Random Musings…

Too bad Braylon Edwards is no longer playing NFL football; his arrest yesterday would have been a fantastic test case for the NFL under the new standards of evidence leading to punishment as established in Deflategate. Edwards was arrested under suspicion of DUI and police reports say he blew a .20 which is more than double the legal limit. Now, that is just the police report and not the findings of a court but still:

    “More probably than not” someone driving with a breathalyzer reading of 0.20 is over the limit.

    Braylon Edwards was surely “generally aware” that he had had a few pops prior to starting his vehicle.

It would have been an interesting test case…

I mentioned yesterday that Bill Simmons and ESPN were parting company. With his departure, there is certainly the possibility that Grantland.com will undergo a significant change and that leads to a situation that should be interesting to watch. ESPN has been “developing/incubating” another edgy website called The Undefeated. Some have referred to it as “The Black Grantland” because it will be headed up by Jason Whitlock. In absolutely no way do I believe that Simmons’ dismissal has anything to do with the impending launch of The Undefeated (scheduled for some time this summer), but with Simmons absent there will likely be fewer comparisons to the well-established Grantland.com and that almost has to help The Undefeated.

To say that Jason Whitlock can sometimes be controversial/provocative is sort of like saying that Sinatra could sing a bit. The site has five essays posted on it now and all are interesting reading; two are thought-provoking. I had thought I would wait until after the formal launch to link you to the site, but now that the launch is imminent and given the possible turmoil surrounding Grantland.com, you might want to check it out in its nascent form. Here is the link.

Almost 2 weeks ago, the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame held its annual induction ceremony in Columbus. The Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame has been around for a while; this was its 10th induction ceremony. The keynote speaker was Bob Knight (a charter inductee 10 years ago) and he presented the first Ohio Heritage Award (a lifetime achievement award of sorts) to Jerry Lucas. For a Hall of Fame at the state – or the school – level, those two are huge icons. Both men are properly enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame. And it their presence at this event that points to the tenuous status of localized Halls of Fame.

The most recognizable name on the inductee roster this year for people who live outside of Ohio would be Zydruynas Ilgauskas. The majority of the others on the list would be unknown to all but the most ardent fan of an Ohio team. Consider:

    Tom Dinger
    Dave Jamerson
    John Miner
    Bert Price
    Marlene Stollings
    Brooke Wyckoff

Those are the players – in addition to Ilgauskas – inducted this year. I did not include on the list the coaches and the referee who were also added to the rolls. My point here is that restricted Halls of Fame – not just in Ohio but everywhere – create multi-levels of members where the disparity among the levels is huge. Go, for example, to Cooperstown to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Sure, there are gradations of members; only a fool would try to equate Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio and Henry Aaron with Gary Carter, Andre Dawson and Nellie Fox. However, the disparity from the top to the bottom there is not nearly as great as you might find if you look at the full membership of the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame.

Nonetheless, a good time was probably had by all. Ergo, no harm came from the event or the fact of the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame’s existence…

File this under “When it rains, it pours…” Aaron Hernandez already stands convicted of murder in the case of Odin Lloyd in 2014. He is charged with murder and a bunch of other things in a 2012 incident where two people were shot and killed outside a nightclub in downtown Boston. That trial is imminent.

Earlier this week, the local prosecutors also charged Hernandez with intimidating a witness involved in that 2012 case that is about to come to trial. Allegedly, Hernandez shot this potential witness in the face sometime in 2013 and left him to die after the person said something about that previous incident that was not to Hernandez’ liking. That shot to the face cost the recipient an eye.

OK, I think we have crossed a threshold here. I think that the preponderance of good citizens in the US of A would conclude about now that Aaron Hernandez is not a nice person. Here is a link to a report that goes into more detail on this whole situation.

Finally, Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times is exactly on target with this observation;

“The Wire apartment building in Omaha, Neb., has been equipped with a 136-foot vertical tube that uses rising warm air to turn a turbine and generate electricity.

“But why stop there? Hire Dickie V. to talk into that tube, and you could light up the whole city.”

