think he is in an interesting situation in Denver. He is behind Peyton Manning there and is not likely to get a lot of time on the field this year absent an injury situation. Nonetheless, Osweiler’s rookie contract will expire at the end of the 2015 season and he will be an unrestricted free agent at age 25 – unless someone in Denver takes total leave of his/her senses and makes Osweiler their franchise player. As of today, Osweiler has been in the NFL for 3 years plus 2 games; in that time he has hit the field in 13 games all as a substitute. He has thrown 30 passes completing 17 of them for 159 yards. He is not much of a runner; in 19 rushing attempts, he has a net of minus-11 yards.

So, you are the GM of an NFL franchise and you need either a starting QB or a competent backup. Over the winter Brock Osweiler’s name goes on the list that has those seven players above – plus plenty of others of even less renown.

    Would you make Osweiler an offer? For what kind of job and at what salary level?

    Do you have any reason to believe he can or cannot play adequately in the NFL? After all, it has been a long time since those tapes of his games at Arizona St. that you can watch.

    Do you look at what he has done in exhibition games and put credence in whatever he did there?

The supermarket shelves are bare and there is no reason to believe a truckload of new QBs will be arriving anytime soon. The shelves may be bare but no one has found a way to repeal that damned Law of Supply and Demand. This is an interesting time to be an NFL GM…

Have you noticed the new team jackets that coaches are wearing on the sidelines this year? Is that a zipper up the back of the jacket to the neck? Is that a zipper pocket on the sleeve for carrying one’s smartphone – which you are not supposed to use on the sidelines? Is this all some kind of new fashion design initiative by the league?

Here is an idea for another NFL extravaganza:

    Introduce the new coaches’ attire in a fashion show format and have all the coaches “walk the runway” to show off the designs and the new colors.

    Hey, it would provide some programming time for NFL Network and it does not take a genius to realize that they need the content.

    Sheesh…!

Finally, here is an item from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald demonstrating that some football coaches may indeed be from another galaxy:

“A football assistant coach at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, took a high-voltage shot from a Taser gun last week in a morale-boosting stunt to increase team unity. It worked, as afterward players unanimously agreed the coach was an idiot.”

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

NFL Opening Week Excess…

If you are anything like me, you look forward to the first week of the NFL season simply because the NFL starts its season with – no surprise here – excess. There is a Thursday Night game; then, I can see the standard 3 games on Sunday followed by a Sunday Night game; and of course, the opening weekend has to culminate with a Monday Night Football doubleheader. It does not take a calculator to recognize that makes 7 games on TV for the opening weekend meaning that I can get a look at 14 of the 32 teams in the league right out of the gate. Trust me, I do not want the NFL to think about trimming that excess even a little bit.

Having said that, I do have a quibble with the presentation of the late Monday Night Football telecast. Regular readers here know that my fondest wish is for Jon Gruden to get an offer to come back and coach in the NFL that is so outlandish that he cannot turn it down. Most folks seem to love Gruden on MNF; I do not; I recognize that I must be in the minority here. However, looking back on the first Monday night extravaganza, the announcing booth for the second game was Chris Berman and Trent Dilfer. Oh, my …

Chris Berman is very good as a studio host/analyst. He is a big persona and he is clever; he knows how to draw out the folks he is working with and does it seamlessly; in that setting he does an excellent job just about every week. Nevertheless, doing play-by-play is not his milieu. If you are of a certain age, you can play this in your imagination:

    Think of listening to Howard Cosell doing play-by-play for a 3-hour sporting event. How long might it take you to realize that – whether you loved him or hated him as a color analyst – doing play-by-play was not his long suit?

However, that only begins my problem with the decision makers at ESPN. Like Chris Berman, Trent Dilfer is perfectly acceptable as a studio analyst. Listening to him for 3 hours doing live color analysis definitely makes my teeth itch. There has to be someone in ESPN’s employ who can cover that assignment next year, right? Here is how bad I think it was:

    By the third quarter of the second game, I was hoping that Jon Gruden would appear in the booth having used the “Beam-me-up, Scotty-Machine” from Star Trek to finish the game.

    For a fleeting moment in the second half, I actually thought it might be acceptable to have Joe Theismann make a comeback on MNF. Shudder…

The opening weekend of the NFL season generated what seems to be a brief squall of controversy regarding the fidelity of the headset communications in the Pats/Steelers game. We know now that the equipment is provided by the NFL and not by the teams and we know now that the NFL will investigate the problem with the goal of resolving it. Swell… Lost in all of this, seemingly, is a relatively simple way to analyze the problem and resolve it:

    Major college football programs play in front of crowds as large as – and often larger than – the crowds at NFL stadiums. They have TV and radio coverage often from multiple outlets going on simultaneously. In the games I get to watch, all of the coaches on both sides of all the fields are using headsets to communicate with whomever they want and it seems as if problems are few and far between. When was the last time in a major college game that you saw the referees stop the clock and go tell one of the teams to take off their headsets because the ones on the other side of the field were not working?

