The Fringes Of Sports Today…

Masters’ winner, Patrick Reed, showed up at an NBA game wearing his green jacket – – and somehow, that became newsworthy.  Oh, I get it; the reason it is newsworthy is that he made a huge fashion faux pas wearing that ugly thing out in public.

Greg Cote of the Miami Herald summarized the weekend of The Masters tersely in this comment:

“American Patrick Reed finished 15-under-par to win The Masters and his first career major, edging Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth. Way back were Tiger Woods at plus-1 and Phil Mickelson at plus-2. You know it’s bad when Sunday for Tiger and Phil is more about saving face than contending. Meantime defending champ Sergio Garcia missed the cut thanks to an 8-over par 13 on the 15th hole of the first round. Who’d he think he was, Greg Cote!?”

I have done a small sampling of the new ESPN morning offering, GET UP featuring Mike Greenberg, Michelle Beadle and Jalen Rose.  I appreciate that a new program needs a bit of time to find its rhythm and its tone; also, I know that this show is in its infancy; so, I need to put these comments into that sort of landscape:

  • If the suits at ESPN broke up Mike and Mike to produce a show that is “different” in some way from other ESPN offerings, they must be sorely disappointed.  GET UP is cut from the same cloth as almost anything else on ESPN except for the tone and tenor.
  • This is not a show full of “hot takes” or “stridently expressed wing-nut opinions”.  This show is almost like a pepperoni pizza without the pepperoni.  It is still good; but it just seems to be missing something.
  • On the plus side, none of the three hosts is objectionable.  That is not meant to damn the show by faint praise because there are indeed shows on ESPN and on FS1 where there are hosts sufficiently objectionable that I grab the remote and change the channel.
  • Bottom line:  Give the show time to settle in and find its grove.  It is pretty bland fare so far.

Since I alluded to some of the programming on ESPN and FS1 with objectionable hosts, let me offer this:

  • According to reports, Pope Francis said that there is no Hell.  Most assuredly, I do not wish to challenge His Holiness on religious matters.  I know when I am in over my head.  Nonetheless, I wonder what the Pope would call viewing First Take and/or Undisputed day after day after day after…?
  • I guess they don’t get those programs in Vatican City…

According to a recent report at, the new stadium in LA that will house the Rams and the Chargers will have a total price tag of almost $5B.  Granted, that figure includes the cost of developing the entire 60-acre tract where the old Hollywood Park racetrack used to be and not just the cost of the stadium itself.  The stadium is probably only going to cost a measly $2B.  The Rams have already begun to offer PSLs at a price of $100K which sounds like an awful lot of money to spend just to earn the right to purchase over-priced season tix to the games.  However, in perspective, the Rams would have to sell 20,000 of those top-shelf PSLs to recoup the cost of the stadium alone.

Here is a link to the report at if you are interested in what the entire development project entails.

The site of this development project calls to mind that this same site was supposed to be the place where the old LA Raiders were going to have their new stadium back in the late 80s/early 90s.  The idea of a stadium to replace the racetrack was originally floated all the way back then but the difference now is that the league and the team owner is providing the major funding.  Back then, the deal required massive funding from the city and/or state and that never materialized.

Finally, Dwight Perry had this comment in the Seattle Times recently regarding an athlete whose financial picture is not very bright:

“Bankrupt former champion Boris Becker, 50, says he’d like to sell off his tennis trophies but can’t remember where he left them.

“Maybe he’s hoping to write them off on this year’s taxes as a net loss.”

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



Briefly Today …

Last Saturday was National Beer Day – in case you did not know.  This commemorates April 7, 1932 which is the day of enactment of the Cullen-Harrison Act of 1933 signed into law by FDR and allowed taverns to open on April 7, 1933 for people to enjoy “near-beer” after 13 years of Prohibition.  Serious beer aficionados have extended the celebration of National Beer Day by creating an informal holiday of their own.  Last Friday night, April 6th would have been “New Beer’s Eve” for true beer devotees.

Enough with a small wrinkle in American culture; back to the sports rant you came here to read…

Last week, I wrote about the Ravens signing RG3 and the furor that caused among some sports commentators regarding the fact that the Ravens chose RG3 instead of Colin Kaepernick as the guy to come in and be the backup to Joe Flacco.  While it is correct to say that RG3 has been “less than successful” as a QB in the last several years, it is a stretch to say that he is without talent.  When he was drafted in 2012, he was the second overall pick in the draft and he was the offensive Rookie of the Year.

Moreover, it is not as if the 2012 draft was devoid of talent.  That was the same draft class that brought Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck into the NFL; for that one season, RG3 was better than either of those QBs who have shown that they are a lot better than chumps.  Oh, and the Skins also drafted Kirk Cousins in that same 2012 draft and now that we will be entering the 2018 season, Cousins will be embarking on a 3-year contract worth $84M – – fully guaranteed.

