I Know It When I See It

Back in the 1960s, the US Supreme Court was dealing with the conflict between free expression and obscenity.  As part of his concurrence with a majority opinion, Justice Potter Stewart revealed his definition of hardcore pornography:

“I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description, and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.”

The US Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit (Philly) might have leaned a bit more heavily on Justice Stewart’s thinking this week.  A case was before the Court of Appeals that involves the status of college athletes as employees of the colleges for whom they play versus amateur student athletes.  According to a report in the Washington Post this morning, the Court said:

“… a test should be developed to differentiate between students who play college sports for fun and those whose effort ‘crosses the legal line into work’.”

Unfortunately, Justice Stewart is no longer an active member of the biosphere; he died about 40 years ago.  However, if he were alive, he might be able to look at various athletic situations involving colleges and college athletes and “know it when he sees it” regarding the question of playing for fun and “working.  Perhaps Justice Stewart’s thinking was too abstract, so let me offer another way to look at whether college football and basketball players are workers or just fun-loving kids:

  • “If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and swims like a duck, it’s a duck.”

Or consider a variant on that logic as expounded by the noted philosopher, Groucho Marx:

  • “He may look like an idiot and talk like an idiot, but don’t let that fool you.  He really is an idiot.”

Moving on …  Dan Hurley signed a contract extension with UConn earlier this week.  After winning two consecutive national championships, that sort of reward is hardly in the category of “shocking news”.  However, looking at the deal does raise some questions:

  • Hurley signed for 6 years and $50M.
  • Hurley turned down a Lakers’ offer of 6 years and $70M.

It would appear either that Hurley likes his East Coast life a lot better than he thinks his LA life would be – – or – – he made the assessment that coaching the LA Lakers with LeBron James and Bronny James would involve a level of drama that he just does not need in his life.  Or maybe it is both factors plus the dead solid fact that the $50M he will get from UConn is beyond the level of “chump change”.

Switching gears …  When people report on NFL revenues, they often use the terminology of “National Revenue”.  That category of revenue includes:

  • All NFL national media rights deals
  • All league sponsorships and “corporate partners”
  • All royalties from things like NFL Enterprises, NFL Films etc.

A recent report said that the “National Revenue” for the NFL last year was $13B; that is the revenue that is shared equally among the teams.  So, even if you account for the HFL Front Office skimming a couple hundred million off the top for its own usage, each owner will wind up in receipt of about $400M BEFORE the owner sold the first ticket or a fan bought its first $15 beer, or a car pulled into the stadium parking lot for $75 or … you get the idea.

Last year, the NFL’s salary cap, which is spelled out as a formula in the existing CBA, was $224.8M.  So, if you are wondering how or why an NFL franchise could possibly be worth $6B to a consortium of owners, just take a look at those figures.  Moreover, the way that the salary cap is defined in the CBA provides a measure of protection for the owners should a situation arise where “National Revenue” craters.  An NFL franchise is not exactly a license to print money, but it’s close.

Finally, I will close today with a couple other observations by Groucho Marx:

“Behind every successful man is a woman, behind her is his wife.”

And …

“Why should I care about posterity?  What’s posterity ever done for me?”

And …

“I didn’t like the play, but then I saw it under adverse conditions – the curtain was up.”

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

 

 

MLB Disciplines An Umpire

Let me begin today with another amazing sports stat that I learned from reading an email from #2 son:

  • Jerry Rice had 2,169 yards receiving after his 40th birthday; Rice played until he was 42 years old, so he had about 2.5 seasons to accumulate all those yards.
  • Question:  Who is second on the list of yards gained receiving after the age of 40 and how many yards did that player accumulate?

Answer is below – – no peeking.

MLB seems to have weathered whatever storm might have arisen regarding the “gambling incidents” surrounding Shohei Ohtani.  Personally, there are still too many unanswered questions dangling there for my taste; but that situation seems to be completely under control.  Later this year, MLB banned for life Tucupita Marcano – – a young infielder who saw limited action with the Padres and Pirates – – based on betting on baseball.  Marcano is certainly not well enough known to make that situation into a “crisis moment” for the league.

However, there is another gambling-related situation involving MLB that is simmering at the moment.  MLB has announced that it has “disciplined” umpire Pat Hoberg for alleged gambling activities.  The league did not specify what the “discipline” is, nor did it spell out the alleged activities that brought on the “discipline”.  Hoberg has appealed the “discipline” but the process by which that appeal will be resolved is not going to be open to the public; Commissioner Rob Manfred will hear the appeal.  Hoberg had this to say about his case:

“I have devoted my adult life to the profession of umpiring, and the integrity of baseball is of the utmost importance to me. I look forward to the appeal process, and I am grateful that the Major League Baseball Umpires Association is supporting me in the appeal.”

