Back And Forth And…

I had an e-mail exchange over the weekend with a former colleague and a long-time reader of these rants. In one of his notes, he said that he has been waiting to read my opinion(s) on the latest “revelations” about Peyton Manning as reported in the NY Daily News. Let me take this moment to explain to him – and anyone else – why I think this matter is not particularly worthy of comment.

First of all, the report that I read in the NY Daily News contained nothing much new; virtually everything there had been reported more than 10 years ago and it seemed as if the only “new” event was an interview with the attorney representing the woman who accuses Manning of some disgusting behavior back when he was at Tennessee. After I read the report, my thinking was along the lines of “Hi! Ho!”

However, since the story seems to have gained some traction – to the point where an old friend asked about it specifically – let me be more specific in my commentary.

    1. This is a 20-year old “he said/she said” situation. I was not present when the alleged disgusting behavior happened or did not happen. No new evidence surfaced to trigger the latest “reporting”. This is not akin to the Ray Rice affair where subsequently we came to see “indisputable video evidence” of what went down in that elevator. Since I have no idea what happened or did not happen about 20 years ago, I really have nothing to add to the matter. And, if I may be so bold, neither does the NY Daily News

    2. I understand that this is the “Era of the Hot Take”. A fundamental axiom of this ERA seems to be that expression of moral outrage is perfectly appropriate even in situations where there is no rational/objective basis for said outrage. I prefer a much more robust “wait-and-see” approach…

    3. Absent new information, all I could add here would be to “take sides” and vent my spleen against whichever side I had chosen against. At best, I would be spinning the facts presented in the most recent reporting without knowing if indeed they are facts or fancy. Boiled down to that, my conclusion is that you all have better things to do with your time than to read more conjecture on the matter. And so, until there are more facts available about what did or did not happen 20-years ago, I shall revert to my previous stance. “Hi! Ho!”

Regardless of whether any new information surfaces to does not surface here, this is a matter for the court of public opinion and not a prosecutor; unless I missed some major reporting in the past, there were never any charges brought in the matter. As I have said many time in the past, the court of public opinion does not need incontrovertible evidence to reach its conclusions and there are consequences for people who find themselves squarely on the wrong side of the court of public opinion. The latest case in point to demonstrate that would be Manny Pacquiao. Nike terminated its contract/relationship with Pacquaio after Pacquiao made comments about gay marriages saying that people who participated in such rituals were “worse than animals”.

I am not going to do a “Hot Take” here on the subject of gay marriage nor am I about to try to conflate this matter into a First Amendment Issue. What happened here is that Manny Pacquiao expressed his opinion; Nike determined that his statements would be harmful to their business interests and terminated their relationship with him. That is all there is to the matter; any attempt to make it into something more substantial is not much more than trying to pump sunshine up someone’s butt. There is no real reason to do that, and as soon as you turn off the “pump” there is no lasting effect.

I think it was last Friday that I read a note that the NY Knicks signed Jimmer Fredette to a 10-day contract. It had been quite a while since I had thought about Jimmer Fredette; I did not know he was still playing professional basketball until that story which told me he had been playing in the D-League this year. On Saturday, I tuned in to watch the Oklahoma/West Virginia game and my “Jimmer Fredette synapses” fired off…

Buddy Hield was clearly the star player on the court in the Oklahoma/West Virginia game; he scored 29 points and the Sooners won in a walk. Hield has done this sort of thing before during this season and he will deservedly get a lot of support as the Player of the Year – or whatever they are calling that award these days. Nevertheless, in the second half of that game, I began to wonder if Buddy Hield is the latter-day Jimmer Fredette – who was also the Player of the Year when he was in his final year of college. I am talking here about Hield from the perspective of an NBA team and an NBA career. Nothing I say here intends to detract one iota from his value and his accomplishments as a college player:

    He scored 29 points on Saturday. At least 8 and perhaps 10 of those points came on breakaway layups.

    He scored 29 points on Saturday. About 12 and perhaps 15 of those points came on wide open “catch-and-shoot” jump shots.

Hield is fast and given an open shot he can/will drain it. The question is how often he will be able to use those assets in the NBA to score. He is faster than anyone on the West Virginia team; is he faster than the majority of NBA guards? I don’t know… He will not get nearly as many open/uncontested jump shots in the NBA. Defenders there are bigger and faster than anyone West Virginia could put on the floor.

What I did not see was his ability to take the ball and create his own scoring opportunities against tight defensive coverage. Now, if he can do that too, he will be a very productive NBA player. If he cannot, he just might be the 2016 version of Jimmer Fredette because everything I said about Hield in the past couple of paragraphs is true of Fredette too. It will be interesting to see what the NBA scouts and GMs think here…

Finally, the Daytona 500 happened; it ended in a photo finish; however, since two drivers did not get into a fight after the race to set up a blood-feud for the rest of the season, I wonder if the NASCAR mavens are happy with the outcome. Just as pro-‘rassling lives and dies with the energy created by their “blood-feuds”, so too does NASCAR interest ascend when such things exist – either in reality or in perception. And that brings to mind a comment from humorist Dave Barry many years ago about auto racing in general:

“Auto racing is boring except when a car is going at least 172 miles per hour upside down.”

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

Cleveland Browns Rebooting – Again…

When someone achieves financial success to the point that they have enough scratch to buy an NFL franchise, I suspect that they have lost the ability to sit back and see themselves used as a punching bag or held up as a laughingstock. If my suspicion is correct, I think Jimmy Haslem – Browns’ owner for the last 4 or so years – has already tired of being labeled as meddlesome, incompetent, impatient … You get the idea. I doubt that anyone buys into the NFL with the “secret ambition” to be lumped in with Danny Boy Snyder as an owner.

Haslem’s time in the owners’ box in Cleveland has not exactly been uplifting.

    Since 2012, the Browns have not had a winning season.

    Cumulative record since then has been 19-45

    Hue Jackson will start next season as the 3rd head coach since 2012.

The Browns do have loyal fans and here is what Haslem had to say to those fans who have supported the Browns through thin and thinner times over the last 16 seasons:

“We are devoted to making significant improvements and giving you a team that you can be proud of for years to come. We greatly respect and appreciate your unmatched dedication to the Browns, especially during home games in 2016 that will feature our AFC North rivals, along with premier matchups against the Cowboys, Patriots and Giants.”