Mentioning Cousins brings this situation to mind:

  • Please note that the Skins – who spent a ton of draft capital to move up to draft RG3 – now have neither RG3 nor Cousins.  That situation demonstrates the management ineptitude that pervades that organization from the top down.

Mike Bianchi has this comment in the Orlando Sentinel about another recent personnel move by an NFL team:

“The Jacksonville Jaguars dumped their longest-tenured player — tight end Marcedes Lewis — after 12 seasons earlier this week. Sadly, this is just what happens when your Marcedes gets too many miles on it!”

Finally, The Masters ended over the weekend with Patrick Reed becoming a first-time winner.  For the two weeks leading up to the tournament, the casual observer of the golf media would have been hard pressed to realize that anyone other than Tiger Woods was going to show up and tee off.  That brought “buzz” to the tournament despite the fact that Woods finished tied for 26th and a mere 16 strokes off the lead.  Here is how syndicated columnist, Norman Chad, described his reaction to all the “Tigermania” recently:

“Here’s the Tiger Effect for me: Whether or not he’s playing, I will not watch golf on TV.”

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



Talk About A Jinx …

I feel like Joe Btfsplk this morning.  He was the character from the L’il Abner comic strip who was the world’s worst jinx; anyone near him was going to suffer misfortune.  Yesterday, I merely mentioned in passing that Sergio Garcia would join an elite group of golfers if he were to win The Masters this year.  And what happened to Sergio Garcia?

  • He shot a 13 on the 15th hole.
  • He finished the day at 9 over par.
  • The leader after Day One is Jordan Speith at 6 under par.
  • Sergio Garcia ain’t winning The Masters this year.  If he does, it will be the greatest comeback since Lazarus.

The Baltimore Ravens made news this week by signing RG3 to compete for the backup QB slot on the team.  The minute that news hit the crawl at the bottom of the screen, at least a half-dozen of ESPN’s talking hair-dos flipped into “Outrage Mode”.  Here are the elements of their Outrage:

  1. If the Ravens wanted/needed a backup QB, they could have signed Colin Kaepernick.
  2. Colin Kaepernick is a better QB than RG3.
  3. Ergo, the league is colluding to keep Kaepernick unemployed because of his kneeling during the National Anthem.

I am going to avoid completely my “Outrage Mode” and say from the outset that all of those talking heads may be correct.  However, I cannot read minds and I doubt seriously that they can either and so to be very polite about it:

  • They are expressing their opinion(s) about the behaviors of other people and those opinion(s) are nothing more than guesses at best and expressions of their own biases at worst.

First of all, while Kaepernick is indeed a better QB than RG3, let me not make him out to be Aaron Rodgers.  Kaepernick has flaws in his game (accuracy is one of them) and in his last 11 starts his record was 1-10 and his completion percentage was under 60%.  I stipulate that RG3 does not bring a great history to the table here, but we are talking about signing a potential backup QB here and not a franchise QB.

Second, RG3 signed a 1-year deal for a reported $1M – – not guaranteed.  Can any of the folks in “Outrage Mode” say with certainty and supporting evidence that Kaepernick was offered an equivalent contract and turned it down?  If they cannot, then their outrage denies the existence of any economic dimensions to roster decisions for NFL teams.

Third, imagine yourself as head coach John Harbaugh with the Ravens signing Kaepernick instead of RG3.  Now imagine that the team goes through OTAs and through Training Camp and the following situation obtains:

  • Colin Kaepernick has been outplayed by Josh Woodrum (the other QB on the Ravens roster other than Joe Flacco).  He knows it; all the coaches know it; the fans have seen it in the Exhibition Games.
  • How would you like to be the head coach who cuts Colin Kaepernick and immediately becomes the target for the folks spring-loaded to go into “Outrage Mode”?

Fourth, Colin Kaepernick is suing the NFL now over his inability to play for a team; he alleges a conspiracy to keep him out of the league that stems from his anthem protests.  Forget for a moment the validity or the ineffectiveness of his allegations in that lawsuit and ask yourself this:

  • Is it a good stratagem for a job applicant to sue the company he/she is trying to hire onto?
  • Does that act itself add to or subtract from his/her résumé?

Remember; I do not read minds, so I do not know how the Ravens made their decision to sign RG3 and not Colin Kaepernick – or any other unemployed professional QB.  What I do know is that there are some rational, unemotional and tolerant reasons why Colin Kaepernick was not their first choice.

