Congratulations To The Golden State Warriors

The Golden State Warriors are the NBA Champions for 2014/2015 and they deserve the title. They were the best team all season long and came from behind in two playoff series to secure the championship. Moreover, they were the most interesting team to watch this season because of their style of play. The conventional wisdom has been that a “jump-shooting team” will not win a championship because when a jump-shooting team has a cold night, they have no other recourse. Well, the Warriors are a “jump-shooting team” and what they showed is that when they do not have cold nights – and when they shoot those jump shots as proficiently and in as great a number as they do, they can beat anybody. Congratulations to the Warriors…

However, what I want to talk about this morning is LeBron James. Let me put something squarely in the center of the table at the outset:

    LeBron James was the best player on the court in all of the NBA Playoffs.

    LeBron James is currently the best basketball player on Planet Earth.

Taking those two statements as self-evident, this demonstrates that basketball is a team sport. The Warriors had a much better team than did the Cavaliers despite the fact that the Cavs had the best player on Planet Earth. In fact, I would argue that the second best player the Cavs had at their disposal in the final series – Timofey Mozgov – would not start for the Warriors.

For those of you who were sentient and following sports in the 1960s, you have seen this opera play out before. Back then, it was the Warriors who had the best player on Planet Earth in Wilt Chamberlain and those Warriors routinely lost out to the Celtics who had the far superior team. As I thought about the comparison of Chamberlain and James and their team situations over this span of 50+ years, I realized that LeBron James needs to be considered in the same breath as Oscar Robertson when you think of great all-around players.

Most folks know that Oscar Robertson averaged a triple double for an entire season. For the 61/62 season:

    Robertson averaged 30.1 points per game
    Robertson averaged 12.5 rebounds per game
    Robertson averaged 11.4 assists per game

Today, we get excited if a player achieves a triple double two or three games in a row; Oscar Robertson averaged a triple double while playing 79 games in a season. Moreover, the 61/62 season was not some statistical freak; Oscar Robertson was not a “one-hit wonder”. He flirted with season-long triple doubles for quite a while. In fact, consider these aggregate stats from the first 5 years Roberson was in the NBA:

    Robertson averaged 30.3 points per game for those 5 years
    Robertson averaged 10.4 rebounds per game for those 5 years
    Robertson averaged 10.6 assists per game for those 5 years

That one season was the only one where he had a triple double for the season, but he was damned close in all of the others too. All of this is a prelude to saying that LeBron James and Oscar Robertson both belong in the conversation when the topic is:

    Best All-Around Basketball Player Ever

For the record, I would add Elgin Baylor and Magic Johnson to the discussion for this accolade should the topic ever come up in a bar debate…

And that leads me to LeBron James’ pronouncement after Game 5 with the Cavs down 3-2 in the series where he said he was confident in the Cavs’ chances because he was the best player in the world. I do not recall any athlete in any major sport making such a self-proclamation in the past. However, I do not consider what James said to be braggadocious for the simple reason that I think what he said is absolutely correct. The reason his “confidence” was misplaced is that basketball is a team sport and he happened to be on the lesser team this month.

Speaking of the Cavaliers, Brad Rock had this item in the Deseret News recently suggesting that some folks in Cleveland may have taken some of the series a bit too seriously:

“Cleveland weatherman Mark Johnson was critiquing NBA playoff officiating during his broadcasts last week, even bringing in a weed trimmer to illustrate poor calls.

“Consequently, NBA officials are preparing to hit Johnson with a Flagrant 2 for incorrectly predicting sunny skies on President’s Day.”

Here is an unusual bit of news from college basketball. Ohio State and Michigan were both recruiting a high school small forward named Seth Towns from Northland High School in Columbus, OH. Naturally, Ohio State had to be one of his strong considerations; and of course, Michigan would love to “steal” the player from under Ohio State’s nose. Neither school got what they wanted here because Seth Towns committed to Harvard. He is obviously a good student and currently thinks he wants to be an engineer – entering freshmen in colleges everywhere change their minds about their ultimate major more often than not. Nevertheless, choosing Harvard is not a bad idea for any serious student because even if he changes his mind with regard to his major from engineering to medieval Norse music, he will likely find that Harvard can provide him with challenging educational opportunities.

Finally, Jimmy Fallon had offered an interesting analysis of NBA basketball as it relates to US society in general:

“Basketball is an important part of our lives. Without basketball, think of all the ridiculous-looking shoes we wouldn’t have.”

