Nothing For Nothing…

The NBA season of free agency is in full swing. Rather than hyperventilating about every signing or rumored signing, I prefer to watch the whole process to see where all of the players realign before investing any analytical energy. However, the trade earlier this week between the Sacramento Kings and the Philadelphia 76ers stands out as so bizarre that it deserves comment.

For the record, neither team is any good; this exchange will not make either team any good; whatever passes for the “balance of power” in the NBA is unaffected. While all of that is true, the exchange of assets here is stunning.

    The Sixers get:

      Nik Stauskas: He was the 8th pick in last year’s draft but his rookie year was disappointing to say the least. He averaged 4.4 points per game in only 15 minutes per game. Perhaps, he will benefit from the Sixers’ “up-tempo” style – – or not. He fits the Sixers’ mold of young player with potential.

      Carl Landry: He is a 31-year old power forward whose career averages are middling at best and whose contract runs through 2017 at $6.75M per year. He will lead no one to the Promised Land.

      Jason Thompson: He is a 28-year old power forward who does not score as much as Landry but who gets a couple more rebounds than Landry. He too has two more years left on his contract and his total salary for the next two years will be $13.25M. Ho-hum.

      They also get a future first round pick from the Kings (GM Sam Hinkie loves those draft picks) plus the Sixers have the right to swap two future first round picks with the Kings.

    The Kings get:

      The rights to two foreign players the Sixers took in the second round of this year’s draft – Luka Mitrovic and Arturas Gudaitis.

      A future second round pick.

To summarize, the Sixers get two mediocre journeyman power forwards and a guy who did not come close to living up to his lofty draft status as a rookie plus draft picks in the future that they can use on players that do not fit into a team. The Kings dumped a little more than $30M worth of salaries over the next two years and got two players who are not going to play in the NBA any time in the next two years. Oh, and they also got a second round pick they can use on some other player who will not play for them.

The key question to ask about this trade is:

    What’s the point?

It sure looks to me as if neither team got much of anything out of this – unless you count the Kings’ added cap room as “something”. I do not think that is a big deal because I doubt that the Kings are going to get a couple of top-shelf players to sign on in Sacramento and there is a truism in the NBA that is irrefutable. “Cap room” does not win games. Nonetheless, some analysts are saying the Sixers made out like bandits here. If you say so…

CBSSports.com has a report this morning involving Rush Limbaugh and the NFL. As soon as you see those two entities linked in a report, you have to check it out to see just how off-the-wall the story is. Here is the gist:

    Limbaugh said that the reason the media has been so harsh with regard to RG3 and his struggles at QB after a very successful rookie season – despite the fact that RG3 is an African American QB which Limbaugh has said the media pines after – is that “it’s suspected that RG3 is a Republican”.

Seriously, that is the report. You can read it here if you think I am making it up…

Personally, I think RG3 is struggling because I suspect he is actually a Jupiterian sent to Earth to check out the environment here just in case Jupiter’s Great Red Spot blows its cork and the inhabitants there have to evacuate quickly. Since Jupiter’s gravity is much greater than the Earth’s and the atmospheric pressure here is so much lower, RG3 is having trouble adjusting his metabolism to these new conditions. Makes sense to me…

If you are looking to grill hot dogs for the Fourth of July, let me suggest that you do not attempt to emulate one of the “augmented” hot dog offerings on the Chicago Cubs’ menu at Wrigley Field. This concoction is a hot dog – beloved in Chicago – topped with mac-and-cheese and garnished with Cheetos. That is a culinary and chemical concoction that even a Jupiterian would find hard to digest.

Finally, here is a baseball note from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald:

“Here is another example of the change in Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria. His players have a new private team jet that includes a massage table. They used to have to make their own bats on a wood lathe.”

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

Sports And Kabuki

Kabuki is a Japanese art form that involves ritualized dance moves as a means to tell a story. It is very precise and calculated; it has a long history. Here in the US, there are events related to the sports world that emulate kabuki in the sense that the events are very precise and calculated; the history is not nearly as long, but there is a history to all of it.

Naturally, I am referring to the ritualistic events that must occur over a long period of time when a pro sports franchise thinks about relocation – either thinks about it for real or thinks about it to extort more “goodies” from its current location. That kabuki dance is ongoing now involving the NFL and several of its franchises and the City of Los Angeles. Two days ago, an important element of the dance took place involving a meeting between the mayor of Los Angeles, the owner of the Chargers and the owner of the Raiders. Even if those three men only discussed their mutual admiration for medieval Norse needlepoint, the meeting was required by the precision and calculating nature of the franchise relocation kabuki.

That meeting got me to thinking and it dawned on me that the City of Oakland is the pro sports franchise punching bag of the moment.

    The NFL Raiders are looking to move to LA – jointly with the Chargers and hence Tuesday’s meeting – so long as owner Mark Davis can come up with his portion of the costs to build that stadium complex in Carson. Some say he does not have the liquidity to do that and so he may have to ponder a move for the Raiders to San Antonio without a new facility in Oakland.

    The NBA Warriors already have a new arena in the works in San Francisco. Yes, San Francisco is part of the Bay Area as is Oakland, but in terms of neighborliness, most denizens of Oakland consider SF a neighbor about the same way astronomers consider Mars a neighbor of the Earth.

    The MLB A’s have been trying to leave Oakland for at least the last 5 years but the venue they covet is part of what the Giants claim as their territory and MLB has had a “Blue Ribbon Committee” studying this matter for most of those last 5 years to no avail.

