On Hiatus

My long-suffering wife and I will be traveling in Northern Italy for the next week or so.  I’ll be off the air until at least 26 Sept.  Please check back then.

Looking ahead, I may not have enough time to catch up on “football happenings” to do a Football Friday two weeks from now.  We shall see…

Stay well, everyone.

 

Off The Air For A While

Curmudgeon Central is moving a short distance to new quarters next week.   Four days after the move is completed, my long-suffering wife and I will be heading overseas for a trip that lasts three-and-a-half weeks.

I assume I will have Internet access when we get home from the trip and so I expect to be back on the air sometime around 21-23 June.

Check back then…

Stay well, everyone.

 

 

On Hiatus

I will be on travel and without my computer until I arrive back home on Sunday 4 March.  I expect that I will be back “on the air” on Tuesday, 6 March.

Please check back then.

Stay well, all …

Admin Note

I do not know if I will write on Monday.  I will be attending a Super Bowl Party in Philly on Sunday; I am not taking my computer with me.  We will be staying the night in Philly.

On Monday evening, my long-suffering wife and I have a dinner engagement here in DC.  I do not know if there will be time to squeeze in a rant.  If not, I will be back on the air on Tuesday, Feb 6.

Stay well, all…

A College Football Coach Steps Down

It is not as if a head football coach at a major school in a major conference has never had to step down from that job “unceremoniously”.  A few that come to mind are:

  1. Woody Hayes – Ohio State – assaulted an opposing player with a forearm while a game was in progress.
  2. Bobby Petrino – Arkansas – had a motorcycle accident that revealed an inappropriate relationship with someone who worked for him.
  3. Mike Price – Alabama – got into his cups in a strip club before he ever coached a game there.
  4. Kevin Wilson – Indiana – had “philosophical differences” with the Athletic Director.

Add Hugh Freese to the list.  Freese resigned as the head coach at Mississippi under an unusual set of circumstances.  The team has been highly successful during his time at Ole Miss beating Alabama in consecutive years (2014/15) and winning a Sugar Bowl game.  I remember when Ole Miss was a football powerhouse in the 1960s when they won national championships based on polls; their football fortunes more recently had tended toward “break even seasons”; then Freese arrived and the Rebels won a bit more than 60% of their games.

Opposing coaches and fanbases were – and probably still are – convinced that Freese used some “recruiting shortcuts” to assemble the talent he put on the field and the NCAA had already been peering into possible infractions that may have happened under Freese’s predecessor, Houston Nutt.  Freese professes to be a man of great faith and asserts that he ran his program in accordance with those high principles and values.  Whenever he was questioned about possible wrongdoing, he pointed to the faith that he wore on his sleeve and denied everything.

What came to light recently was a phone call placed from Freese’s phone – supplied by the university – to an escort service.  For a man who repeatedly used his faith and his piety as an explanation for his behaviors, that would have been most embarrassing but he simply said that it was a wrong number.  That story might have held because it was a short call and there was only one of them.  However, juxtaposed with the ongoing NCAA investigation(s), this became a burden too big for the school to bear.  So, Hugh Freese was given the opportunity to resign but the school made it clear that they were willing to invoke a “moral turpitude” clause in his contract as the basis to fire him.

Here are a few observations related to this matter:

  1. If indeed that call was a “wrong number” that was accidentally dialed, it would be ironic to learn that a “butt dial” to an “escort service” led to this resignation.
  2. Football coaches at every level are not always “truth-tellers”; lying, obfuscation and dissembling are skills that football coaches need and use; it is “professionally acceptable behavior”.  Having said that, rampant hypocrisy is much more difficult to take – even from a successful football coach.
  3. The interim coach is Matt Luke who was the OL coach and offensive coordinator under Hugh Freese.  In keeping with Freese’s piety theme, note that his name consists of half of the writers of the Gospels in the New Testament.  It may take someone of that stature to hold this program together this year…

As someone who enjoyed Batman comic books as a kid, the Hugh Freese matter has an interesting linkage.  One of Batman’s old arch-enemies was Mr. Freeze; his name is homophonic with Coach Hugh Freese.  Another of Batman’s villainous adversaries was Mr. Two Face; that seemingly describes Coach Hugh Freese quite well.  If you had told me when I sat down to compose this rant that I would tie together Ole Miss football with old-time Batman comic books, I would have been skeptical…

The other big news from late last week was the announcement that Kyrie Irving wants to be traded from the Cavaliers with 2 years left on his contract.  Reports indicate that Irving no longer wants to play with LeBron James.  Let me assume those reports are completely accurate for a moment; if that is the case:

  • Do not forget this circumstance any time in the future when Kyrie Irving or one of his representatives tries to tell the world that the only thing Kyrie cares about is winning championships.  If you are a basketball player and that is indeed your primary motivation, playing on the same team with LeBron James puts you in good stead to achieve that end.