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

Home Plate Umpiring…

I am getting back into my routine of watching sports on TV after spending 3+ weeks on our road trip where sports watching was sporadic to say the least. I got to catch several baseball games over the weekend and noticed something about those games that ties into a “larger issue”. What I noticed is that home plate umpires seem to be getting worse at calling balls and strikes. I know that there are periodic cries for the umpires to call the strike zone that is in the rule book; frankly, I would welcome that change but what I seem to be seeing is more pernicious that that. Home plate umpires are not calling balls and strikes consistently.

During the annual cries for “calling the strike zone in the rule book” there are responses to those cries many of which go along these lines:

    Hitters and pitchers can recognize in less than an inning what this particular umpire is calling a strike in this game. Both the hitter and the pitcher will adjust and the game can proceed from there. There is probably a kernel of truth in that.

However, what I am seeing is that the strike zone does not only vary from umpire-to-umpire (game-to-game) but it varies inning-to-inning. Maybe I have just been unlucky and happened to tune in to see those games where the strike zone was randomly wandering all over the place – but I suspect that is not the case.

Let me be clear; I have no problem whatsoever with an umpire “expanding the strike zone” in a 13-2 game in the top of the eighth inning. It is time to wrap that one up and to get ready for the next game on the schedule. However, from what I see, there is no way to “expand the strike zone” because to expand it would require that there has been a stable/uniform strike zone since the first inning. I actually started to think over the last weekend that the umpire had pretty made up his mind what he would call on the next pitch before the ball left the pitcher’s hand – assuming of course that the ball did not bounce 3 feet in front of home plate or that the batter did not foul off the pitch.

Let me be clear about one more thing; I do NOT want to see any technological solutions to this issue. I want home plate umpires to get better at calling balls and strikes. For the moment, it seems to me that home plate umpiring has hit a new low – and the umpires are furiously digging to make the hole deeper.

This observation links in some way to the larger issue of baseball’s “pace of play”. I read a report that cited Elias Sports Bureau data and I will take that data as fully authoritative.

    The shortest nine-inning MLB game happened in 1919 (Giants/Phillies); it took 51 minutes to play that game. [Aside: I suspect someone was double-parked outside the stadium and nudged that game along at every opportunity.]

    The longest nine-inning MLB game happened in 2006 (Yankees/Red Sox); it took 4 hours and 45 minutes.

    From 1950 to 1970, the average game took 2 hours and 27 minutes.

    From 1980 to 1990, the average game took 2 hours and 39 minutes.

    Last season, the average game took 3 hours and 4 minutes.

Baseball has identified some things to try to “speed up the game” such as keeping the batter in the batter’s box instead of strolling around between every pitch. Yes, that will help a little. The fact that there are 2 minutes and 30 seconds between each inning – to air all of those commercials on the radio and TV outlets don’t you know – means that a nine inning game will have 17 such intermissions adding up to more than 40 minutes of elapsed game time. Those 40+ minutes are not going to be removed from the game so it remains baseball’s challenge to find means within the play of the game to “move things along”.

A stable and predictable strike zone – inning-to-inning for now but someday game-to-game also – could be a way to increase pace of play. Moreover, if that stable and predictable strike zone happened to be the one in the rule book, it would cause batters to be more aggressive and not run deep into every count. Now, how do you get the umpires on board with all of this…?

Michael Sam left the Montreal Alouettes’ training camp several days before the opening game of the CFL exhibition season. The team has put him on their “suspended list” and here is what the team General Manager, Jim Popp, had to say about Sam’s unexpected departure:

“There’s nothing to tell you. He wanted to go home, and that’s what he did. I don’t know why. When a guy wants to go home, they go home. He had some personal things to take care of.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if he returns. I’m surprised he left. I was very surprised. If he doesn’t come back, I would think football’s over for him. He’s the one that has to face that. But I don’t think he doesn’t want to play football. That’s why he came here.”

I am going to practice mind-reading here even though I have acknowledged many times in the past that I have no ability whatsoever to read minds. I wonder if the constant scrutiny that Michael Sam has to endure and the microscope that examines his life have begun to get the best of him. I know the history of Michael Sam and of the attendant coverage that he creates out of whole cloth just because he is who he is. And now I have begun to wonder if that focus and that level of examination has gotten in the way of him becoming an honest-to-God professional football player.

Finally, here is important perspective provided by Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times:

“Bidding on eBay for a Detroit stadium urinal autographed by ex-Lions star Barry Sanders has surpassed $2,000.

“$2,000! Imagine what you could get for one signed by Whizzer White.”