MLB’s rules and policies forbid any player, owner, manager, coach or official to bet on baseball at any level of competition.  So, it is well within the realm of possibility that Hoberg’s “discipline” could involve him betting on something like the College World Series or – – perish the thought – – the Little League World Series. Hoberg has not seen the field as an umpire at all in the 2024 season; and given the pacing of decisions on things like appeals by a union, I would be surprised to learn that he was cleared of all charges and back in the good graces of MLB before the end of the 2024 season.

It seems to me that there are multiple outcomes here that present varying degrees of agita for MLB:

  • Hoberg bet on MLB games where he was on the field.  The worst.
  • Hoberg bet on MLB games where he was not involved.  Not as bad but still awful.
  • Hoberg bet on minor league games.  Should be “disciplined’ for stupidity.
  • Hoberg bet on college games.  Another level of stupidity
  • Hoberg bet on sports other than baseball but did so in venues where such wagering is illegal.  Probably more a matter for the gendarmes than MLB.
  • Hoberg and his next-door neighbor have kids on rival Little League teams and the two fathers bet a beer on the outcome of a game involving the two kids.  There is a rule and I guess it should be enforced, but maybe in this case the rule is stupid?

The “worst possible situation” appears to be off the table based on a statement released by MLB earlier:

“While MLB’s investigation did not find any evidence that games worked by Mr. Hoberg were compromised or manipulated in any way, MLB determined that discipline was warranted.”

[Aside:  This investigation began during Spring Training in 2024.]

Here is the answer to the Trivia Question from above:

  • Second to Jerry Rice in receiving yards gained after the age of 40 is – – Tom Brady.
  • In 2018, at the age of 41, Tom Brady caught one pass for 6 yards.

Now, you know…

Finally, let me close today with these words of wisdom from Ted Williams:

“If you don’t think too good, don’t think too much.”

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

 

 

New NFL Stadiums

Has there been some sort of secret alliance forged between the NFL and the various unions that represent construction workers?  At a time in America when conspiracy theories run rampant where the absence of evidence becomes probative in support of a conspiracy, perhaps we should take a look here.  NFL teams – – and their owners – – have a long history of getting localities to pay for stadiums using the threat of moving to a different locality as the leverage point.  But perhaps that threat has become threadbare?  After all, would anyone take seriously a threat by the Chicago Bears – – a team needing/wanting a new playpen – – to pick up stakes and abandon the Chicago market to begin a new life as the Albuquerque Anteaters?

So, if that time worn threat has lost some of its cachet, maybe the NFL mavens have opened up the playbook so to speak.  Maybe they have secretly allied themselves with the union workers who would build stadiums if only those recalcitrant local legislators would pass the funding measures that would put shovels in the ground for said new stadiums.  Team owners can offer the hope and glory of “development” and “civic pride” to those legislators; construction unions can offer votes.  And there is one thing that remains true for politicians at every level of government in the US:

  • Priority #1 is to get re-elected.
  • Priority #2 – #99 is anything and everything else.

Look around the NFL and take your eyes off any sort of news involving trades or free agent signings or analyses of backup QBs and focus on teams in the process of building a new stadium – – with significant public expenditures – – plus those who are still “working the phones” to get that funding approved so they too can provide work to those construction workers.

