Football Friday 9/30/22

When I was a kid, the Howdy Doody Show was must-see TV.  It began with Buffalo Bob asking the kids in the peanut gallery, “What time is it?”  The answer was always a feisty, “It’s Howdy Doody time!”

That was about 70 years ago so let me bring that up to date here.  What time is it?

  • It’s Football Friday time!

As usual, I begin with a review of last week’s Six-Pack.

  • College:  Last week = 2-1-0             Season = 6-5-0
  • NFL:  Last week = 1-1-1                    Season = 4-4-2
  • Money Line Parlays:  Last week = 1-2    Season = 3-6
  • Parlay Profit/Loss:  Last week = minus-$97      Season = minus-$216

            Paraphrasing Tony Kornheiser at the end of every PTI episode, I’ll try and do better the next time…

 

College Football Commentary:

 

The Linfield College Wildcats had last weekend off.  Their record for 2022 stands at 2-0 as they pursue another winning season in football – – something they have accomplished in every season since 1956.  Tomorrow they will open their Northwest Conference season hosting the Loggers from Puget Sound University.  Go Wildcats!

A third college football coach from my list of Coaches on a Hot Seat found himself out of a job before October 1st this year.  Georgia Tech fired head coach Geoff Collins and went further up the hierarchy in the Athletic Department and fired the AD too.  I do not seek to revel in the accuracy of my predictions here and I can assure you that I placed no hex on any of the coaches on my list.

Georgia Tech is 1-3 this season and Collins complete record at Tech was a less-than-gaudy 10-28.  When Collins came to Tech, one of his “objectives” was to recruit heavily in the Atlanta area and to “keep local kids at home”; that was a sensible strategy because there are good players in the Atlanta area.  Here’s the problem:

  • Georgia, Alabama, Florida and Clemson are close by Atlanta.
  • Georgia, Alabama, Florida and Clemson are bigger football schools than Georgia Tech.
  • Georgia Tech historically has had higher academic admission standards than those other 4 schools.

I am not sure that Geoff Collins – – or any other coach – – would be able to recruit Atlanta significantly more successfully than he did.  I wonder if the administrators at Georgia Tech have an over-inflated view of where their school stands regarding the football pecking order in 2022 …

I was having a conversation with a friend about college football and I said that the USC/Utah game looked like it would determine the winner of the PAC-12 South Division.  My friend reminded me that the PAC-12 had ditched the Division format for football and that the PAC-12 Championship Game would feature the two teams with the best conference records.  I had forgotten that tid-bit.  So, that USC/Utah game is still going to be an important one for the conference – – but it might also be a preview of the PAC-12 Championship game.  Same goes for Washington/Oregon…

Hurricane Ian has been ravaging Florida and continues to be a meteorological pain in the ass.  It has already caused several college football games in Florida to have been altered either in the date of the game or the venue for the game.  Moreover, as the storm makes its way northward, it could provide for some monsoon-like conditions in the Carolinas, Virginia and Maryland where there are plenty of games on tap.

Florida State canceled classes for this week and will closed the entire campus for Thursday and Friday as storm precautions.  Demonstrating the importance of football at Florida State, announced that it is:

“ … confident that we will be able to safely host Saturday’s football game against Wake Forest at its scheduled kickoff time.”

I hope the powers that be at Florida State are correct in their confidence with the most important word in that statement being “safely”.

Let me turn to some games from last weekend:

Baylor 31  Iowa St. 24:   This result leaves both teams with overall records of 3-1 but it is a conference loss for Iowa St., and it leaves Baylor without a conference loss  This win by Baylor potentially sets up some interesting and important Big-12 games down the line.  The game was close on the scoreboard and on the stat sheet; Baylor outgained Iowa St. by all of 10 yards in the game.  Two turnovers and 8 penalties by Iowa St. did the Cyclones in.

K-State 41  Oklahoma 34:  This game also sets up some big time interesting and important games for the Big 12 down the road.  The Sooners have a conference loss already and probably cannot afford another one if they want to be part of the Big-12 Championship Game.  The two teams combined for 1059 yards on offense and a total of 54 first downs in the game.

Texas Tech 37  Texas 34 (OT):  The Longhorns fall to 2-2 for the season and this is a conference loss for the team.  This sort of effort is either a significant let-down from the way Texas handled its business against Alabama three weeks ago – – or maybe Alabama is not the juggernaut we are used to seeing come out of Tuscaloosa.  My inclination is to see this as a let-down.  The stakes in the Texas/Oklahoma game are always big but this year they are VERY big.

TCU 42  SMU 34:  Bragging rights tilt toward Fort Worth in this rivalry game for 2022.  Two turnovers by SMU did not help their cause.

Buffalo 50  E. Michigan 31:  This was Buffalo’s first win of the year; E. Michigan was the team that went to play Arizona St. in the desert two weeks ago and beat the Sun Devils in their home stadium and caused them to fire Herm Edwards.

Clemson 51  Wake Forest 45 (OT):  This game was a back-and-forth game that Clemson dominated on the stat sheet.  The Tigers produced 112 more  yards on offense in the game; that normally does not indicate a game that went into OT.  Clemson was 16 for 23 on third down conversions for the game.

Notre Dame 45  UNC 32:    The Irish dominated the stat sheet gaining 209 more yards on offense than the Tar Heels.  UNC led 14-7 at one point but the Irish then put 31 unanswered points on the scoreboard.

Florida St. 44  BC 14:  The Seminoles improved their season record to 4-0.  This was as easy win; Florida St. led 31-0 at halftime.

Middle Tennessee 45  Miami (31:  The Hurricanes were ranked 25th in the country at keck-off; that is no longer the case.  According to the CBSSports.com ranking of all 131 teams in Division 1-A college football, Miami has been “demoted” to #56 this week.  This result was no fluke; Middle Tennessee had 507 yards of offense for the day and never trailed in the game.  Miami ran the ball 38 times in the game and only managed to gain 68 yards; that is 1.8 yards per carry.  Yuck!

NC State 41  UConn 10:  The Wolfpack remains undefeated at 4-0; no surprise there.  State produced 492 yards on offense and held UConn to only 160 yards for the day – – only 39 yards passing.  NC State did not punt the ball for the entire game.

Georgia 39  Kent St. 22:  The story here is that Georgia gave up 22 points.  They had only given up 10 points in the three games leading up to this one.

Auburn 17  Missouri 14 (OT):  Auburn led 14-0 at the end of the first quarter and had to wait until OT before it could put any more points on the board.  The winning play was when an Missouri player fumbled the ball on his way to the end zone in OT and an Auburn player recovered it in the end zone to preserve the victory.  Auburn had kicked a field goal in their first possession in the OT.

Tennessee 38  Florida 33:  The Vols remain unbeaten for 2022; the Gators’ record drops to 2-2.  There was not a lot of defense on display here; the two teams racked up a combined 1169 yards on offense for the day.  Florida QB, Anthony Richardson threw for 453 yards and 2 TDs in the game, but he also threw an INT and lost a fumble in the Red Zone in the 4th quarter of this game.

Texas A&M 23  Arkansas 21:  The Aggies returned a fumble for 97 yards in this game; that was the play that won the game even though it happened in the first half.  Arkansas had a chance to win the game with a 42-yard field goal – – but the doink was loud and clear on the attempt.

Alabama 55  Vandy 3:  There is nothing surprising about this result nor is there a great surprise on the stat sheet – – unless you are surprised that the Bama defense held Vandy to 14 yards rushing and a total offense of only 129 yards for the game.

Michigan 34  Maryland 27:  Michigan has better athletes, but Maryland refused to give in.  This was one of the more enjoyable games I have watched so far this year.  Michigan RB, Blake Corum carried the ball 30 times for 243  yards and 2 TDs in the game.  Each team was penalized only once in the game.

Iowa 27  Rutgers 10:  This represents a scoreboard extravaganza by the Hawkeyes even allowing for the defensive unit scoring a TD on a scoop and score in the first half.  This loss was a bit embarrassing for Rutgers because it was the 20th consecutive home loss to a conference opponent for the Scarlet Knights.  That is a Big-10 record the team would prefer not to hold…

Minnesota 34  Michigan St. 7:  The Spartans’ lone score came in the final minutes of the game after the outcome had been decided about 30 minutes prior.  The Gophers more than doubled Michigan State’s offensive output for the day.

Ohio St. 52  Wisconsin 21:  I am not surprised that Ohio St. won the game, but I did think the Badgers’ defense would keep the game a bit closer than this.

Miami (OH) 17  Northwestern 14:  I suggested last week that it might be a long season for fans in Evanston.  Here they just lost to a MAC team.  Not good at all…

UCLA 45  Colorado 17:  This was an offensive explosion for  Colorado – – but it was not nearly enough.  The Bruins outgained the Buffaloes by 206 yards in the game.  Colorado is winless this year and the easy part of its schedule seems to be in the rear-view mirror.

Oregon 44 Washington St. 41:  Oregon scored 29 points in the 4th quarter here to eke out a victory on the road.  The Ducks had 625 yards on offense for the day – – 209 more than the Cougars – – but it still took late game heroics to go home with a win.

Cal 49  Arizona 31:  This was another “defense-deficient game”.  Total offense for the two teams on the day was 1151 yards.  Cal RB, Jaydn Ott gained 274 yards rushing on the day – – and 3 TDs to boot.

Temple 28  UMass 0:  Temple is not very good, but they are good enough to shut out and dominate UMass leading one to wonder why UMass plays Division 1-A football.

James Madison 32  Appalachian St.  28:  Madison is undefeated this year.  I want you to know; James Madison is a good football team; it might well be the best team in the Commonwealth of Virginia.  In Week 1 this year, James Madison boat raced Middle Tennessee St 44-7; that is the same team that beat Miami this week.  James Madison is GOOD.

Western Kentucky 73  Florida International 0:  This was an epic beatdown.  W. Kentucky racked up 692 yards on offense while FIU only managed to gain 187 yards for the day.  Yowza!

Kansas 35  Duke 27:  Kansas is 4-0 for the season and might – – maybe? – be relevant in the Big-12 for the first time in more than a decade.  Kansas has not had a 4-0 record for the last 13 seasons.

I saved the Kansas/Duke game for the end of the review of last week’s games because already there are commentaries out there wondering if Kansas can keep hold of its second-year coach, Lance Leipold.  His is not a household name but he did enjoy lots of success in Division 1-AA football during his career.  While his record in his first year at Kansas was not good (2-10) one of those wins was over Texas; for success-starved Kansas fans, that was a moment of euphoria.

Now in his second year, Leipold has the Jayhawks undefeated in 4 games.  There are already 3 relatively high-profile openings for a hot coaching prospect (Arizona St. Georgia Tech and Nebraska) and there will surely be others at the end of the season.  Leipold deflects any sort of talk about himself and his future as you would expect; he points to the success of the Kansas offense under his offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki and urges reporters not to mention the Kansas offense lest Kotelnicki be lured away to higher paying offensive coordinator positions.

  • [People at Kansas refer to Kotelnicki as “Coach K” since he has a difficult name to spell and pronounce and it also has 10 letters in it – – much like the basketball coach with the same moniker.]

Kansas needs only two more wins to be bowl eligible this year.  Assuming the Jayhawks get an invitation to one of the myriad bowl games; it will be their first appearance in one for more than a decade.  If that happens, I suspect that one of two things will happen:

  • He – – along with “Coach K” – – will get generous contract extensions at Kansas – OR
  • He – – along with “Coach K” – – will be plying their trade elsewhere in 2023.

 

College Football Games of Interest This Week:

 

Northwestern at Penn St. – 25 (51):  Penn St. is not known as an offensive juggernaut, but they do have a pair or running backs who can dominate a game.  Northwestern has looked awful ever since beating Nebraska in Dublin Ireland to open the season.  Nevertheless, I would be leery of laying that many points…

Wake Forest at Florida St. – 7 (64):  My temptation here would be to take this game to go OVER if I knew that the field would be dry and the track fast.  But with the weather conditions in Florida being less than perfect for the days leading up to this game, I’ll pass.

NC State at Clemson – 7 (42.5):  Here is another game that could be weather-impacted.  The Wolfpack is 4-0 for the season but there is only Texas Tech might be considered a “quality win”.  This is their first real test for 2022 – – and the Wolfpack has Florida St. coming to visit next weekend.  It is litmus test time…

Ga Tech at Pitt – 22 (49):  The oddsmakers do not think the coaching change at Tech is going to make a big difference here.

Michigan St. at Maryland – 8.5 (60):  Maryland is no longer the doormat it has been in the Big 10; it is not “championship caliber” but they have talent, and they play hard.  Michigan St. is a mess; the record stands at 2-2 but those two wins were over weak opposition and the two losses against good teams were decisive ones.

Virginia at Duke – 3 (51):  Really?

VA Tech at UNC – 9 (53):  This is another game I would want to take as an OVER if I knew the field conditions were “proper”.

