A Debbie Downer Kind Of Day …

Just a glance at the topics I am going to cover today convinces me that I am not in my happy place today.  I recognize that late February is one of the “dry spells” in the sporting calendar and that space must be filled.  Nevertheless, there are some stories that need to be left to die.  Here is one of them:

  • Charles Oakley vs. James Dolan

We know about the recent dust up at Madison Square Garden and Oakley’s banishment for life from the venue – which lasted about 100 hours.  That is enough of the story; unless one of the parties hires a hitman or goes postal on the other party, just shovel some dirt on this story and move on.  But no…

Yesterday, I read on espn.com that Charles Oakley planned to go and see the Knicks play the Cavaliers in Cleveland last night.  Do you mean to tell me that this story now can go national and every time Charles Oakley decides to take in an NBA game anywhere, that will become news?  I cannot wait to see the lead for the next layer of this story as it seeps into the underground water supply:

  • “On his way to Madison Square Garden to see the Knicks play the Milwaukee Bucks, Charles Oakley stopped off at Katz Delicatessen and had a hot pastrami sandwich with a side of cole slaw…”

 

Memo to ESPN/Sports Illustrated/Others:  Put this story mercifully to rest.

 

Another story that has been over-covered is the head-shaking-inducing trade that sent Boogie Cousins to the Pelicans for Buddy Hield and a couple of Joe Flabeetzes.  Yes, it was a one-sided deal; yes, it puts the Kings in the same category of competence as the Cleveland Browns; yes, the pairing of Cousins and Anthony Davis in New Orleans might make the team good enough that the fans there start to meaningfully care about the Pelicans.  [Aside:  The fact that the Pelicans got blown out last night in the first game with Cousins and Davis together does not alter the fact that the Kings did something terminally stupid here.]

The problem here is the succumbing to temptation by newly minted commentators to book themselves on a flight of fancy and opine that this might be the worst trade in the history of the NBA.  Slow down, Sparky; just because something happened before 2003 does not mean that it happened in the Paleolithic Era.  Allow me to suggest two NBA trades that happened a while ago but involved players that even millennial fans have heard about:

  1. In 1956, the Boston Celtics sent Ed McCauley and Cliff Hagan to the St. Louis Hawks in exchange for the #2 overall pick in the NBA Draft.  With that pick, the Celtics took Bill Russell.  McCauley and Hagan were both very good players; Russell is a “Mount Rushmore Player”.  [Aside:  The Celtics got Russell with the #2 pick in the draft; the first pick in 1956 was Sihugo Green by the Rochester Royals – – and that team today is the Sacramento Kings.]
  2. In the middle of the 1964/65 NBA season, the SF Warriors sent Wilt Chamberlain to the Philly 76ers in exchange for Connie Dierking, Paul Neumann and Lee Shaffer plus some cash.  Dierking was a journeyman who lasted a year in SF and then was traded to – – you guessed it – the Cincinnati Royals who are now the Sacramento Kings.  Neumann played 2.5 years in SF and then retired presumably to the notice of his nuclear family.  Shaffer refused to go to SF in the first place and just retired from the NBA.  Like Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain is a “Mount Rushmore Player”.

In fact, I would suggest that trading Boogie Cousins is not even the worst trade in the history of the Kings’ franchise.  In its second incarnation, the Kings were the Cincinnati Royals and they had a guy named Oscar Robertson on the team.  He was more than just “pretty good” and the Royals traded him away to the Milwaukee Bucks in 1971 for Flynn Robinson and Charlie Paulk.  Google is  your friend here …

Boogie Cousins is a very good player but he is not Bill Russell nor is he Wilt Chamberlain nor is he Oscar Robertson.  Please do not get carried away with this…

The third aggravating story of the day involves MLB.  Per this espn.com report regarding a new feature coming to MLB parks this year, the apocalypse is nigh.  Here is the second paragraph of the story:

“Fans who appear on the scoreboard video screen or during a television broadcast will, for the first time, be able to get the video and share it socially.”

Using facial recognition algorithms, fans will be able to download an app and take a photo of themselves and the algorithm will match their face with one shown on the stadium video board and that will put the video on the fan’s phone allowing for sharing.  MLB has someone with the title Executive Vice-President for Business for MLB Advanced Media.  That is a tongue-tying acronym but the person holding that job was not tongue tied telling espn.com:

“We think going to a baseball game is one of the best experiences fans can have; so, sharing a memorable and enjoyable experience is very important to us.”

Sigh …

I wish I had a more pleasant offering for you today as we head into a weekend.  Perhaps this item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times will be an uplifting way to close today:

“Paging Kent Dorfman

“A truck lost its trailer on an Indiana highway, spilling 38,000 pounds of marbles.

“Nevertheless, Faber College officials say, the homecoming parade will go off as scheduled.”

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

 

 

Economics, Money, Sports…

I thought that the Washington Examiner had gone extinct.  It used to be distributed free as a small tabloid newspaper and I used to pick up a copy at a Metro station when I was heading for a subway ride.  Then it disappeared and I figured that it was a casualty in the struggles of the newspaper industry.  So, I was surprised to get an e-mail from a reader containing a link to a recent article in the Washington Examiner.  What prompted the reader to send it to me is captured in this part of his e-mail:

“…you always say hosting the Olympics is a losing proposition and this guy agrees with you, except he is an economics professor and you’re not.”