  1. Bills:  The shovels are in the ground; the foundations have been excavated; the new stadium is emerging; it is set to open at the start of the 2026 season.
  2. Bears:  The team tried to use the ploy of “build a new one or we move” even going to the point of buying up the old Arlington International Racecourse property, but that charade worked about as well as did the man behind the curtain in The Wizard of Oz.  However, local pols are now considering options and ideas for a new facility in Chicago – – which was “off the table” prior to the team purchasing that property in Arlington Heights, IL.  Local and State elections are going to happen in 2025 and in 2026 meaning candidates will be focused on “vote counting”.  This one is still up in the air, but I suspect some momentum in favor of funding a new stadium will develop soon.
  3. Chiefs:  The folks in KC, Missouri voted down a funding referendum for a new stadium but the folks in neighboring Kansas came up with some dough.  Now it is Missouri’s turn to respond.  It may be a while until the shovels go into the dirt there and the construction workers’ paychecks get cashed, but something is going to get done there.
  4. Commanders:  When Danny Boy Snyder owned the team, neither DC, Maryland nor Virginia wanted to do business with him even though the Commanders’ stadium is THE worst facility in the league.  Now with new owners who are not seen as toxic humanoids, all three regional entities are trying to convince the team to move to a new stadium in their part of the world.  [Hint:  Moving back into DC has the inside track here.]
  5. Jags:  The team did not seek a new stadium from the ground up, but they did want renovations and updates to the current facility.  [Aside:  Recall that Jax was a stadium where they had to hide empty seats in the upper deck to make it look as if the team was actually interesting to local fans about 10 years ago.  Maybe one of the “renovations” will be to remove those cover-ups and replace them with animatronic suit-dummies?]  About 2 weeks ago, the city of Jacksonville agreed to cough up $775M to fund 55% of the cost of the planned renovations.  The completion date is set for the opening of the 2028 NFL season.
  6. Titans:  They broke ground in March for a new stadium estimated to cost $2.1B and the anticipated opening of the facility is at the start of the 2027 NFL season.

There you have 6 NFL teams – – not quite 20% of the league – – where new facilities are under construction or are just about to go under construction or are deep into the process of finding taxpayer money to pay for the construction.  And it is not as if this is something out of the ordinary:

  • Raiders:  Just got themselves a new stadium in Las Vegas and even hosted a Super Bowl.
  • Rams/Chargers:  They share a new stadium that came with a price-tag of $5.1B.

Add this up and you have just over 25% of the NFL teams dipping into taxpayer money for new or renovated facilities now and in the very recent past.  When you read articles about the anticipated benefits and return on investment for localities when they opt to spend this money, also keep in mind that the people doing the work and getting paid to do the work on those new facilities are voters who just might look upon the politicians that provided the funding for their employment in a “benign fashion”.

Finally, as you are about to shrug your shoulders and think of me as a cynic, let me close with these words from George Bernard Shaw:

“The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it.”

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

 

 

An Interesting Omen …

Euro 2024 has reached the semi-final round.  Later today, France and Spain will play for a ticket to the finals; tomorrow, England and Netherlands will decide who will meet the winner.  The final game will take place in Berlin on Sunday.  Is there an omen here?

  • Sunday is July 14th.
  • July 14th is Bastille Day
  • If France is in the Euro 2024 Finals …

Moving on …  Wyc Grousbeck is the majority owner of the Boston Celtics – – the reigning NBA champions.  Last week he announced that for “estate and family planning considerations” he intends to sell his controlling interest in the team.  One of his co-investors and a managing partner in the team, Steve Pagliuca has already said he will bid for the controlling shares.  Grousbeck and his partners bought the Celtics for $360M a little more than 20 years ago; today the valuation ranges from $5B to $5.2B depending on which financial website you prefer to believe.  Grousbeck is 63 years old so the idea of doing some estate planning for someone with those sorts of assets makes a lot of sense.  However, …

  1. On one hand, having just won the NBA Finals over the Mavs in dominating style, you can look at this as Grousbeck selling “at the high”.  Make no mistake, no one ever went broke by buying low and then selling high; so there should be no thought given to this offer to sell as part of a sinister cabal within ownership.
  2. On the other hand, the Celtics have in the past two seasons given long-term extended contracts to its two best players – – Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum – – and those two contracts guarantee those two players a total of $600M (rounded off) over the lifetime of the deals.  So, is it possible that at least one owner – – excuse me, one “governor” – – in the NBA is concerned about sustainability?

Switching gears …  I got an email from #2 son containing some great sports trivia.  I will include some of the items in this and future rants just for fun.  I did some musing about the “greatest living baseball player” after the death of Willie Mays; so, here is a related trivia question for you.  The answer is below; no peeking…

  • Who is the oldest living baseball player to win the MVP Award?

Next up …  Sports fortunes go in cycles; dynasties emerge and then they retreat; it is the nature of competition.  Over the past 25 years or so, the sports fans in Boston have been very fortunate:

  1. The Pats were certified monsters in the NFL for most of that time.
  2. The Red Sox won a couple of World Series
  3. The Celtics were always making runs in the NBA playoffs
  4. The Bruins made the Stanley Cup Finals 3 times and won the Cup once.

Compare that recitation of success with the situation in Chicago.  The last 25 years is probably politely described as “Meh!” and the current situation looks bleak at best.  In the most recent and/or current seasons:

  1. The Bears finished last in the NFC North at 7-10.
  2. The Cubs are last in the NL Central at 42-49.
  3. The White Sox are last in the AL Central at 26-67.
  4. The Bulls finished fourth in the Central Division at 39-43.
  5. The Blackhawks finished last in the Central Division at 23-53-6.