Oakland is not a city with lots of surplus cash rolling around in its checking accounts. Several years ago, the state took over the school system in the main because the school system was financially strapped. The city itself has had years of “budget shortfalls” and at least for a while had to cut back the police department to the point that USA Today reported in 2013 that the California Highway Patrol was assisting in policing the city.

It is a given that the stadium for the Raiders and the A’s is antiquated and sub-standard; any time you have raw sewage backing up through the drains and onto locker room floors, you are being most diplomatic using the label “sub-standard”. The city’s problem is that a new stadium for either the A’s or the Raiders – and neither one would prefer to share the venue with the other – will cost hundreds of millions of dollars that the city does not have and may only be able to borrow at extremely high interest rates if they could borrow that much money at all. Oakland’s finances seem to be such that they would be called “an adversity” at the moment; paying for a new stadium or two might change that descriptor to “ruination”.

There was another report earlier this week that made me recall the old TV show, Lost in Space. A robot was programmed to guard a young boy named Will Robinson; whenever there was any threat, the robot would intone:

“Danger, Will Robinson!

That phrase immediately entered my mind when I read an SI.com report that Brett Favre told them that he thought he could play in the NFL once again. Favre said he could still throw 50 yards where it used to be 80 yards but that it did not matter being able to heave the ball more than 50 yards. He did say that he was not thinking of coming out of retirement but still… I would like to have a picture of him saying that with both hands in plain sight to know that he did not have his fingers crossed. Sports fans have been relieved of the necessity of following the yes/no oscillations of Favre and his play/retire decisions for several years now. Frankly, it has been an enjoyable several years.

    Memo to Sports Media Folks: Please do not ask Brett Favre any leading questions that might get him thinking of coming back – or worse yet thinking about all the publicity he could get by letting all of you know that he is thinking about coming back.

    Go and read the Uncle Remus story about Br’er Rabbit and the Tar Baby…

Last weekend, the small town of Swaton, England hosted the World Egg Throwing Championships. Swaton is in Lincolnshire in the British Midlands. I have to admit that I did not know that there were such championships until I read this Reuters report but evidently there is a World Egg Throwing Federation that sanctions the event and that Federation claims that egg throwing is at least a sport with a 700-year history.

The “main event” is a team event. A thrower and a catcher stand 10 meters apart; the thrower tosses an egg and the catcher catches it. If the egg breaks, they lose and go off to clean up the mess. If the egg survives, they step back and continue playing catch with the egg until it eventually breaks. Clearly, the team that achieves the greatest separation prior to breaking their egg is the winner.

Finally, speaking of obscure sports, here is an item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“And the latest drug scandal in sports involves … Russian racewalkers?

“ ‘It’s a bad sign if you can’t distinguish between a sport and a group of people rushing to the bathroom,’ said CBS’s James Corden. ‘Doping for racewalking is like robbing a bank that you know has only $2 in it.’ “

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

More Golf Stuff Today

I wrote about golf yesterday and I want to start with two golf items today. I suspect that has never happened before in the history of these rants. There were reports a few days ago that Phil Mickelson had something like $3M of his money linked to a Federal money laundering investigation involving someone who transferred sums of money approximating that amount among bank accounts to fund illegal gambling activities. Mickelson is not a suspect in the investigation nor is he charged but the report of that much money nominally belonging to him and “illegal gambling” makes you sit up and take notice.

Recall a couple of years ago that Mickelson was investigated – and ultimately cleared – in an investigation involving insider trading. I do not remember the details, but “insider trading” like “illegal gambling” conjures up a set of images that is not nearly congruent with the public image that Mickelson works to portray. Perhaps, Messr. Mickelson should consider the advice contained in an old aphorism:

    You are known by the company you keep.

If I mention the name Beau Brinkley, you will probably furrow your brow and try to figure out if this is Beau Bridges’ real name or if he is the son of David Brinkley – unless of course you are a Tennessee Titans’ fan. In that case, you would know immediately that Beau Brinkley is the long-snapper for the Titans. This week, Brinkley was playing in a golf tournament in Nashville and one of the sponsors was the Jack Daniels bourbon folks. Brinkley sank a hole-in-one on a par 3 hole and won a sponsor’s prize – a full barrel of Jack Daniels bourbon. He even gets to go to the distillery and sample from barrels to pick the one he wants. I know it is a real long-shot but if the titans win the Super Bowl there will be some kind of team celebration at Brinkley’s place…

The US Women’s National Team advanced to the finals in the World Cup tournament last night beating #1 ranked Germany 2-0. The US will play the winner of the Japan/England game next Sunday in Vancouver for the championship. This is the fifth consecutive shutout for the US women and what makes this shutout all the more impressive is that the Germans had scored 20 goals in the tournament coming into the game. I will not pretend to be an expert in soccer strategy and tactics, but the defense line and the mid-field players on the US team were all over the German attackers from start to finish.

A few days ago, Yahoo! Sports reported that John Calipari had been in several discussions with the Sacramento Kings and this led to the speculation that the Kings might offer Calipari the jobs of coach and GM there. Yesterday, there were reports from several outlets saying that Calipari would stay at Kentucky and that his “discussions” with the Kings’ owner related to former Kentucky players who were now with the Kings like Boogie Cousins and Willie Cauley-Stein.

Normally, I would take that kind of deflection/denial to be a half-truth in the sense that the former players were the justification for the initiation of the discussion but then, things evolved. In this case, I tend to believe Calipari for a simple reason:

    John Calipari is a very intelligent man and I think he realizes that whoever is the coach/GM of the Sacramento Kings is doomed at the outset. At least for now, the job(s) in Sacramento are about as attractive as a tire fire.