Not only am I not an economics professor, I only took 2 courses in economics in my life and the most recent one was in 1971; I do not pretend to have any expertise in that field of study.  So, let me use the words of Professor Raymond Sauer (Clemson University) to explain why things like the Olympics – and even the Super Bowl – are not necessarily money-makers for the host city:

“Brazil invested more than $4 billion in stadiums, sports facilities, and infrastructure in order to host the 2016 Olympics. There is no sign of the hoped-for economic boost. Brazil’s economy remains in recession, and once-shiny new facilities are already degraded, lacking funds for basic maintenance and security. The famed Maracana Stadium sits idle with broken windows, damaged doors, stolen tv monitors and seats, its soccer pitch “invaded by worms” according to a CNN report.”

“The award of a Super Bowl to a host city is typically accompanied by estimates of economic impact provided by professional consultants. The numbers are invariably large, with the Houston Super Bowl Committee projecting $350 million in economic impact, and $31 million in state and local tax revenue.”

“While these numbers sound plausible, they leave something important out of the equation: the unseen impact of bringing the show to town. Mega-events displace other economic activity, business visitors, conventions, and other travel to the host city that would have taken place but go elsewhere during Super Bowl week. That’s why there’s not a single published academic study — and there have been numerous attempts — which finds a measurable uptick in local economic activity or tax revenue of any Super Bowl in the history of the NFL.”

If you would like to read all of Professor Sauer’s comments, you can find them here.

I think I will stay at the intersection of money and sports for a while longer today.  I ran across an article on CBSSports.com a week ago saying that the Ryder Cup matches scheduled to be in Italy in 2022 may have to be moved.  Here is the paragraph that caught my attention:

“The Italian Senate recently removed the guaranteed $103 million in funding Rome (and the Marco Simone Golf and Country Club) needed to host the biennial event. This means organizers in Italy will have to find the money elsewhere as it is a prerequisite to hosting the tournament.”

Of course, the organizers claim that the Ryder Cup will “have an economic impact nearing 9 figures” which sounds great until you look at the up-front funding cost of $103M and realize that it too is “9 figures”.  The other thing that made me wonder here was that the Golf and Country Club where the matches will be played needs money.  How did the Ryder Cup mavens decide to play the event at a place that isn’t already good enough to host the event?

Here is a link to the story in case you are interested.

One last sports/money comment for the day…  The Breeders’ Cup races for 2017 will be held in early Nov ember at DelMar Racetrack just north of San Diego.  Bing Crosby and Oliver Hardy were partners in the group that originally built this track and the fact that its street address is on “Jimmy Durante Boulevard” might suggest that the facility has seen its fair share of celebrities.  Hosting this “mega-event” will not be an economic disaster for San Diego simply because the track is already there and would be in use for a Fall meeting in any event.  The marginal costs here are low.

However, that does not mean there are no “money aspects” to this event.  The Breeders’ Cup races now span 2 days and the total purse money offered for the 10 races is $28M.  The folks who own the horses that will run in those races are not exactly living paycheck to paycheck and can afford to come and see their animals compete here.  They can pay “enhanced admission prices” but can the ordinary racing fans.  Here are some of the admission prices that are posted for these events:

  • A two-day admission to the Turf Club – including food – will cost $1,725 per seat and you must buy a minimum of a table for four.  In round numbers, that comes to $7K.
  • Grandstand box seats along the stretch – not including food – will cost $1000 per seat and you have your choice of buying a 4-seat box or a 6-seat box.  By the way, you will have to buy the whole box.
  • Standing room admission will be $50 and you can get to the infield for $85 per day.

Tickets for the events go on sale in 2 weeks so you have some time to figure out how to get the proper amount of funds into your checking account so you can be there for the big races.  Don’t miss out…

Finally, Greg Cote of the Miami Herald channeled Carnac the Magnificent with this comment:

“Answer: KFC gives away tubes of Extra Crispy Sunscreen that smells like fried chicken.

“Question: What do you mean real life sometimes reads like something from The Onion?”

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

 

 

More NFL Off-Season News …

If you pay any attention at all to this year’s NFL off-season news, the reports fall into two categories.  The first category is a “listicle” – a list of some sort with a unifying theme such as The Ten Worst Salary Cap Situations in 2017 or The Five Most Desirable Free Agent WRs.  I don’t know about you, but I get tired of those things quickly.  The other category focuses on the consensus regarding desirable free agents this year and analyzes them to death.  Let me list the players with constant focus:

  1. LeVeon Bell:  Will the Steelers retain him with a franchise tag?
  2. Kirk Cousins:  Will the Skins retain him with a franchise tag?
  3. Jimmy Garoppolo:  Will the Pats trade him?  If so, where?
  4. Tony Romo:  Where will he play QB next year?

Let me try to provide brief answers to three of those four “vexing” questions:

  1. LeVeon Bell:  The Steelers will retain him one way or the other.
  2. Kirk Cousins:  The Skins will franchise him.
  3. Tony Romo:  The Cowboys can afford to keep him as a backup but if they release him, Tony Romo will play for either the Texans or the Broncos.