Were I to deconstruct that comment, I would quickly point out that “making significant improvements” over last season’s 3-13 record is hardly a Herculean task. Last year saw the Browns win 2 home games – over the Titans and the Niners both of whom finished last in their divisions. But hey, the Browns have a new coach and probably a new QB and so hope springs eternal…

Then there is the business side of owning a franchise. The Browns have an “unofficial mascot”; it is a mastiff named Swagger. If an organization would like to have Swagger “make an appearance” such that the organization can align itself with the team or with the slogan, “Be A Dog”, that the team uses to attract fans to buy seats in the Dawg Pound at the stadium, that will cost $800. Jimmy Haslem referred to “unmatched dedication” regarding Browns’ fans in that quotation above; I might suggest that anyone paying $800 to have a dog “make an appearance” demonstrates “unmitigated stupidity”. Then again, I am not a Browns’ fan…

Before leaving the Cleveland Browns in the rear view mirror this morning, let me resurrect an old “art form” that I have not used here in a while. It is time for a Quick Quiz:

    Consider the career arc of (at least for the moment) Browns’ QB, Johnny Manziel. Which former NFL QB also taken in the first round had a career arc that most resembles Manziel’s?

      A. Ryan Leaf
      B. Todd Marinovich
      C. Art Schlichter

    1000 words or less; answers are due by Monday noon…

The Browns had the second worst record in the league last year; they draft second in a few months; their fans are being sold hope and promises and “improvements’. At the other end of the scale, the Carolina Panthers had the best record in the league and will draft next to last in the first round as the losers of the Super Bowl game. Their fans felt euphoria during the season and the playoffs and now their fans will need to dig deeper into their pockets for tickets next year. According to, the Panthers will raise the prices on two-thirds of the seats in Charlotte between $5 and $12 per seat. According to that report, that sets the price of non-premium seats in the stadium between $48 and $195 per seat per game. Such is the price of backing a winner in the NFL…

Season tickets are expensive for NFL games and season tickets are expensive for MLB games too. The Texas Rangers have an interesting promotion going on regarding 2016 season tickets; it is called “Swing for Your Seats”. Here is the deal:

    Fans can go to the Rangers’ stadium tomorrow (2/20/16) and plunk down a 25% deposit on a full-season or a half-season ticket plan. The balance on that “contract” is due on 4 March – – – unless…

    Those fans will have the opportunity to take three swings to hit a home run out of the park. If anyone does that, then the ticket package they just put their deposit on is free for 2016.

    The pitcher for this event will be a pitching machine; the hitters will be in the normal batter’s box.

I wonder what the Rangers might do if Barry Bonds were to show up with his credit card to buy a season ticket under this plan…

Much was made of Governor John Bel Edwards’ recent statement to the people of Louisiana that the budget situation in Louisiana might require the cancellation of LSU football in the Fall. I particularly liked Dwight Perry’s view on the matter in the Seattle Times:

“Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards says LSU football could be eliminated if the state can’t fix its budget mess.

“Coincidence? Edwards just went into hiding with Sean Penn.”

Finally, one more observation from Dwight Perry to close things out for the week:

“Why isn’t Tennessee point guard Kevin Punter on the football team?”

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

Bill Simmons Returning…

The NY Times reports that Bill Simmons will be launching his new website in April. The name of the new site will be The Ringer and supposedly Simmons is hiring a bunch of folks who wrote for Grantland before ESPN shuttered that site. If indeed Simmons is trying to get his new venture started on a vector that directs it toward the same end as Grantland, then I shall be looking for the launch of the new site and will likely be a frequent visitor. I very much enjoyed the sports aspect of Grantland because it afforded the writers there the opportunity to present their “arguments” in sufficient space and with sufficient detail to be thorough. I hope The Ringer does the same.

About a month ago, ESPN’s Outside the Lines did a piece on the link(s) between major sports enterprises in the US and Daily Fantasy sports websites. Those “partnerships” had been known for a while but the report last month from OTL pointed to new ties between sports leagues and gambling enterprises. Here is a brief summary:

    MLB – already a minority owner of – signed a deal with a British company, Sport Integrity Monitor, for the stated purpose of keeping an eye on the betting lines for MLB games. The idea is to look for oddities there which could point to “fixed games”. Who can be against that? Well, it also turns out that Sport Integrity Monitor is not a stand-alone enterprise. It’s parent company sets betting lines for bookmakers in Asia and Europe. Hmmm…

    The NBA owns a portion of With that minority ownership stake, the NBA is also a part owner of NumberFire which is a company that offers fans, fantasy players and other bettors advanced analytical looks at players and games. Oh, NumberFire also makes betting “suggestions” on various games including NBA games. Hmmm…

    The NFL is a part owner of SportRadar US which is a subsidiary of SportRadar – a Swiss entity. This parent company provides real time stats and suggests in-game odds to bookmakers and some of its clients allegedly are offshore Internet sports books that provide outlet for illegal Internet sports gambling in the US. Hmmm…

    Three individuals who also have an ownership stake in SportRadar US reportedly are Mark Cuban, Michael Jordan and Ted Leonsis. All three own an NBA franchise; Leonsis also owns an NHL franchise. Hmmm…

I mention this because these three US sports leagues vigorously oppose the effort(s) by the State of New Jersey to offer sports wagering in the Atlantic city casinos and at NJ racetracks. They assert loudly and continuously that gambling threatens the “integrity of their games”. However, none of these leagues has any qualms about doing business with Daily Fantasy websites or these other business entities whose total existence depends on gambling activities related to the games put on by these leagues. I think these leagues operate on this basis:

    They think that the Hippocratic Oath is what they take to absolve themselves from the hypocrisy they spout on this subject on a daily basis.

In recent weeks, we have heard about the possibility of fixed matches in tennis and a report that a top player was offered a six-figure sum to “take a dive” in a specific match. Those allegations are under investigation and have not been proven as yet, but there is an interesting linkage to the deals I mentioned above. SportRadar – the parent company of the entity that the NFL bought in to – has a 5-year deal with the International Tennis Federation whereby the ITF gets $70M in exchange for SportRadar’s “exclusive access to live match data”. Hmmm…

Consider these two comments from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald as a cynical view of the “integrity of the game”:

“A website compiled a list of sports that aren’t corrupt. It included darts, toe wrestling, wife carrying and cheese rolling. That sounds suspiciously like the ESPN2 weeknight lineup. “

And …

“There are allegations of match-fixing in professional tennis. You look at pro tennis. Football. Major League Baseball. Boxing. Soccer. Soon, our cleanest event will be the Tour de France.”

While the major sports endeavors in the US wring their hands about the dangers they face from gambling, they rarely have to deal with life and death matters. Yes, baseball umpire, John McSherry, suffered a fatal “cardiac event” on the field on Opening Day 20 years ago. Yes, Chuck Hughes (WR, Detroit Lions) had a heart attack and died on the field during a game in the early 1970s. However, none of the US leagues had to deal with anything like what happened recently in a soccer match in Argentina.

