Two Recommended Readings Today…

There are two columns in this morning’s Washington Post that deserve comment.  The first one is by Sally Jenkins and it is inspired by an investigative report into the actions of the US Olympic Committee regarding the physical abuse of women gymnasts by Dr. Larry Nasser and the mental abuse of those young women by trainers and senior officers of the USOC.  Based on the investigative report – – 233 pages long no less – – there was everything from foot-dragging to active coverup actions by multiple folks as these abuses were ongoing.  Dr. Nasser is a monstrous child molester who will spend most if not all of the rest of his life in prison.  However, he is not the only one who needs to answer for actions taken and actions not taken over the last couple of decades.

Here is a link to Sally Jenkins’ column.  Even though you will have feelings of revulsion when you finish reading it, I suggest it is worth that discomfort.

The second column is by Kevin Blackistone and it deals with the QB situation here in Washington where the Skins have brought in two retreads to play QB in the aftermath of two QBs ending their seasons with broken legs.  There has been plenty of talk in these parts about the possibility that the Skins would bring in Colin Kaepernick to be the interim QB in lieu of folks like Mark Sanchez and/or Josh Johnson.  One caller to a local sports radio program went so far as to suggest that hiring Kaepernick for the job would be a way for the team to get out from under all the bad publicity that it got when it signed Reuben Foster off the waiver wire.  Blackistone argues that Kaepernick “simply can’t” play for the Skins.

Here is a link to Kevin Blackistone’s column.  I doubt that it will change anyone’s mind on the entirety of the “Kaepernick-protest issue”, but it does make a strong case as to why the Skins will not hire him and why it is in his better interest not to be hired by that franchise.

I am about to step over the line here into a bit of mind reading.  That demands the following disclaimer:

  • I have no psychic capability whatsoever.
  • I cannot read minds.
  • What follows is a logical – to me – conclusion drawn from external events and not an actual transcript of the thoughts of other people.

With that disclaimer front and center – and fresh in everyone’s mind – let me say:

  • I don’t think Colin Kaepernick would take a “franchise-QB style contract” with the Skins even if one were offered to him.

For the last several football seasons, Colin Kaepernick has been the central figure in a protest that started out in opposition to police violence against black men in the US.  When Kaepernick first took a knee during the National Anthem, I said that I completely supported the goals of his protest but that I wished he had chosen a different forum to make that protest.  My objection then was not based on any sort of uber-patriotism; my objection was simply that many folks would focus on the “anthem-part” of the protest and not the “police violence” part.  Unfortunately, I was more right than wrong with that sentiment.

Notwithstanding my reservation about the form of his protest, I supported his goals then and I continue to support his goals as I am writing these words.  At the same time, over the past couple of years while Colin Kaepernick has been unemployed, it seems to me that he himself has morphed from an athlete using his recognizability to highlight a societal problem to a social justice warrior who used to be an NFL QB.  Ignoring entirely any actions or inactions by NFL teams or the NFL as an entity over the past two years, I have the sense that Colin Kaepernick now exists in a space where his primary objective is to improve the social condition of the country.

It seems to me that for the last year or so, Colin Kaepernick has done a lot more to establish a brand for himself as an opponent of oppression rather than to shore up his brand as an NFL QB.  That is certainly his right and his privilege; I have no qualms with that at all.  And because I believe that his current focus is to enhance his brand as an opponent of oppression, I do not believe that he could possibly put his name on a contract alongside the signatory for the Washington Redskins.  An opponent of oppression cannot maintain credibility if that same opponent of oppression is a “Redskin”; an opponent of oppression will see his/her brand destroyed by the hypocrisy of such a situation.

When the Skins signed Josh Johnson to be their 4th QB of the season, people asked Head Coach Jay Gruden if the team had contacted Kaepernick.  Gruden sidestepped the question saying that there were discussions about that, but that they decided to go with Johnson because he had been with Jay Gruden in Tampa about a decade ago and was familiar with the terminology of the offense.  Jay Gruden actually said that with a straight face.

If indeed anyone initiated such an internal “discussion” of such a personnel move, here is my stylized version of how it went down:

  • Coach Gruden:  We’re desperate here; we’re still in the mix for the playoffs.  Should we put in a call to Kaepernick to find out if he is in football shape and bring him in for a workout?  He’s a better QB than anything else out there…
  • Team President Bruce Allen:  Are you [bleeping] kidding?  I have military flyovers scheduled at the start of every home game for the rest of the year.  That is an important part of the team’s community identity.  Can’t do that…
  • Owner Danny Boy Snyder:  Not here … not now … not ever.
  • Coach Gruden:  I’ll put in a call to Josh Johnson right now…

Kevin Blackistone is absolutely right; Kaepernick should not be the QB for the Skins.  Moreover, those folks who are following his lead as an opponent of oppression should urge him never to have any sort of contractual ties to that franchise for the sake of his social causes.  I think everyone is safe here.  The Skins do not want Kaepernick and Kaepernick – and his supporters – want nothing to do with the Skins.  It is amazing how one can find common ground when you go and look for it.

Finally, here is a comment by Brad Rock of the Deseret News regarding another NFL QB:

“A 69-year-old Dutchman is suing to get his age legally changed, saying he has the body of a 45-year-old and identifies as such.

“He believes the switch would improve both dating and job prospects.

“Elsewhere, Tom Brady is planning to declare himself eligible for the 2019 NFL draft.”

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



A Pathetic Performance Yesterday

Most of the readers of these rants do not live in the Washington DC area; and so, they cannot fully appreciate the football repugnance that is in the air here this morning.  Every year, the fans in the area – egged on by representatives of the Skins and by local sports media cheerleaders – convince themselves that this is the year the team will “return to glory” and be a prominent player in the NFL playoffs.  Usually by this point in the season, reality is just beginning to settle in; this year is different.  Yesterday, there was a consummate capitulation on the gridiron at FedEx Field; the Skins lost to the Giants by a score of 40-16, but the score was 40-0 at one point and the Giants played prevent defense for the last 20 minutes of the game.

Some of the local cheerleaders are pointing to the need for the team to dip down to find their 4th QB of the season in the second half of that game as the basis for the meltdown.  That is unadulterated piffle; the need to play a backup QB has exactly nothing to do with the fact that the Skins’ defense gave up 40 points and 227 yards on the ground.  The insertion of a backup QB does not explain committing 15 penalties in the game for 135 yards.  The problem yesterday is that the team – the whole team – just took a pass on playing the game.

[Aside:  The Giants were not at full strength yesterday either; Odell Beckham, Jr. did not even make the trip from NY to Washington with the team.  That offensive output came without one of the top two offensive players on the Giants’ roster.]

With the score 40-0, Mark Sanchez was relieved of duty for the day and Josh Johnson entered the game.  The last time Johnson played in an NFL game was in 2011; he was signed to backup Sanchez – who was backing up Colt McCoy who was backing up Alex Smith – when the Skins found him playing in a pickup basketball game in California.  Against a prevent defense, Johnson got two TDs and a pair of 2-point conversions to make the score much more respectable than it was.  Part of the mantra around here now is that he should have started the game yesterday and – with him starting next week – things will be better.

Let me say this clearly:

  • If “things are not better” next week, the NFL should relegate the Washington franchise to the newly forming AAF and create an expansion franchise to take its place.
  • If “things are not better” next week, Washington will replace Cleveland and/or Cincinnati as the laughingstock of the league.

There is a fundamental problem with the Skins as a team – and it is not the coaching staff although the coaching staff has not ameliorated the fundamental problem to any great extent.  The problem is that the team just does not appear to be bothered by losing – or even losing as badly as they did yesterday.  That is not a “coaching problem” at the core; that is a “roster construction problem” at the core.

I mentioned that Josh Johnson is being touted this morning as the latest savior for the franchise.  I also mentioned in passing that he has been out of the NFL for 7 years now indicating to me that none of the other 31 teams view him as a savior nor have they done so for quite a while.  Here is Josh Johnson’s football itinerary since graduating from college:

  1. Tampa – 5th round pick
  2. SF
  3. Sacramento Mountain Lions in the UFL
  4. Cleveland
  5. Cincy
  6. SF – again
  7. Cincy – again
  8. NY Jets
  9. Indy
  10. Buffalo
  11. Baltimore
  12. NY Giants
  13. Houston
  14. Oakland
  15. San Diego fleet in the AAF
  16. Washington

If that does not qualify Josh Johnson as The United Van Lines Man of the Decade, I do not know what it might take to win that award…

Enough about the Skins and their new QB “prodigy” …  There is a TV ad that runs in just about every NFL game for USAA.  It features Joe Lombardi – grandson of Vince – who is simultaneously the QB coach for the New Orleans Saints and a “USAA member for life”.  It is not a candidate for one of the “Bad Ads in 2019”, but it made me think about something having nothing whatsoever to do with USAA.

As the QB coach for the Saints, Joe Lombardi’s résumé is polished by his association with a very successful QB named Drew Brees.  No problem there; that sort of thing happens quite often.  However, we know that the Green Bay Packers will be looking for a coach in this off-season and that dealing positively with the resident star QB in Packer-land will be a primary skill for the new coach.

  • Memo to Joe Lombardi:  If the Packers’ front office calls you, think three times before saying, “Yes.”  Your genetic association with your grandfather will set expectations for you in Green Bay that will be nigh onto impossible to achieve – think 14-2 every year and Super Bowl appearances at least 3 out of every 5 years.

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

“Beer:  A beverage about which some rather laughable people believe it is possible to be a ‘connoisseur,’ despite the fact that the main difference between most beers is which on tastes the least like liquid ass.”

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


Football Friday 12/7/18

Seventy-seven years ago, today was “a date that will live in infamy”.  On December 7, 2018, today is merely a Football Friday.  The only major college game this weekend is the annual Army/Navy game with Army set as a 7-point favorite.  It may not be part of the CFP, but the Army/Navy game is always worth watching.