Here is the trivia answer:

  • Bobby Shantz is the oldest living baseball MVP.  He won the award in 1952 playing for the Philadelphia A’s.  In 1952, Shantz posted a record of 24-7 with an ERA of 2.47.  He started 33 games and completed 27 of them.  Bobby Shantz is 98 years old, and he is the sole surviving player to have played for Connie Mack.

So, now you know…

Finally, let me close today with a couple currently appropriate thoughts from George Bernard Shaw:

“Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.”

And …

“Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve.”

And …

“Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.”

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

 

 

Rest In Peace, Orlando Cepeda

Orlando Cepeda died while these rants were on hiatus; he was 86 years old.  Cepeda is deservedly in the Baseball Hall of Fame; he was an outstanding player.  At times his talents were overlooked to a degree because he was on the same Giants’ team as Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal.  Cepeda made the All-Star team 11 times in his 17-year career; he was also the Rookie of the Year in 1958 and won the NL MVP Award in 1967.

Rest in peace, Orlando Cepeda.

Sticking with baseball for a moment, the time is fast approaching when MLB will stage this year’s All-Star Game; and traditionally, that event is considered to be the “halfway mark” in the current season even though the math would say that teams have all gone just a smidgen beyond the true halfway point,  So, when I look at the standings this morning here is what I see:

  • AL East:  The O’s lead the Yankees by 3 games and the Red Sox by 7.5 games.  I expected the O’s and the Yankees to battle it out for that Division Crown back in April but did not think the Red Sox would be anywhere near a mention in early-July.  Yet, here we are…
  • AL Central:  The Guardians lead the Twins by 6 games and the Guardians have the best record in the AL as of now.  Cleveland is doing it with pitching and defense; they have allowed the fewest runs in the AL to date.
  • AL West:  The Mariners lead the Astros by 2 games and the Rangers by 6 games.  None of these teams are “lighting it up” this year; the Mariners are only 6 games over .500 and the Rangers are 6 games below .500 today.
  • NL East:  The Phillies lead the Braves by 8 games and sport the best record in MLB as of today.
  • NL Central:  The Brewers lead the Cardinals by 5 games.  The Cards are interesting today because they are 5 games over .500 and yet their run differential is minus-39.
  • NL West:  The Dodgers lead the Padres by 7.5 games and the D-Backs by 9.5 games.  It appears that the Dodgers can win this Division on cruise control for the rest of the season.

Looking at the “less-successful-teams” to date, the team that stands out is the Chicago White Sox.  Yes, the Marlins, the Rockies and the A’s are pretty miserable too, but the White Sox are well in command for the “race-to-the-bottom” in 2024.  Consider:

  • The White Sox have the worst record in MLB at 26-66.  That record projects to a final season record of 46-116.
  • The White Sox have scored the fewest runs in MLB (295) in 92 games or 3.2 runs per game.  By contrast, the Yankees and O’s are averaging just over 5 runs per game.
  • The White Sox team OPS is .634 through 92 games.  Only the Marlins (at .632) have a lower OPS as of this morning.
  • The White Sox pitching staff is no bargain either.  The team’s ERA is 4.57 which ranks 27th in MLB’s 30 teams.

Moving on …  I was not happy to read that Dick Vitale is battling cancer yet again and will undergo surgery to remove a tumor from his neck.  Vitale is 85 years old and has undergone treatments/tests for lymphoma since 2021.  He also had cancer of his vocal cords which required radiation therapy in 2023.  Long-term readers here know that I prefer to take Dick Vitale in small doses; at the same time, I do not wish cancer on anyone above the level set by Jeffrey Dahmer.

Get well, Dickie V …

Switching gears …  Joey Chestnut was not part of the Nathans Hot Dog Eating Contest last week because Chestnut signed a deal to endorse hot dogs made by Impossible Foods – – the folks who make “fake meat”.  [For the record, I have eaten an Impossible Burger once and will not do so ever again.]  I doubt that Chestnut eats hot dogs for their umami, so life goes on.  But wait, Joey Chestnut has not “retired” from competitive eating – or professional gluttony if you prefer.