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

Hear And Their

There are reports out today that the American Enterprise Institute – a Washington DC think tank – has conducted a study and found that the Wells Report on “Deflategate” is “seriously flawed.” I believe I had that one more than a couple of weeks ago but the imprimatur of the American Enterprise Institute is surely greater than mine.

I have no idea why the American Enterprise Institute would undertake such a study in the first place, but they did. The think tank has some history here; back when “Bountygate” was prominent in the news, the same two members of the Institute who did this study also did a study related to “Bountygate”. Here is a link to the current reporting on that study.

Last Friday, I got an e-mail from #1 son pointing me to some remarks made by Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly. In the aftermath of the academic dishonesty events at Notre Dame last year and the fallout from those events, Kelly said:

“I think we recognized that all of my football players are at-risk — all of them — really. Honestly, I don’t know that any of our players would get into the school by themselves right now with the academic standards the way they are. Maybe one or two of our players that are on scholarship.

“So making sure that with the rigors that we put them in — playing on the road, playing night games, getting home at 4 o’clock in the morning, all of the demands that we place on them relative to the academics and going into an incredibly competitive academic classroom every day — we recognize this is a different group. And we have to provide all the resources necessary for them to succeed and don’t force them into finding shortcuts.”

The comment from #1 son on these statements was that you have to give Kelly kudos for candor and not trying to sugar-coat the issues. I agree. Notice however that he specifies night games on the road where the team gets home at 4:00 AM. Indeed, that has to add academic stress to the players; and at the same time, those night road games are scheduled for purely economic reasons.

Charles Barkley extended his contract with TNT – and Turner Broadcasting more generally – through the end of the NBA season in the summer of 2025. According to a report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, here is how the deal went down:

    The President of Turner Broadcasting along with “other Turner Sports executives” went to Barkley’s home in Arizona.

    There they staged a “six-hour Italian feast” and managed to put away $1700 worth of wine and tequila.

    The next day these folks played a round of golf and presumably none of the execs giggled at Barkley’s – shall we say unorthodox – swing.

    Barkley then called his agent and told the agent to get the deal done.

I realize that Charles Barkley is a polarizing figure; personally, I find him far more entertaining than annoying. Ignoring the part of this report that indicates that gluttony and conspicuous consumption played a role in these “negotiations”, I also like that he made the deal himself and then told his agent to dot the i’s and cross the t’s. He seems to understand that the agent works for the player/announcer and not the inverse.

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times took the news of how this contract extension happened and crafted this comment:

“TNT got Charles Barkley to renew his contract by tossing $1,700 worth of alcoholic beverages his way, Sports Illustrated reported.

“Which certainly gives a whole new meaning to Turner and hooch.”

Recently, I mentioned a couple of gastric calamities offered up to fans at MLB parks. Lest you think that minor league parks have dropped out of contention in this arena, consider these two menu items:

    The Wilmington Blue Rocks – the Carolina League affiliate of the KC Royals – offer a hot dog where the bun is a Krispy Kreme donut. As nasty as that sounds, it does get worse when you consider that two of the toppings available for the hot dog are bacon and raspberry jelly. Feed one of these to a 5-year old and he will be on a sugar high for 4 hours…

    The West Michigan Whitecaps – the Midwest League affiliate of the Detroit tigers – play in Fifth Third Ballpark just outside Grand Rapids. Should you venture there, you may see on the menu the Fifth Third Burger costing $20. Here is what you get for one portrait of Andrew Jackson:

      Five one-third pound burgers (Fifth Third Burger/five one-third pound burgers, get it?) with 5 slices of American cheese.

      Toppings/add ons include a cup of chili, salsa, nacho cheese, sour cream, jalapenos, Fritos, lettuce and tomato.

      The Fifth Third Burger contains 300 grams of fat and “weighs in” at 4800 calories. Anyone who eats the entire thing alone and in one sitting will get a free T-shirt.

Just a guess, but the free T-shirt will be one size larger than the one the diner wore into the ballpark.

Finally, Brad Rock had this item in the Deseret News recently indicating that he has probably attended some Nick Saban press conferences:

“Alabama coach Nick Saban’s daughter married her childhood sweetheart last week and celebrated by holding the reception at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

“The event included fireworks and a ride in a Rolls-Royce.

“Asked afterward how the ceremony went, Saban allegedly said, I’ll have to look at the film.’ “

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

RIP Dusty Rhodes…

Sitting down at the keyboard this AM, one of the first things I came across on CBSSports.com was an article reporting that former pro ‘rassler, Dusty Rhodes, has died. Rhodes was a young kid just starting his career about the time I stopped following pro ‘rassling and given the shortened lifespan of many pro ‘rasslers I was glad to see that he had made it to age 69 before passing on.