In the absence of “College Football News”, I have reserved this time to reveal the seedings for the 2018 SHOE Tournament.  The idea here is to identify the worst team in Division 1-A college football in a way analogous to the way the CFP operates.  There is a bracket; the teams square off on the field; the wrinkle here is that the loser of each game must play on until there is an ultimate loser in the tournament.  Winners along the way can go home and study for final exams – or just enjoy the Holidays at their pleasure.

I have unilaterally picked the 8 teams I believe should be in contention for the SHOE Team label – the Steaming Heap Of Excrement.

Before revealing the order of the 8 teams in my imaginary tournament, let me provide you with some of the stats that led me to identify the #1 Seed in this event.  The UConn Huskies were historically inept on defense this year.  Consider these stats:

  • UConn allowed an average of 50.4 points per game this year.
  • UConn allowed a total of 7,410 yards this year which equals 617.5 yards per game.  That is the worst in college football history; the previous record was held by Kansas who once allowed 560 yards per game for a season.  UConn demolished that record.
  • The best showing for the UConn defense was against UMass when the Huskies “only” allowed 444 yards.
  • The worst showing for the UConn defense was against Boise St. when the Huskies allowed 818 yards.

One more preliminary comment.  It was a close call for me to pick the #8 seed in this tournament of losers.  My first thought was to put Rutgers with its 1-11 record in that slot but the final two games of the year for Rutgers were not embarrassments.  Rutgers lost those games, but they were losses to two good teams (Penn State and Michigan State) and neither was a blowout.  So, Rutgers is not in the field this year.  Maybe next year for the Scarlet Knights?

So, here is the SHOE Tournament field:

  • #1 Seed UConn (1-11):  See above for why they are in this slot.  The Huskies’ only win this season came at the expense of Division 1-AA, Holy Cross.
  • #2 Seed Rice (2-10):  The Owls beat Division 1-AA Prairie View in Week 1 and then Old Dominion in Week 13.  Those two wins are bookends on a horrendous season in between.
  • #3 Seed UTEP (1-11):  The Miners’ only win was over Rice.  So, even with a worse record than Rice, they have to be seeded below Rice here.  No need to root for a rematch…
  • #4 Seed C. Michigan (1-11):  The Chippewas have lost 8 games in a row since defeating Division 1-AA Maine back in September.
  • #5 Seed San José St. (2-11):  They have a Division 1-A victory over UNLV but they also lost to Division 1-AA UC-Davis and lost 4 games by 21 points or more.
  • #6 Seed Oregon St. (2-10):  The Beavers beat Division 1-AA Southern Utah and Colorado but lost 5 games by 21 points or more.
  • #7 Seed Louisville (2-10):  The Cardinals’ wins were over Division 1-AA Indiana St. and W. Kentucky plus the Cardinals gave up 55 points or more in each of their last 5 games.
  • #8 Seed Georgia St. (2-10):  The Panthers have a win over Division 1-AA Kennesaw St. and one over La- Monroe.  However, they lost 6 games by 21 points or more.

NFL Commentary:

The biggest thing that happened as a result of last week’s action was that the Packers fired head coach Mike McCarthy after losing at home to the Cardinals who were 14-point underdogs in the game.  There had been myriad reports of friction between McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers for more than a month, so this news was surprising in that it came before the end of a humongously disappointing season for the Packers.

  • [Aside:  This specific loss to the Cardinals was significantly out of the ordinary.  The last time the Cardinals beat the Packers in Green Bay was in 1949 – – when they were the Chicago Cardinals before they were the St. Louis Cardinals before they were the Arizona Cardinals.  For perspective, in 1949 Harry Truman was President; Joe Louis retired as heavyweight champion and the NATO alliance was born.]

I am generally not a fan of firing a coach in the middle of a season; normally the interim guy proves that the problem is not the messenger or the message; the problem is the roster.  [Aside:  I acknowledge that firing Hue Jackson earlier this year was a proper move and the results under Gregg Williams have been significantly better than they were before the move.]  Regarding the Packers, I think they need a roster overhaul more than they may need a new coach who can get along better with Aaron Rodgers and “better offensive play calling”.

In any event, with two NFL coaches already fired, I started to pay attention to reports/speculations out there regarding other coaches who may be under scrutiny as the season comes to an end.  Let me list them here in alphabetical order:

  1. Todd Bowles (NY Jets):  If the NYC tabloids were running the Jets’ franchise, Bowles would have been gone by now.  I think Bowles is likely to be fired after the season is over and I think that the seeds of his firing were planted by his previous success.  In his first year in NY, the Jets went 10-6; no one expected that.  Later, many folks believed the Jets were on a path to go 0-16 in a season, but Bowles somehow won 5 games with a JV roster.  He sort of put in people’s minds that he had the ability to make chicken salad out of chicken s*it.  Personally, I would fire the Jets’ GM before I fired Todd Bowles – – but that’s just me.  The best reason I can come up with for his firing is that Sam Darnold is more likely to reach is potential under an offensive-minded coach and coaching staff and Bowles is absolutely a defensive guy.
  2. Dirk Koetter (Tampa Bay Bucs):  Koetter got the job because he was the offensive coordinator in Jameis Winston’s rookie year and Winston looked as if he was going to be a superstar in the league.  The team fired Lovie Smith and hired Koetter to keep Koetter from taking a job elsewhere; he was one of the “hot prospects” in that offseason.  Well, all of that has hardly worked out according to the plan.  The question for the next 4 games is pretty simple in Tampa.  Can Jameis Winston – reinstated as the starter there – play well enough to save the job of the guy the team hired because of Winston in the first place?  Oh, by the way, the Bucs’ defense stinks and that is not Koetter’s fault.
  3. Marvin Lewis (Cincy Bengals):  Lewis has been in Cincy since 2003; only Bill Belichick has been in his job longer than that.  Lewis took over a monumentally dysfunctional franchise and put it on its feet; he tore the “laughingstock label” off the team and got them to the playoffs 7 times in 15 years.  His record with the Bengals is over .500 at 130-119-3.  But there are blemishes on that résumé that are difficult to ignore.  The Bengals have lost every playoff game they participated in in the Marv Lewis Era and sometimes they lose because the team suffers mental meltdowns late in close games.  It happens over and over; the players never seem to learn from previous gaffes; certain players are serial offenders.  That leads some to conclude that Lewis does not hold them accountable for their blockheadedness and that makes him the “Enabler-in-Chief”.  Marvin Lewis did a great service to the Bengals’ franchise that he took over in 2003.  Has he gone past his “sell-by date”?
  4. Doug Marrone (Jax Jags):  The Jags are the biggest disappointments in the NFL in 2018.  The biggest source of trouble for the Jags has been the play of Blake Bortles at QB; he does not belong there, and the Jags decided in the last off-season to sign him to a large 2-year contract extension.  If Marrone was one of the people who thought that was a good idea, he should be fired yesterday; if not, he should keep his job and all the folks who thought that was a good idea should be fired immediately.  The Bortles situation is rather simple to understand as it exists now.  Bortles will be a salary cap liability to the Jags if he is on the roster or off the roster; there is no real difference there.  Bortles will be a roster liability if he is on the roster but not if he is off the roster.  Kabeesh?  Oh, and by the way, someone in the Jags’ organization needs to find a way to convince Leonard Fournette to get a handle on his emotions so that he does not make a fool of himself and a punching bag out of the team.
  5. Dan Quinn (Atlanta Falcons):  The Falcons are not as disappointing as the Jags – – but it’s close.  The Falcons never did thrive on the strength of their defense; the Falcons were an offense-oriented team when they were successful.  This year, the offense has been bland – maybe even dismal.  If I owned the team, I would change out members of the offensive staff before I changed out the head coach who had plenty of success until this year.  In his first three years in Atlanta, Quinn’s teams were 29-19-0; they went to the Super Bowl after the 2016 season and made the playoffs again last year.  The Falcons are 4-8 this year but 4 of the 8 losses were by 7 points or less.  Is that just misfortune – – or is that a team flaw that they continue to lose more close games than they win?
  6. Ron Rivera (Carolina Panthers):  The Panthers’ existing 4-game losing streak has made some folks wonder if the new ownership in Carolina will use that losing streak as a basis for demonstrating who’s the new boss in town.  Last week, the Panthers lost to the Bucs and Cam Newton threw 4 INTs in the game.  Seriously now, is there a coach out there who would have prevented that from happening had he been on the sidelines instead of Ron Rivera last week?  In addition, on the final play of the game when the Panthers needed a Hail Mary pass of more than 50 yards to tie the game, they took Newton out of the game and inserted Taylor Heinicke to be sure the pass would go far enough to reach the goal line.  If that does not tell you that Cam Newton is playing with a bum arm, I don’t know what will.  Bum arms on starting QBs are not coaching deficiencies…

Before I get to the NFL games this week, let me offer condolences to the NFL fans in the Bay Area for the depressing state of affairs in that region of Northern California.  The two teams in the area are having disastrous seasons; and to make it worse, fans of both teams had reasons for optimism back in August:

  • Niners’ fans looked forward to seeing Jimmy G continue his unbeaten streak as a starting QB and to lead the team to playoff contention if not the playoffs proper.
  • Raiders’ fans were positive that the return of Jon Gruden would set the vector heading for the team in the direction of “past glory”.

Here we are in Week 14 of the 2018 NFL season and there are only two teams that have been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.  You guessed it; they are the Niners and the Raiders; both teams sport records of 2-10 to date.

NFL Games This Week:

If someone were going to look for reasons to keep Doug Marrone in charge of the Jags, that someone would need to destroy any and all evidence of last night’s game against the Titans.  The Jags were outhit and out played for the final 50 minutes of the game.  The Jags showed a lot of bravado early on but did not translate that bravado into actions such as tackling any of the Titans’ running backs/receivers and/or blocking any blitzers who were bent on terrorizing Jags’ QB, Cody Kessler.  The Titans won by 3 TDs but the game was not nearly that close.