According to a report in The Guardian, César Flores was the referee in a soccer game in Córdoba province – a region in north-central Argentina about halfway between Buenos Aires and Santiago, Chile. At some point in the game, Flores issued a red card to a player and sent the player off the pitch. The player – not identified in the report I read – evidently went to his equipment bag, took out a gun, returned to the field and shot Flores three times killing him there on the pitch. Another player in the game, Walter Zárate, was also injured in this event but survived. Police were still looking for the assailant at the time of the report I read, but here was a statement from the police that I think may be one of the greatest examples of understatement in history:

“It all happened during the football match. We don’t know [exactly what took place], but it appears the player was angry, fetched a gun and killed him.”

Angry? I should say so…

Finally, staying in the world of soccer, here is an observation from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald:

“Fort Lauderdale Strikers signed Kleberson, one of those one-name players. But shouldn’t that be an honorarium for only great players? ‘Kleberson’ sounds like a guy working at a deli.”

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

Meanderings Of My Mind…

When the Niners hired Chip Kelly about a month ago, I said that the team roster builder(s) needed to focus on defense. Even when Kelly’s offense is running on all 8 cylinders and putting points on the scoreboard, they tend to do it quickly and that means the defense has to be on the field for a lot of minutes in every game. Lots of minutes of defensive exposure tends to equate to the need for a core of really good players on defense plus depth on the defensive side of the ball even before there are any injuries. Neither the presence of “really good players on defense” nor great depth of talent on the defensive side of the ball were apparent last season. In fact, I suspect that is the reason that Mike Vrabel turned down the offer to be the Niners’ defensive coordinator to stay with the Texans as the linebacker coach.

The Niners subsequently hired Jim O’Neil to be the defensive coordinator; O’Neil spent the last two seasons as the defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns; how that became a gigantic plus on one’s coaching résumé is surely not clear to me. I do not pretend to know all of the coordinators in the NFL to the point that I could recite their strengths and weaknesses; I do know, however, how to look up stats that give me an indicator of how the units under various coordinators performed on the field on Sundays. Consider:

    In 2014, the Browns defense under Jim O’Neil ranked 9th in the NFL in points allowed (21.1 points per game) and 32nd in the NFL in run defense (141.6 yards per game). So, of course, the team built on that bend-but-don’t-break sort of defense and improved the run defense in 2015 – right?

    In 2015, the Browns’ defense ranked 30th in the NFL giving up “only” 128.4 yards per game leading to the Browns ranking 27th in the NFL in total defense. Oh, by the way, the Browns scoring defense fell to 29th in the NFL allowing 27.0 points per game in 2015.

I do not want to make too great a leap of logic here, but it certainly seems to me as if the Browns’ defense over the past 2 season has not been “coached-up” in any sort of way that I might label as “superior”. The challenge in San Francisco now is for this guy to take a Niners’ defensive unit that is hardly spectacular and to “coach them up” to the point that they can keep the Niners in games even when that defensive unit is likely to be on the field for 35-37 minutes per game. Good luck to him and to Niners’ fans with that…

I often quote items from Brad Rock in the Deseret News in these rants. In his short biographical sketch on the paper’s website, it proclaims that Professor Rock teaches sports writing at the university level (University of Utah). Way back in the dim recesses of history, I too taught chemistry classes at the university level. [Aside:Before anyone asks; yes, that was after the time when chemists had abandoned the search for the Philosopher’s Stone.] I mention this because I have some experience in crafting final exams for students and I want to present here a final exam that Professor Rock might use in one of his sports writing classes – if he dares to become known as the most mean-spirited troglodyte west of Denver. This would be a take-home exam given to the students on Friday and to be handed in on Monday before noon. It consists of two parts:

    Background: There have been multiple dozens of reports and opinion pieces written about Johnny Manziel and his various anti-social behaviors going back to his days at Texas A&M. The student should read a sufficient number of these pieces to feel comfortable with proceeding through this assignment.

    Part 1: You work for an NFL team and your main responsibility is to keep the news emanating from that team in a positive channel. Your team has just signed Johnny Manziel with all of his baggage and all of his as yet unrealized potential to a 3-year contract for $15M plus incentives. Reports that alluded to your team even considering such a move generated more than a bit of negative sentiment in the city and among the fanbase. Your owner and GM are about to hold a press conference to announce this deal. Your owner wants to be able to explain in his statement why none of the things that happened in the past with regard to Manziel should cause any concern among the citizenry of the city or the fanbase for the team. He is certain that this is a great decision for the team and remember that his decisions are unappealable.

    Write his prepared statement. It should not take longer than 15 minutes for him to deliver.

    Part 2: As soon as the owner stops talking and takes a breath, there will be a flood of questions from the floor for him and for the team’s GM. Based on your research of what has gone before and what has happened in your local community as this signing has moved along parallel to the “rumor mill”, prepare the responses for the “Top 25 Questions” that you anticipate will come at your owner and your GM after listening to 15 minutes of your “deathless prose”.

Students of sports writing surely need to learn to write to a deadline. In this case, the deadline is 72 hours away instead of 4 hours away; nonetheless, the deadline is a real one and the consequences of standing “your owner” up in front of a potentially hostile set of questions with inadequate answers is the antithesis of “career enhancing” for the employee. This could be a good exercise for the students. It could also get Professor Rock named as the “Most Sadistic Professor on Campus”.

Finally, let me close with something far less threatening and far more entertaining comment from Brad Rock of the Deseret News:

“A new basketball league is set to launch, next summer, called the Champions League. It will be comprised of retired NBA players.

“Among those reportedly in line to play are Rasheed Wallace, Brandon Roy, Al Harrington and Keyon Dooling.

“Organizers are also reportedly starting a NASCAR 64-and-over circuit, in which drivers spend the whole race with their turn blinkers on.”

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

NFL Preseason Predictions – The Post Mortem

Back on September 8, 2015, I crawled out on a limb and predicted the outcome of the NFL regular season. After previous attempts to do just that, you would have thought that I had learned my lesson. Obviously, I had not. Everything seemed so clear back then. But now, as is the tradition here when I do not have a computer crash and a website hacking to destroy the previous record, I present the post mortem on those predictions.

Here is a link to the original predictions in case you want to verify my comments here:

I will go along division-by-division and assign myself a grade for each one. At the end, I will calculate my “Grade Point Average” and hope that it is good enough to figuratively keep me eligible if I were an NCAA “student-athlete”.

I should also mention here that unlike a lot of millennials who do not recognize the possibility that one might get a grade below an “A-minus” for anything, I went to school at a time where grades of “A” through “F” were in play and were used accordingly. Just a foreshadowing here, there will be a “full spectrum” of grades included here.

At the outset of my predictions, I mentioned 5 coaches that I thought were on a hot-seat prior to the kickoff in the first game. With regard to that prognostication:

    Two of the five were fired in mid-season (Joe Philbin and Ken Whisenhunt)

    One of the five was fired in January. (Lovie Smith)

    Two of the five are still in their positions. (Gus Bradley and Jay Gruden)

I also said that there were 2 coaches who would feel plenty of fan pressure and/or media pressure should their teams under-perform regarding expectations. With regard to that prognostication:

    Both teams under-performed and both coaches were fired. (Tom Coughlin and Chip Kelly).