In other NFL player movement news, the Pats traded Brandin Cooks to the Rams for a first-round draft pick and a third-round draft pick this year.  Cooks is a big-play WR; he has had more than 1000 yards receiving in each of the last 3 seasons.  Something just does not ring right here:

  • Last year, after two 1000-yard seasons, Sean Payton traded Cooks to the Pats for about the same compensation as this week’s trade.
  • Now, after yet another 1000-yard season, Bill Belichick traded Cooks again.
  • Really?

Finally, here is a comment from Steve Rosenbloom of the Chicago Tribune on new Bears’ coach Matt Nagy:

“Nagy said players are ‘going to understand why it’s so important for them to put on the Bears uniform,’ and I’m thinking, because the Bears are paying them to.”

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



Dilly Dilly

The golfers at The Masters have just begun teeing off; so, I ought to begin today with a few comments about The Masters.  From previous events that have surrounded The Masters and the club that hosts the tournament, I think it is safe to say that the folks who run this event can be a tad stodgy, priggish and overly-impressed with themselves and their event.  According to a report I read yesterday, the club hosts posted a list of things that no one is permitted to say during the tournament.  One of those things is, “Dilly, Dilly”.  According to the club hosts anyone who says that phrase:

“… will be removed from the premises immediately.”

It is their club and they are totally within their rights to make such a pronouncement and to enforce it.  It also demonstrates that the folks in charge there are stodgy, priggish and overly-impressed with themselves and their event.  The folks at Bud Light took no time to recognize that this was free publicity for them and chose to respond without making threats or being confrontational.  Rather, Bud Light announced that it was sending 1000 “Dilly Dilly” T-shirts to Georgia.  Part of the inscription on those T-shirts says:

“For if thou cannot say Dilly Dilly,

thou can still wear Dilly Dilly.”

One other item about The Masters comes from one of the lead-up columns that golf writers have to do in the week or so before the tournament starts.  According to the report, last year’s winner, Sergio Garcia, will join an elite group of golfers if he goes back-to-back and wins The Masters again this year.  I did not realize it, but only 3 golfers have ever done that:

  • Jack Nicklaus
  • Nick Faldo
  • Tiger Woods

That is indeed an elite group…

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned here that the Canelo Alvarez/Gennady Golovkin fight was still going to take place despite Alverez testing positive for a “banned substance”.  The reason for ignoring the “banned substance” in the blood test was that this fight was poised to be the biggest boxing promotion of the year.  For top dollar, the boxing mavens could see their way clear to fudge on the meaning of the word, “banned”.

Well, the fight is now off.  It appears that Alvarez failed two drug tests and even though those two failed tests happened in mid-February, the overseers of boxing – you know, the guys who make sure that everything is on the up-and-up – could not find a way to hold a hearing to decide if Alvarez merits a lengthy suspension until mid-April.  The fight was scheduled for 5 May and so, Alvarez has had to withdraw.

I guess I could say here that these events have given boxing yet another black eye – – but that would be taking a cheap shot…

We have some economic news from the recently completed NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.  According to Broadcasting & Cable – a trade publication for that industry – the whole March Madness Tournament generated just over $1B in advertising revenue.  There were 391 different ad spots run by a total of 142 different brands during the tournament.  In fact, those ads ran a total of 6,761 times meaning that you were not far off in thinking that the ads were incessant.  Here are some more data:

  • For the 2 games of the Final Four on Saturday night, the cost of 30-second ad spots was between $807K and $966K.  Significantly, that is a 10% increase over the cost for ad spots in the Final Four games last year.
  • For the Final Game on Monday night, the cost of 30-second ad spots was between $1.4M and $1.7M.  That represented a 3% increase from last year but there may need to be an asterisk there.  Last year, the game was on CBS; this year it was on TBS – a cable station.

Without getting hung up in the minutiae here, March Madness is an economic force majeure despite all the negativity surrounding college basketball and its recruiting nonsense.  If you want to delve into some of those minutiae, here is a link to the report from Broadcasting & Cable.

Finally, since I mentioned the cancellation of the Alvarez/Golovkin fight above, here is a comment from Brad Dickson – formerly of the Omaha World-Herald – related to boxing:

“There’s talk of a Floyd Mayweather-Connor McGregor rematch. I haven’t been this excited since ‘Rocky V’.”

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



Some Of This And Some Of That…

I guess the circle is complete.  Yesterday, Shohei Ohtani hit his first home run in the major leagues.  Last weekend, he made his first start on the mound for the Angels.  Is this the beginning of a “two-way player” movement in MLB?  Scott Ostler wrote a column in the SF Chronicle last weekend drawing parallels between Ohtani and Babe Ruth who was also a pitcher in MLB before he became the slugger we all remember.  This column is not a bunch of fanboy nonsense – – remember, Scott Ostler wrote this not some goober somewhere – – and the comparisons are interesting.

Here is a link to Scott Ostler’s column.  I think it is worth reading in its entirety.