Baltimore at KC – 6.5 (51.5):  This was a strong candidate for the Game of the Week; it has playoff implications for both teams.  The Ravens are a half game out of the division lead in the AFC North and the Chiefs hold a one game lead in the AFC West and a one game lead for home field advantage throughout the playoffs.  Moreover, both teams are playing as if they belong in the playoffs over the past month.  The Ravens have won 3 in a row with a stifling defense, a power run game and a little bit of passing from Lamar Jackson.  The Chiefs continue to win by outscoring the opposition and despite a mediocre defense.  The Ravens should be able to run on the Chiefs’ defense which gives up 122 yards per game.  It will be interesting to see how well the Chiefs’ passing attack fares against a Ravens’ pass defense that allows only 194.4 yards per game (second best in the NFL).

Indy at Houston – 5.5 (49.5):  The Colts were shut out by the Jags last week and they are going to face another tough defense on the road in this game.  That loss last week snapped a 5-game winning streak for the Colts and they probably need to win 3 of their last 4 games to have a shot at a playoff berth.  Here is the Colts remaining schedule after this week:

  • Vs Cowboys
  • Vs Giants
  • At Titans

The Colts really need a win here…  Meanwhile, the Texans are white hot riding a 9-game winning streak.  Interestingly, the winning streak began in Week 4 with a win over the Colts in Indy.  This game boils down to something rather simple:

  • The Texans are hoping to get a BYE Week in the AFC playoffs
  • The Colts are hoping to be admitted to the AFC playoffs.

I think defense will dominate this game.  I like this game to stay UNDER.

Carolina – 2 at Cleveland (47):  If you told me a month ago that the Panthers would only be a 2-point favorite in this game, I would have suggested that someone needed to make you pee in a cup to find out what you had ingested.  But here we are; the Browns are playing much better in the absence of Hue Jackson; the Panthers have lost 4 in a row and Cam Newton is playing while less than 100% healthy.  The Panthers’ season is on the brink of disaster; they have lost 4 in a row and here is what is ahead of them after this road game:

  • Vs Saints
  • Vs Falcons
  • At Saints

The Panthers are 1-5 on the road this year; meanwhile the Browns are 3-2-1 at home.  I think the Panthers’ playoff hopes are minuscule given their schedule, but a loss here will turn “minuscule” into “nil”.  I like the Browns at home plus the points.

Atlanta at Green Bay – 5 (50):  This game was a candidate for the Dog-Breath Game of the Week, but the presence of two capable QBs on the field holds out a hope that the game could be competently played.  The Falcons are mysteriously bad; the Packers are in disarray.  In addition to firing Mike McCarthy last week, they also fired assistant coach Winston Moss for tweeting that the team needed more accountability for everyone including Aaron Rodgers.  I do not think either defense will stifle the opposing offense here; both QBs should have a big day.  I like the game to go OVER.

New Orleans – 9 at Tampa Bay (56):  The Saints stunk out the joint against the Cowboys last week scoring only 10 points in the game.  To give you a benchmark here, the Saints had only been held under 30 points twice in the season until last week.  I am confident that the Bucs’ defense will not hold the Saints to 10 points in this game.  The Saints’ loss last week was their second loss of the season; the first one came in Week 1 to – – the Bucs.  That’s right; if the Bucs win, they will sweep the Saints this year – the same Saints team that has its eye on a BYE week in the playoffs and maybe even home field advantage in the playoffs.  I do not think the Bucs are going to win here but that line is fat; give me the Bucs plus the points.

Jets at Buffalo – 3 (38):  This game was also a candidate for the Dog-Breath Game of the Week, but it is a division game so that adds a modicum of interest there.  The Bills won the first meeting of these teams this year; the Jets seem to have regressed from that point in the season.  If Sam Darnold is ready to go, this will be a game where both rookie QBs – presumably both are young franchise QBs of the future – will go at one another.  See, there actually are interesting things associated with this game…  Make this a venue call; I like the Bills to win and cover.

New England – 7.5 at Miami (47):  Everyone knows that the Pats get better as the season goes on.  During the Belichick Era in New England, the Pats are 63-11 in games played in December.  The Dolphins are merely a .500 team this year; the Pats would clinch the AFC East title with a win here; so, this is almost a walkover – – no? This is the time to bet the mortgage money on the Pats – – right?  Well, maybe not…  Check out these trends:

  • Tom Brady is only 7-9 straight up in games played in Miami.
  • Last year, the Pats lost to the Dolphins in Miami as 10.5-point favorites.
  • The Patriots are 1-4 straight up in their last 5 visits to Miami
  • The Dolphins are 5-1 against the spread at home this year.
  • The home team is 13-3 against the spread the last 16 times these teams met.  This game is in Miami.
  • The Dolphins are 7-3 against the spread when getting more than 7 points at home in the history of the Miami franchise.

Ok, so maybe the play is to load up on the Dolphins here – – right?  Well, check this out:

  • The Pats are 11-3 against the spread in their last 14 games on grass.  This game is on grass.
  • The Dolphins are 4-10 against the spread in their last 14 games against teams with a winning record.  The Pats are 9-3.

These trends/stats demonstrate why they call it sports gambling and not sports investing…

Giants – 3.5 at Washington (41):  This game opened as a “pick ‘em” game until the season-ending nature of Colt McCoy’s injury became clear.  That set the line at this level and it gives you a snapshot of how the Skins’ season has swirled around the porcelain bowl.  The Skins were on track to win the NFC East until the injury bug bit them; now the Skins are at home and they are underdogs to a team with a 4-8 record.  While people are rightfully wondering if Mark Sanchez can do anything with and for the Skins’ offense; there is another problem here.  At one point earlier this year, the Skins’ defense was solidly in the Top 10 in the league.  Forget that; over the last 5 games, the Skins’ defense has given up more than 430 yards per game.  The Giants have won 3 of their last 4 games including a win over the division-leading Bears.  Landon Collins will miss this game – and the rest of the season – for the Giants and will undergo shoulder surgery next week.  An interesting angle on this game will be watch the Hall of Fame RB, Adrian Peterson, on the same field with rookie RB sensation, Saquon Barkley.

Denver – 4 at SF (45):  This game opened with the Broncos as 4.5-point favorites; that was before the news that Emmanuel Sanders tore his Achilles tendon and is out for the season.  That news did not seem to move the line at all and I find that surprising.  The Broncos are 6-6; they could make the playoffs but would probably need to win out.  Looking at this game and the rest of their schedule, that is within the realm of possibility except for the final game of the season.  After this game, the Broncos schedule is:

  • Vs Browns
  • At Raiders
  • Vs Chargers

The loss of Emmanuel Sanders is a big deal for the Broncos.  In 12 games this year, Sanders caught 71 passes for 868 yards and 4 TDs.  The Broncos traded Demaryius Thomas earlier this season, so it will be interesting to see who becomes the “bull goose looney” [H/T to Ken Kesey] in the Broncos’ wide receiver’s room for the rest of the season.  Meanwhile the Niners are wondering if they will be “on the clock” for the #1 pick in the NFL Draft next April – – or if they will have to wait in line behind their brethren across the Bay in Oakland.  I like the Niners at home plus the points.

Bengals at Chargers – 14 (47.5):  The Chargers are solidly on course for the playoffs and could catch the Chiefs in the AFC West; they are only a game behind in the standings.  The Chargers need this game; but if there were ever a “Trap Game” for a team, this would be it:

  • Last week, the Chargers came from way behind to beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh
  • This week the Bengals come to LA as a team in total disarray and with key injuries.
  • Next week, the Chargers play the Chiefs for what could be the AFC West title.

This game will pit Jeff Driskel against Philip Rivers as the opposing QBs.  Who ya got?  Rivers is a bona fide MVP candidate this year; Driskell has thrown 4 passes in the NFL and he completed all of them for a total of 39 yards.  Oh, and Bengals’ WR, AJ Green, is out for the year with a foot injury too.  The Bengals have lost four in a row and three of those four losses have been by 14 points or more.  This one has BLOWOUT written all over it; but I am not going to give away 2 TDs to start the game.

Detroit – 3 at Arizona (40.5):  This game is The Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  These teams bring a combined record of 7-17 to the coin toss.  It is not a divisional game; neither team elicits any real emotional reaction outside their local community; if you are interested in this game and happen to be in the neighborhood this weekend, you can get tix for as little as $18 online.  If you press me to find something interesting about this game, here is the best thing I can come up with:

  • Lions have a first-year coach in Matt Patricia
  • Cards have a first-year coach in Steve Wilks
  • Both first-year coaches have a lot of work left to do to put a winning team on the field.

The Lions have lost 5 of their last 6 games and have failed to cover in all 5 losses.  The Cards are 6-6 against the spread for the season.  Keep your money in your pocket…

Philly at Dallas – 3.5 (44):  I know that an Eagles’ win here will put them in a tie with the Cowboys in the NFC East.  Nevertheless, I believe the Eagles are out of contention for that division title because of their upcoming schedule as compared to the Cowboys’ upcoming schedule.  Assume for a moment that the Eagles win here, and both teams go forward with a record of 7-6.  Here is the Eagles’ remaining schedule:

  • At Rams
  • Vs Texans
  • At Skins

The Rams and Texans have a combined record of 20-4.

Meanwhile, here is the Cowboys’ remaining schedule:

  • At Colts
  • Vs Bucs
  • At Giants

The Colts are at .500 as of this morning; neither the Bucs nor the Giants can make that claim.  The fact is that the Cowboys schedule from here to December 30th is a whole lot easier than the Eagles’ schedule.

The Cowboys have won 4 in a row and the way Amari Cooper has played since his arrival in Dallas makes one wonder how or why he under-performed so much in Oakland for the last year and a half.  It looks now as if Jerry Jones got the best of that deal with the Raiders even though most folks thought he got fleeced when the trade was announced.  The Eagles are on a 2-game in streak but do not fail to consider the opponents in those two games – – the Giants and the Skins.

Pittsburgh – 10 at Oakland (51.5):  The Raiders – like their neighbors in the Bay Area – can see their way clear to the overall #1 pick in next year’s NFL Draft; it is within their grasp so long as they continue to lose football games in December.  Meanwhile, the Steelers need to win this one.  As of now, the Steelers hold a tenuous half-game lead over the Ravens in the AFC North and the Steelers do not have a cakewalk for their remaining games.  Check this out:

  • Vs Pats
  • At Saints
  • Vs Bengals

The unavailability of James Connor this week is not good news for the Steelers.  Even without him, the Steelers are the superior team, but the Steelers historically play down to the level of their opposition.  They simply cannot afford to do that in this game to the point where they lose the game to an inferior opponent.