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

Moving On – – Hopefully

OK, the verdict is in. Tom Brady is out for 4 games without pay (costs him something in the neighborhood of $4-5M), the Pats are fined $1M (peanuts) and the Pats lose two draft picks (first round in 2016 and 4th round in 2017). Of course, this is pending appeals and grievances and the like, but for now…

Try to shed any vestige you may have of your dislike for the Patriots or your Patriots’ fanboy attire. Is this punishment commensurate with the alleged crime? I say alleged because after about 4 months and 243 pages of turgid prose, the best the investigators could come up with was “more probably than not” and “generally aware”. If that is the new standard for “proof” in the NFL and if those penalties are the new standard for punishment, teams and players had best beware.

Try to shed any vestige you may have of your dislike for the Patriots or your Patriots’ fanboy attire. Is this punishment a surprise? I say it is not surprising at all because the NFL had pretty much painted itself into a corner with regard to punishments. The only thing that is surprising is the magnitude of the sanctions.

Oh, and before folks get carried away with saying that Tom Brady is the highest profile player ever to get a severe punishment from the league, please recall that Paul Hornung was suspended for an entire season back in 1963.

Enough about Deflategate for now; there will be more as appeals and grievances happen…

The next blot on the NFL’s escutcheon arrived yesterday when it was revealed that 14 teams were paid by the National Guard to stage things like salutes to soldiers and other flag waving events. The National Guard says that it did this as a recruiting tool for an all-volunteer army; I have no problem with that. I do have a problem with the fact that this was a sponsored event and that fact was not disclosed. When Pepsi or Budweiser sponsors an event, it is pretty clear that they are ponying up some cash or promotional considerations to get to do that. When there is a salute to veterans or a tribute to the troops, one could – in the past – delude oneself to believe that the teams or the league were self-motivated to honor the troops. It turns out that the honor bestowed on the troops was bought and paid for – very quietly – with funds allocated to the DoD.

Why the secrecy? I think it is simple. It looks sleazy – and now that it is open to public scrutiny, it will look even sleazier if that is even a word. It appears that 14 NFL teams shared a total of $5.4M in DoD funds. If you care to see which teams got how much money, here is a link that will give you that information.

So, what might be next for the NFL…?

    Santa Claus appears in stadiums because a retailer like Target or Nordstrom paid the NFL for the appearance?

    The league does not donate to breast cancer charities after wearing pink for a month, the charities are paying the league to have the players wear pink?

    The punt pass and kick competition is rigged and parents buy their kids way into the finals?

So, you think I am just being cynic? Maybe so, but I do not quite achieve the ultimate level of cynicism as defined by H. L. Mencken:

“A cynic is a man who, when he smells flowers, looks around for a coffin.”

I am sure you have heard by now that Bill Simmons and ESPN are parting company starting in the Fall. Unlike many other reporters, I will not profess to know what he might or might not be doing next. Unlike others, I have no insight into the events within ESPN that led to this situation. Here is what I know.

Bill Simmons and ESPN have been together for more than 10 years. Simmons created and led Grantland.com starting with a concept and turning it into a highly regarded website for long-form commentary on sports and pop-culture. He also was one of the prime motive forces behind ESPN’s 30-for-30 documentaries. He has appeared on various studio shows for ESPN and has been a fill-in host on PTI on occasion.

Back when the Ray Rice Affair was front-page news, Simmons called Roger Goodell a liar on his podcast. The NFL and ESPN have more than a passing acquaintance in the financial arena and Simmons earned a 2-week suspension for that remark. I agree at that point he crossed the line. Recently, he was a guest on Dan Patrick’s syndicated radio show and made another comment about Goodell that was less than flattering. He said Goodell lacked “testicular fortitude”. Soon after that, ESPN announced that they will not be renewing Simmons’ contract in September.

Bill Simmons is a talented guy; I do not think there is a lot of argument about that. He may be replaceable in terms of finding someone to edit/lead Grantland.com. However, one thing I read made me stop and shake my head:

    According to reports, ESPN will retain ownership of his ESPN outlets one of which is his podcast, “The B. S. Report”.

    The initials there stand for Bill Simmons and not the gutter phrase for ovine offal. I do not know how ESPN thinks it will carry on “The B. S. Report” in the absence of “B. S.” unless of course they have Keith Olbermann do it in the persona of Bob Slurm…

Finally, this item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times demonstrates that if you look hard enough, you can find something good to say about anything:

“Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg, on the Orioles and White Sox playing inside an empty stadium: ‘On the bright side, nobody did the wave.’”

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

Deflategate – Morning, Noon And Night

I think that the only way for Deflategate to get more coverage/exposure would be for some exec at CNN to mistake Deflategate for a missing airliner over the ocean and to order the network into its blanket coverage mode.