The detailed NFL schedule for next year is not yet available.  We do know which teams will play which opponents and where those games will take place; we do not know the dates and times for all the games.  However, I did do some browsing in some of the teams’ schedules and came up with eight games we should circle once the detailed schedule is released.

  1. Pats at Steelers:  This matchup would have been circled in any year in the past decade or so.  Next year’s game should be a good one too.
  2. Pats at Jags:  After last season’s playoff happenings, this is a must-see game.  Remember, the Jags led 20-10 at one point – – and then…
  3. Eagles vs Jags:  This will be a “London Game” and it may be the best matchup the NFL ever sent across the pond.
  4. Vikes at Eagles:  After last year’s playoff debacle for the Vikes, this has to be a humongous game on their schedule and with their new high-priced QB.
  5. Saints at Vikes:  After the “Minnesota Miracle” knocked the Saints out of the playoffs last year, I want to see this game.
  6. Chargers at Rams:  The game will be in the LA Coliseum and it will determine “home town bragging rights”.
  7. Raiders at Niners:  I know that SF and Oakland are different jurisdictions, but this too will determine “home town bragging rights”.
  8. Niners vs Seahawks (twice):  These games will feature Richard Sherman against whomever Russel Wilson thinks is his #1 receiver.

Looks as if there will be plenty of focal point games next season given that I didn’t even glance at the schedules for three-quarters of the league.

The end of the NBA regular season is finally in sight; most teams have only a handful of games left to play.  The playoff race in the East is not mathematically set; but in reality, we know the teams that are in and the teams that are not.  The playoff race in the West is much less certain; only 3 teams in the West have clinched playoff spots as of this morning.

The regular season is sufficiently close to ending that I feel confident in presenting my three most over-hyped players/storylines of the NBA season.

  • Isaiah Thomas:  Yes, he was injured and did not begin the season until January; but when he did start out with the Cavs he made the team worse not better.  The Cavs seemingly figured that out very quickly because they shipped him to the Lakers at the trade deadline in February where he did nothing to make the Lakers any better.  In fact, the Lakers will miss the playoffs this year and finish with a record below .500.
  • Markelle Fultz:  First we had people pretending to know enough about anatomy to be able to “explain” his mysterious shoulder injury.  Then we got to read and hear about how he might be the biggest bust ever for a guy picked first in the NBA Draft – ignoring the likes of Anthony Bennett and/or LaRue Martin.  Now, people are discussing his psyche and his adjustment to professional life.  The bottom line here is lots more hype and heat than there is performance.
  • Carmelo Anthony:  After what seemed like an eternity, he and the Knicks parted company and the drumbeat was that he was the “third star-player” needed on the Thunder’s roster in order to bring them a championship.  In recent games, Anthony has sat out the entire 4th quarter; that is not what happens to “star-players”.  Oh, by the way, the Thunder are not assured of a playoff spot as of this morning; so, it is not as if those games with him in the bench are meaningless.

Finally, regular readers here know that I was very happy to see Jon Gruden get the head coaching job in Oakland because that got him off the air for Monday Night Football.  It seems as if I am not alone in that sentiment; here is a comment from syndicated columnist Norman Chad:

“Jon Gruden’s nine-year run on ‘Monday Night Football’ has ended.  There were no survivors.”

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



Villanova Is The National Champion Again

Congratulations to the Villanova Wildcats.  They won their second national championship in the last three years last night with a 79-62 win over Michigan.  This is Villanova’s third NCAA Tournament championship in school history; the previous two final game wins were nail-biters; this one was a beatdown.  The hero of the game is Donte DiVincenzo who came off the bench with Villanova trailing and struggling in the first half to turn the game around by scoring a game-high 31 points.  Whether by performance or by coincidence, DiVincenzo’s entry into the game also marked the point where Villanova’s defense kicked itself into “lockdown mode”.  After the game, several folks commented that Michigan did not shoot nearly as well last night as they had in previous tournament games.  While that is unarguably correct, that statement does not acknowledge why that was the case.

  • For about the last 30 minutes of the game, Michigan took no uncontested shots.

Villanova is a worthy champion; they did not take a backdoor to get to the Final Four; once there, they had to beat Kansas and Michigan – two very good teams – to become national champions.  And here is the scary thing:

  • None of the first eight players on the Villanova roster are seniors.  Unless one or more of them decides to declare for the NBA Draft, all eight of them could be back next year.