Calipari’s contract at Kentucky reportedly will pay him $7.05M this year – with incentives on top of that. Of course, an NBA team can offer him more than that if they want to, but it is not as if Calipari is working for chump-change in Lexington. If he were to make the move to the NBA, I would have to think that he would be looking to go to a team that is at the very least poised to be a contender for a Conference Championship. The Sacramento Kings are nowhere near that baseline level of competence. Moreover, the Kings’ owner has a ton of money but also has a seemingly irrepressible urge to meddle in the basketball operation of the franchise. I am sure that fans and alums put pressure on Calipari at Kentucky, but I would be shocked if the AD or the University Chancellor would dare to interfere with the running of the team itself.

I would not be surprised if John Calipari decided to take an NBA job one of these days before he hangs up his whistle. Moreover, he will get offers to do that because he is a good coach – and because he has plenty of his former players in the league. However, I do not think he will be going to one of the “outposts” of the NBA or to a franchise with a meddlesome owner.

In another NBA-related report, the Knicks are supposedly the leaders in the race to sigh Aaron Afflalo and they are offering a 3-year deal worth $38M. Afflalo is a good defender who shoots at a decent percentage aided somewhat by the fact that he only averages 7 or 8 shots per game over his career. Clearly, the Knicks can use any player who is even average on defense; and Lord knows, they do not need anyone else on the floor who wants/needs to take lots of shots. Having said that, I suspect that Knicks’ fans will not create a flash mob that stops traffic for 3 blocks around Madison Square Garden when/if the Knicks finalize this deal. Nor should they…

Finally, an item from Dwight Perry’s column, Sideline Chatter, in the Seattle Times:

“NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt Jr. finally popped the question to longtime girlfriend Amy Reimann.

“In keeping with the theme, they’ll be exchanging his and hers piston rings.”

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

Golf And Baseball Today

The July/August issue of Men’s Journal has an article by Karl Taro Greenfeld entitled:

    The Death of Golf

He paints a rather bleak picture of golf today and has serious misgivings about its future as a major sport; I certainly agree with his assessment that golf is in decline at this time, but I am not yet ready to put a toe tag on the corpse. He begins his essay with the story of his daughter who decided to try out for her high school golf team. Greenfeld recalled his days in school when the golf team was made up of people who had played regularly and had had some tutelage in the game. That was not his daughter. So, when she made the team, he spoke to the coach about how things were different. Here is the golf coach:

“There just isn’t the interest we used to have 14, 15 years ago. Now, I have kids showing up who have never hit a golf ball before. Kids are just less aware of golf. They have too many other options. And then when they find out it takes five and a half hours to play 18 holes, they’re just not interested.”

It is dangerous to draw conclusions from anecdotes because anecdotes are not data; it is more than merely dangerous to do so on the basis of one anecdote. However, the article goes on to cite statistical data showing that the number of golfers has dropped from 30.6 million in 2003 to 24.7 million in 2014. There are still plenty of golfers but that drop does represent a 19.3% decline. Other data shows that young folks playing golf dropped almost 30% over the same period of time.

Golf as a professional sport faces a challenge similar to the one facing MLB. Young folks are not drawn to the game in the same numbers as before and “pace of play” or “lack of attention span” or whatever similar label you might attach is part of the problem. Moreover, just like baseball, golf is never going to be converted into a fast-paced, action-packed event. It is more drama than adrenaline. Proposals to speed up golf have included things like cutting a round back to 15 holes; that is the same as changing baseball to a seven-inning event. If that is the “solution”, it may be time to consider pulling the plug.

Greenfeld points out another serious problem facing golf in California and in desert areas. On average, it takes 135,000 gallons of water each day to maintain a golf course. In California’s draught conditions, that could become a social issue giving golf courses a “black mark” and without courses there will be less participation.

The folks who promote golf and use it as the economic basis for a business or a club have to deal with an iron triangle of issues. None of the issues can “be solved” but they all need to be ameliorated to a degree:

    Playing golf is a very expensive pastime for kids. Lessons and coaching are expensive and so are rounds of golf.

    Playing golf is difficult. Most kids – indeed most people – do not walk out on a golf course and play well from the moment they pick up a club.

    Playing golf is time-consuming. In these days of two-career families where parents take turns helicoptering in on their kids, golf can be difficult to schedule.

As I said, I am not yet ready to send golf to “The Sports Coroner” just yet; but the arguments made in this article do indicate that there is indeed weakness on the links out there. Folks who love to golf – or to watch it on TV – may want to read this article in its entirety here.

Since I mentioned above MLB as being in a similar situation to golf, I find it interesting to see what may be in store for MLB in the future. Reports from just last week indicate that Commissioner Rob Manfred may be considering expansion of MLB. Recall that when he took over from Bud Selig he said one of his objectives was to grow the game internationally – particularly in Mexico. Now, the idea that the Commissioner might have expansion as an issue that holds even a tiny part of his attention leads me to wonder where MLB might put a new franchise. Here are eight candidate cities in alphabetical order so that no one might surmise that I think there is a “pecking order” established:

    Charlotte: The market supports the NFL and the NBA and it has a minor league baseball team too. The NHL franchise is in Raleigh not Charlotte.

    Las Vegas: They would have to have a domed stadium, wouldn’t they? They would not dare enlist Pete Rose to be their “point-man” when making their pitch.

    Mexico City: The Commish said he wanted to grow in Mexico and I presume that does not mean putting a team in Juarez.

    Montreal: Many people believe there is lots of support for baseball in Montreal so long as they play in a reasonable stadium. This also fits the criterion of “growing the game internationally”.

    Portland: Probably a long shot because the city has not had a good history of supporting its minor-league teams over the years.