Somehow, in virtually the same environment, the communications systems and protocols work at the collegiate level but the NFL cannot find a way to duplicate that. Seriously, does that make even a little sense to you?

Now ask yourself this question:

    How long will it be until the person(s) involved in the NFL “investigation” of this problem check out how this matter is handled at Michigan or Ohio State or Alabama or LSU or … ?

You may recall that there was drama surrounding the injury that RG3 suffered in the exhibition season and when he might be cleared to play again. [Aside: This involved RG3 and the Skins so drama is not surprising. Both he and the organization could find a way to add drama to an afternoon nap.] However, the dramatic situation went over the top even for those actors.

First, RG3 did not have a concussion and was cleared to play; the next day, the diagnosis was a concussion and he could neither play nor practice. That twist only set the stage for the physician involved here, Dr. Robert Kurtzke, to resign his position as one of the folks involved with the NFL and the NFLPA as an independent neurologist tasked with assessing players with head injuries. The use of independent medical consultants/evaluators is one of the means by which the league and the players union have addressed the issue of player safety. Team physicians in the employ of the individual clubs no longer make unilateral and unchallenged decisions on injury matters – particularly head injury matters. As best I can piece together the sequence of what happened here:

    RG3 was injured in an exhibition game against the Lions and from the team statements he had a concussion and then he did not have a concussion.

    Then the story was that he had a concussion but it was not severe and he was still going to be the starting QB.

    At a subsequent practice, a reporter asked RG3 if he had a concussion and RG3 declined to answer that question.

    The team announced that RG3 would start the next exhibition game – – and then the next day the team had to report that Dr. Kurtzke had never cleared RG3 to play.

If RG3 had a head injury of any kind and Dr. Kurtzke was to be the medical professional in charge of the evaluation of that injury, there is exactly no reason for the team or the coach to say even a word about the situation. RG3 can say whatever he wants about it because he is the patient and he can express his understanding of his situation however and whenever he wants to. Nevertheless, the loudest voice in the choir here has to be Dr. Kurtzke’s and his voice has to be tempered by doctor/patient confidentiality.

So, Dr. Kurtzke found himself in the midst of a situation where the team had a player practicing – and presumably ready to play in the next exhibition game – that he had not completed treating/evaluating. Coaches and team officials were making public pronouncements about the matter that he was nominally in charge of. Given that he has to have been an acceptable choice to both the NFL and the NFLPA, he must be a competent and recognized professional in his field which means that he does not need the drama and the potential to be caught in the crossfires created by said drama. No wonder he resigned from the independent evaluation program…

Finally, Gregg Drinnan in Keeping Score at newskamloops.com posed this question:

“With all of the money that Major League Baseballers make what’s with so many scraggly beards and bad haircuts?”

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

Enter The Attorney General Of Massachusetts…

Let me set the stage here for a moment. Last week, I saw reports that the Attorney General of Massachusetts, Maura Healey, is looking into the legality under Massachusetts law of daily fantasy sports sites such as DraftKings and Fan Duel. It is important for me to state why I am interested in this review/investigation/whatever:

    1. I do not play daily fantasy sports or any other kind of fantasy sports. That is not because I am opposed to them; I simply do not find them interesting or engaging.

    2. I am most assuredly not opposed to gambling and I am totally convinced that playing any fantasy sport system is a form of gambling as long as money changes hands.

    3. I believe that daily fantasy sports should be treated under the law exactly the same way poker and/or wagering on the outcome of individual sports games are treated under the law.

    4. I have indeed grown immensely tired of the non-stop ads touting both DraftKings and Fan Duel to the point that I want the ad agencies that produce them to burn to the ground.

Attorney General Healey is an elected official in Massachusetts and she campaigned in part on holding the gambling industry accountable and on assuring that any expansion of gambling in Massachusetts would comply with state law. Even if I ascribe the normal “bulls[p]it factor” to that kind of campaign rhetoric, it is difficult to find fault with the idea of making an industry comply with existing law.

It turns out that DraftKings is a Massachusetts company and that opens the door for Attorney General Healey and her minions to do their review/investigation. Some of the things that might be ripe for review are:

    Does the website block minors from participation?

    Does the website block players from other states where their participation would be illegal? [Aside: About a year ago, I was told by a friend who is an attorney that all fantasy sports are considered illegal in Arizona, Louisiana and Washington. I have not verified that statement because I do not know how to do so.]

    Do the daily/weekly fantasy leagues there represent a form of activity that is legal gambling or illegal gambling under Massachusetts law?