I have not yet seen/heard any speculation about Jay Wright leaving Villanova to go to the NBA in the “Brad Stevens-mode”, but I expect such speculation to kick in sometime soon.  Having said that, I also expect Jay Wright to stay right where he is.  Yes, he could make more money coaching the prima donnas that inhabit NBA rosters; but shed no tears for Wright; you are not going to see him and his family sustaining themselves at a soup kitchen any time soon.  Looking at his situation from afar, I think it is very similar to Mike Krzyzewski’s situation at Duke and to Roy Williams’ situation at UNC.  All three men “fit” into the environment where they are; Krzyzewski and Williams are going to end their coaching careers where they are; Jay Wright is 56 years old and I would not be surprised to see him finish out his coaching career at Villanova.

Switching gears, someone else finished out his career last week.  Don Imus did his final Imus in the Morning program.  There was a time in the 1990s when that program was extraordinarily influential; I woke up five days a week listening to it as I got ready to go to work.  Don Imus was a shock-jock and had plenty of controversy surrounding him and his program for more than 40 years.  His comments about the Rutgers women’s basketball team were hideously inappropriate and he atoned for those comments.  I do not know if there is a Shock-Jock Hall of Fame; there are so many Halls of Fame that it would not surprise me if there is one; Don Imus belongs in that Hall of Fame.

The NFL announced that Bengals’ linebacker, Vontaze Burfict, will miss the first 4 games of the 2018 season on suspension for violating the league’s PED policies.  Before you go and start to think about how this may affect the AFC North division race next year, consider that the Bengals have probably gotten used to this sort of thing and may have even had this in a contingency plan somewhere.  Consider:

  • In 2016, Burfict missed the first 3 games of the NFL season for “repeated violations of player safety rules”.
  • In 2017, Burfict missed the first 5 games of the NFL season for an illegal hit he put on an opponent in one of the Exhibition Games.

Now he gets a PED suspension…  Vontaze Burfict is a good linebacker unless and until he goes over the edge and morphs into a dirty player.  You can hold him solely responsible for the PED suspension, but I think you must include the Bengals and the Bengals’ coaching staff when you assign blame for the “dirty play”.  It sure seems from here that Burfict has had plenty of enabling from coaches and team management.

In these early days of the MLB season, we had both NY teams scheduled for home games yesterday.  Both were postponed as snow blanketed the metropolitan area.  The Yankees and Mets will try to play later today.

Just before the season started, MLB announced that it will hold its first MLB Food Fest in NY where the teams will “present” their haute cuisine food items for this year.  Here are some of the dishes that will be on display:

  • Toasted grasshoppers (Seattle Mariners)
  • Chicken and pork rind sandwich (New York Yankees)
  • Breaded cheese curds, bratwurst and gravy (Minnesota Twins)
  • Cheddar beer bratwurst on a pretzel roll (Milwaukee Brewers)

While “Toasted Grasshoppers” may sound a bit outré, I think there will be a stranger concoction presented at the Food Fest.  Here is what the Oakland A’s will introduce:

  • A sandwich of turkey, ham and cheese with strawberry preserves between two Belgian Waffles.

Personally, I think I would prefer to try the grasshoppers…

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

“A man in Cocoa, Fla., was arrested for allegedly punching an ATM because it gave him too much money.

“Taking no chances, the ATM is now in the concussion protocol after complaining of withdrawal symptoms.”

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



Needing To Get Back In A Groove

Notre Dame won the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament yesterday on a buzzer-beater but that is only the second-biggest event of the tournament.  For the second year in a row, UConn lost in the semi-final round.  Last year they lost to Mississippi St.; this year they lost to Notre Dame; last year Mississippi St. won it all; this year Notre Dame won it all.  I think there are two take-aways from all of this:

  1. UConn is relevant to the determination of the tournament champion win or lose.
  2. Would any UConn booster dare to try to suggest that Geno Auriemma hasn’t done much for the women’s basketball program lately?

I mention that obviously stupid question about Geno Auriemma for a reason; it seems that in the mind of one reader here I am losing my “curmudgeon credibility”.  In an e-mail on Saturday a good friend took me to task saying:

“OK, so you told us about all the sports stuff you want to bring back from the nostalgic past.  The old Sports Curmudgeon I remember would have turned that around and given me a list of the things that he wanted to see killed off …  You’re losing your edge in your old age.”

Challenge accepted.  Here are a few things related to sports in 2018 that I would like to see curtailed and/or eliminated posthaste:

  • All-Star Games of all kinds:  An ancillary benefit to the demise of these nonsensical exhibitions would be the simultaneous cessation of things like the Home Run Derby and the Slam Dunk Contest.
  • Thursday Night Football:  Who cares?  Players hate it; I can’t believe that coaches like it.  It is not much more than a blatant cash-grab.
  • NCAA Tournament play-in games:  Other than blood relatives of players or coaches in those games, do you know anyone who really gives a rat’s ass about any of them?
  • The Ceremonial First Pitch:  This has gotten totally out of hand.  They even do this at the AA level in minor league baseball.  What’s next?  Ceremonial first pitches at Little League games?  Puh-leeez …
  • Two NFL Pretend Games:  Err, I mean Exhibition Games.  Err, I mean Pre-Season Games…
  • Overtime Losses in the NHL:  Why is losing in overtime rewarded but losing in regulation time is not rewarded?  Makes no sense.  It also makes reading the NHL standings and figuring out the point totals sufficiently complicated that IBM’s Watson takes an hour to figure it out.
  • In-game Chats with MLB Managers from the dugout:  Whoever thought this up should be drawn and quartered.  Whoever decided to perpetuate this should be boiled in oil.