  • Joey Chestnut signed a deal with Netflix.  He and former Nathans’ Hot Dog eating champion, Takeru Kobayashi, will stage their own hot-dog showdown streaming live on Netflix on September 2nd.
  • I do not subscribe to Netflix.  I will not be tempted in the least to subscribe in September so that I might witness this “showdown”.  To each his own…

Finally, these words from Oscar Wilde:

“The old believe everything, the middle-aged suspect everything, the young know everything.”

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

 

 

On Hiatus …

I am going on hiatus for a week or so.  There will be no rant tomorrow (June 27) and the plan is for me to return to the airwaves on July 8th.  My long-suffering wife and I are in traveling mode for the next week.

Let me foreshadow something here.  I have glanced at our calendar and there are going to be several times between now and Thanksgiving when the rant schedule will be disrupted.  I need to be more careful in terms of commitments to plans/trips/visitors and etc. in the future.

Stay safe and stay well everyone.  In particular, stay safe over the long July 4th weekend…

 

Backup QB Questions…

If the last NFL season taught teams any lessons, one of them had to be that backup QB is an important position on the roster.  Jake Browning, Tommy DeVito, Josh Dobbs, Drew Lock, Nick Mullens, and Gardner Minshew all saw plenty of action and varying degrees of success in backup QB roles last year.  Joe Flacco came off his living room couch to lead the Brows to a playoff slot and won the Comeback Playeer of the Year award.  [Aside:  I still maintain that the Bills’ Damar Hamlin was the real Comeback Player of the Year but there is no need to relitigate that.]

Well, if that lesson was well received, I am not sure that I would be happy with the backup-QB situation with four contending teams.  Look, the NFL strives for parity which means a team or two every season defies previous performance(s) and goes on a tear often making the playoffs.  I am not about to try to comment on all 32 backup QB situations.  But there are four teams that have legitimate shots at making the playoffs and then advancing in those playoffs in 2024 whose backup-QB position looks questionable to me.

  1. Dolphins:  The Dolphins’ record in 2023 was 11-6-0 – – good enough for an AFC playoff slot; the Dolphins then lost to the Chiefs in the wild-card round.  Tua Tagovailoa had a fine season in 2023 but it should be front and center in the mind of any Dolphins’ fan that Tua has a history of injuries.  Looking at the depth chart this morning there are three backups there – – Mike White, Skylar Thompson and Gavin Hardison.  White saw a little action with the Jets in 2021 and 2022 but nothing to write home about.  Thompson appeared in 7 games for the Dolphins last year, starting twice.  Hardison has been signed this year as an Undrafted Free Agent out of UTEP where he missed half of his senior year recovering from Tommy John surgery.  Granted that both White and Thompson have “game experience” here, but still …
  2. Lions:  The Lions made it to the NFC Conference Championship Game last year and only lost that game to the Niners by a field goal.  Jared Goff had an excellent year as the starter and there is no reason to believe that his career is going to tank in 2024.  But there are injury risks in the NFL and the Lions’ two backups as of this morning are Herndon Hooker and Nate Sudfeld.  Hooker has never taken a snap in an NFL game; he spent last year on the team but also on the shelf as he recovered from an ACL injury and surgery.  Sudfeld has been in the NFL since 2016 but has never started a game and has only participated in 6 games.  Hooker was highly regarded in his college career until tearing up his knee; nevertheless, it appears to me that the Lions’ backup QB situation is a tad “precarious” right now.
  3. Packers:  The Packers’ regular season record in 2023 was only 9-8-0 but that earned the team playoff participation.  The Packers demolished the Cowboys in the wild-card round and then lost to the Niners by a field goal in the divisional round.  Jordan Love was one of the bigger surprises of the year with his play at QB for the Packers.  The Pack shows two backup QBs on the roster this morning – – Sean Clifford and Michael Pratt.  Clifford appeared in 2 games in 2023 attempting zero passes.  Michael Pratt was a 7th round pick by the Packers in the 2024 Draft; he played in college at Tulane and led the Green Wave to an 11-1 record last year.  Clifford had success at QB in college at Penn State as well.  However, for a team looking to return to the playoffs in 2024, it would be comforting to have at least someone who had thrown a pass in an NFL game at least once ready to go if necessary.  No?
  4. Ravens:  The Ravens went 13-4-0 in 2023 and made it to the AFC Conference Championship Game where they lost to the Chiefs 17-10.  Lamar Jackson won the NFL MVP award last year, so the Ravens are in good shape at QB – – so long as Jackson is upright.  Given Jackson’s level of performance, it is to be expected that there will be a significant decline in ability with just about any backup situation, but the Ravens’ depth chart today reads – – Josh Johnson, Devin Leary, and Emory Jones.  Johnson has been in pro football since 2009, including two years in various Spring Football Leagues; last year he appeared in 2 games for the Niners and attempted only 2 passes.  Leary was a 6tth round pick in the 2024 Draft out of Kentucky and Jones was an Undrafted Free Agent signed this year after a career at Cincy, Arizona State and Florida.  As I said, a drop in performance is to be expected should Lamar Jackson get hurt, but the expectation of the drop off here seems a bit much to me.