I am not an attorney – let alone an Attorney General – so there are likely a dozen other areas that could be reviewed/investigated here. I find the third one on the list to be the interesting one. As I understand it, the legal standard for “gambling” is threefold:

    1. Something of value must be at risk i.e. the player must put up an entry fee or a stake to play the game.

    2. The winner(s) must receive something of value at the end of the game i.e. a prize.

    3. The act of winning must involve chance/luck and not skill.

Under Federal Law – passed in 2006 – fantasy sports conducted over the Internet are deemed to be legal while things like poker or wagering on individual sporting events are deemed to be illegal. It seems to me that fantasy sports ought to be treated in exactly the same way that poker and wagering on individual games are treated. I believe it takes skill to win at fantasy sports just as it takes skill to win at poker or to “come out ahead” when picking winners in individual sporting events. Compare those activities with something like the Powerball lottery which involves no skill and only chance/luck.

[Aside: Here is a test of my assertion of fantasy sports involving skill and not chance. Collect from the websites the names of the winners. If certain people win “every week” while others “never win” that might indicate something more than a chance occurrence is involved in the winning.]

Obviously, I am not going to presume to predict the outcome of Attorney General Healey’s actions. In fact, I am not even going to try to presume what vector heading the investigation/review might take. I do applaud her action here and hope that it provides some clarity around the question of fantasy sports as a form of gambling.

Above, I suggested that the ad agencies that put all those commercials on TV about Daily Fantasy Leagues should burn to the ground. I am not inciting to violence here; I am simply expressing a personal opinion just as I also hope that each and every person who has ever been involved with producing such an ad would suffer at least two of the ten Biblical plagues that visited the Pharaoh in Egypt. Just to show that I am a sporting person, I would allow those two plagues for each person to be selected at random by said person…

Switching gears, Tiger Woods announced last week that he had undergone a surgical procedure on his back and that he would not be playing in any more tournaments in 2015. His intent is to return to the PGA Tour in 2016. He and the physicians involved pronounced the surgery as successful. When I read those reports, I started to think about this:

    When was the last time a professional athlete underwent surgery that the doctors pronounced as unsuccessful?

It took me a moment, but I do recall back in the 1960s that the KC Chiefs had a running back named Mack Lee Hill who was injured in a game and required knee surgery. He died on the operating table – I do not recall what went wrong – but he never came out of knee surgery. Obviously, I would categorize that as an “unsuccessful surgery”; however, I cannot think of any others.

Finally, speaking of knee injuries, here is an item from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times:

“NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin tore an anterior cruciate ligament while playing basketball.

“Doctors advised him to stick to safer pursuits — such as driving a stock car 220 miles an hour.”

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

Managing Expectations…

Managing expectations is a good thing to practice. If a team starts off training camp with the coach and/or the star QB telling everyone in the world that this is a Super Bowl participant at the very least, anything short of that will be disappointing to fans of that team. On the other hand, if the coach and/or the star QB recognizes that this is likely to be a very good team but tells everyone that the goal for the year is to win their division to get a good slot in the playoffs, every misstep along the way will not be cataclysmic to the fanbase.

Today’s example of managing expectations comes from NY Knicks’ guard, José Calderon who had his season cut short last year by a couple of leg injuries. The Knicks were a tire fire last year posting a record of 17-65. Calderon has rehabbed his injuries and is looking forward to the start of training camp; moreover, he demonstrated a fundamental understanding of managing expectations with this comment:

“We’ll win more than 17 games and we’ll try to win every game. I’m real excited we can do great things, but talking about the playoffs, it’s too early. You don’t talk playoffs a few weeks before training camp.”

Saying the Knicks will win more than 17 games this year does not exactly set the bar in the stratosphere, but it might prevent the Knicks’ fans from going ‘round the bend as the euphoria of training camp starts to pervade the airspace.

In MLB, they will celebrate the 20th anniversary of interleague play next year. I am not alone in thinking that interleague play has lost a lot of its luster and attractiveness from 20 years ago. There are two factors at work here:

    1. The novelty has worn off.

    2. With the advent of two leagues each with an odd number of teams, interleague play is a necessity from Opening Day until the final game of the season in October. What used to be an “event” has now become merely an “occurrence”.

There is nothing to be done about #1 above. The only way to reverse the trend of having at least one interleague game every day of the season is to put an even number of teams in each league. That is not impossible – but it is not something to be done just by snapping one’s fingers.

I said before I wanted Toronto in the World Series in November so that there might be a snow-out for one of the games. (Yes, I know; I said there would have to be a roof malfunction in Toronto to make this happen.) Baseball should be over before November. Now that I look at the standings, I think I want to see the Mets play the Blue Jays in the World Series. Here is why:

    This would feature both Yeonis Cespedes and Josh Donaldson.

    Both of these players were deemed to be expendable/replaceable by the Moneyball guru who runs the Oakland A’s.

    Any bets he will not be one of the studio guest commentators on MLB Network if that happens?

Here is a stat I ran across over the weekend:

    From the time the Mets acquired Cespedes, their average scoring has increased by 2.6 runs per game.

I have not gone back and tried to verify that number; I accept it as true and I recognize that is a huge increase. That acquisition by the Mets near the trade deadline may be one of the great deadline trade moves ever.