Navy at Air Force – 14 (38):  Navy is struggling again this year; Air Force looked strong against Nevada last week.  Service academy games tend to be very low scoring games because of the rivalry factor and because the element of surprise from the teams’ offenses is lacking.  I will check my local TV schedule to see if this game is on in this area because it should be interesting to watch.

Oklahoma St. at Baylor – 2 (56):  The Cowboys are 3-0 for the season but this is their first Big-12 conference game.  Baylor is 3-1 but its loss was in an out-of-conference game.  This game matters…

Iowa St. – 3 at Kansas (59):  Iowa St. lost a conference game last week and does not want to have a second black mark on its record this early in the season.  As noted above, Kansas is the Cinderella story of the year to date.

UMass at E. Michigan – 20 (53.5):  E. Michigan is 2-2 so far and their season has been a yo-yo to date.  The Eagles beat Arizona St. on the road; that is a good win.  The Eagles also lost to La-Lafayette and to Buffalo; those are bad losses.  Notwithstanding any of that, they are 20-point favorites in this game…

Oregon St. at Utah – 10.5 (54.5):  This is an important game in the PAC-12.

Florida International at New Mexico St. – 14.5 (55):  These are two bad teams.  FIU lost last week 73-0 while the Aggies beat Hawaii for their first win of the year.  And by the way, beating Hawaii is not much of a feather in one’s cap…

Colorado at Arizona – 17.5 (56.5):  Arizona is a mediocre football team; Colorado is winless and bad.  The reason Colorado is winless is that they do not score; the Buffaloes average only 11.8 points per game putting them at 129th in the country out of 131 teams.

Kentucky at Ole Miss – 7 (54):  Both teams have looked impressive so far in 2022.  This should be a good game.

Texas Tech at K-State – 7.5 (56):  Tech surprised Texas last week and K-State surprised Oklahoma last week.  Both teams should be ready for this game.

Texas A&M at Mississippi St. – 4 (45):  The Aggies have underachieved expectations so far this year, but I wonder if they are not the better team here.  State had trouble on offense against LSU and the A&M defense is of the same caliber.  I think the wrong team is favored here so I’ll take the Aggies on the road plus the points; put it in the Six-Pack.

Oklahoma – 6.5 at TCU (70):  The Sooners cannot afford another conference loss …

Michigan – 10.5 at Iowa (42.5):  I think this is the College Game of the Week.  It should be a slugfest featuring defense  by both sides.   Michigan averages 50 points per game this year while Iowa only scores 17 points per game.  However, Iowa leads the nation in scoring defense only giving up only 5.8 points per game.

LSU – 8.5 at Auburn (46):  There are unhappy boosters at Auburn who do not like the coach nor the AD there.  A bad loss at home will push a lot of the wrong buttons…

Alabama – 17 at Arkansas (61):  Arkansas is a good team; even for Alabama, that is a  lot of points to lay on the road against a good team…

Georgia – 28.5 at Missouri (54.5):  Mizzou is not a good team; even so, laying more than 4 TDs on the road in a conference game can cause a lot of agita

Bowling Green – 9.5 at Akron (51):  These are two bad MAC teams…

Georgia St. at Army – 8 (54):  Georgia St. is one of the winless teams at 0-4 as of today but they have lost to 2 good teams and another decent team.  Army has been Meh!  I have a hunch that Georgia St. can get off the schneid here, so I am happy to take them plus 8 points; put it in the Six-Pack.

 

NFL Commentary:

 

            Given the sloppy play in evidence in far too many of the early season games this year, my conclusion is that the NFL Exhibition Season is even more worthless than it has been recently.  The anointed starters for various teams play only a few snaps – if at all – in any of those exhibition games; the idea is to avoid injuries to starting players and that makes perfect sense.  The consequence of those logical coaching decisions is sloppy play and “not being on the same page” for the first 3 or 4 games of the regular season.

Football is a choreographed sport; Almost all the time, a play is successful when 11 players work in unison to achieve the goal for that play.  Linemen block; runners run to a spot where – presumably – there will not be a defender; all of this is done with timing and precision equivalent to the staging done by the Radio City Rockettes for their Christmas extravaganza.

Choreography is not taught in a classroom or by film study; it is taught on a stage or on a football field with repetition after repetition performed by a stable cast of characters.  At least the Exhibition Season used to get starters time together to hone their choreography; now teams just throw cannon fodder out there in the exhibition season and the owners collect exorbitant ticket prices for those false games.

Thursday Night Football has been streamed by Amazon Prime video for two weeks now; the audience for the first telecast was set at 11 million by Nielsen.  Some folks opined that the number was inflated by the game the NFL offered up as the first streaming spectacle – – Chiefs/Chargers.  So, what happened in the second streaming spectacle last week with the Browns and Steelers?  Nielsen says that audience was 12.5 million viewers.

Understand that the “average NFL regular season game” draws about 16 million viewers but those games are on cable TV which is in a lot more homes than Amazon Prime Video.  So, some observers wonder if the NFL “made a mistake” in signing an 11-year deal with the streaming service; my sense is just the opposite; the NFL has created another viable outlet for its games meaning more competition for its broadcast rights down the road.

In addition, Amazon seems to be a major beneficiary  here too.  I read a report that said Amazon sold more new Amazon Prime memberships on the day of that first streaming event than it had done on any day in the history of Amazon Prime memberships.  This deal appears to be a classic win-win:

  • The NFL has expanded the number of bidders for its rights fees – – all the while collecting about $1B per year from Amazon in the process.
  • Amazon has grown a core element of its business – – its delivery service – – faster than it ever did in the past.

Patrick Mahomes and Eric Bieniemy got into a spat at halftime of last week’s loss by the Chiefs and Andy Reid had to intervene; surely you have seen the video of that a dozen times by now.  Now, recall that last year LeSean McCoy expressed displeasure with Bieniemy saying there is a reason why Bieniemy never gets a head coaching position.  Andy Reid also stepped up to try to put that matter aside.  Next winter there will likely be a drumbeat for Eric Bieniemy to be a hot NFL head coaching prospect; if he does not get one of those jobs, remember these two incidents.

Rhetorical question for your consideration:

  • Did I – and plenty of other commentators – overestimate how much better the AFC was going to be this year relative to the NFC?
  • So far, the record in interconference games is NFC 6 and AFC 4.

Here is a quick tour around the league regarding last week’s games:

Ravens 37  Pats  26:  Lamar Jackson gained 100 yards rushing for the second game in a row.  Oh, and by the way, he also threw for 4 TDs in this game.  Compare that performance with Pats’ QB Mac Jones in the same game; Jones threw 3 INTs.  Bad news for the Pats going forward is that Jones limped off the field with what looked like a significant ankle/foot injury late in the game.  Backup QBs on the Pats’ roster are Brian Hoyer (a certified fossil) and Bailey Zappe (how long until he gets the nickname, “Zappity-do-dah”?)

Dolphins 21  Bills 19:  In case you had not noticed, the Dolphins are the only undefeated team in the AFC today.  I heard a stat on SportsCenter that the Bills are now 0-7 in one-score games in this year plus last year combined.  Considering that the Bills only lost 7 games last year – 6 in the regular season and 1 in the playoffs – that can be interpreted in two ways:

  • The Bills are really good and no one “blows them out”.
  • The Bills yield to the pressure of close games and fold at the end.

You make the call.

Last week, the Bills managed a total of 3 points in the second half of this game; this week they only scored 17 points on offense.  The victory here is doubly blessed for the Dolphins because winning erases the embarrassment of committing the “butt-punt” where the Dolphins’ punter punted the ball directly into the backside of his blocker leading to a safety.  Had they lost the game, that play would take its place aside Mark Sanchez’ infamous “butt-fumble” in NFL lore.

Sorry but I can’t resist:

  • As a result of the “butt-punt” the ball went out the rear of the end zone.  Of course it did…

Bengals 27  Jets 12:  For the first time in 2022, Joe Burrow looked like he did in 2021.  Given some time to throw, he was 23 of 36 for 275 yards passing with 3 TDs and no INTs.  The Bengals’ defense showed up too sacking Joe Flacco 4 times and forcing 4 turnovers in the game.

Vikes 28  Lions 24:  The Lions led 24-14 at the start of the 4th quarter and coughed up a hairball in the final 15 minutes of this game.  The Lions had the ball 4 times in the 4th quarter; here are the results:

  • 4 plays and a PUNT
  • 10 plays and a TURNOVER ON DOWNS
  • 5 plays and a MISSED FG
  • 5 plays and an INT

That is a classic come from ahead loss; that is why people say things like “Lions gonna Lion!”  While the Lions were imploding in the final quarter, the Vikes scored two TDs to win the game.  Kirk Cousins was 9 of 12 for 125 yards in that 4th quarter alone.

Bears 23  Texans 20:  The Bears won this game with a field goal in the final minute; the team that made the last mistake lost because that field goal was set up by an INT thrown by Texans’ QB, Davis Mills with a minute left in the game.  The Bears’ offense was “spotty” in the game.  The running attack was fine led by Khalil Herbert who gained 157 yards by himself.  However, Justin Fields threw 2 INTs and amassed a total of only 106 yards passing for the day.

Colts 20  Chiefs 17:   The Chiefs’ running game was non-existent; Patrick Mahomes was the team’s leading rusher with 26 yards in the game.   Moreover, there did not seem to be “peace in the valley” between Mahomes and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy as the teams went to the locker room for halftime (see above).  The game winning drive by the Colts in the 4th quarter comprised of 16 plays lasted 8 minutes and covered 78 yards.  Chris Jones was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty AFTER Matt Ryan was sacked on a third-down play giving the Colts a first down they did not earn.

Titans 24  Raiders 22:  The Titans led 24-10 at the half getting TDs on their first three possessions in the game – – and then scored nothing in the second half.  In the final 5 minutes of the game, the Titans’ defense recorded an INT in the end zone, and it foiled a two-point conversion attempt that would have tied the game.  The Raiders have the worst record in the AFC at 0-3; even the sorry-assed Texans are “better” at 0-2-1.  Making things worse for Raiders’ fans is that those 3 losses came by a total of 13 points.  In this game the Raiders were 1 of 12 on third-down conversions; that just stinks.  Just wondering:

  • Does anyone in the Raiders’ Front Office still have Rich Bisaccia’s phone number in their contacts list?

Panthers 22  Saints 14:  If Jekyll/Hyde quarterbacking is your thing, this was the game for you.  Baker Mayfield and Jameis Winston had you on the edge of your seat for 60 minutes of football.  Mayfield was 12 of 25 for 170 yards and a TD.  That TD pass covered 67 yards, so he gained only 103 yards through the air for the rest of the day.  Winston was far more prolific going 25 of 41 for 353  yards and a TD plus 2 INTs.  The Saints dominated the stat sheet but turned the ball over 3 times in the game to find a way to lose.

Eagles 24  Commanders 8:  In case you had not noticed, the Eagles are the only undefeated team in the NFC this morning.  In my pre-season NFL predictions, I had this to say about the Commanders:

‘The worst thing to happen to the team over the offseason was losing perennial Pro Bowl G, Brandon Scherff, to free agency.”

The Commanders’ OL is marginal in terms of raw talent; Scherff was the best player there by a good margin and was also a team  leader.  Last week, the Commanders’ OL allowed Commanders’ QB Carson Wentz to be sacked 9 times.  The Commanders only gained 240 yards on offense for the day and at least 150 of those yards came late in the game when the Eagles’ defense was playing soft coverage to run out the clock.  Jalen Hurts had another spectacular game completing 22 of 35 passes for 340 yards with 3 touchdowns and zero interceptions.  Devonta Smith also had a huge game here catching 8 passes for 169 yards and 1 TD.

Jags 38  Chargers 10:  With this win, Doug Pederson has won as many games as the Jags head coach as Urban Meyer did last year, and it only took him until the last week of September to do it.  Would I be wrong to think that the Jags are undergoing “Urban Renewal” this season?

The Jags are in the lead in the AFC South; their two wins have been solid defensive performances – – a shutout against the Colts two weeks ago and this game holding the Chargers to 10 points.  The biggest change from last year to this seems to be the play of Trevor Lawrence; he is confident and poised in the passing game and that could not have been said last season.

One other note here … Justin Herbert’s rib injury does limit his game.  The Chargers are going to struggle until he is healed, and I have no idea how long that will take.  And along that line, can someone explain to me why an injured Justin Herbert was still in this game in the final minutes when the Chargers trailed by 4 TDs?

Falcons 27  Seahawks 23:  The Falcons are not a good team so wining this game on the road against a team that enjoys a real home field advantage is a positive sign.   Cordarrelle Patterson gained 141 yards rushing and scored a TD to lead the Falcons’ offense here.  The Seahawks outgained the Falcons, but the Falcons offense was efficient averaging 7.1 yards per offensive snap.