Jimmy Garoppolo is a more complicated situation.  The Pats do need a solid backup QB given the fact that Tom Brady is battling Father Time in addition to opposing defenses.  Garoppolo looked awfully good in his 6 quarters of action last year leading some to believe he is the heir apparent to Brady and therefore will not be traded.  However, coming to that conclusion assumes the ability to read the mind of Bill Belichick because if Belichick is convinced that Jacoby Brissett can be his “QB of the Future”, then this is the time to cash in on Garoppolo’s soaring trade value.  I will not even pretend to be able to read Bill Belichick’s mind…

Let me offer some words of caution to QB-hungry teams out there who covet Jimmy Garoppolo.  If you are indeed able to come up with a package of players/draft picks to pry him loose from the Pats, remember Belichick’s track record when it comes to trading backup QBs.

  • Matt Cassell
  • Brian Hoyer
  • Ryan Mallet

I am not saying that Jimmy Garoppolo is destined to be a journeyman QB at best, but there is some history there.

Enough about The Big Four of free agents.  I think there is a free agency situation that is well under the radar but it is important.  Terrelle Pryor is 27 years old; he tried to make it in the NFL as a QB put of Ohio State but after three years below mediocrity with the Raiders, he signed on with the Browns seeking to reinvent himself as a WR.  In his first year, they targeted him 8 times and he caught 1 pass for 42 yards.  Last year, he caught 77 passes for 1007 yards and 4 TDs.

Before anyone looks at those numbers and shrugs them off, consider that he was the lead receiver for a Browns’ team that did not have a competent QB to throw him the ball partly because the OL could not keep a QB healthy very long.  I do not want to make Terrelle Pryor out to be the poor man’s version of Julio Jones, but he is important to the Browns and he could be an important addition to a team that actually has a chance to be in the playoffs in 2017.  I am going to pay attention to news about Pryor’s negotiations this off-season.  I believe that he would cost the Browns $15.1M to play under the franchise tag.

Another NFL story that is under the radar relates to the continued interactions between law enforcement officials and Raiders’ OLB, Aldon Smith.  He has been in the league since 2011 and was the NFC defensive player of the year with the Niners in 2012.  However, he has not been anywhere near a model citizen and is currently serving a 1-year suspension from the league.  I do not represent that this is the full extent of his relationship with the gendarmes in various jurisdictions but consider:

  • Arrested more than once for DUI
  • Arrested for getting into a confrontation with a TSA employee who thought Smith was carrying a bomb.
  • Arrested for possession an assault weapon without proper registration.
  • Arrested for a hit-and-run incident

He has been suspended by the NFL multiple times; if my count is correct he has missed all of part of 4 seasons – and he has only been in the league for 6 years.  I mention this because Aldon Smith had applied for reinstatement to the NFL when his most recent suspension ended late last year; that matter remains under review.  And now …

  • Aldon Smith is under investigation regarding a domestic violence situation.  Remember, the NFL has a precedent of handing out suspension(s) for such matters even without charges being filed against the alleged perpetrator.

Aldon Smith has recorded 47.5 sacks in 59 NFL games; in 2012, he recorded 19.5 sacks in 16 regular season games.  He would have been a perfect Oakland Raider in the days of Al Davis and before the days of Roger Goodell and the NFL’s menu of suspensions for anti-social behaviors.  Smith’s problem is that he wants to play today and not back then.

Finally, here is a comment from Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald regarding another arrest situation related to sports:

“A Baylor assistant strength coach was arrested in a prostitution sting. OK, I’ve heard of better ways of rehabilitating a program’s image.  The good news is that after working with him, a prostitute achieved personal bests in the vertical leap and shuttle run.”

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

 

 

The Kings And The Pelicans Make A Trade…

The NBA All-Star Game happened over the weekend and it was a pretend game of basketball just as it always is.  The only “defense” in the game is the one that keeps “de cows in de pasture”.  Nonetheless, stuff went down during the game that constitutes relevant NBA news.  The Sacramento Kings and the New Orleans Pelicans made a trade:

  1. Pelicans get Boogie Cousins and Omri Casspi
  2. Kings get Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, a first round pick this year and a second round pick this year.

If – and I do mean IF – Boogie Cousins and Anthony Davis can figure out how to play the “Twin Towers Game” to a similar degree of competence as did David Robinson and Tim Duncan, the Pelicans will be significant contenders in the NBA Western Conference for a long time.  Davis is 23 years old; Cousins is 26 years old; both are immensely talented.

Anyone who follows the NBA even peripherally knows that Cousins is a volatile person who often allows his feelings/temper to take him out of games.  They should also realize that Cousins has never had to share the spotlight as “star of the team” with anyone else in Sacramento.  Can this work in New Orleans?  Only time will tell if the Pelicans went panning for gold and came up with a 7-foot solid gold nugget or if they came up with an attractive looking hunk of quartz.

The interesting part of this trade is that the Kings have been saying for months now that they would not ever consider trading Boogie Cousins because he was the future of the team.  And then, they not only traded him, but they traded him as the All-Star Game was in progress.  Cousins only played 2 minutes in the game to be sure he did not get injured even in that mockery of a basketball game.