    Salt Lake City: They have had a AAA team for most of the time since the late 50s and they support an NBA team. The downside is that this would be a very small market team forever.

    San Antonio: The NBA does well there and the city is trying to lure the Oakland Raiders. If they pull that off, why not MLB too…?

    Vancouver: This checks the “international” box and it provides a natural rivalry with Seattle on day one.

Finally, here is a golf item from Brad Rock in the Deseret News recently:

“Sweden announced recently that newborn Prince Nicholas Paul Gustaf will also go by the title Duke of Angermanland.

“But sources say the country will have to purchase the naming rights from Tiger Woods, who has been using it ever since his career started slipping.”

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

Correcting An Omission From Last Week…

In last week’s comments on the NBA Draft, I omitted one of the notes I made while watching the event. For the sake of completeness – and not because I think there is some fundamental wisdom contained therein – I shall include it today:

    I think the Utah Jazz made an interesting pick at #12 in Trey Lyles from Kentucky. I thought Lyles was the most complete big man on the Kentucky team last year but he definitely will need to add muscle to be effective in the NBA. Utah is one of the NBA’s “middling teams” at the moment. They are not nearly poised to make a run at the Conference Championship; they are not nearly as bad as a half-dozen other teams. The questions – I believe – are whether the Jazz can or will be patient with Lyles as he develops and whether Lyles puts in the work to get a lot stronger. He is only 19 years old.

What I really want to talk about this morning is the resignation of Ryne Sandberg as the Phillies’ manager last week just before game time. Let me be clear about one thing from the start:

    The Phillies have not done well in the time that Ryne Sandberg was their manager. That is not Sandberg’s fault; it would have taken a miracle worker to get the extant Phillies’ roster to play .500 baseball. When he took over for Charlie Manuel, the team was aging fast and the star players that had won the NL East routinely for the past several years were already on the wane.

Having said that, Sandberg’s sudden departure is strange. First of all, he resigned in the middle of his contract meaning that he left money on the table. I know that money is not the most important thing in the world and that Sandberg has made more than a little bit of it over his career such that he does not dine in soup kitchens. Nonetheless, that is not an exit path used by many coaches/managers in sports these days.

Like many other players who made it to the Hall of Fame, managing did not come as easily to Sandberg as did playing the game. However, unlike many other Hall of Famers who went onto the managerial track, he was not handed a top job on a platter. Sandberg spent years in the minor leagues in the Cubs’ system and then in the Phillies’ system. In the minor leagues, his teams won. However, the Phillies with their aging roster and depleted farm system had no chance and it was all unraveling on Sandberg’s watch. I presume – because I cannot possibly know – that the frustration of that situation is what kicked him over the edge and into resignation.

I am sure that Phillies’ fans who watch every game can point to errors in his judgment and/or strategies. Looking at the bigger picture, I think it is fair to criticize Sandberg for not getting the team to over-achieve – and by “over-achieve” I mean play such that they would not lose 100 games this year. [The Phillies are on pace to lose 105 games this year.]

Measuring a manager by the criterion of “over-achieving” is a tough one. Paul Molitor – another Hall of Fame player – surely seems to be doing that in Minnesota so far this year with the Twins 5 games over .500 and in second place in the AL Central as of this morning. Ryne Sandberg clearly did not make that happen in Philly this year or last.

One interesting outcome from all of this will be to see when/if Ryne Sandberg gets another job with an MLB team – as a manager or a coach or a minor league manager or a front office guy. Obviously, he knows something about the game and how to play it; however, he resigned – which some may equate with “quit” – in the middle of a disastrous situation in Philly. I wonder if that decision by itself will pollute the waters should he seek another job in another venue.

One other interesting thing to keep an eye on will be the Phillies’ scouting system. Only the Brewers have a record nearly as bad as the Phillies so it would not be outrageous to suspect that the Phillies will have one of the top three picks in next year’s draft – if not the top pick. The pressure is on…

Bob Molinaro had these two comments in his column last week in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Adding spirits: The University of Maryland submitted a proposal to its local liquor board to sell beer and wine during football and basketball games because, says Maryland president Wallace D. Loh, ‘it will enhance the fan experience.’ But fans have always found a way to, ahem, enhance their game-day experience with tailgate drinking and by sneaking flasks and miniatures through the gates. For college crowds, locating booze is not a problem, though if Maryland gets its way, Terps fans finding their cars after the game might be.”

And…

“Boo to booze: Texas is another institution of higher learning that wants to sell beer and wine at games. Noting that his school is resisting the trend, Texas A&M chancellor John Sharp wryly commented: ‘Our athletic program has not reached the point where we require the numbing effects of alcohol.’ A zinger that good deserves a toast.”

I would respect Maryland president, Wallace Loh, if he simply spoke the truth here. Selling beer and wine at the football and basketball games is a new revenue stream and the school needs to find way to increase its athletic revenues. If, in fact, the objective was to “enhance the fan experience”, then Maryland would be selling the stuff at cost with no mark-up. If they REALLY wanted to “enhance the experience” they would be handing the stuff out. Does anyone actually think either of those scenarios will come to pass?

I went to college in the 1960s; I went to an Ivy League school where football was not nearly the iconic part of campus life that it is at Texas. Nonetheless, in the student sections, at least 25% of the students could not have passed a breathalyzer test by halftime. Some were over the limit when they entered the stadium with pre-game parties often starting at 0900 and bringing adult beverages into the game was not even a challenge.

This entire business is just that; it is a business decision to dip deeper into the pockets of the fans. It has the potential to go way down south…

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

“The Indianapolis Colts hung a ‘2014 AFC Finalist’ banner at Lucas Oil Stadium to commemorate their 45-7 loss to the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game.

