A Great Super Bowl 51 …

When I was in high school – yes, we had discovered fire by then – I had a classmate of the female persuasion who was an avid sports fan.  After college, she moved to the Boston area and has been there ever since; not surprisingly, she quickly became an ardent fan of the Red Sox and the Patriots and … you get the idea.  Yesterday, I attended a Super Bowl party in Philadelphia and drove back to Northern Virginia after the game and decided to check my e-mail before heading upstairs to feed the cat and then hit the sack.  There was an e-mail in my inbox from this lovely woman that I will reproduce for you here in its entirety:


Given all of the superlatives and all of the hyper-ventilating commentaries that attended the post-game analyses of last night’s game, I believe that my high school classmate captured the moment accurately, succinctly and eloquently.  Please let us not contort ourselves into a meaningless argument about whether this was the best Super Bowl of all time; it was indeed a great game and there is no reason to poke holes in it – or in any other great Super Bowl game one might consider – just to make a meaningless point.

As I noted above, I spent two and a half hours after the game driving home from Philadelphia and I passed at least some of those miles by listening to whatever sports radio station(s) I could pull in on my car radio.  Somewhere around Baltimore, I came across a must have been a nationally syndicated show that took calls from different states; and of course, the topic of the night had to be the Super Bowl game.  At first I was glad to hear that the “debate” would not be about the greatness of this game vis á vis other Super Bowl games; my delight, however was short-lived.  The “debate topic” for the evening was this:

  • Were the Pats “lucky” or did the Falcons “choke”?

After listening to about 3 of the mouth-breathers who got themselves on the air, I let out an audible sigh in the car and hit the off-switch on my radio.  I get it; that sort of paradigm where one sets up two polar opposite camps can fill radio time.  However, it ignores the obvious possibility that the two teams played as well as they could and one of the teams prevailed at the end of a well-played game.  Sigh …

Let me present here some stream of consciousness observations about the game:

  1. I thought that the pass reception made by Julio Jones with about 5 minutes to play in the game to give the Falcons a first down deep in the Pats territory was a game-winning play AND that it was equal to Santonio Holmes catch against the Cardinals in the Super Bowl to give the Steelers a come from behind win.
  2. Then about 3 minutes later, Julian Edlelman made a catch that was just as good as the Jones catch and/or the Holmes catch.  Wow!
  3. I think Kyle Shanahan made a severe tactical error – and said so at the time – after Jones’ catch.  The Falcons led by 8 with about 4 minutes to play and were clearly in field goal range.  Instead of running the ball to chew up the clock – or get the Pats to use all their remaining time-outs – he threw the ball which stopped the clock, allowed Ryan to be sacked and created an offensive holding call that demanded a punt from the Falcons.  Instead of leading by 2 scores, they gave the ball to the Pats who still had 2 time-outs in a 1-score situation and about three-and-a half minutes on the clock.
  4. By the end of the game, the Falcons’ defense was gassed.  In the 4th quarter plus overtime alone, the Pats ran 35 plays and gained 263 yards.  Brady was16 for 27 for 241 net yards passing.  Those stats came from 19 minutes of football; normalized to a 60-minute game, you would break a whole lot of NFL records for offensive football.
  5. I think the unsung heroes for the Pats – overshadowed because of the monstrous comeback in the game – is the Pats’ defensive unit and the Pats’ defensive game plan.  The Falcons only snapped the ball 46 times in the game while the Pats had 93 offensive plays.  The Falcons had the ball only 23:27 in the game as compared to the Pats having the ball for 40:31.
  6. The Falcons had averaged almost 34 points per game in the regular season and 40 points per game in the previous 2 playoff games.  The Pats defense allowed 21 points yesterday – recall that one of the Falcons’ TDs came on a Pick Six.  Moreover, the Falcons’ offense that averaged 415.8 yards per game this season and ranked second in the NFL only managed to gain to 344 yards yesterday.  When you hand out the plaudits for the Pats’ victory here, please do not overlook the job the defense did.
  7. I thought the game was well officiated.  Yes, there were a few no-calls that might be criticized when you look at the replays in slow motion and with a close-up camera shot.  Notwithstanding that virtually inevitable set of circumstances, I thought the officials did a good job last night.
  8. I thought the ads during the game were OK but not great.  I must admit that it would have taken me a lifetime to guess that Morgan Freeman would be a spokesperson for Turkish Airlines in a Super Bowl ad, but no harm; no foul…

I began today telling you about my Boston-residing high school classmate.  In my response to her succinct summation of the game, I pointed something out to her.  There must be something in the air in NRG Stadium in Houston.  Consider this:

  • Last night, NRG Stadium was the site of an historical comeback in a Super Bowl game.
  • Ten months ago, NRG Stadium was the site of the Villanova/UNC final game in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament and you may recall that game was won on a three-point shot at the buzzer by Villanova.
  • With those two games on its résumé, perhaps we should hold a lot more sporting events at NRG Stadium.

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



Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend Of 2/5/17


We have reached the end of the line for Mythical Picking for the 2016/2017 NFL season.  Two weeks ago, I made three picks in the two conference championship games and the record for the week was an unimpressive 1-2-0.  Notwithstanding that performance, the record for the year remains solidly in the mythically profitable range at 140-95-5.

The Best Pick from two weeks ago – the only correct one – was:

  • Packers/Falcons OVER 60.  Total score was 65.

The Worst Picks from two weeks ago – the ones that were wrong – were:

  • Packers +5.5 against Falcons.  Packers lost by 23 points.
  • Steelers +6 against Pats.  Steelers lost by 19 points.

Obviously, no one should use any information here when deciding which side to back in a real wager involving real money on this weekend’s Super Bowl game.  Here is how dumb you would have to be to do something like that:


You think “rebooting” means kicking someone in the ass twice.