Having said that, I do wonder about Cespedes in the following sense:

    Cespedes will be 30 years old next month. He has been in MLB for 3 full seasons plus this current partial season and is clearly a good offensive player. His career batting average is .272 and he has a career OPS of .810. He has hit 105 HRs and driven in 365 runs in just under 4 full seasons. Moreover, he is a good defensive outfielder who can play all three positions if need be.

    Nonetheless, in less than 4 full seasons in MLB, Cespedes has been traded 3 times. He went from Oakland to Boston for 51 games in 2014. Boston sent him to Detroit over the winter and he started 2015 with the Tigers before the Mets acquired him in August.

    Why has a player who is good on the field been traded so often?

Speaking of baseball personnel moves, when the Marlins fire manager Dan Jennings at the end of this season and replace him with Joe Flabeetz, good ol’ Joe will be the 8th manager of the Marlins since 2010. Jeffrey Loria down in Miami has moved himself squarely into Danny Boy Snyder territory.

    Memo to Jeffrey Loria: That is not a place you want to be…

Speaking of Snyder, you should be glad you do not live in the DC area so that you will not have to watch all of the Skins’ games on TV this year. Their home opener was on last weekend and here is what I saw:

    Remember the totally fictional season ticket waiting list of 100,000 fans that Snyder and his minions claimed to have? Well Sunday you could see clearly that the upper rows all around FedEx field were blocked off; they did not use tarps as they do in Jax, but they did have highly colored barricades to close off and conceal large areas of the seats. My guess is that about 15,000 seats are “under wraps”.

    Attendance was announced as tad over 76,000. Two points about that:

      1. At least 15,000 and maybe 20,000 of those folks were wearing Miami colors and not Washington colors. Even the announcers commented that the Dolphins fans had “traveled well”.

      2. Lots of those fans must have been at the concession stands for much of the game because there were plenty of empty seats visible from start to finish.

    The folks in charge of the CBS telecast of the game showed close-up shots of RG3 at least 25 times. RG3 was not only the #3 QB on the depth chart that day but he was INACTVE and not wearing a uniform. The third string QBs on all of the other 31 teams combined will not get that many close-up shots over the entire season. The Skins’ QB mess is a goat rodeo at best; the guys in the TV trucks are going to milk that QB situation for all it is worth all season long.

Finally, here is what I hope is the final commentary on Deflategate for a while from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“A Dunkin’ Donuts in Maine has offered Richard Berman, the judge in the Tom Brady case, free coffee for life.

If he accepts it, of course, that’s grounds for appeal.”

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

Sports Media Stuff Today…

I really like college football so please do not take what I am about to say as a knock on the game because it is not. The fact is that attendance at college football games is dropping. On the opening week of this college football season, consider that UNC took on South Carolina in a game in Charlotte. Yes, it was a neutral field but it was not a huge schlep for fans of either school. I have made the drive from the Research Triangle area to Charlotte several times and it can easily be done in 2.5 hours. I have not made the drive from Columbia SC to Charlotte but a glance at a map tells me that it ought to take about 3.5 hours – give or take a few moments. In that circumstance, there were a lot of empty seats in the stadium.

Similarly on opening day, Alabama played Wisconsin in Arlington, TX. In that situation, I can understand the argument that the site of the game is a major travel event for both schools. Nonetheless, there were lots of tix available for that game up until the day of the game on the ticket resale sites and watching the game had to tell you that more than a few of those tix on the resale sites did not make it to the hands of consumers.

Last year – at the end of the college season – CBSSports.com reported that attendance at college football games dropped to the lowest average in 14 years. Their report came before the bowl games happened so they were not including the bowl games where stands struggled to be 30% full. Division 1-A teams averaged about 43.5K fans per game representing a 4% drop from 2013. If you want all the data that went into that CBSSports.com report, you can find it here.

I think there are two forces at work driving down attendance:

    Television deals: Perhaps UNC and South Carolina would have chosen to play in Charlotte on their own but TV networks want games in signature places and there was big TV money if the game happened in Charlotte. There is no way Alabama and Wisconsin choose to play in “North Texas” to start their seasons without TV money as the lure.

    On top of those two games, every conference now has its own TV deal – and some conferences have their own networks. That means a fan can find just about any major college football game on a TV channel somewhere. Put that fact alongside another fact – tickets to college football games are not “ten or twenty bucks” – and you have a formula to get some fans to choose to stay home instead of going to the stadium.

    Millennials: This is not going to be an old-guy rant about young whippersnappers who do not enjoy what I used to enjoy. This is an observation that is made by people across the age spectrum. Millennials do not like to sit still and do one thing exclusively for about 3 hours. If you are in a stadium full of rabid fans and boosters, it might be difficult – or at least distracting – to texting or posting shots on Facebook or listening to some tunes or playing Angry Birds. All of those ancillary activities are much more easily done away from a stadium packed cheek to jowl with screaming football fans.

    If you think I am exaggerating here, consider that more than a couple of schools are investing a lot of money to upgrade the capacity and the speed of the Wi-Fi system/cell phone coverage in their stadiums. They are not doing that for the comfort and convenience of the guys in the press box; they are doing that to accommodate people who come to the games and are not interested merely in watching what is going on down on the field.