With regard to the identification of coaches who might be looking forward to “job insecurity”, I noted 7 coaches. Of the seven, five were fired and one (Jay Gruden) surely will continue on as the Skins’ coach since the Skins are the reigning NFC East champions. I will call the Coaching Hot Seat Grade a “B-plus”.

In the AFC East, I had the Patriots winning the division (not exactly a bold pick). However, in addition, I predicted the Pats would have a 12-4 record which is exactly how they ended the season. After that, my crystal ball needed a bit of Windex to provide clearer vision.

    I thought the Dolphins would finish second at 10-6; they finished last at 6-10. In my defense, I did say then that the Dolphins’ OL would have to improve significantly in 2015 from its sorry performance in 2014 to achieve the 10-6 record I foresaw. The Dolphins’ OL in 2015 was not improved much if at all.

    I had the Bills in 3rd place at 9-7; they finished in 3rd place at 8-8. Not bad…

    I had the Jets last with a 4-12 record; they finished 2nd at 10-6. Not so good.

Overall, the AFC East Grade is a “C”.

In the AFC North, two teams finished exactly where I predicted they would. If that sounds like a weak endorsement, it is. Here are how the predictions turned out:

    I picked the Ravens to win the division with a record of 11-5; the Ravens finished 5-11. Ravens’ fans can point to a plethora of season-ending injuries to explain the team’s under-achievement. All I can point to is a hugely incorrect prediction here.

    I picked the Steelers to finish second in the division with a record of 8-8; the Steelers did finish second with a record of 10-6. I did say that the Steelers would need to win with offense this year (they did) and that the presence of Antonio Brown would be a major factor in their success (he most definitely was).

    I picked the Bengals to finish third in the division with a record of 8-8; the Bengals won the division with a record of 12-4. Ooops… I thought the Bengals’ defense would not be up to the task of getting the team into the playoffs. Mea culpa…

    I picked the Browns to finish last in the division with a record of 5-11 (another bold prediction on my part); the Browns did finish last with a sorry-assed 3-13 record. I did point out that in 2014 the Browns’ weakness was their run defense; it was the worst in the NFL. Well, in 2015, the improvement was only minimal; the Browns run defense was ranked 30th in the NFL.

Overall the AFC North Grade is a “C-minus”.

In the AFC South, I predicted the final record for 3 of the 4 teams exactly.

    I picked the Colts to win the division with an 11-5 record; the Colts finished second at 8-8. In my defense, I did note that the Colts’ OL allowed too many hits on Andrew Luck and indeed it cost Luck the ability to play for almost half the season. Moreover, I did say that the Colts DL had to find a way to get pressure on the QB; that was hardly a strength of the team this year.

    I picked the Texans to finish second with a 9-7 record; the Texans finished at 9-7 but that was good enough to win the division.

    I picked the Jags to finish third in the division with a 5-11 record; indeed, the Jags finished third with a 5-11 record.

    I picked the Titans to finish last in the division with a 3-13 record; indeed, the Titans finished last with a 3-13 record.

Overall the AFC South Grade is an “A“.

In the AFC West, I only missed badly on one team and came within one game of the actual records on the other three. Here are how the predictions turned out:

    I picked the Broncos to win the division with an 11-5 record; the Broncos won the division with a 12-4 record.

    I picked the Chiefs to finish second in the division with a 10-6 record; the Chiefs finished second with an 11-5 record.

    I picked the Chargers to finish third in the division with an 8-8 record; the Chargers folded like a cheap lawn chair, finished last with a 4-12 record.

    I picked the Raiders to finish last in the division with a 6-10 record; the Raiders finished third with a 7-9 record.

Overall, The AFC West Grade is a “B-plus”.

I must say that as I begin to look at the NFC predictions, I have a sense that my overall “Grade Point Average” this year might grant me symbolic NCAA eligibility. However, one should never assume that past performance is any indicator of future performance…

In the NFC West, there must have been a lot of static on my “Psychic Hotline” back in September 2015. If I were to be very generous here, I would say that not many of my predictions were spot-on; if I were to be more critical, I would say that all of these predictions were pretty bad.

    I picked the Seahawks to win the division with a 12-4 record; the Seahawks finished second with a 10-6 record. Compounding the error, I cited the addition of Jimmy Graham as a big deal; Graham was mediocre at best for the Seahawks. On the bright side, I specifically said that rookie Tyler Lockett was “a steal in the draft” for the Seahawks. I suspect that every team would want their third-round pick to play so well as a rookie.

    I picked the Rams to finish second in the division with a 10-6 record; the Rams finished third with a 7-9 record.

    I picked the Niners to finish third in the division with a 7-9 record; the Niners finished last with a 5-11 record.

    I picked the Cardinals to finish last in the division with a 7-9 record; the Cards won the division with a 13-3 record. Here is what I said about this prediction at the time:

    “The Cards won 11 games last year but only outscored opponents by 11 points. That is called getting a whole lot of lucky bounces of the ball – and footballs are of a shape where the results of bounces can be very random.

    “So, I have to decide if the Cards are going to win 13 games this year because they have their #1 QB back and that will lead to more points and more wins – OR – will the Cards regress to the mean in terms of having the ball bounce their way.

    “I choose the latter outcome here.”

    Oh well…

Overall the NFC West Grade is an “F”.

In the NFC South, disaster struck my predictions once again. Let me urge you to hold your nose as you read through the predictions:

    I picked the Saints to win the division with 9-7 record; the Saints finished third with a 7-9 record. In my “analysis”, I thought that the Saints’ pass defense would be improved in 2015. That was hardly the case; the Saints finished 31st in the NFL in pass defense giving up 397.2 yards per game. Yuck…

    I picked the Panthers to finish second in the division with the same 9-7 record; the Panthers won the division handily with a 15-1 record. ‘Nuff said…

    I picked the Falcons to finish third in the division with a 7-9 record; the Falcons finished second with an 8-8 record.

    I picked the Bucs to finish last in the division with a 4-12 record; the Bucs finished last with a 6-10 record.

Overall the NFC South Grade is an “F”.

In the NFC North, the predictions were a lot better than they were in the last two divisions. I recognize that I did not set the bar very high here; in fact, an amoeba might have difficulty doing the limbo beneath that bar. Here are how the predictions turned out:

    I picked the Packers to win the division with an 11-5 record; the Packers finished second with a 10-6 record. On the plus side here, I began my comments on the Packers by saying that the loss of Jordy Nelson was a “big deal” and that any other injuries to WRs would result in Aaron Rodgers throwing to a bunch of “JV players”. That kinda/sorta happened…

    I picked the Vikings to finish second in the division with a 10-6 record; the Vikes finished first with an 11-5 record. I attributed the improvement in the Vikings to improved play from Teddy Bridgewater and the return of Adrian Peterson. That kinda/sorta happened too…

    I picked the Lions to finish third in the division with a 6-10 record; the Lions finished third with a 7-9 record. I predicted a calamitous drop for the Lions from 11-5 in 2014 based on star defensive players going elsewhere. The drop happened and the Lions’ defense was not nearly as good in 2015…

    I picked the Bears to finish last in the division with a 4-12 record; the Bears finished last with a 6-10 record. I just thought the Bears were going to be worse than they were last year…

Overall the NFC North Grade is a “B-plus”.