As of now, neither the Kings nor the Pelicans would be in the playoffs in the West if the season were over.  The Pelicans are 1 game behind the Kings and the Kings are only 1.5 games behind the #8 team in the West (Denver); both teams have 25 games to play.  Alvin Gentry is the Pelicans’ coach; if he can get Davis and Cousins to blend even a little bit, the Pelicans should be able to make up a couple of games on the 8th place Denver Nuggets and make the playoffs.

The Kings’ outlook looks far less rosy to me.  They just traded their only really marketable player and got back some complimentary pieces but no one of star talent.  I suspect the Kings will be settling back to their accustomed place on the lower rungs of the NBA for this year and for a few years to come.  Then again, we are talking here about a team in Sacramento; what better place for an NBA team to render itself irrelevant than in that outpost.

A sad story broke about a week ago.  Jeffrey Sandusky – an adopted son of former Penn State football coach, Jerry Sandusky – was arrested in Pennsylvania and charged with a variety of sex crimes involving minor females.  Jerry Sandusky has been in prison for the last 5 years or so after a conviction for child molestation; Jeffrey Sandusky – 41 years old – is out on $200K bond as he awaits the next step in the legal proceedings against him.  The report linked above will delineate the half-dozen or so charges facing Jeffrey Sandusky.

I said this was a sad story; here is what I mean.  The report says that Jerry Sandusky’s wife – Dottie – who stood by her husband through all of his hearings and trials is now in the midst of standing by her adopted son as he goes through his processing.  Until and unless even a shred of evidence turns up to indicate that Dottie Sandusky has done something that remotely merits this level of grief in her life, I think she is a pathetic figure and this is a sad story.

Do not misinterpret here.  I am a hardass when it comes to crimes against children; anyone who did such things does not want me on the jury that would hand down sentencing for such behaviors.  But I can feel sorry for Dottie Sandusky this morning and the emotional burdens she has had to endure in the last 5 years of her life.

In another “crime story” from Western Pennsylvania, Jets’ CB, Darrelle Revis was arrested in the aftermath of a fight in the Pittsburgh area that left a couple of people hospitalized.  There are 5 charges pending against Revis including 2 charges of aggravated assault terroristic threats, robbery and conspiracy to commit aggravated assault.  The way the events unfolded here is more complicated that I would prefer to spell out here; so, if you are interested, here is the AP report that ran in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

I am not an attorney so I would not try to evaluate the merits of the case against Revis nor would I be able to speculate about how this might affect his contract with the NY Jets.  Fortunately, I ran across an article at SI.com written by Michael McCann who is an attorney and a professor of law at the University of New Hampshire Law School.  Obviously, he is qualified to assess the legal ramifications here and I suggest that you read his article in its entirety.

Just a couple of highlights from Professor McCann’s piece:

  1. Two men who accosted Revis were knocked out and remained unconscious for about 10 minutes and one suffered a “serious facial injury”.
  2. The charge involving “terroristic threats” is serious but is not synonymous with a “terrorist threat”.
  3. These ongoing charges give the Jets a reason to release Revis notwithstanding the fact that he has not been convicted of anything.  The Jets could also seek to nullify the contract and avoid paying him the balance of the $39M that is guaranteed in this contract.

Finally, Brad Rock of the Deseret News has this item recently about another potential “lawsuit” involving a former athlete:

“UNC-Chapel Hill student body presidential candidate Joe Nail dressed up as Duke’s Grayson Allen, pretending to trip fellow students they passed.

“Bill Laimbeer is allegedly suing both Allen and Nail for unauthorized use of his signature moves.”

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

 

 

Pre-Season NFL Picks 2016 – The Post Mortem

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

In the AFC East:

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

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

In the AFC North:

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

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

In the AFC South:

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

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

In the AFC West:

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

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

In the NFC East:

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

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

In the NFC North:

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

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

In the NFC South:

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

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

In the NFC West:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Egregious Eight …

Earlier this week, I said that I hoped that President Trump would break with recent tradition and avoid picking March Madness brackets.  I figured that the best way to accomplish that end would be for ESPN to “forget to ask him” to do so.  I was wrong.  Evidently, ESPN has asked but President Trump has turned down the offer.  I guess I should just file this under:

 

“All’s Well That Ends Well”

 

Earlier this week, I was having lunch with a former colleague who has been reading these rants even before they hit the Internet.  His sports irritant of the moment was the fallout “discussion” after the Super Bowl considering if Tom Brady is or is not the G.O.A.T. – greatest of all time – as a QB or even as an NFL player.  I agreed that those discussions had run their course and people had taken sides and any further discussion was superfluous.  He then said that he found it ironic that the acronym for greatest of all time – GOAT – had a double meaning since the player responsible for losing a game or a championship is often referred to as “the goat”.  He pointed out that “GOAT” and “the goat” are almost antonyms.  Then he told me what I should do; this is a paraphrase:

  • Find a phone booth and put on your super-hero curmudgeon costume and figure out which “goat” was the “GOAT of goats” – the greatest goat of all time.