In last week’s Sports Illustrated, here is an item from the Scorecard section:

“Attendance at college football games has remained relatively flat since 2009 but the average has dropped 7.1% among students according to a 2014 WSJ study. So many students show up late or leave early – or both – that in 2013 one coach publically prodded ticket holders to arrive on time and stay for the duration. That coach? Nick Saban at Alabama.”

So long as TV networks can sell ads for college football, the system in place can stabilize. But there are economic threats to TV networks too and if advertisers ever get the idea that too many folks are watching games on TV but skipping through the commercials, the amount they will be willing to pay for ad space will go down. That will be an economic blow to college football that will be seismic – because major programs have become addicted to TV money.

So, later this year when you see that two MAC teams will be playing a game on a Tuesday nite in cold weather at one of the MAC venues, tune in and check the stands. If they are 25% full, consider that it must be a big game in the MAC. At the same time, file away in the back of your head that the sponsors of that telecast are worrying about the fundamental interest in that game. They do not see “interest” in the number of fannies in the seats.

When ESPN and Colin Cowherd parted company, it left ESPN Radio with a 3-hour hole to fill in the late-morning/noontime slot. Cowherd took over that time slot from Tony Kornheiser back when TK went to do MNF and while Cowherd can be repetitious at times and definitely trolls listeners to generate controversies, he was a solid presence in that time slot. The new inhabitant will be Dan LeBetard whose program used to be in drive time and that is not a good time for national network programming. [Aside: If you have not heard, you can pick up Colin Cowherd on Fox Sports Radio these days.]

Generally, I like LeBetard but he has the same proclivity that Tony Kornheiser had for doing/saying things on the air that can run crosswise with the suits at ESPN HQs in Bristol. I will tune in to hear if he has “toned down” his act any now that he is in a bigger time slot.

Finally, there have been reports that the NBA is considering putting small sponsor logos on the fronts of team uniforms in the future to add new revenue streams to the teams and the league. Estimates of the size of the new revenue streams vary widely but any increase is better than no increase. Here is what I want to see:

    I want to see the logo for Oscar Meyer Hot Dogs on a team jersey worn by Nick Young.

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

RIP Moses Malone And Darryl Dawkins

Moses Malone died over the weekend. A couple of weeks ago, Darryl Dawkins died. The last couple of weeks have not been kind to former centers for the Philadelphia 76ers. If I were Harvey Catchings, I would schedule an appointment for a check-up.

Rest in peace Moses Malone and Darryl Dawkins.

When Serena Williams lost in the semi-finals of the US Open to Roberta Vinci, it was a huge upset. I did some checking and the money line for Serena that day was minus- 2450. Let me remind some of you what that means:

    If you were to bet on Serena to have won that match, you would need to wager $2450 in order to win $100.

    Since she lost, you would have been “out” $2450.

My mind started thinking of comparable longshots in various sports and came up with this list:

    Arcangue winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic at 133 to 1.

    Dark Star beating Native Dancer in the Kentucky Derby in 1953.

    Buster Douglas knocking Mike Tyson out.

    NC State beating “Phi Slamma Jamma” in the NCAA Finals.

    Villanova beating Georgetown in the NCAA Finals

.

I am sure that other sporting events will come to your mind now that I have you thinking of things like that.

The NBA announced that it will seed teams in the playoffs from now on based on the team’s season long record. No longer will Division Winners get the top three seedings in the playoffs; in fact, the Division Winners are not guaranteed any place in the playoffs should it be the case that one of the division winners had the ninth best record in its conference. That is hardly a likely outcome but it is surely a mathematical possibility and one must heed the old adage:

    Low probability events happen every day.

Some argue that this renders the NBA Divisions meaningless other than the fact that a few teams will be float banners in their arenas pronouncing division championships that no longer mean anything. Point taken… So, if I were to “tweak” the new NBA system slightly I would populate the playoffs in this way:

    All Division Champions in each Conference will be in the playoffs provided that the Division Champions have a record of more than .500. If a Division winner has a record of 41-41 or worse and if there are 8 teams in that conference with superior records, that Division winner will not be in the playoffs.

    Seeding of teams in the playoffs will be done on the basis of regular season records and nothing else.

Please note that if the NFL would adopt either the new NBA system or my “tweak” on the new NBA system, there would not have been a team in the playoffs last year with a record of 7-8-1. Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot is clearly in the camp that wants the NFL to change its playoff seedings:

“Streamlined: By seeding its conference playoff teams solely by record, the NBA has reduced – possibly obliterated – the relevancy of divisions. Is the NFL next? It should be.”

Last Thursday night, the coaches’ headsets malfunctioned in Foxboro and Steelers’ coach Mike Tomlin was none too pleased. He stopped short of accusing specific Patriots’ employees of causing the malfunction but he did not stop far short of that mark. Well, the NFL took the Pats off the hook for the moment pointing out that it is the league and not the home team that manages the coaches’ communications at the games. That would seem to put this to rest – except:

    The NFL will investigate the problem and their equipment to find the cause and to remedy the situation.