Last week, I told all of you what I thought might and should come out of the Deflategate Mess now that the league has the Wells Report. Over the weekend, there was a plethora of sports column space devoted to the topic and, of course, those columns attracted multiple sets of comments. Let me recommend two such columns to your reading today.

Gene Collier of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette addressed the issue with some humor while paying attention to most of the salient issues here. Like me, he was not particularly fond of the Wells Report itself. I will just give you a sample of his evaluation of it:

“According to the much-anticipated Deflategate report commissioned by the league and prepared by the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, whose mountains of billable hours Ted Wells brought home in 243 pages (The Old Man And The Sea came in at 126 if you’re wondering how much verbiage it took Hemingway to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1953, because I know you were), 243 pages that somehow do not include the words Tom Brady is a cheating, conniving liar.”

Here is a link to the column; I commend it to your reading; I would not recommend that you spend a lot of time reading the comments at the end of it.

The other column you may wish to read in its entirety is by Charles P. Pierce at Grantland.com. Pierce is a wonderful writer and in this analysis he manages to harken back to the days of Nixon, Ehrlichman and Haldeman and ties that stuff into Deflategate. I have to admit, that would never have occurred to me nor could I have pulled it off. Here is the link to the piece.

About a year ago, I created something called the Just Go Away Club. I put in charter members including Lance Armstrong, Terrell Owens and the like. Membership in the club meant that I hoped not to hear from or about them anymore; they had worn out their welcome in my brain. Later Donald Sterling and V. Stiviano earned membership in that club. Thankfully, they seem to have gone away. I have a new member that I wish it induct into the Just Go Away Club today. That would be …

    Don Shula

Coach Shula has won more NFL games than any other coach; for that he is properly enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Coach Shula also piloted the only NFL team to go undefeated through a season and win the Super Bowl at the end of the season. While that is a big achievement, Coach Shula has beaten the sports world over the head with that achievement for at least the last 20 years – and I am being generous there. Now he has felt the need to add his voice to the Deflategate Mess by telling SI.com:

“We didn’t deflate any balls.”

Congratulations, Coach; you, your staff and your players were nothing but paragons of virtue in addition to athletic stalwarts. However, no one cares anymore about your 1972 team. You have made mention of that team something that resembles fingernails scratching a chalkboard. Enough already…

Oh, by the way Coach, about all that “paragon of virtue” stuff, you do recall don’t you that in the process of leaving the Baltimore Colts to go to the Dolphins, there were shenanigans involved. The Dolphins tampered with you – and interestingly it is difficult to have tampering occur in a contract signing without TWO signatures on that contract. So, while you “more than likely” did not initiate the tampering, you were a party to it. If you ever feel the need to moralize again, please include that disclaimer.

Coach Don Shula, Just Go Away!

Sticking with NFL happenings for the moment, Ed Reed announced his retirement from football last week. He played 12 years – 11 of which were with the Baltimore Ravens. He was the Defensive Player of the Year in 2004 and safeties do not win that award all that often. He is certain to enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame down the line and perhaps the best way to summarize his career is to use the words of Bill Belichick who was preparing to play against the Ravens and Ed Reed in the 2012 AFC Playoffs:

“Can’t say I’ve ever coached against anybody better than Ed Reed in the secondary.”

Bonne chance, Ed Reed…

Finally, here is a note from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times regarding an NFL persona who is on the fringe of membership in the Just Go Away Club:

“Former NFL receiver Plaxico Burress, 37, has been indicted on charges he failed to pay a $48,000 tax bill when his electronic funds transfer failed and he ignored notices to make good on it.

“Prosecutors are calling it out-and-out tax evasion; Burress apologists say it’s merely an incomplete pass.”

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

College Football – In May No Less…

I know it is May but I want to talk about college football today. I know that I am going to make some derogatory remarks in the upcoming paragraphs so let me begin by saying that I love college football and I watch a whole lot of it. Nevertheless, I am not thrilled in the least by my new opportunity to watch even more college football.

Starting this winter, the number of bowl games will expand by 3 to total 42 bowl games. That means 82 teams will be playing in bowl games in December and January. [Remember, two of the four teams in the College Football Playoff will play twice.] There are 128 schools playing Division 1-A football at the moment meaning 64.1% of those teams will make it to a bowl game. So, on average a 12-team conference might be sending 7 or 8 teams to various bowl games.