“Yes, and Custer was a finalist at the Little Big Horn.”

For the record, Custer was a “finalist” in more ways than one at the Little Big Horn…

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

Last Night’s NBA Draft…

Mercifully, the NBA Draft is over and we can put Mock Drafts on ice for a while. I did not watch all of the festivities last night, but I did make a few notes and I have looked over the entire draft list quickly. Here are first impressions – which ought never to be confused with giving teams a grade for the draft before these guys ever set foot in a real NBA game.

    Sam Hinkie, GM of the Philly 76ers, has a plan. He has been there for several years now and it seems as if the plan is to put 5 players on the court all of whom are 6’ 11” tall – or taller. After taking Nerlens Noel two years ago and Joel Embiid last year, the Sixers took Jahlil Okafor at #3 last night. Maybe that will work; Noel can play defense and not worry about shooting which he cannot do. Okafor can play offense and not worry about defending which he cannot do. Embiid can rehab his foot.

    If you think I am exaggerating here, check the Sixers’ 2nd round picks:

      Guillermo Hernangomez is a 6’ 10” center from Spain. He is headed to the Knicks for 2 future draft picks one of whom will be used to secure the rights to Andre the Giant should he return from the grave.

      Arturas Gudaitis is a 6’ 11” center from Lithuania. Playing in the Lithuanian League last year, he averaged 6 points and 4 rebounds per game. Oh swell…

      Luka Mitrovic is only 6’ 9” so he can be the Sixers’ point guard on their skyscraper lineup. In the Serbian League, he averaged 8 points per game and 5 rebounds.

    The Knicks took Kristaps Porzingis at #4. They say he is a shooter who cannot/will not defend. Knicks’ fans loved Andrea Bargnani, right? They may have found his clone…

    I think the Heat got a steal at #10 in Justise Winslow.

    If the Sixers are trying to corner the market on centers, maybe the Celtics are trying to do the same with guards. Taking Terry Rozier in the first round is not surprising; having the Celtics take him with their top pick was indeed surprising. Their next pick was another guard, RJ Hunter who will be a 3-point shooter but will give up a ton of points too.

    The Cavs taking Tyus Jones was a good move. Now they have someone to bring up the ball and set the offense other than LeBron James.

    The Rockets got Montrezl Harrell in the 2nd round. How did that happen?

I shall put the NBA in the rear view mirror for a while with this comment from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald as he gets to the heart of the story in the NBA Finals:

“Golden State defeated Cleveland for its first NBA title in 40 years. That’s the uplifting part of the story. The downside: The last time Cleveland won a professional sports championship, the team’s punter was Meriwether Lewis.”

If you believe the talking heads on ESPN, Roger Goodell is going to “take his time” before rendering a decision in the Tom Brady appeal matter. That means that we will have a period of time where this story is like the Chinese water torture. The reports will come regularly and will have no new content – because until he renders his decision, there is nothing new to report.

Some folks say that this episode is important to Goodell because his job may hang in the balance. Obviously, I do not know if that is the case; but if it is, let me remind everyone of something I wrote last September. The job of NFL Commissioner – and the Commissioner of all the other major sports too – is to grow the league and to do so in a way that maintains labor harmony. That is the job.

The conundrum for Roger Goodell now is similar to the one he sort of found his way out of in the Ray Rice Affair. He has to grow the league and keep peace with the NFLPA, but – and this is as big a “butt” as any nose tackle in the league – he is also required by the CBA to be the NFL disciplinarian. Those two things just do not fit together well and in the next CBA the league and the union need to come up with a way to have an independent person or body take care of the discipline business.

Please note that this is an issue that needs attention by the league and the union jointly. To my non-legally trained mind, a Collective Bargaining Agreement is analogous to a contract; and in order for it to be a contract and not an edict, there needs to be at least two signatories. The NFL pushed to have the discipline power in the hands of the Commissioner over the years; the NFLPA acquiesced to that – and probably got some concession somewhere in return for that concession. In any event, the two sides need to correct this situation the next time bargaining happens.

Finally, here is – hopefully – the final word on the 2015 US Open golf course from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Hear about Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter and Billy Horschel teaming up to bankroll a line of Chambers Bay wine? It’s 100 percent sour grapes.”

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

Just Stuff Today…

I am sure you have read about Sean “Diddy” Combs’ arrest in California on charges that he assaulted an assistant UCLA football coach with a kettlebell at a practice there. Evidently, the coach had been yelling at Diddy’s son who is a DB on the team and things escalated from there. Diddy is out on bail and his PR folks released a statement saying that Diddy was merely trying to defend himself in the matter. This is a tempest in a teapot but it does boil itself down to a very simple question:

    Diddy do it – – or not?

My apologies, I will go and sit in the corner for five minutes…

A friend and former colleague spent a lot of time as a youth baseball coach and one of his protégés went on to college and was recently taken in the third round of the MLB Draft by the Arizona D-Backs. His first assignment will be in Hillsboro, OR pitching for the Hillsboro Hops in the Northwest League. That sent me to check out the MLB Draft – something I never do in any detail – and that led me to some interesting player names:

    Skye Bolt was drafted by the A’s. It seems to me that he ought to play Thor in the next Avengers movie.

    Bowden Derby was also drafted by the A’s. His name sounds like a horse race for 3-year olds.

    Icezack Flemming was drafted by the Yankees. His name sounds like a cure for a respiratory infection.

    Bucket Goldby was drafted by the Marlins. Do you think Bucket has a list?