I will not pretend to know the genesis of this trade demand from Kyrie Irving nor will I pretend to know where he might want to go for the next installment of his basketball career.  Naturally, there were knee-jerk analyses right after this story hit the streets suggesting either or both the Lakers or the Knicks as his next team.  The Lakers might be an interesting choice but the Knicks would likely be an unpleasant stop for him.  There is no way Kyrie Irving has asked for my advice and there is no reason for him to value it even a little bit, but if I were able to wave a magic wand and put him on another team where he might flourish, I would consider these options:

  • New Orleans Pelicans:  They have plenty of talent at the “big positions”; there is room for improvement at “shooting guard”; Irving might be the catalyst for a big step forward for the Pelicans.
  • Minnesota Timberwolves:  This team is loaded – with the recent acquisition of Jimmy Butler – and Irving might be what they need to become the #1 challenger to the Warriors in the NBA West.

Given that this would have to be a trade situation, I think the Cavs would be most likely to send him to the West and not to another East team.  However, there is an interesting aspect to all of this.  Remember, that Dan Gilbert fired GM David Griffin and then low-balled Chauncy Billups as his replacement.  Now we hear that Kyrie Irving wants out.  LeBron James has only one year left on his deal before he can opt out.  So, riddle me this – continuing my focus on Batman’s opponents:

  • If LeBron also “wants out”, is it possible that Dan Gilbert is the common denominator” here and that he is the chaos creator?  If he is indeed the burr under everyone’s saddle there, would that make him the ownership equivalent of Donald Sterling minus the racism?  Just asking…

Finally, here is a comment from Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald regarding fan fervor in SEC country:

“An Auburn fan showed up at SEC media days with his dog painted blue and orange. This work of art is widely considered to be the Mona Lisa of the South.”

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

 

 

A Sucker Bet In The Sportsbooks

Finally, the NBA Finals will begin tonight.  Almost everyone foresaw this matchup as the crescendo to the 2016/17 NBA season back in early October 2016; now we have what we knew we were going to get.  It took 1230 regular season games and a series of playoff rounds that were less exciting than a turtle race to get here; but at least, we are here.  One of the things about these NBA Finals that I find interesting is that the casinos in Las Vegas have been allowed to expand their betting options.

According to this report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal from about a week ago, the sportsbooks can now take on bets on things like the MVP of the NBA Finals and on the still-to-be-had NBA Draft.  The financial mavens in the NBA should be quietly elated about this expansion because those financial mavens recognize the following identity:

  • More betting = More interest = More attention = More revenue

I looked at the early odds for the field of Finals’ MVP and found a humongous sucker bet in there.  There are 19 players on the Cavs and Warriors who are named as potential winners of the MVP; seriously, even though almost no one can name 19 players on these two squads, there are odds listed for that many MVP candidates.  However, none of them are nearly as bad as the sucker bet that I see:

  • At odds of 500-1, you can bet “The Field”.

That means you get anyone other than the 19 players who are named as potential recipients of the MVP Award.

Let me try to put that bet into perspective by saying that you can find 2 players on the Warriors who are at even higher odds than “The Field”.  JaVale McGee and Zaza Pachulia are both on the board at 1000-1.  And it is that silliness that points out just how big a sucker bet “the Field” would be.  Looking at the active rosters from the two teams and who is not on the “19-man list of people with odds posted”, here is some of what you get for your bet on “The Field”:

  1. Kay Felder played 9.2 minutes per game for the Cavs and has been hurt since April 10.
  2. Dahantay Jones played in 1 game for the Cavs earlier this year.
  3. Edy Tavares also played in 1 game for the Cavs earlier this year.
  4. Ian Clark played 14 minutes per game this year for the Warriors mostly in blowout situations that he did not help to create.
  5. Damian Jones played 85 minutes in 10 games for the Warriors all season long.
  6. James Michael McAdoo averaged 8.8 minutes per game for the Warriors.

If I am going to wager that one of those guys will be the Finals’ MVP, I am going to need a lot more than 500-1 odds.  Maybe something like 50,000-1 …

Speaking generically about sports wagering, a report on ESPN.com says that the US Congress may be on a path to make legalized sports gambling more widespread in the US.   The Congress passed PASPA in 1992 and it was a piece of well-intentioned but ill-conceived bits of legislation.  To get past it, Congress needs either to repeal PASPA and replace it – – not a good optic in DC these days – – or to circumvent most of its restrictive covenants.  At the moment, there has been introduced and sent to committee a bill known as the Gaming Accountability and Modernization Enhancement Act (GAME Act) and it would specifically repeal the section of PASPA that limits sports betting to those states that had it prior to a specific date or those that passed new state legislation to enact it by a certain date.