General Comments:


There have been 10 games in the NFL playoffs so far this year and only 2 of those games have been tense/down to the wire games.  The Steelers’ 2-point win over the Chiefs to put the Steelers into the AFC Championship Game was a nail-biter throughout and the Packers/Cowboys game won on a field goal after Aaron Rodgers’ “miracle throw” was a game for the ages.  Other than that, the rest of the games have been room temperature pabulum.  Sheesh…  We have to hope for a much more interesting game this weekend than we saw in those “other 8 playoff games” this year.

Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have been to the Super Bowl 6 times before the game this Sunday.  In 4 of those 6 games, the margin of victory was 3 points; in the other 2 games, the margin of victory was 4 points.  If the past is prologue, we ought to look forward to a tight game on Sunday.

Two weeks ago, I did point out that the Packers’ secondary had had difficulty dealing with/covering Dez Bryant in the win over the Cowboys and that dealing with Julio Jones would be an even bigger problem for them.  I will dislocate my shoulder by patting myself on the back here; I got that one right.  What the Falcons’ offense did to the Packers’ defense was about as pleasant to watch as a ritual disembowelment.

The Total Line for Sunday’s game opened at 57 points and then shot up to 60 points in less than 24 hours.  Since then, it has settled at 58.5 points and has not varied much from that level since the initial surge.  Like the Total Line in the Packers/Falcons game for the NFC Championship, this is a big number but there have been Super Bowl games in the past that went north of 58.5:

  1. Feb 2013:  Ravens/Niners scored 65 points
  2. Feb 2004:  Pats/Panthers scored 61 points
  3. Jan 2003:  Bucs/Raiders scored 69 points
  4. Jan 1995:  Niners/Chargers scored 75 points
  5. Jan 1993:  Cowboys/Bills scored 69 points
  6. Jan 1992:  Skins/Bills scored 61 points
  7. Jan 1990:  Niners/Broncos scored 65 points
  8. Jan 1987:  Giants/Broncos scored 59 points
  9. Jan 1979:  Steelers/Cowboys scored 66 points

On any given Sunday – to borrow a phrase – you can find proposition wagers for NFL games but for the Super Bowl, the proposition bets come out of the woodwork and play a prominent role in the wagering landscape.  Bovada is an Internet wagering site that offers sports betting; here you can find their list of prop best for this week.

If those are not enough to satisfy your curiosity, USA Today took the opportunity to list the 400 different prop bets posted at the Westgate Sportsbook in Las Vegas.  You can find that list here.

Not to worry, I am not going to go over the multiple hundreds of possibilities here but I do think there are a few that are interesting to think about.  One prop bet that always shows up is the “Over/Under” on the length of time it takes the singer to complete the National Anthem.  This year’s performer is Luke Bryan – someone I could not distinguish from William Jennings Bryan were it not for the fact that William Jennings Bryan has been dead for more than 90 years – and the prop best says he will finish the anthem in 127.5 seconds.  If you are a Luke Bryan fan, you can also wager on what he will be wearing in terms of pants when he starts to sing the anthem:

  • Jeans:  – 200
  • Any other pants/shorts:  +150

How many times will “Gronk” or “Gronkowski” be said during the live telecast of the game – not to include any pre-game or post-game mentions?

  • Over/Under = 3

Since the game is in Houston, will anyone say during the telecast of the game, “Houston, we have a problem.”? [Again, this is during the live telecast of the game and not during pre-game, halftime or post-game commentary.  I wonder if it includes any of the ads…]

  • Yes:  +250
  • No:  – 400

Will either team make a field goal in the first quarter?

  • Yes:  – 120
  • No:  Even money

Total first downs by the Pats:

  • Over/Under = 23.5.  [That is a lot of first downs…]

Distance of Matt Ryan’s first TD pass:

  • Over/Under = 13.5 yards

And of course, there are the infamous “cross-sports propositions”.  For example, this year we have this prop:

  • Phil Mickelson’s fourth round score this week versus
  • Pats’ yards rushing minus 44.5.

If that were not enough, consider this one.  What will be higher:

  • Tiger Woods’ fourth round birdies versus
  • Total number of field goals made in the Super Bowl

That should give you an idea of how many ways you can put your money at risk on the Internet and/or at the Westgate Sportsbook in Las Vegas.


The Game:


New England – 3 versus Atlanta (58.5):  The Falcons score points in their sleep; they averaged more than 33 points per game in the regular season and they have averaged 40 points per game in their 2 playoff games this year.  The Patriots allowed the fewest points in the league during the regular season and have only given up a total of 33 points in their 2 playoff games this year.  If you were to subject yourself to watching the whole pre-game “analysis” of the game, you would hear those stats beaten to death.  The Falcons are 12-6 against the spread this year; and given their prolific offense, they are 15-3 to go OVER this year.  Meanwhile, the Pats are 14-3-1 against the spread this year; and despite their stingy defense the Pats have a 9-8-1 record to go OVER this year.  I said several weeks ago that my curmudgeonly instinct was to root for the Pats to win it all this year just to make Roger Goodell have to hand the Lombardi Trophy to Tom Brady, Bob Kraft and Bill Belichick.  I think it can happen so I’ll take the Pats and lay the points and I’ll take the game to go OVER.

Finally, let me close out the last of the Mythical Picks for this season with a definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Cleopatra:  Legendary hottie and Egyptian pharaoh, from 51 – 30 BC.  Known for her love affairs with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony and for committing suicide with a poison asp.  In twenty-one years of rule, you would think she might have been remembered for a few other accomplishments, but apparently schtupping two famous guys and offing herself with a snake was all they covered on Access: Egypt.”

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



Nothing Is Simple…

In the last 36 hours, the Oakland Raiders’ move to Las Vegas hit a washboard surface on the highway.  Sheldon Adelson and his family took their reported $650M out of the deal but the Raiders’ stance at that point was nonchalance because Goldman-Sachs had assured them of financing.  Indeed, Goldman-Sachs would not be “strapped for cash” if they did this deal but there was one little thing that still had to be taken into consideration:

  • Sheldon Adelson has a reported net worth of something near $30B and – not surprisingly – he does a lot of business in the world of financing projects here in the US and abroad.  When he could not reach a deal with Mark Davis, Goldman-Sachs saw this deal in a different light and they backed out too.