    Tucker Tubbs was drafted by the Red Sox. If his baseball career does not pan out, he should be a natural for NASCAR.

Ever since folks have used Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 to provide women’s sports a sort of equal footing with men’s sports in college, one of the long-range goals was to have professional athletic opportunities available for women similar to those of men. That is not in the law of course, but it has been a tacit objective. To date that has not come to pass here in the US. However, Bob Molinaro had this observation in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot recently:

“Controversy: It’s a gross understatement to call U.S. women’s soccer goalie Hope Solo a polarizing figure. From the New York Times to ESPN’s Keith Olbermann, she’s being portrayed as unfit – or at the very least, an uncomfortable fit – to represent her country in the World Cup after her arrest last June on domestic violence charges. There’s plenty to read about that on the Internet, and Olbermann’s video pulls no punches. But whatever your take on Solo, there’s no denying her abilities in goal, where her presence strongly suggests that women’s sports are becoming more like the men’s, in which talent trumps character.”

The matter involving Hope Solo and the alleged domestic violence remains in medias res. I agree with Professor Molinaro that this is not the way folks envisioned women’s sports becoming akin to men’s sports – but it may indeed be one of the leading similarities for the moment. I suspect that it will not be long into the future when I choose to put Hope Solo into my Just Go Away Club. In that club, talent does not trump character; the major criterion that gets one there is the achievement of sustained annoyance to the general public. I see the potential to achieve sustained annoyance in Hope Solo…

I ran across this item from Brad Rock of the Deseret News from a time when I was on my road trip:

“Miami Dolphins kicker Caleb Sturgis was injured last week during a team-endorsed kickball game. He’ll be sidelined at least four weeks.

“Sources say the Dolphins are compiling a list of other risky activities they plan to ban, including Twister, hopscotch and door-crasher sales on Black Friday.”

Just a quick Google search for what this is all about reveals that the kickball game was part of the Dolphins’ OTAs and that Sturgis’ injury was a pulled quadriceps muscle. If he pulled that muscle trying to kick the ball in the kickball game, the Dolphins need to worry; kicking a ball is what they pay Caleb Sturgis to do. It would be of much lesser concern if he pulled the muscle jumping to catch a ball someone else had kicked…

One of the trade-rumor stories that has filled a lot of space in a lot of newspapers recently is the Kings’ possibly trading Demarcus Cousins. Of course, they deny that he will be traded and he swears that he is committed to staying in Sacramento; without those elements the story would not have legs. The latest rumor has the Kings in discussion with the Lakers with regard to such a trade. I have exactly no insight into what is ongoing here but I do want to make an observation:

    I have difficulty imagining a smooth working relationship between Cousins and Kobe Bryant. They are very different kinds of people with regard to the way they approach the game. There is certainly room for both men in the NBA based on talent, but I seriously wonder if they will be an effective pairing.

    We shall see…

Finally, since I mentioned Hope Solo above, here is an observation from Jimmy Kimmel regarding the Women’s World Cup:

“The Women’s World Cup is under way again. Soccer, of course, is the sport in which you’re only allowed to use your hands if you’re the goalie or taking a bribe.”

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

Pete Rose – For The Last Time?

Long-term readers know well that I have believed that Pete Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame for the accomplishments of his career on the field. I have never liked his off-field behaviors but I thought that Bart Giamatti at first took a hard stand on those behaviors and then Fay Vincent piled on. What bothered me the most about his off-field behavior is that it took him years upon years to admit what he had done. As with many “scandals” the cover-up and the denial magnify the iniquity.

Nonetheless, I am still willing to have Pete Rose in the Hall of Fame and to include on the plaque bearing his name a direct statement of the fact that he bet on baseball games while managing the Cincinnati Reds in the late 1980s. However, new evidence seems to have surfaced that indicates that Pete Rose bet on baseball games while he was a player – in a time that preceded his managerial position. Now, that changes everything…

The new evidence was uncovered and announced by ESPN’s Outside The Lines. There is no question that Outside The Lines has earned a prestigious standing in the arena of investigative sports journalism. The fact that the folks there put their names and the reputation of the program on the revelation renders a high degree of credibility to the report. If the same report had come from some “click-bait website”, I would be skeptical.

The timing of the emergence of this new evidence – originally obtained/discovered 26 years ago in 1989 – is strange. It has been sealed and stored in the National Archives for all or most of that time and just now a copy of it has surfaced. Were I given to conspiracy theories – and I am not – it would not be all that difficult to see some nefarious hidden hand at work here moving to leak new evidence just as Pete Rose has applied for reinstatement to baseball with a new Commissioner. Frankly, I think the Bilderbergs and the Trilateral Commission have bigger things to worry about than whether or not Pete Rose is reinstated into the good graces of MLB.

Let me explain why the new information presented by Outside The Lines crosses into a new and dark place. To do that, let me present to you some fictional events in the life of the winningest jockey of all time – – Joe Flabeetz. Everyone who ever went to a racetrack where “Beetzy” was riding knows that was always a threat to win the race when he was on a horse in the starting gate; he was just the best. So, when he retired, it was a sure-thing that he would go into the Racing Hall of Fame; after all, he had won more races than anyone in history.