    Now if that means that I can anticipate watching the seventh place team in the American Athletic Conference take on the eighth place team from the Sun Belt Conference, you will have to pardon me when I do not jump up from my chair and do a happy dance all around Curmudgeon Central.

The three new games for this year will happen in Austin, TX, Orlando, FL and Tucson, AZ. There will be 6 teams participating in those games meaning about 400 student athletes and 50 student team managers/staff will spend at least an extra 3 weeks preparing for the games and then traveling to the games to make them happen. If those footballers and managers put in only 2 hours per day for those extra 3 weeks (that is a generously low estimate), that represents 18,900 “man-hours” devoted to football and not to “school”.

I know that number is low but juxtapose it with this statement from the NCAA website regarding the interweaving of athletics and “school”:

“The NCAA membership has adopted amateurism rules to ensure the students’ priority remains on obtaining a quality educational experience and that all of student-athletes are competing equitably.”

    Memo to the NCAA: “Obtaining a quality educational experience” will be enhanced if these people have those 18,900 “man-hours” available to them for classroom pursuits. These three new bowl games mean more student-athletes will miss more class time and one thing is for sure:

      A “quality education” involves students spending time in class and in scholarly pursuits.

    Oh, and do not get me started on how “obtaining a quality educational experience” plays with the academic frauds perpetrated at UNC and Syracuse…

On a more analytical note, there has always been a significant difference between college football and the NFL. Much of that difference has always been – and will continue to be – the athletic skill level differences in the two games plus the immutable fact that almost everyone in the NFL is older than just about everyone in college football. While indeed those differences will continue to obtain, I think that college football is evolving in a different direction from the NFL. I am not making a value-judgement here; this is not a good thing nor a bad thing; it just is.

The majority of college football today can be summed up in 3 words:

    Spread the field…

Many college QBs do not call any plays; the whole team looks to the sidelines for signals that align the players and get them all going in one direction at the snap and after that there are a series of options for all the skill players. In the past, teams put their best athletes and their fastest players on defense; not so anymore.

Yes, some teams in the NFL use the spread formation and a hurry-up offense some of the time but not to the extent that it happens at the college level. So, the impact on the NFL can be seen in several dimensions:

    Fewer college QBs are field generals and many have difficulty adapting to the “play in the pocket” style that will keep QBs vertical in the NFL.

    Running backs are now going against smaller defenders because the defenders have to be quick – and hopefully fast too – in order to keep up with the spread offenses. When running backs get to the NFL, they are no longer running against “little guys” and for many the difference is quite apparent.

    The flip side here is that big defensive linemen who can stop the run and put a little pressure on the QB are becoming harder to find. The big run-stuffer can easily be avoided with spread offenses that run outside almost to the exclusion or running between the tackles.

As I said, I am not putting a value-judgment on this. I do think the two US versions of football are evolving along different paths and it will be interesting to see if the current divergence continues over the next decade.

Finally, here is an NFL note from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald:

“Fins had free agent running back Stevan Ridley in for a look. Stevan is best known for wishing his parents had spell-check.”

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

Strange Doin’s In NYC…

Isiah Thomas is now the President and a part owner of the NY Liberty in the WNBA. The major owner of the Liberty is MSG Inc which in turn is controlled by James Dolan who also owns the Knicks. The “bromance” between Thomas and Dolan has been a story for a while and some folks have taken this as simply the latest chapter in that story. I think there is a more interesting angle here.

When Thomas ran the Knicks, one of the events that led to his departure from the team was a lawsuit bright against him and MSG by a female employee of the Knicks. She claimed that she was sexually harassed on the job and sued for something around $10M. Moreover, she won the case. Now, not only does Thomas return to professional basketball in NYC, he does it with the women’s team in NYC. In making this announcement, here is something James Dolan said about Thomas:

“He’s an excellent judge of talent and I’m confident that he will put all of his energy [into making the Liberty competitive].”

I might be willing to give dolan the benefit of the doubt here if Thomas had been a success somewhere as a GM or a coach or a team president. If such success – worthy of being labeled an excellent judge of talent – exists, I did not find it.