Packers 14  Bucs 12:  The first two times the Packers had the ball in this game, they drove the field scoring 2 TDs and amassing 146 yards on offense.  After that, here are the Packers’ possessions in the game:

  • 6 plays and a LOST FUMBLE
  • 3 plays and a PUNT
  • 4 plays and a PUNT
  • 3 plays and a PUNT
  • 3 plays and an INT
  • 4 plays and PUNT
  • 3 plays and a PUNT
  • 4 plays and a PUNT
  • 8 plays and a PUNT
  • 1 play leading to END OF GAME

Total offense on those 10 subsequent possessions was 149 yards.  And the Packers WON this game…!  Before one jumps to the conclusion that Tom Brady is losing it when he cannot get his team more than 12 points in a game, please remember that his top 3 pass catchers did not play even a single snap in this game.

Rams 20  Cards 12:  The Rams’ defense is very good so the fact that the Cards outgained the Rams on the stat sheet is something positive for the Cards.  However, they never did get into the end zone in the game despite two visits to the Red Zone.  Kyler Murray was 37 of 58 in the game for 314 yards with no INTs or TDs.

Broncos 11  Niners 10:  Either this game was the best defensive showing by two teams ever or this game was offensive ineptitude on display from start to finish.  The only saving grace in the game was that it never was a two-score game, so every possession mattered.  Not that either offense did much of anything when they were in possession of the ball.  The difference in the game was a safety scored by the Broncos when Jimmy G managed to drop back in his end zone and step out of the back line on his own.  The Niners led 7-5 at the start of the 4th quarter and had the ball 3 times in the 4th quarter; here is what they did on those 3 possessions:

  • 4 plays and a PUNT
  • 5 plays and an INT
  • 2 plays and a LOST FUMBLE

Here is something that rarely happens in an NFL game:

  • The Niners’ defense forced eight “three-and-outs” in the game AND the Niners lost that game!

Browns 29  Steelers 17:  Simply stated, Mitchell Trubisky is not the answer at QB for the Steelers.  End of discussion…

Cowboys 23  Giants 16:  This game was either two really good defenses or two really mediocre offenses.  In the end, the Cowboys’ defense was better than the Giants’ defense.

 

NFL Games This Week:

 

The wrinkles in the mid-season NFL schedule start this week as we have the first “London Game” of the season.  The Vikes and the Saints will play there in a neutral venue for both teams.  If your cable system gets NFL Network, you can see the game there starting at 9:30 AM on Sunday morning.

Last night, the Bengals beat the Dolphins 27-15.  The Bengals’ running game looked anemic, but Joe Burrow was able to muster enough offense to keep the game under control.  Tua Tagovailoa was taken off the field on a stretcher in the second quarter with what looked like a severe head/neck injury, but late reports said he would be discharged from a Cincy hospital and would return to Miami with the team.

For this weekend…

(London Game) Vikes – 2.5 vs Saints (42.5):  The Saints will play with the mercurial Jameis Winston at QB; Winston is enigmatic when he is healthy – – and he is not fully healthy for this game.  On the other side of the field, Dalvin Cook is listed as questionable.  Best thing to do with this game is to tune in and admire the beautiful London venue – – Tottenham Hotspur Stadium – – for the game.

Titans at Colts – 4 (42.5):  This is an important AFC South game, and it sets up a rematch for these teams just three weeks down the road.  Both teams have a running back who can control the game; the two defensive units will need to bear up under significant pressure from the opponents run game.  In the passing game, I think more of Matt Ryan than I do of Ryan Tannehill – – but I do not trust either team here enough to pick for them or against them.

Bears at Giants – 3 (39): At the beginning of the week, this game was a “pick ‘em” game and the line moved to the Giants.  After watching the Giants’ game against the Cowboys on MNF last week, I have no idea why the line moved at all – – let alone in the direction of the Giants.  Both teams are 2-1 for now; neither team is particularly good.  In fact, even with both teams bringing a winning record to the kickoff, this is my Dog-Breath Game of the Week.

Bills – 3 at Ravens (51):  The Bills were stymied last week against the Dolphins in sweltering heat; that won’t happen this week in Baltimore, but the field might be soggy after Hurricane Ian’s remnants pass through the area on Friday and Saturday.  On a fast track, I love this game to go OVER – – but what kind of track will there be…???  I am going to trust the grounds crew and the field drainage system to provide something better than a bog for the game.  Give me the OVER here; put it in the Six-Pack.

Chargers – 5 at Texans (44):  The Chargers lost OT Rashawn Slater (for the season) last week and Joey Bosa left the game with a groin injury that needs surgery.  And remember, Justin Herbert is playing with a broken rib cartilage.  With everyone healthy, the Chargers would be a double-digit favorite here; who knows how they will play in their current condition?

Seahawks at Lions – 4 (48):  Both teams lost last week and did not look good doing so.  The Lions’ offense this year has been pretty good; the Seahawks’ defense this year has been pretty bad.  I think that is the matchup that will decide the game.  I am not sure I believe that I like the Lions to win and cover here, but I do; I’ll take the Lions and lay the points; put it in the Six-Pack.

Jets at Steelers – 3 (41.5):  This game was a serious contender for Dog-Breath Game of the Week; neither team is very good and neither team is particularly exciting to watch.

Jags at Eagles – 7 (45):This is the best game of the afternoon on Sunday by a wide margin.  The fundamental issue here is very simple:

  • Can the Jags’ defense – – which has been very good over the last two weeks – – stop/contain the Eagles’ offense – – which has been very good for all three games of this season?

Much too much will be made of this being some sort of “Revenge Game” for Doug Pederson returning to Philly; at most, that will be a minor factor in the game once the opening kickoff happens.  I do not like the Jags enough to take them to win outright here at Money Line odds of +230, but I do like them to keep the game close.  Give me the Jags plus the points on the road; put it in the Six-Pack.

Commanders at Cowboys – 3 (41.5):  The Cowboys’ defensive Front 7 must be excited for this game.  I’m sure all of them have bonus clauses for things like sacks and pressures and QB hits and tackles for loss; given how the Commanders’ OL played last week, there should be plenty of those stats to go around.  I think the Cowboys are the better team on both offense and defense and they are at home; I’ll take the Cowboys to win and cover; put it in the Six-Pack.

Browns – 1 at Falcons (47):  The Falcons’ offense showed signs of life last week against the Seahawks, but I wonder if the Falcons’ defense can handle the running tandem of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.

Cards at Panthers – 1.5 (43.5):  The Cards should have an exciting dare-devil offense if you believe all the hype about the chemistry between Kyler Murray and coach Kliff Kingsbury.  The only problem is that the Cards have no such exciting/explosive offense.  The Panthers, meanwhile, won their first game of the season last week, but that ought not indicate to you that this is a good team on a resurgence.  Watch this game only if you must; neither team is that good.

Broncos at Raiders – 2.5 (45.5):  I know this game will happen on 1 October, but this is a must-win for the Raiders lest they dig themselves into a hole in the AFC West that they cannot climb out of.  The Broncos’ offense has “struggled” – – to be polite – – in the first three games.  By now they ought to have their act together sufficiently to deal with a Raider’s defense that is “good-but-nothing-special”.  The biggest challenge for the Raiders here will be for the OL to hold its own against an aggressive Front-7 for the Broncos; to say the Raiders’ OL has been spotty so far this year is to be highly diplomatic.  Far too many uncertainties here to make a selection for the game…

Pats at Packers – 9.5 (40):  Looks as if Mac Jones cannot play this week meaning Brian Hoyer will be the Pats’ QB.  The Packers’ defense is not the best in the league – – but it is better than average and that spells a LONG day for the Pats.  The game is close enough to a double-digit spread in an NFL game for me to hate it.  Watch the game because it should provide interesting moves and countermoves made by Aaron Rodgers against Bill Belichick’s defense.  But do not wager on this game.

(Sun Nite) Chiefs at Bucs “pick ‘em” (46):  This is the Game of the Week.  The NFL has chosen to play the game in Tampa rather than relocate it to Minneapolis where the field will be vacant due to the Vikings playing in London.  Both teams lost last week and both teams had sluggish offensive showings last week.  Mike Evans will be back for the Bucs; is that enough to tilt the field in favor of the Bucs?

(Mon Nite) Rams at Niners – 2.5 (42):  The Niners seem to play the Rams very tough in the regular season; this is the regular season.  However, the Niners will be without Trent Williams at left tackle and Williams is a mainstay on that OL.  Neither team can afford a loss here; it should be a great game to watch.

So, let me review the Six-Pack:

  1. Texas A&M +4 against Mississippi St.
  2. Georgia St. +8 against Army
  3. Cowboys – 3 over Commanders
  4. Jags +7 against Eagles
  5. Bills/Ravens OVER 51
  6. Lions – 4 over Seahawks

            And here are two Money Line Parlays offered up for fun.  The basis for profit projections here is an imaginary $100 wager on each of the Money Line Parlays:

  • Wisconsin @ minus-270/Washington St. @ minus 185/Oklahoma @ minus -250  $196 profit if successful.
  • Cowboys @ minus-170/Steelers @ minus-170  $152 profit if successful.

Finally, let me close today with this item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“And from the Sometimes These Stories Write Themselves file comes word that Doug Ramsey faces felony battery charges for allegedly biting a man’s nose in a parking garage after the Arkansas-Missouri State football game.

“The accused carnivore is a top executive at Beyond Meat, a plant-based food company.”

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

 

 

Sixty-One And Counting …

Congratulations to Aaron Judge on his 61st home run of the 2022 MLB season.  I said here about 2 months ago that if he hits 62 or more home runs, I will consider that he is the proper MLB record holder for home runs in a single season.  The Yankees have 7 games left to play…

One other baseball note this morning …  I have a question for all Chicago White Sox fans:

  • So, how are things working out with Tony LaRussa managing your guys?

That was a very bad idea even before it ever popped up in Sox owner, Jerry Reinsdorf’s consciousness.

Moving on ….  The NFL has traditionally strived for “parity”.  Former NFL Commissioner, Bert Bell said, “On any given Sunday, any team can beat any other team.”  That is almost a mantra for the league.  The standings so far this season adhere to that maxim.  There are only two teams at 3-0 as we head into October; there is only one team that is 0-3.  The rest are bunched up in the middle – – ignoring the tie game which showed on that day two teams were equally capable or futile depending on whether you took the points or laid the points.

College football, on the other hand, has never sought or tried to pretend that there is parity among the major schools that field football teams.  College football has always been a game of “Haves” and “Have Nots”.  But that history might be changing slightly thanks to the transfer portal that has been created.  It is only a slight exaggeration to say that every college athlete – in any sport but I am only considering football here – is a free agent every year.  Therefore, a very good player at “Perennial Powerhouse U”, who is relegated to the bench because there are two excellent players ahead of him on the roster, can choose to go anywhere he can be confident of a starting job.  In that way, “Traditional Doormat College” gets access to talent they would not have had before the days of an unfettered transfer portal.

This player choice/mobility is good for ‘parity”, but it makes the players appear as mercenaries and that may not be beneficial for college football as an institution in the long run.  Rather than focusing on what might be a problem down the road, look at the “parity benefit” that seems to have happened this year.  There are 131 schools playing Division 1-A college football this year.  We have not yet reached October and only 3 of those schools have failed to win a game so far.  Those three are:

  1. Colorado
  2. Colorado State
  3. Georgia State

Granted, some of the teams that have won one game to date will end the season with only that one victory on their ledger; but my sense is that at the end of September in years past there were far more winless teams floating around out there.  Maybe a dozen or so at this time of the year?  As Peter, Paul and Mary once sang:

“For the times, they are a-changing…”

Next up …  The NCAA ceded control over college football to the various conferences about 25 years ago.  It maintains a façade of regulation in the form of eligibility criteria and rules governing recruiting, but the NCAA is about as competent as Inspector Clouseau in its oversight roles.  The measure of the NCAA’s incompetency in those sorts of roles is clearly demonstrated in a sport where the NCAA maintains direct control – – men’s college basketball.  The NCAA has been investigating Memphis University and coach Penny Hardaway for allegedly providing “improper benefits” to a recruit for the last several  years.  This week the Independent Accountability Resolution Panel (IARP) reached a conclusion in this matter.  Please ignore the fact that the NCAA member institutions have recently voted to get rid of the IARP entirely and focus on the IARP’s decision alone.  If you do that, you might understand why the IARP was voted out of existence.

The panel found:

  • Coach Penny Hardaway did indeed provide “impermissible benefits” to players including recruit, James Wiseman.
  • The provision of those “impermissible benefits” were not, however, major violations.
  • Memphis will pay a trivial fine; it will vacate a few wins because it used players who were ineligible – – due to having received “impermissible benefits” – – and it will be “on probation” for two years.
  • There will be no “postseason ban”; Memphis can continue to participate in March Madness should they win an automatic bid or should they be seeded by the Selection Committee.
  • Coach Hardaway will not even suffer a tongue-lashing – – notwithstanding the finding that he provided the “impermissible benefits” to players (note the plural noun here).

It seems to me that the folks at the NCAA and the folks on the IARP investigative team failed to finish reading Dostoevsky’s novel, Crime and Punishment.  There is a crime that was committed; in the novel, the perpetrator suffers punishment; in the Memphis case, there is no punishment.