Sounds like a good idea until you think for a moment about the efficiency and effectiveness of NFL investigations.

    Think about the Ray Rice investigation when the NFL could not figure a way to get hold of the elevator video tape.

    Think about The Wells Report which cost between $3M and $5M depending on the report you read and would have gotten a D+ in Criminology 101.

The conclusion you might draw here is that this investigation will discover that the technology in use is inadequate and needs to be upgraded beyond the level of two tin cans and a taut string. Then it will assess why the current situations obtains and will find that there is a dark hand involved here – perhaps the Elders of Zion or the Trilateral Commission?

Yesterday, Dwight Perry wrote the 3500th iteration of Sideline Chatter in the Seattle Times. That is a whole lot of puns and plays on words. He began writing these columns in December 1999 – 189 months ago. That averages out to about 18 columns a month; that kind of output is prodigious by itself. When you add the quality of the humor and snark to the sheer number of columns, this is a noteworthy milestone indeed. Onward to 4000 columns, good sir…

Finally, to commemorate Dwight Perry’s milestone, here are two items from yesterday’s column and one from “a while ago”…

“Chin up, football widows and widowers: The next Sunday without NFL football falls on Valentine’s Day.”

And …

“If Mariners ace pitcher Felix Hernandez is The King, what does that make their best outfielder — Lord of the Flies?”

And …

“A former corrections officer was arrested after throwing two footballs stuffed with drugs and contraband into the prison yard at the Richland (Ohio) Correctional Institution, the Bucyrus Telegraph-Forum reported.

Prosecutors can’t decide whether to charge her with drug trafficking or detentional grounding.”

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

The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle At Work…?

During the 2013 NFL season, there was an abundance of reporting on the bullying that went on inside the Miami Dolphins’ locker room; trust me, I am not going to reprise any of that reporting here. Last year, before and during the NFL season there was a similar abundance of reporting on Michael Sam’s quest to be an openly gay player in the NFL; trust me, I am not going to go there either. If you fast-forward from the times when Jonathan Martin and Michael Sam were at the center of media attention until today, there is a common factor. Both Martin and Sam are out of football; both are taking different vector headings in their lives.

Martin played last year with the Niners; in the offseason, he had signed on with the Panthers but back in August, he announced his retirement. Subsequently, he revealed that he had attempted suicide several times saying that it was “his job” that had led to those suicide attempts. From his statements, Martin had not found joy or fulfillment in football all the way back to high school where he felt that he did not fit in with others. He said those feelings of exclusion led him to drinking and smoking pot “constantly” (his word). The locker room was evidently not a place of camaraderie for him; it was a source of tension and stress in his life.

Sam failed to make the Rams’ team after training camp last year and then spent a month or two on the Cowboys’ practice squad. When he did not receive any viable offers from NFL teams in the offseason, he signed to play in the CFL. Just before the first of his exhibition games, he took a leave of absence to attend to “personal matters” in Texas. He returned to the team in about a month and eventually played in a CFL game. A week later he left the team again saying he was concerned for his “mental health”; and by all appearances, his professional football aspirations are on hold.

It seems to me that there are some parallel lines in those two narratives. Michael Sam has no obligation to reveal why he was/is concerned for his mental health, but it would be presumptuous for anyone to dismiss those concerns as trivial; Jonathan Martin clearly has some mental health concerns to deal with unless one dismisses multiple attempted suicides as normal behavior. Both of these men found themselves under microscopic inspection because they played football and because they did not fit the norm of a “football player” that had been built up in everyone’s mind over the decades.

I wonder if a fundamental scientific principle is at work here. In the world of quantum mechanics there is something known as the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle; in non-mathematical terms, it means that by observing a system, the act of observation perturbs the system thereby making it impossible to know everything about that system at the same time. Might it be that the intense scrutiny directed at these two men affected them in a way that made their “mental health” situations worse? Maybe if we begin to examine that question our act of observation will cloud our ability to reach a definitive answer…

One of the things I look for when sitting here in the darkness of Curmudgeon Central is hypocrisy in public figures. Even ignoring the political world and the 20+ active candidates for the Presidency in 2016, there are plenty of examples that present themselves. Consider the now mercifully dormant situation involving Deflategate:

    One of the foundation pieces that the NFL based its 4-game suspension of Tom Brady on was his failure to cooperate fully with the NFL’s investigation. The most glaring failure was his refusal to turn over his cell phone to the folks conducting the Wells Report subsequently buying a new phone and destroying the old one.

    One of the reasons Judge Berman gave for overturning that 4-game suspension was that in the appeal process, the NFL refused to allow Brady and his lawyers to question NFL VP Jeff Pash who was the “co-lead investigator” in the production of the Wells Report.