In the NFC East my predictions came directly from Bizarro World where everything is backwards including the name of the planet, Htrae. Earlier, I suggested you hold your nose while reading the predictions; here I would urge you to stifle your giggle response:

    I picked the Cowboys to win the division with a 12-4 record; the Cowboys – to use Jerry Jones’ metaphor – wound up looking up and seeing nothing but ass; their record was 4-12. The record is exactly the opposite of my prediction. Yes, I could claim that injuries to the starting QB and the lead WR led to the horrible season. However, I will not do that because injuries are part of the game and if it happened to the Cowboys, then that should not affect my predictions with regard to the rest of the division. Hah!

    I picked the Eagles to finish second in the division with a 10-6 record; the Eagles finished second but with a 7-9 record. In my defense, I did say that what the Eagles needed to do was to improve on defense; they did not; the Eagles ranked 30th in the NFL in yards allowed and 28th in the NFL in passing yards allowed. Bleah!

    I picked the Giants to finish third in the division with a 6-10 record; the Giants finished third with a 6-10 record. Here was my “bottom line” for the Giants in 2015:

    “Last year their defense was horrible – which is pretty much what their defense was two years ago.

    “If it doesn’t get a LOT better this year, the Giants will be mired in this level of mediocrity.”

    Well, the Giants’ defense in 2015 was the worst in the NFL giving up 420.3 yards per game. Yuck!

    I picked the Skins to finish last in the division with a 3-12 record; the Skins won the division with a 9-7 record. Yowza!

Overall, the NFC East Grade is an “F”.

Summing up the individual grades, we have:

    3 Grades of “F” producing 0 grade points.
    1 Grade of “C-minus” producing 1.6 grade points
    1 Grade of “C” producing 2.0 grade points
    3 Grades of “B-plus” producing 10.2 grade points
    1 grade of “A” producing 4.0 grade points.

That result is 17.8 grade points in 9 “courses” for a season GPA of 1.98. Looks like I will need a summer course or two to raise my average to eligibility standards. I know; I can take that physics course where the emphasis is on gravity. What I do is sit in a chair and prevent the chair from soaring up to the ceiling. If I am successful in that endeavor, I get an “A” as someone who has mastered gravity. Where do I sign up…?

Finally, let me put all this “Grade Point Averaging” into context with a comment from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald:

“A World-Herald fan poll gave the Husker football recruiting class a grade of “B.” C’mon, these people are not professional analysts. They lack the training to rank recruits, which consists of … well, it includes … OK, the fans have spoken.”

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

Surprises In The English Premier League

The English Premier League has reached the two-thirds mark in its 2016/16 season and there are definite surprises in the Table (the “standings” for us Americans) so late in the season. Consider:

    Perennial powerhouse, Chelsea, sits in 12th place (out of 20 sides). With 12 matches still in front of them, Chelsea is closer to the relegation line than it is to the line that would get it into the European Champions League.

    Watford is one of the new teams in the Premier League this year having been promoted from the British Football Championship last year. Watford is not at the bottom of the table struggling to stay in the Premier League; Watford sits in a comfortable 9th place in the Table – 3 places above Chelsea.

    In first place, sits Leicester City. Last year, the team finished 14th in the Premier League and threatened no one. To date, Leicester City has played 26 EPL games and has won 15, tied 8 and lost only 3 times. The top 4 teams in the EPL play in the European Champions League nest year; as of this morning, Leicester City has a 16-point lead over the fifth place team in the Table – Manchester United. It would take a monumental collapse for Leicester City to miss out on that opportunity.

The main threat to Leicester City at the moment is Totenham sitting in second place just 2 points off the lead. Totenham has scored 47 goals this year in 26 games; only 2 teams in the EPL have scored 48. But that is not the only reason why Totenham is where it is; in those same 26 games, Totenham has only allowed 20 goals. The next best defense against scoring belongs to Arsenal who has allowed 23 goals. Interestingly, if you look at the current Las Vegas odds to win the EPL, Arsenal is the co-favorite with Leicester City at 2/1 with Totenham at 9/2. It should be an interesting race from here on out…

As the NBA gets back to real basketball after the travesty of its All-Star Game (Final score 196 – 173), a bunch of teams will “make their run” with new or relatively new coaches. Let me summarize:

    The Nets fired Lionel Hollins and hired Tony Brown. The Nets are a miserable team and will not threaten anyone no matter who the coach is.

    The Suns fired Jeff Hornacek and hired Earl Watson. The Suns are as miserable as the Nets and will not threaten anyone no matter who the coach is.

    The Cavs fired David Blatt and hired Tyron Lue. The Cavs’ fate rests with LeBron James on the court and not with anyone on the bench.

    The Knicks fired Derek Fisher and put assistant coach Kurt Rambis in charge of the team. The Knicks sit 5 games below the cut-line for the playoffs in the NBA East and would have to climb over 4 teams to make the playoffs. That is not an impossible task but …

Derek Fisher led the Knicks to 23 wins this year; the team won only 17 games all of last year. That means Fisher’s total record with the Knicks was 40-96 which is hardly laudatory but it is not all that surprising either.

The Knicks’ problem was not on the bench; the Knicks’ problem is the roster. Kristaps Porzingas has been a hugely positive addition to the team and looks to be a future star in the NBA; Carmelo Anthony is still a good offensive player; from what I have seen, Langston Galloway can be a solid player if not a star; and Robin Lopez has his moments on defense. But that is about it… As has been a problem for the Knicks over the past several years, they cannot or will not play defense consistently. Neither Derrick Williams nor Jose Calderon could stop Betty White from driving the lane; Porzingas is learning about help-defense but is not a stopper and that leaves Lopez alone to cover any and every opponent who might go to the basket in such a situation. Good luck to Kurt Rambis in curing that malady…

There have been persistent rumors – and denials of said rumors – that the Sacramento Kings will fire George Karl. As of this morning, the Kings’ record is 22-31 and they sit 4.5 games behind eighth-place Utah for the final NBA West playoff spot. The Kings have one bona-fide star talent on the squad, DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins. They have a couple of solid players in Rajon Rondo and Rudy Gay but that is about it. Like the Knicks, the problem with the Kings is that they cannot or will not play defense and when that happens, even a coach like Red Auerbach is not going to win a lot of games.