This GAME Act also provides a definition of wagering/gambling that might clarify what Fantasy Sports might be.  It says that a wager is:

“… the risking of something of value including virtual currency or virtual items, upon the outcome of a contest of others, a sporting event or a game of skill or a game of chance, on the expectation that the person will receive something of value in the event of a certain outcome.”

Please note that this definition would place things like state sponsored lotteries and fantasy sports in the same category as “sports betting”.  Supporters of the GAME Act point out – completely rightfully – that there is lots of sports gambling going on in states where it is illegal under both Federal and State law.  Supporters say it is time to recognize that reality and to do something about it and the something to do about it would be to legalize it, regulate it and – – tax it.

I have not read the GAME Act itself as it was introduced so I do not know if it has some stupid provision buried in it.  However, given what I have heard about it, I think it is a GREAT leap forward from PASPA.

And, by the way, there is another aspect of “law enforcement” that the GAME Act needs to clarify by definition.  Part of the “Federal crackdown” on gambling involves the use of a law from the 1960s and the application of that law to the Internet.  That fact alone – to my mind – disqualifies the law from having any relevance or jurisdiction to the matter.

The major sports leagues – many of whom have financial stakes in Fantasy Sports websites – have been eerily silent on this news.  My guess is that they want to see which way the wind is blowing before sticking their heads out of the foxholes…

Finally, Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times had a fantasy moment of his own and it was not completely wonderful:

“Heard the reports that MLB umpires will soon be miked up to explain replay decisions?

“Just woke up in a cold sweat: Dreamt the Yankees were playing the Red Sox, and Ed Hochuli was the crew chief.”

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

 

 

Administrative Note…

A combination of travel, family events and a social commitment over the next two weeks will definitely impact my writing schedule.  For example, I already know that there will not be time to do a rant next Monday (April 17).

Things will sort of get back to “normal” on May 1.  Please check in once in a while to see if there are new postings between now and May 1.

Stay well, everyone…

 

Pre-Season NFL Picks 2016 – The Post Mortem

 

Back in September 2016, I tried to predict the exact records for all 32 NFL teams and made a list of NFL coaches on the hot seat.  It has become traditional in these parts for me to resurrect those prognostications to see how good they were – – not the usual outcome – – or how far off they were – – far more common.  Why did this become a tradition?  Probably because I know no shame.

Lest anyone think that I am shading these grades – subjective as they are from the outset – here is a link to my original predictions.

Let me start with the “Coaches on a Hot Seat”.  I put 8 of the 32 coaches in that category for 2016.  Four of the eight are now out of a job and three of the ones who were fired were let go in mid-season.  Here was the list:

 

Gus Bradley (Jags):  I did not think he would be fired because I thought the Jags were going to be good last year (more on that blunder later).  Well, they weren’t.  Here is what I said back then:

“… if … the Jags regress to something like a 3-13 record, he will be toast.”

Let the record show that the Jags were exactly 3-13 and that Bradley did not finish the season at the helm of the team.

 

Jim Caldwell (Lions):  In 2015, the Lions finished 6-2 in the second half of the season setting up the team as a “momentum pick” for 2016.  I said that Caldwell needed to maintain that momentum – and the Lions did that.  They were a playoff team until they lost their last 3 games in a row.  This year, it was the 9-4 record after 13 games that kept Jim Caldwell in his job.

 

Jeff Fisher (Rams):  The Rams struggled in 2016 and got virtually nothing from overall #1 pick, Jared Goff, after they paid a handsome price to get his draft rights.  Fisher lasted 13 games and then was shown the door.

 

Jason Garrett (Cowboys):  I put him on the list in the event that the Cowboys really tanked in 2016.  That did not come close to happening as the team went 13-3; so, Jason Garrett properly continues as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys.

 

Marvin Lewis (Bengals):  I said then that I thought Lewis “needs a playoff win this year” to keep his job.  He did not get into the playoffs – let alone win a game there – but he is still the coach in Cincy.  He has another year to go on his contract and reports say that he and the team are “working on a contract extension”.  If he does get an extension, he will likely be with the Bengals for a while because owner, Mike Brown, really does not like to pay people not to coach his team.