    So, it appears here that the suspension the NFL imposed based partially on Tom Brady “withholding evidence and not cooperating” was overturned based partially on the NFL “withholding evidence and not cooperating”.

Seriously, the only thing missing from the entire Deflategate hoot-doodle is a white rabbit in a waistcoat hopping by saying that he is late for a very important date…

Here is how Brad Dickson of the Omaha-World Herald reacted to Judge Berman overturning the 4-game suspension:

“Thursday a judge overturned Tom Brady’s suspension. I’m just happy to see a handsome multimillionaire with four Super Bowl rings who’s married to a supermodel finally catch a break in life.”

I am not a big fan of MMA. I may watch a few minutes of a bout if I happen to pass through it while grazing channels but under no circumstances am I a fan or a connoisseur. The sport seems to me to be very much like pro ‘rassling with its hype and feuding but with undetermined bout outcomes and real blood/injuries. Like I said, I am not a connoisseur…

With that as background, I have to admit that I do not understand the media fascination with Ronda Rousey. I understand that she is an undefeated MMA fighter and that she has dominated all of her opponents there. Somehow, that has translated into her becoming the focus of paparazzi and gossip mongers. If I paid more attention to MMA, I might understand why that is. In any event, Greg Cote had this item in the Miami Herald recently:

“UFC star Ronda Rousey accepted an invitation to the Marine Corps Ball as the date of a Philadelphia soldier. He’ll be a perfect gentleman, or she’ll beat the [email protected]#$ out of him.”

Finally, in cutting down to the 53-man roster, the Jacksonville Jaguars released DE, Ikponmwosa Igbinosun, much to the delight of every copy editor at the Florida Times-Union.

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

Pounding Down The Calories

With the baseball season on the wane, you have precious little time left to head out to the ballpark to stuff your face with these culinary monstrosities:

    In Cleveland, if you go to see the Indians play at Progressive Field, you can get yourself a Thomenator – named after former Indians’ slugger Jim Thome. This is a hot dog with sauerkraut – – topped with three pierogis. Basically, a pierogi is a dough ball filled with potatoes that is boiled in salt water like dumpling. Normally, two pierogis for a serving; in this thing you have three of those bad boys plus a dog with kraut.

    Ever so slightly east of Cleveland in Pittsburgh, the Pirates offer up a specialty at PNC Park. They serve the Cuban pretzel dog there which is a hot dog (no surprise) with slices of ham, pulled pork, Swiss cheese and pickles, wrapped in a pretzel bun. I guess that is “Cuban” because after eating one you are tempted to light up a large cigar…

    In Milwaukee – at Miller Park – the Brewers tempt their fans with a series of gut bombs:

      Inside the Park Nachos: This is ground beef with taco seasoning on a stick covered with doritos, nacho cheese and sour cream. It is basically nachos that you can eat while walking around. Oh, and of course it comes with a salsa dipping sauce.

      Pulled Pork Parfait: This is alternating layers of pulled pork – duh! – and mashed potatoes covered with chives and gravy. You eat this bad boy with a Spork.

      The Beast: This is a bratwurst that has been stuffed with a hot dog then wrapped in bacon and topped with sauerkraut and onions on a pretzel roll. I don’t know if you can get a side order of Crestor with this puppy.

    It is too late this season to go and see the Fresno Grizzlies so you will have to hope they bring back “The Frankenslice” next year. This concoction is a slice of pepperoni pizza with a full sized hot dog baked into the rolled over crust. If the creator of this dish did not win a James Beard Award, I have no idea what the judges could have been thinking.

As I said, the baseball season is on the wane but for those of you who want to challenge your arteries over the winter, the Baltimore Ravens have heard your cries and have produced a football concoction they call The Tailgater Burger:

    For $18, you get a beef patty topped with cheese, applewood-smoked bacon, kielbasa, Maryland crab dip and 2 beer battered onion rings, on a pretzel roll. Oh, but there is more, that sandwich is topped with 2 Buffalo wings.

Looking over all of these culinary creations – and being mindful of the deep-fried varieties of things one can purchase at State Fairs all over the Mid-west – I think investing in the company that makes Rolaids is a good long term strategy…

Next season, the Charlotte Hornets will have a “three-man booth” for all of their locally televised games. I put “three-man booth” inside quotation marks because it is really a “three-person booth”; one of the color analysts will be Stephanie Ready and she will join Dell Curry as color commentators for the games. Ms. Ready was the volleyball coach at Coppin State and also an assistant coach for the men’s team there under Coach Fang Mitchell. She has been the sideline reporter for the Hornets’ TV programs for the past several years but has moved up the food chain for the coming year. Good fortune to her…

You have probably read about the quip/counter-quip situation that exists between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Ronda Rousey. This whole thing sounds almost as scripted as one of the fire-breathing feuds that are concocted in pro ‘rassling. Unless these two individuals decide to fight one another – which is something neither should want to allow to happen – then all of this semi-lucid banter is pointless. Do you really care to know any more about this “feud” – or about either of the combatants – than you do at this moment? I do not…

Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle is becoming the master of the rhetorical question. Here is one that seems rather obvious:

“If something is off the charts — like a player’s work ethic or a team’s performance — shouldn’t the charts be expanded?”