(Sun Nite) Rams – 3 at Chicago (51.5):  This game was flexed from an early start time to the Sunday Night national game.  This is The Game of the Week; it matches a division leader (Bears) against a team that has already clinched its division championship and is eyeing home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs (Rams).  The Rams’ incentive is that they hold a 1-game lead over the Saints for that home field advantage; the Bears’ incentive is holding onto their lead over the Vikes in the NFC North.  It appears as if Mitchell Trubisky will return to the lineup for the Bears this week and it is incumbent on the Bears’ OL to play better than it did last week when it allowed the Giants’ defense to sack the QB 4 times.  This week Aaron Donald will be on the DL and the Bears do not want him throwing Mitchell Trubisky around like a rag doll.

(Mon Nite) Minnesota at Seattle – 3 (45):  This game will become the Game of the Week if Mitchell Trubisky cannot play on Sunday night and the Rams win because the Bears had to play Chase Daniel.  In that event, the Vikes will have double motivation in this game:

  1. A win will put them only a half-game behind the Bears with the Bears slated to come visit the Vikes in the final game of the season.
  2. A win will put them ahead of the Seahawks by a half-game as the #1 NFC wildcard team.

The Seahawks are not going to catch the Rams in the NFC West; their entry into the playoffs depends on getting a wild card slot and they will do that if they win out.  The Seahawks like to run the ball to set up Russell Wilson in the passing game; the Bears have the second-best run defense in the NFL allowing only 85.8 yards per game on the ground.  The Vikes have won 6 games this year; only one of the teams they beat (Eagles) has a .500 record this year; all the others are below .500.  I like the Seahawks at home to win and cover.

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

“In the biggest upset of 2018, Rocky Balboa retired before Tom Brady did.”

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



National Microwave Day

Today is National Microwave Day.  Really …  So, to commemorate that day, I will try to make this quick…

I had exactly no inside information a couple of days ago when I mentioned that if the D-Backs really wanted to offer up Paul Goldschmidt in a trade, it would behoove lots of teams to go and get him.  Well, the St. Louis Cardinals did just that trading 3 prospects and a draft pick to the D-Backs for the six-time All Star, Paul Goldschmidt.  The D-Backs just declared themselves to be in a rebuilding mode having lost Patrick Corbin to the Washington Nationals in free agency earlier this week.

It looks as if there is really going to be a reincarnated XFL – call it XFL 2.0 if you want.  The league is scheduled to begin play the week after the Super Bowl game in 2020.  On the assumption that the AAF survives its inaugural season intact, they too will be putting on a game on the Sunday after the Super Bowl in 2020.  That might be interesting…

XFL 2.0 announced the location of its 8 franchises this week.  Seven cities that have NFL teams plus St. Louis – where there was an NFL team until very recently – will make up XFL 2.0.  Contrast that “placement strategy” with the one from the AAF where only 2 cities with NFL teams (Atlanta and Phoenix) will also have AAF teams.

The 8 teams in the new XFL will have rosters of 45 players with practice squads of 7 players each.  The AAF is trying to assign players to teams proximal to where the players went to college; it is not clear that the XFL has any similar strategy in mind.  However, the XFL will also be assigning players to franchises starting in early 2019.

The original XFL had some rule changes and presentational techniques that deviated significantly from the NFL or college football.  Some were:

  • Kickoffs had to be run out of the end zone; there were no touchbacks unless the ball carried out of the end zone on the kickoff.  [Aside:  The NFL in 2018 has gone almost 180-degrees in the opposite direction trying to minimize kickoff returns as a player safety measure.]
  • PATs were only pass/run from the 2-yardline.  There were no place-kicked PATs.
  • Pass receivers needed only 1 foot down inbounds to make a catch.  [Aside: That was and still is the college rule; personally, I prefer the “2 feet down” rule ever so slightly.]
  • As in the CFL, a back could be in motion toward the line of scrimmage prior to the snap.  [Aside:  The offense has enough rule advantages as it is without adding this one in my opinion.]
  • As in the CFL, there were no fair catches on punts.

I mention those old XFL “innovations” because XFL 2.0 intends to continue that tradition.  While announcing the location of the 8 franchises for the league, Commissioner Oliver Luck also said that the league would be “crowdsourcing” ideas for rules that are different from the NFL and/or college football.  I did not like that choice of wording at first; I thought he was saying that he was going to open this up to some sort of Internet forum wherein anybody with a keyboard and a modem could throw an idea in over the transom.  I was relieved to hear that Commissioner Luck clarified that to say that he and other league officials have sought input from some former coaches and players about rule changes that might make sense – as opposed to what might come in over the transom.  The rule modifications for this iteration of the XFL will not be change-for-the-sake-of change; the idea is to promote safety and to make the games more entertaining to the audience.  Here is part of Luck’s announcement:

“It’ll look like football, but we do plan on innovating in a couple of spaces. We’ve convened what we call a ‘football reimagined’ effort. Looking to address those issues that football fans tend to complain about.”

Probably the two biggest complaint fans have about football games in 2018 are tied together.  Fans complain about:

  1. Officiating – – and – –
  2. Replays and the adjudication of replays.

Nothing will make fans happy with officials’ calls that go against the home lads at a critical moment in the game.  However, there must be a better – and faster – way to adjudicate replay reviews.  I cannot recall the last time I sat back and said to myself anything like the following:

  • “Boy, am I glad that they are taking 3 minutes to review that last play because I was getting far too excited about and emotionally invested in the game as it was happening.  I really needed this breather.”

I am not going to throw any ideas over the transom here, but:

  • Memo to XFL 2.0:  There just has to be a better way to do this!

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

“Awesome:  A word most properly used to denote something truly breathtaking, unbelievably magnificent or strikingly wonderful; it is now used to describe everything from a half-decent meal to a show of support for someone who just landed an entry-level job at Staples.”

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



RIP President George H. W. Bush

Today is the national day of mourning for President George H.W. Bush.  Certainly, somewhere in the US, someone will lift a glass and offer a toast to President Bush on this day that commemorates “toasting” in the US.  Eighty-five years ago, on this date in 1933, Utah became the 36th state to ratify the 21st Amendment to the US Constitution which ended the Prohibition Era.

Rest in peace, Mr. President…

Last week, the Oakland A’s announced plans to build a new stadium in the Bay Area.  Lord knows; they have needed one for at least a decade now.  The proposed site is a waterfront venue on the bay and the architectural renderings show a cozy stadium with a seating capacity of 35,000 – a number that makes sense for the team.  Consider that the A’s were the hottest team in MLB for about a month or 6 weeks last year and breezed into an AL wild card slot with 97 wins on the season.  Despite that surprising and exciting season:

  • The A’s average attendance for 2018 was 19,427.
  • That figure represents an increase of about 1200 fans per game from 2017.
  • Even with a wildcard team, Oakland ranked 26th in MLB in attendance.

Certainly, a new stadium will attract more fans to the games than the Oakland Mausoleum – – uh, Coliseum – – will.  But it is unlikely that a new stadium will increase attendance there to the point that the new venue would be too small.  So, naturally the team execs and the architects involved were very upbeat in their presentations and the politicians in the area did not dump all over the proposed plans as soon as they were announced.  Perhaps this is the start of something new for the A’s.

However, there is a sentence in one of the articles abut this proposed new stadium that makes me wonder how all of this will work:

“Transportation challenges could be met in part by a gondola system connecting to downtown Oakland, which certainly sounds like a unique way to get to a ballgame.”

Maybe I am reading too much into this, but that “unique way to get to a ballgame” makes me wonder how difficult it might be to get to that same ballgame by more “traditional means” such as public transit or driving one’s car or teleportation.

The team laid out a schedule that identified groundbreaking in 2021 and the opening of the new venue in 2023.  In order to get to that groundbreaking date, there are a bunch of negotiations with the city and bureaucratic hoops that need jumping through by the end of 2019.  That may sound like plenty of time, but I will wait to raise my glass and offer a toast to the City of Oakland and the Oakland A’s over the final agreement(s) that moves this plan beyond the artist rendering stage.

The A’s have trouble drawing fans to their stadium; NASCAR has even more trouble drawing fans to their TV sets to watch NASCAR events.  Here are some stats to consider:

  • In 2005 (the peak of NASCAR’s popularity) 8.5M fans on average watched a NASCAR race.
  • In 2016, 4.47M fans on average watched a NASCAR race.  That is a drop of 47% from the high-water mark in 2005.

But it gets worse…

  • In 2017, the average number of viewers for a NASCAR race was only 4M fans.
  • In 2018, the average number of viewers for a NASCAR race was only 3.3M fans.

From the peak year – 13 years ago – NASCAR has lost 61% of its TV audience.  The problem is that the trend does not show any signs of hitting bottom.  From the already smaller audience figures of 2016, viewership dropped in 2018 by 26%.  These numbers are doubly ominous for NASCAR.

  1. The first problem is obvious; with declining numbers of viewers and TV ratings, the networks are going to be reluctant to maintain the level of payments made to NASCAR for TV rights.
  2. The dual threat here is that a lot of revenue flows to the various racing teams from “naming rights” and “logo placements”.  The value of those “rights” and “placements” diminished significantly when there are fewer eyeballs out there to recognize/acknowledge the product involved.

I am not one of the folks who watches NASCAR on TV nor do I follow NASCAR very much. Therefore, I am in no position to offer up any solutions to this situation that anyone should listen to let alone consider.  However, I think the numbers suggest that something must be done by the folks who run NASCAR to hold its basic audience and then to start to grow it back a bit.  If the revenue streams from TV and from sponsorships both decline significantly, it could be an existential threat to NASCAR as a sports entity.