I was afraid the list would be too long to put in a rant, but as I pondered this “challenge” it seemed to boil down to only a few people/happenstances.  I will put them here in alphabetical order to let you decide which of these is the most egregious.  Or perhaps you can add to the list …

  1. Bill Buckner:  Even if you were born after the misplayed ground ball in the World Series that cost the Red Sox the 1986 World Series, you have to know about that event.  I suspect that a lot of fans in Boston will not need to read any further into this list.
  2. Scott Norwood:  His missed field goal as time expired cost the Buffalo Bills a win in the Super Bowl.  Mitigating his claim to this ignominious title is the fact that the kick was from 47 yards; it was not a chip shot.
  3. John Starks:  In the 1994 NBA Finals, Starks had a disastrously bad game in Game 7 of the series.  He was 2 for 18 for the game and 0 for 10 in the fourth quarter of the game.  The Knicks lost to the Rockets by 6 points that night.
  4. Willie Shoemaker:  In the 1957 Kentucky Derby, Shoemaker was riding Gallant Man comfortably to a victory when he misjudged the finish line and stood up in the stirrups with about a sixteenth of a mile to go.  Gallant Man finished second in that race to Iron Liege by a nose.

There is a category of “goats” that would have multiple entries here so I would prefer to lump them into one.  There are pitchers who gave up home runs that ended the World Series to the disadvantage of their team.

  1. Ralph Branca:  He gave up the “Shot Heard Round the World” to Bobby Thomson in 1951 putting the NY Giants into the World Series at the expense of the Brooklyn Dodgers.
  2. Ralph Terry:  He served up the pitch that Bill Mazeroski hit out of the park in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7 to give the Pirates the World Series at the expense of the Yankees.
  3. Mitch Williams:  He gave up a walk-off home run to Joe Carter in Game 6 of the 1993 World Series giving the Blue Jays the World Series over the Phillies.

There is one other entry for this list but the identity of the potential “GOAT of goats” remains a mystery.  I shall identify him here as:

  1. Joe Flabeetz:  He is the guy who called the pass play for the Seattle Seahawks at the 1-yardline with about 30 seconds to play – and with several timeouts in his pocket and Marshawn Lynch in the game – and saw it intercepted by Malcom Butler giving the Patriots the title instead of the Seahawks.  From a coaching standpoint, that is the worst brain-cramp ever.

There you have my “Egregious Eight” as the candidates for “GOAT of goats”.  If any of the FIFA World Cup final games has ever been decided by an “own goal”, then the person responsible for that should be on this list.  However, I do not know if that ever happened.  I do recall the US Men’s Team winning a World Cup game when a Colombian opponent scored an “own goal”.  However, that game was nowhere near the finals of the tournament so I did not bother to go and find the details of that happening.  The reason this event sticks in my mind is that the Colombian player who scored the “own goal” was murdered in Colombia as some sort of retribution for the “own goal” that led to Colombia’s elimination from the World Cup Tournament.

The actions of the folks on my list of the “Egregious Eight” fortunately have not incited any fan to attempt violence against any of the individuals.  I like sports and I take the games seriously – – but not that seriously.

Finally, here are comments from two columnists on the same topic:

“Defensive-end prospect Donovan Winter was unable to sign his letter of intent with Michigan State on Wednesday, the Orlando Sentinel reported, because he’d been jailed on burglary charges.

“Probably not the kind of ‘recruiting steal’ that Spartans coaches had in mind.” [Dwight Perry, Seattle Times]

And…

“A Michigan State defensive end prospect missed signing day because he was in jail on burglary charges. Any statements about him leading the team in takeaways the next four years are inappropriate.” [Brad Dickson, Omaha World-Herald]

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

 

 

Three NBA Items Today …

Pardon me while I tell you a story of my youth as a way to introduce today’s first item.  As a kid, what I wanted to do in life was to be a baseball play-by-play announcer.  By the time I became a teenager, my career aspirations expanded to the point that I would be happy doing play-by-play for football and/or basketball too.  When I went to college, I immediately joined the school radio station to work on the sports staff; I had a mentor there who taught me what he knew about broadcasting and we were paired as a team.  I got my debut in the middle of basketball season in my freshman year doing “color analysis” while my mentor did play-by-play.

My father was one of the nicest and most positive people on the planet.  He could hear the broadcast because even though this was a college radio station, we also had an FM station that could be heard well beyond campus limits.  My father made it a point to tune in to hear me.  After the game, I asked him what he thought; here is what he told me:

“Just be sure to keep your grades up.”

That is not what I wanted to hear; and so, I went back to the station to pull the reel-to-reel tape the station kept from the broadcast.  I sat down with headphones and listened and came to this conclusion:

  • I was beyond awful.  It was painful for me to listen to myself.

With that as background, I suspect that you will understand that I have no expertise or talent in this area.  Nevertheless, I must say that the ESPN telecast of the Cavs/Pacers game last night with Dick Vitale and Bill Walton on the mic was equally beyond awful and painful to hear.  There was a play-by-play guy there too but he was about as useful as a pedal-powered wheel chair.

Obviously, I do not know who in the ESPN hierarchy emanated the brain-fart that led to this telecast pairing.  Whoever was responsible should be made to sit and watch/listen to that televised game on a circular tape for about 12 consecutive hours.  Longer than that, it would fall into the category of cruel and unusual punishment.