If the “impermissible benefits” provided here were nothing but the equivalent of a jay-walking ticket, maybe someone can tell me why they are “on the books” in the first place?

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

“Ireland’s Ceola McGowan, 31, who just won the women’s title at the World Double Bit Axe Throwing Championships, is also an avid pole-dancer.

“Now THAT’s a modern biathlon the Olympics should consider.”

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

 

 

Patience Rewarded …

The folks who make and market Guinness Stout have an ad campaign that uses the slogan:

“Good things come to those who wait…”

Indeed, waiting for a bartender to draw a perfect pint of Guinness is a rewarding experience when one has a thirst.  In addition this morning, there is another blessing that has been dispensed to those of us who have been patiently waiting:

  • The NFL has pulled the plug on the Pro Bowl!

            Hallelujah!  Can I get an AMEN!  This is even better than waiting on a perfect pint of Guinness – – something that I have been known to do on more than one occasion.

The game had been on life support for at least the last decade – and probably the last three decades – but the league must have felt that it would lose some sort of stature within the pro sports community if it did not have its version of an “All-Star Game”.  I have trouble imagining another reason that the NFL kept propping up an event that used to feature an all-expense paid trip to Hawaii for players and families – – and the players found excuses not to go.  There was a time when players used to tackle in the Pro Bowl events; in recent times they did not even block one another let alone tackle.  The Pro Bowl spectcles became such a farce that they brought derision to the NFL, not prestige.

Finally, after years of suggestions that the game be scrapped, the NFL decided to take the leap and kill the Pro Bowl game – – and replace it with something else.  Let me be clear:

  • What the NFL proposes to do in place of a Pro Bowl Game may or may not turn out to be even marginally interesting.  We will not know that until we have gone through the experience of the new stuff a time or three.
  • Having said that, it is difficult to imagine that what is proposed can be significantly worse than the spectacles of the last few Pro Bowl exhibitions.

Here is an outline of what will replace the Pro Bowl Game according to ESPN.com:

  • Instead of a 3-hour travesty of a game, the new event will be called “The Pro Bowl Games”; they will be a weeklong series of events fitting into the two-week dead time between the Conference Championship Games and the Super Bowl Game.
  • The new Pro Bowl Games will have players from the two conferences engaging in “football and non-football skills challenges over several days.”  As long as the “skills competitions” do not get silly – – like having offensive linemen compete in a sack race – – these events could be entertaining if not meaningful.
  • The culmination of these skills competitions will be on the Sunday before the Super Bowl; there will be a flag football game between the NFC and the AFC.  This is a pitch-perfect ending to the new Pro Bowl Games because the old Pro Bowl had devolved into a flag football game minus the flags.

Because of the novelty of seeing accomplished athletes playing what is essentially a kids’ game of flag football, I might actually tune in and watch the event unfold.  That result would stand in stark contrast to the old Pro Bowl Game; I have not watched more than 5 minutes of  Pro Bowl Game for at least the last 25 years.

Whenever something new/different like this is announced, you can expect some PR gobbledygook.  Actually, some of the verbiage associated with this announcement is relatively simple and on-point,  From an NFL exec:

“We think there’s a real opportunity to do something wholly different here and move away from the traditional tackle football game. We decided the goal is to celebrate 88 of the biggest stars in the NFL in a really positive, fun, yet competitive way.”

Another sensible aspect of this new construct is that the NFL has spent time and energy over the past several years supporting and promoting flag football as a youth sports endeavor.  The idea of having real NFL stars playing flag football on TV where kids can see them competing can only broaden the interest of kids and their parents in flag football as a sports endeavor.

The Pro Bowl has been around for 70 years; the first one was in 1951.  When I was growing up, the Pro Bowl was interesting because it allowed me to see players that I had never seen because for part of my maturation, there was only a single local telecast available on Sundays.  I could read about players in California or Green Bay, but I rarely was able to see them.  Moreover, the players in the early days of the Pro Bowl may not have played the game at full speed, but they played a version of the game that was much closer to “real NFL football” than it was to “Flag Football”.

Times have changed since the 1950s and 1970s in myriad ways.  It took the NFL what seems like an epoch to realize that the Pro Bowl was no longer marginally relevant even as a showcase event.  Finally, they recognized what many folks have called for and have begun to evolve toward the “Pro Bowl Games”.

  • Good things come to those who wait…

Finally, let me close today with the definition of “competition” from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Competition:  The act of pitting one entity against another in a contest, with an eye toward determining a winner.  The very foundation of a capitalist society, it ensures that those who are willing to work the hardest, sacrifice the most, and rise above those who would challenge their dominance will ultimately be rewarded by soon becoming a delicious meal for worms.”

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

 

 

This And That…

The 700 Club is a long-running TV magazine program featuring evangelist, Pat Robertson and always presenting news and views that align with its own brand of Christian beliefs.  This program is not particularly interesting to me, but if it satisfies your viewing needs, have at it.

Here in Curmudgeon Central, there is a different “700 Club”; it is the MLB version of that label, and it has a new member as of last week.  Albert Pujols is now the 4th person in MLB history to hit 700 or more home runs in his career joining Barry Bonds, Henry Aaron and Babe Ruth.  Baseball has been around for 150 years or so; membership in baseball’s “700 Club” is exclusive indeed.

Moving on …  The Chicago Bears are moving ahead with their plans to leave downtown Chicago and Soldier Field to take up residence in a new stadium complex in the Chicago suburb of Arlington Heights.  The Bears have a purchase agreement to buy 326 acres of land including what used to be Arlington International race track.  The Bears say – for now at least – that their “single focus” is on developing that parcel and moving there.  The current plan calls for a new stadium that will NOT have a retractable roof but is characterized as an “enclosed structure” which implies a dome.  Except the folks leading this initiative refuse to use the word “dome”.

Part of the hype for this new playpen is that the Bears’ owners would hope that the facility would be able to attract top-shelf events other than NFL regular season games such as the Super Bowl and perhaps the CFP Championship Game.  You need not be a meteorologist or a climatologist to know that those two events take place in the late January/early February time frame and that Chicago is not exactly a “tourist destination” at that time of the year.  That means to me there must be a dome – or a much more expensive retractable roof – on any new facility there if it going to be useful for anything other than Bears; home games from about Christmas to April Fool’s Day.  So, this new venue will have to be “enclosed” even if they do not call the enclosure a dome.  Whatever…

For the moment, the Bears say they are not interested in considering anything other than this new facility; there is no “Plan B”, and they are not interested in listening to “Plan B proposals” from the folks in Chicago who manage Soldier Field.  Clearly, that is posturing, and such posturing is perfectly appropriate at this early stage in the planning process when approvals are needed, and some sort of governmental support or funding is essential.  The Bears say they will pay to build the stadium, but they will need governments to fund the infrastructure costs for the development – – roads, sewers, utility costs and the like.

Meanwhile, back in Chicago, the current mayor, Lori Lightfoot, has proposed putting a dome on the existing Soldier Field and upgrading the facility itself.  Absent from any of the highlights of that plan are where the Bears would play their home games while the renovations and dome are being constructed – – but the Bears dealt with that issue back when Soldier Field was last renovated about 20 years ago by playing their home games in Memorial Stadium at Illinois University.

Mayor Lightfoot’s proposed project would cost the City and the State about $2B and she says that even if the Bears move to Arlington Heights, her plan would be to use the renovated Soldier Field to get another NFL team in Chicago proper.  Long ago, the Chicago Cardinals and the Chicago Bears shared the Chicago market; maybe that plan could work again – – if the NFL is interested in abandoning one of its other markets in favor of another “shared city arrangement”.

Let me turn now to another NFL-related issue – – the Niners’ QB situation.  With Trey Lance out for the year with a broken ankle, I think the Niners’ team and coaches and braintrust have to hope for 2 things to happen:

  1. Jimmy Garoppolo does not get hurt such that he has to miss multiple games
  2. The Niners make the Super Bowl this year.

Regarding point number one above, the Niners’ QB room has 3 inhabitants as of this morning:

  • Jimmy Garoppolo
  • Brock Purdy
  • Kurt Benkert

The Niners have a solid roster and a good defense; but it is not likely that they can withstand having both Lance and Garoppolo “on the shelf” for extended periods of time.  And that brings me to point number two above:

  • Garoppolo is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2022 season.  

I think that is an important issue for folks in the Bay Area because Trey Lance – if I have counted correctly – has started a total of 21 football games since he graduated from high school and 17 of them were at the Division 1-AA level of play in college.  Trey Lance may be the reincarnation of Division 1-AA Hall of Famer, Kurt Warner – – or Trey Lance my be the sequel to Carson Wentz whom he followed as the starting QB for North Dakota State.  I am not saying that either Lance or Wentz is a failure; I am saying that neither has shown any reason to believe they are Kurt Warner who played his college football at Northern Iowa.

Let me say this again, I do not have nearly enough information to say that Trey Lance is a bust.  What I can say comfortably is that the only thing he has shown to date is “potential” and the working definition of “potential” is:

  • Has not yet accomplished much of anything of note.

The glib response here is that the Niners could re-sign Garoppolo in the offseason.  Yes, they could; but as an unrestricted free agent, Garoppolo will sign where he wants to sign and given the way he was hung out to dry by the Niners in the last offseason, I have to wonder if he would even consider going back there with Lance still in the building.  Obviously, there is a man-crush between Lance and Kyle Shanahan; if you were Garoppolo, would you want to be in the vicinity of that situation.

There are NFL teams that will be shopping for a QB come February 2023; Jimmy G is not a Hall of Fame quality talent out there on the market, but he is a guy who has shown the ability to win games in the NFL when given solid coaching and when surrounded by a competently constructed roster.  I will not be surprised to hear that teams like Carolina, Seattle, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Atlanta and Tampa put calls into Garoppolo’s agent if only to know what it might cost to bring him into their facilities.  If the Niners don’t make it to the Super Bowl this year with Garoppolo, then they had damned well better have been right in trading away what they did to climb in the draft to take Trey Lance because if they were wrong, they will be a while digging out from under the fallout from that decision.

Finally, let me close today with an entry from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Luck:  An intangible series of factors that lead to a good outcome.  By and large, these crazy, unpredictable fortunate circumstances are experienced by people who come from money and connections and not by poor schlubs like you.  Go figure.”

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

 

 

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels …

The story about the Boston Celtics suspending their coach , Ime Udoka, for an entire season broke late last week.  I purposely chose not to comment on it then for two reasons:

  1. It did not fit with the Football Friday format that was queued up
  2. I knew that I did not know enough about “the issues” here from the initial reporting.

Point #2 above pertained to almost all other commentators late last week, but it did not seem to deter many of them from jumping into the matter with both feet.  Since the first reports, we have had a press conference featuring the Celtics’ President of Basketball Operations and its majority owner explaining what the outcome here is.  And even with that event and questioning at that event, we still do not really know what kicked this snowball over the cliff.

What we know is that Udoka admitted to having a “consensual intimate relationship” with a woman who is associated with the Celtics in some unexplained role.  We are told he – and presumably the woman – were told to cut it out and Udoka says that he did.  The woman also said that Udoka made “unwanted and threatening remarks” at some point in this saga.  And for that, Ime Udoka will not coach the Boston Celtics for the upcoming NBA season.

I suspect we do not know the entirety of this matter even now.  The basis for my suspicion here is that this punishment seems awfully severe for a “crime” that seems to be almost commonplace in modern workplaces.  Office romances and trysts are not so rare that they are headline grabbing events and they are certainly not – in general – criminal events.  And remember, what happened within the Celtics was labelled as “improper, intimate and consensual”.  Therefore, I prefer to let this story simmer on the back-burner until I know a lot more facts about how we got from Udoka coaching the Celtics to the NBA Finals last  year to getting himself suspended.

However, there is one aspect of this situation and the reporting/commentating that surrounded it.  Ime Udoka is a Black male; that is a fact.  However, that fact is not sufficient for a knee-jerk response to cast a racial overtone onto the matter.  Let me say this clearly:

  • I do not know if there is any element of racism at work here and I suspect that the commentators who rushed to include racism in this story do not know either.
  • It is possible that this action is totally racially motivated by craven racists in the Celtics’ organization; it is also possible that race has nothing to do with this matter.

And spare me please form the protestations that this story has gotten more coverage than it would have if Udoka had been a White male.  Really?  Are you trying to tell me that when Urban Meyer (clearly Caucasian) was caught on tape dancing with a young woman – not his wife – in an Ohio nightclub last year that the story was buried?  Have you forgotten the amount of coverage given to Rex Ryan and his wife (both Caucasians) and their foot-fetishism?  In addition, I seem to recall a bit of coverage when Phil Jackson (certifiably Caucasian) and Jeanne Buss were “an item” while he was coaching the Lakers.

I know that Udoka has been severely sanctioned here and it will not surprise me even a little bit if he “resigns” from his position with the Celtics during the course of his suspension.  But until I know a lot more about what happened and what transpired in the organization after whatever happened became known to people other than the parties in flagrante delicto, I will reserve judgement related to the rectitude of the punishment and/or any racist element that may or may not obtain.