Now suppose we learned – after his retirement – that Joe Flabeetz had a long history of gambling. After all, gambling and horseracing are inseparable activities; should that be disqualifying? Well, I think it all depends:

    If “Beetzy” bet on the Super Bowl every year, I would have no concern about that at all if he did that through a sportsbook in Las Vegas or through some off-shore book that took such action. Once again, if I were prone to conspiracy theories, I might be just the tiniest bit concerned if he made that bet with a local bookie because – perhaps – it might tie him to organized crime and that is not a good thing for racing. Nevertheless, I would ignore it…

    If Joe Flabeetz bet regularly on football and/or baseball and/or soccer and/or hockey games, I would have the same reaction to his wagering on the Super Bowl. I just do not think this is any bigger of a deal than if he played poker every Saturday night with a group of friends who had nothing to do with horseracing. I just do not think this matters…

    Looking back over “Beetzy’s” career, he won just about all of his races in the US and in Canada. Every once in a while when he had a “super horse” he would go to Dubai to ride that steed in the annual top-shelf race there. So, what might I think about a new revelation that Joe Flabeetz regularly bet on horse races in Australia? Not only had he never raced there, he had never even been to Australia… I am very uncomfortable at this point because jockey’s betting on horse races erodes significantly the confidence in “the integrity of the sport”. Lord knows; there is a significant fraction of horse players who are ready to believe that the only reason they lost that last race is because of some “hidden hand” that turned the outcome against them. At this point, I am very uncomfortable with “Beetzy” and his behavior(s) when he is not in the saddle; but still, he did win more races than anyone in history…

    One more revelation indicates that Joe Flabeetz bet on races at the tracks where he was riding – but only on races where he had no mount. I am off the Joe Flabeetz Train at this point. Gambling and jockeys are too closely related in terms of the sport to let jockeys get this close to gambling on the races themselves. This would disqualify Joe Flabeetz from the Racing Hall of Fame in my mind. And that is where it would seem that Pete Rose is with the new Outside The Lines information.

Let me take this clearly fictional analogy one step further:

    Let us suppose that we just learned that Joe Flabeetz bet $100 to win on every horse that he rode in every race in his career and that he absorbed all the losses while donating all the proceeds from the winners to the noblest charity you can imagine. Moreover, he kept all those records and the IRS itself has audited and determined that every dime is accounted for properly. Even in that situation where Joe Flabeetz has clearly done some splendid good, he disqualifies himself from recognition in the Racing Hall of Fame. There has to be a clear line that separates jockeys from betting on races close to them and the nobility of the outcome from crossing the line does not justify the crossing of the line.

Obviously, the new information obtained and revealed by Outside The Lines will need to be vetted/corroborated and we do owe Pete Rose and his attorneys the opportunity to rebut or challenge the accuracy of that information. However, if at the end of the vetting and rebutting it turns out that Pete Rose bet on baseball games while he was a player, I will – sadly – change my call for him to be in the Hall of Fame.

If the information is valid, then Pete Rose belongs NOT in the Hall of Fame but rather in my fictional Just Go Away Club.

Finally, let me leave this topic with two thoughts that seem appropriate to this entire messy situation:

“There’s one way to find out if a man is honest — ask him. If he says, ‘Yes,’ you know he is a crook. – Groucho Marx

And …

“It is hard to believe that a man is telling the truth when you know that you would lie if you were in his place.” – H. L. Mencken

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

Quiet Time In The NFL…

The NFL will move into a “quiet time” in terms of on-field events even as the commissioner and Tom Brady and the NFLPA begin the process of appealing Brady’s 4-game suspension coming out of Deflategate. OTAs and mini-camps are over; reports say that every high draft pick for every team looked good at those events. Of course, they take place in shorts and not in pads so the high picks had damned well better look good there or the GMs who made the picks need to be looking for other lines of work. I mention that because there were a plethora of reports about how good Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariotta both looked with their new squads. And that got me to thinking:

    When quarterbacks are taken with the overall #1 pick AND the overall #2 pick in the draft, it seems that one does pretty well and the other flames out.

That is just a gut feeling from recent happenings and so I did a tad of research – nothing like what Dan Daly might do at profootballdaly.com to be sure – and here is what I came up with:

    2015 Jameis Winston #1 and Marcus Mariotta #2: The jury is out and should not render any verdict before 2019.

    2012 Andrew Luck #1 and RG-3 #2: Preliminary results say that Luck is the significantly better QB but neither career has run its course yet.

    1999 Tim Couch #1 and Donovan McNabb #2: McNabb was clearly the better pick here. Oh and by the way, in 1999 another QB, Akili Smith, was taken with the overall #3 pick and he was the worst of the trio.

    1998 Peyton Manning #1 and Ryan Leaf #2: There is simply no comparison here…

    1993 Drew Bledsoe #1 and Rick Mirer #2: Bledsoe played for more than a decade and went to the Super Bowl with the Pats; Mirer played well as a rookie but never really was more than a journeyman.

    1971 Jim Plunkett #1 and Archie Manning #2: In this case both QBs played well. It took Plunkett a while – and a change of scenery from New England – to blossom; Archie Manning played very well for a series of Saints’ teams that were significantly short on talent. Oh and by the way, in 1971 another QB, Dan Pastorini, was taken with the overall #3 pick. Interestingly, it was Pastorini’s broken leg that gave Plunkett the opening to start and to lead the Raiders to a Super Bowl victory in 1981.

    1954 Bobby Garrett #1 and Lamar McHan #2: I have to admit I had to look both of these guys up. Garrett was drafted by the Browns but played the 1954 season for the Packers. That was his only year in the NFL. McHan played in the NFL for 10 years with four teams. His stats were not stellar but he clearly had the better NFL career.

Only in the 1971 Draft did both of the QBs taken at the top of the draft do well in their pro careers – with the caveat that RG-3 may improve to the point where he adds the 2012 Draft to that list. Three times, the player taken #1 overall had a significantly better career than the player taken #2; twice the player taken #2 overall had the significantly better career.