RIP, Dusty Rhodes…

The next report that caught my eye said that Terrell Owens thinks he could make a comeback in the NFL if a team were willing to give him a shot. Owens is 41 years old – and would turn 42 during the upcoming NFL season – and his last appearance on the field in an NFL game was in 2010. As with many news items, it can always be worse… Imagine if T.O. gets a call from a team inviting him to training camp; you just know that within 3 days there would be a report that Brett Favre was considering a return to the NFL also…

    Memo to NFL Coaches: I am never in favor of “blackballing” anyone. Nevertheless, consider the circus you might create if you have T. O. in your locker room – and the mega-circus you might create if it tempted Brett Favre to start up the “Will he/Won’t he” wagon again.

Two institutions that rarely generate any positive response from me – the US Congress and the NCAA – have intersected in a news item today. Four members of the House of Representatives – two Democrats and two Republicans – have introduced legislation that would create a 17-member Presidential Commission for Intercollegiate Athletics. According to reports, this commission would “examine college sports issues such as the education of athletes, how the sports are financed, health and safety, and due process in infractions cases.” Oh swell…

Look, I cannot possibly be totally opposed to anything that either spanks the NCAA or holds it up to ridicule. At the same time, this proposed legislation also points to the fecklessness of the Congress. Consider:

    Do we need a Presidential Commission to reveal that some – probably many – schools cut academic corners when it comes to athletes who play “revenue sports”? Seriously, if anyone needs this, he/she has been living in a cave for the last 60 or 70 years.

    Do we need a Presidential Commission to reveal that some – probably much – of the financing for college athletics is “off the books”?

    Do we need a Presidential Commission to look at the health and safety issues of collegiate sports? In fact, if the courts rule that college athletes are actually employees of the schools, would not that be OSHA’s responsibility?

    Do we need a Presidential Commission to ponder the presence or absence of due process in infractions cases? Unless I missed the point in my civics classes in junior high school, I think that is what the judicial branch of government is supposed to do.

Moreover, if Congress creates the Presidential Commission, that would give the Congress the opening it would need to hold periodic hearings on these matters in the guise of “oversight” on the commission they established to oversee college sports. I need that like a giraffe needs a clarinet.

    Memo to these 4 Congressthings: Congratulations on your bi-partisanship here. Now, try applying that bi-partisanship to something that actually matters to the country.

The venue for home games by the Arizona Coyotes is back in the news. Recall that the NHL took over the franchise to keep it in Arizona rather than let a buyer move the franchise to “southern Ontario”. Part of the deal was a favorable least arrangement with the city of Glendale Arizona to keep the team there. That deal calls for the city to pay the Coyotes $15M a year to play in the arena; I would call that a “favorable lease”; how about you? Now, it seems that the city is running a projected $7M deficit for the year and can resolve that issue by abrogating the lease deal; the city fathers just voted to do just that.

Of course, this is going to wind up in court and will not be settled posthaste. It is not as if the Coyotes are going to have to find frozen ponds on which to play their games – which is a good thing because frozen ponds tend to be hard to come by in Arizona. However, this is an opportunity for the NHL to recognize that hockey is not nearly as economically viable in the “Sun Belt” as it is in many other parts of North America. Just as the Coyotes should have been moved when the league had to take over the franchise about 5 years ago, a franchise that needs to be paid by the city to play in the city’s arena needs to be moved today. So where might it go?

    The best idea would be to move the franchise to Canada where the league draws a disproportionate amount of its revenue because there is a much more extensive and solid fanbase there. The Coyotes began their existence as the Winnipeg Jets – but Winnipeg has found itself a team to replace the one that left.

      Quebec City: They have been without an NHL team for about 25 years since the Nordiques left to become the Colorado Avalanche.

      Hamilton: This is a more specific name for “southern Ontario”, but it might work.

      Regina or Saskatoon: The league has no franchise in Saskatchewan and the NHL has been adamant that it needs a “national footprint”. I leave it to folks far more knowledgeable about Canadian geography and economics to decide if either city would make sense.

    If, for reasons known only to Gary Bettman and the powers-that-be in the NHL, the franchise must remain in the US.

      KC: It has an underutilized modern arena waiting for a tenant.

      Seattle: It really wants an NBA team more than an NHL team but this could be a way to have a tenant in whatever new arena they want to build there while the NBA keeps them dangling.