 

Mike McCoy (Chargers):  I said then that the team had to do better than 4-12 with the 3rd overall pick in the draft as they had after the 2015 season.  Well, they sorta did that; the record was 5-11 and they have the 7th overall pick in the draft.  McCoy made it through the final game of the year but was let go right after that.

 

Mike Mularkey (Titans):  This situation is the obverse of the one involving Gus Bradley and the Jags.  I thought the Titans would stink and that Mularkey would be gonzo.  Instead, the Titans were a very pleasant surprise for their fans so Mularkey is still in charge.

 

Rex Ryan (Bills):  Here is what I said back then:

“… he might be out of a job come January if the team falls below .500.”

What happened was that the Bills were 7-8 with a game left to play and Bills’ ownership pulled the plug on Ryan between Christmas and New Year’s Day.

 

I did not see the Niners firing Chip Kelly after such a short tenure but the team was awful and they did.  I hope that ownership in SF will show a lot more patience with Kelly’s replacement because the Niners’ 2-14 record in 2016 was due in the most part to a talent-deficient roster and not to incompetent coaching.

So, 50% of my coaches on the hot seat lost their jobs and 37.5% of them lost their jobs before the end of the 2016 season.  I will award a grade of “B” to that set of prognostications.

In the AFC East:

  • I had the Pats winning the division with an 11-5 record; I said they would win the division comfortably with that record and indeed, they would still have won the division at 11-5.  However, I underestimated the Pats in 2016; they played to a 14-2 record.
  • I had the Jets in second place at 8-8.  I did say then that if the football gods penalized Ryan Fitzpatrick strongly as payment for his way-better-than-career-stats year in 2015, that the Jets would be in “real trouble”.  The football gods did just that and the Jets finished last in the AFC East at 5-11.
  • I said the Bills would finish at 6-10; they finished at 7-9.  I did say that at the end of the year Rex Ryan would be collecting the rest of his contract money without having to freeze his butt off in Buffalo.  I got that right.
  • I had the Dolphins at 10-6.  They finished 2016 at 10-6.  In 2015, I said the Dolphins would finish with a 10-6 record and they finished at 6-10.  The Dolphins and I are clearly out of phase with one another…
  • I thought the teams in the AFC East would win a total of 31 games; they won 36 games.

The overall grade for the AFC East is “C –”.

In the AFC North:

  • I had the Steelers as the division winners with a record of 11-5 and that they would ride the strength of their offense to that record.  The Steelers were indeed 11-5 and their offense was the dominant unit.
  • I thought the Bengals would win 10 games and be a wild-card team in the playoffs.  The Bengals went 6-9-1.
  • I had the Ravens at 8-8 and out of the playoffs.  Indeed, the Ravens were 8-8 and missed the playoffs.
  • I thought the Browns would be 3-13 and would not have the overall #1 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.  The Browns were 1-15 and they do indeed have the overall #1 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
  • I thought the teams in the AFC North would win a total of 32 games; they won only 26 games.

The overall grade for the AFC North is “B”.  I was tempted to call it “B+” given that I got two of the teams’ records spot on.  However, the fact that I missed the total wins for the division by 6 games removed the “+” from my consideration.

In the AFC South:

  • I had the Jags winning 10 games and winning the division thereby saving Gus Bradley’s job.  Instead of a 10-6 record, the Jags finished 2016 at 3-13 (dead last in the division by 5 games) and Gus Bradley is now the defensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Chargers.  I definitely coughed up a hairball on that prediction.
  • I had the Colts finishing second in the division at 9-7.  The Colts were 8-8 finishing third behind the Texans and the Titans.
  • I thought the Texans would finish third with an 8-8 record.  The Texans finished 9-7 and won the division.
  • I had the Titans finishing dead last here at 2-14 with coach Mike Mularkey out looking for work.  The Titans finished 9-7 only losing the division to the Texans on a tiebreaker.
  • I thought the teams in the AFC Central would win a total of 29 games; they won exactly 29 games.

The overall grade for the AFC Central is “F”.  If schools gave grades down the alphabet, this grade might have been a “Q”.  Even the fact that the “total wins prediction” was exact, that does not mitigate the abject failure of these predictions.

In the AFC West:

  • I had the Raiders winning 11 games and winning the division.  The Raiders were 12-4 and finished second in the division to the Chiefs on a tiebreaker; the Raiders did make the playoffs as a wild-card team.
  • I had the Chiefs in second place in this division with a 10-6 record and as a wild-card team in the playoffs.  The Chiefs finished atop the division at 12-4.
  • I thought the Broncos would finish at 8-8 and miss the playoffs.  The Broncos were 9-7 and missed the playoffs.
  • I thought the Chargers would finish 7-9 last year.  I said they would miss the playoffs, be hunting for a new coach come January and that they would lose their stadium referendum held in November.  The Chargers finished last in the division at 5-11 and all of the other prognostications came true.
  • I thought the teams in the AFC West would win a total of 36 games; they won 38 games.