Urban Meyer announced his retirement from coaching as a result of a cyst on his brain.  This is the second time he has retired for different health-related reasons.  Notwithstanding those circumstances, Meyer said that it was a “complicated question” when asked if he would ever coach again but that he was “fairly certain” that he would not.  There is no question that Meyer’s teams have been highly successful wherever he has been the coach; there is also no question that more than a few players on those successful teams exhibited some sociopathic behaviors – and at Ohio State, it would appear that one of his assistant coaches also exhibited those sorts of behaviors.

There is no question Urban Meyer was a great college football coach – at four different universities – if all you see are the wins and losses and national championships.  But there is a side of his story that is not nearly that bright; it may not be a “dark side” to the extent that Darth Vader was on the “dark side” but it has its sinister shades.  Personally, I will not be shocked to see him back on the sidelines somewhere down the line…

Finally, as the days get shorter and we approach the winter solstice, consider this comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Seasonal Affective Disorder — the ‘winter blues’ — is real, says Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC News’ chief medical correspondent.

“ ‘Tell us about it,’ said Bills fans in unison.”

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



Vengeance Of The Football Gods?

In late October, the Skins were 5-2 atop the NFC East and appeared to be playoff bound.  This morning, the Skins are 6-6 and are one of the teams “in the hunt” for a playoff spot but will have to finish the season with Mark Sanchez at QB – – assuming he too does not break a leg in the next month.  Last night, backup QB Colt McCoy broke his fibula against the Eagles and is out for the year.  Fan reaction to this unfortunate and freakish injury is all over the map:

  • Some say this is the worst luck for a potentially great team in football history.  That is patent nonsense.  The Niners lost their first two starting QBs to injury just this year; it is not a once in a lifetime occurrence.  And by the way, this Skins team when fully healthy was a competitive team but hardly “potentially great”.
  • Some blame the training staff for the team because the team – according to these folks – suffers more injuries every year than every other team.  I have no stats to prove or disprove that assertion, but I do not know what a training staff might do to prevent the two top QBs from breaking a leg in a game.
  • One caller to a local sports radio show attributed McCoy’s broken leg to karma.  This is the Skins’ price to pay for claiming Reuben Foster off waivers.  That is not even worthy of a comment…
  • Some have already used this to project that the Skins will not win another game this year and that should be the basis for firing coach Jay Gruden.  If Danny Boy Snyder is dissatisfied with a coach with a losing record over a five-year stint on the job, then he should fire Jay Gruden but firing him because two QBs broke a leg in two separate games this season is beyond stupid.

Let me offer a word here on the idea of the Skins firing Jay Gruden come January.  What is the enticing aspect of the football situation here in Washington that might get a “hot coaching prospect” salivating to come here?  Consider:

  1. Alex Smith’s injury may be career-ending.  At the very least, he will miss all the off-season OTAs and may not be able to play at all in the exhibition games.  As I understand Smith’s contract with the Skins, he will count for $50M against the salary cap over the next two years even if he never takes another snap for the team.
  2. Colt McCoy’s injury is less serious making him the de facto #1 QB on the roster.  McCoy is one of the best backups in the NFL and could probably be the starter for a handful of QB-deficient teams, but he is not a giant magnet pulling every aspiring NFL coach into the Skins’ orbit.
  3. The franchise itself is a mess.  The Skins braintrust needs to give thanks every day for the way the Browns, Bengals and Raiders are run.  The very public misadventures of those franchises allow the Skins’ on-field and off-field stupidities to happen outside the brightest part of the spotlight.

Bottom line:  Danny Boy Snyder can choose to fire Jay Gruden if he wants to do that, but he should not expect any top-shelf coaching prospects to line up at his office door to plead for the job.

Changing the subject to baseball, the Winter Meetings are on tap for next week.  I read a report that said the Cubs were “willing to listen to offers” for Kris Bryant.  Taken literally, I guess you should say that is a smart thing for them to do; there is no harm in listening.  On the other hand, I wonder how letting that kind of speculation percolate in the clubhouse benefits the team.  Kris Bryant is one of the ten best players in the game – and I personally would put him in the top five.  So, I said to myself that maybe Theo Epstein has lost some his “magic touch” when it comes to roster building.  So, I went to take a look at the Cubs’ moves over the last off-season.

  • Cubs signed starter Yu Darvish to 6 years and $126M.  He started 8 games last year and had an ERA of 4.95.  Not good at all…
  • Cubs signed starter Tyler Chatwood to 3 years and $38M.  Chatwood was coming off a year with an ERA of 4.69 but he did not do that well for the Cubs last year pitching to an ERA of 5.30 over the course of 24 games and 104 innings.
  • Cubs signed starter Drew Smyly to 2 years and $10M.  Smyly did not pitch at all in 2017 or 2018 coming off Tommy John surgery.
  • Bullpen signings were Brandon Morrow (2 years and $21M), Steve Cishek (2 years and $13M) and Brian Duensing (2 years and $7M).  Morrow pitched well for the Cubs last year; Cishek was underwhelming; Duensing had an ERA of 7.65.
  • The pitchers the Cubs subtracted from their roster included Jake Arietta. Wade Davis and Koji Uehara.  Arietta was more productive than all three of the starters signed; Davis had his worst ERA since going to the bullpen but still led the NL in saves and Uehara turned 43 years old doing something other than pitching in the major leagues.

Bottom Line:  Theo Epstein did not cover himself in glory in last year’s off-season.  Maybe he will “listen to offers” for Kris Bryant this year but my advice to him would be to avoid pulling the trigger.

Speaking of the MLB offseason, much of the focus of speculation so far has properly been on the futures of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.  They are both young and excellent players.  However, there are also reports that the D-Backs might be willing to trade Paul Goldschmidt.  If a team is looking for a big bat and a perennial All-Star and that team happens to “lose out” on the Harper/Machado sweepstakes, that team might do very well to acquire 30-year old Paul Goldschmidt.

Finally, Greg Cote of the Miami Herald had this comment about the Red Sox and their World Series parade last month:

“The World Series trophy was damaged by a thrown full can of beer during the Red Sox championship parade. That’s terrible. Talk about a waste of beer!”

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



Monday Morning Musings…

The CFP Selection Committee reportedly took until after 1:00 AM Sunday morning to reach whatever consensus is necessary to put Oklahoma in the CFP as the #4 seed joining Alabama, Clemson and Notre Dame in the tournament.  Personally, I would have preferred to see Georgia in that playoff slot based on my eyeball test; but I agree that Oklahoma has a strong case for playing in the tournament.  And as is always the case, there is controversy and angst afoot in the land over who got jobbed and/or who paid off whom to wind up with these four playoff teams.

Take a deep breath everyone:

  1. The CFP is not a perfect system; it may be improved upon one of these days.
  2. The CFP is a whole lot better – in terms of determining a national champion – than any of the methods used in the past to make that determination.

Please do not yearn for a return to the days of the BCS.  Even worse, do not recall fondly those days when conferences had contracts with various bowl games which – more often than not – precluded any possibility of the two best teams playing one another.  After the bowl games ended, the national champion was selected by a vote of people who had barely ever watched all the possible candidates play football.

There are simple answers to the fans of the schools that believe they were snubbed in this process.  Let me list a couple of them:

  • For Ohio State fans:  Do not lose to Purdue by 29 points.  Purdue’s record was 6-6.  And do not give up 51 points to Maryland who went 5-7 for the season.
  • For Georgia fans:  Do not lose to LSU by 20 points.
  • For UCF fans:  Stop pretending that playing a slate of AAC teams is equivalent to playing a slate of SEC teams or ACC teams or Big-10 teams or Big 12 teams or PAC-12 teams.  It is not.

The announcement of the 4 CFP teams puts the announcement of the myriad bowl pairings in the shadows – – where most of them belong.  The good news this year is that there are no bowl games where the powers that be had to dip below the level of “six-win teams” to fill all the slots.  Unless I have misread the schedule, there is only one bowl game this year where both teams hit the field with 6-6 records.  [That would be the Texas Bowl in Houston on December 27 where Baylor and Vanderbilt will meet to decide which team will end the season with a losing record.]

Out of the panoply of bowl games this year – not including the CFP games of course – there are only a handful that will make me pay anything more than passing attention:

  • New Mexico Bowl (Dec 15):  North Texas and Utah State are both 9-3; North Texas has gone north of 40 points six times this year; Utah State has scored 50 or more points six times this year.
  • Armed Forces Bowl (Dec 22):  Houston and Army will play in this game.  I enjoy watching Army play football.  If Holiday scheduling permits, I will tune into this game.
  • Peach Bowl (Dec 29):  Florida and Michigan should put on an interesting defensive game.  I believe I will be away from home that weekend and I am not sure the game is worth recording for later viewing – – but we shall see.

One big news item from the NFL yesterday is that the Green Bay Packers fired coach Mike McCarthy after losing at home to the Arizona Cardinals.  Recall that the Packers were 14-point favorites in that game despite entering the game with a 4-6-1 record.  There has been plenty of reporting that McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers were on different wavelengths regarding the style of offense and the play-calling this year.  If that is correct, then the onus is on Aaron Rodgers to play a lot more effectively in the remaining 4 games of this season and to be actively engaged in the team’s OTAs and training camp next year under a new coach and a new offensive system.  I don’t know if Rodgers and McCarthy had any significant difficulties, but it certainly has looked to me as if Rodgers has been less intense in his demeanor and approach to games this year.

Another big news item from the NFL over the weekend is the Kareen Hunt situation.  This is a “Ray Rice incident” in the sense that we have indisputable video evidence that Hunt hit and kicked a woman.  There is no doubt about that.  However, there is another sad similarity to the “Ray Rice incident” from several years ago.

  • This assault happened 8 or 9 months ago.  There are reports that the Chiefs were aware of the incident and were waiting for the legal process to sort itself out.  When the Chiefs released Hunt, they said it was not evident that he had lied to them about the incident.  I can shed no light on any of that; so, I’ll take it at face value.
  • There are also reports that the NFL has been “looking into” this matter for a while now.  And here is where the similarity to the Ray Rice incident from several years ago gets creepy.  Once again, the NFL with all of its investigators and security mavens is unable to find and review an existing video tape of the incident but TMZ Sports is able to do so.