That move was surprising but other news out of NYC this week is much less of a surprise. Alex Rodriguez tied Willie Mays on the all-time home run list and that should trigger a $6M payment from the Yankees. The team said back in Spring Training that they would not honor that part of the contract because – they claim – that the $6M is payment for them to market the achievement. However, they say that A-Rod’s suspension last year for PED use makes such marketing impossible; and therefore, they do not owe him anything. Their position is that since this is a marketing deal, they have the option to market or not to market and they now choose not to market.

Frankly, that sounds pretty flimsy to me. The Yankees would not want me on a jury that would be charged to decide this matter. I will give the Yankees credit for something here:

    With this action, the Yankees have managed to make Alex Rodriguez look like the “good guy in the white hat”. Anyone who has tracked A-Rod’s behaviors off the field for the last decade or so would have to admit that is no easy feat.

Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot had this comment recently regarding the Angels and Josh Hamilton. Given the ongoing circumstances between the Yankees and A-Rod, it seems equally applicable there too:

“Idle thought: Why stop at drug testing Josh Hamilton? Baseball should be administering urine tests to the Angels executives who signed Hamilton to a $125 million deal.”

Last weekend, Gene Collier of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette did a column about the idea of putting the DH in the National League. Here is a link so you can read it in its entirety. One of the arguments advanced to support putting the DH in the National League is that 2 pitchers have been injured while batting recently and that is not a good thing for baseball. Here is one paragraph from Professor Collier’s exposition last weekend:

“The fact is, pitchers really shouldn’t do anything, especially pitch. You can’t keep them healthy no matter what you do; 110 pitchers were on the disabled list Friday of this week. Most had cranky shoulders and ouchy elbows awaiting a clinical go-or-no on Tommy John surgery, a procedure so common that it’ll soon be available at the drive-thru at Walgreen’s.”

I have never been enamored of the DH. If I were King of the World (H/T to Bill Conlin), I would resolve the issue of two different sets of rules for the two baseball leagues very simply. I would get rid of the DH in the American League. I doubt that is going to happen anytime soon but that is only because I am not about to ascend to the role of King of the World.

Steven Gerrard is a midfield player for Liverpool in the English Premier League and he is the captain of the team. He has spent his entire career with the Liverpool club and recently started his 500th game in the EPL; only 11 other players in history have played in that many EPL games. Gerrard holds one other distinction. He is the only player ever to score a goal in an EPL Final Game, an FA Cup Final Game, a UEFA Cup Final Game and a Champions League Final Game. Reports are that Gerrard will leave Liverpool at the end of this season and will come to the US to play for the LA Galaxy in MLS. Steven Gerrard may not be as famous or as recognizable as Pele or Messi or Ronaldo, but he will raise the level of play in MLS with his presence.

Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald put the Pacquiao/Mayweather fight into perspective earlier this week:

“Pacquiao-Mayweather sold out in seconds. For Nebraska football, that’s called ‘the South Alabama game’.”

Finally, a soccer note from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Ghanaian soccer official Kofi Manu says his team got knocked out of the CAF Champions League because players were sleep-deprived from watching too much pornography.

“As for the players, they’re withholding comment until they’ve seen the films again.”

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

Unbridled Euphoria…

Well, at least it was not a phantom injury. Reports this morning say that Manny Pacquiao will undergo surgery for a “significant tear” in his right rotator cuff and will not be able to train for about 9 months. All too often the use of an injury to explain a defeat or a failing sort of rings hollow. However, if someone says he was injured during a competition and then goes under the knife to repair an injury that indeed would affect athletic abilities, one had to acknowledge that the injury was there during the event.

Nevertheless, given the lackluster reviews and commentaries subsequent to the “Fight of the Century”, I am not sure there will be any sort of clamor for a rematch from the public. I will not be surprised if the two camps try to figure a way to put together a rematch in a year or two simply because of the revenue the first fight generated, but I think they will have to sell the rematch whereas the original fight sold itself.

More than a couple of folks have said that American Pharoah’s win in the Kentucky Derby – along with his previous racing credentials – makes him a serious contender to “break the streak” and win the first Triple Crown since Affirmed won it in 1978. A subset of those folks who are on American Pharoah’s bandwagon thinks that this crop of 3-year olds is a strong one and that would make American Pharoah a worthy addition to the list of Triple Crown winners.

I have exactly no idea at the moment if American Pharoah is going to win the Triple Crown nor am I ready to pronounce this year’s 3-year old crop a top shelf commodity. However, one of the outputs from Curmudgeon Central is a dose of reality when faced with unbridled euphoria. Therefore, please consider:

    1. American Pharoah got an easy trip in the Derby settling nicely in third and fourth place just off the pace. He had to navigate exactly no traffic jams in that race.