Let me switch gears here and focus on another scandalous topic that involves a prominent sports figure.  The Brett Favre/Southern Mississippi Volleyball venue epic has taken a dark turn.  Since the start of the investigation in Mississippi into the misuse and misappropriation of monies intended for welfare recipients, Favre maintained that he was unaware of any improprieties and/or malevolent intentions; he was simply doing what he can do in Mississippi and that is to lend his name and his fame to a cause.  Since I knew of no evidence to the contrary, I was prepared to take him at his word.

In the last week or so, however, reports have surfaced that Favre likely knew that what he was involved with and what he was doing was improper if not illegal.  According to reports, in one text message exchange between Favre and the Governor at the time of Mississippi, Phil Bryant, Favre specifically wanted to know if anything about his involvement in the matter could become public.  The then Governor assured him it would not be revealed because they do not make that sort of detailed information public.  Ooops…

Favre has admitted that he received money he should not have received because he agreed to return it.  There should be no attempt to put any nuance on the fact that he received money that he should not have.  The far more troublesome part of this story is this exacta:

  1. It seems that Favre knew he was doing something wrong – – AND – –
  2. What he was doing involved diverting funds away from genuinely needy people in one of the poorest States in the country in order to build a volleyball venue at his alma mater where his daughter was a volleyball player.

If you do not regard that kind of behavior as cringeworthy, I would suggest that you are far too deeply immersed in athletic idolatry.  This situation is a whole lot worse than “bad optics”…

Finally, you know that you have done something stupid when you become part of a headline at The Onion:

“Brett Favre defends use of state welfare money to build shelter for homeless volleyballs.”

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

 

 

Football Friday 9/23/22

For years, Hank Williams, Jr, would ask everyone, “Are you ready for some football?”  The answer always was, “Of course we are, if we weren’t, we would not have tuned in to hear you.”

Analogously, I had better be ready for a Football Friday here simply because it is football season and today is Friday.  So, off we go…

Did I hear someone inquire about the results from last week’s Six-Pack?

Against the Spread/Totals:  College = 2-0-0  Season to date = 4-4-0

                                                NFL = 2-1-1  Season to date = 3-3-1

Money Line Parlays:  Last week = 0-2  Loss of $200

                                      Season to date = 2-4  Net loss = $119

 

College Football Commentary:

 

            The Linfield College Wildcats extended their season record to 2-0 last week on Homecoming Weekend.   The Wildcats beat the University of Redlands Bulldogs 21-3.  That concludes the out-of-conference scheduling for Linfield; their next 7 games between this weekend and November 12th will all be against Northwest Conference teams.  This week, the Loggers of the University of Puget Sound come to McMinnville, OR to take on the Wildcats.  The Loggers have a 1-2 record so far in 2022.  Go Wildcats!

The college football season is only 4 weeks old; there are 131 teams that compete in Division 1-A football, and one might look at the results so far and wonder if “parity” is coming to college football.  If I have counted correctly, there are 33 undefeated teams – – about 25% of the field which is to be expected at this point in the season because far too many schools have scheduled nothing but patsies up to this point.  Now that conference games will begin to dominate the schedule, some of those apparently gaudy records will have to play one another and the list of “undefeateds” will shrink.

One example this week where two teams arrive at the kickoff with 3-0 records is the Kansas/Duke game.  That’s right; both teams are undefeated in 2022.  I wonder what the Las Vegas odds on that happening were back in July…?

  • Kansas has scored 159 points in 3 games
  • Duke has allowed 51 points in 3 games
  • Should be interesting…

However, it is at the other end of the spectrum that I am a bit surprised.  Again, if I have counted correctly, there are only 6 teams out of the 131 Division 1-A schools that are winless going into the last week of September.  Those six teams are:

  1. Buffalo
  2. Colorado
  3. Colorado St.
  4. Georgia St.
  5. Navy
  6. New Mexico St.

There were two firings in the coaching ranks this week.  Arizona St. parted company with Herm Edwards after the Sun Devils lost at home to Eastern Michigan.  Edwards had an overall winning record at Arizona State (26-20) but there are supposedly significant NCAA investigations looming there.  Given the potential for NCAA trouble and a loss to a MAC team at home, it was more than the folks in charge there could accommodate.

  • [Aside:  Back in August, I did a College Football Preview rant.  In that rant I had 5 coaches on a hot seat for 2022.  Two of those five – – Scott Frost and Herm Edwards – – are gone even before the calendar flips to October.]

After Nebraska fired Scott Frost, it named Mickey Joseph as the interim head coach for the rest of 2022.  One of the frustrations with Scott Frost’s teams is that they lost about 90% of the one-score games they played; Mickey Joseph had no such problem in his first encounter; the Huskers lost to Oklahoma by 5 TDs.  So, what comes out of that mess?

  • Nebraska fired its defensive coordinator, Erik Chinander.
  • Lest you think that is some kind of over-reaction, consider that the Huskers’ defense gave up more than 1200 yards to its last two opponents, Oklahoma and Georgia Southern.

Brad Dickson – formerly with the Omaha World-Herald, had this Tweet about the coaching situation at Nebraska:

“The last four Husker coaches were all fired within one year of receiving a contract extension. That’s when you know your school is a mess. ‘We’re extending your contract…no, wait, you’re fired!’”

Here is an overview of action last week in college football; I’ll start with that Oklahoma/Nebraska game:

Oklahoma 49  Nebraska 14:  The Huskers scored in the first two minutes of the game, but Oklahoma ran up 580 yards on offense and dominated the game.  Best thing to say about the Nebraska effort here was that they presented a balanced offense:

  • Yards passing = 164 yards
  • Yards rushing = 163 yards

Southern Illinois 31  Northwestern 24:  After a comeback win over Nebraska to start the season, Northwestern has not shown well.  They lost to Duke at home by 8 points and now have lost to a Division 1-AA (Missouri Valley Conference) team at home by a TD.  Looks like it could be a long season coming up in Evanston, IL.

Army 49  Villanova 10:  Army had lost its first two games; what it needed was a confidence builder and Division 1-AA Villanova provided it here.  Army had ZERO yards passing and only attempted one pass in the game.  However, on the ground the Cadets ran up 472 yards of offense on 55 carries using a total of 12 different ball carriers.  Army had 9 possessions in the game and scored a TD on 7 of those possessions.

Georgia 48  So Carolina 7:  Congratulations to South Carolina.  They scored a TD against Georgia.   The Bulldogs had not given up a TD in its first two games; the TD here came in the final minute of the game, so Georgia’s defense went 179 minutes without allowing a TD.

Notre Dame 24  Cal  17:  Cal led 10-7 at the half and 17-14 at the end of three quarters, but the Irish pulled it out in the fourth quarter for Marcus Freeman’s first win as the head coach there.  The game was dead even on the stat sheet:

  • Total offense:  Notre Dame = 297 yards   Cal = 296 yards
  • First downs:  Notre Dame = 16  Cal = 18

UCLA 32  So Alabama 31:  Not a good look for the PAC-12.  Yes, Sun Belt teams have pulled some major upsets this year, but the Sun Belt Conference should not be mistaken for the highest level of college football.  This was another even game on the stat sheet:

  • Total offense:  UCLA = 428 yards   S. Alabama = 396 yards
  • First downs:  UCLA = 23   S. Alabama = 22
  • Penalties:   UCLA = 4   S. Alabama = 4
  • Turnovers:  UCLA = 2   S. Alabama = 2

Attendance was only 29,344 for this game.  The Bruins really need to up the quality of their out-of-conference home games to avoid having the crowd in the Rose Bowl rattle around like a bee-bee in a boxcar.

Oregon 41  BYU 20:  This was a big win for the PAC-12 against a ranked opponent who was undefeated coming to the game.  It is not quite enough to erase the memory of Oregon’s opening game debacle, but it makes West Coast Football a bit more respectable.

Washington 39  Michigan St.  28:  Here is another big win for the PAC-12; the Huskies dominated the game rolling up 503 yards of offense.  Washington led 36-14 at the start of the 4th quarter; some “garbage time” movement by the Spartans made the score look more respectable.  The Spartans entered the game ranked #11 in the country; that changed significantly after this result; the CBSSports.com poll for example now has Michigan State ranked 34th in the nation.

Minnesota 49  Colorado 7:  This was an embarrassing loss for the PAC-12.  Minnesota is not the class of the Big-10, but it wiped the floor with this PAC-12 doormat.  The Buffaloes have a carryover problem from last season; they just can’t score; the offense stinks.  In 3 games this year, Colorado has scored a total of 30 points.  Last season, they averaged 18.8 points per game and that ranked them 121st in the nation out of 130 teams.

Ole Miss  42  Ga Tech  0:  This game was a complete drubbing.  The Rebels had 542 yards of offense while holding the Yellow Jackets to 214 yards.  Ole Miss gained 2.5 yards for every yard on offense by Ga Tech.  On the Jackets’ first possession trailing 7-0, they ran three plays and then had their punt blocked leading to a short field for the Rebels and a 14-0 deficit in about the first four minutes of the game.  Then things got worse…

Penn St.  41  Auburn  12:  The game was in Auburn and that result cannot make an already antsy set of fans and boosters at Auburn any happier.  Auburn turned the ball over 4 times in the game.  The Nittany Lion’s defense held Auburn RB, Tank Bigsby to only 39 yards rushing on 9 carries.

Appalachian St.  32  Troy  28:  The Mountaineers suffered a bit of a letdown in the game as is to be expected after beating Texas A&M last week and losing to UNC by only 2 points two weeks ago.  To win this game, the Mountaineers needed a 50+ yard TD pass completion on the final play of the game to secure the victory.

Kansas 48  Houston  30:  Kansas is now 3-0 and Houston is 1-2.  Man, did I ever overestimate Houston in the pre-season…   Houston led 14-0 at one point but then surrendered 28 straight points to the Jayhawks.  Kansas ran the ball for 280 yards in this game.  This is the first time since 2009 that Kansas is 3-0 and the first time since 2007 that they won back to back road games.

Bowling Green 34  Marshall  31  (OT):  Marshall – – like Appalachian St. – – had a letdown this week after a big upset over Notre Dame last week.  Marshall outgained Bowling Green 577 yards to 377 yards in the game but the Thundering Herd also turned the ball over twice in the game.  More like the Blundering Herd …???

Virginia 16  Old Dominion 14:  Virginia dominated the stats gaining 513 yards on offense compared to 324 for Old Dominion.  Three Cavaliers’ turnovers kept the game close, and it took a last-minute rally and a field goal as time expired for Virginia to come out on top.

Texas A&M 17  Miami 9:  This was a good game if you like defensive football where every possession matters.  Miami won the stat sheet but never got to the end zone and went 3 of 5 on field goal attempts.

Fla St.  35  Louisville 31:  The Seminoles are 3-0 after their backup QB, Tate Rodemaker, led them from behind to win the game.  Rodemaker came into the game due to an injury late in the first half and led three long TD drives to secure the game; three Louisville turnovers did not help the Cardinals’ cause.

 

Games of Interest This Week:

 

Baylor at Iowa St. – 2.5 (45.5):  These are two of the better teams in the Big 12.  It should be an interesting game.

UMass at Temple – 9.5 (44):  These are two bad teams no matter the conference or any other consideration.  It will be interesting to see which team is worse than the other.

Notre Dame at UNC – 2 (55.5):  The Irish will present UNC with the best defense it has seen so far in 2022.  But it must be noted that as of this morning, UNC ranks 6th in the country in scoring offense averaging 51.3 points per game.

Maryland at Michigan – 17 (64):  Both teams are undefeated so far in 2022; you can think of this as a yardstick game for both teams because neither team has played a serious opponent so far – – unless you count SMU as a serious opponent for Maryland.

Georgia Tech at UCF – 20.5 (56.5):  Tech coach Geoff Collins was another one of the five “Coaches on a Hot Seat” I named in August.  The Yellow Jackets are 1-2 in 2022 with the win coming over Western Carolina (not a big deal).  However, in the two loses to Clemson and Ole Miss, Tech has been outscored 83-10.

Minnesota – 3 at Michigan St (50.5):  This game is interesting because the spread opened the week with Michigan State as a 2-point favorite.

Clemson – 7 at Wake Forest (55.5):  These are two of the better teams in the ACC; both teams are  undefeated and both teams are in the Atlantic Division of the ACC.

Wisconsin at Ohio St. – 19 (56.5):  The Wisconsin defense has only allowed an average of 8 points per game so far in 2022.  The Ohio St. offense had averaged 47.7 points per game.  Something’s gotta give here…

Florida at Tennessee – 10.5 (62.5):  The Gators already have a conference loss; in the SEC East that is a serious problem.  This is the first conference game for the Vols.  It is way too early to call this a must-win game for them, but they really do not want to lose it.