Here is part of the official statement released by the NFL on this matter:

“Consistent with standard investigatory processes, the NFL continues to pursue a complete understanding of the facts.  The NFL’s ongoing investigation will include further attempts to speak to the complainants involved in the incident.  It will include a review of the new information that was made public on Friday – which was not available to the NFL previously – as well as further conversations with all parties involved in the incident.”

The wording “further attempts to speak to the complainants” implies to me that the NFL has not been able to talk to them yet.  The wording “further conversations with all parties involved” implies to me that they have at least exchanged pleasantries with the complainants.  Which is it?

And the elephant in the room is the tape evidence.  The NFL investigators were never able to get their hands on the tape.  Is that because they never thought to ask if one existed?

Normally, one would offer the benefit of the doubt to the investigator here as he/she seeks all pertinent information.  However, the NFL’s history when it comes to dealing with incidents of this type – and incidents where no “indisputable video evidence” ever surfaces – makes any benefit of the doubt difficult.  The cynic in me says this is a likely outcome:

  1. Hunt professes contrition for the incident and acknowledges that he has anger management issues.
  2. Hunt checks himself into “anger management rehab” and upon emerging from it says that he will undergo continued therapy supervised by Dr. Joseph Flabeetz.
  3. No charges are ever pressed related to the videotaped incident and the complainants never reveal why that is the case.
  4. The NFL investigation never collects any pertinent information.
  5. The NFL punishes Hunt for some or all the 2019 season and then he is reinstated as an eligible player in 2020.

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

“Automobile:  An individual land transport vehicle used mainly to provoke the extension of the human middle finger.”

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

Football Friday 11/30/18

After a discombobulated schedule last week, it feels as if cosmic order has been restored as Football Friday falls on Friday this week.  So, let me tee it up and kick it off…

In college football, the dominant stories of the past week fall into two distinct categories:

  1. The Conference Championship Games upcoming this weekend and the implications of those games for the CFP.
  2. Coaching changes at schools that are nowhere near sniffing a place in a Conference Championship Game.

Let me start with the coaching changes.  The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Paul Johnson will retire after whatever bowl game Georgia Tech plays in this season.  Johnson is 61 years old and has been in the coaching business for 40 years.  His first job was as a high school coach the year after he graduated from Western Carolina.  His first head coaching job was in 1997 at Georgia Southern where he was most successful winning two national championships in the division 1-AA playoffs.  After that he was the head coach at Navy before taking over at Georgia Tech.  His overall record as a college head coach is 198-89.

Via con Dios, Paul Johnson.

Another coaching change took place at UNC – to the shock of almost no one.  Juxtaposing Larry Fedora’s nonsensical remarks at the ACC coaches pre-season media day with two consecutive horrid seasons made it a no-brainer to put him out to pasture.  The surprise from UNC was the announcement that Mack Brown would leave the TV studio and return to UNC to take over the program there.  Brown had been very successful in Chapel Hill prior to leaving to take the Texas job.

Hiring Mack Brown raises an interesting question.  Is there a mini-movement within college football to seek out old-timers as coaches as opposed to seeking out the latest/greatest hot-shot coordinators who are still working on their second razor blade?  Consider:

  • Mack Brown is 67 years old.  His last time on the sidelines was in 2013.  He won the BCS national championship in 2005 and has a career record of 244-122-1.
  • Les Miles is 65 years old.  He just took the job at Kansas a couple of weeks ago shouldering the burden of trying to make Kansas football into something better than a laughingstock.
  • Herm Edwards was 63 years old last year when Arizona State pulled him out of a TV studio to run the football program there.  Edwards had never coached at the college level and had been on TV for the 9 years before his hiring.
  • Bill Snyder is 79 years old.  He was 70 when K-State hired him back for a second stint on the sidelines there.  Last year, K-State signed him to a 5-year extension to run through the 2022 season when he will be 83 years old.

If this is a trend, when should I expect to hear rumors about Lou Holtz (age 81) and or Lee Corso (age 83) taking over the football program at Whatsamatta U?

Lovie Smith is a youngster at age 60.  Moreover, his tenure at Illinois over the past 3 seasons has been “less than outstanding”.  His record there is 9-27 overall which is not nearly “good”, and his Big-10 conference record is 4-23 which is fairly described as “pathetic”.  Notwithstanding that record, Illinois just extended Lovie Smith’s contract for two more years meaning he will be there for the next 5 years.  Clearly, Illinois administrators are hoping that their football fortunes will take an upturn as Lovie Smith “matures” into his late-60s…

NCAA Conference Championship Games:

(Fri nite) Northern Illinois vs Buffalo – 4 (51):  In MAC-country, this is a big game – meaning it might actually draw 25,000 fans if the weather is decent.  Northern Illinois has lost two games in a row and is still in this championship game.  I just cannot get excited about this one.  If pressed, I would take Buffalo and lay the points, but no one is pressing me…

(Fri nite) Utah vs Washington – 5.5 (44.5):  The winner of this game will play in the Rose Bowl as the PAC-12 champion.  Washington beat Utah 21-7 two months ago.  Both teams rely on tough defense to win games.  I agree with the oddsmakers that the game will be low-scoring and because I believe that I will take Utah plus the points.

UAB vs Middle Tennessee St. – 1.5 (45):  UAB killed its football program and then revived it a couple of years ago; already UAB is in the C-USA championship game.  Other than that, I don’t find much to command my attention.

Memphis vs UCF – 3 (64.5):  The Total Line opened the week at 70 points and has dropped steadily all week long.  The winner is the AAC champion; and if that winner is UCF, it will require a certain set of college football observes to say once again that UCF belongs in the CFP as one of the 4 best teams in the country.  Hi-ho…  I think the falling Total Line is a recognition that the loss of UCF’s starting QB will likely change the way UCF approaches the game.  Purely a hunch, but I’ll take this game to stay UNDER.

Texas vs Oklahoma – 8 (77):  The winner here will be the Big-12 champion.  I like the format of the Big-12 here pairing the two teams in the conference with the best records in the championship game rather than two divisional champions where the strength of the two divisions might vary widely.  Texas won the previous meeting between the teams this year; it was Oklahoma’s only loss of the season.  The stat that is being widely disseminated about this game is that Texas coach, Tom Herman, is 10-1-1 as an underdog over the last 4 seasons.  I do not think Texas will beat Oklahoma again in this game, but I also cannot put any faith in the Sooners’ miserable defense to keep the game inside that number.  I’ll take Texas plus the points.

Louisiana-Lafayette vs Appalachian St. – 16.5 (57):  The winner here is the Sun Belt champ.  I’m sure that matters to alums from the two schools…

Georgia vs Alabama – 13.5 (63):  This is clearly the NCAA Game of the Week.  My first thought was that this spread was a mistake.  Almost 2 TDs in the SEC Championship Game???  Then I went and did some math; Alabama has won its SEC games – not counting the out-of-conference games against Louisville and The Citadel – by just over 32 points per game.  Since I can do that math, so can lots of other folks and that is why the oddsmakers have to put the number that high; if not, the books would be hugely unbalanced.  I think Alabama will win this game and Alabama may indeed blow out the Bulldogs much the same as they blew out other good teams this year such as LSU.  But lay that many points against a very good Georgia team at your peril…

Fresno St. vs Boise St. – 2 (53):  The winner here will be the Mountain West Conference champion; I’ll go out on a limb here and say that “State” is gonna win this game.  These teams met 3 weeks ago; Boise St. won that game at home by 7 points and the total points in that game was 41.  It seems to me that the Total Line here is inflated.  I like the game to stay UNDER.

Pitt vs Clemson – 27.5 (53):  The Panthers have pulled off some stunning upsets over the past couple of years, but if they win this game it will shake the college football structure to its foundations.  Frankly, I was not particularly interested in this game until I saw the spread open at 24 points and jump to this level almost overnight.  I think I’ll tune in just to see how the Panthers approach the game when everyone seems to have given them up for dead.

Northwestern vs Ohio St – 14.5 (61):  If the Wildcats win here the CFP folks will have to do some soul-searching.  They do not want to stage their tournament with no team from the Big-10; that would write off a large college football audience.  But if the Wildcats are the champions, they would bring 4 losses to the CFP.

One more NCAA Game of Interest

Stanford – 3 at Cal (46):  This game was postponed because of the poor air quality in Northern California due to the wildfires there.  This rivalry is sufficient that the game must be played even though it is “meaningless” with regard to any conference championship.  I like Cal at home plus the points in this game.

NFL Commentary:

Two weeks ago, there were lots of close games in the NFL.  This week there were more than a few games that were not in doubt in the 4th quarter.  Let me start with the games that were not exactly nail-biters…

The Bucs beat the Niners 27-9.  Jameis Winston threw for 312 yards and 2 TDs in the game.  More importantly, he did not turn the ball over even one time.  The Bucs’ defense is hardly fearsome and yet the Niners could not ascend to “double-digits” on the scoreboard.  Maybe – – just maybe – – Nick Mullens is not the second coming of Brett Favre.

The Pats beat the Jets 27-13.  The Pats ran the ball for 215 yards and amassed a total of 498 yards total offense.  This game was not nearly as close as the score would make it appear.

The Ravens beat the Raiders 34-17.  Lamar Jackson led the Ravens to this win playing like an NFL QB instead of a helter-skelter college QB.  He still has a lot to learn about being an NFL QB, but he outplayed Derek Carr in this game.  The Ravens had 242 yards on the ground; they scored on a punt return; they scored on a fumble recovery returned for a TD.  The Raiders have lost 6 of their last 7 games and all 6 of those losses have been by double-digits.  Shudder…

The Browns beat the Bengals 35-20.  The Browns ran off to a 28-0 lead and had it on cruise control for the second half.  The Browns broke a 25-game road losing streak with this win; the last time they won on the road was in 2015.  Both Baker Mayfield and Nick Chubb had excellent games against a Bengals’ defense that just plain stinks.  Andy Dalton suffered a hand injury late in the game and will be out for the rest of the season.  The Bengals season is finito.