Hopefully, that list will suffice for now and give me back some of the “edge” that I had lost.

Speaking of things “going away”, Dan Patrick will be leaving Sunday Night Football as the studio host.  He had been doing that job for 10 years and NBC offered him a 5-year contract extension/renewal, but he decided not to go with it.  What he said was that he just was not sure he wanted to sign up for that long a commitment to that gig.  After Mike Tirico’s performance as the studio host for the Winter Olympic Games about a month ago, I would not be surprised to see an announcement from the suits at NBC that Tirico will be Dan Patrick’s replacement.

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

Amateur:  A beginner or aspirant in a given field; a non-professional as distinct from a practicing professional – except in the field of pornography in which no such distinctions are necessary or even pertinent.”

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



Final Four Weekend Is Here

As you get yourself prepped for tomorrow night’s NCAA Tournament semi-finals, consider these two comments from Brad Dickson, formerly of the Omaha World-Herald:

“If we find out that Sister Jean accepted money from a booster to steer her away from rooting for DePaul I’ll become even more jaded.”

And …

“A Kansas player to KU fans: ‘Without all you guys we couldn’t have did it.’  OK, if I find out he’s an English major I’m rooting against Kansas.”

I think the games on Saturday offer the possibility of an interesting dilemma for Monday’s Final Game.  Just suppose Loyola-Chicago and Villanova play on Monday night.

  • Who will Pope Francis be rooting for?

From a fan’s perspective, this year’s Final Four teams feature lots of players who are likely to be back on the court in college basketball next year.  Devonte Graham will graduate this year; maybe another player or two will decide to enter the NBA Draft; however, most of the guys you will see on Saturday night and then on Monday night will be back.  To my mind, that is a plus.

Earlier this week, I tuned in to Pardon the Interruption to find that Michael Wilbon was off for the day and that Keith Olbermann was in Wilbon’s chair.  For me, Kornheiser and Olbermann are two of the most interesting and entertaining sports media figures; I sat back in my chair and expected greatness from this show.  I was disappointed; it was a very good show, but I had anticipated something transcendental.  Whatever…

The most important things I took away from that program were:

  • Keith Olbermann belongs on ESPN with a program of his own.  I know there have been clashes and very rough times between Olbermann and ESPN in the past, but sports journalism/entertainment would be better off if all of that “history” can indeed be nothing more than “history”.
  • James Pitaro is the new ESPN President.  Maybe his “recency” in the job is a way forward to bridge the gap between ESPN and Olbermann?

So, as I was thinking about a way for Keith Olbermann to make a comeback on ESPN, my mind wandered off – no surprise there – and I started to think about other things in the sports world that I wish would make a comeback.  Here is what came to mind:

  • Baseball doubleheaders: I don’t mean day-night doubleheaders necessitated by rainouts; I mean doubleheaders scheduled from the start.  Raise ticket prices for those events; that’s fair.  But give fans who love baseball a chance to see old school doubleheaders.
  • Final Four games in basketball arenas:  There is a reason why college basketball teams do not play all their regular season and conference tournament games in football stadiums.
  • Meaningful games on MNF:  The schedule makers cannot anticipate a priori what will be a “meaningful game” in Week 12.  I get that.  They can, however, make a reasonable guess for Weeks 1-5 and the schedule makers have not always given us meaningful games in those early weeks.
  • An actual off-season in the NBA:  I will be generous and say that the NBA demands focused attention from March 1 to June 30 every year.  That is when the regular season games mean something; that is when the playoffs happen; that is when the draft lottery is drawn; that is when the draft takes place.  Notwithstanding that time frame, the NBA never seems to go away any more – and it really needs to do that.
  • NFL Pre-game shows that are short and sweet:  The NFL pre-game shows have expanded to the point where they are longer than some Oscar-nominated movies.  If the discussions there were about topics as important as world peace, I would not have a problem; these shows discuss football matters and they concoct “cutesy segments” to fill time.  Some TV execs need to take a set of pruning shears to these programs.