Taking a step down the ladder from an NBA game, there was an announcement earlier this week that the NBA D-League will get a new name because they sold the naming rights for the whole league.  Starting next year, the D-League will become the G-League – or in its full form the NBA Gatorade League.  There will be a new league logo and it will be prominently displayed on uniforms and on the game balls; and obviously, there will be Gatorade products available to and used by the players before, during and after the games.

As part of the background information that accompanied the announcement of the Gatorade/NBA deal, it turns out that 40% of NBA players on rosters now spent some time in the D-League.  Had you asked me to guess that percentage prior to the release of that stat, I probably would have guessed 15-20%.  Interesting…

Here is what a Gatorade spokesperson had to say about this new partnership:

“We have more than 50 years of experience working with athletes and using those insights to help improve athletic performance through innovative sports fuel and equipment.  This expansion of our NBA partnership is a great opportunity to not only work with the elite athletes of the NBA G-League, but also continue to lead the evolution of basketball performance.”

I am certainly unsure about anyone or anything being able to “lead the evolution” of anything but let me say this.  If indeed Gatorade can improve performance and lead evolution, maybe they can become an ESPN partner and lead the evolution of basketball announcing away from wherever Dick Vitale and Bill Walton seemingly took it last night.

Presumably, this next NBA “story” has been put out of its misery.  With the intercession of Commissioner Adam Silver and Michael Jordan, it appears that James Dolan and Charles Oakley have re-established a relationship that is sufficient to remove Oakley’s lifetime ban from Madison Square Garden.  I suspect that it would still not be a good idea to sit these two folks next to each other at a dinner party, but they are now in a status where they can co-exist in the same building at the same time.  The words of Chairman Mao Zedong seem appropriate here:

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.”

Or as Bernie Lincicome once said:

“The journey of a thousand miles begins by going through a metal detector at the airport.”

The presence of Michael Jordan in this reconciliation endeavor makes me shake my head.  Jordan has no historical ties to the Knicks and he is the owner of a rival franchise.  From that perspective, he is no different from any other owner in the league – from Mark Cuban to Steve Ballmer to Dan Gilbert.  Michael Jordan also appeared in this soap opera in an earlier scene.  There were reports that Knicks’ GM Phil Jackson tried to call Jordan at the time that Oakley had been “escorted out” of Madison Square Garden and was arrested by the gendarmes.  Unless the good folks at NSA have recorded the telephone call that had Jordan participate in the meeting with Silver/Dolan/Oakley and then they release the recorded call, I am never going to be sure how or why Michael Jordan got roped into this hot mess.  But that will not stop me from offering a conjecture:

  • Oakley and Jordan were in the NBA contemporaneously and competed against each other.  Both men were – and probably still are – fierce competitors.  It would be logical to me that they developed a healthy respect for one another as competitors and as men.
  • If that is the case – or even close to the case – then perhaps Michael Jordan’s contribution here was to help Oakley channel his competitive emotions.
  • That’s the best conclusion I can draw…

Finally, here is a comment from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald:

“Indiana Pacer Myles Turner admitted he committed to Texas over Kansas based on a dream he had. Remember that the next time you think the job of college recruiter is easy.”

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

 

 

A Most Disturbing Report …

There was a story on the front page of today’s Washington Post that involves a seamy side of the sports world.  It deals with the sexual abuse of young female athletes by coaches/trainers as they aim toward participation in the Olympics.  That is a horrible circumstance by any measure but it is made even worse by the fact that when such allegations are brought to the attention of the USOC, the USOC takes a slide.  This article is excellent reporting and journalism; it relies on fact as provided by documents used in court proceedings; it interviews people involved in the matter(s); it provides history and context.  In fairness, I must tell you that it is a lengthy piece; nonetheless, I commend it to your reading.

Let me give you just a couple of teasers about the article:

  1. A USOC official claims that the USOC has no athletes under its umbrella and that the athletes are covered by/belong to the various governing sport bodies.  When asked what TEAM USA meant if it was not about USOC’s Olympic Team, he said that TEAM USA was merely “branding”.
  2. Annual revenue for the USOC is $230M.  Sounds like a lot of money for folks who sit around and worry about “branding” …

Also in today’s Washington Post – this time buried in the middle of Sports Digest – is an item about the NFL’s Los Angeles Chargers.  Recall that the Chargers will play their games this year in a small stadium built as a soccer venue with seating in the range of 30,000 but with expansion potential for 35,000.  The Chargers announced that tickets for their games at this stadium – the StubHub Center – will be more than just “pricey”.  Some data from the report:

  • Top shelf season tix for the LA Chargers will cost $150 per game more than top shelf season tix for the LA Rams.
  • Season tix (a 10-game commitment to include 2 exhibition games) for midfield seats behind the Chargers’ bench will cost $375 per game.

If these numbers make you wonder how this pricing strategy is supposed to endear the Chargers to new fans in the LA area, here is what the report has to say:

“The Chargers are counting on the limited supply of seats at StubHub – along with what’s expected to be a better team than the Rams – to move their product at higher prices.”

So much for the marketing strategy of developing a customer base by offering low introductory prices…

As MLB teams and players head to Florida or Arizona to begin Spring Training, you can anticipate the onslaught of formulaic reporting and giddy optimism emanating from those locales.  However, despite that annual happenstance, there has already been a Spring Training report that immediately made me think of Monty Python.  And now for something completely different…

“Kansas City Royals left-hander Brian Flynn is expected to be sidelined for eight weeks after falling through a barn roof at his Oklahoma residence.