Well, of course it should…

Finally, since I mentioned Floyd Mayweather, Jr. above, let me close with this observation regarding Messr. Mayweather by Greg Cote of the Miami Herald:

“Floyd Mayweather Jr. announced his final fight before retiring would be Sept. 12, with no date set yet for his final fight after that one.”

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

Signs Of the Apocalypse…?

Not too long ago, I mentioned rumors that the NFL was “thinking about” moving Super Bowl Media Day to primetime. Well, that was more than just a rumor; that was inside info. Yesterday, the NFL made this announcement:

“We are excited to enhance an annual event and provide a unique experience for more fans in both the San Francisco Bay Area and nationwide, while continuing to provide access to the Super Bowl teams for media from around the world. By elevating the event to prime time, fans across the country can experience even more of the excitement of Super Bowl leading up to the game.”

I wish to make the following declarative statement in response to this announcement:


    I never watched Media Day when it was on when the sun was in the sky. I shall not watch Media Day with the moon in the sky. Anyone who spends money to sit in the stands and watch that nonsense should be committed.

Executives in companies often make monumental blunders. I would hope this is a blunder for the NFL similar in magnitude to the blunders that produced:

    The Edsel
    New Coke

While those two blunders have to be at or near the top of any such list, I suggest that there is an executive somewhere in the advertising department of Doctor’s Associates Inc. who has seriously blundered or has had a couple of decisions run into a storm of bad luck. Doctor’s Associates Inc. owns and operates Subway restaurants. Consider two of the spokespersons for that chain of restaurants:

    Jared Fogle – now plea bargaining charges of kiddie porn
    RG3 – well, the drama never stops with him

Since the company is “Doctor’s Associates” maybe they can come up with a cutesy ad campaign using a “reincarnated” Doctor Mengele. That would complete the trifecta for them…

Here is a comment from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot. I am in complete accord with his thinking here:

Quick hit: As we get closer to another NFL season, the same rules apply: I’m still not interested in your fantasy football team.

I am interested, however in the results of a study done by the consulting firm of Challenger, Gray and Christmas which estimate that the cost to US employers of Fantasy Football will be $16B this year. That figure comes from estimates of time spent during the work day by employees tending to their teams or communicating with others about their teams in place of doing productive work. While that sounds like a lot of money to me, the conclusion of the study is that employers ought not to “crack down” here because, in reality, this amounts only to the loss of about 1 hour per week per employee. John Challenger, the CEO of the firm doing this study, explained it this way:

“We need distractions during the day, whether it’s checking Facebook, scanning Twitter, buying something at Amazon.com, or managing one’s fantasy football team. It may seem counter-intuitive, but those short periods of being unproductive help workers be more productive in the long run. They also help boost morale, lower turnover and keep our creative juices flowing.”

I think this kind of situation creates a new cottage industry. Since I do not engage in Fantasy Football, that means that I do not devote one hour of my workweek to this sort of on-the-job-downtime. I ought to be able to monetize that by selling my unused “fantasy hour” to someone else who plays Fantasy Football and thinks he/she needs another hour during the week in order to make the playoffs this year. Let the bidding for my “downtime hour” begin…

By the way, if this idea ever catches hold, I might actually become interested in your fantasy football team.

Draft Kings – one of those websites that offers daily/weekly fantasy leagues – has just signed a partnership agreement with the Dallas Cowboys. The agreement will give the company a branded fantasy sports lounge inside AT&T stadium and “access to Cowboys’ fans as part of the team’s digital, TV and radio networks”. In part, that translates into Draft Kings being able to offer its customers things like tickets to Cowboys’ games and VIP events in that fantasy sports lounge.

Forbes estimates that 56 million people play fantasy sports and that the fantasy football portion of the market here was worth about $70B in 2013. I mention those numbers to show that if the revenue stream is big enough the NFL and its teams are willing and eager to wade in that stream – even though the deals they set up are deals with companies that facilitate gambling on the NFL product. Please do not forget this the next time you hear Roger Goodell whine on about the “integrity of the game”.

The Gay Softball World Series will happen for the first time next year in Austin Texas. The organizers expect about 5000 folks to attend the event and Austin is happy to host them. I wonder:

    Must one be gay to participate in the Gay Softball World Series? That would not seem to be very inclusive if it were the case.

    If one has to be gay to participate, what is the test that confers eligibility on a player?

    If one need not be gay to participate, then what makes this the Gay softball World Series?

Finally, Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle had this to say about the break-up between the Harlem Globetrotters and the Washington Generals:

“Sad story: The Harlem Globetrotters are disbanding their stooge team, the Washington Generals. Those guys really aren’t qualified for any other occupation, except playing for the Sacramento Kings. With the breakup of the Washington Generals, Colin Powell and David Petraeus are free agents.”

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