    2. American Pharoah ran the mile-and-a-quarter in 2:03 on a fast track. Secretariat ran the Derby in 1:59 2/5. Using handicappers’ metrics, that means American Pharoah would have been 18 lengths behind Secretariat.

    3. American Pharoah ran the final quarter mile of that race in 26 2/5 seconds. Handicappers look at horse workouts and gauge a good workout by the mnemonic “eighths in twelve” meaning a good workout is 12 seconds for each eighth of a mile in the workout. American Pharoah’s final quarter for the Derby was more than 2 seconds slower that a good workout time.

    4. The fact that a whole bunch of other 3-year olds finished behind American Pharoah means to me that this year’s crop of 3-year olds has a lot to show in the next 7 months before I would anoint it as “great”.

Another area of unbridled euphoria that is out and about in the land has to do with the NFL Draft. In the few days subsequent to the Draft, it is commonplace to read analysts’ grades for the Draft team by team. Since there is no real way to know how all of those players will transition to the NFL about now – and it will be at least 2 years and probably 3 until we do know – these commentaries are a tad silly. However, they are made sillier by the unbridled euphoria that infuses them.

I am going to pick on Mark Maske of the Washington Post here but he is NOT alone. Mark Maske covers the NFL at large for the Post and I think he does a good job at it. However, when it comes to grading the teams after this year’s draft, the worst grade he assigned was a “C-“to two teams. Every other team was “C” or better. Now you can call that unbridled euphoria if you want because certainly a couple of teams are going to come out of this draft with next to nothing to show for their efforts – or – you can attribute this to the Lake Woebegone effect where all the children are slightly above average. Whatever…

Oh, I said that grading drafts two days after the fact is a tad silly. Let me put that on a spectrum for you. It is not nearly as silly creating the “Big Board” for the 2016 NFL Draft right about now. If you go to Google and search for “NFL Draft 2016 mock” you will find more than a couple of pages worth of links to articles available online on the subject. Get a grip…

Former NY Yankee centerfielder, Bernie Williams announced his retirement about a week ago. According to the stats I could find, his last game in MLB was in 2006. I do not know about you, but I sort of figured that he had already retired from the game and took up a musical career with guitar stylings. However, I learned that one does not retire from MLB simply by not playing for almost a decade; one has to make an affirmative declaration of retirement for one to move to that status. So, now it is official…

Here is an item I ran across in Greg Drinnan’s blog, Taking Note/Keeping Score:

“Molly Schuyler, a competitive eater, took all of 20 minutes to down three 72-ounce steaks, three baked potatoes, three shrimp cocktails, three salads and three dinner rolls. . . . ‘Or as they call it in Texas,’ said NBC-TV’s Seth Meyers, ‘a kids meal.’ . . . Did we mention that Schuyler weighs in at 120 pounds? With an appetite like that, I can’t imagine her being a cheap date.”

Finally, having mentioned Bernie Williams’ retirement above, here is a relevant comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald:

“The Yankees announced they would retire the numbers of Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Bernie Williams. Hmm. Who else remembers when only all-time greats got their numbers retired?”

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

Star Wars Day…

In case you had not heard, today is Star Wars Day. So what is a Star Wars junkie to do today in order to solemnly celebrate the day? Well, one suggestion I might have would be to get a tent and some rations and go line up to buy tix to see the new episode that will be coming out soon – – at least if you consider “soon” to be measured in months. You realize that the folks who started this “tradition” could have picked any day on the calendar as Star Wars Day but they chose May 4th. I suggest:

    They had no real choice in selecting the date because The Fourth – er, The Force – selected it for them.