      Portland: They support a basketball team and a team in the WHL rather well…

Finally, I missed this this item whilst on vacation but Bob Molinaro had it in his column in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Quick hit: Johnny Manziel was in the news this week for throwing a water bottle at a young dope who was heckling him as he hung out with friends in Dallas. It’s the most attention one of Johnny Football’s tosses has attracted since the Browns drafted him.”

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

Corruption in FIFA – Seriously…

You may be certain that the FIFA bribery allegations and arrests were not big news in places like Cody Wyoming and/or Red Lodge Montana. Moreover, in some of the places we stayed, the “cable TV” available did not carry ESPN as one of the channels. [Aside: To be fair, one did have ESPNU on the menu but that channel did not have the “FIFA business” high on its list of featured events.] So, I have been trying to put together how all of this has unfolded since I got home. Some of this is from memory, so I do not pretend that I have every detail nearly correct.

This all starts with my clearly prejudicial assumption that FIFA is an organization that exists in the same level of shadiness and corruption as the IOC. I am certainly not alone in that thinking but if you would like to take 13 minutes out of your life to watch and listen to a blistering summary of FIFA’s venality, I recommend you follow this link and watch John Oliver skewer – and then barbecue – the organization in this monologue. I promise you will laugh while you are watching but then you will feel disgust in the aftermath.

I am still not clear why the FBI and the US Department of Justice are the entities involved in these indictments/allegations when the people were arrested in Switzerland and are foreign nationals. Nonetheless, it would be a wonderful situation if that were the only part of this mess that escaped my understanding. Now, with that confusion at the basis of these remarks, here is what I think has led us to where we are:

    A long time ago – not in a galaxy far away but here on Earth – FIFA awarded the World Cup Tournament in 2018 to Russia and the one in 2022 to Qatar. The Russia award was slightly controversial but Russia was already scheduled to host the 2014 Winter Games so most folks figured they could pull it off. Almost no rational thinker considered the Qatar selection within spitting distance of reasonable.

    Soon after those events – and amidst non-specific suggestions that payoffs influenced the Qatar selection process – a senior official of FIFA was caught with his hand in the till and banned from any involvement in football for life. It seems to me that this put some blood in the water…

    FIFA needed to do damage control and hired a US firm to do an investigation of bribery and corruption within FIFA. I remember that these folks were to report to the FIFA Ethics Committee which is something I consider to be an organic oxymoron. The investigators delivered their report to those upstanding folks and then got into a spitting contest with the Ethics Committee when their report was summarized and given to the media. The investigators claimed that the summary was not quite what they had found. My guess is that all of that background takes us up to about the Summer/Fall of 2013.

    Now we have these bribery and racketeering allegations against FIFA senior officials pending and the whole mess led to the resignation of the newly re-elected major domo of FIFA, Sepp Blatter. He was not one of those arrested but to borrow a phrase from about 40 years ago, it sure seems as if he is an “unindicted co-conspirator”. Lots of folks would love to find out what did he know and when did he know it. [Hat tips to the Watergate Grand Jury and to Senator Howard Baker, R- Tenn.]

The most visible high-ranking FIFA official these days is Jerome Valcke and he has said that the process of soliciting bids for the 2026 World Cup will cease while all these legal matters are floating around. That is probably not a bad idea – especially since one report tied Valcke himself to a $10M funds transfer involving a bank in NY. In what has to be something straight out of the theater of the absurd, Barrack Obama, Vladimir Putin and David Cameron actually took public stances on this entire matter.

    Memo to those three World Leaders: There are major problems in the world for you to work on. Don’t sweat the small stuff…

Now let me speculate for a moment and assume that the Qatar selection for 2022 comes up for “review” within whatever the new structure of FIFA becomes. A change of venue from Qatar could be a financial boon to FOX Sports. FOX has the US TV rights in 2022 and games played in Qatar do not map well into US viewing time slots. Imagine for a moment that FIFA changed the venue and put the games in Brazil again – as a way to use the new stadiums there for things other than bus parking lots. Brazil games are a lot more “time friendly” for FOX than Qatar games would be and “more time friendly” equates to “more ad revenue”.

I suspect that the major European soccer entities would also want to find a way to move the games from Qatar because the current FIFA thinking is to play those games in November/December due to the climate in Qatar in the summer. European leagues would have to interrupt their seasons in 2022 for a month creating a scheduling nightmare for many teams and leagues. My guess is that the European leagues would be happy to play the 2022 games on the moon if they were held in the summer months.