“The Royals said Tuesday that Flynn broke a rib and had three minor vertebrae fractures.”

I do not wish Brian Flynn any ill and I hope he has a full recovery from his fall, but I do have to note that this is one of the reports out of Spring Training that does not fit the mold for such stories.

Often, there is a media focus on the efforts and the deals and the shenanigans involved in building a new stadium or arena somewhere in the country.  However, there seems to be little if any focus on what that city/county/state ought to do or needs to do with the old/outdated stadium or arena that is being replaced.  Today, we can take a glimpse into that world thanks to a report in the Kansas City Business Journal.

Kemper Arena is the old/outdated venue and it sits on 10-acres of real estate in KC.  According to this report, a committee of the KC City Council is ready to deal with the final piece of a deal that will transfer the arena to an LLC for the price of $1.  The new owners will then “transform it into Mosaic Arena, a two-level youth and amateur sports facility.”  Why such largesse?  Well, this transfer or sale or whatever you want to call it will relieve the city of the need to spend $1.2M per year to maintain and operate Kemper Arena.  Check out the link to this report if you are interested in other financial details.

Back in the late 70s, I went to Kemper Arena to see a KC Kings game.  [The team has since moved to Sacramento.]  I recall Kemper Arena as a very modern venue for that time and that the seating was compact so that you did not feel as if you were in an airplane hangar.  Obviously, its time has come and gone.  Sic transit gloria mundi

Finally, consider this commentary from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times:

“Yes, pucks and fists often mix — but in octogenarian shuffleboard?

“Herbert Hayden, 81, pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor battery charge for punching a fellow competitor at the Pinellas Park (Fla.) Senior Center and whacking him with a shuffleboard cue.

“Hayden was ordered to pay about $1,000 in fines, fees and restitution. And just for good measure, the judge tacked on five minutes for fighting, two minutes for roughing and another two for high-sticking.”

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

 

 

Happy Valentine’s Day …

Happy Valentine’s Day to all.  If the good folks at NPR.com are correct, we should take a moment today to celebrate and appreciate how folks in the US deal with this holiday in the 21st century.  According to NPR.com, Valentine’s Day probably originated in Roman times as the Feast of Lupercalia.  Here is what went down as the Romans did their celebrating:

“From Feb. 13 to 15, the Romans celebrated the feast of Lupercalia. The men sacrificed a goat and a dog, then whipped women with the hides of the animals they had just slain.”

Now before you think that is the end of the egregiousness of the festivities consider that:

  1. The men were naked.
  2. The women lined up to take turns getting whipped.

You can find more details about the evolution of this holiday and its celebration here.  Even if you do not take the time to check out the link, I suspect that we can all agree that chocolates and roses are a more refined way to commemorate the 14th day of February than was practiced by the Romans…

Having mentioned the tradition of Valentine’s Day, allow me a moment here to break with tradition in these rants and make two statements that are sort of political in nature.

First, I have seen at least a dozen reports/commentaries in the last week about players on the New England Patriots who have announced that they will not go to the White House as part of the celebration of their victory in the Super Bowl.  In addition to the reports, there are “analyses” of what this might mean regarding those players’ continued affiliation with the team and speculation about how the Pats’ owner and coach feel about all of that.  Enough already…

The politics of the US in 2017 is so fractured that if Donald Duck were the President, some athlete somewhere would refuse to go visit him in the White House because that athlete was a Mickey Mouse fan.  I get it.  Everyone with an IQ equal to or higher than the speed limit on the Interstate highway system gets it.  I would like to make a plea for rationality here:

  1. If an athlete does not want to attend, he/she should feel free to do something else on that day.
  2. An athlete should not delude themselves into believing their absence is anything more than their personal choice.  Think about it; when was the last time you scrutinized one of the posed pictures where the President is holding up a jersey with his name on it to see which of the team members are present and which are not?
  3. I know there is pressure on reporters to fill space and to put content on websites, but these sorts of reports are thin gruel.

Second, while I am on my abnormal path and commenting about political matters that abut sports matters, let me anticipate an upcoming event.  For the last several years, ESPN asked President Obama to fill out a March Madness bracket and then televised the act of filling out the Presidential Bracket.  The first time they did that, it was sort of fun; the second time they did that, it was stale; after that, I could not help but wonder how it could be that the President did not have something better to do than to take the time to produce this taped event.  I understand that President Obama was a big college basketball fan and would probably have filled out a bracket for the “White House Staff Bracket Challenge” anyway.  But the televised “program” had lost its luster.

 

Memo to ESPN:  Please do not make any attempt to carry this “tradition” forward into the 45th Presidency.  It was a clever idea when you thought of it but it is now time to move on to something else.

 

Parallel Memo to President Trump:  If they call to ask you to fill out a bracket on TV, do not take the call.  You can get TV coverage almost any time you want it; you do not need this at all and the people do not need this at all.