I said earlier this week that this story still had plenty of moving parts and actors who had not yet delivered their lines in the saga.  Well, at this point, you can call it a flat-out goat rodeo.  This report from espn.com announced the unraveling of the deal.

Later reporting on espn.com suggested that the Raiders had three options at this point:

“The Raiders could find another investment bank to replace Goldman Sachs in the deal or take on another partner to replace Adelson, in advance of the late-March owners meeting where their relocation to Las Vegas was to be considered. They could also return to Oakland.”

That sounds simple and straightforward – – except that the same report also says that the mayor of San Diego has inserted himself into this situation by telling the NFL that the Raiders could move to San Diego.  The NFL is supposed to vote on the Raiders’ application to move to Las Vegas in March of this year so keep your eyes and ears open here; it is going to be a wild ride.

NFL Commish, Roger Goodell held his regularly scheduled news conference the other day – the one they often call “The State of the League Address” – and there is one question that I wish someone had asked him related to this whole Raiders’ relocation situation.


Mr. Commish, the Raiders’ application to move to Las Vegas is in the hands of the league for consideration at your March meeting.  That application calls for construction of a new stadium that will be ready for the start of the 2020 season and that the Raiders would remain in Oakland from 2017 thru 2019.  Last year the Raiders had the lowest average home attendance and the lowest total attendance in the NFL by a significant margin.  How can the NFL expect the fans in Oakland to continue to pay major league prices to a team that has a countdown clock running?


The fact is that the Raiders played to an average attendance in Oakland of 54,584 last year; the team that ranked 31st in the NFL on that metric was the San Diego Chargers who drew an average of 57,024 at home.  The median average home attendance in the NFL last year was Seattle at 69,073.

Meanwhile, as we approach Sunday’s Super Bowl, it is time for another annual story.  It is illegal in the United States to wager on the Super Bowl except in the State of Nevada; that prohibition extends beyond casinos where legal gambling of other types is ongoing; that box pool where you pick squares to match with the score at the end of each quarter of the game is also illegal as is the $10 wager you make with your co-worker on the outcome of the game.  We all know that sort of thing happens and most folks shrug it off as “no big deal”.  However, when you add that sort of wagering to the amount estimated to pass through the hands of your local bookmaker and offshore Internet sportsbooks, the total handle for the Super Bowl is in the neighborhood of $4.5B.  The Nevada sportsbooks will probably handle between $100-150M on the game.

The reason almost all of the betting on the game is illegal is something known as PASPA – the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992.  Yes, PASPA has been around for 25 years now and even if that $4.5B estimate is inflated by 25%, there is a ton of illegal gambling going on that PASPA has yet to find a way to curtail.  If gambling on sports in general – and the Super Bowl in specific – is a danger to sports and thereby puts them in need of PASPA’s “protection”, then the law has been a dismal failure.

I am sure you have read/heard about the challenge that the State of New Jersey has made to PASPA.  As things stand right now, several other states have joined New Jersey in that challenge and the case is under consideration by the US Supreme Court.  There is no chance of an imminent ruling because the Supreme Court has said it will wait until there is a new Solicitor General of the US who has had time to file his/her brief on this matter.  The Solicitor General is the person/office in the Department of Justice that represents the United States in matters before the Supreme Court.  At the moment, there is no Solicitor General because the tradition is that the incumbent resigns when a new Administration takes over in Washington.

It cannot be a mystery to anyone who has read these rants for even a short while as to what I would prefer as a decision from the US Supreme Court…

Finally, as the Super Bowl game approaches and people get in the mood to watch and rank the Super bowl advertisements, let me give you a definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Advertisement:  A medium through which people who truly care about your welfare (and not at all about money) provide you with helpful, extremely subtle reminders that your bad breath, body odor, cell phone provider and make of car all have to go.”

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



Rob Manford Drops The Hammer ?

It would appear as if the hacking case involving the Houston Astros and the St. Louis Cardinals has come to its conclusion.  To summarize simply, it appears that the Cardinals’ organization accessed the computer records of the Houston Astros allegedly by using the passwords of the Houston GM who used to be in the Cardinals’ organization because he did not change them.  The former scouting director of the Cardinals, Chris Correa, pleaded guilty to 5 counts of “unauthorized access to a protected computer system” and was sentenced to about 4 years in Federal prison.

Here, you can read what the Houston Chronicle has to say about this whole mess and why baseball’s action this week is justified.

This week, MLB Commish, Rob Manford, delivered baseball’s punishment to Correa and the Cardinals.  Correa is banned for life from baseball; as I read it, he has the same status as Shoeless Joe Jackson and Pete Rose.  More importantly, Manford concluded that the Cardinals were “vicariously liable for his [Correa’s] misconduct” and on that basis the Commish docked the Cardinals their two top picks in this year’s MLB Draft and sent those picks plus the $2M that would be allotted to signing those picks to the Astros.  Reporters are saying this action is severe and unprecedented.

I guess you can call the loss of a second and a third-round draft pick “severe”; it would be much more severe if levied against an NFL team.  I think it is clear that this case is “unprecedented” simply because for the vast majority of baseball’s history there were no computer systems out there to hack.  There may not be a documented case where one team gained surreptitious access to another team’s scouting data, but to say that such a thing never happened in the history of MLB is a bit of a stretch.

I will give Commissioner Manford a lot of credit here for making the punishment relevant to the crime.  The purpose of the hacking was to gain information about the Astro’s scouting reports on prospects; in that way, sending the Cardinals’ picks – and the money to sign those picks – to the Astros is logical and relevant.

The reason I started all of this by saying, “It would appear as if the hacking case … has come to its conclusion,” is that the accounts of what has recently transpired are reported slightly differently by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.  You can read their report and their points of emphasis here.