Why this is a DoJ matter and how we got to the point where the FBI convinced the Swiss authorities that FIFA execs needed to take a “perp walk” still eludes me. But it could be a fun ride from here on out…

Meanwhile, the Women’s World Cup Tournament has begun in Canada with an expanded field this year. Not surprisingly, some of the newcomers did not fare well against established teams in the opening round. Germany beat the Ivory Coast 10-0. That is not quite as bad as losing a college football game 222-0 (as once happened) but it is close.

Finally, a comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald from a while ago:

“Big week for rehabbing Marlins ace Jose Fernandez. He faced live batters in practice for the first time since his surgery, and also became a United States citizen. Fernandez is proof that in America anything is possible, particularly if you can throw 97 mph.”

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

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jog

After three and a half weeks on the road, I am back home once again. The reason I know I am home is contained in a comment I recall but not the author of the comment:

“Home is where you can say anything you like cause nobody listens to you anyway.”

One of the things I accomplished in my not-so-abundant free time on the road trip was to finish reading Dan Jenkins’ “semi-memoir” (his description) His Ownself. Anyone who has read these rants for any length of time now knows that I think Dan Jenkins is a brilliant writer and this book is as good as anything he has written before. If you want a fast read that is completely enjoyable, I cannot recommend His Ownself highly enough. Here is a link to where you can get it:

Speaking of Dan Jenkins, much of his writing career and his life has focused on golf. This year, a 15-year old from Dallas – just down the road from Fort Worth where Jenkins grew up and began his career – will play in the US Open. Cole Hammer shot two rounds to a total of 132 in final qualifiers to make it into the field. I have a hunch that Cole Hammer and Dan Jenkins will meet at the event…

There are a few surprises in the baseball standings at this point of the season; some of the surprises are positive and some are not:

    Positive: The Minnesota Twins are only 1 game behind in the AL Central race.

    Not Positive: The Seattle Mariners are 6 games under .500.

    Positive: The Houston Astros lead the AL West by 2 games.

    Positive: The Texas Rangers are in second place in the AL West.

    Not Positive: The “Moneyball” Oakland A’s are dead last in the AL West.

    Positive: The Mets lead the NL East by a half-game.

    Not Positive: The Reds are 5 games under .500.

Here are three more things to glean from the baseball standings as of this morning:

    The White Sox are 3 games under .500 despite having been outscored by 57 runs in their 57 games this season. By comparison, the Indians have the same record as the White Sox and the Indians have scored exactly as many runs as they have given up.

    The Phillies are in the midst of a dumpster-fire season. In 60 games, they have been outscored by 85 runs (worst differential in MLB by 27 runs) and they are a miserable 7-22 on the road.

    The Texas Rangers, on the other hand, are 20-12 on the road and only 11-15 at home.

The Milwaukee Brewers are stinking it up on the field this year (dead last in the NL Central with the emphasis on the word “dead”) but their fans can expect culinary delights when they venture out to Miller Park. Here are a couple of the options fans may contemplate:

    Inside The Park Nachos: This is taco-seasoned ground beef on a stick crusted with Doritos crumbs slathered with nacho cheese and sour cream and a dollop of dipping salsa.

    Pulled Pork Parfait: The name is alliterative – and a bit disgusting at the same time. The dish consists of alternating layers of mashed potatoes and pulled pork drenched in gravy and chives. I would need a highly trained sommelier to recommend the proper wine to have with that bad boy…

    The Beast: Just the name ought to make one check out other menu items for the sake of the well-being of one’s alimentary canal. This concoction is a sandwich served on a pretzel roll which is a good start. However, inside that pretzel roll, they put a bratwurst that has been stuffed with a hot dog and then wrapped in bacon. Just to complete the gastric disaster, they cover it all in sauerkraut and onions. Be sure to have industrial strength Maalox on hand for the 7th inning stretch if you eat this one.

Finally, a baseball note from Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle:

“Angel Pagan says his back got out of whack from sleeping on a too-soft mattress. You’ve got a glass back, you make $9 mil a year and you can’t spring for a new mattress?”

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

Greetings From Red Lodge, MT

Greetings from Red Lodge, MT after spending the last 4 days in Yellowstone Park and visiting with an old colleague who has retired to Emigrant, MT. If you have never visited Yellowstone Park, you simply have to put it on your list of things to do soon; if you have been to Yellowstone Park, you know how wonderful our national parks are and you need to make a note to visit at least one of them very soon. My only “complaint” is that I did not see any wolves or a grizzly bear. Oh well, I saw both of those species on my last visit to Yellowstone so I should not be too put off…

Actually, I am glad that American Pharoah won the Triple Crown. Perhaps now we will not have to read as much nonsensical hype about that feat in the next few years. To those folks who have been claiming for years that what horseracing needed was a “superstar Triple Crown winner” to put the sport back near the top of the sporting pyramid in the US, you got what you wished for. Good luck with horseracing returning to the upper echelons any time soon…

I read a report that Raiders’ QB, Derek Carr missed some workouts because of numbness in his fingers. Given the pounding that he took last year behind an offensive line that was only offensive in the sense of its collective body odor, it ought to be a plus that he only had numbness in a couple of fingers.