To give you an idea of what I mean by “not playing defense”, the Kings played the Nets on Friday 5 Feb and then played the Celtics on Sunday 7 Feb. These games began a 4-game road trip that led to the All-Star break. The Kings gave up 128 points in each of those games losing both games by the identical score of 128-119. The Kings scored 119 points twice and lost both games. Earlier in the season the Kings have scored 117 points and lost, 116 points and lost; 113 points and lost; and 110 points and lost. Oh, by the way, I have not counted overtime games where the Kings scored huge numbers of points and lost; all of the examples I cited above are normal 48-minute games.

The problem(s) in Sacramento are on the court and probably in the owner’s suite too. Vivek Ranadive bought the Kings in May 2013 – about 34 months ago. Here is the Kings’ coaching situation in recent times:

    Keith Smart: 2012-2013
    Mike Malone: 2013-2014
    Tyrone Corbin: 2014-2015
    George Karl: 2015-present

In fact, since Rick Adelman was replaced as coach of the Kings in 2007, the team has had 8 head coaches and the longest tenured one of the lot was Paul Westphal who lasted for 171 games – a tad over 2 years.

Finally, here is an NBA-related comment from Brad Dickson of the Omaha-World-Herald:

“Andre Drummond set a record for missed free throws in an NBA game — 23 — breaking Wilt Chamberlain’s record. ‘How was my night? Oh, I just broke one of Wilt Chamberlain’s records, that’s all.’ ”

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

The Pro Bowl In Australia?

With the Super Bowl in the rear view mirror and the NFL Draft far off in the distant future, the only thing to talk about related to the NFL is a strange idea that had been floated with regard to the Pro Bowl. In the aftermath of the Pro Bowl, Roger Goodell – getting something right for a change – decried the level of play in that game. Good for the Commish; it seemed as if he might finally have found a way to be in tune with the opinions of “the common fan” here. That appearance was short-lived…

Shortly on the heels of saying that the play in the Pro Bowl was not something of NFL caliber, Roger Goodell suggested that a possible change in the Pro Bowl might be to play the game in Australia. Let me be clear; playing the game in Hawaii is no better nor any worse than playing the game in Australia, Austria, Andalusia, Arabia or Antarctica. The venue has nothing at all to do with the sort of effort that will evidence itself on the field of play. If the idea is to “grow the game globally”, then playing a game in Australia makes some sense. However, if “growing the game globally” is the idea, then playing a meaningless game in which the players hug each other instead of hitting each other is a horrible idea.

One of the way that anyone outside the PR Department of the NFL can tell that player do not give a rat’s ass about the Pro Bowl is to check the stats. Half of the players invited to participate in this year’s game found a reason not to show up. Understand what they turned down:

    They did not get a one-week vacation in Hawaii for them and their family where the only condition was that they had to participate in a 3-hour exhibition of “touch-football for 3 hours.

    Oh, and the players on the losing team would cash a $30K check while the players on the winning team would cash a $60K check.

Given that data – and similar date from years past – would someone ask the Commish to address in something other than platitudes the following:

    If a trip to Hawaii is insufficient as a lure to get the players you invited to the game to show up for the game, what makes you think that more of them will travel to Australia to participate in the same meaningless charade?

In other “International News”, the NFL will schedule the Raiders and the Texans to play a regular season game in Mexico City next year. The NFL has done this before. In the early “aughts” the Cardinals and the Niners played a “real game” in Mexico City and the game drew more than 100,000 fans. The choice for the teams in this game are sufficiently interesting that I suspect it was not a random selection:

    The Texans’ proximity to Mexico – the distance from Houston to Nuevo Laredo is only about 300 miles – has prompted the team to try to cultivate a following am=ng Mexicans.

    The Raiders are de facto homeless. They now have a one-year lease to continue playing in Oakland in the same decrepit stadium that has been the dregs of NFL home venues for whenever it was that the Jets stopped playing in Shea Stadium. The NFL needs for the Raiders to find a home; if they can find one that preserves Mark Davis’ ability to continue to o0wn the majority share of the Raiders, so be it. If not, then sayonara to Mark Davis. This game might be an “audition” for Mexico City to become the home to the “now-Oakland” Raiders.

The NFL’s international expansion focus would seem to have been London and Europe for the past decade or so. Last year there were 3 games in London; next year there will be 3 more and the Jaguars seem to be the de facto team at the front of the line to capture London fans’ hearts and minds. [Aside: Beware London fans: The team stinks and no one in Jax gives a damn if they play some or all of their “home games” in Jax or in any other city on the planet. Just saying…] Now, the NFL might be signaling that a team moving to Mexico City and continuing to play in the Western Division of either conference might be a much less complex logistical challenge for the league.

Oh, and before we swallow the Texans’ claim to Mexican fandom due to their proximity to Mexico, please consider the following:

    Houston is about 300 miles from the Mexican border; San Diego is only about 20 miles from the Mexican border. If proximity is the issue, how come the Chargers never thought to change their name to the San Diego Chalupas.

    Glendale, AZ is about 100 miles from the Mexican/American Port of Entry at Lukeville. AZ. If proximity is the issue, how come the Cardinals have never considered a name change to the Arizona Jumping Beans?

I have suggested on more than one occasion that National Signing Day – when high school football players announce where they will go to play college football – is a horrible concoction based on a football culture in America. Allow me to offer a datum to support that assertion here. Last week, reported that:

“Marvin Terry, a three-star linebacker out of Dallas, Texas, was the first player to commit to Missouri once Barry Odom took over as its coach. When National Signing Day came and went on Wednesday, however, the Tigers never received Terry’s National Letter of Intent. But he had a good excuse … well, maybe not so good …

“He was in jail.”

Terry was arrested on 3 counts of “suspicion of assault” where the counts included bodily injury/family violence, family violence for impeding breathing or circulation and “continuous family violence assault within 12 months. There are economic reasons for the alleged victims here to refuse to pursue criminal charges here; there are also good reasons for the University of Missouri – or any other football program that pretends to hold up the “student-athlete” as the iconography of its program – to tell this kid to get his act together for 3 or 4 years before reapplying for admission.

That is not going to happen. And because that is not going to happen, let this be a point where the NCAA and the member institutions are on notice. If you admit this kid because he is a top-shelf athlete and do not provide him with sufficient one-on-one counseling/mentoring, then the NCAA and the school are indeed culpable if he continues down the path he has allegedly chosen to tread.

Finally, here is an item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times relative to another demonstration of anti-social behavior:

“A tomato thrower at a Donald Trump rally in Iowa City, Iowa, has been charged with disorderly conduct.

“He faces a possible few days in jail and a Yankees spring-training invite.”