Since I mentioned the NBA Draft obliquely above, there is news today that a 5-star basketball recruit who had committed to Syracuse has rescinded that commitment and will play in the NBA’s G-League next year.  In recent years, we have seen players choose to go to Europe instead of to college for a year to meet the NBA regulation that players must be one-year removed from high school to play in the NBA.  LiAngelo Ball did that this year; his brother LaMelo Ball will likely do the same; Brandon Jenkins and Emmanuel Mudiay also traveled that route.

Now, according to Yahoo Sports, Darius Bazely has chosen to spend a year in the G-League here in the US rather than with a pro team in Europe.  His is an interesting decision.  On one hand, even with the augmented pay scale for G-League players recently implemented, Bazely would make more money playing in Europe – albeit he might have to sign a 2 or 3-year commitment to get “the big bucks”.  On the other hand, playing in the G-League means that he will be seen more frequently and by a larger cadre of NBA scouts, GMs and personnel people.

Jim Boeheim is probably not happy about this.  Then again, Jim Boeheim rarely seems happy about much of anything…

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

Airport:  A mall placed near a large parking lot in which planes often land but rarely take off.  To take your mind off the endless delays, these cavernous dungeons are populated by clueless security and ticket agents, zombie-like skycaps, and thousands of needlessly detained travelers enduring either the frustration of lost luggage or an impromptu body-cavity search.  If Dante were alive today, airports would be listed as the fifth ring of Hell.”

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



RIP Rusty Staub

Rusty Staub passed away today; he was 73 years old.  He spent 23 years in MLB starting with the expansion Houston Colt 45s.  He spent three-and-a-half seasons with the Montreal Expos where his bright red hair earned him the nickname, “Le Grand Orange”.  He was selected as an All-Star 6 times and amassed 500 hits with 4 different teams in his career.

RIP Rusty Staub.

Surely you have read/heard about the issues between the NY Giants and Odell Beckham, Jr.  Personally, I have already tired of the breathless reports that the Giants want to trade him which are then followed quickly with equally breathless reports that the Giants have no intention of trading him followed by …  However, there is an aspect of this nonsense that raises a question in my mind:

  • Today on, there is report from Will Brinson which says that Beckham has told multiple Rams’ players that he “wants in” on a trade to the Rams.
  • If “multiple Rams’ players” were to say publicly that they wanted Beckham to engineer a trade from the Giants to the Rams, the NFL would accuse those “multiple players” of tampering.
  • So, why is it OK for Beckham to say essentially the same thing in reverse?

Jeff Capel took the job as the head basketball coach at Pitt.  He has a Herculean task ahead as he works to rebuild that program.  One problem is that Pittsburgh – and Western Pennsylvania in a larger sense – is much more “football country” than it is “basketball country”.  Notwithstanding that generalization, Pitt basketball fans are not easily pleased.  Consider:

Jamie Dixon built a solid program at Pitt; he was there for 13 seasons.  His teams made the NCAA Tournament 11 times in those 13 seasons but never made it to the Final Four.  There was plenty of pressure for Pitt to “move on” and when Dixon got the chance to go back to his alma mater (TCU), the folks in Pittsburgh virtually helped him pack up his belongings.

Jeff Capel was the lead assistant to Mike Krzyzewski for the last 5 years and he has had two head coaching gigs (VCU and Oklahoma) in the past.  His overall record as a head coach is 175-110 and one of his Oklahoma teams made the Elite 8.  I think that Pitt got themselves a good coach here; now, they need to have a bit of patience while he reconfigures the mess that the program has become.

You knew something like this was coming but now it is official.  Out in Las Vegas, they have prop bets available on the upcoming NFL Draft.  Here are some of the bets on the board.

Who will be the first QB taken:

  • Josh Rosen  minus-120
  • Sam Darnold  +175
  • Josh Allen  +500
  • Baker Mayfield +2000

Will Lamar Jackson be drafted in the first round?

  • Yes  minus-250
  • No  +190

Who will be the player drafted #1 overall?  [Note the contradiction here compared to the prop on which QB will be taken first.]

  • Sam Darnold  Even money
  • Saquon Barkley  +200
  • Josh Rosen  +250
  • Josh Allen  +800
  • Bradley Chubb  +4500
  • Minkah Fitzpatrick  +4500

Over/Under on the draft position for Baker Mayfield?

  • Over 11.5  +110
  • Under 11.5  minus-140

Which of these two players gets drafted first?

  • Bradley Chubb  minus-160
  • Minkah Fitzpatrick  +130

Finally, to end today on a light note, here is a comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Nearly every passenger vomited on a turbulent flight from Charlottesville, Va., to Washington, D.C.

“That’s what they get for making the Browns’ 2017 highlight video the in-flight movie.”