I read another report that the Dolphins had signed Ryan Tannehill to a long term deal that could be worth $96M. I have nothing against Tannehill; he is a good young QB who has played well and continues to hone his craft. However, I do have two questions:

    If Ryan Tannehill is worth $96M, what are the Colts going to have to cough up when they have to sign Andrew Luck to his second contract?

    If Ryan Tannehill is worth $96M, what are the Seahawks going to have to cough up when they have to sign Russell Wilson to his second contract?

    Just asking…

I have to agree completely with Bob Molinaro on this comment he made in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot recently:

“The late show: I suppose this item could wait, but the World Series doesn’t begin until Oct. 27, with a possible Game 7 set for Nov. 7. Baseball’s disregard for the calendar makes me wish a game or two would be snowed out.”

Finally, Greg Cote got to the bottom line immediately with this comment in the Miami Herald about two weeks ago:

“The Redskins, Texans and Bills are finalists to appear on this year’s HBO Hard Knocks, which answers the question, ‘Is that show still on?’”

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

Greetings From Cody, WY

Greetings from Cody, WY; yes it is indeed named after Buffalo Bill Cody. My foreshadowing from last time will have to go down as an example of how the path to perdition is paved with good intentions. Let me explain…

My long-suffering wife is the travel planner in our family. This is not because I am too lazy to do it; she would not have it any other way. As she put this road trip together, there were a few anchor dates such as the dates our airplane tickets have been booked and the dates when we booked ourselves into lodges where we definitely wanted to stay. The rest of the dates were flexible. After a first cut at a schedule, she then went back and re-did the itinerary so that we would be in Cody on the evening of June 1. The reason is that the Cody Rodeo starts its season on June 1 and she wanted to go to the rodeo.

To be kind, I was unenthusiastic. This was going to be my first rodeo in the literal and figurative sense and you can get the idea that I am not a rodeo enthusiast by recognizing that I had made more than 71 journeys around the sun without ever finding a need to go to one. I said I would write a “gamer” on the rodeo; forget that. This rodeo was nothing but a disjointed series of events with some of the lamest attempts at “comedy” between the acts that one can imagine. The comic was about as funny as a jet propelled wheel chair.

I did make a few notes regarding the events of the evening:

    About 20 minutes before the festivities began, an official in a striped shirt came out to test the hinges and the latching mechanism on the gate to the chute where the broncos and the bulls would be herded after their events. She had to have spent 5 minutes swinging the gate and fixing the latch and releasing the latch and swinging the other gate and then repeating it all. As she went through all this here is what went through my mind:

      Would that the NFL officials had been so thorough and accurate in measuring the internal pressures of all the footballs in the AFC Championship Game at halftime…

    The opening act consisted of 12 cowgirls doing what is probably best described as a close order equine drill. Ominously, Mother Nature took that moment of inception to change the weather from a cool and breezy evening to a howling wind of about 25 mph with gusts to 50 mph blowing sand across the venue. This made the equine drill about as artistic as a lawn mower race.

    After these young ladies left the arena something happened that I had never experienced at a sporting event in all my days:

      The PA announcer offered a prayer asking for blessings from The Almighty for anything and everything to include the livestock that would participate that night.

      After the prayer, the audience applauded; then, they did the National Anthem.

    Clearly, I am not a rodeo aficionado but I do want to comment upon one result from the calf roping event for the evening:

      Calves 8 … Cowboys 1
      Winning time was 22.7 seconds.
      Turtle racing is more exciting…

The show is scheduled to last 2 hours. After 1 hour had passed and we had sat through two seemingly interminable “comedy segments” in a horizontal rain that had joined with the wind to make the evening miserable, even my wife figured it was time to go. I put up exactly no objection.

That was my first rodeo. It shall also be my last one. There are plenty of reasons to visit Cody, WY and I will detail some of them in my trip report once I get home. The Cody Rodeo is not one of those reasons.

Finally, here is an observation from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald regarding another equine event:

“The all-out attempts to achieve parity in sports continue. It was just announced that Charles Barkley will be riding American Pharoah in the Belmont Stakes.”