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

The Denver Broncos Are Super Bowl Champions

The Super Bowl game demonstrated once again that really good defense is the way to slow down a really good offense. The fact of the game was that the Denver DL dominated the Carolina OL on about 75% of the snaps. That same DL harassed Tom Brady two weeks ago in the AFC Championship Game and some folks chalked that up to the “patchwork nature” of the Pats’ OL. Well, last night’s performance was not against a bruised and tattered OL; the Denver defenders were too fast and too relentless to allow the Panthers to develop any kind of a running game and they made Cam Newton look human for the entire game.

Let me be clear; the Panthers’ defense played extremely well too; the Panthers were done in by two turnovers that produced two TDs for the Broncos. Those two TDs were the margin of victory. Here are a couple of stats that will tell you how dominant the defenses were in the game:

    Panthers were 3-15 on third-down conversions.
    Broncos were even worse with 1-14 on third-down conversions.

    Cam Newton sacked 7 times for 68 yards
    Peyton Manning sacked 5 times for 37 yards

    Panthers held the Broncos to 197 yards total offense for the game.
    Broncos defense took the ball away 4 times in the game.

Congratulations to the Denver Broncos…

I do not want to do much about the Super Bowl ads this year other than to say that I was underwhelmed by most of them.

    Who cares if a car can go 205 mph? All that will do is get you chased down by a significant fraction of the State Police in your area.

    Why spend something near $5M to run an ad telling me how much water it takes if I leave the faucet on when I brush my teeth?

    PayPal seems to have missed a very important point. They did an ad leading to the punch line that “PayPal is the new money.” Really? Try to set up a PayPal account without any of the “old money” being involved and see how well the “new money works…

The multiple spots from the NFL touting the proposition that “Football is Family” brought to mind this observation from Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot last week:

“Hidden truths: The NFL’s ‘Football is Family’ campaign really does have a ring of authenticity to it – as long as you understand that on some level, most families are dysfunctional.”

In the world of college basketball, Louisville has declared that it will ban itself from all post-season tournament competition this year. That means it will not be in the ACC tournament, the NCAA tournament or any of the minor post-season college tournaments that do not amount to a smidgen of squirrel snot. This voluntary action seems to point clearly in the direction that someone somewhere has come across some very damaging information in the course of investigating the allegations that some recruits to the basketball program at Louisville were provided with strippers and/or prostitutes. It is just not reasonable to conclude that if the investigation to date had shown absolutely nothing of even minor concern with regard to said matter that the school would make this decision on its own.

It is perfectly all right for you to view this announcement with a bit of cynicism; the odds are good that some of the higher-ups at Louisville now know that the bright light of the investigation is going to reveal some things that the NCAA rules mavens are not going to like even a little bit. The school’s idea here is to try to get ahead of the game here and punish itself in the hopes that this seeming act of contrition and this seeming self-flagellation will ameliorate whatever penalties the NCAA is going to hand over. It would not surprise me in the least to learn that precise train of logic has already been under discussion along Mahogany Row at the University of Louisville. Here is the problem:

    Rarely, if ever, does a school’s self-administered sanctions/punishments satisfy the NCAA folks on high in Indianapolis who see themselves as the only true guardians of the purity of intercollegiate athletics.

Obviously, none of this is going to shower Rick Pitino in glory. Nevertheless, it is important to keep two things in mind here:

    1. To date, no one has provided any credible evidence that Pitino was the one who orchestrated the actions that led to the alleged providing of strippers/prostitutes to incoming recruits and Pitino has – very specifically – denied all involvement in all this.

    2. Since the announcement of the voluntary post-season ban came from the Athletic Director and the University President, that would seem to indicate that whatever “bad news” they have learned is not a smoking gun incontrovertibly placed in the hands of Coach Pitino. Were that the case, I would have expected that the university would also have put him on “administrative leave” until the investigation was completed.

Finally, Greg Cote of the Miami Herald took a more synoptic view of this whole scandalous mess with this comment:

“Coach Rick Pitino claims no knowledge, but a woman wrote a book claiming she and her two daughters were paid to have sex with Louisville basketball players and recruits. Guessing she’s ruined her shot at that Mother of the Year award.”

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

Admin Note

My writing schedule for next week will be sporadic. Family events will consume much of the time during the week.

My plan is to write on Monday morning and then see what happens after that. Sometimes plans work out; other times … not so much.

I should be back on normal schedule by the week of February 15.

Stay well, everyone.

Mythical Picks – NFL – The Super Bowl

The Mythical Picks from two weeks ago were perfecto. The record for the week of the Conference Championship games was 3-0-0 taking the season record to 133-121-5. The record for Curmudgeon Central Coin Toss games remained at 17-17-1.

The “Best Pick” from two weeks ago was taking the Panthers and laying only 3 points to the Cardinals. The Panthers led 17-0 after one quarter and it was pretty clear at that point that the Cardinals were not going to mount much of any sort of offense on that day.

Notwithstanding the perfect record from two weeks ago, no one should take anything written here and use it as the basis for making any sort of wager on the Super Bowl game this Sunday. Past performance is no assurance of future performance; moreover, I bring no inside information to this endeavor. One would have to be mightily stupid to risk one’s real money on an actual wager on the upcoming game because of something in here. How stupid?

    You probably think that “Brain Freeze” is a flavor of ice cream eaten by zombies.

General Comments:

I succeeded in making no mention of any of the Super Bowl hype for the past two weeks. I am proud to say that I did not contribute to the myriad attempts to compare and contrast the two QBs in the game nor did I allow myself to be dragged into the minutiae of the game wherein folks analyze which offensive line unit suffers from more hangnails. Here is something from Greg Cote in this morning’s Miami Herald; this sums up how I feel about coming to the end of two weeks of saturation coverage of the upcoming Super Bowl game:

“You know why America will be so excited to see Sunday’s game kick off?

“It isn’t because Panthers vs. Broncos will finally be starting.

“It’s because the two weeks of mind-numbing buildup will finally be ending.”

Messr. Cote has been “on a roll” with snarky commentary related to the Super Bowl over the past couple of weeks and I will insert some of his remarks periodically in these final Mythical Picks for the 2015 NFL season. Here is one of them:

“I saw a consumer-oriented story with the headline, ‘Where to watch the Super Bowl.’ The target demographic: Football fans who own no television, have never heard of a sports bar and have no friends.”

The NFL turned “Media Day” into “Opening Night” this year. The nonsense was not only televised; it was televised in prime time on NFL Network. As has become the custom, some of the “reporters” arrived in a variety of costumes to pose whatever stupid questions they had been working on for the last weeks and months. I do not want to give any of the “creative folks” at the NFL any ideas, but about the only twist they have not tried yet for these goat rodeos is to drive one of those circus clown cars into the venue and have 26 costumed “reporters” emerge and disperse into the throng of players and coaches who have taken up their positions.