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



The Real First Day Of Spring

I do not care what astronomers or meteorologists or Punxsutawney Phil say; tomorrow is the first day of Spring.  Tomorrow is Opening Day in MLB; that is the end of Winter and the beginning of Spring in Curmudgeon Central.  Normally, I devote today’s rant to a prediction of every division in MLB from top to bottom.  This year, however, feels significantly different.

It feels as if MLB has segmented itself into a group of “super-teams”, a group of teams trying to become contenders and a group of “tankers”.  It seems to me that only one division in MLB has two of the “super-teams” in it meaning that predicting the top of each division here will look like a thousand other predictions you can read elsewhere.  So, let me do something different this year.

I will list the consensus choices for the division winners and the one division where there might be some threat to the team at the top.  Then, I will suggest some things to keep an eye on as the season evolves not necessarily because they will change the division winners but because they could be very interesting.

  • NL West:  The Dodgers should win this division in a walk.
  • NL Central:  The Cubs return to the playoffs and revert to 2016 form.
  • NL East:  The Nats win here absent a curse from an evil spirit.
  • AL West:  The Astros win despite suffering a touch of World Series Hangover.
  • AL Central:  The Indians appear to be the best of this division by a mile.

The only race that might be “in dispute” is in the AL East where the Yankees and the Red Sox have the makings of a championship roster.  The Yankees clearly have the edge in terms of power hitting; the Sox have the edge on the mound.  That race could be in doubt in the final week of the season and both teams will make the AL playoffs.  For the sake of completeness here, I will pick the Red Sox to win the AL East just because everyone and his maternal grand-aunt are picking the Yankees.  I have to go against the grain somewhere…

Here are two Opening Day facts you can file under FNWR – Facts Not Worth Remembering:

  1. March 29, 2018 will be the earliest Opening Day in the history of MLB.
  2. March 29, 2018 will be the first time in 50 seasons that every team in MLB will open on the same day.

Here is another Opening Day fact that might be worth recalling because it could play into another storyline down the road in a couple of years:

  • Tomorrow will mark the 13th consecutive Opening Day sell-out for the Tampa Bay Rays.  They play the Red Sox and 42,735 tix have been sold.  Remember that the Rays usually rank in the bottom 3 in MLB attendance but the folks there do turn out for Opening Day.  The Rays want to move to a new stadium site in the Tampa/St. Pete area so attendance figures for the Rays are interesting if not vitally important.

The SF Giants were aggressive in the offseason after a miserable year in 2017.  However, the first robin of spring to arrive in the Giants’ training facility was apparently a turkey vulture.  Madison Bumgarner suffered a broken metatarsal in his pitching hand when hit by a line drive; he will miss 6 weeks at least.  That injury came on the heels of a pectoral muscle injury to Jeff Samardzija; he will be out at least a month.  The Giants were not deep in starting pitching, now they will try to make it until the middle of May with Manny, Moe and Jack on the mound.  There are not a lot of free agent pitchers out there to be had.  The only ones I could find were Matt Garza, John Lackey and Ricky Nolasco.

Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle surveyed the Giants’ plight and then looked across the bay at the state of the A’s and had this comment:

“The theme for the 2018 baseball season in the Bay Area: ‘Fifty guys who won’t be around three years from now’.”

Here are eight things to watch for in 2018:

  1. How do the mega-free agents for next winter perform?  The free agent market this year was about as exciting as installing a new washing machine; next year’s market will generate plenty of heat and light.
  2. Is Shohei Ohtani a pitcher or a position player or a DH – – or all the above?
  3. Will the Astros’ World Series Hangover last as long in 2018 as the Cubs’ Hangover did in 2017?  It wasn’t until the middle of June when the Cubs looked like the Cubs.
  4. Was Miguel Cabrera’s miserable year in 2017 at age 34 a sign that his career arc is in decline or will he have a bounce-back season in 2018?  By the way, even if he is the Comeback Player of the Year, the Tigers are going nowhere…
  5. What happens in the second-tier of the NL East?  If the Mets say healthy, how good are they?  Are the Phillies on the verge of being good again?  Are the Braves on the verge of being good again?  Which of those three will finish second in the division about 18 games behind the Nats?
  6. How will Manny Machado adjust to playing shortstop instead of third-base?
  7. Do the Dodgers have a rookie who is good enough to win Rookie of the Year?  If so, that will be three years in a row a Dodger has done that.
  8. When the Marlins lose 105 games – or more – this year, will Don Mattingly still be able to smile at the end of the year?  Follow-up question would be can Mattingly survive as manager if the Marlins lose 105 games this year given the roster he was presented with?

Finally, here is a comment from syndicated columnist, Norman Chad, about the Angels’ accommodation to Shohei Ohtani as a pitcher and a DH:

“Probably the most successful six-man rotation of all time was the rock band, Foreigner.  The Trump White House has also experimented with it among its senior advisors.”

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