    May The Force – and the fourth – be with us all…

Everyone has met or worked with someone who is “difficult to get along with”. More than a few people would hang that label on me with plenty of justification. I would suggest, however, that there is a spectrum of “difficult to get along with” that ranges from:

    Irritating … to …Pain in the Ass … to … Abject Annoyance … to … Intolerable A$$hole

Now on that spectrum where might you seek to place Rajon Rondo this week? Rondo was acquired by the Dallas Mavericks to fuel a playoff push for the team and hopefully to be part of a deep playoff run this year. Well, the Mavs indeed made the playoffs and Rondo was a starter for the team throughout the regular season and in the early games of the playoffs. And when the Mavs were summarily dismissed from the first round by the Rockets – with Rondo on the bench with what many consider a phantom injury – the team reportedly voted not to give him a playoff share. He played out the season with the team as a starter and he was a starter early in the Houston playoff series – and his teammates voted to stiff him his playoff money. I am thinking that he has to be well into the “Intolerable A$$hole” region of that spectrum…

Javaris Crittenton played basketball for Georgia Tech and had an NBA “career” that had him on the roster for the Lakers, Grizzlies and Wizards. His on-court exploits were not of a scale that most folks could recall any of them but he was the “other guy” involved in the locker-room contretemps with Gilbert Arenas in Washington that culminated in handguns being brought into the team locker room. The details of what happened were never established in a court of law but supposedly Arenas owed Crittenton some money from a card game and did not pay up. Crittenton threatened to bring his gun to the locker room to collect and Arenas’ response was to bring his gun to establish his “alpha-dominance”.

Whatever happened or did not happen led to the career demise for both players. Arenas was deemed to be “over-the-hill” and too injured to continue to play at a high enough level to justify his “issues”; Crittenton never approached a level of play where a team would have even considered “working with him” on these kinds of issues.

In any event, I bring this up today because last week, Javaris Crittenton was sentenced to 23 years in prison for manslaughter. Reports say that he fired a gun at a person who had robbed him a few days prior to the shooting incident but he missed the “robber” and happened to shoot and kill a mother of four children. As he begins his sentence, might I direct your attention to that spectrum I posited above and suggest that you come to your own conclusion as to where Javaris Crittenton might fit into it.

The first round playoff series between the Bulls and the Bucks went 6 games. In the final game, the Bulls “eked out” a win by 54 points. The final score was 120-66. To put that in perspective, only twice in NBA history has a playoff game been decided by more than 54 points.

    Minneapolis Lakers beat St. Louis Hawks by 58 points in 1956
    Denver Nuggets beat New Orleans Hornets by 58 points in 2009

That’s it; that’s the list.

Once the NFL Draft is completed, teams scramble to sign Undrafted Free Agents most of whom are cannon fodder for training camps and most of whom you will never hear about unless you read the agate type in your local paper on the day after the Undrafted Free Agents are released. Having said that, there was a signing this weekend after the Draft that attracted attention. Nate Boyer was the long-snapper for Texas last year and he got a call from the Seattle Seahawks with the opportunity to go to their training camp to try to make the Seahawks’ roster. Why is Nate Boyer notable?

    First of all, he is 34 years old. That is just a tad older than your typical guy coming out of college seeking to play in the NFL

    The reason he is “a tad older” is that Boyer was a Green Beret who served in Iraq and in Afghanistan before matriculating at Texas at age 29.

The odds are that he will not make the team but his path to a first-time chance to make an NFL roster is sufficiently out of the ordinary that it is worth noting here. Oh, and as a former Green Beret, he knows something about the concept of “cannon fodder”…

The Mountain West Conference is certainly not the top-dog of football conferences. However, the MWC will consider a conference change at their Spring Conference Meeting this year that might put them in a leadership role. The MWC will consider having their football conference championship game be between the two best teams in the conference and not necessarily between the champion of Division 1 and the champion of Division 2. Slow down, Charlie Brown; that is a lot better than “not a bad idea”. Yes, it could create controversy – albeit controversy related to the MWC is hardly a big deal – but it is an idea that the Big Boy Conferences might want to have in their bylaws as a contingency for certain years.

Kudos to the Mountain West Conference for innovative thinking…

Finally, I have been called to jury duty twice and have been empaneled on three different juries to hear cases. From that perspective, I agree completely with this assessment by Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle:

“A jury I don’t want to be on, if the case ever goes to trial: No charges filed so far, but a woman has accused former 49er Ray McDonald of possible sexual assault. His attorney says McDonald has ‘video evidence of consensual sex over a two-day period of time.’ “

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

Some Of This And Some Of That…

Well, that fell somewhere between anticlimactic and lame. After months of hype and analysis predicting big trades for teams to move up to the top of the draft, exactly nothing of that nature happened. I am sure you can find someone somewhere who has issued grades for the first round picks; you will not find that here because putting a grade on a selection often takes a couple of years. I will point to a couple of the selections that I think were interesting:

    At #4, the Raiders took Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama. Please recall from my pre-draft analysis that I said I thought only injury would prevent Cooper from succeeding in the NFL. I still believe that. Moreover, I also recognize that the Raiders need help at WR. However, the Raiders have a bigger need for an upgrade and that bigger need is their OL. Amari Cooper will not catch passes from a QB who is not vertical.