Every year, “Media Day”/”Opening Night” produces the same stupid questions along with the same predictable minimalist answers. This year, we did ascertain that there were 7,000 people in the Bay Area whose lives are truly devoid of any interesting content. Those 7,000 Masters of Misery spent $30 each to go and sit in the stands and watch those “reporters” ask their questions and get their minimal answers. Those 7,000 souls have forever forfeited any right they may have had to proclaim that something they are doing is “boring”.

Here is one more offering from Greg Cote on the upcoming game:

“Broncos-Panthers ticket prices are falling. The cost on StubHub on Wednesday started as low as $2,950. Or, you can get a much better seat for a fraction of the cost. It’s called ‘your couch.’ ”

As I said above, I refuse to compare and contrast the two QBs in the game; there have been far too many such expositions of that type. However, I would like to suggest that Cam Newton may be a “black swan”. That is not a racial comment; a “black swan” metaphorically speaking is an unexpected event or sighting. Normally, birds with the shape of a swan swimming on a lake/pond are white; we come to expect birds of that shape and size on the water to be white; on rare occasions, swans are black and seeing one of them is shocking and surprising. Hence the term…

Back to Cam Newton here; quarterbacks in football historically are not as tall or as heavy as he is. Players who weigh 260-270 lbs. tend not be as fleet afoot as he is nor as agile. His throwing motion is not of the “classical old school”. If you just focus on him as a quarterback, he looks and plays “differently” from what we have come to expect from a quarterback.

The best analogy I can draw here is to Magic Johnson. When Magic was in college he was very unusual; there were no 6’ 9” point guards roaming the Earth back then; most fans had never even thought of a player that big even trying to play the point guard position. Why would a coach allow him to do that and keep him away from the basket? Magic was a very good college player but he was not much of an outside shooter in his early days in the NBA. But he honed his skills and significantly improved his outside shot and became a truly great player.

Cam Newton has not yet achieved in the NFL what Magic Johnson achieved in the NBA. Given Magic’s prodigious accomplishments, Newton may never attain that level of greatness. However, I think there is parallelism and comparability between the two athletes that is worth paying attention to.

I will succumb to one comment comparing Cam Newton and Peyton Manning; it comes from Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel:

“How old is Peyton Manning? While Cam likes to Dab after scoring TDs, Peyton is working on his own touchdown dance — the Charleston.”

While on the subject of Super Bowl quarterbacks, do you realize that Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger have been the quarterback for the AFC team in the Super Bowl for 13 of the last 15 Super Bowl games? The two “interloper AFC quarterbacks” since Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002 have been Rich Gannon (Raiders in 2003) and Joe Flacco (Ravens in 2012). Over the same time span, NFC teams have had a variety of QBs on display in Super Bowl games. In fact, only Kurt Warner, Eli Manning and Russell Wilson have made repeat appearances for NFC teams.

Recently, I wrote about NFL franchises that have been out of contention for quite a while now despite the league efforts to induce parity into the system. On the other side of the coin one needs to look at the 16 teams in the AFC. Five of those teams – about one-third of the conference – have represented the AFC in 18 of the last 20 Super Bowl games; 31% of the teams make up 90% of the Super Bowl representatives. Going back to Super Bowl XXX where the Cowboys beat the Steelers (January 1996), the Broncos, Colts, Patriots, Ravens and Steelers have been the AFC representative every year except:

    Super Bowl XXXIV (Jan 2000): The Tennessee Titans lost to the St. Louis Rams.

    Super Bowl XXXVII (Jan 2003): The Oakland Raiders lost to the Tampa Bay Bucs.

One more time from Greg Cote:

“OK we have officially run out of things to talk about and write and need the game to start. Evidence? This headline (I swear) on ‘Super bowl history of missed extra points.’ ”

Lest you think he is making that up, here is the link to that exposition…

Super Bowl parties are as ubiquitous as New Year’s Eve celebrations. The American Snack Food Association – of course there is one – says that Super Bowl Sunday is the “biggest snacking day of the year.” Using data from 2013, here is what they mean by “snacking”:

    1.23 billion wings will be consumed – not counting those eaten at Wing Bowl in Philly the Friday before the Super Bowl Game.

    15 million pizzas will be consumed. Sadly, many of these pizzas will be culinary concoctions that only resemble pizza. For example, Domino’s estimates that they will produce 1.3 million pies this year…

    158 million avocados will be consumed – most in the form of guacamole.

Let me convert those numbers to measures you might relate to more easily:

    1.23 billion chicken wings: Of course they come from a bit more than 600 million chickens. The US Census Bureau says the population of Santa Clara, CA – site of this year’s game – is 120,245 as of 2013. That means that every man, woman and child in Santa Clara could have just over 102 wings apiece if you could get them all to the city at one time.

    15 million pizzas: At 8 slices per pizza, that comes to 120 million slices. That is almost enough to provide one slice of pizza to every man woman and child in Japan.

    158 million avocados: Each avocado produces about 8 ounces of edible stuff so this equates to 79 million pounds of avocados. The ancillary ingredients that turn an avocado into guacamole do not weigh much so in round numbers I can estimate that 80 million pounds of guacamole are available for “snacking”. That would be 1 pound of guacamole for every man woman and child in Germany.

Oh, and please do not ignore the pretzels, chips and beer that will be consumed on Sunday. Those will not be consumed in trivial amounts…

Before we get to the Mythical Pick for the game, let me go to Greg Cote one more time:

“Pats-Seahawks last year was seen by 114.4 million viewers, the most-watched broadcast in the history of U.S. television. They say Sunday’s Super Bowl 50 could break that record despite the halftime performer being Coldplay.”

The Game:

Carolina – 5.5 vs. Denver (44.5): The spread opened at 4 points and went as high as 6 points in many places in the past two weeks. It has settled in here at this level at most of the Internet sportsbooks. Reports say that there is a heavy preponderance of “Panthers money” in Las Vegas and that the sportsbooks there are “exposed”. We will know if those reports are correct soon after the game when the Nevada Gaming Commission releases the statement of earnings or losses reported by the sportsbooks in the State. The Panthers were the highest scoring team during the regular season putting 500 points on the scoreboard (31.2 points per game); in their 2 playoff games, the Panthers have scored 80 points (40 points per game). Flip the coin here and you will see that during the regular season, the Broncos only allowed 18.5 points per game (fourth stingiest in the NFL) and in two playoff games, they have allowed 34 points (17 points per game). Therein is the focus of the game. If the Panthers get off to a big early lead as they have often done this year, I do not think the Broncos’ offense can “catch up”. However, I am not confident that the Panthers can do that to the Broncos’ defense. I like the game to stay UNDER. I think there could be a final score along the lines of 20-17.

Finally, one last good word from Greg Cote of the Miami Herald:

“Finally, at Palm Beach Kennel Club, a greyhound representing Carolina beat a dog representing Denver. Track officials denied speculation the race might have been a publicity stunt.”

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