It will not be long until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training and when I look at the list of baseball free agents who remain unsigned, some questions come to mind:

  • Matt Weiters:  He is 30 years old and did not have a good season in 2016.  However, each baseball team needs 2 catchers and with him unsigned, that means there are 60 catchers around who are better than Weiters.  I don’t think so …
  • Mike Napoli:  Yes, he is 35; and yes, he is much more valuable to an AL team where he can spend some time as a DH.  However, he hit 34 home runs and drove in 101 runs in 2016…
  • Jason Hamel:  He was 15-10 last year with a 3.83 ERA.  Each team needs a minimum of 7 starting pitchers to make it through the season; are there really 210 better starting pitchers than Hamel out there?
  • Angel Pagan/Jake Peavy/Chase Utley:  Is this the end of the line for them?

Switching gears …  I am convinced that there is no force on Planet Earth that can diminish the “Tiger Woods drumbeat” emanating from the golf writers and commentators.  I swear that after he dies, someone will write a piece suggesting that Woods will come back from “the other side” to play in some minor tournament somewhere and will cite “alternative facts” as the mechanism by which this will happen.  This story does not merely have legs; this story has roots that go to the core of the Earth.

Last week, Woods failed to make the cut in the Farmers Insurance Open.  Quick and no Googling here:

  • How long has the Farmers Insurance Open been in existence with that name?
  • What was this tournament called before that?
  • Who won last year?

My point is that you can be a focused sports fan and not know a whole lot about this PGA Tour event; it is not a critical tournament annually.  Tiger Woods missed the damned cut here and at least 50% – and maybe 66% – of the stuff written about the events of the tournament focused on him.  Just to give you an idea, he shot 76 in the opening round of the tournament and writers took that opportunity to point out that he shot better than his playing partners – Jason Day and Dustin Johnson – did in that round.

Woods is off to Dubai this week to play in an open tournament there and says he will play in two more tournaments in the three weeks after Dubai.  Stand by for a tsunami of coverage none of which will acknowledge a simple fact:

  • Tiger Woods once was the single best golfer on the planet – – just as Ben Hogan once was the single best golfer on the planet – – just as Jack Nicklaus …
  • The fact is that stories written about Woods today are nostalgia pieces and not anything related to news – any more than stories about Hogan, Nicklaus etc. today are related to news.

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

“Arkansas tight end Jeremy Sprinkle got sent home just hours before Thursday’s Belk Bowl when he got caught shoplifting — from a sponsoring Belk department store.

“Or, as Razorbacks apologists prefer to put it: He had bad hands.”

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



Niners And Raiders News Today …

It certainly looks to me as if Jed York – the guy who runs the Niners’ football operation for his family that owns the team – has thrown the management version of a Hail Mary.  The team is a mess and the organization is a mess.  Since the time when Jim Harbaugh was forced out based on a personality incompatibility out there, the roster has suffered; the team has lost; they have hired and fired two coaches and fired the GM who survived the “Harbaugh-pogrom”.  Other than that, it has been smooth sailing for the Niners up and down San Francisco Bay.

Jed York just hired a new GM.  John Lynch went to Stanford; he was an outstanding safety in the NFL for 15 years making the Pro Bowl 9 times and being named first team All-Pro 2 times.  He retired from the NFL in 2008 and joined FOX Broadcasting as part of their NFL coverage.  He and Kevin Burkhardt served as the #2 FOX television announcing team for the past several years.  On the air, John Lynch is very good.

So, why is this a Hail Mary?  As good a player as John Lynch was – oh, by the way, do not be surprised to see him in the Hall of Fame as a defensive back; he was that good – and as good an analyst as he is on TV, John Lynch has never been an assistant coach, a coach or held any position in a football front office.  Everyone has to start somewhere, and he is starting his football management career at the top of an organization that might fairly be described as one that puts the “fun” in “dysfunctional”.

The Niners gave Lynch a 6-year contract as the GM.  That is also a bit unusual because of its length and it may demonstrate one of two things:

  1. Perhaps Jed York has had an epiphany and realizes the depth of the mess that has accumulated in SF.  Having seen the mess, he has come to understand that it will take a while for anyone to clean it out and put things in order.  [Aside:  One of the labors of Hercules was to clean out the Augean stables in a single day and he accomplished that by diverting a river bed through the stables.  That is mythology; the Niners’ mess may be similarly sized, but it is real and cannot be cleaned up in a day.]
  2. Perhaps Jed York could not get anyone with “significant GM credentials” to take the job and when he reached out to John Lynch, Lynch realized that he held all of the leverage and put the arm on York.  [Aside:  If this is correct, then maybe John Lynch has a real aptitude for the negotiation part of the GM’s job.]

The word is that Lynch will hire Kyle Shanahan to be the Niners’ coach as soon as Shanahan gets through with being the Falcons’ offensive coordinator this Sunday in Houston.  Kyle Shanahan has grown up in and around football and has been an offensive coordinator for three NFL teams.  He has not, however, been a head coach anywhere meaning that he and John Lynch will be learning the full measure of their new responsibilities together.

Hey, this might work out – just like Hail Marys sometimes work out, particularly if Aaron Rodgers is the one launching them.  On the other hand, this might turn out to be the West Coast version of a decision made by William Clay Ford in Detroit when he hired Matt Millen – an outstanding NFL linebacker – out of the broadcast booth to be the Lions’ GM.  I’ll just say that the Matt Millen experience in Detroit was less than positive.  If you want all of those gory details, Google is your friend…

As I said above, the Niners’ roster is substandard on the “talent spectrum” and the Lynch/Shanahan project will be to upgrade the talent level significantly and quickly.  However, over and above that generic situation, they need to figure out quickly if they have an NFL-caliber QB on the roster.  Here is the depth chart:

  1. Colin Kaepernick:  He took the Niners to a Super Bowl in February 2013 and his career arc since then has been steadily downward.
  2. Blaine Gabbert:  He had 3 undistinguished years in Jax and has been in SF for 3 seasons.  He has started 40 games in his career and the team record in those 40 games is 9-31.
  3. Christian Ponder:  He had 4 mediocre-at-best years with the Vikes from 2011-2014 and has not seen the field in an NFL game since then.
  4. Thad Lewis:  He has appeared in 7 games in his career and started 6 of those games.  The last time he was in a real NFL game was in late December 2013.