  • [Aside:  Reports say that Marvin Lewis will be “moved upstairs” at the end of the season and that Hue Jackson – late of the Browns and with a recent coaching record of 3-36-1 – will take over the Bengals.  Good luck with that…]

The Chargers beat the Cardinals 45-10.  Midway through the first quarter, the Cards led this game 10-0; then came the deluge.  Philip Rivers completed 25 consecutive passes in this game; that might be easy if the defensive backs were all peg-legged pirates, but this was nominally against an NFL secondary.  Rivers ended the day 28 for 29 with 3 TDs.  The Chargers are only a game behind the Chiefs in the AFC West and – even if they do not catch the Chiefs – they are solidly in command in the AFC wildcard race.

The Texans beat the Titans 34-17.  The Titans looked good early in the game and then collapsed like a cot under a sumo wrestler.  The game turned with the score 10-7 and the Titans with 4th and 1 inside the Texans’ 5 yardline.  The Titans went for it; they got stuffed; the Texans took over and ran 97 yards on the first play for a TD; the Titans never recovered from that.  The Texans ran the ball for 282 yards on 33 carries.  That is 8.5 yards per carry.  Even if you subtract that 97-yard run from the total, the Texans gained 5.8 yards per carry.

At least there were some close games last week.  The Vikes beat the Packers 24-17.  After the game, Aaron Rodgers tried to indicate that the Packers’ season was not over and that the team merely needed to get to work and win out for the rest of the year.  Not meaning any disrespect for Aaron Rodgers, but that is not happening; the Packers are cooked.  As I watched this game, the Packers seemed to be going through the motions more than anything else; and I include Aaron Rodgers in that category.  Kirk Cousins had a nice game here on a national stage; he threw for 343 yards and 3 TDs with no INTs.

The Broncos beat the Steelers 24-17.  The Steelers certainly left points on the field in this game.  A runner fumbled the ball out of the end zone before crossing the goal line and Ben Roethlisberger threw a brutally ugly INT from the 1-yardline late in the 4th quarter.  Both were self-inflicted wounds.  The Steelers had 527 yards total offense – – and lost because they turned the ball over 4 times.  The Broncos are 5-6 as of this morning but look at their remaining schedule; it looks pillow-soft to me:

  • at Cincy – – winnable game
  • at SF – – winnable game
  • vs Browns – – winnable game
  • at Raiders – – winnable game
  • vs Chargers – – suppose the Chargers have their playoff slot locked up here?

The Broncos might post a final record of 10-6 this year.  From this vantage point, they should finish at 9-7 at the worst.

The Colts beat the Dolphins 27-24.  The Colts are making a serious run in the AFC South.  The Texans are in control there for now, but given the way the colts are playing, the Texans need to maintain their focus and keep on winning.  Andrew Luck threw for 343 yards and 3 TDs in this game, but he also threw 2 INTs to keep the game close.  This has not happened often in recent years, but the Colts’ defense came up big in the 4th quarter.  With the game in a one-score situation, the last two Dolphins’ possessions resulted in 3-and-out.

The Eagles beat the Giants 25-22.  It was a “tale of two halves”.  The Giants dominated the first half leading 19-11 at the break.  The Giant’s offense ran up 346 yards in the first half and then went into hibernation.  The Eagles ran the ball well in second half to set up key passing situations that Carson Wentz converted when needed.  The Giants had a 2-game win streak coning into the game, but it may have been a mirage; they beat two cellar-dwellers (Niners and Bucs) by a total of 7 points.

The Seahawks beat the Panthers 30-27.  The Panthers have now lost 3 in a row and this was the first home loss this year for the team.  Russell Wilson seemed to be running for his life for much of the game, but he still threw for 339 yards and 2 TDs.  Christian McCaffrey was outstanding in the game with 237 yards from scrimmage and 2 TDs.

The Bills beat the Jags 24-21.  The Jags are not only a bad team, they have no discipline or focus.  That is very odd for a team assembled by Tom Coughlin, but it seems to be the case.  For what it is worth, I am now convinced that Blake Bortles does not deserve any more chances to be the starting QB in Jax or anywhere else.  This is the Jags’ 7th loss in a row and they fired their OC, Nate Hackett after the game; Hackett is a scapegoat and nothing more; the problem is at QB and the commitment the team made to that QB in the last off-season.

The lack of focus/discipline for the jags was in plain view on a play you must have seen a dozen times by now.  With a Jags receiver tackled at the Bills’ 1-yardline, a scuffle broke out and Leonard Fournette – who was not in the game and was on the far sideline from the scuffle – ran about 50 yards to insert himself in the melee and arrived throwing punches.  He was ejected from the game and is suspended this week.

Oh, but it gets worse…  The Jags had the ball with first down at the Bills’ 1-yardline once order was restored.  Carlos Hyde – in for Fournette – lost a yard on 1st down.  Ok, that is not the end of the world…

  • Next came a false start putting the ball back at the 7-yardline.
  • Then, a TD pass was nullified by a holding call that put the ball at the 17-yardline.
  • On second and goal from the 17, Blake Bortles ran for 1 yard.
  • On third and goal from the 16, Bortles took a sack back at the 24-yardline.
  • Kicker, Josh Lambo, then put coal tar on this ice cream sundae by missing a 42-yard field goal.

The Cowboys win over the Saints last night was a classic example of a let-down game for the Saints.  With their record at 10-1 and with a 10-game win streak where they had covered the spread in their last 9 games, the Saints came out at half-volume.  Meanwhile, the cowboys were flying all over the field on defense and never allowed the Saints to generate any rhythm.  The Saints’ offense had been in a position to break the all-time NFL record for points in a season; they were averaging over 38 points per game; last night they scored 10 points.  The Cowboys are in a good spot to win the NFC East and make the playoffs.

NFL Games this week:

Indy – 4 at Jax (47):  The Colts have won 5 in a row; the Jags have lost 7 in a row.  The Jags will sit Blake Bortles (a good move) and replace him at QB with Cody Kessler who is 0-8 in his starts at the NFL level.  Leonard Fournette is out too on a suspension.  I’ll take the Colts even on the road and lay the points even on the road.

Carolina – 3 at Tampa (54.5):  This is a must-win game for the Panthers.  They are on a 3-game losing streak and could lose their inside track to a wild card slot in the playoffs with another loss here.  The Panthers are a miserable 1-4 on the road and they are only 1-6 against the spread in their last 7 road games.  The Bucs are not a factor when it comes to the playoffs; they are already playing out the string.  Tread carefully here if you are tempted to make a wager…

Baltimore at Atlanta – 1.5 (49.5):  This will be Lamar Jackson’s first start on the road.  The Falcons’ defense is not a great unit, but it is better than the defenses that Jackson has faced so far this year (Bengals and Raiders).  The game has more playoff meaning to the Ravens, but this is a dicey call.  If I had to make a prediction, I would suggest taking the game to go Over.

Cleveland at Houston – 6 (47):  These teams do not play one another all that often.  The Texans are 4-0 straight up and against the spread against the Browns over the last decade.  The Browns are certainly playing better under Gregg Williams than they were under Hue Jackson but not as good as the Texans whose 8-game win streak should be extended here.

Buffalo at Miami – 3.5 (40):  This game is in a dead-heat for the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  The Bills are on a 2-game winning streak and they were the underdog in both of those victories.  They are the underdog here too; is that an omen?  Have the Bills finally put some of the pieces together or have they just been fortunate the last two weeks?  Dolphins are hardly a top-level opponent; we shall see…

Chicago – 4 at Giants (44.5):  Is this a trap game for the Bears?  They are on the road; their starting QB may or may not play this week because he suffered a shoulder injury two weeks ago AND the Bears host the conference leading Rams next week.  Meanwhile the Giants season is over, and the Giants’ offense should be stifled by the Bears’ defense.  Unless, the Bears are looking ahead to next week…

Denver at Cincy – 5 (45):   Both teams are 5-6 but they are headed in opposite directions.  The Broncos’ schedule gives them hope to be a playoff contender late in December; the Bengals can start to plan their Caribbean cruise vacations for early January.  The interesting thing to look for in this game is how Jeff Driskel plays taking over for Andy Dalton.  Other than that, …

Rams – 10 at Detroit (55):  Neither team here is on a hot streak relative to the spread:

  • Rams are 1-6-1 against the spread in their last 8 games
  • Lions are 1-4 against the spread in their last 5 games

These teams are headed in opposite directions.  The Rams are on track to have a BYE Week in the playoffs.  The Lions are on a vector heading to their familiar spot as the cellar-dweller in the NFC North.

Arizona at Green Bay – 14 (44):  I know the Cardinals are bad; you need not work hard to convince me on that issue.  However, the Packers of 2018 are not nearly a juggernaut and they are a 2 TD favorite here?  I know that the Packers are undefeated at home this year (4-0-1), but a 2 TD favorite?

KC – 15 at Oakland (55.5):  Here is another monstrous spread; the Raiders are 15-point dogs at home against a division rival.  Al Davis just choked on his morning bagel at the Celestial Starbucks when he saw that in the Cosmic Post.  Andy Reid specializes in coming back strong off a BYE Week and the Raiders are just a flat-out mess.  Since Andy Reid took over in KC, his teams are 15-5 against division rivals.  If you ask me to justify that 15-point spread, all I have is this:

  • Name a team in the AFC that is clearly better than the Chiefs
  • Name a team in the AFC that is clearly worse than the Raiders

Jets at Tennessee – 10 (40):  This game is in a dead-heat for the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  The Jets are not a good road team over the past two years and they are 1-4 against the spread on the road this year.  The Titans need this game to remain playoff-relevant; the Jets have no such motivation.  Having said all that, this line looks awfully fat for a game where points ought to be hard to come by.  Just a hunch, but I’ll take the Jets plus the points.

Minnesota at New England – 5 (49.5):  This is a very important game for the Vikes if they hope to catch the Bears in the NFC North race.  However, the Pats are undefeated at home this year making this a tough road spot for the Vikes.  The Pats ran the ball a lot last week; I doubt they will do a lot of business against the Vikes’ defense with the run so expect Tom Brady to be airing it out a lot here.