It seems to me that these four teams – – all of whom could aspire to their Conference Championship Game – – are following the advice given by Andrew Carnegie to students at a college almost 140 years ago:

“’Don’t put all your eggs in one basket’ is wrong I tell you.  Put all your eggs in one basket and then watch that basket.”

Staying with NFL stuff for one moment, I ran across a stat that startled me.

  • The Carolina Panthers had a record of 2-15 last year.  They also were the only team in NFL history never to have held the lead in the 4th quarter of a game in a season.  The Panthers beat the Texans with a field goal as time expired and later in the season the Panthers beat the Falcons with a field goal as time expired.

Finally, for no good reason, let me close with these words from Johnny Carson:

“If it weren’t for Philo T. Farnsworth, inventor of television, we’d still be eating frozen radio dinners.”

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

 

 

Something And Nothing …

Congratulations to the Florida Panthers; they are the Stanley Cup Champions for the first time in franchise history.  Last night’s seventh game of the Finals was destined to be historic; the Edmonton Oilers had battled back from losing the first three games of the series to force a 7th game – – something that had not happened since the 1940s.  Had the Oilers won it would have been something that had not happened in more than 80 years; now that the Panthers have won, it is a first for the franchise and for the fans in the Fort Lauderdale area.

Moving on … I got an email from the “reader in Houston” late yesterday with a bit of information that is uncharacteristic coming from him.  Normally, I expect to have a correction or an amplification to one of my points in a rant based on his historical recordkeeping.  Not so yesterday; his note dealt with an action by “Mattress Mack” that would certainly have gone unnoticed by me.  You will recall that “Mattress Mack” is the Houston area furniture store owner who places large wagers on Houston teams to win championships and then offers rebates to customers who buy specified furniture items in a specified period of time if the Houston team wins.  Here is the text of the email:

“My gambling buddy, Mattress Mack, is also a philanthropist.

“He’s paying for the funeral of the Houston 12-year-old who was murdered and raped by those two illegal aliens that’s been in the news this week.”

Switching gears …  A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned here that some French activists planned to protest in a most outrageous fashion.  The Olympic organizers want to hold the distance swimming events and the water portion of the triathlon this year in the Seine River and the government came up with a lot of money to clean the river and make it safe for the swimmers.  To demonstrate the success of that effort, French President Macron and Paris’ Mayor Hidalgo announced they would swim in the Seine on 23 June.  The protest was that “thousands” of people would go to a point upstream of the “ceremonial swim” and defecate directly into the river.

Well, the protest never happened – – because the “ceremonial swim” also never happened.  The government officials canceled their swim citing “political reasons” and spokespersons said it would happen “eventually”.  Let me try to translate that for you:

  • When and if the President and/or the Mayor dive in for a swim, it will be at a time and place that has not been announced weeks in advance. 

Protesters had planned their action with engineering acumen.  There have been calculations of river flow and timing such that the protesters’ “river deposits” would reach the swimming area just as the pols were swimming or treading water.  That is NOT the sort of photo-op any politician in any country anywhere on the planet needs.

According to recent reports, the Seine is still not clean enough for swimmers to compete in the Olympics safely if the events are held in the river.   Evidently, there are still direct connections between the Parisian sewers and the river and efforts continue to try to get the impurity levels into a safe zone by the end of July.  I don’t think I am going too far out on a limb in thinking that having “thousands” of people “sh*tting in the Seine” is going to make that job any easier.  So, maybe Macron and Hidalgo should just move on to solve other problems?

Next up …  A contract negotiation is about to become part of the national consciousness, but this one does not involve an athlete or a coach.  Put aside any thoughts about LeBron James or the new Lakers’ coach, JJ Reddick.  No, the contract negotiation that is about to play itself out in the media is between ESPN and Stephen A. Smith.  In broad terms, here is the set-up:

  • Smith’s expiring contract with ESPN was a 5-year deal worth $60M.  That is indeed a lot of cheese, but Smith earns his money by spending a lot of time on the air in front of an ESPN camera crew speaking into ESPN microphones.
  • Reports say that ESPN has offered a deal that would bump Smith up to $18M per year but that he wants $25M per year.  [Aside: I do not pretend to have any direct knowledge here; those numbers are based on other media reports.]