Meanwhile, the other Bay Area NFL team is also in the news.  As the Raiders have applied to the NFL for permission to relocate to Las Vegas, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports yesterday that the Adelson family has withdrawn as investors in the stadium project.  Originally, Sheldon Adelson had “pledged” to put $650M into the pot to build the stadium; earlier this month, the Raiders said that Goldman Sachs could provide financing for that $650M in the event that things could not be worked out with the Adelson family.

There are lots of moving parts to this story to include the NFL, the Raiders, Sheldon Adelson, the Governor of Nevada, the Clark County Commission Chairman, and the Las Vegas Stadium Authority.  For all I know, Francis the Talking Mule may become an actor in this saga.  Here is the report from the Review-Journal yesterday to give you an idea of the landscape at the moment.

I will try to follow this story in the Review-Journal for a several reasons:

  1. The paper has been steadfastly in favor of building a new stadium and getting the Raiders to move to Las Vegas.
  2. The Las Vegas Review-Journal is owned by Sheldon Adelson.
  3. With the Adelson family now “out of the deal”, I wonder if the paper’s unwavering favorable view of this venture will continue to obtain.

Finally, here is a comment form Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times about another happening in Las Vegas:

“A driverless shuttle is being tested in downtown Las Vegas.

“Apparently, they got the idea from watching the Houston Texans’ offense this season.”

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


Just A Bunch Of Stuff Today …

In case you missed it, Adam Jones – known as “Pacman” Jones to many NFL fans – is in trouble with the law.  Again.  The charges this time include obstructing official business, disorderly conduct and assault; there is video of Pacman raging against officers from the back of a police vehicle telling the officer(s) that he hopes they die tomorrow and that they will be out of a job tomorrow.  [Aside:  I suspect the “loss of life” would necessarily imply a “loss of job”, but the redundancy of the statement is not particularly important here.]  And, it is alleged that once he arrived at the hoosegow, he spit on a nurse who was attending to his processing.

It would be an exaggeration to say that Jones rides in police cars as often as millennials ride in Ubers, but it would not be an exaggeration to suggest that Jones could provide direct testimony regarding the comfort level and the amenities provided in the rear seats of police vehicles from a variety of jurisdictions.  I do not pretend that what follows is based on exhaustive research; these are just some of his previous encounters with the gendarmes:

  1. He has been accused of assaulting two women.
  2. He was the one who “made it rain” in a Las Vegas nightclub that led to a shooting incident leading to lawsuits from victims that cost Jones more than $12M as a result of the incident.
  3. He served a 1-year suspension from the NFL and has undergone substance abuse rehab.
  4. He got into a fight with a bodyguard employed by the Cowboys that engendered a trip in a police car.

According to reports, he has now been arrested “at least nine times”.  He arrived in the NFL a bit late to play for an Al Davis team but he has played for a Jerry Jones team and found a way to wear out his welcome there before joining the Bengals where he was merely a cog on the wheel of eccentricity there in Cincy.  Jones is now 33 years old and – frankly – his coverage skills started to show bits of wear and tear last season.  One has to wonder if he still has sufficient talent to overcome his rather obvious “behavioral issues”.

Moving on …  I happened to be grazing through the cable channels and came across a “panel discussion” on NFL Network where the subject was organizational stability and how that stability was a critical component for successful franchises.  The Patriots, Steelers and Packers were cited as current examples of long-term organizational stability; people recalled the stability of the “Bill Walsh 49ers” and the “Shula Dolphins” and the “Lombardi Packers”.  As the discussion turned to some of the “less stable franchises”, one of the panel members – I did not recognize him – mentioned the Buffalo Bills and he said that the Bills last playoff appearance had been prior to the Patriots hiring of Bill Belichick.  It is not that I did not believe him, but I went and checked and came up with three facts:

  1. The Bills’ last playoff appearance was on Jan 8, 2000 in a loss to the Tennessee Titans in the wild card round.  The Pats hired Bill Belichick on Jan 27, 2000.
  2. When Bill Belichick took the Pats’ job, Wade Philips was the Buffalo head coach.  Since Phillips was fired at the end of the 2000 season, the Bills have had 7 “full time head coaches” plus interim coach Anthony Lynn in the 2016 season plus newly hired Sean McDermott.
  3. Phillips’ record in Buffalo was 29-19 when he was fired.  Since then every subsequent head coach has left with a record below .500.

Last week, one of the minor college football bowl games went belly up.  There will be no more Poinsettia Bowl games; the rich 12-year tradition of this game will have to live on only in memory.  These games have been played in San Diego and the demise of this game leaves the city with only one college bowl game – the Holiday Bowl – which will soldier on.

One organization was responsible for staging these two bowl games in the past and here is the statement from its executive director regarding the Poinsettia Bowl:

“College football and the bowl game structure has gone through major changes through the years and our board feels the time is right to focus our efforts on one post-season game. The San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl staged exciting match-ups for more than a decade and we were one of the few cities to host two bowl games.”

Here are the data that probably led to the decision to deep-six this game:

  • Average attendance at the Poinsettia Bowl game for the last 12 years has been just under 32,500 fans.  That would be a stupendous crowd for a Wednesday night game between two MAC teams, but that is just a smattering of folks for a college football game of any importance.
  • In the last 6 of the Poinsettia Bowl games, attendance has only gone over 30,000 in the two years when San Diego St. played in the game.  That indicates that despite the great weather in San Diego in December/January, people were not traveling from Wherever, USA to San Diego to see a game they considered an after-thought.
  • When the Poinsettia Bowl first appeared on the college football scene in 2005, there were 28 post-season bowl games.   In 2016, there were 41 post-season bowl games.  To me the message is clear and perhaps the demise of the Poinsettia Bowl will “spread the word”.  There are simply too many college football bowl games and at least two-thirds of them are sufficiently meaningless that they could be discontinued with no pain to anyone other than TV networks looking to fill 168 hours a week with programming.