Buffalo at Eastern Michigan – 6.5 (60):  Why is this game interesting?  Buffalo is one of the winless teams in the country.  Eastern Michigan just went to Arizona St. and pulled an upset there getting Herm Edwards fired.  I doubt either team will play an interesting game next week, but this one might be fun to keep an eye on.

James Madison at Appalachian St. – 7 (59.5):  Do not scoff; these are two good football teams.

Iowa – 8.5 at Rutgers (34):  That Total Line looks as if it came from a game in the 1950s, but it is real and it is constant across about 10 sportsbooks.  Iowa averages 13.4 points per game on offense and it allows only 4.3 points per game on defense.   Fortunately, the weather forecast for tomorrow does not call for a downpour or this game might go on forever.

Duke at Kansas – 7.5 (65):  A titanic inter-conference battle of undefeated teams…  Of course this is a game of interest…

UCLA – 21 at Colorado (57):  The problem with the Buffaloes is very simple.  They do not score points.  As of this morning Colorado ranks 129th in the country in scoring offense with 10 points per game.  I don’t think UCLA is a juggernaut, but Colorado looks to me to be the worst team in the PAC-12 by a bunch; give me the Bruins to win and cover even on the road; put it in the Six-Pack

Hawaii at New Mexico St. – 4.5 (53):  These are two bad teams – – and perhaps both are very bad teams.  The Aggies are dead last in the nation in scoring offense averaging a meager 8 points per game.  Their level of ineptitude will be tested this week because the Hawaii defense is similarly bad yielding 45.5 points per game to rank 130th out of 131 teams.  This is probably The Worst College Football Game of the Week.

Utah – 15.5 at Arizona St. (53.5):  The “new guy” at Arizona St. gets a baptism of fire with Utah coming to town.  As of this morning, the Utes are ranked 13th or 14th in the country depending on which poll you prefer.

USC – 5.5 at Oregon St. (70):  USC averages 50.7 points per game and Oregon St. averages 45.7 points per game.  This could be exciting…  I am not ready to crown USC as the team to beat in the PAC-12, but I think they are much better this year than in recent years; give me the Trojans to win and cover on the road; put it in the Six-Pack

Oregon – 6.5 at Washington St (57):  If Oregon hopes to be “relevant” at the end of the season, it must not lose another game…

K-State at Oklahoma – 12.5 (53):  K-State is much better at home than it is on the road and Oklahoma looks as if they are pretty good despite the defection of their coach and starting QB from last year.

Vandy at Alabama – 41 (65):  The schedule algorithm for the SEC made this game a necessity.  It is easy to point a finger at Alabama for scheduling cupcakes, but this one does not count…

TCU – 2 at SMU (70):  This is one of the most under-rated rivalry games in the country,  The two schools are only about 30 miles apart in the Dallas/Fort Worth corridor and bragging rights in that part of the world are most important.

Arkansas at Texas A&M – 2.5 (48):  I think this is the College Football Game of the Week.  Neither team has a conference loss so far in 2022 but the Aggies have that loss to Appalachian St. on their ledger, so they have little margin for error down the road.  I think the wrong team is favored here; give me the Razorbacks plus the points; put it in the Six-Pack.

UNLV – 2.5 at Utah St. (62):  UNLV is 2-1 this year which is more games than they won all of last year.  Nonetheless, they are road favorites here…???  Very interesting.

 

NFL Commentary:

 

People have not let go of the strange decision made by Broncos’ coach Nathanial Hackett at the end of the Week 1 game against the Seahawks.  He chose to go for a game-winning field goal from 64 yards  in the final minute of the game instead of trying for a first down on 4th and 5.  He explained that his plan all along was to “get to the 46 yardline and kick from there”.  Here may be why people will not let go of criticizing that “strategery”:

  • Since 1961 – the year of the birth of the AFL – teams have tried field goals of 64 yards or longer a total of 41 times.
  • Those gigantic attempts have been successful 2 times; that is a success rate of 4.9%  [Hat tip to Yahoo Sports for these stats]
  • And that was his choice when it came to a play call?

Granted the first Thursday Night Football game streamed over Amazon Prime was a top-shelf game; the Chiefs and Chargers would draw a large audience just about anywhere.  But I am still impressed by the numbers here; Nielsen says that 13 million people streamed the game.  That number is a little more than twice the audience that last year’s inaugural Thursday night game drew on NFL Network.

About 10 days ago, I ran across this stat and did not make a note where I found it:

  • Kyle Shanahan’s record with Jimmy G as his QB = 24-9
  • Kyle Shanahan’s record with “Someone else” as his QB = 8-28.

Last weekend Trey Lance started the game but exited in the first half, so Jimmy G took over.  I don’t know where to put that game in those stats above, but it does not matter.  The fact is that the Niners – — and Kyle Shanahan – – have been far more successful with Jimmy G under center.  Yet, there is a constant effort out there to get rid of him.

It is far too early in the NFL season to make Super Bowl projections but if you let your mind wander, you can come up with some interesting situations.  I got a note from #2 son earlier this week with an interesting perspective on two NFL fanbases:

  • “Our nation simply doesn’t possess the infrastructure or domestic security systems necessary to handle a Bills/Eagles Super Bowl.”

I said in my pre-season analysis that Frank Reich was on a hot seat this year if things went south for the Colts.  Well, the team is 0-1-1 early in the season and that loss was a shutout pitched by the Jags.  Jim Irsay is not exactly a model of patience; the Colts need a significant change in vector heading and they need it quickly.  The Colts were supposed to contend for – – and probably win – – the AFC South Division this year.  As of today, they own a loss to the Jags and have earned a tie with the Texans – both of them division opponents.

Amon-Ra St. Brown was a fourth round draft pick; last weekend, he tied an NFL record with his eighth consecutive game with eight or more pass receptions, tying Antonio Brown and Michael Thomas. Moreover, he is the only player in NFL history ever to have six consecutive games with eight or more receptions plus a receiving touchdown.   Last weekend, St. Brown had nine receptions for 119 yards and two touchdowns against the Commanders.

Giants 19  Panthers 16:    The game was close from start to finish.  At the start of the 4th quarter the score was 13-13; every possession mattered.  The stat sheet was equally balanced:

  • Total Offense for Giants = 265 yards
  • Total Offense for Panthers = 275 yards

Giants’ kicker Graham Gano hit two field goals from 50+ yards here; that was a big difference in the game.

Jags 24  Colts 0:  This was the 8th consecutive loss for the Colts against the Jags in Jax.  Are they allergic to something in the water there? The Colts managed only 218 yards on offense in the game and only ran the ball for 54 yards on 13 tries.  The Colts only ran 48 offensive plays in the game.  The fact that Matt Ryan tossed 3 INTs and was sacked 5 times did not help much at all.

Dolphins 42  Ravens 38:  At the start of the 4th quarter, the Ravens led 35-14 – – and lost the game.  That is not easy to do but it seems that “come from ahead losing” was the order of the day in the NFL last week.  Here are the Ravens’ possessions in the 4th quarter:

  • 5 plays and a TURNOVER ON DOWNS
  • 3 plays and a PUNT
  • 6 plays and a FIELD GOAL
  • 4 plays and END OF GAME

Meanwhile, the Dolphins scored TDs on their final 4 possessions to win the game.
Tua Tagovailoa had this stat line for the day:

  • 36 of 50 for 469 yards with 6 TDs and 2 INTs

BTW, do not try to pin this loss on Lamar Jackson in any way.  He threw for 300 yards and ran for another 100 yards in the game.  This one belongs on the Ravens’ defense.

Jets 31  Browns 30:  Here is another come from ahead loss last weekend.  Setting the stage, the Browns led the game 30-17 with 2 minutes and 2 seconds left to play – – AND – – the reason it was not 31-17 is that the Browns’ kicker missed a PAT on the TD that was scored with 2:02 left in the game.  Here is what followed:

  • Joe Flacco to Corey Davis for 66 yards and a TD with 1:22 to play; PAT is good.
  • Jets recover an onside kick but have no timeouts left.
  • Joe Flacco to Garrett Wilson for 15 yards and a TD with 0:22 to play; PAT is good.

Honestly, I thought only the Lions could lose that way…

Here is a stat I ran across at CBSSports.com that puts this performance by the Browns in historical perspective:

  • NFL teams had won the last 2,229 consecutive games when leading by at least 13 points in the final 2 minutes.
  • Last team to lose in those circumstances?  The Browns back in 2001.

And here is one more stat from the Washington Post:

  • Joe Flacco is 18-3 as a starting QB against the Browns in his career.

Cardinals 29  Raiders 23 (OT):  Yet one more come from ahead loss from last weekend…  The Raiders seemingly had this game in hand 23-7 at the end of the third quarter.  The Cards had the ball twice in the 4th quarter and produced 2 TDs with a 2-point conversion at the end of both scores to send the game to OT.  The Raiders also had two 4th quarter possessions producing 8 plays, 14  yards, 2 punts and less than 4 minutes time of possession.   Arizona won the OT coin toss but gave the ball away on downs; the Raiders drove to within field goal range when Hunter Renfrow fumbled, and it was picked up as a “Scoop and Score” for 69 yards and a Cards’ win.

Honestly, I thought only the Lions could lose that way.

Lions 36  Commanders 27:  Speaking of the Lions , they have scored 71 points in their first two games in 2022.  The Lions dominated the first half of their game last weekend and led 22-0 at the intermission.  Here is the result of the Commanders’ possessions in the first half:

  • 3 plays and a PUNT
  • 3 plays and a PUNT
  • 2 plays and a SAFETY
  • 3 plays and a PUNT
  • 3 plays and a PUNT
  • 6 plays and a PUNT
  • 6 plays and a PUNT
  • 1 play and END OF FIRST HALF

The total offense on those 8 first-half possessions was 39 yards.   Washington media decided to put a lot of blame on the Commanders’ defense for “faltering” in the game.  Let me be clear, the Commander’s defense played a not-very-good game but the blame for this loss belongs squarely on the Commanders’ offense for that first half showing.

Rams 31  Falcons 27:  This score is deceptively close; the Rams led this one 28-10 at the end of the third quarter.  The Falcons played hard for the entirety of the game; give them credit for that.  The potential for a great irony existed in this game.  The Falcons trailed 28-3 with about 10 minutes to play in the third quarter.  Falcons’ fans remember what that game situation has led to in the past – – and the Falcons came within 4 points of overcoming that deficit.  Had they tied the game and won in OT it might have been the greatest cleansing of a stain in the history of sports.

Bucs 20  Saints 10:  The score at the end of 3 periods was 3-3.  Then Tom Brady hit a 28-yard TD pass to put the Bucs up 10-3.  The Saints’ offense in the 4th quarter imploded; Jameis Winston threw 3 INTs – – including a Pick-Six – – in the 4th quarter and the Saints lost a fumble on another possession in the 4th quarter.

Niners 27  Seahawks 7:  The Niners dominated on the field and on the stat sheet; they outgained the Seahawks by 157 yards.  Geno Smith reverted to playing like Geno Smith in the game and the Seahawks’ rushing attack offered no real assistance gaining a total of 36 yards on 14 carries in the game.  The only score by the Seahawks came as a result of a blocked 20-yard field goal attempt that turned into a “Scoop and Score”.

Cowboys 20  Bengals 17:  It’s official.  The Bengals are suffering from “Super Bowl Loser Syndrome”.  They spent money on the OL in the offseason to better protect Joe Burrow this year.  Well, in this game that improved OL gave up 6 sacks.  Here is something else that is “official” and equally surprising:

  • Cooper Rush is 2-0 as a starting QB in the NFL over his 5-year NFL career.

The Bengals trailed 17-3 at halftime but rallied to tie the game late in the 4th quarter.  The Cowboys got the ball at their own 35 with 57 seconds to play.  Six plays later they hit a 50-yard game winning field goal leaving 3 seconds on the clock.  Almost a come from ahead loss but narrowly averted.

Broncos 16  Texans 9:  This game leads to an important question:

  • Did I overrate the Broncos, or did I underrate the Texans – – or both?

The Broncos’ offense has been disappointing at best even with Russell Wilson at the helm.  Granted it is only two games, but the offense has managed to put only 16 points on the board in both games.  Really?  Meanwhile the Texans’ roster is a bunch of no-names, but they have hung in twice against seemingly much better opponents.  The Broncos won the game despite this stat line from Russell Wilson:

  • 14 of 31 for 219 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT.   Meh!

The Broncos were plagued with delay of game penalties and in the 4th quarter the hometown fans took to chanting the time on the play clock loud enough to be heard on the TV audio of the game.

Pats 17  Steelers 14:  The Pats outgained the Steelers by 133 yards; usually that leads to a victory by more than a field goal.  The biggest stat difference in the game was yards per pass attempt.  The Pats gained 7.2 yards per attempt and the Steelers gained only 4.2 yards per attempt – – and the teams tried about the same number of pass plays in the game.  If you want to try to characterize this win by the Pats, perhaps the label “businesslike” is appropriate.