 

In a column in the Miami Herald last weekend, Greg Cote reminded me that in addition to the “major sports” that attract the clear majority of media attention and fan enthusiasm, there are second tier and third tier sporting events that normally fall outside the scope of our attention.  Here are two of his short observations regarding such sports:

“BEACH VOLLEYBALL: Tour stop in Fort Lauderdale ends Sunday: The Fort Lauderdale Major, an FIVB World Tour pro event, wraps up Sunday with the women’s gold medal match. Which answers the question, ‘What? You mean beach volleyball is played more than once every four years at the Olympics?’”

And …

“GOLF: Allianz Championship wraps Sunday in Boca: Don’t call it the Senior Tour anymore, but the PGA Tour’s older division completes its event in Boca Raton today. Entering Sunday’s final round, Fred Couples started only one stroke behind four guys only their families have heard of.”

Finally, before I ponder the social dangers involved with trying to revive the traditions of the Feast of Lupercalia here in Northern Virginia this afternoon, let me close with a comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“A group of former cheerleaders has filed a proposed class-action lawsuit against the NFL and 26 teams, alleging that management actively conspired to underpay them and keep them from negotiating better salaries.

“The plaintiffs are reportedly seeking somewhere between two bits/four bits/six bits and 300 million dollars.”

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

 

 

Hither Thither And Yon…

Previously, I told you about the surprisingly bad season that Leicester City was having in the English Premier League.  After surprising everyone and winning the league title last year, Leicester City has been flirting with relegation – finishing in the bottom three of the league – this year.   A league champion has only once been relegated in the following season and that was back in the late 1930s before it was called the Premier League.

The EPL season is two-thirds over; here are the teams at or near the bottom that will need to worry about relegation:

  • Bournemouth   26 points
  • Swansea City   24 points
  • Middlesbrough  22 points
  • Leicester City    21 points
  • Hull City   20 points
  • Crystal Palace  19 points
  • Sunderland   19 points

Over the weekend, Leicester City lost a game to Swansea City by a score of 2-0; for the moment, Swansea’s 3-point lead over Leicester is a result of that victory.  Even more ominous is the fact that Leicester has been shut out in its last 5 EPL games.  Leicester’s coach is Claudio Ranieri and here is what he had to say after the loss to Swansea:

“We have two problems; we concede goals and don’t score.  We have to stick together and find a solution. It’s not possible to continue this way.”

Let me break that down for you:

“We have two problems; we concede goals and don’t score.”  That statement is an acceptable thesis for the degree of Master of the Obvious.  The confluence of those “two problems” is THE definition of lack of success.

“We have to stick together and find a solution.”  You do not really have much of a choice but to stick together – – unless they fire you as a coach in which case the team will go on without you.

“It’s not possible to continue this way.”  Oh, but it is possible and if the team does that the result will be that you will be looking for work elsewhere.

Tonight, the UConn women’s basketball team will seek its 100th consecutive win.  I know it is “fashionable” to point out here that the level of competition in NCAA women’s basketball is very thin and that this accomplishment needs to have an asterisk to put it in perspective.  I think that is horse hockey.  The Harlem Globetrotters’ winning streaks and winning percentages need an asterisk simply because no one should take those as serious games.  The Globetrotters’ opponents are “part of the show” and are there to help put the act over with the audience.  That is NOT the case with teams that take the court against the UConn women.

There is one very real problem with the dominance shown by the UConn women that I had not recognized until Bob Molinaro pointed it out in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot last week:

“Tough job:  How do sportswriters who cover UConn ever write a decent game story?  What was the game’s turning point?  When the teams got off the bus?”

I want to pose a hypothetical question here.  Recall the latest dust-up between Knicks’ owner James Dolan and former Knicks’ player Charles Oakley and the announcement that Oakley has been banned for life from Madison Square Garden – – also owned by Dolan.  Now, just suppose that another NBA team – – say the Brooklyn Nets – – hired Oakley as an “Assistant Coach for Intimidation”.  On March 16, the Nets are scheduled to visit Madison Square Garden to play the Knicks.  If Oakley were an Assistant Coach for the Nets, could Dolan actually ban him from entering the arena and sitting on the bench with the team that is employing him?

Someone would have to wake Adam Silver from his long winter’s nap to deal with that situation.  If I owned an NBA team and wanted to needle James Dolan, I would be looking to see the next time my team had to go to the Garden so that I could set this up.

Speaking of things that the NBA Commish and the Front Office would prefer not to address, let me talk about tanking for a minute.  The NBA acknowledged the existence of teams tanking to get the top draft picks when it instituted the draft lottery in the first place.  When teams continued to play lethargically despite the existence of the lottery, the NBA moved to discourage that by adjusting the number of ping-pong balls allotted to each team in the hopper.  There is no way that the NBA can represent that tanking has not occurred in their league or that it continues to occur.  Fans in Philly need only hear the words “Trust the process…” to understand what happened with the Sixers for 3 or 4 seasons.

So, why is it that the NBA is worried about sports gambling possibly undermining the “integrity of the games” when it is clear to any rational observer that there are teams seeking to lose certain games on purpose in order to protect draft picks or to acquire more ping pong balls in the hopper for the draft this year.  Moreover, it is going to happen again next year too.  Just asking…

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

“Several L.A. County businesses stepped forward to help bail out the struggling Lennox Little League, including a $1,200 donation from the Jet Strip club.

“What, you’ve never seen a baseball field with brass foul poles before?”

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