Finally, here is a definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

“Adult:  What you become when you finally give up drinking, sleeping around and bouncing from job to job.  Also known as kill-me-now syndrome.”

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



Chicago Bulls or Chicago Blues …

I was watching Sportscenter the other night and after they reported that the Chicago Bulls had lost to the Atlanta Hawks on a late rally by the Hawks, the team showed locker-room interviews with Dwayne Wade and Jimmy Butler of the Bulls.  Both were calm and composed; there was no ranting.  Nonetheless, what they said – and the directness with which they said it – indicates to me that the Bulls have a VERY serious “chemistry issue”.  Let me paraphrase their comments and aggregate them here:

  • Wade and Butler questioned the desire of some of their teammates and their commitment to winning.
  • One of them – I do not recall which one – questioned teammates’ heart.
  • They wondered why teammates had taken some unsuccessful shots late in the game with the game on the line.

This is not quite the same thing as LeBron or Kobe indicating that their team has problems that need resolution.  In this case, the two best players on the team – unarguably – both made specific references to teammates and the commitment of those teammates to winning basketball games.  If the coaching staff in Chicago can patch this back together, maybe we should send those guys to the Middle East to negotiate a peace deal in that region of the world.  I think the Chicago Bulls are coming unglued…

Here is a scheduling alert for your Super Bowl party.  For those of you who are determined to watch Lady Gaga and her halftime act/antics, you should be sure to be back from your potty-break when it comes time for the first advertisement of the 3rd quarter.  For the first time in history, the ad will be live – not taped.  Snickers has purchased the ad slot and here is something we know about this first-time event:

  • Per adweek.com, the ad will feature actor, Adam Driver.  Let me be clear, I do not know Adam Driver from Adam Walker or from Johnny Walker or from Johnny Football or from Squirt the Wonder Clam.  Nevertheless, adweek.com thinks this is important information.

There is something else here that I do not understand.  According to adweek.com, this 30-second ad will be preceded of a 36-hour livestream.  Snickers is going to be streaming live content at SnickersLive.com from noon on the Thursday before the Super Bowl until midnight on Friday.  Then, SnickersLive.com will do more streaming on game day before, during and after the game itself.  So, perhaps the idea here is to do something that sounds so strange that it might tempt me to tune in to see what is going on.  Well, if that were the case, then this next “clarification” from someone at Snickers doused my curiosity; the ad will be part of a:

“… fully integrated 360 campaign to reinforce the brand’s connection to hunger satisfaction before, during and after Super Bowl LI.”

I know the definition of every word in that phrase and yet the meaning and importance of the message delivered by that phrase completely escapes me.  Oh, but it gets even better.  Here is what the Snickers brand director told adweek.com:

“Every year we challenge ourselves to find new ways to satisfy our fans hunger for entertainment by delivering something new and breakthrough, and there is no better way than being the first to have a Super Bowl live ad.”

As is always the case with press notifications of this type, there has to be a parallel comment from the network that will be airing the ad and so we get to hear now from a FOX group vice-president:

“We’re excited to welcome Snickers back to the Super Bowl on Fox.  As this first-ever live Super Bowl spot demonstrates, innovation in advertising comes as much from outstanding creative ideas as it does from technology.”

One more foreshadowing for the Super Bowl ads comes from adweek.com.  Hyundai will not air a live ad, but will do the next best thing.  Hyundai said that it will be taping its commercial during the game itself and that ad will air in the first ad slot after the final whistle of the game.

And you thought that the only excitement would be on the field in Houston.  How silly…

Switching gears…  We know that fans sometimes throw things onto the field of play.  In Detroit, they throw octopuses on the ice during Stanley Cup Playoff games; in Europe, they throw flares onto soccer pitches; in Philly, they throw snowballs at Santa Claus.  We also know that when a player leaves one team to go to a rival team, he is often greeted “less than warmly” when he returns to the venue where he used to play.

Leave it to the Aussies to add some creativity to such a situation.  CBSSports.com reported that in a soccer game between Sydney FC and the Western Sydney Wanderers – a game known as the Sydney Derby – fans threw snakes at the Wanderers’ goalkeeper, Vedran Janjetovic.  Why not?  It was a big rivalry game and Janjetovic had had the audacity of leaving the Sydney FC team to play for the Western Sydney Wanderers.  Clearly, that is an intolerable situation.

Just to be sure that Janjetovic got their message, the fans also chanted to him:

“You’re a snake!  You’re a snake!”

The report did say, however, that they are “pretty sure” that these were toy snakes and not live ones.  Nevertheless…

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

“U.S. ski star Lindsey Vonn — whose medical history already included two broken legs, three major knee injuries, a broken finger and a lacerated thumb — underwent surgery after breaking her right arm during a training spill in Colorado.

“Needless to say, she’s got a surefire gig in hand if Milton Bradley ever rolls out an updated version of ‘Operation.’”

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



Bonne Chance, Brent Musburger

As I continue my quest to ignore any focus at all on the upcoming Falcons/Patriots game 10 days hence, there are indeed issues worthy of commentary.  For example, Brent Musburger announced yesterday that he will be retiring – at age 77 – from ESPN/ABC Sports at the end of January this year.  His last on-air game will be Georgia versus Kentucky at Rupp Arena on 31 January.  I remember Musburger from his days as the studio host for NFL Today on CBS back in the 70s and I have always enjoyed his game calls.  Here is a sentence from the AP report on his retirement:

“Musburger, who is 77, said he’s leaving active sportscasting to help his family get a sports handicapping business started and to use some of the millions of airline miles he’s earned for some fun travel.”

As you can probably surmise, I fully get why he would choose to retire.  I think “fun travel” is a great idea at any age and would only chide Messr. Musburger for not doing a lot of that all along the way; no reason to put it off until you are 77.  I can also relate to the idea of helping family members to start a sports handicapping company.  If the various states prevail in court to overturn PASPA and are allowed to host sports betting in places like New Jersey and Michigan and New York, there will be a growing market for “sports consultants” and this company may indeed be getting on the ground floor.