Smith has a point.  ESPN is reportedly paying Pat McAfee $18M a year for his airtime appearances and Smith has been with the company a whole lot longer than McAfee.  ESPN has a point too; when they paid that amount for McAfee, they had to trim the ESPN staff pretty significantly to keep the budget from exploding.  Frankly, I don’t think either Smith or McAfee is worth $18M per year; but no one cares about my opinion.  In the world of sports personalities on TV, there are lots of people earning stratospheric salaries simply for talking:

  • The inflationary expansion began – – I believe – – when CBS paid Tony Romo $18M per year for what is basically a part-time job.  I do not begrudge him the money; that is what the marketplace supported at the time the deal was signed.  But the fact of the matter is that Romo is “on the air” a whole lot less than either Smith or McAfee.
  • FOX pays Tom Brady $37.5M per year for pretty much the same part-time job that Tony Romo has.  But he is Tom Brady and no one else involved in these sorts of comparisons is even close to him in terms of recognition.

So, pick the side you want to win in the ESPN/Stephen A. Smith showdown.  As far as I am concerned, so long as the new deal does not force ESPN to take Pardon the Interruption off the air, it does not matter who wins or loses that standoff.

Finally, I’ll close today with these words from former Texas A&M football coach, Homer H, Norton:

“It’s how you show up at the showdown that counts.”

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

 

 

Recommended Reading

About a year or so ago, one of the readers here, who comments using the screen name “Daryl”, recommended a book to me – – The Baseball 100 by Joe Posnanski.  I had not read the book, but I love baseball and I love Joe Posnanski’s writing.  So, I did what any normal/rational person would do; I put that book on my Christmas Wish List.  Santa Claus must have had me on the “Nice List” last year because I received 4 books from my list and one of them was The Baseball 100.

Notice that I did not say that Santa left me the book in my Christmas stocking hung by the fireplace.  This book would not fit in a stocking – – not even Sasquatch’s stocking.  It is a large format book measuring 6 inches by 9 inches and it has 827pages plus a few more to provide room for an index and an introduction written by George F. Will.

I want to take this opportunity to recommend this book to anyone and everyone who likes baseball and enjoys the challenge of comparing player performances over the various “eras of the game”.  The Baseball 100 has been called an “instant sports classic” and a “one-of-a-kind work”.  I am not going to try to label it; I simply want baseball fans to get it and read it.

[Aside:  Lest someone wonder why it took until late June for me to finish a book that was so good I am recommending it here, there was another book I got last Christmas that I started first.  That one was “American Prometheus, the Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer.  That is the book the 3-hour movie “Oppenheimer” was based upon, and it is 599 pages of dense and turgid prose.]

The premise of the book is pretty obvious from its title; included here are the stories of 100 best baseball players in Poznanski’s mind.  As Bob Costas observes in his comments on the book:

“You can quibble with some of Joe Poznanski’s judgments.  And so what?  That’s always been part of the fun for baseball fans.  And Poznanski on baseball has always been fun.”

I first encountered Joe Poznanski as a columnist for the KC Star about 25 years ago.  In the early days of the Internet and the Worldwide Web, I used to check the Star’s web address several times a week because the paper had two columnists that seemed to be polar opposites.  Poznanski seemed able to find goodness and decency in just about anything and he would write about it in an entertaining fashion even if the subject matter was as exciting as dust.  The other columnist there at the time was Jason Whitlock who was – – and still is – – a provocateur.  I would read both men for totally different reasons.

Joe Poznanski has written for Sports Illustrated and The Athletic and MLB.com.  He is a meticulous researcher and has a way of presenting data-rich material in a light and easy manner.  This book obviously contains tons of baseball stats, but they are presented in a way that makes the reader comfortable as they unfold.