The overall grade for the AFC West is “A “.   If I could make predictions of this quality for every division year over year, I would get paid by one of the sports websites to make those pre-season picks.  Please note that none of them are contacting me to buy my “words of wisdom” …

In the NFC East:

  • I had the Skins at the division winners at 9-7.  The Skins finished at 8-7-1 which is pretty close – – except they finished third in the division and missed the playoffs on a tiebreaker.
  • I had the Cowboys finishing second in the division at 7-9.  The Cowboys won the division at 13-3 and had the best record in the NFC.
  • I had the Giants finishing third at 7-9.  Actually, the Giants wound up 11-5 in second place in the division and in the playoffs as a wild-card team.
  • I had the Eagles in last place with a record of 5-11.  The Eagles overachieved and finished 7-9.
  • I thought the teams in the NFC East would win a total of 28 games; they won 39 games.

The overall grade for the NFC East is “F”.  Other than coming very close to the Skins’ final record everything else here sucked wind.

In the NFC North:

  • I thought the Packers would win the division with a 12-4 record.  They did win the division but only at 10-6.
  • I thought the Vikes would finish second in the division at 10-6.  That prediction came after Teddy Bridgewater’s injury but before Adrian Peterson’s injury.  The Vikes were 8-8 for the season finishing third in the division.  Given Peterson’s absence for 90% of the year, I think this prediction was actually pretty close.
  • I had the Lions finishing third with a 5-11 record.  I thought the absence of Calvin Johnson would be a big loss for the team.  The Lions were 9-7 last year and made the playoffs as a wild-card team.
  • I thought the Bears would be 5-11 at season’s end.  The Bears were only 3-13.
  • I thought the teams in the NFC North would win a total of 32 games; they won 30 games.

The overall grade for the NFC North is “B”.  I realize I was off by a lot on the Lions here but coming as close as I did on the Vikes despite injuries to their QB and their stud RB sort of makes up for some of that.  Coming as close to the win total for the division as I did also gooses the grade up just a tad.

In the NFC South:

  • I had the Panthers “winning the division by a mile” at 13-3.  You may commence snickering now; OK, that is enough.  The Panthers succumbed to “Super Bowl Hangover” in a major way and had a record of 6-10 for the season.  That put them in last place in the division.
  • I thought the Bucs would be 7-9; they were 9-7
  • I thought the Saints would be 7-9; they were exactly 7-9.
  • I thought the Falcons would be 7-9; they were 11-5 and went to the Super Bowl.
  • I thought the teams in the NFC South would win a total of 34 games; they won 33 games.

The overall grade for the NFC South is “C – “.  Obviously, I had the Panthers dead wrong and hugely underestimated the Falcons.  However, I did have the Saints, Bucs and the total wins for the division pretty close.

In the NFC West:

  • I liked the Seahawks to win the division at 11-5 on the basis of a tiebreaker. Indeed, the Seahawks won the division and their record was 10-5-1.  Oh, by the way, I did say before the season started that OL would be an issue for the team – – and it was.
  • I thought the Cardinals would finish second in the division with a record of 11-5 and lose out on tiebreaker.  Indeed, the Cards did finish second but that was because they had a record of only 7-8-1.
  • I had the Rams finishing third at 6-10 and said they would be looking for a new coach in January.  The Rams did finish third at 4-12 and they searched for and found a new coach in January.
  • I thought the Niners would finish last in the division at 6-10 and that the turmoil in the coaching staff/GM office and owners’ suite would continue.  The Niners indeed finished last at 2-14; they have a new coach and a new GM but they still have the same owner and President of football operations because, you cannot fire an owner.
  • I thought the teams in the NFC West would win a total of 34 games; they won only 23 games.

The overall grade for the NFC West is “B”.  I had the order of finish correct; and other than missing the Cards; final record by 3.5 games, much of the rest of my crystal ball gazing was on target.  The total wins for the division was off by a lot however…

So, I have handed out 9 “grades” here – 8 for the individual divisions in the NFL and one for the coaches on a hot seat.  Here is how they break down:

  • A = 1
  • B = 4
  • C –  =  2
  • F = 2

My Grade Point Average for the 2016 works out to be 2.11.  That may not sound like much, but it is an improvement over the 2015 when the GPA was only 1.98.  Major progress can result from a series of small steps…

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