Bonne chance, Brent Musburger…

Speaking obliquely about wagering on sporting matters, one of the Internet sportsbooks has posted odds on where Tony Romo will play in the 2017 NFL season.  As of this morning, here is a sampling of the odds:

  • Houston Texans  3 to 1  (the lowest odds on the board)
  • Denver Broncos  4.75 to 1
  • Buffalo Bills  5 to 1
  • NY Jets  7.5 to 1
  • Dallas Cowboys  10 to 1
  • “Retired”  20 to 1.

If Romo winds up playing somewhere other than Dallas next year, it will have to involve at least one of these circumstances:

  1. The Cowboys release him; Romo becomes a free agent and signs on in the place that most appeals to him.
  2. The Cowboys trade Romo to a team with a ton of cap room this year – and for the next several years.

Absent one or both of those situations, the ‘new team” must fit Romo’s contract into their salary cap structure and it may not be easy.  Romo has 3 years left on a 6-year/$108M restructuring of his contract and the three late years are back-loaded.  If my calculations are correct, he will earn $72M in the next 3 years.

Something to keep in mind here is that the Cowboys can – if they want – keep Romo as their backup QB even at his sky-high price for the simple reason that they are paying Dak Prescott on a slotted rookie contract which means that their “total cap commitment” to the QB position is about what it would be with Romo as the starter and Prescott as the clipboard holder.  If my reading of Prescott’s contract situation is correct, he got a $400K signing bonus last year and then made $450K for the 2016 season.  This year, his base salary goes up to $540K and then increases by $90K each year until the 2019 season whereupon he can be a free agent.

There is still a lot of time and opportunity to speculate on what the Cowboys will do here and what other teams may try to do to pry Romo loose from Dallas etc.  In the end, this all comes down to money – cap money for the team and cash money in Tony Romo’s bank account.

Now, speaking of money in amounts that I have difficulty relating to as I peruse my bank accounts, I read a report saying that the NFL is going to extort $650M from the Chargers’ owners as a relocation fee.  That means that the Chargers will pay $650M to move the team to a town that does not want them very much and to become second-level tenants in a new stadium playpen being built by the owner of the other team that just moved to LA.  So, riddle me this:


If the Chargers’ owners have $650M laying around – or have access to $650M without moving Heaven and Earth – why can’t they take that money and get some money from the NFL’s “slush funds” and perhaps take on a partner who would buy in for say 15% of the team and pool all of that money?


My guess is that total would be north of $1B and that would allow the Chargers to build – and own – their own new stadium in San Diego where fans have supported the team for more than 50 years.

The fact that this makes sense to me and seems not to make any sense to the Chargers’ owners and/or the NFL financial mavens tells you why I never would have had a shot at making it in the world of high finance…

Finally, since I started today with a comment about a retirement, let me close with this item from Brad Rock in the Deseret News:

“A 75-year-old man reportedly punched a 92-year-old man in the face over seating in a Nebraska nursing home cafeteria.

“So that settles it. Neither Evander Holyfield nor George Foreman has retired.”

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



The Middle Of The NBA Season – Who Knew?

You may not have noticed it, but the NBA season is about half over.  It is still a bit early to get focused on the NBA; the really interesting stuff starts to happen after the NBA All-Star Game and the league gets down to business about the fourth week in March.  Nonetheless, here are 9 teams who have been surprises in the first half of this season.

  1. Brooklyn Nets (9-35):  Most folks thought the Nets would be bad but not this bad.  They are on pace to win only 16.8 games this year.  Ugly indeed …
  2. Chicago Bulls (22-23):  They are in 8th place in the Eastern Conference for now but they are underachieving what most folks thought they would be doing in the first half of this season.  The Bulls are a poor shooting team – except for Jimmy Butler – and good defense will only get you so far in today’s NBA.
  3. Dallas Mavericks (15-29):  The horrible surprise for the Mavs was starting off the season losing 13 of their first 15 games.
  4. Houston Rockets (34-14):  I do not know anyone who thought the Rockets would be on pace to win 58 games in late January.  Other than merely paying lip-service to playing defense, James Harden is doing everything else in the world for this team – and doing all of that very well.
  5. LA Lakers (16-32):  The surprise here is that the Lakers began the season very hot and people were suggesting a possible appearance in the playoffs this year.  Then reality struck and the Lakers are doing now what most folks thought they would do from the season’s opening tip-off.
  6. Miami Heat (15-30):  When Dwayne Wade left in free agency, it was clear that the Heat would have a down year.  I did not think they would be a team to win fewer than 30 games this year – but they are on pace to do just that.
  7. Milwaukee Bucks (21-23):  Here is a positive surprise team and I think you can point to the emergence of Jabari Parker and Gianis Antetokounmpo – or his more easily spelled persona, The Greek Freak.
  8. NY Knicks (20-26):  Things were looking up for the Knicks in November and then it all started to fall apart.  Now there is infighting amongst the team and the GM; they refuse to play any defense; most of their outside shooting is awful and the thing they do best is to lose games.
  9. Philly 76ers (15-27):  Trust the process…  A healthy Joel Embiid and the arrival of Dario Saric has made this team significantly better than it has been for the last 5 years and they have yet to get any contribution from Ben Simmons – their top pick in the draft last year.