    At #7, the Bears took Kevin White, WR, West Virginia. The Bears absolutely had to get a WR to pair with Alshon Jeffrey and they got a good one here. Jay Cutler has to be a happy camper this morning.

    At #10, the Rams took Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia. Obviously, the team doctors in St. Louis pronounced his knee ready to go.

    At #32, the Patriots took Malcom Brown, DT, Texas. In my pre-draft analysis, I said he reminded me of Vince Wilfork. Well, Wilfork signed with the Texans as a free agent in the offseason, so this might be an extremely fortuitous pick by the Pats.

The following “fact-not-worth-remembering” comes from a report on the draft on CBSSports.com this morning:

“Detroit grabbed guard Laken Tomlinson with the No. 28 pick, making him the first Blue Devils player to get selected in the first 32 choices since linebacker Mike Junkin went No. 5 overall to Cleveland nearly three decades years ago.”

Many people think that a Game 7 in a Stanley Cup playoff series is one of the most exciting events in sports. Two nights ago, the Red Wings were in Tampa to play the Lightening in a seventh game and things got hot – so to speak. Just before the game began, fans in Tampa were passing a large team flag around the arena and a woman from Detroit took offense. She tried to set the flag on fire – and succeeded in producing a “small burn” to the flag. She was arrested and charged with “first degree arson of an occupied structure”. I am not going to pretend to know Florida’s criminal laws, but that sounds extremely serious to me.

Billy Donovan apparently is heading west to take over as the head coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder. I say “apparently” because about 10 years ago, Donovan signed on to be the head coach of the Orlando Magic and less than 48 hours later told the team he changed his mind and returned to the University of Florida. Donovan has been at Florida for 19 years – not counting that 24-hour defection – and has been very successful there winning two national championships. His program has produced some fine NBA players including Joaquim Noah and Al Horford.

I believe it was Hubie Brown who defined the challenge for Donovan as he takes over the OKC roster headed by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook:

    Your two best players have to agree to be coached by you. [That is a paraphrase not a quote].

Yesterday, I mentioned some of the horses running in tomorrow’s Kentucky Derby. This is a two minute event – give or take a couple of seconds – but the TV mavens at NBC who have the rights to the Derby are going to put on 15.5 hours of coverage. I am not making this up and just to give you an idea of how big a reach it is to find 15.5 hours of things to yak about relative to a 2-minute horse race, consider this:

    On the Today Show, Al Roker will interview a milliner on the subject of Kentucky Derby hat fashions. But that is not all… Roker will be joined in the enterprise by NBC’s “fashion and lifestyle experts”, Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir. Much as I complain about the 6-hour pre-game nonsense leading up to the Super Bowl, I do have to admit that they have not sunk to the depths of using “fashion and lifestyle” correspondents – – yet.

    The Weather Channel (owned by NBC) will of course focus coverage on the weather forecast for Louisville for the next two days.

      Memo for Weather Channel Folks: If your forecast is accurate, you can report it once in about 45 seconds and then run it as a crawl on the bottom of the screen for the next two days. After you make a forecast, the only interesting news is if you change the forecast – meaning your first one was wrong.

    MSNBC will provide live interview segments on its various programs. I cannot wait to hear Rev. Al Sharpton’s insightful questions regarding the race. After all, he is an expert on all matters involving “race”. Right?

And the list of irrelevant interviews and picks by NBC hosts/celebrities goes on and on…

Here is my advice:

    Post Time for the race is 6:24 PM according to the Washington Post.

    The race will NOT start before Post Time so you can tune in at 6:15, settle into a comfortable seat with a clear view of the TV screen and watch ”the most exciting two minutes in sports” without having to endure 15.5 hours of nonsensical and irrelevant coverage.

Finally, speaking of television coverage, here is an observation from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald:

“The World Chess Championship was televised in a number of countries. Who’s this for? People who find watching curling too nerve-racking?”

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

A Bad Omen For Marcus Mariota

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Josh Hamilton Back In Texas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    A fine of $100K.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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