Packers 27  Bears 10:  Obviously, Aaron Rodgers has not sold his majority ownership shares in the Chicago Bears; he still owns them.  The Packers gained 211 yards passing and 203 yards rushing in a dominating win here.  The Bears’ young QB, Justin Fields, had a very bad night; the Bears net offense passing for the game was 48 yards; that is not a typo.  The Bears got a TD on their first possession of the game and then the offense went into hibernation; their next first down – – not a touchdown but a first down – – came in the middle of the third quarter.

 

NFL Games this Week:

 

The Browns beat the Steelers last night.  The best thing about the game was that it was close for most of the game such that every possession was important.  Having said that, this game was not exciting; the best player on the field was Browns’ RB Nick Chubb.

Ravens – 2.5 at Pats (44):  Is Lamar Jackson hurt or not?  Will he play?  If you do not know the answer to that question, do not bet on this game…

Bills – 5.5 at Dolphins (53):  This must be the Game of the Week.  Both teams are undefeated; it is a division game; both teams have looked very impressive to date.  The Bills will play this one minus three starters on defense so I see this game as an offensive explosion as the Bills seek to keep pace with a Dolphins offense that should have success on its own.  I like this game to go OVER; put it in the Six-Pack.

Bengals – 6 at Jets (45):  I know it is only Week 3, but this looks to me to be a must-win game for the Bengals or their season will be toast.  The Bengals have lost two games by 3 points each, but the opposition was not elite in either game.  The Jets are hardly elite either – – notwithstanding Joe Flacco pinning that label on himself in days past.  I am tempted by the OVER in this game but will resist that temptation.

Saints – 3 at Panthers (41):  The Panthers have to be desperate at this point and the Saints showed last week how they can melt-down almost as if on cue.  Do not bet on this tame…

Lions at Vikes – 6 (52):  The Vikes looked great in Week 1 against the Packers at home; then they laid a giant egg last week against the Eagles on the road.  The Lions have been a scoring machine so far this year – – and they give up points in bunches as well.  I like this game to go OVER; put it in the Six-Pack.

Chiefs – 5.5 at Colts (50.5):  Frank Reich and the Colts cannot afford to start the season 0-2-1 – – but the schedule maker decided that this was the week for the Chiefs to visit Indy.

Raiders – 2 at Titans (45.5):  Both teams need a win no matter how they get one.  As noted above, the Raiders lost last week in a dramatic collapse; the Titans lost to the Bills on MNF so badly that they pulled starting QB, Ryan Tannehill, in the 3rd quarter and threw rookie QB, Malik Willis to the wolves.  A win for the Titans here could set them up for a season turnaround.  After the Raiders, here is the Titans’ upcoming schedule:

  • At Colts
  • At Commanders
  • Vs Colts
  • At Texans

That is a pretty cushy month of October…

Eagles – 6.5 at Commanders (47.5):  The Eagles played an almost flawless game last week beating the Vikes and making Justin Jefferson look like a mere mortal in the process.  If they carry over that level of play, this will be a blowout – – but I don’t think the Eagles are yet ready to play to that level consistently.

Texans at Bears – 3 (39.5): This is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  About the only interesting angle on the game is that you might want to call it a “Lovie Smith Revenge Game”.  My guess is that no one outside Lovie Smith’s nuclear family will tune in to the game for that reason.

Jags at Chargers – 6.5 (46.5):  Justin Herbert is dealing with a “broken rib cartilage”.  Until and unless you know what his status is and until you see him play with however they accommodate his injury, this is a game to avoid at the betting kiosk.

Packers at Bucs “pick ‘em” (42):  If back in June when folks were analyzing the 2022 NFL schedule you had suggested that the Packers/Bucs game in Week 3 would have a Total Line of 42 points, you would have been taken off for a drug test.  Well, here we are … and the line makes perfect sense:

  • The Bucs’ defense is very strong and should make Aaron Rodgers and company struggle to score.
  • The Bucs’ offense will be without Mike Evans and both Chris Godwin and Julio Jones did not practice on Wednesday.  The Bucs went and signed Cole Beasley off the free agent market for this game.

Falcons at Seahawks – 1 (42):  This game got a moment’s consideration as the Dog-Breath Game of the Week but the rancid odor that will emanate from Soldier Field took this game out of contention quickly.  The idea of watching Marcus Mariota match wits with Geno Smith is less appealing than a three-day-old chamber pot.

Rams – 3 at Cards (48):  Kyler Murray was spectacular in the 4th quarter last week against the Raiders, but these guys are the Rams, and they have better players on defense.  I like the Rams to win and cover on the road in this game; put it in the Six-Pack.

(Sun Nite) Niners – 1.5 at Broncos (44.5):  The spread opened with Broncos favored by 2.5 points; that is a big swing.  Fans in Denver will be looking for more than 16 points from the Broncos’ offense this week and if they do not get it, they could “lose their sh*t” on national TV.  The problem is that the Niners’ defense is really good and might be able to hold the Broncos in check even if that offense were hitting on all cylinders.

(Mon Nite) Cowboys at Giants – 1 (38.5):  This is an important division game; there are plenty of good reasons to watch it – – but I cannot think of even one good reason to bet on two teams that are as flawed as these two.  Questions:

  1. Can Cooper Rush make it three wins in a row and keep his record undefeated for his career?
  2. Can Daniel Jones actually win three games in a row?

Tune in to find out…

So, let me review the Six- Pack:

  • UCLA – 21 over Colorado
  • USC – 5.5 over Oregon St.
  • Arkansas + 2 against Texas A&M
  • Bills/Dolphins OVER 53
  • Lions/Vikes OVER 52
  • Rams – 3 over Cards.

And just for fun, here are three Money Line parlays:

  • [email protected] minus-180 / Niners @ minus-125     $100 wager = $180 profit
  • Texans @ +125 / Chiefs 2 minus-240     $100 wager = $219 profit
  • USC @ minus-245 / Oregon @ minus 245   $100 wager = $103 profit

            Finally, it has been too long since I closed with a comment from H. L Mencken:

“Congress consists of one-third, more or less, scoundrels; two-thirds, more or less, idiots; and three-thirds, more or less, poltroons.”

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

 

 

The End Of The Robert Sarver Saga?

Yesterday afternoon reports surfaced that beleaguered Phoenix Suns owner, Robert Sarver, had “begun the process to sell the team.”  My reaction went along these lines:

  • Good.  Once this is accomplished that story can be put to rest for all time.  I have heard/read all I ever need to about Robert Sarver.

My grandfather – – in times of minor travail – – often said that we should ‘Thank God for small favors.”  To me, Sarver’s announcement seemed like a “small favor”, and I was more than happy to tip my hat at the opportunity to move on.  But that sentiment was not widely adopted by the community of sports commentators.

First, the statement issued by Sarver was parsed and of course when you parse almost any public statement related to a situation such as Sarver’s there will be atonal segments.

  • Sarver says he is a “man of faith”.  Maybe he is and maybe he isn’t; if he wants to stake out that position for himself, that is fine with me.  That was not fine with lots of others.
  • Sarver said he thought the punishment he was given was severe and that it would give him time to reflect and to put him on the “path to atonement”.  Dozens of people reacted to that as if he had advocated drowning puppies; how dare he assume he could ever atone.
  • The list goes on …

Second, the speculation began as to whether this was Sarver’s idea or if he was nudged in that direction behind the scenes by others in the NBA or possibly in the NBA’s “corporate partner world”.  For me, the important thing is that he sells the team and moseys off to a status of “non-person” in the sports world.  If that was his decision it is fine with me; if he was nudged – or even pushed – to make that decision, that is equally fine with me.

And finally, that public revelation awakened the dozing “Daniel-Snyder-is-a-slimeball” contingent leading to comments pointing out parallels in the alleged behaviors of Sarver and Snyder and the different outcomes – to date – in the two situations.  I doubt that I need to explain how feckless I think all those commentaries were and are.

Take a deep breath everyone.  When Robert Sarver sells the Phoenix Suns – – and the Mercury too – – he is going to make a lot of money on the deal.  That fact is NOT a cue for everyone to be outraged again; it is simply a fact.  Here is another simple fact.  Once he sells the team, he will no longer have his plaything; it will have been taken from him.  If you find Sarver’s behavior loathsome, take his loss of his plaything as the consequence of his loathsomeness, smile at such a consequence and then proceed to erase your memory banks of Robert Sarver.  Why keep him in mind?

Before I leave this topic – hopefully once and for all – there was one other line of reaction that I thought was interesting but not one that could easily be put to a test.  That reaction went along these lines:

  • There was a behind the scenes reaction by players and agents letting Sarver know that the Suns would not be a destination for free agents and that Suns’ players would be looking to move on and play elsewhere.  In other words, his team was destined to suck.

Once again, maybe that happened and maybe it didn’t.  But what I found interesting with that alleged scenario is that it requires me to believe that players and agents would be willing to work against their own financial interest.  If the Suns were to be “off limits” for free agents, that declaration removes one bidder for players’ services.  In economic terms, that reduces the demand for the services of free agent players and when demand is reduced, so is price in a rational free market.  Unfortunately, there is no way to test that assertion of applied pressure from players/agents – – but that part of the reaction to the Sarver announcement yesterday was much more interesting to me than other reactions.

Moving on …  Several weeks ago, I posed the possibility here of Paul Goldschmidt winning the Triple Crown in the NL. That feat has not been accomplished in the “senior circuit” in about 90 years; it would have been a cool thing.  Alas, it now appears as if that status is out of reach; Goldschmidt ranks second in the NL in batting average and in RBIs and is fourth in the NL in home runs.  However, all is not lost because:

  • Aaron Judge is currently leading the AL in all three categories.  There may be a Triple Crown winner this year after all.

I have been overly focused on Judge’s home run status in the past month or so as he stalks Roger Maris’ record of 61 “clean home runs” – – a record that has stood for 61 years ironically.  But Judge has been on a tear recently with more than just home runs; he has hit over .420 for the month of September and he now enjoys the following status as of this morning:

  1. He leads the AL in home runs by 23 blasts.
  2. He leads the AL in RBIs by 13 runs batted in.
  3. He leads the AL in batting average by .001.

For the next couple of weeks, Judge’s home run chase will be the stuff of headlines.  I doubt one could avoid following that story without retreating to a monastery in the Himalayas.  However, there is reason to focus on the agate section of your sports page too; that is where the progress – or lack thereof – toward an AL Triple Crown can be followed.

Finally, with Rosh Hashanah coming this weekend, let me close with this item from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Kosher:  Food that conforms to Jewish nutritional laws which were handed down by God in order that the Chosen People would never experience flavor.”

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

 

 

A Tale Of Two Coaches …

When Nebraska fired coach Scott Frost about 2 weeks ago, there were rumors/reports that Urban Meyer might be Nebraska’s target as a replacement.  Those things seem to have been more rumor than report because the current position of the Nebraska athletic department is that they are not going to pursue Meyer for the job.  Fine; take them at their word for that; but there is still space to fill in newspapers and websites, so the field is wide open for speculation and rumor-mongering.

Personally, I find the speculation that Deion Sanders would be the guy for Nebraska to hire to turn their program around and return it to national prominence is an interesting situation.  I find it interesting on several levels.

First is the assumption that Sanders’ stature in the Hall of Fame and as a double-sport athlete would allow him to bring top-shelf recruits to Nebraska.  In my lifetime, I believe I have spent 4 days in Lincoln, NE; that was sufficient for me.  Let me just say that there are other places where I would want to spend 3 or 4 years of my life; so, if Nebraska can get a coach with sufficient personal cachet to overcome some of its “bucolic-ness”, that would be a good thing for recruiting.  And there is at least one indicator that Sanders has some traction in that dimension.

Deion Sanders is the head coach at Jackson State University, an HBCU that plays in the SWAC with opponents there like Grambling and Southern and Florida A&M.  Sanders got a “5-Star Recruit” – – for whatever that is worth – – to pass on schools like Alabama and Florida and the like to come to Jackson State and play for Sanders.  That is not a feather in Sanders’ cap; that is worthy of a “Recruiting Trophy”.

Sanders took the job with no coaching experience but has gone 14-3 in his short tenure there.  Is that because he has been a successful recruiter playing against opponents who are “recruiting-impaired”?  Or is Sanders a great teacher in addition to being a competent recruiter?  Or could it both of the above?

Second, let me imagine for a moment that Nebraska decides to contact Sanders’ agent about moving from Jackson, MI to Lincoln, NE.  Their pitch cannot purely be money; Sanders is hardly destitute.  Their pitch could be that this is a chance to take over a program that used to be a national powerhouse so there is prestige associated with returning it to that state of glory.  The only problem is that if Sanders wanted that sort of challenge, he might keep his eye on his alma mater – – Florida St. – – where he might just have a chance to try that same sort of thing.

The problem with this sort of speculation is that at some point in the logical chain, one must assume something about Deion Sanders, or one must pretend to be able to read his mind.  Sanders is on the record more than a few times that he wants to use his fame and his talents to elevate Jackson State’s football program and as a consequence of that elevation to make the other HBCUs in the SWAC to do the same thereby elevating the athletic profile of multiple HBCUs.  Is all that just coach-speak or is that one of Sanders’ core beliefs?  I have no idea – – and probably Deion Sanders is the only human on earth who does know.