I am not any sort of expert when it comes to putting out a sports section in a daily newspaper.  Nonetheless, I think I can spot an article that is – at its core – a space filler on a slow news day.  In radio and TV, they say there is nothing worse than “dead air” and I suspect that in the newspaper industry, there is nothing worse than blank newsprint on the page.  That brings me to an article that appeared in the Las Vegas Review-Journal about a week ago, which offered readers 5 “tips” to help them keep their New Year’s Fitness Resolutions.  Of course, the best way would be not to make such resolutions in the first place but let us ignore the obvious solution to this “problem”.  I am going to list the 5 “tips” offered in this article and make a brief comment about each of the “tips”:

  1. Set more manageable goals.  Setting easily manageable fitness goals probably contributed significantly to the fact that you thought it necessary to make a bunch of New Year’s fitness resolutions a couple of weeks ago.
  2. Do something fun:  Generally that will mean doing something that has little to do with whatever your fitness resolutions had to do with.  Here are some things that are fun – playing poker, eating some pizza and downing it with a brewski, finishing the New York Times Sunday Crossword Puzzle.  None of that will get you fit…
  3. Be consistent.  Like #1 above, this is likely one of the behavior characteristics that got you to the point that you felt it necessary to make fitness resolutions.  People who consistently eat more than they need and do not work out tend to be in poor shape.  Ever notice that?
  4. Have someone keep you accountable.  Thank hard about this one because this is going to be someone that you ditch as a friend.  If you need help keeping your Fitness Resolutions, the last thing you need to add to the mix here is a friend who is acting like a self-righteous harpy all the time.
  5. Incentivize it.  Oh good; I can have those Boston Cream donuts now that I did my time on the treadmill…  That’ll help.

Let me veer even further off the path of sports today to acknowledge the end of a 146-year run by Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus.  My wife and I and several neighbors go to see the show each Spring when its itinerary brings it to the DC suburbs and we all have a wonderful time every year that we go.  After this year, my wife, my neighbors and I  will all have to settle for the clowns in the Congress and in the Administration to provide us with the pratfalls and goof-ups that give us amusement.  There are indeed plenty of clowns in this town – – even when the circus is elsewhere.

Finally, with Sean McVay hired as the Rams’ coach at age 30, is it possible that Bill Belichick has a hoodie that is older than Sean McVay?  Enquiring minds want to know…

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



Skating Dangerously Close To Politics Today …

Anyone who has read these rants over the years knows that I am a fan and admirer of Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle.  In my fantasy world, I like to think that I can produce prose half the caliber of what he must have to delete from his columns just to meet the space restrictions of his newspaper. Two days ago, he married the social concept of “fake news” to the sports world in an extraordinarily interesting way.  It begins with the heading:

“All the fake news that fits, we print …”

From there, the column is wide-ranging but under the “reporting” that the recently inaugurated President had issued an executive order banning the use of helmets in NFL games, here is a sample of the commentary:

“The President said he cleared the no-helmet order with his newly appointed head of OSHA, Evel Knievel.

“When a reporter at the news conference told Trump that Knievel was dead, the president retorted, ‘That’s what they said about Donald Trump last September.’”

I highly recommend that you read this column in its entirety simply because it is far too good for me to try to summarize here.

While I am meandering dangerously close to politics here – only for a moment to be sure – I ran across a report at espn.com that said President Trump had received some advice from Johnny Manziel.  You read that correctly; Johnny Football thought that he had some good advice for the President of the United States that had nothing to do with domestic policy or foreign policy or whatever.  Here is the deal:

  • Johnny Manziel has deleted his Twitter account.
  • Just before he did that, here is what he Tweeted out:

“Yo, POTUS even I know to stay away from the notifications section on twitter. S— will drive you crazy, lead the country and let them hate … Control what you can control and let the rest fall by the wayside.”

Please put your politics aside here for just a moment and contemplate the zeitgeist of 2017 wherein a presumably recovering addict offers advice to the newly inaugurated President of the United States that makes actual good sense.  Timothy Leary was not in a position to make a similar recommendation to President Kennedy; David Koresh was not in a position to make a similar recommendation to President Clinton; Anwar Al-Awlaki was not in a position to make a similar recommendation to President Obama.  Notwithstanding all the negative precedents, Johnny Manziel may indeed have a piece of advice for the President of the United States that might be worthy of attention.

I cannot decide if this falls into the category of:

  1. The Blind leading The Blind – – or – –
  2. Out of the mouths of babes …

As the NFL builds up/winds down to a single game two weeks hence, the college basket all season has begun its buildup to March Madness.  Teams are focused into “Conference Competition”; the joy-ride/feelgood tournaments of late December are forgotten; the patsy games/glorified scrimmage games are in the rear-view mirror.  I can watch college basketball in December to see really good teams and really good players dominate my TV screen.  From here on out, I can watch with the idea that I may be able to discern just how good this team is as compared to that team and how good that player really is when he is being defended by a team of comparable talent.  There is still a LONG way to go between late January and March Madness but I would like to offer a few general college basketball observations here for you to chew upon:

  1. It sure is fun to watch UCLA basketball this year.  This team may not be as dominant as some of the UCLA teams led by Lew Alcindor and/or Bill Walton35 -40 years ago, but they are very good and they are a whole lot of “entertaining” to watch.
  2. The Big 12 may be an “afterthought” in terms of major college football, but the Big 12 is a powerhouse conference in basketball this year.  Kansas and Baylor are both 18-1 this year; West Virginia and K-State are merely 15-4 this year.  These are four very serious teams and that means there will be some major confrontations in conference play in the Big 12.
  3. The Big East has no schools that are football powers but that does not mean you can ignore Big East basketball.  The defending NCAA Champion, Villanova, is 19-1 this year; in the same conference, you have Creighton at 18-2, Butler at 17-3, and Xavier at 14-5.

Please notice that I have not mentioned anyone in the ACC and/or the SEC and/or the Big 10 above.  That does not mean that I doubt that those conferences have good teams; what it means is that you can see good team play in a lot of different conferences this year and what you have to do as a viewer is to avoid overloading on “games of mediocrity”.  Too many local cable systems – Northern Virginia is a prime offender here – offer tons of game that showcase teams that would be better served if no one other than the student body of that school and the blood relatives of the team members every looked in.

Finally, since I referred you to a Scott Ostler column in the SF Chronicle above, here is another of his comments.  He was “enumerating” the things he might prefer to watch other than Thursday Night Football:

“My entire backlog of ‘Jeopardy! — the Art Fleming years.’ ”

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