More post cards from the road as time and connectivity permit.

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

Greetings From Elk View Inn – Burgess Junction, WY

Greetings from the Elk View Inn near Burgess Junction, Wyoming. Do not go looking for this on your map because to say this is a remote location would be an understatement. It is the end of May and we woke up this morning to a dusting of snow.

In fine literature, what I am about to do would be called a foreshadowing. However, since these rants are hardly fine literature, let me just say that in one of the next two rants I will try to do something I have not done before here. In the sportswriting business, it is called a “gamer”. I will leave it at that for now.

I read a report where Mitch Kupchak – Lakers’ GM – told reporters that Kobe Bryant will call it a career after next season. Kobe Bryant is and has been a great player but I fervently hope that the NBA does not turn next season into a traveling “good bye party” for Kobe. Frankly, those sorts of things have been done to death and have a firm grasp on cliché status.

Bob Molinaro made a cogent point in a recent column in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Numbers game: Thanks, or no thanks, to technological advances, MLB can gauge the height of a home run ball at its apex. Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton, for instance, hit a homer the other night that crested at 143 feet, the fifth-highest by anyone this season. Another relatively new measurement is the speed at which a ball leaves the bat. Do these revelations actually enhance our enjoyment of the game… or just serve as a reminder that some people sitting behind computers have too much time on their hands?”

Indeed, whatever happened to going to the ballpark and just marveling at how well a batter hit a home run…?

I know that it is very early in the 2015 baseball season, but is it just possible that Alex Rodriguez is the Comeback Player of the Year?

Another report recently said that according to Aaron Hernandez’ lawyer, the former tight end and convicted murderer is running out of money. Time out while we all say in unison:

    Awww… Too bad!

In the report, it also said that one of the complicating factors in his financial situation was that his mother was suing him for several million dollars. That is not something that happens in many families that I know.

Finally, a comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald:

First openly gay NFL player Michael Sam has signed with CFL’s Montreal Alouettes. Are we going to follow this poor guy his whole life? Media report, 2041: ‘Michael Sam dines at Denny’s’.”

More when time and connectivity permit.

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

Greetings From Lead, South Dakota

Greetings from Lead, South Dakota home of the Homestake gold mine – the largest gold producing mine in the US. Too bad the former owners closed it down when gold was selling about $325 per ounce because there is still gold in there and it can be removed for far less than the current value of gold. However, the transfer of the property to the State of South Dakota came with several stipulations and one was that it would never again be used to mine gold.

The Phillies have been anything but a success on the field for the last year and a half but the team recently had a grand success off the field. The team held the Phantastic Auction as a fundraising event for Phillies Charities and the various items in the auction raised a bit over $105K for several local charities. Here are a few of the items in that auction and what they went for:

    A dinner party for eight in the Phillies’ executive dining room with Mike Schmidt in attendance: That drew $5,250. My long-suffering wife and I have auctioned off dinner parties for 8 folks as charity fundraisers for the last 5 or 6 years. We do not get bids anywhere near that level. Dinner with Mike Schmidt is a whole lot more of a draw than dinner served by The Sports Curmudgeon.

    A private hitting clinic with Ryan Howard: That drew $5,150. Perhaps the winner figures he might offer up a few tips for Howard to use in his plate appearances for the balance of the season.

    A round of golf for three with Steve Carlton: That drew $3,500. Given the history of non-communication between Carlton and sportswriters during his career, it would be ironic if the winning bidder brought along two sportswriters as his/her guest.

    A round of golf for three with Mike Schmidt: That drew $3,270. Obviously, Phillies’ fans would rather dine with Mike Schmidt than play golf with him.

    A kids sleepover (number not reported) in the Phillies’ clubhouse followed by breakfast with the Phillie Phanatic: That drew $4,065. It might be worth “four grand” to see how that creature can eat anything through that proboscis of his.

When the Niners released Ray McDonald last winter, they said that he had exhibited a “pattern of poor decision making”. Those “poor decisions” included two arrests – one for domestic abuse and the other for sexual abuse – in less than a year. He has not been convicted of anything related to those two incidents and the Bears signed him in the offseason. Well, the Bears released him yesterday after he was arrested again on charges of domestic abuse and child abuse. Notwithstanding the outcome of any trial(s) on all of these matters, I think it is fair to say that his “pattern of poor decision making” remains intact.

Finally, speaking of players being released, Greg Cote had this item recently in the Miami Herald:

“The Marlins released catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. He was a free agent bust, although he did lead the team last season in longest last name.”

More postcards from the road as time permits.

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