I find the speculation here interesting because Deion Sanders is an interesting character in the sports world, and he is young enough that he will remain on the scene for a long time – – if he chooses to do so.  Having exactly no objective insight into this matter, my guess is that Deion Sanders will not be the next head football coach at Nebraska.  But if the Florida St. job came open and the AD there came calling…???

I want to talk about another football coach today; Kyle Shanahan is the head coach of the Niners – – a team that some folks believe will be the NFC representative in the Super Bowl in February 2023.  Last weekend, the Niners lost their anointed starting QB, Trey Lance, to a broken ankle; he will be out for all of the 2022 season.  Fortunately for Niner fans, the team did not trade or jettison Jimmy G in the offseason so the team can employ the person who was THE most qualified backup QB in the NFL until the point last weekend where he was no longer a backup QB in the NFL.

Much of the commentary surrounding the Niners’ QB situation has focused on the potential for a seamless transition for the team since Jimmy G took the team to the NFC Championship Game last season and came within 4 points of making it to the Super Bowl.  The other popular “angle” for this story is speculation about how good Trey Lance actually is as a prospective NFL QB.  This would have been his second season with the team and his first as the starter after the team spent a lot of draft capital to move up and take him overall #3 in the 2021 Draft.

However, from my viewpoint here in Curmudgeon Central, I see a darker element of this situation.  I see a repeat of a young QB playing in Shanahan’s offense who gets severely injured.  I know; football is a violent game and injuries happen; but this one is eerie for me.

About 10 years ago, Kyle Shanahan was the Offensive Coordinator for the Washington team under its former moniker; his prodigy QB was RG3 and Shanahan devised an offense that featured a lot of RG3 running the football – – until he injured his leg.  Then, playing on that bad leg and on a field that was not worthy of hosting a high school game, Shanahan continued to call for RG3 to run the ball until the QB’s knee screamed “No Mas!”  I am not insinuating that Shanahan was responsible for RG3’s injury; I am saying that his play calling was an element that led to the injury.

Fast forward to 2022 with Trey Lance as Shanahan’s wunderkind .  I watched the play that put Lance on the cart headed to the locker room.  It was in the first half of a game against the Seahawks and the screen graphic said the Niners were ahead 3-0; the down and distance situation was 2nd and 8.  The play looked to me to be a designed QB run between the tackles which is the sort of thing that shortened the career of even a much larger QB, Cam Newton.  This was not a call in a tense situation where fakery might leave the defense vulnerable to a running play “up the middle”; this was a play that gained about four or five yards and put the starting QB out for the season.

  • [Aside:  I recall Lance injuring a knee in a game last season and I believe it too happened on a designed QB run.  I have not gone to try to find video of that play because I am way too lazy to go to that much effort – – so I could be wrong about the play that incurred the injury.]

As noted above, Niners’ fans must be happy to have Jimmy G on the roster and under center for the team.  Now, what they must hope for is the Kyle Shanahan does not try to use Garoppolo as a short yardage back more than once in a long while over the next 15 games.  The reason I say that is that the backup to Jimmy G on the roster now is Brock Purdy – a 7th round pick in April of this year who has never taken a snap in an NFL game.  And the Niners have reportedly held workouts with other free agent QBs such as:

  • Garrett Gilbert
  • Mike Glennon
  • AJ McCarron

If anyone in that trio is “The Answer”, I am at a loss to figure out what the question was.

            Just wondering here … Since Coach Shanahan loves to call for his QB to run the ball, does Colin Kaepernick still reside in the Bay Area?

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

“Yankees reliever Greg Weissert threw a two-hitter in his big-league debut.

“Well, sort of. He plunked A’s batters with his first two pitches.”

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

 

 

Over The Top Hyperbole…

As the early Monday night game was going on the air, the camera focused on Derrick Henry walking through the stadium tunnel presumably toward the field.  Play-by-play guy, Steve Levy, had the audio and was using the time and the visual image to praise Henry and to portend his impact on the game viewers were about to see.  In his enthusiasm, Levy went just a bit “above and beyond”; I did not record what he said so this is a paraphrase:

  • There is no running back like him in the league and maybe there has never been a running back like him in the history of the NFL.

Allow me, just for a moment here, to channel my inner Keith Jackson and say to Messr. Levy:

  • “Whoa Nellie!”

I have no issue with the first part of Levy’s pronouncement; Derrick Henry is unlike any other running back playing in the NFL in 2022.  In addition, I will stipulate that he is outstanding in what he does and would have been successful in any NFL era you might want to identify.  However, the part about no player in history being like Derrick Henry?  That is not simply an exaggeration; that is just silly.  For starters let me offer 3 examples of a power runner who was also very fast and who carried a huge portion of their team’s offense:

  • Jim Brown
  • Earl Campbell
  • Marion Motley

Feel free to add to that list.  Feel free to add Derrick Henry’s name to that list of players who are already in the Hall of Fame because if Henry continues on his career arc, he too will find himself enshrined in Canton.  However, do not feel free to try to convince me that Derrick Henry sits in a category of his own that no one else is fit to join him there.

Moving on… If you have followed these rants for any length of time, you know that I do not appreciate the delays and the interruptions caused by “instant” replays.  They serve a very useful purpose when they show sufficiently clearly the rectitude of calls on the field – – or not.  That is their benefit; the benefit is real.  But they take far too long to adjudicate; in some cases, they are the sporting equivalent of a filibuster.  Now, having said all of that, I am advocating for adding a new category of NFL coachs’ challenge to the menu.  I do not want to change how many challenges a coach will have but I want the following issue to be reviewable:

  • Did the offense get its play under way before the play clock reached zero?

Just last weekend, I saw at least a half dozen plays in various games where the offense was clearly and obviously late in snapping the ball.  I understand the explanation given by former officials who lend their expertise to broadcasts about the mechanics for the officials and how those mechanics might lead to errors in such calls.  However, if the call was challengeable at the choosing of the coach of the defensive team, some of those calls might be correctable.

And for the record, that is a replay that ought to be adjudicated in seconds after the video is cued up for review.  There would not nearly be time for the networks to “go to commercial” while that challenge is adjudicated.

Switching sports …  Reports say that the NBA and the NBPA are in negotiation to amend the CBA in a way that will allow players who are 18 years old – or older – to be eligible for the NBA Draft.  If that becomes a fact, high school players could go directly to the NBA as was the case between the 1970s and 2005 when the NBA and the union imposed an age limit for players in the league.  That decision by the NBA and the NBPA created the “One and Done Era” in college basketball.  Maybe it is time to create a new era…

If this change is made, the result will be a reduction of star players at the college level.  So what?  There are more than 350 Division 1 college basketball teams; in any year, maybe 50 players will choose to seek Draft status in the NBA or choose to go to the G-League instead of to college.  That is not a tidal shift for college basketball; in fact, it might not even be a ripple.

I am not sure this is a negative for college basketball at all.  If all the “basketball prodigies” take their talents directly to the NBA, college basketball might tilt back toward times when college teams had a core roster that played together for multiple seasons and grew together and got better together.  The wide-open transfer portal will work in opposition to that potential gain for college teams, but at least the absence of guys on the team who have no intention of ever playing past Year One will change the dynamic a bit.

I really enjoy college basketball; I prefer watching college basketball to NBA basketball even acknowledging the vast difference in talent on display in those two very different presentations.  Some folks who are similarly college basketball afficionados think this new rule threatens the sport of college basketball.  I disagree.  If there is a threat to college basketball in the rules that structure the game, I think the “transfer portal” is a much more serious threat to the game and the integrity of the game than a potential change to the NBA’s age eligibility.  With the emergence of NIL payments and the Wild West nature of the transfer portal, please do not try to tell me that player “tampering” does not occur.  That is the existential threat to college basketball – not the fact that a few dozen potentially great players might take a different path to professional basketball.

Finally, here is an observation by Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times:

“Iowa State has suspended its men’s hockey club the next academic year after an investigation found the club engaged alcohol abuse and personal humiliation of rookie members.

“In other words, 525,600 minutes for hazing.”

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

 

 

Monday Morning Meanderings…

The sport of tennis is losing another of its great players; Roger Federer announced last week that he is retiring from competitive tennis.  I am not going to pretend to know enough about tennis and about Federer’s game to make any sort of pronouncements here.  What I know is that when I watched him play in major tournaments, I liked to watch him play.  Part of my enjoyment came from his obvious skill; another important part came from the fact that he played the game without histrionics.  I never got the impression that he was doing anything out there simply to draw attention to himself; he seemed to play the game just because it was a game he liked to play, and he played it really well.

I have no idea if any of the young players coming up in the world of professional tennis has a similar demeanor and similar on-court poise as Roger Federer had; it would be very good for the sport itself if that were the case.

Moving on …  For months now, there has been an annoying buzz in the background regarding the involvement of Brett Favre in a scheme to divert funds intended for poor folks in Mississippi to the construction of a volleyball facility at Southern Mississippi where Favre went to school and where his daughter was a member of the volleyball team.  Favre was evidently given a million dollars for some sort of appearances he was supposed to make but never did and he returned that money when this investigation uncovered such activity.  At that point, I shrugged my shoulders, and my interest level was pretty low.  I am no longer shocked to learn that public funds are not always spent on things that are in the public interest nor on things that were intended by the legislators who appropriated those funds.  Early on in this story, I figured that Favre was simply lending his name and his fame to an enterprise he thought was above board but that various misdeeds were being manipulated by others.

Last week this story took a turn toward the sordid.  According to a report from NBC:

“Newly released text messages from NFL Hall of Famer Brett Favre show he was much more involved than previously known in pushing for millions of federal welfare dollars to be diverted from helping poor families to instead pay for a new volleyball facility at the school where his daughter played the sport.

“The messages, released in a court filing this week, also reveal that Favre sought reassurances from a nonprofit executive that the public would never learn he was seeking millions of dollars in grants that ultimately came from the Mississippi welfare agency.”

My reaction to the original story was that it was a “terrible optic”, but that Favre was not in on the scam.  Now, I have to wonder if maybe this is a case of much more than a “terrible optic”.  Evidently, the set of events involving Favre is only a minor part of the investigation going on related to misappropriated funds.  The FBI is involved and already the State of Mississippi has filed civil suits against 38 people related to $78M of welfare funds that were not delivered to welfare recipients.  Moreover, the investigation now also involves the former Governor of Mississippi, Phil Bryant.  What a mess…

The final item this morning will assuredly shore up my “curmudgeon cred”…  There seems to be an insatiable need for folks to engage in virtue-signaling.  Often, such signaling occurs around happenings that are symbolic at best and/or are transparently nonsense.  In other cases, the individuals or institutions that succumb to virtue-signaling have done something positive; but cannot just let that positive contributions/accomplishment stand alone and be recognized for what it is – – a positive accomplishment.

That latter situation seems to have taken center stage at Clemson University recently.  The Clemson Athletic Department “partnered with” – – Lord, I hate that phrase; “partner” is a noun and not a verb – – an organization, KultureCity and is now:

“ … the first collegiate program in the nation to be sensory-certified in all venues, ensuring all the programs and events that those venues host are sensory-inclusive.”

I was not clear on what it meant for a venue to be “sensory inclusive” and how one achieved such a status, so I read on in a public statement released by the university.  Here is what I learned:

“Clemson will ‘promote an accommodating and positive experience for all guests and fans with a sensory issue that visits athletic events at Clemson University.’

“Memorial Stadium, Historic Riggs Field, Littlejohn Coliseum, Jervey Gym, Doug Kingsmore Stadium, and McWhorter Stadium will all carry the certification and will have available sensory bags with noise-canceling headphones, fidget tools, verbal cue cards, strobe-reduction glasses and weighted lap pads at guest services stands for guests attending events in Clemson athletic venues.”

I have no problem with Clemson or any other school or professional team working to make their events positive experiences for a wide range of fans.  Somehow, this one seems to me to be a minor wrinkle in the overall athletic fabric; but if there are ways to accommodate a solution here, then kudos to folks who implement such accommodations.  But seriously:

  • Is a formal public statement necessary?
  • Was there any organized or staunch opposition to doing any of this?
  • Is this on a par with desegregating the water fountains in those venues?
  • If the answer to the three queries above is “No”, then why do you give in to the temptation to virtue-signal?  Go and “partner with” Nike and “Just Do It.”

I wonder what the next “Inclusivity Initiative” might be.  Perhaps they can make all their venues “Incontinence-Inclusive”.  Why not?  There is a segment of society out there who cannot enjoy a sporting event without potential significant personal embarrassment; should we not work to include them too?

Finally, let me close today with a statement about the concessions at athletic venues from Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle:

“If there are five or more people in line at a beer stand, everyone in line gets free beer. Hire more damn vendors. If we want to stand in line, we’ll go to Disneyland or the DMV.”

Hear!  Hear!!!  Shouldn’t we also be inclusive for the thirst-impaired fans…?

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