SF at Seattle – 10 (46):  This was the game that Richard Sherman circled on his calendar back in July when training camp started.  This would be his return to Seattle and the game was going to be meaningful because Jimmy G was still the Niners QB and the team was not shredded by injuries.  The Niners are 0-6 on the road and only 2-4 against the spread in those 6 games.

(Sun Nite) Chargers at Pittsburgh – 3.5 (51.5):  This is the NFL Game of the Week.  The game was flexed to prime time from a 1:00PM start.  It is an important game to both teams who have their eyes squarely on the playoffs.  There are two interesting trends at work here:

  • Steelers are 12-1 in prime-time games – – 9-4 against the spread
  • Chargers are 2-8 in prime-time games – – 4-5-1 against the spread

The Chargers will be without Melvin Gordon here, but I like Philip Rivers with a hot hand in this game.  I like the Chargers plus the points.

(Mon Nite) Washington at Philly – 6 (45):  The Skins need this game to keep pace with the Cowboys – at least for the moment – in the NFC East.  I proclaimed the Eagles as “done” a couple of weeks ago and I stand by that projection here – – even if they win on Monday night.  From a wagering perspective, here are two things to keep in mind:

  • Eagles are 3-8 against the spread this year
  • Skins are 7-4 against the spread this year

Finally, Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times had this perspective on the Jets’ season so far:

“A motorist arrested on a DUI charge in Wayne, N.J., blamed his .13 blood-alcohol reading on the fact ‘I drank too much because the Jets suck,’ according to the police report.

“On the bright side, oddsmakers say he just might have a better chance of winning than the Jets do.”

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



The Dog Ate My Homework

The dog ate my homework.  As hackneyed as that excuse is as a way to explain why one has failed to do something that was required, you must admire the excuse for what it is.  It is not something easily disproven – – so long as you have a dog.  The first kid to use that excuse probably got away with it – once.  Did someone in the back of the room say, “Why is that interesting?”  Here’s why…

In Ireland, there is an amateur soccer league where there was a scheduled game between Ballybrack and Arklow Town.  To say that the game would be inconsequential would be to heap praise upon it.  Now, it attracted international attention because of the reason given by Ballybrack for the need to cancel the game.  Ballybrack said that one of its players had died in a motorcycle accident.

The good news here is that Fernando Lafuente is alive and well.  Now the folks who run this amateur soccer league have to figure out what to do with the Ballybrack side.  While they are figuring that out, please consider the downstream consequences of that excuse for canceling an upcoming game.

It is difficult to prove that the putative dog did not eat the homework.  At some point down the line, it was going to be very easy to prove that Fernando Lafuente was still vertical, taking nourishment and exchanging oxygen in the biosphere.  When that happened somewhere in the future, what would be the explanation of the Ballybrack braintrust?

Switching gears …  Croatia won the Davis Cup; this is the second time Croatia has won the Cup; the last time was in 2005.  Croatia is a small country in the Balkans; my long-suffering wife and I visited Croatia last June; the population of Croatia is about 4.2M folks.  When we were there, the Croatian team was making a run in the FIFA World Cup tournament and we saw firsthand the level of excitement and pride generated in everyone as the team progressed from game to game; Croatia was the runner-up in the World Cup tournament losing to France in the final game.  In the Davis Cup finals, Croatia and France were the competing sides.

When I saw pictures of the celebrations in Croatia after the team returned home after winning the final match in France, the scenes were reminiscent of what we saw last summer with regard to Croatian progress to the World Cup finals.  It is a small country, but the people there take their international sports competitions very seriously.

The Alliance of American Football (AAF) held its QB draft earlier this week.  There were 4 rounds in the draft; the league consists of 8 teams.  In the first round, 4 of the teams decided to protect one of the QBs that had been assigned to the team and 4 other teams went shopping in the QB market.  Here are the QBs that were “protected” in Round 1:

  1. Atlanta Legends protected Aaron Murray who played at Georgia
  2. Memphis Express protected Troy Cook who played at Tennessee-Martin
  3. San Antonio Commanders protected Dustin Vaughn who played at West Texas A&M.
  4. San Diego Fleet protected Josh Johnson who played at the University of San Diego.

There were 4 other QBs involved in this draft whose names may ring a bell with you:

  1. Birmingham Iron took Blake Sims with the second pick in the second round; Sims played at Alabama.  [The Iron took Luis Perez in the first round of this draft.  Perez is from Texas A&M-Commerce.  This could be the AAF’s first quarterback controversy.]
  2. Atlanta Legends took Matt Simms with the fifth pick in the second round.  He played college football at Tennessee.  Matt Simms is the son of Phil Simms and the brother of Chris Simms.
  3. Memphis Express took Christian Hackenberg with the seventh pick in the second round.  Hackenberg played at Penn State and was a second-round pick by the NY Jets.  That never worked out.
  4. The Salt Lake Stallions took Matt Linehan with the third pick of the fourth round.  Linehan played college football at Idaho and he is the son of Scott Linehan – the offensive coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys.

Moving on …  I understand that Curt Schilling is not the most loveable former MLB player out there and I certainly do not want to associate myself with 99% of his remarks/positions in the social/political realm.  Schilling is sort of like that relative who makes the family Thanksgiving gathering even more pleasant by notifying everyone that he will not be able to make it this year.  I get all of that…

And if that is the reason that Curt Schilling is not getting votes for the MLB Hall of Fame, then shame on the voters.  His situation is not the same as the shunning of players who were proven steroid users or players who were never caught using PEDs but … you know.  One can make the argument – and I have made it in the past – that using PEDs enhance the statistics that form the nominally objective basis for Hall of Fame enshrinement.  The whole concept of PEDs is Performance Enhancement after all.

Curt Schilling has more than a few wing-nut quality stances on economics, social issues and politics; moreover, he is all too willing to share them with folks even when he is not asked to do so.  He is not anyone I would want to spend a weekend with; he is someone who deserves objective consideration for the Hall of Fame.  [Aside:  Steve Carleton in rightfully in the Hall of Fame.  Go and check out the Wikipedia page for Carleton under the heading of “Media charges of bigotry and anti-Semitism”.  The views described there are also of “wing-nut quality.]

Finally, Dwight Perry had this comment in the Seattle Times:

“Fit Pregnancy Club, a New York City gym that opened a year ago, caters only to pregnant women and those with infants.

“It’s also the only gym where ‘water breaks’ takes on a whole different meaning.”


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



A Local Controversy…

The big local story of the day is that the Skins claimed Reuben Foster off the waiver list after the Niners released him in the wake of domestic abuse charges.  Obviously, that is a controversial decision and it illustrates the fact that elite athletic abilities can sometimes trump despicable off-field actions.

  • Make no mistake; Reuben Foster’s combination of youth, skill and rookie contract status makes him a top-shelf football commodity.
  • Make no mistake; Reuben Foster’s record of behavior off the field goes well beyond highly questionable.  [Apologies to Dan LeBatard there…]

This announcement is fodder for local sports radio yakkers.  To no one’s surprise, one of them did a poll on one of the Internet platforms and equally unsurprising were the results.  The fanbase is split into two camps of relatively equal size:

  • 55% said they liked the waiver claim
  • 45% said they disliked the waiver claim

In a column in this morning’s Washington Post, columnist Jerry Brewer noted that the team front office was not unanimous in its decision to make this waiver claim and that the team relied to some degree on positive testimonials from former teammates at Alabama who had played with Foster there.  [For the record, there are 5 Alabama alums on the Skins’ roster on the defensive side of the ball.]  I point that out to show that the team reportedly did some ”checking”/”due diligence” before making the waiver claim.

However, there is also a report in USA Today that says only one team in the NFL bothered to contact the Tampa police – where the alleged domestic abuse took place – about what the police knew.  That team was not the Skins; that team was the Philadelphia Eagles.  And you may ask now why that is interesting…

  • The Skins have a better record in 2018 as of this morning than the Eagles.  Ergo, the Eagles could have claimed Foster before the Skins had a chance to put in their claim.
  • If the Eagles indeed contacted the Tampa police and then passed on the waiver claim, it is fair to ask what they may have learned by that contact.  And what the Skins might have learned had they too contacted the Tampa police.

This situation will not be fully resolved for a while.  I fully expect there to be twists and turns along the way.  This will not be ignored in the environment of the MeToo movement.  And to really add some spice to the stew, this matter is now squarely in the hands of Commissioner Roger Goodell who has not showered himself in glory while handling domestic abuse matters in the past.

Moving along …  When Christian Yelich won the NL MVP Award this year, it created an interesting situation regarding MLB.  Consider:

  • The 2017 NL MVP was Giancarlo Stanton.  The Marlins traded him away in a cost reducing move.
  • The 2018 NL MVP was Christian Yelich.  The Marlins traded him away in a cost reducing move.

I think I am on relatively solid footing to assert that having two different players who recently won the NL MVP on a team ought to produce a team that generated excitement and enthusiasm in that team’s fanbase.  However, the Marlins traded both players away for economic reasons.  So, that makes me ask once again;

  • Is Miami, FL a sufficiently robust market for a MLB team?

In 2017, the Marlins drew 20,295 fans per game for 78 home games.  That is a total draw of just under 1.6M fans.

In 2018, the Marlins’ attendance cratered from that already low mark to an average of 10,014 fans per game.  That represents a drop of more than 50% year-over-year and a total draw of 811K fans.

In the 2010 census, Miami had a population of 399,500 people.  In that same census, other baseball cities were smaller – – and yet provided better team support for the local heroes.  Miami is bigger than:

  1. Oakland
  2. Minneapolis
  3. Cleveland
  4. Tampa
  5. St. Louis
  6. Pittsburgh
  7. Cincinnati

[Note:  I left off cities like Arlington, TX and Anaheim, CA from this list.  Those cities are indeed smaller than Miami, but those teams draw from nearby metro areas that dwarf Miami.]

It seems to me that the Miami Marlins ought to be on a short list of teams that MLB should relocate.

Finally, Dwight Perry had a comment recently in the Seattle Times related to a small drop in MLB attendance for 2018 as compared to 2017:

“Attendance at Major League Baseball games dropped 4 percent this season.

“Must have been all those players kneeling for the national anthem.”

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