What does this portend for Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariotta? Probably nothing. However, it is “quiet time” for the NFL and that allows one’s mind to wander a bit…

Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot had these two cogent NFL observations recently:

“Static alert: Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant has every right to seek a long-term contract, but by complaining that he’s making only $12.8 million and threatening to hold out, he’s violating the first rule of rich people – no whining on the yacht.”

And …

“In passing: Johnny Manziel says he’s ditching his immature, look-at-me ‘money sign.’ Maybe he’s just realizing that there would be no sense in flashing it from the bench.”

In general, I am at the point where I am looking forward to the start of the football season with one minor hesitation. When the NFL games are on for real, that means the NFL Network is prone to put Michael Irvin and Deion Sanders on the same set with both of them in possession of live microphones. Let me just say this…

    If there were such a thing as Crimes Against Syntax, Michael Irvin would have long ago been indicted, convicted and sent to 10 years of diagramming sentences.

    When he and Deion are on the same TV set and I am sitting on my couch with the remote in my hands, the TV set is in danger of having the remote arrive at the screen traveling at a significant velocity.

Finally, here is a college football related observation from Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald:

“According to a World-Herald breakdown, NU [Nebraska University] is paying Bo Pelini $29,490.91 per week, $737.27 per hour, $12.29 per minute or 20.4 cents per second to not coach. For comparison’s sake, we only pay our state legislators $12,000 per year to not work.

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

Cut The Complaining…

As golfers finished the US Open, several of them vented their spleen about the course conditions. Ian Poulter used Instagram for his criticism; Billy Horschel just dropped his words of wisdom in front of the TV cameras. Look, I am all in favor of free expression but this kind of griping annoys me about as much as the condition of the golf course and its greens seems to have annoyed various golfers.

    Everybody played the same course. It is not as if any individual golfer had to putt on “horrible greens” while others putted on billiard tables.

    Everybody had a chance to see/walk the course before the tournament. It is not as if they thought they were playing Pebble Beach and were suddenly dropped in on Chambers Bay.

    No one forced any of the complainers to play. If the conditions were so awful, why did they come back for the second round on Friday – or even finish their first round on Thursday?

Frankly, the reason I like the US Open and the British Open are that they do not always take place on a course that has been manicured to make scores low. When a ball goes in the rough; you have to look to find it; in a PGA event, if the ball goes into the rough, that means it is not sitting atop grass that all has been cut to the same length and is all pointing in the same direction.

I will probably watch some of the upcoming British Open but I will probably not watch even a minute of the PGA Championship where the only real challenge to the contestants will be to keep the ball out of the minimal water hazards.

There have been a couple of marginally interesting happenings related to the Arizona Coyotes and their contretemps with the city fathers in Glendale. Recall that the city voted to abrogate the lease deal with the Coyotes which had the city paying the Coyotes $15M annually to stay in town and play in the Glendale arena.

    1. Moody’s Investment Services made favorable comments about the city’s move to get out from under that lease deal. Moody’s is one of the sources of bond ratings and bond ratings determine the interest rate that the city will need to pay in order to borrow money. Here is what Moody’s had to say:

    “Voting to cancel the 15-year arrangement is credit positive because it reduces the city’s costs related to professional sports enterprises and provides additional resources for critical services.”

    A rough translation would be along the lines of:

      The city needs to spend money on critical services and the fact that it is spending so much on sports enterprises (hockey and spring training baseball facilities) means they do not have enough to pay for those critical services. That is not financially smart. So, the city acted intelligently to get to a position where they can fund critical services without having to borrow lots of money to do so.

    2. The majority owner of the Coyotes, Andrew Barroway, opted to take a lesser share of the franchise. Reports say that other partners in the enterprise will buy the share that he wants to get rid of. The timing of this announcement is interesting because Barroway only acquired the majority interest in the Coyotes only about 6 months ago. Moreover, he has had previous interest in buying into the NHL having unsuccessfully trying to buy the New York Islanders when they were previously on the market. One has to wonder about just how critical that city payment to the Coyotes is with regard to the solvency of the franchise…

It is “Rumor Time” in the NBA as players get some time off and front offices begin to think about how to restructure teams. The Lakers are the subject of lots of rumors – probably because the Lakers played uncharacteristically badly last season. We do know for certain that the Lakers will draft second in the upcoming NBA Draft. Beyond that, here are some of the “rumors” floating out there. Recall that Kobe Bryant is expected to play one final season in LA next year according to Lakers’ GM, Mitch Kupchack:

    1. The Lakers may want to acquire Rajon Rondo from the Dallas Mavericks but there are also stories that the Houston Rockets may want Rondo too.

    2. The Lakers may be trying to get Dwayne Wade to leave Miami and come to LA to join up with Kobe Bryant. That would have been a dynamite pairing in 2011; given the recent injury history of both players, that Lakers’ roster might lead the league in “games missed by starters”.

    3. If Kevin Love “opts out” of his contract in Cleveland, conventional wisdom is that this child of So Cal will strongly consider going home to play there. That puts the Lakers squarely in the middle of any such speculation about Kevin Love.

The best way to weather the storm during “Rumor Time” is to sit back and wait to see what actually happens and then analyze the possibilities. I am confident, however, that no matter how much the Lakers and their fans might wish for it to happen, Magic and Kareem will not be coming back to suit up in the purple and gold next year…

Finally, here is some sage financial advice from Greg Cote of the Miami Herald:

“A pair of sneakers Michael Jordan supposedly wore in a game in 1984 is expected to sell for $50,000 or more at auction. I’d spend that for a pair of old sneakers only on the assurance I’d find a blank check for $49,995 stuffed in one of the shoes.”

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