For the record, only four currently active players make the list of The Baseball 100:

  1. Clayton Kershaw
  2. Max Scherzer
  3. Mike Trout
  4. Justin Verlander

I was surprised by a few omissions from the list:

  • Larry Doby
  • Whitey Ford
  • Tom Glavine
  • Chuck Klein
  • Don Newcome
  • George Sisler
  • Hack Wilson

Each of the 100 chapters in the book is a short bio and summary of an individual player’s life and career in baseball.  There are a few common threads in and among those stories such as at least a dozen players who were driven to excel in the game by their fathers who had played baseball below the level of the major leagues and who pushed their sons to develop a skill set that would get them into the major leagues.  And at the same time every chapter is different …

There are six Chapters that I found outstanding even though they are embedded in an overall engrossing and wonderful book:

  1. Bob Gibson
  2. Ferguson Jenkins
  3. Sadaharu Oh
  4. Satchel Paige
  5. Cal Ripken, Jr.
  6. Ichiro Suzuki

As I said at the start, if you like baseball, this is a book you should read.  I want to thank “Daryl” for putting me onto the book and now I am following his lead in recommending The Baseball 100 to you.  And if you put it on your Christmas List as I did, be sure to be on the “Nice List” for 2024.

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

 

 

Football Overload ???

We all know that the wheels on the bus go round and round.  It appears that a football kerfuffle that has been around is about to go around again.  I refer here to the “18-game NFL regular season”; several reports say that someone discovered the crypt where that body had been buried with a wooden stake through its heart – – and went ahead to pull out the stake.  Once again, we know what happens next…

I have a simple request for the sports media on this one:

  • Can we please dispense with the obvious arguments that have been voiced before and only deal with new ideas or new constraints?

Here it is in a nutshell:

  • The league does not want it “for its wonderful fans”; the league wants it for the additional revenue it will create.
  • The players – – particularly veteran players – – do not want it at all because of wear and tear on their bodies.
  • There will be negotiations between the owners and the union.

I want to observe that the specter of an 18-game season wreaking irreparable damage on human bodies needs to be considered in light of:

  1. The CFL plays an 18-game schedule and has done so since 1986.
  2. With the expansion of the CFP to 12 teams, if a team seeded between fifth and 12th advances to the final game, they could also play an 18-game schedule.

That is not to minimize the players’ concerns, but that does put some context on it.

I also want fans not to assume that an 18-game schedule would mean more readily available games for them to watch and enjoy.  This year the NFL will play “Wednesday Games” on Christmas Day but if you do not have Netflix, you won’t be able to see them.  Thursday Night Football is already on Amazon Prime Video which also requires a subscription.  So, until and unless there are assurances that the NFL will add the “extra games” to the networks, do not assume you are about to get a special dividend out of these negotiations.

Now, if only reporters and “insiders” can only stick to their guns and report only new information instead of pre-packaged leftovers…

Staying sort of with the idea of “extra football for the watching”, there is going to be a test of the NFOR – – the National Football Overdose Response – – in December.  Check out this scheduling:

  • Thursday Dec. 19 @ 8:00 PM:  Browns/Bengals
  • Friday Dec 20 @ 8:00 PM:  CFP Round 1 Game
  • Saturday Dec 21 @ Noon:  CFP Round 1 Game
  • Saturday Dec 21 @ 1:00 PM:  Texans/Chiefs
  • Saturday Dec 21 @ 4:00PM:  CFP Round 1 Game
  • Saturday Dec 21 @ 4:30PM:  Steelers @ Ravens
  • Saturday Dec 21 @ 8:00 PM:  CFP Round 1 Game
  • Sunday Dec 22 @ 1:00 PM:  Full Slate of NFL games through midnight
  • Monday Dec 23 @ 8:15:  Saints/Packers

From the start of Thursday games on December 19th until the end of the Saints/Packers game on Monday night, about 100 hours will have elapsed.  On a typical NFL Sunday, one can expect to switch back and forth between games in the early afternoon slot and then see the late afternoon “national game” and then wolf down a dinner to be in place for Sunday Night Football.  So that means in those 100 hours from Thursday night through Monday night you will have the opportunity to partake of 12 potentially top-shelf football games.

Oh, and if that is not enough for you, just two days later on Christmas Day there will be two games available for Netflix subscribers leading into the start of Week 17 of the NFL season on Thursday night.  Is this the point where the adage, “No rest for the weary,” applies?

I suspect the good folks who run sports betting establishments around the country are licking their chops over this weekend’s potential handle.  And that thought leads me to post a cautionary note here:

  • Gentlemen, get your Christmas shopping done early this year.  In addition to your being overloaded with football the weekend before Christmas when you usually do your shopping, there is the potential to “have a bad streak” at the betting window over this time which could leave you short when you get around to shopping on Christmas Eve.
  • As I learned in Latin class in high school, Verbum sapienti sat est.  [A word to the wise is sufficient.]

Finally, for those who think I have made mountains out of molehills today, let me close with a question posed by Ogden Nash:

“Do you think my mind is maturing late, or simply rotted early?”

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